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senrath
Nov 4, 2009

Look Professor, a destruct switch!


DalaranJ posted:

Saber Lasar, yeah that sounds like a human name
- a dragon

Would you prefer Taserface?

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Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




senrath posted:

Would you prefer Taserface?

Or Overkill.

Mr.Misfit
Jan 10, 2013

The time for
SkellyBones
has come!

Young Freud posted:

You say this when there's a character in "Fiddler On The Roof" named Lazar Wolf. No, he isn't a lycanthrope that shoots lasers from his eyes.

Boy, would Tevye ever have married his oldest daughter to a jewish lycanthrope butcher shooting lasers from his eyes. Thatīs a glorious image alright!

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:
If I were a Laser Wolf, HowooOOOoOOOooooowoowooOOOoOOOOOoowwlll!
All day long I'd shoot lasers from my thumbs, if I were a Laser wolf!

Barudak
May 7, 2007

The wedding being interrupted would have been a lot, lot crazier.

DalaranJ
Apr 15, 2008

Yosuke will now die for you.

DalaranJ posted:

Saber Lasar, yeah that sounds like a human name
- Kevin Siembieda

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Rifts World Book 13: Lone Star - Part Thirteen: "Its official name, "The Board of Culture," has given rise to many less than humorous comments, primarily based on the obvious pun ("culture, what culture?" "Well, you know how they grow cultures, don't you ...," etc.).."


It's cute, but what the hell is it?

A Geographic Overview of the Lone Star State
By Julius Rosenstein & Kevin Siembieda


And to finish the book, actual details on Texas! Thought we'd never get here.
  • Llano Estacado ó The Northern Quadrant: Mostly just grasslands, the most notable city is Flint (no details), but there are Comanche who have "returned to the old ways of living off the land and mysticism" and the Coalition leave them alone despite the fact they consider them traitorous subhumans.
  • Prairie High Plains: So, here we have cattle ranches, but also buffalo, rhino-buffalo (no relation to buffalo), and dinosaurs. We're told exotic breeds raised by ranchers somehow survived the experience in a completely foreign biome and so we have ostriches, wildebeests, aoudad sheep, and rhinos (no relation to rhino-buffaloes). Also there will be more animals in Rifts World Book 14: New West! Feels like he's just throwing in any animal he thinks would be cool. Humans? Man, gently caress humans.
  • Rio Grande River: ... protects Texas from vampires, supposedly, but given we have like 300,000+ running around in the Pecos Empire, seems like not so much. There are bandits and adventurers that monitor the river for bridges being built and destroy them, because monitoring a 1,885 mile river with a post-apocalypse population seems viable and realistic. There are "good ol' boy" hunter families that make sport of killing vampires, and groups of Reid's Rangers also patrol the river. Also they grow stuff here!
  • Rio Grande Plain: A scenic subtropical grassland where you're likely to get et by a vamp or robbed by a bandit, scenically.
  • The Eastern Forests: There are ruined cities here where the forests have regrown, but settlers are already at work chopping them down again. There are Apache and Comanche here that live in the forest and no doubt cry a solitary tear at it being chopped down. There are d-bees and escaped mutants too. The Coalition looks forward to chopping it all down and turning it into Chi-Town Library pencils.
  • Kingdom of Worth: King Macklin's domain, based around the existing city of Worth (aka Fort Worth) that they conquered. He didn't intend for it to grow as big as it was, but it's become a home for people trying to avoid the Coalition and banditry. Macklin, though, being a cock in every way imaginable, is quite upset that they're coming to Worth to join the community and not just to bow down to his greatness. Seriously. As such, that's part of why he's looking to drive them to war against the Coalition, so that he can bask in the glory of that... but General Kashbrook in the Coalition States already plans to wipe out Worth before he can even make that move. It doesn't say that in a "this may happen" way but in a "this will happen" in 6-10 months. Yeah. You know the big villain they built up for a whole chapter, well, don't worry, the Coalition will take care of him for you. Seriously, what the gently caress? I don't get it. Well, don't worry. They'll just forget that they wrote this.
  • The Haunted Ruins of Dallas: So, demons poured out of a rifts in the middle of Dallas. A warlord then went to defeat the demons and take the treasures of the city, but they died and became ghosts. The demons are gone, but the ghosts remain. It's said that Worth is cursed by the ghosts- because really do you have to rub it in this deep, what the gently caress- (sigh) Anyway, Worth is cursed by the ghosts according to the wise Comanche and Apache shamans. It turns out ghosts are only occasionally encountered in the city, but there might be is isn't be a greater evil there. That greater evil turns out to be, uh, eight vampires that spookify the place. Also a secret CS outpost. And the "Los Amigos Gang". And some Federation of Magic hideouts. And some more gangs. Just how haunted is this place, Siembieda? It seems like a nine-car pileup of Scooby-Doo villains.
  • Houstown: A wild west kind of city where many Pecos Empire factions collide, this is becoming the new center of trade and some people are forwarding the idea that it's the "capital" of the Pecos Empire, but there's no way to get all the factions to agree on that. We have Lord Mayor Orpheus running things, and they have an advisory council that advises the mayor literally (they have no actual power other than being able to call mayoral elections). However, Orpheus is really popular and is a de facto dictator as a result. There are a lot of psi-stalkers, and some people literally sell their Potential Psychic Energy for psi-stalker meals. There's also a growing magical community there.
  • Apache Country: Though their homelands are further west, they often nomad their way through the western part of the state and use it as a hunting ground. They generally don't chase people if if they're not hurting the land (sigh) but will shadow them to be certain. They generally fight over resources or honor but are generally merciful and seek to win rather than destroy. They'll just murder a Coalition trooper without hesitation, though, because they're "not worthy".
  • The Bend - a.k.a. Trans-Pecos: Canyon-ey and desert-ish, this is basically a treasure trove of ley lines hidden by mountains. There are some travelling nomads and small local tribes, this is mostly dominated by monsters and ghosts (well, "entities").
  • The Grande Range - Home of the Pervic Simvan: This is where the Pervic have settled, and it's mostly open range outside from the settlements, which is good for the all the mount breeding they do. It notes here that sometimes the Pervic rent out their warriors as mercenaries, which would have probably been better in their actual description than tucked away here, but there you go.
  • Crossroads: Located where Kerrville used to be, this is the geographic center of the Pecos Empire, and has tried to become the entertainment and cultural center of the region. They do a lot of shows and music, but this is also a good place to try and trade pre-Rifts artifacts. They're also home to "Dr. Genius's Carnival of Wonders" but we have to wait until Rifts World Book 14: New West for that. For some reason despite being in the middle of the Pecos they try and promote themselves as "family entertainment", but have a thriving red light district anyway with brothels, animal fights, and psychic entertainment. However, they've largely been able to prevent actual bloodsports... but not Juicer games... which are pretty much bloodsports... so... um... well. It's a plutocracy and we get a lot of :words: on how that works and the local guard but we can skip that.
  • Uvalde - Home of Warlord Grunge & his Pecos Riders: This is a city that mostly survived the rifts, and has become the main camp of the Pecos Riders. While it's not a major trading port, it does see a lot of booty and supplies come through. It's also home to the "Buckaroo Bonanza Rodeo" which is a big six day event each year where true buckaroos people converge on the town to watch or compete.
  • New San Antonio: No word on what happened to Old San Antonio. Centered around old military installations now run by the Silver Dagger, the gang has worked to unite a number of communities into the city that stands here. They do a lot of smuggling (once again, is it really smuggling if there are no laws to restrict it?) and provide a lot of shady services like human augmentation and weapon sales. Most of the city is actually relatively under control on account of the Silver Daggers running a tight ship.
  • Laredo: A city that straddles the Rio Grande that is a "festering cancer" that is apparently so bad that even vampires stay out, which is a convenient excuse given they could probably use this place to march right over the border on the local drawbridge. It's run by over a dozen gangs that battle over their shantytown neighborhoods. Vice and murder are endemic, though this is a popular hangout for augmented humans and tough nonhumans that have less to fear. It gets even worse when nomadic gangs and tribes stop in town, and everybody's "welcome" save for Coalition troops.
  • Raiders of the Gulf Coast: There are a number of other communities aside from Houstown, but coastal communities have issues with sea monsters and Splugorth slavers. However, the Coalition States have set up a naval presence here (based out of nowhere, apparently, given they're landlocked) which apparently helps keep the Splugorth away to the gratitude of locals. Well, presumably just human locals who get shot at less.
Experience Tables

Lastly, we get the usual dart-board of experience tables. For some reason, the Xiticix Killer gets an XP table even though they aren't listed as a class (or are available to the PCs).


