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Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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

Man. Why isn't one of the default adventures for Never Going Home just "The Thing set in Verdun".


Feb 13, 2012

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

Hostile V posted:

Man. Why isn't one of the default adventures for Never Going Home just "The Thing set in Verdun".

"The Thing but it gets clipped by artillery very early and the rest of the story is just everyone being insanely paranoid in addition to being shot at."

Apr 20, 2003

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

Night10194 posted:

For the Wall it would be the way it was written, mostly ignored after being written, and then quietly removed in an errata, actually. That's what says to me it was 'Oh, this was way more horrible than we intended it to be'.

But yes, I'm not as experienced in the Forgotten Realms as other settings; I haven't used them since I was in High School, and then I only did so really because I'd played Baldur's Gate. So I'm probably wrong on some things. But the Wall definitely hit me as 'we went too hard' considering how it was written out.

Ahh, I got you. It was only recently removed, and I don't think it was ignored so much as it was just something that didn't come up often. It's in stuff like the 3E campaign guide, so it wasn't being hidden. And I think if there was an editorial decision to write it out during 2E-4E's runs, there would have been a novel or three about it. :v:

Jul 12, 2021

EimiYoshikawa posted:

It was the Cleric's Canticle, yeah.

The "grenade launcher" was a custom crossbow with quarrels tipped with ampoules filled with explosive oil he'd make himself or something ridiculous like that.

He also had a combat yo-yo.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007

EimiYoshikawa posted:

It was the Cleric's Canticle, yeah.

The "grenade launcher" was a custom crossbow with quarrels tipped with ampoules filled with explosive oil he'd make himself or something ridiculous like that.
Don't even need oil. Thumb-sized clay pot with Fire Trap caat on it.

Then get a dozen of those tiny pots, each seperately trapped, and goo them together into a baseball-sized ball of death.

Dec 22, 2003

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

Wheeljack posted:

He also had a combat yo-yo.
I'm starting to suspect that the Cleric class was created based on garbled stories of gonzo sukeban exploitation movies, much as the Monk was invented to let someone be the dude from Kung Fu.

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

Nessus posted:

I'm starting to suspect that the Cleric class was created based on garbled stories of gonzo sukeban exploitation movies, much as the Monk was invented to let someone be the dude from Kung Fu.
IIRC, the cleric is pretty much a mixture of the puritan witch hunter and Van Helsing from assorted Hammer horror movies.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

Night10194 posted:

For the Wall it would be the way it was written, mostly ignored after being written, and then quietly removed in an errata, actually. That's what says to me it was 'Oh, this was way more horrible than we intended it to be'.

I'm wondering if the change is less of an FR thing and more of a 5th edition thing. One of the things that 5th edition stresses is that you can be a cleric or paladin without believing in a god. I think this was in previous versions too, but they're stressing it more now. And now that Forgotten Realms has become the default campaign setting, im wondering if that has something to do with deemphasizing the Wall of the Faithless.

Epicurius fucked around with this message at 14:52 on Sep 10, 2021

Sep 20, 2017

i feel like the wall of the faithless would work great for a Time of Troubles campaign where the party slowly realizes how petty and terrible the gods are and elect to kill them

i think i've been reading about too many jrpgs or something

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Nov 12, 2020

Hostile V posted:

Man. Why isn't one of the default adventures for Never Going Home just "The Thing set in Verdun".

It's such an obvious, easy introductory adventure that I'm surprised it wasn't done either. Especially a better introduction than that godforsaken reporter escort adventure. Straightforward concept that players will immediately understand, solid horror themes, not so high on the weirdness as to make a GM struggle. Perfect to get players on board. It's like how the ideal start for Monster of the Week is a classic horror villain, so players can ease in with tropes they already know to get into the swing of things.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Lemony posted:

3:16 Carnage Among The Stars - Part 1

Published in 2009 and authored by Gregory Hutton, who as far as I am aware has not written anything else of particular note (though I do actually also own a copy of his other game Remember Tomorrow). This is a military SciFi game and is not subtle about it. Theme wise it might be considered a mashup of Starship Troopers, Aliens and Warhammer 40k. It is, in my opinion, a flawed gem of a game and well worth looking at. In many ways, I would say that it was at least as influential in developing how I looked at and played RPG's as Apocalypse World (which I purchased and read at the same time incidentally). It does a bunch of things right; has a tight relationship between theme, mechanics and gameplay; a clever emergent meta element to play; and some generally solid and interesting minimalist design choices that were different from anything I had read prior. It also has some real flaws. I ran a single full campaign of this for my play group. I enjoyed it and don't regret having played it, but I also have no real desire to play it again.
I haven't played 3:16, but it was a game that really illustrated for me how in any "traditional" game where the PCs go through a loop of struggling, gaining XP, and getting better stats and equipment, it ultimately has to culminate in going out of the loop.

Buck Wildman
Mar 30, 2010

I am Metango, Galactic Governor

Grimey Drawer

get smoked god

Sep 12, 2017

Defective, dumb, and self-destructive.
This metaphor is getting a little heavy-handed.

Wheeljack posted:

He also had a combat yo-yo.

Oh god, how did I forget that

Nov 12, 2020

Never Going Home - Once More Unto the Breach
The Corpse Factory, Part 2

Briefing, round two. Your commander's arrived in Evergnicourt, and they have the map from Braun - whether he's alive, dead, or too well-hidden of a body to have ever actually found the map. Brief info-dump follows; Germans are bundling their dead together and shipping them by train back to the "Corpse Factory" east of Cologne. The plan's to get photographic evidence of what's happening at the Factory, and to destroy it after there's documentation; "GHQ thinks we can bring the Chinese onto our side if you can get the intel we need out of that factory." (This is another bit pulled from the historical propaganda - General Charteris claimed to have invented the story to get the Chinese involved in the war, but the story predates Charteris' involvement with it and came out of newspapers instead.) So in short, stealth mission that can turn hot at any time, getting photos of the inside and getting out alive with them. Simple enough, right?

The Journey here... sucks, frankly. Journeys are intended to have introspective scenes of downtime in between the battlefield scenes that make up most of the game. But here, the journey question is "how do you sneak on board the train and stay undetected" (paraphrased), with no attention paid to the narrative suit mechanics. Depending on how many cards of different suits you get, you get different hints of information or a couple pieces of equipment up to and including an MG 08. The equipment you bring into missions has no real rules on what you can take, but these are outside of the regular equipment list and... I guess a neat touch. In practice they don't make a huge difference, aside from "there's a flak cannon on the train" which might turn out to be useful at the end if the GM's feeling helpful. The players disembark from the train before it reaches the factory, leaving them with their mission - get in past the electric fence, through the courtyard, and into the factory.

The Corpse Factory incorporates random encounters and stealth mechanics that don't exist in the base game. The only encounter is a patrol of two soldiers and a Teufelshunde, which...


This twisted, overly-muscled Doberman Pinscher drips a necrotizing poison from its serrated fangs, enhanced fur bristling to protect it from blade and bullet.
Yeah. Nasty. Base of 3 pips in Investigation and enough Smarts to boost it to 5, and an absurd 4 pips + 4 Brawn for Melee, Athletics, and Stealth to ensure no matter what, it will reach you and it will absolutely destroy you. If it hits you, you have a TN 4 test to make or else you suffer 3 damage to Brawn over 3 turns; this will kill the average PC guaranteed. The soldiers themselves are less of a threat, though they do have guns.

Random encounters are just a flat 1d6, patrol appears on a 6; stealth is the party's highest Stealth roll versus the "devil dog" in the patrol's Investigation. It's about as minimal as you can get it while still having a system. The other subsystems are taking the photographs and the Elendbombe timer; photographs are a flat 1d6, success on 5-6 (4-6 if Smarts + Guts is 5 or higher), that have no real consequence to failure besides "try again over and over", and the Elendbombe timer is a boss mechanic we'll get to towards the end. None of these subsystems really add much, and the roll to take a photograph in particular is annoying considering the best result requires taking nine (!) of them, including enemies that are going to try and kill you.

Zero attention is paid whatsoever to the fence or the yard, nor what obstacles you might face getting through them, despite this being the highest-risk part of the whole thing. The actual factory is laid out in nodes that form a T shape, sticking you pretty much on one line till you get there. No entrances are described besides the receiving bay that the train enters at; no side doors, no scaling the building, nothing but following the same path as the bodies do. The receiving bay is full of workers and soldiers, too, which makes it hard to navigate by any logic. The bodies get offloaded here and loaded onto ceiling tracks in the loading dock, that carries them upwards and onwards. Loading dock, of course, is also full of people but with no descriptions.

The next stop on our rails is the Disinfection Chamber, where the bodies get sprayed with chemical disinfectants; if players get hit with industrial-strength disinfectant with no PPE whatsoever, in a room where the technicians are wearing sealed PPE, they heal any 1 damage, once. Huff bleach to heal your mind.

Moving on, we finally get to the branch with the Digestion Vats. Four giant witches' cauldrons set up to have the bodies dropped into them, where they get melted into a slurry; the bones and teeth are skimmed off and sent north, while pipes run south. Actually getting in contact with the slurry is less harmful than devil dog poison, just 1 damage per turn while exposed with no lingering effects, despite being boiling caustic chemicals and gore.

South of the vat room is the mold room, where each of the vats feeds a Doppelganger mold. Two scientists are implanting control crystals into the Doppelgangers; two have "cured" enough to fight, the rest can reach out and grab but aren't coherent enough to do much else. If the scientists are taken out, the doppelgangers stop fighting, because they're not independent yet. That's all that's here - a bunch of doppelgangers being produced, a few to fight.

North of the vat room, on the other hand, is the grinding room and the "boss" of the place. The bones skimmed off the vats get pulverized in a giant bone-woodchipper, and the bone powder feeds a giant, hate-filled blob sucking in gore and bones. Bodies are piled up around it. If it's attacked or the alarm goes off, it'll try and explode like a bomb - "the more fear and hatred it feeds on, the faster it will reach critical mass" (this has no effect, and instead it's just contingent on how many bodies it eats out of the piles, which there's no number or limit of). There's a ten-mark track for explosion, with each corpse ticking up by one and each live human ticking it up by two; the immobile blob will try to grab and eat people, but otherwise it'll eat the corpse piles near it. The only way to prevent it once it's set off is to keep causing damage with air and water-based attacks (reducing the Explode track by 1 per point of damage) until someone manages to kill it with actual damage. With 2 Armor and 6 Brawn... that's gonna take that field gun mentioned at the very beginning in the train, which depending on the GM may not even have line of sight to do so or be movable to do so. There are no maps, after all.

Funny enough, the scientists in the grinding room will actually help the PCs if it starts going off; they want to bomb London with it, not their own factory, so they'll cool it off with water to prevent it from exploding instead of fighting. If they really can't manage, they'll purge a digestion vat and hide in it, since they're enchanted with protective charms.

So what's the actual point of doing all this? Well, it's photos and destroying the place, except destroying the place is actually counterintuitively bad for the best result. As a refresher, rewards are based off of cards. Everyone gets a card for surviving, destroying the factory gets you 2 cards for the group, and for every three photos of a landmark or enemy you get (no duplicates), you get one more card for the group, up to 3 max. So a group that photographs everything successfully ends up with 5 + player count cards. Buuuut... the Elendbombe is the method of destroying the factory that the game allows, and you get a card for every box on the track that's unmarked when you kill the bomb, defusing it in the process. Potentially up to 13 + player count cards as a reward, in exchange for not destroying the factory! (There's no other method given or mechanical support for destroying the factory, besides letting the Elendbombe go off.)

Conclusion? There is no conclusion. The description of the factory is just a hard end to the module with nothing to wrap it up at all. No debriefing, no journey back. Despite the module requiring a journey back to deliver the film. I'm not a fan of how it just ends at all.

Overall? It's a weird attempt to do a mapless dungeon-crawl in a highly lethal, rules-light game with no rules for time, movement, or anything else that fits into a dungeon crawl. It's a straight line so there's no variety whatsoever till the final one-room-long branch. I do not care for it one bit.

That's the module. Happy to discuss my own play experience with it further, or field other questions.

Gatto Grigio
Feb 9, 2020

Halloween Jack posted:

What I don't understand about the FR gods is why the setting isn't cataclysmic godwar all of the time. Like, I read part of the 3e Faiths & Pantheons book, and it's full of statblocks for the gods. Including stuff like, because Kelemvor is the god of death, he's aware of every death X days before it happens, can sense all deaths within X miles, and other genuinely godlike abilities. And I was baffled because they have these statblocks for the gods, but no apparent rules or even guidelines to deal with e.g. how to fight a guy who already knows if he's gonna kill you or not, plus what stops the gods from just using these powers to their fullest extent on the mortal plane, all of the time. "Ao will get mad?"

One interesting thing I discovered while diving into Realms lore for setting material is that the Time of Troubles is not the first time the gods manifested in physical form on Faerun to do battle. There were other instances like the battles between the elf and orc gods, the divine conflict that split elves from drow, and the battle between the orc and Mulhorandi (Egyptian) pantheons, where the gods had to fight on Faerun itself and were vulnerable to actual death.

The conclusion I came to was that divine godwar was mostly off limits, but that every once in while, Ao would take the safeties off and let gods slug it out, particularly when those gods' respective cultures had a significant upheaval. Maybe having a divine Battle Royale was their way of thinning the herd when Cynosure (basically Olympus) got too full, idk.

The only difference between those conflicts and the ToT was the matter of scale. *Every* god had been forced down to the mortal plane, throwing the Realms into chaos. From there, I spun off the idea that the Tablets of Fate were ultimately a red herring, and the real mystery was that Ao had done something terribly wrong, or something else found a way to usurp their power...

This is all just me reading between the lines of various piecemeal writing, but I thought the conclusion it lead to was interesting.

Jul 27, 2010

Now With Fresh Citrus Scent!

3:16 Carnage Among The Stars - Part 2

Chapter 4 - How To Play
This chapter starts with a couple of pages of fairly basic how to roleplay type advice. It's mostly pretty generic stuff, if decent enough, so I'm going to skip over most of it.
The first thing of note is that the game generally assumes a session will cover an entire mission on one planet. That is the whole invasion from briefing to finishing off the last bug left. Basically, a session broadly consists of what you see in the film Starship Troopers. Then the 3:16 rinse and repeat with another planet and another species. There are exceptions to this that might come up of course. In the campaign I ran, the last four or five missions all took place in the same planetary system, with the Regiment fighting broadly the same aliens. At the same time, we also ran a few sessions using the expanded fighter pilot rules variants, which I might cover at the end of the book. At least, I think I still have the pdf lying around for the pilot rules.

