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Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Stephenls posted:

If the argument here is that TTRPGs shouldn't have stuff like "Knife that can cut through anything, even abstract concepts like 'beauty'," because despite their presence and successful implementation in many works of fiction, the interactive nature of TTRPGs and the almost-invariably semi-competitive nature of the player-GM relationship makes them inevitable sources of strife during play, I feel like the only answer is "But what about people who like that sort of thing in fiction and want it in their games?"

It's in the source material. It's hard to make work in play, but it's in the source material; some players and some games are going to prioritize putting-in-the-poo poo-from-the-source-material-we-like over eliminating potential player/GM strife points. Not every game has to be written for every audience.
They did NOT find the poison trap, and I declare them DEAD. Get out of here, Marcie!

I think it's absolutely fine to include supernal/absolute powers in your games. In this case, the rules are kind of mooshed up with the broad setting pronouncements. Like as I read this I'm comparing it to Chuubo's, and Chuubo's was way easier to get my head around. I know the two are not identical games, but there was an evolution here, and I remember hearing people say "Chuubo's is basically Nobilis with a different power level," or similar things... I ain't seeing it here.

I do think a game in which your characters are all basically Superman is gonna have unique narrative challenges and it would be worthwhile to dig into these, and from the sound of it this version of Nobilis didn't do that so much. (To clarify, this is structuring a story or concepting challenges beyond 'the guys who want to make everything suck! go hit them. or don't?' which is not really very good DMing advice)

Nessus fucked around with this message at 23:24 on Nov 9, 2019

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mllaneza
Apr 28, 2007


Veteran, Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force, 1993-1952





I've been neglecting Disposable Assets, but since Monsterhearts 2 just got reviewed, I'll chime in with a pair of 3rd-party playbooks that I think show excellent design.

The Oni and the Kitsune: Monsterhearts Playbooks

HyveMynd is a freelance TTG writer with these two playbooks available on her itch.io page,
https://hyvemynd.itch.io/

The Oni

Play this if you want to be the bully. The Oni playbook gives you a choice of supernatural powers. You will be trying to enforce conformity and the status quo, putting down those who stand out. This will be a tricky playbook to incorporate, since they're also a treacherous lover; they're built to exploit those whom they have been intimate with.

For supernatural abilities, the Oni has:

Unseen Spirit: this is the ability to turn invisible. On a high roll nobody even notices you've gone, on a mixed result either someone who saw you vanish gets a string on you or something destructive happens nearby.

Stormcaller: Just what it sounds like, an instant storm you can call when you name someone who has wronged you. The specific trigger is very cinematic, "When you stand under the open sky and bellow the name of someone who has wronged you, roll with volatile." A clean hit gives you control of the storm, a partial hit gets you the storm but things get out of hand. This would be a great way to wreck a pool party or any other outdoor event.

Those are two of the Oni's moves, you only get to choose two, so maybe save a choice for:

Bully: a stat replacement move that lets you shut them down with volatile.

Uniformity:
When you've bullied someone into hiding what's special about them, they gain the sell out condition and take -1 on shut someone down and lash out physically rolls.

The Raised Nail:
Taken from the Japanese expression, the raised nail gets pounded in. I'll just quote it, it's harsh. "When you humiliate or brutalize someone who is different for public entertainment, mark experience." This playbook has very clear goals, the mechanical tools to help achieve them, but could cause serious hard feelings IRL if actually played to the hilt.

Oni Wa Soto
: More from Japanese mythology. If someone orders you out of a place that is absolutely theirs, take a String on them if you promptly comply.

Here's where the playbook gets really harsh.

Iron Club: When you deal harm to someone with the condition stands out you get a choice from a menu of mechanical bonuses; one forward, -1 to any rolls against you for the rest of the scene, or a String on a witness who did nothing.

Where does the condition stands out come from? Your sex move. Your partner tells you how they are special or different, and you can take a String on them or give them the condition.

That all does exactly what it sets out to do, but I'd be very wary of having one at the table.

Next is the Kitsune, the compulsive liar archetype. I've been fortunate in my life to have more Kitsunes than Onis to deal with, but neither are pleasant.

The Kitsune

This playbook is an expression of the fox spirit myths. They can not only mimic someone's form, they can take control of someone. The Kitsune's natural state is their fox form, they have to make an effort to appear in human form. This makes an interesting twist on the supernatural, you can't escape it if there's a Kitsune around; if they want to fit into human society anyway, which they might not. This is another "betrays those closest to them" playbook.

They start with these two moves,

Nine Tales
: When you tell the complete, unvarnished truth anyone listening gets a String on you. This is meant to encourage lying, and also to give the Kitsune a way to pass out Strings, which keep them involved in the action and in fact substitute for an XP move.

Skinchange: Choose an item, when you balance it on your head you assume your human form. Take it off and you return to fox form.

Also choose one ore move from,

Sincerest Flattery: This is the mimic someone's form move. When you mimic someone who has no Strings on you, roll with Strings spent. On any hit you assume their form until the next sunrise or sunset (your choice), on a clean hit you can revert to normal whenever you want.

Vixen: when you successfully turn someone on they choose an extra option from the 7-9 list.

False Promises: Use this move to pay or bride someone for something with worthless junk. There are options for how long it lasts and other handy details. You can't do this to someone who has Strings on you.

Kitsunetsuki: Stare into someone's eyes, roll with dark, and possess them on a hit. There are real drawbacks to any of the choices you make on a 7-9, but a clean hit is total possession.

Blind Trust:
More manipulation of your closest people. When you tell the truth to someone with the infatuated with [your name] you can choose not to give them a String on you.

