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Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012


Hostile V posted:

He looks like if the Bug from Men in Black stole the body of a 19th century businessman but could never get face of the skin to fit.

Y'all got,I say, y'all got any sugar?

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Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
the forum where people post about insurance in case they have to kill someone is mad at this guy again lol

gradenko_2000 posted:



and then of course Cease to Hope is also still reviewing Pathfinder's Horror Adventures.

which i'm still doing, this book just has successfully accomplished instilling a fear of continuing to read it

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012




Part 3: "The world is steadily plunging toward chaos"


This picture seems so out of place in this book.

Who's in Control?
While much about the Lodges and Voodoo societies is set in stone, there are some brief words on real world organizations and institutions that are much more fluid. Rather than one definitive statement about them, you get several footnotes on what may be going on and have free reign to pick and choose which, if any, are true. More than one might even be true, becoming just as winding, twisted, and potentially contradictory as real world conspiracy theories. For instances, the American military might be a joint project of the Roman and Enlightened Lodges who snuff out rival initiates during wartime and conduct dark magic rituals in the Pentagon, or it could straight-up be crawling with Corruptors influencing its actions. These tiny snippets are ideas are given for the branches of the US government, the FBI, the US military, the US court system, the Mafia, and Japan.



The Corruptors
Broadly speaking, any spirit that is actively malevolent towards the human species, rather than either benevolent or indifferent, is referred to as a Corruptor. Some say that the Corruptors first drifted from the spirit world when humanity evolved in Africa and have been haunting us ever since, while others feel this is too humanocentric and the truth is that Corruptors are primordial gods from the dawn of time that have dark goals far more vast and inscrutable than the human mind can comprehend. Whatever the truth, it's an undeniable fact that the Corruptors love it when people are being bad. Rather than being the root cause of darkness in the human heart, however, they simply latch onto our innate capacity for evil and poke it with a stick long enough that atrocities come out.

The Corruptors worked all sides of the slave trade, both guiding their cultists to work with the Dahomey and Yoruba practices of enslaving rival groups in wartime, coaxed slave owners into performing heinous acts in exchange for occult power, and offered Initiate slaves broken by anguish a chance to escape their torment through the old deal with the devil gambit. In the Cold War Americas, they lived it up through political unrest in the Caribbean and Latin America, including lending their talents to Papa Doc Duvalier and Fidel Castro. And then there's the drugs...

quote:

In a way, drugs have been a big business in the Caribbean for centuries. Addictive luxuries like tobacco, coffee, white sugar and alcohol have been among the main staples of Caribbean agriculture. Some occultists believe the Mayombe enjoyed the bitter irony of this – using slave labor to produce substances that would in turn enslave those who used them.
Beware the demon rum, indeed. Nowadays (and by nowadays I mean 1995) they're helping along the spread of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other illicit materials. The drug trade in the American inner city, in particular, "contributed to the urban decay that racism and greed had already started", with gang violence there and cartel violence elsewhere being a thing Corruptors are in favor for 100%.

The big question is...why? Nobody's sure. The only idea anyone seems to have is that, maybe, Corruptors can become material entities if they get enough bad vibes collected up, at which point they can directly and physically cause suffering rather than use proxies. The only ones who are capable of stopping whatever their plan is are the Initiates. Unfortunately, most traditionalist Voodoo practitioners and Lodges aren't too keen on getting into the Shadow War, dealing with problems as they crop up rather than directly trying to stop the Corruptors at the root of it all. It's almost certainly up to the new generation of Initiates from both Western and Voodoo backgrounds who are willing to put aside their differences and act as one unified front against the Corruptors to allow players to play as members of both types of Initiate save the world.



The Red Sects
As with "Corruptor", the term "Red Sect" is not a self-identifying one, but instead a term used to classify any and all groups that serve the Corruptors. Be it for money, power, fame, or just to be a tremendous rear end in a top hat, there are indeed people who seek out the dark spirits and commune with them. As with the Voodoo sects and Lodges, specific Red Sects and Red Sect archetypes are laid out in the section.

Bokkor: Whether you call them bokkor, bokor, mayombero, or palo mayombe, these guys are bad news. They are hired to use Voodoo powers to inflict suffering on others, usually in the form of killing them outright, but also tend to desire to corrupt their clients into being part of the Corruptors' sphere of influence as well. Bokkor are heavily tied to In-Betweeners as well, often either allying themselves with monsters or using ancient dark rituals to become monsters themselves. It's stated that Bokkor are actually quite common in the Caribbean and Latin America already, and are swiftly becoming more and more a fixture in the inner cities of the USA.

In-Betweeners: As stated before, In-Betweeners get their name from being a form of life that bridges the gap between material being and spirit. Most In-Betweeners can mask themselves as everyday human beings, some of them even gaining influence as crime lords, celebrities, and politicians. For the most part, In-Betweeners are creatures of base desires, innately burdened with traits such as excessive lust, bloodlust, sadism, taste for flesh, or even a compulsive need to murder. A vast majority of In-Betweeners are servants of the Corruptors, which some blame on the fact that they only have half a soul (this also prevents them from having an afterlife or becoming full spirits). There are some Initiates that even go so far as to say to that even the most benevolent In-Betweener is incapable of freeing itself from the cycle of materialism and will inevitably fall into the clutches of evil. These people are what we in the business call 'completely loving wrong', as there are In-Betweeners fighting the good fight such as the Snake Men of the Ophite Lodge.

Secret Societies: The Corruptors' servants have their own equivalents of bizongues and Lodges. They have no one name for these societies, though those that specifically pretend to be Lodges in order to draw in Western Initiates are collectively known as the Dark Lodges. Members of a Corruptor secret society are fanatics with an undying loyalty to their patron spirit, carrying out human sacrifices and any other number of heinous acts in the name of their dark gods.

Drug Lords: Most drug lords aren't Initiates, nor do they serve the Corruptors knowingly, but instead act as an unwitting extension of their will. Instead, intermediaries such as Bokkor and In-Betweeners often put themselvs in a high position in a drug lord's organization to influence them directly. Of course, there are in fact some drug lords that are themselves In-Betweeners or Initiates, so you have those as well. There are also some drug lords in the former category that nonetheless tie themselves in with the supernatural by conducting human sacrifices or praying for divine boons from patron spirits (while not named in the sentences on that matter, I'd imagine Mexico's Narco Saints were in Carella's mind when writing that). Oh, and there are some magical drugs in the trade, including one that lets a Corruptor possess someone and taint their mind and soul.

Slavery: As with drug lords, slavers and pimps aren't directly Corruptor servants, but achieve the same effect anyway. Prostitutes give Corruptors the same warm and fuzzy feeling slaves do, as they are stated to both effectively be the same thing. Child slavery rings that sell to pedophiles are, of course, mentioned prominently because this is the 90s and we need to sharpen The Edge.

Politicians: This is the origin of that quote I put in the introduction about Corruptors loving conservatives and revolutionaries, radical feminists and misogynists, and fundamentalist religious individuals and secular humanists alike, because something something Horseshoe Theory but with magic. Besides those groups, Red Sects love repressive lawmakers who violate civil rights, those that perpetuate of the War on Drugs, and the ones who make it easier to fill the prison system. Politicians who aren't in the pocket of the Corruptors are in the pocket of one of the Lodges or bizongues (vastly more the former than the latter of those two), because nobody gets anywhere politically these days without Initiate influence.

The Police The book assuringly pats us on the back and tells us that most cops are "dedicated people trying to do a dangerous, difficult job despite being overworked, underpaid, and destructed, feared, and looked down on by the very people they swear to protect". All those stressful things and lack of public trust makes some cops get frustrated and view the world in an us-vs-them mentality, however, which the Corruptors exploit. Some cases of police brutality are actually dark rituals or staged to make the public more distrustful of the police, with the ultimate goal being an all out orgy of violence between the police and the public. It's stated the the LA Riots were "a dress rehearsal" for this ultimate Corruptor plan.

Cults: Most cults are just money schemes or idealistic religious groups, but some of the dark and crazy ones actually draw the attention of the Corruptors. It's stated that even some natural disasters (though, oddly enough, it's not stated which one) were actually occult rituals gone wrong.

Serial Killers: Not only are there thousands of serial killers on just the North American continent alone, much less the rest of the world, most of them are Initiates who use their magical talents to keep from being caught. They love torture and human sacrifice, worship the worst of the worst of the Corruptors, and a number of them are in an organized serial killer's guild called the Murder Society. The Murder Society has contacts within every political and law enforcement institution that allows them to further cover up their activities. And as if all of that wasn't enough, it gets laid on extra thick with there being a slave trade that gives the Murder Society people to play The Most Dangerous Game with on Society-owned "killing farms".



The Others
AKA "these guys matter I guess, but we didn't have the book space to care more about them", this is the section where all the other Initiates get plopped down, most in such tiny detail that isn't really enough to warrant individual paragraphs in the review as the bizongues, Lodges, and Red Sects did, but I'll at least give them a bullet list to avoid clutter.
  • Native American shamans fight Corruptors and Lodges to protect their ancestral land, and are typically on pretty good terms with the Voodoo groups.
  • Rune mages were once part of the German Lodges, but quickly went into hiding after World War II due to their support of the Nazi regime. They use runes.
  • While a lot of Celtic and Germanic Initiates of the old European religions got shoved into the Servants of Hecate to avoid being horribly killed, there are enough still hanging around that they've gotten into the business of helping along Wicca and other neopagan movements.
  • 'Rappy,' you ask me, 'are there magical Roma here?' My answer: it's a 90s occult conspiracy roleplaying game, no poo poo there's magical Roma. The Nazis actually targeted the Roma to destroy their magical traditions as Lodges are wont to do, and their status as "the most powerful independent mystics of Europe" has let them survive persecution time and again.
  • The African nations have a mix of traditional religious believers and Muslim mystics on the unaffiliated Initiate front. They're suffering a lot from the Lodges, however, as well as the Corruptors that work to keep Africa a hotbed of suffering.
  • While imperialism let the Lodges keep a firm grip on the Asian continent for a while, "that continent's magical knowledge is vast and ancient", so they won out. Triads, tongs, and yakuza typically have Initiates backing them up, and Asian Corruptors followed immigrants to the American West Coast where they keep doing what Corruptors do.



New Cambridge: A City of the Shadow War
As the final piece of chapter 1, we get a fictional city in an unspecific part of the US East Coast as an example of the setting in use. New Cambridge has been around since the 1700s, but much of it has fallen into poverty, urban decay, gang violence, and drug trafficking in the past couple of decades. The city's poor regions are mostly black and Hispanic, nobody wants the police around even though they don't want to go anyway, and ten santero Initiates are the people locals usually call on when there's a problem. There are also four Loa Lords and the ghost of their fallen comrade that fight drugs and a very powerful Corruptor, three Initiates of the Lucumi that work with the local NAACP, twelve Golden Dawn Lodge Initiates, eight Roman Lodge Initiates, four Enlightened Lodge Initiates, and six Schismatics and Servants of Hecate/Ophite Lodge Initiates that make up the wizarding population of the city.

The true ruler of the roost in New Cambridge, however, is a Devourer (the most powerful type of Corruptor, basically summed up as Great Old Ones) that has corrupted one of the multiple Lodge members on the city council. Its servants are several lesser Corruptors, In-Betweeners that resemble ragged-clothed men with metal blades instead of fingers that have become part of the city's urban legends, and an insane Native American Initiate who lives in the sewers and kidnaps people to sacrifice to the Devourer. A few other Corruptor spirits operate in the area via local drug lords and two Snake People. The ultimate plan of the Devourer for the moment is to have a police officer murder a black child in cold blood and then have a race war start as a result. The Lucumi and Lodges are too at each others' throats to stop this, so it's up to the young blood Loa Lords and Schismatics (that's you, prospective player!) to get the job done.



Next Time: A hobo, a magic child, and a prostitute walk into an adventuring party...

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 04:58 on Jul 5, 2017

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Man, so Strike! is virtually ideal for me to map Blimpleggers on to, but it's like so easy that I'm wondering what the point would even be, anyone could do it if they wanted to with no information at all besides "There's blimps and it's currently the era of prohibition for potions."

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

I guarantee anyone who opened up a recruitment thread with nothing more than "There's blimps and it's currently the era of prohibition for potions." is going to get sign-ups.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Rifts World Book 14: New West Part 11: "A brand is a mark burned on the skin to identify and show ownership of an animal —typically used on horses and cattle, sometimes on humans and D-bee slaves."


Must be quite the horse to carry a 'borg like that.

New Skills

Yep, it's time for a whole whammy of a skill section, starting with Cowboy Skills. Yes, cowboys get their own category separate from Wilderness skills. Because this section is such navel-gazing nonsense, let's detail every skill:
  • Branding: Yes. You need a skill to properly use a hot iron. You'll still gently caress it up half the time at first level, though. It lets you try and recognize brands, though, so that's a thing.
  • Breaking/Taming a Wild Horse: This can require "up to 12 weeks". And when you're done, it starts at a 20% chance. That means on average a starting character will take around a year to break a horse. Good luck!
  • Herding Cattle: This is a general guiding and caring for cattle skill. Starts at 30%, so expect to lose a lot of cattle.
  • Horsemanship: Cowboy: is basically a better version of Horsemanship only available to some classes. Gives some combat bonuses when mounted and also to do charge attacks that add extra S.D.C. damage, but give a chance of being dismounted. Oh, thrilling.
  • Horsemanship: Exotic: This is a special skill for riding mythical and alien creatures at about half the success rate (20%-30%). It turns out you can use normal Horsemanship skills at a penalty to ride these things too, and the penalty makes this skill fairly redundant if you have access to Horsemanship: Cowboy. Trying to ride a pegasus with Exotic at 1st level is 30%, and with Cowboy it's.... 40%. And Cowboy gives you better combat bonii. What the gently caress?
  • Lore: Cattle/Animals: Yep, Herding Cattle isn't enough. You have to buy a special skill to know livestock, like, really know them. Also you know about magic and legendary cows. True story!
  • Lore: Indians: You know all about indigenous peoples of America. All of them. Except you call them just Indians for some reason. Maybe you failed your 25% starting chance for this roll. (Of course, this implies also that Native Americans are so different, they need their own skill to understand...)
  • Roping: Using a lasso and tying knots, either for horsemen or hangmen. (That was a stretch.) There's a lot of details and it also gives a bonus to hit when using it grab people, and it takes 1d4 actions to cut yourself free unless you've been bound by multiple lassos, in which case you're just hosed. Why, no, there are no rules for busting loose with your juicer strength, in case you were wondering!
  • Trick Riding: If you already know a Horsemanship skill, you can now user it to do things like stand while riding or swing under its belly or leap from a horse to a vehicle. One of those exclusionary sorts of mechanics that says "You thought you could do this before? Not anymore!"
What's more, we get a huge amount of about what we can do with horsemanship, like:
  • Riding and taking care of horses.
  • Recognize the quality and breed of horses you're doing with.
  • Jumping with a horse, but this inflicts a penality.
  • Pushing a horse to run faster and farther.
  • The general speeds of different types of horses, including ponies, riding horses, war horses, and race horses. They're all S.D.C. creatures unless you get some M.D.C. horse barding on that slows them by 5%... but otherwise horses are S.D.C. creatures that'll die if a faerie looks at them funny.
  • Horsemanship: General (the new basic horsing skill) gives some minor combat bonuses.
  • Horsemanship: Cyber-Knight (the new best horsing skill) gives the best combat bonuses but only cyber-knights can take it. Also, paladins can take it, but they're not in this game, so...
Of course, we get a lot of other skills, but most are just reproduced from books like Coalition War Campaign or Mercenaries, including a long section on traps, but most of them are just physical inconveniences to those in mega-damage armor except for mines. Seduction is reproduced, so we get-

Rifts World Book 14: New West posted:

Seduction: This is the ability to make the opposite sex melt with desire.

- once again.


Coalition guys don't get access to trick shooting, don't even kid.

We also get skills like "Breed Dogs", "History of the West", "Lore: Religion", "Prospecting", and "W.P. Bola" (that's "weapon proficiency", for those not in the know). The big new combat addition is W.P. Sharpshooting (first seen in Rifts Conversion Book) which is expanded here. You have to take an ordinary modern weapon weapon proficiency first, then spend two skill picks to learn this for one type of gun (pistols, ripes, etc.). The big advantages is that it lets you get additional bonuses if you have a high Prowess (but gently caress you if you don't), an additional attack, and your choice of a special trick shot. If you're a Gunfighter, Gunslinger, or Sheriff (all coming up in the next section) you get all the trick shots for free. The trick shots available are:
  • Fire a two-handed gun with only one hand (but without any bonuses to hit).
  • Shoot over your shoulder using a mirror at half your normal bonus, or full bonus if you're a gunslinger or gunfighter.
  • Shoot from a horse or riding vehicle accurately at half your normal bonus. It notes that a called shot is "impossible" but then says it's at -8, because sometimes Rifts can't go a full sentence without contradicting itself.
  • Dodge or roll then come up shooting but without any bonuses. A weirdly phrased mechanic - nowhere else does it say dodging messes with your aim.
  • Ricochet shot off a surface at half your combat bonus. You can ricochet lasers off of reflective surfaces (specifically, glitter boys count).
We also get new rules for disarming with guns, but you can only "quick draw" to a disarm strike (I can only guess "quick draw" means "get the initiative bonus from W.P. Sharpshooting"?) if you're a Gunfighter, otherwise it's a Called Shot. You typically can only disarm on a "natural 19 or 20" but "A few O.C.C.s get a bonus to disarm"... I...



