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MonsterEnvy
Feb 4, 2012


Volo's Guide to Monsters: Giants: World Shakers Part 5 Stone and Storm Giants

Previous Entry

Stone Giants



Stone giants are reclusive and weird. Only considering themselves in reality when underground and surrounded by stone were they can work in peace. "The surface world, with its shifting light, endless sky, changing climate, and eroding wind, represents a dream state, an unreality where nothing lasts and therefore nothing has significance."

Ordning of Artistry
For stone, giants mastery of an art is considered the best virtue, and stone carving is considered the greatest art. As a result most stone giants spend their entire lives trying to perfect their art. The young stone giants constantly practice to prove themselves worthy of being assistants to the best carvers. While master carvers can devote years to finding the best stone for their next great work. The best carvers are the leaders and shamans of the tribe, their hands seen as holy - literally the same hands as their god Skoraeus Stonebones.

Naturally, many giants do not have the hands of a god. The giants who show little skill in carveing are considered pathetic and viewed with a combination of pity and contempt. In order to determine the ordening below the highest level of artistry, stone giants compete in boulder throwing and catching contests. As boulder throwing is considered a useful skill for defending their homes and attacking enemies. However they also consider artistry in rock tossing. As a giant tossing a rock in a contest isn't just showing their strength, but also an attempt at displaying consummate athleticism and grace.

Stone giants that can't infuse artistry into all aspects of their lives are ranked the lowest and often driven literally to the perimeter of stone giant society, to serve as guards and hunters at the edge of their territory. As a result of this, the stone giants outsiders first meet are almost always the least successful and poorest examples of what stone giants aspire to be. "They are the brutes and boors cast out by a society of artists and philosophers."

Despite living most of their lives in the dark stone giants view proper lighting as important to their craft. Carvings are designed to produce shadows in specific ways when a light source is placed in the proper area. Without the light and shadow, the carving is considered incomplete. An example is given that a carving may give a story in flat, dim light, but with proper illumination it shows a much deeper second tale.

Elminster posted:

We all know of dwarves who fell so deep in love with their craft, or the seeking of treasure or ale, that they forgot how to live in any other way but in pursuit of it. That’s what stone giants do.

Speaking Stones
While their big thing is tale carving with images, stone giants also employ mundane writing in their work.

Their most notable use of the carved word is through "speaking stones." Speaking stones resemble a upright stone cylinder with writing carved on a descending spiral. To read the message the stone must be turned by hand (Impossible for normal humanoids.) or rotated when placed in a cradle designed to balance it. The message has two alternating spirals. The first is read top to bottom then it must be flipped over so the second line of script can be read.

Speaking stones are sized to message so there is no blank space. If the cylinder is too thick or long, so the message ends before all the space is used up, it's considered poor artistry. "Tradition and honor demand that it be crushed into gravel and a new speaking stone begun."

Gentle Giants?
People who hear of stone giants' focus on artistry usually think they are peaceful and reasonable. And they are, among their own kind. Outsiders, notable non giants are unwelcome in their homes and trespassers are not treated kindly.

The first warning someone normally gets when entering stone giant territory is a boulder smashing into the rocks near them. Those who know anything about stone giants understand this is a warning shot, the next rock won't be as harmless.

Travelers can negotiate with stone giants for safe passage, if someone speaks Giant, and if they have suitable tribute. Large and beautiful furs, exotic food, and art objects are considered suitable, money tends to be a weak one for all but the lowliest stone giant. If offered tribute one or two giants will normally come forward while the rest stay at throwing range.

To the unfamiliar, the fringe stone giants look and behave like primitives. However stone giants considered personal adornments to be worthless to their ordening, so they wear simple and practical clothing for themselves. As well the fringe stone giants are the least accomplished of their clan. So they are not leaders, or even typical examples of their kind.

Even when giants accept tribute in exchange for permission to travel through their territory. They might place a further demand on the travelers anyway. Normally this is service of some kind the giants themselves can't easily do. For example chasing some kobolds out of a narrow cave they can't fit in, or getting an object out of a lake. (Stone giants are poor swimmers, and dislike going in water unless they easily walk across the bottom)

Stone giants don't normally keep pets, but they sometimes cultivate giant bat colonies in their territory. They serve as a food source and an early warning system. They also don't mind sharing their caves with beasts that mean them little harm, like cave bears and giant fire beetles. But they keep their other neighbors at an arm's length. Purple Worms are considered the greatest bane, because they chew through everything, including the giants works of art. Xorns meanwhile are one of the few creatures appreciated by stone giants. As their travel through the earth disturbs nothing, and their alien mindsets make them interesting to talk to.

SKORAEUS STONEBONES, THE GREAT CREATOR posted:

Stone giants worship Skoraeus Stonebones as the Great Creator, second in skill to Annam, but master of the other deities in his father’s absence. He appears in stone giant art in two ways: as a pair of hands, one holding a chisel and the other a hammer, and as the largest statue or relief carving of a stone giant in a tribe’s caves. Typically, Skoraeus is depicted twice as tall as any other stone giant.

In the legends of the giants, Skoraeus often sits on the sidelines during the schemes and battles of his siblings. He acts as an observer, a confidant to the other gods, and a keeper of secrets that he must be forced or tricked into divulging.

In a classic tale, Memnor came to Skoraeus and whispered something in his ear. When Surtur demanded to know what Memnor had said, Skoraeus told his brother exactly what he had heard. Surtur brooded on that message, which was misleading when taken out of context, and eventually reacted rashly, but the consequences of his acts were seen as no fault of Skoraeus. If Surtur had instead asked Skoraeus for advice about Memnor’s words, the legend would have ended differently.

Skoraeus is considered the most knowledgeable of the giant gods about magic, wards, banes, hidden treasures, and the secrets of the earth. Skoraeus gave the secret of smelting to Surtur. Skoraeus showed Thrym how to carve runes on his old weapons to imbue them with magic when Surtur refused to forge new ones for him. Skoraeus crafted spears for Hiatea so she could complete her ten tasks of valor. Skoraeus tapped with his hammer on the stone under the sea, so that Stronmaus could find the chain-tunnels that allowed him to pull the tarrasque down to the bed of the ocean where at last it would drown.

Life in the Dark
Stone Giants see well in the dark, and they don't like to use illumination unless it's related to creating or displaying art.

Most of a giant's day is spent taking care of it's responsibilities, whether that is a low-ranking pursuit or an artistic one. The leaders of the tribe determine when the hunters and guards are on or off duty. Other giants align their sleeping schedules with higher ranked giants they wish to learn from.

Masters can ask much of their students, waking early to ensure the master has food when they wake, or staying awake to create something the master will need (or judge) while the master sleeps. Normally about three quarters of a stone giant tribe is a awake at any time.

When leaving their settlements, stone giants prefer to travel in darkness, and when they visit the surface at night. Viewing that as the best way to avoid the glaring dreams and visions that assail them during the day. Stone giants that visit the surface for too long, or are driven out risk becoming lost in the realm of dreams, living from then on as a twisted version of themselves called a dreamwalker.

The Linjenstein
When Stone Giants reach the end of their long lives, they join the Linjenstein (“ancestors of stone”) Which both refers to their forebears and the chamber they are in.

Dead (or sometimes dying) stone giants are carried to the chamber and leaned upright against the end of the one of the rows of dead already there. The body calcifies over many decades, until it becomes indistinguishable from an enormous stalagmite.

Family members frequently visit the chambers to pay respects. Some visits, particularly by the elderly who are soon to take their place there can last for weeks or months.

Storm Giants




Storm giants are the most powerful and majestic of all giant-kind. However they are also the most aloof and least understood.

Elminster posted:

Humans lack true awareness, and most wouldn’t know an omen if it walked up and kissed them on the lips. A storm giant attunes itself to the world and glimpses the future in all things, perceiving moments yet to be.

Ordning of Omens
For the ordening of storm giants, all storm giants know their place by the omens and signals the universe sends them. "Omens might be seen in the wheeling flight of a flock of birds, the patterns in sand left by a receding tide, the shapes of clouds, or any number of other natural phenomena." While normally the amount of messages a giant sees means a higher rank, how significant the signs are can also lead to a change in status. When storm giants meet (a rare occasion) signs and omens accompany them, making it clear to the giants who ranks where. While arguments about rankings are rare, the giants in a group studiously examine every sign to see if one of their number is the greatest of their kind yet. As this could herald the return of Annam.

Since Ostoria fell, and Annam abandoned the giants, giant-kind has had no single ruler. Legend goes that such a ruler will appear with signs from the all of the worlds elements. "The sky (air), the sea (water), the continents (earth), and the underworld (fire)." All of these are realms of the storm giants who maintain a constant watch for the omens. Back when the giant dynasties reign, the signs that accompanied their leader were clear and unmistakable, after the collapse, the signs are much more vague, and confusing.

The reason storm giants have such a strong interest in how soon Annam returns is fairly obvious. They all want to live to see it happen. Some giants even go as far as merging with elemental forces to gain a degree of immortality. Called quintessents, they are the most reclusive of their kind.