Having Strings on you severely limits the Kitsune's most powerful abilities. Good news ! Your sex move can give your partner the infatuated condition if you, ahem, fake a spectacular - and obviously fake - orgasm. If you do, they get the condition, and some options. Including tagging you as a faker.

Anyone with the infatuated with [your name] condition counts as having no strings on you for the purpose of your abilities.

So there you have them. Two well designed playbooks covering two all too common archetypes for your Monsterhearts game. Use them at your own risk, but you just might get something very different out of the game.

mllaneza fucked around with this message at 01:17 on Nov 10, 2019

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




If you're the God of Cutting, why shouldn't you be able to Cut away someone's Fortune or Beauty or Sickness?

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



wiegieman posted:

If you're the God of Cutting, why shouldn't you be able to Cut away someone's Fortune or Beauty or Sickness?

You can. That is exactly the kind of thing you do with Domain.

megane
Jun 20, 2008





wiegieman posted:

If you're the God of Cutting, why shouldn't you be able to Cut away someone's Fortune or Beauty or Sickness?

You're not wrong, but this is basically the exact reason I dislike Nobilis (and pretty much all "god games"). By this logic, the God of Cutting can do literally anything as long as the person playing him can bully the GM into admitting that you could theoretically, in some distant metaphorical sense, maybe use the word "cut" in a description of it. Can the God of Cutting cut atomic nuclei in half and blow stuff up with nuclear fission? Can you cut flaws out of an object to repair it? How about cutting through red tape to get bureaucracy done? Can he cut away somebody's luck, or memory, or dislike of him? I guess I'm supposed to go "whoa yeah that's awesome" to all of these, but it just sounds like bland omnipotence to me. Defining what characters can and can't do gives them personality and structure, not to mention limiting the amount of stupid "I can choreograph a ballet with Cutting, right" arguments. Maybe you can't do that and still have a game where characters feel like gods, I dunno. I just don't want to play that game.

megane fucked around with this message at 03:20 on Nov 10, 2019

Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

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


I mean Nobilis is almost by definition a game where exploring how you do things is the point, not whether you can do them.

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


It’s a bit like complaining about Dogs In The Vineyard because you can just shoot everybody, which is explicitly a thing you have the power and authority to do.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

megane posted:

You're not wrong, but this is basically the exact reason I dislike Nobilis (and pretty much all "god games"). By this logic, the God of Cutting can do literally anything as long as the person playing him can bully the GM into admitting that you could theoretically, in some distant metaphorical sense, maybe use the word "cut" in a description of it. Can the God of Cutting cut atomic nuclei in half and blow stuff up with nuclear fission? Can you cut flaws out of an object to repair it? How about cutting through red tape to get bureaucracy done? Can he cut away somebody's luck, or memory, or dislike of him? I guess I'm supposed to go "whoa yeah that's awesome" to all of these, but it just sounds like bland omnipotence to me. Defining what characters can and can't do gives them personality and structure, not to mention limiting the amount of stupid "I can choreograph a ballet with Cutting, right" arguments. Maybe you can't do that and still have a game where characters feel like gods, I dunno. I just don't want to play that game.

Pretty much all of these sound like either something you could absolutely do and it would be fine (nuclear fission isn't really that impressive in Nobilis) or something that would have interesting consequences (it's perfectly okay to ask a player exactly what they think is going to be left after they've cut all the flaws out of something — possibly nothing).

The Sample of Play revolves around three characters, one of whom does in fact have the "cut through anything" power, and I can't really think of a moment where he could have just sliced away all their problems in the way you suggest.

megane
Jun 20, 2008





Mr. Maltose posted:

It’s a bit like complaining about Dogs In The Vineyard because you can just shoot everybody, which is explicitly a thing you have the power and authority to do.

This is the exact opposite of what I'm complaining about. Shooting people is a very clear, specific thing you can do that has well-defined effects and consequences. There are problems it can solve, and problems it can't. You can use your gun to kill a witness and avoid justice for your crimes. You can't use your gun to cure somebody of a disease, or find water in a desert. My concern is not about giving players powerful tools, it's about giving them poorly-defined tools.

It's the same reason I dislike "magic" in most TRPGs.

Rand Brittain posted:

Pretty much all of these sound like either something you could absolutely do and it would be fine (nuclear fission isn't really that impressive in Nobilis) or something that would have interesting consequences (it's perfectly okay to ask a player exactly what they think is going to be left after they've cut all the flaws out of something — possibly nothing).

The Sample of Play revolves around three characters, one of whom does in fact have the "cut through anything" power, and I can't really think of a moment where he could have just sliced away all their problems in the way you suggest.

I dunno, I haven't read it, so I can't say. But does anyone in it actually do this sort of wacky metaphorical boundary-pushing? Does the cutting guy try to cut a day in half, or the regret out of someone's heart?

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

megane posted:

I dunno, I haven't read it, so I can't say. But does anyone in it actually do this sort of wacky metaphorical boundary-pushing? Does the cutting guy try to cut a day in half, or the regret out of someone's heart?

No.

The main big trick he does with it is to crawl out onto the nose of their plummeting jet and slice open the ocean, opening a rent big enough to give the plane room to pull out of its dive.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Rand Brittain posted:

The Sample of Play revolves around three characters, one of whom does in fact have the "cut through anything" power, and I can't really think of a moment where he could have just sliced away all their problems in the way you suggest.

I mean, he absolutely could have done that with his power, as "defined." He could cut the "danger" out of a situation, he could cut their enemies out of existence, he could cut wounds out of himself, he could cut the distanceb between the plane and its destination, he could cut the momentum out of the plane and its passengers so they come to a perfect halt with no problems on the runway.

The fact that he doesn't use that power more than once, is again kind of part of showing how not-very-human anyone acts in the example-of-play.

