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Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Halloween Jack posted:

They must have a thriving community for piracy and fansubs, then, just as American anime fandom did. But for everything not already Japanese.

It's only rather recently in the past few years they've been cracking down on it hard, but until recently piracy was endemic in the Japanese market. In Asian markets, it seems often the pricing has to do the most with "What's the absolute most we can charge that some people will buy it for?" instead of "What's the most we can charge that the most people will buy it for?" Part of it might just be the rapid product turnover even compared to the US amongst other factors, but it's kind of amazing. Things have changed over the years, but only somewhat.

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy: Knights of the Grail

Feudal politics and the pyramid of oppression

The section on politics begins with a reminder that while they lack any formal political power, peasants are active participants in the politics of Bretonnia if only by trying to avoid involving their lords in local issues so that people are less likely to be hung or property destroyed. What the peasants hide, what the peasants go to the lord for, and how the peasants try to build local structures to keep the unpredictable whims of their knightly masters at bay are just as important as the oaths of fealty and allegiance between the members of the nobility. It also notes that Bretonnians do not have an 'idea of the state', such as is beginning to emerge in the modern Empire. To a Bretonnian, all politics eventually goes back to loyalty to individuals and all power devolves eventually to the holding of land and the ability to summon military force. A peasant is theoretically loyal to the King, but practically all loyalty to the King is because he holds all land in Bretonnia and a peasant is much more likely to consider them self solely as subject of their local lord rather than having an idea of being attached to a greater Bretonnian state. Nobles take oaths of allegiance and fealty to one another to cement their feudal relationships. Peasants are not permitted to swear oaths, as they are considered to lack personal honor. They are simply told their duties and the laws they must follow, with bare violence as the likely consequence should they try to object.

The highest rank of nobility is the King. The King of Bretonnia is (in theory) an absolute monarch, with complete power over the legal system and ultimate possession of all land and property in the country. The King is literally unbound from law; he may declare new laws as he wishes with no check on his power and if he does something, it cannot be illegal because it is done by the King. In practice his power is considerably more limited. First of all, while he holds theoretical ultimate power, he is reliant on lesser nobles and their levies in order to enforce any decree or decision. Thus, like every absolute monarch in history, if the King does something completely insane there's always the chance the very powerful people who enforce his absolute rule will decide they no longer wish to do so and civil war will ensue. There is also the fact that the King's power is checked completely by the Fae Enchantress. She crowns the next King (as does the Lady, as the King must be a Grail Knight who has successfully undertaken the greatest of quests in the mold of Louis the Rash) and she can declare any noble no longer a noble. This includes a King who has gone mad or become overly tyrannical. It should be noted that only the Lady herself theoretically checks the Enchantress's powers in this. The corruption of Kings is not a grave concern for Bretonnians at present: Louen Leoncour is talked about as one of the greatest sovereigns since Giles d' Breton. A genuine paragon of knighthood and compassion, Louen tends to stand as a check on the abuses of his lesser nobility rather than the other way around.

Below the King are the Dukes. Dukes hold the lands traditionally ruled by the great Grail Companions, and are often Grail Knights (though they do not need to be, unlike the King). A Bretonnian Duke has kingly power within their Dukedom, and has the right (via holding the Dukedom in lease from the King) to distribute their dukedom's fiefs among their vassals as they see fit. Like the King, the Duke cannot disobey the law within his Dukedom because he is sovereign UNLESS he disobeys an order or decree of the King. Dukes hold their land directly from the King and only owe fealty to the royal crown itself. King Louen is also Duke of Couronne and thus is legally considered two people, having a vow of fealty and allegiance to his own person as King in his person as Duke. In theory, the King can create as many Dukes as he wishes, but traditionally there have been 13-14 (depending on if anyone holds the Dukedom of Mousillon this century) to represent the Companions of Giles and the great fiefs they claimed.

Barons are a special class of people who hold land from the King, but do not hold the sovereign power over a dukedom. They are legally independent from the Dukedom whose lands they hold, since they hold a royal estate at the pleasure of the King. Barons are a very rare edge case in Bretonnia and likely to cause political strife with their local Duke, as they hold no legal allegiance to him but hold land within his territory. Baronies make an excellent future objective for PCs, and evil Barons are specifically noted as a perfect long-term enemy for a player party since they have the political independence to hide villainous deeds but aren't as prominent as a Duke, and thus are less likely to be spotted. A PC Baron may be made Baron of a dangerous frontier territory, where their skills and allies as an Adventurer will continue to come into play as they fight to secure their realm and protect their people.

Lords hold land from another Lord. These are the landed gentry of the Realm who hold individual manors and villages. These vassals are subject to both Ducal and Royal law; even if they are vassal to a Baron, they do not inherit the Baron's relative independence and must obey Ducal decrees as part of their feudal obligations. Almost all of Bretonnia's land-holders are Lords of one kind or another, with the Dukes, Barons, and King being rarer and more exalted individuals. Below the Lords come Knights, who hold no actual land but are supported by their Lord's household. Note that every single male Noble in the realm is actually also a Knight, in addition to their other titles. Landless Knights are still in an honored position so long as they attend to their duties to Lord, Duke, possibly Baron, and King; loyal service may also eventually see them granted a fief of their own and elevated to Lordship, as might marriage.

There are also various other titles, which do not hold the legal power of the above mentioned, but are rather recognition of the nuances of one's place within the sea of Lords.

An Earl is a particularly powerful Lord, with the title of Earl being an honorific to recognize that one holds a particularly large amount of land and has done particularly good service. The title of Earl is awarded by the King. Most Barons are Earls, but all Earls are not Barons.

A Marquis is a Lord who holds land that is very likely to be attacked. A Marquis is thus granted dispensation to gather forces and order the construction of fortifications without needing to seek the direct permission of their feudal superior.

A Castellan is a Lord given responsibility for a particularly important castle. He has the right to full authority over the castle and the lands it defends directly unless his feudal superior is present and recommends otherwise.

A Justicar is an expert in the laws of chivalry and the legal codes of their master. The King appoints traveling Justicars to wander the land and enforce Royal decree among his subjects. This is another particularly good position for a PC noble to shoot for.

A Paladin is a title that is granted purely as an honorific. It does not contain any extra responsibilities or lands, but it is an acknowledgment of knightly excellence. A Knight or Lord marked as a Paladin is someone their King, Baron, or Duke would consider worthy to serve as bodyguard in a war-host, or worthy to be appointed as a sub-commander.

Next: Marriage, Courts, and matters of law.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 16:52 on Aug 4, 2017

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007




Spark That Bled posted:

I think that may explain how Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos got licensed and put out on DVD. I do remember Neil Nadelman on Anime World Order saying that show was "licensed by accident", so...
I forget the exact title since it was something horrible and forgettable, but there was one of these bundle-licensed releases that sold double digit copies.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

It's only rather recently in the past few years they've been cracking down on it hard, but until recently piracy was endemic in the Japanese market. In Asian markets, it seems often the pricing has to do the most with "What's the absolute most we can charge that some people will buy it for?" instead of "What's the most we can charge that the most people will buy it for?" Part of it might just be the rapid product turnover even compared to the US amongst other factors, but it's kind of amazing. Things have changed over the years, but only somewhat.
Yeah, for a long time a lot of US anime releases were hard subtitled or not allowed to be dual-audio specifically because the Japanese companies were terrified of the comparatively cheaper US releases competing with their domestic releases. It's also the reason Japan went for a different DVD region code from the US, though that was more for hollywood movie releases.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West, Part 2: "By the time the Great Ghost Dance was attempted, not even the combined energy (P.P.E.) of scores of our people could muster the spirits to action."


"Thank you, great Thunderbird!... now we can found a natural history museum."

The Return

So, we get a fiction chunk narrated by an Ani-yun-wiya (Cherokee) named Many Horses. He says his people were approached by spirits called Nunnehi who claimed that the white man would come and destroy the buffalo (they mean bison) and all the tribes that "lived with the great animal", and were asked to fast to demonstrate their willingness to get evacuated off to the spirit world. Many Horses and his family left, even though their chief ignored the warning.

We fast-forward, and Many Horses talks about living in a timeless hunting ground with the buffalo (they mean bison). He becomes elected chief, but the Nunnehi come back around and then give him the all-clear to return back to Earth with the buffalo (they mean bison). And so they return to Earth, see their first ley line, but then they get attacked by a giant pterodactyl (a leatherwing from New West, we're told). However, they've still just got structural damage weapons, so their arrows do nothing against the creature. (Thanks for the heads up, wise Nunnehi spirits!) However, their shaman prays and a giant thunderbird comes down and smites the hell out of the flying dino.

Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West posted:

Thunderbird was happy that the Pure People had returned.

Culture Notes: First off, the idea of Cherokee getting evacuated by the Nunnehi is part of their mythology, that they spirited away some faithful before the Removal (part of the Trail of Tears). While the myth of the Thunderbird is broadly held across a number of tribes, it's not a Cherokee belief as far as I can tell - they instead had myths of "Thunderers" or "Thunder Boys" that were storm spirits that existed in human form, which was a counterpoint to the more typical bird depictions of animals like eagles, hawks, or turkeys. As for "Pure People", I see that sometimes cited as a translation of Ani-Yunwiya, but "Principal People" seems to be the more accurate translation. Also, a friend is pointing out to me that the Cherokee originally lived in the Southeast, and at the very least, bison likely weren't as central to Cherokee culture until after the Removal. (They've found old Cherokee songs about bison, but those were only found recently, long after this book was written.)

A World Overview
By Philip Dream-Speaker, Native American Storyteller (Historian)

So, Phil is the Erin Tarn of this book - and I'm not just making that comparison, he all but begs an apology for writing in her place, explaining that there are things that even she has likely not heard about! He starts off with talking about how the Nunnehi approached all the indigenous tribes of North America in the 16th century, telling them doom was coming and to fast for a week if they wanted to be taken to the Spirit World. Those who did were taken away, and those who were subjected to the tragedy of European and American invasions.

Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West posted:

Decades later, the people would regain some of their autonomy, but their culture would be shattered, and their spirits forever tainted by their exposure to the society, customs, and beliefs of their conquerors.

While the erasure and loss of indigenous culture is undeniable, I'm really uncomfortable with the notion of "spirits forever tainted". Because as we'll see, that notion is not just figurative, but literal. Now, it could be that Phil here is just an prejudiced narrator, but I don't get the impression that such is the intent. This is why I brought up to the notion of the noble savage right off the bat, because we're about to slam into it headfirst.

See, before the cataclysm, some people dedicated themselves to the "old ways" which allowed them to "shed the impurities" of the culture around them and "once again attain the status of Pure Ones" (emphasis theirs). Because they had thrown off modern culture, they were able to get in touch with the spirits and the Nunnehi, and the Nunnehi warned them the rifts were coming. The rest of the people were, of course, left to die. (Thanks for the heads up, wise Nunnehi spirits!) However, a number of people on reservations were able to survive just becuase they were away from major population centers where things were the worst. The irony of this is pounded in with all the subtlety of a iron mallet. Some "city Indians" arrived at the reservations with technology that would help them survive, saying they figured the people of the reservations would be survivors. However, their "spiritual brothers" claim that they were guided there by the spirits.

Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West posted:

Regardless of their reasons, a number of them survived the dangerous treks through a ravaged Earth to join their people on the reservations (perhaps further evidence that they were guided and protected by greater powers?).

:rolleyes:

However, some traditionalists amongst the tribes rejected the notions of science and technology, believing (mistakenly, we're told) that those were the causes for the "white man's" impurity and loss of magic. Many perpetuated this belief without necessarily acting on it, begrudging those who used it, but a few abandoned the others to abandon technology... except for spears, canoes, firebuilding, etc., presumably. However, for the most part, both technology and magic worked together to carry them through. However, their knowledge of magic was still fragmentary and the spirits weren't willing to really lend them a hand.

