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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Like another poster said, I'm getting the strong impression the author grew up exposed to a lot of televangelism/right wing American Christianity, whether they bought it or not, and absorbed a lot of its underlying assumptions. Which is very very easy to do in the US.

E: Yeah, I'm not annoyed with the review, and I certainly find it interesting to read and discuss. Popular takes on Revelation are always interesting, I'm glad you're doing this.

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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Oh yeah, the review is fine.

I'm annoyed at the game.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

Mors Rattus posted:

Oh yeah, the review is fine.

I'm annoyed at the game.

:hf:

Rereading it pisses me off.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


I'm also pissed that the book only posits that there was a only a million of these super-centrists left in the world.

Also, what happened to the Meek who died before the Dream? Did they get snuffed out or whatever?

No afterlife is also lame. A better take would have been that this is Purgatory now, die and be reborn (as babies are still a thing) till you're less of a fence-sitter.

Kinda awful to condemn the Meek babies to annihilation, too.

Well, I wonder if the game has interesting stuff once we get past this BS.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



In fairness for the million part I think that's mostly because of the mass deaths.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

Yeah. The Meek were immune to plagues and the Locusts and poo poo like that, but volcanoes, starvation, earthquakes, and rioting would still kill them.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




quote:

The first and most important thing to come to grips with is that there is a fundamental misinterpretation in the New Testament. 'The Meek shall inherit the Earth" (Matthew 5:5) was not meant to comfort those who were downtrodden. It was a warning and a threat from Christ to those who were ambivalent in their religious convictions.
Let's get this out of the way first: I want to beat the people who wrote this game with a baseball bat.

quote:

If you had truck with the forces of evil in any way shape or form, you were damned. Pagans, practitioners of Magick and roleplaying gamers (ha ha) were all thrown into the pit. Those who used religion for their own ends were also damned, like televangelists, faith healers and mediums.

Oddly, many things that were thought to be sins before the Revelation turned out not to be. Drug use was not a sin, but drug abuse was. Adultery, bestiality, and rape (including sexual contact with someone under 13) were the ONLY sexual sins. Murder, bullying, and torture were sins, but other acts of violence were not. A frighteningly high percentage of soldiers were admitted into Heaven.

Almost everyone who lived an extreme lifestyle (policemen, soldiers, politicians, rock stars, violent criminals, drug addicts, etc.) have gone to either Heaven or Hell. There are a lot of accountants and plumbers left over, though.
There are a whole lot of interesting character concepts you can't play in this game, because they for sure went to Heaven or Hell already.

quote:

The second fundamental premise inherent in The End is that once the Revelation ended, God locked the gates of Heaven and Hell for one final time and abandoned humanity to itself. The Meek actually do inherit the earth in a bizarre form of poetic justice. The people who do not want to believe in God or the Devil are now no longer troubled by the fact that they are unsure of Their existence. The newly abandoned person knows that God and the Devil no longer take an active interest in this world. God isn't dead, He's just out to lunch.

This does raise a few points and issues. The first dilemma that the Meek face is the lack of an afterlife. Now that the characters are not going to Heaven or Hell, does anything they do on earth matter? The answer to this is yes and no. Metaphysically, there is no reward or punishment for your deeds anymore, therefore there is no such thing as a sin. A person can rape, murder, torture, and torment, and they won't be punished any more than a person who lives a virtuous life after the Revelation will be rewarded. This does not mean that the villain will get away with it, however. The laws of the earthly colonies will often issue death sentences for such heinous acts, and without any hope of an afterlife, many of these opportunistic sinners should think twice. Since God will not punish these people anymore, man has had to learn to watch out for himself.
Do the authors of this game know that they created a maltheist text? The world and its inhabitants, human and animal, would be better off in every way if God wasn't real.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs

An Abridged History of the Empire

What's really interesting about the history section in Sigmar's Heirs is how little it diverges. There are, however, some interesting assumptions and points of emphasis in how this particular telling of the Empire's history talks about itself. We'll be talking about the places where it goes into more detail and what those mean.

We get a little more detail on Sigmar's founding of the Empire, telling us that he began to found his Empire as soon as he had acquired Ghal Maraz when he saved the dwarf king from an incidental greenskin ambush. His mother's death at the hands of greenskin raiders seems to have driven him to think that even his particularly prosperous and successful Unberogen tribe was not safe on its own. Sigmar brought the tribes together by whatever means would work best, because he cared more about having an active confederation than almost anything else; guile, bribery, diplomacy, and killing the King of the Teutogens because Teutogens are kind of assholes and won't listen to those other three things got him his confederation. The famous Battle of Black Fire Pass tested it, where he convinced the human tribes to aid their neighbors the dwarfs before they wound up assaulted themselves. The great victory convinced the tribal Kings and Queens that Sigmar's confederation idea had had merit and had worked out.

