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Precambrian
Apr 30, 2008



I am stealing the hell out of that Sphinx. Start with a big speech about how travelers must answer her riddle... or die! But she's merciful and will allow them to pay a toll to pass. Then get increasingly insistent that the toll is a much better option, come on, guys, you could die if you get my riddle wrong! I am being incredibly cool for letting you pay! Until she's forced to sigh and go, "What goes on four legs in the morning..."

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Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Reminds me of the Spectator beholder in Baldur's Gate 2.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk








Chapter 6: The Illuminati - All War Crimes All the Time






Again, both the CDC and CIA have long, IRL histories that Dark*Matter doesn't do very much to change. I'm not going to bother rehashing the actual histories of either entity; instead I'm just going to highlight the stuff that Dark*Matter actually adds or alters.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - They're one of the few groups that understand how precariously humans maintain control over Earth, especially because they're also one of the few groups that knows about the Sandman incursion into Houston and the ATF. They've supposedly gotten dormant samples of the nanites that turn humans into Sandmen, but thus far haven't been able to science up a way to reverse the process, nor a means of immunizing future humans against being turned.

In Dark*Matter, the CDC is directly involved in some extremely war-crimes style poo poo, all in their desperate attempts to curtail potential global-extinction style pandemics. Apparently, the CDC no longer has any compunctions against testing confiscated alien bio-weapons against unsuspecting human populations, validating new vaccines outside laboratory conditions, and even sterilizing entire villages all over the third world to prevent catastrophic outbreaks of Ebola, Hanta, and worse.

Epidemics & Quarantines - The CDC is extremely aware that the threat posed by open Doorways and visiting Strangers isn't just that they might be demons from a hell dimension or aliens bent on global conquest; whatever tiny bacteria or micro-organisms or viruses or diseases that these Strangers carry could be just as, if not more, catastrophic for humanity. To that end, the CDC partners with the WHO at the UN to monitor reports of open Doorways, and they cooperate to set up quarantines and safe zones around open Doorways until they can either be closed, or are at least deemed a non-threat. The CDC has had to expand it's wheelhouse beyond just traditional diseases and viruses because there's other poo poo that might come through a Doorway that could also gently caress up our planet - the book gives an example of an insect that can consume & metabolize plastics and is also immune to all extant pesticides, which would for sure gently caress up much of our modern infrastructure.

Genotype ID Centers & DNA Fingerprint Centers - The human genome has been completely mapped and now the CDC could use that info to create tailor-made viruses that only target certain "undesirables" or otherwise create war-crime level ethical problems. They also maintain the country's largest DNA database; used primarily by law enforcement agencies to accurately identify suspects & repeat offenders, it's also possible some unscrupulous hacker could infiltrate the system and start framing people for crimes they never committed, just by changing their DNA profile in the central system to match that of the actual perpetrators. There's even a rogue gang of CDC employees that are using their system access to literally do this - basically they're reaching out to organized crime families and offering to cover their tracks by switching DNA profiles on the server and getting paid a crazy amount of money for their services. This is a pretty decent plot hook, because there's certainly no way that this plan could ever backfire or create unintended consequences!

The Gynarchy - UUUGGGGHHHHH. Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem are literally the only types of feminist that exist, and this is a group of militant man-hating amazons that are going to fuse two eggs together to create their female messiah and use then use that person to overthrow the rule of man. loving hard pass on this misogynist-fantasy poo poo.

The Ghost Train - Basically the Underground Railroad, but for any Strangers or human psychics or any other supernatural entities that want to defect to the US Govt. I have no idea why this program operates under the purview of the CDC - it seems like it'd be a better fit for a more clandestine organization, but I guess maybe that's why operating under the CDC is a good cover because people won't think to look there. Not an awful plot hook, but I'm marking off 10 points because this isn't actually a haunted railroad that ferries the newly dead to their afterlife (also absent: rules for suplexing the engine so hard that you can divert its course back into the living world).


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - It's a really loving awful organization of sociopaths that love war crimes. That's basically the sum of it. Project MK Ultra and all of the other classic conspiracy stuff happens, innocent people are hurt, some token nobody is held accountable, and the atrocities continue unabated. I don't have a lot of positive things to say here, and the Dark*Matter book just gives a white-washed version of the agency's public history, so there's not a lot of content for me to cover.

Project Stargate and Project Override - Initially under the jurisdiction of the DoD, Project Stargate was a study of whether clairvoyance and remote viewing and precognition could produce reliable enough results that they would have valid military applications. Supposedly, the CIA found out that Project Stargate was also involved in trying to breed true psychic powers out of a stock of human "potentials" and got greedy; they pulled some backdoor strings to get Project Stargate publicly "shut down" and then reabsorbed all of the personnel and assets under the umbrella of the CIA as Project Override.

They're basically the Hawkins National Laboratory from Stranger Things. Project Override has entire "crops" of potential psychic kids now and they subject them to rigorous testing regimens to try and perfect their innate powers and train them to become the perfect CIA black-ops killing machines. There's no way that one of the kids will have a psychotic break and stage a violent escape, or manage to accidentally open a Doorway to another dimension, or contact an alien intelligence that might not have benevolent intentions! Seriously, you could just re-create the entire first season of Stranger Things with this group if you were so inclined.

CIA Toy Box - Sort of a mini Arms & Equipment Guide for spy technology & gizmos that only the CIA know about.

