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Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy


Like Heroes, Wizards are individual units. They count as Armored Foot when rolling in combat, or Medium Horse if they're mounted.

Further, they count as TWO of these - as in, they roll attacks as if there were two Armored Foot/Medium Horse, and anyone attacking a Wizard needs to score two kills in order to kill a Wizard.

Wizards are also "invisible" - which again in this game means that they take zero casualties during the first round of a melee.

Wizards are also unaffected by darkness.

Wizards will grant a +1 bonus to die rolls of a unit that is joined with.

Wizards will cause units to take an instability morale check if it charges an enemy unit.

But all that's not even their true power or purpose

Magical Artillery

At the start of the game, the Wizard will choose whether they will hurl fireballs, or lightning bolts during the Missile phase.

If they choose to hurl fireballs, then the Wizard uses the Heavy Catapult rules:

The player calls out a distance and an angle, and rolls two differently colored dice - one for an undershoot, and one for an overshoot. The player picks the higher die and makes the "shot" fall farther or lesser, as appropriate. If the die are tied, then the shot lands exactly. A Heavy Catapult's shot has a diameter of 3.5 inches. Anything fully or partially within that area, is killed.

If they choose to shoot lightning bolts, then the player will call out a distance anywhere within 24 inches, and anything from that point, to 6 inches back towards towards the Wizard, gets zapped by the lightning bolt.

Regular troops are instantly destroyed by these attacks, but high-level fantasy creatures (including Heroes) are allowed to roll 2d6 against a certain target number to save against its effects.

Next: Wizard Spellcasting


Feb 13, 2012

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

Gifted and Talented

Gifts are a big deal, if you've been following the review so far. I described a lot of the Gifts various Careers and Legacies got directly because I wanted to give a good idea of what a Gift does. Gifts are the main form of character advancement and one of the fundamental building blocks of your PC; you'll be gaining Gifts as the story goes, along with extra Skill Marks, but Gifts will be doing the heavy lifting. Want to raise a base stat? That's a Gift of Increased Trait. Want to improve your armor? Gift of Improved Armor. Want to be tougher? Lots of Gifts for that. Want to be a specialist at something, or get in good with a group? Skill Gifts, Insider (Faction), etc are all available.

One thing I like is that skill gifts and faction reputation gifts are absolutely not nickel-and-dime tiny bonuses like they are in something like D&D; if a Gift is only giving you a situational bonus, it will almost always be a d12, which is the die that can theoretically succeed at any sort of hero stuff you want to get up to. Gifts are a big character resource, and so they give big boosts. If a Gift only gives +d8, it usually does something else of use. For instance, the Gift of Strength lets you carry one very heavy item without penalty (like wearing heavy combat armor, or carrying a machine gun). Thus, it's already doing some (very useful) work. Thus it 'only' gives +d8 to Fighting attacks (only Attacks; you cannot claim Strength on Counters) and physical activities relying on your strength. Similar, Cosmopolitan (as seem back in the Cross Cultural Background) gives +d8 to gossip checks, because it's also giving you insurance against social fuckups and letting you identify special faction powers much more easily.

Now, I obviously can't go into every Gift here; there are a goddamn lot of them. I've described the ones I've described so far in detail to give a good idea of what they can do, but we'll instead talk about the various flavors of Gifts you can take and how they interact with character building, we'll talk about the faction Gifts, and we'll talk about how you get new Gifts and generally advance your PC.

One of the big roles for Gifts is specialization. You'll notice the Skills and Traits in the game are very broad and provide a good base of dice. A character who is good at Fighting can do basic attacks with chainsaws, fists, laser knives repurposed from industrial cutters, rebar and concrete warhammers, primitive spears and daggers, elegant Xenharmonic energy whips, you name it. But what if you wanted to be really awesome at martial arts? That's where Gifts come in. I'm going to describe the Brawling 'tree' in detail because A: It's actually really awesome and I really want to play a Bravo some day and B: It's a great example of the differences between a skilled character and a Gifted one. It's also a good example of how you can pick out one or two Gifts from a tree and get a really cool special move or trick even if you don't go all in on it.

The base Brawling Gifts (though none of these Gifts require one another) are the ones you might remember from Bravo, Brawling Threat and Brawling Advantage. Brawling Threat lets you Threaten with Brawling weapons, so you can Counter enemies with your bare hands and provide an opportunity for buddies to include Tactics with their attacks; you're so dangerous as a martial artist that you're always 'armed'. Brawling Advantage gives you an effective extra action a turn to attack with a Brawling weapon (including knuckle-dusters, which you can attach to other melee weapons or pistols and use as a quick, accurate punch with this Gift) but you can still only take the same action once per turn; you may get an extra move to punch or kick someone, but that 'only' opens you up to move further that turn, or Aim (bonus to attack) and then also Guard (bonus to Counter/Dodge) at the same time. This alone can make keeping a knuckle-duster attached to the hilt of your space-saber or whatever worth it, or even the odds a lot when unarmed in a melee.

But what if you want to be even better? Or just want one really cool trick to use with your Fighting skill? You take Brawling Equalizer. This gives you a special Counter you can always declare when you have no weapon (or drop your weapon to do it) where you test Fighting against the enemy's attack at melee range. If you succeed, you inflict some flat damage and hitstun them (all hits generally hitstun, we'll be getting to that in Combat) and take their weapon, kicking it out of their hands or wrestling it away. You can see where either a specialist in martial arts or a character who's just good at Fighting but wants an extra trick might like that option. Especially as that character can Counter even without Brawling Threat. Brawling Finisher makes your Brawling attacks #Finish, a conditional usually reserved for chainsaws, which makes you cause a bunch of extra damage (+2, and for reference, 4 unsaved damage on an attack will knock someone out and out of the fight) when an enemy was already hurt, vulnerable, or otherwise off guard. Brawling Focus lets a character start in a boosted state called Focus (which normally takes spending a turn to achieve, or an exceptional success on Initiative) if they don't gently caress up their Initiative roll if they don't draw any weapons. And finally, Wrestling lets you add +2d8 to checks to grapple, strangle people, etc (all special moves are listed as 'Brawling Weapons', so you have things like a weapon rating for Suplexes) and makes any wrestling moves you do make a target Vulnerable. You might notice Brawling Finisher waiting to leap off the top ropes and elbow drop the guy you just rendered Vulnerable with Wrestling.

Now, the gist of this is, getting that whole 'tree' of Gifts costs a lot of character resources. You could start with most them if you were a Bravo who then spent all their Free Gifts on them. And what would you get if you did? A character who can, while mixed up in melee, Aim and Guard at the same time, Counter normally OR Counter to disarm people, render a foe vulnerable and disable some of their ability to fight back with a grapple on one turn and then break their neck or suplex them through a bulkhead on the next, and generally be so dangerous with their bare hands that they can keep up with characters with plasma swords. Any character who is good at Fighting will be solid in a brawl and able to hold their own in fistfighting action scenes. A character with a bunch of Brawling Gifts, though? That kind of character can make their bare hands keep up with space weapons and power armor just fine. This is generally the case with Gift trees for combat or non-combat: Skills and Traits are enough and you can be cool and good at a thing with those alone. Gifts are major extra powers and awesome tricks you can pull, representing special attacks and big stunts.

There are similar Gift Trees for Exciter weapons, which let you spend lots of heat to make special charged up shots and help you cool your gun. There are special Gifts for fighting with Power Tools (I wish Power Tools had more than 2 Gifts, because 'my power set is chainsaws' is something more games need) that let you make targets vulnerable and really go to town on breaking objects and doors. There are lots of Gifts for being a good leader and rallying allies. There's an entire series of Gifts about panicking and running around wildly, flailing your arms and being comic relief that causes mishaps for enemies and rallying allies with your antics. There are gifts for mastering power armor and exoskeletons. There are Gifts for inspiring yourself by blowing people up with grenades. Two Fisted Gun Tricks where you flank an enemy for yourself with your second gun! Charges, berserking, SERPENTINING, smashing people in the head with a rock so hard their head explodes, if you can think of a cool thing a space adventure hero could do, there's probably a Gift that does it.

There are also entire Gift Trees of secret techniques known only to Insiders (a Gift that grants +d12 to social checks with this faction, and +d12 to defeat their special tricks) for the factions. Metanoic Insiders can summon sentient bark armor and nature-based biological weaponry as the natural world tries to help them defend it, for instance. Rhax Portia Commandos (named for spider-hunting spiders) can combine lots more weaponry together into two-weapon fighting 4 armed attacks than any normal gunslinger (they can use 2 full rifles, or mix melee and ranged). Levelers can master the art of using industrial machinery for murder better than anyone else. Concord heroes can supercharge their science gear and coolant systems and make robots so smart they can see through walls. Remanence characters can do things no-one else can with Xenharmonic weaponry. That kind of thing. There are all kinds of special schticks for either PCs who are really big members of a specific group, or for dastardly Remanence space tyrants to use against them.

Now, as you might be thinking, the 2 Legacy, 2 Career, 2 Upbringing, and 3 Free Gifts you started with don't seem like enough anymore. You want more of these things. How do you get them? You get them through your Goals. You start the game with a Goal you described when you made your PC (Like 'Don't shame my family on my first deployment' or 'Get promoted' or 'Get out of my AMG slave contract') and when you achieve it, you get a Gift chosen to fill in some perceived weakness of your PC. You also get additional goals offered by the Host for the group as you go, with attendant Gift reward. If you accomplish a goal and don't like the Gift that came with it (Say the Gift was Insider with a small independent world you don't intend to be back to much) you can choose to 'Retrain' it and gain 5 EXP instead. You can also later Retrain other Gifts if you want to sell one back for some reason, though you can't Retrain Legacy Gifts.

Now, as for EXP, you need 10 to buy a new Gift (any Gift, though some might require Host approval). You can also buy a Skill Mark for 4 EXP. You gain 2 EXP a session. You get 1 for 'playing your motto', and I hate this. I hate every time a game tries to tie your base mechanical advancement to a subjective measure of whether or not you played your character right. Now to its credit, the player judges if they should get that EXP point, not the Host, so you won't run into the sorts of issues that can crop up with this sort of thing. I'd rather (if this step is necessary at all) this was given out instead for discussing if you think you played your character true to their concept or feel you have things you could do better, rather than being a binary 'was I true to my concept today or not' pass-fail thing. You get another EXP point for telling the Host how you felt the game went and/or declining to do so, so that's effectively an EXP point a session. I just don't like tying mechanical reward to this kind of thing; suggesting the group have a brief talk about roleplaying and how the story's going and if everyone's happy is a good idea, but I don't think it's necessary to link EXP gain directly to it.

Similarly, I don't like the Goal system being so completely central to advancement. I get the intent; it's to make a more organic and story-tied advancement track for the players, driven by what they try to do. It's also there because some Gifts really aren't worth quite as much as others; Resolve (get Will as an extra damage reduction die) is just plain more valuable than Insider (Random Indep Planetary Government) in most cases, but they didn't want to fiddle around with variable EXP costs and I respect that. Variable EXP costs and diminishing returns often end up straitjacketing characters an awful lot. I just feel the Goal system puts a little too much of character advancement in the hands of the Host. Yes, ideally the Host and players are in communication over character development and they're tailoring what Gift people get from adventures to be something that fits their concept and that the player wants and that fits the level of challenge involved in the Goal, but I'd have rather had a little more general EXP and left Goals as an extra 'arc bonus' sort of thing rather than the core of the advancement system. Yes, you can retrain Goal Gifts you don't like, but that's also effectively halving your EXP rate.

Also, from a simple writing point of view, I'd have liked to have seen more examples of Gifts being personalized from big Goals in the example writing in this section, because the one example given is 'Everyone gets Veteran (+d12 instead of +d8 for Aiming and Guarding, a great base 'I am a professional fighter' Gift), except people who already have it, who get a Gift that required Veteran instead'. That gives the impression you're not supposed to personalize Gifts beyond if someone already meets the pre-reqs, which I'm fairly sure isn't the actual intent of the system because that would risk homogenizing a group based on their adventures a lot more than I'd expect.

Next Time: Alright, a lot of this will make more sense when I tell you how to kill people with a chainsaw

Feb 13, 2012

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

Meet fascinating lifeforms, then kill them

So, combat is the most complex part of Cardinal, as it is with most RPGs. There can be an awful lot to keep track of in combat, even moreso than in Ironclaw, which was already pretty hefty. This is because Myriad Song really loves conditional effects and status conditions. A lot. Let's start with the basics first. I should also mention the little comic for the combat section is probably my favorite silly art in the book. It's a hardboiled sci-fi noir detective trying to rescue 'her' from being held hostage by a probable Aparrat agent as he goes to a seedy weapon shop, haggles with the owner, and wanders a gritty arcology. He ends up in a brutal gunfight with the doublecrossing Aparrat synth, and then rescues his precious, adorable little fluffy space pet; that was the hostage. He'll also be one of the book's sample PCs.

First, when a fight starts, people roll Initiative. This isn't to determine who goes first! This is to determine who was ready for a fight, hence why Danger Sense adds +d12 to this. Init is Speed+Mind, both rolled vs. a TN determined by how surprised you are by combat. Even if you were completely off-guard and taken by surprised by a sniper in the dark from 300m away, you still get a TN of 7, so d8s or better (or that d12 from Danger Sense) can still get you out of trouble on an 8 or better. Usually, if you knew a fight might be coming (you've been talking things up and people have been starting to put their hands near their holsters) you roll vs. 3. If you're not expecting a fight but not completely off guard (someone draws down on you in a double-cross during a business deal; you knew they were there but you didn't expect the gun to come out) you roll vs. 5. If you get at least one success, you can draw your sword or gun for free and be armed and ready as the fight starts. If you get 2 successes or more, you draw your weapon of choice and Focus immediately. We'll get to Focus. It's real good. If you get 0 successes, you don't have time to draw a weapon. If you get all 1s, you gently caress up bad and are also sent Reeling. You'll get real familiar with Reeling in time.

Note that as Init is rolled against a TN, you can Rote it to automatically get 1 success if your two dice maximized would've beaten the TN. And with a max TN of 7, someone with Speed d8 and Mind d8 (or a d8 in either and Danger Sense) can always skip rolling Init and just declare they're drawing their weapon. They only have to roll if they want the chance to start Focused.

Whoever initiated combat goes first. That means if you let the space mobster sitting across from you draw his blaster and don't shoot him first under the table, he's going to go before you no matter how many cool quickdraw tricks you know. If you absolutely know things are going to go to combat, it can be worth it to shoot first. You take turns as a side, too, so you go 'player's side' and then 'enemy side' (and maybe a third side if things are really complicated). Players move in the order they wish, as do enemies. So if you want one character to set something up and another to finish it, you can order your turns that way.

When you're in a fight and it's your turn, you first choose if you're going to act or you're going to Focus. A combatant who is Focusing is studying the fight around them and trying to find openings. They might also be charging their magic or bigger tricks; plenty of Gifts can be 'recharged' by spending Focus. You have to give up your entire turn to gain Focus, but a Focused character can take a single action as an interrupt at any time. If they don't end up doing so, they instead get an extra action on their next turn. If you're going to act, you get 2 actions. You cannot take the same action twice in one turn! So while Attack uses the same action cost as Guard or Aim or whatever, I cannot Attack and then Attack despite having two actions. This also applies if you have a Focus turn, or a Gift that's letting you take a free extra action of some kind. So our expert Brawler from the Gifts chapter who gets an extra free attack with a Brawling weapon can't attack twice in one turn. They can instead Aim, then Move, then Attack, or Aim and Guard and then Attack, or Rally a buddy and then Aim and Attack, etc.

We should also talk about Reeling immediately, because it's a really important part of combat. When you perform a huge stunt, or fire a particularly heavy weapon, or take a hit (even if you take no damage) you're sent Reeling. Reeling gives all foes a +d8 Concealment bonus against you and effectively stops you Counter-attacking until you're cured of it. It also ends your turn immediately. If something you do during your turn causes you to go Reeling (say you were snapping off a shot before running to a position where you were out of an enemy's line of fire and got hit by their counter) your turn ends, no matter how many actions you had left. On your next turn, one of your actions has to be Recovering and shaking off the Reeling effect. No matter how many times you take a hit, one Recover will get you back out of the Reeling hitstun.

You move by spending an action to Dash. You move up to 1/2 your Speed die (+1m if your Body is higher than your Speed) in a straight line, then can Stride an extra meter (or more, if you have Gifts that make you Stride/Dash further) in any direction. You can't Dash twice, because you can only do each action once a turn, but there are other movement options: You can Stride again if you only need to move a little further. You can Scramble by rolling your Body and Speed and any other dice that you get from Gifts, picking a die result, and moving that many meters. You can also Run, but that's a Stunt; we'll get to those. Stunts take only a single action, but immediately send you Reeling because they're the kind of thing that takes you off-guard. Best to do them as your second action for the turn. As you might notice, characters in Myriad Song don't move that fast by default; this is one of the reasons Rondo magic is very powerful. Being able to just bamf 10m to any location (and even further with other Gifts) or being able to reach out and drag a 100m away rifleman directly into melee with you through a portal are really big positional advantages.

You can Aim and Guard as an action. Aim adds d8 (d12 if you have Gift of Veteran) to your attack against a specific target, which is a substantial bonus. Guarding adds d8 (d12 with Veteran) to every defense you roll until your next turn. That includes Counters! If you're a really skilled character, running into a group of enemies and declaring you're Guarding and trying to counter them all to death is a viable option.

You can Control vehicles or pets as an action, too, giving them orders. This is also used to control some particularly huge guns. This is pretty clearly here to prevent having a pet from destroying the action economy, which is an important concern.

You can Equip an item (and put another item away at the same time). This same action is used to reload your weapons. Drawing Hidden weapons without something like the Sleight of Hand gift is a Stunt rather than an action; it takes time to grab your hidden knife from deep inside your coat.

You can also Rally allies with Will+Tactics (and +d12 if you have Leadership). Rallying helps you get rid of status effects (like being rendered Vulnerable), and helps you to cure the nasty Panicked condition. Characters get Panicked when they take more than one damage in a single blow, and it stops them from initiating attacks until it's cured. Panicked characters also cannot, themselves, Rally others unless they have the Gift of Comic Relief. Usually, if every enemy is Panicked, they'll run or surrender and the fight will end. Rallying is really important. A skilled Leader can also grant others Focus with Rally. Note that Rally also suffers range penalties; it's harder to yell at someone to get back in it when you're 30m away.

You can also Recharge a gift that requires an Action to recharge. There are a lot of Gifts that effectively 'bank' an extra action (like Rapid Aim, which lets you Aim without spending an action, but exhausts the Gift to do it, then you can recharge it with this action), or that represent a sort of special attack that you could easily ready again with a little effort. Note that Troodon can get Troodon Scream, which lets them Recharge a Gift as a free action if they roar/scream loud enough to sound like a gunshot. Also note 'only one of each action a turn' applies to Recharging. You can only spend 1 action Recharging a round.

You can also just Stand Up if you'd been knocked over. If you have the Gift of Acrobat, you can get up for free.

Then you have Stunts. As noted, Stunts are big moves that send you Reeling. Some Gifts will make a Stunt into a normal action, like how Doctors can bandage downed/hurt allies as a simple Action instead of a Stunt.

Drawing a Concealed weapon is a Stunt, as noted. Diving for cover with Hide is a stunt. If you successfully Hide, you improve any cover and concealment you're hiding in, and also probably break line of sight. Managing to get out of Line of Sight of all attackers will let you recover from being Panicked on your own, without needing to be Rallied, so crawling into a foxhole and hiding for a second can let you recover from taking a bullet and throw yourself back into the fight. Focused combatants have a chance to detect hidden characters!

First Aid lets you try to save a dying ally. If an ally took a hit that put them in Dying, they're down and bleeding out and need help. They might survive and stabilize on their own, but getting them medical attention is much safer. If you succeed at Mind+Academics vs. TN 3, you get them to stop checking to bleed out and immediately make their survival roll a lot easier.

If you Run, you move the max you could roll on Body+Speed and then your Dash. Note that if you're Burdened by carrying too much gear without the Strength to bear it, your Dash drops to 0. So your Run will also be slower. Then you're sent Reeling.

You can Reason with people to either force them to take a Focus Turn as they pause and think about attacking you further, or to knock them out of being berserk, or to get someone out of the much more serious Terrified effect and back to Panicked. Terrified is much harder to remove, you see, and immediately forces someone to flee, not just pause.

You can try to Scare multiple targets with Body, Will, and Presence, trying to give them Panicked or turn Panicked to Terrified. If you get 2 or more successes vs. their Body, Will and Presence, you can keep sweeping to and trying to frighten another target. If you recall that a fight often ends if all enemies are Panicked, this can be really effective if you're a scary, charismatic character.

You can try to Steal items off an enemy with Deceit and Speed vs. their Speed, Mind, and Observation if they're holding the thing, or TN 3 if they're not. As you might notice you're a little at a disadvantage to swipe someone's pistol out of their hand. If you have Sleight of Hand, Steal is just a normal action. Thieves can totally run around a battle stealing peoples' weapons.

You can also Taunt enemies or Trick them, trying to give them Enraged or Confused and get them to come after you, or trying to steal their Focus. There's actually a lot of social and thieving stuff you can pull in combat.

Also, anything else that's a really big, non-standard action could be ruled a stunt.

Now that we've got the base Actions out of the way, let's talk how you hit people. On an Attack, you strike out at an enemy with the dice your weapon says you should use. So say a fearless punch captain, Gellin Solan, is trying to punch someone with a Knuckleduster. It says it uses Will, Body, and Speed plus his Fighting skill. He thus rolls those trait dice, plus his Fighting skill and any Career/Legacy dice that would go with that for his attack roll. If an ally threatens his enemy, too, he also adds his Tactics dice from skill/Legacy/Career. If he Aimed or had other situational or Gift modifiers, he adds those in too. Most weapons use multiple traits! His target then declares if they're Dodging or, if they have a weapon equipped that Threatens, they want to Counter. If they're Dodging, they can claim Cover and Concealment against his attack if there's any nearby, rolling Evasion+Speed+any bonuses+any cover+any concealment. If they're Countering, they roll their own weapon dice against the attack and whoever wins gets hit. This means on a Counter, something is always going to happen. If you get a tie on a Dodge, the defender can retreat up to their Stride into cover or behind an ally or raise a shield (if they have one) to make the attack miss and win the tie. Otherwise, if they're in the open, they get hit.

Note on Counters: You CANNOT Counter against someone who can claim any degree of Concealment against you. Someone shooting you from a bush has an advantage. Similarly, since if you're Reeling everyone gets a d8 Concealment bonus against you (you can't make them out properly) you can't Counter while Reeling! Hitstunning someone can let your buddies pile on the attacks without worrying about return fire. You can otherwise Counter as many times as you're attacked during a round, but ONLY if you threaten someone. Most weapons Threaten shorter than they Strike; a carbine can shoot out to Long (100m) but can only Threaten and Counter at Medium (30m), for instance. Also note you drop all range dice if you're Countering. Enemies only get to include Range penalties with their Dodge, never their Counter. If you're in a Medium range carbine gunfight where you're exchanging Counters, no-one's using the range bonus to defend.

If you get hit, you take damage. Weapons usually do +X damage, where X is their base and then they do an extra point per success (die that beat the defender's highest showing die). You don't have HP in Myriad Song. Instead, you have Soak. Soak is based on your armor and Body, plus your Will if you have the Gift of Resolve. You roll your Soak dice vs. TN 3. Every success blocks 1 point of damage. Even if you take 0 damage from an attack, you still get sent Reeling. You can also have Invulnerability from heavy armor, which just outright negates points of damage. If you suffer 1 unsaved point of damage after Soaking, you get Hurt. 2 and you get Hurt and Panicked. 3 and you get Injured and Panicked. 4 and you're Dying and Panicked (and down). 5 and you're Dead. 6 and you're Overkilled, which not only destroys your gear and kills you, but Panics all of your allies within 3m as pieces fly everywhere. PCs get Combat Save and can buy additional other Saving gifts that can negate deathblows; minor characters can't. If you're Hurt, you suffer +1 damage on further hits since you're already hurt. If you're Injured, you suffer +2, making dying way more likely. It is, despite this, a fair bit harder to die outright than you'd think. Lots of foes will stop focusing on you if you're Panicking and can't directly attack (especially as Panicked characters can still Counter) and you'll often have time to run. Most fights end with one side with a few dead and the rest Panicking. Also note you can't get, say, Double Hurt. If you're Hurt and an attack would Hurt you again, it doesn't do anything.

God, that was a lot. And there's even more coming with gear!

Next Time: Suplex is a Weapon

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 19:33 on Jan 15, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

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

The Flood Plot Point Campaign, Part 1

Finally we’re at the main course, the glue which binds the whole thing together! This chapter covers the eight adventures of the Flood’s primary quest of overthrowing the Church of Lost Angels. But much like Skyrim and other open-world video game RPGs, you’re expected to do quite a bit of exploration and sidequests between most of them in the form of Savage Tales. In the case of Plot Point Seven a certain amount of Savage Tales are required to complete before moving onto the final adventure. Some Tales only show up after certain events in the Plot Points, but overall about half of them can be done at any time by the PCs when they’re in the area.

We get a summary of the eight Plot Point adventures, along with when and how they’re triggered. The entirety of the Flood is meant to take place within the span of 8 in-game months, from December 1879 to August 23rd, 1880. This is not set in stone but rather is is in keeping with Deadlands’ overarching metaplot.

1. The Hellbore

The first adventure of the Flood is interesting in that it doesn’t take place in California at all. Instead it’s on a Denver-Pacific train ready to cross the Sierra Nevada:

Boxed Text posted:

A few minutes ago you noticed an odd rattling. The staff of the Denver-Pacific must have noticed it as well, for the conductor in your car flipped a hidden switch and lowered armored shutters over your windows. He then flipped over a seat covering a secret compartment and pulled out a Gatling rifle. With a smile and a wink, he now takes up a position at the front of the car near a gunport you hadn’t noticed earlier.

