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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Barudak posted:

The adventure for Path of Sorcery sounds suitably fun to play and the lack of Chaos direct involvement really helps.

It's definitely tuned for a specific type of party, but they provide that exact type of party as the pre-made for it, so that's fine. And comedic bumbling as you try to Rincewind your way to victory/not dying is definitely one tone you can do with WHFRP, especially the wizards.

E: Extra fun: The vampire's motive for being there is that he's trying to both promote Sylvanian wine (which is actually pretty good but scares people) and he wants a new method of killing other vampires because any of his family members who've made it a century have seen all the conventional ways. He wants something they won't be expecting, and combustion-wine slipped into their evening peasant seems like something they won't expect. Logical enough, but when they get into how the wine works it legitimately wouldn't work on a vampire, since anyone who can use magic naturally can 'bleed off' the excess power without exploding. He was totally going to get snookered as it is and neither he nor the seller understand the 'weapon' well enough to see it.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 22:24 on Jul 18, 2018

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ChaseSP
Mar 25, 2013



Vampires overestimating their intelligence is the best no matter the media.

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



Albrecht Swearmonger. :v:

Okay, I think I'll run this adventure for my buddies.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Wapole Languray posted:


As important as the Shock Gauge and Abilities are, they aren’t very sexy or exciting. Those are the mechanical foundation, the floor-joists of the game. Everything builds on them but they’re not the sexy exciting bits. Relationships are the first one that starts putting things together and showing just how freaking amazing Unknown Armies is, and how disappointing it is that this game has basically gone under the radar of the RPG community as a whole.

Going to have to disagree with you about the shock gauges. Those are sexy as hell.

I'm fairly familiar with 2e UA (having done the F&F for it), and I was kind of tepid on what I heard about 3e, especially because the adept styles I heard of in 3e were nowhere near as interesting to me as the 2e classics.

But those gauges are drat sexy. That's exactly the kind of mechanical structure the original UA system was missing in its sanity gauges, especially the way getting Hardened affects your character. This is spot-on the right sort of mechanical evolution the system needed. I can't speak to the stuff that comes later in the book but if nothing else this is a great start.

It's conceptually solid, it's evocative and it matches mechanics to the fluff in a wonderful way. That's some sharp game design just on that first page of gauges alone.

As far as the "trigger warning" entry a few pages back, as a fan of horror it definitely rang true to me and my attitude towards horror, without getting too preachy or melodramatic. I'm a defender of the "two men in a room with a knife" intro to the combat chapter in 2e, but I understand why it rubs some people the wrong way and I think this was probably a better way to get across the same basic ideas without being a "here's how you play a game...you monsters" speech.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



I mean more to write about. It's like explaining the basic mechanics of any system: Until you get to the cool bits that USE them it's hard to make it interesting, for me at least.

And the adept schools are amazing, they didn't reprint the old ones because you can still use them in this edition, conversion is pretty easy. The new ones are rad as hell in my opinion, and the entire setting is just way cooler and more bizarre and fascinating that in 2e.

Wrestlepig
Feb 25, 2011

my mum says im cool



Toilet Rascal

the shock gauges are elegant ways to tie together the character and system, although percentiles are always very utilitarian and functional.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





Wapole Languray posted:

I mean more to write about. It's like explaining the basic mechanics of any system: Until you get to the cool bits that USE them it's hard to make it interesting, for me at least.

And the adept schools are amazing, they didn't reprint the old ones because you can still use them in this edition, conversion is pretty easy. The new ones are rad as hell in my opinion, and the entire setting is just way cooler and more bizarre and fascinating that in 2e.

The game sort of covers itself by not using them, as magic schools tend to fall out of fashion. Mechanomancers were a tiny fringe group of relics holding onto the past (admittedly this does not distinguish them that much from many other Unknown Army groups).

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



Oh no, I mean Greg Stolze explicitly didn't transfer them over because you can do that yourself pretty easily. He wanted to bear on the side of new content instead of just rehashing old stuff. There's now rules for making Adept schools.

Barudak
May 7, 2007




Obsidian: The Age of Judgement is a roleplaying game by Apophis Consortium published first in 1999, and this review uses the 2nd Edition from 2001. Written by Micah Skaritka, Dav Harnish, and Frank Nolan. Obsidian is a post-apocalyptic anarchist corporatist literal hell on earth secret knowledge crunchy dice-pool game. It is purchasable online here if you’d like to support the authors of this work.

Part 8: Being Able to Lift a Car Doesn’t Mean You’re Strong

Chapter 3 of the book, titled Regulations, is a bit of a grab-bag chapter. It contains all the rules for Attributes and Skills, how combat works, Skill Checks, spirit walking, driving a car, how scary Demons are, installing cybernetics, and ebola. This is exactly as well thought out as it sounds.

Regulations starts with how skill checks work in Obsidian, which is relatively straight forward. First are static skill checks which are split into 8 tiers of difficulty from Effortless to Hopeless, with the number required to beat increasing in increments of 3 from 3 to 24. Players simply roll their dice against the check, and if they match or beat it, they succeed. Something great that I can’t stress enough is that the game notes what level skill checks are beneath what level skill ranks; a difficulty 15 check (Difficult) is considered an automatic success for character with 6 ranks in a skill. Further, due to player skills increasing in D6 increments, players will have a gentle compounding increasing chances of success for each rank in a skill they go up by as each additional D6 is a +3.5 not a +3.

The other type of skill check is the opposed roll which works exactly as you would expect. Both individuals roll their respective skills, higher one wins. The game has surprisingly few instances where this comes up but if you guessed that the grapple rules rely heavily on this give yourself a pat on the back, but only if you can beat my roll of 14. One unfortunate game-damaging situation opposing rolls comes up is between the “Notice” and “Stealth” skills. These interact through an opposed roll, so if the Narrator asks you to roll Notice, players implicitly now know something is out there stealthing, somewhat undercutting the point.

So with that out of the way, it’s time for Skills and Attributes those funny things that came up constantly when we were selecting our Ethos and Socials. There are six main Attributes, under which Obsidian’s 32 different skills are sorted. The Attributes are Dexterity, Strength, Mechanical, Knowledge, Perception, and Mind. Each Attribute has 5 skills associated with it except Knowledge because “Data” and “Technology” needed to be separate skills as did “Occult” and “Mystical Lore”. Mechanical Attribute is an even weirder grab bag of skills under it because one of its five skills, Cybernetics, is nearly useless unless you also have the skill Medical from Knowledge which is also near useless without Cybernetics so why are these separate skills.

Regardless, something strange is about to happen with this Attributes and Skills. By default, each Skill and Attribute starts at Rank 2 (or 2D in game terms for meaning you roll 2d6 if checking it) and are modified by the Ethos and Social templates characters took during character creation. What’s odd though, is that Skills aren’t derived from Attributes, rather its the other way around. Attributes automatically increase if all the associated Skills are of a higher level than the Attribute. Basically, if every Skill is 3D under a single Attribute, that Attribute becomes 3D as well even if it higher your 2D attribute becomes 3D as well. It doesn’t do anything the other way though; having an Attribute higher than its associate Skills does absolutely nothing.This results in a system where a character could have enough Lift Skill to carry around a tank mounted autocannon as their personal firearm but have the Strength Attribute so low they take a penalty to their total HP. Conversely, a character could know so much general information that they are according to the book, and we quote, “This character is a genius, they definitely have a solid grasp on society and reality” yet be unable to access a computer or tell you what a crime is.