Cancer Gun - A "short bazooka" that fires a one-time charge of lethal X-ray radiation at a target. In game terms, this blasts someone with a Level 5 dosage of radiation (that's the most deadly level) and if you fail your resistance test you develop inoperable cancer and die within a few months. Save-or-Die comes to Alternity, folks! The person firing the gun also suffers a Level 2 dosage of radiation, but that only develops into inoperable terminal cancer if they get a critical failure on their resistance test. The CIA uses this weapon to kill targets that are too high-profile to "disappear" and too important to risk mundane assassination attempts. The CIA prefers to put this into the hands of a non-CIA asset, since it's entirely likely that the person using this weapon will also develop cancer, and then you get to tie up both your loose ends with "natural" deaths.

Golden Dawn - Named for the infamous 19th century occult society, this drug allows FX users to gain temporary b onus FX points that they can use to fuel their powers. Mindwalkers or psy-potentials get a number of points equal to half their Willpower score; any other FX user just gets a single point. Whenever you spend one of these bonus points, you also take a proportionate amount of Fatigue damage. Wheee! This drug is also an extremely addictive narcotic, so of course the CIA tries really hard to get all of their FX agents and assets hooked on this drug so that they can maintain indefinite control over them.

Heart Attack Inducers - Fast-acting chemicals that permeate the skin and cause cardiac arrest in the victim. In game terms, this is treated like a Deadly neurotoxin with an onset time of a single round, a duration of 1 minute, and an on-going +4 penalty to Constitution resistance tests. If the target fails the resistance test, they're dead! The poison is usually delivered via pads on the fingertips of special gloves that a CIA agent can wear and then innocuously touch, or casually bump into, a target, and by the time anyone could possibly try to figure out what's happened, the agent is long gone. Supposedly the CIA used these poisons so frequently that the "cholesterol scare" of the 1980's was actually just a disinformation campaign they created to keep doctors and hospitals from connecting the dots between the "thousands" of victims that died from Heart Attack Inducers.

Necrotic Fleshworms - A form of torture so excruciatingly cruel that even the CIA will only authorize their use on black sites that are not on U.S. soil. The worms eat the connective tissues and fat and muscle and nerve fibers of mammals and they're really horrific and at least the Dark*Matter book doesn't even try to offer a situation where the use of these things would be justified.


NEXT TIME: More conspiracies from the U.S. federal govt.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


Zereth posted:

No, it turned them red. Getting off the demon juice turned them green.
The Warcraft orc color time line is as follows:

Brown (or grey)
-> Add demon blood and/or fel magic
Green
-> Add more demon blood and/or fel magic
Red

The green -> red transformation is reversible but the brown -> green one doesn't seem to be.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Is there a level beyond red orc?

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

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

_Spikey_ red orc.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


Kavak posted:

Is there a level beyond red orc?

unseenlibrarian posted:

_Spikey_ red orc.
Forgot about that.

Brown (or grey) add demon blood and/or fel magic> Green <less demon blood and/or fel magic | more demon blood and/or fel magic> Red even more demon blood and/or fel magic> _Spikey_ red

Comrade Gorbash fucked around with this message at 19:08 on Jan 4, 2018

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


You forgot another step.

Iron Orc <Regressive Fascist Propaganda Brown (or grey) add demon blood and/or fel magic> Green <less demon blood and/or fel magic | more demon blood and/or fel magic> Red even more demon blood and/or fel magic> _Spikey_ red

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



And for that matter, here's the line of descent for the main line of elves.

Trolls <Titan magic> Night Elves <Arcane Magic> High Elves <Demonic Magic> Blood Elves <Void Magic> Void Elves

If you add demonic magic to night elves, you get satyrs.

If you add void magic to night elves, you get naga.

If you marinate night elves in arcane magic for ten thousand years, you get nightborne.

If you subtract arcane magic from nightborne, you get nightfallen.

If you add an unstable fusion of arcane and nature magic to nightborne, you get spider elves.

If you subtract arcane magic from high elves or blood elves, you get withered.

If you turn blood elves undead, you get vampiric elves.

If you give blood elves even more demonic magic, you get felblood elves.


Any questions?

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


Cythereal posted:

And for that matter, here's the line of descent for the main line of elves.

Trolls <Titan magic> Night Elves <Arcane Magic> High Elves <Demonic Magic> Blood Elves <Void Magic> Void Elves

If you add demonic magic to night elves, you get satyrs.

If you add void magic to night elves, you get naga.

If you marinate night elves in arcane magic for ten thousand years, you get nightborne.

If you subtract arcane magic from nightborne, you get nightfallen.

If you add an unstable fusion of arcane and nature magic to nightborne, you get spider elves.

If you subtract arcane magic from high elves or blood elves, you get withered.

If you turn blood elves undead, you get vampiric elves.

If you give blood elves even more demonic magic, you get felblood elves.


Any questions?

Also felblood elves inexplicably grow tiny non-functional crow wings.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Cythereal posted:

And for that matter, here's the line of descent for the main line of elves.

Trolls <Titan magic> Night Elves <Arcane Magic> High Elves <Demonic Magic> Blood Elves <Void Magic> Void Elves

If you add demonic magic to night elves, you get satyrs.

If you add void magic to night elves, you get naga.

If you marinate night elves in arcane magic for ten thousand years, you get nightborne.

If you subtract arcane magic from nightborne, you get nightfallen.

If you add an unstable fusion of arcane and nature magic to nightborne, you get spider elves.

If you subtract arcane magic from high elves or blood elves, you get withered.

If you turn blood elves undead, you get vampiric elves.

If you give blood elves even more demonic magic, you get felblood elves.