You peek out the narrow slits in the armored windows. Mounted figures stand along a rise to your right. Indians!

As you ready yourself for trouble you hear a deafening screech, like nothing you’ve ever heard before. There’s no doubt it’s the locomotive’s wheels grinding on the tracks—the brakes thrown so hard you smash into the seat in front of you.

There’s pain, a dizzy sensation, and then the whole world tumbles around you, slamming your body up and down like beans in a maracca.

Everything goes dark for a while. Then you hear screaming. Not the screaming of your fellow passengers though—more like the howls of the damned. Ghost rock. You’d know that sound anywhere.

As you try to clear your vision you feel the heat of the burning ore nearby. You force your eyes open and find yourself lying in the shattered debris of the rail car. In fact, you can see the entire train sprawled along the tracks like some infernal iron snake.

Surrounding you are piles of burning ghost rock and the mangled corpses of your fellow passengers. Surely this is Hell.

A man runs by, screaming and blazing with flame. He stops in front of you and three arrows slam into him from the train’s right. The Indians are picking off the survivors!

What do you do?

The Indians are an Apache war party far away from home* and number ten in total, although only the war leader and 1 brave per PC directly attacks the party while the others are picking off survivors. The fight takes place among the burning wreckage of the train, with burning piles dealing fire damage to those unlucky enough to be pushed into them. Bulky items owned by the PCs are lying about and require a Notice roll to find, and the conductor’s gatling rifle can be found with 12 shots on said roll if a PC specifically declares they wish to look for it. None of the train car’s passengers survive at the end of this encounter.

*technically speaking northern Nevada is Shoshone territory, and the Apache mostly lived around the American Southwest

As for the Apache’s motivations, they follow the Old Ways and view the trains as as disturbing the earth spirits of the land. They did not cause the train to derail, but knew of a hollow point created by an underground tunnel in the earth which would cause it to collapse into a sinkhole. They used this as an opportunity to attack the train.

What I Changed: I wasn’t exactly keen to replicate the Savage Indian trope where Natives are little more than an encounter bump with no greater relevance to the plot. In line with one of my PCs’ Enemy Hindrances I replaced the Apache with members of a family of crooked cattle barons who caught word that said PC booked passage on the train. I also made Lacy O’Malley, reporter of the Tombstone Epitaph, the sole survivor of the train crash rather than having him encountered later.

The crashed train is stranded in the middle of Nevada’s Great Basin desert, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement. The PCs’ horses, if they have any, survived the crash. Investigating the hole reveals a literal underground railroad: a man-made tunnel going east to west, with the eastern side blocked off by a fresh cave-in. This is a secret project by Wasatch, a rail company subsidiary of Hellstromme Industries.* As said company is based in the mountainous terrain of Utah, they are secretly tunneling beneath North America’s western mountains in order to win the Great Rail Wars.

*Deadlands’ Standard Oil megacorp equivalent, specializing ghost rock and mad science.

It won’t be long before a resupply train will use digging machinery to rapidly clear the cave-in and will emit a very clear, very loud horn. This gives ample time for spelunkers to get off the tracks in time, no roll necessary. Along the way the PCs can encounter a silent bipedal automaton* guarding a side section of tracks who looks quite intimidating but won’t attack the party unless provoked: it’s been programmed to attack monsters and not humans save in self-defense. By the time they reach the now-parked train not very far away, they can encounter a Wasatch rail crew who ask the party to state their business. They want to avoid casualties because “the press is watching” and hesitantly welcome the PCs into protective custody. Even if a fight does break out they use cover and their head foreman tries to parley.

*a steampunk mecha

The train itself is very classy despite its underground confines: the rail car is luxuriously decorated with cherry wood and brass fixtures, along with a dining table set with real silver.

Partial Boxed Text posted:

But what really captures your attention are the two figures seated in plush chairs at the other end of the car. One is no doubt the famous Lacy O’Malley. He wears his trademark white suit and hat, though even from here and by the flickering candles you can tell it’s seen better days. He smiles amiably and tips his hat.

The other figure sits back in his chair with a clipboard in his hand. He wears a scarlet smoking jacket and puffs on a pipe. His face is hidden in shadows, but as he leans forward and his piercing gray eyes emerge from the darkness, there can be no doubt this is the famous Dr. Darius Hellstromme.

In an uncharacteristically open fashion for the man, Dr. Hellstromme submitted to an interview with the Tombstone Epitaph. He’s very confident that his plan will help win the Great Rail Wars and wants to get his side of the story out first to counteract the bad press his company’s been receiving. Demonstrating the power of his amazing intellect and unsurpassed technological acumen to the world is just a nice side bonus.

Hellstromme is rather talkative and explains the plans of his latest device: the Hellebore machine is in the process of digging tunnel through hundreds of miles of rock to lay the foundations for the underground tunnel and thus win the Great Rail Wars. He estimates that he’ll link an existing line into California in two days’ time and is happy to have the PCs along for this historic moment. He will not allow them to leave due to a desire to keep the project a secret, but is more than willing to hire them on as guards, laborers, etc along with food and basic supplies as a goodwill gesture.

If the party decides for whatever reason to attack Hellstromme, his two Harrowed bodyguards and six clockwork tarantulas will quickly move to defend him along with the rest of the Wasatch rail warriors. As one of the Big Bad Evil Guys of the setting,* he’s also got every Mad Science power under the sun and has a failsafe where if killed an automaton will take him back to a laboratory and transplant his brain into a robot body. That last part is not part of the adventure; it’s actually part of Hellstromme’s stat block in the Deadlands Marshal’s Handbook.

*and the one featured in the last Plot Point Campaign, Good Intentions!

Lacy O’Malley will also wish to interview the PCs, and the book plays up to not be too annoying with him and try to role-play him as such that the PCs get to like the fellow.

What I Changed: This is also part of why I had him in the wreckage in the adventure’s beginning; as the sole survivor and a recognized face in the West, he’d be what causes the Wasatch rail warriors to stand down and thus give Hellstromme an opportunity to do “good press.” This way, I gave our plucky Irish reporter a shared survivor status with the PCs while also demonstrating his usefulness rather than having him show up out of nowhere.

Our last encounter for this adventure involves an attack by tunnel critters, giant insect beings which lair beneath the bowels of the earth. They are weak individually but attack in packs and gang up on lone targets to bring them down.They are in the process of doing as much to Professor Haggerty, the mad scientist operating the Hellebore machine ahead of the train. The group is ushered to move forward to help. There are two juvenile tunnel critters per PC to fight.

This is not a hard battle: tunnel critters do not have any ranged or supernatural capabilities, a mere d4 Fighting die, and only deal 1d6 damage with a bite attack which is unlikely to wound heroes with an average Toughness save on an Ace or high roll. Competently-designed novice rank heroes should have little trouble: my own gaming group included a “wandering wuxia hero” martial artist who was virtually untouchable by the monsters due to his high Parry and a Martial Arts edge which prevented ganging-up bonuses. Our Harrowed with high Toughness and a huckster with a multi-target Fear power helped make short work of them.

The Wasatch crew is unfazed by the existence of such strange monsters, for they encountered much worse elsewhere underground. Hellstromme and Haggerty work to repair the Hellbore and resume course.

2. Dr. Hellstromme’s Wild Ride

This section begins with more boxed text, indicating that a week has passed since the PCs first ventured underground. Finally the Hellbore breaks through to sunlight. The rail crew celebrates as Hellstromme passes around bottles of champagne and people emerge onto the surface in the desert foothills of a mountain range. Inviting the party onto a steam wagon (steam-powered horseless carriage), he explains how they’ll have to fight their way into Lost Angels: the ruling Reverend Grimme has not agreed to any rail barons’ right of way and other companies are sure to be lying in wait.

The steam wagon stops in a Wasatch camp where Hellstromme gives another inspiring speech, then they load up on an actual three-car train known as the Good Intentions. It turns out that Hellstromme’s prediction was right, for agents of the Iron Dragon rail company are chomping at the bit for a fight. Notable for being the only company owned and managed by Chinese people, they’re the ones with the most track in California and the Pacific Northwest and thus Hellstromme’s biggest competition in the region.

What I Changed: I put Hellstromme’s Good Intentions rail car not far from where where the Hellebore penetrated the ground. This cut down on unnecessary exposition and travel while also being well within a genius mad scientist’s calculations.

The Iron Dragon rail warriors pull no punches. Red Petals Su, Kang’s second in command, is arriving by a flying autogyro and is is trying to line herself over the train’s engine to drop a bomb. Meanwhile, 2 steam wagons bearing a total of ten martial artists, a pair of drivers and sharpshooters (one manning a gatling gun, another a flamethrower) come up on both sides of the train. One of the wagons also bears a Chinese Ogre, big and beefy monsters Kang and some among the Triad use as bloodthirsty yet effective enforcers for special missions. Hellstromme will be barricaded in a ghost-rock armored caboose barred to entry along with three guards manning gatling guns, leaving the party to move about the rest of the train.

This is a noticeable upturn in lethality from the tunnel critters. There’s an awful lot of enemy NPCs to do actions, although the major advantage PCs have is cover from the train as well as the clustered bundling of enemies due to the steam wagons’ limited size. The Chinese ogre is a beast in melee but has no way to retaliate against ranged attacks. My party caught on to this and plugged the big guy full of lead in between tossing dynamite and making called shots to the wagons’ ghost rock boilers (which if they take enough damage will explode in an AoE burst).

The PCs have aid from the soldiers’ gatling guns, but also in their favor favor are small mechanical robots which fly out of Hellstromme’s ghost rock-armored caboose to grab them if any fall off the train. They’ll take a lot of damage even if they fall out (4d6) but they won’t be out of the fight if they survive. As for Red Petals Su, her role is a bit of a railroady red herring: She’d suffer a -4 penalty to hit if it matters due to her vehicle’s speed, and the party has several rounds to shoot at her. The adventure even says that she is not meant to blow up the train in the first place! If hurt badly she’ll dive out of sight as the autogyro steams smoke. She is incapable of death due to literal plot armor: no, nothing like black magic or Hellstromme’s SCIENCE, the text just has her gyro fly out of sight.

3. Out with a BOOM!

The Good Intentions’ tracks slow down as the locomotive overlooks a hill leading down into the city of Lost Angels. Banners of the other five rail companies are everywhere, who even if they do not personally have tracks this far out spared no expense in hiring help to sabotage their competitors. Grimme’s own Guardian Angels several hundred-strong line the city’s outskirts flanked by two giant bonfires. The good Reverend stands silent among them, his long white hair in contrast with a cleric’s vestment of deepest black. Stopping at a makeshift fort, Hellstromme gives another speech to the PCs of how they are standing at the forefront of a momentous historic event and how even the Reverend Grimme cannot stop progress. With only the ‘negotiations’ with the latter as his last thing, the Weird West’s pre-eminent mad scientist instructs the PCs to...retreat to a camp in the rear and stay away from the battle. He gives them a hearty goodbye with well wishes.

The brief Battle of Lost Angels is only quickly surmised with boxed text of frantic chaos, describing each of the rail company’s unique edges from Black River’s Wichita Witches throwing spells around to Bayou Vermillion’s zombie hordes running amok. It doesn’t matter what the PCs do in these few minutes of chaos, as the battle is happening around them and they cannot personally affect its stakes.

Yay metaplot!

Eventually some real action happens when Lacy O’Malley shows up. He is quick and to the point: he has a friend named Sam Hellman in mortal danger in the City, and with Grimme’s Guardian Angels occupied this may be the best chance to rescue him. He plays on the party’s conscience, having seen how they handled the tunnel critters to know that they’re competent enough to handle trouble.

When the PCs accompany him, venturing into the city is no challenge at all. In fact it’s a veritable ghost town as most civilians stay inside, with but a few packs of rabid dogs as the obvious signs of life. The PCs have a chance at encountering patrols of 5 to 10 Angels who will shoot on sight.

Boxed Text posted:

You hear voices coming your way. Looks like wounded returning from the battle. Moments later a wagon drawn by two mules emerges from the gloom, and you hear the whining of dogs. Fifteen Guardian Angels escort a wagon that’s completely full of a heap of something, but under the cover it’s impossible to tell what. “Whoa,” murmurs the driver, and the wagon stops uncomfortably close to your hiding spot.

Two Angels leap down, leaving a woman to observe from atop the wagon. She’s dressed in white, with her hair pulled back into a severely tight bun, and she says not a word. “Thank the Lord it’s you, Sister Andrea,” exclaims one of the walking wounded, “We thought we were goners. Can you—?”

Abruptly one of the Angels knocks the man senseless with a blow to the face. All eight of the red-robed enforcers surround the wounded like a pack of wolves, beating them with clubs. “Help!” shouts a man in terror, “Please God no! Don’t take me there! Anywhere but there!!”

His pleas go silent, and there’s only the sound of wood clubbing meat for a few seconds. Then the Guardian Angels drag the unmoving bodies over to the wagon, shooing away the dogs, and toss them onto a growing pile of humanity.

The woman looks around once, eyes hard as flint, satisfied the event wasn’t observed. The wagon clatters off into the night, as Lacy O’Malley’s mouth hangs open in stunned disbelief.

The book somehow assumes that this tells the PCs and Lacy the truth about Rock Island Prison and the Lost Angels’ cannibalistic rites, although this is a poor way of showing it. It illuminates the Angels as murderous thugs, but there’s no direct indication that the corpses are meant to be consumed. They could just as easily be taking their curfew orders fanatically, a coup among Angels given the wounded recognized Andrea and seemed comforted by her presence, or any number of other reasons bad guys turn on their own.

If the PCs try to intervene, they have to fight Andrea Baird, 15 Guardian Angels, and another 10 Angels in 1d6 rounds if gunfire or loud noises are exchanged. This is not meant to be a fight they can win, but rather to run away from if caught.

Sam Hellman is not staying at the boarding house where O’Malley expected to find him; the single clerk there has nothing to tell the party and Hellman’s room is tidy and shows no signs of disturbance. O’Malley will be freaked out and want to leave soon, and the clerk will summon more Guardian Angels to ambush the PCs unless they somehow ensured his silence or loyalty. Bribery works in this case, for he’s no fanatic. Even if they sneak out successfully they’ll have one more combat encounter with a flight of Guardian Angels. A high-ranking priest by the name of Rooster Peterson leads them, and he can summon a bloody zombie via an enchanted bone fragment, something all high-ranking Angels have on their person in case of trouble.

With little to show for their expedition, the party is about to either high-tail it out of the place entirely or return to the safety of the Wasatch fort, but this is cut short when Hellstromme plays his trump card. Bringing a decisive end to the Great Rail Wars, a fleet of airships soar through the sky. A grinning Dr. Hellstromme visible from the Good Intentions leaves no doubt as to their allegiance. Passing over the outskirts of the city, the airships drop three objects onto the masses of fighters below, emitting an audible trademark wailing-of-the-damned sound ghost rock devices are known for.

Yup, Hellstromme just dropped ghost rock powered pseudo-nukes.

Horrified at this act of barbarity, Lacy O’Malley goes charging into the still-hot fires of Ghost Town, proclaiming that there’s innocents in need of help. Those who accompany O’Malley will need to make Vigor rolls to avoid suffocation from smoke inhalation. They can save a few people, but the neighborhood as a whole burns.

Having done all they can, Lacy plops down by the heroes’ side as the town burns. He congratulates them for the heroism they’ve displayed, and explains how it’s clear that there’s evil in the world and not just the obvious kinds of mortal men’s follies. Lacy has an inkling that a lot of said evil is somehow connected, and he’s part of an organization dedicated to fighting it. Showing them a signet ring with a crossed torch and sword, he identifies it as a membership mark of the Explorer’s Society which poses as a gentleman’s club and fraternity of mutual aid. He explains how the Union and Confederacy already have their own groups for handling not-so-natural terrors, but the Explorer’s Society is unaligned from them and doesn’t discriminate. He mentions that the ring can help them with local authorities in the know in case they have to commit minor crimes when putting a stop to supernatural phenomena.

Lacy gives them directions and instructions for how to join: a British man by the name of Captain Roderick Pennington-Smythe is headquartered in Shan Fan who helps induct new members, and to mention Lacy’s name when asking for him. Finally, he points out that Page 13 of the Tombstone Epitaph is used to tip off Explorer’s Society members to strange goings on and people in need of help. They take the forms of advertisements and warnings labelled with GOOD INTENTIONS headings. It’s implied that the Epitaph’s newspaper updates regularly with such ads, but we get an in-game player handout listing all of them:

Barring 3 exceptions which are mini-plot arcs in their own right, this is a list of every Savage Tale in the Flood,* an in-universe way of tipping the PCs off to the campaign’s various side-quests. I really like this, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the adventure path. Oddly enough the future 3 Plot Point Campaigns did not replicate this: the PCs do not join the Explorer’s Society in them with the possible exceptions of Good Intentions, so that may be one explanation. The Last Sons still has Help Wanted missives, but not all of them relate to the Savage Tales and they’re not in one convenient handout. The Savage Tales of Stone and a Hard Place and Good Intentions are more or less meant to be stumbled upon by the PCs.

*and one main Plot Point which is the one in the upper left corner

What I Changed: Hoo boy where to start. The default part of having this big historic climax to one of the setting’s long-running struggles deserves more PC interaction than this. Additionally, the ghost rock atom bomb if handled as is will make the PCs focus on Hellstromme even though Reverend Grimme is the main villain of the campaign. Yeah, there’s that scene with dead bodies being loaded into a wagon, but that does not carry the sheer emotional impact of their employer literally razing a city (or at least the poor section of town). The fact that the PCs had face to face interactions with him in the last 2 adventures makes him a more personal villain than the distant Grimme. There’s a very real chance a gaming group will be going after the wrong BBEG here.

I changed quite a bit in this particular Plot Point: first off I had it so Bayou Vermillion technically beat Hellstromme to the punch. Thanks to said rail company’s undead labor force they laid down tracks the fastest and set up a depot right outside Lost Angels, technically making them the winner of the Great Rail Wars. But Grimme and Hellstromme were in secret communications and the latter had a better deal to offer than the Southern necromancers.

Hellstromme asked the party to do one more favor: deliver a large sealed box into town to deliver to the Church of Lost Angels. Said box contained a mad science device which acted as a primitive radio beacon and thus give the autogyro bombers a target. The PCs had one, but Hellstromme isn’t putting his eggs all in one basket: his agents had two other boxes to deliver to areas in Lost Angels bearing Grimme’s political opposition. The boxes would target Lost Angel’s Chinatown (technically Ghost Town, but picked a name which would bear more immediate significance to the players), the headquarters of the city’s opposition party who I later made the Men of the Grid, and finally the Bayou Vermillion Rail Depot. This last one was important, as without a functional rail line said company couldn’t claim the exclusive US/Confederate contract while Wasatch can.

Through the party’s huckster’s Hunch along with feelings that things were afoot (the person who picked up their package was Sister Andrea Baird of Grimme’s inner circle), the PCs figured that some stuff was about to go down but chalked it up to an internal church power struggle. Not being fond of the Church, whose zealously violent ways were common knowledge in the setting if not their cannibalism, the PCs found out about the boxes’ location and Grimme’s deal via some sleuthing and had enough time to take care of one of them. They opted for Chinatown, figuring it had the greatest number of innocent people. Some of Hellstromme’s unwitting X-Squad troopers (mad scientist rail warriors) were standing guard, unaware they were to become sacrificial lambs. The party had no mechanically-inclined members among their ranks at the time, so they disabled it via brute force.

The bombings would thus serve a dual purpose: get rid of Grimme’s enemies right in his home and hand the Great Rail Wars over to Hellstromme, while being plausible enough to be brushed off as indiscriminate casualties wrought by the multi-sided Great Rail Wars. The ghostfire bombs would also act as a deterrent against the United States’ encroachment of Deseret, much like the atomic bomb IRL (in my campaign we used the Dead South campaign variant, meaning there was no Confederacy.

4. Big Trouble in Little Shan Fan

Savage Tales: At this point in the campaign a little over half of the Savage Tales listed in the Epitaph are able to be accessed. The other half not unlocked yet are five* involving the glyph hunt (which unlock after Plot Point 7), Treasure Hunters (unlocked after Plot Point 4), Flesh of the Mad Monk and Long Live the New Flesh (unlocked after Plot Point 5), and The Battle o’ Junction and Ballots and Bullets (which trigger after a few months of in-game time passes since the Battle of Lost Angels).

*The three arc-length Savage Tales tie into the glyph hunts, which would technically make them eight.

This is where the Flood Plot Point Campaign gets off the literal railroad tracks and really opens up. The main adventures are further spaced out between each other instead of occurring right after another, giving the PCs relative freedom to go about California on their own. There’s no timetable for them to get to Shan Fan, and the book recommends tossing them a Savage Tale and several stops at locations along the way even if they wish to make a beeline for the Explorer’s Society.

The Iron Dragon Rail Line starts out from Lion’s Roar and goes through Shannonsburg, with the 37th Chamber nearby before going up to Dragon’s Breath and then finally Shan Fan. Quarrytown and Lynchburg are in the Great Maze proper, and a huge amount of Savage Tales actually take place within a few miles of Lost Angels’ environs. And given the above selection, there’s quite a bit to choose from!

When the PCs get to Shan Fan and want to find the Explorer’s Society, they have to ask around in Chinese (any dialect) and make a Streetwise roll at a hefty -4 penalty. On a success, they learn that the Society lodge burned down under mysterious circumstances and people suspect they ran afoul of the Triad. They’re pointed to Long-Haired Tony for more information, who explains that most of their order left town but he reckons one of them is holded up in the Sunrise House hotel.

Here’s the shindig on what’s going down: there are two Explorer’s Society members in Shan Fan. The one in the hotel is Rutherford Ellington Dillenger, and his partner Roderick Pennington-Smythe is currently in the custody of Thin Noodles Ma’s goons. Said gangster entered into an alliance with Warlord Kwan, who wanted a pendant in the Society’s possession stolen and brought to him. Naturally the Explorer’s Society was unwilling to part with this item for it is actually the Amulet of Rahashimir, a talisman of fell power capable of bringing back the dead but only for truly evil souls. The gangsters reacted by burning down the lodge, causing the members to scatter. Unfortunately the talisman is indestructable to all manner of natural and supernatural means, so Pennington-Smythe tried to discard the amulet in the hills outside of town before he got kidnapped. Now Dillinger is holed up in the hotel at a loss for what to do until the PCs show up.

The adventure has no explanation for what happens if none of the PCs speak Chinese or succeed on the roll; I presume they have to keep rolling or hire a translator, which kind of defeats the purpose as otherwise the entire questline is put on hold.

Boxed Text posted:

Dillenger has taken a suite in the hotel since the lodge burned, and has hired a group of five armed guards. The guards are former gunmen of the Great Rail Wars, so they’re rough and ready for action, but they’re also mostly worried about attackers of the Oriental variety and won’t pose much of an obstacle to the posse. A simple Persuasion roll should suffice for most parties to move past these “gentlemen.”

Besides the assumption that no gaming groups will have a Chinese PC in spite of said sourcebook giving many mechanical options for martial artist characters, this is a rather eye-opening entry in that it once again breaks with Deadlands’ ethos of having racism be the dominion of individual villains and the most ignorant of people. These hired guards are in the employ of the good guys, which kind of throws a gear in that wrench even if they’re tough mercs for hire.

If the PCs manage to earn Dillenger’s trust (likely by mentioning why they were sent), he opens up and tells the party what he knows. He asks for help but is reluctant to financially compensate the heroes; he can cough up $200 if push comes to shove.

To search for Pennington-Smythe’s location. the PCs can roll Streetwise checks at a -4 penalty in a similar manner to the above. They can even approach Big Ears Tam and learn that Ma’s holding their quarry in a safehouse in the Skids. The adventure’s rather vague on how the PCs can get an audience, but also that he has no trouble giving up this information as he views this as a test to see how Ma handles troublemakers. If Ma can’t keep troublemakers from snooping around, he “has no business serving in Tam’s glorious army." Tam is unaware of the amulet or Ma’s machinations, or else the “no black magic” law of Shan Fan would certainly land the latter in hot water. Not that Tam is likely to believe a group of newcomers versus the words of an established Big Brother.

The safehouse itself is guarded by eight tong gangsters. They’re all Extras with Veteran Martial Artist stats but no supernatural chi powers, so they shouldn’t be too hard to take out. Four of them stand guard outside while the other four are keeping a close eye on Pennington-Smythe. Once freed he thanks the party in a very dapper British manner and a dusting off of the monocle. He explains that he was kidnapped by the gangsters because he knew the whereabouts of an artifact they wanted, but one of their sorcerers read his mind and dispatched a team to reclaim it. He asks the PCs’ help in retrieving it without delay. He won’t identify the artifact as the Amulet of Rahashimir unless the PCs explain that they heard about it from Dillinger.

The Wailing Hole

Captain Pennington-Smythe was not exactly thorough in ensuring the amulet wouldn’t fall into danger. The cave he dropped it into gave life to a very strong, wicked spirit known as the Wailing Doom who helped Raven trigger the Great Quake. Its ghastly wails emanate out of the subterranean reaches, which can be mistaken for escaping air or wind from underground but still sounds creepy as hell. Thin Noodles Ma sent his most trusted lieutenant, a half-ogre known as the Ox, along with a group of gangsters to retrieve it from the hole. All but Ox were pulverized by the Wailing Doom’s stony blows, and now Ox is hiding from the thing in fear of his life.

Being a sort of miniature dungeon crawl, the Fear Level here is higher at 4 than the rest of Shan Fan, which is normally at 3. The Flood does this for locations and dungeons that are spookier than normal, which is a nice touch to illustrate when party members step through the threshold of darkness.