Is this a) A crime a) An Opposed Skill Check c) Both a and b d) Neither a nor b

Now that we all know what the Skills and Attributes actually are and how skill checks are resolved, it is time for the combat rules. Combat is split into turns and rounds; within each round every character gets a number of turns to spend equal to their Dexterity Attribute rank. Most actions characters can take cost one turn with a few taking two, and once a character performs an action on their turn, whether or not it takes one or two turns to actually perform, the next character in the initiative order goes and so on until every character has exhausted all of their turns for that round. If there were two characters one with 3 turns a round and one with 4 and they each spent one point per turn they’d go through the initiative order three times and then the second character would get to spend their final 4th turn unopposed before a new round started and their turns refreshed.

Things that cost 1 turn include dodging, which increases the difficulty of the to-hit skill check against you by one difficulty level for each point of dexterity, jumping in the initiative order to first, and shooting your gun. You may note that this means a character with high dexterity is not only going more often in combat, as long as they have more dexterity than their opponent they can extremely easily just dodge every turn their opponent tries to attack and then once their opponent is helpless to react shoot at them unopposed or just go before their opponents and do what they want to first.

Movement also costs one action and is, as written, terrible. The only thing distance matters for is the difficulty check of a firearms attack which increases every 20 feet you are further away from the enemy. The Move skill, however, is a dice-based random roll skill so at default you move randomly 2-12 feet during your movement phase which is not only awkward to be unable to plan if you’ll even go as far as you want, by default you’ll need at minimum two turns spent on just moving and good rolling to even get 20 feet closer or further from your opponent which is what influences firearm accuracy. Why even bother with this skill when for the same cost you could improve how good you are at shooting people from farther away and thus skip any need to move at all in the first place?

Dealing damage, and how damage works, is when combat starts an rapid, rocket like ascent to being insanely lethal. When you hit an opponent with your gun or melee weapon you roll against a hit location table using a d20 to determine where the damage goes. Each body part has an HP total that typically is a fractional amount of what your total HP is. Your left arm for example has an HP of ½ your max HP. When you take damage you count it against both the part being hit and your total HP, so if your max HP was 12 and you take 6 damage to your left arm not only does your left arm get blown clean off and be useless and give you an ongoing 1 HP damage a round, your total health also drops to 6. This means that you can, with random enough distribution of damage, die without losing any limbs, but losing a limb accelerates your demise like gasoline accelerates a fire.

Things that are bad news for our characters hoping to survive a gunfight get another boost when we find out that losing all the health in your Head, Left Torso, Right Torso, or Abdomen is instant death, even if we have total HP left over. Your head has 1/3rd your max HP and 10% of the time you hit an enemy the damage will go to their head. The absolute worst gun in the game deals 1d10 damage per shot.


A business lunch goes horribly wrong

Well maybe melee will help balance this out? Oh you gentle soul, melee is a trap that only makes it easier to kill any character attempting to use it. The most powerful melee weapon in the game deals 1d10 damage. All melee attacks must be done at point blank range so you have to spend your random distance move actions to close the gap and then succeed at a minimum difficulty 6 skill check to hit. Melee attacks do not interrupt other characters attacks or make it harder for the character you’re attacking to shoot you. In fact, the difficulty for shooting someone at melee range is 3, one rank easier than using the melee attack. That’s right, the melee warriors reward for several turns of being shot at while rushing towards their gun weilding opponents is to make it even easier to shoot them.

So if being a melee combatant doesn’t help us, what about armor? Well there is a decent chunk of it in the game and it can have decent resistance values. If you don’t buy power armor, and there is absolutely no reason not to unless you just like having worse gear for the same price, certain parts of your body won’t be covered or have lower defensive values. If you do buy power armor you can get up to 24 armor which is a flat reduction, stopping that piddly 1d10 gun in its tracks.

Except for three very important things. First, the range of damage that guns deal is absurd. The weakest gun, as mentioned, is 1d10 damage. The strongest single shot deals 8d10, and the cost of this weapon is completely within the price range of a starting character. If you’ve noticed, 8d10 is by far more than enough to regularly deal 32 points of damage per shot, thus instantly killing anyone in the nicest suit of armor in the game if they score a headshot, congratulations. You are now officially smarter than 3 developers who worked on this system for 5 years and get a gold star.

The second important thing is burst and full auto. These are inherent properties of the guns, and once you get past the very cheapest and worst guns in the game every single one of them has one of these features. Burst means when you shoot the gun it uses up more ammo in the clip, but each time you hit an opponent it deals its damage twice, each shot location being rolled randomly so they may not hit the same part. Full auto uses the entire clip in the gun but deals a number of hits to random body parts equal to the total clip divided by 5, which means the gun can hit for between 3 and 11 times depending on the clip it takes. If two hits end up on the same location, their damage is stacked together, then armor is subtracted. This means that with only 8 hit locations total even a weak gun shooting 11 times has pretty good odds to deal enough damage to bypass armor with enough damage to blow off a limb. Guess what, thats not enough for the designers of Obsidian and shooting in burst or full auto makes you 2 ranks of Firearms more accurate when shooting and has no offsetting penalty other than ammo usage.

The third and final thing is that there are standard combat moves you can make as part of your shooting action that reduce the number of random targets you need to roll between. For making the shot one rank more difficult you can reduce the number of hit locations to six or in exchange for making the shot 3 ranks more difficult you can make it so every single hit lands exclusively on your opponent's head.

Somehow, shooting people is only the second best way to kill people in this game.

Next Time: What is the Latin for “Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru”?

Barudak fucked around with this message at 05:26 on Jul 19, 2018

Leraika
Jun 14, 2015

slime time



iamiamque occisus es, if my high school latin holds (it probably doesn't)

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Isn't that literally the HP system from Deus Ex 1?

Hattie Masters
Aug 29, 2012

COMICS CRIMINAL


Grimey Drawer

Mors Rattus posted:

7th Sea 2: Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Not The Most Evil Capitalists In The Game, Because ATC .

I hate the changes to Val Mokk and Sela Cole. For those who don't remember, in 1st edition Val Mokk was still the head of the Vendel, but he was a thin, tall man best compared to Vetinari, and was also a hero who wanted the best for the Vendel but also had an awareness of the possibility for Capitalism to damage. Sela Cole was still the new head of the Blacksmiths, but was a tall, broad shouldered woman who, whilst a fantastic Smith and leader, was a terrible politician due to being a bit shy and awkward. The two of them also had a shared attraction, a live of romantic literature and a complete inability to make the first move, leaving a clear plot hook for the players to play match maker.

Maybe it's just me being a grognard, but I much, much prefer the 1E version to these ones.

DAD LOST MY IPOD
Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case




Hattie Masters posted:

I hate the changes to Val Mokk and Sela Cole. For those who don't remember, in 1st edition Val Mokk was still the head of the Vendel, but he was a thin, tall man best compared to Vetinari, and was also a hero who wanted the best for the Vendel but also had an awareness of the possibility for Capitalism to damage. Sela Cole was still the new head of the Blacksmiths, but was a tall, broad shouldered woman who, whilst a fantastic Smith and leader, was a terrible politician due to being a bit shy and awkward. The two of them also had a shared attraction, a live of romantic literature and a complete inability to make the first move, leaving a clear plot hook for the players to play match maker.

Maybe it's just me being a grognard, but I much, much prefer the 1E version to these ones.

yeah, that was one of the cutest plot hooks ever and it makes me really sad to lose it :(

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Hattie Masters posted:

I hate the changes to Val Mokk and Sela Cole. For those who don't remember, in 1st edition Val Mokk was still the head of the Vendel, but he was a thin, tall man best compared to Vetinari, and was also a hero who wanted the best for the Vendel but also had an awareness of the possibility for Capitalism to damage. Sela Cole was still the new head of the Blacksmiths, but was a tall, broad shouldered woman who, whilst a fantastic Smith and leader, was a terrible politician due to being a bit shy and awkward. The two of them also had a shared attraction, a live of romantic literature and a complete inability to make the first move, leaving a clear plot hook for the players to play match maker.