If you read all of this, have a drink of some sort.

Conclusion

Lone Star does a lot more to vilify the Coalition - unintentionally, it feels like. Siembieda still wants them to be in a grey area, but it becomes more and more clear that the dog boys are effectively a slave class. They may be well-indoctrinated, but they're still effectively slaves. Desmond Bradford is a maniac willing to see his own men murdered for machevellian ends or is willing to release monsters into the wild for the "science", and essentially no level of scientific progress is worth cutting him a paycheck. The parade of psychopaths that work for him doesn't make things much more charming.

Conversely, the Pecos Empire section is actually pretty alright! Though it waffles back and forth between wanting the Pecos Raiders to simultaneously be secret good guys and a den of scum and villainy, in general most of its personalities are legitimately interesting and it seems like it'd be a interesting mini-setting to mess around with. Maybe it's Rosenstein's influence on Siembieda's writing, but it comes off much better than the front half of the book. Unfortunately, it's saddled with less attention that the Coalition military maniacs.

Ultimately, though, since most of it is the Coalition section, Lone Star ends up being a mess. The Coalition section is dire and insufferable, and Siembieda's love affair with Bradford is just miserable to read through. If he wants the Coalition to be a moral grey area, Lone Star puts that poo poo to rest real quick, featuring the most cartoonish depiction the faction's had so far. It'll get worse.

That's all, Lone Star's done and we can ride off into the sunset. But not for long, because...

Next: I wanna be your cowboy.


"The book's done! Get out before I roll into a ball at you!"

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

Epyllion: So where is dre even going to put that ring?



The Crafter is the art dragon. They get base Charm -1, Courage +0 and Cunning +1. Their Virtue is either Ambition or Tradition, and their Obligation is either Kebros (Put yourself in danger to obtain rare materials or treasures) or Rothscar (Design something to help a friend solve a tricky problem). They give one Friendship Gem to someone who inspired them to leave their worskhop to fight the Darkness and another to someone who has their back when their tinkering gets into trouble. They take a Friendship Gem from someone who asked them to make something useful for the clutch.

The core move of Crafter is Dragon Trade: You are known for your gifts in the draconic arts. Mark two mediums you have dedicated yourself to from the list below:
  • paints
  • metal
  • gardening
  • precious metals
  • beads
  • wood
  • tattoos
  • cloth
  • wire
  • stone
  • piercing
  • paper
  • ice
  • sound
  • pen and ink
  • acting
  • plastics
  • wax
  • instruments
  • mortar
  • directing
  • engraving
  • clay
  • glass
  • writing
  • jewels
  • sand
When you create something in your medium, roll +Cunning. On a 10+, pick 2. On a 7-9, pick one.
  • Your creation is durable
  • Your creation is attractive
  • Your creation is functional
On a miss, the work is fundamentally flawed. The DM will reveal how at a later time.
When you advance this move, you mark two new mediums and say who taught you to master them.

Other moves:

An Eye for Detail: When you study another dragon after complimenting them on a unique feature or object they possess, roll +Cunning instead of +Charm.

Crafty Claw: When you repair broken equipment or machinery, roll +Cunning. On a 10+, you do it, no problem. On a 7 -9, it's possible to get it moving again, but only at a cost. The DM will tell you what you have to do to fix it up. On a miss, something vital is missing or permanently broken.

Monument to the Moons: When you create (and describe) a work of art, you can call upon the Moons and store the effects inside your piece. Name an event that will activate the item, and the magic will be released when it is triggered.

Saddlebag of Potential: You collect odds of ends, including bits of armament and ancient artifacts, just in case the inspiration strikes. When you search your saddlebag for something small enough to be carried with you, roll +Cunning. On a 10+, you have just the thing, or close enough. On a 7-9, you have something similar, but it's incomplete or flawed. On a miss, you've used it recently, but you might be able to get it back.

The Crafter's Shadowself is: More than an artist, you are a machinist. You see dragons as tools to be wielded, manipulated, and forced to see their true potential. Make sure your clutch sees your vision for Dragonia. You are The Crafter. Return from your Shadowself when a friend convinces you to admit that you care more about dragons than objects.



The Daredevil is...um...the Daredevil starts with base Charm -1, Courage +1 and Cunning +0. Their Virtue is either Cooperation or Discretion, and their Obligation is either Brynbak (Convince a member of your Clutch to undertake a dangerous task) or Rothscar (Put yourself in between danger and a Clutchmate). They give one Friendship Gem to someone that made them fel welcome in the Clutch when their beast companion fell ill, and another to someone that taught them not to underestimate the Darkness. They take a Friendshi[ Gem from someone they saved from a monster.

Beast companion, you ask? Why, that's the signature move! You find yourself in precarious situations that other dragonkin avoid, but your beast companion will follow you anywhere. Just like other wildlife in Dragonia, your beast companion has aspects of many different animals. Choose up to three. If you only circle one, other creatures of Dragonia will view your companion as a monster, but somehow you two manage.
  • parrot
  • lion
  • wolf
  • salamander
  • frog
  • bat
  • rhino
  • turtle
  • horse
  • badger
  • ram
  • armadillo
  • rat
  • insect
  • alligator
  • bear
  • squid
  • urchin
  • ______
Abilities (choose one):
  • Large: Your beast is large enough to ride long distances
  • Tracking: Your beast can track down a nearby creature
  • Burrowing: Your beast can dig through solid earth
  • Messenger: Your beast can carry messages far and wide
  • Camouflage: Your beast can blend in with its surroundings at will
  • Perform: Your beast can entertain dragonkin and other wildlife
  • LAbor: Your beast can haul and move heavy objects
When you advance this move, mark a new ability and tell how the beast got its new talent.

Other moves:

Danger is My Middle Name: Take +1 ongoing to acting despite danger to overcome physical obstacles.

Clear Headed: When you charge headfirst into a dangerous situation, roll +Courag.e On a hit, ask one or more of the questions from the list and take +1 forward to act on the answers. On a 10+, ask 2. On a 7-9, ask 1:
  • Where's my best escape route/way in/way past?
  • What should I be on the lookout for?
  • Who's in control here?
On a miss, someone gets the jump on you before you can get your bearings, putting you in a tough spot and separating you from your friends.

Slippery Scales: When you attempt to escape any form of physical entrapment, roll +Courage. On a 10+, you escape. On a 7-9, you slip away, but you leave something important behind or attract unwanted attention; the DM will tell you which. On a miss, you still get away, but the costs are great: mark a Shadow.

Share the Load: When a fellow dragon is about to mark a Shadow, you can mark off a Shadow on your Shadow Track instead. You don't have to act on the Shadow, but it stays marked until you clear your Shadow Track.

The Daredevil's Shadowself is: You are fast, furious, and unstoppable. No danger is too great for you to face, and you don't need a Clutch to slow you down. Make sure your clutch always sees you out in front. You are The Daredevil. Return from your Shadowself when a friend convinces oyu to admit that you need your Clutch.

Next time: The Nature Adept and the Seer.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

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

What's a Jurassic Park T-Rex doing here, breathing fire?

Covok
May 27, 2013

Yet where is that woman now? Tell me, in what heave does she reside? None of them. Because no God bothered to listen or care. If that is what you think it means to be a God, then you and all your teachings are welcome to do as that poor women did. And vanish from these realms forever.

Serious question, ARB, how many more Rifts book do you have to do? I feel like you've been doing these reviews for 5 years now.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Covok posted:

Serious question, ARB, how many more Rifts book do you have to do? I feel like you've been doing these reviews for 5 years now.

Between occamsnailfile and I, Lone Star is the 25th book that's been reviewed for the line. How many more? Hm.

There are 2 core books, 18 sourcebooks, 14 dimension books, 3 conversion books, 35 world books, 7 coalition wars books, 4 revised books, 2 index books, 3 gamemaster books, 6 fiction books, the GM screen, and 2 "raw" unpublished books right now. That's nearly 100 books, leaving aside whether I really care about covering things like novels and screenplays. (There's also licensed material which would kick it above 100, and the Rifter...) And they're still being published! Rifts is easily one of the top game lines for published material.

That all being said, right now I basically have two reviews already in the pipe in the current review style. After that, I kind of came to an decision point whether or not I want to continue doing this, because as you can tell, it's a Sisyphean task to cover the line, but I'd really like to at least get to Ultimate Edition or Coalition Wars. (That's not a promise, but something I'd like to do.) Part of doing the audio reviews was to see if that would be easier. (It isn't by far.) If I want to continue doing these, I needed some way to make them more efficient. They're easy for me to write, but they still take a good amount of time to write up.

