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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


grassy gnoll posted:

Double Cross is an excellent system with elegant mechanics that I never want to play, just because of how much of a pain it is to use the book as a learning and reference tool. Can't stand that drat thing.

Part of the reason I want to do a review is to spare other people the pain of needing to run a multi-year on and off campaign to learn the drat thing because I am a native English speaker who can clarify what I have painfully learned from struggling with the translation.

It took a year before we realized what it actually means for something to be Syndrome linked!

Also I just really want to talk about the mana bar corruption linkage that also functions as an escalation mechanic and a heroic sacrifice button if you want because it's genuinely brilliant.

E: Like, it is a game with mechanics that actually make me excited. The setting I could take or leave (it's fine) but the mechanics are also so setting agnostic and easily adapted that it's been just wonderful to run. If exhausting. The dice rolling is genuinely clever and well designed but it can be exhausting to work with.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 14:49 on Dec 12, 2018

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Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Night10194 posted:

For the Double Cross game I'm running at the moment (adapting the setting to monster hunting and occult/biblical superhero stuff rather than the normal genetic superheroes) this is actually what all the armor's been refluffed as. The team's sage just goes out and gets the stuff he needs to enchant talismans, temporary body markings, and other stuff and brings them back to the others, so they can still dress like normal people and don't have to be walking around 1890s London in armor without ignoring the gear system entirely.

This is how 'armor' works in the urban fantasy computer game Secret World, for that it's worth. It's pointed out in the tutorial that against the kind of things you're up against, it doesn't matter if you're head to toe in riot gear or a bikini, it's going to be just as ineffectual. So your gear slots are various talismans, icons, and protective charms that you hide somewhere on you and your visible clothing and gear is purely cosmetic.

Leraika
Jun 14, 2015

slime time



Someone already did a DX writeup but I'd love to hear more about your game because drat that sounds extremely my jam.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Children of the Horned Rat

Who are these rules for

It's no secret by now that I believe randomization can actually be really fun for concept generation. But the upcoming rules are a good example of the bad kind of randomization, much like the stuff on generating Beastman herds back in ToC. The rules for generating a 'random Skaven warband' aren't very clear on what to do with the huge table of random Skaven units that you roll d10 times on. Let's make an example warband real quick so I can use that to explain the weirdness of this all.

I get a 7, for 7 random units to make up the angry squeaking tide. A 32 on the big d100 table indicates some Eshin scouts: 2 gutter runners (real actual ninjas) and 1-5 (I roll a 1) nightrunner mooks. So it's 2 actual ninjas and Dumb Teddy, the Ninja Intern. A 31 means more ninjas. 2 more gutter runners, and, uh, another lone intern. Next, a 90 indicates a Skryre Heavy Weapons Team, with 2 skirmishers to run the gun and d10 Clanrats to carry ammo. 4 Clanrats. A 17 adds a Clawleader (sergeant), 2 Stormvermin, and 2d10 clanrats (13, auspicious!). An 8 adds a 'Skaven Assault Team', of a second Clawleader and 2d10 Stormvermin (20). A 47 adds a Clan Mors Assault Squad, for another Clawleader, 1-5 Stormvermin (1), and d10+5 Clanrats (11). And a 01 adds in a Clan Chieftan, 2 more Clawleaders, a GREY SEER, and d10 more Stormvermin (10). So overall, this rat 'warband' intended for combat with the players has an HMG team, several dozen normal rats, 4 elite ninjas, dozens of elite stormtroopers, a third tier fighter with one of the most busted fighting careers in the game, several second tier sergeants, and a very powerful wizard.

And most of the list is like this. Is this for random encounters? Is this for long-term combat with this warband? If so, is knowing the exact number of the enemy really that important? Are your adventurers slowly picking off the enemy one Stormvermin at a time and checking them off the list like in Seven Samurai? These units will usually be too large for the normal game/combat rules. There's just no purpose to these rules. In general, I'm against purely random encounter generation as it is; who wants to have a TPK because the GM couldn't bother to think about an encounter, rolled 'd10 Rat Ogres' and said 'this is fine'? Plus fights are more fun when they're tailored to the campaign and the PCs. But this doesn't even work for random encounter generation. It's also much too overstuffed with elite units, and moreover many of these units don't have bestiary entries. Stormvermin, for instance, don't get generic stats until Terror in Talabheim, which was written shortly after Children of the Horned Rat. Also, uh, 20 of the TiT Stormvermin would be a problem for any group (WS 65! SB and TB 5! Halberd! Armor! 17 Wounds! Only saving grace is they're only A1 and the armor isn't great. Still, they're stronger than Chaos Warriors!). Similar, no actual rules for a Clan Chief or generic Grey Seer, so am I supposed to make both of those? And they'll be even more insane to consider once we're done with the classes and magic and you see how ridiculous the Clan Chief is (Seriously, were it not for Virtues, they'd be a better fighter than a Grail Knight. As it is, the Skaven Chieftan is superior to a Dwarf Demonslayer).