The Wailing Doom will not attack the heroes immediately. Only after they go further into the cave will it try to ambush them. It is a full-fledged boss: it has a whopping 1d12+6 Strength, and its smash attack deal an additional 1d6 damage meaning it can very easily knock out the average PC with a solid blow. Its Toughness is 17 and it has 6 points of armor which cannot be negated by Armor Piercing attacks, making it practically immune to most firearms.

There are two sticks of dynamite among the bodies of the tongs which can be found via a raise on a Notice roll, and every round in combat Pennington-Smythe can make a free Knowledge (Occult) roll. On a success, he figures out the Wailing Doom’s weakness unless the PCs already did: the center of the spirit’s forehead holds an unpolished garnet between its two black eyes. The stone can be targeted via a -6 penalty, but if at least 10 damage is dealt to it this kills the Wailing Doom in one blow. Otherwise the most likely avenues of destruction are bundles of dynamite or heavy-hitting spells which ace on their damage.

Ox will either try to steal the amulet during the fight (it’s implied to be lying somewhere nearby) or joins the PCs in fighting the Wailing Doom as an unlikely ally. His first priority is survival and completing his mission, in that order.

After the Wailing Doom is killed and Ox is dealt with, the PCs can recover the amulet. A Notice roll identifies a series of glowing runes on a nearby wall, appearing much like a lightning bolt symbol in luminescent paint. This is the symbol for earthquake among Native American tribes of California, and can be IDed by PCs who lived among said cultures.

Victorious, a grateful Pennington-Smythe (or Dillenger in the event of the former’s death) officially inducts the party into the Explorer’s Society. He explains that said Society traces its roots back to the Twilight Legion, a fellowship of monster hunters and purgers of supernatural evil which traces its roots back to Ancient Rome. It has undergone many different names in different cultures since such as the Sons of Solomon or the Rippers. The societies are independent and often know nothing of each other, connected only by records and oral tales hinting at common origins.

Pennington-Smythe also explains that what they know of the hidden conspiracy of evil is that it is called the Reckoning, those behind it are known merely as the Reckoners, and that it happened very recently in history. An upsurge of all manner of supernatural events and monstrous creatures has been sighted since around the last decade. It’s a worldwide phenomena, but a concentration of such creatures and events is occuring around the American West. He’s also willing and able to answer unrelated questions, like what kind of monsters he’s fought (all sorts, from Chinese folkloric demons to lovecraftian beasts and demons wearing human flesh), as well as his thoughts on the Agency and Texas Rangers (agree with the need to suppress the truth to prevent panic, but too ruthless in their methods).

With this adventure complete, the PCs are now on their own. They are not given any leads immediately for the next Plot Point: it is meant to occur an indeterminate amount of time after the PCs get their fill of Savage Tales.

Fun Fact: Although it’s not part of the Deadlands universe, the Weird Wars Rome setting by Pinnacle Entertainment featured a Twilight Legion with a night-identical mission statement. They were a secret society among the Roman government which recruited Legionnaires, politicians, and other connected people who not only encountered supernatural dangers but were willing and able to fight them.

One of Pinnacle’s other game lines, the Rippers, details an organization of the same name operating out of Victorian England. In addition to scientific and magical aid, some of these monster hunters incorporated the body parts of slain beasts “ripped” from their flesh to enhance their own abilities.

Thoughts So Far: The Flood’s main adventure begins rather railroady in a very literal manner, but it opens up immeasurably after this. The first two adventures do a fine job of establishing the game’s basics and strike a good balance between action and role-play, but the third adventure takes a nose dive in quality as the PCs literally sit out the meat of the action and quite possibly get misled about the campaign’s major enemy.

What’s even weirder is that Hellstromme more or less disappears from the campaign afterward. His rail warriors and X-squad troopers do not make any further appearances in the Plot Point, and the only Savage Tale which tangentially involves them has the PCs accepting a job offer from them. Which is...odd, given how the ghostfire bombing established Hellstromme as an evil SOB.

Plot Point 4 was better in that it was different enough from the previous ones and had a more sleuthing feel with a new villainous group to fight in the Triads. But the investigation portion suffers from the common tabletop adventure curse of “make a skill check or else you’re stuck.” The fight against the Wailing Doom was challenging and high-stakes for my own group, and the whole joining a secret society along with a literal handout of sidequests was pretty cool.

Join us next time as we cover the last half of the main Plot Point Campaign!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 00:02 on Jan 16, 2019

Feb 13, 2012

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

Galaxy of Guns

Of all the games I've covered, I think Myriad Song has the biggest emphasis on equipment. Yes, WH40KRP was full of gear tables, but that was always the matter of selecting the one or two broken as gently caress superweapons listed on said table and then using those, because there weren't actually many mechanical levers for differentiating equipment and also those games were badly balanced trash mechanically.

Equipment in MS is both good and bad. On one hand, the gear types all have a mechanically distinct reason to exist and you can make an effective character using any of them. That's good! There's only one or two kind of iffy weapons overall, which is even better. There's an enormous, enormous number of tags and conditionals to sort through, though, which is on one hand okay, but on the other a little nuts. You'll want to get familiar with what you use and what its fiddly bits do but if you try to memorize the entire gear list you will go mad. Many of these tags and conditionals just tell you if an item counts for various specific equipment Gifts. Some of them are the vast array of 'If this condition, then +2 damage'; these are all marked with a convenient #. For instance, every #Warp weapon causes +2 damage against targets that aren't either Conductors or wearing Xenharmonic armor. A #Poison weapon causes +2 against any living target that isn't immune to poison. Etc.

Some weapons are Flat, Weak, or Slaying in damage. Normally, a weapon has base damage, then adds Successes as damage points. A Flat weapon just has a flat damage number and doesn't care about successes. A Weak weapon lets your target double their soak (including doubling any Invulnerability ranks); lots of Weak weapons actually have very high damage but won't get to use it effectively against tough targets due to the doubled DR. A Slaying weapon often has very low base damage, but counts each success as 2 successes, and thus 2 damage. Slaying weapons tend to be high caliber and crazy murderous, but limited in some way, and rely on good attack rolls. Weapons can also be Penetrating: If so, enemies don't get to include their Armor in Soak, and any ranks of Invulnerability stop being automatic Soak successes and become Armor dice instead.

Many guns have Capacity. You don't track individual bullets in Myriad Song, just reloads. Guns can have 3 states on the matter: High Cap, Low Cap, and 1 shot. A High Cap weapon used to Attack or Counter without using the Gift of Bullet Conservation (which will also also turn the weapon's damage Flat, making it less dangerous) becomes Low Cap, while a Low Cap or 1 Shot weapon becomes Empty and needs reloading. A Low Cap weapon could still be rapid fire, and used for Gifts that require that, but effectively it means you usually get 2 full attacks per reload for the average high cap gun or 1 for low cap guns like magnums.

Other items have Overheating. They start out at a state of Cool, and then when used, become Hot. When used again while hot, they Overheat and stop functioning until they cool off. This is common for energy weapons, but also some energy shield armors, who will have Invulnerability conditional on their heat state. Lots of Exciter Gifts will instantly take your energy weapon from Cool to Overheat in exchange for doing some cool charged attack. Items with Overheat get a cool-down die that they roll at the end of every round. If it gets a 4+, the item cools from Overheated to Hot, or Hot to Cool. Essentially, you reload these weapons slower, and by RNG. Some Gifts and add-on gear can help cool this stuff faster, as can being a Concord hero with their secret heat venting techniques.

Other items Breakdown. These have a die roll that you roll every time you use the item. If any of the Breakdown dice for an item come up 1, the item breaks down, ceasing to function and needing repair. This is really common with Scrounged weapons and armor.

Other items work on Decay. Decay items have a die roll to make just like a Breakdown item, but if they get a 1, the item fails to function and the Decay die drops one size for future uses. If Decay ever drops below d4, the item breaks. Repairing the item will restore the Decay dice.

Some REALLY unreliable items have a Backfire die. If this ever hits a 1, the item explodes in your hands, leaving you Reeling (obviously) and on fire. Being on fire is very distracting, and not good. Being on fire inflicts a Flat 2 damage on you every turn until it stops causing new damage effects or someone sprays you with a fire extinguisher. If you're Fireproof (from armor or something), Burning never happens.

This is also where we get into the difference between a weapon's Strike range and its Sweep and Threat ranges. If you're using a weapon that has exceptional rapid fire or that sweeps through multiple targets on a swing, it will have Sweep range listed. That weapon can potentially attack multiple targets at that range. That range is usually way shorter than the weapon's actual Strike distance, which is the longest range where it can effectively make a targeted attack. Similar, weapons have Threat ranges; within this range the weapon Threatens and so lets your allies use their Tactics dice against a target you're Threatening and lets you declare Counters if you'd prefer them to Dodges. So your Carbine might be able to shoot out to Long range (100m), but only Threaten at Medium (30m), and only be able to Sweep at Short (10m). If you Sweep a target, the new target has to be within Sweep range of both you, and the initial target. So if I'm using that Carbine, my second target has to be within 10m of me, but also 10m of my original target. I can keep Sweeping as long as I can keep hitting new targets; you can't hit the same target twice in one Sweep. All those targets can shoot back if they threaten you, so you might expose yourself to a lot of danger. Sweeping only uses one attack's worth of ammo or heat, but you DO roll Function Dice (Breakdown/Decay/Backfire) for every target, meaning you're at bigger risk of your gun breaking down if that was a problem. Also, if you Aimed, you only get the Aim bonus vs. Target 1.

Also note: Almost any time you attack multiple targets in Myriad Song, all of them are eligible to shoot back if they have the means. AoE space magic or Blast weapons can expose you to a lot of counter fire. Be careful. Splash weapons, on the other hand, do not. The splash damage tends to be low and flat, the AoE is usually small, but your additional targets can't shoot you (they can still dodge it, though). Your Splash doesn't happen at all if you miss your initial target, though. Blast, Splash and AoE attacks usually have you roll once to attack, and then everyone you're targeting rolls against that attack roll. If you rolled great, a lot of people are probably getting wrecked. If you rolled low, ONE of those guys is probably going to shoot you.

Ranges also impose a Dodge bonus for your target, since they're a penalty for you. Close (1m) and Near (3m) don't have any range dice. Short (10m) is a d8. Medium (30m) is a d12. Long (100m) is 2d12. Very Long (300m) is 3d12. Extreme is only possible with very powerful scopes and specific weapons or powers, and is both 1000m, and 4d12 Range penalty. Horizon shooting is limited by the curvature of the planet and will almost never come up, and is 5d12. As you can see, ranged penalties go up quick. But remember, you don't suffer any range penalty if your target shoots back with a Counter.

Finally note a lot of this stuff is illegal. Proscribed items like military rifles or silenced pistols are hard to get, and require you to either have a permit or to keep them hidden on more developed planets.

As for the actual weapons, Brawling weapons are mostly Weak, but you can use them with no weapons, they often use a lot of Trait dice (more Trait dice are always, always better for you), and they can do some nice stuff with grappling and forced movement. They vary a lot in handedness, with attacks like Brutalize being the 'I'm using my whole body to fight' 2H move (Damage +2 Weak, Body, Will, Speed, Fighting) while punches and headbutts are useable while you're carrying something else (and are weaker for it), and if you've managed to inflict Grappled on someone (by hitting them with an attack that Grapples) they are limited to hitting you back with the fairly weak Break Free attack or hoping a buddy knocks you Reeling. You also Threaten against Break Free even if you don't have Brawling Threat. Once someone's grappled, you can also Squeeze (which, while Weak, is Penetrating. Choking people out/breaking their neck is a viable way for a martial artist to defeat heavy armor) or Suplex them. The Suplex is the most powerful Brawling attack at Damage+3 Weak and also knocks them over. I really just wanted an excuse to describe that attack. Brawling is mostly for desperate situations or less lethal combat, but it's a hell of a trick set if you've invested in it and it'll still hitstun a guy if nothing else.

Standard melee weapons are mostly just solid, basic, damage 1-2 weapons that use a variety of traits. Blunt usually use Will+Body, fast weapons are usually Body+Speed. Brutal weapons like axes are often just Body+Fighting, but have #Critical, which does +2 damage if you already got 2 Successes or more. Simple, cheap, widely available; modern melee weapons and fighting knives are good backups for any PC.

Scrounged melee and ranged weapons get at Scroungetech's problems: It does Flat damage unless you have a Gift (Scrounge Overload) which, when used, makes it roll 2x as many Breakdown dice. This gives you two chances to roll a 1 and break your item. They also usually only include a single Trait+Skill. Why would you ever use these? Because you can pull them out of goddamn nowhere in the middle of a secured area, prison cell, or derelict space station. Not only that, when you do, they often come with Modifications that will make them stronger (and that may be even more illegal and unsafe). There's something to be said for a character who can build a fully automatic Gatling magnetic nail-rifle with a jury-rigged smart scope out of the junk they pulled apart from a zero G toilet and a shaving kit.

Normal guns are just that. Most of them are cheap, solid workhorses. Shotguns do slightly better damage in close with #Nearby but have poorer normal damage, rifles can't counter but are #Critical, Carbines are a good mid-range long-gun, pistols are the solid backup every adventurer wants, and the Magnum is a solid sidearm for any gunslinger. Most guns use Speed+Mind. Smaller, weaker Holdout guns have shorter ranges and less damage, but include Will. Actual Military guns have automatic fire and thus get Sweep Short (or Sweep Medium, for automatic rifles), but they're illegal unless you have a good reason to be toting one. There's also a heavy Machine Gun and an Autocannon, which both impose a Burden on the user. If you don't have a rank of Strength for each Burden you carry, carrying one will limit your movement/dodging dice to d8s and remove your Dash. The Machine Gun is one of the weird outlier weapons. It does damage +4. That means a base hit threatens 'Dead' instantly, which is a fair bit above most weapons in the game. I always suspected it was meant to be Heavy (Shooting it makes you go Reeling) but I can't find it if it is. The Autocannon does more reasonable damage (+2, like most rifle weapons) but also renders targets Vulnerable.

You might also have various natural weapons and tricks from your Legacy. All Legacy weapons use your Legacy dice, plus others. Most of these take actions to recharge. Two do not, and they're both very powerful. Towser Claws are one of the most powerful melee weapons in the game (possibly a bit much, I consider them one of the outliers) at Penetrating+1, Vulnerable. Adhallian Blades (remember the birbs?) are one of the few melee weapons that Sweeps Close targets, and do +0 damage, but with #Critical and using Will, Body, Speed, Legacy, AND Fighting. The birb blade tail is a little nuts, too, potentially.

Primitive Weapons are all Weak, but have huge base damages and have ways to get even stronger via their Gifts. If someone's hitting you with 5+Successes AND they're taking +3 damage for breaking their club on your head, it might not matter that you get double soak. Like Scrounged weapons, Primitives have lots of ways to just pull out their knives and bows in the middle of nowhere, or while in prison, at no cost. Person who knows how to kill a person in power armor with a rock to the head is due respect. You show them respect.

Power Tools tend to have low base damage, use a lot of traits, make a LOT of noise (you're not sneaking up on someone with a chainsaw), and have #Finish. The thermal cutter ones have cooldown dice, but will also turbofuck anyone who isn't Fireproof with #Scorch and #Critical AND #Finish. You get a good roll in with a thermal lance cutter on a guy who was already vulnerable and not wearing heat resistant gear, they are loving dead.

This is getting a bit long, so I'm going to handle the rest in another post.

Next Time: There are so many goddamn guns. Also, armor.

Hostile V
May 31, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.

Quite enjoying your changes from the core, Libertad, and I hope your players had a good time. You're dead on in nailing some of the glaring flaws of Deadlands metaplot adventures.

Oct 30, 2013

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

Hostile V posted:

Quite enjoying your changes from the core, Libertad, and I hope your players had a good time. You're dead on in nailing some of the glaring flaws of Deadlands metaplot adventures.

Indeed they did. The adventure spawned 3-4 months worth of great gaming sessions. Unfortunately I came over with a huge case of DM Fatigue near the end and put the campaign on break for now. But I do plan on returning to it someday.

And without further do...

The Flood Plot Point Campaign, Part 2

5. The Rock

Good Intentions! posted:

Our Fellowship of Travelers will meet at the Fallen Angel Saloon in Perdition this Saturday at high noon. Attendance is required!

The party gets an important notice whenever the GM’s ready to move the plot forward. If for some reason they’re unwilling or unable to attend, Lacy O’Malley tracks them down to help them out of whatever trouble they’re in or gives them an encouragement of reward to motivate them for this next adventure.

Lacy O’Malley hasn’t given up on trying to rescue Sam Hellman, and explains at the meeting that he knows a stonemason who is certain that the poor fellow’s being held in Rock Island Prison. A frontal assault would be suicide, so instead Lacy’s plan is to call in a favor from a Maze pirate to do a hit and run raid to distract the Rock’s sentries. The PCs would use this opportunity to sneak around to a weak section of drain the stonemason pretended to seal up while working there as a secret way into the prison.

It turns out that O’Malley’s plan goes off without a hitch. The Maze pirates draw the bulk of the prison guards to the southern walls far away from the northern drain entrance. The party has 30 minutes before the pirate fleet retreats which is more than enough time to get in and out. The text also references the metaplot in how Jasper Stone managed to escape Rock Island Prison via this very drain, which Grimme sealed up once he found out about it.

Kind of a roundabout way for an otherwise simple explanation (“stonemason left a weak spot in the prison”), but it wouldn’t be Deadlands otherwise!

The drain has a sturdy grill which will not budge against anything short of dynamite, but a hidden cord can be pulled to lift the hatch on the other side. The sewer leads into a room with a creepy but dead sea monster and eventually the basement of Rock Island Prison. Home to Cell Block C, the occupants are kept separate from the general population due to either their danger or for Grimme wanting what they know kept secret. There’s a single Lost Angels cultist acting as a guard in the area who is pretty much the only opposition. The four prisoners within are all heavily injured and include a formal town marshal part of the Men of the Grid; a covert werewolf by the name of Eddie Griff who is healthy due to regeneration but will transform and attack everyone nearby at the most dramatic moment; Charley Bill Buckner, the foreman who was part of the underground crew of Dr. Hellstromme’s train and who the PCs would have met back in the first adventure; and finally Samuel Hellman.

There are no further complications than what’s above if the PCs manage to escape. Sam Hellman, once he recovers, will tell the PCs all about the Lost Angels’ cannibalistic rites, how whatever thing Grimme actually worships is part of the Reckoning, and how Grimme was granted supernatural powers masquerading as holy miracles in exchange for helping bring about a Hell on Earth. He also explains how Grimme appears near-immortal or at least superhumanly tough, as one person stabbing him through the heart did nothing to the guy.

Hellman learned all of this from an Indian shaman cellmate by the name of Sees Far Ahead, who also knew of a way to kill Grimme but was taken out of prison to an unknown fate. The only lead they now have is the Necessity Alliance, a political organization of Native Americans. Their headquarters is unknown, but some members are known to live in Lion’s Roar. One of their leaders knew Sees Far Ahead, and so is the person who has the best chance of either finding out his location or anything the shaman told them about Grimme and the Church.

What I Changed: If you run this adventure as is, it’s going to be way too easy and anti-climactic even barring the werewolf surprise. When a gaming group hears “prison break” they’re at the very least going to expect an extensive shoot-em-up, a no-holds-barred prison riot, or both.

First off, I actually had the hook for The Rock leaked before the adventure started proper. This took the form of a tip in that the Church of Lost Angels were doing some renovation and construction on the prison due to finding a glyph of some sort beneath it. One just like in the Wailing Hole. The party was thus also tasked with finding out what research the Church was conducting on these glyphs in addition to rescuing Sam Hellman.

Furthermore, I had it so that the PCs had to recruit allies for the jailbreak itself rather than leaving it entirely to O’Malley. I presented five Savage Tales related to gaining the friendship of certain factions in California whose favors can be called in later. The more groups the party recruited, the more ground they could cover, and I put a hard minimum of 2 factions required before this Plot Point could be started.

Said Tales were:

The Rancher’s Life: In trying to gain a monopoly over food production the Church of Lost Angels made lots of enemies among cattle barons.

Off the Grid: The Men of the Grid are opposed to the Church on principle, and their ability to create dynamite which can explode underwater would be a boon for this quest.

Ballots and Bullets: Installing Luke Watson as mayor in the town of Perdition will ensure the local government is aligned against Lost Angels’ government.

The Scientific Method: Depending on how this adventure shakes out, the PCs can gain the aid of either Smith & Robards mad scientists or the Shaolin Monks of the 37th Chamber.

Ghost Rot: Helping the US Army in its time of need will give you friends in high places. And they’re no fans of Lost Angels either.

Once the time came to do the prison break, I had the Explorer’s Society along with representatives of the five factions gather in a “war room” in the Fallen Angel Saloon. Unfurling a map of the prison’s upper levels, Captain Pennington-Smythe then laid out five complicating factors:

Waylay the Warden: I made Sister Andrea Baird, one of Grimme’s inner circle, act as warden for the prison. She delegates to a second-in-command in order to go to church every Sunday. Her absence will result in a less coordinated guard if she is occupied/unable to reach the Rock in time.

The Ironclad: The Lost Angels fleet has an intimidating ironclad patrolling the waters near the city. In the event of a disruption at the Rock it can be called in to provide support with cannons and more Guardian Angels.

A Getaway Vehicle: The party cannot very well swim their way free. Use of a waterbound or even aerial vehicle is necessary for a quick and clean getaway.

Searchlights: Rock Island Prison uses big searchlights to regularly illuminate the surrounding waters at night as well as darkened spots of their own prison. Finding some way to destroy said lights will give the party more blind spots to exploit.

Hired Muscle: In a pinch one of the factions can be used to provide NPC allies to accompany the party.

The PCs would then assign one allied faction to a particular complication. This really helped give the feel of player autonomy and choice: not only were they planning out how they would infiltrate the prison, this also gave their various side missions a clear and noticeable impact on the main story rather than feeling like isolated incidents.

Certain factions had strengths in what they could do: the People of Perdition would be little more than mundane townsfolk with Hired Muscle, but they could arrange for a slowdown at the port to Waylay the Warden. The Men of the Grid may not have a Getaway Vehicle beyond a modest boat, but their underwater dynamite can easily sabotage the foundations of the Searchlights or trigger a rockslide to block off a channel for the Ironclad.

For the prison itself, I arranged 20 Guardian Angels about the place, put a vampire as the second-in-command, and had it so the sea monster’s corpse in the sewer entry was alive and whose violent gyrations could cause a flood in Cell Block C.

My party gained the aid of the People of Perdition, the US Army (who could provide an ironclad of their own), the Men of the Grid, and in a weird twist of deception and role-play both the Mad Scientists and Shaolin monks. The PCs assigned Perdition to get sharpshooters to snipe out the searchlights, the Mad Scientists for a getaway vehicle, the Men of the Grid to use underwater dynamite to disable the ironclad, and the Shaolin monks would waylay the warden. Our martial artist PC suggested disguising themselves as Guardian Angels delivering a food convoy to the prison, hiding their weapons in large cheese wheels instead of going in through the sewer.

6. Tribal Warfare

This Plot Point is triggered anytime the PCs follow up on Hellman’s lead. This is easier said than done: Native Americans are few and far between in California these days, and the bulk of the Necessity Alliance is intentionally isolated to keep their numbers secret from hostile groups. Naturally the party cannot simply walk up to their lands if they cannot find them in the first place, and need to either find a guide with a connection to the tribes* or get at least five total successes on a once-per-day collective Smarts roll to find their headquarters.

*The specific tribes of the Alliance are the Klamath as the most populous, followed by the Chumash, Miwok, Ohlone/Costanoan, and Gabrielino tribes.

The posse could try contacting the Natives living in Lion’s Roar, too. Said community is a Chinese mining town under the control of the rail baron Kang, ruled over directly by Red Petals Su who the PCs had a tussle with back in Plot Point 2. Complicating matters further is the town’s racial segregation where non-Chinese visitors are limited to the docks. Unless the PCs rely upon cloak and dagger infiltration they’ll likely run afoul of Kang’s pirates and Su.

By whatever means, the Necessity Alliance’s leaders and some five hundred Indians live up on a mesa in the Great Maze. Its high position and cliff-side trails make for a great natural defense and vantage point; unless the PCs approach in a small-enough vessel by night or some other means they will be spotted. A dozen Indian braves acting as guards will fire off some warning shots via arrows and dropped rocks but will not kill save in self-defense. In order to secure safe entry a PC must make a Persuasion roll at a near-impossible -8 penalty if they’re white. Black and Mexican/Latino PCs still have a hefty -6, and even Native Americans of any tribe have a -4. The module makes no mention of penalties for other races and ethnicities, not even Chinese. Mentioning Sees Far Ahead’s name grants a +2 bonus on the roll, but even then this is still a very hefty penalty for a “succeed on the skill or the adventure halts” roll.

The rest of the adventure presumes that the PCs managed to get into the Mesa via non-violent means. The current leader, Stalks the Night, grants them an audience in a large lodge to explain things. He doesn’t know where Sees Far Ahead is now, but the Alliance’s other leader Born in a Bowl would. Unfortunately said woman has been kidnapped by the Rattlesnake Clan, a secret order of Indian mages seeking to drive the white settlers off their land. Stalks the Night mentions that he likes the cut of their jib, but not how they go about their means on account that the spirits they summon tend to slaughter humans indiscriminately regardless of their ethnicity. Stalks the Night is willing to lend his best warrior, Eyes Like Fire, to help the PCs rescue Born in a Bowl. However he’s loathe to send more of his own braves when he can get some outsiders to risk themselves first.