Without a single emperor to serve as their political and spiritual leader, the storm giants are largely controlled by uncertainty. They look for every possibly in every sign. Debates over the meaning of omens and their validity are conducted across the world lasting human lifetimes.

Adventurers can find opportunity with storm giants. As they are not adverse to hiring agents to investigate portents and to retrieve items the giants need for their oracles. This is considered dangerous for two reasons. One is that this involves going into long sealed giant ruins. Secondly though much less obvious, is that if certain portents are confirmed, it could mean the return of Annam, upending the giants’ social order and initiating a new age. While some would welcome this, many would oppose this and all out war could easily break out.

Out for Themselves
With Annam and a World Emperor absent, storm giants recognize no higher authority over them. "Human, elf, and dwarf kings, liches, grand sorcerers and wizards — all might amass what they consider great power, but they have no influence over the storm giants." Any that try to control them are near guaranteed to regret it.

But as long as the world leave the storm giants alone, the storm giants will leave the world alone. They don't wish good or ill on humanity or anyone else. They just simply don't care about them. Unless a prophecy mentions them or they are hinted at in an omen.

When they do interact with non-giants, those they interact with tend to question that storm giants are “good” creatures. They are in that the values storm giants hold are traditionally good, and they respect the principle of the sanctity of life, but even the calmest storm giant has a great temper. If angered their principles are overcome by fury, and offence perpetrated by one person can bring retribution down on a whole community.

If a storm giant destroys a town, or kills innocents in a rage, it is likely to feel guilty about it after, and so might offer payment to make amends "though a sack of gold is likely little comfort to those who lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods." Overall it's best to tread carefully and act respectfully when in the presence of a giant, but especially when they are storm giants.

MOODS OF STRONMAUS posted:

Storm giants pay homage to Stronmaus, the eldest of Annam’s children, who is also the most joyful and the most prone to laughter and enjoying fellowship with his siblings. That image of Stronmaus is in sharp contrast to how storm giants are perceived in the world: aloof and dour. Nonetheless, it is an accurate one.

In the giants’ legends, Stronmaus is subject to gray moods and deep brooding that are just as intense as his moments of good humor. It is also true that storm giants aren’t as humorless as popular notions paint them to be. They’re quiet and reserved when they’re by themselves, which is how they spend most of their time. But when they get together with others of their kind, they enjoy mirth, song, and drink as much as Stronmaus does. For the sake of their privacy and for the safety of smaller beings in the vicinity, these rare gatherings occur far from the presence of other creatures, thus perpetuating the giants’ reputation for always being gloomy and grim.

Living on the Edge
Once old enough to fend for themselves most storm giants live on their own in isolation. Storm giants can live nearly anywhere they want. "Atop a mountain, in a glacial cave, or at the bottom of the deepest oceanic trench." but areas known as elemental crossings - were the material plane and elemental planes start to interact are favorites.

They particularly favor crossings to the elemental planes of air and water. "The frequent whirlpools, tornadoes, and lashing rainstorms that buffet the passages to those two planes help to safeguard the giants’ homes and ensure their privacy."

While storm giants prefer to live away from other giants, they generally don't like to be entirely alone in their homes. A sea dwelling giant may make have merfolk, or even a dragon turtle for companions. While a mountain dwelling one, could welcome a Pegasus or yetis (if it feel it could trust them.) in its home. "A guest is expected to be respectful, make itself useful, and provide interesting conversation or other entertainment when the giant feels like being sociable."

Next Time: Gnolls: The Insatiable Hunger

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Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




MonsterEnvy posted:

Changing order

Drachenfels actually thinks himself as being better than the chaos gods. Early on in his being evil career, he stated the chaos gods should bow to him, went to the Realm of Chaos and demanded that the chaos gods give him daemons to use as minions. Which they granted I am guessing through their bizarre whims. Drachenfels took it as a sign the chaos gods feared him, and went on his merry evil way.

My assumption is 'because they thought it would be hilarious'.


By popular demand posted:

Since Tzeench is all about scheming for scheming's sake and Slaanesh is nonstop self gratification, making convoluted plans that drag on forever and ultimately fail at everything but making you feel important is right on the money.

That and his plans amounting to constant bloody conflict and refusing to give up despite hilarious failure, things Khorne and Nurgle respect.

Like, the Chaos Gods I can absolutely see having respect for dedicated cartoon supervillainy by the world's oldest idiot who somehow manages to remain standing despite everything, most of all his own decision making.

MonsieurChoc
Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.


Aww, isn't he adorable, let's give him his army and see what he does with it.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


I was browsing the F&F archive the other day, and can it really be that no one's reviewed Lamentations of the Flame Princess? I see that a couple of adjacent/supplements have been reviewed, but not the thing itself. Seems kind of surprising considering how much of an incompetent fuckbag Raggi is.

Loxbourne
Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

PurpleXVI posted:

I was browsing the F&F archive the other day, and can it really be that no one's reviewed Lamentations of the Flame Princess? I see that a couple of adjacent/supplements have been reviewed, but not the thing itself. Seems kind of surprising considering how much of an incompetent fuckbag Raggi is.

Nobody wants to get it on them.

Just Dan Again
Dec 16, 2012

Adventure!


PurpleXVI posted:

I was browsing the F&F archive the other day, and can it really be that no one's reviewed Lamentations of the Flame Princess? I see that a couple of adjacent/supplements have been reviewed, but not the thing itself. Seems kind of surprising considering how much of an incompetent fuckbag Raggi is.

I'd certainly be interested in seeing one. Its various issues are kind of familiar from conversations in the thread, but seeing it through it chapter by chapter would make for a good read.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



MonsieurChoc posted:

Aww, isn't he adorable, let's give him his army and see what he does with it.

This really is the only explanation for how he manages to combine undead and demonic forces.

See, normally in Warhammer this is not possible, because the forces of Chaos are fundamentally opposed to necromancy. Necromancy represents the ultimate form of static, unchanging existence, and as such it is anathema to Chaos. (Yes, yes, Chaos is itself very bad at actual change and chaos, but we're going to pretend it's written better than it actually is.) As a result, necromancers and Chaos forces are implacable foes of each other, and the Tomb Kings and Vampire Counts are reliable foes of Chaos.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




From what I remember, the LotFP corebook isn't objectionable besides the titty naga, and the system is just a stripped-down B/X with a pretty good replacement skill system and some interesting ideas about alignment.

As a version of B/X, it's not my favourite; it's an OSR game in the original sense, being created to serve as a platform for publishing supplements and adventures for old D&D. And as for the supplements and adventures themselves, well, I think my review of Carcosa makes it pretty clear what I think of Raggi's shenanigans.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion

Training rules?

Human guns are actually fairly new things. Guns in general (besides larger siege cannon) aren't very old, being (if I remember when Gorbad Ironclaw was, they don't give a date) maybe 1000 years old or so. Young enough that plenty of dwarf still call them newfangled and prefer the crossbow that was 'good enough for me grandpa'. Originally, human guns were all dwarf-built, either bought from their allies or crafted by hiring a dwarf gunsmith to move into a noble's territory and help build weapons. Humans being humans, shop assistants and laborers for these hired gunsmiths started to pick up some of what they were doing, and then they started teaching other humans. In the runup to the Great War With Chaos, the Empire decided to build their own great cannon foundry. Or rather, the Count of Nuln decided it would be worth the expense to make his city the best source of cannon and handguns in all of the Empire, going broke three times in a ten year period as he drained the public coffers to build the Imperial Foundry at Nuln. Hiring dwarfs to help as instructors and funding engineers to study new casting techniques was even more expensive, but gave a solid base of knowledge (from the dwarfs) and innovation (from humans trying to build 'steam tanks' and multibarrel artillery pieces) that eventually tripled the public investment in the project and helped further cement Nuln as one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

But Nuln doesn't just contain the Foundry that makes so many of the Empire's cannons. Nuln is, after all, the site of the first ever Imperial university. Nulners built the great Gunnery School to go along with their Foundry and that's what our article is about today. The great Gunnery School is one of the best places in the Empire (really, in the human world) to learn to handle a firearm or learn the craft of gunsmithing, especially when it comes to large cannon and siege weapons. The school attracts the sons (and occasional daughters) of nobles and burghers to become combat engineers and artillerists, but its main source of students is very unusual. The Sons of the Guns are orphan children who are recruited by the school to serve as cheap labor and apprentices, while receiving an education and learning a trade. Many go on to be competent soldiers, engineers, or work in other educated trades; this is a curious quirk of Nuln as a city. They have multiple programs in place to put orphan children and poor children into education and apprenticeships, because Nuln is where Verena worship first trickled into the Empire and the city has always honored her. Young women are usually taken to the Temples of Verena instead, but there's nothing stopping a young girl from studying how to shoot greater demons with cannons, too. The orphans and the wealthier students tend to live apart and get into fistfights, and in matters of discipline the nobles tend to get their way.

