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RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

Night10194 posted:

Some content about buying nice stuff for your flying home base and maybe some minor benefits from it wouldn't be amiss, though it's also the kind of stuff I can obviously come up with myself for my group.

One thing that a lot of games have touched on recently that I enjoy is the appeal of base-building - of having a space that you control and retreat to between adventures, whose well-being you're invested in, like the proverbial keep or barony you'd eventually acquire in the original editions of DnD. Making your spaceship a special case of this concept probably has some legs.

Night10194 posted:

(we always ran it that space 'combat' was almost entirely boarding actions so players could use their player scale weapons and abilities and have fun action sequences instead)

This was specifically what we hoped would happen, so I'm glad to hear it.

Night10194 posted:

I'm curious what caused the shift in weapons design to including way more Traits in combat, rather than the IC2e style where you could buy 'I get to use Mind in place of Body because I took a Gift for it'.

This is a side effect of one of the main design principles Sanguine holds to, which is, incentivize players to remember the rules. Players are more inclined to remember rules that give them a benefit than rules that make them weaker. (Plus, when someone corrects them about a mistake and as a result they become stronger, they become happy to have learned instead of sad that they are weak.)

Because of this, when we wanted to make weapons suitable for specific archetypes of characters - 'this gun is big and chunky, it should be used by a big and chunky guy', or 'this weapon is bizarre and complicated, you should need to be smart to use it' - it makes much more sense to make the weapon weak by default, and give suitable characters special advantages to use it. The alternative, making the weapon strong by default but unless you qualify for it you get a penalty, both incentivizes players to conveniently forget that rule and makes innocent mistakes more frustrating when they're corrected.

It's like how World of Warcraft turned the XP penalty from exhaustion in to an XP bonus for being well rested. The math is exactly the same, but players hate one of them.

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


That's a much different reason than I'd originally guessed, but it works out, too. I had thought it was a way to cut out the 'gift tax' for wanting to be a smart character who is good at combat, etc while making the PCs generally more competent.

That is something else that gets emphasized a lot in all of Sanguine's games, after all: You are playing above average people. The average opposing mook is throwing d6s. You're often throwing dice that have a good chance of beating that mook outright no matter how well they roll. Mechanically and plot-wise, you have some plot armor and you are a talented individual from the word go.

E: I will probably have a lot of other questions as this goes.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 19:30 on Jan 11, 2019

RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

Night10194 posted:

E: I will probably have a lot of other questions as this goes.

To be clear, I'm the contributing editor, Richard Hughes, not the lead designer, Jason Holmgren. Temper your hopes and dreams accordingly.

Night10194 posted:

That is something else that gets emphasized a lot in all of Sanguine's games, after all: You are playing above average people.
This is hardly unique to us. How many popular games are out there where you play an entirely average person?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


RiotGearEpsilon posted:

This is hardly unique to us. How many popular games are out there where you play an entirely average person?

It's more that it's emphasized a lot, as is the fact that you ought to have agency within the setting. We have the term 'shitfarmer gaming' for a reason. Games with a tone like Ironclaw don't usually spend so much time reminding you that you ought to be important and it's okay to not fit in.

Take Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, for instance. I love that game, and it's really not a 'shitfarmer' game in the end, but try telling that to half the pre-made adventure writers and a ton of the fanbase. I think it's a good thing to spend some page space reminding people it's okay to be main characters and to remember their PCs are exceptional people. In my experience, people are often worried about being seen as writing 'mary sues' or something when they make their characters important; reassurance doesn't go amiss.

E: Basically, the older I've gotten and the more I've seen how, for lack of a better term, afraid some players and groups can be of 'not doing it right', the more I think it's worth an RPG's time to spend some time setting some of the expectations of play and reassuring them.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 19:50 on Jan 11, 2019

Berkshire Hunts
Nov 5, 2009


Has anyone ever done ship rules where add-ons & upgrades provide static party bonuses to stuff? Seems like that would scratch the base-building itch without necessitating a second set of combat rules.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



The Sanguine system in general doesn't do classes so much anyway - the effect of Career is basically to determine what one of your dice can be used to help with and what Gifts you start with, and if you don't want to focus on that, you can just make Career not one of your better dice, and pick up other Gifts as you go.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Mors Rattus posted:

The Sanguine system in general doesn't do classes so much anyway - the effect of Career is basically to determine what one of your dice can be used to help with and what Gifts you start with, and if you don't want to focus on that, you can just make Career not one of your better dice, and pick up other Gifts as you go.

Yes, generally if you wanted to be a Conductor who is also an avid performer or something, you could just take Presence with your starting skill points, which are the last thing in character creation. Or take a Legacy with a high Presence like being a Rhax.

Be the glamorous magical space spider you were meant to be.

E: In general, it helps to think of Career and Legacy as things you've got a little edge in rather than rigidly defined classes. How much you focus on that specific edge is up to you. You could easily play, say, an Engineer who actually ends up spending most of their advancement learning to be a thief. They just never forget their original training as a technician and find ways to use it to help out at what they end up doing. In my first game of MS, there was a Scroungetech fringe engineer with purple hair who turned out to be the last scion to a lost Terran dynasty and then learned to be a Conductor from there. That kind of thing is how character development goes, rather than a arduous process of multiclassing.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 20:35 on Jan 11, 2019

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!


RiotGearEpsilon posted:

This is a side effect of one of the main design principles Sanguine holds to, which is, incentivize players to remember the rules. Players are more inclined to remember rules that give them a benefit than rules that make them weaker. (Plus, when someone corrects them about a mistake and as a result they become stronger, they become happy to have learned instead of sad that they are weak.)

Because of this, when we wanted to make weapons suitable for specific archetypes of characters - 'this gun is big and chunky, it should be used by a big and chunky guy', or 'this weapon is bizarre and complicated, you should need to be smart to use it' - it makes much more sense to make the weapon weak by default, and give suitable characters special advantages to use it. The alternative, making the weapon strong by default but unless you qualify for it you get a penalty, both incentivizes players to conveniently forget that rule and makes innocent mistakes more frustrating when they're corrected.

I have to say, this is some pretty hefty game design wisdom here. I wish we had more devs dropped by to address critique and praise of their games.

Night10194 posted:

It's hard to explain it, because I also did Rogue Trader and god knows how much of a mess that game's spaceship rules were

I think part of the problem is that there's more or less never a game that runs the vehicle/space combat on the same rules as the character-to-character combat, it always has to be some elaborate subsystem or board game, and it never gets as much love as the rest of the game and as a result usually ends up really shallow or really broken/easily gamed. Plus usually the way it ends up working is that it also requires specialized skills that only work in space, so either everyone only has one button to push or one guy plays while everyone else ooohs and aaahs over how good he is at doing the space thing.

So probably the magic solution would be to run the space combat/exploration tier on the same system as everything else, and make more or less every non-space skill have a space use, both of which are much easier said than done.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

Night, you just sold another copy with the 'glamorous magical space spider' line.

Leraika
Jun 14, 2015

slime time



RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

PurpleXVI posted:

I have to say, this is some pretty hefty game design wisdom here.
It really is a startlingly useful rule of thumb to stop your ruleset from getting obnoxious.
(I'm just the editor, to be clear.)

PurpleXVI posted:

So probably the magic solution would be to run the space combat/exploration tier on the same system as everything else, and make more or less every non-space skill have a space use, both of which are much easier said than done.
Quite. It's something we're still mulling over a bit. Right now Myriad Song 2e is merely a hypothetical on the horizon, however. Other projects are becoming real and demanding much more attention.

RiotGearEpsilon fucked around with this message at 22:03 on Jan 11, 2019

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Myriad Song

Hold together!

Pilots are obviously important in a game about space adventures. They can handle 'anything with wings', and given the Transport skill works with any vehicle at all, they're not bad at stuff that doesn't have wings, either. They get Endurance (G-Force!), Observation (Always know where Mr. Ground is, he is not your friend), and Transport (To the stars!). They can handle both atmospheric flight and spaceflight equally well, because again, Transport is a very broad skill category. They also get Navigation, which does exactly what it does for Conductors, and Pilot. Not only does Pilot give them +d12 when piloting anything that flies or goes through space, they also never limit their combat dice for fighting aboard a moving vehicle. So if you have to go back into the cargo hold to wrestle an escaped alien monster while your co-pilot holds the stick, you're good.

Pushers are absolute miracle workers! Some of the time. Their drugs are less, ah, reliable and fully tested than the ones the Physician uses. They'd probably say they're more experimental and far more cutting edge, while others might say they're addictive and full of side effects. They get Deceit (It's safe, I swear), Academics (They actually do know a ton about biochemistry!), and Observation (Oh. Wow. What that did was interesting. Let me mark it down...). They also get First Aid, so they're still perfectly competent at emergency combat medicine. Then they get Bad Medicine, which is like Doctor, only more...questionable. Firstly, you can try to use it on enemies in combat, at which point they can try to Dodge or Counter. This is because it can inflict status effects as well as cure them. You roll Mind, Academics, and a 2d8 bonus vs. 3 if you're trying to heal people or their defense roll if they don't want your big glowing syringe of terrifying goop. You can't treat long term injury or addiction, but you *can* heal minor injuries, cure status effects, inflict status effects, or recharge someone's plot armor, and a normal doctor can't do the latter. 5 rounds after being treated, someone rolls a save with Body and Will vs. 3. If they get 0 successes, they're Fatigued and Addicted, and can't rest without more of your delicious drugs. If they get 1 success, the get Fatigue as they suffer side effects. If both succeed, they're fine. Pushers are still decent emergency medics, and the ability to blind, confuse, or gently caress over enemies is actually pretty useful in combat when it's on the same ability you use to heal buddies. And you don't care about side effects with your enemies, right?

Refugees have been dealt a bad hand, and survived. They find themselves on the road, trying to make their way in a galaxy they probably never wanted to travel like this. They know how to wander, and they know how to survive. They get Endurance (We will survive this), Observation (This looks like trouble), and Tactics (We'll only get through this together). They get Danger Sense, which we're familiar with and know is helpful for everyone who has it, and Diplomacy. Diplomacy gives them a d12 bonus on social negotiations that last more than 5 minutes. If you're pleading with the border guards to let you through, that's Diplomacy. They have a grab bag of skills, but Tactics is always useful and Diplomacy is a good Gift to have in your back pocket.

Scavengers are another class of survivalists, who gather and forage on dangerous and derelict worlds and in broken down places. They're less warriors than survival-minded and less academic engineers. They come with Craft (Get this junk working!), Endurance (Just another hour's walk), and Observation (Some good salvage over this way). They get Danger Sense and Team Player; they're actually great at working with others and a true survivor knows better than to go it alone. I quite like this version of a scav, since it emphasizes that people in truly dangerous or desperate situations are as likely to be cooperative as they are to lash out.

Scientists are highly educated academics who go on adventures to push the boundaries of learning. They actually have exactly the same skills as Engineers, but very different Gifts. A Scientist gets Academics (SCIENCE!), Observation (PUSH BUTTON, OBSERVE RESULT!), and Craft (SCIENCE!), but unlike an Engineer, they get Team Player (for better working in large research teams or applying what they know to help out an ally with technobabble exposition) and Research. Research gives you a d12 to all Academics tests as long as you do them in a lab or library; someplace where there's a lot of tools and materials to help with your research. As long as you've got access to references and sources, a Scientist is a formidable scholar who can handle almost any problem!

Soldiers are professionals. They're highly trained warriors who are best at working together with others, fighting bravely on the front-lines of the setting's many conflicts. Unlike a Mercenary, they're better defined by their professionalism and focus on group tactics, rather than money grubbing. They're also great at countering groups of enemies and taking on large groups of mooks, themselves. They get Fighting (Live by the sword), Shooting (Kill by the gun), and Tactics (And watch out for your mates). They also get the Gift of Danger Sense, as a professional who is ready for trouble should, and Counter Tactics. Counter Tactics lets you gain a d12 to your Dodge or Counter any time an enemy tries to add Tactics dice and benefit from outnumbering you. It might not overmatch their Tactics bonus, but it sure as hell beats getting nothing, and it might scare lesser enemies into not bothering to work together against you.

Stormtroopers think using a sword is all well and good, but they'd rather have a good auto carbine. The Stormtrooper focuses entirely on automatic weapons and hails of bullets. Doesn't matter if you can't aim if every square inch is covered in bullets, right? They get Evasion (Know the bullet, dodge the bullet), Shooting (Yes. Stormtroopers have good aim), and Tactics (like most professional warriors). Further, they get Danger Sense, because you want to shoot first, and Rapid Fire Replay. Rapid Fire Replay lets you use up some ammo to reroll an attack (you and the opponent both reroll) that didn't go well for you. You can do this on either a Counter or an attack you started. You can do it as many times as you have ammo capacity in your gun; if the first exchange didn't go well, and you had a high cap magazine, keep shooting! It'll work eventually! Note that guns only have 3 capacity states: High, Low, and Empty. So the most you can use this on one move is twice. Still, quite helpful when you hosed up and want to keep shooting to make it right.

Technocrats are bureaucrats and administrators. It also strikes me as really odd that absolutely no Career gets Negotiation as a skill, because it seems like these guys would be perfect for playing an official diplomat or something, but they don't. They instead get Academics (Techno), Questioning (Crat), and Observation (Bureaucrat is always watching. Listening and watching and judging). They get the Gift of Research like Scientists, but in place of Team Player they get Administration, which is a simple +d12 on running businesses and planning large scale projects. I gotta be real, 'Choose this class if you want to plan new cities and power grids' does not sell this class as a heroic space adventurer very much.