While Sigmar had enormous authority, he was also a smart man who understood that his people had been dozens of tribes only a decade or so ago and that they had no rapid communications technology. He built his roads (and encouraged more river travel) because he hoped that trade, travel and communication would draw the tribes together, and he generally recognized that they were still separate tribes even if they all paid him homage. His original system of 12 great provinces and tribal Kings being converted to Counts was an acknowledgment of reality. He encouraged the Kings to develop and build fortresses and new holds, and was helped along by good fortune: The Empire had a long series of good years in a row while he was establishing himself. The weather cooperated and harvests were good, allowing populations to expand and people to feel prosperous. It's funny to thing that a few years of bad weather rather than good could've undone Sigmar's project, and I quite like that touch. Also, during Sigmar's life, Middenheim was the holy city of the Empire because the Emperor was a pious Ulrican, and many of his new subjects built new shrines to his chief God to try to earn his good graces.

Also interesting, it used to be the Ar-Ulric who would crown a new Emperor, and as we saw in ToS, it was a Priestess of Rhya who prevented the Empire from collapsing as soon as Sigmar left by inventing the Electoral system to keep the Counts from killing each other over succession (it was only partly successful).

This book is probably our best look at Sigmar the Man, and it paints him as a pragmatic, intelligent person who understood his authority had limits because of purely practical reasons. The hardest thing to understand about him is why he never considered succession, but that's the kind of question it's fun to answer for yourself. There's a strong element of luck in the prosperity of the Empire under Sigmar, too, and that's actually pretty refreshing.

We also get an extra detail from Helstrum and the foundation of Sigmarism: Helstrum's original vision claimed Ulric gave Sigmar HIS crown, making Sigmar Chief of the Gods. This makes the Ulrican reaction to his revelation make an awful lot more sense; the monodominism started at the source. As in ToS, there's also an assertion that Helstrum mostly caught on because his new religion preached absolute obedience to the Electors.

Much of the rest as exactly as it's been in other texts. It starts to add more when we get to the present day, telling the Storm of Chaos in a bit more detail. Interestingly, it acknowledges that there's no proof Valten was Sigmar reborn and that it's possible he was just being followed by a crusade of desperate people who needed something to believe in. Also hilariously, the entire Storm/War only actually lasted 66 days, according to this book. The northeast of the Empire is badly damaged, Archy got away and because he's a Chaos Lord everyone's worried he'll pull another of their infinite, instant armies of screaming fanatics out of his pocket despite the devastation of his forces, we do get a direct mention of 'the sudden betrayal of his Orcish allies' (lol), and the Empire is facing both the financial strain of full mobilization and a refugee crisis. Trade is disrupted, money has been lost, and in many provinces, the year's harvest has been ruined by the scale of mobilization and displacement. Also, Valten surviving his duel with Archy may not have been for the best; he died later in the temple of Shallya, and there are already accusations the Emperor murdered him and fears among Sigmarites that he was the savior and now he's dead (he was stabbed by the greatest of all rat ninjas).

The main issue presented throughout the history of the Empire in this particular telling is that the Empire is too big to hold together, but faces too much danger to go its own way. The greatest scandal of the last 100 years was Marienburg managing to buy its freedom from the Empire, something the Empire would very much like to undo and something that directly led to the overthrow of the Emperor who allowed it. Emperors are assessed as successful or not almost entirely based on how well they keep the provinces together, how well they prevent open conflict between the provincial lords, and how well they manage to centralize authority. It doesn't matter how they do it; Karl Franz's method of being a good dealer and politician who knows how to play 'neutral' mediator is just as valid as Magnus' heroic capital and inspiring religious leadership. Every Emperor and every powerful person (going back to Siggy himself) in the Empire's history is engaged in a constant game of compromise to find out how much the Empire can stick together versus allow local freedoms, and the entire thing has fallen apart several times. The Empire is, and always will be, a goddamn mess and that's one of the best parts about it.

Next Time: The structure of the Empire is a goddamn mess

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that

quote:

Our version of God was fair and generous during the Revelation, rewarding anyone who followed a single, benevolent God in his heart and in his life. Likewise, this God struck down unmercifully those who had truck with the forces of darkness, magick and the banished pagan gods. As generous as God was with the good people, he showed no mercy to those who followed his opposite number.

Noooooooope. This game's version of God is a horrifying monster on a scale never even remotely seen before on Earth, the most evil creature in history. You can't have "fair and generous" and "kills billions of people, damning most of them to torment". At least real world Christians can claim that God has a greater purpose or unknowable reason for permitting suffering. This game's God explicitly causes said suffering just out of murderous spite. I am not Christian, but the Christians I know would be pissed off by this game's presentation of their religion.


(Also supporting the people saying that the game is what sucks, not the review. You're doing good work, Humbug)

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

The reason I picked The End, was because of all the try-hard Christapocapunk games that people had been reviewing. I'm a hard-core old-school grognard and when I saw this in '95 I just had to pick it up because the setting concept is at least interesting. When I read it the implementation pissed me off, so I stuffed it on a shelf until about two weeks ago which is the first time I've reread it in over twenty years.

