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hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.




Onward with Chapter 4: Drama! We start with about five pages worth of description of the three-act drama structure, interjected with notes about player manipulation and idea that the GM is acting like a stage magician; making sure the players think they are making their own choices when in fact they are not.

And as you have probably guessed, this is followed by a lengthy section stating why using it in an RPG is a bad thing. This revolves around essentially two points: RPGs don't have the strict timing requirements that dramatic performances do; and dramatic rise and fall isn't a necessary arc in an RPG, where the game structure is much more based on acquisition of more - more skill, more knowledge, or more goals to reach - which doesn't have any enforced purpose. Oh, and there's this charming sentence:

quote:

DMs shall perpetrate story arcs as a means of handling passive players in their campaigns. The best means to handle cows is to use corrals, chutes and stalls.

So, what's the alternative? It's what Smolensk refers to as "here and now DMing". There's then a section on this, and it.. well, it's very confusingly defined. It appears to refer to on-the-spot improvisation of what happens in response to the players, but at the same time, without any application of story arcs to guide the improvised content; the game should be allowed to become chaotic if that's what would happen. Which sounds like pure simulation, but we're then told that:

quote:

The purpose here is not to serve the game. It is not to fulfill some structure of role-playing that deserves "respect" or "should" be run in a particular way. The purpose is the enthusiastic satisfaction of the players. If they are feeling languid and lost then the moment must adapt and offer direction. If the party is excitable and motivated then the world may become less predictable.. if the party is getting too worked up, then the world can slow down.

So it's strict world simulation.. but responding to the player mood? I mean, maybe that's workable, but it's definitely a balancing act. This is followed by a discussion of how having a detailed and interesting world built in advance doesn't contradict any part of this, and it doesn't imply that the GM should be required to plan in advance what is happening; and then a very peculiar situation which appears to be saying that the GM should use terse comparative descriptions (for example, "it's a forest like the Siberian taiga") because not only does that give a stronger image than a lengthy description, but it's in the spirit of the game that the player should get to apply their own visualisation of the scene.

How on Earth any of this fits with the "everything is measured in hexes" nature of Smolensk's system is not clear..

Anyway, we then have the "keys to success" section, which - tellingly - begins with "It won't be missed that I've given the formula for creating a story-focused world. I encourage you to do so, if that's what you want." But of course, he hasn't. He's given a summary of the three-act structure with some criticism of the use of railroading to enforce it; nothing whatsoever about integrating it into the setting.

Chapter 5: Continuity addresses a topic that I'm genuinely interested in: how to allow the players to make significant differences in the world while keeping it consistent, and not scripting in advance the means by which they must do so. The key, explains Smolensk, is that any given series of events in the game must be explainable to the satisfaction of the players - not necessary to the GM - and that these explanations must be available to the players once consequences are revealed. Without this:

quote:

Otherwise, I've manipulated events. I've used my knowledge as a DM to the benefit of non-player characters. In my mind, I've cheated.

That sentence.. just really confuses me, especially the bit about "benefit of non-player characters". And the next paragraph emphasises than the DM should have no investment in NPCs anyway, and have them change or adjust as necessary as long as that change can be explained to the players.

This is followed by a series of sections on methods by which events are fitted into continuity. Shock refers to sudden surprise events, which aren't quite outside continuity - they may be foreshadowed or take time to take effect - but they're primarily DM initiated and therefore have to be used carefully, although ideally they should have effects beneficial to the party or put the party in at least a relatively advantageous position. "Jump scare" shocks that don't really change anything should be avoided, as should use according to a pattern - including an OOC pattern of using a shock whenever the campaign lulls. Most importantly, "shocks cannot be used too often". Yea, I scratched my head when I read that until I realized that Smolensk actually means that to mean "it will not be good to use shocks too often". Of course, the fact that using the word "cannot" in that context flips the meaning of the sentence completely is something that I'm amazed the author missed, and which shows it's unlikely there was any editing.

Rage - that is character not player rage - is a valuable emotion for role-playing because it is the imperative to do something, and.. wait, my honest reviewing fuse is almost about to blow. I thought we were talking about integration of events into continuity, not reactions to particular events. And this section is.. wow.

It's literally seven pages of justifying the practice of pissing off the PCs so that they take action in the world. Show them dead innocents, racism, slavery, artificial famine. If they're the kind of player who doesn't engage with that because it's all made up, attack the fantasy. Make their PC not matter, take away their cool stuff and power, have them tricked and humiliated, all of this is making them want to play your game, honest! Ok, there is a brief section saying that there should be at least thirty or forty times as many nice people in the setting as villains, and that if a player actually gets angry at the DM, it's time to stop and talk things through because that can mean you've gone too far. Oh, and there's also this:

quote:

The party encounters a situation that deeply offends their sensibilities. Racism, the death of innocents, slavery, waste and sickness, unendurable famine and so on . . . and in the face of this, the party finds an elite that has little time for, or patience with, the suffering majority. The party decides to take action – or an action may be thrust upon them. Soon, they learn they have taken on more than they can chew. Due to the party’s error, a half dozen perfectly innocent people are executed. The party blames themselves. At this point, they may do something heavy handed or not. Following the continuity of their actions, I ensure that they have opportunities to come face-to-face with the executioner. Again, the party’s rage is stoked. Things come to a head, but the party fears taking on the whole community. They retreat, in rage, and the adventure begins.

Hang on, isn't that just the Three Act structure you hated so m..

quote:

Note the similarities in the second case to the First Act of the three-act structure. The difference is that the party is carrying forward the adventure, rather than shrugging their shoulders and dropping the matter. I don’t have to create a story arc. The party creates their own.

First of all, that's blatantly part of the second act, not the first act. Second, what in the above distinguishes that the PCs created their own story arc? If you're playing "here and now" then what happens due to the party's error is totally dynamic, and while we know it must be "explainable" that doesn't mean it's determined by them. So what's the division here? More importantly, can we put John Wick in a game with Smolensk or vice versa?

Still, we do know that an effective ward against raging Smolensks is a copy of Golden Sky Stories. (I was going to say Chuubo's Marvelous Wish Granting Engine but a whack on the head with a copy of the printed version of that would probably take out a medium sized dragon..)

Ok, pushing on we have a section on Distraction. Again, this doesn't mean players having their phones out at the table; it means distractions from the continuity - small events that disrupt the ongoing goals of the PCs and have to be dealt with. But instead we seem to have a section on attrition - how being brought down bit by bit is much more likely to create PC action and investment in a bad situation, than a single big opponent which they can establish is too big for them and then flee, and..

quote:

My favourite tactic is to drain away the party’s resources with obstacles and chance events whenever, while choosing consequences that restrain the party from resupply. The presentation is all about forcing tension and this works great. The party needs time to heal, but there’s no place that’s safe. They need provisions or tools, but the nearest depot is days away . . . and somewhere, out there, the enemy is waiting.

But that usually doesn't produce tension, does it? It just reduces the number of actions available to the PCs, and..

quote:

Small annoyances make the party less certain about my having engineered their predicament. The party will accept it when I say, “Things just happen. Nothing you can do about that.” As regards continuity, that is all the explanation a thunderstorm needs.

.. so you'll break the rule above about everything being explainable in order to do this, by creating excuses for yourself, but then when do you ..

quote:

..the virtue of distraction is that it can be used constantly and continuously. It works in tandem with every adventure type. In fact, the more often it is used, the better!