The roleplaying advice is tilted towards narrative play, with players collaboratively adding components to the story. If everyone at the table agrees something would be cool, you just go with it. Players have veto over their own character and the GM has veto over what aliens are like and NPC Troopers/Officers.

Sessions require little prep, at least compared to many other games. The GM generates a planet, a fairly rapid process that they can randomize if they like. Details of this process will be covered later. Then the GM gives an in character mission briefing from the character's ranking officer. Once some of the characters have managed to gain some higher commissioned ranks, they might be tasked with giving the briefing.

We then jump straight to Encounters, which make up the mechanical meat of the game. Each planet/mission begins with an initial encounter and the mission narrative plays out in and around the following encounters.

The first encounter is stated to begin once the Brigade has landed on the new planet. Obviously do whatever is cool, it's pretty much obligatory to have at least one mission start the first encounter with the landing getting hosed before you even hit atmosphere. If you decide that the Brigade uses dropships for landing infantry, I highly recommend creating a named pilot or two for the players to interact with and possibly get attached to. I personally had two, the competent one and the incompetent one, then I rolled randomly each time to see which one they got assigned.

The GM starts things off by framing the scene, describing how it looks, who's there, etc. Then the GM introduces a tilt, or complication of some sort. The GM commits some threat counters and you start the encounter.

Here I have a formatting complaint. While things are all nicely cross-referenced by page number, you still need to flip back and forth frequently while trying to learn the rules. The basic rules for what threat tokens are, how many there are and how they are used, are not listed for another few pages. Further important details on threat tokens aren't until much later in the book. It really seems like having that information before you start talking about how PC's can remove them would be handy.

We now learn the basic test resolution method for 3:16. When you make a test you roll 1d10. You want to roll equal or under the relevant stat, FA or NFA. Successes are ordered highest to lowest. Opposed tests generally happen simultaneously, so if you roll a low number you might pass the check but still end up in a worse position than your opponent, if they succeeded on a higher result than you. For some reason this rule is not under its own header, but is instead meshed into the encounter rules under the dominance check.

So, Dominance Tests. This is a little bit like a cross between a standard initiative check and the engagement roll from Blades in the Dark. Players all roll NFA (keeping an eye out for bug ambushes isn't fighting!), and the GM rolls for the aliens. The results are determined by a simple chart:

PCs all successful, aliens fail: Ambush by the PCs, the highest successful roll sets the range.
Highest success is a PC: that player gets to set the initial range.
Highest success is the alien: the GM gets to set the initial range.
Everyone fails: the range is set at Far.
Aliens successful, PCs all fail: Ambush by the aliens, the GM sets the range.

Ties are resolved via mutual player agreement or a straight roll off. I didnít do this when I ran the game, but I think that if I was doing it again Iíd try using PC rank as a tiebreaker mechanic for dominance tests.

The Range that results from the dominance test is how the game handles positioning in combat encounters. Position is intentionally fluid and primarily narrative based, your actual location on a battlefield is entirely up to you to describe generally. Range is an abstraction of how that narrative interacts with the mechanics. At the start of an encounter, the PCís always begin at the same range bracket, which is always measured relative to the aliens. There are only three ranges to keep track of:

Close: Close combat and hand-to-hand fighting.
Near: At a distance optimum for most kinds of ranged weapons.
Far: Far away where weapons generally cause fewer kills.

The game recommends tracking PC ranges on the above map, using tokens or figures to represent the characters as they move between ranges. Any PC that moves part far range has left the encounter, either because they intentionally retreated or the aliens fled and caused the range to adjust. Again, Iíll cover the specifics when we hit the gear section, but weapons usually cause different numbers of kills at different ranges and some are only capable of working at certain ranges period. Since thereís only three ranges, itís usually pretty easy to work out where your character wants to be in order to maximize kills.

We also get a sidebar that clarifies how Ambushes work. When the aliens ambush the PCís, every PC trooper automatically takes 1 Kill, which is a keyword the game also uses to track character damage. Three Kills are enough to straight up kill a trooper, so that is actually a fairly impactful hit. Narratively, one can also assume that various NPCís just got wrecked. The aliens then get to pick their range, presumably whichever is most optimal for them.

If the PCís manage to trigger their own ambush instead, the PC who rolled best gets to pick the range and every PC then gets a chance to cause Kills. Everyone rolls an unmodified d10, then acts from highest to lowest. When you act, you get to roll to cause Kills as per your weapon and established range. If the aliens in the encounter run out of threat tokens before a PC gets to act, too bad, they donít get to make any Kills. Shouldnít have been so slow I guess. In my experience, when an ambush is triggered by PCís, there generally arenít any aliens left at the end of the ambush phase.

The usual outcome of a successful ambush by PC's. Unscathed troopers surrounded by a fine mist of vaporized xenos.

Right, so now that youíve established Dominance and Range, you get to the meat of Encounters: Combat Rounds and Turns. These are exactly what you would expect. Each Combat Round consists of each PC and the aliens taking a Turn. Once everyone has acted on their turn, you start a new Round if the combat hasnít ended.

The sequence of a Round is as follows:

  • Each player decides and declares what action they will take and which of the two stats (FA and NFA) they will use for it. The GM then declares the alien action, which always uses Alien Ability, or AA. Players are free to change declared intent at this stage based on actions the other players have decided on, so thereís no trap moments for declaring first.
  • Everyone, including the GM, rolls a single d10.
  • Everyone compares their roll to their chosen stat to determine success. Success is any number equal to or less than your ability score. A fail is any number higher than your ability.
  • Successes then take turns, in order of highest to lowest die roll. Successes have the following effects:
    FA: Remove one Threat Token and cause Kills. Roll for your weapon at the set range and describe what happens.
    NFA: Achieve the task attempted, which can be pretty much anything that isnít explicitly and directly killing something. Describe what happens. The basic example given is for your PC to change their range by one step, presumably either to optimize a future Kill roll on a weapon, or to retreat. This example is actually a bit dumb in terms of the games action economy, as weíll see in a moment.
    AA: The GM causes a Kill to each PC who either failed, or who rolled equal to or less than the aliens. Describe the ensuing carnage.

    Alternately, everyone has access to the following option on their turn, including the GM:
    Cancel your own success so that everyone yet to act in the round now ďfailsĒ. Describe how this happens. The text indicates that this is primarily useful when aliens will otherwise kill your buddies.

    Ties do not cancel each other and Kills occur simultaneously. Straight rolloffs are used to see who goes first if you need to for any reason.

    If you succeed on FA/AA before your opponent, you may also change your range by one step at the end of your turn, for free. Remember above where you can use NFA to spend a whole turn changing range? Sure you can do that, while all your buddies rack up kills like mad. Better hope your NFA is good so that you donít totally waste the turn. Or you could just have a good FA score and get movement for free anyhow. This is actually related to a core complaint I have with how FA and NFA are balanced, but Iíll dive into that at the end of the review.

    Each PC has a default weapon they carry into encounters, this can be changed during an encounter with an NFA roll. As above, this is slow (and can potentially fail if you botch the roll), so you generally want to avoid it if at all possible. Exceptions to this rule exist however, Hand-to-Hand, Powerclaw or Grenades can be switched to freely. In my play experience, grenades are very, very powerful; in part due to this rule. The accidental friendly fire AOE is just icing on the cake.
  • Failures act in order of highest to lowest roll. You basically just get to add some colour commentary describing how you fail.
  • Go back to step 1 again. Alternately, combat ends when the troopers or aliens are all dead, one side manages to successfully flee the combat zone, a PC uses a Strength, no Kills occur on either side for three rounds (I canít see this ever happening honestly, but I understand why youíd include it), or some other event ends the combat.

Here we get a sidebar actually detailing what a Kill mechanically is, at least in relation to aliens. When you succeed on an FA roll in combat, so long as you are using a weapon at the appropriate range, you remove one alien threat token and score Kills. The actual number of kills is determined by the weapon/range and can be anything from 1 to 1d100. This number can actually get even higher, as we will see in the gear section.

Alien numbers in a fight are intentionally kept fluid and ill defined, specifically to cover for the fact that your players might kill 2 aliens in a round, or they might kill 600, depending on positioning and on the rolls they make during the combat.

When you score Kills, you add that number to your Kills This Mission and Total Kills score. These scores have an impact on awards, promotions and equipment requisitions. Fun fact: If you manage to completely kill another PC you still get credit for the kill, just as if you had killed an alien.

Oddly, this is also where the book details the rules for Armour and Drugs. I assume this is because it seemed relevant to the combat effects. I think it makes more sense to just mention that they can be triggered in combat and have their own rules, then refer you to the equipment section. This is what Iím going to do in this review at least. I suppose itís also possible the author wanted to get people from character creation to playing as fast as possible and you actually donít necessarily need to read the equipment section as a PC otherwise at the start of the first session. I still think itís an odd place to put these rules.

Threat Tokens are how the GM measures alien activity, balances encounters and paces missions. For each planet, the GM receives tokens equal to 5 x Number of Players. My experience is that, while this does create fast and snappy play, it also very quickly leads to there being essentially no real danger to any PC from the aliens, as they just die so quickly. It also doesnít really allow any smooth narrative build on a given planet. If I were to run this game again, I honestly think Iíd try doubling them and seeing how it went, or at least run variable multiples for different planets.

Every time a PC succeeds an FA check in combat, 1 Threat Token is removed and the player rolls for kills as applicable. Tokens are also used by the GM to activate alien Special Abilities, with every planet having a unique ability associated with it. Weíll be covering the abilities in detail later. You can immediately see that if you use 5 x Players for your tokens, that means that on any given planet each PC only needs to make 5 successful FA checks on average. If the GM wants to actually trigger any cool special stuff, that number drops rapidly. Again, that does result in fast play that lets you easily plow through at least one planet per session, but I often found it made planets feel a tad anemic sometimes. You could argue that this is thematic, with the troopers blowing through so many worlds in quick succession that they blur into one another. I feel like it negatively impacted the play experience though.

Strength and Weakness activations by PCís also remove threat tokens. Strengths end the encounter for everyone and remove all remaining threat tokens, with the PC who triggered it getting to roll once more for kills. Weaknesses only remove a single threat and only removes the triggering PC from the encounter. If any tokens are left, the other PCís are still stuck in the encounter. Both Strengths and Weaknesses trump other actions when used.

We finally get rules for how Kills impact character health. If an uninjured PC takes a Kill, they mark the next available box on the health meter. Since there are only a few levels (Uninjured, A Mess, Crippled, Dead), this makes the game feel very lethal and dangerous. Then the game tells you there are no mechanical penalties for being injured, only narrative ones. Okay, well at least youíll have to deal with accumulating damage over a planetary campaign. Wait, you donít have to do that? Oh, you actually heal one level of damage in between every encounter? Thatís not even getting into armour providing a free damage soak once per planet.
In the campaign I ran, Iím not even certain that the main PCís actually took damage the entire second half of the arc, with a few specific and exceptional exceptions. The GM actually has very little mechanical ability to hit the players with damage, even before you account for variable rolls. Combined with free healing, damage soaks and the sheer speed that PCís can mulch encounters, it was rare to see a character in any real danger at all. This is a bit of a problem, since several of the core abilities, such as Weaknesses, pretty much donít get used otherwise.

Iím not entirely sure how Iíd fix this if I ran another campaign. I think a drastic increase in the number of tokens available to the GM would help, though it might require messing with some of the other numbers related to kill counts in order to compensate for the inflated kill numbers. I also think Iíd throw in more environmental situations that can cause injury outside of combat, or via environmental effects within combat. Maybe steal a page from AW style games and place characters in positions where you establish that they can achieve a goal or objective thatís important to them, but that they will take a point of damage. These things would probably go a long way to adjusting the feel of the level of lethality to more closely match the fiction excerpts included in the book. Iím just disappointed that none of the above is even as much as mentioned as a possibility. RAW, damage happens to PCís via taking Kills in combat encounters and thatís all.

There is also a sidebar detailing emotional and exhausting wound types. They basically just get handled like other wounds, but with marking an E instead of an X. If you mark a mental wound into the dead box, your character becomes a total wreck and the nearest trooper puts a bullet into you as a mercy kill. Your health plan clearly does not include good counseling services or a pension. On the other hand, while you heal only a single physical wound between missions, you heal off all of your E wounds. So maybe you do have access to a decent therapist after all. Though, given your constant access to combat drugs, possibly just access to some real strong medication.

Once you finish the initial encounter, you run another, with the GM committing a variable number of their remaining tokens. At some point the GM will decide the upcoming encounter will be the final one for the planet and commits all remaining tokens. Once the characters have finished cleansing the planet, everyone returns to the fleet and you do Development.

Development covers all the between mission mechanical stuff. There is a condensed version of the process presented in this chapter, but the full process is covered in its own section later on. The short version of the condensed version is that characters may receive medals for actions taken during the mission. Then two characters, and only two, will get the chance to raise their FA or NFA by one and gain another Flashback slot. All characters fully heal and any player whose character was killed generates a new Trooper. Then all characters get to automatically improve the killing power of one of their current weapons. They also get to make an NFA roll to either gain a new piece of war gear, increase the killing power of a second weapon they possess or get a promotion (If available).

Chapter 5 - Flashbacks
This chapter runs us through what Strengths and Weaknesses actually are. A player can trigger one of their available Flashbacks at any time, even after the dice have been rolled but before events play out narratively.

This trooper clearly never suffers from flashbacks of any kind. Would someone suffering from flashbacks need all these combat drugs? Of course not!

Strengths are character traits or experiences that allow you to win an encounter on your terms. When you trigger a Strength, you describe a short flashback to an event in your characterís past. Keep it short and to the point, a paragraph or so, so that you arenít monopolizing the table with your novel. You then write in a short descriptive phrase in the appropriate field and cross out the availability box for that Strength. Now you have to describe how that Strength is relevant to the current situation and how it tilted events in your favour.

The given example from the book is a character who unhesitatingly shoots down an asteroid that would have destroyed their transport ship, despite knowing that the fragments will certainly kill the maintenance team working outside the ship. For the description, she writes in ďCold LogicĒ.

Mechanically, using a Strength ends the current encounter, removing all remaining committed tokens. The PC using the Strength rolls for kills with their weapon at its most effective range. They also become eligible for a promotion during Development, should they choose to pursue the opportunity.

