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Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Halloween Jack posted:

I've seen plenty of RPGs that substitute identities ("roles," "professions," whatever) for skills--Mortal Coil first came to mind, since it's also a modern fantasy game.

I've always been a little fuzzy on how games that use roles-as-skills deal with common fictional archetypes that cover a wide range of competencies to varying degrees depending on the milieu. Like, you don't have to be a powergamer who deliberately writes down "Ninja" and tries to use it for everything; something like "Detective" is very prone to abuse.

Greg Stolze posted:

You could even take something like Brilliant and make a case for a lot of uses. “Of course I can discourse about the subtleties of poststructuralism, I’m brilliant!” But what about “Of course I can tell she’s lying, I’m brilliant!”? Well, that’s up to the GM, based on how you’ve played the character, how brilliance has come into play previously, and whether she thinks you’re trying to make one identity so ultra-good that the others are obsolete. (Hint: if we wanted one identity to make other mechanics obsolete, we would have just had that one and let everyone take it.)

Also, think: This game is explicitly supposed to be set in a grounded depiction of the Modern-Day United States of America. Think, what the hell can a Ninja actually do? And how often would that even come up? So you can be super sneaky and good at kicking rear end with katanas and throwing stars. Maybe you also know some stuff about poison. How much use of the skills of a 16th Century Japanese Assassin do you think you'll get in 21st century downtown Pittsburgh?


Jul 15, 2017

So Specific Protection would be something like the opening fiction of UA 2E, where that bastard trying to be the Herald had a daughter for the express purpose of anybody trying to track him would track her instead?

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Dawgstar posted:

So Specific Protection would be something like the opening fiction of UA 2E, where that bastard trying to be the Herald had a daughter for the express purpose of anybody trying to track him would track her instead?

OH no, that's actually a completely different thing in this game. It's still a thing! That'd be... Proxying, under Gutter Magick. Anybody can do it. Specific Protection would be total immunity to any sort of tracking magick. No proxies, it just doesn't work period.

Sep 27, 2012

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus.
Honestly the one place I feel UA3 could have used a little more detail is in where the dividing line is between "I'm an X, of course I can Y," Ability substitution, and the Unique identity feature. Like, why is "own and operate a hot air balloon" a Unique feature and not part of "I'm an Aeronaut, of course I can own and operate a hot air balloon?" Is it okay to say "I'm a Public Defender, of course I can pull an all-nighter reviewing case notes," or does that fall under Substitutes for Fitness?

I think the intent is that the "Of course I can Y" part is supposed to cover things that fall outside the basic abilities, and I guess the Unique feature is for things that are bigger in scope, but it's not presented super clearly.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Actually you can. Unique is so that what you want is GUARENTEED. It's universally accepted you have that thing and it's not something that can be ruled away, it's firm established in the fiction as a thing you can do or have.

Realistically though Unique is just a catch-all for something t hat doesn't fit any of the other features or abilities. Y'know, home-brew support basically. you do normally have access to, income equivalent with, etc. your identities.

I'm probably explaining it poorly, the book does a much better job. Actually I should include some examples I suppose, that might help:

Looking at those I hope makes it a bit easier to grok how identities work.

Mar 9, 2012
The 'Of Course I Can...' section is also a really direct way to tell the GM what kind of things you WANT to be doing.

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003
Fixing stuff seems like exactly the kind of thing that should not be a feature.

I get the hot air balloon thing--it's like, you own and know how to use this very specific piece of expensive equipment regardless of whatever else you've got going on.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Remember, these are all free-form worked out between players and the GM. There are no rock-hard guidelines because that's not how the game works. Maybe one GM DOES allow that as part of the identity, no features needed. Maybe another doesn't because they feel that makes that one more powerful than the other player's.

A LOT of UA3 is built around GM and Player working out collaboratively exactly what they want, how they want it, and what is fair and fun for everyone. Remember what I said: ALL character creation is done as a group activity with every other player and the GM. You aren't charoping these things by yourself the night before the game. The campaign frame, plot, goals, characters, relationships, all these are built together at the same time by everyone. Flexibility over balance is the rule.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Welcome to Libertownpia

Freiburg, the Free City was born as a social experiment in seeing how people do with few rules and an uninvolved government. His dream was to have a world where a person could live free of authority and control, and his idea is that he does that in Freiburg to see how it goes. Before the War of the Cross, it was Guldentor, home to one of the Imperator's palaces. During the war, it fell into disrepair due to the Baron's poor choices, and the Imperator stripped the man of his title. He died soon after, leaving the city unruled. Trage was later given a title that included the city, but he largely ignored it as veterans and refugees flooded in. It nearly collapsed, without anyone to lead it. By the time Trage returned to it, it was almost in ruin. With Wilma Probst's aid, he laid the groundwork for merchants, thinkers and organizers to remake the city, without any religious influence. He renamed it Freiburg, and many believed it'd collapse within a year. Instead, it's been going for four now, its conflicts resolved by a series of cobbled together rules that are approximately half arbitration and half street justice. These rules, known as the Freiburg Code or the Free Code, have survived as long as they have, most say, because Freiburg's people know that the city is all that's keeping them alive. Outside, there are monsters, and the city is a chance for something great.

The city is made of six quarters radiating from the Wachtturm, an ancient tower held up by Syrneth crystals, which was once home for the Imperator and is now the home of Niklas Trage. The quarters are separated by wheel-like road 'spokes'. The first quarter, known as the Griffon, centers on the Griffon Park. It is the most cosmopolitan district, with wares imported from across the continent and many inns and taverns for travelers. It is one of the most dangerous areas at night, as most of its population is transient. Second is the High Quarter, home to the powerful residents. Here you can find Vendel League houses and their guards, who keep out criminals and 'undesirables.' This is where you find your aristocrats and diplomats. Keep going west and you find Reinhagen, named for its large ampitheatre. This is where all kinds of performances and celebrations happen, and it can be rented out by basically anyone with the cash. Most recently and controversially it has been host to gladiatorial games run by a group called the Lonely Streets, open to any who wish to show their martial skill. The rest of the area is largely an artist's quarter, with its heart being the Sylvester Playhouse, run by philosopher-revolutionary Jean Lemaire of Montaigne.

Keep going and you find the Stein quarter. It is the oldest part of the city, built around an old fort. It was nearly decimated in the war, but was rebuilt and is now home to all troops in Freiburg, including Trage's Iron Guard. It is also home to several fighting academies and duelist houses, plus the Iron Arm, a street run by the Weaponsmith's Guild. Keep heading around and you reach the Institutional Quarter, home to the governmental buildings of Freiburg, such as the gaol, plus things like the Drachen Cathedral or the offices of the Freiburg Gazette. It's where all of the administrative offices are kept, under command of Wilma Probst. It's also home to Freiburg University, which has an excellent library and a quarterly pamphlet, the Wahrheitspapiere ('Truth Papers'), which welcomes new, controversial and heretical ideas, printed anonymously. Last is Goldviertel, the Gold Quarter - commerce hub for the city thanks to its large Marktplatz and trade yards. The Freiburg Marktplatz is a chaotic and uncontrolled place, and while the Iron Guard try to keep the peace, hired muscle controls many parts of it. Various criminal cartels make their home there, as do mercenaries operating from the Drachen's Toes Tavern. The ATC has recently started to bring slaves through the market, which has thrown the entire quarter into uproar and made it hard for even the Iron Guard to keep a lid on the outrage.

Freiburg is notable for the heights of idealism it contains and the depths of iniquity. It is a crossroads of thought, where all ideas are welcome, and it is home to much debate about Eisen's future. It is the place where everyone comes to make deals and do spying in Eisen, and the Rilasciare are currently the most powerful, having sworn to prevent Freiburg (and Eisen) from falling into the hands of any monarch, while their offshoot, the Kinder von Morgen, want Eisen to become like the Sarmatian Commonwealth. The fights over the future of the nation have already begun in the streets, and they're bloody. Others seek Freiburg's past, as one of the oldest cities in Eisen, and the Explorers have an immense chapterhouse in the city to explore the ruins under the place, which are Freiburg's worst kept secret.

No one is sure exactly how deep the ruins are or where they lie exactly, but every year, more people get lost sneaking into the catacombs under Nachtblut Cemetary to seek them out. Syrne relics and crystals can be found across the city, most notably a large, ancient crystal statue in the middle of the Conservatory Gardens, which actually is the power source that keeps the Wachtturm from falling over. The cemetary is also full of drachen bones, leading many to believe it was built on a drachen burial ground. Treasure seekers often dive in nearby Quarry Lake to hunt for relics or bones, only to be eaten by swimming Horrors. While a lot of Freiburg's dangers are crime-caused, the Horrors are also there making things more exciting. They lurk in the shadows throughout the city, because Eisen. It's one of the reasons the locals live every day as if it were their last.

The Dracheneisen Mountains are also called the spine of Eisen, and they run along the edges of Hainzl, Fischler and Wirsche, cutting off northwest Eisen from the rest of the world. Once, they were home to rich dracheneisen mines, and while those veins have run dry, many still seek the metal the mountains were named for. In ancient times, the mountains were drachen roosts, and their bones can still be found in ancient caves. Other treasures are also found, like the cache of dracheneisen weapons that bought Trage a title. Thanks to that story, many now go seeking wealth in the mountains. Most are never seen again, but some have ended up founding more permanent settlements in the high peaks, learning new ways to survive.

Of course, just like the rest of the nation, the mountains are full of Horrors. A form of winged ghoul is most notable, able to glide on leathery flaps under the arms in order to drop on people from above, while another form is able to tunnel from below. The locals have had to adapt quickly, often by turning to banditry to feed and arm themselves. They are fast, ruthless mountaineers, learning quickly to rappel down and rob a caravan in record time. Others became slavers, running mountain chain gangs of travelers to hunt for dracheneisen. So far, no one has found any, but the gems and minerals from the mines keep the popup mining towns running. More recently, they've been finding glowing Syrneth crystals, too. When asked about the slave towns in the mountains, the Eisenfursten all deny the existence of any in their own land. Fischler and Hainzl have both launched expeditions to investigate the allegations, but they never find anything. Roswitha von Wirsche merely scoffs at the idea, refusing to send her Iron Guard to even look into it. The fact that her summer manor, Klarhammel, sits not far from one of the supposed slave towns has many wondering how much she actually knows and allows.

