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Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



I dislike the contrivedness of a lot of Rifts. I mean, what's wrong with Wilk's being part of a community that survived the Cataclysm like Northern Gun, but just small enough that it has escaped absorption into the Coalition or another larger power? We don't have to get into this whole backstory with some descendant finding the plant. It's not like a nuclear war has wiped out everything and set technology back to the Stone Age, there's enough surviving technology that a group of people in a stable location could begin producing goods again with a lot of corners cut.

I was even thinking about this recently about the ubiquity of mini-missiles in Rifts. Like, they became a standardized thing, regardless of nation, because someone (or someones in a case of convergent evolution) built an early cheap improvised anti-tank rocket launcher using empty soda or beer cans, similar to the rocket launchers, grenade launchers, and mortars used by the Irish Republican Army. Eventually, someone gets the bright idea that they could mass-produce these things by repurposing bottling plant machinery and blanks. These things get traded, people start making the connection and producing their own with local reclaimed bottling plants or recycling facilities. There's a some further evolution in the design thanks to trade, communications, competition, and reverse engineering until they're all producing the same thing, regardless of distance and nation. This could be further that the Golden Age probably had some sort of desktop manufacturing and this would end up surviving and forming the basis of some of the technology that has persisted the Rifts, like some guy 3D printing at first then casting gyrojet nozzles for mini-missiles, then packed with molded explosives and propellant into a beer can by hand labor before screwing everything together into a functional weapon.

Perhaps this is how Northern Gun got its start.

I'll be honest, I really want this to be reality...

Young Freud fucked around with this message at 06:52 on Jul 16, 2017

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Deptfordx
Dec 23, 2013



Alien Rope Burn posted:



Rifts World Book 14: New West: Part 20: "The vehicle is deliberately made to resemble a giant spider to frighten potential humanoid and animal antagonists — plus it looks cool (and cool always sells)."





The Tarantula ATV


Apparently it moves silently and has IR and radar dampening, so it can stealth around except for the fact that you look like a giant spider. I'm sure nobody will see your 14' spider coming.


'Hows the stealth testing going?'

'Not good Bob. Much to our surprise, it seems the human eye is somehow drawn to giant metal spiders'

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Cassa posted:

So is using the MDC bullets in a duel cheating?

Also, why are these all so bad in the face of so many MDC toting wildlife?

One guy I played RIFTS with a couple of times always used those borderline-opaque modern firearms rapid fire rules for MD energy weapons, the ones that let you blow through X% of a clip to deal Y% extra damage in a single attack. Even though the rest of us never did, I'll admit it seemed the only way to make most MD weapons deal a decent amount of damage.

I'm still not sure if his approach wasn't the one intended by the game itself.

Edit: The first time I saw those animator's funnies, it was during a newscast where some local father saw them while his kids watched Macross, and became convinced that it was subliminal advertising.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Ninja Crusade - The Firebrands: Lifestyles of the Famous

This part is narrated by Katsu Sofu, a very old man who used to be a performer and hedonist, but who was shamed before the clan for his drug habit and learned to control his desires. Now, he is a caravan driver that gets the ninja where they need to go. He is taking our trainee friend to Kokyuryu, where the monks live. He explains that the city was formed by a bunch of monks building their monasteries close enough together that they could collectively pay taxes and be left alone. The location they picked was due to a massive fort being built there by a noble, to be used as a prison. He was overthrown before the prison ever opened, his successor didn't want it, and he donated it to a monastery, who made it their home. The monks there are pacifists, but very skilled martial artists and often under strict vows of silence.

The monks come in several sects, but typically believe that enlightenment comes from kindness, patience and abandonment of worldly things and expectations. (One also worships human bones and makes musical instruments out of the skeletons of their dead. They're quite cheerful.) The prison was designed to prevent prisoners from interacting, and the monks appreciate the thick walls and silence - though they've added signs to warn about pitfalls. The rest of the city was built after the Ensen Volcano erupted a few times, bringing refugees to the fortress. The monks took them in and the town started to get built. Out of fear of fire, a lot of space was left between buildings so it could not spread easily...but that's also kept the town slow and quiet, as it's a bit of a walk to chat with your neighbor. They have plenty of ash-fed farmland, and they trade their food for various things...but never money. The people of Kokyutyu have rejected te concept of currency and operate entirely on barter and work-trade. Any money they get is given to needy travelers or tossed in a room to be melted down and used to make statues or candlesticks. The monks are also big on rehabilitating criminals, showing them compassion even after taking them down when attacked. Many thieves end up joining the monastery as a result - or just taking whatever the monks give them, which given what they do with collected cash can be quite sizable. It's not as though the monks have a use for valuables.

Flame River Province as a whole was the site of the original Orime rebellion, and the Dancers owe a lot to that history and the land. They respect the land deeply, and that keeps them strong, even if others claim a clan with foreign origins can't understand the troubles of the Orime ninja. Once a year, the Odoriko hold the Quieting of the Dragons festival to honor the Orime Rebellion. They try to involve all the locals and gather up stocks of valuable but not useful items, which are built into vaguely human-shaped stacks and hauled out of town. There, they are taken to a large hill with rocks at the bottom, lit on fire and hurled down the hill. People sometimes come to scavenge the treasures that survive, but no one minds that. They only keep that stuff for the festival anyway.

The other major city of the region is Kakou. Kakou is a very different place from Kokyuryu. It's a huge, sprawling city that is half vertical - they ran out of space at the top of their cliff, so they decided to build up it, lashing the buildings together to keep them from falling into the ocean below. The tide, when out, makes half a mile of shallows that big boats cannot enter - indeed, the shoreline's level with the docks only about one hour each day, so that's a very, very busy hour, with plenty of accidents. However, Kakou is the main port of trade with Exalted Flame, so that means the Empire keeps a lot of the navy moored nearby. They once tried to take the city and control it, but the locals rebelled and began burning the exported tea or even the ships. Since then, the navy just watches from a distance to make sure cargo is safe. It's less taxable that way, but more productive.

Kakou is a very wealthy city and it's mostly run by crime lords. They keep their followers in enough money to be middle class anywhere in the Empire, and sometimes pay off the navy so they can go out pirating. Only the most daring ever attack Izou sips, however, to avoid Imperial reprisals. The city is also full of refugees, whom the Dancers like to put on shows for. Many have come to flee the oppression of Exalted Flame or the chaos of Mountains and Valleys. If staying there, a local guide is important - the city is a maze, and it's dangerous without someone to guide you out of bad parts of town or watch over you as you sleep. Only take a registered guide, however - unregistered guides are criminals who are as likely to mug you as actually do what you hired them to. Still, the Dancers love the city, which takes attention away from the Wu Ji theater and provides a good scapegoat for anything they need to do in the area that's not exactly legal. Also, it's great for bringing in supplies.

The Wu Ji Theater itself is said to be the happiest place in the Empire. It was built on the ruins of an old city, but most of the locals moved on by the time the Theater was built. Their empty houses were used to board the professionals coming to join the theater - ninja or otherwise. The great energy of the clan is focused here, but few outside the clan actually live in the area. It is always warm, due to the heat of the Ensen Volcano, and the ash that falls like snow is used by children to play in and to help train ninjas in tracking. Festivals occur almost weekly, often for no real reason. This brings in people, which means recruits, and helps fool Imperial spies. The events also raise funds to fuel the clan and its work. Even they can't really keep track of why they do all the festivals - they do so many that it barely matters any more.

There are a few other cities and major towns in the area, but they are boring. Hand to God, that's the text's opinion on them. The volcano erupts sometimes, but the locals have long since stopped building in the areas of lava flow, so most towns are fine except for the ash and soot rains that sometimes come. The Dancers try to warn people away from the most dangerous areas.

Finally, we get Yamaguchi Asuka herself - that is, the ex-Shadow that has been the focus of all this. She is afraid that her old clan will try to kill her, which they probably will, but the Dancers are backing her now. She's a little too quick to rely on her old ways, but is leanring patience and has realized the Dancers will never, ever give up on her. She is eagerly awaiting the day she gets to prove herself on her first mission. She still, however, is not a huge fan of her training. She did like meeting the monks of Kokyuryu, at least, but Kakou is getting on her nerves. She's been mistaken for a prostitute twice, almost mugged three times, and a dog tried to pee on her. This is because her current training is 'sit on the street and get to know people.' In the Shadows, she was trained by doing murders, and she was good at it. Here, she isn't even sure what her goal is. She has barely been taught much in the way of combat by the dancers, instead learning things like patience with others or how to dance. She doesn't really get how this is going to help fight the Empire.