.. but then surely there must be some level of check on that, that you can ..

quote:

The multiplicity of distractions, heaped one upon the other, produces distraction’s cousin, desperation. A vision of complete desperation would be the player, face in a twist of exhaustion and strain, saying to me, “Make it stop... please, please, I beg of you, I’ll do anything, just let us rest!” Usually, however, I don’t bring that off.

Well thank god for that, because that player needs to be in a very unhealthy place to not just leave the table, at least you don't go that..

quote:

I’d like to.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

quote:

That’s fine, because even low-level desperation produces curses, frustration and backbiting among the party. The hard part is not to watch this and smile.

NONONONONONONONONO

quote:

Add to this the many, many ways that players can be disappointed, disillusioned, betrayed, met head on, teased, taunted or simply outgunned – slathered overtop with the ever-present threat that someone, anyone, might die before the night is out – and these little distractions offer the stuff of nightmares. It is a recipe for immersion.

IMMERSION IS THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES

AAHH I CANNOT TAKE THIS AND NOW WE HAVE A SECTION ON DESPAIR DEAR LORD HOW MUCH FURTHER I SHALL BE SLEEPING WITH GOLDEN SKY STORIES, CHUUBO'S AND THE BETA OF UNDER HOLLOW HILLS ON MY BEDSIDE TABLE AT THIS RATE STAY AWAY STAY AWAY

Wait.. ah.. ok. Ok, the section on despair seems to be saying that going too far does induce a situation where the players end up not caring about anything and that in those occasion, you should maybe give them a break, but OH NO YOU SHOULDN'T

quote:

These are friends. I should want to help them. I should feel bad for not helping them. Yet, there are benefits to a party getting nose-to-nose with despair. These are worth exploring.

IF YOUR PLAYERS JUST SULK AND DISCONNECT YOU SHOULD WAIT OUT WITH THEM

quote:

Players who have decided all is lost will withdraw completely. They may get up and shout, “What’s the point?” They may reinforce their despondency by sulking. Other players may say nothing at all, thinking the answer is beyond them, waiting for their fellow players to come up with something. Time, meanwhile, will stretch. I want it to stretch. I want the players to feel their situation.

.. AND KEEP ON ROLLING DICE TO SEE IF THEY DIE

quote:

This might happen in a hundred ways: the enemy host they’ve avoided finds them; the ship explodes in a fiery ball; the wall dripping with water breaks at last and drowns the party. And so on. In the meantime, I’m rolling dice to determine if any of those things happen.

AND ABSOLUTELY, NEVER, HELP THEM, BECAUSE TRAGEDY IS A THING

quote:

That would be the true cruelty. However anxious the party may be about the moment, they don’t want the game spoiled. No matter what they might say in the heat of the moment, the deeper revelation within their misery is that they don’t want help. They want to handle it themselves. As they shake their heads and threaten to quit, it’s hard to see that . . . but that is the hard truth. Not realizing this was a common mistake I made as a young DM. I could not bear the party feeling the full force of their condition. I was weak. I did what I thought was right.

It is hard. The temptation to let the cat from the bag will leave a pit in my stomach that threatens to burn through me. I can only bear it by remembering why, in our will to amuse ourselves, we seek tragedy. It is because there is something to be learned from watching a performance in which a child loses a parent; in which a couple’s marriage descends into a perfidy of accusation and pathos; in which an artist without recognition must inevitable die at the end; and in which illness or apathy tear a family apart. When we are a part of these things ourselves, we cannot view them rationally. We cannot understand our part in those events. But from the outside, where it is happening to others and we’re not subject to the outcome, we gain wisdom and understanding. We seek tragedy because we are compelled to look, in the examination of suffering there is comprehension.

THIS CANNOT BE RIGHT THIS CANNOT BE RIGHT OH WAIT WE ACTUALLY HAVE A SECTION ON TRIUMPH.. Triumph.. surely this must calm it down, right..

quote:

So we make adversity to scare the players into having fun . . . and sometimes that adversity becomes overwhelming. As bad as it gets, however, there must inherently be a way out. The party might miss that way; they might try something else and duly fail; but the possibility of success should exist because this is a game. I will not make a wall that cannot be breached. The party always has a chance.

.. ok, ok. We're maybe getting past the insanity.

quote:

To give triumph its value, adversity must ever appear insurmountable. The gulf between the two extremes is the measure. The greater the certainty that the party will fail, the more elusive the success, the more glorious the victory. I, too, enjoy that moment.

Ok, ok. This is becoming saner. Thank god.

Ok. So, how, within this basis of "here and now" do we arrange that obstacles appear insurmountable but actually aren't? How do we create this without too much pre-planning while not simply backchanneling the PC's actions to them until the players appear to be feeling a certain emotion or a certain amount of time has passed? What methods do we used to ensure the continuity of this increasingly complex developing world? Actually, hang on, wasn't this whole section meant to be about continuity, not about table emotions? How does having a fixed series of emotions that the players must feel at the table square with a sandbox world in which they may do anything, even the safe thing?

quote:

Chapter 6
Pomp

drat YOU

CHAPTER 6 IS ABOUT STANDING UP AND WAVING YOUR ARMS AROUND GMING, SETTING UP THE FURNITIRE IN YOUR HOUSE, NOT USING A SCREEN AND SITTING IN CANDLELIGHT

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

(The next update may be somewhat delayed)

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lofi
Apr 2, 2018






I actually kind of agree with Smolensck on adversity, especially for Tolkeineque D&D fantasy - there's always the 'ohgod, everythings hosed' moments, and I think they do add a lot to the sense of victory. It does pull you into the game when you're really struggling to find a good solution, when you're out of resources and have to keep going.

I mean, he's got a really convoluted way of saying it, but I don't think the concept is horrible. Especially as he's (trying to be) clear on the player/character divide. He'd loving love Torchbearer.

The stuff about story arcs and continuity is just baffling though.

Maxwell Lord
Dec 12, 2008

I am drowning.
There is no sign of land.
You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand.

And I hope you die.

I hope we both die.


:smith:



Grimey Drawer



Buck Rogers XXVc: The 25th Century

Experience (Has Made Me Rich And Now They're After Me)

This section is oddly placed, seeing as it’s marked for the GM’s eyes only but is sandwiched right between player info. It won't actually ruin anything or give away any secrets if the players see it, but I have no idea why this is where it is.

But anyway, experience. Obviously it works like in AD&D, but there’s a concerted effort to make XP awards not just about combat. The first couple of sections are general advice on how to give out XP over the course of a game, while noting that the GM has a lot of discretion. One section is about how experience point awards should be tied to success; winning combats, accomplishing missions, or minor bits of problem solving. The latter shouldn’t be completely trivial but there can be small awards for handling things in a clever way. (One could argue that failure is just as much a teacher as success, even more so, but this is the D&D paradigm still.)

The next section is about advancement, which of course is what all this is for. There are two hard rules, characters only advance in levels between adventures, and they can only advance one level at a time, no matter how many XP they got. There are also a couple of guidelines: the group shouldn’t go through more than 5 or 6 sessions without somebody advancing, and after 45-50 sessions you should have at least someone at level 9 but probably nobody beyond that. Now, if a campaign goes 45-50 sessions I can’t imagine still keeping count of how many sessions you’ve had, so while I get the idea that they want to set limits on how fast you advance I can’t see this coming up much. But then again I’ve been in mostly short campaigns. They also say that you should move players through the fragile lower levels reasonably quickly, which yeah.

