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Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


gradenko_2000 posted:

drat, Spycraft did and fixed this? Everything I've heard about this game really gives me a good impression aside from the fact that it's really crunchy.

How does Spycraft do monster creation/generation?

Spycraft 2.0 and Fantasy Craft use a point-based system where you construct an NPC using points, including special abilities and "grades" instead of traits, and it's completely divorced from PC character generation. Those grades are compared to the PC group's average level on a chart and that gives it its base save / attack / defense / etc. bonuses. The point value of the enemy becomes their XP value. Sometimes the given level of an enemy is adjusted based on the adventure's difficulty level but that's most of it.

It's a little complicated in that you have to cross-reference all an NPC's traits on a chart to get its bonuses, but there are some web forms online that simplify the process.

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Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



JcDent posted:

Didn't know that Eberon is so weird. I only knew it as "the one setting where you can play a robot (TURBO DRACULA) and there are magitek trains!"

Eberron's cosmology is a bit weird. You have the Prime Material Plane, the Astral, the Ethereal, and the Shadow as normal. Except there are no Inner or Outer Planes. Instead, within the Astral Plane thirteen planes orbit the Prime in elliptical orbits and there are special interactions with many forms of magic when a given plane is coterminous or remote. One of the planes, Xoriat the Plane of Madness (think the Far Realm from the Forgotten Realms if you're familiar with that), was forcibly ejected from its normal orbit long ago after a massive invasion from that plane, though many fear that it will one day return.

Demons in Eberron are natives of the Prime itself, not even the angels can tell you if the gods are real or not, and two of the major religions of the setting are non-deistic.

Beyond that, Eberron is generally 1920s Europe with magic if that sounds interesting to you. Robots are campaigning for human rights, demobilized soldiers unable to find jobs in the civilian economy are stirring up trouble, adventuring archaeologists explore long forgotten ruins deep in the perilous jungle, etc. It's a very pulp adventure sort of setting, with magitek stepping in to make the 1920s-esque setting work.

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

Nobody came out of the wreckage of TSR smelling like roses. Gygax didn't let the Blumes in out of the goodness of his heart, he took their money for shares. Then when their relationship went south he half-assed the attempts at buying their shares back, leaving them with the knives that they promptly and unsurprisingly stuck in him. I don't buy into the Williams as Hitler story when there's a lot of unverifiable stuff, but the verifiable stuff still shows her piloting the company into a 30 million in the hole brick wall by trying to take on Magic on its home turf, blowing big money on suing everyone, and failing to get D&D into video games nearly as well as they could've. TSR was probably already doomed; they weren't flexible enough at moving with the shifting currents in roleplaying trends when White Wolf came in and started eating their lunch, but the demise was definitely hastened by bad decisions in the last years.

All that said, the best settings of D&D are a direct result of that series of fuckups. Had Gygax not lost the company, we probably wouldn't have Planescape, Spelljammer, or Dark Sun. And given that he never had anything good to say about 3rd edition, safe bet the D20 resurgence in tabletop wouldn't have occurred under his watch either.

Also, Alternity was TSR's swan song, and I still maintain it's the best skill-based RPG system yet made.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Valatar posted:

All that said, the best settings of D&D are a direct result of that series of fuckups. Had Gygax not lost the company, we probably wouldn't have Planescape, Spelljammer, or Dark Sun. And given that he never had anything good to say about 3rd edition, safe bet the D20 resurgence in tabletop wouldn't have occurred under his watch either.

Well losing Planescape and Dark Sun is unacceptable but I'm not sure the d20 glut was that good for the industry.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




Valatar posted:

Also, Alternity was TSR's swan song, and I still maintain it's the best skill-based RPG system yet made.

:lol:

Dexterity: Acrobatics - Fall would like to have a word with you

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

Freaking Crumbum posted:

:lol:

Dexterity: Acrobatics - Fall would like to have a word with you

Ahem. Yes, well, I said best, not perfect.

Terratina
Jun 30, 2013


Alien Rope Burn posted:

Spycraft 2.0 and Fantasy Craft use a point-based system where you construct an NPC using points, including special abilities and "grades" instead of traits, and it's completely divorced from PC character generation. Those grades are compared to the PC group's average level on a chart and that gives it its base save / attack / defense / etc. bonuses. The point value of the enemy becomes their XP value. Sometimes the given level of an enemy is adjusted based on the adventure's difficulty level but that's most of it.

It's a little complicated in that you have to cross-reference all an NPC's traits on a chart to get its bonuses, but there are some web forms online that simplify the process.

