Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
Wishes of long life and excitement to the fourth incarnation of our beautiful mess of a thread.

Count Chocula posted:

Does M20 address the fact that by the setting of the game, Christian Fundamentalist areas should operate under weird Biblical physics?
I would be very okay with this actually being the case, but I somehow doubt it is.

Also, Inklesspen, I'm noticing the currently done parts of my GURPS Technomancer review haven't shown up in the off-site compendium. Have you not gotten that far, or were they just lost in the shuffle?

EDIT: If so, they're here, here, and here so you don't have to waste time trying to hunt down my garbage.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 02:21 on Jan 7, 2016


Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

inklesspen posted:

I had them under Technomancer; GURPS doesn't appear on the cover art you posted. I can rename it if you like.
My apologies, I somehow completely missed that. It probably wouldn't hurt to rename it just so that all the GURPS reviews by various goons are in a clean place. I'm sure there's someone out there who might want to specifically browse GURPS reviews alone.

And again, like others have said, thank you for all your work. I have friends who have no desire to get an SA account but have wanted to read stuff from FATAL and Friends when I've mentioned it, so the fact that you are providing an outlet for that helps broaden the thread's total audience.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

It's been a long, lonesome road, but it's finally time to have the last roundup of the second book of Exodus: Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying.

Chapter 5 Continued
Trans-Genetic Mutants and the Mutant Army
In case you've forgotten in the surprisingly long time since I started reviewing the original player's guide for Exodus, Trans-Genetic Mutants are Fallout's Super Mutants with the added bonus of being "those savage thugs who are taking our women!", since unlike Super Mutants the Trans-Genetic Mutants are only half sterile rather than entirely sterile (and it's of course the males who are the fertile ones, so they steal and rape human women). About 99% of the Trans-Genetic Mutant population is in the Mutant Army, which is made up of the original TGMs from US super soldier projects, their rape babies, and child slaves that are mutated into TGMs using the still working mutagenic vats at Los Alamos. Said child slaves are why the Slaver's Union is the only human organization the Mutant Army doesn't immediately consider yet another part of an inferior species that needs to be exterminated. The rest? All on the extinction list. And since they don't have any special classes, that's about it for anything discussion-worthy.

New Era of Mexican Order (NEMO)
The remnants of Mexico have turned into a marauding conglomerate of clans made up of former corrupt soldiers, cartel members, and bandits that call themselves NEMO and claim that they will be reconquering the lands the USA took from Mexico. They're secretly actually just using this claim as a justification to be horrible people, though, and engage in torture, rape, slavery, and murder. What fun! Like the Chi Dynasty, NEMO is a xenophobic organization, only accepting members of "La Raza" (the book's use of terminology, not mine; I feel like I need to reassure that I'm not making poo poo up from time to time).

The organization is made up of tenuously connected clans that are lead by a military-style commander, or "Capitan", and his group of advisors referred to as "hombres", with a group of various rabblerousers making up the much larger bottom ranks. Attempts to create a unified NEMO through a king/emperor/what have you have always failed due to said overlord inevitably being assassinated by one Capitan or another. The only reason other Wasteland organizations fear NEMO at all is because of their sheer numbers, rather than any actual military skill or technological prowess. The only major city has taken is Phoenix, Arizona, but they have effectively cowed the rest of Arizona into such a fearful state that they can roam across it fairly freely.

Slaver's Union
Exactly what it implies. The Slaver's Union was born when multiple gangs of slavers across the Southwest realized that it would be more profitable to work together than to keep killing each other over who enslaved who. The original gangs created a continuously updating union code that decides what gangs can take which type of slave, standardize slave prices, and practices for adding new gangs to the Union. New gangs have to pay a fee and follow the direct orders of a member gang for a period of time being fully inducted into the Union, taking on the symbol that marks all of its members: the tattoo of an inverted dagger with the phrase "Only God can judge me" around it, inked right into the face with different colors and sizes depending on the specific gang the individual is a part of. Gangs that refuse to join the Slaver's Union or buy slaves from non-union gangs are mercilessly slaughtered to serve an example to others. The only exception to this rule is NEMO, who got unofficial Union membership as a loophole in order to avoid sparking a war between the two organizations. NEMO is the only organization that could truly be said to have friendly relations with the Slaver's Union, as others that buy from them such as the Mutant Army and Vegas Mafia don't trust the Union more than they do any random slave gang.

Steel Disciples
The Steel Disciples are a fraternal, closely knit group of United States Army soldiers and scientists from a Nevada fallout shelter and their children. They are a brotherhood, one might say. And a brotherhood that plans on becoming much larger, in fact. Their main goal in the Wasteland is threefold: acquire as much technology as possible, annex new territories into the safety of the Steel Disciples, and finally engage in all-out war on threats to peace such as the Mutant Army and NEMO. Their desire to be greeted as liberators rather than oppressors means that they engage in a lot of subterfuge and agitprop rather than the active conquest of their Great War predecessors. While it has worked so far, it also means that their annexation plans go slowly, which isn't helped by how slow the organization itself grows. Steel Disciples almost never expand their central command structure, and even the growth of their lower ranks is slow due to their overly strict and rigid induction policies. This means that most actual civil defense outside of the Disciples' home base of Wendover, Utah, gets handed off to local militias while the Steel Disciples themselves go off to war with enemies foreign rather than domestic.

Most Steel Disciples combat engagements usually go in their favor despite disparity in numbers, simply because they have the best toys: most of the vehicles, power armor, and energy weapons in the Wasteland are directly in the hands of the Steel Disciples cells. Of course, their technological superiority is just as in jeopardy as the rest of their operation. Knights and Paladins burn through more energy cells than they recover, and the largest nearby sources of military hardware are under control of either the Chi Dynasty, the dregs, the Mutant Army, or in a state of war between two or even all three of the aforementioned factions. The only exception is the enigmatic Groom Lake facility near Roswell, and no Steel Disciples that have gone out that way have ever returned (spoilers: we never actually learn what's up with Roswell).

The Steel Disciples also happen to mark the return of organization-based advanced classes after their absence during the three villain groups. Both of them are five level classes that bounce off of Steel Disciple classes from the player's guide, and are effectively present t obe an alternative to all high level Disciples characters heading toward Steel Disciple Paladin. The Steel Disciple Cavalier requires five levels of Steel Disciple Knight to enter, and is meant to be both a monster in combat and an expert at subterfuge. A Cavalier has full Base Attack Bonus progression, d10 hit die, and decent Reflex and Fortitude saves, but poor Will saves, and gets various bonuses to deception-related skills and combat in urban areas. They also get Tactical Strike at level 5, which is one free 30d10 attack on everything in a 1,000 foot radius courtesy of a Steel Disciples VTOL that has to be replenished by going back to Wendover after it is used. By contrast, the Steel Disciple Scholar jumps off of five levels of Steel Disciple Scribe rather than Knight, and is focused on just what its name would imply. Poor BAB and Fortitude save progression but good Reflex and Will save progression, d6 hit die, Knowledge bonuses of various stripes, blah blah blah.

The Techno-Reapers
A cult of technology-obsessed individuals that hang out at the Alamogordo air base. Their entire philosophy is based around learning and mastering as much pre-War technology as possible, thus ensuring that knowledge of its creation and utilization is regained and hopefully used to kickstart further rejuvenation of humanity. This may not sound very cult-like so far. Honestly, it probably sounds quite reasonable. Well, you'd be right, because what makes the Techno-Reapers so crazy are their edicts rather than their main life goal. Most Techno-Reapers care far more about their technology than governing, so their method of rule is to have a dictatorship where the dictator rotates out every 6 months to be evaluated and rewarded/punished by their peers for how benevolent or malevolent a dictator they were. There's also the two Three Laws documents: the Three Laws for civilians and Three Laws for Techno-Reapers. The former dictates that any citizen or visitor who comes to Alamogordo must respect all technological devices and suffer one year of hard labor if any technological device is destroyed, refrain from all violence and theft or suffer the First Law of Gulag (more on that in a moment), and if they are a mutant they cannot be in the town at all during the night and must buy a daily license to be in the town from sunup to sundown. Mutants without a license or caught at night suffer the death penalty.

The Three Laws for actual members of the Techno-Reapers are that they must find at least one piece of advanced technology in the Wasteland and learn all of its workings, must protect and preserve all technology, and must leave the order and be subject to the First Law of Gulag if they fail either of the other two laws. What is the First Law of Gulag, though? Well, it's not actually anything to do with gulags, in spite of the name. Someone who breaks a law that invokes the First Law of Gulag has all of their possessions stripped from them, are taken on a three day trek, and then are left in the Wasteland to either survive or die. Given all of these factors, it's a wonder someone hasn't stomped these nerds into the dirt. And yet they still stand, and are even good friends with the Steel Disciples and Desert Rangers, who they trade technology with in exchange for new toys that haven't seen before. The Techno-Reapers get one five level advanced class, the Technician, which has d8 hit die, average progressions in everything except for their poor Fortitude saves, and class features that buff Computer Use, Craft, and Repair skills.

The Savior's Army
Take the Followers of the Apocalypse from Fallout, add a garnish of religiousness, and you have the Savior's Army. This organization is literally the Salvation Army, or more specifically its remnants. Members of the group that survived the apocalypse felt that it was a message from God that they lived when others had died, and that they were a needed force in the new world. Savior's Army camps can be found all across the Southwest Wasteland and welcome all comers with medicine in one hand and a Bible in the other. And I do mean all comers: slavers and mafiosos are treated with the same attentive healing care as members of the Steel Disciples or Desert Rangers. The only groups that don't get along with the Savior's Army are those that are religiously opposed to them, such as the Children of the Apocalypse and Unity, who typically murder or enslave their doctors. The Savior's Army also has some internal strife between those who feel that only Christian medical personnel should be allowed membership and those who argue that the Army needs all the help they can get regardless of faith.

The Savior's Army has two advanced classes, both ten levels long and obviously not combat-focused. The Missionary has d8 hit die, good Defense Will save progression and average Will and Reflex save progression contrasted by poor BAB progression, and various class features (one of which is named Missionary Position :rolleyes: ) that provide a bonus to social skills and survival, while the Surgeon is basically the Field Medic from the d20 Modern Core Rulebook.

The Tribal Nation
While they were never invited into any of the fallout shelters, the members various Native American reservations in the Southwest survived by gathering together in various caverns in the walls of the Grand Canyon. There, they learned how to harmonize with nature, tame wild beasts of the Wasteland, and create one of the largest functional nations in the region. The nation is centered around Bullhead City, Arizona, where they have converted three Aztec temple-shaped casinos (which don't exist in the real world if Google isn't lying to me) into actual temples where religious ceremonies are lead by four great shamans known as the Ghost Dancers. Over the Ghost Dancers and other tribal leaders is Great Chief Walking Frog, a stoic elderly man who often leaves the safety of the tribal lands around the Grand Canyon to commune with the beasts of the Wasteland. While they are a peaceful people, the Tribal Nation is more than well-equipped to deal with foreign enemies, and is often forced to do so due to slavers and NEMO.

On top of the two tribal advanced classes from the player's guide, the Southwest Wasteland Guide provides the Beastmaster advanced class for Tribal Nation members. Beastmasters have d8 hit die and good progressions for BAB and all saves contrasted with poor Defense bonus progression. If you couldn't guess, this class's class features focus on animal companions and avoiding altercations with wild animals through a combination of empathy and ritual hand gestures developed by movie character "Walkabout Dundee".

Literally Scientology. Some guy who now calls himself Smiling Bob found Scientologist texts on an old computer and decided to resurrect it and also create a casino and resort town near Lake Tahoe as a grand get rich quick scheme. The organization entry mostly just repeats "isn't Scientology dumb, guys? Surely you don't know that already" and is generally really boring.

The Vegas Mafia
A collection of surviving mafiosos from before the Great War, petty thugs, and bloodthirsty tribals who have joined together in a feudal society that rules over both Old Vegas (the ruins of Las Vegas) and New Vegas (post-Great War structures and enterprises built around Old Vegas as it became a boomtown). Various enterprises are headed by different crime families, all of whom keep a tenuous peace with each other thanks to various accords backed up by a bit of mutually assured destruction factor. The largest families are the drug-dealing Khans, slave labor-owning Sullivans, leg-breaking and mercenary-owning MacDuggins, casino-running Bordellos, and "we exist to be Italian stereotype honor-bound gangsters" Gambinis. The Vegas Mafia has ties to all of the other villain organizations and is opposed by the Desert Rangers and the Tribal Nation. There's also the constant worry in the back of the families' heads that the Steel Disciples might decide that today will be the day that annexation of Vegas is going to happen.

And just when you might think this chapter is over, the Vegas Mafia hits you with not one, not two, not even three, but six advanced classes. The Bodyguard is a d10 and good BAB bruiser with a focus on Defense-boosting skills for both themselves and their allies, the Drug Dealer combines d8 hit die and no really outstanding progressions with the ability to both make chemicals and resist their negative effects, the Enforcer is basically the Bodyguard but with class features that focus on increasing combat effectiveness rather than avoiding damage, the Escort has d6 HD and good Will saves and is basically a prostitute Bard, the Gang Banger combines d8 hit die and good Base Attack Bonus and Fortitude progressions with class features that focus on teamwork-based combat, and the Hitman is another d8 hit die and BAB/Fortitude booster with class features that are centered around being the best possible at getting critical hits and called shots. The Escort and Gang Banger are ten level classes, while the rest are five level classes.

Chapter 6: Settlements
The last chapter in the Southwest Wasteland Guide, and also unfortunately the least. The big problem is that the only settlements described here are the ones that are directly tied to an organization as its main base of operations. This means that other than population numbers and goods and services, you are mostly just getting the same information you already got in the last chapter under slightly different wording. Exactly why this decision was made is beyond my understanding.

Next Time on Exodus: The next book in line is the Southwest Wasteland Bestiary, but to be honest I'm probably going to take a break from Exodus: Post-Apcoalyptic Roleplaying entirely for a little while. There will be two reviews from me still in rotation, simply because of the fact that I often end up getting stressed and bored working on on project at a time, but neither of them are going to be Exodus. I'm not sure why, but my initial enthusiasm concerning bringing this strange creature of copyright limbo into the spotlight ended up waning over the past few chapters of the Southwest Wasteland Guide.

I'm also going to be breaking my own self-imposed rule that the rotation has to be directly one and then the other and then back again: I'll post two parts of the same review in a row if I feel like it, or I won't if I don't feel like it. We'll see where the wind takes me on the whole subject.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Midjack posted:

For what it's worth, Area 51 (at Groom Lake, and presumably what they're referring to here) is about 900 miles from Roswell, NM. The closest big city to Groom Lake is in fact Las Vegas. The two sites are related in UFO mythology but not geographically.

8one6 posted:

They probably meant Rachel, NV which is the closest thing you could generously call a town.

This wouldn't surprise me. Sadly, we may never know the truth about their geographical knowledge or the answer one of the few mysteries that might differentiate Exodus from Fallout.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
Let's talk a bit about Southern Gothic, shall we?

The Southern Gothic genre is a spinoff of existing Gothic literature, focusing its unwavering eye on the post-Civil War South. While it sometimes features supernatural elements, the key component of the genre is far more importantly the broken and often contradictory nature of Southern society. The idealistic caricatures of the well-mannered Southern gentleman and the lilting-voiced Southern belle are starkly contrasted by a history of slavery, racism, and poverty. An outward cordiality often hides bitter resentment or skeletons in the closet. Even the landscape itself seems to join in the game: the crumbling facades of old plantation manors, the simultaneous beauty and deadliness of the bayou, the glamorous revelry of the tourist quarters of New Orleans compared to the oft-ignored squalor of much of its residential areas. And as someone who has lived her entire life in the Deep South, it's definitely hard not to see a lot of shades of the real world in more than a few elements of the Southern Gothic genre.

Now what the hell does any of this have to do with the FATAL and Friends thread? The answer to that is a little something called Hoodoo Blues.

Hoodoo Blues is a roleplaying game created by Vajra Enterprises, a company whose other settings include such light fare as Tibet during the Chinese occupation of the 1950s, Manhattan in a cyberpunk future where the poor have to go to drastic measures just to survive while the rich grow fat and decadent in virtual reality-addicted gated communities, and an urban fantasy Los Angeles where you more or less play as Cthulhu mythos cultists. Like other roleplaying games from the company, it uses the Organic Rule Components (ORC) system, an in-house d20-based system.

It also happens to be a surprisingly true-to-form Southern Gothic experience with a lot of well-researched Southern folklore and mythology, which is impressive given that the authors are white suburban Oregonites. The supernatural faces of Hoodoo Blues aren't wizards, vampires, ghouls, and goblin; instead, they're rootworkers, boo hags, h'aints, and kowi anukasha. The players themselves, rather than being heroic paragons of virtue and righteousness, are deeply flawed folks who are trying to wrestle with the sins of their past and their present. And then there's the enemies, who aren't just beasts and spirits, but also rival masters of conjure, the darker elements of human nature, and the vices of temptation in their myriad forms.

While it probably won't be as long a journey as Exodus or as insane of one as GURPS Technomancer, I've been wanting to do Hoodoo Blues for a while, so I'm glad to finally be taking that opportunity.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Note: this book has its few art pieces mainly cluttered in specific points rather than spread out. So to mitigate the potential of using only text formatting to differentiate portions, I've decided to stick some disparate artwork here and there where there's none to be found in the book proper, even if it doesn't necessarily fully fit what's being discussed at the moment.


Author's Notes posted:

This game deals with subjects like race and discrimination which, if handled insensitively, might cause offence to some. We, the authors, would hate to have you, the reader, lose a friend over this game.

We are not experts in how not to offend. There is nobody in the world who knows what to do and say so as not to offend anyone. For instance, some players might be offended if you use the word “friend of the family” even in a historically appropriate context. Others might be offended if you avoid using the word when historically appropriate, feeling that you are sterilizing history or treating them as fragile.

The important thing is not that you don’t offend, but that you let it be known that you are making an effort not to offend. One good way to do this is to tell your players (you can tell all your players this, you don’t have to single out a few) that they should let you know if you use terms or explore themes that they don’t like.
Know your players' boundaries before you get down to business: a solid practice.

The introduction is pretty brief and consists of an elevator pitch-level discussion of Southern Gothic themes and Southern supernatural folklore, a couple of disclaimers, and a brief note on racial terminology in the south. While some of the specifics of that last one might be argued about, such as ranking "cracker" as an insult on the same level as "negro" in modern discussion, it's still nonetheless nice to see an attempt at inclusivity through laying down language rules early on in a supernatural roleplaying game book from 2010.

Chapter 1: Character Creation
Step One: Character Concept
The fundamentals: What's your character's name, race, and gender, do they have any family or lovers, what do they look like, what religious beliefs do they hold, and what are their views on major events in Southern history, that sort of thing. A bit or a less standard question is also posed with "Why Ageless?". This question comes up because all player characters in Hoodoo Blues are immortal (in the "cannot die of old age" meaning, not the "cannot die at all" one, to clarify) through some manner of supernatural boon. Some ageless are created unwillingly, but most of them have become what they are through their own power. We'll get more information on them in a little.

Step Two: Musical Tastes
Or, to judge one by one's :sax:

This is basically an emotional shorthand system. You pick two musical styles that are meant to reflect a generalized view of your character's own personality. Have some specific examples to get a gist of what's being done here better than I could probably try to describe.

Musical Tastes posted:

Classical Music- Some of the greatest things in life are subtle and sophisticated, the result of years of study and discipline.

Folk Ballads- No matter the country or the era, the stories are always the same: joy and tragedy, love found and love lost. No matter how many times the story is told it never gets boring.

Nashville Country- That old-timey stuff is great, but anything can be made better with some sophistication, some polish and some dressing up for extra pizzazz.

Outlaw Country- The person in the black hat may not be as beloved and may not come to a happy ending, but his or her life is a hell of a lot more interesting.

For an example in action, let's say we have a character who chooses Blues and Jazz. Blues reflects as a hard and often painful life, while jazz presents a character that lives a frantic life of wine, women, and song. Combining the two presents a character who has had an unpleasant and rocky life, but drowns it out through clubbing and various hedonistic indulgences. It's a simple but interesting little idea.

Step Three: Attributes
Like I said when introducing this game, it uses the ORC system, the in-house d20-based system. It's resolution is based all around the familiar method of d20 roll + modifier of some sort = result that either does or doesn't pass a specific threshold of success. While it is d20-based, however, ORC is not the d20 system. This means that we won't be seeing the six standby ability scores, Armor Class, or any of the sort of things you'd be familiar with through Dungeons and Dragons, d20 Modern, and Pathfinder. Attributes here are what are present instead of ability scores and several other features such as hit dice and attack bonuses. There are eight primary attributes, each with several sub-attributes. A sub-attribute grants a +3 bonus or -3 penalty to a specific type of roll related to its parent attribute. You get a pool of eighty points to put into your total attributes (minimum score of 1, maximum of 20) and positive sub-attributes, while negative sub-attributes can add extra to this pool. The specific standard attributes are as follows.
  • Agility: Covers most of what you'd see from Dexterity in a d20 system game. Sub-attributes are Good/Poor Balance (how you are either good or bad at keeping your balance), Good/Poor Precision (manipulating small objects), Good/Poor Climbing (self-explanatory), and Good/Poor Prowling (how sneaky you are).
  • Awareness: Your ability to perceive details both in and around you. Sub-attributes are Good/Poor Introspection (self-awareness), Good/Poor People Sense (notice what others are doing at the moment), Good/Poor Back Watching (noticing things behind you), and Good/Poor Detail Sense (observing fine and easily missed details).
  • Charm: The art of acting and persuasion. It also happens to have the highest number of sub-attributes, with Good/Poor Self-Confidence (affects Charm rolls to present as self-confident), Friendly/Unfriendly (affects Charm rolls to present as likeable), Good/Poor Seduction (self-explanatory), Good/Poor Actor (same), Good/Poor Children (alters all Charm rolls dealing with children), Good/Poor with Animals (same, but with animals), Good/Poor with Authorities (same again), Good/Poor With Plain Folk (and again), and Good/Poor With Outcasts (again).
  • Endurance: Your general stamina and immune system. Sub-Attributes are Good/Poor With Heat, Good/Poor With Cold, Good/Poor at Contracting Diseases, Good/Poor at Fighting off Diseases, and Good/Poor Lung Capacity, which I think are all pretty self-explanatory.
  • Intelligence: Your mental speed, memory, and skill at creative concepts and abstract thought. Sub-attributes are Quick/Slow Thinker (affects rolls specifically tied to your mental speed), Good/Poor Memory (self-explanatory), and Good/Poor Skepticism (affects your ability to discern truth from fiction, be it supernatural affects such as illusions or natural things like hoaxes and forgeries). Also, it's three letter abbreviation is INL rather than INT, and this bothers me greatly for some reason.
  • Speed: How fast you move and jump, as well as a modifier for how much damage you do with kick attacks. Sub-attributes are the self-explanatory Good/Poor Jumping, Good/Poor Kicking, Good/Poor Long Distance Running, and Good/Poor Sprinting.
  • Strength: Specifically, upper body strength. It affects your lifting and grippling abilities as well as modifying damage from force-driven melee weapons such as clubs and your punches. Sub-attributes are Good/Poor Back (affects lifting), Good/Poor Hands (affects grappling and gripping), Good/Poor Bulk (affects tackles and shoves), and Good/Poor Punching (you can figure out what this is).
  • Willpower: Your emotional and psychological strength, as well as how well you deal with pain and debilitating affects that aren't disease or poison. This is an extremely important skill because it affects almost all Conjure (the catch-all term for supernatural powers). Sub-attributes are Good/Poor with Addiction (resisting drug cravings), Good/Poor With Drug Effects (what comes after the craving has failed), Weak/Strong Stomach (how well you can avoid vomiting), Good/Poor With Distracting Pain (how well you can deal with lingering pain), Good/Poor With Shocking Pain (how well you can deal with sudden and brief pain), Good/Poor Temper (how good you are at holding in your anger), and Good/Poor Sense of Self (affects any Willpower vs. Willpower roll).

Your character also has health attributes, which you have twelve points to use for and must have a score of 1 to 6. Body reflects blunt trauma, Blood is damage to vital organs, and Incapacity to fighting beyond even mortal wounds. When you're taking damage, losing all your Body means you start taking Blood damage, and losing all your Blood means you start taking Incapacity damage. After you lose all of your Incapacity, you're in the realm we like to call "pretty hosed up": you're unconscious and have a number of rounds equal to your Incapacity score plus your Endurance score to get medical attention. If you don't, you're dead. Note that firearms and bladed weapons completely ignore Body damage and go immediately to Blood damage, and any blunt force trauma that depletes your entire Body points then starts dealing double damage to your Blood points on any subsequent attacks.

Step Four: Character Class
In spite of the name, there are no levels in Hoodoo Blues, and your "character class" is simply a template of what type of Ageless you are. There are six different classes of Ageless, each with specific advantages, disadvantages, and certain skills that cost less or more than the average amount of point buy to get ranks in. The big uniting theme of the Ageless is that they are all people who dance in the shades of gray rather than black and white.

Crossroader: In spite of the prevalence of Christianity in the South, Southern folklore usually paints the Devil as a foe who is often outfoxed by human tricksters rather than an indomitable evil. He's easiest to get a hold of at the Crossroads, the metaphorical point of joining between two worlds, hence the name of this class. The Crossroader is someone who has either taken these stories to heart and thinks they can outsmart Old Scratch, or someone who feels they have nothing to lose by getting into a pact with an ancient being of darkness. The Devil is arrogant enough that he honestly doesn't care about making bets or even exchanging services rather than a direct transfer of the soul, and he's more than willing to wait decades or even centuries for a Crossroader who wished for Agelessness (that'd be you, player character, and it doesn't cost anything extra) to fail and die. A Crossroader gets to keep their powers regardless of whether or not the Devil gets to keep their soul, which is rather sporting of him.

A Crossroader gains a specific amount of points to buy advantages based on what exactly the details of the deal they made are. The most powerful Crossroaders are those who have given up their souls with no strings attached, or those who have directly challenged him to a contest a la The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Mid-tier are those who have either accept to do one favor for the Devil at some point in time and have a period of seven days to do it when the favor is requested (the Devil can't request anything the character can't possibly do, so there's at least a fair chance to keep their soul) or those that have made a bet that they can complete either a grand task (some examples given are going seven years without touching metal, becoming the president of the USA, or becoming the best dueler in every state of the union) or get two souls in exchange for their one soul. And then, down at the bottom, are those people who haven't wagered their soul at all, and have instead agreed to perform a regular service for the Devil. Of course, since those services are pretty sinful things in their own right such as "murder one person each month" or "make someone commit adultery every week", the Devil's probably banking on getting your soul in the end anyway.

What Crossroaders actually get for their bargaining comes in a variety of fun shapes and forms. On top of being able to buy normal advantages, you can cash in deal points for the ability to automatically escape any bonding, uber-gambling skill, five free levels to put into one or more Conjure skills, fabulous wealth, the ability to become invisible at will (though machines and mirrors can still spot you), invulnerability to one form of damage, the rather unique ability Physical Supremacy (your Strength, Speed, and Endurance score are always at least one point higher than the highest of those scores had by individuals the Crossroader can directly see or hear), supernaturally good talent in either Music, Performance, Painting/Drawing, or Writing, supernaturally beautiful appearance, or immunity to lie detection and a bonus to Charisma rolls made to affect others through speech.

Hag: Hags, also known as witches or boo hags (the latter being a term that comes from the Gullah people of South Carolina), are haggard beings that have the distinction of being one of the earliest forms of Ageless, individuals of their kind having sprung up here and there since humans started getting social structure in the first place. A lot of hags are outcast and ostracized individuals who pledged themselves to the Devil but forgot to actually give any terms, a fact that makes most Crossroaders feel haughty and superior around hags. Others are simply individuals whose sin and vice were so great that they became bogged down in their own wickedness. And still others were simply born destined to become hags, marked by vermin spirits from the depths of the ghostly realm known as the Lower World. In spite of the etymology of the term, hags can be either male or female, but all of them regardless of sex or origin are always distinguished by being obscenely ancient in appearance. They are extremely weak and fragile, almost too sickly to even move their own body weight...unless they stay committed to the Ride, that is. It is the Ride that drives all hags and allows them to keep their vim and vigor even in their shriveled forms. In game terms, this means that the hag suffers a -2 to Agility, Endurance, and Strength when they haven't Ridden anyone.

The Ride is actually a combination of two Conjure skills that are not limited to hags, but are innately vital to their survival. Since they are so important to understanding the hag at all, I'll cover them now rather than waiting until we get to skills later. The Leave Skin skill allows a person to literally crawl out of their own skin, taking off as a spirit. A moderate Leave Skin roll (a roll result beating 20) is the baseline and means you are an intangible spirit, and by passing larger barriers you can switch from spirit to corporeal form instead: a frog, owl, or snake at a roll of 30 or better, and a dog, wolf, or your human form at a roll of 40 or better. If the skin is destroyed while the caster is in an animal form, they are forever stuck in that form, and if the skin is salted or slathered in pepper the caster suffers Shocking Pain when they return to it. The other skill is Ride Humans, which also has two different forms. The normal form that requires a 20 or better roll involves crawling on top of someone and either shoving a bridle in their mouth or latching onto their hair. The poor soul suffers -1 Endurance per minute, each point of which can be put into your Endurance, Strength, Speed, or Blood score for 24 hours if you're not a hag; for the hag, it's basically a nightly refill of all their myriad penalties. You can also choose to ride a horse rather than a person in spite of the skill's name, but this is unoptimal as you get the same draining per hour rather than per minute. And speaking of horses, the other thing you can do with Ride Humans is go for a roll result of 30 or better and literally ride the human. They temporarily gain Strength, Speed, and Endurance scores as if they were an actual horse, gain a +20 to rolls made to jump, and act in the same way a loyal beast of burden would. This doesn't wake the unfortunate target, but does cause them to suffer nightmares.

Hags also have five optional special powers that cost character points to add to their repertoire. A hag tied to the Devil gets three of these abilities. One is her own personal Nightmare, a hellish steed from the Devil's own stables. Another is a familiar, which can take the form of a cat, rat, frog, or beetle. The familiar has the soul of a wicked mortal rather than a beast and must feed on the blood of the hag through a bite mark the Devil made on her shoulder, known as a witch mark. Finally, the third is the Witchball, a tar-like ball of diabolic energy that can be thrown as a projectile into someone's mouth. The Witchball becomes invisible when it is thrown, and inside the stomach of the victim it festers and causes them to lose 4 Endurance and Strength and 1 Blood each day. The Witchball can be forcibly removed by the Conjure skills Cleansing or Christian Exorcism, and the hag can remove the ball and return it to her person at will. There is only one Witchball, but it can be used indefinitely, and the only way to destroy it is through fire.

Hags that are inhabited by Lower Worlders can buy the ability to take on the form of a will-o-wisp rather than an intangible spirit when they use the normal rank of the Leave Skin skill. They deal rather painful damage to anyone they touch in such a form, but they also take damage from water and anything else that would douse a fire. Finally, the last optional ability hags can learn is available to any hag regardless of origin, and it's a unique Conjure skill only they can possess known as Young Face. On a roll of 20 or better, a hag that has used the Leave Skin skill sheds their elderly skin to take on the form they had in their 20s. While they can still take on an intangible form whenever they want to travel faster, this is effectively the "true" form of the hag when leaving the skin rather than the spirit form. The big caveat of the skill is that the hag can be killed if their skin is destroyed, and they are forced to return to their skin as soon as it is daylight, both of which are downgrades from the regular Leave Skin skill.

Hoodoo Doctor: Hoodoo doctors are those who fuel their magic through a combination of willpower, various herbs and animal parts, and specific magical formulae. They are typically associated with black Conjure workers that blend Christianity and folk magic such as the legendary Doctor Buzzard (look him up if you have the time, he's a fascinating fellow), but it is just as possible to find Hoodoo doctors that have come from the Irish fairy doctor traditions or various Native American practices. There are also some New Agers and Wiccans that have learned the ways of Conjure, but Ageless Hoodoo doctors tend to look down upon them as fad chasers who don't know the hard work and ceremony that it takes to become a "proper" master of the Hoodoo practice. Of course, they have little room to talk, as they spurned their Christian faith and decided to use special Conjure bags to halt their aging rather than face God at the throne.

Most Hoodoo doctors are effectively magicians for hire. You come to them with a problem, and they fix it with the power of Conjure. There's not as much business as there used to be, given that there are now actual doctors and social services on a widespread level, but if your problem is strictly supernatural or you really want revenge on someone but want it to be done discreetly, then these individuals are still your best bet. Hoodoo doctors are also often crusaders against hags and loup garou (a form of Ageless that will be covered in the next post), since letting your community get harmed by supernatural predators tends to be bad for business. Crossroaders are usually given a bit more leeway if they aren't doing anything actively harmful, but they are always seen with suspicion due to their diabolic origins, and often outright looked down on for getting magic in what Hoodoo doctors see as a craven manner.

Just what advantages a Hoodoo doctor gets depends on which if three archetypes they take. The Two-Head Doctor is a Hoodoo doctor that specializes specifically in healing, often with strong Christian overtones. They get to buy Protection type Conjure skills on the cheap but have to spend above-average points to buy any Diabolical type Conjure, and get one rank each in the Light Roots and Faith Healing conjure skills for free. Conjurers are those who engage primarily in intervention through harmful spells. They aren't necessarily evil, though, and many of them feel they are doing the community a service in the same manner as someone who sells firearms for protection. Conjurers get to buy Hands type Conjure skills cheaply and are the general all-rounder when it comes to other forms of Conjure. Thirdly, there's the Fortune Teller, who looks into knowledge of the past, present, and future. These Hoodoo doctors have a discount on Fortune type Conjure skills, and get three ranks in either the Omen, Jack Consultation, or Reading skill.

Next Time, in Hoodoo Blues: Howl at the moon, summon some spirits, march in the Saints, and make some magic as we cover the other three Ageless and get into skills of both the Conjure and mundane varieties.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

LatwPIAT posted:

Don't trivialize it with goofiness, he says, before describing how a Marauder might write a spell down on a piece of paper, eat the paper, and vomit the spell.
See, this would be really awesome in a dumb sort of way if it was just a weird thing mages did. A Spell Eaters tradition or whatever.

Unfortunately, it's tied to mental illness in a very Brucato manner.

Bieeardo posted:

I will note that there was a rudimentary, mostly-unofficial GURPS conversion document. It may still be on the SJG site somewhere. It worked out even worse than GURPS Werewolf.
I don't know about any mostly unofficial document, but there was a lengthy and officially released GURPS In Nomine book for GURPS Third Edition, and a few token mentions here and there in 4E books.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
I was planning on putting this in the next actual post for Hoodoo Blues (which may or may not come after a Technomancer one), but Evil Mastermind's recent post about TORG's short fiction gave me a perfect excuse to do it now. Each character class has a short piece of fiction connected to it, and they're almost all really, really bad. It's one of of the few things that stick out to me as major flaws of the book.

Medicine Worker Short Fiction posted:

Those who had seen them together in the casinos and the clubs assumed from their appearance that Thunder was either a john or a sugar-daddy. He appeared to be a Native American in his 80s. She appeared to be a Black woman half his age. She wore a tank-top and jeans that showed off her curviness. He has a tailored suit and thick money-roll. There were few other conclusions anyone could reach.

Fingernails scraped his skin savagely. Thunder let out a cry of pain and surprise, but it was not loud enough to wake the woman next to him. Thunder scrambled out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom as fingers pulled on his shoulder-length grey hair and a thumb poked into his eye. Thunder got into the bathroom, turned on the lights and the loud fan and locked the door. Then he commanded, in his native tongue, “stop.”

“Avenge me,” hissed an angry voice, coming from the air in front of him, also speaking in his native tongue. There was no other visage in the room to look at, so Thunder stared at his own ancient-looking face in the mirror. “Avenge me,” the voice hissed again. “You are my kin, you are honorbound to avenge me. She is a member of the Owl clan, you must kill her, not have sex with her. You should be castrated!”

Thunder sighed. “She’s not a member of the Owl clan. Most of her ancestors were African. She’s barely even aware that she has our people in her blood. She has absolutely nothing to do with the people who killed you.”

“I can’t rest until my death is avenged, and I won’t let you have a moment’s peace.”

Thunder punched the mirror and it cracked. “I’ve done terrible things,” he growled. “The things I’ve done… to the White man, to the Black man, to my own people. I’ve done things so terrible you would never have dreamed of them when you were alive. So many souls would love to drag me to the world below. And you are what haunts me? A cousin I can barely even remember? This is a loving joke.”
It's also the hidden place where the game's attempts at inclusiveness fall off the tracks and head into weird, weird places.

Voodoo Short Fiction posted:

“Those of us with actual pride in our actual heritage don’t pick and choose, we’re proud of the bits we brought over from Africa, we’re proud of the bits we stole form the Indians and we’re even proud of the bits imposed on us by the White man. We don’t need to dress our religion up as something it ain’t or censor the bits that aren’t currently politically correct.”

