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Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Better Angels straight from the book (seriously its a very good game outside of a few singular parts)


Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 1: An Introduction
Chronicles of Darkness is the newest edition of the World of Darkness setting, renamed to keep it distinct from Old and New World of Darkness. A game about horror and personal stories and about mundane people trying to do the right thing, or at least whatever it takes to survive. The book itself starts with a short story called Apt. 3B.

In it two girls have ventured into the basement of their apartment complex looking for their friend who had gone missing and run into...something. Something that resembled one of the other tenants, an aging woman named Mrs. Luz. But as she gives chase she resembles less the elderly woman they knew and more an amorphous mass of writhing flesh, the wrinkled features on her face mere facsimiles made through twisted skin and shadow. The creature captures one of them and demands that the other tell her father not to sell the complex.


The folds of Mrs. Luz’s face rearranged into something that might have been meant to be a smile. “Good girl. You will take a message from me to the man.” Dawn was shifting, very slowly, in Mrs. Luz’s grasp. She caught Ximena’s eyes again and stared; gesturing slightly to the left with her eyes. Dawn was angry, not scared, so she must need time.
Mena paused and tried to catch Mrs. Luz’s eyes. “What man?”
“To your father, stupid child. Tell him he mustn’t sell my home to the hollow men who have been creeping around here at night. I’ll kill as many of you as I must to drive them off, but it can all stop if he promises not to sign anything they give him.”
“Hollow men? The lawyer, you mean? Papi said he was a real estate investor.”
“Nonsense words. He is an empty thing that traded favors for a face and a name, and the men he speaks for don’t even have the grace to cast a shadow. They are hollow men and they must not be allowed to put their clockwork...”
Mena interrupted her, angry. “Wait, you’ll kill as many of us as you must? What did you do with Jenna?”
“The soft, pink one? She was oily but toothsome. You, I suspect,” and she shook Dawn again, who struggled harder this time, palming something, “will need to sit a few days before you are soft enough for my old teeth.”
The girl at death's door manages to empty a can of paper spray in it's face and kick free and together they flee back down the hallway. They break into the trash compactor room and one of the girls acts as bait while the other stands by the controls. She taunts the creature and dives out of the way at the last moment as it lunges at her. They slam the door closed behind it and turn it on.


“Do… do you think she’s the only one?”
Late that night, they were crammed head to tail into Dawn’s twin bed, reminding each other that it really happened.
“What would you do if she wasn’t?” Ximena swallowed hard.
“Well, maybe we should look for them. Maybe they’re not all mean and crazy like Mrs. Luz. Maybe there are some nice ones who could, like, use a friend or something.”
“Do you really think anything like her could actually be friends with us?”
“Well maybe we should look anyway. We’ve already fought one, right? That makes us practically qualified to find – fight – monsters.”
“I’ll think about it,” Dawn paused, “But you can’t tell anyone else. Especially not your little brother. He’s got a big mouth, and you never know who might be a… monster.”
The next week was weird. Once the court gag order was lifted they could talk, a little, about what had happened. The official word was that a homeless woman had snuck into the basement and attacked the girls while they were cleaning. They ran away, and in her pursuit she hit her head so hard on the concrete steps that it broke her nose and cheekbone, accounting for the corpse’s unusually distorted and swollen face. Unrelated, Mrs. Luz, the longest-lived tenant of their building, died of heart failure. She left no next of kin.

And that illustrates the kind of story you might run. People facing something horrible and doing what it takes to survive. They didn't get glory or riches out of it, they barely escaped with their lives, and now they know something that will likely haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The book continues with a basic introduction, and advises running sessions like episodes of TV drama like Pretty Little Liars or Breaking bad. Good advice as far as I'm concerned as these shows serve as good examples of pacing, character conflict and story structure. It also lists other books and movies that would serve as a good example of what the system was made for, like True Detective, The Terminator, Warren Ellis' Fell and of course The Crow. Before the first chapter there's also a glossary describing terms you'll find in the book, and I believe this is probably a good point to describe how the Storyteller system generally works.

The Storyteller System

The Storyteller system is the resolution mechanic for Chronicles of Darkness, World of Darkness and Exalted, though each have been changed slightly over time. It's how you determine whether or not you succeed in any given act, whether it be scaling a barbed wire fence, trying to convince the bouncer you know the owner, or recalling the meaning of a strange symbol carved into a doorframe.

When you perform an action where there's a significant chance of failure or you're performing an action under stressful circumstances you're going to have to roll for it. In this game this takes the form of dice pools of d10's. Most rolls are going to consist of an attribute, a core aspect of the character ranging in value from 1 to 5, and a skill, a learned ability or knowledge similarly ranging from 1 to 5. You'll add these two numbers together and roll that many dice. Successes are achieved on an 8, 9, or 10. On a 10 it counts as a success and you get to reroll the die potentially garnering additional successes. If you roll another 10 it's another success and you reroll again. This means that if you're rolling 3 dice you can generally hope for a single success, which is all that's needed for most tasks. The only time you'll really need to count your successes is during contested actions, where two characters are rolling against each other, like during a chase or attempting to mislead or misdirect someone. In these situations both actors roll their dice and whoever rolls more successes wins. Unfortunately for the life of me I cannot find what you do if you tie. I believe rerolling is the accepted solution to that eventuality.

If you manage to roll 5 successes, either through luck, a massive handful of dice, or a mixture of the two, you get an exceptional success. This allows the character to succeed far beyond what they had anticipated and generally make their life much easier. The Storyteller (ST) can levy a bonus or penalty on this dice pool based on how difficult the task in question is, ranging from +5 to -5. In these cases the numbers refer to how many dice you add or subtract from a given pool. The player can also gain bonuses from equipment which will be discussed later. If this penalty would reduce your die pool to less than one you can still attempt the action but you'll roll what's called a Chance Die. It's a single d10 that will only succeed if you roll a 10. 8 or 9's won't be enough for this. This is also the only time rolling a 1 is important in the game. If you roll a 1 on a chance die you suffer a Dramatic Failure. The ST get's to dictate what happens which is generally worse than simple failure, things go wrong in terrible ways and situations get awkward and complicated in a hurry. Guns jam, tires blow out or you twist your ankle running from the terrible monster of flesh and gears when you encounter a dramatic failure.

Character Creation
The top of the character sheet looks like this.

You have your standard information, name and age. Chronicle is the name of the campaign should it have one, and faction is the prime group you belong to in the game which could be anything from the Police, the Cult of Flesh or the Home Owners Association depending on the campaign being run. Most important is the concept. This is what you think of when you think of your character. A few words or even a short sentence that encapsulates how you see your character. While not mechanically important it helps guide what decisions the character would make and how the character is built.

So what kind of character concept do you want to see built?

unzealous fucked around with this message at 03:41 on May 7, 2016

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 2: Skills and Attributes

Bendigeidfran posted:

How about...a neurotic public defender who can't get over her wrestling glory days in high school. She's convinced her client isn't human, but the prosecutor isn't either so it's a wash.

Doresh posted:

The Warriors. Running into an Eldritch abomination that has glass bottles for fingers.

So we have Jennifer Walters, a lawyer, and Michael Beck, a gang member.

Anchor is the blanket term for your character's virtue and vice. These are core ideas your character believes in or acts on. In World of Darkness you chose between the 7 sins as your vice and their counterparts as a virtue. Thankfully Chronicles is significantly more lenient and freeform and you are able to pick what you believe best fits your character. Virtue is the ideal your character follows, it's what motivates them to be a be a better person, to improve themselves, their condition or help those around them. It's not, however, about being some sort of saint. A virtue should also be a compelling part of character, and have the capacity to drive them to do terrible things in desperate times. The book lists examples like generous and just and you could also use traits like pacifist and unwavering. A vice is your easy way out. It's the little habit you have that you have to get out of dealing with emotions or responsibility. But it's also very comforting, and it reminds you of who you are, even if it's the part of you that you aren't very proud of. Arrogant, greedy, cruel, lazy, apathetic and cowardly are all vices a character could have. It should be noted that these don't really exist on a scale of objectively good and bad. People could have ambitious as a virtue or a vice in equal measure. For the person with the ambitious virtue it would mean their character is willing to advance themselves through hard work. They want to network, learn new skills, treat coworkers with respect. When they are acting on their virtue they are a model member, putting forth the extra effort to make themselves useful and act as an example to others. Ambition as a vice, however, might be more about seizing that power through any means necessary. Blackmailing a boss, undermining or sabotaging possible competition, ultimately things that avoid the time and hard work one normally associates with ambition.

Our sample characters are going to need anchors. For Jennifer Walters we have Honesty as a virtue. Ultimately she wants to know the truth, about her clients, about the crime, everything. She won't lie in court, she'll even avoid bending the truth if possible. This drives her to give her clients the best defense she can, though with her current client it's making her intensely curious as to what they might be hiding. For her vice, given her background, I'm thinking violence. She remembers how much fun she had wrestling, before becoming a lawyer. That desire never really left her. She knows how good it would feel to put the smug prosecutor through a table, or Irish whip the clerk who keeps leaving passive aggressive post it notes on her desk. She usually keeps it in check though.

For Michael, even though he may seem of a rather seedy sort, that doesn't mean he doesn't have virtues. He could be Dedicated, to his gang and those he wants to protect. He will never sell them out and will stand with them against impossible odds. He may not care much about himself but it is more important than anything else that his brothers and sisters stay safe. For his vice, we have Distrust. He grew up in a hard environment, and outside of his immediate group he doesn't trust a single person at their word. Even if he has no reason to, even if they've shown nothing but thanks he refuses to let them come too close to him.


Attributes are the core traits of your character, your basic stats. As you can see they are arranged in 3 columns of mental, physical and social, and 3 rows loosely fitting force, flexibility and resistance. Intelligence is your character's knowledge and ability to process and comprehend new information. Wits is your ability to think on your feet and improvise. More importantly, while not stated, it is also used very frequently in rolls to notice things so keep that in mind. Resolve is your mental fortitude, your patience and determination.
Strength is heavy lifting. Dexterity is speed, coordination and balance. Stamina is your physical resilience and toughness.
Presence is your ability to assert yourself, make yourself known and display your confidence. Manipulation is how good you are speaking carefully, convincing others without them realizing it, and, most importantly, lying. Composure is how well you can avoid getting stressed out or riled up and your ability to keep cool under pressure.

To pick your attributes you have pools of 5, 4, and 3 dots to place in the mental, physical or social columns. Something of note, and a big change from World of Darkness, is that the fifth dot no longer costs double. In prior editions that last dot was twice as expensive so raising an attribute from 1 to 5 used up the entire 5 dot pool. They've also drastically changed the way experience works, and while I elaborate on that in a later post you were heavily incentivized to min max your character from chargen, which has thankfully been eliminated in chronicles.

With Jennifer Walters I chose to spend 5 points in intelligence, she worked hard and learned a lot during law school and it shows. 4 points went into physical for the physique and strength she's maintained since she stepped out of the ring, and while she's not exactly a master of flexibility or agility she can still tough out matches and is stronger than your average person.. 3 points went into the social column and no specific points went into composure as she's a bit neurotic and easily flustered.

Skills represent abilities you've learned and practiced rather than something more innate to your character. Here is the skill list. As you can see it is similar to the attributes, there's just more of them.

They are similarly divided up into mental, physical and social sections. While these are largely self explanatory a few could use a bit of elaboration. Academics is arts, humanities and the soft sciences. Science is engineering, physics and all the hard sciences. Computers is more used for hacking and programming than it's used in research. Crafts is how well you can build, synthesize, or construct things. It's a very broad skill. Athletics is how well you can run, jump, swim and all of that. I mention it because as of Chronicles it also adds to your defense which is a pretty major change from World of Darkness. Drive isn't just your ability to drive a car, everyone is assumed to be capable of that unless they choose otherwise, this is for car chases and drifting and the like. Larceny is the various skills used by thieves such as lockpicking and hotwiring. Survival is all your outdoorsy skills like forest navigation and foraging.Weaponry is how well you can hurt people using anything that isn't a gun. Knives, clubs, bricks, all that largely falls under weaponry. Animal Ken...I'll be honest I've never seen animal ken come up in a game. It's used in some of the splats for abilities but it's your dog whisperer skills. Expression is how well you can turn your thoughts into reality, through art, poetry or even speeches. Socialize is fitting in, saying the right thing at the right time, and being the life of the party if you so choose. Subterfuge is how well you can misdirect and deceive (read: lie).

As before we have an array of points to put into each skill section. This time we have 11/7/4 as the array of points at our disposal. After putting points where I felt appropriate we end up with

I put the 11 in her Mental skills, primarily in academics and investigation to represent her legal education and the knowledge picked up from crimes and the commission thereof. 7 went into Physical and most of that into brawl. Some things you just never forget. 4 went into Social, she was never a social butterfly and even now she relies more on her legal knowledge than her ability to wow a jury.

She will also have 3 specialties. These are riders to skills that will give you a +1 bonus when they are applicable. For Jennifer she has a specialty in Academics(Law) so if she need to roll for legal knowledge she'll get that bonus. Similarly she has a specialty in Brawl(Grappling) and Empathy(Detecting lies). Specialties represent a specific focus in a particular area and can be applied to any skill. You might have a specialty in Weaponry(Axes), Medicing(Surgery) or Streetwise(Dealers). I'll post Michael's sheet as well at the end of character creation.

Coming up next...Merits!

unzealous fucked around with this message at 03:39 on May 7, 2016

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 3: Merits!
Actually, before we dive into Merits there are a few things we can fill out on our sheet first.

Derived Attributes
Several of these result from simply adding a few of your attributes together. Health is just our Stamina plus our Size, the default size for an adult being 5. Defense is the lower of our Wits or Dexterity plus our Athletics score. Initiative is our Dexterity plus our Composure. Speed is how fast we can run and is our strength plus our dexterity plus 5. All of this information can also be found at the bottom of the character sheet.

Willpower deserves its own special section. It’s the primary resource you spend in Chronicles and represents just how hard you can keep pushing yourself, mentally and physically. You can spend one willpower an action to either gain a 3 dice bonus or a +2 bonus to a resistance trait, which equates to your opponent rolling 2 fewer dice to affect you. You must also spend it for certain merits as well and those will clearly state it before hand. You have a maximum of your Resolve plus your Composure.

There are a few ways of getting willpower back. The easiest is just a good night’s sleep, which will replenish a point. Then acting with your vice. If, during a scene, the ST believes you acted according to your vice then you gain a willpower point back. For our example character Jennifer Walters, she might finally get fed up with her neighbor playing nightcore at 2am and punch him when he answers his door. Of course there may or may not be consequences for this but it makes her feel drat good. A virtue is a bit harder to pull off as it requires acting in their virtue while at exposing themselves to danger or significant risk. Michael Beck, the gang member, knows that one of the gang has been captured in enemy territory. The rest write him off as a lost cause, it’s too dangerous, but to Michael those bonds of camaraderie are nigh unbreakable. If he decides to go it alone and try to rescue him he can try to fulfil his virtue. The difference is that, while fulfilling a vice replenishes a point of willpower fulfilling a virtue replenishes ALL of your willpower, to it’s maximum amount.


Merits serve as a way of giving your character abilities and resources they can use during the game to great effect. They are generally things that will let them stand out or make tasks much easier. Each character has 7 dots of merits to allocate at character creation and they can really choose anything they wish. A caveat is that you should make sure it’s going to fit the game and the character. If your ST is running a game about people in a run down, decrepit, apartment being a multimillionaire seems a bit off. Some merits, such as the Style merits, give additional effects as you put more dots into them with the more dramatic and game changing abilities available only after a considerable investment.

Something important that was added to Chronicles of Darkness that the other editions lacked is what’s referred to as the Sanctity of Merits. Let’s say you were playing World of Darkness and you spent merit points to have a retainer, someone who does things for you regularly. In a series of unfortunate events they end up dying. Not only are they dead but those points you invested in them are gone, poof, never coming back. In chronicles you keep those dots and they can be reallocated to other merits. The book lists things like putting them into safe house to show your characters fear that the same will happen to them. These changes aren’t immediate however and may take a session or two to kick in. With ST permission you can also refund them for straight XP to be used somewhere else.

There are a few terms that will be mentioned here that could use some explanation. 8 and 9 again means if you roll that number or higher you keep the success and reroll the die. This greatly increases the chances of getting an exceptional success. Meditation can help you deal with stressful situations that occur over the course of the day, especially when you think it's going to be a bad one. A rote action is a roll where you can reroll every dice that doesn't come up as a success once.

Mental Merits

Area of Expertise - You can choose a specialty and increase the bonus from +1 to +2
Common Sense - Once per session you can roll and ask the ST a question from a list that they must answer honestly, like “What is the safest choice.”
Direction Sense - Never disoriented
Eidetic Memory - You remember everything, and if you need to remember a minute detail from something that happened in the past it’s fairly easy roll.
Encyclopedic Knowledge - You can choose a skill, at any time you can roll Intelligence + Wits to gain a bit of pertinent information concerning it and the situation at hand.
Eye for the Strange - You can roll to know conclusively whether something has a mundane or supernatural explanation.
Fast Reflexes - Increases your initiative score
Good Time Management - On extended actions, those that require multiple rolls to represent a significant time expenditure, reduce the amount of time each roll represents.
Holistic Awareness - You can treat nonlethal damage with things at hand and can utilize herbs with medicinal properties in the wilderness
Indomitable - You are exceptionally resistant to supernatural behavioral control.
Interdisciplinary Specialty - You can apply one of your specialties to any skill roll provided you have at least one dot in the skill and can justify it.
Investigative Aide - You can use a skill to investigate with exceptional proficiency, getting exceptional successes with only 3 instead of 5 successes.
Investigative Prodigy - You are an astounding investigator, with good rolls you will tear through mysteries.
Language - Each time you take this merit you can speak, read and understand another language.
Library - Assigned to a mental skill this aids in research on the subject
Meditative Mind - Meditation is something you can do in Chronicles to help center yourself and calm down, this makes you extremely good at it.
Multilingual - This lets you speak 2 additional languages but unlike the languages merit you can’t read or write them.
Patient - On extended actions there tends to be a limit on the amount of times you can roll before you get frustrated and give up or just run out of time, this lets you roll additional times to get the successes you need

Professional Training - This is an important one. It first appeared in World of Darkness in the hunter supplement and was far and away one of the better merits you could pick. When you pick this you pick a profession and 2 skills most associated with it as asset skills. For our lawyer Academics and Investigation would certainly qualify. At rank one you gain free contacts related to the field and the bonuses only increase from there. At the highest level you can spend willpower, your primary resource, to turn an asset skill roll into a rote action. This means you can reroll any failed dice on the roll once.

Tolerance for Biology - You may not be a fan of blood and gore but you’re familiar enough with it that it doesn’t bother you.
Trained Observer - This gives you the 8 or 9 again quality on perception rolls, depending on how many points you put in it.
Vice Ridden - Gain an additional vice, this gives you additional opportunities to enact your vice helping you gain willpower.
Virtuous - You have another virtue making letting you choose which one you are pursuing at any given time.

Physical Merits

Ambidextrous - You suffer no penalty to using your offhand in tasks.
Automotive Genius - You can modify cars to a ridiculous extent, to the ‘Ship of Theseus’ point.
Crack Driver - Behind the wheel you are unshakeable and completely focused on driving.
Demolisher - You can ignore one durability on objects per dot you put into this merit. This is actually much better than the ones you might see in Dungeons and Dragons for instance. In Chronicles durability tends to top off at around 3 and 4 for hard metal object so with 3 dots in this merit you can bust out of handcuffs and tear out padlocks fairly easily.
Double Jointed - You can slip out of restraints without even rolling, and they are very difficult to grab in combat.
Fleet of Foot - Increased Speed
Giant - You are a huge person, well over 6 feet tall. This changes your size from 5, the average, to 6. This also increases your maximum health pool.
Hardy - You are difficult to take down, poison, knock out, suffocate or starve.
Greyhound - You are great at chasing people down
Iron Stamina - This can mitigate the penalties you receive from being fatigued or wounded
Parkour - This style merit gives you a variety of skills which let you traverse urban environments with ease. At the highest level you can spend willpower to gain 3 automatic successes to a foot chase roll.
Quick Draw - As long as you can apply your defense, that is you aren’t surprised or tied down, you can draw your weapon without using your action for the turn.
Relentless - You are harder to chase and harder to escape from, you just won’t stop running.
Seizing the Edge - You always have start with the advantage in chases and are ready to run people down before they even realize they’re going to make a break for it.
Sleight of Hand - You can pick locks and pockets so quickly most don’t even realize what happened.
Small Framed - Your character isn’t even 5 feet tall, they are now size 4 but are better at hiding and avoiding notice.
Stunt Driving - You can push cars to their absolute limit while staying reasonably safe.

Social Merits

Allies - You have friends or employees who will help you to varying degrees, starting out at small favors and working your way up to them sticking their neck out for you.
Anonymity - You are hard to track down and don’t leave a trail. The more you put into this the harder it is for people to find you.
Barfly - With this merit you can show up to social gatherings and fit right in without question
Closed Book - You are particularly hard to socially manipulate, if you have dirt people can’t find it, and people only know where you stand on issues if you tell them
Contacts - This gives you an array of people you can call if you need information. Each dot gives you an additional group of people to call on
Fame - You are a celebrity of some sort, whether its from an accomplishment or because you were an internet meme, the number of dots determines how well known you are. You can leverage this in quite a few social situations.
Fast Talker - Another style merit, this gives you an array of abilities to make convincing and misleading people quicker and easier.
Fixer - You can find people to do jobs for you more easily.
Hobbyist Clique - You belong to a group of people with a shared interest, and can count on their support in their area of expertise.
Inspiring - You can make people more confident and courageous with a stirring speech.
Iron Will - You gain bonuses to avoid being manipulated in social situations
Mentor - This gives you someone looking out for your character’s best interests, though this isn’t always free.
Mystery Cult Initiation - You’re part of a strange or esoteric group of people like a secret society.
Resources - This merit represents your ability to buy things. While it’s assumed your character has enough to pay for rent and other necessities this is for when you need something unexpected and in a hurry.
Pusher - You’re great at using people’s vices against them, tempting them into going along with you.
Retainer - You have an assistant or servant, someone whose job it is to wait at your beck and call.
Safe Place - You have a secure location at your disposal, and even if attacked there you know it better than the back of your hand.
Small Unit Tactics - You can plan and give orders which equate to bonuses during combat.
Spin Doctor - You can talk circles around people, getting what you need to know before they realize how much you don’t.
Staff - You have a group of low level people to assist you. While they aren’t amazing they can perform simple tasks on their own.
Status - You have clout within an organization and they will afford you certain privileges accordingly.
Striking Looks - You stick out like a sore thumb, because you’re handsome or beautiful or because you are hard to look at.
Sympathetic - You are great at getting people to open up to you by telling them a bit about yourself.
Table Turner - You can spend a willpower to turn someone's attempt to manipulate you against them.
Takes One to Know One - You are better at investigation when the crime coincides with your vice.
Taste - You have a wide breadth of knowledge for art, fashion and architecture and can ask the ST specific questions about any piece you come across.
True Friend - You have a bff who will be there for you through thick and thin. The ST cannot even kill this character without your express permission.
Untouchable - Your methodical planning means any investigation done against you is going to be very difficult for the investigators.

Supernatural Merits
These are new to to a core book. World of Darkness itself had no end to ways your average person might have strange and supernatural abilities but those were printed in one of the many splats that have come out over the years. These do require a sort of consensus about what the game is going to be about as they may not always be appropriate.

Aura Reading - With concentration you can see people’s auras to read their intentions and emotions regardless of how they appear on the outside.
Automatic Writing - You can meditate with some sort of writing implement and something will write a note giving you a clue or pertinent information.
Biokinesis - After meditating you can shift your physical attribute dots around. This only lasts about an hour.
Clairvoyance - You can project your senses to another location and experience it like you were actually there.
Cursed - Your death has been foretold in some mysterious way, which is good because from here until then you know you’ll be fine.
Lay on Hands - Through faith or devotion or some other means you can heal people with a touch.
Medium - You can contact spirits and ghosts.
Mind of a Madman - You can understand the mind of even the most insane and deviant but it comes with a cost.
Omen Sensitivity - You know there are signs and omens everywhere, and can interpret meaning from these.
Numbing Touch - You can drain willpower with your touch
Psychokinesis - You can move different forces with your mind, the force in question is chosen when you take this merit.
Psychometry - By just handling an item you can learn about its use and the people who used it.
Telekinesis - You can move stuff around with your mind
Telepathy - Reading surface thoughts of people
Thief of Fate - When you touch someone you steal their good luck. For a day all their failures are dramatic failures but they think of your name when they happen.
Unseen Sense - You get a warning when you come close to a supernatural creature of your choosing, you just know something isn’t right.

Fighting Merits

These have something of a reputation from World of Darkness. In the older edition these tended to be rather broken, vastly changing the action economy and generally turning people into murder machines. Since then they’ve been refined and while they are still definitely worth taking if they fit your character they’re less likely to break the game in the process.

Armed Defense
- Makes you much harder to hit while you hold a weapon as well as giving you the ability to counterattack.
Cheap Shot - You play dirty in combat and can negate your opponent's defense
Choke Hold - You can choke someone unconscious
Close Quarters Combat - You are skilled at using the environment to your advantage and your opponent's disadvantage.
Defensive Combat - Allows you to use brawl or weaponry instead of athletics to add to your defense.
Fighting Finesse - Let’s you use dexterity instead of strength for brawl or weaponry rolls.
Firefight - This provides you with several firearm related abilities
Grappling - Makes you much better at wrestling and pinning people.
Heavy Weapons - This refers to those large weapons that rely more on mass than finesse and make you very proficient in their use.
Improvised Weaponry - You have the same ability to turn anything into an instrument of pain as Jackie Chan.
Iron Skin - This merit acts like armor against unarmed attacks.
Light Weapons - This makes you more proficient in smaller weapons that rely more on technique and finess.
Marksmanship - This merit makes you a much better sniper, capable of making difficult shots and vanishing.
Martial Arts - This merit encompasses any sort of formal training in hand to hand combat and generally makes you deadlier without needing weapons.
Police Tactics - This gives you a smattering of abilities related to handcuffing and avoiding being disarmed.
Shiv - You always have something sharp and dangerous on you. Always.
Street Fighting - The more informal method of making someone deadlier without the organized training.
Unarmed Defense - This makes you harder to hit and to hurt when you’re unarmed.

So now Ms. Walters is starting to fill in more of her character sheet. Honestly there's very little left to do before you start playing. I've chosen professional training (lawyer) with investigation and academics as her asset skills. She also has a bit of grappling, a reasonable amount of spending money and some contacts from her old days in case she needs to find out what's going on that side of town, or just wants someone to talk to for a bit.

unzealous fucked around with this message at 03:40 on May 7, 2016

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 4: Aspirations, Breaking Points and Experience

Aspirations are goals your character wants to accomplish and broken up into Short Term and Long Term aspirations. Short Term aspirations can be reasonably completed in one game session. For our example characters they might include something like ‘Investigate Client’ for Jennifer and ‘Patrol Territory’ for Michael. Long Term aspirations for the two might be ‘Find the Truth behind the client’ and ‘Eliminate a rival gang’ respectively. These are things that would take several sessions to accomplish. All of these serve to give you a bit of character and remind you of both the plot and your character’s life outside of it. You might be dealing with a missing person but you still have to go to work, take your kids to soccer practice and attend to your other responsibilities. Aspirations are known by the ST and they should take a bit of effort to make sure they can come up if it’s reasonable. If you accomplish an aspiration you can replace it between sessions. Likewise you can replace it if it is no longer possible or relevant. It should also be noted that if you don't know what the campaign is going to be about you can wait to fill out your aspirations until you get a little bit more information about what's going on.

Breaking Points and Integrity have replaced Morality from World of Darkness. Morality had several issues. One being it a sort of rough measure of objective good and evil more than anything else. Moving down it required committing increasingly heinous crimes. To reduce your character to 0 humanity and finally lose control of them required, if I recall correctly, things on the level of genocide. There was a long list of potential sins at each level. Going down on the humanity scale also could involve getting derangements, which were largely mental illnesses. As you can imagine, while innovative at the time, it’s a bit insensitive especially when being evil results in things like bulimia, schizophrenia and ‘multiple personality disorder.’

Now we have Integrity which functions more as a representation of your current mental well being than it does how good or evil you are. Doing things that are unacceptable in society, deeply out of character or being exposed to the supernatural can all be breaking points, which represent things your character has seen or done that they just can’t handle or rationalize. These are going to vary from character to character but to help the ST get a feel for what might cause a breaking point they present several questions to ask.

What is the worst thing your character has ever done?
What is the worst thing your character can imagine himself doing?
What is the worst thing your character can imagine someone else doing?
What has your character forgotten?
What is the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to your character?

Using these you can generally get a feel for the kinds of things your character would consider breaking points. If you do or experience something something that would be a breaking point for your character you roll Resolve+Composure. Success means that your character is a bit shaken but otherwise okay, failure means you cannot deal with the event, you question yourself, your sanity or your worth and your integrity drops. Either way you’ll get a condition which we will cover later.