Of note, Flashbacks cannot generally be used to trump other Flashbacks. You canít trigger one over top of another playerís attempt. Once a player has declared they are using a Flashback, they get to fully play it out without any interruption. This can cause a bit of a log jam in the final encounter, as players scramble to be the first to declare they are using a Strength and lock in that sweet final kill for the planet.

Weaknesses are mostly similar in function to Strengths. However, when you trigger a Weakness you are describing how this event causes you to personally lose. Triggering a weakness removes a single token, then removes only the triggering PC from the encounter. The game notes that this must specifically represent a loss in some way for the character, no narrating failures that are actually victories. You have some kind of defect.

The example given is for a character diagnosed with sociopathy, which led to him being forcibly enlisted in the regiment by his parents at the first available opportunity. His ďconditionĒ tends to make others uneasy around him and less prone to cover his back in danger.

Why would you ever trigger one of these, especially when doing so might make you eligible for demotion during Development? The obvious answer is that you can use a weakness when your character would otherwise have been killed. Remember, you can trigger Flashbacks after seeing the outcome of the dice. Importantly, Weaknesses also break the rule regarding trumping Flashbacks. If another character is using a Strength to target you, you are allowed to use a Weakness in response.

All Flashbacks are single use only. Once youíve filled one in, thatís it for that slot for the remainder of that characterís life. That trait becomes an unchangeable part of who they are. The game does want to note that you canít use these to define traits for other characters, just your own. They also only allow you to win or lose the immediate conflict at hand, not broader or larger scale battles. You can use them outside Encounters if you like. A lowly trooper with a poor NFA score might decide to use a Strength to come out ahead when a high ranking officer wants to charge them with a violation of military law for instance.

Those who look back at the character sheet will notice that the last Weakness listed is already filled in identically for all PCís, even though it is not yet available. Hatred For Home will come up later, but it is a nice touch to have it showing early on so that players understand that it is something that will eventually come up, so long as the character survives. Terra is a utopia, how could someone possibly hate it?

Okay, I know that Iíve been dancing around this far, far past the point you all picked up on it. The text never outright tells you Terra is bad, but it is very heavily implied through large chunks of the book. The journey of the characters from happily exterminating bugs, to contemplating how much they hate those fuckers who sent them out here, is a core part of the narrative journey. We get into it a bit more later, but Terra definitely has shades of Those Who Walk Away from Omelas. Honestly, itís not exactly high literature or anything, but I enjoy the little touch that helps prevent the game from falling straight into fascism wank fiction. The more you play, at least in theory, the more your characters/players understand that they are doing horrible things. Then you start wondering about those smiling bastards back home who told you this was all necessary. Why are you still following their orders? Why are you even bothering to genocide aliens who can barely fight back half the time? Not that it would be ethical to commit genocide anyhow, but the theoretical reason was supposed to be protecting Terra from external threats.

Incidentally, this is the one place that I think the power curve kind of works out. The further into a campaign you get, the easier each mission becomes for your characters. They start carving through aliens like soft butter, glorying in the increased kill counts. Eventually, the characters will be racking up kill counts so large that they stop caring as much. The thrill of big numbers starts to bleed away. Then they start wondering; if this is so easy, why does Terra want us out hereÖ? Itís a decent blending of mechanics and theme and dodges at least some of the 40k Space Marine problem.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007


SGT.Barkowitz is too good a person to die for Terra!

Oct 30, 2013

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

Night10194 posted:

For the Wall it would be the way it was written, mostly ignored after being written, and then quietly removed in an errata, actually. That's what says to me it was 'Oh, this was way more horrible than we intended it to be'.

But yes, I'm not as experienced in the Forgotten Realms as other settings; I haven't used them since I was in High School, and then I only did so really because I'd played Baldur's Gate. So I'm probably wrong on some things. But the Wall definitely hit me as 'we went too hard' considering how it was written out.

There's also the fact that as far as one can find out, the setting is uncertain whether animals, extremely young children, and the severely mentally infirm are also consigned to the Wall of the Faithless given their inability to recognize the concept of gods and worship. It's still bad either way, but this is a pretty big thing to not consider.

Bar Crow
Oct 10, 2012

Libertad! posted:

There's also the fact that as far as one can find out, the setting is uncertain whether animals, extremely young children, and the severely mentally infirm are also consigned to the Wall of the Faithless given their inability to recognize the concept of gods and worship. It's still bad either way, but this is a pretty big thing to not consider.

There arenít any answers for those questions because the thing is a reaction to questioning the status quo. Thinking about it defeats the purpose. The most horrific thought possible is that the atrocities of the current system are not necessary so the most terrible punishments must be reserved to those who suggest the possibility.

Jul 27, 2010

Now With Fresh Citrus Scent!

3:16 Carnage Among The Stars - Part 3

Chapter 6: Missions
This chapter mainly consists of GM advice for actually running missions. Most of it is decent, though itís missing some ideas that I think would work well for the system. The text makes it clear that you should be bending the rules to the fiction and vice versa. You should be sure to always provide context and surrounding details for any actions or rolls that occur.

They recommend you always start a mission with an in character briefing from a senior officer; establishing the stakes, broad planetary details and objectives of the initial assault. I really wish that there was more advice on this subject, because I actually think the briefings are important enough to have more than a paragraph and a half dedicated to them. They are a prime opportunity to establish the power structures and upper echelons of the Brigade, structures that your Troopers will probably eventually occupy if they survive.

Just another bug hunt.

It is suggested to trigger alien Special Abilities early, ideally in the first encounter. This gives the PCís an idea what to expect and helps set the mood for the planet going forward. They also suggest following the lead of what the PCís want to do, assuming they offer some direction. I feel this advice is a solid one for pretty much any game, but Iíve seen too many rulesets that clearly assume the opposite.

There are also suggestions for types of missions that the characters may be called upon to carry out, should you have trouble thinking of some. Generally you can just think of the plot of any given war movie, but itís nice to have some ideas for hooks.

This chapter also includes a suggested distribution for assigning Threat Tokens to encounters during the mission. Itís a decent guide, but even the book suggests that you pretty much just eyeball it based on the mission objectives, the state of the party and the narrative.

Oh, and thereís a sidebar containing rules for field promotions, should the highest ranking PC character die during a mission. Normally you can only achieve a maximum of one promotion per mission, field promotions break this rule. Iím sure nobody would ever attempt to ďaccidentally: wax a superior officer in order to secure a promotion (Nobody in my campaign did at least, they all played more or less safe with one another. I suspect the game assumes that PCís will actively seek to make kills and gain promotions at one anotherís expense, Paranoia style. It never actually lays out this expectation explicitly though.).

Chapter 7: Between Missions
Once a mission is over and the PCís head back to the fleet, the characters get access to a variety of upgrade options.

A trooper spotted in a rare moment not wearing power armour and disembowelling a xeno.

Firstly, the PC who killed the most creatures in a mission gains a level. Levels add one point of FA or NFA, as well as unlocking additional Flashback slots. This is why you might see players scramble to trigger a Strength in the final encounter of the mission. Note the wording, itís killed the most creatures, not aliens. Humans count. All other PCís roll an unmodified d10, with the highest roll also gaining a level.

Of important note, the maximum character level is 18 and abilities cannot be raised above 10. Since you basically start at level 10, this means that you cannot max out both FA and NFA. You either end up with 9 in both stats, or 10 in one and 8 in the other.

Regarding Flashback slots, there is a rule that when one PC unlocks the Hatred for Home weakness, other PCís can optionally acquire it using one of their existing weakness slots. Once one person starts hating home, it tends to spread to others.

There is a list of medals that can be awarded, with various specific requirements attached. Generally any character that meets a requirement receives the medal in question. These do nothing mechanically, but I love systems like this. They basically serve the purpose of real world medals, providing a token of recognition to encourage certain types of behaviour. Of note, the Crimson Sword is awarded for acts of extreme heroism, explicitly including being the one to remove the last threat token from a planet. Hmm, heroic genocide, we are definitely the good guys.

Everyone also gets to make a single Development roll. You can either try to gain a promotion, gain a new piece of wargear or improve one of your current weapons. Development rolls are made with NFA.
In addition to the Development roll, everyone gets to improve a weapon automatically. You cannot stack a Development roll improvement on an automatic one. A weapon can only be upgraded once per mission, if you choose the improvement Development you need to choose a different weapon to apply it to.

You can only try for a promotion if you used a Strength during the mission. If you succeed on your roll, you are promoted one step up the ranks. Troopers become Corporals. Corporals become Sergeants. Sergeants receive a commission and become Lieutenants. And so on, all the way up the chain of command.

A successful roll to gain wargear lets you pick some fancy new gear from the equipment chapter. Many of the coolest/most destructive items require you to be of a certain minimum rank. Promotions also often come with certain items by default, such as the sidearm carried by the Sergeant.

Improving a current weapon moves the weaponís kill rating at a single range up by one step. A ď-Ē symbol means that a weapon can never cause kills at that range, regardless of upgrades. Otherwise the steps are:
0 / 1 / d6 / d10 / 2d6 / 2d10 / 3d10 / d100

Weapons can only improve by two steps in a given range, with the maximum best possible profile being listed in the gear entry for it.

You can also receive demotions during this phase. If you used a weakness during the mission and you havenít just received a promotion via Development roll, another PC can nominate you for demotion. You both roll NFA. If the nominating PC wins, the targeted PC is court martialed and loses one rank. If the target wins, they tie, or they both fail, the case fails and they retain their current rank. Iím sure they wonít hold any grudges.

Chapter 8: Replacement
Hey, itís the chapter that I think my players might have used once over the whole campaign! Seriously, it is super hard to actually kill a character. Fret not, Sergeant Barkowitz is almost certainly not going to die for Terra. Suffer horrible PTSD for Terra? Probably. Poor Barkowitz, he should never have listened to that recruiter. :smith:

This technically can happen to PC troopers. It is a much more likely outcome for their NPC squadmates though.

If a character dies, the player rolls up a replacement. You get a number of stat points equal to the combined FA and NFA of the deceased character. As with initial character creation, the max you can make an ability is 10 and the minimum is 2.

The new character also has all of the same flashback slots crossed off or available, as applicable. They do get to change a Used strength back to Available though.

The new character either starts off as a trooper, or at one rank lower than the deceased character, playerís choice. You lose all your weapon upgrades though, those are just straight up gone.

Chapter 9: Higher Ranks
Once a character gets promoted above Sergeant, they receive a commission and become an officer. I really wish there was more direction on how to handle play once this occurs, since anything above Lieutenant starts running into problems with splitting the party and trying to handle the players directing the actions of other soldiers, especially if some characters are a much higher rank than others.

The GM is advised to hand the responsibility for mission briefings over to PCís once they reach a high enough rank. I felt this worked out okay in my campaign, but I still established the basics of what was coming for the final arc of the story.

Lieutenants are the most common officer rank. They are responsible for ensuring no creatures survive an encounter, as well as for enforcing discipline on lower ranks. A character in this position can be assumed to also have command over a couple of squads of regular troopers. In play, you generally end up fairly early on with a Lieutenant PC commanding a platoon with a couple of Sergeant PCís. NPC lieutenants can exist to be an officer your characters can look up to, or a dangerous idiot to be fragged. Enjoy assigning increasingly clueless or annoying officers for your players to look out for, while establishing the consequences should any harm befall them. Lt. Dipshit is related to the Colonel after all.

Lieutenants receive the same gear as a Sergeant, with the addition of a Powerclaw. This is a powerful close combat weapon. They also get access to Drop Pods and Orbital Bombardments.

Captains lead a full company of troops, generally all the soldiers on a single troop ship. Think the Roughnecks from Starship Troopers. They are under orders to ensure no creatures on the planet survive, as well as to deliver mission briefings and plan assaults.

They receive all the gear options of the Lieutenant, with the additional option of the swank PowerBlade. They also get access to the APC (think Aliens) and the TPK Bomb (Itís pretty much what it sounds like). Obviously the best part of this rank is the ability to yell "Drive me closer, I want to hit them with my sword!" This definitely won't annoy the other troopers.

Major is when you start getting into the really big stuff. You are in charge of an entire independent company. When a Major is involved in a mission, the GM gets Threat Tokens equal to the number of PCís x 6, instead of x 5. They are given the responsibility to complete important missions as directed by senior ranks. They also are ominously given the directive to never retreat.

They receive equipment as per a Captain, but also receive a Kinetic Field Armour Transmitter. Additionally, they may pick between a Flame-Gun or a Shotgun. They can deploy a Drop Ship.

A Lt. Colonel is usually the highest ranking officer you see in the field. For most regular troopers, this is probably the highest ranking officer they will ever interface with. The GM receives even more tokens for missions undertaken by this rank, equal to PCís x 7. They are tasked with overseeing the destruction of life on planets and ensuring senior ranks are kept informed of any possible insubordination.

You mostly get the same gear as a Major. However, you do get access to the Paradise Bomb. Itís not as nice as it sounds. Actually, nevermind, it sounds super ominous. Itís exactly as not nice as it sounds.

Colonel is the second highest field rank possible in the Brigade. At this level, you serve as a staff officer for the Brigadier and answer directly to them. You are responsible for identifying planets for destruction, as well as relaying details to Lt. Colonels. You are also tasked with killing those who disobey orders. Huh, thatís pretty grim.

In addition to the gear received by a Lt. Colonel, you gain access to a Starkiller device. It does what it says on the box.

The Brigadier is a stone cold fucker. He is also probably a fascist rear end in a top hat.

Brigadier is the highest available rank in the Brigade. There is only one and they are in charge of the entirety of the 16th Brigade of the 3rd Army of the Expeditionary Force. They answer only to the Terran Council and the General of the 3rd Army. Promotion to this rank requires the current rank holder to be dead. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

The Brigadier has standing order to kill all life in the cosmos, a tall order. Their final standing order, and probably the most explicit detail of the theming running under the mechanics/fluff, is to ensure that the Expeditionary Force does not return to Terra under any circumstances. For players, you probably only discover this chilling detail when you become the Brigadier, or possibly after some time as an apparently trustworthy Colonel.

The Brigadier receives gear as a Colonel, though of course they can probably acquire any regular gear they might decide they need. They also have The Device. This is a weapon capable of turning a d10-parsec area of space into a rich, star forming region. It can be used only once. It doesnít take a genius to connect the dots between The Device and that last Standing Order. (Iíve seen comments indicating many campaigns end with the players returning to Terra and triggering The Device. This didnít happen in my game, for various reasons. Still, despite my players not returning and not triggering The Device, I can see how this would frequently happen.)

