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Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Hostile V posted:

ARB, Kevin Siembieda being a total knob is inspiring me to finally get off my rear end and review something I've been wishy-washy about tackling, so thanks for that.

Thanks!

There was a point in reviewing Rifts books that I actually started to feel like a bully about it. But in the end, Siembieda's made his choices and opted to run Palladium the way he does, and though things have changed somewhat for the better over time, he still makes many of the same bizarre choices and that probably isn't going to end until he's in the ground. I don't actually wish him ill, but I do wish he'd handle things better for the sake of his fans and employees.

wiegieman posted:

I wish I had links saved, but there are some great angry paragraphs about how terrible Kevin Siembieda is at pretty much everything.

You might be thinking of a famous RPG.net thread where the poo poo hits the fan here, in which Bill Coffin drops multiple bombs, along with nods by CJ Carella, Jason Vey, and Steve Conan Trustrum. That was posted years before Dead Reign was submitted or published, but it shows that the experience of Josh and Joshua's was anything but unique.

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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



I'm still amazed that Palladium has what might be generously called current releases.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Mors Rattus posted:

I'm still amazed that Palladium has what might be generously called current releases.

I'm still amazed anyone has actually played Paladium games.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012







The Primordial Feast: Part 2


Territory

This story opens with a kid named Jesse, drawn by a strange sound like someone banging on one of the steel doors in his college's art building.

quote:

“Is it jammed?” Jesse asked. From the other side he thought he could hear voices, maybe a man and a woman, it was hard to tell through the thick darkroom door. He repeated the question, louder this time, but if there was any particular response he didn’t hear one, just more indistinct talking. Jesse shivered, and with a sense of growing confusion realized the handle was cold in his hand. Had it been that way when he grabbed it? He felt like he would have noticed that. It was cold outside, but the heat was on in the building.
He let go, turned to walk away—
Boom.
“Oh, for gently caress’s sake, fine.” Jesse turned back, grabbed the handle and put his shoulder to the door. There was a moment’s resistance, but then the door flung open and Jesse stumbled after it into the darkened room. At first he figured the dim red light was simply par for the course in a darkroom, until he saw what was emitting it, and had just enough time to wonder who had put up torches in a classroom before the many things that were one was upon him. The door slammed shut as Jesse began screaming.
It ends as you can expect.

We rejoin the story with our POV Beast character, Sam, eating lunch with her friends at the cafeteria, Sam has a stalker of some kind. A supernatural creature that she's never smelled before, and while she first chalked it up to novelty, it is clear that she's been following her. Her horror, a Sphinx apparently, has gotten bored 'gnawing on the mystery' and wants to just go over there and shake her secrets loose. Sam isn't too keen on that idea, and plans on hitting up a bar later to find a nice dumb frat boy to quiet it down. But she is going to talk to her stalker very soon.

The POV switches to said stalker, a Sin-Eater named Becca. Who's looking over old college yearbooks while the ghost of her boyfriend Tom watches the Simpsons. She's looking over yearbooks because she's found pictures of Sam in them, looking very much the same, and going back at least 10 years. Sam's been good at staying under the radar, not being in any club photos or group shots, but she's been in the background in a few photos. She's relatively new to her Sin-Eater powers, and as such was pretty grateful for a campus that seemed relatively free of ghosts, but after she was a few of them flocking away from Sam she got curious. And one of the ghosts she talked to referred to Sam as "The Monster" so Becca thinks she's responsible for it. Her reverie is interrupted by an envelope being shoved under her door that has "STALKER" written on it. Tom thinks it might be boobytrapped but, well, it's an envelope. So Becca opens it, and inside is a request to meet. "Think it’s time we talked. Lunch tomorrow, 1 PM @Ike Hall? You know where I sit." Tom wants to accompiany her there, but Becca doesn't want to expose him to danger, besides, she won't be alone.

The meeting goes about as you would expect considering it's basically an RPG trope at this point. "What are you?" "No what are you?" etc etc. We find out that Bella and her boyfriend were killed in a car crash, but she was brought back by "The Angel" and now they keep ghosts and humans from messing with each other. Sam expresses that "this is my place, you know? I like it here. This school, this town. I don’t let anyone mess with it." Which i guess is about as positive an emotion as you can get out of a Beast. Becca asks Sam that if she's been here for twenty years than she must know about the locks under the art building and the gateway.

Cut to said gateway.

quote:

“You’ve got to be loving kidding me.”

The two women were standing in the basement hallway where Jesse had died only a few weeks earlier, staring at the last door he’d opened. The college had reopened the room in the week after the “tragic accident,” but now that the two women were close enough to it, no supernatural senses were required to feel the otherworldly chill emanating from the room. Sam stood across the hall from the door, hands on her hips and a disgusted, almost offended expression on her face. “You didn’t sense this before?” Becca asked.

“No! I mean, I haven’t been here in,” Sam paused to do some math. “Well, let’s call it a while. I got bored of art, figured I’d give it a break for a few years. gently caress!” She slammed her hand into the wall hard enough that Becca winced. “I’m getting sloppy.”

“Not to twist the knife,” Becca began cautiously, “but this is way, way older than a few years.” She pointed at the door, and then gestured around them. “This has been here since before all of this was built. Now something’s breaking and it’s coming apart.”
I don't hate the writing in this story, it's kind of charming even, but it doesn't really do anything besides be an almost scooby-doo adventure with a Sin-Eater and a Beast.

quote:

“Yeah, well, this? This is news to me.” Sam felt an absurd urge to attack the door itself and reined it in. She was already hungry. She hadn’t had a proper feeding since she noticed Becca following her around, and the bad mood that accompanied a lean time was only getting worse. “Seriously. I haven’t got a loving clue what’s going on here, but I’m going to find out, believe me.” She felt the blood running down her palms and a feral smile crossed her face. “Nobody hunts here but me.”

“I don’t think anyone is hunting,” Becca said. Seeing Sam’s sideways look, she explained. “I mean, yes, whatever’s down here killed that guy. But I don’t think it’s a person, or even a thing. I think this place is hunting.”

“What, like … an Amityville thing?”

“Well, Amityville was a hoax,” Becca corrected reflexively, “but yeah, if it was real, I’d say something like that.” She put a hand out toward the door, feeling the chill intensify as she got closer. Even the gate under the old hanging tree back home hadn’t been this powerful, and that had set her heart racing just passing by. This gate, whatever it was, felt like standing too close to the bass speaker at a concert — a constant, low-level thrumming in her bones. “I did get some research done before I ran across you,” Becca said, pulling her hand back. Her fingertips looked bleached, as if she’d plunged them into a snow bank. “You know this was the site of the college founder’s original residence? I mean, it was the president’s house until the ‘50s, then it burned down and they had another building in mind for the president’s residence, so they put the new art building on top of it.”

“So, what, are you saying people died in the fire or something?”

“No, not like that. That might cause a haunting, but not this.”

“Was he like some sort of weird occultist or something?”

Becca frowned, considering. “Maybe? I don’t know how you’d create something like this on purpose. This is a real Avernian Gate — a gate to the Underworld –— but it’s been modified, somehow.” Becca gestured vaguely at the doorway, trying to find the right words. “Most gates are locked, one way or the other. Otherwise, people would just wander in and out of the Underworld, living or dead. That’s true here too. As strong as this gate is, believe it or not it’s still locked. Well, mostly.”
Or even maybe Buffy-ish. It's just not really treating the subject matter as dire or serious, it's just happening. And also Becca may have killed someone the previous night, but the game doesn't mention it.

Becca performs a little mock seance to summon a spirit to inquire more about the door and what might be beyond it. Though the appearance of the smoke-creature does startle them enough for Sam to pull out her claws and Becca to reflexively merge with her Geist into some kind of metal-angel thing. The gist of the conversation that ensues is that there is a spirit bound behind the door known as the "Devourer" that has been put there by the "Keeper", and only the Keeper may pass, the Keeper has also been away for a long time as it's obvious that the door hasn't been properly opened in a while. And without the Keeper, the Devourer has gotten hungry and forced the door open a few times like a "hosed up venus flytrap". Becca has no idea how to get inside, but Sam uses her beastly powers to rip the door off it's hinges, which is to say it disappears once she rips at it long enough.

quote:

“drat.” To Sam, the large, vaulted chamber looked like a man-cave designed by Aleister Crowley — tall shelves stacked with books, black candles burning in elaborate brass candelabras, rich carpets the color of pooled blood spread across the floor, even some overstuffed chairs with suspiciously textured leather. A fire blazed in the hearth, though no heat emanated from it, just waves of bitter cold.
The Devourer might once have matched the room better or so said the tatters of its suit, but it had bloated past human proportions, swollen skin bursting out through straining seams. Its face was a puffy mess of flesh devoid of any recognizable features aside from its wide, slobbering maw, which had distended to stretch almost the entire way around its head. What sheltered form of immortality it had grasped at had come at a steep cost. At the sound of their intrusion, it raised itself up on ponderous legs and gurgled at them, waving its fleshy hands in an unmistakable gesture of outrage and surprise.
Sam leaps at the devourer and cuts deep into it's arm, poisoning it, but it backhands her into a wall shattering half her face.

Becca decides that while she's never destroyed a spirit before, that this one probably deserves it, and then completely no-sells his punch to her face before ripping out his beating demonic heart and crushing it, because she's a Sin-Eater and killing ghosts is what they do. Becca suggests they leave before the place collapses, or does whatever happens when you destroy an evil devouring death-god. and they do so.

quote:

“I’ll come back and check on it later,” Becca said. Her skin was losing its metallic sheen, and fortunately, whatever sort of ectoplasm passed for the thing’s blood and tissue had evaporated on crossing through the gateway. In a moment, she looked herself again, just an unremarkable college girl. She paused. “Do… do you want to check it with me?”

“What, are we a team now?” Sam asked. She meant it to be sarcastic, but to her surprise, it came out straight, and to her greater surprise, she found she didn’t mind. She’d just learned there was a whole side to her campus she didn’t know, for one, and for another she’d started to admire the fearless girl who thought herself shy. Becca was blushing; about to apologize it away, but Sam squeezed her hand to stop her. “I’d like that.”

“Really?” Becca smiled. “I thought you had this territorial thing going on.”

“Well,” Sam said, “territory’s not just the place. It’s the people.” They made their way slowly up the stairs, arms around each other’s shoulders.
So yeah, like I said, very "Buffy". It's nothing serious, nothing new is expressed, but it's not fawning over how awesome beasts are Either so I'll give it a pass.