So right now after those two reviews are done, my current thought is to cut back how I do the reviews and make them much shorter. Some of these reviews are a fourth of the length of the books they're covering, and that's obviously pretty loving far from ideal. Any future reviews after that point will likely resemble what I did on Dead Reign, but hopefully even more condensed than that. That isn't to say I won't come back to this style if I feel it necessary to "deep dive" on a few key books, but I've been doing some serious thought on how to go forward with these and I might divert to some other Palladium book line to just test out a new format. Right now I'm committed to doing New West and Spirit West, but after that things are a bit up in the air as I decide how to deal with the dilemma I have before me.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Covok posted:

Serious question, ARB, how many more Rifts book do you have to do? I feel like you've been doing these reviews for 5 years now.

You laugh, but I recently went back to look at some stuff in the original thread and there were ARB Rifts posts back then.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten

Saddlebag isn't really a word I'd associate with dragons, unless they commonly have riders. They're not horses.

Covok
May 27, 2013

Yet where is that woman now? Tell me, in what heave does she reside? None of them. Because no God bothered to listen or care. If that is what you think it means to be a God, then you and all your teachings are welcome to do as that poor women did. And vanish from these realms forever.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Between occamsnailfile and I, Lone Star is the 25th book that's been reviewed for the line. How many more? Hm.

There are 2 core books, 18 sourcebooks, 14 dimension books, 3 conversion books, 35 world books, 7 coalition wars books, 4 revised books, 2 index books, 3 gamemaster books, 6 fiction books, the GM screen, and 2 "raw" unpublished books right now. That's nearly 100 books, leaving aside whether I really care about covering things like novels and screenplays. (There's also licensed material which would kick it above 100, and the Rifter...) And they're still being published! Rifts is easily one of the top game lines for published material.

That all being said, right now I basically have two reviews already in the pipe in the current review style. After that, I kind of came to an decision point whether or not I want to continue doing this, because as you can tell, it's a Sisyphean task to cover the line, but I'd really like to at least get to Ultimate Edition or Coalition Wars. (That's not a promise, but something I'd like to do.) Part of doing the audio reviews was to see if that would be easier. (It isn't by far.) If I want to continue doing these, I needed some way to make them more efficient. They're easy for me to write, but they still take a good amount of time to write up.

So right now after those two reviews are done, my current thought is to cut back how I do the reviews and make them much shorter. Some of these reviews are a fourth of the length of the books they're covering, and that's obviously pretty loving far from ideal. Any future reviews after that point will likely resemble what I did on Dead Reign, but hopefully even more condensed than that. That isn't to say I won't come back to this style if I feel it necessary to "deep dive" on a few key books, but I've been doing some serious thought on how to go forward with these and I might divert to some other Palladium book line to just test out a new format. Right now I'm committed to doing New West and Spirit West, but after that things are a bit up in the air as I decide how to deal with the dilemma I have before me.

Holy loving poo poo, you're dedicated. God bless you for it, I suppose.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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



wdarkk posted:

Saddlebag isn't really a word I'd associate with dragons, unless they commonly have riders. They're not horses.
What made you Pern the right to tell them what to call their stuff?

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Evil Mastermind posted:

You laugh, but I recently went back to look at some stuff in the original thread and there were ARB Rifts posts back then.

Well, there also have been long gaps between some of the reviews, too. But yeah, I literally got my start posting doing the Rifts review once I realized there was no (completed) review, and it's been downhill from there.

Foglet
Jun 17, 2014

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

Evil Mastermind posted:

I dunno, I like the idea that the nerd dragon's Shadowself is to become the insufferable nerd who won't shut up about their fanfic/character/nerd obsession.

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




Man, those dragons have a serious case of skin-wrapping/shrink-wrapping.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

Epyllion: That dragon is bulging out its cheeks really hard.



The Nature Adept is a dragon druid. It has base Charm +1, Courage -1 and Cunning +0. Its virtue is either Honor or Independence, and its Obligation is either Myndoth (Avoid detection or infiltrate a location) or Tessith (Restore a symbol or sanctuary of the wild). It gives one Friendship Gem to someone who was a voice of reason when dealing with older dragons and another to someone who helped defend a sacred space from the Darkness. It takes a Gem from someone who it taught to listen to an animal.

The core move of the Nature Adept is Wild Speech: You share this world with beasts and creatures of the wild. The calls of these creatures are a second language to you. You can understand and communicate with animals in a basic tongue of the land, allowing you to study them, insist they accept your help, and mislead or trick them as if they were dragons. (NOTE: 'insist they accept your help' is not a move.)
When you advance this move, you pick one of stone, water, earth, fire, wind, ice, wood, or metal each time. You then explain to the DM how you learned to speak to that element.

Other moves:

Master of Two Worlds: When you act despite danger while traveling through the wild, roll +Charm instead of +Courage.

Spirit Guide: You have attracted the attention of the land itself. A small spirit guide follows you wherever you go, offering aid and counsel. When you ask your spirit guide for advice, roll +Charm. On a 10+, mark experience and take +1 forward if you follow its guidance. On a 7-9, take a +1 forward if you do as it says and mark a Shadow if you don't. On a miss, the spirit is insistent; if you ignore its advice, it leaves your side until you are able to make amends.

Smokescreen: When you keep still in natural surroundings, you blend in and are nearly invisible. Enemies cannot spot you until you move or speak.

Beast of the Land: When you commune with the spirits native to the land, roll +Charm. On a 10+, they impart their wisdom upon you; ask 2. On a 7-9, ask 1. On a miss, the spirits are in trouble and need help with a ritual of their own.
  • How can I nurture this place?
  • What does this place want from us?
  • What last visited this place?
  • What spirits dance here?

The Nature Adept's Shadowself: You are pure and one with nature. Dragonia is a distant memory, a false artifice obscuring the true destiny of the land. Make sure your clutch knows how much you value the wild over Dragonia. You are The Nature Adept. Return from your Shadowself when a friend convinces you to acknowledge the value of dragon culture.



The Seer is a fortune-telling and Darkness-seeing dragon. Its Virtues are the same as the Nature Adept's - Honor and Independence. It has base Charm +1, Courage +0 and Cunning -1, and its Obligation is either Kebros (Mark a Shadow while engaging the Darkness) or Semscale (Use secret knowledge of the Darkness to aid another). It gives a Friendship Gem to someone that helped save it from the Darkness. It takes a Gem from someone whose knowledge is unparalleled in the Clutch but who does not see the danger ahead, and another from someone it dreamed of long before they met.

The core move is Haunting Visions: You are haunted by visions of the Darkness. At the start of the session, roll +Charm. On a hit, you've seen a vision of the Darkness that will aid your Clutch's efforts; learn something useful and interesting about the tasks at hand. On a 10+, you've seen the true face of the Darkness; ask the DM a followup question as well. On a miss, your vision is too dark to aid you; the future it foretells is grim and painful.
When you advance this move, you pick one new feature from this list and say who helped you gain it. When you roll Haunting Visions, you may:
  • share your vision with a Clutchmate; take +1 forward to your Haunting Vision roll.
  • prepare your mind; ask an additional question (even on a miss).
  • guide your vision; tell the DM what aspect of Dragonia your vision will concern.
  • defy your future; offer a +1 forward to a Clutchmate to alter what you have seen.

Other moves:

One of Them: When you mislead or trick a dragon corrupted by the Darkness, roll +Charm instead of +Cunning.

Wyrmtongue: Return a Gem and ask the Darkness for something you need. The DM will tell you what it costs. If you pay the price, the Darkness will deliver it.

Secret Catcher: Add the following options to study another dragon before they have seen you.
  • What secrets is your character hiding?
  • What has the Darkness offered to you in your moments of weakness?
  • How do you think we are alike?

Touch the Darkness: When you consume a piece of the Darkness, roll +Charm. On a hit, the Darkness grants you a vision and answers your questions. Choose one from the list below. On a 10+, choose two. The visions...
  • are lucid and detailed; clear a Shadow.
  • show you what you need to do; take +1 forward to do it.
  • reveal the role a dragon will play in the events to come; give +1 forward to a Clutchmate.
On a 7-9, also choose one. The visions...
  • corrupt your soul; mark a Shadow.
  • distance you from others; return a Gem.
  • attack your weakened body, take -1 forward.
On a miss, you attract the attention of the Darkness itself.

