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Nov 6, 2011

When they passed out body parts in the comics today, I got Cathy's nose and Dick Tracy's private parts.
Asmodeous was personally responsible for the Edition Wars. He even named-dropped himself as a D&D deity in 4e. :devil:


Jul 8, 2013

Oh dear oh gosh oh darn
Soiled Meat

Kavak posted:

It seems to have- they haven't released a proper setting guide yet, just one for the Sword Coast. The changes have mostly been pieced together from the novels. 5th Edition has got to be the least coordinated roleplaying game I've ever seen.

And Greenwood didn't write High Imaskar therefore it's bad and Mulhorand is good. :reject:

Is there any chance that Greenwood will relinquish some control of the setting so we don't get a campaign guide about Eliminster loving Mystra on all the furniture in the Realms?

Dec 24, 2007

what does your heart tell you

Jul 8, 2013

Oh dear oh gosh oh darn
Soiled Meat

Midjack posted:

what does your heart tell you

That I'm not going to see my cool High Imaskar dragonfly riding stuff again anytime soon :sigh:

Aug 23, 2009

mcclay posted:

Is there any chance that Greenwood will relinquish some control of the setting so we don't get a campaign guide about Eliminster loving Mystra on all the furniture in the Realms?

They must have some mechanism because they yanked it away from him for 4th Edition. Otherwise it'll be from his cold, dead hands.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors: Asmodeus - Don't Hate The Player, Hate The Game

Asmodeus involves himself deeply in Hell's politics. He finds most of his other Princes irritating, and many of them spend as much time obstructing Asmodeus as they do fighting Heaven. The Archangels, meanwhile, tend to at least appreciate that he keeps the War cold, even if they hate him deeply.

Superior Opinions posted:

Andrealphus: He acts the cold fish, with his only pleasure being paper-pushing. It's as if he thinks that the rest of us don't understand the desire he has for control. But I understand that perfectly. Oh yes.
He wastes time in his own physical pleasures rather than usefully furthering the cause of Hell; he may serve his own Word, but that is of small concern to me. A distressing number of Renegades come from his ranks, and he takes little interest in pursuing them. I would be interested in evidence of personal recusancy on his part.
Baal: He understands the importance of maintaining order in the ranks, and does so with considerable artistry. We must be unified where the Hosts of Heaven are scattered and discordant.
Baal is a useful leader. He deals harshly with deserters, so I rarely have to become involved. He does his job well and leaves me to my plays.
Beleth: The Game ensures that even the least demonlings in Shal-Mari know that terror has a face and form, and might turn its crimson eye to them at any time. Prince or nely birthed, all have a shadow to fear in the darkness. Asmodeus understands, though our paths cross but rarely.
Her agents are typically cooperative, but more importantly, she is Lucifer's piece, and interfering with his Plays is not a thing to be done lightly. I rarely see the need to do so, and particularly not with her.
Belial: Bah! He's a wet blanket with no fire. Everything's so cautious and so planned - there's no room to breathe in Hell. Why Lucifer allows him so much control is beyond me.
If he cannot restrain his destructive nature, it will be appropriate to remove him before he does too much damage. Too many delicate plays have been ruined by this loose cannon.
Haagenti: Rules, rules, rules! All this talk about rules gives me indigestion! Can't he ever leave well enough alone? I can't be truly hungry if I'm thinking about the rules - and I don't like his attitude toward me and Kobal. He'd better be careful. Or else.
Excessive and unintelligent. Not really faults in themselves, but he listens to Kobal. To be watched like all that Prince's other tools.
Kobal: It's almost too easy. He's so full of himself, so puffed up with his own importance that I just have to poke a few holes to deflate him. But then he spoils the game anyway, because he just doesn't get it.
He seems to think that he can play by his own set of rules in the Game. I doubt he realizes just how wrong he is about that. When the time comes, I will be there to remind him of the rules in Hell. [pause] I owe him a special favor, as well.
Kronos: he is more aware of his role in the grand scheme of things than most. He knows being a leader often means being a follower as well, if only of the unwritten rules.
He is the key to our entire strategy and the board upon which I will construct the next phase of the Game. Even now, he directly manipulates the Symphony itself and turns it to our favor. His style of play is...appreciable.
Lilith: To him, I owe nothing. He is a slave at heart, knowing nothing of real freedom. I'm amazed he foudn the spirit to rebel against Heaven in the first place.
She is flighty, too devoted to herself and not enough to Hell. If she did not provide useful services and demons for the cause, she would be just another Renegade. as it is, I must police her "free" children carefully, since she cares not what they do.
Malphas: Everyone thinks I should have a problem with him, but it's just the opposite. My work would be much less interesting without all of his rules to play the game by. And while everyone is looking over their shoulder for Asmodeus, they never see me.
A useful piece for stirring up treason, bringing it to notice. However, should he create more disloyalty than he uncovers, he will become expendable.
Nybbas: Hey, games are fabulous, babe! Bread and Circuses sell to the masses like nobody's business, but you have to make sure the Game is a spectacle for people to watch! Cheerleaders, lighted scoreboards, jump cuts to the extreme! Nobody wants to watch a guy play solitaire behind a screen of smoke. Strictly C-SPAN.
Frivolous and immature, but he does promite Hell on Earth. He has had too much easy success, and grows too complacent. I don't disparage his power, though, just his judgment; his support of Vapula makes them both too strong. I plan to change that.
Saminga: He used to laugh at me, like they all did. Now he's laughing out the other side of his face. He can have his stupid games. I have all I need.
An almost mindless piece, incapable of anything but the most infantile plays. Rarely significantly useful.
Valefor: He's too caught up with his rules and regulations. He doesn't realize that he risks losing it all by trying to hang onto every little thing. Demons need to be free to create - that's what we rebelled for! Still, we have to be careful of him. Getting nailed by the Game is not fun.
He appears out of nowhere one day, the power in him obvious. Yet there is no record of him, either as an angel from before the Fall or as a demonling created here. Of course, the records aren't perfect, curse Kobal. And how convenient that he brings Lucifer a gift from Yves' own Library - a place none of the rest of us could penetrate... What is his game? Just who is his master?
Vapula: He would have humanity cling to the ways of the past when they should really be looking forward to the future. Why am I forever plagued by bureaucratic idiocy? How am I supposed to work like this?
His anarchistic tendencies are dangerous, but for all his undeniable intelligence, Vapula is easily manipulated.
Blandine: He is nothing to me; there are no rules that can restrict the human spirit.
Dreams are nothing but foolish, distracting delusions. If I catch any demons wasting time in dreaming, there will be Hell to pay.
David: Asmodeus spins Gordian knots of intrigue, well beyond my ability to unravel. I do not bother unraveling them. My hands can tear the strongest knot.
David's blind loyalty and ostensible refusal to Play makes him little more than Heaven's pawn: the supplier of brute force to carry out even their most ill-advised military schemes. The pattern is clear, if unremarked upon in Heaven.
Dominic: Once, he was my confidant, always at my side. Now, he is everything I hate, arbitrary and corrupt. The only remnants left of the Cherub are his dedication to rules. It...can be sufficient.
Once my mentor, now my opposite number. I can use him, and have. He tries to use me, and thinks he has. It is a
Eli: I don't think Asmodeus understands quite how creative he gets sometimes. All those shadow-plays, lies, traps, counters, moves - man. It's not that I like him, but hey, he has his cool moments.
He is...excessively creative in his interpretation of the Rules. This recent strategy of his bears watching, given that unpredictability, though it is convenient to collect his discarded cards while he claims to leave the table. If he bluffs too long, all his infinite creations shall become mine - whether he Falls or not.
Gabriel: Burn the boards, shatter the pieces, tear away the self-written rules that blind you, Asmodeus, and see the truth. God does not play games with His children. You are ashes and cold iron, charred and bitter.
A dangerous wildcard who upsets the settled order of Heaven, and an unpredictable piece. It is a pity that Dominic cannot control her better. Her servants have an annoying habit of detecting those who my service.
Janus: "Why - you're nothing but a pack of cards!" And one who really should learn a few new tricks - houses get old, so blow 'em down. His rules are stifling - just go right through them.
The first and most effective wildcard in Heaven's deck. The only advantage he provides us is he sometimes plays against Heaven as well.
Jean: His intelligence is undeniable. His focus is characteristic of his Band. If he would permit himself to remember more of Heaven, there is a point at which he would be even more effective. I shall not remind him of this; there is currently no reason to draw his attention as an opponent if I can avoid it.
A skillful player, though limited in his chief objectives. He has been known to make moves in unforeseen areas, however, and bears watching.
Jordi: Chasing leaves in play teaches the young to hunt: the Game is nothing more. He continues to claw the trees in my territory, and I will not permit it.
He controls certain basic resources that Heaven does not realize its dependence on, and his isolation renders them vulnerable. I neither forget nor neglect that kind of advantage.
Laurence: By killing their own kind, his demons do some of our work for us. But he is crafty and his spies are everywhere, forcing us to be ever-vigilant.
An impudent Virtue, blinded by idealism. He's a child pushing pieces around on a board he doesn't understand. He served Heaven better as a pawn to attack our pieces directly. I wish him a long career as General of the Host.
Marc: The only "give" in his "give and take" is a setup for more taking. He's almost as greedy as Mammon, if subtler.
Marc's chief weakness is his emphasis on fair trade. I find it satisfying to take advantage of it wherever possible, and force him to sacrifice his pieces instead. He is able to bring influences to bear that can cripple a complex play, and it is necessary to ensure that he does not get the opportunity or information required to do so.
Michael: There is something worse than Dominic, and it's Asmodeus. Give me just one more piece of reliable information of their collaboration, and I look forward to sharing it with the Seraphim Council.
He is undisciplined, arrogant, and proud. It is unreasonable and unjust that God should have pardoned him for his sins. I am pleased to share news of Outcasts from War's ranks with Dominic.
Novalis: Asmodeus...knows very well when to use peaceful methods, and to use them first. But I don't admire him for what he does. It is cold calculation, because he wants to be sure there is always some worse threat he can use.
She counterbalances the influence of Heaven's military in favor of protecting its living resources: while her nonviolent influences can be subtle, it is an obvious flaw that she must be driven to violence.
Yves: He's relentless in hunting down Renegades, those for whom the Symphony still has hope. Destroying the repentant cannot drown out his desire for forgiveness.
Ah, yes, Yves. There's a curious being. So unlike the rest of Heaven's host. Destiny is the victory condition of Heaven; it is fitting that he should have different characteristics than pieces that may be sacrificed.
Humanity: They are most valuable as pieces, influencing Words in controlled ignorance. There are few of them who Play with an appreciable amount of skill.
Soldiers and Sorcerers: While they do not have the power, Forces, or experience of a celestial, neither do they have the weaknesses. They are true pawns, and those that Play acceptably may become my pieces.
Ethereals: Those not aligned with Hell are in a vulnerable position, particularly upon the corporeal. Removing them from it serves not only to remove an opponent, but to reinforce control over those belonging to Hell. At this point, their weak position on the board is more important than their individual characteristics.

Variations! Asmodeus the Player is obsessed with games - lowercase g. His speech is full of game analogies and references, and he is never without a deck of cards or a board game. He insists on being called the Game Master or DM. He and his demons goo out of their way to accept challenges to games, and winning these challenges may even earn reduced sentences. A truly goofy take on it will have Gamesters refer to actual RPG terms. However, this need not be comic - he migh take cold pleasure in playing games with insane rules, which he will enforce to the last detail, like Munchkin or Illuminati. Asmodeus the Policeman is focused on the order of Hell to the exclusion of all else. He runs Hell as a totalitarian police state, watching for even the slightest deviation. He is not subtle any more - there is whimsy, just the iron fist of obedience. This Asmodeus spends most of his time opposing Dominic. Asmodeus the Pawn is imprisoned by his Word, unable to disoney Lucifer. He is Lucifer's pawn, his free will trapped in a mesh of rules. His nature decrees everyone powerless to make choices - all are mere pawns, even Asmodeus. This Game is more hidebound than the intrigue-filled maze of the normal canon. Gamesters drown in paperwork, unable to do anything but their jobs. Asmodeus may not be aware of his slavery...or he might be, and seeking an answer for it.

Hades surrounds the rest of Hell, a ring of gray urban sprawl that insulates Hell from the otuside. It is an immense metropolis, upon which the visions of human legend - Pandemonium, Dis and more - are based. The Gray City, it is sometimes called, full of mad combinations of architecture. Some parts resemble Soviet masonry, others hundreds of twisting alleys, others a bustling, frantic New York street. Skyscrapers loom in the dark, stark against the smog that clouds the sky forever. Beneath it are subways, and the streets are choked with demons and the damned souls.

