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Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Freaking Crumbum posted:

oh, for sure. actually, if you squint real hard, it's even worse than it looks.

normally, every broad skill and specialty skill default to a single attribute, so you see something like Willpower: Resolve - Physical Resolve and you know that both Resolve and Physical Resolve default to your Willpower.

but, the arcane and faith FX powers start to include broad skills and specialty skills that default to different attributes! so, you can get stuff like Willpower: Diabolism - Hellfire and a separate entry for Personality: Diabolism - Command and the implication is that you'd have to buy the broad skill twice to use the different spells that default to different attributes. plus, if you want to get better base scores with (for example) Diabolism, you can't only buy Willpower attribute increases with your level up points, because the other half of your skills that default to Personality won't be improved.

it's like a really clumsy mash-up of the 2E AD&D non-weapon proficiency skill list and the percentage based skill system used in CoC. you can see what they were going for, but the execution is just awful

FX broad skills didn't have an ability score associated at all, the spells just used the ability score it said they did. Both the Dark*Matter chapter that introduces FX and Beyond Science are in agreement on this.

You are not wrong that you will not improve spells based on Willpower when you raise Personality and vice versa but that's neither here nor there.

Feinne fucked around with this message at 02:27 on Sep 26, 2017

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Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Young Freud posted:

They also arrested large numbers of Innsmouth folk, with the bleeding-hearts at the time inquiring about their mass detainment and mistreatment by the federal prison system, but eventually agreeing with the government when seeing them.

It's pretty racist, like seeing something in conservative fiction when some of the liberal strawpeople see that the conservative hero is right about their actions against some minority and abandon their lifelong beliefs.

To be fair to Lovecraft that chain of events is pretty much what I'd expect down to the liberal strawpeople uniformly deciding that in the face of weird fish-frog-person hybrids maybe it's not racism after all to discriminate against them.

Now you're making me want a story about the Deep One Civil Rights Movement.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


theironjef posted:

It's especially weird that it's just cultists doing cult poo poo to the big names, too, and not just owning the confluence of Cthulhu Mythos and space. Like if you put the X-Men into Starfinder, I'd want Corsair and Deathbird and poo poo, and they're just doing Wolverine on the moon. Let's get some Mi'Go and moon beasts and flying polyps and poo poo in there! What? No? Dudes in robes praying to Nylarthotep but on Pluto? Sigh, fine.

If you really must do eldritch horror like do Carcosa or something, a huge inexplicable city that shouldn't exist on a world you shouldn't be able to live on where the layout changes for no obvious reason inhabited largely by people who simply woke up one day to find their house was now in Carcosa.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Freaking Crumbum posted:

NEXT TIME:
:eng101: What's the Dark*Matter alternate history for sub-Saharan Africa and the entirety of Asia and Australia?
:eng99: Apparently non-existent, because we jump from the European Renaissance straight to the United States in the mid-19th century.

Xenomorphs is the closest they come to touching any of that, and from what I recall sub-Saharan Africa and Australia are sorta Kinori territory and Asia is largely left up to you to figure out what you want to do with it beyond them giving you some things that live there.

Xenomorphs is kinda a cool book tbqh, they set out to come up with takes on a lot of famous mythical creatures and urban legends and such and then give you an idea for a one-off monster of the week adventure using them.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Barudak posted:

The Grey Beings burden is a great line. At least Dark*Matter produced that.

Dark*Matter is at the end of the day a sincere effort to try and say 'gently caress it, it's ALL true' and I've always appreciated that.

Also the takes on a lot of mythological creatures are cool twists.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Clan Eshin is a very fair and merit-based employer, in that should you find yourself in a combat role you will start at a Night Runner and then you will almost certainly die the first time you are sent out to assist on a real mission. Should you neglect to die a few times proving that either you are exceptionally lucky or maybe actually any good at this, you get to be a Gutter Runner and actually get trusted to do anything at all important. Managing to not die a lot doing THAT in turn means you're ready to be an actual Assassin.

This is also why Clan Eshin doesn't suffer so much from the general Skaven tendency of being a bit half-assed. You don't get to be in a position to do important stuff unless you have a track record of actually being any good at anything because surviving as a Night Runner for any length of time requires you to git gud and fast.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Hostile V posted:

That and it's not like the Skaven who is high up enough in ranks to have the money and sway to buy a pet monster is going to be the one taking care of said monster. Rat Ogres and other abominations have handlers because they're generally too dense to do anything but stare at the wall and drool or fly into a berserker rage. Handlers poke the monsters to get them to do what the armies or bosses want them to do. A lot of Handlers die when the monster is fed up with getting poked by a non-Moulder. It's common Skaven practices to assign the Skaven you hate and might be the most likely to betray you to handler duty and just let nature take its course.

So yeah they know about that glaring oversight in the monster education process and they need monsters. In true Skaven fashion, the solution for the issue is "okay so how do I set this up so I'm not the one in eminent danger of this problem?"

It should also be said that taking stupid risks that will pay off insanely or end horribly is the Skaven way.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


2 Fast 2 Obsidian.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


kommy5 posted:

No. In WFRP's timeline, he basically keeps running around, doing his own thing. He finally, after over 20 years, captures Gotrek and Felix, introduces himself, and gloats how he'll finally have his revenge on the paid of adventurers for foiling so many of his schemes, and their reply sends him into an epic rage:

"Thanquol..? Who is that?"