The Seer's Shadowself: You are magnetic and persuasive. You know dragonkin cannot be trusted any more than the Darkness can; you may have to traffic in lies and backroom deals to get things done. Make sure your clutch knows you are willing to sacrifice their feelings to get the job done. You are the Seer. Return from your Shadowself when a friend convinces you to trust a dragon you do not know.

Next time: The Warrior.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Part Seven: The Haven Races, Part 2




The Legion are, when you get right down to it, a bioweapon.

As a species, the Legion have only existed for about 100 years, having been created by the Archons specifically to fight X'ion's forces. And, well, we know how that turned out.

When the last of the Archons was killed, the Legion continued fighting the Nephilim for a few more decades, presumably because those were the last orders they received from their creators. But it was only a matter of time that, with the Archons gone, supplies and numbers began to run low. The Legion realized that the only way they would be able to avoid dying out completely was to do something rather drastic: create their own culture from scratch. After all, not only were they designed to be nothing but soldiers, they knew they were designed to be nothing but soldiers.


When all you have is a rifle, every problem looks like a target.

The Legion fleet used the last of its fuel to reach an arctic world they named "Cerberus" and began to create settlements. This was a lot harder than you'd think; the Legion were bred for war and as such weren't given the knowledge needed to do things like arctic farming (or farming in general, really) or setting up familial units. Because the Legion viewed everything through a military viewpoint, the Casila Curia (the central command) created a special branch of the military called the Interior Branch to basically try and figure out this whole "society" thing as they went along.

The Legion thought that they were the last of the Archon-created races in the galaxy until about 10 years ago when the Corporation made first contact. This...didn't go well. Not only were the Corporation allied with the Nephilim, the Corp and the Legion have vastly different cultures. While the Legion command was still trying to set up an actual alliance, numerous corporations were already hiring Legion as mercs. In an attempt to regain control of things, the Casila Curia branded everyone who signed up with the Corp as exiles and forbade them to ever return to Cerberus.



This had the unfortunate effect of disrupting the trade between the Corporation and the Legion, who were in need of the resources the Corporation could provide. Once again the government created a new military branch (the Foreign Branch) and a new army that could be hired out as mercenaries with the government's blessing: the Auxilia. The Auxilia was a way for exiles to be re-accepted back into Legion culture, and were set up on a new colony in the Haven system.

It should go without saying at this point that the Legion are a very structured culture, but what's most interesting is that the greatest heroes aren't the best soldiers. Without a vast war to fight, the Legion needed to readjust their thinking in very unfamiliar ways.

quote:

Because they were created as a warrior race, they place a heavy emphasis on duty, honour, and glory, which come from military service and involvement in combat. When the Great War ended, the Legion had to reinvent its society to accommodate peacetime professions and family. Taking on a civilian role is seen as a noble sacrifice, raising a family being the most noble sacrifice of all.
That said, old habits die hard. Where the Legion were once one unified culture (in the sense that they were all members of the same army), recent events have caused a sort of splintering of interests. Many Legion have turned to freelance mercenary work for the Corporation, while others (Nomads) have left Legion society completely to try and make their own cultures.

All that said, the inherent Legion mindset is to follow command structures and chains of command. Loyalty is very important to Legion, even the mercs; if pressed, a Legion will always follow their commander over their client. The Legion also place a high store on honor: they will generally attempt to keep collateral damage to a minimum, not attack civilians, or retreat without orders. That said, "honor" only goes so far. They're not above ambushes or fighting dirty if that's what's needed to get the job done.

The Legion's government is, unsurprisingly, a military structure. Really it's best described as a benign military dictatorship; the military high command is the government. At the core is the Casila Curia, which consists of the heads of the five military branches:
  • The Army, which protects Cerberus Prime, and fights the Legion's enemies.
  • The Navy, which is like the Army but with spaceships.
  • The Interior Branch, who handle all non-military activity such as housing and food production.
  • The Operations Branch, who handle intelligence and black ops.
  • The Foreign Branch, who are not only in charge of hiring out Legion as mercenaries, but are also in charge of trade and diplomatic needs.
There is a sort-of sixth branch: the Exsilia, those Legion who chose to leave on their own and join the Corporation before the Casila Curia had a handle on the first contact situation. The Exsilia are considered exiled by the Legion government (hense the name), but the Exsilia themselves still think of themselves as Legion loyalists who just...got ahead of the curve by getting into mercenary work on their own terms. Many of the Exsilia who still have families on Cerberus will still send money and supplies back home.

Now, given all this, it's not much of a stretch to realize that Legion will often wind up on both sides of a conflict. It's worth pointing out that in such a situation, the Legion don't see things as a conflict of interest. Granted, they'll be more likely to take their opponents alive if possible, but they wouldn't have an issue killing each other since, from their point of view, both sides are being honorable by sticking by their employer's and/or commander's orders.

The only branch leader who lives in the Haven system is the head of the Foreign Branch. Athene Kosta (a.k.a. "Lady Vengeance") stays in the Haven system to ease the interactions between the Legion and the other races. She earned her nickname due to her tendency to break protocol and lead from the front. She's the commander of all Legion forces in the system, including (in her eyes) the Exsilia. She considers them "misguided" rather than traitors, and will offer pardons to those Exsilia who want to rejoin. That said, those who refuse the offer are treated as willing traitors and are dealt with appropriately.

The Legion's relationships with the other races can best be described as "professional". The species the Legion has the most business with is the Corporation, who hire mercs from the Foreign Branch to serve as corporate muscle. In fact, about half the Foreign Branch are mercs.

The Legion gets along fine with the Kaltorians; due to their background the Legion feels it's their duty to protect the chosen creation of the Archons. The two races also have a sort of salvage-trade agreement: since both races rely heavily on salvage for technological resources, the Kaltorians trade old Legion ships they find for any non-Legion salvage the Legion find.

And as for the Nephilim...well...that's a little tricky. After all, even though everyone wants peace now, it's hard to completely forgive someone you actually made specifically to fight. The Legion understand that the Nephilim are needed as part of the new galactic culture, but still, it's hard to forget everything that happened. Not helping matters is that some Legion can't (or won't bother trying to) differentiate between the Nephilim who want peace and the "feral" Nephilim who are basically insane untethered war machines.

The Legion's biggest problem right now is that they're in a similar boat to the Corporation: they weren't designed to be a sustainable race, and as such their numbers are dwindling. They don't have the population drop-off that the Corproration have, but still, they weren't designed to breed and thus have a low fertility rate. On top of that, they (as a species) spend most of their time in combat. As a result, the high command have instituted what ammounts to a breeding program in order to keep the Legion population at a sustainable level. It's important to point out, though, that this isn't a Handmaiden's Tale stuation where they're keeping a bunch of female Legion aside solely to pump out babies. Instead, it's treated as just another assigned duty, albeit one that's more important than most, that you'll be assigned from time to time.

The second biggest problem the Legion are running into is their economy and infrastructure. Which is to say, they don't have good ones. The only real "export" they have are mercs, which is the backbone (and large percentage) of their economy. This also means that they're very depenant on the other races for pretty much everything. They do have some research and manufacturing going on, but it's very minimal; up until the end of the war everything was provided by the Archons so again this is all new to them.

Still, despite everything they're hanging on and fighting against destruction. After all, that's what they were designed to do.






The Nephilim are, when you get right down to it, a bioweapon.

The Nephilim were made for one reason and one reason only: to destroy the Archons. And as we've already seen, they did so quite effectively; the Archons were rendered extinct within a century of X'ion's return to what's now known as "Haven space". X'ion's forces were organized by "broods", each of which had a unique speciality and purpose.


We are what we make ourselves to be.

One of these broods was the Devwi-Ich Brood, whose purpose was to destroy the Kaltorans due to that race being the Archon's favorite "children". And it nearly succeeded. The Kaltorans were wiped out across the system (with the exception of those who fled underground on Eded), and the Devwi-Itch Brood ruined the surface of Eden, the Kaltoran homeworld.

Then the war ended, and X'ion left, abandoning its children.

Devwi-Ich, now without Archons to kill or any ordered from its creator, crashed the bioships under its control onto Eden's surface to form a hive, and slept through the next century. While Devwi-Ich slept, the Nephilim under its control devolved without its guidance. Some formed into feral tribes, while others regressed into animalistic mindlessness. When Devwi-Ich awoke, it united the tribes across Eden, broke ties with X'ion, and determined that from now on, the Nephilim would live for themselves.