Then, one day, hundreds of thousands of buffalo (they mean bison) busted out of the rifts, along with other endangered or extinct animals like bald eagles or manatees. (Hopefully, the manatees were guided to aquatic rifts and weren't just dumped unceremoniously on land.) The traditionalists then called to the White Animals, and apparently the White Animals "sacred to each tribe" showed up along with a number of that tribe in tow, having been secreted away by the Nunnehi. These exiled indigenous people were called the "Ancient Ones" or "Ancients", and brought the old magic with them, along with as significant numbers. A number of them turned to just let the Ancients lead them, because letting your (great x 6d6) granddad show up and boss you around after being gone for over half a millennium seems like an excellent idea.

Many tribes returned to their old homelands (yes, even the homelands already covered by existing material, so there are magical Native Americans in the Coalition's relative backyard now, apparently). The Nunnehi guided them along until they didn't and just went away. Ulimately, once the spirit beings left various tribes lost their unity and the time of cooperation ended, though outright war was rare. Many Ancients and Traditionalists went off to form their own "Preserves" free of technology... though they did take use some simple devices like flashlights or lighters, because a little hypocrisy never hurt anyone. Others remained with their more modern cousins. As such, they're split between those who reject and those who accept technology, because this is Rifts and lines must be drawn. Of course, they also have monsters to fight, and while most haven't actually encountered the Coalition, they know enough to fear and dread them.

Culture Notes: Ooof, got a lot of poo poo to unpack here. First off, I don't think "Pure Ones" is a term outside of Werewolf: the Apocalypse, aside from general references to racial purity (for what that's ever worth). The Nunnehi are specifically a Cherokee belief and they spirited people away in the 19th century, not the 16th. The White Bison is probably the most well-known white animal myth but there are at least a fair number of "white animal" myths, or albino animals being associated as sacred - but seemingly overblown by some modern New Agers who want to hold up any pale animals as a sign of a return of something something.

Phil isn't given an apparent tribe. He's generically indigenous. I don't know if "Dream-Speaker" is a legit surname, given the main references I can find for it go back to Mage: the Ascension or the young adult novel by the same name. But maybe after the Rifts it became legit?


The sinister boxes of civilization.

The Deadly Cycle
As told by Philip Dream-Speaker

Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West posted:

In the old days, Native American children were not told what was right or wrong; instead they were shown through stories the consequences of the actions they had taken, or would take. This approach is similar to the white man requiring history lessons in higher education before the Coming of the Rifts. The whole point is that people should learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others.

So, Phil describes how everything was great and that the indigenous peoples of the America lived in harmony with the land and spirits until, of course, white guys showed up and introduced the continent to new forms of warfare, atrocity, and disease. But the point of order he's focusing on is that, according to him, the magic seemed to dwindle in the face of the European arrival. He believes that Europe had a good number of "nega-psychics" (a term coined by Victor Lazlo, previously seen in the corebook and Triax & the NGR) that were able to disbelieve away magic. For those less familiar, the Nega-Psychic is a class from one of Rifts' progenitor games, Beyond the Supernatural. It's your professional skeptic sort of class that explains why psychics can't do their stunts in public, because it turns out James Randi is using his secret psychic powers to cancel out Uri Geller's psychic spoonbending, and not just by providing him with undamaged spoons. :rolleyes:

So as the indigneous peoples of the Americas came into conflict with the Europeans, their spirits and magic allies became less and less responsive. Apparently, the Great Ghost Dance was supposed to work, but apparently their magic had been eroded. Somehow, these Nega-Psychics somehow destroy magic as a whole... or that's Phil's theory, at least.

The book then switches out of Phil's explanation to point out that Phil could be wrong, but that it might be possible that disbelief and rejection of magic might be what forced magic into dormancy. However, Nega-Psychics are seemingly rare and the idea that they might be able to either somehow channel their power through others or cause major effects as a group doesn't have any known basis. Plato, the dragon leader of Lazlo, claims that magic is just cyclical and that the timing was just conicidence. However, Phil and others that listen to him worry that the Coalition's efforts may one day undo the return of magic.

... except the problem with this explanation or retcon is we know the cause of why the magic faded away in Rifts' past, as it's been laid out fairly clearly. Or rather, you know if you remember Rifts World Book Two: Atlantis, which explained that the Atlanteans created a ritual that damaged Earth's magical structure and resulted in magic fading away. So it doesn't seem that Phil has the cause of the issue right.

Culturewatch: Using the Ghost Dance as an example of poo poo that really should have worked feels like it's in exceedingly poor taste, IMO, rather than a just a desperate symptom of tragedy. Also the whole disbelief theory isn't really referenced again, which is fine with me because we don't need this going the way of Changeling: the Dreaming or Mage: the Ascension.

Next: A round peg in a square hole.

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 21:57 on Jul 21, 2017

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




A high school friend of mine eventually surmised that some of the animes he'd bought from the local Anime Store, back when that was a thing, were probably high-quality bootlegs due to the plenitude of audio options. This really really bothered him. Like, he was really torn over his ethical duty to a media conglomerate.

MollyMetroid
Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo


I mean to be fair to your friend he might have been concerned about the fact that a lot of those bootlegs are produced by and fund organized crime

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




Nah, he once practically screamed at me for defending playing NES games on an emulator. (At a time when you couldn't just buy a digital version.)

chiasaur11
Oct 22, 2012





Halloween Jack posted:

Yeah, it was common practice to require American distributors to buy whole lots of properties, which is why there were American releases of obscure, awful crap like MD Geist and Roots Search.

Back in the day, I always figured that the cost of subbing and dubbing was to blame. Now that I think about it, it was ultimately the high cost of anime at the time that pushed me out of the hobby. Paying $200+ to collect 26 episodes of a TV show was difficult to justify when I wanted to, you know, get laid.

If I remember right, it wasn't the case for MD Geist. The head of the company who brought it over just really liked it for some reason. Helped fund a sequel and everything.

I think there were also some shows picked up that way that were shockingly successful. I have vague memories of someone saying that Eva wasn't expected to be half the hit it was, for example. Not that I'm saying it's true. Just saying I heard it somewhere.

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

So on the Cherokee buffalo (they mean bison) thing. At the time Spirit West was written: The Cherokee as a tribe had not even -owned- any bison since roughly 1970,They weren't part of the Intertribal Buffalo/Bison council,which is a non-profit co-op dedicated to bringing bison back in tribal lands, because to be honest, they didn't think of Bison as part of the tribal identity.

This changed in the mid-2000s, over a decade after Spirit West was published: a tribal folklorist interviewed some of the Carolina Cherokees and uncovered a bunch of old songs about hunting eastern bison, so in 2013 they joined the council and imported a bunch of Dakota bison to raise on tribal lands. Again, this was like 16-odd years -after- Spirit West.

So basically, the writer of Spirit West winds up being partly right, but only by -loving accident- and gets no credit whatsoever for what was probably "Oh, they're out in the Southwest, they must care about buffalo, that's a Native American thing to do", nonsense.

Edit: Also the Ghost Dance was a loving religious movement not a big magic ritual and there are still living practitioners today so it'd be real cool if genre writers would stop using it as a plot point.

unseenlibrarian fucked around with this message at 00:49 on Jul 22, 2017

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

chiasaur11 posted:

If I remember right, it wasn't the case for MD Geist. The head of the company who brought it over just really liked it for some reason. Helped fund a sequel and everything.

I think there were also some shows picked up that way that were shockingly successful. I have vague memories of someone saying that Eva wasn't expected to be half the hit it was, for example. Not that I'm saying it's true. Just saying I heard it somewhere.

Eva shocked everyone by becoming the hit that it was--before it was made, execs in production meetings hated the lanky mecha designs, saying "those will never sell toys!" for instance. Anime execs barely even knew what their own market wanted (except T&A I guess), the US market was a baffling annoyance that nonetheless produced a few dollars.

Also with regards to anime pricing in Japan as well as the US: Japan has pretty strict laws about the sale of used items and to some lesser degree a cultural distaste for used things. I mean there's a major used book chain, Book Off, which achieved major success by developing a machine that would gently 'polish' the edges of used books to remove the outermost yellowed layer on the pages and make them look new again. Selling used DVDs and BR discs is, if not illegal, heavily restricted so you either buy new or buy nothing. The US obviously isn't like this and the overpricing of anime hobbled the market for a long time and the expenses of translation continue to limit what kind of series are brought over. Fanslations don't help with this since a niche-market series is even more unlikely to get an official release if there's a free translation available which becomes a vicious cycle. Companies bring over the blandest big-name shonen crap because it is the easiest to sell, fans translate more interesting but neglected offerings, companies refuse to take a risk (which they often refused anyway, or pushed to the back of the schedule) and so a series never reaches the US officially so fan markets don't develop as strongly and--

I mean to some degree, as one of those people who doesn't like most anime/manga, I don't care. But it seems silly how much money is just left on the table.

Meanwhile, in the Spirit West, we have the third time Rifts has touched upon a real world religion, and the third time it's been immediately done extremely badly. I actually think religion can be an interesting topic in fantasy/SF media, but it's just usually not handled with any grace or care. This is annoying when it's the obvious Evil Pope in the latest Final Fantasy game, but when dealing with religions that have living practitioners, even more care is advised. I imagine this is why many books about even the modern era just plain ignore it--for instance SR doesn't have any Christians does it? Even if we assume that current trends towards nonaffiliation continue there should still be some mainline Protestants left. But there are Ghost Dancers! It sticks out in particular when all the magic minorities have "religion" but the "normal" people don't.

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

Shadowrun actually goes a fair bit into the intersection of real world religions and magic, at least in some of the earlier editions. Like I remember it being a thing that Catholics were okay with sorcery but not conjuration, something along those lines. I have not kept up with it since late 3E/pre-Anniversary 4E.

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




unseenlibrarian posted:

Shadowrun actually goes a fair bit into the intersection of real world religions and magic, at least in some of the earlier editions. Like I remember it being a thing that Catholics were okay with sorcery but not conjuration, something along those lines. I have not kept up with it since late 3E/pre-Anniversary 4E.

All of Tibet is surrounded by a magical fog and they politely informed the Chinese that they're fine now, thank you.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


occamsnailfile posted:

Meanwhile, in the Spirit West, we have the third time Rifts has touched upon a real world religion, and the third time it's been immediately done extremely badly. I actually think religion can be an interesting topic in fantasy/SF media, but it's just usually not handled with any grace or care. This is annoying when it's the obvious Evil Pope in the latest Final Fantasy game, but when dealing with religions that have living practitioners, even more care is advised. I imagine this is why many books about even the modern era just plain ignore it--for instance SR doesn't have any Christians does it? Even if we assume that current trends towards nonaffiliation continue there should still be some mainline Protestants left. But there are Ghost Dancers! It sticks out in particular when all the magic minorities have "religion" but the "normal" people don't.

Well, we've had... Hinduism, Zoroastrianism (as the "Persian Pantheon"), Vodou (mistakenly, it should have been Candomblé), ineffectual Christianity, half-assed Shinto and Buddhism, and... yeah, we have Ghost Dance now. Technically we've also had vague African animism and British druids, but mostly as professions rather than religions. And yeah, it's never been great, because Palladium wants to eat its cake and still have it afterwards, to use these elements but in a shallow way they think is less offensive than the alternative.

Oh, and pop-culture devil worship has pretty much been all over, so that's a thing, though we rarely see witches for the actual demon and deevil (ugh) lords of the setting, oddly enough.

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

Just gonna straight up use the Cathar perfecti for any weird mystics with mysterious powers in my next fantasy setting, but you must travel to the mysterious lands of Southern France to learn their uncanny white people secrets.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


unseenlibrarian posted:

Just gonna straight up use the Cathar perfecti for any weird mystics with mysterious powers in my next fantasy setting, but you must travel to the mysterious lands of Southern France to learn their uncanny white people secrets.

The perfecti were loving weird, man.

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

Night10194 posted:

The perfecti were loving weird, man.