So this part is a waste of time. What's next? Clan generation, for if you want to make a minor Skaven clan! It's too cursory to really be useful, but I'll talk about it and we'll make a clan of squeaking, squalling ratmen.

First, we roll a d10 for population. This ranges from a 20% chance for d10x100 rats, to 20% for d10x1000 rats, 30% for d10x10,000 rats, 20% for d10x100,000 rats, and 10% for d10x100,000 +1,000,000. So let's roll. Our clan has d10x100,000 (700,000) rats. Big clan. The squeaking will drown out the tides.

Next we roll to see how politically powerful the clan is. Clans with less than 10,000 members get -1 on the table, clans with over 100,000 get +1. We get a 9, +1, for d10, which is 'Excellent', the highest result. Our Strong Rat Sons are well regarded by their peers, being especially powerful and fawned over. They're the kind of clan that tries to get onto the Council before Mors kills them so it can keep its seat.

We then roll for holdings and settlements, at -4 if No Influence, -2 if Shunned, -1 if Low, +0 if Moderate, +1 if Good, +2 if Excellent like our Rats of Distinction. This determines how many holes we have and how freshly lined they've been with shredded up newsheets and pamphlets screaming that the Skaven are among us. We get a 2, modified to 4, for 'one holding'. Our clan only has a single stronghold, with 'd10 nests' (whatever that means), which instead should mean we have all 700,000 of the rats in one giant rat city. Everyone loves our Strong Rat Sons and they are many, but they are all smooshed into one cavern.

Finally, you randomly roll for what special thing your clanrats get if you use this clan to make a Skaven PC. We get a 10 on d10, Warped, which means all our Skavens start with 1 random mutation from ToC. This could be hilarious, or terrible. The other options were '+5% to Animal Training' (lol), 'Frenzy' (lol), Schemer (Useful for rat things, +10 to rolls about intrigues), Resistance to Disease (Fair enough), Savvy (+5 int! Good at mazes!), Aethyric Attunement (All have Aethyric Attunement, which is useless without having Magical Sense and Channeling. Every class that grants those grants Aethyric Attunement already), Warrior Born (+5 WS! Fightrat!), Fleet of Foot (Your Mv 5 Rat Sons getting Mv6 out of the box and uniformly is super nice), Trade (Engineering) (Meh) or our mutant sons. So we have mutant rats who all live in a little city cavern together and everyone loves them.

But there's just not enough. I can generate a plot hook about this clan, but the table itself doesn't really do it. It's just a dry list of 'population', 'influence', 'stuff', 'tiny quirk'. It's just not an especially useful randomization tool since it doesn't generate solid concepts and what it does produce isn't particularly evocative. Once again, kind of a waste of time.

Next Time: Rat in (war) Hats

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Supposedly they were going to do a revised version of Double Cross with greater clarity, but Ver. Blue seemingly imploded due to personal issues and they've been silent ever since.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Leraika posted:

Someone already did a DX writeup but I'd love to hear more about your game because drat that sounds extremely my jam.

Well, I'll still do it after rats just because I want to explain why I think the mechanics lead to better stories and better roleplaying within the genre the game is emulating, because I love talking about that stuff.


Alien Rope Burn posted:

Supposedly they were going to do a revised version of Double Cross with greater clarity, but Ver. Blue seemingly imploded due to personal issues and they've been silent ever since.

This is very sad to hear, they're a talented group if DX is any indication.

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!


AD&D: 2nd Edition



Chapter 9: Combat



So, combat, it's more or less one of the most core parts of a D&D game. While successive editions have expanded on the non-combat sections, the crafting, the diplomacy, the skills, etc. combat still remains the most rules-dense part of the game, and the focus of a lot of character stats and abilities. And it's also usually what reviews focus on, as a result: What's good in combat, what sucks poo poo in combat, what's overpowered in combat, and likewise it's been a large part of my focus so far. When I say that a Fighter is hilariously stronger than a Mage in 2nd ed AD&D, I'm largely referring to the way the Fighter could utterly pants the wizard, how the wizard would be useless without the fighter for defense, and how the fighter will likely contribute more in most battles.

What I don't think I've done so far, though, is actually explain the mechanics behind 2nd edition AD&D combat, so let's do that.

Probably the two most core concepts are AC(Armor Class) and THAC0(To Hit Armor Class 0), THAC0 has a reputation as being a bizarre and confounding system, but that's pretty much false as long as you know how to add and subtract.

All things that can be hit have an AC, and it's never worse than 10(high is bad, low is good. 10 is the default for unarmoured PC's with no Dex bonuses) and almost impossible to make better than -5(conventional armor will cap you out at about 0). All things that can hit other things have a THAC0, which is never worse than 20(again, high is bad, low is good, all PC's start at 20) and outside of gods and demigods, is never better than a 1 or thereabouts.