Unfortunately Stalks the Night is a dirty ol’ double crosser. He and the best brave he’s sending out did not get on with Sees Far Ahead in the past. Although not a fan of the Rattlesnake Clan, he used the paranoia of Born in a Bowl’s kidnapping to execute political rivals he accused of consorting with the enemy to establish himself as the Alliance’s leader. He knows that if Born in a Bowl is rescued or Sees Far Ahead returns his little setup will fall apart, so Eyes Like Fire is tasked with killing her.

The Rattlesnake Den is a four-room Fear Level 4 dungeon full mostly of traps, located in a creepy grotto covered with jumbled splinters of trees. The entrance trap is the haphazard assembly of splintered wood which imposes a Fatigue level on a failed Agility roll, while the second room is full of rotten fruit-head dolls and thousands of buzzing insects which will impose an automatic Fatigue level if the PCs cannot find a way to either kill them all or protect their flesh from their bites and stings. The third room is a grotesque abattoir of six captured braves suspended between the world of the living and dead. They hang on the walls over a latticework of holes where sharks below swim amidst muddy water, and emit unearthly groans which impart Fatigue on a failed Vigor roll every round. Anyone who falls unconscious is at risk of falling through the lattice work to be eaten by sharks. The groaning can be stopped only by beheading them; personally I would’ve allowed for exorcism to work, too.

What I Changed: As room 3 was small enough and the PCs already found ways to dodge the first two traps, I instead had the sharks directly leap up and attack the party in room 3. Our mad scientist managed to zombify one of the sharks and grant it limited locomotion to use as a very beefy meat shield.

The final area holds Born in a Bowl, unconscious and near-death, trapped under a bundle of jagged twigs holding her in place. Papa Rattlesnake will appear to attack: he is a Shaman and does not have many powers, but he uses them all as part of his tactics. They all manifest with snake themes: he can use Beast Friend to summon venomous snakes to fight the party, his Bolt power manifests as him throwing snakes at enemies, he can use Quickness to grant him 2 actions in a round, and he liberally uses his Teleport power to keep his distance. He also has an amazing d12+2 Strength score but no weapon, making him not too shabby in melee. He’s also aided by a swarm of possessed kachina dolls which will waylay the party.

What I Changed: I kept the same stats but turned the kachina doll swarm into a swarm of rattlesnakes. Was more thematic that way.

Once the PCs save Born in a Bowl, she confirms that Sees Far Ahead is dead, and only he knows of the way to defeat Reverend Grimme. If she has his skull they can speak with him directly, but in order to find it they must chop off her pinky finger: a successful Spirit or Healing gives a clean cut while a failed one makes her scream in pain. The finger then animates on its own, hopping about before ‘pointing’ in a certain direction like a compass. She cannot accompany the party as she must take control of the Necessity Alliance, but her finger will help guide them to the shamans’ final resting place: Jehosaphat Valley, the Church of Lost Angels’ mass grave for the bones of the non-believers, poor, and homeless slaughtered for their many meals.

Not So Fun Fact: The overall lack of Native Americans so far in this adventure path actually has an historical basis. By the time of the late 1800s the amount of estimated Native Americans in California dwindled to less than 30,000. A century before US statehood the Catholic Mission system of the Spanish Empire engaged in comprehensive attempts at converting and assimilating them into Western Christian culture. Add reservations, the American Indian Wars, and colonialism to the mix and it’s no surprise there’s so few around.

7. Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!

Overall the Fear Levels of areas have hovered between 2 to 4, with a rare few areas delineating from that. Lost Angels and Rock Island Prison are both 5, but we have not seen any bonafide Fear Level 6 Deadlands yet.

This will all change when the PCs head on over to Jehosaphat Valley.

As a huge dumping ground for countless victims of the Church’s depredations, the concentrated despair and misery within Jehosaphat Valley gave life to all manner of fell horrors. The Lost Angels keep said beings contained within tall stone walls with cannons pointed inward and round-the-clock guards, for even the monsters generated have no kin with Famine’s servants. The most common monsters within are ‘gloms, literal shambles of corpses fused together and animated by a manitou spirit, and bone fiends which are massive six-legged conglomeration of bones with a pitch-black human skull as their “heart.” There are four flights of Guardian Angels of five people each on patrol. Each of them mans 6-pounder cannons to blast said creatures to smithereens. Father Ambrose, one of Reverend Grimme’s 13 Elders, oversees the patrols here and loves his job. He lost an arm to a ‘glom at the Battle of Gettysburg, so this is cathartic to him.

Beyond the above there’s also seven wraiths trapped within special sarcophagi who have been tortured into madness. The spirits were Blessed dangerous enough to put a damper in Grimme’s plans, so their corpses needed to be sealed in special coffins and will attack anyone who opens them. Sees Far Ahead’s skull is somewhere within a literal pit of bones, which is also guarded over by a bone fiend.

The PCs have a bit of freedom to come up with plans on how to get inside Jehosaphat Valley, offering a few possible ideas and how they’d be done (and go wrong), ranging from disguises to using magical intrusion or even a frontrol assault.

What I Changed: When playing with my own group, the party mad scientist used a teleportation device to get up onto a section of wall and kill the Lost Angels flight within the nearest tower. They followed the finger to the bone pit, and I described the bone fiend as a giant dinosaur skeleton which the other Lost Angels began shooting at with their cannons. While beating a high-tail retreat, the PCs climbed up to the tower they took control of and aimed the 6-pounder cannons at the other Lost Angel flights to kill them too. Nevermind that this risked unleashing the horrors within the Valley; they really did not like the Church of Lost Angels.

Once the skull’s taken back to Born in a Bowl, she channels the spirit of Sees Far Ahead by summoning a shared vision. This vision is a lengthy set of boxed text which more or less tells of the real Reverend Grimme’s final days during the Great Quake of ‘68. The difference is that the PCs collectively see things through his eyes, all the way up to his death and then through through evil not-Grimme’s eyes as he arrives to greet his sinful flock.

Boxed Text posted:

You wake with the worst hangover of your life. Born in a Bowl continues to chant…then stops. She speaks in a voice that is not her own.

“I know what you seek. I will aid you. The evil is rising and there are so few left to fight. The man you know as Grimme is a creature of great evil—the collective evil of the 13 who slew him. To kill Grimme, you must kill the 13 Elders. And they do not die easily. But if all 13 can be slain within one hour of each other—near their center of power at the great black building with colored lights[the Cathedral]—their power will end. They know this and so stay far apart, all over the West. But once every year on the anniversary of their feast—from sunrise to sunset on August 23rd by the white man’s calendar—they must gather to eat again and renew their power.

“How you accomplish this task is up to you, but the spirits whisper of a great Flood. One that will destroy the 13 and the center of their power—the cathedral—forever. If you wish to trigger this Flood, you must control the Earth Spirits who guard this land once more. Find their signs in the caves. Someone, or several people, must shed blood on at least seven signs. When next one of these people spills his own blood on raw soil, the spirits will answer and shake the earth. Stand at Grimme’s cathedral while the 13 feast and you will destroy them all.

“Trigger the Flood. Destroy the city. Kill the 13.”

So I have several problems with this. First off, although the book acknowledges the huge civilian casualties, evacuating the city of civilians will be nearly impossible for Reverend Grimme and his 13 Elders will escape if so. No matter that this will disrupt their annual pact, this is not given as a legitimate means of ending Grimme and the 13’s immortality. There’s also the very real fact that the PCs, who by now are likely quite “high level” and have all manner of cool gadgets, gear, skills, and magic. “Oh we just have to kill 13 of ‘em within the hour? Screw the Flood, let’s do it the old-fashioned way!”

Additionally not part of the boxed text, Born in a Bowl explains that the cathedral must be destroyed as well as the Elders, thus the reason for the Flood. But even with that complication I can see a party trying to use explosives in strategic locations or similar means.

Beyond the practical questions there’s also the moral conundrum which is greatly weakened on account of how the adventure setup Hellstromme as a bonafide bad guy for dropping ghostfire bombs. But when he did that, it was mostly on soldiers already fighting and the civilian casualties were in the outskirts of the city. Even though he wasn’t doing it to wipe out a great supernatural evil, the civilian casualties of the Flood ritual will be far higher. The Flood is not just going to destroy a huge section of the city and those living within, it will also do collateral damage to nearby communities which are pointed out in a sidebar in the Marshal’s Section of how the setting changes after the Flood: the Big M Ranch, Carver’s Landing, Dragonhold, Felicity Peak, Junction, Quarrytown, and Van Horn’s Light are all demolished from the rushing waters.

What I Changed: I wanted to keep the divine flood as part of the adventure, but changed things around so that the PCs will hunt for the glyphs and use a ritual taught by Sees Far Ahead to disable them. Even if Grimme and the Church fall, their continued existence represents a threat that future evildoers will use, and the Lost Angels are already searching for the glyphs on their own given their research in Rock Island Prison. I added more encounters with Lost Angel agents during the glyph hunt side quests as a result, turning the Glyph Hunt into a Glyph Race.

As for what the Church wanted with the glyphs, I tied it back to the mass sacrifice of Grimme’s Day of Righteousness. The demons which slaughtered his congregation helped expand the false holy aura for his followers’ magic to 75 miles from the Lost Angels’ cathedral. Grimme wanted to recreate a Biblical Flood using the glyphs and effectively recreating the Great Quake of ‘68. The casualties and loss of lives would extend the radius exponentially, covering the whole of California and possibly the entire continent!

I would then put the final glyph within the Lost Angels Cathedral itself for the Flood of the final adventure. Reverend Grimme will have already activated it in order to extend his 75 mile aura of false holiness by slaughtering the city’s inhabitants, and the PCs would have to disable the glyph in time while also tangling with Grimme and his force. There would still be a Flood even on a victory, but one much less powerful.

Glyph Hunting

We have not one, but two full-page sidebars talking all about the glyphs. Even though technically near the end of the Plot Point, it is one of the larger and more significant parts of the Flood. The PCs cannot trigger the final mission until they discover and activate seven glyphs. In addition to the one in the Wailing Hole, the sourcebook proper details three others as part of larger Savage Tales arcs not part of the Epitaph’s Good Intentions. Two Savage Tales proper, The Scientific Method and Treasure Hunters, reveal glyphs directly as part of their quests. Cult o’ the Dragon, Head Full o’ Nothin’ and In Search of Goldnose all involve the revelation of a glyph location as their reward.

This is more than seven, which is intentional. The book wants there to be relative freedom in how the PCs go about finding the required glyphs, and to customize ones based on the PCs’ own backgrounds and ties. The seven official glyphs listed by the book are all in dungeon-like locations, such as a sea cave filled with all number of sharks and a few Maze Dragons, a tomb holding a powerful demon disguised as an angel which will lead the PCs into death traps, and an ancient Indian burial ground near Shannonsburg in which four major California factions (chosen by the GM) after currently fighting over. Only three of them are detailed fully in the Savage Tales, with the GM expected to do the work for the other four if they’re used.

8. The Flood

I will note that of the main Plot Point adventures in the Flood, this is the only one I have yet to run as of this writing. This is not an involved plan, dungeon crawl, or wild goose chase. Just a good old-fashioned shootout with the Servitor of Famine himself and his many minions in front of the Lost Angels Cathedral.

Grimme’s not one to be humble when it comes to Unholy Feasts of the Damned, and he invited 100 of his most favored servants to attend a grisly feast of human flesh. The honorary soylent-green-to-be is an NPC of importance, ideally one the party cares about or struck up a rapport with earlier in the campaign. In order to trigger the Flood, any PC who put their blood on a petroglyph can spill their own via a self-inflicted cut within a dozen yards of the cathedral. Once this is done a huge earthquake shakes the foundations of the land, causing mass panic as portions of the cathedral start to come loose.

Boxed Text posted:

You look toward the ocean. There are swells, but no great flood. No biblical deluge to wipe away the evil that plagues this city. Has something gone wrong? Or does it simply need more time?

Suddenly the doors of the cathedral fly open. Reverend Grimme and a scowling group of white-robed, blood-spattered individuals stagger out. Grimme looks directly at whoever unleashed this disaster. He opens his mouth and it feels like he channels the collective screams of Hell itself. “BOOOOOOYYYYY!!!!” (Or “GIIIIIIIRRRRRRLLL!!!!” as circumstances merit.)

Given that by default the PCs have never gotten the opportunity to personally meet Reverend Grimme in this adventure yet, it’s incredibly comical that instead of opening with a badass speech or threats of damnation he just shouts “BOOOOOOYYYYY!!!!” as the precursor to the campaign’s final battle.

Thanks to the Servitor’s own foul influence they’ll be innately aware of when the blood is spilled and where the PCs are. Like it or not this is going to be a battle for the ages. If the PC who triggered the ritual dies (not wounded or incapacitated) the ritual will end and the flood will uselessly collapse in on itself. However, said PC has four hoodoo (earth spirits) which rise to protect and aid him in battle, and furthermore are immune to the attacks of the 13 Elders and have Improved Arcane Resistance vs Grimme’s magic.

Grimme himself will come out swinging with all the unholy powers he can muster, attended by his 13 elders, a demon in the guise of an angel, 10 Guardian Angels and a pair of Avenging Angel superiors. Grimme and the demon are wild cards, meaning the rest are treated as very numerous Extras.

His stats are detailed in the Deadlands Marshal’s Handbook, but Reverend Grimme is basically an anti-Blessed who has access to every power available to said arcane background. He has infinite power points to cast what he wills, and in addition to that he can summon up to two demons (one of which is already here). Furthermore he’s surrounded by invisible starvation spirits in a 24 hex radius which impose a level of Fatigue every round on a failed Vigor roll, which can be quite debilitating as the battle goes on. Finally he has a hickory stick which can strike dead anyone it hits in melee. A failed Spirit roll consumes their soul, and even on a success it deals 2d10 damage.

This battle can be won if the PCs can fend off Grimme’s forces for 13 rounds, after which the bulk of the flood rises over the city in a gargantuan wave, descending slowly yet surely. Reverend Grimme defiantly curses the descending doom while the Elders who survived cowardly rush and trip over each other in a futile bid for escape. The last thing the PCs see is a column of water crushing Grimme and his servants in a gory splattering of blood and bone…

The book then encourages the GM to pretend as though that’s the end of the adventure, close the book, and dwell for a minute on the PCs’ reactions before opening up the book again with a “Wait! Maybe…”

Boxed Text posted:

You distinctly remember a choir of angels. Lights. Clouds. Peace. And by God—you weren’t hungry any more. But that feeling passed. Now you just feel tired and wet. Soaking wet.You open your eyes. You’re somewhere in the ruins of Lost Angels, lying in a field of broken bodies and scattered debris. The city is destroyed—and flooded. The cathedral is a shattered wreck.

You manage to rise up a bit and look around. One of you is atop a crushed roof, another is half-buried in sand and dirt, another is tangled in the splintered timbers of a smashed cart—but miraculously still drawing breath.

A cow—of all things—stands dazed and bewildered, still chewing sopping wet cud as it looks at you in bewilderment. It’s comical—you can’t help but smile and laugh as your companions study the beast as well. It looks…healthier somehow. You sense the drought and diseases that ravage the herds out here have subsided. Famine and her terrible servant are defeated. For now at least.

The cow looks at you quizzically one last time—then happily returns to grazing the wet grass at its feet. Mooooo!!!

Thoughts So Far: The Flood’s second half had a good variety of action scenes and enemies to keep things fresh. I particularly liked the creepy vibes of Jehosaphat Valley and the Rattlesnake Den, although the Rock prison break as is is rather underwhelming. The final battle has the potential to be an intense and challenging fight, and although I don’t like the reason behind it I do enjoy the idea of hunting down glyphs all over California in preparation for the final battle.

Join us next time as we cover the Savage Tales of the Flood, all the sidequests fit to bear!

Hostile V
May 31, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.

Ahhh there's that dumb Deadlands plotting where no matter what a ton of people are going to die terribly because something something ends and means.

Just Dan Again
Dec 16, 2012


Night10194 posted:

Myriad Song

Gifted and Talented

I joined the "bought Myriad Song because of this review" club a few days ago, and I'm similarly conflicted about advancement being tied to Gifts so tightly. My eyebrows went up pretty high when I saw that the Host was instructed to give the PCs a gift of the Host's choice, but to be ready for them to sell it back for XP. It just seemed like such an odd bit of rigmarole to me. I've definitely had players who would have never ever cashed those [random Independent planet] insider gifts in, just in case they needed to interact with those NPCs again at some point in the future.

Feb 13, 2012

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

Just Dan Again posted:

I joined the "bought Myriad Song because of this review" club a few days ago, and I'm similarly conflicted about advancement being tied to Gifts so tightly. My eyebrows went up pretty high when I saw that the Host was instructed to give the PCs a gift of the Host's choice, but to be ready for them to sell it back for XP. It just seemed like such an odd bit of rigmarole to me. I've definitely had players who would have never ever cashed those [random Independent planet] insider gifts in, just in case they needed to interact with those NPCs again at some point in the future.

It's a weird part of the system and it's a change from IC2e, and IC1e. My sense is that they want specific Gifts to be harder to get (like Increased Trait, or more of the anti-deathblow Save gifts), but they want to do it without actually making them cost more EXP. Similarly, I think they wanted to avoid allowing players to too easily slam everything into a skill and become near unbeatable at it. They also clearly want an 'organic' sense of advancement, where you're a collection of the stuff you've picked up on your adventures and then also some lesser self-directed study. It's just weird to see so much of character advancement tied to an entirely GM directed system, with the character effectively gaining powers at 'half' speed if they throw out what they're getting to pick their own abilities, and it's the kind of thing some GMs are either going to abuse or just get wrong without meaning to. I'd have really liked a variant system that was more EXP based, as I'm not entirely sold on Goals as they're implemented in general.

I'm definitely going to do IC1e after this, because I think a lot of the design makes more sense when you see where it started. It was really, ludicrously easy to get phenomenally high stats and skills in IC1e, especially because Traits could go above d12 just like Skill Marks. The old bonus and penalty system also made bonuses even better the higher your abilities were, which could get really nuts, and was also kind of taxing to calculate. You see a lot of what they're trying to avoid in their first offering.

Jun 26, 2005

Just Dan Again posted:

I joined the "bought Myriad Song because of this review" club a few days ago, and I'm similarly conflicted about advancement being tied to Gifts so tightly. My eyebrows went up pretty high when I saw that the Host was instructed to give the PCs a gift of the Host's choice, but to be ready for them to sell it back for XP. It just seemed like such an odd bit of rigmarole to me. I've definitely had players who would have never ever cashed those [random Independent planet] insider gifts in, just in case they needed to interact with those NPCs again at some point in the future.

We've heard this criticism, now and before, and we take it seriously. Our game design philosophy is that our customers should not have to invoke 'rule zero' to work around broken mechanics or sloppy writing - you pay us money for a product and we intend to deliver you a complete product you can use with confidence.

That said, you still can and should invoke 'rule zero' to adjust the game to the taste of your table. Myriad Song's advancement mechanics should be especially low-risk to gently caress around with. The Goal mechanic is useful for helping players keep track of their objectives, whether those objectives are chosen by the player or granted by the Host, but if your game table finds the constraints on Goal rewards chafing, nothing will break if you loosen them. If you want to loosen them a little, the Host could let players choose from a selection of Gifts. A step further, and the Host could let players choose any Gift that the table agrees makes sense in the context of their adventures. A step further, and the players could be trusted to pick whatever Gift they like.

RiotGearEpsilon fucked around with this message at 05:59 on Jan 16, 2019

Feb 13, 2012

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

Outfitted for success!

So! Exotic Weapons are any weapons that don't really have their own Gift tree and don't really fit another category. These are weird weapons like Zero G/vacuum air rifles, or heavy modern crossbows for silent sniping. Or the actual Railgun, which is basically an even longer range sniper rifle that needs Strength to lug it around properly. There's also an extremely illegal chainsaw launcher called a Rive Bow. Why would you build a chainsaw launcher, Myriad Peoples? Why? It's really effective, at least. Like a crossbow, except very loud, because of the chainsaws.

Then there's the utter loving insanity of Hypergolic weapons. These are essentially rocket-fuel flamers. These are the signature weapons of the Solar Creed's Heliotrope shock troops. They're fairly powerful Sweep weapons that get a Gift tree based around turning them into single target weapons instead, and focusing the hypergolic reaction to set foes on fire or asphyxiate them if they don't have an airtight environmental suit. As it is, the weapons do roughly rifle or pistol damage, but get #Scorch, so they hurt people without Fireproof armor really bad. Unfortunately for them, fireproof armor is reasonably common. Heavy military armor will defeat both #Smother and #Scorch in most cases. Hypergolics also have Decay dice rather than ammo. They use so little actual fuel to produce what they produce that fuel reloads aren't the problem. The fact that you're igniting loving rocket fuel in a pressurized chamber and venting it out in 100m arcs is the problem. The guns burn out, literally.

There's also a ton of grenades. They do everything from stunning people to dispersing teargas to blowing people up. Grenades aren't the most lethal weapons in the game, but with Panic and Reeling you can leave whole groups stunned and looking for a way out of a fight. There's also lots of Gifts that make explosives better, including one great one where any time you blow at least 3 people up you get to Recharge another Gift free because it reminds you of how great life is. There are also microjet and cone rifles and pistols, which fire mini-rockets and act like a cross between a conventional firearm and a grenade launcher, and a Grenade Launcher if you need to put grenades on targets at very long range. Thrown grenades use Athletics, while the launcher is a normal Shooting weapon. Blowing people up is an effective way to fight.

Exciter Weapons are extremely powerful. They are the main source of Slaying damage, but remember the overheat rules; someone with Bullet Conservation snapping off single shots can Counter a ton of mooks before running low, but even someone with the anti-Overheat Gift (which lets them roll to cool the weapon each time it gains heat AND at the end of their turn, instead of just at the end of their turn) runs the risk of their gun getting burning hot and shutting down in their hands. They're also all rare and reasonably hard to get except the basic Ray Pistol, which the Concord goddamn loves and gives to every science hero they turn out. These guns do more overall single target damage than any other weapon in the game, and generally remind me of blackpowder firearms in Ironclaw. They don't have great range, though, and only the full Plasma Cannon can Sweep. There's also a plasma blade for a Slaying melee weapon that uses Body, Mind, AND Speed, and a sweet physical sword with a plasma edge that loses the Slaying but gains Penetrating and Sweeps Near (so out to 3m). RULES OF NATURE optional.

Xenharmonic Weapons are really interesting. These are the actual weapons left by the Syndics for their Remanence servants, and they are handy weaponized space magic that works by disrupting physical law and producing a Xenharmonic Wave. The Concord and Solar Creed worry that destructive Xenharmonic Waves are actually polluting the very concept of spacetime and may eventually destroy the universe, but they would say that, given how much both groups hate Syndic tech. In practice, Xenharmonic Weapons come in whip, blade, carbine, pistol, and rifle form. They all use Body+Mind for the melee weapons, and Speed+Mind for the guns. They all do 1-2 Flat damage, but all have #Warp (+2 damage if the target is neither a Conductor nor wearing Xenharmonic armor) and render the target Vulnerable, plus the Gift tree for Xenharmonics lets them do stuff like trade damage to make the gun or blade AoE. The blade and whip also both strike out to 3m, and the whip counters out to there, too. They also never, ever run out of ammo or cease functioning. Amusingly, a Giant character (A Gift that gives you +1 range bands of melee reach and the ability to carry a Burden, because you're huge) with a Xenharmonic whip can melee out to 10m due to how the range bands work, which is great. Xenharmonics probably won't kill your target on shot 1, but they definitely set them up to die on shot 2 and they have a lot of neat tricks you can play with. Also, anyone can use one; don't need no space magic ability.

There's also a ton of illegal special ammos you can use in normal firearms (and bows, and railguns, and anything that fires a projectile) that are very expensive, but pretty effective. AP rounds, high pressure rounds to add #Critical but risk breaking the gun, HE rounds that add Splash, guided rockets, incendiaries, all kinds of things. Being able to use all these special ammunition types is another point in favor of non-energy weapons. If you really try, you can find someone who will sell you a high explosive chainsaw for your chainsaw launcher crossbow.

There are also a ton of weapon mod kits you can add to your guns and blades. Many are very illegal! These range from simple bayonets to underslung rayguns and grenade launchers to putting knuckledusters on your pistol or sword to give you a punching option. You want to turn your pistol into a gatling pistol? You can! You'll need a Control action to fire it, but you can make it suddenly have a +2d8 to hit and Sweep Near where it never swept before! You want to make your Magnum into an insane manstopper? Give it a Large Bore (-1 base damage, becomes Slaying) and sure, you'll only get 1 shot, but when you shoot someone with Damage+1 Slaying #Critical, they'll feel that one shot. Special sights, scopes, full auto conversions, you name it, it probably causes -1 damage and makes the weapon risk breaking down while doing what you want.

Next comes one of the game's real mechanical innovations, an idea I really like. Instead of normal Armor, you equip an Outfit. Your Outfit isn't just your armor, though it does provide armor in most cases. Your Outfit is all the incidental gear that usually clutters up every RPG's gear section and never gets used. So say I have an Engineer's suit from my Manufacturing Loadout when I'm playing a combat engineer. That gives d6 Armor, equivalent to light combat armor and perfectly okay for the average adventurer. It also gives 'Repair d8 and Sabotage d8' and has the Fireproof tag. That means the Outfit makes you immune to #Scorch and Burning, and gives a +d8 die to repair work, explosives handling, and stuff like that for all the tools and misc. gear you're carrying in your dozens of pockets and toolkits. All without having to have dozens of incidental items in the section. This is a great way to handle this and to mechanically distinguish a bunch of this gear.