In the End Times/Age of Pauldron timeline, Thanquol gets fed to Archaon to make Archaon sound more dangerous. I think it might even have happened off-screen.

Honestly Thanquol getting offscreened by Archaeon has the opposite effect, because without really describing how scary he can be if he's actually trying and not sandbagging it's just a giant armor man beating up a scrawny grey rat with a stick.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Night10194 posted:

Yes. In WHFRP his death is currently being used as a rallying cry by Luthor Huss, crazy religious rebel, as the church of Sigmar considers having another disastrous schism because the Empire can't get enough of those sweet, sweet own goals.

Admittedly 'Supposed Chosen One got murdered while everyone won the war anyway' feels properly warhammer. As does it becoming a plot point of political and religious disunity that PCs might have to fight or mend.

Getting killed by Deathmaster Snikch is definitely cooler than by Archaeon too.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Night10194 posted:

What I do for my personal games is really lean into the fact that he wasn't anyone special at all, just an 18 year old blacksmith caught up in a huge war and religious schism he didn't understand, handed the hammer of God and told to kill the dark lord. He didn't succeed, but he got close, and not making GBS threads himself in terror and actually standing and fighting with no special powers and just a magic hammer to lean on makes the guy way braver than him actually being Sigmar Reborn.

It turns it into a tragedy about someone caught in something way bigger than themselves, and who is still being used by others after his death, instead of a dumb bland superhero fighting a dumb bland supervillain.

Besides, for the RPG, that's always felt like an actual theme. That it's about a bunch of people who don't seem to be anyone special who just need a little luck and time to become surprisingly heroic. We'll get to it when I get to the official campaign, but one of the PCs I made for that is just a Peasant from Kislev. She's no-one 'special'. Except she has decent stats (and a 40 base Fellowship) and it turns out Peasant starts you out with some social, outdoors, crafting, and stealth skills and a special ability to run like hell in chase scenes. When you look at all the 'commoner' classes, most of them start with the assumption that actually the average Old Worlder working a 'low skilled' job has a lot of skills and talents, in their way. You live in a rural community in a world with Beastmen in it, you gotta learn to survive the odd random encounter. The completely 'ordinary' person in WHFRP is by no means helpless or stupid and I've decided to take that as intentional in my games.

It's a shame GW is total poo poo because Valten would be pretty cool if that were canon. Also it leads me to imagine the final portion of it where the Deathmaster has been engaged to kill him, gets there, takes him out, and is like 'lol what that was just a regular guy why the hell did they bother sending me?'

And yeah if a collection of random village militia weren't enough to deal with the occasional zombies or some ungor or poo poo there wouldn't still be said villages.

Feinne fucked around with this message at 02:12 on Oct 24, 2017

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Alien Rope Burn posted:

t

Starfinger Core Rules Part #26: "If we could do for space opera what Shadowrun did for cyberpunk, I’d be thrilled."
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Gnome Stew interview.)

Presented without comment.



Wait.

Rifts?

Really?

:frogbon:

Next: The review at the end of the universe.

Maybe they didn't get that it isn't media that inspires them personally, but things that actually fit in your setting.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


I mean they've got Lovecraft poo poo in their game but then they don't actually cite any of his stories as inspiration, just some bullshit RPG setting. And I mean with that mess of crap there's zero reason not to just include The Color out of Space or The Whisperer in Darkness unless you're the sort of dipshits who include Lovecraft and haven't read it.

e: Or cite the loving Dream Quest, by far his best work.

Feinne fucked around with this message at 15:14 on Oct 24, 2017

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Halloween Jack posted:

Was CoC D20 all that bad on the whole, though? It had good art, and it seemed like it was about as good as a straight D20 conversion was going to get.

I remember someone at WotC made a point of how they ran a playtest of a bunch of D&D characters against Cthulhu, like one of those legendary mega-raids against an unkillable boss in a MMO, and it took like 20 epic level characters just to successfully banish him.


In Chambers' stories, the play has no apparent supernatural power but fractures your sanity, "merely" by being so well-written that you can't stop envisioning its imagery. It's noted as neither offending nor advocating any specific ideology, yet being condemned by everyone from clergymen to anarchists.

But in the context of the 1890s, "Yellow" was associated with the degeneracy and hedonism of the Decadent movement and the Demi-Monde (e.g. The Yellow Book). It's still relevant to a 1920s CoC setting, but that specific context is outmoded today. It was also associated with the syphilis epidemic that, among other things, gave the lie to Victorian morality.


Ramon Casas, Young Decadent


Ramon Casas, Syphilis

As with werewolves and vampires and a lot of other horror stories, modern interpretations of the KiY mythos tend to drift away from "profane lust that threatens bourgeois propriety" and "fear of the Other" toward the concept of order dissolving into chaos. In Trail of Cthulhu, Hastur is potentially the embodiment of entropy and/or a memetic virus that destroys reason. True Detective actually struck a balance where the Yellow King represents liminal spaces where evil is perpetuated and then covered up, and the nihilism of mindless repetition. ("Time is a flat circle," and the protagonists repeating the same patterns as their lives collapse.)

Yeah it should be noted that only in one of the stories in The King in Yellow does someone actually end up in Carcosa, and even then they might just have gone crazy and are unable to tell the difference between here and there anymore.