And then you have places like the nightmare village Hohenlage. It used to be a major meeting area for local villagers in the mountains to trade and get caravans into Wirsche or beyond, even to Montaigne. It was a thriving town, before the War...but after the Horrors came, it was attacked constantly, its population shrinking. No one came to help them, and it seemed they'd all die...until one day, a nobleman showed up with a solution. He was Viktor Franzeller, a scientist and hexe, who swore he'd teach them to survive peacefully with the Horrors, as long as they obeyed him unquestioningly. A generation later, the town has been utterly transformed, as Viktor experiments on the villagers, grafting pieces of Horrors onto them to empower them. He created the Leibewerk Horrors, undead monsters made of various limbs grafted together, and has even learned how to keep people alive after a graft. He's adjusted nearly all the villagers in some way. The Changed, as they call themselves, vastly outnumber those few that refused to take part. Viktor is obsessed with finding the perfect blend, but has had little success in his experiments. The townsfolk are now mostly invisible to the Horrors, though it's not totally clear why. Most of them are fanatically devoted to their new lord, and those that aren't keep that a secret, except to warn outsiders to keep their heads down and their mouths shut while passing through. Rumors of the Changed and their existence have now reached die Kreuzritter, who want to end Viktor's work extremely terminally. However, even for them, getting through the mountains to fight him won't be easy.

The Walder, meanwhile, is spread between Freiburg, Fischler and Sieger. It covers nearly a third of southern Eisen, and crossing the nation east to west pretty much requires going through the massive forest. There are several roads, but most are poorly guarded if at all, as neither Sieger nor Fischler have the resource to patrol them, and Freiburg has mostly ignored them. Merchants and caravans hire their own guards, and it is not that unusual for an entire party to just vanish in the woods, blamed on losses to blood drinkers, shapeshifting beasts or the Schattenmann himself. The Walder's full of monster, after all. Undead, blighted animals of enormous size, blood-draining mists, witches, ghouls and more. Then you have the units of ghost soldiers reenacting old battles on anyone they meet, the sobbing ghosts at night that try to possess people and drain them of life unless their unfinished business is resolved or an exorcist is near enough to drive them out, and other types of less solid undead. Most of the human inhabitants are little better, hardy and desperate bandits that live there because nowhere else will take them. Only the strongest survive the Horrors.

Some of these become what local villages around the forest call the Wilde Kinder, roving bands that attack anyone they find. Apparently they believe they are culling 'herds' of humans that enter the woods. Others say the Wilde Kinder are shapeshifters, taking on the form of hybrid animal-human creatures to track their prey. But either way, between the Horrors and the bandits, the Walder is dangerous to traverse unprepared. Many merchants refuse to camp there at night, preferring to travel for hours to avoid doing so, while others band together to make temporary villages in the woods, in the hopes that numbers will keep them safe. It doesn't stop the Horrors, but it makes the fights easier. If you wander off the beaten path in the northwestern woods, you might also wander into Waldemar Estate, a crumbling old manor house that is home to the blood-drinking Waldemar family. They seem quite hospitable...until they eat you.

Perhaps the most terrifying inhabitant of the Walder, however, is the Schattenmann, the Shade Man. He walks the forest with a giant pair of shears and has long, stick-like arms, ready to carve up anyone he meets. Some believe him a simple Horror, but survivors of his attacks speak of a horrific intelligence hiding behind his black, pit-like eyes. He is said to protect the Imperator's Grove, named for the first Imperator, Stefan. It is a grove of bone-white trees around a fountain that is believed to cure any illness or injury. Stories say Stefan negotiated use of the woods from the powerful spirit-guardian of Eisen, in return for her being left out of his disputes. However, it is said she removed her protection from the Walder, leaving the fountain trapped behind legions of monsters.

There are a few villages around its edges, at least, that are relatively safe. They are home to woodcutters, miners, hunters and so on. The largest of them is southwestern Kummerholt, run by Alwin Rainer, a seventh generation local boy. It's the closest to a safe haven for travelers in the entire forest. The locals treat outsiders with a sort of weary humor, as they believe anyone traveling the Walder is obviously a fool and arrogant to boot. However, anyone that survives a trip can expect a free drink at Rosswind Inn, a standing offer put in place by the innkeeper, Rolf Barkhaus, and his wife Romilde.

Next time: Pechta's Forest

Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo
I love new-Eisen. It's a perfect setting for monsterhuntery stories. Hohenlage in particular is great.

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Pictured: Poster prepares to celebrate Holy Communion (probablY)

This avatar made possible by a gift from the Religionthread Posters Relief Fund
Freiburg sounds loving aces too.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG

Part 20f: Mechanics of the Lost Temple

Now that we're loving finally done with the grand tour, we can get to the mechanics. Which is nice, because I can probably get through the next few chapters in one or two posts without getting burned out again.

The first chapter after all the setting dribble is Axioms and World Laws, which (as always) I already discussed in the opening post for this book. But (again, as always) I'll quote myself here.


Magic: 12. Slightly above Core Earth's, just below Orrorsh's. Spellcasting is possible, but doesn't see much use in the jungles. Most sources of magic are the ruins that dot the landscape, many of which are only possible because of magic. That said, there are a lot of natives with inborn magical talent; they tend to position themselves as shaman.

Social: 8. At one point above the Living Land's, the social axiom allows for multiple distinct tribal societies, but not much else. This axiom is low not so much because the inhabitants haven't advanced much, but because there simply aren't enough native dwellers to create a larger society. There is a rudimentary justice system in place, complete with the idea of eye witnesses, but the harshest punishment is usually banishment rather than a straight death penalty.

Spiritual: 17. This is the highest axiom down here. While there are multiple religions in Merretika, they tend to exist only to one tribe and are either monotheistic or based around a handful of "protector spirits". Miracles are possible, but there aren't many unique miracles.

Technology: 10. Unsurprisingly low; the tech axiom does allow for better weaponry than the Living Land (such as bows and metal blades) as well as rudimentary medicine. That said, hunting and gathering is still the main source of food, but since you can't swing a spear without hitting some sort of game most of the tribes have abandoned the nomadic lifestyle. Only one tribe has actual writing and what we'd consider scientific research.

The Land Below has three World Laws, but one of them is the Law of Action, which is identical to the Law from the Nile Empire, so I'm not going to reiterate that here.

Of the two new Laws, the one that holds the most sway is the Law of Savagery. This law states that the Land Below is a harsh one; survival must be fought for day-to-day, there are no guarantees. Cunning and intelligence will only get you so far, what matters is who's left standing when the blood settles.

The Law of Savagery has two mechanical effects. First off, players cannot play cards for non-physical actions in combat. You can still taunt or maneuver, but you can't use cards to get bonuses to those actions. Second, when "attack" is an approved action, you only get to draw a card when you perform an All-Out Attack.

This Law also has some narrative effects. To start, characters who act more savagely are rewarded with an extra Possibility at the end of the session.

The second effect is that your clothing will be destroyed, in a tasteful PG-13 manner. Thorns will snag on fabric, natives will want to trade your interesting clothes for supplies, and every attack will rip something on someone. Characters will never end up naked, though; there's always just enough left to cover your naughty bits. Actual armor fares better (in that it doesn't just fall apart), but no matter what armor will never provide more than a +4 bonus to Toughness.

There are a few more things the Law of Savagery does, but they only apply when you're in a Pure Zone or if you're a native.


Male characters will find that their body hair grows at an alarming rate. Beards are grown in a few days and chest hair will become thick within a week. Female characters will find that their scalp hair grows at this incredible rate and after a week, their hair will reach their waists or even their ankles if their hair was already long. The new hair growth can be cut or shaved normally if the tools are at hand, but the hair will quickly grow back again.


The other physical side effect of the Law of Savagery is that physical attractions become heightened as the animalistic effects of the law take hold. Members of the opposite sex will appear more attractive to one another and latent love interests will flare to bold passion. Characters who play a romance subplot while adventuring in the Land Below receive one extra possibility point at the end of each adventure act. Also, any Charisma-based test involving a member of the opposite sex receives an automatic +3 to effect (as if a Presence card had been played).

The final Law is the Law of Wonders, which is what allows the creation of buildings and temples and such beyond the limits of the Tech axiom. This Law allows the Nile Empire engineering skill to be used in the Land Below, and even then it's only used by one tribe. Which is to say, this Law does nothing.
There is a rather long sidebar about using the Nile Empire's engineering skill, which you may remember was about building big structures for the purposes of enchanting them or something, to build the wonders in the Land Below. But here's the thing: this seems to assume that the GM is going make rolls and have NPCs cast spells to build whatever, rather than just saying "this structure is here and it does this".

What's wrong with there just being huge weird impossible temples? How many players are realistically going to see (for example) the Pyrian temple floating over the volcano and try to reverse-engineer how it works. It's an idea that we use a lot around here, but: nobody's going to check your math, GM. You don't need to validate every aspect of your game world to the point of having specific spells used to reinforce the magical Principle of Whateverthefuck, just put stuff where it makes sense and move on!

Leaving that stupidity behind, we quickly come to the chapter on Miracles of Faith. Each tribe pretty much has its own religion, and as such each one has their own specific miracles.

The Dahooni only get a few:
  • Call Giant Wasp doesn't quite do what you'd expect; it's only used by the high priestess to summon all the bonded wasps from the hive, or every six months for the birthing ritual. Also, it doesn't actually command the wasps, it just calls them. As such, it's another of those "this spell is here cover something that an NPC shouldn't even be rolling for" situations.
  • Catalepsy prevents the target from moving at all. The target is still aware and can breathe, but that's it.
  • Cure Poison does what you'd expect. I'm pretty sure this miracle has appeared in a few of the sourcebooks.
  • Wasp Sting is a touch-based "attack" that doesn't inflict actual damage, but if the attack hits hard enough it can paralyse the target.

The Keefe miracles unsurprisingly revolve around the dalberry trees.
  • Animate Tree, sadly, does not make trees start walking around, but it will allow the target tree to attack foes with its branches or entangle people in its roots.
  • Poisonberry will turn any natural ripe fruit still on the vine/branch poisonous. The fruit will remain poisonous indefinitely.
  • Seedberry is a ritual used to create a new dalberry tree seed. Again, no reason to make this a purchasable spell.
  • Speak With Grass and Speak With Tree, again, do what you'd expect. They're just slightly different versions of the Speak With Plants miracle that (again) has appeared in other books.

Leopard Men miracles are based around their idea that you can pray for the soul of a defeated foe and gain some of its power. That said, we once again have a "ritual miracle" that shouldn't be something you roll for.