Mr. Maltose posted:

It’s a bit like complaining about Dogs In The Vineyard because you can just shoot everybody, which is explicitly a thing you have the power and authority to do.

Shooting a gun does some very specific things and has some very explicit drawbacks and limitations. This is nothing at all like "you can do anything you can cram the verb 'cut' into as long as you like and have your hand free to do the cutting with."

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


I don’t really think “I didn’t solve the story instantly in one move” is less than human.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





PurpleXVI posted:

I mean, he absolutely could have done that with his power, as "defined." He could cut the "danger" out of a situation, he could cut their enemies out of existence, he could cut wounds out of himself, he could cut the distanceb between the plane and its destination, he could cut the momentum out of the plane and its passengers so they come to a perfect halt with no problems on the runway.

The fact that he doesn't use that power more than once, is again kind of part of showing how not-very-human anyone acts in the example-of-play.
I dunno, I think if you had some kind of all-consuming unstoppable power like that, you'd probably figure out a few reliable ways to use it that address most of the issues you need, and you'd only stop and think up new applications occasionally or if (somehow) your power got stopped.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

PurpleXVI posted:

He could cut the "danger" out of a situation,

What would that even mean? What would it look like if you did it? You can't do a miracle if you don't know what you're actually trying to do.

quote:

he could cut their enemies out of existence,

Regrettably, they are immortal.

quote:

he could cut wounds out of himself,

This gets brought up at some point, possibly in a different book — cutting wounds out of yourself, or deleting them with Excrucian power, will erase the actual wound, so you stop bleeding or having no legs or whatever, but it won't restore your health levels, which exist on another level of the mechanics.

It might work on a mortal, who doesn't really operate on two levels.

quote:

he could cut the distance between the plane and its destination,

There's a Local range limitation on that Gift.

quote:

he could cut the momentum out of the plane and its passengers so they come to a perfect halt with no problems on the runway.

This would probably have worked to prevent the plane from crashing if he had thought about it, but he didn't actually want the plane to stop, he wanted it to get to DC, where he needed to be.

quote:

Shooting a gun does some very specific things and has some very explicit drawbacks and limitations. This is nothing at all like "you can do anything you can cram the verb 'cut' into as long as you like and have your hand free to do the cutting with."

I think you're running into a problem because you're assuming that Marsiglio can do any miracle that his player can say out loud, but in fact he's limited to doing things that actually make sense. It's very easy to cut someone's head off (if they can't stop you), only slightly harder to slice through their will to resist you, and slightly trickier to cut through red tape. Cutting through "the danger in this situation" doesn't make sense even in a mythic environment without doing a lot more digging to establish exactly what you mean.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Rand Brittain posted:

What would that even mean? What would it look like if you did it? You can't do a miracle if you don't know what you're actually trying to do.

What does "cutting sunlight" or "cutting beauty" mean? Those are the specific examples in the book.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

PurpleXVI posted:

What does "cutting sunlight" or "cutting beauty" mean? Those are the specific examples in the book.

They could mean several things! My point is that the player has to know exactly what they mean if they want to do it. It doesn't become the HG's job to invent the metaphysics behind slicing danger out of things in her campaign just because the player used "cut" in a sentence, is what I'm trying to say.

rodbeard
Jul 21, 2005



I would use that power to cut the session short and play a better game.

EthanSteele
Nov 18, 2007

I can hear you


megane posted:

not to mention limiting the amount of stupid "I can choreograph a ballet with Cutting, right" arguments. Maybe you can't do that and still have a game where characters feel like gods, I dunno. I just don't want to play that game.

All the other ones seem pretty reasonable to pull off and describe how it works, but this one? I think it highlights the limitations of the power, you can solve problems when removing things or splitting things very easily, but adding things is impossible. Going "I cut the lack of choreography" definitely gets the "how?" question and if the player can't say how it works then it doesn't work.

If this was Demon and you had the multilingual pun power you would obviously be able to go "I'm the best dancer in the world because I can cut a rug" which is the good poo poo.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





EthanSteele posted:

All the other ones seem pretty reasonable to pull off and describe how it works, but this one? I think it highlights the limitations of the power, you can solve problems when removing things or splitting things very easily, but adding things is impossible. Going "I cut the lack of choreography" definitely gets the "how?" question and if the player can't say how it works then it doesn't work.

If this was Demon and you had the multilingual pun power you would obviously be able to go "I'm the best dancer in the world because I can cut a rug" which is the good poo poo.
That level of stretch I'd make people play craps to see if God favors their horrible jokes or not. If you make numbers, I guess it works.

Feinne
Oct 9, 2007

When you fall, get right back up again.


Monsterhearts 2: The Cerberus

Sorry, been a bit too busy to do daily posts recently.

There was an extra Skin released, let’s talk about it.

The Cerberus:

quote:

It used to be simple: there was a river of fire, another of pain, and you kept watch at the gate. It was obvious who was doomed. Your claws were sharp, your eyes able to peer in every direction simultaneously.
The threshold was unbroken for a very long time. If only it could have stayed that way: the wretched in one place, the innocent somewhere else. You still guard the threshold. You always will. It’s just the world that’s changed.

The Cerberus is about standing at the boundary between worlds, and ensuring things don’t cross between them. What those ‘worlds’ are is nebulous, and depends on you. I don’t think the creator thought this one through, I’m going to be honest. I like the mechanics a lot, but the concept feels like it’s almost guaranteed to appeal to some really lovely people. Your stat options are Cold 2/Volatile 1 (harsh and exacting) and Dark 2/Cold 1 (brooding and bitter).

You start with the Move Watch Dog, and one more.

