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Dallbun
Apr 21, 2010


Let’s see, you’re in a dank corner of the internet, on a forum, and you’re low level. Let me draw a card… okay, looks like you run into



The Deck of Encounters Set One: Introduction

The Deck of Encounters, Set One posted:

The road rounds a bend. A glitter catches your eye. There's something in the ditch, and it looks like gold…

Now—endless encounters! This is a treasure chest full of over 400 encounters in all kinds of terrain, for AD&D® 2nd Edition game player characters of all levels. Encounters with monsters, traps, and tricks. Encounters requiring brawn and a quick sword. Encounters requiring quick wits, courage, and imagination.

The front of each card details the basics of the encounter—danger level, terrain, climate, character attributes needed for success, encounter types, and the experience-point value for rapid reference. Each detail has its own icon, making the task of selecting just the right encounter even easier.

Concentrate on your campaign and leave the encounters to the Deck of Encounters!

This thing came out in 1994, about a year before wee elementary school-age me got into the game through the Introduction to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons box set (a reissue of First Quest). I not only owned this deck, I used it in the terrible campaign that I ran for years for my brother and a couple of our friends. This era in general is extremely nostalgic to me, and I’m interested in seeing what kind of random encounters TSR thought would improve an AD&D campaign. My expectations are not high.

The lead designer was Colin McComb, who would later put his Philosophy BA to work as one of the co-creators of Planescape. The credited additional designers were Dustin Browder (who worked on Starcraft II and some V:tM stuff over the years), Michele Carter (later involved in developing the 4th Edition cosmology), Andrew Morris, and Teeuwynn Woodruff (who’s worked on a variety of stuff for TSR/Wizards, including Betrayal at House on the Hill, for which this experience seems potentially relevant).

What are the first cards? Well, they have credits and information on how to use the deck itself. Let's go over them.


1. Using These Cards, 1 of 3

The introduction to the deck begins by claiming you can use these cards as random encounters, incorporate ones you like in a longer campaign, or use them "to design an entire campaign." That's a mighty tall claim, Deck of Encounters. What kind of campaign can we build out of these cards? A terrible one, I suspect.

It goes on to explain that you can sort the cards as you like - by danger level, climate, terrain, type of problem, etc. Fair enough. It notes that some cards are two- or three-parters, though it doesn't really explain how that works. (It depends; some are essentially one encounter split across two cards, and some are intended to be a first encounter and then a later follow-up.) And finally,

Using These Cards, 1 of 3 posted:

It is recommended that you read the cards, so you can be sure to select only the appropriate cards for your game.

Very important advice. I recall doing exactly that back in the day: going through the cards and sorting out the ones I wanted to use. As such, after looking at each card, I’ll be deciding to keep it in my theoretical random encounter deck, or to pass on it… or occasionally to put it forth to you, the jury, to pass judgement on.


2. Using These Cards, 2 of 3

This card explains the reference categories. Danger level (low is for levels 1-4, medium for 5-9, high for 10+), climate (they note it's mostly "temperate" because that's where most D&D campaigns are set), Terrain (forest, rough terrain, mountains, dungeon, urban, arctic, etc.), Attribute ("how the encounter would best be resolved," oddly labeled by ability score: "Strength indicates combat, Charisma indicates negotiation, and so forth." There are no encounters that should be solved through Constitution), Encounter (monster, device, or NPC), XP value, and "Additional Info" (where to look for more information on the topic - nine times out of ten, this is labeled MM for Monstrous Manual.)

All of these would be a lot more useful if they were positioned on the tops of the cards so you could see them clearly while flipping through the deck. Color-coding would have helped, too. As it is, you can sort them out into piles beforehand, but it’s pretty awkward to find, say, a medium-level arctic encounter if you haven’t organized them very well ahead of time.


3. Using These Cards, 3 of 3

The designers note that you can expand upon an encounter - if the PCs are really curious about where those ghouls came from that were wandering around in the city after dark, make up a necromancer who's terrorizing the city from within or whatever. Sound advice!

The next paragraph suggests that if the players are "obsessing on a single encounter" and ignoring your awesome adventure that you have planned, you should just cut off the story line. "For example, you could decree that the ghouls... were the unnatural byproduct of the graveyard and leave it at that." Bonus overbearing DM points for use of the word "decree." :allears:

(Of course, if I was a good-intentioned PC, I might respond, "drat, graveyards randomly spawn undead? Someone's got to do something about this! Let's ransack every graveyard in the area and crush all the skulls! We'll be doing a public service!")


Cards 4 through 12

These are simply cards that demonstrate the icons for terrain, difficulty, and so on, and then the checklists themselves. Tune in next time for our first real batch of encounters!

Dallbun fucked around with this message at 20:59 on Oct 17, 2017

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Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Oh god, I just found my box of those stupid things the other day.

Barudak
May 7, 2007



Just gonna make a deck full of random challenges but not allocate my possible challenges evenly. This product is going to be great!

Angrymog
Jan 29, 2012

Really Madcats



Bieeardo posted:

Oh god, I just found my box of those stupid things the other day.