Maybe it's just me being a grognard, but I much, much prefer the 1E version to these ones.

I actually agree with you here and feel like the change was unneeded; it'd be easy enough to go back to their 1e incarnations and have someone else be the mastermind behind Klorhulg's slavery issues, at least.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



7th Sea 2: Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - I Just Love The Word Usury

Mistress Red, Gytha Hallesdatter of the Usury Guild, knows that money that isn't being used is purely decorative. Money makes more money, and Mistress Red is expert at making it do that. She has had the League open branch banks for loans in every town and large village in Vesten, and she personally supervises Guilder loans to other nations. If they get paid back, the League makes a nice profit. If not, they get political advantage and the land deeds put up as collateral. Win-win. Mistress Red is extremely logical, and neither cruel nor dishonest in her practices. She always ensures her contracts are crystal clear in all of their terms, and she has no sympathy or empathy for those who commit to a contract and then fail to fulfill it to the letter. She is always, always faithful to her contracts, and considers the contract a vital part of any business deal, in or out of the Guild. She is scrupulously fair in wording the contracts to ensure both sides have equal weight, and never includes any hidden loopholes or vagaries of language. Mistress Red believes that they are unneeded - no matter how simple you make a contract, some people break them anyway. She benefits from her fairness pretty often, anyway, and it earns her useful social capital. While she is fairly young, the League respects her deeply. She wears her messy red hair in simple braids and prefers simple, conservative clothes. She is always stern and severe, and some call her ruthless, but she sees it as simple pragmatism. She is good at spotting a deal and always reads the fine print.

Master George Skard, Jorgan Skaardalsen of the Brewer's Guild, is a cheerful, stout man who smiles and laughs often. He's held his Chair nearly as long as Val Mokk, but he has much less influence. Skard is certain that the secrets of good life, good marriage, good towns and good nations are all found at the bottom of a keg. Thus, he's used the League to turn Vesten brew from a local necessity to a massive export, and funded exploration of bees, fruits and grapes sturdy enough to survive the Vesten winter, in hopes of expanding their brewing possibilities. His primary interest is making unique brews that everyone wants, and he spends a lot of time tending his fields as well as in the Guild halls. He's got a lab outside Vendel where he experiments with mead, wine, beer and other drinks, using both flavorful additions and various types of cask. He sells his results at high prices in small batches, to pay for the next experiment, and offers paid tours. He cares far more about his brews than being Chair, and he largely ignores the other members of the League. They do likewise, making decisions without consulting him, even when it concerns his trade, because he's happy as long as he can brew and drink freely.

Master Eladio Ballesteros of the Miner's Guild is the only Castillian Chair, and one of three non-Vesten Chairs. He apprenticed under the former Guildmaster, also Castillian, and went to Vendel with her after she became Chair. Not long after his arrival, he was injured in a cave-in while inspecting Klorhulg's silver mines, and he had to have his arm amputated to save his life. He became bitter and jaded from the loss, seeming to lose any concerns about mine safety in the belief that since he had sacrificed an arm, no one else had room to complain. This apathy mixed well with Mokk's greed, and Mokk began to work to discredit any of Ballesteros' rivals for the Chair's succession. He now manipulates Ballesteros via his ego and callousness. Not that he needs much prodding, most of the time. The two have turned the silver mines from a moderate luxury good to a staple export (in the form of Guilder coins). Mokk keeps everyone else fuzzy on the subject of slavery, and Ballesteros keeps the mines going. He is honestly probably a worse person than Val Mokk, who is largely motivated by greed. Eladio Ballesteros, on the other hand, is bitter and sadistic, and he's not that concerned with profit. Even Val Mokk is afraid of him at his worst.

Joseph Volker, Representative of the late Imperator Riefenstahl (and former butler), is unique in that his Chair has no tie to a Guild. He was the Imperator's butler before he was given it, which may have been designed as an insult to the League by the late Imperator. As a contingency of Eisen's original backing of the League, one Chair has always belonged to the Imperator, who appoints its holder and chooses the successor. Or, rather, it did until Riefenstahl died and was not succeeded. Now Volker, who's been around nearly as long as Lorraine Weller, is waiting for his homeland to get their poo poo together enough to send him a successor. He's sent letters, but he's afraid to leave Vesten and give the League cause to nullify his Chair. Nicklas Trage has, at least, responded to him. It's been negative, as Trage has no intention to do anything but sit on Freiburg, but he has at least adopted the Guilder and kept Eisen somewhat relevant to the League. On the other hand, Freiburg is unstable and Volker knows it. The other Eisenfurst haven't even really responded. Volker loves Eisen deeply, and while he's not left Vendel since his appointment, he always wears a felt hat in the Eisen style. He's an old, thin man who does his best in the memory of his ruler. He cares about the League's interests as much as any Chair, though his preoccupation with his homeland can make him distant. He can play the political game well, and mostly uses his resources to guard against assassination, as he's afraid that or death by old age will mean he has no replacement and the Chair gets nullified.

Secret societies! There are a number of Syrneth ruins in the mountains that interest the Explorer's Society. Just one problem: they spend most of the year buried by snow and ice. The mountain paths are dangerous, even in the warmest months. They try to send expeditions at least once a year during melt season, but so far, not even one ruin has been fully explored due to natural disasters ending the expeditions. Most casual members refuse to even go to Vesten now, leaving much of it unexplored. The more daring sometimes return with a few artifacts...when they return at all. The group has been looking for more coastal ruins, but so far have found only old rune-carved standing stones. The Brotherhood of the Coast have plenty of members in the Vesten Raiders. Not all Raider ships are Brotherhood, but they agree on must things anyway. Few fly the Brotherhood's colors in their own home waters of Grumfather Bay, though, and any Brotherhood member that wants to pirate in those waters has to join the Raiders if they don't want to be sunk. So far, the arrangement's largely worked out. Die Kreuzritter are quite rare in Vesten. The land has many creatures that the order would consider monsters - the Jotun, for example, or trolls - but the locals get very upset if their living myths get attacked. Reports of ghosts and trolls are often conflated with reports of bandits, and some towns will hire people to go clear out trolls causing problems, but for the most part the Vesten prefer to live alongside their monsters, and getting their help in hunting is something die Kreuzritter has rarely been able to do.

The Seekers of the Word of Ekerila are scholars of the Vesten oral tradition, but also scholars of the runes that are studied by the Ypperste Prest. It is said that the runes are the written tongue of the gods, each defining part of life. A Ypperste Prest can use them for magic, but even they can only access the basic runes that are still understood today. These are the backbone of the language, but not its whole. Some standing stones contain large stories that are mostly untranslated, due to loss of runic knowledge. The Seekers want to revive the art of runic translation. They follow a set of stories about Ekerila, the first Ypperste Prest, who translated the language of the gods into the runes, naming them Futhark. She knew of an ancient, powerful race, recording her knowledge of them in runes, and the magic of the runes brought these legends to life, letting them teach her even more words of power. Naively, Ekerila chose to share these words with others, who abused their power and nearly destroyed the land by tearing apart the magic that defined life. Terrified of what she had caused, Ekerila took the runes back and destroyed all but the most vital. Today, only a small handful of Ekerila's runes survive.