The miracle is Consume the Leopard's Heart, and, well...


For a boy to become a man among the Leopard Man race, he must hunt down a great leopard and kill it single-handedly. When he eats the heart of the great cat, the boy becomes a man in the eyes of his people. This miracle is cast by the young man to capture the power of the leopard's soul and make it his own. Compare the boy's faith total to the leopard's Spirit, reading the results on the power push table. The boy may add the power push to any attribute except Mind, or divide the result among any number of attributes. The miracle's benefits are in effect for a time value of 31 (two and a half "weeks"). This miracle is only used once in a lifetime by each Leopard Man.
I know I talked about this way back when I talked about Aysle, but when you have a spell like this, it raises a lot more problems than it solves.

First off, is this miracle required to achieve "manhood" in the tribe? What happens if the kid beefs the roll? It says right there it's only used once per person; does that mean he can't try again? What if he doesn't have a high enough faith skill to know the miracle in the first place? The miracle has a range of "Self" so he can't have someone else perform it on him; does that mean he can never become a man? Not to mention that buying this miracle for a PC would require spending XP on something that you can only use once, if your character is a "man" in the eyes of the tribe, then you're actually spending XP on something you already used in your backstory and can never use again.

Stuff like this makes me so mad. It's such lovely design, because at this point you're just making spells for the sake of making spells. This is the mindset that gave us such great ideas as "spending skill points in Perform is roleplaying".

Ugh, sorry. Didn't mean to go off on that rant again. But here's the thing about the Leopard Man rituals: only two of them are things that would be used regularly from a PC's standpoint. The rest of them just cover things that any other game would handwave as just "these are just things they can do and that we don't need rules for".

The rest of the Leopard Men miracles are:
  • Steal the Essence of Water, which lets you drink from a natural water source to heal shock and KO damage once a day.
  • Power of the Beast is the generic version of Consume the Leopard's Heart, although to be fair it is more powerful. When performed over a kill, you make a faith roll and compare it to each of the beast's stats on the Power Push table. You then get to add the result from the table to that stat for 24 hours, up to a max of the beasts' stats. Yes, this means that you can potentially boost all your stats with one roll.
  • Ritual of the Hunting Totem is used to mark the boundaries of the Leopard Men's territory. Passing between two totems requires a Spirit test. Passing the test lets you move past the totems, but failing will weaken the target and alert the tribe.
  • Ritual of Tree Bracing and Ritual of Tree Weaving have no other use than to make the tree houses the Leopard Men live in. That's it. Hell, all the Tree Weaving one does is let you bend the branches of a tree into any configuration for one hour. That's worth spending your hard-earned XP on, isn't it?

The Ohibi miracles can only be performed by an Ohibi with the focus skill ( how miracles work in general), and the only Ohibi with that skill is their high priest Mehret-Ahn. He's apparently happy to cast these on people as needed.
  • Animal Sounds lets the target make perfect animal noises for an hour.
  • Calm Beast is another "what it says on the label" one.
  • Living Jungle makes vines and branches come to life and entangle people.
  • Painless Kill causes the first unarmed combat attack the target makes do a lot more damage (10 + the caster's faith total, rather than the usual flat Strength), but the attack does no shock or KO.
  • Pass Quietly basically just gives someone +8 to their stealth rolls for an hour.
  • Power of Mehret is this religion's useless miracle. It's the one Mehret-Ahn performs in The Sphere.

Lastly, we have the Pyrians. The interesting thing about Pyrian miracles is, because of their god's dual nature, each miracle has two difficulty numbers. When the god is in his "good" state, defensive miracles are easier, but when he's feeling destructive damaging spells are easier.
  • Cloud of Ash creates a cloud with a 100 meter diameter (that's 300 feet, or just a bit wider than the wingspan of a Boeing jet) that reduces vision to one meter and causes people inside it to slowly suffocate.
  • Darok's Breath creates a miniature volcanic eruption that does roughly grenade-level damage.
  • Fertility turns ground into fertile soil, in case you were worried that there was a miracle in this group that was effectively useless for PCs.
  • Flame Aura turns the caster into a "pillar of flames", increasing his unarmed damage.
  • Flame Ward gives a +8 bonus against heat-based damage.
Huh, that's it for this chapter. Might as well keep going.

Next up are the new Pulp Powers, and thankfully there's only six of them. As a reminder, pulp powers have an XP cost that must be paid every adventure, and if you don't (or can't) pay out, or don't use the power at least once in the adventure, you lose the power forever. Bear that in mind as we go through these.
  • Adrenaline lets you, twice per day, shake off all shock and KO damage and increase your Strength and Dexterity for a while. The amount of the increase depends on how long you want the boost. You can use this more than twice a day, but doing so will wear you out. This has an adventure cost of 3.
  • Animal Companion gives you a animal sidekick that is loyal to the point where it'll die for you. It will do whatever its master wants, and the two are actually capable of rudimentary communication. This also has an adventure cost of 3.
  • Claws lets your unarmed attacks do STR+3 damage instead of STR. This costs 2 XP/Possibilities per adventure, or 3 if you want them to be retractable. Note that this is the same damage as a baseball bat or knife, which do not cost XP.
  • Far Vision lets you see and hear what is happening to someone, from the point of view of about 10 meters away from them. Range depends on how well you roll when you use the power, and you can only do this once an hour. Still, that's pretty drat useful for an adventure cost of 2.
  • Regeneration, when used, clears one wound or removes either a "K" or an "O" if you succeed at the power roll; the worse your wound level, the higher the difficulty. Failing the roll means you can't try again until the next day. This has an adventure cost of 5.
  • Sense Magic lets you detect any form of magic for ten minutes. It can only be used once every 12 hours and has an adventure cost of 1.
So, from a mechanical standpoint, having an autonomous animal companion who'll die for you, being able to boost your combat stats a few times a day, and having retractable claws all have the same mechanical weight.

Moving on from there, we get to the Creatures and Folk of Merretika chapter, and here at least I see one thing I like over this chapter from previous books: they actually separated the creatures from the NPCs.

Not that it really matters, because pretty much all the creatures are "jungle animal, but bigger". The only real exceptions are the huevenge (a unique bat-creature that defends a single spot for some unexplained reason) and the rodar, who are rodents that are only noteworthy because they're P-rated and are surprisingly intelligent, to the point where they'll help humans they like.

The huevenge defends these floating obelisks for some reason.

As for the folk...well, there's only three people listed, and one of them is a giant ape.

Kord fell into Merretika as a teen from his home in Michigan and wound up transforming into the self-proclaimed defender of the lands. He's forgotten his old life, and seeks answers as to where he came from. He's a straight-up Tarzanesque "noble jungle lord", only instead of having an ape as a companion he has a saber-toothed tiger. He also possesses an eternity shard called Fang that increases his stats and gives him the animal friend power, but he doesn't know that this tooth hanging from his necklace has any sort of power.

Lathiar the Mystic is, no word of a lie, a wandering wizard. That said, I don't know why because his description doesn't list his personality, goals, or anything like that. Just that he seems to be on good terms with everyone but the Dahooni.

Ungrosh is the aforementioned giant ape. He stands about 20 meters tall, is P-rated, and is feared by every tribe as an unstoppable rampaging engine of destruction. He spends most of his time in the mountains, but when he gets hungry he wanders down into Merriteka proper and starts eating every animal or person he can get his mitts on.

OH HEY ONE CHAPTER LEFT! I never thought I'd see the day.

The final chapter is Adventures, and here we can see what the writers intended people to do down here. Sadly, the answer is pretty boring.


Escape from the dangerous jungles of the Leopard Men. Discover the secrets of the Ohibi. Battle the ever-encroaching presence of the Nile Empire. Travel to the bottom of the Misty Gorge. Deal with the powerful Pyrian Empire.

What makes the Land Below unique in the Torg universe is that there is no central villain. The realm is an unknown, waiting for exploration. There is no active High Lord to oppose. However, that doesn't mean that Storm Knights will have an easy time of it.

Petty warlords, dangerous creatures and wondrous sights await those who enter the fringe reality. Once a group of Storm Knights have entered the Land Below, there are two main ways of pushing adventures along: have one of the players use one of the Land Below templates and funnel her information, or use the jungle lord Kord to send the Storm Knights on their way.
Let's unpack this. What I'm about to get into would be my normal end-of-book summation, but I want to talk about this stuff now in the shadow of those statements.

The problem with the Land Below is that there's no central threat. There's no real driving idea behind it beyond exploring a lost world and discovering things.

Which is fine on its own; that's the basic idea of your hexcrawl setting. But that's not what Torg is about. There's a central threat in the setting that drives all the action and setting development. There's a basic idea the rest of the game is built around.

But when you hit the Land Below, none of that matters. It's so detached from the rest of the setting it's pretty much pointless. There's no reason to go there to begin with because it's not tied to the Possibility Wars at large, and there's nothing to really do there that matters because the Land Below is so self-contained.

Land Below might work as a stand-alone hexcrawl for another game, but even then it wouldn't be an interesting hexcrawl because so much of the place is just empty space with nothing to do. And the places that do have things feel less like cool things to interact with than "hey check out this thing we made, isn't it cool?". Everything about the Land Below has the feel that you're just supposed to see everything and be impressed. It's a tourism setting. You don't interact with it, you just go from point to point and see all the neat things the designers created.

(Not to get too ahead of myself, but the Land Below is in Torg Eternity as a sort of pocket realm in the Living Land. It appears in the big Living Land adventure, and you do indeed spend that part of the adventure being shuttled to visit every tribe and meet a bunch of NPCs before leaving. So that's a straight-up tour guide adventure.)

Anyway, the sample adventures provided are "discover the Land Below by chasing Nile Empire operatives and discovering the big elevator", "get tricked by Pyrians to do their dirty work", and "literally the plot of King Kong". There's a few adventure hooks, of the "named NPC X finds you and needs help with Y" variety, but there's really nothing worth going into any detail over.

The remakes are never as good as the original.

Lastly, we have four character templates.

The Darooni Wasp Rider spent her whole life dreaming of becoming one of the elite warriors, and when she bonded with her mount it was the proudest moment of her life. Unlike the other riders, however, she loved exploring and wondered what existed beyond the Darooni borders. The priestesses forbid exploration, so she went off on her own. She starts with a giant wasp companion, and her tag skill is beast riding

The Keefe Haroo is a sort of wandering priest-slash-bard. He goes from Keefe tribe to Keefe tribe, spreading tales and outwitting the "big folk". Then he learned about a group of big folk who were getting the best of these bad guys who call themselves "high lords" or somesuch, and he had to get a piece of that action. Outwitting the most powerful people in the world? That's how you become a legend. His starting weapon is a Keefe poleaxe (which is basically a hair accessory for humans) and his tag skill is trick.