Any enthusiasts of the genre who haven't gotten a chance to read any Chambers should definitely at least read The Repairer of Reputations from TKIY.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Halloween Jack posted:

One of the things that makes the KiY mthos so baroque and open to interpretation is that the original book isn't even fully committed to its theme; most are not even weird fiction, and a couple are the kind of sentimentalist stories about bohemian students that were Chambers' signature gimmick. It's very odd to read a short story collection that starts with a tale of delusional psychosis and ends with a couple of art school students in Paris declaring their undying love.

Yeah it's cool because the real point is that being exposed to The King in Yellow is basically sure to provoke a significant change in your life and it's not always for the negative if you recognize how unhealthy it is to obsess about the play to the exclusion of reality (for example). Especially since that is potentially the very action that attracts the attention of Hastur.

It should be noted that while reading The King in Yellow is very dangerous, seeing a performance of it or heaven forfend actually BEING in a performance of it is even worse. And playing the King himself would be an absolutely great way to get some negative attention.

Feinne fucked around with this message at 02:36 on Oct 25, 2017

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Nessus posted:

My favorite CoC performing art trick is the gross-rear end opera that requires you to make modified instruments to actually do it right. And if you do stage it right, you summon Azathoth during the third act!

Ah, the Requiem di Massa Per Shuggay.

It's a shame Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath, and Yog-Sothoth don't really get used properly in something like Starfinger, because philosophically they're just the embodied forces of destruction, creation, and the time and space that happens in (respectively).

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Kavak posted:

Whoever reviewed that here converted an average character from CoC Basic and they ended up a Level 17 monster.

That reminds me of the d20 version of Aberrant that they made and I bought a copy of out of some misplaced belief that they wouldn't gently caress it up. Spoiler alert: Oh god did they gently caress it up. Like I'm not even sure it's EVER possible to get as powerful as a character fresh out of creation in the original game, never mind recreating the setting's major characters and what they're supposed to be able to do using the new rules.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


theironjef posted:

It's easy, D20s without any bell curve are too swingy to produce anything but a Keystone Kops level of silly results, which in turn has led to decades of people introducing ridiculous critical fumble houserules and the like to capitalize on the inherent humor of rolling the occasional 1. At a certain point every D20 game will result in a competent character made by an earnest player accidentally chopping their own dick off, and the momentarily flash of joy at the inherent silliness of it all will fade, leaving only the dim residue of a sense that this game we're playing is... a stupid joke. It's all a stupid joke! gently caress this pointless Earth!

I will say that how Alternity (the base system from whence Dark*Matter draws) handles critical success and failure is not bad for something made by TSR and thus married to the idea that 1 and 20 on the d20 are somehow important. A 1 (recalling that Alternity wants low numbers not high) on the base d20 turns a failed result into the least impressive sort of success but otherwise doesn't 'matter' (since the rules already allow for degree of success), and a 20 is 'something unlucky will happen in the near future, the failure of your current action due to unlucky circumstances if this makes sense but otherwise just keep it in reserve'. How it's worded to me says that if you're rolling a check that there was literally zero chance of failure in the search space of the dice, you don't have to just fiat 'nah you failed'.

Feinne fucked around with this message at 16:53 on Oct 25, 2017

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


PurpleXVI posted:

As poo poo as The Last Exodus is, the idea of running your own pirated copy of reality to try and crack the encryption on the real thing so you can fight God on your own terms is kind of cool. It feels a bit Shin Megami Tensei.

It is in fact pretty much literally Digital Devil Saga 1 and 2.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Also you eventually realize there is no magic IRS, it's just some dude who wants an excuse to hang around while you're forced into excessive PDA with a mermaid under threat of severe financial penalty. Hyper-specific flaws taken by power gamers strike again!

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Night10194 posted:


Also note an actual Assassin is a 3rd tier fighting character. A party of 2nd career characters encountering 2 second career fighters, a third career fighter, and their lovely mook backup might have a rough time with that Eshin assassination team.

Also, all of this would be easier to deal with if you get 'generic' rat assassin statblocks and stuff.

I would say that the Assassin certainly shouldn't be generic, given you're implying they are effectively equivalent to the hero pick from WFB. They're the sort of opponent that you are pretty hot poo poo if you can beat. Also be glad that this is based on the later WFB edition that doesn't just give Assassins Weeping Blades as their default weapon.

Also since it came up earlier the god of the Sahuagin is Sekolah the Shark.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Comrade Gorbash posted:

Does any game have proper grapple rules?