So basically, from experience here, you shove the NPC stats into a convertor then print them off only to realise too late that the health calculation is wrong - think it always assumes max threat (read: adventure) level and your poor party is stuck with an OP boss that won't die.

There are ways to game the NPC creation process as well but the book kindly asks you to not do that, you muffin.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

gradenko_2000 posted:

Yeah I was being a little tongue-in-cheek there. Ptolus is actually the pinnacle of "a setting that I can play around in", which is why I brought it up when responding to JcDent, but it kinda requires playing with d20/3.5 as the real rub, unless you're willing to do a lot of conversion work.

Weirdly, Arcana Evolved has the most overpowered and balanced spellcasting as in Magisters and Greenbonds can absolutely wreck poo poo, but there is a lack of save or die spells, there are a ton of other caster types that can do specialized types of spells they do really loving well, and even the Warrior types actually are decent and the player species are cool...and then, there's the Oathbound :sigh:

Humbug Scoolbus fucked around with this message at 19:44 on Nov 3, 2017

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!


I remember reading Alternity years ago, and one thing about it REALLY impressed me, the fact that, by and large, PC's would generally succeed at most rolls. It might be a marginal success with some sort of consequence, but generally PC's, even starter PC's, would actually DO STUFF. A complete and utter whiff at doing a thing was pretty rare unless you were rushing through something you were untrained at it in a really hosed situation.

It feels like the sort of basic system that mostly needs some trimming to work well, not a total burn-to-the-ground.

The Lore Bear
Jan 21, 2014

I don't know what to put here. Guys? GUYS?!


Terratina posted:

So basically, from experience here, you shove the NPC stats into a convertor then print them off only to realise too late that the health calculation is wrong - think it always assumes max threat (read: adventure) level and your poor party is stuck with an OP boss that won't die.

There are ways to game the NPC creation process as well but the book kindly asks you to not do that, you muffin.

I did it by hand, which takes an extra minute or two for each enemy. So, at most, an extra 10 minutes for a complex encounter. Usually less because you want to use the minions rules so there's only 2-3 statistical enemies, and only 1 at most with anything complicated. I recently ran a one-shot for my usual Spycraft 2.0 group and the NPC part was pretty easy, but it was an online game, so part of it may be using PDFs instead of the actual book. The charts aren't complicated enough that you can't cross-ref them in a relatively short amount of time.

Will I call it perfect? No. But it's actually pretty good, especially when stacked against the rest of 3.5.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


PurpleXVI posted:

I remember reading Alternity years ago, and one thing about it REALLY impressed me, the fact that, by and large, PC's would generally succeed at most rolls. It might be a marginal success with some sort of consequence, but generally PC's, even starter PC's, would actually DO STUFF. A complete and utter whiff at doing a thing was pretty rare unless you were rushing through something you were untrained at it in a really hosed situation.

It feels like the sort of basic system that mostly needs some trimming to work well, not a total burn-to-the-ground.

Having run it, a lot of doing so is just being pretty fast and loose on most of it. It can feel really daunting and overly complicated but going loosy-goosy with a general thought to erring on the side of what will make the current game situation more fun for the players makes it work really well (as it does in most systems to be fair).

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




PurpleXVI posted:

It might be a marginal success with some sort of consequence, but generally PC's, even starter PC's, would actually DO STUFF. A complete and utter whiff at doing a thing was pretty rare unless you were rushing through something you were untrained at it in a really hosed situation.

it might seem that way! but there's a certain, fairly common situation where Marginal Successes don't exist. can you guess what that situation might be?

it's Combat! you know, the situation in which at least half the game is going to occur (with a conservative estimate). you know what doesn't have Marginal Success values? attack rolls! defense rolls! (nearly) any action you take while in combat!

see, the way Marginal Successes work, they're really only supposed to come into play when the players are attempting something that they probably shouldn't fail at anyway, or where the penalty for failure is trivial and it's not worth derailing the game saying "whoops you failed roll again" when there's nothing risked by failing. but combat almost always has some sort of risk or consequence for failure, so all of that poo poo goes out the window.

TSR was thiiiiiiis close to realizing "hey, maybe it's not worth making players roll a check for every drat thing their heroes want to do, maybe they should just have basic competency within their sphere of expertise" but then at the last second someone said "NO WAIT this is an RPG we have to make people roll dice to do literally anything what are you thinking?" and then Marginal Successes were born.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




Comrade Gorbash posted:

The Buck Rogers stuff apparently sold pretty well, the issue there is that TSR (owned by Williams) paid royalties to the rights holder (Williams). That sort of double dipping is pretty sketchy.