The Seekers believe that Ekerila's ancient race that taught her were the Syrneth. They hope to not only rediscover the lost runes but to eventually reconstruct the entire Futhark language that Ekerila used to call forth the legend of the Syrne. They are convinced that the Syrneth and the runes are more connected than most legends indicate, and seek out clues to further this understanding. They are primarily focused on the study of ancient runes, particularly those in and around Syrneth ruins, along with any evidence of the two being connected. Gaining an artifact, relic or knowledge about an ancient runic text is worth 4 Favor if you turn it over to them, which might range from translations, runic artifacts or the location of previously unknown standing stone. Evidence of a link between runes and the Syrneth is worth 5 Favor, which might be runic relic recovered from a Syrne ruin, or texts or translations of the runes that mention the Syrne. You can spend 3 Favor to get temporary access to one of the Seekers' artifacts, though you have to return it once your mission is over. For 1 Favor, the Seekers will encrypt a message in runes for you, meaning only a Ypperste Prest would be able to translate it. For 2 Favor, you can hire a Ypperste Prest to help you out temporarily. They are Strength 6 and have the Sorcery (Galdr) advantage.

The Invisible College operate essentially openly in Vesten. The Inquisition has little to no power there and the League happily funds science. Some more controversial research remains hidden, sure, just in case, but other than that, they're quite happy. Assisting in the construction of a school or university in Vesten earns 5 Favor with them. The Knights of the Rose and Cross have found many benefactors in Vesten, as the Vendel League believes that backing them with Guilders is a great way to make Guilders more popular. They are treated quite well and many have come visiting. However, they also often find that the locals don't actually require their help very often, and they're working as caravan guards as often as not. That said, the League would love to convince Knights to be debt collectors for them. Los Vagabundos work to ensure the League cannot control every jarl or carl. They try to keep the good, strong ones in their positions of power, staving off a total League takeover, and watch League agents very closely for signs of treachery. Mociutes Skara have not been to Vesten much before, as the place has not known war in centuries, but have arrived recently to follow up on reports of slavery. They've been sending in aid to anti-slavery resistance fighters and to help escaped slaves get medical attention and food. The Rilasciare hate Vesten, seeing the Vendel League as merely the exchange of one form of tyranny for another. Even if all jarls and carls were deposed, the League would still be the corrupt, fat leader at the top. They work to undermine the League and its Guilds as best they can, though it isn't easy. Blocking or preventing a Guild member's activity is worth 4 Favor, as the Rilasciare consider the League to be worse even than most kings.

Next time: Places

Barudak
May 7, 2007



Night10194 posted:

Isn't that literally the HP system from Deus Ex 1?

Obsidian has a couple more locations to shoot (groin, torso is split into left torso and right torso and abdomen) and I think in Deus Ex 1 your limbs all had the same total health, weapons just dealt different amounts when targeting them.

Stun weapons were also really good in Deus Ex whereas here theyre wonky as heck. I skipped discussing it because the whole “equipping basically any armor invalidated all non-lethal damage” thing but if you do non lethal damage to a body part over that parts non-lethal HP it turns into lethal damage. Since you cant control where you hit with melee weapons or guns by default, its pretty easy to accidentally blow off some dudes arm with a riot shield or accidentally blow someones head off with a cattle prod.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




Wapole Languray posted:

And the adept schools are amazing, they didn't reprint the old ones because you can still use them in this edition, conversion is pretty easy. The new ones are rad as hell in my opinion, and the entire setting is just way cooler and more bizarre and fascinating that in 2e.

i think UA3 is mechanically way more coherent than UA2, and it has much better clarity around uniting your characters thematically, and actively coaches you on how to pick a group goal for your campaign and then break it into meaningful adventure chunks.

HOWEVER, the setting fluff falls really flat for me. it felt like it leaned too heavily on you having a fairly detailed knowledge of the UA2 metaplot (which is probably a reasonable expectation given the niche audience) but to me that makes it weaker overall because it's harder to get somebody that didn't play UA2 to be invested.

The new adept schools didn't feel weird or desperate in the same way that the UA2 adepts did - a lot of them seemed like they could more-or-less function as normal people with very little effort. Compare this to almost every single UA2 adept where even holding a part-time job would be next-to-impossible. Thematically, UA2 really underscored for me that having the power of an Adept is a very painful trade (you're going to have to alienate yourself from everything and everyone you ever loved if you really want to grab the brass ring of a Major Charge) in a way that UA3 doesn't.

I get why - it's harder to play a functional game when every PC has bizarre, mutually incompatible rituals they have to follow every day and none of them can even afford to eat food, let alone own a car or house - but I feel like the tradeoff to make the gameplay more coherent changed a lot of the underpinning assumptions about the setting and I didn't care for it.

also "two dudes, one knife" is one of the most evocative pieces of fiction i've ever read and i'd make it mandatory reading for any RPG that involves adventures in a modern day setting. come at me.

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




I love that the Vesten treat their local mythological monsters like treasured endangered species.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





Ghost Leviathan posted:

I love that the Vesten treat their local mythological monsters like treasured endangered species.

Me, too. It's like the people who would protest hunting kaiju.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



7th Sea 2: Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Vendel: The Place, Not The League

Vendel was once the seat of the High King, back when Vesten still had High Kings, and it is still the heart of political and economic power. It is said among the Vesten that more bargains are born in Vendel than anywhere else put together. The first traders to establish routes across Theah were from ancient Vendel, and the city is built in a natural port, a sanctuary from the normally stormy waters due to two large natural jetties called the Beard. This plus the deep cove that is Hal Bay and its location near Grumfather Bay have made it a very convenient place to venture out for all kinds of purposes. It is the home of the earliest Vesten permanent settlements, due to easy access to strong spruce lumber, lush farmland and clean springs. The mountains shelter it from the normally harsh Vesten weather and from invasion, and so the early village Vendel grew quickly without ever suffering the overcrowding common in many cities. Most of the fruits and vegetables of the nation are still grown near Vesten, and cattle can be raised there, unlike much of the nation, which relies on hardier goats and sheep. These foods are shipped out to the towns around Vesten, which send back various luxury goods for sale to other nations.

Modern Vendel is a rival to any city in the world for its progress, yet still respects its ancient roots. In the oldest districts, many of the buildings are original, due to their solid and masterful construction, and the old buildings were generally not destroyed to make way for new ones. Rather, the new districts grew around and between them, so that the further you go from the heart of the city, the more modern the architecture gets. There are many public gardens, parks and squares, and while the guards do try to patrol them, at night these areas are criminal hotspots. The older parts of town tend to have fewer of these, though the Vendel builders always took great pride in their architectural skill. Almost all of the populace is employed, as the League goes to great effort to provide jobs for any who want to do them. Civic projects like schools or universities offer many jobs in service, and the local carl has made a program to help the less employable find work maintaining the city's appearance and upkeep as ragpickers, sweepers or gardeners. Even the elderly or infirm can find work, as the League provides them opportunities to teach, be bookkeepers, manage projects or work as artists.

Visitors are welcomed in Vendel, and many schools, museums, galleries and libraries are open to the public. The more martial can explore the shops of weapon and armorsmiths working alongside the builders of ships, artillery and siege weapons, with a wide variety of goods in every shop. All transactions are in Guilders, and while no trade good is forbidden in Vendel, some are handled more discreetly, taxed heavily and so on. The League generally believes the market itself decides what goods are acceptable, but they're aware that problems can happen. The jarldom of Vesten is now largely a ceremonial role, as the city is pretty much run directly by the League. The current jarl, Frederick Ulfsen, is seen as a useful idiot who lets them handle most policy, though his wife, Sofia, is far more politically adept and has spent much time arranging influential engagements for her eight children, none of whom are yet out of childhood.