Make up your damned mind. The entangle rules are reprinted here for use with lassos and whips as well.


Roll your Lore: Indian to identify.

Finally, we get rules for an old west showdown. And by "rules" I don't mean mechanics, it's literally just the rules of honor for gunslingers and their ilk to challenge each other by. It's a complicated process, which consists of:
  • A verbal challenge.
  • Acceptance by the challenged party.
  • A time and place is set for the duel if the duel is not to be immediately resolved. Decent people do it in the street.
  • The duelists take up their positions 8'-40' apart.
  • They quick-draw and fire, but if they survive the gunfight can continue normally.
  • It notes in a gunfight like this you're not supposed to wear armor, and the first hit does double damage. Granted, if you're talking mega-damage arms (no prohibition against those, so...) the amount of damage is academic if you're unarmored.
And it also notes-

Rifts World Book 14: New West posted:

Note: Cheating in a showdown by having snipers waiting outside, or using magic, psionics, or a force field to secretly protect oneself or to negatively affect one's opponent is considered the lowest of the low. Those who cheat will be loathed, even by Gunslingers and Bounty Hunters, as a complete and totally treacherous snake, which also means it's okay to shoot this pig down in cold blood!

Oh, everybody agrees on that? Oookay.

Rifts World Book 14: New West posted:

Until somebody decides to rid the world of this vermin, all professional gunmen (except for the most evil and vile themselves), including Gunslingers, Gunfighters, Juicers, Headhunters, scouts, mercenaries, soldiers, cowboys and lawmen, will treat the character like a leper, avoiding polite contact and business with him, snickering and making insults behind his back (often loud enough to be heard), spitting at his feet (a classic sign of disrespect and disdain in the west), and sometimes worse. The only thing that might ease the insults and foul treatment is challenging some of these people to fair showdowns, but it will not change the character's status of being a despicable killer and "pariah" even among murderers — such is the Code of the West.

Okay, we get it.

Rifts World Book 14: New West posted:

Those who earn this reputation (even with one incident) will be despised, looked down upon (feared perhaps but never respected), and so branded for the rest of his life. Work with Men at Arms will be hard (even impossible) to find — "we don't want your kind," and the individual is considered a fair target for all manner of degradation, robbery and murder. Furthermore, word of such treachery will spread throughout the New West with lightning speed. When the misanthrope is finally killed, he is usually spit upon and buried in an unmarked grave or left out on the open plains as food for the buzzards and insects.

We get it. "Don't be clever, just make your initiative roll and face death based on the throw of a die like a good gunslinger." Bear in mind that means gunfights are extremely swingy, since most players won't get more than +3 or +4 to initiative on a d20 roll and attacks are similarly unpredictable. Any character that regularly gunfights in this fashion and doesn't have some way to tilt the odds in their favor will probably die after a few duels at best from a bad roll, unless they find some ridiculous class / race combination that lets them increase their bonuses into double-digit levels. Your average human gunslinger, however, is likely to just get gunned down after a few such duels... if they're lucky.

Next: Pepperidge Farm remembers.

8one6
May 20, 2012

When in doubt, err on the side of Awesome!



theironjef posted:

Man, so Strike! is virtually ideal for me to map Blimpleggers on to, but it's like so easy that I'm wondering what the point would even be, anyone could do it if they wanted to with no information at all besides "There's blimps and it's currently the era of prohibition for potions."

Just because you can boil down an entire setting into an elevator pitch doesn't mean that it's not worth doing or that it won't be fun. "Lord of the Rings but you're transients who will kill for the promise of wealth" has sold millions of books. "Capitalism and racism blow goats and you're half robot" won't ever stop being fun.

Or like gradenko_2000 said...

gradenko_2000 posted:

I guarantee anyone who opened up a recruitment thread with nothing more than "There's blimps and it's currently the era of prohibition for potions." is going to get sign-ups.

I eagerly await the Kickstarter.

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
the forum where people post about insurance in case they have to kill someone is mad at this guy again lol

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Note: Cheating in a showdown by having snipers waiting outside, or using magic, psionics, or a force field to secretly protect oneself or to negatively affect one's opponent is considered the lowest of the low.

this annoys the poo poo out of me. this is some "I have never seen an actual western film in my entire life" bullshit.

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


It doesn't say anything about the metal plate under the serape trick, though...

Dareon
Apr 6, 2009



Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Twelve - Orbis Aurea I



A pretty good map. Definitely in the top three.

The furthest body in the Aethera system, Orbis Aurea (literally “golden ball,” implying that Hymnas is just Latin) was dubbed such by Aksaati astronomers who could see the glittering aurora surrounding the planet. The giants and okanta call the planet Amurtah, and the original Luthian designation was Horvea. Linked to the Plane of Water, it is a continental world with significant ice caps and a narrow temperate band at the equator. According to the man who designed it, Orbis Aurea’s concept is “freezing cold Starship Troopers” as well as “where you send the PCs when they have displeased you.”

Most of the planet is an untamed wilderness of ice and snow dominated by clans of frost giants or swarms of the insectoid azaka. These territories are in flux as the various forces on the planet take territory from those that have it, overrunning settlements on a regular basis. The temperate band is no better. Aetherite deposits are closer to the surface here, and the azaka make incursions into human territory, opposed by the Paragon Ascendancy’s elite military, the Sentinel.

The auroras around the planet are not just pretty. Known as the Nethersphere, this phenomenon and its associated envelope of clouds is anathema to aetherdrives and the cause of the catastrophic fall to earth of the Recquiescat. The only way onto or off of the planet is through the terminus of the space elevator, Catena. The space around the station is heavily-patrolled, and piracy is punishable by death.

Orbis Aurea has a 48-hour day and an eight-year orbital period, although this orbit has less effect on the seasonal progression than the planet’s massive moon, Orbis Argentum/Orakoe. The moon sends the planet through about eight summer/winter cycles each solar year, with the book noting that concurrent lunar and solar winters can be devastatingly cold. Still, the temperate zone is ripe with farmland and aetherite deposits, those capable of braving the cold can make a fortune or at least a solid homestead. Provided they aren’t slaughtered or worse by wildlife.

Humans and okanta live in considerable harmony on the equatorial continents of Karkhota and Pah. In generations past, okanta would use the summer months to hunt the thick forests and farm the broad valleys of Karkhota, laying in provisions for winter’s assault. The other equatorial continent, Pah, was seized by the okanta from the tribes of cave giants that lived there. Rocky and poorly suited for farming, the continent instead hosts millions of seabirds and mammals, making for fine hunting. Pah also hosts the planet’s only desert, a cold black land of wind and ghosts. The main human city of Wighthaven lies on Karkhota (along with a number of satellite mining outposts that have grown into towns in their own right), while Pah holds the mining city of Mikawdra and Pahnahadra, site of an imminent second space elevator. The third equatorial continent is known only as the No Fly Zone, although the southern giants refer to it as Nakorah, the Lost Kingdom. Primarily consisting of an enormous impact crater, the azaka hold sway here, destroying any aethership foolish enough to violate their airspace. The Paragons have forbidden any exploration of the No Fly Zone while they work out a plan to destroy the azaka.

Ice bridges periodically connect the equatorial continents with the regions to the north and south, allowing taiga giants and nomadic okanta to wander from one to the other. These continents feature sparse forests teeming with megafauna and more modestly-sized animals. To the north, the continent of Tep Halaisu is the demesne of the frost giants and their carved stone-and-ice fortresses. They raid the taiga giants and human cargo ships for supplies. Bedor Wayes to the south, however, is inhabited only by ghosts. Expeditions and attempts at colonization have been driven back repeatedly by hordes of incorporeal undead. Aethertech-powered icebreaker ships have ventured into the interior and returned with tales of brilliantly-lit bustling cities, which seems at odds with the other reports out of the continent. Other continents exist in the frozen ice caps, although the connecting ice makes differentiating between them difficult.

The planet is not merely active on the surface. Each continent is riddled with glacial caves, with populations of troglodytes, morlocks, and “other, older horrors.” The troglodytes have tinkered with Progenitor ruins and could be found using remarkably advanced weaponry, but the morlocks are content to hit you with a bone. Deeper caves could drop you into lava flows or underground oceans, and tectonic activity could seal off passages or break through into new ones. Still, deep aetherite mining is profitable as gently caress and can be done without worrying so much about environmental impact. Progenitor ruins both above and below ground are another potential source of riches or death, and the Hierarchy is in a race with the Paragons to recover whatever secrets the ruins may hold.

The oceans are home to native undine and ocean giants, and ocean travel is more prominent than aerial aetherships because of the Nethersphere and the No Fly Zone. So there are actual ocean pirates.


Requiescat in Pace.

The history of Orbis Aurea has been recounted back in my post on history, and we get only a little new information here. Such as the events during the Collapse, where a massive meteorite struck the planet, forming the No Fly Zone, scattering netherite into the atmosphere (Thus forming the Nethersphere), and either delivering or awakening the azaka. The Nethersphere is the actual reason everyone lost contact and crashed when the Hierarchy tried to colonize the place. Netherite at the least deactivates aethertech, which is not good when you still have most of the atmosphere to get through before you can land. The Recquiescat landed in the middle of a harsh lunar winter, and would have perished entirely if local okanta clans hadn’t been curious about the rain of fire from the sky. The Hierarchy posthumously promoted all the colonists. Later, they secretly decided that they could just toss the Paragons at Orbis Aurea, let the planet kill these problematic heroes. The Paragons, too, were posthumously promoted, to the highest military rank available. This sort of bit the Hierarchy in the rear end when the Paragons re-emerged near the end of the Century War.

A whole page pretty much reiterates information we already have on the planet and its people, but we do get a few new tidbits. Erahthi do come here for science or aetherite, although most of them hate the place and rarely spend any time on the surface. Infused get preferential treatment, to the extent that infused-run crime sees little in the way of repercussions. Phalanx and okanta both enjoy the crucible of sociopolitical discourse that can be found here. And native undine have some interesting interactions. I neglected to mention this when I covered races, but the elemental planetouched can look like any of the races without changing their own stats any, which means okanta-presenting undine can outlive their entire clans. This can lead them to feel alienated and seek enclaves of their own kind, or to take an active leadership role in their clan and guide them with a long view.

The Paragon Ascendancy is in constant friction with the Hierarchy representatives on Orbis Aurea, and the six Paragons tend to take a sloppy attitude to governance. They’ve maintained treaties with and instilled distrust of the Hierarchy in the local okanta for 80-some years, which has provided some resistance to Hierarchy control. But Lietka is quick to promise compliance with orders from Akasaat, then just as quickly ignore or forget the orders. Still, the Hierarchy is solidifying its grip over the massive gold mine of aetherite the planet represents with the aid of an ever-growing number of Hierarchy cantors and officials, chief among them Steward Pater Graccus. It is very strongly rumored he has a very deep network of spies and hands on the planet, known as his Orchestrators.

Industry on the planet is sort of split now. The okanta mostly do as they’ve done for centuries, farming with the aid of hill giants, hunting, fishing, and whaling. Whaling in particular has become more important in recent times, with humans making great use of whale oil. The aetherite boom has seen some interesting reactions from the okanta. Since its radiation is as poisonous to them as it is to the humans, they have no problem with it being removed to allow new life to grow (Barring certain holy pilgrimage sites), but they don’t want the toxic runoff involved in its refinement, so most official aetherite refinement takes place on the moon Orakoe.

The Paragons have a stranglehold on the economy, due to all interplanetary trade having to go through the space elevator. Heavy tariffs on all goods in and out of the planet (most disguised as “spire fees” for the use of the elevator, but it doesn’t cost nearly that much to run) provide governmental income without requiring them to levy taxes on the inhabitants. This “tax free” system is highly touted by the Paragons, but the reality is unless you smuggle things in, anything not carried on your person is subject to a 20% tariff. And extradimensional spaces don’t count as “on your person”. This has a similar markup when buying or selling goods that can’t be locally produced. Common imports are aethertech, including ships and mining equipment, as well as luxury foods like fruit and coffee. Okanta enjoy citrus fruit in particular. Most of Orbis Aurea’s exports are refined aetherite and magical artifacts.

Okanta and some humans also use an informal system of barter, favors, and a complex interrelation of debts and reputation that’s been reinforced in the okanta for generations. An okanta’s honor is heavily tied into their debts and the repayment of same. Debts can be transferred through familial ties, although sibling debts tend to be the most important. A common saying in okanta culture is “An okanta who does not repay a sibling’s debt is not an okanta.” The introduction of human culture and economy is starting to erode this system in the younger okanta. In fact, okanta traditionalism is at odds with human ingenuity quite often. Traditionalist okanta (usually the eldest, although even they are hard-pressed to remember a time before the Paragons thanks to okanta’s short lifespans) decry industrial harvesting of aetherite, believing it angers the ancestral spirits that dwell within it.


”I SAID NO ITEMS IN BATTLE! RED CARD!”

The Paragons are the very last of their kind, the crowning achievement and most lamented mistake of the Paragon Project, sent on a suicide mission by the Hierarchy that feared their power might lead them to rebel. The H.A.V. Ray of Dawn fell through the clouds of the Nethersphere, killing all the humans aboard and three of the ten remaining Paragons. The Hierarchy “posthumously” promoted them all to the rank of Marshal, and couldn’t just backpedal on that when they reappeared with supplies and reinforcements. So now they are the legal authority on Orbis Aurea, and the Hierarchy is really worried. The six remaining Paragons (Marshal Seshimin was lost trying to study the No Fly Zone) range from level 15 to 19, and are all mythic rank 4. They tower over humans and probably make okanta need to look up, but only appear in public in ornamental aethertech armor. Some speculate that this armor insulates them against the harsh gravity and cold of the planet, but others fear the Paragons are long dead, and the armor is worn by mere impostors.

Each Paragon has their own position within the Paragon Ascendancy government. At the top is Imperator Marshal Lietka, ruler of Wighthaven, the space elevator, and the aetherite trade. His right hand, bodyguard, and confidant is Marshal of the Protectorate Karboros, who can often be found carrying Lietka’s orders up to the space elevator terminus. Marshal of Energy Ngiri oversees the city of Mikawdra and most of the mining operations on the planet. Marshal of War Henerik oversees the Sentinel, the conscript and prisoner battalions forming the first line of defense and incursion against the azaka. Marshal of Mysteries Suembaro has been in mysterious seclusion for the past seven years. Despite the mysterious instructions she’s had carried out and the mysterious supplies being delivered to her, rumor is she mysteriously died long ago. And Marshal of Resources Ekander is a roving ecologist, whose angling for the throne of Imperator Marshal has attracted a roving band of dissidents that follows him everywhere.

The Requiescat Hierarchy was the original governing body of the humans who first crashed on Orbis Aurea. Lead by the surviving cantors and divided into houses like the nobles of Akasaat, they were easily conquered by the Paragons and now serve in the bureaucracy, jockeying for power among themselves. House Demeron was of middling rank when its members boarded the colony ships, and their “death” on Orbis Aurea elevated the remaining members on Akasaat. They buddy up to the Paragons, using the relationship to hold power in the face of incoming Hierarchy officials. The current matriarch, Kata Sif Demeron, is in ill health and expected to pass the mantle of leadership to one of her two children, Anda or Elis, assuming they can stop trying to stab each other. House Kentrith is a high-ranked house of very few members on both planets, and are Hierarchy loyalists, speaking loudly against the Paragons’ lax enforcement of Hierarchy laws and orders. The current patriarch, Elra An Kentrith, is a young, politically-savvy go-getter. House Finow was elevated into the ranks of the nobility in the Requiescat. Originally low-class laborers, Finow is now a house of successful land merchants. The wealth from these dealings allows the matriarch Mereni Finow to buy favorable arranged marriages with other Akasaati families.

And of course the Okanta are movers and shakers on the planet. Spiritual, passionate, adaptable, and short-lived. Their life is nasty, brutish, and short, although they don’t particularly conform to any of those adjectives themselves. Certainly not short. Clans form and dissolve, occasionally killed off completely, with some rare ones managing to last centuries. One of the oldest is Clan DkaHaruso, who started from a small raider band and grew fat off bountiful plunder and territory fairly insulated from giant attacks. They settled in the Kehella Valley and have lived there for centuries. They focus strongly on keeping okanta culture distinct from humanity, and their leader Tembarok Two-Skins (14th-level barbarian) will do practically anything to ensure that.

Okanta that lean closer to humanity may abandon their clan structure, although many of those are unwilling to take up with the Hierarchy’s Slot system, preferring instead the loose interpretation of laws the Paragon Ascendancy favors. These clanless okanta generally gravitate around the okanta diplomat in the Paragons’ court, Dahon (Shaman 8/Investigator 4).