However, she does believe that the Dancers have the right ideas - just not all right. She wants to show them the right path, if she can...but is slowly coming around to the way the Dancers do things. Her plan is to keep playing by the rules until they realize it's not working, then tell them what they might do when they look for other ideas. She doesn't get why Kakou is such a happy place, even in its filth and crime, and thinks that perhaps the Dancers aren't wholly wrong about bringing joy to people. Also, she isn't sure what she's meant to be learning. Crime, possibly, or dancing for the crowd to make enough money to buy a room. She's a good enough dancer, after all, and her pride uges to her put on a real show. After all, she's the best on the street, and she's not even been at this all that long, right?

Next time: the Virtuous Body Gardeners

MollyMetroid
Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo


I really do quite like Yamaguchi Asuka's personality and backstory. She's a fun idea for a character who would be pretty playable in the game.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Cassa posted:

So is using the MDC bullets in a duel cheating?

Also, why are these all so bad in the face of so many MDC toting wildlife?

You can explicitly use a mega-damage weapon in an duel as long as it's the agreed-upon type of weapon (generally pistols, but can be rifles or knives, we're told).

As for why they're so bad, I think they're just trying to balance them against the corebook weapons with no regard to the fact power creep has generally escalated since then. Not that 3d6 was great in a book that had armor values from 35-70 anyway... but now that armor values are often 60-100, it's even worse at this point in the gameline. Six shooters that can't down a Coalition grunt in six shots unless you're extremely lucky?... sure.

The Lone Badger posted:

Are there giant robots (sorry, 'robot vehicles') with spurs and cowboy hats?
If so, are there giant robot horses for them to ride?

Not that I'm aware of. But you could design some with the robot design rules from wayyy back in Rifts Sourcebook, I suppose.

Bieeardo posted:

One guy I played RIFTS with a couple of times always used those borderline-opaque modern firearms rapid fire rules for MD energy weapons, the ones that let you blow through X% of a clip to deal Y% extra damage in a single attack. Even though the rest of us never did, I'll admit it seemed the only way to make most MD weapons deal a decent amount of damage.

I'm still not sure if his approach wasn't the one intended by the game itself.

Yeah. I talked about those early on in my reviews and the problem is that it's generally really unclear which mega-damage weapons are supposed to be fully automatic, lacking any clear answers in the books themselves, I've ignored them. Clearly some are, but which ones I can't tell. Some have their own unique burst fire rules, like with most rail guns, which really muddies the waters.

Of course, e-clips have ridiculously inflated prices and recharge rates, so there's another sort of penalty if you're not rolling in credits. Granted, I never understood why you can't just recharge your weapons by plugging them into the nuclear power source on your giant robot or monster truck.

Oberndorf
Oct 20, 2010





I think there was mention somewhere that modding your vehicle's power plant to just that was a common field mod. Maybe in the Operator OCC. if there wasn't, we just houseruled that all the way.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Rifts World Book 14: New West: Part 22: "Also note that after 80% of the M.D.C. has been depleted, there is a 01-50% chance that the Baal-rogs can break loose and escape, rendering the Ironhorse without power and severely damaged (4D6 weeks of repair at a cost of 1D4xl0 million credits)."


Shoots hellfire? '90s Johnny Blaze remembers!

TW-Weapons

"TW" standing for "Techno-Wizard", worth mentioning because their guns don't show up too often. But guess what these guns look like? Fuckin' guess! Guess you no good yellow-bellied-

You know, I'm fine with westerns and cowboys, for the record. I liked pre-crazy Eastwood and Blazing Saddles and Doomtown and lots of Western stuff besides. It's cool. The reason this bugs me is that it's ham-handed and not given any interesting hooks or justification. People decided to emulate Westerns... because. It's just lazy.

My tangents aside for just a bit, these magicky bits manufactured around the Colorado Baronies or Tolkeen. It turns out the Coalition States apparently makes techno-wizard so illegal they're allowed to shoot you on the spot for possession. Seems like planting techno-wizard devices on people would be an interesting way to assassinate Coalition officials... "For possession of a magical squirt gun, the sentence is... death!" "Nooo!"


This real gun shoots lightning now!

On to the guns. Again.
  • TW-45 or TW Six-Gun: This has the unique advantage that anybody can charge this gun for use, not just psychics or magic-users. But it's poo poo at 1d6 damage a shot. You can also load it with regular bullets, but only when it's discharged of all magic energy, and it only does structural damage that way, so why would you?
  • TW-38, Endless Revolver: Not actually endless, but it has 38 shots. But it only does structural damage, so why bother?
  • TW Spitfire Revolver: Fires "mini-fire balls"... lame damage. but at least it's legit damage. So it's... less poo poo, but still poo poo.
  • TW Thundergun: This requires silver bullets that are magically enchanted by the gun. Against most enemies, it only does structural damage. It does middling mega-damage against supernatural foes, though, and legitimately good damage against eeevil supernatural creatures! One of the best weapons in this book in its niche, but no good against Nazis. Unless they're ghost Nazis. Or vampire Nazis. But not vanilla Nazis.
  • TW Eagle Eye Marksman Rifle: The sight on this weapon gives you magical telescopic vision and nightvision like a regular sight, only... magical. poo poo damage, though.
  • TW Windblaster Rifle: Fires the gust of wind spell instead of blasts or bullets. Sometimes called the "Wind-Chester", lol.
  • TW Old Lightning Rifle: There's no new lightning rifle, for the record. This does middling lightning shots.
  • TW Hellfire Shotgun: Basically like most plasma weapons, but it's a magic fireball instead.
  • TW Snare Gun: Fires a magic net, making it one of the more devastating TW weapons because that net is more of a problem than any 1d6 M.D. pew pew revolver.
  • TW Sapper: This fires "anti-magic" that can drain wizards of their power, but not a whole lot (around 10 per shot). It also lets you try and cancel spells while they're being cast with a contested initiative roll. "The weapon typically looks like an old style musket (so fellow Techno-Wizards and mages know when they are facing a Sapper)"... wait, why would you try and tip them off?
  • TW Silencers: These are gun silencers that use a globe of silence spell to silence the weapon, but it doesn't work on shotguns, machineguns, or railguns... because that would would be effective, and we can't have that.


Perez's art is probably the biggest highlight of this book.

Glittermount Magical Horse

So this is a techno-magical construct that acts like a horse, but-

Rifts World Book 14: New West posted:

In any bright light the horse glitters in an array of brilliant colors. As the horse begins to gallop a stream of glittering magical residue is left behind, like a semitransparent stream of sparkling fireworks or a gossamer rainbow. Nobody really knows the reason for the glittering residue (a side effect?), but it adds to the horse's mystical beauty.



Tell us more about your rainbow magical horses, Siembieda. They can fly while on ley lines, regenerate damage, see in the dark, and magically boud with an owner for life (and sometimes beyond, like those sad abandoned dog stories). They can cast a few spells. A tectonic entity is bound into the armor to animate it, and-

Rifts World Book 14: New West posted:

Note that the tectonic entity inside the mechanical construct does not consider itself enslaved or abused and enjoys its life as part of the TW mechanical horse.

Why?



Well, it's convenient, at least. They have modest M.D.C., run up to 80 MPH, are pretty strong, and can shoot magical energy from their eyes for damage that's... yeah, don't worry about that. Techno-wizard tech seems to generally do awful damage. I guess it's just too enlightened to be effective.


"Look, demons are an eco-friendly power source!"

The TW Ironhorse

Not an actual horse. Instead, this is a Tolkeen-designed, magical, hovering train that can ride ley lines using the power of the ley lines and "the rage of three Baal-rog demons locked inside the engine". Or, alternately, you can use a lesser air and fire elemental instead, which seems like a better idea because-

Rifts World Book 14: New West posted:

... these creatures, linked to the Ironhorse and able to move as the train, don't usually feel enslaved or imprisoned!

Why?



Well, it's convenient, at least. They can also open rifts at ley line nexuses to warp to another one within 300 miles, but there's a risk of alien forces carrying it to another world or location. However, we're told there's a "less than 1%" chance, but that's not a chance I'd take with an airliner or a car... but nonetheless we're told that it's the "safest, most practical, and most desirable means of travel". With that in mind, the Coalition will will shoot this thing on sight as an abomination of magic.