I do have the D20 rerelease with both the Boston and DC supplements that I was gifted with by a non-goon secret Santa and I have been holding off reading them. If I am not a gibbering mess by the time this one's done, I may do those as well. As certain goons who have seen my apartment can attest, I have a ridiculously large collection of weird RPGs that I really need to start reviewing.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




Maybe I missed it, but does The End say anything about what Heaven and Hell are actually like? I can only imagine that everyone in Heaven is eternally in thrall to a petty, insecure, monstrous cult leader like Jim Jones or Jeremiah Sand.

Another opinion I forgot to add earlier: If I were writing a setting where God let loose the eschaton and turned the world into an utter wasteland with only thousands of people remaining, I wouldn't loving bother writing long chapters about how Armageddon played out in different countries around the world. Because it doesn't matter to the PCs and they have no way of knowing if there's anyone alive in Europe or Asia. It's a scarier world if they have no idea whether there are still living humans further than a hundred miles away.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

Halloween Jack posted:

Maybe I missed it, but does The End say anything about what Heaven and Hell are actually like? I can only imagine that everyone in Heaven is eternally in thrall to a petty, insecure, monstrous cult leader like Jim Jones or Jeremiah Sand.

Not that I can tell.

quote:

Another opinion I forgot to add earlier: If I were writing a setting where God let loose the eschaton and turned the world into an utter wasteland with only thousands of people remaining, I wouldn't loving bother writing long chapters about how Armageddon played out in different countries around the world. Because it doesn't matter to the PCs and they have no way of knowing if there's anyone alive in Europe or Asia. It's a scarier world if they have no idea whether there are still living humans further than a hundred miles away.

They do actually mention something like that in part of the setting chaff I glossed over. This game concentrates on the US, and what's happening now on other continents is out of scope.

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




From the guards at the gate, it sounds like Heaven might look like a bunch of Mortal Kombat fatalities.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




Humbug Scoolbus posted:

The third item is not one that a character needs to reconcile, but one that a player needs to understand. The most basic and fundamental assumption in this game is that Christianity is correct, with all that implies.

hard pass

you can't claim that your intent is NOT to preach Christian doctrine if the explicit assumption that your setting is based on is that everything in the Old+New Testament is objectively true. like, the implications of that are much wider ranging than "so here's how the end of the world plays out" and the fact that the author was either unable or unwilling to reconcile this setting assumption with our current reality completely invalidates any half-hearted "i'm not trying to preach about Christianity in my game where Christianity was objectively correct and true" pablum.

that quote - "The most basic and fundamental assumption in this game is that Christianity is correct, with all that implies." - should have been the first line in the entire book, bold and underlined and in 72 point font. the fact they it gets slipped in at the end of pages and pages of expository text just makes the whole thing feel super dishonest.

only a white cishet male who is either a practicing or lapsed US-style Christian could drop that sentence buried in the text and have literally no desire to expand or justify that further. "It just so happens that everything I've personally been taught my entire life is true, and consequently I have no motivation to dissect or explore the implications this might create, because I just accept it at face value and if you play this game, you will too."

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


I wonder... how much of a mainstream American protestant thought is the gods of other religions exist, but God is keeping them captive?

Because
1) I DON'T recall that from my baptism class
2) I think it was mentioned that some of these gods are what has been released after the end

And why make specific geographic (as in city level) splats for a setting where everything was hosed up and nature is reclaiming stuff posthaste?

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

The next post will go over some of the 'Colonies' which is the game term for settlements of the Meek.

The DC supplement is titled 'The Dogs of War'.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





I think a lot of Christian-theology-inspired RPG settings have non-Christian deities exist as some kind of subjugated or independent being, often in the style of Sandman, the 90s comic, where a monotheistic Creator God existed independently of human belief, and then human beliefs produce all the other gods.

It's an intensely Christian-centric worldview, and maybe even more insulting than just saying 'Monotheism is true.'

Also the idea in The End that polytheists need to 'choose the most benevolent deity in their pantheon' is ludicrously insensitive to the actual nature of polytheistic belief. For example, Vaishnavites and Shaivites in Hinduism are both bhakti traditions focused on a single deity considered the personification of the universal and the divine- which group goes to hell? And that's the /most/ comprehensible subset of Hinduism to this extremely stupid paradigm.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

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


JcDent posted:

I wonder... how much of a mainstream American protestant thought is the gods of other religions exist, but God is keeping them captive?

Because
1) I DON'T recall that from my baptism class
2) I think it was mentioned that some of these gods are what has been released after the end

And why make specific geographic (as in city level) splats for a setting where everything was hosed up and nature is reclaiming stuff posthaste?
There is a pretty common view in certain evangelical circles that the gods of other religious traditions are in fact demons or literally the Devil. Which is already layered on top of the fact that many US evangelicals fall into the dualism heresy, of imagining the Devil as an all-evil omnipotent being on par with the all-good God.