When you take a swing at someone, you subtract their AC from your THAC0, and then have to roll the resulting number or higher to land your hit. So THAC0 20 vs AC 10 would be 20-10=10 or better to hit. If it's a negative AC, it ends up a bit different, though... say THAC0 15 vs AC -1. Then you get: 15-(-1)=16 or better to hit, because the two minuses essentially reverse each other. Again, simple maths. This should also illustrate why even a simple +1 or -1 is never irrelevant in 2nd ed. It'll always represent a major improvement to your chance to land or avoid hits.

Initiative is also pretty important, one thing that's a notable deviance from later editions is that initiative is rerolled every round, and actions are declared at the start of the round, rather than when your turn comes up, as each action(spell, weapon, misc.) has a speed factor associated with it that impacts your initiative and also because, for spellcasters, you may get interrupted if you get whacked before your spell goes off. It also means that the speed factor is primarily relevant when fighting spellcasters and you want to be faster than their spells, in a fighter vs fighter thing, it's less important unless it's close enough that acting second or acting first could decide whether you get another action at all, or whether you're a corpse. Conceptually I like it better than later editions' initiative handling, but I concede that it creates a lot more rolling for every round of combat, though the PHB suggests just 1d10 for each side in the fight to minimize the rolling, which helps it a lot.

Saving Throws is another important concept to 2nd ed AD&D. Each class has separate saving throw progression, and by and large saves are unrelated to stats.



Saves are another one of those cases where you want a number since it's a roll-over, and outside of a few spells that have a set bonus or penalty to a save, or some weird optional variant spellcasting rules from the Player's Option books, mages have no real way of loving with them. That means that when a Fighter hits level 13, he will shrug off 75% of all attempts to poison him or instantly kill him, no matter whether it's Bob the Apprentice casting something at him or the Dread Lichlord Skullbeard. This is also part of why Mages have a hard time really making their ultra powers stick against enemies at higher levels, while a Fighter just keeps getting more likely to stick his sword in stuff.

A lot of these saves also probably seem a bit esoteric. Like, are players going to be petrified or polymorphed with such regularity that we need a save specifically for it? To some extent, the Reflex/Con/Will save split of 3rd ed and onwards makes more intuitive sense to people, but under the surface naming scheme, a lot of that's already present in 2nd ed.

For instance, the Save vs Breath Weapon is also intended to be used as a general dodge roll(say a giant slab of stone comes out of the ceiling and is about to crush you flat), which makes sense, because really all you can do against a breath weapon is to get the gently caress out of the way, so it would have to say something about your reflexes and dexterity. Paralyzation, Poison, Death Magic saves get used for physical and mental endurance checks, so a combination of Con and Will saves, really. Which again, makes sense, because all that prevents your soul getting sucked out is your raw willpower fighting back.



This is also where the book suggests the rule I already mocked a while ago, about having separate AC's for separate damage types depending on which armor PC's are wearing, which also requires the GM to on-the-fly adjudicate the damage type of various natural monster attacks when they aren't using a strictly statted weapon but just a vague "whacks at the players with a part of its body"-stuff.

There's a bunch of other little niche rules, like rules for charging, and speed modifiers for doing various misc. items, and then we get to one of the crown jewels of the combat chapter... the Punching & Wrestling section. Because of course, there's gotta be rules for unarmed combat. "Rules."



So, everyone's assumed to be proficient with unarmed combat, so no attack penalties for even the weediest loser. The only thing that can penalize you exceptionally is attempting to wrestle while wearing heavy armor. The way it works is you declare whether you Punch or Wrestle. Either way, you roll your attack, and if you hit, you refer to the table to see the damage done and, if you're Punching, the chance of scoring an instant KO which knocks the enemy out for 1d10 rounds. That's right, getting whomped by a mace or warhammer or even giant's maul won't have a chance of knocking you out, but a punch to the jaw will do the trick.

What's extremely important to notice here is that nowhere does the game say this only applies to human or humanoid enemies. In fact it doesn't even limit what you can attempt to Wrestle. So theoretically, and I'm sure someone can crunch the odds harder than me, you just need enough peasants to bum rush the dragon and start throwing punches that enough are statistically guaranteed to roll a nat 20, and then the 10% chance of a KO. On a nat 20 they'll hit no matter how poo poo their inherent THAC0 and then probably even the most inept adventurers could butcher the dragon before it wakes up again.

Wrestling is a bit less insane, though any sort of Lock will do another +1 damage every round its maintained, as well as your Strength bonus in damage, so you can really rack them up. Especially when you consider that the only ways to break a hold are:

#1: Counter-wrestling and rolling a Gouge or Throw result and hitting with those results.