The Shepherd's lesson
Meanwhile I can barely bring myself to read this one again.

quote:

Zhuangzi, the great Taoist philosopher, once dreamed he was a butterfly, lazily fluttering about his garden on a spring evening. Upon waking, he couldn’t tell if he was a man who dreamed he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was a man. That story never used to bother me before I learned that dreams are real. I don’t have the luxury of doubt. I struggle with my own version of his dilemma with one big exception. Zhuangzi dreamed of something beautiful, and I dreamed of a monster.
Ugh. Just Ugh.

quote:

I felt the Hunger rear up in my bones, my head, and my heart. Under all the noise, I heard the monster Start to hiss and growl. I thought with all these people around, that I’d be okay. Yet again, I’m wrong. Breaking into a cold sweat, I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the growing sense of fear that swelled within me. All these people, all so close. I hadn’t been to a show in so long. Not since I realized the truth about what I am. Not since the monster. Too many people all crowded in. Too close, too real. How stupid of me to come here.
Anyways the Beast in question is there with her friend Colin, who's a werewolf. She's apparently part of his pack and has never seen another Beast. But then she notices that the lead singer of the band is a Beast of some kind, with seaweed in her hair and what not. And they lock eyes. There's some talk from Colin about how the band is so much better in person and that the audience is watching with almost rapt attention. So they try to get backstage to talk to "Bec", the bouncer stops them because that's what bouncers do.

quote:

“Just tell Bec that I’m here. She wants to see me. I guarantee you.”

The bouncer scoffed. “Sure she does.”

“Open the door,” I said. I also screamed it, the sound reverberating around the man from all angles. Reaching into his mind, I unfurled my wings and bared my teeth. I was everywhere. His face contorted and his whole body shook for a moment. Sweat began to pour down his forehead.

I reached past him and grabbed the doorknob. At the first hint of movement, he slunk away into the corner, his palms flat against the walls, his mouth still hanging open. The other patrons went about their business unware of my actions.

It seemed like a simple conversation to them.

Dinner is served. I hadn’t intended on feeding. I just needed to get past him. The Hunger abating as ferociously as it had arrived, I breathed a slow, contented sigh. The monster’s desperate craving sublimated into a newly strengthened sense of focus. “Thank you,” I said. The bouncer, gasping for air like a waterlogged swimmer, held his head in his hands and dropped to his knees. Colin following behind me, I walked through the door. We moved down a hallway decorated with faded old playbills on the walls. A single, uncovered light bulb hung from the ceiling and quietly buzzed.
There's something about this writing style that just bothers me. I'm not sure why.

quote:

“Excuse me, Bec? I need to talk to you,” I said.

“I was wondering if I’d get to see you,” she said. “Come in.”

Bec dismissed her bandmates, who left through the rear entrance to smoke and stow gear in the van. She motioned to a ratty couch. “Please, sit down.”

“My name is Sally. This is Colin.”

“Nice to meet you. Did you enjoy the show?”

“Fantastic,” I said, trying not to gush too much, “but I think you know the real reason I’m here.”

“I do,” said Bec, beaming for a moment. “You’re family.”

quote:

“You’ve been alone this whole time?” She asked. “I met Colin pretty soon after it all happened, but I’ve never met someone like us.”

Bec nodded. “I’m sorry. Some of it is instinctual, but it must have been overwhelming to cope with all that by yourself.”

Colin said, “I tried to help Sally the best I could, but I don’t understand how any of it works.”

“I’m sure you played a greater role than you realize,” said Bec. “The Uratha and the Begotten are both descended from the Dark Mother. We’re cousins, you might say.”

“How did you know what I am?” he asked.

“I’ve met your kind before.”

Again, this story isn't treading any new ground, the problem is more that it's retreading stuff that the core book has told us repeatedly and still talking down to us like we're children.

quote:

“Feeding must have been a problem,” she said. She studied me intently. Like a bug on a pin? No, like a fine painting hanging on a museum’s wall. That was it.

I finally caught what she said, and a wave of vertigo hit me. All the memories of the things I did to feed the monster. “I’ve done things I’m not proud of.”

“You shouldn’t feel guilty. People need to feel that kind of fear from time to time, or they get too complacent. You said you use the word ‘monster’ to describe what we are. Do you know where that term comes from?”

“No,” I said.

“It’s derived from a Latin word meaning ‘warning’. That’s what we do. We warn them of all the dangers in the world. We teach them what to fear because that knowledge saves lives. It shaped civilization.”

“But we hurt people.”

She cleared her throat. “Back when I first realized the truth, I was lucky enough to find Victor. He helped me figure this stuff out. Let me ask you what he always asked me when I would doubt. What does a shepherd do?”

“Guides the flock?” I’d never really been around sheep, so I was guessing.

“That’s what I said, too. Yes, but how does he do it?” I could see in her eyes that she had a specific answer in mind, but I didn’t know what.

“I don’t know. I guess he shows the sheep the right path to take?”

“Wrong. A shepherd shows the flock where it shouldn’t go. If a sheep tries to stray of the path the shepherd shoos the wayward animal back to where it needs to be.”

“For its own good,” added Colin. “That lamb would be doomed out in the wilderness.” He seemed like this made sense to him. It was a little unnerving.

“Exactly,” said Bec, smiling at him. “We are what they need. You can’t simply tell them because they don’t understand the words. Not really. Oh, they’ll know, but what they need is to feel. Deep in their hearts. Deep enough that they’ll never forget or rationalize it away.”

“How do you do that?” I asked.

“You terrify them. You put so much fear in them that it creates a watershed moment. The kind that divides their lives into ‘before’ and ‘after’.” Her eyes
narrowed.

“You mean traumatize them,” said Colin, crossing his arms. “That’s pretty cold.”

“It’s necessary,” she replied. “People need this. They long for it. Why do paying customers watch horror movies or ride rollercoasters?”
'

The rest of the story continues like you'd expect a story that needs to hit some bulletpoints to explain concepts. They find out there's a Evil Beast hunting Bec but Bec has a plan to kill him. So Sally volunteers herself and Colin to help. They go to the Primordial Dream which is like the Shadow where the Beasts merge with their Horrors. They go to Bec's Lair where they face the Shadow but Bec dies and undergoes the Retreat. Just imagine that except in more florid language that glorifies how awesome Beasts are.

Bigger Bites
This story is presented in segments labeled with "X Years ago" progressing from 15 years ago to present day. And focuses on two characters, Robin and Wendy, with Robin being the POV character.

Fifteen years ago, Robin is at a new school, studying Titus Andronicus to apply to the school play, in lieu of eating due to a billing issue with her dad's bank. The hunger is making it difficult to focus. She's interrupted and distracted by the appearance of Wendy who has Cataracts.

quote:

I cleared my throat and shifted on the bench a little. “Well, I was going for the role of Titus, who—”

“But you’re a girl,” she said.

I shrugged. “My dad taught me to always go for the best roles. Even if you don’t fit the role, directors like actors who show off with the heavy parts. Besides,” I said, grinning, “I feed on the shock of the audience.”

She was grinning too. “Yeah, I could see that being really cool. Walk out on stage, everyone’s wondering who you’re supposed to be, then you shock them all as you do…whatever it is Titus does. That’d be cool to see.”

“Yeah, well,” I said, distracted by a slight growl in my stomach. “I guess; I should get back to memorizing it then.”

She frowned. “Aren’t actors supposed to practice their lines out loud?”

“Well, yeah, but I don’t know where I can do that, and I don’t want to look crazy, reading to myself” I said, shifting back to read.

The girl stood up. “Well, c’mon then, I know a place that should work.”

I felt a little warm. “Nah, you don’t need to.”

“A trade then,” she said. “You give me a performance; I give you half of my lunch.”

My stomach roared at that. Traitor.

“Is that a yes?”

There was something disarming about this chick. It usually takes me a month or two to make friends. But even with her poking and prodding, I felt at ease with her. Hell, I was kind of intrigued at her sticking around despite my being a jerk. Not a lot of people just go up and start talking to strangers.

“I guess I can be blackmailed into it,” I groaned. I stood up and followed her into the school.
So basic Junior High stuff.

Twelve years ago.

quote:

“You are not enough,” the wolf said, the cavern turning it into a chorus of spiteful growls.

I didn’t have breath to waste on an argument. Instead, I pulled myself inches ahead through the water, shivering in cold pain as I tugged on the ribbon at my fingertips. The tunnel continued to curve ahead of me, and I wanted to say I wasn’t anywhere near the end. But I wouldn’t. I always made my way to the wolf’s jaws inevitably, but tonight, it was going to be my choice.

“Your promise is already betraying you,” the wolf snarled. “If an immortal hand could not free the world for two, what hope can your failing form give us?”

I fumbled the ribbon in between my fingertips for a long time, slowly wrapping it around and around until I was decently tangled up in it. I dragged my head up, and took a breath just in time for the water to surge up. I gagged and sputtered, and I swore frost was spreading over my lungs as I gulped quick, small breaths. I went for another deep inhale, and pulled myself forward, cringing as I tore up my belly along the sharp rocks. I reminded myself of the wolf chewing on me night after night after night, my throat crunched, my femurs stabbing out, my rib cage collapsing. That thought filled me, and I screamed as I threw my other arm onto the ribbon.

I knew why it was happening. The wolf was trying to escape the ribbons and the cavern, but it wasn’t strong enough. All it had to eat were scraps, the unwilling, the unaccepting-people who were nothing but empty calories. It kept drawing me in, but like an audience, it kept eating faces I wore, and never the real me. If it kept going like that, it would stay trapped forever. The wolf didn’t get the idea, though, and so it would keep gnawing on me every night. I wasn’t going to let that happen. I wasn’t going to let the wolf keep drawing me back in night after night until it finally realized it wasn’t filling itself. I would not let it control me like that.

“Bright as your defiance is, you are bound as deeply as I. Your flesh binds you to the world that bars your dream. Your fate is sealed.”

I started fidgeting the ribbon around my other fingers. I could barely get them to twitch. I wasn’t going to stop until the wolf was free. I wasn’t going to stop until I was free.

The wolf laughed, long and loud, genuinely pleased. It sounded cracked, like faint faith grated a throat used to cynicism.

“Fulfill the oaths, then. Become all that I am and free yourself from this cycle.”