Same! Though I might have volume 2.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Tuxedo Catfish posted:

Teela's arc ends in tragedy and the creature that helped engineer her going "huh, I guess luck isn't genetic after all" though.

e: I guess Niven backed down from it later?
Well I mean it depends on how you feel about certain major changes in life. It isn't like this project was all my doing, anyway. The blame shares many parents.

It did seem likely that they were angling for low-key positive probability shifts rather than Luck as a Superpower.

If someone has full access to the Ringworld materials I think that would be an interesting review. I don't have the materials or else I would do it.

RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

Halloween Jack posted:

I would like to see a sci-fi game that took technology beyond the "posthumanism" of even Eclipse Phase and all the way to the "indistinguishable from magic" phase. I don't know much about Niven in particular, but something like Known Space, Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time, Jack Kirby's Fourth World, and Alan Moore's Miracleman...the closest stuff I can immediately think of is Ashen Stars and maybe Mark Rein-Hagen's unpublished Exile.

This is the target setting for Farflung, a PbtA riff by Sanguine. Might be your cuppa. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/196384/FARFLUNG-SciFi-RolePlay-After-Dark

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


I kinda don't get the appeal of that. I mean, singularity is called that because its effects are unimaginable... so wouldn't your campaign still end up kinda mundane, like how Numenera is D&D For /r/atheism IFLS Fanclub? Like, unless you're playing with your nerd quantum scientist friends, how do you build a campaign about bending muon-quantum wave to improve offset kinetic modulation in Bettelgeuse Dyson Swarm?

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





JcDent posted:

I kinda don't get the appeal of that. I mean, singularity is called that because its effects are unimaginable... so wouldn't your campaign still end up kinda mundane, like how Numenera is D&D For /r/atheism IFLS Fanclub? Like, unless you're playing with your nerd quantum scientist friends, how do you build a campaign about bending muon-quantum wave to improve offset kinetic modulation in Bettelgeuse Dyson Swarm?
One part of the appeal might be trying to figure out weird ways and new stages on which to have drama, like that Frederick Pohl book with the star entity. Another reason might be if you're trying to do genre emulation for things like Marvel's Thor or the Kirby New Gods. Yet another might be if you want that fantasy flavor but cannot countenance conventional magic/similar tropes.

ThreeStep
Nov 5, 2009


Halloween Jack posted:

I would like to see a sci-fi game that took technology beyond the "posthumanism" of even Eclipse Phase and all the way to the "indistinguishable from magic" phase. I don't know much about Niven in particular, but something like Known Space, Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time, Jack Kirby's Fourth World, and Alan Moore's Miracleman...the closest stuff I can immediately think of is Ashen Stars and maybe Mark Rein-Hagen's unpublished Exile.

As the title suggests, Sufficiently Advanced aimed to do something like this. I own a copy but only skimmed it once or twice so I'm not sure how well it works but it seems to come close.

It also has an "uncomfortable Roma stereotype" civilization, among other questionable design choices.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Unknown, GenCon Q&A Transcript posted:

Will the Core Rulebook contain monsters, or will they be in a separate book later?

Jason Keeley, Starfinger Design Team Member, GenCon Q&A Transcript posted:

In a separate book later. We will have that First Contact Free RPG Day product available to even before Starfinder comes out, so you'll still have a couple of monsters. And also we know, as Owen mentioned earlier, that there's a philosophy where you can grab the (Pathfinder) Bestiary, plop it open, and run the monster that you find there.

Starfinger Core Rules Part #19: "The [Starfinger] Adventure Path, the first volume of which will come out in August at the same time as the Core Rulebook, will also have a Bestiary section just like the Pathfinder Adventure Path does, so right out of month 1 you'll have some new monsters, and every volume of the AP will have a selection of new monsters and new aliens and such."
(Credit: Jason Keeley, Starfinger Design Team Member, GenCon Q&A Transcript)



Afflictions

This is mainly describing four things: curses, diseases, and poisons. Curses have a single effect and require a specific condition be met to be removed (or just having a friendly Mystic with remove affliction). Diseases come in two types: physical and mental, and each has a 7-step series of status effects depending on how far along you are. Similarly, poisons have six types, one for each attribute, but with only 5-steps. And with both diseases and poisons, hitting the last step kills you. Some really deadly versions of either might skip steps. Drugs work like a low-level poison, but a failed Fortitude save can result in the addiction "disease" being inflicted as well. Poisons and diseases require medical card to basically stop the progression and start reversing the steps... or you can just cast remove affliction, though doing so requires a caster level check equal to the normal DC of the effect + 4... but also lets you skip a lot of the steps in recovery. Being cured requires a number or successful consecutive saves while being treated, though most poisons only require one save.

In general the DCs of afflictions doesn't see the escalation other systems do, going from DC 12 to DC 20.