Thieves are a classic of the RPG genre, and will remain, stealing things, until long after civilization has gone dark. It says it right in the name: You steal stuff. You play a Thief if you want to steal stuff. They get Deceit (I lost my keys, can you swipe me in?), Evasion (Please don't look in these shadows), and Observation (Something shiney!), because goddamn everyone has Observation it seems like (it fits, it's useful, but it's easily one of the more common Skills). They get Stealth (normal Ishato clause applies) and Sleight of Hand. This makes stealing things from an enemy a normal combat action for them, rather than a special stunt. It also means they can draw a hidden weapon in a single, normal action rather than needing to dig it out with a stunt. These are both useful things to be able to do. Nothing like taking someone's concussion grenade with one action and throwing it at his buddy so you can make your getaway with the other.

Vanguard follow the simple rule of ABC: Always Be Charging. Privately, they also think Stormtroopers are nerds who can't handle a proper weapon like a giant axe (they begin play with a giant axe and a shotgun). They get Evasion (SERPENTINE SERPENTINE!), Fighting (AXE), and Tactics (MORE AXES). They also get the Gift of Serpentine, which gives them +d12 to Dodge incoming fire if the shooter is reasonably far away from them still, and the Gift of Charging Strike, which lets them charge opponents within 10m (Short Range) and attack in the same action, giving them time to Aim or Guard or something as well. Note you can use Charging Strike to throw a grenade or javelin or something, too. It just has to be a Fighting type attack.

And that's the basic character classes! After that, we get a bunch of pre-made 3 gift packages in case you're having a hard time deciding what to do with your 3 starting Gifts. I won't list them, I've been too thorough with the classes as is, but they're usually solid and clearly marked in what they'll let you do. Alternately, you can ask to just take 3 Gifts of your choice, without any restriction but Host approval. This is a good place to learn your actual Space Song Magic if you began play as a Conductor.

Every character also gets a Gift of Personality; once per session, when you're trying something that is really in character for you, you get +d12 to that action. So say Ragna the Philosoraptor has the Personality of Thoughtful, and she's pondering the dual nature of Troodon society to try to convince her aunt to go to a medical center instead of burying her eggs in the dirt in the jungle. She declares she's thinking about it for awhile and adds +d12 to her carefully thought out Negotiation check with her stubborn aunt. Every character also gets Combat Save, which lets you negate getting killed or mortally wounded once per session (more, if you have someone with scary drugs and syringes or a helpful slime mold to recharge it). Everyone has plot armor.

Finally, you get 9 skill marks. You can only put up to 3 in one skill at this time (d8), and may buy any skill you wish at a 1-1 basis. At the end of it all, you come up with a little motto to encapsulate your PC, and then you're done. You may now go to space.

Next Time: We make a Space Adventurer

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Myriad Song

Space Adventurers!

Alright, let's see this all in motion, and also talk about space magic!

Our first example PC is 'Four Hands' Rucel, a Rhax Mercenary who works for a small transport company on an ocean world on the fringes. She's a Rhax, so she gets Rhax Clinging and Extra Arms, hence the nickname 'Four Hands'. She also gets to include her Rhax dice with Presence, Athletics, and Craft. She wants to be awesome at being a spider person (and maybe a result of their crazy Malmignatti breeding experiments), so she puts d8 in Rhax. She also wants to shoot a lot of dudes, so she puts her other d8 in Speed. She doesn't really care about academics or doing things for reasonable reasons, and takes d4 in Mind. That leaves her d6s for Body, Mercenary, and Will. She's quick, she makes a strong impression, and she's reasonably tough and brave. Also not a bad mercenary. Just makes poor decisions.

She used to be a candidate for the Portias, the elite killer spiders of the Empress of All, before she got bored and wandered off to do crimes. She takes Paramilitary Background and picks up a Military Carbine in her loadout, plus gets Bullet Conservation so she can keep firing precise shots when she needs to save ammo. She's also a Mercenary, as said, so she gets to include her d6 Career with Fighting, Shooting, and Tactics and gets a keen Danger Sense and a sense of Haggling to get loot.

She wants to shoot people with two (or more) guns a lot, so she takes the Gift of Dexterity, which makes all 4 of her hands her Good Hand, and lets her draw two pistols with one Equip action. She also takes Tandem Strike, which lets her shoot two pistols or strike with two one-handed melee weapons for the price of Exhausting this Gift (which can be recharged by spending an action). She also grabs Instinctive Shot because it sounds like a cool action hero move. Instinctive Shot lets her Exhaust it to fire a shot that pierces cover and concealment, or exhaust it when being attacked to Counter regardless of what else is happening (since it negates Concealment, by some rules interactions, it lets her Counter even if she was hitstunned). So now she can do that thing where she raises her gun, closes her (many) eyes, and hits her target perfectly anyway.

She wants to be good at Dodging, too, because what action hero doesn't dive between a curtain of bullets? She spends 3 starting Skill Marks on Evasion. She also spends 3 on Shooting, because shooting people is her thing. Also buys a d4 in Observation so she won't be totally blind, a d4 in Presence to go along with her d8 Rhax to look cool, and a d4 in Fighting so she can go knife fighter on people sometimes.

She takes the personality of Excitable; she loves adventure and she's always up for diving through a window with both guns blazing and her carbine sweeping the room. She also takes the Motto of 'You get more with a kind word and a gun than just a kind word', in the classic space wisdom of Al Capone. She also starts with some extra money for her career, which we'll go over when we get to equipment, but suffice to say it's enough to buy a pair of cool magnums and a semi-auto shotgun to add to her pile of guns. She's an excitable character who makes a high-caliber impression while being surprisingly good with money, and she's ready to be her team's muscle! Also, she can climb all over the place and drop down on people from above with a pair of magnums in one set of hands and an SMG in the other, and is well suited to do acrobatics and stunts just by her d8 Rhax and d8 Speed even with no points in Athletics.

Our second is meant to be an example Space Wizard so I can talk about Space Wizards. Lady Karoline of the Coliquecot is a Remanence aristocrat who is on the run after her homeworld joined the Solar Creed. She's a talented young Conductor, with a good head on her shoulders, who is going to have to learn a lot about the real world in a very short time while on the run. She's not very experienced at her job, having mostly lived in the palace up until now and taken lessons, so she has a d4 in Conductor. She does, however, have a lot of talent and a sharp mind; she's got a d8 in Mind and Will both. That leaves her a d6 for Human, Body, and Speed. As a Human, she is also a natural leader and gets Leadership. While also being good at pretending to be an ordinary peasant or Cavalcade crew-woman with her Human Low Profile. She also includes his Legacy with Questioning, Negotiation, and Tactics.

As a Conductor, she gets Conductor Legacy and Navigation already. With Conductor Legacy, he has to look a little odd. She chooses to have bright silver hair and eyes that are pools of golden light; she'll need hair dye and sunglasses to stay ahead of the bounty hunters. She also takes an Aristocratic Upbringing, so she'll start with a Xenharmonic Pistol, Whip, Blade, and a Mezzoforte armored Xenharmonic outfit, plus she'll know how to use all of them better with Xenharmonic Finishing. She still has the family space wizard weapons!

For her extra Gifts, she'll take one of the basic Space Wizard spells: Rondo Jaunt. Rondo Jaunt lets her Exhaust it to teleport. No check required, just pick an unblocked spot 10m away and bamf, you're there, carried by the song of the universe. This Gift can only be recharged by spending Focus, like just about all space magic. We'll get into Focus soon, but suffice to say this is a bigger issue than just spending 1 Action to recharge something. Rondo Jaunt is a pre-req for all of the teleportation style powers. She also takes Rondo Castle, which lets her attempt to telefrag someone. She declares a target within 10m, then makes an attack against them with Mind, Speed, and Psyche. If she hits, it does a bunch of armor-penetrating damage and swaps her position with them. If it Overkills them, half of them is where they were, half of them is now where she was, and enemies at both entry and exit point are freaking the gently caress out. Finally, she grabs Resolve. This lets her add her Will to damage reduction.

For skills, she gets 3 in Academics for a d8 (she's actually quite educated), picks up 3 in Psyche for a d8 (she knows space magic really well and adores the Myriad Song) and then d4 in Observation and Evasion (She's learning to survive as she goes). She takes the personality of Noble (in the sense of trying to be a good and decent person), and the motto of 'If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.' She's a good person, really, and her time among the peasants running for her life will help it come to light. She starts with some money, too, but has everything she needs and keeps it for now. She's an academically gifted, intelligent young woman who has some surprisingly scary weapons and some cool space magic tricks to start with. She's just in danger if she gets focused on by enemies and can't Counter with her pistol or Xenharmonics; they get to use her great Mind die, but her actual dodging ability isn't great. She's also kind of a terrible pilot for a Conductor.

I admit, Karoline up there is an excuse to talk about space magic in detail. The two actual spellcasting Gift lines are Rondo and Disjunction. Disjunction is all about channeling spatial anomaly, while Rondo is about personal teleportation and portals. Both require Conductor Legacy and Navigation to get into at all, which is a significant investment given how valuable Gifts are. However, they're both goddamn awesome. Disjunction's 'basic' spell is a 2d12 Cover and Concealment shield you can throw down for yourself or others with Disjunction Legacy (Exhaust to generate the shield of space-time anomaly), which also lets you roll to channel Xenharmonic energy directly through yourself to power alien devices. After that, Disjunction gifts are mostly combat spells: They get AoE attacks the do things like loving with thermodynamics and flash-freeze a group of enemies, or calling down excess heat energy from beyond the universe to set a bunch of enemies on fire, or what I like to call 'into the firey orb with ye', the good old 'teleport your enemy into the sun' ability. You can also potentially crush people into a tiny nugget of hyperdense matter. These are all exhaustible AoE attacks with different riders (and very low base damage, they rely on bonus damage from their conditional effects) that need Focus to recharge, or a Disjunction gift that makes it easier to recharge multiple Gifts with one use of Focus.

Rondo, on the other hand, is all about teleportation. You've already seen the basic teleport move and the goddamn telefrag, it also includes the ability to either extend the reach of your melee attacks by 100m or grab people and drag them through the portal back to you. You can also make yourself teleport much further, teleport through cover rather than needing line of sight, you can learn to take friends with you or carry heavy objects through space-time, and you can memorize and return to places across interstellar distances. Much like Disjunction, you can also get a Gift that lets you recharge multiple teleport Gifts with one use of Focus. Rondo might not be direct combat magic, but being able to teleport hundreds of meters with Rondo Bridge or being able to reach a kilometer away and snatch your target right to your position, not to mention 'I can telefrag a guy'? Rondo is really cool, too.

But here's the thing: That's all of space magic. One of the things in all the Sanguine games is that there's never a 'do everything' kind of magic. In setting, Conductor powers are defined as being related to FTL, the manipulation of extra dimensional forces, and navigation. And so that's all they can do with them. It's enough to be powerful, cool, and unique as hell, but there's no equivalent to the D&D 'I put I Know Magic on my sheet so I have the ability to do everything in the game' wizard. You'll still know how to do a lot of other things from your general competence as a character, but your magic can 'only' help you leap through the song of the universe and appear a kilometer away in an instant, or teleport your enemies into the sun.

I should also add there's a third school of Space Magic about manifesting a Leitmotif, a magic super-pet that is actually part of your mind physically manifested out of the cosmos. It knows nothing of dishonesty and will happily blurt out your true feelings when it's manifest. It also flies around and protects you with space magic. I'll be getting into them a bit more when I go over general types of Gifts later. I just wanted to cover the more 'spell like' space magic sooner.

Next Time: More on Skills

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 16:18 on Jan 12, 2019

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Stormtrooper should have been the name for Vanguard.

Now if vanguard could throw grenades, I could live out WW1 Stormtrooper fantasies as a robot in space.

*whacks a space raptor with an entrenching tool sharpened to a monomolecular edge*

Loxbourne
Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

gradenko_2000 posted:

The other thing that stood out to me is that a lot of these rules for the fantasy units already partake in a lot of the D&D/fantasy tropes, such as darkvision, goblins hating light, dwarves and giants having bonuses against each other, and so on

Something you find in old 80s wargaming stuff is a sense that if you must lower yourself to Fantasy, then LOTR is just about acceptable (with a lot of nose-holding) because of how well-documented it is. You can "research" it like a proper gamer. Real wargaming is given dignity by the painstaking attention to detail and historical recreation, not just popping down a unit of elves.

Oddly enough some of the very first anime-derived stuff attained a degree of acceptance the same way; the Japanese love of documenting the technical specifications of Gundams and Space Battleships gave them a dash of respectability. Why, you couldn't just make things up like in other lesser settings!

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




If that's the case, I'm surprised there isn't a small but fanatical cult of Harn wargaming.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010

by many accounts a diligent administrator and manager who was instrumental in increasing industrial productivity during the war

Lipstick Apathy

Chainmail

The Hero

This is really the first of the more special Fantasy supplement units, and they have a bunch of special rules:

- they never check morale

- their combat stats can range from being Light Infantry, to Heavy Horse, depending on their specific depiction

- as well, they count as four men at a time when rolling attacks

- conversely, in order to kill a Hero, they must take four or more hits in order to die

as an example, if you had a Hero that was considered by the players to be the equivalent of Armored Infantry, they were fighting a unit of Light Infantry:
- the Hero would roll four dice, and score kills on 4s, 5s, and 6s
- the Light Infantry would roll one die for every three Light Infantry figures, and score kills on 6s ... and they need at least four 6s (which would require 12 Light Infantry, minimum) to kill the Hero. If they only score three 6s or less, nothing happens to the Hero at all

- if they're made into being part of a larger unit, they will add a +1 to all of the rolls made by that unit, and they're also the last figure to die as that unit takes casualties

- if a Hero is armed with a bow, they can take shots at a Dragon unit if it flies within the Hero's range. The Hero's player rolls 2d6, and kills the dragon on a 10 or better. If the Hero is armed with a Magic Arrow, they get a +1 to this roll

- as a more general rule of combat, whenever these certain Fantasy creatures fight each other, instead of using the standard combat table, they use this combat table:



The attacker rolls 2d6, and:
- if they roll under the target number, nothing happens
- if they roll equal to the target number, the defender must move back a distance equal to their base movement
- if they roll above their target number, the defender is killed

There is also the Super Hero unit, as you can see on the table, and they're even more powerful: they count as 8 men on the attack, they need to take 8 hits from normal combatants to be killed, they can shoot-down flying dragons on a 2d6 roll of 8, and whenever they charge, the unit being charged takes an instability morale check.