The Vendel League Guild House is an amazing building, designed with aid from master architects from across Theah, with elements hand-selected from each to maximize beauty and functionality. The grounds allow for easy surveillence by a limited number of guards, and also draw attention to the building's grandeur. The first floor is mostly the League Hall, where the Chairs can meet with people either as a group or in smaller galleries, or even in private chambers, with decor in all levels of opulence depending on who's being met with. The local pages often have a side hustle selling information on where people were made to wait, and for how long, to serve as a kind of socioeconomic barometer for guests. Above the main level, each Chair has their own wing, which each spread out from the central hub. These are as large as many estates, and are the official homes of the Masters and their staff during their time in Vendel. Traditionally, dignitaries are never hosted in these halls, as that is far too informal for the League business model. Many of the Chairs also keep more private lodgings elsewhere, where private gatherings are less frowned on with business partners. A few of them don't, however, preferring to remain close to their Guilds, and typically these people have expanded their halls to be fully functioning Guildhouses, with training and crafting grounds. Mostly, that's the Carpentry and Usury Guilds at the moment.

Mjotuthrstoll, the High King's Throne sits at the heart of the city, atop a stone hill peaked with granite and ringed with standing stones, each twice the size of a man and carved with runes telling the stories of ancient gods and heroes. On the Winter Solstice, the rising sun shines directly on the stone throne at the center, nearly as tall as the stones around it. This was where the old High Kings ruled from, and it is inscribed with a bindrune symbolizing the four pillars of Vesten culture: luck, loyalty, honesty and courage. While no High King has existed in centuries, the throne remains very important to the Vesten people. It is said that those with true leadership can feel a power when they touch the throne, and many would-be leaders of men make pilgrimages to the stones, always claiming to have felt the pulsing thrum. Those with incurable ailments often travel to the throne as well, to supplicate before it for aid from the leaders of the past, in hopes that they will reach out from the afterlife and grant relief. Mothers rub the caps of their children on the bindrune, hoping to grant them its virtues.

The Market is greatest proof of the League's success. It is larger than most outlying villages, built on what had once been grazing land and festival grounds. Permanent stalls have now been erected, with guards patrolling the area even during winter's chill to keep the merchants safe. It bustles throughout the year, and anything that you might ever want is sold there, from precious metals to carrots to fur. Some businesses have been part of the Market for generations at this point, though others use only temporary, seasonal stalls. Goods typically have their own dedicated streets in the market, if they're popular enough. There is also a quarter for slave dealing, carefully overseen by the League to ensure the highest standards of care...within the city proper. Vendel is one of the only locations in Theah that currently sells slaves.

Kirk is a keystone in Vesten culture, and while Vendel is the most powerful city, Kirk is the capital, despite their best efforts. The standing stones in the city's center are said to be the oldest in Vestenmennavenjar, and the buildings around them are home to some of the nation's most revered priests and priestesses. Many of the areas around Kirk are sacred to the gods, dense with standing stones covered in runes that date back to ancient times. The small villages in the area are home to the priests that care for the stones and help guide the locals. Each season, pilgrims from across the nation travel to Kirk for grand festivals and celebrations of the gods, rededicating themselves to the ancient faith. Kirk is the second-largest town in Vesten, historically protected from danger by its distance from the coast. Instead of raiders, they often fought with supernatural beings - mountain giants, river trolls and other legendary beasts that didn't want to share the land. Modern scholars tend not to believe these tales, but almost every building in Kirk still bears rune-signs of protection against such foes, even if the local architects say they're just traditional now. Kirk has many universities and libraries, due to the difficulty of invading it, most of which contain sacred knowledge to the Vesten. Per capita, it has more schools than any other town or city, and many of the nation's best and brightest studied there. The same difficulty of invasion that led to the sacred texts being stored there is also why the Vendel League chose it to host the Breffa, thought by outsiders to only be a record of their business dealings. Its basement contains more wealth than the entire rest of the nation together.

Mestrkirk, also called the Greatest Cathedral, is a construction project drawing interest from across Theah. Objectionists don't necessarily perform pilgrimages, but the cathedral has such a reputation that it's drawn in devotees from across the world to witness its glory, incomplete still even after decades of work. Because Kirk is home to many historically notable temples and churches of the Vesten traditional faith, some find it confusing that the League would sponsor the world's largest Objectionist cathedral there, especially the traditionalists, who often consider it an insult. They say the greed of the merchants blinds them and tempts them to insult the gods with this blasphemy, dreading the day the Allfather and his kin destroy the abomination and all involved. No one can claim the church is ugly or not majestic, however, and it's definitely brought a lot of commerce to the city.

The Breffa is seen by many as merely the home of the endless accounting records of the Vendel League. It is a common Vesten joke to say that the demand for rags to make paper threatens to leave the nation with full pockets and no pants, or that the Vendel seek people with four hands to double their efficiency in accounting. And the Breffa certainly does contain records of every deal the League makes, no matter how small, since its inception in the 15th century. These official records are kept in runic script, possibly due to heritage and possibly as a cipher against outside spies. It has spawned entire businesses of inkmaking, archiving and innkeeping in Kirk, so it's definitely important. But even more than that, it hides a subterranean mint and vault. Within, the League keeps its vast trove of gems, precious metals and land deeds, its most important documentation and more. Spies would kill to get access...if they knew it existed. This hidden vault is a well-kept secret from all but League members and the Mistress of the Breffa. And below that? That's the mint, unknown to all but the most ranking in the League. A single master craftsman known only as Meister supervises the mint. It is said he was brought in from Vodacce and is loyal to the League, but even the Mistress has no idea how that was achieved. He and his trio of apprentices, who live in the depths with him, create the Guilders. These four strike each coin, and no Guilder leaves the Breffa without the Meister's approval. Only the most loyal of soldiers are employed to guard the Breffa's storage and mint, many of whom owe life-debts to the League or have family fostered by the Chairs' households to guarantee their loyalty.

Next time: Grumfather Bay

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Freaking Crumbum posted:

also "two dudes, one knife" is one of the most evocative pieces of fiction i've ever read and i'd make it mandatory reading for any RPG that involves adventures in a modern day setting. come at me.

It and the essay on six ways to stop fights that follow it are probably some of the most effective texts I've seen for driving home just what violence actually is and what it is we're doing for entertainment.

OutOfPrint
Apr 9, 2009



Fun Shoe

Night10194 posted:

Isn't that literally the HP system from Deus Ex 1?

It's almost exactly the damage system from the roguelike IVAN, in which one of the most effective ways to power game is to walk over broken bottles until your legs fall off and then praying to the right gods to get fancy new legs made from exotic materials, but only after eating a large treasure chest in a cycle of binging and purging that has been transmuted into monster earwax. If you get lucky, you can end the first dungeon with two steel arms and two legs made of phoenix feathers.

Or you could die from a hedgehog biting your hog off. What a great game!

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion





God do I wish that lp had finished. IVAN is something else.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



7th Sea 2: Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Vendel: GRUMFATHER

Grumfather Bay is a great body of water reached by heading up Hoppe Channel, an inland sea large enough to hold the entire Glamour Isles comfortably. The northern shores belong to Vesten since time immemorial. Eskjo is a small but highly independent town along that coast, relying almost entirely on the bay to survive. Its people are mostly fishers, and the jarldom is highly traditional, following the same loose family line for generations. However, Eskjo's most notable figure is not its jarl, but Alvor Ekillsdatter, leader of the Vesten Raiders. She uses Eskjo as her main base of operations, directing her network of pirates from its shores. They largely ignore Vesten vessels, but all foreigners are fair game. Alvor is beloved for her sense of humor and her love of gambling. The Raiders actually are a largely bloodless operation - they show up and ask ships for a 'donation,' and if the offering is worthy, they let the ship go. If they refuse or pay poorly, then the ship is shot to bits, of course, and everything of value is taken, often including the clothing of those aboard. The survivors are then let go to face ridicule at port.

