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Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case

Look out! It’s
The Great Modron March Part 8: Judgment Day

Hello again! When last we left our poor little Modrons, they had escaped Limbo, the plane of pure fishmalk Chaos. You’d think that Limbo would be the worst part of the trip for the Lawful Neutral modrons, but sadly, their trials are just beginning. See, up until now they’ve been marching through the Upper Planes, the planes aligned with goodness. Chaotic good creatures don’t much like Modrons, but they’re not keen on slaughtering them wholesale. Evil creatures have no such compunctions, and even the lawful ones are not particularly keen to welcome the March into their homes. These are the Lower Planes. This is where people stop being nice… and start being really evil.

Our next adventure takes place in the gate-town of Bedlam. This town is linked to Pandemonium, the lower plane between the pure chaos of Limbo and the chaotic evil of the Abyss. The PCs should be level 5-8 right now, which is fairly tough, and a reasonable match for the malice of Bedlam. See, the town’s full of barmies. The howling winds of Pandemonium’ll drive any sod nuttier than a fruitcake, and most of them end up in Bedlam. The insanity of Pandemonium leaks out and the whole town is one big madhouse. The modrons have already passed through here and are on their way, and PCs are called in to clean up their mess.

This March made it through Bedlam pretty much unscathed (they’re barmy, not stupid) but a past March wasn’t so lucky. Some of the barmies, convinced that what their town needed was some law and order (and prodded to action by the shadow fiend Hrava, who runs the town), waylaid a decaton (the lowest tier of “hierarch” modron, and effectively a cleric of Primus) and installed it as their judge. This was more than a hundred years ago, and since then the barmies have been obeying or ignoring the judge as their crazy whims take them. They’re proud of their “civilized” ways, even if they don’t always remember to bring cases properly, or introduce evidence that actually exists.

the luckless judge

Deprivation from modron contact and living with a bunch of nutters has driven this modron rogue, and it has a name now: Trictacalus. It doesn’t know it’s a rogue, though, and it desperately wants to get back to the other modrons. This is a pretty bad idea; its space in the hierarchy has been filled, and it’s now a kill-on-sight enemy of all modronkind. Nevertheless, the strength of this desire has kept it in decaton form, instead of reverting to a quadrone like most modrons.

The barmies of Bedlam are well aware of this. As I said, barmy, not stupid. The judge is guarded constantly. So it has hatched an escape plan. The latest March has already passed through, but here come some PCs. Maybe they can help? Hrava, though he can’t be seen to help, also wants the judge gone; its presence is stabilizing, so its absence can only bring on more delicious chaos.

Bedlam itself perches on the side of the volcano Maurash. At the bottom of the hill, six gates (called blastgates) lead into Pandemonium. They’re called blastgates because of the constant howl of Pandemonium winds that surges out of them; lessened in strength away from their home plane, the winds can only drive you mad very slowly and gradually. The town is a chaotic tangle of streets and buildings, but it has, broadly, three districts: Gatemouth, right down by the gates (a nasty, crazy place), Midtown a bit farther up the hill, and the Citadel on the top where the wealthiest dwell. Following the Rule of Threes, that are also three organizations that hold sway in town: the Windlancers, who mostly patrol the Citadel and keep it safe, the Sarex, which are basically a criminal syndicate that runs Midtown and Gatemouth (under the direction of Hrava) and the Guiding Lights (who everyone else calls the Misguided), a group of petitioners who try to help people affected by Pandemonium’s winds.

Here, have a map:

The adventure begins in Sigil. Typically it can start with an old contact of the PCs calling in a favor (the adventure offers a character from another published Planescape adventure), but it can be a paid job, too. A wizard needs ash from Bedlam’s volcano for spell research. It’s a valuable reagent, and the PCs are sent looking for it. Easy enough, right? They’re given a baatezu-skin pouch to collect it in (ew, but nice touch) and the location of a portal (in a nasty part of the Hive, the worst district of Sigil).

The PCs arrive in Bedlam to the howling of winds, and one of the first things they hear is another howl-- this one a human voice, shrieking in terror and pain. Investigating it reveals a dead body, terribly mutilated. It’s a githzerai, who’s been nailed to the door and had his organs removed. Each one has a magic mouth reciting its function and how its erstwhile owner mistreated it (“I am Jack’s liver”). Nasty stuff. Naturally, moments after they turn up, the Sarex guards arrive. The PCs are placed under arrest. The DM can run this as a combat if the PCs fight, and stats are provided, but Sarex guards are 7th level fighters at least and five of them arrive every round. They want to capture, and the PCs will probably back down before things get lethal, but they’ll still be, in the immortal words of Tokaii, subdued repeatedly. If they run, the Sarex will chase the slowest and hope the others come to rescue him; the PCs’ shoes will be bloody from the corpse, making it hard to get away.

However it happens, they end up bunged in the clink. Rotten luck. As it happens, the Sarex know full well they’re innocent; they did this themselves at Hrava’s direction, hoping to sow chaos and fear. The PCs are a convenient scapegoat and also make the Sarex look efficient. Not a bad plan.

Imprisoned PCs lose equipment and material components (unless a PC has an “extraordinary way” of hiding an item) and are left overnight under heavy guard. The streets outside are also guarded, in case some PCs got away. The adventure goes into some detail about guard rotas and prison architecture, but it also says “the DM’s encouraged not to allow an escape unless the PCs are exceptionally clever.” So yeah, it’s a bit railroady.

The important moment comes the next morning, when the PCs are bundled off to the Courthouse of the Damned (!). The name should give you a fair warning of the quality of justice handed down here. The whole thing’s made of black marble and it has a Lovecraft vibe to it, with twisting columns that “defy all the laws of gravity and geometry.” The windows are all barred up, to keep Trictacalus from escaping. It’s locked in its courtroom on the second floor.

Trictacalus’s “quarters” are basically just full of its diaries, which record the “laws” of Bedlam (there aren’t any). Amusingly, these are organized by the first digit of the last page number in each volume. Anyone reading it can tell the thing’s gone mad itself from the lack of order. The courtroom’s a massive, cavernous chamber, but it’s full today; a trial is a public spectacle, and all the Bedlamites turn out to see justice done. The heinousness of the crime has certainly got them riled up, even if some are just jealous that they didn’t think of it. The PCs arrive in time to see the previous defendant beheaded, but that’s just a pregame show.

The bailiff describes the PC’s “crime,” and a number of similar murders, elucidating the nobility of the victims, the horror of their mutilation, etc. He assures the court that eyewitnesses saw the PCs do it and evidence links them to the crime, then asks for their plea. If any PCs plead guilty, they are ordered executed at once, so let’s hope they don’t.

If they plead innocent, the trial begins. It’s obviously a sham, but you should play it out. The witnesses lie extravagantly, but Trictacalus accepts each claim fully at face value. It will ignore the PCs as they try to present evidence. Whatever defense they use, the prosecution counters: if they say they just arrived, an old crone will swear she saw them with the victim all day; if they offer to bring witnesses who placed them in Sigil, the prosecutor will dismiss all Cagers as untrustworthy.

After it’s all said and done, the judge will declare its ruling:
“It is apparent to this observing unit that this case has already been proven to the court’s satisfaction. Take the prisoners and lock them away until sundown this evening, when they shall be executed in front of the prison in accordance with all the laws of the city of Bedlam.
This is right because it must be.”

Before the PCs can be taken away, the judge orders them brought to its chambers. This is a bit of a shocking alteration of protocol, but the guards obey. Bedlam’s got a Bedlam-y judge. In the chambers, Trictacalus turns on them and says:
“The fleshy beings’ guilt has been determined in the lawful court of the town of Bedlam. Therefore the fleshy beings now have three options: death by torture, most probable; escape on the beings’ own, highly unlikely; or a third option. Do the fleshy beings wish to pursue the third option?”

PCs can refuse, but it’s likely to lead to a short adventure. If they accept, it outlines its plan: it really, really wants to rejoin the March. Its plan is simple: overpower the guards outside, sneak through the streets, and get to the gate. Once in Pandemonium it can rejoin the March. The PCs probably know that the March will destroy the rogue, but it doesn’t know that and telling it is likely to be unprofitable. This plan isn’t the best, but Trictacalus insists that it is, that it has computed all risk factors, and that they must follow the plan that has the highest chance of success. It’ll allow them to stop off at the prison to retrieve their equipment, but warns “the proposed action will increase the chance of capture by nearly 30%.” Sneaking through town with a hissing, clanking metal being is unlikely to work, but when the alternative is execution…

From here the adventure is much more open-ended. The PCs can do anything they can think of (and persuade Trictacalus to go along with). It can free them from their manacles and it has some powers, though it’s not quite as juiced as a decaton should be because it’s lost its Primus-granted powers. The adventure provides a number of hazards the escapees might run into, corresponding to the numbered zones in the map above. Outside the courthouse, there are Sarex patrols; in zone II, they might run into the old barmy Tharick Bleakshadow, the nominal (and totally senile) ruler of Bedlam, who loudly threatens “the modron traitor.” As long as something, anything, is between Bleakshadow and the judge, he can’t see it… but if he does, he’ll unleash hell. He’s a 12th-level mage and not someone you should be picking fights with. He’ll chase the party for a while as they make their escape, but harmlessly.

In Zone III the PCs might find some of the Misguided, who won’t let the PCs pass without a good explanation of just where they’re taking this modron. Trictacalus will hide from them, assuming what worked on Bleakshadow will work on them, but they’re not quite as mad and will recognize it. The PCs actually stand a chance of convincing the Misguided (who, true to their name, are not really evil), though they won’t actively help the escape.

By the time the PCs reach Zone IV the barmies of town have been whipped up by rumors of escaped prisoners and their kidnapped judge. Roving mobs patrol the area, and if the PCs run into one, flight is the only option. The barmies will give chase, but determined and resourceful PCs might shake them. If they’re captured, the Sarex show up and it’s game over.

Finally, as they reach the tower (Zone V), Hrava appears and ushers the modron through the gate. He’ll thank the PCs for their help and grant them their lives. They can try to pick a fight with him, but, uh, they shouldn’t. He’ll escape easily, in any case, possibly after magic jaring a PC.

From here, getting the ash is easy (it’s all over the place) and they can escape into Pandemonium-- though getting home is its own special challenge, as they’re not likely to be welcome in Bedlam for a while. Nothing barmy about folks’ memories there, and the murderers slash judge thieves are persona non grata. The PCs might have a grudge against the Sarex or Hrava, but that’ll have to play out in its own time. As for Trictacalus-- it’s a modron alone now, wandering the caves of Pandemonium. Maybe it’ll find the March and be destroyed. Maybe it won’t. Pandemonium is a big place.

This adventure is a curious mixture of railroading and open-world exploration. If you can really sell Bedlam as this crazy, sinister place, I think it would be very atmospheric. It’s also important to familiarize PCs with the concept of modron rogues. This topic will be important later.

Next time: we’re not gonna come all this way and skip The Abyss, I promise you that.


Oct 14, 2011

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 4: Feats

So, now we have the feats. I will present these feats in the order they're presented on the table (with a couple of exceptions), rather than in alphabetical order, because otherwise I'll end up talking about some feats before I talk about their prerequisites. Some of these feats are necessities for certain character concepts; others are utter garbage, and said concept would be better served by just taking a level in a different class. Some are highly circumstantial, and depend entirely on the campaign being played. Firstly, I'll go through the General Feats.

Alertness gives a +2 bonus to spot and listen checks. This isn't a bad feat, honestly; it's not great, but if you want a semi-decent chance of noticing hidden goblins before they ambush you and you're playing a class that doesn't get those skills as class skills, it's not a bad option. Just make sure you don't have something better to spend the feat on first.

Normally, if you use your off hand for anything that requires a roll (be it a weapon attack or arm wrestling), you take a -4 penalty. Ambidexterity removes the -4 penalty. If you want to specialise in two weapon fighting, then this feat is basically required; otherwise it's largely pointless. It requires a Dexterity of 15 or higher.

The Armour Proficiency (Light, Medium and Heavy) and Shield Proficiency feats are, in my humble and honest opinion, utter garbage. If you are proficient in armour, then you receive the armour check penalty on skills that always receive it (as I noted when I was discussing skills). If you are not proficient, you receive it on all skill rolls that involve moving and on attack rolls. However, if your class doesn't already give you a given type of armour, your class features and skills almost certainly work better without it anyway, making this an absolute waste of a feat. Even if you're playing a Wizard or a Sorcerer and don't want to look like one (and don't mind the possibility of spell failure, which proficiency doesn't remove anyway and increases with better armour), don't bother with these feats; leather armour will make you not look like a spell caster, and because it doesn't have an armour check penalty you gain absolutely no benefit from this feat.

Blind Fight makes you better at fighting people you can't see. Simply put, concealment gives a flat percentile chance that a given attack will miss, regardless of the roll to hit. This feat allows you to reroll the percentile roll if it turns a hit into a miss. In addition, it removes all the bonuses that enemies you can't see get to attacking you (i.e. you don't lose your dexterity bonus to AC, and they don't get a +2 to hit you), and it allows you to move at three quarters of your speed instead of only half your speed. It's not a bad feat, honestly; I would argue that pretty much anybody who doesn't have a means of seeing invisible creatures should consider taking it, since invisible foes will almost certainly show up eventually, as will poor lighting and potentially blindness. Not to mention that old trope of fighting blindfolded from martial arts movies.

Combat Casting gives you a +4 to concentration checks to cast defensively (i.e. to not provoke an attack of opportunity while casting in a threatened space). If you cast spells, take this feat - no matter how careful you are, your wizard is almost certainly going to find themselves in melee range eventually.

Combat Reflexes gives you an additional attack of opportunity each round for every +1 in your Dexterity modifier. Honestly, I probably wouldn't bother. In most games I've played, most enemies are careful to avoid attacks of opportunity in the first place. It doesn't have any prerequisites, but in order to actually do anything it does require at least a 12 in Dexterity.

Dodge requires a Dexterity of 13 or higher allows you to select a single enemy, and receive a +1 dodge bonus to AC vs their attacks. You may change which enemy you have selected as part of any action, and may do so multiple times per round. The benefit is nice to have, but I wouldn't take this feat unless I were playing a relatively high dexterity character that might attempt to go one on one against isolated targets (which is a dangerous tactic in and of itself). Because it is a dodge bonus, it does apply to touch attacks (which ignore armour since they only need to touch you), meaning that it might be useful against spell casters. For a Fighter, its main use is that it is one of the prerequisites for Whirlwind Attack.

Mobility is a feat which requires Dodge, and grants a +4 dodge bonus to AC vs attacks of opportunity provoked by movement. See Dodge for my opinions on its utility. That said, dodge bonuses are the only bonuses to AC that stack, meaning that for that kind of character, this feat would be pretty awesome.

Spring Attack requires Mobility and a BAB of +4 or better, and allows you to use your standard action to perform a melee attack in the middle of movement. In addition, this movement does not provoke an attack of opportunity. See Mobility for my opinions - in addition to helping you get by a defender in order to attack a weaker target, such as the mage, it potentially offers the ability to get a sneak attack in against the defender as you pass them.

Endurance gives you a +4 bonus to checks that involve moving long distances without rest. This feat is kind of circumstancial; either your GM makes you travel long distances without rest on a semi-regular basis, or you've wasted a feat.

Expertise is basically an improved version of Fighting Defensively - it requires an Intelligence of 13 or higher, and allows you to take a penalty to hit up to your BAB (to a maximum of 5, presumably so that it isn't better doing a total defence could theoretically be) in exchange for an equal dodge bonus to your AC. Potentially a useful feat for a combatant that finds themselves unarmoured, or against an enemy that's easy to hit but hits really hard, but its main use is for the feats that it gives access to.

Improved Disarm requires Expertise, and allows you to attempt to disarm a foe without provoking an attack of opportunity or giving them the chance to disarm you if you fail. Potentially useful against some human enemies; might be worth taking if there isn't something better.

Improved Trip also requires Expertise, and allows you to attempt to trip a foe without provoking an attack of opportunity of giving them the chance to trip you if you fail. See Improved Disarm.

Whirlwind Attack requires Spring Attack (and therefore the feats that it requires) and Expertise, meaning that the earliest a Fighter can pick this up is level 6; about the same time as they get their second attack from BAB. Whirlwind Attack allows you, as a full round action, to attack every enemy within reach once at your full attack bonus. You do not gain extra attacks from a second weapon, from cleave/great cleave or from haste. How useful this feat is depends on your campaign, honestly. If your GM likes to throw you against small numbers of tough enemies, then it's honestly not that useful. If your GM likes to throw you against large numbers of weaker foes sometimes, then the ability to potentially hit up to eight targets in a single round at level 6 is really not bad. In general, focusing down individual targets is usually a better choice than spreading out your attacks (since low hp comes with no penalties, so they're pumping out the same damage until they die), but if you're up against multiple foes that you can potentially kill in only a couple of hits, it might be worth using.

Great Fortitude, Iron Will and Lightning Reflexes each give you a +2 bonus to their respective saves. Might be worth taking on your weaker saves to make your character more survivable (very little is as frustrating to someone playing a Fighter as constantly failing saves vs fear), but only if you don't have a better option.

Improved Critical requires a +8 BAB, and is taken for individual weapons (that is, you choose which weapon it applies to when you take it, and you can take it multiple times for different weapons). Simply put, it doubles your threat range for that weapon (I'll explain this later, but basically it makes you more likely to score a crit). Unlike in 3.5, this feat explicitly stacks with Keen. Decent feat if taken with a weapon with a decent threat range; the wider the threat range, the better the feat is.

Improved Initiative gives you a +4 bonus to your initiative rolls before combat - basically, you get to go sooner. This is really good for Rogues (more chance to get a sneak attack if they go earlier) and spell casters (the earlier they can get their buffs up, the more effective they are), and is rarely a bad choice for anyone else.

Improved Unarmed Strike, simply put, makes you better at fighting unarmed. Usually, when you are fighting unarmed, you provoke attacks of opportunity from foes who have weapons; with this feat, that is no longer the case, and people who fight unarmed against you now provoke attacks of opportunity from you. Unlike in 3.5, this does not remove the penalty for trying to do lethal damage with a non-lethal weapon - since nothing in the Monk's class abilities removes that penalty either, this means that an unarmed Monk still only does nonlethal damage by default (which explains why they'd still carry a weapon, at least; something that I'd always wondered). Even so, this feat isn't a bad option for people who might end up taking part in a tavern brawl - it's also not a bad feat for games where people tend to use their fists rather than drawing weapons when disagreement comes up (like in real life). I'd especially suggest considering this feat for any game set in an Asian themed setting - most unarmed martial artists should just be Fighters who have this feat, since Monks represent a specific kind of martial artist.

Deflect Arrows requires Improved Unarmed Strike and a Dexterity of 13 or better. Quite simply, it allows you to make a Reflex save of DC 20 to deflect a ranged attack that would otherwise hit. This may be attempted once per round. How useful it is depends pretty much entirely on your Reflex save; if Reflex isn't a good save for your class, I probably wouldn't bother.

Stunning Fist also requires Improved Unarmed Strike, as well as a BAB of 8 or higher, a Dexterity of 13 or higher and a Wisdom of 13 or higher. You declare that you're using the feat before you make your attack (you can use this feat once per day per four levels, and only once per round), and if you hit, the defender must make a Fortitude save with DC equal to 10 + half your level + your wisdom modifier. If they fail, they are stunned for one round (meaning they lose their Dexterity to AC and anyone else gets +2 to hit them). How useful this feat is largely depends on the kind of game you're playing. Ultimately, if you're playing the kind of game where beating people into unconsciousness is something that happens semi-regularly, then it's probably worth considering - a Rogue in particular might get some use from this, since the second attack would happen with sneak attack. If not, then no.