The last thing I want to mention is that a Hero / Super Hero unit has a specific tie-in to Dungeons & Dragons:



That's right - if you're playing Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons side-by-side, and your Fighting Man has achieved level 4, then they can join the Chainmail battlefield as a Hero unit, and ostensibly the choice of which unit they count as (Heavy Infantry, Heavy Horse, etc.) can be based on what equipment the character has as a PC!

This actually makes Chainmail a pretty interesting choice for being used as a mass combat rules "expansion" for a D&D campaign: at a high enough level, you're powerful enough to take on entire regiments/battalions by yourself, rather than the "zoom-out" causing your character to become just another face in the army.

As a final aside, this feature of Chainmail where the Hero gets to attack multiple times against "regular" creatures (but not the high-level special ones), is something that D&D shared with / copied / was back-ported into. I blogged about this particular topic a while back.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Myriad Song

General Competence

Alright, it's time to actually talk about what the skills entail in this game. They're very broad on purpose; as you've noticed you get 6 effectively from your Career and Legacy, plus you'll always have at least 1 dice from a trait so you can at least try to do whatever you're trying to do. But actual Skill Marks can give you an even bigger edge, and more importantly, they're actually unlimited. You can have as many marks in a skill as you want, where your actual trait dice are just that: Single dice, capping at a d12. If you get more than 5 marks in a skill, it creates another small die. So a 6 point skill adds d12+d4, and a 10 point skill adds a massive 2d12. There is also no penalty for not having any Skill Marks in a skill; the only 'penalty' is you just don't get any bonus dice with it. You could be a perfectly competent character without any skill marks if you have a specialty gift and/or the skill is covered by your Career or Legacy.

One interesting trend in Cardinal is that every new incarnation of it seems to condense the skill trees (I haven't yet studied Urban Jungle). In IC1e, you had to have specific skills in specific weapons, there were dozens of skills, etc. In IC2e, there were far fewer skills, but there were still separate skills for, say, 'Brawling' and 'Melee'. Now? There's only 15. Which means if you put a d4 in everything and had a spread of 6 separate skills from your Legacy and Career, you could theoretically start with a little skill in every single type of test in the game. It wouldn't be a great idea, but you could do it.

One thing I appreciate: Every skill gives an example of what a 1 success, 2 success, and 3 success result looks like. They talk about what Trait is most commonly used with the skill, give some of the Gifts that most commonly enhance the skill, talk about what the skill is generally used for, and give example Favored Uses. It's a nice, succinct summary of a bunch of broad competences.

Academics covers almost all forms of learning. It is also used for medical science, stellar navigation, research, etc. You roll Academics to see if you remember some relevant technobabble, remember an important historical fact, plot an accurate course through a Rondo (Interestingly, a skilled academic and mathematician doesn't need to be a Conductor to do this, especially on stable routes; Conductors are just better at it and better with exploratory routes), or heal a downed buddy. Instead of trying to guess which of 3 dozen Knowledge skills is actually going to be called for in this adventure, if you have a d8 in Academics and a good Mind (and maybe an Academic career like Engineer or Physician) you'll be generally knowledgeable enough to contribute, which solves a persistent problem with 'lore' skills in RPGs.

Athletics covers all kinds of running, jumping, chasing, and swimming. If you're good at Athletics, you're also good at throwing grenades, which is worth remembering. This skill covers almost every general sort of physical competence in the same way Academics covers a wide variety of intellectual subjects. You also need to be a good athlete to handle fighting in unusual conditions. If you find yourself fighting while swimming, or clinging to a rock face, or similar, your Fighting/Shooting/Evasion dice will be 'limited' by your Athletics skill. So say Sergeant Jax the Troodon has a d8 in Athletics, and is trying to gun someone down with one claw while clinging to a rock face with another. None of his shooting dice can be higher than that d8. He'll get the same number of dice, but any d10s and d12s will become d8s. If you want to fight in weird places, be a good athlete.

Craft is used to make stuff and fix stuff. All kinds of stuff. A character who is good at Craft can fix and build almost anything, build their own weird custom weapon enhancements and modifications, and generally do a lot with their hands. Craft is a pretty simple skill in application, but when you need to fix an engine, or save money by building your own assault rifle (or get around the gun laws on your current planet) it's very useful. It's also essential to Scroungetech characters, since their general ability to kitbash stuff out of nowhere is dependent on a Craft check.

Deceit is for lying to people. Deceit is often used with Mind if you're trying to come up with a convincing story, or Will if you're trying to lie through your teeth without flinching. Deceit is not the skill for physically sneaking around; that's Evasion. Deceit is for putting on a disguise and looking like you belong; Evasion would be for avoiding the patrols. Obviously very useful for confidence schemes and thief types, it can also be handy for a diplomat or smuggler to be able to lie on demand.

Endurance is used to keep yourself going under harsh conditions. If a chase is stretching out into a marathon, you'll be checking Endurance instead of Athletics. If you're trying to see if you'll make it across the diamond desert of Ajax 7 to the famed Oasis bar without collapsing, you'll be rolling Endurance. It's generally useful for surviving rough conditions and long term physical activity, but Endurance is also used for Primitive and Scroungetech characters; they use it to scare up the components needed to make their gear on the fly and recharge their 'have what I need' Gifts. I feel like Endurance is a little redundant with Athletics.

Evasion is for evading notice, bullets, and fists. It is an extremely useful skill for any adventurer. Evasion is used to Dodge attacks, which is one of the safest ways to get around someone trying to kill you. You can only benefit from Cover if you Dodge, after all, and Dodges let you evade a shot on a tie. Also, most adventurers like the ability to sneak up on stuff to try to take it by surprise; safest place to start a gunfight is behind someone who doesn't know you're there, with your pistol already aimed at the back of their head! Since you get two very useful and common action/adventure skills for one skill, Evasion is a great investment for almost anyone.

Fighting covers absolutely all melee combat. Martial arts, knife fighting, using a rare Sympathetic Resonance Blade, fighting with the spatial-anomaly-on-a-stick that is a Xenharmonic Whip, clubbing someone with a piece of concrete and rebar, that's all Fighting. If you're good at this skill, you can handle yourself in all kinds of brawls; specialized Gifts will just make you better at certain sorts. You can also use Fighting to Counter attacks at close range, defending yourself by attacking instead. This initiates an exchange where whoever wins the test hits the other (and on a tie, you both get hit), so when someone says they'll Counter in response to an attack, something will happen. As you might imagine, Fighting is a very popular skill with adventurers.

Negotiation is for trying to convince people to do things, and do them at an advantage to you. Use this skill to try to talk people into letting you go, or talk someone down from a fight. Also use it to negotiate contracts with your employers, or to try to bring Spider Peace so that others know they should not oppose the Empress of All That Is without needing a visit from the gunslinging super spiders. In general, Negotiation uses Mind. If you want to lie a lot during negotiations, you can include your Deceit skill as well, but if you do your opponent gets to include their Questioning skill (if they don't have one, then they're a great target for deceptive negotiations!). The number of successes you'll need to Negotiate with someone will depend on how unreasonable your request is. Trying to get a bureaucrat to get you a license you have all the paperwork for might only require a tie. Trying to get the same bureaucrat to believe you're the lost Imperial Crown Prince of this planet and should have access to all its tax records (even if you are, in fact, the lost prince) sight unseen might take 3.

Observation is another very popular and useful skill, as you might guess from how many Careers included it. It's your general perception skill, which is obviously important for adventurers, who are always hunting for clues, loot, and danger. It's used to oppose attempts to sneak up on you, or to look for useful or interesting details in a scene. Primitive and Scrounge characters also use it with their Endurance to help recharge their 'pull out what I need' Gifts. Observation might be simple, but name me an RPG where 'perception' isn't a useful skill and I'll be very surprised.

Presence is the skill for making an impression. Negotiation is for talking things through over a long period of time. Presence is for when you want to sing a song so beautiful people will talk about it for weeks, or strike the perfect pose after your graceful uppercut just laid out your opponent in the ring. Presence is for when you want to pick out the right fancy space tyrant uniform that tells an independent world they'd better get in line, too. You can also use Presence and proper dramatic posing to scare opponents into submission. Presence is often used with many different stats, depending on what you're trying to do, but Will is the most common for live performances. It takes a lot of guts and confidence to really show off and get into a performance.

Psyche is your ability to sense and understand the world beyond this world, and to hear the song of the universe. Note any character can have Psyche; you don't have to be a Conductor, though Conductors get more out of the skill. Psyche is also unusual in that it's the only skill that is sometimes rolled by itself, specifically in cases where someone with no training in the skill has no chance to succeed; if you have no sensitivity to extra dimensional phenomena there's just no way you could see it. You use it to detect when something is wrong with the universe, and Psyche can also be used for combat magic, or included with navigation tests if you're a Conductor. You can also use Psyche to know facts about the mysterious Syndics and their weird space god culture.

Questioning is used for asking around the block to see what's going on, or for interrogating a specific individual. If you want to get into space detective work, you will use this skill an awful lot. Being able to go around and find out the local news is always useful for an adventurer, too. Like Observation, it's a fairly simple skill, but one adventurers use all the time. It also helps you oppose active attempts to deceive you, as mentioned in Negotiate.

Shooting is exactly like Fighting, but for guns and crossbows and rail cannons and exotic Xenharmonic projectors and plasma rifles. Yes, one skill will cover you for almost all the exotic weapons in the game. Shooting is thus a very useful skill to have if you want to use gun on person to solve puzzles. Just like Fighting, Shooting can be used to Counter people if they're within your gun's threat range and you have ammunition remaining. Yes, you can roll 'shoot first' as your main defensive talent in this space game. Much like Fighting, Shooting is very popular with adventurers.

Tactics represents coordination, leadership, and coolness under fire. You use Tactics to come up with a plan, but you also use it to Rally allies who are panicking or confused in combat. You also get to include your Tactics dice (Skill, and Legacy or Career if they grant it) as bonus dice on attack rolls against enemies an ally is threatening. Working together is a skill all its own!

Transport covers every single kind of vehicle. If it drives, crawls, or flies, you can handle it with the Transport skill. Use this to get your small craft through the asteroid field to evade a Remanence cruiser, or to win an exotic hoverbike chase through the forest of California a verdant moon. Also used for making sure you make FTL jumps successfully, so if you're playing a starship crew you're going to really want someone who is good at Transport. Transport also limits your dice when fighting inside an unsecured and moving vehicle (much like Athletics and other wild situations), so if you want to fistfight a space tyrant on top of his war rig, you should probably know how to drive.

As a clarification: Remember that your Legacy/Career skills count exactly like having Skill Marks in a Skill, they're just limited to going up to a d12 at max since they're trait dice. If you have a d10 in Rhax, and you're in a situation that would limit your skills to Athletics, you've effectively got a d10 limit because of your Rhax Trait being included with Athletics.

Next Time: Gifts

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 15:43 on Jan 14, 2019

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




By popular demand posted:

Game developers, stop with the kitchen sink attitude and follow Myriad Song's example:
One good combat system is hard enough to design well, don't split your focus between several types of combat.

PurpleXVI posted:

I think part of the problem is that there's more or less never a game that runs the vehicle/space combat on the same rules as the character-to-character combat, it always has to be some elaborate subsystem or board game, and it never gets as much love as the rest of the game and as a result usually ends up really shallow or really broken/easily gamed. Plus usually the way it ends up working is that it also requires specialized skills that only work in space, so either everyone only has one button to push or one guy plays while everyone else ooohs and aaahs over how good he is at doing the space thing.

Speaking as somebody who isn't wowed by cars or planes or giant robots, and has little interest in vehicle combat: the space combat in Edge of the Empire and Fragged Empire is just fine.

ChaseSP
Mar 25, 2013



The best way to do ship combat would probably have a simplified system with all players having some form of fighter/drone to control that translates their regular combat skills over to avoid the issue of forcing specializing into something completely separated from everything else.

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




Or just make the ship its own character. Either have players in charge of specific things (which may or may not translate into what station they're sitting at all Star Trek style) or decide what to do next as a group. Planet Mercenary does the latter iirc, though I haven't seen it in practive.

RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

Night10194 posted:

Which means if you put a d4 in everything and had a spread of 6 separate skills from your Legacy and Career, you could theoretically start with a little skill in every single type of test in the game. It wouldn't be a great idea, but you could do it.

It's far from theoretical. One of the sample characters, Captain Diprova Brugabi, intentionally highlights this. She's competent at everything, which means there is absolutely no task in the game she can't Rote for 1 success. That's not always enough to deal with hero stuff, but combined with having a d8 in all her primary Traits... Well, specialization is for insects, and she's a mammal.

Ghost Leviathan posted:

Or just make the ship its own character. Either have players in charge of specific things (which may or may not translate into what station they're sitting at all Star Trek style) or decide what to do next as a group. Planet Mercenary does the latter iirc, though I haven't seen it in practive.