Cal continued “This dance is a farce. No Saints are gonna visit us while you’re leading us, and anyone who acts like they’re being ridden will be just pretending. You’re as bad as those drat New Agers always coming around here with their crystals and their Yoga, trying to add bits of our religion into their play-religion. You, sir, are a god-drat Oreo cookie with a New Age middle.”
I'm not exactly sure why there's such a disconnect between the actual game text and the short fiction, but it's really jarring every time. The actual class descriptions are well-worded, concise, and rarely judgmental beyond a few statements about how the Ageless aren't treated as well as they could be due to fading belief in folk religions, while the short fiction text are these bastions of rude and crude 90s gaming 'tude.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 09:55 on Jan 15, 2016

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 1 Continued

Character Classes Continued
Loup Garou: Lycanthrope, werewolf, Loup Garou, rougarou: all are different names for the same beastly Ageless. Some individuals intentionally ally themselves with the Devil to gain the ferocious power of a beast, while others become a Loup Garou by a Conjure worker's curse, being bitten by an existing Loup Garou, or attracting the Devil's attention and being cursed by him by being antisocial and violent individuals who wallow in constant sins. While a bitten or cursed person can reverse their malady by not revealing their cursed status to anyone for a hundred and one days, a player Loup Garou is an Ageless individual who either didn't know about this escape clause, failed to keep their secret, or intentionally revealed it to keep their monstrous side. The Loup Garou can take human or beast form at will, and retains their awareness and sense of self. Where the curse comes in is in the Hunger: a Loup Garou always has a gnawing desire for human flesh. In game terms, this is a forced Willpower roll that is made once a week as well as whenever a Loup Garou smells human blood, a failure meaning they have an overwhelming compulsion to kill and eat a person immediately. It is a difficulty of 20 to force the compulsion to accept killing and eating a large animal such as a deer or a cow instead, and one of 30 to avoid compulsively eating any living thing for that week. To avoid them being completely villainous if they aren't succeeding on their Willpower rolls all the time, the player of a Loup Garou that fails their check is at least allowed to pick a victim if they wish. The text explains this trait by stating that some Loups Garoux (that would be the plural of Loup Garou) effectively become vigilantes, dealing out murderous justice whenever the Hunger strikes them.

On top of the Hunger, Loups Garoux have various other weaknesses, all courtesy of actual folklore. In animal form, a Loup Garou spreads the curse of the Loup Garou to non-Ageless humans they bite but manage to avoid killing, suffers Shocking Pain from salt, suffers full damage from iron or silver attacks, and is forced to revert to human form and stay that way for twenty four hours if stabbed with a stake or other similar pointed wooden object. If they want a few extra points for point buy, they can also buy a few other disadvantages such as claustrophobia, a crippling fear of frog croaks (yes, this is an actual thing from Cajun folk tales), or the need to count any large amount of small objects after they are scattered on the ground in front of them. There's also the little issue of death. While not directly relevant to the players, dead Loups Garoux who were unredeemed and Hell-bound get transforms into beasts known as hellhounds. These will get explained further in the bestiary near the end of the book, but to make things short they forcibly remain in animal form and are slaves of the Devil, unable to disobey his orders.

The primary boon of the Loup Garou is the ability to take on an animal form. The favored form a Loup Garou can take is usually a wolf, but it can also be a dog, cat, or owl. In this form, they take half damage from sources that aren't iron or silver, large stat boosts, and natural attacks. A special skill, Animal Form, allows the Loup Garou to further their shapeshifting prowess, being able to transform into animals other than their primary one with a roll passing 20, have their animal form spring out of their body and move freely while the human body remains unconscious but hopefully out of harm's way by passing 30, and retain human-like hands and the power of speech by passing 40. There is also an optional advantage that Loups Garoux can buy that grants them a giant bat as a familiar. According to Cajun stories, the rougarou/Loup Garou has command over a giant bat, and uses it to both fly through the night and to get to secret meetings of their kind held in the ghost town of Bayou Goula. Hoodoo Blues takes this beautiful ball and runs with it, having the Bayou Goula meetings and the giant bats both be mentioned in the text, and conveniently giving the giant bats their own statistics along with the aforementioned advantage to use one. As is befitting a bat the size of a prop airplane, giant bats have plenty of wing to do knockback attacks as well as fly, their Endurance and Strength stats are double that of the most powerful Ageless and their Speed stat is even higher still, and they are capable of carrying their master in their talons.

Medicine Worker: A form of Conjure worker whose powers lie in maintaining purity against "spiritual pollution" and interacting with the spiritual beings of the Lower World and Higher World. Ageless Medicine Workers are those who have taken their spiritual rituals to the next levels and have almost entirely halted the ravages of time. While they are traditionally Native American, anyone can theoretically learn Medicine work by interacting with Native American peoples, such as runaway slaves that joined up with the Seminole or members of the attempted Jewish-Native American confederacy of Mordecai Manuel Noah. Medicine Workers see both Hoodoo Doctors and Voodoos as kindred spirits, the former for their knowledge of Conjure materials and the latter for their contact with spiritual entities, but see some of the actions of both as spiritually impure enough that they like to keep a bit of distance. Loups Garoux and Hags are both seen as horrific monsters that have plagued the Americas since long before the white man came, however, and Crossroaders are mocked for their willingness to get into deals with a spirit known for being insincere.

While technically being Ageless, Medicine Workers still suffer some of the effects of aging, losing a point of Strength, Agility, Speed, or Endurance (player's choice) and getting a -1 to seduction rolls for each decade beyond 60 they are. They also suffer a -20 to all Conjure skills if they don't have a specially constructed bag of magical ingredients known as a medicine bag on their person, and suffer a -10 to Conjure skills if they are spiritually "polluted". Things that can cause a Medicine Worker to suffer from spiritual pollution include being near someone as they die, eating birds of prey, incest, touching lightning-struck wood, touching a corpse or grave, or eating food made by a woman on her period. Two other disadvantages that can be optionally taken for more points are either having a ghostly ancestor that hangs around wanting you to avenge some crime from their life, or a spirit curse known as Puzzlement that causes the faces of strangers to seemingly randomly appear as people the Medicine Worker already knows. For benefits, the Medicine Doctor gets a rank each in the Light Roots, Cleansing, and Compel Spirits skills for free, and can buy Native type Conjure skills cheaply. They can also optionally buy proper Agelessness rather than partial Agelessness or get a +10 to Conjure skills that involve divination due to being the younger of a pair of twins.

Voodoo: As it spread from the Caribbean to the United States, the central African religious practices of vodun eventually syncreticized with Catholicism, creating what is often referred to as Louisiana voodoo, Southern voodoo, or just voodoo for short. The deities or spirits known as the loa became associated with Christian saints, with old rituals taking on a new veneer of Biblical pageantry. For the purposes of Conjure, it doesn't really matter whether you are invoking the saint or the loa, just that you are invoking them properly. Most of the invocation involves showing respect and giving the loa/saint gifts that they are particularly fond of. Calling on Papa Legba/St. Peter typically involves white rum and tobacco, Ogun/St. Michael enjoys red beans and rice, and Baron Samedi/St. Expedite enjoys black roosters or goats and peppered rum, to name some examples.

Voodoos gain two free ranks of the Conjure skill Monter le Tate, and can buy other Conjure skills of the Saints category cheaply as well. Monter le Tate is a Willpower-based Saints Conjure skill that involves invoking a loa/saint through a specific ritual so that they "Ride" (possess) the Voodoo practitioner or another member of the ritual. Seven specific loa/saints are given paragraphs of information for convenience: Papa Legba/St. Peter, Damballah Wedo/St. Patrick, Ayida Wedo/Mother Mary, Ogun/St. Michael, Oshun/St. Mary Magdalene, Baron Samedi/St. Expedite, and Simbi Makaya/Moses. Each of the loa/saints has their own eccentricities and actions that they manifest on the individual being ridden, as well as specific things they are knowledgeable of and favors they are willing to grant if you ask them nicely and humbly. For example, Baron Samedi likes to wear dapper attire, smoke cigars, and speak obscenely toward women when he's Riding, and is capable of helping you out if you need someone on the other side contacted, protection from foul Conjure, or some sexual mojo. It takes a roll of 20 or better to perform the Monter la Tate successfully with a dozen faithful Voodoo practitioners in attendance, 30 or better if the group is five strong and/or contains half-hearted believers or unbelievers, and 40 or better if it's just the caster alone.

Voodoos have no mandatory disadvantages, but can take one of two optional ones for those sweet bonus points. Offended Saint means that there is a specific loa/saint that the Voodoo has pissed off and cannot invoke as much as it may be needed. Riding Another, on the other hand, is a flaw related to Agelessness. Specifically, someone who has Riding Another has not achieved Agelessness in the traditional sense, as their body continues to age and will die of old age normally. They are instead immortal by stealing the body of a younger person, subsuming their soul and taking charge. This is unsurprisingly considered evil and will almost always lead to the Voodoo being hunted by Hoodoo Doctors, Medicine Workers, and other Voodoos alike if they are found out. Of course, Hoodoo Doctors aren't on the best of terms with even the most heroic Voodoos, as they tend to see Hoodoo Doctors as their yokel cousins who can't do Conjure in the prim and proper manner.

Step Five: Skills
Skills in Hoodoo Blues don't work all that differently from the way you see skills usually used in other games, be they d20 system, GURPS, or whatever: you put together the results of a d20 roll, the attribute the skill is based on, and the number of skill points you have in said skill, and you see if you beat the required difficulty check. Unlike the somewhat more varied DCs of things like Dungeons and Dragons, however, there are only four flat difficulty checks for the ORC System and thus Hoodoo Blues by proxy: Easy (roll a 10 or better), Moderate (20), Hard (30), and Legendary (40). There are two types of skill, Conjure (anything magical) and Mundane (anything that isn't), any of which can have one to five ranks total put into them. You have one hundred points of your point buy to put into skills, and the cost varies depending on what type of Ageless you are and what category the skill you are trying to buy is in. For instance, say you want to get all five ranks in Lock Picking because you plan on your character being a master burglar. Lock Picking is under the Troublemaking category of skills. If you're a Loup Garou, you're going to be spending five points per rank in Lock Picking for a total of twenty-five for full ranks, while a Hag has to spend seven points for rank for a higher total of thirty-five of her hundred points.

Conjure Skills: Conjure comes in seven categories, some having far greater spell variety than others: Diabolical (three skills, two of which are the Hag's specialties of Leave Skin and Ride Human), Fortune (four skills), Hands (fifteen skills), Native (six skills), Protection (six skills), Resolve (six skills), and Saints (five skills). Now, I'm the idiot that unironically likes more than a few d20 systems and GURPS, but I'm fairly sure I'm still qualified to say that there's something a bit off about those category sizes when you remember that there's a class that gets a big discount on buying the one that has the most skills. Now, in theory the idea of some classes getting discounts on specific types of skill is neat, but in execution it's just the Hoodoo Doctor flipping other Ageless off with both hands while a bunch of Blingee effects blindingly dance around him. Shuffling some of the more harmful Hands spells into Diabolic could probably go a long way to alleviating this issue. Regardless, let's talk about some specific spells that haven't already been covered in the class overviews in that ever-popular bullet points format. While there aren't so many Conjure skills that it would be impossible to cover them all, I decided to cut out discussion of ones that are really self-explanatory (like Divining Rod, which makes a stick into...a divining rod, or Christian Exorcism being used for exactly what you'd expect exorcisms to do) or in that infamous category of "useful but not interesting to talk about" (such as Ariolatio, a Saints skill that is a "shake this holy item for yes, don't move for no" ask questions-style divination to a spirit or deity).
  • Crossroads Contact (Intelligence-based Diabolic skill): This actually should have been discussed when I talked about the Crossroader, but I completely blanked out and missed that they get a free rank in this skill. :blush: Anyway, this is the Conjure you use to call up the Devil at a crossroads where there are no people. It's an Easy roll to call him if it's a country road during the full moon, a Moderate roll to call him if it's a city road or it's a night where the moon isn't full, and a Hard roll to call him inside a private residence at night with your own homemade "crossroads" that is just an X you drew on the floor with magic powder.
  • Animal Powder (Willpower-based Hands skill): For those who like their magic in body horror flavor, this little piece of Conjure is ready and waiting. By grinding up a snake, salamander, snail, or worm into a Conjure powder, you can then attune and apply this powder on someone, causing a swarm of animals the powder was made from to crawl beneath the person's skin and in their eyes. On top of being absolutely terrifying, this causes blindness, Distracting Pain, and 1 Blood damage per day. As the animals are only visible to those who have magic sight (Ageless, non-Ageless Hoodoo or Voodoo workers, etc.), mundane medical workers are helpless to help the victim's seeming self harm-inducing delusional parasitosis. The only remedies are the healing Conjure skills Light Roots, Faith Healing, and Cleansing. It's an Easy roll to make powder that must be ingested, Moderate for powder that must be thrown in the face, Hard for powder that just needs to be walked on by the target, and Legendary for powder that just needs to be blown by the wind into the target.
  • Go-Crazy Hand (Willpowder-based Hands skill): This one is always a Moderate roll, and requires you to have a hair of the victim. You need to either thread the hair through the gills of a live catfish and then set it loose, or cut into a living tree and stick the hair inside it. Either way, the result is that the victim starts falling under the Conjure a day later, suffering hallucinations, panic attacks, and bouts of anger at random. The victim is only restored to normal if the hair is removed or the catfish/tree dies. I can only imagine the hilarity of failing to properly keep someone hexed because your Hoodoo'd catfish got caught and eaten.
  • Po' Man's Lawyer (Willpower-based Hands skill): Take some John the Conqueror root and two other random common mojo components, grind them up while reciting Psalms 23 from the Bible, and succeed on a Moderate roll, and you have yourself a guaranteed way to beat the law. You can either have the ground ingredients in a mojo bag that you put over your doorsill, protecting the house from any law enforcement getting near it for one week, or you can sprinkle it in the four corners of a courtroom to have it affect the next court action in the courtroom to your favor.
  • Fire Spy (Awareness-based Native skill): You can look through one fire to see into other fires. If you don't know exactly where the fire you want to look in is, you can "switch channels" as it were until you find the right fire. Anyone who can see spirits can spot your eyes glowing in their fire when you view through it. It's an Easy roll to check fires within a ten mile radius, Moderate for a fifty mile radius, Hard for a hundred mile radius, and Legendary for the entire planet.
  • Silver Dime (Willpower-based Protection skill): Do a Moderate roll to make a magic dime. It will turn black if in the presence of harmful Conjure, let you know someone's been hexed by turning black when you put it under their tongue, and tug on your leg to warn you that you are about to step on harmful Conjure if you tie it to a string around said leg.
  • Faith Healing (Willpower-based Resolve skill): Belief is a two-way straight in this case. While the Conjure worker has to make the skill check while engaging in a laying on of hands and invoking some deity or spirit they believe in, the person being targeted for healing also has to believe that the healing will work, otherwise the check automatically fails. This is a pretty big deal when this is the only spell that actually heals what passes for hit points in Hoodoo Blues It's an Easy roll to restore one Blood or Body point or cure a disease on the level of the common cold, a Moderate roll to restore two Blood or Body points or cure a disease on the level of the flu, a Hard roll to restore all Blood or Body points or cure most chronic diseases, and a Legendary roll to cure blindness, deafness, muteness, lameness, or cancer.
  • Ghost Payoff (Willpower-based Saints skill): The Conjure worker goes to the grave of a friend or old acquaintance, calls out their name three times, and then bribes them with whiskey and either three pennies or their favorite food in life. If the skill roll afterward is successful, the ghost manifests as a Power 10 h'aint (we'll have to wait for the bestiary section for more on what that means) willing to do the task asked of them. Only one example is given of each difficulty level, leaving a bit of guesswork on just what it takes to get a ghost to do what you want. The specific examples are spooking someone as an Easy roll, guarding a house for a day as a Moderate roll, and fighting another spirit as a Hard roll.

On top of actual Conjure skills, there is also a secondary form of Conjure simply known as Rituals. Each Ritual is tied to a specific category of Conjure, and anyone who has at least one rank in one skill of that Conjure skill category just needs to be able to finish the ritual and doesn't need any particular skill roll to "seal the deal", as it were. Those who don't have any skill points in that category must make a Hard Willpower roll to activate the Ritual after performing its steps due to the fact that they are dabbling in Conjure they don't fully understand. Some specific Rituals include the Fortune ritual Dog Tears (poke a dog in the eye, then touch the finger you used to poke it into your own eye, and for five minutes you can see spirits and anything else that happens to be invisible to the naked eye), the Hands rituals Stop up Excretion (put someone's feces in a bottle and hide it in a tree, and they'll suffer constipation until they die from bowel backup in a week if they don't receive surgery or have their poop jar destroyed) and Stop a Drinker (put a few drops of catfish blood in someone's alcohol, and they will be unable to ever drink that type of alcohol again without feeling ill), the Native ritual Turkey Scratching (scratch someone with the spur of a male turkey's foot, and they get a +4 to Strength and Endurance for an unstated but temporary amount of time), and the Protection ritual Burn a Hag Victim (burn someone ridden by a Hag in the past twenty-four hours and the hag takes the same burn damage, which seems kind of a dick move even if it's for a good cause).

Mundane Skills: Those things normal people do. There are seven different categories of mundane skill: Arts has creative skills such as Painting/Drawing, Performance, and Sculpture (nine skills in total), Booklearning is academic subjects ranging from Religion to Business to Chemistry and Surgery (twenty-one skills in total), Folk is a weird smattering of "rural" skills including Acrobatics, Swimming, and Tracking (fifteen skills in total), Martial is a smattering of military or combat-oriented skills such as Archery, Boxing, and Rifle/Shotgun Combat (twenty skills in total), Modern is skills that mostly involve modern technology such as Computers and Forensics but also inexplicably has the martial arts combat skills Aikido and Tae Kwon Do (seven skills in total), and Troublemaking is primarily illicit skills such as Forgery, Lock Picking, and Torture but also inexplicably has the martial arts combat skill Capoiera (twenty-four skills in total). I'm honestly not someone who really cares about a skill list being complex, but I kind of just wanted to breeze over this section as fast as possible because what more can you really say about things that real people can actually do anyway?

Step Six: Decades and Motivations
Money: In a really awkward decision, the amount of money you start the game with depends on race. You start with $800 if you're white, $400 if you're Native American, and $200 if you are black or anything else. While yes, systematic racism is a thing in America and definitely in the Deep South, I'm not exactly sure why these exact numbers were chosen for these specific races, beyond the obvious of white folks having the biggest piece of the pie. It probably would have been simpler to just go the old standard route of economic status instead.

Age and Weariness: In my viewing of other reviews of Hoodoo Blues, I noticed that the biggest problem most people pointed out was the Weariness system. It turns out that they aren't wrong about it being kind of a problem. For each decade of the characters' life, you state in vague terms what they were doing, which gives both a benefit and a certain amount of Weariness. For instance, in a decade the character was Fightin' (which is defined as any combat-filled decade ranging from time as a soldier to swashbuckling pirate adventures) gives 2 Weariness but also three free ranks to put in any Martial category skills, while a decade of Helpin' (any sort of philanthropic activity-heavy decade) 1 Weariness but also a free ally. You add up the Weariness of every decade of the character's life and subtract it from your Willpower score. Since even the most benevolent and peaceful ways to spend a decade produce 1 Weariness, you can't escape it.

What makes it a problem is that, if you recall, a lot of Conjure skills are Willpower-based. This creates an inverse "Dungeons and Dragons old people have better hearing and sight than young people" situation, wherein the supposed all-powerful Ageless Hoodoo Doctor has less Conjure skill than his young apprentice simply because he's older. To at least be fair, you half Weariness if the character is working toward one of their Motivations, which will be discussed below. It's not a removal of the penalty entirely, but it is at least a step in the right direction.

Motivations: While everyone has motivation, not everyone has Motivation. What I'm talking about here is the Motivation system, wherein you select five things that your Ageless character is so dedicated to that even their ridiculously long lives haven't fully satisfied those urges. Motivations are divided into the categories of Anger (something you hold an eternal grudge against, such as the Devil, slavery, or the Federal government), Curiousity (the big questions, like "why does evil exist?" or "is there a limit to how powerful Conjure can be?"), Duty (long-term vows and obligations, such as "protect my home state" or "look after my descendents"), Joy (experience some form of pleasure that you have yet to be satisfied with, like the most fulfilling sexual experience or the wonder of finding a completely new land), Guilt (a sin you have never forgiven yourself for after your conscience caught up with you, such as fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War, owning slaves, or aiding the Devil), and Fear of Damnation (you don't want to go anywhere bad when you die). Motivations have two main goals for the course of the game. On the short-term, they reduce the penalties of Weariness as I mentioned before. On the long-term, they are the things that drive the Ageless forward, and after they have lost all their Motivations by either achieving them or finding them to be impossible they are considered to be at peace. This is effectively the end of their character journey, and is suggested to the point where you pack that character up and roll a new one.

Step Seven: Equipment
Not much new to say about equipment, beyond that there's a lot of it. One of Hoodoo Blues's stated intentions is to allow you to play at any time in the life of an Ageless, so there's a load of materials from the 1800s to today. This means that in the table of firearms you have the black powder pistol and matchlock rifle next to the machine gun and the hunting rifle, and vehicles go from coach to sports car. Beyond weapons and transport, there are also a myriad of survival gear, creature comforts, drugs and alcohol, and various other things you expect to see in roleplaying games.

Step Eight: Advantages and Disadvantages
If you have some ability that isn't based on an attribute or a skill, it's an advantage if positive or disadvantage if negative. There are thirty bonus points that are related to advantages, as well as more that can be gained through disadvantages (but not a lot, most only give around 1 BP to 4 BP). Advantage bonus points can also be funneled into attributes and health attributes if you want to boost those further instead, though the conversion rate for the latter is 3 BP of advantages to 1 BP of health attributes. There are a total of thirty-six advantages and sixy-eight disadvantages, a lot of which are self-explanatory things like Physically Attractive, Ordained Minister, Obese, or Mute. So rather than talk about any of those, I'll talk about some of the interesting supernatural and folkloric ones.
  • Caulborn: The character was born with a caul, a membrane over the head. According to Southern folklore, caulborn folk can see the invisible world, and it's true in the world of Hoodoo Blues. One of the notable real world people who were caulborn is Alan Moore, which makes more sense with the folklore than it probably should.
  • Frizzly's Key: Joe "Frizzly Rooster' Hudson was a legendary Hoodoo doctor mentioned in Zora Neale Hurston's folklore collection Mules and Men. Amongst his many purported accomplishments, one was the distribution of magical keys that can unlock any door, but lose their power if they ever touch the ground. The character happens to have one of these keys for some reason or another, maybe even having gotten it off Frizzly Rooster himself.
  • Hag Horse: If you can get a Hag's bridle into her mouth as she tries to Ride you, she is forcibly transformed into a horse. This means that you get a powerful Ageless steed that, while ill-tempered and spiteful, is enchanted to be loyal to a fault. Of course, if the bridle were ever to be removed somehow...well, that's probably going to be a messy situation. One that probably ends horribly for you.
  • Semi-Letiche: The letiche is a monstrous reptilian humanoid giant of the Louisiana bayou, said to be created when a child is abandoned in a swamp and raised by alligators while being touched by the swamp's magic. While full-fledged letiche are later on in the book's bestiary, you can take an advantage that makes you part letiche, specifically someone who started transforming but was rescued and brought back to society before it finished. The semi-letiche character is weirdly pale and has no body hair, and gets the mechanical alterations of claws and sharp teeth, +3 to Awareness, Agility, and Strength, four free ranks of Swimming, +10 Endurance for purposes of breath-holding, +10 for saving throws against Conjure, +7 to saving throws against heat exhaustion, -10 to saving throws against anger, fear, and pain, and -7 to saving throws against hypothermia.
  • Ulusunti: You have a hold of an ulusunti. It looks like a large crystal with a blood red streak down the middle, but it's actually a scale from a titanic Lower World snake spirit called an uktena. The ulusunti must have blood dripped into it to "feed" it weekly, or it will explode into a fiery blaze. As long as it is kept placated, the strange scale-crystal is capable of acting as a divining tool that grants visions as well as a +7 bonus to any sort of roll that is directly used in hunting, finding love, or making rain.
  • Born With Clenched Fists: The folkloric fates demand that one who is born with their fists clenched is destined to become a thief. The character gets four free levels distributed through any Troublemaking skills, but also has to make a Hard Willpower roll to avoid stealing anything the character wants badly or needs at the moment.
  • Born to Drown: Congratulations, because you were born face-down, you're going to die a horrible watery death! The character gets a -10 to Swimming saves or Endurance saves to hold their breath to avoid drowning, and fate seems to always keep them from straying too far from water. Aren't folk birth beliefs wonderful?

Next Time in Hoodoo Blues: Is it possible to actually leave the first chapter?

The answer is yes, because we finished it here. We'll be speeding through the chapter on how ORC system games are run and entering the chapter about the ins and outs of the South.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Bieeardo posted:

Huh, that's cool. I know that beliefs regarding caul birth go back at least as far as the Romans in Europe, but wasn't aware that they survived the trip across the Atlantic to become part of Southern folklore too.
There's actually a pretty decent book on the subject called Mysterious Celtic Mythology in American Folklore. A lot of it's focused specifically on Appalachia, and it's not quite thorough enough that I'd buy it full price, but I'd still give it a look if you ever find it at your local library or somewhere.

Mors Rattus posted:

The world has its own destiny. Accept it, embrace it and help things along when possible.
I usually like my angels in the terrifying fire snakes and eye-laden wheels flavors, but I do also like the idea of an archangel who manifests looking like someone's kindly grandpa.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Mors Rattus posted:

Oh, Khalid.


Oh, writers.
Khalid? Not even an actual Islamic angel like Israfel or something? Huh. Given the reactions had so far in this thread, and the fact that a quick Google search tells me that he nearly fell to be the demon prince of fanatics, I can only imagine how magical the text on him will actually be.

Unrelated, I somehow managed to only figure out after three years of doing these on and off that it might be good to take Alien Rope Burn's advice and actually write more than one entry ahead of time, instead of doing the string of consciousness "write as I read then post" poo poo I've been doing. Turns out that it's hard to change habits when you're stubborn. This is probably an especially good idea given how often I go into depressions or have writer's block. Hopefully this will mean future FATAL and Friends entries within a series from me aren't as far apart.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chernobyl Peace Prize posted:

Point of order, that episode actually followed a very In Nomine (and Part-Time Gods, and a couple other games) "powered by belief, so no worship = we're super weak now" so I have no idea where you're coming from with that, and at no point claimed they were demons, at all, ever?
I recall one god-slaying episode (maybe the first Christmas one?) where Dean intentionally taunts a god by saying that the pagan gods are "basically monsters with an ego" or something to that effect. That might be what Count Chocula's thinking of, or I might be misremembering too.

I do remember that Ganesha being an anthropophage with the other gods in Hammer of the Gods made me feel really uncomfortable, though, and I'm not even Hindu. That I remember pretty well.

Mors Rattus posted:

Michael divides the universe into three categories: those who are inferior to him and should pay attention to him if they know what's good for them, those who are his equals, such as Baal, and those who are his superior: God, and that's it.
And speaking of Supernatural, that is a very Supernatural style Michael. I'm curious as to just where the idea of Michael being arrogant came from, or if it repeatedly evolved independently.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 5: Characters and Campaigns

GURPS Technomancer posted:

“Cactus farm? Yeah, I guess they are pretty when they bloom, and . . . oh, I see. I didn’t know the pollen . . . Cross-hybrid managenic experiment, huh? Yeah, I understand you don’t want the authorities involved . . . no problem.” Daphne put the phone down. “Eric, you ever dealt with a mutant toxic zombie walking cactus with strange powers over killer bee swarms?”

“Nope,” Eric said. He strode over to the weapon rack, hefted the flamethrower. “Always a first time.”
This has absolutely nothing to do with anything actually in the chapter, but I am disappointed that this is just a one-off joke rather than a monster that was in the bestiary. Zombee cactus would be rad. :allears:

Character Templates
Assuming you aren't familiar with GURPS, character templates are effectively the closest thing the system has to character classes. It narrows down point buy from "you have almost free reign, save for what the setting and Game Master disallow" to having a specific set of options based on a unified character concept, allowing you to spend less overall time creating a character if you are really unsure of what you want to do. GURPS Technomancer also manages to be one of the few cases where there's actually a reason I shouldn't skip over discussing character templates that are related to real world occupations. Specifically, it's because Technomancer is kind enough to actually give you a list of spells that mana-capable members of otherwise mundane occupations are likely to have. I won't try to go over all the advantages and disadvantages you can potentially take and instead give a general gist, as well as a look at some of the spells you expect to see. If there are two point costs listed, this is because the lower of the two is for not having magic and the latter is for having it.

Alchemist (80 Point Template): The people who produce potions and other elixirs. Most alchemists work for big pharmaceutical companies or local community drug stores, but there is also the scourge of black market alchemists that the Drug and Alchemy Enforcement Agency work hard to try to keep tabs on. Unsurprisingly, the template focuses mainly on various alchemical and pharmaceutical bits and bobs, a high IQ attribute, and being able to safely handle hazardous materials...or at the very least avoid hurting as much if you do screw up, given that Magic Resistance and Poison Resistance are two advantages you can take as some of your options.

Artist (75/85 Point Template): This character template has a lot of varied options, as it's meant to encompass anything from painters to sculptors to dancers. It also happens to encompass entirely new subcultures of art that arose from the magical revolution, which we're obviously going to discuss.
  • Phantasists use spells such as Perfect Illusion, Control Illusion, and Sound to create extreme special effects. While some of them are performance artists, the big bucks come in working for the movies.
  • Body styling began as a counterculture movement, but eventually entered the mainstream like so many other forms of underground art. It revolves around using the Alter Body and Alter Visage spells to customize the human form. You could think of it as an easier to perform but even more extreme version of the body mod crowd, really.
  • Shapedancing is a special form of choreographed artistry where the dancer changes into various animal forms as they move, playing with just how strange you can get the steps to be when your entire way of moving can randomly alter.
  • On top of traditional sculptors being able to work even more efficiently with spells that allow you to mold metal and stone as easy as clay, a special form known as weather sculpting has arisen entirely out of the use of magic. A weather sculptor utilizes spells that manipulate weather and light to create wondrous displays.
  • Finally, deep in the underground you have the necrogoth movement. Necrogoths animate zombies or summon demons to pose for photographs and paintings, model fashion, and even "act" in satirical plays known as thanatic theater, in spite of how very illegal their art is. At least one unknown necrogoth tooks things even further and created "Gigeresque" animate sculptures by attaching various scrap metal to skeletal undead animals.

Astronaut/Astromancer (120/200 Point Template): Space wizards! Astromancers are NASA's best of the best, the people who have the magical wherewithal to go to space and survive. Powerful Teleport and Teleport Other spells allow for transit to and from either space stations or moon bases, Create Air and Purify Air keep space suit oxygen supplies at their best, and Force Dome protects from debris, to name but a few of the variety of spells astromancers are capable of mastering. Oh, and there are also traditional astronauts, but they are ultimately the less valued crew members since they can't just magic up air whenever someone needs it or zoom people into space in a split second.

Criminal (80/90 Point Template): This template is meant to reflect a variety of criminals, so it's hard to really describe it. Instead, we'll just note that there are several spell packages for specific types of criminals. Burglars get Aura, Detect Magic, See Secrets, Seeker, Locksmith, Seek Machine, Seek Power, and either Levitation or Wallwalker, fences and drug dealers get Borrow Number, Hide Thoughts, Seek Number, Sense Emotion, Truthsayer, Scryguard, Scrywall, and either Magelock or Sense Danger, prostitutes and con artists get Itch, Pain, Spasm, Persuasion, Sense Emotion, Truthsayer, Simple Illusion, and either Illusion Disguise or Illusion Shell, pimps and kidnappers get Sense Emotion, Bravery, Daze, Fear, Foolishness, Forgetfulness, Loyalty, and Panic, and enforcers get Immediate Action, Hail of Lead, Haste, Poltergeist, Steady Hand, Missile Shield, and two of Haste, Magic Bullet, Wallwaker, or Winged Knife.

Emergency/Rescue Team Member (65/110 Point Template): Firefighters, rescue workers of other sorts, hazardous material disposal teams, paramedics, and demon/spirit containment specialists. Unsurprisingly, emergency services members that have magical talents dabble in a wide variety of spells, including Create Air, Earth to Air, Extinguish Fire, Lend Health, Levitation, and Breathe Water.

Entertainer (80/95 Point Template): While this template is mechanically designed to cover live performers from talk show hosts and news anchors to singers and actors, most of the discussion of its fluff surrounds musicians. In the world of GURPS Technomancer, it was magic-using bands that received the brunt of the Satanic Panic rather than rock and roll specifically. Of course, it also was more justified, given that some bands actually were cavorting with demons and using mind control magic. And then there's this:

Entertainer Description posted:

Today, the mainstream is tamer: mystic sound-and-light shows are commonplace in pop, folk and rap, but staged mind control and ceremonial rituals require PRA permits, some off-duty SWAT cops to baby-sit and waiver forms on the tickets. Still, there are underground clubs where no one gives a drat if the audience gets mind-raped, and where the act may include zombies, vampires or demons.
And this:

Entertainer Description posted:

Since the 1960s, many of the most hyped (if not the most enduring) rock stars and stage actors have been wizards. In Japan, a teenager with a cute voice and magical powers can have a meteoric career as the latest “magical idol.”
Mind-rape and anime magical girls? Truly a deplorable state to be in, this music industry.

Some of the spells marked for entertainer consumption include Ignite Fire, Simple Illusion, Voices, Volume Control, and Levitation.

Hacker/Cyberwiz (70/122 Point Template): In case you forgot this was the 90s, here's the prerequisite hackery. On top of mundane hacking methods, you also have the cyberwiz breaking into your security. Cyberwizzes are mages that use their talents to become specialized hackers. Would it surprise you to know that Bad Sight, Delusion ("The net is real life"), Overweight, and Unattractive are some of the disadvantages that a hacker or cyberwiz character can take? No, it didn't surprise me either. Perhaps more surprising is that the joke somehow goes even further, in that some of the spells that a cyberwiz is likely to learn include No Smell, Purify Air, and Seek Food. There are also some spells actually useful to hacking, of course, such as Speed Data, Machine Possession, Seek Machine, and Static Charge.

Hellhound (95/125 Point Template): In spite of the name, this isn't a template for being a magical fire dog. Hellhound is the nickname for monster hunters who are part of the Cerberus unit of GHOST, an organization we'll learn more about when we get to the organization chapter in the next post. The name has since extended to almost any monster hunter regardless of who they work for, if they even work for anyone at all. Hellhounds are stated to often supplement their business of busting ghosts and nailing down demons with more mundane work as bounty hunters or repo officers. Both magical and non-magical hellhounds are swift, smart, and not too shabby on their knowledge of melee and ranged weapons alike, but they also tend to suffer from disadvantages such as Bully, No Sense of Humor, and Stubbornness. Hellhound mages tend to aid themselves and their allies with spells such as Lend Strength, Haste, Hide Thoughts, Sense Foes, and Locksmith.

Industrial Enchanter (145 Point Template): Congratulations, you're one of the people who make magic items. On top of being smart and nerdy, the industrial enchanter gets a load of spells to use. On top of all having thirty-nine spells of a variety of sorts that include Enchant (obviously), Counterspell, Locksmith, Electric Power, Conduct Power, and Create Fire, there are sixteen more spells that are selected depending on whether the industrial enchanter works in manufacturing things for the aerospace, armament, cybernetics, necrotechnology, or personal security industry.

Investigator (50/85 Point Template): A snoopy individual, be it a private investigator, journalist, government investigator, or even a tabloid paparazzo or Seelieologist. Investigators are typically clever and resourceful but also pushy and arrogant. A mage investigator's repertoire of spells can include Hide Thoughts, Sense Emotion, Truthsayer, Far-Hearing, and Mind-Reading, though gaining information through that last one is considered unethical at best and an illegal invasion of privacy at worst.

Law Enforcer (75/100 Point Template): Cops and cop-likes, be they small time sheriffs and beat cops or federal agents. Like investigators, they are swift and clever. Unlike investigators, they have skills for making people either quite hurt or quite dead. Law enforcement mages, including those of police office's SWAT (Specialized Weapons and Thaumaturgy :haw: ) teams, are well-versed in a variety of protective and detective spells such as Sense Emotion, Detect Magic, Dispel Magic, Missile Shield, and Seek Machine. Similarly, like criminals and industrial enchanters, they gain an extra ten spells based on their specialization. Animal control officers get spells related to controlling animals such as Beast Possession and Bird/Reptile/Mammal Control, law enforcement detective gain even more sensory spells like Truthsayer, Trace, and Infravision, hostage assault members get confusion and combat spells including Blur, Flash, and Hail of Lead, hostage negotiators get empathic spells such as Control Person and Mind Reading, snipers have vision and shooting spells including Hawk Vision and Magic Bullet, internal affairs or secret police get sensory deprivation and empathic spells including Mind Reading, Fear, and Forgetfulness, patrol officers get a collection of hindering spells such as Rooted Feet, Daze, and Foolishness, surveillance team members get spells like Mind Reading, Far Hearing, and Stealth, and undercover operatives have spells including Hide Thoughts, Mind Reading, and Illusion Disguise.

Mageworker (85 Point Template): A mageworker is any blue collar worker who happens to use their mana instead of their muscles. This happens to be reflected by the fact that they have a boost to IQ rather than Strength, though they still have all of the skills to do things the old fashioned way if they had to. Mageworkers can pick from a variety of spells to fit the variety of jobs the template might be representing, ranging from agricultural aids such as Beast Soother, Heal Plant, and Plant Growth to construction aids including Measurement, Repair, and Reveal Function.

Medical Professional (60/115 Point Template): A mundane doctor is hard to find. It's harder to justify traditional medical school when you have people who can cast Resist Pain, Sterilize, Neutralize Poison, Cure Disease, or Major Healing to deal with problems both small and large. As a result, non-mage medics in America have been pushed back to being only used for specialty cases where the patient has either a case that is extremely specialized rather than suited for generalists, a religious objection to magic, an MRD (more on those later) or an assload of Magic Resistance. They are still common in regions where the mage birth rate is far lower, of course, and even some American medical thaumaturgical schools teach practical surgery and medical diagnosis as an elective class.

Religious Leader (75/135 Point Template): Great power comes to those who believe. All religious leaders have True Faith, meaning that they can rebuke malicious supernatural forces with their symbols of faith, and the ones who are mages get even more toys to use. They get thirty-five spells selected from a ridiculously varied list of potential spells, which makes sense given that religions are ridiculously varied. Some of the common spels include Persuasion, Sense Emotion, Enchant, Length Health, Detect Magic, Bless, Curse, and Bravery.