Leadership allows you to attrack a cohort and followers. How it works is explained in the DMG. How useful it is largely depends on your campaign - essentially you get an extra party member who doesn't take a share of the party's XP, but instead gains XP based on how much you got and can be a maximum level of your level -2. If you can think of ways to make this useful, then it might be worth having; if not, don't bother.

Now, we have the three weapon proficiency feats: Simple Weapon Proficiency, Martial Weapon Proficiency and Exotic Weapon Proficiency. Simple Weapon Proficiency gives you profiency in all simple weapons. Only three playable classes don't start with that already (Monk, Rogue and Wizard), and only two of them (Rogue and Wizard) are liable to get any use out of being able to add things like spears and maces to the list of weapons they can use. Martial Weapon Proficiency and Exotic Weapon Profiency each give proficiency with a single weapon. These feats are, quite frankly, not worth taking. The two weapons which can be used two handed as martial weapons but one handed as exotic weapons aren't worth the feat to use one handed, and the double weapons are more easily replaced by just using a single weapon in each hand. I would not bother.

Mounted Combat depends on one thing: how likely is your campaign to involve combat out in the open? If you're spending most of your time delving dungeons or doing urban intrigue, then I wouldn't bother. If combat out on the open road is a thing that might happen, then this is a decent option. It requires at least one rank in the Ride skill, and it allows you to, once per round, replace your mount's AC with the result of your Ride check in order to potentially turn a hit into a miss. Paladins should definitely take this, since having a mount is one of their class features.

Mounted Archery requires Mounted Combat, and halves the penalties for shooting from the back of a moving mount. See Mounted Combat regarding usefulness.

Ride By Attack requires Mounted combat, and allows you to, as part of a mounted charge, continue moving after you attacked (provided the distance of the charge is less than double your mount's movement speed). See Mounted Combat regarding usefulness.

Spirited Charge requires Ride By Attack, and allows you to double your damage on a mounted charge (triple if you're using a lance). Once again, seee Mounted combat regarding usefulness.

Trample requires Mounted combat, and allows your mount to make a hoof attack when it runs through an enemy's space. I'm honestly not sure I'd ever bother with this, even if I were regularly fighting on horseback generally.

Point Blank Shot gives you a +1 to hit and damage on all ranged attacks made within 30 feet. If you regularly use ranged weapons, then you should have this feat, both for its bonus and for the feats that require it.

Far Shot requires Point Blank Shot, and increases your range increments by half (double for thrown weapons). If you throw daggers or shuriken regularly, then this is a very useful feat to have. If you fight outdoors regularly, then this might be a useful feat to have. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't bother.

Precise shot requires Point Blank Shot, and it removes the -4 penalty to hit for attempting a ranged attack against someone in melee combat. It is worth noting that it does not remove the cover provided by the person they're in melee with, if that person is between you and your target, meaning that you still risk shooting an ally in the back. This means that while it is still rather useful if you can find a good angle to shoot from, I'd wait until you have other feats first.

Rapid Shot requires Point Blank Shot, and it allows you an extra shot as part of a full round action. The extra attack is made at your highest attack bonus, but all your attacks for the round are at -2. If you use ranged attacks regularly, there is no good reason to not take this feat. With a -2 to hit, but a second attack, you're still more likely to hit at least once in most cases and if you hit twice it's more damage.

Shot On The Run Requires both Point Blank Shot and Mobility, and it allows you to shoot in the middle of your movement. Its usefulness is situational at best, but it can't hurt to have it if you don't have any other feats you want more.

Power Attack requires a Strength of at least 13, and allows you to take a penalty to hit of up to your BAB, in exchange for an equal bonus to damage. If you are wielding a two handed weapon, you double the bonus. Pretty much an essential part of any Fighter's toolkit; if stuff is easy to hit, then you might as well try and get the extra damage.

Cleave requires Power Attack, and if you hit something hard enough to make it drop (i.e. if you reduce it to less than 0 hit points) you get an immediate extra attack against any other target in reach, at the same bonuses to hit and damage as the attack you just made. This is a really useful feat at low levels, and it's still nice to have at higher levels. You can only use it once per round.

Great Cleave requires Cleave and a BAB of +4. It allows you to use Cleave multiple times per round (including if you kill something with a previous cleave). This isn't too bad if taken at 4th level, but at higher levels it just isn't worth it; you're highly unlikely to be facing enemies weak enough for you to kill multiple of them in a single round.

Improved Bull Rush requires Power Attack, and allows you to use a bull rush in combat without provoking an attack of opportunity. Since the usefulness of a bull rush is highly situational, so is this feat.

Sunder requires Power Attack, and it allows you to strike at an opponent's weapon without provoking an attack of opportunity. Unless your opponent's weapon is made of wood, this feat seems highly situational.

Quick Draw requires a BAB of +1, and allows you to draw a weapon as a free action. Remember Stunning Fist earlier? Combine that with this, and you can potentially stun a target, then draw a dagger and attack them with it for lethal sneak attack damage.

Run allows you to run at five times your movement rate instead of four, and allows you to increase the distance jumped with a running jump by a quarter (though not beyond the maximum).

Skill Focus gives you a +2 to the skill you applied it to, rather than the +3 from 3.5. That screws up the maths from my previous post a little bit, but never mind. Still, if there's a skill you want to be really good at, by all means take it. If taken with a cross class skill at first level, it basically makes you as good at it as someone with it as a class skill who didn't take the feat.

Spell Focus adds +2 to the DC of any spell you cast from the chosen school of magic. If there's a school of magic you cast a lot (or if you're a specialist wizard) then this is definitely worth having.

Spell Mastery is a situational feat at best - you have to be a Wizard in order to take it, and it allows you to take a number of spells up to your Intelligence modifier that you no longer need a spellbook to memorise. Given that the spell book is the Wizard's greatest weakness (if you've lost it, you can't prepare any more spells), taking this feat a couple of times as you gain levels is a good way to mitigate what might otherwise be a disaster.

Spell Penetration adds +2 to rolls to beat spell resistance. There's not really a good reason not to have it at higher levels, but it can wait a while.

Toughness gives you 3 hit points. You can waste multiple feats on this if you want; I wouldn't.

Track allows you to use the Wilderness Lore skill to track people or animals. Honestly, if you really want this feat, just take a one level dip into Ranger and get the free Ambidexterity and Two Weapon Fighting in light armour while you're at it.

Two Weapon Fighting, unlike in 3.5 and Pathfinder, does not come with a Dexterity prerequisite. This is because in 3.5, they merged this feat and Ambidexterity into a single feat. What this feat does is reduce the attack penalty for two weapon fighting by 2 - from -6/-10 to -4/-8 (or -2/-6 if you have a light weapon in your off hand). Because of this, going longsword and short sword is actually an option with a dexterity below 15 - you're roughly about as likely to hit with at least one of the two weapons as you would be if you only had one weapon. If you're planning on specialising in two weapon fighting, then you're obviously going to want this feat. If not, then it might be a nice optional extra if you have more feats than you know what to do with, but it isn't a priority.

Improved Two Weapon Fighting requires Two Weapon Fighting, Ambidexterity, and a BAB of +9. It gives you a second attack with your off hand at a -5 penalty relative to the first. Its utility is fairly obvious, I think.

Weapon Finesse allows you to use your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on attack rolls for one light weapon with which you are proficient. That's right, one. If you use two different light weapons as a two weapon fighter, you need to take this feat twice. That's one change they made between 3.0 and 3.5 that I am definitely glad they made. As it is, this feat may be useful to Rogues and Bards, but not really to anyone else because anyone else is too likely to want to use more than one kind of weapon.

Weapon Focus gives you a +1 bonus to hit with a single weapons. I would only take this as a Fighter, honestly - unless I really had absolutely nothing better to spend the feat on.

Weapon Specialisation requires you to have four levels of Fighter, and gives you a +2 bonus to damage with a single weapon, which which you must also have Weapon Focus. If you have access to this feat, then you really might as well; I mean, it's the only real reason to play as a Fighter in the first place.

Extra Turning is available to Clerics and Paladins of a higher enough level to Turn Undead, and gives you an extra four uses per day.

Now that we've finished with the General Feats, it's time to move onto the Item Creation Feats. I'll go through these in order of caster level required. It is possible, incidentally, to create a magical item at a lower caster level (and thus make it less powerful) in order to reduce the cost.

Scribe Scroll requires a caster level of 1. A scroll can be made of any spell you can cast, and costs 25GP and 1XP per spell level, multiplied by effective caster level, to create. Wizards get this feat for free. The ability to have scrolls available of utility magic that you rarely use but might need access to quickly is really useful. The ability to create scrolls is the main thing that makes the Wizard as powerful as they are, because it basically allows them to spend a negligible amount of gold and XP to prepare a spell far in advance of when it will be used.

Brew Potion requires a caster level of 3. A potion can be made of any spell of third level or lower that targets one or more creatures (note that fireball targets an area, not individual creatures, thus you cannot make a potion of fireball). It costs 50GP and 2XP per spell level, multiplied by effective caster level. Potions are also really useful. Why wouldn't you want to be able to make your own potions of Cure Serious Wounds or Bull's Strength to free up spell slots for more important things?

Craft Wondrous Item requires a caster level of 3. Miscellaneous magical items are listed in the DMG, and each one has its own price. Creating one costs XP equal to 1/25 the price, and requires raw materials costing half the price. You can also mend miscellaneous magical items for half the price. This might be a little less useful, depending on the rarity of magical items in your campaign.

Craft Magical Arms and Armour requires a caster level of 5, and allows you to make your own magical weapons. The prices for these weapons are listed in the DMG, and creating or mending one costs the same as with miscellaneous magical items. Worth noting is the fact that you require a masterwork weapon or suit of armour for this; anything of lesser quality cannot be enchanted.

Craft Wand also requires a caster level of 5, and allows you to create a wand of any spell 4th level or lower. A wand costs 750GP per spell level, multiplied by caster level, to create, and 1/25 that in XP. In addition, if the spell has a material or XP cost, you must pay 50* that. The newly created wand has 50 charges. This is definitely worth having - make a wand of your favourite low to mid level attack spell, and you can use it regularly while freeing up the slots to prepare other spells.

Craft Rod requires a caster level of 9, and allows you to create magical rods. The DMG explains the kinds of rods that exist, and creating them costs XP equal to 1/25 the price. This may be worth having depending on the rarity of magical items in your game. An example rod would be the Rod of Lordly Might. It can, once per day, cast hold person on touch, fear on all enemies viewing it, or deal 2d4 damage on a touch while healing the wielder of the same. In addition, it is a +2 light mace which can turn into a +1 flaming longsword, a +4 battleaxe, a +3 short or long spear or a 5'-50' ladder that extends out with enough force to force open doors, and it can tell you where magnetic north is and how deep you are underground if appropriate. This costs 70,000 gold to buy, meaning that it costs 35,000 gold and 2,800 XP to create. That's a pretty sweet magical item, and being able to create one in a campaign where it wouldn't otherwise exist is kinda cool.

Craft Staff requires a caster level of 12, and allows you to create magical staffs. The DMG explains the kinds of staffs that exist, and creating them costs XP equal to 1/25 the price. This is well worth having; magical staffs are rare and powerful; when they are created, they have 50 charges. The most powerful staff you can create is the Staff of Power. For one charge, it casts Magic Missile at caster level 9, Ray of Enfeeblement with DC 17, Continual Flame, Levitate, Lightning Bolt for DC 17 and 10d6 damage, or Fireball for DC 17 and 10d6 damage. For two charges, it casts Hold Monster at DC 14, Wall of Force around the caster, or Globe of Invulnerability. In addition, it grants a +2 luck bonus to AC, counts as a +2 quarterstaff, and for one charge doubles its damage (or triples on a critical hit). Finally, if the poo poo has well and truly hit the fan, you can snap it over your knee. All charges in the staff are instantly released. Anybody within 10 feet takes 8* the number of remaining charges in damage, anyone within 20 feet takes 6* remaining charges, and anyone within 30 feet takes 4* the remaining charges. A reflex save may be made for half damage. What about you? Well, there is a 50% chance that you get send to a different plane of existance. If not, you're dead. Once it runs out of charges, it is still a +2 quarterstaff. The Staff of Power would cost 200,000GP to buy, if anyone were willing to sell it, meaning that it costs 100,000GP and 8,000XP to create.

Finally, Forge Ring also requires a caster level of 12, and allows you to create magical rings. Because who wouldn't want to be Celebrimbor? As before, the DMG explains the kinds of rings that exist. Worth noting that the Ring of Three Wishes is a thing that exists - it costs 97,950GP to buy, assuming you can find one, which in turn means that it would cost roughly 48,000GP and 4,000XP to create - were it not for the fact that Wish also costs 5,000XP, and this has three castings. As such, it costs roughly 19,000XP to create. It is interesting to note that that is also how much XP it costs to go from level 19 to level 20. Once again, the utility here depends largely on the rarity of magical items in your campaign. If they're rare, then being able to make your own is pretty drat useful; if they can be bought in major cities, then not so much.

The third and final kind of feat is the Metamagic Feat. Applying a Metamagic Feat to a spell increases the effective spell level of the spell in question (without increasing its save DC, if any), and modifies it in some way. Wizards must prepare a spell in advance with the metamagic they wish to use. Sorcerers are more flexible in this regard (as they are in general), but applying metamagic increases the casting time. It is worth noting that Metamagic Feats can be applied to a spell being stored in a magical item. As such, one could create a wand of Maximised Magic Missile, which could cast five separate missiles, each dealing 5 points of damage. I would argue that most of these have their uses.

Empower Spell multiplies any die rolls in the spell by 1.5, and increases the spell level by 2. As such, using Magic Missile requires a 3rd level slot instead of a 1st level slot, but each missile does 2-7 instead of 2-5 damage.

Enlarge Spell doubles the range of a spell, and increases the spell level by 1.

Heighten Spell increases the effective spell level for the purposes of save DC and spell immunity. Minor Globe of Invulnerability makes the caster immune to all spells third level or lower, but this feat being used to pump magic missile up to fourth level will allow it to effect the person within the globe.

Maximise Spell makes it so that you automatically get the highest possible roll for numerical effects, and increases spell level by 3 - a maximised Magic Missile would do 5 damage per missile instead of rolling, and would require a fourth level slot (it would not, however, get into the Minor Globe of Invulnerability noted above). Maximise and Empower stack with each other - you increase the spell level by 5, and roll for damage, healing or whatever else as normal. You then receive the maximum, + half of what you rolled. If this were done to Magic Missile, it would require a sixth level slot and each missile would deal 6-7 damage.

Quicken Spell allows you to cast the spell as a free action, and increases the spell level by 4. This allows you to cast multiple spells per round of combat. However, it cannot be used on spells that require longer than a full round action to cast, and (I believe) Sorcerers cannot use it, as the price of using Metamagic conflicts with the benefit of this feat.

Silent Spell allows you to cast the spell without using its vocal component (thus you can cast while silenced, or while trying to remain hidden), and increases the spell level by 1.

Still Spell allows you to cast the spell without using its somatic (movement) component, thus allowing you to cast the spell while grappled, and increases the spell level by 1. Combining this with Silent Spell increases the spell level by 2, and makes it very difficult to tell where a spell originated if the effect doesn't make it obvious.

And that's the feat list. It's significantly shorter than in 3.5, and shorter still than Pathfinder (core only in both cases), and some of them are quite obviously better than others. One thing I would definitely consider doing if I were running this game, however, is taking the idea from 5e to potentially give feats as rewards in lieu of money. Skill Focus in something the players aren't really specialised in, Weapon Focus and the proficiency feats (so basically, the trap feats) would be prime candidates for this, since they'd be a minor boost that adds some flavour without requiring that a characters limited number of feats gained through levelling be spent on it.

hectorgrey fucked around with this message at 10:22 on Mar 16, 2018

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?

It feels like the main issue with that Great Modron March adventure is that it's basically assisted suicide for someone who doesn't know that it's suicide. So even if it's for self-preservation, going along with the rogue decaton's plan is just a bit on the evil side of the spectrum. Or at least very morally ambiguous. I could think of quite a few parties or PC's who'd dig in their heels and refuse to help the judge kill itself.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

hectorgrey posted:

Normally, if you use your off hand for anything that requires a roll (be it a weapon attack or arm wrestling), you take a -4 penalty. This feat removes the -4 penalty. If you want to specialise in two weapon fighting, then this feet is basically required; otherwise it's largely pointless. It requires a Dexterity of 15 or higher.

You're missing a word here. The feat is Ambidexterity.


Spell Focus adds +2 to the DC of any spell you cast from the chosen school of magic. If there's a school of magic you cast a lot (or if you're a specialist wizard) then this is definitely worth having.

The 3.5 revision dropped this to a +1 to the DCs, because it was a big deal that this one feat was this incredibly powerful for any caster.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Rifts World Book 12: Psyscape, Part 9: "As soldiers and official and honored defenders of humankind, they are expected to fight inhuman demons, monsters and madmen, and, thus, to use their 'god-given talents' to the best of their ability."

"You can tell we're psionic!" "How?" "Because that's the book we're in!"

The CS & Psionics
By Patrick Nowak & Kevin Siembieda

Yep, because we can scarely have a book go by without involving the Coalition, it's time for some information on their psychic programs. And, frankly, most of this I've already covered in my review of Rifts World Book 11: Coalition War Campaign. This section is basically a cleaned up version of the Psi-Net section in that book; some paragraphs are just lifted entirely. Others have clearly just been rewritten but contain precisely the same information - exact statistics, dates, etc.

As such, I feel safe skipping most of it. Here are the major changes: nullifiers are incorporated into the Coalition psychic classification system as "reactors", which is also where they file healers. Incorporating material from this book, apparently they now have programs to train Psi-Slayers, Psi-Nullifiers, and Psi-Techs. Wait, didn't Psi-Slayers require secret training by a secret guild? Well, I guess the Coalition just gets to skip around that fact. And just in case you were worried Psyscape psychics get too much of an advantage, Coalition Psi-Battalion Training now gives a variety of new numerical bonuses, mainly a variety of bonuses on mental saves, attributes, and a sizable initiative bonus. Can't let the skull-sorts fall behind! No sir!

"This is totally about psionics somehow!"

We also get Military Information to give us lots of numbers and percentages to ignore. About the main notable points is that Psi-Battalion is surprisingly small compared to the overall size of the Coalition army (about 6000+ psychics). We get some guidelines on their operations, psychic prisons, etc. Apparently 10% of them are Mind Melters, despite Mind Melters being A) supposedly extremely rare and B) hunted for death by the Coalition in previous material. But hey, they make the Coalition more badass and they don't gotta explain poo poo.

Sigourney a la Siembieda.

Lastly, we get a writeup for Lieutenant Colonel Carol Black, the head of Psi-Battalion, who is now apparently set to get a promotion to Brigadier General in the near future. An 11th Level Special Forces Operative, she's generically pro-psychic, though her powers are mostly just modest sensitive powers. She's described in ridiculously glowing terms:

Rifts World Book 12: Psyscape posted:

Cagey, clever, resourceful, honest and loyal. Carol Black is fanatically dedicated to protecting humans from nonhumans, monsters, magic and rogue psychics. Over the years she has proven to be an incredible administrator and organizer with innovative ideas and the ability to implement them. She is clever, experienced, confident, resourceful, imaginative, and has a good head for military strategy and tactics. She is loved by her troops and is a hero to all psychics in the CS military.
And every day is a Dog Boy puppy parade while she's around and she gets to push D-Bees into the mud and she has sundaes with the Proseks and everything is the best!