For curses, we have:
  • Curse of Lethargy: This slows the accursed, requiring you to run four continuous hours a day for a week to break the curse.
  • Curse of the Miser: Makes you lose 10% of your "net worth" each week, whatever that might entail. You can only break it by spending 20% of your "net worth" selflessly... which seems to break the equipment treadmill, or at least make your GM scramble to appropriately maintain your wealth levels.
  • Curse of the Ravenous: You treat each hour as a day for purposes of starvation, which means you'll likely starve to some extent whenever you sleep. This can only be broken by drinking water and eating gruel for a month.
  • Curse of the Vainglorious: Failing a check will give you minor penalties for a minute to whatever roll was performed, and prevents you from taking 20. You have to "apprentice to a master" for 1 month to break this curse.
  • Curse of the Zealous: Whenever you would make your first hostile action in a combat, you're confused for 1d4 actions. To break this- "The victim must take no hostile actions for 1 month of active adventuring." No, really.
Curses just highlight the need for a spellcaster and the presumption you'll be packing remove affliction or at least paying for an NPC caster to do it for you. Of the five, only one - Vainglorious - is inconvenient rather than crippling. Zealous is downright murderous, more or less excepting a whole PC from damage-dealing for a full month of adventuring to recover, which could be exceptionally dangerous. Miser, depending on how it's interpreted, could permanently leave a character permanently behind on the equipment treadmill. And so on. There's no point to even bothering with interfacing with the solution for Miser - you're better off just hiring a remove affliction service unless you're 4th level or lower where it's cheaper to just pay it off. (And that's presuming such a low-level character can even interpret the curse and it's solution.)

It's a bad mechanic. Actually dealing with the curse solutions is almost always too much trouble to worry about, and it's better to turn to magic to resolve the issue. Magic is, of course, the desired solution to all these problems.

Disease can really be divided into two types: fleeting and punishing. (Those are my terms, not Starfinger's.) Cackle fever, devil chills, filth fever, leprosy, mindfire, red ache, and shakes are all just fleeting ones - varying in type and DC, and a potential pain if you're got a bad fort save, but ultimately treatable given some downtime. The punishing diseases, however, are much worse, because if not swiftly treated (once again, preferably with remove affliction), they can have permanent penalties. And by permanent, of course, Starfinger doesn't mean actually mean the definition of the word - "lasting or remaining without essential change". Permanent means "you need magic to fix this". Namely, restoration, another Mystic spell. The punishing diseases are:
  • Blinding Sickness: True to its name, if you fail two saves without recovering, you go blind.
  • Demon Fever: The weakening this inflicts is permanent after one failed save.
  • Mummy Rot: This has no normal cure, inflicts the effects of both types of diseases, and can only be cured by a successful double dose of remove affiliction spells cast back-to-back.
  • Slimy Doom: Two failed saves leaves you permanently impaired.
So, once again, you have this whole system where a number of the diseases aren't worth loving around with. Magic is, once again, the key. Worth mentioning is the addiction disease, caused by drug addiction. It's a special case where it only kicks in if you fail to take the drug. It features a progressive DC the longer you go without, making recovering from drug addiction harder than surviving bubonic plague or ebola slimy doom. I know you don't want to make it easy, but recovering from megaopiate addiction requires at least three DC 20+s saves, where ebola slimy doom requires two DC 14 saves. Hell,

Speaking of which, let's talk about drugs! Drugs provide a minor benefit with the cost of addiction and penalties (the first tier of the "disease" they represent). You have to fail the save against addiction to get the benefit, however, but you can voluntarily fail if you really want it. The listed drugs are:
  • Dreamshiver (2,500 cr / dose: Get a huge bonus against fear or fall asleep - it's literally a coin flip between the two and there's no way to influence it. Pass.
  • Hyperleaf (95 cr / dose): Space pot, gives a minor bonus against mind-affecting effects. (Say 'mind-affecting effects five times fast'.)
  • Megaopiate (22,000 cr / dose): With a bonus to saves against pain and Damage Reduction 5/-, space heroin verges on being useful.
  • Transdimensional Pesh (14,000 cr / dose): The urban legend version of PCP, now in space. A bonus against fear and +2 SP per level.
At first glance, drugs might seem handy for maximization, but the issue is that they work like diseases, which means failing a single save against them - and you have to fail a save to get the bonuses - means you move along the disease progression track, which always includes physical. The first step of a physical disease makes you sickened and fatigued, which is -3 to most major actions... and then it gets worse. You have to take drugs once a day or suffer from withdrawal, which also functions as a disease to recover from, one with very high Fort save DCs to do so. It makes me wonder why they gave drugs bonuses at all, because it's not like they offset the penalities in the slightest. At the third or fourth stage of the disease, you can only act in action scenes at severe penalities and self-harm. This can easily happen after a week or two of drug addiction. And yes, this also means all drugs are lethal. Space pot can conceivably kill you in weeks, not that it's likely to, given you'll be bedridden or comatose long before that, at which point you either need to have your dealer make a home visit or go through withdrawal. And withdrawal definitely can kill you if you fail to roll to recover.