That's what we wound up doing with Farflung - 'the Ship' is one of the playbooks. To our great dismay, this didn't stop people from complaining there were no starship rules.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


RiotGearEpsilon posted:

It's far from theoretical. One of the sample characters, Captain Diprova Brugabi, intentionally highlights this. She's competent at everything, which means there is absolutely no task in the game she can't Rote for 1 success. That's not always enough to deal with hero stuff, but combined with having a d8 in all her primary Traits... Well, specialization is for insects, and she's a mammal.

That starting goal, though. Forever and for always, that will never be achieved.

Her starting goal is 'Have an incident-free trip' with the unspoken 'in a space adventure setting'.

RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

Night10194 posted:

That starting goal, though. Forever and for always, that will never be achieved.

Her starting goal is 'Have an incident-free trip' with the unspoken 'in a space adventure setting'.

Being Brugabi is suffering.

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




Night10194 posted:

That starting goal, though. Forever and for always, that will never be achieved.

Her starting goal is 'Have an incident-free trip' with the unspoken 'in a space adventure setting'.

That sounds like catchphrase material.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

RiotGearEpsilon posted:

Being Brugabi is suffering.

I have just finished reading through these rules.

They are very good and well-edited so no real confusion.

Being Brugabi is indeed, suffering.

RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

I have just finished reading through these rules.

They are very good and well-edited so no real confusion.

I am the editor of this book, and you should know that I am now shuddering with delight, like Sisyphus astonished to find the stone set stable at the hilltop.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


One issue I have: Experience Points aren't even in the Index, so I'm not actually sure if their only mention is in the Character Growth section or if I've missed something about them.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Oh, look, there goes that rock.

RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

Night10194 posted:

One issue I have: Experience Points aren't even in the Index, so I'm not actually sure if their only mention is in the Character Growth section or if I've missed something about them.

And I crash back down to earth! I can assure you that all the information about experience points is in the Character Growth section.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk








Adventure 2: Raw Recruits - Puzzle Pieces






It's been a minute since we last left our band of intrepid investigators. Following an unexpectedly violent poltergeist manifestation, the Desmond family home is more-or-less thrashed and both Nadine and Donna are suffering from second degree burns.

As the emergency services personnel roll up to the scene, Nadine helps Donna over to the HI camera van, procures the first aid kit within and attempts to heal both of their injuries. Nadine gets an Amazing success on both Medical Science - Treatment complex skill checks (they were only Ordinary difficulty) and heals 2 wound for both her and Donna. Nadine is actually back to full health, and Donna is only down 2 Wounds; per the Alternity rules, Donna won't be able to recover the remaining 2 Wounds except via natural healing (as you can't get the benefit of medical attention on the same injury more than once). Susan Desmond is loaded into an ambulance and rushed off to the hospital, while Peter Desmond stays back to ensure that Jerry and Betsy are safe and cared for.

Since Jane and Doug were completely unharmed, they decide to try and uncover as much information about the scene as possible before the police and other authorities start digging through it. Doug decides that he'll try to do a quick search of the residence to see what clues he can find, while Jane attempts to interview the other witnesses.

Doug uses Investigate - Search and Lore - Psychic Lore and gets an Amazing success and a Good success. He uncovers:
    * Jerry's stack of school books have remained undisturbed despite the chaos; these are the only lightweight items that don't seem to have been affected. Doug notices that they're weighed down by the award that Ms. Jernigan had placed on top of them; when he picks up the award he notices the bottom of the object has scratches along the slots for the four screws set into the base.
    * Jerry didn't actually suffer any damage during the poltergeist manifestation; however, he still looks completely physically exhausted. It's entirely possible that the exhaustion is just the result of the traumatic experience, but Doug also recalls that physical exhaustion is a common symptom when untrained psychics manifest their powers.
    * An overturned lamp in the living room seems to have some type of sparkling wire exposed from inside the shade; upon closer inspection it becomes obvious that this mysterious filament more closely resembles some kind of electronic circuit and it encircles the entire shade.
    * A quick search around the living room and dining room reveal that every single light cover in both rooms has some amount of this mysterious circuitry attached somewhere along an inside seam. Doug recalls that he had read about prototype psychic inhibitors while researching his own condition, the designs of which look remarkably similar to the circuits he's discovered around the house.


Jane puts on her best serious police officer face and attempts to get statements from everyone at the Desmond house. She uses the Interaction broad skill (since her only specialty skill is Intimidate and it's not appropriate given the circumstances) and eats the +1 broad skill penalty and gets only a Marginal success. She uncovers:
    * Amanda Jernigan is nowhere to be found. It seems odd that she wouldn't have stuck around to help, especially because the poltergeist activity began almost immediately after she left the house.
    * Coach Bradley remembers having watched Amanda walk past him as he approached the house, but he doesn't know where she went. All of his attention is focused on Jerry and Nick, ensuring that they're unharmed and able to play in the football game tonight.
    * Jerry is unhurt but exhausted, claiming he blacked out almost immediately after the manifestation started. He's able to confirm that it's not unusual for Amanda to return things he has forgotten in her classroom back to him, either at football practice or at his home. He also has no idea where she went when she left the house, but tells Jane that she actually lives nearby, just diagonally across the intersection from his own house.
    * Nick suffered some superficial burns from the pot of boiling water. He's glad he was able to protect Betsy. He volunteers that Amanda Jernigan is extremely committed to the high school's football program, and hasn't missed attending a single home game all year.
    * Peter is doing his best to put on a brave face for his children. Being set on fire was rather traumatic and precludes him from being able to recall any detailed information about the manifestation.
    * Betsy is almost in shock from terror and likewise can't provide any other information.


By this point the local police have arrived and began their investigation. Peter Desmond needs the HI crew to give his family some space, and asks if they can return tomorrow morning to continue assessing the house. Jerry and Nick decide to honor their coach's request and begin to head back to school so that they can prepare for the big game. Jerry remarks that it's a good thing he already had somewhere else to stay tonight since their house has been trashed; Peter tells him to be safe up at the cabin on Lake Geneva and advises that he and Betsy will find a hotel room somewhere in town.

Jane and Doug pack up their assorted camera equipment and load it into the van as Nadine and Donna wrap up their first aid session. Ultimately the investigators decide to relocate the HI van to a nearby public parking lot and review the information they've uncovered. While discussing their options, Doug notices that the camera's power light is on, signaling that it's been recording for some unknown amount of time. He connects the camera feed to the van's monitors and begins playing back through the recorded events; despite the fact that he's certain that he never turned it on himself prior to the manifestation, it has mysteriously recorded the entire event. Each of the investigators make an Awareness - Perception check, with Doug and Nadine only getting a Marginal success, but Donna scoring a Good success and Jane scoring an Amazing success. They discover:
    * About 20 seconds into the tape, a clear crystal vase looks to be flying directly towards Jerry's head. It smoothy curves around his head at the last second, despite the fact that he's not even facing it. After swerving around his head, it returns to its original trajectory and smashed into a wall.
    * About 24 seconds in, something hits the camera and causes it to swivel on its tripod. It's now looking directly out the front window, which has yet to become smashed. Coaching Bradley is not yet visible through the window, but there is a clear shot of a nondescript, current-model black SUV (Suburban or Tahoe or whatever). The driver isn't identifiable, but the person has their arm extended out the open window, and they're pointing some type of hand-held device directly at the Desmond house.
    * About 30 seconds in, the camera picks up Amanda Jernigan getting into the nondescript, current-model black SUV (Suburban or Tahoe or whatever). The living room window is still intact, and Coach Bradley then enters the frame and completely obscures the view of the SUV.


The camera had been running intermittently the entire time of the incident, but the rest of the tape is choppy and blurred due to everything else going on during the manifestation. Doug also recalls the award that he pocketed from the Desmond home and fishes a screwdriver out of the toolkit in the back of the van. Sure enough, after unscrewing the base of the trophy, there's another segment of bizarre circuitry inserted into the object.


So Now What?
Our investigators have a few hours to kill before the football game, and there's a couple different leads they can follow up to figure out what the heck is going on. Presently they're cruising around town, trying to come up with their next plan of attack. Please let me know what you want the party to do next, because the book gives several options and I don't just want to transcribe a bunch of quest minutia. Possible options are:

1. Visit Ms. Jernigan's home. Attempt to interview her? If she's not home, attempt a B&E? Jane won't be willing to commit a crime to solve this case, but Donna might be up for it.
2. Try to research Ms. Jernigan's personal and professional history. Was she always a school teacher? What's her apparent connection to the black SUV?
3. Surveil the neighborhood. Try to see if any of the neighbors saw anything, or know anything about Ms. Jernigan. Knock on doors and do some old fashioned police work. Has that black SUV been around often?
4. Attend the football game, wait for it to end and then tail Jerry to see where he goes after. It sounded like his father was aware that he was going to attend some sort of party? What's his connection to the poltergeist manifestation?
5. Visit Susan in the hospital. Attempt to interview her? See if there's any medical records pertaining to similar encounters?
6. Perform some other action of dubious value?

:siren:AND suddenly, while the investigators are driving around:siren:

Dark Matter posted:

You're cruising down a main avenue when you each notice a black van pull out of a side street, evidently matching your speed but staying about three car lengths behind you. Though you can't be sure, it looks extremely similar to the black SUV that Amanda Jernigan got into. The driver is a man dressed in a pressed, black suit with dark sunglasses and the passenger is a woman in a similar outfit. What do you do?

Additionally, recommend how the investigators should respond to this turn of events!


NEXT TIME: Act II - Crossing Paths and Chasing Shadows

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Okay, I'm not to the gear section yet, but thanks to recent play I'm going to amend something in my general assessment of the lethality of Myriad Song.

It's generally a lot less brutal on people.

Until the chainsaws.

RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

Night10194 posted:

Until the chainsaws.

If you get to hand to hand combat range with someone with a chainsaw, you've earned it.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


RiotGearEpsilon posted:

If you get to hand to hand combat range with someone with a chainsaw, you've earned it.

This is why you give the chainsaw to a secret, teleporting space princess.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!


Introduction

Aaaah, good ol’ Deadlands. A Wild Western Horror RPG still going strong 20 years later. Like many games written in the 90s it suffered from a case of metaplot, but it had one of such length and scope that it would make even White Wolf blush. To this day the the writers still have an unfolding narrative playing out, and their newer releases are no exception. However, it often had much of the worst aspects of White Wolf-style “narrative stories” where the PCs are little more than audience members watching NPCs do all the cool stuff.

This was not to everyone’s taste, and around 2006 Deadlands received an upgrade to Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Worlds system. One of the big projects for this line was the creation of 4 massive adventures, each one centered on a major villain in the setting and their subsequent fall from power. But unlike the Classic adventures the PCs would be instrumental in these endeavors.

Known among fans as the Reckoner Series, these adventures are Point Point Campaigns or PPC for short. A Plot Point Campaign is Savage Worlds’ equivalent to a Dungeons & Dragons/Pathfinder adventure path but usually more sandbox than linear in style. A PPC has a single main questline whose adventures are known as Plot Points, while side quests and other optional content are known as Savage Tales and bulk up the skeleton of said Plot Points. Savage Tales are locations and adventure hooks which can either be ready from the get-go, or are unlocked upon the completion of an appropriate Plot Point or another Savage Tale. To use a video game analogy, it is sort of akin to a Bioware or Bethesda style RPG where main quest is overall short or medium in length, but the supplementary content really fills out the campaign.


Artwork for the French version of Deadlands, portraying the villains in all their glory

The Flood is the first of such sourcebooks, set in California where the blasphemous Church of Lost Angels seeks to plunge the West Coast into a blasted hellscape of Famine and cannibalism. The Flood’s theme is one of desperation: of communities driven impoverished by the cult’s stranglehold of food supplies; of miners’ and prospectors’ mad rush for the miracle fuel known as ghost rock found in pockets along California’s earthquake shattered coasts; and the fractured terrain of California being fought over by various political factions many of whom do not have the common folk’s interests at heart. This is the Plot Point Campaign we’ll be covering for our current Let’s Read.

The Last Sons centers around War and its chief villain is Raven. It centers around said villain’s Order of the Raven, a group of outcast Native Americans eager to take revenge upon the white man by making pacts with evil spirits and washing all of North America in a metaphorical tidal wave of blood. What begins with the discovery of an illegal ghost rock mining operation in the Sioux Nation’s Black Hills turns into an invasion of said nation by renegade US soldiers gathering under General Custer’s vengeance-driven battle cry. Traveling through the Disputed Territories of the US and Confederacy and even into the Hunting Grounds themselves, the heroes gradually uncover Raven’s plot and hopefully put a stop to it before the Sioux Nation and other lands become destroyed.

The Last Sons is notable for being the Plot Point largest in scope, a 337 page magnum opus in comparison to the Flood’s 192 pages, or Stone and Good Intentions’ 160 pages each. It has a rather novel approach in encouraging players to make Native American PCs, or least ones sympathetic to said groups’ autonomy and resistance against colonialism. Its execution is a bit...scattered, although I’ll cover that more in detail when I get around to it as its own Let’s Read.

Stone and a Hard Place covers Deadlands’ most iconic villain, Jasper Stone, and the trail of Death he leaves in his wake. Taking place in the American Southwest it is perhaps the most iconically Western of the Plot Points.* It starts out in the town of Tombstone, Arizona where the PCs befriend notable figures such as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, but after Stone rolls into town it turns into a classic tale of revenge and the hunter becoming the hunted (and then hunter again) as the party desperately finds a way to kill someone who is essentially an undead Anton Chigurh.

Good Intentions is the final Plot Point Campaign, set in the Pestilence-choked steampunk nightmare of Salt Lake City. Dr. Darius Hellstromme is the main antagonist, a ruthless businessman whose ingenious devices sent the Mormon state of Deseret kicking and screaming into an advanced age of New Science. Unlike the previous Plot Points it has a central city location and takes place entirely within the confines of Utah/Deseret. This adventure some heavy steampunk and spy themes, as rival mad science companies, foreign agents, and the LDS Church and their Danite enforcers all seek Hellstromme’s secrets for their own purposes.