Oh, and I should point out that despite being only a foot tall, Keefe PCs don't seem to suffer any stat bonuses or penalties. In fact, there's no actual racial rules for Keefe. Not even a "you have to buy the pulp power 'Shrink' with an always-on limitation". It's a very weird omission given that every other race has had a bunch of rules.

The Leopard Man Warrior is here for one reason and one reason alone: to hunt. That's it. They spent so much space on his background ("hunted and killed leopard") they forgot to give him a motivation or anything. He does start with his leopard pelt, the super attribute pulp power for +3 Strength, no miracles (so how'd he do that ritual, eh, book?). His tag skill is tracking and he has a pretty cool quote.


"I will kill you, but I will not praise your soul or take power from your heart. Your soul is empty and your heart is wicked."

The Pyrian Priestess spent her life in service of the twin aspects of Karruk and Darok, embracing the duality of caregiving and anger. She's a true believer who struggled up the hierarchy only to learn that the people at the top saw the religion as a political tool for their own ends. Disgusted with this heresy, she now attempts to being the good word to the peoples of the frontier in order to find "people who will accept her great religion without free of politics and other impurities." She starts with a knife, a toga, and some bronze jewelry, and her tag skill is focus.

And that's it. We're finally done with the Land Below.

Of course, this begs the question of what role Merretika plays in the overarching Possibility War. The answer, of course, is "not much".

Well, that's a bit unfair. About two years into the invasion it destroys a quarter of the United States and finally pushes Baruk Kaah over the edge into full uselessness.

That can't be good for anyone involved.

Through the course of events I'm not going to get into here (because they're dumb; it involves Darkness Devices getting into an argument), the Land Below ended up pushing upwards and driving a ring of mountains up in the northeastern United States. This completely destroyed all of Baruk Kaah's stelae in the region and utterly wiped out his eastern territory, along with (presumably; the book is unclear) a few million Ords when the stelae zones got destroyed. New England is pretty much the only part of the region that survived, and given that it's under Cyberpapal control that's not really a bargain. What's more, this destroyed Kaah's last remaining maelstrom bridge, completely cutting him off from his home realm.

Now known as The Land Above, this isn't so much a realm as a strange Land Below dominant zone where that reality's rules hold sway, just without stelae boundaries. This has also weakened the fabric of reality, allowing access to all sorts of new pocket dimensions, such as Atlantis or Mount Olympus. On top of that, the areas that had been fighting against the edeinos have to contend with Leopard Men and Darooni Wasp Raiders instead.

Meanwhile, the Land Below was expanded by this whole mess, and a new race of serpent people have appeared and started getting into territorial battles against pretty much everyone. Eventually, the leader of the Pyrians starts hearing the whispers of a Darkness Device speaking to him from somewhere on the surface world, but the game line ends before he can find it.

And that, as they say, is that.

I said way back when I reviewed the Aysle book that it was my most hated cosm book. Even after this, I stand by that statement.

The Living Land isn't the worst book, it's the dullest. It starts out with promise with the whole "underworld of every realm" thing, but then throws that aside for a Lord World pastiche.

And as I said earlier, that wouldn't be so bad if it had any kind of solid tie to anything else in the setting. Instead, it's just...there. There's no reason to go and nothing to do once you get there. The whole thing just takes it for granted that your group would want to wander around in this sub-setting.

But hey, it's done, and I don't ever have to write about it again! Yay! And you don't have to read about it anymore! Bigger yay!

We're actually in the home stretch now, folks. There's the final SPOILER realm to cover, and once that's done it's straight into War's End. But before we can dip into all that stuff, there's a few things we have to cover first. And we'll learn what those are...

NEXT TIME: The final metaplot pit stop!

Hattie Masters
Aug 29, 2012

Grimey Drawer
I forget, which of the Torg Eternity High Lords is the one from OG Torg?. I always thought that was a cool lil' thing

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Hattie Masters posted:

I forget, which of the Torg Eternity High Lords is the one from OG Torg?. I always thought that was a cool lil' thing
None of them, but there's an implication that Quinn Sebastian might be from the original timeline, because the book states he knows as much as someone who went through the original game.

Hattie Masters
Aug 29, 2012

Grimey Drawer

Evil Mastermind posted:

None of them, but there's an implication that Quinn Sebastian might be from the original timeline, because the book states he knows as much as someone who went through the original game.

Right, yes that was it. Guess my brain got a couple wires crossed. It's still a cool thing though, and I could see it being used by a group that had played both games in a pretty interesting way

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?
Kult: Divinity Lost

So, reading this chapter, I shared some of what I considered to be the dumber parts with my friends, and learned that depending on your point of view, apparently what I consider to be the dumbest poo poo in this game, others will consider to be the very point of the game. So, you know, be warned, you may disagree heartily with me!

Anyway, last time we covered the specific things that people can only do if they have the requisite Advantage, and how they're stupid, badly designed and pretty much every single one has something dumb about it, so I couldn't even go through all of them. Now we're coming up to the things everyone can do, and how they're stupid, badly designed and pretty much every single one has something dumb about it, but at least there's few enough of them that I can go through most of them. As usual they're all triggered with a 2d10+stat, where a 15 is "total success," a 10 to 14 is a partial success and a 9 or less is a failure of some kind. Usually. Kind of. The game isn't very consistent about it. Sometimes a 10 to 14 roll will also ruin your day and a 9- has a negligible penalty.

For instance, with Avoid Harm, a 15+ is, indeed, us avoiding all harm, but the other two categories are us maybe taking some damage, if the GM thinks we should.

Which is basically the core of this entire chapter, which is that ostensibly the reason we have dice involved is to invoke a random element. Except in something like half the cases in this chapter, we invoke the random element, and then the random result is "The GM decides what happens." Most of the thinking is also highly confused. For instance, with Endure Injury, the GM picks what happens if it's a 10 to 14 roll, but we pick what happens with a 9- roll. I'll note, though, that we may be unable to die against our will. With a 9-, we choose whether we get KO'd, suffer a Critical Wound or die. We can only have one Critical Wound, but we can always choose to get knocked out instead of dying. Why would we ever choose to die? Why is it even an option?

I'd also like to note that having both Serious and Critical Wounds which can be inflicted by failing to resist them is a stupid idea, if terms mean different things, loving differentiate them properly when naming them.

This is also some of the most stupidly roll-heavy combat I've ever seen. A given attack, assuming no rolls are critically flubbed, involves four rolls. First you roll to see whether you get to act(more on this in a moment), then you roll to attack, then the other person rolls to dodge, and then they roll to resist being hurt. We may also need to roll for SAN(Stability, whatever) loss when getting hit, so five, when a few static modifiers and removing the stupid "do you remember to actually do things?"-check could perhaps get us down to two(damage and hit opposed by static modifiers in one roll, then stress in another).

But anyway, being stressed is hilarious, because when you flub one of those rolls, there's a long list of descriptive effects... and behind basically every one, in a paranthesis, is the exact same MECHANICAL result. Also a total flub means the GM takes over your character for a while because getting to play the game isn't cool and fun. Also when we lose enough Stability, the GM, gets the option to make us roll vs instant suicide(they really love character death at the drop of a hat here. Note that this roll uses the stat that we're already HEAVILY PENALIZED with for being this unstable) or to give the character a permanent mental scar. Alternately, it's suggested that the GM present the player with three options: Reroll your character, swap two stats around or gain XP and get a boost to seeing through the Illusion. Real tough choice.

Anyway, remember how I said you needed to roll to do stuff in combat at all?

Kult posted:

When you do something risky, under time pressure, or try to avoid danger, the GM will explain what the consequence for failure is and you roll +Coolness

So if that doesn't define pretty much anything done in a fight, I don't know what does. Anyway, this is basically just an incredibly dumb chance to fail literally everything important you might ever do unless you've got enough Coolness to resist it regularly. Like, you need a straight 15+ for things to go off without a hitch and for it to not be a partial success... but you're already rolling for the thing you're actually doing, and less than a 15+ is also a partial success there(except when it isn't or is up to the GM to decide, but okay, whatever, you get the idea). Like, why have the EXACT SAME MECHANIC twice? Why? loving explain yourself, Kult, you trash game.

Anyway, this is about bad things that can happen to us. What about bad things we can MAKE happen to others? Like being a violent dickhead? Basically unless you can roll straight 15+, don't bother, in fact you're probably better off waiting for others to flub attacks against you. Because the arbitrary options left open to the GM on a 10-14 roll involve being subjected to instadeath checks(an enemy counterattacks, and it's an automatic success and hit that you must Endure Injury to resist, and Endure Injury can, as noted, instantly kill you if you blow the roll and fail to convince the GM that you can, in fact, be knocked out while already being knocked out) or your weapon becoming useless(running out of ammo, breaking, being lost, whatever). Really, against enemies who are sufficiently bad at Violence, it's safer for you to just let them do all the attacking and waiting until their mistakes kill them(assuming they attack like PC's do, anyway. In fact the game has yet to establish if NPC's are statted and treated like PC's are at all.).

It suggests that a 9- should involve losing something important, but this is also one of the options open to the GM at 10-14. Did anyone edit this poo poo or are the authors just morons?

Anyway, the next thing in this particular section of abilities is Influence Other, which is the first skill so far to have any sort of limitation or sanity check at a 15+ roll! Wow! It's actually NOT literal mind control and you can't tell people to kill themselves and have it actually work. Of course, this only applies to people. With the proper advantage we can just bypass sanity checks and roll to convince national governments instead, as we learned. Playtesting! Editing! Stupid things that no one needs when making the next cool groundbreaking RPG of the 21st century!

Also they lose points for letting players try to use diplomatic skills against each others' characters, that's never good design.

The two perception skills, for reading people and situations, straight up state that they can be used to ask the GM how to solve a situation. For people it's "what will convince this guy to do X?" and for situations it's "what's the solution to this/what's the best way through this?" Investigate, meanwhile, hilariously, suggests that the players get to ask the GM: "How can I investigate this more?" "Hello Mr. GM I just used this skill. What do I have to do to use it again please." Or maybe just ask a goddamn question that will actually give you information you need and want.