Watch Dog: You exist in the liminal state between two communities, one bathed in light and one damned to shadow. Mark experience when you weed out someone on the wrong side and put them in their place. Okay. So to me 100% of this Skin’s viability is really enforcing how this is laid out. Otherwise you’ll have some chucklefuck wanting to be the Cerberus who protects the resplendent Gamers from the shadowy SJWs and someone’s gonna die at the table.

Arbiter: When you give someone a Condition, mark experience. This Skin is all about Conditions, and this is an obvious inclusion.

Dig Deeper: When you Gaze Into the Abyss to dig up dirt on someone, add 1 to the roll. On a 10+ the owner of that character will tell you a secret, and you may give them a Condition to reflect what you have learned. Big fan of this, the Skin is all about Conditions and this is a great way to inflict them.

Loyal: Whoever currently has the most Strings on you is your Master. When you take action to protect or help your Master, add 1 to your roll and they gain a String on you. When you become your Darkest Self, your current Master loses all Strings on you. This is a pretty cool one, it encourages you to play along with someone while also giving a ready mechanism for that to change.

Bark, then Bite: When you take advantage of a Condition that you inflicted on someone, add 2 to the roll instead of 1. Super strong, and obviously goes along with everything else in your kit. Dig Deeper up a Condition on someone your Master wants hosed up, then do it with plus FOUR to the roll.

Doomed Outsider: When trying to drive others away from you or escaping the care of others, you can take advantage of your own Conditions. Pretty cool, and if it’s somehow a Condition you inflicted on yourself then you could even take a +2.

Hot Take: When you uncover an injustice that has been long hidden, add 1 to your rolls to bring it to light. This is okay, and again can work well with the rest of your Moves.

Your Backstory has you marking someone as a damned soul who slipped past you and is hiding among the pure. Gain two Strings on them. You don’t fit in, though, so give yourself a Condition.

Your Sex Move is also about your outsider nature.

quote:

When you have sex with someone, tell them why you don’t belong in their world. If they agree, give yourself a Condition to reflect. If they disagree, you gain a String on them.

Why not take the Hollow’s move that lets you burn a Condition for +1 to a roll where you act it out, too? And your Darkest Self:

quote:

You do your best to be a good boy, but you come from a very bad place. Let’s face it: you’re a mangy, unloveable beast from hell. You were born to snarl and to bite. Anyone who’s gotten close to you needs to be driven away, violently if necessary. You must return to the shadows, dragging the damned back down there with you. You escape your Darkest Self when disrupted by a virtuous hero, or when the power of true love tempers your resolve.
The especially fun thing is how this interacts with other Skins and Loyal. For example you’re a great Lover for the Mortal right up until you have sex, at which point you’ll become Loyal to someone else and probably gently caress up some of their Moves as well because they’ve lost their Strings on you. It also makes Sympathetic Tokens on you better, because they’re both Strings and not Strings.

Going to try and do a post on Skin Move combinations next.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



I think the big key to the Cerberus is that the moves themselves kind of underscore that the division the Cerberus guards is artificial and false. The entire thing is set up in such a way that it is impossible for any person to be exclusively one or the other, including and especially the Cerberus, because the entire distinction shifts so quickly and is so wholly subjective to the Cerberus. The entire thing is setting themselves up as a perpetual outsider, and looking over the moves, the actual two worlds don't matter, it's just about arbitrarily declaring some people bad and others good, and then changing up which is which whenever you're undergoing personal crisis and need to shove everyone away.

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!

Didn't you already post Cerberus? I could of sworn we had a discussion on whether it represented nerd gatekeeping.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Mr. Prokosch posted:

I see no problems with a knife that can cut anything you can define or any of those applications for a Nobilis game. You're playing people who can enter the tomb of horrors and leave it a dinosaur themed Italian restaurant. Your challenges are mostly, "what do you want to do with your incredible power? Cure cancer? Great, done, no more cancer in the world. The God of Pointless Suffering is leaving you angry messages now" or "the color red is under attack, defend it!" or "tea party, everyone be twee at each other for 3 hours. This is what you really wanted."

This sounds loving terrible, tbh. Nobilis irks me more than Monsterhearts.

Then again, I'm not a fan of players having narrative powers.

On the flip side, Infinity RPG has a very dumb Heat (GM currency) spend, which is "summon reinforcements," which seems to be a dumb thing to cordon off for the DM when the other stuff for Heat is "activate goon ability," "dice better" and stuff.

EthanSteele
Nov 18, 2007

I can hear you


SirPhoebos posted:

Didn't you already post Cerberus? I could of sworn we had a discussion on whether it represented nerd gatekeeping.

It was just mentioned when additional official skins came up.

GimpInBlack
Sep 27, 2012

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus.


Mors Rattus posted:

I think the big key to the Cerberus is that the moves themselves kind of underscore that the division the Cerberus guards is artificial and false. The entire thing is set up in such a way that it is impossible for any person to be exclusively one or the other, including and especially the Cerberus, because the entire distinction shifts so quickly and is so wholly subjective to the Cerberus. The entire thing is setting themselves up as a perpetual outsider, and looking over the moves, the actual two worlds don't matter, it's just about arbitrarily declaring some people bad and others good, and then changing up which is which whenever you're undergoing personal crisis and need to shove everyone away.

At least speaking personally, I'm kind of okay with Monsterhearts having a skin like this. Because of the subject matter I'm already only ever going to play it with people I trust to not be actual, IRL shitlords, so I'm more likely to trust that, if someone in that group decides to play a character who is a total shitlord, it's going to be with clear respect for boundaries and the other players' feelings.

