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Jan 7, 2015
Modrons, man :allears:

gradenko_2000 posted:

I'm two (or maybe ten) years late on this, but I greatly enjoyed Valatar's F&F review of Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved.

It's still very much caster-dominance because duh Monte Cook, but it's got a lot of interesting ideas and is executed at least competently. He really should have just gone the opposite route of Mike Mearls's Iron Heroes and instead made a core book with ALL CASTERS, rather than trying to keep a full-BAB class in there for tradition's sake.

But I would definitely have given this game a playthrough had I the time.

Indeed. These guys should just be honest to themselves and make Spellcaster d20. Or Clerics & Druids. Or Caster: The Supremacy.


Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
Time for more Ironclaw

We'll be skimming a bit on the next few events for the foxes, because they got covered in the Avoirdupois and Bisclavret writeups: The Rinaldi version of what happened in the two wars that put an end to their military dominance and forced them to claim the fig-leaf of granting sovereign power to the 'Dukes' of Bisclavret and Avoirdupois isn't much different from the wolf and horse version of the story. Instead, at the same time, something much more important was happening. With the wars eventually settling down and the city settling into its status as a lone independent political entity, Triskellian looked towards ways to reassure commerce. All lands already recognized and accepted the Don's Denarii and Aureals (Aureals being a much more valuable gold coin, Denarii being a silver coin in common use and backed against the value of a shift of unskilled labor) but carrying vast tributes of coinage about was cumbersome and engendered raiders. To solve this problem, the Rinaldi began to establish vaults in the capitols of Avoirdupois and Bisclavret, and to issue promissory notes notes that allowed a merchant to deposit their actual coinage in Triskellian and then cash the note for the coinage held in capitols when they arrived. Paper money and banking had begun, making the transit of money much easier and safer. It also enhanced the status of the Guild of Merchants, who received permission from the Don to establish their own contractual and legal courts to handle the affairs of commerce. For the first time, they began to record not only the High and Low laws of the land, but also to mark precedent, the results of legal trials, and the negotiation of contracts as a matter of public record.

The Rinaldi watched their commoners growing wealthy and increasingly powerful, and the Dons decided this was less of a threat than it looked. So long as they were publicly respected, and given their cut, they saw no reason not to allow the commoners to establish a council of their own to handle the matters of merchants and commercial affairs. The Don even began to seek their advice on matters of state and Rinaldi began to use the common businessmen for loans or investment, eager to grow the wealth of their remaining city. The Church continued to establish itself through the centuries, and became a great promoter of the medical arts in addition to their white magic; the Church relies heavily on charity and medical aid to promote its good name and win converts. Similarly, considering they were founded when their Christ figure single-handedly killed the black death at cost of her own life, it's easy to envision the Church considering the fight against disease and sickness a holy imperative. This also led the engineers of the city to develop a marvelous sewer system and aqueducts, baths, and fountains to promote public health.

The defeat at the hands of the Bisclavret and the total end of the old military power of the Rinaldi unnerved the merchants and hurt the prestige of the crown. This led to merchants hiring extensively among the free-swords and mercenaries of the land to protect their holdings and ensure their caravans. But where a mercenary could be hired to guard one's interests, he would be just as happy burning and looting the warehouse of a rival. Private guild skirmishes and mob violence became commonplace. The Council the Don had allowed met to debate the growing waves of crime and looting in their city, but decided not to appeal to the Don for assistance; the Don's army had been easily defeated and they weren't interested in being bound hand and foot to the blooded gentry as it was, not when gold ruled the city. Their debate led to the establishment of the Constables of the Free City of Triskellian, the local watch. Unlike the militias of other lands, the Constables are tremendously well armed and equipped, and highly trained. They are also backed by the commercial courts and the merchant council. For a time, the Houses tried to ignore the Constabulary, only to find that while they could not dispense 'high justice' they were remarkably good at finding ways to make someone's stay in the city a nightmare if they were ignored. Gates could be closed. Property seized. Gentry 'accidentally' imprisoned until they could muster sufficient proof of their blood to the court. It was too expensive to keep ignoring the City Watch, and so grudgingly, the Great Houses mostly agreed to follow the city's laws while doing business in its confines. The Nobles of the Rinaldi prospered for not having to directly handle their own security within the city, and so they allow the Courts and the Constables for now, so long as they're given their cut and bowed to in the street, and in return the Rinaldi handle matters of high justice or noble diplomacy on the behalf of the city. Who knows, of course, how long this symbiosis will last in the face of ambition and impossible sums of money?

The other important thing to note is that Triskellian is the main reason the wider world cares about Calabria. Calabria sits smack in the middle of multiple overseas trade routes between very powerful, much larger nations and continents. It serves as the perfect stop to trade goods, take on water, food, and crew, and finish a long sea voyage after. Thus, goods, immigrants, and money from the far flung steppes of Govoraya (a mineral rich, cold, gloomy, and vast land that is obviously Russia/Central Asia) or Zhonggou (China) flow into the city and ensure the Rinaldi will be the richest people in Calabria for a long time. The Great Houses' schemes to rule over Calabria all include relieving the Rinaldi of their jeweled city; this is difficult to do, as Triskellian's walls are high and strong, and with the river and sea it is nearly impossible to surround and truly besiege it. The foxes may not rule the world, but they rule the greatest city in the world (as far as Calabrians are concerned), and that will be enough for them.

Next: My final thoughts on Ironclaw, and why I'd recommend it.

Oct 9, 2012

I actually ran that part of TGMM for my group back in the day, and we had a great time. Unfortunately, we never got to the rest of the adventure.

Nov 4, 2007

zamtrios so lonely
Grimey Drawer
TGMM has that dreaded cloud of inevitability about it ('you cannot stop the March') but since the adventure is not about stopping the main event but reacting to and dealing with the consequences of it, it doesn't feel like a railroad adventure to me. Particularly since the NPCs in the first part aren't idiots but they also aren't solving all their own problems, so there's a lot for the PCs to do to be involved.

Also I just love Modrons like so many others, I hope there isn't a section later where some scurrilous magical documentarian is running them off cliffs to show how they migrate.

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?
This is a really good start to TGMM. I love that it's not just a dungeon crawl or a brawl or whatever, it feels like this is the sort of poo poo Planescape should be about. Creative problem solving and occasional lawyering.

Jan 7, 2015

Today's topic: How to run an open world game with cheat codes enabled.

Running the World

It's good to be the Regent.

If you've read any of Crawford's previous works, you know that he loves him some sandbox gaming. Godbound is no exception, and it is probably the only way to play the game, for no other OSR games puts so much power into the hands of the PCs right from the get-go. Godbund truly are the movers and shakers of the world.

There do exist supernatural beings with similar powers than them, some of which have such titanic strength that they require the combined power of the whole Pantheon to take down. But by and large, Arcem is just your regular OSR fantasy world. A fletchling Godbound can be taken down by a Zerg Rush, one or more powerful mortal heroes, or a dragon. But the PCs are not alone, and they grow in power quickly. Bandits and such are no challenge for them, and the GM should build around that instead of handing out godslaying weapons to them.

As such, things work a bit differently in a Godbound campaign. Normal OSR heroes might require one or more sessions to steal important documents, solve a murder case or clear out a mine full of Kobolds. A Godbound with the proper Word and Gifts can do this in a matter of minutes. Generally, they can do things faster and on a larger scale.

As such, a GM should never get too attached to any place. NPC or story railroad. Nothing in a setting is safe from determined Godbound. If they wanna change something, they'll do it.

All of this combined plays right into Crawford's favorite sandboxing mantra: Never plan out too much into the future. It's no fun fleshing out the entire backstory of a town if the players will just plow through or re-shape the place form the ground up. If you plan ahead for more than one session, you're probably doing something wrong.

Creating Adventures

Adventures in Godbound are mainly player-driven. They have the power to change things on a big scale, and it is the job of the GM to present them with opportunities. The main building blocks for the GM are draws (reasons for why the PCs would want to interact with the opprtunity), threats (bad things that migth happen if the PCs don't intervene) and challenges (things they have to overcome to get the draw or defeat the threat). So maybe the lands the PCs are travelling through are suffering from goblin raids, and the PCs might raise some defenses or get rid of the raiders to win over new followers. Or some ancient relic is vomiting out monsters, and there might be a powerful artifact inside.

The best thing about all of this is that the GM doesn't even have to think about possible solutions and MacGuffins. PCs are pretty darn tough and have access to Miracles. They'll figure things out.

Advancement and Rewards

By default, PCs can earn up to 3 XP per session: One by default, another one if they succeeded at what they planned, and yet another one if they came across a serious challenge to their abilities.
The way levels are scaled in this game means that the PCs can quickly rise in power, but then take more and more sessions once they've reached the mid-levels. Levels 2 and 3 can be gained in a session each, while it would probably take up to 14 sessions to go from level 9 to 10.

But XP are not everything. A Godbound also needs to spend Dominion points to gain levels, for they can't strengthen their divine powers if they don't leave their mark on the world. With Dominion, they can create lasting changes in the land, or create powerful magical items.
The default assumption is to hand out 2 points of Dominion per session (1 as a default and another one if the PC stays in line with his powers), with a possible third one from his cult or treasure. This also enables a level-up per session till they reach level 3.

Unlike your typical murder hobo, Godbound don't have many uses for money themselves. It certainly helps getting along with normal humans or rewarding allies and minions, but the things Godbound are interested in - mostly artifacts and Celestial Shards to make artifacts - can't be bought with cash.

Sandbox Toolkit

Like in Crawford's previous works, this chapter comes with a bunch of random generation tables to quickly generate the rough basis for all sorts of things. For full flexible, the GM can roll up stuff in advance and only flesh it out when the campaign calls for it.

The first thing to generate are courts. These are locales and NPCs for talky sections of an adventure. It can be an actual royal court, a thieves guild, or some village elders.

Mind you, the PCs don't necessarily have to indulge in diplomacy. After all, how's a mayor of a small town gonna stop them? Why not threaten everyone, or brainwash them?
Well, this is all fine and possible, but ideally these shortcuts will generate more hassle than if the PCs just play along. Razing a village to the ground is not very good PR, and the population will grow suspicious if their leader is acting odd.

Next up are ruins. What were they originally built for? What dangers lie within, and which treasures await?

Less general are charts for random Night Road and Shard of Heaven generation. And finally we get ourselves some Challenges.
Challenges are obstacles and other things to overcome for the Godbound to accomplish their goal. They are basically adventure seeds, which the PCs may or may not have to tackle if they want to enact a lasting change in the world.
Solving a Challenge can be tricky. Maybe the Godbound have to work against local customs and traditions, maybe solving it will release some kind of other menace.

With that out of the way, let's roll something up! How about a Night Road leading to a Shard of Heaven?



So the Night Road is sealed with a nasty seal that requires a price to be paid. It may curse anyone who wants to enter, or demand a kind of "toll".
As if that wasn't nice enough, the Night Road itself contains an ancient prison. Someone - or something - was apparently dangerous enough that he was imprisoned in the space between worlds. Lovely.

The Shard of Heaven appears to be a gigantic forge. Not just any kind of forge, but one lavishly decorated with gold and jewels. Unfortunately, the place has seen better days, and corpses can be found throughout.
Thanks to rumors about an arcane secret (maybe the creation of powerful artifacts?), a parasite god and his cult has made this place its home.

What's a parasite god? Well, they're covered in detail in the bestiary, but they're basically Godbound with an addiction, their drug being power and followers.

So yeah, you open a door by paying with your own blood, take a little trip in some freakish prison, and run into cultists of some deranged demigod who either wants to use this fancy-pants celestial forge to arm his followers, or just tries to fuse with the forge.

But that's not all. Let's turn that prison into a ruin.

*rolls some more*

Let's see. It is a prison alright, but perhaps it had a different purpose once? Maybe something went terribly wrong?