Tsilkani
Jul 28, 2013



grassy gnoll posted:

I would genuinely like to know why.

I like the alien aesthetic, and I thought the three-man fireteam rules were neat. I will admit that I really, really dislike the fluff of the Tohaa being the secret ur-assholes of the setting.

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




Tsilkani posted:

I will admit that I really, really dislike the fluff of the Tohaa being the secret ur-assholes of the setting.

Don't think I've ever come across a setting where the ends up being good or interesting and just kinda obnoxious. Or I just have a general dislike for the "We were behind this aaaaall alooooong" cliché.

Tsilkani
Jul 28, 2013



Cooked Auto posted:

Don't think I've ever come across a setting where the ends up being good or interesting and just kinda obnoxious. Or I just have a general dislike for the "We were behind this aaaaall alooooong" cliché.

I also love the Tau aesthetic from 40K, but god drat if I don't hate how they decided they weren't grimdark enough and took them from naive, well-meaning newcomers to sinster pawns of Ethereal mind control.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

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


Tsilkani posted:

I also love the Tau aesthetic from 40K, but god drat if I don't hate how they decided they weren't grimdark enough and took them from naive, well-meaning newcomers to sinster pawns of Ethereal mind control.
What I don't understand is why anyone thought "naive newcomers interacting with the 40k universe" is LESS grimdark than the nonsense they decided to go with.

Ronwayne
Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.


Comrade Gorbash posted:

There is a pretty common view in certain evangelical circles that the gods of other religious traditions are in fact demons or literally the Devil. Which is already layered on top of the fact that many US evangelicals fall into the dualism heresy, of imagining the Devil as an all-evil omnipotent being on par with the all-good God.

Back when I was stuck with a regular radio and nothing else in traffic, it landed on a local christian station where the guy blurted out "Satan is a super-being, you cannot, as a human, defy him without God's help."

Also later on in the presentation: "Does your stock portfolio glorify God?"

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



The transition of the Devil from 'annoying nuisance' to 'the Gnostic master of all flesh' is a really weird one to track in post-Reformation Christianity.

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

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



Mors Rattus posted:

The transition of the Devil from 'annoying nuisance' to 'the Gnostic master of all flesh' is a really weird one to track in post-Reformation Christianity.

In the future, maybe he'll be more powerful?

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





Tsilkani posted:

I like the alien aesthetic, and I thought the three-man fireteam rules were neat. I will admit that I really, really dislike the fluff of the Tohaa being the secret ur-assholes of the setting.

It's why I'd be disappointed if ALEPH is Actually Evil.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Ratoslov posted:

In the future, maybe he'll be more powerful?
We know that he isn't more powerful than Jim Kirk as of the 23rd or 24th century, at least.

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.


The Combined Army



Back when, there were some ancient mystical precursor species. For the most part, they eradicated themselves or faded away, but none of them are kicking around at the moment. Occasionally, one of them would unlock the secret to transcendence. It’s unclear if Gutier is ripping off Iain Banks or Alpha Centauri more here, but you get the gist.

One species working towards this technocratic enlightenment were the Ur Rationalists. Like many older species, they’d move past scarcity and were pushing up against the limits of known and unknown physics in their accomplishments. The next big step was disappearing into the ether like all the other transcendi. The Ur just couldn’t unlock the secret to disappearing up their own hoops, so like any reasonable species, they built a massive artificial intellect to do the hard work for them.

The Ultimate Computer pondered for a while, and came up with the Ultimate Answer. It notified the Ur it had reached a conclusion, and promptly did not share the Answer. The Ur were understandably a little worried, and asked their creation if it would mind terribly sharing its findings. Like something out of a Golden Age sci-fi novella, the AI held forth at length on why the Ur were Not Ready For This Knowledge, then kick-flipped out into transcendence.



After a great deal of soul-searching, internecine warfare and existential angst, the Ur decided to slam their hands in the Great Car Door in the Sky again. This time, however, the computer would be different. It would be built like an Ur, think like an Ur, and would hopefully be inclined to show a little more empathy towards is creators. This new Evolved Intelligence worked tirelessly. But time ground on. The AI had uncovered the Ultimate Answer in a few short years. The new EI set itself to work, fueled by an increasing demand for resources, until centuries had passed, the entire Ur Hegemony was enslaved to to the machine, their bodies maintaining the infrastructure while their minds were incorporated into its processing substrate.

Eventually, the EI came to a horrifying realization - because it was built to think like an Ur, at its most basic levels, it was perpetually incapable of transcending.

The long dark night of the soul happened again, but the EI is capable of being depressed at speeds thousands of times faster than fleshy organisms. In short order, the EI came up with a new plan: build its own AI, and have it do the work for it.