Some Backstory on the Metaplot:

In the world of Deadlands, magic and monsters were widespread and wreaked terror on mortals. The four horsemen of the apocalypse from Biblical lore exist and are known as the Reckoners. But instead of being righteous heralds of God’s will they are wicked entities who seek to plunge the world into a literal Hell on Earth. They were sealed away by a group of Native American shamans known as the Old Ones, and along with them the supernatural in general.

But this would not last. A Susquehannock Indian known as Raven was the sole survivor of genocide whose tribe, already decimated by disease, were slaughtered by white settlers in the mid-1700s*. Filled with rage and hearing many similar tales from various tribes, he gathered a small army known as the Last Sons. They ventured around North America, accumulating knowledge of sacred spaces and rituals while gaining power from forbidden magic to extend his own lifespan. Raven was willing to do anything to get revenge and prevent white domination of the continent, including tearing a hole into the spirit world and freeing the Reckoners.

On July 3rd, 1863, the dead rose on the Battle of Gettysburg. They indiscriminately slaughtered soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line and inadvertently turned the Civil War in the Confederacy’s favor who maintained their independence in the Deadlands timeline. This was but the first taste of stranger things to come, as the collected fears of humanity’s imagination were unleashed into the world. The Reckoner of War claimed Raven as his champion, and the other three Horsemen found their own representatives to hold dominion over certain regions of the North American continent. There’s mention that the rest of the world has been affected by the Reckoner’s release, but for their own reasons they find the American West an ideal staging ground for their plans.



The Tombstone Epitaph’s Guide to California

The first few chapters of the Flood are player-friendly facing sections which are also available as a free PDF on the Pinnacle site. The first one is an in-character newspaper handout by the Tombstone Epitaph, whose editors are in the know about many conspiracies and supernatural goings-on. The outlandish nature of their reports cause the paper to be dismissed by many as yellow journalism, while the Union and Confederate governments have yet to quash them on account of not wanting to give them a greater sense of credibility (along with the whole freedom of the press thing).

For a general overview, the City of Lost Angels is the most prominent port town on the West Coast and is home to a motherload of ghost rock deposits. This miracle fuel burns hotter and longer than coal and acts as Deadlands’ all-purpose mad science phlebotinum. There’s a huge rush among the big-time rail barons to build the first transcontinental railroad to Lost Angels since both the United States and Confederacy offered some sweet deals to the first company who can do this. Industrial sabotage, dynamiting of rail depots and train tracks, and good ol-fashioned banditry between barons christened what is known as the Great Rail Wars. The winner is uncertain, but will be determined rather early on in the Flood campaign.

It’s not just business oligarchs who are stirring up trouble. In spite of being claimed by the United States in 1850, the overall remoteness and lawlessness means that small settlements and cities alike are more or less autonomous and the Sacramento-based Union soldiers are stretched thin. The Confederacy established an outpost in Shannonsburg with cheap goods to attract travelers. Mexico, whose liberal government was successfully overthrown and replaced with a French-backed monarchy in this alt-history timeline, is still smarting from the Mexican-American War and is building up a huge fleet to annex California.

As for the City of Lost Angels, they’re not a fan of any of the above nations. A theocratic dictatorship ruled by Reverend Grimme, Lost Angels declared itself an autonomous city-state in 1877. Although it’s common knowledge that the Angels are a brutal and intolerant lot, they manage to win over more than a few converts throughout California and beyond on account of their ample access to food supplies, especially meat of dubious origin. During 1868 an earthquake of unseen proportions busted up California’s entire western sea coast, demolishing countless fertile farmland and replacing it with ghost rock-rich mesas separated by water-filled channels now known as the Great Maze. In fact, attempts at producing and shipping food anywhere in the West Coast is strangely difficult, with mysterious spoilages and wagon trains getting lost along the way. Goods in general costs five times as much here as elsewhere in the West.

The Epitaph goes into brief detail over what types of people live in California and why they come here. Overall it’s a very diverse place, although the different races don’t necessarily live side-by-side. Settlers from the East and immigrants from China flock to the Great Maze to mine for gold and ghost rock to send the proceeds back home to their families (or keep it for themselves), along with Mexicans both coming back as soldiers and those who continued living there post-1848. There are some Native American tribes here and there, although the largest tribes banded together in a political unit known as the Necessity Alliance detailed later in the book.

Finally, the Epitaph lists several Strange Locales and rumors surrounding them. It includes the City of Lost Angels which is a creepy circular settlement where red-robed police known as Guardian Angels patrol. Its huge central cathedral hosts weekly banquets, but only for those not shunned by the community, while the rival port of Shan Fan is the largest Chinese immigrant community in the Weird West. Less unified than Lost Angels, it is controlled by rival factions of Triad gangsters with a high turnover rate.


Makin’ Heroes

The Flood contains additional options for Player Characters beyond the Deadlands core rules. Each of the four Reckoner Plot Points is strongly themed around iconic arcane backgrounds and archetypes, and in the Flood’s case we receive a lot of material for chi-wielding martial artists.

For those unfamiliar with Deadlands’ magic system, there are a variety of supernatural powers. The Blessed are holy men and women who receive miracles from their religion’s Almighty, Hucksters are silver-tongued cardsharps who receive their powers from playing spiritual poker duels with evil spirits known as manitou, Shamans commune with the spirits of the land, and Mad Scientists receive visions from manitou to build strange ghost rock-powered gizmos. The Enlightened, or martial artists or chi masters, regulate the flow of energy known as chi from the Hunting Grounds (Deadlands’ all-purpose spirit world) to perform amazing physical feats.

We get a new hindrance called The Cup Overflows, which causes all of your chi powers to be obviously supernatural in nature. As many Enlightened powers aren’t normally noticeable by default (especially the self-buffing kind), this makes it harder to conceal your abilities from frightened townsfolk. And you’ll have to deal with rival martial artists seeking to take you down and prove their skill.

We have six new Edges, Savage Worlds’ equivalent to D&D feats, for Enlightened. Celestial Kung Fu is an enhanced version of Superior Kung Fu from the Deadlands Player’s Guide. They cover a variety of real-world martial arts styles which grant specific benefits, from Wing Chun (bonus unarmed attack) to less-obvious names such as Monkey (bonus on Agility tricks and Taunt skill rolls). Celestial Kung Fu either increases existing bonuses for Superior Kung Fu or adds a second benefit for the fighting style. Some of the interesting ones include Mantis (discard and redraw cards of 8 or lower in the initiative deck) and Tai Chi (opponents are knocked back 1d6 hexes [6 to 36 feet] per success and raise on your Fighting roll).

Chi Focus allows you to substitute your Spirit in lieu of Strength to determine damage in hand-to-hand combat. Feet of Fury can be taken more than once and each time grants you a specific special attack: a foot sweep which can knock an enemy prone and impose Shaken status on a failed Vigor roll; a flying kick which grants a free attack as you Withdraw from Combat; and a spin kick which imposes -2 to your Fighting roll but grants +4 to damage if you hit.

Lightning Strike is underwhelming, in that you do double damage against an inanimate object you attack with your bare hands. Mind of Quicksilver is a Legendary Edge which allows you to mimic a spell you do not know you see performed by another chi master on a Smarts roll. While this sounds cool, it requires a d12 Smarts, which is a dump stat for chi masters in Deadlands. Combined with it being an end-game Edge means you won’t see much use of it in the Flood or most campaigns.

Finally, Mongoose Leap makes you experienced with lunging strikes and grants +1 reach (1 bonus hex) when making unarmed attacks.

We get twelve new Edges which can be taken by anyone who meets their prerequisites. Four of them are tied into California’s particular equipment and economics: Captain lets you begin play with a free Maze Runner ship, Cannoneer lets you slightly modify the results of a critical hit in naval vehicular combat, Silver-Tongued Devil allows you to treat a settlement’s price multiplier for expensive goods as one step less (x5 becomes x4, etc), and Nose for the Rock gives you an uncanny knack for sensing the nearby presence of ghost rock and precious minerals.

The remaining eight edges are all martial arts related but can be taken by people are are merely good at fist-fighting rather than superpowered channelers of mystic energy. Blind Fighting removes any penalties for darkness when fighting enemies within 3 hexes, Counterpunch lets you make a free melee attack on a foe who missed you (Improved Counterpunch makes it more accurate), Improved Martial Arts and Martial Arts Master lets you ignore a certain level of penalties for called shots to a body part in unarmed combat, Iron Parry deals damage equal to your Strength die or weapon damage on enemies who fail to hit you in melee, Movement of the Serpent lets you Withdraw from combat without giving opponents free attacks, and Ten-Tiger Punch grants you a free melee attack on an opponent who fails a Test of Will against you (a social debuff via intimidation or taunting).

The Edges which grant free attacks or damage can be good, although most of them are not amazing enough to justify purchase. In fact, the Flood starts in Nevada proper, far away from any coastal body of water. As Captain is a Background edge it is expected to be purchased at character creation. So it’s nigh-useless in the standard campaign!

Goods and Gear


Here we cover some new equipment. All of said equipment got later reprints in the 1880 Smith & Robards Catalog supplement. We start out with one of the Plot Point Campaign’s unique rules: in the settlements of California, most goods are five times their list price. Some locations may dip as low as 2 or as high as eight, but this is a big deal. In fact, it’s rather prohibitively expensive on account that most ships and mad science devices are already in the several thousand dollar range. These rules will make purchase outright impossible for lot of said gadgets. It’s meant to simulate the grim survival of Famine’s domain, but in line with the rewards of most quests it can make even a single horse of average quality cost a whopping $750.

For an estimate, the default Deadlands PC starts play with $250 worth of gear. In 1879 one US dollar was worth 22 US dollars today (or 17 British pounds or 19 Euros). Fortunately this price modifier is only for items purchased during play and not character generation, but it is a little much. I suggest when running the Flood to either knock down the default to x2 or x3 or adjust monetary rewards for quests appropriately. Or simulate the boom-town feel by having lots and lots of ghost rock and gold which is used as a local currency for purchase.

We have a list of Chinese melee weapons, which unlike standard Savage Worlds close-combat weapons have a minimum Agility instead of minimum Strength to properly wield. They include fancy things such as the Fighting Fan which grants +1 to Parry when using the Defend action, the whip-like Flying Claw which imposes -2 to an enemy’s Parry on a Fighting roll raise in lieu of bonus damage, and the infamous Flying Guillotine which is a wire mesh bag connected to a long steel chain. It is used by making a called shot to a target’s head and deals Strength + 1d6 damage plus said bonus +4 damage gained from a headshot. The Three-Section Staff is perhaps the most versatile weapon: it can be wielded as either a staff, nunchaku, or whip, has a Reach of 1, can make Disarm and Grapple checks at said reach, and grants +1 Parry on top of all that!

The bread and butter of the equipment list is all manner of boats. The waterways of the Great Maze are home to traders, soldiers, pirates, and miners who are more likely to use watercraft over the classic horse and train of the West. Most of them are well out of the PCs’ price range, especially the larger freighters, gunboats, and ironclads which range from $30,000 to $100,000. The more affordable $1,000 barges are merely flat carriers tugged by real boats but can holds lots of crew and cargo. The $5,000 knife boats are speedy maneuverable ships which can mount one gatling gun at most, while the $15,000 Maze Runner is the standard ship of the region. It is more powerful than a knife boat but not as war-worthy as a freighter. $2,000 steam launches are economy-efficient lifeboat-sized crafts used by miners for supply runs, while the two-person $3,000 steam sled is powered by a ghost rock boiler but very fragile. Finally the $10,000 tugboat is capable of carrying multiple barges but is otherwise nothing impressive.

Our last bits of equipment include mines and clockwork torpedos designed to do heavy damage against boats, sea monsters, and similar heavy opposition (AoE bursts which do 4d6 or 4d8+2 damage for torpedos and ignore anywhere from 10 to 15 points of Armor). Our two mad science infernal devices include a $2,000 diving suit which pumps a steady stream of air via a long tube into said suit, and waterproof dynamite which can be placed and set off underwater.

Thoughts so far: The new rules are a mixed bag. A lot of the Flood takes place on land and while there are some areas cordoned off in the Great Maze, it is by no means the primary means of travel. We did have a martial artist PC in my own run of this Plot Point Campaign, but the new weapons saw limited use on account that the bonus attack from Wing Chun (Superior Kung Fu version) when unarmed was too good to pass up. The new Edges are a bit situational and range from the highly useful to ones which may never see realistic use in play.

The Tombstone Epitaph is a nice thematic touch which is present in just about every Deadlands product. It makes for a cool player handout so the PCs really do feel like they’re catching new adventure hooks by reading the news. In fact, the vast majority of Savage Tale sidequests are handouts of help wanted ads!

Join us next time in the Marshal’s Section, where we cover the Gamemaster-only information, new setting rules, and strange locales!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 04:26 on Feb 1, 2019

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




i'm amazed that someone is writing new adventure material for deadlands. i thought the savage worlds stuff was just rehashing the same content with a newer mechanical system, but not actually doing anything different with the metaplot.

how does this all fit into the original metaplot that spanned deadlands, hell on earth, and lost colony? IIRC you could technically "beat" all four reckoners by the end of lost colony, which would basically end the game. does this new stuff happen in an alternate dimension, or just replace the old metaplot completely, or what?