Nulner weapons are still built individually, by hand. There's no system of mass production in the Empire yet. Cannons, Mortars, and Volley Guns (as well as hundreds of muskets and pistols) are the most common crafts of the Foundry, and they have to be built to exacting specifications because there's no fixing a cannon that cracks or bursts under stress. Given how expensive these weapons are, a customer whose Great Cannon explodes would be very justly unhappy. Imperial cannon are mostly built of bronze, and their ammunition is cast on site among armies on the march. The foundry also makes bells on occasion; it was originally a bell factory before it was converted to building guns.

The main reason the Nuln Gunnery School comes up for your PCs, according to this article, is so they can break the career system by enrolling in classes. For 1 GC per EXP spent, they can auto-elite advance in learning Gunsmithing, Command, Drive, Ride, Trade (Gunsmith), Coolheaded (+5 WP), Master Gunner (reload guns one half action faster), Marksman (+5 BS), Mighty Shot (+1 ranged damage), Sure Shot (+1 Ranged AP), Sharpshooter (+20 to hit for aiming instead of +10), Specialist Weapons (Artillery) (note most Artillery barely has game stats), Specialist Weapons (Gun), or the critical Rapid Reload (1/2 action less to reload any ranged weapon, stacks with Master Gunner for guns), and do so for 100 per advance instead of 200. So, for about 500 GC (and 5 advances, you do still have to pay) a character could learn the full suite of Ranged Specialist stuff no matter what career they're in. Also, if you both promise to work full time while studying and make a successful Fel test to get student aid, you can cut this to 25 GC per advance. Similarly, doing a good quest for them or something can eliminate tuition.

I'm not very keen on this, because it sort of does an end-run on the point of the Career System. A lot of your decisions in building a character come from deciding which careers to do to get at various key talents and skills. Elite Advances have always been a little too nebulous, but a no-questions asked training system that specifically provides all the critical ranged talents in one place, at a monetary cost PCs will probably be able to manage, feels like it devalues the career system a bit. Also, there's no indication given how long these classes will take for the PC to learn these things. I think I'd like the idea of 'you're on good terms with this college or school, you can do an Elite at normal cost' as a quest or arc reward better than just something you can always pay for. One of the reasons the 'everything costs 100 EXP' system works well is because instead of having an EXP opportunity cost, you pay for various abilities by locking yourself into various career paths. Like, a Wizard is always going to buy their 100 EXP Mag advance as soon as they arrive in a new level of wizarding or a fighter is likely to buy their +1 Attack, but they pay for those by having to keep climbing the Fighter or Wizard tree they're on instead of branching out. Thus, individual talents or skills can be made very powerful or important because there's limited access to them; you can't really access the advantages of a bow without Rapid Reload, for instance, or the way the Surgery talent is pretty rare and quite helpful for medics. Having the ability to just cherry pick out that one critical talent undermines important parts of the opportunity cost inherent in Career advancement.

The Career system in 2e is a weird beast and I've never quite seen its like before or since. It still has the effect of slowing down or gating critical advances, but it does it in such a way that while sure, having to buy 'Consume Alcohol' is kind of a waste when you wanted to get at your 3rd attack (but needed Consume to finish a Career), at least you're getting something rather than just paying extra EXP for the thing you want, in a way that contributes to making higher level PCs feel more widely talented. The little collection of odds and ends you picked up to slow down your advancement can be surprisingly fun and useful sometimes, and very specifically optimized training rules like this threaten that kind of thing.

Back to flavor. Life at the gunnery school is about what you'd expect: Loud. Very loud. With a lot of hard work and manual labor in among your classes. Learning to care for the weapons is done by learning to make the weapons, or by wheeling them out to an island in the Aver river to test fire them where you won't blow up half of Nuln. Everyone at the school does the same work, even if the noble students get their way in discipline and generally get better food and beds. Everyone is going to be lifting cannon balls, running morning calisthenics, making gunpowder, and getting dirty. In Summer, students learn to shoot. In Winter, they work on maintenance and reading. For students who aren't learning to shoot, summer is full of the same reading and chemistry studies as winters. All of the Masters of the school must be approved by the current Masters and then personally appointed by Countess von Liebwitz, as the Elector is always the patron of the school.

The Headmaster runs the school, negotiates the contracts with other Imperial forces for cannons, and oversees production. The Headmaster's position is important because their negotiating skills and business acumen matter a lot to the school's funding. The Foundry Master oversees production, and the Nuln Foundry Master always becomes something of a local celebrity for the city. It's a highly respected position because building cannon requires a large number of skilled craftsmen, and the Master has to both be the best of them (to properly oversee their efforts and work on new weapons), and has to be able to smooth out disagreements and keep a bunch of intelligent, highly trained people on task and out of one another's hair. The heat of the forges can make tempers flare, and it's the Master's job to cool them off. The Gunnery Master teaches students about math, and how math can be extremely cool when you use it to calculate how to land a cannonball directly in a Bloodthirster's lap. They also oversee physical training and prepare the students who will be going to war for life as soldiers and artillerists.

The Daily Salute sees the largest gun in the forge dry-fired to mark the hour in the evening and the morning, a sound that can be heard throughout all of Nuln. Every student will be assigned to load and fire the cannon for one day, at least, to both teach them to time their shot properly and to get them some familiarity with the noise and the act of loading. Gunpowder Week started as a way to get rid of excess powder at the end of the summer shooting season, but evolved into a city-wide celebration of the school and foundry at the end of the summer. During Gunpowder Week, students are directed in cramming old gunpowder and coloring into fireworks and handing them out to citizens to set off while people cheer the school and toast the students. The current master of alchemy hates his job, except for Gunpowder Week, as his real passion in life is building more and more spectacular pyrotechnics rather than all this war nonsense, which is an adorable little detail. Every year, the students are also permitted to the Countess's palace for the Feast of Verena, to celebrate the money and prestige they bring to the city. They also parade and name every significant cannon they finish; there's a lot of pageantry to the Imperial military and its academies, and an unnamed, uncelebrated cannon is held to be bad luck and sure to burst at the worst possible moment.

Nuln is a very rich city. The only way it could be moreso is if it still held the central Imperial government. Foreign trade, Imperial commerce, etc all run through Nuln. But the Foundry is the truly unique asset of the city. Very few places in the Empire can actually build modern artillery, and Nuln maintains a near monopoly. The Gunnery School and Foundry are both publicly held assets, after all, built by public money. The article keeps coming back to how important this center of industry is to keeping the city as rich as it is, and I actually kind of appreciate that.

The current Headmaster is an ex-soldier named Albrecht Hahnemann, with a strong head for math who had to retire from the field after his lungs were damaged by Skaven mustard gas. Once away from the front lines, he was given an education in recognition of his service, and his natural ability with math and organization made him a very successful logician and quartermaster. When the position as Headmaster opened up, the Count (Emanuelle's father) recommended him, he was approved, and he has filled the position for 17 years since. He's not especially exciting, just a competent man doing a job he's well suited for.

The current master of gunnery is a mathematical genius named August Scheinmeier. A gaunt, bony man who has gone completely deaf over decades of aiming and firing cannon, he's so good at lip reading that as long as he can face someone while they talk, he can hide his deafness completely, something he prefers to do rather than be thought of as infirm. His accuracy as a cannoneer is legendary, and his ability to do complex mathematics in his head has some people whisper that maybe he's been touched by magic or the dark powers. He isn't the best instructor, as he's cold and businesslike, only interested in the guns and his mathematics and not very mindful of the students.

The current Master Founder isn't Imperial at all, but is rather a short, stocky Kislevite named Boris Dohvzhenko. Like most of the personalities, he's not very interesting; our author Bill Boden does an okay job with the school itself, but the characters he comes up with to man the guns are pretty much all stock characters for a military academy. There's nothing really wrong with them, they're just all good at their job and for the most part fairly professional people who don't have much in the way of a hook. Boris is a good craftsman to the extent that he's sometimes mistaken for a tall Dwarf, which he considers a tremendous compliment.

And that's the Nuln Gunnery School. It's okay. The school itself and its importance to the city are pretty cool, but the training rules could've used some sanity checking and some more thought about the purpose of the Career system. The characters aren't bad or offensive, just kind of dull and not colorful enough for Hams. It's a forgettable article, but there's nothing wrong with it beside needing another look at the gun training.

Next Time: You want forgettable, I'll give you forgettable!

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





Halloween Jack posted:

From what I remember, the LotFP corebook isn't objectionable besides the titty naga, and the system is just a stripped-down B/X with a pretty good replacement skill system and some interesting ideas about alignment.