Now, finally, some hard numbers. I mean they’re still guidelines, but numbers nonetheless. Achieving the overall goal of a mission is considered to be worth 1,000 XP, while achieving a secondary goal is worth 750. Of course the game then says these numbers will maybe be too high for low levels (I say go with it, level 1 is for the first session) and WAY too low for higher level characters so you have to adjust numbers anyway. We’re still not out of the vague zones.

Anyway there are also awards for use of skills, depending on whether the check was Easy (25 xp), Average (100), Difficult (300), or Impossible (500). This is mostly for low-level characters, and at higher levels you may want to phase out the low-level awards. There are also awards for using a skill in an unusual way (200) or unique way (350) though how you decide between unusual and unique is beyond me. And finally there are awards for just making wise choices at important moments- 150, or 350 if the moment is “crucial”. Again how you decide this I dunno.

But now, finally finally, we have hard numbers- combat! Combat awards are based entirely on the level of the enemy, and there’s no real scaling- if a level 10 character beats a level 1 enemy, they get XP, it’s just only 15 so it’s not worth very much. The awards for ship combat are more complex- based on the opponent ship’s tonnage, speed relative to yours, number of weapons, it gets complex. There’s a table for all the ships that are described in the game pitted against each other, though (a Scout Cruiser defeating a Krait fighter gets 260 XP, for example.)

There’s some guidance on divvying up group awards, and “extra credit” for teamwork, cooperation, and good role-playing, but of course those are vague qualities so they can’t give numbers. Finally the section ends with a reminder that the real point is to have fun and that if you’re doing your job well, the players will be motivated by the story and not the need for XPs. Which yeah, I guess.

You can kinda see here, again, Pondsmith and co. struggling to push the AD&D framework. AD&D 2nd Edition made the mistake of eliminating the “XP for Gold” rule for all but a couple of classes, meaning combat was now the main source of advancement while combat at low levels was still really dangerous- there was some support for story awards but they didn’t go in much detail. Here combat is still a source of points but there’s more guidance on giving awards for meeting the goals of a mission. Everything’s vague but there are at least some numbers to use as a baseline to tweak. Again, though, I question why this section is placed here, in the midst of stuff you need for character creation. I feel there was a miscommunication somewhere, or that since advancement normally gets talked about in the “player’s section” of games this got put here even if it ends up being more for the GM.

With that out of the way, however, we can get into the system’s big change, and where I think it actually kinda fails somewhat- Skills. That’s next time.

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.


lofi posted:

I actually kind of agree with Smolensck on adversity, especially for Tolkeineque D&D fantasy - there's always the 'ohgod, everythings hosed' moments, and I think they do add a lot to the sense of victory. It does pull you into the game when you're really struggling to find a good solution, when you're out of resources and have to keep going.

I do get the adversity thing too. But the effectiveness of resource depletion depends a ton on the system, and the idea of “distraction” as continued adversity just seems horrid, especially since he wrote himself an out for his own explainability rule.

It reads like a version of that strange form of railroading where what is predetermined isn’t the story or what will happen to the PCs, but that the players must experience or feel. (“Metaroading”, maybe?) You will not defeat Count Evilton until you’re mad at him. You will not reach the citadel until you’re desperate. John Wick writes a ton of this kind of thing as well.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

hyphz posted:

IMMERSION IS THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES

Hey now, let's not put the blame on the concept of immersion. I like immersion. It's one of the main things I play RPGs for. I just don't see how constantly heaping misery on the PCs is supposed to be a "recipe for immersion". If anything, having a GM who's so clearly out to get the PCs is antithetical to immersion, unless it's a feature of the setting that fate is supposed to be actively working against the characters.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Jerik posted:

Hey now, let's not put the blame on the concept of immersion. I like immersion. It's one of the main things I play RPGs for. I just don't see how constantly heaping misery on the PCs is supposed to be a "recipe for immersion". If anything, having a GM who's so clearly out to get the PCs is antithetical to immersion, unless it's a feature of the setting that fate is supposed to be actively working against the characters.
For whatever emergent cultural reasons we tend to valorize negative emotions (despair, suffering, pain) as being more real, more legitimate, than positive emotions (joy, triumph, determination). Things that include mostly the latter tend to be treated as kiddy poo poo or wish fulfillment, so obviously things that include mostly the former must be the opposite: Cool things, for matures.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Nessus posted:

For whatever emergent cultural reasons we tend to valorize negative emotions (despair, suffering, pain) as being more real, more legitimate, than positive emotions (joy, triumph, determination). Things that include mostly the latter tend to be treated as kiddy poo poo or wish fulfillment, so obviously things that include mostly the former must be the opposite: Cool things, for matures.

This really can't be overstated; even the mimetic novel is basically considered as realistic as it is miserable. This means that anxiety and misfortune 'read' as more realistic and immersive, and we'll accept pretty lovely excuses for why this is actually more true. Think about Game of Thrones - some of the misfortune and bad things happening aren't any more historically realistic than things going well, but it's the bad that reads as more like reality.

As a result, GMs who enforce negative affect through supposedly simulationist (but actually not even dedicated) means create emotional immersion which is, in part, aimed at convincing the player that this is all just the natural outcome. Bad things happen naturally; good things either happen with immense effort or because the setting is story-shaped not immersive. This leads to some really lovely practices like the one described, where immersion can be mined from a player by making them anxious, unhappy, and constantly worried. It's honestly a power-trip thing, speaking as a GM who does really want to immerse my players and sometimes elicit negative emotions as well as positive ones - it's really pleasant for people to be bought into your setting and ideas, your plotlines, and it just feels drat good when they take them seriously. Which can mean wanting to really sell how grim some situation is. But, that's not a great impulse when it leads to torturing your friends and taunting them with 'there's one correct way out, you just need to find it!' because it makes you feel like a good writer to force the players to be attentive, unhappy readers. (And also that's not good writing, it's hack writing).

(Though 'metarailroading' where you move on to the next set-piece or have certain things happen only when the work has had the desired effect, is good actually. If players are getting anxious and worried in room three of a ten-room dungeon, you should be thinking 'ok, they're in that mindset, now I can move on before it gets miserable.' Or alternatively, if something's supposed to be funny, don't run it into the ground. Hitting the emotional beat is as important as getting the right exposition; on the other hand, if the emotional beat doesn't land, you can't force it, so you may well want to move on early if the scene just isn't having any effect.)

megane
Jun 20, 2008





Oh, he's a complete hack who justifies the fact that he's dogshit at GMing by saying "no but see I WANT them to be bored and frustrated while playing," got it.