Next: It's not brain surgery.

Also how does a Brigadier General with the Coalition get to have the loving Scrupulous alignment, I ask you?

May 13, 2013

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

I like the division sized battalion

Oct 14, 2011

gradenko_2000 posted:

You're missing a word here. The feat is Ambidexterity.

Oops. Will edit now. Thanks for pointing that out.

Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me!

Y'know, Siembieda keeps writing that the Coalition believes it is fighting for all of humanity, but have we seen any non-white CS NPCs?

(not meant to be rhetorical, genuinely curious)

Jul 15, 2017

Alien Rope Burn posted:

And every day is a Dog Boy puppy parade while she's around and she gets to push D-Bees into the mud and she has sundaes with the Proseks and everything is the best!

Yeah. Black is a real stand-up ubermensch.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

SirPhoebos posted:

Y'know, Siembieda keeps writing that the Coalition believes it is fighting for all of humanity, but have we seen any non-white CS NPCs?

(not meant to be rhetorical, genuinely curious)

Director Desmond Bradford of Lone Star is African-American, which makes some sense since he's just Baxter Stockman from the comic version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

There's also a general who leads the Tolkeen campaign, he was in the collectible card game and shows up in the Ultimate Edition artwork.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Scion: Origin: Bad Guys

Antagonist NPCs are designed to be stripped down and simple to use for the ST, because...well, there's gonna be a lot more of them than there are PCs. Antagonists are made of three basic parts: Archetypes, Qualities and Flairs. An Archetype determines the NPC's rough power level and dicepools, along with some built-in Flairs and Qualities that'll come standard. Qualities are permanent improvements, which flesh out and distinguish different antagonists within the same Archetype and add a degree of challenge. Some Qualities can be negative, too, to give foes weak points. Flairs are discrete powers. Typically, these are not suitable for PCs due to their design, but many PC Knacks and Boons may make for good Flairs, too. Many Flairs can only be used once, then go into a cooldown before they can be used again. It definitely is possible to build a complex NPC using the PC chargen system, but you don't have to.

At Origin level, there are four basic Archetypes - Mook, Professional, Villain and Monster. All of them share certain traits. First, all antagonists have a Drive, the basic motivation that pushes them in any scene. For Mooks and even some Professionals, it's usually stuff like 'Get paid' or 'Survive this'. More detailed Professionals and certainly Villains and Monsters will have more important and narratively weighty Drives. All Archetypes also have three dicepools - their Primary (for the actions that they basically exist to do when serving their story function), Secondary (for actions that are important to them but not central to their role) and Desperation (for things that they have no business doing but are trying anyway, and also for Clash of Wills rolls). They have a number of Health boxes, but do not take Injury conditions - rather, they're just Taken Out when the last box fills. Their Dodge and Soft Armor traits are all folded into a trait called Defense, which is what they use to oppose all attacks and powers used against them rather than rolling. They also get an Initiative trait that determines their dice for that.

Mooks are common foes, the rabble you easily defeat on your way to more interesting baddies. They have one Health box, so any hit takes them out...but that doesn't mean they can't be dangerous on offense. Their Primary is 5 dice, Secondary 4, and Desperation 2. Any attack on a mook that has more than one net success after buying off the mook's Defense takes the mook out - but you can also then apply any remaining successes to any other mooks in Close range until you run out, taking them out too.

Professionals are a cut above. They may not always have a name, but they definitely have a distinctive style. These are your interest points in a fight - the heavy armor guy, the rocket launcher guy, the guy with a glowy sword. They rarely last more than one fight still, though. They go up to Primary 7, Secondary 5, Desperation 3, and have 2 Health boxes. They come with the innate Extra A Cut Above, which gives them Enhancement 1 to the ST's choice of actions.

Villains are your centerpiece. They typically have Mook and Professional lackeys, and always have names and detailed motivations. They're also pretty tough. They have Primary 9, Secondary 7, Desperation 5, 4 Health boxes and the innate Extra Get Out of Jail Free. Once per arc, as long as they die in questionable or offscreen circumstances, they can spend 1 Tension to miraculously survive.

(Tension, as a note, is the ST's resource. Where PCs have the Black Pool of Momentum, STs have the Tension Pool, used to fuel NPC abilities.)

Monsters are your big guns at Origin level. While the last three Archetypes are normal people, for the most part, Monsters are explicitly not normal. They're legendary, mystic things that are beyond what any one mortal can handle. They can take on an entire party credibly, and while they may or may not have minions, they probably don't need them. They have Primary 11, Secondary 9, Desperation 5 and 6 Health. They may also use the Segments or Size rules, though at this tier, they rarely have more than 2 Segments, and rarely more than Size 1 or maybe 2. Anything more than that is unlikely to be within Origin PC capabilities.

The games notes that these systems are mostly for NPCs that won't ever be doing things that the PCs don't oppose. They're not detailed or deep. If you want a recurring sympathetic character with a significant role, make them with chargen, which will make a more well-rounded character that can handle intense scrutiny rather than the thinner (mechanically) Antagonist system. Basically, if the PCs decide someone is important enough to them to interact with in more than an obvious or antagonistic way, it's a sign you may want to transition them.

Antagonists can then be modified with Qualities, which can do all sorts of things. Qualities include things like these, and more:
Group Tactics: Typically, you give this to a collection of Antagonists, with one Professional-grade or higher one as the leader. While the leader is not Taken Out, every Antagonist with this ability gets +1 Defense, +1 Health and +1 Enhancement on any combat action when two or more of them attack a single target in the same turn.
Martial Artist: You give this to Antagonists who are exceptionally trained. They get +1 Enhancement with barehanded combat, and they select a specific weapon type, like a sword or tonfa, that they count as barehanded for this Enhancement. They also get +1 Defense and +1 Health.
Super Soldier: For some reason, this Antagonist is just a superior combatant. They get +1 Enhancement to any Combat Ability, +1 Armor (either Hard or Soft) and +2 Health.
Invulnerability: A specific source of damage, like fire or electricity, can't damage this Antagonist.
Subterranean Movement: The antagonist can operate underground. While underground, they can't be attacked, but cannot attack until they emerge. Emerging under someone is an attack at Close range, but halves their Defense until their next turn. They may also Disengage by going underground, and can't be followed unless their pursuer can also go under.
A Cage of Words: Any attempts to Influence this Antagonist through reason or debate are at +2 Difficulty, and if someone fails such a roll, they get the Befuddled condition for the scene as the Antagonist talks rings around them confusingly.
Honor Bound: The Antagonist must keep to the letter, if not the spirit, of any promise they make.
Vulnerability: A specific source of damage, such as fire or salt, deals double damage to the Antagonist. Any damage from the source deals 2 boxes, not 1, and a critical strike deals 4 rather than 2.

Flairs are generally straightforward, single-action powers. Most are unrolled, and most are tactical abilities. They may also cost Tension. They include things like being able to glare at someone and paralyze them, terrify them or otherwise prevent them from escaping, firing a spray of bullets to hit everyone near their target, dealing massive knockback, teleporting into someone's personal space, or doing Sorcery. Sorcery is fairly unique - it grants access to a Purview, a power from Hero, that the sorcerer or witch can use to create miraculous effects.

Most Flairs are self-explanatory, and meant to be used whenever they'd give advantage. Use 'em when you can, because this is probably the biggest fight the antagonist will be in, from their perspective. Antagonists should never have more Qualities and Flairs than they need for their concept, and generally 2-3 is enough for most of them. More important ones may have 4-6, but that's probably the most you will want to keep track of. At Origin level, Scale should only be assigned to explicitly supernatural Villains and Monsters, as they can be incredibly dangerous if overused.

In addition to activating Flairs, the ST can spend Tension on a number of effects that alter the nature of the scene. The Tension Pool is public - the PCs always know how much is in it - and it starts at (Number of PCs + average Legend score of the group), refreshing each arc. On top of this, whenever a PC resolves a Condition or has a Calling Crisis (which won't matter until Hero and is currently not defined), the pool gains 1 Tension.

The ST can spend 3 Tension to boost an Antagonist one Archetype - Mook to Professional, Professional to Villain, Villain to Monster. They may retcon in a Quality for 2 Tension, or a Flair for 1 Tension. The ST may also spend 2 Tension to interrupt the Initiative Order and add a new slot wherever they please. This slot lasts only for one round, and can be used by any Antagonist, even if they've already acted this round. They can also spend Tension, 1 for 1, to boost an Antagonist's Defense for one round, to a max bonus equal to the number of PCs. They may also refresh a single Flair for a single Antagonist for 1 Tension, ignoring its normal cooldown.

The game provides some sample antagonists. We get Beat Cop mooks, SWAT professionals, Men in Black professionals (for FBI agents and Titanspawn critters that pretend to be agents but are weird and offputting). We also get a sidebar on the design principles behind them, with ways to tune them up or down, and ways to make them work as mobster stats, too. They aren't too interesting...but what follows is.

Amazons are statted as professionals, and they're pretty dang good at it. They come from the Eurasian steppe near the Black Sea, and are distant relatives of the Scythians. While a few still live pastorally and they still favor classical weapons, most have moved to cities now, retaining their warrior ethos but living a more modern life. The hetero ones will have sex with men almost solely for the purpose of having kids, and they're also willing to adopt women into the tribe. Most Amazons are happy to accept as a woman anyone who identifies as one and can hold their own, because Amazon training will more than make up for any weakness from one's origins. The Amazons are extremely family-oriented, and prefer to live together in extended clans, so most Amazons have plenty of sisters willing to back her up. Their statblock is also noted to serve well, with some modifications, for the Myrmidons of Achilles, the lesser Valykries and Folkvangr or Bearserkers.

Centaurs once roamed the Eurasian steppe in huge herds, but they rarely handled encounters with the local Greeks all that well. Most notably, an ancient myth speaks of a wedding that the centaurs got invited to, got drunk at and started a huge battle with the local tribes at. This is known as the Centauromachy, and many of the Greek tribes cursed the centaurs for inspiring Scythian mounted combat and archery. Centaurs cannot bear confinement, and because centaurs refuse all horseshoes, they hate paved roads, which pain their hooves. Still, the more personable and calm centaurs often trade with more settled peoples, especially for alcohol, which they love. Modern states have largely given up trying to civilize the centaurs in the past century, and they still live in fairly large numbers on the steppe, with smaller colonies in northern Greece and particularly Thessaly. There are also American centaurs, transported there in the 19th century in significant numbers as part of an experiment that was later given up on. Now, they live as a notable minority in the Great Plains, despite the frustrations of local farmers. Modern centaurs are generally less violent than ancient ones, as they've learned that there's always more humans and that guns are dangerous, but there's still tons of social friction. Hephaestus is also noted as having become fascinated by the internal combustion engine and tinkered with making hybrids of mortal and vehicle. Most of his experiments died, and most of the ones that didn't couldn't breed. The most common of those that can tend to be centaurs engineered around heavy motorbikes, though they tend to die young due to a combination of their immense speed and having no protection from falls at all. This has led them to a 'burn bright, burn fast' philosophy of life, which leads them to extreme behavior and violence. Centaurs have happily picked up the use of rifles, though they've always excelled at archery. Mechanical centaurs tend to operate on the scale of vehicles when their bottom half is a car or truck, but motorbike centaurs can often use the same statblock with extra armor and rapid movement abilities.

Kitsune are foxes that have survived a century. These foxes gain powerful illusion and shapeshifting powers, and grow additional tails as they age - one per century past the first. They turn golden when they hit nine tails. Any fox can become a kitsune - they're not a special breed - and they can be friendly or malevolent, much like humans. Of course, with kitsunes, the difference is largely in whether you survive their mischief. Most often they appear as beautiful women, and they've adapted well to the modern world. Typically, they will attach themselves to wealthy romantic partners or take jobs to pay for their insatiable lust for aburaage. Others will enchant leaves to look like money just long enough to spend it wildly. Many of them have shrines in Japan, and the more traditional ones live near them, serving as Inari's messengers. Kitsune tend to be very clever and well-informed, and their elders are exceptionally potent. Their statblock can be used for all kinds of trickster spirits, too, like tanuki or kumiho, with modifications as appropriate to their abilities.

Satyrs are hedonists, associated with Dionysus and resurgences of the Dionysian Mysteries throughout history. They are often accompanied by maenads, mortal women driven near to madness by Dionysus' revelations, who serve as his priestesses. Satyrs and maenads revel in his name, and have been known to be driven to heights of madness such that they tear people apart with their bare hands and even eat them. Satyrs are naturally charismatic and talkative goat-people with a knack for attracting other potential hedonists. Many artistic works featuring satyrs actually had the real thing pose for them, and they've appeared in a number of classic films. (And some decidedly bad ones.) While they prefer playing to working, satyrs are universally excellent physical specimens and more than capable of fighting back when the cops inevitably show up to break up the party. Their headbutts are more than capable of hospitalizing a human. Still, they're relatively harmless unless angered. Their statblock can, with modifications, be used for less friendly celebrant beings and lures, such as sirens.

Sorcerers are known by many names, and they're always ambitious. Often, they are also eccentric or do strange things as payment for their power. They can be found in every civilization, and historically were respected and feared. More recently, however, people have tried to control or wipe them out, out of envy or fear - after all, not all of them are benevolent. Many governments still have archaic laws on the books forbidding either interaction with certain demonic or otherwise supernatural entities for power, or even banning magic entirely. The game notes it uses sorcerer over the more common witch to avoid the gendered implications, but that 'witch' is and was used to describe male practitioners, too. The statblock's pretty generic, and can be modified for just about any culture, from the West African asiman to the Japanese kitsunemochi.

Strange Folk, or the Aos Si are...unearthly people. The Alfar, the Dvergar, the Jo-Ga-Oh. They are cruel, or playful, or vindictive, because they are people. They all know more than most mortals, though, particularly about the natural world, which most are tied to. Few can be seen unless they want to be. Some resent mortals for swarming over the land, but most recognize that that's a lost cause and have either adapted or fled to Terra Incognita. Most Western governments mark areas where the Strange Folk are known to gather, mostly for safety reasons. They are, after all, natural tricksters. Typically, they are comparable to humans but with exceptional skills and ways of doing strange and terrible things. The stats can be used for just about any kind of them, with modifications for their folkloric powers. Alfar are noted to be a small but significant Icelandic minority population, where they are known more politely as the Huldufolk.

Trolls are enormous, hairy creatures that turn to stone by sunlight. Mortals in northern Europe have known for centuries that they should be avoided and feared, and it is said that trolls can smell the blood of Christians, though no one's ever scientifically proven it. Some are quite intelligent, while others are barely aware of the world around them. It's only in more recent times that mortals have been able to push back troll territory, by use of church bell noise to disturb their natural habitats. Norway is noted for vast mountain ranges set aside as troll preserves, with careful border watches to turn back any trolls that wander out. Their statblock is also usable for most ogres and oni, though oni eat fewer people, are smarter and are usually just violent. These guys, no matter what, are always Monsters - they're big and terrifying and dangerous for any mortal.

Vodyanoy (plural: vodyanoi) are a form of water spirit in Eastern Europe and Russia. They appear as frog-like old men that lurk in bodies of water to drown the unwary. There are similar spirits elsewhere, like kappa or ahuizotl. Most cannot exist outside the water and are quite territorial. They are dangerous when enraged.

Werewolves and other therianthropes make for dangerous foes. Some are cursed, compelled to evil, while others are sacred guardians, and both kinds have spread far beyond their original cultures thanks to globalization. The cursed tend to live on the fringes of society or make containment solutions for themselves, because they're terrified of slipping up in modern surveillence states. See, most Western nations still have lycanthropy laws on the books, though they're rarely enforced these days. Their statblock is designed to be easily variable, given the massive amounts of therianthrope myths.

Next time: But can I play as those guys you just mentioned?

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

SirPhoebos posted:

Y'know, Siembieda keeps writing that the Coalition believes it is fighting for all of humanity, but have we seen any non-white CS NPCs?

(not meant to be rhetorical, genuinely curious)

Yeah, as mentioned, there are some Black and (to lesser representation) Hispanic Coalition members shown. I can't think of any members of Asian or Middle Eastern descent, but there are a lot of Coalition books ahead and I can't say I've done a proper look for that sort of thing. I also can't think of any of Native American descent either, though they purportedly exist (though rare).

It's mostly just White dudes, though, emphasis on dudes. Carol is one of only two high-ranking women who have gotten a writeup so far (there are others that have been listed, but they were never detailed and will be entirely forgotten AFAIK).

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 16:08 on Mar 16, 2018

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Scion: Origin: Oh When The Saints

While the game assumes that you're going to probably play a Scion, it does not forbid you from playing other kinds of weird supernatural gribbly. Hell, you can play a Scion that is a weird supernatural gribbly, if it makes sense! Apollo's kids might well have the gift of a Prophet or Cassandra (two Supernatural Paths that actually got left out of the core but were released on the Onyx Path forums), while a Scion of Inari could be a kitsune. Most supernatural paths will receive an upgrade at Hero level, and some can even reach Demigod tier, though not all. (At least, not without also being Scions.) Supernatural Paths require that one of your Paths explain that you are that thing - being a kitsune or an oracle or a satyr should, after all, be central to your concept. Supernatural Paths grant access to special Knacks that do not correspond to a Calling directly.

Saints are mortals that resonate with a Pantheon's Virtues deeply, tying them by Fate to that Pantheon's philosophy. Often, Saints are devout followers of the appropriate faith, but it's just as possible for an atheist who feels those Virtues in their soul deeply to be one. Saints, like post-Visitation Scions, get a Virtue Track corresponding to a Pantheon. Every Pantheon has a pair of Virtues that its members must deal with the tension between. This is a 3-point both directions. You have each Virtue at one end, with the extreme being 2 towards that virtue, and 0 being in the center. When someone with a Virtue track is at an extreme of Virtue, they get benefits and penalties in the form of the Virtuous condition. On the one hand, every point of Momentum you spend to augment a roll that fits with your extreme Virtue gets a free bonus die that doesn't come out of the Momentum pool - so you get +2 dice per Momentum spent, rather than +1. However, you must act to fulfill your Virtue, and cannot act against it, period. Every time this Virtuous behavior gets you into trouble, you gain 1 Momentum, at least. To resolve this, you must do something that reinforces the opposing Virtue without contradicting your extreme Virtue. Doing this will end the condition and move you one point back along the track.

So what are the Virtues?
Aesir: Audacity vs Fatalism. Every Aesir is doomed to meet a dire fate. And yet, the greatest heroism is found in the darkest moments, of resisting your fate, or at least meeting with great courage.
Deva: Duty vs Conscience. You must do what is expected of you by your society, faith and pantheon, but you cannot ignore your own conscience. Even Arjuna balked at the choice between fighting his kinsmen (as was his duty) and sparing them (as he felt was right, but which would ruin him).
Kami: Sincerity vs Right Action. Everything you do should be done fully committed, with a sincere heart, holding nothing back. Yet how can you fully commit and be sincere when the correct action for you is not what you want?
Manitou: Pride vs Purpose. You must find and fulfill your purpose, doing the right thing at the right place and time. And yet, how can you not also take pride in who and what you are rather than just accepting you have something you must be? Be proud, be great. And yet, find and obey your purpose, even knowing it makes you predictable.
Netjer: Balance vs Justice. The world must be ordered and proper, but all things demand accounting. Pursue justice too much and it becomes unbalanced vengeance...and yet, overemphasizing balance can allow injustice to flourish.
Orisha: Tradition vs Innovation. The sacred ways of the Orisha are old, highly traditional, and that tradition keeps them centered on their people. However, they are also always changing, progressing with history and the needs of the people. You must balance the importance of the old and the importance of the new, must find a way to keep them in harmony - or else allow them to come into conflict.
Shen: Yin vs Yang. Yin is yielding and passive, refraining from action out of wisdom. Yang is explosive and active, using total force to achieve goals. How can one be both?
Teotl: Hunger vs Sacrifice. The Teotl have always hungered - for flesh, for blood, for fire. They know that one's needs must be sated, one's hunger must be fed. And yet, for one person to eat, another must be eaten. For one person to have, another must give something up. How can one balance one's needs with fulfilling the needs of others?
Theoi: Egotism vs Kinship. The Theoi know that they must fulfill their own pride, must express themselves totally, for how else can they know who they are? How else can they fulfill their desires? Yet they are also family, bound to each other by love and by blood, and must know when to care for each other and put themselves second.
Tuatha de Danaan: Honor vs Prowess. Honor is your self-worth. Without your own pride and self-worth, how can others respect you? Prowess is your ability to back it up - because you need to be able to. But to do great things spurs you on to greater deeds and greater trouble, which can shatter your honor. And yet, great honor can as easily trouble you, as you are forced to defend it.