Despite the oppressive modernity of Hades, most of its landmarks are anachronistic - the psuedo-Roman Plaza of Ashes, say, or the Renaissance-esque Palace of Asmodeus. The rest of the city is concreate slabs, sodium lamps and noir-like miasma. The Gates of Hell stand on the edge of Hades, a pair of immense bronze doors. They hang from pillars that were once mile-high black towers, long ago knocked askew and never righted. Above the Gates is a barely visible inscription in the smog. At times, it reads 'Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here,' but at other times it reads 'Arbeit Macht Frei.' Habbalah and a few other demons whip the damned and force them through the gates. At either side stand Daniel and Hutriel, the Angels of Final Justice, who examine each soul for virtue. It is rumored that they've occasionally released a soul to Heaven, but Asmodeus forcefully discourages these tales - especially when they are true. Most demons see them as just part of the landscape - feared in the same way those near a volcano fear the mountain. They are dangerous, but mostly they're just there.

The Soul Yards are the first destination of the damned. They are a sprawl of broken brick and cobblestone, swarmed with the confused and unhappy souls of the damned, who are shepherded about by cheerful Habbalah. Looming over them are high walls and squat towers, from which the overseers tally the souls and have them inspected, classified and even branded as property of a Prince. Insid the towers, it is like a cross between a cattle auction and the stock exchange. The Princes send agents to bargain for souls, and once their quotas are met, the agents collect their charges and the pens are refilled. The Sul Yards are managed by several Bishops, led by Triel, Djinn Baron of the Game and head Soul Yards Bishop, who answers to Murmur, Calabite Duke of the Game and ruler of the soul yards and the ghettos that are home to the damned who belong to Asmodeus. He often considers himself master of all souls in the Game, but that is contested by his fellows quite often.

Asmodeus' Palace is a palace in name alone. It's more accurately the repository of the Game's files, the central control for Asmodeus' spy network and the home of his nastiest demons. The amount of secrets stored inside is second only to the Archive of Kronos, and it is meticulously ordered, unlike the Archive. The damned who maintain the records are stripped of their Ethereal Forces and given only the bare minimum needed to alphabetize, to prevent the chance of betrayal. Most demons and their Princes would give quite a lot for a spy in the Palace, but the Infernal Police ensure only the most loyal Gamesters ever get in. The security is only strengthened after Kobal's Pranksters got in once and reorganized it all. Occasionally, the Palcae has also served as host to Asmodeus and the other Princes for meetings, at which point the upper halls are used in rich decoration and opulence. Asmodeus' reason for allowing the most curious to get near to his files are unknown, but it might be some sort of game.

The Plaza of Ashes is used for the Game's public executions. It is one of the few parts of Hades that has an undeniable beauty. It is a huge, open fan-shape, similar to the Piazza del Campo, viisble from the balconies of the Palace and large enough to hold a hundred thousand people. The ground is a paved mosaic in the Roman style, showing a chess match in progress. Some believe the positions of the pieces even change. Statues and monuments surround the Plaza, and the eye is drawn to the stage, atop which executions are held constantly. Stairs rise up from it to the Halls of Loyalty.

The Halls of Loyalty, next to the Palace, are connected to it by a network of tunnels. It is the most pristine building in the city, and the headquarters of the Infernal Police, wher the treasnous are taken for interrogation and torture. It is the most feared building in all of Hell. Demons taken there are rarely ever seen again, and the cells that fill the miles of tunnel beneath it are never full.

The Arenas lie under Hades - gladitorial pits for the entertainment of the masses. In the past, ASmodeus used the Arenas directly to enforce the Rules, but with the rise of Shal-Mari and its gaudier arenas, the Hadean pits have fallen from favor as entertainment. The Game allows Shal-Mari to offer bloodsport, keeping the Arenas around for their private purposes.

Not all of Hades and the Game is sleek and purposeful. There are classy gambling halls, but most of the back alleys of Hades are full of cheap casinos, filled with the damned and desperate addicts in front of rigged slot machines and dealers who don't even bother to hide their cheats. The sanest gamblers paly for Essence or the jackpot - a ticket to another Principality. Others play just for the Essence to keep playing. Most on a 'winning streak' haven't moved from their seats in centuries. The halls feel no need to pamper the clientele as Earth casinos do, and many even charge an entry fee. After all, they're the only affordable game in town.

Hades is full not only of Gamesters, but of spies, ambassadors, workers in the Soul Yards and those hiding from their own nominal allies. Asmodeus allows this - it makes it easier to keep an eye on them. It's easy to get into Hades, but getting out takes passports, even for the Game. Any demon in Hades has ceded supremacy to the Game, after all, and the only way out is to play. The paranoia level is about as high as that in Cold War Berlin. The damned are taxerd fro their Essence, and most are terrified enough to pay regularly. Those that refuse often join one of the many stret gangs...but because the gang leaders pay InfPol for protection, Asmodeus gets paid anyway. Muggings and shakedowns are common, but some of the damned can find employment with the Game, if in life they served the Word well. Cardinal Richelieu, for example, has been seen with Asmodeus himself...and while Wittgenstein is not known to be in Hell, his works are favored by many Gamesters. Corrupt cops, lawyers and psychologists often end up as caseworkers.

Next time: Mao

Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.

This isn't really about RPGs but I had to tell someone that we just got a real podcast setup. We are no longer both hunched over the same old Snowball mic, we have a sound board and stabilizers and pop filters and everything! System Mastery is a real boy!

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

oriongates posted:

I loved Shattered Lands and Wake of the Ravager. I also played them before I started playing tabletop D&D, which makes it surprising that I could actually manage...those older games did not try and and "hide" the D&D mechanics well and I had no idea what "1d8" was compared to "2d4" or what a THACO was.

I remember having to write to Computer Gaming World to make sense of what the heck "1d8 damage" meant for a weapon because that's what Magic and Magic 7 was still using in 1999 and I didn't have the faintest clue.

Nov 6, 2011

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

theironjef posted:

This isn't really about RPGs but I had to tell someone that we just got a real podcast setup. We are no longer both hunched over the same old Snowball mic, we have a sound board and stabilizers and pop filters and everything! System Mastery is a real boy!

Awesome! Congrats! B-Day party at CheeseDude's! Mulled Yump is on me.

Dec 24, 2007

theironjef posted:

This isn't really about RPGs but I had to tell someone that we just got a real podcast setup. We are no longer both hunched over the same old Snowball mic, we have a sound board and stabilizers and pop filters and everything! System Mastery is a real boy!


Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011



The Plaza of Ashes is used for the Game's public executions. It is one of the few parts of Hades that has an undeniable beauty.

Does not match this:


Hades surrounds the rest of Hell, a ring of gray urban sprawl that insulates Hell from the otuside. It is an immense metropolis, upon which the visions of human legend - Pandemonium, Dis and more - are based. The Gray City, it is sometimes called, full of mad combinations of architecture. Some parts resemble Soviet masonry, others hundreds of twisting alleys, others a bustling, frantic New York street. Skyscrapers loom in the dark, stark against the smog that clouds the sky forever. Beneath it are subways, and the streets are choked with demons and the damned souls.

Despite the oppressive modernity of Hades, most of its landmarks are anachronistic - the psuedo-Roman Plaza of Ashes, say, or the Renaissance-esque Palace of Asmodeus

I'm sick of the anti-urban bias in literature. Or RPGs, whatever. Minus the Holocaust gates and the constant soul-ripping and Hellish pokie parlors, it sounds cool. Might be worth a visit.

Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.

Okay, this actually is a podcast. Here's Afterthought 25 - Alternate History, in which we try to think of some better scenarios for alternate historical storytelling and gaming besides just "The bad guys won and I didn't have to stop saying the N-word."

This will also be the last episode recorded on our old gear.

Dec 22, 2003

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

I heard a story that the reason there isn't any 3.X Dark Sun material, officially released anyway, is because the 3.X mavens wanted to kill it because it was dumb, OP, or whatever.

Which given the support in 4E suggests that Dark Sun is actually tougher than Pathfinder.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 2: Life in Ytarria
The People of Yrth
An introduction to a lot of the species "of renown" (some apparently less important beings like insect people and extremely 80s dolphins get covered in a later chapter) that are already native to Yrth or came through the Banestorm. While their stats and a bit more information attached to said stats are technically segregated from their descriptions here, being instead placed in the fifth chapter of the game, I'll discuss the two as if they were joined because screw orthodoxy when it actively hinders discussing things in a logical manner. I'll also of course be only listing attribute scores and secondary characteristic scores directly and paraphrasing most everything else, since copying stat blocks word for word is verboten by the GURPS rules even for reviews. That and it's less letter-consuming.

The people of the mountains, dwarves are stocky and slightly shorter than humans, not unlike the Neanderthals of Earth. They are best known as craftsmen and miners, as well as larger than life in their personalities: a dwarf's emotions are big, almost to the point of caricature, with personality traits such as a cheerful/violent temper, politeness/vulgarity, and grudges being worn on their sleeves. And boy, do the dwarven people ever hold some grudges. The unprovoked attacks the Dark Elves forced against them in the distant past, the annexation attempts by Megalos, wars with dragons over mining rights, and a long history of orc raids have all those species' on the dwarves' collective poo poo list. Most dwarves live in their nation of Zarak or the icy Whitehood Mountains to the north. They have all but abandoned some of their old strongholds in Megalos, and the once revered mountain known as the Fence of God was taken by al-Haz early on in the Banestorm immigrations when nomads found a perfect replica of the Earth's Kaaba deep in the mountains under the stewardship of an old Sufi mystic.

Dwarves are a 35 point racial template with a +2 to Strength and +1 to Health. Their natural beneficial traits are three extra Fatigue Points, tough and leathery skin that gives them minor damage resistance, a longer lifespan than humans, resistance to poison, natural crafting talent, and natural ranks in the Axe/Mace and Merchant skills. On the downside, they are slightly slower than humans, have big issues with being greedy penny pinchers, are stubborn, are intolerant of orcs, dragons, and elves, and are forbidden from taking ranks in the Jumping or Running skills. It is noted that some dwarves drop Greed and Miserliness, and that Night Vision, Honesty, and Agoraphobia are common but not universal traits for dwarves.

Gnomes are literally just slightly thinner dwarves as far as physicality goes. Mentally, they are uncomfortable underground, which is why they branched off to live above the surface in the first place. Gnomes are the farmers to the dwarves' miners, the two coexisting to help Zarak remain a thriving kingdom that is rich in resources both above and below the ground. It is also socially expected of gnome men to trim their beards short, a way of further differentiating themselves from their dwarf ancestors. Mechanically, gnomes have a -7 point racial template, live slightly longer than humans (but not so much as dwarves), don't get either of the attribute bonuses dwarves do, have a self-imposed duty to nature, and get just a single bonus Fatigue Point, but they do at least get the dwarves' damage resistance skin, as well as a natural talent with diplomacy and agriculture. They can also actually get better at learning how to run and jump, which is probably helpful.

Thanks to the screwups of the Dark Elf faction, elves are both nearly extinct and distrusted by most of the native species of Ytarria, their political influence slim to none. Their great cities were abandoned even centuries before the Banestorm as they engaged in a self-imposed primitivist movement, but there's definitely no hope of reclaiming them now even if they wanted to. The remaining members of these slim, pointy-eared people live in small tribes deep in the wilderness, being content to cultivate new strains of plant and live a generally uncomplicated existence away from everyone else. The 41 point racial template for elves has a -1 to Strength but +1 to Dexterity and IQ, physical attractiveness, innate Magery 0, natural musical and artistic talent, a natural rank in the Bow skill, and agelessness, but also a strict elven code of honor (always have a reason for killing an animal or tree and don't cause them needless pain, don't be sloppy, strive for beauty and elegance in your life), and a sense of duty to nature. Half-elves sometimes happen if elves and humans get it on, and they produce a 27 point racial template that provides +1 IQ, the same innate magic sense as elves, and dwarf-length lifespans but not immortality.

Sea Elf
The sea elves are the gilled and webbed-digited oceanic counterpart to standard elves. Unlike the elves of the land, they never had any desire to leave their cities, and were instead forced into a nomadic existence when the Banestorm ripped apart their places of living when it dumped out species from the ocean world. Sea elves have a 51 point racial template that is mostly the same as elves, save for that they don't suffer a -1 to Strength, don't get musical talent, are amphibious (in the sense of being able to move on land as well as water), get a bonus to the Net skill rather than Bow skill, and can't speak or breathe in air. A minority of sea elves are genetic throwbacks that get to keep their lungs as well as their gills, allowing them to speak and breathe both above and under the water at the cost of increasing their point total to 66.

As one of the native species of Yrth, orcs are technically referred to as one of the Elder Races. Elves and dwarves absolutely hate that, though, and it's probably a horrible idea to bring up that fact around them. Your very stereotypical orcs. They're like big (I hesitate to say fat, since they're more that sort of mix of muscle and fat you see on weightlifters), hairy, fanged elves that primarily like to breed like rabbits, destroy things for fun, and are generally horrible. Tribal orcs practice slash and burn, but don't actually know it helps their hunting and agriculture, they literally do it because they find burning forests amusing and have not actually ever figured out that it is incidentally also beneficial. To put that into perspective, orcs have IQ -1, which is the same intellect penalty that GURPS gives to Neanderthals and to Stone Age humans. One of those two is our own species, who we should know well, and the other was a clever, creative, and innovative species with almost as much know-how as our own. Hell, even Homo erectus, which is IQ -3, theoretically could have been able to use controlled burning. And yet orcs are so caught up in their mustache twirling that they can't put two and two together about how their brush burning leads to better food yields. :psyduck:

Orcs are a -22 racial template that has +2 to Health and -1 to IQ and grants three extra hit points, slightly better than average hearing, and a free rank in Brawling, but is otherwise a mess of disadvantages. Specifically, orcs are innately bullies, intolerant to all non-orcs, have the social stigma of being barbarians, think of betrayal as a virtue, and defer to people who are stronger than them. Some, but not all, orcs can be lucky and get the advantages Acute Vision, Combat Reflexes, High Pain Threshold, or Rapid Healing, but there are also many that get extra disadvantages such as Bad Temper, Berserk, Gluttony, Greed, Sadism, and Unattractive (the book specifically doesn't give all orcs this, as some are stated to have "rugged good looks").