A lot of heavier combat armor is a Burden, of course. Some armor is also an Exoskeleton. Interestingly, Exoskeleton powered outfits are not the best pure damage reduction outfits. They're okay at it, but you really wear one for the utility and exoskeleton systems, which get their own series of Gifts to improve your function in these artificial muscle suits. There's also plenty of armor that grants Invulnerability on a conditional; for instance, the Excitoplex series of armors grant guaranteed soak successes, but at cost of using the Overheat system. Better hope you don't take too many bullets in too short a time or your shields will burn out! Other, more ablative outfits have Decay or Breakdown, which means not only does the Invulnerability sometimes fail you, but in the case of Decay outfits it gets less reliable until the armor breaks entirely. I also love the little detail that the Xenharmonic outfits A: Eventually make you Fireproof through being able to say gently caress you to thermodynamics and B: Look like fancy space tyrant uniforms.

All Outfits that provide armor dice provide d6s, which is a huge change from Ironclaw. To improve your Armor Dice, you need the Gift of Improved Armor, which improves all Armor dice one size per Gift. No armor provides more than 2 Invulnerability or 3 armor dice. Most of the top end armors top out at 2d6 armor and then a bunch of utility abilities. You can wear armor made of Towser hide and fur if you are an awful person and it will be very effective and dense. Why are you wearing skinned pastel dogmen. What is wrong with you. Still, the Outfit system is a great idea in place of a conventional armor system and adds a lot of flavor and mechanical distinction to picking out your cool gear.

In general, gear is mostly balanced. There are dozens of items, sure, but they all actually do different things and have a role or reason to exist or enable a certain archetype or power set. You want to be a hard-working combat engineer in an industrial exoskeleton fighting with a bunch of bulkhead breachers? You can do it. Elegant space tyrant with a fancy uniform that shields them with space-time distortions and a space magic song-blade? Doable, and mechanically useful. Normal space marine (not Space Marine) with an armored spacesuit and a hand crafted custom automatic shotgun? Go ahead. The gear enables a lot of variation in characters and mechanics, so I can't really say I'd cut it down. There's just a lot of it.

Next Time: Buying, Selling, Misc

Nov 23, 2014
Hellstromme's inclusion in the Flood always seemed a bit out of place especially given that he vanished from the entire campaign very near the start. Though that is more interaction than the players get with him in his own campaign Good Intentions. In which if I am remembering correctly the only interaction they get with Hellstromme directly is about 5 seconds worth of boxtext at the end of the entire book during which he leaves before they can get to do anything at all.Though with the exception of Stone pretty much none of the main villains seem to feature very much at all in their adventure to defeat them.

psudonym55 fucked around with this message at 07:34 on Jan 16, 2019

Hostile V
May 31, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.


DNA Cowboys
Feb 22, 2012


Libertad! posted:

So I have several problems with this. First off, although the book acknowledges the huge civilian casualties, evacuating the city of civilians will be nearly impossible for Reverend Grimme and his 13 Elders will escape if so. No matter that this will disrupt their annual pact, this is not given as a legitimate means of ending Grimme and the 13’s immortality. There’s also the very real fact that the PCs, who by now are likely quite “high level” and have all manner of cool gadgets, gear, skills, and magic. “Oh we just have to kill 13 of ‘em within the hour? Screw the Flood, let’s do it the old-fashioned way!”

I've used parts of The Flood in three campaigns, always veering in the direction my players wanted to go. The setting information and stats were invaluable, but I've never met a Deadlands group that doesn't rankle as get out when it comes to railroading.

The first campaign was with newer role-players whose adventures came from personal drama and messing with the different factions. They didn't have time to stop a cannibal cult -- either in-game or out, since several were moving at the end of the year. I switched a few things behind the scenes and made the Great Hunger Spirit from the Savage Tale the ultimate villain, which built off the general mood of Famine California that had plagued them for so long, and provided a challenging fight.

The second campaign focused on Shan Fan politics and the battle for control over California. I had planned to slowly boost the Church of Lost Angels from sinister bystanders to a grade-A threat, but the PCs were more interested in tangling with the tongs, avenging Emperor Norton, and (again) following character threads. Hellestromm and Wasatch were popular targets. This was the campaign where the martial artist killed his diablo with horns ripped from an ally's downed diablo.

The third campaign was a Deadlands Noir continuation of the second campaign. As Shan, the city of cinema and sin, was drawn into the conflict between China and Japan, an increasing number of its socialites and influential actors joined the Church. A struggling film studio fighting cannibal Scientologists who wanted to Eat the Poor in the golden age of Chinese-American Hollywood was a hook my players could get behind, personal stories and all! They did end up flooding Lost Angels, but it was on a feast day when only members of a certain rank and wealth were allowed within the city limits. They also had the help of Old Man River/The Fisher King, the/a Holy Grail, the Fisher King's sword, and a vril from beyond space, so it wasn't a normal flood by any means.

DNA Cowboys fucked around with this message at 09:23 on Jan 16, 2019

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!
Cults: Scrappers, pt. 2

Degenesis Rebirth
Primal Punk
Chapter 3: Cults



Scrappers don't like going out in groups, since you're easier to spot and have to share the loot. However, they still communicate by hobo signs Scrapper runes.


No one would remember Grief who wandered the streets south of the Tech Central when the tunnel system still existed or Toktok who searched refugees’ mummies in mountain caves if both of them had not marked their way with runes.

Scrappers tattoo the rune of their names on their foreheads or the back of their hands. Leaving a rune on the ruins means “Hobo was here. poo poo's looted. Piss off.” They also have a hobo alphabet way of communicating danger and what not, but


The meanings of the runes differ from region to region; there is no common alphabet.

The Africans, on the other hand, don't know about the runes since they're normal people who talk to each other.


Remember Bedain? Well, this place, the largest shipbreaking operation in the world, is where the whole thing about Scrappers also being constructors takes place. You want a Khyber Pass rifle? Too bad, it's Sepsis teritory right now, but Bedain will build you anything that doesn't need electronics. And also Surge Tanks.

It's also like Mecca for Scrappers, all of whom want to visit it at least once. Nothing is mentioned about the difference in attitude towards Bedain that might exist between African and European Scrappers – or if the former are admitted at all. On the other hand, runes are mentioned, so maybe?

Hidden Stores

Hey, a side section!

So, some amateur Scrappers tie their load to their clothes because... they're stupid, I guess (and the clanking, apparently, attracts bandits). More experienced ones make carrying rigs out of welded tubes, because the authors don’t understand either backpack frames or weights in general. And, of course, some drag their stuff in sleds and or carts.

However, you can't always carry all the poo poo with you. Some gets left in stashes. But not all stashes are found again, as Scrappers die, get lost and so on. This almost says outright that hearing a rumor of a cache at a bar is good story hook.

In Old Age

Not many European Scrappers retire, as the endless MMORPG grind for scrap is apparently addictive. Those who don't die in the wastes can retire to Scrapper halls (probably mentioned for the first time here). It's not a gentle retirement – their body is all sorts of hosed up – but at least its easy to get food.

Machanists and manufacturers can find shelter in the rare communities of Scrappers. Sometimes, even Chroniclers are interested in their stuff. It's a little different in Africa, where the clans take care of the old.


Full of interest, the children bend closer to listen intently when the gnarled Scrappers talk about their adventures and battles against Borcan barbarians. In the end, they diein dignity. European Scrappers rot in the wasteland.
Ashes to ashes.

I wish somebody would take care of this writing.

Next time: Scrapper’s Guide To Europe’s Phattest Loot

JcDent fucked around with this message at 11:58 on Jan 16, 2019

May 13, 2013

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

Libertad! posted:

The Flood Plot Point Campaign, Part 1
Horrified at this act of barbarity, Lacy O’Malley goes charging into the still-hot fires of Ghost Town, proclaiming that there’s innocents in need of help. Those who accompany O’Malley will need to make Vigor rolls to avoid suffocation from smoke inhalation. They can save a few people, but the neighborhood as a whole burns.

Wait, I thought Ghost Town wasn't part of LA, but some nearby town that just go unlucky.

Feb 13, 2012

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

Make a Note of it

One of the key pillars of Remanence relevance is their control of the galactic reserve currency, the Monetary Note (Obviously, its symbol is a cute little eighth note). These were originally printed on xenharmonic coins by the Syndics themselves, and I'd imagine those ancient coins would fetch a good sum as collectors' items nowadays. Now, Notes are printed on fiber-optic paper with encoded patterns to deter counterfeiting (they do not wholly prevent it), and are generally agreed upon to be worth one day's minimum wage labor. A single Note is actually a fair bit of money, though PCs will obviously earn quite a bit more than a Note a day when they get to work adventuring. The Note is accepted almost everywhere in the galaxy, and the Remanence knows their control of the main form of intergalactic money is a big deal, ensuring that monetary policy is (mostly) carried out with care to prevent rampant fluctuations in the value of their currency. The Note is, of course, filthy fiat currency because backing your currency to a direct commodity is a silly idea for goldbugs and the value of all money is an agreed upon social construct as it is.

Scrip is issued as local currency on many worlds, or small unions of worlds. It never really replaces the Note, and people will still take Notes everywhere, but you can do business just fine in local money as long as you stay within a cluster or a gravity well. A common scam is promising migrant workers a lot of money to come and work a mining or agri colony, then paying them only in scrip rather than Notes, which Cavalcade operators and spacers usually won't take. That gets them stuck on world, where the only person who'll take their scrip is the 'company store', so to speak, which then leads to a life as an indentured sharecropper or miner. Hello, AMG, you absolute dicks.

Both the Concord and the Solar Creed have tried to make their own currencies to surpass the Syndics. Both of them base and back their currency on power generation, which seems like kind of a stupid idea in a setting where power generation is so easy and electricity is such a common commodity that waste-heat venting is a bigger concern than power production. The Concord is just so sure everyone will eventually see the Remanence fiat money is illogical next to their commodity backed, rational 'one Masey is worth 10 liters of boiling water!' currency, and that this will produce a reliable currency that isn't subject to market forces at all! Oh, Concord, you lovable scamps. At least they don't mine bitcoin. Both the Concord Masey and the Creed Sol aren't considered particularly valuable, with an exchange rate of 100 of either to 1 Note. The Creed doesn't especially care, as they mostly only use money as a marker and focus much more on the 10 year, 100 year, and 1000 year plans of the Plenipotentiary for the distribution and production of commodities.

Now, one of the issues in game is that items have a listed Note cost, but also a signifier: Are they Cheap, Affordable, Expensive, or Extravagant? Cheap items are usually so cheap they're disposable, and can usually be scavenged instead of bought. Affordable items are easy to buy off the rack, and players can start with as many Affordable items as they want. If you want a fire axe to hit people with on top of whatever gear you started out with, take it. Expensive items take actual shopping trips to find and buy at a reasonable price, and usually cost more than 10 Notes. Extravagant items are commissioned to order. These are things like advanced power suits, or Xenharmonic Fortissimo combat armor, or Hypergolic Pistols. These often cost over 100 Notes. Rare items generally cost twice as much (they'll note if they're Rare, and the Host may declare a Rare item common on specific worlds that manufacture it, or a common item Rare if you're someplace it would be hard to find).

Also, you can always sell used gear for 20% of its cost (30% if you have Haggle), but illegal gear goes for only 5% and takes a lot of effort to sell, unless you're a Black Marketeer, in which case you get 10% and can sell it much more easily (and buy it much cheaper). You can also make your own gear, which is actually one of the better ways to get expensive stuff and another reason Craft is really useful. You pay out 20% of the value to pick up the materials you need, then roll Mind+Craft (Or Body, or Speed, or even Will, depending on what the Host rules you're trying to work with. Heavy physical labor uses Body, technical work Mind, fine detailing Speed, and extremely unpleasant work Will) vs. 3. You get any relevant Gift bonuses, plus any Outfit bonus for having the right tools for the job, plus an extra d8 if you have a full, proper workshop. To build the item, you work towards filling in its market value, so to speak, 'making' Notes worth of progress per success you get. The more expensive the item, the more successes you need on a single roll to actually make any progress, though you count all the successes on a successful roll. If the item is Rare or Proscribed, you get a bonus to progress because the Rarity doesn't matter (since you're building it yourself instead of paying extra for the scarcity) and you don't have to bother buying stuff around permits and black markets for Proscribed. You make more progress per success depending on if the item is Cheap (1 Note of value per success), Affordable (3 Notes, need 2 successes minimum for progress), Expensive (10 Notes, 3 Successes min), or Extravagent (30 Notes, 4 Successes min).

Now that all sounds really complicated, so we're going to do an example. Kenna Cousland is a human engineer recently rescued from the AMG and given access to a workshop. She wants to build a proper exo-suit for herself so she can do better work for her new employers and have bigger space adventures. She has a workshop aboard the Remanence Battleship Harmony, her new place of work, and thus gets the d8 bonus for that. She's wearing her old Engineer's outfit, and gets d8 for that. She has Mechanics as a Gift, and so gets d12 for that. She mostly did unskilled labor for the AMG, and so only has Laborer at d4, and a Mind of d6, but she has an actual Craft of d8. Thus, her crafting dice are d4 (Career), d6 (Mind), d8 (Outfit), d8 (Workshop), d8 (Skill Marks), and d12 (Gift). With 6 dice, she can also choose to Rote this and just claim 3 successes if she's building an Expensive item. She elects to build a simple, 42 Note 'Amplifier' industrial Exoskeleton, an Expensive item. It's Rare, so she makes double progress. She pitches in 8.4 Notes (her signing bonus) for the materials, then claims Rote and makes 30 Notes of progress, x2 for the item being Rare, which gets her the suit after a single interval of work. If she'd wanted to build an Extravagant Battle Suit, she'd have had to roll, because 3 successes wouldn't make her any progress.

One of the issues is there's never a great sense of how much money PCs should be making on average, so to speak. There's never really a 'baseline' of wealth established, or guidelines for using wealth and gear as a progression element. Also, Crafting is really surprisingly quick and easy to do, and much cheaper than shopping, plus it has no established interval of how long each check is. I'd probably allow one in the downtime between adventures/sessions. In general, I think this game would actually really benefit from something akin to WHFRP4e's Downtime system, with time off between space adventures or traveling to the next planet becoming a resource you can spend on crafting and other off-screen ventures, and might work on adding that sort of thing to my campaigns. There's never a good sense of exactly how hard it is to get Extravagant items, too. They mention you have to have them made to order, but don't give, say, a direct difficulty on commissioning them or a modifier for how much that might jack up the price.

There's also the fact that the Cheap/Affordable/Expensive/Extravagant system, and some other subsystems in the gear section, feel like trying to have their abstraction cake and eat their direct money/weight measurements too. For instance, you get a note that most Outfits weigh 4 kg, most 2 handed weapons the same, most 'good hand' items are 2kg, and most off-hand items are 1kg, with Burden items weighing 20kg or more. You then get a little table telling you how much each Body die can carry without being Burdened (2xBody die's highest result kg), and a +16 modifier for each Gift of Strength or for having Giant. The thing is, we already have a fairly elegant abstraction with the idea that particularly heavy items are a Burden and need Strength ranks or someone who knows their way around an Exosuit to avoid penalties for them. There's no real need for the kg stuff, too. I get the intention; especially with being able to start with as much Affordable gear as you want, they don't want a PC carrying a sniper rifle, six shotguns, a fire axe, eight pistols, and a live squirrel. But that's the kind of thing you can sanity check while sticking with the Burden/Strength system for 'big' items. The Cheap/Affordable/Expensive/Extravagant stuff is fine, as is still having costs in Notes; I'm not bothered by directly tracking money.

The issue is that when you then get into stuff like Starships and vehicles, they're immensely, immensely expensive to the point that listing their cost in money feels a bit unnecessary, and if players somehow have the cash to purchase a ship, they can buy as much personal scale gear as they could ever want. Another abstraction system I like is the idea of Spares; you scrounge up or find consumable Mechanical/Chemical/Electronic/Xenharmonic Spare Parts and use them to fix items or recharge Gifts that need rebuilding and repairing. Your Loadout Gifts might give you consumables, like grenades or Spare parts; these get refreshed periodically (with each new Chapter/major scene) intentionally. While you can always exhaust your Loadout to request you get your gear back, you can't do this if you just sell your Loadout gear for money. You do not have an infinite supply of saleable military rifles because you took Paramilitary Loadout.

We also get all kinds of medical care, drugs, and services, which contain some interesting fluff tidbits in among the descriptions. For instance, there are FTL communication devices that work on Xenharmonic frequencies, but they'll only work about 2 systems away. This is as good as FTL comms get, which means if you want to spread word of what's happening in one cluster of space, you'll have to go somewhere physically and warn the authorities, etc. You can't just radio someone across the galaxy. Another cute thing: Spaceship sizes are measured by how many contact points you have to rent to stick the ship on a Cavalcade transport for tandem jumping. You also get passenger rates for chartered FTL travel, both in case you need to pay to go somewhere, or in case you're playing a starship crew and want to know the going rates you can charge passengers. The cost goes up the harder the Rondo jump is, because past a certain point it takes a Conductor to reliably make those jumps. An independent starship captain with a Conductor on board who isn't beholden to the AMG or Remanence can potentially make a lot of money.

Note that just because ships are measured by how much space they take up on a Cavalcade for tandem jumping doesn't mean smaller craft lack Rondo drives. If you want to be the crew of a 3-point (1 Pilot, 1 Copilot, 8 Passengers/Crew on average) tramp freighter flying about and exploring lost jump routes, you absolutely can. The Points system is just a standardization that was convenient and enforced by the Syndics. You also get exact pricing on how much it costs to have enough fuel to reach escape velocity and still have sufficient reaction mass to mess around in space a bit. As an added note, old Syndic-built ships and cruisers often have Xenharmonic engines that effectively have infinite reaction mass, and don't require fuel. People will kill to get hold of these and do almost anything to keep them working. Rondo Jumps also have a good chance of destroying the ship's capacitors, so you'll need to keep spares on board or a good engineer around.

So while there's no space combat rules, there's enough on what it's like to work a spaceship and how much you can make doing it to make it worth playing a starship crew. If combat comes up, just abstract it as a series of Transport or other checks as dramatically appropriate, or arm the boarding grapples and come to grips so you can swashbuckle in low G. After all, starships are extremely expensive, and your average space pirate isn't so much interested in killing you as confiscating your weapons and supplies (and ship). Why wouldn't they prefer to capture your ship with boarding shotgun and plasma saber?

Next Time: Spot Rules

Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

Libertad! posted:

What’s even weirder is that Hellstromme more or less disappears from the campaign afterward. His rail warriors and X-squad troopers do not make any further appearances in the Plot Point, and the only Savage Tale which tangentially involves them has the PCs accepting a job offer from them. Which is...odd, given how the ghostfire bombing established Hellstromme as an evil SOB.

It wouldn't be Deadlands without forcing the party to participate in the writers' drat metaplot. That little bit with the ghost rock nukes is the canonical ending to Great Rail Wars, their spinoff skirmish miniatures game. Yes, a skirmish minis game where canonically every faction is wiped out by nukes. Just like in the main RPG arc where everyone who could have stopped Hell on Earth is conveniently killed via time travel zombie cyborg.

You couldn't let the players NOT be forced to witness it, could you? That would be saying their stories were more important than the glorious story arc and we can't have that!

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
That mindset has always been completely baffling to me. Like, we're sitting around a table, talking with friends. Who the gently caress cares if we feel like piledriving Stone? Or writing a plotline in the setting so that maybe tons of people don't die for no reason for once, or we actually stop the villains, or whatever?

Looking back on it all, I can't believe we all just accepted Metaplot for as long as we did in this hobby.

Like this is the game that specifically has the invincible teleporting magic zombie gunslinger whose entire job is to kill your players if they try to stop the metaplot at all, right? That was Deadlands?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder


Assuming they successfully stopped the magical teleporting herd of Satanic cattle that were also intended to do that job.

Oct 30, 2013

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

JcDent posted:

Wait, I thought Ghost Town wasn't part of LA, but some nearby town that just go unlucky.

Maybe, although what I recall it was close enough and its residents interacted with LA enough (in the form of labor, drugs, and other assorted vices) that I presumed it was akin to a city's metropolitan outskirts than a community of its own.

Edit: You're correct, it is a shantytown and tent city east of Lost Angels.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:


Oh, uh, just a little heads up.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Violence and the Supernatural

There might be some people getting hurt for reasons they didn't deserve it, and if you don't like the occult, well, we got that too. So you may want to steer clear.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

The fictional World of Rifts® is violent, deadly and filled with supernatural monsters. Other dimensional beings often referred to as "demons," torment, stalk and prey on humans. Other alien life forms, monsters, gods and demigods, as well as magic, insanity, and war are all elements in this book.

I just wanted to apologize and say sorry for all the things trying to kill you in here, and there might be a lot of other bad things happening too. Oh, and a touch of the occult, if that bothers you.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Some parents may find the violence, magic and supernatural elements of the game inappropriate for young readers/players. We suggest parental discretion.

I also want to give a word out to adults to maybe snatch this up before the kids see it. Take a look first, make sure there might not be anything traumatizing in here, like the occult.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Please note that none of us at Palladium Books® condone or encourage the occult, the practice of magic, the use of drugs, or violence.

We don't really like any of this kind of thing, despite the fact that we have written literally thousands of pages on it. Honestly, it's just awful. I'm not quite sure what we're doing. Sorry.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada, Part 1 - "Pre-Rifts Canada was covered in over 234,800 miles (375,680 km) of roadway, including the 4,888 mile (7,821 km) Trans-Canada Highway, and 39,972 miles (63,955 km) of rail."

Hey, this is Eric Thompson, and I'm so glad to have written this, I'd like to dedicate this to my bros and my English teacher and my Uncle and-

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Continuing thanks to Kevin and Maryann again for putting up with me, my typos, and my continued quest for perfection on my first complete work for Palladium. Though I fell well short of Kevin's expectations, I feel I did my job well. However, I did succumb to my own enthusiasm at times and my work suffered because of it. But I've learned quite a bit in this short time and since the completion of this project. I hope to turn all of what I have learned, and will learn, into a steady stream of excellent work. To all: Domo Arigato

Eric Thompson, 1998/1999, (a.k.a. JJFuzz)

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Special Thanks to Eric Thompson for his hard work, understanding and cooperation on this project, he has a lot of heart.

[Other thanks snipped.]

— Kevin Siembieda, 1999

It happens to us all, doesn't it?

You're there, at GenCon or Origins or at your local soda fountain, when an eager fan comes up to you. "Why, Mr. Designer, gosh, I love your world of skulls and robos!", he says, stars in his eyes. Yes, he's willing to work for peanuts, and he has some neat ideas about Japanese headhunters who use rad techno-psychic powers. You nod to yourself sagely. You can entrust a small chunk of your world, your setting, your creation to this young sprout. You are a kind game designer. This will go well.

But then- DISASTER!

Why, it turns out the eager fan wasn't that great at writing at all! You'd been hoodwinked by his enthusiasm! Infected with his terrible, deceptive glee. And you did agree to pay him those peanuts. But you can't release a book like this - it will not do. But no mere game designer can handle this, it's time for...


Yes, only THE MACHINE can handle this, and completely rewrite the manuscript! Evil may rise up, evil may try to inflict a substandard vision of your setting, but THE MACHINE is there to save the day! Running a company, negotiating a deal for a movie with Bruckheimer, THE MACHINE can handle it all!

For a moment, however, weakness threatens. "I should give that fan a co-writer credit on the cover.", you muse, but THE MACHINE knows better. Why, wasn't that fan just there to inspire you to create another great work? It wasn't their writing that was special, it was their heart. So you scratch out that co-writing credit and write the truth:

"Additional text & concepts: That Fan With Some Real Heart."

Yes. Another grand work of RPG wizardry saved by THE MACHINE!

Note these guys have a Coalition-style logo on their maple leaves. They will turn out to vigorously anti-Coalition later on. Whups!

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Hey, you kids are going to like this, eh?

In any case, Siembieda is delighted to get to write another book that Thompson was going to write at some point and at this point we're past pattern and past habit and into downright "solicit and slay" addiction when it comes to him having manuscripts written and ripping out their heart to add to his game writing power. Maybe I'm being horribly overwrought, but man, it's getting old. But it's okay, because Siembieda is glad to write a book about Canada. I mean, he's from Michigan! That's like being Canadianish! So he's glad to make it live. In fact, he's got plans for more Canada books like-

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

The next book in the Rifts® Canada series will be Free Quebec™, in stores in the Fall of 1999. It will take a closer look at the State of Free Quebec, its war with the Coalition States, its legion of Glitter Boys and other war machines, plus the people, powers, and places of that region.

Yep, that'll be World Book 22! It runs a little later than that, though... later than World Book 23, in fact...

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Other Rifts® titles set in Canada will eventually include Lazlo, The Calgary Rift, Iron Heart, and The Windsor-Detroit Region, among others. At least one of these titles should see print in the year 2000.

Nope, nope, nope, nope, and... nope. I know three strikes is an out, but what does five strikes get you? Mega-Out? None of these books ever came out in the nearly two decades since their solicitation here. Well, he may not be batting a run, but Siembieda certainly is certainly scoring a running of the mouth during this period. Two years ago I heard from a Palladium employee that I should be hearing about Lazlo within the year. Nope!

Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh, Siembieda has gotten better about not soliciting 1001 books in every issue of The Rifter. But at the time? Oh, man, his dreams ran way ahead of his hands.

The robot not appearing in this book.

A Bit of Rifts History
By Eric Thompson & Kevin Siembieda

And now, a book report on Canada. Did you know that Canada has ten provinces and has 234,800 miles of road? Truly, Canada is a big place. It has the St. Lawrence Seaway which is named after St. Lawrence and there are over thirty international ports that see all kinds of ships like maybe pirate ships but probably not it's probably just boring ships. And-

This is the kind of thing we did before Wikipedia.