Saints, along with their Virtue track, can learn two unique Knacks:
Miracle: Once per session, you can use a Twist of Fate not tied to any of your Paths, which often borders on the supernatural though is rarely totally explicit.
Virtuous Might: Once per session, you may cancel out Scale for a single target, based on your position on the Virtue track. (More extreme is better.) This can mean you are able to stop a speeding truck unharmed (reducing its Scale from 2 to 0) or slapping a God as you would a mortal (likewise). This works on any form of Scale.

Kitsune are...well, kitsune. They don't especially like to be reminded that they're foxes who turn into people rather than vice versa. They try to keep their tails hidden, but it's not easy. Origin-level Kitsune don't actually need to have a tail visible at all times; once they gain a dot of Legend, however, they get the persistent Fox's Tail condition. It gives them a fluffy fox tail, and whenever said tail causes trouble or reveals their supernatural nature in a way that isn't helpful, they gain Momentum. Kitsune get access to unique Knacks, too:
Do You Feel Lucky?: When you threaten someone with a harmless object, you get +1 Enhancement to intimidate them. If it is a realistically dangerous-looking but still harmless one, like an empty gun or a dud grenade, it is +2 Enhancement instead. However, if you fail for any reason, you can't bluff the same target the same way again.
Kindness of Strangers: When trying to convince someone to provide for your basic needs, you get -1 Difficulty.
Mortal Mask: You can swap from fox to human and back at will. You only have one human form, and if Taken Out, sleeping or unconscious you revert to fox shape. Your human shape does not reveal your true nature or have a tail.
Not A Fighter: As the Lover knack.
Set the Stage: When you use props to prepare a space and occupy it, others accept it has the function you claim it does for as long as you occupy it - a bookshelf is enough to make any room an office, a microscope convinces people it's a lab. Anyone entering the space while you're not there is not convinced.
Tongue of the Fox: You can speak and understand the language of any canine. Most are no smarter than a child.
Under the Table: When you spend a scene indulging in vice of some kind with someone, you can steal some vitality from them. Select an Arena of your choice. For the next scene, they have +1 Difficulty on tasks involving that Arena and you get +1 Enhancement on the same. To use this on a PC, you must have their player's consent.

Satyrs are satyrs. Still, they're more than hedonists - they are a force of nature on the edge of civilization, making others shed their inhibitions. They tear down order and bring change. They follow their passions, good or ill, and take others with them. They are not fickle - they don't change course until they're satisfied. Once they gain Legend, they get the Hooves condition, like Kitsune get Fox's Tail, which reveals them for what they are. They get their own Knack access:
Baser Instincts: As the Lover's Intuition knack, but it senses cravings and desire, not love. It cannot be used on PCs without their player's consent.
Blind Luck: As the Master of the World Knack, except it can only be used when hindered by a Complication not tied to having hooves.
Cup of Wisdom: When you try to solve a complex problem, you may take the Drunk condition for the scene (causing Complication on all actions, especially those involving fine motor skills) to get +1 Enhancement on rolls to solve it.
Fruit of Passion: Choose a form of art that is your driving passion. For the rest of the session, you get an extra success on all rolls involving making that form of art. After you produce a work you are satisfied with, you may switch to another art form.
Give Me Another: You can make a roll to automatically convince someone to repeat their current willing activity when they're done. If this would put them at risk of harm, it costs 1 Momentum.
Party Animal: While you pursue your passions, you need not eat, drink or sleep for several days, after which you must fall into undisturbable slumber for an equal period.
Revels: When you take part in a performance, celebration or friendly gathering, the Difficulty of social actions for everyone involved is reduced by 1 for as long as you are present and active.
Wild at Heart: When you intimidate someone with your ferocity, you can spend Momentum to double the successes on the Knack Skill roll.

Therianthropes are people who can turn into animals. Possibly they've always had it, or been cursed, or chose it, but it can't be ignored. At first, they can't fully manifest it, but once they gain Legend, they gain power over the animal side. They acquire the persistent Were-Creature condition, which gives them a trigger that changes them to animal form (chosen by player and ST together) and the ability to temporarily delay the change for a few rounds or, with Momentum, a scene. They also have access to some special Knacks:
Bloody-Minded: You have an additional Injured box. If your Stamina is 5, you also get an additional Maimed box. This is on top of your normal bonuses from having Stamina.
Feral Grace: You get +1 Enhancement on all Athletics rolls that do not involve tools or weapons.
Howl: Whenever you show your bestial side to intimidate someone, you get +1 Enhancement.
Predator's Bond: As Tongue of the Fox, but it works on all predatory animals (and only predators).
Scent of Blood: You automatically know when you're in the presence of anyone with a Bruised or greater Injury, and what level it is. You have +1 Enhancement to follow their trail until they either wash away the scent or cover it with something stronger.
Unleash the Beast: When you fight unarmed, you may spend Momentum to add the Lethal tag to your attacks for the combat. (This is not actually super helpful, but it's cheap and lets you deal more fictionally harmful injuries than just punching.)
Wary Beasts: Ordinary animals will never approach or harm you unless compelled by magic. Anyone observing you can make an Occult roll to recognize your true nature if they see animals react to you.

Wolf-Warriors are people dedicated to a cause enough to fight for it. That doesn't make them magical - rather, they're people who are the best of the best, the cream of the crop. They're Batman, or Robin Hood, or so on. They bear the spirit of the wolf in them, fighting with the strength of ten because their hearts are pure. Amazons, berserkers, rathi. The important thing is, you have a cause beyond mere violence. To gain Legend, you must be even more devoted to it, embodying the ideal. This is one way for mortals to act on par with Scions - by becoming the exemplar of their cause. They tend to attract nemeses who are their antithesis, because Fate. They get access to special Knacks:
Favored Weapon: As the Warrior Knack.
Helping Hands Make Idle Work: When you look for help among the people who support your cause, you always find someone who will offer it. The aid will be humble and limited - supplies, food, information, a distraction. Where applicable, this functions as +1 Enhancement.
I Love It When A Plan Comes Together: When you form a plan for a Complex Action that furthers your cause and involves your allies, roll your Knack Skill. The successes become a pool of Enhancement bonus for everyone involved to draw on when enacting the plan.
Inspiring Act: When you demonstrate how to do something by doing it yourself, you can give an ally +1 Enhancement to do the same thing.
One of the Crowd: When you hide in a group of people, anyone trying to locate you gets +1 Difficulty to identify you by any means.
Rallying Presence: When you lead a group in combat, you can spend Momentum to give every member of the group besides you an extra Bruised box until the battle ends or you are Taken Out or otherwise defeated, whichever comes first.
Still Kicking: Once per scene, when you would normally be Taken Out by damage, you can spend Momentum to ignore all effects of the attack that would do it, including taking Injuries.
Strength in Numbers: When using Teamwork, you increase the maximum successes you can add from 3 to 5, and you can have multiple people rolling to assist you. However, to get the extra benefit, you must have at least as many helpers as successes rolled.

Cu Sith are talking dogs. Barghests, Church Grims, Gabriel's Ratchet, the Black Dog. They serve the Tuatha, for the most part, loyal servants and agents of their displeasure (in their role as death omens). Dogs know and fear them, and they are much smarter than most dogs. Still, while they can be lonely, they have their pack. They'd cross the world to help a packmate, and they know their pack would do the same. Cu Sith typically cannot gain Legend, however. If you want to play a talking dog, they have access to some Knacks:
Breed Versatility: As any one Hunter Knack, based on what your breed is good at.
Call the Pack: Once per session, you can summon the spirits of your packmates (if they aren't physically present) and direct them against a foe for a single attack. This is treated as a weapon with Lethal, Loud and Ranged tags, using Presence + Close Combat.
Terrifying Howl: You can howl over the course of multiple actions. On the first action, nothing special happens. On the second, you can be heard out to a mile away. On the third, your howl functions as the Immobilize Antagonist Quality.

But wait! What if none of these paths quite fits what you want? Never fear, you can modify them! The game gives some examples using the Wolf-Warrior and Satyr.

Classical Amazons are based on Wolf-Warrior. They live for battle, without the weight of politics that come with war. They often work as bodyguards, self-defense coachs or security guards while hunting for worthy battles. They have a code. Amazons are not assassins, ever. They never attack those who cannot fight back. They never betray their allies. Any opponent that will not follow this code is no warrior, just a monster unworthy of mercy. Classical Amazons, regardless of Calling, can always learn the Armorbound Knack and the Favored Weapon Knack (but only for spears or bows). They can also learn the custom Shield Wall Knack.
Shield Wall: Against opponents in front of you and in line of sight, your allies in the same Range Band as you gain +1 Hard Armor.

Dahomey Amazons are also based on Wolf-Warrior. They have nothing to do with Greece - rather, they are women who descend from the Fon tradition of Dahomey, who have joined the battalion of a ruler and ritually married them. Any marriages before that are annulled while they serve. They are trained riflewomen, working to kill their enemies efficiently and well. Winning, for them, is more important than how it's done. Survival matters more than honor...except in defense of your ruler-husband or your battalion. A Dahomey Amazon always has access, regardless of calling, to the Apex Predator Knack, the Favored Weapon Knack (for rifles only), and the Antagonist Flair Spray 'n' Pray as a Knack.

Shieldmaidens are based on Wolf-Warrior. Typically, they didn't start out wanting to be warriors, but were forced into it by fate and then embraced it. They hope for a glorious death, for they will never stop fighting. Their purpose is simple: protect. Protect a person, a nation, a community - just protect something. They tend to prefer jobs that let them take advantage of their superior abilities, like bodyguard, firefighter or soldier. However, for the right cause, they're also found as rebels or pirates, for the sake of the downtrodden and oppressed. They are always, always driven. Shieldmaidens always have access to the Favored Weapon Knack (for swords only), the A Fortress Knack, and the custom Knack Berserk.
Berserk: When you take an Injury condition, you become enraged. For the rest of combat, you get +1 Enhancement to all attacks and ignore any and all Injury Conditions, but you cannot tell friend from foe.

Deer Women are based on Satyr. They are known for seducing and punishing unfaithful men, but that's hardly all they do. Rather, they exist for the punishment, not the seduction. They live on the edge of society, keeping people from breaking the rules of that society. They are not forces of chaos, despite resembling satyrs. Rather, they enforce the unwritten laws and mores of a culture. They can be violent in reminding people not to transgress, but they are also known to help those oppressed by those same laws. What matters is that order is kept and chaos held at bay. Deer Women always have access to the Quick Study Knack, and the custom Trample and Laws of the Land Knacks.
Trample: Your unarmed attacks get the Brutal tag against prone foes.
Laws of the Land: When you enter a new place, you instinctively know the local mores and what would violate them. If applicable, you get +1 Enhancement on rolls related to those two things.

Hulder are based on Satyr. They like to be left alone and undisturbed, but in the world as it is now, that's not something anyone can really have. They can be overwhelmed by the number of people around them, but still, the modern world isn't all bad. Even they won't ever be alone again, not really, they can find a cozy home. They dislike sudden changes and disruptions to routine. They used to only come out when someone was trying to harm or move their homes, and when they stopped that by, say, destroying the machines involved, people usually left them alone. However, they're never left alone forever. Hulders always have access to the Beyond Memory knack, (I think - they're using different names, and my guesses are based on those names corresponding to what those knacks do) and the custom Go Around and My Home A Fortress knacks.
Go Around: You can declare an intersection, natural formation or structure up to house size to be your domain for a scene. Beings below your Tier instinctively avoid it, and you have +1 Defense against all others when in your domain's bounds.
My Home A Fortress: If you choose to make a house your home, it will constantly repair itself of any damage and its walls will be strengthened abnormally. We are told this functions as the Creator Knack Structural Integrity applicable only to your home, but I have no idea what that Knack is or what it does, because it's in neither Origin nor Hero. You can only have one home at a time.

The End!

Join me next time as we delve into Hero.

Jul 15, 2017

Alien Rope Burn posted:

It's mostly just White dudes, though, emphasis on dudes. Carol is one of only two high-ranking women who have gotten a writeup so far (there are others that have been listed, but they were never detailed and will be entirely forgotten AFAIK).

Yeah, I remember the other one is the military head of Lone Star, who is like Black an upstanding honorable decent brilliant loyal skull facist.

Feb 13, 2012

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

Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Dark Heresy: Part 11

Screaming men in hats, potato men with shoulder pads, these are the overman

"The Emperor asks only that you hate." is our start-off for the bit on the Imperium's armed forces, and they're a complete mess. When you control over a million worlds, some of which can field billions of people under arms from hives that have individual levels and decks that could qualify as nation states, everything was always going to be a mess. Combined with how slow and unpredictable travel is, and how unreliable communications can be, the Imperium regularly sends out armies that arrive long after the local forces have already won or lost their battles. Guardsmen, despite the name, could be men or women in equal measure. These expendable soldiers mostly exist to add to the death count and show off how brutal and grim the setting is, unless they're the main characters of a novel or RPG campaign, in which case they become exceptional badasses capable of defeating almost anything in the galaxy. They're primarily kept in line by a mixture of severe British discipline and Soviet blocking brigades led by men (usually depicted as men) in big hats who have the right to have any Imperial soldier shot for cowardice. They're kept popular by being the most grounded and hard-luck of the Imperium's troops, and by the (admittedly pretty great) novelty of an army where Vietnam era rambos pathfind for the Space 101st Airborne to take ground that'll be held by Space WWI Germans while a bunch of idiot Space British nobles sit back in their tents, have tea, and talk about how smashing it would be to do something horrible.

The Navy is even more British than the Guard on the whole, and is basically Nelsonian-age-of-sail ship-as-community stuff flying around with Masters and Commanders all over the place in their giant cathedral ships. Every ship takes centuries to build and can die in minutes in battle, taking thousands of people with it, and many more are lost in transit because the only human means of FTL goes straight through Event Horizon Hell. The Navy handles all transport for the Imperium of Man's ground forces, they handle gaining orbital superiority, and they also handle blowing up planets. The Navy is the single most important armed force in the Imperium, but no-one tell the Space Marines.

You won't see many Space Marines in Dark Heresy. The Adeptus Astartes don't have much of a presence in the Calixis Sector (the Sector DH is supposed to take place in) and the sector is remarkably clear of wars that are glorious enough for these propped up prissy showponies to fight in. Marines are organized into 1000 soldier Chapters, though most Chapters break the rules on force composition in some way or another, and are not technically allowed to form larger units because a larger unit could begin to threaten the other elements of the Imperium. You all know what a Space Marine is, but I'll describe them anyway: In canon, they're 6'6"-8' tall potato men who have been thoroughly indoctrinated into their Chapter, put through multiple 'kill a thousand children to produce one Marine' initiation rites to show you they're grim and hardcore, given transhuman augmentation to make them able to take wounds and deal with environments that would instantly kill normal humans, then armed with powered armor known for its immense shoulderpads and bulky nature and given a rocket rifle. They then die in droves, according to the Tabletop game, or else if they're in a novel, videogame, or RPG, an individual Marine kills several hundred people an engagement. They serve as the Imperium's elite special forces, except for the part where they aren't under anyone's command and tend to try to take over command of any situation they find, making them rather less efficient at their jobs than they could be. They are also generally the main characters of 40k, because if half of the armies in the TT game are Imperial, half of THOSE are varieties of Space Marine.

Two major Space Marine organizations are mentioned here, because they might come up for Inquisitorial Acolytes. The Grey Knights (And this is pre-Matt Ward writing them as burly men who will happily blend Sisters of Battle into a protective paste so they can go steal a daemon weapon) are elite among the elite, a chapter made entirely of Marine psykers trained for demonic combat. They are the Chamber Militant (special forces) of the Ordo Malleus, the anti-demon Inquisition. The liklihood that your PCs see a Grey Knight is pretty low, but it could come up. They're magic space paladins. Next you have the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos, the Deathwatch. This is actually going to come up in the Space Marine RPG, Deathwatch; these are promising Marines sent from other chapters to form a kind of meta-chapter where they learn to work together with others and do elite commando work for the alien-hunters. Marginally more likely your Acolytes might get to call these guys in when they inevitably hit some kind of horrible alien infestation.

Why, you might ask, does it seem like the Imperium likes to keep all its forces piecemeal? Most of them are described as watching all the other forces of the Imperium with a paranoid eye at all times. Well, that'd date back to the last time someone was in overall command of all Imperial forces, under the ancient Warmaster Horus, one of the original Marines created by the Emperor. It went badly when he went off the reservation, discovered Gods existed, and then had the Horus Heresy and crippled his dad while getting annihilated. This is also why you've got Chaos-Warrior knockoff Chaos Space Marines running about, being the main characters of the Forces of Chaos, and generally being relatively boring like their loyalist brothers. The Imperium lives in constant fear of an individual gaining the ability to make drastic social change/take over the Imperium/whatever, and so everyone is encouraged to point a gun at everyone else's head, most units don't have all the equipment they need to operate so that if they rebel they'd have to convince their supporting units to come with them, and everything is clunky and grim to the extreme, as per normal for 40k.

Next Time: Faith and Inquisition.

Oct 14, 2011

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 5: Description and Equipment

There is only one chapter remaining for character creation, and that's the chapter that describes alignment, religion and other such details. The chapter jumps straight into alignments, and 3.0 uses the same three by three grid as AD&D, 5e and Pathfinder all use - one axis of Law to Chaos, and one axis of Good to Evil. I'm not going to talk about my own interpretations of these, because quite frankly opinions on alignment are almost like assholes in terms of how many people have their own. I will, however, describe how the PHB explains them.

Law is described as obedience to authority, honour and trustworthiness. It can also include close-mindedness, a reactionary adherence to tradition, and a lack of adaptability. You will notice here that it does not at any point mention legal codes. A Paladin on a mission to do good in a Lawful Evil society is not going to fall because they illegally freed a bunch of slaves, nor are they going to fall because they organise a rebellion against that regime, with the intent to replace it with an equally ordered but more just one. Chaos, on the other hand, is described as a desire for personal freedom, as well as a more flexible and adaptable mindset. It can also include arbitrary seeming actions, a resentment towards legitimate authority, irresononsibility and recklessness. Nowhere does it say that a Chaotic character cannot respect another person's authority in a given area. A Chaotic character does not necessarily break the law, and a Barbarian isn't going to lose their ability to rage just because they happen to respect the king of a given kingdom and choose not to break his laws.

Good is described as altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. A Good character is willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of others. Evil, on the other hand, implies harming, oppressing and killing others. An Evil character may be someone who actively seeks to do Evil, or they might simply be somebody who has absolutely no compunctions about murdering other people to complete their goals.