May 13, 2013

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

Can't ruin the sweet life of Terra by bringing back the sons and daughters who willingly forsake her/were trash to begin with, have PTSD, and a carry a grudge!

So you're basically expected to destroy Terra after you kill off all other life in space to complete the mission?

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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

Once you're Brigadier, there's literally nothing stopping you from abandoning your mission of slaughter to turn the bus around. Terra is a false utopia committing intergalactic genocide. To some extent it makes sense and is a fitting conclusion to the whole scene that you'd return from space to take revenge, though it cements the entire thing into a pretty hard downer ending. I do like the idea of taking the entire Brigade's bomb collar and slipping it around Earth's neck but I'm legit curious: when you ran the whole game, Lemony, how did it resolve itself if it didn't go the route of revenge?

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007

Can't return to Terra if Terra doesn't exist /taps nose

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised

It feels like there's space for one more big turn to open things up, though not sure what that could be. It's not like the vast majority of the people of Earth seem to have any choice in the matter of what their authorities are doing.

Nov 8, 2009

It sounds a lot like the ending to Greg Bear's sci-fi novel Anvil of Stars, which has a very similar premise: by the end of the book, the protagonists realize that they're genocidal monsters, that Earth knew they were sending innocent children on a mission of genocide, and that they can't ever go home again. Even if they could make it home, Earth wouldn't let them in. Their presence would tear Earth apart.

Their solution at the end of the book is to say gently caress it, we're out, and head off into the cosmos looking for a planet to colonize while throwing their weapons out the airlock.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Part 6: Death After Midnight

New York, New York! You either live there, canít wait to go back there, or are sick of hearing about it. This chapter goes over the various districts, boroughs, and landmarks of NYC from the point of view of the Kin, starting with a brief history. This is a good time to say that Iíve never even visited NYC and donít know anything about it. (I was supposed to go last year, but Hellworld.) So I canít fact-check everything in here, though I will draw attention to anything that strikes me as particularly weird.

Before I get into that, though, a word on timeline. I assumed that this game was set in 1990, the year of its initial publication. But my copy--the third edition, released in 1993--refers to events in the mid-to-late 90s. A lot of this stuff is as innocuous as ďThe 1995 AIDS Walk NY set a new record for fundraising.Ē So Nightlife is set in the then-very-near-future of sometime in the late 90s.

So, history. The first prominent Kin in the city was a brothel madam named Vanessa Banyon, now known as WO Babylon. (I swear, they picked some of these names without ever saying them out loud. Who calls their friend Double-You Oh?) In the late 18th century, Kin who had lived nomadic lives in the wilderness began flocking to the city.

By 1879, there were almost 300 Kin in the city. One of these was an immigrant named Edward Goth, now known as Golgotha, who has been a vital figure in Kin society ever since. By the turn of the 20th century, concentrated urban poverty had created an environment of unchecked predation by the Kin upon the human population. Golgotha organized the 1908 summit that established the laws of the Kin known as the Tenets, or simply the Rules.

But the Kin of New York have never been one big happy family. In 1925, a group of anti-human gangs banded together in what would become the terrorist organization Red Moonrise. However, their strategy of committing random acts of violence has never been as successful in destabilizing human society as the Morningstar Corporation, a cabal of Kin financiers who helped push the stock market toward the Black Tuesday collapse that ushered in the Great Depression. Following that, the Kin havenít really affected any major world events. (Unlike some games I could name, Nightlife doesnít insinuate itself into the history of grave issues like the Holocaust or systemic racism in America.)

That said, this is followed by sections on topics like Homelessness and Crime. Some of the comments in these sections are pretty ridiculous, but its handling of urban poverty and ethnic enclaves is less alarming than a lot of what White Wolf put out. The racism in Nightlife peaks at, like, a Chinese gang named The Katanas. Good grief. The section on crime highlights a lack of crime watches as a problem, and the neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood section notes whether or not that locale has a crime watch. Crime watches are made up of the most annoying people on Nextdoor, with the occasional psycho killer like George Zimmerman.

This Budís a CHUD.

Nightlife assumes that the 1990s will bring a massive influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, which worsens the problems of unemployment and homelessness. City governmentís response is apathetic and ineffective; the only thing they really do is put up a lot of multilingual signs that are frequent targets for vandalism. (In real life, there was an influx of immigrants from post-Soviet nations, but it was hardly a massive wave.)

After this there are brief sections on mundanities like climate, population, and sports. I do like the calendar of events, which starts with the Chinese New Year and includes the AIDS Walk, Lower East Side Festival, and Fiesta de Santiago along with stuff everybody knows about, like New Yearís in Times Square. I also like the section on Transportation, which explains the street/avenue grid system and the practicalities of trains, subways, buses, and taxis.

Guide to Gotham

What follows is an overview of Manhattan, one neighbourhood at a time. Each one lists its ethnic makeup, whether it has a crimewatch, and the name of its resident City Elemental. For some reason, it also lists the police precinct number and names of local gangs. (I think they really want you to fight gimmicky gangs a la The Warriors.)

It starts with the Bowery, described as ďa reservoir where the human sewage of New York sluices down to stagnate.Ē The rest arenít so dramatic. Broadway is watched over by The Phantom, and the hottest play in town is a Frankenstein musical. Then Chinatown, where the Katanas and Beijings fight for supremacy.

The Deadlight District is the southernmost part of Tribeca. In the 80s, Golgotha hammered out a truce among warring factions that allowed them to buy out the neighbourhood and populate it almost entirely with Kin. The even mix of Kin actually works to keep the peace. Golgotha had an ulterior motive: underneath a local townhouse is a spot where the Wormholes come very close to the surface. What are Wormholes? Theyíre dungeons. The idea was that if anything apocalyptic crawls out of it, all the local Kin could immediately dogpile it.

There are sections on Harlem and East Harlem, Wall Street and the Garment District, Gramercy Park and Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side and Little Italy. At this point, Times Square is still a hive of scum and villainy, just like in the movies. But none of these have special relevance for the Kin.

Next is a series of points of interest. The landmarks are boring--Empire State Building, World Trade Center, blah blah blah. But it gets interesting when you get to the stores and nightspots.

Cathedral Fashions is a spooky Gothic castle themed fashion boutique where a lot of Kin buy their clothes, run out of a Greenwich Village basement. One block over, AJís gun shop is run by a ďCrowleyĒ who will sell illegal weapons to Kin for the right price. The Lizard King and Skynne Noire specialize in leather clothing and sex toys; the latter is owned by the leader of an anti-human Kin faction. Nearby, Spinner's record store is owned by a werewolf.

There are notes on 11 different music clubs. Few have any connection to the Kin, but the point is to give you places to set a music scene for pretty much any genre. One is a play on CBGB, and there are clubs for punk, metal, jazz, reggae, pretty much everything. The Unified Church of Industrial Chaos, an EBM club, is owned by a Vampyre. Then thereís a section on nightspots that are actually by and for the Kin.

Club AfterDark is a dingy hole-in-the-wall where Golgotha holds court and only Kin are actually welcome. Golgotha himself is usually hanging around talking, playing poker, or reading centuries-old books. AfterDark acts as a political neutral ground, but it is also a real club, with a house band called Dark Harvest and a DJ named Shagman Doctor D. Yes.

Meanwhile, Death Row is the preferred hangout for Kin who have no use for humanity. The walls are decorated with human skulls, and groups of human revelers are sometimes invited in so that they can be terrorized and possibly hunted for sport. People know the place has a bad reputation, but some are willing to risk it to see the cutting-edge rap and hardcore punk on display. Its owner, Razor, is a high-ranking member of the anti-human faction called the Complex.

The Dionysus Club is an upscale disco and art gallery owned by Helena Athenopolis, a Medusa. There are a lot of very lifelike sculptures. The Magic Bus is a Manitou-run mobile nightclub in a double-decker bus, complete with a bar, dance floor, and lounge. Itís invitation only, but Kin and humans mix freely, making it a favourite hangout for members of the Commune. Finally is a Vampyre-owned bar called the Musical Vein, which specializes in a rap/metal/jazz fusion called Resurrection. Itís detailed in a supplement.

After this, the Outer Boroughs get the same treatment as the neighbourhoods of Manhattan, with details on various parts of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and so on. Notable locations include Luttfiskís Fresh Meats, a Bronx butcher which sells raw beef to Kin who need eat flesh, Cafe Midnight, a Kin-friendly coffee shop where the local elemental hangs out, and The?, a Nazi skinhead club in Brownsville.

Finally there is a description of the Wormholes. These are networks of apparently natural tunnels, which connect to the surface only through the lowest sewer levels and access tunnels. Theyíre inhabited by creatures so terrible that even the Kin shudder to think of them, and occasionally they come up to the surface to hunt. There are monsters down there that arenít even considered Kin because they prey on Kin.

The chapter ends with a section on Drugs, which is mostly a bit of fiction where Samantha X and her human guest find the body of a teenage heroin addict. Just say no, kids!

Next Chapter: Cops, the Mafia, and Other Gangs

Halloween Jack fucked around with this message at 18:07 on Sep 24, 2021

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Age of Sigmar: Soulblight Gravelords
Blood Tells

Besides the big names at the top of the Vyrkos, there's a number of lesser Vyrkos vampires of note. Lady Annika, the Thirsting Blade, is one of the ones who is currently trying to take over Ulfenkarn in the wake of Radukar's fall. She is thin as a stick, and the animal nature that consumes her is no wolf. Rather, she reflects the thirsty bats of Shyish, making her one of the most typically Soulblight members of the Dynasty. She palys it up, spending much of her time in the Ebon Citadel complaining about lack of bad dressmakers and how bored she is. In truth, however, she's reveling in the city's state, because it lets her feed more. Her chambers are filled with desiccated corpses as she tries to feed an appetite even more voracious than that of most vampires.

Annika once served as the mistress of ceremonies for the city before Radukar took over, and at that time she was known for having very little appetite. It has grown massively since her days as a mortal, however - she feels starvation setting in only hours after she feeds to fullness. Thus, she focuses on killing her foes as quickly as she can, to give herself more time to devour them. Other Vyrkos claim she even drinks vials of blood laced with chamonite to improve her reflexes and speed, regardless of the side effects it may have on her. She makes her home in the Screaming Spires, a set of towers near the Ebon Citadel. Her minions abduct mortals from the streets en masse to keep her fed. In battle, Annika wields the Blade Proboscian, a rapier enchanted to drain the blood out of whoever it cuts. When she uses it, she is nothing like the aristocrat she pretends to be socially. The Thirsting Blade becomes a shrieking, violent monster that seeks only to coat her throat in blood.

Kritza, the Rat Prince, was also of Ulfenkarn stock - a noble who supported Radukar's rise. When the rebellion began, Kritza tried to play both sides, feigning loyalty to Radukar while feeding information to the rebel forces. This was not out of altruism, though - he just wanted to be in good in case Radukar did get overthrown, and his efforts to keep the vampire lord off his scent proved fruitless. Radukar beat the man nearly to death in a savage duel, and Kritza only escaped by feigning his own death and hiding in a corpse cart. He was lucky - he accidentally received the blood kiss, transforming him into one of the Vyrkos without Radukar intending it. He survived by devouring the blood of rats and pretending to be a corpse.

By the time Kritza got dumped into a charnel pit for plague victims, his curse had manifested itself in reflection of the rats he consumed. He fled into the sewers of Ulfenkarn, gathering his wits and preparing himself by solidifying his control over the sewer vermin of the Teeming Warrens. When Radukar was deposed, Kritza emerged from the dark to try and stake his claim in control of the city, backed by his army of rodents. He has returned to playing the role of the nobleman, using heavy Nulahmian perfume to hide the sewer smell that lingers with him always. When he is wounded and risking death, Kritza escapes by transforming himself into a swarm of rats, fleeing danger and reforming in safety. He has used this to ambush rivals before, too - he pretends to be slain, only to reform nearby and then murder his attacker from stealth.

Outside the vampires themselves, none can deny the power of the Deathrattle skeletons that work with them. Their leaders are the Wight Kings. Each one was once a mortal conqueror, warlord or ruler who controlled a grand domain in life. In death, they have lost only their flesh. They continue to rule their ancient lands, clad in rusting armor and tattered clothes. The only difference is that their people, like they themselves, are generally dead. Their nations are populated almost entirely by skeletons. Many Wight Kings remain unsatisfied with the boundaries of their rule and seek to expand their empires at the head of skeletal armies. Those they conquer are generally either enslaved until they die naturally or slain and used to reinforce the ranks of the Deathrattle. Most Wight Kings consider the living state, after all, to be fleeting and unimportant compared to the eternity of bone.

Often, the Wight Kings are less moral in death than they were in life simply because...well, being undead for eternity, consumed by the desire to rule even beyond life, tends to make it easy to think of the living as brief and meaningless things. They retain immense tactical skill even if they do not often retain a warmth for their subjects, though. They and their soldiers feel no doubt nor fatigue in their actions - each is bound by the oath to serve or the desire to rule, and it allows them to react instantly to commands and enforce them with total determination. Some Wight Kings prefer to lead from the front, such as those that hail from Aqshy and Ghur and still have the passionate desire to feel blood on their bones. Most, though, are more taciturn and cold, preferring to hold themselves back until the enemy is wavering, then revealing their personal prowess to turn the battle into a rout. The magic within their bones allows them to withstand most blows even though their armor is often ancient and rusty. Their weapons are generally quite potent as well, armed with terrible curses that can steal souls or stop hearts with a scratch.

Regardless of personal temperament, cruelty or wisdom, all Wight Kings are united in one thing: they are immensely proud and individualistic. It is required for them to keep moving. Often, they have forgotten the pleasures of life, long since dead to them, but they can never forget their pride and desire to rule, to be remembered as great kings or conquerors. Few below Nagash or the Mortarchs can even dream of binding a Wight King to their will - which is not to say that they don't try. Many vampires and necromancers underestimate the skeletal rulers, and end up paying a terrible price for attempting to enslave them as they would lesser undead. A wiser vampire instead treats the Wight Kings as equals, making alliances and swearing pacts with them for aid in exchange for granting them bodies to use as reinforcements and new lands to conquer. In return, the skeletons will aid them in battle and provide them with tactical advice. Most skeletons are quite willing to agree to such terms, though not all - the Jade Skull Emperor of the Warmsoul Uplands, for example, has famously refused to work with any vampire or necromancer, maintaining his kingdom as independent to the last. Most aren't so stubborn, as they look upon the rising Ossiarch Empire with distrust and believe they need allies.