From what I understand if you want the actual LotFP 'experience' you have to look at adventures like Blood in the Chocolate and God knows I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: WHFRP Companion

GIANT ENEMY CRAB

Okay, I'm not gonna lie: I'm basically skipping Chapter 12 because it's a description of a single gunpowder maker's shop, lasting like 3 pages, and the only hook in it is 'he harvests bat poo poo to make gunpowder'. It is genuinely too boring and short to bother with for an update, so good job, Eric Cagle. You have made the most boring article in the book. Wait a second! You're the guy who made a pirate island boring! If I wasn't still mad at Steve Darlington for the Medical chapter I'd hereby crown you the worst author in this book, but as it is your stuff is merely impossibly boring and empty rather than an active detriment so he keeps the prize.

Next we get the final chapter, by Andrew Law and Jody MacGregor from the Tavern chapter. This is a collection of monsters that don't have Tabletop models or as many references in setting as the stuff in Old World Bestiary, and for the most part it isn't that great. It's a random hodgepodge of enemies, like Naiads, which are just water Dryads mechanically, or weird sea monsters like the Behemoth and the Triton. It does have a few standouts, though (either for being great or very stupid), and this is a good excuse for me to talk about the bestiary before I figure out how the hell I'm going to cover it.

Some concepts we need to talk about before I do monsters: Slaughter Margin is the game's equivalent of Challenge Rating. It measures how well the monster will do against a very specific character, provided in the Old World Bestiary. This character is the heroic Johann Schmidt, Completely Ordinary State Trooper. Monsters are assessed, essentially, by how well they'll do against a reasonably geared first tier fighter with a couple advances and average stat rolls (He has a halberd and a sword and shield as options, some armor, 2 attacks, and the Soldier talents). Trivial means it'll be easy (bugs), Easy that Johann might take a hit (Gobbos), Routine that he's got the edge (Ungors), Average means an even fight (Gors, Orc Boyz), challenging means Johann will struggle but can definitely win with Fate/Fury (like against a Chaos Warrior), Hard means it's going to take more luck than should be safe and Johann really should try to avoid a fight (Troll), Very Hard means winning would take a heroic feat, with maybe 5% or so odds of Johann pulling it off (Vampire), and Impossible means that Johann even landing a wound on the enemy would be a heroic effort (Dragon, Greater Demon).

We also get the full view of monsters in this book, though it isn't as thorough as it is in Old World Bestiary: In OWB, they describe monsters from a common view (people who've heard of or encountered them), then from what a scholar or specialist would know, then, if the creature is intelligent, they ask one about themselves. This whole 3 level sourcing thing actually makes OWB a really good book for setting information and a lot of fun to read. The problem is the monsters in this section are rarely intelligent, and so don't usually have the third source. They're also just not as well written, and they're dealing with less well-established monsters. No-one cares that much about a big predatory fish that lives in Imperial lakes, and no amount of multiple sources is going to change that.

That said, let's talk about some of the weirder monsters and mechanical standouts. First, of course, is the Giant Enemy Crab, the Promethean. You might actually recognize these; they're having a bit of a surge in popularity due to being ridden by vampire pirates in the latest add-on for Total Warhams. They aren't actually Chaotic creatures, they're just really huge crabs, though the game describes them here as if there's maybe only one of them in all the world. They're reasonably dangerous, but definitely beatable in a duel by a 3rd tier. A lower tier party can take one on in a group. They're Attacks 2, WS 59, SB 6, TB 6, and have the monster (and vampire) only attack Unstoppable, which gives a -30% to parry their attacks because holy poo poo 30 foot crab-monster, how did you block that with a shield. They don't have any active defenses of their own, though, and while they have 34 Wounds, they have 'only' 2 armor on their head, 3 on their spindly crab legs, but the full 5 everywhere else. They also pinch, doing Impact and AP with their attacks, and have Strike Mighty. So Damage 7 Impact AP Crabclaw is pretty dangerous. Still, having actually used a pitfight with one as a boss for a third tier PC, I've seen a 3rd tier take one apart solo so I can definitely say it's doable.

The Naiad stands out for being literally and totally just a Dryad, but in water. A lot of the new monsters are sea, river, and lake creatures. I'll get to Dryads when I get to the OWB. Tree-Kin are an attempt to add Tree-Men (ents) you can actually fight, unlike the WS 80% 4 attack Damage 8 Impact monstrosities from the OWB (seriously, even my strongest PCs still had to take those things extremely seriously). Somehow Tree-Kin are undead (because the spirits are animating dead trees and wood, apparently) and are footsoldiers for the hell-forest that is Athel Loren. At WS 50, DR 7, damage 6 with 2 attacks? They're footsoldiers you'd better take seriously unless you have a lot of fire.

Bog Octopi are total horseshit, made of going 'Hey it has 8 legs so it has 8 attacks'. They're weird giant octopi that live in bogs and eat people, like a land-kraken. With the ability to put out 8 Damage 7 attacks in one turn, even if it's 'only' WS 39 it's going to mess some folks up. It's also a grappler, able to squeeze and drown people it's grappling with its massive Strength score of 74. DR 7 and 24 Wounds mean it's kind of frail...except to strike a lethal blow, you have to make a half action move to get in close AND make a successful Agi test, so you can't swift attack the head. Otherwise you just hit tentacles, and crits just lower its Attacks as you lop them off. They don't have treasure and generally don't really attack people unless they're hungry or the person is alone, so these things are an extremely difficult fight for likely little reward.

The Behemoth is just Moby Dick. No real word on how you fight a giant white whale that also has a terrifying horn. 3 attacks only, but 79% WS, 90(!) Str, but only 6 DR and 45 Wounds means that a Questing Knight with Heroism is going to turbo-gently caress this thing and it's going to be hilarious, since it also has no active defenses. Just imagine it. A Knight walks out onto deck calmly while Ahab is ranting about White Wales and then slices it in half in one clean blow like this was a ridiculous anime, because it doesn't have the DR to handle a high tier warrior with an Impact greatsword and the Virtue of Heroism's instant-crit ability. It would be wonderful. In general, big monsters tend to try to make up for low-ish DR (6 is nothing to sneeze at, but against the kinds of PCs who have any business fighting this thing in open combat, it's a little trivial) by having 30-60 Wounds. It usually doesn't work out for them. Big monsters can often go down like chumps to sufficiently badass PCs, especially PCs who bring a lot of Impact and thus have a lot of Fury potential. Monsters often try to beat the action economy by having a lot of attacks, but often have mediocre WS (this one's an exception) that can make them really swingy to fight. They're generally designed to look scarier than they are; if you somehow have a straight fight with this thing with a high level party, they'll probably kill it.

Oh, there's also Kahyoss Cordyceps fungus and its attendant zombies, full of save or die spores that give you a week to find a cure (there is no known cure, but finding one would be a 'worthy quest') if you ever fight them in melee. Fun times.

Also there's a giant fishman named Triton who hates the Dark Elves and attacks ships with a trident for some reason. He's got Demonic Aura (an ability added in OWB to toughen up demons a bit; they went down too easily before. It's +2 DR unless you're hit with magic) but isn't a Demon. Just a weird, giant, inexplicable fish-king, with the implication the Druchii killed his fantastical underwater civilization or something. Considering his main enemies are a bunch of rear end in a top hat elves who your PCs probably hate, and also that he's about as strong as a dragon (WS 63, Attacks 5, Damage 8, DR 8 (6 if you have magic), 56 Wounds. The only way you're likely beating this guy is a party of 3rd tiers or getting that Questing Knight who just gutted Moby Dick to have a go), it's more likely you'll be trying to talk to Fishman Prime and point him at some Canadians than fighting the guy.

And really, that's it for WHFRP Companion, ending on a random grab-bag of sea monsters and land krakens that aren't especially intriguing. It's been a slightly better book than I remembered, but on the whole, it's skippable. Very little in this book is worthwhile and I think it was kind of an ill-conceived project from the get-go. For every article that worked in the format, you had two or three that didn't, and that's not a good success rate. I wanted to cover this book because I wanted to talk about why it's bad, but was pleasantly surprised to have a few good exceptions to discuss, too; the few successes make a nice counterpoint and help show off how you could make this book work with better editing and more rigorous vetting of the pitches you choose to publish.

Instead we got a random grab-bag of 'realism' rules that made the game more dull or punishing for no reason, an extremely overcomplex tade subsystem, a bunch of fish no-one cares about, two incidents of turbo-racism in one book, and a boring pirate city. Again, how do you gently caress up 'city of rad pirates'!? At least the Carnies, the Tileans, and the taverns were kind of cool.

One of the really interesting things is how bad most of the heavily mechanical articles were, because they tended to be adding completely new mechanics. WHFRP2e takes modification of its system fairly well, but it doesn't take great to the addition of new subsystems, generally. There wasn't room for the authors to add things like a set of 'unique' social actions without a bad idea like 'they cost Fortune to try!' to try to limit them.

Next Time: Rats, the rats, we're the rats.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 16:49 on Dec 3, 2018

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

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

Part of the reason no one's really done a LOTFP review is because there was a WTF D&D about the Grindhouse edition that covers everything you really need to know.

Lynx Winters
May 1, 2003

Borderlawns: The Treehouse of Pandora

unseenlibrarian posted:

Part of the reason no one's really done a LOTFP review is because there was a WTF D&D about the Grindhouse edition that covers everything you really need to know.