Unlike a normal train, it can manuever and fly up to 1000 feet in the air, and ley line storms or ambushes at ley line nexuses can be an issue. Despite its size, it only has around 640 M.D.C. for the locomotive and around 100 M.D.C. for each other car, which... is... one boom gun away from a lost train? It notes that if you blow up the engine the demons housed will attempt to revenge themselves on the train's operators. If it's elementals, they just go berserk for unstated reasons, despite not having felt "enslaved". Seems legit. It can shoot fireballs from the "eyes... or the mouth" for passable damage. It often has rail guns, lasers, or missiles added onto the locomotive but no actual stats, so make that up, GMs! It's a neat idea, but it's mechanically hinky. Also it's vulnerable to millennium tree weapons for really unclear reasons (because demons, except maybe not?) in case you want to beat on it with a sharpened stick.

Experience Tables

And that's it for the book! We get some weirdness on the experience tables - NPC-only monster types like the Dream Snake, Phantasm, and Worm Wraith get charts for some reason. The 1st Apocalyptic Cavalry gets a XP chart for some reason, even though they don't have a class (I suspect at one point the Justice Ranger and the Apocalyptic Cavalry were the same and might have been split into two groups, once again). There's also an XP chart for a "Professional Thief & Smuggler" class which doesn't exist in this book.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_klOhy-el0

Conclusions

There's some neat nuggets in this book - like individually, stuff like the Psi-Slinger, Cactus People, the Colorado Baronies, or techno-wizard train is neat. But there's no connective tissue making it all hold together. We're just expected to presume people just rewatched Shane and Bonanza and Marlboro ads after the apocalypse on nonstop loop and decided they were going to live their lives that way. I mean, you could do interesting stuff like maybe some kind of charismatic leader that modeled himself after a western hero, or maybe a time-tossed cowboy like the Sundance Kid in Lone Star. Maybe the Naruni visited in the past and modeled products after their last visit but they're a few centuries behind - these are just some possible justifications I just thought of in a minute! But no, Siembieda's answer is:

"'CAUSE."

Well, saddle up, you poor bastards, because we're not done with the west. Oh sure, we're done with the New West, but it's time for the conclusion of the "Western Trilogy" of Rifts books, which is:
  • Rifts World Book 13: Lone Star
  • Rifts World Book 14: New West
  • Rifts World Book 15: Spirit- oh, doublefuck, it's Spirit West

Rifts World Book 14: New West posted:

Also from Palladium Books®

Rifts® Spirit West™


While the White Man wars with D-bees, sorcerers, and his brothers in the East, the Red Man is quietly building new nations in the west and walking with ancient gods.



Next: uuuuuungh so let me tell you about spirit west

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 18:33 on Jul 16, 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 SEVEN: DEMONS

Or

The Problems With Designing "Optimal" Monsters


Strap the gently caress in because this is long and also I had to censor some genitals.

Demons are omnipresent in the Nether, the hellish dimension the Gehenna is in. However, they aren't physically present unless they have cause to be. Sufficient DGI is enough to cause the Demons to appear and their danger and number depends on two things. First, just how much DGI is gained. Second, how many people are losing their poo poo in a group.



Gaining more than 10 in a gauge means that you increase the intensity of the manifestation event. For every person in a group manifesting due to DGI, their own individual intensity increases. In execution this looks like:
Pincushion, Tama and Soapbox are all heavily shaken by a horrific scene. This increases Pincushion's Despair to 10, Tama ends up with 11 and Soapbox ends up with 12. Pincushion would just normally cause one low level manifestation but because people around him are panicking this is ratcheted up to 3-4 range. Meaning that instead of one low level manifestation, he's looking at a chance of 1 high, 2 moderate or 4 low. Tama and Soapbox's Despair are cranked to max intensity as well, meaning that they could be calling on 1 Extreme or 2 High or 4 Mod or 6 Low. As a result, a three-person freak-out means that they're either up against 3 incredibly dangerous Demons that could easily slaughter them, or they could be up against 16 small-time Demons, meaning that it's a fight of 3 vs. 16, one they will almost certainly lose due to the action economy.

You can see how this might be a problem, right? Now, let's mention something else that's particularly important: the majority of these Demons have the ability to force Will tests the moment they appear or cause more DGI. This means that you can pretty quickly have a cascading failure as more and more Demons show up depending exactly on how they manifest (these happen secondary to the manifestation to alert the players that something is up).



The game says "use Demons sparingly" and then introduces rules where a squad of player characters can pretty easily be emotionally overwhelmed and cause a TPK because they keep summoning more Demons to their location. This is, in fact, how the Ultramax facilities fell for the most part: so many unstable prisoners in one location started a cascade of manifestations that they were overrun. As a result, this puts everything in a very tricky place. Smaller parties mean less Demon threats but it also means less defense due to smaller numbers. Bigger parties mean increased Demon presence that they might not be able to properly defend against. The system is designed in such a way that the absolute last thing you want to do is really square-off with a Demon unless you absolutely have to. You may get tougher, you may get better weapons, you may get proper shotguns and you may all become a squadron of antipsychotic-abusing Nihilists and you may be able to hold your own against some Demons. But not all. Definitely not all.

DEMONS OF DESPAIR



"There are potentially hundreds of types of Demons of Despair" yeah whatever here are the ones the books have to offer. One big snarl they have to offer is the fact that a Demon of Despair inhibits any and all use of Hope.

Devourers


One of the unforeseen consequences of Perdition was that future magic tricks such as the endless scarf would go horribly wrong.

When a Devourer manifests, it slides into a nearby corpse and takes it over, corrupting it in the process. All Devourers look like bloated shambling corpses that have demonic mutations, like claws and long fangs and multiple tongues. Devourers are supposed to be the general grunts and fodder like Doom's Zombies. They will inevitably hunt the person who caused their creation.



Devourers are supposed to generally be fodder and they're actually not that bad at that with their Corpse rule. But Christ alive, look at the fact that it can pretty easily force characters to accumulate 3+ Despair and that's without using its weird gribbly tongues. Remember how I said you have to pump up Will? Well this is why you pump up Will. They would be just fine if it wasn't for the Despair gain abilities.

And this is the weakest of the Despair Demons.

Death Slither


Horrible chiropractic revenge in space.

When a Death Slither manifests, scattered bones come together to form its body. They're endurance hunters, tracking prey and following quietly to strike when the time is right. Their small size and speed means they're pretty easily able to use the darkness of the Gehenna to their adventure to stalk their quarries.



Alright before we discuss the problems with the Death Slither, we're gonna do a little bit of a detour into Optimized Enemy Design.

OPTIMIZED ENEMY DESIGN

A few years ago, I used to do a little bit of Pathfinder Society. I know, I know, Society is trash and in retrospect I totally agree with that sentiment. But bear with me for a minute. A few months into Society I started to get frustrated with how the GM ran encounters for the modules and the enemies for them. The encounters were basically too hard and the enemies behaved too intelligently. At one point I got annoyed and ended up secretly downloading the module on my phone to sneak a peek at the Final Fight Enemy's stats to see what their deal was. And, ultimately, their deal was they were a half-decent monster that could cast spells and turn invisible in the hands of someone playing Optimal. The monster kept turning invisible and kept targeting the weak spots of the party, which was a problem because the monster was outnumbered but we didn't have any particular way to deal with the invisibility and the fact that the monster was using magic tactically. In the end I quit Society a few weeks when the GM kept using the monster's at-will SLA Darkness against us knowing that our light spells and ability to work around the darkness was finite and this lead to a fight between a player and the GM.

And this was my first brush with Optimized Enemy Design, though I wouldn't really call it such for a while. Pathfinder/D&D monsters aren't really the best designed creatures in the world, especially if they're created semi-unique for a module. The problem comes from trying to use the enemy in their most effective, optimal way. The fight could've just been a full-on brawl between the party and the monster, which the monster would've lost, no question. The fight could've been a tricky one, one where things were a little give-and-take, where there were risks but we'd either be victorious or have to retreat, rethink and retry. Those're the best, in my opinion, especially when you're able to take something clunky and unwieldy and make it a surprising challenge for your players to deal with. But then you have the worst scenario, which is where the GM treats the monster and their role as GM as a means to defeat the players. "If I kill the players, I win."

Demons in Abandon All Hope are very much a product of that Optimized Enemy Design Used Optimally school of thought. They are generally all designed from the ground up to do two things:
  • 1: kill the PCs, no matter how healthy and hardy they are.
  • 2: Drown the PCs in their numbers by causing cascading manifestations.
Role Playing Objects understand d20 and that's the problem, they understand it enough to know how to play it at a killer level. The first time I ever played 3.5 I nearly died to a swarm of rats when there was just two more of them than there were of our party and that was run by someone who knew the system. That was an accidental brush with death. Compare to willingly and knowingly going out of your way to kill the players. You're not even providing a challenge, you're just providing a fist to smack the players into submission. And that's what the Death Slither is, really. We saw a little with the Devourer's ability to fill 40% of a Despair Gauge without even really trying, but the Death Slither is just full-bore killer GMing in action.