Seer (85 Points): Seers are professional diviners who utilize their talents for groups such as Wall Street investors or the NSA. A seer is typically clever and blessed with either wealth, luck, allies, or a mixture of the three. Seers get spells based on what form of divination they specialize in, not all of which are necessarily benevolent. Astrologers gain spells such as Air Jet, Lightning, Predict Weather, and Astrology, crystal gazers attain spells including Crystal Gazing, Earth to Stone, and Shape Earth, dream interpreters have spells including Oneiromancy, Purify Air, and Purify Water, mediums get spells such as Summon Spirit and Death Vision, numerologists only get the Arithmancy and Measurement spells but also get the advantage Mathematical Ability, palm readers get spells including Chiromancy, Shape Air, Shape Earth, and Shape Fire, and tarot readers have spells such as Cartomancy, Ignite Fire, and Death Vision.

Soldier (85/100 Point Template): Fighters and mercenaries of various sorts, from cavalry and infantry to combat engineers and supply line operators. A soldier template mage only gets the spells Sense Emotion, Sense Foes, Lend Health, Lend Strength, Illusion Shell, Know Illusion, Simple Illusion, Scryguard, Bravery, and Fear. If this sounds like not much for a fighting mage, it's because there is actually a specific template coming up that is meant to be used for a true magic warrior – a soldier mage is just considered a grunt with a few fancy toys to help out everyday duties.

Special Forces (125/175 Point Template): Seals, Spetznaz, and other groups of that sort. Swift, strong, smart, and generally talented, even a non-magical special forces agent is more than capable of doing their job. Of course, there are also magic special ops groups, one of the most infamous being hte Black Berets of the USA. The Black Berets were around since the advent of magical warfare back in 'nam, but became most famous for single-handedly fending off waves of enemy soldiers to rescue Americans during the Iran hostage crisis, crushing Noriega's spirit in the invasion of Panama, and engaging in magical psychological warfare during Desert Storm. Special forces get just as big a laundry list of spells to choose from as religious leaders, with certain staples such as Hide Thoughts, Continual Light, Counterspell, and Missile Shield being augmented by various widely disparate optional choices such as Magic Bullet, Invisibility, Mass Daze, Destroy Water, Create Fire, and Perfect Illusion.

Spook (80/140 Point Template): Spies are dangerous, especially when they potentially have magical aptitude. Non-magical spies have to deal with magical interference, but strangely enough they don't actually get Magic Resistance as an option. Spies who are mages get a terrifying arsenal of spell options to choose from, including Paralyze Limb, Wither Limb, Skull Spirit, Soul Jar, False Memory, Permanent Forgetfulness, and Flight.

Technomancer (160 Point Template): And we have a title drop. Technomancers – a term used for anyone who does R&D concerning the fusion of magic and technology – are not merely nerds, but uber-nerds, having a -1 penalty to Strength on top of their +4 to IQ even though other non-physical character templates don't suffer the same fate. They also get about the same list of benefits and disadvantages that were present in the hacker and industrial enchanter. Their list of potential spells are filled with technological ins and outs such as Electric Power, Enchant, Conduct Power, Draw Power, Ether Static, Machine Speech, Awaken Computer, Resist Radiation, and Upgrade Computer.

Warlock (170 Point Template): A skilled wizard soldier is referred to as a warlock, because wordplay and all. Warlocks are common in all of the US armed forces, while more mage-poor countries have to either make do with only one or two per battalion at best or hire warlock mercenaries. On top of plenty of military knowledge and combat skills, warlocks get a collection of spells based on their specialization. Mechanized infantry and Air Force warlocks gain spells such as Lightning, Curse Missile, Homing Missile, and Reverse Missiles, cavalry attain spells including Beast Soother, Animal Control, Complex Illusion, and Persuasion, combat engineers have spells including Earth to Air, Create Earth Elemental, Earthquake, Mass Detonate, and Irradiate, PsyOps are capable of casting spells like Possession, Enslave, False Memory, Permanent Forgetfulness, and Terror, combat medics have spells such as Sense Life, Neutralize Poison, Major Healing, and Sterilize, meteorological warfare specialists ("weather warriors") and Navy warlocks have spells including Clouds, Rain, Hail, and Shape Water, SpecOps warlocks can choose to learn any of the spells from the first six categories as well as some choices of their own such as Control Zombie, Skull Spirits, Summon Demon, and Soul Jar, and supply chain warlocks use spells including Measurement, Clean, Repair, Seek Fuel, and Shape Plastic.

Chapter 6: Magic and Society
Are you prepared for the pure, undiluted High Concept Discussion chapter? I know I definitely am after going through character stuff.

The Younger Population
On top of magical healthcare increasing the average life expectancy, the discovery of the formula for youth potions by Chinese alchemists in 1972 suddenly revolutionized the lives of those willing to pay money to be forever young. The entire issue has already created controversy. Debates have raged over whether or not retirement should be based on actual age of physiological age and the question of whether or not medicare and social security should cover elixirs of youth, various groups have protested the concept of religious leaders and monarchical leaders becoming effectively immortal figureheads, and the CIA is having apoplectic fits over the fact that communist leaders such as Fidel Castro and Deng Xiaoping can't simply be assured to die of natural causes. And, of course, there's the creepiest question:

GURPS Technomancer posted:

Another question troubling society is whether the age of majority and age of consent should be based on chronological or physiological age. Wealthy people may make themselves 16 again, but can they still vote, drink, drive or have consensual sex if their physical age drops below the limit? Can porn stars or strippers who “youthen” to 13 still do adult shows? Police and legislators struggle to keep up with widely varying community standards and test cases in the higher courts.

Agriculture and Fisheries
With spells like Heal Plants, Bless Plants, Plant Growth, and Rain, the farming business is booming with the mage-heavy populations of North and South America. Spells like Beast Summoning and Fish Control have made it easier to get the fish to come to the fisheries, as well, but this has create the unintentional side effect of making overfishing even worse than it already was.

Magery has actually turned back the clock on architecture in some ways. Gone are the highrises of metal and glass, skyscrapers instead being made out of hard rock with Create Stone and Shape Stone in what has been dubbed the neo-Gothic revival style. Statuary is also extremely popular thanks to the same spells. Meanwhile, Earth to Air has allowed for far greater capacity for tunneling, allowing for cheap underground structure creation. Some locations, such as Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, even have entire second cities beneath the one that is seen from ground level.

There are three types of magical business that are common in the world of Technomancer. On the small end are Johnny One-Spell shops, named after a popular cartoon character who presumably only knew one spell and may possibly be the brother of Johnny Five-Aces. A Johnny One-Spell shop is a walk-in store staffed by either part-time mages in high school or college, or non-mages who utilize magic items to do the work. While a lot of these quick and cheap service shops are local, some are popular enough to have become franchises. Some examples of Johnny One-Spell chains and the spells they focus in include Body Boutique (Alter Body), Brownie Dry Cleaners (Clean), Doc Hermes (Minor Healing), and Petfinders (Beast Seeker).

Retail magic item shops sell magic items. Obvious, but true. Magic items can vary wildly in price, from $50 for a Berkely Grimoire on CD (a CD containing all spells from GURPS Basic Set) and $150 for the Working Handbook of Applied Thaumatology on CD (all known spells on CD) to anywhere between $144,000 to $700,000 for a flying carpet. There's still enough of a market on even the expensive items that there are various chains that sell magic items, nine of which are given a brief note. Abracadabra Books sells grimoires and occult literature, Cyberscrolls does the same for magic on CD and magic-enhanced computer parts, DuPont Dealerships sells flying carpets, Emperor's New Clothes rents costumes that cast illusion spells, J.W. Wells is an all-purpose magic item department store for magic items $3,000 or less, Kabbala Robotics sells golems and animated objects, Rent-a-Rug rents flying carpets, Spell Shack sells various wizard tools such as powerstones and scrolls, and Wizard's Tower is the fancy-schmancy version of J.W. Wells that sells magic items up to $10,000 in price.

Finally, you've got magical contractors. Such mages for hire are paid either by how much energy their spell costs if it's a one-spell job, or by day if that's more relevant. The wage for a Magery 3 contractor is a not too shabby $750 a day, and even a Magery 1 contractor still gets an okay $250 a day. Need ice off your roads, some water on your crops, or a clear day for your football game? Call Cloudbusters America, they're weather control and weather protection experts! Want a really secure business? Hermetic Wards Incorporated will set you up with windows that have Protection, Warding, Drain Mana, Fireproof, Pentagram, Scryguard, Scrywall, and Spell Shield slapped on them. Humane pest control? There's even a contractor for you there, as Rico and Sons can just Vermin Control your problem pests away.

Fashion and Body
If you're rich enough, you can get all sorts of fancy clothes on the magical market. Things like shoes of Haste and permanently Clean suits are popular with the elite, as is the intentionally risque practice of casting Illusion Shell to make it look like you have clothing on when you are in fact buck naked. There's also the near complete replacement of traditional plastic surgery with Alter Body and Alter Visage. These spells have also created some controversy, however. There's a whole load of debate rolling around about the use of the spell to recreationally alter race and sex, as well as make chimera halflings look human or vice versa.

Law and Order
Speaking of debate, let's talk criminal justice. American courts have several rules concerning magic utilization in the courtroom. The first is that the Compel Truth is always cast for witness testimony. Not only is it always accurate if it isn't resisted, resisting the spell creates an obvious sensation of feedback to the mage, at which point the individual is held in contempt of court. Eyewitness testimony still isn't perfect even with this spell, however, given the existence of various forms of magic that fool the eyes and other senses, which means that forensic mages are just as important to the process of justice. Outside of court, Compel Truth and similar spells such as Mind Reading, Mind Search, and Soul Rider all require informed consent. Wizard Eye, Wizard Ear, Glass Wall, and other magical surveillance spells follow the same legality rules as wiretapping.

Where there's law, there's also lawlessness, and there's plenty of nefarious uses for magic. Criminals can use the Exchange Bodies spell to literally steal someone's life (though this is rarer than most forms of crime due to the simple fact that no one actively teaches the spell, making it difficult to cast), Copy spells to counterfeit, Ethereal Body and Teleport for breaking and entering, murder and then resurrect people (often illegal immigrants) as zombies for costless labor, and use mind control spells for all sorts of no-goodery. The last category is so prevalent, in fact, that nearly all psychologists and security officers are trained to cast Aura readings to check for supernatural coercion.

Lastly, one of the strangest ways that laws have been touched by magic is the subject of animal rights. Beast Speech and shapeshifting spells means that empathy for animals is stronger than ever, and movements to prevent inhumane cruelty have gained a lot of traction. Animal testing still exists, but makes heavy use of Beast Speech and Aura spells to check on the condition of the test subjects.

Manufacturing and Industry
While mageworkers and industrial enchanters were already discussed last chapter, there's even more to note about the subject of magic in the workplace. Grids enchanted with Purify Air are utilized to lower emissions both from manufacturing plants when placed over their stacks, tiny parts are a lot more accurate due to various vision enhancement spells and the Inscribe spell, Shape Metal makes even titanium a viable building tool, and Find Weakness at the end of the line ensures quality control. Oh, and speaking of metals, Breathe Water has allowed for underwater mining to be A Thing for Mexican and American companies.

Enchantments on actual mundane products tend to be limited to specific parts, rather than attempting to enchant the whole device at once and squander more personal energy and money than need be. An example given is the good old automobile: you enchant the exhaust with Purify Air, windows and seat upholstery with Clean, and voila. The bigger an item is, the more cost effective it is to enchant it piece by piece rather than as a whole, and by the time you get to something like a jumbo jet you can stuff a lot of small enchanted parts on it without inflating the price all that much.

As stated back in the medical professional entry of last chapter, medicine has benefited greatly from the presence of magic. Many traditional diseases have been pushed to the brink of extinction, and even afflictions that can't be cured by Curse Disease such as cancer and genetic ailments seem like they may have a cure with the further development of magical gene therapy. Of course, not everything is sunshine and roses. Just as antiobiotic resistance has evolved in real world bacteria, there is an uncommon but active threat from Mana-Resistant Diseases, or MRDs. An MRD is a normal bacteria or virus that has developed a level of the Magic Resistance advantage. One of the most deadly cazes was a strain of influenza with Magic Resistance 4 that cropped up in Guatemala in 1997, but MRDs can potentially have up to Magic Resistance 6.

Also present are new diseases that are entirely supernatural in origin. Vampiric leukemia has no cure, and even the alchemical elixir code-named Alucard that was created to combat the disease can only postpone its effects rather than stop it entirely. Ambulatory Necrotic Plague is immune to all forms of traditional medicine and Cure Disease, and can only be stopped if an Exorcism spell is cast in time to remove the undead bacteria and followed up with an Instant Regeneration spell to stop and reverse the tissue necrosis that occurs even without the zombie part of the disease. There is also Mana Resistance Deficiency Syndrome, a disease that isn't associated with a template from the bestiary chapter but is nonetheless just as insidious, and also totally isn't a play on AIDS at all, nope, not at all. You catch MRDS (not to be confused with MRDs) by getting mana from an already tainted person, at which point it begins to attack your supernatural immune system. A person who has caught MRDS has to make a Health roll every month or gain one level of the Magic Susceptibility disadvantage. This means that while the disease isn't immediately fatal, you slowly become less and less able to resist spells or magical diseases. The only known cure is to spend time in a mana-void region, eventually starving the disease of the supernatural sustenance it requires.

Military Science
While magic on the battlefield is obviously useful, warfare has yet to meet a mage who can outsmart bullets. While individual mages can cast Missile Shield, it is extremely cost ineffective to get them enchanted onto enough items to aid entire armies, and even the best Missile Shield still won't protect you from a mortar shelling or airstrike. Where magic truly shines is in various support roles. A support mage can cast accuracy-boosting spells on their allies, golems allow for an overall reduction of humanoid boots on the ground, and while you may not be able to enchant every soldier's kit, you can certainly equip a tank with spells like Fortify and Missile Shield. The US military also has several orbital platforms that can strike with "kinetic kill devices", which are literally just onboard mages shooting boulders from space to create artificial meteor impacts.

Psychology and Psychiatry
As with physical medicine, the world of helping the ind has benefited greatly from magic. Aura and Sense Emotion spells can be freely used to quickly discover someone's general mental state, and the Mind Reading and Mind Search spells can be further utilized with consent to get an even greater psychological profile. Alter Body spells also allow for transgender men and women to receive far quicker and more efficient treatment than hormone therapy, as well as deal with other forms of dysphoria on a case by case basis. Of course, since people are people, there's also a controversial side to psychological magic. The utilization of "thaumaturgical behavior manipulation" (read: mind control and alteration spells) by psychiatrists is a massive minefield, even when it's done consensually. While the use of the Great Geas spell to remove addictions and self-destructive habits has gained some ground, there are far more disturbing implications when there are homophobic lobbies demanding that mind control spells be used for gay conversion therapy and studies that indicate attempts to cure PTSD with Permanent Forgetfulness or False Memory spells may backfire and cause even more psychological harm than good when inconsistencies in the subject's memory turn up.

Pure Science
A section about the 'hard' rather than 'soft' sciences, if you couldn't figure out what that title meant at all. Zoologists have benefited from the Rider Within spell to covertly watch animals from inside one of their own, geologists and palaeontologists can use Earth Vision and Walk Through Earth to observe their subjects without even digging them up, and laboratory work has benefited greatly from Cold, Heat, Measurement, Purify [Element], and Seek [Element] spells. Perhaps the greatest scientific field that has benefited from the magical revolution, however, is astronomy. Teleportation spells broke the barrier between Earth and the heavens wide open, with mages being able to just pop building materials and golem or suited workers into orbit and then to the moon. Various space stations and moon bases now exist, and most commercial satellites can be reached by teleported shuttles for prices similar to a first class airplane ticket. Greater distances are infeasible for teleportation, but are nonetheless possible with a combination of NEMA reactor-equipped spacecraft and mages casting Create Air, Purify Air, and various other utility spells. Plans for a twenty-one person shuttle trip to Mars to create a permanent base on it have neared completion.

The topic of magic splintered the Abrahamic faiths beyond their already divided denominations, with moderates that accept magic being flanked by orthodox and fundamentalist groups that see magic as a sin (though congregations sometimes unintentionally become a hub for ceremonial magic) and liberal reformists that feel magic should not only be embraced but also incorporated directly into religious practice. In all the theological confusion, other religions have swept in to pick up the doubtful individuals. New Agers, Wiccans, and neopagans have all seen a surge in membership, as have practitioners of more magic accepting religions such as Haitian voudon, Santeria, and Hinduism.

Traditional sports have remained mostly unchanged in their active practice, but not necessarily in their execution. Teams now hire referee mages to make sure that illegal spellcasting or alchemical elixir use isn't happening, various weather mages compete for big weather-warding gigs like the Superbowl or FIFA cup, and contact sports have become even more violent thanks to healing spells keeping most damage from being permanent. Sports also have segregated leagues specifically for chimeras and chimera halflings to avoid any unfairness towards human players from their opponents having boons like cat reflexes or a giant spider for an rear end. Chimeras have protested the fact that chimera leagues are often underfunded and intentionally played up as novelty acts in a way that some find uncomfortably close to old school freak shows.

Entirely new sports have also arisen in the post-Trinity world. On top of horses and cars, racing now adds flying carpets and dragons to its repertoire of variants. On the team sports side, there's a new form of basketball known as airball that relies on Levitation spells to reach a particularly high net. Creation safaris are a new form of hunting based around the Create Animal spell, effectively allowing you to kill whatever animal you want regardless of what its endangered species status may be, the only drawback being the whole caveat that you don't get a trophy since a slain Create Animal construct disappears entirely. Rarer are the controversial creation safaris that go after the most dangerous game, using Create Warrior to allow for legal human hunting in areas that actually allow the sport. Finally, there's spellboxing, which is just a fancy way for saying wizard duels.

With teleportation being largely tied up with the space industry and considered too precious and pricey to use for other causes, there is still a large need for good old vehicles. Most vehicles are now enhanced, of course, from ships powered by NEMA reactors to high end cars and motorcycles utilizing mana-fuel engines. There is also the whole matter of flying carpets. Flying carpets fall into a strange niche, slower and easier to use than a jet plane but pricier than an automobile. They mainly fill the roles that helicopters do in the real world, as well as being popular with wealthier individuals and utilized for city "air taxis" that have fare costing about twice as much as that of the ground variety.

Next time in GURPS Technomancer: We talk people and places as we cover organizations and a few key locations in the final two chapters of the book. Expect cops, criminals, and corporations. Also, this guy:

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 22:41 on Jan 22, 2016

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

MonsieurChoc posted:

It's funny, I thought I remembered Nuclear Liches being playable, if extremely high-point.

Zereth posted:

I remember them having a stat block, but I don't think it was in the section with the templates.
Atomic liches were covered back in my post about chapters 2 through 4 (the last GURPS Technomancer post of the last thread, which is on Inklesspen's site as Chapter 2 Continued), in a portion I accidentally labeled just as "Non-Human Races" instead of "Chapter 4: Non-Human Races". A true testament to the fact that I can repeatedly check over my writing and still miss things.

They do get mentioned again in the next chapter, though, with the atomic lich terrorist Lord Deadlady.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
Okay, folks, it's poll time.

I'm nearly done with GURPS Technomancer at this point: just two more posts, in fact, both of which are nearly done being written. While I have a plan for what will replace Hoodoo Blues (hint: it's going to be continuing the work of someone else's FATAL and Friends entries from the past), but I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing in Technomancer's stead beyond another GURPS book because why not. So I figured I'd pose the question to the thread in the traditional fashion many of us have taken to by now.

Option A, GURPS Black Ops: The X-Files from the perspective of the people who go out and shoot the aliens and silence the conspiracy theorists, with a genre shift to action movie and dark comedy on top. It is also very 90s, with those "how Group A views Group B" in-character things you see in World of Darkness and In Nomine, fiction from the perspective of a specific agent of the conspiracy, and The 'Tude.

Option B, GURPS Warehouse 23: Ever seen a show called Warehouse 13? Well, GURPS did it first. And Indiana Jones did it before either of them, but that's besides the point. Warehouse 23 is a weird book that's not partly but not quite an artifact book, a bestiary, and a setting. Also, it has Godzilla in it with his Japanese name stated outright, yet somehow never got in trouble for this.

Option C, GURPS Voodoo: A game that has practitioners of Voodoo as actual protagonists! ...And a magical race war as its premise. Oh.

Option D, GURPS Banestorm: The only GURPS Fourth Edition book on here, mainly because 3E had an assload of books with far more fluff than crunch, while 4E very much flipped that dichotomy and doesn't really have many fluff-heavy genre books and only two real big book settings to speak of. Welcome to a world where the Crusades crashed a generic high fantasy setting, leaving Christian and Muslim kingdoms side by side with elven lands and dwarven empires.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Alien Rope Burn posted:

I'll probably be literally the only one who votes for D, but this was always a interesting setting saddled with writing drier than a salt mine, and I want to see if they fixed that.
Even if you're the only one, I wouldn't worry too much. Losing the poll only means it won't be what I do first. I'm not one to try to shoehorn myself into a certain niche, but I sort of end up on kicks of reviewing certain long-running systems (with odd outliers like Hoodoo Blues or Supernatural: the RPG on the side) anyway.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
In what ended up being a complete surprise to me, we had a three-way tie up into the very end, at which point GURPS Banestorm eked out a marginal win with five votes to Black Agents's and Voodoo's four! Sorry, Warehouse 23, you weren't even in the running.

Now that the polling is out of the way, the second to last GURPS Technomancer post will be up today, and the final exit tomorrow, after which Banestorm will start as soon as I've gotten a few posts of it written.

EDIT: And for Mors Rattus's poll, I'm going to vote for Superior 3. As much as I want to hear about the old gods, I want to hear about how they treat Khalid more. :getin:

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 19:37 on Jan 26, 2016

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 7: Organizations
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Tactical Talismans, and Firearms (A3TF)
On top of what the real ATF regulates, the A3TF deals with the regulation of "tactical talismans", classed as any magic item capable of producing physical harm or dysfunction. They also cover magic item smuggling and supernaturally-induced arson. The NRA and their kin in the world of Technomancer see combat wands and other damaging magic items as a direct extension of the second amendment, and arguments over tactical talisman control get just as nasty as ones about gun control.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
The CDC still deals with diseases, of course. And since vampiric leukemia and ambulatory necrotic plague are diseases, that means the CDC gets to have its own special team of undead slayers. Hazardous Material and Entities Teams, or HazMETs, go out and personally take care of the threats of entities classified as "ambulatory biohazards", including vampires, toxic zombies, atomic liches, and chonchons. HazMET teams also get called out when there is a need to have wizard battles with bioterrorist mages.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
While they're best known as a spy agency, the CIA in the world of GURPS Technomancer is actually criticized for lack of spying, as they have spent a lot more of their budget on trying to figure out new surveillance and countersurveillance spells rather than recruiting foreign operatives and gathering intel.

Drug and Alchemy Enforcement Agency (DAEA)
The DAEA is at the front of the War on Drugs and Alchemy, an ongoing fight that started with cartels on the Mexico border but has since spread nationwide. Libertarians (and presumably other left wing groups, but only libertarians are mentioned by the text) have contested the fact that DAEA offices now have access to large amounts of conventional and magical firepower and large legal jurisdiction, and raids of local mom and pop elixir shops have lead to some civilian accusations that the organization is on the payroll of Big Alchemy. Their agents don't really care, though, because...

GURPS Technomancer posted:

They know what crack and spelljack can do to a neighborhood, and see firsthand the horrific “brain labs” where society's lost are brain-leeched to make PHTP. When they hear of a cop ripped apart by gangbangers supercharged on illegal combat elixirs and PCP, they have no qualms about shutting down the back-alley shop that makes the stuff.

Remember the Star Wars project? Well, in the world of GURPS Technomancer, Reagan instead came up with this black ops project, and unlike Star Wars, it succeeded. Ronnie was terrified at the fact that the USSR figured out how to create kinetic kill satellites soon after the USA did (because dropping big rocks is apparently a difficult discovery), so he ordered the testing of a new form of satellite that would be able to break through even the extremely powerful Force Dome spells that the kinetic kill satellites are enchanted with. The result is the Excalibur: a satellite containing a nuclear warhead that, when detonated, powers twenty-four mana-active lasers that drain the Force Dome while the blast's concentrated radioactive beam itself incinerates the juicy mechanical innards. While nuclear detonations in space don't threaten causing a Hellstorm event like one in the atmosphere would, it is still technically against the Test Ban Treaty of 1953, so the Excalibur is kept very much under wraps to avoid international outrage.

Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI)
The Bureau is home to some of the world's best forensic mages. Seers attempt to predict crime sprees or major events so they can be stopped before they happen, exorcists are on hand to deal with demonological and spiritual crimes, and certain occultists on staff are trying to unravel the mystery of the Seelie. For whatever reason, most of the already short entry space for each organization is spent discussing how many individuals of various real world personnel types the FBI has.

National Astromancy and Space Administration (NASA)
A surprisingly terse entry, simply noting the actual space holdings that NASA has. I can assume that this is a result of the last two chapters detailing a lot about space travel already. Most launches by NASA are done at the Johnson Space Teleportation Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Astromancers there have access to immense powerstones, allowing them to channel enough energy collectively to teleport things up to five tons in weight out into orbit. Space Port Hermes is the primary space station in orbit for NASA to transport things to, and it acts a staging point for the organization's two moon bases. The Hubble Lunar Observatory is an observatory of thirty scientists that live on the far side of the moon and observe the stars, while Kennedy base is a joint NASA, European, Canadian, Mexican, and Japanese space station with a maximum one thousand person population found across forty buildings.

Paramagical Regulatory Agency (PRA)
A spinoff of the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Environmental Protection Agency, created to deal with magical concerns related to all three of the above mundane organizations. While the PRA has authorization to shut down someone's business, they have no legal authority to deal with criminal acts, and primarily just end up providing leads for the police and FBI or aid with legislation related to the regulation of magical commerce. The Republican party has repeatedly tried to defund the PRA, to no success so far.

Other US Agencies
These poor saps only get a few sentences rather than the few paragraphs the other organizations so far have gotten. To give a quick rundown of an already quick list: the National Reconnaissance Office runs satellites enchanted with the Wizard Eye spell and send their information to the NSA and CIA, the NSA has nothing really new of note about it right here compared to what it already is in real life, the Secret Service supplies agents with magical items enchanted with Missile Shield or Reverse Missile, and the US Space Command is the Air Force's space branch for when there is tension out in the wild black yonder.

Chili Wizard
For whatever reason, chili is actually the most popular fast food in Technomancer's America, with Chili Wizard being the leading chain. Chili Wizards are easily spotted by their stereotypical wizard's tower-shaped buildings and their cartoon dragon mascot El Draco the Chili Wizard. Their chain was the first group of drive-throughs to utilize pots enchanted with the Cook spell to make restaurant-quality food at fast food speeds, and they have continued to lead the food industry in innovations surrounding the creation and application of spells related to the creation of food.

Leviathan Investment Group
Our prerequisite megacorporation, since this is a 90s game after all. Leviathan owns a lot of companies in numerous fields, has large numbers of lobbyists under its thumb, is connected to a few foreign dictatorships, and is lead by a mysterious man named Jericho Rain. Hidden to all but the corporate elite of Leviathan is the fact that Rain is actually a particularly intelligent blue dragon. He was a member of the Black Berets during the Vietnam War, where he made his living as a black market arms salesman. The fortune he made off that was what he used to pump life into a small investment firm he found and transform it into the corporate giant – well, let's be honest, corporate leviathan, because that's totally what they were going for with the name – it is today. Some of the big companies Leviathan has swallowed up include:
  • Global Hazardous Operations and Security Techniques: GHOST is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it trains magical security for law enforcement and corporate interests, as well as some of the best Hellhounds in the nation through their own Cerberus Unit. They even have criminal mage reform programs across the USA that they pay for out of their own pocket. On the other hand, GHOST also has a base off of American soil, down in Surinam, that acts as a mage PMC that contracts out to war-torn nations across the Third World. Whether or not they secretly have the backing of a Herculean senator from the midwest is unknown.
  • Hermes Technology: The largest alchemical R&D and manufacturing group in America. It is a profitable venture for Leviathan, being its largest subsidiary thanks to huge money from varous elixirs and being the first to develop aerosol elixirs and sell them to the military and law enforcement groups. They also keep mysteriously having accusations against them concerning illegal alchemical waste dumping either dropped or settled out of court.
  • Leviathan Genetics: Leviathan Genetics is perhaps most famous for being the inventors of the Transfer Pregnancy and Spellgraft spells and custom-engineered familiars, but it has so far still been a huge money sink for LIG. Still, research keeps going, combined with aggressive headhunting at mage campuses for anyone who has any whiff of talent regarding genetic manipulation. Since human genetic engineering is currently illegal in the United States in spite of their lobbying, Leviathan Genetics has a branch down in Surinam with their PMC brethren that allows wealthy individuals to fly there and request Spellgrafting or other fetal tampering for a hefty sum. Rain's ultimate goal is an "everyone will be superheroes...if they can pay" situation: not content with having Spellgraft allow children to be born with a single innate spell, he keeps filtering cash into Leviathan Genetics for the ultimate goal of being able to genetically induce Magery itself.
  • Leviathan Media Group: A book, magazine, and compute game company, without any deep dark secrets or the like. Some of their most popular periodicals include Better Living Through Alchemy, Chimera Life and its racier counterpart Chimera Babes, Financial Wizardry, Hermetic Gardening, Popular Enchantment, and Tactical Sorcery Review.
  • Sunspark Opals: A joint investment between Leviathan and Manadynamics that creates and sells watches and jewelry that have embedded Powerstones. It also doesn't have any deep dark secrets.

Manadynamics was the pioneer of both industrial enchantment and the creation of Powerstones, large opal-like gemstones that hold extra mana that can be used for casting and automatically recharge themselves over time. While other groups quickly reverse-engineered the concept and courts ruled that Manadynamics could not hold monopoly on the concept of a magic rock, the company is still the primary manufacturer of Powerstones due to the number and quality they produce. Most other products of Manadynamics are the result of partnerships. On top of their jewelry business with the Leviathan group noted above, their other really big successes have been creating flying carpets with DuPont and the Harmonic Converter™ mana-powered engine with Ford Motors.

If you recall, these guys have been embroiled in legal controversy over their spell that lets you watch no longer running television shows. That's probably actually the least of the problems this company has had. Golems at their factories had programming to use deadly force against unauthorized personnel, necromantic waste was unsafely stored, and numerous conspiracy theories swirled around them, all leading to eroding public trust in the company. This all came to a head when a massive industrial accident at NecroTech Albuquerque in 1991 killed two of its brightest scientists and lead to a CDC investigation, which unsurprisingly found numerous health and safety violations that lead to the facility being sealed off. The combination of the loss of key personnel, its largest research lab, exorbitant fines, and plummeting stock more or less crippled Necrotech. The only reason they survived at all was a buyout by Sephiroth Industries in 1994. While merely a subsidiary of Sephiroth, Necrotech survvied and rebounded thanks to corporate restructuring and greater safety measures that got both the public and the military (for whome ghost dynamic lasers and golems were built before the 1991 incident) back on Necrotech's side.

That's not the whole story, though. Those conspiracy theories? Two of them are true, at least. Claims that Necrotech were researching interdimensional travel were true, and that research continues covertly under the leadership of Sephiroth Industries. Conspiracy theorist claims of a nefarious device code-named Soulburner were also, unfortunately, very much true. Andrew Bleys, the man who founded Necrotech and one of the two scientists who died in the 1991 disaster, was obsessed with trying to find something that could channel excess mana even better than Powerstones. His eventual decision: human souls. Thus was born the Soulburner Gestalt, a terrifying machine that is a giant tube with five hundred decapitated but nonetheless alive human heads plugged into wall sockets and writhing in eternal pain. Each head acts as a Powerstone, but their connection to the machine means they all act in unison, effectively making a ridiculously powerful Powerstone that could fuel tons of magic use. When it was discovered during government raids of the Albuquerque facility after the 1991 disaster, shocked NSA agents spirited it away and supposedly dismantled it, but kept Bleys's original blueprints secretly hidden under lock and key rather than destroying those as well. You know, just in case.

Sephiroth Industries
Sephiroth Industries began as just another one of the various Powerstone companies vying for a piece of the Manadynamics pie, notable only for managing to survive the head Powerstone company's crippling licensing fees by designing a new form of Powerstone in 1968 that was large and energy-packed enough that it could be used to revolutionize the space race. The ascent of chairwoman Elena Chapel also lead to an ascent of the company, with her decision to push more money into spell R&D leading to Sephiroth's invention of the spells Conduct Power, Draw Power, and Steal Power in 1978. Selling these spells to schools and commercial businesses for a flat rate one-time licensing fee not only made Sephiroth Industries money, but also broke the monopoly Manadynamics had on the field of magical energy.

The company now specializes in telportation-grade Powerstones, teleportation shuttles, electromagnetic-related magic, energy to mana and mana to energy conversion through their invented spells, and the products created by their subsidiary Necrotech. Sephiroth Industries is also the primary civilian provider of space transport to both space stations/satelittes and the moon, and their own massive wheel-like space station dubbed Yetzirah is planned for completion by 2005.

Other Corporations
Like those random US agencies, these are the corporations that are at the bottom of the word count barrel. American Telegraph, Telephone, and Telepathy manufactures magical telecommunications gear on top of mundane phones and the like, Boeing Hyperspace creates teleportation wands, Brujera Mexicana is the largest magitech corporation in Mexico and creates a variety of civilian and military magic items, DuPont makes Kevlar and Ectoweave™ as well as flying carpets, IBM makes both magical and non-magical computers and developed the Small Vision spell, Intel was the first to use the Inscribe spell for microlithography, Lockheed-Martin tries really hard to compete in the same sales fields as Sephiroth Industries but has only beaten them in the creation of military aircraft, and Manastar is a software developer that pioneered awakened computers and scrolls on CD.

Activist Groups
Since these guys actually manage to have a big more to them than the "other [x]" groups do, they get enough attention from me to actually pull out some bullet points rather than one rambling sentence.
  • Bothered About Magic Prostitution: BAMP protests against the use of Create Servant constructs, plastic golems, and video entities (magical constructs created by enchanting part of a film reel, VCR tape, or CD in order to reproduce a thing that is on screen as a full-sized animate entity) as sex workers. They allege that these acts are becoming more and more common, and that legislation is needed now before things get out of hand.
  • Everyone's Against Spirit Exploitation: Founded in 1980, EASE primarily protests against the status of elementals as tools and property in spite of their sapience, but also support privacy rights for the dead and lessened use of the Summon Spirit spell. With around twenty thousand members and strong public support, they are one of the most successful magical activist groups in the United States.
  • Greenpeace: The most well-known "responsible" (the book's scare quotes, not mine) environmental activists. A recent incident involved French-sanctioned terrorists attacking Greenpeace after a protest of France's testing of necronium bombs in the South Pacific.
  • League of Chimera Voters: The largest activist group in the United States with around one hundred thousand members, the League of Chimera Voters is basically the NAACP but for chimeras.
  • Nightclaw: A New Mexico-based chimera activist group. Unlike the League of Chimera Voters, Nightclaw goes with the bash-the-fash strategy of activism rather than quiet protests and letters to city representatives.
  • The Right Path: A really weird straw atheist organization. They argue that magic is inherently irrational and that hard science should be supported instead before Western civilization topples from its own folly. This would make far more sense if this was Mage and not Technomancer, where magic is in fact quite scientific and can be researched, measured, and developed like any other type of technological advancement.

Like activist groups, the clan of setting villains here are still more noteworthy than any of the collective Other Guys, so the bullet points are getting pulled out again.
  • Army of God: Muslims that hate magic, the USSR, and Israel. They are supported by Iran and Afghanistan.
  • Dead Brigade: While mostly made up of vampires, the leadership of the Dead Brigade is an atomic lich hacker named Lord Deadlady. Lord Deadlady. Their primary goals are beating the poo poo out of the CDC, attempting to force the US to repeal anti-vampire laws, and trying to create NEMA reactor accidents to create more undead.
  • Elemental Liberation Front: ELF is a splinter group of EASE that felt peaceful protests wouldn't get elementals freed from their slavery at any reasonable rate. While only about thirty members strong, those members include elementals, chimeras, and at least one dragon, which means they aren't exactly weaklings.
  • Gaea's Guard: A group against NEMA reactors and the proliferation of necronium products. Their main attacks are against NEMA power lines and corporate offices.
  • God's Own Army: Like the Army of God, but Christian instead of Muslim and not supported by or turned against any particular nation.
  • Irish Republican Army: If you lived through the 90s, you probably know who these guys are. In the world of GURPS Technomancer, they engaged in necromancy and the summoning of demons taking the form of beasts from Celtic mythology.
  • Loki's Stepchildren: A group of radical anti-Christian neo-pagans, made up entirely of nonhuman races. They target human Christian groups for their attacks.
  • South Atlantic Solidarity Strikeforce: A Maoist collective that have allied themselves with the killer penguins. The only attacks SASS has made have been against Argentinian bases on small Antarctic islands, so they aren't particularly demanding as far as terrorist groups go.
  • Weather Underground: Another actual terrorist group that did horrible things in the real world in the 90s. In Technomancer-land, they have actual weather control magic.
  • Wodinspear: A group of Norse neo-pagan skinheads with ties to Neo-Nazis. They hate all non-whites, including non-humans, and I can only imagine how well they react to Loki's Stepchildren given their shared religion.

Elementalist's Union
The Elementalists' Union is a union for mage laborers who utilize elemental magic. It is a powerful union that has contributed to the political careers of various Democrats and lobbyists that are pro-labor and pro-magic. The Union's biggest troubles have come from the mob, which has been attempting to infiltrate and influence the union's members in New York and New Jersey, and the protestation of their use of Summon Elemental and Control Elemental spells by activist groups.