Yes, some drugs can certainly be dangerous. They are. But this is some Reefer Madness-level rules, where one hit of a death stick, one failed save, and you're risking death. There's no point for a PC to bother with these short of having them inflicted forcibly on them somehow, but how often does that happen in genre fiction outside of drug scare films? And what's more, most of the prices for drugs are farcical. 22,000 cr for a single dose of megaopiate, a drug you have to take every day to avoid going into withdrawal? That's the cost of three cars. Meanwhile, the lost of a remove affliction spell is 1,000. Even if you presume it takes two or three spell treatments, that's worth it. There's no economy in drugs other than hyperleaf, and even that's only for the rich at around 3000 credits a month.

John, Expounded Universe podcast posted:

My name is Elan Sleazebaggano, and I looove death sticks.

In any case, we have poisons left. Poisons usually just require 1 save to recover from, maybe 2 for really lethal ones. The big issue is their frequency usually being 1/round, sometimes with truncated progression tracks. They aren't too interesting to talk about, though. Black Lotus Extract is the deadliest, killing you after four failed DC 20 saves and requiring two successful saves to recover from. Shadow Mist and Ungol Dust each inflict a permanent weakened state after a single failed save unless you have a restoration spell handy. Green Lotus Extract is your mind control drug, with enough failed saves putting somebody in a state where they effectively can't resist social skills. And so on.

With so much of these relying on the party having remove affliction or restoration to recover from or survive, you may wonder if there's any technological equivalent. Well, there are antitoxins that at least give a saving throw bonus against poisons, but unless you've taken that in advance, all it may do is save you from dying, but not save you from sucking. More pointedly, there's a the regeneration table, which works as a remove affliction, restoration, and raise dead, all in one. However, it's less portable than a spell, because it's a table. It's more expensive, at 45,000 credits. And-

Starfinger Core Rules posted:

As a result of its need to perfectly attune itself to one creature suffering one exact set of ailments and the expenditure of its quantum state particles, a regeneration table functions only once and is then inert and useless.

You know how much it costs to get a Mystic to cast all those three spells in a row? 13,000 credits. Basically, this is a whole subsystem that's fixed by one class and one class only, and if you don't have a Mystic around, you get severely punished.

Oh, and as a curiosity, the space culture of Starfinger is no better at curing diseases or poisons than the fantasy culture of Pathfinger. Possibly worse, given there are fewer classes that can effectively treat them.



How to Read Stat Blocks

Lastly, we finish the GM section with "how to read a stat block", which is of dubious usage given this book only contains a single monster stat block, but sure, here it is. The only thing that's really new to d20 other than sections detailing with Starfinger-specific traits (resolve points, EAC, KAC, etc.) is an "aura" entry (for persistent area effects from a creature). Interestingly, monsters now only have ability modifiers, not scores. (Scores were obviously still completely necessary for PCs, tho.) This is a section of the book only put in so you can understand supplemental material. It's not worth a thing on its own, because...

We get one statblock as an example, and a pointedly useless one: the "Space Goblin Monark" at CR 20, a space goblin technomancer with nearly 400 hp that does around 67 damage with each hit of its "quantum dogslicer", can teleport between planets, charm people, robotify people, spit acid, is invisible-

It's like a parody of 3.5 monster stats. I'm not entirely sure how serious this is supposed to be. It's also actually unusable even beyond its ridiculous numbers and abilities - it has a number of powers and effects that are never described in the book, like an "unnatural aura", "light sensitivity", or "earth glide". So, ultimately, we have an entire section that's relatively useless unless you pick up a book like the Alien Archive, since that's the only antagonist statblock we get.

Owen K.C. Stephens, Starfinger Design Lead, Gencon Q&A Transcript posted:

For the Core Rulebook, we already want everything that goes in the campaign book, everything that goes in a core rulebook, everything that goes into a system for starship combat. Ultimately there's only so much room for this thing if we don't want it to end up being 50 pounds and 5,000 pages. This is the solution we came up with that we all worked very, very hard on, so that we could give you the monsters you need, allow you to play on day 1, but not give you a book that you can't carry.

The final book is 525 pages and 3.7 pounds, for the record. We just hit page 421. I feel like it's a peculiar form of insanity carried the genes of D&D that makes a designer believe, with a straight face, that 525 pages is not enough space for a complete game. Those rules for deadly space pot? That spell that turns people into suffering robots? The fourteen pages of sample character builds I didn't even mention because who could possibly give a ysoki's rear end?

That poo poo was necessary. Also, the designers were straight-up honest about it, why is the book adverted as... well, I'm probably not done with that dead horse just yet. But I wish I was.

Next: Mind the gap.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


How the gently caress do you not have a complete core game in 525 pages.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Night10194 posted:

How the gently caress do you not have a complete core game in 525 pages.
You would think anyone with Brain 1 would come up with the idea that you use your gear/monster/whatever sections to provide a sampler platter and guidance on rolling your own, but what do I know.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Night10194 posted:

How the gently caress do you not have a complete core game in 525 pages.

Out of curiosity I decided to look up how long some actual complete-in-one-book(defined as 100% playable with one single book, even though there might be supplements with useful info and more statblocks) RPG's I own are.

