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StratGoatCom
Aug 6, 2019

Our security is guaranteed by being able to melt the eyeballs of any other forum's denizens at 15 minutes notice


Night10194 posted:

Is the problem that it's too long for a single post or something? If so, break it into multiple posts.

I've seen multiple posts that are somehow over the limit - Halloween Jack's VTM post in the last page of last thread - https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3758962&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=1165 -, when I check it against the box is well over the limit. Is this forums fuckery and I break it up, or is this some aspect of the forum I'm not aware of?

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Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

La morte non ha sesso
Fool! You can't access your Post Limit Break until your Blood Meter is full

StratGoatCom
Aug 6, 2019

Our security is guaranteed by being able to melt the eyeballs of any other forum's denizens at 15 minutes notice


Okay, techical bullshit aside, let us begin.

Eclipse Phase: Firewall

Chapter one: Intro and Preface



I like to imagine that the two characters here are team mates, and that she’s covering the big flexbot as they pull out
’Security’s here, Gremlin!’ ‘You’d think this place being ON FIRE would make them have second thoughts!’

Intro

First of all, I make no bones about the fact that I disagree vehemently with the politics and Weltanschauung of Eclipse Phase as a work. They are naive, and are inescapably bioreductionist and eugenic in nature, no matter how sincere their leftist outlook is, as that is what the subculture they come from inescapably is. I make no bones about my former membership in the subculture, and how it informs my views on this product – indeed, one of the reasons I have interest in EP is, as it was diberately written to include as many concepts from this subculture as possible as lore elements, it makes a good starting to interrogate, critique and own the thought processes it displays. :science: I will also admit to occasionally being possibly overcharitable, as I used to be quite fond of the setting.

To preface this review, EP, fundamentally, is a prosylatory work dealing in the two main modes of that subculture - :hawaaaafap: about the super awesome immortal drugs and sex future, and the ‘Oh god, we’re going to :byoscience: the world unless you listen to us, please and give us moneys :homebrew:!’. It is much in the same vein, ultimately, as one of those garbage comics the hardcore Christans hand out, intended to push a subcultural discourse, by their own admission in a presentation to the IEET, one of the many little :brainworms: institutes in that subculture.
Firewall is a supplement that has a strong ratio in favor of the latter, which probably is the reason why it’s one of the more compelling (despite myself) books in the line, as I both find the study of horrors and plagues to be fascinating, to the point of it being a career I have chosen, as an epidemiologist in training. It also is lower in the amount of ink/pixels spent on posthuman :2bong: & :a2m:, which goes some length in making it more tolerable. It is also interesting as a work in the setting, written mostly as an operations manual for Firewall agents, the only vaguely interesting playstyle the game has for me, as I have little interest in transhuman life & the :jerkbag: about what it means to be human, having been completely burned out on that sort of fiction long ago.
Anyways, as always, an EP supplement opens with fiction – this a continuation of a story that started in Panopticon, one of what was supposed to be a series of books about various nitty-gritty aspects of the setting ( habitats, uplifts and title related, here); I have no idea of the disposition of this after Second Ed, after the what I suspect was a tumultuous dev cycle as well as what might have been some ugly drama between Rob Boyle and Jack Graham.* I suspect the ‘Your Whispering Muse’ books are a leaner successor.
To date: Two of our main characters, Jake Carter and Kim Sage, Captain of the Elysium Rangers (with her baboons in tow), a law enforcement group in the titular region of Mars, had been in pursuit of a lost Sentinel, an uplift, one Bobdog LaGrange who had been abducted by a Yazuka group, who turned out to have been using him for TCM – the triads considering such a cultural embarrassment. After rescuing him, they find a somewhat more unnerving form of animal component extraction in the rear – an operation extracting Whipper Exsurgent juice for sale. After turning over the site to the police and burning the exsugents, they move out to get checked for Exsurgent infection, and do something about the fact that their sentinel has been muted.

Anyway, the story opens as they arrive at their doctor of choice, one ‘Cagehopper’, a black market morph and genetic engineering specialist to make sure they aren’t going to grow tentacles.

quote:

Pretty standard. Just a precaution.” He said
that, but he was covering. He had that itch in his
neck, that crawling feeling in his stomach he always
got after facing an exposure risk. The fear never went
away, and that was a damned good thing. He’d seen
more than a few researchers who got stupid about the
exovirus shot into red smears on Firewall turn-and-burn ops. Hell, he’d done for a few himself, though he didn’t savor it any.
Anyway, they arrive in a area cleverly hidden using smart material shrouds on the entrance (gag), and that particular fellow is a touch… irritated by the unexpected guests:
[quote= This reaction was cantankerous even for
Cagehopper]
[Carter? What the gently caress, citizen? You’re heavy a
few bodies.]
[Heavy a few on account of we all got coughed
on during the last run. Need you to take a look,]
Park messaged.
[And you show up in a cop truck?]
Park messaged, [Look, you’re not gonna like
this, but my shotgun on this ride’s a Ranger.]
[Perceptive, Carter. You’re loving right I don’t
like it. Not at all.]
[Look, Cage, I got Bobdog LaGrange here in a
bad way, and we’re all several of us exposure risks,
right down to the baboo—]
[Baboons! Carter, you rock lizard’s cloaca, I
desire no loving police baboons in my place of
establishment.][/quote]