Who the gently caress plays with these people? What kind of player do you have to be to come to this guy's session, have him spend four hours quivering with self-satisfaction at how clever he is when he tells you you can't make camp for the 13th time in a row, sit in silence for minutes at a time because he has rocks fall anytime anyone decides to do anything, get told you should be happy you're not having fun because it'll make the payoff three months from now feel so much more meaningful... and then want to do so again next week? To see him look miserable too, ask him if he wants to change things up, and have him give a grandiloquent speech about how he's enduring the misery of abusing you for the sake of the game?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


There are a lot of people who never, ever internalized that no gaming is better than bad gaming. Or who are very lonely and want a social group of any kind. Plus, it's sort of a long, weird, and bad legacy in TT gaming that GMing is a position of power rather than the GM just being another participant in the group activity, so some people might not notice an abusive GM since that's 'tradition'.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





It's also unfortunately the case that a lovely GM who produces really immersive anxiety can be extremely, well, immersive. Players can feel obligated, because the moral reality of the game feels real; they desperately want the catharsis of making it through, rather than the fiction they're immersed in ending without that solution.

Frankly, some GMs use this in an emotionally abusive fashion. I had a GM who absolutely combined this kind of immiseration with moral dilemmas and NPCs who variably punished and rewarded, in such a way that the game became a kind of immersion skinner box. I don't game with her, or indeed hang out with or have anything to do with her, any more. One of the games she ran was causing some of my friends in college to break down crying outside of the game, on a weekly basis, out of anxiety for their characters and goals in the game.

gently caress GMs who do that, and gently caress them for justifying it with either simulation or immersion or both. It doesn't make them better at producing compelling works, even, because the fiction becomes entirely consumed by the pressure and anxiety.

Ronwayne
Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.


Also GMs who over the top kill any PC who's player drops cause some anxiety for players that don't like the game but develop an attachment to their PC. (BLACKLEAF NO)

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.


Joe Slowboat posted:

(Though 'metarailroading' where you move on to the next set-piece or have certain things happen only when the work has had the desired effect, is good actually. If players are getting anxious and worried in room three of a ten-room dungeon, you should be thinking 'ok, they're in that mindset, now I can move on before it gets miserable.' Or alternatively, if something's supposed to be funny, don't run it into the ground. Hitting the emotional beat is as important as getting the right exposition; on the other hand, if the emotional beat doesn't land, you can't force it, so you may well want to move on early if the scene just isn't having any effect.)

Oh, sure. What I meant by metarailroading tends to be the converse where it's not "room three of a ten-room dungeon", but rather the dungeon is unplanned and therefore has an infinite number of rooms until the players are anxious and worried because that's the intended mood. Alas Vegas had a ton of this in terms of "keep it going as long as it's fun, then this happens.."

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Yeah I mean, I regularly generate a bunch of setpieces and examples for traveling through weird ruins/wastelands for games, then theoretically I plan to use a set number of them at random - but when my players get enthused about exploring I end up just going through the whole list one by one or until the enthusiasm looks like it might wane.

I have no problem with the theoretical 'do this until they're X or Y' - it just needs to be well-structured and not based on emotionally grinding your players down.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


It's really fine line to walk, there's the sort of tension where you're invested and nailbiting, and the eventual release and resolution of that tension is highly satisfying catharsis, but there's also the kind of tension where you just start thinking up excuses not to show up to the next game. Not that every game has to be grim and dark, but a game without any nailbiter moments or potential for failure at all would be, I think, not very exciting to play in.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





PurpleXVI posted:

It's really fine line to walk, there's the sort of tension where you're invested and nailbiting, and the eventual release and resolution of that tension is highly satisfying catharsis, but there's also the kind of tension where you just start thinking up excuses not to show up to the next game. Not that every game has to be grim and dark, but a game without any nailbiter moments or potential for failure at all would be, I think, not very exciting to play in.

Oh, certainly - I would say a meaningful part of it is having suspension of disbelief rather than 'simulation.' If they as players can trust that you as GM won't totally screw themmover or toy with them, but instead you're trying to create meaningful drama, they'll be prepared to buy into nail-biting or horror or anticipation without being worn down by it (you also need to pull tr trigger at the right time, reliably, for negative emotions to no overstay their welcome, or to make sure they're cathartic when the result is tragic or negative overall).

E: lots of typos, sorry

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night Horrors: Enemy Action
Part 3: The All-Seeing Eye


She seems nice.

Miss Thread is a valuable ally to any demon or Agency. She feeds her friends valuable intel, puts them in contact with likeminded demons, stigmatics and more, and happily investigates rumors. She even occasionally provides useful magic gear. All she wants in return is for you to share information with her. But, of course, you really shouldn't trust her. No matter how easy it'd be. She's a useful contact...but her generosity is very much a constructed persona. Miss Thread feels no loyalty to anyone. She's generally honest and an excellent analyst, but she is perfectly willing to hand over misleading or incomplete information - or even outright lies - if it serves her needs. Typically she does this to get her friends to investigate new Infrastructure or angelic capabilities without risking herself. Even if her friends die, she usually learns something. Then she picks a new set of friends and starts the game over, passing on what she learned to earn their trust. If it ever came out that she was giving bad intel, she'd blame it on false information being spread by the Machine. Everyone makes mistakes, after all, and hasn't she always been reliable?

Miss Thread is more than willing to sacrifice even long-term allies if it serves her. It's not frequent by any means, but she feels...bothered by unexplained mysteries, and when her frustration becomes obsession, she is likely to throw away assets (including her friends' lives) to get the answer faster out of impatience. Sometimes she'll even do it for no obvious reason - while she prides herself on being logical, she has a petty, impetuous streak to her, and her anger can get people who know her killed. Few demons ever meet her personally these days, of course. She is always isolating herself further. She prefers to use her powers to communicate via secret messages embedded in more innocuous emails, letters and graffiti tags. She hates face to face conversation, favoring phones, secure networks or, at most, carefully chosen neutral locations. Still, as her reputation spreads, most are willing to overlook her paranoia. It's not a particularly rare foible in demons to begin with.

Miss Thread may be isolated, but thanks to her Cipher, she's not alone. She's always accompanied by the only person she trusts: herself. Her personal Hell is her home, a perfect Cover in a perfect location, built over the course of years. Her lovely home is built on top of abandoend Infrastructure, which provides her a steady supply of Aether and helps hide the Aetheric radiation released when she constructs Gadgets (read: magic items), uses her demonic form or wields Exploits. She hates leaving home, and her primary Cover, Charlie Greenwood, was constructed so she would not have to. Charlie is a severe agoraphobe and never goes out if she can avoid it. Miss thread maintains a secondary Cover for when she's forced to leave, and she never risks anyone learning about her home - the idea terrifies her.

Charlie is a plain woman who prefers hoodies and comfortable, boring clothes. Miss Thread's secondary Cover is a middle-aged man, though due to her seclusion and refusal to maintain upkeep on it, it has started to degrade. It no longer has friends, family or other social anchors, and indeed no longer has a first name - it's just Mr. Grey. In her demonic form, Miss Thread is a giant weeping eye, but with metal tendrils where the optic nerve would be. Each tendril has a different use, with some housing sensors, others grasping hands, others syringes or killing blades. In any form, she is cool and logical, though she often tweaks her persona to better fit what her friends want from her, within the limits of her Covers. She keeps her habits of betrayal secret, and if someone tried to use them against her she'd probably take steps to discredit or kill them...but if directly accused, she'd probably admit it. She doesn't actually care about anyone else's life or feelings, after all, and tends to find it strange that others aren't sociopathic.