Another nice thing I will say about Dark*Matter is that its "monster manual" Xenomorphs has a section at the start that is basically 'yeah so animals in the real world tend to do things like try and knock you down and maul you, so here are rules for how that actually works' rather than just 'yeah whatever this thing does two claw attacks and a bite attack each round or something'.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Freaking Crumbum posted:

. . . kiiiiiiiiiiinda?

the book says "animals will try to subdue prey because they know it's easier to kill subdued prey" and then the book re-prints the grappling rules from the core PHB (which are nothing special) and that's it. the implication is that monsters of about animal intelligence will try to focus fire one hero if they can, and try to pin them if they can, because that's roughly how real animals hunt. but that aside, each monster still has a nightmarish stat block (with way too much information that will likely never be relevant to a combat encounter) and they still have dumb stuff like "Bite, Claw (x2)" listed in their attack actions.

matter of fact, because of the way that grappling works (here it comes) most monsters are still better off just using their listed attack modes against a hero, rather than wasting time wrestling the hero to the ground first. if anything, the paragraph telling the GM to have animal intellect-level monsters wrestle the heroes first is something of a reprieve for them, because it means they won't necessarily be insta-gibbed by whatever they're facing.

for example, let's look at the very first monster in Xenoforms, the Congoraptor - it's basically a raptor that the Kinori keep as a pet like humans would keep a dog. if the raptor follows the provision that it should try and wrestle prey to the ground before attacking, it's going to have to make successful grapple checks on 3 consecutive actions, each at a +1 penalty, in order to pin the target. since they don't have any ranks in attack specialty skills (just the Unarmed broad skill w/ 8 Strength) the raptor is trying to roll 8 or less on d20+d4. not impossible, but certainly not probable. since the raptor is trying to pin the target first, it's not dealing any actual damage to the target while it wrestles with it, because grappling itself doesn't automatically deal damage, and the move that progresses from a grapple into a pin doesn't deal any damage. and, if it doesn't get 3 consecutive successes, it loses ground on the grapple progress, which means it will likely take an extremely long time for the raptor to actually wrestle something to the ground.

on the other hand, the Congoraptor normally gets two actions per round and has both Bite and Claw/Claw Rake attacks. the Bite hits on a 12 or less, and each Claw hits on 14 or less, plus both attacks can deal damage, and most importantly mortal damage (if the raptor rolls an amazing success). against a hero with an average Constitution of 8 (meaning the hero can take 8 Wound damage and only 4 Mortal damage before dying) the raptor has a possible chance of killing the hero in one shot on an amazing Claw rake - each claw deals d4+1 mortal damage on an amazing hit, meaning the lowest damage each claw can roll is 2 mortal. granted, the raptor only scores an amazing hit on 3 or less, but that's the best-case one-shot-kill scenario - it can still easily fill up a hero's wound damage track with ordinary or good successes, and then the next attack is overflowing into mortal anyway.

from my reading of the situation, the suggestion in Xenoforms that animal-intelligence monsters try to wrestle with heroes before attacking directly is a kludge to keep "ordinary" monster encounters from causing TPKs left, right, and center.

Oh yeah the actual rules are in practice not so great, I just liked that they even bothered to point out that animals don't really work the way they're generally modeled in rpgs (before doing it themselves).

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Night10194 posted:

You know, one of the reasons SMT works is because your hero is always the cosmic lynchpin whose decisions are going to decide the outcome of whatever apocalyptic change they face in the world.

You kind of have to make the players a big deal, cosmically, even if they have to work their way up, to pull that off.

DDS coming up does remind me of how it has one of the best justifications for player power in the series, namely that your party and especially Serph are Sera's Original Character, Do Not Steal versions of people.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


FMguru posted:

I call 'em Stupid Dice Tricks and they're a mainstay of 1990s design. I'm convinced they're equal parts 1) cargo-culting Storyteller/Vampire (which was itself a bad copy of the wonky Shadowrun 1E dice engine) and 2) an attempt to obfuscate how broken the system is while also appearing "simple". Roll and Keep, moving target numbers, different kinds of success, and (my favorite) mixing different types of dice (Alternity was really good for that).

Not all 90s systems had broken dice mechanics. FUDGE had its very straightforward 4DF bell curve, and Godlike introduced the One Roll Engine (which is the system that all those Stupid Dice Tricks system think they are).

Like the dice mixing in theory is a great way to generate really weird distributions of random numbers but having actually played Alternity it IS a bit cumbersome.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Bieeardo posted:

I like your version better, but these goofy things were canon at one point.



To be fair cu sidhe/sith are in fact canon to mythology.

To be less fair obviously that's not how you pronounce those words.

Feinne fucked around with this message at 08:32 on Nov 3, 2017

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Freaking Crumbum posted:

nearly every domain outside Barovia fell into the "but what do the players DO here?" problem. you've got places like:

* Bluetspur where the entire domain is eminently hostile to having players even wander around (something dumb like 10d6 lightning bolts strike randomly every minute your outside) and if you manage to find a cave to hide in, they're actually hidey-holes for a bunch of vampire illithids which will completely gently caress up all but the most epic level party in a matter of seconds. so you can't wander around outside, there's no cities or villages or civilization to interact with, the random monsters are epic level motherfuckers, there's no cool ruins or dungeons to explore, and oh also you can't leave once you enter because the setting fiction says nobody can leave a particular domain without extreme GM fiat. so you wander into a barren death-world and basically just tick off the rounds until you get a TPK.