However, it's worth noting she did in fact get money flowing back into TSR despite it being severely in debt, and kept it profitable right up until the mid-90s. By all accounts the business side of TSR was run reasonably well, despite the iffy royalties stuff, and the disconnect between the business side and product side is a common one. A lot of the loudest bitching comes from ex-TSR designers who failed to catch on with WotC and other companies after TSR went down, and generally for good reason when you look at the specific names.

The simple fact is, most of the designers who like to blame the stagnation of the product line on Williams being a non-gamer haven't exactly set the industry on fire with innovation since. A number of them are only now popping back up because they can make money on the same old stuff thanks to the OSR thing. It's an easy sell in gamer circles to say "oh no, I had all these great ideas but that lady held me back because she looked down on games."

Williams does bear a lot of responsibility for the screw up that finally brought TSR down - she misread the market when GW and WotC started making unheard of profits and tossed out a bunch of ill conceived product that didn't sell. That's hardly a unique mistake , and in a lot of ways TSR was more the first victim of the CCG bubble than anything else. But she very much created a situation that turned an understandable screw up into an existential crisis for TSR.
If TSR had had a manager that was deeply engaged with the products, things definitely would've been a lot different, and not entirely in ways that would've made the developers happy. Design would have been more normalized across the range of AD&D products. It's possible that some popular campaign settings and other book lines would never have been published, or that the writers would have been given a freer hand. I like to think that Zeb Cook would've been allowed to include the genuine innovations that he wanted to put in 2e that didn't show up until 3e.

(I remember reading, in 30 Years of Adventure, one of the writers of the historical book series saying "These didn't sell well at all, but we sure had fun doing them!" So it's possible that different management would've knifed Dark Sun in the crib, but it's also possible that they would've favoured Dark Sun over stuff like supplements which few people remember fondly today. I don't know.)

IIRC one of the nails in TSR's coffin was a shift in the chain bookstore market, and the chains' policies, that had bookstores returning a huge amount of unsold stock for a refund.

Terratina
Jun 30, 2013


thelazyblank posted:

I did it by hand, which takes an extra minute or two for each enemy. So, at most, an extra 10 minutes for a complex encounter. Usually less because you want to use the minions rules so there's only 2-3 statistical enemies, and only 1 at most with anything complicated. I recently ran a one-shot for my usual Spycraft 2.0 group and the NPC part was pretty easy, but it was an online game, so part of it may be using PDFs instead of the actual book. The charts aren't complicated enough that you can't cross-ref them in a relatively short amount of time.

Will I call it perfect? No. But it's actually pretty good, especially when stacked against the rest of 3.5.

As somebody who looks at that chart and sees a blur while under pressure, I had to do all beforehand. Unfortunately, yeah, the legacy of 3.5e brings with it plenty of crunch but I ended up spending a lot of time converting/creating NPCs that wasn't really rewarded in part of me being a newbie to GMing then, and a group more interested in derping around more than anything.

kommy5
Dec 6, 2016


JcDent posted:

Ah, no reason to play it, then. What are good fantasy alternatives?

From what I've seen, Shadow of the Demon Lord does look interesting but I've never played it. Means I can't really recommend it, honestly. But certainly take a look.

I do definitely have to give a shout-out to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E, as it's definitely my go-to and I love the setting.

If you want something more generic, 13th Age definitely has it's points. And its system is more High Fantasy Heroics if you prefer that to the more low fantasy of Warhammer or Demon Lord.

Rhandhali
Sep 7, 2003

This is Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone...

Comrade Gorbash posted:

The Buck Rogers stuff apparently sold pretty well, the issue there is that TSR (owned by Williams) paid royalties to the rights holder (Williams). That sort of double dipping is pretty sketchy.

Where did you hear this from? I've always been under the impression, and I think it's mentioned in Designers and Dragons that the Buck Rogers games didn't do very well at all. I mean, I loved it and I'm working on a full write up of it now but everything I"ve seen said it had lovely sales and tons of left-over stock. The books certainly don't have the collector's market that the other properties do and you can still find unopened/sealed product out there pretty routinely. The first RPG, XXVc got massive support, two video games, a dozen novels, comics, a board game and about a dozen supplements and modules. It all stopped after two years, and the second RPG "high adventure cliffhangers" didn't have a terribly long shelf life.

Rhandhali fucked around with this message at 22:50 on Nov 3, 2017

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Terratina posted:

So basically, from experience here, you shove the NPC stats into a convertor then print them off only to realise too late that the health calculation is wrong - think it always assumes max threat (read: adventure) level and your poor party is stuck with an OP boss that won't die.