Some orcs are "civilized", trying to actively adapt to human society and buying off their Bully and Intolerance disadvantages. They're still looked down on no matter how hard they try, though, so even those orcs tend to live in the western territory known as the Orclands, where all but some of the most stubborn tribes of orcs went when humans pushed them out. Oh, and there are half-orcs too. You'd think they usually come from civilized orcs, right? Hahaha, no.

GURPS Banestorm, Italics in the Original Text posted:

Half-orcs are the offspring of orcs and humans. In most cases, the relationship was not consensual.

So yeah, for being a probable rape baby you get a 6 point template that provides +1 to Health, two extra hit points, barely better hearing than a human, and the social stigma of being a looked down upon minority.

An evolutionary relative of orcs, ogres are 8 feet of big, hairy brute. Ogres are not innately violent don't go actively looking for fights, but they are more than willing to eat people if they happen to be hungry. Otherwise, they're just bigger and dumber orcs that have no civilization or social structure to speak of. The ogre racial template is 28 points and has Strength +10 (which costs less due to their increased size, as that's a GURPS 4E thing) and Health +3 contrasted by Dexterity -1 and IQ -3, a strong resistance to pain and decent resistance to magic, damage resistance from elephantine hides, and good nocturnal vision and smelling capabilities, but are also considered to be hideous-looking unlearned barbarians that are well-known to eat sapient beings.

The last and most mysterious of the Elder Races, dragons are also the only ones I'm actually going to wait to cover. This is because they have a whole long section later on in the bestiary, more than the minor repetitive blurbs and stat blocks that the other species here get in chapter 5. Suffice to say, they're really big, really smart, and really mysterious, and nobody is sure why they do any of the strange things they do.

Us. As per RPG conventions, humans are the blank slates, having no innate racial template traits and thus not beholden to using up any of their point buy on innate species features.

Goblins are one of the three native sapiens of the desert world of Gabrook that found part of their population dumped on Yrth. They are thin and have green skin, large pointed ears, and sharp teeth, but are otherwise pretty human in appearance. As noted in the history of Yrth, the goblins once had their own kingdom known as Yibyorak, but it was conquered by the expanding empire of Megalos. As a result, most goblins are now Megalan citizens and practicing orthodox Catholics. There are some Muslim and pagan goblins in other nations, but they are a decided minority, and even small groups of nomadic goblin merchants encountered on the trade roads are typically Christian. Rather interestingly, while they have no innate Magery, goblins take to learning magic exceedingly well. Goblins have a 19 point racial template that grants +1 to Dexterity and IQ but -2 to Strength and extremely good night vision, but also an impulsive streak.

Big, brutish versions of goblins, supposedly closer to their common ancestor in appearance and demeanor. They don't care much about material goods, using lovely rags and hides for clothing and either handmade or stolen weaponry, and are also typically isolationist even towards other hobgoblins not part of their individual tribe. While they do sometimes go pillaging, hobgoblins don't have the social stigma of being barbarians due to the fact that they don't have the active evilness and love for destruction that orcs have. The hobgoblin racial template is -15 points and has +1 to Strength and Dexterity but -2 to IQ, provides a free rank of Brawling and superior night-vision, but also gives the disadvantages of being ill-tempered and stubborn.

The last and strangest of the goblinoids (save for one that isn't covered at all in this section, but we'll get to that when we get to that), kobolds are dumb blue shitheads that swarm in cities and are typically either lazing around doing nothing, wandering, or enjoying slapstick humor at the expense of others. While they will sometimes take menial jobs, they are more comfortable mooching or thieving, as they find things that aren't food, sex, or jokes involving pain boring. Kobolds have a -60 point racial template that has +1 Dexterity but -2 IQ and Strength, -1 to Willpower, resistance to disease and the ability to eat garbage food, a short attention span, fragile ego, and the social stigma of being uneducated morons.

Reptile Man
8 foot tall humanoid lizards that are also native to Gabrook. While most reptile men are quite reasonable folks and there are even large groups of devout Muslim reptile men in al-Haz, humans and goblins are often wary due to the fact that some tribes of particularly savage individuals in the Great Desert of western Ytarria are anthropophagous barbarians. Human nervousness towards them isn't helped by the fact that they have great difficulty speaking languages other than their own and their claws and teeth are always at the bare. Reptile men are a 58 point template that grants Strength +4 and Health +2 but -1 to IQ, sharp teeth and claws, heat tolerance, slightly longer lifespans than humans, damage resistance thanks to their thick scaly skin, a wide field of vision, free ranks in Camouflage and Survival, shyness, the social stigma of being barbarians, and an inability to speak languages other than their own without a thick accent.

Centaurs are one of the four races of Loren'dil, a verdant world of massive forests interspersed with thick meadows. It was particularly hard for centaurs to adapt to Ytarria, as they had (and to some extent still have) great difficulty understanding the concept of non-nomadic species and the existence of horses (originally seen as deformed or maimed centaurs) both confused and horrified them. Scattered herds live a pastoral existence across the plains of al-Wazif, al-Haz, Cardiel, and the northern limits of the Orclands. While rare, there are occasions when a particularly wise and patient centaur will settle down in a civilized area and interact with other species, even sometimes rising to positions of power as advisers to royalty. The centaur racial template is 100 points and provides Strength +8, Health +2, and +1 Perception but -1 IQ, improved overall movement speed plus fast running, four legs that end in hooves, and greater Willpower saves against fear, with the disadvantageous traits being that centaurs are impulsive and overconfidence, fond of partying, and are deeply offended by domesticated horses and all the equipment associated with them such as saddles and stables.

Giants are, as their name implies, giant – muscular human-looking beings typically 9 or 10 feet in height. This is just a standard rather than a species rule, as there are often giants with random stranger features such as one eye, multiple arms, multiple heads, or even greater sizes. They are isolationist and unconcerned with most comings and goings of other species, preferring to live in their houses out in the wilderness of the cold north or the Orclands. While most giants aren't out to get anyone, disturbing their peace or comparing them to ogres are both quick ways to trigger their fiery tempers and get a tongue-lashing at best and a messy and violent altercation at worst. Other species of Ytarria are often uncomfortable about giants simply because they are so big. All giants get a 122 point racial template and have +15 Strength and +2 Health but -1 Dexterity, are slightly slower than most species at a walk but can run faster than a human if they put in the effort, have a really good sense of taste and smell, get damage resistance from their very thick skin and a high tolerance for pain, and suffer the disadvantages of being bad-tempered, shy, stubborn, and seen as barbarians.

While they once lived in the great roots of the largest trees of Loren'dil, halflings have adapted to Yrth by going full hobbit. Like, literally stereotypical Tolkien hobbit: portly, big hairy feet, live in villages, don't like danger and adventure, etiquette and eating, etc. etc. They have a 0 point racial template, with a -3 to Strength but +1 to Dexterity and Health, stealthy movement, their own special racial talent that gives them a +2 bonus to several ranged combat skills (which is a D&D halfling thing and not a hobbit thing, but it's an exception rather than a rule), a social perception from others as being good neighbors, and the disadvantageous traits of being uncomfortable if they are alone, a halfling's code of honor (be all Bilbo Baggins when it comes to hospitality, housekeeping, and dealing with guests who outstay their welcome), a distaste of large water and too much chaos, and a bit of gluttony.

While minotaurs may just look like giants with bull heads, their attitudes are very different. They are violent, roving predators that took the leap from eating halflings on their native Loren'dil to eating humans, goblins, orcs, and anything else on hand quite easily. The minotaur racial template is 13 points, with +3 to Strength and Health, +1 to Dexterity, and -2 to IQ. On the beneficial side, they get hide-based damage resistance on part with elephants, very good hearing, an inability to get lost, sharp impaling horns, decent magic resistance, a wide cone of vision, and several free ranks of Brawling. On the downside, they go berserk in combat, have a great difficulty not wanting to maim and kill someone they get into combat with, hate all other species, hate not being alone, and have the social stigma of being uneducated brutes that eat other sapient beings. Some minotaurs manage to overcome their wandering loner life and habit of eating other sapient life and get jobs as hired muscle in civilized lands, but cannot ever buy off their combat violence issues, and it's probably a horrible idea to hire one if you want any of your enemies to stay alive after they pick a fight with you.

Human up top, fish down below, as is traditional. Merfolk came from an ocean world known as Olokun, where all but small islands were covered by water for most of the time, save for violent daily tidal shifts that would briefly turn small islands into large landmasses before covering them up again. They are known for typically being ambivalent towards surface-dwelling species unless the merfolk want to trade or the surface-dwelling fishermen intrude what merfolk see as their own exclusive fishing grounds, good friends of sea elves and sapient dolphins, and eternal enemies of the shark folk for some unknown events that happened between the species long ago on Olokun. The merfolk racial template is 52 points, has no attribute modifiers, and grants the benefits of increased swimming speed, gills as well as lungs, a tolerance of deep water pressure, sonar, slippery skin, and the ability to speak underwater. Their only listed disadvantage is a need to be immersed in water at least once every day, but their flavor text says that they can only slowly crawl on land, which implies that they should have the disadvantage No Legs (Semi-Aquatic) and whoever was editing that day just forgot to put it in the template.

Shark Man
The shark men are stocky humanoids with leathery gray skin, webbed hands and feet, and the heads of predatory sharks. Shark men don't understand surface dwellers, seeing them as all one big but extremely variable species they call the Dry Folk, and surface dwellers doing understand the shark men much either. They worship strange eldritch gods, typically stay deep in the oceanic trenches, and have a very Darwinian view of life in general. Add in a small but nonetheless present number of shark men that eat other sapients and isolated groups of Elder God-living religious zealots and you have a recipe for unease among the landlubbers. Not all people are worried about these aquatic entities, however: the Sahudese, who call the shark men Samebito after a humanoid shark of Japanese mythology, respect them enough that there is active trade and even some exchange of spells between shark man and human mages. The shark man racial template is a whopping 145 points, providing +6 Strength and +2 Dexterity, very good vision in both darkness and light, amphibious movement, gills and lungs alike, damage resistance from their thick skin, very sharp teeth, strong resistance to deep water pressure, and the ability to speak underwater. Their only disadvantage is the same dependency on being watered that merfolk have.

Spell-Based Magic
About one in a hundred humans on Ytarria have Magery at the 0 or 1 level. Comparatively, all elves are mages (though not all of them actively learn spells), shark men and medusas (which aren't covered until chapter 5) have lots of mages, reptile men and goblins have slightly more mages born than humans do, dwarves and gnomes have slightly less mages, halflings and centaurs have about the same mage rates as humans but typically choose not to use magic out of seeing it as flashy and obtrusive to a simple life, orcs rarely have mages, giants, hobgoblins, kobolds, and ogres almost never have mages, and minotaurs cannot actually birth mages at all. Of course, Magery is useless without mana, so it's probably a good thing that most of Ytarria has a normal mana rate. The main exceptions, as you can see in the above image, are the mana-void dead zone that is the Great Desert and the low-mana areas around it. Those spots of high or very high mana come from two sources: either asteroid impact sites such as the Ring Islands, or djinni-made towers in the Djinn Lands.

There are also certain exceptions concerning the use of spells. Spells that involve either moving yourself between dimensions or sending/summoning something from one dimension to another, as well as spells that manipulate time, are available but suffer a -25 penalty to their skill roll. This means that while you could technically get yourself off of Yrth, it's so very difficult that almost nobody finds it really worth it to waste the time, effort, and Fatigue Points to try even if they do learn of the spells. Necromancy spells are outlawed in most nations, Gate spells (teleportation and dimension manipulation spells) are exceedingly rarely known, and knowledge of technology spells from the Industrial Revolution onward are so little known that they might as well not be discussed at all. Even technology spells related to the Renaissance and pre-Industrial era are almost entirely hoarded by the Megalan Ministry of Serendipity, who use spells such as Seek Gunpowder and Seek Machine to hunt down and either kill or mindwipe technologists.

Advantages like Channeling, Healing with the Faith Healing limitation, Medium, Oracle, and Spirit Empathy are supernatural powers that are technically magical, but not the skill-based magic spells system GURPS typically adheres to, and fall into the category of mysticism. Mystics are common among the Sahudese and the Northmen, but their situation in the Christian and Muslim nations is somewhat complicated. Mystics who fall in line with the local orthodoxy are seen as one blessed by God for their faith, especially those who have the whole "faith as if of a child" simplism to them. Those who aren't in lockstep are watched exceedingly closely for anything that can be used to discredit them as either purveyors of heresy or wild-eyed lunatics.