Like 20 different people have covered the same exact details of Runequest so I doubt this is the reason.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




I mean, the fact that a B/X clone has a GRINDHOUSE EDITION with extra dicks and poop...that tells you everything you need to know without even seeing it.

Whether or not you like DCC, its aesthetic is very wizard-airbrushed-on-the-side-of-a-van, and when they want to go over the top, they tell you that the next van will have a barbarian princess with three wolves howling at the moon, and the moon is a bong.

LotFP's aesthetic is "middle-schoolers who have never had sex inventing sex moves to post on Urban Dictionary."

White Coke
May 29, 2015


Night10194 posted:

Tree-Kin are an attempt to add Tree-Men (ents) you can actually fight, unlike the WS 80% 4 attack Damage 8 Impact monstrosities from the OWB (seriously, even my strongest PCs still had to take those things extremely seriously). Somehow Tree-Kin are undead (because the spirits are animating dead trees and wood, apparently) and are footsoldiers for the hell-forest that is Athel Loren.

Tree-Kin were added in one of the Wood Elf army books for exactly the same reason you say, a mid way point between Dryads and Tree-Men. And their whole deal is pretty much just that the spirits animate dead wood so that they aren't permanently bonded to a single tree like the Tree-Men are. They're weaker but the spirits will survive the destruction of their current body. Instead of being undead though they should have Daemonic Aura though. All the forest spirits had the same kind of resistance towards non-magical attacks that Daemons do. It's also why Triton has Daemonic Aura even though he isn't a daemon.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


White Coke posted:

Tree-Kin were added in one of the Wood Elf army books for exactly the same reason you say, a mid way point between Dryads and Tree-Men. And their whole deal is pretty much just that the spirits animate dead wood so that they aren't permanently bonded to a single tree like the Tree-Men are. They're weaker but the spirits will survive the destruction of their current body. Instead of being undead though they should have Daemonic Aura though. All the forest spirits had the same kind of resistance towards non-magical attacks that Daemons do. It's also why Triton has Daemonic Aura even though he isn't a daemon.

I think they wanted to avoid making them over-tough, because +2 TB actually means quite a bit. Especially when you're already at 7 DR from TB and Armor. 9+ DR is usually for foes who are actually relying on DR.

Also, think they didn't want to give them that since neither Dryads or Treemen have it. I will cover OWB soon-ish (going to do Children of the Horned Rat first) and Treemen will absolutely destroy most parties. Even the most powerful PC I've ever played, the aforementioned Heroism Knight, had to get lucky to take them down. Hell, the Vampire Count I played struggled with them.

Treemen will destroy you.

E: To expand, the best defense most 'big' monsters can get against a PC party is damage reduction. Because they can use it against every attacker. A Treeman has 10 DR and 46 Wounds. Trying to break through that DR to whittle down that many wounds is a nightmare for most normal parties, even at higher tiers where PCs are often doing Damage 6 or 7. Treemen also hit 4 times a turn at 81% WS, Damage 7, and Impact. Plus they have Terrifying to break your party up and disrupt you. And they can't fail fear checks or anything themselves. When Treebeard decides it's time for you to go, you go.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 21:12 on Dec 3, 2018

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

PurpleXVI posted:

I was browsing the F&F archive the other day, and can it really be that no one's reviewed Lamentations of the Flame Princess? I see that a couple of adjacent/supplements have been reviewed, but not the thing itself. Seems kind of surprising considering how much of an incompetent fuckbag Raggi is.

A lot of the reviews here, and especially the reviews of bad games, are a form of performance art and comedy. This doesn't make them bad reviews: a willingness to scream and holler and ridicule the bad parts often gives emphasis to the objectionable parts in a way a dry, look-at-the-the-thing-as-a-whole review wouldn't.

And it's fun to read.

But it requires books you can mock.

And LotFP is just kinda dull. It's a mostly workable B/X clone-slash-company management sim, and there's only so many times you can say "there's an interesting idea here, ultimately let down by an unwillingness to abandon B/X conventions" in a review. There's some stuff you can dig into, like the summoning rules and the unpleasantly detailed drawing of a woman being stabbed to death through the eye, but what's the point of crossing a desert to drink from a radioactive oasis?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night10194 posted:

I think they wanted to avoid making them over-tough, because +2 TB actually means quite a bit. Especially when you're already at 7 DR from TB and Armor. 9+ DR is usually for foes who are actually relying on DR.

Also, think they didn't want to give them that since neither Dryads or Treemen have it. I will cover OWB soon-ish (going to do Children of the Horned Rat first) and Treemen will absolutely destroy most parties. Even the most powerful PC I've ever played, the aforementioned Heroism Knight, had to get lucky to take them down. Hell, the Vampire Count I played struggled with them.

Treemen will destroy you.

E: To expand, the best defense most 'big' monsters can get against a PC party is damage reduction. Because they can use it against every attacker. A Treeman has 10 DR and 46 Wounds. Trying to break through that DR to whittle down that many wounds is a nightmare for most normal parties, even at higher tiers where PCs are often doing Damage 6 or 7. Treemen also hit 4 times a turn at 81% WS, Damage 7, and Impact. Plus they have Terrifying to break your party up and disrupt you. And they can't fail fear checks or anything themselves. When Treebeard decides it's time for you to go, you go.

I mean, going after Athel Loren is a bad idea for a reason. The immortal hellforest is awful, and your best bet is to literally just ignore it and hope they don't get mad enough to leave the wood.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Mors Rattus posted:

I mean, going after Athel Loren is a bad idea for a reason. The immortal hellforest is awful, and your best bet is to literally just ignore it and hope they don't get mad enough to leave the wood.

We didn't get a lot of choice during the Bretonnian Revolution games.

So I got a lot of experience with what fighting Dryads and stuff looks like in game. They're nastier than Chaos Demons for the most part. The Dryad's shifting warform is really mean because going between +2 DR, +2 Damage, +1 Attacks, or just going first each round is mean and that's the weakest of the forest's spirit-soldiers.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




LatwPIAT posted:

And LotFP is just kinda dull. It's a mostly workable B/X clone-slash-company management sim,

And the management part doesn't innovate anything to make it fun or interesting (compared to, for example, how Torchbearer abstracts mapping and logistics). Just keeping track of a bunch of retainers, and more retainers to act as support staff for those retainers, and their wages, and morale and other poo poo, and penalties if you gently caress up any of it or they die.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




PurpleXVI posted:

Though I'd be curious to hear if anyone's ever actually used these rules and been happy with them.

i had a group use these rules (or something approximating them) when i was younger, and it just devolved into the weird metagaming bullshit you forewarn - people would refuse to do a thing if it didn't directly include a hook for their class' bonus XP, and the imbalance between what classes could do what things to earn the bonus XP was further compounded by the fact that 2E classes all have different XP growth charts.

it's pretty clearly a rule from D&D's tournament gaming days, when you'd be playing a throw-away character and money = XP so you won by finding the most money and surviving the dungeon. since you're not trying to play in a coherent campaign world with on-going events, it doesn't matter if you outlevel everyone else in the current session because you might not ever have to play with them again.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night10194 posted:

We didn't get a lot of choice during the Bretonnian Revolution games.

So I got a lot of experience with what fighting Dryads and stuff looks like in game. They're nastier than Chaos Demons for the most part. The Dryad's shifting warform is really mean because going between +2 DR, +2 Damage, +1 Attacks, or just going first each round is mean and that's the weakest of the forest's spirit-soldiers.

Yeeeeeah, Athel Loren is just, the worst place.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




So a heavy fortification line forcing the enemy to risk the forest might actually work...

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

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


By popular demand posted:

So a heavy fortification line forcing the enemy to risk the forest might actually work...
It did work in history too! At least, the fortress bit. It’s all the other parts of the scheme that fell on their faces.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



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


Part 22c: Sarila Is

It’s been a while since the last post (again), but now it’s time to talk about the Comaghaz virus.

quote:

Santor paused in his work and wiped the perspiration from his brow. He could not recall its ever being so warm on Akasha before - perhaps the climate control devices in this structure need repair, he said to himself.

He forced himself to concentrate on his studies. The history of the Draygaak people was a fascinating one, and he found it particularly interesting how they had transcended their fearsome physical appearance and become such noted scholars. Granted, they had not
yet approached the level of the Akashan intelligentsia, but given time…

A bead of sweat dropped into his eye, blinding him. He let out a gasp at the burning sensation and dropped his infoscanner. He was going to complain to the· caretaker of the building when the room seemed to shift before him suddenly, and he found himself on the floor.

A wave of fear passed through him. He felt ill - something which should have been impossible, given his genetic makeup. He had spent over 1000 ciaras on having his immune system strengthened, and if that money had been wasted, his bioengineer would be sorry indeed.