After some faffing about they arrive in his surgery, where they get down to the nuts and bolts of exoviral assay:

quote:

He (Cage) injected Park with what he figured must be
diagnostic nanomachines to do blood work, then took
throat swabs and dropped them into a sequencer.
[What’s he doing?] Kim asked Park.
[He’ll work with all the displays visible only to him,] he
messaged. [You can’t risk someone with an advanced infection knowing you’re on to them.]

After testing clean, and resleeving Bobdog, the Firewall hacker/analyst – some AGI in a art installation near Locus - that Jake pinged about the Yazuka files gets back – short version is, besides the instructions on how to farm exsurgents and ship the product without turning into Cronenburgs.
The mailing address is obfuscated via some old school method called ‘Combinatory routing codes’, some method where you have to have the whole set of a shipment stacked before you can read the labels to figure out where it goes. Reportedly this was used before widescale drextech replicators to foil corporate espionage but I can’t find it by searching it – after some derping around involving cliché naïve Ais (:rolleyes:), they call in some of Bobdog’s uplift buddies to go apeshit on the bar :wookie:, and find both more canned Exsurgent Juice. Local cops likely knew about the place, but didn’t give a poo poo. There’s some blathering about their relationship which is both boringly cishet male written, and includes some Korean culture stuff I’m neither knowledgeable on a layenbie level enough to talk about, and I’m Not That Kind Of Anthropologist, so whatever – though given past perf, it is likely Not Good.

Well, anyway, they find a certain familiar face:

[quote = Firewall]
She shuttled back about a second and a half. There.
“Hello again, cupcake,” she muttered.
She zoomed. Cowering in one corner of the frame,
doing a good job of looking terrified, was a scantily
clad pleasure pod. Almost a dead ringer for the one
at El Destino Verde—probably the same model year.
…. “Well, poo poo.”
“She ain’t just a party favor,” Kim said, “She’s a
moving part.
[/quote]

After setting another Firewall hand to track her mesh ID (Jake tipped her), Kim showers so that her male baboon doesn’t lose his poo poo about another human on her.
One time jump later, and the pleasure pod is in custody, as a result of insufficient trust of her fake IDs – at the spaceport; this raises some interesting questions about what her deal was, as Mars doesn’t lack for shady egocasting
Another time skip, and we’re at the airport, Carter apparently accepted by the monkeys as he waits for his new girlfriend’s recovery of the pod, as Gloria the baboon grooms him, and Smoke has a good :fap: in the rear. :stare: Some chatting about interservice rivalry later, she returns, pod in tow:

Business Pod posted:

Vaidyar’d (the Pod) ditched her bartending outfit—which
hadn’t been much more than go-go boots, AR
graphics, and hair extensions—for a short, asymmetrical haircut and severe suit. She looked more like
an intellectual property lawyer for a Lunar design
house than a bar trixie in a yakuza dive, and it wasn’t
just the clothes. Park was disappointed with himself
for not making her sooner.
Park is not precisely happy with this situation – you wouldn’t be, riding with a possible biohazard like that, and having more cops to trace, in case she was contagious. Back to Cagehoppers it is!
It's worth noting that this underscores a trait of many strains - while there are versions infectious after transformation, many subtle types don't stay so after transforming a target. This is a strategically important trait to avoid detection by the trail of cases.

***
Cagehopper, as ever, is being a cantankerous poo poo, realllly not liking monkeys.

quote:


[Go away, Carter!]
….
[Cage, man, this is bad news. Serious. I got a potential
widespread infection risk, and you’re gonna dick me around
because you don’t like my cop friend and her monkeys?]
Kim shot him a “c’mon” look across the seat; he
was sharing Cagehopper’s messages with her. [I’ll make
threats if you won’t,] she said.
[Bad cop?] He thought about whether he was up
for some potential bridge burning and decided yes.
[Fine… go.]
[Cagehopper,] she messaged, [This is Kim.]
[What the hell, Jake? Did I say you could give her my
mesh ID?]
….
[Listen, Cage,] she continued, [I ain’t making this offer twice.
Let us in, check this prisoner out for us, and I’ll pretend I never
been to the notorious Cagehopper’s black kettle. Hell, I might
even ignore it next time you move dubious wetware through my
beat. Turn us away, and my memory might get sharper.]
Cagehopper messaged back, [Why do you even care?]
[My beat’s the TQZ. I take this poo poo seriously.]
There was a long pause. [A diamond could start out a
lump of dinosaur poo poo, I guess.] The door started sliding
open.
[Thanks,] she messaged, but she was mouthing something else.