Where does neutrality lie? Well, in terms of Law and Chaos, it lies at the point where you have an average person's respect for authority; with neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. In terms of Good and Evil, it's where you tend to have a preference towards good actions where such won't necessarily inconvenience you, and might consider doing evil deeds, but would feel genuine guilt about it afterwards. Alternatively, neutrality can be a choice to reject what you see as dangerous extremes. Blind obedience to authority can be just as dangerous as blind rejection of it, while a certain amount of selfishness might be better for the largest amount of people.

The book then describes the nine alignments (I'll quote the book below), but first, it points out that only the Good and Neutral alignments are intended for player characters; Evil is for monsters and villains.

Lawful Good - The Crusader posted:

A Lawful Good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. She combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. She tells the truth, keeps her word, helps those in need and speaks out against injustice. A Lawful Good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Alhandra, a Paladin who fights evil without mercy and who protects the innocent without hesitation, is Lawful Good.

Lawful Good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honour and compassion.

Neutral Good - The Benefactor posted:

A Neutral Good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates, but does not feel beholden to them. Jozan, a Cleric who helps others according to their needs, is Neutral Good.

The common phrase for Neutral Good is "True Good".

Neutral Good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias towards or against order.

Chaotic Good - The Rebel posted:

A Chaotic Good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he's kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right, but has little time for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Soveliss, a Ranger who waylays the evil baron's tax collectors, is Chaotic Good.

Chaotic Good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit.

Lawful Neutral - The Judge posted:

A Lawful Neutral character acts as law, tradition or a personal code directs her. Order and organisation are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all, and favour a strong, organised government. Ember, a Monk who follows her discipline without being swayed by the demands of those in need nor the temptations of evil, is Lawful Neutral.

The common phrase for Lawful Neutral is "True Lawful".

Lawful Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you can be reliable and honourable without being a zealot.

Neutral - The Undecided posted:

A Neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to Good vs Evil or Law vs Chaos. Most neutrality is a lack of commitment or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil; after all she would rather have good neighbours and rulers than evil ones. Still, she's not personally committed to upholding Good in any abstract or universal way. Mialee, a Wizard who devotes herself to her art and is bored by the semantics of moral debate, is Neutral.

The common phrase for Neutral is "True Neutral".

Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion.

As a quick note, I would argue that this description heavily implies that the vast majority of people in a believable setting should be True Neutral.

Chaotic Neutral - The Free Spirit posted:

A Chaotic Neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty, but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. The Chaotic Neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organisations as part of a campaign of anarchy; to do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). Devis, a Bard who wanders the land living by his wits, is Chaotic Neutral.

The common phrase for Chaotic Neutral is "True Chaotic".

Remember that the Chaotic Neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behaviour is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as walk across it.

Chaotic Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society and a do-gooder's zeal.

Lawful Evil - The Dominator posted:

A Lawful Evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard to whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty and order, but not about freedom, dignity or life. He plays by the rules, but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but he is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions, but according to race, religion, homeland or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises. This reluctance is partly because of his nature, and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some Lawful Evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains. The scheming baron who expands his power and exploits his people is Lawful Evil.

Some Lawful Evil people and creatures are commited to Evil with a zeal like that of a crusader commited to Good. Beyond being willing to hurt others for their own ends, they take pleasure in spreading Evil as an end unto itself. They may also see doing evil as part of a duty to an evil deity or master.

Lawful Evil is sometimes called "Diabolical" because devils are the epitome of Lawful Evil.

Lawful Evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents methodical, intentional, and frequently successful evil.

Neutral Evil - The Malefactor posted:

A Neutral Evil villain does whatever she can get away with. She is out for herself, pure and simple. She sheds no tears for those she kills, whether for profit, sport or convenience. She holds no love of order, and holds no illusions that following laws, traditions or codes would make her better or more noble. On the other hand, she doesn't have the restless nature or love of conflict that a Chaotic Evil villain has. The criminal who robs and murders to get what she wants is Neutral Evil.

The common phrase for Neutral Evil is "True Evil".

Neutral Evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents pure evil without honour or variation.

Chaotic Evil - The Destroyer posted:

A Chaotic Evil character does whatever his greed, hatred and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is hot tempered, viscious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of Evil and Chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organised. Typically, Chaotic Evil people can only be made to work together by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him. The demented sorcerer pursuing mad schemes of vengeance and havoc is Chaotic Evil.

Chaotic Evil is sometimes called "Demonic" because demons are the epitome of Chaotic Evil.

Chaotic Evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents the destruction not only of beauty and life, but of the order on which beauty and life depend.

Once we have finished with alignments, we are introduced to the default deities of 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons. They come from Greyhawk, but it is never explicitly stated in the book. It is mentioned here that while most people tend to have a deity that they consider to be their patron, they will typically pray to other gods at appropriate times, and show respect generally. I am not going to give you the descriptions of these gods; they're incredibly brief, and if you're honestly interested, you might be better off taking a look on wikipedia instead.

The gods listed are Boccob (Neutral god of magic), Corellon Larethian (Chaotic Good god of the elves), Ehlonna (Neutral Good goddess of the woodland), Erythnul (Chaotic Evil god of slaughter), Fharlanghn (Neutral god of roads), Garl Glittergold (Neutral Good god of Gnomes), Gruumsh (Chaotic Evil god of orcs), Heironeous (Lawful Good god of valour), Hextor (Lawful Evil god of tyranny), Kord (Chaotic Good god of strength), Moradin (Lawful Good god of dwarves), Nerull (Neutral Evil god of death), Obad-Hai (Neutral god of nature), Olidammara (Chaotic Neutral god of rogues), Pelor (Neutral Good sun god), St. Cuthbert (Lawful Neutral god of retribution), Vecna (Neutral Evil god of secrets), Wee Jas (Lawful Neutral goddess of death and magic) and Yondalla (Lawful Good goddess of halflings).

After telling you to pick a name and gender, the book then moves on to talk about age. It gives a table for generating a character's age randomly (a minimum age for that race, added to a die roll), or else you can pick an age yourself, so long as it is no lower than the lowest you can possibly roll on the table (for example, elves reach adulthood at 110 years old, and add 10d6 if they're starting out as a Wizard, so an elf Wizard must be at least 120 years old). Then, it lists the ages at which a person becomes middle aged, old or venerable. Once you are middle aged, you lose 1 points from each physical ability (Strength, Dexterity and Constitution, and gain 1 to each mental attribute (Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma). Once you're old, you lose an additional 2 points from each physical ability and gain an additional 1 to each mental ability. When you're venerable, you lose an additional 3 points from each physical ability, and gain an additional 1 to each mental ability. This means, due to the quirks of this system, that an 80 year old human will often have better hearing and eyesight than a 20 year old.

Height and weight are likewise given as random tables, or alternatively you can just pick your own. Once this is out of the way, you're asked to decide your character's looks, personality and background, before finally customising your character. Such customisations include suggestions about tweaking race and class features (with permission from the DM), tweaking skills, and tweaking the looks of your equipment. It is here, interestingly enough, that it is mentioned that if you really want a katana, you should just get a bastard sword (it specifies a masterwork bastard sword, but you're not getting one of those at character creation).

Included in racial tweaking is the idea of playing a dwarf born of outcasts, who has the in born dwarf features (high CON, low CHA, darkvision and resistance to poison and spells), but not the cultural stuff like stonecunning or appraise/craft bonuses; it then suggests asking the GM for replacement features to compensate. In class tweaking, it suggests the idea of a Fighter who used to work as an enforcer for a thieves guild, and as such starts out with only the weapons and armour available to a Rogue, but also with 4 skill points per level instead of 2, and Bluff and Intimidate as additional class skills. Those honestly aren't bad ideas - it explicitly tells you that homebrew content is OK, and that the GM has room to be flexible in order to help you create the character you want to play. This advice was also given in the 3.5 PHB, and in both cases I suspect it ended up getting ignored by many people; either because it wasn't about game mechanics, or because it would involve a bunch of extra work by the GM.

Regarding skills and feats, it suggests two things; one that I definitely agree with (talk to your GM if you feel like something that should be a skill isn't listed; they have guidelines for adding new skills), and one that while it is a neat and flavourful idea, I don't think would actually work in practise: renaming skills based on what your character would call them. It uses the examples of a Rogue renaming Move Silently to "Footpaddin'", and a Monk renaming it to "Rice Paper Walk". I mean, it was a nice idea, but I honestly don't think it would be worth the possible confusion.

Next up, we have the chapter on equipment. Ooh boy. Please allow me to preface this bit with a disclaimer: I am autistic, and I like weapons. Specifically, I like medieval weapons. This means that while I am not an expert, I know a reasonable amount about the way they work, having spent a great deal of time reading articles and watching youtube videos by folks who know what they're talking about on the subject of medieval weaponry. There are a few reasons why I am not a fan of the weapon list here; some are things that D&D improved upon in 3.5; some are not.

The only real problem with the simple and martial weapons is the weight of the weapons. Cut the weights in half for the one handed weapons, and most of them are fine. I dislike that the regular one handed sword is called a longsword (those were two handed weapons), but I can just rename it to arming sword, broadsword or even just "sword" and be done with it. That and falchions weren't two handed weapons; they were one handed weapons from which the sabre may have evolved. But I digress.

The two handed martial weapons are ridiculously overweight though. If you were to cut the Greatsword down to around 6lb (as opposed to 15lb), it would be OK, but some of the weapons listed here weight as much as 20lb. How do you even make an axe that weighs that much but is still balanced for hitting people (the answer, obviously, is that you can't)?

In exotic weapons, we have the monk weapons, which are mostly fine. We also have the bastard sword; a sword that will only see use if your GM is someone like me who when someone says they're bringing a greatsword, asks how it's being carried. The bastard sword is the two handed sword that a person can actually wear at their hip, and that can be used one handed with a feat. If my GM didn't care about details like that, I wouldn't bother with it, because it's either a slightly better longsword that isn't worth the feat, or a poo poo greatsword. The dwarven waraxe holds the same position of being between battleaxe and greataxe.

This is where we get to the bit I really dislike about the weapons list. The double weapons. The only double weapon on this list that should actually be there is the quarterstaff. The rest of them are loving stupid. First, we have the two bladed sword. Basically, think of Darth Maul's lightsaber, and you've got the general idea. Cool idea? Sure - if it were something that could actually, physically work. Here's the problem: in order to be effective at cutting, the centre of balance of a sword should be in the blade. The closer to the hilt, the more nimble the blade is to control, but the worse it is at cutting, and vice versa. The problem here is that if you have a blade on each end of the hilt, then the centre of balance is going to be in the centre of the hilt; nowhere near either blade. This weapon is going to be utterly poo poo at cutting - and if you only want to thrust with it, a spear of equal length would be a hundred times better. We also have the double axe. For an axe to be effective, the centre of balance should be in or near the head. On the double axe, the centre of balance is in the middle of the loving shaft, so you're never actually going to cut with the loving thing. And then, we have the dire flail - a flail, except with a ball and chain at each end. Would you like to be hit in the back of the head with a heavy iron ball? Because that's how you get hit in the back of the head with a heavy iron ball. None of these weapons would ever actually work in practice. And yes, I know, this is a game with dragons, why am I bitching about the weapons? Well, the more believable the stuff that could exist in the real world, the more magical the stuff that couldn't is by comparison.

There; rant over. The armour actually weighs reasonable amounts (except for the fact that studded leather was never a real time of armour, and padded linen is actually really effective at stopping cuts in melee and arrows from long range), and is roughly as effective as I would expect it to be. Hurting someone in full plate is difficult, and bearing in mind that a 12-13 in dexterity is actually pretty agile, full plate really isn't that cumbersome in game. The shields are far too heavy, bucklers are held by the boss rather than being strapped to the arm as described here (how would that even be useful?), and shields were basically never made entirely of metal, but they're no worse than the weapons.

Armour takes time to put on and to take off; light armour can be put on properly in a minute or quickly in half the time. Most armour takes roughly 4 minutes to put on properly (half that with help) or one minute to put on quickly. Half plate and full plate take four minutes to put on quickly or to put on properly with help; they cannot be put on properly without help. This is important, because sleeping in chainmail or heavy armour makes you really tired in the morning, giving a penalty to strength and dexterity and removing the ability to charge or run.

All armour also comes with arcane spell failure. This ranges from 5% to 40%; when you cast an arcane (basically wizard, sorcerer or bard) spell that requires somatic components, you roll a d% and if it is lower than the spell failure chance, the spell fails. The two kinds of armour that can be worn without proficiency due to the lack of an armour check penalty (padded and leather) have 5% and 10% respectively, meaning that they're unlikely to affect your spell casting (same odds as rolling either a 1 or a 2 on a d20) but still potentially could. All considered, it's not that big a trade-off, and it has the added bonus of not looking like a wizard.

After armour, we have a nice long list of other random equipment, including caltrops (throw them behind you to potentially deal a point of damage and to slow down anybody chasing you), candles (dim light in a small radius - good for moving around indoors or reading at night), torches (last an hour and illuminate a wider area - not mentioned in the book, but there would also be a shitload of thick, black smoke, making them unsuitable for indoor or underground lighting), thieves' tools, clothing and horses. After that, special goods and services are mentioned - masterwork armour reduces the armour check penalty by 1, masterwork weapons or ammunition give you a +1 to hit, silver weapons can hurt werewolves, and mighty composite bows allow you to add your strength modifier to damage. Note that this is the only way to add an ability modifier to ranged damage. Masterwork tools add a +2 to the related skills. We also see alchemists fire, acid flasks, thunderstones (basically like fantasy flashbangs) and holy water.

This is the point where, provided you didn't intend to cast any spells for at least a few levels, you would be done with character creation. You'd have your abilities, skills, feats and gear, and be ready to go out and die horribly to goblins seek adventure.

Next time, we look at the combat system. It's kinda complex, but not as bad as people often like to say. Grappling in particular is actually relatively simple, even if it did benefit from some simplification in Pathfinder.

Lucas Archer
Dec 1, 2007

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks - Level I

The party faces two entrances when they arrive. The lower entrance is closed, while the upper one is open. It remains open for 1 hour, then closes for 20 hours, and reopen again for 1. I assume this continues if the party decides to camp outside the door for the next four days. Let’s assume our nameless adventurers don’t dither and they climb up to the entrance. Once the party enters, the door slides close behind them and a wide 20’ inner door slides open to reveal the first glimpse of the interior.

The darkest shaded areas in the south are unlit areas. This is where the party enters. The medium shaded areas are dimly light, while the lightest shaded are brightly lit. All of the white areas have lights that can be activated by the adventurers. Squares are 10’. Most of the unnamed rooms or rooms without an encounter number are thoroughly looted, only containing debris, junk and a possibility of 1-3 human skeletons.

One of the dungeons gimmicks is the color coded key card system. As you see on the map, doors are marked with letters. This denotes the color card required to enter the room. The colors go (highest to lowest in rank) gray (G), red (R), yellow (Y), orange (O), V (violet), B (brown), and J (jet black). Generally speaking, higher ranking color cards can open any ranked door below theirs. There are some exceptions to this, the first of which: Yellow cards will not trigger orange locks. If an incorrect card is used, it will be locked in the door and an alarm will sound. One presumes police robots appear soon after. It's tough to see due to the quality of the scan (sorry about that), but most of those doors in the southern hemisphere that are part of the unlit area require J (Jet black) cards.

We check for wandering monsters each turn, with a 1/12 chance for an encounter. The northern and southern hemispheres have different tables. Roll a D6.
Southern Hemisphere
1. 9-16 “vegepygmies” with 2-5 “dog-creatures”
2. police robot
3. 2-3 displacer beasts
4. worker robot
5. lurker above
6. 9-16 “vegepygmies” with 2-5 “dog-creatures”.

Northern Hemisphere
1. worker robot
2. 14-24 “vegepygmies”
3. 2-5 shadows
4. police robot
5. 14-24 “vegepygmies”
6. 1-2 will-o’-wisps

The first thing the players see when they enter is this strange open cylinder. Dark and devoid of movement, this offers no real hints to its purpose. There are four total in the dungeon which connect each of the levels. While the southern tube is broken, the three other drop tubes are in various states of functionality. The northern and eastern tubes are full functional and lit up. If a character steps into one of those, they’ll immediately be grasped by weightlessness. Then, they can take a hold of one of the moving rungs on the side of the tube and go up or down. Of course, being the top of the dungeon, all that’s above is the closed “sphincter” which cannot be opened. The western drop tube has the rungs moving up and down, but whatever caused the lack of gravity in the other two is no longer working here. There’s a chance a character could fall to their death if they tried to ride the western tube down. Since the rungs are 8 feet apart, climbing down the southern tube is pretty much out of the question (although knowing players, they’ll find a way).

I’ll be going through the numbered encounters first, and then move on to the named rooms.

1 is an ambush by a lurker above (surprises 4 in 6). On the floor, amongst filth, is a violet keycard. If the party notices the violet coded doors next to where they entered, they can reveal a couple of storage rooms with storage racks for large bulky suits of some kind, as well as an emergency exit. The same rooms are at the north of the map, behind violet carded doors, but the exit leads to nothing but rock up there.

A small repair robot has been discarded at 2. It has some gems inside of it if the players pry it apart. I'm not sure why it got it's own bit of art, but isn't it adorable?

3 is the “Police Robot Area” (not the same thing as the Police HQ). 1 to 6 police robots are here if the adventurers enter, and they will not question any character who displays an orange, red, or gray color card. The book makes sure to note here, “Possession of a card will not allow characters to command police robots”. 3a is the repair parts area, with 12 power discs to find. 3b is a robot clinic with nothing of worth. 3c is the arsenal – a dozen of each type of grenade and power discs. No matter what card you have, the police robots attack anyone taking any munitions. You can try and steal some though! The arsenal is inspected every three rounds by a police robot.

4, A berserk android lies on the floor here, ready to attack any creature within 20 feet. It will shoot twice with a paralysis pistol, then lay into any nearby with an iron bar. If the players can take out the android before it uses all the ammunition, the paralysis pistol starts with a full power disc (six charges).

5 pits the party against 5 displacer beasts. If there are more than 10 party members visible, the beasts will likely flee, but fight to the death if engaged. A brown keycard is stashed in their nest.

There are a couple of 6’s on the map – phase spiders, 1 adult and 2 newborns. They have a jet-black card stuck in their web on the ceiling. 7 small gems, 100 g.p. each, are on the ground beneath the nest – they were used to attract prey.

7 is a place the players won’t be able to get into for a while. It requires a grey card and there’s only one outside this area on the first level. Several skeletons lie amongst the disarray of furniture and sundries. 7a is the personal chambers of whoever lived here. There is a full set of keycards in his desk, except for grey. In the locked closet, there’s a needler with 4 clips of ammunition. The lock works on an unknown handprint, so I guess you’re breaking in. Inside the lavatory cabinet are two cyanide capsules (which the book helpfully informs us: “instant death, no save”). There’s a locked safe on the desk which can be burned open with a fully charged laser. Inside are orders and information about the purpose of this place in an incomprehensible dead language (bonjour!). Depending on what the party has done before coming here, and if they have magic for translation, this could be where the big twist is revealed. Also included are 100(!) diamonds worth 100 gp each, along with a nice little surprise. A packet that explodes for 50 hp of damage when opened to everyone within 10’. The opener gets no save. 7b is the lounge and dining area. There are six crystal flasks with different liquors in each. 1 is a poison (-4 to saves), 2-4 taste excellent (delay the party for 6 full turns if one is sampled), 5 gives the imbiber +1 on dexterity reactions for 1 turn, with 20 charges. 6 causes double vision for 3 turns. The master bedroom is located at 7c, with a platinum model worth 1,000gp on the table. 7d is another lounge, with a skeleton for decoration - there's a gray card nearby along with some more jewelry.