Godbound, Deluxe Version: ~250 pages.
Eclipse Phase: ~400 pages.
All Flesh Must Be Eaten: ~230 pages.
Fading Suns: ~300 pages.

Even bad ones like Hc Svnt Dracones don't go beyond 400 pages.

Looking at D&D, 2e AD&D runs about 700 pages if you combine the PHB and MM, the two books I'd say are absolutely necessary for play, and 3rd and 5th edition aren't far away from that. All of them with the PHB at about 320 pages...

How are these 525 pages spent with Starfinder? Eclipse Phase and Fading Suns are more or less 50% setting, that eats up a ton of it. AFMBE and Godbound are large parts statblocks and rules... from the review so far I feel like simply a huge part of Starfinder is endless lists of spells and equipment, with relatively little in terms of setting or fluff. How are they managing to jam 200 extra pages into the core book without "finishing" the game in one go? And if the book's as short on fluff as it feels, what's all the extra garbage they're jamming in there compared to a D&D PHB?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


WHFRP2e is a fully complete game in core and it's only 248 pages. All the other stuff is gravy (though again, its Bestiary is awesome and totally worth getting), the game is feature complete and pretty detailed in less than half the page-length of Starfinger. Even has solid rules for how to take a basic Goblin or Orc or Beastman and make them into a boss monster in the core book if you want.

E: gently caress, include the entire Old World Bestiary and you're still at 391 pages.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Some of this is probably typesetting and layout. The 2E PHB did not meaningfully change content but it was re-laid out and produced a longer book between "the one with a charging cavalier on the cover" and "the one with a barbarian kicking open a door on the cover."

The earlier edition was prettier too.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



PurpleXVI posted:

Out of curiosity I decided to look up how long some actual complete-in-one-book(defined as 100% playable with one single book, even though there might be supplements with useful info and more statblocks) RPG's I own are.

Godbound, Deluxe Version: ~250 pages.
Eclipse Phase: ~400 pages.
All Flesh Must Be Eaten: ~230 pages.
Fading Suns: ~300 pages.
Just to keep the comparison going:
Apocalypse World 2e: 304 pages.
Blades in the Dark: 328 pages.
Fragged Empire: 386 pages.

And for generic systems:
GURPS 4e: Two books at ~600 pages total. 3e was a single book at 275 pages; 4e is that plus the first two rules compendiums from 3e.
Savage Worlds: 194 pages, $10
Fate Core: 308 pages.
Fate Accelerated: 48 pages. $5.

I can't imagine anyone arguing that any of those games aren't "feature complete". Even the generic ones really only require you to come up with a setting, and give a lot of base support for attaching the rules to it. Only GURPS 4e has a really "large" page count, and that's because it's the 3e core and two supplements, spread across two new books.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Red Markets is the only game I currently own that is A: long as hell and B: is completely readable and contained within itself that tops 400+ pages at 497 PDF pages. Granted, the first 170 pages are all immersive world building and can be skipped but of the rest you get 180 pages of solid rules, items, character generation, mechanics and examples of play and all the rest are for the GM to help them get a feel for the game, provide advice and provide premade encounters that are flexible yet surprisingly crunchy. You could pretty easily split this book into three books of setting, player's guide and GM guide but despite its size it's got a good flow and doesn't strive for realism or other d20 hangups. Like for real it's probably one of the few times I've seen a book be this long but also be wholly complete and also accessible and smoothly flowing. Starfinger not coming close with only 30 more pages is disgusting and to me it's just a clear sign that Paizo is too drat high on their own supply and their claims of greatness and grandeur ARB discussed quite nicely in the Pathfinder review.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


So, IS there any actual fluff in Starfinger? The review makes it sound like it's just an SRD with competent but generic art.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


To be fair the Dungeon Master's Guide almost always has the candy you knock out of all the piñatas in the Monster Manual, which is an essential part of D&D.

In any case, Starfinger is roughly about 11 pages of introduction, 230 pages of character creation and advancement, 28 pages of starship creation, 89 pages of various conflict rules, 58 pages of magic, 8 pages of GM advice (most of which is actually character advancement), 76 pages of setting material, 8 pages of Pathfinder conversion guidelines, and the rest of miscellany like glossary and the bibliography and character sheets. Give or take 2 pages here and there since I didn't count out all the double-page spreads with little or no text, of which is 30 pages of just art. We're through most of the rules at this point and the setting material starts tomorrow.

In any case my point is that if I said with most gamers that "I have a new RPG, but it's 525 pages.", there would be mumblings of heartbreakerism and headshaking. If I said it was over 525 pages, you'd think I was mad. This is all, of course, a point a certain infamous game designer made about Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition way back in 2000 as well, so it's hardly a new point to make. But I find it always fascinating to realize that we've accepted this as normal and just kind of shrug at it, then wonder why the hobby isn't bigger than it is. I feel a game like Fragged Empire is an very intimidating book to recommend as it is and that's, what, not even 400 pages?