Any questions?
Excluding Hunters because gently caress Hunters, what's the evolutionary result of giving guns to the Elves and Orcs?

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Hostile V posted:

Excluding Hunters because gently caress Hunters, what's the evolutionary result of giving guns to the Elves and Orcs?

Orcs with guns are the Iron Horde, fascist steampunk assholes.

WoW has had the Horde, Dark Horde, Fel Horde, True Horde, and Iron Horde. These are all distinct organizations.

Elves? With guns? What kind of insane setting do you take this for? All Warcraft elves are either one with nature or imperious magocrats, both versions skip straight from bows to blowing your face off with magic or animating giant elementals or golems or treants to smash your face.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar is looking better and better by the minute

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


You guys make me glad I was too poor for WoW and not really into MMORPGs enough to play on a pirate server.

W3 lore seemed so simple.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




I'm glad I stopped before Burning Crusade. Every time I try to look up a simple thing about Warcraft I get sucked into an hour of wikibinging trying to understand who and what the gently caress anything is.

Down With People
Oct 31, 2012

The child delights in violence.




LITTLE COTTAGE IN THE WOOD – PART ONE

Wherein the investigators must locate and then persuade an elderly collector to give up an arm. For their efforts, she invites them to stay for dinner.

Background

The next piece is being held by the straight-up no-poo poo Baba Yaga.





...

...

I was so tempted to just leave the introduction like that. Let me try again:

The next piece is being held by the straight-up no-poo poo Baba Yaga. In Horrient, the Baba Yaga are a trio of priestesses devoted to eldritch fertility goddess Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young. Back in the good ol days of old timey paganism, there were whole kingdoms who worshipped the Black Goat, but no longer. Over the years the Baba Yaga have dutifully tended to the sacred woods near Belgrade, but their influence isn't what it used to be and they've been unable to get enough human sacrifices to bring about the mass spawning of the Dark Young that their goddess demands – the spooky folklore poo poo and occasional child theft is a symptom of the cult having fallen on hard times.

There's a town called Orasac bordering the woods that has 800 tasty little souls on it, but the Baba Yaga can't actually steal anyone from there due to the local Romani population. An annual hearth-ward ritual has protected the townsfolk ever since they arrived. Even worse, every year without a sacrifice is one year that the otherwise immortal Baba Yaga themselves must age. One of the Baba Yaga has disguised herself as a mortal woman and married the local priest to manipulate him into driving away the Romani, but he's proving to be a tolerant and fair-minded individual. Sad!

Orasac is a real town by the way, and the book is quick to mention that it's very welcoming to visitors and hardly anyone, if anyone at all, is ever devoured by eldritch monsters.

Where does the Simulacrum fit into this? Well, the Baba Yaga have a newfound interest in selling antiquities. Centuries of Christian patriarchy have diminished the power of the old ways, but the new ways of science and archaeology are actually changing that. The more modern men try to study and understand the past, the more they inadvertently give legitimacy to the shadows of fallen faiths. As above, so below. The crone of the Baba Yaga doesn't have any attachment to the Simulacrum in particular, but uh, she's got it. Have fun robbing a literal witch demi-goddess!

As a side note, a cool thing in this scenario is that the Romani are actually the good guys: they're the ones protecting people from the Mythos. What's weird is that in spite of that, the scenario exclusively refers to them as either 'gypsies' or 'cigani', which at this point in the 21st century you should loving know are not the right words to be using for Romani people. The goddamn Wikipedia article has a delineation of the various names used to refer to the Romani that makes it pretty clear if you do cursory loving research. It's a massive loving oversight that this wasn't corrected in the second edition. Anyway.



Shopping Spree

As soon as the investigators disembark in Belgrade, they're swamped by a gang of youths who try to take their luggage and load it onto different carts to be taken in several different directions, all the while talking at the investigators in an unintelligible mix of languages. They're shooed away by the older and more professional Petar Ritichit, who is also trying to make a buck off rich tourists but does so in a more collected manner. He helps them get their luggage settled and recommends them a hotel – clearly one he has a deal with, but who's counting. He notices how heavy their luggage is and recommends going to the Bazaar, where he can get them the best prices on whatever they're shopping for. He sees them to their hotel and waits dutifully for his tip.

Ritichit is professional, polite and well-educated, though he does charge a pound a day for his services. If the investigators want a guide or a translator, they could do far worse than Ritichit. If they're willing to pay for him, he'll come back and meet the investigators at whatever time they arrange.

From here, the investigators will probably want to meet up with Dr. Milovan Todorovic, the lead recommended by Professor Smith, but they can kill some time here. There's a hill called the Slope of Dreaming in Kalemegdan Park that will let them access the Dreamlands, as well as the Bazaar mentioned by Ritichit. The Bazaar has some fun poo poo going on, so we'll go there first.



JoJo's Bazaar Adventures

The Bazaar in the Turkish Quarter is a bustling marketplace where you can drop all kinds of plothooks. Stall holders are a mix of Turks and Serbs and racial relations are put to the test on practically a daily basis. Ritichit is indispensable here, as he can translate and keep the urchins off the investigators backs. The book also suggests making them lose poo poo to a pickpocket, but that seems kinda lovely to me and your players might be bloody-minded enough to spend the rest of the day hunting down whichever poor kid tried to steal 5 quid off of the angriest Brit in the Balkans.

There's an opportunity to meet a fortune teller, because of course there's a fortune teller in the Bazaar, what kind of game do you think I'm running here. She eschews tarot and crystal balls for a strange divination method where she blows the contents of an egg out onto a tray. Naturally, her predictions are cryptic but uncannily accurate. Her black hen stares at the investigators warily, but with a look of anticipation, which is pretty impressive for a fowl to be able to communicate.