8 is another personal quarters area. 8a was the dining room. A bottle of liquor spiked with truth serum (imbiber must tell absolute truth for 3 rounds) is on the table, with seven charges left. The guide suggests: “DM, here is your chance to sow some dissension…” 8b is the office and study. Three orange cards are inside the desk, as well as a broken blaster (irreparable). 8c has nothing. 8d has what could be a useful item: the portable command control for the police robots. While voice command is keyed to the security chief’s voice, the buttons still operate. Pressing the red and orange buttons at the same time turn off all police robots within 30’ until the control box is more than 30’ away. Pressing one or the other button summons some police robots. It has 7 uses before it malfunctions.

Some will o’ wisps patrol the corridors near 9, and attempt to lure victims towards the nearest 13 area. 9 is their lair, and if they are patrolling, they will return within 3-30 rounds after the party enters. There are some valuable gems in a pile of junk on the floor, along with a language translator. The translator’s power will drain in 3 uses.

10 and 11 are the lair of the northern tribe of vegepygmies. They’re colored gray and brown, so are 50% invisible when up against the ships walls. 5-8 shriekers sit on each 10 square, serving as an alarm to the vegepygmies congregated in the nearby rooms. The corridor through this section is covered in fungi. There are 4 vegepygmies per 10’ of room space – if I’m reading this correctly, the northern tribe of vegepygmies has 224 of the little fuckers stuffed in those compartments. That seems absolutely ridiculous to me, so somebody tell me if I’m off base there. 11a has the leader along with 5 “4HD sprouts”, carrying an orange card and violet card. If a fight breaks out between the party and the tribe, the leader may pull out one of his scrounged tech weapons – this depends on how close the fight is occurring. The closer the fight, the heavier and more deadly weapon the leader might grab. It starts with sleep gas grenades up to a blaster rifle with 2 charges. If the party gets into a fight here, they’ll most likely be fighting the whole tribe so… good luck? I guess? The grunts have HP from 5 to 31, and the boss has 38, so they don’t look tough individually, but just… 224 of them?

12 is where the southern tribe of vegepygmies live. These guys are a little different than their northern counterparts in they are more green colored, giving them 50% invisible only when near green areas of vegetation. Instead of shriekers, their pets are dog like creatures, or “thornies”. 3 vegepygmies per 10’, plus 1 thorny. So we’ve gone up to 243 of these guys, plus 33 thornies. The southern tribe includes 3 sub-chiefs (without which groups of southern vegepygmies won’t attack the party). Each sub-chief has a different colored card: yellow, violet, and brown. The chief doesn’t have the weapons his northern counterpart has, but he does carry a spray can into battle. Discharged into someone’s face and they have to save v. poison (at -3) or be treated as if asleep and subject to the Suggestion spell. Of course, the suggestion has to be made in a language the victim understands - and vegepygmies can't talk. Loot his nest and the party finds a red card, a poison grenade, sleep grenade, 4 gems worth 100gp each, and a broken piece of communicator.

Every room marked 13 is filled with radiation. Save v. poison or get radiation sickness. Within 50 minutes the victim will realize they’re weakening. One hour after that (and every hour thereafter) the victim loses 1 point of strength. At 2 strength, they can no longer walk. At -1, death. There are radiation zones on each floor of the dungeon save level IV, each one marked as 13.

14 is the art workroom. It looks how you might imagine, paint and debris everywhere. The sculpture room is 14a, where various wood, stone, plastic or metal sculptures stand in varying stages of destruction. Most of it is unremarkable, but there is a strange clay like bust of a human head. The bust is actually covered by a grey ooze, which will attack (along with its partner on the ceiling) if anyone gets too close. 2 500gp topazes are the eyes of the bust.

Near the western drop tube at 15 is a pack of 9 dopplegangers waiting to ambush anyone using the tubes. They prefer to wait until the party is split before making their attack. There’s no treasure here, but there is a poster on the northern wall of the drop tube which shows a general map outline of the whole of level 1. “Tube procedures and safety measures are printed underneath the map, and these instructions can be read with magical aid. Included are statements to the effect that unauthorized persons are not to enter service deck areas.” I've always wondered about the doppleganger gimmick in an actual game - did DM's take anyone killed and replaced off, say "you're playing a doppleganger now" and let loose?

At 16, in the middle of a dark corridor, is a blaster pistol with a full charge. 5% chance per person passing it will be kicked and noticed (2% per person passing someone will step on it and ruin it – way to go, Chuck), and 10% chance per searcher it will be found if the corridor is searched.

On to the labeled rooms!

Dining rooms, meeting rooms, and recreation areas have been thoroughly looted and hold nothing of interest. Inanimate skeletons are prevalent, but any usable material or treasure has long since been removed.

Kitchens are mostly pointless except as kind of a trap for the players. There’s nothing of value to loot, but there are a few food dispensers still working. I’m going to quote the description here, because I still can’t picture in my head what these are supposed to look like: “Along one wall is a bench with a number of metal boxes resting on it. Each box has a dark colored glass door in the front of it and arranged beside these are a number of square metal plates (selector buttons). On top of each box is a short, black cylinder (temperature control knob). Inside each box are a number of shelves spaced close together. Along other walls are a fine metal mesh (microphone/speaker grille) and a rivet (call button) below it. Next to these is a long, narrow door that opens to a small shelf-life compartments.” In any case, if the players stumble into getting one to work, 20% to work, it will dispense a small tray with the food wrapped in plastic. There’s also a 50% chance that the food will be poison (what the poison will do is not elaborated upon). So, fairly innocuous, right? Well, if the party lingers and the wandering encounter table turns up vegepygmies, they will get not only a +2 to hit and damage (the food source is threatened!), but one of the vegepygmies will flee to their home are and rouse the entire tribe to do battle. Pretty sure that 200+ creatures will pose a problem for any group of adventurers.

Game rooms are mostly for decoration. They have arcade games, shooting gallery games, and (optionally) gambling machines. Any coinage found on the ship will work. There are games that have replicas of the weapons found on the ship, but if the players haven’t encountered any guns yet, the DM is instructed to describe the fake weapons as “mysterious metal shaped objects”. If the players have encountered blasters or lasers, then they can recognize the similarities. A player with the presence of mind to actually use these shooting galleries as a way to get comfortable with the weapons gets a bonus on their technology checks to figure out whatever weapon they practiced with (requires at least 1 turn of practice).

Lounges are full of broken furniture, burned skeletons, rubble, ashes and other debris. However, each one has a chance at containing a treasure if searched. Rolling on a D6:
1 – notes on an escaped beast deeper in the ship (If 1 is rolled in another lounge after notes have been discovered, a brown card is found)
2 – 1-3 ampules of serum which will cure any disease if injected (70% potent, 20% neutral, 10% poison)
3 – 1 piece of jewelry from 300-1800 gp
4 – 3 pieces of jewelry from 1k to 4k gp each
5 – jet black card
6 – violet OR orange card (50%/50%)

The notes on the escaped beast detail an intellect devourer that was kept in stasis on level 3, but no longer. We’ll encounter the devourer later on.

The Medical Area is deserted, with a robot voice instructing any visitors to Med 1 or Med 2 (both require yellow cards) for emergency procedures. Of course, the voice is in the incomprehensible language. There are three desks in here, with a 10% chance per round of finding a yellow card. If a desk is touched though, an alarm goes off and a police robot arrives soon after to investigate. This can only happen once, but I’m betting that players would take it as a “don’t touch the desks” and abandon any search.

Med Area 1 is an emergency treatment room with the android pictured above waiting to heal any humans that walk through the door. The android has a spray with 5 charges that heals 2d12, as well as injections that cures any diseases, poisons, or radiation sickness (must be administered within 3 turns of affliction though). Better have some magic or a translator device though, since she only responds to those speaking her language.

Med Area 2 is the emergency operating room, and the dapper gentleman above is waiting to greet any adventurers with thorough surgical precision. He’ll attempt to grapple the first adventurer he sees (with 18/01 strength), anesthetize them, and begin operating. Anesthetization and operation occur in a single round. Uninterrupted, he’ll kill his patient on the second round. Method of death is unmentioned, but I’d describe it as a horribly silent, ultra-efficient evisceration. I really like the sudden terror of this encounter.

The Laboratories are full of research equipment, beakers, lab-coats, vials, and some small cages with bones in them. The interior of the lab is pretty nondescript, but the three smaller rooms on the east side are where all the action is. They all require a yellow card to access.

Lab A has a single lab technician robot worker still busily plugging away at whatever last task it had. When the party enters, the robot will attempt to scan for a displayed yellow or higher card. Since the players were able to enter the room, they should be able to do that and help themselves to the lot. 2 poison antidote, 2 cure disease, and a healing spray canister with 3 charges. Fail to produce the card, or try to disrupt the robot’s research, and it’ll call the guards, bringing up to 3 police robots within 4 rounds. So don’t do that.

Lab B is a marvelous trap, but one that I’m really curious if anyone who’s played/run this has seen it tripped. This was the hydroponic culture lab. While most everything is dead, there are some spores of russet mold still lingering about. If the adventurers enter the room before “any use of a computer console”, then all they see in here some faint rust on the walls. The russet mold is pretty nasty stuff, so if anybody gets within 3’ of it, they have to save v. poison, or become a mold culture medium. Dead in 2-5 turns unless you get a cure disease. Even if you save, you still take 5-20 damage. But that’s not all. Anybody who dies from the disease immediately sprout mold where the spores made contact on their bodies. Let the mold grow for an hour and they can’t be raised anymore. It spreads to cover the entire body, and 20-24 hours later, a vegepygmy will emerge with no memory of their previous life. So, pretty gross, but manageable.

If a computer console has been used, then a malfunction in the software sends a signal to the hydroponics bay to pump nutrients into the room. Thus, the room gets stuffed with russet mold. When someone opens the door, the mold explodes out over 100 square feet. Looking at the size of these corridors, and guessing a party size of 15, I don’t see it as unreasonable the mold could hit almost everyone. And of course, with so many saving v. poison, someone is gonna fail. The only problem is the computer console than triggers this trap is locked behind a much higher card key, so I’m betting players would make it here first and have no reason to come back later (especially since there’s no indication anything changes in the lab when the glitch occurs).

Lab C is full of chemicals. There are 6 different types of containers, with 20 containers each. Only a few of them have uses, so this would require a lot of experimenting and patience (a rare quality in adventuring) to determine all of these. Some do damage, one poisons, etc. The first interesting one to me is the 1st large ceramic bottle, which holds a plant growth potion with 20 charges. If there are any vegepygmies within 30’, the odor of this will drive them into a frenzy. The 2nd large ceramic container is a specially lined container for an acid powerful enough to eat through deck metal and dissolve a 10’ diameter section of the floor in 1 turn. It does damage over three rounds when weaponized. Eh, damage can be done multiple ways. This is an instant ticket to the next level (but best to hold onto it for now).

Moving on from the labs, we come to the Library. Here’s a chance for the players to get some real clues about where they are and what this place is. The place is in good shape since there’s nothing here for the vegepygmies to loot. There are a bunch of microfilm viewers lined up, four of which work. If someone flips a working microfilm viewer on and looks through, they’ll see either unintelligible writing and diagrams, or pictures of space, stars, galaxies, as well as other alien lifeforms (sir not appearing in this film). This repeats for 2 turns, and at THAT point, there is a 1/6 chance the viewer will begin showing schematics of the first, third and fifth level of the dungeon. “All of the viewers operate at a fast rate, so when these appear describe the scene as a circular form with many lines, marks, and colors upon it. Allow 6 questions and about one minute of explanation per level.” Interesting. There’s a chance the viewer will break after each level, and will immediately break after level V. Hope you took good notes. The viewer isn’t the only thing of note in the library though. There’s a grey card(!) well hidden underneath a sealed cabinet which is itself concealed by a uniformed skeleton. It does mention the uniform is fairly beribboned, which should clue a sharp adventurer in that this may have been someone high ranking. It says only if the cabinet is examined, or the 10’ around the skeleton “minutely” searched is the card discovered. Can we open the sealed cabinet? What’s inside? :itisamystery: Anyway, I’m guessing this is the grey card most parties discover since it doesn’t require anything to get to. It also gives you the clue that grey is a high-ranking color.

The Police HQ is, unsurprisingly, where we get tossed in the clink. It’s also the first full color illustration! 1-3 police robots greet the adventurers upon entry, inquiring about the nature of the visit. It takes 1 turn for the robots to translate the characters language, and unless they display a red, grey or orange card, they will be arrested and detained. They use non-lethal methods unless they are attacked. If arrested, the players are thrown into the cells and left to starve to death. The cells use force screens so magic is right out, but someone can hit the lock with cold, fire or electrical damage for a chance to make it malfunction. The adventure does note the robots don’t remove any of the players equipment unless it’s something the robots recognize (laser pistol, blaster, etc). There’s a chest in the cellblock that has some sleep grenades, gas masks and a couple of needler pistols. If the party destroys or disables a police robot here, they have a chance of getting a red card by prying it out of the robots chest, but also risk destroying it.

The south room of the police HQ can onlybe opened by a red colored card. The grisly scene is reproduced above. The skeleton is barren, but there is that strange thing on his desk. Before we get to that though, there is the storage locker to the left. 1/6 chance of being pryed open by magical items, otherwise it’s locked. Inside is some jewelry, a blaster pistol with a full charge, and a suit of power armor But it's trapped; this particular power suit is malfunctioning, so roll a d4. 1, your suit is normal – for 10 rounds. Then it freezes up and you get to roll again. 2, the suit does 3d6 damage to the wearer and forces the person to leave the suit as it becomes engulfed in flames. 3, and the suit moves randomly. Roll a d10 to see what you do. 4, the suit floods itself with poison gas, save or die. If the suit is removed, the gas spreads and fills a 20’ radius. Everyone in the area gets to save or die. I love this last bit here: “If a small green canister is taken from the locker wall, pointed at the suit, and a tab pulled, it will cover the suit with a foam which will instantly neutralize the gas.” Unless liberal DM guidance was involved I can’t see how anyone would ever figure to do that. Anyway, this suit is a really genius trap. If this is the first suit of power armor the party finds, they’re definitely going to have someone put it on and try it out. If this isn’t, they will most definitely have someone put it on. It would probably be more effective on a group that hasn’t found a suit yet since they wouldn’t know this isn’t normal malfunctioning, but still. I like it.

The device on the desk is another opportunity for the adventurers to get some a clue or two about this place. If the characters gently caress around with this item for a bit, they’ll probably figure out it’s a viewscreen for different areas in the dungeon, but only when the slider on the bottom is on positions 11-16 (out of 57 possible positions). The three dials change rooms, but the room key is long since gone. It doesn’t specify for the DM how to choose the rooms the viewfinder sees, so I would just give them glimpses of interesting areas or hint at upcoming events. 1% chance per round (cumulative) the viewer breaks.

The small arms locker is next, locked by a grey card. This place is a bonanza for the players, mostly for the stash of power discs (20 of them). It also has bevy of weapons, most notably a blaster rifle and 20 of each type of grenade. Included is a fully functional suit of armor in a locked storage cabinet.

The Stores area is full of crates and boxes of garbage. There are sufficient food stores to equal 100 iron rations, so no more worrying about food I guess. There are 14 healing spray canisters, but only 1 in 6 will function and not even at full capacity. The most interesting find is the repair robot remote control. By pressing a black button, a robot repair worker will arrive in 1-4 turns. Once the worker robot arrives, the holder of the box can give the robot commands by holding the black button and speaking into the receiver. The language has to be one the robot comprehends however, and worker robots are not installed with language translation software. 2% cumulative chance per turn of use that the power begins to drain slowly – 1-10 rounds later it goes dead. Uses ½ charge/turn.

The room in the very center of the first level requires a grey card to enter. “In the center of the room is what appears to be an altar. It is supported by a single metal column and 2 arms are bent towards the door. The wall opposite the door is made entirely of glass, although this is too dark to see through.” When the players approach the altar, they see:

“In the center of the altar are 6 fist-sized circular windows, 3 coin-sized holes below them, and a single metal box under these. To the left of these are 10 small blocks set in grooves, and to the right are 2 rows of rivets. The wings or the altar are decorated with panels of small glass squares set in rows.” If the players hit that single metal box, the darkened wall will light up and a strange metal voice will begin speaking out of thin air, all in unintelligible garble. If the players can translate with magic, the voice will be explaining where they screen is showing them and what the status is of the area. The rest of the console is an elaborate trap. First, touch any of the buttons, levers, whatever on the main console and 2 things will happen: first, the mold culture in lab b (remember that?) will get some delicious nutrients. Second, the DM rolls a D12. The results vary from a fire, to the viewscreen malfunctioning, to calling police robots to the area. If a 7 is rolled: “unlock doors: security alert cancelled; pink and amber lights go out.” Why is that important to find? Because if a 12 is rolled though, it’s “Full alert. All doors and sphincters shut and locked tight; red lights flash, alarm sounds at 10 second intervals; sleep gas will be pumped into the central complex of rooms in 1 round; 4 police robots and 2 worker robots will enter the computer room in 2-8 rounds; only a gray card slipped into the slot in the console and the action noted at 7 will cancel the alert.” Ouch. Finally, any destruction of the console will be as if the DM rolled a 12 as above. The robots will try and kill all intruders not displaying a red or grey card inside the room.

And that’s it for the first level of Barrier Peaks! Whew, that was a monster. There’s so much stuff crammed into the first level, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s been very few parties that have fully cleared the first level (given my experience in RPG’s, that is). You can’t move in any direction without something interesting happening and pulling you deeper into the dungeon. That said, I’ll be glad for a much shorter and easier level next time.

NEXT TIME: Taking a breather 'tween decks

Mar 14, 2007

My postillion has been struck by lightning.


There’s also a 50% chance that the food will be poison (what the poison will do is not elaborated upon).

AD&D poison defaulted to save-or-die unless otherwise specified, so probably that. B/X D&D was generous enough to let you revive the poisoned character with neutralize poison if cast within 10 rounds of it taking effect, but no such luck in AD&D (although enough groups played a weird mishmash of Basic and AD&D that it would have been a common houserule).

Thuryl fucked around with this message at 00:14 on Mar 17, 2018

Dec 22, 2007


Lucas Archer posted:

Lab B is a marvelous trap, but one that I’m really curious if anyone who’s played/run this has seen it tripped.

Sadly, no. When we ran this, we opened Lab B early (since, well, it's there) so we got the room with a minor russet mold infestation, and weren't caught by the trap. Then we never went back there.

The other thing is that by this point we'd seen vegepygmies already, so we knew russet mold was going to be around. This isn't something that would have come up in an original Barrier Peaks expedition since this is where vegepygmies were introduced, but they've been in every version of D&D since, so we knew about the link already and were on the lookout for russet mold.

It probably would have caught us if the mold had been in sample jars and not out in the open. We were paranoid about the doors closing behind us in such a way that we couldn't open them, since they weren't normal doors. We couldn't break them down, so we were opening them the normal way and then spiking the tracks so they couldn't slide shut. We didn't spike Lab B open because of the russet mold on the walls, but we probably would have from the east if it was a safe entrance into the labs area.

Dec 17, 2013

Wait a minute...

Mors Rattus posted:

Centaurs ...Most of his experiments died, and most of the ones that didn't couldn't breed. The most common of those that can tend to be centaurs engineered around heavy motorbikes, though they tend to die young due to a combination of their immense speed and having no protection from falls at all...Mechanical centaurs tend to operate on the scale of vehicles when their bottom half is a car or truck, but motorbike centaurs can often use the same statblock with extra armor and rapid movement abilities.