He struggled to rise, fighting off the dizziness. He would go home and take a rest, perhaps he had been studying too hard…

That was when he heard the voices. They were all around him, soothing him, encouraging him, a chorus led by the soft, silken voice of a woman. He could almost see her face as she spoke to him of destiny and fate, and offered him a sense of belonging he had never known before.

Deep inside his mind, something was screaming a warning, telling him the voices were a product of the fever that raged within him. But he did not listen, indeed he could not. The voices insisted he join with them, and told him once he belonged, he would be able to share his experience with others.

It all seemed so wonderful, he had no further thought of resisting. Gratefully, totally, he surrendered himself to the voices, and let them tell him what he must do. He felt whole, even the fever had ceased to annoy him. As he passed through the hallway, the caretaker bade him farewell.

As the voices sang in triumph, he reached out to take the old man's hand and share the new sensation he'd discovered ...
The Comaghaz virus is probably the largest threat the Akashans have ever encountered. In the early days of the plague, nobody realized the actual existence of the virus itself, which allowed it to spread rampantly throughout the Star Sphere. And now that it’s so widespread, it’s probably too late to do anything to stop it.

As stated in the initial Space Gods post, the Comaghaz is the creation of the geneticist Sarila, who was trying to create a threat she could easily solve to raise her political standing. The virus was indeed designed to be highly contagious and (eventually) deadly, but what Sarila didn’t intend was for the virus to become intelligent and self-aware.

Her attempts to find a cure were stymied by the virus’s self-preservation instincts, but once she realized the immunizations she had given herself allowed her to access the virus’s hivemind without being taken over, her goals shifted significantly. Her current goal is to spread the virus throughout the Sphere, and once she attains control over everyone she’ll declare herself head of the Council as a formality and lead the Akashans to “further greatness”. At least, that was her plan until she learned about the idea of becoming the Torg. Right now, she’s just trying to infect a few Storm Knights to get more of an idea how the Possibility Wars work before making any other moves.

(It’s worth noting that Sarila is fully stated up and, like most women in Torg, is described as “young” and “extremely beautiful”. That said, given that she’s a vain power-hungry master genetic engineer I suppose that description at least makes sense here, at least.)


Not everyone shares Sarila’s vision of the future.

So let’s get into the details of the virus and how it operates.

The Comaghaz virus is a three-stage virus, being very contagious in the second and third stages. The virus has two major effects on the host: the aforementioned connection of the host to the hivemind, and a fairly rapid physical degradation that eventually burns out the victim’s body and brain.

The first stage of the virus start immediately upon infection of the host, and lasts for about three weeks. The virus is very difficult to detect at this stage; it’s basically biding its time, weakening the host’s natural immune systems and gearing up to attack the host’s mind. At this point, the host can be treated (assuming it’s known they’re infected) through medicine or the use of miracles like cure disease. Unfortunately, “treatment” isn’t the same as “cure”. The best you can do is return it to the dormancy of the first stage. And even then you need Tech axiom 26 medical equipment (which few realities have), and even then it’s a very difficult roll to succeed at the procedure. Even using a miracle or spell will simply return the virus to stage one for an “unknown period of time”. To make matters worse, the further along the virus is, the harder it is to treat.

When the virus reaches phase two, that’s when things get really bad. The host begin showing obvious signs of infection: cold sweats, fevers, increased heart rate, and dizziness. While the host’s body is deteriorating, the host’s mind is being connected to the greater hivemind.

This is the only point where the virus can be expelled from the system, and it can only be done by the victim. When the virus attempts to connect the host to the hivemind, the host must generate a Mind total. If they get a total of 25 or higher (which isn’t easy, even with Possibilities and cards), then they’ve managed to fight off the infection and are cured. The physical effects of the virus are undone, and you can keep your mind...as long as you don’t get re-infected.

However, if you get less than a 25, then you become connected to the hivemind. The lower your result, the lower in the hivemind’s “cell structure” you’ll be placed, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Regardless of where you are in the hierarchy, you will receive a single imperative from Sarila: Spread the virus by any means necessary.

The virus is very contagious at this point; simple skin-to-skin contact will do it. Technically, the virus uses perspiration as a carrier and can enter the victim through their skin pores. Injection also works; in fact there are recorded instances of infected capturing people and setting up “plague hospitals” designed to pass the virus along and keep people contained until they hit phase two.

This phase can last anywhere from six weeks to two years, depending on the host’s strength of will (as reflected by that Mind roll). The virus wants people it can control but who are still aware enough to make their own choices to stick around as long as possible to coordinate things. During this stage, the host’s physical stats actually increase (due to the host ignoring things like pain and the body’s natural limits), but for most of the infected their mental stats will start to drop.

Phase three is the final phase, and is the point where the host is pretty much doomed. By this point, the host’s mind has been burned out due to the constant presence of the hivemind. Physically, the host looks like a decaying corpse with twisted limbs and cracked skin. From these cracks exudes a green viscous liquid that’s also a carrier for the virus.

Most carriers are nothing but mindless berzerkers used by the hivemind to break targets too difficult to infiltrate. The stronger-willed members will still look fairly normal, but are also living on borrowed time.

Once the virus reaches this stage, the host will die within six months. Once a carrier dies, it’s believed that the virus itself will die along with it. Still, better burn the bodies just to be safe.


"When I make a fist to crush your resistance." "It is with three billion hands!"

That about covers the physical effects of the virus. But what about the mental? We’ve talked about the hivemind a bunch, so it’s time to get into the details about it.

As stated before, when someone becomes part of the hivemind, they come under the domination of Sarila. Being part of the hivemind is overwhelming to anyone except her, but even then she can’t control everyone all the time. To make up for this, her victims are organized into small units called cells.

Remember before when I mentioned the roll to resist being taken over during stage two of the infection? The value of that roll (assuming you didn’t beat the target number of 25) will determine where you get placed in the mental hierarchy. Getting a 20-24 marks you as a leader, a 12-19 makes you a soldier, and an 11 or less marks you as a drone.

Leaders are those who still maintain the ability to act (mostly) independently, and tend to be P-rated. They maintain their original personalities for the most part, and have more of a self-survival instinct than other infected due to their usefulness; in fact the Comaghaz will delay the breakdown of a Leader for as long as possible to better serve the cause. Every cell has a Leader, who will be in mental control of the Soldiers and Drones of that cell.

Soldiers are those who are capable of being Leaders if needed, or those who possess useful skills but don’t have the strength of will to maintain their minds. The best way to describe them would probably be as back-up systems for Leaders. If a cell’s Leader dies, one of the Soldiers will be selected to replace him. Soldiers can also control a few Drones to split off from the main cell temporarily as needed.

Lastly, there are Drones. Drones are...well, drones. Worker bees. They’re there to do the heavy lifting, overrun opponents, and be meatshields for the more valuable Leaders and Soldiers. Drones have no real free will; they’re just extensions of the Leaders. While a Leader might have a half-dozen Soldiers under his control, he can have any number of Drones to serve as weapons.

The purpose of the cell structure is two-fold. First, it removes a lot of the heavy mental lifting from Sarila. Second, it makes the controlled people more powerful. Sarila created the cell structure because she realized that keeping Comaghaz-infested people together gave them access to new psionic abilities; the more minds in the cell, the stronger the power. This is measured in-game by the cell’s group mind value, which is calculated by taking the Leader’s Mind stat and adding a bonus based on the number of people in the cell. Unfortunately, this is Torg so instead of just adding a number, you take the number of people in the cell and look that number up on the Value Chart in the core book, then you look that value up on the Power Push Table to get the final bonus.



Have I mentioned that I’m insanely grateful Torg Eternity exists?

Anyway, the group mind value determines how effective the cell’s powers are, as well as the maximum range the Leader can control everyone else. Soldiers outside of the Leader’s range can last for a while and attempt to accomplish a goal they were given, but a Drone without anyone telling it what to do will just sort of stand around until given simple instructions or being “absorbed” into another cell.

There are only five group mind powers, but they’re more utilitarian than anything else. Which is fine, really; when you can have one guy controlling 250 other dudes and able to see through their eyes, you don’t need much else on top of that to be a threat.
  • Alarm can only be performed by Drones, and sends an alert to a Soldier or Leader if a certain event comes to pass, such as “we are being attacked” or “someone has come out of that building”. Note that since this is done by Drones, it’s very much a simple if/then case; in the later example, the Drone would have to actually see someone leave said building for the alarm to happen. If people sneak out the back, or the Drone sees people enter the building, nothing happens.
  • Extend Group Mind lets a Leader increase the range of its control for an hour.
  • Psychic Jammer increases the difficulty of psionic powers for three meters around any cell member.
  • Report lets a Drone or Soldier set up a two-way mental link between itself and its Leader or another Soldier.
  • Sentinel lets a Leader or Soldier see through the eyes of anyone in the group mind who’s lower on the mental totem pole.

And while this is the end of the chapter, I would like to point out one bit of Torgian design on these powers.