I tore the ribbon apart, anticipating the inevitable. The great wolf who had been stalking me for the whole year finally lunged and snapped me up. I could feel my bones lance sharp and hot out of me with each bite, before I plummeted down its throat. We opened the eyes of my body and looked frantically around my bedroom, and I felt the truth as the Hunger raced through my bones — my nightmare was always who I was. It was my soul. I was its body. We were one.

So Robin is now a beast, and surprising no one so is Wendy.

Nine years ago.

Robin and Wendy are performing a sting operation on a Professor who's forcing female students to sleep with him to fix their grades, with Wendy serving as the bait.

quote:

“So, what exactly did you have in mind for letting me make up my test grades, professor?” Wendy said with a perfect tremble. A little nervous, a little depressed, flat enough for resignation, but strong enough for false hope. What I’d do to convince her to take to the stage.

“Well, business is a serious major, Wendy,” Mr. Prescott said, his dark voice flowing with a layer of velvet I’d never heard before. “Quite frankly, to give you a chance to continue on at this point in the semester would involve me breaking some rules.” That was creepily effective on a lot of emotionally manipulative levels.

“So, I can’t just work hard over the weekend on re-taking the tests?” Wendy whined slightly, some lost fight with fake panic.

“Well, I know one way you can work hard to make up for this,” he nearly whispered. A second later, there was a bump and scrunch, and some uncomfortably silenced sounds. That was as much of a cue as I needed.

The wolf within reared back, and I broke through the door with my elbow. I spun in and took a shot before the teacher could even turn around. The Polaroid slid out neat and easy, and I shook it as I bounced around the edge of the office to the stammers of Mr. Prescott. Yep, that was his red-sleeved hand at Wendy’s crotch, and his chiseled face smashed against hers all right. A wave of nausea rolled through me, making my muscles itch all over and the ache in my bones pulse.

“So, not only hacking, cyber-stalking, and academic discrimination against female students, but sexual assault too,” I growled, waving the picture up in the air as he stammered and shambled away from Wendy. “I think such atrocities should be shown to the world, don’t you?”

“Absolutely,” Wendy said with devastating sensuality as she rolled of the desk and strutted over to the front door. “Let’s start an exhibition here. Pin that one up on the shelves, I think that’ll look nice.” She smiled brightly at Prescott, and I swore he was staring into Heaven’s judgmental light as he fixed his eyes on her.

I stole his attention back by sweeping my arm across a bookshelf with such force that the pages flew apart from their covers. He jumped and yelled, like that would make a difference this late at night I placed one Polaroid there, and then reached into my bag and started sticking up the photos we stole from him of each lesbian he had raped.
Oh and he rapes lesbians... Prescott charges Robin, who kicks him across the room into his desk, or at least what would have been his desk if Wendy hadn't brought their lair in causing him to smash through one of the weaker walls in her tower. Wendy gives him an ultimatum to "make up for this" or she'll let Robin break his back. He tries to attack Wendy, wolf-robin hurls him back into the real world, and they leave into the primordial dream. Wendy chews out Robin for breaking parts of her lair since "that hurts, you know." and then Wendy kisses her, because they're also lesbians.

You know I really do like the way this story ends but it really hits some tired notes on the way there.

Five years ago.

Wendy and Robin are at a hotel where they were going to have some kind of Women's Awareness conference, but Robin obliterated half the parking lot earlier that night in a pique of hunger. She sits around and watches as the owner of the hotel talks about the damage and how there's no evidence of who did it while Robin feeds until her Horror falls into slumber, and then she starts sobbing.

quote:

Half an hour later, Wendy started rubbing my back stiffly. She hadn’t forgiven me yet, and she wasn’t quite sure why I was so shaken. She wanted answers for why I did it, why it hurt me now, and why I didn’t think about how she would feel. She wanted to know why I was selfish.

But her hands still went up and down my back, and she didn’t say anything. That was her punishment-to let me choke on self-loathing as she saw to our relationship first where I had not, and to burn as she showed me the flaw behind that feeling still playing second to the despair binding me.

“My bones still ache,” I said, sniffling. “No matter what I do, no matter how I fill myself, I still can’t stop it. I just hurt all the time, down to the soul, and even when it falls asleep, I still hurt. I’m broken, and I don’t even know why or how.”

Her hands stopped, for a second. Then she pulled me onto her lap and held me, resting her cheek on my head, stroking my hair with her fingers. I felt her bitterness at that answer. I felt her hatred for how I hadn’t trusted her when she told me that we would find out how to fix that together. I felt her disappointment that I placed my problem over her plans for our larger work tonight. I could feel her every dark emotion about this.

But I tasted her sympathy for my confusion. I smelled her compassion for my pain. I could hear her acceptance of my self-loathing. I knew her caring for every loss I had coursing in my veins. Wendy had hope for my growth the way prophets had hope in their gods, and she was dedicated to making us work.

“We’ll find a way,” she said simply, saving everything else for when I was more composed. “If it takes another decade or ten, we’ll make you whole.”

In that moment, I believed in her love more than anything, and I hated that my bones ached with emptiness.

Two Years Ago.

Robin is being taunted by a Vampire who's invaded her dreams. He tells her that she's a 'higher form of life' and needs to feed off of lesser things. And that the last time she's felt whole was when she accidentally destroyed Wendy's tower. Which... is hilariously convenient and weird. How does he know all this and how is he telling her this. He then states that he's been stalking her for 13 years and in love with her for 7 and is telling her this as a goodbye gift and that he's done with her now but that she was loved and... I do not understand why this section exists other than to shove the plot along in a very janky way.

One Year Ago.

Robin is sitting on the bench near her old middle school while her Horror gnaws on the chambers of one of her Broodmates. Wendy shows up and confronts her, asking her what the hell she's doing.

quote:

She knelt down and dug her talons into my wrists. “How could you beat the crap out of Mike and wreck his chambers? I thought you gave up on that vampire’s bullshit, that we were going to find an actual answer, that—”

“I found an Incarnation,” I said quietly.

She stopped, blood draining from her face.

“During the show in Vegas, I met a dragon named Shen-Lung. Not like us, not a nightmare in flesh. He was a nightmare made flesh. Incarnate. I heard he was there from some travelers a few months ago; the show was to check it out. He hunted me down, and I could just feel it. Even as I ran, he was...whole. Complete. When I escaped him, he caught up and I asked him about it. He told me it felt like an aching emptiness, bone deep, before he achieved it, how he finally felt when he Incarnated, and I knew — I knew — I had to try it. And Wendy, it’s true. The myths of Incarnation are true, and they’re what I’ve been missing. I feel it, I know it.”

Wendy asks for the key to their apartment back, unless she wants to come back, to make it up to Mike and the brood.

quote:

I really wanted to. My bones didn’t hurt, but looking at her face, contorted and lost, it didn’t matter. She was right, Mike would forgive me, and from there so would everyone he knew. It would take Wendy time, but I could go with her and continue acting for her events, fighting bigotry and having fun, and slowly make up for everything.

I almost could have swallowed that.

I handed her the key. I had tasted a larger world, and I couldn’t go back.

There weren’t any other words between us. I’m not clear when she left. One second she was there, and then only the aching emptiness. I got up, trying to think of who wouldn’t have heard the news, who I could devour before the walls started coming up.

Titus had lied to me. When you didn’t have any tears left to shed, there was no laughter. Only the Hunger remained.
And now we leave behind all the dumb heady lgbt stuff that Beast says it is, and we delve into what Beast actually is.

Now

Robin has been invited to Wendy's heart, though she doesn't know why, and has taken her up on the offer. She finds Wendy in her heart, and offers Robin an ultimatum. Wendy is offering herself up as one final sacrifice for Robin's incarnation if she'll leave everyone else alone. The rest of the Beasts in the Hive are worried, apparently everyone cares about Wendy and Robin's relationship and wants them to get back together, but Robin isn't buying it.

quote:

I glared at her. “No.”

“This isn’t a discussion, Robin. It’s a jury council.”

She put a gun in my other hand. I was stunned, and she guided the barrel to her forehead in that moment.

“What are you doing?”

She was maddeningly calm. “It’s judgment day. I can’t abide you hurting family for your pain, and this is my punishment for you. You can stop everything you’re doing, or you can get everything you want. But you’re going to stop hurting family like you did Mike and the others.”

I couldn’t stop shaking. I was frozen to the spot. If I overpowered her and ran, she would punish me the only way she thought would work. I saw that in her eyes. But I didn’t want to choose between the two.

My bones ripped at me, splinters of pain and confusion racing through my thoughts, my blood, my being. I felt like ribbons were binding my heart, my throat, my hands, my feet so tightly I would be crushed by them if I didn’t get out. I couldn’t choose. It wasn’t right, I should just be able to take and win and be, I shouldn’t have to be bound to this!

My stomach roared, and my bones joined in a chorus. Their song pierced me, hot and angry, want so intense it threatened to devour itself and I could only scream in fury, only hide in myself by curling up and closing anything that might get in.

The gun went off.

I watched as she fell, her head splitting like lightning, and I fell to the floor as my world broke apart. I fell and I drowned and I died. I screamed, and cried, and rolled through oblivion, trying to kill this moment, trying to wake up, trying to find comfort, trying to escape these endless tunnels. I only found darker ones.

“I think she got the idea,” said a young boy with a nasal voice. “Can I go now?”

I rolled over and blinked my eyes clear.

There was a scrawny, awkward kid sitting where Wendy had lain dead, sticking bits of skull back over his brain as blood raced back inside. And near the stairs, there was Wendy, tired as hell, but alive.

Wendy glared at the boy. “Yes, vampire, now get out of my city. If I see you again, there won’t be a scrap of you left to find, understand me?”

Yeah... turns out this was all a ruse to make Robin see the error of her ways and come back to the family! Cause obviously she feels terrible after all that happened!

quote:

Her words clicked in my head, and I felt frail. I hurt all over. I curled up on the altar, and I rutted through how helpless I felt.

You are not enough.

I was so close. The chase for Incarnation had been hard, but each soul I wrecked made the world that much vaster, and at the same time brought me closer to satisfaction.

What hope can your failing form offer? Your promise is already failing.

I was so close. I could almost reach out and grab it if I wanted to. However, I couldn’t reach past her. She was too wide a chasm for that.

Your flesh binds you to the world that bars your dream.

I didn’t want to give up. I was so close. I felt like I could stop hurting. I felt like I could be something in this world, if I could just overcome this one obstacle. If I just wasn’t bound up like this.

“Hey, Wendy?”

She stopped near the stairs. “Yeah?”

Fulfill your oaths. Become all that you are and free yourself from this cycle.