See, the Death Slither will kill a PC in 3-4 turns, your average PC. The 10 HP vs. a monster that can reliably bust out 1d6 damage means a single PC better have a good weapon. But then there's the fact that there's not so much a list of abilities here as there is a flowchart entitled "How To Kill A PC". There is no strategy to this monster's behavior. It bites, it coils, it chokes, it instantly kills. The design is so optimized, the GM needs no ability to strategize or play intelligently. It is designed so three bites kills a regular PC and it's got excellent Reflexes so it's hard to hit. It's designed so that by the time a PC that has 30 HP runs into it, the Death Slither still has a chance of killing that PC. It is just...disgustingly over-optimized to be incredibly dangerous in the wrong circumstances, and there are not a lot of good circumstances to deal with these.

And from here on out, over-optimization and sheer, baffling overkill are the name of the game. You do not want to ever fight the majority of Demons you come across unless you have no choice.

Nexper Sext


Legit can't tell if the monster is falling down from the ceiling onto him or if it's below him and he's climbing up. What is perspective?

I have no idea what the gently caress kind of name this is. A NS is manifested by all organic material getting drawn into a gore orb that hatches into a fully wiggling monster. It's a six-eyed acid-dripping poison monster that lurks and leaps and kills, delighting in paralyzing people and slowly torturing them to death with its poisons and its paralytic gaze.



Paralyze+Rending is a horrific save or die combo, able to take a single 10 HP character out of the game in two turns flat. It can't be made weaker by being overpowered, it deals long-lasting poison and gently caress you if you fight it in melee. The Nexper Sext: Get hosed, Players.

Nightmare Weaver


You know the Nightmare Weaver cares about you because he'll fluff your pillow while you're sleeping.

The Nightmare Weaver is made of shadows that congeal into the form of a gigantic human-sized spider with twisted features. Nightmare Weavers don't come out swinging once they appear. When they arrive, they hide and start ramping up the fear in the area with their presence until someone flees in terror. The Weaver then delights in toying with the panicked prey until they can trap them in an acidic web and feast on them.



Not as lethal as the other Demons but boy loving howdy I hope you have a source of fire, otherwise their webs are literally inescapable. And consider that the only fire-based weapon in the same is a Scorcher or a Chain Smoker's lighter...

Engorged Horror


Yeah can I get a fuckin' UHHHHHHHH

An Engorged Horror is said to be the evolved form of a Devourer. Like a Devourer, the Demon takes over a human corpse but then it bloats it and turns it into a gigantic mound of bloody fat and rotten flesh stretched over an oozing, foul-smelling frame. Engorged Horrors spend their time eating corpses and, well, gorging themselves on human flesh, shoveling everything edible they can into their fat mouths.



Hi and welcome to Nexper Sext But Worse. The EH is now able to Combo gently caress two characters at once automatically and now has added Despair Death Spiral to the combo along with gaining extra health. This is just completely and wholly unnecessarily powerful and this isn't even mentioning the Stomach Burst and Waste Not Want Not ability which is just...see? See how loving overdesigned this is? This is not fun! This is just accounting for every part of the fight to make the players suffer horribly.

Panic Feeder


Look at how smug this thing is, sassing hardcore on the last prisoner with that posture and look.

The Panic Feeder appears by ripping a hole through space and time and falling through while covered in a black, oily goo "in a vile mockery of human birth". Yeah sure whatever. Panic Feeders are rampaging monsters, scooping up prey in their multiple arms and stuffing them into their gnashing teeth. They exist to blunder into the mix and cause mass chaos. More interesting is the fact that their face seems to be the inspiration for the tattoo of the Psychos but the book never brings this up.


Psycho tattoo for reference.


I hate this. I hate this so much. It can just loving eat up to 3 players if the Vorpal Claws proc and it's absolutely bullshit that the loving monster just gets a "whoops, instant kill!" proc. I don't normally say this in a review, but poo poo like this makes me legitimately angry. Because you know this got foisted on some well-meaning players by a widely grinning GM who would be so petty as to actually put tic marks of dead PCs on their belt.

REAPER


I know this is supposed to be a skeletal face but it just makes me think of Strong Sad.

Reapers manifest in the form of shed blood pooling together and forming the body like a T-1000. They're manifested by a fight reflex instead of a flight reflex, the urge to stand your ground and stick up for yourself. The Reaper would like nothing more than to thank you for bringing it into the world, killing everyone in its way as it hunts down its maker and kills them. They look like "desiccated corpses" but really they just look like Mariliths without breasts.



The Reaper is straight-forward and that's kind of refreshing. It's just strong and dangerous without being complete bullshit. Even the Marked condition is something you can deal with, making it by far the most "fair" of the most dangerous Despair Demons. The only real bullshit is Whirlwind and having to basically raid position.

Eater of the Damned


Any uber-demon worth their salt knows to keep a hype man in front of them at all times to get the audience on their feet.

And then there's this rear end in a top hat. The EotD rams itself through a seam in reality and immediately goes on the offensive, looking for the most guilty to kill them first. Considered to basically be the "king" of Despair Demons, the EotD is a gigantic threat and should absolutely never be approached in combat for reasons below.



I could tolerate turning slain enemies into Devourers if only there wasn't "two saves or die from getting your loving soul ate". There's a challenging fight and then there's bullshit and this is just another turd in the outhouse.

DEMONS OF GUILT



Instead of Hopelessness, Demons of Guilt offer symbiosis. They'll appear and be like "hey mortal dumbass, want to make a pact? You do this for me and I'll give you this benefit".




Do not take this. Never take this. It is never worth it due to it being a purely parasitic relationship where the food the Demon gets is more than the host gets. The downside of refusing to take it, however, is that now you gotta fight the Demon. Oh well. This was going to happen anyway; the moment you break a bond, they'll attack you anyway.

Guilt Worms


I know he's supposed to be, like, crying but...I dunno, he just looks like he's having a really relaxing, really slimy moment of peace? I don't like the art for this face.

Guilt Worms are formed from food, meat and corpses and then wiggle into a pile to chase their creator and try to form a pact with them. Guilt Worms are a colony of worms that infest their creator or anyone around them, tormenting them by nibbling at their brain and making them relive unhappy memories until they die. They're a pain in the rear end but easy to deal with.



So yeah they're the weakest of Demons to ever deal with. Let the colony touch someone then immediately surgically excise them. Boom, done. Kind of stupid, really.

Wraith


Remember Left 4 Dead? I sure do.

A Wraith is a formless creature that makes itself known with a cacophony of voices once summoned. It perfectly resembles someone from the creator's past, someone the creator hurt in one way or another. They also sound like the person they're imitating but speak with a cold, grim tone of voice. Their big asset is their invisibility and the fact that they're hard to hit.



Say no to their offer? Well congrats they can just loving stunlock your entire party with their invisible Guilt/Despair-gaining hands. They can't physically hurt you in the slightest, they can just create multiple manifestations and make that kill you. Fair and balanced! The sole protection against them is having Guilt 0, which is an argument for never gaining Guilt.

Corruptor


The gently caress you lookin' at? Keep scrolling.

A Corruptor will just appear with a shimmer of energy and then float off after its creator. A flying head with a bunch of trailing tentacles is hell-bent on making prisoners misbehave more and causing mayhem. Are you a bad enough prisoner to stop it? Probably not.



The Gaze is dangerous but the real danger is the Mark due to the fact that a Sorrow Leech is a much bigger problem than the Corruptor's general shenanigans. The inhibition of healing is also a major problem.

Sorrow Leech


100% camo index.

The Sorrow Leech appears behind its creator and trails it for as long as it cares to before it makes its presence known. The Sorrow Leech looks like a fat man with tentacle arms and a lamprey mouth but it spends its time invisible and driving its creator insane. The big problem is that while the creator will eventually be able to see the Sorrow Leech, their friends won't unless they're also sufficiently insane.



Also the main threat is that eventually the Sorrow Leech will decide you're tapped and then loving annihilate your skull with its buzz-saw mouth and nobody will lift a finger to help you.

Soul Shadow


Hey it's that creepy guy that started on this website, the [looks at smeared writing on palm] Slender Onion.