Somajez is probably the least Vesten town in Vesten, because only a few years ago, it was an Ussuran garrison. Ownership of the village has always been hotly contested by the two nations, largely because it's located on the furtheast eastern point of Grumfather Bay and thus is a strategically ideal location for both land and naval recon and military missions towards either nation. The locals have taken parts of both cultures, integrating them into a unique whole. Somajez is more of an outpost than a town, however, relying heavily on funding from whoever owns it. It's got few natural resources and is not on any major trade routes, so without the military base there, it'd never have developed beyond a minor village. It is unclear who put the garrison there first, but they brought enough resources to hire the locals to support them, and that allowed Somajez to grow to a decent size today. The villagers have spent generations providing service to the two miltaries. The fortress has had many names, but the locals are always hired to handle its domestic services, and the troops always rely on them for anything that doesn't come through local channels, such as good food, non-military-issue goods of all kinds and entertainment. The most recent change in ownership is probably the least dramatic in the town's history, almost entirely bloodless and the result of the Vendel League interceding with Ussura as part of a trade agreement. Vesten tradition demands a jarl and carl, so two locals were promoted to those roles. The fortress has a commander, too, appointed by the League to watch over the military. The real power in the town is none of these three, but instead Waldemar Hagensenn, the representative of the League and nominally a servant of the jarl. The jarl is well aware that in any matter of real importance, his word is the League's, and that word is law.

Jarl Forest covers much of the Vesten interior and is the thickest forest in the nation. It's said that the trees at the forest heart may have been there when the gods walked the earth. It's where the wood for the League fleets comes from, and also most of the lumber exported to the less wooded parts of the rest of the world. It is also home to several-hundred-acre estates, usually used for nobles to hunt things. Hunting is popular among jarls, especially since war is no longer something Vesten really does. Only the bravest hunt in the forest heart, however, where folks say there are giant snakes large enough to eat a horse and rider whole, or spiders the size of a small house. The most feared and respected beast, however, is the legendary lindworm, a wingless drachen with powerful forelegs and no hind legs. It is said to be highly venomous, with the largest also breathing fire and noxious smoke. Legend says that one of the last High Kings slew a lindworm in single combat to prove her skill before taking the throne.

Krog, literally Pub, is also called the Inn at the Crossroads. It was begun as one building, but is now a small village of descendants of the original owner. It sits in the Jarl Forest, serving as a popular spot to rest, as the forest is too large even for the swiftest horse to cross in a single day. It is now in its second generation, and has a smithy, two inns, a brewery, a general store and a carpenter, plus whatever traders have set up shop for the season. The village is run by the original owner's son, Bjorn, and his wife Justa. It's the only non-religious settlement to be found deep in the woods, and because of this and the forest's long folkloric tradition, some claim the pair are actually not mortal humans. They are certainly spry for their advanced age, but neither will claim to be anything other than healthy from clean living and hard work. The Krog is frequently used as a meeting place for spies and criminals due to being so out of the way, and Bjorn and Justa are probably aware of this, but can't be choosy. They are, however, still Vesten loyalists despite whatever may go on in their home.

Standing stones can be found throughout the deep woods, some of the oldest in all of Vesten. Some bear clear messages of praise for the gods or brag about achievements, but others are so ancient that no one can actually understand the runes carved on them. One group of such stones, originally a full dozen but having lost one over the years, is so ancient that even the most learned Ypperste Prests cannot understand anything about them or their purpose, though several have dedicated their lives to protecting the formation, known as the Stones. Travelers make pilgrimages to the site each year, often leaving gifts or sacrifices on the slab-altar there and consulting with the priests in search of solutions to life's trials. The priests do their best to help and advise, sometimes calling on their Galdr sorcery to assist. Rumors say that an oracle is among the priests, and that while the priests do not allow outsiders to meet the seer, they may pass along questions. She is said to see the living myth around her so clearly that she can follow its flow into the future. Some say that a Stones oracle predicted the advent of the Vendel League a full generation before it happened, though if that oracle is the same one as exists today is a matter of debate.

Many of the immense trees in the forest are majestic, but Gandr, the Staff, stands above the rest - literally. Stories say the gigantic oak was the walking stick of the Allfather himself, thrust into the ground to grow. Its trunk is larger than a house at its base, and its branches go so high that legend has it that any who climbs to the top on the night of the full moon can speak to the gods themselves. It is the only oak in a forest otherwise made largely of birch and pine, and has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries, especially for those that wish to abandon their past and join the sacred band that worships and cares for it. Some say that swallowing an acorn from Gandr will cure any poison or illness, and others say that only an arrow made from its holy wood can slay a lindworm. The tree is extremely sacred to the Vesten people, and any that harm it will find the entire nation ready to fight them.

Heading further into the Northlands, the land becomes harsh and inhospitable...compared to the rest of the nation. Those who live there are admired for their stoicness and fortitude even by other Vesten, for it is the most extreme region. Most of the population live in small villages near stands of trees, fresh water or seasonal migration paths. Their growth is limited by food availability more than anything else, even armed with Vendel League wealth, and they are the poorest places in the entire nation. Many of the coastal villages can only be reached by water in the summer, during the melting of the Allfather Ice Floes. The rest of the year, they can be reached only overland, mostly by caribou sleigh or dog sled.

Klorhulg is extremely notable in the Northlands for having been a full-size town for generations. This is due mainly to being on one of the deepest fjords in the area, and being on top of a silver mine. Its bay is so deep that it never freezes over entirely or becomes ice-locked, so it is the most northern active port, distributing supplies to the rest of the Northlands. It is the local hub of culture, trade and communication, with other villagers making hundred-mile trips (or longer) to trade furs for necessary goods there. The mines of Klorhulg are the richest in Vesten, perhaps the world, and were originally just worked by the locals for export. When the Guilder was created, however, demand outstripped production, and thralls began to get sent to the mines to work. For a time, this was good. The thralls worked off their debt faster than they would elsewhere, the locals enjoyed the help and the quotas were met. As demand increased, though, it wasn't enough, and the labor demands became tyrannical. Thralls quickly paid their debts and fled south, and the locals balked at what was asked of them. The League began to import slaves to assist, claiming they were just thralls. At first, it helped ease demand, but now, even more silver is needed to fuel the Guilder's popularity, and humane production levels are insufficient.

The Allthing's laws on thralls have caused outrage at the treatment of the slaves, but most of them are entirely unaware of their rights within Vesten. As conditions worsen, the actual thralls and independent miners refuse to work, citing safety concerns and inhumane treatment. This revolt threatened to shut down production, so Master Bellesteros has fired all local labor, thanked them, and replaced the entire mining crew with illegal slaves. To prevent a town revolt, the locals are offered a small subsidy to not work in the mines and overlook the slave conditions. Some, however, including former carl of the town and current Mistress of the Breffa, are less willing to accept that. The League does its best to distract and misdirect them, and many wonder how Jarl Hafgrimmr will decide to deal with things.

Next time: The Jotun of the Ice and the Ukonsaari

White Coke
May 29, 2015


LatwPIAT posted:

It and the essay on six ways to stop fights that follow it are probably some of the most effective texts I've seen for driving home just what violence actually is and what it is we're doing for entertainment.

I’ve never read them, could you summarize?

Wrestlepig
Feb 25, 2011

my mum says im cool



Toilet Rascal

White Coke posted:

I’ve never read them, could you summarize?

mainly it's self evident prose about trying to avoid lethal conflict and a good paragraph about how killing is messed up to do.