Barudak
May 7, 2007



The Last Exodus is 196 pages and doesnt include what the goal of the game is, its spell list is “examples”, includes a total of about 20 items and 8 monsters, and forgot to include the part of its conflict resolution system that makes it work so frankly Starfinger is looking good.

Still, what % of Starfinger is spells?

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


We still taking 'Ongoing Narrative' guesses on Last Exodus? Because it's either Blade or The Matrix. Those were both edgy, gritty, leather clad things at the time.

P.S. A setting set after a messiah figure came back, spent thirty years trying to make the world a better place, got fed up with a handful of assholes ruining it for everyone, going back to their heaven and then dropping the apocalypse on the world would be interesting. You can even tie in other, non-related divinities trying to clean up the mess because they had no clue the apocalyptor was actually doing anything.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that

On the other hand, you also have Exalted 3e, at 686 (633 if you don't count the list of backers and index) which will - in theory - be supported by a bunch of other huge splatbooks for the other Exalt types and setting detail.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Kaza42 posted:

On the other hand, you also have Exalted 3e, at 686 (633 if you don't count the list of backers and index) which will - in theory - be supported by a bunch of other huge splatbooks for the other Exalt types and setting detail.

Exalted is in general a bit of a weird case since the enemies, after a certain power level, are the PC splats. Which means that in order to have a playable game, you need multiple splatbooks, even in 2nd edition Exalted, despite the absence of a proper "monstrous manual" or similar equivalent.

400 pages for the corebook, 240 for Lunars, 240 for Dragonbloods, 240 for Sidereals, 260 for Fae... probably about the same Abyssals and Infernals which I can't scrounge up at the moment. Theoretically you could do with just the corebook, and have the players fight nothing but mortals, animals and other Solars. But I'd say you definitely need the corebook, Lunars and Dragonbloods to be able to run a game. And then one of the "antagonist" splats, Sidereals, Abyssals, Infernals or Fae, so...1120 pages?

Oh and then they released 200 loving pages of errata to try and unfuck the mess they'd made somewhat, which are pretty vital to fixing some of the more blatant screwups. But since that probably wasn't intended from the get-go, it likely doesn't count.

Barudak
May 7, 2007



Tasoth posted:

We still taking 'Ongoing Narrative' guesses on Last Exodus? Because it's either Blade or The Matrix. Those were both edgy, gritty, leather clad things at the time.

P.S. A setting set after a messiah figure came back, spent thirty years trying to make the world a better place, got fed up with a handful of assholes ruining it for everyone, going back to their heaven and then dropping the apocalypse on the world would be interesting. You can even tie in other, non-related divinities trying to clean up the mess because they had no clue the apocalyptor was actually doing anything.

Entries don't close until I put up the next post, which should be a little later tonight.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




CoC 7th Edition is about 450 pages, but there's a cut down player's guide if you're not going to be the one running the game.

What were the page counts on the World of Darkness books, old and new?

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Kavak posted:

What were the page counts on the World of Darkness books, old and new?

The VtM 20th Anniversary edition is the one I have to hand, and it's about 520-something. But that's basically enough to play the game, in any case, since the primary antagonists of a Vampire campaign are likely to be other vampires and the selection of non-vamp NPC's statted in the book. And, mind you, the 20th Anniversary version adds in a bunch of stuff from various supplements, like alternate morality paths, alternate clan bloodlines and a whole slew of minor clans that weren't in the original corebook.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Spirit of '77 is 283 pages before KS thanks, but it's also that smaller size a lot of PBTA books are, it'd probably be more like 140 if it were laid out for full page text.

Barudak
May 7, 2007





Last Exodus the Interactive Story Arc of the Third and Last Dance is a roleplaying game from Synister Creative Systems published in 2001 and designed Sean and Joshua Jaffe. It’s a metaplot heavy, playing card deck using, religious themed urban grunge game. Unless I am otherwise notified it appears to be completely out of print with no digital versions available. Should this be incorrect I will update to include where it can be bought to give the original developers income.

Part 3: Adventures in Page Lay-PLOT AND BACKSTORY-out Part 1

Here we are, finally at what the game is so proud of the Metaplot. Unlike other games of its ilk, there is no warning that this section is for Directors only or that players should only read select passages. No, this confusing, poorly laid out godawful mess is for everyone to read and it starts with probably the single worst laid out page in the book from a pure readability standpoint, but the book will make other less grievous unforced errors.

Before we are six paragraphs into our setting details, the the commenters are interjecting. And I mean that literally, as they break into the columns where the story text is located. Worse, they are explaining a term that hasn’t occurred yet, and in this case, doesn’t occur until after the second of the commenter interjections. This happens constantly over these 18 pages and completely derails what little story flow there is.


Very smart poster Evil Mastermind would never layout a page this badly. The plot series other than Star Wars it mentions? James Bond

Worse, TLE has a habit of forgetting that it is introducing new terms to you or that it’s using certain words at all. The words Midian* and Eden appear in the first sentence of the metaplot on page 14, but don’t get an actual definitions until pages 62 and 54 respectively. Midian doesn’t hardly gets referenced again until then, so it’s not like context clues can help you. Worse, TLE’s metaplot freely starts referring to characters by other names and assuming you inferred that they have another name.