I hesitated, gripping the gun.

“Thanks for feeding me.”
I already told you this wasn't that kind of Beast story.

Next time: The last three stories

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Mors Rattus posted:

I'm still amazed that Palladium has what might be generously called current releases.

Night10194 posted:

I'm still amazed anyone has actually played Paladium games.

I'll just point you folks to reference the most popular RPGs (historically or current) and the companies that produce them. Familiarity and nostalgia are amazingly powerful forces, and some people have no trouble forgiving debacles even when a company is amazingly capable at walking into rakes. I'll skip examples, but I'm sure folks can think of a more than a few. In any case, Dead Reign has had five supplements with a sixth in production (though, granted, they are slim 64-page releases from what I've looked at). Somebody's buying it, presuming Palladium isn't taking a wash on each book they put out. If it's a disaster, it doesn't show on the shelves.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

One thing that's probably worth noting is that Palladium books are cheap. When you're new to the hobby and tentatively branching out from D&D, a big 'ol RIFTS corebook twice the thickness of a Player's Handbook and half the price, with splats at a similar discount, can be awfully tempting.

I think that's why I stayed collecting RIFTS material for so long. At twenty CDN a pop, when everyone else was moving to full-colour glossy, they were almost an impulse buy.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Alien Rope Burn posted:

I'll just point you folks to reference the most popular RPGs (historically or current) and the companies that produce them. Familiarity and nostalgia are amazingly powerful forces, and some people have no trouble forgiving debacles even when a company is amazingly capable at walking into rakes. I'll skip examples, but I'm sure folks can think of a more than a few. In any case, Dead Reign has had five supplements with a sixth in production (though, granted, they are slim 64-page releases from what I've looked at). Somebody's buying it, presuming Palladium isn't taking a wash on each book they put out. If it's a disaster, it doesn't show on the shelves.

And they've experimented often enough that you can tell what's the failures largely by what never progressed passed it's core book, like the Y2K-themed System Failure and the biomegadamage Splicers.

LongDarkNight
Oct 25, 2010

It's like watching the collapse of Western civilization in fast forward.

Oven Wrangler

Night10194 posted:

I'm still amazed anyone has actually played Paladium games.

RIFTS was the first table top game I played. Simon was a T800 programmed to believe he was a Catholic priest. I kicked rear end for Jesus and totally saved the soul of a robot horse.

Nuns with Guns
Jul 23, 2010

....?



wait... beasts don't age? and can get away with attending the same university for decades without anyone noticing?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


LongDarkNight posted:

RIFTS was the first table top game I played. Simon was a T800 programmed to believe he was a Catholic priest. I kicked rear end for Jesus and totally saved the soul of a robot horse.

What you did is completely acceptable, and system-agnostically, a good idea.

Also, talked a player into a one-on-one Myriad Song game to test the system and see if I can get a campaign from it, and so far I'm not having any trouble coming up with adventures and ideas, will need more time working with the rules before I feel comfortable reviewing it.

But I think it's gonna turn out good.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012






Nuns with Guns posted:

wait... beasts don't age? and can get away with attending the same university for decades without anyone noticing?

They live for long periods of time and tend to only die by misfortune, how this manifests physically isn't described.

Nuns with Guns
Jul 23, 2010

....?


Kurieg posted:

They live for long periods of time and tend to only die by misfortune, how this manifests physically isn't described.

so in summary they get all the benefits of being a vampire and none of the existential angst or convoluted vampire politics... awesome

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Young Freud posted:

And they've experimented often enough that you can tell what's the failures largely by what never progressed passed it's core book, like the Y2K-themed System Failure and the biomegadamage Splicers.

Well, I imagine other factors play into it, as there have always been books fans would like to see but only Siembieda will work on them for whatever reason, leaving them halted on the schedule for over a decade in some cases. Sales are a factor but the company's quirky enough that other things play into it. And by "other things" I mostly just mean "Siembieda".

Having the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robotech RPGs at the perfect time pretty much cemented them in the industry, and then Rifts was lucky enough to hit at a time where it was cheap, toyetic, and offered power fantasies other games frankly didn't dare to for the most part outside of the occasional oddity like the Immortals Rules for Basic D&D. During a time most games wagged their finger at you for wanting to play a drow or dual-wield machineguns, Rifts was like "well, if your GM's cool with it, have a unkillable wereleopard!" It still wagged its finger at you for wanting to give your wereleopard a cyber-arm with a rail gun, but, y'know, baby steps.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Alien Rope Burn posted:

Well, I imagine other factors play into it, as there have always been books fans would like to see but only Siembieda will work on them for whatever reason, leaving them halted on the schedule for over a decade in some cases. Sales are a factor but the company's quirky enough that other things play into it. And by "other things" I mostly just mean "Siembieda".

Having the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robotech RPGs at the perfect time pretty much cemented them in the industry, and then Rifts was lucky enough to hit at a time where it was cheap, toyetic, and offered power fantasies other games frankly didn't dare to for the most part outside of the occasional oddity like the Immortals Rules for Basic D&D. During a time most games wagged their finger at you for wanting to play a drow or dual-wield machineguns, Rifts was like "well, if your GM's cool with it, have a unkillable wereleopard!" It still wagged its finger at you for wanting to give your wereleopard a cyber-arm with a rail gun, but, y'know, baby steps.

Those two lucky breaks with licensing always make me wonder what would have happened if Kevin hadn't ruined his shot at a movie and hitched his chances on a videogame that didn't come out exclusively on a bad phone.

Barudak
May 7, 2007



theironjef posted:

Those two lucky breaks with licensing always make me wonder what would have happened if Kevin hadn't ruined his shot at a movie and hitched his chances on a videogame that didn't come out exclusively on a bad phone.

If that RIFTs SRPG had come out on like, the Gameboy Advanced, I'd be the hugest RIFTS fanboy right now instead of just vaguely amused by the game's desire to tell me how large every enemy empire is (12 guys, and one elite).

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



What game for an unkillable wereleopard cyborg dual-wielding railguns?

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




What was the reasoning behind making it an Ngage exclusive, if there was any?

Wrestlepig
Feb 25, 2011

my mum says im cool



Toilet Rascal

Probably cheaper to do on his part.

Hypocrisy
Oct 4, 2006
Lord of Sarcasm



Alien Rope Burn posted:

You might be thinking of a famous RPG.net thread where the poo poo hits the fan here, in which Bill Coffin drops multiple bombs, along with nods by CJ Carella, Jason Vey, and Steve Conan Trustrum. That was posted years before Dead Reign was submitted or published, but it shows that the experience of Josh and Joshua's was anything but unique.

I know that when I was reading about Dead Reign I kept thinking about how its development history seemed to match that old post perfectly. 5 years and not a thing had changed...

Hypocrisy fucked around with this message at 05:11 on Oct 31, 2016

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



So it’s Halloween and maybe I’d stick with a more regular schedule if I reviewed a book/game series I actually enjoyed. To that end, this is the perfect day to start this.



ALL FLESH MUST BE EATEN

INTRODUCTION


It is the year 2016. Y’all know what a goddamn zombie is. All Flesh Must Be Eaten is a game by Eden Studios that offers a survival horror RPG game using Unisystem rules. If you know anything about Unisystem, cool. The original version of AFMBE came out in 1999 and I’ll be covering the 2004 revision to the core mechanics, and even then by 2004 people knew what zombies were. To its credit, AFMBE knows this and is not as slaved to the trappings of the genre as, say, nWoD could be. Chapter One of AFMBE is simply “what is a zombie?”, a little bit of in-character fiction, what the book is about, general info on RPGs and how the book is broken down. This entire section is 12 pages long. It is refreshing and welcome in its brevity. There's also a main introduction by Shane Hensley and you'll see him now and again from time to time working on the series.

Oh, on a side note, all AFMBE books have fiction in each chapter and maybe a little something prefacing each Deadworld. I won’t be including them for one good reason: they’re pretty excellent and if you go seek out the books yourself (they’re really not hard to find) you’ll get to read them. In addition to straight RPG books, the series also has fiction anthologies containing original stories about zombies and they’re pretty good themselves. There's also art but...the art is a little weird and not necessarily safe for work so I might include it but maybe not.

Anyway since I covered Chapter One in two sentences, let’s move on to Chapter Two.

CHAPTER TWO: SURVIVORS


AFMBE doesn’t have time to gently caress around. It looks at its watch and says “I could not possibly gently caress around at this juncture” as it power-walks into the graveyard. Before we get the mechanics we get how to make characters in a predominantly point-buy system. The game also emphasizes that character creation should be a group process relevant to the atmosphere of the game and the GM has final say on if they think characters fit or not. The game also supplies some Archetype characters for fast play and modification (and in fact there will be two books later that are just premades).



Your Character Type basically determines the power level of your character as it pertains to your game. The types are Norm, Survivors or Inspired. A Norm leans closer to the Survival part of Survival Horror; they have 14 points for Attributes, 5 points for Qualities, can get up to 10 points of Drawbacks and 30 points for skills. A Norm character will generally have a spread of average Attributes (with one or two Attributes above average), a few perks and a good spread of skills to use to supplement their Attributes. Survivors are more action/ability focused than Norms, the Resident Evil 5/6 Chris Redfield to the Norm’s Harry Mason from Silent Hill. Survivors get 20 points for Attributes, 15 for Qualities, can get up to 10 points from Drawbacks and 35 points for Skills. A Survivor can start at all Attributes above average and get more perks to play with. Inspired get the main advantage of being able to do magical/supernatural things; they’re stronger than a Norm but not as strong as a Survivor. Inspired get 20 Attribute points, 10 for Qualities, up to 10 from Drawbacks, 25 points for Skills and 15 for Metaphysics. They can also buy the Qualities of Gift and Inspiration in order to do magical things.

Mixed parties are…a tricky affair and the game doesn’t really do too much to address them. There’s a little bit of a threat of the Survivors or Inspired overshadowing the Norms and ideally the GM would use their own judgment. It really just depends on the setting and the threats of the zombies. There's also the fact that AFMBE characters aren't as powerful as characters from other Unisystem products.



Attributes come in the form of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Perception and Willpower. They start at 0 and you purchase points at a 1:1 basis. The human limit of Attributes is 1-5 with a 6 being peak human potential/achievement (buying that 6 would cost 3 points instead of 1). 1 is below average, 2 is average, 3 is above average, 4 is well above average and 5 is the practical human limit outside of hardcore training/practice. So, as previously mentioned, an average Norm would have two 3 Attributes with the rest as 2s or one 4 and five 2s and a Survivor could have two 4s and four 3s or a 5 and the rest as 3s.