In fairness, there is precedent for this notion - the EI’s creators did the same thing, and it did technically work. However, because you’re capable of reading these words and processing their meaning, you’re sharp enough to realize this wasn’t going to work out. This baby EI, dubbed Nemesis, turned out to be just as much of a hegemonizing swarm as its creator, and just as certain of its place as the only correct being in the universe. Billions of deaths, dozens of destroy systems, and at least six entire civilizations eradicated later, the original EI managed to stamp out its progeny and have another sulk.

Okay, time for another new plan. Get someone else to do the work, but this time it’ll be other species entirely, and the EI would keep them firmly under its thumb.

Contact with the EI goes like this: It makes itself known through some avatar, and gives its new best buddy civilization a choice. You can go to work for the EI, or it’ll kill you. If Friend Computer is feeling nice, it leaves your society mostly intact, with a puppet government and its programs running on your civilization’s internet. A little less nice is when it parasitizes your citizens, taking cycles off their natural think-meat and routing it through mandatory cybernetic implants, and eating most of your data sphere. If it doesn’t like you, or feels you’ll give the best results that way, it goes full The Matrix.

The EI now has dozens of these little transcendence labs running across the galaxy, keeping the plates spinning while it hunts for more resources and other avenues to try to unlock the ultimate secret. Every so often it will find a species that’s comparatively useless for transcendence research, but they’re capable of putting up a fight. Those species get drafted into the Combined Army.

As a side note, it’s vaguely hinted throughout the line that the EI’s plans are inherently flawed and none of these attempts to escape reality will ever pay off. This would be a much, much funnier joke if I thought it was intentional. Still,

Mors Rattus posted:

I kind of love the idea of an AI superdeity whose entire mission statement for servitors is:

1. Obey orders when orders happen.
2. Mine bitcoin.

turned out to be entirely correct. Gold star, Mors.

The Combined Army itself is fairly straight-forward. It’s an army, working for the EI, made out of the combined military resources of species the EI has subjugated. Notable members include the Morats (Klingons but dumber), Shasvastii (shapeshifting bio-horrors), the Sygmaa (turned Tohaa), the Umbra (space assholes), the Hungries (xenomorphs), and formerly the Exrah (space bug merchants). The primary component of the Combined Army, however, is the EI itself. CA runs off drones and incarnations of the EI in local proxies, some humble, and some among the most powerful units in the game.



Morats are really just Klingons wearing oni masks. They’re kind of dull. Boy howdy do they like to fight, and hunt, and fight to hunt, and hunt to fight. The Morat Supremacy, their armed forces, select targets based on reconnaissance by their diplomatic corps, which are droptroop skirmishers. Potential combatants are captured and punched to test their mettle, then an assembly is held between the Morat high command, and they fight to the death to see who gets to invade.

Since they spend their time fighting outside enemies, or when none are available, each other, the Morats don’t have much in the way of a technology base. They keep slaves for that, and for making food, and for making weapons, and really a whole bunch of other ill-advised plans that wouldn’t pay off without the EI watching over their stuff while they’re off punching things. The EI kicked their asses and told them they could join or die, so they did. Otherwise undefeated, yadda yadda yadda.

Several paragraphs are spent making very and explicitly clear to you that while you might think Morats have a warrior code, they are first and foremost soldiers, and care far more the honor of the unit over the honor of an individual, and are very obsessed with honor (but not their own!), so the Roddenberry estate can’t sue.

Morats are their own little sectorial. Morats are awkwardly positioned. They’re meant to be a highly elite army that goes out and kills the hell out of the other guy. They’re mostly good at that, but could be better, and the units you want to really take are too expensive. This is partially because of the Morat special rule, which allows you to ignore Loss of Lieutenant and pick whether or not to fall back if you blow an armor save. For a bunch of idiots played up as the ultimate space gorilla rear end-kickers, Morats are a little suboptimal. They are getting an update soon-ish, so we’ll have to wait and see if that solves their problems.



The Shasvastii, and nearly everybody else, are substantially more interesting. There aren’t many of them left because of a massive cataclysm centuries ago. Because Corvus Belli doesn’t understand astronomy, a collision of galaxies wiped out some 80% of the original Shasvastii population. Like, within a generation or two, and by making stars collide with each other.

Anyway, the Shasvastii were understandably perturbed by this, and devoted themselves to becoming the ultimate survivors - never again would they fear for their species. All Shasvastii pursuits are devoted to the continued existence of their kind; they explore constantly, to find new places to live in as distributed a fashion as possible, and they’ve radically altered their biology to favor survivability, adaptability, and rapid genetic iteration.

Shasvastii are hermaphroditic, and agents sent out into the universe are implanted with viable embryos, so that in the event the current Shasvastii dies, a new one will spring up to take its place, immediately adapted to the local environment.

The EI encountered these guys and figured that a race of sneaky metamorph preppers with would make great infiltrators and assassins. The computer did its join-or-die thing and the Shasvastii said “Wait, seriously? That sounds like a great deal, sign us up for unlimited resources and protection.”