Granted the numbers are a little different because they're supposed to be 2080 A.D. numbers. While other nations worked on Glitter Boys, Juicers, and psychic catgirls, pre-rifts Canada was focused largely on alternative energies and nuclear power. They also worked on trying to find ways to farm in inhospitable locations like mines or space. And also they produced zinc and uranium and potash and also tobacco and I am a student totally worth an A+, a Canadian once said that to me did you know that, it's true! The rifts happened and the literal rising tide annihilated a lot of their coastal cities (lake or sea). But new city-states arose, like Iron Heart (a near-forgotten Coalition State), Free Quebec (a metaplot-relevant Coalition State), Lazlo (that place that's really needed its own book all this time), Ishpeming (aka Northern Gun, makes robos), and Manistique Imperium (they also make robos but mainly worse robos than Northern Gun). All this makes them the technological "center" of the Americas, if not necessarily the top - there are still communities like Chi-Town that have a higher overall technology level.

The only chill people in the Rifts setting.

We're told things are "like the Old West" or "have a New West feel" which is a clumsy way of just saying "frontier". Like many other Rifts locales, communities are a mix of rustic log cabins and scavved laserguns. Roads and trails are slowly being reestablished, and there are even some rail lines (or ley line travel). While D-Bees are generally accepted, prejudice is a very real issue in some towns or Coalition communities. In addition, people tend to be wary of outsiders because threats abound. All stuff we're really familiar with at this point. Most are democratic, most have a "lawman" that enforce laws, a militia that protects them, etc. There's a tradition of travelling judges that apparently arbitrate in tricky circumstances - usually Cyber-Knights, Preachers (from New West), Justice Rangers (ditto), Tundra Rangers (we'll see more on them later), etc. There's also a throwaway reference to "Legalist Preachers" that preach "the laws of the Old World" which sounds like an intriguing notion that will never be heard of again in this book. Look, just buy Rifts World Book 14: New West, okay? Canada's like that. But colder.

Next: Erin Tarn tells us beaver lies.

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 02:39 on Jan 17, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

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

Savage Tales, Part 1

The Flood’s many side plots are the second-largest portion of the book behind the Marshal’s section. We have 32 Savage Tales in total, 9 of which are part of three plot arcs which culminate or align with finding a glyph. The rest of them are part of the Tombstone Epitaph’s GOOD INTENTIONS help wanted ads: their entries even begin with their relevant newspaper section as a handout! About half of the latter are immediately available after the completion of Plot Point 3, but the rest either unlock after events as part of the main adventure or after a few in-game months.

Time-Based Savage Tales: The Battle o’ Junction, Ballots and Bullets

Plot Point 3 Completion Unlocks: Fellheimer’s Folly, The Rancher’s Life, Groaning Man Cave, the Russian Menace, Rabid Rance Strikes Again!, The Creature of Archeron Bay, Wanted: Dead or Alive!, Off the Grid, City of Omens and Zeroes, The Scientific Method, Ghost Rot, Harriman’s Legacy, Those Smug Bastards

Plot Point 4 Completion Unlocks: Treasure Hunters

Plot Point 5 Completion Unlocks: Flesh of the Mad Monk, Love Ling the New Flesh

Plot Point 7 Completion Unlocks: Night of the Caretaker mini-arc, The War of the Triads mini-arc, The Rise and Fall of Santa Anna mini-arc, Cult o’ the Dragon, Head Full o’ Nothin’, In Search of Goldnose, Famished!, Hasteli’s Children (after 2 or 3 glyphs)

Night of the Caretaker

In the world of Deadlands, the Whateley clan of Lovecraftian fame not only exist, they’re a powerful yet ruthless family of criminals and fell sorcerers who consort with Things That Should Not Be Consorted With. A branch of their family once owned a creepy mansion in San Francisco, but now it’s on a tall mesa recently rumored to be home to new veins of ghost rock as well as strange glyphs. This Tale begins with some investigation: PCs can find out that the Whateley clan also lived in the now-deserted town of Gomorra. There they can find a seemingly dull-witted yet creepy teenage boy who calls himself the Caretaker and offers to accompany the PCs due to a strange need to find his “home.” He will of course turn on the party when it comes time to defend his kin. A PC with the Whateley Blood Edge knows exactly where this place is, while consulting library archives and questioning miners turns up rumors of black magic and monsters summoned from the depths of Hell as being what scared off many would-be claim jumpers.

Whateley Isle is now a ruined, shoddy mess of its former self, and given that the place was a rickety mansion at its best that’s saying something. Sometime before the PCs arrived Kang’s pirates set up shop with a squad of martial artists, gunmen, demolitionists, and even a few ogres and a sorcerer of their own to claim the island. They knew better than to brush off the tales as superstition. A fierce battle between them and the Whateley’s grotesque minions ensued, with the latter on the verge of losing. Losing ground to Kang’s goons the Whateleys retreated into the caves where they transformed themselves into slug-like monsters. And said caves are where an earthquake glyph can be found.

This Tale is a bit of an open-ended dungeon crawl. Kang’s pirates will try to capture the heroes and interrogate them for what they know, and the cave’s studded with ghost rock which can make for a good fuel source or impromptu explosions for the truly daring. One of the more unique treasures here are pages from the Necronomicon which can grant even noncasters the ability to cast Curse, Environmental Protection, and Puppet (controlling another’s body) but at the risk of being cursed themselves. The Necronomicon’s pages count as a mortal sin if used by a Blessed or Shaman.

What I Changed: I figured that keeping the Whateleys as actual humans, if creepy and deformed, would feel more threatening than over-sized slugs. I had one be a super-strong ogre-like being and another as a one-eyed sorcerer. I did not include Kang’s pirates on account I planned on running War of the Triads after this one so didn’t want to overuse them.

The War of the Triads

This mini-arc includes four Savage Tales with the reward of a glyph at its conclusion. Unsurprisingly they center around a cold war among the Chinese criminal factions turning into a blazing hot one. Although the entry mentions that it should take place during the glyph hunt, the ending of Plot Point Four mentions it being run much earlier which seems a mistake as some of the opposition in these adventures are a bit high level.

There’s also an awful lot of behind-the-scenes politicking in these adventures. The PCs are unlikely to find out several of them unless they manage to pry the information out of various NPCs. Some of it is relevant to the adventure, but others tie into the metaplot or the Triad and warlord’s larger territorial ambitions. It does do a thorough job of explaining where everyone stands and will stand after the civil war’s resolution, but chances are the PCs may not see much of it. Examples include how Thin Noodles Ma’s inability to get the amulet put him in hot water with Kwan and thus said warlord’s spies are still looking over the Explorer’s Society lodge. Another is how the Ravenite shamans Big Pul and Little Pul are convincing Kwan to put Emperor Norton as a figurehead to ensure northern California is put in the hands of an incompetent ruler.

While searching for glyphs Captain Roderick Pennington-Smythe summons the party again to meet in Shan Fan. He explains how in spite of its destruction the Explorer’s Society lodge contains a vault full of precious assets and artifacts left untouched by the Triad looters. Unfortunately the key to opening it was lost in a poker game to Big Ears Tam, and said Society member was thereby banned from the organization.

So you’d think that Pennington-Smythe is planning a daring caper to break into the mob boss’ estate, right? Or maybe win it back in an even higher-stakes poker tournament? Nope, he wants the PCs to work for Big Ears Tam and gain the skeleton key that way. This is kind of a waste, as Big Ears Tam’s stat block has d12+1 Gambling and the Card Sharp Edge which would otherwise never see play.

Sink the Abysmal! Said mob boss is more than eager to meet the PCs at his estate, and offers to give them the key in two weeks time but until then they work for him. The first thing he wants the PCs to do is sink the Abysmal, one of Kang’s warships. After Hellstromme dropped the bombs at the Battle of Lost Angels, Kang lost a lot of men and assets and thus Tam wants to strike while the iron’s hot by taking over the Maze pirate biz.

This Savage Tale is a straightforward ship hunt followed by a tough fight: in addition to steam gatlings and cannons the Abysmal has a crew of 27: Red Petals Su (who can die in this adventure but will try to escape via autogyro), 5 ogres, and the rest a mixture of pirates and martial artists.

Shan Fan Kumite: The next adventure is a classic martial arts tournament. Tam is impressed that the PCs sunk a battleship and wants to either sponsor them as fighters or keep them as bodyguards at the annual Shan Fan Kumite. This tournament is a classic one-on-one non-lethal fight of hand to hand combat. Even if by chance none of the PCs are built for melee the adventure suggests letting unqualified players run NPC martial artists. The first 3 rounds are against average fighters who use the Martial Artist stat blocks in Deadlands Marshal’s Handbook (no supernatural powers), but the 4th round is against Wang Men Wu who uses the Superior Martial Artist stat block.

A character who makes it to the fifth and final round faces Chin-Hsueh Wong of the Shaolin 37th Chamber. Not one who normally showboats at tourneys, Kwan spread rumors that Big Ears Tam is seeking to humble the monks, and then invited Wong to the tournament to let them save face.

Chin-Hseuh Wong is an extremely difficult foe to face, and even the adventure acknowledges it. He’s got a whole host of chi powers and his combat-related stats are top-tier. He can make potentially up to 4 attacks with the Quickness power and Improved Frenzy Edge, and his Parry of 10 makes it very difficult to hit him. Moreso if he uses Deflection, and his Counterattack Edge gives him a free strike at those who fail to hit him. A PC who manages to beat him will gain great fame and respect in Shan Fan.

After the tourney’s conclusion Kang’s agents posing as Kwan’s soldiers will spring an assassination attempt on Big Ears Tam. Tam will declare that if he dies the PCs will never get the key to help motivate them. This is a much less difficult fight than the Abysmal, in that there are less enemies and none have any supernatural powers to break out against the PCs. Long-Haired Tony, Shan Fan’s sheriff of sorts, will also intervene on Tam’s behalf.

Spy Games: The assassination attempt makes Big Ears Tam more paranoid than usual, and hears from his sources that Kang and Kwam are seeking to meet in secret at Dragon’s Breath. Tam wants the PCs to spy on the meeting and relay the information to him. Only then will he give them the vault key. He even gives them disguises and an ironclad of his own for them to make the journey if need be.

Dragon’s Breath is closed up tight, and Kang’s palace within even moreso. The many guests and servants here all speak in Chinese, and Kwan and Kang conduct their meeting behind a paper-thin wall the PCs can conveniently eavesdrop upon. PCs not fluent in the tongue are in luck, for Emperor Norton is present and thus the meeting’s conducted in English for his benefit. Kang denies being behind the assassination attempt at the tournament, but convinces Kwan to invade Shan Fan for the Triad will surely strike if he does not strike first. He’s even generous enough to offer Kawn his naval fleet while they march on the city; Kang’s still smarting over the Abysmal.

At this point the palace staff will realize that there are intruders about and the PCs have to escape the city, possibly encountering hordes of pirates along the way.

Emperor Norton: The conclusion to the War of the Triads involves Kwan’s forces attacking Shan Fan. Tam is horrified at the news but hands over the key all the same. He telegraphs the New Tomorrow Triad and the Shaolin Monks (who learned about Kwan baiting them) for aid. Pennington-Smythe and Dillinger are holed up at the ruins of the Explorer’s Society lodge and ask the PCs to help secure the vault against invaders.

This next part is not a typical battle per se, but in fact makes use of Savage World’s Mass Combat Rules. In fact it’s the first of two times said rules every make an appearance in this Plot Point Campaign. Basically the Shan Fan Triad is one side, and General Kwan’s Army the other. The Triad are outmatched, numbering less than half of Kwan’s forces. The Triad factions of Thin Noodles Ma and Rat-Skinner Hou betray Tam and the New Tomorrow by turning on them mid-way through the battle. Hundreds of ordinary townsfolk also gather to fight for their hometown.

The non-Mass Combat section of this adventure is a standoff at the lodge, where the PCs and said Society members face off against 24 of Kwan’s soldiers (human and a few ogres) along with the Ravenite shamans Big Pul and Little Pul.

Unfortunately, the resolution of the Mass Combat does not matter at all: whether taken as prisoner or basking in glory, Kang himself shows up well after the battle’s resolution and kills his rival-turned-betrayed-ally with a single chest-bursting punch. He makes a brief intimidating speech about what happens to traitors, how everyone who worked for Kwan works for him now, and that he is eager to help Big Ears Tam rebuild the city in exchange for some deals. The Shan Fan Triad realize that having any of their number as a single ruler will repeat the cycle of division, so the assimilationist New Tomorrow Triad convince the others to crown Emperor Norton as leader of California.

Isle of Ghost’s Tears: The contents of the lodge’s vault include a carved stone fragment detailing the location of two glyphs in California; one to be determined by the GM, the other on the Isle of Ghost’s Tears in Shan Fan Bay. The adventure suggests giving out magical relics tailored to the PCs as further rewards or simply antique gold if they’re more money-hungry.

The Isle in question is a bit of a non-standard conflict. The island has been kept off-limits by the Triad on account of rumors of dangerous spirits. They’re right, up to a point. There are definitely spirits of the dead here, mostly those who died in the Great Quake, but the real villain here is a Sin Eater known as Genjia who can take the form of any person it’s eaten. Said corpses have to be improperly buried to be of sustenance, which California has a lot of in the 11 years since.

Genjia pretends to be an insane yet harmless old hermit who will try to mislead the PCs and convince them that the spirits are in the wrong. He will also attempt to kill loners in order to consume their soul. Genjia’s monstrous ability includes rising from ‘death’ in a new grave, and the only way to truly put him to rest is to dismember each of his limbs and bury them separately in sacred ground.

As for the ghosts living upon the isle, they too can communicate with the party but are bound to the island due to the glyph’s magic. They’re not exactly friendly to intruders either, more concerned with scaring them away. The ghosts will do things like appear in their crushed, mangled forms upon death or scream vile remarks about a PCs’ dead relative.

If reasoned with the party can learn that the most powerful and terrible ghost among them is a woman by the name of Meng Chiang-nu. She was the first Chinese immigrant to have died in the Great Quake, brutally tossed aside by her selfish fiance in an attempt to save himself. Even if the PCs initiate combat the spirits are far from united and there are various other ghosts about the area who can give out more information, including Meng who appears as a crying ghost of the island’s namesake.

The resolution to this quest, obviously, is to take care of Genjia. If done she will show the PCs where to find the glyph: in a set of cliffs overlooking the sea caves.

What I Changed: Quite a bit of this adventure arc hinges on the PCs doing errands for a Triad boss, which given my group’s own party composition and backstories was simply not going to happen. Instead I changed things around to have the Chinese Six Companies working with the Explorer’s Society to overthrow the Triad itself. I cut out the whole business with Kang and made Thin Noodles Ma the main villain, whose island fortress sat atop a likely glyph location.

Instead of infiltrating Dragon’s Breath, the PCs were tasked with a covert search and rescue of Emperor Norton in Warlord Kwan’s fortress. The Six Companies would be more than happy to see the largest Triad leader crippled, but wanted to take control of Shan Fan. I had it so that Emperor Norton was one of the few white Americans trusted by the Chinese immigrant community based off an alleged real-world incident where he dispersed a racist mob from torching San Francisco’s Chinatown by sitting himself in front of the crowd and reciting Bible verses. As Chinese people could not legally own property back then and Norton wanted to feel like a protector and legitimate ruler, he bought up a host of Shan Fan businesses in his name but let community members and employees run them. With him being under the thumb of Warlord Kwan (who was allied with Thin Noodles Ma), this meant that the Triad used his assets for money laundering and a front for illegal activities. Rescuing Emperor Norton would thus give the Six Companies a legal advantage in taking control of Triad-owned property.

I also greatly expanded on the enemies and makeup of the fortress, using castle assets from Roll20 to accomplish this and noting structural weak points, autogyro pseudo-helipads, and other things for the PCs to take advantage of in their infiltration.

I put the martial arts tournament after the rescue of Emperor Norton. The PCs needed to win the martial arts tournament to get close to Ma, as the Triads headhunted goons among said contest’s winners. The PCs donned luchador masks to compete, in keeping with the unarmed combat theme while also disguising their faces: the martial artist PC had the Wanted hindrance in Shan Fan. When they were invited to wine and dine at Thin Noodles Ma’s fortress, they took the opportunity to start smacking heads and dispelling evil when it became clear that said Triad gangster sought to use the glyph’s secrets to generate earthquakes.

I also replaced the Isle of Ghost’s Tears with Thin Noodle’s Ma’s fortress, using the NPC encounters from elsewhere in this plot arc as his various guards.

The Rise and Fall of Santa Anna

Although they’ve been mostly a background element, the Mexican Army will invade southern California in full force sometime after Plot Point 7. Santa Anna himself is leading the charge, and with the Church of Lost Angels as the first stepping stone this creates an interesting situation of Baddies vs. Baddies or Lesser of Two Evils.

Or it would, if the arc didn’t focus solely on defeating one side.

Fort Doom: Our adventure begins when a strangely rich miner by the name of Eldon Strouth managed to find a seacove full of millions of dollars worth of ghost rock. He has not registered a claim for it yet on account that the attention will attract outlaws and pirates so he’s been scraping off enough of the substance to make a comfortable living but no more. He hires the PCs on as hired guns for the princely sum of $45 a day. However said cave is near the US-Mexican border, and during the third night of guard duty in the area the group spots Mexican and Confederate forces clashing. But something’s off about the latter, for their jerky movements and cannibalizing of fallen troops shows they are not among the living.

Santa Anna’s Army of Night destroys the Confederate forces and begins riding up to the City of Lost Angels. A smaller squad goes into the PCs’ path as a possible random encounter.

The only other encounter is a group of outlaws who try to take Strouth’s cave for themselves. Having had enough trouble the PCs’ employer will wish to ride up to the Rockies’ Assayer’s Office in Lost Angels by himself while the party stays on guard. Unfortunately the Mexican Army arrives shortly after he does, and the zombie army clashes against Grimme’s own Guardian Angels and Wasatch allies before being held at bay.

Smash the Machines: A Twilight Legion NPC or one from another allied faction sends an urgent message to the PCs. Although no fans of Reverend Grimme, they believe that the Emperor of Mexico is hardly a better leader for the region. Therefore, the PCs are given 32 sticks of dynamite and plungers to blow up a supply line in Mexicali and cripple the war effort.

Although I do not know much about Mexican history or Emperor Maximilian, the adventure does not explain exactly why the Mexican government would be just as bad for southern California as Grimme’s doomsday cult. On the contrary, I can see some gaming groups letting the two sides duke it out, figuring that even if Grimme wins his forces will be severely weakened. If Mexico wins, well...the Lost Angels just lost a major city and power base. It’s win-win for the PCs!

The bulk of this adventure is a dungeon crawl in a Mexicali mine, which is heavily guarded inside and out by soldiers. The goals in question are a pair of factories which can either be reached openly (bad idea) or snuck into via said mine shaft. Within its many tunnels the party can find entire rooms of captive undead kept docile with a strange plant admixture known as plantagrito. The adventure is open-ended on how and where the PCs wish to plant the dynamite: the GM asks the party how they wish to accomplish their plan and calls for appropriate rolls with modifiers based on how ingenious/foolish it is. Failed rolls do not spell failure, rather it means more Mexican soldiers (both living and dead) will fight the PCs and complicate matters.

Demolishing the factories will cut off the dragon’s head, as Santa Anna’s forces will run out of arms and supplies to further besiege the city. Forced to retreat, their own undead will turn hungry from lack of plantagrito and attack their living peers.

Getting a Leg Up: His Army of Night in tatters, his supply line destroyed, things seem about over for poor Santa Anna. But there is one thing which can turn the tide of battle. He caught wind that his famed prosthetic leg is somewhere within the vicinity; an out of the way tourist trap souvenir shop called Stanley’s Live Bait & Curios. With this good news he’s refocusing his efforts by personally leading a small squad to fetch it for the low, low price of 0 dollars and pesos!

This is not just sentimental value. In the world of Deadlands the ambient history, emotions, and energy surrounding the Leg of Santa Anna turned it into a magical item. The one in the Springfield Museum is a replica, while the real one was under lock and key by the Union’s Agency before it disappeared under mysterious circumstances. One who uses the leg as a prosthetic gains a host of leadership Edges along with a bonus on Intimidation and Persuasion rolls. Additionally any army or group merely carrying it in their possession gains immunity to becoming Wounded by the attacks of anyone under Santa Anna’s command but not the man himself. The trade-off is the person using the leg becomes obsessed with invading and conquering Texas. If Santa Anna himself regains his leg, he becomes immune to all physical attacks save the muskets of the Illinois regiment that captured the leg in the first place.

The PCs are either in the area of Stanley’s or they manage to covertly follow or interrogate a patrol of Mexican soldiers. When they go into the shop and interact with the owner (who tries to sell them all sorts of fake stuff), Santa Anna’s 50 strong forces and two gatling guns surround the shop with the good General demanding his leg back. Fortunately Stanley is aware of the immunity part of the leg’s powers and explains to the PCs his crazy idea.

The PCs are encouraged to go out in style: bullets graze them at most, Mexican guns inexplicably jam, and a host of way too many coincidences makes them obviously charmed. After several rounds of the party strutting their stuff, Santa Anna challenges them to combat, unwilling to needlessly throw his soldier’s lives away.

The famed Mexican General is Legendary in more ways than one: he has more than a few skills at d12 or even d12+1 or +2. His d8 Strength is nothing special but his 13 Parry makes him nigh-untouchable in melee combat, and a 10 Toughness is nothing to sneeze at. He has a number of leadership Edges which will be of no use on account of his soldiers’ harmlessness, and his sole firearm is a Colt Frontier pistol.

If he dies or is routed then all hopes of him conquering California and Texas are squashed. But if he gets back his leg he’ll be gearing up for a big war against Texas in the nearby years.

What I Would Have/Will Change: As of this writing I have not run this particular arc of Savage Tales. I planned to make the Mexican Army’s invasion based on two other particular adventures: Off the Grid and Wanted: Dead or Alive! In the former, the Men of the Grid were at a loss for funding and support and thus turned to the Mexican government due to their shared enmity of Reverend Grimme. For the latter quest Captain Blood’s depredations if not dealt with will weaken the US Navy to the point that they cannot pose a united front against Santa Anna’s forces.

Therefore, helping out the Gridders hastens the invasion, while Captain Blood’s death or capture would delay it. Both quests can cancel each other out; if the Men of the Grid were helped out and Captain Blood not dealt with then they’d invade early by Plot Point 6. If Blood’s days of piracy were put to an end and the Gridders were left high and dry they wouldn’t invade until the PCs found all 7 glyphs (not including this arc’s) and just about ready to take the fight to Grimme himself. In an early invasion I’d pepper sessions with more scenes and random encounters with Mexican Army personnel.

I did have plans for the Mexican forces to assault Lost Angels by the time of the final fight, making things feel desperate as only the most fanatic and poor of the city’s residents stay behind. The PCs will also have to deal with a potentially hostile third party in order to infiltrate the city and make their way to the Cathedral, dealing with Guardian Angel-Mexican crossfire along the way.

Other Savage Tales

Fellheimer’s Folly: This is a miniature dungeon crawl taking place on an island appearing like a conical spike. The top of the island has a corpse pinned to it, a German immigrant by the name of August Fellheimer who gives the macabre place its name. All attempts at climbing or flying to remove or inspect the body result with coincidentally-timed catastrophes such as rockslides or autogyro engines suddenly failing. A member of the Agency is on standby to inspect this strange occurance and shoo away onlookers. He will accept the PCs’ help if they seem like skilled people, which they most certainly are in this case!

The reality of the situation is that the corpse is the result of a black magic jinx woven by Gerhardt Von Stroessner. He killed Fellheimer to absorb his life force which he hopes will grant him immortality if he collects more of the stuff from other sacrifices.

The tunnels below the island are filled with spear and magic blasting glyph traps, with Stroessner at the bottom in a creepy laboratory. Activating traps will alert the mage to intruders and give him time to buff himself up with spells. He also has a demon who pretends to be his servant; he’ll let the upstart mortal know who’s really in charge soon enough!

Things I Changed: I excised the demon in favor of making Stroessner a load-bearing boss. When the island started sinking I called for Agility checks for the PCs to make it out in time, along with Swim checks and possible drowning if they were too slow.

The Rancher’s Life: The cattle rancher Dwight Shelton is looking for some hired help to protect his cattle from whoever is killing them. Hiring the party on for $5 a day, one night a near-dozen Lost Angels land on the mesa via a gunboat and sneak around to start killing cattle. If the PCs kill or drive them off, they return with twice the number with two gunboats and start blasting the ranch with cannonfire. If repelled again the Lost Angels will decide the ranch is a sunk cost and leave them be for now.

Things I Changed: I ran only the first encounter, but I added in an environmental obstacle of cows everywhere. Using firearms or AoE attacks risked killing cattle, something the Lost Angels have no reservations against. If enough cattle die you can kiss your payment goodbye!

Groaning Man Cave: This is less a quest and more a puzzle. This infamous cave is very close to Lost Angels, located in a seaside cove with a pair of two smaller cavities above. Lined with ghost rock, the cave’s “eyes” and “nose” give a constant stream of smoke and the sounds of its consumption make it seem like the place really is groaning.

The treasure in question is $10,000 worth of molten gold heated by ghost rock fire. The entire place is filled with poisonous vapors and radiates dangerous amounts of heat, threatening damage and fatigue just about every round.

The adventure is open-ended for just exactly how the PCs can obtain the liquid gold, and the “After the Flood” sidebar in the Marshal’s Section mentions how the waters submerge the cave but cool off the gold. However, the Environmental Protection power can render a character immune to the negative effects and thus safely retrieve the gold.

What I Changed: I made it so the molten gold puzzle was the end of the adventure rather than the majority. I ran Snatched, a mini-adventure from the Saddle Sore sourcebook, for this Savage Tale. Said adventure is a roguelike dungeoncrawl where the cave’s foundations are generated via card draws, and the goal is to kill enough tunnel critters to clear out the cave. I made it so the gold was the goal instead, but the monsters would stop coming after 30 were killed.