Alarm, Report, and Sentinel are powers that should just work. Inherent abilities, right? Kind of the point of the whole group mind? Well, unfortunately they’re stated up as full Torgian powers. Which means a full stat block, which also means there’s a difficulty. For the abilities that should be automatic, instead of just saying “Difficulty: none” or something simple like that, they gave these abilities very low difficulty numbers. Like 5. Which is really easy to hit, but also means that a bad enough roll could mean that a Leader couldn’t use their hivemind powers. It also means that the GM needs to roll every time they want to do these basic abilities.

Even after all this time, Torg still makes me shake my head in disbelief.

--
The Comaghaz is interesting, and has some very cool uses, but...well…

It doesn’t feel like it belongs in this game. It doesn’t help that the Akashans showed up so drat late, but with the whole War going on it feels sort of extraneous. It’s just One More Thing on a game that already has a huge pile of concepts.

Oh well. I’m sure discussing the Akashan realm will go better!


NEXT TIME: Colonialism, but for yourour own good

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



By popular demand posted:

So a heavy fortification line forcing the enemy to risk the forest might actually work...

Well, it's more that above a certain point in Warhammer Fantasy, the best solution to a given monster is not to send a dude with a sword at it, it's to shoot it with a cannon.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




That psy-zombie virus is definitely too interesting to appear right at the end of a line that already has an embarrassment of riches for ideas.

The Libearian
Nov 24, 2007
Return your books or face mauling

I'm fairly sure Triton was a mercenary unit in man o war back in the 90s. I vaguely remember a model

TheArchimage
Dec 17, 2008


When I was working on a write-up of the adventure Better Than Any Man I swore LotFP had received the F&F treatment, but later realized I had somehow gotten it confused with The Secret Fire. Can't imagine how I made that mistake.

KingKalamari
Aug 24, 2007

Fuzzy dice, bongos in the back
My ship of love is ready to attack


Hi, I'm KingKalamari, you may remember me from such FATAL & Friends reviews as...none of them, really, I haven't done this before! After reading through the F&F archvies for the millionth time I figured I'd actually try my hand at one of these things. For my first attempt I have decided to jump into the deep end face-first and examine a big wooly mammoth of an RPG property...

Now, there are a lot of weird, wonderful and creative settings that have been created for RPGs over the years: From the post-modern weirdness of Numenon to the Transhuman space future of Eclipse Phase to the unnerving masturbatory fantasies of a beardy fantasy nerd that were repurposed for Forgotten Realms, there is truly no limit to the types of worlds one can play in...Which is why it's all the more baffling that more than a third of these settings are basically the same thing!

You can probably guess what I'm talking about : The "Default OSR" setting. The one that is basically just Conan but some of the names are different and maybe there are Elves. This is the setting a fantasy game is invariably set in if it is described as "grim", "gritty" or "low magic". It's the de-facto setting of people who long for the old days of Tabletop RPGs when everything was encounter tables, characters died if they were looked at funny and most of your ability scores did absolutely nothing.

But what is the setting that these guys are really trying to emulate? It's easy to look back to things like your Greyhawks of 1st Edition AD&D, the Known World of BECMI or even the Blackmoor of...several editions that never really gave a concrete definition, but there's one setting that has been overlooked and probably had more influence on the modern conception of the "old days" of RPGs than people think. Folks, let me take you back in time to explore...



The Wilderlands of High Fantasy!

Part I: A Little Background

So, what the gently caress is this thing? This is the original third party D&D campaign setting! The version I'm going to be looking at is the updated version released for D&D 3.5 but this setting goes back to the days of OD&D: See, back when D&D first came on the market you had pretty much two companies you could buy game supplements from: If you wanted to shell out some extra cash for something that was legibly printed but of a limited sleection you went with TSR. If you were on a budget and didn't mind books printed on flashpaper you went to Judges Guild.


This is either a scene of epic fantasy action...Or Timmy dropped his colouring book in the toilet again.

Judges Guild was the first company besides TSR that really got onboard this whole "D&D" thing and began publishing things like encounter tables, adventures and other supplements for the original edition of the game. Before long the scope of their products became more and more ambitious until they released "The CIty State of the Invincible Overlord" in 1977; the first setting book for what would eventually become The Wilderlands of High Fantasy. What followed was a ridiculous number of maps, charts and supplements detailing a fantasy campaign setting roughly the size of the Mediteranean published over the course of the next five years or so.

Unfortunately the good times would not last forever for Judges Guild,: As the mustaches and OD&D rulebooks of the 70s gave way to the feathered haircuts and AD&D books of the 80s they faced competition from other companies trying to get into the RPG supplement market. Faced with this choice consumers opted for books printed on paper that was actually designed to accept ink and Judges Guild collapsed, taking The Wilderlands with it!

Fast forward to the far-off future of 2002, when the God Zeus commanded Judges Guild to rise from its grave so that it could rescue his daughter Athena from the evil demon Neff by transforming into a series of increasingly muscular man-beasts! And by that I mean Necromancer Games acquired the license to The Wliderlands and decided to re-release an updated version of the setting for 3rd Edition.

While the rules were updated for a new Edition the setting remains largely the same, only condensed into a single book instead of spread over dozens of little booklets full of encounter tables and crude sketches (Which is the main reason I'm doing this guy and not the original 70s releases).

So, come join me on a magical journey through a crazy fever dream of 70s fantasy, where well-oiled barbarian warriors wander through a giant hex-map until they find the spot where they get to fight space robots riding the backs of sabre-toothed tigers!

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


KingKalamari posted:

So, come join me on a magical journey through a crazy fever dream of 70s fantasy, where well-oiled barbarian warriors wander through a giant hex-map until they find the spot where they get to fight space robots riding the backs of sabre-toothed tigers!

Well I'm always up for that.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I've encountered enough intelligent viruses in fiction that TORG's didn't do much for me, except for the fact that it's still a disease. It's not just a rapidly expanding hive mind, it's still killing its hosts too.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


Bieeanshee posted:

I've encountered enough intelligent viruses in fiction that TORG's didn't do much for me, except for the fact that it's still a disease. It's not just a rapidly expanding hive mind, it's still killing its hosts too.

Yeah that seems to really put a crimp on the effectiveness of the hive mind.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




wdarkk posted:

Yeah that seems to really put a crimp on the effectiveness of the hive mind.
"You will die within 3 years, possibly unless you're a Leader in which case you might last another year or two" seems... very bad for a hive mind, yeah.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



Zereth posted:

"You will die within 3 years, possibly unless you're a Leader in which case you might last another year or two" seems... very bad for a hive mind, yeah.

It's not a hive mind that happens to spread love a disease, it's a disease that has a hive mind element to spread faster.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Does Sarila have a plan for Year 4 of her glorious conquest of civilization?

OvermanXAN
Nov 14, 2014


Joe Slowboat posted:

Does Sarila have a plan for Year 4 of her glorious conquest of civilization?

She seems to be making it up as she goes along so probably not, no.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Children of the Horned Rat

It was...Rat Nazis!

Children of the Horned Rat is one of the most interesting books for the WHFRP2e line. It is probably overall the weakest of the 'enemy splat' books; we'll get to the mechanics after the requisite huge pile of Hams fluff but they're not very well thought out and most of them are kind of a mess. Despite this, it's very good at one thing: Telling you how to think like a shrieking, furry little nazi rat. Which is actually extremely helpful for writing them as villains! It also includes the tremendous novelty of playable Skaven, who are intended for all your Rat Nazi Paranoia with Friend Horned Rat needs, which can be really fun, though it takes a certain mindset to embrace the level of failure and blame passing necessary to play a Rat Nazi game.

Now, why do I keep calling them Rat Nazis? Because they are. The Skaven are a parody of fascism (well, less a parody and more an accurate representation): A bunch of murderous little assholes with an economy based on slavery and exploitation, living in misery and distracted by squeaking about racial superiority. They love expensive, impractical wunderwaffen. They're led by a bunch of preening, strutting jackasses who are very happy to make thousands (millions) of others die for their ideas about heroic struggle. The most important part of Skaven governance is climbing over one another to build (and piss on) little fiefs within their labyrinthine struggles of petty jackassery and rivalry. So yes. They're Rat Nazis. Just want to get that out of the way at the beginning before we go further into the book. Who doesn't want to punch Rat Nazis?

They also have a really unhelpful little bit of fluff, which we start the book with: The Empire (and ONLY the Empire, this is one of the problems) doesn't believe they're real. It's a running joke that sounds funny until you actually try to write missions and adventures with Skaven in them and then doing the 'oh no the Skaven are real' dance for the third time gets really loving old. Especially when, again, every other nation and every other race in the setting absolutely knows, admits, and acknowledges the Rat Nazi issue. If I was going to change up one thing in Skaven fluff, I'd change it from 'They're REAL!?' to 'They have GUNS!?' and make it so that the Empire knows Skaven are real, it just thinks they're like other Beastmen, because they so rarely manage to stop knifing one another long enough to pose a real threat. Having everyone think of the crazy little rat-fascists as a joke and ignore them and leave them to the Ratcatchers still leaves you room to have wild-eyed agitators trying to warn people of the 'truth' of how the little fuckers have rifles and mustard gas.