Wrestlepig fucked around with this message at 01:41 on Jul 20, 2018

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



... You know that's recreated in total in 3rd Edition? I was kinda looking forward to posting it when we get to Conflicts. Oh well.

Wrestlepig
Feb 25, 2011

my mum says im cool



Toilet Rascal

sorry, I cut it

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



Thanks, IDK if it'll have the same impact. Oh well.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Wrestlepig posted:

mainly it's self evident prose about trying to avoid lethal conflict and a good paragraph about how killing is messed up to do.

It also helps to emphasize in a subtle way that UA is not a game of humans vs monsters or good vs evil. It's about humans with opposing ideologies. You aren't dealing with someone who wants to summon cthulhu to devour the earth, or some kind of ancient vampire lord. You're dealing with people who have loved ones, favorite foods, pet hamsters or who get really annoyed when people don't buckle their seatbelt. In UA you'll often find yourself in a position where you're going to kill someone simply because you feel that your beliefs and values are more important than their lives. And that's a dark place.

In my F&F for the 2e book I mentioned that it's kind of the core of the UA tagline: "a game of power and consequences". It's not just about magic or warping reality. The power to end another person's life is probably the biggest one in the game, and that's a power everyone has. And if you choose to use it, there are consequences. If you choose not to use it, there are consequences.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


My feelings on the earlier UA editions is that they're systems/universes more appropriate for setting a book in than running a game in, since large parts of them feel more or less unplayable for PC's, no matter how flavourful they may be.

BUT IN MORE INTERESTING NEWS THAN MY COMPLAINING: More of my complaining, but about a different topic. The new Kult: Divinity Lost .PDF apparently just plopped into my inbox today with basically zero fanfare. I went, of course, for the uncensored edition since what the gently caress else was I gonna review, I wanted ALL the edgy garbage I could get, and it turns out it's gonna need censoring(for this thread to be SFW, at least) right from the front over.

So get ready for...



As soon as I've found an appropriate comedy censor for the front cover.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



Purple, use the King of Sweden.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Ah, Kult, my second favorite 90s-RPG Gnostic urban horror setting.
My third favorite is In Dark Alleys and it would be fourth if there's any other 'literally just gnosticism' settings out there.

White Coke
May 29, 2015


Joe Slowboat posted:

Ah, Kult, my second favorite 90s-RPG Gnostic urban horror setting.
My third favorite is In Dark Alleys and it would be fourth if there's any other 'literally just gnosticism' settings out there.

What's first?

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



The next update is going to take a bit, because it's a meatier part of character creation. So in the meantime, I'll post the first part of the fiction that's in the book:

Seasons in the Offness by Gloria Techner posted:

You ever have one of those moments where you had to reconsider your whole life? I’ve had two. The first was in 1998 and the second was in 2003.
Let me specify that I’m not talking about finding an ethos — getting exposed to Jesus, or Rand Paul, or ICP — and deciding that’s your mental eyeglasses and now you’re 20/20. And I’m not talking about an existential crisis where you wake up and realize you don’t love your spouse, and you’re thirty-three, and you not only don’t know what you want to do when you grow up, you’re starting to suspect no one ever does or ever has. (I had the ethos one when I was seventeen, and the existential one in 1996.)
No, I’m talking about a radical assault on the unexamined foundations of day to day life. I mean an unveiling where it seems like the bottom drops out of making sense and everything spiritual, scientific, instinctive, and logical goes from being the four suits tidily arranged from ace to king in your mind, and instead gets bridge-shuffled seven times, so that the possible permutations of the fifty-two cards (fifty-four with jokers) exceeds the number of atoms in the observable universe.
I know people who call it crossing the unicorn. Or, at least, I knew those people once upon a time. Between 1998 and 2003.

In 1998 I was divorced, job-hunting, and renting a ranch-style house with my old college friend Maria. We had the second-worst yard on the block, once our landlord realized neither of us was going to sleep with him or lay out in bikinis while he mowed. The worst was in front of James Neville’s house, five doors down.
Maria wasn’t my weirdest friend, but she was on that end of the spectrum. James Neville was Maria’s weirdest friend, and we wound up going to a party at his place, walking over the cigarette butts and bottle caps on his worst-tended lawn, but James and Maria don’t really matter, because also in attendance at that 1998 party was a guy named Chris Four. (As near as I can tell, his last name really was the same as a digit, but I never saw his birth certificate or anything.)
James Neville was into UFOs and numbers stations and was the first person I knew to read Harry Potter, but he was a little too strange for me to really be buddy-buddy with him and drink in his presence past the point of a teeny-tiny buzz so I could still drive away if necessary. Like I said, he was Maria’s weirdest friend.
Chris Four was James’ weirdest friend. He was into Terence McKenna and math rock and ‘zines. He was the first person I knew who read Dirk Allen, and when I met him at James’ party, he was in the kitchen giggling and spraying the oven with something from a little atomizer.
“If you’re into cleaning ovens,” I said, “I’ve got a doozy. Super-filthy.” I immediately worried he would think I was hitting on him, which I don’t think I was. He was a good-looking guy, if you like men raw and lean and ponytailed. But it went right over his head, I think. In a good way.
“I’m not cleaning the oven,” he said. “I’m getting it high.”
“Oh. OK,” I said, reconsidering any flirting.
“It smells of fried lavender now,” he said. “It’s hallucinating that it cooked flowers instead of pizzas.”
“I think I’m going to go get a drink now.” I was starting to back away.
“You think I’m batshit insane,” he said, with a charming grin.
“Um…”
“It’s all right,” he said. “Here. Watch.”
He flipped open a cookbook on the counter and said, “We’ve got, what, here?”
“A recipe for… pasta and chickpea soup,” I said, deciding to humor him while staying carefully out of grab range.
James kept his knives on a magnetic strip. They were right behind me. Chris sprayed the page and the ink ran and melded. Then it reformed into a woodcut print of a panda bear and string of words in that fancy German font — fraktur, I think? — that were laid out in stanzas like poetry.
I stared. He giggled.
“How did you do that?” I asked.
He waved the little spray bottle. “It’s a hallucinogen for the inanimate,” he said. “C’mon, let’s try it on the bathroom mirror!”

I hadn’t had a drop to drink and wasn’t in any way chemically altered. I spent the rest of the evening with James and that spray bottle, seeing what I looked like in a mirror that was off; its rocker, watching bedsheets shimmer with TV signals (a brief scene from I Love Lucy, if I recall correctly), making a beer can briefly turn into a wood-textured candle that still had the Busch logo impressed on its side. Everyone else was doing typical party stuff drinking and dancing and flirting and harassing and evading, it got pretty noisy when people started arguing about India versus Pakistan, and there were certainly people acting out more outrageously than spraying stuff; with a clear liquid. I tried to get James and Maria to check it all out, but James had seen it before and treated it like no big deal (I think, now, that he might have been stoned) while Maria was really drunk and making her play for this guy Steve. (They got married in 2004, I think, but I’ve really lost track.)
So that was how I crossed the unicorn. That’s how I found out there were stranger things in heaven and on Earth, et cetera. What I didn’t know then (but found out soon, and hard) was that there was a whole culture built around the inexplicable and the unknown and the illogically, powerfully symbolic. It’s got a different name in every town and internet rumor board that thinks it’s the only one that knows about it — I’ve heard le demimonde, the occult underground, the Unacknowledged Legislators, the Invisible Clergy, and the wonderworld.
In Cincinnati, we called it the offness.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




Wapole Languray posted:

The next update is going to take a bit, because it's a meatier part of character creation. So in the meantime, I'll post the first part of the fiction that's in the book:

the setting fiction in UA3 is legit interesting and my only complaint is that all of it put together teases extremely hard at some kind of overarching narrative / metaplot but it never comes out and directly confirms anything, and then it just kind of stops being in the book altogether before it gets to any kind of conclusion.

i would seriously buy a novel about whatever background story greg was telling with the setting fiction in UA3.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Kult: Divinity Lost



So, years ago I did a review of the original Kult(http://projects.inklesspen.com/fatal-and-friends/purplexvi/kult/), and though it wasn't exactly the best written review, the basic gist of it was: "It tried really hard, had some neat ideas and evocative images, but a horror game where the superior(and certainly viable) options are to play as Chun Li, a vampire yelling people to death or a guy who's asleep and dreaming he's winning the game, has lost the thread a bit." I've been following the development of Divinity Lost zero percent, so I'm curious to see what changed, how it changed and what they got right.