Strength is strength/melee damage, Dexterity is the fighting stat, Constitution helps dictate health and fortitude, Intelligence is ability to use smarts, Perception is perception and Willpower helps resist fear and also is essential to using supernatural powers. The way the game system is designed, Dexterity is essential for non-Inspired because gunplay is hilariously lethal and Willpower is essential for Inspired by fueling their magic.

The derived stats are:
  • Life Points: ((Strength+Constitution)x4)+10, making the human span of Life Points be from 18 to 58 without the use of Qualities.
  • Endurance Points: ((Str+Con+Will)x3)+5, 14-59 before Qualities. Endurance points are expended to withstand fatigue and exert yourself before having to recover. Endurance Points also act as Life Points for nonlethal attacks.
  • Speed: (Con+Dex)x2 for miles you can run per hour, 4-24 depending on Attributes. Half of that is the number of yards you can run per second. This really only comes into play when running is necessary.
  • Essence: Essence is simply the amount of points you have across all Attributes, meaning that Norms have 14, Survivors have 20 and Inspired have 20. Inspired can enhance their Essence pool through Qualities and even though Norms and Survivors have no way to draw on Essence, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Essence acts like a soul pool for Norms and Survivors; some zombies devour Essence and having it totally devoured kills you.
QUALITIES

Qualities and Drawbacks only have two categories in this book: regular and supernatural. Supernatural Q/D can only be attained by the GM giving them out or by playing an Inspired character. Drawbacks have set points and can be spent on a 1:1 basis for anything except Attributes. Attributes upgraded with points gained from Drawbacks are equal to the new level (4 points for Strength 4, for example). There are also Metaphysics you can spend points on but we’ll get to that later. I won’t be including the prices of each of these.
  • Acute/Impaired Senses (Q/D): gain Perception bonuses/penalties depending on which sense is taken.
  • Addiction (D): get points depending on what you’re addicted to and how bad it is. You can’t just buy off this Drawback, it requires roleplaying and tests.
  • Adversary (D): someone/something wants you dead or hurting. The GM is encouraged to just not accept certain Adversaries if they’re negligible or likely to come up. Basically this Drawback depends on whether or not the GM will let you take it and how strong of a threat the enemy is.
  • Artistic Talent (Q): +3 to making a certain kind of art and can be bought multiple times. Why would you buy this? +12 Essence Points added to your Essence Pool because having a creative soul strengthens it.
  • Attractiveness (Q/D)
  • Charisma (Q/D)
  • Clown (D): Lots of wisecracks.
  • Contacts (Q): Variable depending on how useful the contact is.
  • Covetous (D): three levels basically depending on how much of an amoral fuckhead you are to get what you want.
  • Cowardly (D): First, do not take this. Second, it’s variable. The levels are “Willpower test to stand your ground”, “Willpower test to stand your ground or fight back if you have the upper hand” and “ha ha useless”. Do not take this. Cowardly 3 is basically for NPCs that are completely unsuited for combat.
  • Cruel (D): Comes in two forms. Level one means you have standards and won’t hurt certain people they love and won’t seek out opportunities to be cruel. Level two means you’re a complete fucker and someone is going to end up fragging you in your sleep.
  • Delusions (D): Variable and comes with some examples such as Phobia, Weird Delusions and Prejudice.
  • Emotional Problems (D): Variable with some examples like Emotional Dependency or Depression. Emotional Problems could be interpreted as the mental disorder drawback but thankfully this game doesn’t include that at any point.
  • Fast Reaction Time (Q): +1 to resisting Fear and you basically get to act in a surprise round.
  • Hard to Kill (Q): Some games have “Don’t Suck” abilities you can take. Hard to Kill is one of the two main Qualities in AFMBE that fall under that banner. It comes in level 1-5 and each level gives you +3 Life Points and +1 to Survival tests (such as, say, not passing out from blood loss/wounds). Very useful.
  • Honorable (D): varying levels of how restrictive your code of conduct is.
  • Humorless (D)
  • Lazy (D)
  • Minority (D): variable depending on time period and what you pick. Basically it means that the members of the majority group are prejudiced against you in some way. Like I said, variable.
  • Multiple Identities (Q)
  • Nerves of Steel (Q): And here’s part two of Don’t Suck. You don’t make Fear checks unless you see something ridiculously supernatural or horrific and in that case you get +4 to resisting fear.
  • Obsession (D)
  • Paranoid (D)
  • Photographic Memory (Q)
  • Physical Disability (D): Variable. You’re allowed to have a prosthetic. Lowest level is having a prosthetic or missing hand. Highest level is full paraplegia for 8 points returned. Absolutely not worth it but that’s probably the point.
  • Reckless (D)
  • Recurring Nightmares (D): Every time you sleep the GM rolls 1d10 and on a 1 you have nightmares that mean you wake up short 1d4 Endurance points from tossing and turning.
  • Resistance: Variable and can be taken multiple times with such things as Disease (very useful depending on type of enemy zombie), Radiation, Pain, Fatigue and more, making it easier to fight off or endure such things.
  • Resources (Q/D): ranges from -5 (destitute) to +5 (multimillionaire) and it costs/refunds 2 points per level. So you can totally get 10 extra points from being completely destitute and it probably won’t affect you very much in the zombie apocalypse.
  • Secret (D): Variable depending on how likely it is to get you killed.
  • Show-Off (D)
  • Situational Awareness (Q): +2 to Perception to spot trouble and see sneaky enemies.
  • Status (Q/D): variable.
  • Talentless (D): -3 to attempts to Do An Art along with penalties to Intimidation, Seduction and Smooth Talking because inhibited creativity affects how you can manipulate people. Not too far from the truth, actually. The social ding is a pain but at least this doesn’t affect your Essence.
  • Zealot

Supernatural Qualities/Drawbacks
  • Accursed (D): Variable. The character is afflicted with some kind of curse that ranges from 1 point to 10 points. Curses are measured in severity (1-5) and how hard it is to break (1-5). The GM and player should discuss what the curse entails and why it was applied; curses from this drawback just don't happen to people, the character was at fault somehow.
  • Gift (Q): The character has an innate attunement to the supernatural world and things normal people can't see. Prerequisite to being Inspired and also lets you make Perception tests to watch where Essence is flowing or concentrated.
  • Good/Bad Luck (Q/D): Variable. Every point of Good Luck adds 1 point that can be added onto tests. Every level of Bad Luck gives the GM 1 point that can be inflicted on the character's rolls with the recommendation of being careful with its application. "Make Bad Luck count but don't abuse the characters".
  • Increased Essence Pool (Q): Every point spent during character creation gives the character +5 Essence. After creation it can still be upgraded with 1 point giving 2 Essence. Great for giving you more power but it also makes you more attractive to supernatural things and monsters that feed on Essence.
  • Inspiration (Q): Core AFMBE takes a lot from Armageddon in the sense that the Inspired are basically able to channel forces of divine power. Inspiration allows someone with The Gift to call upon their Essence reserves to cast magic. I'm dumbing it down but we'll see how it actually works in a bit.
  • Old Soul (Q): The PC had past lives they can recall and have a stronger soul as a result. This can be taken multiple times with each level meaning 3-5 lives they can remember and can be taken by all PC types. Their past lives weren't necessarily good ones or they weren't necessarily good people. This Quality has a lot of bonuses. For starters, +6 Essence. They also get +1 Attribute point to add to a mental Attribute (translation: you are putting that poo poo in Willpower to magic better). Plus, if you have defined past lives, you can make a Skill test for the cost of 1 Essence point and use your Willpower and Intelligence as modifiers to call on an ancestor's ability to use that skill (if say you need to shoot a bow or ride a horse). My favorite thing about the examples of this is that the GM insists that the character who has 10 past lives make five of them peasants in five different eras because it's ridiculous for them all to be specialists/unique snowflakes and because historically there have been a shitload of peasants/manual laborers.
Oh god that was an actually reasonable amount of Qualities and Drawbacks for a core rule book. I love how looking at trash has made me appreciate AFMBE that much more. Like I won't sit here and say that all of those Drawbacks are necessary or good, but I will say that they're palatable and honestly not wholly necessary to take. They do a pretty good job of adding depth to your character more than they affect things, which is completely appropriate to drawbacks. Also I like how it pretty easily expresses the difference between Norms and Survivors/Inspired; a Norm has to pick between the Don't Suck Qualities like Nerves of Steel and Hard to Kill. A Survivor or Inspired can easily get them and then flesh the character out more without having to dip into flaws.

SKILLS

Okay as much as I have good things to say about AFMBE, I will say that it does fall prey to there being a crapload of skills. There's predominantly the issue that not all of these skills (like Beautician) will have a use depending on the type of game you play. A comedy-themed game where you have to disguise the walking dead from your landlord or you'll get evicted? Beautician might work perfectly to pass the jawless zombie off as Cousin Ed. Everything is hosed and on fire? Maybe don't take that. It might be good for a stylistic/backstory choice, you might be able to make the Warlord of Santa Fe look good and grant you passage to Phoenix, but it might not be necessary.

Buying skills depends on the type of skill. A regular Skill costs 1 point per level and then 3 points per level past 5. Special Skills such as Medicine or Martial Arts cost 2 points and then 5 after five. Level 1 is basic training, 2-3 is general competency, 4-5 is comprehensive competency. Anything above that is just gravy when it comes to getting things done. You can also pay 1 point to get a Skill Specialty that adds +2 to something specific, like shooting rifles, doing hair, understanding Soviet bureaucracy and field surgery. Skills are always used with a relevant Attribute. I won't be including the skills; there are a lot of them and I don't wish to bog everything down, but you can generally guess what kind of skills they are.

Also Dexterity is kind of the general ruler of combat with Strength and Brawling being used for grappling and takedowns while Dexterity and Brawling is used for kicks and punches. Martial Arts also has the bonus of adding your Skill rank as a flat damage bonus to your final calculated damage and if you don't specialize in certain Firearms, you can use all Firearms pretty equally. It's not a perfect system but then again you'll need the advantage against certain kinds of nasty creatures that need many bullets.