The elite servants of the Wight Kings are the Grave Guard, champions of the Deathrattle Kingdoms. They can always be found near the Wight Kings, and in life, each one was not only one of the best warriors serving their king but also one of the most loyal. They often died in service to their master, and many swore oaths of eternal service. In Shyish or lands strong with amethyst magic, such oaths become literal. In these kingdoms, the honored dead were laid to rest in great tombs and barrows, warded with magic to keep their bones protected and alert them to the rising of their kings and emperors. When a Wight King rises, so too do his sworn protectors. They exist to protect their ruler and enforce his commands, and the Grave Guard often form the anvil protecting Deathrattle lines, breaking for nothing.

In life, the warriors of the Grave Guard were treated grandly by their kings, offered the greatest pleasures and wealth as reward for their loyalty. In death, they retain this favor, though they are often beyond mortal pleasures. Instead, they receive superior arms and armor, enchanted by the most potent curses that can be found. Their gear tends to glow with unearthly light as a result, and is often able to pierce even the armor of Chaos Warriors with ease or to snuff out souls. Grave Guard usually retain a greater sense of self than lesser Deathrattle, though it is typically bent around their consuming need to protect and fulfill their oaths. Still, it would not do if a Wight King couldn't laugh and reminisce with his servants, right? When left to their own devices, many prefer to just hang out in their barrows, standing at attention until some intruder comes in to be killed by them. Others are bound to the will of vampires, who raise them up to patrol and guard their homes.

Black Knights are the other skeletal elites, undead riders who serve as the Deathrattle shock troops. Their skeletal horses never tire, and their lances are ever strong. Momentum and strength align together into explosive impacts that can smash shield walls in seconds, and their ancient lances are empowered by the age and tradition of their kingdoms. Those foes that try to flee the Knights are their favorites, however, for the nature of the obsession that controls and animates these Deathrattle is the hunt. They cull those who flee them with a cold and clinical satisfaction.

In life, the Black Knights were landed nobles and feudal lords, each with the walth and prestige needed to arm and maintain a suitable stable. They had the honor of riding at the head of the armies, and many Wight Kings allow their Black Knights to retain this right of first charge, which tends to piss off any vampiric knights that ride alongside them. Black Knights also tend to retain a sense of pride and nobility alongside their hatred of fleeing cowards. They will refuse to salute or dip lance for those who do not earn their respect through force of arms. Of course, like all Deathrattle, they are essentially consumed by their eternal duty and so their satisfaction in the hunt and charge tend to fade quickly after battle, leaving only the grim desire to seek it out once more.

The lesser Deathrattle Skeletons form the core of both Deathrattle and Soulblight armies. There's just so many of them - anywhere you go, you can probably find the ancient dead, ready to be pulled from the earth to stand under the faded banners of old. They move in tireless and synchronized motion, heading to accomplish whatever orders they are given with neither complaint nor comment. Individually, most are not especially impressive fighters, but they are merciless, fearless and never stop. Seeing ranks upon ranks of the dead can frighten many foes, and it takes great courage to stand against a Deathrattle legion.

Besides the soldiers, skeletons also do most of the menial civilian work in the Deathrattle Kingdoms. Most of these are mindless undead, simple subjects who perform the roles assigned to them by the Wight Kings. They build, guard, farm, mine - whatever is commanded. They never stop, never think, only work and work to honor their masters. Often this is done in service to Nagash, rasiing tombs and temples to him under command of their masters in kingdoms of perfect, sterile order. They can be found in every realm - even in Ghyran, where their bones are coated in corpse-fungi and vines, or Ghur, where their remains are often patched with the bones of predatory beasts to infuse them with animal fury in battle.

Note: Deathrattle elites are confirmed playable in Champions of Death.

Next time: Zombies

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 11:47 on Sep 14, 2021

Feb 14, 2012

Everyone posted:

If you ever get the F&F big again, you could always port your Myth stuff from your blog. I admit that I'm kind of addicted to that story now and am hugely excited about the DCL stuff coming up.

I Flove that much like Karl, et al from Warhammer, Karoline's secret to staying sane and functional as a Fallen Lord is that she's a genuinely nice person who cares about other people.

Link to said blog? Could've sworn I had it bookmarked...

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007


PoontifexMacksimus posted:

Link to said blog? Could've sworn I had it bookmarked...

All your Myth dreams

May 13, 2013

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

I love the newfound skeletal sovereignty. They may lack the full humanity to have real mixed living/dead kingdoms, but hey, now the skelebros can tell a vampire to gently caress right off.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

There's room for exception case kingdoms where a Wight King actually lets living people be subjects and not just pre-skeletons, at least. They'd be rare and fairly unique but if you wanna run the Enlightened Bone King Who Loves His People there's room for it. The only actual Wight King requirement is 'must be proud and determined enough to stand back up after death and go ACTUALLY I AM IN CHARGE STILL'

Jul 27, 2010

Now With Fresh Citrus Scent!

Cythereal posted:

It sounds a lot like the ending to Greg Bear's sci-fi novel Anvil of Stars, which has a very similar premise: by the end of the book, the protagonists realize that they're genocidal monsters, that Earth knew they were sending innocent children on a mission of genocide, and that they can't ever go home again. Even if they could make it home, Earth wouldn't let them in. Their presence would tear Earth apart.

Their solution at the end of the book is to say gently caress it, we're out, and head off into the cosmos looking for a planet to colonize while throwing their weapons out the airlock.

Funny you should say that, it's not far off the mark of what my players ended up doing.

Hostile V posted:

Once you're Brigadier, there's literally nothing stopping you from abandoning your mission of slaughter to turn the bus around. Terra is a false utopia committing intergalactic genocide. To some extent it makes sense and is a fitting conclusion to the whole scene that you'd return from space to take revenge, though it cements the entire thing into a pretty hard downer ending. I do like the idea of taking the entire Brigade's bomb collar and slipping it around Earth's neck but I'm legit curious: when you ran the whole game, Lemony, how did it resolve itself if it didn't go the route of revenge?

Terra is indeed the worst. Initially it's easy to ignore because you can just buy into the premise that all this is to set up your pew pew space mans game. As soon as you subject their plan to any level of scrutiny though, it becomes clear that it's monstrous. Terra, a supposedly perfect and peaceful utopia, has decided to genocide the entire rest of the galaxy on the off chance it might make Terra a bit safer. Not only that, they've decided to wage this hellish forever war of extermination in what is putatively an attempt to protect Terra from having to fight an existential war. The entire thing is horrible and stupid all the way down.

What's somehow worse is that it turns out they aren't even doing all this out of some sort of ideology. Like, there isn't really a good reason to commit genocide, but Terra is doing it because it's convenient. They decided that exterminating countless billions of lifeforms, many of whom were sentient, was a convenient way of dealing with anyone they decided was a disruption to their supposed perfect society.

One of the character examples in the book has them having been conscripted into the Expeditionary Force due to being a sociopath. They received this diagnosis after attacking another child violently in grade school. The game eventually makes it clear you could decide to play this in different directions if you wanted. Maybe they actually are a sociopath, but does that make what society did to them okay? (The answer is no, obviously.) Alternatively, maybe they were just a child reacting poorly to a stressful situation because, you know, child. Then society stuck a label on them and they assumed that it must be true because everyone said so. And if it's true, then I guess I should act like a sociopath. If the player decides to go that route, they then get to make choices about how their character decides to develop. Maybe they choose to turn away from violence and be their own person, rather than what society told them to be.

For such a simple system it can lead to some interesting emergent play.

As for my campaign, it's been quite a few years so some of the details are a little fuzzy. I might get some things wrong or out of order. If so, apologies to any of my players who somehow end up reading this. Also, this ended up longer than intended, so feel free to skip to my next review segment if you don't want to read a synopsis of a campaign run like ten years ago.

Short version is that they actually didn't end up merking the Brigadier until right near the end of the campaign. Even then, they were doing it in large part specifically in an attempt to prevent the device from being triggered and were only partially successful. Even if they wanted to turn around and torch Terra they wouldn't have been able to. They did discuss it, but decided to strike out on their own instead.

Long version is more complicated. Around a third of the way into the campaign the group had a mission on what was supposed to be an empty paradise planet. What was supposed to be planetside R&R turned into a series of jungle combats against some kind of old robotic defence drones. The group eventually worked out the drones were Terran in origin, then they found remains that had been there a long rear end time and clearly belonged to an Expeditionary fleet that, as far as they knew, had never existed. One of the officers reported the find to the brass who instructed everyone who saw anything to shut their mouths. The officer got a promotion and the planet got nuked from orbit. That started a slow burn mutiny plot that went through the rest of the campaign.

I had decided to shake things up for the last four or five missions of the campaign. Instead of a single planet per mission, the brigade instead found itself pitted against a near peer enemy. They had been out of contact with fleet resupply for a long time by this point. The players weren't fully aware, but this was intentional. The Brigadier had decided that people knew too much and had decided to take the fleet off into unexplored space in order to grind it into the dirt. So everything was worn down, the brigade's fleet was in shambles and they were operating at well under half their nominal paper strength. Command kept making decisions that seemed wasteful (because they were), which only stoked the plans for mutiny.

The PC's were all officers by this point. By attrition, if nothing else, they commanded their own ships and companies. I think the lowest ranking character was still a Lieutenant commanding a front line platoon in another character's company. Most of the characters were of sufficient rank to attend briefings in person with the Brigadier. Most of them were at least partially involved with the mutineers and poo poo was reaching a boiling point.

It was at that point that fleet recon reported discovering a previously unknown system. The system had a couple of earthlike planets, inhabited by a relatively advanced sentient species. Their technology was deemed to be a few generations behind Terra, but they had enough numerical superiority to more or less even the odds.

They had an extensive asteroid belt littered with heavy system defence platforms and strike fighter bases. Their primary planet was protected by a heavily fortified moon which was providing a protective energy shield to the planet. Their secondary planet had a massive orbital shipyard, built ringworld style around the planet. They had a powerful fleet in system, with a large number of capital class vessels and their escorts. Finally, and most importantly, their orbital shipyards had a nearly completed giant mass accelerator of some kind. Fleet Intel indicated that the driver was pointed at Sol and would be capable of launching a payload that could crack Terra open like an egg. If nothing was done, it would likely be operational within a few months at most. Clearly they were attempting a preemptive strike on humanity!

Even the mutineer faction was more or less on board with assaulting the system. There were plenty of officers and troopers who were unhappy with how things had been going, but this was the whole reason they had joined up to begin with! Terra needed protecting and everyone was pleased to finally feel like they were actually accomplishing that goal.

To the shock of nobody reading this, and also my players since they weren't idiots, this was not the case. Through the ensuing missions and character investigations a number of things became clear.

First, the mass driver wasn't pointed anywhere near Sol. It was aimed at a totally unrelated system that appeared to have another habitable planet in it. It also was fundamentally incapable of firing off a payload even remotely like they had been told. In reality, the alien civilization had not developed FTL tech the way Terra had. Instead, they had built this massive driver to push colony ships up to near FTL speeds in order to reach and colonize this other nearby system.

Second, the fleet they encountered on system was primarily a colonization fleet. What had been reported as capital ships were primarily lightly armed civilian sleeper ships. That particular fact was discovered by the player's pilot characters when they blew one open with torpedoes and suddenly scored a poo poo ton more kills than expected. (There are variant rules, that were released independently, for playing members of the fleet air wing. I'll be covering them at the end of the core review.)

Third, they managed to uncover a bunch more info regarding the actual purpose of the various expeditions and the fate intended for them by the Brigadier. This ends up being part of what triggers the general mutiny. Ironically, this actually saves the locals from total annihilation.

Even with the fact that their fleet wasn't as heavily armed as predicted, they still had plenty of combat capable ships and system defence platforms. Their tech wasn't quite up to Terran levels, but was certainly capable of putting the hurt on. Their infantry were likewise heavily armed and tenacious, dying in droves but making the Brigade bleed for every inch. Their fleet elements, even the non combat craft, were acting with near suicidal bravado. Basically, the group realized that the aliens were basically acting like protagonists, which only makes sense when you realize that from the perspective of the aliens they were fighting a terrifying unknown foe bent on destroying their home.

Still, they would have been hosed in the end if a solid half the remaining fleet hadn't mutinied right at the tipping point. The Brigade begins tearing itself apart. The Brigadier eventually decides that poo poo has gone too far and the situation is now unrecoverable. He fires up the device, pitching it to his supporters as necessary to prevent the mutineers from winning, and also as the only way they can destroy the aliens threatening Terra, now that the fleet has been so badly damaged.

The final mission of the campaign ends up being two simultaneous missions. In one, the PC pilots have to punch a hole through the fighter screen around the Brigadier's flagship so that mutineer dropships can board it, then run interference and prevent one of the remaining loyalist capital ships from loving up the damaged rmeinaing troop transports. In the other, the PC troopers, and their various enlisted grunts, have to board the flagship. Once aboard, they need to fight their way to the Brigadier and obtain his access codes. Then they need to locate and disable the device before it kills everyone.

They gank the Brigadier when he tries to give them the old Heart of Darkness routine. They aren't quite fast enough though and aren't able to disable the device. Instead, they end up nudging the mass driver off target and launching the flagship out of the system with it. It still explodes, but far enough away that they don't die. As I recall, I hadn't planned for a specific end and thought it was a cool enough idea to work.

In the end, they decide to stay where they are. They talked about going home but decided Terra could go gently caress itself. The remaining humans from the brigade just wanted to settle down and have actual lives again. The local planets could support Terran life and the natives were willing to coexist after diplomatic contact was made and things were explained. Presumably, events were still quite traumatic for them but nobody was in any condition to fight.

The system itself was unknown to Terra, so the odds of another fleet stumbling on them was low. They had already been ordered to disappear, so no one was going to come looking for them. The fleet had been battered, but much of the wreckage was salvageable. We decided that the integration led to a technological revolution and massive leaps forward. If another fleet did eventually find them, they'd find themselves dealing with a peer enemy, one more than capable of defending themselves. Socially there were conflicts, as one would expect, but things broadly worked out over time.

In our ending, there's not really any justice against Terra. Presumably they keep doing their thing. But, the characters manage to overcome their cycle of violence and come to terms with how things are. On the whole, I'd say they managed a relatively positive resolution.