Nope, it has always been a prison.

The main hazard of the prison is a hostile environment. Maybe time was not kind to the installation, or it always had some very nasty areas to keep the inmates busy.
But what treasure can be found? Well, a transport nexus. Through teleportation or some kind of magical railway, the ruin is connected to another location. This is pretty handy considering that Godbound can't really teleport all over the multiverse, but who knows where it migth lead. Another prison? The realm that made use of the prison? Hell itself?

Now onto the current inhabitants. Before figuring out who exactly its gonna be, lets roll up their motives:
The inhabitants are stationed in the prison via orders from their boss. Their goal is to study the ruin for arcane power (probably trying to figure out the transport nexus). Leadership duties are organized in a democratic manner, and they have erected magical wards for protection (no doubt keeping the hostile environment at bay).
Their main problem is that they are running out of time, which is certainly not helped by a rival group stealing something important from them (a map?). As such, they are quite willing to negotiate with whoever they may run into.

All of this makes it sound like a bunch of mages on a field trip, trying to figure out the teleportation technology inside the prison. Well, certainly more pleasant than some nutjobs with their crazy cyborg forge god.

Example 2

Now about rolling up a court?

First, we need a power structure, which in our case turns out to be Consensus, which means the court is run by several people with equal power, requiring them to mostly agree on a topic.

There are several types of courts to choose from for the next step, but a consensus court sounds like it will work well for something like a Business Court or a Community Court. Let's pick the latter for some village elders or something.

*more rolls*

The community is certainly not a friendly place. It has a heavy martial slant and is always ready from outside aggression. Maybe the town or village is near a border of a hostile neighbor?

The three major players of the court are a rival village chief, a wealthy outsider (who both know a lot about the secret of the area) and the biggest gossip in town who also happens to be quite wealthy.

The main conflict at the moment comes from outsiders trying to buy the village land. Each conflict needs a protagonist and an antagonist. The wealthy outsider makes for an obvious bad guy (it is probably he who wants to buy the land, no doubt because he knows of gold or treasure hidden there), while the gossip will probably protect his village. The rival chief is most likely unsure which side to take; he'd probably have fun seeing his rivals get screwed over, but what if he is next?

If the PCs or anyone else feels like being a dick and wreck the place, they will destroy an important trade link in the region (so it's a trade town). But first, they have to get through the guardian spirit protecting the place, which looking at their martial spirit could be a statue of a warrior that comes to life in time of need.

And now let's throw in a couple minor actors for this little drama. We have a native prodigy, a barfly, a bandit, and a shabby vagabond.
I'm sure the prodigy is BFF with the gossip, and the bandit and vagabond seem shady enough to work for the wealthy outsider. The barfly will probably get himself stabbinated if he overhears the wrong discussion.

Godbound - not even fantasy realms are safe from real estate speculation.

Next Time: Changing the World - or how PCs can mess with the setting.

Doresh fucked around with this message at 21:11 on Oct 25, 2016

Hostile V
May 31, 2013

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

BOOK TWO: Part Four


I Got 81 Skills But "Give A poo poo" Ain't One


Alright I may be a masochist but I'm not stupid so I'm going to do this fast and dirty. For your viewing pleasure, here is every single skill in the game.

You don't pick Skills. You get your initial skill choices from your Association, Vocation and Childhood and you get 30 points to spread around and can only have up to 4 points in a skill at chargen. So let's take the hypothetical character of Miss Beatrice Francine, Lady Adventurer At Large.

Association: The Selenium gives her Firearms, Improvised Weapons, Lore, Swordplay and Tracking. Adventuress gives her Act, Appraisal, Bribery, Bull, Charm, Conceal, Conversation, Empathy, Etiquette, Fashion, Firearms (again), General Knowledge, Hide & Sneak, High Society, Language (Any), Politics and Riding (Horse). Personal Tutor gives her Art (art history, classical lit), Concentration, Dance, Etiquette (again), General Knowledge (again), High Society (again), History and Science (any). She has all of these skills she has 30 points she can sink into. That's 26 skills she has available at this stage in creation. More than half of those are useless in actual execution.

How Skills Work

Skill checks are made by taking the rank in the relevant Attribute and skill and adding them and rolling that many dice. Common Skills are things everyone knows. You can make Common rolls untrained with 1 or 2 dice substituted in for a 0 in that skill but with 1 black die also rolled. Specialty Skills can't be rolled without training. Magical Skills are used to cast magic and also give you knowledge in that field. Group Skills are general skills that cover multiple smaller fields (like the different kinds of creatures/items you can ride) and any points in one Group Skill can be substituted in for another field under that skill but with a black dice penalty ("I can ride a horse, so I can clearly ride a rabid bear!"). You can also substitute one Attribute for another with a skill roll if you ask for it or if the GM makes you. Oh also if there's a class difference, Etiquette rolls are harder for both parties depending on the size of the gap. You're encouraged for these penalties to slowly erode as your adventurer becomes more worldly and gains more black friends experience talking to people with different backgrounds and lifestyles.

I could go into more detail, but really the only interesting thing is this note on forbidden sorts of magic:


And now we enter the endless dimension of Advantage/Disadvantage Hell. You start with 20 build points you can spend on the following:
  • More skills. Still can't start with higher than a 4 in any skill, but you can now pick any skill off the list if you're into poo poo like Sewer Lore. Probably the only reason you would ever do this is to make sure you have at least one fighting skill because it is crazy easy to make a character who has no formal fight training due to their upbringing, job and more. And oh boy do I want to play a middle-class shopkeeper who has never thrown a punch in their life.
  • Talents are basically flat Advantages, like looking pretty or being able to cast more respectable kinds of magic. And yes, you have to have the Talent for some kinds of magic in order to cast off the skill (or in the case of some of them, the Talent doesn't mean poo poo without the skill). You can't start play with more than four Talents, some can be taken more than once and most cost 3 BP.
  • You can buy Spells if you have the parent Talent that lets you cast that magic.
  • Privileges are perks that are related to your social standing and social class and can let you get away with certain stuff, like legally casting dark magic because the Hermeticists employ a certain amount of demonologists/necromancers and you're one of them.
  • Assets are tangible things that you own/give you money.
  • Contacts are contacts and you can get favors cheaper from them. You get Presence+1 contacts for free and can buy more.
  • You can completely crib Shadowrun's "Karma4Nuyen" program circa 4e and then botch it completely because you're trading 1 BP for 1 1856 pound.
Run out of BP? You can take Complications (Disadvantages) for more, which is actually handled...interestingly? By that I mean I have a good thing to say about how they handle it.


Man, there's no good way to compile these all in one place. I won't be going into any sort of depth out of a sense of self preservation. An asterisk denotes you can take it more than once and if I feel like there's something worth saying, I'll share it.
  • Acute Senses*
  • Adept Artificer
  • Aetheric Manipulator
  • Agility
  • Ambidexterity
  • Angel-Face
  • Animal Empathy
  • Animal Trait* (again, don't bother)
  • Assassin's Lore*
  • Backstabber*
  • Beautiful/Handsome*
  • Blind Fighting
  • Cavalry Combat
  • Clairvoyant*
  • Combat Senses*
  • Contortionist*
  • Conjurer
  • Deadly Shot*
  • Deduction*
  • Direction Sense
  • Double Tap
  • Drink Like A Fish*
  • Eidetic Memory
  • Eureka!
  • Expert: start play with a cap of 8 for a skill from chargen. Shouldn't be used for combat skills. Shame.
  • Extended Lifespan
  • Fast Reload*
  • Feign Death
  • Gambler*
  • Glib*
  • Goeticist: faith-based pray-magic.
  • Greasy Thumbs*
  • Haggler
  • Ham-Fisted
  • Hawk-Eyed Aim*
  • Inspiration*: something in your life gives you a dice bonus when you call on it. Don't abuse it.
  • Invisible*
  • Iron Grip*
  • Iron Will*
  • Juggernaut
  • Local Expert*
  • Lunge
  • Marksman
  • Mathematical Mind*
  • Mere Flesh Wounds*
  • Natural Charisma*
  • Night Vision
  • Perfect Pitch* (?!?)
  • Point Shooter
  • Polyglot*
  • Powerful Charge
  • Pugilist*
  • Quick Draw*
  • Rapid Healer
  • Sigil Scribe
  • Speed Reader (?!?)
  • Spiritualist*
  • Steam-Bather
  • Swift Casting*
  • Technologist
  • Thaumaturgist
  • They Thought You Were Mad!
  • Time Sense
  • Weapon Master*


These are only limited by social class and have a varying cost. I'll just be saying which classes they're open to and divulging any relevant info.
  • Artificer's License (upper/middle)
  • Barrister (upper/middle)
  • Blackguard (any; you appall society by not playing by the rules and have a reputation with undesirables but people love to hear about your exploits even if they don't like you)
  • Ear of the Street (any, cheaper at lower, costlier at higher)
  • Engineering License (upper/middle)
  • Friend of the Library (upper/middle)
  • Gang Member (lower)
  • Hero (any)
  • Higher Station (any; you rose above your normal standing to the extent that you can almost pass for the next class up or royalty in the case of upper. Basically you start with more money)
  • Knighthood (upper/middle)
  • Livery Company Member (any)
  • Local Hero (any)
  • Maleficium License (any, worth getting if you ever start raising the dead or intentionally subjecting yourself to the energies of the Pale)
  • Medical Practitioners License (middle)
  • Military Commission (any)
  • Museum Trustee (upper)
  • Noble Tinkerer (upper)
  • Notary Public (upper)
  • Peer (upper, start play as a Baron)
  • Police Officer (middle/lower)
  • Political Legacy (upper/middle)
  • Private Club Membership (upper/middle)
  • Private Club Membership: Elite (upper)
  • Pub Regular (lower)
  • Pub Regular: Landlord's Mate (lower)
  • Public Carriage License (middle/lower)
  • Scrapyard Source (any)
  • Second Family (any)
  • Social Anomaly (any, your subspecies is in an uncommon social class)
  • Society Friends (any, more expensive the lower class you are)
  • Street Informant (lower)
  • Street Informant: Peeler's Pet (lower)
  • Thaumaturgical Degree (upper/middle)
  • Theater Box (upper/middle)
  • Theatrical Patron (upper/middle)
  • Warrant Card (middle/lower)


The big upside of buying Assets is that you can get cash, items and access to places with them. They're also limited by social class.
  • Ancestral Estate (upper)
  • Ancestral Sword (upper/middle)
  • Artisan's Touch (upper/middle, makes a clockwork limb look beautiful to negate the social penalties to having an artificial limb)
  • Barge (any)
  • Bolt-Hole (any)
  • Clockwork Limb (upper/middle, middle-class characters have to take a complication relevant to the limb)
  • Coach (any)
  • Contact (any)
  • Deep Pockets (any, pull something relevant and small out of your pockets)
  • Fashionable City Flat (upper/middle)
  • Fashionable City/Country Villa (upper/middle)
  • Foreign Redoubt (upper, a small manor home and plot of land in another country)
  • Frendal Lizard (any, an Indian lizard-dragon the size of a small dog with the intelligence of a monkey that can be trained to do tricks and be your little partner in crime. I actually like this)
  • Hansom Cab (any)
  • Horse (any)
  • Hunting Dog (any)
  • Income: Lower Class (1 penny extra at the start of each adventure, +1d6 pennies, 10 pennies)
  • Income: Middle Class (1 shilling, 1d6 shillings, 8 shillings)
  • Income: Upper Class (1 pound, 1d6 pounds, 8 pounds)
  • Independent Income (upper)
  • Laboratory (upper/middle)
  • Library (upper/middle)
  • Loyal Servant (upper/middle)
  • Marvelous Gift (any)
  • Padding Ken Landlord (lower, you're a slumlord)
  • Padding Len Lodgings (lower, you live in a slum)
  • Rented Court Lodgings (lower, at least it's not a slum)
  • Rented Terrence House (middle/lower)
  • Respectable Boarding House (upper/middle)
  • Scrapyard (middle/lower)
  • Servant's Quarters (middle/lower, you can live there)
  • Service Contract (upper/middle, get your broken clockwork limbs repaired for free)
  • Shop (middle/lower)
  • Stalwart Friends (any)
  • Trained Pet (any)
  • Trusty Rifle (upper/middle)
  • Wardrobe (upper/middle)
  • Wyvern (upper, hilariously tricky to take care of regularly)