Magic and Religion
Of the three religions, two mostly accept magic. The Ytarrian Catholic Church and Sunni Islam both see magic as acceptable as long as it is any of the "white arts" – pretty much any magic other than necromancy and things that muck about with non-undead spirits as well. Ytarrian Shi'ia, on the other hand, declares that any use of magic is a sin, though it may be pardoned by God if it is done in the direct service of Islam or there is no choice in the matter. Actual practice in the houses of God are slightly more complex. While the Catholics of Megalos actively demand that any of their clergy who are mages learn spells, in al-Wazif it is generally considered that magic is an allowed but ultimately secular affair, albeit one that mullahs can opt to participate in if they wish.

Magic and Science
Multiple paragraphs that can be summed up as "magic fucks with our perception of science, but the scientific method and rationalism on Yrth aren't really advanced enough to care".

For the most part, Ytarria is Tech Level 3, which coincides with the human Middle Ages. There are some small cases of greater technological prowess where the Powers that Be feel it is not a threat to their authority, such as simplistic understanding of germ theory and inoculation, Renaissance astronomy and heliocentrism, and regulated but nonetheless present forms of non-combat TL4 clockwork machinery. The book also admits here that while there is a great overarching attempt to suppress technological advances, if there is another huge flareup of constant and large Banestorms like what happened in the 11th Century it is unlikely that even Megalos could stem the flood.

Suppression of Gunpowder
The Yrth gun control issue isn't a vast conspiracy so much as a bunch of smaller ones that form into a greater whole. Wizards like their privilege, nobles worry about revolution, the rulers of al-Wazif and al-Haz have heard reports of the post-Crusades world and believe that firearms are tied directly to the fall of the Islamic lands as a world power, and Sahudese see guns as inelegant and dishonorable. There are also at least some cases where dragons have helped in the suppression of gunpowder, though the reason is just as inexplicable as anything the dragons ever do. The genie has started to come out of the bottle in Caithness, however, where the raging civil war and low mana conditions have fractured the ability to control the spread of guns. Caithnessian wizards have collectively decided that if the sporadic use of handheld guns turns into the creation and use of cannons and mortars, they'll back whichever side of the civil war hasn't invented them yet regardless of personal opinions.

Outside of fancy stone roads in and between large cities, most overland travel in Ytarria is a lovely slog through dirt and mud roads in wagons, on horse- or camelback, or on foot. Water travel fares a bit better, as the 17th Century ships of the Protestants were stripped of their guns and commandeered by the Megalan Navy rather than being destroyed outright. Nations outside of Megalos still mostly use earlier sloops, barges, and two- or three-masted brigs.

Magic is the biggest healing industry in Ytarria, but not the only one. Alchemical mixtures, herbal remedies, and primitive pharmaceuticals are all found in both rural and magic-poor areas. An understanding of hand sanitation, the spread of disease through animals, and semi-successful vaccinations have made these methods more successful than they would be in a real Medieval world. There have also been attempts at blood transfusions, but the lack of blood type categorization has made the practice dangerous and unreliable.

The art of movable type printing is one of the greatest failures on the part of the Megalan Ministry of Serendipity. While guns have obvious dangers, it wasn't until printing presses were already widespread that the wizards and nobility of Megalos realized "oh poo poo, the peasants can use these to fast-track seditious materials!" By that point, it was too late and the nobles had to run damage control by supporting scriveners' guilds that gain royal support and funding in favor of only printing things that are friendly to the Megalan government.

Major Languages
Languages have somewhat evolved in the transfer from Earth to Yrth. Most of the Christian nations all speak Anglish, a mixture of Medieval English and Norman French. Some remote parts of Araterre instead speak Old Aralaise, which is 16th Century French. Northmen speak a similar language known as Northland, which combines traits of Medieval English, Norman French, and archaic German. In al-Haz, al-Wazif, and some of Cardiel, proper Arabic is spoken, preserved through careful reading of the Q'uran and other Arabic literature kept in their great libraries. Other languages worthy enough to be noted are Latin amongst Megalan clergy and scholars, Ladino (a mixture of spoken Spanish and written Hebrew used by Jews), Tredroy Patois (a mixture of Anglish and Arabic), and Sahudese (a garbled mess of numerous Asiatic and Native American languages that also happens to use Japanese for proper nouns). Non-human species speak either human languages, their own native languages named after themselves, or both. Kobolds and orcs have no written language whatsoever, and reptile men have one but only rarely use it.

Sexual Morality
Adultery and homosexuality are both crimes that are usually ignored if they are kept in the closet, but punished severely if they threaten social order and group cohesion. On the subject of women and their sexuality, Christian countries are typically pragmatic about it, Muslim ones are strict about modest dress but okay with a lot of the same things the Christians are otherwise, Sahudese are all about honor and formality, and the Northmen are all about honor and having big bloody feuds about loving gone awry.

Next Time: The other half of chapter 2, because this is a fairly hefty chapter. Theatrics, lawmaking, secret societies, slavery, and more.

Nov 9, 2011

Foolish child of man...
After reading all this,
do you still not understand?


The Meet
So, your party now has the general's laptop. The meeting with Anton will happen at the cemetery - a spend of Research or Data Recovery will note that, in addition to the road approaching it from the north, there's a trail out to the back, leading along the mountain face towards the Serbian border.

A black Jeep is parked near a crossroads in the middle of the cemetery, headlights aimed down the north road. At least three figures are visible, two with assault rifles. Spoiler alert: Anton isn't planning on paying anybody.

The Double Cross
The players hand over the laptop, in exchange for a briefcase containing payment. Inside the briefcase is newspaper cut to look like packets of money. When they're busy with the briefcase, Vladek snipes the most threatening agent, the thugs riddle the others with bullets, and Anton goes rogue, trading the briefcase for his immortality.

Or at least, that's Anton's plan.

How it Goes Down
The agent riding shotgun gets a Difficulty 6 Sense Trouble test to spot Vladek's scope. If they fail, the ambush will surprise the party. If they turn and run, Vladek shoots out their tires (Hit Threshold 5 with sniping), and the ambush springs early. Slobodan and his thugs get in the jeep for a car chase, while Anton and Vladek head for the Serbian back roads. If an agent has split off to enter through the hills, it's Difficulty 4 Infiltration to sneak up from the east, or Difficulty 6 from the west (since they have to get past Vladek). Failing gets you shot at and springs the ambush early.

If the agents reach the crossroads without triggering a car chase or gunfight, they'll see Anton, Slobodan, and their goons - 1-point Diagnosis spend identifies Anton as an unhealthy man. Interpersonal skills note his fixation on the laptop (if it's visible) but nothing else. Anton and his men will try to recover the laptop at all costs; however, if all the thugs die or Vladek pulls out, he flees to his car (which has run-flat tires) to make his escape.

Tracking Vladek through the hills will be very hard. Sense Trouble Difficulty 5, or worse without night-vision equipment. It'll take him four rounds to escape the cemetery and seek cover in Gostilj.

The End?
How things go from here depends on several things, but the biggest factor is Anton's fate.

Anton is Dead
If the players killed Anton, they may be willing to just call it a day here. Proceed to "Policing the Scene" and show them something weird, or play to their Drives. Alternately, if they still have the laptop, they can investigate its contents, which will immediately alert the vampire conspiracy, marking them for death.

Anton is Alive, Agents have laptop
The agents can investigate laptop as bove, or hunt down the other half of their pay. Anton will invariably come after them with a bigger gang of shootier thugs, until the agents are seriously wondering what the hell is in this laptop. Investigation from here may uncover Anton's kidney disease (membranous glomerulonephritis), along with his vampire obsession.

Anton is Alive, Anton has Laptop
Either as above, or the agents let it go. If they do the latter, word gets around that some puffy-faced Serbian gunsel got the better of them, and Rudek swings back with word on Anton's whereabouts in Belgrade - it's bad for his business to let this kind of thing stand. In reality, the conspiracy's plan is to send the agents in to soften up Anton, then send in a vampire to kill all the survivors and reclaim the laptop for themseslves.

Policing the Scene
After the fight, agents have a while to check the graveyard for clues, if they're so inclined. There are three possible clues of weirdness afoot:

Wild Roses
If the Jeep is still around, it has a big pile of wild roses in the back, as does Anton's BMW. If the cars are both gone, Notice spots two wild rose branches in the road. Outdoor Survival identifies them as wild, not grafts or cultivars. Vampirology, or a 1-point spend of Occult Studies, reveals that wild roses laid across an opening prevent a vampire from using it.

If your campaign's vampires aren't blocked by wild roses, either swap them out for something else, or just use the roses anyway. Anton was misled.

Dying Words
Leave one thug alive enough to choke out some hints. Intimidation or Reassurance will both work - ravings leading to the trail are free, further ravings cost spends.

Possible ravings:
  • "Anton’s dying, but he says he’s gonna live forever."
  • "Trade it for eternal life, for the blood."
  • "Roses keep them away. Can’t cross."
  • "Eyes burning. Can’t look away. They’re the devil." (Substitute similarly outré and evocative raving tailored to your campaign’s vampires.)

Renfield Option
If you want to be really overt with your weird poo poo this early, throw in a Renfield - he could be watching from the hills to take the laptop when the timing is right, or he could be tied up in the mauloseum, surrounded by wild roses.

Whatever you do with a Renfield, the important thing is for him to do something overtly weird - using a combat power during a fight, or talking clearly despite a severed throat. He can throw in a final threat that alludes to the conspiracy's wider existence, if you want.

The Trail
The agents survived the double cross, and now it's time to hunt down whoever hired Anton and Rudek. After all, since Anton went rogue, this paymaster is the one who owes them their fee.

Tracking the Paymaster
The identity of the paymaster actually isn't specified in here - they're whoever you need them to be as a hook into the rest of your campaign. So, some of the details in this section are blurry. Still, there are several routes to track this guy:

Phone Number
The number Rudek gave them at the beginning doesn't show up on a normal search, but a Difficulty 5 Digital Intrusion test identifies it as the number of a Serbian bomb shelter. It's more or less perfectly secure, but Difficulty 7 Digital Intrusion will get all the phone numbers that called that number in the last month - Traffic Analysis on that data points to Danilo Brigovic of the Naša Stvar.

Physically locating the phone is just as hard. You can penetrate a Serbian police station (Difficulty 6 Infiltration or Difficulty 5 Disguise and a 1-point spend of Cop Talk). You can search the tunnels underneath Belgrade (Difficulty 4 Infiltration and 2-point Architecture spend), but there may be a pack of ghouls patrolling the tunnels. If you do find it, tapping it (Electronic Surveillance) leads to a Serbian police sergeant in Brigovic's pocket.

Bank Account
You can trace the funds you got through the Russian mafiya bank, but this is as hard as it is dangerous. Difficulty 6 Digital Intrusion points to a Vienna bank, another one points from there to a London shell corporation, and a third one points to an Isle of Man dummy company. That and a 2-point Accounting spend will point the agents to a Level 3 node in your Conspyramid. Any failure will bring down a Russian mob hit, along with vampiric forces.

Rudek is hiding in Beirut, and by the time the agents find him, it's probably too late. When the conspiracy finds out about Lennart's laptop being stolen, the agents access any database indicated in Lennart's files, Anton tries to shake down the vampires for immortality, or the agents contact Rudek after the mission, the wheels start turning. 12 hours later, Rudek is killed.

A dead Rudek still provides clues. Notice might pick up ballistic or fiber evidence which Criminology could pin to a specific assassin. Occult Studies might find unnaturaly elements of the scene of the crime. Traffic Analysis might pull more leads off his phone or computer, or if his home was burned down, Data Recovery or Chemistry might restore his notes.

If things went just right, Rudek might still be alive by the time the agents reach him. What he knows or doesn't know depends on you - maybe he points them to a lower node on the Conspyramid, like Brigovic, or maybe he can point them straight to the paymaster. If the latter, the agents should have to earn that lead by fighting off the supernatural hit team that arrives to kill Rudek.

In a Mirror game, the vampires leave Rudek alive, and he points them towards the paymaster, but his lead is a death trap.

Naša Stvar
If the agents get pointed towards the Naša Stvar, it's just a matter of shooting their way up the food chain. Streetwise finds a Naša Stvar ring in Serbia or Montenegro, Intimidation works after a gunfight, and follow the chain - minimum one such scene to reach Brigovic, or two if he's the paymaster.

Danilo Brigovic is a mafioso in Belgrade, behind a cigarette smuggling business; a 1-point spend of Streetwise or Criminology fingers him as a person of interest in a number of missing person cases, 2 points in Criminology identifies him as a weapon smuggler protected by the Serbian government. He pays into the vampire conspiracy for protection or other services, probably hitting a level 3 node. He's either the money man who arranged Lennart's laptop theft, or he's an intermediary for someone higher. He could be a Renfield or dhampir, or a conspiracy node himself.