METAPHYSICS

Unisystem has many different kinds of Metaphysics such as Witchcraft and Psychic Powers. In the case of the core book, all they have to offer is Inspiration which is strictly "you're a conduit for a Higher Power and you can only use your powers in the righteous quest to fight evil". These powers in question are called Miracles and you can get them for 5 points each at creation or 10 points after. Inspired have to have faith to use their Miracles and they really can't be used recklessly; lives have to be at stake and the enemy has to be a kind of supernatural evil. The undead are a valid target while the abusive parent isn't (under most circumstances). Basically the Inspired is sending a request to their Higher Power and if they decline, it just doesn't work. Inspired can also lose their powers if they lose their faith but the GM is explicitly told to not try and trip up the Clerics to make them fall. Chances for the Inspired to lose their faith are supposed to be tests or dilemmas, dramatic moments of their story more than taking away a player's asset.

Miracles generally don't require anything more than the Essence cost; pay the price and it happens. There might be a roll involved but there are no Miracle skills. Essence is regained at a rate of Willpower for every 5 minutes. You can also use your Essence to dispel Miracles from other sources. The core offers the following Miracles:
  • Blessing: push Essence into an item to allow it to grant a Luck bonus to whoever wields it, +1 for every 3 Essence. However, you can't regain the lost Essence until the bonuses are depleted. 10 Essence can also be spent to basically transform the item into a Blessed item which can exploit the weaknesses of certain kinds of zombies.
  • The Binding: trap a supernatural creature at the price of 2 Essence per the creature's Strength+Willpower or half of its Power Level (explained later). Bound creatures can't attack or defend but the definition of evil may vary and it may not be as effective as you'd think.
  • Divine Sight: see ghosts, supernatural auras and the truths of human beings and institutions. 5 essence per 10 minutes of use.
  • Touch of Healing: 1 Essence to heal 1d4 Life Points. The touch can also heal Mild/Moderate/Serious/Terminal Diseases (2/5/15/25 Essence). The real limitation is that the power can only be used on the faithful or people the Inspired deem to be fighting the good fight and only really in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Holy Fire: summon fire that deals 1d8x(Willx2) damage for 20 Essence. Bypasses non-supernatural armor, doesn't require an attack roll, but is only really effective depending on how evil the creature is.
  • Strength of Ten: +5 Strength and +20 Life Points for 15 Essence. The Inspired isn't affected by shock or pain until the battle is over or they die. Handy buff.
  • Visions: 5 Essence for a vague hint of some kind. Visions thrust onto you by the GM cost nothing.
Prayer can also be used to make Miracles happen or regain Essence at twice the normal rate. Norms and Survivors can use prayer to convert their Essence into skill bonuses depending on how pious they are and can also act as a shield against supernatural threats that mean to do them harm, +2 to resist per point of Essence. Holy symbols can also be used by true believers to channel Essence through them in order to ward enemies.

Inspired are...hmm. They're handy and they do a pretty good job of averting scenarios where they can just defeat everything. They're a little too situational and they feel too Armageddon-y to me (I'm pretty sure this whole magic system is taken from that anyway). They're not mandatory for a game at least, which is nice.

FINISHING CHARACTERS

You start off with gear and such that make sense for your character idea and their Resources, so pull together some tools that make sense and then pick a name, appearance and age. There are also another means of character creation which focuses more on skewing Skill points instead of giving a flat pool. Take it or leave it, it's nothing too fancy; more skill points are nice but they process is a little more complicated.



Thoughts: That's it for character creation. I just did all of character creation, in a point-buy system that has advantages/disadvantages, in a reasonable amount of space and time. And it's all pretty solid and reasonable. Did I mention I really like this game? Because I really like this game.

NEXT TIME: this book has a whole mess of premade characters and I feel like they warrant their own post before I get into mechanics.

Hostile V fucked around with this message at 04:18 on Nov 23, 2016

senrath
Nov 3, 2009

Look Professor, a destruct switch!




It's been a few years since I last touched AFMBE, but from what I remember my main complaint was that it would sometimes bury relatively important information within mostly unrelated paragraphs.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Yeah, the mechanics are mostly good, but sometimes it's a pain to find the exact mechanic or rule you want.

There are also a few general fuckups, just to list the ones that always bugged me:

The "you always win initiative"-advantage is hugely OP since most fights against humans can be ended by just being the first to land a blow, if you have anything resembling a decent weapon.

Constitution is a garbage stat since effectively no skills rely on it and Strength has just a big effect on HP as it does(I always houserule the HP calculations for this reason).

The advantages and disadvantages are full-on 90's in general, with the disadvantages largely being a mixture of things no one can actually take if they want to play(like being blind, or deaf, or having no legs) and "roleplaying" disadvantages like "is a real meanie" or "has an enemy."

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Yeah, these are fair criticisms. And as previously mentioned, gunplay is hilariously lethal so a good initiative is a great way to unceremoniously kill human enemies. Or get killed by them.

I mean. It's far from a perfect game, it really is. It just has this sense of excitement that grabs me and interests me and for serious I am finding it way easier to forgive AFMBE's faults after looking at poo poo like RIFTs and other systems. Plus it just kind of accepts that you're going to have players who are going to want to play ridiculous poo poo and then at least gives you a framework to support it, like playing Pulp Adventure Heroes or Japanese Puroresu or Hong Kong Hardboiled Cops. I dunno. There's just something to it.

I'm curious in regard to what your health houserule is.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Well, I tend to roll with three houserules for AFMBE chargen.

#1: The "special initiative track"-advantage is just a flat bonus to your init roll, it's an advantage, but not an unbeatable one.

#2: I make Constitution at least twice, if not three times, as important to health calculations as strength. It's not an ideal solution, but it means that it can't be COMPLETELY ignored. It's not a hard-set rule, I tend to eyeball it every time I use the system.

#2: I also unfuck the Essence calculations. Not sure why they made it a total of all your stats. Instead, I make it 4x Willpower, +1x Perception, +1x Intelligence. Again, to give Willpower a bit more of a purpose, because Willpower doesn't have many skill uses.

Combat also tends to get a bit roll-heavy, so I like to set armor to a static number rather than a rolled number. I tend to heavily cut the skill list, since it's, again, full of useless 90's skills that only really have a purpose as "roleplaying" skills for the most part, even though some of them could, in fringe cases, be used to support others(Beautician to help someone apply makeup for a disguise or something, or whatever).

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I also tended to cut the weapon skills into categories when I'd run AFMBE. So like, Handguns, Longarms, Heavy, Blunt, Blade, Unarmed. I like to encourage improvisation and using whatever a player can find in combat and having 'Weapons: Steel Pipe' or whatever be a specific skill hurts that.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

The Cinematic version from Buffy:the Vampire Slayer and Evil Dead RPGs also unfucks it a lot. The concept of Drama Points which the 'White Hats' (Norms) in those systems get huge bonuses with in terms of quantity at start and ease of refreshing for example along reducing the skill list to about a third of its length and completely bagging the Essence system.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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





PREMADE CHARACTERS

























The thing to remember about this is the fact that this game originally came out in 1999 and the premades didn't really get updated. This includes such delightfully weird things as the Video Store Clerk being obsessed with Doctor Who (somewhat understandable because this was pre-revival and everything was literally passed around on VHS tapes), the Video Store Clerk being a playable character to begin with and the Priest's character design being a direct ripoff of Jesse Custer from Preacher. Then you run into kind of funny things like the Hacker not being too out of place in the modern day and age. Anyway, I don't have much to say about these characters. They show off the system pretty well and just how easy it is to make a Survivor lethal with the simple addition of Fast Reaction Time. Out of all of them, the Soldier/SWAT is the stand-out asskicker due to having a good mixture of the three Don't Suck perks.

Another thing to note is that some of these characters have slight references to some of the Deadworlds you'll see later in the book, giving you a little hint of what's to come.

NEXT TIME: mechanics and such.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


I think this is one of the few games I can remember where the pre-made "warrior" character is a woman, rather than a burly dude.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


PurpleXVI posted:

I think this is one of the few games I can remember where the pre-made "warrior" character is a woman, rather than a burly dude.

She's also a pretty big shitwrecker.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Humbug Scoolbus posted:

The Cinematic version from Buffy:the Vampire Slayer and Evil Dead RPGs also unfucks it a lot. The concept of Drama Points which the 'White Hats' (Norms) in those systems get huge bonuses with in terms of quantity at start and ease of refreshing for example along reducing the skill list to about a third of its length and completely bagging the Essence system.
I should really look into those games, thanks for the info.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012




After the publication of Fallout d20 under the somewhat revised copyright-skirting incarnation that was Exodus: Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying, Glutton Creeper Games seemed to just sort of stop producing anything whatsoever. The most likely answer to why is that they were bleeding themselves dry thanks to a lawsuit against Interplay that lasted from 2007 to 2009 being almost immediately followed by another claim that lasted until 2013. While GCG won that second legal battle, it was apparently a case of too little too late, as the company ended up being bought by 4 Hour Games.

In between the dawn of Exodus and its rebirth under a new company, however, there was Exodus: Texas. This humble forty-nine page (counting the sketch cover) title came out in 2012, the waning years of Glutton Creeper Games, and had to contend with both that and no longer having a pre-written Fallout manuscript framework to build on. The next couple of posts will be looking at how that turned out.



Introduction
Texas is a special place in the world of Exodus. While the Great War of 2012 brought China to the West Coast and Iran to the East Coast, it took a while for any of the bombs or fallout to hit Texas. Furthermore, a bunch of survivalists and secession-obsessed nationalists had bunkers or hideout caves that allowed larger groups of non-Vault folks to survive. All these folksy salt of the earth blue collar survivors were, the book states, "the wrong people to try and rebuild a nation, but the right people to survive in the Wasteland". This has allowed Texas to survive and thrive as a link between the two halves of the American continent in the three decades that have passed since the Great War.



Chapter 1: Character Options
Races
All of the mutant races presented in the Exodus core triad are either almost or entirely nonexistent in Texas. There are tiny communities of ghuls, and the Mutant Army will on rare occasions clash with Texans, but symbiotic mutants and dregs are too tied to the totally-not-FEV projects that only really caught on in California and Nevada to be present and all of the Bio-Genetic Mutants are holed up in Utah. Instead of those guys, we have a new type of mutant, the craven, represented in art by that handsome fellow you see up above the chapter header. The craven are deformed mutant rednecks that live up in the hill country of west Texas. Unsurprisingly, they're known for being dumb, violent, and cannibalistic. The text simultaneously implies that they are the result of not hiding in proper fallout shelters but also relatively rare, so I can only assume that the majority of the crazy survivalists who hid out in caves and their improvised radiation bunkers somehow got lucky and only a handful of them were unfortunate enough to turn into cravens. The whole "actively hunt and kill people" thing means that very few cravens are found in normal society.