Complications are, mechanically, handled better than I would expect for this game. You can only start play with 3, only one can be a mental complication (unless you're an Eldren, then you can technically have two with Artistic Eccentricity) and there's a set price of returned build points in the form of diminishing returns: 5 for the first complication, 3 for the second, 2 for the third. Anything marked with an asterisk is a mental complication and can be taken by an Eldren character.
  • Absent-Minded*
  • Aggravating Landlord
  • Airsickness/Seasickness (two different things but each can be taken)
  • Aloof*
  • Amnesia*
  • Annoying Housemate
  • Bad Humours* (do not take this, it forces a Fortitude roll to not puke any time you're stressed and yes combat counts. So does a loud argument)
  • Bad Reputation
  • Blackmailed
  • Black Sheep
  • Bon Vivant* (PARTY PARTY PARTY)
  • Class Envy*
  • Code of Honor*
  • Criminal
  • Cursed
  • Dependents
  • Disinherited
  • Distinctive Features
  • Enemy
  • The Evil Eye (not a good idea, you're blamed for when things go wrong and this can get violent)
  • Evil Twin
  • Exalted Twin (people tend to ask you for a lot of charity/loans due to your twin)
  • Expensive Tastes*
  • Family Feud
  • Foreign Spy
  • Foreigner
  • Glass Jaw (do not take this, +6 black dice to resist passing out from a blow)
  • Hard of Hearing
  • Haunted (something haunts your house. If this is your first complication, it wants to harm you or anyone else. If it's not, then the ghost is just kind of embarrassing.)
  • Hoarder*
  • I'm An Inventor!* (constantly unkempt and dirty, social penalties to talking to non-inventors)
  • Illiterate
  • Imaginary Friends* (there's a specific ghost that talks to you a lot)
  • Impoverished Name
  • Insufficient Income (lose 20% of any cash obtained to pay off bills and such)
  • Irksome Neighbors
  • Jealousy*
  • Kleptomania*
  • Klutzy
  • Late Starter
  • Lawyers (lose 40% of your petty cash in legal fees due to something you're a part of)
  • Lecherous*
  • Malodorous
  • Missing Eye
  • Missing Limb
  • Misunderstood Finances (the banks have a bad habit of getting the wrong amount of cash to you when you want it)
  • Mongrel* (you believe your mixed heritage makes you inferior to your peers)
  • Mute
  • Narcissist*
  • Odious Personal Habits
  • Personality Flaw* (one thing you do you do to stupid, annoying excess, like being paranoid or jaded)
  • Phobia*
  • Police Harassment
  • Policy of Truth*
  • Premature Aging (Huldu, Ogres and Orcs can't take this)
  • Proper Sensibilities*
  • Public Figure
  • Quixotic* (you basically turn your nose up at anything more recent than 1801 and you're annoyingly opinionated about it)
  • Rage*
  • Rebel (so much so that there are consequences to you being in the area where a crime has taken place and there's a chance you might be involved so the police have an excuse to come after you)
  • Responsibilities
  • Ruthless*
  • The Sins of the Father (you've inherited the shame of something a direct ancestor did)
  • Shy*
  • Stubborn*
  • Theological Debate (you're legitimately wanted by agents and troops of the Aluminat church for heresy and rebellion for something you did/said/believed in back home)
  • Vengeful Dead (an undead, spectral enemy stalks you and will simply go dormant for a bit if defeated. You can't get rid of it. Not worth taking)
  • Vow
  • Watched
  • Zealot

"Aggravating Landlord", "Annoying Housemate" and "Irksome Neighbors" are three great complications to take if the first thing you plan on doing in the game is burning down your flat or moving out.

I really don't have anything to say because I don't feel like I discussed things so much as I yelled them out loud. Also I managed to write this up last night and I basically just had to include this part but I really did not want to. I have been drained.

NEXT TIME: finishing character creation, maybe a sample character? Hell if I know. I might make a "kill everything" Dex God character.

Dec 23, 2012

The March looks like a fun romp, but I can't help but wonder what sort of a hosed-up idea Modrons have of "maps".

"There shouldn't be a river here! It is not in ~OUR MAPS~! This is the work of CHAOS–blblblbl!"

Jan 7, 2015

Siivola posted:

The March looks like a fun romp, but I can't help but wonder what sort of a hosed-up idea Modrons have of "maps".

"There shouldn't be a river here! It is not in ~OUR MAPS~! This is the work of CHAOS–blblblbl!"

That river had more than enough time to fill out the proper formulas in order to prove its existence.

Nov 8, 2009

I love the potoo,
and the potoo loves you.

Doresh posted:

That river had more than enough time to fill out the proper formulas in order to prove its existence.

This is Planescape. More likely, someone won a philosophical debate about urban planning in the interim and reshaped the town to a more efficient layout.

Aug 12, 2013

Rand Brittain posted:

See, this is what I mean when I insist that modrons are essentially the same as Chaotic Neutral beings; they just skin themselves as follow laws nobody else understands.

I don't get that impression. They can be reasoned with via lawful means

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
A Final Update of Ironclaw, so that it can finally have actually been reviewed here!

Ironclaw is a pretty near and dear game for me, mostly because I've run a couple campaigns in the setting that I really enjoyed, one in 1e and one here in 2e. 2e is by far the better game; 1e was clever and mechanically well made but very complicated and managing the insane bonus and penalty system made it difficult to run with a larger group. Sanguine's games are fascinating to me because they're pretty obviously catering to furries (sort of the elephant in the room for the game) but they are not making a 'furry' game like Hic Sink Libertarian Dragons or whatever. They're making sure they have a niche audience that's kept their small publishing company afloat for over a decade and in the meantime, they've consistently experimented with, tightened, and evaluated their core Cardinal system over all their releases. The furries are instead a stylistic choice to have a ton of diversity in setting, to get away from simple elves and dwarves and represent that Calabria is a tremendously multicultural society. Similarly, with the Species Skills/Die mechanic, they provide a lot of mechanical diversity as well. This is also one of the absolute most important refinements from 1e: Species is no longer your safe dump-stat. A Species focused PC is actually, potentially, really good. Sanguine is a company I enjoy because they're a 'good' example of crunchy game design: It's possible to build a wide variety of mechanically distinct and thematically interesting PCs in IC's rules, and while it's also possible to gimp your character mechanically (there are enough options that you certainly can make someone who is pretty sub-par) they've done their best to make it difficult and the game is mostly without obvious 'trap' options. It's generally well organized, though a few things could've been a little clearer (range rules are only printed in one place and have no boldface, despite being extremely important, and magic's advanced abilities really shouldn't all be off in their own section at the end of the book) and not terribly difficult to pick up. I buy Sanguine's games for the mechanics, and IC 2e represents a great streamlining of a game I really enjoyed already.

What's surprising, then, is Calabria is actually a really good fantasy setting. Once you get past the furry bit, it's a solid low fantasy setting that has a good sense of scale, enough detail to give plenty of campaign hooks, but enough mysteries and hidden bits to allow a group to customize the setting to their liking. It's completely lacking in metaplot and is happy to simply suggest possibilities: Want to discover (and write) the dark secrets of the wizard lords who came before? Want to run Walt Disney's The Borgias? Want to run a simple group of mercenaries who just want to survive, look to their mates, and make it to retirement? All are equally doable. The one unifying theme is: IC 2e understand the PCs are the protagonists. It is clear at every level, from the mechanics to the fluff, that you are meant to be people who are larger than life and who have enough agency to make a real mark on the world if you try. The focus on PCs being people who don't fit into the old age while the world is on the cusp of a new historical era is a great concept for a fantasy RPG, and is easily the best decision in the game.

Ironclaw is a weird game. It really is. But it's a game I would happily recommend to anyone on its own merits. If you want a low fantasy RPG of intrigue and exciting combat that has more mechanical crunch and heft, I can't think of a better option.

There. At long last, the curse is broken and even if I took months to do it, someone has reviewed Ironclaw. What next? Jadeclaw? Book of Mysteries? Continue the Sanguine power-hour with Myriad Song (I make no guarantees I can review it especially *well* as I've never actually run thatone)? Or return to and finish WHFRP2e?

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.
I'm desperate to know more about Myriad Song, personally.

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
My hesitation with it is twofold: One, I've never run it so my comments on mechanics won't be nearly as informed and two, I'm actually not at all familiar with the genre it's emulating outside of having seen Guardians of the Galaxy. I actually bought it entirely to take a look at Cardinal translated to more sci-fi/modern action combat for my eventual Cardinal Feng Shui conversion (though I'll obviously try to play it some day, too). I can give it a shot after some time to read it carefully, though.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

This is as good an excuse as any to get into New Wave Sci-Fi, the Best Genre. Read Moebius'The Incal, one of Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius books (or one of his New Wave anthologies), watch Barbarella...

GOTG wasn't even the best New Wave style sci-fi movie from last year; Lucy was.

Jul 28, 2013

Do Jadeclaw! I'm wondering if the wuxia setting is as good as Ironclaw's medieval setting.

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.
Congrats on finishing Ironclaw! I should really finish up Cryptomancer...

I really like what I've seen of the GMM so far. Trying to run through a town, saving people from different challenges while dealing with a time limit isn't something I've really seen before in a scripted adventure. Still, seems a little harsh that there's a literal orphanage that can get torn down.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO! posted:

Dead Reign is a zombie apocalypse role-playing game published by Palladium Books. Originally created as an alternate setting for Beyond the Supernatural, it was put on track to be turned into a stand-alone title after first appearing in Palladium Books' Rifter series. The game's creators, Josh Hilden and Joshua Sanford, wrote a manuscript and turned it in, but during the five weeks between manuscript submission and the book going to the printers, Palladium president and lead game designer Kevin Siembieda rewrote roughly eighty percent of the game and changed its basic premise.

Wikipedia has since had that summary removed.

The Rifter #40 posted:



The Rifter #40 posted:

Violence and the Supernatural

Oh my.

The Rifter #40 posted:

The fictional worlds of Palladium Books are violent, deadly and filled with supernatural monsters. Other-dimensional beings, often referred to as "demons", torment, stalk, and prey on humans. Other alien life forms, monsters, gods and demigods, as well as magic, insanity, and war are all elements in these books.

How dreadful, I can't imagine what would possess you to write about such things. Where is the RPG that warns you about kitten content? Some kittens? Can we have a bit of that?

The Rifter #40 posted:

Some parents may find the violence, magic and supernatural elements of the games inappropriate for young readers/players. We suggest parental discretion.

Well, I'd never let any child of mine play one of these terrible games!

The Rifter #40 posted:

Please note that none of us at Palladium Books condone or encourage the occult, the practice of magic, the use of drugs, of violence.

My children are going to only play wholesome games like Little Wizards, No Thank You, Evil! or Witch Girls Adventures.

Dead Reign Part 0: "All zombies carry the Z-Virus, an infection created by Brulyx's dark magic."

Happy Halloween, everybody! And time for a scary tale, a tale, where you write a game... and it's taken by a ghost!... who publishes it as the primary author! OoooOooOOooo...