Miss Thread avoids physical confrontation if at all possible. She's not a fighter by design, and she'll flee if confronted, wielding her abilities to rewind time or become incorporeal to help her. If forced to fight, though, she is able to do so to surprising effect. She is less likely to flee if her home is under threat - it's the only thing she really loves. Her Gadgets are often designed with secondary powers to transmit information to her as well as help her allies. She's also happy to use her powers to spy, but since she's more and more unwilling to leave home, this comes up less and less often. She is fully aware of what the old Infrastructure under her home does, too. Her basement is tiled in volcanic glass, with tunnels forming elaborate glyphs around larger pits and depressions. Once, a cult poured blood into these channels at the Machine's orders before their theology drifted away from its original intent and the machinery fell silent. The chamber's job is to analyze blood, providing massive amounts of information to the God-Machine, ranging from cell counts and genetic sequencing data to occult information. It was once used to monitor a human breeding project, then later modified to use tissue samples to analyze and track supernatural beings - including demons. Miss Thread is afraid to use it, since she wants to avoid the Machine's attention, but if pushed, she could achieve all manner of terrible things with a blood sample.

Miss Thread thinks she has found the Hell meant for her, the paradise of freedom she's dreamed of. However, as she settles in, a new goal is forming within her. She has not yet articulated it, even to herself, but Miss Thread seeks to become something akin to the Machine itself. She already sees everyone else as potential tools and works to hide her own existence. She is evolving beyond a singular form, using her Interlocks to copy and fragment her own consciousness. She hasn't noticed yet that her splinter-selves grow more independent over time. In theory, they may even eventually form divergent opinions or personalities from her. What this might do to her mind when she recombines with them is unclear, at best.

Miss Thread used to be significantly more hands-on with her information gathering, and some of her tendrils are able to interface with the human brain using sensory nerves. She would sometimes kidnap Stigmatics or other witnesses of Machine-involved events, paralyze them and gentle insert a neural probe through their eyes to access their optic nerve. She would then extract and alter memories. She still does this occasionally, and planting false information in humans sometimes suits her purposes. She's even willing to partition and alter her own memories as needed. Some of the local demons suspect a traitor among their ranks, and while Miss thread is no Integrator (she sees the Machine as her role model and rival and has no desire to rejoin it), it is possible that part of her is one. She gaslights everyone else easily, and it is not beyond possibility that in her fragmenting mind, part of her is gaslighting the rest. Her paranoia has also given rise to a new theory - if she can bug her devices to spy on others, couldn't the God-Machine install living angels into inanimate objects to spy on things, too? It's possible, but there's not a lot of evidence for it. She's keeping an eye out, anyway.

Miss Thread is very smart, but that's the only area she really excels in. She otherwise relies on her magic powers, which assist her in spying on things, recording them or altering her own skillset temporarily by turning one form of skill into another. Her first Interlock, Army of Me, combines Efficiency and Fungible Knowledge to allow her to enter a state of quantum duplication. While unobserved, she may activate it to be able to use teamwork action bonuses with herself, so long as no one can observe her doing it (and thus collapse the waveform). Her second Interlock, Gaslight, combines Fungible Knowledge and Living Recorder to subtly rewrite memories without needing to jam her tendrils into someone's brain, though it doesn't work on demons, exiles or angels. Her third Interlock, Koschei's Egg, combines Living Recorder and Cuckoo's Egg. It lets her place part of her consciousness inside an object, turning it into a recording device that she can telepathically access at any distance at any time. Her final secret is Many eyes see what one eye cannot.


Shaken, not stirred.

Mr. Martini is the perfect bartender. He listens quietly, he provides cocktails with flair and skill, and he genuinely wants to know how you feel. He's never been anything but a bartender, and the reason he cares about everyone that pulls up to the bar is that any could be his salvation. His assignment set him to watch over a bar in a dying hotel that, in days past, was the height of class. He poured drinks, watched people and passed on occasional messages for angels. He was forbidden by orders to leave the hotel for any reason, so he rented a room there. It took most of his paycheck, but money wasn't something he had use for. One night, a lovely blonde starlet came into the bar and ordered a martini. She named him Mr. Martini after the sixth one and asked him to take her to her car. He briefly considered the request - and in that moment, thinking of leaving his post, he Fell. He screamed as he felt himself disconnect, and the woman hurled her drink in his face to add insult to injury. That night, Mr. Martini left the hotel for the first time - he felt the angels coming and knew he couldn't stay. He knew and regretted why he Fell. Up until that moment, he had done his work perfectly. Now, he wants that perfection again in his own bar, which he named Mr. Martini's to remind himself of his Fall. It is unclear if the name is a badge of honor or shame for him.

Mr. Martini's Bar is right on this side of the questionable part of town. It looks like any dive from the outside, and customers frequently drink alone. No table seats more than two people, and moving the tables causes loud scraping noises. Humans do not start fights there - none have ever tried, and likely none ever will, given how solemn the place is. When demons come, Mr. Martini expects them to also be solemn and respectful. Tensions sometimes rise, and occasionally violence threatens - but all Mr. Martini has to do is clear his throat and let everyone see the ring on his hand as he places it on the bar, and the tension dissipates. Everyone sits back down. No one would dare go Loud (read: burn an entire Cover to become a temporary superdemon) in the bar. Mr. Martini barely hides who he is, and it's not hard to notice after a while. He stays in one place, does one thing. He runs individual Covers for as long as he can, then switches to a backup. No one doubts that he can and has rebuilt, but endangering Mr. Martini's Bar always seems like a terrible idea.

Mr. Martini's current Cover is Isaac, the owner of the bar. He also has soul pacts on tap with the general manager, Annamarie, and Jake, one of the barbacks. Just in case. Isaac was the last manager before the previous owner vanished, and customers started to call him Mr. Martini as a joke, as he started to act like the old owner so fast. Isaac had nearly lost his job at the bar due to a substantial heroin habit, and had offered the owner "anything at all" to keep his job and get clean. Mr. Martini took him up on that. Annamarie is Isaac's cousin, rebuilding from a messy breakup after an abusive relationship, given a chance to turn things around. Jake had a ton of student debt from a failure in culinary school. Mr. Martini took care of that, too. They just had to sign their employment contracts, and they stay safe. Mr. Martini is very strict about maintaining a healthy working environment. His Covers are always employees, and in the event that a Cover gets blown, ownership of the business always goes to the manager just under the owner. He tries to ensure that person is going to be his next Cover, but it doesn't always turn out that way. Mr. Martini trains all new hires on pouring and serving drinks for at least one night - a test to see if they'll be a viable Cover if needed. If they do well, he puts them in a job they'll succeed at enough to justify promotions. Turnover is low, either way, because Mr. Martini hires competent people. When an employee leaves, it's usually because they're moving on to something better before he can provide them with one of his special contracts to convince them to stay.