There are ways to game the NPC creation process as well but the book kindly asks you to not do that, you muffin.

I never had that issue myself using it for Fantasy Craft, but I also ran into a different late-game issue I called "Crit-fishing" where crits are so much more effective than regular damage that players are just trying to score and maximize crits rather than deal regular damage, so the amount of VP for special enemies became academic.

And yeah, not all NPCs will be balanced for the same XP value, it's very much a system that can be goofed if you don't know what you're doing. There's a fair deal of advice in the book, mind, but it's pretty open-ended.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




Alien Rope Burn posted:

I never had that issue myself using it for Fantasy Craft, but I also ran into a different late-game issue I called "Crit-fishing" where crits are so much more effective than regular damage that players are just trying to score and maximize crits rather than deal regular damage, so the amount of VP for special enemies became academic.

And yeah, not all NPCs will be balanced for the same XP value, it's very much a system that can be goofed if you don't know what you're doing. There's a fair deal of advice in the book, mind, but it's pretty open-ended.

crit fishing always seems to pop up in games where monster HP vastly outstrips the base damage a player can deal, so the only way to finish combat without huge attrition losses is to try and lay down big crits. see also: why full casters w/ save-or-suck spells trivialize combat by bypassing HP entirely.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

Rhandhali posted:

Where did you hear this from? I've always been under the impression, and I think it's mentioned in Designers and Dragons that the Buck Rogers games didn't do very well at all. I mean, I loved it and I'm working on a full write up of it now but everything I"ve seen said it had lovely sales and tons of left-over stock. The books certainly don't have the collector's market that the other properties do and you can still find unopened/sealed product out there pretty routinely. The first RPG, XXVc got massive support, two video games, a dozen novels, comics, a board game and about a dozen supplements and modules. It all stopped after two years, and the second RPG "high adventure cliffhangers" didn't have a terribly long shelf life.

I love Buck Rogers High Adventure Cliffhangers and think it is one of the best Pulp genre games ever made. It is, however, ludicrously niche.

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 12: Wherein Everything Goes Horribly Wrong

We’re finally here. After one hundred and fifty-seven pages we are ready to be told how the game is actually played in the final section of the book, “System”. With only thirty eight total pages left in the book you’d be forgiven for thinking the majority of them are gameplay rules. Instead, even when being generous and including a roleplaying example of gameplay, there are only six pages of actual rules in this entire one hundred and ninety-six page book. There is so much wrong in the next six pages I had to make this two updates and I’m only going to discuss the most blatantly broken things. Let that wash over you then continue reading.

To start off with, unlike other Heartstakers, Last Exodus doesn’t use any dice, instead opting to use a single, regular deck of playing cards including jokers. When doing anything that requires a check, you simply draw and add the draw + your stat + your skill to determine your total, and compare it against the difficulty set by your Director. If you draw a joker, you draw another card and halve your total score and conversely if you draw a king you draw another and double your score. Same suite on the draw as the stat you’re using gives you a bonus +1 to the total and a king of the same suite as the stat you’re using is an automatic success no matter the total.

They never tell you when to reshuffle the deck.

I’m going to repeat that, in a game where the entire randomization mechanic is a deck of standard playing cards they never tell you when to reshuffle the deck. In fact, the word shuffle doesn’t even appear in this entire game. It gets more ridiculous; they must be assuming you are shuffling the deck between each and every draw and drawing the top card, all cards face down to the player but none of that is ever stated in the game or even mentioned in the examples of play. There is nothing in the rules indicating you couldn’t just put the cards in whatever order you want first, face up, and then hunt through them for the card you want.

TLETISAOTTALD


The size of my eyes when I realized it didn’t tell me when to shuffle. The strapless swimsuit was just for fun
Art By: Dennis Calero

Next up, remember how jokers halve your total score after they’re drawn? Well it turns out in literally the next paragraph that statement is a complete waste of your time because regardless of your total score after a joker you still automatically fail. The only exception is if you draw a non-suited king which just cancels out the joker and then you draw a third card and see if you pass the test or if you draw the suited king in which case you instantly succeed regardless. The game notes that drawing the suited king in such a scenario should be “the weakest possible success” so thanks game for making GBS threads on my sub 4% chance to avoid critical failure. Math heads may note that even if we treat drawing any king from the deck as an automatic success after drawing a joker, drawing a joker is still 89% of the time going to be a failure for the player, so why even have them draw a second time unless you just like wasting time? I’m already shuffling a deck of cards for every single action in this game, I don’t need things to take even more time.