There's also loads of antiquities for sale here. The investigators might think to take a look for the next piece and see if they can't make the Belgrade trip a short one. A Spot Hidden roll finds a statue arm that looks like a Simulacrum piece, but as they go to inspect it closer, it's stolen away by a thief. This is the cue for a classic pulpy chase scene through the marketplace, using the rigorous chase rules provided in 7E. Eventually the thief is cornered, leading him to try and fend the team off with the statue arm. The investigators have a band of Serb/Turk (select one) merchants helping them, but the thief is joined by a mob of other Serb/Turk (select one) ruffians. Get ready to rumble!

Unfortunately, the arm shatters the first time it hits someone, and police are soon called to the scene. Oh well. It's about the journey, not the destination.

Next time: going country!

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




Kavak posted:

I'm glad I stopped before Burning Crusade. Every time I try to look up a simple thing about Warcraft I get sucked into an hour of wikibinging trying to understand who and what the gently caress anything is.

good news! since the Cataclysm expansion (2009 or 2010?), the majority of the main characters involved in the lore/meta-plot have just been recycled from one situation to the next, often developing previously undiscovered powers or weaknesses, often just in the nick of the for maximum plot convenience!

then the Warlords expansion brought an alternate dimension/time-travel version of all the WarCraft 2 assholes back into play! you literally don't need to learn the names of any new NPCs because there's a 90% chance anything important is being done by someone that's been around for more than 20 years, instead of some new character

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Freaking Crumbum posted:

good news! since the Cataclysm expansion (2009 or 2010?), the majority of the main characters involved in the lore/meta-plot have just been recycled from one situation to the next, often developing previously undiscovered powers or weaknesses, often just in the nick of the for maximum plot convenience!

then the Warlords expansion brought an alternate dimension/time-travel version of all the WarCraft 2 assholes back into play! you literally don't need to learn the names of any new NPCs because there's a 90% chance anything important is being done by someone that's been around for more than 20 years, instead of some new character

Okay so none of it matters and is just there to make the setting look bigger than it is, good.

I'm assuming from the context "cigani" is a slur, but I've never heard it before today. I guess it's just "gypsy" for Slavs?

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


Cigani is the Slavic word for the Roma, yes.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Okay I'm loving the fact that surprising 20th century tolerance and acceptance is owning a bunch of dipshit goat-hugging witches.

Less loving the bad writing on the part of the authors.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




PurpleXVI posted:

I think that conceptually it could be made to work in any sort of setting or most games, largely you just need to change what the player sacrifices and how it's fluffed. Maybe you long-term(or even permanently) burn out some points in a stat after the roll, in exchange for doubling it for the roll, or if there's a miscast table, you go: "I'll take +2 WIZARD POINTS in exchange for rolling twice on the WIZARD FUCKUP table or rolling once on the WIZARD FUCKUP X2 table."

It changes it from "you are permanently powerful and permanently at risk of exploding" to "you are permanently as strong as everyone else(or perhaps a bit weaker), but you can elect to take an extra risk or burn a scarce/limited resource in exchange for a big punch now."

I use a similar system for my exalted heartbreaker. Basically instead of getting anima flare the more power you use, you can power up to higher levels and the more powered up you are the bigger and flashier you get (and more destructive).

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Cythereal posted:

And for that matter, here's the line of descent for the main line of elves.

Trolls <Titan magic> Night Elves <Arcane Magic> High Elves <Demonic Magic> Blood Elves <Void Magic> Void Elves

If you add demonic magic to night elves, you get satyrs.

If you add void magic to night elves, you get naga.

If you marinate night elves in arcane magic for ten thousand years, you get nightborne.

If you subtract arcane magic from nightborne, you get nightfallen.

If you add an unstable fusion of arcane and nature magic to nightborne, you get spider elves.

If you subtract arcane magic from high elves or blood elves, you get withered.

If you turn blood elves undead, you get vampiric elves.

If you give blood elves even more demonic magic, you get felblood elves.


Any questions?

Sure, pedantry ahead!

1. Sure
2. Not Void, Old God corruption and probably some arcane stuff, but sure
3. Sure
4. No, those are just hungry Nightborne. You can turn them back into Nightborne by giving them enough magic apples. Basically junkies needing a fix.
5. Permanent, but just magic body horror. There's no spider-elf city full of spider-elves having children. Like finding humans turned into flesh horrors or something.
6. Just like Nightfallen, the Withered are basically any other elf drained of magic to the point of insane starvation. Basically these are a subrace the way a dying junkie is a subrace of human.
7. Sure, but if you turn humans into vampires, you get vampires, and vampires aren't a subrace. The San'layn may have a fancy word for themselves, but they're just vampires.
8. Maybe? These are basically like if elves got access to Bane's drugs. Dunno if they can still like reproduce or be cured. Tentative sure.

and...
9. The new guys, Void Elves. So far there's only one, so it's impossible to tell, but I'm guessing the first generation gets there by killing Void dudes, since otherwise it means players are all rolling up Alleria's adult children.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


That is too many elfs.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Night10194 posted:

That is too many elfs.

My knee jerk reaction is to start listing off various words ending in -nesti, but also Dragonlance has too many aelfs so yeah.

Rosemont
Nov 4, 2009


Forgotten Realms is pretty bad about it, too. Moon Elf, Sun Elf, Star Elf, Sea Elf, Drow, Wood Elf, Wild Elf...