Yet other okanta clans are happy to stay close to their roots while still accepting the advantages humanity can offer. The clans that live closest to the equator are fervent adopters of human agricultural techniques and machinery, breeding new fruits and vegetables to fascinate and delight. Elsewhere, okanta marauders ply the seas on aethercraft ships, using the powerful engines on their icebreakers to ram through seasonal ice that would have protected their quarry in generations past. Some live at sea, landing only to pillage and resupply, others have hidden bases in the fjords, venturing out for fat prizes. Rumors even persist of a hidden okanta pirate island, but none o’ these scurvy landlubbers know where it might lie. Arr.

And finally we have the nomadic okanta tribes, following along in the wake of the taiga giants as they’ve done for centuries. They serve as scouts for the giants and warn of frost giant incursions, plant seeds along the migration routes to restore resources consumed on the journey, and trade furs and bones to the more settled tribes in exchange for food. Being more likely than most to encounter frost giants, they also have some of the most fearsome and storied militias in the lands. One such tribe, the Vikoth Caravaneers, famously trades in giant-hair tapestries depicting the battles they waged to get the hair.

The giants are the other indigenous inhabitants of the planets. Frost giants are ruthless, never bargaining for things they could simply take off of corpses. They stay sharp by raiding the taiga giants and okanta, using the spoils to decorate their carved ice and stone halls. The Paragons and their superior firepower have slowed the assaults some, but recon by the Sentinel has shown they are chafing about their defeats and preparing for all-out war. The taiga giants are nomadic hunter-gatherers, and the least likely to attack strangers. This has lead them to a symbiotic relationship with the okanta, becoming accustomed to the benefits the okanta provide in their migrations and defending them against any threat that approaches. Hill giants, who live mostly in the equatorial region, have mostly been enslaved by the taiga giants and okanta to help with farming. The introduction of advanced farming equipment has rendered giant labor mostly obsolete, and the question has arisen of what to do with them, as they’ve become quite accustomed to their lot in life. Some okanta do keep their hill giants on, but those in settlements run by humans have found that the Sentinel has need of a few good giants. Cave giants, however, are slaves of the morlocks, who breed them in order to raid surface settlements for… meat.

The Sentinel is Orbis Aurea’s version of the Akasaati Vanguard, an elite fighting force dedicated to defending against the azaka. Educated officers are drawn from the Requiescat Hierarchy, but large portions of the troops are penal battalions, sentenced directly to the Sentinel for their crimes and earning sentence reductions based on their actions under fire. Many okanta volunteer for service, seeking to eradicate the blight that has stricken their ancient homeland. Information about the azaka is sketchy, but the realization they operate in a hive mind has seen the Sentinel begin training to disrupt group tactics and eliminate single targets. They have even begun making forays underground, where the azaka have been disrupting subterranean ecosystems and cultures.

We’re getting into the gazetteer now, and we begin with a discussion of the Nethersphere. The planet-wide suspension of netherite in the mesosphere disables aetherships passing through it and reduces light on the planet’s surface to predawn levels. Light is provided by the glittering auroras that twist across the skies. Studies of the nethersphere indicate it was apparently thrown into the sky by the meteor impact that formed the No Fly Zone, and is being refreshed by the ash clouds thrown out by active volcanoes. Occasional storms bring the netherite dust down to the surface, bathing settlements in radiation and undeath. As dangerous as it is, the Nethersphere provides a perfect defensive barrier, ensuring the only way to approach the planet is through the space elevator controlled by the Paragons. There has been much talk of means of clearing the netherite from the atmosphere, but the Paragons forbid it. They cite the uncertain effects of netherite on terrestrial life, and the also-uncertain effect of direct sunlight on the planet’s surface. Everyone knows they just want it left up for political reasons, though.

Outside the Nethersphere, the terminus of the Catena space elevator is heavily guarded by Marshal of the Protectorate Karboros and the P.A.V. Lever, capable of turning any threat to the station into slag. Catena grows on a daily basis, its superstructure stretching along the equator to support further space elevators. The Paragons’ plan is far-reaching, and while many openly deride the vision of the finished project, they have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness in starting a planet-spanning ring station. The orbital region of Orbis Aurea is home to a large number of installations both modern and Progenitor. The Hierarchy uses their own stations as staging areas for operations on the planet which tend to lose a lot of steam when they run into the Paragons’ loose association with the law. The Hierarchy and Ascendancy space forces are content for now to protect their shared interests in the area, so there’s very few guns pointed at each other.

The moon Orakoe is an extrasolar capture. Its orbit points to Progenitor interference, although the moon itself is a dusty, nearly-airless ball of worthless rock. The only interesting geographical feature is an abyss at the northern pole, averaging a thousand feet across and descending into the empty core and a cavern large enough to hold Akasaat’s moon Prima. This cavern is lined with unfathomably large gouges and scratches, as if something massive was confined against its will. Other features of the moon are a number of dome habitats, most abandoned, and an “ecosystem” consisting entirely of fossilized undead animals. These are assumed to be the ancestors of modern terrestrial life, and even include whale skeletons swimming through great seas of dust.

There’s not a real appreciable difference between adventuring and settling on Orbis Aurea, although one is significantly more mobile. Even an emplaced settlement may face intrigue and danger from an earthquake revealing a Progenitor ruin or a burrowing predator deciding to pop up in the carrot patch. But there are nearly as many ways to strike it rich here as there are to die. Progenitor ruins- mostly untouched by the pre-industrial okanta- dot the landscape, and while none of them are as impressive as the deep-sea research centers of Akasaat, smaller ruins can provide enough prizes to live comfortably. You don’t just have to go wandering about and hope you find an ancient advanced ruin, either. Some organizations, such as the Prospectors, hold auctions allowing people to bid on exploration sites, and government-funded expeditions from both Hierarchy and Ascendancy representatives are in need of people with PC-level ability scores and WBL. Or if your tastes run to the magical, you could raid giant ruins. Bunkers in the equatorial regions hold slumbering relics, or you could go punch a frost giant in the nose and steal his silverware. A bit of good old-fashioned tomb robbing might not go amiss, either: okanta holy sites enshrine holy relics and seal unholy ones in deep labyrinths of rocky cairns. And, of course, adventure in the cities provides all the standard types of political and criminal intrigue, with the occasional morlock attack for variety.

Whether you adventure or homestead on Orbis Aurea, a lot of the threat you face will come from natural disasters and the weather. Earthquakes rock the planet, collapsing poorly-built buildings and shifting cave systems around. These cause tsunamis in the oceans and avalanches in the mountains, and the tsunamis in particular may dredge some horror from the deep off the bottom of the sea and hurl it onto the shore near a settlement. All this tectonic activity naturally results in volcanoes, which can blacken the sky for weeks after an eruption, form brand new islands, or just vomit netherite into the sky from some deep reservoir. In lunar spring and fall, blizzards can blow into the equatorial zones from the poles without warning. Inhabitants of the planet keep cold weather gear on hand at all times to deal with these freak storms. In combined lunar and solar winter, blizzards can last twice as long as in other seasons, exhausting the supplies of smaller settlements. The Stormwatch Society is a weatherman organization, spread across all settlements and in contact with each other by farcaster, often giving enough warning for a caster with Control Weather to mitigate the effects or have casters and mundanes fortify settlements against the storms. A blizzard concurrent with a netherstorm can trap particles of netherite in the drifts, sickening the populace and blighting crops. Settlements may be abandoned entirely after a nether blizzard. Not to say that snow is the only weather the planet gets. Eight summers a year can result in some comparably warm temperatures and rainstorms as hard as the blizzards are, at least in the equatorial regions. Equatorial plains may flood, and some villages are built on tethers and floats and can just weather floods without a bother. For all that I’m condensing these paragraphs down to single sentences, I really like this section, because someone actually thought about what it would be like to have four seasonal cycles overlapping a longer seasonal cycle, and did some research on storms and winter survival, extrapolating for the existence of magic. What they know of earth science meshes with what I know of earth science. With the exception of the art direction deciding space boats are cool (Which they are, but that’s not the point), there’s nothing in this setting so far that makes me say “That doesn’t work that way.”

Orbis Aurea is the best source of aetherite in the system at the moment. There might possibly be more in the Darkwild of Kir-Sharaat, but that has its own difficulties in acquiring. Here you can just pry it off the surface. The okanta know of many such deposits, usually deep in the mountains or in sheltered bays blocked by sea ice. The Pact of Wighthaven has made aetherite refinement anywhere on the planet illegal. Many enterprising black marketeers have grown temporarily rich from refinement operations before being conscripted into the Sentinel to fight the azaka. The okanta have long marked known areas of aetherite radiation with pictograms depicting the level and radius of the effect, and of course the Paragons rapidly exploited those deposits. Newer mining operations have begun using aetherite harvesters, specialized ships designed to collect the stuff and store it in lead-lined cargo bays.

Netherite, on the other hand, is one of the great scourges of the planet. Similar in structure and appearance to obsidian, it radiates negative energy in much the same way that aetherite radiates more traditional radiation. While it may seem like an altered version of aetherite, it is its own unique substance with none of the uses or reactions aetherite has. Alchemists don’t really know what all it can do yet. Its radiation is treated as a Will save poison that deals negative levels and Con damage, and those killed by strong radiation can automatically revive as undead. A funnel cloud of netherite and aurora pulled down from the Nethersphere is known as a netherstorm, which touches down and spreads radiation across a large area, lasting for 2d6 rounds per hazard category. Category 4 netherstorms only happen once a century or so, so at least there’s that. The most common hazard of a netherstorm is the netherite fog which spreads out and seeks low ground, emitting radiation all the while. Other hazards are blasts of telekinetic force that strike in the epicenter of the storm, flattening buildings, crushing hapless victims, and more powerful storms desecrating the land. And finally we have black lightning that strikes every few rounds, dealing a handful of d6es, half in electricity, half negative energy, and seeking living targets to harm.

The other great scourge of the planet, the azaka, are poorly understood. Massive insectoid creatures known to feed on aetherite and link themselves together in a hive-mind, they have spread from the impact site in the No Fly Zone both overland and through the massive interlinked cave networks beneath the surface. Raids on outlying human colonies can happen without warning and be over before the Sentinel can respond, leaving only signs of a quick battle and neither survivors nor dead. Attacks in the settled lands have become more frequent over the past century, a fact thoroughly documented by both okanta and Requiescat. While the Hierarchy claims their controlled areas represent a safe zone against the azaka, this is obviously so much hogwash, although that is not an accepted point of view in polite society.

The third great scourge is the undead. Seriously, how many great scourges does one planet need? Most undead encountered in the wild are your standard shambling hordes, but enough intelligent undead have been found to make people worry. Paladins, oracles, and cantors have all come together in an organization opposing the dead known as the Lifelight Alliance, who will reinforce Sentinel battalions to clear regions taken by the undead or disperse throughout civilized territories to react to local threats rapidly. With so many undead wandering about, necromancy may seem like a good idea, but it’s taboo to the okanta and expressly forbidden under the Paragons’ system of law. Practitioners may find themselves hunted by the Lifelight Alliance and summarily executed without warrant. Okantan legends speak of an ancient okantan warlord who guarded the metropolis of Haj-Hamarandh against the giant hordes and was so filled with wrath at the fall of the city that he and his legion rose from their graves one week after the city fell and laid waste to the giants who sacked it. Now Orukughan the Hungerer is said to dwell in the ruins of Haj-Hamarandh to this day, wherever the fabled city may be. Ghosts are a common problem, with ghost wards hanging from every doorway, cities hosting impressive mystic wards, and a fine living to be made by wandering shamans and occultists dealing with the problem. The final and most famous undead threat on Orbis Aurea are wendigo, frozen beasts of eternal hunger who can devastate a settlement and multiply alarmingly rapidly. Surviving victims of a wendigo attack are often beyond help and euthanized before they can spread the contagion. Tales tell of a legendary wendigo: Raod Rah, the Waking Whisper. The tales are divided on what he might be, either a taiga giant king who consumed his army to survive a frost giant siege, or a being from the Dimension of Dreams given physical form as the first okanta dreamed of a nightmarish future for his people. Regardless of how he came to be or even if he exists, the superstitious agree being woken from sleep by a whisper is bad luck and will rapidly shun- or worse- someone admitting to this situation.

On to happier notes. There are actually some very interesting places on Orbis Aurea. It may not be a great tourist destination, but there’s some really interesting poo poo going on here. The Cleft of Ages is a massive chasm roughly the size of an inverted mountain range. It is in a constant state of collapse, caught in a time loop that may date all the way back to the Collapse. Magma, smoke, and pyroclastic ash belches into the air within the chasm, and one of the largest Progenitor complexes ever seen, nearly a mile across and in pristine condition, hangs suspended in the rift in freefall over the magma sea. All attempts by archaeologists, treasure hunters, or scholars to reach the tantalizing structure have ended in tragedy as aetherships are sucked through rifts into the Evermorn, attacked by hounds of Tindalos, or destroyed by enraged bythos aeons. To date, there have been no successful expeditions into the Progenitor ruin.

Gathrakadra Fortress is located less than 2,000 miles from Wighthaven and is the sentinel outpost for the frost giant kingdom of Ythrandor. It is run by a forward-thinking giantess named Joskorda, who has survived battles with the Paragons themselves. A lone voice of reason in the midst of the frost giants howling for blood, Joskorda realizes the threat of the azaka is greater than any other. She also turns her eyes to the sky, despite never having seen it except in her dreams, and seeks a way to bring the frost giants onto the interplanetary stage.

Korbasandra Wasteland is a bitterly cold and windy expanse of rocky ice, populated only by the clan of okanta that gives the area its name and the native fauna they hunt that has adapted to the cold. They ride shaggy, feathery dinosaurs into battle against massive aetherite-tainted mammoths called daroknur, a single one of which could feed their villages for months at a time, but the hunting of which is worthy of generations of song. The Morlock Wilds are scattered fungal jungles beneath the surface. Located near geothermal pockets, these oppressively humid jungles are covered in various mushrooms, including columns of fungal growth stretching from floor to ceiling that the morlocks hollow out and live in. The lower regions of these caves are home to packs of azaka, who have learned to use the morlocks as a renewable resource: The more aetherite they acquire and drop to the azaka, the fewer morlocks the azaka will take away. No one knows why there are so many identical biomes like this scattered across the planet, but the few survivors who have encountered these pockets report the morlocks seem to worship ancient Progenitor stasis pods embedded in the fungal webbing.

The Scar of the Progenitor is translated from an okanta name, a more direct translation would be “Mistake of the First One”. It is a mile-wide hole in the planet, with perfectly smooth walls except where it penetrates cave systems, which is often. It’s so deep you can’t see the bottom, and it’s littered with rifts to the Evermorn so you can’t fly an aethership down there. Azaka activity in and around the Scar is ten times the usual amount, despite being nowhere near azaka territory. The Shattered Forest was flash-frozen in the Collapse, and is now a region of shattered wooden flinders trapped in icy forms resembling crashing waves. It is populated by boreal fey and other arctic denizens like winter hags, as well as insane dryads still linked to their frozen trees.

We get a page and a half on the Giant Lands, mostly reiterating information provided earlier. There are a few interesting tidbits, though. The tundra is home to herds of elk-like beasts called raasku. These animals have pelts the color of twilight to camouflage themselves in the darkness, and are fleet-footed and powerful. They are fast enough and stealthy enough that only the swiftest and cleverest okanta hunters can bring them down. The pelts are highly prized, adorning only the greatest okanta chieftains or taiga giant leaders. No human has yet proven worthy of a gift of raasku pelt. The very north pole is occupied only by frost giants and wendigo, but there is a massive mountain range made of sheets of ice. Rumors whisper it may be a great fortress of the frost giants or an ancient temple, but no one’s made it that far to find out.

The Underworld, however, is more intriguing. We got tidbits beforehand speaking of the sheer volume of caves and tunnels, but there’s an entire latticework of Progenitor ruins about a mile below the surface, still drawing power and defended. The Paragon Seshimin was working to catalog these ruins when his ship, the P.A.V. Scryer, was attacked by the azaka in the first blow of what’s shaping up to be a genocidal war. Most of his research was lost with the ship, but enough was relayed back to the Paragons to tantalize and horrify. This research has been kept under tight wraps by the Paragons. It’s mentioned in a later sidebar that these Progenitor ruins are almost certainly why the Paragons have a space elevator. Also within Seshimin’s reports are cities- whole civilizations- of morlocks and troglodytes, multiple civilizations and populations that had little contact with the surface, but are being driven towards the surface by something. Whether the azaka or something more sinister is unknown.

Adventuring within the Progenitor ruins is possible, but inadvisable. First, you need to find one, traversing miles upon miles of arctic wasteland to an appropriate cave entrance, then descending a mile into the earth through whatever subterranean horrors may bar your way. Even then, the ruins were never meant to be entered, so you need to blow open a wall or something like that. Then there’s the defenses, ancient robots and turrets, and whatever might have broken in the several thousand years since the Collapse, including aetherite deposits growing into the ruins and adding the danger of radioactivity. If you can manage all that and collect some Progenitor technology, maybe make some rubbings of the walls for hitherto unknown scientific theories or technical knowledge, the Paragons are gonna be really goddamn interested to know what you found out and whether they need to make you disappear for learning it. Maybe it’s best just to stay home.