We now encounter the game’s difficulty scaling where we’ll learn rapidly you’re going to be hunting for kings. The game’s absolute easiest tasks have a score of ten, which means assuming you evenly invested your points at the start and don’t have a requisite skill, you only have about a 40% chance of failure on draw, which frankly, is pretty pleasant for an RPG like this. The problem is this system scales really badly due to our capped stat and skill scores. You maximize at ten in a stat and ten in a skill but challenges are encouraged to scale up to thirty.

Roughly speaking, each additional point needed from the draw to hit a score is roughly an 8% or so increase in failure chances for a player. If you’re more than twelve points below you can only succeed on a crit and even then, you still probably won’t because a king only doubles your total. For our thirty difficulty this is patently ridiculous; to get the gap down to only ten points needed from the draw requires investing more than half our stats into a single stat and a single skill of that stat, lucking out with that skill being the one used, and still having north of a 70% chance of failing. On Eden our stat maximum is six points higher so we could conceivably be over the target number before even drawing, so the Director certainly isn't going to have an incredibly, incredibly hard time figuring out what target numbers need to be.

Guess what, they're going to have a terrible time figuring it out because the game's examples of tasks and associated difficulties is absurd. A suggested Physical ten task is “cutting down a sapling”. Not caring what you look like when dressing yourself is a ten difficulty test. Dressing nicely for a high class party is a twenty challenge. To dress nicely for a party someone who invested a quarter of their starting points into Culture stat and all those skill points into the relevant skill* for just this one check, would only succeed without a king about 10% of the time.


None of these dudes can do their taxes, a Mental 12 task
Art By: Clayton Graham

Ok, so maybe the games examples are extra harsh? No. Immediately after this list of suggested skill challenges like “finding a map online” being a difficulty ten test, the game drives the point home of just how lame your characters are. It states that Indiana Jones or James Bond should be considered the upper echelon for the kind of things PCs can ever hope to physically accomplish so set difficulties with that in mind. Oh man, I’m so glad that my character who can fly and download themselves into a computer in another dimension might one day after years of leveling up be powerful enough to still fail basic things like "resist fear of mundane snakes".

Fine, our party understands that if we’re going to regularly succeed at such tricky challenges as “intimidating a fourth grader” a challenge ten task, we’re going to want everyone to specialize as hard as they possibly can. After doing that though, we don’t have any real guarantees the skills we bought will ever come up and there are a lot of them per stat. Mental, for instance, has eleven skills it controls so you don’t even have enough to put one stat point into each. As one final “gently caress you for wanting to reliably pass medium difficulty tests” don’t forget that you have to invest at least one point into physical or you’ll die instantly. Characters can’t actually maximize their Mental or Cultural stat at character creation, so those characters just have an extra 8% chance of failure on those tests out of the gate versus a Physical character.

For reference, this entire update is getting mad at what is two pages of this book. We still have four more pages of rules to go and they’re somehow more dense with issues.

Next Time: It Takes 5 Nuclear Bombs to Blow Up a Motorcycle, or Possibly Just One Rock

*The relevant skill under the Cultural Stat needed for this is called culture, which I assume is the Sanhedrin’s favorite skill that the True Sandhedrin had

Barudak fucked around with this message at 04:12 on Nov 4, 2017

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


Holy poo poo. That's some difficulty scaling.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



I'm just gonna go make a sandwich and work on torrenting the parts of the universe I like for a custom Counterstrike map instead of dealing with those crap-rear end mechanics.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Ugh, why is your godspawn messiah PC supposed to be a shlub that an Unknown Army street level PC would pants every time? Why can't you be awesome?

MonsieurChoc
Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.


JcDent posted:

Ugh, why is your godspawn messiah PC supposed to be a shlub that an Unknown Army street level PC would pants every time? Why can't you be awesome?

Look, street-level UA characters are really powerful. They might have knives!

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



JcDent posted:

Ugh, why is your godspawn messiah PC supposed to be a shlub that an Unknown Army street level PC would pants every time? Why can't you be awesome?

because they're not allowed to outshine the metaplot NPCs, like how oWoD had Samuel Haight and WGA got Lucinda.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


Those messiahs are probably outshone by their own players.

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





Freaking Crumbum posted:

* Some random stone-age domain, the name of which I can't recall. The Dreamlands maybe? the premise is that the entire domain is this temperate forest/prairie where bubbles of "dream stuff" float around except of course they're really nightmares and if you touch one you get zapped into the nightmare and you might never find your way out, or the way out might dump you in another setting, or in another timeline, so basically if your whole party doesn't touch the exact same one your character is functionally dead. also the only civilization are nomadic tribesmen that don't believe in things like object permanence (because anyone can get zapped into a nightmare bubble at any time) and they don't bother to create any kind of complex civilization. I don't even think there was a domain lord here? just a hosed up place that you get trapped in and then you might as well just roll up new characters.
The Nightmare Lands are somewhat playable. The problem is that they were designed for a single premade adventure, and that adventure wasn't put into the core book itself. So it's essentially an old timey advertisement for DLC. "Do you want this region to be playable? Well better by the boxed set designed to fix our gaping setting hole".