The Soul Shadow favors the darkness and is born from shadows, called to a creator that has killed a lot of people or were caught in the act of murder. Soul Shadows eat the Despair of the creator if pacted with and then will hang out around their creator and look for prey. When it's picked out a suitable prey, the Shadow's face will alter to fit an ideal target to fit the prey's depredations and then trick the prey into following them. This generally ends in the prey being eaten by the Shadow.



Ah yes, the classic "save or be eaten and digested by a Demon". How wonderful that it can kill up to two prisoners at once.

Progenitor of Sins


I am 100% sure that an unlisted inspiration for this game was also Dead Space by this art alone.

The PoS appears as a wave of pain and discomfort hits everyone as it pulls itself through a hole in reality. The PoS looks like a bloated corpse of a woman with tentacle hands that are tipped with handgina dentatas that drip acid with every tentacular wiggle. Her body is oozing with acid and slime and other foul liquids and your eyes do not deceive you, she is in fact pretty anatomically correct for this bad art style. Her mission is to run around forcing people to bear Guilt Worms.



Her acid is very dangerous. The rest of her, not so much? It really reads like she doesn't want to kill the people she's fighting, she just wants to [sigh] "impregnate them with Guilt Worms" which is just...easy to deal with, all things considered. The main issue is the fact that she's probably pregnant with worse monsters which makes killing her annoying.

Tormentor


This entire design would be better if it wasn't for the idiotically bland "durr" face. Just go full alien instead of "a dude's head on top of a palm tree".

The Tormentor crawls out of a puddle of blood, allegedly blindfolded and gagged despite the picture not showing that in the slightest. The Tormentor's job is to dole out pain and then do that some more. It's not a complicated being despite being allegedly blind so it can hunt by sensing the Guilty and increase the thrill of the hunt which...I mean look at it, it's not blind and it's not gagged.



The big threat here is the fact that it can stunlock you and it just does a shitload of DOT damage. Just swallow your Guilt and avoid.

Aspect of Revenge


Wayang Killin'.

The Aspect of Revenge, despite looking like a living shadow, is actually made from a massive flare of heat melting metal that forms its body. The AoR is described as being "half man and half woman", presumably intersex vertically like a carnival attraction, but is "all twisted and all evil" which is just delightful. The main goal of the AoR is to haunt the wicked and dole out punishment, which is a booming job in this Hell-based prison economy.



The AoR really isn't fancy, it's just an enormous pain in the rear end to kill. It's not unfair but it's also not a fun fight in the slightest.

DEMONS OF INSANITY



Demons of Insanity are a major pain in the rear end and that's due to paradox. Being creatures from another dimension that are manifesting a presence in the world, they're able to twist physics and time and space like how they entered to begin with. Time and space just have issues around them. The other major issue is that, uh, they spawn when you hit 10 Insanity and...well, that's pretty drat rare outside of some other circumstances where they just show up anyway. As a result the Demons of Insanity tend to congregate around the psych wards where their power is maintained by the minds of broken prisoners living in their shadows. You're probably not ever going to see a scenario where high-threat Demons of Insanity crop up (outside of cascading gauge failure) and that is a good thing. Because they're pretty rare, the developers have made them bastards.



Scuttling Impossibility


I won't lie, the one part of their design I like is the fact that every inch of their physique screams "punt me like a football" and I would, I absolutely would drop-kick one of these little shits.

SIs are made of a strange otherworldly "sweat" that pours down walls and ceilings to form them when they're manifested. They're the rats in the crawlspace between the Nether and Reality, nibbling to their heart's content and dicking around. They're roughly the size of dogs and their ugly little bodies are constantly morphing and changing.



The big problem is that they explode, the walk on ceilings and they're little magnets for madness.

Thing That Should Not Be


I feel like I walked in on a jellyfish changing into their human suit.

The TTSNB will just show up and float through the walls like a ghost before getting on with its mission. They basically just fly around and mutate organic material with their touch, giant mutating ghost jellyfish flying around the ship. That's really it.



On the plus side, they don't really do damage. On the downside, dear lord do not fight them in melee, their mutations are cumulative and they're just plain hard to hit and hurt and they multiply. They also invoke further madness. Stay the gently caress away or shoot them from a distance.

Herald of Madness


But it's too late, I'm already hooting and hollering about the Nether.

Heralds show up on the heels of weird otherworldly music and muttered alien songs. Their job is to run around yelling in their inhuman tongues, drive people crazy and summon further allies. They're very good job at all of these.



Stay away from the Heralds too. They're not very good at summoning more monsters, but having more of them means there's more damage being slung your way and they're very good at making you go crazy quicker.

Violator


"Well I heard something very distressing when I was checking your heartbeat. It sounded like faint "nyehhhhhhhhhh"."

The problem with Violators is that when they're manifested, they manifest inside of the person who called it. After a few hours the host explodes and the Violator crawls forth to murder everyone around them. They look like a gigantic heart that just drags itself around on its arms, hell-bent on killing everything around it, even other Demons.



So they kill the person that summoned them, which is just dandy. On top of that they're both chock full of madness and also damage and also mind control, turning the party against each other and dealing acid damage and destroying armor. They're nasty, vicious bastards that can just destroy weapons.

Dream-Eater


Wait a second, this doesn't seem right. Hold on, I fix.

Much better.

Dream-Eaters hunt psychics, appearing in an instant and briefly tricking the eyes like optical illusions before coming into focus. They come forth when detecting a psychic who is losing their mind and then make it their goal to hunt them down and drive them further into madness.



And they're really very good at it, which is another argument against having any psychic potential to begin (the main argument being that psychic powers kind of suck). Sorry Pincushion but G-Unit might not be able to save you from one of these things.

Reality Cancer


Shrimp Baby no, I thought you were dead!

A Reality Cancer appears whenever the laws of time and space are being twisted particularly hard. They float through the air and their presence corrupts reality by sheer virtue of being around it. Its main role is to corrupt and decay the world around it, using its strange black ichor on its tentacles to cause things to corrode and warp.



They're really hard to hit and exploding acid ichor is a gigantic pain in the rear end. The fact that they can regularly pull out paradoxes is also a major issue. Avoid at all costs.

Chaos Incarnate


I look at this dude and I imagine the voice of the Red Guy from Cow and Chicken pouring out of his mouths. "Helloooooo, it's me."

The manifestation of CI is apparent when black ectoplasm pour from the walls and ceilings into a bubbling pool that births the Demon proper. The Chaos Incarnate has an endless hatred for everything around it and all it seeks is blind destruction, even of fellow Demons. Their gigantic size and insatiable appetite makes them things to avoid at all costs.



So not only is this thing a madness machine that can also just kill and instantly eat your character, it just has so many ways to TPK. It's actually more complicated for it to try and squish your characters. Chaos Incarnate can just kill the whole part turn one by moving closer and using Chaos Unleashed to hurt itself for, like, 100 damage and deal 10d6 damage to everyone. Game over, burn your sheets, grab a slice of pizza and go home.

Madness-Given-Form


Say hello to Cthulhu's overweight loser cousin.

MGF will just appear wherever it needs to rather unceremoniously, shifting reality and physics around it to make sure it'll fit regardless of the form it takes at the moment. The MGF's job is to look like a big idiot lobster and just dick around because it's loving unkillable.



Don't even bother. If this motherfucker shows up, that's it, lie down and close your eyes and wait for the end. Even if you win he does this Warhammer Slaanesh bullshit where one of your buddies tries to summon him again, gently caress that.

THOUGHTS

I hate this. I hate Demons. I went to bed angry when I actually understood the mechanics for these things and going to bed angry gives me a headache. So I woke up with a headache. Get hosed, Abandon All Hope.

NEXT TIME: the end of the book, which is literally just four types of robots and a handful of squishy convict templates.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Well, at least the game is aptly named?

Games like this seem to really not know what they're going for. I mean, if demons are so deadly and will just kill everybody, why isn't the game geared around chase and hiding rules instead of combat? It's a rhetorical question, of course, but it's like they want to do a demon-themed Aliens game without any particular endpoint other than death. It's just designed the way it is because... RPGs have been designed that way in the past.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Exactly. When your entire library of work has been making d20 Modern "better" (by your standards) and using the OGL for ten years to create 50+ materials for a post-apocalyptic game based on 3rd Edition D&D, you write what you know. And when what you know is pure, uncut d20 and hardcore grognard design choices and you self-publish without editors (and play-testers that aren't your coworkers)...it's flat-out Because design. You make these choices Because. The mechanics work this way Because. The players will go along Because. This all works Because. And it's maddening.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



I get the idea that AAH was going for. Demons are seriously bad news, you don't want to fight them, so here's crunch explaining why. But it runs into the old problem of, are they supposed to be encounter fodder or not? The number and variety suggests that they are. Their ability to casually murder the hell out of PCs suggests they're not. I'm okay with the idea that fighting demons should be a rare event and they should be accordingly deadly, but I'm not getting that in the execution and presentation.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


What Abandon Hope is doing is committing the old horror game sin: "These are scary because they can kill you quickly and easily."