Enoch Foundation
The Enoch Foundation is an international nonprofit that utilizes various healing, plant-boosting, and weather contrl spells to aid those living in Third World nations. After accusations of imperialism in the past, modern Enoch volunteers have taken to working with and assisting local mages and community leaders rather than ignoring them while going in all gung-ho.

Syndicado Nacional de Trabajadores en Brujera y Curandera Quetzal
A mage worker's union in Mexico....and that's pretty much it. I'm not sure why these guys aren't in the upcoming "Other Organizations of Interest" section instead of here.

Brothers of the Morning Star
A cult that preaches oneness and achievement of spiritual clarity, even claiming that non-mages can gain Magery by rising through the ranks and achieving their own personal divinity through cosmic enlightenment. The Morning Star's leaders claim that their teachings come from Ozymandias, a spirit who is the last survivor of a mighty civilization that was once found on Venus but was destroyed after all but Ozymandius strayed from the path of enlightenment. In truth, Ozymandias is just a malebrachne demon, albeit one who has managed to get an impressive following.

Church of the Knights of the Apocalypse
A splinter group of Southern Baptists who adapted their premillenial dispensationalist ideas to the magical world. They see chimeras and undead as part of Gog and Magog, along with Cuba, Russia, and Canada (change that to Russia, China, and Iran and you more or less have a non-magical version of what my parents taught me, so not too far off so far). Chimeras in particular are believed to be sired from incubus sperm, and thus carrying the spirit of Satan. The signal of the Rapture and the Apocalypse after it is said to be a third Hellstorm in Jerusalem some time in the next century, and the Knights feel it is their duty to save as many souls in the time before and block the 'forces of darkness' from having too much support when the end does come. On top of standard fundamentalist right wing political positions, Knights urge their members to avoid and boycott chimera-owned businesses and support legislature that directly or indirectly hampers chimeras' civil rights, especially their ability to breed. Women in the church who have the rare misfortune of a pregnancy that spontaneously has the fetus develop into a chimera rather than a human typically either abandon the baby or have an abortion in spite of the church's pro-life stance – both in secret, of course, to avoid abuse and accusations of devilry.

The Rachelites
Almost the polar opposites of the Church of the Knights of the Apocalypse, the Rachelites were created by Rachel Curwin, a woman who claimed that the voice of God spoke to her and told her to take up "the sword of Alamogordo" (magic) and smite those who would threaten peace and justice. Rachelites are entirely made up of mages who believe that Curwin's vision was both true and a commandment from God that deemed magic a tool of the righteous. They join various law enforcement and military groups to enforce the law, and are big supporters of the US government. You probably shouldn't talk about the Hellstorm, though – they consider the name to be sacrilege, and instead refer to the Hellstorm as the Eye of God or the Divine Whirlwind.

The Condor Group
The Thule Society were Nazi mystics that had no magical talent whatsoever, since there was no such thing as magic yet. As the Third Reich collapsed in 1945, terrified Thule Society priests hiding deep in the mountains of Bavaria attempted to contact Hitler's ghost in a desperate attempt to figure out what to do. Surprisingly, it worked: the Trinity test had made magic real, and their ceremonies suddenly had merit. Hitler pointed them westward, destined to create a Fourth Reich in the New World. Their seance answered, the Thule priests made the pilgrimage to Argentina along with other Nazi escapees and created a front for themselves as a financial and consulting firm called the Condor Group. Using the Exchange Bodies spell, they hid wanted criminals such as Otto Skorzeny, Martin Bormann, and even Joseph Mengele behind entirely new faces, and through their deceptive charms they worked their way into the good graces of Juan and Eva Peron. Saving Eva from a life-threatening illness and teaching her the ways of the mage sealed the deal for good.

Nazis now effectively rule Argentina, the power behind the throne of the immortal Eva Peron. Decades of indocrination to Nazi ideology, eugenics programs, and armies of ghost U-Boats and their damned crews raised by Condor Group necromancers ensure that the Nazi legacy will continue, and the combined use of Steal Youth and Exchange Bodies spells has meant that the original Thule priests are still around as well. They even have Hitler at their side – sort of, at least. A ghost that is believed to be Hitler is kept in a protective glass sphere, but all he does is scream and mutter nonsensical words and phrases, seemingly having been driven even more mad by whatever happened in the afterlife.

The Cartels
Operating primarily out of Colombia and Mexico, the Cartels are well-known for their large hand in the drug trade. The sheer amount of magic that makes crossing countries unnoticed easier has forced the DAEA to abandon hopes of winning the War on Drugs through border control. Instead, they focus on policing American streets and aiding Mexican and Colombian efforts to fight the Cartels on their native soils. The main products the Cartels move are cocaine, spelljack (cocaine infused with crushed powerstones that causes the user to cast spells more effectively, feel overconfident, and have glowing red eyes; being addicted to spelljack is a -20 point disadvantage), and the infamous Purified Human Theokinesis Protein. PHTP is created from theokinesin, the cerebral chemical that is produced in tandem with Magery. Taking PHTP increases a character's Magery advantage by one level or grants Magery 1 to a non-mage for the twenty-four hour duration of the drug, as well as producing , but overdosing can actually lead to permanent loss of a level of Magery. The thing that makes it illegal, of course, is the fact that you need to hack up someone's brain to get at, and Cartel manufacturers have started to run kidnapping and murder rings just to make PHTP.

The Mafia
Mafia activities are mainly focused on protection rackets that target small magic item shops and construction businesses, magic-aided blackmail, mind control magic, and prostitution of chimeras and succubi/incubi. They have also begun to smuggle magic items from America to Europe, as Europe has a fair amount of tariffs that make their magic item prices overall more expensive. Mafia wizards are called Bernandanti and specialize in mind control and necromancy spells, with Soul Jar being actually enforced on members of the families to ensure their loyalty.

Triads are best known for exploiting Asian immigrant sweatshop workers and smuggling drugs, firearms, and alchemical elixirs across the Pacific in both directions. They also directly compete with the Cartels for PHTP production and distribution. Some Triads gangs are lead by dragons, who gain high status thanks to connections they made in the east Asian underworld during the Vietnam War.

Other Groups of Interest
The Vatican has a group monitoring priests and nuns that are mages and coordinating Catholic mage training, Mexico's feds have a decent number of mages, and Mossad uses golems and primarily targets Middle Eastern countries and Argentina. That's pretty much the summary of the very short "other groups of interest".

Chapter 8: World of Wizardy
The very last chapter of GURPS Technomancer gives us a brief gazetteer. Almost all of it focuses on the heavily mana-touched areas of Trinity's Shadow (the USA, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and southern Canada) and the Antarctica Hellstorm (Antarctica, southern Argentina, and various tiny islands). Since those areas are the ones with the highest number of mage births and supernatural entities, they are given far more attention on what has happened to them, which I guess is reasonable but at the same time a bit sad at the same time, given that I'd love to see what certain other nations do with their smaller but nonetheless present mage populations.

Places of Power
Certain places that have long (Victorian era-long at the least) been associated with the mystical and the arcane, such as Easter Island, Stonehenge, and Buddhist temples. These aren't listed in any detail, with the book instead asking us to look at GURPS Places of Mystery and take inspiration from it. I may just do that later on down the review line, book, thanks for the suggestion.

The Manabelt
Covering a two hundred mile radius that covers most of New Mexico and parts of west Texas and northern Mexico, the Manabelt was the epicenter of the magic blast of the Triniy experiments. The results were insane, to say the least. In most of the world, one in a thousand people are born with Magery 1, one in ten thousand are born with Magery 2, and one in one hundred thousand are born with Magery 3. In most of Trinity's Shadow and the Antartica Hellstorm, those numbers are one in one hundred being born with Magery 1, one in four hundred with Magery 2, and one in one thousand with Magery 3. People in the Manabelt have six times as many mage births as the rest of Trinity's Shadow, and the otherwise rare chimera births are just as high as mages. Unsurprisingly, people flock to the Mana Belt for both agricultural and industrial business, chimeras gather there due to safety in numbers, and non-mage tourists who want a taste of magical power travel there to be able to use magic for a brief period of time. Some particular locations of note within the Manabelt are also given.
  • Alamogordo: Near the epicenter of the original blast that created Trinity's Shadow and the Manabelt, Alamogordo is both a major magic agricultural center and military location. On top of White Sands Missile Range being converted to a slace teleportation center, it is the location of Camp Merlin, the wizard training ground for the US Army.
  • White Sands National Monument: A gypsum desert that is best known for having an all-white subspecies of basilisk. The park is open unless tests are being performed at the White Sands Missile and Space Teleportation Center.
  • Trinity Site: Sixty miles northwest of Alamogordo, the Hellstorm still rages where it was born. The Army keeps the area under lock and key, since it's probably in everyone's best interests to avoid any deaths in a terrifying mess of radiation, super-high mana, hurricane-force wind, and lightning.
  • Albuquerque: The second largest city in the Manabelt, Albuquerque is home base for major magical corporations including Sephiroth Industries and its subsidiary Necrotech and Hermes Technology. There is also the large mage's college of the University of New Mexico, SpecOps dragons and high-power stealth fighters at Kirtland Air Force Base, and a burgeoning tourist industry. The city also has a darker side in the Lower Central Avenue district, which has become known for such things as vampire snuff films, large-scale succubus prostitution, and PHTP trade.
  • Carlsbad: This small town is best known for the things around it, rather than anything in and of itself. The Living Desert Park is a nature-rich wonderland famous for its walking cacti (close to zombee cactus, but without the undead or bee control parts), Carslbad Caverns has numerous bats and urban legends about vampire clans in its labryinthine depths, and the controversial Waste Isolation Plant and its salt domes packed with mana-active waste.
  • El Paso-Juarez Metropolis: The most populated Manabelt city is Ciudad Juarez, partnered with the Texan city of El Paso as a "twin cities" urban metropolis. El Paso is famous for having the prestigious magical academy of the University of Texas at El Paso and the headquarters of Manadynamics, and Ciudad Juarez balances a large tourist industry and magic item factories with a reputation for being heavily corrupted by the Cartels.
  • Roswell: Roswell, New Mexico, is a mostly idyllic ranching town and the head of Chaves County. It is home to the New Mexico Military Institute, a military cadet school with around a thousand students pulled from high schools across the country, and also supposedly where Seelie faeries manifested in 1947 and were captured by the government and taken away from Roswell to Area 51.

Mexico has become a powerful industrial nation thanks to the manufacture of magic items, magical healthcare, and plant magic boosting its agriculture, though it still lags behind the United States in wealth. There is also the stumbling block of unrest with the native peoples in Chiapas after a revolt spurred on by the lack of magical aid in the region, as well as the ever-present issue of the Cartels. Mexican mages nonetheless get a lot of business from various nations that are on less than friendly terms with America.

Central America and the Caribbean
While this is a multi-part segment like several before, it's unfortunately not really interesting enough to have a bullet points party. The nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua can all be summed up as "poo poo's hosed with cycles of left wing and right wing violence that is often fueled by Cuban and American interests", and Belize merely gets a note that it has a fair bit of tourism and geomancers looking for oil. That just leaves the two notes on the Caribbean to cover. Haiti was one of the few Caribbean islands that didn't fall under Trinity's Shadow. This forced Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his successors to hire mercenary mages from Mexico to help prop up their rule, until the US broke everything apart and restored democracy in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, Fidel Castro is kept strong and healthy in Cuba thanks to youth potions, while a network of state-sponsored magical education attracting mages that in turn help provide medical care and infrastructural work. Cuban mercenary mages are popular with the USSR and its allies.

Most of southern Canada was under Trinity's Shadow, save for Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. This has created even greater tension amongst the Quebecois, who are totally serious about separatism this time you guys. Its magic healthcare system is the best in the world, its variant of NEMA reactors known as CANDU reactors are popular exports, and Canadian wizards are often made part of the UN Peacekeepers.

Argentina and Tierra del Fuego
Argentina has powerful magical agriculture, healthcare, and military might. It also has a fascist leadership of the ageless Eva Peron and her Nazi allies, which is not so good. Enemies of the state are unpersoned, murdered, and then animated as zombie laborers that toil away in the country's mines and factories. Even worse have been the injustices made against the native Ona and Yaghane people of Tierra del Fuego, many of whom were moved to the Argentine mainland under the pretense of safety concerns regarding magic radiation, only to be tortured and used in horrific experiments by Dr. Mengele. Israel and the United Kingdom have repeatedly hinted to the United States that Nazis are in Argentina, but for whatever reason there has been no severance of diplomatic ties.

The Mundane World
Socialists in Europe have accused America's magic supremacy as an imperialist threat that leads to magical pollution, mana-resistant diseases, vampirism and other undead plagues, and the enslavement of elementals, but most of the rest of the world is ultimately ambivalent about the subject of magic. The only two countries detailed here are Vietnam and Surinam. The former s an authoritarian regime that has yet to recover from the magical scars of the Vietnam War, while the latter was taken over by a mercenary's wife named MAria Hawker, her mage mercenary flunkies, and her Dutch allies.

Creatures of Enchantment
I actually completely forgot that this tiny segment at the end existed, and it's honestly not hard to figure out why. This is more or less the bestiary of non-playable magical entities, And each entry has one or two sentences at best followed by a terse stat block. Basilisks are spiny Gila monsters that can cast Flesh to Stone, great crimson manticores are mutant mountain lions with rudimentary sapience, a venomous stinger on its tail, red fur, and a human-like face that can parrot random phrases it hears from humans it has preyed on, jackalopes are antlered jackrabbits that are aggressive during their mating season, walking cacti are vaguely humanoid and actively carnivorous cacti that stand 15 to 20 feet in height and impale prey on their spines, albino alligators are massive white alligators found in sewers across America, and leviathans are immense eels with reptilian heads that are known to attack ships.

Next Time, in GURPS Technomancer: Looking toward the past and the future with brief coverage of the Vietnam War adventure Technomancer: Strange New Guys, a look at mentions and legacy traits of GURPS Technomancer found in GURPS Fourth Edition, and my own final thoughts on the setting as a whole.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Nessus posted:

So how did the mana thing work in Technomancer, I missed that. I know the "official" GURPS rule is that normal Earth is a low-mana zone (-5 to zaubs) but in places like Stonehenge or something it might be "normal." This sounds more like "no mana before nukes".
Oriongates covered most of it, but the general gist is that Earth may or may not have been a low mana zone before the Hellstorm event. Here's the brief note early on in the book about the subject:

GURPS Technomancer posted:

Thaumatologists believe that Earth had low mana before the Hellstorm, perhaps with a few normal-mana areas. They are bitterly divided over whether Earth had a higher mana level in antiquity, but “pop culture” generally believes that it did.

It's now normal mana almost everywhere except for the Manabelt and Antarctica, which are high mana, which I think I mentioned but I might not have knowing me.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Welcome to the last post of GURPS Technomancer. It's time to tie up the last loose ends before we close the book on this tale and look forward.

Looking to the Past: Funny New Guys
GURPS Funny New Guys: Technomancers in Vietnam was a fifty page PDF adventure and pseudo-sourcebook that was produced in 2004, near the very end of GURPS Third Edition's lifespan. On top of talking about troop deployment strategies and going into more depth about topics covered in GURPS Technomancer proper such as the Black Berets and Kennedy's "Spell Gap" speech that spurred on the magical revolution, providing some mini-templates (what GURPS Fourth Edition would come to call lenses) to add specific military training to any character template, stats for various vehicles, weapons, and hazards of war, and a triad of native wildlife to endanger soldiers (the reticulated python, leopard, and green viper, to be specifc), the biggest thing Funny New Guys presents to us that isn't the adventure is a rather shocking revelation about Vietnam: it actually received some of the manafall of the Antarctica Hellstorm during the 1949 spring monsoons. We will sadly never know what kind of chimeras came about in Vietnam, as they were systematically exterminated, both by peasants who were terrified at these strange monsters and the Vietmin because...just because. Mages were spared, however, and eventually became a tool for the Vietminh to use to overthrow the French yolk. We also learn that there were ten yellow dragons (yet another ally-coded designation for the same green-scaled dragons that everyone else uses) gifted by Nixon to Saigon after the war ended, but they aren't really important at all as eight of them were killed when they took part in a military coup in 1983 and the other two fled into the jungle and have never been seen again since.

The adventure itself puts the players in the role of grunts in the Fox Company, a unit of the 101st Spellborne Division during 1967. Their superiors are the Jazz-loving and overconfident hardass Captain Dale Muncie, fiery-tempered 1st Seargeant Larry Otis, drunkard, tobacco addict, and master of all types of firearm Staff Sergeant Tim Kapecki, and West Point glory hound 2nd Lieutenant David Henderson. There are also stats for Earnest "Fluffy" Faran, a fox chimera corporal who is a crack shot sniper but ultimately insecure after the anti-chimera prejudice he's experienced and eager to get back home to Texas. The course of the adventure takes place over several patrols of the unforgiving Vietnamese rainforest, the last of which ends in a firefight against heavily armed Viet Cong and a Howitzer they plan to use to destroy the base the players have been stationed, all during a heavy thunderstorm. Wounded characters receive a Purple Heart, and all of them receive the respect of the Fox Company's leadership as they are go from FNGs (which the book claims to stand for Funny New Guys, hence the title, but I'm fairly sure that first letter is a less pleasant word) to honoray "Fighting Foxes" in the eyes of their superiors.

Funny New Guys is written by Ed Wisniowski, writer of GURPS Monsters, GURPS Villains, and the In Nomine book Liber Reliquarium. While he doesn't do anything drastic with the setting, for good or for ill, the supplement doesn't really feel all that out of place either, and the parts that expand on existing Technomancer concepts honestly feel like they could have been written by Pulver himself. Wisniowski also doesn't stumble into the pitfalls of glorifying the Vietnam War as a just one in spite of the explicit American victory in the Technomancer universe, very much emphasizing the "war is hell" aspect of the entire mess.

Looking to the Future: Technomancer in GURPS Fourth Edition
Unlike some other 90s properties, it's very improbable that we'll ever see a GURPS Technomancer 20th Anniversary in 2019 or anything. The reasons for this are twofold. First off, the actual production climate of GURPS has changed a lot since the 80s and 90s. Gone are the days where you'd have a few hundred pages dedicated to a specific topic like ancient Egypt, the Napoleonic Era, or prehistoric life, and even longform settings have been abandoned for the most part. Steve Jackson Games still produces large print books once in a blue moon, like the upcoming GURPS Mars Attacks and Fourth Edition version of GURPS Discworld, but for the most part they have shifted their focus to smaller PDF releases around thirty to fifty pages, which I assume is financially viable given that they keep doing it.

Second, and probably more notably, the setting was technically updated. While GURPS Reign of Steel and GURPS Transhuman Space are settings that received small but proper conversion books, Technomancer was apparently less of a priority, as its 4E update was a few paragraphs in GURPS Infinite Worlds. One of two major setting books that were put out for Gurps Fourth Edition, GURPS Infinite Worlds has the premise of your characters being part of an interdimensional patrol agency. The world of Technomancer is designated as Merlin-1, and a few details are given concerning what happened from 2000 to 2004. Long story short, 9/11 was averted because the zombies of the Dead Brotherhood that were going to fly the planes were salted by covert CIA operatives, Stalin's armies have been mostly contained to the Caucasus, and Evita Peron and her Nazi pals have allied with the communist penguins and agents of Reich-2 (one of multiple "Nazis Won the War" dimensions) to become the only real threat to American dominance. There are also brief mentions of alternate Hellstorm events that created alternate Technomancer worlds: Merlin-2 has the Middle East as the Mana Belt after Hamas struck Jerusalem in 2012, while Merlin-3 had Nuremberg destroyed by a Hellstorm in 1919 to lead into a Weird War II scenario. There is no explanation of how these events had the necromantic ritual tied into them or why Oppenheimer's words in Merlin-2 didn't cause the first Hellstorm.

In spite of its brief stumbles and sometimes problematic or even downright creepily flawed moments, I could never say that GURPS Technomancer as a whole didn't have creativity and heart. The fleetingly brief blurb it gets in Infinite Worlds doesn't have any of that feeling of weird joy at its creation. This is strange, given that Steve Jackson, Kenneth Hite, and the late John M. Ford were the writers of GURPS Infinite Worlds, and I know Kenneth Hite has done some really creative poo poo in the roleplaying game industry and John Ford was an actual award-winning science fiction writer. Unless something unexpected happens I guess we may never know what Pulver would have decided to do if he did get to create a post-1999 Technomancer. It just seems a little annoying that while GURPS Reign of Steel and GURPS Transhuman Space – Pulver's other noteworthy GURPS settings – both got small but nonetheless present conversion books, Technomancer received no such luxury.

There's no time to dwell on that right now, though, as I still want to get through a bit more on GURPS Technomancer's footprint showing up in the 4E sand. I'm not talking about minor mentions, because then I'd be pointing out sentence-long callouts in things like GURPS Dragons and GURPS Horror or the fact that the plastic, radiation, and energy spells that were born from Technomancer appeared in the Fourth Edition version of GURPS Magic. Instead, I'm specifically going to be referring to a few things that had Technomancer as a stronger influence.

GURPS Seals in Vietnam
This GURPS Fourth Edition title about both the Vietnam War and the Navy SEALs has a one and a half page section entitled "Puff the Magic Dragon", which focuses entirely on SEALs in Technomancer. SEAL mages didn't have access to golems, zombies, or necronium weaponry like the Army, but they did have the aid of two blue dragon squadrons and a healthy knowledge of spells from the Air, Knowledge, Light and Darkness, Movement, and Water colleges. A 50 point lens called the Special Operations Technician is provided specifically to give you a fast and easy set of spells to slap on any SEAL character template, with spells including Breathe Water, Create Water, Destroy Water, Flying Carpet, Hide Thoughts, Lend Vitality, Missile Shield, Purify Air, Purify Water, Seek Water, and Sense Emotion.

Also provided are magic items that were (and are) frequently utilized by SEALs in the Technomancer world. The Poseidon vest is a green vest enchanted with Swim that allows a person to stay afloat even when overburdened with gear (also issued in red versions as civilian or rescue team life preservers), the recon amulet is a compass amulet that is enchanted with Find Direction, See Secrets, and Sense Danger spells as a personal lookout, war paint is a cream elixir that creates green and black camouflage paint that raises Stealth by 1d6 for two hours and reproduces the Panic spell if the sneaking doesn't work out and the Seal is seen, and the Colt-Fawkes MK 27 MOD 0 is a Colt M66 assault rifle modified to use the Fawkes Elemental Propellant Slugthrower system. The EPS system was a form of technomagic created by one Guy Gavriel Fawkes of Colt Firearms, and binds fire and water elementals into a combustion chamber that creates a steam explosion when fired. This extra propulsion allows for reduced overall ammunition size and weight and thus a greater amount of ammunition packed in the clip, but carries the burden of extra cost and unleashing two very angry elementals if the gun ever breaks or explodes.

GURPS Thaumatology: Urban Magics
The GURPS Thaumatology series was created to tweak various aspects of the GURPS spell system, from having a freeform word-based spell creation system rather than specific spells in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic to entirely foregoing spell-based magic in favor of magic designed around the advantages system in GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery. GURPS Thaumatology: Urban Magics was written by William H. Stoddard and covered concepts such as character templates for urban fantasy archetypes, magic through ley lines, and architecture as sacred geometry. What makes Technomancer relevant is the section "The Mechanical Equivalent of Magic", which brings back the concept of NEMA reactors and Ectite power lines (though neither are specifically named as such) and goes into greater detail about the Conduct Power and Draw Power spells that first appeared in GURPS Technomancer and reappeared in GURPS Magic 4E. And I mean detail on the level of how many megawatt hours convert into how much magical energy, as well as a paragraph on why pre-industrial methods of power such as windmills and water mills simply can't provide enough magic to make the Power spells useful enough to be invented yet. There are also two new spells called Minor Conduct Power and Minor Draw Power, which are like Conduct and Draw Power but measured in kilowatts of energy converted to mana rather than megawatts.

Pyramid Magazine
Finally, we have "Thoroughly Modern Magic", an article by Paul Stefko in issue 66 of Pyramid, the monthly GURPS magazine. Remember industrial enchantment? Stefko definitely did, as this article was him converting and more thoroughly fleshing out the system for GURPS Fourth Edition. Industrial enchantment is represented by a specific magical style (another Thaumatology ruleset involving specific lists of spells in tiered levels for that specific style, effectively putting limits on what a mage can learn in the same way as Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder class spell lists and spell levels) known as Line Magic, and a new character template called the line mage replaces the industrial enchanter template from GURPS Technomancer, with industrial enchanter instead being a specific job that most line mages are in. There is also a new character named Melissa Straithairn presented as a culmination of all the rules. Straithairn is living proof that Technomancer isn't necessarily all that different from the real world even with magic, as her years in the University of New Mexico taught her a lot of spells but also dumped buckets of debt on her, leading to a stressful period of various temp jobs before landing a permanent industrial enchanter job at a magic item manufacturer in Pittsburgh called House Elf Domestics.

Looking Inward: GURPS Technomancer and Me
Forgive me for being self-indulgent at the end here. My history of active engagement with roleplaying games isn't nearly as long as some others here: sure, I knew about things like AD&D or d6 Star Wars, but that didn't mean I ever played or GM'd them. In fact, I grew up in a household that actually did buy into the whole Satanic Panic business for a while, and still does to some lesser extent last I learned. That doesn't really matter on the topic of how I got into actually started becoming a participant in the hobby rather than a bystander, though, so let's skip further into the future.

The first roleplaying game I actually ever played was the Revised Star Wars Roleplaying Game from Wizards of the Coast in 2002. It was a shoddily run local thing that wasn't actually all that interesting, but it nonetheless was my first introduction to both looking at roleplaying games as an 'insider' (for what measure that term could imply here) rather than an outsider and my first run in with buying and sharing materials from hobby shops rather than standard bookstores. It also introduced me to the d20 system as a whole, and eventually lead me to d20 Modern and internet forums when that came out. But most importantly of all, it introduced me to the idea of participation through creation. No stats for woodoos and woolamanders to use? Needing a neek? Just stat them up with the baseline rules of creatures found in the SWRPG Revised Core Rulebook!

Through various forms of participation with various forms of d20, I can look back and say that I learned several things about myself and my connection with roleplaying games. One was that I was not actually all that much of a player or a GM. The parts I loved were the reading and the creating, learning things and then picking them apart. The other was that I was really desperate to want to belong and have attention. I skipped from d20 system to d20 system, and until very recently had never thought of branching out. Even then, I ended up actually buying loads of poo poo for FATE and the core rules for GURPS (I already had a fair amount of its 3E sourcebooks simply because they were so fluff-heavy I had been using them for other systems beforehand) because they were the flavors of the day on the SA forums soon after I first signed up here. And then a weird thing happened: I actually started enjoying GURPS unironically, not just as an adult with an idiotic scene kid mentality. Is it a perfect system? Hell no, but it's something I ended up finding myself comfortable with concerning the way I personally process roleplaying games, by picking lots of intricate things apart and finding out neat ways to put them back together to do what I want.

This all actually ties back into GURPS Technomancer, I swear. What I see in David Pulver is partly a more successful and superior version of me: a creator and a tinkerer who likes to see just what all those little parts can do when combined with a personal idea. What he did with Technomancer was take the toy boxes of two very disparate elements of GURPS – its magic and high fantasy shenanigans combined with its copious minutae on modern technology and living – and combined the contents of the two into a cohesive whole. The whole setting works as this grand exercise of "okay, so what happens if I put this block here, and that one there, attached to these blocks already on the table?" As much as I like conspiracy/masquerade urban fantasy, GURPS Technomancer is actually still my favorite implementation of that genre in roleplaying games simply because it's just so fascinating to see what Pulver did with one divergence in the timeline of modern history. It definitely has its problematic moments, and there are deficiencies that might matter to me but not to the next person (the lack of a proper bestiary being my own biggest personal bugbear), but I can't help but love the big picture. And honestly, that's also why I ended up posting in these threads several years ago: to try to share all these big pictures through my reviews, and read the interpretations of other big pictures by all the other great posters here.

For now, though, it's time to say goodbye to GURPS Technomancer and move on to new things. The remainder of Hoodoo Blues still has to be covered, and after that it's on to GURPS Banestorm and a monster(s) from FATAL and Friends's past.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
I don't know why, but I just really can't imagine Belial calling anyone "raghead", even an archangel. Nybbas, sure, because he's the id of human media, but it seems strange to me to have the demon prince of fire just belt out a human slur out of nowhere, even if it's against someone he absolutely hates.

EDIT: I felt the same way when he called Gabriel a bitch. Maybe I'm just too used to archaic-style demons. :shrug:

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 2: Organic Rule Components

Hoodoo Blues posted:

In traditional (what some would call ‘simulationist’) role playing, which is what ORC was designed for, players each take the role of a character and the GM takes the role of the rest of the universe. When a player says his or her character does something, the GM decides what the logical result of that action would be. (E.g. “I throw a rock at the window.” “The window shatters.”)

Thus the first rule of game play is “what happens is what the GM thinks would happen.” All the other rules exist only for those rare times where the GM doesn’t trust himself or herself to be impartial and realistic. For instance, a PC tries to lift a wounded comrade, can she do it? If the GM is sure one way or the other the GM just says “you can do it” or “you can’t” and no rules are needed. It is only when the GM isn’t sure that rules and die rolls need to be used. In other words, the rules that follow are designed to be used sparingly and should never override the GM’s common sense.
Use mechanics, except when you don't. Simple enough to remember.

This chapter is mostly a rundown of things that we already know, just in more detail. What rolls are connected to an attribute rather than a skill, how health attributes and damage to them works, etc. Other parts, like combat, are so similar to actual d20 system mechanics that it almost seems pointless to cover them just because ORC has slightly different terms. To avoid just skimming over the content of chapter 2 entirely, I will at least briefly go over noteworthy rules first covered by it rather than somewhere in chapter 1.

Shocking and Distracting Pain
Effectively two specific forms of Willpower roll, but worthy of going over at least briefly given that they are mentioned but not covered a lot during chapter 1. Shocking Pain is a sudden, unexpected pain, like being stabbed or touching an open flame. If you fail your Willpower roll against Shocking Pain by 1 to 9, you lose your next offensive action, while failing it by 10 or more means you lose both your next offensive and defensive action (effectively losing a turn). Distracting Pain is instead a pain that lingers after it first appears, like a headache. You make a roll at the onset of the pain that affects your reaction for however long the pain lasts. However much you fail your Willpower roll by is how much you get a penalty to skill rolls and conscious actions. So a failure by 2 is a -2 penalty, by 3 a -3 penalty, etc.

Armor Rules
Long has the debate raged over whether armor as damage avoidance or armor as damage reduction should be used in specific roleplaying games. Everybody wins in Hoodoo Blues, though, as you get both! Armor Rating reflects how much coverage your defenses have, with an attack roll (either a combat action, which we'll cover in a moment, or d20 + relevant combat skill + relevant attribute for combat directly related to a skill) that bypasses the AR meaning that you avoid the armor entirely and make it irrelevant for the attack. AR goes from 3 for torso-only armor up to 20 for bomb suits and other full coverage materials. Assuming you don't bypass the AR, Protection Rating comes in. PR is damage reduction, meaning that your attack damage is reduced accordingly.

Non-Standard Damage and Symptoms
Bladed and blunt damage aren't the only ways to be hurt, of course. Some are merely alterations of those two primary forms of damage, such as skid damage being both bladed and blunt damage that increases by one point for each 20 Speed a character is moving as they slide down rough terrain or ragged damage being bladed damage that also also forces a cumulative -5 to saves to avoid contracting disease with each point of damage, while others follow their own rules. The following are some of the more unique ones.
  • Burn Damage: Burn damage deals one point of damage to your Blood score, forces a roll to avoid Shocking Pain (difficulty is 10 per point of burn damage), induces a cumulative -5 to saves against contracting disease per point of damage, and forces a roll to avoid Physiological Shock (difficulty is 10 per five points of burn damage). Physiological Shock is a condition that is saved against by Endurance, and is quite nasty if you fail. A failed roll against Physiological Shock means your Endurance score drops to nothing, your other attributes are all halved, and you suffer a point of Blood damage per minute.
  • Electricity Damage: Electricity damage causes a point of burn damage for every four points of electricity damage taken, forces a Willpower save (DC is 20 per point of electricity damage) to avoid paralysis, forces another Willpower save (DC 10 per point of electricity damage) to avoid falling unconscious, and forces an Endurance save (DC 5 per point of electricity damage) to avoid suffering a point of Blood damage per round from suffering cardiac arrest.
  • Heat and Cold: An hourly Endurance save against either heat exhaustion or hypothermia. The first failed save halves all your attributes, while any subsequent failure deals a point of Blood damage.
  • Radiation Damage: Each point of radiation damage deals a point of unhealable Blood damage, a -1 to Intelligence and Awareness, -2 to Endurance, forces a DC 10 Willpower save to avoid headaches (Distracting Pain, but locked at a -1 penalty in spite of how much the roll fails), and forces a DC 10 Willpower save to avoid vomiting (-20 to all actions since you are puking your guts out).

While a lot of the terminology Hoodoo Blues uses for combat (Initiative, rounds, etc.) should be familiar to those who know standard d20 systems, the actual implementation in ORC is worth at least a few brief notes. Initiative is based on Awareness plus Intelligence rather than Dexterity, a full round is a half a second rather than six seconds, and a round only consists of a single offensive action and a single defensive reaction/reaction per person.

Combat Actions and Reactions
These are what other games might call combat maneuvers or combat feats, as well as a few things that are their own stats in d20 systems. There are twenty offensive combat actions and six defensive reactions, each of which is achieved through a specific combination of attributes plus a d20 roll, with a certain difficulty class to bypass. Some specific examples include the following:
  • Grab: Everybody loves grappling, right? ...No? Well, it's here anyway. Immobilizing someone's arm with a grab is Strength and Agility (plus the d20, of course, but that's a given for any of these maneuvers) against a DC of 25. The hold remains until either the grappler lets go or the grappled individual wins a Strength vs. Strength roll contest. This can be modified to be Strength and Intelligence against a DC of 35 to grab in a way that forces a DC 20 Shocking Pain roll, Strength and Intelligence against a DC of 30 to effectively set your Strength to 30 and the opponent's to 10 for the purposes of the roll contest, or Strength and Agility against a DC of 25 to grab the neck rather than a limb and deal one Endurance and Blood damage per round until the chokehold is broken.
  • Knockout: Put Strength and Agility against a DC of 30 to force an opponent to make a Willpower or Endurance roll (DC 20) or fall immediately unconscious. If the knockout roll result is 40 or higher, you also get to deal an extra 1d6 Blood damage.
  • Vital Strike: You deal double damage by striking at an important organ. This is Intelligence and Strength against a DC of 40 for a blunt damage weapon and Intelligence and Agility against a DC of 35 for a bladed damage weapon.
  • Dodge: Awareness plus Agility against DC 25, success meaning you avoid an attack without moving much in overall space.
  • Drop: Awareness and Agility against DC 20 means that this is easier than simply dodging, but it has the downside of you ending the round prone.
  • Flip: Agility and Strength against a DC of 35 lets you do a sick kick flip that both prevents you from taking damage and knocks the attacker prone.

Chapter 3: The South
Southern History
An in-depth history of the Deep South from 1800 to the 1860s, as well as a few minor paragraphs on the 1970s to today. What is covered is covered very thoroughly: on top of a look at all that history, there are special sections for matters such as French interactions with the South, the daily life of a slave, the daily life of a Civil War soldier, the Underground Railroad, and the Tuskegee Airmen. While it's hard to attempt to sum up a reading of real world history for a thread about roleplaying games, but suffice to say my readthroughs didn't spy anything out of order. A fair warning should be given that the book is very much unflinching and graphic in this section as well, with actual photos of things such as decaying Civil War battlefield corpses and a slave's back that has been whipped so badly it looks like he was repeatedly ripped into by a big cat rather than any human-made device. Subjects including the fact that states' rights were concerned mainly with the right to own slaves, the fact that the Choctaw people and other Native American groups desperately threw in their lot with the Confederacy, and the issues of inner cities suffering economic disruption due to the White Flight of the 70s are also openly discussed rather than excused or ignored.

Southern Culture
All about a general view of the South as a cultural entity. I'll try to give at least a little note on each smaller segment of this section, even if not all parts are equally interesting to share in a review rather than read because you want to read it.

Southern Manners and Southern Accents: This segment covers the honor codes of Antebellum men and women, as well as the accents of various parts of the Deep South. A bit less interesting than the start of the chapter, unless you really like seeing the quirks of Appalachian, Cajun, and New Orleans accents written out.

Southern Religion: A discussion of religion, of course. The chapter is divided up into the three main forms of Protestantism in the South (Southern Baptism, black-derived Protestantism, and Appalachian Pentecostalism), Catholicism, and spiritualist churches. While not directly tied to the supernatural, several of these religions intersect with it nonetheless. While black Protestants and spiritualist churches often intersect with hoodoo and Catholicism is involved in Louisiana voodoo, it's also noteworthy that Appalachian Pentecostals believe that the power of God protects them from poisons and venomous serpents. And really, who's to say they're wrong about that in the world of Hoodoo Blues?

Southern Food: Fried food, seafood, soul food, and a collection of other eatings.

Southern Music: As was probably made obvious in the fact that it was an active part of character creation, music is considered to be a very important part of Southern culture by Hoodoo Blues. Multiple paragraphs are dedicated to gospel music, jazz, the blues, country music, bluegrass, Cajun and Zydeco music, rock and roll, southern rock, and southern rap.

Race Relations: Not as overtly bad as in the past, but could be a lot better.

Southern Politics: Blue Dog Democrats still exist, but the Southern Strategy worked well enough that most of the South is made up of red states.