To start us off, we get a pamphlet by a Priestess of Verena trying to warn the Empire of the impending Skaven threat, imploring you to believe her despite the way every force in the Empire tries to cover up their existence. Again, this would probably work better if it wasn't for the fact that Tileans know they're real. Estalians know they're real. Kislevites know they're real. Bretonnians know they're real. Dwarfs know they're real. Elfs know they're real. EVERYONE KNOWS except the Empire. Even in the section on how the Empire doesn't know, we'll have a bunch of people saying 'Oh, those? They can't be Skaven but yeah those are real.' It's just an annoying little song and dance after awhile, and not the good kind of Bretonnian dance.

Anyway, our first Legend of the Skaven is the Legend of Emperor Mandred Skavenslayer (skaven aren't real!) and the Incredible Cheese, wherein the future Emperor and then Graf of Middenheim is besieged by hoards of rats and makes the decision to gather every bit of cheese in his city and cook it, driving the rats into an insane frenzy of hunger. He then orders the dwarfs to cause a massive flood of the undercity when all the rats are within, charging for the delicious cheese. This kills the rat. This is a legend to explain why on the 14th of Ulricstide, Middenheim always has a grand cheese festival where they cook pots of cheese and sausage to celebrate Mandred Skavenslayer (who was later assassinated by ninjas). This is a popular legend in Middenheim that mentions Skaven by name, in honor of Emperor Mandred Skavenslayer. Again, the Skaven Aren't Real thing wears kinda thin.

Our next Rat Legend is an anti-wizard and anti-mutant polemic about a boy born with six toes who is stolen by wizards after his parents refuse to kill him for being a mutant. The wizards, naturally being in league with the devil as all wizards are, give the boy to the Skaven as a present and they hook up warpstone to his foot to start turning him into a Skaven. Then they bolt a box of rats to his back and make him run around putting rats in things to kill them with plague. He comes to kill all the boys who made fun of his six toes and hides from his parents and becomes an evil devil rat, with the moral being that wizards are evil and all mutants have to be killed as soon as they're born. Normal sort of Imperial polemic, but again, it mentions the Skaven by name.

Our selection of 'Common Views' of Skaven are mostly 'they aren't real' and 'I saw a rat walking like a man once, can't be Skaven, but, uh, kinda seemed like 'em'. Though we have one awful little bit about a scholar complaining that the Ar-Ulric has asked him to 'teach the controversy' on rat nazi existence, making a joke comparing 'Skaven are Real' to the batshit insanity that is the controversy over evolution in public schooling in the US, specifically as it has the scholar whining that it's insane that he's asked to 'teach the controversy' because 'now we'll never move beyond our benighted age' and the tone of that for that specific joke pisses me off a bit. We also get the view of a soldier who has had to regularly fight armies of Skaven, talking about how those can't be that 'Skaven' thing but how he prefers fighting them to Beastmen because they're smaller, weaker, and run like hell once you chop a couple.

We get into the scholarly view, that 'everyone knows' Skaven exist even though no-one will admit it. I get what they're going for, but when you have the Empire actively sending Hunters out to tell people the rats aren't real/punish people for talking about them, you're going a little past the normal Bretonnian dance of 'we all pretend this is the case' and get into something really annoying instead. I've always thought the Skaven Aren't Real thing was meant to be a bit of a take on UFO paranoia, with the government trying to conceal the existence of a technologically advanced race that kidnaps people for cruel experiments and uses lots of glowing green rocks and ray cannons, but again: It's really annoying in play and in practice. The Sigmarites get up to enough counter-productive stuff without suddenly having them be employed en-masse to scream that a major threat to the Empire isn't real. In fact, it's even completely counter to how Sigmarism normally does things. They're not really big on covering up the existence of threats to the Empire; they might not want you to know too many details about them, but they do want you to know Chaos, Vampires, etc are all problems. The more I think about it, the less sense it makes that Sigmarism would pass up another existential threat to talk about, given their tendency towards a siege mentality.

Now, the bit on people who deal with the ratmen, this makes more sense. Imperials who learn a lot about them often start to think of them as a joke, and as something they can employ against rivals. After all, these are silly, squeaking little coward-rat people, right? They can't possibly be that dangerous. You can point the exploding little assholes at someone you don't like and watch the carnage, secure that you're getting the better of the bargain until the symptoms from the pox kick in or the ninjas burst through the door to shut you up. The Imperial spy dismissing them as any kind of threat in the Scholar's View section as he talks about how excellent they are as allies in matters clandestine? That's a good tack to take. I'd much prefer 'we don't understand the Rat Nazis are dangerous' to 'we try to pretend they're not real', as you still get the same plot arcs but it's less awkward and stupid to deal with. Plus, well, everything he's saying about them is still sort of true, even if they are a threat. He says those he's spoken to will all probably be dead from backstabbing soon enough, and that the rats are extremely prone to betrayal and backbiting, as the main thing that makes them not a threat. He's wrong that they have 'no culture or learning', and he's obviously getting played (who could possibly observe 'man, they're really good at assassinations' and then also go 'man, this is never going to come back and cause me trouble' in the same paragraph) but he ain't wrong that the Skaven are very prone to, uh, friendly fire.

The section on 'lands beyond the Empire' is a cavalcade of 'every other nation acknowledges the Skaven are real'.

You can tell the difference between Skaven and Beastmen primarily by the fact that Beastmen break everything when they attack. A town taken by Beastmen is going to be leveled to the ground; they are forces of Chaos and destruction and they hate the way things are A: Alive and B: Intact. Skaven attack towns primarily for the population, and they like to plan their assault such that they'll be able to capture as many people as slaves, experiments, and self-preserving food supplies (living meat doesn't rot, after all) rather than just burning the place to the ground. Skaven and Beastmen both prefer to avoid fighting hardened targets that fight back, but Beastmen are much more up for it if they get caught while Skaven will usually run away if things are more difficult than they expected. Skaven are also much more prone to using poison, sabotage, and large scale distractions. A town attacked by Skaven will usually be intact, but missing any signs of bodies or the population.

Part of the reason Skaven don't leave bodies is that they eat anyone they kill. Skaven are constantly, insanely hungry. The need for food is one of the biggest drivers of why Rat Nazi culture goes how it does. They'll eat their own, too, of course, which explains why they don't leave their own dead behind unless they were driven off the field entire.

The biggest sign an assassination was carried out by Skaven is if it seems to have been done by ninjas. I'm not kidding at all. There are actually literal rat ninjas, sure, but there's also the way Skaven love to climb and scamper, know a lot about hidden passages and tunnels, and use little shurikens with poison on them. The more an assassination seems to have been done by ninjas, the more likely it was rats. Also, the worse things smell, the more likely it was rats; skaven have a very, ah, olfactory culture and so have a lot of different and horrible musks that they unconsciously release.

Our pamphlet urges people who discover signs of the Skaven not to hunt them alone; they want to outnumber you. Also don't go to the Watch, they won't believe you and no-one will help you. This bit is fine, this is standard operating procedure for PCs as it is. There's a bit on duping Adventurers into fighting Skaven (never pay them in advance, by the time they realize how much danger they're in they'll need the money enough to finish the job), insisting Adventurers are generally the best way to deal with the rats. They tend to be the right mix of expendable, competent, and weird to somehow come out on top, and since they move around a lot, they'll evade the official crackdown on information about rat-people by wandering off to get into trouble elsewhere when they're done.

Also the section on Skaven Hunting has A: A grimdark super-strong hobbit who loves to snap Rat Nazi necks after he escaped their mines and B: A dwarf explaining that you have to talk to humans a lot about how you're just 'ratcatchers' so that they don't get out of sorts and actually pay you properly for hunting Skaven for them. 'Always get paid in advance, otherwise the humans will pretend what they hired you to kill doesn't exist and then stiff ya', says the dwarf. It doesn't really take anything special to murder a Skaven once you hunt them down. Of course, the greatest threat to the Skaven Hunter is that Skaven Don't Exist and the Empire will, of course, have you executed if your profession comes to light and blah blah let's make this material harder to interact with.

A Ratfighter's equipment sounds like equipment any high level combat PC wants: Handkerchief soaked in herbs to ward off the smell, plate armor to keep the little rat-knives out of you, halberd, brace of pistols, symbol of Sigmar (rats don't fear holy symbols, it's for you, not them), lantern, long coat, nice hat or helmet. The only odd thing is the clay, to hide your own scent. Remember what I said about olfactory culture? The rats have keen noses and they work as much by scent as they do by sight. In a dark tunnel where they can already see you better than you can see them, letting your smell stand out is only going to make things worse.

Next Time: The form and function of the common Rat Nazi

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Wait, halberd? In tunnels?

That's a bit of an odd pick.

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Mors Rattus posted:

Wait, halberd? In tunnels?

That's a bit of an odd pick.

Vermintide 2 tells me this will work fine, trust me.

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