AweStriker
Oct 6, 2014



So is Elder Scrolls. They've got high elves, wood elves, dark elves, snow elves, deep elves (also double as the setting's dwarves), wild elves, sea elves, left-handed elves as an entire subrace for some reason, and technically orcs even though they're not popularly considered elves.

Like half of the subraces are gone now, but especially left-handed elves really doesn't help their case.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




AweStriker posted:

Like half of the subraces are gone now, but especially left-handed elves really doesn't help their case.

They're a background race, and I prefer their "Everything is elves" to other settings where elves are just as diverse but there's a dozen other types of creature to keep track of as well.

Pieces of Peace
Jul 8, 2006
Hazardous in small doses.

Kavak posted:

They're a background race, and I prefer their "Everything is elves" to other settings where elves are just as diverse but there's a dozen other types of creature to keep track of as well.

They’re also just called “left-handed elves“ by the Redguard, who fought multiple wars against them and then their continent got magi-nuked. They probably had their own name for themselves, but there’s nobody left to use it. :black101:

An excellent background detail use of elves, IMO.

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




While there's all the usual race essentialist garbage hanging on them like virtually every single fantasy setting races, I always thought Elder Scrolls elves were a slightly fresh angle on the concept. Tamriel's Dark Elves and Dwarves were honestly just cool as poo poo, who cares if they're "elfs."

I really want a fully remastered Morrowind.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Well, if you go way back, the word 'elf' kind of just meant supernatural resident under the hill/in the woods/on the mountains/etc. Tolkien was a bit more specific about who was elves and who wasn't, and D&D refined that to an art form. I don't know if all of Tamriel's elves can interbreed but calling them 'elves' might be like calling Redguard, Imperials, Bretons, and Akaviri as 'humans'. I don't remember the elves being that phenotypically different from each other anyway.

If anything Tamriel should have more 'humans' though assigning (even the modern, slight) racial stat differences among human peoples is a bit problematic.

Tevery Best
Oct 11, 2013

Hewlo Furriend


I was back at my mom's house for Christmas. I moved out this year, and I don't live too far away, and my actual apartment is not that big, so I still keep a lot of stuff there. I was in the mood for a nostalgia trip, so I reached into a long-unopened cupboard and pulled out my old RPG stuff. More specifically, I pulled out this:



Neuroshima, a Post-apocalyptic Role Playing Game, Edition 1.5.

Tornado Blues, the introductory short story posted:

So one time Vincent, a rich poobah in Vegas, had it in for us. We got on his bad side in a dumb way, the simplest one imaginable: we took the cash and did not do the job. We couldn't handle it. The task was hard as poo poo, but we could have at least given him back the money. The money we spent on Tornado and hookers.
[...]
We were in poo poo, in macabre poo poo. We had essentially nothing to lose. It was then that Spider came up with an idea that we could do this job, get some cash and buy ourselves back into Vincent's graces. Today I know that was a moronic idea, but we were all twenty-something back then.

The job was to find the legendary Eldorado of all the sick and suffering in our world - Rotkins Pharmacia.

Fifteen years ago, in 2003, at a time when the hobby was booming in the country on a scale unheard of ever before, a bunch of people in Gliwice, Poland, were writing an RPG. Those people were the Portal Publishing House, whose claims to fame until that point were a single boardgame, possibly a role playing game I have never heard about before researching this, and a bi-monthly magazine. But now, they felt the zeitgeist, they found a niche, and they were about to publish their first big break.

The game was titled Necropunk at first. Then something happened and the team split, and Portal took its part of the project, redubbing it Neuroshima.

And that was the birth of the game I spent literal weeks of my life on.

I feel I kind of need to place this in its proper context. In 2003, Poland's RPG scene was locked in a hellwar between Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. D&D was riding strong thanks to the just-released-in-Polish 3rd Edition, which was to be my first RPG a few years later. WFRP was always fighting a losing battle, but they were smug about how much better their game was nevertheless. On the fringes, old - and later new - World of Darkness drew its usual crowd of somewhat gothy outcasts (even within the fandom), occasionally, someone brought in an indie game from abroad and tried to play it with their English-speaking friends. I am fairly sure other systems just never gained any real following.

Indigenous games were a fringe unto themselves. A bunch were published in mid-90s in a now-cult magazine Magic and Sword, but they were largely extinct by the time I started getting into the hobby. One game with lasting following were the Crystals of Time; the admin of the first RPG message board I posted on was a big fan of the game and horrendously smug about how no-one else could appreciate a system that (allegedly) requires you to pull square roots in combat resolution. There was the Witcher Imagination Game, and yes, it's that Witcher license1. I had the sourcebook for that one in my hands and the most I can remember about it is that the authors followed the WoD route of making a bad, bad, unwieldy set of game mechanics and then just telling people they should not need a resolution mechanic you're adults just focus on the storyyyyyy. (It was the largest compendium of Witcher lore to date and I am not sure it was ever superseded in that role.)

Enter Ignacy Trzewiczek, Michał Oracz, Marcin Baryłka, and Marcin Blacha, the four men who are credited for this project.

Tornado Blues posted:

Behind the corner was something better: a pharmacy. Can you imagine? A regular pharmacy, like before the war. A fairly slender, dark-haired chick was sitting behind the counter, wearing a stained, chemical-burned labcoat. Spider instantly started grinning at her, but she didn't even notice him. [...] Two of us came in, we left Herman outside just in case. I saw him through a window, talking to some kid, patting him on the shoulder and handing him a couple cigarettes. After a moment he peered in through the door, looked around and said: "Wall is waiting at a bar called Eddie's Pride. He got a guide. Oh, and Morgan Ratkiller turned up."