Oh, I know.

Mostly I just wanted to say 'exotic and mysterious white people secrets' because I can already tell Spirit West is going to make me grumpy in a "God, I should be used to it" way.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I meant it more in 'Yes, totally use them.'

Weirdly, they did that surprisingly well in a weird CRPG of all things, where one of the Zoroastrian demons decided to become a Perfecti and follow Catharism and at the same time one of the figures of light, but not the one that was its opposite, decided it hated the world, and so they accidentally threw the perfect symmetry of the universe off. Lionheart was a weird game and I don't know Zoroastrianism well, but it was novel.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Lionheart was the one game that tried to use the SPECIAL system besides Fallout in the last days of Interplay, right?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Yes, and its beginning part in Barcelona is really good and then they run out of budget to do any writing or quests or dialogue and the back half is just long, plot-less dungeons and boredom.

The beginning is actually really good, though! And the premise of 'the slaughter of prisoners at Acre opens the way for magic to enter the world and crusader and muslim turn to one another and go 'Oh poo poo! We have to seal the hellgate!' and save the world together, changing all of history' was cool.

Crasical
Apr 22, 2014

GG!*
*GET GOOD


occamsnailfile posted:

imagine this is why many books about even the modern era just plain ignore it--for instance SR doesn't have any Christians does it?

Actually

unseenlibrarian posted:

Shadowrun actually goes a fair bit into the intersection of real world religions and magic, at least in some of the earlier editions. Like I remember it being a thing that Catholics were okay with sorcery but not conjuration, something along those lines. I have not kept up with it since late 3E/pre-Anniversary 4E.

...Yeah, that, actually.

Catholicism had some stumbling blocks early in the setting, they did not adapt well to the Awakening and Dwarves and Elves coming back, and the Pope declared that they didn't have souls. In defiance of the 'Evil Catholics' trope., it was really just that one pope, as the next one walked back on the decision, and even at the time a certain french cardinal made public proclomations that the idea that Elves and Dwarves where hellspawn was horseshit and that we should learn to use magic for the betterment of mankind.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Night10194 posted:

Yes, and its beginning part in Barcelona is really good and then they run out of budget to do any writing or quests or dialogue and the back half is just long, plot-less dungeons and boredom.

The beginning is actually really good, though! And the premise of 'the slaughter of prisoners at Acre opens the way for magic to enter the world and crusader and muslim turn to one another and go 'Oh poo poo! We have to seal the hellgate!' and save the world together, changing all of history' was cool.

Yeah, that game was such a disappointment, the premise and first half was really cool but as you said, it ends up petering out half way.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Some time ago on /tg/ (4chan's board dedicated to traditional games), people were talking about Degenesis, a European made RPG system that had... half naked monsters? I dunno, /tg/ has its fair share on neckbeards who think that Europe is Atheist Freefuck Land of Lower Age of Consent or something, so everything that we produce is better than your lovely puritan stuff.

Degenesis: Rebirth is a post-apocalyptic RPG by by SIXMOREVODKA, an apparently successful design studio from Germany, which explains the quality of the pdf and their super clean website.

Recently(2015), Degenesis had an English release. Since the game is now available in an approximation of Queen’s Own English, I can finally read through the material! I will never play it (can’t into GM, and our community is small enough that building up hype would be a chore), but posting about the game in this thread helps me justify reading it instead of any historical stuff that I have laying around.

Onwards into the dark and dank world of DEGENESIS: REBIRTH



Degenesis: Primal Punk: Cover and Jackal's Prophecy

I'm starting with Degensis: Primal Punk, the fluff book of the setting. If I can get through this, I'll follow up with Degenesis: Katharsys, which is the rule book.

Anyhow...

The book starts with a quote:



If you have a quote in the book, it's gonna be formatted like that. Every drat time!

The quote is on the second cover of the book, and we get the names of the authors - Christian Gunther and Marko Djurdjevic - underneath.

This is followed up by a two page spread of the map of the world of Degenesis. Recently, they posted a WIP of a bigger version of the map on Facebook, so I'm going to link it, since it's a huuuge bitch: LINK.
Africa is not in it, but it's a small loss since all you need to know is that Subsaharan part is alien murder jungle.

The map is followed up by what I'll call credits. You can see that Marko had a huge influence on the way the art was handled (and one illustrator is Lithuanian, lol), and if there's anything wrong with the text, translator Oliver Hoffman and editor Joe LeFavi are to blame.

Also, there's a disclaimer:

'Disclaiming posted:

Degenesis advocates tolerance and international understanding. The game world of Degenesis has evolved from ours and distorts it into an imaginary future. Conflicts within the game world are, of course, not real – and we do not wish for them to be, either. They only exist for excitement’s sake. Although we know this kind of conflict from flms, we urge you to use them with caution. None of the seven Cultures mentioned in Degenesis is better than any of the others. All of those Cultureshave an equal right to exist in the game world of Degenesis.

We have actively avoided the term “race” common to RPGs as we deem it discriminatory. We strictly oppose violence and racism. Illustrations of combat action are not meant to promote violence, but to depict a cruel world we should strive to overcome. Culture and civilization are the major goals in Degenesis, accompanied by hope. We still recommend Degenesis for people 16+ as we cannot be sure whether our message and our appeal to humanity will be understood.

Ah, those naiive fools, thinking that people over 16 are more sophisticated!

What follows is the Jackal's Prophecy. I'm not going to recreate it in full. Remember what I said about the formatting of the quotes? Imagine the same applied to a prophecy that goes for eight pages, interspersed with copious amounts of art. The whole thing could be condensed in one page, really, but that wouldn’t be foreboding and spooky. Anyways, I'll give you the skinny.

It's all about numbers, and the first number is four: the sides of the world, the elements that make up man, "the original number, the number of the kin" (father, mother, daughter, son - is this some early Christian heresy?), and the solar cross is also four-fold.

The page after the exaltation of number four speaks about mankind's hubris and how Earth/God hosed us up for it.

quote:

EINSTEIN HAS FALLEN, NEWTON HAS BEEN BENT;
FALSE GODS TO STRAP UNTO BEASTS OF BURDEN;
IN THE CITIES, TORN AND DESECRATED

This may or may not start making sense once we get deeper into the book! The prophecy also speaks of someone building a city to save us all.

The next number is 8 and if you think you're seeing a pattern emerge, you get a spore-laden cookie. Number 8 is about a primordial space god, Shelob, the meteorites or all of them at once.

12 is the number of tribes, months, the zodiac and it contains the names of both CREATORS. God and antiGod, maybe? In retrospect, the prophecy of number 8 is split in two pages; one speaks about a he, who descends from above with a name that not been known since the dawn of the world, and a she who comes from the dark below.

16 is where it all goes wild. 16 is the number of the stranger (but not the Outside), his heralds and whatever. 16 is also 8 and 8, the "two infinities" (because if you turn an 8 on the side...) of the creators, consuming eternity in their conflict: instinct versus intellect, flesh versus spirit, chaos vs. order. We reach full time cube when 16 becomes 1 and 6, which is the number of plagues, peoples fighting for a crown, etc etc... I can say that it's basically about 7 human/good guy factions, 7 enemy factions, and so on. I know this because I have read more of the book.

We eventually reach "4 Times 4" which completes the solar cross, time folds on itself and ends. That’s some heavy stuff right there!

Well, this was weird! Tune in next time for the PRIMAL PUNK chapter!

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Is this Timecube? I think this is Timecube. I also bet it's going to say some breathtakingly ignorant poo poo about Muslims and Asian people.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Is this a Divine Cybermancy fan game?

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Nessus posted:

Is this Timecube? I think this is Timecube. I also bet it's going to say some breathtakingly ignorant poo poo about Muslims and Asian people.

I think the writing is overdone in the prophecy and some places in general. Some is lost in translation, I'm sure; there's this feeling that I get when I play games that come from non-English speaking countries (i.e. Germany) where the language is a bit strained. It's somewhat presumptuous coming from me - English is not my first language, nor is it perfect - but the feeling is there.

To spoil it all a bit, it's unknown whether Asians exist anymore - they're behind the Spore Wall - and it's arguable if Muslims and Christians still exist in a recognizable form. There might be ignorant poo poo about Balkans, but that's updates later.

Kavak posted:

Is this a Divine Cybermancy fan game?

Holy poo poo, that's what I meant with the English part! Cybermancy had just the feel. On the other hand, Cybermancy was anime space bullshit that looked like 40K, while Degenesis gets more coherent the deeper you are in the book.

ED: Degenesis has a live action trailer! And yes, the spear squiggly tank thing is in the game or at least the lore.

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


So was that an biologically based Thumper and how heavily does this pull from European history's 'us versus the "barbarians" '?

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Tasoth posted:

So was that an biologically based Thumper and how heavily does this pull from European history's 'us versus the "barbarians" '?

a) No
b) Arguably we are barbarians. Or some of us. poo poo gets a little weird.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

The other trailer looks like a trio of PCs tripping over metaplot.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West, Part 3: "And while the white scholars ponder the reappearance of dinosaurs in Georgia's swamps and the Western Plains, the Native Americans know the answers to how and why."

They come out of Spirit Caves, not Rifts, totally different things?


"Finally, I can work on my moontan."

The World Around Man

So, now we get into massively generalized Native American cosmology that doesn't really square with the rest of Rifts, but it gets clawhammered in anyway:
  • The Middle Realm is the everyday world of the Earth and Sea that most of us are familiar with.
  • The Near Sky is that it sounds like, where rain comes from and where birds go. "Man cannot soar through the Sky Realm unless he is blessed by the spirits, or uses some form of magic, such as the 'white man's magic' that utilizes flying machines and power armor."
  • We have the Deep Earth, underground where spirits dwell in their spirit caves.
  • Lastly, there's the Spirit Realm, accessible through Spirit Caves or Spirit Quests or Spirit Airlines... wait, no, not that last one.
We're told that trees are respected because they touch three of the realms (Middle Realm, Near Sky, Deep Earth). They have a big theory that the cataclysm caused the Spirit Caves to become overloaded and for excess souls to flow out into the world and increase ambient magic. Apparently, most don't believe white people can master or use magic, even though there are innumerable examples in the setting itself.

Culture Notes: As far as I can tell this mythology is largely based on traditional Tsitsistas (a tribe in the Cheyenne nation) beliefs.

Though it's a slight tangent, one thing you won't see in this book are the various religions and sects that blend Christian belief with the beliefs of indigenous American groups. Though some are fairly notable, it'll just be ignored in favor of the "locals vs. invaders" narrative this book holds onto - not to discount myriad historical injustices, but it's a simplistic viewpoint of the ways the different cultures have met and blended.

Switching suddenly away from talk of metaphysics, we're told Native Americans don't generally fight to the death "like the bloody wars of the whites" "although not always". Captives are apparently considered "prizes" to be adopted into their captive clan. It tells us they aren't prisoners, but it sure sounds a lot like it... we're also told tribes have suffer deaths at the hand of another tribe will typically try to seize young people from the offending murders to replace them.

Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West posted:

Another case is when a tribe needs women. To remedy this, they will raid and take females from a rival tribe that has an abundance. Once the prisoners are adopted or married into the tribe, they are considered full members, as if they had grown up there from birth.

:stare:

It says this is a cultural thing and that because of that, they're not slaves or prisoners, they're just... kidnapped... and not allowed to return home. It points out those who are totally intractable with their new tribe are killed or released depending on how dangerous they are.

Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West posted:

Also, note that "uncooperative" and openly "hostile" are not the same things. Hostile captives pose a threat to the lives and livelihood of the people, while uncooperative ones are simply an annoyance, and with time and patience are likely to be swayed.

Ah, yes, "uncooperative", not "prisoners".