Like the Legion, the Nephilim didn't have anything resembling a culture until long after the war ended. Also like the Legion, the Nephilim are basing things on what they're familiar with. There are three main bullet points to the current culture:
  • Life is Cheap: Since they're designed to kill, most Nephilim consider the lives of others to be pretty much valueless. Note that in this case "others" means "anyone who isn't the single Nephilim we're discussing right now." A Nephilim will consider their own life worth protecting, but everyone else (even other Nephilim) are on their own at best. The Nephilim leaders realize that this isn't exactly conductive to long-term survival of the species (or long-term alliances with anyone else) so they try to stamp that thinking down when they find it.
  • Pursuit of Genetic Perfection: Because of their origins, the Nephilim are very heavily into the idea of "genetic superiority". Which is like survival of thei fittest, only instead of the strong ruling, it's the most genetically advantageous. Of course, this tends to translate to "the strongest" in any case. Unfortunately, this also leads to a eugenicist mindset where the bad genes are culled from the pool.
  • Symbiotic Dependence: The Nephilim are incredibly dependant on the Devwi-Ich for overall survival, since everyone knows what happened to the race when it wasn't around to guide things. The Nephilims' inbuilt hostility and lack of social structure means they need someone to...keep them in line. Guide them. Tell them what to do. The Devwi-Ich knows it won't be around forever, and is slowly getting the Nephilim to become depenant on the other Haven races to introduce some much-needed cultural diversity

The Nephilim operate in a sort of pyramid of hierarchy: at the top is Devwi-Ich, and just below it are the Genocrats, which are the closest thing they have to a governing body. Technically speaking "genocrat" isn't even an official title; it's more of a "we need to call them something" name. Each one controls a specific territory or station, and they all answer directly to Devwi-Ich itself.



The biggest hurdle that the Nephilim are currently facing is the need to work with other races. The Eden Brood did ally themselves with the Corporation early on, for reasons (at the time) that only Devwi-Ich knew about. This was the only time the Nephilim assisted anyone with supplies, survival technologies, and the mindless vat-grown worker drones.

But while the Corporation were more than happy to join up with the race that wiped out the assholes that basically threw the Vargati into the garbage, the other races are a bit more...let's call it "hesitant" to make nice. After all, the Kaltorans were almost wiped out and the Legion were created specifically to fight the Nephilim. The Nephilim attitute towards the whole situation can best be summed up as "what, it was over 100 years ago, seriously, move on," which isn't helping.

In an attempt to ease alliances, the Nephilim have started creating a sub-species known as Emissaries. Emissaries are genetically grown and engineered to resemble the Corporation and Kaltorian standards of appearance (or specifically, attractiveness) in order to get people to like them more. To ease with social understanding, Emissaries are "raised" in a virtual reality simulation of what's generally considered a "normal" childhood so they can learn actual empathy and social skills. Their purpose, when you get right down to it, is to mingle. By spending time with the other Haven races, Emissaries help them acclimate to the existence of the Nepheilim as a whole.

Unfortunately, at the other end of the spectrum are the Feral Nephilim. This is what happens when the old Nephilim troops go too long without contact with a leader; they basically devolve into mindless killing machines. Devwi-Ich does seek to bring the Ferals "back into the fold" and help them regain their minds, but it also understands that some of them are too far gone, and doesn't hold it against the other races if they wipe out Feral colonies.

Unsurprisingly, the Nephilim are at the forefront of bio-technology. In fact, most Nephilim-created technology, from weapons to spaceships, are organic. More complex devices (like spaceships) are actually conglomerations of various organisms; a ship might have beetle-like drones that eat waste, then use that waste to repair the ship's hull. That's not to say that the Nephilim don't use non-organic technology. Since they don't have access to X'ion's vast construction methods, they've been force to start integrating mechanical or electronic systems into their bio-tech to "fill in the gaps".

Because of this, scientists are very common among the Nephilim. Most scientists operate on a personal level, and aren't afraid to experiemnt on themselves. Knowledge is power, and intellectual superiority is just as valued as physical strength. Between this and the overall Nephilim "life is cheap" mindset, let's just say that "medical ethics" is not something the Nephilim have rediscovered.

quote:

Nephilim scientists tend to believe that all things are permissible in the pursuit of scientific knowledge and personal advancement. Nephilim scientists often abduct unwilling test subjects and are happy to explore any technology, regardless of its potential for causing wider negative consequences. To the Nephilim, no research is unethical or too dangerous.

This amoral approach to acquiring knowledge and power is thought to be a result of not only their genetic predisposition towards self-advancement, but also their primal and violent culture.

One thing that does need to be pointed out is that the Nephilim are not genedered; they weren't really designed to reproduce naturally so there's no physical gender outside the Emissaries. While some pureblood Nephilim can lay or fertilize eggs, the race as a whole prefers gene splicing, artificial insemination, or the use of cloning vats because these are "less eratic" methods of procreation.

Still, despite every obstacle they're hanging on and fighting against their own destruction. After all, that's what they were designed to do.



And that about covers the core Haven races. Again, I'm not getting into too much detail since this is a "current" game, but we can keep going with this chapter and hit the high points of some Places of Interest.

All of Fragged Empire takes place in what's referred to as the Habrixis Sector of space. This was the area where the Archons first settled and began creating all the new races. This sector hosts about two dozen star systems, a few nebulae, and other assorted lost features. There are three systems that are detailed in the book:
  • The Haven System, which is the "core" of civilization. This used to be the home system of the Kaltorans, but it's become the center of the emerging civilizations.
  • The Var System, which is the original home of the Corporation back when they were still the Vargati. Var was the equivalent of a garbage can that the Vargati were thrown into by the Archons when the Vargati were found to not be genetically perfect.
  • The Cerberus System is the Legion home system, and is where the Legion central command is located. Despite the alliances between all the races, the Legion maintain Cerberus as a separate political entity.
Now, when I say "detailed", I don't mean there's a planet-by-planet breakdown of each system. They get a general description before we get information on a handful of the sector's most well-known locations. Which is fine; again, the point of the game is exploration and discovering what's been lost. On top of that, we all know what it's like when a game spends too much time detailing its setting. What Fragged Empire does is basically give you the high-level concepts, then a few examples that are fleshed out enough to build off of for adventures and can give you a good basis for making your own stuff.

Once again, I'm not going to go into depth on all the provided entries, but for the sake of summary I'll give a bullet-list of a few the types of places you can visit:
  • Alabaster: Formerly known as Makor, this planet was a major Kaltoran pilgrimage site. Now owned by the Corporation, it's a major source of natrually generated starship fuel. The planet itself in uninhabitable, but there are six major space stations in orbit around the planet. Two of these stations are self-contained cities for the wealthiest of the Corp's citizens, while one went dark and was quarantined six years ago with tens of thousands of workers still trapped inside.
  • Gehenna: The surface of this planet is mostly magma, and the atmosphere is mostly ash. The planet houses one of the largest mining facilities in the system, which were run by the Kaltorans at the behest of the Archons. But even back then, the working conditions were deplorable, and have only gotten worse over time. The Kaltorans have managed to keep the Corp from taking over (so far), and have also brought in some Legion personell to oversee and "motivate" the workers. It's only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses, and it's anyone's guess who's going to be there to pick up the pieces.
  • Mishpacha: Another former Kaltoran world, Mishpacha is currently the only unclaimed world in the Haven system due to the large amount of monsters that resulted from the Nephilim bombing the planet with mutagens during the War. When X'ion left, it abandoned whole armies on Mishpacha, who have since devolved into feral tribes. Part of the planet has been reclaimed by the Haven races (the Nephilim in particular have an interest in "saving" the ferals and making them productive citizens), but the planet has become a popular hiding place for the worst criminals in the galaxy.
There are more places described, of course, but I think that's a nice taste of what's out there.

The rest of the chapter is breakdown of the overall technology levels of the setting. As has been stated before, the now-mythical "Golden Age of Humanity" was pretty much us hitting the singularity. In the current setting, most of what we created has been lost over the millennia, although large parts of our infrastructure remained behind. Humanity also terraformed most of the planets we came across, and even managed to use reality fractures to achieve FTL travel.

But while we did hit the peak of technological advancement, we also hit a point of generic erosion, which is what led to our eventual extinction. Being unable to find the cure for the problem, we created our replacement species: the Archons. But the relevant point here is that while the Archons were create to take over for us, they chose not to follow in our footsteps in regards to exploration and electronic-based technology. Instead, they turned their focus to genetics and the creation of new species.