Then there's a really vestigial "relationships" mechanic which amounts to "the people you like can hug you to help you recover SAN," "you can't murder your friends without a roll to see if you'll really do it" and "if your best friend gets shot in the head, you lose SAN."

Now these mechanics are really bad. But do you know what's even worse? THE ADVANCEMENT MECHANIC. Yeah, it's loving worse than HSD's, somehow. Basically, every session, the other players get to more or less offer you two dares, or "dramatic hooks" as the game calls them, but whatever, they're just dares. Like, "I think your character should divorce his wife" or "You should visit some place that really traumatizes you!"(more or less straight up the examples from the book) and if you do it, you get bonus XP. Like, this is INCREDIBLY STUPID for a variety of reasons, where the gently caress do I even start. Like, it's obvious that what they wanted was to reward you for doing cool dramatic poo poo relevant to your character.

Except then have the GM set the hooks or something instead, having the other players, who cannot know the character as well as the character's player, suggest DRAMATIC HOOKS for him, is just stupid and results in OOC poo poo being done for bonus XP. The second issue is that there's limited screen time and space for each character during a given session. What if someone else gets great opportunities for his hooks and I get none for mine? Grats, now you've got an XP-unbalanced party. So just loving JUNK that mechanic entirely. gently caress that poo poo.

Not that the other way of getting XP is any better.

Kult posted:

"After each session, the players answer the following questions:
◊◊Have we discovered anything new about the Truth?
◊◊Have we learned anything new about our characters?
◊◊Have we challenged ourselves?
For each question the players can justify answering “yes” to, every PC receives 1 Experience."

So basically you ask the players if they want more XP, then they say "yes," and they get more XP.

But you know what's more important than XP? How we can spend that XP. And what can we spend it on? Killing ourselves! Ha ha you think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

What we can buy are, literally, attribute boosts(but capped so low that our starting +3 attribute, essentially our trademark/character role thing, can only ever be marginally improved. Which feels like bad design. If I make John Punchman, then that means I probably want to play a Punchy Guy, and want to be good and better at being a Punchy Guy, not that I want to spend all my advancements on getting John his PhD.

Anyway, once we've levelled up three times, we get the following option:

Kult posted:

"End your character’s story arc as you see fit, and create a new Aware character, who starts with two advancements: The player creates a new PC and immediately chooses two advancements."

I.e. kill yourself and start over as a character of a lower level for some reason. On the other hand, "as you see fit," with no sanity checks... I mean, by the writing here, the GM doesn't get a loving say. I can say that my character ends his story by becoming president of the moon and giving a rocket ship full of ray guns and gold to the rest of the party, or that he infiltrates a nuclear missile silo and nukes Hell or whatever.

If we stick it out for ten level-ups without killing ourselves, though, we get to become a wizard or other Enlightened thing, which has yet to really be defined and explained. Which seems like a great place for the game to seque sharply into weapons which... uh. It feels like they forgot they were writing New Kult and not Kult Classic, since we get get a decent-sized armory thrown into our narrative-heavy game(even though every gun really only has two stats: Damage done, ammo capacity, and whether it can attack more than one enemy by sweeping fire across them). Also why bother defining ammo capacities for these guns when any non-perfect attack lets the GM just arbitrarily state we ran out of ammo anyway? Most of the weapons also have various different attacks... but quite a few of them aren't defined. For instance, for punching and kicking:

"Excessive force [2] [focus entirely on killing your target, disregarding your own safety]"

We basically do double damage in exchange for "disregarding [our] own safety" which the game doesn't define as having any mechanical effect. With a knife we can paralyze someone by holding it to their neck until they "break free," but it never tells us what they have to roll, or what we have to fail to roll, for them to break free. Then there are flashbangs which "momentarily neutralize" NPC's without any sort of save or check(only PC's get a save against this), but what does this mean? Like what can I do with them "momentarily neutralized"? Can I go around cutting throats and collecting ears? Or is it only enough to run away? Define this loving stuff, Kult, at least vaguely.

Throughout all of this, I also realize I haven't seen any sort of actual description of what happens in situations where lots of people want to do something at once, like a fight. How do we determine who goes first? Is there some sort of initiative mechanic? After a glance at the index, it doesn't seem like any of the GM-only sections cover it either, and we're now literally at the end of the player-facing part of the game book.

I was also pretty sure that the game never defined how much damage we could eat without dying, so I scrolled back to Endure Pain and realized something weird. If we get badly hurt enough, we get Critical Wounds, which won't heal on their own and require medical treatment. If they get treated, they become Serious Wounds, which eventually heal on their own with a bit of care, rest and painkillers. BUT, check this out, this is how it describes a Critical Wound:

Kult posted:

Examples of Critical Wounds include: punctured lung, severed aorta, intestinal evisceration, severed genitalia, ruptured eyeball, shattered collarbone, internal bleeding, spinal cord damage, or cerebral hemorrhage.

Like, I don't think that any amount of rest, even after an ER visit, will fix your "severed genitalia" or spinal cord damage back to anywhere near normalcy. Hell, most of these sound like the sort of thing that would result in never-healed injuries of some sort or another.

The game also fails to actually say it, but I think the intent is that when we have four Serious Wounds and a Critical Wound and next roll a 9- on Endure Injury, we should only be able to choose to Die. But it never actually comes right out and says it, so I think we should just pretend it's possible to get knocked out again even while already knocked out and... who ever thought this game was a good idea? And how could this game be delayed? Like what were they spending that time on? Not the loving playtesting and writing, that's for sure.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

At the risk of turning this into a declassified document, when a PC gets about 1000 XP total, they can actually jump to a new reality, retaining all knowledge but resetting to 0 XP.

May 7, 2007

Kult 2e is so incredibly my jam for lovely unexplained and poorly balanced mechanics i plan to eat it on toast

Jul 15, 2017

I do kind of want to know a little about the Darkness Devices getting into a shouting match. Mostly I'm just amused by the notion of, like, 3327's laptop arguing with Barak Kaah's... I forget. Giant tree?

Feb 25, 2011

my mum says im cool

Toilet Rascal

Barudak posted:

Kult 2e is so incredibly my jam for lovely unexplained and poorly balanced mechanics i plan to eat it on toast

the mechanics don't seem to be super complicated or anything, it's just an apocalypse world knockoff converted to D10s and with worse written moves.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Dawgstar posted:

I do kind of want to know a little about the Darkness Devices getting into a shouting match. Mostly I'm just amused by the notion of, like, 3327's laptop arguing with Barak Kaah's... I forget. Giant tree?
Kaah's Darkness Device's base form is a copse of stone trees, yes. I talked about it ages ago but the Land Below was created due to a partnership between Kaah and Mobius as a method of transporting troops and gear without anyone noticing. The Darkness Devices went behind the High Lords' backs and started keeping an eye on the tribes for potential back-ups in case Kaah or Mobius stopped being effective.

Then Kaah started sucking at everything, and, well...


For months, the Land Below had been racked by similar seismic disturbances, as the reality of that pocket dimension began to slowly, painfully merge with that of Earth.

It was shortly after the quakes began in the Eastern Land that the Kefertiri Idol, the Nile Empire Darkness Device, contacted Rec Pallen. Together, the two of them had been responsible for dropping dimthreads into the Earth and created the extensive cavern network that now exists.

They had provided the means of entry to the Land Below,and now it seemed that place wished to return the favor. The Kefertiri Idol warned Rec Pallen that something must be done, lest the Eastern Land be destroyed as a result of these upheavals.

But Rec Pakken did not share this view. Rather, it had begun to see the Living Land as a lost cause and the possibility that the Land Below might ascend to Earth as a golden opportunity. For some time, it had been hoping for a High Lord candidate to emerge from that pocket dimension, but so far none had done so. Perhaps, it reasoned, if the denizens of that place were to see all that awaited conquest in this cosm, a true servant of destruction would emerge.

So Rec Pallen reestablished contact with Mobius' Darkness Device and suggested that the two of them divert a minuscule amount of their energies to aid in the "birth" of a "Land Above." Their efforts bore fruit almost immediately,as the reality of the Land Below met and overloaded the weakened Living Land stelae in the eastern United States and Canada. One by one, the stelae burnt out, with Rec Pallen making no effort tosave them. Earth tremors became more violent, and even as REDACTED, great mountains erupted from the earth. Theese new mountain ranges would act as the borders for the Land Above, as well as the gateways to that pocket dimension which now coexists with Earth's reality.
Sadly, Torg never really showed interactions between the High Lords and the Darkness Devices outside of the Gaunt Man arguing with Heketon in the fiction parts of adventures.

Evil Mastermind fucked around with this message at 02:42 on Jul 24, 2018

May 7, 2007

Wrestlepig posted:

the mechanics don't seem to be super complicated or anything, it's just an apocalypse world knockoff converted to D10s and with worse written moves.

Thats the conflict resolution and even noted they completely botch it with inconsistency. Its all a mess

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG

Part 21: The final metaplot update

Okay folks, this is the final major general points metaplot update before the final realm book. I hope you're ready for some stupid plot points!

This is going to be on the shorter side because there's only two things I want to discus. Both these events happened near the end of the game line, long after the events of the final realm book but before War's End. I just want to cover them now to get them out of the way and because...well, you'll see.

One thing I want to point out about all this is that both of these plot points only happened in the Infiniverse newsletter, so despite being important to the events of War's End, it was entirely possible to not know they happened because they stopped publishing the campaign update sourcebooks after these events happened.

The first thing I'll cover is Baruk Kaah. Because man, he has not had a good time of things.

As has been discussed many times, Kaah was the series' bitch. After his initial successes during the novel trilogy, at no point after that did he have a win. First, 3327 and the Kanawa Corporation managed to sieze control of Sacramento from him, establishing their foothold in the States and giving the Core Earthers their first major (percieved) win. Then a group of Storm Knights managed to destroy the small territory he set up in Canada, destroying the bridge there and taking down the stelae zones he was doing all his sacreligious experiments in. From there, he managed to barely keep control of his eastern and western territories. Soon enough, his Darkness Device Rek Pallen got sick of Kaah's failures and attempted to replace him with a new High Lord.

This replacement was thwarted by a group of Storm Knights in a published adventure called The Temple of Rek Stalek, in which a priest of the edeinos god of death tries to usurp Kaah. The PCs stop this, on the basis of "better the ineffective idiot we know than the scarily effective necromancer we don't".