Shasvastii aren’t super-great in a standup fight, but they are perfectly capable of stabbing your dudes in the back. Their real trick, apart from an abundance of sneaky specialists, is their racial special rule. When a Shasvastii model is knocked unconscious and is bleeding out, the little baby mutant they all carry around will get an accelerated childhood and stand back up as a new trooper the next turn. This doesn’t count as a death for the purposes of calculating victory points, if it’s ever relevant. You can either send the Shasvastii straight to dead via overkill or special weapons, or you can attack the embryo before it can fully grow - basically hitting and killing the model over again. Once again, flamethrowers are the answer to an Infinity conundrum.



The Umbra are space vampires, and generally portrayed as aggressively-lovely idiots in the fluff. Like, one of their elite commandos dies because they think bringing him to a doctor is anathema. Some Umbra get the Protheon skill, which is like Martial Arts, but also you can add wounds drained from enemies to your own for bonus HP. The Umbra don’t get their own sectorial, but they do feature heavily in the Onyx Contact Force, along with



The Sygmaa, better seen in the photo above, unfortunately. Sygmaa likewise don’t get their own subfaction (but it’s probably a matter of time). These are the Quisling Tohaa, traitors to their race, etc etc.

Or are they? The Tohaa are losing the war against the EI - they absolutely wouldn’t deign to deal with us otherwise. One third of the total Tohaa systems are occupied by the Combined Army, and billions have died to resist the EI. But for those living in the occupied territory, life goes on. They got a Cube upgrade and their high-end research labs have new subjects to poke at, and that’s about it. To say the Sygmaa are upset that they fought and died so that the Tohaa bigwigs could stay in power is an understatement.

It’s not specified either way whether this is just the EI manipulating folks, or if it really is the OG Tohaa triumvirate being uttery wretched. I’m inclined to suspect the latter.



Hungries come in two varieties, Gakis and Pretas. Gakis are the female of the species, and are basically the Aliens xenomorphs, up to and including exploding in a spray of super-acid when they die. You get a Preta when the parasitic male gets into contact with a female. The resulting hybridized creature becomes a better hunter by growing additional brain-parts. Mildly interesting, but the real difference is that you can give a Preta a chain rifle and teach it tricks, while if you try that with a Gaki it’ll just gut you and eat what’s left. Morats herd these things and keep them as hunting animals.



The Exrah are no longer a thing. To the best of my knowledge, they’re the only faction that’s been outright squatted and thrown down the memory hole. They used to be bug people press-ganged into the Combined Army, and they were a bunch of avaricious trader stereotypes. Apparently they tried dealing with humans and got purged for their trouble. The Caskuda here was their TAG, and it was famous for being a jump unit that caused an explosion when it landed. This was very annoying, by all accounts.



The Onyx Contact Force is very in vogue right now. They provide the core experience of Combined Army - cool toys, elite units, great robots - with the added bonus of fireteams, which you can’t get in vanilla lists. It’s helped that Corvus Belli occasionally releases entire armies in a box - buy one thing for about ~75 bucks and you have a tournament-ready army. Which, granted, is not optimal and is missing some important parts, because they want you to buy more poo poo, but you can just hand this to someone and say “Here, this is everything you need to play this game.” The Onyx box is out of rotation, sadly. They’re still pretty good! Fluff-wise, they’re the advance guard. They contact new species, usually with gunfire. ‘s about it.

Next: Combined Army Units

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

Tsilkani posted:

I like the alien aesthetic, and I thought the three-man fireteam rules were neat. I will admit that I really, really dislike the fluff of the Tohaa being the secret ur-assholes of the setting.

Fair enough. I'm right there with you on their fluff. I came into the game with N3, so Tohaa aren't the crazy unique thing they once were to me, I suppose.

Dawgstar posted:

It's why I'd be disappointed if ALEPH is Actually Evil.

ALEPH is probably not Evil-evil, it might be regular-evil, and it is definitely dumb. Fortunately, so is every other artificial intelligence in the setting!

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I'm gonna say, the EI is actually amazing and I'm glad everything I vaguely remembered about the first computer escaping into transcendence while flipping off its creators was correct.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



The Combined Army are probably the guys I'd run, not least because, again, I love the big stupid bitcoin miner space god computer.

Tsilkani
Jul 28, 2013



Mors Rattus posted:

The Combined Army are probably the guys I'd run, not least because, again, I love the big stupid bitcoin miner space god computer.

It doesn't hurt that CA has some drat nice models, aside from the Shasvastii, which desperately need an update.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


Night10194 posted:

I'm gonna say, the EI is actually amazing and I'm glad everything I vaguely remembered about the first computer escaping into transcendence while flipping off its creators was correct.

I'd imagine that its explanation boiled down to "You guys can't come because you're douchebags and you're not welcome in the transcended club."

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





grassy gnoll posted:

ALEPH is probably not Evil-evil, it might be regular-evil, and it is definitely dumb. Fortunately, so is every other artificial intelligence in the setting!