This wound up being longer than I thought it would be, so I'll split it here.

Dareon
Apr 6, 2009



Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Thirteen - Orbis Aurea II


We get the now-standard listing of two settlements. First, Harok-Shakora is a traditional okanta settlement (Harok) occupied by a nomadic clan (The Shakora). The book is frustratingly unclear, but it seems like the name of the settlement appends whatever clan is living there at the time, or maybe the clan prefixes its name with where it’s staying. The book also uses “clan” and “tribe” mostly interchangeably, which is technically correct for most purposes, but tribe implies a larger organization than clan. Anyway. The clan follows a taiga giant migratory hunting path which sticks to the coastline of the Boreal Sea, never more than 500 miles from Wighthaven and sometimes as close as 25. It stays in one place for about three months before traveling for a week or two to a new location. Outsiders seek out Harok-Shakora to obtain aetherite, samples of rare plants and animals, mystic items, and information on the biosphere of the planet and the adaptations creatures have made to the cold and radiation.


Consider this a general map of how the settlement may be laid out eslewhere, since it moves around a lot.

The Shakora clan was organized from the Kunthfar, Sankal, and Uthora clans seven generations ago (So about 120 years) when the Sankal obtained some small aethertech speeder bikes from the Requiescat. They used these aethercraft as scouting vehicles while the Uthora leveraged the tribe’s knowledge of aetherite deposits to get more out of the humans, including knowledge of how to repair and craft aethertech. By the time they came around to human settlements again, the newly-minted Shakora clan had refined their skills with aethertech beyond what the crash-landed humans knew, and used these skills to help the humans establish meaningful settlements on the frozen surface. Tribe Kunthfar acts mostly in a diplomatic role, seeking to keep peace between humans and those okanta clans who don’t really see humanity as the chocolate to their peanut butter.

When the Paragons sent emissaries to recruit okanta for the Century War, the Sankal volunteered by the dozens, and with the Shakora clan’s numbers reduced thus, some less scrupulous Paragon agents tried to lean on the clan to try and squeeze more aetherite and artifacts from the clan. Tempers flared, and while some okanta called for punishment for the humans, cooler heads prevailed and a party of skalds was sent to talk with the Paragons about the situation. Received by Imperator Marshal Lietka himself, the skalds’ report resulted in the offending agents being never seen in Harok-Shakora again, and rumors say the ultimate fates of the agents were swift and final. Even so, there is lingering resentment among the Shakora against Paragon representatives in particular and humanity in general to a lesser extent.

To defend against further aggression by humanity, the leader of the Uthora tribe, Najrim, made a deal with a rusalka matriarch to ensure her tribe could call upon a safe retreat and magical protection. The details of this pact are unknown, but several Kunthfar warriors disappeared at sea at about the same time. Najrim was unexpectedly slain in a frost giant skirmish, and now priest-judge Hajok is worried a reckoning may come due as the ten-year anniversary of the deal approaches. Portents suggest a sacrifice may be called for, and he doesn’t even want to try and ask about it without having a suitable offering on hand.


Hajok Uthora. Experience tranquility.

Harok-Shakora is a town meant to be broken down and transported quickly and easily. The buildings consist of tents, yurts, and collapsible prefab buildings purchased from humans. Outside each home is an offering bowl where milk, bread, alcohol, cheese, and other minor offerings are left out for the spirits overnight. Other buildings function as garages for the repair and crafting of aethertech, and the clan possesses a highly-prized aethertech crafting station. The population of around 1,500 is predominantly okanta, with a bare handful of humans and barely a dozen of each of the other races of the setting, although you can always find a few outsiders there to trade. Fashion in the settlement is a mix of traditional okantan fashions and human textiles that are a few years out of fashion.

Factions within Harok-Shakora consist entirely of the constituent clans. The Kunthfar are great seafarers, producing great captains and shipwrights, and incidentally the settlement’s storyfather, Jahokvar, whose husband is priest-judge Hajok Uthora. This marriage has raised a few hackles due to the internal politicking of the clans. When Jahokvar’s aunt Korimim crashed a new Sankal aetherspeeder trying to tow a new style of ship with it, Hajok had to judge which clan would pay for the expensive piece of equipment, and ruled that Korimim was not at fault. Accusations of favoritism followed from the Sankal. On that note, Clan Sankal is known for producing the Shakora’s best warriors, which may be why so many of them went into space with the Paragons. They are also early adopters and cunning opportunists, being quick to latch onto humanity as a means of advancement and in fact were the first clan to pick up the human system of currency. With most of their prominent warriors having gone offworld and the marriage between the Kunthfar and Uthora, the members of Clan Sankal are beginning to fear their voices may be drowned out by the growing power of the other two tribes. And the Uthora are accomplished hunters, trappers, storytellers and traders. Rather more traditionalists than the other two clans, the Uthora prefer to look to the past and the aid of fey spirits when dealing with new problems. The Kunthfar in particular are wary of what sort of price the UIthora are willing to pay to water spirits for their goals.

Harok-Shakora’s leaders are elected for life by a council of elders, who can vote to remove a leader from office if necessary. Laws are recorded by the priest-judge (currently Hajok), and his disciples, who also adjudicate minor disputes. The storyfather (Hajok’s husband Jahokvar) negotiates on behalf of the community, decides where they will settle during migrations, and enforces the law. And the tribe’s champion, Indruva Sankal, leads the scouts and is in charge of organizing defenses and hunting parties. The Shakora’s laws differ based on where they’re settled. At Harok, they trade relatively freely with outsiders because they cannot rely on giants for protection. At sites deeper in giant lands, they trade with giants and generally refuse off-worlder’s money except as Jahokvar permits, and then only for high profit or absolute necessities. In all cases, visitors stay in secure buildings in the Sankal compound after nightfall and are not permitted to touch local aetherite deposits without express permission from a priest-judge. Punishment for violating the law typically takes the form of reparations paid to the damaged party, their clan, or the tribe as a whole. Prohibition from trading for a period of time (Up to and including permanent forbiddance) is also a common punishment, and exile on pain of death is used in extreme cases.

There’s a whole page of locations keyed to the numbered map, but it’s easy enough to summarize. In the middle of the settlement is the Story Pit, the central meeting area, courthouse, and tavern of the settlement. Laws are discussed here, Hajok and Jahokvar live right nearby, and a communal evening meal rounds out the day for everyone. Outsiders are welcome to share their own stories, and business is discussed quite often, giving a measure of respect to the dealings when it seems there’s nothing about them secret or shameful enough to keep from whoever might be listening. The Kunthfar live in light tents near the docks and will butcher whales there, while the Sankal have heavier prefabs in the direction a land assault is most likely to come from. The central compound of the Uthora consists of traditional okanta yurts, tents, and saunas, with a single fortified prefab for trade goods.

Wighthaven


Wighthaven spills out of a massive mountain cave along the sides of the fjord that forms its harbor. It hosts nearly 1.3 million people (48% humans, 42% okanta, 5% phalanx, 2% erahthi, 2% infused, 1% other). The cave it sits in, known as the Maw, is part of a mountain range the okanta called Aharak Jahora-Nar, which transliterates as Wighthaven, but the okantan meaning is closer to Respite of the Ancient Disquiet. The fjord it sits at the end of is called the Grasp. Very little remains of any okanta habitation, although a few engraved stone lintels lie in the deeper reaches of the Maw. Okanta oral tradition also speaks little of it, and it was used only intermittently during autumn months as a transitory stop along the way to winter grounds.

When the Requiescat crashed onto the surface, nearby whaling parties of okanta saw the meteoric descent of the aetherships and went to investigate. With no shared language and not even any shelter to weather an expected attack, the humans threw down their weapons and surrendered. The okanta, however, laughed and shared food and shelter with these tiny hairless giants. Linguistic magic quickly established lines of communication, and the okanta first learned of the stars. Relations quickly settled into a mutually beneficial association of survival. Unaccustomed to the weather and the okanta’s nomadic lifestyle, the Requiescat humans were determined to salvage the wreckage of their crashed ships and use them to set up solid, windproof settlements. Not one to begrudge someone their way of life, the okanta bequeathed them the cavern of the Maw, offering them the territory so long as shelter was given to those in need on their migrations. Okanta and humans began to learn from each other, setting up the basis of their cultural symbiosis that persists to this day.

There are two semi-conflicting thoughts I have on the human-okanta relationship. One is just this adorable “I don’t think we deserve the okanta” like is professed with dogs being brave and loving and such. On the other hand, they’re the noble savage stereotype. There’s almost nothing problematic about them, which in a setting otherwise loaded with dark sides is worrying to say the least. You could make something of their spiritualism as leading them to become beholden to unscrupulous powers a la WoD Immortals, but there’s only the single mention of anything like that in the book itself. There’s also the nod to hill giant slavery, but neither of these themes is heavily explored.

At any rate, this period of peaceful coexistence lasted for 56 years before the Ray of Dawn came through the clouds with a skeleton crew, the last of the Paragons, and a mission under false pretenses. The Paragons arrived at Wighthaven to find it gripped with contagion and famine from a long winter, and used their skills (Most of them were high-level casters, after all) to reinforce security, provide aid and succor, and basically just make themselves indispensible to the Requiescat. The okanta, however, were a little leery of these “sky giants”, but the Paragons made some good Diplomacy checks and didn’t need to wait long for a chance to prove their allegiance. During the depths of a combined solar and lunar winter, the period of time known as The Long Night was historically a time when frost giant raids intensified, and this was no exception. Drawn by rumors of human engineering and magic, frost giant marauders descended on Wighthaven. Nine okanta clans moved to engage the giants, spurning the Paragons’ aid and being driven back. As the clans retreated, a council went ahead of the retreat and entreated the Paragons to allow them to flee through the Grasp. The Paragons agreed, and met the giants in battle to secure the retreat. In a fighting retreat, the Paragons and giants clashed repeatedly as they advanced up the Grasp, the Paragons slaying dozens of giants in each clash. This culminated in an ambush as okanta and the Requiescat poured out of caves in the sides of the Grasp, leaving hundreds of giants dead on the frozen fjord.

With Wighthaven in ruins from the fighting, the Paragons vowed to rebuild the city better and stronger than it had ever been, and to protect everyone within its walls, no matter their race. Thus was born the Pact of Spring, unifying the Paragons, Requiescat humans, and okanta. In 3945, the Paragons began industrialization, building the first approved aetherite refinery from the remains of the Ray of Dawn. A few months later, the Paragons named themselves rulers of all humanity on Orbis Aurea, with Lietka gaining the title Imperator Marshal, his fellows claiming the other high-level positions, and councils of humans and okanta below them to advise and implement. While the Paragons worked closely with local okanta to ensure aetherite mining respected their spiritual traditions, news of these upstarts mining the souls of their ancestors reached outlying clans and has lead to some resentment. But by 3964, Wighthaven’s population had reached the tens of thousands and work had begun in earnest on the Catena space elevator and humanity had begun spreading outward, forming new settlements and mining towns.

Shortly after the first Orbis Aurean aetherships were built, Paragon Seshimin and the Scryer were lost. Hostile okanta were initially blamed for the deed until the existence and threat of the azaka was revealed. The azaka forced humanity to contract inward, abandoning outlying settlements and building up defenses. This focus on external threat and increased militarization has served them well, but in 3968 disaster nearly struck. Five traditionalist okanta clans, calling themselves the Arh Harok-Khara (The True Way to the future’s Promise) and having moved collaborators into key positions on the Catena project, openly attacked the Paragon Ascendancy, nearly destroying the base of the space elevator. The newly-formed Sentinel was barely able to repulse the attacks, and the riots that followed took nearly a week to suppress. While the Arh Harok-Khara were defeated, construction of the space elevator slowed and security was increased while the Paragons looked into the terrorist organization, eventually discovering they were a front for the azaka, who had psychically controlled the leadership. The Paragons kept this secret from the populace, resulting in a slight downplaying of the azaka threat overall.

By 3975, the Catena space station was completed, and with no serious surveillance by either side, the Paragons were able to expand into their local space a bit and survey the war situation. The first fleet of aetherships in orbit was constructed in 3976, and the P.A.V. Herald was sent to Akasaat on a diplomatic mission. The goal of the Ascendancy in these negotiations was to set themselves up as a solitary power that- while strategically allied to the Hierarchy- were still largely autonomous. The Hierarchy was afforded a diplomatic presence on the planet, and the founding families of Wighthaven discovered that they were now wealthy thanks to the Hierarchy “posthumously” promoting them. Likewise the Paragons found themselves with sudden military legitimacy. Wighthaven around this time had hit a population of roughly 600,000, and thanks to the Nethersphere and the growing fleets of the Ascendancy, never saw direct conflict in the war. The massive war machine of the Paragons provided a great boost to the flagging Hierarchy, and may have resulted in the complete defeat of the erahthi had the taur not appeared.

After the signing of the Century Accords, Wighthaven experienced a population boom that shows no signs of stopping today, and there are massive, constantly-expanding shantytowns stretching out of the Maw along the shores of the Grasp. The Catena serves as an effective military bottleneck to prevent a Hierarchy coup, which allows the Paragons to administer their laws much as they have for decades while the Hierarchy rages impotently. Steward Peter Graccus has been given a nearly impossible task overseeing Hierarchy interests, trying to enforce a system of government that most residents see as antithetical to their interests.

Life in Wighthaven is a thorough blending of human and okantan cultures. Stone buildings are covered in okantan etchings and human-derived statuary, seasonal religious observations are held either publicly or among friends, depending on the temperature, and art and music generally pop up everywhere. The addition of alien cultures with the end of the Century War has only increased this cosmopolitan experience. The Score has added layers of complexity to okanta traditional music, the songs of erahthi and their agricultural traditions have resulted in probably some literal blossoming, and both infused and phalanx are working to define new cultures for their people. Fashion changes in the blink of an eye, with any source being capable of providing the next big style, but no ensemble is complete without a cloak or extra layers ready for a cold snap. Tension and uneasiness underlie all this cultural freedom, however. While the taur are a distant threat, the azaka are looming on the horizon, to say nothing of the giants and undead or just a really bad winter. Charlatans peddle bogus charms to the desperate, claiming to ward off everything from wendigos to radiation, and often watching like vultures for insecure new immigrants coming off the space elevator.


Jesus Christ, 28 numbered locations. I hope no one minds if I skip a few.

The oldest buildings in Wighthaven were hammered together from the wreckage of fallen aetherships, but most of these were dismantled when the Paragons began their campaign of urban renewal. Today, stone buildings, castles carved into the cavern walls, and modern buildings of metal and glass lie around and in the Maw, all cleverly constructed to weather earthquakes. Along the mountains lining the Grasp, wooden townhouses line the slopes and a boardwalk extending into the fjord holds most of the whaling industry of the city. Despite a solid infrastructure featuring sewers that keep running in winter thanks to hot springs drawn from deep below (And yes, that means hot water on tap), the population is growing faster than the city can, and when the Grasp freezes over, shantytowns of wood and debris spring up on it, to be dumped into the bay at thaw and washed out to sea, their occupants spreading out into the surrounding countryside. At the mouth of the harbor lies the island of Sealwall, a wildlife sanctuary and home of the Sentinel’s main fortress of Harborshield. The harbor itself was once home to a colony of native undine, but boat traffic and pollution drove them out. They’re like a fjord over, though, so it’s not that bad. Edible fungi are grown in the tunnels below the city, supplementing the farming done on the terraformed land on the outside of the Grasp’s fjord arms.

#1 on the map is The Anchor, a 2,000-foot tall tower made of duranite (Progenitor metal, as durable as adamantine but no good for weaponry), connected to the 400-foot-wide braided duranite cable of the space elevator. The Anchor serves as immigration and customs offices, as well as docking facilities for local aetherships. The operation of the Anchor is overseen by okanta engineer Maelich Skyreach. The actual elevator itself is powered entirely by magic, avoiding the deleterious effects of the Nethersphere. Shielding within the elevator protects aethertech from the Nethersphere as well, allowing you to ship sensitive electronics up and down. The elevator only has space for aetherships up to Huge size, and a trip from the surface to Catena or vice versa takes 10 hours. Catena is a space station of obvious Progenitor design, lifted piecemeal into orbit and cobbled together at the end of the cable.

The Imperium (2) is the palace of the Paragon Ascendancy, and “gilded in needless opulence.” Admission is by invitation only, with the mundane business of government taking place in more typical municipal offices. On the rare occasions when the Paragons are called upon to debate policy or defend their mandates, the Imperium becomes a whirling circus of pomp and formality, occasionally ending in violence if Lietka is more pissed off than normal. The Hierarcanum (3) is the seat of the Akasaati Hierarchy’s power on Orbis aurea, and a huge middle finger to them as well. A very utilitarian municipal building, it was originally designed to be as inefficient and labyrinthine as possible, forcing the Hierarchy to remodel it at their own expense if they wanted to get anything done. The greatest magical minds of the Hierarchy now work here, cataloguing the planet’s unique life, cultures, and resources. Access to their materials is restricted to registered Hierarchy citizens, but they can access a library granting +2 to all Knowledge checks relating to Orbis Aurea.