Crime and Justice: This section starts out with a foot pretty sternly in the past, courtesy of discussing vigilante justice. Colonel Charles Lynch and the favored method of vigilante killing named after him get a spotlight, as well as mob mentality and the nature of prejudiced and flawed vigilante "justice" in the South of yore. Also noted are duels and feuds over honor, complete with an entire seven step guide to the etiquette of a 19th Century pistol duel. Linking the past and the present together are discussions of bygone and contemporary thoughts on gambling, chain gangs and prison labor, moonshiners, and organized crime.

Southern Architecture: More about shotgun houses, Greek Revival artistry, and wrought iron than you can shake a protractor at.

Southern Peoples
In case you forgot that this is a book about playing Southern Gothic supernatural stories, we suddenly have that come back into the picture, if not to the fore. On top of a generalized history, lifestyle, and local slang of various specific cultural groups, there is a specific paragraph or two for each on what supernatural elements they associate with.

Mountain People: Also known as those folks you refer to as rednecks or hillbillies, the mountain people are the descendants of Scotch-Irish immigrants that settled in the Appalachians. They fought against both sides during the Civil War and at least some groups are still isolationist to this day. Mountain people hate Hags with a passion and have long fought against them and other evil spirits, usually with the help of their own Hoodoo Doctors that they refer to as Granny Women or White Witches.

Melungeons: An Appalachian group with black, white, and Native American heritage, the Melungeons were often associated with Hags by the White Witches of the mountain people due to their knowledge of African-American conjure that was unfamiliar in the region. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, some Melungeon individuals turned on their Baptist religious upbringing and became Hags out of frustration and vengeance, though just as many are conjure workers.

Cajuns: Louisiana's Canadian-descended denizens of the bayous and coastline. Cajun conjure workers are known as Traiteurs and primarily rely on the laying on of hands. The greatest supernatural dangers to Cajun communities are Loup-Garou and letiche, both of which are predatory beasts that can easily hide themselves in the same bayous that the Cajuns use to hunt and fish.

Creoles: Like Cajuns, but French rather than French Canadian, and also sometimes having a smattering of Spanish or African-American. They don't get a supernatural notes section.

Gullah: An African-American culture that was once found across the Atlantic Coast, but is now mainly restricted to South Carolina's Sea Islands. Their Hoodoo Doctors typically take animal-based nicknames, and Gullah Hags are simultaneously both feared and respected.

Southern Gentry: British-descended guys. Like the Creoles, they have no mention of any supernatural elements.

Native Americans: This entry actually mostly refers back to the Native American portion of the Southern History segment of the chapter. :shrug:

Southern Cosmology
I'm not sure why the section on the supernatural and the afterlife is before the one about the physical world, but I'm okay with that..

Souls and Other Worlds: Humans have a soul, or possibly two, depending on who you ask. In the latter interpretation, one soul is the immortal soul of consciousness and creative expression while the other is merely the animated force that keeps the body alive. What is known is that there is a Heaven and a Hell, but also several other worlds on top of it. The Spirit World is the land of "pious heathens" and their gods, as well as ghostly entities and the wandering souls of Catholic Purgatory. Spirits also dwell in the Upper and Lower Worlds. The Upper World is the land of the sun, the moon, and great sapient beasts, while the Lower World is an aquatic land of monsters and predatory ghosts.

The Devil: The ultimate gambler and trickster, the Devil is a dangerous being to encounter. While nicknames like Old Scratch and Old Hob have been given to him in an attempt to mock him and diffuse some of the fear he holds over the human heart, the fact remains that he is a wicked being, intent on prying a wedge into any kind of peace and comfort. The Devil is also very prideful and keeps his word even if it's disadvantageous in the end, which is what usually ends up allowing mortals to get the upper hand over him. If the Devil has a natural form, it's unknown, as he can take many forms: a huge black constrictor snake, a vicious wild beast, a raging whirlwind, an obsidian giant with burning coals for eyes, or a handsome man. On top of some Hags, Loups-Garoux, and Crossroaders, most of the servants of the Devil are demons, hellhounds, and Diabolists. The first are tempters and harassers, the second retrieve things the Devil wishes to have fetched for him, and the third are weirdos that worship him and use dark Conjure.

One particular piece of Southern folklore about the Devil is the tale of Bearskin, which gets retold in the entry. In the tale, the Devil comes to a war veteran who had lost everything and cannot find a home or a job. The Devil offers him a deal: go seven years wearing a bearskin cloak and never washing, grooming, or cutting his hair, and the Devil would give him wealth that would last the rest of his life. Fail, and the soldier's soul would be the Devil's. Unsurprisingly, as he wandered the land, people were typically terrified of this haggard caveman, but the soldier was always generous with the coins that would fill his pockets at the start of every day. One man was so grateful for the soldier's charity that he offered the hand of one of his three lovely daughters. One daughter was terrified like so many others, and another insulted the soldier's appearance, but the youngest daughter saw the soldier's kind heart and agreed to marry him when his sojourn was over in three more years' time.

At the end of the seven years, the Devil fulfilled his promise, and even personally cleaned and groomed the soldier in a way that made him even more handsome than he had been before the wager. The soldier went back to the household of the man and his three daughters, the two oldest vying for the attention of this handsome and wealthy gentleman. The third daughter initially rebuked him, stating that she had a commitment to another man, but was overjoyed when the soldier revealed his true identity. In despair, the two older sisters committed suicide, one by noose and one by drowning. The Devil came that night to gloat to the soldier that as suicide is a sin, he received two souls in the end at the cost of losing one. The moral of the story: Satan is a shitlord, seriously.

Non-Player Characters
Both singular NPCs and organizations go here.

Church of the Bayou: A church of Haitian voudou and Louisiana voodoo worship alike. It is run by Genevieve Rochambeau, an Ageless Voodoo who resembles a beautiful mixed race woman in her 30s but is in fact 110. Rochambeau studied under the famous Marie Laveau, but always hungered for more power than even her teacher was capable of. After Laveau's purported death, Rochambeau began to plot, and created the Church of the Bayou in 1950 with the specific plan of gathering powerful magic under her banner. While only a few members of the Church are Ageless, all know how to perform Conjure, and Rochambeau uses them to aid politicians and law enforcement in Louisiana and Mississippi specifically so that she can have them in her debt if she ever happens to need something later. She and her follows begrudgingly tolerate that there are a lot of Voodoo workers who won't follow the Church of the Bayou, but they will never ignore those that actively work against it, going so far as to sometimes engage in kidnapping and murder.

Black Cat Club: A group for budding paranormal investigators, the Black Cat Club is mostly a whole bunch of Scooby Doo gangs and wannabee Ghostbusters running around in the dark without any central leadership, since the club's only actual organization is that there is a $20 membership fee paid to its mysterious founder only known by their Internet handle of Mojo Man. Mojo Man's true name is Renee Laroque, and she's a Loup Garou who has never forgiven monster hunters for the murder of her adoptive Hag aunt in 1988. She uses the Black Cat Club to both spread misinformation and – if a group happens to get lucky and stumble across an actual paranormal event – learn more about the movements of other supernatural entities, Ageless, and especially monster hunters. She satisfies the Hunger by killing monster hunters and Black Cat Club members who get too close to the truth.

Children of Abaddon: One of the most dangerous forces in existence for Ageless of any stripe, the Children of Abaddon are a secret society of deeply devout Christians who also happen to be assassins that take out Ageless, supernatural beings, and human Conjure user alike. They believe they are in a mission from Abaddon, the angel of destruction and the End of Days, and they happen to be right. The question of just what Abaddon is, though, is a bit harder to define. Neither Heaven nor Hell definitively take claim to him, and his motive for spurring on the destruction of the supernatural is unclear. While some claim he is merely the tough cop on the paranormal block, others have suggested that Abaddon is actually attempting to weed out competition against him for when he attempts to stage a takeover of the Spirit World, or possibly even Hell.

Ancients: Not so much an organization as a classification. An Ancient is an Ageless who has lived a truly long life with great Weariness, so much so that they have given up on trying to influence the world around them. That's not say that they are emotionless drones or anything: they can have plenty of personality and all of them have a whole ton of Conjure power, it's just that they really don't give a poo poo about actually exercising said power. Three examples of Ancients are given by the text.
  • Uncle Monday was once a powerful Medicine Worker in an African clan that was sold into slavery on a rice plantation. He managed to escape with several other slaves and went to live with the Seminole until they were in turn targeted by the Army, whose guns and numbers were greater than Uncle Monday's Conjure. Ever since, Uncle Monday has lived in the form of an immense alligator that dwells deep in Florida's Lake Maitland, where local Hoodoo Doctors and Medicine Workers come to give him offerings in respect of his power. He has never forgotten his failure, and it is said that one day, when the time is right, he plans to rise up again and help lead the Seminole people to glory.
  • Doctor Buzzard: A white man who learned Conjure from the Gullah people, becoming a powerful Hoodoo Doctor. After faking his own death in the early 1900s, he retired to live in a shack on a swampy, storm-wracked island off the South Carolina coast. All of his needs are serviced by vultures that follow his every command, and anyone who attempts to reach his island without a good reason are attacked mercilessly by the flock.
  • Railroad Bill: Railroad Bill was a sort of Southern Robin Hood figure, a strong black man robbing from trains to pawn off to poor families. What the history books don't say is that he was also secretly a Loup Garou, taking on a fox form to quickly get away from the law. Weariness caught up with the railroad bandit, however, and now he almost permanently stays in fox form and lets animal instinct overwhelm his human mind, effectively sleeping in his own body without much worry that his beastly side will ever kill anyone given that it's a fox.

Marie Laveau: The famous Voodoo queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau was someone who seemed to know everything about everyone. There's a million stories out there about her powerful Conjure working to help those in need and spurn the wicked, and at least some of them are probably true. It's very likely that she would have become an Ancient had she not mysteriously died in 1920, leaving the less than saintly Genevieve Rochambeau as her only heir.

Living Saints: Rare individuals whose hearts are so pure that they are able to perform miracles. A living saint is never Ageless, as they do not strive for immortality. They are also never powerful with Conjure, as they have no desire for strength. You aren't likely to know about any living saints, as they also don't desire wealth or status, and are almost inexorably the humblest people: they're the little old church lady, the diligent and selfless aid worker, or the wise uncle who lives in squalor but never seems to ever want anything greater. Due to their rarity and the fact that they are always pacifists, living saints get no game mechanics, making them more of a plot hook than a character in spite of being described with other NPCs.

Non-supernatural animals native to the South are given brief discussion. The American alligator, cottonmouth, copperhead, black widow spider, brown recluse/fiddleback spider, and black bear are present with stat blocks at the ready in case you ever need a non-supernatural wild threat or a convenient minion for some Ageless with animal control.

Next Time in Hoodoo Blues: We encounter apemen and the Axeman, nahullo and Night Doctors, hate groups and h'aints, and lots more things that are alliterative when placed side by side. The guide to major cities of the South and their supernatural residents, campaign types, adversaries, monsters and spirits, and a pre-made adventure involving a search for the truth about Marie Laveau are all lined up as we finish up this book.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

theironjef posted:

This week System Mastery is covering Dinosaur Planet, a book that took us by surprise. With a name that cool, we figured we'd just be generally researching how yet another small print house mucked up the OGL, but what we got instead was some good old down-home whitewashing of the big fence of the Confederate States of America. If you ever wanted to read a book where the Union are rapacious space-conquerors and President Robert E. Lee magnanimously freed the slaves in 1881 because it was the right thing to do, here it is.
This is a subject near and dear to my heart, because it was my first ever FATAL and Friends entry back in the day (though I haven't looked at back, since I tend to treat anything I write in hindsight as garbage). So I figured I'd give some general responses to your podcast, because hey, why not.

1. That Welsh dinosaur show with typically only a creature an episode is Primeval. It also has a roleplaying game created by the same people who did the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game, with not one, nor two, but three books in its line. I may or may not happen to own copies I hold in reserve for whenever I feel brave enough to review them.

2. Your discussion about slavery and jobs thereafter followed by the later discussion about the two types of art in the core book made me realize that I don't actually think there is any art of non-white characters in any of the Broncosaurus Rex books that I can recall.

3. Since you didn't cover any of the sourcebooks, you didn't get to hear the part about how the Union is run by the literal Illuminati. This really important fact is in the world guidebook rather than the core book for whatever reason.

4. You are completely right in everything you say about how awkward, confusing, and needless the sapient dinosaurs are. It's made worse by the fact that the word guidebook discusses eating dinosaurs, which only furthers the :stonk:.

5. As you noted, ironclads are not in the core book. They are, yet again, in the world guidebook.

6. There were not, in fact, any attempts to flesh out the Union, Free Fleet, or Offworlders for players. Or any valley besides the one that has the not-Sleestaks and a bunch of freaky fictional dinosaurs.

Listening to your podcast and reminiscing about Broncosaurus Rex has made me really wish that someone would do a cowboys and dinosaurs game that didn't have any awkward sapience issues or Confederate apologia. Get someone to sit down, watch Valley of Gwangi, and then write a roleplaying game that replicates the feel of that.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 3, Part 2: Southern States
I'll be limiting my discussion specifically to the supernatural elements of each state, because everything else is a pretty bog standard discussion of the history and demographics of the members of the Deep South combined with a paragraph each on around a dozen or so cities of note per state.

With loads of forests with hanging trees, creeks used for drownings, and a place literally named Cemetery Mountain, it's not surprising that Alabama is a hotbed for hauntings. The largest cases by sheer numbers are the ghosts of yellow fever victims in the ghost town of Cahaba, the ghostly denizens of the abandoned quarter of the city of Dora, and shadow people that haunt the Mountain View Hospital psychiatrisc ward in Gadsden. Singular specimens of note include a 1960s black Ford pickup truck that appears near the town of Red Level and tries to run cars off the road and the powerful ghost of a Hag who haunts an old rotting house in the depths of Bankhead Forest. There is also a mysterious 20 foot long monster said to dwell in the Coosa River, described variously as a sea serpent, a giant alligator, or an immense catfish.

Georgia in Hoodoo Blues is pretty bland. There's some Hags here and there, as well as ghosts in old Antebellum structures, but not a lot else. The most noteworthy and mysterious specter is that of Rene Ash of Savannah, Georgia. A giant of the early 19th Century, Rene was already a foot taller than most grown men by age 12, and in some tellings of the legend was also particularly hairy. He was a shy boy who was constantly teased by his peers, and typically hid in the Colonial Park Cemetery, where ghoulish grave robbings and the appearance of numerous dead cats with their necks twisted around backwards were quickly attributed to the giant child. Rene would also pick up some of the dead cats to use to gently but disturbingly slap people he disliked, typically girls around his age.

Reports of giant looming shadows being seen in people's windows at night, sometimes accompanied by the rattling of doors, lead the people of Savannah to attempt to drive Rene Ash out of town. His mother instead created a massive brick wall topped with broken glass around her property, the only way in or out being a strong cast iron gate, in an attempt to placate the townsfolk. This worked until a young girl that lived in a neighboring house was found dead in an alley, her head twisted backward like the cats before. Rene's mother once again calmed the angry mob by swearing that her son had been ill during the time of the murder and couldn't leave his bed, at which point the locals gave in but instated a 24/7 guard.

This once again couldn't last, as the house was left unguarded during the great fire of 1820. The day after the fire, yet another girl was found with her neck twisted backwards. Rene's mother couldn't sate the rage of the mob this final time, and her son was lynched and left to hang for days, no one wanting to despoil a hallowed cemetery with a body they were sure was tainted by the greatest evil. Did Rene actually perform the murders, or was he a convenient scapegot that also happened to like slapping people with dead cats? Regardless of the truth, his h'aint still lumbers through the Colonial Park Cemetery he inhabited in life, sometimes making visits to nearby homes to make folks' blood run cold when they see his giant shadow standing outside their window.

The dark depths of our bayous and backwoods are the perfect place for Hags, Loups-Garoux, swamp monsters, ghosts, ghouls, grunches, and any other number of freaky phenomena to hang out, but Louisiana's paranormal scene is mostly focused on New Orleans. While I and other natives of the state may know of other local legends from other portions of the rear end-end of the Mississippi River, I don't think anyone is really surprised that New Orleans gets all the attention, both here and in many works before. It was the city of Marie Laveau, and to this day remains the largest center of Louisiana Voodoo belief. It was where the Axeman, a gaunt man dressed all in black who wrote a strangely erudite letter claiming he was actually a foul spirit from the depths of Hell, used his namesake weapon to commit grisly murders and terrify the city's populace throughout the 1910s. It's home to a gamut of ghosts, from the victims of the sadistic Madame LaLaurie and those that succumbed to the yellow fever epidemics to spirits of Civil War soldiers and phantasmal buses. And, of course, there's Mardi Gras, where revelry in the dead of night could act as cover for beings of the shadows to do their dirty work.

A place where thick forests coat gently rolling hills across much of the state, Mississippi is one of the greatest strongholds for woodland spirits. It also has Hags and Loups-Garoux in its swampier regions such as the Louisiana border, ghosts (because where aren't there ghosts?), and a surprisingly strong Medicine Worker tradition as opposed to the more common Hoodoo Doctors of most states. Mississippi also has one of the largest Crossroader populations, thanks almost entirely to Robert Johnson and his popularization of the Crossroader practice through his songs and stories. There is also the Witches' Dance, an area of dead or dying forest near Tupelo, Mississippi, that Hags from all over the South come to meet.

South Carolina
Hags in the Gullah country, ghosts otherwise. Lots of ghosts. Ghosts, ghosts, ghosts. One ghost is a disfigured man with three eyes that haunst the University of South Carolina. What's his story? I want to know that guy's story. There's also the Wedgefield Dragoon, who is an American Revolution-era headless ghost that is kind of pathetic because he doesn't get preternatural sight like most ghost stories about headless phantoms, so he just wallows around trying desperately to find where the hell he is.

Chapter 4: Adventures
Types of Adventure
Adventuring in Hoodoo Blues typically falls into the category of either trying to fix someone else's problems or fix your own problems. They may have different overall themes – slay a monster, put a ghost to rest, find and stop some bad Conjure, seek redemption from God – but they ultimately all call back to the fact that you are meant to be playing someone who is flawed but still trying to do right by the world. While there are specific descriptions of just what you might do for an adventure about being modern Van Helsings or helping Old Lady Mayhew and her gravely ill son or what have you, there are two really big notes here that concern turning the game on its face.

The first of these are flashback adventures. This assumes that while you are playing the game in either the modern day or some other specific time period, you might want to have a session or two where your Ageless reminisce on an earlier time they were all together in their immortal lives. Mechanically, this means that for the course of that adventure they get replacement equipment for any anachronistic gear (there's a whole list of flashback replacement gear for each decade to speed this process up), they don't have access to any skills that wouldn't be relevant in the flashback (no ranks of Internet Research in the 1940s, no Electronics in the 1820s, etc.), and their Weariness is turned back. While primarily meant to be a change of pace or further insight into the characters' motivations, flashback adventures can also have actual plot repercussions: the flashback reminds the Ageless of some treasure they found during the flashback adventure and forgot until just now, for instance.

The second is non-Ageless play. If you happen to be a supernatural being that ended up not being Ageless, like a Crossroader who wasn't smart enough to ask for immortality or a Hoodoo Doctor that didn't make a special mojo bag of agelessness, it's as simple as removing the Decades and Motivations steps of character creation. A completely mundane human character skips those steps and doesn't get any character class. Mundane characters get Arts, Book-Learning, Labor, and Modern classification skills for dirt cheap, but have the obvious drawback of being unable to take any Conjure skills or advantages/disadvantages tied directly to the supernatural. Maybe it's just me, but I think it might be good to have at least some in-between that doesn't force the character class but allows for Conjure learning, for your New Age tradition-unaffiliated rootworkers or your "know a bit of ritual Conjure but only use it if talking and shooting don't work" Sam and Dean Winchester types. That isn't here, though, so I guess that's ultimately up to the player and the GM.

Human Enemies
Diabolists: Diabolists aren't Satanists in the modern sense, LaVeyan or otherwise. No, these guys know the Devil is real, and they worship him in spite of the fact that they know the kind of viciousness and evil he is capable of. The book equates them to those who follow fascist ideology specifically in hopes that they don't get the jackboot on their throats later. They engage in various singuar acts of evil in rural locations, as the Devil prefers subtlety over overtness due to the fact that acts of outright genocide and terror often lead as many to faith as it does to damnation.

The Doctor: A haggard old white man who wears stereotypical doctor's garb, the Doctor experimented on black people in poor neighborhoods at the turn of the last century, and eventually found the secret of immortality through a combination of medical practice and occult rituals. Ever since, he has become a unique form of Ageless with great Strength and Speed, as well as the ability to make himself invisible. While he once came in the dead of night, he now steals blood by setting up shop in rural clinics, drugging his patients, and then later claiming they fainted when they inevitably come around with less blood than they came in with (sometimes enough that they end up dying of anemia later). He then uses some of this blood to keep himself Ageless and sells the rest – which is enchanted to have great healing powers but not the miraculous properties his own doses do, of course – to wealthy buyers. While not explicitly stated, the Doctor is clearly drawn from the late 19th and early 20th Century folklore of the Night Doctors, mysterious white men who were said to come to black communities and steal away people to perform ghastly experiments.

Hate Groups: The KKK, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, the Christian Identity movement, skinheads, and black separatists all get covered here. It is noted that while Ageless don't really have anything to fear from hate groups given how ridiculous their powers tend to be, there are enough with bad blood involving hate groups that they'll go looking for a metaphorical or literal fight. Some may even have been hate group members in the past and have spent the decades since then looking for redemption.

Graveyard Snake: The Devil really loved the whole Eden incident, so much that he laughed himself apart into a physical and spiritual form. That's how the story goes, at least, and the graveyard snakes are said to be the remnants of his physical Serpent half. Graveyard snakes resemble rattlesnakes that are black with yellow splotches, and are only found in cemeteries at night. In spite of their purported diabolical origins, graveyard snakes mainly just want to be left alone, but are smart enough to actively target undefended parts of the body if they are forced to attack. The main reason for conflict is almost invariably the fact that Conjure workers often hunt graveyard snakes for their numerous magical properties. A graveyard snake's skin worn as a sash grants a +5 to any opposing contest roll, its greasy innards grant a +20 to Sleight of Hand if rubbed on the hands, its oil grants a +20 to any harmful Hand if added to the recipe, baking its grease into flour and making an effigy out of the mixture lets you cause moderate difficulty Distracting Pain to whoever the effigy is meant to represent by harming the effigy, and its rattle summons the Devil.

Raw Head and Bloody Bones: Also known as Bloody Bones or Tommy Rawhead, this monster was once a large pig named Raw Head. Raw Head was owned by an elderly Conjure woman living out in the Ozarks, who treated the big boar as her only friend. While everyone in that wooded valley knew Raw Head belonged to the Conjure woman, a poacher from out of town came and slew the pig one day. The furious Conjure woman used necromantic power to resurrect Raw Head's blood-soaked bones into a horrific monster. The skeletal boar walked on his hind legs and gathered parts from other slain animals, taking the teeth of a panther, claws of a bear, and tail of a beaver, then took his time stalking and taunting the poacher with a raspy human voice in the dead of night. Eventually, after he was finally tired of playing with his prey, Raw Head and Bloody Bones killed and ate the poacher. If you're brave enough, you can summon him for yourself, presumably to utilize his 30 Endurance and Strength to rend your foes asunder.

Raven Mocker: The Raven Mockers, or kalona in the Cherokee language are vicious beings that can take the form of an elderly Cherokee or a giant raven. They seek any nearby indicators of death, coming swiftly to engage with dying individuals. If the individual is in a hospital, their bed, or otherwise not alone, the Raven Mocker clouds the vision of others, only showing itself to the dying individual. It sits on their chest and throws barrages of taunts and insults at them as it presses further and further down on their lungs, savoring the victim's suffering in their last moments. If a Raven Mocker finds a lone victim in the wilderness it is even more merciless, gouging out their eyes and batting them around with its robust wings and wickedly sharp talons. It will even let victims seemingly escape only to attack once more, or lie and offer them mercy before going back on the assault.

Letiche: Abandoning a baby in the bayou is a bad idea. This should probably go without saying, but apparently some people still do it, and if they aren't baptized they are taken in and nurtured by alligators as they transform into monsters known as letiche. Letiche are reptilian humanoids with the teeth, webbed hands and feet, and scales of an alligator, and while some interpretations have them being giants or human-sized, Hoodoo Blues has them forever stuck at around 3 to 4 feet even as they reach adulthood. In spite of their size, however, they have a Strength of 25, making them more than strong enough to overwhelm humans and even most Ageless, dragging them under the water and pinning them in an attempt to drown them.

Mermaid: Pale, raven-haired beauties that happen to be half fish, mermaids haunt the Gulf of Mexico and sometimes swim up into the estuaries of the mighty Mississippi. They call to men of the sea, asking them to throw one of their own into the sea. Refusal means that the mermaids will use their ridiculous 40 Strength to rip the seamen's boat to shreds...assuming it's a smaller wooden boat, of course. Mermaids have difficulty with modern ships since they are a lot larger, made out of metal, and propellers hurt. Assuming that a mermaid gets a man, she drags him under with prehensile hair. No one is sure what the fate of men taken by the mermaids actually is. Are they eaten? Sexed up in an underwater kingdom? Used as fancy meat trophies? The world may never know.

South Carolina Lizard Man: Also known as the Bishopville Lizard Man, Hoodoo Blues takes this rather one-note cryptid (that note being 'Reptoid thing that claws at people at vehicles') and gives it an actual backstory. The Lizard Man was once a regular old man, specifically a young and arrogant occultist who attempted to apprentice himself to a Hag in order to learn the secret of Agelessness. His poo poo-headed nature lead her to hate him, and she gave him his desired immortality in the worst way. He can no longer speak, read, write, or even think all that well: all he knows is that he is furious at his cursed nature, and he takes it out on anyone who happens to be unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity of the swamp when he's out wandering.

Honey Island Swamp Monster: Honey Island swamp monsters, also known as Southern Bigfoot and skunk apes, are 7 to 9 foot tall primates with filthy gray fur, three-toed and webbed feet, a horrible stench, and an even more horrible temper. They are vicious nocturnal predators that use their long arms to grapple prey before latching their two large fangs into the throat for a killing bite. While deer are swamp monsters' favored prey, they are more than capable of killing and eating feral hogs, alligators, and humans. As if being a nocturnal, bipedal, carnivorous primate wasn't unique enough, swamp monsters are also amphibious, sometimes hiding under the water and lunging at prey on the shore. Their big weakness is that they're scared of fire and bright lights, so keep those lanterns handy.

Kowi Anukasha ("Little Forest People"): The kowi anukasha are 2 foot tall woodland sprites that look and dress like elderly Native American Medicine Workers. They are great performers and teachers of Conjure, stealing away human children with a gift for the arcane arts or training adults that placate them with gifts of food and gems. While the kowi anukasha are frequent pranksters, throwing pine cones or making strange noises in the woods at night, it's probably best to avoid offending them given that they can cast a Conjure that paralyzes your legs for nearly a week.

Okwa Naholo ("White People of the Water"): Slender people with all black eyes and skin colored "the white of a trout's belly". No one's quite sure what these guys' deal is, as they typically hide by burrowing in mud or crawling into reeds whenever people are around, only coming out and doing whatever it is they do when they are alone. Okwa naholo have an extreme amount of hatred for fishermen, who they will attempt to drag under the water and drown. Being drowned by an okwa naholo causes you to become an okwa naholo yourself rather than die.

Ishtikini: Great horned owls that are as tall as a man, with an impressive 20 foot wingspan to boot. They are mostly just big predatory owls, save for two special traits. First off, they are capable of emitting a supersonic scream that forces a DC 20 roll against Shocking Pain, allowing them to stun prey such as deer or humans. Second, they are only harmed by silver weapons or Conjure.

Nahullo: Nahullo are big, angry brutes that resemble a Neanderthal increased in size to be up to 9 feet tall. They were once more widespread, but wars with various Native American nations have pushed the nahullo into the deepest forests and swamps. They only appear to pillage and kidnap slaves, using giant clubs to crush the skulls of those who fight back. Nahullo are immune to metal weaponry, though any other material works just fine.

Spirits: Ghosts, manifestations, and other phantasmal entities. Spirits replace have Awareness, Charisma, and Intelligence, but replace all of their other primary attributes and health attributes with a single attribute known as Power. This reflects the spirit's ability to affect the world around it, how strongly it is tethered to the mortal realm, and its strength of will when dealing with Conjure such as Christian Exorcism or Compel Spirits. The following spirits are the most common.
  • Nightmares are like Hags taken to the ultimate level. They don't Ride to live, they Ride to gain even more Power, and they have no skin to be tethered to. They also don't take any kind of precautions when it comes to feasting on prey, usually Riding the same human again and again until they die. If a nightmare takes a tangible form, it is of either a beautiful woman or a panther.
  • Jack-o-lanterns are the most unfortunate of the undead, forever trapped between Heaven and Hell without the ability to go to either. They wander the swamp in a dimly aware stupor, waving their lanterns in a desperate attempt to find their way out of their own personal nightmare. A Jack-o-lantern's lantern forces a Willpower save (DC 30) to avoid following it. Turning all of your pockets inside out or sticking a knife in the ground are ways to keep a Jack-o-lantern at bay.
  • Poltergeists throw poo poo around in ethereal temper tantrums, specifically to cause fear that they then proceed to feed on. The fact that poltergeists often come to sites of other paranormal activity means that they are often mistaken for far more dangerous entities such as h'aints or vice versa.
  • Reminders are psychic after-images of a traumatic event. They replay their moment of horror over and over again at specific times, never actually interacting with the living since they don't actually have any intellect behind them.
  • Longings, on the other hand, are the manifestations of unfulfilled desires that linger on even after the soul proper has departed for the afterlife. While most longings perform ultimately harmless acts, some may accidentally injure the living or have malicious desires that endanger those around them.
  • H'aints are all the negative emotions of a person congealed into one hateful and violent ghost. The more ill-willed the person was, the more Power their h'aint has, and the h'aint of something like a Hag is truly a terror to behold. H'aints can shapeshift into various forms to confuse or terrify their victims, short out electronics, burn or chill with their touch, or simply enact physical violence.
  • Demons are spirits from Hell. Those who have the Sight can see the demon for what it truly is, a grotesque and pathetic imp that only holds power by manipulating humans. Specifically, a demon crawls up into a human's consciousness and nudges at their subconsciousness, trying to urge them to engage in gradually more and more sinful acts.
  • Thin Places are not technically monsters, but since they are listed with the spirits they're getting covered with them. A Thin Place is more or less a reminder on a grand scale, an entire event rather than a single person that has formed a psychic echo that relays itself. Unlike reminders, however, the denizens of a Thin Place can actually harm or even kill, making them dangerous if you are unlucky enough to stumble into one. Making things even worse is that h'aints and demons are drawn to Thin Places like moths to a flame, and they are more than happy to add to the "fun" of being in a snapshot of the past.

Introductory Adventures
There are two sample adventures present at the very end of the book, both to give an overview of some of the things you can do in Hoodoo Blues and to give some jumping off points for GMs to use.

Denmark's Hand: This sample adventure puts the characters on a grand treasure hunt for Denmark's Hand, a powerful piece of Conjure in an amulet said to make the wearer invincible. The hunt takes them from the slums of post-Katrina New Orleans to the mountain country of northeast Mississippi, where they become trapped in between the conflict of a remorseful ex-Klansman and his far less than remorseful neighbor, as well as a very angry Hoodoo Doctor who has been slowly dying since he was lynched in 1969 but unable to finally pass away thanks to the amulet.

Small Favors: Beauregard T. Hawthorne III is an old and powerful Hoodoo Doctor from the Anglo-descended gentry who has contacted the heroes with a rather startling revelation - he believes that Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo queen, is alive and hiding somewhere near an old plantation in Georgia called the Sandy Pines. What they end up finding is trap after trap, from h'aints and an intentionally manifested Thin Place of a Civil War battle to unusually aggressive graveyard snakes and foul Conjure. In the end, it is revealed that all of these were traps set by Marie Laveau herself, who has been reduced to a literal ghost of her former self. The treacherous Genevieve Rochambeau murdered Laveau in 1920, enslaving her spirit until very recently when she managed to escape thanks to Rochambeau's arrogance outweighing her sense. Their find puts the heroes at direct odds with Beauregard T. Hawthorne III (who has been hiding that he has a grudge over a rivalry he had with Marie Laveau when she was alive) and at long-term odds with Genevieve Rochambeau, neither of whom are Ageless you want to get on the bad side of.

Final Thoughts
Nothing spices up an urban fantasy or horror setting like using actual legends and folk beliefs, especially lesser known or localized ones. Hoodoo Blues takes that to its greatest extent, and it manages to feel somehow fresher than a lot of completely invented modern supernatural fiction as a result. Not only that, but it's also one of the few games set in the Deep South that doesn't attempt any attempt at revisionism of our less than stellar past and present. If anything, there are a few points where it is over-emphasized, getting mentioned when it might not necessarily be relevant or has already been discussed previously. There are also a few moments where the fact that you have a white suburban Buddhist Oregonite writing about the poor rural South and its often black population leak through, but they are again very rare and typically easily missed.

If anything, I can imagine the problem most people might have with Hoodoo Blues would be its game system. In spite of the ORC system having its own name and fancy logo, it can't escape the specter of the fact that it is derived from the d20 system, and I know d20 systems can be a make or break deal for certain folks around here. Fortunately, there's so much flavor text and conceptual backbone that I don't think it would be that hard to translate Hoodoo Blues as a setting into FATE, PBtA, GURPS, World of Darkness, or whatever you happen to favor as your system of choice.

Hoodoo Blues: it's good, and also I'm not sure how the people who wrote it also wrote something as disparate in quality as In Dark Alleys.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Cythereal posted:

I'm kind of disappointed that Hoodoo Blues doesn't cover Florida. Florida in centuries past was a very Southern state, and the south parts of the state were considered a hellish watery jungle by Army soldiers fighting the off and on wars with the Seminole.
Yeah, I have no idea why Florida isn't considered quite South enough to be in the title.

Count Chocula posted:

I'd love a thread where you told more of these. I've only heard of a few of the characters mentioned in Hoodoo Blues (if you want a bad RPG story about everyone mentioned in the New Orleans blurb, watch American Horror Story: Coven), but every post you make about it leads me to furious Googling, and I'd love to hear more about Southern urban legends and folklore. Does the game have a bibliography?
I'm not sure where I'd do such a thing, but that might be a fun type of collective thread. Maybe "PYF Local Legends" or something.

And indeed, Hoodoo Blues does have a bibliography. A courtesy quotation of it for you:

Hoodoo Blues Bibliography posted:

American Negro Folktales, collected by Richard M. Dorson, 1956

An Encyclopedia of Occultism by Lewis Spence, 1960

Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition by Yvonne P. Chireau, 2003

Concerning Negro Sorcery in the United States, author unknown, published in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 3, No. 11, 1890

Conjure in African American Society by Jeffrey E. Anderson, 2007

Dixie Spirits: True Tales of the Strange and Supernatural in the South by Christopher Kiernan Coleman, 2008

Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro by Newbell Niles Puckett, 1926

Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales by Lyle Saxon, Edward Dreyer and Robert Tallant, 1987

Haunted Places: The National Directory by Dennis William Hauck, 2002

Hoodoo Mysteries: Folk Magic, Mysticism & Rituals by Ray T. Malbrough, 2003, webmaster Catherine Yronwode

Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston, 1935

Observations on the Practice of Conjuring in Georgia by Roland Steiner, published in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 14, No. 54, 1901

The Encyclopedia of the South by Robert O’Brien and Harold H. Martin, 1992

The Silver Bullet and other American Witch Stories, compiled by Hubert J. Davis, 1975

Toward a Systematic Typology of Black Folk Healers by Hans A. Baer, published in Phylon Vol, 43, No. 4, 1982

Voodoo & Hoodoo by Jim Haskins, 1978

Voodoo in New Orleans by Robert Tallant, 1946

Voodoo, Past and Present by Ron Bodin, 1990

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

"There are More Things In Heaven and Yrth, Horatio...": An Introduction to GURPS Banestorm

As, yes, the wonderful land of Oerth. Or was that Urth? Erf?

Oh, right, Yrth. That's the one. It's the one that first appeared all the way back in Orcslayer (the second ever book to use the GURPS system), and continued on as the headliner of the GURPS Third Edition book GURPS Fantasy as Steve Jackson Games's answer to the various fantasy worlds of certain other roleplaying games. It also happens to be one of the few things that survived the great restructuring of product goals in GURPS Fourth Edition. As I noted in the final post of GURPS Technomancer, GURPS 4E has all but abandoned the idea of making a profit off of large, print-worthy length books at this point, and out of the few that do come around most of them are big on the Generic part of the Generic Universal Role Playing System moniker. GURPS Fantasy for Fourth Edition is no exception, being a generic guide to fantasy tropes and concepts as applied to GURPs.

There are still very rare exceptions make to have full-length setting books even now, of course. There are the upcoming GURPS Mars Attacks and Discworld titles, the at this point apocryphal GURPS Girl Genius, and the two that are actually tangible and capable of being seen right here and now. One is GURPS Infinite Worlds, which we'll probably talk about eventually beyond its pathetic section on Technomancer that I covered last time, and the other is GURPS Banestorm, which we're here to talk about right now.

GURPS Banestorm is the latest update and expansion of the Yrth setting. Once again it is set in the land of Ytarria, the northern continent of the planet Yrth, an alternate universe that was a generic high fantasy setting until the events of the infamous Banestorm. But that's old history, and it happens to be the history that is covered in the very first chapter of the book, so I guess we'll get right to it.