You also gain situational modifiers for breaking points. It’s much easier to justify defending yourself against a mugger than it is committing premeditated murder.

Experience is how you improve your character. It’s broken up into Experience Points and Beats. 5 Beats turn into a single Experience Point. Now while this may seem rather unfair there are many ways to quickly rack up beats.

Any time your character fulfills an aspiration, take a beat, and your character generally starts a session with 3 of them. This also includes a session in which you spend time working on a long term aspiration.
If you resolve a condition, the terms of which are stated with it, you gain a beat.
If you fail a roll you can opt to turn it into an automatic dramatic failure to gain a beat.
If you become filled up with lethal damage, take a beat.
If your character ever risks a breaking point, you gain a beat.
At the end of every session, no matter what happens, you get a free beat.

Realistically you can expect to get 3 to 5 beats a session, which can add up rather quickly. Of course you can play dangerously and take risks to increase that number but that’s going to be on you. Spending Experience is one of the largest and most welcome change between Chronicles and World of Darkness. World of Darkness had escalating costs depending on how high the skill is, that is a higher ranked skill costs more to raise. While this may not sound that bad it heavily incentivized min maxing at character creation and the costs at higher levels were astronomical considering how quickly you gained Experience Points. Now everything has a separate, flat, cost that doesn’t vary based on the current level.


Attribute: 4 Experiences per dot
Merit: 1 Experience per dot Skill
Skill Specialty: 1 Experience
Skill: 2 Experiences per dot
Integrity: 2 Experiences per dot

Playing and Rolling Dice!
First some advice from the book


The Storyteller is responsible for…
…bringing the Chronicles of Darkness to life through description.
…deciding where scenes start and what’s going on.
…portraying characters who don’t belong to other players.
…involving each player and her character in the ongoing story.
…putting players’ characters in tough spots, encouraging interesting decisions.
…facilitating the actions players’ characters take, while making sure there are always complications.
…making sure that poor dice rolls affect but don’t stop the story.

The players are responsible for…
…creating their own individual characters as members of the cast.
…deciding what actions their characters take.
…making decisions that create drama and help keep the story moving.
…highlighting their characters’ strengths and weaknesses.
…confronting the problems the Storyteller introduces.
…developing their characters’ personalities and abilities over time, and telling personal stories within the overall story of the game.

Everyone is responsible for…
…giving other players chances to highlight their characters’ abilities and personal stories, whether that’s by showing them at their strongest or weakest.
…making suggestions about the story and action, while keeping in mind the authority of players over their characters and the responsibility of the Storyteller to occasionally make trouble.

Alright, we’re ready to start rolling some dice. Most rolls are going to consist of an attribute and skill. Add the dots together, possibly subtract a number based on the difficulty or your opponent, and count the successes, if any. Some examples are:

Wits+Composure to notice something. This is sort of the default perception roll in Chronicles and will likely come up on a regular basis.
Strength or Manipulation+Intimidation by coercing someone through fear. Now you’ll notice you have a choice between attribute to use. This is to represent the difference between someone grabbing someone by the collar and and lifting them off the ground and just telling them new and terrible ways you’ll make their life a hellscape.
Strength+Athletics for Jumping and a wide variety of other athletic tasks. Heavy lifting, climbing, swimming and the like might all use this depending on the circumstances.
Intelligence+Investigation for investigating a crime scene and look for clues as to the perpetrator.
Intelligence+Crafts to repair something, which might be quick or might be an extended action depending on the extent of the damage.
Dexterity+Stealth to sneak around, if someone is looking for you’ll they’ll need to beat your successes on a Wits+Composure roll.

Because mystery and the unknown play such a huge role in Chronicles of Darkness they’ve actually developed a system to handle these occurrences in an interesting way. It starts off with some basic but important advice about running that kind of game. Don’t try to plan out everything beforehand because your players may not think like you do and be ready to improvise. No roll should cause the investigation to immediately fail, try instead to raise or change the stakes, like the culprit is now aware of the investigation or have time to strike again. Finally it’s important to describe what’s happening from scene to scene and how it all fits together. You shouldn’t just make an investigation a long series of consecutive rolls to keep things engaging and interesting.

It then describes a new resource available to characters in the form of Clues. These are resources which can be expended to gain bonuses to the investigation or, if enough are gathered, can be used to straight up solve the mystery. While it’s still definitely possible to figure out the mystery without expending clues this provides a resource to use if they’re not fans of detective work or just can’t figure out where to go next. They can also be used in social situations as leverage, with the book example being someone investigating a rival for evidence to use as blackmail. It also encourages a wide array of skills that might contribute to an investigation outside of the investigation skill. An investigation is likely going to require lab work (medicine or science), grilling witnesses (persuasion or intimidation) or maybe chasing down people through dark alleys (athletics) so try and stay open minded as to how you can help out. In fact you suffer progressively greater dice penalties for using the same skill repeatedly over the course of an investigation.

The ST should figure out how many clues they need related to how complex of large in scope the investigation is, ranging from 1 to 5. Unfortunately there are a few things that might get in the way. Failing a roll in the investigation gives you an Incomplete clue. This can only be used to give you a bonus on another roll. A Tainted clue comes from a dramatic failure and makes all further rolls more difficult. If they get enough clues they can just solve the case, the ST tells them what happened framed by what they know. If they come up short on clues every one missing it adds a potential complication to the conclusion of the investigation like the culprit having an alibi or pursuing him could damage them politically or professionally.

Overall this seems like something World of Darkness has always needed and seems fairly simple to implement in game.

Social Maneuvering
Another new edition to Chronicles of Darkness is the Social Maneuvering system, designed to make manipulating someone more transparent and understandable, as well as moving away from just one roll completely changing someone’s mind. This isn’t for just convincing a bouncer that you know the owner or having a pleasant blind date but for something of a greater scope like convincing the mayor to bulldoze the haunted rec center.

Doors represent how hard someone is to convince, and start at the lower of their resolve or composure. It can increase depending on how opposed they are to it, how dangerous it is and complications that may arise. First Impressions are also important and determine the length of time between rolls. By default you start at average which leaves a week between rolls to influence them. Thankfully there are many ways to raise this, referred to generally as Soft Leverage. Appealing to their vice, bribes in the form of money or favors, and other forms of leverage can raise their opinion of you. At the highest level you can roll every turn to get what you want from them.

Like investigation you can use a variety of skills to open doors, doing things that coincide with their goals, making them happy, making sound arguments or just making yourself a part of their life and trust you more. Once you’ve opened the required doors they’re going to either do what you say or offer a viable alternative. You might be in a desperate situation, or running out of time in which case there’s Hard Leverage. This is escalating the situation and driving home that you need them to act NOW. It can be threats, kidnapping, torture and other things which are almost guaranteed to be breaking points. These will likely open up at least one door but will poison any further dealings you have with them. People tend to take those things personally.

Given this is a game of noir and horror (when it isn’t about driving trucks full of explosives into monsters of flesh and iron) so you’ll occasionally find yourself chasing after or running from something important. Basically it becomes a race to come up with 5 successes before the other person does. There’s a rather large list of things that impact that number and make it easier or harder respectively. Being faster, quicker to react and the like all reduce the amount of successes you need with the reverse also being true. From their you determine who has The Edge in the chase. If one person has a clear advantage they start with it, otherwise it’s a roll off. The example they use is someone on foot being chased by people in a car in a crowded street filled with foot traffic. The individual with the edge can essentially dictate which rolls will be used over the course of the chase, likely choosing ones that favor them. For example if Ms. Walters, our lawyer was chasing someone she might choose Presence+Expression to tell people to get out of her way, forcing the person she's chasing to roll the same. If the player does not have the edge it advises to give the player the opportunity to Seize the Edge to turn the tables and make it more exciting. After the dice roll has been determined the player can guess how many successes they will roll. If they guess correctly events change so that they are the one with the advantage in the chase, which seems like a good rule. Whoever gets the requisite successes determines how it ends. If the runner gets theirs first they get away, if the pursuer does it drops to initiative and combat and goes on from there.

We also have Doresh's young gang leader, Michael Beck.

He's tough, good in a fight, and more importantly a good leader. He has allies in the form of his gang and, when acting alongside them, inspire them to perform better. He has specialties in weaponry(switchblades), Expression(Motivating), and Larceny (Breaking into Cars). His aspirations include what you'd normally expect a gang leader to do as well as the goal of figuring out what that glass fingered creature was.

Next up: COMBAT

unzealous fucked around with this message at 03:41 on May 7, 2016

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!


Part 5: Conditions and Combat. Also Charts

Conditions are what has replaced derangements as a consequence of breaking points. They are also ways to reflect any sort of temporary or long term circumstances or modifiers. The most common ones you’ll likely come across are Guilty, Spooked and Shaken, which result from Breaking Points. These serve as a way to tell, at a glance, how your character is feeling beyond just their physical health. It should be noted that not all conditions are negative. Some conditions come as the result of an exceptional success on behalf of the Players. There are also Persistent conditions. These are conditions which are expected to last a very long time and require significant time and/or effort to resolve, if it's even possible. You can see from a few of these sample conditions from the book that they can have a wide variety of effects. Conditions also have a resolution, a way to remove the condition. While this involves some sort of handicap for negative conditions resolving these is a good source of beats. For Persistent conditions the resolution is simply a way of measuring beats obtained and may or may not actually eliminate the condition.

The book also encourages STs to come up with their own conditions if they can’t find one that matches the fiction. Generally a condition will alter dice pools +2 to -2 or some other effect everyone can agree on. They also need a method of resolution, and these are best kept somewhat general to allow the player some flexibility in resolving them.


(Well he's trying at least)

Combat is probably going to happen at some point in time, whether it’s running away from a gang’s enforcers or trying to beat a terrifying monstrosity to death with a pipe wrench, bad things happen and someone is probably going to get hurt. It recommends that before combat starts you determine your Intent, which should inform you how far you’re willing to go during combat. Often you might be fighting just to protect yourself, or because they have something you want, and occasionally all you want is for them to die.

Down and Dirty Combat

When you are vastly more proficient at harm than your opponent, or the combat would slow things down too much without adding anything you can use Down and Dirty Combat. This resolves the entire combat in a single roll. Both parties roll their combat pool and the winner follows through with their intent, whether it be roughing someone up or fleeing down an alley. The winner also deals damage equal to the difference in their rolls plus whatever weapon they were using, if any.


A normal combat counter is going to start with everyone rolling initiative which is a single d10+Their Initiative modifier. Everyone then has a chance to act in descending order. If you’d like you can delay your action but doing so permanently changes your spot in the initiative order. During an Ambush only those who are aware of the impending attack are able to roll initiative and act, the other forfeit both their turn and their defense until the next round begins at which point they roll as normal.

Your attacks are largely going to consist of:
Unarmed Combat: Strength + Brawl - opponent’s Defense
Melee Combat: Strength + Weaponry - opponent’s Defense
Ranged Combat: Dexterity + Firearms
Thrown Weapons: Dexterity + Athletics - opponent’s Defense

People familiar with world of darkness are going to notice there’s something missing from these values. Namely the weapon rating. In World of Darkness your weapon damage, expressed as a rating between 0 and 3, added to your dice pool. Now these are only added to rolled successes. What this means is that hits happen less frequently, but hurt significantly more. This also makes guns very, very dangerous as at range the defender doesn’t get their defense. This is also where another big difference makes itself apparent.

In World of Darkness weapons were broken up into a few categories. Chief of which was weapons which did Bashing damage, which were largely blunt weapons, and weapons that did Lethal, which were sharp, pointed, or a gun. If you feel up with bashing you're on the verge of being knocked out in one way or another. If you fill up with lethal you're going to start knocking on deaths door. You also heal 1 point of bashing every 15 minutes and 1 point of lethal every 2 days. What this meant was that in World of Darkness it was better to get hit by a sledgehammer than stabbed by a pocket knife because you could just walk the former off while the latter would take a week to heal. In Chronicles every weapon does lethal damage. The only thing that does bashing damage is your fists. Chronicles really does try to drive home the significance of lethal damage in play. If you inflict lethal damage on someone, or something, you are putting their life in danger. Likewise when you start taking lethal damage you are on a fast track to the hospital, if not the morgue.

In combat you have a laundry list of possible actions and modifiers which are largely self explanatory. You can aim for a limb, dive for cover, dodge, perform touch attacks, the whole nine yards. Thankfully they are all rather simple to interpret and adjudicate. While this page may look intimidating a lot of these are edge cases, and being organized like this makes them much easier to reference in play. Something mentioned only briefly but is rather important is that defense drops by one every time someone is attacked a round, so if 4 people are ganging up on one person that last person is going to be swinging while they have -3 to their defense. Definitely an important consideration if you're in a one vs. many situation, either as a player or as the ST.

Combat can very easily result in Tilts. Tilts act like conditions in combat but often end at the conclusion of the fight. That isn’t to say that they can’t become conditions. For instance if your arm is broken you’ll have the arm wrack tilt which prevents you from using that arm during the fight. Afterwards you’ll need a condition to represent to more long term effects of the damage. Tilts can also represent an environmental condition, like a blinding blizzard or wading through a swamp where everyone’s movement is impaired.

Thankfully with all this in mind you can obtain means of protecting yourself. Armor has a few variables we're concerned about right now, which is it's Ballistic Armor value and it's General Armor value. Ballistic armor is going to apply on attacks with guns, and will turn a point of lethal from the attack to bashing damage, up to it's value. So if your armor has a Ballistic value of 3 and you take 4 points of lethal from a gunshot the armor reduces it 1 point of lethal and 3 points of bashing. Armor also has a General Armor value. The General Armor value applies to any attack and reduces the damage by one, starting with the most severe. If the attacker is doing lethal damage you're always going to take at least one bashing damage, even if the armor would have reduced the damage to 0. Armor also might only cover certain parts of the body, and while all attacks default to the torso this means if the attacker specifically aims at a portion not protected it will not get the benefit of the armor.

Weapons serve as the main way of making someone less alive than they were before, or as punctuating threats to the same effect. They do lethal damage and add to the number of successes rolled against an attacker. Some weapons have a Damage value of zero, and while this means they do not add successes they still do lethal damage on an attack. Weapons also have an initiative modifier, with larger, bulkier or more unwieldy weapons reducing your initiative accordingly. The justification being that a as you get more difficult to wield it takes longer to get into a position where you can be effective. They have a strength score, which is the minimum strength required by the character to be used effectively, as well as a size. Size 1 can be hidden in your hand, size 2 on your person and sizes 3 and 4 can't be hidden at all, though I guess you could try to pass yourself off as a friendly sword salesman. In the description of the weapons themselves you'll also note that these are more broad categories than specifics. The machete weapon covers any large single handed blade while the chainsaw could be anything large and nasty enough, like a massive executioner's ax.

Firearms are broken up similarly, with the edition of a column for their clip or magazine size, which is the number of times it can be fired before it must be reloaded. As you can see guns have the potential to do a lot of damage. A good roll with a rifle could potentially take a human down in a single shot. They were vaguely threatening in World of Darkness but Chronicles has made them exceptionally dangerous.

So, we have our lawyer Jennifer Walters. She's gone downtown to try and find out more about her client, and before she knows it she's found herself in a seedy bar where her professional clothing sticks out like a sore thumb. But she recognizes the person she was looking for.She asks to speak with him privately and they go outside to a nearby alley. She wants to do this the easy way and tries to convince him with a Manipulation+Persuasion roll, but with only a single die it is unsuccessful. Unfortunately for him she has had a long, long day and her patience ran out hours ago and she decides to sucker punch him. She rolls her Strength+Brawl, a hefty 7 dice and scores 3 successes, doing 3 points of bashing damage. Because she is taking him by surprise this is considered an Ambush and, failing his Wits+Composure roll to see it coming, he is denied his normal defenses this turn. He reels and now they both roll Initiative. With only 2 in initiative and a low roll he gets a chance to act before she can act again. Now they are both able to use their defenses, and he rolls his Strength+Brawl but has to subtract her defense turning his 6 dice pool into only 2 dice. On her turn she decides to throw him to the ground and rolls her 7 dice pool again, this time subtracting the man's defenses, leaving her with only 3 dice. She decides to spend a willpower to add 3 dice to this roll. She gets another 3 successes inflicting 3 points of bashing damage and forcing him to the ground because of her Grappling Merit. He decides to call it quits. This woman is clearly better at fighting, even if he won't admit it, and he tells her what she wants to know if she promises to leave him alone.

Next: Healing! Equipment! ST advice!

unzealous fucked around with this message at 03:42 on May 7, 2016

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Mors Rattus posted:

No. Your best option against guns is to take cover, which works extremely well.

To elaborate you are usually going to gain both cover and concealment from something large in between you and a shooter. Concealment penalties are based on how much of you they can see, and go from -1 for barely concealed to -3 for substantially concealed. To even punch through the cover your gun has to have a higher damage rating than it's durability, which starts at 1 for flimsy plastic and goes up to 3 for metal. This means if you hunker down behind a car and they don't have a rifle you'll be in relative safety while you figure out your next move. Even if the weapon is strong enough you subtract the durability from the successes of the shot, making it still the much safer option.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Doodmons posted:

In the old days if you were in close range against somebody with a gun, you got to apply your defense like you would against a melee weapon because you were trying to dodge the arm rather than the bullet. In CofD, I think you get to use the gun's Size as defense or something? Like if they're using a rifle, you get to have a defense of 3 whereas if they're using a handgun you only get a defense of 1. Sort of makes sense.

You are correct.


Any firearm larger than Size 1 is too big to accurately shoot
someone when fists and crowbars are the order of the day. In
close combat, the target’s Defense against Firearms attacks
is increased by the gun’s (Size +1). If using a gun larger than
a pistol to bludgeon the opponent, treat it as an improvised

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 6: Health, Cars and Equipment

Damage comes in 3 main flavors. Unarmed attacks and non-severe impacts deal Bashing damage. Weapons and more severe forms of trauma all deal Lethal damage. More rarely, and often from supernatural sources you get Aggravated damage. At this level your bones are snapping, your flesh is being ripped apart like pulled pork, it’s the kind of thing that will leave you in a hospital for days. If you notice the health track it’s a series of boxes which helps in marking damage. Bashing damage is marked by a simple slash, lethal adds another slash giving you an X, and aggravated adds a vertical line. The more severe type will always be on the left hand side of the health bar and it’s actually very easy to add additional damage this way while keeping it understandable. If you fill up your health with bashing damage all further bashing damage gets upgraded to lethal. Likewise with lethal and aggravated damage. If the last box is filled with bashing damage you have to roll stamina each turn to stay conscious, and if it’s filled with lethal they start bleeding out. They’ll take one point of damage every minute until they get help.

When you start reaching the end of your health you start accruing penalties to your actions. The start at the third to last box, which gives you a -1 penalty, to the last box which will give you a -3 penalty. This penalty applies to pretty much every roll aside from stamina rolls to stay conscious.

Thankfully humans are pretty resilient and will generally bounce back if they aren’t killed. As long as you weren’t completely filled up with lethal you can recover on your own, though it can be a rather long process. You recover a point of bashing every 15 minutes, a point of lethal every 2 days, and a point of aggravated every 2 weeks. Long term medical treatment can shorten this significantly when it’s both available and a viable option. Long term treatment works on your worst damage first so if you want to be that person who leaps out of the hospital window when they’re aggravated damage is gone it’s not the worst idea.

Apropos of nothing they put the rules for objects here. Not sure why. To damage an object you need to have more successes than it has durability, which can be quite difficult without proper tools or certain merits. To destroy it you must do damage equal to its structure which is the sum of its size and durability.

It then jumps right back into damage and there are definitely other ways you can be hurt. It lists diseases, which it gives vague but mostly understandable rules. It will do damage unless they make a resistance roll of some sort, likely Stamina+Resolve. There are Drugs which you can also resist, if you so choose, and act like a poison when you overdose. Electrocution does bashing damage and in some cases requires you to make a strength roll to pull yourself away from the source as your muscles are involuntarily contracting. It’s based on the sources which are in 4 general categories ranging from minor, like a wall socket, to fatal, like a subway rail. The Environment can also be a source of damage, based on it’s severity. It’s also rated on a scale from 0 to 4, 0 being a safe space, or at least one where the environment isn’t a concern. 4 is the level of hurricanes and the kind of sandstorms that take your skin off. Characters can roll stamina every few hours or take the severity in bashing damage, or lethal in the case of categories 3 or 4. Falling deals a point of bashing damage per meter which can be mitigated with a Dexterity+Athletics roll. If you fall 30 meters or more you just take 10 points of lethal damage, which is going to kill you unless you land in the back of an ambulance. Fire does damage every round and is based on both the size and the heat/intensity of the fire. Poison has a few values attached to it. How much damage it does which is rated by its toxicity, how many times it does this damage and how often the character must roll to resist this damage.

(It's a metaphor...though we didn't really talk about gambling?)


You’re not going to walk everywhere, and for some dramatic chase things cars are just what you need. Each has a dice modifier to rolls using it. Nimble, more maneuverable vehicles, have a much smaller penalty than the larger, slower vehicles. The also have a maximum speed, a size, durability and their structure. Some also have the high or low acceleration abilities. Most vehicles accelerate at 5 move per turn, high acceleration vehicles accelerate at 10, and low acceleration vehicles cannot be forced to accelerate faster through rolls. You can add modifications up to twice your craft dots, or more with merits. These can add numerous bonuses to the vehicle making it more resilient, faster and basically make it a better vehicle. Included here are rules for hitting things with your vehicle and are broken up based on how large what you’re hitting is. Anything half the size of the vehicle or smaller is considered a light object, anything larger is a heavy object. Going faster inflicts more damage and successful drive rolls can help mitigate this damage. It should be noted that a first time player to this game might look at the table and be deeply, deeply confused because they mixed up the column headers pretty badly.

edit: It turns out I'm using the pdf from the release which has since been updated. I'm including the actual chart as a thumbnail but leaving this as a monument to man's hubris. Also someone pointed out that the new chart doesn't show the high or slow acceleration so at this point I'm really confused as to what they're doing.


Equipment represents a rather broad array of potential resources. They can be physical objects like hand cuffs, maps, and bandages. But they can also be organizations or groups, repositories of information like libraries or databases, plans to be executed, and the strange and supernatural objects they may encounter. Each piece of equipment has an availability rating to it representing how rare and/or costly it might be to obtain. The easiest way of getting it is just through resources. Go to the store, spend money, get equipment. The availability also represents it’s ability to be procured through other means. For example someone with 3 dots in larceny could presumably steal an object of that availability or below. Similarly you could use social skills to talk your way into one. The back of the book has a rather large section of possible equipment to use and serves as examples in creating your own as there's no practical way to cover every single thing they might need.

You can also build or modify equipment using a variety of different roles. Wits+Crafts is most appropriate for mechanics or electronics. Wits+Expression for more creative works like painting and poetry. Presence or Manipulation+Socialize or Streetwise for creating or directing groups of people. Intelligence+Academics for using repositories or databases. If there’s no threat or no time table you can generally just let them succeed at their work, otherwise they’re just rolling dice for no reason. Otherwise you’ll likely use the extended rolling rules to determine whether they make it in time. If unsuccessful they may still make the item but it’s fragile, or volatile, making it much riskier to use. There’s also the jury rigging option which is when you need to make something fairly simple immediately. Things are breathing down your neck, the bad guy is getting away, you need this ASAP. This is similar to the build rules but only takes a single action and any failure results in a dramatic failure.

The average equipment entry looks something like this:


Dice Bonus +2, Durability 3, Size 2, Structure 4,
Availability •
Effect: A crowbar is a curved piece of steel used to pry
open shipping pallets, jammed doors, and other things a
normal person would be incapable of doing by hand. It adds
to any dice rolls used to establish leverage. When prying
things open, it allows your character to ignore two points of
Durability on the lock or barricade. A crowbar can also be
used as a weapon (see p. 268).

Dice Bonus +1 to +3, Durability 1, Size 2, Structure 1,
Availability • to •••••
Effect: Never underestimate the value of high fashion.
Like a disguise, fashionable clothing allows a character to fit
in. However, the point of fashion is to draw attention, not
to fade into the crowd. As opposed to anonymity, fashion
means being noticed. Note that the clothing chosen must
be appropriate to the setting. Punk chic will not work at a
Senator’s fundraiser, for example. When improperly dressed,
the dice bonus applies as a penalty to all Social Skill rolls.
The dice bonus for Fashion is equal to half the Availability,
rounded up.

Personal Computer
Dice Bonus +1 to +4, Durability 2, Size 3, Structure 2,
Availability • to ••••
Effect: In the developed world, almost every household
has access to a personal computer. They can vary in size,
functionality, and price, from decade-old models that barely
surf the web to high-end machines that process gigabytes of
data per second. In today’s world, many lives revolve around
computers. For some people, their entire careers and personal lives exist within digital space. The Availability of the
computer determines its dice bonus.

unzealous fucked around with this message at 03:30 on May 8, 2016

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 7: Storytelling
This section of the book begins with some basic advice for running a game. It places importance on making sure everyone know what kind of game it will be beforehand, that characters should be interesting but not detract from the game or make other players uncomfortable (which I guess they completely abandoned for beast).


Within the group, it’s everyone’s in the group responsibility to bring interesting characters to the game that will also suit the settings and creative themes of the game. Sometimes that means a player has to back off on a character concept that will be too difficult for the other characters to deal with. Other times, it will mean backing off on a concept that makes the other players uncomfortable.

It’s important as a Storyteller to be fans of the player’s characters, and this doesn’t mean giving them what they want, but instead giving them moments to shine and challenges to overcome. Even if they don’t succeed it can still be an interesting and compelling moment and should be played as such. You’re job as ST is to nurture these characters, not destroy them. Ultimately while NPCs have their own goals and agendas their purpose is to further the story. It’s fine to let a player character to take control of them for a scene to make the world feel more alive, at which point let the player know the character’s aspirations and motivations so they can act appropriately. As Storyteller you’ll often be asked what they’re supposed to do next in one way or another but this should be an open dialogue. While you may have a story prepared ahead of time talk to your players about what they want to accomplish with their characters to give them an opportunity to be in the spotlight.

Spines(They decided to give every section here an anatomical title based on it’s function)
The story is going to play out as a series of scenes so it’s important that these are interesting and compelling. Ask what they want to do next, what npcs they want to encounter, and which Characters are present. Don’t be afraid to utilize ideas from the players, especially if you’re coming up short on ideas on your own. You can improve, or at least guide, a story by playing to certain themes or core conflicts in your descriptions. Using music, phrasing, and specific word choice when describing scenes can all add to this. Details are important to immersing players in a scene. This doesn’t mean overwhelming them with minutiae but adding little things that add to the atmosphere. These can be things like a dirty ashtray with a single trail of smoke still rising from it, a liquor cabinet full of empty bottles, and dumpsters overflowing with refuse making it spill into the streets. It can also be implied with this that you should be flexible in the scenery. You aren’t going to describe everything and if the player fills in a blank spot with something interesting more power to them. Also don’t be afraid to start a scene in media res. You can start a scene in the middle of a climactic moment and come back to the events leading up to it later. While the characters may know what’s going to happen it can add an air of excitement to the game. When a scene concludes check in with the characters who weren’t present, learn what the characters present will do next, and ultimately take steps to make sure the game flows. It may rise and fall in intensity but you shouldn’t have long periods of time where nothing happens.


Also, never fear using phrases like ”meanwhile, across town in the central banking tower...” or ”unbeknownst to the characters, trouble was coming in the form of...” A good scene, framed well on the front and back end, makes every scene strong and helps your chronicle feel complete and constantly in motion.

Pulled Muscles
The metaphor is that while a pulled hurts the muscle will be stronger afterwards which doesn’t sound totally accurate.
Failure is going to happen, statistically and thematically speaking it must to make a for a compelling game and to gain beats to advance the character. It’s important to remember though that, whether you’re a player or the ST, failure is just a single part of the larger story. I do like this quote however.


To some players, “a sloppy series of endless tragedies which compound on each other until, ultimately, everyone dies alone” is an ideal Chronicles of Darkness game. However, that’s not for everyone. Of course, on the other end, competence porn where characters are always awesome and never suffer real setbacks is not in keeping with any Chronicles of Darkness game. A good story will appeal to a majority of players; let the players who naturally want to run their characters into the ground do so.

If a character is afraid of failure just talk to them. Point out that every movie they’ve watched has had the main character fail, likely multiple times, before succeeding. Explain that that’s how you want the story to go, that even if they fail the story will move forward and will be more dramatic for it. If a failure would be too big a setback you can simply let them succeed but at a cost. They succeed but...and then consider long term consequences that might bite them later. Likewise it’s always okay to give them choices, even if they aren’t the happiest array of choices. A failed roll feels like that’s the end of your options but don’t be afraid to give them the option of failing forward. The example they give is, instead of missing the clue while they’re investigating, they find a clue but must choose whether it also indicts one of them or they don’t find the clue but instead found evidence of another, possibly related crime. This turns the failure into a springboard for the story to progress in a new and interesting direction while at the same time maintaining a strong player agency in the story.