The Observatory (4), rather than trying to see the stars through all that cloud cover and aurora, is used by Hierarchy cantors to listen to the Score as it sounds on Orbis Aurea. This is Pater Graccus’ seat of power, and he attempts to care for the Hierarchy citizens in ways that the Ascendancy does not. Auditoriums hold religious services, and smaller offices can take care of diplomatic or administerial functions among Scorists. Stillheart (5) is the city’s necropolis, staffed by the Lifelight Alliance to ensure the dead do not become a “public hazard.” Most dead are cremated. The Hearthfire Resort (6) is a spa and gambling den run by known criminal Celadur Hearthfire, who has escaped serious prosecution due to his infused nature and the leeway it affords from the Paragons. While Celadur has amassed a fortune, all of it is being channeled to Complex Four, and Celadur is approaching the end of his life without appointing a successor.

7 is the island of Sealwall and the fortress of Harborshield, 8 is the Warehouse District, 10 is the Grand Bazaar shopping district. 9 is the Exchange, where aetherite and other commodity trading goes on in massive quantities, and cantors listen to the Score closely to ensure this trading doesn’t muck up some prophecy or other. 11 is the prison and courthouse, officially known as the Pillars of Law, but colloquially referred to as the Stockade. 12 is the Demeron Aetherworks, an old and proud aethertech manufacturer.

At the bottom of the fjord at point 13 is the Wreck of the M.V. Lens, a submersible aethercraft that sank due to pressure loss. Recovery efforts have failed, because for some reason the ship is bolted to the seafloor with immovable rods. Expedition site 7 (14) is a network of Progenitor ruins that the Ascendancy is overly interested in excavating. It’s also home to the frost wights that Wighthaven was named for. A garrison of 20 Sentinel agents is posted at the entrance, mostly just to keep anything from wandering out, but their commanding officer, a phalanx named Cobalt (10th-level gunslinger), is known to hire freelance mercenaries to aid in excavations and hunting parties.

#15 is The Malinan Menagerie, a zoo showcasing the native fauna of this exotic frontier world. The proprietress Malina is interested in any viable eggs or breeding pairs adventurers may be capable of capturing and hauling back to town. The Festival Grounds (16) is a towering stone arena, usually given over to formalized bloodsports between consenting legal parties. Monsters captured in the wild or bred at the Menagerie are pitted against warriors, Okanta warriors recreate historic storied battles against the frost giants (Usually these are cave giants painted blue), and aspiring combatants (read: player characters) could win valuable prizes here. When not used for bloodsports, the Festival Grounds can host music, plays, and other lighter fare. Imported performers from as far as Akasaat are often pleased by how receptive the people here are to foreign entertainment.

While small primary schools are scattered throughout the residetial areas of the Grasp, the University District (17) clusters institutes of higher learning together, including Henerik University (18), the best military academy in the city. While students are expected to have matriculated from another university for their standard combat training, here they are taught to work together instead of being total combat spotlight hogs. Officers also learn group tactics and crowd control, useful for overseeing the penal and conscript battalions of the Sentinel.

19 is the Department of the Protectorate, the defense and law enforcement agency. They work to represent the needs of all the city’s races, although the bits earlier about infused getting soft treatment make me raise my eyebrows at that. 20 is the Financial District, 21 is the Housing District, with the mountain walls of the Grasp lined with tightly-packed wood-and-stone townhouses for the low- and middle-class. 22 is the Dockside Markets, great if you need fish, but a bit of searching can turn up basically any nonmagical item you may need.

The Department of Public Works (23) covers snow removal and sewer maintenance, among other things. Civic Officer Eron Maldraska (5th-level human expert) occasionally hires adventurers to clear monsters out of the sewers. 24 is the coastal shantytowns known collectively as The Fringes that cover the coasts and creep out into the sea ice over the winter. Disease-ridden and overcrowded, it can be hard to find lodging here, and unscrupulous slumlords will often provide flimsy buildings that only stand up to one winter before tumbling into the thawing Grasp and being swept out to sea.

Prospector’s Respite (25) is home to the Prospectors organization, a mercenary guild that contracts adventurers for various odd jobs. 26 is the Factory District, in the middle of which is the Remediation Zone, the site of the first aethertech refinery on the planet, which collapsed in 3968 and was quarantined. Most of the toxic waste has since been removed, and the place is now an area roughly the size of a city block surrounding a dome of hastily-poured concrete and abandoned lots inhabited by aetherite-warped plants and animals. And at the heart of the Maw at position 28 lies the Requiescat Monolith, a granite pillar inscribed with the passenger and crew manifests of each ship that came to Orbis Aurea in the Requiescat. The lettering on the obelisk is formed of salvaged metal from each of the ships.

Whew. That’s it for the planets, we’ve only got one more update on cosmology, I think. Up next, the black of space and the planar neighborhood.

Dareon fucked around with this message at 05:25 on Jul 6, 2017

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



8one6 posted:

Just because you can boil down an entire setting into an elevator pitch doesn't mean that it's not worth doing or that it won't be fun. "Lord of the Rings but you're transients who will kill for the promise of wealth" has sold millions of books. "Capitalism and racism blow goats and you're half robot" won't ever stop being fun.

I just meant there's very little for me to do with these rules. The book would basically be a list of suggestions and a campaign guide. "Blimp Captains should use the Boss kit" etc. I guess there's some wiggle room in potion design. Oh well, I'm gonna start messing around with it anyway.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


theironjef posted:

I just meant there's very little for me to do with these rules. The book would basically be a list of suggestions and a campaign guide. "Blimp Captains should use the Boss kit" etc. I guess there's some wiggle room in potion design. Oh well, I'm gonna start messing around with it anyway.

There's always room for setting concepts and fleshed out 'here's a fun way to use the rules as they exist' add-ons or fan-made booklets. I'd just count myself lucky I found a system that fits perfectly and go to town on setting and theme.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



Hey, for everyone who's still doing F&F, when you need to yank an image out of a PDF try using this site I found: https://smallpdf.com/

The optionis PDF ->JPEG, it just rips the raw images out of the PDF so you don't have to screenshot them or go looking for the original art. No idea how useful this will be for most people, but it's a big help on Oubliette as most images have the text flowed around them.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Mr. Maltose posted:

It doesn't say anything about the metal plate under the serape trick, though...

It specifically mentions you're supposed to go unarmored, even though that's a death sentence with these rules. No rule against being naturally armored, though, so the best duelists are going to be mega-damage monsters...

And of course, Western gun duels are an invention of fiction and didn't occur in real life for a variety of reasons - though gun duels occurred, they were more akin to what we think of for Eastern or European gun duels and very, very rare. The West was never as deadly as the lies of outlaws and tales of pulps would have liked us to believe. It's basically enforcing genre conventions (or, rather, Siembieda's very specific notion of genre conventions), and that'd be fine if the rules were set up to make those genre conventions playable - but they aren't.

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 17:25 on Jul 5, 2017

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Alien Rope Burn posted:

It specifically mentions you're supposed to go unarmored, even though that's a death sentence with these rules. No rule against being naturally armored, though, so the best duelists are going to be mega-damage monsters...

Which is plenty of bullshit, in and of itself. Wyatt Earp is believed to have worn a metal vest, particularly at the O.K. Corral shootout, although he denied it. George Goodfellow, the medical examiner and doctor in Tombstone, even developed early ballistic vests made from padded silk after examining a body where a folded up silk handkerchief stopped one of the bullets.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

And of course, Western gun duels are an invention of fiction and didn't occur in real life for a variety of reasons - though gun duels occurred, they were more akin to what we think of for Eastern or European gun duels and very, very rare. The West was never as deadly as the lies of outlaws and tales of pulps would have liked us to believe. It's basically enforcing genre conventions (or, rather, Siembieda's very specific notion of genre conventions), and that'd be fine if the rules were set up to make those genre conventions playable - but they aren't.

Yeah, most gunfighters where killed in ambush, usually bring shot in the back, like Wild Bill Hickok and Jesse James.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Young Freud posted:

Yeah, most gunfighters where killed in ambush, usually bring shot in the back, like Wild Bill Hickok and Jesse James.

Right, most gunfights occurred in the heat of the moment and not in any planned fashion. Moreover, guns of the era just weren't very good for the precision accuracy you see in movies, so more often than not the first shot would miss unless you were catching somebody entirely unaware, giving them a chance to shoot back. (It says something that one "Eastern" form of duel involved the challenged party taking the first shot and then taking turns firing at each other, because the chance to hit even at a modest range was not real great even for skilled individuals with guns of the time.)

Prism
Dec 22, 2007

yospos


Young Freud posted:

Which is plenty of bullshit, in and of itself. Wyatt Earp is believed to have worn a metal vest, particularly at the O.K. Corral shootout, although he denied it. George Goodfellow, the medical examiner and doctor in Tombstone, even developed early ballistic vests made from padded silk after examining a body where a folded up silk handkerchief stopped one of the bullets.

This has antiquity behind it, though Goodfellow probably didn't know it; lightly armoured Mongol horsemen would wear layered silk, because they caught barbed arrows and made them possible to pull out (rather than cut out or push through, which was what you'd have to do otherwise).

Prism fucked around with this message at 19:23 on Jul 5, 2017

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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





CHAPTER TWO PART ONE: CHARACTERS

Or

The Calm Before The Storm




Let's discuss character creation! Character creation is an 11 step process as illustrated here:



Yeah, uh, so. Your CIN determines your character's general age group which determines minimums for your starts. Everything up to Conviction is basically random. Which is fine. I like chargen that's generally random, ish, but functionally random. Let's go deeper.

Convict Identification Number



Your CIN is your name, like how Valjean was 24601. The lower your CIN, the longer you've been in the PTM prison system. Everyone has been in prison for a minimum of 6 years: the minimum time you can spend is one year and it takes 5 years for the Gehenna to go off the rails. You've got a pretty good chance of being a proper Convict which was when the PTM was really going hard on filling up cells and capturing people. Your convict's status then directly informs your...

Attributes



AAH doesn't have any skills, it's all just a roll-under system (except for combat but we'll get for that). On average, to do something you roll 1d12 and succeed if the result is equal or less to your attribute. If it's opposed against someone else, you roll 1d12 and add the attribute score, winning if you beat the opponent. You can also repeatedly take checks if you fail at something but that adds a cumulative +1 to the result every time you try. With me so far? Cool. Minimum 1, Maximum 10 for your Attributes. And they are:
  • Prowess: Prowess is strength and endurance rolled into one. This is the only combat stat. Prowess is used for hitting in fights, feats of strength and seeing if you can endure things.
  • Reflexes: Reflexes is the dodge stat. It's used for dodging attacks, stealth and figuring out initiative.
  • Wits: How smart you are. Used to sense/plan ambushes, analyze situations/formulate plans or as a perception stat.
  • Willpower: Mental resistance and resilience. Willpower is Capital-I Important. It's used to resist accumulating Despair/Guilt/Insanity, to calm the lizard brain and act how you want to and to resist corruption.
  • Sociability: Charisma! Sociability is used for lying, Convict Lore based on their reputations and also to see how folks feel about you and if you can change that.
  • Intimidation: For some reason Intimidation is a stat. Sure, whatever. I know this is a prison game but, like, I'm not a huge fan of this design choice. I think it exists so that Sociability isn't as powerful as it could be. Intimidation is used to force info from others, resist coercion and figure out how people will respond to your rep/how tough you are.
You also figure out your starting Ludovico Gauges depending on your type of convict. The LGs measure your character's ongoing psychological state. This is a bit more robust than, say, Call of Cthulhu's sanity system but...it has problems we'll have to address when we get to its whole chunk of the book. Resisting gaining DGI is done with a Will roll when appropriate. Each one has a rating between 0 and 10, with all of them behaving differently when full.

Despair measures fear and Despair checks are used to see if a character succumbs to panic or other fear-based reactions. A character with 0 Despair is perfectly at ease. You don't start play with any Despair, you just gain it from outside sources causing your characters to feel tension or fear.



Guilt measures the character's conscience. Guilt doesn't necessarily mean that your character committed the crime they were imprisoned for. Rather, it indicates how at ease they are with themselves and their past/current actions. Your starting Guilt is permanent and can never go below that level. This has...problems, big problems that we'll have to address later. Guilt is gained when you have to do something that will or will possibly harm others. A character with 0 Guilt is at ease with themselves and innocent (or at least feels innocent). The longer you've been in prison, the higher your starting Guilt due to the harsh necessities of prison life.



Insanity is a direct measure of your character's mental stability and their slow slip into madness. The more Insanity you gain, the more mental disorders you'll gain (that will be discussed later). 0 Insanity means the prisoner is perfectly sane and stable. Insanity is the gauge that gets filled less frequently. While the occasional Save Vs. Insanity check will pop up, the main way to increase Insanity is to hit 10 in Despair or Guilt. When you do, the Gauge empties out and one level of Insanity is gained. This also has the side effect of summoning a Demon but well that'll be discussed later.



So remember how you start with a permanent Guilt level? And you gain more Insanity from that gauge filling up and emptying? Yeah.

Health

Everyone starts play with 10 Health, with 10 Health being perfect shape and 0 being unconscious. 0 Health means you're KO'd until you get medical attention that raises you to 1, unable to act in any form. If you go to negatives, that's when we get into the fun stuff. In the negatives, you're Incapacitated, which results in a roll on the Recovery Table (which we'll see later). To briefly summarize, you're a glass cannon. But then again so is everyone else, generally speaking (Demons are definitely not as easy to kill as you). You can gain more health but it's hard and requires you to stay alive long enough to earn it.

To get a taste of just how lethal this all is, please see the following chart:



Build Points

Build Points are determined based on the sum of your attributes.



So your character may just suck forever at everything but hey, they have more points than the guy who is generally decent with their attributes! Slight problem with that, though. For starters, some of these Traits (read: feats) you can get have an attribute minimum. Second, you still have to roll off these attributes to do these things. Finally, your "advantage" for being Sadsack Noodlearms is that on average you'll only have an extra 100 BP. See, the average Convict has a minimum of a 2 in a stat and the average (cumulative) rolls of 6d8 is 27 extra points. Average Convict will have around 39 points which means that Sadsack will be up by 150 points due to this spread. Further problems: no Traits have a 50 point cost, point cost of Traits depends on your crime, there are only so many Traits that increase your attributes at chargen, you still have to roll Attributes to do poo poo. For all intents and purposes, Sadsack gets extra dibs on a Trait that costs 100 points for them as opposed to Average Convict, but Sadsack still sucks at doing mostly everything and is possibly locked out of certain beneficial Traits due to aforementioned suckiness. Kind of a good idea on paper but when you start poking at dice averages it all goes to poo poo. If you want this idea to work, you really need to throw much more BP at the crappy convicts.

Conviction Record

The PTM essentially reduced all charges to four different groups. Every character has to have been charged and convicted with one of these four choices. These choices can't be changed and also influence the BP costs for traits. Each choice also gets a free pick of one Trait and +1 to a choice between two attributes. They are:

MURDERER: The charge of Murderer doesn't just apply to people who actually killed people but people who were considered to be a public threat or predisposed to killing. The character examples are: a soldier who either served or was trained in the Last War, a maniac/serial killer, a robber who accidentally killed someone in a bad heist, a white-collar man who was plotting to kill his wife for whatever reason, or a serial poisoner who did it to see if they could be caught.

Murderers get +1 to either Prowess or Intimidation and get Cold-Blooded, Military Training, Obsession, Public Menace or Psychopath as their free Trait.

VICE OFFENDER: Hedonism was in full bloom whenever there was peace or whenever people wanted reprieve from the horrors of the world. If the PTM wants there to be no sin and no crime, then there needs to be no temptation. Vice Offender is a very broad term for people who owned contraband or engaged in habits/practices that were frowned upon by the law. The character examples are: a hedonist whose indulgences brought down the hammer, a drug addict/drug pusher/alcoholic, a pimp/prostitute, anyone accused or convicted of a sex crime, someone who was in possession of outlawed materials.

Vice Offenders get +1 to Wits or Sociability and get Candy-Man, Obsession, Public Menace, Scheister or Seducer as their free Trait.

DISSIDENT: Like Vice Offender, "Dissident" is a pretty broad term. As a whole, Dissidents were sentenced to prison due to being considered a threat to the public peace and civilization. Some of them were legitimately guilty of no crime except criticizing the government in public. The character examples are: a politician who was vehemently opposed to the New Regime and was imprisoned when they took over, an urban guerilla/terrorist/freedom fighter who committed crimes against the state in rebellion, a hacker/underground broadcaster convicted for the messages they spread, someone who said the wrong thing in public around the wrong people and was quietly Unpersoned.

Dissidents get +1 to Wits or Willpower and get Born Leader, Educated, Military Training, Public Menace or Sociable as their free Trait.