By this point Kaah knows that Rek Pallen is actively working against him, and the one-two punch of the destruction of his western maelstrom bridge followed by the destruction of his entire eastern territory was the last straw, finally driving the Saar into madness. Kaah told Rek Pallen that he was going to give up and bring the Darkness Device to a new, worthy High Lord down in the Land Below, handing it over in person as was tradition. It turns out that Rek Pallen was about as dumb as Kaah, because instead of just breaking its connection with Kaah and teleporting to someone worthy, it transformed itself from its normal form of a copse of stone trees into something Kaah could carry and let Kaah carry it down into the caves of the Land Below.

Of course, Kaah wasn't bringing the Darkness Device to meet a new High Lord. Instead, he led an expedition to a location in the caves known as the Nexus of All Realities. The Nexus was found months earlier by Kaah's scouts; a strange multifacited jewel whose faces reflected every known (and many unknown) realities. Kaah's plan was to throw his Darkness Device into it; his hope was throwing a multidimensional artifact into a nexus of multiple dimensions would create an explosion great enough to destroy both the Darkness Device as well as the Core Earth cosm.

Yup, at this point Kaah more than ready to go down and take the entire reality down with him.

At this point, any PCs who heard that Kaah was missing and cared enough to go find him could track him down to the caves just before he does the deed (although it should be pointed out that they'd have no idea what he's doing unless he tells them when they catch up to him, which means none of what's about to happen will make any sense).


By the time the Knights catch up to Kaah, he and his party will be in the nexus. The edeinos warriors will turn
to protect their Saar while Kaah approaches the nexus. The Darkness Device will not take part in any battle, unless one of the Knights dares to touch it, at which point it will send a damage value 60 surge of energy through the offender.

The Knights will probably make short work of the edeinos, even though they are all possibility-rated, and may even get to mix it up with Kaah. At some point, he will toss the Darkness Device at the nexus, though. Keep in mind that he will be willing to suffer damage from a Knight attack to do this.

When the Device hits the nexus, the gem will shatter, only to reform again. The Device will be nowhere to be seen — it will then emerge from one of the facets and vanish.

At that moment, a great wind will arise. The Knights will feel it, but will be unaffected by it. Kaah — conscious or not — will be drawn into the gem. Soon, all of its faces will show images of the Living Land High Lord being torn to pieces. Kaah will not re-emerge and the winds will cease when the nexus has finished exacting its revenge.
And thus does Baruk Kaah, the first Possibility Raider, conqueror of North America, Saar of Saars, meet his end.

It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

Once Kaah is out of the picture, the remnants of the Living Land realm are thrown into even more disarray. A few leaders rise to try to fill the vaccuum, but by this point there's not much time for them to do anything, and even if there was none of them are bonded to Rek Pallen so there's not much for them to do.

And really, that's the end of the Living Land as a going concern. Of course, by this point in the game line nobody gave a poo poo about it anyway.

The second thing I'm going to discuss is a "plotline" is something the Gaunt Man had been working on for a while as a series of adventures in the newsletter called Bride of Darkness.

This series sees the Gaunt Man sending operatives and Nightmares out into the world to kidnap women of power. People such as the head of the Dephi Council; Natatiri, one of Doctor Mobius' overgoverners; and Lady Pella Ardinay, leader of Aysle. The reasons why weren't revealed, but it's always safe to assume that whatever the Gaunt Man wants you don't want him to have.

The previous four parts of the adventure involved the PCs attempting to stop the kidnappings. But wouldn't you know it, Lady Ardinay was captured outside an adventure so that succeeded no matter how many women the group saves. Man, what rotten luck!

So anyway, the final chapter of the adventure has the PCs fighting their way into Illmound Keep, the Gaunt Man's home and base of operations. The real important action happens in the final scene, which is so goddamn bad I'm actually to break my normal protocols and quote the entire loving thing for you. Get ready for some Deadlands: Hell on Earth: The Unity level stupidity.


Read aloud or paraphrase:

In your time as a Storm Knight, you have witnessed scenes of horror before. But never anything to quite match this. The Gaunt Man stands in the center of the cavernous room, watching occult energies play across the chained, writhing form of Pella Ardinay. Beside her, also shackled to the wall, are other women, watching the Gaunt Man in terror. Several six-armed giants stand guard over them, seemingly oblivious to Ardinay’s pain.

Before you can react, the Gaunt Man turns and smiles. “Welcome, my unexpected guests. You are just in time to witness the culmination of my greatest experiment. My researches have proven beyond doubt that this woman —” he says, gesturing toward the pain-wracked Ardinay — “is more than she appears. We will soon see just how much more.”

The Knights have a couple of options here. They can attack the Gaunt Man; they can attack Pella (which will involve fighting the Gaunt Man); they can try to rescue Pella (the Gaunt Man will no doubt watch in amusement); or they can try to rescue the other captive women before they are destroyed by the energies unleashed here.

By now, you’re probably wondering just what the hell is going on. Well, it’s like this: some time ago, the Gaunt Man learned that one of the women intimately connected with the Possibility Wars was the focus of a portion of the Nameless One’s power. Up to now, only the Gaunt Man has tasted of this energy — but if another were to be “blessed” by the Nameless One, and could be brought under the sway of the Gaunt Man, nothing could stand in his way.

He therefore initiated his kidnapping scheme, with mixed success. The ritual he is performing will (he believes) simply speed up the transformation into a chosen of the Nameless One. (This is not the whole story, but not even the Gaunt Man knows that yet…)

<The Gaunt Man's stats; suffice to say they're ridiculous. Not that it matters, because he's not going to fight anyone and can't be defeated anyway.>

As soon as the Gaunt Man finishes his little speech, the hexaphim will abandon their posts and attack the Knights. Meanwhile, the occult energies continue to bathe the struggling Ardinay.

<The hexaphim's stats. They're just tough monsters who're there to slow the PCs down until the next cutscene starts.>

During the battle, read the following:

Suddenly, an inhuman scream comes from Ardinay’s lips. Now what looks to be a negative image of her strains against the chains that bind her. The occult energy of the Gaunt Man’s ritual is no longer simply bathing her, but is now radiating from her. Then she is the Ardinay you have known again; then the negative; then the two switch back and forth, as if battling for control of her form...or perhaps merging.

hat is most surprising is the Gaunt Man’s reaction. No cry of triumph comes from his lips, no shrill laughter reeks through the lab. Instead, he watches with something akin to awe, saying, “By the Nameless One, what is happening here? My ritual should not produce this effect. It cannot!”

Now the Keep begins to quake. The hexaphim, if they are still standing, begin to fall back. The chained women scream as masonry crumbles around them. The Gaunt Man is occupied with watching Ardinay, giving the Knights the opportunity to rescue the captives if they choose to (the quakes have weakened the walls, so pulling the chains free requires only a Strength total of 9).

Read aloud or paraphrase:

The Gaunt Man wheels on you, rage burning in his eyes. “You! You have done this, somehow! How did you interfere with my ritual? Tell me
or I promise you a hell worse than has ever filled your nightmares!”

His answer comes from an unexpected source. Ardinay, occult power blazing in her eyes, exudes only a fraction of her newfound energy and explodes her chains. Then she rises into the air, shouting, “Fool! Have you so soon forgotten that there is one whose power is greater than your own?”

The Gaunt Man raises a hand and fires a bolt of energy at the hovering form. Ardinay deflects it with a gesture. It strikes a table full of chemicals,
which explode in flames.

“You have been manipulated from the start, High Lord!” Ardinay continues. “The Nameless One required you to pour some of your occult power into this vessel to prime it for transcendence. Once that had been done, his own energies completed the transformation. I am everything you were and far, far more!”

“This cannot be!” the Gaunt Man rages. “I am the chosen of the Nameless One!”

“You? You are limited, Gaunt Man! You know only evil, only one side of the battle. The Nameless One requires a servant who has walked the paths of both the Light and the Dark.” A wicked smile comes to her lips. “And this vessel will serve admirably.”

She turns her almost inhuman gaze upon you then. “Hear me, Storm Knights. No longer am I the woman you knew! I have ascended — I have completed the journey begun when Uthorion possessed this shell centuries agone. I am a goddess of destruction! Challenge me at your peril!

“And you, Gaunt Man. Know that the eyes of the Nameless One and his servant are now upon you. Crush this pitiful cosm quickly — the master hungers for its energies. And if you harbor any foolish thoughts of treachery —”

Ardinay lifts her slim, white arms to the heavens and bolts of lightning fly from her fingers, blasting a hole in the ceiling of Illmound Keep. Then she rises through the gap and vanishes into the night sky.

For the Storm Knights, leaving would be a real good idea right now, since the Gaunt Man has just been told he’s been used and probably isn’t taking it well. With portions of the Keep coming down (though we’re not talking mass destruction by any means), there’s enough confusion to allow the Knights to make a quick exit.
So that happened.

Now I'm sure the question on everyone's lips is "what the gently caress was the point of that?" And the answer is twofold.

First, it reveals to the players and the GM that the Gaunt Man has been manipulated since day one. This is used to explain why, for example, he made Uthorion the High Lord of Aylse despite the fact that Uthorion is a loving idiot. It's because the Nameless One manipulated the Gaunt Man into not only picking Uthorion, but also into getting him to possess Ardinay. a hell of a long-term plan.


The Nameless One’s goal was a simple one: he required a servant who understood both the Dark and the Light, something the Gaunt Man, for all his power, could not do. By tainting Ardinay’s body with Uthorion’s evil, the Nameless One banked on the possibility that eventually her spirit would return to its shell (after all, Uthorion couldn’t pull off the deception forever) and she would find herself divided between good and evil. A perfect tool …

Once this happened, it remained only for the Gaunt Man to be prodded into believing that the “bride of Darkness” would be at roughly his power level or slightly below and a potential ally in his quest to become Torg. By seeking her out and unleashing her latent evil through an occult ritual — one of sufficient power that the Nameless One would be able to seize control of it — the Gaunt Man allowed Ardinay to ascend to her new role as demigoddess of Darkness.

The second reason, and I'm not making this up, is to give the GM a weapon to use against the players when they get a little overconfident, or stray too far off the path you've set up for them.

"Godinay", as she came to be known by the fanbase, is straight-up intended to be a PC killer. Her skills are all in the mid to high 40's (higher than the Gaunt Man's), access to every spell in the game, and 500 Possibilities.

And yes, Godinay does play a part in War's End. As far as I know she never appears in any other books so she's a bit of a surprise there if you haven't been keeping up on things.

And lastly, I want to talk about Jeff Mills. Jeff, you may remember, is the creator of the "Five Realms" RPG, the role-playing game where you fight the Possibility Wars while they're happening outside your window. He's popped up in the past, seeming to know a hell of a lot about what was really going on.