Now that's not something that hasn't been mentioned here a bunch of times before. But here, the important takeaway is that the Archons turned their back on most of humanity's techonological discoveries. The Archons kept them maintained in remembrance of their creators, but did very little to innovate in non-genetic fields. When they were eventually wiped out by X'ion, the infrastructures of both the Archons and humanity were still around for the surviving races to discover.

Of course, there's a difference between "discovering" and "understanding". While the Haven races (particularly the Corporation) have manged to get the old human technology working again, there's even more that's not understood or even lost. The Corporation and the Nephilim are the races focused on understanding all this old tech, but even now there's a lot they don't understand about what's out there.

Once the generalities are out of the way, the books deals in specifics of things like what day-to-day tech use is like. Things like food production, communications, the currency system, things like that. Again, I'm skipping things here since a) this is a "current" book and b) this is getting long, but I do want to point out some stuff about long-range communication since it informs large parts of the setting.

Despite the fact that (admittedly limited) FTL travel exists, trans-system communication has a few problems. To wit: there's no real large scale mass communication system in place anywhere. For singular locations (like a city or a space station), there's usually some sort of comm system/internet in place. But once you start scaling out, the technical problems come to the fore.

Communication between large-scale objects in close proximity (such as a ship and a space station, a station and the planets surface, and so on) is handled via simple radio transmission. The problem with this, however, is that it doesn't work well over longer distances. Or even shorter ones, sometimes, due to the rarity of communication satellites. A radio connection between a city on a planet's surface and an orbital station can be blocked by the curvature of the planet as it rotates.

As for trans-system setups...there's really nothing. You can send a message out from the rear end end of space, sure, but there'll be a delay. For every day of travel it would take you to reach your target, the comm signal is delayed an hour. This means that inter-system communications are difficult at best and completely impractical at worst.

This also means there's no "galactic internet" because there's no real way to send data across those distances. The makeshift solution is the "data hauling" industry. Actual physical hard drives full of data are shipped like trade goods between systems, which is not exactly what you'd call a generally useful method of data transfer.



A few other high points:
  • Electronics and mechanics are widespread, albeit not 100% understood. Advances are made, but since the Archons pretty much ignored these fields since humanity died out there's a lot of tech and concepts that are just...forgotten. Cybernetic implants exist, but aren't very widespread.
  • Biotech is still in use, especially by the Nephilim. Medicine is particularly advanced, and cloning technologies exist but aren't trusted for the most part. The Nephilim have also developed "synaptronics": bio-technology used for computing purposes. Synaptronics allows for faster computing due to not being tied to a binary state, and also makes user-to-system neural interfacing possible.
  • The ley lines are very poorly understood "cracks" in reality that happened sometime back when the humans began expanding their empire; in fact the ley lines are what allow for FTL travel in the first place.
  • Psionics exist, but are very rare. All that's really known about what makes psionic powers possible is that there's a connection of some sort to the ley lines, and that it's a genetic ability. So far nobody's been able to artificially replicate whatever DNA twist it is that makes someone psionic. So far, psionic powers seem to be limited to telepathy, although some psis seem to be able to twist time a bit.
The majority of the rest of the chapter is a breakdown of the various types of weapon, defensive, and starship technology.

Of course, there's also all kinds of strange, unknown flotsam of multiple space empires floating around out there. Rogue AIs, aliens, forgotten species, lost technologies, and, somewhere out in the depths of space, X'ion itself.

But hey, if there weren't any unknown, dangerous, forgotten things littered across forgotten star systems, why the hell would you want to explore in the first place?


NEXT TIME: Running this thing

Dareon
Apr 6, 2009

by vyelkin
I really like those "be a civilian" propaganda posters, it's a cool reversal.

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

La morte non ha sesso
Fragged Empire is one of the best games ever written.

Dareon posted:

I really like those "be a civilian" propaganda posters, it's a cool reversal.
It was actually very common in Communist countries.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Dareon posted:

I really like those "be a civilian" propaganda posters, it's a cool reversal.
"Do you have the STRENGTH to be a FARMER?" is honestly one of my favorite things in the whole book. That whole page does a great job summing up the mindset the Legion approach everything with. Plus I love how they view "basic" infrastructure stuff like food production as just as important and respect-worthy as being a soldier.

Karatela
Sep 11, 2001

Clickzorz!!!


Grimey Drawer

Evil Mastermind posted:

"Do you have the STRENGTH to be a FARMER?" is honestly one of my favorite things in the whole book. That whole page does a great job summing up the mindset the Legion approach everything with. Plus I love how they view "basic" infrastructure stuff like food production as just as important and respect-worthy as being a soldier.

It's really nice also in that they take a premise, like "is a fighting-only warrior-race after the war" and take it to actual logical conclusions about how they fit into the game world (and in the non-lazy way to boot!), since most stuff just ignores that and instead leaves a wet fart on the table instead.

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!

I also like the Nephilim. They're basically the Always Chaotic Evil race that realizes "if we keep this up, we're all going to die" and then tries to adopt to living along side everyone they used to terrorize.

marshmallow creep
Dec 10, 2008

I've been sitting here for 5 mins trying to think of a joke to make but I just realised the animators of Mass Effect already did it for me

I am picturing a murder mystery where Corp and Legion men and women, usually of a young age, are being abducted and their bodies dumped with significant(ly fatal) surgical and genetic modification. Eventually you find a Nephilim surgeon who explains that he's just trying to figure out a quick fix for their low fertility. All he wants is to help his "allies" but whole sale mass murder to get there isn't off the table one bit.

"I'm helping!" cheers the serial killer.

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

La morte non ha sesso
That reminds me, I gotta work on that Mass Effect hack of FE.

Covok
May 27, 2013

Yet where is that woman now? Tell me, in what heave does she reside? None of them. Because no God bothered to listen or care. If that is what you think it means to be a God, then you and all your teachings are welcome to do as that poor women did. And vanish from these realms forever.

Halloween Jack posted:

That reminds me, I gotta work on that Mass Effect hack of FE.

Too late.

Covok
May 27, 2013

Yet where is that woman now? Tell me, in what heave does she reside? None of them. Because no God bothered to listen or care. If that is what you think it means to be a God, then you and all your teachings are welcome to do as that poor women did. And vanish from these realms forever.

marshmallow creep posted:

I am picturing a murder mystery where Corp and Legion men and women, usually of a young age, are being abducted and their bodies dumped with significant(ly fatal) surgical and genetic modification. Eventually you find a Nephilim surgeon who explains that he's just trying to figure out a quick fix for their low fertility. All he wants is to help his "allies" but whole sale mass murder to get there isn't off the table one bit.

"I'm helping!" cheers the serial killer.

ME2-MORDIN-SOLUS-LOYALTY-QUEST.TXT

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

La morte non ha sesso
Works for me! All I gotta do is rewrite humans so they're not the jack of all trades species.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Part Eight: Gamemastering and Final Thoughts

Now we come to the GM's Guide chapter, which is actually fairly short. Mostly it's about how to put together NPC and combats; in fact it's only about 20 pages long.

Part of the reason it's short is because the game assumes you know how to GM.

quote:

The Basics

It is assumed you already know what a Game Master is, how to prepare a story, and how to use non-player characters (NPCs) Ė GM skills used across all role playing games (RPGs). If you donít know any of this, we recommend you join an existing group for a while. Ask your local gaming store.

This section will only teach you the specifics of GMing in the Fragged Empire system and setting.
I'll admit I'm not sure how I feel about this (apart from the idea that the advice should be "go read Apocalypse World" instead of talking to random people at the game store), but that discussion is probably out of scope for this review.

Anyway, the chapter starts out by running through some basic GMing concepts, like deciding how you want your game to work (as in, do you want a combat-heavy game? Is the focus going to be exploration or merc work? Things like that.) Nothing we really haven't seen before.

But really, since the main mechanical focus of the game is combat, that's what this chapter is about. And there is some good advice here, such as rewarding the players if they come up with good tactics or how to make individual fights interesting.

Since managing a ton of NPCs in a fight can be rough, NPCs have their own optional set of combat actions to keep things simple for the GM.



And I can confirm that these make running combat easier; in my game I was able to keep a dozen NPCs running around and being a threat without a ton of options for dudes who're only going to be around for one fight. And since everything works off the same core actions, you can use these simpler actions for mooks and lower-tier enemies and let the big threats have access to the full list without really knocking things out of whack.