That's not scary. If you're turbo-hosed in every encounter there's no tension. They're making the mistake where in horror movies you often can't do anything about the monsters and the goal is the eventual death of all or most of the cast, with no chance to escape. That doesn't work nearly as well in an interactive medium, where players might be hoping their choices actually do something.

When I was in high school, I made a fairly simple horror heartbreaker with a pretty simple sanity system. In the campaigns I ran, no-one actually managed to go insane. But my players still invested character-building resources in not going insane, spent resources on things like putting extra rounds into a downed enemy to get back some sanity (I'd just played Eternal Darkness, there are worse inspirations), and got nervous when their sanity score got low, which caused them to do stuff like keep the frightened PCs out of danger and let the ones who'd managed to keep their nerve go first and protect them. They were still engaging with the system even if it didn't manage to destroy their player characters and even if I'd probably made it a little too easy to survive and even win direct combats. I doubt if I'd messed up in the other direction it would've worked.

Similarly, the game doesn't give you a goal, despite being able to make an 'aim' that you're trying to work towards. There's no hope of rescue, no escape, no way to defeat the tides of hell, not even a system for trying to make peace with yourself and find a good and noble end. Without anything to strive for, there's no tension and nothing for the interactive element to work you towards. You just sorta tool around until you all get murdered in the worst ways.

JackMann
Aug 11, 2010

Secure. Contain. Protect.


Fallen Rib

I feel games like Abandon All Hope would be much improved if you forced the game designers to play through them... as players. Run by someone who is running it purely by what they see in the rules.

Cassa
Jan 29, 2009


The cascading effect of demon appearances does seem like you'll just eventually have a space ship full of horrors and it won't take long at all. It seems almost a geometric progression from a small horror to POS' killing everyone.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Night10194 posted:

Similarly, the game doesn't give you a goal, despite being able to make an 'aim' that you're trying to work towards. There's no hope of rescue, no escape, no way to defeat the tides of hell, not even a system for trying to make peace with yourself and find a good and noble end. Without anything to strive for, there's no tension and nothing for the interactive element to work you towards. You just sorta tool around until you all get murdered in the worst ways.
Just like... real life... makes you think.

Ha ha! No it's ridiculous. Even situations like the Silent Hill hell-worlds have a point to them. This just seems like it's Satan granting the wishes of the Neo-Clintons and eating up all their miscreants.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Here, I'll give Abandon Hope a better premise and a goal: We know the demons are coming. We know you have to go through a nightmare realm the first time you FTL out somewhere. Until we can get some kind of two-way phase gate or whatever built at the other end, Event Horizon is the best we can do for stellar travel. You play a ship full of mercenaries promised enormous rewards, adventurous would-be explorers who think they can handle it, and convicts given the choice between certain death and taking a shot on perdition. Your goal is to keep the ship on course and keep enough people alive to build the other end of the gate while you pass through hell, so that the people who follow after you can populate the colony and you can get paid/a statue built of you/pardoned.

marshmallow creep
Dec 10, 2008

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



I can kind of see AAH working as some kind of gore-porn horror anime or movie but I can't see how you'd actually play it with human beings at a table. The invisible lamprey just ripping a man's helmet off and then "buzzsawing" his skull open to get his brain bits out is just aching to be illustrated by Junji Ito or something.

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


marshmallow creep posted:

I can kind of see AAH working as some kind of gore-porn horror anime or movie but I can't see how you'd actually play it with human beings at a table. The invisible lamprey just ripping a man's helmet off and then "buzzsawing" his skull open to get his brain bits out is just aching to be illustrated by Junji Ito or something.

It's because a lot of people think of horror from the context of passive media, like a book or a movie. It's okay if the characters in that get decimated because your only interaction is to watch them breakdown in the face of overwhelming horror and die gruesomely. They fail to realize that this approach does not work if you subject people to it via roleplaying because you're removing a core piece of the gm-player contract: the player's decisions matter. Thus 'Demon's appear, everyone dies' does not work where 'Oh poo poo a demon, how are you going to survive this?' does. The Esoterrorists is really good in this approach as all the monsters in it can straight gently caress you up, but you can take them down if you're smart and even if it's only in the short term.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




I just spent time trying to find the Esoterrorists review and failed, can anyone help?

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 EIGHT: OTHER THREATS

Or

Roses Are Red Unless They’re Dyed Black, I Am Too Scared of Robots to Attack

CUSTODIANS




As previously mentioned, “Custodian” is a general term that’s used to refer to the robots that run Gehenna. Under the control of the Warden Computer, the Custodians are pretty good at keeping the ship running and keeping order with literal iron fists. The prisoners hate the Custodians and this has only gotten worse since Perdition. See, the Warden has absolutely no idea how to handle the events of Perdition or the presence of Demons. As a result, all working Custodians are continuing to act like nothing is wrong, upholding the rules and capturing loose convicts and confiscating their goods.

Turrets

Your average turret is an eight-foot-tall pillar of plated steel with a slot for a gun barrel. Most turrets are equipped with automatic shotguns, though allegedly they will use other forms of guns, and are loaded with barricade buster rounds. Their main role is to sit around guarding doors and murdering trespassers with a single salvo, often coming in pairs. Their main weakness is if someone is able to access the nearby control center that handles their targeting software and controls.



Turrets are, unsurprisingly, really hard to deal with. They will pretty much always go first even if someone else has Quickness, they're incredibly accurate and barricade busters deal 3d6 damage. The Vigilant rule is just an extra gently caress you and is something the other robots will have.

Enforcer


I like the Jailbot design more.

An Enforcer is 7-10 feet tall, flying on hoverpads and built to stop prisoners. And they're very good at this.



So yeah. You have to make a Will roll to fight the Enforcer to begin with which you absolutely do not want to do. 4 Armor is nothing to sneeze at and a cattle prod hurts like a hell. The real problem is the sonic beamer with the unlimited energy source. As a reminder, the sonic beamer is a nonlethal weapon that deals 2d6 damage...unless a 5 or 6 is rolled, and if so the damage explodes and the weapon turns lethal. The only people who survive a fight with an Enforcer are the ones who are too scared to do anything but comply.

Monitor


"Sleep, little dumpling. I have replaced your mother."

Monitors are the most prevalent and public form of Custodian, basically running the show and corralling the prisoners. They speak in the even measured tones of an authoritative woman and the screens of their face also will use pictograms or rebus to communicate with illiterate prisoners. They wander the corridors, keep an eye on every cell block and are also responsible for dispensing medication and performing medicine in the hospitals.



All things considered, Monitors are reasonably fair enemies if only because they have a chance of ending a fight without murdering the whole party. They can basically just sedate you and then wait until an Enforcer shows up so you can be escorted back to your cell. Not bad.

Narc

A narc is a dog-sized robot that skitter around in the vents and maintenance tunnels behind cells and corridors. They have tracks and a single arm equipped with a camera and a stun gun. Their job is to find contraband, spy on the prisoners and relay the information back to the Warden to mete out punishment.



Narcs aren't a threat because you're not, like, meant to fight them unless you want scrap. The moment they're in any sort of danger they're calling an Enforcer and you're all going to get exploded.

Junker

A Junker isn't a Custodian; it's a robot that's been secretly built by prisoners who have a rough knowledge of engineering. A Junker is roughly man-sized and a patchwork creation, requiring an operator to control it. That's really it to them.



There are a lot of questions that go unexplained. Do Junkers have unlimited energy for their weapons? How does one repair a Junker? Will Demons respond to a Junker? There's just so much that's missing and also god look at that list of parts, that should be enough of a requirement to make one, cut out the BP cost.

CONVICTS



Below are stats and information on a variety of felons.

Boss (Dissident)



A Boss is an inmate with a modicum of power, focusing on leading gangs and honing their social abilities over being able to defend themselves. And, well, they're not good at fighting, they just have a lot of health. It shouldn't be too hard to kill one if you have to.