Amazingly, he's nowhere to be seen. By the time of the third big setting update book, I guess they forgot he existed.

And that covers what I wanted to touch base with. These things will come into play once we hit War's End, but before that, it's time to finally hit the final SPOILER realm...

NEXT TIME: You're not gonna believe this!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

I love GM beatsticks, they make no sense because why would the GM need them when they control the entire game if they want to be a dick?

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer
I love that the long, red-legged scissorman is running around Eisen, but Godinay is just gross on so many goddamn levels.

Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case

Mors Rattus posted:

I love GM beatsticks, they make no sense because why would the GM need them when they control the entire game if they want to be a dick?

Torg is kind of the ne plus ultra of rules as physics, it makes sense that instead of merely allowing the GM to dictate things by fiat they produce a fully statted Plot Train Conductor and make them do it by the rules

May 13, 2013

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

Degenesis Rebirth
Primal Punk
Chapter 3: Cults



Imagine if Tech-priests of Mars weren't red and all of their biotech was just dress-up. Surprise, you have just imagined a Chronicler, a dude who loves cyberpunk cosplay and having multiple screens be placed wherever he goes.

'Digital posted:

The mask tightly presses to the nose and the forehead. Nimble fingers fumble with the clasps at the back of the head, tightening them until the leather is like a second skin. The frames of the glasses are now pressed tightly around the eyes, tubes are pushed into the mouth. A microphone membrane transmits the sound of every breath, every wheezing of the lungs and the squelching of the saliva-covered tubes to an amp hanging in front of the chest by a two finger-thick cables.

This opening “story” is about a Chronicler getting dressed, going outside – which includes a scan of his forehead barcode tattoo – and dreaming about the day when they will be on the top.

This is what "business casual" looks for Chroniclers


Most cults can hardly remember their founding days – we already know that about the Spitalians. But Chroniclers know exactly what happened.

Before the end of the world they were the Streamers – not the Twitch streamers that you know today, but people devoted to the Stream, the Internet++ of the technologically advanced age.

Open posted:

The Eshaton interrupted the flow of data, tore social structures paralleling the web of data. Centuries-old knowledge was lost. The last residues in the minds of the surviving generation were beaten out of their intelligent heads in the era of the beast. The counter had thus been reset to zero. Later on, the Chroniclers started calling the enormous catastrophe in 2073 the Zero Event.

Emphasis mine. I think we're going to see the whole “ignorant masses killed the redditors smart people” a few more times in the writeup.

So while everyone else were inventing new ways to worship the moon and eat unprocessed food, were Streamer collecting all sorts of technological crap (as well as user manuals, which surely existed in printed form in 2073). They lacked a leader, but they all strove towards one goal: getting internet the Stream back online.

Merely 29 years later (man, RPGs and time spans...) they built the Central Cluster in a freight yard. With electricity back online, they reestablished a “static Stream,” which is probably what we would call a LAN.

Open posted:

But all Streamcasts that might shed some light on these circumstances are hidden behind cascades of passwords. No one knows the reason. Presumably, the last authorized Chronicler died centuries ago. Since then, the Chroniclers are digging into the data, circumventing security mechanisms, overcoming barriers and installing backdoors. Using newly entered Stream data, the construct bridges across digital deathtraps and skirt defense complexes. But what hides within its core?

So much for knowing their origins! It's basically the same as with Spitalians, but this time, the data is still there, it's just paywalled encrypted!


And now, we're going to reiterate the previous section in a different way, because organization is for chumps.

So, Streamers wanted to get the Internet back online, because once you have WikiHow back and running, getting massive industrial processes required to run a technologically advanced culture back online would be trivial.

To that end, they secured the Colone Cathedral and the ajoining museum that held a computer center. Museums are well known for their sophisticated computer networks, servers and calculation centers, don't ya know?

They found an another LAN there and started mining it for technology. “They made a technological leap from the status of a Stone Age cult with residual information to a high-tech organization,” writes the book, and that sentence is an artifact by itself.

In 2148, mere 46 years after Central was established not at the Colone Cathedral, Anabaptists came in, crushed the weak nerds camping in the church and crucified them outside as heretics. At this point, about 70 years after the Eschaton, few if any of the original Streamers would have remained alive anyways.

Start posted:

The Anabaptists’ reign of terror began. Large amounts of information and technology were destroyed and thus removed from humanity’s consciousness. The achievements the Bygones had gathered over centuries fell prey to human stupidity. The Chroniclers fled and hid from their enemies to finally gather in the Central Cluster.


So the Chroniclers understood that no matter how many Wikia pages they edited, in the end, the guy with the sword (and willingness to use it) was stronger than some keyboard warrior. Thus they desiced to get crafty to survive.

Chronicler posted:

From that day on, power through intimidation became their new policy. No stranger has since seen a Chronicler’s face. Shards of mirrored glass were added to their robes. A modulator amp distorts their voices. The Cultists now look and sound like irate gods. But that wasn’t enough.

See? It's all cosplay. It's probably the only RPG faction that I know that literally cosplays to intimidate people. In Glorantha, dressing up like Techpriest would imbue you with the power of the Electric Gods. Here, it's just plain ol' dress up.

Man, cosplaying a Chronicler would be sooo meta.

Another thing that Chroniclers decided to do was take the old adage “information is power” and apply to the creation of currency. The Chronicler draft (so that's what the drafts mentioned in the Spitalian section were!) is, ugh, something:

Reset posted:

The consigned counter value of the drafts was pure, condensed information from the think tanks of the Cult. Crumbled sheets of paper with their barcodes and columns of numbers could simply be exchanged for directions to preserved, pre-eschatological storages, spy data, compromising information on enemies, or scientific texts on flora and fauna at the next Cluster. Everything the Chroniclers heard was entered into the always hungry data storages and distilled for redistribution.

I don't think the authors know what a “think tank” is.

So is the information encoded into the draft? If so, it's probably hard to hunt down the particular draft with the data you need. But if the draft can be exchanged for any information you want, then how is it any different from any other currency, albeit backed by data instead of gold? And here I thought Bitcoin is stupid...

Eventually, Chronicler's best trick turned out to be blackmail. If you don't accept a Chronicler into the ruling Council of your city, welp, then all the nerds pack their technologically advanced poo poo and move out, while the information on the dirty laundry if your leaders suddenly drops in price. That and being a serious part of the economy secured their place in the real world.

Operating System

Side section! Sadly, it doesn't deal with the question of what OS the Stream is running on. No, this section is about the cutesy, tech term-laden language that the Chroniclers - much like the guy who came up with the titles for the sections in this part - use.

Level: Rank. Applicants are level 1, Fragments are levels 20-40, at least the Agents (so levels 2-20?) think so, but the info is murky.

Bios: it's a Chronicler's CV, which includes their score.

Update: once a Chronicler reaches a required score, he or she advances in rank. So when you level up in the game, you level up in-universe, too.

Redundancy: information that Chroniclers already know – an rear end in a top hat way to say “nothing new.”

Next time: How to become a turbonerd in the post-apocalyptic wasteland

Jul 9, 2003

Evil Mastermind posted:

The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG
... Who's the Nameless One again? Because I don't think this is about the protagonist of Planescape: Torment.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Zereth posted:

... Who's the Nameless One again? Because I don't think this is about the protagonist of Planescape: Torment.

The Nameless One is the cosmic force of destruction and evil, and the source of the Darkness Devices. I don't blame you for not remembering that, since the last time it was really discussed in the Torg books is way the hell back at the beginning of the core rulebook and barely mentioned after that.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

But he's not the Torg, despite being powerful enough to make the Darkness Devices, because reasons.

Nov 9, 2011

Foolish child of man...
After reading all this,
do you still not understand?

Panic at the Dojo: Combat Part 4

We got the basics down last time, and hopefully we can wrap that chapter up this time!

Getting Taken Out
If you fall off an Edge, or run out of health, then you're Taken Out. If everyone on one side of a battle is Taken Out, the fight's over. While Taken Out, you can't take any actions or move, you can't gain or lose tokens, and any ongoing effects on you are on hold. You also can't be targeted by any actions, unless it's a healing action, in which case it can target you and bring your HP back up. If you were Taken Out by HP loss, then you're back in action, but if it was due to an Edge, you're healed but still out.

Coming Back
At the end of the round - that is, a full run through the Initiative track - anyone who fell off an Edge returns to action, placing themselves on any space adjacent to an Edge. Stooges (this game's Minion equivalent) are an exception, and are out for good. Bosses are also an exception - you can throw a Boss off an Edge, but if they're out of play at the start of their turn, they immediately return to play, instead taking 3 damage. The only way to ring out a boss is to KO them with the attack that knocks them off the edge.

Heroic Spirit
Here's where KOs get interesting: If you're Taken Out, your turns still come on the Initiative Track. You can't take any actions, but instead, your heroic spirit can energize your friends to fight harder!

If you're Taken Out at the start of your turn, choose a Stance and roll Action Dice as normal. However, instead of taking actions with them, pick another player, tell them what you want them to do, then give them your Action Pool. Your chosen ally then takes an additional turn, using their Stance but your die rolls. They don't have to do what you tell them to, but you just gave them a free turn, so they might as well hear you out, right?

There's an optional rule where, instead of giving them a full Action Pool, you can discard the two lowest numbers first, then give them a bonus of your choosing (but not the Default).

We've talked about these a couple times, but here's the full list.

Copies: Clones of a character. They occupy a space, and the original can spend Speed Tokens as usual to move them instead of theirself. When the original uses an action, they can have one of their Copies use it instead. Things that happen to a Copy don't happen to the original, and any Tokens they gain are discarded. If a Copy takes damage, it's destroyed immediately.

Edges: Cliffs, pits, or just the edge of the scene. If you are over an Edge, you can spend Speed Tokens immediately to escape from that fate, but if you don't have enough of those, you are removed from play until the end of the round.

Fog: Anyone inside or adjacent to a Fog space can only be targeted at Range 1 by enemies.

Rubble: You can walk over it, but only kind of. Discard an extra Speed Token for each space of movement over Rubble, and forced movement ends on it.

Traps: When you move onto this space, or when someone's turn ends while you're standing on this space, you take 1 damage.

Walls: Blocks movement and line of sight. A wall space can be targeted by an attack, and if it's hit for 2 or more damage, it becomes Rubble.