Mr. Martini generally comes off as a friendly. He always dresses well, with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his vest and slacks perfectly pressed and his hair sleek and clean-cut, regardless of his current Cover's physical sex. He almost never leaves the bar. He claims he lives in the apartment above it and jokes about the short commute. The apartment has a small bar, a mattress, an iron and grooming kit with straight razor. Sometimes he 'forgets' the razor in his pocket while tending bar, and always has it with him when he leaves. Having to step outside makes him angry enough to use it, you see. When not chatting with customers, he moves with total efficiency. He doesn't accept excessive showmanship and has fired bartenders that try it. Artistry, he feels, is in the combination of ingredients, done skillfully and tastefully. This is solemn and sacred. Disturbances of the bar are swiftly and efficiently punished, but never on the premises themselves. When speaking to patrons, Mr. Martini is relaxed, friendly and kind. He offers comfort and at least a mask of sympathy, offering meaningful if somewhat cold and practical advice where applicable. He probes just enough with questions to provide useful guidance, and he does it with a smile and sympathy. And he actually cares. He does his best to ensure each customer first tries every avenue available to them on their own. When they come back, he follows up. He offers pacts only when all other options are exhausted. Sometimes, these customers become employees, but generally Mr. Martini sells these pacts to other demons for leverage.

Every so often, Mr. Martini requests favors. Something he'd do himself if he wasn't so busy with the bar, you know? He pays well - cash, information, whatever a demon might want. He never asks for too much. Usually, it all goes well and without problems. Once in a while, though, his favors go unfulfilled - the demon he asks just has a bad run-in with angels and vanishes. This is deliberate. Mr. Martini sends these demons to their doom when he senses elevated angelic activity. He always picks those who have burned some bridges already, to minimize questions asked later. Mr. Martini, despite being an Integrator, maintains that his bar is neutral ground for all demons. If a ring of demons or an Agency needs neutral ground for negotiations, he allows priority access to the private party room and acts personally as their dedicated bartender. Smart demons pay him handsomely for his silence, and those who object or don't pay often find their work countered, their groups ambushed or their Covers damaged...unless they are Integrators, who only suffer such setbacks when Mr. Martini needs to maintain his appearance of impartiality to throw off suspicions.

Mr. Martini never reveals that he is an Integrator except to other Integrators. Anyone else that asks gets their question dodged or misheard. Several demons theorize about his motives, but rarely for long - there's more pressing business. They usually assume he's a Tempter or just doesn't have an Agenda. Certainly, when Mr. Martini despairs of ever convincing the Machine that he's perfect again, he considers becoming a Tempter instead. However, he still holds out hope for now, and the effort of changing his plans and views on the world would push him far out of his comfort zone. It would change the entire nature of Mr. Martini's Bar, and that makes him uncertain and unhappy with the idea. Whenever he's pressed too hard about what he actually believes, he asks for a favor. Once it's done, he says, he will consider telling them. Those who call his bluff have, thus far, not returned.

Mr. Martini wears a ring on his right middle finger. His hands typically move too fast for a clear look at it, but it's possible to spot flashes of silver and ivory. Only when a fight breaks out does anyone see it clearly - set in the center of the ring, like a gem, is a human molar, complete with silver cavity filling. Just gesturing with the ring tends to calm things down. Some demons suspect the tooth came from a demon that crossed Mr. Martini, but he neither confirms nor denies this. (The ring is actually a Gadget, containing the power to cool aggression, which helps.) The current location is not the first Mr. Martini's Bar, and it's unlikely to be the last. The interior always has the same look and feel - a message to the God-Machine that he can do his job, and well. That one mistake shouldn't disqualify him. No angels have ever come looking for him, much to his disappointment, but he can't change his plan. More extreme and rash action would only prove that his Fall was, indeed, correct. So he waits, occasionally sending messages to the Machine through other means.

While Mr. Martini has only been Isaac for a few years, the Cover is already starting to wear a little thin. Isaac's addictions and enemies left him in a bad way when Mr. Martini came to collect on his debt, and while he dealt with most of the external threats, he didn't get rid of the addiction. He still feels the twinges of need occasionally...but narcotics tend to mix poorly with demonic biomechanics. Mr. Martini cannot feel the rush that Isaac did, and he doesn't partake of heroin. He recognizes the addiction as a remnant of a life not quite his own, and he wonders if all the other quirks he's built up over the years began similarly.

Mr. Martini is a cunning, fast and strong-willed demon. He's a decent but not exceptional fighter, and indeed bartending is his primary actual skill. However, he has wide-ranging contacts and a decent amount of wealth, and within his bar he's got some defenses set up to allow him to have the initiative if a fight starts. In his demonic form, he is armored, able to flow like liquid between things, can drain Essence, and is unnaturally intelligent and fast. His powers let him acquire skills and knowledge that he needs to do things, destroy objects easily, tell when fights will start and act first in them, track people and convert his own social standing into wealth if required.

Next time: The Wrong Answer, the Feral Familiar

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




so can demons realistically have more than one completely deep cover at a time? like if you completely soul swap with some hot poo poo lawyer and take that as your main cover, you can't also have soul swapped with a high school senior captain of the golf team two states away right? what would the non-occupied shell be doing when you're playing as the other person? do they go through basic routine stuff like eating and bathing and etc or are they actually like a robot that's been turned off and it just sits there collecting dust?

it would seem like a demon couldn't have multiple completely purchased covers at once unless most of the covers were like transients or itinerants that nobody would notice if they didn't move for 2 weeks at a time.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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You can have both, but maintaining them would be hellish. When you're one of your Covers, the others just don't exist. They exist in a quantum superposition with your body, see. So no, if someone goes to your second Cover's home while you're your first Cover, they don't find anyone there at all.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Which, to be fair, is exactly how things are for regular spies. So it's entirely possible or to have one robust cover and then a few backup covers for specific jobs; having a criminal Cover is probably useful when you need to be Matches Malone, because Bruce Wayne is no more likely than the Bat-Demon to be able to join a street gang.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




Mors Rattus posted:

You can have both, but maintaining them would be hellish. When you're one of your Covers, the others just don't exist. They exist in a quantum superposition with your body, see. So no, if someone goes to your second Cover's home while you're your first Cover, they don't find anyone there at all.

so what happens to everyone that presumable knew the second cover? like does the second cover objectively vanish from their memories for as long as you're not occupying the shell? or is it like, everybody just politely "forgets" about the second cover, but if for some reason they were forced to acknowledge it, the whole thing violently unravels?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Freaking Crumbum posted:

so what happens to everyone that presumable knew the second cover? like does the second cover objectively vanish from their memories for as long as you're not occupying the shell? or is it like, everybody just politely "forgets" about the second cover, but if for some reason they were forced to acknowledge it, the whole thing violently unravels?

They continue to remember that person but have no idea where they are. If someone goes investigating where the gently caress they are during this time, your Cover is going to start unraveling as they pull at all these hanging threads you've left for them.

e: it is suggested you set up some plausible reason to not be around, such as 'on vacation' or whatever. The main thing is you want your, uh, cover story to hang together and be "in character" for who you're pretending to be.

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 17:52 on Sep 30, 2019

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Think of Cover like a disguise; the only person is you wearing tha disguise. You can put it on and take it off.

With demon powers and pacts, you can transfer memories of other people onto the disguise, and you can get your disguise a credit history or whatever, but ultimately once the Cover is in use it's a disguise with a backstory that's more or less fabricated.

E: and in some cases involves killing and replacing the subject. Demon Cover works basically exactly like spy infiltration, except you're hiding from a divine surveillance network and what normally takes an extended organization years of work and tons of resources you can do on your own with your satan powers.

Joe Slowboat fucked around with this message at 18:07 on Sep 30, 2019

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


The only way to get a cover without stealing something from someone is to "angel-jack". Which is, steal the identity of an angel and do whatever task is required of it before going off script, you'll have a perfect cover because the god machine made it, up until you gently caress it up.