Chester (Vice Offender)



A Chester is apparently prison slang for a child molester. The average Chester is someone who was arrested for a sex crime and is middle-aged and unassuming. They do what they can to keep their heads down and remain inconspicuous because their crimes make them a giant target for jailhouse retribution. It's really goddamn weird to me that this is basically counted as an average inmate that needs stats. Outside of that, they're hilariously easy to best in a fight; once the Woodbourne Shuffle is used, that's it.

Fixer (Vice Offender)



A Fixer is a prisoner who knows how to get things and knows how to sell things. And their abilities reflect that pretty accurately. The shiv is a danger but I mean...it's a very small danger, all things considered.

Joe Average (Murderer)



Joe is a typical inmate who can just do a little punching and that's really it.

Maniac (Anarchist)



Your average Maniac is someone with an axe to grind against society and a pocket full of mental issues. According to the game, they're all some shade of insane and unpredictable, often with a lot of rage disorders, pyromania or general Fishmalkery. They're really not that much of a threat but they are good at fighting.

Religious Crazy (Murderer)



A Religious Crazy is someone who is just as insane as a Maniac but masks it with a veneer of conservatism and insular restraint amongst other crazies. Apparently you don't want them to end up in power or else you'll get purged. All things considered, they're really not that good at fighting so maybe just whup 'em a bit if you must.

Thug (Murderer)



Thugs are, generally speaking, someone who has managed to make themselves king poo poo of their cell block. Alternately, they're people who are tough enough to ensure others don't gently caress with them. Their goals are limited to being masters of their blocks and being left alone. For a starter squad of characters, I would call a Thug a pretty fair enemy. They're not as good as they could be with that shiv but they know enough about brawling to be able to take on a squad of PCs and put up a good fight.

Trustee (Murderer)



Trustees are prisoners whose good behavior has allowed them to gain Access privileges and food privileges. As a whole they're not super liked because a lot of them act like bullies that go crying to an Enforcer if someone takes a shot at them. They're not the best fighters, you just don't want to get in trouble for starting a fight with one.

OTHER HAZARDS
  • Don't play with fire: fires are prevalent all over the ship ever since Perdition.
  • Don't play with electricity: a lot of the ship has lost power or has malfunctioning power and that's not even counting the weird supernatural electrical storms.
  • Don't drown.
  • Don't breathe poison gas.
  • Don't get irradiated.
  • Don't expose yourself to vacuum unprotected.
  • Don't enter areas of zero gravity without a means to propel yourself or a clear plan for traversing the area.
  • Don't include rules or guidelines for any of the above.
IN GRAND CONCLUSION

Abandon All Hope falls prey to the eight deadly words: I Don't Care What Happens To These People. The Demons are far more powerful than they should be. There is no real narrative thrust to playing a prison-only game. There is no escape besides death. There's not even a real narrative thrust to playing a post-Perdition game.

Or so I would lead you all to believe.

Between 2010 and 2011, Role Playing Objects released a six-book series of premade missions that charted out the first (and only) official adventure for Abandon All Hope. Starting before Perdition, it tells the tale of how the PCs...just kinda bumble about on the ship for a while and then become integral players in the fight between the prisoners and the forces of Hell.

And hooboy are they weird and bad. Not, like, Brave New World bad, like "designed by d20 enthusiasts who made this system" bad. Such sights to behold include:
  • Pretty much all of the black characters being heavily stereotypical compared to the white characters, of which the latter far outweigh the former.
  • The devs failing miserably at making the Demons rare.
  • Answering the question "how exactly does one make a bondage pony outfit on the Gehenna?"
  • A sinister overarching metaplot.
  • Forgetting that most of the gangs exist.
  • Being forced to dance naked in a Nazi cabaret club or have gay sex in a German bathhouse depending on your gender.
  • People in the 27th century remembering the movie The Wicker Man and not the Nic Cage one.
  • An in-depth torture-for-info mechanic.
  • Being forced to throw a knife at a fellow PC while they're strapped to a spinning wheel.
  • Hardcore Democratic election simulation mechanics.
  • A recurring NPC that the authors clearly liked.
  • A legitimate shot at getting back to Earth.
All of these happen. I won't explain the context until they happen. So stay tuned, for if you want to stat out a chaotic evil sapling in D&D 3.0, you must first come up the stats for:

Cassa
Jan 29, 2009


Sounds like the way to win AAH is just kill your character immediately and browse the forums instead.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




Cassa posted:

Sounds like the way to win AAH is just kill your character GM immediately and browse the forums instead.

Fixed

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Inklesspen, when you get here, I don't have a problem with you lumping the campaigns underneath Abandon All Hope's page on your site.

Also I don't think there was an Esoterrorist review but if there was whoops my bad.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Night10194 posted:

Here, I'll give Abandon Hope a better premise and a goal: We know the demons are coming. We know you have to go through a nightmare realm the first time you FTL out somewhere. Until we can get some kind of two-way phase gate or whatever built at the other end, Event Horizon is the best we can do for stellar travel. You play a ship full of mercenaries promised enormous rewards, adventurous would-be explorers who think they can handle it, and convicts given the choice between certain death and taking a shot on perdition. Your goal is to keep the ship on course and keep enough people alive to build the other end of the gate while you pass through hell, so that the people who follow after you can populate the colony and you can get paid/a statue built of you/pardoned.

You could make a decent game out of the premise. It could be a game of harsh survival where you're either trying to retake the ship one block at a time from demons or unhinged prisoners, and it becomes a tactical / survival game. It could be a game of seeking that one last hope of getting home as you steadily die and replace your escape crew. It could even be a psychological game where you help prisoners try and get over their issues and keep the demons at bay in a safe enclave you've set up, but one of constant threat of internal drama literally tearing you all apart.

But it's nothing so interesting. It is what it is.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




Basically the premise would work great as either a Doom style brutal heroism or a dark psychological introspective.
Instead we got lukewarm gruel spiked with ebola.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I mean the only reason I'm sparing it this much thought is I am in the middle of designing a game for eventual use with my regular group about a sci-fi ship crew stuck on a planet that turns out to be 'That place where we seal stuff away when we seal stuff away' for multiple fantasy worlds and the premise is a little similar. More 'An outside element accidentally crashes on a fantasy prison' but still within spitting distance of one another.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Ninja Crusade 2e - The Firebrands: Storytime

The Inks chapter follows a young recruit to the clan, who is totally anonymous and gender-neutral. I will go with 'he' solely because 'they' will get confusing since I'm gonna be taking about the clan using that. Also I flipped a coin to pick a pronoun ther.e Anyway. Our new recruit meets up with a person named Sugiyama Tomo, an extremely deadly deep cover agent. He is described as a very feminine-looking man who crossdresses, both as a disguise to learn secrets as a geisha and because he likes to. He's easily mistaken as a woman even when not crossdressing. He is also known as Akai Hime, the Red Princess, and seems to ID as male. He also refuses to show his tats to the new recruit. First, after all, he has to tell the origin story.

So, once upon a time, there are two twin siblings in a land of constant war. The elder brother is Rekishi, and Rekishi records everything he sees with his Four Treasures of the Study - the brush, the ink, the paper and the ink stone. He writes down the chaos around him, all the facts and figures, working late into the night. His sister, Sumi, focused instead on the emotions and passions of those involved rather than the facts that were all dry and boring. She believed that these, the passions of the moment, were more powerful than the facts. However, Rekishi recorded history without emotion. Thus, Sumi decided to help him. She made him the inks he needed, carved the brushes he used, kept the supplies going, and saw what he was doing. Over time, the two built an immense library together, welcoming many scholars. They became a school, a family, a clan. The Rekishi gathered knowledge, but still only focused on facts. They learned powerful ninja, but only to learn, and were not prepared when a clan known as the Rolling Fire tore through the Land of Crashing Waves and destroyed their library.

In the aftermath, Sumi and her brother looked over the ruin of their work. Rekishi was depressed and forlorn, but Sumi told him to have hope. She told him that while paper is fragile, bodies weren ot. They went out together as the rest of the clan recovered what they could. Eventually, they returned, decreeing that from now on, the Rekishi must travel in pairs. One of the pair, the Gakusha, would be the historian and record keeper. The other, the Horishi, would record that history on the Gakusha's skin. They were the first of these pairs, and Sumi painted the library's destruction on her brother's skin, using powerful jutsu to preserve the flesh from fading.