Chapter 1: History
Pre-Human Yrth
Long ago, the world of Yrth had no humans to claim it. The continent of Ytarria was originally home to squabbling tribes of elves and dwarves, both of whom had disdain for each other but an even greater hatred for the nomadic orcs. While these three species became less at odds as they developed civilization and eventually empires, there was always the undercurrent of tension. This tension ended up breaking the peace in the great western forest of Ytarria, where several particularly violent orc tribes hunted the local elves to near-extinction. Giving themselves the name Defenders of the Shaded Woodlands, the survivors become vicious warriors that began to exterminate the orc tribes around their forest in kind. After the killing was over, the racial supremacist beliefs began, and by 400 AD on the human calender the Defender troubadours had managed to work their way into eastern elven society well enough that they convinced the elven nations to go to war with the dwarven empire of Zarak. It did not go well.

Humiliated by the incident with the Zarakun people and seen with suspicion by their own people, the Defenders decided to lay off ever mentioning dwarves again. Instead, they began to focus all of their racist propaganda against the orcs. Of course, an entire species doesn't just lay down and die, and by 1000 AD the Defenders were looking for, and I quote, "a more final solution". Their greatest mages gathered together on the western edge of the great Ytarrian Forest in June of 1050 and performed a ceremony to create a spell to end of the orcs for good. Unfortunately for them, the resulting disastrous arcane force not only failed to target the orcs, it burned the western forests to a crisp, created a massive mana dead zone near the epicenter of the ritual, and introduced erratic storms that heralded dimensional breaches: the Banestorms.

The Banestorm
The Banestorm touched many dimensions and pulled a bevy of new species from various dimensions. Goblins, hobgoblins, kobolds, and reptile men came from the world called Gabrook, centaurs, giants, halflings, and minotaurs appeared from the realm of Loren'dil, merfolk and shark men came from the seas of Olokun, and humans were picked up from Earth. While species such as goblins and minotaurs adapted quickly to their new life and at least some elves were welcoming to their new neighbors, others were not so quick to adjust. The dwarves retreated into their mountain halls, the orcs fought back aggressively against the new invaders, and the mostly Crusades-era Christians and Muslims that formed the human communities had a great amount of difficulty learning how to deal with the existence of magic, monsters, spirits that called themselves gods, and being in close proximity of other opposed human cultures that were formerly distant concerns. And the Defenders themselves were stripped of their pride, their hopes for an elven supremacy, their social status, and even their names. No longer were they seen by the elven lords as the Defenders of the Shaded Woodlands: they were now Dark Elves, the evil Storm-Bringers.

Three major types of human civilization began to emerge in the land of Ytarria. The most powerful were the Christians of Europe, whose growth was fueled by rigid feudalism – kingdoms would pop up, gain a cult of personality, and then swallow weaker kingdoms into larger and larger dominions. While many followers of Islam became nomads once more, Abassid rulers shored up power as well, their scholars and imams keeping great storehouses of knowledge that are some of the most complete human records on Yrth. Third, and perhaps most strangely, powerful pagan clans of Norsemen and Celts took over the icy north and an eclectic mix of Native American and east Asian cultures created an empire known as Sahud in the far west. The disparate elements of these two lands seem to suggest that they were time-displaced as well as dimensionally transferred by the Banestorm, coming from periods before or after the Christian and Muslim Crusaders. In between these nations are scattered settlements and enclaves of Jewish, Slavic, Germanic, Indian, and sub-Saharan African cultures.

The Spread of Humanity
As the 10th Century drew to a close and the Banestorm seemed to finally slow its immigrant-belching to a halt, one human was forming big plans for the future. Simon Menelaus was a scholar, a charmer, and an archmage. With that kind of a resume, why not plan for world domination? And plan that he did, starting with the foundation of the city of Megalos in 1200 AD and the declaration of the Megalan Empire. Megalos swallowed up the goblin kingdom of Yibyorak and forced both their allegiance and their conversion to Christianity, the Knights Hospitaller and their kingdom of New Jerusalem swore fealty when the shrewd warlord Octavius Magnus convinced the Hospitaliers that their shared Christianity meant they had the common goal of spreading the word of God, and the Crusades began anew in 1360. In the end, four Crusades occurred between that year and 1525, but the victories in both land and converts were not as grand as any of the Megalan emperors might have liked. Indeed, the pressures of invasion caused the scattered Islamic kingdoms to forge themselves into three empires: the Sunni al-Wazif, Shi'ite al-Haz, and nondenominational al-Kard. While al-Kard fell to the Megalan Crusaders and was rechristened as Cardiel, the other Muslim nations stood strong and eventually forced Megalos to cut its losses and call a truce.

New Challenges
The seemingly invincible Megalos, like Rome before it, soon ended up falling foul of its own success. The death of childless Emperor Diophrates V in 1551 lead to a power vacuum that quickly snowballed from internal squabbles to a civil war, at which point al-Haz and al-Wazif both broke the truce and struck back at the empire who menaced them in centuries prior. Even worse, the Banestorm acted up again, dumping thousands of new humans onto the Araterre Isles. These new humans spoke of a new Christianity called Protestantism and its fight against the Catholic church, and held in their hands powerful weapons they called blackpowder rifles. Both of these things ended up causing the Megalan orthodoxy to have a collective "aw, hell no" moment, with its religious leaders fearing a schism, political leaders worrying what the presence of the Protestants would do to the entire concept of Megalos as the One True Christian Empire, and its battle mages being terrified of the idea that guns might level the playing field against them.

The Megalan Empire swiftly declared that gunpowder was a tool created through fraternization with Satan and that the Protestants were heretics. Just to make sure, the Megalan Navy was also dispatched to crush the spirit of Araterre, with Protestant inventors and priests being either mindwiped or murdered and a puppet government established over the islands. Those Protestants that escaped the purges mostly live in the tolerant reaches of Cardiel or locations far away from Megalos, practicing their science and religion in secret. The average citizen of Megalos has knowledge of firearms and gunpowder that only extends to it being Satanic and that you should contact your local representative of the Ministry of Serendipity if some dissident claiming they know how to make or use it happens to show up.

The acquisition of the Araterre Isles were the last piece of fortune the great empire would have, however. An attempt to annex the dwarves of the Whitehood Mountains in 1585 both failed and triggered trade sanctions by the dwarven empire of Zarak, Norse and Celtic raids in 1590 chipped away at northern Megalan holdings and forced the building of a great wall to prevent even further losses, Cardiel declared independence in 1788 after fighting back both Imperial and al-Hazi forces that both sought to claim it, and the county of Caithness was founded in former orc territory in 1822 only to rebel and declare its independence a mere four years later.

The Last Hundred Years
The passing of the 20th Century has only created more strife in the nations of Ytarria. There's been another war between al-Wazif and Megalos from 1924 to 1928, orcs have attempted to take back Caithness and conquer Zarak in more and more frequent raids, the Dark Elves have reappeared and begun to weave sinister and mysterious magics right under the nose of the Megalan Empire, al-Wazis and Megalos went to war again from 1991 to 1995, and Caithness has been locked in a civil war since 1999. It's now 2005 AD, and things aren't much better for nations other than Caithness. Piracy has risen in the south, the Northmen seem prepared to once again strike at northern Megalos, al-Wazif is thinking about having yet another Wazifi-Megalan war, and al-Haz is suffering from loads of internal strife.

Next Time in GURPS Banestorm: The people of Yrth, and some stuff on society.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 02:04 on Feb 7, 2016

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Doresh posted:

So humans habe been around for almost a millenium, but gunpowder and probably other sorts of advanced chemicals are tools of the devil? This is yet another medieval fantasy setting eternally stuck in the same vague medieval period, isn't it?

I think it might've been more interesting for the Protestants to meet the brainwashing wizard fleets with cannonballs and Greek fire.
Not to complain about something I only just started reviewing, but I agree that I don't think it would be so earth-shattering to allow Yrth to have at least some cannons and matchlocks, especially in the far off places like the Northmen Lands or Sahud. Even GURPS Dungeon Fantasy (which is meant to be for playing the most basal stereotype of what Dungeons and Dragons is) has a gunner character.

Tangentially, I'm also trying to add a bit more formatting foolery to all posts from now on to differentiate between different headers, so on top of the already existing trend of putting chapter titles in bold and underlined, I am now doing both bold and italics for sections of the chapter and keeping just bold for subsections of those sections. I'm also trying out the whole thing of uploading images to imgur at a forum-friendly size rather than forcing timgs.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Young Freud posted:

BTW, how does the Banestorm look on the other end? Is it just dudes putzing around and just vanishing in clear day or a major atmospheric event and people disappearing?
One of the short fiction pieces that start each chapter describes it as going through a really rough storm, and then when the storm is over and you are on Yrth you realize everything is wrong. The temperature feels different, the wind isn't right, you can't tell where you are, and it's all very disconcerting.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 2: Life in Ytarria
The People of Yrth
An introduction to a lot of the species "of renown" (some apparently less important beings like insect people and extremely 80s dolphins get covered in a later chapter) that are already native to Yrth or came through the Banestorm. While their stats and a bit more information attached to said stats are technically segregated from their descriptions here, being instead placed in the fifth chapter of the game, I'll discuss the two as if they were joined because screw orthodoxy when it actively hinders discussing things in a logical manner. I'll also of course be only listing attribute scores and secondary characteristic scores directly and paraphrasing most everything else, since copying stat blocks word for word is verboten by the GURPS rules even for reviews. That and it's less letter-consuming.

The people of the mountains, dwarves are stocky and slightly shorter than humans, not unlike the Neanderthals of Earth. They are best known as craftsmen and miners, as well as larger than life in their personalities: a dwarf's emotions are big, almost to the point of caricature, with personality traits such as a cheerful/violent temper, politeness/vulgarity, and grudges being worn on their sleeves. And boy, do the dwarven people ever hold some grudges. The unprovoked attacks the Dark Elves forced against them in the distant past, the annexation attempts by Megalos, wars with dragons over mining rights, and a long history of orc raids have all those species' on the dwarves' collective poo poo list. Most dwarves live in their nation of Zarak or the icy Whitehood Mountains to the north. They have all but abandoned some of their old strongholds in Megalos, and the once revered mountain known as the Fence of God was taken by al-Haz early on in the Banestorm immigrations when nomads found a perfect replica of the Earth's Kaaba deep in the mountains under the stewardship of an old Sufi mystic.

Dwarves are a 35 point racial template with a +2 to Strength and +1 to Health. Their natural beneficial traits are three extra Fatigue Points, tough and leathery skin that gives them minor damage resistance, a longer lifespan than humans, resistance to poison, natural crafting talent, and natural ranks in the Axe/Mace and Merchant skills. On the downside, they are slightly slower than humans, have big issues with being greedy penny pinchers, are stubborn, are intolerant of orcs, dragons, and elves, and are forbidden from taking ranks in the Jumping or Running skills. It is noted that some dwarves drop Greed and Miserliness, and that Night Vision, Honesty, and Agoraphobia are common but not universal traits for dwarves.

Gnomes are literally just slightly thinner dwarves as far as physicality goes. Mentally, they are uncomfortable underground, which is why they branched off to live above the surface in the first place. Gnomes are the farmers to the dwarves' miners, the two coexisting to help Zarak remain a thriving kingdom that is rich in resources both above and below the ground. It is also socially expected of gnome men to trim their beards short, a way of further differentiating themselves from their dwarf ancestors. Mechanically, gnomes have a -7 point racial template, live slightly longer than humans (but not so much as dwarves), don't get either of the attribute bonuses dwarves do, have a self-imposed duty to nature, and get just a single bonus Fatigue Point, but they do at least get the dwarves' damage resistance skin, as well as a natural talent with diplomacy and agriculture. They can also actually get better at learning how to run and jump, which is probably helpful.

Thanks to the screwups of the Dark Elf faction, elves are both nearly extinct and distrusted by most of the native species of Ytarria, their political influence slim to none. Their great cities were abandoned even centuries before the Banestorm as they engaged in a self-imposed primitivist movement, but there's definitely no hope of reclaiming them now even if they wanted to. The remaining members of these slim, pointy-eared people live in small tribes deep in the wilderness, being content to cultivate new strains of plant and live a generally uncomplicated existence away from everyone else. The 41 point racial template for elves has a -1 to Strength but +1 to Dexterity and IQ, physical attractiveness, innate Magery 0, natural musical and artistic talent, a natural rank in the Bow skill, and agelessness, but also a strict elven code of honor (always have a reason for killing an animal or tree and don't cause them needless pain, don't be sloppy, strive for beauty and elegance in your life), and a sense of duty to nature. Half-elves sometimes happen if elves and humans get it on, and they produce a 27 point racial template that provides +1 IQ, the same innate magic sense as elves, and dwarf-length lifespans but not immortality.

Sea Elf
The sea elves are the gilled and webbed-digited oceanic counterpart to standard elves. Unlike the elves of the land, they never had any desire to leave their cities, and were instead forced into a nomadic existence when the Banestorm ripped apart their places of living when it dumped out species from the ocean world. Sea elves have a 51 point racial template that is mostly the same as elves, save for that they don't suffer a -1 to Strength, don't get musical talent, are amphibious (in the sense of being able to move on land as well as water), get a bonus to the Net skill rather than Bow skill, and can't speak or breathe in air. A minority of sea elves are genetic throwbacks that get to keep their lungs as well as their gills, allowing them to speak and breathe both above and under the water at the cost of increasing their point total to 66.

As one of the native species of Yrth, orcs are technically referred to as one of the Elder Races. Elves and dwarves absolutely hate that, though, and it's probably a horrible idea to bring up that fact around them. Your very stereotypical orcs. They're like big (I hesitate to say fat, since they're more that sort of mix of muscle and fat you see on weightlifters), hairy, fanged elves that primarily like to breed like rabbits, destroy things for fun, and are generally horrible. Tribal orcs practice slash and burn, but don't actually know it helps their hunting and agriculture, they literally do it because they find burning forests amusing and have not actually ever figured out that it is incidentally also beneficial. To put that into perspective, orcs have IQ -1, which is the same intellect penalty that GURPS gives to Neanderthals and to Stone Age humans. One of those two is our own species, who we should know well, and the other was a clever, creative, and innovative species with almost as much know-how as our own. Hell, even Homo erectus, which is IQ -3, theoretically could have been able to use controlled burning. And yet orcs are so caught up in their mustache twirling that they can't put two and two together about how their brush burning leads to better food yields. :psyduck:

Orcs are a -22 racial template that has +2 to Health and -1 to IQ and grants three extra hit points, slightly better than average hearing, and a free rank in Brawling, but is otherwise a mess of disadvantages. Specifically, orcs are innately bullies, intolerant to all non-orcs, have the social stigma of being barbarians, think of betrayal as a virtue, and defer to people who are stronger than them. Some, but not all, orcs can be lucky and get the advantages Acute Vision, Combat Reflexes, High Pain Threshold, or Rapid Healing, but there are also many that get extra disadvantages such as Bad Temper, Berserk, Gluttony, Greed, Sadism, and Unattractive (the book specifically doesn't give all orcs this, as some are stated to have "rugged good looks").

Some orcs are "civilized", trying to actively adapt to human society and buying off their Bully and Intolerance disadvantages. They're still looked down on no matter how hard they try, though, so even those orcs tend to live in the western territory known as the Orclands, where all but some of the most stubborn tribes of orcs went when humans pushed them out. Oh, and there are half-orcs too. You'd think they usually come from civilized orcs, right? Hahaha, no.

GURPS Banestorm, Italics in the Original Text posted:

Half-orcs are the offspring of orcs and humans. In most cases, the relationship was not consensual.

So yeah, for being a probable rape baby you get a 6 point template that provides +1 to Health, two extra hit points, barely better hearing than a human, and the social stigma of being a looked down upon minority.

An evolutionary relative of orcs, ogres are 8 feet of big, hairy brute. Ogres are not innately violent don't go actively looking for fights, but they are more than willing to eat people if they happen to be hungry. Otherwise, they're just bigger and dumber orcs that have no civilization or social structure to speak of. The ogre racial template is 28 points and has Strength +10 (which costs less due to their increased size, as that's a GURPS 4E thing) and Health +3 contrasted by Dexterity -1 and IQ -3, a strong resistance to pain and decent resistance to magic, damage resistance from elephantine hides, and good nocturnal vision and smelling capabilities, but are also considered to be hideous-looking unlearned barbarians that are well-known to eat sapient beings.

The last and most mysterious of the Elder Races, dragons are also the only ones I'm actually going to wait to cover. This is because they have a whole long section later on in the bestiary, more than the minor repetitive blurbs and stat blocks that the other species here get in chapter 5. Suffice to say, they're really big, really smart, and really mysterious, and nobody is sure why they do any of the strange things they do.

Us. As per RPG conventions, humans are the blank slates, having no innate racial template traits and thus not beholden to using up any of their point buy on innate species features.

Goblins are one of the three native sapiens of the desert world of Gabrook that found part of their population dumped on Yrth. They are thin and have green skin, large pointed ears, and sharp teeth, but are otherwise pretty human in appearance. As noted in the history of Yrth, the goblins once had their own kingdom known as Yibyorak, but it was conquered by the expanding empire of Megalos. As a result, most goblins are now Megalan citizens and practicing orthodox Catholics. There are some Muslim and pagan goblins in other nations, but they are a decided minority, and even small groups of nomadic goblin merchants encountered on the trade roads are typically Christian. Rather interestingly, while they have no innate Magery, goblins take to learning magic exceedingly well. Goblins have a 19 point racial template that grants +1 to Dexterity and IQ but -2 to Strength and extremely good night vision, but also an impulsive streak.

Big, brutish versions of goblins, supposedly closer to their common ancestor in appearance and demeanor. They don't care much about material goods, using lovely rags and hides for clothing and either handmade or stolen weaponry, and are also typically isolationist even towards other hobgoblins not part of their individual tribe. While they do sometimes go pillaging, hobgoblins don't have the social stigma of being barbarians due to the fact that they don't have the active evilness and love for destruction that orcs have. The hobgoblin racial template is -15 points and has +1 to Strength and Dexterity but -2 to IQ, provides a free rank of Brawling and superior night-vision, but also gives the disadvantages of being ill-tempered and stubborn.

The last and strangest of the goblinoids (save for one that isn't covered at all in this section, but we'll get to that when we get to that), kobolds are dumb blue shitheads that swarm in cities and are typically either lazing around doing nothing, wandering, or enjoying slapstick humor at the expense of others. While they will sometimes take menial jobs, they are more comfortable mooching or thieving, as they find things that aren't food, sex, or jokes involving pain boring. Kobolds have a -60 point racial template that has +1 Dexterity but -2 IQ and Strength, -1 to Willpower, resistance to disease and the ability to eat garbage food, a short attention span, fragile ego, and the social stigma of being uneducated morons.

Reptile Man
8 foot tall humanoid lizards that are also native to Gabrook. While most reptile men are quite reasonable folks and there are even large groups of devout Muslim reptile men in al-Haz, humans and goblins are often wary due to the fact that some tribes of particularly savage individuals in the Great Desert of western Ytarria are anthropophagous barbarians. Human nervousness towards them isn't helped by the fact that they have great difficulty speaking languages other than their own and their claws and teeth are always at the bare. Reptile men are a 58 point template that grants Strength +4 and Health +2 but -1 to IQ, sharp teeth and claws, heat tolerance, slightly longer lifespans than humans, damage resistance thanks to their thick scaly skin, a wide field of vision, free ranks in Camouflage and Survival, shyness, the social stigma of being barbarians, and an inability to speak languages other than their own without a thick accent.

Centaurs are one of the four races of Loren'dil, a verdant world of massive forests interspersed with thick meadows. It was particularly hard for centaurs to adapt to Ytarria, as they had (and to some extent still have) great difficulty understanding the concept of non-nomadic species and the existence of horses (originally seen as deformed or maimed centaurs) both confused and horrified them. Scattered herds live a pastoral existence across the plains of al-Wazif, al-Haz, Cardiel, and the northern limits of the Orclands. While rare, there are occasions when a particularly wise and patient centaur will settle down in a civilized area and interact with other species, even sometimes rising to positions of power as advisers to royalty. The centaur racial template is 100 points and provides Strength +8, Health +2, and +1 Perception but -1 IQ, improved overall movement speed plus fast running, four legs that end in hooves, and greater Willpower saves against fear, with the disadvantageous traits being that centaurs are impulsive and overconfidence, fond of partying, and are deeply offended by domesticated horses and all the equipment associated with them such as saddles and stables.

Giants are, as their name implies, giant – muscular human-looking beings typically 9 or 10 feet in height. This is just a standard rather than a species rule, as there are often giants with random stranger features such as one eye, multiple arms, multiple heads, or even greater sizes. They are isolationist and unconcerned with most comings and goings of other species, preferring to live in their houses out in the wilderness of the cold north or the Orclands. While most giants aren't out to get anyone, disturbing their peace or comparing them to ogres are both quick ways to trigger their fiery tempers and get a tongue-lashing at best and a messy and violent altercation at worst. Other species of Ytarria are often uncomfortable about giants simply because they are so big. All giants get a 122 point racial template and have +15 Strength and +2 Health but -1 Dexterity, are slightly slower than most species at a walk but can run faster than a human if they put in the effort, have a really good sense of taste and smell, get damage resistance from their very thick skin and a high tolerance for pain, and suffer the disadvantages of being bad-tempered, shy, stubborn, and seen as barbarians.

While they once lived in the great roots of the largest trees of Loren'dil, halflings have adapted to Yrth by going full hobbit. Like, literally stereotypical Tolkien hobbit: portly, big hairy feet, live in villages, don't like danger and adventure, etiquette and eating, etc. etc. They have a 0 point racial template, with a -3 to Strength but +1 to Dexterity and Health, stealthy movement, their own special racial talent that gives them a +2 bonus to several ranged combat skills (which is a D&D halfling thing and not a hobbit thing, but it's an exception rather than a rule), a social perception from others as being good neighbors, and the disadvantageous traits of being uncomfortable if they are alone, a halfling's code of honor (be all Bilbo Baggins when it comes to hospitality, housekeeping, and dealing with guests who outstay their welcome), a distaste of large water and too much chaos, and a bit of gluttony.

While minotaurs may just look like giants with bull heads, their attitudes are very different. They are violent, roving predators that took the leap from eating halflings on their native Loren'dil to eating humans, goblins, orcs, and anything else on hand quite easily. The minotaur racial template is 13 points, with +3 to Strength and Health, +1 to Dexterity, and -2 to IQ. On the beneficial side, they get hide-based damage resistance on part with elephants, very good hearing, an inability to get lost, sharp impaling horns, decent magic resistance, a wide cone of vision, and several free ranks of Brawling. On the downside, they go berserk in combat, have a great difficulty not wanting to maim and kill someone they get into combat with, hate all other species, hate not being alone, and have the social stigma of being uneducated brutes that eat other sapient beings. Some minotaurs manage to overcome their wandering loner life and habit of eating other sapient life and get jobs as hired muscle in civilized lands, but cannot ever buy off their combat violence issues, and it's probably a horrible idea to hire one if you want any of your enemies to stay alive after they pick a fight with you.

Human up top, fish down below, as is traditional. Merfolk came from an ocean world known as Olokun, where all but small islands were covered by water for most of the time, save for violent daily tidal shifts that would briefly turn small islands into large landmasses before covering them up again. They are known for typically being ambivalent towards surface-dwelling species unless the merfolk want to trade or the surface-dwelling fishermen intrude what merfolk see as their own exclusive fishing grounds, good friends of sea elves and sapient dolphins, and eternal enemies of the shark folk for some unknown events that happened between the species long ago on Olokun. The merfolk racial template is 52 points, has no attribute modifiers, and grants the benefits of increased swimming speed, gills as well as lungs, a tolerance of deep water pressure, sonar, slippery skin, and the ability to speak underwater. Their only listed disadvantage is a need to be immersed in water at least once every day, but their flavor text says that they can only slowly crawl on land, which implies that they should have the disadvantage No Legs (Semi-Aquatic) and whoever was editing that day just forgot to put it in the template.

Shark Man
The shark men are stocky humanoids with leathery gray skin, webbed hands and feet, and the heads of predatory sharks. Shark men don't understand surface dwellers, seeing them as all one big but extremely variable species they call the Dry Folk, and surface dwellers doing understand the shark men much either. They worship strange eldritch gods, typically stay deep in the oceanic trenches, and have a very Darwinian view of life in general. Add in a small but nonetheless present number of shark men that eat other sapients and isolated groups of Elder God-living religious zealots and you have a recipe for unease among the landlubbers. Not all people are worried about these aquatic entities, however: the Sahudese, who call the shark men Samebito after a humanoid shark of Japanese mythology, respect them enough that there is active trade and even some exchange of spells between shark man and human mages. The shark man racial template is a whopping 145 points, providing +6 Strength and +2 Dexterity, very good vision in both darkness and light, amphibious movement, gills and lungs alike, damage resistance from their thick skin, very sharp teeth, strong resistance to deep water pressure, and the ability to speak underwater. Their only disadvantage is the same dependency on being watered that merfolk have.

Spell-Based Magic
About one in a hundred humans on Ytarria have Magery at the 0 or 1 level. Comparatively, all elves are mages (though not all of them actively learn spells), shark men and medusas (which aren't covered until chapter 5) have lots of mages, reptile men and goblins have slightly more mages born than humans do, dwarves and gnomes have slightly less mages, halflings and centaurs have about the same mage rates as humans but typically choose not to use magic out of seeing it as flashy and obtrusive to a simple life, orcs rarely have mages, giants, hobgoblins, kobolds, and ogres almost never have mages, and minotaurs cannot actually birth mages at all. Of course, Magery is useless without mana, so it's probably a good thing that most of Ytarria has a normal mana rate. The main exceptions, as you can see in the above image, are the mana-void dead zone that is the Great Desert and the low-mana areas around it. Those spots of high or very high mana come from two sources: either asteroid impact sites such as the Ring Islands, or djinni-made towers in the Djinn Lands.

There are also certain exceptions concerning the use of spells. Spells that involve either moving yourself between dimensions or sending/summoning something from one dimension to another, as well as spells that manipulate time, are available but suffer a -25 penalty to their skill roll. This means that while you could technically get yourself off of Yrth, it's so very difficult that almost nobody finds it really worth it to waste the time, effort, and Fatigue Points to try even if they do learn of the spells. Necromancy spells are outlawed in most nations, Gate spells (teleportation and dimension manipulation spells) are exceedingly rarely known, and knowledge of technology spells from the Industrial Revolution onward are so little known that they might as well not be discussed at all. Even technology spells related to the Renaissance and pre-Industrial era are almost entirely hoarded by the Megalan Ministry of Serendipity, who use spells such as Seek Gunpowder and Seek Machine to hunt down and either kill or mindwipe technologists.

Advantages like Channeling, Healing with the Faith Healing limitation, Medium, Oracle, and Spirit Empathy are supernatural powers that are technically magical, but not the skill-based magic spells system GURPS typically adheres to, and fall into the category of mysticism. Mystics are common among the Sahudese and the Northmen, but their situation in the Christian and Muslim nations is somewhat complicated. Mystics who fall in line with the local orthodoxy are seen as one blessed by God for their faith, especially those who have the whole "faith as if of a child" simplism to them. Those who aren't in lockstep are watched exceedingly closely for anything that can be used to discredit them as either purveyors of heresy or wild-eyed lunatics.

Magic and Religion
Of the three religions, two mostly accept magic. The Ytarrian Catholic Church and Sunni Islam both see magic as acceptable as long as it is any of the "white arts" – pretty much any magic other than necromancy and things that muck about with non-undead spirits as well. Ytarrian Shi'ia, on the other hand, declares that any use of magic is a sin, though it may be pardoned by God if it is done in the direct service of Islam or there is no choice in the matter. Actual practice in the houses of God are slightly more complex. While the Catholics of Megalos actively demand that any of their clergy who are mages learn spells, in al-Wazif it is generally considered that magic is an allowed but ultimately secular affair, albeit one that mullahs can opt to participate in if they wish.

Magic and Science
Multiple paragraphs that can be summed up as "magic fucks with our perception of science, but the scientific method and rationalism on Yrth aren't really advanced enough to care".

For the most part, Ytarria is Tech Level 3, which coincides with the human Middle Ages. There are some small cases of greater technological prowess where the Powers that Be feel it is not a threat to their authority, such as simplistic understanding of germ theory and inoculation, Renaissance astronomy and heliocentrism, and regulated but nonetheless present forms of non-combat TL4 clockwork machinery. The book also admits here that while there is a great overarching attempt to suppress technological advances, if there is another huge flareup of constant and large Banestorms like what happened in the 11th Century it is unlikely that even Megalos could stem the flood.

Suppression of Gunpowder
The Yrth gun control issue isn't a vast conspiracy so much as a bunch of smaller ones that form into a greater whole. Wizards like their privilege, nobles worry about revolution, the rulers of al-Wazif and al-Haz have heard reports of the post-Crusades world and believe that firearms are tied directly to the fall of the Islamic lands as a world power, and Sahudese see guns as inelegant and dishonorable. There are also at least some cases where dragons have helped in the suppression of gunpowder, though the reason is just as inexplicable as anything the dragons ever do. The genie has started to come out of the bottle in Caithness, however, where the raging civil war and low mana conditions have fractured the ability to control the spread of guns. Caithnessian wizards have collectively decided that if the sporadic use of handheld guns turns into the creation and use of cannons and mortars, they'll back whichever side of the civil war hasn't invented them yet regardless of personal opinions.

Outside of fancy stone roads in and between large cities, most overland travel in Ytarria is a lovely slog through dirt and mud roads in wagons, on horse- or camelback, or on foot. Water travel fares a bit better, as the 17th Century ships of the Protestants were stripped of their guns and commandeered by the Megalan Navy rather than being destroyed outright. Nations outside of Megalos still mostly use earlier sloops, barges, and two- or three-masted brigs.

Magic is the biggest healing industry in Ytarria, but not the only one. Alchemical mixtures, herbal remedies, and primitive pharmaceuticals are all found in both rural and magic-poor areas. An understanding of hand sanitation, the spread of disease through animals, and semi-successful vaccinations have made these methods more successful than they would be in a real Medieval world. There have also been attempts at blood transfusions, but the lack of blood type categorization has made the practice dangerous and unreliable.

The art of movable type printing is one of the greatest failures on the part of the Megalan Ministry of Serendipity. While guns have obvious dangers, it wasn't until printing presses were already widespread that the wizards and nobility of Megalos realized "oh poo poo, the peasants can use these to fast-track seditious materials!" By that point, it was too late and the nobles had to run damage control by supporting scriveners' guilds that gain royal support and funding in favor of only printing things that are friendly to the Megalan government.

Major Languages
Languages have somewhat evolved in the transfer from Earth to Yrth. Most of the Christian nations all speak Anglish, a mixture of Medieval English and Norman French. Some remote parts of Araterre instead speak Old Aralaise, which is 16th Century French. Northmen speak a similar language known as Northland, which combines traits of Medieval English, Norman French, and archaic German. In al-Haz, al-Wazif, and some of Cardiel, proper Arabic is spoken, preserved through careful reading of the Q'uran and other Arabic literature kept in their great libraries. Other languages worthy enough to be noted are Latin amongst Megalan clergy and scholars, Ladino (a mixture of spoken Spanish and written Hebrew used by Jews), Tredroy Patois (a mixture of Anglish and Arabic), and Sahudese (a garbled mess of numerous Asiatic and Native American languages that also happens to use Japanese for proper nouns). Non-human species speak either human languages, their own native languages named after themselves, or both. Kobolds and orcs have no written language whatsoever, and reptile men have one but only rarely use it.

Sexual Morality
Adultery and homosexuality are both crimes that are usually ignored if they are kept in the closet, but punished severely if they threaten social order and group cohesion. On the subject of women and their sexuality, Christian countries are typically pragmatic about it, Muslim ones are strict about modest dress but okay with a lot of the same things the Christians are otherwise, Sahudese are all about honor and formality, and the Northmen are all about honor and having big bloody feuds about loving gone awry.

Next Time: The other half of chapter 2, because this is a fairly hefty chapter. Theatrics, lawmaking, secret societies, slavery, and more.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Doresh posted:

I just noticed something... does the book eventually explain why the humans detest gunpowder as the work of the Devil, but have no issues with sorcery and witchcraft? I think it would be more sensible if they'd use the newfound leap in weapons technology to round up all the heretics from all races.
Chapter 3 is literally titled "Religion", and is all about the subject. So it's not too far off in the future.

Rand Brittain posted:

Sadly, as far as I know, the White Wolf era of Ravenloft never got added to either company's digital stable.
I wouldn't be surprised if it did, though. Wizards of the Coast already started putting out the d20 Modern Gamma World books, which were also put out under White Wolf's Sword and Sorcery line, and I can't imagine that would be more clamored for than Ravenloft.

Now if only they'd put out Alternity poo poo so I could complete my collection. :arghfist:

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 2 Continued

Arts and Entertainment
As with the printing press and medical advances, the 16th and early 17th Century entertainment ideals of the people of Araterre managed to gain a foothold on Yrth. This means that Shakespearean theatrical performances, polyphonic musical orchestras, and the artwork of the great Renaissance masters have supplemented the more Medieval forms of creative expression across Ytarria.

While Sahud has dramatic reenactments and the Islamic nations have great oratory amphitheaters, theatrical plays are almost entirely a thing of the Christian lands. Great theatrical halls can be found in many major cities, performing the works of the great playwrights and Christian morality plays to thunderous applause of large audiences. There are also theatrical troupes who take their shows on the road, playing anywhere from the grand halls of a local noble to the rugged center of a rural village. Musical theater – that is to say, opera – is also present, but the only actual opera halls that have been built are in the two cities of Tredroy and Megalos.

Musical Arts
Most classical instruments can be found on Yrth, though the piano was never invented and the church organ and harpsichord instead hold sway in the place of later keyed instruments. Orchestras tend to be limited to dance halls or the homes of the nobility, with the majority of music elsewhere being played by either small groups of troubadours or solo acts. It should also be noted that the strangest piece of text in GURPS Banestorm so far calls this section its home.

GURPS Banestorm posted:

Songs may also survive the transfer, although incomprehensible references in the words may lead to them being accidentally mangled or deliberately changed as they spread. No one realizes that one of the most popular Cardien ballads about the recent wars between al-Wazif and Megalos uses the tune from the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” while only a few professionals know that the weird and decadent songs recently so popular with the Megalan aristocracy are the work of Cole Porter, freely translated into Anglish.

Outside of harem dancers in al-Haz and al-Wazif and ballet in the thriving cultural center that is the city of Tredroy, most dancing that occurs in Ytarria is a social affair. No Megalan or Cardien dandy worth his knickers doesn't know the latest slow dance or jig that is popular when all the nobility get together.

Most writing in Ytarria is focused on the tangible and real, albeit often aggrandized. Epics are extremely popular, especially nationalist founder's tales such as the Simoniad for Megalos, Nine Knights of Redhall and Lay of Conall for Caithness, and The Voyage of Jean and Catherine for Araterre. The Nomad Lands, where the Celtic- and Norse-descended Northmen dwell, hold epics to an even greater standard and consider their eddas to be sacred texts. The writing of novels is present but not particularly common due to the fact that its writing style is not particularly popular in the Christian lands. Meanwhile, over in al-Haz and al-Wazif, you have poetry favored by the nobility, oral storytelling and written fairy tales popular amongst the common folk, and travelogues by dashing adventurers enjoyed by both sides of the social strata.

Visual Art
Art is another area where the lands vary in their practices. The Christian nations primarily utilize Italian Renaissance techniques, but their actual execution varies. In Cardiel and Caithness, the great artistic minds paint or sculpt Biblical scenes or local heroes in a vibrant and dramatic manner that often show even the flawed sides of grand figures, while the artists of Megalos create anatomically correct but ultimately lifeless vanity/propaganda pieces of Megalan royals and heroes both past and present, always with a placard or engraved statement that makes viewers sure they know who they are looking at and what they are meant to feel. Over in the two Muslim nations, the majority of visual art is abstract geometric decoration in a fashion based around the 'Arabesque' style of Earth. There has also been adoption of the Persian miniature style of painting, though there is some controversy in the Shi'ite community over whether or not such representational art might be questionably moral. Over in those other two countries that aren't part of the Crusader attention party, you have artwork being entirely used for religious and ceremonial purposes in the Nomad Lands and calligraphic landscape and figure drawing in Sahud.

Architecture is still mostly the same on Yrth as it was on Medieval Earth for the cultures of Ytarria, save for 16th Century Gothic architecture gaining a huge surge in popularity across the Christian nations. While a fancy palace or cathedral is nice, however, a lot of nobles have their actual living quarters still based on Medieval fortresses with added protections against magical foes.

Elven Arts
Elves see art as a participatory event, meaning that they don't attempt to create long-lasting works or uphold certain figures as patrons of the arts. They share dances, stories, poems, and displays of magic that tricks the senses. The fact that elves see everything in their lives as aesthetics means that they are also technically always at least half-participating in performance art. Humans tend to find elf art weird, but eventually come around to its "pervasiveness and perfection" (the book's words, not mine).

Dwarven Arts
In stark contrast to the elves, dwarves favor extreme meticulousness and detail so that even the most hard-eyed viewer of the art will know that it was crafted to its utmost potential. The gems in a piece of jewelry can't just fit well, they must fit perfectly, and all of the various engravings and filligre around it need to have just as much care taken with them. Likewise, a dwarven saga will feature details about politics and local events that most human writers would find tangential to the overall plot and pointless to include. Gnomes, however, have abandoned the forms of their dwarven ancestors in favor of elven artistic opinions. Humans, elves, and gnomes alike agree that dwarven art is really, really boring.

Goblin Arts
Goblins were culturally overwhelmed by humanity, both through their willingness to go along with cross-pollination of ideas and the fact that they brought very little of the works of Gabrook with them during the Banestorm. Their main unique artistic measure now is the hraknoom, a practice of alliterative triplet limericks that are typically geared either to provide a paradoxical statement or some manner of twist at the end. It is a popular pastime for goblins to have freestyle hraknoom contests as a test of both improvisation and wit.