No Meat Wasted
This section is primarily for staying flexible with how a game is run, and ultimately advising against trying to completely write out a story beforehand that you can’t deviate from. If your players aren’t taking the direct route, or spending a lot of time chewing the scenery or interacting with npcs that’s okay. The important thing is that people are enjoying them.


The story follows the characters, not the other way around
If you’ve planned for a confrontation between an npc and the characters don’t be afraid to take the initiative if the players aren’t going for it. Move clues and npcs and the like into their path, don’t hide things and then get frustrated when they don’t find it because this isn’t going to be fun for you or them. If someone doesn’t seem to be doing much talk to them, examine their aspirations and see if you can’t find some that better fit the current story. Make suggestions based aspects of the story they haven’t explored yet.


It’s okay to be direct. It’s always okay to be direct.
Talk to your characters openly and honestly, all of you are only human and will make mistakes or miss things. Don’t force them into playing a story they aren’t interested in.They might just be disinterested or they might dislike it for personal reasons, either of which is reason enough to reevaluate your story idea. Allowing them freedom and choices is always better than shoving them into the Story Railroad. Also make sure to keep things handy. If they manage to avoid an encounter you set up save it for later, they’ll likely encounter something similar at some point and you’ll save time setting it up. If they save the life of someone you predicted would die save the mysterious letter he had on him for later. Just because it doesn’t fit in the moment doesn’t mean it won’t fit back in later on.

An Exquisite Corpse

This section details a method of creating a plot and setting with everyone participating. Start with a primary conflict, address why the characters care about the results in one way or another. They can then add 3 ST characters who will be involved in some capacity Finally add 3 ancillary characters who may not be directly related to the conflict but still can provide something to the story, whether it’s muscle, information, or just pathos. Give everyone a copy of this document as knowledge both they and their character know so that they are more cognizant of the setting without having to think of a lot of things on the fly or consult the ST as to whether someone exists or not.

Prick the Skin
This definitely is an important piece of advice for running a game. Don’t try to frighten, disgust or gross out your players. You probably want to aim for something disquieting. An atmosphere where things are off and unpredictable and let the players go as deep as they feel comfortable. This lets them better engage with the themes and atmosphere rather than turning it into what amounts to a grindhouse flick. Don’t use gore because honestly it isn’t frightening.


It can gross a person out, when applied judiciously, and that can be a valuable tool in the Storyteller’s (or player’s) toolbox, but it’s not a replacement for real dread, and if you pile it on too thick, filling your scenes with vomit and pus and arterial spray, it loses its punch. You’ll feel a need to escalate the grossout factor higher and higher, and before too long you’ve lost the dread, become immune to then grotesque, and made the subversive mundane. No one wants that.
Instead simply leave evidence of terrible things, suggest the possibility the awful occured and let your players imagination do the rest of the work because they’ll do it far better and far more personally than you could. Leave blank spots they can fill in themselves, shadows that may hide nothing at all, empty rooms which serve to simply excite their imagination. Aim for a subtle, pervasive fear and a sense of wrongness that’s hard to put your finger on.


Don’t slash the story’s throat open to bleed out in gushes; prick it, then ask, “Why does it sting? What is that creepy feeling just under the skin? Probably nothing, right?”

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 8: Antagonists
This section details quite a few sample antagonists, or at least persons of interest, for your game. It starts with what are arguably more mundane, but no less threatening, sources of conflict in the form of other people and dangerous animals. The characters here are given attributes, a few dice pools of things they’re skilled in and for everything else it assumes they’re untrained. For random NPCs the players might encounter it recommends that they have no willpower score to speak of, at least in game terms. More notable NPCs might have a willpower point they can spend at their discretion and major NPCs might have their own pool of points to use either for or against the players. The descriptions are brief and succinct and the stats and skills are easy to lookup and reference. Their general dice pools don’t even list the specific skills but instead actions that the NPC will likely need to use regularly which makes it very easy to see at a glance instead of having to reference which combination of attribute and skill they’ll be using for a given action. For example the Hitman antagonist has dice pools for Taunting the Mark, Creepy Stalker and Breaking and Entering. Creepy Stalker might be used to identify the player’s in a crowd, shadow them, and perform things you’d expect from a stalker. Likewise taunting the victim is going to be used for their social rolls as well as giving you an indication of their personality. It also lists several other archetypes this stat block could be used for. The guard dog, for instance, could be used for any number of dangerous animals. This type of NPC generation means you can fit everything you need about a character into a small, easily referenced, paragraph.

Ephemeral Beings

The world is filled with creatures that live a largely invisible and intangible existence to our own. They exist in in planes that overlap our own and when the conditions are right they can manifest, affecting objects, becoming visible and even possessing animals and people. Fortunately this can only happen under specific conditions and the more powerful the entity, the more difficult these conditions are to create. Similarly an easy method for getting rid of such entities is removing or eliminating whatever is giving them power or binding them to an area.

When someone dies, especially in a traumatic or surprising way, they may leave something of themselves behind in the form of a Ghost. These creatures are pale reflections of the people they once were. The vast majority of them are very single minded, acting out their death over and over, lashing out in anger or despair, or relentlessly acting on the goals they had in life. The ghost that is self aware, and independent is incredibly rare. Think more Poltergeist than Ghost (The Patrick Swayze Movie). Ghosts need Anchors to exist, which are things that tie them to the world and can be really anything or anyone. A murder weapon, the scene of of their death or a close family member could all serve as anchors. These anchors also serve to sustain them, as memories and emotions tied to them feed them essence which flows to them from their anchor. So, if there’s a house that all the children think is haunted and is, in fact, the anchor to a ghost, their continued thoughts and fears of the house would provide ample sustenance to the ghost. If an anchor is destroyed, or it’s qualities changed so that it can no longer serve as an anchor, the ghost must find a new one or it will simply fade away. If it goes without essence for too long it will shift to the Underworld, the final resting place of such creatures, where they are kept sated, given independence but ultimately imprisoned. In the Underworld they can grow in strength and, if freed through either chance or ritual, return to earth as a terrible and powerful force of destruction and hate.

Spirits exist in the Shadow, a realm that overlays our own and is separated from ours by The Gauntlet, the term given to the barrier separating our two planes of existence. Spirits are, and can be created from, just about anything. Objects, emotions, places, animals all can create a spirit. These spirits act out a bizarre reflection of a natural environment. The smallest spirits, those created by singular acts, objects or creatures will feed on essence which is created by the actions and emotions of people. Once they’ve fed enough they’ll grow and begin feeding on other spirits as well and take on aspects of them in the process.


For example, the spirit of a single owl grows by consuming other owl spirits. As it consumes spirits of night, hunting, the prey its owl eats, and other owl spirits, the spirit subtly changes. By the time it is an independent, thinking being that no longer follows the physical creature that created it around, it has warped into an exaggerated spirit of silent nocturnal hunting.

Thankfully the Gauntlet keeps us largely protected, but as a spirit grows in power and ability it becomes more intelligent, self aware, and able to reach across the Gauntlet to affect our world and the people in it. It should be mentioned that spirits are defined only by their aspects, and while they may seem intelligent they have no sense of morality. They’re like animals, and only seek that which sustains them, or sometimes entertains them, which might be one and the same. Even spirits that seem beneficial like a ,Spirit of Joy or Compassion, care nothing for the people it uses for sustenance, like a lion will likely not care if you’re the nicest person on earth, it only cares that you’re made of meat. A spirit of joy will have no qualms with helping an addict get his fix and convincing people to do things they’ll enjoy now but regret later. If a spirit does manage to cross the Gauntlet for whatever reason it behaves similarly to a ghost. It needs essence to survive and will tie itself to an object or person as a source of fuel. Once across it’s also far more able to influence the world around it which can cause no end of troubles.

The Gauntlet itself varies in strength, being strongest in dense, urban areas and weaker out in the wilderness or in more rural settings. There are also places called loci (sing. locus) which are areas where the Shadow is especially close or the Gauntlet is especially weak. In these places it is much easier for the spirit to cross and manifest itself, likely giving these places haunted or mysterious reputations.

Angels are agents of the God Machine, manifested when enough infrastructure has been created and acting out singular commands. I’ll cover these more in the god machine section which is it’s own rather large portion of the book.

Twilight refers to the default state of ephemeral beings, which is to say they are not manifest but instead exist invisible and intangible to the world as we know it. There they cannot touch anything not also within the twilight, so while they can contact other ghosts they’ll just phase through a steel door. The only exception is objects, which leave behind a sort of ghostly reflection once destroyed. They last based on how well people remember and think about them, so a famous or popular bar that gets burnt down will last longer than the cigarette you put out on the street and forgot about.

Ghosts, Spirits and Angels are created and classified by Rank which determines their general strength and statistics. Ghosts you encounter will generally only be Rank 1 or 2, while spirits or angels can be any. While the chart only shows up to rank 5 they can technically go up to 10, though at that point their stats and abilities are going to essentially be ‘plot device’ in terms of power.

Essence gets expounded upon here. To simply sustain themselves an ephemeral being must spend 1 essence a day. They can also use it to power any ability they may have. They are also able to sense acts or motivations which they can draw essence from. They can also gain essence by draining or tearing it from other ephemeral beings.

Ephemeral beings are statted up a bit differently than your normal person. Aside from having an essence score they also only have 3 attributes. Power for when they’re using brute force, Finesse for fine control or subtle influence and Resistance to avoid damage and resist others. Instead of health they use Corpus, which functions similarly except they do not gain wound penalties as people do. Many of them also have Bans which are things that are anathema to their existence. They are things they either must do without fail or cannot do under any circumstances.


They can be as simplistic as “the angel cannot cross railway lines,” moderately complex like “the ghost must come if you call her name into a mirror three times within her anchor,” or as difficult as, “the angel must receive a tribute of a printing press that has used blood as ink once a month or lose a Rank.”

As the entity increases in rank the Ban tends to become more complex, and the compulsion becomes more dangerous to the being.


Rank 1 entities have mild bans that are easily triggered, but don’t endanger the entity. A spirit of bliss can’t resist an offering of opiates. The ghost of a nun has to immediately use an offered rosary. A weak angel must stand still and parrot hexadecimal numbers when they’re spoken to it.

Rank 2 and 3 entities have moderate bans that curtail the creature’s activities in a more serious way than mere distraction. A ghost must immediately dematerialize when it hears the sound of a cat. The murderous spirit of a car that has run down multiple people loses all Willpower if it doesn’t kill one person a month. The angel of the records answers any question about the family, background, or true identity of a subject if the questioner accurately tells the angel her time (to the minute) and place of birth.

Rank 4 and 5 entities have complicated bans that put an end to whatever the creature is trying to do — often in an explosive fashion. They have consequences in game traits or long-term actions, but esoteric requirements. The Smiling Corpse, a ghost summoned back from the Underworld by a mystery cult, is immediately banished back to the Great Below if anyone should sing a particular nursery rhyme in his presence. The spirit of Mount Iliamna, a volcano in Alaska, will use its Numina to kill a victim named by anyone who makes it an offering of platinum that was mined from its foothills. The angel Uriminel, four-faced enforcer of destiny, has Defense 0 against individuals who have fulfilled their Fate within the last lunar month.

There are also Banes which is a physical substance which causes a strong, negative reaction with the being. The ephemeral being can come into contact with the Bane even in the Twilight and any sort of contact is going to cause damage to it’s corpus. Like Bans they start simple and become increasingly esoteric or rare as the entity increases in rank, starting from simple salt against rank 1 ghosts to a silver bullet made from an original silver dollar for a rank 5 creature.

Ephemeral creatures can be fought like anything else when they are manifested though they only take bashing damage from attacks unless the attacker is using their Bane. If they are dealt enough damage that their corpus is filled with lethal or aggravated damage they burst in a nature related to their being. A nature spirit might become a shower of vanishing pine needles while the ghost of a gangster might disappear in a hail of phantom gunfire, reduced to nothing. This isn’t to say that they’re now gone forever. If they still have even a single point of essence they’ll reform in a hibernative state until they’ve regained enough essence to reawaken. The only way to make sure they stay down is to either starve them out or get rid of all their essence before you put them down.

Ephemeral beings all have the ability to influence things. Ghosts can influence their anchor, as well as the possibility of things relating to their demise or their life. Spirits tend to have influence over the things that compose their nature. They have as many dots of influence as their rank and can divide them into different areas as they so choose. For example the aforementioned spirit of nocturnal hunting might have Influence: Predators at 3 dots or Predators at 2 and Influence: Darkness at a single dot. Using these abilities does require essence but that can be regained if it creates conditions conducive to the being.


Not going to lie, this is where things get unnecessarily complicated and confusing. It starts with a page long listing of conditions which seem quite complicated and dense and follows up with a large flowchart which does not help things along at all. So far, not a fan. I’m going to try to move through this slowly based on the flowchart and in a way that hopefully makes sense.

When I think of horror I also think of flowcharts

If a place or object matches an ephemeral beings influence in some way shape or form it is considered Resonant for spirits or Anchor for ghosts. This can happen naturally or can be artificially created through ritual or careful planning. From there, should an entity approach, it can use it’s influence to fine tune the area to it’s needs and wants, changing the condition to Open which allows the entity far greater freedom and let’s it use more of it’s abilities.

From here it can Fetter itself to the place or thing, tying it to it and preventing it from losing a point of essence each day in exchange for no longer being free to move about as they wish. If fettered to an animal or human it can Urge it, subtly influencing it’s actions and desires but unable to exert complete control over it. In an open area the being may also Materialize giving itself physical form and allowing it to interact with the physical world. Finally it can Possess an animal or person, taking complete control over their body. Doing so only lasts a scene and the victim does not remember anything that happened during the possession. Once controlled the entity can attempt to them Claim them. Doing so is a slow process taking several days during which the person may be aware. Their physique also changes in ways that reflect the nature of the possessing entity. Someone possessed by a nature spirit might grow antlers, or someone possessed by the ghost of a murderer might change subtly to look more like them. Once claimed it is then a permanent fusion of the two entities unless the ephemeral being chooses to leave, and even then the victim is permanently scarred, both physically and emotionally. Even if the area does not have a condition and they are in the Twilight an entity can spend a point of essence to form an Image of themselves that people can see. There are also Gateways and Breaches which can drastically affect how easy it is for an entity to become manifest in an area.

Numina is the word given to describe the abilities an ephemeral being might have. The things that let them go bump in the night and scare people beyond reason. The higher the rank, the more numina they can have. Some are only usable if the entity is Reaching, which means that while they are existing on the twilight they have opened a conduit allowing them to affect the material world in a variety of ways. They can leave signs, start fires, and all manner of strange and unearthly abilities.

Some Sample Numina

Interacting with Them

Once you’ve found your ghost or spirit or what have you, you’re going to probably have to do some research to learn more about it. Who they were, what kind of spirit it is, what’s it’s haunt are all reasonable avenues of research. This might also get you their Bans or Banes in the process. You might also use a Medium as a contact, ally or even other player, to learn more about the entity though this also puts them at risk for possession, becoming an anchor, etc. You might Summon or Exorcise them through creating or destroying the conditions necessary for them to manifest. A person might also attempt to Abjure the being, forcing it away through the power of their own will though this is temporary and will only last a day. Armed with the beings' Bane someone can also Ward an area to keep them out or Bind them to a specific area, essentially imprisoning them.

Up Next: Horrors i.e. Non-ephemeral things that want to kill you.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

This is section serves as a toolkit to make the big, terrible nasty monsters that likely serve as the cornerstone of a story. These are the terrible monsters of flesh and bone that have caused a rash of disappearances or the slick lawyer that covers the gaping holes of darkness in their ribcage with a suit you could never afford. They are the salesman with an offer too good to refuse, or the well in the forest that holds stagnant water and a dark history. Originally this section was in the World of Darkness Hunter book but it was incorporated into the core book when they realized how useful it was for any given campaign. It gives guidelines for monster creation as well as a list of Dread Powers which serve to give your creatures that unnatural edge that makes them so terrifying and unnatural.


“The obvious first step when creating a Horror is to decide what sort of beast you’re creating. Chances are you already have a starting point for this by the time you sit down to create a Horror. If you know your next story is going to be a tale of Faustian bargains and unholy sacrifices, for example, you probably know your Horror is going to be some sort of demon or warlock. Will it be a wrathful brute, hungry to share its rage with anyone it lures into its lair? Or will it be a subtle, deceitful thing, seducing the unwary into selling their souls? Folklore, mythology, and popular culture can all provide useful inspiration here.”

It continues with some additional advice specifically for a game of horror. Even if the horror in question is a killing machine it shouldn’t just be waiting around in the street for the player’s to come close enough to start an encounter. Instead try to focus more on the player’s figuring out what it is, or if that fails, at least a method of dealing with it. They are made similar to characters with the same attributes and skills and even merits afforded to them, though it recommends using a different theory for their design. Monsters should have strengths and weaknesses, they shouldn’t be average across the board because that’s not particularly engaging. What they’re good at they should be VERY good at and this is something that can only be really overcome by exploiting their weaknesses in one way or another. What makes them frightening is, even with this system, it’s very easy to make something strong and terrible simply because they have no need for things that would make a well rounded person. A beast who lurks in the shadows and preys on the weak or slow doesn’t need any social skills. Likewise a creature that relies on cunning and manipulation probably won’t need many combat skills, especially if they can simply disappear at a whim. Also they shouldn’t be something where the best, easiest solution is to simply charge it and beat it into submission because if they’re not used to Chronicles of Darkness that’s probably going to be their first move.

These terrible horrors will have Anchors like a normal person might, which is to say it will have a virtue and vice it can act upon to regain willpower. The difference is that these creatures aren’t human, they don’t have human values so their anchors can be vastly different from a human norm. A creature might have Silent as a Vice or Stalking as a Virtue. These things wouldn’t work for a person but they can be absolutely true for the creature and will also act as clues for the players as they learn more about it.

Potency is a rough descriptor of how tough you want the monster the be. It determines how many dots you have for their attributes and skills as well as the maximum amount you can put in an individual trait and roughly correlates to the ephemeral entity ranking system in terms of potential danger. Higher potency also increases the dread powers they have available as well as how many merit dots they have. It also contributes to their willpower pool which they can use to fuel their abilities. At rank one they might only be a threat if they can catch a character alone, but at higher ranks they can be threats to entire cities.

Dread Powers are where it gets fun, at least for the Storyteller. These are the abilities that can help define your creature and the threat it poses to the players or the community they live in. How it performs these and any limitations they have are largely defined by the ST based on the kind of game they’re running.

Beast Master - Can control lesser beasts and spend willpower to summon swarms of them

Chameleon Horror - They can blend into their surroundings like the predator or a cuttlefish

Discorporate - If the creature would be killed it simply dissolves into a swarm of smaller creatures, if one escapes it can completely reform given time

Eye Spy - The creature can surveil an area from a distance using some predetermined method like being able to hijack security cameras

Fire Elemental - The creature is made of fire, fire can’t hurt it and touching it is a bad, bad idea

Influence - They gain the ability to influence as an ephemeral being giving them control of a particular object or occurrence

Gremlin - Electric objects don’t function well around the creature and if they spend a willpower they can cause it to cease functioning entirely or take complete control over it

Home Ground - In a specific area related to the monster it is much, much tougher and more dangerous

Hunter’s Senses - Against a specific type of prey like campers, horny teens or people related to the person who killed it last, it gains a huge bonuses to track them down

Hypnotic Gaze - If they succeed in a roll against their prey they are considered to have made a perfect impression on them. This means it might take only a few minutes to make them completely change their mind on any given subject.

Immortal - They won’t die. If you kill them without their bane they’ll just come back shortly. Even if killed with their bane it’s only a matter of time before they come back. It might be years, or even centuries, but they always come back

Jump Scare - This lets the creature surprise the players. In game terms they can spend a willpower to resolve the shaken condition the player has and choose which action they fail because of it. The player still gains a beat for resolving the condition

Prodigious Leap - (Which I assume was Jump at some point in time given that this section is alphabetical) They can spend a willpower to leap massive distances, around 40 feet vertically and 60 feet in distance, if not further

Madness and Terror - Their touch or voice can inflict conditions on people, if they spend 3 willpower they can inflict the Broken, Fugue and Madness conditions which are very bad

Maze - By spending willpower they can completely change and rearrange the internal space of a building, even if these changes would violate physical laws. Corridors lead back where they came, stairwells with dead ends and the like

Miracle - The creature, or part of it, can perform acts that completely defy any sort of rational explanation. It can only perform these if asked to by a living human being, and doing so comes at a great, great cost

Mist Form - They can voluntarily turn into a gaseous form, like a thick miasma or a flock of crows

Natural Weapons - They have naturally dangerous aspects to them which have a damage rating and armor piercing rating equal to the dots put into the power. It tops out at 3 dots which is the same damage category as a semiautomatic rifle but has armor piercing on top

Numen - They have a Numen ability as an ephemeral being but spend willpower instead of essence

Know Soul - The creature can spend willpower to immediately know someone’s virtue, vice aspirations and integrity. If they spend more they can also learn about the subjects most recent failed breaking point

Reality Stutter - The creature can rapidly blink through reality letting them teleport short distances and giving them a bonus to defense

Regenerate - The creature can spend willpower to immediately heal from lethal damage based on how many points they invest in this

Snare - The creature can trap prey using sticking webs, skeletal hands bursting from the ground or any other method that seems fitting. They can grapple anyone in this area with a significant bonus

Skin Taker - The creature can assume the appearance of a person by taking the skin from their corpse

Soul Thief - The creature has a method by which they can steal the soul from someone. While losing your soul isn’t immediately fatal it will result in death over the period of a few, very unpleasant, weeks

Surprise Entrance - The creature can simply appear in any given scene, rising from a reflective surface or just bursting from a wall. Even if the players try to prevent this it only gets them a turn to act before the horror enters

Toxic - They exude some sort of poisonous or pestilential subject threatening to infect those it comes into contact with

Unbreakable - They are almost unstoppable. If the roll used to damage them isn’t a critical success it does only a single point of bashing damage.

Wall Climb - They can traverse walls and ceilings with ease at their full speed

Quick Horrors

When you just need something quick you can just use these guidelines to create a monster quickly. It has guidelines dice pools that mainly involve just figuring out what it’s good at, what it’s bad at, and having a middling number for everything else. It’s a really quick and easy way of making something on the fly to keep the game moving. An example from the book is a zombie horde, representing a mass of flesh eating monsters that, at best, you can beat back for a time until you find a place to hole up. It has a few things it's good at, like overwhelming and finding people, and a few things it's AWFUL at, like chasing down people or acting as a single zombie. It's only really a threat when it's a mass of undead flesh that can simply overpower people.

The last part of this section lists a few examples, not just singular monsters but ways you can use the system to emulate an unending horde, or a sinister locale. It should also be noted that not all these creatures are out to kill people. Some are just unsettling, or devious, mysterious. It has a version of the mothman, whose primary purpose is to sow chaos with cryptic advice. An old swimming hole that will give you what you want but never in the way you wanted. There’s the vengeance driven ghost of a woman, bound to her own dead body on a quest for vengeance, and the ghost of a hitchhiker who asks people to drive them around to places in their life before disappearing, usually. When it talks about the haunted home it even brings up the obvious solution (move out) and why it wouldn’t work, for a variety of reasons.

A lot of these monsters use the quick generation format for their stats and honestly it makes them much, much easier to read. You have a few things they’re good at, a few things they’re terrible at. Everything else will likely be between the two.

The only monster with an illustration, the spooky kid


Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

I Am Just a Box posted:

Do you have the God-Machine Chronicle stand-alone book to contribute to the next update? The Chronicles of Darkness Rulebook reprints nearly all the content of the previously published GMC book, making the latter all but obsolete, but the real shame is that to fit in wordcount, it cuts a lot of what was the GMC book's Introduction chapter, now titled Gears Within Gears. And that material was some of the best material in the book, giving a ground's-eye view of what all the different moving parts of the God-Machine were (and it has a bunch of moving parts to familiarize yourself with), what role they play, examples of how they manifest in the game universe, and optional hooks for games that dig deeper.
I mean, you can't cut flyman slamming the door in the pizza woman's face. He still has a half-page illustration in the book, even though the text that explained why there was a picture of a flyman is gone.

I will do whatever it takes to get it now that I know

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 10: The God Machine


11th August 2012
Dear Gina,
Listen, it’s important I do this by hand. It’s weird, isn’t it, that at some point we found that the only way we could really be certain of the privacy of our written word is to make it just that: written, by hand, with pen, on paper. Sure, things can be copied
and scanned but you have to find them first, you have to find the artefact. When you type something on a machine, or phone, or whatever, it becomes so easy to find, so easy to copy.I want to keep what I’m thinking away from machines.

That sounds so weird. Just reading it on the page like that, in my own handwriting. I expect it’ll turn out that I’ve gone mental or something, in the end. I think that even if all this has some sort of explanation, I’ve probably lost some of my marbles. Listen, though, while you’re away I want you to be careful, and I want you to know that I love you. I love you, Gina. You’re the woman I want to marry. I never said that, and I didn’t intend to say it like that, but there it is. Sometimes I don’t think that I will get a chance to say to you face to face. I promise I’ll ask you properly when I see you again, bended knee and an engagement ring in a box and everything.

But until then, I want you to do something for me, Gina. I just want you to be careful. It’s important.
Gina, I’m scared. I’m scared of using the phone, and I’m scared of the Internet, and
most of all I’m scared for you. I’m scared someone might hurt you.

I really hope that I am going mental, because the alternative is almost too horrible
to imagine.

Gina, I love you. I know this is going to worry you, but it’s important, Gina. It’s important. I keep telling myself that it will be all right in the end. It’s the best I can do.

Stay safe, Gina.

A spooky picture

At Box's suggestion I checked the God Machine Chronicles book and looks like almost all of this was cut from the Chronicles book, which is a shame. So this section details the first part of the God Machine Chronicles book.

Here we introduce what could be explained as the primary antagonist within the plot of Chronicles of Darkness, though that description is still incomplete or inadequate. Even though it’s not omniscient, nor is it omnipotent, it’s knowledge and power make all human achievement look like infants fumbling in the dark. There’s the old adage that if a butterfly flaps it’s wings at the right place at the right time it can cause a hurricane. Well the God Machine knows, it knows the butterfly, it knows the location and it knows the time and will manipulate events to make sure that all those happen how it wants. The God Machine’s ability to predict the cause and effect of events is far, far beyond human understanding. At times it may seem like a machine of absolute precision, engineering events with such accuracy that numerous deaths might be written off as simple coincidence. Other times it looks like the gears grind against one another and it seems as though it’s agents are working at cross purposes. Trying to comprehend it’s plans is a surefire way to waste time, health, sanity and possibly a life. But sometimes you don’t have a choice. There are a few things we can speculate about it though.

It cannot, or does not, directly act upon the world, instead using intermediaries or Agents to act on it’s behalf.

It wants certain situations to take place and will manipulate events with sometimes maddening subtlety and foresight to make sure they happen.

It is fallible. It’s agents can fail, it’s plans might be flawed in ways even it did not foresee, there are any number of ways it might be thwarted, at least temporarily.

It seems to want to keep a low profile. It keeps it’s operations hidden, it’s agents ignorant and will cover its tracks whenever possible.

It doesn’t care, as far as we can tell. It doesn’t feel sympathy or hate or love or sadness. To it everyone and everything is a tool to be used and discarded as it sees fit.

When it needs an agent that will act without question or hesitation, and subtlety is either guaranteed or a secondary concern, it will send an Angel. These are creatures of metal, cables and gears only vaguely resembling their cherubic namesake, and they do not gently caress around.

It’s entirely possible your character has brushed up against the Machine, it’s Agents or the Infrastructure beneath and not realized it. For most, when they hear a strange and unsettling noise in the night it’s much easier and safer to ignore it and walk faster, hoping for the best. If you see something absolutely inexplicable it’s much easier to try and forget about it than to let it haunt you. If you opened the wrong door at an office building and saw a stairway extending hundreds of feet into darkness it’s much easier to just close the door and convince yourself it was just a trick of the light, or maybe they have a bomb shelter, or any number of explanations. There’s also laziness, not as a vice, but as a method of maintaining the control you have in your life. A person working at a clothing store might find it strange that someone came in and bought every single size 8 shoe they had, even the stock in the back, but they won’t follow them home to see what they’re doing with them. And who would believe you if you saw something strange? If a terrible creature of flesh and fur attacked you in the night people would blame a coyote or mountain lion, even if you saw it running on two legs, something animals generally don’t do.


A group of spelunking hobbyists take a wrong turn in a well-mapped cave system. They discover a cavern the size of a football stadium. Inexplicably, it is filled with millions upon millions of identical 2 inch carpentry nails. A smaller chamber adjacent to it overflows with ¾ “ steel nuts. None show signs of corrosion or wear. They eventually find their way back to familiar caves, but no one has any idea what they’re talking about. Thousands of spelunkers visit that cave every year, and no one has ever reported such a thing.