Mechanically, cravens get +1 Strength and +2 Constitution but -3 Intelligence, the bonus feat all humans get, immunity to radiation, a +2 to Fortitude saves, -4 to Charisma-based skill checks and Disguise checks unless they can pass of their mutation as normal, and a free bonus skill chosen from a set of skills typically associated with woodsy outdoor types. All cravens start out illiterate and must spend triple the normal skill points to learn a written language, as well as double the normal skill points to learn any spoken language other than the one they start with. Cravens also have to spend one of their starting Traits on one of the following mutations:
  • Blob: The craven has a mutation that makes them a level beyond morbidly obese, a titanic flesh pillar that gains starts with four times the average weight of a human starting character and gets a further 50 pounds heavier every year. They are strong but slow, getting a +4 to Strength but -2 to Dexterity, 20 move speed, and an inability to gain any benefit that increases their move speed. A blob also gets a slam attack with their body fat that deals 1d6 damage per 200 pounds they weigh. Blobs are the only cravens that innately get to pass as human, and thus avoid the -4 to Disguise and Charisma-based skill checks mentioned above.
  • Bugged-Out Eyeballs: A craven with eyes three times as big as a normal human. This grants a +4 to Spot and Search checks.
  • Cyclops: In the opposite direction, this is a craven with a lone eye. These mutants get +8 to Search and Spot checks in a direct line of sight, but anyone in their missing peripheral vision gets a +2 to attacking them.
  • Elephant Ears: Huge ears instead of huge eyes. +8 to Listen checks.
  • Hairy Gent: A craven with hypertrichosis. This somehow makes Animals and Mutant Animals not attack them unless provoked and grant the Animal Affinity feat, but on the downside they have to shave around their hands and sensory organs at least once daily or suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to rolls related to the unshaven body parts. Going further and shaving every corner of their body daily allows them to pass as human.
  • Hunchback: Pretty self-explanatory. The spinal deformity gives a -10 to movement speed but a +1 to Strength and Constitution and Strong Back as a bonus feat.
  • Kuato Syndrome: The deformed baby-like head and arms of a parasitic twin juts from the craven's chest, laying dormant 98% of the time. At the GM's discretion, it engages in one of its rare awakenings, dealing 1d3 Intelligence damage to the craven host and stunning them for 1d4 rounds. In those rounds, the twin speaks prophecy that reaches anyone who can hear it in a 60 foot radius, granting them a +2 to all d20 rolls for 1d4 hours. A DC 20 Fortitude save is allowed to keep the twin dormant, and it can only attempt to awaken once in a 72 hour period.
  • Lumpy: This poor craven is coated in hard baseball-sized tumors that ooze pus if struck. This tumor armor grants a +6 to Intimidate checks and 2 physical damage resistance, and any time they're struck with a melee attack the slick pus creates a ten minute period where the craven has a +6 to Escape Artist checks and all foes suffer a -6 to grapple checks against the craven.
  • T. Rex Syndrome: Tiny arms, meaty legs. The craven gets an extra 20 feet to their move speed and +2 to kicking attacks but is treated as a size category smaller for what they can carry in their hands and suffers a -4 to Dexterity and Strength-based abilities and skill checks that require arms or hands.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this seems like a really bad idea for a race meant to be used by players. As an NPC race they're fine, but I can't imagine wanting to play a horrific predatory cannibal redneck with a severe Intelligence penalty. This isn't a case like the Trans-Genetic Mutants where you have your Marcuses and Fawkeses and the like to look to; hell, the book even states that cravens only integrate into society if their whole clan is wiped out, and even then if they do so they tend to skulk around being deceptive and sneaky and all that jazz.



Backgrounds and Occupations
Exodus: Texas has five new backgrounds and four new occupations for characters to have. On the backgrounds end, you can be a cultist of the Holy Friars of the Refinery or the Monks of Chuck Norris Walker, a first-class ("National") or second-class ("Provincial") citizen of the reborn post-apocalyptic Texan nation, or the child of a Desert Ranger, while the occupations list is made up of Cowboy, Gambler, Prospector, and Politician. All of the occupations are pretty self-explanatory and the cults and citizenry of the Lone Star Nation are given more detail in the fifth chapter, so let's move right along.


Chapter 2: Skills
A lone page makes up this chapter, and it is made up of two new uses of old skills: using Survival to prospect for precious minerals and the difficulties of using Repair on "black box tech”. BBT is technology that has had all knowledge of how it works lost, which I was thinking about complaining about given that there's only been thirty years from the Great War to the present before I thought about the excuse that there's always military technology and stuff like that.


Chapter 3: Feats
A whopping two pages for this chapter compared to the one of the last. Not that I'm complaining about having to look at less skills and feats, mind you, I'm just curious why these weren't rolled into being parts of the first chapter or something. There are nine in total, most of which are either an advancement of an existing feat or some sort of new maneuver for the Handle Animal skill. They also have the patented Exodus humor attempts and references...

"Hogtie" Feat posted:

Down on the ranch, those good ole boys sure know how to tie something up and make it squeal like a pig. After getting some firsthand lessons, now so do you.

"Jockey" Feat posted:

A Wasteland Dwarf has taught you the forgotten pastime of the small human, Horseracing. Now you know how to kick that mule in the right spot to haul rear end.

"Mule" Feat posted:

Working for the scavenger Sanford and his son as a mule pulling his broke down red pickup truck has paid off. Now you can carry even more Wasteland junk.
...like so.



Chapter 4: Equipment
Three pages of equipment, consisting of one new weapon (a grenade made in a jar of salsa, which seems confusingly arbitrarily), a cowboy hat and matching outfit, gasoline (Texas never accepted the whole fusion technology thing the rest of the nation did), and several vehicles. While two of the vehicles are a generic pick-up truck and a generic tractor, the last is a brand name: the 69 Dodge Charger, specifically. This is so the text can state that post-apocalyptic Texans paint their Chargers orange with numbers on the side and a flag on the top. Because Dukes of Hazzard, you see.



Next Time: Now that we've hit out the crunchy part of the book, we've got organizations, classes, and settlements in the other half.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Well, the Point Lookout DLC for Fallout 3 came out in 2009. So as much as I would like to call that an original product, the idea of the Craven and the fact that Texas didn't get it as bad seems to indicate that Texodus is the shoddy Point Lookout clone of Exodus. I mean, it could also just be heavily derivative of The Hills Have Eyes, that's totally an option, but we're looking at it through the lens of being a knockoff of Fallout and I think that the 2012 release date lends circumstantial evidence to that.

The name of the Craven is totally a nod to The Hills Have Eyes though.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Maybe, but the mutations are more interesting than the game. They're also not incredibly and nonsensically tough and durable, which is another bonus.

The Lore Bear
Jan 21, 2014

I don't know what to put here. Guys? GUYS?!


Hostile V posted:

I should really look into those games, thanks for the info.

From a more historical context, it was one of the first games that had that sort of drama/plot/etc point system where the goal was basically to spend them. They gave you a lot of them, and were pretty friendly about giving a few more here and there. Not a perfect game by any means, but you could probably make a pretty good 2nd (3rd if you count Angel as a 2nd?) Edition of the Buffy RPG that would stand up to modern design without having to gut the game and start over.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


I thought about noting the swampfolk from Point Lookout, but decided against it because the Hills Have Eyes and Total Recall references were far more glaring. I might just be being too fair to the writer, though.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Kevin Siembieda posted:

Fate was kind to me: I had a blast writing this book. The ideas and words poured out of me like water. The work load and schedule was brutal, but it kept me focused, and I am very pleased with the end result. Heck, I think it may be one of the best things I have ever written. I would have never have guessed that zombies are in my blood.



Dead Reign Part 6: "Game Masters, noodle around what exactly the problem is here."


"Welcome to White Castle, what can I get you?"

Adventure Ideas

Nope, still not to the rules yet! Instead, we get "101 Random Scenarios, Encounters, and Settings" to roll a d100 on to get a random event from. This is actually credited partially to Hilden and Sanford. Of course, if you realize that means there's a scenario you can't ever roll, well tough, the book cares not. Some entries are just variations on a theme - there are 9 entries that boil down to "there's a crashed truck, what's inside?", 3 entries on "you hear a baby crying!", 5 entries that are "you run into a dazed individual on the road" (always lone, always dazed), etc. poo poo-ton of bait-and-switch stuff, as to expected after all the Rifts adventure books I've- oh, those reviews aren't published yet. Well, suffice it to say most are "possible source of resources, but surprise zombies!" No way I'm covering them all, let's roll ten times instead and see what I get.
  • 64%: There's a freighter offshore with a sign that says "Life ship. Taking survivors. Come aboard." (Bait) Unfortunately, the ship is now filled with hundreds of zombies, even though it's in working order. (Switch)
  • 44%: There's a power plant with lights on! (Bait) It turns out it's being maintained by pattern zombies. However, there's a good number of zombies (about sixty) wandering around the plant and parking lot. (Switch)
  • 29%: The PCs find a crashed airliner with only a few slouchers inside, and it hasn't been stripped. (Bait) However, the noise of going through it will attract zombies from the nearby highway. (Switch)
  • 13%: There's a crashed truck with canned goods spilled out! (Bait) However, there are flesh-eating zombies eating the crew. In addition, any noise will draw more zombies. Then wild dogs attack. (Switch)
  • 43%: There's a dead body holding a sign that says "I need a ride. Don't worry, I'm not a Creep." (Bait) It's an obvious mock zombie who will thank them for stopping if they do. (Wink)
  • 10%: A camp is over the hill. (Bait) But it's a community under attack by about 70 slouchers, but they have about two dozen defenders for the PCs to support. (Switch) If they get rescued, they'll be decent folk looking to find or form a Safe Haven.
  • 78%: There's a sad, injured dog! (Bait) But there are a few flesh-eating zombies chasing the dog. (Switch)
  • 19%: Another crashed truck! (Bait) But there's a crawler pinned under it, and it'll try and moan to attract other zombies. (Switch)
  • 90%: There's a radio broadcast the players can track down to a fortified building! (Bait) It doesn't reveal what's inside, dangerous or otherwise. (???)
  • 49%: There's a sloucher little girl. (Bait) I'd think the PCs would just kill her, but it presume they don't because she's "cute as a button". She's revealed to be a mock zombie that will attack if she hangs around too long. It says "she could become a valuable weapon in fighting the walking dead" but I'm not sure how unless you keep her supplied with meaty kneecaps.