I do think that the Cerberus could probably use a content warning discussing this, though.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



GimpInBlack posted:

At least speaking personally, I'm kind of okay with Monsterhearts having a skin like this. Because of the subject matter I'm already only ever going to play it with people I trust to not be actual, IRL shitlords, so I'm more likely to trust that, if someone in that group decides to play a character who is a total shitlord, it's going to be with clear respect for boundaries and the other players' feelings.

I do think that the Cerberus could probably use a content warning discussing this, though.

Agreed.

e: like, this is honestly no worse than the Mortal

Moldless Bread
Jul 10, 2019


The Dark Eye 4.0

What is The Dark Eye?

The Dark Eye is often called the most popular german roleplaying game. Meaning, it was both the most successful game written in Germany as well the most played game by german Gamers. I don't know if these numbers still hold up today, but both facts were definitely true in the nineties and early aughties.

So there was that guy named Ulrich Kiesow. Sometimes in the 80s, he sits down to play a newfangled thing called Dungeons and Dragons. Kiesows reaction is great, he thinks that whole pen and paper roleplaying thing is the bees knees (something we all can understand, I'm sure). Rather than getting annoyed that DnD books are hard to get in Germany and moving on with his life, he starts writing and publishing his own system and setting: The Dark Eye. Somewhere along the line in the third edition, he founds Fantasy Productions, his own publishing company, publishing the game, adventure paths and a magazine and giving opportunities to other RPGs, Fantasy and SciFi literature.
By the time 3rd edition comes around, there is a large and established fanbase of the game. Most notable of that is probably the letter-game, where fans had the chance to put their player characters in the position of lords and nobles and roleplayed political issues and campaigns. The results of these multi-year affairs shaped and influenced the history of the setting.

The 4th Edition got released in 2002. This is the edition I am reviewing and the one I have most experience with. Ulrich Kiesow died in 1997, by the way, so I am assuming this edition has little to no input from him.

2015 saw the release of 5th edition. I am only familiar with it by looking over the beta rules once. It definitely got modernized, slimming the system down somewhat, but it still was too complex and did not have a clear enough selling point for my tastes.

There was an attempt to market the 4th Edition in America, but that didn't end up successful. As a result, only the basic rules have been translated, and I don't have access to those, so I'm going to use the german books for this review. That also means some terms might be translated differently than the official version.

Personally, I'm no longer a friend of the system. I played it for years and years (don't make me count, I'm getting old) and have run again and again into small annoyances, inconsistencies and bloated subsystems, so my viewpoint might bleed through and it's possible that I complain about a perfectly serviceable rule.
My relationship to the setting is somewhat better, having lots of nostalgia for certain events and parts of the world, although there are enough things that never gripped me or actively annoyed me that might set more vitriol off.
As the biggest german RPG for many years, it also tried to cover every possible thing you could play. That is something that is already difficult for a ruleset, but with a fixed setting it becomes a nightmare. TDE tries to offer lighthearted fairytales and gruesome horror, swashbuckling duels and large-scale engagements, a low magic setting and great feats of sorcery, presents itself as a beginners game full of narrative freedom and provides loads of very expansive and very crunchy rules at the same time. In my opinion, the game constantly stumbles over this mishmash of options and both rules and setting suffer for it.
This just won't be a very objective review, is what I'm saying.

Another note is that is has been definitely more than a decade since I read the rulebooks properly, having run the game mostly from memory and houserules since then. So I might (re-)discover something I was not aware of.

Who knows, maybe this will rekindle my interest or more in TDE (which would actually be good, because it looks like I am going to play it a bit longer...). Wish me luck!

The rules – quick overview

We're starting off with a quick primer over the game's rules and world. It's going to take a while to get a complete picture going through the books chronologically, so I am giving a bit context upfront.

The basic check

The basic check is a D20 roll-under check and will be involved, one way or another, in most tests. You look up your target number, roll a D20, apply modifiers and succeed if your roll is below or equal the target number, otherwise you fail. Natural 1s are great successes, Natural 20s are blunders.
(And already, TDE decides to be bit difficult, even if it is not a huge deal. For some reason I can't figure out, the game designers insist on modifying the roll instead of the target number, adding a number to difficult checks and subtracting from easy ones. Meaning, the short notation is +X for difficult checks and -X for easy ones. And that just feels counterintuitive.
I dont't know, if that has always been a thing in earlier editions, but in 5th they changed it around)

The Attributes
And how do you get your Target number? The eight Attributes (or good characteristics, for old times sake) of a character are used both for simple Checks (Can you lift that Gate? Can you catch the falling trinket? Is your first impression a good one?) and are a part of a skill check.
The Attributes are:
Courage (CR) Raw willpower, keeping your nerves under pressure and decisiveness.
Intuition (IN) Quick wits, having the right feelings and trusting them. Understanding Stuff before you can combine all the facts.
Cleverness (CL) Logical Thinking and Memory. Being really good at Lining up the facts in your head.
Charisma (CH) Projecting Confidence, seeming empathic, being likable, regardless of your looks. Also the strength of the characters magical Aura.
Constitution (CO) Being tough. That's it, really. But what more do you need?
Agility (AG) Speed, Flexibility, Moving exactly where you want to go.
Fingers Fleetness(FF), Hand to eye-coordination, fine-motor skills.
Physical Power (PP) Not just being swole, but also knowing how to effectively use your power.

Each Attribute starts between 8 and 14 for the average Hero, (10 is the absolute average for a random person) and maxes out at 1,5 times the starting value.

Additionally, the Attributes make up some derived stats.
A Derived stat is made up of several Attributes and potentially a racial modifier. Basic Attack, for example is calculated as (CR+AG+PP)/5. This does prevent God-stats (and I guess it is has more verisimilitude than strength only), but is hell to calculate on the fly when a stat-altering spell hits.