The Lemondrop Dandy
Jun 7, 2007

If my memory serves me correctly...




Wedge Regret

Barudak posted:



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 12: Wherein Everything Goes Horribly Wrong


They never tell you when to reshuffle the deck.

What the everloving poo poo. :suicide:

Doing poo poo with shuffling is like most of the reason to do anything with cards as a randomization device!

marshmallow creep
Dec 10, 2008

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



I mean, let's be fair: Fourth graders have nerves of steel.

Are the two examples of the absolute best you can be seriously two totally mundane humans? Meanwhile we can creates souls and slip between dimensions but have trouble zipping our flies?

marshmallow creep fucked around with this message at 06:34 on Nov 4, 2017

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Barudak posted:


None of these dudes can do their taxes, a Mental 12 task
Art By: Clayton Graham
That thing in the middle is obviously a Stand, but is it Bpike Biegel's or the kid's?

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




I always feel a worldbuilding measure of a civilisation is being able to describe the daily life of an average commoner in it.

Incidentally, one of my players insisted on building an elf commoner. (to start with) I had to veto the name Ron Mapleflower, if only because I don't want to run out of embarrassing names for the pixies.

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

DalaranJ posted:

Ugh, I’m so over talking frogs now.

One thing that’s unfortunate about spelljammer is that it sort of forces the implication that every setting takes place on a planetoid. I think that’s unfairly limiting.

This was already brushed upon, but I just want to revisit it real quick. D&D's main settings are on run-of-the-mill planetoids, Spelljammer is tethered to that whenever it deals with them. Left to its own devices, however, they have ample numbers of weird worlds. One sourcebook was made specifically detailing examples of worlds to be found out there, Practical Planetology, and in addition to normal rocky worlds, they had water worlds, fire worlds, air worlds, and then weird worlds. The weird ones consisted of Torus, a donut-shaped world, Plata, a diskworld, and the cunningly-named ringworld Nivil. :allears: I also recall a plant world where the entire thing was a huge overgrown vine, a dead moon where pretty much the whole surface was animated skeletons, and even though I can't find it I would swear there was a crystal sphere where its world was a flat plane filling the sphere from edge to edge with a hole in its center, with a sun that bobbed up and down through the hole to provide night and day. So yeah, DMs were pretty encouraged to just go nuts when coming up with worlds to encounter.

Anywho:



Spelljamming (the verb)

The titular activity of the setting, spelljamming (the verb) is to move around in space. The default method for doing this involves a chair-shaped magical device called a Helm. You sit your party spellcaster in it (any spellcaster will do, arcane or divine), the Helm sucks out all of their spells for the day instantaneously, and in exchange they can make the magic space boat move for twelve hours. They can push past this soft limit, but at an increasingly-diminished rate of speed. There are two flavors of Helm, major and minor, with minor Helms able to move ships up to fifty tons and major Helms able to move ships up to a hundred tons, and at a faster speed than the minors. In both cases, the higher the level of the spellcaster, the faster the boat moves.

There are two forms of movement, tactical speed and spelljamming speed, which are basically impulse speed and warp speed, to put them in trekkie terms. Being near an object of high mass will automatically drop a ship down to tactical speed, because nerds being nerds it's a safe bet someone is going to work out the math for ramming something at a sizable fraction of lightspeed if there aren't rules in place to prevent it. This also means that if you're space-ambushed by space pirates in a space asteroid field, you can't just punch it and warp off while giving them the space finger.

The ship itself determines things like the maneuverability and how many crew members are required to handle the ship. Smaller ships can get away with just the spelljamming mage or maybe just a couple of crew to handle the ship's rigging, while bigger ships can need dozens of crew to steer better than a brick. It's never explained what exactly the space sails are doing on those ships, but if anyone asks just tell them it has to do with tachyons or some poo poo. The end result is that a ship needs sailors to navigate properly, and while a small group of murderhobos on a tiny ship can get by without, realistically they're probably going to need to be dealing with NPCs, giving a DM something to roleplay.