I'm having a hard time finding a matching source for this stuff, and it's an extremely simplistic view (simplistic is a nicer word than "ignorant") from what I can tell. Warfare varied as much as the people all across North America did, from the famous nonlethal (but not nonpainful) "counting coup" to vicious and neverending cycles of vengeance with some groups. Also, treating taking captives unwillingly as some natural thing that white folks just don't understand feels pretty uncomfortable to me as somebody who believes in the dream of universal human rights. Also, it's all blending together in this thing where people somehow roll back eight centuries of cultural change - which might make sense for those returning from the Spirit World, but not for those surviving the American Empire + the apocalypse.

"American Empire" is the Rifts term for the United States, I'm not just being blunt about it. But if I nitpick and research everything we'll be here forever, so let's move on to-


"Feathered headdress? Peace pipe? Boxes checked."

Tribal Background

Rifts World Book 15: Spirit West posted:

By most non-Indian standards, Native Americans have strange names.

Tell us more about The Other. :raise:

It describes that children get their names during a Naming Ceremony based on recent events in nature or a particular locale, but notes that the details vary a lot and that some groups choose a new name upon adulthood (a... simplification, again). It notes that some take on a second European name "to be used outside of his family group" even though there's not much logical reason to take the name "Strong Jim" aside from that it's an Old West trope, as near as I can figure... it also sounds a lot like how many Native Americans were forced to take on European surnames as part of their assimilation.

There's a section giving us various divisions, like:
  • Bands are small groups or families usually formed for various tasks like hunting, gathering, or raiding.
  • Clans are made up by family bands from a few to hundreds, led by a "Council of Chiefs". Chiefs are chosen, not hereditary? How are they chosen?
    :iiam:
  • Tribes are formed by groups of clans. "Tribes control territories and are the caretakers and occupiers of that land, but they do not own it (no one can own nature)." Once a year, they get together for a big tribal gather and festival.
  • Nations are made up of various united tribes with commonalities. We're told the most powerful ones are the Iroquois nation, the Nez Perce, and a Cheyenne / Sioux Coalition (not that Coalition, an actual coalition).
  • Finally, we have Societies, which are various brotherhoods, religious groups, etc.
Man. I don't know I'm more bothered that it's just trying to mash Native American cultures down into an indistinguishable mush or that it's so dull about it. There's so much rich mythology and history to draw on that could be evocative, maybe it wouldn't be perfect, but there has to be something better than this.

Maybe just don't make RPG books trying to sum up real-world cultures as magical factions or at least be egalitarian about it or...

:sigh:

Next: Throw a bunch of tribes in a bin, shake until indistinguishable.

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 16:01 on Jul 22, 2017

Leraika
Jun 14, 2015

slime time



I really really wish people clinging to the whole noble savage thing would stop using 'the white man's X' for things.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

I've seen some of that "uncooperative" prisoner talk before, in a middle school history book about African cultures. It didn't want to say that some of them took slaves, but you know, they totally took slaves. Including sex slaves. It also didn't want to say that the coming of Islam radically altered the relationship between master and slave in some of these cases, setting out rules about treatment and guidelines for freedom upon conversion because it didn't want to talk nice about Islam. That book was poo poo and had similar problems to what Spirit West is doing here, in trying to distill a large and varied continent into a single volume while pussyfooting over the genuine issues that existed within those cultures. I think one reason for doing that is that some folks will read into any less than utopian depiction and look for reasons to condemn other cultures as inferior and deserving of conquest but I don't think glossing over the faults of history is ultimately productive. There's also the fact that most pre-industrial cultures, including European, were pretty brutal and harsh in their own ways, but we don't realize the extent to which Western culture was identical to those it colonized because we live with the modernized version now.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


You have no idea how tired I was of "the White Man's..." by the end of this book.

Or how tired I was by the end of this book in general.

This fuckin' book, I swear.

About the only upside of it is that I'm pretty certain this is where the game line bottoms out, I can't think of a Rifts book worse than this that follows it. That's not to say there haven't been bad books since, but nothing quite like this. I was trying to work out whether this or World of Darkness: Gypsies was worse the other day but then just kind of realized how pointless that is, I think I can just say they're both troubling and misconceived in their own special way.

ED: Well, there's always the swimsuit issues of The Rifter, I suppose, but those aren't part of the official game line.

RedSnapper
Nov 22, 2016


JcDent posted:

a) No
b) Arguably we are barbarians. Or some of us. poo poo gets a little weird.


My friend got a hardcover edition of Degenesis for her birthday. I only had time to skim the books but I distinctly remember Poland being the fur-boots-and-axes barbarians in the setting.


I've got to give it to them, though: those two tomes definitely have a spot on top three prettiest RPG books I ever held in my hands. They're just so neat

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


RedSnapper posted:

I've got to give it to them, though: those two tomes definitely have a spot on top three prettiest RPG books I ever held in my hands. They're just so neat

Explains the price!

I think I'll be able to do an another update tomorrow. I've probably read close to half of the book at this point, so I won't be as confused as I read it for the first time.

Dareon
Apr 6, 2009



Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Fourteen - The Gulf


Well, poo poo.

Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space*. As such, even the fastest of aetherships would take decades just to get from Akasaat to Kir-Sharaat. However, currents of aetheric energy radiate outwards from the star Aethera, touching all planets in the system and looping back to the star. The desperate and the skilled may ride these currents much like currents in the ocean, trimming travel time to a mere matter of months. Two years at the most, if you’re wanting to go non-stop from the suns to Orbis Aurea or vice versa. These aetheric currents are difficult to detect with your normal eyes, requiring a DC 30 Knowledge (Geography), Perception, or Survival check to locate. But if you could look with your special eyes into the transitive planes, the aetheric currents are much more visible there. On the Ethereal, the currents heading towards the center of the system are filled with hazy clouds of souls, while those flowing away from Aethera are streaked with blue-white light representing preincarnate souls. On the Shadow, aetheric currents writhe through space like blood-red veins. And the Evermorn’s currents are iridescent rainbows of luminous time, and those who unwisely immerse themselves in them may age millenia in an instant or wink out as if they were never born. Due to the difficulty in actually exploring the plane of Folded Space, we don’t know if there are any aetheric currents there, but researchers postulate that Gate Hubs contain convergences of aetheric currents from across all the transitive planes.

Speaking of Gate Hubs, here we have some rules for them. You must be in an aethership to travel through one, trying to go through in a spacesuit has universally resulted in, I assume, a bloody mess being ejected at the other end. Despite efforts to seal off the transport hexes or otherwise deny travel to or from a place, none have been successful, and the Century Accords have insured that no government can prevent any traveler from transiting through a Gate Hub, although law enforcement can and will pursue criminals through the Hubs. Navigating into a functional Gate Hub transit hex (There are broken ones, we’ll get rules for those later) transitions a ship into Folded Space for a few minutes (Up to an hour for the longest journeys), which the occupants of the ship experience as only a fifth of that time.

Not to say this travel, even along the aetheric currents or just to and from a Gate Hub, is without danger. Vacuum, cold, and radiation are your constant companions out there, travelers are urged to pack protective clothing. We get rules for explosive decompression, including a table of how much air is sucked out each round based on the size of the hole. A breach pulls creatures up to two sizes larger than it towards the breach at a speed of 60 feet per round (Reflex DC 15 negates). Creatures up to the breach’s size are blown out into space (With those exactly matching the size taking a d6 of damage from hitting the edges), while those larger are stuck against the breach and take 2d6 bludgeoning damage each round. So no plugging a hull breach with your rear end. It’s a DC 20 Strength check to pry someone off a breach.

Radiation, whether from deep space or aetherite, is a poison effect that initially inflicts Constitution drain each round, followed by daily hits of Strength damage. The Fort save DC and magnitude of the effects is based on the strength of the radiation, and the Strength damage doesn’t stop until you make two consecutive saves. The Strength damage switches to Con once you hit 0 Str. Traveling within the protective field of an aethership or being on a planetoid with an atmosphere protects from all interstellar radiation, but turning the ship off or venturing out is a bad idea. Standard radiation exposure in the Gulf is low, but solar storms or other circumstances may spike it higher. Radiation from an object is plotted as a circular area, with the strength fading as you get further away from it.

Vacuum is dangerous, but not immediately fatal. For the first two rounds of exposure, you have a minor grace period where you need to make DC 12 Constitution checks or be staggered, while on the 3rd and subsequent rounds the DC raises to 20 to avoid the bends as your blood begins to boil. Failure here renders you stunned until you can return to normal atmospheric pressure, failure by 5 or more immediately knocks you unconscious. Meanwhile, you need to be making continuous escalating Constitution checks to hold your breath (DC 15 initially, rising by 1 each round). Failing this or just not holding your breath results in you beginning to suffocate. Next round you go unconscious with 0 hit points, then you go to -1, suffocating on the third round. This works from a game mechanics perspective, but it’s at odds with the vacuum survival I learned where holding your breath is actually more dangerous than emptying your lungs.

Finally, there’s simply the crushing mental stress of being out in the limitless black with no one to talk to except the voices that echo from the other side of your windows. Characters traveling the Gulf for more than a month may succumb to Gulf Isolation Syndrome, needing to make a DC 10 Will save each month, with the DC increasing by 1 each month. You get bonuses to this save if you’ve got someone friendly to talk to or a nice big ship to faff about in. Failure on this save inflicts a random insanity. This… sort of works? Like, mental health is always a huge can of worms in games like these and as a general rule I’m against forcing characters to act in ways their players don’t want to, but isolation does do weird things to people. There are certainly worse mental health systems that I’ve seen. On a long voyage, someone with a good save and Cha bonus could cure themselves of an insanity just in time to roll badly and get another one.

Varying gravity is another environmental factor to deal with when traveling, although that’s mostly at your destination, not along the trip. Aside from one notice that Vigilance has very low gravity and the gravity intensifying as you go deeper into Seraos, the strength of gravity hasn’t come up much. Rather than puzzle out a whole chart of varying gravities for you to consult, there are only four gradations: Heavy, normal, light, and zero-g. Akasaat, being basically Earth, is considered normal gravity, as are most of the planes. Kir-Sharaat has heavier gravity, while Orbis Aurea is lighter. Those born there are considered native to that gravity, and I assume they treat “normal” gravity as light or heavy, depending. It doesn’t actually say.

Different gravity has the following effects, light usually increasing these values, heavy usually decreasing them:
  • Movement speed changes by 5 feet. This affects all forms of movement, though I’m not entirely sure how lighter or heavier gravity would seriously affect swimming or burrowing.
  • Carrying capacity is doubled or halved, and one’s ability to lift or move heavy objects gets a modifier of 10.
  • Likewise, a modifier of 10 applies to Strength-based skill checks while moving objects or creatures, and on Acrobatics checks to jump.
  • Both gravities apply a -2 penalty to attack rolls, although those with the Zero-G Training feat can nullify light gravity’s penalty. This is also the only mention of what being native to a gravity does, because natives don’t take this penalty.
  • Damage from falling increases or decreases a die size. In case you’re confused, you take less damage from a fall in lighter gravity.
  • And long-term exposure is deleterious when you return to normal gravity. If you spend 120 continuous hours in one gravity, you take 1d6 ability damage when returning to normal gravity. This is Strength damage for light gravity, Dexterity for heavy.

Zero gravity is similar in many cases, but has enough differences that I couldn’t just include it in that list.
  • Space Adaptation Sickness is a thing. When you hit zero-g, you need to make a DC 15 Fort save or be sickened, upgrading to nauseated if you fail by 5 or more. This lasts 8 hours, and you need to make additional saves every 8 hours. The Zero-G Training feat removes the whole idea of this.
  • Movement speed is no longer intrinsic to you, unless you have a supernatural fly speed. Instead, you push off objects, using Acrobatics to line up your shots. More on that later, but the gist is that once you’re moving, you continue moving in a straight line as a free action each round until you hit something or some other effect changes your momentum. Aetherships function much the same way, and an aethership that loses power in space continues at its current speed but can no longer maneuver.
  • Carrying capacity is increased by 10x, and you get a +20 bonus to Strength checks to lift or move things. However, you don’t get this bonus when trying to stop a moving object.
  • Everyone takes a -4 penalty to attack rolls and skill checks unless they’re native to zero-g or have the Zero-G Training feat.
  • A creature that spends 120 continuous hours in zero-g takes 2d6 Strength damage when returning to gravity.