My party’s mad scientist quickly discovered how Environmental Protection could be used to gain the treasure, and with the Gadgeteer Edge he gained temporary access to said power.

I will admit that the $10,000 treasure is quite a bit for the Flood’s “desperate survival, taking odd jobs when you can” stated theme. My own group used the cash to buy various mad science devices from the 1880 Smith & Robards Catalog sourcebook. If you choose to run it, I’d suggest lowering the amount to what you think is reasonable for your group.

Flesh of the Mad Monk: Hao-T’e Zui used to be a good-natured exorcist helping out the Chinese community, but then the met a demon which killed him and took on his form. Now he spreads terror around the vicinity of Devil’s Armpit, gathering human sacrifices possessing remarkable traits to fuel his own power.

The adventure’s open-ended for how and when the PCs find out about Hao’s depredations and suggests making one or more kidnapping victims the children of NPCs they know. Tao-T’e Zui has 1 Chinese ogre bodyguard per hero and his own stats are nothing to sneeze at: he has the Chi Mastery Arcane Background, monstrously high Spirit (d12+2) and Strength (d12+4) scores, several buffing powers, and can roll a Vigor die every round to heal wounds. He is weak to fire and cannot regenerate from it.

Cult o’ the Dragon: Sutton Thacker is a huckster and salesman who formed a group of Maze dragon worshipers. He discovered the remnants of the old native civilization that bound the dragons to their will, and enacted the rites himself. Now the cult’s cave is home to a flock of young Maze Dragons and their parent “Jericho.” Currently Sutton runs the place as a tourist hotspot for the town of Dragonhold, but sometimes the cult kidnaps lone travelers spending the night to sacrifice to their false god.

The rock paintings within the caves tell of the glyph’s location, but otherwise the Savage Tale is open-ended how the PCs find this out and/or deal with the cult. Thacker himself is a spellcaster with a mixture of buffing and offensive powers along with sticks of dynamite and a shotgun, which are some of the deadliest weapons for purchase in Deadlands damage-wise.

What I Changed: I made it so that the Church of Lost Angels and the Cult of the Dragon were at odds, putting the PCs in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” scenario. The dragon-cult had a glyph within their caves in addition to their famed dragon, and the PCs were tasked with holding off a small army of Lost Angels outside during a skirmish. Sutton Thacker in a fit of desperation activated the glyph to cause a tremor, plunging a significant amount of the army (and the PCs) into a watery cave containing the Maze Dragon. Realizing this was their “holy beast” the PCs escaped by the skin of their teeth via a mad science grapnel launcher.

I also had Garrett Black, the Angel of Death and Grimme’s best assassin detailed in the NPC/bestiary chapter, lead the Lost Angels forces in the battle. He retreated to become a recurring villain

The Russian Menace: A tortured, starving 12-year-old girl is found by Lacy O’Malley or the PCs, and she tells them all about the horrors of Felicity Peak. As detailed in the Marshal’s Section, Gregor Petrov is a Russian nobleman who uses a community of imported serfs to mine the mesas and work the fields. He is also a sorcerer of fell power whose own life force is re-energized by drinking the blood of slain children. With twelve outlaws and an infamous gunslinger by the name of El Jéfe under his employ, he seems unstoppable to the hopeless serfs...but perhaps a fair challenge for crusading good guys.

El Jéfe and the outlaws use Veteran Gunman and Outlaw stats from the Marshal’s Handbook, but Gregor Petrov is a unique one. He doesn’t have spellcasting powers so much as a Blood Boost which can increase all of his physical attributes by one if he has drunk the blood of a child within the last day. He also has the Filthy Rich Edge so he can be outfitted with any sort of mundane, mad science device, or relic the GM wishes to assign him.

What I Changed: I made El Jéfe a Harrowed to act as a sort of foil to our party’s own Harrowed PC.

Rabid Rance Rides Again! A classic “hunt down the outlaw” quest, Rabid Rance is a notorious bandit who has a network of contacts among the mining communities. He finds out who struck it rich and ambushes the now-unlucky prospector with six other gunmen to loot the proceeds of the miners’ hard labor.

Rabid Rance is an optimized gunslinger, with a d12 Shooting, the Quick Draw and Duelist Edges, and has Hip-Shooting to lessen the penalties of fanning the hammer with a pistol. In Western parlance fanning the hammer is when you pull down the trigger of a single-action revolver and rapidly smack the hammer to fire off shots in quick succession. In game terms this allows a character to make up to six attacks albeit at a hefty penalty, making it one of the better damage-dealing options in Deadlands.

The Creature of Archeron Bay: A giant undersea monster is sinking ships around the Maze. The creature itself is believed to be some giant octopus or squid, but the reality is far stranger. The Beast of Archeron Bay is actually a colony of individual strands of kep which feed off of the souls of the living.

The kelp strands are very tough: their Strength is d12+4 and their slaps deal d6 on top of that; they also count as Heavy Weapons meaning they can damage ships. They also can grapple individual opponents, and they have a 19 Toughness to withstand attacks.

What I Changed: I liked the idea of a pseudo-kaiju monster for the PCs to fight, so I still used the tentacle stats but had the monster’s “central body” emerge after several of those were destroyed. The party stuffed bundles of underwater dynamite onto buoys to target with guns in preparation for the battle, which was both clever and fun to use.

Wanted: Dead or Alive! General Gill of the Union Army has a very nasty thorn in his side in the form of Captain Blood. This Mexican privateer acts at the behest of said country’s government to waylay vessels of enemy nations, and his Conquistador flagship is home to 40 sailors and 12 even tougher marines. Captain Blood’s stats are more social and charisma-themed, with some Leadership Edges such as Command and Natural Leader to let his followers spend his Fate Chips if need be.

The ship as such has some pretty heavy opposition due to sheer numbers alone if it can be found, although the PCs get unlikely aid in the form of a grizzled bounty hunter by the name of Hephaestus Girty. The man assimilated into an unnamed Native American tribe and fights with a tomahawk in one hand and a Colt Peacemaker in the other.

Head Full o’ Nothin’: This adventures’ GOOD INTENTIONS is rather vague, but is meant to put the PCs in contact with Suitcase Lee of the New Tomorrow Triad in order to help find one of the glyphs. But just like everyone else in this chapter he cannot help the PCs until they take care of a not-so-small problem for him.

Lee gives the party a brief rundown of the Taiping Rebellion: a Chinese civil war which occurred when a theologian by the name of Hung Hsiu-ch’uan (Hong Xiuquan) sought to bring about a heavenly kingdom on earth. Proclaiming himself the literal brother of Jesus Christ, Hung formed a rebellion of unheard proportion against the Qing Dynasty, immersing the country in a 14 year war with 20 million dead to show for it.

As for what this has to do with things today, some guy stole the head of Hung and took it with him to California, claiming that the spirit of the man himself speaks through it. Declaring himself the King of the Horizon, this madman’s building an army for a second chance at building a Heavenly Kingdom! And Lee wants the party to destroy/steal the skull and kill the King of the Horizon.

In addition to a 500-man army, the King of the Horizon has a martial artist bodyguard pretending to be a demon by the name of White-Tipped Cap, and the man himself is a competent chi-wielding martial artist.

The King of the Horizon’s skull has no spirit. In fact, the spirit of Hung Hsiu-ch’uan possessed the man’s body and is downright insane. The adventure encourages to play up his comic villainy as an over-the-top megalomaniac, and may possibly drop hints as to the location of a glyph in the process.

In Search of Goldnose: A Russian immigrant nicknamed Goldnose Slim earned the title for his uncanny ability to literally sniff out gold, and also for replacing said nose with a 24-carat prosthetic when some jealous miners cut off the first one. His knack has been so helpful he located four out of six of the richest gold veins in California, earning him lots of money but quite a bit of enemies. He refuses to prospect for ghost rock, but he did find the location of a glyph. Reverend Grimme found out about the PCs’ plans regarding the glyph hunt and hired a bunch of outlaws known as the Hensworth Gang to kidnap Goldnose. This is pretty much the only adventure where the Church acts as a foil during the Glyph Hunt arc.

The Hensworth Gang are nothing special statwise, although their leader dual-wields a pair of Colt Peacemakers and has Steady Hands allowing him to shoot from horseback no problem.

If rescued, a grateful Goldnose is willing to find a claim for the PCs as well as a potential glyph.

The Battle o’ Junction: This is the only other adventure in the Flood where Mass Combat rules come into play. Like the one in War of the Triads it has little in the way of actual stakes. If taken, Junction will become a Lost Angels stronghold and thus a lot less friendly to the PCs, but day-to-day operations do not change much. However, the PC actions do not have a direct effect unless they act as leaders or get involved. In such a case the PCs will control the Confederate side, with the GM the Lost Angels.

Thanks to the scientists of Progress, the Church of Lost Angels is quickly building a fleet of their own to challenge the existing American powers. Several months after the Battle of Lost Angels they’ll send a host of Maze Runners, gun barges, auto-gyros, and an ironclad to annex the Confederate city of Junction. The Angels have the aid of Wasatch rail warriors as part of the deal reached with Hellstromme, and the Confederate forces are slightly under-equipped to retaliate.

Famished! Although this does not reveal or grant a glyph location to the party, it is meant to be stumbled upon while they’re hunting for glyphs. A short while after the Reckoning occurred a Chinese junk crashed on California’s beaches. It carried a very powerful Hunger Spirit in service to Famine and was the epicenter of the first faminite epidemic which swept over the region.

Personal experience from other gaming groups said this was a very dangerous encounter, and I can see why. The Hunger Spirit is outright immune to all non-magical attacks and even magical attacks halve their damage before determining Shaken and wound results. With a Toughness of 10 it will take at least 20 damage to even so much as scratch the fiend. The spirit is attended by 2 faminites for every PC, and it has an AoE ability it can activate freely on every turn to induce fatigue levels from starvation on those who fail a Test of Wills against its d12 Intimidation.

Off the Grid: The Men of the Grid were one of Lost Angels’ early political factions. They had a falling out with Grimme, as they wanted to build the city in a grid fashion typical to many Western settlements while Grimme wanted a circular one to properly channel his evil magic (he didn’t tell that last part to the Gridders). The Church violently agreed to disagree, and now the Men of the Grid are a clandestine insurgent force against the Church.

The Lost Angels Chamber of Commerce put a bounty on the organization and their leader on account that they found a way to sabotage the Churchs’ new naval ships via explosions of unknown origin. The reality is that the Men of the Grid ordered a mad science diving suit from Smith & Robards. With this device they can plant charges of waterproof dynamite created by one of their chemists to attach to and blow open ship hulls.

This adventure is more investigation and less combat. It’s unlikely that the PCs will turn in the Men of the Grid, but rather seek them out for an alliance. They can be met in Bear’s Claw, specifically at a rather tacky Big Chief Chinese Restaurant which serves Chinese food but whose furniture and walls are decorated in a hodge-podge of Native American art. The Gridder’s leader, Anscal Pascal, is cozy with the owner so he has his very own table with a shotgun attached to the underside in case those dealing with him are less than straight.

If they trust the PCs, they can provide them with charges of underwater dynamite, and the adventure mentions that the Men of the Grid can come to their aid during Plot Point Eight. However no specific examples are given either here or in that adventure of what such aid entails. Fighting on their side against Grimme, dynamiting the Church, helping evacuate the city? It’s a mystery!

What I Changed: I turned the investigation into a rescue mission by informing the PCs that members of the Grid are trapped in a mountain valley surrounded by bounty hunters and Hellstromme’s X-Squad troopers. The PCs posed as fellow hired guns before turning on the X-Squadders and rescuing the Men of the Grid. I inserted a bipedal steampunk mecha boss, using its stats from another Deadlands adventure: Shoot out at Circle-R Corral.

Ballots & Bullets: The survivors of Ghost Town formed Perdition at an incredibly fast pace. The lack of government worries many businesses at the lawlessness sure to ensue, and at Dr. Hellstromme’s insistence they plan to hold elections for Marshal and Mayor. Lacy O’Malley is concerned that the powers-that-be will resort to all manner of dirty tricks to get a puppet candidate, so he convinces the ghost rock magnates to set up interim lawmen to oversee things. And our plucky Irish reporter sees the PCs as the best candidates for this! In fact he’s already signed them up by the time they arrive as a woman at the local ore processing station hands out badges.

The two candidates running are Luke “Joker” Watson and Granville Kurtz. Watson is the owner of Perdition’s telegraph office and runs on a populist message of seeing to the laborers’ needs over rich moneyed interests. Granville Kurtz is the heir to a shipping company and presses up the need on how he can bring in wealth and trade. Granville Kurtz is financially backed by his father Masheck Kurtz who is a serial killer and a willing servant of the Reckoners. He’s more than willing to resort to all manner of dirty tricks to get the election to go his way, and if the PCs do not intervene in at least 2 of them the election will go to Kurtz.

Masheck’s schemes include hiring a bunch of dockworkers from Lost Angels to stuff the ballots in Perdition, round up some outlaws to rough up Watson’s supporters, and bribing the town newspaper The Perdition Harbinger to endorse Granville. The adventure is open-ended in how the PCs go around stopping this, as well as what can happen if the PCs poorly handle any interviews/interrogations with the Harbinger’s staff (aka if the PCs come off as hired thugs for Watson that will damage his campaign). There’s also a random encounter table of potential violent mishaps during the election, such as people dueling in daylight, political riots of clashing protestors, and even a train robbery!

What I Changed: I had it so that Kurtz was backed by the Church of Lost Angels, giving the PCs an even stronger incentive to instill a mayor not in their pocket. I also had it so that when the party came to arrest (and thus get a shootout with) Kurtz, they found notes about Famine and the Reckoning in a hidden safe with a Notice roll. This gave an inkling of what’s really going on with Reverend Grimme to the party as well as a useful piece of evidence of trafficking in black magic if they wanted to use it to damage Kurtz’s campaign.

City of Omens and Zeroes: Before its untimely demise in Gomorra, the Collegium served as the largest assembly of mad scientists in California. They ran a ghost rock processing facility near Perdition, and smelling blood in the water Wasatch/Hellstromme Industries wants to hire salvagers to visit and report back their findings for $250. A company representative will contact the PCs specifically due to their prior engagement with Dr. Hellstromme.

The ghost rock facility went quiet due to their equipment digging out the egg of a prairie tick queen, an insectlike abomination whose spawn wiped the entire complex and surrounding town of all life. The PCs will find the old Collegium station a quiet ghost town, the processing station’s sole elevator in a state of disrepair. The lift descends into a storage chamber containing $200,000 (2 to 3 tons) of pure ghost rock. Unfortunately the PCs cannot claim this bounty for a swarm of 60 ghost ticks (prairie ticks warped by ghost rock) will attack en masse at the smell of fresh meat! Besides fleeing the group can ignite the ghost rock to quickly kill all of the ghost ticks. The load-bearing treasure dramatically blows the entire station sky-high if the PCs escape in time.

The ghost ticks’ have rather pitiful toughness; they deal no damage but have d10 fighting and crawl into a target’s mouth on a raise to force them to roll Vigor against Fatigue every round. The poor soul who dies from Fatigue causes said tick to explode out of their ribcage.

What I Changed: The ghost ticks despite being high in number have rather pitiful toughness and no ranged capabilities, meaning that a party with lots of attacks and/or AoE powers can make quick work of them if lucky enough. I didn’t want to have the ghost rock as false treasure, so I had the ticks come in waves of 4 to 6 while the PCs operated a crane to scoop up ghost rock onto the elevator lift. It then became a risk/reward decision of how long the PCs wished to stay in the station in exchange for a greater payoff.

Oct 30, 2013

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

Savage Tales, Part 2

Hasteli’s Children: A Chumash Native American by the name of Hasteli had a daughter who was raped and murdered by white settlers. Filled with anger and hatred, his story reached the ears of Raven who taught him of a way to take revenge. By using the blood of slain white people he could create a blood painting able to instill himself and other disciples with supernatural powers. Ever since he’s been a willing servant of the Reckoners and he now leads a warband known as Hasteli’s Children.

This adventure comes to our heroes rather than the other way around, as Raven becomes aware of the PCs searching for the glyphs and orders Hasteli to track down and “find the white men who seek to undo our plans.”*

Hasteli will use guerilla warfare, using hit and run tactics, bait in the form of cryptic messages and warnings, and environment where they can corner their quarry easily. Hasteli’s Children are 12 in number and fight with bladed war clubs. Their unholy rituals granted them +4 armor and 12 toughness to boot, and they can attack twice with Improved Frenzy. Haseli is not as physically adept but he has the Black Magic Arcane Background and can use the armor, bolt, puppet, and stun powers to harm the PCs or further enhance his war party’s already impressive defenses.

*the adventure has no explanation for this if the party is mostly or entirely made up of women or people of color.

Long Live the New Flesh! Taking place sometime after the PCs freed Sam Hellman, the Explorer’s Society calls for another meeting at the Fallen Angel Saloon in Perdition. The place is a lot livelier than usual with a hoedown going on. Sam tells the party of how two of his fellow Agency members were interred in Peterson Sanitarium after some horror in the Maze broke their minds. After his own time in Rock Island Prison and hearing of the sanitarium’s controversial “therapies,” he wants their help in freeing them and ensure that they’re alive and well.

Dr. Petersen is happy to see the party, although he and the place has an audible aura of creepiness. He’s even kind enough to show them to the Agents’ room... only for them not to be there. In fact the Agents are now undead patchwork men posing at orderlies who the not-so-good doctor sics on the party. Attempts at chasing after the Doctor corner him in the basement. There he unleashes an undulating mass of Neo-Flesh, his greatest experiment, against the party.

The Neo-Flesh is rather frail for a monster (Toughness 9), but it is immune to magic attacks and can dissolve grappled opponents for 4d6 damage and gain their skills, Edges, and Hindrances after incorporating their forms into its mass. It is weak to all forms of alcohol which can deal quite a bit of damage to it.

What I Changed: I sprung this Savage Tale on the party during a drunken bender after their success at Rock Island Prison. They somehow fell upon an abandoned asylum built under one of the houses they were celebrating at, which housed the Neo-Flesh beneath. During the chaos it shied away from spilt barrels of whiskey, tipping off the party to its weakness.

The Scientific Method: In this Savage Tale the PCs hear the sound of a ghost rock steam engine from a cave near the town of Progress. It is home to Professor Vandergrift, a mad scientist belonging to the Explorer’s Society who is willing to tell the PCs about his latest work if they prove their membership. He managed to discover a glyph of his own, and after much testing of various kinds of blood and consultation with native tribes believes it is home to an earth spirit. Furthermore he explains how human blood triggers it, revealing a bandaged arm and applying it to the symbol.

The glyph reacts with a tremor greater than the previous times. The earthquake summons a group of hoodoos, angered at being roused from their slumber and will begin smashing up equipment! If the PCs can save the scientist and/or his notes, they can gain some useful information (determined by the GM) about the glyphs and likely locations.

Also notable is that this adventure, along with Treasure Hunters, can be ran before the PCs discover the existence of the glyphs. It can thus be used as a precursor of things to come.

What I Changed: I made Professor Vandergrift a woman on account a huge amount of NPCs so far have been male.

Treasure Hunters: In this adventure the PCs have the opportunity to find another glyph near a now-demolished hillside California Mission buried underneath layers of rubble. Various salvagers dig through the rubble in search of gold and other fundaments, but a young boy by the name of Junior Watson (related to Luke “Joker” Watson of Ballots & Bullets) went missing. This is a skill-based obstacle adventure, where Climbing rolls are required to avoid randomly-triggered hazards ranging from avalanches to getting stuck between rocks while searching for the boy. They can also find a journal in Spanish belonging to a now-dead Catholic priest who discovered a glyph nearby, and which can be accessed in the mission’s ruins.

What I Changed: I had a Triad goon snooping around the place who was an Enemy of our Martial Artist PC. He had sets of dynamite set up to trigger landslides against them. I also had a pack of carcajou (wolverine-like abominations) ambush the party once they found Junior.

Ghost Rot: A snakeoil salesman by the name of Dr. Thaddeus Carr has been selling alcohol tinged with ghost rock to Union soldiers. This has had some terrible side effects, causing outbreaks of violent insanity and the name “ghost rot” to spread once the drink’s nature became known. The Union does not know the culprit, so the PCs are either hired on by Captain Clement Tyson for a $1,000 reward; or they stumble upon a group of drunk soldiers who flip out on the stuff after inviting the party for a drink. The PCs can investigate the bottles to see the label “Steampress Rye Whiskey” and go from there, as well as interrogating the soldiers over who gave them their shipment.

Catching up with Dr. Carr is not difficult for he is not very far from the scene of the last crime, miles-wise that is. He regularly travels about northern Californian settlements on a regular 16 day route so a few people know his name. He sells the bottles for a very steep $20 each ($440 by modern day standards), and will violently attack anyone who tries to arrest him. He also has a Chinese woman assistant and adopted daughter, Xiu Li, who knows chi powers and will defend him from danger.

Harriman’s Legacy: A salvager by the name of William Blumquist operates a small business specializing in retrieving valuable objects from the Sunken City of San Diego. The last few employees he hired disappeared in the dead of night while out at sea, and so did the hired guns that went on with him next time. He’s willing to hire the PCs on for $5 plus an equal share of salvage found.

Blumquist takes the PCs on a boat ride over the San Diego ruins, and has a diving suit one of them can wear while they explore the depths below. The party is capable of finding lots of valuables at a hefty -4 Notice every four hours, with a success giving 1d20 x 100 dollars in loot. But on the first night 1d6 channel chompers (deep one-like humanoid fishpeople) will climb onto the vessel with stealth and try to drag people into the water. If repelled they will attack the boat in greater numbers the next night at 2d12 strong, and during the third 30 of them at once will attack! Their lair is a series of catacombs on the ocean floor, but the diving suit doesn’t go that far down. Explosives can seal up the entrance, although Blumquist is against that plan given there might be more treasure beneath...treasure his equipment cannot reach.

No, the Savage Tale does not detail the environs of the channel chomper’s domain. As for why it’s named Harriman, an occultist of the same name owned a mansion in San Francisco who consorted and bred with the channel chompers. The monsters were trapped beneath its ruins and were set free due to salvagers mucking about.

Those Smug Bastards: Smith & Robards is looking for hired help to guard some mad science devices from acts of sabotage in Elsbethtown. The culprits are a pair of Shaolin monks from the 37th Chamber. Their leader Chin-Hsueh Wong and Kuai Yao the “Goblin” are the responsible parties, who find the ghost rock-powered devices unnatural creations and worry about the scientists becoming a new ruling class of California...somehow.

The monks are loathe to kill anyone and use non-lethal attacks even against those who respond with deadly force. I talked about Wong’s stats during the War of the Triads arc, and Kuai Yao is pretty tough herself. She is a chi master who has an entangle power to hinder foes, and she has a unique ability where those who see her stupendously ugly unmasked face must make a Guts roll or be shaken and suffer -1 on all trait rolls against her.

Both martial artists are very tough to take down in melee, although Kuai Yao does not have as many defensive options as Wong. The adventure suggests that the PCs can use Persuasion checks and good old-fashioned role-playing to help them see the light or divert the 37th Chamber’s anger towards a more worthy foe.

Thoughts So Far: The Savage Tales are numerous enough to provide many sessions worth of adventures. They are mostly unlinked save for the arcs, being more “small town trouble” than multiple missions for any single faction. The Triad and Mexican plot arcs are a bit weak in motivating hooks, and there’s quite a few combat-free puzzle or role-playing themed ones (Groaning Man Cave, Treasure Hunters, Off the Grid, Ballots & Bullets potentially) which I found to be interesting if needing the right group to pull off well.

The Savage Tale section is larger than the main Plot Point itself and is what I think makes the Flood. On its own the campaign would be rather average, but the many places the PCs can go to and stir up or defuse trouble really gives California’s Weird West its shine.

Join us next time on the final chapter of the Flood, where we cover the new monsters and NPCs found in this adventure!

Jul 15, 2017

As someone who was a big Doomtown fan back in The Day, do they mention why Gomorra was eventually deserted?

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk

Dawgstar posted:

As someone who was a big Doomtown fan back in The Day, do they mention why Gomorra was eventually deserted?

the first time? the whatleys and the flock opened a portal to hell and summoned a super demon and it was defeated but then the exiled leader of the flock came back from lost angels and summoned a hell storm and leveled the town and killed all but 13 residents.

the second time? mad scientists almost turn everyone in town into plague zombies, they get stopped but only barely, and then the sloane gang rides through what's left of town and kills all the survivors and burns the town to the ground.

the third time the game got rebooted in 2014 and i didn't keep up with it after that, so i don't know how/why the plot ended this time

Mors Rattus posted:

Assuming they successfully stopped the magical teleporting herd of Satanic cattle that were also intended to do that job.

you can't have too many different GMPCs that exist to explicitly slay players that get too uppity! on top of the fact that two of the main player archetypes literally draw their power from demons, which tends to lend itself towards TPKs thanks to particularly nasty critical failure charts

edit: three if you count harrowed as regular character concepts and not as a prestige-style advanced class

Freaking Crumbum fucked around with this message at 03:30 on Jan 17, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

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


We’re in the final home stretch of this book! Although labelled “encounters,” this section is more akin to stat blocks for monsters and NPCs than events on their own. All of the entries are for new creatures and characters in this adventure not detailed in the Deadlands Marshal’s Handbook. We also have a sidebar explaining what existing “core” monsters are particularly endemic to California.

In breaking with the sheriff’s star icon for Wild Card monsters and NPCs, we instead get Reverend Grimme’s face alongside the baddies’ names to designate this status. For this section I’ll do this (WC) next to the names of relevant monsters.


Our first section’s the bestiary, along with some of who’s who among the Church of Lost Angels.

Blood Sharks are mutated varieties of their kind which feed from the tainted runoff of Rock Island Prison. They’re super-huge (around 40 feet long) and pretty much like the mundane Great White but even bigger and badder.