#2: Having a friend pull the wrestler off you.

#3: Successfully hitting the wrestler with a weapon(which you are penalized at while being in a lock of some sort, preventing you from using any weapons larger than a dagger, so likely something you're non-proficient at because you didn't take proficiency in a sub-par weapon, you foooooooool).

Also the automatic damage every round would completely nerf a spellcaster. So, really, this is the edition of D&D for whoever wants to play a gang of shirtless dudes(or they could be wearing leather, leather armor doesn't penalize wrestling) that suplex wizards and punch dragons on the nose until they go down like a sack of potatoes, then pose on top of the unconscious monstrosity. I mean seriously, nothing here has any sanity checks baked in. I've re-read it ten times, technically you can put a tree or a slime mold into a wrestling hold or punch out a demigod.

The rules for overbearing also don't actually specify when you pull down and pin an opponent by weight of numbers. Can they still fight back? Are they completely paralyzed? Do they take damage by default? They're just "pinned." Presumably it means it can't act until the overbearers gently caress up an attack roll, and that one of their friends could come over and stab the pinned guy in the head.

The remainder of the chapter is mostly combat-related miscellany like natural healing rates(long story short: if you don't bring a Cleric, be expected to spend a week or two of bedrest for your Fighter to recover his HP if he's nearly killed), energy draining(ha ha, it's a LITERAL lost level or more. No saves, no way of recovering them, you're just hosed my man. Outside of tournament play, I can't believe any GM ever used energy draining enemies without getting socked by his players, because they're like the capital A rear end in a top hat thing to bring to the table, even more so than rust monsters or save-or-die stuff) and turning undead, with the odd sidenote that evil clerics can turn paladins like they were undead, effectively mind controlling them if they get a good enough roll.

Analyzing Chapter 9: Combat



For the most part this is oddly enough a copypasted version of the PHB chapter, word for word, even some of the same sidebars and tables. The new stuff is mostly stuff about facing rules(2nd ed AD&D actually assumes the use of miniatures in some sense so you can get your flanking and rear attack modifiers properly, not to mention the various AoE's and ranges of spells), critical hits(which are actually simply an optional rule here, it also suggests a variant where you basically Ulric's Fury it out, and every 20 gives you another free attack, with no upper limit), variant rules for what sort of hit dice a creature needs for its attacks to count as magical(allowing them to hit werewolves and etc. basically it turns out that your average brown bear can casually murder a werewolf. This makes them slightly less dramatic enemies) and NPC morale.

It starts off with some pretty interesting pointers about how most animals and intelligent creatures don't want to die, and will probably surrender or run away before it gets that far, unless they have fanatical beliefs, think they have the upper hand(right until they get cut wide open), are defending their lairs/cubs or something similar. We're encouraged to let intelligent decision decide enemy morale, rather than the dice, but if we do need the dice to make the call, we're given a pretty elaborate table of modifiers to help us decide how likely our enemies are to leg it.

One of the outright advantages of a wizard is here, though, they bolster morale on their side, and hurt morale on the enemy's side, plus blowing up an enemy with magic is one of the things that are supposed to trigger a morale check if you're letting the dice decide those things. By the rules, starting off the fight by summoning creatures to make the enemy feel massively outnumbered, and then sniping their toughest guy with magic could be enough to give even the most fanatical bad dudes a 50% chance of retreating, to say nothing about the more nervous types.

This does also cough up a few odd situations against singular enemies. Let's take your average dragon, for instance, who's likely to be operating alone(dragons aren't really social creatures among their own kind and most don't have henchmen loitering around their lairs). To start with, if he's on the ground, we can easily "completely surround" him, to force a morale check, since he's only one creature and even if he's big, a combination of the size of PC parties and possibly summoned creatures should be able to trigger that condition.

Now, the base morale of most dragons is either 18 or 16, let's be generous and say 18. We outnumber him more than 3 to 1, that's a -4 penalty, and of course the party has a wizard, so that's a further -2 penalty. He's already down to almost 12 morale, and if he hasn't killed any enemies yet by the time we get him surrounded, that's another -2. The morale check itself is a 2d10 roll, a roll greater than(but not equal to) the check TN means the creature(s) will panic and flee or otherwise react appropriately. That's approximately a 55% chance of the dragon flubbing his roll, plus, if he's already fulfilling the conditions for one other morale roll(being surrounded), we can force him to make another by offering him a chance to surrender.

The dragon can get some advantages on this if we're fighting it in its lair, but that would still be a 28% chance of surrender/fleeing, rolled twice, at more or less no cost or effort to the party. And the dragon gets a further -1 penalty to the TN of the second roll because it'll be two morale rolls required in the same round.

Lastly this section also has the rules on underwater and aerial combat, which more or less come up as: "If you fly better, you get more attacks in the air, if you're a loving rock with wings, you're gonna get few attacks in the air" and "your fireball won't work under the sea, dumbass. also lol at you if you're dumb enough to loving fast Lightning Bolt down here."