And that’s the general information about space, so now we can get into the specific. Curling impossibly between Aethera and Ashra is a winding ribbon of plasma, light, and sound, The Score. Yeah, it’s an actual thing, not just a metaphysical concept, I was as surprised as you. It pulses with gravitational energy, making aetherships that draw too close vibrate in sympathy. Scholarly opinion on the Score is conflicted. First recorded in humanity’s First Age, we’re not even sure if it existed before then. Some scholars think the Score is reactive rather than active, collecting the vibrations of life and organizing them into patterns. Some think the Progenitors are responsible for it, others say the Progenitors didn’t know enough about magic to manage something with the prophetic accuracy of the Score. Some say the Score has its own will and directs events according to its own designs. But the Score is unknowable by mortal minds, all we can do is listen to its tones and discern some of the branching of fate from its melodies.

The Score is not a vessel of predestination, but a way of determining what can happen if actions are taken at the right point in time and space. Those who interpret the Score do so by analyzing patterns in its harmonics in much the same way a historian might draw conclusions from previous conditions and determine future possibilities. Still, some world-shaking events change the Score such that the rest of existence becomes compelled to change with it. Each culture is connected in some way to the Score, although they recognize it in different ways. Humanity, of course, uses it as their state religion. Erahthi acknowledge the Score, and use it along with astronomy as two parts of a harmony. Okanta are only distantly connected to the Score, responding to its influence often without awareness. There’s also some unknown connection between the Score and aetherite: Fragments of aetherite are known to gather in aetheric currents and eddies, forming echoes of the Score in their own sound and light.

Understanding the Score is no simple matter. While divination spells may tap into it for their effects and occult prognosticators can use hymnomancy to tell the future through music, a given person may hear the Score only rarely. The Symphonium employs legions of composers, bards, cantors, and researchers to correctly transcribe, perform, and interpret the prophecies. A composer first hears the Score, transcribing it into a form mortal ears can understand. Upon hearing it performed, holy listeners can recognize established harmonic progressions, motifs, and themes in the work, matching them to known prophecies. Certain four-bar phrases indicate each planet, groups of instruments have been linked to specific races, and harmonic sequences represent each of the six elements. Perhaps the clearest example of this is Supraeluna, composed by the maestro Verdimont in the depths of Akasaat’s aetherite rush. Inspired by the Score, Supraeluna features the Akasaat motif over a sparsely orchestrated rendition of the theme of aether. Akasaat’s motif then proceeded to rise in pitch repeatedly, emerging in reduced form in the highest instruments over a robust aether-theme harmony. Cantors of the Symphonium interpreted this as if humanity could reach the moon, they could replenish their supply of aetherite. The rest is history, and Supraeluna is now one of the most recognizable pieces of Akasaati music.

Interpreting the Score is fraught with difficulty, however. A composer may place a known motif in a measure where it appears in a very different form, if at all. Listeners may mistakenly interpret passages, and if the work contains previously unknown sequences, no one can really tell what the gently caress it’s about. Some composers eschew the Score, working from their own imaginations, although the maestros of the Symphonium give these equal credence because you can’t really escape the influence of the Score. Less often, unscrupulous composers fabricate prophecies, either to fleece the believers or just advance their own station. And one further shortcoming is that the Score cannot be heard in its entirety from Akasaat. Similar compositions have been found from other cultures, created in parallel but modifying or even contradicting the interpretations of human pieces. The Symphonium tends to dismiss these, however.

There are no hard rules for players interpreting the Score. It should remain a narrative device, not something for the players to pick and paw at. A Perform or Perception check might work to let someone interpret a bit of Score, but this should be in service to the story. Players are most likely to encounter the Score either as small compositions that impart information, or false prophecies driving the plot forward through deception and the willingness of humans to believe.

Beyond the Aethera system is apparently nothing but empty blackness and the occasional desperate band of space pirates. Without a Gate Hub or aetheric currents that far out, adventuring beyond the orbit of Orbis Aurea is an exercise in isolation, and those few researchers who have made the trip and returned have reported nothing worth the effort. Still, there are some threats that lurk in the deep black.

First, the taur. Before they arrived in the system, the taur worshiped Baphomet and his priests were responsible for propelling their great world-ships through the void. When the taur arrived in the Aethera system, the priests found themselves suddenly cut off from Baphomet. With no power to move their ships, no spells to support them, and no answer to what happened to their god, the rest of the taur saw no need for their priestly caste. And ate them. But still, they had some troubles. They’d just jumped right into a space battle and both sides were attacking them. The taur might well have lost right then and there at the Battle of Thycalese had not a party of kytons slipped into their ships and offered them the technology to travel, not via the Gate Hubs and Folded Space, but through the Plane of Shadow.

And so the taur now lurk throughout the system and beyond its borders, watching our affairs with interest and barely-restrained bloodlust. Only the unnerving absence of Baphomet and the lack of support from divine magic keeps the taur from invading and slaughtering all before them. The warlords of the taur have only recently begun sending their ravagers on missions to enhance their power or knowledge in preparation for war. They’ve begun reverse-engineering aethertech, for instance. Even still, the sheer mass of the taur war machine would give anyone pause. 5,000 ships, the largest made from hollowed-out moons, some of which have the labyrinth channels carved into their surface flooded with lava and act as great forges to produce materiel of all sorts.


A taur furnace-world ship. No, not that one, behind it.

Jazuuk, Father of Shadow is the taur’s ambassador to the kytons. He seeks to restore their interstellar travel capability and uses the kytons in his forces in capacities that were previously the demesne of bound demons. He’s dispatched his ravager, Skarlaesh, to the Orbis Aurea region to kidnap people for the kytons’ inhuman flesh-twisting experiments, as they have promised him an interstellar drive once they have “enough flesh to sing through the maze.”

Warlord Prayanth, the Living Genocide wants nothing more than to fall upon the system and reduce the peoples to bloody shreds, and she has the largest fleet among the taur to do so with. Fortunate, then, that when she attempted to breach the Gate Hubs, she suffered a mishap in Folded Space and the majority of her fleet was forced out of warp in the middle of the Duratus Nebula. The gas and energy of the nebula slows her ships to a crawl, and she speeds towards the system at nearly atmospheric speeds, hindered from contacting the new kyton allies by the lack of a means to breach the Shadow from within the Evermorn-linked nebula. A few of her ships were close enough to the edges of the nebula to begin operations within the system by now, and are under orders to seek a means to hasten her passage.

The taur are not the only extrasolar threat, however. The Eye of the Age is a comet that orbits but does not yet enter the system. Outwardly a standard rocky ice comet, the center of the comet is a prison for four great wyrm void dragons trapped in temporal stasis. Another interesting point about Aethera: No dragons. For whatever reason, there are no records of any sort of true dragon in the historical records (Or minotaurs, either, which makes the taur a threat without precedent). The observatories focused on the comet have noted that its orbit is decaying, and should enter the system in a mere six… centuries. I don’t know, it seems like there’s no real reason to include this, it’s too distant a threat in basically every sense to enter the sphere of action of most PCs. Maybe a dedicated campaign would make use of it, and it is cool, but.

Mentioned earlier, the Duratus Nebula is a constantly-writhing expanse of gas and energy that may be capable of catching exploring ships in tendrils of gas and slowing them to speeds consistent with atmospheric rather than interplanetary travel. Coterminous with the Evermorn, it also has a time dilation effect: Weeks outside the nebula are experienced as days within. The Growing God lurks just outside the borders of the system, feeding on the whispered pleas and prayers of those seeking divine aid within the system and constantly testing the border for a way in. This is not quite so far-fetched as it may seem for people to be asking divine aid in a region without gods. Aethera probably had gods before the Collapse, because there are outsiders around who can tell you about them, and some of these outsiders have set themselves up to be worshipped by cults. Cults to the Growing God exist as well, who claim their god empowers them in much the same way gods in more traditional realms empower their followers. What the aim of these cults and god are, though, none can fathom. :iiam: And The Wandering Star is a rogue planetoid, a chunk of Amrita on a long elliptical orbit through the system. Home to tens of thousands of ancient azaka in suspended animation, these could be an apocalypse to whatever planet they eventually arrive at. Unmutated by the exposure to aetherite the ones on Orbis Aurea experienced, these azaka may be sources of information on the time prior to the collapse. It doesn’t say in the book, but I think these guys either are the Progenitors, or the Progenitors had some really freaky hobbies. You know, besides harnessing the movement of the spheres to power their toasters.

And again I’m like 20,000 characters over with both sections, so I’m splitting this in two.

*With apologies to Douglas Adams.

Dareon
Apr 6, 2009



Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Fifteen - The Planes


Aethera has part of the standard planar complement. The Ethereal, the Shadow, Positive Energy, Negative Energy, and the elemental planes of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air all exist, as well as the Dimension of Dreams introduced in Occult Adventures. But something in the Collapse severed the system from the Astral Plane and any means of traveling through it to the Outer Planes. This has had a few effects. First, spells of the teleportation subschool simply do not work. Instead, the book supplies a few spells with the warping subschool, which make use of Folded Space. Second, the separation from the Outer Planes cuts off any outsiders from their divine connection. Any outsider left over from the Collapse or pulled into the system with a calling spell is stuck and gains the living idol template, which not only grants it power based on the number of worshippers it has, but uncouples it from its planar alignment nature. Thus, you could find a chaotic evil angel ruling a cult dedicated to hedonism and peace (and slaughtering those who refuse to join) or a lawful neutral demon running a law office. They’re very interesting and I’ll cover them more in the bestiary section. Plain old summoning spells work just fine and send their subjects back without issue, so you don’t need to worry about venerating your celestial badger.

The Inner Planes exist mostly as you may be aware of them from standard fantasy. Natural portals to the elemental planes may be encountered in strong manifestations of their element, such as deep caves leading into the Plane of Earth or a volcano allowing fire-elemental natives to slip through. There are some non-elemental natives of the planes who are otherwise attuned to the element, such as merfolk and sahuagin on the Plane of Water. The Aethera system does add two planes to the complement of elements, though: The planes of Wood and Aether. The Plane of Wood was created by Progenitor terraforming engines on Kir-Sharaat, and parasitizes the boundary between the planes of Earth and Water. It is populated by wood elementals who sprout forests when they die. Erahthi are not native to this plane, but they have explored it to a great extent. Residual mistrust from the war has prevented them from spreading their knowledge to any of the other races, however. The Plane of Aether is really only theoretical, but it’s linked to the use of aetherite-based technology. It is speculated to be parallel to the Material and Ethereal planes, infinite but matter-free, serving as the source of all telekinetic force. Still, no one has ever traveled there and its very existence continues to be hotly debated. Incidentally this means telekineticists are literally opening portals to the Punch Dimension.

The Positive Energy Plane is linked to the heart of the star Aethera, and it is here that preincarnate souls grow, tended by the phoenixlike jyoti. With no Outer Planes to sort and collect the souls of the dead, souls are instead drawn into the star, scrubbed of memory, and sent back out to be reincarnated. The Negative Energy Plane, on the other hand, functions roughly as expected. The only wrinkle is the spontaneous portals to it that open in deep space, vomiting forth negative-energy beings. Persistent tales from the Century War talk about swarms of incorporeal undead rushing through ships in space, slaughtering dozens before passing through the other side of the ship never to be seen again.