However, while great honor was given to the Gakusha monks, the Horishi were not honored. They were forbidden ever to have words tattooed upon their skin, save for the artist's signature. The flesh of the Gakusha was revered, but the Horishi were treated as mere functionaries, their art denied. Further, the Horishi tended to feel, as Sumi had, that mere facts were not all that was important. They believed that by remaining mere observers, the Rekishi grew disconnected from life and the greater context of history. They tired of being mere observers. The Horishi began to rebel, studying ways to harness their chi. They went so far as to abandon the Rekishi name, in secret, calling themselves the Sumi behind closed doors, telling their own versions of history - embellished, yes, but focusing on the feelings and experiences. They built their own traditions, apart from their parent clan. When each completed their training and became a master, they would take on a crafter's name - the first syllable of their given name, the final syllable of their teacher's name, and the word 'Hori' - so you might go from Rekishi Katsumi, student of Oraze, to Horikaze. They collected symbolic tattoos, sneaking out and studying people rather than dry events.

In a small border dispute in the Bridge to Battle Province, everything changed. Horikaze, one of the most rebellious of the Sumi, could not be a mere observer any more. As her Gakusha, Tasuke, took notes, a cadre of ninja attacked the village of Hiho, slaughtering villagers and kidnapping children. Horikaze refused to stand by, and revealed the secret jutsu she had learned by pulling a sword tattoo off her own skin and attacking the ninja. She and the vilalgers drove off the Recoiling Serpents that had come for the children, and she was given a large plot of land. Tasuke, however, was furious - the Living Chronicle were given access to everywhere only by swearing to never interfere. They observed, but would neither help nor harm. By breaking that accord, Horikaze could start a war with the Serpents.

Indeed, they called for her to die. The elders of the Chronicle agreed, giving her the choice to commit suicide to restore her lost honor. However, none of the Horishi had ever been allowed to be on the elder council, nor had any been consulted in the neutrality oath. They believed they were not a party to it...but none were allowed to speak for Horikaze, not even the woman herself. When the time came for her punishment, the clan gathered to watch, but Horikaze was unashamed. She approached the Serpent who had been sent to kill her if she refused suicide, and asked for a single request. The elders of the Rekishi allowed it, unaware of the depths of her passion. She stripped, revealing the story of her battle on her own body, portrayed by artistic symbol. No one present had ever seen such a thing, even the other Horishi, for the tattoos themselves moved, depicting the battle, over and over - and each time, slightly different. The villagers always won, but the ones that died each time were different. Horikaze told them that truth, in her view, had nothing to do with dry facts and dates, but in understanding the feelings and emotions of the moment. She argued that she had done nothing wrong - that the Horishi were not bound by the oath, and she was not of the Rekishi clan, in her heart. She was the first of the Sumi clan instead. The gathered Horishi cheered, and they came to protect her.

The Sumi rejected the Living Chronicle, and were allowed to leave. The Serpent came to fight, but was held off by the Sumi - so he just warned them that they had made many enemies, and that punishment would come one day. The new clan headed to the land that Horikaze had been given. However, she grew sick during the journey, though she hid it. The clans whose lands they passed through did not respect them. The Wardens of Equilibrium even attacked them briefly, though no one died, and then gave them a gift - they claimed they'd sated theri curiositiy and were restoring the balance. The Sumi settled in Hiho, helping to build up the village, but Horikaze only grew sicker. No one knew why, but she realized - when the Serpent had touched her, he had poisoned her. She chose not to reveal this in order to prevent a war of vengeance, instead carving a haiku onto her arm, to break the final ban of the Living Chronicle on the night of her death.

Over time, the people of Hiho and the Sumi ninja mixed and merged together. Now, this story is true - in a sense. The names, the facts, the details - these may all be inaccurate. But the story is true. The new recruit is sent with a scroll, to head into the forest and write a single word on the scroll: Kayanwe. This must be done in the forest only, with no ink mixed or paper marked outside it. This is the only chance.

Next time: Doing stupid poo poo.

Cassa
Jan 29, 2009


Play as parts of the AI as you try and make sense of what is happening to your charges as they are ripped apart by things beyond your sensors.

Speleothing
May 6, 2008

Spare batteries are pretty key.

AAH's concept basically ought to be played from a "Hell wiped out supermax two days ago and now it's coming for you" perspective. Your characters have been in hellspace for 1-3 weeks, and need to survive for just a few more days to reach the colony.

The mechanics seems unplayable, though.

Subjunctive
Sep 12, 2006

sparkle and shine



Speleothing posted:

AAH's concept basically ought to be played from a "Hell wiped out supermax two days ago and now it's coming for you" perspective. Your characters have been in hellspace for 1-3 weeks, and need to survive for just a few more days to reach the colony.

The mechanics seems unplayable, though.

It's "Dante's Con Air Inferno".

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



I, for one, would like the possibility of the prisoners being way better at this monster thing than the demons are, to the demon's shock and horror.

JackMann
Aug 11, 2010

Secure. Contain. Protect.


Fallen Rib

"Please, man, you gotta protect me," he begged.

"No dice," I said. "You're the one who messed with Jack Ketch and his gang. I don't need that kind of grief."

"Look, I can pay." He frantically scrabbled among his meager belongings and tossed a handful of smokes on the table.

I stared at them impassively. Then, I sighed. "Get me double that by tomorrow, and I'll keep you safe from Ketch. But you'll earn your keep, understand?"

"Oh, thank you, thank you sir!" the demon said, acid tears streaming down his face.

I always was a sucker for the underdog.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Ratoslov posted:

I, for one, would like the possibility of the prisoners being way better at this monster thing than the demons are, to the demon's shock and horror.
I'll one up this by saying after the first wave demons do this, the second wave demons make jack-off motions with their pedipalps and say, "You guys want to have a debate about humanocentric definitions of the concept of evil or should we go straight to the soul-taking?"

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




Subjecting prisoners to Joe estevaz movies for all eternity? That's fiendish.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012


Nessus posted:

I'll one up this by saying after the first wave demons do this, the second wave demons make jack-off motions with their pedipalps and say, "You guys want to have a debate about humanocentric definitions of the concept of evil or should we go straight to the soul-taking?"

Turns out bringing actual concious living beings to hell as opposed to souls is a bad prospect on the demon's part. Those that are innocent, or at least purgatory worthy, have about as much spiritual sustinence as celery water. And those who actually would belong in hell resonate enough with it's intrinsic nature to be as powerful, or more powerful, than the demons.

End result, you have the demons allying with the 'good and sane' prisoners to punish the evil ones and also get that ship the gently caress out of hellspace as soon as possible so that the demons can get back to their good honest work and stop worrying about the terrifying monster that wants to castrate them with their own claws.

Davin Valkri
Apr 8, 2011

Maybe you're weighing the moral pros and cons but let me assure you that OH MY GOD
SHOOT ME IN THE GODDAMNED FACE
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!


Kurieg posted:

Turns out bringing actual concious living beings to hell as opposed to souls is a bad prospect on the demon's part. Those that are innocent, or at least purgatory worthy, have about as much spiritual sustinence as celery water. And those who actually would belong in hell resonate enough with it's intrinsic nature to be as powerful, or more powerful, than the demons.

End result, you have the demons allying with the 'good and sane' prisoners to punish the evil ones and also get that ship the gently caress out of hellspace as soon as possible so that the demons can get back to their good honest work and stop worrying about the terrifying monster that wants to castrate them with their own claws.

This sounds like "Better Angels IN HELL!" and I'm not sure if that was intentional.

Maxwell Lord
Dec 12, 2008

I am drowning.
There is no sign of land.
You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand.

And I hope you die.

I hope we both die.






Grimey Drawer

AAH just seems to me like a particularly "edgy" version of Metamorphosis Alpha. Being trapped on a ship with monsters is a good premise, but yeah, they got the balance all wrong.

And it is that cascade of "psychological distress leads to demons which leads to death and even more psychological distress which leads to more demons" that is the problem. Giving the monsters the ability to directly inflict that psych damage just makes it too easy. They're already inflicting distress by killing people!

Like I think you could mechanically dial that effect waaaay back and still have it be enough that it explains things like the Supermax portions getting overrun. LARGE concentrations of madness/depravity attract hordes of monsters, but not just every time someone gets stressed out.

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.


Instead of playing AAH (that acronym fits too well), play Dread in TTS and/or in person.

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inklesspen
Oct 17, 2007

Here I am coming, with the good news of me, and you hate it. You can think only of the bell and how much I have it, and you are never the goose. I will run around with my bell as much as I want and you will make despair.

Buglord

Hostile V posted:

Inklesspen, when you get here, I don't have a problem with you lumping the campaigns underneath Abandon All Hope's page on your site.

Also I don't think there was an Esoterrorist review but if there was whoops my bad.

Noted, and I haven't seen one, respectively.

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