For example, the least jarring of these the name “Ahriman” is used interchangeably with “GODHEAD” in the text. It does thankfully, shortly after tell you they're the same person, but then chooses to use the names in the most annoying way possible. It will use GODHEAD for several paragraphs in a row, switch to a new story, and then begin using Ahriman exclusively before switching back again. Not all of these multi-names are made clear, and there were a couple of times in this story that I re-read some of these passages trying to figure out who previously unmentioned characters were before jumping ahead in the book to the setting section to find out it was just another name of an already mentioned character.

The metaplot dump is structured into 3 major periods, called Dances, with no explanation as to why they’re called Dances other than the authors of TLE really liked Dream Theater**. There’s no overall timeline, but the game is constantly giving you dates in both BCE and it’s made up useless time-scale so it’s not a challenge to piece together but a little tedious. Amusingly, the game’s timeline tries to have a truly epic scope but ends up being absolutely hilarious when it claims the universe was formed 200 million years ago and then has the ovaries to say:

“Clearly, this plays hell with your biblical genesis, beginning a good 200 million years before it starts”

Anyway, this story is extremely convoluted despite almost nothing happening in it and not being very long. The entire metaplot of this game is only 18 pages which sounds like a lot but in a game that is 196 pages long and a genre where metaplots have a tendency to eclipse 30 or 40 pages it is genuinely brief. As is par for the course for this sort of 90s heartbreaker metaplot dumpster-fire, only about 3 of those plot pages will ever have any relevance to players sitting at a table. The whole reading experience is actively made worse because as mentioned before despite being 18 pages long it doesn’t tell you enough about the setting to play the game. You have to backsolve from the game’s rules to figure out how its setting is supposed to work, and I’m sure I did that wrong.

So, instead of diving into the games metaplot in this update, I’m going to give you a setting summary that does not exist anywhere in game based on what I’ve gathered.

  • Our world “Earth” and another world “Eden” are in a video game light world/dark world relationship. You can travel from Earth to its parallel point on Eden, but not from anywhere on one to anywhere on the other.
  • Messiah*** is the name for any soul that can at whim cross the boundary between Earth and Eden
  • Earth and Eden have separate Gods who are both idiot children, but Eden’s God is human’s original creator and the story attempts to consistently portray them as the good shade of grey
  • Earth God and Eden God have finally declared all out war on each other in the year 2000, and while they are the creator of their respective realms, they have forward operating bases in each others dimensions
  • There is no discernable reason that anyone in the setting would be secretive, attempt to infiltrate society, or do anything really instead of going immediately as loudly as they could to rally their side for the war, but the game seems to be built on an underground grunge aesthetic ripped straight from White Wolf so they just do
  • Not only is there no reason, the game doesn't even support the idea as there are no skills in any form of stealth, thievery, or impersonation but there are separate skills for your ability to sexually entice people and for the sex itself
  • People have to take sides in this war to… do something that isn’t ever clarified.
  • Eden explicitly does not have Oreos™

Lastly, let me include some digging by Digital Raven to round out the lack of thought put into the story of a game with the phrase INTERACTIVE STORY ARC in it’s title.

DigitalRaven posted:

I got curious because I couldn't remember seeing anything of worth on lastexodus.com when I first got the book (shortly after release). Sure enough, the Wayback Machine confirms it…



That's from May 16th. Skarka's involvement makes all deadlines impossible. So if you got the book at release, you had none of the promised updates for over a month.

The next update is post-9/11 (Wayback captured it in November 2001), and includes a link to the Red Cross and this pop-up:



I vaguely remember the site having advertisements for upcoming books in the meantime (and no metaplot updates), but I can't find any direct evidence of that.

I promise, next time we’ll actually learn this game’s stupid, stupid story.

Next Time: The Metaplot As She is Vomited Forth

*The book changes the spelling of this word at seeming random to Median. Thanks, Gareth-Michael Skarka
**If the first song introduced in this book gave it its title, the second song gave the book its genre inspiration. What film soundtrack is it from? Be the first to guess right for a shoutout.
***Fun Fact: The game explains this a scant 55 pages after introducing the term

Barudak fucked around with this message at 05:14 on Oct 18, 2017

Cassa
Jan 29, 2009


Gamma World 7E does it all in 160 pages. Though I guess cards add a few more.

JackMann
Aug 11, 2010

Secure. Contain. Protect.


Fallen Rib

Comrade Gorbash posted:

I'm not a big fan of D&D horror, for the reasons others have mentioned, but I actually think Aliens is a model that could work. Not Alien though. Very specifically the second film.

Aliens tends to get cast as "they did for real Starship Troopers" and as an 80s action flick, but I re-watched it recently and its scarier than I had remembered. It gets there by creating a scenario in that the Marines badass gear and training is effective... and it just doesn't matter. They can slaughter aliens left and right and they just keep coming. It has a lot in common with a zombie movie, except the zombies are clever ambush predators instead of a shambling horde.