The guide was a girl from Warhead Height, which did not surprise me, as those people would often find work as guides. They were famous for their low prices and good quality of service, as well as their bald heads and huge blue eyes. She was sitting stiff on a bench, not paying attention to Wall and Morgan toasting a fortunate meeting. Just a few moments and they were already somewhat tipsy. But it has to be said I was glad for the meet - we'd been through a lot, that son of a bitch and we.



At the time, Trzewiczek was a man who virtually single-handedly changed the face of the Polish WFRP scene. See, back then people here were not all that much in touch with Western fandom, which is not surprising - having internet at home was still fairly rare, people were only just starting to be more likely to speak English as a foreign language than Russian - and they read magazines and zines instead. And Trzewiczek wrote a cycle of hugely influential articles about WFRP titled the Jesienna Gawęda - The Autumn Tale2. Through that, he cemented the vision of WFRP as a gloomy, doomed world where it never rains, it pours, player characters are little more than glorified thugs, and all are fated to die and rot in the mud. While the Warhammer world definitely supports such an interpretation, it is incredible how well he managed to promote suppressing the more lighthearted elements of it and prop WFRP up as the grimdark counterpart to D&D. He was always a story teller, never a game designer, and today he is, if I am not mistaken, the last of the four to still work Portal (in fact, he runs the company). Nowadays he works almost exclusively on board games, which tend to have a bunch of good ideas and mechanics overshaded by some mistake or another and ending up being second-best in whatever category they can be put into.

Michał Oracz has a number of claims to fame. He wrote De Profundis, a play-by-mail Lovecraft-inspired RPG which I am told won the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming, whatever that is. However, he is the one man responsible for the one thing you may know Neuroshima for: Neuroshima Hex, an AMAZING board game from the same franchise. Because, spoiler alert, the whole thing grew out into a franchise. Today he is, according to wikipedia, a freelance board game designer and professional graphic designer.

Marcin Baryłka would go on to co-author another RPG you've never heard of, Dzikie Pola, set in 17th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He wrote some published stories, and now he runs an IT company.

I have no idea what else Blacha achieved and where he is now.

Tornado Blues posted:

They say the world died thirty years ago. The seas boiled and the cities burned. The star named Wormwood fell from the heavens onto the third part of the rivers and the fountains of waters. They say the world died in the flashes and rumbling of explosions.

Bullshit, I thought, squeezed in behind a rock outcropping that protected our fireplace from being discovered. [...] It's all bullshit. When you're standing near the epicentre, you don't hear the rumble. All you see is a flash. A monstrous, terrible flash, going right through you. Covering your eyes won't help. You see your hand, every little bone, every joint and every nerve ending. All of it, like on a picture in a book, and just for a fraction of a second, before the shockwave takes you. You won't hear the explosion because you just won't last long enough.

Quick. And painless.

I am bringing it all up because this writeup is, for me, a nostalgia trip, something of a farewell to a game I am unlikely to ever play again. It is now outdated, obsolete, dead. It has spawned a franchise of proportions absolutely unheard of in Poland - several board games, short story collections, something like twenty official supplements, dozens of fan-made supplements, dedicated LARP events, a miniatures game, other stuff I am probably forgetting - and it is now withering. Much like, I feel, the Polish scene. Or maybe just the parts of it that were there before I left for like five years - incidentally, I am fairly sure the last supplement for Neuroshima came out five years ago. I myself no longer really enjoy crunchy games, I am too busy and old to fill out more than one tax return a year. But there was a time where this was a huge part of my life, and I am always going to remember it fondly.

So, come with me, friends, as I explore wonderful, colourful memories of a world that never was.

And I promise to be less purple-prose'y-wistful-and-sad in the writeup itself. Because that game has a lot of stupid poo poo in it, for real.

Tornado Blues posted:

We picked up the guns and walked up to each of them to shoot them in the head. We left Morgan for the last. Herman and Wall woke up a few minutes later. While they were jumping for joy, I noticed something that changed our lives.

Over the factory door, on a sun-beaten sign, only visible from one specific angle, the letters spelled: "ROTKINS PHARMACIA."

When we were leaving, burdened with bags of powdered Tornado, knowing we were even more hosed than before, I noticed a group of people on the hill. They were bald. One of the women waved at me. I swear she was smiling.


Trzewiczek's autograph I got on my copy of the sourcebook. The cow (yes, it's a cow) says: "Keeping radioactive milk in a vacuum flask turns it into a flashlight!"

1. Coincidentally, Sapkowski himself wrote an RPG in 1995, titled Eye of Yrrhedes. From what I gather it was more of a generic system for whatever fantasy world you come up with, so that's probably part of why it never gained much of a following in spite of him being a big deal. (Also there are TONS of stories about how the man behaved and behaves at conventions, so maybe there's that too.)

2. Gawęda is actually a unique Polish prose genre that resembles more of a loose talk to the audience than an actual tale. They tend to be narrative, filled with digressions, and originally arose among the Polish nobility of the 17th and 18th centuries.

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




occamsnailfile posted:

I don't remember the elves being that phenotypically different from each other anyway.

It's mostly skin color and racistracialracist traits. I think the biggest departure are the degenerate "deep elves" who were once "snow elves", since they've been mutated or something and all look like Gollum but with more hair. (If I'm remembering Skyrim right.)