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Saves being unrelated to stats and almost everyone having pretty good saves as they level up changes the game a lot. Note the Warrior doesn't have the best individual saves in any one category, but also note they aren't bad at any one.

As opposed to 'the two most commonly used saves for taking you out of the game are both bad for you'.

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!


Night10194 posted:

Saves being unrelated to stats and almost everyone having pretty good saves as they level up changes the game a lot. Note the Warrior doesn't have the best individual saves in any one category, but also note they aren't bad at any one.

As opposed to 'the two most commonly used saves for taking you out of the game are both bad for you'.

Warriors do end up with the best Petrification/Polymorph and Breath Weapon saves by the top of their scale.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


PurpleXVI posted:

Warriors do end up with the best Petrification/Polymorph and Breath Weapon saves by the top of their scale.

Oh, I was unclear. I meant they're not the best in every category, only a couple, but they're at least good at all of 'em.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Children of the Horned Rat

Rat War

Rat Nazis have absolutely no sense of fair play (obviously) but they do have a sense of martial glory. Something the other races have difficulty grasping is what is glorious for a Skaven. Skaven glory goes to he who wins, with the least risk to himself. A Warlord who has his rival assassinated as they prepare for their duel is better than a Warlord who had to kill his rival himself. Skaven look at the world as entirely a matter of the weak and the strong, and they will automatically and always assume others are weaker than Skaven. Like every fascist, they have a really hard time accurately and actually assessing their foes; everyone else has worse technology, worse magic, and better still, everyone else is bound by ideas like 'honor' and 'duty'. How can the Skaven possibly falter against lesser races? This puffed up pride usually lasts until it slams face-first into reality and a Clanrat finds himself running for his life with a pissed off terrier at his heels.

Skaven society cannot live without conflict. It is the one shining, uniting factor of all their little flavors of Rat Fascism. The rat will always seek to have an enemy, because their ideology of strength requires someone weaker than you to kick around. When they do not have full scale war, they instead raid and take slaves wherever they can, preying on small towns and villages or rootless travelers. At the same time as they glorify it, Skaven are terrified of war. A Skaven army only really rises up when food gets so scarce (or an opportunity arises that they find too tempting) for them to stick to small raids and enslavement anymore. Then they start to form battle lines and think about conquering something. If they're out of weaker Skaven nests nearby, they will start to think about going after the surface world. They consider this win-win, since either enough of them will die losing that they solve their overpopulation, or they'll win and take enough slaves and food to return home with it. Skaven almost never seem to try to hold territory in the surface world.

Skaven are obsessed with the idea of fear and terrorism as weapons. I suspect this for two reasons: One, the rats are scared of everything and live a life of constant anxiety. When you live in constant fear anyway, fear's a good weapon to use against you, so you naturally assume it will work on others. Two, the kinds of targets you go after to terrorize Old Worlders tend to be 'soft' targets. Skaven are much happier pulling off a showy move like kidnapping a bunch of children from a settlement to scare the people into compliance, rather than a mission that might involve fighting anyone. The Skaven believe that doing awful things will show their power and frighten their enemies. Honestly, I'd think most people in the Old World would be pretty used to shadowy assholes trying to terrorize them, and wasting a lot of time on showy terror operations seems like it'd be wasting time and operatives you could be using on something more important, like unleashing more laser cannon armed hamster wheels.

Skaven also have my favorite fictional trope in the world (I hate it): The Endlessly Clever Network of Spies Who Know Everything (according to the book). One of the flaws in the warfare section is it focuses a little too much on what the rats are good at, and not enough on where the cracks PCs can shatter the edifice of Rat Nazi power lie. The Skaven have, according to this, extensive blackmail material on many of the important people of the Empire, which they trade for looking the other way or for giving them Warpstone. They know 'every' major Imperial troop movement and all share this information with one another, apparently, so they can take advantage of it. Look, they got Ninjas, I get it. And them being twitchy little fucks who always have an ear to the ground is fine. They even have better communications tech than others in the setting (via the newly invented 'Farsqueaker'), so I can see them being able to get info back from agents to a Warlord quickly. But think about it. They can't actually go and infiltrate humans long-term, because they're rat people and trying to wear a hooded cloak is only going to get you so far. All their intelligence gathering has to be done via actually observing, directly, from the shadows. And more importantly, they're loving Skaven, man. The idea that they carefully coordinate anything without the utmost of emergency to cause them to do so is laughable. You'd have every individual Warlord keeping their own little black books while their spies knife one another. Portraying their intelligence operation as flawless just makes it annoying, especially when there are so many reasonable limitations on their ability to watch humans from the shadows that you could bring up.