The Ethereal Plane is also known as the Wellspring of Emotion, the Veiled Mirror, and the Haunted Sea. The plane reflects the emotions of the denizens of the Material in its own form. Where life is absent, the plane is without form and void. Where it overlaps cities and places rich with life, it takes form. Interestingly, around Progenitor ruins the Ethereal forms rigid, logical structures, labyrinthine mazes, and fields of spires, as if the Progenitors never vanished at all. Memories and dreamscapes can also appear here, giving structure to the formless mists and allowing you to relive scenes from centuries ago. In the vague changeable state that memory leaves them, of course. The dreamscapes are hotly debated, whether they originate in the Dimension of Dreams and extrude into the Ethereal, or vice versa.

The spirits of the dead linger on the Ethereal for several days before drifting into the currents of the plane and off the planet into the aetheric currents. At battlefields, natural disasters, or other sites of sudden and emotionally-charged death, the mists of the Ethereal grow sluggish and eddy unpredictably. Spirits may be forced off the plane by these eddies, often back to the Material as ghosts or haunts, but possibly into a nearby elemental plane or the Dimension of Dreams. The dead are eventually drawn into the heart of Aethera to be reincarnated, but something mysterious lurks near the star on the Ethereal: An ever-growing crystalline structure of emotion and memory tended by the jyoti. Divinations have found a consciousness within it possessed of a hypnotic, beguiling beauty, but no one knows if the jyoti are creating something or building a prison.

The Ethereal does have a number of native inhabitants, from the bloodthirsty sahkil to the rather more civilized night hags. Interestingly, while night hags will trade and converse with mortals, they are reluctant to do so outside of carefully-constructed dreamscapes, their actions curtailed by fear of something they refuse to be specific about, speaking only of “the shadows and bones of greater things.” Some Ethereal natives attempt to whisper into the minds of Material beings, imparting knowledge for their own inscrutable purpose. While the whispers of psychopomps may be benign, the same cannot be said for other whisperers. Around the Gate Hubs, the Ethereal grows strange. The area around the Hub crackles with static charge, while the space where the Gate Hub would be is filled with a whirling sinkhole in the fabric of the plane, akin to a black hole. It can in theory be traversed like a gate hex, but no one knows if anything could safely make whatever journey it would take them on.

The Evermorn is the realm of the fey, bathed in perpetual reddish dawn light. Cotemrinous and coexistent, the plane mirrors the Material and rifts between the two make it easy to travel to the Evermorn, although those who can rarely do because of the plane’s inclement “weather”. The plane is shot through with time-storms, most of which drastically slow the passage of time. Portions of the Evermorn show things as they were thousands of years ago during the Collapse. While some fey, particularly those released from the time-storms, predate the Collapse, none has yet admitted to meeting a Progenitor. Elder fey learned to avoid the Material Plane because the walls between worlds were sealed by labyrinths of metal and energy. It’s only in the past few hundred years that fey have begun interacting more with the Material.

The Evermorn’s planar traits are as follows: Time is erratic, and the heaviest time-storms cause those within to treat the world outside as if under Time Stop. Its magically morphic nature means spells with the shadow descriptor can draw on the Evermorn or the Shadow as desired. It is mildly neutral-aligned. Spells using positive energy or that alter time are enhanced, while those with the darkness descriptor or that use darkness or cold are impeded.

The time-storms on each planet in the system show the events of the Collapse in close and brutal detail. Aethera bathes the plane in bright red light as it shrinks slowly to its current white dwarf state. Scientists theorize the time dilation has red-shifted its light. Ashra is an endless golden sky shot through with slow-motion firestorms. Akasaat’s time-storms feature oceans draining into the ground via whirlpools moving barely fast enough to see. In the regions near the arcologies, the Evermorn twists into labyrinthine halls that reflect the Hierarchy’s law and order, prowled by gremlins and leanan sidhe. Amrita is frozen in the process of falling apart, mountains shattering, ruins falling, and magma cascading like cold molasses. Seraos is almost entirely encompassed in a time-storm as it crumbles in an impossibly fierce windstorm. Those un-stormed regions in the area tend to lie along ley lines and thin spots allow gremlins through to prey on aethertech. Seraos’ moons are patchworks of terrain, with mountains, deserts, cliffs, and cavern systems adjacent to ceramic ruins as hard as steel, with almost no transitions between them.

Kir-Sharaat features time-stormed expanses of arid land and desert sandstorms, and fast pockets of wildly verdant growth. The fey tend to congregate on this planet, many of whom tend to resemble erahthi more than humans. Most of them have forgotten any sort of grudge they may have against the erahthi for their ancient wars, but there are some long-lived fey lords still holding grudges. The time-storms on Orbis Aurea feature flooding rainforests, and the fey here resemble okanta and giants. Okanta themselves often revere fey spirits of water and the hunt as well as their ancestors, some okanta ancestors being believed to have reincarnated as fey. Thin spots between the Material and Evermorn are occasionally used by okanta and giants as places of refuge or spots to lie in ambush. The Gulf is not empty in the Evermorn, instead filled with superheated plasma known as Phlogiston. Convection currents caused by interaction between the pholgiston and the aetheric currents ribbon through space, channeling air and positive energy in a manner that speeds travel and grants fast healing 2 to living creatures within them, but the aetheric currents themselves age objects and creatures by 5d10 years each round. Comets in stable orbit conceal the Star Palaces, great palaces for long-vanished fey lords.

Folded Space is the realm used by the Gate Hubs to facilitate travel between worlds. The taur somehow used it to get into the system as well, but the science behind the plane remains opaque to mortal researchers. Two theories have sorted out, however: One that Folded Space is a transition to some other plane, much like how brushing the edge of the Shadow can shorten travel in the Material. The other that a ship in Folded Space is simultaneously in all parts of the Material Plane at once, stretched out impossibly until the Gate Hub at its destination pulls it back together. Transit through a Gate Hub involves a momentary feeling of intense cold, and a subjective period of time in transit that is shorter than that recorded by outside observers. Most transits through Folded Space occur without incident, but as more ships make the trip, more tales of strange happenings are reported. Most of these are just a little creepy, like the sound of creatures crawling on the hull or whispering into one’s mind or dreams. But sometimes ships have just vanished in transit, or emerged weeks or months after their expected arrival time, hull gouged with claw marks, objects and crew within missing or disassembled and reassembled without rhyme or reason. I, too, have seen Event Horizon.

The Plane of Shadow, commonly referred to simply as the Shadow, underlies the entire system. It is here that the most insidious horror lurks, beneath the world we know. Kyton devils of many kinds dwell here, including some transformed from the races of Aethera. The taur dwell here as well, their world-ships hovering over the worlds of the system, watching and gathering information. If the populace of any of the planets knew how close the taur threat actually was, it would spark a panic the likes of which no one has ever seen. Akasaat in the Shadow is a world of harsh black deserts and jagged canyons, less hospitable to life than the normal planet. Where the Progenitor arcologies rise in the Material, the Shadow is occupied by similarly-towering “Silent Cathedrals”, adorned with imagery of eyeless humanoids with horrific deformities and augmentations. These cathedrals are home to the kytons’ Choir of the Machine, their guiding organization. The cathedrals are places of torture and transfiguration, turning people seduced or abducted by the kytons into more kytons.

The black mirror of Kir-Sharaat is a vast forest still, but one perverted into a concrete jungle, a forest of industry. Trees belch noxious clouds into the air, the oceans are tarry hydrocarbon sap, chains crisscross through the canopy like spiderwebs, and part arthropod/part carnivorous plant/part machine monstrosities slaughter each other in a mockery of the food chain. The Amrita Belt is a place of no return for explorers from the Material, even driving mad diviners seeking to plumb its secrets. The asteroids of the belt are webbed together with chains, and the void around it is home to taur world-ships ready to annihilate any ships foolish or unlucky enough to cross the planar boundary. Seraos has never had its Shadow explored, but any expedition would find a planet chained together, crackling with lightning, and howling with the voice of a dead civilization. And then they would die. They’re doing a lot of “We don’t go to Ravenholm” with the Shadow.

Orbis Aurea’s Shadow is a place of deceptive calm and bitter cold worse than that of deep space. Kytons prowl the aurora-lit tundra and wind-carved ice spires, seeking any intruders and spiriting them away to chain-webbed tunnels where shapers of flesh cut away their impurities. :kheldragar: The mirror-smooth black seas, tainted with petrochemicals, host warped sealife eager to feast on those who stray onto thin ice. The Gulf of Shadow is poorly-studied, we know only that currents of negative energy flow through the space and the aetheric currents carry swarms of incorporeal undead. Anything hiding there has everywhere to hide. And of course, there are the Taur ships, driven through the Shadow by means of shadow drives gifted to them by the kytons. World-ships hang over the worlds of the system, watching and waiting, each ship housing thousands of troops and bound demons. While the taur are formidable, their fleet is scattered across the system and they know they cannot actually face the combined might of the entire system.

Other planes exist or have been theorized, mostly by inference or ancient record which may or may not have been translated correctly. The Plane of Nightmares exists distinct from the Dimension of Dreams, and scholars debate its nature and the origin of its nightmares wildly. Vague mentions of the Akashic Record (introduced in Occult Adventures, and the repository of all history, absolute and objective) exist, but as it’s a demiplane of the Astral Plane, it remains tantalizingly out of reach. The House of Memory is spoken of in one place, a cenotaph excavated from Orbis Aurea and written in an alien tongue. Its translation is disputed, and would have been merely a curiosity except that the personal sigil the cenotaph was signed with was also found carved into an inactive gate on the Seraos Gate Hub. The Place of Shade and Flight is referenced in Progenitor records as “the in-between place”, which leads some to believe it may be linked to or simply be the Ethereal, but other references seem to contradict this. “Shade” can also translate as “refuge” and “flight” as “escape”, beyond the more typical interpretations, too, so there’s that. Ancient okanta songs speak of The Bleeding Ground, a nightmarish realm of meat where the entire plane is a living thing. The songs may be misinterpretations of experiences in the Plane of Nightmares, and more contemporary songs make no mention of it. Otherwise, myriad demiplanes exist in the Ethereal like bubbles in beer, some predating the Collapse, others here and gone in the blink of an eye. Scholars tend to seek out the former to try and learn things.

The Outer Planes are known to exist, thanks to Progenitor cosmology diagrams and the testimony of those outsiders who claim to be from there and cannot return. Most scholars, however, scoff at the notion that these planes embody some nebulous facets of morality, being unable to quantify subjective good or evil in a laboratory. Of note among the stranded outsiders are the psychopomps, self-proclaimed stewards of the dead responsible for carrying the souls of the dead to divine judgment. While other outsiders have had varying reactions to being trapped in the system, the psychopomps have almost universally gone mad and become sakhil. Bereft of their connection to the planes and divinities, most outsiders have abandoned their previous hardcoded morality, although many do act in some way according to their previous predispositions. As such, to the natives of the Aethera system, outsiders are not treated as the absolute representatives of their morality they normally would be, but instead as a particularly inscrutable species of alien. While information on the Outer Planes that these outsiders may give out is of questionable veracity, every single one has one statement in common: Something has gone wrong with the universe. It began with the Collapse, and has not ended.

And that finishes off the cosmology of the system. Next: Skills and feats.

Dareon fucked around with this message at 17:48 on Jul 22, 2017

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Hm. There are multiple references to labyrinths in those planar destinations. Is it possible that the Taur are some offshoot of the Progenitors?

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



Hey just thought I'd give some rationale for why I never finish a goddamn F&F: At least for Oubliette the issue is the setting is nice, but the system is straight FATE, and me just repeating what's in the book for the setting is kinda pointless? I can't really think how to add commentary, as it's good, but not mindblowingly original nor terrible and suitable for criticism, so there's not much to sink my teeth into. As for Atlantis, the other one I was doing, once again it was very functional but not really worth commentary, or highlighting? Like, if you like rules-medium sword and sorcery RPGs it's a very good one but it's a bit like reviewing OSR retroclones, unless they're doing something really novel or are broken/dogshit there's not much to say even for the very good ones.