ANARCHIST: Whereas Dissidents were imprisoned for speaking against society, Anarchists were imprisoned for not fitting in with society. The majority of Anarchists were people who didn't commit murder and didn't count as a Vice Offender or a Dissident. Some of them are bona-fide "slaughter the gods and topple their thrones" revolutionaries while others still claim nationalities and pride for countries that don't exist anymore. The character examples are: someone who did crimes for cheap thrills because they were bored, a street kid who was caught vandalizing a pro-PTM billboard, a hacker who left a harmless virus on a government computer for giggles, someone nostalgic for the way things were who was a little too vocal about it.

Anarchists get +1 to Wits or Intimidation and get Hacking, Maverick, Obsession, Public Menace or Sociopath as their free Trait.

So in a sense of Good Free Stuff, Dissidents get the best of it. We'll go further into the Traits in a bit, but the +1 to Willpower is very good and they have access to 4 Traits that have no downsides and have a full range of abilities. They make good social characters, which is a totally viable and fun play focus. They don't get Hacking for free, but they do get it for cheap. I can't really list the others in any sort of ranking because they all have...issues.
  • Murderers are pretty niche. They do get +1 Prowess (which, y'know, pick over Intimidation) and Military Training is a good way to ease in to being a good combat monster. However, Obsession and Psychopath and Public Menace and Sociopath all have downsides to take them. If you want to be a character who is both mentally sound and better at fighting, I sure hope you like playing a soldier who didn't necessarily see combat.
  • Vice Offenders are good at getting things people need, which can be handy pre or post Hell. They also make good social characters and they're the only ones able to craft drugs. Their attribute boost is good either way. However, Obsession and Public Menace aren't necessarily great, Scheister is of negligible use in Hell and Seducer is super problematic.
  • Anarchists come off as the weakest to me. Yeah the +1 to Wits is good. Hacking is nice and Maverick has its benefits. Thematically...they're the "whatever" group and it shows. They just feel kind of extraneous and their other Traits aren't great.
Speaking of Traits, I'm splitting this in two parts so next time will be FEAT HELL.

Hostile V fucked around with this message at 03:22 on Jul 6, 2017

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Ninja Crusade 2nd Edition: How Do I Ninja

We've covered a lot of the basics of Gifts and Triggers, but one note - you can do the Trigger yourself to get a Karma point for the party's pool, or the GM can offer you Karma if you'll do it. Either is fine. We'll get to how Karma works in a moment. As noted, you add two skill values together to get a pool of d10s to roll, and 7-9 are 1 success, while 10 is 2 successes. No successes and any die with a 1 means critical failure. Difficulty is how many successes you need. For every full 3 successes you get over that, you get a Boost. The average Dfficulty is 1 for stuff that's pretty easy, 2 for stuff that needs focus or 3 for advanced tasks. 4 means it's very complex, and 5 is nearly impossible and success looks amazing. The GM is free to adjust the Difficulty if you use a skill combo less suitable than the one they offer you for a task. If you have no levels in either skill in a skill combo, you can still do it...but you roll only one die, and it only succeeds on a 10, though you still get 2 successes from that. Everything else is standard - bonuses add dice, penalties subtract dice, Opposed checks mean you're rolling against someone else's roll. Extended checks are those where you have lots of smaller steps that are still dramatically important, so you roll several times, each time against a Difficulty assigned by the GM, to try and build up successes. Critical failure always immediately ends an Extended check. So again, still pretty standard.

So, Boosts. To get a Boost on Difficulty 1, say, you need 4 successes. If you want 2 Boosts, you need 7. Different skills have various Boost effects suggested, as you recall, as do jutsu trees or some weapons. Commonly, Boosts are used to affect extra targets, do extra damage, gather extra information, do something to better effect, gain Karma, get a bonus or a reduction of Difficulty to another check, do something really stylishly, do something faster than normal or, in some cases, make a condition on the target.

Critical failures are pretty much always bad - you get really bad things happening, and in Opposed checks, your opponent gets a Boost on top of that. However, every time you suffer consequences from a critical failure, the party gains 1 Karma. So that's nice. And, again, if you use the same skill combo more than twice in a row (except for Extended checks), you get a cumulative -1 penalty to that particular combo. So vary it up.

So, what is Karma? The party shares a pool of Karma. At the start of each session, it begins with 1 point in it per player, and there can never be more than 10 points in the pool at any given time. Typically, points are added by Triggers or critical failures, but oyu can also give up a Boost's normal benefits to gain a Karma. So what do you do with it? Well, any member of the party can spend points of Karma from the pool to get the same amount of bonus dice on a check, but should describe how they inspire the party's sense of purpose and unity. Alternatively, you may spend 2 Karma to edit the scene n a small way, such as declaring that you set up a trap in advance or you knew an NPC already. For larger rewrites, the GM may raise the cost to 4 Karma.

Movement is, by default, as far as you can go in a turn without a check while walking or jogging. Multiply by 10 for your top speed, though this may require a check to keep that speed on an incline, while avoiding obstacles or over jagged or slippery terrain. Without a check, you can jump Movement+(Might*2) feet horizontally, or half that vertically. You can double that with a check, and may need to make a check to land safely. Climbing is half your Movement and usually takes a check. Swimming is possible if you have at least 1 point of Athletics, and in calm waters you need no check but move at half Movement. In rough water, you need a check to make progress.

Strength (Athletics+Might) is your raw power. You can carry 50+(25*Strength) pounds before encumbrance penalties start, and can deadlift twice that. If you are encumbered, you get -1 to all physical checks, and the same if you try to deadlift more than your max. Also, for deadlifting, you can't take any other Actions until you drop your load. Also, your Strength determines what sorts of things you can do as a feat of strength, ranging from 'break a wooden chair' at Strength 3 to uprooting a tree at Strength 12. (12 is your theoretical cap, with both at 5 and a relevant specialty in each skill.)

Journeys are a major subsystem. Every Journey has five steps, beginning with the Village, then moving to any stage you like except the Temple, which is always the last. A PC can only make one check for a journey, at least until everyone's gone once. The Village stage represents planning and prep for the journey, and by default it's a Knowledge+Persuade check. Success allows you to reroll any single other stage once, chosen by the PC that did the Village step. Failure means that the Difficulty of any one other stage goes up by 1. The River is the pace of travel and distance traveled. The default is Fortitude+Travel for foot travel, with a success restoring 1 Psyche and a failure causing Deprived 1. The Forge represents enemies or confrontations on the journey. It defaults to Perception+Stealth, with success meaning you detect and either avoid or ambush the foes, and a failure meaning you just go to a Battle. The Mountain represents obstacles and environmental hazards. This defaults to Survival+Travel, with a sucess meaning finding a useful refuge or item and failure meaning loss of equipment or getting Injury 1. The final stage, the Temple, represents your arrival and reception. This defaults to Empathy+Intuition, with success meaning you find a helpful local as a temporary Contact and failure meaning any enemies in the area know you've arrived.

So, Battles. Battles get a bit complicated. One Round lasts betwen 10 and 30 seconds, and everyone gets a Turn each Round. You go in Initiative order, highest to lowest - that being (Intuition+Speed+3), though it can be modified by various abilities or jutsu you might have. If two or more characters have the same Initiative, then you roll one die each to determine the order. Also, you can hold your action to go later if you want to.

On your turn, you get your Standard Action. You get just the one, by default. You can also take a Quick Action on your turn, but if you do, you get -1 to your Standard Action (if you take one). The example Quick Actions: You can feint to distract a target, giving +2 to the next attack against them. You can Move, moving up to (Movement*3) feet (on top of your base Movement, which is free each Round). You can draw an object out, including a weapon. You can touch someone harmlessly as a Quick Action, as well, though doing so may require a check.

The example Standard Actions are: Inflict Harm (you attack someone, either physically or mentally/socially), Plan Attack (you either aim to get +2 to your nexct physical attack on the target as long as you don't have to Move or Defend before then, or you size up the target to get +2 to your next mental attack on them), Affect Composure (you try to provoke a specific emotion and also deal a tiny bit of mental damage), Disarm (you knock away a weapon or undercut an argument, removing bonuses), Initiate Grab (you go for a physical hold to penalize movements and ability to hurt anyone but you or go into a staredown to penalize Discipline), Break Grab (you try to disengage from the previous), Knock Back (you hit someone in an effort to send them flying back), Knock Down (you trip someone or otherwise knock them over), Mold Ki (you tap into the environment to gain a point of Ki once per Round), Retreat (you try to get away from someone physically or withdraw from an argument, though it's always risky), Sprint/Rush (you move up to Movement*10 feet, and become hard to hit, but your next Action must be Inflict Harm, Knock Back, Knock Down or some other physical action) or Use Jutsu (you try to activate a jutsu, which may then require you to take another action to properly use it).

However, you may have noted that Dynamic Actions exist. These are your ability to react on the fly rather than waiting for your Turn. You get an amount each Round, plus a number of dice you can roll. Each success on those dice adds a Dynamic Action to your pool. You can also spend ki 1 for 1 to get Dynamic Actions. So what can you do with Dynamic Actions? A hell of a lot! You can spend a Dynamic Action to cancel a Backfire you've caused or to negate cumulative penalties from past Backfires. You can spend a Dynamic Action after a successful Defense to make a Standard Action as a counter attack - it can be any kind of offensive action, but must be against the initial attacker. You can spend a Dynamic Action to get +1 damage on a successful attack, once per attack per target (and you can do that after you know if you hit). You can spend a Dynamic Action as you attack to get +2 to the roll, even after the roll is done. You can spend a Dynamic Action to make an attack against someone who retreats from you in close combat. But that's just the offensive uses! You can also use these defnesively.

You can spend 2 Dynamic Actions to instantly make a jutsu activation check to deflect an attack, reducing the attack's successes. You can do with just about any jutsu that you and the GM agree is subitable, but can only do it once per attack. You can spend a Dynamic Aciton to get +2 to your Defense check, even after the roll's been made. You can spend as many Dynamic Actions as you want to reduce damage you take by an equal amount. But hey! That's not all!

You can spend a Dynamic Action to mess around with the environment in some way - set things on fire, knock down snow from branches, shove a boulder, whatever. You can spend a Dynamic Action to get an extra Standard Action on your Turn, to a max of your Speed in total actions without penalty. Any actions past that happen at your Initiative minus 2, cumulatively - so if you have Speed 3, you can spend 5 Dynamic Actions to act 5 times, three times at, say, Initiative 7, once at Initiative 5, and once at Initiative 3. You cannot act below Initiative 0, but that's the only limit. You can spend a Dynamic Action to ignore the effects of all of your active conditions for one Action. You can spend a Dynamic Action to raise your Initiative by 2 or lower osmeone else's Initiative by 2 - this is a good way to use up any Dynamic Actions you have at the end of the Round, explicitly noted. You can spend 2 Dynamic Actions to immediately interrupt someone else's Action with an Action of your own, but you can only do this once per Round. And yes, you can Interrupt someone else's Interruption. And last, you can spend up to 2 Dynamic Actions when making a Mold Ki action to get an equal amount of extra ki from the tap.

So what is Defense like? Well, first, you can make up to (Athletics) Defense checks each Round without penalty. AFter that, you get a cumulative -1 penalty at each additional Defense due to being overwhelmed. There's several different options to Defend with. You can Block or Parry. Physically this is obvious (though it gets -2 if you're trying to parry a weapon while unarmed), and socially/mentally this is basically shrugging off someone's comment or countering with something just as bad about the attacker. You can Brace, which forgoes any attempt to prevent the hit, but gives you (Fortitude/2) Armor against the attack (physically) or (Discipline/2) Armor (mentally), allowing you to reduce the attack's damage, to a minimum of 1. You can Catch a thrown (or dropped) item, and then you have it in hand, but you get -2 if the item is spiky or sharp, and if you fail, you don't reduce the attack's successes at all (I think). You can Dodge or Evade, though physically this is only possible in melee, and socially it's evasion or denial of the question. You can Find Cover, allowing you to get anywhere within range of a Move action. The GM rules if the cover can take the hit or if you take half damage, for a close attack, or causes -1 to the attack roll, for a distant one. Socially, this is done by deflecting an attack onto someone else. Lastly, you can Protect. Physically, this means interposing yourself on an attack against someone within (Movement/2) (or twice that with a Dynamic Action), taking full damage for them. Socially, you do the same but are basically stepping out and going 'no you're talking about me'.

For all of these, the skill combo involved is variable, and the book offers several examples of how to do any of them. For example, Fighting+Speed for a melee blow, Intimidation+Discipline for a nasty insult or Marksman+Perception to fire an arrow are all Inflict Harm. Fighting+Athletics to leap over a leg sweep and Athletics+Speed to dive under a blow are both Dodge. It's all down to what makes most sense for how you want to do it.

Incoming damage is also reduced by your Armor rating, though most ninja do not actually wear physical armor. If you are wearing armor, you get -2 to physical ACtions per point of the armor. This applies only to PCs - enemy soldiers can wear Armor without penalty, because they're NPCs, but most of those guys don't have jutsu and you do. Armor gained from jutsu does not slow you down.

Weapons! Weapons rely a bit on range. There are five Ranges: Grappling (you're close enough to grab someone), Close (you're within 5 feet of someone and can hit them), Near (you're within 6 to 15 feet of someone and can hit them with a Reach weapon, or can throw a non-Ranged weapon at them at -2), Far (you can see the target clearly and can hit them with Ranged weapons) and Distant (you can see them but not clearly, and can hit them with a Ranged weapon at -2). For the most part, drawing a weapon scales a fight up. A fistfight can be shrugged off, but weapons make it more lethal. All weapons cause +1 damage to your attack, plus whatever their Qualities do. Weapons are either Small (handheld, easily concealed), Standard (swords, kama, etc.) or Large (two-handed).

Weapon Qualities
Blunt: You may cause Pain 1 on a Boost.
Brutal: This weapon does +2 damage instead of +1.
Chain: If your attack ties the enemy's Defense, you still do 1 damage.
Concealable: +2 Stealth to conceal this weapon.
Crushing: You may cause Bruised 1 on a Boost.
Disarming: You may disarm the target on a Boost.
Fragile: This weapon does +0 damage instead of +1.
Heavy: The target gets -1 to Block/Parry this weapon.
Master-Crafted: This weapon cannot be broken, disarmed or affected by jutsu, and you get +1 to all checks with it.
Quick: You get +1 Initiative while wielding this.
Ranged: You may attack at Far or Distant Range with this.
Reach: You may attack at Near Range with this.
Paired: You get +1 to Block with this weapon, but if you're only using one, you get -2 to all checks.
Piercing: This weapon ignores 1 level of Armor.
Poisonous: You may cause Poisoned 1 on a Boost.
Skilled: You get +1 to a specific skill while wielding this.
Slow: You get -2 Initiative while wielding this.
Unpredictable: The target gets -1 to Dodge this weapon.
Unwieldy: You get -1 to attacks using this weapon.

A weapon can have 2 positive Qualities, or 3 positive Qualities and 1 negative Quality. The exception is Master-Crafted, which costs 5 XP because it basically means you have a magic weapon. Improvised weapons work exactly the same way as normal weapons, but replace one positive Quality with Fragile.

Next time: Enemies.

Internet Wizard
Aug 9, 2009

BANDAIDS DON'T FIX BULLET HOLES



Alien Rope Burn posted:

Right, most gunfights occurred in the heat of the moment and not in any planned fashion. Moreover, guns of the era just weren't very good for the precision accuracy you see in movies, so more often than not the first shot would miss unless you were catching somebody entirely unaware, giving them a chance to shoot back. (It says something that one "Eastern" form of duel involved the challenged party taking the first shot and then taking turns firing at each other, because the chance to hit even at a modest range was not real great even for skilled individuals with guns of the time.)

I'm sorry but that bolded part is just simply not true in any sense. Guns are generally more accurate than the person shooting them, especially (relatively) untrained people in stressful situations. This is just as true now as it was 100 years ago.

This statement could be true if you were talking about guns from before rifling became common, but that was something that changed over 100 years before the period of the Old West.

Dareon
Apr 6, 2009


Yeah, a significant amount of guns of the era are still in use and manufacture today, although that is primarily due to reliability and we are seeing the best of the era.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Ninja Crusade 2nd Edition: Ninjas Kill People All The Time

I forgot to talk about Conditions last time! Conditions are a good way to avoid death. If you hit 0 Health, see, you begin dying if you don't get medical attention within a few minutes. If you hit 0 Psyche, you aren't dying, but will have a breakdown and go into a coma for a while. If you take damage while one bar is at 0, the damage is dealt to your other bar. If both of your bars are at 0, you die immediately. So hitting 0 is very, very bad and you never want to do that. To avoid that, you have Conditions.

You can never have more than 4 conditions at once, and their total rating cannot eceed 10. Further, any single condition can't exceed 5. Sometimes the GM will tell you what condition to take, sometimes you'll talk to them and decide what's best. When you damage, you may choose to reduce the damage and instead take a condition at level equal to the amount of damage you chose not to take. Some weapons and jutsu will cause conditions without dealing damage. If your condition slots are full, the condition is dealt as damage instead. Conditions all have a number of different effects. For example, Bleeding forces you to make a Fortitude check when doing anything strenuous to avoid taking damage. Bruised makes you take extra damage when hit. Afraid forces you to have to make a Discipline+Empathy check each round to avoid running away if faced with the thing you're afraid of. Convinced gives you a penalty to detecting lies from the person you're convinced by. Pain gives you a penalty to checks based on how much damage you've taken. Poisoned deals damage to you each Round in Battle and gives a penalty to checks outside of it.