For anyone interested in how I mechanically handled the last few missions, it actually was pretty straightforward. Each mission was against a different target in the system, the xeno abilities just represented local defence systems or specialized defending troops. I think the first mission was a stealth insertion where they stormed defence platforms in the asteroid belt. Then a general fleet action against the mobilizing xeno armada. Then a boarding action during the fleet battle, in which the troopers both had to rescue a crashed PC pilot from a partially destroyed enemy capital ship and detonate the ship's power core. I think there was also a mission against the defensive structures on the moon and then a boarding action against the mass driver. Finally, there was what amounted to a mission and a half of actions against loyalist brigade elements.

Each mission built into the following ones, with the PC's being involved in target selection and the like. The game isn't really intended to work like that, with a bunch of interconnected missions, but I feel it worked so well it almost should be the intended end of the campaign arc. Most of the most memorable parts of the campaign were from those sessions and it functioned as a great capstone. Since planets are just narrative fluff to base missions around, you can just decide to make whatever is convenient your "planet" for a mission. For the rescue mission, the "planet" was a badly crippled xeno capital ship, chunks of which were open to vacuum. The characters could frequently see the still progressing space battle around them and the ship they were on received fire several times during the mission.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

I can imagine there being a sick thrill in awarding players a ton of experience points for killing a bunch of civilians they didn't know were there.

Oct 9, 2012

Jokatgulm is tedium.
Jokatgulm is pain.
Jokatgulm is suffering.

Halloween Jack posted:

So, history. The first prominent Kin in the city was a brothel madam named Vanessa Banyon, now known as WO Babylon. (I swear, they picked some of these names without ever saying them out loud. Who calls their friend Double-You Oh?)

I assume they were originally calling her Whore Of Babylon but chickened out, or thought they were really extra clever by just doing the initials as a way of hiding it. But yeah all the names that have shown up seems more like they would fit in a text only community like IRC or BBSs than something actually said aloud, honestly it comes of as kind of quaint.

Feb 14, 2012

Thank you!

Terrible Opinions posted:

Same way Romance of the Three Kingdoms sometimes has issues with the cultural differences between Three Kingdoms China and Ming Dynasty China.

That sounds really interesting, any easy examples?

Jul 27, 2010

Now With Fresh Citrus Scent!

3:16 Carnage Among The Stars - Part 4

Chapter A: The Game Master
Yes, the book does switch from numbered chapters to letters. I think itís supposed to be indicating a general difference between player facing and GM facing content. The equipment chapter is one of the lettered ones though, so who knows!

This chapter contains advice for running a game of 3:16. Iíd say itís generally decent advice on the whole, though the details on running specific segments of the game could be more thorough.

I appreciate that one of the first things laid out in the chapter is a couple of paragraphs telling you that aliens are supposed to be sources of adversity, not evil. The aliens are fighting back the only way they know how against this sudden assault from space.

One of the generally applicable pieces of advice for most RPGís is also here, donít tell a player how their character feels. You can tell them what happens to them in a situation, though this system allows a large degree of player control over that narrative as well, but you cannot say how their character emotionally reacts. The Degenisis content has very clearly illustrated what happens when you decide itís okay to railroad your players like that, you may as well just write a novel.

Otherwise, the first part of this chapter tells you not to go easy on characters, if bad stuff happens to a character then everyone should deal with it. Besides, the players have so many tools to deal with problems that you pretty much have to go hard after them to put them at any real risk. Finally, try to re-incorporate story elements. Bring things back up, connect new situations to prior events or statements by the PCís. Once characters have established some flashbacks, work some of those details into their interactions. Did you write a weakness involving how much you hated your older brother back on Terra? Guess what, he ended up enlisting after you, but got a bunch of lucky promotions and is now your commanding officer.

Thereís another paragraph a little later in the chapter, that honestly probably should have just been combined with the section here, which also recommends not pulling punches. It points out that the PCís can always trigger Flashbacks if they feel like they are in danger from an encounter, plus they have access to an increasing pile of big gun options to pull themselves out of any fires.

Pictured: Bad Stuff happening to a character.

There are rules for PC vs. PC combat, which is mostly the same as regular combat. The biggest difference is just that the GM doesnít have any threat tokens and doesnít roll anything. Instead of the aliens, range is just measured relative to the involved PCís. Itís a little unclear how youíd handle range in the case of a The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly style three way standoff, but I think thatís fine. You can always just wing it if that comes up. I donít think my group ever actually used these PC vs PC rules, but they seem decent from how I remember combat flowing. Iím glad they include this, since I can easily see how the game encourages a certain degree of combat/conflict between characters.

A side note here suggests that when you have PCís fight NPC troopers, you use AA for the current planet as the NPC stat. You only give the NPC one kill box, since they arenít protagonists. An important NPC officer might have two, rather than one. It doesnít say specifically, but Iíd probably give the Brigadier a full PC sheet if you fought them directly. I canít remember for sure, but I think my players might have blown up the flagship in the end, so they never fought the Brigadier in person.

The next section is on using threat tokens to pace missions and support the narrative. The advice is decent, but I honestly felt that a planet never lasted long enough to really make use of any serious pacing anyhow. The book does also include suggestions for the GM setting range, which basically boils down to avoiding Near Range, since that tends to favour the PCís. Close is best if you have high AA, since it maximizes the chance of kills while usually yielding lower kill counts for PCís (Unless they crack out grenades, which is also generally a win for the GM honestly). If you have low AA, set range to Far. That will allow the aliens to flee from combat better. Best case scenario, you manage to have the aliens break contact from most of the PCís, but still be engaged with one of them.

There are recommendations on how to select the AA stat used for a given planet. Thereís actually a chart, provided later, that provides options. There are actually several of these charts that the GM uses to generate the planets for missions. There is one for selecting AA, one for the type of planet and one for the alien special ability. There are twenty entries on each list, which is the expected rough length of a full campaign. The idea is that each time you run a mission you check off one option on each list, so that the details of each planet are pseudo-random and unique.

The advice on how to choose the AA ratings is decent, advising you on the tradeoffs of using certain options early vs late in the campaign. The first options involve averaging the PC FA and NFA, then using that number as the AA rating, this is used as the effective standard baseline. AA can also be generated based upon the highest single attribute, FA or NFA, for the group. These missions would generally be tougher early on and relatively easier later. The book advises using these for planets you want to make hard early, since they might feel more anemic later on. The reverse option is AA based upon the lowest attribute, which has the same advice but backwards.

Thereís also a flat 5 AA option, as well as a flat 10 AA. The default recommendation is to use the 5 early and 10 late. However, they also suggest you might want to use the 5 later in the campaign for some pathos. I actually did this and thought it worked out well. The single least threatening planet (moon actually in the fiction) that my players dealt with was about two thirds through the campaign. It was an airless moon with floating jellyfish, who had no apparent civilization or sentience. They didnít so much fight back against the troopers as they did drift aimlessly towards them if they sensed their presence. The characters were all very beefy by this point, Iím pretty sure the lowest FA stat was a seven or eight. Since the aliens had an AA of 5, the odds of them actually scoring a hit were pretty much zero. The largest threat was that they had a tendency to explode when punctured, which I think I managed to tag a couple of them with. Even that wasnít more than a minor inconvenience at that stage though. I feel that was the mission that got most of the characters really questioning motivation, since they were just murdering harmless gasballs with no ability whatsoever to fight them off.

Nonsense, everything is fine and I have developed no psychological trauma whatsoever.

There are general notes on the narrative arc of a campaign. Essentially, start off by having play be very focused on the missions themselves. Ideally, as time goes on and PCís start climbing the commissioned officer ladder, the missions should just become a backdrop to the larger questions of PC goals and agendas. This section also includes the first explicit suggestion that players may choose to drive the action back towards Terra.

There are rules for rotating the GM between sessions. These seem fine, though we never used them. Being a fairly rules light game, it would be easy enough to figure out regardless, but I do appreciate they included the rules here.

The last page of the chapter stresses moving the spotlight evenly between PCís, advice that is solid for pretty much every RPG. Also included is the suggestion to say ďYesĒ to PC questions or actions whenever possible. You should only push situations on them directly if they are indecisive or at a loss for what to do. When that happens, of course you can have a metaphorical guy with a gun kick in the door (I liked to use variations on downed dropships or NPC troopers otherwise needing to be rescued from imminent danger).

This, along with Apocalypse World, was pretty much the first RPG I read that really pushed that angle of play. Iím still not the worldís greatest GM, but trying to internalize the ideas of saying yes and failing forward has made me much, much better. Things that the PCís decide they want to do are often way more interesting than anything you might have planned in advance, plus they often lead to way more situations where a character hands you the rope you need to hang them later.

Chapter B: Planets

This chapter includes the rules for planet/mission generation. There are several checklists, each with twenty entries, for you to work through. Each planet has you select, or randomly roll depending on preference, one option from each list. Then you create a narrative that ties those selections together. Following the lists themselves, there are short text entries for each option.

The lists used are Alien Ability, Planet Name, Basic Creature Form, Basic Planet Description, and Alien Special Ability. Most of these entries are just basic ideas, so Iím going to gloss over huge chunks of this chapter. Donít get me wrong, I think itís very useful to include a bunch of planetary landscape ideas, especially when generating missions on the fly. They just donít make for riveting review material. As a short example, the planet descriptions are things like Desert World, Reefs and Coral Islands, Electrical Storms and so on.

The descriptions generally do not have any mechanical effects, but the long form entries for each do include some suggestions for how to present the details to your players. Also suggested are possible challenges you can introduce that are related to the entry. A world with a poisonous atmosphere presents challenges if your armour gets compromised, for instance.

Of particular note on the Creature Form list is entry #5, Corrupt Troopers. These are literally fellow Terrans who have abandoned their genocidal mission and are doingÖ well, not that anymore. The GM can determine motivation, skill level and armament for these troopers. Maybe theyíre sympathetic, maybe not. Either way, the Brigadier has declared them deserters and ordered their elimination.

"Corrupt" Troopers. Visually identical to regular variety troopers. Hans, are we the baddies?

I started dropping hints about a couple of planets before my players hit these guys. The PCís were under the impression that their regiment was the first ever present in the sector. At minimum, they believed that this was the first time the Third Army, much less the 16th Regiment, had been this way. Certainly that was what their officers had said, as well as the suits back on Terra. Then they started finding remnants of Terran gear, models that were clearly of older make than the gear the 3:16 was equipped with. More concerning, they were marked as belonging to the Third Army and had clearly been there for a long time.

I believe they ended up reporting their discoveries, for which they were thanked and rewarded. The discoveries disappeared for ďexaminationĒ and the PCís were advised not to spread any rumours, since this was probably a xeno ploy to destroy morale. Then regimental command secretly decided to start sending their company into the worst possible combat missions, in the hopes of grinding them into dust in a deniable fashion.

I will quickly go through the Alien Special Abilities section, because I think theyíre decent twists on how the simple combat system works. All abilities have a variety of suggestions for how they might be presented in the fiction. A reminder, when the GM spends a threat token, they can do so either from the tokens committed to a specific encounter, or from the general planetary pool that was generated for the mission.

Ambush allows the GM to spend a token to automatically ambush the PCís during a dominance test. Abilities that automatically give the PCís an ambush in an encounter (Drop Pods), trump this ability. This one is great later on, since it can guarantee some damage against PCís who are mostly untouchable otherwise.

Armour is exactly what it says. Once per encounter the GM can declare all damage against the aliens to be void. I used this for the planet with the remnants of the previous Terran expedition into the sector, to represent them still having their own power armour.

Boost Ability allows the GM to spend tokens one for one to raise AA for the duration of one encounter, to a maximum of 10.

End Encounter can be a frustrating one for PCís, but does create an interesting feel for a planet where the aliens are described as being hard to pin down or engage. The GM spends a token and the encounter simply ends at the completion of the aliens turn in the combat sequence. Any tokens remaining in the encounter are returned to the general pool. An ideal encounter with this would have the aliens trigger it on a turn where they act first and score some kills, then fade away before the troopers can retaliate. Mind you, for those kills to stick you still need to land at least two in a single encounter. PCís, drat near impossible to kill in this game.

Enrage is similar to Boost Ability. The GM spends a token and the aliens AA raises by one, to a max of ten, each round. I would say this ability is best used on a planet where you have only a couple of encounters with large token pools, so as to really push home its impact.

Exploding Bodies is what I used for the planet of non-sentient jellyfish. When at least one token is removed through kills in an encounter, the GM can spend a token and automatically cause a kill to all PCís at close range. This trick is likely to only work once of course, since the PCís will definitely be wary of it in later encounters during the mission.

Flee is a little bit like End Encounter, in the same way Enrage is similar to Boost Ability. The GM doesnít need to spend any tokens, the aliens simply automatically change range against each PC by one step, occurring on the alienís turn. If the aliens act first, this may mean some PCís wonít be able to retaliate against attacks.

Ignore Armour lets the aliens ignore all armour effects PCís might have. Mostly this means that your Mandelbrite power armour will be ineffective, but higher ranks get access to Kinetic Armour Fields, and those are also bypassed.

Ignore Wounds is nearly identical to Armour. The GM spends a threat token and all kills against the aliens this round are ignored, with PCís not adding kills to their total count. Of note, the GM can keep triggering this so long as tokens remain, unlike armour (Though armour is passive). Makes a great one to use in the first encounter for the mission, as well as the final one.

They probably didn't need that lung anyhow.

Impair lets the GM spend threat tokens one for one to reduce the FA and NFA of all troopers by one for the duration of the encounter. Obviously, you canít drop into negative numbers, though that technically isnít written down!

Induce Weakness costs one threat token and can only be targeted against each PC a single time during a mission. The aliens need to succeed on an AA check on the next turn. If they do succeed, it automatically triggers a weakness flashback for the targeted PC. The PC must have an open weakness slot for this to work, otherwise you are immune.

Isolate has the GM spend a token to do exactly that to the PCís. They are split off from the rest of the regiment in some manner and are unable to contact them or call on their assistance, at least for the remainder of the encounter. The primary mechanical effect is that PCís are prevented from utilizing support effects, such as E-Vac or Orbital Bombardment.

Lasting Wounds has the potential to be a nasty one for the PCís. First of all, the ability is passive, so it doesnít use up threat tokens. Any wounds caused to PCís are not healed between encounters. They can only be healed at the end of the mission, once the planet has been cleansed. Iíd say this is probably one of the stronger abilities, though in my campaign I seem to recall I rolled like crap for the aliens so it still went fairly smoothly for the characters.

Leaping is another alien movement ability, letting aliens shift two range steps in encounters. This ability is passive, which helps balance out the fact that itís a little weaker. Itís thematically fun though, so I feel itís a good one to use early on.