Other types of propulsion exist as well: Mind flayers have helms that draw power from their innate magic, dwarves propel themselves through space by banging on stuff in a magic forge, evil people use helms that drain the life from victims for power, beholders have specially-bred gimped little beholders that act as living engines, and people with more money than sense can get engines that propel a ship by using magic items as fuel.

Touching back on where I mentioned that Spelljammer is the most metal D&D setting ever devised, there is also the Bardic Helm, where a bard jamming on an instrument propels the ship. Yes, you can move a ship through space by shredding super hard on a guitar.


This guy's ship moves four times as fast.

Spelljammers (the noun)

The ships themselves are some of the most iconic parts of the setting. Indeed, Jeff Grubb's stated inspiration for the setting when he pitched it was the mental image of a knight standing on a ship's deck in space, and he went on to say that the artists were just cranking out weird cool stuff so they kept sticking it into the game. Here's what happens when you pay a bunch of artists to sit around and make space boats, probably with the assistance of some mind-altering chemicals:



Each space-faring species tended to have a certain theme for its ships. The butterfly-looking ones are elven and are actually plants, they're grown and carved into that shape. The nautiluses are mind flayer ships and enclosed to protect them from sunlight. The squid and fish-looking ships are human, and the spider ships aren't Drow as some might expect, but a new species for Spelljammer called the Neogi. I'll get to them further on. Not pictured are dwarven ships, which are basically just asteroid-castles full of dwarves, beholder ships, which are weird, organic-looking shells, and gnomish ships, which are insane steampunky wrecks that rely on giant space hamsters in wheels to move.

Basically any weird poo poo that any artist could make look sort of like a ship was made into a ship. Lots of them are animal-themed, bugs, birds, fish. Some are just alien. Just about none of them are boring.

Things fall apart somewhat when you get to the nuts and bolts, however. It was not infrequent that a ship's art didn't mesh well with its in-game stats, and the deck plans given for many ships were usually somewhat awful. For example, the nautiloid ships pictured above are 35 tons, the deathspider ships further back are 100 tons. However, the deck plans give the nautiloids more interior volume than the deathspiders, despite being a third the mass. The listed maneuverability, armor, and weapons for a lot of ships never seemed to mesh well with the visual depiction or description of them in the sourcebooks. It's very clear that there was little or no oversight being paid to getting the ships all done in a unified manner, and any given writer or artist could crank out a ship that looked cool but was essentially unusable without a DM tweaking it. A book with ship construction rules was released eventually, and anyone with even the smallest min-maxing bone in their body could quickly design something vastly better than most of the official published ships, it was a mess. If there's one thing Spelljammer could sorely have used, it's getting one person to go ship by ship through them and tweak the stats to get them all in line with the ship construction rules to even out the really bad and really good ships.

The Spelljammer (proper noun)

It's a giant space manta ray with a city on its back.

Hope you weren't expecting more.

The Spelljammer itself is unique in the universe, an artifact, or vessel, or creature, or all of the above, that seemingly aimlessly flies around. Like a lot of legendary ghost ships on Earth, the Spelljammer is often considered a herald of misfortune for the places it visits and the people who see it. People who land on it are never heard from again, though plenty of people moving around the city have been observed through telescopes. Spelljammer itself fucks with magic that would normally permit teleportation or remote communication, so the exact nature of what's going on on board is a spoooooky mystery. Unless you buy the boxed set adventure that details everything. It's a giant space manta ray with a city on its back. :ssh:

Valatar fucked around with this message at 08:27 on Nov 4, 2017

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Probably coolest low effort product ever cranked out.

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




Super Mario Galaxy worlds are valid settings for Spelljammer, I imagine. Hell, that's how I picture the 4e Elemental Chaos.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

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




So you could actually stat Immortan Joe a ship piloted by the Comma Doof warrior and run the whole road war in spaaaaace?
Because knowing TSR I'll bet that it would take too much effort to recalibrate the system to be quick and fun.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Horrible Lurkbeast posted:

So you could actually stat Immortan Joe a ship piloted by the Comma Doof warrior and run the whole road war in spaaaaace?
Because knowing TSR I'll bet that it would take too much effort to recalibrate the system to be quick and fun.
We are SPELL BOYS!
(Spell Boys!)
Kama crazy SPELL BOYS!
(Spell Boys!)
Kama Crazy Will Save Stacking SPELL BOYS!
(Spell Boys!)

Barudak
May 7, 2007



marshmallow creep posted:

I mean, let's be fair: Fourth graders have nerves of steel.

Are the two examples of the absolute best you can be seriously two totally mundane humans? Meanwhile we can creates souls and slip between dimensions but have trouble zipping our flies?