Hell, apart from the weirder skin colors of some of them, the main difference between them and humans seems to be that elves all have fiveheads. Everyone in Bethesda land, no matter their race, has the same sick mottled skin, uncooked dough-face and poop-strand hair since Oblivion.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


It sounds like Trzewiczek and I would disagree quite a bit. This will be quite interesting to see!

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

That Old Tree posted:

It's mostly skin color and racistracialracist traits. I think the biggest departure are the degenerate "deep elves" who were once "snow elves", since they've been mutated or something and all look like Gollum but with more hair. (If I'm remembering Skyrim right.)

Yeah. The Falmer were enslaved by the Dwemer (the dwarves) and fed a lovely concoction that blinded them and buggered their genes enough that their offspring were congenitally blind as well. Yadda yadda echolocation, evil, yadda.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

I actually liked the backstory of the Falmer in that respect--tragic and unpleasant, and yet another reason why the Dwemer ultimately fell.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Oooh, Neuroshima! That's one of those games I keep remember existing, keep trying to find a copy of and then fail because I can't find an easy English translation.

Always been interested in exploring it because of how relentlessly nihilistic most of the game modes are. Like I'm not entirely sure I'd want to play it except in Steel or very maybe Chromium. Very interested in hearing more.

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




occamsnailfile posted:

I actually liked the backstory of the Falmer in that respect--tragic and unpleasant, and yet another reason why the Dwemer ultimately fell.

One of the things I really liked about Morrowind was that there was this really distinct, interesting culture in the Dunmer, and it was all built over the top of the ruins of this other people that were totally gone, but you could go visit their ruins and learn some stuff about them and some of their poo poo still worked and was totally different from everything else you encountered.

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee


I'm really excited for this Neuroshima review. Games made in non-english languages, isolated from American tropes, always have these interesting veneers to them. Even when they follow the same Tolkien formula, cultural frameworks and the different local zeitgeist are reflected in these fascinating ways.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





I've seen the Neuroshima Hex stuff but never knew anything about it. I am looking forward to think.

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Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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





BOOK FOUR: Empirical Thaumaturgy

Or

Victorian Cantrips


Hermeticists come from all walks of life and as such Hermeticism is the dominant form of magic in Europe due to the fact that it just requires education to learn. Well it also requires you have Resolve 2 and understand Latin and the Enochian alphabet and also the Thaumaturgist Talent. You don't necessarily have to have pseudo-Abrahamic religious leanings or a license but they kinda help keep you on the level.

Hermetic magic requires the caster to pull aether from themselves and the universe and impose their will on the world around them. This is done with gestures and brief incantations. You can also cast Hermetic magic discretely with a sleight of hand roll...that imposes 3 black dice on the actual casting and doesn't work for all spells. Like you can only disguise shooting an energy bolt out of your hand so much.

Anyway let's check out the spells, starting with the three that give you a pretty good understanding of Hermetic magic: aether bolts, three of the four magical attacks available to a Hermetic magician. A quick refresher of mechanics:
  • You have a 1/3 chance of a single d6 being a success and a 1/6 chance of that success being an exploding dice.
  • Three dice in a pool can be converted into an instant success instead of rolling.
  • Black dice do not explode but have a single black dice has a 1/3 chance of eating a success.
  • Black dice tend to come in 3s.
  • The game gets all frowny when you focus on making big dice pools because you should instead focus on being well-rounded.
  • Damage is dealt by rolling all of the damage dice and every success counts as a point of damage.


Okay, so. Judging by these three spells alone, I'm just gonna tell you straight-up: Victoriana tends to take magic spells and then divide them into informal groups based on difficulty dice. I'm going to use informal terminology. Difficulty 0 spells are Cantrips. They have low Quint costs and do small things but aren't difficult to use and you can use a lot of them. Anything with 3-6 difficulty is basically an Intermediate spell, there's a risk of failure and they require investment to use. Spells that are 7+ difficulty are Advanced spells and you're never going to loving use them without substantial investment. Case in point: Aetheric Inferno. The cantrip form is the equivalent of a ranged cudgel. The intermediate form is on par with a bullet from most guns. In fact, Bolt is flat-out inferior to most forms of gunfire. It's laughably easy to sink money into getting a gun balanced to give you better accuracy and mechanically speaking you're investing more resources and EXP to know how to cast spells to begin with. Shooting guns is just Dex+Firearms and the ability to have a magic bullet at your fingertips doesn't really matter as much in a world of sleight of hand and derringers. Inferno is the top level offensive attack for Hermetic magicians. You shoot bullets for as long as you have Quintessence...which is a great way to run out of Quintessence and is essentially on par with holding the trigger of a semi-automatic firearm. Which exist.

The difficulty of Inferno is 9, which means you roll 9 black dice to eat successes. This is counts as an Incredibly Difficult challenge in a system where 2 successes is generally a proper success to do anything. If you're throwing around a 6 dice pool like the game wants you to then congrats, you're never casting this spell and just hurting yourself trying to. You want a 15 dice pool if you're going to approach this from the perspective of "I can turn three dice from my pool into an automatic success" and understanding basic probability. Five automatic successes vs. (1/3 successes)x9 black dice is a safe way to reliably cast this spell. You could gamble with a pool of just 12 but either way, this requires substantial investment in order to cast this single spell. The minimum way to swing this would be to have Resolve 6 or 7 and Thaumaturgy 6 or 7 and take other Talents that let you lower the difficulty of spells like Aetheric Manipulator. There's no other reasonable way to do this. The upside is at this point you can pretty easily cast any Hermetic spell, not counting the other ones that would be around the same difficulty. But this is a heavy point investment to work towards and not remotely possible at chargen.