Social Arrangements
Have you heard about this thing called feudalism? Well, let me tell you all about it. Almost all of it, that is, as there are specific Social Status charts in chapter 5 too! :pseudo:

In the Christian lands, the lowest of the low are the serfs. You and your land are one and the same, and both are under the command of the local lord. Serfs can't move somewhere else, marry, or generally do any big change to their life without asking the lord for their permission. Villeins have slightly more autonomy, as they technically own their land but must pay for it in labor services to the lord. Some villeins known as cottars have full ownership of their land, but they still ultimately have to pledge loyalty to their lord and are likely to have any attempt to buy or sell land blocked. In al-Haz and al-Wazif, all peasants are effectively either villeins or cottars, with no equivalent to the serfs other than possibly slaves if you count serfdom as being like slavery (which the book adamantly states is untrue).

The Merchant Class
The Christian nations have a hard time figuring out what the hell to do about merchants, as they don't really fall into the traditional social stratigraphy of their society and can come in forms anywhere from poor roadside traders to wealthy trade fleet moguls. Merchants are typically free citizens that adhere to the rules of a local merchant guild, and the fact that many merchants are truly wealthy means that only some particularly stubborn nobles and clergy that see merchants as welfare parasites truly hate this social group. Hazis and Wazifis typically have little good or ill to say about merchants beyond noting that Mohammed himself was once a tradesman.

Knights – or ghazis and 'amirs in al-Haz and al-Wazif – are the brunt of class of warriors in society. While villeins and cottars are often conscripted into militias and warring forces, knights have actually good mounts, armor, and weaponry that is the benefit of being a land-owning member of society with a wealthy benefactor from the nobility. Caithness is notable as the only nation that allows women to become knights. Most knights of the Christian nations have Code of Honor (Chivalry), or at the very least a -1 point quirk representing their often failed attempts to follow that ideal. There is no such code among the ghazis and 'amirs, who only follow futuwwa, a generic concept of masculine honor.

The Nobility
The 1%. Nobles live on the backs of their estates, having to manage the basic needs and affairs of their peasantry, defenses, and various servants in order to get lavish living in return.

Slaves are legal and widespread in Megalos and both of the Muslim nations, as well as legal but more scattered in Caithness, the Nomad Lands, and the dwarven lands such as Zarak. Orcs and ogres are also both big on the whole slavery thing, though they have no actual laws as such either way given that they are savage barbarians. Even in Cardiel, where social reform efforts abolished slavery, there are fringe cases of it still occurring in isolated locations. The only places where slavery is a true unknown are Sahud and the sanctuaries of the elves. Slavery in Ytarria is of the traditional variety, modeled on Imperial Rome in the Christian lands and on Arabic customs in al-Haz and al-Wazif, as chattel slavery was either never introduced to Yrth or never caught on if it did.

Ytarria has a greater monetary economy than actual Medieval society. While there is still bartering and living off the goods of your land and all that, all of the great nations have their own minted coins that are used in the more inhabited areas for the purchase of wares and services. Megalos, Araterre, and Caithness have the farthing (copper piece worth $1), penny ($4 silver piece), mark ($200 gold piece), and pound ($1,000 bar of silver), al-Haz and al-Wazif have the halala ($1 copper piece), dirham ($4 silver piece), dinar ($100 gold piece), and talent ($1,000 plus-size thickness gold piece), Cardiel uses money in both of the above forms, Zarak has the khenn ($1 copper piece), dann ($12 copper piece), ffo ($144 silver piece), and tohn ($5,184 gold piece) that are all extremely rare outside of dwarven lands, and Sahud has the lone $10 silver piece called the yen. The Northmen of the Nomad Lands are not mentioned at all, so who knows what they use.

Crime and Punishment
The law is Medieval, and thus pretty poo poo. Public flogging or mutilation are common punishments for things that aren't worth the death penalty (which is also publicly performed in the old hanging fashion), you only get incarcerated after your trial if you happen to be very politically expedient or someone thinks they can torture more useful things out of you, rape and similar assaults against women are seen in sexist "property value" terms in every nation except Caithness and Cardiel, etc.

Political Systems
My god, are we really talking about feudalism again? I thought we already covered that pretty thoroughly. Oh well. This part talks about fiefdoms, fealty, and the divine right of kings. Moving on.

Megalan Autocracy
While technically a feudalist nation, Megalos is considered to be an autocratic and authoritarian regime because the emperor is above the nobles rather than the "best among equals" as kings are amidst nobles in other feudal nations of Ytarria. More interesting than whether or not one type of feudalism is more noble than another is the fact that Simon Menelaus had a huge boner for Rome that has continued in the centuries since he founded the empire in the first place. This has lead to several unique developments in Megalos, such as the resurgence of gladiatorial games and the creation of the Imperial Legion of well-trained legionary soldiers and battle mages that has all but ousted the traditional knights. The autocracy is weakest in Araterre, where the Aralaise puppet nobles are second to powerful merchants and clergy.

Muslim Government
In al-Haz and al-Wazif, feudalism is technically in play, but begins to weaken at the top of the structure. The current sultan or caliph is who oaths of fealty are sworn to, not the actual position of leadership, While there are some officials and families that give their loyalty to each new ruler like clockwork, there are enough fringe cases that some long-reaching political tensions can arise when the head honcho dies and there are influential groups that disagree with the next to the throne.

In certain parts of Ytarria, such as the Nomad Lands, there is no greater government, and the largest social order is the tribe. These tribes are lead by chiefs (known with local names such as jarls or headmen depending on the region) that are selected either by blood, by a council of elders or shamans, or elected in a primitive form of democracy. Chiefs are responsible for their entire tribe's well-being, but also typically have a lot of power and respect to match the size of their responsibility.

The bastard child of Medieval Chinese Confucian bureaucracy and Japanese feudal lords, lead by an emperor known as the Heavenking. Most other nations see the Sahudese government as weird and confusing, but that's not really surprising, as that's what most other nations say about anything involving Sahud.

Towns and cities technically don't follow the system of feudalism. Townsmen are mostly free in the sense that modern citizens would be rather than under the rules of the serfdom or villeinship, but are nonetheless below the nobility and can be physically harmed if they don't know their place. The leadership in towns is made up of an elected council of wealthy townsmen that in turn serve a mayor or a governor. Governors are appointed by the local lord and can replace council members as they wish, while mayors are elected by the town council and are thus subject to their whims and desires.

One of the most important parts of towns and cities – other than their leaders, of course – are their guilds. The guild is effectively the union of Ytarria, creating an organized force of laborers in a specific practice that monopolize that practice and ensure fair wages, item prices that are lucrative but not exploitative, and product quality. Being a member of a guild also provides insurance for its members: the guild cares for its members' families if a member dies and pays for the rebuilding of destroyed store property or the cost of healers if members are ill or injured. The two main types of guild are merchant guilds, which are all about buying and selling, and craft guilds, which provide specific goods or services. The extent of a craft guild actually varies depending on the size of a community. For instance, while a small town may have a Clothman's Guild, a big city near the heart of Megalos will have its same practices split into the Spinner's, Weaver's, Tailor's, Dyer's, and Embroiderer's Guilds. Guilds hold a lot of political clout in Megalos and Cardiel, very little in al-Haz and Caithness, and a middling amount everywhere in between.

Guilds Unique to Yrth
Five types of guild are found on Yrth that originated in the nations of Ytarria rather than extended concepts from Earth. Two of these are new due to the whole fantasy element, for instance. Alchemist's guilds regulate the practice of experimental or unskilled alchemy to ensure public safety as much as they do their actual product, while mage's guilds focus on hiring out magical services such as enchanting magic items or using spells for various crafts. Armsmen's guilds, by contrast, take the very Earthly practice of hired toughs and make it a respectable profession. Armsmen include mercenaries, bounty hunters, unaffiliated battle mages, and other people who want to get paid to fight but don't want to fall under anyone's banner. Finally, you have thieves' guilds and assassins' guilds, the two forms of underground guild. Thieves' guilds form monopolies on extortion, racketeering, prostitution, smuggling, kidnapping, and any other number of nefarious activities, while assassins' guilds do what their name implies and kill specific people discreetly for a fee.

Conspiracies and Secret Societies
Wizardly Conspiracies
Mages tend to follow one of two courses in life: either they act like normal people, or they fall into a destructive cycle of megalomania and belief in caster supremacy, creating in-groups, those in-groups inevitably falling into infighting over who is the most supreme supremacist, and then dissolution of the group as its former members join and use non-magical groups as proxies for their petty squabbles. While the megalomaniacs are only about 20% or so of people with Magery, it and the legitimization of mages in power by most nations means that they aren't all that inclined to having conspiracies.

The big place where they actually work together for a greater conspiracy is in the suppression of gunpowder. As stated before, mages quickly realized that firearms could allow mere peasantry to have destructive power without any need for supernatural powers, and this scared them enough that they began to correspond with each other rapidly and plot to convince the nobility that guns were a threat to their national stability as well. In the rather lax Caithness, mages have taken to being glorified thugs that rough up secret technologists in dark alleys, since the Caithnessers in power don't seem to want to go along with their anti-gunpowder racket like most nations' lawmakers have.

Pagan Cults: Paganism (defined here as any non-Abrahamic European religion, so Sahudese religions aren't counted) has found a strong foothold as the major religion of the Nomad Lands, but in the Christian and Muslim nations it is persecuted and driven underground. These minor sects aren't actually all that conspiratous, as they mainly just want to be left alone and practice their religion in secret.

Mystery Cults: Mystery cults are very regional societies that revolve around preserving a specific ideal in secret. Unlike pagan cults, mystery cults are more motivated and often have extreme vows and psychological conditioning to keep their members loyal. Mystery cults can support pagan religions, political concepts such as communism or democracy with a veneer of mysticism on top, illegal activities and actions (again with a veneer of mysticism on top), or even a desire to preserve specific spells that they don't want anyone else to have.

Diabolic Cults: Demon-worshipers. Some diabolists are persecuted pagans who were pushed into desperation, others are anarchists willing to risk eternal damnation (assuming there is a Hell that demons come from) to break the system, still others are atheists that use demons to strike against religion with the thing they fear most, and a few of them are even genuinely evil and wish to consort with things just as diabolical as they are.

Bardic Colleges
The College of Bards is a fraternal society that takes a mixture of Medieval minstrelry and Catholic traditions, Celtic beliefs, and Sufi Islamic mysticism and mashes it together into a form of mysticism based primarily around music as an expression of magic and faith. The College doesn't actually care about the religious affiliation of its members, which haas lead to some clergy viewing the organization as a potential source of sinful dissidence, not that the College particularly cares. Unlike proper troubadours, College bards are not particularly well-respected in any Christian nation other than Caithness, which has lead to more than a few bards being cocky around a noble and then getting the axe for it (sometimes literally). Bards are usually seen as suspicious at best in al-Haz and al-Wazif, save for some Sufis that see them as kindred spirits, while in the Nomad Lands they are seen as foppish but ultimately respectable people only slightly inferior to Northman skalds.

The Underground Engineers
An informal secret society of those who wish to see technology progress in Ytarria, especially if it's banned technology. The fact that underground engineers have no centralized leadership means that they haven't exactly conquered any lands, but it also means that they are hard to squash completely – like a hydra, you cut off one head, two more sprout in its place. Most underground engineers have recreated TL4 technology such as blunderbusses and early muskets, some have even managed to replicate TL5 technology such as electrical and steam engines. Some underground engineers also take up the cause of preserving and spreading social concepts such as Protestantism and democracy rather than just physical devices.

Oh hey, speaking of the Protestants, they're also here. While they may have been crushed and forced underground in the imperial lands of Megalos, it has managed to actually survive above ground in several key places. One is Cardiel, where they are tolerated but treated as second class citizens. In the city of Tredroy (which is technically Cardien land, but also technically part of al-Haz and's complicated), ever infamous for its rebellious streak and seemingly endless glee at pissing off Megalos, there is even a Protestant school system and official administrator known as the Secretary of the Protestant Congregation. Finally, in al-Wazif, Protestants are viewed as any other People of the Book and have open worship in the large cities. Al-Haz is theoretically accepting in Protestants but suppresses them just as much as any other non-Muslim in practice.

Spy Rings
While there are some large groups of spies in service of nations or bouncing around as freelancers, most espionage on Yrth is made up of small cells that are gathered together for a specific purpose and then break apart when that purpose is done. The lack of any more advanced methods of communication means that most spies look and listen for any interesting news and send their information to a central spymaster, as opposed to hunting down a specific secret and risking discovery before the information can be delivered.

Next Time in GURPS Banestorm: Have you heard the twenty-eight pages of good news? All about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and those other religions that aren't as important.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Black August posted:

Yeah, and again, every piece of weird politically charged junk you read bleeding out of Zaddy's writeup, was easily leagues worse before the weeks-long tester forum rage posts and eventual editing cutups.
It seems hard to believe that there were parts of the entry worse than "Tuareg women are scary!" and "stereotypical Jewish mother who hates Palestinians (which are equal to Nazis)", and yet I somehow totally believe it anyway.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Sahud is still... a problem, I take it?
They have a sidebar that states Sahud is "race blind" and accepts anyone of any species that acts properly Sahudese, but then they still have the mostly east Asian population, the exclusively Japanese proper nouns, the honor duels between noble samurai, the submissive women, the otherization of them as one of the two "weird" cultures away from the Christian and Muslim lands, and...well, we'll get to Sahud when we get there. But suffice to say, yes, it's still a problem.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program of Draculas, gargoyle statue-fondling, and transformation revenge porn pretending to be feminism for Monster Time!

Did you know that the behir of the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual and Pathfinder Bestiary 1 is actually based on a lightning serpent from Scottish mythology? Or that the first edition of D&D had a monster named after figures from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book?

I do, and it's that sort of dedication to inane poo poo that makes me feel I am up to the task of continuing where Alien Rope Burn left off on the Pathfinder Bestiary trail, meaning that my other review running alongside GURPS Banestorm is going to be the Pathfinder Bestiary 2.

It's 2010, the year after the release of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and Pathfinder Bestiary. A majority of the stuff being ported from the Monster Manual to Pathfinder has already been covered, which leaves Bestiary 2 open to things that aren't the standard Outsider "families" (for lack of a better term coming to mind at the moment) like demons and devils, true dragons, and other such D&D standbys.

Instead, we get...uhh...more demons, devils, and true dragons, actually. Also even more Outsider families, like the evil Outsiders known as daemons, or the evil Outsiders known as qlippoths, which is totally not setting the precedent for more and more evil Outsider families appearing with each further Bestiary. There are also wereboars, aranea, giant scorpions, and other things from the 3.5 Monster Manual that didn't get covered by the Pathfinder Bestiary! Oh, and the mobat! Remember the mobat? Yeah, good to see the mobat back.

Okay, getting past the sarcasm for a moment, the Pathfinder Bestiary has the awkward situation of being trapped in a point where some of the Monster Manual is still being milked and the Tome of Horrors gets a heavy combing, but it's also trying to spread its wings a little and take more things from mythology, folklore, and public domain fantasy instead of just Dungeons and Dragons legacy material. On a strictly personal standpoint, I'd love to skip to Bestiary 3 since it has a lot of stuff taken from cryptozoology and non-European mythology, but we here at Some Poster in the FATAL and Friends Thread have a dedication to earnestly looking at a series.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 20:10 on Feb 17, 2016

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

I had originally thought about doing two large letters per post, with more condensed in cases of short letters, but ultimately decided I'd mostly follow my predecessor with a letter per post, or more if it's a really short letter.

By the way, presuming you haven't already, you should probably read Alien Rope Burn's review of the Pathfinder Bestiary. Looking at my poo poo first would very much be watching the sequel before the original film.

Monsters: Achaierai to Azer

Achaierai (CR 5 Large Outsider [Evil, Extraplanar, Lawful])
While a lot of the beasties encountered in early Dungeons and Dragons drew their inspiration from mythology or Tolkienian fantasy fiction, there were some freakish entities that were purely the fever dream of good ol' Gary Gygax and company - the achaierai of 1981's original Fiend Folio is one such creature. Looking like it galloped out of Lewis Carrol's fever dreams, the achaierai is depicted as a freakish bird orb kept aloft on four long stilt-like legs, with little useless wings and a large beak attached to its borb body. After the Fiend Folio introduced them as being natives of the lower planes that were summoned to do evil, AD&D's Planescape would later bring them in as one of the natives of Acheron, a lower plane of endless warfare between infinite armies, and Third Edition would have these freakish fowl ascend to a position as one of the entries in the core Monster Manual.

Pathfinder's achaierai are not all that different from their creative ancestors. They are still tiny-winged borbs on stilts, they still dwell in the lower planes (Hell rather than Acheron, of course, as Acheron isn't Open Game Content), and they still hang around battlefields. Achaierais are pack hunters that work together to scatter foes and weed out the weakest prey, which they typically disembowl and eat alive since they are Evil. Other than their large beaks and talons, the main weapon these Outsiders have is their ability to barf toxic smoke clouds. These clouds deal 2d6 points of untyped damage that causes tissue necrosis and forces a DC 15 Fortitude save to avoid becoming confused. This confusion lasts until you succeed on the save, which is definitely a relief to those who might recall the days of yore when it was a flat three hour duration if you failed the save.

Named after a concept in Gnostic theology of active spiritual emanations that come from the Godhead/Monad, aeons are just as much forces of nature as they are monsters. They are True Neutral custodians of the multiverse, correcting things that stray from some manner of grand plan that even the gods don't seem privy to. An aeon doesn't really care about any moralistic quandries or pleas from outside forces. It creates if the great oneness wishes for it to create, destroys if it is to destroy, and no one can persuade it otherwise. Aeons form no bonds or memories, and if they are killed they simply have their matter recycled into a new aeon

Akhana (CR 12 Medium Outsider [Aeon, Extraplanar]): Akhanas (Hindi for oneness or wholeness) have the appearance of four gray arms coming out of a human-sized galaxy, which is pretty standard for the funky star stuff aesthetic aeons have going for them. Their particular jurisdiction in the aeon heirarchy is the power of life and death. To this, they can cast spells like Cure Serious Wounds, Inflict Serious Wounds, Slay Living, and Raise Dead. How do they decide who lives and who dies? Nobody knows! There don't even seem to be any ground rules like "undead are unfairly living past their time" or anything, they just show up and heal or harm people without any explanation.

Bythos (CR 16 Large Outsider [Aeon, Extraplanar]): Somewhat larger four-armed cosmos blobs. The bythos are all about traveling through time and space. Their preferred method of fixing planar rifts and other mucking about with the stream of reality is to kill you dead in retribution. Their plethora of punches deal 1d6 bludgeoning damage, 1d6 cold damage, and force a DC 24 Fortitude save to avoid suddenly aging decades and thus going up an age category. They also can force Fortitude saves of the same measure in other fun ways, such as a gaze attack that causes 1d4 rounds of confusion or a touch that pops you 1d4 rounds into the future.

Paracletus (CR 2 Small Outsider [Aeon, Extraplanar]): While their name comes from a Latin term for spiritual helpers, these little shits are far from helpful most of the time. They are the representatives of logic and emotion, which somehow translates to finding characters with high Charisma or Intelligence scores and cranking up their 3/day aura power. This aura power forces a DC 12 Will save and can cause the emotions of anyone in a thirty foot radius to have a heavy influx of courage (casting of the Bless spell), fear (casting of the Bane spell), empathy (+2 to Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate checks), apathy (-2 to those three skills), hope (+2 to Will saves), or despair (-2 to Will saves). In spite of the normally inscrutable nature of aeons, paracletus can be commandeered as an improved Wizard's familiar and be told to use specific emotion auras.

Pleroma (CR 20 Large Outsider [Aeon, Extraplanar]): Oh hey, an aeon named after the all-encompassing divinity and power of God. I bet you're going to be shocked that something with that kind of a title is ridiculously powerful! Pleromas look like Ringwraith cosplayers that got their cloaks dumped in glitter, and are the arbiters of the Big Concepts: namely, the forces of creation and oblivion. They show up whenever they feel the need to egg on an event that restores balance between the two, and are all too willing to obliterate anyone that gets in their way. To this end, their punches deal 20d8 of negative energy or positive energy damage, can summon either a magic terraforming sphere or a Sphere of Annihilation, and have a massive laundry list of spells that include Rusting Grasp, Fabricate, Major Creation, Disintegrate, Wish, Implosion, Cloak of Chaos, Shield of Law, Holy Aura, Unholy Aura, Geas, and Magic Circle against every alignment.

Theletos (CR 7 Medium Outsider [Aeon, Extraplanar]): Theletos look like akhanas, just with eight arms instead of four, and are the aeons of freedom and fate. Somehow, fate translates to slavery. That isn't slavery in a metaphysical sense, like being a slave to destiny or whatever, mind's literal slavery. Theletos work to free slaves in slave-heavy states and actively encourage slavers and mind control magic in areas where slavery has been abolished. They have spell-like abilities including Augury, Bestow Curse, Remove Curse, Touch of Idiocy, Charm Monster, and Command.

The agathions of Nirvana are Neutral Good Outsiders to archons' Lawful Good and azatas' Chaotic Good. Or more accurately, the furry Neutral Good Outsiders, as angels are also Neutral Good but decidedly less animal-like. If you are familiar with older editions of Dungeons and Dragons and Planescape in particular, you might know these guys by their copyrighted name of guardinal. For whatever reason, the avoral and leonal were the only guardinals that made it into the 3E Monster Manual and thus Open Game Content territory, and for yet some other reason Paizo decided that the guardinals were just too good to pass up bringing back. While not relevant to their portrayal here, the term "agathion" is traditionally used for a demon/spirit familiar that is magically bound to an object, which makes it funny that it of all things was the new name for the guardinals.

Avoral (CR 9 Medium Outsider [Agathion, Extraplanar, Good]): Gruff eagle men that act as the messengers, scouts, and spies for the agathions. They also happen to be the vanguards of agathion conflicts, casting Dimension Door to allow their fellow celestials passage. Avorals are also capable of casting Blur and Magic Circle Against Evil on themselves, as well as several offensive spells such as Hold Person, Lightning Bolt, and Magic Missile.

Cetaceal (CR 15 Medium Outsider [Agathion, Aquatic, Extraplanar, Good]): Cetaceals could easily be confused for orca merfolk, were it not for the fact that the orca skin continues up onto their humanoid half. If you are a Neutral Good hero who is either of an aquatic race or happens to die underwater while fighting evil, there's a chance your soul will be reshaped as a cetaceal, which means you get the job of fighting evil aquatic beings like sahuagin and aboleths. On top of spell-like abilities including Lightning Bolt, Hold Monster, Greater Teleport, Cure Serious Wounds, and Cone of Cold, the cetaceal is capable of letting loose a massive area of effect attack once per day. This burst covers a one hundred foot radius, dealing 17d6 damage that is half cold damage and half electricity damage.

Draconal (CR 20 Large Outsider [Agathion, Extraplanar, Good):[/B] The anthropomorphic dragons known as the draconals are the mightiest agathions. This, of course, translates to having lots of magic power. A draconal has both the spellpower of a level 17 Cleric and spell-like abilities such as Plane Shift, Control Weather, Lightning Bolt, and Hold Monster. A Strength score of 36, Constitution of 27, spell resistance 31, regeneration 10, and damage resistance 15 isn't exactly shabby either. Don't expect them to help you if you are a group of heroes, though, because draconals are aloof and focused on the long game of the lower vs. upper planes rather than individual conflicts.

Draconals have specific breath weapons, gender energy balance (in the Chinese Yin-Yang sense), and focuses based on their scale color: black draconals have male and female energies in balance, focus on the celestial realm and immortality, and breathe fire, green draconals are slightly masculine, focus on plant life, and have cold damage breath, red draconals are strongly masculine and known for being aggressive, focus on fire and light, and breathe fire, white draconals are strongly feminine and known for being serene, focus on metal and purity, and have cold breath, and yellow draonals are balanced gender-wise, focus on stone and fortune, and breathe acid.

Leonal (CR 12 Medium Outsider [Agathion, Extraplanar, Good]): Noble, majestic, ferocious, and brave: real lions are only two of these things, but the leonals are all four. While they are bog standard anthropomorphic animals in appearance, leonals are definitely the most beastly of the agathions, hunting the forces of evil in prides and eschewing manufactured weaponry in favor of ripping demons and devils apart with their bare claws and teeth. This seems odd when you are innately able to cast Wall of Force and Fireball to aid yourself in combat, but it is what it is. They also happen to be convenient combat medics, being capable of casting Cure Critical Wounds, Neutralize Poison, and Remove Disease as spell-like abilities.

Silvanshee (CR 2 Tiny Outsider [Agathion, Extraplanar, Good]): Silvanshees look like thin black cats and more or less exist because someone wanted a celestial on the Improved Familiar list. Some mortals think that silvanshees are actually shapeshifted witches or dark fey, which the silvanshees haven't tried to correct for whatever reason even though it would help with their reputation. While they are very much not physically strong and their spell-like abilities are mostly little tricks like Prestidigitation and Dancing Lights, they can heal 1d6 damage once per day or grant an ally their Charisma modifier as a bonus to all saving throws for ten minutes, so I can't say that silvanshees are entirely useless to have around.

Vulpinal (CR 6 Small Outsider [Agathion, Extraplanar, Good]): Halfling-sized anthropomorphic fox agathions that are celestial bards and sages. A vulpinal likes to travel around, sharing songs and stories with celestials and mortals alike. A constant aura of Calm Emotions in a thirty foot radius ensures that these performances are typically serene ones as well. Vulpinals primarily fight against evil to protect what they find beautiful, and can use spell-like abilities such as Flaming Arrow, Holy Smite, and Mage Armor to do so.

Akata (CR 1 Medium Aberration)
Want an eldritch abomination, but your players simply aren't up for the challenge of the bigger baddies yet? Say hello to the akata, created as a starting level horrible tentacle beast from beyond. While it is described as looking like a hairless blue lion with tentacles where its mane should be, that doesn't quite emphasize how weird the creature looks, with its vaguely humanoid head that has glowing gold eyes and a jagged mouth (I say mouth because it has no teeth, just the serrated edges of its maw in a facsimile!) as its only features, oddly caricature-like three-clawed feet, and a build that honestly says "'roided out grayhound" more than "lion" in my mind. It's a very alien creature, which makes sense, given that it's actually extraterrestrial.

The akatas are actually from an unnamed destroyed planet, having survived by hibernating as they hurdled through space on asteroids that were once parts of their native world. After waking up, they immediately go to looking for both food and a place to raise their young. Unfortunately, that place happens to be inside humanoid bodies, as larval akatas are microscopic parasites that reside in their parents' saliva. A bitten humanoid has to make a DC 12 Fortitude save or contract Void Death, a disease that deals 1d2 Dexterity and Constitution damage per day. Those that can't eventually save against the disease or be cured will return from the dead as a void zombie. While void zombies use the stats of fast zombies from Pathfinder Bestiary with an added 1d6 damage tongue lash attack and blood drain, they are in fact just the meta puppets of the rapidly growing akata larvae, and that 'tongue' is actually the larva's feeding tentacle. Fortunately, akatas and their larvae are weak to the rather common Earth-like planetary element that is saltwater, which deals 1d6 acid damage on a splash or 4d6 if fully submerged.

Non-microscopic amoebas come in two flavors, giant (CR 1 Small Ooze) and swarm (CR 1 Fine Ooze [Swarm]). The former is a dog-sized version of the humble amoeba, while the latter is a big swarm of coin-sized amoebas, and each can transform into the other if conditions are right. Since the giant amoeba's slam deals 1d3 acid damage compared to the amoeba swarm's 1d6, it seems obvious which form would be more practical for them to take.

Amphisbaena (CR 4 Large Magical Beast)
The amphisbaeana's origins are in Greek mythology, where it was born from the blood of Medusa as it dripped onto the sands of the great sands of the Sahara. These children of the dead gorgon were serpents with a head on each end, possessing powerful venom even though their diet consisted of ants, and purportedly had many medicinal uses if killed and eaten. Later Medieval stories would extend the amphisbaeana's dietary repertoire to include carrion and live prey of a less insectoid sort. Certain Medieval drawings and sculptures would also give the amphisbaeana two or four eagle-like legs, dragon-like heads, and sometimes even functional wings.

Pathfinder's amphisbaeana is a massive viper with a head where its tail should be, known for being a relentlessly aggressive predator that attacks anything that enters its territory. They mainly prey on small animals and bite-sized humanoids such as gnomes and halflings, but will take down human-sized targets if they are particualrly hungry. As a wink and a nod to their mythological origin, amphisbaeanas are immune to petrification, making them popular pets for medusas. Each head packs a 1d8 damage bite that delivers a dose of venom that deals 1d3 Constitution damage if you fail a DC 14 Fortitude save, and if you get a critical hit with a slashing weapon the two halves of the amphisbaeana will split and function on their own.

Cassisian (CR 2 Small Outsider [Angel, Extraplanar, Good]): Cassisians are formed from the souls of particularly trustworthy and pious soldiers or fragments of dead angels and take the form of helmets (just what helmet a cassisian has depends on what god they serve, and can be anything from a simple leather cap to a samurai's kabuto) with wings. Man, imagine serving the gods of Good all your life as a Paladin and then it turns out you become a really weak floating bucket for the rest of eternity. Maybe it's not so bad, though, as your Intelligence score drops to 6, so you aren't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed anymore anyway. In spite of being only as smart as an ogre, cassinians have eidetic memories, and those that end up being familiars (because of course the angels need an Improved Familiar example too) typically recite random religious texts and moral platitudes to their master.

Monadic Deva (CR 12 Medium Outsider [Angel, Aquatic, Extraplanar, Good]): The devas in Pathfinder are a weird case of history repeating itself. Way back in edition Numero Uno, the astral, monadic, and movanic deva were handsome all-male angels that appeared in an issue of Dragon magazine and the Monster Manual II, and yet again for the Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix and the Planescape setting in AD&D Second Edition. For whatever reason, however, only the astral deva appeared in 3E's Monster Manual. The monadic and movanic devas appeared in the 3E Fiend Folio, as well as everyone's favorite Open Game Content underground railroad the Tome of Horrors. History would repeat itself again in Pathfinder, with the Pathfinder Bestiary only having the astral deva and the other two lagging behind to appear here.

Moving on past the history lesson, the monadic devas are muscular golden-winged angels that watch over the Ethereal Plane and the elemental planes. They act as envoys to non-Evil genies and elementals, keeping the peace between them and beating up evil elemental and ethereal entities. Their weapon of choice is an ornate +3 morningstar that they hold dear in a very anime way, naming them and proudly shouting said names in battle. If they manage to hit the same foe with their morningstar twice in one round, they get an extra 1d8+10 damage to that foe for free. Monadic devas also have your standard angely spell-like abilities such as Plane Shift, Remove Curse, Remove Disease, Remove Fear, Cure Serious Wounds, Holy Word, and Hold Monster.

Movanic Deva (CR 10 Medium Outsider [Angel, Extraplanar, Good]): Movanic devas are infantry and patrol officers like their monadic brothers, with their jurisdiction being the Negative Plane, Positive Plane, and Material Plane. Physically, they are slightly leaner than monadic devas and have jagged purple wings. They aren't really all that mechanically different either, to be honest – they are basically slightly weaker-statted monadic devas that have +1 flaming greatswords rather than big morningstars and exchange the monadic deva's extra damage special quality for animals and plants never initiating hostilities with them and immunity to any harmful effects of negative and positive energy.

Animate Dream (CR 8 Medium Outsider [Extraplanar, Incorporeal])
An animate dream is the incarnate fragment of the dream of someone with an extremely vivid imagination. Hungry for imagination and emotions, the animate dream seeks out mortals to feed on their fear and creative thoughts. To achieve this end, it has spell-like abilities such as Deep Slumber, Nightmare, Confusion, and Fear, as well as a touch attack that deals 6d8 negative energy damage and forces a DC 21 Will save to avoid contracting its nightmare curse. The nightmare curse deals 1d4 Wisdom drain (that's permanent drain, mind you, not regular ability damage) each day due to visions of confusion and terror flying through the victim's mind. Night hags often enslave animate dreams or kill them and use their essence in the creation of their heartstones.

Aranea (CR 4 Medium Magical Beast [Shapechanger])
The aranea is a rather storied legacy creature, having appeared in the famous First Edition adventure The Isle of Dread and in the Mystara setting as influential schemers on the Savage Coast. While they may look like particularly fat and hunchbacked monstrous spiders, araneas are actually extremely intelligent creatures capable of casting spells as a level 5 Sorcerer. Each aranea has a specific alternate form of some Small or Medium humanoid race that acts as an identifier for them as much as their base form does. They may live in small groups of their own kind deep in the wilderness and spend their time studying the arcane arts, or infiltrate humanoid communities and live peaceful lives therein doing much the same thing they would with other araneas. Araneas are actually quite reasonable creatures as long as you treat them nicely, and some will even teach you about magic if you give them a nice arcane object or do a favor for them. If you are hostile, however, araneas are capable of using both their spellcasting ability and their spider traits, namely sticky webs and a bite that conveys a toxin dealing 1d3 Strength damage per round. Araneas prefer to hold foes for ransom rather than kill them outright.

Having exhausted the Open Game Content legacy archons in the first Pathfinder Bestiary, both archons found here are completely original to Pathfinder. Fancy that!

Shield Archon (CR 10 Large Outsider [Archon, Extraplanar, Good, Lawful): Heavyset giants clad neck to toe in full plate armor, the shield archons are the defensive elements of celestial armies. They laugh in the face of disarm attempts, because they are their own armament – specifically, they can transform their hands into a +1 tower shield and a +3 shortspear or back again as a free action. While they can't be taken and used by anyone else, you can still sunder either of these items, which is probably both awkward and forces the star archon to take a full round action regenerating its busted hand(s). A shield archon can also swap places with a willing or unconscious ally within sight once per day, which is typically used to either shield a grievously injured ally or to act out a surprise flanking maneuver.

Star Archon (CR 19 Large Outsider [Archon, Extraplanar, Good, Lawful]):

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 posted:

Star archons are the tacticians and strategists of Heaven. Gifted with insight and powerful magic, they spend much of their time steering long-term plans for Heaven’s armies and good folk in the world.
You have now seen the entire flavor text of the star archon. That whole rule about one creature per page didn't do them much of a favor when they have two paragraphs of spell-like abilities and level 19 Cleric prepared spells to go through. So yeah, star archons are big glowy bald dudes who have lots of spells and a +5 holy starknife, neither of which they actually use all that often because they are apparently usually busy planning things out. If you kill a star archon, it explodes into a ball that deals 25 points of fire damage and 25 points of holy damage to anything in a hundred foot radius, and then reincarnates 1d4 rounds later as a shield archon with the Advanced simple template added on.

Athach (CR 12 Huge Humanoid [Giant])
The word athatch is a Gaelic term that simply means "giant" or "monster". Dungeons and Dragons decided to spice things up a bit by having the athach be a vile mega-orc with a third arm twisting out of its chest. From First to Third Edition they clawed their way up to prominence, and they are back in Pathfinder in all their tall, tusked, and well-armed glory. The 18 foot tall athachs are Chaotic Evil to a fault, finding entertainment in destroying crops, tearing up cemeteries, and torturing their humanoid prey before finally eating them. They also hate other beings that are of similar size to them, either fighting them or fleeing from them depending on whether or not the situation seems like it is in the athach's favor. An athach's gross drool-coated bite imparts a poison that deals 1d4 Strength damage per round.

Attic Whisperer (CR 4 Small Undead)
Attic whisperers are the undead remnants of neglected children, formed out of a hodgepodge of a dead child's clothing, toys, and other discarded objects. They often wear the skulls of small animals, and are in fact compulsively led to find one after they are reborn, presumably because being a dead neglected child's spirit wasn't edgy enough on its own. The one thing an attic whisperer longs for is companionship, and it will attempt to steal away children to play with it forever and ever. Its touch forces a DC 16 Will save, failure of which allows it to steal the target's voice. Not only is the victim rendered mute for one hour, but the attic whisperer can then use their voice for whatever nefarious purposes it wishes to use them for. It can also just straight up bite you with its animal skull, forcing a DC 16 Will save to avoid being exhausted for an hour, or asleep for an hour if it bites a second time and that save is failed as well.

Aurumvorax (CR 9 Small Magical Beast)
The aurumvorax first appeared in 1980's Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the weird and famous science fiction-meets-fantasy adventure that also gave us the froghemoth and vegepygmy. It is basically a wolverine with eight legs and golden fur. Like wolverines, aurumvoraxes are far more capable of loving your poo poo up than their size alone implies, which is made even more painful by the fact that they have four forelimbs rather than two to do it with. They also eat precious metals in addition to meat, which puts them at direct odds with dwarves.

Axiomite (CR 8 Medium Outsider [Extraplanar, Lawful])

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 posted:

A particular axiomite may look like any humanoid-shaped creature, though the particular form does not affect its abilities in any way. Beneath this form, all axiomites are the same—clouds of glowing, crystalline dust that constant swirl and congeal into complex tangles of symbols and equations, making them literally creatures of pure mathematical law.
A race of living math. My god. :psyduck:

These guys are the native race of Axis the Eternal City, the plane of absolute Law that is a giant city sitting below the massive graveyard of the goddess of death. Three castes of axiomite exist: one for expanding the Eternal City, one for creating and repairing the Law robots known as inevitables, and one for learning more about the inherent formulae of the multiverse. While fighting isn't on their resume, they are armed for combat if the case arises, having +1 longswords and spell-like abilities such as Order's Wrath, Lightning Bolt, Dispel Chaos, and True Strike.

The Chaotic Good celestials. Like the two new archons, the two new azatas here are entirely Pathfinder originals.