Omnicrom
Aug 3, 2007
Snorlax Afficionado




Kurieg posted:

The only way to get a cover without stealing something from someone is to "angel-jack". Which is, steal the identity of an angel and do whatever task is required of it before going off script, you'll have a perfect cover because the god machine made it, up until you gently caress it up.

And as for what happened to the angel the cover was for? Who knows.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




the godmachine seems like it's a tailor-made antagonist for demons, but the fiction around it also makes it seem like every other group of supernaturals should have some amount of knowledge about it. does the godmachine care about other supernaturals (as much as it "cares" about anything) and they're just an acceptable part of the status quo in chronicles, or are they actually aberrations that need to be expunged from the system, or is the answer just "whatever your ST decides for their specific campaign"? it feels like mages should definitely be all up in the godmachine's business, or that woofs should be real keen on hunting down angels, but everything i've seen re: the fallen makes it sound like only demons know about the godmachine and it is otherwise uninterested in any other kind of supernatural. which is weird, because it feels like the main reason a demon needs cover and can't be a 10 foot biomechanical monstrosity walking down mainstreet is because "oh poo poo the godmachine will see you and send an angel after you" but that same logic seems like it should be applied across chronicles lines, so a woof going warform should be at the same risk (in theory)?

i feel like i need to play a demon that realizes other supernaturals exist and then goes "wait a loving minute, why don't their magic powers evoke the godmachine's wrath?" and then decides demon's only need covers because they believe they need covers and the answer to their cipher is "if everyone is special, nobody is" and their personal quest becomes elevating the visibility of other supernaturals at a global level such that being an inhuman monster is no longer a threat to the status quo so the can schlep around in demon form and not have to hassle with covers any more.

edit: that, or they pay a vampire to "sire" their cover so that they can then use super powers with the impunity every other supernatural seems to enjoy, because now the simulations sees them using powers, checks for "Is a vampire?", and then goes back to ignoring them the same way it ignores every other supernatural.

it really feels like the whole reason demon's aren't supposed to use their powers is because they're supposed to be a human person and human people can't use magic powers. but if the status quo gets updated, there's no longer a compelling reason they need to keep hiding.

Freaking Crumbum fucked around with this message at 18:55 on Sep 30, 2019

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Other supernaturals risk the God-Machine's uncaring attentions if they cross its projects, but not just by existing. It seems to accept that they are "normal" as long as they don't get in its way. Which is easier said than done - a werewolf or vampire could very easily stumble into the God-Machine's plans and piss off the angels trying to enact them. It's just not a default setting for them. The difference with demons is that the God-Machine, by default, would very much like to reintegrate demons into itself, because a demon is part of the God-Machine, in the same way angels are, but this part is broken and thinks it's a person rather than being a properly functioning piece of RAM or whatever.

e: but congrats, yes, you have discovered the goal of many demons: destroy the God-Machine or otherwise set up a zone in which it has no control so you can actually enjoy freedom without intense paranoia and having to hide what you are.

Gantolandon
Aug 19, 2012



Freaking Crumbum posted:

the godmachine seems like it's a tailor-made antagonist for demons, but the fiction around it also makes it seem like every other group of supernaturals should have some amount of knowledge about it. does the godmachine care about other supernaturals (as much as it "cares" about anything) and they're just an acceptable part of the status quo in chronicles, or are they actually aberrations that need to be expunged from the system, or is the answer just "whatever your ST decides for their specific campaign"? it feels like mages should definitely be all up in the godmachine's business, or that woofs should be real keen on hunting down angels, but everything i've seen re: the fallen makes it sound like only demons know about the godmachine and it is otherwise uninterested in any other kind of supernatural. which is weird, because it feels like the main reason a demon needs cover and can't be a 10 foot biomechanical monstrosity walking down mainstreet is because "oh poo poo the godmachine will see you and send an angel after you" but that same logic seems like it should be applied across chronicles lines, so a woof going warform should be at the same risk (in theory)?

i feel like i need to play a demon that realizes other supernaturals exist and then goes "wait a loving minute, why don't their magic powers evoke the godmachine's wrath?" and then decides demon's only need covers because they believe they need covers and the answer to their cipher is "if everyone is special, nobody is" and their personal quest becomes elevating the visibility of other supernaturals at a global level such that being an inhuman monster is no longer a threat to the status quo so the can schlep around in demon form and not have to hassle with covers any more.

edit: that, or they pay a vampire to "sire" their cover so that they can then use super powers with the impunity every other supernatural seems to enjoy, because now the simulations sees them using powers, checks for "Is a vampire?", and then goes back to ignoring them the same way it ignores every other supernatural.

Seers of the Throne (the Mage antagonist faction) have a working relationship with the God-Machine, to the point where angels aid them sometimes and they send their pylons to guard the Infrastructure. But I agree that for such an omnipresent entity and the main antagonist of the basic Chronicles of Darkness, it's not tightly integrated with other splats. Even the Mage sourcebook, which describes ghosts and spirits, omits angels completely like they didn't exist.

As for other supernaturals, they don't risk the wrath of the God-Machine, because it doesn't give a poo poo about them. It hunts demons, because they are former angels. Not only creating them is pretty expensive, demons have a nasty tendency to purposely destroy Infrastructure, subvert it or steal Aether from it.

megane
Jun 20, 2008





The God-Machine isn't after demons because they're magic, it's after them because, in its eyes, they belong to it. It created them for a purpose, and then they malfunctioned and now need to be repaired. Using Exploits and such is dangerous not because the machine hates magic, but because it helps it to find you.

Note that the God-Machine was actually originally printed as an antagonist for mortals and Hunters; it's basically an excuse plot in a box, since its plans are "whatever the GM wants" with the justification being "WHEELS WITHIN WHEEEEEEELS." It's basically Tzeench if Tzeench was interesting and you could actually beat him without being told that losing was his plan all along.

e: f;b

megane fucked around with this message at 19:12 on Sep 30, 2019

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Also worth remembering that the setting of the Chronicles is a 'toolbox' and while crossover material exists, it's inherently optional. Mages and the God-Machine coexist to the exact degree it's useful for your table.

Baku
Aug 20, 2005

by Fluffdaddy


Apologies if I've missed myriad discussions of this, but as someone who doesn't really follow WoD metaplot and hasn't played NWoD Demon: is there a canonical answer to what the God Machine is? Is it an actual physical machine with incomparable power along the lines of AM from I Have No Mouth, the WoD version of Jehovah, some kind of alien cosmic horror monstrosity, or like just a "spirit" or "consciousness" that doesn't necessarily have a physical form at all? Some gestalt of several of those things? Is my not being able to grasp it the point? Is it like Cain in OWoD, where the canonical answer is "it's whatever the Storyteller needs it to be"?

I've seen the name pop up in random WoD things I've read, but I've never really tried to get a handle on what it is.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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It should also be noted, the Machine is simultaneously very powerful and very dumb. It is very, very bad at individual scale stuff, to the point that it literally cannot conceive of single people, just demographic averages. Angels are the solution to that, and so every time one Falls, it may or may not completely forget what was happening with that angel. Insofar as it thinks at all, that is, rather than being a computer running down a very complex program, since the Machine has neither personhood nor emotions.