* Some random stone-age domain, the name of which I can't recall. The Dreamlands maybe? the premise is that the entire domain is this temperate forest/prairie where bubbles of "dream stuff" float around except of course they're really nightmares and if you touch one you get zapped into the nightmare and you might never find your way out, or the way out might dump you in another setting, or in another timeline, so basically if your whole party doesn't touch the exact same one your character is functionally dead. also the only civilization are nomadic tribesmen that don't believe in things like object permanence (because anyone can get zapped into a nightmare bubble at any time) and they don't bother to create any kind of complex civilization. I don't even think there was a domain lord here? just a hosed up place that you get trapped in and then you might as well just roll up new characters.

like, you can tell they were really throwing poo poo at the wall by the end of Ravenloft, but most of it didn't even pass the litmus test of "okay, but why would PCs even go here/what kind of adventures do they have/what's the point of this whole zone"/

Hah so for those who haven't seen why a vampire illithid is so loving savage, they got to energy drain on every tentacle attack and were effectively impossible to kill. Like from the statline I recall they literally still regenerate after being reduced to dust by a disintegrate, it ain't no thing to them. And not like 'oh they come back in some number of days, w/e'. Their passive regeneration still happens so the kindest possible outcome for you is you have their health/regeneration rounds before they're back for more.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


PurpleXVI posted:

I remember reading Alternity years ago, and one thing about it REALLY impressed me, the fact that, by and large, PC's would generally succeed at most rolls. It might be a marginal success with some sort of consequence, but generally PC's, even starter PC's, would actually DO STUFF. A complete and utter whiff at doing a thing was pretty rare unless you were rushing through something you were untrained at it in a really hosed situation.

It feels like the sort of basic system that mostly needs some trimming to work well, not a total burn-to-the-ground.

Having run it, a lot of doing so is just being pretty fast and loose on most of it. It can feel really daunting and overly complicated but going loosy-goosy with a general thought to erring on the side of what will make the current game situation more fun for the players makes it work really well (as it does in most systems to be fair).

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


I was going to be baffled by Blood Music as an inspiration but I figured it out, a book where everything goes to poo poo and nothing can stop it inspired them to make a game where the PCs are utterly unimportant and can impact nothing at all.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


kommy5 posted:

Blood Music is a really weird and creepy book. It also stars the absolutely dumbest protagonist alive. Well, for as long as he lasts, anyway. Seriously, I think he’s the guy that trained the “scientists” on Promethius.

Well I mean if he were in the business of making good choices he wouldn't have turned a significant portion of the earth's surface into a nightmare meatscape.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Dallbun posted:



162: A Chilling Experience

The PCs are on an open arctic plain dotted with hillocks (not hills, hillocks), one of which is a young adult white dragon looking to gain gold and glory by killing adventurers. It breaks free of its cover of snow when they get near, which actually is like a reverse surprise round because it needs a round to shake the snow off itself. Then it breathes on them and takes flight.

“It fights to the death, for it cannot bear the thought of the shame it would feel if it was routed by mere humans.” I... suppose that’s as good a reason as any? And it’s got no hoard in its lair, since it was just trying to start one.

It more or less hangs together conceptually, but when I rephrase it as “a dragon attacks you out of nowhere, never flees, and has no treasure” it just sounds like DM fuckery. Pass.



That's either a trivial encounter or a massive dick move with very little wiggle room between, because even allowing that a young adult white dragon is pretty weak on the grand scale of dragons any party that's not going to be able to kill the thing during the baffling free turn followed by 'for some reason this thing is breathing from the ground instead of flying up and then strafing you' is going to get hosed once it DOES take off.

EDIT: I did some research and gently caress's sake I was really underestimating that dragon, Young Adult for a white means it's in the 60-70 foot range (with tail obv), is a 12 HD monster, causes fear, and just in general is not something a party wants to see as a goddamn surprise.

Feinne fucked around with this message at 23:15 on Nov 14, 2017

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Alien Rope Burn posted:

Well, also CR is problematic because neither characters or NPCs are particularly well balanced, and a party of veteran d20 number-mashers and a party of casual RPG babbies are going to have completely different levels of competency.

Or for example I remember something (it might have actually been in Dragon magazine and not an actual sourcebook which is double lol really) where they admitted 3e dragon CRs were based around the idea that the party was intentionally going after the dragon in question and at some level had prepared countermeasures for its abilities, so they by design weren't really appropriate encounters for the level if they were a 'surprise'.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


I'm going to kind of disagree on the Comte St. Germain just in that realistically briefly killing him would be pretty easy. He's just as vulnerable to getting one-shot by a deerslug at close range as any other vaguely humanoid thing is, for example.

Oh and everyone get ready for a second huge eyeroll when we get to the aliens and learn what an ekimmu is, not because the ekimmu aren't actually a decent take on what they're supposed to be but because LOL of course this joker is one of them. I actually kinda like the idea of the ekimmu but it's best to just have the Comte St. Germain be sir-not-included-in-this-picture.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Freaking Crumbum posted:

to me, it’s the old D&D “fight a dragon” problem, but in reverse. do you run the encounter with monsters stats as written, or do you run the encounter based on how they’re presented in the fiction?

assuming that your players set up some kind of sniper-nest ambush, sure, you can drill a .50 cal round into his skull no problem. his stats don’t confer any amount of magic invulnerability, so this plan should work in theory. but, in the fiction he’s a master manipulator and basically the Sorcer Supreme of the Earth-realm; there’s no way this dude would ever allow himself to be within 100 yards of a viable threat to his safety, or he’d have life-model occult decoys and the thing you just sniped was actually a Greater Demon in disguise and those can shrug off some damage and then turn around and gently caress you raw, or any of 1,000 other contingency plans.

if I was a PC and my assassination attempt against the Comte “worked” I’d become immediately paranoid about what awful poo poo was about to befall me.