An occupant of a motel at the edge of town orders a pizza from a specific pizza shop every Thursday at exactly 10:37 p.m. with instructions to deliver it to the front office of the motel. One night, no one is in the front office, so the driver tries the motel room. A man with the head of a fly answers the door; the smell of rotten food emanates from the room. The driver sees piles of uneaten pizza crawling with maggots the size of cats. The fly man shoves money into her hand, pulls the pizza from her numb fingers, and slams the door in her face

Maybe it tips well?

The Machine itself doesn’t act directly on the world, instead relying on Agents to act upon its orders. By and large these are humans, your average Jane or Joe going about their lives. It’s entirely possible they don’t even realize they’re part of a much larger scheme. Those that do might serve it for a variety of reasons, after all the God Machine can give you what you want. It can change elections, it can make sure you get that raise you want, it can give you insights into the world other scientists would only dream of. It knows the what it can use for leverage and utilizes this to get people to act on it’s instructions. It doesn’t have to follow through on it’s promises of course, but seems to prefer it’s agents are loyal. After all it’s understanding of human nature almost total and it would prefer any unplanned actions worked in it’s favor, not to it’s detriment. Even if an agent fails it it’s probably not going to kill them, it isn’t vengeful. Unless of course they know too much, or their death would further it’s plans. If the Agent is valuable enough it might even get a second chance but. as far as people know, no one has gotten a third.


There’s an ATM in a lonely part of town — one of the older sort with deposit envelopes. It will accept anyone’s ATM or credit card, as long as the PIN is valid, but only the Deposit button works. If you put a lock of someone’s hair into the ATM, it will spit out a single $20 bill, but it has to be someone whose hair it doesn’t already have. Maybe it will accept other forms of deposit, but all the homeless in the city know about the hair trick.

Some junk mail is worth opening. If you get a letter from “Uncle Gerald’s Sweepstakes “ and do exactly what it says, no matter how strange, you’ll win the next game of chance you play. That compulsive gambler who sold everything he owned and bet it all on a spin of red or black? He knew what he was doing.

Of course with all this power it has worshippers. Sometimes they’re a cult that springs up overnight and disappears just as quickly. Other times it might be a family that has been faithfully serving it for generations. When presented with a being as vast, knowledgeable and powerful as the God Machine it’s easy to see why someone might follow it with religious devotion. Some see it as an extension of God’s will, others see it as divine in of itself. Of course some also believe it to be some sort of Divine adversary like Satan, or a manmade god created from the collective consciousness present on the internet. Just because a cult believes in and follows the God Machine doesn’t mean it finds them useful. No matter how zealous their devotion, how many acts of contrition they perform, or how many people they sacrifice, if they aren’t useful to it they are beneath the God Machine’s notice.


I come from a family of stubborn cusses, but I love them, and I don’t want them to go to Hell because they refuse to accept Christ into their lives. I was praying for them when an angel of God appeared to me and told me I could atone for their sins by doing little favors for Him in this world. I’ve saved Mom and Dad, already, but my kid brother has always been a troublemaker, and the angel tells me I’m going to have to do something big to spare him from Hell.

The followers of the God Machine often need some motivation for their work. If you aren’t a fanatical follower you’ll likely want something in exchange for your effort, and the God Machine is more than capable of providing.

Material Wealth: Briefcases of cash, sacks of gold bullion or a very generous gift are all easy to wrap your head around and for many that’s all they need. Of course this money has to come from somewhere, and if the Agent fails they might quickly realize their reward was taken from a Drug Lord, or that the Gold was stolen in a bank heist.

Health: It has the power to cure any human ailment. ANY. Rumor has it that it can even raise the dead. Of course on the other hand it can also inflict these diseases and then some, not only on the Agents but also their loved ones.

Good Fortune: Being a follower means things work out well for you. The lights are almost always green. The lotto tickets might not be jackpots but are almost always good for a few hundred.

Powers: It or it’s angels can grant supernatural abilities to it’s followers if needed or desired. Likewise it can take these, and other abilities they may have, away. A thought which has some rather unsettling implications.

Sanctuary: People can’t find you, bounty hunters hit dead end after dead end, the money trail suddenly dries up without a trace, it can keep you safe.

Altruism: Sometimes it merely has to convince people that what they do is what’s best for everyone. If an angel appeared and told you that you could save the lives of thousands of people you might find it hard to say no.

And then there are those who fight the God Machine. They saw it, or part of it, and realized they did not want it interfering with their lives. Maybe it’s the idea that this thing might be taking away their free will. Maybe it’s the way it will casually dispense death and suffering to innocent people to further it’s goals. Sometimes it’s personal. They may have lost someone or something important to them and know that this thing is responsible. They also have an uphill battle ahead of them. Because of the way it operates the God Machine's actions and agendas are difficult to identify. It’s possible to focus on the wrong aspect of them and miss important clues. It’s entirely possible it simply won’t have any other operations in the area leaving the slighted party with anger and little else. And of course even if you figure out what the plan is, stopping it is another matter entirely.


Each of the God-Machine’s projects is like a ten-pound weight dropped from a great height. If you catch it early, it’s easy to prevent it from reaching its destination. But if you catch it at the end, after it’s fallen 10,000 feet, there’s really nothing you can do to stop it. The God-Machine’s projects are most vulnerable to disruption at the beginning, but this is also the time when they are least obvious.

Stopping it is something of a misnomer. If you decide to fight this thing your goal is generally stopping a single project, one that’s likely going to affect you or the people you love. You do this not to stop it, but instead to buy some time, or hope it chooses another, less detrimental, means of achieving it’s plans. Unless your potential actions have already been taken into account. It’s hard to say just how much it can predict and plan for events and behavior. In fact, there are times where it seems to be actively opposing it’s own plans. There’s a rather well known account involving two angels who raised cults against each other and waged war till one finally killed the other. Why? Who knows.


Mark my words: something is deeply wrong with that opera house. For one, this town is way too small to support opera. We don’t even have a community theater, for God’s sake! And have you seen the performers? Shifty eyes, practically grey skin, and they all talk in funny accents. The murders, the disappearing pets, the huge bats, the strange noises in the basement — it all adds up, and everything points to that opera house. Dress rehearsal is Tuesday night — and I really mean at like two in the morning. I’ve got forty empty beer bottles, ten gallons of gasoline, and a bunch of old t-shirts. I say we end this once and for all. Are you in?

And finally there are those who want to study it. They see this new thing, unexplained by science, and they desperately want to know more about it. They realize there is this intelligence operating on earth that mankind didn’t create and wish to communicate with it, or understand it. Unfortunately this information is sporadic and unreliable at best. Those researching it, either intentionally or accidentally, aren’t likely to talk to each other. They probably don’t even realize they’re researching the same thing. And of course there’s the endgame in all this. The more you understand about the God Machine and it’s capabilities the more you might see it’s actions everywhere you look. Every coincidence, every action, every meeting, might have been carefully engineered to achieve a specific purpose. It’s enough to drive someone mad.

What is the God Machine?


About a century ago an alien spacecraft crashed on Earth. What we know as the God-Machine is that ship’s self-repair system. You see, the Earth lacks certain critical materials necessary to make these repairs. Using alien technology, the system is opening gateways to other worlds to exploit them for these absent materials. This is all easily proven by my colleagues, but my interest is in the fate of the alien crew, as well as what interest drew these extraterrestrials to our planet in the first place.

This relic predates even the dinosaurs, although I disagree with those who think its origin is local and not extraterrestrial. It appears to have something to do with regulating Earth’s climate — possibly to allow life to evolve on our planet or perhaps to make it habitable by the alien race that created the God-Machine. A direct hit from a meteor damaged it, so it hasn’t able to consistently regulate planetary temperature for thousands, if not millions, of years. The God-Machine is using us to restore the planet’s intended climate. Climate change deniers aren’t idiots who don’t understand science. They are simply the servants of the God-Machine making sure no one touches the thermostat.

What does it want with people?


Humans are test subjects and the God-Machine is the proctor, administering the tests on behalf of…something else more powerful and alien than itself. That’s why it tries to keep its presence hidden from mortals. If we all knew we were being tested, it would skew the results. Why we’re being tested is anybody’s guess. Could be we’re on the cusp of being invited to join some sort of space federation, and if we pass the aliens will come down with unlimited energy and help us establish a perfect society. Might be the God-Machine is testing our viability as an object for conquest, though. It’s even possible that it’s just testing us out of scientific curiosity.

Humans used to have an interstellar empire. They built the God-Machine to handle the logistics of their civilization. Of course, something happened that caused that civilization to collapse. Maybe it was a civil war, or maybe they ran into something bigger and meaner than they were. One way or another, they died off, mostly, and any people left off-world can’t get back to Earth. It will be an interesting day if we ever make contact with them again. It must be said that the God-Machine probably hasn’t seen much maintenance in the last several millennia, so maybe that’s why it’s breaking apart the layers of the world and the gaps in between are filling like blisters.

What role do supernatural creatures play?


The God-Machine’s calculations can’t predict the behavior of supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves. Not that it doesn’t try, but the margin for error is so huge that it might as well be consulting a Magic 8-Ball. They can all see the, you know, the gears, and those so-called monsters thwart it at every turn to protect their turf. If it weren’t for them, the GodMachine would have completely taken over the planet by now. So it has started rounding them up, dissecting them, and shipping the parts God-knows-where

The God-Machine was created by ancient wizards to unlock the secret rules of the Universe. Once it completed its analysis there would be no limit to the feats the wizards could perform using that information. That’s why it’s called the God-Machine — not because it is a god that is also a machine but that it is a machine that makes people gods. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the wizards died out millennia before they accomplished this ultimate act of hubris, but their creation hasn’t stopped collecting data. The God-Machine might have figured it all out by now, and if someone could access what it knows, they might achieve what those wizards did not. So tell me: have you seen any gears in places they don’t belong?

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Big Mad Drongo posted:

The God-Machine is some serious Unknown Armies poo poo and is the first WoD thing to really pique my interest. Is there a specific line concerning it, or is it just an overarching antagonist across the whole setting?

Basically Old World of Darkness was just inundated with metaplot. Every single book and supplement added to this until it kind of spiraled into the kind of insanity you associate with brand wide comic crossovers. (This involved several atom bombs, one regular, the other a GHOST atom bomb). When they went to New World of Darkness they excised all of it. All the plot is entirely up to you aside from like setting specific books centering on a specific city, location or time period. In the lead up to Chronicles of Darkness they first released The God Machine Chronicles as a rules update and introduced the God Machine as a possible antagonist, something you could use as an antagonist for not just the core book but any of the splats as well. Especially Demon which explicitly relies on it as a concept for it's premise. So if you want more info on it The God Machine Chronicles has some general information, and I imagine demon has more. Unfortunately I don't know if they've released more things explicitly for the God Machine itself. But yes, it's very Unknown Armies and it's pretty cool.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Zereth posted:

I like how the God-Machine is also completely orthogonal to the Mage cosmology. Can Mage Sight even find hidden Infrastructure, or would a Mage need the relevant merit from Demon to find that poo poo?

It might, depending on the kind of infrastructure. It's more likely with the kind that folds space or uses some sort of supernatural concealment or doing something messed up with physics, something the God Machine and mages both know exists. Less so when it comes to someone's name on a lease. At least that's my take on it. There's honestly a lot of different kinds of infrastructure, which I'm actually writing about right now.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Alien Rope Burn posted:

It feels more like something I'd throw in as an aside or a subplot to something else than trying to use as a lynchpin for a campaign, but maybe I'm alone in that.

Well, to talk a bit about things that are coming up, those weird asides, the ones that don't seem to be particularly threatening are generally supposed to serve as a point of mystery for a proactive game, one in which the players are investigating this weird poo poo and trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

The more reactive game generally involves the characters or someone they love being part of one of the God Machine's projects in some way, or getting too close to the truth. The project dictates that they must be hurt, or killed, or their house bought out from them or burned down, and they obviously aren't down with this happening. Ultimately a project is going to make their life worse and mundane methods aren't enough to stop it. And that's just the local, personal level.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 11: Infrastructure!

So, like we discussed in the last post there are some things we know about the God Machine. Most importantly, as far as we’re concerned, are it’s limitations.

It isn’t everywhere, it relies on middlemen, agents and intermediaries to disperse and gather information and act on it’s behalf.

It isn’t all powerful, though it turns out that there’s a lot between our current understanding of the world and omnipotence. It can do things with the laws of physics that are far, far beyond our understanding but it still has rules it must abide by.

It doesn’t know everything but it’s very, very intelligent.


The popular chaos theory illustration describes a world in which the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can mean the difference between sunshine and rain on the other side of the planet. The God-Machine doesn’t control the weather per se. It simply knows which butterfly must flap its wings to bring the rain and ensures that those wings are flapping in the right time and place.

It is a machine. It does not care for the well being of humans. Even if it understood things like ethics or morality they don’t factor into it’s decision making. It seems to prefer projects that can be executed without people noticing, but not because it doesn’t want people to find out, or because it’s afraid of what will happen. It acts this way simply because that is it’s nature. To it people are tools or resources, useful only inasmuch as they can provide some function it can utilize. It may hurt and kill people but it doesn’t gain anything resembling an emotional response from this. There’s no empathy for their plight, or even sadistic joy at their suffering. Their pain or death is only a means to an end, nothing more, nothing less.

It is incredibly patient and methodical. A project might take decades of logistical movement before all the pieces are in their proper place. It doesn’t act without apparent careful consideration for it’s every action. If a project is thwarted it doesn’t desperately try to pick up the pieces or immediately try it again. It seems to simply withdraw to reevaluate the situation.

Finally it acts relatively slowly. Because of how massive it is and it’s reliance on agents and often mundane methods of communication it’s actions take time to implement. This isn’t to say it can’t move quickly. If a cult member gets an email with a photo and a message saying this person must die immediately, they won’t waste a lot of time.

Infrastructure in relation to the God Machine are the bits and pieces that together will execute it’s plans. They can start simple but will build on one another to form vast networks of buildings, people, companies and everything else it uses to further it’s goals.

Concealment Infrastructure: This is what it uses to keep people from prying too deep into it’s plans or to waylay any suspicion that something might be wrong. They can be entirely ordinary, a shell corporation, a franchised restaurant, a security guard paid to keep people out of an old warehouse. They can also be supernatural, after all it’s aware the supernatural exists, it’s only reasonable to take advantage of that fact. A security guard might get bored, or curious about the hatch leading underground. A spirit of fear has no such compulsions as long as it’s fed.

Defense Infrastructure: Sometimes concealment isn’t enough, and sometimes a project is important enough that countermeasures against interference are prepared. These are the cultists, the spirits, the supernatural creatures and anything else that follows it’s commands. They protect an area, and dissuade anyone from getting too close. And if they don’t get the message murder is generally a reliable option.

Logistical Infrastructure: This is the God Machine’s moving company. They make sure that what’s needed is where it’s supposed to be, when it’s supposed to be, in the condition it’s supposed to be. They move people, artifacts, spirits, anything that factors into the God Machine’s plan and isn’t where it should be.

Elimination Infrastructure: When a project is completed or thwarted there might be loose ends. This cleans them all up, doing it’s best to ensure that nothing remains that indicate the infrastructure existed. From arson to magic their job is to make sure there’s nothing that will make people ask the wrong kind of questions.

Command and Control Infrastructure: The messages, the angels, the power, all have to come from somewhere. There has to be something making the decisions, and while this is largely theoretical, if this were undermined or compromised it could severely alter the God Machine’s plans.

The Occult Matrix
All this work, this effort, this careful moving of people and things to the right place at the right time forms The Occult Matrix. It takes advantage of tiny exceptions to the known laws of physics and reality to perform a specific function. Of course if this were easy humanity would be doing the same. This requires a frankly unimaginable degree of precision and accuracy. If any factor is off even slightly the whole endeavor will be for naught. And given how much work goes into any given bit these projects can’t just be repeated if they fail. The proper conditions might not exist for a thousand years, if they ever do.
If everything goes as planned you get Output with a capital O. For the most part this involves summoning an Angel, one of those big, terrifying, supernaturally powerful beings made of metal and gears. Angels follow it’s commands with unquestioning obedience and are kind of terrifying. It might also involve opening a gate to another dimension, summoning some sort of immensely powerful being or any number of things which make other supernaturals seem impotent in comparison. This isn’t to say that these are the end of the project. All this might just allow it to perform another, more powerful project, which is why they refer to this as it’s Infrastructure. The more Infrastructure it can create the larger and more powerful an Output it can create. This means more powerful Angels, larger areas covered, even more Infrastructure created.

Now, for all this planning and preparation there are still points of vulnerability referred to as Linchpins. These come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and are vulnerable for a variety of reasons.


Suspicious Front: The front the God-Machine uses to conceal its project is particularly flimsy. For example, a gas station near a lonely highway hasn’t updated its prices in many years, such that it has the cheapest gasoline this side of 1990, all the newspapers and magazines in the convenience store are twenty years old, and the snack food has long since expired. The average passerby may take advantage of the cheap fill-up without noticing the low rumble in the ground below, but chances are he won’t come that way again. Someone looking for signs of God-Machine Infrastructure, however, is more likely to investigate further.

Mortal Politics
: The God-Machine has subverted a politician’s pork project in order to construct a massive stone edifice. Officially, this is a war monument, but it’s actually the focal point of an occult matrix that is the goal of the God-Machine’s project. If funding for the construction were to be suddenly cut off, however, the God-Machine would either have to find some other way to finish the project or give it up for lost.

Communications Disruption: The God-Machine has set up a communications hub in a post office in Oregon. Its gears type thousands of letters per week and mail them to most of the God-Machine’s mortal pawns on the West Coast. These letters contain instructions to coordinate activity on dozens of the God-Machine’s projects. None of the postal employees know the gears are there, but someone who intercepts enough of these communiques could notice that all the envelopes are coming from the same origin city. Stop those letters, and many of the God-Machine’s projects could collapse

The Occupation: A large group of seemingly invulnerable monsters occupies a small town and imprisons its entire population. Even an investigator ten miles away can tell that something is definitely going on down there just by looking through a pair of binoculars — circles of standing stones, daily human sacrifices, and more chilling sights. Rescue attempts seem hopeless. The creatures are too tough to fight and not quite stupid enough to trick. However, they are incredibly vulnerable to a commonly available substance. Can enough of it be brought into play to defeat these monsters before the God-Machine brings in reinforcements?

If You Can’t Beat Them: The God-Machine is used to having human worshipers, and it can always find some use for these cultists. The cultists themselves are not always very good at screening new members for signs that, say, a postulant intends to infiltrate the cult in order to investigate the God-Machine or thwart its designs. Part of this is the natural human desire to win others over to one’s ideals. Part of it is the knowledge that the God-Machine quite often devours cultists in the course of its projects, and those who bring in fresh meat to fuel its designs are significantly less likely to end up being put through the grinder themselves. The God-Machine doesn’t reward the loyalty of its tools, per se, but it recognizes the difference between a hammer and a nail.
Now, as an ST if they manage to stop a project they should get something out of it. That isn’t to say that the God Machine is just going to call it quits, after all it has a goal, whatever that might be. And while it expects a certain number of projects will fail for one reason or another if it can identify a singular cause for their failure it will take steps to remove them from the equation (it will probably try to kill the players). You could always try a coordinated attack, striking at multiple linchpins at once in the hopes that it becomes frantic and begins to make mistakes, or gives some insight as to it’s true purpose. Of course while that sounds easy it hasn’t happened yet. At least not successfully.

Up Next: Running A God Machine Game!

unzealous fucked around with this message at 04:28 on May 25, 2016

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 12: Tiers for Fears

actually kind of spooky

When you plan out your game you should probably determine just how big, in scope, the plot is going to be. This will help determine the stakes of the conflict as well as the people who will likely become involved. This also originally appeared in Hunter: The Vigil and was ported over as a tool for Storytellers. And there’s nothing against moving up or down tiers as the story warrants. Not every campaign has to be a constant series of escalations culminating in constant fights for the future of human existence. The players or characters might even want a break if they’ve been overwhelmed with the stress of trying to save the world all the time.


These are the campaigns that are only going to affect a few people, and really only a small area. An example they give is a ghost story, or a haunting, where investigators try to figure out what’s going on and maybe try to stop the spectre causing the phenomena. This section adds that, just because it’s local in scope, doesn't mean it can’t be part of a larger problem. The book references the movie Attack the Block which involves an alien invasion. While the fate of the earth is at stake the story and characters are only focused about their immediate area.

For the God Machine specifically there are a few ways of implementing this in play. The first is simply starting with the effects of one of the God Machine’s projects. If it’s a mysterious bestial predator stalking a nearby park, regardless of whether or not they stop it, it won’t really threaten anything more than the immediate area. If they take it down they may gain some insight into the God Machine’s nature. Maybe they find an abandoned utility tunnel the creature was using for shelter and in it they find odd bits of rusted machinery that seems to only serve a strange and obfuscated purpose.

Another method is limiting the number of agents that are operating in the area. If there’s only a single agent acting. If there’s one cult or one angel it’s going to keep the focus on the local effects of it. It references the book Needful Things by Stephen King as an example of how a single individual might tear apart a community. Armed with a supernatural understanding of people’s desires he sells people what they think they want if they’ll play a prank on someone else in town. Little do they know these pranks prey on the victim’s secrets, fears and insecurities. In a short time he turns the community against itself resulting in violence, chaos and death. It also uses the story The Colour out of Space as an example on how a supernatural event can only affect a relatively small amount of people. The story involves a meteorite crashing by a farm and disappearing into a strange colour. Shortly after the produce becomes huge and inedible, the livestock begin dying and the family living there is driven insane.

The final method is putting them in a situation clearly controlled by the God Machine. It uses the example of being trapped in a mansion where all the doors lead to another room with no discernable way out. I could also imagine being trapped in a small town where the only road out leads right back into town somehow. Ultimately they are at the mercy of the God Machine to some extent. This is best for either one shots or to open up to a larger story once it’s been resolved.

They give an example group that might have a local effect in the form of The Cult of the Wheel. They’re a loosely organized group of people who believe the God Machine exists and can even be influenced through the use of divinely inspired mathematical sorcery. Most importantly they believe in imposing order on the world though each member will likely have a different idea on the best way to go about this. My read is that they’re basically sinister Freemasons.


This is a level that might encompass several states or cities in terms of scope. At this level they should expect to see a God Machine’s project in it’s entirety. The example in this scenario is a local politician in a senatorial race. Except they know for a fact that beneath his bright white smile and strong, confident words there is no heart but instead synthetic flesh and smoothly running gears. Their policies could have a huge impact on the operations of the state and it’s not something that can be easily stopped without becoming a rather infamous assassin in the process. That and judges are probably not going to be swayed by the “They’re actually a robot” defense. A cinematic example they use is from the movie 28 Days Later. In this scenario the entire English Isle has been drastically changed through the introduction of a zombifying monkey anger virus...thing. It not only affects the players but also everyone around them in the area. And these situations also have the potential to spiral out of control if not stopped or at least contained.


As an example, MIT creates a new generation of nanobots that get out of the laboratory and begin to reproduce. In their search for energy, they latch onto anything that produces electricity, bringing down the grid before shorting out. Why? It’s all because the God-Machine requires an hour of total darkness during a solar eclipse. The background threat is what happens if a couple nanobots make it to new sources of power and begin spreading across the planet.

At this level they’re also more likely to encounter organizations who serve or oppose the God Machine even if they don’t realize it. Shadowy or esoteric government groups, whose members dutifully follow orders and file reports without anyone really knowing anything about their management. Even with smartphones there might be a hacker network who have been given the illusion of righteous authority by an Angel or some other authority figure. They dutifully scour the internet, leaving malware in their wake and making sure that any evidence of the supernatural never becomes popular enough for the public to notice. If someone is keeping a hard copy agents are dispatched to make sure the individual either agrees it was some perfectly reasonable phenomenon or that person disappears in one way or another. At this level they’re also more likely to encounter the gears of the God Machine


The U.S. contains thousands of ghost towns. These include places that were big during a mining boom or company towns that were abandoned when the jobs went overseas. What if these towns were really constructed to hide the mechanical guts of the God-Machine? Every basement is filled with crackling conduits, clanging pipes or whirring belts. When enough towns have been completed, the long dormant fault lines in the Midwest will begin to move, dumping out the Great Lakes and creating a water shortage beyond the worst dreams of environmentalists.
This level also includes the road trip, where travel becomes a large factor in how the plot progresses. This can be used to make traveling a dangerous but necessary act or perhaps to foster a more Monster of the Week approach to the campaign.

The example organization at this level is called The Black Tide. Formed in the 1800s by Sava Vaselko, a trader and occasional pirate or privateer, who had a rather strange incident during the American Civil War. While passing through the Bermuda Triangle he became lost in a fog. Only after he’d spent days drifting about did he finally come across a source of light. When the fog lifted he could see massive buildings, taller than anything he’d ever seen. They were covered in lights and sigils of every size and color and it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Then his boat blew up. He woke up later in a sanitarium, feeling much healthier but now with a driving obsession to learn more about what he’d seen and the Bermuda Triangle as well. After research he came to the conclusion that what he’d seen was the lost city of Atlantis, and that during times of global death and misery whatever was protecting it became weaker. Of course he never succeeded at finding the city during his lifetime, but that hasn’t stopped his organization from carrying on in his name. In fact, if anything, they’ve accelerated their plans. If death and pain will reveal this island of untold treasure all they need to do is manufacture it, as waiting has shown to be less than effective. While they can’t control the weather they have found methods of influencing it, making storms more or less severe (usually more). Unfortunately their ideology was validated when the island reappeared for exactly one minute during Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately this will likely embolden them in the future.


At this level the fate of the world might be at stake. The apocalypse, or something close enough as to make no difference, is underway. Nuclear weapons are being armed and pointed at population centers. They use the movie 2012 as an example, as the entire world is falling apart and it’s not about saving it so much as trying to cut your losses where you can. It also references Call of Cthulhu and James Bond as examples of small or singular groups of people trying to save the world. It might entail vampires being unified in a decision to abandon their secrecy and instead rule in the open as superior creatures. Even at this level, and with these stakes, the God Machine will always prefer to be subtle. It will disorganize logistics and power grids before it drops nukes on something.

This section also makes a very good point when running games of this scale. When a lot of people think of world changing events in relation to Chronicles of Darkness it’s usually easy to imagine a zombie apocalypse, a giant tentacled beast destroying cities, or a virus wiping out most of humanity. The unfortunate truth is simple, mundane events can have an enormous impact on the world. An event like 9/11, the Stock Market Crash, a drought or a year without a summer might all have a massive impact on the world without needing to be overtly supernatural.

To keep the players interested they should still have personal stakes in the events unfolding. If World War III their friends and family might be drafted, rationing will begin, attitudes will change overnight. The characters should experience these on some level so they know how they fit into the world. At the same time it’s okay to focus on something on a smaller scale during the course of a global campaign. Not every problem should be the end of the world. The scenario the book mentions outlines a plan to reduce the incoming solar radiation fails spectacularly plunging the planet into darkness. While the main focus of the campaign might be to investigate and ultimately correct this issue they might have a more personal aside if their home town is suddenly threatened by violence and looting.

The example group here is the Gnomes of Zurich. Descendants from the first mortals who stole fire from the gods, these people rose in power until they threatened the God Machine itself. They planned to construct a mighty building that would let them ascend to the source of the Divine Fire to warm themselves for all eternity. Thinking themselves all powerful they were surprised when the Machine’s plans turned their tower to rubble and in retaliation they struck the knowledge of the Machine from the minds and writings of humanity believing that this would drain the God Machine of it’s power. Over time they too forgot about the God Machine and began to fight and bicker with each other. Centuries passed and now these people continue their constant fighting with one another, having amassed enormous power over the long period of time. Now their battles are fought on the stock market and in the financial sector as much as they are fought with more conventional weapons. They assassinate and rig elections, all while trying the drain the money from the other’s coffers.


At this tier they are beyond anything they are likely prepared to deal with, and it seems like a daunting thing to run as the ST. At this level they are beyond the global conspiracies and have the opportunity or desire to change the God Machine’s plans, or even it’s basic programming. It references transcending humanity like in 2001: A Space Odyssey or something pulpier like Stargate SG-1 where they travel to different planets and dimensions. Things involving time travel would likely fall into this category given their potential to have drastic changes on how the past and future will unfold. At this level the consequences of the player’s actions should be world changing. At this level they aren’t just learning about the God Machine’s plans and operations but learning important information about the entity itself.


Though it isn’t mandatory, picking a “truth” behind the GodMachine can be part of the cosmic tier experience. This is what is commonly referred to as “Learning That Which Mankind What Not Meant To Know.” Maybe religion is the key and prayers are what keep the God-Machine turning. All religions were created by the God-Machine to ensure a steady supply of fuel. Miracles and angels are basically just a show put on by the God-Machine to ensure compliance. Whatever your troupe’s “truth” happens to be, simply having an inkling as to what’s really going on can be sanity-destroying (depending on the character).

The example organization here are the Mechanists. These are the people who have found and tinkered with the God Machine’s gears and avoided the usual fate of being killed or erased. While evidence of these people date back millennia it wasn’t until the advent of electricity that they were able to actually start interfacing with the machinery they’d taken. Now that technology has continued to progress some have even started tinkering with the God Machine’s programming itself. Unfortunately they don’t really seem to be considering the consequences their actions might have, as some are entirely focused on the power these bits of technology can grant them.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!