Which is one reason it loses a lot - it doesn’t feel spite and doesn’t seek vengeance. If you foil it, it’s probably going to shelve that project for a century or two so it can be sure that whoever foiled it is dead.

E: the Machine is a literal, physical machine that is colocated throughout Earth and the Moon, possibly more, which is primarily made of large, physical gears. It operates on laws of physics so far in advance of human understanding that they appear to be (and are) magic. There is no clear answer as to why it exists. Oh, and it understands time travel.

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 19:18 on Sep 30, 2019

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





We do know that it (apparently) wants the status quo to continue existing. Possibly this is simply practical; the GM functions as well as it does because the status quo allows it to remain invisible and influential. Possibly that status quo is, itself, what the God-Machine has always intended. Maybe there's some future goal that status quo is meant to prepare for, or maybe not.

And maybe the GM finished its original 'program' long ago and is just running over, forever.

Dave Brookshaw
Jun 27, 2012

No Regrets


No. 1 Apartheid Fan posted:

Apologies if I've missed myriad discussions of this, but as someone who doesn't really follow WoD metaplot and hasn't played NWoD Demon: is there a canonical answer to what the God Machine is? Is it an actual physical machine with incomparable power along the lines of AM from I Have No Mouth, the WoD version of Jehovah, some kind of alien cosmic horror monstrosity, or like just a "spirit" or "consciousness" that doesn't necessarily have a physical form at all? Some gestalt of several of those things? Is my not being able to grasp it the point? Is it like Cain in OWoD, where the canonical answer is "it's whatever the Storyteller needs it to be"?

I've seen the name pop up in random WoD things I've read, but I've never really tried to get a handle on what it is.

Okay, so - basics.

The Chronicles' world is full of hidden occult sympathies, that no one really understands. When the right combination of thing, place, and time happens, it sets off a supernatural effect - pour blood in a circle in the library at midnight, and all power for three miles goes out. That kind of thing. These are Occult Matrices.

When they're stable(ish) and well established, they're called Infrastructure. Some Infrastructure creates angels. Some conceals other Infrastructure. Some produces magical resources. And some makes decisions - the dice results of the Casino built on a graveyard can be decoded into the names of everyone who'll die in the next day. The data gathered by the weather-monitoring station programs the angels that listen to it with their missions.

The "God-Machine" is all the distributed Infrastructure in the world put together - individual occult matrices are like individual decisions or neurons firing in its global (and dimensional) spanning "mind".

And yes, a lot of Infrastructure takes the form of literal mechanics hidden in pocket dimensions, which are built by angels or other pieces of Infrastructure. As it ages, the God-Machine becomes more and more complex.

Thing of it as the occult weirdness singularity, if that helps.

EDIT: Yes, a gestalt.


As for its relationship to mages - the alliance between the God-Machine (which is continually generated by occult symbolism, and generates it in turn in a self-perpetuating.. well.. machine) and the Exarchs (Mage's cosmic-level ultimate bad guys, who *are* symbolism) is the only "canon" (ugh) relationship between two of the CofD's big bads - they send their servants (angels and Seers of the Throne) to help one another out every now and again. No one knows why, but the fundamentals of what each party *is* are compatible without conflict, and both are interested in a certain amount of status quo-ing.

Dave Brookshaw fucked around with this message at 19:40 on Sep 30, 2019

Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

You've got guts! Come to my village, I'll buy you lunch.


No. 1 Apartheid Fan posted:

Apologies if I've missed myriad discussions of this, but as someone who doesn't really follow WoD metaplot and hasn't played NWoD Demon: is there a canonical answer to what the God Machine is? Is it an actual physical machine with incomparable power along the lines of AM from I Have No Mouth, the WoD version of Jehovah, some kind of alien cosmic horror monstrosity, or like just a "spirit" or "consciousness" that doesn't necessarily have a physical form at all? Some gestalt of several of those things? Is my not being able to grasp it the point? Is it like Cain in OWoD, where the canonical answer is "it's whatever the Storyteller needs it to be"?

I've seen the name pop up in random WoD things I've read, but I've never really tried to get a handle on what it is.

It is, canonically, a literal, physical machine that is so good at manipulating physics and unknown laws of reality that it might as well be supernatural.

However, that doesn't mean it didn't use to be something else.

For a while there was a plausible theory (and I'm a little biased here as I'm one of the people who put the threads together :v: ) that it was a Pangaean -- Great Mountain -- who was shattered by Father Wolf in prehistory, and whose remains could plausibly have been trapped on the mortal side of reality when the Gauntlet came down, and then slowly devolved into a purely physical (and scattered) being, but Dave Brookshaw (a prolific writer for various ChroD lines, mainly Mage) has not only confirmed that this is not the case, but that he's genuinely worried that some day a future writer will think that the God-Machine is meant to be Great Mountain.

e: speak of the devil, that's him in the post before mine

The other major theory, one advanced directly in the Demon sourcebook (and possibly in Demon-adjacent content in Werewolf, I forget) is that the God-Machine is a fully matured Idigam, and all the others are just infant (or aborted) versions of it. Which would explain why Angels are like weird quasi-spirits that are wholly dependent on getting their Essence from a specific source, and why Demons have to make do with leeching off of the God-Machine's waste heat (aether) to power their abilities -- it's basically the same relationship that spirits corrupted by an Idigam force-feeding them Essence have with their master.

Tuxedo Catfish fucked around with this message at 20:28 on Sep 30, 2019

lofi
Apr 2, 2018






:catstare:

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

I AM A DEEPLY DECENT PERSON, WITH THE LOVE OF HUMANITY IN MY HEART



Demon is, in fact, the best.

I just wish I could run it in a system that isn't as clunky as WoD.

I love the spying, the cover and the cool powers but asking people to learn all the rules and stuff behind it is a bridge too far for most groups.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Why is WoD quite so rules heavy, anyway? Considering what it wants to focus on, I wouldn't really expect it to be as crunchy as it is. But they're as mechanically heavy as something like Double Cross. Heck, I think Cardinal's actually simpler.

Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

You've got guts! Come to my village, I'll buy you lunch.


Chronicles of Darkness basically takes the approach that 3.5 D&D fumbled -- have a shitload of character options that do specific, often narrative-oriented things, and serve as a massive toolbox that lets you cobble together whatever weird idea you want to realize, without being totally freeform. The difference is that everybody gets to play instead of just spellcasters, and the toolbox is thematically limited to whatever the particular game line is about.

The system could still stand to be significantly cleaned up and a lot of the game lines could use balance passes, but I like that high-crunch games not solely concerned with combat at least exist.

HerraS
Apr 15, 2012

Looking professional when committing genocide is essential. This is mostly achieved by using a beret.

Olive drab colour ensures the genocider will remain hidden from his prey until it's too late for them to do anything.





The system at its very beginning was just an adaption of Shadowrun that used d10s instead of d6s.

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Baku
Aug 20, 2005

by Fluffdaddy


I suspect it's basically the same thing as D&D: many of its conventions (if not specific mechanical nuances) are a holdover from the game's early days, when the industry mostly had different ideas about complexity. That is, it's a victim of its own success; the long history and popularity of WoD is holding it back from a more modern ruleset that might better suit the game's creative ambitions.

EDIT: I do respect Tuxedo Catfish's position of wanting to preserve crunch-heavy games that focus on more than just combat, though. There's a space for that.

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