Jake isn’t paying enough attention to the prisoner, if she’s smiling and he didn’t really notice, I might add. They go through the same routine… right up until it all goes tits up.

[quote]
They were four turns into
Cagehopper’s maze when Park’s dorsal spinocerebellar tract went technical on him.
It was as if his extremities were suddenly boats,
unmoored from him, drifting away in a slow current.
He could feel his legs but couldn’t feel where they
were in relation to each other, so that when Vaidyar
jerked away from Kim and threw a shoulder into him,
Park went down rear end over tit. Vaidyar was making a
run for it, headed back toward the garage.
This is a successful use of the Decerebration slight, for those who aren’t familiar with EP’s psi system; this was an easily avertable error, given that, as a proxy, Carter should have been able to procure the nano blueprints for a Prisoner hood and maybe a Psi Jammer and should have before going here.
Fortunately, they have an easy solution to hand:

UNLEASE THE APES :black101: :wookie: posted:

[Cupcake’s an async.]
[Those’re just stories,] she messaged. But she stopped
trying to move.
[I’m setting the monkeys on her.]
[Do it.]
She unlocked the prowler and messaged the
baboons. [Gloria. Smoke. Kill.]



Our exsurgent wasn’t ready for a pair of hostile apes at the other end and is quickly police brutality’d by the baboons, thought not before successfully using Psi assault to kill one. This is fairly obviously fishy for a 'pod'
At this point, we get into talk about the TQZ and the stupidity of not clearing out the drat thing:

quote:

That I like how your friends are dealing with this
poo poo instead of just trying to rope it off and hope it
stays contained,” she said, “I want to know more.”
“Org’s called Firewall,” he said, “Ain’t government,
though it’s got allies in a few of them.”

[…]

“I requested the TQZ periphery
as my beat. We oughta be clearing that land of the
machines, but instead we’re ordered to patrol and
watch. It’s stupid.” She started looking for a way to
clean up Smoke…. “Yeah. I have some
questions. But if you’re not just a bunch of nutjobs,
I want in.”
And new Sentinel preliminarily get, as Jake successfully pulls in a recruit.
We transition to the lab now, after the q-morph has been disassembled. We are indeed dealing with an exsurgent… but fortunately, it’s just Watts-Macleod. They also found another interesting find, outside her brain and bloodstream – a whole QEC unit in her gut. Turns out she was an agent for the Exsurgent buyer of some kind, and that she probably warned them that they were rattled.
One timeskip later, we have the destination of the virus – some fly by night orbital pharma corp’s orbital plant. Unless it’s some seriously weird nano feedstock… we’re dealing with either a TITAN or TITAN aligned biowar attack. Time to get to orbit.
There’s also a hint about Firewall’s loyalty test system, which I will be covering later:

quote:

Are you trying to bring her in or date her?] Cagehopper
messaged him.
The room was empty now, and Park knew Cage
had everything in here miked, so he said out loud,
“Won’t lie. I ain’t excited about putting her through
the loyalty tests.”
Cagehopper messaged, [Only a dumb redneck like you
would recruit a high-value asset like her and then gently caress it up
with feelings.] The baboon might not have smelled what
he and Kim were up to earlier, but Cage sure had.
“We were just passing time.”
[You know Carter, I’ve got implants that could make you
not a completely lovely liar.]
Anyway, that’s done with. Geh, I hope the actual meat is easier work, that was not so fun.

*If it’s like the other regular explosions of bullshit that the industry has, it will likely flair up again, and the breach of trust will be some :allbuttons: poo poo.

StratGoatCom fucked around with this message at 17:17 on Dec 21, 2019

FoldableHuman
Mar 26, 2017

Something I didn't see mentioned in the Dragonlance setting overviews is that the AD&D version of the world is capped at level 18, and if you level up to 19 then one of four things happens:

You voluntarily forgo the level and stay 18 but retain XP total
Raistlin shows up and tells you to piss off somewhere else and if you don't go willingly he yeets you off to Forgotten Realms
Takhisis shows up and maybe offers you "protection" to allow you to be level 19+ and if you don't accept she yeets you off to Forgotten Realms
Paladine shows up and yeets you off to Forgotten Realms

Also some fun wackiness that happens later in the series: there's an entire plot arc at the start of Fifth Age (the period following the whole fight with Daddy Chaos) where dragons are absorbing magical power and every time they do it makes them physically larger. So Kitiara's blue dragon, Skie, is the size of a football stadium by the end. Also he's super obsessed with either resurrecting Kitiara or just finding her soul because he really, really, really wants to tap that.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten

FoldableHuman posted:

Also some fun wackiness that happens later in the series: there's an entire plot arc at the start of Fifth Age (the period following the whole fight with Daddy Chaos) where dragons are absorbing magical power and every time they do it makes them physically larger. So Kitiara's blue dragon, Skie, is the size of a football stadium by the end.

Don't they learn how to do this from dragons from another universe?