Rapid Movement is a more powerful varian of Leaping, though it costs a threat token to use. Instead of two range steps, the aliens may simply shift to any range they choose during their turn of an encounter. Notably, they cannot use this to simply end an encounter, at most they can shift all PCís to Far range.

Reduce Visibility blocks both the Aliens and PCís from making kills at Far range. Since it impacts both sides, it is a passive power. I would probably also consider a variant where the GM needs to spend a token, but the ability only impacts PCís. Maybe you could have it block Far and Near, so the PCís are forced into Close range to score kills. I havenít tested that idea mind you, so it might be way too strong, or just frustrating for the usually Near optimized PCís.

Regeneration lets the GM spend a threat token to return any tokens removed in the most recent combat round. The PCís do get to retain any kills they caused. Obviously you want to use this after rounds where the PCís rolled really well. My experience was that itís mechanically less threatening than it seems, but that it does make for a fun narrative experience.

Stop Technology costs the GM a threat token to activate and lasts only for a single combat round each usage. Any and all technology simply does not function that round. Incidentally, this includes almost all Trooper weapons, including explosives. Hand-to-Hand attacks still function.

Suicide is a punched up version of Exploding Bodies. The GM spends a threat token and causes an automatic kill against all Troopers in the encounter. There is a trigger limit of once per round, though if there are other tokens remaining in combat, the GM still gets their regular AA roll as well. Iím fairly sure I forgot that you can spend tokens from the planetary pool when I ran this one, so it was a lot less nasty than it should have been. Iíd say this is one of the most likely abilities to cause actual PC death.

Swarm is another passive movement ability. During the alien turn of an encounter, all PCís are moved to Close range. This isnít the strongest ability, but it doesnít cost tokens and does feel quite thematic. Plus, it encourages players to use grenades and consider using development options to strengthen their Close range abilities.

Plus, it wouldn't have a proper Starship Troopers feel without swarms of alien bugs.
(Armor and The Forever War are better books though.)

Example Planet Generation:

Alright, letís randomly roll up a sample planet. I rolled 5d20 in order and got the following results:
Alien Ability: 7 - Highest FA (For our sample PCís, this will be 8, belonging to Corporal Chunks.)
Names: 5 - DŁrer
Basic Creature Form: 3 - Artificial Lifeforms
Basic Planet Description: 14 - Poisonous Atmosphere
Alien Special Ability: 13 - Lasting Wounds

DŁrer looks like itís going to be a nasty one for our valiant squad of Troopers. I decide that the planetary surface is similar to Venus, carbon dioxide and yellow clouds of sulfuric acid. Better hope that you donít suffer any armour breaches while on the surface. The Artificial Lifeforms are leftover drones from a mining operation that has been abandoned by its creators for several centuries. Their core programming has been damaged, so they are acting erratically. Their alien nature and odd actions may delay the PCís figuring out whatís going on with them.

I immediately have a few ideas for possible encounters, depending on what the PCís decide to do. I write them down, so that I can pull them out whenever action stalls. A tense conflict in an old and cramped tunnel system, while trying to track down another squad that has been cut off. A climactic showdown in the primary control core, as the mining AI attempts to carry out its self preservation programming. An ďambushĒ out of a sulfuric cloud bank, with the PCís potentially being able to eventually determine that the drones were actually attempting to strip a valuable mineral deposit in the location. An encounter with a giant stripmining sandcrawler style drone, where all the tokens in the encounter represent portions of the whole enemy. I might end up using all, or none, of these ideas depending on play.

At this point, I also decide that this originator species will figure into at least a few planets in the campaign and therefore I will need to begin planting details during this mission. The PCís will hopefully be interested in following up on some of the clues, particularly since their commanders would be very interested in hunting down such a spacefaring species.

Finally, I decide that Lasting Wounds will be mostly explained by the toxic, acidic atmosphere. Any wounds received by the Troopers simply do not respond to treatment so long as they remain on the planet.

All of this took only a few minutes to put together, which is very useful when you are running a game. Writing it all down took longer than generating it. This is very much a system that discourages too much advance prep work. I certainly had notes and ideas that I had jotted down, but I never plotted anything out too tightly. Even if Iíd wanted to, PCís always disrupt careful plans anyhow, so Iíve long been drawn to systems that simply embrace that fact.

Lemony fucked around with this message at 21:44 on Sep 19, 2021

Just Dan Again
Dec 16, 2012


The Maze of the Blue Medusa - A Retrospective, part 15

The Medusa

The Cells

The Cells are the final portion of the Maze, where the Medusa keeps petrified prisoners. Each prisoner is on a plinth carved with pictographs that describe their crime, at least according to the intro text. Let's see how long the authors remember that.

Since the walls and floor are all pristine marble, sound echoes quite a bit. The GM is instructed to double the number of random encounters here. That does make it less likely that the PCs will just wander from statue to statue uneventfully, but keep in mind that the Maze already assumes a pretty high random encounter rate. The only instructions given in the book itself are to roll directly on the d100 random encounter table every ten minutes or whenever the players make noise. The d100 includes something drastic on the first 50% of results (the remaining half are lights going out, sudden hunger, "a wave of unspeakable melancholy," and nothing). By contrast, the Rules Cyclopedia says to roll 1d6 every twenty minutes and only roll on a random encounter table on a "1". So now that the players are somewhat close to the Medusa, they're going to get bogged down in random garbage even more than they already have been.

Anyway, that's probably enough complaining about how awkward it would be to actually run this book, on to the rooms!

Room 265: The Dimashqi
A pool of ectoplasm that 16 petrified figures curl out of. They're kept here to kill anyone who opens the clock in the next room, but they don't have any further instructions. Falling into the plasm makes a PC roll a save to avoid losing a level, and they might get infected with the thoughts of the sixteen spectral guardians (many of whom are trying to figure out how to get out of their eternal servitude).

Room 266: The Clock of Pharoah Isesi
Apparently a big clock- there's no visual description of it, and the map image is inconclusive. Winding it instantly replaces the winder with a version of themself from another dimension. The replacement wished for something that the version in the current dimension already had, and the same for the dimension that the original character has now been sent to. There's a little d8 table for ideas of relatively banal things the replacement character was wishing for that the original character might have had. Some players may be disturbed by their character being taken away from them and replaced by a copy, with no save, but the text does not address this.

There's also a half-petrified squid in the corner that I guess can attack you.

Room 267: Indico Cosmas & Blankoff
Two rogues petrified because the Medusa found them annoying. If unpetrified, they'll offer to be porters for the party in exchange for escape, and like most people you can rescue in this dungeon they'll stab the party in the back the first chance they get.

Room 268: Zianauga
A petrified leopard-man who was part of a party of leopard-people that managed to retrieve an artifact from the Maze. He's suspicious of apes and assumes the party serve the Medusa, but he can be reasoned with. Hardly an interdimensional criminal like some of the other prisoners, but at least it's somebody halfway friendly.

Room 269: Tel Akko
The first of a handful of goat-people the Medusa kept here. He's called the Goat-Pope and helped the Medusa cut off her father's hands in exchange for getting the Goat-Messiah from her. She double-crossed him and petrified him with the Goat-Messiah in his hands, though said messianic goat is no longer around. He can cause scurvy at a touch and if freed will try to find the Apocalypse (I guess the Goat-Messiah returning would have ended the world, which explains why the Medusa would double-cross this guy).

Room 270: Cassio-Dorus
A man of living stone, further petrified by the Medusa's gaze. He tried to make some kind of a deal with one Medusa to double-cross another, and there's a table of dumb schemes he can try to rope the party into.

Room 271: Caphtor Clowe
A petrified man bobbing in a bath of acid, so don't unfreeze him while he's still in it. He's the guy who wrote the sordid biography of the Medusa, and if the PCs free him then he'll write a tell-all about how dumb they are for coming to this dungeon in the first place and how terrible it is that the Medusa's prisoners are all free now. This adventure really assumes the worst about the people who are going to spend hours and hours engaging with it, huh? Love to be told not to bother with an adventure by the adventure itself.

Room 272: Tel Sippor
Another goat-man, this one with his heart outside of his body. He's full of devil-bees. If he's unpetrified then he's basically a ticking time bomb until the bees escape and mess everybody up. He also tried to trick people into eating the honey that he's full of. It is awful, and basically gives the GM carte blanche to abuse a player's trust:

Room 273: Pylos Nilotic
Brother to Halo Nilotic, the devil that the Medusa armed with a dagger to kill her dad's hands with. When he learns somebody's name he will know exactly what lie will win the named person's loyalty, and he'll sell that information in exchange for the deal-maker doing cruel things to their friends. He can also permanently make a character lose an eye, tongue, hand or foot with only one save to stop it, and can passively reflect harmful magic back at the caster. A class act.

Room 274: Sheklesh & Prison
This could be one of the more interesting rooms, if the players had any way of learning anything about it before stumbling into it. The figure in the room is Price Sheklesh, who has a bit of divine blood. His hands are wrapped around a puzzle box but were clearly badly damaged before he was petrified. If he's unfrozen then the box will try to solve itself from the inside while he frantically, gorily tries to de-solve and lock it again. A mathematical genius like Seymore could keep it closed, but Sheklesh will lose control soon.

Imprisoned in the box is Dendrosathol, the Medusa's father. His role in Hell is to make people forget. Since his hands were turned into the Medusa's familiar, he has to order a bunch of imps back to him up, though they will try to disobey him when they can. He has mechanics where if a player has forgotten details about the session, they'll take a bunch of damage.

The reason I say this could be interesting is because multiple NPCs want to free this guy, but all of them are horrible and annoying. Apparently there being no devil of forgetfulness has caused conflict in the world outside as people remember just how nasty they've been to one another, and that could be a hook, but it's not mentioned anywhere else. Weighing the costs of freeing this guy would be an interesting puzzle for some players, but as-is he's just kind of in here. Oh, and he'll avenge the Medusa's death if the players killed her, so here's another gently caress-you built into doing the thing the book seems certain that PCs will do and hell-bent on punishing them for doing.

Room 275: Korczak, Abimelech, & "Ink" Paduta
Three powerful adventurers whose noble house was destroyed by the Medusa. They came here to get revenge and got pretty close. They have cool and unique equipment and fighting styles that most D&D games would never allow players to have, which is a real shame. For whatever reason the book tells us that if they escape they'll meet ignominious ends, because the authors hate adventurers despite writing a three-hundred page adventure for them.

Room 276: Aristodemus & Banzoumana
A petrified werewolf in rags, covered in wounds, is on her knees beneath a paladin statue that sneers down at her is he brings down his silver blade. The paladin's armor is very fancy and his fingers are covered in rings. There's one of those Levalliant Green panels in the base of the werewolf's pedastal that includes an incantation that will instantly turn both of the petrified characters back to flesh, and if nothing is changed then the werewolf will die.

If anything is changed in the room then the werewolf will not die, and if the players aren't present then she'll definitely kill the paladin. The rings on the paladin's fingers are from the werewolf's victims' graves, and she's extraordinarily powerful and evil, known as the Kindervore. The paladin wants to kill her so he can return the rings to the victims' families. The Kindervore wants to escape and free the Were-Titan Tiktaalik from the Archives (and presumably get back to eating children).

The way the tableau is laid out is basically designed to elicit sympathy from players for the werewolf, but yet again rescuing anyone from what looks like a bad situation is punished severely. Hmm. A man, about to kill a woman. He is entirely within his rights to do so, and doing so would be a net gain for the world. But it looks from the outside like he's a cruel aggressor rather than a righteous champion, and there's no way for you to know that unless you set him free to do violence. Nope, doesn't creep me out at all, given who one of the writers of this book is!

Room 277: Ankerman
A petrified chaos-philosopher, presumably human. You can talk to him if you want and make an Intelligence check. If you fail, you're fine. If you succeed exactly you gain a point of Int. If you succeed by any margin then your alignment and class (?!) change randomly and permanently. He will warn you that talking with him can be dangerous, but sheesh is that a huge shift to have to figure out this late in a dungeon. He's otherwise harmless and uninterested in escaping.

Room 278: Kronig
A man made from driftwood and seaweed with eyes made from shells. One of a species of thief-golem, made by very patient vampires. The golems are made to go into the same vaults over and over again, and when they're eventually destroyed the implanted thief's soul will be drawn back to the vampires to report all that they've seen. Not a bad idea for an NPC, but a pretty wretched idea for a room in a dungeon.

Room 279: Strikes-the-Ree
A satyr. In this dungeon. By these authors. He can play music that has some effects that force people to dance, reveal their feelings to one another, and to make out with other characters at random without a save. He's "dangerous if you are a woman alone," which is just the pits.

I'm noticing just how many of these are nothing but more NPCs that you probably won't interact with, which is particularly annoying given how much of this dungeon is already just "a room with a random thing in it." Wouldn't it have been a good idea to make this rogue's gallery actually available to GMs to use in the game? Not this guy, of course, because characters who are rapists who can magically force characters into sexual situations are anti-fun and gross. But some of these characters could have livened up the endless meandering through boring rooms elsewhere in the dungeon.

Room 280: Wercel Smallbone
A fairy petrified at the moment she was impaled by a human-sized arrow. There are charts and supplies all over the place that would aid in someone doing surgery to save her life, apparently a hobby of Torgos Zooth's. She cursed Aelfadred to have all of her thoughts appear on her head, which is what led the witch to teach herself to think in code, and killing Wercel would lift the curse. She's described as being very appealing to men and very annoying to women, and that people who aren't men or women will find those impressions more interesting than Wercel herself.

If the Medusa dies, Aelfadred's curse will nearly instantly be lifted by Wercel dying of her wounds. Let's see if the book remembers that when we get to the Death of the Medusa section.

Room 281: Mgnoki
An ancient tortoise, last of her kind, from a species that drinks the tears of the bereaved and lessens their pain. Very valuable to immortals. Her shell is super valuable as well, but anybody who can tell what it is will think you are a big jerk.

Room 282: Mdaga Gognata
A huge limbless lizard, a homicidovore who eats murderers and can figure out their crimes with tremendous investigative skills. Sometimes the Chameleon Women will be here worshipping his petrified body. He was Psathyrella's lover once and is the father of Gibba Gognata, the big centipede that the players could easily ignore and that the Medusa didn't seem to care about wayyyy back in the Halls. He's another powerful foe that will hunt down the players if they kill the Medusa. Not sure why he was petrified, there's no explanation of the relationship between him and the Medusa going sour or anything.