To start us off, here's the cover in full.



Clickthrough for the non-censored version. Yeah, we're off to a good start. The art is competent, but already deciding to be a bit edgy on us. Next we have the index and then 38 pages(out of a total 392, so close to 10% of the book) that's just single pieces of art interspersed with one-sentence "mood-setting" stuff. These can be summarized as: "The world is dark and spooky, bad people are doing magic, there are monsters and angels. Now play the game." None of the art is really memorable OR ugly enough to link in that section. HOWEVER.



You see this poo poo? This is every page of the index(there are FOUR PAGES of index), the text is slanting away slightly left or right for no apparent reason except to make it look like their editor forgot to wear his glasses.



There's also this "font." Did you know that top thing said "book"? I would've thought it was just random mood-setting graffiti if the bottom part wasn't more legible.

BOOK I: The Lie

So it starts off with some DEEP LORE which is largely unchanged from the previous version: Humanity used to be divine, until the Demiurge showed up and flimflammed us out of our powers by convincing us, essentially, that we weren't divine. Then he set up a hugely elaborate illusion to keep us continually convinced of this(i.e. basically all organized religions and our entire society), enforced by jailers called the Lictors. Now, in the original game, it was hinted at that things started collapsing after the Demiurge vanished, his power no longer keeping everything in line and everyone on-mission. In this, it's hinted at that humanity questioning ages-old ideas was what caused things to start collapsing, which either killed the Demiurge or drove him into hiding because he knew what was coming once humanity properly woke up.

This means we're getting weirder cults who can actually cast magic, monsters that claw their way into reality through the mentally ill(I guess they might still be keeping the part where either being a super-buddhist or a raving flesh-eating murderer is required for a proper connection to the divine), if you go insane enough you can see the forgotten and abandoned Metropolis which is humanity's true home, etc.

Predictably, we're meant to be people who see through the chinks in the grand illusion and get drawn into the weird poo poo that dwells beyond and in between worlds. It's still described as a horror game, and then we get the usual section on "what are RPG's," complete with gameplay example. It's... one of the better ones I've seen, really? We're not confronted with a bunch of meaningless terms and rules, just a short 100% roleplaying session where the GM sets the scene, describes what the characters know, and then the players act on that. I kinda like it.

We get a brief taste of the system, which seems to be something along the lines of 2d10+modifier as the roll, 15+ is a total success, 10 to 14 is a success with some sort of drawback, and 9 or less is a failure that results in something unwanted or unintended happening. Like in the original Kult, I'm glad that it sticks to a relatively simple mechanic rather than giving in to the temptation to have some super-novel, over-complicated resolution method. The game also encourages the GM not to necessarily do much in the way of rolling, but just to arbitrate that what's appropriate to the story/event/circumstances happens in many situations.


Feels like something out of Prometheus. And that movie sucked poo poo.

From there, we head straight into the Archetypes, which are the various starting points intended for characters. They all have art. This, for instance, is an Artist:



The problem is that none of it is particularly good or evocative. All of the archetypes either look stiff and artificially posed, or they look dull-eyed and uninteresting. There's not a single archetype out of, I think close to 20, where the art makes me go: "This looks like a cool and interesting character. I want to play this person in this dark world."



It feels like they wanted to make all the characters look a bit grim, worn out, washed-out, hurt, etc. to communicate the GRIM DARKNESS of the Kult universe, but mostly it just gives a sense of "all these people are walking corpses anyway. Why bother?" than "these people have a poo poo existence, but they've all got a divine spark, that's a reason to keep going against the odds."

Each Archetype has us choosing 1 Dark Secret, 2 Disadvantages and 3 Advantages from provided lists. Then we have some positives and negatives to assign to some of our Active and Passive attributes, the meaning of which I'm sure will eventually become clear. Mechanically the only thing that changes from character to character is the Secrets, Disadvantages and Advantages lists as well as some minor changes to our starting relationships. But the latter is extremely minor stuff. Considering that we also have the option to free-form design a character outside of the archetypes, and considering how basic they really are in their minor differences to each other, I'm not sure why they bothered to have them at all. Like, just to be clear, all of these just describe someone's day job, pretty much: Cop, soldier, teacher, homeless person, mentally traumatized person, evil cultist, evil cult leader, etc.

Glancing at the index, chargen seems to eat up some 138 pages, with the actual rules for how characters and the game work being somewhere after that. Game design!

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





White Coke posted:

What's first?

I really like Mage: The Awakening, which is technically not from the 90s but it's built on the foundations of weirdly not-gnostic World of Darkness, the most 90s of RPGs. So I consider it a '90s RPG' in a deep genetic way.

I feel like I go off about Gnosticism in Mage and why it's good every third week in the WoD thread but the gist of it is, by tying Gnosticism into human oppression (the 10 demiurges of the setting include Capitalism, Foucault's Panopticon, and Xenophobia) the Mage milieu manages to create a context in which the basic injustice of Gnosticism can be deeply felt in a direct way. The kind of horror Mage goes in for is the horror of knowing the truth while everyone else is asleep and unaware, and being unable to convince them that they need to rise up and break free - and then, the horror of what you do in the name of that truth in the face of an uncomprehending world, especially when that truth is deeply mystical and often amoral.

Kult's Gnosticism is much more immediately present as a weird, gross labyrinth that suppresses the human spirit... but that suppression isn't as compelling or multilayered, at least in Kult 1. Mage does a better job of convincing me that the demiurge is not just making my life worse, but in general must be destroyed and overthrown for moral, spiritual reasons. In Kult, it feels more like the hidden burning truth is just 'you ought to be way more powerful than you are' rather than 'there's an entire cosmos hidden from our sight, and the human misery we are all intimately familiar with in society is itself a reflection of the demiurge.' I never really felt compelled to fight for humanity, reading Kult, the way I do reading Mage.

In Dark Alleys has the Demiurge literally show up as a giant with one hand and one eye, who can kill you instantly if it notices you, and the higher world where humanity is in chains, humanity is literally in a kind of matrix pods situation. It doesn't even have a layer of metaphor or additional creativity, it's literally just 'what if the flattest Gnosticism, and the most boring symbolism thereof.'

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




I swear there's a weird thing in tabletop RPGs specifically where all religion turns out to be secretly Gnosticism.

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Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Ghost Leviathan posted:

I swear there's a weird thing in tabletop RPGs specifically where all religion turns out to be secretly Gnosticism.

I think it's more that 'actually, the setting really IS Gnostic, so all religions have subsects that actually know what's up.'

Plus like... if you're playing a game in a horror RPG, the world pretty much necessarily sucks. There was that whole Unknown Armies bit above about how horror fans often have a sense that things in the real world also suck, so horror rings true. In that particular milieu, if there's any kind of higher power, it makes sense that the higher power is also terrible -- and if there's an ultimately benevolent power behind the demiurge, it's in some way chained or held back from reality. Gnosticism makes sense as a horror story.

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