Ronwayne
Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.

StratGoatCom posted:

Okay, techical bullshit aside, let us begin.



Nice. Do you have a post written up elsewhere with your thoughts on the uh, "transhuman" stuff IRL? All I know if the funnier stuff like the robot devil and and THE BIG YUD :byodood: and the general "You can be anything you want so long as it doesn't violate gendernorms circa 1955 in a white american suburb" tone of it.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

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

FoldableHuman posted:

Something I didn't see mentioned in the Dragonlance setting overviews is that the AD&D version of the world is capped at level 18, and if you level up to 19 then one of four things happens:

You voluntarily forgo the level and stay 18 but retain XP total
Raistlin shows up and tells you to piss off somewhere else and if you don't go willingly he yeets you off to Forgotten Realms
Takhisis shows up and maybe offers you "protection" to allow you to be level 19+ and if you don't accept she yeets you off to Forgotten Realms
Paladine shows up and yeets you off to Forgotten Realms

Also some fun wackiness that happens later in the series: there's an entire plot arc at the start of Fifth Age (the period following the whole fight with Daddy Chaos) where dragons are absorbing magical power and every time they do it makes them physically larger. So Kitiara's blue dragon, Skie, is the size of a football stadium by the end. Also he's super obsessed with either resurrecting Kitiara or just finding her soul because he really, really, really wants to tap that.

I cannot speak much on the Fifth Age's wackiness, but the arbitrary level cap was an attempt to keep the world of Dragonlance "low-powered" in comparison to the more high octane settings like Faerun. But in a very 80s game design way.

It's a bit jarring on account that there's a few exceptions. I don't know their AD&D stats, but the three Robe Order leaders of High Sorcery are implied to be incredibly powerful. In 3rd Edition they ranged from 18th to 20th level. There's also the whole thing with Yarus in the High Clerist's Tower. Ariakas is epic level (23rd in AD&D and 3rd) but given he's Takhisis' representative on Krynn it's understandable he gets an exception.

Gunthar Uth Wistan gets up there in levels too IIRC, once he becomes Solamnic Grandmaster.

But in the 3rd Edition sourcebooks this level cap is never mentioned.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 07:47 on Dec 21, 2019

U.T. Raptor
May 11, 2010

Are you a pack of imbeciles!?

wdarkk posted:

Don't they learn how to do this from dragons from another universe?
Another planet, iirc. For reasons that are really dumb, Krynn got teleported/moved near a planet of kaiju-sized space dragons and a couple of them moved in.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
Keeping it to 18th level is keeping it from being 'overpowered'? 18th level is, uh, real powerful.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019

by sebmojo

Night10194 posted:

Keeping it to 18th level is keeping it from being 'overpowered'? 18th level is, uh, real powerful.

It is. And really the only classes in 1ed AD&D where super-high level make a difference were clerics and wizards due to increased spell selection. For Thieves and Fighters, their "to hit" and saving throws hit max, so the only difference was increased hit points.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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

Modern AGE sounds like a neat universal system, I'll have to check it out somehow without giving Green Ronin any money for it.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
Another minor warning about it: The add-on book for it is basically useless, undoes some of the actually good design ideas, and spends a lot of pages on telling you 'well if you want rules for special powers or genetic augmentation or whatever, you could make those up!'

I was really disappointed in it and will be getting to it in the review. But I'm not a fan of paying someone to tell me I could houserule things. If I wanted that, I'd be playing 5e D&D.

E: To explain: One of the things I actually like about AGE is that if you're bad at something, it's not a waste of time to invest points in becoming good at it. If you started at 0 or 1 in a stat, increasing it a few times will make you decent at it and can be worthwhile. Similarly, Talents having 3 levels (and generally, all 3 levels being useful) means it isn't bad to branch out and learn new things. You're actually dis incentivized from hyper-specializing by soft caps and other stuff. The add-on book adds on 2 extra levels to talent trees (but only some of them, with a sidebar saying to just make up your own extra levels in other trees) which starts supporting hyper-specialization in a way that bugs me. Plus they start to run out of ideas for what you should get from the same Talents at that point.

In the base system, if you want to get good at a specific thing, it actually only takes a single level's effort. Say you want to say your squirrely scientist picked up being decent with a handgun after their first run-in with zombies; buy 1 point of Acc, Focus (Handguns), and now you're at +3 from where you were and you're immediately, officially competent. I appreciate that in generic systems and action-adventure games because I really like characters being able to pick up new things instead of having to hyper-focus since I think it plays to the strengths of broader systems and the general genre conventions of adventure stories.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 16:17 on Dec 21, 2019

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

All those things you’ve always pined for

Wild Lands ties most of its character advancement to gear. But before that, remember my question putting granular objects in order? Nobody got it right.