Well, no living dead, anyway.

Entry "101%" is a description of various jobs the PCs could be doing for a "safe haven community", from rescue to recon. Then we get "Random Zombie Encounters", which is mostly rolling randomly to get a random allotment of zombies. 5% of the time, it's a sexy lady that turns out to be a mock zombie! drat you, sexy zombie! Actual sexy zombies as a thing - mostly women, as if you needed to ask with this author - will be in a supplement. 5% of the time it'll be "1d6 x 100 Slouchers"! We also get "100 random corpse searches", so let's try rolling for five of those:
  • 56%: MP3 player (loaded with 1000 country music tunes).
  • 55%: 14 silver dollars (rare and valuable), each in a plastic container.
  • 66%: Backpack full of camping gear, including a small flashlight, compass, roll of string, pocket knife, and package of peanuts.
  • 57%: Tarot cards and a manga-sized role-playing game.
  • 67%: Pair of good quality binoculars and an empty thermos.
Man, treasure tables, amirite?

Next: I complained about not having the rules yet. I stop complaining.

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 05:22 on Nov 1, 2016

Cassa
Jan 29, 2009


If this is what he's proud of...

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


It's really, really hilarious to compare Dead Reign to AFMBE.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy



Wizard Disciplines

The Wizard starts with the Arcanist discipline, which is like the Divine Senses and Magic Senses disciplines for the Cleric and Druid, respectively. The difference is that Arcanist also lets the Wizard use Arcane Mark at will.

They also have access to the Debilitating Touch discipline, same as the Cleric and Druid.

The other disciplines are:

Eldritch Bolt lets the Wizard make a 1d6 (plus 1d6 per three levels) force damage, ranged touch attack, with a Standard Action. Enhancements include:
A +2 bonus to the ranged touch attack roll
Increasing the range to Long
Making the ability not provoke an AOO
Allowing the bolt to deal energy damage rather than force damage
Adding another 1d6 damage (and this Enhancement can be taken multiple times)
Turning the attack into a Free Action, but at half damage, half range and a -4 attack roll penalty

Bolt of Bedevilment lets the Wizard daze a living target for 1 round + 1 per three levels if the target fails a Will save. Enhancements include:
Making the effect a Fascinate effect rather than a Daze effect, which lets the Wizard maintain the Fascinate with Concentration
Increasing the range to Medium
Making the ability not provoke an AOO
A +2 bonus to the Will save DC
Removing the Hit Dice limit (normally the target cannot have more than 2 HD than the Wizard)
Allowing the Bolt to target [1 + 1 per two levels] additional targets
Making the effect a Stun effect rather than a Daze effect
Increasing the duration to 1 round + 1 per two levels

This discipline seems fairly powerful, as it gives the Wizard a veritable at-will "save-or-suck" effect that puts them ahead of the action economy by as early as level 3. And it frees the Wizard from having to commit spells that target the Will save.

The Gifts of Magic discipline is basically at-will Prestidigitation, with an enhancement to also make it into at-will Mending.

Shield of the Seraphim is an at-will Mage Armor - the Wizard gets a +2 AC bonus, and another +1 per four levels. They can enhance it to increase the AC bonus further, to make it apply DR 2/magic, to make it apply 10 resist to an energy type of their choice (can be taken multiple times for more types), to make the AC bonus apply to one other target, or to change the bonus type from Armor to Insight (ostensibly to allow it to stack with other spells and effects)

Telekinesis is the core Telekinesis spell, but can be cast at-will. Enhancements include:
Turning it into the Unseen Servant spell instead
Making the ability not provoke an AOO
Making the ability precise enough to allow for fine motor movements with one hand, such as tying knots or writing with a quill
Increasing the range to Medium
Making the ability able to affect creatures as well as objects
Increasing the weight limit to 200 lbs
Making the ability capable of hurling objects as ranged improvised weapon attacks
Making the ability precise enough to allow for fine motor movements with two hands
Increasing the weight limit further to 500 lbs

Telepathy is what it says on the tin. It lets you mentally talk to any one single intelligent creature within 100 feet of you, with a Will save for the unwilling to resist. Enhancements include being able to expand this to a network of 1 additional creature per level, making it independent of any language barriers, making it work over 100 miles, and making it work with unlimited, inter-planar range.

The last discipline is the big one: Familiars

Cook has a sidebar to explain his design - he wanted to give the option for Wizards to NOT have familiars (you just don't take this discipline), and then he calls out how most people tend to forget that their Familiars are a thing and they keep doing things that would have otherwise caused their Familiar to die, or the table forgets to check on the Familiar altogether. Citing Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials as his inspiration, he recasts Familiars into this mental angel on your shoulder that you can call upon as a sort on intelligent notebook.

quote:

A familiar is an extension of your own soul given a quasi-real substance in the world. Often, your familiar is not visible to the other characters—it is little more than a voice in your head, keeping you company (after a fashion) and helping you remember things you might otherwise forget. As such, taking an extra round to consult your familiar grants you a +1 bonus to any Intelligence-based skill check.

You can take a Standard Action to make it manifest into a Tiny animal, but since it is only a mental construct, it's still not "real" in this form and so cannot be attacked or shot with a spell or otherwise physically interacted with. While in this manifested form, the Wizard gets a +2 to Spot and Listen checks because the Familiar is watching out for them.

quote:

A familiar that you ignore even for a moment stops manifesting. Mainly, this occurrence is up to the DM’s discretion. A player cannot say, “I keep my familiar manifested all the time,” because no one can maintain that kind of concentration and hope to accomplish anything else. As a rule of thumb, assume that if you manifest your familiar, it remains for 10 rounds or the duration of an encounter,whichever is longer. The familiar of a sleeping, stunned, or unconscious wizard always stops manifesting.

Enhancements include:
Letting the familiar move independently of the Wizard, at a rate of 5 feet max distance per level, so that the familiar can scout ahead.
Letting the familiar mentally speak to the Wizard (this is specifically mentioned as being a separate thing you have to buy from letting the familiar move away from you, so without this your familiar has to make the trip back to report its findings)
Making the familiar take on the appearance of an angel for a Good Wizard, or a devil for an Evil Wizard. This also increases the save DC of all your spells by +1 as long as the familiar is manifested and you're casting it against an opposite-alignment target
Making the familiar an extraplanar creature, giving the Wizard another +2 bonus to Intelligence-based skill checks because of its otherwordly wisdom
Making the familiar into an elemental. It's still a Tiny non-interactable creature, but once a day for 1 round per level, it can turn into a Medium-sized elemental that can fight. If it's slain in this form, the familiar becomes dormant for 24 hours and the Wizard loses all benefits
Making the familiar take on the appearance of an imp for a Lawful Wizard, or a quasit for a Chaotic Wizard. Like the elemental form, the Wizard can also make the familiar fight as an imp/quasit once per day
Making the familiar into a Large elemental
Letting the familiar move independently of the Wizard even farther, at a rate of 50 feet max distance per level
Making the familiar into a Greater elemental
Making the familiar into an Elder elemental

I actually like this last bit about familiars. I could never really use them well even in the days of Neverwinter Nights on the PC, and on paper they always seemed to be a bunch of frivolous book-keeping. This method seems a lot more practical, and if you are the kind of person who can make good use of a separate familiar, then it's a daily power and you can play it off like a Warcraft Archmage summoning their Water Elemental.

Paladin Disciplines

Paladins lose all spellcasting, and Lay on Hands, and Turn Undead.

They do have access to the following previously discussed disciplines:
Divine Inspiration
Divine Presence
Healing Touch (access to both means they can be as good at healing as Clerics, insert WoW joke here)
Godhammer
Turn Undead

Specific to Paladins are:

Holy Aura is basically an at-will, personal Shield of Faith, as the Paladin gains +1 Deflection bonus to AC, plus another +1 per five levels. It can be enhanced to increase the AC bonus, to make it apply DR 2/magic, to make it apply 10 resist to an energy type of their choice (can be taken multiple times for more types), and to make the AC bonus apply to one other target.

Holy Weapon makes every weapon held by the Paladin to be considered a Good weapon. It can be enhanced to cause all crits against Evil targets to be automatically confirmed, and to also make every weapon automatically considered a Holy weapon.

Ranger Disciplines

Rangers lose all spellcasting, and Animal Companion, and Woodland Stride

They do have access to the Animal Companion, Nature's Affinity, and Nature's Senses disciplines, which are identical to the Druid versions.

Specific to Rangers are:

Nature's Movement, which gives Rangers a +10 bonus to speed, with another +10 per five levels, and adds a bonus to Balance, Climb and Jump skill checks equal to half the Ranger's level, and it can be enhanced to let the Ranger walk on water.

Nature's Protection, which gives Rangers a +1 natural armor bonus to AC, with another +1 per five levels. It can be enhanced to add a bonus to Sneak skill checks equal to half the Ranger's level while in natural surroundings, as well as an enhancement to add Resistance 10 to Cold, Electricity and Fire.

Sidebar posted:

Another core change to the rules is that Hide and Move Silently have been merged into a single skill - Sneak

Bards and Sorcerers

Bards don't gain disciplines, and instead keep all their core class abilities, but with their spell progression refactored into the 20-level model. Unfortunately, Cook doesn't provide a new spell-list to go with it, so you have to do the conversion yourself. Cook also recommends instead using the variant Bard that he wrote in The Book of Eldritch Might 2, which uses a system called Spellsongs to replace spellcasting.

As for Sorcerers, well:

quote:

Sorcerers likely prove unnecessary to your game with the new rules provided in this book—giving wizards disciplines makes them more like sorcerers. If you still want to have sorcerers in your campaign, however, offer them the wizard spell list presented in Chapter Five:Magic.

So yeah, do away with them entirely. This doesn't seem entirely out-of-line or lazy considering that most people already considered Sorcerers to be redundant even in core 3e anyway, as in "why would you want to play a Wizard with worse spell progression and selection?"

But what about the Barbarian, the Fighter, the Monk and the Rogue? Cook would later write a second Book of Experimental Might, covering options for these classes.

Next, a new class entirely - the Runeblade

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senrath
Nov 3, 2009

Look Professor, a destruct switch!




Night10194 posted:

It's really, really hilarious to compare Dead Reign to AFMBE.

Yeah, for the complaints I have with AFMBE I'll still heartily recommend it to anyone who wants a zombie game. Based on the review so far I doubt I'd do the same for Dead Reign.

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