He probably commands some supernatural muscle, and is well armed even aside from that. If attacked at his villa or cigarette warehouse, all his thugs have night vision optics, body armor, tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and top-of-the-line guns. He might keep a pack of ghouls under his warehouse. He's most vulnerable on his barge, the Red Eagle (Belgrade has a number of barges that double as casinos, nightclubs or bars). There, his men only pack pistols or SMGs, and he can only be accompanied by a handful of goons. His vampiric muscle may not be able to cross running water to reach the boat, too... then again, it won't be easy to get back off of the barge through a ring of Serbian Gendarmerie patrol boats.

Rather than going in guns blazing, the agents could go quiet, present their claim, and warn Brigovic about Anton. If they do this, he'll pay the rest of their fee in cash, and get them on a plane out of Serbia (if they don't leave, he can bring Heat 5 on top of them). Once the agents have left, Brigovic informs the vampires where they went.

Tracking Anton
If the agents try to follow Anton, the trail begins with the Naša Stvar. Once they find him, following him to the paymaster is a matter of good tradecraft. Of course, this is only an option if he's still alive.

Difficulty 4 Surveillance to track Anton once he's been found, but he's recruited a new gang of thugs as muscle. He has contacts in Internal Affairs, so any police or Gendarmerie contact will warn Anton of the party's approach.

The Payoff
The agents finally find the paymaster. The obvious and dramatic reveal is that the paymaster is a vampire, a lamia, or something else supernatural and powerful. Or, they could be another Renfield or human, with connections leading deeper into the shadows.

Regardless of the paymaster's identity, they travel with a Renfield or two and a retinue of bodyguards. That, or they're a powerful vampire, confident in their ability to kill anything or anyone who crosses their path.

The Leads
After clashing with the paymaster, there's still Lennart's laptop - a perfect tool for providing leads to elsewhere in your campaign's structure. A 1-point spend of Traffic Analysis, Human Terrain, or Criminology sketches out a chunk of adversary map for the players, plus an explanation of how Lennart found this out.

Some possibilities of what they might find in the laptop:
  • Evidence of diverted blood supplies from NATO military medical stocks.
  • Evidence of secret flights out of NATO air bases in Italy or the Balkans.
  • Evidence of financial corruption or human trafficking involvement in NATO member governments.
  • Evidence of diverted arms stocks from "phantom missions" in Afghanistan or Libya.
  • Evidence of a secret death squad operating out of NATO bases.
  • Evidence from Soviet or Nazi or al-Qaeda files held by NATO intelligence-sharing archives.
You can even make the Lennart Dossier a 4-point pool that can be used for investigation into any conspiracy activities involving NATO governments. From here on, weaving these leads into your campaign is up to your own imagination.

And that about wraps up Night's Black Agents! Next, I'll be covering huge NBA campaign module The Dracula Dossier.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors: Asmodeus - A Crooked Game

Tethers to the Game form where humans twist, bend or argue over the rules that govern them, and the places where those rules are enforced. Thus, they tend to be courthouses, the sites of political intrigue, government buildings and casinos, though they can also form in schoolrooms, post offices, bars, theaters and more bizarre places, as long as someone's played sufficiently well. Asmodeus prefers to keep his more unusual Tethers secret, to better spy on other Princes, though his more famous Tethers include the Agora in Athens, the KGB headquarters in Moscow and the site of the Council of Trent.

The Catholics convened the Council of Trent 1545 AD to determine doctrinal response to the Protestant heresies. It lasts for 18 years, changed location twice and was site of some of the most fervent and factionalized theological arguments in the history of the Church. Merely setting it up took 40 years of political backbiting between European rulers and Papal agents. When it finally began, its process of operation was deeply Byzantine and rule-bound, with a commission drawing up a list of topics, which then had to be discussed in two preliminary sessions - one for theology and one for law. Only after that could they be presented for general debate. Violent arguments over things like the order of topics and the official title took months to resolve. Later, after strife and disease drove the Council to Bologna from Trent and then back again, some decisions were reached, but they didn't reunite the Church. The Tether associated with the Council formed at the site of the Council's inauguration - the nave of the Trent cathedral. It was quickly stabilized, much to Laurence's anger, as he'd hoped to claim it for himself. The Tether strengthened over the course of the Council, and Asmodeus defened it well. After the Council ended, Asmodeus appointed the Habbalite Tephra as Seneschal, and despite attempts over the next century by Laurence and Dominic, it remained firmly in Game hands. Tephra still holds the position today, but the Tether's strength has diminished as Catholic history fades from prominence in human affairs.

Gamesters are stereotyped as corrupt cops, lawyers and judges, and indeed, half of the economy of Hades is built on bribes, though Gamesters easily break promises if it suits htem. Their sentences are arbitrary and often untied to the crime, designed to entertain or benefit others. No one really likes the Game, but they are so entrenched that they can be neither removed nor ignored. Demons of the Game thrive on intrigue and information, using complex codes and tricks. One Asmodeus' first servants was the chief developer of Helltongue, and another created the Hadean variation of Mao. The Demon of Intrigue runs his spy network. Demons of the Game are always flexible. They can work alone or in teams, and while they don't always have the widest skillsets, they learn to handle many situations, or to have the power to ensure they won't ever have trouble from outside their chosen specialty. The Game tries to make others think Gamesters are basically interchangeable, to allow them to better infiltrate places like Shal-Mari, as no one would ever expect them to behave like an Andrealphan, Kobalite or Free Lilim. Within the Game, the assumption is always wrong, of course - there's many, many ways to play the Game, and nearly all of them are represented within the Game's demons.

Most Gamesters find it easier to categorize themselves by playstyle rather than Band, which they see as more accurate and reliable as a predictor. The currently favored calssifcation system is Suits, named for the suits of a deck of cards, sorted based on preferred methods, duties and perception of the Game. The Black Suits care about the Rules and the hunt for Rules-breakers more than anything else. Spades are the hunters, assassins and cleaners. One of the most feared is the Renegade-hunter Djinn known as Nergal. Spades are stylish and careful in their violence, and typically exceptionally arrogant. Clubs, meanwhile, are torturers, interrogators and security. Some Gamesters find being accused of being a Club an insult on the levle of being accused of treason or poor playing, but others wear the name with pride, and certainly the Clubs run the Halls of Loyalty and the Arenas. The Red suits consider the Rules secondary to playing skill, and freely use loopholes or even break rules if they can get away with it. Diamonds are the majority of the Game's servants - they are sharp, cold manipulators and spies. The Countess of Intrigue is well known as a Diamond, and her Word has great power in the Suit. Hearts enjoy their play, gambling, socializing and...well, breaking hearts. They love the rush of seeing how far the rules can be made to bend without quite breaking, and live for improvisation and risk. Some Gamesters forgo the Suits, however, adapting their playstyle to suit their needs at any given moment. Others simply don't fit any definition well. These Wildcards often find familiarity with the Suit system useful, either to pretend to be a Suit or identify others, and often find their place outside the system makes it easier to learn and manipulate. Others ignore the system entirely, seeing it as useless.

Balseraphjs of the Game tend to favor law and politics, as well as any other areas where they can manipulate the definitions of the Rules to their own ends. Mastema is a Balseraph that serves as the Game's chief prosecutor, and is a role model for the Band. Balseraphs love playing with words, and the more literary enjoy round robin competitions, Japanese renga poetry and other cooperative works that let them subvert each others' intentions or insert codes.

Djinn of the Game are frequently hunters, especially as they can track their partners as well as their targets. The average GAme Djinn has at least one personal obsessions channeled to serve the Game. They may obsess over their work or some object they fixate on, like a favorite game or tool, or even obsess over their partners, opponents or Prince. Game Djinn who have no obsessions make poor servants, as their apathy gets in the way.

Calabim of the Game tend to fake the stupidity most associate with their Band, to better have the chance of destroying great things. They enjoy Jenga and other games that involve careful and deliberate destruction. They frequently serve as enforcers and executioners, regardless of their intellects. However, it is not safe to assume that's all they are - many specialize in subtler destructions, like breaking minds or spirits, and often work quite well with Habbalah.

Habbalah of the Game are as deluded as any other Habbalah. They tend to believe in Asmodeus' characterization of the universe as designed to be a Game, and they use this to justify selfishness in devotion to God. Many are religious, most commonly worshiping the Game itself as God's greatest creation. REgardless of their personal faith, however, they value skilled play as the best sign of strength. Those who play poorly are weak and deserve only contempt and suffering. They tend to be very good at interrogation, and serve in the Halls of Loyalty or as roving investigators. On Earth, their insistence on others following the Rules or being punished for it makes them excellent at supporting the Word.

Lilim of the Game are not always recruited by being accused of treason. Not all are made to roder, either. The chance at a free Role and a job with plenty of chances for Geas hooks does appeal to some Frees, and some of the elders have enough experience to believe they can manipulate the Game to their own ends. Asmodeus always holds at least one Geas on each of his Lilim, which does not provide character points during creation. He is one of the few Princes most likely to purchase some or most of former Free's remaining birth-Geases from Lilith. Lilim of the Game can make good spies, especially since many began as Free, and they also do good desk work - secretaries and bookkeepers get a lot of chances to do little favors.

Shedim of the Game are spies. They can lurk in a mortal without corrupting them, so they're good passive bugs, and many have skills or Songs that let them pretend to be Shedim of other Words if they must. Resonance like that of a Lilim or angels will give information on the Shedite instead of the host, and many maintain servants as regular hosts, even developing Roles as that servant. It's not easy, but it is possible, and may provide some defense against certain resonances. The easier option is use of Humanity, which Asmodeus sometimes gives to Shedim assigned to spy on angels. It can be complicating, however - the human mind remains lurking in the background and can still take over, and you're trapped in the host for the duration. Thus, Shedim tend to avoid using the attunement.

Impudites of the Game are often quite charming and good at networking. They use humans as their favored pawns, but do not see them as capable of becoming more, and they have no problem with discarding pawns as long as they don't die. Asmodeus sends Impudites as hunters, much as he does Djinn. They may be assigned to a piece to charm and subvert them, or to infilitrate their friendships and leech away their strength.

Asmodeus likes the Fallen and will go to great lengths to acquire them. Any Gamester involved in an angel's Fall has the right to ',entor' that angel, and Gamesters always make a point of investigating any Fallen, no matter who they serve and despite any objections. Asmodeus sees them as sources of information, but is surprisingly lenient about his own Fallen gaining status, if they are competent. The exception to this rule is 'yo-yos' - demons who Redeemed and then fell. These traitors are subject to strict interrogation and menial work, if they even survive.

The game is quite happy to use humans from any walk of life as pawns - corrupt lawyers, sure, but also disillusioned artists and laborers. The most common trait is that they believe the world is unfair and that you must use any method to get ahead, regardless of morality. Those who are competent take interest in the legalities of these methods. Asmodeus uses humans subtly, due to their unique attributes. Soldiers of Hell and even sorcerers are most often found helping build Roles, spying or otherwise discreetly aiding the Game.

Next time: InfSec

Jan 7, 2015

theironjef posted:

This isn't really about RPGs but I had to tell someone that we just got a real podcast setup. We are no longer both hunched over the same old Snowball mic, we have a sound board and stabilizers and pop filters and everything! System Mastery is a real boy!

About time that Cheese Dudes sponsoring money be put to good use.

I just noticed something... does the book eventually explain why the humans detest gunpowder as the work of the Devil, but have no issues with sorcery and witchcraft? I think it would be more sensible if they'd use the newfound leap in weapons technology to round up all the heretics from all races.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors: Asmodeus - Test Your Skill

The Game is Hell's internal security...but many modern demons refer to them as InfSec, or Infernal Security. (Or 'those loving bastards.') They hunt out treason, and the rules that define trason contradict each other multiple times. Gamesters have been known to use contradictory rules in the same situation as necessary. The basic functional definition of treason, however, is 'anything that impedes the Game that the Game cna punish.' Sure, they all have varying ideas about what impedes the Game, but Asmodeus always expects them to stop dissonance in demons, 'good' Discords such as Merciful or Selfless, or giving aid to Heaven. Failure to give enough aid to Hell can count as aiding Heaven. No Gamester would ever admit it, but the Game can't always enforce its policies. the best know how tenuous their authority is, and one Gamester who pushes a group of demons too far may well end up in Trauma for it. Wise ones make sure the odds favor them first.

Game visitations are iether overt or covert. The overt ones are shows of power, most often an attempt to get bribes from the viisted demon, get them to implicate someone else or to arrest them. Sometimes, though, it's just a reminder that the Game is present or that they have authority. Covert visits are for hunting treason, spying or just reinforcing your 'role' as the demon of another Word. Their main aim will be to remain unobserved, with no basic script and an expectation that you'll improvise.