The chapter leads off with currency, which goes

Nut - base unit of currency, copper pieces
Berry - 10 nuts, a silver piece. I don’t think of nuts or berries in any real absolute size, but
Grain - 1000 nuts/100 berries. A grain is definitely smaller than a nut or a berry, unless you’re dealing in some huge-rear end wheat, in addition to skipping a power of ten in the process. This is hugely annoying, especially considering any gear you’re going to want to actually keep is priced in grains.

There’s also a damage typing system, which you might remember from the entry on Hobs.

[img]https://i.imgur.com/VDgtXf5.png[/timg]

This just doesn’t belong. I’m struggling to think of an environment where these resistances and weaknesses are all going to show up. I’m sure it can be done, but you’d need to come up with a hell of a resource pool to have all your options on tap. On top of that, loot is supposed to come from a random roll chart, so it’s not like you’re intended to plan around what to procure.

We get a second mention of the resolution mechanic, but it’s still not the part that’s supposed to teach you how the system works. That’s a couple dozen pages off. It’s strange to me, but at least not entirely broke, that your attack roll is made with a number of dice set by your weapon, rather than your own stats. This should mitigate some of the random rolling issues, but then why differentiate between a beastly brawler and a total feeb of a wizard when they’re both going to be equally good at hitting someone with a sword? Again, not busted, just kind of inelegant.

You have access to arcane and mundane weapons. Why wouldn't we get a detailed list of weapons first and foremost? Arcane weapons use MP to do their thing, mundane ones don’t. In theory, your advancement schema comes from leveled unlocks and weapon forging. Say you want to be a wizard. You spend 60 of your 100 starting berries (did you remember how many nuts and grains each of those is?) to buy a spellbook. It comes with a specific basic attack that costs MP; some’ll have a secondary ability at level one as well, like a heal or a buff. On reaching a higher level, often second or third level, you’ll get a bigger, better version of that attack.


There are illustrated examples of each weapon in this chapter. They’re pretty charming! Very FF Tactics Advance.

Well, sometimes. Arcane items will always have a level-up skill, while mundane ones rarely do. Because wizard supremacy, I guess. The idea is that you also are picking up these mana stones along your journey - this is where that ridiculous resistance chart comes into play. Mana stones are gems from the action RPG of your choice - slot a gem into your weapon, get a new effect. Their effects can be a simple typed damage boost, to a whole set of level-gated powers that burn MP on use. Some are universal, some are limited to arcane or mundane weapons, some are typed to a specific type of weapon.

This is a great concept, if you’re going to focus on combat at least. It’s basically how weapons work in Monster Hunter. Instead of having the players fiddle with their own stats, they define their fighting style and abilities through their weapon, which they can alter to some degree. But! If you regem, you destroy the original mana stone you socketed in, and again, you’re mostly supposed to be getting these things through random rolling.

What is not a great concept is how armor works in Wild Lands. All armor is ablative. Wearing armor grants you Armor Points, which are treated like temporary HP. This isn’t a terrible notion in and of itself, but pile that on with the rest of the systems attached to armor. Armor can cap your evade dice, your primary and scarce resource of not getting hurt in the first place. Armor has stat requirements after a certain point. And armor is expensive.

Like, I’m against a la carte nickel-and-dime gear lists in general, but I understand pricing things so starting players can’t break the system accidentally. But here’s the thing - armor has a big THP pool. The max you can get are 130 extra HP from Mole Steel Plate; it requires Physicality 6, so at that stage you’re rolling with 36 “natural” HP, and that’s clearly a big deal. AP don’t refresh on their own, though. You have to pay to repair it, at half the armor’s cost each time. That Mole Plate costs 3.5 grains (currency conversion, remember?), and therefore 3.5 times the total starting gear resource available to a starting player each time you need to fix it. The money treadmill is a bad look, and yet again, your cash is coming from random drops.

The chapter closes out with some accessories and items. Accessories are pretty much transplanted from Final Fantasy, so you get two slots to increase a stat or obtain a magic attack, use a shield, and so on. No complaints here.

Items are mostly utility objects and HP/MP recovery items. A good deal of them are extremely Redwall, so there’s no less than three kinds of sweet condiments on the list. Rope, tent, bedroll, lanterns, you get the idea. There’s some weird discrepancies in here, though. You can buy a backpack, which lets you carry a set number of things. Prior to that entry, the only equipment limitations I can find are about how many items you can equip at a time. I’m still not sure if carrying capacity is broken out anywhere else. Likewise, there’s more rest-related things - a cup of tea gives you the equivalent of 8 hours of rest, but a bedroll gives you HP if you rest on it for six hours; just more stuff that needs an editing pass. A tent has limited uses, and prevents overnight encounters. While unfortunately there is a random encounter table, there’s no guidance on how to deploy it, how often you should roll on it, and so on. Shovels, fishing gear, thieves’ tools and generic toolkits all give “+2 to one roll when attempting to [DO THING].” It’s not apparent if that means they’re disposable, or they only benefit one type of roll, or whatever else you want to try and puzzle out. There’s an armor repair kit, which repairs 10 AP for every hour of use. Are you making checks each hour, or are you just allotting a time to work on fixing your stuff? Does the kit run out? Are you paying to repair your own armor versus taking it to a smith? Does it only repair mundane armor or magic sets too?