Well, okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Kevin Siembieda is no ghost. But Dead Reign, Palladium's newest RPG, hit a bit of a controversy right from the start. Created originally by Josh Hilden and Joshua Sanford, Dead Reign was intended as a zombie apocalypse setting and supplement to be used with Palladium's existing horror RPG, Beyond the Supernatural. There's a full F&F writeup for Beyond the Supernatural, but TL;DR the primary pitch is "Psychics vs. Monsters", with rules for "Ordinary Folk vs. Monsters" as well. Siembieda liked what Hilden and Sanford had written enough to offer to let them write a full game- the first since Palladium had nearly gone bankrupt a year before, and the last new game Palladium has published.

When the game released, though, there was a bit of a fuss. It turned out Siembieda's name was on the cover as the primary author, with Hilden and Sanford reduced to "additional ideas" and Hilden getting a "concieved by". The game had been heavily rewritten by Siembieda, and Hilden and Sandford felt that they had been robbed of the credit they deserved for it, saying so publicly. Siembieda retorted that he didn't feel their manuscript was up to snuff, and though he didn't want to rewrite it all, he had to, in order to create a better product. Of course, Siembieda has had a habit of rewriting contributor's work or adding his own material, to the point it's rare for a Palladium book not to have him as a credit. Case in point: do you know how I search for cheap used Palladium books? I don't search for "Palladium" or "Rifts". I search for "Siembieda" first.

Normally, when these rewrites happen, we don't get to see the original draft. However, Dead Reign is a bit of an exception. Hilden and Sanford had a preview published in Palladium's house rag, The Rifter, that gives us a glimpse of their original intentions. This will be a lot more summarized than my Rifts reviews, since the details aren't as big a deal, and we want to get to the weird and wacky bits a little faster.

Your Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

So, how did Dead Reign originally look? Well, though based on Beyond the Supernatural, it downplayed the psychic and supernatural elements of the setting. Due to "low ambient levels of P.P.E." (Potential Psychic Energy, the source of magic in Beyond the Supernatural and Rifts), it didn't have much in the way of the paranormal- at least until the zombies start showing up. After which, much like Rifts, it's implied that the mass deaths start cranking up the world's magic potential due to the soul fallout. However, that's treated as a growing element rather than a sudden explosion, and supernatural powers are still extremely rare. As such, it says characters should be created using the "Ordinary Person" rules from BTS, but they get a small chance of psychic powers (about 15%) and may roll randomly for level (1d4+1) or insanity at the the GM's discretion. Normally I'd poo-poo random levels, but given the mortality rate of a game like this (and the fact that Palladium already has you rolling random for attributes), it's probably not a huge deal.

"Oh, my god, it's a walker- er- rage vir- er- wait, can I just call them zombies?"

The Wave

On June 20th, 2012, Midnight EST (evil arises on US East Coast, apparently), a little early for the Mayan "apocalypse", every person on the planet is struck by nearly ten minutes of overwhelming pain and nausea, and millions die on the spot. A fair amount of damage is done when people lose control of vehicles or otherwise are endangered by sudden unconsciousness. Then, a few minutes later... every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them, it gets up and kills, the people it kills get up and kill! Most people get et, civilization collapses, people turn on each other in short order, etc. You know the drill.

"Nudge, nudge."

The Truth behind the Zombie Apocalypse

So, there's the Umbrella Benford Group, who develops Unisane, which develops a cancer vaccine that prevents all cancer-

- okay, so there are cancer vaccines, but they're used to inoculate against viruses that cause cancer, not cancer itself-

Facts aside, the Benford Group offers the vaccine for free in Third World areas and at cost in developed countries, which nobody finds suspicious for some reason. However, thanks to the FDA being pressured by Big Pharma, the US adopts it more slowly than other countries (the authors clearly don't know how hard it is to get a drug approved in the EU, it generally takes a good deal longer). However, whether or not Unisane actually works turns out to be irrelevant (it does, if you're curious), as it's actually just a carrier for a magic enchantment to turn people into zombies. The Benford Group turns out to be a death cult that worships Brulyx, which sounds like a mouthwash to me but actually turns out to be a big evil "demonic entity". Ah yes. It's scarier when you add "entity" to the the description. I know I'm always scared of entities.

Didn't tie his shoelaces before dying.

Zombie 101

So, These Zombies Are Different! Everybody's got to have a clever rationalization for zombies, and Dead Reign is no exception. Though zombies attack and bite, they don't gain sustenance from flesh. Instead, they feed off the P.P.E. of their dying victims, abandoning them as soon as death occurs to seek out new prey. Though they degenerate, they don't rot - though they can starve. Unfortunately, they can absorb P.P.E. from magical places of power (ley line nexus points from BTS) to keep themselves running. If they starve, they collapse and become normal corpses. If they eat more P.P.E. than they can store, the excess is absorbed byt Brulyx, who's gaining power in order to invade Earth. Like you do. They can attack and eat animals, but animals can't get infected. They require a person a day, which strikes me as having them run out of food quick unless magic spots are pretty common.

Speaking of which, zombies have the T-Virus Z-Virus, which is an infection created by Brulyx's magic. Any character bitten has to make a saving throw vs. magic (around a 70% chance of failure by default) or lose a single hit point per minute until dead. Those killed by zombies rise after 1d4 minutes and those killed by the virus rise after 1d6 minutes. Zombies get an Armor Rating, meaning pre-bonuses you only have a 25% chance of hitting or hurting them much of the time, and zombies can sense life energy at a short distance, so don't think you can hide. "The spell Turn Dead has no effect because zombies are undead." :confused: There's random charts for the number of zombies in an area and how an individual zombie might be pre-damaged upon an encounter. Then, we get several types of zombies:
  • Slouchers: Your classic Romero slow zombie. They can be warded away with fire.
  • Runners: Fast zombies that run. Only about 1 in 20 zombies is a runner.
  • Thinker: These are smart zombies that retain their intelligence (due to having magical potential in life) and can command slouchers, but are still almost always consumed by their desire to feed. Potentially they could cast magic spells, but most are lacking any sort of education on it. About 1 in 2000 zombies is a thinker.
We also get bits about how man is the real enemy. In addition, the Cult of Brulyx (i.e. the Benford Group) is around, has knowledge of magic, and can command thinkers, and works to try and wreck any organized resistance to zombie primacy.

"Zombies? No, this is just retail."

The Benford Group - the Past

So, there was this priest of Hades in Rome named Gregius Bonophat. Can we call him Phat Greg? I think we can. Greg had his temple destroyed by generic "barbarians" and went mad because Hades didn't have his back, and shouted out for power to gain vengeance. Naturally, due to being properly overdramatic, a voice was like "Hey, I'm Brulux - demon, not a mouthwash - I'll help you kill those barbarians, and then you can be my immortal puppet, deal?" Greg says this is the best deal he's ever heard, murders those barbarians, becomes an immortal puppet and puppetmaster, ends the Roman Empire somehow, etc. He gets into disease and creates epidemics like the Black Death, the Spanish Flu Pandemic, and other real disasters being trivalized here, but none of those were quite enough death to build a bridge to Brulyx. Eventually he became Louis David Benford I, formed the Benford Group, made a cure for cancer, and used that to create his big zombie-making ritual that feeds power back to its master. While Brulyx still isn't free, he can send demonic agents to be detailed possibly never. Now he just wants to round up the people who are left with the help of his army that's somehow both mercenaries and cultists (pick one, geez), and sacrifice them to his dark master. He's starting with Asia but also is interested in securing various places of power (as detailed at painful length in BTS).

"We'll be safe as long as they don't learn to walk around things."

The Setting

Cities have become "Death Zones", naturally, and people are holding out in enclaves and stuff! Also PCs don't get to know this unless they have access to the "wireless web", which is presented as if we're supposed to know what it is. Do I have cyber the jack to get onto the wireless web? The world will never know.
  • North America: Most of the US military was apparently A) involved in Middle Eastern quagmires and B) too cheap to Unisane its troops so a lot of the military survived and is under siege overseas. However, some of the US military has been able to transport refugees to Alaska, where presumably most zombies are going to freeze up. Winnipeg didn't get their shipment of Unisane in time and has survived. Denver has been partially reclaimed by survivors. And apparently some refugees and soldiers went south and have met up with Mayan wizards because the Mayans never forgot about the old ways oh gently caress off-
  • South America: Civilization fell apart, but apparently has devolved into tribes of scavengers and hunters, with some survivalists using the Amazon basin as a fluid defense against zombie attack.
  • Europe: So people nearly got wiped out (it says "decimated" but not in the historical sense). But some survived in castles because it's cooler than surviving in anything else and Ireland managed to purge the zombies due to a relative lack of inoculations because... well, that's what it says in the script. Also some are on the Wireless Web and no doubt hacking the database.
  • Africa: It's doing better than people expected because apparently the Sub-Saharan it has the highest concentration of guns... well, no. America does. It's always loving America for guns, guys. Anyways, they may be able to become a powerhouse because they haven't forgotten the old ways oh gently caress off-
  • Asia: This is where Phat Greg is making his big assault, being based out of the fictional Aurora island in Indonesia, which is apparently where an ancient civilization locked away Brulyx. Meanwhile, a number of Indians traveled to Nepal where they're holding out in the Himalayas.
  • Australia: Most have retreated to islands or inland. Some hear that Ayers Rock repels zombies!... but nobody returns from it. Hokay. I guess the old ways strike again.
  • Antarctica: "It is known, however, that none [of the researchers] had yet been inoculated with Unisane." How would anybody know what? Oh, and apparently they've found ancient ruins more than 10,000 years old!... but it's just a rumor. Sure.
  • The Oceans: People are surviving on boats! It says a fleet might be gathering to retake Hawaii.
  • Space: So far the satellite network is largely intact. Also a NASA survivor says that even though people on the International Space Station were inoculated, they didn't seem affected by The Wave.
Finally, we get a description of the Wireless Web, which turns out to be a radio network and has nothing to do with computers! Well, that makes more sense, but I'm not going back and fixing my earlier misinterpretations. They keep it real. It also talks about a Daniel Gregory stuck in a New York skycraper who talks about the Benford Group being behind it all through Unisane but everything thinks he's a nut.

Most people have to go on foot because apparently gas ran out at the end of the first winter after The Wave. What the hell? There'd be a lot of gas left around with nearly everybody being dead, with it left in gas tanks friggin' everywhere. Well, Winnipeg is making ethanol. Good for them.

A lot of people are starving because food animals are scarce! Education is tough but people are trying to teach the children, because the children are the future! 15% of people are psionic now! People might learn to become wizards...

The Rifter #40 posted:

Future material will deal with this topic, so stay tuned.

Actually, it will not!

Josh Hilden posted:

Yeah I know those of you familiar with my past were wondering when I would get to talking about Dead Reign in this series of essays. I’m not going to delve very far, if at all, into the history of the title. The [above] Wiki pull is a more or less accurate if truncated version of what went down.

But I want to put a couple of things out there.

The first, and most important thing, I want everyone to know is the contribution of my writing partner Joshua Sanford. Sanford is one of my oldest and best friends and without him Dead Reign never would have been anything more than a collection of pages of notes in a three ring binder. He created the Reapers, the real hard assed version the kid friendly ones eventually published. He pushed me and is one of the best creative people I have ever worked with.

The second thing I need people to know is that I am still proud of the original manuscript. Even with six years and a mullion more published words behind me I would still prefer my version saw print, flaws and all it was the superior product.

But in the end I wouldn’t have my career if things had gone different.

Next: Siembieda takes over.

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 11:36 on Oct 26, 2016

Young Freud
Nov 26, 2006

Should we hold off on Rifts talk involving Dead Reign until we get to it, because, oh man, I have opinions about MDC zombies.

Jun 17, 2014

Reality is an illusion.
The universe is a hologram.
Buy gold.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

My children are going to only play wholesome games like Little Wizards, No Thank You, Evil! or Witch Girls Adventures.

There must be pretty serious reasons I don't know about for Little Wizards to be associated with that sort of a crowd.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Young Freud posted:

Should we hold off on Rifts talk involving Dead Reign until we get to it, because, oh man, I have opinions about MDC zombies.