Brijidine (CR 17 Medium Outsider (Azata, Chaotic, Earth, Extraplanar, Fire, Good)
Sexy naked women made out of lava (insert your own 'she's hot' jokes here). Brijidines are stated to love basking in volcanoes, writing poetry, tending to the ill, and pursuing recipes for spicy food, and love to receive gifts of fireproofed copies of poems or exotic hot foodstuffs such as peppers. When not being all leisurely, these fiery celestials are capable of inflicting a lot of damage. A brijidine deals 6d6 fire damage to anyone that touches her and can freely summon an obsidian blade that acts as a +1 flaming burst keen longsword (that dissolves immediately after leaving the brijidine's grasp, of course), shoot a 16d6 fire damage lava glob with a range increment of 30 feet, and cast special versions of Meld Into Stone, Soften Earth and Stone, Spike Stones, Stone Shape, and Wall of Stone spell-like abilities that have the added effect of having the stone deal 1d6 fire damage per round to anything in a five foot radius for a minute's time.

Lyrakien (CR 2 Tiny Outsider [Azata, Chaotic, Extraplanar, Good]): Whimsical pixie-like azatas that love music and dancing. If you couldn't guess from their size and Challenge Rating, they are the azatas' Improved Familiar option. Lyrakiens are typically taken as familiars for those who want a traveling companion, as they are capabl e of removing all exhaustion and fatigue to anything that can hear their song once per day. Lyrakiens can also cast spell-like abilities such as Dancing Lights, Daze, Summon Instrument, and Cure Light wounds, as well as summon a ball of light every 1d4 rounds that deals 1d4 holy damage.

Azer (CR 2 Medium Outsider [Extraplanar, Fire])
Azers are supposedly named after a Persian word for fire, but no Farsi dictionary I consulted could confirm this claim. They are certainly Middle Eastern in theme, though: while their first appearance was in the First Edition Monster Manual II, they featured in the Al-Qadim setting of AD&D as denizens of the mighty City of Brass, and the emperor of the Azer in both of those editions was named after the supposedly Egyptian demon Amaimon. While Amaimon didn't survive the journey, Pathfinder's azers also live under the oppressive rule of the efreet in the sweltering City of Brass since it's a location that is from the tales of the Arabian Nights rather than a D&D original.

Azers look like dwarves with skin of brass and hair of fire, and wear kilts that are made of a specific metal based on what part of their caste system they are born into - brass kilts for nobles, bronze kilts for merchants, and copper kilts for artisans, laborers, and servants. Many are slaves of the efreet or taskmasters of said slaves, with their Lawful Neutral nature being so influential that they typically don't mind overseeing slaves of their own race in the latter case. Azers that aren't part of the City of Brass are typically at war with the efreet instead, but still have their kilt-wearing caste system and rigid adherence to social hierarchy. Stats-wise, they're pretty much just dwarves with a different creature type and an extra 1d6 fire damage to their melee attacks.

Next Time in Pathfinder Bestiary 2: B is for Bunyip, fearsome and strong. He screams with the Banshee in the deep billabong.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Doresh posted:

And I seem to recall that Angels can actually be of any good alignment, and that Neutral Good is just the default. Still, they're the better alternative to those furry guys.
You're right. I thought Pathfinder had changed that (and it doesn't help that all the ones in PB2 are Neutral Good), but looking back at the first Pathfinder Bestiary again they totally are of all three different Goods.

AweStriker posted:

That's not Papyrus, actually, but I couldn't tell you what it actually is.

(I can tell it's not because Papyrus' lowercase y has a big hook rather than a mostly straight diagonal.)
It's Papyrus's funky cousin, Cypriol.

It was hard to find a papyrus relative that actually sounded like it could be a font.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

MadScientistWorking posted:

YES!!!!!!! This is my favorite monster in Planescape and it came over. They are based upon Moingos which were a race of living math who was obsessed with Pi. In fact given the write up Im guessing that the inevitables are the Modron analogues.
Inevitables still mostly retain their D&D interpretation as enforcers of specific laws, but I will note that the familiar inevitable that is new to Pathfinder is 99% likely to be influenced by Modrons in its artistic design, if not its actions.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
I'm going to take a wild guess and put down my money on there not being any monsters of Southeast Asian mythology in Orrorsh ( :rolleyes: ), even though that would be more interesting than just having Victorian horror monsters dumped around there.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Chapter 3: Religion
Since we are discussing the topic of actual, real world religions (for the most part), I'm going to attempt to restrict myself primarily to discussing the stuff of religion that is unique to Ytarria. I am not a theologian, nor do I play one on TV.

Ytarrian Christianity is almost entirely connected directly to Catholicism, so you have sacraments, communion, excommunication, bishops and archbishops, and all that jazz. Megalan canon declares that most races such as goblins and reptile men have souls and are thus subject to the original sin and salvation. Demons, spirits (which are considered demons by the Church even though they aren't), medusas, trolls, and vampires are beings explicitly claimed to not have souls. Lycanthropes are the most complicated subject, as it is believed that they have a soul but can have it disappear and become soulless if they act too much like animals compared to people.

Out of what is mostly cynical pragmatism, the Church deemed magic to be a tool based around some strange manner of natural mechanics that is not innately good or evil, any sin coming from usage such as necromancy or the use of spells for murder. This wasn't how it started, however. The great conflicts between various splintered Christian groups after the Banestorm lead to many sects developing in both directions. The Penitentines were a sect that believed Yrth was Purgatory, all non-humans were demons, and that magic was Devilry rather than strange science, and while not all were on board for the Purgatory part, there were more than a few groups that believed the Devilry part. On the other end, there were also the cult of the Manites and their belief that mages were actually chosen miracle-makers of God and thus holier than the non-magic members of society. It was only the rise of Megalos to power and its ruthless purges and declarations of heresy that eventually forged the current dominant view of magic by the Church, since the Church is in and of itself Megalan-controlled. Protestantism is another heresy, of course, as are any syncretic religions or attempts to combine pagan rites with Christian practice.

The Curia
What is the Catholic Church without the Pope? That was a question that faced Megalos as it reunified the Church, and its answer was the Curia. The Curia is a council made up of the Grand Master of the Hospitaller Order, Grand Master of the Olybrian Order, Grand Master of the Templar Order, Grand Master of the Thomasite Order, an archbishop from Caithness, three archbishops from Cardiel, and five archbisohops from Megalos. As the Church's ruling body, the Curia is the group that decides who gets to be a bishop, what changes in doctrine happen, and advise rulers on how to keep to the Christly path. They also happen to have the most owned land in Ytarria, so that's not exactly a downside to the job. The Emperor of Megalos once also held sway over the Curia, but that had to end after the declaration of independence from Cardiel and Caithness, since even the Empire realized that it was probably better to allow Cardiel and Caithness their bishop and archbishop autonomy than to have the Church undergo a double schism.

Holy Orders
The Hospitallers: While they may have been an instrmental force in spreading Megalan Christianity through force early on, a lot of people consider the Hospitallers to be colossal assholes. That's fair, to be honest, given that they are in fact colossal assholes. Hospitallers consider non-humans in general to be unclean and refuse to allow them into their ranks in spite of official Church doctrine, claim that the Christianity-eschewing dwarves and elves are Satanically influenced, and get really excited whenever it's time to do some heresy purging and are usually the first to get out their swords and torture devices. Caithness and Cardiel in particular absolutely hate those bearing the sign of the white cross on a black flag, and the Templars have used this to gain influence in Cardien society.

The Olybrians: The Olybrian Order is named after Saint Michael Olybrius of Serrun. Goblin peasantry fell into line with Christianity in the 1190s after the preaching of Olybrius, and erected this order after goblin chieftains following the old religion of Gabrook put Olybrius to death. Olybrians are best known for their rather disparate mixture of deep introspection and fierce warriors. Their monks pour over the scripture and debate the nature of God and what constitutes revelation and heresy alike, but also train tirelessly in the art of swords and staves. Olybrians arguably hate Muslims even more than Hospitallers, which is no small feat, and are the primary voices in the call for a Fifth Ytarrian Crusade. Grand Master Jobert of Evrow feels that the only reason there hasn't been another Crusade already is that the people of Megalos are lukewarm spirits content in resting on their laurels. As opposed to, you know, the fact that the Fourth Ytarrian Crusade was a horrible failure.

The Templars: The Knights Templar in Ytarria are entirely descended from sixty Templars that came through the Banestorm on Halloween of 1310 and proclaimed their presence as noble warriors of God seeking sanctuary from prosecution. This was particularly strange, as the Banestorm was nearly entirely dormant during that century. Even stranger was the fact that nearly all of the Templars became extremely adept wizards and quickly welcomed non-humans into their ranks without fuss in spite of being newcomers to Ytarria. Unsurprisingly, some have claimed that the Templars know more than they let on, and possibly even knew of magic on Earth and found ways to open the Banestorm at will. Regardless of whether or not those rumors are true, what is definite fact is that the Templars are loyal and talented warriors. Their fortresses guard key trade routes, and their military academy in the city of Azer trains some of the best knights and battle mages for all of the Church's Orders and the Megalan Legion.

The Franciscans and Friedrichites: The followers of St. Francis are pretty content to be God-focused hermits in monasteries located in the wilderness. Many are illiterate, all follow a vow of poverty, and they don't really get involved in Church or secular politics. There is also a splinter group of friars known as the Order of Friedrich that follow the teachings of their namesake, a Franciscan monk in the 1800s who split off from the main order to follow his own path. Friedrichites proclaim that not only is the world sinful, but the very fabric of material existence is evil, and that all good Christians should seek to have as little impact on the physical world as possible before shuffling off the mortal coil. Not only do they keep the vow of poverty of their parent order, they also vow complete pacifism and a solitary existence. They are so dedicated to to this cause that some Friedrichites manifest mystic powers such as the ability to eschew food, drink, or sleep, very strong magic resistance, and even the power to become incorporeal. For reasons unknown, the Friedrichites keep some contact with the Templars, which has kept the Curia from declaring their order a heresy.

The Thomasites: The Order of Saint Thomas was founded by Benedictine abbot Gareth Aristophiles in the late 1300s. Aristophiles was obsessed with the works of the great philosophers such as Pythagoras and Aristotle, and more specifically the idea of science as the key to finding the truth of the universe and empirical proof of God's existence. Thomasites take strong positions on ethics in magic and natural philosophy, and most of their research has ended up landing in the field of healing spells, which they put to use in their hospitals in the cities of Megalos, Teridar, Calder, and Craine. Thomasites are one of the few Orders that accept women into their ranks, and are also welcoming of all species seen as possessing souls by the Church.

The Jesuits: After the first came to Ytarria in the 1570s as part of the whole Araterre business, the Church engaged in a brief persecution campaign, finding the closeness the Jesuits had to the Protestants uncomfortable. A combination of fervent missionary work and oaths of loyalty to the Church Curia, however, ended up leading to the Jesuits being accepted as a strange but nonetheless proper Catholic order. Jesuit monks share some similarities to the Franciscans, especially in their vows, but are very much extroverted rather than introverted and believe in bringing God to the peasantry and far-off lands. Their works are in architectural practice, teaching, medical aid, and diplomacy as much as it is in actual preaching. They also happen to be big on political wheeling and dealing, often being seen as aides of Megalan nobility, which has lead to some other Orders bearing suspicion that the Jesuit Order is plotting some grand unknown conspiracy.

The Michaelites: The Order of the Archangel Michael was created in 1412 to specifically be the go-to guys for Inquisition fun times. After two centuries of lots of torture, purging, and all that good stuff, heresies had pretty much either fallen to the sword or been driven underground, and the Michaelites had to find new jobs. The end result was the Michaelite Order becoming a paranormal investigative service, dealing with political intrigue and crimes performed through magic. While Michaelites in Megalos still sometimes go through the whole Inquisition song and dance if it comes up and are made up of fanatical zealous men, the technically separate Michaelites of Cardiel and Caithness are more or less Medieval magic FBI agents and are even willing to accept non-Church members (including Muslims in Cardiel's case).

The Constantinians: Named after a Megalan archivist named Constantine who lived in the 16th Century, the Constantinians are a small order that play a key role in both political and Church administrative functions. That's all that is stated about them, so I'm not surprised that they aren't represented in the Curia.

The Muslim castaways of the Banestorm religiously adapted to their new world far quicker than their Christian fellows. Magic powers and nonhuman species could be directly compared to the djinn, and like the djinn, it became clear that members of these species were varied sorts who had free will and could come to be People of the Book if they so chose. Those that crossed over originally were hugely of Bedouin, Berber, and Tuareg descent and had no intention of replicating any of the great empires of the Islamic peoples of Earth, but two events would lead to a shift in this paradigm. The first was the discovery of an immense onyx stone carved with holy scripture from bottom to top by tribesmen traveling through the great mountains known as the Fence of God, guarded by a wizened old man who told the tribesmen that he had been waiting to show the Muslims of Ytarria their holy city for over half a century. When the tribesmen returned with all the most learned mullahs of the land months later, the elder was dead but perfectly preserved. The combination of "non-decaying corpse" and "convenient second Kaaba out in the boonies" was seen as an obvious sign from God, and the holy city of Geb'al-Din was built around the great stone. This created a central point of focus for the religion, and helped bolster the growth of the nations of al-Haz and al-Wazif in the face of Crusaders from Megalos.

Most of Islam on Ytarria is pretty familiar stuff. You have the five pillars (with Geb'al-Din replacing Mecca for pilgrimage), sharia law, facing Geb'al-Din in prayer, etc. Without the clear-set prohibition against mystical powers that the Christians had, Muslim views on magic have mostly been shaped by Shi'ia vs. Sunni beliefs. The Shia-practicing believers of al-Haz see wizards as prideful and prone to falling into the evils of idolatry and malicious use of their powers, and are thus distrusted and likely to stray from the path to God. In Sunni al-Wazif, however, magic is seen as a tool that can be used for good or ill like any other, but one that should be tempered. This tempering is done by a two year service to the Caliph upon completing wizardly studies – service in the army for men and in administrative staff for women – that is meant to ensure that the wizard has the moral backbone to properly use their talents. Sufis are pretty devil-may-care on the whole topic and are fine with magic use in their already rather mysticism-focused traditions.

The Ghazi Orders
The greatest difference between the Islam of Earth and Yrth is the presence of the Ghazi orders, holy warriors that have taken to having an active knight-like social structure. They are very well-respected in both of the Muslim lands, and even respected more than the average Muslim in the Christian nations.

The Order of the Crescent Moon: A Hazi Ghazi order that is known for its extremely skilled warriors. They don't swear fealty to the Sultan of al-Haz, instead directly serving the Ulama (Islamic scholars).

The Order of the Pegasus: The personal bodyguards of the Caliph of al-Wazif. Sadly, they don't actually ride pegasi.

The Warriors of the Quill: Ghazis that take the whole "pen is mightier than the sword" adage to heart, as their combat skills take second place to their knowlege of the Q'uran. They travel across all the lands of Ytarria to judge the moral rightness of believers and preach the word to non-believers.

Fanatics and Heretics
Kharijites: The "scream about infidels and bathe in the blood of their enemies" crazy people sect. They mostly hang out on the northern border of al-Wazif, raiding Hospitaller and Templar fortresses and Christian towns. The Caliph of al-Wazif tolerates them for now, but he also won't raise a hand to save them from the noose if they are captured by the knights to the north. Al-Haz doesn't trust them at all, as the original Kharijites of Earth were the murderers of Mohammed's cousin 'Ali.

Hashishin: As mysterious as they are deadly, the Hashishin lived on in Ytarria even after their mountain fortresses were razed and their order crushed on Earth. Scattered Banestorm castaways were gathered back together and bean to build new fortresses in the arid mountains of al-Haz, the greatest of these being named Al-Amut ("Eagle's Nest") after the Turkish fortress of the same name that acted as their base on Earth. Their rare and calculated politically-motivated killings spread fear in both the Muslim and Christian lands of Ytarria, even if most citizens don't even know the identity of this sinister organization.

Balikites: The "scream about mages as infidels and bathe in the blood of their enemies" crazy people sect. They are lead by Balik Abdallah al-Firuz, a Shi'ite mullah from northern al-Haz who is extremely against magic. While the Sultan hates the Balikites with a passion for their murder of one of his most trusted advisors and has put a hefty bounty on Balik's head, most Hazi mullahs are very apathetic towards the sect in spite of their murderous brutality. In al-Wazif, where magic is far more accepted, Balikites are treated as criminals and are sentenced to death by public torture if they are captured.

While they might not have a nation of their own or the same great numbers that the other Abrahamic religions have, the Jewish people are a sizable minority that has had far greater success in the lands of Ytarria than they had on Medieval Earth, even spreading as far as having several small communities in far-off Sahud. Jews are in a unique position in the empire of Megalos wherein they are barred from owning land but also not beholden to the serfdom, effectively becoming landless freemen that typically take jobs as advisers, craftsmen, doctors, merchants, and scholars. They are considered useful citizens in both the Christian and Muslim lands, though there are still pockets of antisemitism here and there. Ytarrian Jews are fairly orthodox, keeping heavily to the law and very rarely accepting converts to Judaism that are not already of Jewish birth.

Their rabbis have had many a discussion on matters of the state of kosher concerning various Ytarrian beasts, the nature of the planet Yrth concerning prophecies, and of course a great deal about magic. Rabbinical law on magic is very rules-lawery on what is and isn't acceptable. While they share the ban on necromancy, communing with spirits, and demonic contact that Islam and Christianity also have, Jewish magical prohibitions also look down on divination spells as meddling in the inscrutable will of God and consider all forms of magic involving sacrifices as idolatrous. On matters of the future, many rabbis believe that the Messiah will bring the Jewish people from Yrth back to Earth when he comes, and until then they should be settled in their new home. A small sect known as the Diasporists believe that there's still one last trek to make, especially with seemingly unbelievable tales about a new Israel that have been filtering in as of late, and seek to find Gate spells to return to Earth on their own accord.

Other Religions
The Old Religion: Followers of the Old Religion claim that it came from the lands of the Germanic tribes and the Celts before Christianity, the Hellenistic believers, and even the polytheistic pantheons of the later Irish peoples. Their deities are a married couple – the Goddess, the lady of summer and birth, and the Horned God, the lord of winter and death. Neither figure is entirely good or evil, with the Goddess sometimes expressing new life and growth through violent expansionism and the Horned God sheltering the soul in the peace of death and the promise of rebirth it brings. Old Religionists believe in nature spirits, magic as an extension of the Goddess's dominition over the wild realms, and a constant cycle of reincarnation without an afterlife for good or ill.

Greco-Roman Cults: Believers in the gods of Olympus are few and far between, and typically very much undergrund as both Christianity and Islam seek to stamp them out once again. It's unknown just how these cults even managed to crop up in the first place – some have speculated that Simon Menelaus resurrected the old gods as part of his whole Rome fetish and then discarded them when he realized sticking with Christianity would probably make his dreams of empire more palatable, but nobody can say for sure. Most Greco-Roman cults accept that a worshiper of Zeus and a worshiper of Jupiter or one of Hephaestus and one of Vulcan are ultimately talking about the same gods, as trying to part the Greek and Roman pantheons at this point would be dangerously splintering and an already tiny group.

Norse Cults: True believers in the entire Norse pantheon are surprisingly few and far between, most of them being content to stick to themselves and grumble about those new-fangled Old Religionists appropriating their gods while waiting for Ragnarok to come about. And appropriate the Old Religion has! The Horned God is sometimes specifically named as Odin, and in some particularly sexist clanships of the Nomad Lands he almost entirely eclipses the Goddess in Old Religionist worship. Thor is sometimes also included as the warrior son of the Goddess and the Horned God, and Loki as a diametrically opposed force that is blamed for when the powers of the Old Religion's godly husband and wife team seem to fail to prevent calamity.

Magic Cults: Rather eccentric types that believe magic is in and of itself divine. Magic cults see magic as a sacred gift to be reverently touched and embraced, with non-believing wizards painted as haughty and destructive figures that enslave the gods for their own benefit. More than a few charlatans start magic cults as part of long cons.

Bilit Islander Religion: Most people avoid the mysterious and mosnter-laden jungles of Bilit Island, but those who have seen it firsthand have told of its murderous priest-kings and their equally bloodthirsty gods. This pantheon is primarily made up of Mayan and Aztec gods with a few southeast Asian deities added in, all endlessly hungering for tribute from their fearful worshipers. These sacrifices are typically animals or treasures, but human sacrifice is practiced when it's convenient. Some Megalan missionaries claim that Bilit Islanders are also ritual cannibals, though this may be adding a dash of hyperbole on top of an already crazy situation.

Hinduism: Few and far between, a few Indian and Balinese Hindu clans exist in Araterre and other random islands. The majority of them worship Lakshmi, Shakti, Shiva, or Vishnu as their primary deity, with a scant few adherents of Kali practicing in secret due to both the Abrahamic believers and even some other Hindus seeing them as creepy worshipers of a thing more demon than deity. Most tenets of Hinduism still exist, especially key ones such as the samsara cycle of reincarnation, but the caste system has all but disappeared due to the lack of societal numbers to keep it relevant.

Buddhism: Buddhism is the whipping boy of Ytarria. It's actively persecuted in most parts of the Christian and Muslim lands, seen as a weird fad that is interesting to a few elites in Cardiel, and barely tolerated in Sahud. For this reason, Buddhists tend to stick to elven and dwarven lands, where they can build their monasteries deep in the wilderness without fear of religious reprisal.

Sahudese Religion: Like most things about Sahud, their religion is a clusterfuck. You've got the yin and yang and a lot of the general philosophy of Taoism, the moral code of Confucianism, the worship of kami from Shintoism, and beliefs from Mongolian Tengriism, Siberian folk beliefs, and various Native American religions that go unstated because they are, and I quote, "simply too bewilderingly diverse to go into here". The spiritual leader of Sahudese religion is the same as the physical leader, that being the Heavenking, emperor of the land and purported divinity tied to mortal flesh.

Nonhuman Religions
The Eternal: The native races of Ytarria all follow a deity known as the Eternal. The Eternal is a great gestalt consciousness that pervades every piece of the universe's fabric, from the greater star to the smallest mote of dust. Everything is slowly on a journey to become one with the Eternal, and in worshiping the Eternal you seek to fast track your way to that oneness. It is believed that by meditating and studying the inanimate on its way towards the Eternal, one can achieve that enlightenment. The elves worship the Eternal through animals and plants and see waste of life (murder, laziness, vast deforestation, etc.) as the greatest immortality against it, sea elves worship it through water and believe that their suffering during the Banestorm was retribution for not understanding the ocean well enough, dwarves worship stone and metal as their chosen part of the Eternal and see perfecting something so that it will endure the test of time to be the closest link to the divine, and gnomes see the Eternal in the propagation of new and healthy life. Orcs believe in the Eternal, but don't understand the idea of worshiping it to become one with it – after all, what in life is greater than victory, and how can you have victory if everyone is equal? – so their big religious idea is to go all JRPG and fight the god-universe. None of the Ytarrian races are likely to follow human religions, but when they do the elves typically go for Hinduism or Sahudese religion, dwarves gravitate toward Islam, and orcs go for either a pagan or Abrahamic religion.

Faiths of Gabrook: In the sandy deserts of Gabrook, two gods held sway over the minds of the people. To the goblins, it was a battle between the god of civilization Uunkuy protecting the people from the god of barbarians Bozdaag, while to the lizard men and hobgoblins it was the god of strength Bozdaag defending against the god of decadence and lethargy Uunkuy. Similarly, the role of the two gods in Gabrook's creation are altered in the tellings of the two species, with the goblins proclaiming that Bozdaag ripped a chunk of matter out of the primal chaos that Uunkuy proceeded to forge into something actually useful and the lizard men and hobgoblins stating that Bozdaag created a useful world from the Chaos and Uunkuy merely added useless decorations and polish to the end result.

Half of this equation doesn't even matter on Ytarria, of course, as extremely few goblins worship Uunkuy after the Christianization of their lands. Indeed, Uunkuy's very Christian-like worship and priestly caste system oddly similar to Catholicism were what helped create such an easy transition to the new religion. All that had to be done was replace Uunkuy with God and Bozdaag with Satan, and voila. Lizard men, on the other hand, mostly still worship Bozdaag. His worship focuses on self-sufficiency and personal strength. Over-reliance on others, especially in the form of civilization beyond the tribal level, is seen as a great weakness and affront to Bozdaag's gifts of might. While lizard men see the Christian interpretation of God as the same decadent wastefulness of Uunkuy, they partition Islam's God into his own category of a happy medium between between decadent civilization and "barbarism" due to the strenuous strength of pilgrimages and the lives of nomadic herdsmen outside of the great cities of al-Haz and al-Wazif, and some lizard men become devout Muslims as a result.

Faiths of Loren'dil: The gods of the forest realm were part of a complex and flawed pantheon of deities with often opposing views, with war in the heavens being a frequent event in their religious lore. The halflings worshiped Halaina, goddess of home and hearth, and Heclan, god of trickery and stealth, but have almost entirely converted to human religions of where they now live on Yrth. The giants had the god of strength Chane, earth goddess Therneen, and sea god Otrik, but in the travel to the lands of Ytarria they have mostly become atheists with the exception of a few followers of their old gods and a handful of worshipers of human religions. The centaurs are the only people of Loren'dil that have fully kept their faith in the old pantheon, especially in Atallie, goddess of learning and wisdom. Some have nonetheless become followers of pagan religions or the Eternal, however, and the majority that still do worship the gods of Loren'dil typically keep quiet about it when talking to humans.

Others: Dragons are the only of the Elder Races of Yrth that don't believe in worship of the Eternal, instead believing that every dragon itself becomes a god after shoring up enough knowledge and power to ascend to a higher plane of existence. The ancestors that have already become gods are worshiped but rarely called upon, as it is believed dragons that ascend to godhood with as little help as possible get a better reputation in the land of the god-dragons. There are also the two species of Olokun, neither of which seem to give much information about their old gods. The merfolk seem to have hated the gods of Olokun and are mostly atheists with a few Eternal worshipers mixed in, while the shark men worship their deities the same as always, hoping to be able to one day draw them over to Yrth. The book describes this as a bad thing, so I can only assume that the whole insinuation about their gods actually being Cthulhu-likes is meant to be true.

Next Time in GURPS Banestorm: We begin the tour of the lands of Ytarria with the empire of Megalos. Soldiers, slaves, gladiators, and goblins await!

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 20:35 on Feb 24, 2016

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Nessus posted:

How did they find out about magic, anyway? Did the various hedge witches and random court fakers find their spells started actually working?
The Elder Races of Yrth were already there to greet them, and they had magical powers pretty downpat. I imagine there might be some cases of "oh hey, our magic actually works now" as well, but I don't recall it being specifically stated.

Mors Rattus posted:

The Bible explicitly calls out certain forms of magic as being inherently sinful and bad, but it's poo poo like necromancy or attempting to foretell the future (which is obviously impossible because God, etc).

And even then, the real Church was totally okay with astrology based on the logic of Origen and the stars influencing but not actually preventing free will.
Fair enough. As I think I've said before, I grew up in a Southern Baptist family of the "thinks Jack Chick had some good ideas" category, so I know a lot more about that environment than I do Medieval Catholicism.

The horrible fact is that I actually have researched traditionalist Christian beliefs about magic a few years back, but I apparently have the memory retention of a squirrel sometimes. :blush:

Also, I'm putting in a vote for Angelic Player's Guide. Let the Revelation Cycle be the big finish we go out on.


Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Pathfinder Bestiary 2: Badgers to Bunyip

The badger (CR ½ Small Animal) – specifically implicated here to be the European badger Meles meles – is an animal from the Monster Manual/SRD of Dungeons and Dragons that was missed by Pathfinder Bestiary Prime, so it shows up here. There is also the dire badger (CR 2 Medium Animal), which is where we first learn that Pathfinder Bestiary 2 has abandoned its predecessor's attempt to shoehorn actual prehistoric animal species into the roles of dire animals. No fossil creature here, just a big, ornery man-sized badger with thick muscles and large claws. Gnomes respect and fear dire badgers because they are ferocious murder-beasts that can dig through solid rock.

Banshee (CR 13 Medium Undead [Incorporeal])
The origin of the banshee is in Irish folklore, where she was a faerie or spirit that wailed to foretell the death of someone in the listener's family, most likely inspired by actual funerary wailing practices from the British Isles ("keening") given a mythological slant. This doesn't matter at all to the Pathfinder banshee at all, mind you. It instead traces its heritage back to the Dungeons and Dragons interpretation of the monster. Big surprise, I know. In its first, second, and fifth editions, the banshee of D&D has been presented as the undead soul of an evil and corrupt elf woman. Pathfinder very much takes this ball and runs with it. The banshee always elven and always female, and is also specifically either betrayed or was betrayed by people she loved rather than generically corrupt.

No keener for the dead, the banshee here is an active and malevolent force that seeks to slay the living, and she mainly does that through her wail. This wail has a forty foot radius, can be used once per minute as a full round action, and forces a DC 23 Fortitude save to avoid taking a flat 140 untyped damage (which is pretty much a save or die anyway for the levels you'd be fighting one). Her touch also inflicts 14d6 negative energy damage and induces a Will save to avoid spending 1d3 rounds just huddled up in fear.

Two more bats to add to the dire, familiar, and swarm sorts of the first Pathfinder Bestiary. The mobat (CR 3 Large Magical Beast) has been around since the 1E module The Lost Caverns of Tsojacanth, and for whatever reason it was in the Tome of Horrors and has thus come to rest here as well. They are omnivorous dire bats that technically have the same Intelligence score as an ogre but don't actually do anything with it, since the only things they do differently from other bats is that they like to prey on live warm-blooded prey (as opposed to other predatory bats that do exactly the same thing, so...huh?) and like shiny objects.

Skavelings (CR 5 Large Undead) are literally just mobats that have contracted ghoul fever and thus risen as undead with the paralytic bite and slightly greater Strength associated with human ghouls. They are even straight up called ghoul bats, which makes me wonder why D&D and Pathfinder never just straight up went a ghoul template from the start like d20 Modern did, since it would probably lessen the amount of ghoul bats, ghoul wolves, and ghoul god-knows-what-else you see in various bestiaries of both systems. Skavelings are intentionally created as mounts by the urdefhans, weird half ghoul half daemon Outsiders from way later in this book.

Giant bees (CR 1 Medium Vermin) and their queens (CR 5 Large Vermin) are more of the beasts and bugs from the 3E Monster Manual and subsequent System Reference Document that didn't make it into the first Pathfinder Bestiary and thus washed up here. Since they are giant honeybees, they go around pollinating giant flowers, defending their hives, and other things honeybees tend to do. They also have developed stingers that don't rip out and kill them after one sting like real bees, so they can and will repeatedly stab you with their venom-laden rear end daggers if you anger them. Giant bumblebees get the Advanced Creature simple template slapped on them and deal Constitution damage rather than Strength damage with their stings.

There is also a note on royal jelly, the substance that is fed to a giant bee larva to induce its metamorphosis into a queen rather than a worker. There's 2d6 pounds of it deep in the hive, and eating a pound of it acts as a full day's nourishment, grants a +4 bonus to all saving throws against disease for a full day, and heals twice the amount of HP and ability damage you'd normally heal by sleeping if you sleep within that twenty four hour period. It can also be sound for a hundred gold per pound.

Two more giant beetles, if you're of the sort that's into them. Giant stag beetles (CR 8 Huge Vermin) are elephant-sized stag beetles that are carnivorous instead of herbivorous like normal-sized stag beetles. Because everyone knows that herbivores can't be scary, right? It's not like there's an existing giant herbivore that is feared for its power and temperament, like, say, an elephant. Even AD&D had giant stag beetles as herbivores, specifically marking them as dangers to farmers due to their tempers and tendency to devour entire crop fields. Anyway, they're big, mean, and trample prey before eating them.

Its page counterpart is the slicer beetle (CR 4 Large Vermin), a remnant from the first edition Monster Manual II and the world of Greyhawk that came to Pathfinder through the Tome of Horrors. They're giant death watch beetles that have lost their wings and their eyes due to a life spent entirely underground, leaving this nasty flat-bodied critter with large jaws that do exactly what the name implies. These slicing jaws deal 1d6 bleed damage and stagger the foe for 1d3 rounds on a critical hit thanks to how immensely strong and painful the bite is. This is a merciful step down from AD&D and Tome of Horrors's "save or this beetle amputates a limb".

Belker (CR 6 Large Outsider [Air, Elemental, Evil])
Belkers are violent, smoky elementals from either the Para-elemental Plane of Smoke (if you're following AD&D's Planescape setting, where they first appeared) or the Elemental Plane of Air (according to 3E's Monster Manual). They were presented as reclusive and even sometimes conversational creatures that were nonetheless Neutral Evil due to the fact that they enjoyed causing pain to those they hunted. The belker of Pathfinder is a bit less nuanced, as it is entirely xenophobic and very unlikely to chat you up. Belkers hate all non-elemental life, as well as djinn and jann, and will stalk and kill all things they perceive as threats. In spite of appearing to be weird smoke demons, belkers are apparently fully solid, as they have a bite attack, two claw attacks, and two wing attacks. They can also transform into an incorporeal smoke form for up to twenty rounds, at which point they can force a DC 17 Fortitude save or be intentionally inhaled by a foe. Once it's inside a foe, the belker can deal 3d4 untyped damage per round, with the victim continuing to make a Fortitude save each round to attempt to finally cough the belker back up.

Blindheim (CR 2 Small Magical Beast)
Would you be surprised to learn that a humanoid frog with flashlight eyes was originally from the 1E Fiend Folio? I'd guess not. In the first two editions of the game, blindheims were sometimes of animal intellect and sometimes dumb but sapient, as well as color-coded in the manner of true dragons in that different skin colors of blindheim could produce different supernatural effects from their eyes. Neither of these things were retained in the Tome of Horrors, and it is thus that we have Pathfinder blindheims that are more or less the frogfolk equivalent of chimpanzees. They are clever but not sapient omnivores that feed mainly on fungi and small rodents in their cavern dwellings and sometimes hunt in packs. Their main method of both defense and offense is the ability to let loose a thirty foot beam of light from their eyes, forcing a DC 13 Fortitude save to avoid being blinded for an hour. Some races train blindheims to act as living light sources, and both drow and duergar are known to capture them and use them as distractions during raids.

Blink Dog (CR 2 Medium Magical Beast)
These fellows have been around since the classic Greyhawk supplement, so good for them on surviving this long. Over the editions, they have been described as looking like African wild dogs, dingos, and various domestic dogs of all stripes, but their two consistent features have been that they are either Lawful, Good, or both and that they are capable of "blinking" in and out of the physical world. Since they were in the 3E Monster Manual but not in Pathfinder Bestiary Uno, they get dumped here. Blink dogs here are slender hounds with rabbit-like ears, human intellect, and a Paladin mentality. They are loyal to a fault, especially to their pack's alpha, and spend their time traversing the land slaying evil beings. Their greatest foes are the similarly dimension-walking phase spiders. They also have a big culture of astrology, because why not.

Bodak (CR 8 Medium Undead [Extraplanar])
The bodak takes its name from the Gaelic bodach ("old man", or "old penis" if you translate it extremely literally), a rather horrible spirit or faerie that crawls down chimneys to steal away disobedient children and eat them. Besides the name, however, the bodak of D&D and Pathfinder has nothing to do with the Irish boogeyman. Instead, it is the result of a humanoid that has fallen in the most vile parts of the Abyss and become a charred grayish-black undead abomination as a result. It has been around since The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, and even appeared in d20 Modern's version of the Monster Manual as an undead Gray alien that has been warped beyond comprehension after being exposed to ultimate evil.

Bodaks in Pathfinder are still residents of the Abyss, though not necessarily created there, instead being the afterlife-dwelling result of any soul's warping by "a horrific, occult phenomenon". They are dim-witted beasts that only know their hatred and suffering, wishing nothing more than to inflict suffering on others. Some liches and powerful demons even use this to their advantage and have bodaks as henchmen for murderous purposes. While it can just punch you if it wants to, a bodak prefers to utilize its gaze attack. This gaze has a thirty foot range and forces a DC 18 Fortitude save to avoid 1d4 negative levels if that gaze is met; a humanoid that is killed by a bodak becomes another bodak after twenty-four hours. Luckily, like shadows and most other plague undead, bodaks suffer 3d6 damage per round if exposed to direct sunlight because of their "impure flesh".

Brownie (CR 1 Tiny Fey)
Another creature that went the path of AD&D 1E and 2E to the Tome of Horrors and then Pathfinder. Like their mythological namesakes, brownies are helpful sorts, doing various chores and tasks in exchange for taking a bit of food. Unlike their namesakes, the brownies of D&D and Pathfinder usually live in the woods, only rarely shacking up in households like the Gaelic fair folk do. All brownies carry blades, but are extremely hesitant to actually use it, instead preferring to trick foes with spell-like abilities such as Dancing Lights, Lesser Confusion, Mirror Image, and Prestidigitation before using Dimension Door to whisk themselves away from danger. Also, for whatever reason, these books seem to love having brownies' art make them look like little shits. If you don't get that vibe from the Pathfinder Bestiary 2 image above, you'll probably at least get it from the art in the Tome of Horrors. I mean, look at this little fucker:

Bunyip (CR 3 Medium Magical Beast [Aquatic])
The bunyip is probably one of my favorite creatures from Australian aboriginal folklore. It's a big, mean, and loud aquatic monster that has any number of varying and conflicting appearances, just this beautiful encapsulation of the fear of the unknown into one ephemeral nightmare. And what form has the bunyip taken here? Out of all of its potential nightmarish visages, what one graces the pages of Pathfinder?

...A man-sized hybrid of shark and seal, just like it has was in the Fiend Folio and Tome of Horrors before it. :smith:

Bunyips are found in all major shallow waters, both freshwater and saltwater from the tropics to the poles. They are temperamental, especially in the mating season, and feed on all sorts of creatures Small size or smaller. While usually solitary, they come together to mate each spring, with the female giving birth to between four and six pups. A bunyip can go into a Barbarian-style rage if it smells blood, and its hundred-foot radius roar forces all creatures with 4 or less HD to make a DC 13 will save to avoid become panicked for 2d4 rounds.

Next time in the Pathfinder Bestiary: C is for centipede, cockroaches too. They crawl forth from shadows to mutilate you.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5