Gamesters that play well are rewarded with assignments to fit their skills, teammates that won't backstab them constantly and useful artifacts. Asmodeus has been known to assign servants to high-profile jobs or give them better housing as well as the more common gifting of Songs, attunements or Distinctions. Talented players are equally likely to be forced into gruntwork by nervous superiors, however. The goal is to be too good to waste but not good enough to threaten. Minor mistakes will be punished by Discord, loss of privileges, bad jobs or placement in expendable positions. Gamesters that seriously gently caress up by gaining dissonance, Discord, Renegades or betraying the Game are quickly and painfully punished. The Halls of Loyalty can serve to punish Gamesters, as well. Asmodeus has also been known to Force-strip demons and make them into gladiators in the Arenas.

In theory, with the proper paperwork in triplicate, the Game can request just about any artifact. In practice, they mostly use mundane-looking artifacts - unsubtle things are considered less than useful most of the time. Demons of the Game are also expected to keep track of things via many methods. A common code in use throughout Hades is standard GameCode, used by InfPol. It is considerd treason for non-Gamesters to learn it. The standard celestial uniform is a gray suit with the sigil of the Game in crimson on the breast pocket. Asmodeans without humanoid celestial forms prefer gray harnesses with pockets, but anything from Judgment-style cloaks to formal goawns or casual vests or even capes can be considered a uniform as long as it's in the gray or red of the Game and marked with the proper insignia. These uniforms are rarely artifacts.

The most common implement of the game is the Noose, a sort of gold-wire lasso. At least one is generally given to each Earthbound team. They must be tied around a part of the body - usually the neck, so it can double as a garrote. Once the target is noosed, they can be dragged into celestial form and even to Hell, so long as the holder can spend the Essence for both of them. The victim can resist with Will, but the artifact's level is applied as a penalty...doubled. The Bound Discord forces the victim to try to resist, adding the level of the Discord to the TN, though. Many nooses are enchanted to degrade quickly under exposure to the Light of Heaven, and no ARchangels have made it much of a priority to duplicate them.

The Game also hands out free notebook artifacts - level 0, just enough enchantment to go to Hell and be vaguely traceable. The celestial form is usually rather more distinctive than the corporeal - an intimidating black lather notebook with the owner's sigil on it. In Earthly form, they can appear as just about any kind of notebook. If they are further enchanted, it is popular to make them illegible to all but the owner, or a talisman for Savoir-Faire or Fast-Talk, or to make more durable or summonable.

Many Gamesters make a point of acquiring Will Shackles as quickly as possible. Those that tend to lose or break them are usually given a cheap variant - a pair of unlinked bracelets, one set with a small gem, and the other capable of locking. The second serves as per normal shackles, forcing the victim to obey the wearer of the first...but anyone can wear the first.

The Chess With Death enchantment can actually be found on just about any game-playing object, and any Wordbound is expected to own at least one. When the owner of the set secures the agreement, grudging or not, of an opponent, they can spend 1 Essence to activate the set. This ensures that the players will continue the game - to leave the game for any reason requires a Will roll, penalized by twice the relic's level, possibly modified by circumstance. The second part of the enchantment is more dangerous: the life of the players is tied to the game. For chess, for example, each piece lost will deal proportional damage. For dice, each loss subtracts an appropriate point of HP for the realm the game takes place in. Despite the name, the game will not destroy the loser, by default, though games on the celestial plane can strip all but the final Celestial Force. There are game sets that can kill, but most just knock the loser out for (artifact level) hours. Given that most Asmodeans are good at games and the loser is left helpless, that's little consolation.

Now, let's talk about the Humanity attunement. How it works depends on the GM's decision of how Asmodeus understands the rules of the Symphony. By default, the power probably had Lucifer involved in its creation. Any Gamester will have at least Role/0 paperwork, no matter what. Humantiy grants the appearance of that Role to all attunements, Songs and resonances. Shedim get the Role of their hosts. They appear as selfish 5-Force mortals, and so long as they never break character, their nature will not be betrayed. However, there's some considerations to be aware of: you have the appearance of 5 Forces, no potential for any more. If you allow an attempt to attach a sixth Force, your Forces will unravel, just as a human's would. While your stats and TNs remain unchanged, the result will never be more than a mortal could achieve. Unconsciousness is based on what a very tough human would be KOed by: (Corporeal Forces + Toughness)*Strength. Death is based on what would kill you, the celestial. Stakes through the heart or beheading tend to work fine. Further: while under Humanity, you can bear or sire children, and this is best solved by having a vessel that lacks that ability. 'Accidents' are treaed as t hough caused by the Celestial Song of Fruition. You can get sick, but the disease will fade shortly after the attunement ends, as they falter against vessel metabolism. If you die while human then, like a Hellsworn, you are dragged to Hell by the weight of your infernal Forces. Demons posing as ghosts or dreamshades have the same restrictions - they need an anchor to the corporeal, and will regain any lost Forces when the attunement ends, much as a ghost proceeding to the afterlife does. Humanity may be renewed and ahve its duration reset at any point before it expires...but because you can't receive Essence transfers while 'human', eventually a non-Impudite demon will run out. Most try to time the activation so it ends just before the dusk Essence would arrive, allowing them to continue the masquerade indefinitely, as they get 2 Essence at sunset and may thus adjust their reactivations to let them gain Essence every other night. Shedim under Humanity can use their resonance, but may not take celestial form, so they can only transfer between hosts via 'oozing' as per the Infernal Player's Guide. Their dreamscapes are likely to be strange but within the realm of human imagination. Kronos and Yves, as always, are wildcards and might see through it.

A weaker Humanity assumes that Asmodeus' understanding of the Symphony is flawed. This Humanity only approximates a human's Symphonic signature and cannot imitate the altered stats of humanity - that is, the damned, dreamshades or ghosts. The sou lremains unchanged, and anything that directly examines either the soul or the Truth will unnmask you. Superiors can easily tell, if they look. Kyriotates need your total Forces to possess the body, and Asmodeus may remove Forces to make the numbers consistent. Impudites of Technology can spot how much Essence you truly hold, and Seraphim, angels of Destiny and Shedim will all generally have an easy time detecting you.

The GM can, of course, adjust assumptions as needed. Asmodeus may be able to grant versions of Humanity allowing higher Forces, letting you pretend to be a Soldiers, or whatever the GM allows. Possibly someone wearing Humanity can only be revealed by their thoughts and words - Seraphim and Shedim resonance, dreamscapes and so on. Perhaps you become deaf to the Symphony while using Humanity. Maybe all Superiors can see through it, but no one else. A more powerful Humanity might treat you as a Hellsworn. The GM just has to be clear on the rules.

Some tricks can be done that good Gamesters should be aware of. Humanized demons can get access to angelic Tethers without alerting the guardians easily. Harming or killing a 'human' Gamester will cause dissonance for Mercurians or Impudites, which will nto go away when the attunement does. (Mercurians and Impudites, as a note, will also become dissonant if they harm or kill themselves while under Humanity or Rule of Law.) Gamesters can invoke Humanity and then be possessed by a Shedite. While the risk of them overhearing your thoughts is there, it's a trick that's been used before to let you overhear the Shedite's own conversations. The same trick can also be used on Game Shedim, cooperatively, to make you appear as a single being but have an ally right at hand. As needed, the Shedite iwll move on to new hosts. If the Shedite also activates Humanity, it works as if they had possessed a normal human. Those concerned with their dissonance or Discord may use this attunement to fool angels of Judgment, Lilim of Fate and their own Wordmates...though they do become vulnerable to the powers of Knights of Judgment. It can also hide Balseraphs from Malakim - and the use of Rule of Law can protect others, even non-Gamesters, which can ensure their survival when live capture is required.

A lot of Gamesters work in Hell, since that's where most of the demons are. They work as border guards, police and both covert and 'legitimate' investigators. The bureaucracy and hierarches of the Gray City ensure that there's always work for the Game in Hades, either processing data from the spy networks or torture and interrogation in the Halls of Loyalty. Demonlings and new fledges may be jailors or flinkies, as well. The Soul Yards are full of young demons who have not yet shown the ability to play well - mostly Habbalah Clubs, but all Bands and Suits are represented, and they're often used as expendable muscle.

Asmodeans refer to assignment to the Marcheas as 'fairy chess,' both for the wordplay and to describe the action. Mostly, they're there to investigate Nightmares, puruse Renegades and spy on everyone. Game teams assigned there might infiltratre Domains, take Ethereals captive or escort Nightmares demons - sometimes even by request.

The traditional job on Earth is to hunt down Renegades, but that's not all they do. They hunt down renegade Hellsworn (or 'Gray Soldiers'), rogue ethereals and sorcerers who grow too powerful. They also support the Word with Roles from religious officials to blackjack dealers, support the War with Heaven in various human agencies and handle paperwork for other dmeons. They actually send a surprising number of demonlings on Earth - either to manufacture new Roles or to annoy other Words.

The rarest job is cooperation with Judgment. Other unusual tasks include infiltrating other Words and spying on them, causing diversionary riots or maintaining the Shal-Mari casino tables. As with any Prince, sometimes you get told to do something that makes no real sense, like protecting someone or moving items around for no clear reason.

Next time: Bureaucracy

Nov 9, 2011

Foolish child of man...
After reading all this,
do you still not understand?

The Dracula Dossier is a massive campaign module for Night's Black Agents, pitting the agents against motherfucking Dracula. It consists of three parts:

  • Director's Handbook: The GM guide that walks through all the details of running the game. Has a really goofy-looking cover, displayed above.
  • Dracula Unredacted: An alternate version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, actually a report on the events of the first failed attempt at Dracula's capture, covered in notes from three generations of agents. The main bit to be used by the players.
  • The Hawkins Papers: The 1894 briefings and military papers from Operation Edom. Optional.

All together, it comes out to about a thousand pages of content. LET'S DIG IN.


The setup goes like this:

In 1893, British Naval Intelligence spymaster codename Peter Hawkins decided that it would be a great idea to recruit a vampire as the ultimate super-spy. Naval doctor George Stoker uncovered information about vampires during the Russo Turkish War in the 1870s, and British intelligence had since acquired a huge pile of occult materials. It was time for a trial run.

Bold Experiments
Operation Edom began. Hawkins made contact with the vampire Dracula, awakened by a Romanian earthquake in August 1893. A meet was made, a safe house and headquaters were prepared in England, then everything immediately went to hell. Dracula imprisoned his minder, double-crossed NID, Hawkins disappeared. Dracula was barred from England, hunted down on his home turf, and terminated with extreme prejudice on August 31st, 1894.

Except the story didn't end there. George's brotehr Bram was called on to compose the after-action report. The NID redacted his text and had him rewrite it as a fictionalized cover for any rumors Edom had started. The original draft they kept.

Desperate Measures
1940. Britain felt the pressure of an expanding Axis, feeling that they stood a chance as long as Romania remained neutral. Desperate, MI6 reactivated Edom, knowing that Dracula wasn't completely dead. The plan was to find and revive Dracula, then pit him against the Hitler-allied Antonescu government, then possibly back him as Romania's new leader.

Because they didn't learn from the first time they tried to mess with Dracula, everything immediately went to hell again. Antonescu joined the Axis, Dracula played for time and manipulated to Edom team to his own ends. Admist the chaos of a coup and an earthquake, Dracula vanished, possibly dead again.

One of the Edom agents in Romania kept a diary of sorts by annotating his mission brief - a copy of the unredacted Dracula manuscript. Edom put it back in the vaults.

Hidden Hunts
1977. There was a Romanian spy network in Britain with almost supernatural levels of access. Leaked intelligence from London turned up in Bucharest, a new MI6 network in Transylvania collapses, MI6's top man in the KGB was almost exposed. The new head of MI6 ("C") needed the mole dealt with, and Edom knew that they had to either find the leak soon or perish.

Edom's mole hunt began, agents probing back into the Balkans while other arms began kicking down doors in Whitechapel. Then, in February 1978, the hunt ended as suddenly as it began. Did Edom find the mole? Was it the only one? Was the whole hunt an excuse to re-activate Dracula as an anti-Communist asset? An analyst named Cushing studied the mysteries, adding his own layer of notes over the previous agent's notes in the dossier, but never found the answers. The Dracula Dossier went back into the vaults again.

Black Assets
2011. Another earthquake rocks Romania, as always seems to happen when Edom starts looking in Dracula's direction. A flag triggers in the MI6 computer system, which confirms other parameters - MI6 assets lost in Romania, murders in London, chatter in German channels. Warnings route through desks in MI6 and GCHQ, Edom fails to stop them all, and a third analyist starts digging into the Dracula Dossier. She uncovers the new version of Edom, backing a superhuman asset that's already spent decades at war with Islam.

This analyst, under the codename Hopkins, added the third and final layer of notes to the Dossier as she traced Edom's bloody footprints across Europe. However, she still never found Dracula - Edom was still protecting him.

Hopkins was careful, but not careful enough. She has now disappeared, but her last act before doing so was to send the Dracula Dossier to the party. Open the dossier, close the file on Edom and Dracula once and for all.

How To Use This Book
The book outlines separate definitions for the Dracula Dossier and The Dracula Dossier. Without italics, it refers to the in-game artifact, the collection of notes surrounding a manuscript of Stoker's field report. With italics, it refers to the Night's Black Agents campaign module about the dossier.