Not particularly relevant, but it’s a great illustration.

This chapter needs another few editing passes, and falls victim to the same D&D-ish narrative mechanic problem. Do we need all this stuff, and if we do, why does it touch on mechanical elements without actually giving you resolution effects? I know what salt is for, but how does a scroll of teleportation work? “Like in D&D” is the obvious answer, but you can spot the multiple problems with that statement.

Quite a few of these items are neat toys, and some even do a good job of capturing the imagination, but the implementation just isn’t there.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
Mouse knight on a sparrow is pretty drat cool looking, at least?

So, what is this game trying to be, exactly? Everything so far sounds like it's trying to be a Final Fantasy sorta deal without the automation that can help computerized JRPG stuff handle all these typed damages and fiddly bits.

90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006
:gay:
Who needs sleep when you can get by on a cup of tea every eight hours for your entire life?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Post 3: Talented!

If I was going to make my own update of WHFRP, the skill system here would be how I would approach it. One shift I've noticed in a lot of modern RPG design (among crunchy and semi-crunchy games) is a move towards having skills add to what you can do instead of making lack of skills cut you off from attempting things; you see the same over in Cardinal, where having Skill Marks or whatever just added dice and you could still try to do things fine without an actual skill. This is a very good trend for 'adventure' fiction. The classic style of story about broadly competent characters benefits a lot from giving people room to improvise and play to their strengths, but more importantly it keeps you from accidentally creating lots of scenes where most of the players can't participate. AGE has very, very specific Focuses; you need a separate Focus for Handguns, or Assault Rifles, or full Long Arms, or whatever, for instance. This is because your base stat matters a lot more than your Focus in the grand scheme of things. Focus is simply a way to get much better, much faster. A character with a 5 in Accuracy is a world class marksman whatever they pick up; their Focus just defines what they're especially good with. Similarly, they can reflect places where you're otherwise pretty average but suddenly stand out. Someone with a 1 in Perception but the Empathy Focus is still really good at reading people and being sensitive to others even if they're only 'average' at the other parts of investigating.

Considering you get a Focus every level, and you have 20 character levels to go through (plus you start with 2-3 from your Background and Profession), they work out fine. Similarly, the overall stat cap works fine with the fact that the game is running on a 3d6 engine; you get the biggest benefits for a single +1 or a +2 when you're close to needing a 10+ or 11+ to succeed, with benefits diminishing as you get your target roll down (or penalties ceasing to matter as much as it goes up, but that's because your chances were shot already). Your odds of an 11+ roll are 50-50, 10+ is 62.5%, etc, but by the time you only need a 7+ you've got 90% odds of hitting a roll. This is going to be important for how some of the game's situational penalties work. A -1 penalty isn't going to matter much to someone who had good odds, but it's a big deal if you needed a 10 or 11 on the dice to succeed. Most TNs won't go out of the 10-15 range. If it was TN less than 10, when you assume the average PC has a +1 in the base stat, you probably don't have much cause to bother rolling as anyone competent can succeed trivially. Similarly, going above TN 15 is effectively requiring a player to have their stat near the cap, a Focus, and maybe some situational bonuses, so those sorts of difficulties are pretty rare. This makes it very easy to determine when a character is talented at something, and also makes it achievable to become talented at things you're not by leveling up.

I harp on that some because I think it's an important part of serial adventure fiction. It's nice to be able to start out as a painter and then get drawn into a world of international intrigue and madness and pick up being a secret agent or something. Or have your tough soldier slowly pick up crazy occult knowledge. Or whatever other 'twist' on advancement you can think of. It isn't necessary to every campaign, every character, and every story, but I really like having the option open.

As for Talents, like Focuses, Talents are never really 'necessary' but add edges to what you can already do. You don't need 3 ranks of Handgun Style to be good with a pistol, but it helps. This can be seen as 'nickle and dime' Talent design, but I think that's less of a problem when they're edges on top of a broad base of competence from your core stats. Part of the reason some people (myself included) hate D&D's Feat design so much is that you're so reliant on Feats to give you permission to even try to do things. You get some cool abilities from Talent trees, sure, but most of your special abilities are in the Stunt system and your stats. I can still pull off a cool move where I wrap a bike chain around a guy's wrists and padlock him to a fence as a finisher in a fight without needing an entire Talent tree; that's just a normal (if high SP, and usually requiring a second, opposed test) Stunt. But having Self Defense Style so that you can follow up someone missing you by putting them in a hold is a big help on being a good grappler. A cunning character is probably pretty good at lying to people, but getting a free reroll from having the first rank of the Intrigue Talent when they gently caress up a lie check is a nice bonus.