Yes. There are 4 examples of play in the game and the tasks checked for are “crouch behind a dumpster”, “recognize people in a public place”, “jump across an alleyway rooftop”, “dont get shot”, and “prevent an enemy magic from working”. You might note that that the first four are extremely mundane with the first two needing to be checks indicating our Messiahs may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer.

The fifth well touch on in the next update because surprise surprise the challenge rating for that just isnt happening ever.

Dallbun
Apr 21, 2010


Why would you play in Dark Sun, Al-Qadim, Spelljammer, or Planescape when you could be in a bog-standard fantasy realm and utilize

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 18: The Deck of NPCs

107: The Near-Sighted Paladin

Just after leaving town, a paladin (Kelvran Orcsbane, Level 7) rides up from behind the PCs and produces a warrant for the arrest of a gang of bandits working for the Witch Queen. The descriptions are similar to the PCs but different in details. As per the card title, the dude’s eyesight is bad and he knows it, so it probably won’t be that hard to talk him down.

I like this well enough, since it gives me a reason to whip up a set of evil PC semi-dopplegangers and have them show up at some later date… but I also don’t need to be creative right now, on the spot. Keep.


108: The Little Runaways

Everyone’s gathered in the late evening in the town square of a little rural town, because two boys have gone missing. Search parties are being organized. The PCs may participate, in which case they just happen to find the kids (well, with a successful Wisdom-2 check); they fell down a ravine and one broke his leg and was knocked unconscious.

A totally ordinary encounter that gives a chance for the PCs to become a little invested in a town. I’ll keep it.


109: Frame

As the PCs enter a village square, there’s a speaker firing up a mob to go after an accused murderer. The PCs can come along to join this posse, which fans out into the forest (where apparently they know this guy is hiding?) Four successful Tracking proficiency checks in a row (the first one at -3! Yeesh!) lets a PC find them. He says he was framed by the speaker, earlier, but can’t prove it. The PCs need to decide what to do. “Gramad abides by their decision.”

Wait, who’s Gramad? Oh, apparently that’s the accused man, because that’s the name on the stat block at the end of the card. Well, I’ll tell you what - I’m playing Gramad as The Dude from the Big Lebowski, and I now like this encounter 100% better. Keep.

“Gramad abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. Gramad. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners.”

I’d tone down those Tracking checks, though.


110: The Hit, Part 1 of 2

A crowded city square. A local government representative of whatever type is appropriate is giving a speech behind a dias, his voice magically amplified. Everybody gets to make a Wisdom check to notice a shadow figure on a building nearby aiming a heavy crossbow at the mayor/regent/whatever, and they get one single round to do something about it. If the assassin isn’t stopped, they’ll shoot the politician through the throat (and gain a lot of NPC experience points). Keep.


111: The Hit, Part 2 of 2

If the PCs foiled the assassination attempt, the mayor (or whatever) gives a feast in their honor… though really there’s not much attention paid to them. It’s more of a political event “to thank his benefactors.” It’s in an outdoor amphitheater, with guards posted all around the rim.

“The PC who was most instrumental in saving the mayor’s life is seated next to a shifty-eyed individual,” who is of course an assassin who tries to slip poison in their food. Even assuming all PCs aren’t already starting fixedly at this person from the very moment the DM described them as “shifty-eyed,” all they need is a Wisdom check to spot this attempt.

Seriously, assassin’s guild (or whoever)? Why would you send good assassins after bad? These are dangerous adventurers! What’s the point of trying to kill one of them and maybe drawing their wrath down on you? And why did you deploy Frank for this mission, everybody knows he’s got shifty eyes! (To be fair, this guy is just a level 1 Thief - maybe they’re simply bad assassins.)

Here’s what I do like about the encounter: obviously if the PCs waste this assassin in the middle of the political fundraiser, whatever political goodwill they’ve gained will swiftly evaporate. The mayor is going to just want them out of his life before they murderhobo it up further. It’s possible the PCs could even parlay that into something they want. Or, if they’re smarter about dealing with the assassin, they could build a closer relationship with the mayor. None of this is suggested in the card, of course, but it could lead into good gameplay. Keep.

Dallbun fucked around with this message at 13:57 on Nov 4, 2017

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




Random dumbasses who struggle at basic tasks sounds like an accidentally awesome concept for a sitcom RPG. The average party is more Always Sunny than A-Team anyway.

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Inescapable Duck posted:

Random dumbasses who struggle at basic tasks sounds like an accidentally awesome concept for a sitcom RPG. The average party is more Always Sunny than A-Team anyway.

This describes an awful lot of 90s RPGs though.

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