The Dracula Dossier isn't a traditional campaign in the sense you see most D&D modules. It doesn't have a list of scenes, or a timeline of what Dracula/Edom does and when. It doesn't even tell you who's on which side. Instead, it gives you a framework to run an improvisational campaign, and all the tools you need to react to whatever the agents decide to do. They improvise actions based on the information available to them, and you improvise scenes to respond to those actions.

To this end, no two games of TDD are going to be the same. Quincey Morris could be a werewolf working for one of Dracula's brides, or he could be a selfless Secret Service agent. Every character, every location has multiple possible backstories, so even if your players have read the entire book, you could still keep them guessing.

What's In This Book
The annotated Dracula Unredacted is the starting point for the players, providing hundreds of potential hooks into the larger story. In the Director's Handbook, we've got...
  • Eyes Only Briefing: The backstory you just read.
  • Opening the Dossier: Basic assumptions of the game and how it runs.
  • The 1984 Network: The protagonists of the original novel, their modern descendants, and how to use them in your game.
  • Opposition Forces: Edom forces, Dracula's minions, possible third parties that might interfere with the hunt.
  • People: Characters who might appear in various roles in the story.
  • Nodes: Groups or organizations that might be part of Edom's network or Dracula's conspiracy.
  • Locations: Places referred to in the annotations, each with 'cool' and 'warm' versions for depending on whether or not they're part of the trail.
  • Objects: Artifacts and their significance within the Dracula story.
  • Scenario Spines: Some ways to wrap the Dossier into a full campaign.
  • Capstones: Optional grand finale scenes to introduce at the end of a game.
  • Campaign Frames: Alternate settings or tones for the game, like the alternate NBA game modes.

Next: The Dracula Dossier, the one without italics.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

An Introduction

So, what is Ravenloft? It's a Campaign Setting for D&D, a fairly old one, that has had multiple iterations over the years. It has garnered a substantial fanbase over the years, a couple of computer games, a board game spin-off and will be the first non-Forgotten Realms setting to get a book in D&D 5E. It's hook is that it mixes D&D with old-school horror tropes, like vampires and werewolves and Doctor Moreau's Island and all that. Throughout it's hsitory, this has meant either an horrible pc-grinder where the GM murders everyone or a Castlevania-style "Punch Dracula in the face with fire fists" adventure. It started in 1990 with an adventure that could be set in any setting where you fought an evil vampire lord, totally-not-dracula Strahd von Zarovich.

This adventure

Despite being a notoriously tpk-prone adventure, Ravenloft was popular enough to get a sequel adventure and then an official campaign setting. The original Ravenloft setting for AD&D 2E was very-much focused on "weekend in hell" type adventures where adventurers from other settings are randomly dropped into some corner of Ravenloft to have spoooooky adventures and then go back home. Domains came and went all the time, chunks from other popular settings were randomly dropped into the setting (there's Dark Sun realm, a Dragonlance realm, Vecna had his own place, etc.), but there was a lot of cool stuff and the setting developed a devoted fanbase. Especially popular were the Van Richten's Guides series of books, guides to various monster races full of interesting info and useful gaming material, supposedly written by the setting's pre-eminent monsterhunter and Peter Cushing impersonator Rudolph van Richten. When Third Edition came around and the D20 scene exploded, White Wolf started it's own line of D20 books under the brand Sword & Sorcery. And they decided, since they were the "horror guys", to license the Ravenloft setting from Wizards of the Coast. The setting got refocused to center around native adventurers instead of visitors from other settings, got rid of most of the stuff referencing other settings (WW did not have the rights to those) and was overall tighter written. They put out some great books, some garbage one (no line is perfect) and eventually faded out due to not selling enough (the last book written, Van Richten's Guide to the Mists, was never officially published but can be found on the internet). There was no 4E update of the setting, thought there was a boardgame using modified 4E rules (Expedition to Castle Ravenloft). The Shadowfell was also heavily inspired by Ravenloft. I think this was a missed opportunity, seeing how good 4E Dark Sun was: it's decision to keep most of the setting stuff to cosmetic rule changes instead of huge changes to the rules that randomly screws over players would have fit with a more Castlevania approach to Ravenloft. Anyway. Now, a new Ravenloft adventure has been announced for 5E, heralding the return in print of the setting after a 10-year absence. I'm going to cover the 3E/White Wolf era of the setting, cause it'S the one I have, but there's a ton of 2E material someone else could go over too.

So after this history lesson, what is Ravenloft? What's the setting like? Well, it's a giant dimensional prison, created by powerful beings known only as "The Dark Powers", purposefully never given a canonic origin or explanation. They created the "Demiplane of Dread" deep within the ethereal realm, kidnapped a bunch of evil motherfuckers, gave them each a country or realm fit with their particular personalities, cursed them (because why not) and then watched what happens. So Ravenloft is a hodge-podge of realms shamelessly ripped off various horror movies/novels, each with their own boss monster. The realms are trapped within magical Mists that do whatever the plot demands of them. That's the (very) short description of course, I'm gonna cover this stuff more in-depth starting with my next post, where I'll start reading the Ravenloft Campaign Setting.

Jan 6, 2012



Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer
I might have to see how much of my 2E Ravenloft stuff is near to hand, though I basically stopped collecting it around the time they put out the 'Surprise! You're Undead!' box set, and gave up completely when they gave it the late TSR cataclysmic reboot treatment.

There's a brief entry in the old, old Manual of the Planes, describing a fabled 'Demiplane of Imprisonment' formed after the great, great grandparents of the current gods defeated, destroyed and disposed of things far worse than the current run of demons and devils, sending vast hunks of Evil Matter sailing into the Negative Material Plane. Remnants were said to have coalesced in the Deep Ethereal, and with traditional hoary tale logic, anyone who found entryways must have been stupid enough to step inside and get lost. When the Ravenloft boxed set came out, it was like a painting that nodded and winked as its eyes followed you around the room.

Rand Brittain
Mar 25, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."
Sadly, as far as I know, the White Wolf era of Ravenloft never got added to either company's digital stable.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors: Asmodeus - Follow The Lady

Not all the spies that work for the Game are demons of the Game. Some are unofficial servants, those who betrayed their own Prince. Most of these are double agents, blackmail victims or both. Gamesters that know their allegiance treat them with suspicion, understandably, but they will make use of them. Loyalties are hard to spot in Hell, and Asmodeus finds no reason to treat those spies that willingly seek to join his service any differently than normal traitors. He seldom bothers to acquire them directly from their Prince, as that is unlikely to change their loyalties in either direction if they've already betrayed their original master.

Like the Judges, the Game operates singly, in pairs or in groups. However, where triads exist to ensure fair judgment, the Game's groups are more for safety. Sure, theyll backstab and betray each other, but they know they have no allies outside the Word. typical teams are between two and five members. The fewer members, the more likely it's a longterm assignment. The larger groups are likely to be one-time deals before being broken into component teams. Of course, groups of each type have opportunities to play the Game - either against each other, to frame or murder hated teammates, or by using bribes and blackmail to keep a good teammate frm being reassigned. Those Gamesters that fly solo tend to be spies. Roles make it easy for them to pretend to humanity, while those in the Marches or Hell will pretend to serve another Word. Others are openly Game in order to accompliush some specific goal. Some of them have hidden advantages that let them get away with that kind of bravado, while others may have hidden watchers. A team of two can have one with authority over the other, watching them for training or suspected treason, while others will be actual partnerships with complementary skillsets. As long as they are effective together, Asmodeus tends to not care if they hate each other.

Roving teams usually don't hide what they are. They are often in the Roles of PIs, Mafia thugs or government authorities, and their job is to visit known demons and put the fear of the Game into them. They are called to location to do what the Game needs done openly without compromising any local spies. They are often resented by other Gamesters for taking credit for all the work, and many learn to leave town fast to avoid retaliation from either their victims or their Wordmates. Retrieval squads, on the other hand, are sent after traitors to kill them or drag them to the Halls of Loyalty. They are notoriously inventive in methodology and singleminded in pursuit. While it's not unheard of for a roving team to be used as a retrieval squad, it's unusual, as they can generally be easily recognized and put at a disadvantage. Retrieval squad specialists are much more discreet and often sent after particularly difficult Renegades. The most common, however, are just 'whatever Gamesters are in the area, work together on this one.'

In Hell, Asmodeus' occasional work with Judgment is considered one of the Game's great hypocrisies, since any other demons associating with angels are to be interrogated rigorously. Asmodeus sees no reason to deny either the double standard or the fact that it happens. Many Gamesters even say it's common, to deter Renegades from hiding with angels...but unauthorized attempts to ally with Dominicans generally end in violence - even those that are part of Game-cooperation triads. Playing with Judgment involves deception and attempts to take advantage of each other bot hsides, and many Gamesters consider this an appropriately corruptive influence even if a Judge does not fall, while others think of it as honing an opponent's skill. Occasionaly it can lead to outright battle between the two Words when a dangerous Renegade turns out to sincerely want Redemption or a valuable Outcast Falls. Asmodeus believes himself at an advantage in these coalitions, as he was a Judge and can usually deduce what they will consider wrong and then sue that knowledge to outplay the angels, as he and his are not bound by those standards. Dominic, in turn, allows only his must cunning and loyal angels to participate in these groups, some of whom are inventive and perceptive enough to thoroughly beat the Gamesters they were theoretically working with. In any case, Judgment and the Game are always allies of last resort. Neither lieks the other's Word and there are always layers of hidden objectives and misleading statements in each grudging alliance.

Aces and Eights is an organization founded by the Demon of Low Odds before Christ's birth. It's had many names, and its members specialize in taking the unlikely and making it more likely. This might involve killing a specific Seneschal, making sure a specific demon stars in Nybbas' next big hit, or moving a book in the Archves of Fate two shelves left. These actions often seem absurd, irrelevant or irrational, but the odds of whatever the group was contracted for end up substantially higher. Membership in acces and Eights is quite exclusive, requiring a wide variety of skills and an intuitive grasp of the Game. Most members keep their affiliation secret - it's expected that if you can buy the services of Aces and Eights, you know how to find them.

The Chess Club, in theory, is open to any demon with an interest in chess. In practice, few are willing to even enter its premises without a Baron distinction or above. It is the unofficial meeting hall of the Dukes, Counts and other Gamesters of rank to discuss things of note and arrange discreet transactions. They do so while playing chess - they do, after alll, have an interest. Not all appropriately distinguished demons attend each meeting, but few have never gone. If nothing else, it disguises the dealmaking going on behind the scenes.

The Infernal Police, or InfPol, are headed by Staciel, Demon of Intrigue. While the Game enforces the Rules of Hell on outsiders, InfPol hunts for traitors inside the Game. They are all skilled at interrogation, intimidation and gathering information. InfPol is to the standard Gamester what the SS were to the German police. Members keep their identities absolutely secret, even from each other. Only Asmodeus and possibly Stacial know all their names.

The Loyalists are the Game's interrogators and torturers. Their job is to get information, confessions and repentance from captured traitors. They work under the Halls of Loyalty, and each is carefully trained in both physical and psychological torture. Their punishments are both inventive and ruthless. Some last a mere hour, others centuries. Demons who enter the Halls rarely emerge unscarred, visible or not. On top of being torturers, the Loyalists are one of the main sources InfPol uses to discover the identities of those plotting sedition. One of the only ways to escape a Loyalist's attention is to give the name, location and crime of another traitor. It's just barely possible that this will commute your sentence. The wise betray their friends to the Game to save themselves, and the wiser don't get caught.

The Game doesn't usually care about actual guilt...but because of political repercussions, they do seek evidence of crimes in case the victim's Prince takes offense. Sloopy Gamesters have died for making flimsy charges, themselves charged with defaming the reputation of the Game. Ignorance of the rules is not a defense against Game accusation or conviction, but the legal proceedings of the Word are pretty arcane. The courts are arranged in several different hierarchies, in theory by type of case and in practice by technicality. Most Gamesters dont' care where the captive ends up once they hand them over. Typically, a senior jailer will decide. The rules of each court are not consistent, either with each other or often with themselves. Some verdicts are by jury, others by judge or by tests of skill in combat or games like Chess With Death. Sometimes the defendants can defend themselves, sometimes they can't. Some judges keep the Roman practice of accusatio, wher the accuser suffers the punishment if the accused is found innocent. Others don't. Some are bribable, others find bribes insulting. Prisoners brought to a court are not told in advance what process they'll be going through. They can only have an advocate if a Gamester wants the practice or can be bought, but careful research and bribes might uncover a court's reputation.

On Earth, things get even more complicated. The Game's mandate to capture or kill Renegades is complicated by the fact that those seeking to remove anyone, rival or traitor, have to do the paperwork to justify the arrest. Paperwork is often done after the fact, though some Gamesters carry undated documentation. Some supervisors require more bribes than others to backdate papers or issue them early, but too much refusal to cooperate can be construed as the crime of knowingly aiding a Renegade, especially if actual treason was involved. More than one junior Gamester dreams of having the power to disappear other demons on a mass scale, but they'd need the physical power and influence to actually do it, and ensure that it wouldn't spoil the plans of their Prince.