The last part of this chapter covers some similar ground concerning running and playing in a game. Some important parts are the emphasis on communication for determining how ‘mature’ you expect and plan the game to be. It also mentions making a well rounded group where the character’s complement each other. It’s important to remember that your character can have friends and family outside the immediate group in the game, they have hobbies and potentially day jobs. The last part of this section talks about running a campaign as a series of interconnected set pieces, which is self explanatory.

An Angel? Let me take a lo-OH MY GOD

This next section gets back into the meat of things. It has several different set pieces which can used as the core of a campaign or inserted into an existing campaign. They’re all organized by plot, the God Machine’s plans, it’s Linchpins, the methods the characters might use to help explore the plot and the possible consequences of whether the player’s succeed or not.

The 300 Block

This is a city block whose residents are largely independent and self sufficient. There’s a coffee shop, a bodega and even a small bookstore. The residents are largely medical students attending the teaching hospital, the rest are retirees or lower class people. Despite this it’s considered a safe place and people are generally happy. Unfortunately people have been going missing. About once every 6 months someone goes missing there. It’s not even a resident every time. People go missing and the last place they were seen or heard from was the 300 Block. Something seems to be going on. The landlord can sometimes be seen weeping in the park at night, and a security guard hung themselves a few years ago. It also has almost no crime and despite its low average income looks almost immaculate all the time.


There’s a 24 hour restaurant, unremarkable in almost every respect. The service is okay, the food is mediocre, it’s entirely forgettable. At least it is for most people. Those who regret, who have said or done something they desperately wish they could take back, might have a different experience. They might notice the door next to restrooms that they’ve never noticed before. They might enter it and see the homely furnished room on the other side. They might take a nap on the sofa and dream about their regret, and find that they can change the past in this strange state. This isn’t without cost, in fact it’s incredibly addictive. How many things have you done in your past that you regret? How many times have you asked “what if..?” And how much can you change before the universe gets fed up with your chicanery?

Evil Sofa

Sister City

In the late 19th century Seattle burned. The damage was almost total, it was on the brink of being wiped from the map. Still, the people yet persevered and the buildings were replaced and built over. But the God Machine wasn’t quite done with the city as it was, so it kept a copy of it around. They occupy the same space, at different times so to speak, and were never meant to really cross into one another. Unfortunately accidents happen. You might be a person living in the old Seattle, wondering what someone’s doing with a cellphone. You might be someone living in modern day Seattle when you see an odd and archaic ship coming into port. Unfortunately for those involved the God Machine did not intend for these crossings to occur, and will dispatch agents to make sure that these problems are dealt with in one way or another. Do you separate the cities so there’s no reason for you to be a target any more? Do you locate the source of the link and use it for leverage? Or will you become a victim of the Polis Men.


Despite potential confusion, in the mundane world these agents do not appear as cops. Cops draw too much attention. Rather, they appear most often as street art, sidewalk chalk drawings, or statuary and other artistic installations. They’re made up of the city itself, of concrete and wrought iron. When the lie between the cities thins and they cross over into each other, the Polis Men rise from their watchful positions with the sound of rending stone and move with surprising speed and brutality. They burned a city to the ground once for the God-Machine. They’ll do it again if the population gets too contaminated with the truth.

The Squares of the City

It’s late at night, you’re out on an errand, or coming home from work, and the need to get home is gnawing at you more than it ever has before. You desperately try to get home before midnight, you can’t really explain why, but you can’t seem to make it. As you come to the realization that you just won’t make it at time you see something you find almost impossible to believe. At night the buildings move. You look around hoping there’s someone to confirm you’re just hallucinating but you’re alone. It begins shortly after midnight. They seem to move like puzzle pieces, sliding one at a time, the streets and sidewalks warping to accommodate them. The last building vanishes. The businesses, people, everything inside of it, disappears. You can’t find any records of it, people don’t remember it, you can’t even find references to it in the phone book or internet. What is going on?

Wellington School for Gifted Children

The public school system in the city has “failed” and as a result many of the schools have been bought out by private corporations. The Wellington school is one of many and the player’s have been brought in as instructors. Of course this doesn’t mean that they necessarily have teaching degrees. The company has been emphasizing “fiscal responsibility” (cutting corners) and hiring people with “a focus on real world experience” (maybe not the best at teaching). Things seem okay though, aside from the rumors that some of the old teachers had to be removed by force and were chanting...something...nonstop. The students themselves seem a mixed bunch. A combination of brilliance and defiance that makes the player’s lives quite busy. On top of that they have to make regular reports to someone who’s taking a rather unsettling interest in the school and it’s students.

Ghost Machine

Small, rural towns and villages are finding their appliances and machines behaving strangely. They seem to be performing erratically and in many cases outright maliciously. There seems to be hauntings taking place at an unprecedented scale, but only in these small, out of the way towns away from the larger population centers. The only thing connecting them is their relative size and the only objects affected being electronics or things with moving parts.

The Key

Three identical murders took place at the same time in 3 different locations. The same method, the same ritual, and the evidence gathered all points to a single culprit, but that’s not possible. He’s sent letters to the police and the media, often times containing cryptic remarks like


“Space is only an issue for you. I can be anywhere I want, and I will be. How many of you have wives at home? Can you be in two places at once, like I can?”

“[I will be] the greatest cog the machine has ever known, the greatest killer the world has ever seen.”
How do you stop someone who can apparently be in 2 places at once? What kind of person is this, who can murder people with such little compassion.


On May 25, 1961, U.S. President John Kennedy declared before Congress an imperative for the nation to achieve a successful landing on the moon before the end of the decade. What was not announced publicly was the true reason for the project. The elite faction operating behind America’s corridors of power now had a translated version of the Toltec Map fragment, which revealed a detailed topography of the lunar surface. Most importantly, it contained an atlas of the moon’s so-called “dark side,” as well as a comprehensive description of what lay entombed there. The American Apollo missions were so named to curry favor with the various sun deities who were in fact aliases for the Second Children. Publicly, it was Apollo 11 that first put man on the moon. But in fact, American astronauts began exploring the lunar surface as early as the 1968 Apollo 8 mission. Apollo 10 confirmed the location of what the Toltecs called “the crypt of the butterfly.” By Apollo 15, the outer vault was cracked, and it was 1972’s Apollo 17 — the final manned lunar mission to date — that brought back what classified documents referred to as “Packet Theta.” The angel has warned me that the relic brought back from its receptacle on the moon has the potential to be much more devastating than any atomic weapon. What was retrieved was the skeletal form of one of the Ancient Ones. Specifically, the very being that pronounced the curse of mortality upon humanity. As the portal through which death itself entered our universe, it was changed into a thing neither dead nor alive. Those who learn to control it, as its current jailers seek to do, will exert ultimate power over the tides of life and death.
With each passing day, dark forces come closer to gaining that power. Those who seek must unify and stand against them. Our world needs warriors of light, defenders of life, seekers of truth to thwart their wishes. The god-machine waits. The angel has shown me how. I can teach you. We are fallen, but we might rise again.

The Moon Window

Something terrible has started to happen downtown. People are getting sick more often, batteries are running out of power faster and faster. Lights don’t seem to burn as bright, cigarettes barely burn, Everything is breaking down. Worse still this area of entropy seems to be growing. Centered is a large building which has recently put up a massive stained glass window as part of an art project. Could that really be what’s causing this?

Missing Persons

People go missing. It’s a sad fact of life but it happens. What’s strange is that people claim to hear their voices crying for help, but can’t find out where it’s coming from. The most notable case involved a young man who disappeared during a ferris wheel ride. While he was nowhere to be seen people reported they could hear his cries for help when they reached the apex of the ride. Another report involved a couple who could hear a dog barking for days, but they could not find it no matter how hard they searched.

Wake the Dead

What happens when someone dies and they weren’t supposed to? Well, people in small towns are getting answers and they are more than a little confused. The dead are coming back to life, but not in the zombie apocalypse way. No, it’s just a few here or there, and sometimes it’s not even unpleasant. A man’s wife comes back from the dead, a bit confused but otherwise the same as we remember her, pulse and everything. Unfortunately it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes only the flesh comes back and it carries with it a hatred of the living. Thankfully it doesn’t seem to spread but that’s little consolation to those who have to see a loved one die twice.

A Glimpse of Mesmerizing Complexity

The roads are already dangerous. People eat, text, fiddle with the radio and any number of things which generally make driving a bit more tolerable and bit more hazardous. Unfortunately there seems to be a new source of danger for motorists. A few people involved in collisions reported seeing strange flying shapes made of machinery of incredible complexity. So much so that they simply can’t take their eyes off of them. They are machines of such intricacy that would make the most skilled watchmaker weep with envy for their creator was clearly the stuff of the divine. The question now is what are they doing? Why are they causing traffic accidents? Is this intentional or a side effect of some other plan?

The Golden Citadel

Somehow you came into possession of an old diary from decades ago. It’s from an artist who was commissioned to make a large sculpture the size of an RV. At first they’re excited, but that excitement turns to fear and dread. This sculpture seems to be drawing people to it. Already they’ve made a small village around it and all the people seem bent on completing some sort of massive building of unprecedented size. It seems to be affecting people’s minds as well. Those that leave to the citadel are simply forgotten, or believed dead. It’s already reached a population of 100,000 souls so why hasn’t anyone found it out yet? At this rate the entire population will belong to this growing city in a few decades and worse yet, the last entry talks about people being fed to the building to aid in it’s growth.

Operation Bell Jar

An oil rig has gone dark. Before this, things were fine. There was a terrible storm and it almost capsized but thankfully, by some miraculous luck, it stayed upright and has since been pumping oil at an unprecedented rate. But then there was the SOS. The nearby emergency services recorded frantic cries for help but could not get a response to their questions. Rescue teams were mobilized but came upon a horrifying scene. The crew were hanging from the various cables on the rig, each with a sign on their chest reading STAY AWAY. The countries involved now assume a terrorist group or cult has taken over and have mobilized a team to investigate, extract any survivors and eliminate any hostiles. But what will they find when they begin investigating West Nautical 26?

Proposition 279
(A heads up on this one, it’s pretty hosed up for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, based on current events, it’s not as implausible as it really should be)
A foreign government, one which has always had a fairly even keel. Not particularly tolerant but never so bad it makes the news. A bit corrupt, but not any more than your own. They’ve just made a sudden and drastic change. The politicians and religious leaders, in a sudden act of horrific unification, have passed a bill not only making homosexuality illegal, but making it a capital offense. Already mass graves are being dug and the military is mobilizing. Human rights advocates send their best to hopefully defuse the situation and the UN has threatened sanctions if they follow through with their plan. And rumors about the leadership have been flying. Some say the new adviser is responsible, other’s say the leader themselves is to blame as their spouse left the country on a vacation and never returned. All we know for certain is that the country is a powder keg on the verge of genocide or a civil war.

The Scarlet Plague

The end is nigh. A disease is sweeping the globe, killing 60-70% of the male population by making them drown in their own blood. Not as headline grabbing but equally insidious is it seems to be making women infertile as well. If this continues that’s it, game over, humanity has lost. Is there an explanation for the way the blood taken from the lungs doesn’t coagulate, but instead crystallizes? Is there a way to save humanity?

The Hatching

You witness an incredible sight. You see, clearly, the statue of liberty beginning to crack. Fractures spiderweb their way around it before they slowly begin to open up. As the cracks get larger you can see hundreds of creatures pouring out of it like ants swarming out of their nest. Before you have time to run or even scream there’s a blinding light and everything around you, yourself included, is consumed by blinding fire. And then you wake up, a bit confused but alive. You remember the events clearly, it isn’t like those strange ephemeral memories you get from dreams. To your growing horror you realize that it’s the morning of the event. If left unchecked the events play out like they did before. The creatures swarm from the statue and the explosion kills them and everyone else in the city. Is there a way out of this scenario or will they spend an eternity reenacting a macabre reproduction of groundhog day.

A Journey Into Time

The characters stumble upon a video concerned with the end of the world and how to stop it. Not really cause for alarm given how many of these likely already exist, but it starts with the following.


“If anyone is seeing this, I have failed. In 1901, I invented a device that will soon end the world. The auroras are only the first sign. A version of this device can also save the world, by allowing someone to return to the first minutes that the device was turned on. You must destroy both the original version of this device and my laboratory notebook. If my employers never learn of this device, they cannot use it to end the world. They believe the mechanism we used it to create will give them the power to control time and space. In reality, it allows an inhuman force to collapse all of time into a single endless instant. I created the central component to this device by accident. If all records of how to create it are destroyed, the machine that now threatens to end time will never have been built. If time has already begun to decay, the area illuminated by the lamp remains safe.”
The rest is a set of instructions for making his lamp, sadly no crystals are used, and how to make a device to time travel, which will probably start a fire. It’s all a bunch of nonsense, surely. But you can’t help but notice the news covering aurora sightings far outside their usual environments. And more and more people are reporting seeing phantom figures moving around. Suddenly this video is not as insane as it originally appeared.

Not from the book unfortunately posted:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before

This is Hell

This is it, the endgame. Everywhere lines are being drawn in the sand and people, creatures, angels and demons are all taking sides. The God Machine has concocted a gambit of epic scope, bigger than anything anyone has ever seen. It plans to beat down humanity, using humanity. Through war, genocide, terrorism, STIs, abuse, neglect, and all the evils we commit against ourselves done as much as possible until humanity finally breaks down and gives in. Then the God Machine will be able to create “pure” infrastructure. It will be able to send it’s angels anywhere, any time, in any number to act out its will. But humanity does have an edge, it has things willing to fight for free will and all the evil and terror that will inevitably come with it. There are angels who no longer serve the God Machine but instead serve themselves, and are more than willing to fight it’s machinations. So ultimately you can choose. Do you want a world without evil and free will, or a world where people can choose to wipe themselves out?

What is it Good For?

Fighting insurgents in the cradle of civilization has become an almost common experience. You and your unit are doing just that when an errant explosive unearths something. A simple flag, as old as civilization and as large as life. Above it hovers something, a humanoid figure with wings made of steel and rust and gears and cable, but you know it to be an angel of death. The next thing you know you’re covered in Roman armor and blood, your Praetor is screaming at you to keep fighting until the barbarians are dead. The battle is barely concluded when they find themselves fighting again at another place and time. Death isn’t even an out, as those that die find themselves alive again when the shift occurs. Is there anyway out of this hell?

Urban Wandering

There’s always existed the idea of city walking. Start walking in one city, end up in another, without needing to cross the space in between. You just envision your destination, you see signs of it wherever you are at the moment, and before you know it you’re there. People are even finding they can do it with videos or documentaries. Unfortunately few are prepared for when things go wrong. City walking turns out to be a skill you can learn, but if you mess up you end up in a strange, nightmarish place filled with terrifying creatures. Worse yet, these creatures are following them back into cities. Violent murders are on the rise and people are reporting seeing strange, shadowy figures between two and ten feet tall. You know the figures and rise of city walking are probably linked but how do you convince people to stop doing something that’s saving them tens of thousands of dollars?

Continuing the White Wolf tradition of putting merits nowhere near the merit section

Next Up: NPCs! Monsters! The End!(?)

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Crasical posted:

These are :gonk: but in a good way?

Honestly I'm not much for horror but these gave me a pleasant chill.

Honestly this quote from Stephen King is very insightful as to how horror should be handled in media.

Stephen King posted:

The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it's when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it's when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It's when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there's nothing there...

The third is arguably the hardest one to pull off but the most effective in terms of atmosphere.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 14: The Finale
(also I wish I had the foresight to end in 13 updates but c’est la vie)
The last part of this section gives sample NPC’s with a bit more backstory than generic thug or car salesman. I’ll cover a few of the more notable ones, as some of them tie directly into the aforementioned set pieces and reveal quite a few plot twists in the process.

Joseph Moore
A brilliant physicist and university professor, he concocted several revolutionary hypothesis on the nature of space and time, but as of yet they are still untested and unpublished. These ideas were often ignored by his peers in the scientific community but the God Machine noticed and was quite interested. Unfortunately, one late night spent in deep study, he succeeded in his proof, and in doing so opened up his mind and enabled him to see and understand things beyond time and space. This is not healthy for your brain and sanity. This knowledge opened up a doorway to place where time was infinite but fleeting and he was now at a terrible risk of losing his mind. But a loud voice spoke to him and offered him a way out. He took it, and in doing so become one with the God Machine. Now he leads a normal existence doing what he did before, while the God Machine uses his mind to calculate entry points in time and space for Angels to enter. He’s not very talkative now, his speech is oddly stilted until you get him talking about time or physics. Do that and suddenly it’s like he’s another person, demonstrating an almost unparalleled understanding of the subject and becoming very interested in the conversation instead of wandering off.

Melissa Charles
A woman with a rather unfortunate string of bad luck which started when she was 14, smoking outside an abandoned warehouse. She saw several inhuman figures in tan jumpsuits come from a trapdoor in the floor. They were being ordered around by a professional looking woman, and under her direction assembled a strange mechanical device. Once completed they turned it on for an hour before disassembling it and leaving the same way they came. Shortly afterward their town experienced an earthquake, the first in more than a century. A few years later her curiosity got the better of her when she noticed some people going into an abandoned restaurant in a strip mall. They were performing a human sacrifice. She would have left but was terrified that if she tried they’d notice and add her to the night’s events. So she watched, and after they’d left recovered a piece of bloody cloth belonging to the victim. Since then she’s become obsessed with the strange and supernatural, and seeing the wealthy and powerful at these places has made her incredibly paranoid and fearful of the police and other authority figures. Still, she’s amassed quite a large collection of relics and curios and is willing to talk to people about them, provided she can trust them. Trust doesn’t come easy to one who can see the strange and supernatural in the world. Her home hides an advanced security system and hidden wire mesh has turned it into a Faraday cage.

Lieutenant Samuel Hacket

A man who loved the military life, he was given training, pay, vacation time, it was more than he expected to get in life. Unfortunately it wasn’t long lived. He was chosen to be part of an experimental training program and received orders to meet up with some civilian contractors. The training largely involved him being strapped into a machine that monitored his every move, every action, even his breathing and heart rate. His memories of these sessions are spotty at best but he does remember feeling exhausted afterwards, with the taste of copper in his mouth. After 6 months of this he was checked out and sent back to the division for further orders feeling not particularly well trained after the ordeal.
His first exercise was another rendezvous with his trainers who gave him a task which normally required at least a dozen people to accomplish, and no one else to do it with. He went for it anyway, after all they might just be analyzing how he deals with a seemingly hopeless situation. What he didn’t expect was that the rounds being fired at him seemed all too real. The bullets cracked as they flew past him and the explosives threw dirt and shrapnel at him. His hearing, sight and physical condition had all seemingly improved but he noticed something very worrying happening. He wasn’t really thinking of what he was doing, his body seemed to be acting on it’s own. He actually tried to stop, tried to even just close his eyes for a moment, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t in control any more, he was a puppet with something else pulling the strings. He also realized that, just like his enemies, he was using live rounds as well. He was forced to kill other soldiers, in sometimes brutal and horrific ways, and could do nothing about it. That night he escaped, not wanting to be part of this any more. But is getting away from the God Machine really that easy? (No it is not)

The Candle Maker
This angel has a very specific task. Periodically, and presumably when the God Machine needs a bit more energy to create infrastructure, someone must burn. The specifics of the person vary, based on whatever inscrutable criteria the God Machine is using. Sometimes it must be someone experiencing a particular emotion. Other times it could just be someone fitting a specific physical profile. Either way the Candle Maker takes it’s job very seriously and will do it’s best to locate a prime specimen for the fire. The fire must burn for several hours and it will attempt to stop any effort made to snuff it out beforehand. Thankfully the fire it creates is of the mundane variety and fire extinguishers and other fire suppressants can keep the person alive long enough that it’s window of opportunity passes. The Candle Maker does not have a physical form but it’s presence causes the ambient temperature to rise and any nearby fires to behave erratically, jumping and flickering for no other discernible reason.

The Lady in Red
Another angel, this one with a slightly more complex purpose. Their job is to make people meet and fall in love, which sounds great on the surface. Unfortunately it doesn’t take into account things like their current relationships. They are given the names and a location, and once they find their target they will do whatever it takes to get them together. Often this means distancing or destroying their current romantic relationship, as well as any other relationship they might have that would distract them from the new love of their life. They’ve found most success in getting the people to meet seemingly by chance, whether it’s accidentally getting next to each other in line in a coffee shop or a minor fender bender. And while the Lady in Red focuses on lust and enticement they are not above maiming and murdering to get their way. After all mourning the death of someone close can put you in a very emotionally vulnerable place.

This probably sounded better on paper

That about sums it up. The last section of the Chronicles book are appendices containing all the conditions, services and equipment in a single, easy to reference location.This is a VAST improvement over their prior layout in earlier editions.

Overall I really like the game, and I especially like the Onyx Path seems to legitimately recognize the flaws present in World of Darkness and attempted to fix them with varying degrees of success. They’ve reworked the merits, especially the fighting styles, so that they’re no longer game breaking. The addition of the material from Hunter, the professional training merit and the monster toolkit, add a lot to the game that was missing before. They also made the combat option present in Hunter the new standard which makes guns significantly more dangerous but in a fairly reasonable and evenly handled way. In World of Darkness guns were just vaguely frightening, in that two people could shoot a lot of bullets at each other and only result in a lot of grazes, near misses, and awkward moments spent reloading. Now when guns come out things have gotten very serious, as a few shots are all it takes to put someone in the ground, and that’s assuming they aren’t some sort of minmaxed John Woo pastiche. The flat xp costs make obtaining the higher end abilities possible, compared to the prior edition where getting that 5th dot in an attribute would cost several months of regular sessions. And that’s assuming you weren’t spending the xp on anything else.

It’s not a perfect system but it is simple. You could get someone new into it fairly quickly as almost every roll is going to be “Add these two numbers and look for 8’s or above.” Ironically enough though, those people probably won’t have the same issues I’ve found with players who have extensive experience in fantasy role playing. Which is ultimately forgetting that many modern conveniences exist. They’ll come up with complex plans that involve sending smoke signals to their man across town and you’ll have to remind them that phones exist and everyone has one. They’ll desperately try to think of a way to get across town without remembering that cabs or uber exists, or that they likely own a vehicle themselves. Similarly, based on the type of game and how deep these conspiracies go, law enforcement might get involved and could even be willing to help the players out, especially in a more rural setting where the sheriff is someone everyone knows personally. It can be hard, after years of charging into dungeons and pretty much murdering and stealing with reckless abandon, to go back into a game where you're suddenly a member of society and all those social contracts come back into play.

So that pretty much wraps up Chronicles of Darkness. If you ever want to run a grim and gritty game of people and/or the supernatural I'd give it a shot.

Honestly I have no idea. Probably bad

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 1: Better Angels!
Better Angels is a game where you’re a human possessed by a demon, and the best way to keep the demon in check is to essentially become a super villain. In an interesting choice the demon isn’t played by the GM but instead the role is given to one of the other players. They’ll be the ones egging you on, asking you to be that tiny little bit more evil. Ultimately one of it's greatest strengths and weaknesses. Playing two roles let's you be active in scenes even when your character isn't present and the demons tend to be pretty ridiculous and fun to play as. The downside is if someone misses a session it throws the whole thing out of whack as you're essentially missing two characters from the group. It's a mixed bag but can be very fun.

The book itself begins with a bit of fiction.

A social worker was driving home one evening when all of a sudden she was wrenched from her car by DESECRATOR DREAD, a member of THE VILLAINOUS NINE. She was taken to one of their hideouts where they no doubt hatched their villainous schemes! They revealed to her their dark origin stories! One used to be a beat cop, drummed out of the force after they brought the corruption to the attention of the public. Another used to teach in an inner city high school. Others were civic reformers or zen priests. “How could this be?” she wondered, “What kind of strange trick was this, and why did they need her?” Well it turns out that all of their powers, their super strength, amazing intellect and energy blasts all had a single source.


With the fire and brimstone and hell and everything, demons. It turns out that demons are real, and they’ll possess people and in the process give them superhuman abilities. The downside is they really, really want you to do evil acts with them. Murder, arson, grand theft, the more people that are hurt, the happier the demon becomes. Do enough evil and they can drag you to hell to torture you for all eternity, which is a feather in their cap to be sure. But there’s something of a flaw in their plan. They also love spectacle and drama. A few people have found that, as long as your plans are sufficiently evil sounding, they can generally keep the demon in check. This is without concern for any inherent flaws or effectiveness a plan might have. Angels exist too, often fulfilling the role of superheroes, but what you didn’t hear in the media is how much they cared about punishing the wicked and how little they cared about keeping bystanders safe.

So then, what use did these people have with her, a lowly social worker? Well it turns out Doomslaughter, a former member of the VILLAINOUS NINE had gone off the deep end. He’d given in to his demon wholesale and done terrible, terrible things before finally being brought down. Not just by heroes mind you, but by his own team as well. And now he was locked up, in the most secure prison in earth, and the remaining members of the gang had a plan. They offered the social worker an option, she could wear an amulet which would draw Doomslaughter’s demon to her when he died, and then they were going to destroy the prison with Doomslaughter in it. Of course, if she refused...well...they’d let her go without question. They’re not murderers after all. Of course if she wasn’t wearing the amulet that demon would really just pick someone at random to possess. And it turns out that Doomslaughter was quite the nice person until the demon finally got the better of them. They were a philanthropist surgeon who would take days off to deliver medicine to kids in need. So imagine what would happen if that demon found someone with a far less stringent moral code? Spoiler: Bad Things


Play your human well enough and you might even force your demon back to the bowels of the Hell that spawned it. Play your demon well enough and you could drag a mortal down to Hell for eternity.
Walking that balance, between good and evil and power and fear, is the heart of Better Angels.

Supervillains are Dumb

Check out my sweet rear end drill submarine

Supervillains are Dumb
So, a core concept is that villains in comic books, and the ones you’re going to be playing as, are kind of dumb.


Remember the Tinker from Spider-Man comics in the 1980s? A guy who can turn a waffle-iron into a ray gun is working out of a radio repair shop building weapons for supervillains? Why wouldn’t he file some patents, get a few defense contracts and quietly reap the profits of Reagan’s peace-time military buildup?
Ultimately they use their ridiculous laser guns and hovercrafts to rob banks to fund...more of those laser guns and hovercrafts. They do not make sensible, long term decisions. There’s no shortage of people volunteering for extremely questionable experiments ready to turn to crime at a moment's notice. When they inevitably get out of prison in one way or another their first reaction is usually to go right back to crime with a side dish of vengeance. And there’s a reason for this. Mainly that the writers don’t have the time or money to introduce more villains. As well the villains goals should be something that can be pretty clearly explained in a few issues. This ties into a major theme of the game, which is EEEEEEEVIL vs evil.

EEEEEVIL is what you see in comics, where the villain’s plan is simple, if a bit ridiculous. The villains have stolen all the cheese in the city because they’ve developed a ray which turns money and gold into mice, which will all flock to their warehouse where they’ll be returned to more barterable form. The villains have taken a panda hostage and are threatening to dye it completely black if their demands aren’t met. Pies are stolen, weird gadgets are unveiled, you get the gist. Ultimately this makes for better reading than the kind of evil you see in real life. A comic about a lobbyist ultimately forcing a bill through congress through bribery and blackmail might be more realistic but isn’t as entertaining to most people. It’s also kind of depressing. It also tends to be disseminated amongst large groups of people, many of whom may not even know what they’re doing.


Hitler and Stalin didn’t do their own heavy lifting. They passed orders downward, and their massacres were invisible at the top levels until after the fact. The tasks required to murder millions get divided and sub-categorized and assigned to hundreds of bureaucrats so that the chemicals are requisitioned by one clerk, received by another, coordinated with train stations by a third and only deployed by soldiers after events have so much momentum and official approval behind them that disobeying becomes incredibly difficult. Even if one soldier refuses, what happens? He might get a bullet in the skull as his reward, but just as likely his commander shrugs and finds another. The conscientious objector can get transferred to the motor pool. He doesn’t need to be made an example because people who can stand up to the institutional evil of a Third Reich are so vanishingly rare that a government can afford to ignore them.
This kind of evil is slow, it develops momentum quietly and out of sight until it’s too big to stop and by the time people notice they’re already a part of it. EEEEEEVIL on the other hand is fast, spectacular and just riddled with flaws, but that’s okay.

Up Next: Let's Start Making a Villain!

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

bewilderment posted:

I'm excited for more Better Angels!

Also I want to know where these supervillains get these names.

Well you're playing a random person suddenly imbued with an array of powers which may or may not be related to each other. So you just kind of make something up that sounds kinda evil, doesn't step on any copyrights and just kind of hope for the best. They can't all be winners.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 2: Character Creation!
So the game uses a variation of the One Roll Engine (ORE) Stolze developed. You assemble a pool of d10s and then look for matches. It’s pretty simple. The stats as presented are very similar to those used in his earlier game A Dirty World. You don’t have traditional stats like strength and dexterity, instead the methods you use and the situation will often dictate how you roll. You have Strategies, which are the broad methods by which you attempt a given task, and you also have Tactics which are a refinement of your method. This seems a bit confusing but the gist is when you want to do something you roll a Strategy plus a Tactic. Strategies and Tactics are also split into Virtuous and Sinister categories, depending on whether the method is sinful, lazy, reflective of some flaw, or whether it’s noble, compassionate or self sacrificing.