I dunno just felt kinda like an explanation was needed. I love this thread, it's saved my from grinding boredom at work for ages, and pointed me at some very good games. I've found something I believe would be a legit contribution as it's a game literally no-one is talking about, is of a genre that's almost non-existent, is one of those things where the rules perfectly enforce the fiction, and has quite possibly the best art I've ever seen in an RPG, period.

So this post isn't empty whining, I'll just give a preview of the cover to whet the whistle:

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!




DEGENESIS: REBIRTH: PRIMAL PUNK: PRIMAL PUNK

For a book that pretty, it sure isn't that well indexed.

Following some art (which I'll post once it gets relevant instead of just being weird), we have our first fluff piece, which, again, makes more sense in the hindsight. Called "Rebirth", it's about two guys exploring a massive crater near Massif Central, somewhere around Varriere, around the place where Boujoulais originated. The first person narrator says that the drink didn't have enough foam in it for him to like it, which means he's probably German!

Hey, how hosed is the general area?

quote:

There is a blackened mountain range ahead of us, enameled and cracked by heat and sheer pressure. Hard and warped like effused lava, the ground is still warm to the touch. Its gnarled surface is covered with solidifed bursts, their sharp edges jutting out like briar patches. We have to be careful. Lomark has already punched a hole in his boot sole.

Kinda hosed, just like Lomark here, which you would notice if you had ever read a sci-fi short for once in your life (sci-fi shorts always end either in absurd or in tragedy, which makes them kinda predictable).

More descriptions of how hosed the place is follow, and Lomark starts seeing wasps, not sleeping and being a warning sign in general.

They eventually get into the crater, the going is hard, there might shapes too organized to be in the center of an impact waaay in the distance, yadda yadda. The narrator dismisses the idea that he's actually seeing mandalas in the dust before Lomark steps on them. In the crater, he eventually sees black smoke, which dissipates as he waves his gloved hand through it. He digs up a black rock from the ashes, and it dissipates in his arm, producing more black smoke... and a wasp.

And because our character is a complete idiot/this fluff piece is likely set right after the impact, he does this:

quote:

I remove my glove. I want to feel the black stone. Again,I trail my hand through the smoke and again, it disappears.
I look down at my hand, inspecting it from all angles. There’s a trace of black on my fingers, but it seems to dissipate… no, sink in. I anxiously rub my hand, shake it, make a fist. Adrenaline buzzes in my veins now. My heart races. My breath quickens. There is a moment of panic, and I quickly put the glove back on.

R.I.P. narrator, we barely knew ye :stare:

He tells Lomark to take pictures, captures some of the black essence in a vial and they head back home. They get quarantined for a day, but they don't find anything. Just in case, Dr. Roussevile tells our noble canary narrator to keep a journal.

quote:

My lungs rattle, probably from too much ash. My sputum is foamy. There are some red splotches on my chest now. Itchy. I write that down.
I keep thinking about the mandalas that I saw in the crater. When the red splotches on my body begin forming a similar pattern, I should be surprised. But I am not.

Somehow, he's not vivisected on the spot, and continues his observations. There are now ants in his tent, he can sense smells from the other end of the camp, recognize friends from their body smell, and generally starts seeing scents in the air.

Some time passes and this happens:

quote:

Dr. Rousseville and the other smelly apes tried to hold me down. I got so agitated that the glands on my neck burst open.

Narrator is kinda taking a transformation into a Pheromancer. What a pheromancer is will be explained, but I can tell you to expect a lot of gland mentions whenever they're around. The narrator runs out into the forest, molds up and dies. Or, in the book's own words:

quote:

I fall to my knees finally, digging in the dirt with my hands. Yes, birth. My heart sits within my chest, leaden and fiery, pumping and stomping. The mandalas now burn upon my skin, a hotbed of white flakes. I feel skin and flesh tug and tear along the lines. Something within me wants out. I break down. Breathe flakes and see them rise. Feel my body mold up. Sink into the ground.
Deep within my skull, something stirs. Something human, ancient. It is fear. Screaming.
Rebirth.

Title drop!

The next two pages are dedicated to explaining what is Degenesis, what is a role playing games is (just so that some American wouldn't mistake this book for a travel guide to Europe), a T. S. Eliot quote that takes up half the page due to formatting, and an explanation of what to expect from your purchase. Let's take this all from the top.

Eschaton (The world during the posthistoric era of God's overt (apocalyptic) reign, immediately preceding the end of the world. - wictionary :science101:) was when fire fell from the heavens and everyone got wrecked, around 2070. Since we're reading a book made in 2014 rather than 1984, said fire is not canned sunshine and no nukes go off. Civilization was ruined to the max, and humanity spent the next 500 years rebuilding. We'll spend the book trying to find out what any of these words mean:

quote:

The year is now 2595. Europe is divided into several warring Cultures. The people of Borca cling to the Bygone’s relics. Frankers thrash around in the Aberrants’ pheromone net. Purgare is a land of half burnt and half fertile plains, but all together shattered by feuds against the Psychokinetics. The Pollen people wander from oasis to Fractal Forest before even the last green area is devoured by the Sepsis and the biokinetic plague. Hybrispania suffers from a decades-long struggle for liberation and a growing
time anomaly. And beyond the Mediterranean, Africa shines in Gold and Lapis Lazuli struggles for its existence against a strange, aggressive vegetation.

The game is about hope and struggle, both between human factions and such capitalized threats as Sepsis, Aberrants and so on. The explanation of a role playing game... well, nobody cares and it's unlikely that someone bought this book (or these two books) without knowing what they're getting into, especially when you consider the price.

The guide to the books states what we already know: Primal Punk is the fluff book, while Katharsys is split into the rules, the Almanac (gear and stuff) and Forbidden Zone, which is their cutesy way of saying "no players past this point" - this be the GM section.

Next time: We delve into Chapter 1: Forward.

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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 THREE: ESCAPE

Or

Dying in the Tutorial


Where we last left our intrepid convicts, they got literally like a hour and a half of sleep and then Perdition happened. They're trapped in their cells as fire immolates poor Jimmy and the damage done to the ship starts to cause more and more things to fail.

Just as a side note: I sorta hate that this all takes place in the same day? Like. Our player characters spent 8 hours moving rubble and doing hard labor. They got in a fight. They only got a hour and a half of sleep and it wasn't even good sleep. I wrote all that and it made me tired. If doomsday comes and I did 8 hours of manual labor and only got a hour of sleep, I would just go back to bed and await death under the covers. Anyway, doom and gloom and death in prison. Then Freak hits Despair 10 and his psychic powers manifest even though they really should've just done that at Despair 8.

So now the PCs are free! Here's what everyone does:
  • Slag runs into the shower and into the maintenance tunnels. It takes a Wits check to see him do that and you can't stop him for Plot Reasons.
  • Freak runs out the front door of the cell block and will later be found at Area 22.
  • Radio, Sugar Daddy, Sarge and 1d4 of the other prisoners depending on how many people are in the party will stand around and argue about what to do next. Sugar will want to put out the fire, but Radio will open the tube and share the panicked screaming and slaughter and gunfire from the floors above and below. Sarge will just stand around.
It's in your best interest to convince Sugar, Radio, Sarge and Nameless NPCs to follow you. All you have to do is make a Social check for each character. The main reason you want to do this is because of safety in numbers. The other reason is that if you don't bring them with you, they'll stick around and get eaten by a horde of Devourers that are shambling their way up the tram tunnel and will arrive in 2 hours.

Let's take a look at the map!



Confusing, isn't it? Progress involves 14 (the showers) and going to 26 to go further out into the prison. You will only know that the showers now open into the maintenance tunnels if you look at them or saw Slag run into them. You actually kind of don't want to just run into the tunnels because you'll be under-armed but let's go over the legend.


You're supposed to roll on this randomly whenever the PCs just stand around and do nothing or take too long to figure out something to do.

1-16 is everything I shared last time for D-5134 and the only change is that everything is on fire and breaking and the front door is open.


The corridor is empty and dark but fortunately Sugar has light rods in his possession.

18 is a ventilation duct and can also be used to enter the maintenance tunnels.

19 is a first aid station for cell block D-5133. Wits check to notice sounds coming from 20.


Despair check! The scavenging Trustees will threaten the PCs and try to get them to shove off but they can be socialized with. Bryce, the leader of the squad, will explain that they came from the D-4000 blocks...and they somehow managed to get here in, like, less than a half hour? On foot? They were assembled after the alarm went off and saw the fire doors begin to close and decided to flee for the maglev tunnels rather than be trapped in the 4000s. They have no idea what happened to the prisoners of D-5133; they're just looking for supplies because they're moving to the south. You can push further with Intimidation or Social and Bryce will admit he heard a voice telling him to go south. If you criticize this plan or question the fact that he's listening to voices, Bryce will flip out and try to kill the PCs to try and cement control over his men and his plans.

This is actually a good thing, hilariously enough. If Bryce and his Trustees go down the maglev tunnel, they'll run into the Devourer horde that's headed in the direction of the PCs and all die. If the scavengers all die to the horde, the PCs will later learn about this and gain +1 Guilt for not trying to stop them. If they push Bryce into attacking (or, hell, just murder Bryce) there is no Guilt gain and the Trustees...I mean I don't know what they would do. They kinda get forgotten because it's not explicitly said that they'll, like, fight back. Maybe they join you because you established dominance by killing their leader? Who the gently caress knows.

21 is the passage north that runs along the maglev tunnel. It's cut off 500 feet in due to a structural collapse. This passage also runs south but 300 yards down the tunnel is the horde of Devourers.


Fortunately there's only 1 Devourer and there are, like, 6 or 7 PCs and NPCs banded together. They're more than a match for a single Devourer. The downside is the Despair gain which means everyone is around, like, 5-6 Despair after this fight. Searching the corpse pile reveals two things: 2d20 smokes and Freak's corpse. Freak's Despair gauge overflowing caused a manifestation while he hooked up with a bunch of prisoners trying to get into the armory and their combined Despair caused the Devourer to kill them. Which, I mean, sure, but also shouldn't there be more Demons? Not complaining!


The armory is sealed. You either need Access 1 or to hack it open. The armory is then further divided into Control 1 and Control 2 where the Control 2 items need Access 2 or harder hacking to get at them. The lock to the armory and the Control 2 items can be attempted to be hacked 3 times before they lock.



D-5135 is on fire and has had a series of steam pipe explosions like what happened in 5134. Half of the block is collapsed and the maintenance access in the shower has opened like 5134. Make a Despair check upon entering the block because nearly everyone inside is dead, burned alive and littering the floors and cells. Making noise alerts the prisoner stuck in Area 25 who will call out for help.


Convict 6343631, "Felix", is trapped in his cell. A Social check reveals that Felix was convicted as a Vice Offender for child molestation and murder. He'll beg the PCs to help get him out of his cell and the door requires a combined Prowess of 15 to get it off its hinges. Leaving Felix is completely viable, but it does mean you gain +1 Guilt for willingly leaving a man to burn alive. If freed, Felix will join the party and uses Chester stats. He won't fight, he'll mostly just hang out in the back away from danger, but he also will just chill peacefully with the party until they reach safety.


26 are the maintenance tunnels. They're dark and cramped but there's no danger here.

Time for the bigger maps!





These are confusing but the ideal route to complete the module is 27, 29, 31, 34, 35, 39, 44, 45. The ideal plot route is 27, 29, 31, 34, 39, 40-45.


There are plenty of monitors here for the PCs to view.

The last image gives everyone -1 Despair due to the hopeful nature of prisoners banding together to protect one another. If the PCs don't figure out what their goal of this module is (and they probably won't) a NPC should say "oh wow we should go team up with the Giants".


Why is this here when 29 is, like, visibly the next thing up? Anyway. You don't want to go this way. Attempting to cross the gap period requires a Despair check where failure means +1 Despair. Crossing is a Prowess check. Failure means a Reflexes check to grab yourself and climb back to the beginning. Failure means you die, that's it. Even if you cross, there's a chance of catching fire from the sparks. On a 1d6, 1-3 is safety, 4-5 is -1 health from getting singed and you catch fire on a 6 and have to roll to put yourself out. I love this. This is cool and smart and good game design.