As should be clear by now, this game loves its Tokens! There's a ton of different Token types, but there are three types of Basic Token:

Iron Tokens absorb damage for you. Whenever you take damage from an Action, you can spend any number of Iron Tokens to reduce the final damage by that amount.

Power Tokens make your attacks hit harder. Whenever you use an Action that deals damage or pushes, you can spend 1 Power Token to increase its damage by 1 (if it does damage) and increase its push distance by 1 (if it pushes). You can't spend multiple Power Tokens on one attack.

Speed Tokens make you move. You can move as long as you have Speed Tokens, and each space of movement discards them.

There are, however, quite a few other kinds of tokens, some of them unique to specific actions, Forms, or Styles. Some of the more common ones:

Burning Tokens represent how on fire you are. At the end of your turn, if you're holding any Burning Tokens, discard one and take 1 damage.

Weakness Tokens reduce your power. If you deal damage while holding any Weakness Tokens, discard one and reduce the damage by 2.

Challenge Tokens are a bit special - you can only hold one at a time, and each one is associated with the person who gave it to you. While you have one, any action you take that targets people must include them as a target. At the end of your turn, if you damaged the person who gave you a Challenge Token, discard it. If the challenger is removed form play or taken out, you discard it immediately.

Next time: Putting all this poo poo together into a system.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

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

Mors Rattus posted:

I love GM beatsticks, they make no sense because why would the GM need them when they control the entire game if they want to be a dick?
Cargo cult design strikes again. They make sense in games explicitly designed for adversarial GMing and where the GM is also playing by a strict set of rules, which early D&D often was, but it's yet another thing copied without consideration in so many other games.

Feb 13, 2012

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

The idea that players have 'too easy a time' if they're using their resources well (and probably getting a bit lucky) is poison to RPGs. The allergy to just letting players triumph sometimes in older RPG design always felt really sad.

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003
Playing devil's advocate: If the players using their resources well makes the adventure anticlimactic,

a) you goofed a bit,

b) maybe throw them a scary-looking encounter that is actually a punching bag.

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?
Kult: Divinity Lost


So, now we know that we can easily build nukes and control national governments, but shouldn't ever try to shoot at or punch someone. So what do we actually do with these abilities? That's for this next part of the book.


This font still sucks titanic amounts of raw rear end.

So this next bit is more or less just "players control the PC's, GM controls the rest of the world" and all the other things we expect from chapters like this by now, with the only noteworthy deviation being a large sidebar explaining that stats are not in-game things(i.e. my character, John Punchman, is not aware that he has a +4 to Violence, he's just aware that he's got rippling muscles and is really good at punching mans.). We're also told that anything a player says their character does or describes their character as doing, they should be allowed to get away with, at most with a "but then" or "and also" caveat attached afterwards by the GM. The written example is then a player describing that they stab a bad dude right in the face, and the GM's response is "okay but the bad dude just no-sells it and tosses you around like a rag doll without giving a gently caress."

Which feels a bit disingenious. I mean, the idea that "you can't say 'no that doesn't happen' or 'no that doesn't happen like that.' if a player describes an action" isn't necessarily a game I'd want to play, but if that's the game they're designing, then go design that game. Don't, uh, immediately wimp out of it by encouraging the GM to nix the character's actions in a creative fashion instead.

The GM is also encouraged to hide the mechanics of the game from the players, by literally never addressing what's happening mechanically, and instead only describing things. While I get that the idea is to increase immersion in a Spooky Spookgame, as a player it would, to some extent, make me wonder when the rules are being adhered to and when the GM is just making poo poo up.

Generally this chapter is mostly GM'ing advice that's either painfully obvious to anyone who could ever even hope to be a good GM, or stuff that I mildly disagree with, but there's one section I feel every game should have:

Kult posted:

Being a fan of the characters means the GM offers the PCs opportunities to be cool, as well as vulnerable, and not to thwart the progress and successes they’ve earned through hard work. The worst thing a GM can do is remove or inhibit what makes a character cool. If a player has put in time into describing their character’s faithful German Shepherd and pointed out how the dog is their character’s entire life, it’s not okay to have the dog get run over and killed during the first game session for no reason. It’s a different story if some of the character’s enemies kidnaps the dog, giving the character an opportunity to fight to get it back. In the latter case, the GM is validating the player’s character concept regarding their relation to the dog, while in the former case she’s just destroying it.

Another thing to avoid is denying the PCs successes they’ve fought for and won. It’s more interesting to let consequences arise from the characters’ successes. Have NPCs react to the character achieving one of their goals. What threats might now view the PC as a possible ally? What threats now perceive her as a dangerous enemy? Allow the PCs to affect the world. Let their choices matter. If the characters depose a lictor from its position of power in the city, it would be pretty strange if there were no consequences. And what player enjoys playing a story where their actions don’t matter?

Like, I think this entire chunk here is probably one of the most important pieces of GM'ing advice ever, and I eagerly encourage everyone to take it to heart. Of course, that means it has to be followed by a section I absolutely loving loathe. The GM's "moves." In the same way that the players have their list of cool tricks, the game tries to separate all of the things a GM can do into a bunch of easily categorized actions and I just... I hate it so much that I have trouble expressing it. It feels aggressively artificial. Like congrats, everything you experience is gonna come from the same list of 20 or so verbs or short sentences. Also they're doing that thing I loving hate, where they say something, and then instantly do or write the opposite. Barely ten pages back they say that the GM should more or less never refer to the actual mechanics if he can help it... then drop in two examples-of-play where almost every sentence has a reference to rolls and mechanics.


Anyway, there's some damage and combat stuff. The threat to us from just about anything, before we reach the various supernatural dangers at least, is a 4 harm, which includes stuff like being hit by a chainsaw, standing next to an exploding grenade, touching high-voltage wires or being in a car crash. After one level-up, we can have the necessary stats to shrug this off 20% of the time, to establish our starting characters' power level. Also the game's combat rules means that bribing a gang of 20 hobos and having a chainsaw or a pocket full of hand grenades is the strongest weapon we're presented with so far, since those two weapons give us a straight 4 harm to loving dudes up, and having 20+ dudes help us gives a flat +3 to that with no apparent cap.

There's also a section on PC vs PC combat here which is where I'm reminded that we're literally only capable of hindering or helping other PC's. If two NPC's are throwing down or something, all we can do is watch or threaten them with our nuclear weapons.

When hinting at how we can make the game scarier, it's pointed out that one challenge is that players often feel safe because the PC's, not being complete morons, will tend to stick together. So the GM should just roll the necessary dice and abuse the required GM fiat to force them apart. Because gently caress that great section you wrote earlier about the importance of player agency, right? Also WOW. I just... HM. Well, the book straight up encourages you to have your players' characters be sexually molested by random PC's. It just comes out of the writing with zero loving warning or anything just: "SAY THAT THE NPC GRABS THE CHARACTER BY THE DONG AND STROKES IT LOVINGLY."

Now you might think I'm exaggerating, but just so you know I'm not, here. Have some verbatim quotes. The title for this section is "DARE TO BE UNPLEASANT."

Kult posted:

Take the players to places you don’t normally want to go, where it’s sensitive, difficult, and disconcerting.


Have no mercy. It should be difficult, offensive, and transgressive to the player character.


- You’re held in place while the bookie you’re in deep with undoes your pants and slips his rough fingers around your cock. He strokes it, almost tenderly, grinning. “When do I get my money,” he asks, while the laughter rings in your ears.


- You feel like you can’t control your own body. The lictor’s commanding voice has entangled your mind. You feel your newborn son’s warm, soft skin. You lift him up and he babbles and coos happily, unaware of what is about to transpire. You start walking towards the oven, your feet betraying you with every step.


- There’s a taste of blood in your mouth. Your head spins and one of your front teeth comes loose as he throws you onto the asphalt. There’s a ripping noise as he tears your pants down. He pushes his dick into you. You scream. He keeps going.


- You wake up coughing. It’s difficult to focus your vision and your face feels swollen and smashed. You’re in fetal position in the bed of a cheap motel room. Hardcore porn is on the TV. There’s a taste of semen in your mouth. The bed is drenched in blood. One of them got everything on camera.

SO. There are six "horror examples." Three are rape, one is babies in ovens, one is a mass shooting and the last is a horrifically detailed description of a police officer casually carving out the character's eyeball. This is followed by a section on "talk with your players about it first before you tell gratuitously described stories about their characters being raped!" I'd maybe have that first and also once your game needs a safe word, as they encourage, it's closer to some sort of weird sexual roleplay than anything else. Jesus Christ. Also maybe have the warning BEFORE the rape stories, Kult.

I'm not usually squeamish, but this bit got to me a little. loving Kult. But it's cool, we're past that, now we're getting to the section where they describe how to use monsters, and how to hint at them before they show up, how to get across the idea that they're otherworldly and-

Kult posted:

The nepharite pulls her clothing aside to reveal her glistening sex. You’re struck with the strong desire, a lusty pull, to put your tongue on the moist slit, to be permitted to kneel in front of her, to please and worship her.



WHAT THE gently caress.

I'm taking a break from this review for now because gently caress this poo poo.

Feb 13, 2012

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

Point b is a core goal in most 'boss' encounters in RPGs as is.

E: Wow, gently caress Kult.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 15:22 on Jul 24, 2018

The Deleter
May 22, 2010
A Lusty Pull is the name of my new Grindcore band.

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

Wapole Languray posted:

Also, think: This game is explicitly supposed to be set in a grounded depiction of the Modern-Day United States of America. Think, what the hell can a Ninja actually do? And how often would that even come up? So you can be super sneaky and good at kicking rear end with katanas and throwing stars. Maybe you also know some stuff about poison. How much use of the skills of a 16th Century Japanese Assassin do you think you'll get in 21st century downtown Pittsburgh?
"Ninja" is just the classic example of something that can do anything if you let it be a skill. The meme probably existed before any role-as-skill games did. I remember reading people complain on forums that they have a player in a Shadowrun, Conspiracy X, or other game with a martial arts subsystem who keeps arguing that he should be able to substitute his Martial Arts (Ninjutsu) skill for everything.

Mors Rattus posted:

I love GM beatsticks, they make no sense because why would the GM need them when they control the entire game if they want to be a dick?
A lot of GM Beatsticks in the 90s were in more "roleplaying not rollplaying <:mad:>" games that failed to sufficiently distance themselves from the adversarial style that seems to have been the norm in the 80s.

Jul 15, 2017

"Forced to put your baby in an oven." Good God, Kult.


Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case

god drat it

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