You won't have to wait long, because the organization in this book is... the kind of thing you get when Siembieda writes and lays out a book by hand in six weeks.

Foglet posted:

There must be pretty serious reasons I don't know about for Little Wizards to be associated with that sort of a crowd.

It was supposed to be an escalation of cluelessness but it may not have worked well!

Jan 29, 2009

Young Freud posted:

Should we hold off on Rifts talk involving Dead Reign until we get to it, because, oh man, I have opinions about MDC zombies.

MDC? Isn't that what mechs and super tanks had as armour?

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Count Chocula posted:

This is as good an excuse as any to get into New Wave Sci-Fi, the Best Genre. Read Moebius'The Incal, one of Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius books (or one of his New Wave anthologies), watch Barbarella...

GOTG wasn't even the best New Wave style sci-fi movie from last year; Lucy was.

Did someone cover the Metabarons RPG?

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

La morte non ha sesso
A used copy in mediocre condition will run you $60. Have at it, slugger.

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
Alright, then, I'll get to a close reading of Myriad Song and give it a shot once I'm done. Just keep in mind any opinions about rules will be based primarily on my experience with the base system in a different context rather than personal experience.

Young Freud
Nov 26, 2006

Alien Rope Burn posted:

You won't have to wait long, because the organization in this book is... the kind of thing you get when Siembieda writes and lays out a book by hand in six weeks.

Yeah, I forgot that it comes up upfront about playing with zombies in Rifts, so I'll hold my tongue till then.

Cassa posted:

MDC? Isn't that what mechs and super tanks had as armour?

Yes, and there's at a thread of reasoning since zombies are more like PPE vampires, so I could probably understand them getting maybe getting some MDC from magical sources, but, well, you'll see.

Sep 15, 2004

Obey the Beard

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Most people have to go on foot because apparently gas ran out at the end of the first winter after The Wave. What the hell? There'd be a lot of gas left around with nearly everybody being dead, with it left in gas tanks friggin' everywhere. Well, Winnipeg is making ethanol. Good for them.

Gasoline can, actually, go bad and because useless if not stored properly or treated. So, given that we're a couple of years down the road, yes there should be gas out there but probably not in easily accessible places.

Looking forward to this review, I love watching Siembieda screw with his own authors because the Quality is Not There and end up producing a steaming pile.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Hypnobeard posted:

Gasoline can, actually, go bad and because useless if not stored properly or treated. So, given that we're a couple of years down the road, yes there should be gas out there but probably not in easily accessible places.

Well, it specifically says "used up", but it's a fair observation! It's not clear how long it's been since the apocalypse in the original pitch, but it implies it's been a few seasons. The final version will specifically set the timeline at five months later.

slap me and kiss me
Apr 1, 2008

You best protect ya neck

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Well, it specifically says "used up", but it's a fair observation! It's not clear how long it's been since the apocalypse in the original pitch, but it implies it's been a few seasons. The final version will specifically set the timeline at five months later.

Everything everyone would ever want to know about the lifespan of petroleum fuels -

petrol, two stroke mix in equipment - in 30C weather degradation starts to occur after as little as 2 weeks
petrol, diesel, two stroke mix sealed in containers - 1 year or more (if seal is broken, petrol and two stroke will degrade after 3-6 months)

Jan 7, 2015

Today's topic: How to play an open world game with cheat codes enabled.

Changing the World

My home is my floating rock castle with waterfalls.

When a Godbound tries to re-shape part of the world, he has access to two ways of messing around. Each of them works by enacting a change into the world.
Going back to Godbounds slight FATE aspects, imagine of a location or city had Facts like a PC. While the latter might have "Former Sand Prince from the Oasis States" or "Murder-Hobo" as a Fact, a city could have "Rich fishing grounds" or "Disease-ridden". A change allows a Godbound to add, alter or remove such a Fact.

The simplest and most straight-forward way is the typically murder-hobo approach, in which the Godbound uses his direct actions and powers to change something. Clearing out a dungeon, finding a cure for a disease, slaying a monster.
For the here and now, these kinds of changes are fine. But as soon as the Godbound are done and gone, things are out of their control and can quickly return to were they were. Or become worse. Maybe the disease comes back, or maybe new monsters fill the power vacuum.

Long-term changes can include the alteration of an entire region, changing an entire society, or using bribes and/or brainwashing to take control of a court. These changes come with a cost, and require the Godbound to have a Word with which to justify accomplishing these changes.

When paying for these changes (which a Godbound can do either alone or with his Pantheon buddies), the Godbound can draw from two pools of resources:
Influence is equal to your Level + 1. It is an abstract measure of the Godbound taking care of thing directly off-screen. Influence points can be withdrawn from a change, but leaving such a gap will solely make things return back to status quo. The altered region will return to its non-magical state (within reasons of course; mountains and such won't just vanish into thin air). The society will go back to its roots. The court will start to become independent again. Any Theurge academy you kept running will suffer from brain drain, as both teachers and students go their own ways.
Dominion is gained from whorshippers and accomplishing worthy deeds. There's no upper limit to how much Dominion you can have, but spent Dominion points are gone for good. On the plus side, changes performed through Dominion are permanent without the Godbound having to oversee everything. The only way to revert such a change is by cancelling it out with Dominion of your own, or going through great lengths to wreck the changes.

So how much does it cost to change something? Well, it depends on the scope and general outrageousness of the change.
A change's scope comes in five tiers: Village (1), City (2), Region (4), Nation (8) or Realm (16). Village is good for a few square miles or 1,000 people, while Realm can affect all of Arcem and billions of people. This base cost is the multiplied by how crazy the change is.

As an example, lets assume one of the PCs hails from a nomad tribe and wants them to settle down to build a city and eventually a mighty empire with the PCs as their pantheon.
So far so good, now onto the multiplier. A simple x1 would be required for a plausible change, one that would probably not even require a whole lot of demi-divine intervention to occur. They're probably used to making huts, so they can probably figure out how to make a Roman-style camp with simple fortifications.
But a single change is not enough in this case. For you see, the Godbound also has to convince his people to stop their nomadic ways. Depending how deeply they are ingrained in their lifestyle, this could present either another plausible change or an implausible one with a x2 multiplier.
Bumping the city up to implausible would also allow us to cheat a bit, as it allows us to make use of any know-how and resources in the realm. If any kingdom out there has some fancy metropolis with gigantic stone walls, so can we. Even if there are no stones anywhere to be found.
Finally we have extraordinary (x4) changes, which allows you to do anthing the GM let's us get away with. Now our metropolis can float in the air. And may or may not have energy barriers.

A Godbound can freely make adjustments to a change as long as it wouldn't change the underlying cost. Expanding it in such a way that the cost would increase just has you pay the difference in Influence and Dominion. And if you think that your flying death city can wait, you can instead opt for several plausible or implausible changes first to build towards making the extraordinary a but more plausible.

It would be all fine and dandy if Godbound could just change the world however they wished. Unfortunately, there are a couple things that can get in the way.
Mundus Wards are protective wards from before the Shattering that resist the use of divine power. They have a rating of 1-20 (though any Ward that has survived to the present day rarely has more than 4 left), which is added to the base cost of any change. The only way to get rid of this point tax is to either destroy the Ward (which can be tricky, as they are well hidden) or get a hold of a ward's key that protects you from the effect.
Rival Godbound, Theurges and other powerful beings can also thwart your plans. They work like Mundus Wards, adding 1 to 8 points to the base cost depending on how powerful the being is. Multiple beings resisting your change thankfully don't stack directly, they just add +1 to the worst penalty.
So before your mighty city can take off into the sky, you might have to "persuade" a wizard or two.

Also, any change more outlandish that plausible requires some kind of adventure or quest, either to persuade people or gather necessary ingredients (mostly celestial shards). Failing such a quest doesn't make the change impossible, but certainly more expensive.

Changing societies and regions is fun, but how about playing god? Altering or even creating living beings is also a type of change. So let's give our former nomads wings!
A plausible change lets you make people proficient in a common skill (if say you want to turn farmers into HD 1 warriors). An improbable change either makes them experts in a common skill or proficient in an esoteric skill (turning farmers into veteran HD 2 warriors or low-level magicians). These changes are easy enough that they will pass on to future generations without issues.
Impossible changes on the other hand let you straight up create creatures (with HD equal to 2 + half your level) or boost humans to be that strong. This also lets you slap supernatural abilities onto your people, like say wings.
Really crazy stuff (like I dunno, turning people into crystal dragons) might warrant a x8 multiplier, usually limiting this experiment to a small number of beings.

Impossible changes on creatures can be passed on to their offsprings like plausible and improbable ones, but they come with a limit. You pick a scope like usual and then decide how exactly the scope takes effect: If applied to the area, the change will affect any offspring born there. If applied to the people, it will continue to affect offsprings until the scope has hit its upper cap.
If say we pick the scope of City, we could make it so that all of our people born in our city (which can be as large as ten square miles) are born with wings. Alternatively, we could grant wings to all offsprings no matter where they are born, but each winged person is added to a running total. Once that total caps out (which for the City scope happens at 100,000 people) the change becomes dilluted and vestigial.

(And of course, Godbound and similar beings can't modify each other with these changes. They are just not malleable enough)

If a Godbound pours all its power into making a single creature, the result can be far more powerful, with the HD being equal to 5 + twice the Godbound's level, with multiple attacks and actions. This can either be a brand new creature, or a loyal follower that has been dramatically beefed up.
Unfortunately, ensuring that the being will be loyal cuts your effective level in half, but that's still pretty nifty for a not-Animal Companion.

Lastly, Godbound can also use changes to create magical items. Unlike your normal d20 character, scopes allow Godbound to do this on a large scale, easily outfitting entire armies with magical weapons and armor. Unfortunately, mass-producing this stuff limits its power (aka no more than a +1 enhancement).

Godbound Cults

As mentioned earlier, as soon as a Godbound hits level 2 he can start his own cult, with holy teachings and everything. In order to be taken seriously, he needs at least a village worth of followers, which will form the basis of the Godbound's own Faction (more on those later).

Cults are a Godbound's most important source for Dominion points. By default, the cult grants him an amount of Dominion equal to its Power as a Faction per month. A Godbound can squeeze additional Dominion out of his cult by making harsher demands and turning his faith more high-maintenance. Depending on how strongly these demands affect everyday life, the cult will generate one or two additional points of Dominion per month. The downside of this is that it weakens the cult as a Faction and makes it more prone to problems and collapse.
You certainly don't want to have a "I demand a human sacrifice each day, and nobody shall eat anything that throws a shadow" kind of cult going on unless you are comfortable with babsitting them all the time.

If you don't want to bother with followers, you can instead become a Free Divinity. By giving up the follower-related Gifts of the Apotheosis Word and becoming unable to have proper followers, you preserve your own divine energy and become self-sufficient, generating one point plus a 1/3 of your level in Dominion each level.
This decision has to be made at level 2 when you would otherwise get your first Apotheosis Gift, and it can't be changed aside from GM fiat.

Factions, Nations, and Organizations

Godbound's Faction rules are similar to previous renditions in other Crawford products, but they are much more rules light and FATE-ish in execution.

The main stat of a Faction is its Power, which among other things determines the size of the Faction's Action Die, which is rolled for pretty much everything the Faction does. Power ranges from 1 (Action Die 1d6) for villages and starting cults and goes to 5 for an empire that spans the entire realm (Action Die 1d20).

Cohesion are the hit points of a Faction. The maximum Cohesion is equal to the Faction's Power, and if it reaches zero it will cause the Faction to collapse and fall apart.

Features are like Assets in previous renditions of these Factions rules in that Factions are all about creating own Features and trying to destroy those of enemy Factions. But instead of having a list with clearly-defined Assets, Features are like Facts in that they are short sentences that describe a trait or, well, feature of the Faction.
Really important Features can be made up of several parts, which opens the gate for Monty Python jokes ("Amongst their weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency...")