Your Virtuous Strategies are:
Patience - For things accomplished methodically and with discipline
Open - For things physically straightforward and largely uncomplicated
Insightful - Done using the truth of a situation or dealing with things as they really are

Your Sinister Strategies are:
Cunning - Taking the easiest way possible
Sly - Doing things without being noticed as well as acts of agility
Devious - For when you’re changing the way other people do things, for controlling and manipulating

You also have your Virtuous Tactics which are more specific than the strategies:
Generosity - To help others in need
Knowledge - Education, researching and technical problem solving
Courage - Facing opponents who are at least as strong as you are
Endurance - Doing something for a long period of time or a task that’s exhausting
Nurture - Appealing to and bringing out the better qualities in someone else
Honesty - Using and making others see the truth of a situation

And Sinister Tactics:
Greed - Taking something from someone
Espionage - Finding out and using information people don’t want to divulge
Cruelty - Attacking people weaker or unaware
Cowardice - Avoiding or overcoming physical obstacles
Corruption - Drawing out and appealing to the worst nature of others
Deceit - Misleading, lying and standing by dishonesty

Each of these will have a dot value assigned and you add these together to form the pool for your actions. You can roll a virtuous tactic with a sinister strategy and vice versa, and all of these values will change over the course of the game. So, let’s have some examples of how these things would work out in game. Let’s say you decide to steal someone’s car. Maybe you’re making a giant car robot to smash the nearby vehicle plant and need the raw material. To hotwire a car without being noticed you’re probably going to roll Sly and Greed. Sly because you’re trying to avoid notice and greed because you’re trying to steal someone’s car. Unfortunately you don’t roll well and a traffic cop notices you and approaches. Well, you could try to convince her that you’re just locked out but she might not buy it and you’re not a great liar so you take a rather novel approach of telling her you’re secretly THE EXOCULATOR! and if she values her eyes she’ll leave and tell no one! So for this you’d probably roll Devious and Honesty. Devious because you are attempting to manipulate their actions and honesty because you’re convincing them of the truth, weird as the truth may be. So she leaves screaming, giving you a bit of time to finish hotwiring the car. But now you’re on a time crunch. The hotwiring roll becomes a Cunning and Greed as you smash open the window with a rock and tear out the wiring behind the ignition. It switched to Cunning because you’re no longer trying to just avoid notice, that option disappeared when the screaming started, you’re just trying to get this done as fast as possible. The owner soon checks out what’s going on and the next thing you know he’s trying to wrench you out of the car, so you decide to sock him in the nose. You don’t really want to hurt him but you definitely don’t want him to hurt you either. He’s about as strong as you are (not very) so you roll Open and Courage. There’s nothing subtle about what you’re doing and the owner honestly has a pretty good chance of kicking your rear end given the opportunity. Still you roll well enough he backs off and you peel out, hopefully with enough time to be gone before the cops arrive.

Let’s start start with the left side of the character sheet here.

You can see that the sinister and virtuous strategies and tactics overlap. Turns out there’s actually a reason for this which we’ll get into in a moment.

You can’t start with a strategy above 4 dots, and the dots can’t overlap on the character sheet. This means that the maximum number of dots you can have between two opposing strategies or tactics is 7.
A specialty is something your character can do that represents something you can do that most people wouldn’t even attempt. Your character is assumed to be able to drive, they took shop and home ec, they can probably play Mary had a little lamb on the piano. A specialty is something like knowing how to fly planes, being a world class musician or advanced engineering skills. You can have a max of 3 specialties.

You also get an additional 20 points to spend on the person you’re the demon for. As the demon you’ll probably want to spend these on their sinister strategies and tactics, though you have the same limitations. You can't increase a strategy above 4 dots. Likewise the person acting as your demon will be spending 20 points on your character.
This is because if your open hits zero you’re dead. You start with 20 points to disperse as you see fit.

Tactics dots cost 1 point.
Strategies dots cost 2 points.
Specialties cost 2 points

Next you pick one of your Sinister Strategies which serves as your demon’s Primary Drive. There’s a box for it on the sheet. This is what your demon is focused on you becoming, and once that hits 5 it can drag your rear end to hell, which is bad. It also determines how active the demon is in your life. You see, for your drive, if your virtuous strategy is greater than the sinister strategy your demon is asleep until you invoke them. If it’s higher then your demon is always aware of what you’re doing, though it’s silent until invoked. You generally want your demon to have less information, not more. After this you pick one of the Powers and Aspects your demon grants you.

Powers are your fun super powers you can use to commit your various evil doings. They are somewhat vaguely worded giving you flexibility as to how they operate.

Alchemy lets you turn things into into gold (or probably any other precious substance). You can even use it as a weapon though it can’t instantly kill someone. Also it only lasts 24 hours.


For people who are running and kicking and otherwise resisting your decorative ambitions, attacks with this take the form of randomly making chunks of them golden. This wears off after a while (like adolescence) but is painful and confusing while it lasts (also like adolescence).


Animal Form lets you change into any natural, non extinct creature, though you’ll probably look a bit evil and creepy regardless of the animal unless it’s a bunny or guinea pig.

Armor makes you harder to hurt.

Arrogance makes you much harder to socially manipulate.

Banish You can teleport something, or a part of something, away from you. You can even use it as an attack to send chunks of people away which is kind of gross.

Body Control lets you become the puppet master, moving someone as you see fit. Unfortunately they’re usually fully conscious of what’s going on which makes for an unpleasant experience.

Clairvoyance You can remote view, no sound unfortunately.

Dead Ringer lets you mimic someone in both appearance and mannerism.

Dominator Strike is your basic laser blast, demonic knife throwing, toenail shooting, demonic attack. However you want to flavor it you use this to hurt other people. It also comes with quite a selection of add ons for added potency.

No I don't know why she doesn't have clothes

Impossible Beauty makes you attractive, mesmerizing, absolutely breathtaking. It makes you much better at talking to people.

Ineffable Defense You are very, very hard to surprise.

Psychic Objects
You can summon items from nothing and they’ll disappear when you no longer need them.

Summon is the opposite of banish. If you see something you can teleport it to you, though it’s not as effective at attacking people as banish.

Telekinesis is pretty well known, move things without touching them.

Teleport Self let’s you disappear from where you are and appear somewhere else. Unfortunately you can only take your clothing and personal effects.

Terror inflicts terrible, mind breaking fear on some poor person.

The spookiest nerd

That Hideous Strength is straight up comic book strength. You get some guidelines about how much you can lift and throw and physics be damned.

Wither shrivels limbs, rusts metal and otherwise destroys things.

Demonic Aspects
function similarly except these actually belong to the demon (you still get to pick them but the demon is the one who controls them). They’re also unmistakably evil looking.


If you want people to help you out willingly, sprouting horns and flames may not be the best way. But if you want people to help you out fast, it can work wonders. Your mileage may vary.

Carapace covers your body and adds protection, it can work alongside armor and also makes you harder to kill.

Cloven Hooves
doesn’t sound great at first glance. You get weird feet. But what you also get is the ability to barter with other people’s souls. You can make someone MUCH better at something and all it costs is a teeny tiny bit of their everlasting soul. Doesn’t work on other possessed
people though.

Darkness Shrouded covers you and the nearby area in a cloud of blackness. While you, and others you designate, can see relatively well, to everyone else it is absolute pitch black.

Flame Wreathed covers you in fire. Touching other people hurts them, other people touching you also hurts them.

Ghost Form wins you the Kitty Pryde cosplay contest every year. You become a bit transparent but can phase through solid objects.

He's way too smug for having that dumb a costume

Giant makes you huge with all the upsides and downsides of suddenly becoming a colossus.

Horned gives you a natural attack of some sort. Well natural in that it’s attached to you, not that it appears in nature.

Invisible makes you...invisible. You can’t be seen but you can still be heard and will still disturb things you pass.

Wings let you fly, whee!

After picking a power and aspect for yourself you also pick a power and aspect for the person you’re demoning for. So at the end of character generation 40 points will have been spent. 20 by you and 20 by the player playing your demon. You’ll also have 2 Aspects and 2 Powers, one pair chosen by you, the other by your demon. As you can probably guess even character generation is best done as a group activity. After this though you're ready to start playing!

unzealous fucked around with this message at 13:18 on Jul 3, 2016

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

senrath posted:

There's something absolutely perfect about Arrogance being a power you can select in Better Angels.

We haven't gotten into the system yet but it's actually a really nice power to have. In Better Angels and A Dirty World you can actually talk someone into giving up. Likewise you can be talked down until you can't really fight back.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 3: ORE and doing things
So, we already know how to create pools for going about a given action. You take the relevant Strategy and Tactic and form a pool of d10s. Next, you roll that pool and you’re looking for Sets. A Set is any single number that shows up more than once. Sets have a few different qualities you’ll be looking for, which are Width and Height. Width is how many times the number shows up in a set, and represents the speed and intensity of the action. Height is the number itself and represents how hard it is to stop. So let’s say you roll 8 dice and get 1,3,3,3,5,8,8,10. You have two sets to choose from there. One with a width of 3 and a height of 3 (The three 3’s) and one with a width of 2 but a height of 8. The 3’s are definitely stronger but easier to oppose. The 8’s are weaker in comparison but significantly harder to oppose. Which you pick in a situation is up to you. If an action is uncontested you’re really just looking for a single set to succeed.

Now there are also contested actions. You’re trying to sneak into a warehouse and the guard is trying to find you, the superhero is giving you a big speech about the importance of decency and you’re trying to resist through rationalization and justifications. In these cases both parties roll their appropriate die pools and look for sets. The person on the receiving end, that is the person dodging, resisting, or searching, is looking for a set to use as Gobble Dice. Gobble dice cancel out dice from someone else’s set on a 1 to 1 basis. If they reduce a set to a single number or less that action fails. For instance if the attacker had a three 5’s and the defender had a pair of 8’s as their gobble dice it would reduce the attacker’s set to a single 5, which is functionally worthless. There are a few caveats to Gobble Dice though. They have to have the height to affect the set, that is they need to have a number as high or higher than the attacker’s. If the attacker rolled two 8’s it doesn’t matter you rolled four 5’s to defend they aren’t good enough to stop the attack. There are also times when timing matters. Not during something like an argument, but if you’re diving to cover you need to move faster than the person shooting you. In this case your width also has to be greater than your attackers. So not only would you need to roll a set with a higher number than theirs but you’d need to roll more of it than they did.

There are also rules like Called Shot, which are a way of aiming for a specific number in your set. Maybe you want a 10 so that it’s hard to defend against, or a 1 so that you can say you did it even if it’s doomed to failure. When you want to do this gather your dice pool, subtract one die and set another to the number you want. Then roll the rest of the pool and look for matches as normal.

If you want to do Multiple Actions in one turn there’s rules for that as well. Say you want to attack with a flurry of punches, you gather your pool and subtract a die from it. From there you roll the rest of the pool and you can look for and utilize two different sets from it. If you want to do three or more actions during a turn keep removing a die for each extra set you’d like to look for. If you’re trying to do two different things at the same time, like climbing a wall while firing a gun at people behind you, you perform the same process but choose the smaller of the two pools to start with. So if you have 8 dice for shooting but only 5 dots for climbing you’d take the 5 die pool and remove one from it before rolling and looking for two sets. As you can see doing two things at once can be very difficult unless you’re very good at doing both.

Honestly, I'm not 100% on what's going on here. Is it a freeze ray? Is the goggle dude sneaking up on iceman?

Finally if you can take a long time to do something you can take a point of advantage to either add to your pool or as a width boost. If you take three times as long you can increase this advantage to +2, which of course begs the question what the hell is advantage?
Advantage is a bonus you can get to rolls that can come from a variety of sources and generally ranges in value from +1 to +3. In combat these generally come in the form of weapons, with larger and deadlier weapons giving a larger bonus. In a mental conflict they come from surprises, unknown or unsuspected information which throws them off their game. In social combat secrets are the name of the game, information which embarasses or even incriminates people. Determining the value is usually pretty simple. For something like a secret a +1 would be something small. Maybe they got into a fender bender and drove off, maybe they hate puppies, something small. At +2 you’re looking at something they’ve taken effort to hide. Something that might jeopardize their career or marriage. A +3 secret is something that might cause them to kill, themselves or someone else. Knowledge that they’re secretly the supervillain that eats corpses for fuel, or that they’re just a plain old serial killer. Weapons work similarly. Small weapons like bricks, pipes or knives give +1, larger weapons you can’t really conceal and show you mean business like assault rifles or battle axes give +2. Finally weapons that show you’re going to war are at +3 like grenade launchers, machine guns


or a sword impregnated with demonic blood cells that provoke cancerous melanomas with every hit.
Now that you have some advantage there are two ways of using it. The first is simply adding it to your dice pool. So a +3 advantage would add three dice to your dice pool. You can also use it in a riskier but more rewarding way, which is to add it to any set you might get as added width. So let’s say you don’t add it to your pool and you roll getting a set of two 4’s. Not spectacular, but when you add the advantage you’ve effectively rolled five 4’s which is enough to do some serious damage.

The last thing that can come up is Master Dice. These are very, very good, and equally hard to get. You don’t roll Master Dice, instead you roll every other die and set them to what you want. This means that as long as you’re rolling at least one other die you’ll always have a set, no matter what. As you can tell these are extremely potent and so are quite hard to obtain.

I like this picture a lot, I don't know why

Doing Stuff

So, this section goes into more detail as to what the specific combinations of strategies and tactics generally entail. It also has a brief overview of how the conflict system works between people. When you’re attacking or attacked the target is a Tactic. You can literally beat the lies out of someone if you’d like. Or make them so paranoid about their finances they lose any sense of generosity. This section goes into example tasks for the more common strategy and tactic combinations. It can be a bit monotonous but helps in understanding how the system functions.

Patient Generosity: Long term investments like building a library, helping someone in AA and funding a political party.
Patient Greed: Long cons, identity theft, phishing and manipulating systems to get unearned rewards.
Cunning Generosity: Bribes, black markets and paying people to look the other way. With this you’re throwing around money to get results quickly.
Cunning Greed: Any sort of petty larceny, shoplifting, lock picking and pick pocketing.

Patient Knowledge: Finding an occult ritual in a library, rewiring a house, basically anything that require academic knowledge falls under this category. It’s a very broad category.
Patient Espionage: Tapping a phone, checking for booby traps, staking out a place, finding something others want hidden. Use this when you’re methodically finding information someone doesn’t want you to know.
Cunning Knowledge: Calling up information you need immediately, defusing a bomb, playing a pub quiz or guessing the answer on jeopardy or fixing a car on the side of the road with only what you have on hand. This is thinking on your feet or ad libbing a plan.
Cunning Espionage: Spotting ambushes, identifying an undercover cop or quickly searching an area. This is your ability to stay observant/paranoid under pressure, whether it be from time or a looming threat.

Open Courage: Fighting someone on even terms, attacking a stronger opponent, a possessed person fighting the supernatural without their demon invoked.
Open Cruelty: This is the basic combination for attacking someone weaker than you, or any normal person if your demon is invoked.
Sly Courage: Fighting at range using any sort of weapon against a foe of equal or greater strength.
Sly Cruelty: This is when you’re trying to essentially assassinate someone. You want them dead before they even know you’re there.

Open Endurance: Chasing a culprit, running a marathon, rowing a boat or bracing a door against trespassers. These are tasks that require strength or endurance over a long period of time.
Open Cowardice: Blocking a blow, outrunning a pursuer and breaking down a door. This is used when you’re using direct physical force to change a situation.
Sly Endurance: Tailing someone in a car, tightrope walking and maintaining control of a vehicle on a slick road. This is for tasks that require a long period of subtlety or agility.
Sly Cowardice: Climbing over obstructions, escaping from bonds, and other physical tasks that require quickly using agility. Also includes avoiding blows in combat.

Insightful Nurture: Understanding the best in people, rationalizing actions to one’s self, any time you’re trying to find the best in people.
Insightful Corruption: Learning people’s desires and vices, discovering someone’s weakness, this combination covers whenever you’re trying to find the bad in someone, whether its a personality trait or a past deed.
Devious Nurture: This is used to convince someone else that what they’re doing is the right thing.
Devious Corruption: Temptation, seduction and bewilderment all fall under this category.

Insightful Honesty: You use this to protect yourself whenever someone is making you doubt the truth as you know it or tell if someone else is lying.
Insightful Deceit: You use this to convince yourself that what someone else said is true, even if you know it to be otherwise, or for convincing others you’re worse than you appear. It can’t detect the truth in someone’s statement but can tell you their motivation for making it.
Devious Honesty: This is getting people to do what you want through a hard truth. You use this to make people do good even if they don’t want to. Like those sad ASPCA commercials with Sarah McLaughlin or convincing someone that they do, in fact, have a drinking problem.
Devious Deceit: Lying, pure and simple.

It seems a bit complicated at first, but once you wrap your mind around motivation and method being the sole factors in determining dice pools it becomes intuitive rather quickly. There are a few APs of the game you can listen to to hear what it sounds like being played. When you want to do something you'll automatically know whether it's physical, mental or social, then you check if it's arguably virtuous or sinister, and then you find the tactic that fits.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Doresh posted:

So they essentially hardcoded the "Heroes will always believe every single word a villain says" trope (probably has a more elegant name) into the setting?

Well, Heroes won't necessarily believe everything you say, but they have a very, very stringent moral code and if they break that bad things happen to them. So if you threaten them by saying you've set up a device across town that will turn everyone around it into sheep, it's probably a better option they check it out giving you a chance to escape. The other thing is villains can be VERY good at lying especially with some of the powers and aspects.

Though honestly the simplest explanation is the art is only tangentially related to the setting, it's just a bit from the section on lying and social manipulation.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 4: Combat and Conflict and Demonic Devices

So, at some point, a fight is going to break out. Whether it is a heated debate, two scientists trying to outwit one another in a game of strategy, or just some people fighting to the death (the usual villain stuff) eventually the dice or going to come out and things are going to escalate. For physical combat there are a few steps to follow

Step 1: Declare. Everyone acting in the combat, NPCs included, say what they’re going to do. I use my eye lasers, I distract them, I run away, if you’re a threat or threatened by the conflict you’re probably going to declare. If you’d like you can let people change what they do based on other input. For example if player A says they’re going to charge the superhero and player B says they’re going to throw their portable black hole at the hero, player A may want to reconsider their choice of action. If you’d like something more concrete you can also let people declare in order of their cunning with the lowest declaring first. This means the person with the higher cunning will have a much greater understanding of the fight than the others.

Step 2: Roll. Everyone rolls their dice and picks out which set(s) they want to use.

Step 3: Resolve. At this stage you start implementing the sets. Highest width is resolved first. If there’s a tie for width use the height as a tiebreaker. If the height also matches whoever rolled the most dice wins, or just roll off to see who goes first. Going first can be very important, especially when your action is to block or dodge which must go off before the attack otherwise it’s wasted. If you hit someone before they act they lose a die from one of their sets, though this can be from a set they aren’t currently using but rolled nonetheless. What you do is determined by the width of the set.

As you can see your stats can shift a lot during combat, with Courage being shifted over to Cruelty or Open being shifted to Sly. For mortals, if their Open hits zero they’re dying. If someone says they’re going to kill them they die unless someone else tries to stop them. Lucky for you, the Hellbound (people possessed by demons) have to empty out their Open AND Sly before they can kick the bucket. And given that on a width of 2-3 that dot simply slides between the two it means the attacker will need a set of at least 4 width to put down one of the Hellbound.

It also has rules for mobs of people here. This can apply to any grouping of mortals working together whether it be a mob with torches and pitchforks, a specops team or your grouping of brightly costumed henchmen. They roll a number of dice based on how many there are on a one to one basis and up to 10 dice total. They also gain a combat advantage based on how many of them are armed and how angry or scared they are. Any time you hit them you take out a number of people equal to the width of the set, and the mob flees after a certain portion of them are taken out of the fight.

Intellectual Conflict functions almost identically with a few minor differences. Speed no longer matters for defense, so you can still use a set to defend with even if it has a lower width than your opponents. You also can’t take off someone’s last dot of Open with just mental conflict. You can’t think someone to death, though you can think someone to NEAR death. You also can’t FORCE someone to listen to you, though you can coerce them through social attacks until they’re more receptive. For instance you can't just yell at conspiracy theorist until suddenly they just give up all their beliefs.

Social Conflict is played like intellectual conflict. The only difference here is that with social conflict everyone has an out. You see, when you’re manipulating or being manipulated it’s all to get someone to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise. This means that the defender can avoid the damage from an attack if they comply, which might not be a bad idea. Let’s say you’ve taken a puppy hostage and threaten the police to leave the area or you’ll turn it into a far less adorable animal, like a possum (American, not Australian). You attack the police’s courage and roll great, getting a width of 5. Now if they can decide to leave, and avoid that attack, or they can stay but will lose a dot of Open, which is a big deal.

You can also suffer simple misfortunes which might cause your Tactics or even Strategies to slide, if it’s a relatively minor inconvenience, or disappear, if it’s pretty major or life threatening. This is up to the GM but it recommends only doing so sparingly, after all they’ll probably much things up by themselves given enough time.

The last part of this chapter details an optional rule for Collateral Damage. While it may seem like a lot of fun it does add the potential for the players to commit a LOT of sins they might not ordinarily if given the option. Basically at the end of each combat round you assemble a collateral damage die pool. Using the big flashy powers, lots of people with guns, or a whole lot of people in a cramped space all add to this pool. If you get a set the width determines the severity of the threat, up to deadly at width 5, while height determines how many people are affected. The villains have the opportunity to save those threatened but that also means turning their back on the threat contributing to the collateral damage in the first place.

The upside of being possessed: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Demon

If being possessed was only having something whisper terrible things into your mind it would be annoying, but probably not enough to get someone to commit terrible sins. Luckily demons can also do some things that provide more concrete temptations, like Demonic Devices.

I have no idea what to do with this crap

A demon can guide you through a process which will result in an item with extraordinary powers far beyond what science can accomplish. This is because while science has to obey certain laws like physics, your devices are powered by Hell and anger and spite.


Some just make their cursed amulets look like cursed amulets and have done with it, but many take the modern approach because (1) they’re mortified of looking like they’re behind the times and (2) it’s hilarious to watch real scientists try to replicate impossible devices. (Until they succeed, like Alexander Graham Bell and his stupid telephone. Arish-Kanneret the Honeyed Voice of Betrayal is still pissed about that.)
So, let’s build something terrible.

Step 1: What does it do
First you figure out what you want it to do, then find out where it fits into the following options.

Environmental Change, Minor: Knocking over walls, uprooting trees, and drilling through steel are all under this category. The rule of thumb is, if it could be done by something that could fit in a 2 door garage it fits here.

Environmental Change, Major: Here is where things would either require a LOT of effort for science to accomplish or science just isn’t there yet. Airships, invisibility cloaks, lightsabers and the like are all in this category.

Environmental Change, Cataclysmic: Nukes, devices that would turn all the gold into lead or a beam which creates volcanoes all fit here. This is the category for things which could cause immediate political and economic upheaval if activated.

Attacks a Tactic: This device can attack a tactic without question. It might be a blamethrower which chews up their Nurture tactic or a poverty beam which damages their Generosity.

Attack with Nastiness: Using this gives you an advantage bonus for attacking a particular tactic in a specific way, the most obvious being using Open Courage(Or Cruelty) to attack Courage for some sort of melee weapon.

Now each of these options will cost you points of Knowledge and/or Generosity. If you’re spending more than 2 points you’re going to need to pick up some flaws in the process.

Step 2: Flaws.

Blatant: When you use the device EVERYONE around notices it. It might have strobe light effects, air horns, sirens, whatever it has it is not subtle.

Bulky: This isn’t something you can just carry in a backpack. You can buy this multiple times, each time making it progressively larger and more awkward to use.

Cooldown Rate: This effects how often it can be used, with the first rank limiting you to using it every other round at the fastest.

Easy Disarm: There’s a huge red OFF switch, a giant lever that says DO NOT PULL or the controller is the ipad you carry around with you which could be yanked out of your grasp. Whatever the method there is a relatively easy way for someone to turn it off without your consent.

Expensive Upkeep: The machine runs on faberge eggs and fresh saffron. If your Generosity drops too low for too long it stops working.

Finicky: Sometimes the machine doesn’t work when you want it to.

Fragile: Well a laser made of glass sounded cool, and it looks really cool, but now it also has a vulnerability to bricks or other hard objects.

Fuel Hungry: This is similar to expensive upkeep but the machine requires something you can’t just buy. Maybe it runs on the tears of children or the blood of the innocent but regardless of what the fuel is it won’t be something you can grab at the gas station.

Palpably Evil: Normal people can tell it’s bad news just by looking at it. They get goosebumps and feel their skin crawl. Particularly sinful people, on the other hand, desperately desire the object.

Rare Components: To build this you’re probably going to have to go on an ADVENTURE or HEIST because to complete this thing you’re going to need something special. The hair from an angel, the skull of deceased royalty, unobtainium, whatever it is it’s special and going to be hard to get to get.

Step 3: Pay the Piper

Now you can start paying the demon the dots of Knowledge and Generosity required by the effects you desire from the device. You can do it all in one go or spread it out over a series of payments. Once this is done your device is good to go and you can go and hold the county hostage or sail the skies or what have you.

Being the Demon

So, you’re also playing the demon to someone else at the table, there are a few things of note. First is that, under normal circumstances you are stuffed in a tiny jail cell inside of them. You can’t hear or see what’s going on outside, you don’t know what they’re thinking or what they’re doing, you’re out of the loop. There are several situations in which this can change however. If their primary Sinful Strategy is greater than their Virtuous Strategy the demon can hear and see whatever is going on around them. Unfortunately this does not allow you to speak but being able to look around can be a huge benefit. If he uses a power or asks for you then you’re allowed to start talking to them for the remainder of the scene.


You can also improve your hosts Sinister Tactics and Strategies but doing so requires two things to happen. First, they must have committed a sin of sufficient evil and you must have witnessed it happening. Second they must also commit this act while you’re able to perceive your surroundings. This means if they kill someone with their bare hands without using powers and their Virtuous Strategy is higher than the Sinister Counterpart you’re out of luck. You didn’t see it so all they have to deal with is the murder charge.

As you can see certain sins correspond to the different Sinister Tactics and levels of improvement for them. If they commit major sins you can even improve their Sinister Strategies.

An Eye for the Divine
When invoked a demon can also identify those around them that are hosting a demon or an angel. Though this can be blocked or obfuscated by the various demonic aspects and powers. For example if they're surrounded by darkness you'll know there's a demon in there but you won't get any more information.

Dragging them to Hell
If you get their Primary Sinister Strategy up to 5 dots that’s when the magic happens. At that point you can take control of their body and prepare to open a portal to hell where they will presumably be tortured for eternity and the demon gains a significant chunk of power in the process. That’s their job after all. The demon might be distracted or infatuated with some of the pleasures afforded to them on earth but their ultimate goal with every host is to drag them kicking and screaming into the inferno.

Demonic Aspects
You’re also the only one who activate your Demonic Aspects, the remnants of your form that you can manifest around your host. If they simply ask for it you can give it and they slide a point from the Virtuous Strategy over to their Sinister Strategy. For the demon this is great. It’s an easy way to rack up the Strategy necessary to drag them to hell. As the demon you can also activate these without their consent by rolling their relevant Sinister Strategy. If you get a set it activates for the rest of the scene. If you fail it still goes off but you slide a point over to their Virtuous Strategy, which is a pretty significant setback. Why would you do this? Well, there are a few reasons. Maybe your demon is a bit of a mischief maker and wants to inject some excitement into their hosts life. There’s also the possibility that the host has been ignoring them or performing too many good deeds so now they have to explain to everyone at the soup kitchen why they’re suddenly sporting a pair of giant bat wings. It can also be used as a threat, that if they don’t do SOMETHING sinful, even if it’s something small, they’ll turn it on during a very inopportune time and let the host deal with the consequences. While suddenly being covered in armor is more awkward than anything, bursting into flames in a highly flammable environment could have catastrophic consequences.


“I Think, Perhaps, I’ll Be A Jerk”
The ability to activate Aspects blindly runs, head-first and hard, into issues of separating player knowledge from character knowledge. If a demon’s uninvoked and running on a Sinister Tactic deficit, he doesn’t know what’s happening with his mortal. You, the player controlling that demon, may know that the mortal is right in the middle of a tender reconciliation scene with his ex-wife. That would be the worst possible time for a demonic Aspect to kick in, wouldn’t it?
And maybe that’s great fun for all the group. Maybe your mortal’s player loves the opportunity to chew scenery and emote and be livid at his demon. But what do you do if he’s annoyed that you upstaged his scene and turned his high drama into low farce?
If you’re a nice guy and you’ve got a friendly, cooperative group, call a time out and ask player-to-player. “I totally want the demon who’s bored and cooped up to ruin the hell out of this. Please?”
If you’re a more competitive group, just go for it. But understand that the price for putting things on an adversarial footing is that you wind up on an adversarial footing. It’s perfectly in character for a mortal who’s been demonically cock-blocked to decide that demonic help just isn’t worth it. It could be your ticket to more time silenced, not less.
Then again, the conflict is the core of the game. Play it by ear and don’t be a dick.