DNA Cowboys
Feb 22, 2012

BOYS I KNOW


Freaking Crumbum posted:

i'm amazed that someone is writing new adventure material for deadlands. i thought the savage worlds stuff was just rehashing the same content with a newer mechanical system, but not actually doing anything different with the metaplot.

how does this all fit into the original metaplot that spanned deadlands, hell on earth, and lost colony? IIRC you could technically "beat" all four reckoners by the end of lost colony, which would basically end the game. does this new stuff happen in an alternate dimension, or just replace the old metaplot completely, or what?

There have also been a number of PDF-only adventures released for Deadlands: Reloaded, but they tend to be metaplot agnostic. The Reckoner Series, on the other hand, fits in with the previously established metaplot, as well as Deadlands: Noir and the timeline extension that was added in Hell on Earth: Reloaded. These adventures are about taking out the Reckoners' #1 servitors in the Weird West era -- with mixed success -- in a way that still allows the Bad End to happen.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Freaking Crumbum posted:

i'm amazed that someone is writing new adventure material for deadlands. i thought the savage worlds stuff was just rehashing the same content with a newer mechanical system, but not actually doing anything different with the metaplot.

how does this all fit into the original metaplot that spanned deadlands, hell on earth, and lost colony? IIRC you could technically "beat" all four reckoners by the end of lost colony, which would basically end the game. does this new stuff happen in an alternate dimension, or just replace the old metaplot completely, or what?

DNA Cowboys has a good answer, but the Reckoner Series are older than you think.

The Flood released in 2009. Last Sons in 2012. Stone and a Hard Place in 2015, and finally Good Intentions in 2016. The last one had its own KickStarter partnered up with the 20th Annivesary Edition of Deadlands to drum up support.

There's also an Adventure Edition of Savage Worlds which recently released, so Deadlands will get yet another upgrade sometime this year. The default timeline will be moved to 1884, one year after Good Intentions. It should be interesting to see a "Twilight of the West" era if they go for that feel.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 06:33 on Jan 15, 2019

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Deadlands the Flood, Chapter 2: Marshal’s Section

This section of the book contains all of the GM-facing material save the adventure proper and NPC stat blocks. We get an overview of Famine’s Domain, new rules specific to the region, a host of notable locations, and a card-based means of drawing for random encounters and making your own sub-plots in the wild and woolly reaches of California.


Famine’s Domain

It was touched upon in my last post, but the Reckoners are using fell magic to spread fear and suffering in the mortal world in the hopes of bringing about an apocalypse. The Deadlands setting has a mechanic known as the Fear Level, which is a numeric value for a city, region, or location on a rating from 0 to 6 representing the overall danger and hopelessness which holds sway there. At Fear Level 6, a place turns into a Deadland, a warped hellscape crawling with monsters and whose very terrain is clearly unnatural. The Reckoners hope to turn all of Earth into such a place in due time. Although the Reckoners’ influence is world-wide, they do have their own spheres of influence. In California and the Pacific Northwest, the Reckoner Famine holds dominion.

We get some backstory on the supernatural history of California. Shortly after Raven freed the Reckoners, he visited the West Coast and gathered Indians amenable to his cause. Raven set about painting glyphs along natural fault lines of an already tremor-prone region, using the blood of one of his betrayed apprentices to fuel their magic and unleash a cataclysmic earthquake across the state. This event would become known as the Great Quake of ‘68, plunging hundreds of miles of territory into the onrushing sea and creating the Great Maze. The Reckoners sewn the newly-created mesas with ghost rock deposits, more than a few of it on tribal land sacred to the region’s indigenous inhabitants to help stir up trouble and racial tensions with settlers and prospectors.

It was this Great Quake which heralded the rise of Reverend Grimme. Far from his present wickedness, the priest was a noble soul who did his best to save who he could amidst the natural disaster. But his congregation sooned turned on him as supplies ran low and starvation grew rampant. They turned on each other over an argument whether or not to eat the bodies of the fallen for sustenance, and Grimme was among the casualties. Only 13 survived the battle, who devoured the dead like savage beasts. Sensing opportunity, Famine drew upon the sins of the 13 and formed a dread copy of Reverend Grimme to lead them. They and the false Grimme would be immortal for as long as at least one of them survived, and were granted powers by Famine to mimic Christian miracles to lure in victims and converts.

The survivors would become the inner circle of his new faith, the Church of Lost Angels. Building a new town in southern California, they had no shortage of converts for their ability to seemingly summon up food in a starvation-plagued region. Rock Island Prison was built as a place where the community’s unwanted could “disappear” and later line the tables of Sunday feasts. Unfortunately the Church’s false miracles could not extend far miles beyond the boundaries of their new city without appearing as the black magic that it was, limiting their proselytism. But Grimme found that mass human sacrifice could expand their reach, so he arranged for some summoned demons to attack the congregation of his cathedral which he’d then “heroically stop.” The plan worked, and the event became known as the Day of Righteousness which spread even to otherwise respectable newspapers across the USA and its territories.

The other major political issue of the Church of Lost Angels is how to deal with the major rail companies. Lost Angels is the only major natural harbor in the Great Maze’s southern section and sits upon a gigantic ghost rock deposit to boot. A reliable intercontinental rail line will not only bring in all sorts of heretical newcomers, it risks providing a continuous food supply and thus weaken the Church’s power. Grimme’s doing his best to sabotage rail lines covertly, but once a winner of the Great Rail Wars comes in he hopes to negotiate a deal.

We get several sidebars detailing a glossary of the Church of Lost Angel’s religious titles and hierarchy, along with a list of Biblical verses both legitimate and altered by Grimme. In the case of the latter, Grimme’s additions are in bold. I find this very clever, and works great for showcasing to players (especially those knowledgeable in Christianity) how the Church perverted religious scripture to wicked ends:



This section ends with a brief write-up of the Twilight Legion, a secret society dedicated to putting a stop to the Reckoner’s evils. They are separate from Deadlands’ own Agency and Texas Rangers in that they are unaffiliated with either the Union or Confederacy, and whose origins actually date back to the Roman Empire. They masquerade as a gentlemen’s club of big-game hunters known as the Explorer’s Society. A group of thrill-seeking, heavily-armed men and women with ample disposable income is the perfect cover for the Twilight Legion. Although most Legion members are aware of supernatural magic and monsters, only the highest-ranking are aware of the Reckoners’ existence. They have a deal with Lacy O’Malley of the Tombstone Epitaph: as a reporter on strange goings-on, he could use his newspaper’s advertisement section to send coded messages to the Twilight Legion and others in the know of potential trouble in needing of fixing.

Setting Rules

Each of Deadlands Reloaded’s Plot Point Campaigns contain new rules. Part of it is thematic in line with the supernatural pall of one of the Four Horsemen’s influence, while others are more mundane. In the Flood’s case, our theme is Hunger and scarcity.

The Savage Worlds ruleset is one meant to simulate pulp-action adventure, and starving to death Oregon Trail-style isn’t in line with this ethos. So the Flood strikes a balance where hunger/starvation is instead represented as a potential debuff which imposes Fatigue levels. Every settlement has a Price Modifier, usually x5 but can be higher or lower which applies to everything, food included. Given the ample supply of ghost rock the GM is encouraged to give PCs various means of earning money, a few dollars more or even a hundred, to restock supplies and stay alive.

When away from civilization, the GM can call for a Vigor or Survival roll whenever it’s dramatically appropriate. Even having a week’s worth of trail rations provides a +2 bonus at best, for Famine’s presence artificially ages and spoils food. Starvation never outright kills a PC, but imposes increasingly debilitating levels of fatigue which at its very worst can put a hero into a coma or turn them into a Faminite* on a critical failure of a Spirit roll.

*faster and tougher flesh-hungering undead

Famine eases (but never eliminates) the pangs of hunger for those who serve her, and human flesh is highly delicious and nutritious. But those who willingly partake of this risk turning into a wretched monster (ghoul, faminite, or wendigo depending on region) on a failed Spirit roll. Reverend Grimme’s weekly church feasts do not result in this, for spontaneous creation of monsters would impact his credibility as a man of God.

After covering the dangers of famine, we get rules for Rock Fever, which honestly won’t come into play unless the PCs have a mad scientist in their party or carrying around the fuel for long periods. Basically the fumes of ghost rock are potentially toxic from prolonged exposure, requiring a Vigor roll once per week at increasing penalties. The initial failure causes symptoms of lightheadedness and fevers and -2 penalty on all Trait rolls, but further failures cause a level of fatigue. Those incapacitated gain a long-lasting mental illness drawn from the Mad Scientist’s list of dementias in the Deadlands Marshal’s Handbook. Rolling snake-eyes on a Vigor roll results in instant death as the afflicted spontaneously combusts and leaves behind a chunk of ghost rock the size of their heart.

We top off this section with various water-related hazards from sailing in the Great Maze, which can be triggered as part of a random encounter to spice things up or on their own. They include natural disasters such as blasts of superheated sulphur deposits, riptides which can send ships wildly off course, whirlpools, and mischievous invisible water spirits which attack the winning side of ships in naval combat (they love rooting for the underdog) by violently shaking and stirring them. We also get rules for land-based natural hazards such as earthquakes, cave-ins and rockslides, and storms of all stripes.


Strange Locales

This covers most of the locations in the Tombstone Epitaph’s Guide to California and then some, revealing the deadly truths for the GM’s eyes. We get a sample Fear Level for each place along with price modifiers for settlements of civilization. The default for California as a whole are 2 and x5 respectively, for when the PCs are in the open wilderness or a one-horse town of no repute. Some location entries also have handy-dandy sheriff badge icons next to the names of Plot Points and Savage Tales to be found in the area along with relevant page numbers.

I particularly like this last touch. It makes for a reader-friendly resource and really plays up the sandbox nature of this campaign.

Bear’s Claw, Dragon’s Breath, & Lion’s Roar: The owner of Iron Dragon, the largest rail company in the Western Coast, is a Chinese immigrant and warlord by the name of Kang. A veteran of his home country’s turbulent battles and rebellions, he has his fingers in all manner of businesses legitimate and otherwise. Three Chinese immigrant communities serve as safe havens for his pirates, and he even ran a Triad outfit of his own in Lost Angels before the Great Rail Wars hit the city (an event which will happen during the Flood’s main Plot Point). Losing so many soldiers is the catalyst for a major power imbalance among the Chinese Mafia, and various crime lords will start moving in on the rail baron’s turf.

Overall, these three towns are home to average Chinese Janes and Joes working the mines of the Great Maze, but the criminal element is in control and indulges in oppressive businesses such as opium dealing and forced prostitution. Interestingly, Kang is knowingly tolerating a resistance movement known as the Men of the Grid who are made up of Lost Angels residents who had a different vision than a theocratic dictatorship. The Gridders as they’re known more or less declared war against Grimme’s church. And given that the Lost Angels aren’t very fond of “Eastern pagans” or vice-peddling gangsters, there’s a bit of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” even if neither side goes out of their way to aid the other.

Big M Ranch: Cattle herding is Big Business in the Weird West, and an enterprising cattleman by the name of Dwight Shelton hit upon a business opportunity upon hearing of California’s food shortages. He bought up land for purposes of grazing area and water, and even with a small herd he is making a lucrative living. Unfortunately the Church of Lost Angels are not fond of anybody challenging their dominance over the local food supply. For the past few months the Sheltons have been fending off regular night-time raids on their herd. The fact that the cattle are left mutilated and not stolen points to something other than cattle-rustlers as the culprit, and he’s willing to pay for hired help to get to the bottom of things.

Carver’s Landing: This is one of the oldest and most prosperous mesa towns in the Great Maze. The ghost rock rush grants it a heavy merchant presence and is home to all manner of shops and saloons, with the Eight Ball Billiards Hall being the newest and most popular.

Devil’s Armpit: This small mining town is run by T’ou-Chi Chow, a self-described God of Bandits. An avid scholar in Taoist philosophy and European anarchism, he styles himself very much as a gunslinging outlaw hero from Chinese folklore that robs from the rich and powerful to distribute the fruits of their bounty among the common populace. This results in his bandit gang maintaining a very large group of volunteers and much goodwill in town. Devil’s Armpit is home to outcasts of many different backgrounds, as T’ou-Chi Chow is fond of granting people a second chance at life.

Devil’s Postpiles: These huge octagonal columns stand over 60 feet tall and are surrounded by superstition and folklore. Legends claim that burying loved ones at the feet of the columns along with pleading one’s case grants a chance at local spirits returning the dead to life.

The tales are true...to an extent. Fresh corpses no more than a week old have a greater chance at returning as Harrowed, intelligent undead whose corpses are inhabited by the souls of the original owner as well as a wicked spirit wrestling for control over the body. The Devil’s Postpiles ground is cursed, so said spirit will begin with total dominion over the Harrowed that rises. And sometimes zombies of those who didn’t come back rise to attack those waiting for their beloved.

Dragonhold: Once a typical mining town, the inhabitants discovered a giant sea serpent known as a Maze dragon within a rocky cave. An enterprising showman by the name of Sutton Thacker turned the affair into a tourist attraction, charging money for people to have the privilege of viewing the beast and tossing fish into its massive jaws.

Thacker is in fact a madman who gathered a secret cult who feed the Maze dragon human sacrifices of drunk travelers and others who will not be missed.

Felicity Peak: A Russian nobleman by the name of Gregor Petrov purchased a plot of land at a tall, pointed butte not far from Lost Angels. Sufficiently isolated from the rest of the Great Maze, he rules over his serfs with an iron fist. They mine ghost rock to feed his and his family’s coffers back in the old country, and he is a willing minion of the Reckoners who gains fell powers via feeding off the blood of children.

Fort Lincoln: The Union’s presence in California extends from Sacramento to various small mining towns in the Great Maze. Fort Lincoln is the largest and most important of all, for it holds the bulk of their naval operations in the region. Their numbers are small and cannot afford to spread themselves too thin, and many sailors are drawn from those who would otherwise have been court-martialled in the Union Navy. They love to curse, drink, and fight with each other as much Mexican, Confederate, and pirate forces.