Oh for sure. In practice you never even see the gently caress because he's 100% behind the scenes. One nice thing is that were you to want to use the setting there were never really enough 'things' done with it that you couldn't reasonably change him out for any other more interesting person who turns out to be an ekimmu connected with the masons. Or at least come up with some more interesting true identity that his pretension as the Comte St. Germain is a cover for.

EDIT: It feels silly to start before we get to the section of the setting with Strangers but I'd totally be down to do the Xenoforms book.

LOL or The Killing Jar, or both.

Feinne fucked around with this message at 03:13 on Nov 21, 2017

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Freaking Crumbum posted:

hey if you've got the time and inclination go hog wild. my pace thru the core book is best described as "glacial" so if you want to go over other material, feel free. I was intending to cover all of the Dark*Matter stuff eventually, but again, at my pace that would be some time in the distant future.


This is a really great illustration of something I'd touched on earlier in my review: Dark*Matter tends to use the most boring and uninteresting explanation for anything that's happening. Their version doesn't mention any of this stuff; it's literally the sentence or two I included in my review about him and then that's it.

I guess they were leaning hard into "well it's up to the GM to ultimately decide what characters / conspiracies are true in their games and to what extent they're involved" but it feels like they used that as an excuse to only offer the most bare-bones info on the myriad conspiracy topics. Maybe the idea was that the core demo for this kind of TTRPG already brings a bunch of knowledge about these kinds of conspiracies to the table? It sure doesn't make much of the information useful as much more than a "gee whiz" footnote if you're not already familiar with the stuff that's being hinted at.

Cool, I'll probably do The Killing Jar first since I've actually run the adventure and can speak to the... interesting choices and how I dealt with them.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Dark Matter: The Killing Jar



The Killing Jar is the one and only full module released for Dark*Matter. I also have actually GM’d this adventure. We’re going to start with the introduction for now, because while there's not much I can talk about without spoiling some of the crazy places this module goes I generally really like what's included in this part and want to have some good things to say about the whole thing.



We start with the standard guideline on appropriate parties. They suggest 3-6 characters of any level, though they also suggest you might want to add some extra enemies at times if the average party level is above 5. It then moves on to some super boring basic ‘hey here’s how you use a module’ which is kind of a nice inclusion honestly given the target audience of such things. The introduction then summarizes the plot, which I’m going to pointedly skip to preserve some fun surprises, so let’s move on to Getting the Heroes Involved.

So the hook suggested is that one of the PC’s car is stolen with something important in it, then turns up again in West Virginia. The idea is to generate a situation where the PCs feel the need to actually go pick it up in person. They do note that this option does really require them to be in the general vicinity, and suggests some options for this. It does also have an alternative if you’d prefer not to be so railroad-y, where the PCs receive an anonymous tip about an abandoned car that starts the adventure instead.

After giving the GM some text to use as part of the hook, it then moves on to the chain of events that leads to the PC’s car being stolen by, it turns out, someone connected with the adventure. I’m going to skip past this for now because again it spoils the plot.

The majority of the rest of the introduction is the Lexicon, which is actually super handy because it lays out mechanically how the PCs could research concepts and people that come up during the adventure and what information is available from such research. Honestly it’s actually kind of good of them to give the GM some information on ‘hey what happens if after they learn this person’s name they try to search online for something about them’.

There’s a sidebar on what to do if the PCs intentionally or accidentally get the authorities involved in the proceedings, and the introduction ends on a simply charming list of references. So I’ll mention this again but this module did in the way-back actually have web sites that were put up in support of it so that the players could actually do things like check a nefarious company’s web site or email a mysterious person’s address and get a reply. They’re not still up but it was kinda cool.

Next time we’ll start digging into the meat of this in Act One.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Dark Matter: The Killing Jar

Act One, Scene One



Act one starts with the heroes heading to Hurricane, West Virginia after the stolen/abandoned car. They have to pick it up at a tow lot and if the alternative hook was used it’ll cost a bit more as they need to bribe the guy at the lot instead of just paying the impound fee. They can get some basic information on where the car was found abandoned if they care to from the guy. They can also try and sneak onto the lot, though it’s actually pretty well secured so this is likely to end up in tears.

So let’s get on to the car. The next clue in the chain of the adventure comes in the stuff the car thief left behind, which is a small empty plastic container and their purse. The purse doesn’t actually have much information beyond the initials of the owner (though this is indeed the clue) and an unlabeled keycard that turns out to be useful much later, but what it DOES have is a tracking device that lets one of the major antagonists of the adventure track them if they keep the purse on hand (it’s possible to notice but only if the PCs give the purse a proper search). The plastic container has some dried slime on it that, if you can send it to someone in the know, turns out to contain TPA (i.e. Stranger genetic material). As it happens the passenger of that container is still in the car, hiding in the stuffing of a seat, and it either attacks after the PCs have been driving a bit in the stolen car or immediately if they intend to abandon it for the moment. Say hello to the Tertiary Cnidocyte:



So this little fucker is a gross land jellyfish thing and it’s not really that much of a threat, in theory. It’s bad at hitting and even worse at doing damage, but the nasty thing is that little section on what happens if you take combat damage from it. If you take damage from a Cnidocyte and fail the check after combat you get infected with Clostridium cnidarae, which causes you to slowly transform into a Cnidocyte yourself. As it turns out (though the PCs don’t know this) the person who stole their car was in fact involved in research into these things and was trying to expose their employer’s attempt to weaponize them, but was infected while attempting to escape with evidence.