Problems are negative Features. They are things that get in the way of the Faction's every actions. These can be bandits, general corruption, or the daily sacrifices required by their dickish Godbound. Each Problem has a point value assigned to it, which is usually 1 or 2 except for really big problems.
The sum of all Problems is the Trouble score. All lot of actions performed by a Faction require a Trouble check, which requires it to roll over the Trouble score on its Action Die. Naturally, this means that the Faction will collapse if the Trouble score ever gets equal or greater than the Action Die's maximum possible result.

Interest is an interesting little resource that Factions can accumulate in other Factions, representing how much influence they have there. These Interest points can later be spend to either harm or assist that Faction, depending on whether it is a friend or foe. You can for example steal Dominion points or buff/debuff Action Die rolls. A Faction can never have more than twice its maximum Action Die roll stashed at a single other Faction.

Factions also generate their own Dominion, but they are limited to plausible and improbable changes.

Aside from the above Trouble check, there are also Contests to be rolled if two Factions are opposed. This usually has them pit Features against each other and trying to roll a higher number on their Action Die. If the Features are a bit uneven in usefulness for that situation (say if they have "Guys with pointy sticks" and you have "Winged Warriors with magitek rifles"), the side that has the advantage can gain a bonus to its roll.
If the Feature used doesn't really have a whole lot to do with the situation at hand, the Faction has to roll twice and take the lower result. An example would be countering the winged warriors with "Our treasury is bursting at the seams" (the gold can't help you against attackers, but you can probably hire a couple mercenaries).

Factions perform their action each Faction Turn, which usually happens about once per month. Actions are divided into Internal Actions,External Actions and Special Actions:

Internal Actions include Build Strength (try to generate Dominion), Enact Change (spend the Dominion for a change) and Restore Cohesion (patch yourself up).

External Actions include Aid an Ally (give an ally Dominion), Attack Rival (more on that in a second), Extend Interest (build up interest in another Faction), Remove Interest (get that Interest off your lawn).

The only Special Action around is Spend Interest, which as I've already mentioned lets you cash in Interest to help or annoy the Faction in question.

Now back to Attack Rival. It's a Contest in which the attacker picks his Feature to "attack" (trying to enforce a change upon the other Faction) and the defender picks a Feature to defend. The attacking Feature has to fit to what the attacker is trying to do (raiding the land, getting rid of spies, economic war,...). Likewise, the defending Feature has to fit at least somewhat or the defender can't do anything.
If the defender loses the Contest, he has the choice of either taking a hit to Cohesion (aka resisting the change at the cost of stability), sacrificing the defending Feature (or removing a part for long Features) or allowing the change to happen (which generally manifests as a new Problem, or it boosts an existing Problems).
The latter option is particularly nasty if the attacker has a higher Power score than the defender, as the Problem gains additional points equal to the difference in Power.

Naturally, you can also quickly roll up goals, problems and features for Factions.

Next Time: Foes of Heaven - Time for Celestial Combat.

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
Okay if I'm gonna do this I'm gonna need to read some Mobieus comics. Discovering they were the main aesthetic inspiration behind Panzer Dragoon has got me excited for this, though.

Also I think I could probably use Myriad Song to run Panzer Dragoon, which would end my 15 year quest for a system for that.

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.
Speaking as a Canadian, it's very weird that Winnipeg was chosen to be the surviving Canadian city. I literally forgot that it even existed until I saw it mentioned in the writeup.

Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20

The Primordial Feast: Part 1

The Primordial Feast is the fiction anthology that was one of the Stretch Goal rewards for the Kickstarter. There are some good stories in here that portray beasts as every bit the Monsters they actually are, but that isn’t where the book starts.

It Gets Easier


She was trembling as the key scratched at the lock. Twenty-five years, all leading up to this moment, two and a half decades of confusion, fear, rejection, and finally — finally — understanding.

It could have come sooner, she knew that much. It just hadn’t been time. She hadn’t been ready yet; things had to be perfect before she could truly get the satisfaction she needed from tonight. So much of her time had been carefully curating things and arranging them just so. No fumbling first attempts, no learning curve. No, it couldn’t happen until she knew exactly what she was doing, until she could squeeze every last drop of absolution from this moment. The maddening itch had been growing in her mind for years, yearning for her to scratch it. At this point, it was more a scab to finally be picked and rid of, a moment of bittersweet pain and so, so much relief.

She could hear her cursing outside, as the key wouldn’t turn, and then the clatter of a dropped phone. The door finally swung upon, and her target entered, distracted as she searched for cracks on the screen until the door creaked shut and darkness swallowed the entryway.

Clara watched the initial fear of an old, familiar dream seize her mother as she realized the blackness was too thick to see through. It was one that had plagued her for years before she recognized it for what it was, one she learned quickly to recognize. The visceral fear as she walked darkened, inscrutable landscapes was something she remembered well, betrayed by eyes that were useless in such absolute dark.

The story opens up on Clara hiding in her mother's house waiting to terrorize and attack her. Clara brushes her hair, scrapes her nails across the walls, and otherwise makes spooky scary noises. When her mother tries the wall switch only to find that the electricity has been cut, Clara ambushes her and shoves her into the coat closet and locks the door. She eventually lures her mother into the kitchen and slams her face into the china cabinet door.


“What do you want!”

There was an undeniable note of terror in the other woman’s voice now, a shrillness that sent a delightful shiver down Clara’s spine. She was feeling better every moment her prey felt worse, and the echoing laughter grew louder as she allowed herself a moment to truly enjoy the experience.

Her laughter abruptly died as her mother turned and fled the room again, arms outstretched to try to avoid obstacles. With a capering leap, Clara took the shorter route to what she assumed was her mother’s ultimate goal of the staircase. The stumbling sounds of her progress confirmed her suspicion. As she crossed in front of the hall that led to the stairs, Clara knelt and stuck a leg out to neatly trip the woman, who fell with a cry. Standing over her before the front door, Clara grinned down as her mother turned into a sobbing wreck, curled about herself, and begged to be left alone. Little more than a looming silhouette, she crouched over her mother’s form and reached out, hands closing around her collar, and remained silent for a long moment, as the shrieks grew louder. They reached their highest pitch as eyes and teeth glinted in the darkness and hot breath hovered inches from her face; when her ears began to ring, Clara shifted her grip, pulling the fabric to secure a choke and holding it until the woman went limp.

We cut to a short time later when she's turning the power back on and opening up the door to reveal her boyfriend Aiden, who is also a beast, a 6+ foot tall Anakim so that he can lug her mother upstairs and put her in the bedroom.


“What, exactly, did you do to her again?”

“Nothing yet. Not really.” She followed a step or two behind as he hefted the unconscious body with disarming ease and began up the stairs. “Just...used atmosphere to my advantage. The heavy stuff comes later.”

Her companion smiled over his shoulder at her, oddly proud.
It's pretty safe to say that some of the stories in here have stuff that's more hosed up than anything in the core book.

Anyways, Clara carves "HOW DID YOU SLEEP!?" into the mirror with a knife, and then her and her boyfriend have some small talk that makes it very very clear that they're loving before going home and not having sex because both of them are too tired, and Clara Dreams.


Normally she woke at that point, but tonight the dream continued. Voices floated up from the dark, agitated and loud, the half-remembered amalgam of a hundred fights between her parents. The shrill pitch of her mother always drowned out her father’s almost desperate tone, pleading with her to calm down, to be rational. Eventually the words resolved into an entire scene, one she had witnessed from a doorway, her mother pacing and her father sitting at the table, telling her again that they could find someone who could help. Bless his heart; her father had tried so hard. He had never condemned her the way her mother had, never ceased to acknowledge she existed, and never tried to force into something she wasn’t — at least not beyond sending her to a dozen or so psychiatrists. She had terrified them all one by one, and eventually he stopped making appointments, refusing to believe that the only solution would be to have her committed.

For his sake, she had begun to learn to be more careful and discreet when she hunted, and for his role in protecting her, he had never earned her ire.
Which seems to imply that she underwent her devouring at a very young age. Or that this was written back when the default assumption was that Beasts were born what they are and thus 'changed' at a much younger age on the average.

She wakes up, heads downstairs, and their roommate Erin walks in from her night out on the town, because she's a Vampire you see. Erin hits on Clara, Clara tosses a pot of hot coffee in her face in retaliation because apparently that's very much against the rules they had set forth or something. Well more specifically, Clara's okay with her trying but she's going to react the same way every time. Aiden comes down to break things up because he's a Anakim Tyrant and keeping people in line is what he likes to do. Regardless, apparently Erin has some role in Clara's master plan, then goes downstairs into her secret Vampire Lair to sleep away the day. Clara gets a phone call from her father who wants to meet her for breakfast and to talk about soemthing.

Aiden drives her to the diner and drops her off with a kiss. Her father inquires as to what she's doing with a man who looks as old as he is, she says "he's not" and neglects to mention that he's instead much older. Her father got a call from her Mom about the attack last night, curious if Clara was involved in some way. Clara is insistent that her mom just dreamed the whole thing up and comes just short of spontaneously climaxing playing the victim for her father.


“You weren’t anywhere near that house last night, were you?”

His voice held both hope and resignation, as if he was prepared for either answer but holding out hope for the better of the two options.

“She really blames me for this? I haven’t said a word to the woman since she took everything from you and we left. That was when I was…twelve?”

“Ten,” he quietly, pointlessly corrected.

“Oh. I’m sorry. It must have just felt like an extra two years got tacked on. You know how time flies when you’re having fun? Yeah, it stretches out when everything’s gone to hell.”


“How the hell do I catch the blame for this? Please, tell me how that makes sense.”

“Clara, I know how you can be...”

Her eyes flashed at him, hands tightening into fists. “You ‘know how I can be’? What’s that supposed to mean?”

He was obviously trying to dance around it, to find polite words and neutral phrasing. "I know how toxic that environment was for you. Which is why I took you out of it. But you never made it easy on us — me or your mother — with the way you like to...get even.”

“So you really think that after fifteen years of having absolutely no contact with her, I suddenly decided one day to go back and... carve a message in her mirror? What the hell does that accomplish?”

“Maybe you wanted to go back home.”

“Home? That house, that was never home. The tiny two-bedroom place we stayed in for a while right after she took the house and half your paycheck in alimony? That was more my home than that house ever was.”

She's staying angry and intense to "hide her giddiness" and goes on to explain that her mother started referring to her as "the demon child" and "that thing" rather than her daughter, and again this happened at the age of 10, so she changed super young and her mother still wasn't strictly wrong.

Anyways, Clara gives Erin some of her blood for the "Mother's Milk" thing and Erin manages to seduce/put to sleep her mother's boyfriend who's waiting for her at a restaurant. Erin raises a fuss because he's old and dumpy but Clara scares her into compliance. The three of them drag him back to her mother's place, dump him in a chair, and kill the electricity. At which point Erin peaces out because she wants no part of what comes next, but Clara wants Aiden to stay.

Her mother comes home, Clara gaslights her a little more before the two of them decide it's time to go and pull her into Clara's lair.


The darkness lifted just enough, and instead of the man and woman that had been torturing her, there were two unspeakable things, one enormous, hulking, musclebound humanoid, and next to it simply a void. It roiled with motion at the edges, but beyond that was simply a dark place, its shape and size ever-shifting. The only constant about it were to two gleaming pricks of light deep in the shapeless horror, focused intently on one thing. The words, cold and poisoned, reached her somehow, though if she was hearing them or simply knowing they were intended was unclear.

Hello, mother.


You were right, you know. Right all along.
She tried to stifle her shriek and continue to press on, hoping she could escape the cramped room and find a way out. No matter where she looked or where she went, the dark cloud was always at the edge of her vision, seemingly inescapable. The smoky form could easily navigate the thin spaces between the shelves, and when she stepped into an intersection it was there, filling up any other venue of escape.