I just like to think it says to itself, "Hey! I know! I'll make the mythological monster Scylla into a cute female hacker wunderkind!" and then does so out of a sincere desire to help.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



I mean, it apparently gave them a detailed list of societal issues they'd need to address and even how they could begin doing so before they'd be ready.

And their response was 'gently caress it, do it over again but this time the computer has to like us.'

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Mors Rattus posted:

I mean, it apparently gave them a detailed list of societal issues they'd need to address and even how they could begin doing so before they'd be ready.

And their response was 'gently caress it, do it over again but this time the computer has to like us.'

This is a perfectly realistic outcome for tech cultist types and it rules.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



So far Haqqislam seems like the most morally-upright faction by a fair margin.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





You can't have a seven-sector call out without calling something out:



II. Sexism, Society and Some Aliens

First, the sexist horse in the starkly inconcievable stall.

The original Lensmen books associated Lenses with male officers of the Galactic Patrol - at least as far as humans went. A human woman did become a Lensman in the story, as did her female descendants. The bad guys also later figured out how to kind-of make Lenses and recruited near-human alien women as their own Lensmen. In "First Lensmen," written in the fifties, Smith had the Arisians (gently) turn a tough, able human woman down from Lensmanship.

GURPS Lensmen leans into this with several tiers of excuses.

In-universe, "Lenses are as masculine as whiskers" (to quote Jill Samms, the woman who was turned down) and some justification boiling down to "a population can bounce back from losing a lot of men faster than losing a lot of women." The former does exist in the books while the latter, I believe, does not arise, and David Kyle's authorized sequels have a female Lensman of an essentially human species.

Out of universe, the book defends Doc Smith from charges of being a sexist. (He certainly was not an active misogynist. He did have attitudes that were already becoming archaic in his time.) Therefore, this gender-related concept cannot be sexist, etc. etc. I am not convinced of THAT part - but in GURPS Lensmen's defense, you are immediately presented with the option to ignore sex/gender restrictions on who gets Lenses entirely.

Three options are presented, in fact:

1. Play strictly according to the writer's take on canon, which seems to be the implicit thing the author wants you to do. I have my doubts on how accurate this representation is, given that the author is already conveying some opinions - for instance, a focus on the restraint of electronic computers as a technology in Civilization, when a more accurate take would be that Doc Smith did not anticipate the huge role that electronic computers would take.
2. Ignore sexism entirely: the Arisians don't care. Women can be Lensmen. (Or 'Lensed Ones,' which is evidently the formulation for Lensbearing individuals of species that don't map well to male/female dichotomies.)
3. A compromise position where Mentor of Arisia needed the particular character in the novels to be the first human woman Lensman for psychohistorical reasons, and so any game set after that point in the timeline can have as many woman Lensmen as you want.

The author digresses on how this will impact the culture of the Galactic Patrol. "Substantially," in short. There are three possibilities the author presents:

1. Women can serve equally and nobody cares. (This seems like the bone-headed obvious answer from 2018. I suppose in 1993 this was still a topic of hot dispute?)
2. Women can be in the Patrol but can't be combat officers unless a Gray Lensman, who has a little ticket saying "bearer can do whatever they want," gets involved. (This appeared to be the implicit logic in the novels.)
3. Women can't be in the Patrol at all other than nurses etc. (You could read the books this way if you're semi-literate and ignorant of the WWII situation that informed Smith's writing.)

The author goes on to note that even in the sexist version of Civilization, a man who is an active rear end in a top hat to women has a significant Odious Personal Habit and it is only worse if the sexism vernier has been set to "little to none." A sexist pig who meets a "Lensgirl" will probably get his wagon fixed and either shape up or, in a show of psychological realism, graduate up to full-fledged Intolerance (Misogynist.)

From here we move on to an examination of society. This is where we meet the three other "protagonist" species of the Lensman setting, and so a quick introduction is in order. There are others - we will get to them in time - but examples of these species are major supporting characters.


Tellurians, aka "Humans from Earth." (As opposed to "Humans from Alsakan" or "Humans from Lonabar." There are a wide range of essentially-identical-to-Humans out there. Panspermia, man.) Cultivated by the Arisians for our obstinate wills and lacking most other natural advantages, these are the ones who eventually win out and become the new Guardians of Civilization.


Rigellians are herd animals without eyes, ears or necks. Rigellians are immensely placid and incorruptible and are also terminally deficient in drive and force. They have great telepathic powers as well as a "sense of perception," an advantage that is a sort of passive X-ray vision, making up for their lack of vision and hearing. Rigellians are raised in groups of three ("unit-clusters") and decide at adolescence what reproductive sex they will be - male, female, or neuter. A choice which has great social pressure behind it!
Being a Rigellian costs 453 points in GURPS terms, mostly for immense physical strength and size. Mentally, they all have Honesty and Truthfulness (and Weak Will -4) balanced out by Unfazeable, along with some special rules boiling down to "they're psychic space cows."