Counterpoint: a soldier with a blunderbuss. The Revolving Blunderbuss deals out 8 damage dice and costs 2 dollars. The RB has +2 dice added to your pool for being a weapon that shoots in a cone (and technically functions as an AoE weapon if the targets are grouped) and holds 6 shots. Yes Inferno has a range of 100 meters but it drat well can have it. It is actually faster to shoot the Revolving Blunderbuss than it is for the mage to cast because it has a Rate of Fire of 4 meaning that you can pull the trigger four times (at the cost of having an abysmal pool of dice to hit, but). Shooting the gun would be Dexterity+Firearms and the difficulty flatly responds to the range in which you're shooting from: none up to 4 yards, 3 up to 8, 6 up to 12, 9 up to 20. To shoot someone within a reasonable distance, you'd need to aim which would be spending a turn like you'd have to spend at least one turn to prepare the spell without a risk of failure due to being interrupted. It's not unreasonable to have Firearms 5 and Dexterity 5, the +2 for using a Blunderbuss and for good measure let's take the Talents Marksman which makes the dice bonus +2 for aiming. If we want to be really ludicrous we could take the other points that would have to go towards raising Resolve to insane degrees and take all three levels of Hawk-Eyed which means that all ranged weapons increase their ranges by 60%. This is to say you're shooting a Blunderbuss that you can reasonably aim with up to 32 yards and the penalties now shift so close is 6.4 yards, +3 black is 12.8, +6 is 19.2 and +9 is 32. One round spend aiming is 14 dice and you have functionally shifted the penalties so that it's easier than ever to shoot further than you'd need to with a Blunderbuss. Now, admittedly, the benefit of Inferno is that you can just keep attacking once the spell pops off. And of course if you want a gun with a range that'll match Inferno...well you can find some that have triple the max range of Inferno. Yes they tend to be single-shot. They make up for it by dealing more damage per bullet.

So in short: it's much cheaper to invest in a well-balanced accurate gun than it is to invest in magic and there's the math that proves it. Let's take a look at the other spells.


  • Aetheric Pocket has a handy amount of space inside of it and can be useful.
  • Animate is...interesting but not necessarily my first pick.
  • Botheration is pretty drat useful but unfortunately touch range.
  • Cure is good but the potency limit makes the Magnetist equivalent better.
  • Darkness has its classic D&D uses.
  • Ectoplasmic Bonds is very handy due to the fact that its use is measured in hours and can shut down combat pretty easily.

  • Ectoplasmic Hand is just a reskinned Mage Hand.
  • Farspeech is good and your average PC will get hefty mileage out of it.
  • Firespark is just your standard cantrip.
  • Flight of the Wyvern is flat-out game-breaking. Zero difficulty to cast? Contains built-in feather fall? Lord almighty.
  • Gaslight is your standard Light cantrip.
  • Groom is a very specific use of the Prestidigitation cantrip squirreled away into a single spell.

  • Hair of the Dog is...tonally interesting but practically useless unless this will be something that plagues your party.
  • Heal is the better version of the Magnetic Heal and is just flat better. A Hermeticist who has sunk a jillion dice into casting Inferno will just vomit prodigious healing energies whenever they need to for the party's benefit.
  • Instant Beauty is surprisingly useful because they don't say it doesn't boost spells cast off Presence.
  • Invisibility is disappointingly hindered. There's possibly some deeper subtext to the fact that total invisibility is only accessible by getting buck-naked and hiding things up your rear end in Victorian England but I don't trust these writers with the notion/
  • Levitate is pretty great and breaking because you can just use this to gently caress with people and also it doesn't say that there's a weight limit.
  • Pepperbox Volley is the response to the fact that guns are better. The problem is the fact that Pepperbox Volley runs into the issues of volley fire, which is to say it counts as multiple attacks and hideously shortens your dice pool per shot. Just focus on having a regular firearm.

  • Power of Steam is hilarious to me, because it's easier to do than Animate but makes it harder to drive and it also acts as a Bad Haste to people. It's not worth using at all because Strength is pointless, but it's still funny.
  • Repair has its uses especially if you have tech people in the party or just want to play Crazy Diamond.
  • Scholar's Guard is just like the Alarm cantrip. Good if you need it I guess.
  • Second Sight is a cheaper version of the Magnetist ability which is funny but also makes Magnetism that much more useless.
  • Spyglass Eyes would have some pretty good uses for general PC shenanigans.
  • Steely Skin is very good for the fact that it adds on top of existing AC.
  • Tongues is always useful.
  • True Lock probably has its uses but also real glue exists and so do hammers and nails.
And that's Hermeticism. It's mostly just...cantrips and other things that are handy. There's a lot of versatility to be found but...well it's really expensive to have All The Spells You'd Want, you're better off keeping a few that will have excellent mileage. Overall there are some pretty good spells worth taking, but honestly at the end of the day being solely focused on Hermeticism is a waste of time, it's legitimately better to have a few and then know how to other poo poo.

Sample Spell Selection Recommendations

Geek The Mage First: Heal, Steely Skin, Botheration.
The World's Greatest Spy: Tongues, Spyglass Eyes, Flight.
CoDzilla: Flight, Ectoplasmic Bonds, Levitate.
The JoJo: Heal, Repair, Botheration.
The Don Giovanni: Botheration, Tongues, Instant Beauty.

NEXT TIME: Pull on your cloak and yell obscenities at the moon for magical profit with PETTY CONJURING.

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