Rats' most successful wars have all been preceded by plague. The only reason Pestilens gets to stick around (besides terrorism) is because they very nearly delivered the Empire to the rats that one time in 1111. Plague is certainly effective as a weapon, but it's always been annoying to deal with in the RPG. Because the only plot it tends to lead to is 'stop those Pestilens dicks from poisoning the water hole' again, same as Nurgle. Once it's already spreading, what do your PCs do about it, exactly? It's not like they can suddenly invent epidemiology. Your adventure will generally shift to stopping whatever the rats planned as a followup instead, usually while making toughness tests. So yes, it's probably their best weapon, but it generally doesn't do a great job of creating fun RPG adventures. The rats also love poison, because hey, anything that gives you a hand in a fight.

Slave Raiding is the most common military activity of the rats. They can't resist enslavement. It's so completely central to their ideology; it proves that the owner is strong, by way of owning the weak, as well as producing wealth and labor for the ratmen. Thus, they will go after small towns, sending out large numbers of rats to try to abduct the entire population of smaller hamlets in the night. The rats are very, very casual with the lives of slaves, which creates a constant demand for more, which leads to constant slave raiding. Again, they're lacking in information about how to use this. I'd personally say it's a way to follow the rats home; the more they have to go out and grab people to make up for how many people they kill for sport, the more you've got a shot at following them, finding their nest, and bringing the hammer down on the little nazi shits.

At the last, Skaven prefer to fight in large numbers, and would rather the people they attack not realize they're coming. They will evade fair fights and alert forces, never attacking head on unless they're cornered or desperate, which I'd think a clever foe who knows their ways could use to herd and funnel a Skaven army. Or bait them. They also like to outnumber you. If they can't outnumber you, the Skaven will not fight you.

If I were writing this, I'd have probably gone into some of the weaknesses you can infer from what we know of Rat Culture. Every Skaven is expendable, yes, to every other Skaven. Not to himself. They also don't seem particularly organized. I'd imagine the average swarm of Clanrats is as concerned with making sure the guy to the left and right of them hits the enemy first, so that they'll survive the wave and take-get all the glory, rather than forming an orderly fighting line. I'd probably also mention the bit where they're generally depicted as physically weaker than humans, except that won't be born out by the eventual game mechanics. There's also the Skaven tendency to run the gently caress away as soon as things go wrong, and the earlier mention of how the Musk of Fear tends to spread through the rats' ranks because it's designed as a communal warning. I just feel that a few more mentions of the cracks and weaknesses in the ways of Rat War would've gone down well, given they're definitely there in the rest of the book's material.

Next Time: A Grey Seer and a Conspiracy Theorist.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



I'd say another cardinal weakness of the Skaven is their weak leadership: take out the leader of a given band, and the rats will crumble. And Skaven being Nazis, their leaders can't help decking themselves out in the shiniest and most elaborate stuff they can. Now, they're generally not smart enough to lead from the front, but if you have some form of sniper or artillery on hand, taking out the rat commander can quickly lead to a full-scale route between the Skaven pissing themselves and ambitious lieutenants seeing a perfect opportunity to seize the reins of power before they're cold.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


In general, despite their zaniness, Skaven are predictable. Someone that understands the rats can bait them because they're always looking for the path of least resistance to victory.

OvermanXAN
Nov 14, 2014


Less predicable than an Everchosen, at least, where their strategy is uniformly "Ram our forces into everything as we slowly march South and then mash our faces against the most heavily fortified city in the world. Surely this time will be different"

... God I hate Chaos.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I mean, at least 'Try to find the weakest point in the enemy and go at it' is a good strategy. It's a predictable one, and they have patterns, and they're entirely too reliant on it, but the fundamental plan is sound.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Night10194 posted:

I mean, at least 'Try to find the weakest point in the enemy and go at it' is a good strategy. It's a predictable one, and they have patterns, and they're entirely too reliant on it, but the fundamental plan is sound.

The other thing you can trust them to do is to throw a mass of terrified slaves at your most powerful troops in an effort to keep them too busy to do anything useful, and make them an immobile target for artillery.

While predictable, this is a surprisingly good plan.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Mors Rattus posted:

The other thing you can trust them to do is to throw a mass of terrified slaves at your most powerful troops in an effort to keep them too busy to do anything useful, and make them an immobile target for artillery.

While predictable, this is a surprisingly good plan.

Unless you have better artillery than they do.

I'm kind of surprised the Empire hasn't picked up Dwarf flamethrowers yet, considering how useful they are.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


The most dangerous part about rats is you know what they'll try to do, but they are also constantly developing new means to do it.

Also kind of interesting that it's only both underground dwellers who use flame throwers.

If the Empire wants one, it can just call on a Bright Battle Wizard.

punishedkissinger
Sep 20, 2017



Night10194 posted:

The most dangerous part about rats is you know what they'll try to do, but they are also constantly developing new means to do it.