The same sort of thing could work in D&D. The first few encounters are fine, the PCs crush the xenomorphs or whatever, but then more keep coming as the PCs resources drain away. Even better if they have to keep tightening their area of control until that last desperate run for the way out through territory they ceded to the threat.

That could work where most other scenarios fall flat because either you have to contrive some bullshit reason PCs can't just murder whatever is threatening them lest it stop being a legitimate threat, or it really is something they reasonably can't take down but then what do you give them to actually do D&D stuff (i.e. combat) to?

I'm behind on this thread, and I just came across this. I ran pretty much this exact scenario for Halloween back in my 3.5 days. Only everyone was level one, and I used housecats. Never-ending waves of housecats.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010




Lipstick Apathy

Carados posted:

This is always an easy homerule fix though- they become xp when spent.

No idea why the writers never come up with that one.

Okay someone come up with a fix for "spending stats which are also your HP" and we can hack Numenera into a playable game

DalaranJ
Apr 15, 2008

Yosuke will now die for you.


Nessus posted:

You would think anyone with Brain 1 would come up with the idea that you use your gear/monster/whatever sections to provide a sampler platter and guidance on rolling your own, but what do I know.

Okay, but to be fair you can only take Brain 1 after you've taken Spine 1, 2 and 3. That's a lot of feats to commit to.

eschaton
Mar 7, 2007

Don't you just hate when you wind up in a store with people who are in a socioeconomic class that is pretty obviously about two levels lower than your own?


Dallbun posted:

The Deck of Encounters Set One: Introduction

This thing came out in 1994

I remember when that came out, it looked like nothing so much as a hasty reaction to Magic: The Gathering’s utter takeover of game shops at the time.

Carados
Jan 27, 2009

We're a couple, when our bodies double.


Wait is Eden or Earth the dark world?

Red Metal
Oct 23, 2012

Let me tell you about Homestuck



Fun Shoe

Carados posted:

Wait is Eden or Earth the dark world?

only one of those worlds has oreos, so it should be obvious

Barudak
May 7, 2007



Carados posted:

Wait is Eden or Earth the dark world?

So Earth is supposed to be evil/bad (the game uses the term "spiritually dead) but as we'll see in the next update in addition to Oreos being a huge point in Earth's favor, Eden is colossally hosed up in ways Earth isn't and Eden's God is, arguably, massively eviler than Earth's.

Oh, and the list of confirmed things that only exist on Earth and don't exist on Eden is three items long; Oreos, newspapers, and "the smell of sex".

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


Barudak posted:

So Earth is supposed to be evil/bad (the game uses the term "spiritually dead) but as we'll see in the next update in addition to Oreos being a huge point in Earth's favor, Eden is colossally hosed up in ways Earth isn't and Eden's God is, arguably, massively eviler than Earth's.

Oh, and the list of confirmed things that only exist on Earth and don't exist on Eden is three items long; Oreos, newspapers, and "the smell of sex".
This sounds like it's trying to go for a Gnosticism-style dichotomy of the Demiurge/Yaldabaoth/YHVH/etc. and the material world as a stopping block you need to bypass to attain gnosis with the Monad and the spiritual world, but failing utterly at doing it well.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 06:25 on Oct 18, 2017

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




eschaton posted:

I remember when that came out, it looked like nothing so much as a hasty reaction to Magic: The Gathering’s utter takeover of game shops at the time.

Ah, the Magic market panic, or, when people in charge of companies decide that it's collectible-ness the kids want, and not the game mechanics that have made Magic one of the most enduring physical products in the world.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010




Lipstick Apathy

Patrol is 206 pages

Night's Black Agents is 233 pages. Trail of Cthulhu is actually slightly longer at 250 pages. Bubblegumshot clocks in at 274 pages with all the new mechanics, and The Fall of Delta Green backer draft is at 489 pages with all the setting material.

Fellowship is 247 pages

Rifts is only 258 pages, and the Ultimate Edition is 382 pages

Twilight 2000 is about 282 pages

D&D Rules Cyclopedia is 306 pages

OSRIC (AD&D 1e retroclone) is 422 pages (which is kind of impressive considering they combined the PHB, MM, and DMG into one book)

Rolemaster 2nd Edition comes close: 504 pages if you combine Arms Law, Claw Law, Spell Law, Character Law, Campaign Law, and Creatures & Treasures

Phoenix Command is only 91 pages
The Hand-to-Hand Combat System is another 54 pages
The Advanced Rules are another 34 pages
The Advanced Damage Tables are another 26 pages
The Expansion supplement is another 34 pages
That puts us at 239 pages, so we've got another 286 before we match Starfinder
Adding in the Mechanized Combat System with 114 pages takes us to 353 total
Adding in the High-Speed Pursuit System with 159 pages takes us to 512 total, that's still less than Starfinder!

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potatocubed
Jul 26, 2012

*rathian noises*


The nigh-unprintable behemoth Chuubo's Marvellous Wish-Granting Engine clocks in at 576 pages, so it's actually bigger than Starfinger. Also a vastly superior piece of design.

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