#4913654 is meek and apologetic when approached and says that he was injured and the three convicts he was with abandoned him. A Social check, or having Felix in the party because he recognizes him, will reveal that 4913654 is known as "Nibble" because he was a Terran desk clerk who allegedly killed and ate a child. If pressed on this claim, Nibble will vehemently deny it and then try to run away. If nobody broaches the subject, Nibble will join the crew...and then wait until he's alone with a single NPC/PC because then he'll try to kill them, drag them off and eat them.



This is where Nibble hid all of the corpses of the people he's killed and has been snacking on. If he's in the party, Nibble will desperately attempt to stop the squad from poking their noses around in there. There's nothing else to this area.


Roughly 100 prisoners had previously stampeded down the corridor, trying to go north and then trying to go south. There are no dangers here.

Anything marked 32 is an abandoned cell block which will generally just have corpses, structural damage and possible fires. The only reason to bother with the cell blocks is to try searching them.



33 is where the tram connects with this corridor, but before Perdition the Warden sent a trio of Enforcers down to the hall to block it off in case of prisoner riot. The stampeding mob of prisoners fleeing the north attempted to overrun the prisoners but they were all exploded by the Enforcers' sonic beamers having a power spike from subduing the mob, mistaking them for a riot. Attempting to fight the Enforcers is certain death, so as a result they won't leave their postings to chase the PCs...unless they're holding onto something beyond their Access. Then the only way to make them stop attempting to subdue them is to give up the "contraband" and lose it for good.


These barricades were either overrun or abandoned. Because the area is calm, the party can just get past them no problem.


Despair check! The cell blocks attached to the cafeteria attempted to hold it against the Demons but all died in the attempt. Searching the bodies and the area will reveal 1d4 shivs, a handful of improvised weapons and a mace canister with a few sprays left.


The roar is an indicator that the party shouldn't attempt to go any further. Because if they do...


What happened here was that C Wing had a decompression blowout and the security doors shut to protect the rest of the ship. When the prisoner stampede attempted to try to bypass the doors, a few of the prisoners hit Despair 10 and caused a Panic Feeder to be spawned behind them. The mob then attempted to flee south, where they were all exploded by sonic beamers. The party cannot fight/beat a Panic Feeder and the game says that the monster should be distracted with snacking on corpses over paying attention to them. If they do draw its attention, the party should then be allowed to get the gently caress out and the Panic Feeder won't follow them.


The Monitor is permanently malfunctioning due to attempting to break the Death Slither's grip on its head. When the PCs get close enough, the Death Slither will attack the party while the Monitor will keep ramming into the wall. Fortunately this big ol' party should have plenty of hands to deal with one Death Slither.


The convicts all have Joe Average stats. There are two women and four guys and one of the men is badly injured. They'll talk to the PCs but they'll speak warily, explaining that they came from a D block that had a decompression they just managed to escape. They've already explored the area and are moving on to somewhere else. Giving them medical attention will get the crew to open up a bit more about what they know:



The rec complex was meant for the more well-behaved prisoners of D block. It’s empty and the majority of fixtures are untouched. Players can make improvised weapons out of anything they scrounge up, plus you can also obtain 1d100 smokes from scrounging.


The Nexper Sext manifested in this area and caused a smaller panic in the rec center as everyone fled towards Area 43, the security room for the recreation complex. Unfortunately someone locked the door to the security room and everyone was killed by the NS. This is going to be a super tricky fight. On the one hand, the team is ideally around 6-7+ people, meaning the prisoners dominate the action economy. On the other hand, the NS can’t be ganged up on, is capable of some nasty damage with its paralysis gently caress You combos and regular attacks and attacking it in melee runs the risk of getting hit with its acid. This is a doable fight, but a definite spike in difficulty and anyone who gets hurt in this fight is probably going to carry some heavy wounds into the end of the module.


Despair check! This, specifically, is where all of the prisoners died at the tentacles of the NS. The door here will remain shut until the NS is dead, opening into area 43.


Social check!

#3586661, “Dr. Needles”


On the outside, Needles was a genius surgeon who developed a mean streak of anhedonia and clinical detachment from his work and from people around him despite the fact that he doesn’t have any Traits that reflect this. That’s when he started killing his patients for pleasure, and his patients tended to be the wives of rich and powerful PTM politicians and celebrities. He’s been on antipsychotics since he got a cell in the Gehenna and that, mixed with good behavior, has gotten him Trustee status despite the fact that he doesn’t actually have the Trustee trait.

Yeah in case you have noticed, Dr. Needles reeks of Important Plot Character and this is where it begins.

Needles was able to keep a cool head during Perdition because of the fact that he was on his medication. He was laying low with a bunch of other prisoners in the weight room when he saw that their agitation and fear caused a manifestation of Devourers and the NS, and then ended up running into the security room to lock the others out. He’s aware that he’s responsible for the death of a whole mess of people but hey as long as he’s alive that’s all that matters. He’s been doing amateur study of the Demons and of the current events of the prison, keeping tabs with the console and cameras. And he’s willing to discuss this info with the PCs if asked. The discussion is supposed to be generally strange; he’s a remorseless serial killer who is genially sharing information with them and nobody’s quite sure if anyone’s going to attack anyone. But as long as the PCs keep a cool head, they get some info:

If the PCs are willing to go with him to where the Giants are forming a safe zone, he’ll gladly tag along and heal the party. The problem is that Needles can’t really leave so easily due to the Soul Shadow in the room.

Yeah so while letting a slew of prisoners die kept him safe, it also manifested a Soul Shadow who has been lurking in the shadows. The two have basically been locked in a sort of stalemate; the Shadow is fascinated by the fact that Needles seems remorseless and Needles is fascinated with the Shadow’s…Demon-ness and how it works. Problem is, it’s not a “peace” that will last forever. Needles has secretly dosed himself with Cardiolax to remain calm in its presence and eventually the Soul Shadow will get bored of being locked in a room with him and kill him. Even with a 7+ party, fighting a Soul Shadow is going to be a problem. There’s a real risk of someone’s Despair gauge popping based on the pacing of everything so far and then there’s the fact that its bites do 1d10 damage. Tongue lash+bite=super huge chance of death and more Guilt/Despair accumulation. This is absolutely the wrong type of Demon for the players to encounter if a loving Panic Feeder is too much. As a palate cleanser, here is what this scene looks like put to art:



Assuming that some of the PCs live and the Soul Shadow is killed, Needles will also share his stash of medical supplies: 2 first aid packs, a syringe and 3 doses of Cardiolax.


Welcome to the entry of D-block’s Ultramax where the Psychos run the show. If the PCs didn’t warn the prisoners from 39 about the turrets being pointed the wrong way, they’ll be dead on the floor and cause a gain of +1 Guilt. The turrets only fire if the PCs try to go beyond 10 feet into the room. Can the PCs destroy the turrets? Not likely with the gear they probably have. Can the PCs dodge the turrets and get to the other side? Maybe, but even if they do, the door to the escape is sealed…and the controls are inside of Ultramax. Testing the turrets or deciding to turn back and find another way trigger a cutscene.

The second voice belongs to Blade, the leader of the Psychos and the guy who was brawling with Johnson in the cafeteria. Blade really doesn’t care about the PCs one way or another; he just wants to see if Slag is worthy of joining the Psychos. If the PCs agree to this deathmatch rematch, the door to 45 (Ultramax proper) will open up, the turrets will deactivate and the PCs will be allowed in.

If they say no? Uhhhhh. Well. Blade cuts off the conversation and leaves the turrets online. The PCs either have to destroy the turrets, break open the doors to Ultramax, go on a rampage through the Psychos and find the door controls…or the GM just has to plot by the seat of their rear end. I would say “railroad mercilessly” but the first option of all of that is merciless railroading that will probably end in the death of the entire party.

Not like 45 is any better.


Whoa! I wonder what this looks like if it was illustrated.



Oh. Welp.

Slag Round 2: Hell Around Cells

Slag orders the four other Psychos (Thug stats) to attack everyone who isn't his chosen foe. There should, hopefully, still be enough people in the party for it to be a relatively even fight in term of the odds and getting ganged up on. Slag's stats haven't changed, the only thing that's different about this fight is that Slag has a zip gun in addition to his fists and shiv. He's planning on using it to coup de grace his opponent.

There' s nothing fancy or complicated to fighting the Thugs, they'll just go down. The problem is Slag. For starters, he can still fight until -8 HP or for 8 rounds after hitting 0. The other problem is that his slide into insanity and his expressions of rage means that Slag has manifested a Demon a while ago. So here's what happens when Slag hits -8 or collapses:
  • For some reason the GM still rolls on the injury and recovery table to see if he's just killed or if there's a penalty to his stats or whatever. This isn't, like, done for anyone else. Skip this part. Go to the next part.
  • Slag's body explodes and a Violator crawls out of the bloody corpse and attacks the party.
Yeah. So the party is most likely bloodied or at the very least just beat up on a bit and hurting. This is the hardest fight in the module even though it's just one Demon against the party. Fighting the Soul Shadow was hard because it was capable of doing heavy single target damage. Fighting the Violator is pretty much going to be a TPK; it has ranged attacks, it can turn the party members against each other with its venomous bites and its melee attacks can be done from two squares away. Plus there's the Despair and Insanity gain from fighting this stupid thing, plus fighting it in melee means your weapons will probably be destroyed. The book even says that this is "difficult but not impossible" and that if the PCs are losing, the NPCs should be willing to provide a distraction and take a hit to allow the PCs to continue beating on the Violator. I mean I was under the impression that the NPCs were helping fight regardless but whatever, just friggin' try to cover your rear end.

If/when Violator Slag goes down, there's a hush amongst the Psychos out of respect for the party's fighting prowess. Blade says "I guess he was found....wanting." and the PCs are allowed to leave through the exit and head towards the Giants.

FINAL REWARDS

Everyone gets their Despair reduced by 1d6 and everyone gets 200 BP to spend. There are also suggested BP rewards for playing close to your character's personal goals which can be up to an additional 200 BP. Which...is actually surprisingly nice and fair for character progression. 200 BP is generally enough for one stat improvement or at least a good amount towards another Trait you'd want and playing fairly close to your goal should net you around 300 BP total. Like, yes, your character has to survive to get this far, but it's surprisingly generous and good for ensuring that your character does in fact get better. So I guess have a little bit of light praise for this choice despite failing in so many other ways.



"Also if you don't want to run this scenario for the characters to be their intro, run something else and set it elsewhere on the ship". Delightful.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Alright, so. As far as plotting goes...it's okay. Like it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect for this game which is generally predicated on, like, the apocalypse happening to a bunch of prisoners. However it's abundantly imbalanced, railroading like whoa and is substantially likely to end with the mass death of the entire party, especially if people decide to go poke the Panic Feeder. If I had to compare this to food, I guess it's just like a bag full of dollar meal foods from McDonalds that are cold and you didn't even buy them from the good McDonalds. Like yeah you can eat it and yeah you can digest it, but it's a lot of sodium and a lot of meh and leads to just a weird and totally avoidable stomach feeling and also maybe death. Just loving come up with something else like the book recommends.

Oh and also this is just weirdly plotted to have all of the Dr. Needles stuff happen like far off from the place to go. Like maybe if you had to pass through the rec center and poo poo it would work but otherwise there's no real reason for the PCs to ever go northeast up to that area. I mean, I know the real reason is "you're not allowed to show them much of the map", but. It's still dumb.

NEXT TIME: the PCs have managed to catch the trail of the Giants in the next module. Can Sanctuary stand strong against the hordes of Demons and prisoners and prove they have THE RIGHT TO LIVE? Yes. Yes they can.

Hostile V fucked around with this message at 06:30 on Jul 23, 2017

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