After this little surprise the scene wraps up with the PCs hearing or seeing in the news that a body has been found with monogrammed handkerchiefs that match ones in the purse dead from supposedly pneumonia. The CDC is name-dropped for extra conspiracy poo poo of course. So if any PCs got infected by the Tertiary Cnidocyte, poo poo starts to get icky over time for them, and dealing with any infections does provide a reason to push forward in the adventure since it’s not curable by human science.



So speaking of the CDC, the adventure does note that if any PCs got infected and realize they’ve got creepy micro-jellyfish eating their flesh they might be inclined to contact them. It suggests a couple of ways to deal with that, since the CDC being on the level and getting involved would make the rest of the adventure pretty much not happen.

If the PCs keep the bugged purse, the first issue this causes starts to come up now. Every few days the shady gently caress secret agent from the evil corporation will send some thugs to try and deal with the PCs. They’re not a massive threat and they don’t know anything of value (they’re a bunch of random skinheads and Klan types who’ve been fed a story about why the party needs to get got).

Scene One does give you a lot of ways to get to the car, but does get a bit railroad-y as far as getting you from the car to the rest of the adventure. In retrospect it probably works better if the detective in the next scene connected the car to the body and the PCs and brings them in on hopes that they can identify the body, but we’ll talk about that more next time, in Scene Two.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Dark Matter: The Killing Jar

Act One, Scene Two:

Last time the PCs recovered a stolen car and got jumped by a creepy land jellyfish thing. Now they’ll follow the kind of flimsy clues provided to learn the fate of the car thief.

The body’s in Charleston, and some quick research there lets them determine the detective on the case and that there’s been no information released. The next step then is to try and get information from him, which is reasonably easy if the PCs can come up with a plausible excuse for why they want it or have some kind of credentials.

The body was bloated and leaking weird jelly, so he called the CDC. While a good cop, the detective isn’t so bright because he totally bought that a guy calling himself “Jon Smithy” was in fact a legit CDC agent (it’s actually the secret agent mentioned in the previous update, Andrew Balance). Anyway the fake CDC agent bullshitted him that it was just severe pneumonia, and now the body is in the local forensics lab. Still, this guy is actually on the level and if they can convince him something weird is up he’ll team up with them for the duration of their stay in the city (which is pretty important given they need access to the lab).

The guy who runs the lab, Dr. Kline, is not nearly so honest and has been paid off by Balance to lose the corpse, any record of its presence, and anyone who comes snooping around for it. This is their second ‘in’ if they didn’t manage to get the detective on their side, the doctor is willing to let them come in after hours to earn the bonus he’ll get for disposing of them. With or without the detective you’re going to get told he’s just too busy to see you until then, which is pretty much what you’d expect from some power-tripping rear end in a top hat running a lab so I’ll give it a pass for railroading that at least makes sense.

I’ll lay out the doctor’s planned ambush now. He tries to lure them into the dimly lit adjoining hallway in the pretense of showing them something (though he gets a bit antsy if there’s more than three people there). At this point the janitor comes in with a garbage cart, and asks for the elevator to be held. When he gets close he pulls out some gardening shears and attacks, while the doctor tries to inject the nearest player with anesthetic. They get a free surprise round unless the players have actively stated that they’re on-guard, which given the situation is super sketchy and it would be reasonable for players to do just that I’ll let go. There’s a third element to this that isn’t part of the planned ambush, Agent Balance also sent along one of his subordinates to make sure Kline stayed in line and he’ll jump in as well if things turn south.



Doctor Kline is pretty much useless past that initial chance of knocking someone out of the fight so this ambush isn’t really so bad, especially so if you teamed up with the detective. Kline will gently caress off and hide if it looks like things are going poorly, which I’d generally note as whenever the bullets start flying. The doctor will give up some information if they can get ahold of him, and searching his poo poo lets them figure out he’s not yet deleted the records on the body. He’s got a business card with an email address on it, which I’m pretty sure you could actually email and get some auto-replies back in the day.



The Specimen X file is basically his Ross Ulbricht mycrimes.txt where he lays out how he totally took money to dispose of this body and also sells black market body parts because I guess that’s a thing you do when you’re a corrupt medical examiner. Ironically he still actually did his job with respect to examining the body rather than just incinerating it, and discovered the active C. cnidirae in it. There’s a bit of information on what he discovered about the infection, where the body’s personal effects are stored, and ominous mentions of a ‘sample’ that’ll matter later.

The car thief’s effects mostly exist to lead them to the next area, motherfucking Point Pleasant, West Virginia (if you noticed a brief mention of mothmen in one of the images last time this might not have been a big surprise). It also provides the name of the person she was trying to contact there. There’s a calculator in her lab coat with another bug if they evaded the first one, more good fun. If they look in the basement for the sample in Kline’s notes, they’ll find another Tertiary Cnidocyte in a barrel down there (formerly the lady’s head). Unlike the first one, this Cnidocyte actually leaves a body which could have awkward results if the PCs decide to take it with them given it’ll reanimate in about ten days if not burned.

The scene ends on giving the GM some suggestions to keep them interested if the players decide this is officially not their problem. Oh, and the tow truck guy from the first scene is murdered (which they hear about if they keep up with the news).