For the most part, Talents don't open up entire things you can do now, they just make you better at things anyone could try to do. And again, you get a Talent along with a stat point and a Focus every level, so you're not wasting things you could have spent on other things developing these edges. Lots of them also get more exciting as you go up their tree, and at most, any one Talent takes 3 levels of investment to max out. Lots of Talents also modify the Stunt system, making you generate more points or making certain Stunt actions cheaper so you can add more to your combo. The bonuses aren't huge, but they're certainly enough to be useful. Talents also have pre-reqs, but these are A: Waived if you got the Talent through a starting or background slot and B: Only matter for learning the first rank of the Talent; they don't increase as you go up in levels of the Talent. They aren't huge, usually. They're usually things you would have had anyway. You need Fighting (Brawling) to learn Striking Style, for instance. Or you need a high Int for Theory and Practice, the Talent tree about substituting your (narrowly specialized) knowledge Focuses for more practical/physical ones at a penalty. So you would want a high Int to make any use of that Talent anyway. The pre-reqs aren't really necessary, but they aren't a big deal in practice.

In addition to Talents and Focuses, as you level up you'll eventually unlock Specializations. These are additional small bonuses on top: you get one every 4 levels. They act like a special Talent Tree, and you can upgrade them or buy into the first level of a new one at level 8, then 12, then 14, then 16. You cannot have more than 2 of these, so you'll eventually Master one and be stuck at Expert in another. I wish there were a few more of these, but the concept does the job okay. These are things like Executive, Gunfighter, Academic, Spy, etc. They function almost exactly like Talents, just you get that very limited pool of them and they slot on top of your normal advancement. They add some nice flavor to a character and like everything else, they're all about building on a broad base by giving you a few edges in a specific area. For instance, an Investigator can always unlock leads even if they don't have a required Focus (they find some other way around the obstacle), then gets an additional +1 bonus from their Focuses if they apply to the investigation check and makes some of the Investigation stunts cheaper at Expert, then makes the 'Big Breakthrough' Stunt almost half as expensive at Master. Once again, you'd be perfectly fine being a detective without it, but it will make you better at it.

In a more focused game system, I would want much more exciting and specific advances. In a generic game designed to be adapted to multiple flavors of modern adventure serial games? I really like the approach of having multiple axis of advancement while making your core stats and the Stunt system available to everyone the most important part of your character. The threshold for competence being attainable within a level or two for a specific task you want to be good at is also helpful for a generic system. You want your character to have an arc about becoming a great medic? Three levels in Int, master the Emergency Treatment Talent track, buy Medicine and two other Focuses, and congratulations, you're now able to patch bullet wounds so fast that you can even shoot back at the same time, making Heal Another a minor action (which you got for that first level of Talent!) and healing people by effectively 3d6+Int every time you use it. And you were already competent enough after the first level and talent. This also means 1st level characters are still reasonably competent people. You're action protagonists. PCs in this system are built to get up to antics from day one and only branch out or get better from there. It works well for a generic semi-crunchy system.

Next Time: Stunts

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019

by sebmojo

Night10194 posted:

Modern AGE

Post 3: Talented!

As for Talents, like Focuses, Talents are never really 'necessary' but add edges to what you can already do. You don't need 3 ranks of Handgun Style to be good with a pistol, but it helps. This can be seen as 'nickle and dime' Talent design, but I think that's less of a problem when they're edges on top of a broad base of competence from your core stats. Part of the reason some people (myself included) hate D&D's Feat design so much is that you're so reliant on Feats to give you permission to even try to do things. You get some cool abilities from Talent trees, sure, but most of your special abilities are in the Stunt system and your stats. I can still pull off a cool move where I wrap a bike chain around a guy's wrists and padlock him to a fence as a finisher in a fight without needing an entire Talent tree; that's just a normal (if high SP, and usually requiring a second, opposed test) Stunt. But having Self Defense Style so that you can follow up someone missing you by putting them in a hold is a big help on being a good grappler. A cunning character is probably pretty good at lying to people, but getting a free reroll from having the first rank of the Intrigue Talent when they gently caress up a lie check is a nice bonus.


Next Time: Stunts

This nails exactly why I despised AD&D 3+, the Feats.

"Okay, as a Fighter, I'll take the Sword and Shield Feat, the Hit People Feat and the Wear Armor Feat. Did I forget anything?"

"Yep. Right now your guy will die from an exploded bowel because you didn't pick up the Take a poo poo Feat."

Even in AD&D 2 I could describe some action, the GM would consider it, assign some to hit penalty to it along with the effect it was successful and off we'd go. In the "improved" version, I'd need to take Feats for everything outside of the most basic actions and even Feats for some of those. So low-level combat tended to be:

"I hit him. I hit him a se-cond time. For a third time, I hit him."

Swashbuckler Player: I tumble through the window, jump for the chandelier, use it to swing toward the guard, let go and go feet first into him to knock him down as I pull my rapier, put it to his throat and demand "Tell me where you're keeping her Highness, you wretched dog!"