This, this is good.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Scion: Hero
I Told You That Story So I Could Tell You This One

Welcome to Hero. Now, we get full writeups of our ten core pantheons. While all the Origin suggested media are still valid, they give us some new ones: Vikings by Michael Hirst, Mage: The Hero Discovered/Defined/Denied by Watt Wagner, and Lucifer by Mike Carey. (With the note that Lucifer often dives into Demigod power level much of the time.) We jump right into this book: 'Once upon a time' is now, and Heroes are the start of their story. See, the problem with humans shaping the gods is that humans are entirely unsatisfied with a simple answer. They want to know how and why, and that's why most pantheons are just one god - it is very tiring to be everything to everyone. That's not to say that it doesn't work for some - the Dacians had Zalmoxis, God of Sacrifice and the Dacians, and he did pretty well. However, most of the time, gods band together to form a pantheon in order to divide up the labor.

All myths are true, see, and if a group of people begin to believe their gods made the World, then...they did, because those were Deeds, and from Deeds, faith grows. Even if the gods are very recent, once it has become part of who they are to have created a thing...well, they did. They always have. Gods get to exist outside of space and time. It's a perk. That's why, if a god has followers that say he watches the flight of every sparrow, he probably has at some point - and then it becomes extrapolated through history, and into the future, because Legend. Which can be quite boring, if you're not into that, so the gods share the load with their pantheon. Once a pantheon exists, it orders the World around itself as a cosmology. Stories are told, and the gods' homes take form around those. They reorder the Terra Incognitae around themselves, making Underworld and OVerworld. Not, mind you, that the gods exactly create those things. It's not always a conscious thing. Rather, the Incognitae alter themselves to suit the pantheon's needs.

Not all Terra Incognitae are separate, however. Many gods make their homes in the shadows and cracks of the world - in a tree, a hearth, a statue. If a god lives there, it's a Terra Incognita. However, gods bring conflict with them. Every story needs conflict, and so the gods cause their own drama. They can't help but get entangled with mortals, cultural rules and each other. The biggest conflicts, though, come from the interaction of the gods and the Titans. Titans and titanspawn are inextricably bound up in divine stories, but their role isn't always defined so clearly. It'd be easy to say they're all villains - but they aren't. It's not that simple. Both Titan and god are elemental expressions of the World, after all. And if the Titans are all bad, then the gods are all good, and that is very much not the case.

Prometheus, you understand, was not overcome by compassion for humanity when he saw the fires of creation. Rather, Prometheus is Creativity. It is what he is. And he saw a chance to spark an endless age of creative furor - and so, he had no choice. He stole fire. His action spawned as many terrors as wonders, and Prometheus finds both equally wonderful. He doesn't care what - he just loves that new things are being made. He doesn't even want it - it's just a fact. Likewise, while Ravana very much wants to destroy the Deva, that isn't from whim or malice. Rather, it is because it is his nature to better himself via destructive ambition. He knows, from his deep understanding of the Vedas and the shastras, that he can only advance by submission to reincarnation and learning. He can't do it - his nature prevents him. His role is to lead the rakshasas in endless war, and without that, the entire cycle would lose its balance. So he is perpetually himself. He can't be reformed, because he is defined by his role - not any inherent evil, just his place in the universe. That's just how Titans work. They can't defy their nature, and so they come into conflict with the gods. Titans might be jealous of the gods' ability to change, of their human connections, of their capacity for understanding and mercy. Titans couldn't do all that even if they wanted to. However, ultimately, they are counterparts and kin of the gods, and worship, hatred or reformation as the correct view on them is just, you know, opinion.

Titanspwan are both children and castoffs of the Titans - not both at once, but rather they come in many forms. Some are born of actual Titanic sex, others are just...made from the World. They are all over the place, in and out of the World. They are not inherently evil, generally - just different in ways often incompatible with mortals. The wendigo, for instance, usually live in the winter wilderness of various North American Terra Incognitae. When the cold iwnds blow, however, they can step through and raid mortal lands for food. They are gluttonous, hateful creatures that seek to destroy...but that's not the reason they can't coexist. Rather, they can't coexist because they live entirely on the meat of humans. They can't mitigate that desire - they will eat humans until they die, and if not for the work of the Manitou and particularly Nana'b'oozoo, they would feast upon the world. Other, more intelligent titanspawn have learned to coexist. The Tengu once loved spreading fear among mortals, but soon learned that mortals were more than capable of chasing them off, sometimes fatally. So now, they mostly live in isolated communities in the mountains and rivers of Japan, avoiding humans. Occasionally, they meet a human, but since they don't want to eat or terrify them much any more, most Tengu will just retreat to their nests...until someone interferes with their young, and they remind us why they were once called demons.

Most sentient creatures of Legend just...aren't that different from mortal humans. If they don't have some innate hatred of or hunger for humans, they usually just want to survive. Thus, it's not that uncommon for them to form communities. In Tir na nOg, you might find a faerie circle where the Tylweth Teg gather to dance and create. Most of their work involves getting food and throwing parties, and they have no real ill will towards anyone...though their nature means they try to trick mortals into magical bargains, and because they can't reproduce naturally, they also try to steal or bargain for children they can transform into young fae. In Japanese forests, you can find many small cillages of Kitsune, guarded from outsiders. They are often shy, but some open their doors to lost or needy humans, though they rarely let these visitors leave for fear of exposure. The were-jaguars in the Central American jungles are expert hunters, and rarely does anyone see their small but elaborate villages, where they raise their children communally and use as headquarters for pack-based hunts.

Sometimes, these communities aren't good for humans. The Fomorians have an army of warriors to battle the Tuatha eternally, and under Balor's leadership, they can cause nedless death and destruction. Even if death isn't that permanent for gods, it's still annoying enough to make the war continue - and when gods and Titans fight, it's titanspawn and Scions that are hurt. Not that all legendary creatures come from gods or Titans. Hardly that. Sometimes, things just...happen, thanks to Fate or human belief or who knows what. Griffons and kodama and hippocamps just happen. No one makes them. It's not always easy to tell such creatures from titanspawn, and even they may not know their origins. Often, it is the stories mortals tell about them that solidifies their nature - if only because they choose to become what they're seen as. Because Titan and god are somewhat arbitrary labels, some say all Scions of certain pantheons are titanspawn. If you run into a Scion from a pantheon that doesn't think much of yours, you may well get treated as a monster - just one more reason to think a bit about where you draw the line.

As we know, Scions come in four broad types. Most Scions are Born Scions - the product of a tryst between a god and something else. This is not always consensual - too often, the gods lie, shapeshift, manipulate or coerce. All of that's terrible...but too often, the gods are just beyond reproach. Generally, born Scions are orphaned by their divine parent, left to be raised by their human parent. They excel, growing up in a world that sees them as different. Even before they know their heritage, they take on heroic challenges head-on. Some have a sense of privilege in their birthright, while others believe it is their Deeds that set them apart. Some hope to become true gods, but many are quite happy just remaining human and simply knowing who and what they are. Hanuman of the Deva began life as a Scion, the son of the god Vayu, though unlike most Scions, his nature was known from the start. He grew arrogant and mischevious, and he ended up cursed to be unable to remember his immense power unless reminded of it by others. Little Hare of the Manitou was also a Born Scion, the son of Earth-maker. He was raised by his grandmother, the Earth, and cared for by nature itself. He was quite reckless, and has died many times, only to be brought back by his grandmother. Mostly, he exists to be a lesson to humans to think, rather than just rushing in. Xolotl of the Teotl is one, too, the twin brother of Quetzalcoatl and son of Coatlicue. His brother was the light, and he was the dark, the night and death. His fame comes from his first trip to the Underworld, where he tricked the ruler into letting him bring the remnants of a lost civilization home, where Quetzalcoatl brought them back to life, thus reviving humanity. He appears canine due to his time in the Underworld, where dog spirits escort the souls of the dead.

Created Scions are vgranted power and human form from...stuff. Wind, clouds, dogs, bugs. Many are made for the express purpose of being a minion of the god, often guarding books or serving as a muse for favored worshippers. A special few get more feedom. Their lives are not easy - the instincts of their old animal self show through, or their emotions and thoughts are strange and naive due to their origin in nonliving things. Many seek not to integrate, but to become at least Demigods, to avoid having to be human. Galatea of the Theoi is a Created Scion, granted life by Galatea in honor of Pygmalion's love. She outlived the sculptor, and wandered the world in search of love for centuries after. Mafdet of the Netjer was a cat beloved by a pharaoh, and Bast honored her affection by giving her human form. She became a hunter of snakes, scorpions and criminals, becoming a god of justice - and a god of execution, for she always brought her catch to her master to display. As she grew older, she became guardian of burial sites, protecting her fallen masters. Ukemochi no Kami of...the Kami...was spontaneously gnerated by a mix of feasting and divine magic, and became known as the Young Woman with Food. She could make food with a snap of her fingers. It is said that she met with the gods to prove her worthiness, but because she vomited up the best rice ever for Tsukiyomi, she was seen as disrespectful and was killed. Amaterasu grew angry at her brother, Tsukiyomi the moon god, and vowed to never see him face to face again, which is why moon and sun are never in the sky together. After her death, Ukemochi's body became a feast for the land.

Chosen Scions are gifted by the gods, but have no blood relation. Often, they do have a potent bloodline, forged by generations of worship or royal pedigree, or a potent tie to ate that aligns with a god's Legend. Chosen Scions owe the gods - and they know it. They have been given favor, and some serve willingly for it, while others are resentful. They are never without a constant reminder that they owe the gods, whether branded phyiscally or just knowing their power is never truly their own. Macha of the Tuatha, one of the three-in-one Morrigan, was once a mortal, a queen or princess of Ulster. She was chosen by her sister-selves to make a new aspect, died in IReland, and became part of the Morigan. She is closest of the trio, if not kindest, to mortals. Sigurd of the Aesir was born of a bloodline favored by Odin, but he was humble and rejected riches. He was respected by all other kings and the gods, and his stead Grani was son of Sleipnir. Thus, he slew the dragon Fafnir, and after decades, he eventually settled down and passed on his legacy to his children, knowing Odin would watch as they walked their paths. Wen Zhong of the Shen was advisor to King Da Yi until the king's untimely death and the beginning of the Shang dynasty. Zhong sought enlightenment, meeting the dragons of the North Sea, and eventually riding one home to quell a rebellion. The gods gave him a third eye, that he might see through lies, and when he came home to the new king, he saw bitterness and idiocy, leading a coup that put in place a more worthy and kinder king.

Incarnate Scions are the strangest. See, the gods often make mortal avatars, aspects of themselves that wander the land, reliving their myths and experiencing human life. These are the beings that sire Scions, generally. However, when a god's Mantle is sundered from their physical form or they are killed, any Incarnations they have left in the world are broken and cast asunder, becoming full Scions, awakening to their true identity but with neither patronage or power from their dead selves. Some of these Incarnates, more strangely, were never actually gods. Dead Heroes or Demigods have no full mantle to carry on, but in some pantheons, they may be reborn in new life, going through their stories much as any other Scion might. Inevitably, these Scions face a vicious trial, having to approach and remake the Deed that ended their life and sealed their fate...and this time, hope they can survive it. Of course, they do have a roadmap to reclaim their mantle - recreate the Deeds that forged it in the first place. This can be done by any Incarnation, though, and so they are often their own worst foes, as competing Incarnations seek godhead as well - and it's not just them. While Incarnations are driven to seek the mantle, any Hero of the dead god can try for it. Xiuhtecuhtli of the Teotl, the Turquoise Lord, is the personification of life after death, the light in darkness, forever growing old and then young again. EVery few centuries, he purposefully gives up immortality and divinity, becoming mortal and apotheosizing again. Dionysius of the Theoi was lured to his death with hcildhood toys, so Zeus destroyed the Titan responsible and used the ashes to remake his beloved son from humanity. Rhea, the Titanic mother of the god, guided the Scion Dionysius to reclaim his old mantle. Tammuz of the Sumerian Annua, god of food and plants, voluntarily killed himself to release Inanna from the Underworld. He'd previously been a minor god with several Incarnations, who then battled each other for supremacy until, at last, one reclamed the mantle and the other Incarnations.Since his ascension, he has become a solstice god and most remain in the Underworld for several months of the year.

Scions become Heroes when they reveive the Visitation. A god appears before them in full power, announcing their heritage. Monsters attack them, force htem to fight. The divine intrudes on their lives in more than mere signs and portents. Visitation is never an accident, though the gods don't always do it deliberately - ofr every time Ganesh meets one of his children and welcomes them, Baldr's kids might get hunted by sapient, angry mistletoe. It can never be ignored, though, and it brings a visceral, physical change. The blood boils off, refined into ichor, which beats with the sound of prayers. The breath becomes incense, the flesh is transfigured and made powerful. It is also a psychological awakening, and for many, the first meeting with their divine patron. The entire world is realigned before their eyes, as they become more than mortal. Often, the gods grant gifts during hte Vistitation - sometimes given freely, sometimes worn by force and cunning from titanspawn and demons. Visitations rarely happen before late adolescence these days, though it is still possible for it to be earlier.

Most Born Scions receive a literal visitation - the gods try to keep tabs on their kids. Usually, thy get handed some gifts and given a quest to prove their worthiness, though more fickle gods may just leave it to their children to find their own place. Chosen Scions generally must prove themselves worthy before Visitation. Sometimes their trials are sent by the gods themselves, while others just happen and impress the gods. If the chosen one survives, then generally they are given their divinity, though they rarely admit to testing on purpose these days - it goes over poorly with modern mortals. Still, once the gift of ichor is given, it can't be taken back, even if the Chosen are resentful. The Created typically receive Vistation quite early - usually, when they'rem ad.e They're made for a purpose, after all. Still, sometimes a god will make a Scion and then cast them out, bereft of memory or with false ones, as part of some shceme. More rarely, an automaton servant goes missing, but that's an outlier. Incarnate Scions generally get their Vistation via Fate. They rarely get it from outside soruces, but instead are drawn into repeating the myths of their former selves. While reenacting these stories, they come into possession of the Birthrights they once held, and their Vistiation is the instant in which they put together their living story with the vague memories of their former lives.

Next time: What do Heroes do, anyway?

Green Intern
Dec 29, 2008

Loon, Crazy and Laughable

hectorgrey posted:

Remember that the Chaotic Neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behaviour is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as walk across it.

Why do people forget this all the time?

Mar 14, 2007

My postillion has been struck by lightning.

Green Intern posted:

Why do people forget this all the time?

Well, that was a deliberate attempt to walk back an idea that had already been established in players' consciousness by previous editions. AD&D 2e's example of play on alignment involved the Chaotic Neutral character charging at a gorgon without any plan or backup and immediately getting killed.

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

Probably because they remember 2E's Chaotic Neutral as 'the alignment of madmen'.

Edit :gently caress my slow reading.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

hectorgrey posted:

There; rant over. The armour actually weighs reasonable amounts (except for the fact that studded leather was never a real time of armour, and padded linen is actually really effective at stopping cuts in melee and arrows from long range), and is roughly as effective as I would expect it to be. Hurting someone in full plate is difficult, and bearing in mind that a 12-13 in dexterity is actually pretty agile, full plate really isn't that cumbersome in game. The shields are far too heavy, bucklers are held by the boss rather than being strapped to the arm as described here (how would that even be useful?), and shields were basically never made entirely of metal, but they're no worse than the weapons.

Armour takes time to put on and to take off; light armour can be put on properly in a minute or quickly in half the time. Most armour takes roughly 4 minutes to put on properly (half that with help) or one minute to put on quickly. Half plate and full plate take four minutes to put on quickly or to put on properly with help; they cannot be put on properly without help. This is important, because sleeping in chainmail or heavy armour makes you really tired in the morning, giving a penalty to strength and dexterity and removing the ability to charge or run.

A rule that I never noticed before is that if you're carrying enough stuff to put you under a Medium load, you still take a -3 armor check penalty even if your worn armor isn't normally that high. And then if you're carrying a Heavy load, you still take a -6 armor check penalty.

And then for Swim checks, the armor check penalty is actually -1 for every 5 pounds of equipment that you're carrying, which can really become onerous even if you're trying to make a simple DC 10 Swim check to cross some still water.

Little bits of rules like these make me think about what a game of 3e might be like if you really did use all of them strictly - most of these would favor spellcasters, unless you also stress the adventuring day to the point where spell slots are at a high premium.

Aug 12, 2013

Chaotic Neutral means 'I don't want to actually engage with this lovely alignment system anymore than I have to' and thus it is the best alignment. It's so vague beyond the fact that you like doing whatever you want to do and you don't like people stopping you from doing that. You can fit most character concepts there really.

Rigged Death Trap
Feb 13, 2012


ZeroCount posted:

Chaotic Neutral means 'I don't want to actually engage with this lovely alignment system anymore than I have to' and thus it is the best alignment. It's so vague beyond the fact that you like doing whatever you want to do and you don't like people stopping you from doing that. You can fit most character concepts there really.

Or I want to be hella inconsistent as a character for no good reason

Its a double edged sword.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Rifts World Book 12: Psyscape, Part 10: "Sometimes the transmission is arguably more positive, like 'Hot Momma,' 'Hubbahubba,' 'Hot drat,' 'I told him,' 'Sure, wise guy,' and so on."

Gonna use art from the rest of the book, because this is a largely art-free section.

Mashing action figures against each other.

Psionic Technology
By Kevin Siembieda

So, first we have an online of the differences between Potential Psychic Energy (P.P.E.), used for magic, and Inner Strength Points (I.S.P.). See, I.S.P. is like oil and P.P.E. is like gasoline, wait, no, I.S.P. is like vinegar and P.P.E. is like wine, or maybe the other way around. Look, we just have some rambling here, but the point is: they're related. The thing is, magic is more flexible and can be imbued into objects and rituals, while psionics requires a person's body and mind. However, "Mind Over Matter" (M.O.M.) brain implants can be used to try and awaken or enhance powers. And because it's the same technology used to make Crazies, you know it'll be free of troublesome side effects... okay, I kid. It'll gently caress you up. And that's important. So important that we get two full pages of charts describing how it'll gently caress you up. But before we get to that, I'm going to skip ahead to the actual-

Psionic Implants & Devices

So, the foremost people experimenting with implants designed to spark psionic powers are the Coalition. Mind, the emphasis is on "experimenting" - they're decades out from anything practical due to the aforementioned serious side effects. However, a Dr. Jacob Leninstol tried to get the Coalition to start experimenting on non-citizens from the 'Burbs. When his fellow researchers and superiors balked, he fled the Coalition States to parts unknown. Ever since then, Psi-Implants have started to show up on the open market, with the Coalition putting a 10 million credit price on his head. His designs are now available in Kingsdale, though there are knockoffs elsewhere that are less reliable. Ultimately, they're still not widely available.

We have the Psi-Blocker Implant that protects against psionics but causes nosebleeds. There's the Psionic Inhibitor Implant designed cripple psychics by "pulses of electromagnetism" to disrupt psionic usage (somehow), and makes powers much harder to use and less reliable. The Psionic Booster Implant and Psionic Actuator Implant grant extra I.S.P. and powers. The Actuator gives more powers while the Booster gives greater effect. The Sensitive Implant or Physical Reactor Implant give extra Sensitive or Physical/Healing powers, respectively, and can empower a nonpsionic. The Eruptor Implant does much the same to the Nth degree, and can make you a half-assed Burster, Zapper, or grant a number of Super psionics.... or empower a nonpsionic, but with I.Q. loss.