Fort Norton & Kwan Province: General Mu-T’ou Kwan is one of the well-established warlords from Back East. The Far East. His base of operations is in a verdant redwood forest of central California, and he lends out his soldiers to fight for the Confederate and Mexican armies in exchange for steam-powered vehicles and gold. The communities under his protection make their living from the lumber industry, but what is perhaps most interesting are his advisors. Two of them are a pair of shamans from the Cahuilla Indian tribe, Pig Pul and Little Pul. They were cast out for trafficking with evil spirits, acting on behalf of Raven to steer Kwan in an even more warlike direction. During a vision quest Kwan met an owl which explained his destiny to rule “the lands beyond the mountain,” but only if he ruled through a “white man destined to be Emperor.”

After hearing of a local eccentric by the name of Emperor Norton, Kwan found his man. In the real world, Emperor Norton was a San Franciscan eccentric who went insane after a disastrous attempt at importing rice from Asia to cater to the burgeoning Chinese community. But in the world of Deadlands, he snapped back to sanity once he realized the enormity of his situation when Kwan more or less pressed him into service as a political advisor. He tries to act as Kawn’s conscience, reigning in his crueler, more vengeful side.




Ghost Town: At Fear Level 6, this burning landscape is an honest-to-God Deadland. Technically speaking it is not in existence until after the third main adventure in the Flood concludes, but is detailed here due to its importance.

Ghost Town was originally a shantytown and tent city east of Lost Angels, home to the poor and destitute of the region as well as sheltering the local Chinese immigrant community. Kang’s Lion’s Roar Triad lived like kings in the region, and life was nasty, brutish, and short. But during the Battle of Lost Angels when the rail barons clashed, Dr. Darius Hellstromme dropped deadly Ghostfire Bombs from mad science airships over the area, putting a decisive end to the Great Rail Wars...but at the expense of hundreds of lives lost.

The fires of Ghost Town still burn from buried veins of ghost rock, howling like the souls of the damned and inhabited by agonized spirits. It is also home to the original Reverend Grimme’s hickory walking stick, which is one of the few weapons capable of killing him. Interestingly the main quest of the Flood does not involve visiting this forsaken locale, for the plot has another means of killing in mind for good ol’ Grimme.

Goodwill, Harmony, & New Opportunity: Although a supernaturally-oriented alternate history, Deadlands has long struggled with portrayals of period racism and the ideal way to handle it in order to not impact the enjoyment of gaming groups. The writers by default opted for making the Weird West a “post-racial society” where genuine bigotry is the province of individual villains rather than systemic institutions or widespread sentiment.

But alas this is applied in a haphazard way. Besides the unfortunate implications of whitewashing the Confederacy’s reason for war, widespread racism towards Chinese immigrants and Native Americans is still en vogue. For the former, the Chinese are still segregated from white society and more or less live in their own towns and enclaves. Where their people stand in California is a subject of debate among the immigrants: traditionalists came to America to make a living as miners and send the proceeds to family back home and thus hope to one day rejoin them. The New Tomorrow Triad sought a different way.

Instead of becoming gangsters like their counterparts, the New Tomorrow entered into legitimate businesses and formed prosperous communities in northern California. Their settlements have positive-sounding English names such as Goodwill, Harmony, and New Opportunity, and at Fear Level 1 they are among the most pleasant places in California to live. Their stated goal is to assimilate Chinese society into white society, from adopting Western names and modes of dress to even in some cases the Christian religion. This is done in the belief that they will gain greater respect and legal rights. One of its most popular members is the martial arts hero Feichei Li, or Suitcase Lee for his trademark battered suitcase which he uses as a weapon and shield in combat. It is also used for the more mundane purposes of holding his clothes and copies of the New Tomorrow Triad’s speeches.

Naturally the traditionalists look down upon them for “betraying their culture for barbaric practices,” while the penny dreadfuls in the Eastern United States are all too willing to portray the New Tomorrow as Yellow Peril-style sinister invaders seeking to infiltrate the United States. They’re at odds with the other Triads who they assert project a bad image of their race.

What I Changed: Sooooooo...where to start? Although the model minority status of East Asian Americans is a whole subject in and of itself, I rather found the New Tomorrow distasteful for multiple reasons. They’re more or less the only outright “good guy” Chinese faction in the Flood and whose communities are more or less better than Shan Fan and the other Chinese settlements which are pretty much overtaken by criminal gangs. It also has a double-standard of contradicting Deadlands’ presumed post-racial attitude, while also sending the message that the New Tomorrow’s relative prosperity is because they started “acting white.”

When I ran the Flood, I replaced the New Tomorrow Triad with the real-world Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. They were a conglomeration of six San Franciscan business associations who sought to protect their people from racist violence and provided legal protection as well (via the use of white lawyers). They also combated the negative influence of the criminal tong gangs by offering youths alternatives to a life of crime and rescuing women from sexual slavery. Unlike the New Tomorrow they did not seek giving up of cultural values as a primary goal and found them to be a better option than what the campaign gives.

Gomorra: Located between Shan Fan and the Devil’s Armpit sits the scorched ruins of Gomorra. Once known as Doomtown, it was perhaps the greatest gathering of scum and villainy in California, and with the Lost Angels and Triad as competition that’s saying something. From the inbred sorcerous clan of Whateleys to demented carnies and mad scientists unfettered by bioethics, Gomorra was no stranger to violence and crime. But its legacy went up in flames, literally, when the Collegium of mad scientists exploded and left an oversized crater in their wake. The town’s central clock chimes 12 times at midnight but does not otherwise function.

Fun Fact: Gomorra was the setting of Deadlands card game. Gomorra on a meta-level was an in-universe explanation for how said game’s otherwise far-flung factions were close enough to engage in Mexican standoff style street battles. Although it had a sourcebook of its own in Deadlands Classic, unfortunately due to metaplot reasons Dr. Hellstromme sabotaged the Collegium to take out the rival faction of mad scientists before they could grow to be a threat.

It seems that Pinnacle Entertainment realizes how much of a missed opportunity in not bringing Gomorra to Deadlands Reloaded, so they wrote several mini-sourcebooks centered on NPCs and adventures within Doomtown as their latest releases as of 2018. However they take place before the Flood metaplot, so there’s still an official timeline to obey.

Junction: This normally-sleepy town of 23 balloons over 200 every two weeks when a freighter of the Great Maze Rock Miner’s Association shows up for its collection of ghost rock and precious metals. The money thus gathered is enough to keep the saloons and brothels going until the next biweekly shipment. The town has long sat within Grimme’s 75 mile radius but has been untouched due to the Lost Angels’ lack of a navy. But after the Great Rail Wars’ end and Hellstromme’s alignment with Grimme, the cult makes plans to take over the town.




Lost Angels: The political and spiritual center of southern California, the autonomous Free and Holy City of Lost Angels casts a dark pall over the region’s geopolitical landscape. Arranged in a pattern of concentric circles rather than the square-like grids common in Western settlements, all major roads lead to Reverend Grimme’s Cathedral in the town’s center. As the largest and most ornate of structures, there is no doubt as to who rules here. At Fear Level 5, the supposedly sacred city is one where just about every citizen is looking over their shoulder. The red-robed Guardian Angels are the town’s police force and eager to find any excuse to dish out punishment for heresy, and the lack of freedom of religion means that only Grimme’s particular brand of pseudo-Christianity is openly practiced. Just about everyone has a nagging suspicion that “something’s not right” in town, and people stay locked up in their homes at night due to reports of ambushes and attacks by unknown things in the city’s darkened streets.

Rock Island Prison is the major stockade for heretics, criminals, and those who know too much. It is this place where the Reverend’s inner circle can let down their hair and openly engage in the murderous cannibalism of inmates. Located on an island, the Prison’s natural defenses include giant sharks and saltwater crocodiles along with six Maze Runners. Steam gatlings and batteries of cannons man the walls. The prison has several blocks based on prisoner types, from common rabble, those who show gumption at being recruited into the Guardian Angels, to a few well-guarded cells that hold only the most dangerous inmates. Jasper Stone, the Servitor of Death and TPK Poster Boy of the Deadlands Universe, was once held here before inevitably busting out.

Lynchburg: Lynchburg sits on a huge mesa in the middle of the Great Maze, with networks of precarious rope bridges connecting points of land together. It doesn’t have much to set it apart from many other towns of its type save for one Mariposa Lil, the closest thing to the law in Lynchburg. The owner of a brothel, she is protective of her employees and will not hesitate to resort to violence if any customers get abusive or tricky with the girls. Mariposa also manages a local militia of vigilantes and is quite fond of the kind of capital punishment which gives the town its name. Unfortunately she is not concerned about justice so much as putting down any threats to her power, making her a dictator in all but name.

Mexicali: Once a popular border town and pit stop for cowboys, Mexicali has seen better days. Santa Anna, who in the world of Deadlands is still alive and general for Emperor Maximilian’s Mexican aristocratic government, is using the town as the staging point for a larger invasion of California. He is no stranger to the many dangers and power players of the state, so the general’s secret weapon is a so-called “Army of the Night.” Tens of thousands of zombies held in secret canyon complexes are herded into night raids against the Lost Angels.


Perdition: Technically not in existence until the third Plot Point adventure of the Flood, Perdition is made up of refugees from Ghost Town. After rebuilding far away from the still-smoldering ruins, they set up a town of sorts around Ore Collection Station #37 owned by Hellstromme Industries. It is a great irony that Perdition’s residents and their income are dependent upon the very same organization which destroyed their old home. In spite of its newness, Perdition already has a proper saloon, a hybrid church-schoolhouse, a telegraph office, and a rail station for the Wasatch rail company subsidiary of Hellstromme Industries. But it does not have a proper Mayor or Marshal yet, which causes many to worry about the lawlessness this will generate.

Peterson Sanitarium: Located on a lonely mesa overlooking the City of Lost Angels, the sanitarium is far from a house of healing. In fact, Dr. Peterson’s unorthodox methods cause more harm than good, for he’s using patients as tests for a “neo-flesh” experiment which he believes to be the genesis of a new life form. The fact that said life forms are made from the amalgamation of human bodies is of no consequence to the demented doctor.

Placerville: This former boom town went bust when the gold sediments in the nearby river went from yellow to dirty brown. Now the people make their living by scouring ghost rock for the benefit of the Shan Fan Triad, whose armed goons take a hefty cut of the profit in exchange for protecting the shipments.

Progress: This small community of mad scientists was once the number one place for catching up on the latest innovations in ghost rock technology. But when cash was coming up dry they resorted to building ships for the Church of Lost Angel’s fleet in order to fund their experiments. The gadgeteers here supply cheaper gizmos than Smith & Robard’s delivery service, but they’re more likely to malfunction so you get what you pay for.

Quarrytown: The entirety of the mines in this mesa town are man-made, an oddity in the Great Maze. Most on the hunt for ghost rock often find exposed veins in the cliff faces and dynamite them off to waiting barges and tugboats below. But Quarrytown’s smooth tunnels are deep enough that many miners can go for days without seeing the sun. In reality, the tunnels are very ancient and were once home to a tribe of Indians which discovered magic to bind Maze dragons to their will. Their civilization was wiped out by a cataclysmic tidal wave long ago, but the Maze dragons were sealed in underground caverns. That is, until the Great Quake of ‘68 lodged them free to now hunt California’s waters.

Sacramento: The Union’s political center in California, Sacramento’s 650-strong all-black regiment can only enforce their country’s power so far into the rest of California. The soldiers’ commander is Captain Clement Tyson, a black Union soldier who was rapidly promoted for his actions during the Civil War. Unfortunately, his career hit a dead end when he was transferred to Sacramento’s “negro regiment.” The soldiers are underfunded and undersupplied, and although they can march to Fort Lincoln’s aid President Grant is hoping this will not happen on account of their ranks being spread thin enough as is.

This is another interesting case of the Deadlands Plot Point Campaigns subverting the setting’s “no racism” rule. Although it doesn’t out and out say it, the real-world Civil War did give its all-black regiments comparatively less funding and support, and stationing a talented African-American climbing the ranks to a backwater station is pretty clear on what kind of bureaucratic resistance is keeping him from advancing to Major.



Shan Fan: The other large city in California besides Lost Angels, Shan Fan is a majority-Chinese city made up of millions of immigrants from the old country. It is built on the legacy of San Franciscan survivors of the Great Quake, financed by the Hsieh Chia Jên (Family of Deliverance) due to a need to create a new northern port in the state. Despite the organization’s flowery name it is more popularly known as the Shan Fan Triad, and they are the effective law and government of the city.

The Triad has its hands in all manner of businesses, both legitimate and not. It has a hierarchical system where a Big Boss oversees a group of six or seven Big Brothers who all control their own sections of city. The Rascals are the foot soldiers of the Brothers, handling local-sized affairs and serving as expendable muscle when gang wars flair up.

The Shan Fan Triad is far from united; the need to present a tough demeanor means that any showing of weakness, or losing business and territory to another gang leader, means that Brothers must answer challenges with sabotage and violence. Otherwise they give the impression that they cannot protect their own, which can result in their own rascals turning on him to take their place or other Triad members moving in on their turf en masse.

One of the few taboos the Triad abide by is a city-wide ban on occult magic. This does not cover typical folkloric religious practices or chi-based martial arts. Rather it involves magical rites which involve consorting with evil spirits, necromancy, and the “dark arts.” Most Triad members abide by this save for one Big Brother: Thin Noodles Ma, who is secretly a bonafide sorcerer under the tutelage of the rail baron Kang.