Level 1 conditions go away when the scene ends, or if the GM thinks it appropriate, when the next scene ends - but never more than that. Level 2-3 conditions last for (rating) days before dropping a level. Level 4-5 conditions last an entire session before dropping a level. How else can you heal damage? Well, once per Scene, someone with Holistics 1 or more can make a Holistics check to try and heal someone (but healing yourself is done at -2). Success heals 1 damage, or 2 on a Boost. Any other damage has to heal naturally between scenes or overnight. Likewise, once per session, a character with Holistics 3+ can try to treat someone else's conditions with a Holistics check (but never their own), with a penalty based on how bad the condition is. Success means you reduce it by 1, or 2 with a Boost. No one can ever get more than one healing treatment in a single scene.

Tehre are five types of NPC you can fight. (A single average person is basically not a threat; they only count as enemies if they team up.) Squads are small groups of enemies, usually with a total Health and Psyche triple that of a normal PC, of which any given squad member has only a fraction. A Squad with 20 Health and 5 members, say, loses one member every 4 damage. Each time they lose a member, they get -1 to Attach and Defense. Squads usually only have the one Action per round, but when they attack, every squad member gets to make an attack.

Legions are a large gathering of foes - a battalion of soldiers or a rogue ninja clan. Legions don't actually have Health or Psyche - they just have a combined bar that, if it is damaged enough, makes them disperse. You can't really kill a Legion - they'll reform when you leave. It's possible to defeat them entirely, but it requires special conditions set by the GM, such as the death of their commander, the destruction of a key bridge, a breach in a specific load-bearing wall, that kind of thing. Legions tend to have 1 or 2 Actions per round, depending on their size, and can attack everyone in the area they occupy simultaneously.

Warriors are single fighters about on par with a PC. Naturally, they tend to work with a Squad or Legion supporting them, because a team of ninja will easily defeat a lone Warrior. Alternatively, you could have a team of Warriors.

Masters are stronger foes who can handle multiple ninja. They tend to have three times a normal PC's Health and Psyche all by themselves. They will typically have a few lackeys around to help, however, because even they can't usually solo an entire PC party.

Grand Masters can...but also tend to have minions around, at least for the look of it. These are supremely powerful foes, and it's rare to see them without helpers, too.

Every enemy has only a few stats. They have a dicepool for all Attacks, a dicepool for all Defense, the number of Dynamic Actions they get per round and their Initiative. They do not roll for extra Dynamic Actions. Sometimes, they will also have multiple attacks per round, on top of their Dynamic Actions. They will occasionally have a list of suggested skills and a dicepool for those, for if the GM needs to know what they might have. If an enemy becomes a recurring threat, the GM is told to look into enhancing or changing the example skill lists. Oh, and they have a damage bonus that applies regardless of what weapon they use. The GM can adjust that up or down by 1 if they like. Lastly, every enemy has Techniques - a list of skills they're good at handling and a list of skills they're bad at handling. The former are marked with a (+), so an enemy with Athletics (+) gets an extra die if you use Athletics against them, because they're good at handling that. A really powerful foe might have (++) instead, giving +2 dice. (-) is the opposite - a foe with Athletics (-) gets a -1 penalty when you use Athletics against them. The GM can, of course, shift these modifiers around as needed for the game. It's always best to do some recon and learn what kind of things your foe can and can't handle.

Most NPCs don't have jutsu or use the PC jutsu system. They do, however, have Martial Arts powers. These operate similarly, but tend to have a weakness or loophole, called a Twist, often tied to one of several skills for the GM to choose from. These weaknesses allow clever PCs to defeat these powerful techniques, if they can learn how. Once again, recon is a great idea. Conditions are also a good way to fight some foes. Against Squads and Legions, Conditions are just extra damage, basically.

So, you're wondering how good a Ninja Dog actually is? Well, a Smaller Animal is a Warrior with Health 7, Psyche 3, a 6-die attack pool, a 6-die defense pool, 2 actions per round, 0 Armor, Initiative 5 and Damage +1. They get 1 Dynamic Action per round, and usually have around 3 levels in Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Speed or Stealth. They are Athletics (+), Deception (+), Intimidation (-) and Deception (-), because it's hard to outrun or dodge an animal, but it's usually easy to scare or trick them. And, of course, ninja dogs get more Health and Psyche. So they're pretty decent as combat pets but not that much of a threat to an actual ninja.

An Imperial Battalion, on the other hand, is a Legion with a Damage Threshold of 30. They have Attack and Defense dicepools of 7, 2 actions per round, Armor 0, Initiative 4, Damage +2 and 1 Dynamic ACtion. They tend to have 5 ranks in Discipline, Fighting, Holistics, Intimidation, Knowledge, Marskman, Perception or Speed. They get Fortitude (+) and Speed (-) - they've got a ton of brute force, so tanking them's a bad idea, but they're not particularly fast. They also have some Martial Arts techniques

First, The Tide of Battle: every 2 Rounds, they get +1 to their Attack pool. However, the Twist is that you can usually find an easy way to escape or avoid fighting them. Second, Constant Crossfire. They have special recurve bows they're really good with, and can fire even at foes that are engaged in melee with their allies. Every 2 Rounds that you're visible to them, you take 1 damage, regardless of Armor, from arrows whizzing by. The Twist? You can spend a Dynamic Action each round to block or deflect the arrows and take no damage.

And then, you've got Celestial Animals. These guys are usually seen as enemies only when the Empire has caught and enslaved them - something the Empire's doing more often, these days. See, once upon a time, the Earth belonged to demons, but the Celestial Animals defeated the demons to make room for humanity. Humans were allies to giant bears and talking dogs, and this friendship remained until humans became more sadistic and nasty towards animals. At that point, the Celestial Animals fled to their celestial realms, away from the Earth. Each realm belongs to a specific type of Celestial Animal, a family. Turtles in one dimension, rats in another, and so on. Many believe that human souls rest in these realms between reincarnations. Each animal family has its own society and outlook, and they tend to avoid humans. Some of these realms hate and fight each other, such as the Rats and the Snakes, and most animal families don't get along regardless of what their earthly counterparts are like. CElestial Animals are mortal beings, despite being mystic spirit animals, and they want to live good lives, too. They have warred with each other and are often rather xenophobic. Sometimes, too, they become curious about Earth. However, there are strict rules about when each type can enter or leave their realm. Snakes, for example, can come only during hot summers, and only out of the darkest bogs. Bears, on the other hand, can only return home during winter.

The exception? Ninja. When a ninja makes a blood pact with an animal family, they can call on and send home these beasts whenever, bypassing the normal rules. That's why animal families do it - summoner pacts give them the chance to come and go as they like rather than relying on the strictures laid down by the universe. Most Celestial Animals are very similar in appearance to their earth counterparts, but significantly smarter - they're as smart as a human being, always, and sometimes much smarter than that. These animals, still, are the youngest or weakest ones, the Minor Animals. They blend in with normal animals, however, allowing them to more easily deal with people...though it can still be odd for them to show up in some places, like if you summon a bear in the marketplace. These animals use the normal stats you'd apply for their species, but get +1 to skills because they're smarter, and if their species would be too small to be statted, like a rat or a turtle, they use Smaller Animal stats anyway.

Above these are the Major Animals, bigger and stronger. They often do not actually resemble mundane animals - they're usually bigger, more impressive, or even humanoid. Minor Animals might be constant companions, but most Major Animals are as good if not better fighters than a ninja. They often have their own quests they're on and goals they're pursuing, so they usually make deals with ninja only out of convenience and desire to be on Earth.

Greater Animals, the strongest of the Celestial Animals are...well, kaiju. They're the size of entire cities, sometimes. Not all are that big, just the most powerful, sure, but they're all huge. They are rarely summoned unless things get really dire, as they are busy being leaders in their own realms. Instead, they'll often send their children as messengers. Summoning a Greater Animal changes the landscape of a scene entirely when it happens, and a single attack from them is usually enough to wipe out a village.

All Celestial Animals can speak the human tongue, as a gift from the Celestial Immortals. They can also speak the Old Tongue, a language forgotten by human, when they don't want humans to understand them. Celestial Animals are made of pure ki and are naturally able to perform feats that mimic jutsu abilities. Some of them are even able to teach these to ninja that prove worthy. Celestial Animals also heal all damage between scenes. However, if they are ever reduced to 0 in either health bar, they immediately vanish, returning to their celestial realm. They cannot die on Earth, but will die if killed in their home world.

Every celestial animal family has an animal type, an Element (which, if you share it, gives you +1 to summoning them), an associated skill (which you get +1 to if you have a Minor Animal around helping you work) and a general rundown of personality. Oh, and a Trigger, which you get access to if one of them is around with you.

Bears are Earth-elemental, and their skill is Holistics. Most of them are just cubs, but that doesn't make them weak or stupid. They can all be fierce, but they are actually masters of healing and alchemy, and prefer to help heal the sick and wounded. They stand out a lot, though. Their Trigger is that they're slow to attack. Most bears - not all, but most - just don't like to use the viciousness they contain within them. The party gets 1 Karma when the bear's hesitation causes harm.

The example Major Animal is the Master known as Tetsuo the Aggressor - an 18-foot-tall humanoid bear with a broadsword and an eyepatch. He loves war and fighting, and he really enjoys the Ninja Crusade, having made pacts with several summoners so he can fight more. His last defeat was against Hebi Ide, and the two of them took each others' eye. Today, he hates the Recoiling Serpents with a terrible fury. Unlike most bears, he's not much of a healer, but he loves hanging with healers, because he needs them to soothe his wounds. He especially likes the Bamboo Herbalists, but will pact with just about any ninja that can promise he'll get to fight other Celestial Animals. Tetsup has 30 Health, 20 Psyche, a 10-die attack pool, an 8-die defense pool, Armor 2, 2 Actions per round, Damage +2 and 2 Dynamic Actions, plus an average of 4 levels in the skills he has, which are mostly fighting, toughness and survival skills. He has Fighting (++), Might (+), Crafts (-) and Stealth (-). In a face-to-face battle, he's practically invincible, but ambushes and traps work really well on him. He knows any four jutsu from the Way of the Warrior and Way of Earth, chosen by the GM and/or the PC pacted to him, plus Surface Running and Lightfoot. He also has most of the techniques from the Sharp and Bear styles. O, and he has Cross-Slice. He can spend 1 Dynamic action to attack twice at once. If both hit, the target gets Bleeding 3 automatically. Tetsuo can teach this as an Advanced jutsu of the Way of the Warrior, activated with Yang+Fighting. However, there is the Twist: if the target prepares their Defense for this technique ahead of time, they can Defend against the first attack at -2. If they succeed, the second attack is negated automatically.

The most famous Greater Bear was Gen, the Greater Panda, who was summoned several years ago to heal a city sickened by the Year of Gloods. However, the Empire knew she was coming somehow, and killed her with their enslaves Celestial Scorpions by poisoning her such that she slowly died when she went home. The other Greater Bears are not so kind as Gen was and are preparing for an indsicriminate rampage, to be led by Haru the Mountain, a bear larger than the Ensen Volcano.

Canines are Wood-elemental, and their skill is Perception. They come in many sizes and breeds, but mentally they tend to be closer to wolves than dogs. They are almost all expert hunters and trackers, as well as good scouts and companions. Their Trigger, however, is that they often believe they know better. Sure, their nose will bring you somewhere - but it might not be what they say it is, given their overconfidence. The party gets 1 Karma when their destination is more dangerous than intended.

The example Major Animal is actually a Squad of 5, Jin's Crew. Jin is a century-old but young-looking dog, a master tracker that really is only slightly bigger than average for a dog. He has a crew of other celestial dogs that serve him, and they work together to help their summoners. Jin likes to watch people and study how they act, and he prefers to work with other patient, voyeuristic people. He especially likes the Pack of the Black Moon, but will work with anyone he finds interesting. He and his crew have 15 Health, 14 Psyche, 6-die attack and defense pools, 1 action per round, Armor 0, Initiative 8, +1 Damage and 2 Dynamic Actions, plus 4 levels in a wide variety of skills. They have Survival (+), Fighting (+), Marksman (-) and Intuition (-) - they're really good at using their surroundings, but can be outplanned and outranged. They know any three jutsu from the Ways of Movement, Survival or Twin Beasts. If given a scent, they can track down anything, though it might take time if the distance is great. Also, when they work together, they can perform the Double Howl. 2 of them howl to distract the foe, then the other 3 attack with +2 damage each. You can learn this as a Basic jutsu of Twin Beasts using Yin+Intimidation, in which you and your dog howl and given anyone attacking your target +1 damage until the end of the Round. Oh, but when Jin and his boys use it, though, there's the Twist: the two dogs distracting the target get -2 to their next Defense this Round.

Few like to talk about the Greater Canines, but there are many stories of 30-foot wolves feasting on the dead and slaughtering with just a glare of their glowing red eyes. Summoning such a creature would show you were powerful...but the wolf would probably then eat you to prove you weren't.

Next time: Cats, Hedgehogs, Monkeys, Rams, Rats, Roosters, Snakes and Turtles.

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 03:03 on Jul 6, 2017

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011



Hostile V posted:

So in a sense of Good Free Stuff, Dissidents get the best of it. We'll go further into the Traits in a bit, but the +1 to Willpower is very good and they have access to 4 Traits that have no downsides and have a full range of abilities. They make good social characters, which They don't get Hacking for free, but they do get it for cheap. I can't really list the others in any sort of ranking because they all have...issues.

Seems you skipped out on your sentence.

Between these tables and your warning in the first post, this is going to go places.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Internet Wizard posted:

I'm sorry but that bolded part is just simply not true in any sense. Guns are generally more accurate than the person shooting them, especially (relatively) untrained people in stressful situations. This is just as true now as it was 100 years ago.

This statement could be true if you were talking about guns from before rifling became common, but that was something that changed over 100 years before the period of the Old West.

Fair enough, I got bad info, I'll sit corrected.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Dareon posted:

Yeah, a significant amount of guns of the era are still in use and manufacture today, although that is primarily due to reliability and we are seeing the best of the era.

Ocelot was singing the praises about the Colt Single Action Army for a drat good reason, even if it's near certain his is a later model.

The Wild West was mid and post-Civil War and took full advantage of the jump in technology that occurred in the war.

MollyMetroid
Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo


The Celestial Animals are great. They're one of my favorite elements of Ninja Crusade.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Echo Cian posted:

Seems you skipped out on your sentence.

Between these tables and your warning in the first post, this is going to go places.
Whoops, thank you!

Also those are indeed some cute-rear end celestial animals.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Alien Rope Burn posted:

Fair enough, I got bad info, I'll sit corrected.

Don't feel bad, nearly every good story about the old west involves everyone missing everyone and killing random passersby, it's just that the reason is that most of them were only in proximity to each other while drunk as can be. Months on the range with only rationed booze followed by brief periods of having little else but money, bullets, and access to whiskey makes anyone a terrible shot.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

So, Ninja Crusade is good?

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.


Rand Brittain posted:

So, Ninja Crusade is good?

Yes. I kind of wish went forward with doing that article on it now on my blog so I can link to that, but, generally, I would consider it a good game. It's not perfect and has some clear and present problems, but I would consider it good.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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





CHAPTER TWO PART TWO

Or

FEAT HELL


Traits

Here's how this is going to go this time around. In the book, every single Trait is listed in alphabetic order. This is annoying and also stupid. Group your loving feats. Each Trait belongs to one of five groups: Aberrant, Background, Combat, Psychology and Social. I've cut out the group listing and prices for every type of convict, then taken the Traits themselves and compiled them into one picture per group. Beneath that, I'll be commenting on problems or thoughts about them. If you want to see the feats as written, expand the pictures. I think this'll just look a lot more palatable than me listing a giant pile of stuff and then only explaining the ones that don't make immediate sense. I enjoy slowly getting better at laying these things out the more I do them.

Asterisks (*) denote that they can't be purchased after chargen. You can spend 50 BP to ignore one requirement from a Trait so you can take it. So while there are no Traits that cost 50 BP, if you're hell-bent on taking a certain Trait you can pay extra. Also I don't think you can take that Trait if there's a hyphen through the price? This is never explained in the game but I imagine it to be the case.