Demons also have an ace up their sleeve but they are LOATHE to use it. They can grant their host a Master die on a roll, which is great for the host, but doing so ALWAYS slides a dot from the Sinister Tactic over to the Virtuous. Even if the roll is using Greed or Cowardice it always slides from bad to good. Doing something perfect is something only the divine are capable of, and while demons used to be angels remembering it is a painful and shameful experience.

Being the Human

There are a few things the human can do that can help prevent them from just sprinting into the mouth of hell as soon as the game starts. First off is their use of justification. At the end of a scene during which they did something noble or selfless they can slide a point from a Sinister Tactic. At the end of each session they can also slide a point on one of their Strategies to represent long term growth and trying to improve themselves. They can also improve a Strategy by sacrificing a dot from both the Sinister and Virtuous Tactic beneath it.

More good news is the human is entirely in control of the Demonic Powers. You control when and where they’re used. The downside is using a power also wakes up the demon, who can now talk to you and see through you for the rest of the scene.

Finally, if the host gets their Primary Virtuous Strategy up to 5 dots they can attempt to exorcise the demon. Of course this isn’t something done lightly because, even if they are successful, they’re now a normal dude hanging around a bunch of costumed villains which might not end well.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 5: A more detailed looks at Demons, Dragging people to Hell, and Example characters.
So, you can probably tell that there is what amounts to PvP conflict going on in the game, and this can definitely be a huge red flag. PvP in most games, and even in this game, can quickly turn into two people trying to spite each other at every opportunity. The demons could be under control of their player but that would probably lead to very agreeable demons more than happy to throw out fiendish powers at their hosts request. The GM could handle the demons but they honestly have enough going on at any given moment without having to worry about keeping everyone’s demons straight all the time. One of the benefits of having the other player’s have roles as demons is even if the party splits up there’s an incentive to stay interested in what’s going on. Even if the player is alone the second they use a power they’ve drug another player into their scene, for better or worse.

How To Screwtape a Human

Screwtape, or screw, is the term the book uses to refer to the demon being hosted in someone’s body, taken from the title The Screwtape Letters by C.S Lewis. Now as the Screw, it’s your job to get your host to sin, but as a player in a game you should know that you have your limits. If all you do when you can speak is demand they bathe in blood of babies or you’ll do nothing for them the player is going to quickly realize you’re useless and will just avoid doing anything that let’s the screw speak. Even if they do use their powers they’ll completely ignore the screw because they have nothing to say. Also that makes the person playing the screw an rear end in a top hat, don’t do that. What you can do is tempt them. Offer the host realistic options for sinning, help them compromise themselves, and if they say no leave it at that. If the situation becomes more desperate that little bit of sin in exchange for power starts to look like a better and better option.


The real key to Screwtaping is the great unspoken law of successful gaming: Don’t be a jerk. You do not win by making his character miserable, and you’re actively a loser if you deliberately set out to make the player miserable. You win by helping him make an awesome story about someone walking a moral tightrope, trying to do good from a position waist-deep in evil.
And if the player asks the Screw for help, help them. Give them advice they might follow even if it’s immoral (you still have a job to do after all), and if you want to occasionally throw in a “Burn down the orphanage” suggestion for a chuckle that’s fine, just don’t make a habit of it. The book adds that you should really be searching for the kind of discourse you’d expect from The Odd Couple. Two wildly different personalities regularly bumping up against one another that makes for an entertaining experience for everyone. And something to remember about the demons is they are capable of being manipulated. While they are ancient and possess knowledge far outside the human realm they are suckers for grandiose plans that sound sinister regardless of how inefficient or error prone they might be. As a final bit of advice the player’s should remember the people are the ones getting top billing, if you’re in a scene with both your character and the screw you’re playing focus on the character. Maybe the screw makes a comment here or there but they’re still playing second fiddle to the human characters.

How to Human a Screwtape
So, you’ve got a mild demon infestation, and while they grant you some sweet powers they also tend to whisper suggestions to you that you’d rather not have to deal with. And while the relationship is a bit one sided, after all there’s not much you can do to torment your demon while they can make you grow wings in the middle of the mall, it should be felt that all of this is between the characters, not the players. The demon shouldn’t be trying to get the host killed and the human shouldn’t just try to negate the premise of the game by never engaging with their demon. The screw’s job is to trick you and tempt you, and even if they succeed at causing your character hardships it adds to the drama of the game. Just make sure they don’t take it too far. Don’t be afraid to talk to them, the player, if you feel like things are getting out of hand. The in game method of accomplishing this is doing your best to never invoke your demon, and explaining to the other characters that your screw is frankly too volatile to be reliable. After all this is still supposed to be a game, even if it is about damnation and corruption.


Okay, so there’s two main ways the union between human and demon ends. Let’s start with Exorcism. You’ve been good, you’ve been donating to charity, adopting orphans, doing volunteer work, all that jazz, and you’ve finally got your Primary Virtuous Strategy up to 5. From there you commit to being exorcised and the fun begins. Bring friends. It starts with them trying to reduce your cruelty to zero. Whether it be through talking, enhanced exorcism techniques, or a stiff beating. Next, assuming they haven’t died, the demon offers incontrovertible proof of how they’ve saved the human’s life, without them they’d be dead. This takes place in the character's mind and is acted out by the other players at the table. If they succeed at this stage the the demon is physically ejected from their body via an orifice (ew) and now it’s a straight fight to the death. And it should be mentioned the host is now a completely normal human so I hope those friends from earlier brought some guns with them. If the host dies the demon is now free to find someone else at their leisure. If the demon dies it’s forcibly returned to it’s amulet where it can do less harm. If the amulet is being worn by the person, or has been destroyed prior the screw is screwed and is forced back to hell. The human is now a normal, average, unpossessed and probably far better off, person.

On the other and if your Primary Sinister Strategy hits 5 you’re in danger of being Dragged to Hell. This is bad (for the person, for the demon this is great news). When it hits 5 the demon grabs the steering wheel and now is in total control of the person. For the next 24 hours they will attempt to destroy everything the human holds dear. The hard part is the demon no longer has their demonic powers while in the driver seat so they’re going to have to do this the old fashioned way. It’s going to be very unpleasant. The purpose of this is while the demon is in control of the body the host still has to sit back and watch this all unfold. Doing this terrible things winnows down what remaining virtue they have left which will be important later. After 24 hours the demon assumes their full demonic form and has a mere hour to kill people and arrange their organs in a pentagram. This part is hard because it’s certainly not invincible and it’s very, very obvious. People tend to run away, call the cops, call out for superheroes and generally things that interfere with the whole ritual killing thing. The people they grab also have to be mostly innocent as well, so if they accidentally snag a serial killer when collecting their 5 people they’re out of luck, game over. If it fails here the Strategy drops to 4 and things return to normal, aside from all the irreparable damage and destruction. If the demon succeeds in everything there’s one final struggle between the human and the screw, and honestly the odds aren’t good on the human. The demon gets pretty much any ability it wants and all it has to do is drag a weak, powerless mortal through a portal into hell.


So, like demons angels are real and quite powerful. They’ve never fallen from grace and they still have that whole divine purity thing going for them. As long as the host is acting in accordance to the angel’s wishes they can add a master die to ALL of their actions. If you don’t remember master die can keep you from failing ANY mundane skill challenge. One on one an angel can pretty easily take apart one of the hellbound. It requires strategy, teamwork, and a bit of luck to overcome an angelic opponent. Of course this isn’t helped by the fact that angels get powers too. As a side note the GM can kludge any demonic power into an angelic version with a bit of tweaking and refluffing.

Angelic Powers

Circle of Abjuration - The angel chooses a sinister tactic and activates an aura. For the auras duration people inside can either slide a dot in that tactic or run away.

Foresight - Any attack made on a virtuous tactic has it’s height reduced.

Meek Endurance - Any attack has its pool reduced by the angels endurance. This can make a tough angel VERY hard to take down.

Righteous Arm - The angel’s attacks gain a bonus equal to their target’s Sly or Cruelty, whichever is higher. This means against an evil opponent they are going to hit like the biggest gun you could find.

Unstained - You don’t get bonus dice from secrets, weapons or surprises against someone with this power. Their purity is overwhelming and absolute.

Word of Blessing - The angel can speak the right words at the right time, those passionate locker room speeches before the big game, those quiet words to give someone the encouragement they need, all of them. They can use this power to shift dots in their virtuous tactics around, or give them to someone else.

Angelic Aspects

Chorus - These angels have the sort of teamwork that would make a drill sergeant weep with envy. They gain a bonus on all virtuous tactics rolls equal to the number of angels with chorus in the vicinity, up to +3.

Halo - This angel is channeling pure divinity, enough that it manifests as a glowing ring of light around them. They heal a dot of a virtuous tactic every round.

Radiance - This holy light isn’t the searing luminescence of a halo but a more subdued sort of divinity. The angel chooses a demonic aspect and power and prevents them from being used by anyone they can see.

Angel Wings - They can fly. I don't know what more you want.

All of this comes with a cost of course. Angels have a code of conduct they must abide by.
Thou shalt be Honest - Angels cannot lie, and that sweet master dice goes away if their human host tries to lie. This can’t even be circumvented through omission or answering a different question. The best they can do and still keep their angel’s approval is saying “I won’t answer that”

Aid ye the Needful - The angel always has to help those in need. Even if it’s horrifically dangerous and the chances of success are almost nonexistent

Harm not the Harmless - They can only reciprocate the level of harm that could be done to them. If you spit in a demon’s face all they can really do is walk away or verbally chastise you (which still might hurt). Even if the person a gun, if bullets can’t really harm the angel they can’t go all old testament on them. None of this applies to demons, they can do what they want there.

Accept Surrender - Once someone gives up the angel has to stop fighting them. No hitting after the bell, at all.

If they violate any of these while their angel is invoked their powers start to weaken, to the point of disappearing entirely.

Example Characters

So these characters are broken up into a few different categories. You see, ideally an angel gets into a decent person who cares for humanity. And really you want a demon in the same kind of person to hopefully mitigate the damage they’d otherwise do. Issues start to crop up when that isn’t the case. When an angel inhabits a just and generous person you get results like:

Shining Diamond - This 9 foot tall diamond statue of an angelic woman patrols the east coast, a defender of justice and foe to the wicked and cruel. She stops kidnappings, hijackings and of course any attempts to circumvent or escape just punishment for crimes. Her real identity is that of an activist and folk singer, Chartreuse Milante. Even before becoming host to an angel she fought to protect the environment, basic human rights and unjust wars. At one point it even cost her a possible marriage. But in the process she found an angel

The Doorman - Anywhere there’s a door, he can appear. Dressed like a doorman, this person was once an ordinary doorman until he tried to stop a cop from beating up their girlfriend. After that he was fired and was constantly harassed with parking tickets and speed traps. But he was sent a mysterious envelope in the mail which held an artifact containing an angel. Since then they’ve joined forces to fight crime anywhere there’s a door nearby.

And sometimes a demon gets into the heart of a good person through circumstance or coincidence. This is probably the kind of person you’ll be playing as. Not necessarily paragons of humanity, but normal decent folk who suddenly have a being of ancient evil strapped to them. Some may even try to do good with it though they have a habit of getting a body count pretty quickly. You get people like:

The Paviour - A man who liked machines and order, and found a sort of peace in his job driving an asphalt paver. One day it churned up a strange statue made of wood containing a complex assemblage of gears which caused it to move, and with it came dreams of a global city that stretched across the horizon where everything was neat, orderly and safe. And power, but he didn’t really question that part. Now he is trying to realize his dream. He is the man who would pave the world. He is...The Paviour.

Lifeshooter - He was always angry, intelligent and aggressive, but grew up with strict and pacifist parents. This made Tyson Franks a very conflicted individual growing up. He channeled his aggression into sports, but that only lasted until he started med school. His life changed when saving the life of a shot up dealer. He found on their person a blood stained statuette of a grinning demon and had an epiphany. He could channel his aggression, his upbringing and his intelligence into a single goal. All he’d have to do is dress up like a doctor and use his medical knowledge to kill criminals. Simple right? Of course his demon is having a great time, even if they don’t really talk to them. They don’t have to. Unfortunately his desire to bring together all these conflicting aspects of himself have caused some issues. Not only does he believe what he’s doing is right, he believes it’s entirely natural as well. Things like dodging bullets, throwing scalpels with pinpoint accuracy and destroying flesh at a touch are probably things he picked up in med school.

So, is it possible for an angel to become hosted in an rear end in a top hat? Yup! And the results generally aren’t pretty. You see if they never invoke the angel then the angel is just kind of wasting its time in there but it can’t exactly just book a flight out. And if the person does evil while the angel is invoked not only do they start losing power but it could eventually kill them. I assume they just go back to heaven so they can try again.

Gorillawrench - She was an explorer deep in the Amazon jungle, joining a native tribe in one of their rituals. Unfortunately a nearby had been paid and armed by narcotraffickers to kill them and begin cutting down the forest to make a road. Fortunately for her, an angel was linked to the ritual and while her hosts were being gunned down she became bathed in divine light and began to fight back. It was then that the attackers surrendered, which was sort of a problem. The angel wanted to stop then and there, but she knew from her past dealings with them that they’d go back on their word as soon as it was convenient. So she started to take them back to a city prison but as soon as the angel went quiet she started firing on them. She took down two before the rest overwhelmed her and she was forced to call upon her angel for more assistance, and they were not happy with what was happening. That was years ago. Since then she’s been fighting back against drug dealers and corrupt politicians when she can. She dresses in a gorilla outfit to stay low key, the glow is kind of conspicuous. She keeps the angel quiet when she’s doing things they’d hate, like arson, sucker punches and intimidation and only summons them when her immediate task is inarguably good. Unfortunately balancing pragmatism and power is starting to wear on her. And yes she knows gorillas aren’t native to the Amazon.

Mr. Dignity - Dominic Brown believes that manners and proper grammar are important. In fact, he believes they’re probably one of THE most important things and the lack of emphasis on them is contributing to the degradation of society. And when that antique he picked up one day had an angel within it he now had a mission, nay, a CRUSADE. Now when someone plays music too loud he goes over and talks to them about the importance of respecting your neighbors. And with the angel’s perfection now flowing through his voice his words carry the might of the almighty with them


Similarly, grammar errors on signs get you a lecture from The Elements of Style that you’ll remember on your deathbed after Alzheimer’s has claimed your mother’s face and your first lover’s name.
This isn’t necessarily evil, I mean it is dickish, but not outright evil. But it’s also a huge waste of power. He doesn’t try to stop crimes, he doesn’t prevent robberies or act as hostage negotiator. He just uses his powers to correct people’s manners and grammar.

Finally you get your worst case scenarios. These are when a demon finds their host to be as bad, if not worse, than they are. These are people who heard the dark whispering in their mind and said “Man that sounds great, let’s get started.” And worse yet they generally know to keep a low profile and also how to game the system. They’ll ride on the rim of hell leaving nothing but misery and suffering in their wake.

Steve Stiles - He’s only alive because of modern medicine keeping his cancer in check, and the demon inside giving him the power to overcome the radiation killing both the cancer and himself. And he’s been spending his moments alive abusing people around him, physically and sexually, ruining people’s lives with glee. Not only that but but he infects some of those he violates with radiation sickness as well.

Honestly this dude is a weird tonal shift from the rest of the entire book. He sticks out like a sore thumb, and I understand wanting to point out that a demon inhabiting an evil person results in a walking disaster but this seems a bit much.

The Honorable Jane Attenborough - A judge in Horry County, South Carolina, she takes her job seriously. Though it’s a bit strange that there’s a lawyer named Priapus Ambrosia who can seemingly predict how all of her cases will end, so he can really clear anybody of a crime as long as they sign on the dotted line. In blood, preferably. Turns out these two people are one in the same, exerting absolute control over the judicial process in the area. And in the process she’s encouraged a violent uptake in crime in the nearby counties. Not her’s of course, she makes sure the criminals are across state lines before they get back to it.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Kellsterik posted:

I don't know if you're going to cover the whole section, but I had a similar reaction to another example of a demon inhabiting an evil person, the cult leader who destroys her followers' lives. She's written as a very mundane lowercase-e evil that just kind of unsettled me.
ask and ye shall receive

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Part 6: The Setting (Sorta)
The book is up front that it doesn’t present a pre established setting. There’s no Super City where heroes and villains regularly duke it out and page after page of NPC’s that live in there. There’s no supposition as to the true nature of angels and demons and what this would mean for humanity as a whole. There’s no metaplot to speak of. It’s just a toolbox for you to use to make your own setting and plot with. The section does give a few examples on how to alter some of the underlying premises of the setting and what effect this might have on the game itself.

For example, the core premise of the game is demons, angels who have fallen from grace, inhabiting human bodies and whispering dark things in their ear. People who have grown up around religion are probably familiar enough with this, one side has the halos, the other side has the pitchforks, one side good, the other side bad. The downside is this does have a lot of implications for both the players and the setting. It means that God with the capital G is real which might be fine but could cause friction in the group given how many denominations of Christianity there are. And while it’s not something that might be as divisive as much as some of the things in, say, Dogs in the Vineyard, it is something you should consider and be aware of.

So what if you don’t want to use the traditional angels and demons? Well the book offers a few alternative explanations. You might use angels and demons as extraterrestrial beings, playing out a struggle on earth like so many other battlefields elsewhere. Maybe they’re experimenting or testing earthlings for some purpose. It’s possible there’s something humanity has that they want and this is their best way of going about it. When you’re running something like this the goal of the screwtape changes. It’s not about sinning any more, maybe their instructions don’t even make a lot of sense. They might be entirely amoral, only looking at the quickest and most efficient way of solving any problem regardless of the consequences. Instead of being dragged to hell they risk creating a device that will allow them to be abducted, and exorcism becomes removing an alien implant from your body which will likely be rather unpleasant.

You might also choose to do something in a vein similar to Lovecraft. The familiar demons and angels we’ve come to love replaced by voices from beyond, entities that live beyond our knowledge of time and space and can reach across the void to touch your mind. The demons in this kind of scenario would likely be more callous than normal, devoid of humor and anything resembling a human emotion. Their demands might not be sinful or have some sort of grand agenda like an alien, but instead be utterly inscrutable. Each task they give you seems to do nothing but you get the sinking feeling there's some underlying plan at work you simply cannot understand. Likewise angels may ask similarly of their host, defending humanity for equally inscrutable reasons and likely being a terrible burden for their hosts as much as their opponents. A game like this would probably have a far more nihilistic and grim tone than the prior options.

There’s also the idea that the demons aren’t real, at least not in the traditional sense, but instead reflections of the collective unconscious. They act like demons are supposed to act because they believe they’re demons. I’m just going to quote the book on this one:


If you’re not hip to Jung, here’s the quick version, adjusted for RPGs: Your conscious, individual self is the one of which you are most aware. But you have an unconscious mind, gnawing at suppressed fears and desires, irrational and only truly free in dreams. That’s Freud territory, but Jung goes him one better. Freud’s unconscious was still individual, with each man an island. Jung’s collective unconscious is the ocean in which those islands sit—a stew of common beliefs, archetypal social roles, urban legends and sourceless factoids that “everyone knows.”
The big thing this does is ask the question “Where do powers come from then?” And if all of this can be done simply because people believe in it is it something you can exploit? After all the only limit to your powers is people’s beliefs in what you can do.

Demon History

Another consideration that might come up in a given game is how long has this conflict has been going on. If it’s been going on since as far back as recorded history you’re going to either change some historical events, just to reflect this sort of power being wielded. If you want history to stay the same with demons running around then people might come to the conclusion that many of history’s great atrocities happened because of demonic influence which has it’s own share of implications. Likewise that the heroes of history didn’t succeed by themselves but instead had angelic assistance. Of course there’s the possibility that while angels and demons have existed they simply did not have the power to change history. Angels and demons tend to cancel each other out and in the grand scheme of things don’t have the same effect on the world as sweeping social movements and worldwide wars.

The alternative is that people hosting angels and demons is a relatively new occurrence. It makes the whole superhero thing make sense as all these people have powers, comics are already a thing, one naturally leads to the other. But then you probably will have to ask, at some point, how are others reacting to this sudden new thing? Is the government cracking down on heroes and villains alike? Are they looking to employ them instead? Are people rolling around in radioactive waste and developing super soldier serum in their basements trying to get a similar effect? And how is this affecting international relations? There’s a lot of questions that might get asked, and you might rapidly approach a Watchmen like scenario where the country with the most heroes makes other countries very, very nervous.

Another alternative is this kind of event comes and goes. Every hundred years demons and angels get to come down to earth and do as much good and evil as they can for a decade. At the end they’re all banished from whence they came and the rest of world can go back to exploring and warring. This also means there might be treasure troves of ancient demonic artifacts left around


You ever hear of the Baghdad battery, or the Antikythera Mechanism? All that stuff could have fallen off the super-suits of a B.C. version of the Abysmal Anarchist. (”Look out, Xeno! That clock he’s carrying is accurate to within five minutes!”)
You could use this as the core of a story itself, similar to the comic The Wicked + The Divine (Which you should read, it’s pretty great, though more serious than better angels) with some shadowy group manipulating these sudden appearances.

Some Short Campaign Ideas that kind of give you an idea of the kind of games you can run or something you can insert into an ongoing campaign.

#1 Raining on the Parade - A superhero who has thwarted the PCs in the past is getting a statue of them erected, and there’ll be a parade leading up to its unveiling. Unfortunately this has caused friction between city hall and the police, who see this as being snubbed in favor of a more glamorous amateur. Even as the parade begins the police have started picketing. Cameras are everywhere. It’s a prime opportunity for some comeuppance. And maybe they put some effort into sabotaging that precious statue of theirs?

#2 Where’s my Handout - A disaster has befallen a foreign country leading to an outpouring of donations from the people, all loaded up in a freighter and ready to head out. Now sinking the ship would be incredibly cruel. But holding it hostage would be quite villainous. Perhaps threatening to replace all the bottled water with far less healthy soda!

#3 Billiongin’s Island - A liquor magnate has grown rather eccentric and erratic as of late. They’ve spent billions creating an artificial island in the shape of their family crest (which they designed earlier that year) and placed a massive mansion it. It’s entirely self sustaining and lately they’ve communicated less and less with the outside world. Of course this would also be the perfect base for a group of supervillains, but what kind of defenses does it have? And the billionaire has always seemed a bit sinister in their own right, what if they’re a supervillain as well?

#4 In the Autumn, it’s a Riot of Color - (this one has a bit of a hosed up premise but one which is coming all too common nowadays, be forewarned) A white police officer guns down an unarmed minority in broad daylight, surrounded by cameras and witnesses. It takes only hours before the rioting starts and violence engulfs the city. Do the PCs take advantage of the situation, taking the opportunity to rob or even taking responsibility for the tragedy? Or do they try to quietly defuse the situation without their demon realizing what’s going on?

#5 Sticks and Stones - A person vying for a political office has started mocking your villainous group. Making fun of their costumes and names on public television. Are you a bad enough dude to put a stop to this?

#6 Whatever Happened to Professional Courtesy - The PCs are already pretty well established, and other villains know to keep out of the area, however someone didn’t get that memo. The Human Volcano has already used their powers to close down several highways into and out of the city, and threaten to the same to the airport and any other means of entry into the city, isolating them from the outside world. All they demand is a billion dollars, a tv channel and the weather girl’s hand in marriage. If the PCs just beat him up, they’ll look like heroes. Can they solve this problem while maintaining their villainous cred?

#7 Poaching - Another villain is taking credit for the groups heinous acts, getting all the publicity and notoriety that demons crave. Who are they and what do they want?Is there a way to fix this situation?

#8 Poached - A key witness under complete police protection is murdered under their noses in a very gruesome way. What were they a witness to, and why were they murdered? Should the PCs take the credit/blame or are would they be getting into something far deeper than they’re prepared to handle?

#9 Pretty Please? - This requires catering to the PCs but the gist is that there’s a problem a hero cannot solve which would be easily fixed by one of the players demonic powers. The hero has come asking for their help, on bended knee and will do anything for assistance on this. How much will the players ask for in return?

#10 Too Good to be True (That’s a lie) - There’s a local opportunity coming up. Maybe the museum is putting up a display which matches your style to a T, maybe an international summit you could wreck. It seems like it would be perfect, maybe even too perfect. A little research shows it’s a trap, but do they go through with it anyway? Can they get what they want while avoiding the ambush?

#11 I Know What you did Last Thursday - A random bystander has found out one of the groups secret identities. They aren’t a criminal mastermind or anything, but they do want something in exchange for their silence? Will they be able to solve this problem without wanton murder?

#12 Cheap Imitations - Another supervillain group is cramping on your style. Their names and costumes are all derivative of your own, cheapening the brand you’ve spent so much effort creating. And what if it’s a growing group of people, all imitating your look (badly)?

#13 I Feel we should be Interacting - A mysterious figure known only as the White Phantom has been appearing around the city. They are shrouded in secrecy, appearing all over the place and vanishing without a trace? Are they a new hero, or a villain? Nope, they’re just a regular person who likes dressing up and being mysterious. A red herring in another plot.

Very Mysterious

#14 Shoulda Done More Pushups - In the middle of a fight with lasers and cars flying everywhere the powers suddenly stop, both the villains and the heroes. Now they’re left awkwardly standing around figuring out what to do next, and the angels and demons are entirely silent. Will they try and get their powers back, do they even WANT them back?

#15 “Rat Fink” is such an Ugly Phrase - A person or power approaches one of the PCs with an offer, sell out the others and escape whatever they’ve got coming, or join them in suffering. Are they a crime lord or a police captain? Can they turn this to their advantage?

#16 Kiss the Ring - The leader of a cartel has become enamored with one of the villains. Maybe they embody the leader’s ideal qualities, maybe the leader sees their parents in the villain, the reason is up to you. If they agree they’re shaking down people for money, threatening rivals and doing other criminal, if ultimately petty, acts on behalf of the cartel. Crime, but on such a small scale it’s a waste really. The bad news is the cartel won’t take no for an answer.

#17 The Focus Groups Hated It -
A movie is being made about a hero and the villain is playing a role. Well, an actor will be playing the role of the villain but think of the publicity. That is until the script is leaked and it’s AWFUL. They’re making you look like an idiot and doing things you’d never even consider. So what are you going to do about it?

#18 The Malebolgean Candidate - A local mom is running for a senate seat and she has a solid chance. She’s a pillar of the community and her hard work at a local level been a boon to the beleaguered people. But the PCs notice that not only does she have a screwtape, but they recognize her from a crime where she betrayed them. If they try to stop her they’ll pretty much be handing her the senate seat, the players are supervillains after all. They’ll have to come up with something...subtle.

#19 Wannabes - One of the PCs has become popular enough that kids are starting to imitate them. Their look, their attitude, the whole deal. If the PC approaches them they’ll be more than happy to become minions but it turns out spoiled middle class kids don’t really bring a lot to the table.

#20 I Want One! - A fantastic scientific discovery! Dinosaurs have been discovered by a very remote lake in Africa. Imagine how cool it would be to have one, robbing banks on the back of a dinosaur. Every hero, villain and billionaire is going to want one so it’s a race to see who gets what.

#21 The Fixer Upper - An amusement park is going bankrupt, but it would make an amazing villainous lair. But a real estate firm already has their eye on it and they have pull in the community and local government. Still, it would make for a super cool lair. And there’s the rumor the park is haunted after some teens were ritually sacrificed by a satanic coven but what are the odds of that being true?

One last bit of fiction.


The hero faded from sight.

He’d never let on that he could turn invisible. People knew he could fly and they knew beams of force from his eyes could punch through cinder blocks, but the invisibility… he kept that one up his sleeve. In fact, he’d designed his entire… well, he guessed the guys teaching “Heroic Semiotics” at the university would call it his “persona”… around gaining attention. The costume was a garish red and yellow number with fractal-inspired flame patterns on the forearms, ankles and waist. He was hard to miss, but when he knew he was soon going to tangle with the vicious Vicicle, he preferred to remain unseen. He wasn’t the only one whose powers could punch through cinder blocks, and the last time he’d fought the selfstyled “Cold Pimp Supreme” a flying icicle had hit his armored crotch hard enough to leave him walking funny for two days.

He took a deep breath to try and calm himself, but the moments before the fight were like a drug. Later on at home, when he was swallowing ibuprofen and trying to stretch the soreness out of his limbs, he’d see everything he did as an exercise in self-sacrifice, as a martyrdom for justice, as selfless and high-minded heroism. But at moments like this, right before gittin’ it on, he had to admit it was fun. It was blackdiamond skiing and high-stakes poker and after-hours dance clubbing all rolled into one magnificent, brightly colored thing If he had to take a couple of shots to the ‘nads now and then, it was worth it for the rush.