Next time we’ll hit up scene three and encounter the motherfucking mothman.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Dark Matter: The Killing Jar

Act One, Scene Three:

Last time an old man and a janitor tried to murder the PCs and they got sent to Point Pleasant. Now it’s time for the motherfucking mothman.

So it happens that there’s a regatta going on in Point Pleasant to coincide with the heroes being there, as some local flavor. The adventure suggests using it to provide some relief when things get hosed up, there’s even a schedule provided.

Anyway the clues from last time sent you to find a Dr. Shabbir in Point Pleasant, who turns out to be an expert of sorts on the local natives. Shabbir gets all antsy if they bring up anything related to the missing woman or the mothman, and they’ll need to convince him that they’re not up to no good before he’ll let them in on what he knows. So here’s what he knows:

The car thief contacted him, though he didn’t know why. It turns out she was interested in his theory that the mothman sightings from ’67 were tied to a local shaman (Chief Cornstalk) who called it up with some kind of talisman with his dying breath after being murdered by soldiers, and to this day it protects his burial mound. He claims he’s seen mothmen, plural, himself. The burial mound is by the TNT area (which checks out with respect to the prior mothman sightings) and only Shabbir knows where it is and how to get in. He doesn’t know anything about C. cnidirae or the cnidocytes and of course never met the deceased woman in person. He does know she’d said the chief’s talisman was her ‘one hope’. If they express interest in going to the mound, he offers to guide them.

There’s a hilarious encounter table for the TNT area where you can run into some dumb teenagers, college kids necking, birds, and rent-a-cops. More threatening is the fact that, if the PCs are bugged, Andrew Balance is literally pursuing them in a whisper quiet black helicopter straight out of the best 90s paranoid fantasies. Two of his goons will be waiting at the mound to ambush them when they leave in this case, they’re pretty much the same as the guy who aided the ambush in the lab. There’s a bunch of general information on the old plant at the TNT area to give some nice detail as the party travels through.

So once at the mound, Shabbir produces his clue as to how to enter, which he received in a dream: a shaded circle, surrounded by seven concentric circles, with stars above. Can you figure out how to enter from this?

The solution is that someone has to circle the mount seven times at night.

Doing this right causes an opening to CGI itself out of the side of the mound, because remember straight up magic is totally a thing in the setting. It’ll close if you reverse the procedure above or wait until dawn, and naturally that means you don’t want to still be in there when the sun comes up unless you love being buried alive. The entry chamber has some sweet native art and a strong hint to investigate a large stone, which will provoke a guardian spirit in the form of a venomous snake.



It’s fortunately super fragile, though getting bit could be quite unpleasant. The hollow beneath the rock has some native artifacts in it, which may or may not be interesting to the players. The next room has some skeletons in cavities in the wall, then provides a bit of a jump scare because the party starts to fall under the area of an effect that disrupts electronic equipment, plunging them into darkness. After improvising some more functional light, the room turns out to be a record of the murder of Chief Cornstalk. The four bodies are those of the soldiers who slew him, as their clothing and equipment suggests and more art confirms.

The next room is the important one, the chief’s burial chamber. He and his son are in a pit, with a loving sweet mask in one of their hands. There’s also a big pile of straw with some ominous relics of the Point Pleasant mothman’s previous known sightings, because this is where the motherfucking mothman lives. It’s the source of the electronic disturbances (it has a mutation that causes it). The mothman will attack if they cause any significant disturbance (such as trying to retrieve the loving sweet mask that screams phat loot) and the curse binding it here makes negotiating with it sadly impossible.



That said, the PCs actually do have a couple of ways to get out of this without killing the mothman. For one, it’ll flee if one of them puts on the sweet mask. It’s also possible though difficult to dispel the binding if you know the right FX. One interesting wrinkle is that the mothman will always focus its attacks on any PCs infected with C. cnidirae if available, and equally will attack living cnidocytes if they are somehow present instead of the PCs. After the mothman is dealt with, they find the next breadcrumbs in the chain.

The car thief turns out to have been one Jane Scarborough, late of the American Home Devices corporation. She actually made it as far as the mound, but in her deteriorating mental state she lost track of her plan when the mothman attacked. Why not just read her notes yourself?



At this point the PCs need to get the hint that the mask is important, because it’s going to be necessary when they need to communicate with mothmen later in the adventure. Above and beyond that simply possessing it makes the mothmen later on more inclined to believe the PCs are legit. This is about where the players get jumped if they’re bugged, again two agents similar to the one from scene two. It’s not a real threat most likely, since unlike the mothman there’s no reason for them to feel the need to go easy on these assholes and they even have a convenient magical burial mound to dump their corpses in. Agent Balance doesn’t stick around to fight regardless, and if things go south he abandons these losers. This concludes the West Virginia segment of the adventure, next time the party sets out to try and figure out what the poo poo is going on.

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Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


I know they suggest that skaven females are much less common than males and I think they are going for the fascist 'the Council recognizes that the greatest strength the Skaven have is numbers and take affirmative steps to maximize that advantage', which also fits with the idea of a female grey seer since they like to consider themselves above having to give a poo poo what the council says when it pleases them to do otherwise.

It would not at all surprise me if Eshin and Pestilens have some ladies in the mix given both groups are kinda outsiders to normal skaven culture.

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