You were so sure I was a monster, mother. I just wanted to let you see the truth, at least once.

There was a roar from behind them, and heavy footsteps. Bookshelves began to go flying as Aiden joined the chase.

Are you happy you were right?

She took off again, and Clara watched her go. There would be no escape from the library. She’d claimed it as hers after getting locked in one night after closing and terrorizing the night janitor. The living room had been a childhood acquaintance’s, taken after scaring three girls to tears at a sleepover.


The door suddenly appeared at the end of a row of books, and with a rough sob and tears running down her cheeks, her mother staggered toward it. Clara paced her easily, staying just steps behind as they travelled the Burrow out of the library Chamber. It was a city street with fewer and fewer street lamps lit on it, growing darker as they led to the core of Clara’s Lair. There wasn’t so much a door leading to it as arriving meant an abrupt loss of footing in the dark. Without a floor, her mother tumbled down with a cry as she fell forever.

Welcome home. Clara relaxed in the unfathomable dark, comfortable in the embrace of the all-encompassing black. Wait for the pressure to crush you bit by bit. And be glad that he didn’t get the chance.

She waited a few more moments, grimly determined, until she could feel Aiden just outside her Heart. When she turned her attention to him he gave a grave nod, and she finally lashed out to strike the final blow. There was a dry snap, the sharp note of a voice suddenly cut off, and a low growl from the two Horrors sated by the final judgment rendered.
You know, this is very good and evocative writing, and describes what's happening very well visually. But the content is ludicrously hosed up. A woman murdered her mother for the fact that she called her out for what she was, a monster that replaced her daughter at a young age.

Anyways, a week or so goes by, mom's boyfriend has been arrested for her mother's disappearance and likely murder. But then her Dad calls.


“Clara, my face?”

She shrank from the disappointment in his voice, curling up on the couch.


He was quiet for a long time on the other end, the next thing she heard was a sob poorly masked by a cough and the sound of him wiping at his face.

“I still loved her, you know. At least the way I remembered her.”

“Dad, I—”


There was cold finality in his voice, and she was quiet until he spoke again.

“Nothing else after this. This is the last time I help you.”

She nodded before remembering he couldn’t see her, and swallowed hard before she answered.

“Yeah. Thank you.”


Three short beeps and that was it. Aiden came to sit behind her, pulling her into his lap with little resistance. He understood enough about the unexpected consequences when things escalated, and how little her mind would assuage the sudden guilt now that her Horror was likely sleeping.

“It gets easier.” His arms tightened around her, and he ran a comforting hand through her hair. “Everything gets easier with time.”

So yes, this is a good story, but if you want to put your best foot forward and say "Hey these are guys you want to play in a roleplaying game!" then you probably shouldn't open with 30 pages of torture/murder/revenge fantasy of a girl against her mother.

Mountain Devil's Trill
In Port Townsend an Eshmaki is seeding the local area with nightmares.


Henry Duvall, 51, CPA, slept like a baby in the honeymoon cottage next to the newest and youngest Mrs. Duvall. He dreamt of that pleasant assignation a week or two ago, the third such in which he required his even younger personal assistant to bend over his desk for easiest access during a “working lunch break” taken behind the locked door of his office. She was crying — he liked it when she cried, it made her shake silently in ways that were even more enjoyable than just his ability to have her any time he wanted her, because she needed that job, needed it desperately. Her ex was never on time with the child support payments and her kid needed food, clothes, and medicine, and oh, that desperation and those tears did make everything so much better. But there was something wrong this time — something terribly, terribly wrong, something grabbing hold of him, something hard and sharp and strong that clamped down tight and pulled. He fell backward, fountaining blood down his thighs, all over his chest and belly, trying to gather up what was left of himself while that thing he hadn’t known she had, hadn’t even suspected, chewed and chewed and chewed
By dream castrating a power-assurance rapist, sure.

Anyways, as he's shadow-floating home, his Makara friend rebukes him for not feeding better. "Hungry. You are hungry and you need to eat something more substantial than the castration fears of middle-aged assholes.You know it, I know it, so for gently caress’s sake just go into town and find some douchecanoe who deserves it. I promise I’ll help you hide the body." Our heroes everyone. The Eshmaki mentions that something "smells off" about the dream and it isn't just his hunger.

The next morning we find out that the Makara is Sonny Tselihye and the Eshmaki is Kevin Ashmun-McCray. They're also roomates and I'm pretty sure they're also gay. We find out that Kevin's been hungry because his normal hunting grounds are currently in the middle of a Forest Fire and he needs some crunching bone and blood. Sonny says that Rush week is happening in Seattle soon and that's a good way to find someone worthy of killing. Kevin responds that "Being a frat boy isn't a prima faca case for being an rear end in a top hat. Neither is being a tourist or owning an Escalade." Which... seems a little bit self-defeating when being a frat boy is what turned someone into an acceptable target in the main book. But at least it's trying to be self aware. Anyways they go out onto the deck to try and wake up in the cold air and Sonny begins to smell whatever it is Kevin's smelling, and they suggest bringing in the "old man" who apparently initiated Kevin and Sonny in Beast things because soemtimes threats aren't really threats, like Kevin wasn't a threat or something.

Then Kevin's music student pulls up, because you see he's a Orchestra conductor and he also teaches his star pupil violin student on the side. Anyways, his student Samantha's in a tiff about something, generally being mopey and angry and nothing like the "cheerful ball of various energies" that she normally is. When she reponds to his good-natured ribbing with tears, he's eventually able to coax out of her the cause of her distress. Her father is out of prison and despite the restraining order against him he probably knows where they are and Samantha doesn't want to move again for the sixth time because she's got friends and school and is generally doing well. But he called her Aunt in Bellingham and her mom is pretty sure he knows where they are. Samantha is sent on her way and Kevin pulls up the fire map and lo and behold the fires are in a line from Bellingham to where Samantha lives isn't that super convenient.

Yes we're in for more parental murder escapism, how did you know?

That night in their dreams Kevin and Sonny notice that the primordial dream-hills around their city are on fire which is probably bad so Sonny agrees to go find the old man and leaves Kevin at home to lay low because kevin's got a reconstructed knee for some reason that I can't really be bothered to remember but it is important that he has one.

The next day Sonny is gone by the time Kevin wakes up, and Kevin goes about getting ready to teach more students at his home when he gets a phone call from Samantha's father who wants to arrange a "Parent Teacher Conference".


“I know who you are, Mr. Palladino, and I’m afraid I can’t help you.”

“No? Really?” Something crashed outside — it sounded like the garbage bins out back — and Kevin reflexively reached for the window to make sure it was locked, then crossed to do the same for the front door and the patio doors.

“She’s keeping my kid from me, you know. The bitch cut and ran as soon as she could, got the court to declare me dangerous to her and the kid.”

Kevin pulled the sturdiest of his canes out of the rack — hardwood cored in titanium — and took the stairs down toward the lower floor to check the back and the music room doors. “Mr. Palladino, I don’t know your wife that well. I don’t know you at all. But I do know Samantha, and I will do nothing at all to endanger her, or to help you violate any orders against you, or force her to see you if that’s not what she wants. She’s a wonderful girl, Mr. Palladino.” The back door was locked with the key and the deadbolt, and Kevin crossed into the music room, reaching for the light switch. “She’s grown up to be a wonderful girl without you in her li—”A hand closed around his wrist and, before he could even begin to react, his bad leg was crumbling under the force of a heavy, well-aimed blow and the hardwood floor was rushing up to meet his face. The phone skittered out of his hand as he hit hard, every pascal of air driven out of his lungs by the force of impact, a hand knotting in his hair and slamming his head into the floor once, twice, a knee pressed into his lower back pinning him down. He tried to struggle, to get his feet back under him, to set some kind of leverage, and was rewarded with a coughing, rumbling laugh, like a piece of industrial machinery rolling over and a stench of boiling oil and searing blood so thick it made his head spin even harder.

“You’re tougher than you look. I’ll give you that.” The weight came off his back and he lifted his head just in time to get a good look at the boot coming at his face.

Anyways, Kevin wakes up in an abandoned Ranger Station high up in the mountains, with Palladino doing his best torture/captor impression, trying to get Kevin to spill on where his wife and daughter are so he can kill them, because they are his. Kevin lets on that he knows "what" Palladino is, and that the Old Man can help him, but Kevin doesn't want help.


“Hurt? I’m not hurting.” Nicholas rose, a smile spreading across his face that had nothing to do with any of the emotions usually associated. “And I’m not alone.” He tapped his temple. “I’ve got all I need right here. I know what I need to do and I know how to do it. I can find the people who have to loving burn any drat time I want. And now I have a pretty good idea where Lindie and the brat are so I can finally give them what’s been coming to them. I’m a little bit sorry they dragged you into it. You seem like a pretty decent guy for a—”
Around this time is when Kevin manages to break free of his bonds and smashes a lamp, chair, and oven into Palladino's face before running away.

Also that last word was almost 100% going to be "Fag".

Kevin runs higher up the mountain as best as his knee can allow, to where the snow and damp wood should keep the fires at bay, of course they don't, because Palladino is a fire giant. Kevin also laments that "This isn't what his fire is for" because it's for punishing the guilty and blah blah blah. Anyways, it starts snowing with an unseasonable blizzard which is enough for Kevin to impose his lair on the mountain and merge with his Horror, which gives him the advantage over Palladino and gives him the ultimatum of going to go Learn with the "Old Man" and leaving his family alone, or he dies here. Palladino spits at him, and Kevin's Horror gets a good meal.

Oh, and Sonny helps him hide the body.

Death With Dignity
Ed wakes up in the back seat of a car, properly hogtied with a noose around his neck, and begins promptly struggling to get free. His horror, the great Fire bird, tries to help. He also tries to guilt the driver into letting him go since kidnapping is a crime before he realizes that he can't break free of the ropes because they're wrapped in leaves from Rock Creek Park and he can't break anything from there and that it definitely wasn't that way not even a few hours ago, meaning that his captor is a Hero.

The driver makes a hard turn which tosses Ed into the footwell face first and makes it nearly impossible for him to move, as the door near his head opens up he manages to squeak out a strangled "I'm sorry charlie" before the knife comes down... and cuts his noose (come on, the story just started, what did you think?)


“Big talk, Eddie,” the woman said. “So much for punishing me.”

His vision returned. She lit a cigarette. The soft red glow illuminated her face.

He knew that voice. Even through sight blurred by aching eyes and hot tears, he could recognize her.


She was as tall as ever, a full head above him. She looked stronger, tougher. There was an aura of glory around her, a heaviness on Ed’s soul that he felt as he looked at her. It was a feeling he had experienced before, and one he had helped snuff out.

Ed had become used to looks of scorn, fear, and hatred. Sometimes he even welcomed them. That wasn’t how Mary saw him. She looked at him with pity, and he wasn’t sure how to feel.

There's then a flashback of Eddie as a kid with his best friend Charlie, who've run away from their class trip to Rock Creek Park. Charlie's sister, Mary, was supposed to be watching them. Ed had been having nightmares about a burning forest for weeks, that always ended with a bird descending on him. Coincidentally Charlie wanted to go see the mouth of the River nearby, and all of the trees and branches are looking awfully familiar to Ed. I'm reasonably certain that Ed didn't start the fire, but there's a huge forest fire nonetheless. And it's a lot smokier than his dreams, and the fire actually hurts.


His left hand swept across flames. Ed yelped and fell to the ground. He gagged on his dry throat. His head spun. He looked up at the sky. He saw light through the smoke and a dark shadow above him. He couldn’t make out its shape or size, but he knew who it was. The bird had arrived to snatch him up. The nightmare was ending.

He lifted his burnt hand to the sky. “Come on. Come and get me.”