(He always thought of his super-clashes as “gittin’ it on” and had considered trying to make “Let’s git it on!” his tag-line. But he couldn’t; the guy with the flame-colored cape was too self-conscious to do it. He knew with a bleak certainty that snarky sexual banter would inevitably follow, not just from the villainous, but from those goddamn teens on the Internet. Villains demeaned everything. It was one more thing to hold against them.)

A couple of inches off the floor of the New City History Museum, he drifted forward, unseen, no footsteps

to hear, inching closer to the center of the crime, feeling the temperature drop from summery to cool to cold. When he started to see snow on the floor, he smiled. No footprints from him.

His breath was visible as he came around the corner into the museum’s great central chamber. It didn’t occur to him that might give him away until he heard Vicicle’s odd mix of lordly formality and coarse gutter patois.

“Kid Hell,” he drawled. “Thou art prompt wid’ a realness.”

But the hero didn’t hear the villain say “Slumber gently, y’all,” because a bolt of frosty force had already smashed his face and left him dazed on the floor.

When he awoke, Kid Hell’s teeth were chattering viciously, and he could feel cold leaking into his feet and arms. Spreadeagled in midair, his limbs were frozen into a massive snowball behind him, pushing his back into an uncomfortable arc.

“Behold the great icy fool,” intoned Vicicle. Kid Hell could hear him, but not see him. He craned his neck down and just barely caught sight of his foe sitting on a looted Theban judge’s chair. A woman was sitting on his lap, absent-mindedly stroking his hair.

“Y’all might take yo’ shot, bitch-rear end,” the villain continued, “if thou trusteth thy aim to smite me an’ miss my new friend, Museum Director Bates.”

“I loooove you,” the mesmerized woman crooned.

“Shut up, baby, I know it.”

Kid Hell desperately tried to find an option. Blast the ice away from his hands and feet? No, he’d break his own bones. The ball was too heavy to fly off the floor. Desperately, he turned himself invisible, hoping that Vicicle might think he’d teleported….

No luck. Instead of a startled mistake, Vicicle responded to Kid Hell’s gambit with a deep laugh and a snowball to the chest.

“He still there, see,” he said, “And his puny games best stop immediately, lest my wrath fall upon him through a groin pummeling of awe-striking proportions, yuh huh.”

“What is it you want, you frozen deviant?”

“Want? I wanna make money and bend bitches, yo, but first I got bidness. Don’t you worry ‘bout what I want. Concern thyself with what I command!”

“Oh, so you need my help?” Kid Hell asked.

“Word unto thy sagging-teated materfamilias, I need nothing. But you need to get yo’ head straight and bend knee to thy lord and master, rightly won through battle’s trial!”

“Sure, just let me down…”

“Soon enough. We ain’t got much time. The Reaver, the Roamer and the Robot Messiah are on they way here and anon, we must attend to their depredations an’ whatnot.”

“The Three-R All-Stars? Oh, they’ll settle your hash soon enough, Vicicle! My embarrassment is a small price to pay…”

“Those dumb fools think they heroes, just like you. Ignorant, they think they’re coming for me, but they bein’ led by the nose. ‘S all about Cambodia, boy!”

Kid Hell blinked. “I knew there was an exhibition opening here, stuff from that temple on the Cambodian flag…”

“I’m confident that yo’ deep and inky ignorance makes no exception for Indochinese cultural history,” the villain spat, adding “Bee-yotch” as an afterthought. “The great city temple of Angkor was left untouched by Cambodia’s civil war, with even the Khmer Rouge respecting its integrity…”

“Keep talking,” Kid Hell said as he struggled to see if he could free a hand by stripping it out of its frozen glove. “This is fascinating.”

“Aight then, let’s try another way. Where’d superheroes come from?”

“Uh… various places. Genetic engineering, um, a tech accident for Robot Messiah… implants… nanotechnology… um…”

“An’ all that nano jive did nuthin’ before 1991, an’ it all came together that one year?”

“Hey, I read all about it in that one Wired article, it was… was… emergent complexity! Chaos math, that explained it! Chaos math… and stuff,” he mumbled.

“Thou hast dined upon this fatuous claim of ‘emergent complexity’ as if ‘twere the finest Chateaubriand steak, when verily ‘tis naught but a stankass pile of doo-doo butter.”

Kid Hell blinked. “What?”

“1991! The end of the Cambodian civil war, the beginning of the looting of Angkor Wat! Five hun’red an’ forty guardian statues displaced, stolen, chopped up an’ sent abroad after centuries undisturbed! Including the one you frozen against right now!”

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

“When’d you start hearin’ the voice?”

Kid Hell felt a chill that had nothing to do with the giant ice ball at his back. “I don’t hear voices.”

“Nah, but you hear a voice, don’tcha? Or is it just a feelin’? An inchoate and partiallyformed sensation, emotions alien to yo’ former life but seeming more natural and native daily? Something in you, put into words or merely a tugging of spirit, crying for destruction, excitement, release?”


“Oh aie, don’t try an’ fool a pimp, boy.” Vicicle was on his feet now, staring arrogantly up at his prisoner. His embroidered blue coat brushed the snow with its white trim, gold sparkling from his teeth, the peacock feather in his widebrimmed hat bobbing gently as he spoke.

“You think a brother in the ‘hood with a few tricks is gonna essperiment with ‘nanites’ or have a ‘radiation accident’? I’m possessed, an’ so are you, and so are those three wroth knaves heading here right now to destroy that statue once an’ for all. Oh, my ungentle spirit was well fuddled from its agelong confinement in darkness vile, and seeing my raiment took me for a king. How it raged to learn it had gifted icy glory upon a common bawd! But so long as the statue remains, it is trapped within me, bound in part to my will. Let your fellow ‘heroes,’ your All-Stars, let them have a piece a’ me an’ I promise that guardian’s gonna get blowed up inna battle. They fierce. You help me, we might just fight ‘em off, keep the statue whole, keep a lid on this bubblin’ kettle of devil poo.”

“You’re insane.”

“On my honor I speak truth.” Vicicle shrugged. “You can kill me. You can eyebeam the livin‘ crap outta me right now, f’real. I’m playin’ double or nothin’.” Outside the hall, Kid Hell could hear the thundering footsteps of the Robot Messiah. “Or you can let yourself believe what you know, deep down. Somethin’ in you ain’t good, it’s evil. You can accept truth and just maybe fight the beast. Or you can deny it, remain no more than an idiot with a flame-print jockstrap, and do far more evil in virtue’s name than ever I have in the cause of vice.”

Mind spinning, Kid Hell felt the ice around him withdraw and he dropped to the floor

with the first thunderous blow against the chamber’s sealed door.

“Hide yo’self,” Vicicle said gruffly as he moved into position. “If them three don’t mop me up right away, they might just let something slip.”

Kid Hell floated to the ceiling, unseen like heat haze on a summer day, as the door sundered.

“Vicicle, you cold-hearted fiend!” cried the Reaver. “Hand over the statue and no one gets hurt!”

So there you have it. Honestly I like Better Angels if just for being a nice change of pace. Having the players work with and against each other at the same time keeps everyone interested, and it’s a simple enough system to pick up and play. Using motivation as a means of determining dice pools rather than attributes is something a lot of games don't do, and that's not to say it would work for every game, but at the very least it's a novel idea. It has issues, especially if you have a group where people might not always make it. But I'd recommend giving it a try.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Alright, so I'm trying to wrap my mind around beast so correct me if I'm wrong. When someone becomes a beast their soul is eaten, or they're born that way, and for the sake of keeping things simple they have a dragon beast. So this thing is in the place of their soul, but isn't under their direct control. And it wanders around at night when they sleep. It can't really manifest in the physical world. It's kind of like if you gave a cat terrible terrible powers. They get a lair, but they can't really just pop in and chill, the dragon just kind of stays there when it's not tormenting random people. Heroes can go there physically, but most people end up going there in a dream. It's only in the lair that the dragon is really dragony and where it does most of the pointless torturing. I don't know, beast just seems kind of all over the place.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Alright, I felt like I was missing something for the longest time because I kept expecting an update to feature "Okay, at this point you can take this ability that lets you breathe fire because you're a dragon or you turn into a giant tentacle spider or what have you." So much of what the horror is seems disconnected from the player. I mean to what I said before it's like a game where you're just a normal person responsible for an rear end in a top hat cat with superpowers and if you don't feed it blood and suffering it runs outside and tortures people.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Count Chocula posted:

I don't support the rape, but now that the idea of it being a game about 'solipsistic rage' has been introduced I feel like I almost need to defend it since it's such a good idea.

No it's not, it's a loving dumb idea. We have another word for solipsistic rage, you've probably heard it before, it's called a tantrum. Children do it. Most people stop as they get older.

Count Chocula posted:

Beast just brings the monstrosity down on everyday annoyance and petty assholes.

Yes, you are being absolutely inhumane to random people for doing something you don't like but isn't breaking a law which is STAGGERINGLY psychopathic. You don't stop for an instance to consider their life, or what they're going through or anything even in the same time zone as sympathy or empathy. You mentally torture someone who didn't tip well but don't consider that he straight up doesn't have the money at the moment. The guy who cut you off might be not paying attention to the road because his wife is having a baby and he doesn't want to miss it at any cost. It's like you're playing postal without the veneer or argument of humor. Beasts have zero redeeming qualities whereas even vampires will do good, even if its just because of their own self interest. Unlike all the other splats where the power carries a burden beast just says "Might Makes Right LOL" and if anyone tries to stop you from being a monster they're in the wrong for no reason that's ever really explained.

This thread has covered rpgs where stars collapse on themselves and yet you're still the densest thing in this thread.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

iirc you're talking about the masamune which would only cut through his adamantium skeleton, which would be very inconvenient. They do the mystery metal carbonadium which can cancel the healing factor. Comics can get weird.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

Doresh posted:

I'm pretty sure the sword creates wounds you can't healfactor away. I think he killed Sabretooth with that (at least for a while).

Alright, I had to look it up and the explanation is about as crazy as you'd expect from comics. Muramasa made this sword (the second muramasa apparently) with a piece of wolverines soul and it does stop the healing factor letting wolverine kill sabertooth for a few weeks. I still stand by my statement that comics got weird.

Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

The Play’s the Thing is an interesting rpg. It’s not a superb example of game design, or a massive budget, but it has a fun premise and provides an excellent change of pace to the more serious minded RPGs out there. The basic premise of the game is that the players are all actors in a play. They jockey for parts and will likely (definitely) try to do some improv when they’re up there. It might be because they forgot their lines, or they didn’t pay attention to the script. It might be because they want some more time on stage and are willing to do TERRIBLE things to the plot in order to get their way. So, if you’ve ever wanted to be the Tybalt who decides to kill Romeo in the duel, to be the more reasonable MacBeth or to just straight up introduce martial arts to Hamlet, it’s up to you.

It starts like many other RPG books, a brief history of what inspired the game, a section describing the act of roleplaying. It does have a section which I appreciate which gives a very explicit overview on what the game is about and how to play it.


“In my game, the players portray actors who have been called by the Playwright to rehearse a Tragedy, comedy, or history. The actors must follow the style, plot, and lines they are given, but will, of course, attempt to improve the play by offering their own suggestions and improvising as often as they can get away with it.
The Playwright, on the other hand, wishes to see his work brought to life by the actors, but is bound by their egos, desires, and failings. he must inspire them to greatness, and cannot let them derail the entire show. he has to use their new ideas to improve the show without ruining what made the show great in the first place”

The game itself largely follows the structure of a play. The Playwright acts as the director of the play. Each game is divided into Acts. The Players take the role of Actors, are cast in Roles, and will probably (definitely) do what they can to change the play to their liking. In my experience this can range anywhere from adding an extra soliloquy as a scene ends to showing up on stage in cardboard power armor. It’s really going to depend on the group. The Playwright acts as a sort of adjudicator, doing their best to make their dream play a reality despite the continued efforts of all the actors. Story points are the main resource in the game. You get them for following the play as it’s currently going, following the themes and plots as they’ve developed, and can spend them to make changes to the play. They are awarded by the Playwright and as a Playwright it’s expected you’ll be fairly liberal with them.

The Actors
Most of the players will be Actors. All you need for the actor is a name, a rough idea of what kind of person they are and what they want out of the play. One might want as much stage time and lines as possible. They want to be the center of attention, always. Another might only be here because they’re bored and are interested in doing the absolute minimum. Another might be the aspiring Oscar winner who treats the play with reverence and acts their heart out in any role.

Actors also have Chops which act as their stats and reflect the ways they are best at changing the play. We have
Logos: This deals with your ability to change events or the way they unfold. This is changing the results of a duel or an ambush
Pathos: This is your ability to affect parts and plots. These rolls let you add plots to characters or ignore others. For example convincing Juliet that Romeo isn’t that interesting.
Ethos: This is how well you can affect the props and setting of the play. This is how you pull out the hidden stage knife or convince the Playwright the play would be much more interesting on the moon.

You have 6 points to allocate to these three stats and none of them can go over 3. It all depends on what you’d like to be best at. You might also notice that these are fairly broad, and might even overlap or require adjudication in certain circumstances. At that point it’s best to come to an agreement with the playwright.

So, at this point you’re going to pick your actor Type, which acts like your class and represents the kind of person you are on and off the stage. You are given an Onstage Ability which you can use while you are currently in the scene, an Offstage Ability that can be used when you aren’t, and a Direction. A Direction is something the Playwright can ask you for that you must do, and can often be a source of additional Story Points. They can, however, only ask once an Act. For example we have:

The Ham
This is the kind of person who is invigorated by the audience, for good and bad. They live for the applause, the tears, the laughter, all of it.
Onstage Ability: They may yell “Cut!”, enabling them to suggest a change, without having to spend a story point.
Offstage Ability: They may spend a story point to compel an actor on stage to call for you. They can spend their own story point and refuse but if they accept they gain your story point.
This is important because under normal circumstances if you are offstage you can’t simply walk back on. This allows them to come back on stage at a time of their choosing, even if it’s wildly inappropriate for the play. For example if a sinister group is planning the assassination of the actor he can use this ability to hop into the scene which would make things rather awkward but certainly entertaining.
Direction: Once an act, when directed by the playwright, you must deliver a soliloquy. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing on stage, if you’re the king or the janitor, you have to drop everything to deliver a speech to the audience about what your character is thinking about.

We’ll get into these mechanics in more detail further on.

The Basics
Once you’ve created your actor it’s time for Casting. The Playwright will introduce the play, either one already established or one they’ve made themselves. The Playwright should give out a Synopsis of the play as well as a Cast List and give everyone 5 Story Points to start out with. The Playwright will start with a Name for the character, a Part, their Plot and a Prop.

Parts are the jobs or titles their character possesses. It represents the basic motivations and duties of the character. Each Part comes with a description of what it entails as well as an Invoke and Compel. An Invoke can be used when you want to change the play in a way that would be in character and gives you bonus dice to the role. A Compel is something the other actors can use to entice you to stay in character through the use of story points. Yes this is similar to FATE.
There are several example Parts in the book.

The Exile
A stranger in strange lands you either cannot return to your home or are forbidden to.
Invoke: Gain two dice when acting against those who exiled you
Compel: You are alien to this place, act like it.

The Knight
You follow a lord or ideal with dedication and honor, even against your own interests.
Invoke: Gain two dice when fulfilling your commitments
Compel: You cannot act against your liege’s will.

There are others like Ruler, Commoner and Nurse and are outlined similarly. When making these for a new or existing play they’re fairly easy to create which is helpful.

Plots are similar to Parts but focus instead on how you relate to another character. These can be mutual like between a teacher and student, or entirely one sided. These must relate to other characters in the play and can’t be referring to people who are only alluded to. Like Parts these also have Invokes and Compels and can be used to influence the play to your liking and influence you to act more in character.
For examples there are

You are the child of another character and, regardless how you feel about them, this is a meaningful bond.
Invoke: Gain two dice when dealing with your parents
Compel: You must obey the head of the family regardless of how you feel.

In Love
You are in love with someone to a degree which no one else could fathom.
Invoke: Gain two dice when pursuing your love
Compel: Love can make us do foolish things

Props are items used for dramatic effect on stage and give a die bonus for specific tasks. Unlike Parts and Plots these aren’t associated with a specific character. If a knight drops his sword the queen can pick it up and use it herself. Examples:

Crown: Add one die when acting as the rightful ruler.
Coin: Add one die when convincing someone to follow your plan.

Places are specific areas of a Set and act similarly to props though with less rigid guidelines on what situations will give the actor a bonus. For example the Set might be in a castle and through the play itself as well as edits you might add a feasting hall, a throne room, a dungeon and really any place that might conceivably be in a castle.

Finally, once you’ve been given your roles the Playwright will give you a few Lines that your character will say during the course of the play. These are the well known lines that even people unfamiliar with Shakespeare probably know. "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefor art thou Romeo?" If you manage to to use one in an appropriate scenario you get a story point. If you do so with gusto, brimming with emotion and chewing the scenery like your life depended on it you might get anywhere between 3 to 5 story points.

Knowing what these are we can now talk about players choosing these at the beginning of the play. As written, once the players have their Actors chosen and filled in their Chops the Playwright will introduce the play with a brief summary and provide a complete cast list of all the available parts. The Playwright will then start at the top with the Role’s Name, Plot, Part and associated Prop, as well as a few story points that are awarded to whoever claims it. Players now go around the table and can either Pass on the character, Claim the character and the story points, or Bid on the Character.

Bidding on a character is a way of adding to it, making it more complex but potentially more interesting to play. When you Bid on a part you can add an additional Plot or Part and add an additional Story Point to whoever ends up playing it. If there are more parts than there are players the Playwright can read for those parts during play.

If a Character goes around twice with no one claiming it it will be read by the Playwright during the game.

An Important note. You might end up with a Role which is riddled with Parts, Plots and Props, enough to make actually playing it quite daunting. For better or worse you are limited to the amount of these you can bring on stage and invoke during any given act.
You can’t have more Parts than your Logos.
You can’t have more Plots than your Pathos.
You can’t have more Props than your Ethos.
The unused props are going to sit in a trunk offstage. The unused Parts and Plots however can still be invoked by the Playwright and the other actors. The characters themselves don’t change based on this either, with the book example being a King still being the King regardless if they’re using the Ruler Part or not. While they won’t be able to spend a Story Point to gain the extra dice for invoking the Part they can still be targeted by it’s Compel.

Before the game begins but after Roles have been chosen the actors also have the option of adding their own Parts and Plots to the character under the justification that they’ve seen this story before and already know what they’re supposed to do. Doing so does require the expenditure of Story Points though.

Coming up: Acting out the Play!
e: edited for better formatting

unzealous fucked around with this message at 19:20 on Apr 8, 2017


Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!

4. The Play
Alright, you’ve got your actor, you’ve got your role, you’ve picked out the plots and parts and props you’ll be using first. The Playwright sets the stage and scenery and gives an outline of the basic story that will be occurring in this act. What’s next is up to the group. By and large this game is about improvisational acting. Be as hammy as you want, have long speeches and soliloquies, chew the scenery, things like that.

An important thing of note is that if you’re off stage you can’t get on unless you’re specifically called to. If the actors on stage call on your character you can jump in without cost. Otherwise you can spend 3 Story Points at which point you can just hop on no matter what is happening.

The Playwright might periodically give instructions or reminders of how things are supposed to go, but of course if that were all to this game it wouldn’t be very entertaining. That’s where edits come in. Edits are the meat and potatos of the game mechanics. Its how everyone can make changes to the play as it's progressing, changing the plot, the set, whatever they fancy.

If the Actors start straying from the script but want to keep going they can spend a Story Point and yell “CUT!” From this point a few different things might happen. If the Playwright likes the change he can simply accept it and the play will now carry on in this new direction. If not they can decide to FORCE AN EDIT, which is where this game slows down but also the part that generates a lot of the enjoyment.

First, you have to figure out how big a change this is going to be.
A Trivial Edit is changing the name of someone or where someone else is standing, something small that won’t really impact the plot as written.
A Minor Edit is one that will or has the potential to change the narrative such as changing the set or forcing someone off the stage.
A Major Edit is one that’s going to greatly change how the story is going to play out. These are things like a character dying, a revelation which might add a Plot or Part to the story like Hamlet having an Evil Twin or Romeo actually falling in love with Tybalt.

Once you figure out how big an Edit it will be you need to figure out which of your Chops (Ethos, Pathos, Logos) you’ll be using depending on what your Edit will be affecting. Then you add up bonus dice from invoking a Part or Plot and/or for having the appropriate Prop or Set, though you only get one of each for any given roll. The example from the book lays it out rather nicely.


“The Earl of Kent says “I will change the King’s mind so that he does not banish Cordelia (+2 Logos). It is only right that I do so, as I am his Knight (+2) and his Friend (+2). I will call upon the Formal Court, as I am making my plea formally known (+1), and I am willing to donate a bag of Coin to the kingdom as a symbol of my loyalty to the throne (+1). I get eight dice.“ “

Of course someone else might not be on board with your edit. Whether they want to keep the play as pristine as possible or they’d rather see it play out according to their own machinations they can spend a Story Point and form up a dice pool using the same guidelines. Whoever rolls higher, assuming they beat the target number, has their Edit made into the play.

Assuming the Actor has rolled high enough the Playwright will narrate how their change has affected the scene and the direction of the play and will resume play usually by calling “Action!

Another important thing that can come up during the play is being Wounded or Poisoned in the play outside of the script. This is always an important event to the story and should be treated as such, but they will be fine if they get through the act. Being Wounded or Poisoned is a Minor Edit while its more severe counterpart of Mortally Wounded/Poisoned is a Major Edit. If an actor is Wounded or Poisoned a second time, or just straight up Mortally Wounded or Poisoned they will die, but not before they’re allowed a lengthy death speech. Between acts they can be Cast in a new role by the Playwright.

The last act of the play is similar to how the others have been described with the exception that the Playwright should also give an idea of how the Play is supposed to end. There’s likely going to be some singular events that need to happen to keep the play in line, there needs to be the death, the marriage, the speech, something like that. Of course this might have changed during the course of the Play so it’s up to the Actors and Playwright to figure out how to hammer out an ending with whatever's happened so far.

4.5 The Actors (Now with Context)
So now that you know how the rules work the types of Actors will make more sense. We’ve already discussed The Ham so now we can take a look at some of the other types.

The Lead is the thespian, the person in it for the love of the craft. While they take their job seriously that doesn’t mean they’re stodgy or dull, they just don’t let things distract them from their art.
Onstage Ability: You can spend a Story Point to bring an additional part onstage with you beyond the limit of your Logos. This can give you more options when looking to change the story to your liking by acting as an additional avenue for bonus dice.
Offstage Ability: You can spend Story Points on behalf of another actor. If someone has a good idea for an Edit or would love to use their ability but simply can’t at the moment you can graciously give them a bit of your prowess.
Direction: At the Playwrights direction you must stand and face a source of danger whether you really want to or not. If you had the bright idea of avoiding a duel you know you’re supposed to lose? Tough. Face them like the Actor you are.

The Villain always seems to look like they’re up to no good. No matter what role they’re playing people expect deception from them. They love the scenes where they can backstab and where things escalate to brutal (stage) violence.
Onstage Ability: You can spend a story point to immediately wound or poison another actor without requiring a roll. This may not seem like much but remember that everyone here is an actor. If you’ve been wounded you should play the part or else you’re kind of negating the premise.
Offstage Ability: You can spend a story point to whisper a nasty rumor to someone on the stage, likely one concerning another Actor. If you spend an additional Story Point they must believe the rumor is true and act accordingly. Like their onstage ability this relies on participation from the other parties but should be embraced as such.
Direction: When directed you cannot show mercy or justice to someone, no matter how insignificant or reasonable the request is.

The Ingenue is the person new to the craft who’s looking at this new world with wide, innocent eyes. They project a sort of naivete that others often find charming and even enthralling.
Onstage Ability: You can spend a Story Point to reroll a failed Pathos roll. If you’ll recall Pathos rolls are for Edits concerning the actions of the Actors.
Offstage Ability: You can spend a Story Point to allow someone else to reroll a failed Logos roll, which are used to effect the set and the setting.
Direction: If the Playwright asks you must put yourself in danger somehow, either the result of someone else’s actions or your own.

5. The Playwright
So this is the Dungeonmaster, Storyteller, Referee of the game. Your job is to keep things moving, to keep people engaged as best you can and look upset when they inevitably take your play and turn it into something entirely different. The book does give some suggestions on how to make the game run better and I think they’re quite important to this game in particular.

1. Be Prepared. This isn’t like other RPGs where you can just improv your way through the whole thing. You’re going to need a Cast List with Parts and Props set up ahead of time unless you want your players to twiddle their thumbs while you figure things out. Thankfully the book itself has pre written scripts for several plays that have done almost all of the heavy lifting for you which is extremely convenient. Especially if you want to play on short notice.

2. Don’t plan too much. This is a game where much of the fun comes specifically from things going off the rails, trying new things, letting people explore the space as it were.
Encourage your players to engage. This particular entry is important because it explicitly encourages doling out story points whenever people are engaged. Always ask if they’d like to make an Edit and encourage them to do so, after all it’s the crux of the game.

3. Use Directions and Compels. Every Actor type has a direction which can be used to help keep things moving. Using these not only engage and motivate the Actors it also provides them with Story Points they can use at their own discretion. The Author states they use them whenever possible which, again, is nice to see explicitly stated.

4. Focus on the Ending. You know how the play is going to end. In a death, a marriage, a huge speech, and you should be angling towards that during play. If they try to avoid the obvious fate it's not out of sorts to have their plans suddenly turn back on them fulfilling the prophecy they sought to avoid.

6. The Plays
The next section gives some advice that’s more specific to certain categories of Shakespeare's plays. It leads with an overview of the genre and follows with tips specific to be the Playwright for that sort of play. And this is also where I reveal my ignorance about Shakespeare’s plays as I largely summarize what’s in the book but if anyone has any more insight or information by all means post away.

Comedies generally focus on an entangled romantic relationship between highborn characters that ends in marriage. There are problems but they generally aren’t life threatening. There are additional lowborn characters that have a plot that intertwines with the lovers and the lowborn also serve as a source of slapstick humor and innuendo. The ending will generally be happy even if it’s not “and they lived happily ever after”.
As far as running a Comedy goes the player’s probably aren’t going to have a problem with the comedic parts as people tend to do that even in serious games albeit not always in character. Reward story points regularly for one-liners and pratfalls. If they try to avoid the marriage or marry someone else that’s fine. It’s ultimately the premise of the game itself and should be expected if not encouraged. With these plays your main job as a playwright is to ultimately keep the mood lighthearted and jovial.

Tragedies focus on how one’s actions can lead to one’s downfall. Even if it’s prophesied that they will come to a tragic end it is ultimately their decisions that lead to their undoing. These plays are very focused on the main plot. Terrible things will happen to those who deserve it and to those that don’t. There will be blood, and while not everyone may die it’s almost guaranteed the protagonist isn’t going to live through the end.
These plays can be a bit demoralizing, knowing how the ending will be riddled with death and destruction and their fate is all but certain but that’s no reason not to have fun doing it. The stakes in these are always high and people will probably take very little coaxing to start planning to murder each other off. And remember, when you die you always get a monologue.

Histories are about important events, usually about the English Monarchy, and then dramatizing it for a play. They tend to take some artistic licenses in portraying figures as good or evil depending on the play. These are known for onstage battles, long speeches and the replacing of one monarch with another.
With these plays there’s a lot less set in stone in terms of tone. They could be tales of coincidence and comedy or tales of hardship and sacrifice. While the play should definitely focus on the titular character it’s more up to the Actors to how they’re portrayed than the other genres. The main focus of the play is politics and all that includes. Scheming, plotting, murdering, rebelling are all part of the game.

There is one last small section here with a few frequently asked questions. Nothing spectacular but it does bring up a few important points. First is that, as the Playwright, you should be liberal with story points. This isn’t a game about survival, it’s about acting and collaborative storytelling and everyone should have the opportunity to participate. The second part concerns an eventuality that can happen in any game where death features, which is “What if my Character dies early?” Its important to know that from the perspective of both the Actor and Playwright this isn’t the end of the world and you won’t be spending the rest of the game in the quiet corner. The player who killed you might have a plan that would be interesting to see played out. And the Actor in question can either show up in another role or come back as a Spirit or some other form of undead, both of which factor heavily in Shakespeare’s plays. While not stated, if it seems like someone is dead set on just murdering everyone for no reason they’re just being an rear end in a top hat and they should probably be talked to.

So, the last third of the book is pre-written scripts for quite a number of Shakespeare’s plays. They’ve written up the Cast, doled out Parts and Props and done all the heavy lifting for you if you just wanted to jump in and start playing. It seems a bit unfair to do what would essentially just be copy pasting a large chunk of the book and what likely took a good amount of work, so instead I offer an alternative.

If anyone has any suggestions of a (preferably fairly short) play they’d like to see written up and made ready for play let me know and I’ll do my best to get it to a place where you could run a game with it.

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