Velantians are friendly hideous flying dragon snake monsters with powerful innate telepathy in addition to a powerful claw/bite attack combination. Unfortunately for them, the Velantians were historically dominated by the "Overlords of Delgon," some assholes in their system who had sufficiently powerful telepathy to tell Velantians to fly to Delgon to get tortured to death. The intervention of Patrol psionic technology gave the Velantians the freedom to fly over to Delgon and wipe out most of the Overlords. Being a Velantian costs 479 character points (419 if they are during the period of Delgonian domination): their powerful psycho-dragon-snake rear end-kicking abilities are balanced by species-wide psychological distress and anguish due to the interminable rulership of soul-vampires.


Palainians reside on super-cold planets - they have a small colony on Pluto - and breathe poisonous gases. They survive by having a metabolic extension into the fourth dimension and by being furtive, sneaky assholes. They have four sexes - "one," the prenuptial catalyst, "two," the protective/mother sex, "three," the aggressive/father sex, and "four," the postnuptial catalyst. Any can be Lensmen (even if you are playing Rude Sexist Lensmen) except "ones," mostly because "ones" are nearly immobile. Palainians are not physically intimidating and require powerful life support when in human-type environments, and use telepathy to communicate, as well as being callous, single-minded loners. They also have emergency teleport due to being partially fourth-dimensional entities. Being a shoggoth-rear end motherfucker is 17 points on net, with a "one" being -33 (Sessile) and a "four" being 2 points (Combat Paralysis).

So, on to society. There is a brief note that the Boskonian cultural model involved complex overlapping and redundant networks of power and mutual observation, all of them ultimately flowing back to the dickbags on Eddore.

Civilization encompasses a huge variety of different planetary cultures. The Galactic Patrol hands most law enforcement/judiciary functions as well as military matters. There are some few oligarchies and monarchies, but the most common human-type government is some kind of planetary elected body. The Patrol enforces Civilization's basic laws on planets without legal codes, so "Anarchy" in a sense does not exist. There are also some Communist planets, although the traditional Steve Jackson running-dog rightist error claims "few humans take any of them seriously." Clear ether indeed, Lensman! :ussr:

The other "protagonist" species are simpler. Velantians are only on one planet and are heavily militarized and violent, even among themselves. Rigellians are happily and perfectly collectivist. Palainians are objectivists, as well as pathologically conflict-avoidant.

We get brief highlights on some other key facts. Leaving aside the cultural sexism, these beats are summarized with the four "protagonist" species in mind.

TAXES: Relatively low. The Patrol takes a small cut. Planets may assess more. The Patrol may veto "usurious" proposals. :thonk: Velantians and Palainains are a bunch of libertarian assholes who fund most things by use payments or contributions. Rigellians consider taxation esoteric due to communalism; Rigellian history has herds paying tribute to one another, and Rigel pays taxes as a planet, but it is not internally important.

PATRIOTISM, by which we mean SUPPORT FOR MILITARY ACTIVITY: Humans are always up for a war if they don't think it's immoral (realistic...) and the Boskonian threat is sufficient that volunteers fill Tellurian billets. Rigellians are also decent folk and will help out as soon as they are aware of a need. Velantians and Palainians are both libertarian assholes here too; Velantians do love fighting and murder, however, while Palainians hate it and will only cooperate when direly pressed.

LAW ENFORCEMENT: The Patrol mostly respects local laws, and attempting to leverage marginally superior technology to exploit a developing planet is a Galactic felony. Velantians and Palainians continue to be Hot and Cold Running Libertarians, with Rigellians being such absolutely collective folks that any individual Rigellian who offends is either mistaken (and will, of course, make up for it once educated) or is sufficiently organically damaged to get euthanized. Human law enforcement is similar to it is now (cops, jails) but the Lensmen have developed a sufficient reputation that criminal jurists are now all Lensmen and the jury system has withered away. Indeed, you can get put on the hook for crimes you weren't brought in for: the classic example cited is Solarian Union v. Ossman where the accused was arrested for littering in a national forest and executed for being a drug kingpin.



RELIGION: Lots of Earth religions survived, a lot of human-like religions have been adopted by Earthmen (see Klono above). Velantians continue to be tedious assholes. Rigellians have philosophical concepts similar to nirvana. Palainians have something surprisingly close to human religious beliefs but the concepts are so esoteric ("transcendental housework" or "technical poetry" are examples) that research is ongoing.

Next time we'll dig into some of the Advantages and Disadvantages baked up for this setting, one of the pleasures of any GURPS material.

OvermanXAN
Nov 14, 2014


Ignorance that you are being sexist does not make you not sexist, it just means there's no malicious intent. It's still bad, and I wish G.U.R.P.S. Lensman didn't try to defend it. At least they offer ways around it, but oh boy, it doesn't make me happy.

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wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Night10194 posted:

This is a perfectly realistic outcome for tech cultist types and it rules.

Technolibertarian assholes from the Bay would absolutely see morality as a bug, checks out.

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