The derived stats are:
Life Points: Keep some to survive. CO and PP. Usually ends up somewhere between 25 and 35 for starting Characters.
Stamina: Keep some to do other stuff than crawl around on the ground. CR, CO and AG. Ends up in the same Range as Life Points.
Astral Points: Spell points, Mana, Magick. However you want to call it. Only available to those born with the magic spark. CR, IN, CH. Can end up with great variance, depending on what kind of caster you are.
Magic Resistance: A passive defense to make a Wizards life a little bit harder. CR; CL, CO. Gets a negative Modifier from race and usually ends up between 3 and 6
Initiative: Act first in Combat. Becomes drastically more important if you are using optional combat rules. CR,IN, AG. Starting Characters have between 7 and 11
Basic Attack: How good are you at hitting, regardless of weapon skill. CR, AG, PP. 7 or 8 for beginners.
Basic Parry: How good are you at not getting hit, regardless of weapon skill. Also used for Dodging, but we're not calling it Defense because it was always known as Parry. IN, AG PP. 7 or 8 for beginners.
Basic Ranged attack: Hitting, but at Range. IN, DX, PP. 7 or 8 for beginners.
Wound threshold: Damage below that threshold lowers your Life points, but that's it. If the damage reaches or exceeds the threshold, you incur penalties in addition to the damage. Half your Constitution.

Skills (and Spells) and the 3D20 Method
Having those Attributes for simple challenges is nice and all, but realistically, most of your out-of-combat rolls will be made via skills.
The GM will tell the players which skill is rolled. There are plenty of choices, seeing that there are – uh, let me look– roughly 150 different skills.
Were 90s Skill lists still a thing in the 2000s? Because that is a 90s skill list.
The list does include gems like Casting metal, Weaving and Carpentry (which are distinct from Blacksmithing, Sewing and Woodworking, of course), so you're character will only have a fraction of those – fraction meaning roughly a quarter, in this case.
Some Skills are Basic skills (Everybody can use them) and others are Special skills (You can only use them if you put points in it).
They are further divided in 9 skill categories: Combat skills, Physical skills, Social, Nature, Knowledge, Languages, Writing, Crafting and Gifts.
Combat skills, Language and Writing work differently than the others, we'll skip those for now. We will get back to combat in this post, at least.

So, how we roll skill checks?

By using the 3D20 method.

Let's look at Climbing, for example. It looks like this.

Climbing (CR/AG/PP) EN x2 SRV 9

9 is the Skill Rank Value for our Example.
EN x2 is the encumbrance modifier. When climbing, you take a penalty double your encumbrance in addition to other modifiers. (For this example, we're unencumbered). That is mostly a thing for physical skills.
As you can see, there are three Attributes attached to it. Those are set by the rules, but the book points out that at the GMs discretion you could change the ones you’re using. You could only use mental skills, if the character wants to know something about climbing or replace AG with CO if you are rolling for a long, strenuous climb. The assumption is, though, that you are using the given Attributes most of the time.
Each Skill has 3 Attributes attached, although some skills have one Attribute doubled up. It's never the same attribute for all 3 checks, though.

So, with skill rank 9 you are a competent, but not amazing climber and your three stats come out as 14/12/10 in order.

How do you actually climb that wall?

In Essence, you are making three Attribute Checks and try to pass all of them. Throw 3D20 and roll, in order, below 15,13 and 11.
Having to succeed in all three rolls seems daunting, but that is what your skill ranks are for.
If you roll above your target numbers, you can change the rolled number by 1 for each skill rank you spend.
So suppose you roll 7/13/14. You would have failed, but we are using our skill ranks to lower the second roll by 1 and the third by 4. We don't get bonuses for rolling so well on the first roll.
We have now succeeded in the skill roll and even kept 4 SP* (Skill points remaining - and no, it doesn't look less clunky in German).
Some rolls will be binary success/failure with a difficulty modifier upfront, some will not have a modifier but give you a scaling success on your SP*, most rolls will use both.

If you can easily calculate the chances of success in your head, I am impressed. I certainly can't.
I've seen a reference chart made by someone with a much better head for probabilities, and that was a three-dimensional matrix.
That also means the GM is usually eyeballing the difficulty.

The 3D20 Method is at least as old as 3rd Edition and came about (as far as I can tell) because they wanted to add verisimilitude to the check (because there is more to climbing than strength). From now on it is in the game because it always has been in the game. The 3D20 Method is one of the most requested features to be kept whenever there is an Poll about desired features of (theoretical) new editions.
It has now become the trademark of the system, I suppose.

TDE is a classless system, you buy Attributes, Skills and Feats directly by spending EXP. It's therefore always a bit difficult to know how good a character should be in a given skill.
Skill ranks up to 3 represent dabbling in that skill, a rank of 7 denotes "the end of apprenticeship", a skill of 15 makes you a master. Above 20 is the realm of legendary Grandmasters and/or experienced PCs.

Spells work the same as skills. You need to pay Astral points, depending on which spell you cast, but the roll is the same. Each spell is a seperate Skill that you need to learn and raise individually.

Feats
Feats are specialized Bonuses that you buy outside the skill system. Learn your way around in a certain kind of environment, learn the secrets of certain skills, learn to power your magic with a your life force.
Any kind of combat maneuver needs to be bought as a Feat first. They are rather expensive (and getting them cheaper or for free is the greatest advantage of combat professions), but are available to any character that fulfills the requirements.


Combat
So i promised you we would get back to combat for this overview.
First you take your weapon skills and calculate your Attack and Parry.
Combat skills run in the same range of Skill ranks as all the other skills. But instead of using the 3D20 system, you split the skill rank in two numbers (Difference no greater than 5) and add one to your Basic Attack, the other to the Basic Parry. Ranged Weapons get the full Skill Rank added, but have higher penalties.
Once you have determined your Attack and Parry for each skill (Swords or Sabers or Rapiers or Hand-and-a-Half Swords or Two-handed Blades... Impact Weapons cover axes, hammers and maces though...) you hopefully pick the weapon you're best with and engage the person you deem most worthy of getting their faces rearranged.