Charlie called out for him. He sounded closer now.

“Just let ‘em take us, Charlie.”

Ed felt a sharp kick to his shoulder. The pain was a dull ache compared to his burned hand but the surprise was enough to make him sit up.

“We’re going back,” Charlie said. “Best chance we’ve got.”

Ed tried to say that they were close to the road, that they were going to burn no matter where they were, that it was all just a dream anyway and the bird was going to get them, but it came out slurred and quiet. Charlie said something in response, but he couldn’t hear him over the sound of a tree tipping over beside them. The tree careened forward and its branches caught in the burning canopies of smaller trees. The flames spat embers on the brush around them.

Charlie ran faster. Ed tried to keep up, stumbling over patches of dead leaves and branches. Charlie’s grip slipped every time he fell over, until all he was holding onto was his wrist. Ed steadied his footing but an upturned root caught his ankle. He fell on the ground face first. A new pain bloomed from his nose. He looked up to see an emerald blaze fall towards him.

“Ed!” Charlie dove over him. The burning wood rolled down Charlie’s back and Ed saw his face contort into a silent scream.

A trunk hit the back of Charlie’s head. Ed felt the entire weight of Charlie’s body on top of him. He didn’t feel him breathing. The fire tore through the back of Charlie’s shirt and spread over his corpse. Ed pushed him off and the world went black. Then he was awake again, rising into the air. He was on a stretcher attached by cable to a helicopter. Two paramedics were with him. They pumped clean air into his body. Everything hurt.

They reached the helicopter and one of the paramedics motioned to the pilot. They flew away from the smoldering forest. Ed hoped that Charlie was on board somewhere, but after they wheeled him out into the hospital, all that he saw come out of the helicopter were body bags.
:stare: that's... genuinely disturbing, made moreso by the fact that Ed isn't a beast yet.

Mary leads Ed into a diner at knifepoint, playing the part of the ditsy girlfriend to a T. They seat on opposite sides of a booth and Mary orders him his favorite, a Burger with extra Lettuce. Ed tries to reason with her, explaining that he had changed, but she had changed also, that this wasn't her. That she was different and going through the motions of something bigger than herself.


“I believe you,” Mary said. Ed saw the bloodlust in her eyes vanish. The Great Fire Bird felt his surprise. It flew back to him and perched on his shoulders.

“Something is wrong with us,” she said, “and I’ve been trying to stop it.”

The Great Fire Bird screeched into Ed’s ear.
She deceives! The great and awful light spreads within her! She seeks to snuff out our fire!

Mary reached out for Ed’s hand. “But now I know how.”

Attack! Kill! Hide! Flee! Run!

“You don’t have to do this,” Ed said. “You…we can walk away from this.”

Their hands clasped. “I don’t think I can,” she said. “And you just won’t.”

Mary’s grip tightened as he tried to pull away and the Hero’s look crept into her gaze. “I can’t walk away but I can end this. It’s all so simple, Eddie.”

Mary continues that Eddie's always been a Firebird, and she should have known, if she had known then she wouldn't have let Charlie run off with him into the forest, if only she had stopped them then Charlie would still be alive. Ed tells her that that isn't true at all. Mary responds that she's been tracking him for months and that he's killed at least two people that she knows of. He says that they were guilty and needed to be punished, and that he was Hungry. Mary asks him if he was hungry when Charlie died. Ed says that isn't true and that he loved both of them like family.

Ed then inquires as to why she's doing all this, why she didn't just kill him in the car. Mary says it's cause he can only die in Rock Creek Park, where his fire has seeped into the trees. Edward points out that if that were true then he would have moved away years ago, and that it's all part of the Heroic Narrative and tries desperately to get her to stop. But she insists and finishes eating before leading him back out to the car.

There's another flashback, though a much more recent one. Ed and his brood are going out for a 'family meal' to celebrate his new job. There's a squatter in a building that someone wants gone and they're going to scare her off.


He stepped out of the moonlight. His eyes adjusted to the darkness and he saw their target. She kept her eyes on him, even though he was over a foot taller than she was. She was in rumpled, soiled clothes covered by a winter jacket made for an adult man. Her curled black hair was flat and matted with grease.

She couldn’t have been older than thirteen.

Oh well.

He grasped her shoulders and pulled her close. “Look at me!”

She saw him. Not the twenty-something grasping her, but the Beast within, the Great Fire Bird that spread fire among the fields and brought blessing and doom in equal measure. She felt its blazing glory and Ed saw the girl’s flesh singe. The warmth was overflowing. It was time to pull back now. He’d tell her to run. Ruth didn’t need to do anything direct to feed, so she’d just block the girl’s path. Morgan would probably scream one last threat at her and Anatoly would make sure she kept far away.

“Run,” he said, “Run away and never come back.”

The girl threw herself off the landing. Her neck twisted the wrong way when she hit the floor, and then she was still. Ed felt three things in succession: the instant feeling of being comfortably full, the Great Fire Bird falling asleep, and then numbing fear.

“I told you to stop!” Ruth said.

“I...” Ed began.

“Cop cars on the move!” Anatoly yelled. “Let’s book it!”

Ruth grabbed Ed and pulled him out of the warehouse. The girl’s corpse never left his sight until they were well beyond the warehouse door. The rest of the brood didn’t say a word to him on the ride back to town. For now, he was the only human among monsters.

We rejoin Ed and Mary driving to Rock Creek Park.


All they had to talk about was each other. Mary told Ed about the failed semester at college and the nightmares that came after. She told him about seeing monsters, and all the horrible things they did. She told him about changing that, about repairing lives, finding lost objects, and comforting the abused, all while she lost her apartment and her father died of cancer. She told him about the nightmare that pushed her over the edge. A girl fell to her death, pushed by a bird made of fire.

Ed told her about his last nightmare, about the bird of fire that ate his soul and made a nest in the empty space. He told her of the creatures he had known and the worlds he had seen. He told her about feasts and famines. He told her about the duty that the Dark Mother tasked his people with and everything else Ruth had tried to teach him. He told Mary about what she had told him when they were out of their broodmates’ earshot; about the cycle of Beast and Hero and how it wasn’t always that way. Ruth said that with enough time and understanding they could shift the tide back to a better time, when no one had to die.

No minds changed and no reconciliation occurred.
Have I mentioned that some of these stories have really good writing? Because some of these stories have really good writing.

Mary stops the car at the entrance to the park and tries to escort him out at shotgun point, Ed refuses and tries to get her to stop. But they're interrupted by Ed's Brood's car pulling up. Ed runs into the forest and the Brood start going to town terrorizing and trying to kill Mary, all while Ed is trying to get them to stop. Eventually she trips and twists her knee, and Ed swoops in (literally) to try and talk some reason into her


Mary hunched over her left knee. She had a firm grip on it, like she was trying to hold it together. Her eyes shut tight. “Well?” she asked. “What are you going to do?”

Anatoly yelled, “You see what happens when you screw with my family?” He wasn’t anywhere near them, and that gave Ed great relief.

“I’m going to save you,” Ed said. “We’re going to go home, and we are never going to see each other again.”

More trees fell. Ed helped Mary up.

“But you’re going to promise me, Mary, that you’re not going to kill anyone. That you’re going to keep helping people, no matter what. Because it works, it really works, no matter what you’re telling yourself.”

She looked at him as both man and prey. “Can you promise me that, Eddie?”

He saw her, standing alone and afraid in a forest that had no place for her. A trespasser. The Great Fire Bird hungered. Ed shut his eyes to block out the sharp pains of starvation. He heard Mary pick up her shotgun. The sound of falling trees was around them now.

“I can’t,” he said.

A pause. “Then I can’t either.”

She fired. His shoulder burst apart. Ed shrieked and it echoed through the trees like a birdcall. He kneeled on the forest bed, panting and sweating. He hadn’t bled since he was Devoured, and the hot blood darkening his shirt seemed to make up for lost time. He heard Mary reload.

The rest of Ed's brood catches up with her, and by the time Ed's aware of his surroundings again Anatoly is already shoulders-deep in his new snack.

We catch up with Ed and Ruth on the shores of the lake near Rock Creek Park. Ruth is worried about him because he's been acting strange since the attack, particularly because he's been gorging himself in an effort to put the Firebird to sleep. He's angry that he wasn't able to save Mary, but Ruth said he did what he could. He asks Ruth to take him to the underworld, because that's where Ghosts go, and because there are some ghosts there he wants to find. Well specifically she wants him to take his horror there, because he's going to undergo the retreat.


He looked at her with a flat expression. Ruth’s eyes widened. “Ed.”

“I couldn’t promise Mary anything. I didn’t kill anyone else this time, but I came close.”

“Ed, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I cut a man. I cut him for sneaking into his job at night, because I knew it’d get me a step closer to putting it to bed. I cut his ankles and made him crawl for help.”

She reached for his hand.

“I didn’t feel guilty, Ruth. Not about that. Not about that night. Not about anything.”

She held his hand tight. He squeezed her hand and smiled sadly. “When you were first showing me around, showing me who I was, we’d meet these Beasts who’d kill people without even stopping to blink,” he said. “That’s what it was like, Ruth. For a moment, I understood what it was like to be them. And that’s why I need to go.”

She starts crying, he hugs her, and then they both walk together into the forest so that he can return to the heart of his lair.

This is a good story, one of the better ones. But it just underscores the fact that Beasts are terrible people. This kind of character dynamic makes for a good story but there's no way in hell I would want to play something this soul wrenching in a tabletop setting.

But that's the first three stories in the book, there are six more. And the next one is... weird.

Up Next: I'm reasonably certain this isn't how Sin-Eaters work

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Halloween Jack posted:

A used copy in mediocre condition will run you $60. Have at it, slugger.

I have both books, actually (the world book comes with an amazing introduction by Jodorowsky where he claims the Metabarons universe is real and he saw it all in a dream), but I've already proven I can't finish F&F projects. I've started three but only ever finished the Wraith Holocaust book.

Dec 13, 2011
So I know this is a bit of an aside, but there are cancer vaccines in the works that actually target cancer itself and not a virus. The big issue with them is that tumors have a hellish microenvironment that stops t-cells from working.

I also want to see how warped Siembeda made Dead Reign.

Sep 12, 2008

Well ain't that precious?

Tasoth posted:

So I know this is a bit of an aside, but there are cancer vaccines in the works that actually target cancer itself and not a virus. The big issue with them is that tumors have a hellish microenvironment that stops t-cells from working.

I also want to see how warped Siembeda made Dead Reign.

Obviously, there needs to be some sort of T-Virus to reprogram the T-cells to work properly.

Dec 13, 2011

IShallRiseAgain posted:

Obviously, there needs to be some sort of T-Virus to reprogram the T-cells to work properly.

Well how else are you going to get a T-CAR into a t-cell without sticking it in a virus first?

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011


MonsieurChoc posted:

I have both books, actually (the world book comes with an amazing introduction by Jodorowsky where he claims the Metabarons universe is real and he saw it all in a dream), but I've already proven I can't finish F&F projects. I've started three but only ever finished the Wraith Holocaust book.

Could you scan some of the best art? And quote that intro? Reminds me of Grant Morrison's various visions and theories about different universes that were revealed to him (he talks about it in Supergods).

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Count Chocula posted:

Could you scan some of the best art? And quote that intro? Reminds me of Grant Morrison's various visions and theories about different universes that were revealed to him (he talks about it in Supergods).

I'll see if I can do that this Sunday.


Jun 26, 2005

Night10194 posted:

Also I think I could probably use Myriad Song to run Panzer Dragoon, which would end my 15 year quest for a system for that.

I'm excited to see your Myriad Song review! (Also, you know that Sanguine just released another game, ya? Urban Jungle - sort of a Blacksad, Lackadaisy bit?)

RiotGearEpsilon fucked around with this message at 05:25 on Oct 27, 2016

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