Also kind of interesting that it's only both underground dwellers who use flame throwers.

If the Empire wants one, it can just call on a Bright Battle Wizard.

This makes total sense though, flamethrowers are perfect for clearing out enclosed fortifications, hallways etc.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



kidkissinger posted:

This makes total sense though, flamethrowers are perfect for clearing out enclosed fortifications, hallways etc.

Not just because of flame effect, but the fire tends to suck out all the oxygen from an enclosed location, so even if you don't burn, you die choking from smoke inhalation or asphyxiation.

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!


You know, here's a thought:

The Skaven will flip the gently caress out if they smell enough of the Musk of Fear.

The Empire's got alchemists and wizards.

How about synthesizing a large amount of the Musk of Fear? Suddenly you've got terror grenades to hurl into Skaven formations to make them panic and break, because they'll think it's just the guy behind him who farted out a huge pile of terror musk, or even if they know it's fake, they'll be super compelled to obey the Musk of Fear just because of how ingrained it is in their bodies and minds.

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




If Skaven are too afraid, they just go into a berserk survival frenzy.

Actually, a wizard rat probably already pushed them into a Death Frenzy when the fight started. For a Skavenslave, death is a welcome release.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


That's actually a pretty great idea.

It's kind of hilarious that a non-verbal communal signaling method (that they generally can't control because it's so deep in their biology) is one of the Skaven's biggest weaknesses.

Also, the death frenzy has rules in this book. It will kill the average Skaven in under a minute.

E: Similarly, while the rats talk a lot about poisoning the food supplies of their enemies (and will definitely try) they think of it because they're equally vulnerable to that being done to them. Remember a big reason they're usually going to war is food insecurity. Destroying or poisoning their supply lines will kill a Skaven army.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 20:17 on Dec 12, 2018

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Night10194 posted:

E: Similarly, while the rats talk a lot about poisoning the food supplies of their enemies (and will definitely try) they think of it because they're equally vulnerable to that being done to them. Remember a big reason they're usually going to war is food insecurity. Destroying or poisoning their supply lines will kill a Skaven army.

Well, it will kill the half of the army that loses the fight. The other half will be fine.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


wiegieman posted:

Well, it will kill the half of the army that loses the fight. The other half will be fine.

Well, now you got half the army to deal with. Sounds like a win to me.

Really, one of the nicest parts about Skaven and Dark Elves (though they don't get their own book) is that there are actually ways to hurt them back. You can destroy infrastructure, kill leaders, frighten them off, give them the fight they're not angling for, etc. There are all kinds of spots for adventurers to gently caress with them on the scale where 3-6 characters can make a big difference. Hell, you can probably do the same to Chaos Dwarfs, too; they got a schedule to keep and it's more important than winning a war at all costs, usually.

Loxbourne
Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

The endless tiresome paens of glory to the Great Underempire always turned me off the Skaven books. They've got creator's pet syndrome, bad (ironic given their apparent origins). Literally every other part of the Skaven writeup is fun except for the tiresome way the Underempire is always The Best and Unstoppable and Knows Everything. We can talk about fun weaknesses for the rat hordes but none of this is in the book - canon Skaven are Always The Best.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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2014-2018



Cythereal posted:

Unless you have better artillery than they do.

I'm kind of surprised the Empire hasn't picked up Dwarf flamethrowers yet, considering how useful they are.

Even then, the Skaven have the advantage of not giving a poo poo about firing their artillery into their own guys, and that usually works out in their favor on the numbers.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Really, the main place they're oversold is their spies, primarily because the authors aren't taking into account how bad it would be to have A: An incredibly recognizable accent none of them can drop and B: Actually be a rat person when trying to infiltrate and quietly gather information. And part of that is my own crusade against the endless tide of Cunning Networks Of Infallible Spies in fantasy fiction because it's the kind of trope that makes players frightened to take action or gives GMs license to write the most insufferable kind of enemy, the Guy Who Has The Script.

Every spy network in fiction needs its limits, cracks, and holes for people to get stuff by it.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Night10194 posted:

Really, the main place they're oversold is their spies, primarily because the authors aren't taking into account how bad it would be to have A: An incredibly recognizable accent none of them can drop and B: Actually be a rat person when trying to infiltrate and quietly gather information. And part of that is my own crusade against the endless tide of Cunning Networks Of Infallible Spies in fantasy fiction because it's the kind of trope that makes players frightened to take action or gives GMs license to write the most insufferable kind of enemy, the Guy Who Has The Script.

Every spy network in fiction needs its limits, cracks, and holes for people to get stuff by it.