Every Character gets one action (read: Attack) and one reaction (read: Parry) as well as a free, minor action.
At the most basic, you determine Initiative and the winner goes first. They attack their target, roll against their Attack Value and hit if the roll succeeds, otherwise the attack misses without effect*.
If the attack hits, though, the defender gets to use their reaction to roll against their parry.
If they fail, they take damage. If the roll succeeds, the Attack does nothing.

Yes, the combat system gives every character one flat chance each round to completely no-sell an successful attack. Yes, the chance is roughly equal to the chance of the attack hitting. Yes, the chance easily starts at 50 % and rises with the skill of the character, ending usually above 100 %.
Yes, combat in TDE usually takes a lot of Combat rounds, a good deal of them ending with all attacks whiffing or going *clang*.
The maneuver Feint lowers enemies parry and is more or less mandatory for any fighter. In fact, a lot of high level tactics consist of circumventing the parry roll altogether.
Back in first edition, the combat system was supposedly created to model one-on-one duels, each character taking on their own enemy. This still shows. Since you only get a single parry each round, multiple enemies can easily cut you up without much chance to do anything against this. Even experienced Fighters struggle against mediocre Bandits when outnumbered, unless there is a serious difference in damage and Armor.

Damage is always rolled in one or more D6 with a static modifier. For comparisons:
The longsword (the "gold standard" of average weapons) deals 1D+4 Damage.
Armor works as a flat damage reduction. Most characters can scrounge up at least an 2 points armor, dedicated fighters can go up to 5 or 6 without much trouble.
If the damage ends up higher than the wound threshold, the character gets a mechanical wound, taking a penalty of 2 for each of their wounds on most rolls.
When the life points reach 5 (not 0!), the character is incapacitated. If they reach 0 the character starts dying. In-Combat healing is very rare, Magical healing is somewhat more common if you can take few minutes for it to cast.
Natural healing sits at 1D6 Life points per day, plus bonuses from healing skills, likely having a character recover in around a week. You could chalk that up to genre convention, but to keep verisimilitude the Healthy Air of Aventuria is explicitly a thing.

Combat maneuvers give you a diverse array of options to change the flow of combat – increase damage, Counterattack, force the enemy into the defensive. Usually you just make an Roll with a certain penalty, reaping the benefits of the maneuver at a success , but taking additional penalties when you foul up.

*The book is very explicit that a miss can be refluffed in a lot of ways instead of just hitting air like a dummy – not finding an opening in the enemies guard, hitting but not penetrating armor, getting parried without effort, etc. Most players don’t remember that, though.

Next up: The Setting primer

--------------

Additional Infos
If there is one thing that defines TDE, it’s lists: Long, densely packed lists full of information you need to read to understand all of your available options. I can’t withhold those from you. But instead of summarizing a whole lot of important, interesting and/or irritating things or bombarding you with several list-filled updates in a row, I am parceling some entries out over the updates. We’ll start with the Culture Corner, the Profession Parade, and the Spell selection.

Culture Corner
In the Culture Corner we will take a closer look at the people from all around the continent. I will give you a short blurb about them together with any oddities, warts and fun little details that is unique to them.
I will also comment on the mechanical effects of this culture if your character hails from these places, which will consist mostly of a small array of skill points and some automatic advantages or disadvantages.
I will present the cultures in order of the book, which is sorted by... popularity of the culture, maybe? It starts with the standard not-europeans, jumps around the entire continent and ends with a barbarian culture whose schtick is excessive cruelty. I can't really make out a pattern here.

Profession Parade
Every Character decides on a profession packet during creation to represent what they learned up to the beginning of their adventuring career. Some of the professions provide only training, others shape the characters outlook and philosophy way beyond the apprenticeship.
Every profession gives the character knowledge in an array of skills (that can be individually raised later), providing most of the starting characters skill points. They also determine the starting equipment and some other goodies or automatic dis/advantages.
I am going by to introduce the professions in the order of the book, which is divided by general focus (combat, social, magic etc) and then sorted alphabetically – in German, so the translated version will likely appear random.

Spell selection
Most magic in Aventuria works by casting discrete spells. You pick one of the known spells, roll for it and get a predictable result, the actual effectiveness often modified by the quality of the check.
Some of the spells have certain variants you can cast instead, increasing the difficulty of the check but getting some focused effect, an extended one or a result that only vaguely resembles the original spell.
The entry also lists the reversed effect (doable via a certain spell). Those should mostly be obvious, but I'll mention some of the funnier ones as well.
I'll present the spells in the order of the book, which is alphabetical order of the often charmingly silly faux-latin names most of the spells have. (Sadly, but probably reasonably, they shortened the spell names to one or two words of faux-latin instead of the rhyming chants of earlier editions.)

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Aww hell yes. I am very interested in The Dark Eye, just because I like learning about other countries' RPG output.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


I'd love to hear more about The Dark Eye, there was an LP of one of the TDE videogames some years back that was full of a combination of very neat stuff and insufferably groggy stuff(like having to roll to determine whether you got to level up any stats, so you could literally just have a "dead" level where you gained nothing), and a review of one of the earlier TDE versions painted an image of a very... dense setting. Like there was just so much work and detail in there, clearly a labour of both love and obsession.

But I got the impression that it wasn't from someone who'd played the game much, so having some insight from an experienced player and/or GM would be cool.