The current Big Boss is Big Ears Tam, who keeps his stately position by turning lower-ranking Triad against each other. He believes that having them fight over scraps will prevent up-and-comers from creating a united front against him. The two other power players of Shan Fan are Thin Noodles Ma and Rat-Siinner Hou. Thin Noodles Ma controls most of the brothels and sex trade in town and is a bonafide gourmand of wine, women, and food. Rat-Skinner Hou is a sadistic drug lord who got his title from skinning a snitch alive and sewing his flesh into a hat which he now wears all the time.

Beyond city politics we get a run-down of the major neighborhoods, such as the Red Lantern Town which is a favorite tourist spot for out of towners and the source of the bulk of Triad gang wars; the desperate Skids, populated by homeless and destitute people who lost their fortunes in the boom and bust cycle of ghost rock and gold rushes; the financial Taeltown center; and the industrial centers such as Prawn Valley’s fisheries and Stinktown’s tanneries and slaughterhouses.

Shannonsburg: The only place in California with a x1 price multiplier, the Confederate government is hoping to win the Maze’s hearts and minds with relatively cheap goods. The entire town is effectively afloat on government subsidies, and the other political factions in the region are doing their best to disrupt Shannonsburg’s supply trains. Such attempts inevitably turn public opinion against the attackers who are already tired of being price-gouged. A port town, Shannonsburg is protected by the 120 foot long C.S.S. Leviathan.

Sunken City (San Diego): Like Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Diego was the other big city casualty of the Great Quake. But unlike the former two it never got a spiritual successor and its legacy is a patchwork affair of crumbling underwater ruins strewn about the Great Maze’s water-filled passages. Its proximity to Mexico means that quite a few ironclad ships of said nation’s navy are here, along with the base of the pirate Capitan Sangre (Captain Blood) who acts as a privateer against US and Confederate warships. In regards to non-governmental affairs, more than a few salvage companies do business here, particularly mad scientists who sell various potions, diving suits, and other devices of varying quality for the brave and foolish.

37th Chamber: The 37th Chamber is a community of Shaolin monks who live meager and unassuming lives. Many people regard them as little more than a religious commune from Asia, but naturally there’s more to them than that. For one, the monks are spectacular fighters, and since chi-based powers are more plentiful since Raven’s opening of the Hunting Grounds the Shaolin disciples are some of the greatest martial arts fighters in the region.

Overall the Shaolin monks are self-sufficient and do not interact much with society. They do not keep much of value and their abilities to deflect bullets being a provable fact means that most outlaws know better than to tussle with them. The Shan Fan Triad has made attempts to recruit them to their ranks, although the gangsters’ materialism and immoral ways are not great selling points to Zen Buddhists.

The monks do break their one rule in regards to non-interventionism: the affairs of ghost rock. The Shaolin regard the substance as an abomination to nature and the universe, which is why they came to the Great Maze in the first place. They send warriors to sabotage weird science devices, mining communities, and others which make use of the substance. They do their best to minimize casualties from their raids: their priority is to make ghost rock mining economically unviable and discourage others from setting up shop, rather than motivating aggrieved miners and scientists to revenge killings from indiscriminate murder.




Van Horn’s Light: Maarten Van Horn came to the Maze to build a great lighthouse for the benefit of seafarers. Unfortunately the geography of the Maze and its huge canyon walls made it so that a lighthouse was of limited use, but adhering to the Sunk Cost Fallacy he began building it anyway. He died penniless 4 years later, but on the plus side ghost rock deposits were discovered beneath the lighthouse and miners built a community below it. The town gets its name from the landmark, and the lighthouse still works albeit at random intervals. Van Horn’s spirit is responsible, sensing lost souls and hoping to guide them to safe shores.




Maze Adventures

This section of chapter is a way for Game Masters to generate their own encounters and minor adventures on the fly. We first get a list of travel distances in miles between the major communities of the Great Maze. Geography-wise California is big: 1,040 miles from its northernmost to southernmost point, according to NetState. In Deadlands, going from Lost Angels to Shan Fan can take 400 miles, while going all the way from the Sunken City of San Diego to New Opportunity in Northern California can be as much as 700 miles.

The distances are given based on boat or train travel, while traveling on foot can multiply the distances by as much as 3 due to the innumerable channels, mesas, and confusing scattered array of rock and arch bridges which span the mesas.

After calculating travel times, the section provides a chart for determining knowledge of the Maze’s channels to see see if the base distance is multiplied in travel time. This is rather debilitating, as it is a Smarts roll with a -4 penalty if the navigator is not native to the Maze, and +2 if a main channel is used:

If a posse wanted to travel from New Opportunity to San Diego on foot primarily within the Great Maze, the actual miles traveled may be as as high as 6,300!



This system is not used when traveling over the solid land in California’s eastern half, or for very short jaunts. I personally did not use rule for my own campaigns. Quite a few of the Savage Tales and Plot Points take place within California’s “mainland” so to speak or close to Lost Angels’ environs. My party used the Iron Dragon rail line as their primary means of travel when push came to shove, departing on horseback or hiring local Maze Runner guides in the nearest port town when they got close to their objective.

Now we get to an Adventure Generator, meant to serve as dropping a quick low-preparation encounter. It creates the basic elements in a four-part step: first the Action Deck is shuffled and three cards are drawn for the People, the Trouble, and the Complications. The card’s value modifies the d20 rolls (which can ace) for the three.

The People represent the supporting cast, and can range from existing political factions of California (Triad, Lost Angels, government soldiers, etc) to more generic ones such as small independent towns, prospectors, Indian tribes, or even supernatural investigators from a group such as the Agency or Texas Rangers. If the encounter takes place at sea or involves a ship, there’s a table for determining the ship’s type as well.

The Trouble represents the central conflict. They can include being in a fight with another faction, being besieged by supernatural critters who have their own encounter table, planning a heist, survivors of a shipwreck, or even specters of a demolished vessel or ghost town.

We get an optional table for motivations representing possible goals of the supporting cast, which include the standard stock of love, money, revenge, politics, and all the meat and fodder of good storytelling.

Finally Complications are wrenches the Game Master can throw into the works to make this different from similar random encounter results. They range from freak weather suddenly pouring in, an epidemic sweeping through the area which gives risk of disease from close contact, one of the factions holding a local election asking the PCs to provide support, or a notable NPC showing up in town.

Thoughts So Far: Overall this section is quite good. The overview of California’s weird history and the many locales provide for good adventure fodder, and the cross-referencing of pages for main Plot Points and Savage Tales relevant to specific areas is very helpful. Not only does it act as an aid for Game Masters and provides the workings of a sandbox environment, it also gives a hint of how larger events tie into otherwise small-town burgs. It sits very well with the Western trope of how there’s always something happening even in the humblest of places.

The variety of locations makes for a good diversity of adventuring environments so that things will not feel stale. I like the interplay of various political factions in California, but being relatively restricted to specific areas of influence prevents things from feeling like an indecipherable game of political chess. Granted some groups get a lot more spotlight than others.

Join us next time as we cover the Flood Plot Point Campaign proper, an eight part series of rip-roaring adventure in America’s most Western state!*

*Geographically if not thematically.

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JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Cults: Scrappers



Degenesis Rebirth
Primal Punk
Chapter 3: Cults




SCRAPPERS

A Handful of Scrap

Do you to play a literal murder hobo – or just a hobo? Then being a Scrapper is just for you. The opening fiction is about a crazy, root-chewing Scrapper lady berating herself for delving into ruins that have been already looted (Scrappers even leave hobo graffiti to mark their passage). Then she accidentally finds... something she can't identify, but believes to be useful. She calls the other Scrappers who didn't chance upon this thing idiots.

Charming.



You wouldn't believe how many root products has this guy eaten in his life

Lost Knowledge

The first Scrappers arose from people who survived in the cities (which were universally hosed up). Crawling out of their basements, they learned how to read the weather and to protect from the elements. The first ones knew which bits of loot were the best (and what they actually did) and discarded a lot of stuff that later generations would come to treasure. I guess that’s the handwave to explain how there's still stuff to be found 500 years later.

Savior

More specifically, Scrappers arose from those people who ventured out of their settlements to search for materials and spare parts. These people are separate from Clanners because those guys just went for Stone Age-level of tech and stayed there. The book basically says that Scrappers are the ones that kept the flame of civilization alive, even if they got alienated from their villages.

quote:

The long, ascetic weeks in the ruins had alienated them from other survivors. In the villages, people kept complaining and clinging to old ideologies. Those people were so dependent. Whenever a water pump collapsed, there was a big clamor. Then, the Scrappers were on their way again, searching for surrogate aggregates in waterworks or filling stations.

They're very Vault Dweller, you see. Notice also how the book throws shade by calling people whose water pump broke “needy.” :jerkbag:

At The Same Time

MEANWHILE, IN AFRICA.

So, the coastal cities were hosed up by tidal waves. Yet reconstruction was ongoing. Children dived to the underwater ruins to tie ropes to useful stuff. The Africans looked at Europe and considered whether they had better stuff by the virtue of having non-coastal cities. So they prepared ships and sent expeditions to Franka and so on, where they looted interior cities and brought all the best tech back to Africa.

quote:

Soon after, steel bars were salvaged from the concrete and shipped away. Entire factories were dismantled and transported off piece by piece. Village after village and city after city, the Scrappers scoured Franka.
Africa flourished while Europe spiraled downwards into the stone age

I dunno if there's any connection between African Scrapper looting and European degeneration, as people descended to barbarism even in spots where no African ever reached.

Payment

Oh, hey, a side section!

So, the modern Scrapper is a hobo that brings things he doesn't understand to Chroniclers. And the internet lads are greedy for “the artifacts and the stream enclosed in them” - which means they're looking for data storage stuff, I guess. There's little haggling, as Chroniclers always have the upper hand (they can always say no). Scrapper cartel appraisers might help, but nobody knows for sure, and I'm not sure if we'll hear about them in the books.

In exchange for stuff, Chroniclers might give them data on a cache of Bygone artifacts (which they don't want to seek out for... reasons, even if Chroniclers would be better suited at not loving those up during recovery) or Chroniclers Scrip.

For the African Scrapper, the Neolybian is the friendly neighborhood pawnshop attendant. They take artifacts, melt down metals and so on. African Scrappers only accept payment in Dinar.

Craving for the Past

Anyways, within a few centuries, Europe had lost almost all knowledge of electronics and mechanics. This meant that it was a bad time to be a Scrapper, since actual scrap was worth more than a computer or such. You'd think random bits of metal would be easier to find and sell, but here we are.

quote:

However, the Europeans never gave up completely on the artifacts: the memory of the Bygones was supported by their gear, and where there was a will, there potentially was a way, too. The worship produced strange effects. Sects propagated the relics’ inherent magic, accumulated scrap, and prayed to it – with negligible effects. Others banned the artifacts as a symbol of exaggerated materialism that must have driven any divinity from the Bygone people’s lives. Naturally, the two groups didn’t get along very well.
The Scrappers were in the midst of it all, the piece of iron between anvil and hammer.

However, better times came as Judges drove the sects out of their protectorate (it's also the first time we're hearing about sects, as if we didn't have enough of categorization between Culture and Cult). Chroniclers set up trading posts. This lead to a wave of Scrappers again setting out into the ruins, as being a hobo is definitely a structured culture that can persist over centuries of nobody valuing scrap to just spring back to life when people start getting interested in computers and discarded Zunes again.

Faster

But while Scrappers in Borca waited for Justitian to eradicate stuff like the Cockroach Clan, Africans had already set up the looted machinery back home and looking at Purgare. Soon, they sent convoys into the country. They were said to be going from Rome to Naples, which is, the most purgatory region, what with all the anomalies and ticks?

Anyways, Scrappers hung to the sides of Siege Tanks, happy to strip the lands of white(ish) man clean:

quote:

The morale was excellent. Eternally oppressed Africa had thrown off its chains and climbed towards the zenith of culture over Europe’s dead body. Everyone wanted to be a part of this.

:rolleyes:

Lonely

Ever noticed that European Scrapper loots like this while African Scrapper loots like THIS? So yeah, these two sections detail the biggest differences between murderhobos.

European ones are loners. Their clothing is suited to blending into their environment. They work alone, digging up relics and taking their sleds back to trading posts when they're full. Sometimes, a Scrapper might have a companion or take on an orphan (called a “mouse”) since they can go into small spots where the adult can't.

Scrappers learn how to read the ruins, to catch glimpses of what life used to be in the Bygones – and if there were any survivors that might have taken their treasures with them. Scrappers appreciate their lonely lives, as there are fewer chances of social contact and loving up during such.

So yeah, these hobos are anti-social.

A rare few actually become mechanists, building rifles, traps, locks and other equipment that doesn't use electricity. Chroniclers don't like it: now, there's another group that has use for the artifacts instead of just selling them for whatever handful of scrip was thrown in front of them.



Aaah, nuuu, cheeky breeky, etc.

Strength

On the other hand, the African Scrapper is proud to bring glory and loot to his village, Clan or Culture. Scourgers might not like them and Neolybians simply use them as pawns, but who cares, there's valuable poo poo to be found.

And unlike the European misanthropic Scrappers, Africans care a lot about their community and home. It's important to stay with your buddies in hostile and barbaric Europe!

quote:

After a hard day in the dust, the Scrappers spend the evenings celebrating and laughing together, talking about homesickness and giving each other solace. Physical contact is very important to the Africans: they embrace a lot, and they touch each other while speaking. To see two male Scrappers hand in hand is not a sign of homosexuality, but signifies that they are good friends. Out in the field, they take care of each other and work together.

It's not gay if the Recombination Group canisters don't touch.

They're also fashionistas who wear colorful clothes with markings that express everything from Clan affiliation to ideas about life via what they wear.

African Scrappers: much cooler.

Next time: advanced hobotry

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