Room 283: Cadamosto & Dogon
A monk and priest, respectively. They both come from a world where the Triarchy disappearing threw everything into chaos. Cadamosto wants to bring them back in order to restore order, since he's basically a nice guy. Dogon wants to restore them to get his own power back, and will use Cadamosto as his cats-paw to avoid being affected by the Sisters' powers. Again, kind of cool NPCs but kind of pointless as a room.

Room 284: Black Moon
A minotaur with a huge axe, a former husband of the Medusa who's basically just a big dumb jerk. He has a little table of boasts he can make, undercut by insecurities. There's a note from Levalliant Green in the base of his statue about the Chameleon Women forming "the Neonate Empire" and worshipping Mdaga Gognata. He also leaves a spell scroll that will let someone rust a 5x5x5 area of metal at a touch, once.

One of the things the area description mentioned is that there are pictographs around the base of each statue that illustrate the crimes of the petrified prisoner. Black Moon doesn't have any crimes described, and neither did Mdaga. Seems like a big oversight to me, and something that would leave a lot of GMs scrambling if their players are asking "so what did this guy do?" Given that one of the few plot threads in this mess is focused around the Medusa's desire for a romantic relationship with Chronia it seems like it'd be useful to know more about how her past relationships have worked out (or not worked, as the case may be).

Room 285: Zamia Torn
The ghost of Zamia Torn, whose power is that everyone who meets her, loves her. She conspired with Milo de Fretwell to arrange her own death, and begged the Medusa to turn her to stone so that she wouldn't be forced to go to an afterlife where she would continue to be adored by gods and angels. She doesn't want to be unpetrified. She features heavily in the Death of the Medusa write-up as a powerless victim with no agency of her own.

Room 286: Xenocritos
A son of a scorpion god who is mostly annoying, and will boast that if he is struck down then his killer will face the Curse of the Scorpion. The Curse is that unless you stab someone who trusts you in the back every day, someone you trust will be stabbed in the back. Probably pretty manageable for a high-level party with access to healing magic.

Rooms 287 to 289 are totally walled off and only accessible if the Medusa is slain (or people start knocking walls over), but for once the book straight-up tells us this.

Room 287: Praxagoras
A wooden golem made of scrap who has a reincarnation spell carved into his back like a scroll. Reading it will kill him, and the GM is advised that "His personality depends on how much of a monster the GM is. Soft-hearted GMs are advised to make him an rear end in a top hat, but tolerable." Not really sure why this guy needs to be hidden in an unreachable spot- maybe the reincarnation spell is here to undo Psathyrella's murder if the players regret it? But how would they know it's here?

Room 288: Agathias
Last survivor of the people and culture that were paved over to make way for the maze. A tree-man, according to the appendix. Why isn't that in the room description? Who knows! He's got a random motivation and a random thing he still hopes for. No other details or explanations, just another sad NPC with nothing to do.

Room 289: Molon, He-Dog, & Osorkon III
This room is not only behind walls, it's behind a secret door (which wasn't described at all in the previous room, so hopefully you brought a B/X Elf who can just sense them). So what's so important or dangerous that it has to be kept this secret?

Molon is the king of the Rat-Men, kind and noble. He's sad that the Medusa is dead. He-Dog is a ruler of "brain-eating barbarians." He wants to loot the Maze and eat brains. Osorkon III is a nomad ruler related to the Toad Prince in the Archives. He wants to hurt someone.

The three each know part of a magic word that is the name of a deity of neutrality. If they speak it, then the first five people to say the entire name will be rendered incapable of harming, coercing, or trapping anyone, or of being harmed, coerced, or trapped for 2d4 rounds. We're told flat-out that this was the Medusa's escape plan, but how? Even if she's invincible for 2d4 rounds, where will she go? I guess it makes sense that this is in a place where basically only the Medusa would find it, but it seems like an awfully long run for a bit of a short slide for the players. The magic name has to be said by the kings first, so just learning it won't do the players any good, and all of the exits are much further than they could get in 2d4 rounds.

Room 290: Argolid
A werewolf caught mid-transformation, he's another trapped NPC who will try to betray and murder the PCs. He can use his lycanthropic power to steal peoples' shapes and, if he can get a musical instrument, he can inflict listeners with lethargy. He's Banzoumana's lover and will try to help her free Tiktaalik.

Room 291: Levalliant Green
Hey, it's that guy who left about a dozen little items and cryptic hints across the previous 290 rooms! We're told that he's a super villain and the GM is given some instructions on how to cheat around him having one hit die and no super powers. He's just such a genius that everything was always part of his master plan. What's his master plan? Roll on this random table! Totally satisfying.

The GM is told to run Green "as hard and deviously as possible," but if he's so important then why am I rolling 3d4 to figure out what he wants? It's yet another thing left up to the GM to figure out on the fly, presumably while also adjudicating dozens of monsters suddenly waking up and pursuing their own schemes all at once.

Room 292: Michmas
An unpetrified thief, impersonating a statue. That's kind of funny! He'll try to trick and rob the players. The party is described as "probably weighed down with very tempting loot." That seems unlikely to me, given how little loot there is in this dungeon that isn't a terrible albatross, but go for it, little guy.

Room 293: Pharoah Isesi
A ruler from not-Egypt. He had everyone in his country killed and mummified, and planned to die and return as some kind of "Tomb King" to conquer some kind of "Old World." (the book doesn't actually say anything that would imply a Warhammer connection but when life hands you mummies, make Tomb King-ade) When he had some doubts about this plan, he used his clock and became a version of himself without doubts, but then got petrified. He needs to die heroically in order to get his plan in motion. He's a 1 HD human with no powers, and nothing is described for what happens if he dies so presumably his plan won't bear out.

Room 294: Glaukon
An average-looking man. If unpetrified he will always look like the last person he saw, and anyone who sees him will believe him to be that person, causing terrible confusion to the person whose face he's currently wearing. He's kind of dim and just knows that his face upsets people. There's another Levalliant Green panel here- no message, just a dagger, some poison, some trail mix, and a Stone to Flesh scroll.

Room 295: Chase-Them-Wounded
Another Crack Beast that Psathyrella used to keep as a pet. Not described as petrified so I guess she just abandoned it? Its illustration looks like the other petrified people though so maybe it's supposed to be a statue after all. Her petrifying it would imply that Psathyrella knows that the Crack Beasts are bad news and that maybe she would help Chronia out if she knew that Chronia was keeping a Beast of her own. Or at least it does to me, since I want that story to actually happen and I'm grasping at straws.

Room 296: Akerstrom & Construct
The leader of the "Oku" who got close enough to the Medusa to cut a snake from her hair. He was hiding in a turtle construct when he was caught and petrified. He wants to get back to the Oku and lead them out of the Maze to safety. Another thing that would probably interact with Aelfadred and probably won't.

Room 297: Pyxis
A mushroom man who works for Levalliant Green. He's got a 2d10 table of spores that he can hurl out that will alter your senses and force you to do annoying things. The number of targets and whether a save is allowed or not aren't listed, so have fun with your random table, GM.

Room 298: Tel Zeror and Megiddo
A goat-man and "she-goatling" (so like, a child? is that the takeaway?) petrified while holding hands, looking into each other's eyes. There are "slight chewmarks on the girl" but I'm not sure who they're from, which is also distressing. We're told here that goat people are born with a bit of demonic knowledge that's usually useless but impacts their personality. Tel Zeror knows where the Apocalypse will start, and Megiddo knows who its first victim will be. They haven't given up the knowledge, and the Medusa doesn't have the heart to force it out of them.

Room 299: Ziklag Dawndelyon
A statue of a sculptor whose magic chisel can reshape anything as if it were stone. Anything he sculpts out of unliving material can house his soul, so if he's killed he'll go into the Gallery's giant hand statue. This was mentioned in the giant hands' room description so there's another rare example of cross-referencing in this massive tome. Glad they used it for this guy and not for any of the NPCs who might be relevant to a plot! He'll try to sculpt any of the players who will let him, dropping their charisma but making them a work of art, based on another of those little random tables.

Levalliant left a panel here, too, with some money and a glass jar containing a city of the tiny people from that miniature war from the Almery. Seems especially random. No mention of how the little people would react to getting their city back, but then the idea that the little people even had cities never came up in their own description.

Room 300: Chaka Molofo
A salamander woman frozen in the midst of her flames. She cut a deal with the Medusa to save her people from Da Monzon in room 302, and in exchange the Medusa releases her periodically to dance for her.

Room 301: Cape Khoi
An ancestor of Zianauga the leopard-man from room 268. The Medusa tricked Cape Khoi into bringing a sacred artifact into the Maze. Zianauga's party retrieved the item, even though Zianauga himself was caught, so now they're both kind of just... here.

Room 302: Da Monzon
A Pyroclastic Giant, possibly the last one, studded with the obsidian blades of salamander people. Frozen mid-strike. His stats are pretty high, I guess? There's a panel under him from Levalliant Green that describes every single character in the Cells and says "move werewolf then read secret panel in base" in the description of Aristodemus & Banzoumana. I guess he wants the Kindervore free for whatever reason? Presumably the GM will have fun figuring out how that ties into whatever they rolled on Green's 3d4.

Room 303: St. Xanthudides
A petrified chandelier in mid-swing. "Everyone" knows the story of the priest who killed holy people to turn them into saints, and was canonized on his death because nobody knew of his crimes. The Devil claimed him, turned him into living flame, and used him to light the Pit. He escaped, and the Medusa caught him and kept him here. If he's unpetrified he'll start to run out of fuel and will need help to get away. Devils will pay for his return in Nightmare Pearls, which sound kind of cool. Should probably be an adventure and not a single room in a huge dungeon, as is the style of the Cells.

Please clap

Room 304: Psathyrella Medusae
So now we've come to it. The Blue Medusa herself. We get a very brief overview of what's clearly supposed to be a nuanced character of grey morality. She's attended by "d8 hot blind girls" at all times, who hopefully want to be here? There's no description other than they're hot and blind, but I find their inclusion (and probable enslavement) deeply distracting.

Psathyrella has a flair for the dramatic, so her huge room is full of chandeliers to swing on and big tables to swordfight on top of. There are rapiers all over the walls that you can grab and try to swordfight her with. She's mostly bored and tired, and would like to help the Torn Sisters (partly so she can pursue a relationship with Chronia) and get rid of the annoying Liches that infest the Maze. We're reminded that she won't ask why Chronia stopped writing to her, so hopefully the characters have remained invested in that storyline through a couple of hundred rooms' worth of bullshit.

Considerably more words are given over to random tables of swords and portraits, and to a long list of cool books that Psathyrella has, than to her own character. You can kind of glean things about her from the people she's chosen to imprison in her Maze- ruthless, but with a soft spot; honorable, but no fool. She'll fight honorable opponents without using her gaze, and uses a reflecting mask that destroys mirrors. If you get her down to 8 HP then she'll surrender and grant a single boon. GMs are instructed to give only half XP for forcing her to surrender, which seems like it's incentivizing killing her even if she gives up. lovely!

I'm still not really sure why a group of player characters would want to kill this lady. I'm sure they could be duped into it by a villain, but duping your players (rather than just their characters) is a betrayal of the trust placed in the GM role. When I played a chunk of the Maze with my friends a few years back, some of them said "I bet we're going to have to fight the Medusa eventually," and I could only ask "Why?" Now I've read this whole drat thing and I still don't get it- she seems fine. She could even be a good patron, guiding the players on taking out the liches and freeing the Torn Sisters from their curses, if she wasn't stuffed all the way at the back of 303 rooms of mostly deathtraps.

On the Death of the Medusa
The last section of the book before the appendices describes what to do if the players kill the Medusa. She'll warn them not to, that if she dies the Maze will collapse and its prisoners will be released, but if they press on regardless then there are five stages.

First, there are a few rounds where the prisoners figure out what's happening. Several walls will collapse and a bunch of creatures will get exposed to each other.

Next, NPCs will start interacting in various ways. Some guidelines are given on how to adjudicate whether somebody is still where they're supposed to be.

After about an hour, NPCs will start going after each other and pursuing their own goals. A new encounter table that includes crumbling walls and ceilings is introduced, and the GM is told to roll on it every minute.

While all this is going on, Xanthoceras will attack Aelfadred and retrieve Zamia Torn's soulless body from the Gardens. I guess Aelfadred getting her full sanity back doesn't do her much good since there's no discussion of whether the lich succeeds in defeating her and the Oku or not. He'll summon Zamia's ghost with necromancy and return the ghost to the body about two hours after the Medusa's death. He'll hold a marriage ceremony in the Gardens that takes about a half hour, then he'll put golden rings on his and Zamia's fingers and they'll be "utterly inseparable." We're reminded that nobody who likes Zamia the slightest bit will want this to happen. The players might want to try to stop it, too, if they have the least shred of deceny, but they'll have to chew through dozens of random encounters to get there even if they actually know the way and understand that it's happening.

At this point the Maze is about as fallen apart as it's going to get, the encounter rate rolls back to every 5 minutes (still twice as fast as the base rate), and another new encounter table is introduced.

The book wraps up with a summary of various characters, very few of whom have entries that illuminate their character much more than the very brief descriptions in their respective rooms. Probably more useful in the print copy since it's a one-stop-shop for all of these random fantasy names.

The last few pages are a summary of the standard random encounter table (which is printed every few pages in between room descriptions) and the "I Search the Body" table that's also scattered throughout the book.

This has been a long road, and I've got one more post to make about this wretched grimoire. I've complained many times about the lack of cohesive story in the Maze, and I don't think that's unwarranted. The final chapter of this review will be a run-down of potential plots that you could extract from the book and a summary of why the book itself makes pursuing them nearly impossible. See you next time for the grand finale!

Just Dan Again fucked around with this message at 14:28 on Sep 15, 2021

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

I don't know what to say. This module has a zillion characters, and they have relationships with each other, and there's no reason to care. It's a pantheon of nonsense. The whole thing is also full of ludicrous traps and curses, which Stuart mostly worked out of his system by the time he did Veins of the Earth.


Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013

PoontifexMacksimus posted:

That sounds really interesting, any easy examples?
The big obvious one is Liu Bei ends up looking incredibly stupid or incredibly hypocritical because the real life Liu Bei was a practical pragmatic warlord who made and broke alliances in such a way that the audience for Romance would find unsympathetic. So the novel has him consistently refusing to engage in politics and being just kinda doing it for him because they're so impressed by his virtue.

On a more nitpicky note Guan Yu is consistently depicted wielding a yanyuedao which had not been invented yet.

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