Which brings us to the section on balancing combat and making NPCs. NPCs come in three general categories:
  • Henchmen are mooks, and are created in "groups" of four; they don't have any stats or Endurance, and act as a group at the end of a round. All they can do is move and attack, and the default group of four henchmen is the equivalent of one PC.
  • Skilled opponents are the standard-issue NPC, and are the equivalent of one PC.
  • Nemesis opponents are your serious threats; they're equivalent to three PCs.
To put together a combat, you just put together a number of NPCs to match the number of PCs. More or less.

quote:

Combat Should Never Be Perfectly Balanced
Do not attempt to make combat perfectly balanced; it is not meant to be. RPGs are about your player charactersí stories. While the player characters should win most fights, they should not expect to be able to defeat any NPC at any time.
This is a concept that comes up a few times throughout the chapter: to wit, combat should be challenging. PCs should (and will) need good tactics to will fights instead of just standing at one end of a room and firing at the other end.

But at the same time, the GM is told that there's a difference between "difficult unbalanced" and "unfair unbalanced". In other words, your job isn't to kill PCs.


Creating NPCs is very simple. Each category of NPC has a default stat block, which gets modified by the average resources of the PCs and what traits they have.

For instance, a Skilled NPC starts with 14 stat points, 0 Fate, 3 Armor, their Race modifiers, one Trait, +2 to hit, and 2 Resources for weapons. They don't have skills, outfits or other gear, but on the plus side they don't worry about skill requirements for Traits.

Once you have that setup, you look at the provided table to see how their base stats are modified. So for low-Resource characters, you drop their Armor by 1, but for a more advanced group a Skilled opponent can have more gear, more Traits, or get a Variation.


Options!

Nemesis opponents are built in the same fashion, but with higher numbers and more powerful Variations.

Henchmen, however, are a little different. Henchmen don't have stats at all, just Defense and Armor. If you hit them and get past their Armor, they drop. To make up for this, Henchmen have a stat called "Bodies" that is how many guys are in that particular group of mooks. Each mook group gets +Bodies to their End damage and RoF, but each individual group can only make a single move action and a single group attack per round.

There are also guidelines for NPC spacecraft, but there's no "default" ship stat block. Instead, the GM gets equal Influence to the PCs to build a ship, but with 20 stat points. The game does point out that spaceship combat should generally be one ship versus one ship, but you can have one ship versus two smaller ones.



Next, we get some guidelines on rewarding the players. This is more about paying PCs rather than a leveling thing since everyone automatically levels every three sessions.

The main source of PC "advancement" is their Resources. followed closely by Influence. Generally, Resources will come by being paid for jobs or scavenging, whereas Influence will come from "freebie" jobs as your reputation improves. Other ways characters can get Resources are through Trade Goods or Research, and they way they get those is through exploration and/or looting.

quote:

Looting, Stealing, and Finding Things
Dealing with this can be tricky. Feel free to let players take items they find, but remind them that they canít keep looted items that cost Resources or Influence for more than one session. Instead, they can turn looted items into Trade Goods, roughly 1 Trade Box per 4 Weight of items.
There's also advice on how tweaking the rate of Resource/Influence/Etc. can adjust the feel of the game, as well as some optional rules for "intense damage" that can give a character a long-term disability.

We close out with four one-page sample adventures. These are pretty straightforward, each one giving a background, some hooks, and the types of encounters to use. Some of these (like trying to hijack a cargo ship full of illegal drugs) aren't exactly what you'd call "starter adventures", but they're still good for getting a feel for the types of thing you can do in the setting

And that's pretty much it for the GMing chapter. Like I said, it's pretty short.


They fight crime!

The final chapter in the book is Opponents, and is your expected list of premade NPCs of the named and non-named variety. While the game expects the GM to put together NPCs that fit their specific needs most of the time, it's nice to have a few generics laying around to help seed ideas or to throw into a fight at the last second. The various NPCs are sorted into specific categories, which I appreciate: Mechonids, Feral Nephilim, Draz (urban drug-heads), and Enforcers.

Mechonids have been mentioned before: insane AIs in warmachine bodies dedicated to wiping out organic life. Here, we get more information on their backstory.

Near the end of the War, the Archons were getting desperate. As it became clear they were on the edge of extinction, they attempted to take an old human technology they never cared about and turn it into a new fighting force: robotics powered by AIs. The Archons had been maintaining most of the abandoned human technologies in memory of their creators, but never used any of it since they were more focused on genetics. But they eventually found old servers full of AIs, and downloaded these AIs into robots and factories, inexpertly programming them to fight in defense of the Archons.

quote:

It wasnít long before the Archons realized that their mastery of bio-tech had not equipped them to control such ancient and advanced electronic technologies. The Mechonids side-stepped their mission parameters and took to extreme and vicious tactics, such as fighting with disabled nuclear-core shields, infecting their enemiesí environments with poisonous radiation. Then, for unknown reasons, they turned on their Archon masters, and began killing all sentient biological life without discrimination.

Once there were no sentient biological targets left to kill, the Mechonids went dormant. Their production facilities shut down, and their ships turned off their engines. It wasnít until the Corporation arrived in the Haven system, filling the empty space with traffic and communication signals, that the Mechonids stirred once more.
(The reason for the Mechonid's attacks was revealed in the Protagonist Archive: the "AIs" were actually digital copies of human minds living in a VR paradise. The trauma of being forcibly ripped from "heaven", inexpertly reprogrammed for battle, slammed into a battle robot body, and hooked up to a network of minds who'd all gone through the same process drove the Mechonids insane.)

Mechonids are a poo poo-your-pants level threat when they show up; not necessarily because they're powerful (although they do have "Bio-Disintegration" weapons, there are Mechonids for all character levels), but because everyone knows that they're a threat to all living things...and there's a hell of a lot more where they came from.


Feral Nephilim are those Nephilim who were abandoned when X'ion left but were never gathered up by Devw-Ich. Lacking enemies to fight or orders from, well, anyone, most of these Nephilim have fallen into tribal mindsets if they're lucky, or into kill-crazy mindlessness if they're not. Devw-Ich and the Nephilim often seek out tribes of Ferals to save them and help them discover who they can be, but sadly the only way to save many of the Ferals is to just put them down for their own good.



Draz is a very popular, very illegal, very addictive drug developed jointly by the Nephilim and the Corporation. It was originally created to be a controlled (by the Corp) substance that would boost the user's energy while addicting them to a substance under the Corp's control. And when prepared in a legal way, it's a popular energy drink.

When prepared in illegal ways...well...

quote:

When taken in small doses, Draz artificially replicates the bodyís sleep patterns while keeping the user fully awake and cognisant. It produces the same chemical and hormonal effects as sleep, yet does not restore the body as a full nightís rest would.

When taken in a large or concentrated dose, Draz pumps the userís body full of exotic, fast-working bio-replication mutagens. While this allows the body to shrug off almost any damage, it chips away at the userís sanity and destroys their brain functions.
The creation and proliferation of Draz ended up causing the Haven races to invent an ancient, long-forgotten concept: the drug cartel. There's a fortune in Draz, and criminal empires, corporations, and pirates all want a piece of the action.



Enforcers are law officers, which is a term that's kind of hard to work with in the Haven system. There still isn't really an all-encompassing government in the way we'd think of for a sci-fi game. Every city or colony or space station can have their own rules about what's legal and what isn't. Most of civilized society has agreed on general concepts of what would be illegal, and those are the kinds of things you'd expect: theft, murder, and so on.

Out in the wilds of space, however, it's a different story. "Legal" tends to mean "what you can get away with without witnesses." That being said, crossing powerful individuals will still get you some heavy attention. A pirate who attacks a Corp shipping vessel is going to find himself the target of the Corporation's enforcers and/or Legion mercs. And where the enforcers fear to tread, you'll always find a bounty hunter or two willing to take the risk. For the right price, of course.

The other main problem with law enforcement is that each culture has a different idea of what the law should allow and how transgressions should be punished.

The general Corp mindset is "if it costs the Corp money, they'll fine you for small stuff and kill you for large stuff." Most law enforcement is handled through security contractors, but Legion mercenaries are often brought in when needed. It's not unknown for the Corporation to drop charges against someone after a cost-benefits analysis.

Kaltoran law is very loose; more than anything else it's about defending yourself and your family. Since every Kaltoran is well-armed, they've learned to let the small things go. Major crimes, on the other hand, are usually handled by a good old-fashioned hunting party. Complex crimes are handled by family Elders, who aren't afraid to have those who've wronged them executed in public. Don't go against the family.

The Legion have the most rigid legal structure (shocking, I know), designed to be fair and just. At least, fair and just for themselves. For everyone else, it's harsh and unforgiving. This isn't helped by the fact that the Legion see everyone else's legal setups as "unworthy", so the Legion will enforce Legion law regardless of who they're around or where they are.