There is no standard phrase ot accusation for arrest - it varies by demon. Most are fond of surprise noosing and dragging to Hell - it saves them having to identify themselves, threaten or chase people. A true arrest lets the team confiscate whatever they want, though a subsequent legal defense might demand that stuff back. Confiscating properties takes mundane paperwork, and some Gamesters don't consider it worth the effort. Any remaining personal items are often claimed by jailors or guards. Captives of the Game might be sent to court quickly, or might languish in the cells until ransomed, or be tortured for information or practice, or be chained up and used as pets by ranking demons. Casual abuse largely depends on the captive's value, as well as the friends and influence they can convince the Game they have.

Next time: The Last Game

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Doresh posted:

I just noticed something... does the book eventually explain why the humans detest gunpowder as the work of the Devil, but have no issues with sorcery and witchcraft? I think it would be more sensible if they'd use the newfound leap in weapons technology to round up all the heretics from all races.
Chapter 3 is literally titled "Religion", and is all about the subject. So it's not too far off in the future.

Rand Brittain posted:

Sadly, as far as I know, the White Wolf era of Ravenloft never got added to either company's digital stable.
I wouldn't be surprised if it did, though. Wizards of the Coast already started putting out the d20 Modern Gamma World books, which were also put out under White Wolf's Sword and Sorcery line, and I can't imagine that would be more clamored for than Ravenloft.

Now if only they'd put out Alternity poo poo so I could complete my collection. :arghfist:

Nuns with Guns
Jul 23, 2010


MonsieurChoc posted:

There was no 4E update of the setting, thought there was a boardgame using modified 4E rules (Expedition to Castle Ravenloft). The Shadowfell was also heavily inspired by Ravenloft. I think this was a missed opportunity, seeing how good 4E Dark Sun was: it's decision to keep most of the setting stuff to cosmetic rule changes instead of huge changes to the rules that randomly screws over players would have fit with a more Castlevania approach to Ravenloft. Anyway. Now, a new Ravenloft adventure has been announced for 5E, heralding the return in print of the setting after a 10-year absence. I'm going to cover the 3E/White Wolf era of the setting, cause it'S the one I have, but there's a ton of 2E material someone else could go over too.

if I remember the 4e rumor mills right, Ravenloft was slated to be a full 4e setting released some time in late 2011 but then 5e was announced in January 2012 so there went that :v:

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

I always thought mixing James Bond and Dracula would be fun. I Don't Even Own A Television did an episode on a Necroscope book, but I might buy The Dracula Dossier before the review finishes since it sounds like it's amazing (is it?), and I find the Stoker book irritating, especially Van Helsing's dialect.

I recently read through Marvel's Tomb of Dracula, and I suggest ripping off its 'globetrotting adventures fight arrogant Dracula' structure for NBA or Ravenloft.

What's the most Castlevania RPG?

Oct 13, 2011


Mors Rattus posted:

Superiors: Asmodeus - Follow The Lady
The Infernal Police, or InfPol, are headed by Staciel, Demon of Intrigue. While the Game enforces the Rules of Hell on outsiders, InfPol hunts for traitors inside the Game. They are all skilled at interrogation, intimidation and gathering information. InfPol is to the standard Gamester what the SS were to the German police. Members keep their identities absolutely secret, even from each other. Only Asmodeus and possibly Stacial know all their names.
I am unsurprised that Hell's Internal Security is run by Stasiel.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Superiors: Asmodeus - The Greatest Game

The Game does not like to release prisoners, but sufficient bribes or threats might convince them the paperwork is tedious - but that's going to take help from outside, not just Essence or sex. Relics and other tradable goods are appreciated, or the intervention of a Prince in the form of sending a Baron or Wordbound will usually work, unless Asmodeus himself ordered the capture. Few escape Hades entirely unscathed, though. Destruction is the most common punishment for treason, followed by public torture, Force-stripping and enslavement. Occasionally the Game will just confiscate resources (which can include servants or Hellsworn), especially for crimes like being dissonant or Discordant. Sometimes, though, out of having friends in the right places, making the right bribes or selling everyone out, a prisoner will go free entirely unharmed.

Gamesters themselves can get accused ot rason, but that's typically done by InfPol, which runs its own cells, jailors and courts. The web of bribes and threats is similar to the one outisders have to deal with, but actual value as a piece is taken into account during the trial. Trumped-up charges may actually backfire for wasting InfPol time, and acquittals for the guilty may be granted in exchange for Geases to Staciel in order to ensure loyalty.

We get some adventure seeds which are mostly dumb. There is one that is entertainingly dumb, however: One time, a young Impudite Gamester chases a Renegade Vapulan into a sci fi convention and takes advantage of a con-wide LARP event to drag the Renegade out to her room and then to Hell. This leads to a small fad among a group of young Gamesters for LARPing, and use of the LARP Club in the same ways their superiors use the Chess Club. They want to make LARP as mainstream as poker or chess, to make it easier to excuse odd behavior on Earth. This would normally just be a fad, except that the LARPer demons have ended up hanging out a game store that is also home to a young group of War angels that like wargaming.

The End

And because it's the last one and I know what you guys will say - next time: Superiors: Zadkiel, on the minor Archangel of Protection.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

Telling people to look up Chess and Go on Wikipedia: a good use of the page count.

I remember playing a session of the Firefly RPG that devolved into an in-character poker game.

Nov 26, 2008

Lipstick Apathy

Rand Brittain posted:

Sadly, as far as I know, the White Wolf era of Ravenloft never got added to either company's digital stable.

The German version of the core book is on DriveThru under the German company that licensed most of White Wolf's stuff. They also did Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay so I imagine the horror, characters getting massacred niche was already covered for them. I never read any of the books but they seemed pretty good as far as D20 stuff went.

Ravenloft was a setting that was never terribly exciting to me or seemed able to stand on its own. Even most of the stuff in Ravenloft was not from Ravenloft but from other settings that got sucked in. It's kind of the fantasy equivalent of the clearance bin for villains who couldn't make it on their own planes and a ship of lost souls for everyone else. There's some gems in there but there's also a panther from the Forgotten Realms that was polymorphed into a human, turned into a werepanther, and then became a vampire. A bunch of characters have really long, convoluted backstories like that. They extensively reference or involve other settings and tried to be dark and edgy in an era when TSR wouldn't call demons and devils what they were for fear of bringing down the Satanic Panic.

I imagine it could be cool if the writers just wrote about the setting in a way that let the setting stand on its own and went full on Castlevania, Ghouls n'Ghosts, Demon/Dark Souls, or Bloodborne. I think market trends have shown you can do a horror RPG without it being full on 90's White Wolf.

EDIT: While browsing the catalog for Feder & Schwert, I noticed the cover for the Second Edition Tribebook: Get of Fenris.


RocknRollaAyatollah fucked around with this message at 05:15 on Feb 10, 2016

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Part 1: Setting overview

This book is organized like a White Wolf book rather than a D&D book, complete with an absolutely useless index. Chapter 1, then, is an introduction to the world of Ravenloft. It opens with an excerpt from the legendary Tome of Strahd where the titular vampire remembers his backstory: he was a brutal warlord who fell in love with the fiancee of his (much younger) brother. He got a complex over his old age, so he made a pact with death, killed his brother on the wedding day and tried to steal the bride. To no one's surprise, it didn't work. She jumped to her death, he became a vampire, his entire castle (Castle Ravenloft! title drop!) was transported into the Mists and now he's cursed forever.

The major inspiration for Ravenloft is the Gothic literary genre, fathered by Horace Walpole, a "dilettante author enraptured with his own romantic vision of the middle ages". His novel The Castle of Otranto set a lot of the rules of the genre. We read a quick overview of the genre:
Early Gothic Tales followed the formula set by Otranto: crumbling castle reflecting the heart of the villain, innocent hero/maiden, ancestral curses, Good vs Evil clashing and the villain eventually losing more due to his own evil and the divine forces than anything the hero(es) actually did.
The Late Gothic Tradition saw authors focus a lot more on the villain, and re-imagines a lot of old creatures into new forms. This is the when Victor Frankenstein and the first vampire novels come in.
The Victorian Revival sees the creation of the "consulting detective" by Edgar Allan Poe, and of course Dracula is written. Heroes return, with people like Van Helsing, Carnacki, John Silence and Solomon Kane fighting the forces of darkness.
And of course the genre still exists to this day: every Dracula and Frankenstein that comes out if a new Gothic tale, following in the footsteps of their predecessors.

After the inspiration comes the Realm of Dread itself. While at first Ravenloft appears to be a normal Low-Magic Setting to most of ti'S inhabitants, in truth it is a constructed world (probably made by one of those rear end in a top hat Pathfinder wizards from the Murphy thread) that follows it's own set of rules:
- Good and evil alignments cannot be detected: people have to use their own judgments. This doe snot mean that Good and Evil do not exist, however, as innocent characters find themselves subtly protected and truly evil characters are tempted and cursed by the Dark Powers.
- Necromancy is stronger, but much harder to control.
- Divination is unreliable, unless you're a Vistani, Ravenloft's special tribe of gypsies (...yeah :cripes:).
- Travel through the Mists is unreliable and can dump you in strange places, and powerful magic is needed to travel from one Domain to another. Nothing can help you get out of a Closed Domain.
- It's impossible to travel to other Planes except the Near Ethereal.

So, what are Domains? They're the building blocks of Ravenloft, each a special-made prison for an evil being known as a Darklord. Darklords are given great powers, but are also given a personal curse to torment them. They can never escape their Domains, except through death (with one exception, saved by his author throwing a tantrum). They can, however, close the borders of their Domains. Each one does it in a different way, but it's always a spectacular show of supernatural power. As an example, Strahd can close the borders of Barovia (his Domain) by summoning a thick fog of poisonous vapors that no magic can overcome. Domains vary in size and territory: some are huge swaths of land while others are a single mansion or even a small room.

The Mists are the claws of the Dark Powers. The Misty Border surrounds the world, isolating domains and clusters. There are Mistways, passage through the Mists that (usually) lead to specific places, but outside of them any traveler will soon be lost in an infinite gray fog. Only some powerful Clerics and Vistani can safely travel the Mists. They can appear at any place, at any time, snatching people away or dropping them off, with no logic anyone can fathom. People known as Outlanders are sometimes snatched by the Mists from other realms (the way to get a weekend-in-hell adventure in the old days), in fact most Darklords were originally Outlanders.

Speaking of Darklords, few people actually know of their existence. Some rule their Domain openly, while others either work in the shadows or might not have any political power at all. Darklords are not mindless savages, they had to choose tho commit horrible crimes to merit being chosen by the Dark Powers. Darklords can be destroyed, at which point either a new Darklord arises to take over the domain, the domain is absorbed by another one or the domain simply vanishes back into the Mists.

Next time: History

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

I love how D&D's insistence on convoluted rules means that they need a whole page of weird explanations and numbers to explain "there's a gothic realm with twisted monsters your dudes can fight". The whole Alignments thing and just general... straightness of D&D works against the gothic setting, but somehow it also makes me like Ravenloft a bit 'cause at least they try.

Is Castle of Otranto the one with the random helmet falling one somebody?

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Count Chocula posted:

I love how D&D's insistence on convoluted rules means that they need a whole page of weird explanations and numbers to explain "there's a gothic realm with twisted monsters your dudes can fight". The whole Alignments thing and just general... straightness of D&D works against the gothic setting, but somehow it also makes me like Ravenloft a bit 'cause at least they try.

Oh trust me, when we get to the mechanics chapter, you'll get a poo poo-ton of needless rules-finagling.

Count Chocula posted:

Is Castle of Otranto the one with the random helmet falling one somebody?

Quick google search says yes!

Aug 23, 2009

Ravenloft's batshittery sounds like a lot of legacy cruft that should be cleaned up, except grogs are the main market for new Ravenloft products, so...

Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo

Nuns with Guns posted:

if I remember the 4e rumor mills right, Ravenloft was slated to be a full 4e setting released some time in late 2011 but then 5e was announced in January 2012 so there went that :v:

It was shelved before the 5e announcement, and they ended up basically saying it was because they were never really satisfied with what they had for it as far as what they would have released in a campaign setting book per se, and didn't want to release something lovely just to have it released. As it stands there was probably enough support to piece together a pretty solid Ravenloft campaign between the various Domains of Dread thrown into Dungeon and Dragon magazines, the stuff in the Undead and Shadowfell books, and all the other support. It basically was rolled into the core setting for 4e, same as say Sigil or Spelljammer, and there's enough there to gently caress around with it if you really want to, but you'll need to look at a lot of different sources to pull everything together...

Nov 8, 2011

Count Chocula posted:

What's the most Castlevania RPG?

Depending on how stringent your definition of "RPG" is, I suspect it might be this:

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011


LornMarkus posted:

Depending on how stringent your definition of "RPG" is, I suspect it might be this:

It's so beautiful!

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!
As rad as using 4e + Ravenloft to approximate Castlevania would be (though you could just run Castlevania and skip the middleman), I feel like associating Ravenloft with Castlevania is a bit disingenuous.


Oct 4, 2006
Lord of Sarcasm

I like Ravenloft a lot but stuff like horror checks always annoyed me.

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