Besides just the fractious infighting of Skaven in general, I'd put another major weakness of their spy network being that the Skaven are completely clueless about how other races work. They think every other race thinks and acts like they do, so I'd have them routinely suffer problems from their enemies not behaving the way they expect - which is just testament of how clever-sneaky they are, no?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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#1 Builder
2014-2018



Night10194 posted:

Really, the main place they're oversold is their spies, primarily because the authors aren't taking into account how bad it would be to have A: An incredibly recognizable accent none of them can drop and B: Actually be a rat person when trying to infiltrate and quietly gather information. And part of that is my own crusade against the endless tide of Cunning Networks Of Infallible Spies in fantasy fiction because it's the kind of trope that makes players frightened to take action or gives GMs license to write the most insufferable kind of enemy, the Guy Who Has The Script.

Every spy network in fiction needs its limits, cracks, and holes for people to get stuff by it.

Honestly my take on the Skaven spy network is basically that the main reason they have so much blackmail is that Imperial buildings carry noise quite well, Skaven have good ears, and they tend to lurk in basements under noble estates.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Mors Rattus posted:

Honestly my take on the Skaven spy network is basically that the main reason they have so much blackmail is that Imperial buildings carry noise quite well, Skaven have good ears, and they tend to lurk in basements under noble estates.

There's a bit a friend told me about in one of the novels where an Eshin Assassin gets lost at a costume party, misses his target, ends up out in public, and people assume he's just a noble in costume so he wanders off to eat cheese and get hammered.

That's the best rat, there.

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




I am now imagining legions of Skaven spies scribbling away with pencils and warpstone lamps before getting together and trading Imperial gossip like people watching a reality show.

OvermanXAN
Nov 14, 2014


I agree that the Skaven's Cunning Network Of Infallible Spies is terrible, but it's slightly more believable that they might have a semi-competent one if you take the position that it's a Clan Eshin house project. They may have a wide variety of pretty accurate intelligence but actual access to it by anyone is based on willingness/ability to pay Clan Eshin's prices and how much what the given Skaven leader is doing conforms to what Clan Eshin THINKS he should be doing For The Good of The Underempire, which is very rarely going to line up. They probably eliminate all other major attempts at intelligence gathering operations beyond one off scouting missions by other Skaven as a matter of maintaining their monopoly on information, because that's how Skaven do.

MonsterEnvy
Feb 4, 2012


I remember Skavenslayer where the Rats worked with Nuln's spymaster feeding him info about people opposing him, and chaos cultists. In reality they were just making it all up, and generally getting him to get rid of people they felt they best be rid of. Their planned capstone being Karl Franz's brother when he came to visit in hope of starting a civil war.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

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


MonsterEnvy posted:

Their planned capstone being Karl Franz's brother when he came to visit in hope of starting a civil war.
This sounds familiar

MonsterEnvy
Feb 4, 2012


Comrade Gorbash posted:

This sounds familiar

Probably cause It was brought up earlier in the thread.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Night10194 posted:

This is very sad to hear, they're a talented group if DX is any indication.

DX is a pretty drat interesting game. I think its biggest issue is probably the dice explosion fuckery powers because they're so ridiculously dominant that you always want to max them as soon as possible (unless you're doing one of those weird builds that can tell rolling to gently caress off for one reason or another), and I have to wonder how the game would run if they were excised (or just fix dice explosions to some value). Of course, one of the other issues is just that people try and play it like Exalted and fail to realize that you can crawl back up from a downed state as long as you can take encroachment whenever you like, and initial starting characters are supposed to be rocket-taggy rather than perfectly balanced boxing fairies.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

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


MonsterEnvy posted:

Probably cause It was brought up earlier in the thread.
It's a joke about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which I imagine is an inspiration for the plot point.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





Alien Rope Burn posted:

DX is a pretty drat interesting game. I think its biggest issue is probably the dice explosion fuckery powers because they're so ridiculously dominant that you always want to max them as soon as possible (unless you're doing one of those weird builds that can tell rolling to gently caress off for one reason or another), and I have to wonder how the game would run if they were excised (or just fix dice explosions to some value). Of course, one of the other issues is just that people try and play it like Exalted and fail to realize that you can crawl back up from a downed state as long as you can take encroachment whenever you like, and initial starting characters are supposed to be rocket-taggy rather than perfectly balanced boxing fairies.

I'd probably buy a DX game of nothing but builds.

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Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Night10194 posted:

There's a bit a friend told me about in one of the novels where an Eshin Assassin gets lost at a costume party, misses his target, ends up out in public, and people assume he's just a noble in costume so he wanders off to eat cheese and get hammered.

That's the best rat, there.

Amusingly Grey Seer Thanquol just attacks the party because he's decided he's done loving around, notices him, and blasts him with Warp Lightning when looking for someone to make an example of to scare everyone.

Which reminds of one way to know who the leader of a Skaven force is: If there's a screaming, ranting Rat Nazi on a big wheeled platform with a huge fuckoff bell high off his rear end on warpstone fumes, that guy is in charge.

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