As for the Nephilim, everything boils down to one concept: survival of the fittest. The strong rule, the weak are ignored. The closest thing to a crime in Nepilim society is when you piss off someone stronger than you, and 100% of the time the response is violence.



After the Opponents chapter, all that's left are the various character lists, which means we've reached the end of the review.

--
I don't think I'm going to shock anyone when I say I highly recommend this game.

While I admit it's crunchier than most of the games I like nowadays, it's crunch that serves a purpose. The weapon creation system bypasses the "best gun syndrome" problem many sci-fi RPGs have. The combat moves smoothly, thanks to the detailed combat actions. Spaceship combat handles all kinds of combats easily. NPC creation is really fun and easy to do. The combat is tactical without getting bogged down in details.

But what I love most, more than anything else is the setting. Each of the races are unique and well thought out, the backstory sets up a really interesting setting that encourages exploration, and it's a post-apocalyptic setup that's focused on hope and rebuilding.

I mean, yeah not all the races get along, yes there's conflict there. But it's interesting conflict. It's not a grimdark there-is-only-war thing we've all seen a million times before, it's about coming together despite internal and external threats.

You ask me, we need more games about people coming together.

Besides, who doesn't want to just tool around the galaxy being a hero and exploring forgotten worlds?

Fragged Empire currently has two supplements: the Antagonists Archive I, which is full of NPCs, places to go experience violence, and major organizations to run afoul of; and the Protagonists Archive I, which has a ton of new PC options including four new races. In addition, Wade is (as I write this) preparing to release three setting books that use Fragged Empire as a core:

Fragged Aeterneum is the world's first Soulsbourne RPG, where the characters are immortal respawning defenders of an infinite gothic city. The focus is on melee combat, and TPKs are not only expected, they're accounted for in the rules.

Fragged Seas is about pirates in a Chthuhlu-esque world; kind of like 7th Sea only up front about it. It has rules for dark-god-powered magic, naval battles, as well as more involved trading rules.

Fragged Kingdom is a fantasy RPG about exploration and kingdom building. It works off the old cliche of "this fantasy world is actually the distant future of a super-high-tech society that collapsed aeons ago, and all the magic is actually old technology", only the society that collapsed is Fragged Empire. Most of the Haven races are still around, only now they (you) get to create your own settlement.

Fragged Empire and its various supplements are available through various physical and digital vendors, as are things like minis and t-shirts.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a big ol' galaxy out there waiting to be explored. Pick a star and set a course.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.
Clapping Larry
I really want to play or run a Fragged Empire game online or face to face. It is such a good system and setting. Will you be covering the Protag Archive too, EM? (edit: I guess not!)

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

I would also like to point out (in case you don't follow the Kickstarter thread) that the third Fragged Empire kickstarter for the three new settings is currently underway with about a week and half left to go. $22 US gets you the core book and two settings of your choice, $34 gets you the core and all three. Wade runs very professional projects so if you're interested in getting on board this is a great deal.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

I really want to play or run a Fragged Empire game online or face to face. It is such a good system and setting. Will you be covering the Protag Archive too, EM? (edit: I guess not!)
Maybe as a one-off? I'm trying to get back into the groove of reviewing so I can get the drat Torg review building steam again.

That said, the Protag Archive would probably just be a rundown of the new races and the potential ally groups. I could probably do that easily.

inklesspen
Oct 17, 2007

Here I am coming, with the good news of me, and you hate it. You can think only of the bell and how much I have it, and you are never the goose. I will run around with my bell as much as I want and you will make despair.
Buglord
I am now finally caught up on the archiving. If you have a writeup that is not in the archive, it is mainly down to that I didn't recognize it as a writeup while skimming the page. I don't read every post, so the best way to be sure I notice your post is to do what Alien Rope Burn does: use a banner image and a very obvious post title.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

Epyllion: Oh poo poo I forgot to draw an arm



The Warrior is the final playbook, in theory for fighty dragons. They get base Charm +0, Courage +1 and Cunning -1, and their Virtue is either Daring or Humor. Their Obligation is either Brynbak (Destroy an unnatural menace born of Darkness) or Tessith (Defend someone weaker than you fro mthe Darkness). They give a Friendship gem to someone that's stood by their side in fighting a monster of Darkness and nother to someone who was there when they were most vulnerable, and take a gem from someone they are training in politics. Politics? Yes, politics.

The core move of the Warrior is Scales of Honor: You have dedicated your life to the betterment of Dragonia. Choose one boon:
  • A mark of lunar authority; take +1 ongoing to call upon the moons.
  • A voice that penetrates the Darkness; take +1 ongoing to act despite danger in the face of the Darkness.
  • A lineage that commands respect; take +1 Charm (max +3).
  • An heirloom from the War of Shadow; take +1 ongoing to stand up to an older dragon.
  • A large and valuable hoard; take +1 ongoing to give into the Darkness.
Mark a Shadow each time you conceal or hide one or more of your boons. When you advance this move, mark a new boon and tell how you earned it.

Other moves:

Battle Plan: When you face an enemy in combat, roll +Courage. On a hit, ask 2. On a 7-9, ask 1. You get +1 when acting on the answers.
  • Which enemy is most vulnerable to me?
  • Which enemy is the biggest threat?
  • What's my enemy's true position?
  • What's my enemy's mission or objective?
On a miss, they catch you off guard. Take -1 ongoing until you can assert your dominance or rally your allies.

Dragonheart: You are a true friend to your Clutchmates; you may give Gems to characters that act according to either of your virtues.

All Fired Up: Once per session, you can return a Friendship Gem to act despite danger with a 10+.

Lies Do Not Become Us: When you speak frankly with a character, you can ask their player a question from the list below. If they answer it truthfully, they may then ask you a question from the list. You must answer truthfully.
  • Whom do you really serve?
  • What do you most regret?
  • What do you really desire?
  • Who have you truly wronged?

The Warrior's Shadowself: You are unstoppable, a hurricane whose might will singlehandedly shatter the Darkness. Dragonia must be protected and no one else is strong enough to help you. Make sure the clutch knows you are the only one who can save Dragonia. You are The Warrior. Return from your Shadowself when a friend convinces you to ask for help.

Overall, I think most of these playbooks are dogshit. They all have boring stat-replacer moves, which is bad, especially with only three stats and a likelihood to honestly be pretty decent at all of them - the worst you will ever be is -1, and that's if you don't spend your free stat bonus to get that to +0. Further, many of them have just giant useless lists of stuff for what they can do with their signature move - the Crafter's move advancing won't actually make them better at anything, just give them more silly things to pick off the list of mediums. The Daredevil is barely coherent and has no apparent theme to any of its powers. The Nature Adept is probably the best of them, with a relatively coherent theme and set of moves that only have a few glaring flaws. The use of the Darkest Self in this game is not very good and I don't know why it's there. And, of course, I have no idea what genre these playbooks are meant to emulate. None are especially dragon-y, and if they're meant to be the My Little Pony cast, there's some notable missing things (Pinkie Pie) and the Seer is just weird. So I really have no idea what's going on here.

Next time: GM advice!

Kobold eBooks
Mar 5, 2007

EVERY MORNING I WAKE UP AN OPEN PALM SLAM A CARTRIDGE IN THE SUPER FAMICOM. ITS E-ZEAO AND RIGHT THEN AND THERE I START DOING THE MOVES ALONGSIDE THE MAIN CHARACTER, CORPORAL FALCOM.
Epyllion is the unbuttered smooth mashed potatoes of PbtA games.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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

Evil Mastermind posted:

Maybe as a one-off? I'm trying to get back into the groove of reviewing so I can get the drat Torg review building steam again.

That said, the Protag Archive would probably just be a rundown of the new races and the potential ally groups. I could probably do that easily.

Maybe a one-off I could run. That might work. Dischord and roll20 obviously. When I get it more thought out, I'll post in the New Games thread.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten
So out of curiosity, what is the ideal number of stats for a PbtA game in your opinion? Monsterhearts uses four, Dungeon World uses six, and Apocalypse World itself uses five.

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Covok
May 27, 2013

Yet where is that woman now? Tell me, in what heave does she reside? None of them. Because no God bothered to listen or care. If that is what you think it means to be a God, then you and all your teachings are welcome to do as that poor women did. And vanish from these realms forever.

wdarkk posted:

So out of curiosity, what is the ideal number of stats for a PbtA game in your opinion? Monsterhearts uses four, Dungeon World uses six, and Apocalypse World itself uses five.

Either 4 and 5.

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