Moldless Bread
Jul 10, 2019


PurpleXVI posted:

I'd love to hear more about The Dark Eye, there was an LP of one of the TDE videogames some years back that was full of a combination of very neat stuff and insufferably groggy stuff(like having to roll to determine whether you got to level up any stats, so you could literally just have a "dead" level where you gained nothing), and a review of one of the earlier TDE versions painted an image of a very... dense setting. Like there was just so much work and detail in there, clearly a labour of both love and obsession.

Yes, well

Welcome to the TDE Experience. Dense setting is a very good way to put that.

Rolling for level-ups was a thing of third (and maybe earlier) editions though, so we don't have that at least.

Night10194: I'm kind of excited to have your attention. Thing is, there were a lot of things I thought were cool and hadn't seen anywhere else. Than I read your Warhams stuff and, well - some things in the setting will feel familiar.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


That 3d20 method looks like a bit of a nightmare to work with.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

I'm always interested in these RPGs that basically became the D&D of [Country], like Japan's Sword World and Brazil's Tagmar.

Rolling 3d20 seems very cumbersome, but Poland's Monastyr and Neuroshima both use a 3d20 system.

Halloween Jack fucked around with this message at 20:59 on Nov 12, 2019

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.


The Nobilis 2e example of play was a big selling point at the time, I recall, because 1e’s was weird and weak (it actually ended with the GM announcing they were actually getting the players to summon a demon, so I guess it was a satanic panic spoof)

I think there is a section in either 2e or 3e where it says “if the players give themselves weird abstract powers, go ahead and let them do anything with them, they still cost MP so they can’t solve everything all the time” or something along those lines.

There’s also I think a bit where it mentions that Domain: Cutting wouldn’t necessarily let you cut everything. The actual example is that Domain: Toads doesn’t let you turn someone into a toad, because since they start as a non-toad human they are outside your Estate and not subject to your Domain Miracles.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Fun fact, for those who may not be aware of it: The Dark Eye is one of the twenty or so game systems to have a Community Content program through DriveThruRPG, like the DM's Guild for D&D and the Storytellers Vault for White Wolf games: The Scriptorium Aventuris. So if anyone's ever wanted to write and publish your own The Dark Eye supplement, that is apparently now something you can legally do. (You know, as long as you're okay with only being able to publish it through DriveThruRPG and with half the revenue going to DriveThruRPG and Ulisses Spiele.)

Not that anyone here is actually likely to want any such thing, but for whatever it's worth the option is apparently open.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

hyphz posted:

There’s also I think a bit where it mentions that Domain: Cutting wouldn’t necessarily let you cut everything. The actual example is that Domain: Toads doesn’t let you turn someone into a toad, because since they start as a non-toad human they are outside your Estate and not subject to your Domain Miracles.

Yeah, in 2e you couldn't do this, the closest you could do was smush a lot of the toad-nature into someone so they become fairly toady without actually changing shape.

3e eliminated Spirit and mixed it with some of Domain to make Persona, which is all about manipulating the Estate-nature rather than actual bits of your Estate, so that you can totally give someone a proper toading.

A lot of this is because 2e relied on 'you can't miracle other Nobles directly'. Once 3e introduced a health system that let you take damage from a toading without actually immediately losing your sapience or opposable thumbs, a lot of design space opened up.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Eoris Essence sees you rolling 10d20 all the time. Take that, German excess! The... I think... Brazilians? have you beat hands down.

Also Fingers Fleetness is definitely my next rogue's name.

Poltergrift
Feb 16, 2014



"When I grow up, I'm gonna be a proper swordsman. One with clothes."


Re: the Cerberus, it might help to know that the "resplendent with light" community in the source material (the skin's based on Riverdale) features a lot of organized crime, serial murders and all the other stock "nice town with horrible secrets" things you'd expect from a CW show. "Resplendent with light" really doesn't mean "morally faultless" -- it just means "the one you like but don't think you belong in."

It also helps that the Skin has "whichever side you think is evil is the one you hail from" baked into its assumptions, flavor, Darkest Self, etc.

Poltergrift fucked around with this message at 02:13 on Nov 13, 2019

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I am noticing a lot of similarities in tone to WHFRP combat (and a little bit, Ironclaw 1e, namely in that the system is much easier to run in one on one duels) in the writeup in Dark Eye. I think I'm fairly lonely in being okay with 'whiffing' reasonably often if it also means combat never becomes rocket tag and rounds can still be resolved reasonably quickly.

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.


JcDent posted:

This sounds loving terrible, tbh. Nobilis irks me more than Monsterhearts.

I think another thing that's really not clear in Nobilis is that the GM and the players are supposed to make up the mythical metaphysics of the world. It's not fixed in the book, but equally, it's not "whatever you can think of in the moment" or "anything goes". If the group cosmology is such that you can't cut danger because danger isn't mythically a thing, that's OK. That's how they dealt with my first confusion when I read it, which is how the Power of Guns can do anything without the assent of the Power of Bullets, the Power of Metal, the Power of Violence, the Power of Danger, the Power of Cordite, the Power of Murder yadda yadda... essentially you can decide that not all of these things are actually mythically represented according to the game, or that they have a totally different set of links than they appear to in the actual world.

So yea, cutting beauty would presumably make someone or something uglier, which probably means that in the case of a person it has no alternate mythic effect (since someone with a big ol' slash wound isn't likely to be so attractive)

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Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Night10194 posted:

I am noticing a lot of similarities in tone to WHFRP combat (and a little bit, Ironclaw 1e, namely in that the system is much easier to run in one on one duels) in the writeup in Dark Eye.
I believe WFRP was popular across Europe, so a lot of RPGs were influenced, if not by its mechanics, by its dark fantasy tone and quasi-historical worldbuilding.

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