Every implant but the Psi-Blocker or Psionic Inhibitor requires a roll on the Psi-Implant table. If you've got a crappy knockoff implant, you get a bonus roll, and if you're a nonpsionic being upgraded to a psionic, you get another bonus roll.

Psi-Implant Side Effect Table

There are 15 possible results here. Possible results include Brain Fire, where you randomly go have massive fits of pain when under stress (GM's call, whee) that cripple your skills and bonuses, but boosts your psionic powers. You might have Telepathic Outbursts where your thoughts get projected to everybody around you-

Rifts World Book 12: Psyscape posted:

Such transmissions are typically derogatory and contrary to the character's spoken words or actions, like: "Go to Hell," "Eat my shorts," "Kiss my ...," "Bastard!" "Pig," "Loser," "Coward," "Slimy punk," "Whatever," "Like I'd tell you," "Let's get it on punk," "Whatever you say," "I'd like to kick your..." and so on.

You could get up with a Supernatural Warning System where you get growing headaches the closer supernatural beings are (hope there's not one in your party). There's Uncontrolled Empathy where you absorb the emotions of those around you, giving us some good old Siembieda-penned overacting.

Rifts World Book 12: Psyscape posted:

For example, if afraid he might plead with his fellow adventurers, "This is crazy. We're gonna die if we keep going. Come on, let's get out of here. It's not worth it." Or something like, "Don't you feel it? We're being watched. Watched by something ... something terrible. Evil! I know it! We should turn back (or wait, or hide, or attack and kill, or whatever); and so on.

I shouldn't be surprised that he just goes off on a tear to describe how to roleplay being afraid, given we had the description of what emotions were like in the Psyscape section. I guess it's useful for robots trying to roleplay humans. Back to the table, Uncontrolled Medium draws spirits and entities toward the character. Astral Avenger is an occasional berserker rage where you project an astral berserker form that's immune to non-supernatural attacks and can use all your psionic powers while your body crumples over. And there's all sorts of more boring fuckery like Blurred Vision, Dull Headache, Inner Voices, etc.

And just in case you think you can get the implant removed if you get a bad side effect, good luck, because we have the Implant Removal Side Effects table. And if you think "Well, I have a good doctor!", gently caress your doctor, you have to roll anyway! You're looking at only a 10% chance of getting out without harm, otherwise you'll likely take damage to a mental attribute. Alternately, you could have one of those random personality changes Palladium loves so dearly, like becoming passive, aggressive, or gaining a bonus inferiority complex. Or maybe you just lose psychic powers permanently!


Psionic Devices & Techno-Wizard Machines
By Kevin Siembieda with suggestions from Julius Rosenstein and Patrick Nowak

The number of contributors definitely feels like it supports my notion that a lot of content was scrambled together to try and get this book out the door. Speaking of which, though, let's get this review out the door, since we're almost done. We have two types of items here: experimental Coalition psychic enhancement devices, and techno-wizard devices that interface with psionic energy.

So we get the CS Weapon Gauntlet, which lets you create a half-assed psi-sword or psi-shield, and shoot electrokinetic lightning. CS TK Artificial Limbs let telekinetics have teke-controlled bionic arms with average strength, though they grant a bonus attack because they act at the "speed of thought" (unlike normal arms that have that horrendous delay?). The CS Psi-Damper helmet gives bonuses against psionics, but a penalty on skills. Finally, the CS Psi-Scanner lets you detect psychics at a very close range (like a metal detector), but with an awful 50% success rate.

Techno-wizards can make a TW Psi-Blocker Helmet that gives immunity to mental attacks and some sensitive powers, but blocks any use of sensitive psionic powers by the user. The TW "Psi-Bloodhound" Psi-Tracker lets you detect psionics up to 400 feet at 74%, and is laughably better than its Coalition equivalent. There's the telekinetic / pyrokinetic-simulating Techno Wizard TK Pistol, Techno-Wizard TK Assault Rifle, and Techno-Wizard Flamethrower, all of which are horrendously overpriced for the trash damage they do. We have a Psychic Camera that lets you photograph the invisible, and telepaths can transcribe mental images onto film through it. Finally, we have a TW Thought Projectorthat lets you transform images from your mind into holograms and sound (more for presentations than deceptions).

Annnnd that's that. We get our usual XP tables, complete with a unusual variety of NPC-only classes that get XP tables for some reason, like the Lanotaur Hunter, Power Leech, or friggin' Lipoca. This is even though the latter is very, very clearly intended as an NPC.

You may foresee that the end has come now that we're at the end of the book. But I've got a bonus thought for you folks.

Next: Who riffs The Rifter?

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 11:41 on Mar 17, 2018

Dec 23, 2013

Lucas Archer posted:

10 and 11 are the lair of the northern tribe of vegepygmies. They’re colored gray and brown, so are 50% invisible when up against the ships walls. 5-8 shriekers sit on each 10 square, serving as an alarm to the vegepygmies congregated in the nearby rooms. The corridor through this section is covered in fungi. There are 4 vegepygmies per 10’ of room space – if I’m reading this correctly, the northern tribe of vegepygmies has 224 of the little fuckers stuffed in those compartments. That seems absolutely ridiculous to me, so somebody tell me if I’m off base there. 11a has the leader along with 5 “4HD sprouts”, carrying an orange card and violet card. If a fight breaks out between the party and the tribe, the leader may pull out one of his scrounged tech weapons – this depends on how close the fight is occurring. The closer the fight, the heavier and more deadly weapon the leader might grab. It starts with sleep gas grenades up to a blaster rifle with 2 charges. If the party gets into a fight here, they’ll most likely be fighting the whole tribe so… good luck? I guess? The grunts have HP from 5 to 31, and the boss has 38, so they don’t look tough individually, but just… 224 of them?

This sort of thing is a relic of old school AD&D where there was still a lot of conceptual cross-over between a table-top and a wargame. If you look at the first edition Monster Manual, a lot of the Number Appearing are huge.

Bearing in mind the suggested party composition at the back, you should have multiple wizards who can throw 1st ed 33,000 cubic feet fireballs (and i note one is also packing a wand of cold) and similar punches and the fighters shouldn't have much trouble carving up the tougher survivors.

Oct 14, 2011

gradenko_2000 posted:

Little bits of rules like these make me think about what a game of 3e might be like if you really did use all of them strictly - most of these would favor spellcasters, unless you also stress the adventuring day to the point where spell slots are at a high premium.

The main thing they'd do, in my honest opinion, is force the party to do some planning. It's like "OK, so you've found a load of loot - how are you planning to get it back up that cliff you had to climb down to get here?" Getting the loot out of a dungeon becomes part of the challenge of the dungeon itself. It also means that sometimes an armoured character might have to remove that armour in order to take certain routes through a dungeon. Swimming in calm water is pretty easy, but the fighter might have to do so without their armour - and the party may have to work out how they're going to get their gear through the water too. I actually kind of like that aspect of D&D.

At higher levels, well, there are magic items for bypassing pretty much all of those limits. Playing those rules strictly also requires that you keep a pretty good track of how much time is passing in game - most people aren't going to be able to go to sleep until they've been awake for a minimum of 12-16 hours. You have to be very careful about avoiding the 15 minute adventuring day.

Jan 29, 2009

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Mashing action figures against each other.

Is that person in the bottom left just hugging a corpse? Rifts art isn't the worst, it has a kind of 80's charm at times, but what is even going on here? It's like those 40k pics that want to show you the whole battle with titans rubbing against each other while infantry punch on.

Fear the focused totality of my pointy psychic banana.

Jul 15, 2017

Cassa posted:

Is that person in the bottom left just hugging a corpse? Rifts art isn't the worst, it has a kind of 80's charm at times, but what is even going on here? It's like those 40k pics that want to show you the whole battle with titans rubbing against each other while infantry punch on.

I think that he's supposed to be using the body or captive or whatever as cover against an off screen shooter.


Fear the focused totality of my pointy psychic banana.

You do have to admire her dedication to doing her squat lunges, though.

The Skeep
Sep 15, 2007

That Chicken sure loves to drum...sticks

I took a crack at making a model of that kitchen appliance in barrier peaks.

I guess they're meant to be counter-top vending machines?
The other thing described sounds like a scaled up version, with the buttons replaced with a intercom since its for larger items.

Oct 14, 2011

The Skeep posted:

I took a crack at making a model of that kitchen appliance in barrier peaks.

I guess they're meant to be counter-top vending machines?
The other thing described sounds like a scaled up version, with the buttons replaced with a intercom since its for larger items.

Microwave maybe? Or like the counter top cookers you can get for if you don't actually have a kitchen?

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

My impression was of an automat.

Feb 13, 2012

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

Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Dark Heresy: Part 12

Everyone expects the no-one expects the Inquisition joke

So, as a quick aside before we get to the Inquisition itself, there are two major faiths in the Imperium, both of which try to pretend the other is the same major faith. There is the Ministorum of the Emperor, which worships the Emperor and reminds everyone he is the only real God and should be worshiped as a God. They aren't especially picky about the particulars, because in a weird sop to practicality they understand that syncretism and co-opting local religious traditions are some of the most effective tools a missionary has. The Emperor is worshiped in many, many different ways and the Ministorum mostly cares that you continue to pay your tithes, keep their priests very wealthy, and do what you're told. The Adeptus Mechanicus, on the other hand, worship the Machine God. They believe most technology is holy, especially technology from the pre-Imperial Dark Age of Technology, which supposedly gave mankind a post-scarcity paradise. They spend ages in search of any remnant of this technology and have used the calcified, mystic approach to science as a way to ensure they monopolize production and complex machine operations in the Imperium. This means that even though they worship a very different god (though they'll say the Omnissiah of technology is obviously the Emperor if really pressed, to avoid civil war) no-one can afford to move against them. Without the Tech Priests of Mars, the Imperium couldn't build warships, jump drives, or giant mostly-useless-wasteful-ugly-battlemechs, er, God Machine Titans. An oddity of the Tech Priests is, they know the fall of the Dark Age was partly caused by true AI, and so while they love anything with a 'helper spirit', they abhor any true machine intelligence as Abominable Intelligence and consider it something that must be destroyed.

And now, the Inquisition. There's a lot in the book on the Inquisition's organization, but it really comes down to 'there isn't one'. There are few formal ranks once you hit Inquisitor and almost everything is done on a basis of personal preference, local tradition, and how much you can get away with. Every Inquisitor has theoretically unlimited authority, being able to declare individuals, organizations, or planets Excommunicatus Traitorus, effectively saying they are no longer human and thus should be on the receiving end of the Imperium's 'exterminate all non-humans' policy. They are also theoretically able to compel any Imperial adept, servant, or officer to assist them in an emergency. In practice, most can and do get away with a great deal, but the Inquisitorial Rosette has its limits. Space Marines have strong enough plot armor to get to tell them to gently caress off most of the time. A sufficiently powerful noble, general, or admiral can do the same. Other Inquisitors might get involved if one of their number is going a little too obviously crazy (most Inquisitors are crazy). Your Acolytes will be working for someone of theoretically unlimited authority from an organization that is known for its brutality, excess, and tendency to spend a lot of its time fighting itself.

Speaking of Acolytes, while your PCs start out as minor agents, being an Acolyte means they have actually met and spoken to their master. They know they serve the Inquisition and are not employed by some cover agency or front. They have been specifically chosen because of their master's whims or personal preferences and they are at the beginning point of being considered to be Inquisitors, themselves. One of the other little secrets of the Inquisition that should be obvious is that most of its work is done by cover organizations, unaware informants, and Acolytes. The big chap in power armor covered in big stylized I logos? Not actually as important as the dozens of teams of 3-5 weirdos staking out cafes and infiltrating cult meetings.

Inquisitors tend to organize themselves into Ordos and Conclaves because when you have unlimited authority matched only by someone else of Inquisitorial rank, you tend to form blocs that can promote one another's interests among your galaxy-spanning secret police organization. There are three Great Ordos that tell you what an Inquisitor prefers to focus on, and then endless local Conclaves and organizations.

The Ordo Hereticus are the internal security force of the Imperium of Man. They handle gathering up psykers for the Black Ships, to be shipped off to be tested and sanctioned (or fed to the Emperor, he's kept on life support by murdering thousands of psykers who didn't make the cut every day, because GRIM) after proper torturing (because again GRIM). They also handle cults, rebellions, and all sorts of other internal affairs. Their Chamber Militant is the famous Sisters of Battle. The Sisters are human, but they're trained to the level of human special forces and about as well equipped as Space Marines, and they're much more numerous, making them the perfect armored boot for the Imperium's state-sec organization.

The Ordo Xenos handle aliens, as you might guess from the Psuedolatin. They investigate alien diseases and infestations, they advise Imperial forces fighting major alien empires, and they organize the pogroms and genocide campaigns that exterminate aliens who can't give the Imperium trouble. Yeah, if you come in peace and don't have an interstellar empire of your own, the Imperium just casually exterminates your species. This is why you don't hear much about minor sentient aliens in the setting; the Imperium's fondest hobby is genocide. Really, the main way to stop this is to be psychic space monkeys who can build a ring-sized lascannon or to have a massive empire that can kill Imperials by the billion.

The Ordo Malleus fights demons. They also enforce the bans on demonic knowledge. They are the Hard Mode Ordo for the RPG, because Demons are bastards between their fear ratings, Demonic aura, and other powers. The Malleus has a lot of problems with Radicals, Inquisitors who believe you can use occult knowledge and warp power against the warp. It also has a lot of problems with Inquisitors tending to think they're the overman, and so they tend to be surprisingly vulnerable to thinking 'well obviously I'LL be able to survive a dark pact with Vukhadulak the Destroyer of Minds, my mind is as sharp as a power sword, this will be easy- OH NO HE'S DESTROYING MY MIND THE HUBRIS!'

Conclaves are usually a sectorial organization, such as the Calixian Conclave for the RPG. They have a lot of silly local traditions, like waving around a golden chalice half full of clear liquid and then arguing about if it's the chalice of knowledge or corruption when in fact the question should be 'half full or half empty'. Conclaves can also appoint Cabals of Inquisitors sent to investigate specific, overarching problems. For the RPG, this is the Tyrantine Cabal, commissioned to investigate the dread TYRANT STAR, which, uh, will not be detailed much further. It's played up as the big sectorial threat, a weird stellar phenomena that occasionally appears and makes everyone on a planet go crazy for awhile, then vanishes, but there's never anything given to hint at ways to fight it or even potential origins. We never played with the Scarystar much because there's nothing to play with, which is why I haven't bothered mentioning it much. What I've said is about as much as you'll get.

Inquisitors can broadly be placed in two factions: Puritans and Radicals. Puritans believe you should shoot anything that looks funny and always keep a hand on your sacred flamethrower. Radicals believe that rules are for the underman, not the overman like them. Both tend to be idiots, but the Radicals have a pretty cool add-on book and one of the Radical positions is 'The Imperium doesn't work, we need to acknowledge this, and look at possible reforms' which, to the people of the setting, is up there with 'Well what if I possessed myself with a demon for infinite power, I can totally get away with this' in terms of crazy. This should tell you a lot about the Inquisition and Imperium. Which faction, and which faction within a faction, your Inquisitor belongs to is something you probably won't start out knowing and something you want to learn as fast as possible. If your Inquisitor is an Istvannian (we'll get to the subfactions when we get to the Example Inquisitors, because there's basically one of each) you really want to know because those people believe that war, disaster, and shooting yourself in the foot make you stronger and this is a sign you work for an even worse lunatic than normal.

There's another section detailing how Acolytes handle most of the gruntwork and that an Acolyte who moves up in the ranks may be considered a possible Inquisitor, but we've already been over that. Acolytes also do have the right to ask their master for favors, resources, briefings, and other things. Their master has the right to refuse. Most Inquisitors are more likely to listen if you make your request amusing or can explain why you can't get what you're asking for any other way, or if you've done a good job so far. Acolytes are also offered extraordinary rites of indulgence and forgiveness in the Emperor's eyes for sins committed in the completion of their duties, which to a highly religious society is a pretty good reward. They also get paid, may be permitted to do shakedowns and take kickbacks, and have a chance of moving up to become one of the nearly-unlimited legal-authority spy-tyrant Inquisitors themselves; it's not hard to see why someone offered the chance tends to take the Acolyte's life. Also, Inquisitors don't, as a whole, like the word 'no' very much. Also, if you die, they write your name down in skull-paste and gold glitter and eventually send it to be whispered to the Emperor. That's got to be a good fringe benefit, right?

So, yeah. You're working as footsoldiers for an insane organization that is chaotic in nature and spends most of its time shooting at itself and glaring at others in paranoia. Good luck, noble Acolytes!

Next Time: Calixis is mostly boring space victoriana, there, I spoiled it.

Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion

Machine Spirits are one of those deliberately vague, constantly flip-flopping aspects of 40K. Does advanced technology have minor AI programming? Is it leftover scraps of code from before humanity's collapse? Has humanity's veneration of things they no longer understand actually created benevolent electrical spirits, or is it all just maintenance? Who knows.

Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case

the Tyrant Star figures heavily into the Haarlock Legacy published adventure series but it’s not much less vague in there

Feb 13, 2012

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

wiegieman posted:

Machine Spirits are one of those deliberately vague, constantly flip-flopping aspects of 40K. Does advanced technology have minor AI programming? Is it leftover scraps of code from before humanity's collapse? Has humanity's veneration of things they no longer understand actually created benevolent electrical spirits, or is it all just maintenance? Who knows.

This kind of stuff is fine, for the most part. We tended to play the Mechanicus as more benevolent (because we tended to play everything more in the mould of Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphus Cain novels where everything is a little less maximum screaming and endless suffering all the goddamn time) with a focus on the idea that they know things were better once, they know things got way worse, and they don't actually know how either of those things happened and so are desperately trying to put things back together while knowing there are all kinds of landmines in the stuff they're working with, landmines that destroyed a much more stable and prosperous civilization than the one they live in now. Always played up that they don't *really* know what the Iron Men were or how everything fell apart.

E: To tie to the overall thrust of the review, there was a certain point where my group realized our Mechanicus was, in fact, pretty much entirely OUR Mechanicus and wasn't using much of the 40k material anymore and that was around the point we decided to stop playing in 40k.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 18:01 on Mar 17, 2018


Lucas Archer
Dec 1, 2007

Prism posted:

Sadly, no. When we ran this, we opened Lab B early (since, well, it's there) so we got the room with a minor russet mold infestation, and weren't caught by the trap. Then we never went back there.

The other thing is that by this point we'd seen vegepygmies already, so we knew russet mold was going to be around. This isn't something that would have come up in an original Barrier Peaks expedition since this is where vegepygmies were introduced, but they've been in every version of D&D since, so we knew about the link already and were on the lookout for russet mold.

It probably would have caught us if the mold had been in sample jars and not out in the open. We were paranoid about the doors closing behind us in such a way that we couldn't open them, since they weren't normal doors. We couldn't break them down, so we were opening them the normal way and then spiking the tracks so they couldn't slide shut. We didn't spike Lab B open because of the russet mold on the walls, but we probably would have from the east if it was a safe entrance into the labs area.
I figured as much. Since the computer console requires a gray card, I can't imagine anyone making it there first. I didn't know this was the adventure that introduced vegepygmies/russet mold. That makes this trap a bit deadlier, I think.

The Skeep posted:

I took a crack at making a model of that kitchen appliance in barrier peaks.

I guess they're meant to be counter-top vending machines?
The other thing described sounds like a scaled up version, with the buttons replaced with a intercom since its for larger items.
That looks really accurate. If I saw that picture I think I'd just assume microwaves of some kind.

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