Burnin’ Dead are the tortured souls of Ghost Town whose screams of agony are never ending due to the fuelless fire covering their forms. They’re fond of grappling victims and smothering them in their own inferno.

Chinese Ogres are the muscle-bound foot soldiers of Chinese Hell’s bureaucracy. They have deathly white skin, unnatural hair colors such as green and blue, and an irregular number of eyes on their face ranging from one to three. Rolewise they are much like typical fantasy ogres: big, beefy, and utter brutes in melee. Chinese Ogre Sorcerers (WC) are those smart and skilled enough to learn black magic, having the same stats as their kin save with the Black Magic Arcane Background and 4 powers.

Channel Chompers are humanoid fishpeople who live in the abyssal depths of the Pacific Ocean. They kidnap humans to sacrifice to their gluttonous god, who they believe will consume and destroy them along with every living thing in the ocean if not appeased. Channel Chompers are fast swimmers and can deliver a paralytic poison via their bite and claw attacks.

Crying Ghosts (WC) are the spirits of jilted lovers (usually women) whose deadly hair can choke the life out of those they trick. In addition to their grappling hair they have typical ghostly powers: incorporeal, provokes fear, appears only at night, and cannot cross sacred ground. What’s unique to this variety of ghost is that any who die at their hands have their souls consumed and cannot come back as undead or spirit themselves.

Faminites are the ravenous zombie hordes of California. They originated from the Hunger Spirit which came to land on a crashed Chinese boat, and their numbers have been spreading from infecting others as well as those who succumb to cannibalism. They are much like typical zombies save they can use weapons (including guns!) and those so much as nicked by their teeth or claws (Shaken or wounded) risk becoming faminites on a failed Vigor roll in 24 hours.

Gyonshee (WC) are hopping vampires from Asia. These undead create more of their number by wounding others, a fate which can be averted by a Chinese folkloric cure found via Knowledge Occult roll or having contacts in Chinese immigrant communities. They can also jump really far, unsurprisingly, and attaching a paper written with Chinese prayers on their forehead can paralyze them.

Hoodoo are earth spirits who inhabit the canyons of the Great Maze. They are tough bruisers who can dish out hell in melee, but they are helpless in water and being sufficiently soaked in the stuff can weaken their Strength and even immobilize them.

Hoop snakes are beasts from Native American folklore who rapidly travel across the arid plains and desert by biting their own tails and spinning around like a hoop. When in this form of locomotion their Pace is 18, triple that of a normal human’s. Their poison is so deadly that on a failed Vigor roll at -4 it can kill within minutes and Exhaust those who succeed. Besides magic the only other cure is if the afflicted jumps through the hoop snakes’ “hoop.”

Maze Dragon Young’uns are juvenile versions of their larger parents detailed in the Marshal’s Handbook. Even then they are strong, as large as a bear and with the strength to match.

Tomb Guardians are ceramic automations created by Chinese sorcerers to guard tombs, vaults, and other areas of high importance. They appear as deer-lizard-human hybrids and are not very strong individually.

Famine’s Servants

This section covers both generic and named NPCs high up in the Church of Lost Angel’s ranks. They are all Wild Cards without exception, save for the 13 Ghouls who are treated as Extras only during the final Plot Point adventure.

Avenging Angels are those Guardian Angels tough, smart, and mean enough to climb the unholy ladder of Grimme’s cult. They usually command a flight of 15 or more regular Guardian Angels and have the Arcane Background (Black Magic) Edge in addition to some other leadership and combat Edges.

Evil Ike used to be a kind soul known as “Ironman” Murray in life. After the bombing of Ghost Town he is now a a scorched undead monstrosity whose eye sockets glow an eerie orange. He’s a melee bruiser who can cause nearby targets to spontaneously combust as a free action.

Garrett Black, Angel of Death is a Harrowed whose own manitou is scared of the guy’s ruthlessness. Garrett labors under the delusion that he’s the Grim Reaper and serves Reverend Grimme with sadistic glee. The entry mentions that he’ll be sent as a professional hitman once the PCs become a real thorn in the Church’s side. Alas he does not show up officially during the adventure.

Garrett Black is built as a Harrowed, with the Arcane Background (Black Magic) Edge and a host of firearms-centric Edges such as Marksman, Improved Hip-Shooting, Quick Draw, etc along with some Harrowed abilities.

The 13 Ghouls share a universal stat-block, although their individual entries give them some new or higher skills and an Edge or two. I will not be going over all of them, but they comprise various roles in the church hierarchy. Gabriel Fannon is the gunslinging enforcer of the city, Darren Ambrose watches over Jehosaphat Valley, Mordecai Noss helps commission the building of new chapels across the Weird West, Vertiline Grindle’s a former thief who Grimme sends on covert operations, etc.

What all 13 share in common is that if killed their bodies crumble away and reappear alive and whole again in Lost Angels Cathedral 13 days later. Only the Flood ritual can kill them, and thus Reverend Grimme, for good.

Famous Folks

Guy in the photo is Rutherford Ellington Dillenger

This is a rather strange section. It details the stat blocks of most named NPCs in the Flood who are not already present in the Marshal’s Handbook. However, this is not all-in-one: quite a few NPCs have their stat blocks provided either in the relevant Plot Points and Savage Tale adventures or this chapter. For example, Sutton Thacker block is in Cult o’ the Dragon while Santa Anna’s is detailed here. Usually most adventure sourcebooks either go for one option or the other. The Flood does both.

I’m not going to detail every single character here, particularly if I discussed them earlier in this Let’s Read. And some entries, such as the individual Men of the Grid or Mariposa Lil, aren’t particularly noteworthy in abilities. Every single Famous Folk is a Wild Card.

Big Ears Tam was a tax collector back in Shanghai, but had to flee the country after his criminal undertakings were discovered. He’s now an elderly yet influential crime lord oddly content with his lot in life. He desires little but to die peacefully at an old age with his fortune and legacy intact. He is not exactly optimized for combat nor does he have supernatural powers, but he has a lot of high skills and is an expert gambler.

Big Pul & Little Pul are identical twin Ravenite shamans who serve Warlord Kwan. They are Black Magicians whose only main offensive powers of note are bolt and fear, but if one of them dies then the other dies as well due to a shared mystical connection.

Captain Blood styles himself as a dashing ladies man even though he’s a bloodthirsty sadist who never takes prisoners or captives alive. He has some leadership and Charisma boosting Edges, the latter of which sadly go to waste on account of his Bloodthirsty hindrance: -4 Charisma along with the aforementioned personality flaws.

Captain Roderick Pennington-Smythe is a Crimean War veteran who’s been forever changed by witnessing the evils that men and monsters do. He dedicates himself to the Twilight Legion, eager to recruit new blood to replace the old. He is a skill monkey, having just about every skill of note in Savage Worlds of appreciable rank along with a host of Knowledge ones.

Emperor Joshua Norton I is surprisingly unremarkable in spite of his fame. His d10 Persuasion and Charismatic and Connection Edges are the only good things going for him.

Goldnose Slim is is a very lucky fellow who seems tailor-made for the new Nose for the Rock Edge of this book, detailed earlier in the Player’s Guide. His other Edges are themed around his charmed life such as Dodge and Luck, and he has a host of Hindrances from Pacifist to Curious which guarantees he’ll need to be rescued from danger by some traveling heroes.

H.J. Kent is more than a mere Lynchburg assayer. He’s secretly a huckster who uses his powers to get revenge on people who wronged him. He does his best to lay low, knowing that having the Agency and Texas Rangers on his back can be even worse than being run out of town.

Lacy O’Malley is one of the more well-known names of the Deadlands setting. But unlike many other 90s metaplot recurring NPCs he does not have god-like stats. He has lot of high-ranked skills but is a terrible fighter: Fighting and Shooting of d6 each and the only weapon on his person a two-shot Derringer pistol. He does have a Grit score of 6...but no Guts* skill, making him merely quite brave rather than near-unflappable.

*Guts is the skill used to resist fear and keep one’s cool in the Deadlands setting. Grit is a flat bonus to all Guts rolls and keys off of a few Edges such as Duelist.

Rat-Skinner Hou has been talked about before in the Shan Fan entry. What is notable statwise is that he’s more of the “bruiser” type of martial artist than the graceful, agile warriors we associate with Wuxia. His Superior Kung Fu (Shuai Chao) focuses around grappling, and with his d12 Strength, Boost/Lower Trait and No Mercy (Fighting) Edge to reroll damage with a fate chip he’s all about putting on the hurt. He also has the Cup Overflows flaw, meaning that all of his martial arts powers are larger than life and obviously supernatural.

Rutherford Ellington Dillenger is still a bit out of his element as a British gentleman on the American Frontier. He is not much of a fighter (fighting d6, shooting d4) but his d10 Persuasion and 3 social edges (Attractive, Noble, Tale Teller) make him very much a ‘face’ roll for the Explorer’s Society.

Sam Q. Hellman is a member of the Union’s Agency who is working with the Twilight Legion due to an alliance of convenience. He is built as an end-level Legendary character with a host of skills for his investigator-type role. As for combat, he has a d12+2 Shooting, and the Marksman and Improved Trademark Weapon Edges with his gatling pistol add another +2 bonus each on top of that. With the Rock and Roll! Edge to negate recoil penalties, this makes him a peerless sharpshooter with an automatic weapon.

Suitcase Lee is a young man and exemplar martial artist with Fighting d12+1 and the Chi Mastery Arcane Background. In spite of his optimism and talent he is incredibly nervous around the female persuasion. His own reputation and handsome smile further compounds the problem when said ladies swoon at his presence. Statwise he has a mixture of buffing, combat, and defense powers, a Colt Peacemaker pistol, and can use a battered suitcase as a unique weapon which can grant +1 Parry and +2 Armor against all ranged attacks.

Thin Noodles Ma got his nickname as a play on his obese frame. His pact with Warlord Kang granted him access to Black Magic, and he has Bolt and a pair of buffing powers in the form of Armor and Boost/Lower Trait. He is not much of a fighter in comparison to other Triad gangsters, with a d6 in fighting and shooting and social and magic-focused Edges.

Warlord Mu-T’uo Kwan has an owl as his totem spirit, which he keeps secret on account that the animal is regarded as bad luck among indigenous Californians.* His other dark secret is that he does not wish for the life of a warlord, but his own totem says he will be destroyed if he relents and does not wish to leave things in chaos from a power vacuum. Statwise he has no Arcane Background but has good Fighting and Shooting (d10). He uses a regal-looking Chinese ceremonial armor and sword to project the image of a warlord alongside a more modern Colt and Winchester. He has a healthy mixture of leadership, melee, and ranged Edges, making him a well-rounded opponent.

*I don’t know if this is true IRL or an artistic license.

Afterwards we get an Index and the full-page Tombstone Epitaph handout of Good Intentions Savage Tales.

And thus we’re done with the Flood.

Final Thoughts: Of the four Reckoner Series adventures of Deadlands Reloaded, the Flood ranks highly in my opinion. It has a weak start, does a bit more telling than showing, and its resolution is a bit too moral dilemma “shades of grey” for an RPG that expects PCs to be bonafide good guys. But the thematic setting, its many locales and groups, and variety of sidequests more than makes up for the otherwise okay core adventure. The tying of the PCs to a secret organization of do-gooders makes for a strong lead to handle trouble in far-flung spots as well as providing a built-in rationale for new PCs to come out of nowhere. I did have to do my fair share of work in changing around adventures, but most of its content could be used as is.

Overall I’d recommend the Flood for Deadlands fans, especially those who want a wide-ranging epic adventure in a lawless “ghost rock rush” frontier with a dash of wuxia and doomsday cults on the side.

Our next Let’s Read will cover the following Plot Point Campaign, the Last Sons, where we save the Sioux Nations from the Reckoner of War!

PS One other major weaknesses of the Flood is the haphazard quality of mapping assets. More than a few major fights and setpieces do not have maps, although some dedicated fans made high-quality maps for just about every major adventure and a few Savage Tales in this thread.

Feb 15, 2012

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

Freaking Crumbum posted:

you can't have too many different GMPCs that exist to explicitly slay players that get too uppity! on top of the fact that two of the main player archetypes literally draw their power from demons, which tends to lend itself towards TPKs thanks to particularly nasty critical failure charts

edit: three if you count harrowed as regular character concepts and not as a prestige-style advanced class

Last time I played Deadlands, one of our players stored, like, three boxes of dynamite in his pants which ensured a TPK if anyone ever shot him in the legs. In any other system, that would have been a particularly stupid idea. Here, it's just background radiation.

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

La morte non ha sesso

Night10194 posted:

That mindset has always been completely baffling to me. Like, we're sitting around a table, talking with friends. Who the gently caress cares if we feel like piledriving Stone? Or writing a plotline in the setting so that maybe tons of people don't die for no reason for once, or we actually stop the villains, or whatever?

Looking back on it all, I can't believe we all just accepted Metaplot for as long as we did in this hobby.
My stock answer to this is that keeping up with metaplot-heavy sourcebooks was a way for people to keep engaging with a setting they loved even when they couldn't find a group to play anything but D&D. And if you can get your customers hooked on the franchise they'll feel like they have to buy everything to keep up. But...


Like this is the game that specifically has the invincible teleporting magic zombie gunslinger whose entire job is to kill your players if they try to stop the metaplot at all, right? That was Deadlands?
...then there's this. Deadlands really went the extra mile in combining the punitive old-school style of "If the PCs do something you don't like, here's horrible punishments you can inflict!" with the 90s obsession with metaplot.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!
The weirder thing I have with the Reloaded books is that - as a Doomtown vet - getting to see all the Doomtown art constantly repurposed for unreleased characters. Like, for example, the art for Santa Anna was originally a villain called "Pride" who embodied that sin as part of a weird psuedo-Christian cult in the card game. Rutherford Ellington Dillenger... was originally a independent huckster of some sort. And so on.

As for stupid metaplots, well, just watch Rifts going forward...

Feb 13, 2012

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

Halloween Jack posted:

...then there's this. Deadlands really went the extra mile in combining the punitive old-school style of "If the PCs do something you don't like, here's horrible punishments you can inflict!" with the 90s obsession with metaplot.

But like, the funniest part of this to me is that this is all pointless. Like if I'm running Deadlands, and I decide my PCs have figured out there's a time-traveling deathbot from the future hunting them for the crime of being main characters but that they have a chance to see him coming, take his future guns in a cunning trap, then say a pithy one liner and banish him from the time stream, what are the developers going to do? Come flip my gaming table? There's jack and poo poo they can actually do to stop someone because this is all fiction.

Oct 30, 2013

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

Night10194 posted:

But like, the funniest part of this to me is that this is all pointless. Like if I'm running Deadlands, and I decide my PCs have figured out there's a time-traveling deathbot from the future hunting them for the crime of being main characters but that they have a chance to see him coming, take his future guns in a cunning trap, then say a pithy one liner and banish him from the time stream, what are the developers going to do? Come flip my gaming table? There's jack and poo poo they can actually do to stop someone because this is all fiction.

I'm going to review Last Sons next, but in Stone and a Hard Place you get to kill Stone not once but twice. It makes sense in context.

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

La morte non ha sesso
To paraphrase Gary, "The big secret we have to keep from our customers is that they don't really need us to sell them more rules." Same with the metaplot.

Nov 14, 2014
I think Deadlands is possibly the most aggressively in-your-face metaplot I've seen. Maaaaybe TORG's is about equal, but even it doesn't go as far as "Yes just kill the PCs for having the temerity of existing adjacent to our story." More egregiously, while other settings are guilty of metaplot bullshit, Deadlands seems unwilling to back off from it even recently or even give a "Feel free to take things in your own direction"

Just Dan Again
Dec 16, 2012

It seems particularly silly to me now, in 2019, to cling to the sourcebooks as if there is some one True Licensed Game World that your group's stories mustn't betray. The idea that anybody ever bought that line for the big metaplot games is pretty wild to me. I wonder if it ties into the tradition of gatekeeping in the hobby- "REAL fans know exactly what happened during the Avatar Storm and how it affected the Kiasyd's kinfolk Fianna allies, and if you're not a REAL fan then you can't play rock-paper-scissors with us at Denny's on Friday night."

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Rifts World Book 20: Canada, Part 2 - "ALL OTHER BOOKS ARE FORBIDDEN!"

Erin Tarn: Some thoughts on Canada

Yes, it's that time again. It's :siren: Erin Tarn :siren: time.

There's a long chunk reminding us Tarn's information is A) taken from seven years ago and B) Tarn may have fake news, but it should be mostly accurate. I get the impression that's mostly a conceit to avoid having to lug Erin Tarn on another meandering adventure, but it's hard to say.

Excerpts from her book Traversing Our Modern World, circa 100 P.A.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

There are many stories, myths and falsehoods about the northlands known as Canada.

Some of my favorites are tales about giant, killer beavers. Mutants said to be as big as a man, warped by ley line energy — and patently untrue.


Aww. Erin Tarn, crusher of dreams.

So, Erin Tarn talks about how most see Canada as a snowy, forbidding wilderness, and she makes a big huffy fuss about how that is sooo not true, you guys. Beyond just citing the aforementioned cities, she points out a lot of North America is just as rural, and says that it's probably a myth born out of the fact that much of the major population centers were destroyed. But people are back! And the overall low technology outside of the cities contributes to a frontier feel. Once again, the drum of "people still live by the old ways but maybe they have a robopony" gets beaten again, in case we'd forgotten. More insightfully, she points out that there are major D-Bee and mutant populations that have inhabited the land that humans tend to discount, like the Xiticix, Simvan Monster Riders, Psi-Stalkers, demons, and the Cyber-Horsemen of Ixion. Also, people like the Inuit tend to get discounted because of timeless racism that the apocalypse did little to change, I guess.

Canadians still call the place Canada and themselves Canadians even though Canada-as-a-country has been gone for centuries. Why?

Erin Tarn muses you have to be Canadian to understand. :rolleyes:

This D-Bee will later be given the species name of "Fingertooth Carpetbagger".

The Heart of "Civilized" Canada

By which Erin Tarn means Lazlo - the wizarding city formed on top of the Toronto ruins. She goes on for awhile about how free and accepting it is, how it's powered by a rift via a magic pyramid, has universities for wizards and muggles alike, is the "capital of Techno-Wizardry" (wait, I thought that was Stormspire from Federation of Magic?), and is cool and good and enlightened.

They have a Congress of the Electorate, run by Sir Thomm the Cyber-Knight, and a Council of Learning run by Plato the Great Horny Horned Dragon. What sort of government is that? No time! The militia is run by Arl Xzzynl, a "Wolfen" from a mysterious world (the world of Palladium, but Tarn dunno that). It is, apparently, the most beautiful city other than maybe Splynn of Atlantis and is a "modern-day Camelot". Uh, Ms. Tarn, you know how Camelot turned out, right? I guess this was written before she knew about New Camelot, too. Or maybe Siembieda is just trying to forget Rifts World Book 3: England.

Apparently it was founded by a wizarding group of cool sorcerers that settled down in Toronto due the seclusion of the ruins. But when some dragons march up and were like "Hey, you're our slaves now.", one of the wizards busts out and was like "BTW I'm not a human I'm a good dragon POW BIFF FLAME take that, evil dragons!" And then he freed all the dragons' slaves and everybody had a big Canadian party and all their leaders were Jesuses and Mohammads and Buddhas and they made a city and tell your mom, tell your dad, it was super rad. And then Erin Tarn visits and they didn't have a name so she's like "Hey, why don't you name yourself after this kooky occultist from four centuries ago?", and they're like "That's the best idea!" And there were super high-fives everywhere!*

* This may not be a perfectly accurate summary.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Both are composed of compassionate and intelligent beings, human and nonhuman, who are dedicated to freedom and the betterment of all life.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Most are of noble heart and free of corruption.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Although it was never their intent, the practitioners of magic looking for a quiet place to live and study had built themselves a city. No, a wonderful kingdom built on imagination and hope. A flower in a garden of weeds.

If I didn't know better, I'd say she got paid to write this! But not Erin Tarn, who would be too good to-

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

Since it is the Council of Learning who has commissioned this writing, I will not dally on information that they know far better than I. However, for those of you who have never visited this wondrous place, I bid you to do so.


Zoom in, Siembieda!

We move on to talk about Free Quebec, which is... not as free as advertised. It's the second most powerful Coalition state after Chi-Town, and while they're the same flavor of genocidal know-nothings, they believe in flying their own flavor of fascist flag. They use Glitter Boys and (secretly) Juicers, for example, and have no particular concerns with adding cyborgs to their arsenal. However, they think psi-hounds are abominations of science and refuse to use them. In addition, Free Quebec has at least something resembling a free press and wider literacy.

They also have their own shantytown of sorts for outsiders known as Old Bones, which isn't quite as violent or miserable than the Chi-Town "burbs". However, part of the reason for that is that much of its underground is actually secretly managed by Free Quebec itself, running the local criminal activity in order to keep tabs on things.

In general, while they're less totalitarian than Chi-Town, they're still a pack of racists who would like to obliterate anything nonhuman from the face of this world.

Iron Heart: the flyover country of Rifts.

Iron Heart, on the other hand, is the weaker of the two Coalition States. They seemingly joined mainly to improve their own stature, not quite knowing the ball of crazy they were signing up for. That being said, they were vociferously anti-magic even before joining up and used to brutally hunt down "witches". And while that hasn't really changed, it's at least "less brutal". Oh, well, great. Still, they pretty much toe the party line because they're terrified of Chi-Town. They're also the front line of the Coalition against the Xiticix - slowly invading bug creatures from another dimension.

Then, Tarn goes on a total tangent about her backstory. Apparently raised on a farm near the former site of Madison, Wisconsin, she then says she once dreamed of studying at the Chi-Town Library. But then Prosek went total fascist, secretly hid away its contents, and then had it burned down so they could control information. The tragedy of this and the general oppression of books and learning is something she handwrings about for four straight paragraphs even though... we've heard this before. Like, a lot.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

But I digress. I fear that I am not a very good writer, and I know that I am easily led astray to write down my thoughts and opinions as they come to me.

In any case, she talks about Manistique Imperium, the kingdom on the northern pennisula of Michigan. Including both Manistique and Ishpeming, it's rustic outside of the factories, but the major cities have a surprisingly strong education. Ishpeming (home of the Northern Gun company) is more of a company and tourist town, dedicated to attracting customers and violence professionals. Tarn sneers at Ishpeming, seeing it mainly as a circus attraction and mall for thugs and soldiers.

Rifts World Book 20: Canada posted:

All this means 70% are men used to a wild and brutal life in the wild or at war, which means it is not a place for a lady. Consequently, one must wade through a good deal of swagger, groping hands, alcohol filled conversations and testosterone to find conversation that deals with something other than tales of combat, war, guns, power armor, vehicles, and the like.

However, she admits that if you're there to get outfitted for a journey, it's the place to be. Since they've been allying with the Coalition States, sometimes D-Bees are harassed, but generally Northern Gun is happy to take their money. In fact, their willingness to sell to nonhumans gives them a large market unserviced by the Coalition States despite their lip service to Chi-Town. In general, business is booming, and they're looking to even trade overseas to Triax. There's rumors they're selling to Free Quebec or Tolkeen via the Black Market, but it's not known for certain.

Next: "You fool! You don't know the meaning of cold!"

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Just Dan Again posted:

I wonder if it ties into the tradition of gatekeeping in the hobby- "REAL fans know exactly what happened during the Avatar Storm and how it affected the Kiasyd's kinfolk Fianna allies, and if you're not a REAL fan then you can't play rock-paper-scissors with us at Denny's on Friday night."

Fandoms have always had a habit of overvaluing quantity of lore as a sign of a setting's "depth". There are more than enough franchises out there with insane amounts of lore built on truly awful writing,and it gives fans a means for them to invest further and further into it - and a metaplot adds another axis to expand your lore on. Not only can you then expound upon the biology of Maple Dragons, you can then describe how they were tapped by the Lumberjack Queens and how that changed their territories into conflict with that of the Dairy Kingdoms... and then write a new book describing the changes to their biology crystallization has wrought! Etc., etc.

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

OvermanXAN posted:

I think Deadlands is possibly the most aggressively in-your-face metaplot I've seen. Maaaaybe TORG's is about equal, but even it doesn't go as far as "Yes just kill the PCs for having the temerity of existing adjacent to our story." More egregiously, while other settings are guilty of metaplot bullshit, Deadlands seems unwilling to back off from it even recently or even give a "Feel free to take things in your own direction"
It's so weird. Deadlands works so brilliantly (well, apart from the Confederate apologia) as just a giant everthing-goes kitchen sink weird west setting, but then they had to throw this elaborate metaplot tying everything together because The Nineties, I guess. A wild west game where you encounter Tremors-worms and angry Native American spirits and weird steampunk tech and the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans and wendigos and Aztec mummies and zombie Abe Lincoln should be a complete gonzo blast, instead of a tedious look-but-don't-touch theme park ride.

Castle Falkenstein is a good example of how to do it right. Faeries overrun magical steampunk alternate-Victorian Europe, adventures ensue, with no ongoing giant overplot driving things.


Nov 14, 2014
I think there are actually ways of framing metaplot so that it works. You could say "We're going to provide you with how we see events going, feel free to use or ignore any parts of it you want to use in your currently running games if you are already playing." Give the events in narrative form and then go "If you would like your party to sub in for any of the characters here, here's some relevant stats for (important combats) to serve as a good idea of what kind of encounter we see this as being, feel free to tune them up or down as needed"

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with wanting to present a setting with a changing status quo, (even if it is ultimately an excuse to sell more material), but it needs to be presented as A: purely an opt-in thing, and B: As something that the players can interact with if it's something appropriate for the campaign going on. I admit that I'm also the sort of person who enjoys reading through mountains of setting details, mind.

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