ABERRANT TRAITS


  • Beneficial Glitch is handy for prison life but not entirely necessary. It just seems so minor.
  • If you're the designated fighter, definitely take Brute when you can.
  • Garbled Records is useless unless you want to take the things that require you to have a certain way your CIN lines up. Considering how few there are, it's not vital.
  • Mole is...okay. It might lead to you getting more attention than the other players or getting confused because the GM isn't giving you a very good clue for what you're supposed to do. The Access is nice at least.
  • Mutant is too random to be reliably useful. At least 7 out of the 12 can be considered good.
  • Quickness is vital. The best defense in this game is a good offense.
  • Refuse to Die is also very good and limited to just Murderers or Anarchists.
  • Sixth Sense is handy if you have the Wits.
  • Uncanny Resemblance is a good defense for you if you want to avoid fighting the robots. This is way more handy before going to Hell, however.
Good Trait Count: 5/9

BACKGROUND TRAITS


  • Chain Smoker is annoying in prison life but it's real good for stress management in Hell. Plus that lighter is good when all the power starts failing. If you're not going to be the fighter or don't need to be athletic, this Trait is your friend.
  • Educated is good for being the universal Knowledge ability and overall good if you're going the smart route.
  • Hacking is super useful in both prison life and Hell incursion for getting around obstacles and into places.
  • Hard Labor is good if you need to be the punchboy. You'll find that there are many "this is just +1 to a stat and then nothing else happens really" Traits in this game. You don't spend BP to level up your attributes, after all; you spend BP to buy Traits that level up your attributes.
  • Impressive Background is tricky. See, it's one of many Traits that is a "discount to this pool!" trait. Plus considering how everything in this game so far is a big round number that's at least 100, it kind of makes things tricky for BP. It is nice getting six Traits for the price of 5 at least. However, literally every single "level up your Attribute" Trait that comes later in Advanced Traits falls under Background so it's worth the 100 point investment.
  • Improvisation is absolutely vital if you're going to go the Crafting route (which is legitimately viable and thematically appropriate for this game).
  • Innocent is good for starting with an empty Guilt gauge. Plus there are only a handful of Traits in chargen that increase Guilt permanently, so...yeah, take this is you can.
  • If you ever wanted to role-play hiding things up your rear end, Large Cavity has your back. Completely useless in Hell.
  • Lost Knowledge is real good if you go the smarty pants route if it wasn't for the fact that literally every single basic NPC template has a minimum of Wits 6. I guess really pump up that Wits stat.
  • Medical Knowledge is decent enough.
  • Military Experience isn't necessary; Military Training is more important than the extra stat boost because the Training is used for a decent combat Trait. The stat boost is nice but locks you out of Innocent and more permanent Guilt isn't great.
  • Take Orderly or don't. Probably don't. The Reflexes bonus is really the only thing worth it.
  • The Intimidation bonus from Public Menace is definitely not worth it.
  • Scrounger is decent but the real thing that shines is getting more components from salvage.
  • It's real dumb that if you have crap stats you have to buy Self Improvement to rearrange them. That's just stupid.
  • Smuggler is only useful for regular prison life.
  • Stool Pigeon doesn't really provide much in the way of smokes and counting refusing orders as provocation is...stupid. Not enough benefits.
  • You only take Tortured for the Will or if you want to join a specific gang. It's...okay.
Good Trait Count: 12/19

COMBAT TRAITS


  • Backstabber is great if you plan on overwhelming enemies with force but HA HA don't count on it. Like, okay, yes it's decent. The issue is that enemies, from what I've seen in the pre-made mission chronicle, don't tend to come alone. And when they do, you're probably not with everyone else.
  • Battle Plan is meh but at least it buffs everyone.
  • Take Brawler. Weapons aren't necessarily guaranteed and more attack actions means killing enemies faster.
  • Calculated Fighter is interesting and a nice way to make a smart dude more versatile. The Despair limit is pretty drat low though.
  • Called Shot isn't a problem in the slightest if you have good enough Prowess.
  • Commando Fighting is why Training is worth it. Better defense? Yes please!
  • Comstock Style is the first of the styles, to which there are no limits for a prisoner knowing them. The benefit of the d20 is that you have a better chance of rolling higher than the enemy. It's a good once-per-encounter power.
  • Fifty-Two is also good.
  • Find Weakness is interesting. If you're brawling, you might not use that movement that turn and it's a good trade-off. The downside is the penalty for fighting Custodians and Demons, which become pretty prevalent come Perdition.
  • Jailhouse Rock is basically Power Attack but with your defense getting lowered. Good if you need it.
  • Knife Fighter is excellent due to the fact that shivs do more damage than fists. More attacks with a better weapon? Yes please.
  • Take Peek-A-Boo and completely negate the penalty of Jailhouse Rock.
  • More attacks is better so Pistolero is better, right? While on paper I'd agree and while I like that the two-weapon fighting feat is just one feat, I can't recommend this. Bullets are super hard to find and pretty costly to make or trade for.
  • Woodbourne Shuffle is super good if you run into something real ugly.
Good Traits: 9/14

PSYCHOLOGY TRAITS


  • Chemical Castration is super not worth it. We'll get into Psychic stuff later but Psychic stuff is...a hard eh.
  • The Guilt resistance of Cold Blooded is nice but the permanent Insanity is...[so-so gesture].
  • Found the Lord is useless. Do not take this.
  • We'll talk about Insane when we get to that chapter.
  • There is only one reason to take Isolation and we'll see it later.
  • There's only one reason to take Lifelong Patient and it involves juggling Insanity in a later Trait section.
  • Obsession is super problematic and I really can't recommend taking this. Unless you can take Survival as an Obsession, this really doesn't have much use. Really the only use would possibly be cheesing Despair gain in any way.
  • Do not take Psychobaric Treatments, it is absolutely not worth it.
  • Psychopath is useless except for one later Trait.
  • Sociopath is just "trade 1 Insanity and-1 Social for a Trait" and not worth it. That's a bad trade.
  • Unadjusted is the only outright good Trait in this whole list.
Good Traits: 2/11

SOCIAL TRAITS


  • Backhand is uncomfortably abusive! It also has general issues in regards to how Coercion isn't super great.
  • Born Leader owns because if you're social enough you can just generally deal with the threat of loose convicts post-Perdition by talking it out. This is very much, like, GM dependant but basically any time you can take D&D Leadership/Diplomacy Focus and break things, you should.
  • Buddy System would be way better if it didn't fall prey to the problems of Teamwork Feat Logistics. Also what happens if the whole party has it? I think it's worth taking.
  • Candy-Man would be way better if it wasn't limited to Vice Offenders and didn't require you to basically pay XP to make.
  • Coercion is the attempt to justify Intimidation as a valid social tactic but it's...not good and very uncomfortable. I do like how using it on people makes them dislike you.
  • Corpse-Handler is the best Trait you can take because it reduces your possible Despair gain sources. Take it.
  • Inspire is a worse Battle Plan because it only targets one person. The Defense boost is nice but not vital if it's only for one person.
  • Legend is pretty useless.
  • Made Man is only good if you want to join a Gang and be a bigger part of it immediately.
  • Prison gangs aren't vital but Maverick trades them for a pretty minor attribute boost, so...only take this is you absolutely don't want to join a gang? I still wouldn't take this.
  • The wording of Pretty Face is incredibly uncomfortable.
  • The only redeeming thing about Psyche Out is that the debuff lasts for all of combat.
  • Scheister is real useless post-Perdition when the prison economy has collapsed.
  • Seducer is super problematic! For starters, the fact that prison is segregated by gender means you might not ever get to see a guy or girl if you're playing pre-Perdition. Second, what kind of bullshit is it that you can't seduce people of the same gender or take this ability again to seduce everyone? The latter form of that feels pretty fair as a limitation. Finally, permanent Guilt gain? gently caress you.
  • Sociable isn't super vital because honestly I feel like paying more for the discount isn't worth it. Just pay the full price.
  • Streetwise is what it is.
  • Torturer is not worth taking.
  • Trustee is very nice for two reasons. First, if you follow it up the tree and take 3, Access 3 means that a shitload of the ship is now open to you and the Custodians will give you some slack. Like, Access 3 is the highest form of Access and people able to open all sorts of doors are super handy in Hell. You also get real the ability to get some good weapons. Second, the only penalty outside of BP cost is -1 Social. That's just such a slap on the wrist.
  • Trusty Companion is the reason you take Isolation and also don't take Isolation, just shell out the extra BP, it's cheaper! Cute little pet buddy that's good for your mental health! Hell yeah!
Good Traits: 10/21

Total Good Ratio: 38/75. Yeah that sounds about right. Shout-out to the Combat Traits for having a shitload of things I'd want to buy and dishonorable mention to Psychology for being so drat weird.

But we're not done. Ohhhh no. Did you think I was kidding when I said we were in Feat Hell? Well here comes the Advanced Traits! There's less of them, sure, but they're only available if you do certain things after character creation. They're also the only way to advance your character. So buckle up 'cuz this paragraph was just the eye of the storm!

ADVANCED TRAITS

This time around, an asterisk indicates you can buy the trait multiple times.

ABERRANT TRAITS


  • The thing about Demonic Guardian is that the Invisibility power is...pretty drat good. Yeah you have to be playing an evil character but demons tend to be pretty good at combat and the fact that people can't attack invisible enemies is very good, so. Surprisingly good.
  • Demonic Vengeance is pretty useless except for thematic purposes. Waste of points.
  • Extra Health is a mandatory acquisition and it's a shame that it's got limits to when you can take it.
  • Flesh Sacrifice sure is nice thematically but, uh. Kind of not for PC consumption? Weird choice for a Trait.
  • Freakish Luck is articulated in an odd manner but decent.
  • Self Mutilation is a waste of time.
  • Supernatural Sense isn't great but if someone has it, it's handy.
Good Traits: 4/7

BACKGROUND TRAITS


  • Doc is great if you're doing the healer route.
  • Jury Rig, Looter and Robotician are also great if you're doing the scavenger route. Shame you have to spend BP to make a robot.
  • Smarter, Stealthier, Steely-Eyed, Stronger and Tougher are your means to get better at Attributes. Steely-Eyed is meh but the rest are vital. These are why you take the background price reduction Trait.
  • Survivor is great because the Recovery Table is a real pain in the rear end.
  • Tunnel Rat is excellent for going where you shouldn't.
Good Traits: 10/11

COMBAT TRAITS


  • Baptism By Fire is good. The downsides are annoying but can be mitigated with the right abilities.
  • Combat Medic is real good when you need it.
  • Fight Like A Demon is good, letting you even the odds and take more attacks.
  • Robot Killer is nice if you need it and it's got a pretty easy entry.
  • Tank is nice on paper except the most dangerous enemies generally don't use weapons.
  • If you ever played a D&D game, you know exactly what Weapon Guru, Master and Specialist are for. They're good if you need them.
Good Traits: 7/8

PSYCHOLOGY TRAITS


  • Do you like Hamwar 40K Psykers? Well you might like Awakened Psychic but we'll have to talk about that later. You'll never run the risk of accidentally becoming a Daemonhost or exploding everyone's heads but. It's really of questionable use and requires you to be dancing on the razor's edge of having a half full Despair Gauge. Either way the psionics system is...not something you really have to plan your character for.
  • Coward is pretty good if you need it, mostly for being able to avoid Guilt.
  • Demented Insight is way too limited to be useful.
  • Eye on the Goal is also severely limited, perhaps too much so.
  • Fanaticism is quite good. Don't take Found The Lord, just pay out extra BP.
  • Lobotomy sure is a goddamn thing! I would argue that it is a bad idea to submit yourself to this except at the most critical of times.
  • Mental Health is why you want to take the Psychology Trait price reduction. A safe, reliable way to lower Insanity without taking brain damage. Cheap too.
  • Seen Beyond The Veil is real nice for perhaps too heavy of a cost.
Good Traits: 3, 4/8

SOCIAL TRAITS


  • Beacon of Hope is a good choice if you're a social character.
  • The main upside of Criminal Mastermind is that you are now in control of two characters. Leadership!
  • Irredeemable is the only reason to ever take Psychopath. Even then, don't take Psychopath. This Trait is excellent if you want to try and ensure you survive but I wish it wasn't like a tacit admission that you're hell-bound.
  • Pariah is something you should pass up. Just take Trustee instead.
Good Traits: 3/4

Again, the Psychology Traits leave so much to be desired. The Advanced Traits are generally worth the price at least.

Starting Gear

You start with Basic Issue Gear. Everything else is paid for by converting unused BP into smokes on a 1:1 basis. We'll get into all that later. While we're here in this boring little section, let's just include the entirety of the next step, Identifying Feature.

Yup. This is it. This is all you get, which is amazing because hoo boy there are a lot of d100 Random Encounter tables later.

Personal Goal

The Personal Goal is kept secret from all of the other players; only the person playing the character and the GM should know what the character's goal is. Your goal informs your character's actions and personality. It also makes your character eligible for Bonus Points if they act accordingly. The five goals are:

REDEMPTION: You may have done something awful, but you've seen Hell and you know your attempts to atone are genuine. Someone after Redemption sees Perdition and the Nether as a chance to protect the weak, make amends and save whoever you can.


POWER: There's a cliché saying that says the Chinese word for "crisis" is made of the symbols for "danger" and "opportunity". This is a complete lie. However, there are people who view Perdition and the current state of the Gehenna as their chance to pick at the bones while the lions are busy eating. You're going to be the one who gets all of the control, and possibly save the day along the way.


SURVIVAL: Being a good Samaritan is great. Having whatever you want is dandy. But you can't enjoy it if you're dead. Screw being innocent or guilty, screw morality. I'm not going to die here.


ESCAPE: gently caress all this, you're out.


DAMNATION: The reasons behind damnation vary. Some prisoners are just so despondent and devoid of hope that they slip into it. Others embrace their sins, knowing they'll be burned but having accepted it long ago. And then there are the ones who want to rule in Hell, to prove that they're as wicked as the Demons and that they deserve a piece of the pie. They're out there, in the depths of Gehenna, organizing and planning. And there's so many of them.


BACKSTORY

The last piece of creation is to look at what you've made and come up with a proper character. You want to figure out the breadth and scope of the crime, their upbringing, their mindset, your character's fears, etc. The most interesting thing about this section is that it just seems to suggest that a middle-class or high-class citizen might want to become a criminal out of boredom. Which. I mean. Take that as you will. Don't believe me?



Anyway, name that sucker and boom, you got yourself a prisoner. There is one bizarre, glaring oversight: there's no Trait that increases Sociability that you can take repeatedly. That's the main reason why I rail against any of the Traits that reduce Sociability in exchange for something like Intimidation. It's an attribute that can have some hilarious and wonderful applications but you basically can't get any better at talking to people when all of the options that raise it normally run out. Just a huge, weird blind-spot.

Also I think you can kinda see what I mean when I say that the book doesn't really act like female convicts are a...thing. Seducer is the big indicator, that and the fact that Pretty Face exists and is worded so awfully. While the book uses female pronouns a whole lot, there's not much to suggest that it isn't isn't just a prison dominated by male culture or a prison for men only. It's strange. I don't know if it's intentional or if I'm just getting a different reading from the word choices they're using, so the main reason I pick little snippets of strange statements and show them is because it feels like there's a very thin veneer between game and authorial ideas. There are hints of true beliefs held by the creators if you just know where to look.

NEXT TIME: Part Three, the part where I make some premade characters on Goon Block.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012




Holy loving poo poo.

There is a lot to unpack here but this is problematic as gently caress.

You lose "vestigial" gender traits, which makes you look less manly and therefore less intimidating. Unless you're actively taking female hormones I don't think you'd turn into an asexual blob due to a lack of testosterone.

Also what happens to a woman who takes this?

Like

Jesus christ.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Kurieg posted:



Holy loving poo poo.

There is a lot to unpack here but this is problematic as gently caress.

You lose "vestigial" gender traits, which makes you look less manly and therefore less intimidating. Unless you're actively taking female hormones I don't think you'd turn into an asexual blob due to a lack of testosterone.

Also what happens to a woman who takes this?

Like

Jesus christ.
What women!

No for real there's...nothing. There is absolutely nothing in the book to answer this question. I'm just so convinced they just actively forgot that there could be female prisoners on the Gehenna when there's poo poo like that Trait. And this is just, like, the tip of the Weird Bad Shitberg.

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





Well if they were castrated before puberty there would be drastic physical differences, but I doubt that's what being talked about.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012


Terrible Opinions posted:

Well if they were castrated before puberty there would be drastic physical differences, but I doubt that's what being talked about.

It talks like your sexual development reverts if you get your nuts chopped off.

thatbastardken
Apr 23, 2010

strewth


Hostile V posted:

What women!

No for real there's...nothing. There is absolutely nothing in the book to answer this question. I'm just so convinced they just actively forgot that there could be female prisoners on the Gehenna when there's poo poo like that Trait. And this is just, like, the tip of the Weird Bad Shitberg.

women don't go to space prison, they're too busy cucking beta sjws or something.

i suspect that the author(s) of this game own and wear fedoras.

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





Kurieg posted:

It talks like your sexual development reverts if you get your nuts chopped off.
I'm guessing their entire point of reference on castrated men were at best eunuchs in Chinese costume and at worst (far more likely) Bob from Fight Club.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012


I thought bob had gynocomastia from steroids though?

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Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





He did but it was a support group for men had felt "unmanned" in some way and the guys right before Bob in the scene had testicular cancer and impotence issues, and I imagine anyone writing this game are unable to distinguish.

edit: I mean there were people dense enough to think the film was saying Project Mayhem was a good idea.

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