GM: Cool. Just give it like, ten more levels and you can get the 15 extra Feat that'll let you try to do all that cool poo poo.

SP: Fine. I'll draw my sword and walk slowly through the door. Then I'll hit the guard and hit the guard a se-cond time. Once he's dead I'll check his body for anything that tell me where the princess is.

GM: Do you have the Search a Corpse Feat?

SP: gently caress you. I hate this system.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
D&D 3.PF is basically a long list of 'looks like it gives you options on the surface, is more restrictive than you could have imagined in practice'.

I'm fine with edge-based incentives and smaller bonuses for character abilities if they're built on top of a solid core of 'your character can do things'. You see the same in Cardinal. To some extent, the biggest mechanical failing in WHFRP 2e is that it made not having a skill much too punishing compared to 1e. Having broad options is important to encouraging players to try all kinds of things. Half the reason I think people get into narrative games is because they're all built around that same assumption, and playing on that assumption is tremendously liberating when you come from a background like D&D.

Which is also funny because D&D still contains lots of that sort of improvisation, it's just entirely without real mechanical guidance and so ends up potentially going in directions no-one wants.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.


Grimey Drawer
I liked the idea behind feats... until it turned 'mother may I?' into a licensing system.

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

Night10194 posted:

Mouse knight on a sparrow is pretty drat cool looking, at least?

So, what is this game trying to be, exactly? Everything so far sounds like it's trying to be a Final Fantasy sorta deal without the automation that can help computerized JRPG stuff handle all these typed damages and fiddly bits.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Your guess is as good as mine!

I'm pretty sure the author wasn't entirely clear on what Wild Lands was trying to be. It's complex enough to be annoying in play, but not actually rewarding as a system - a majority of the monsters don't have a resist/weakness attached. It means your character also taps out on new things to do no later than level 5 of 7, and oftentimes earlier than that.

I strongly suspect there's a lot of cargo-cult design going on here.

Maxwell Lord
Dec 12, 2008

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

And I hope you die.

I hope we both die.


:smith:

Grimey Drawer

Bieeanshee posted:

I liked the idea behind feats... until it turned 'mother may I?' into a licensing system.

Feats were never clearly defined in terms of design space, which was the problem. The name makes it sound like cool poo poo you can do, and some feats are like that, but others are “can wear armor” and “get a small bonus to a skill”. Without any clear idea of what a feat was and wasn’t, we ended up with thousands of them.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012

Everyone posted:

Even in AD&D 2 I could describe some action, the GM would consider it, assign some to hit penalty to it along with the effect it was successful and off we'd go. In the "improved" version, I'd need to take Feats for everything outside of the most basic actions and even Feats for some of those. So low-level combat tended to be:

"I hit him. I hit him a se-cond time. For a third time, I hit him."

Swashbuckler Player: I tumble through the window, jump for the chandelier, use it to swing toward the guard, let go and go feet first into him to knock him down as I pull my rapier, put it to his throat and demand "Tell me where you're keeping her Highness, you wretched dog!"

The thing is, in AD&D days, the DM's response to that would probably be something like, "Okay, roll a Dexterity check, then a Strength check, then another Dexterity check, then roll to hit at, oh, -4, and if you fail any of these rolls you fall on your face." Or an argument over whether or not you could actually do all that in a single round.

If you think I'm exaggerating, there was an article in the Dragon about using attribute rolls to help decide actions, and it suggested breaking down an action into parts and calling for a roll for each one. One of the examples it gave was a fighter trying to climb a rope up a cliff before monsters could get him. It suggested a Dexterity roll to grab the rope and then a Strength roll to climb it. Quite a lot of DMs thought that way, which is why so much problem-solving in the old days revolved around using spells and magic items. Their effects were right there in the book in black and white, so you didn't have to throw yourself on the mercy of the DM's judgment.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Maxwell Lord posted:

Feats were never clearly defined in terms of design space, which was the problem. The name makes it sound like cool poo poo you can do, and some feats are like that, but others are “can wear armor” and “get a small bonus to a skill”. Without any clear idea of what a feat was and wasn’t, we ended up with thousands of them.

Just look at Gifts in Cardinal, which were actually thought out and defined by the designers, for an example of how much different they could be. 'This gives you the best die you can get under certain conditions', 'this gives you a new ability you can exhaust it to trigger' 'this gives you a nice passive bonus or improves some piece of gear' etc.

FoldableHuman
Mar 26, 2017

Maxwell Lord posted:

Feats were never clearly defined in terms of design space, which was the problem. The name makes it sound like cool poo poo you can do, and some feats are like that, but others are “can wear armor” and “get a small bonus to a skill”. Without any clear idea of what a feat was and wasn’t, we ended up with thousands of them.

It's almost tragic how obvious the pitfall was.

You start by designing Feats as, well, feats, but you don't have a great spread because the easiest to think up were Fighter tricks. One player in the playtest goes "well, I don't care about any of those, can I just, like, trade my Feat point for better armour?" You say "sure" but now the gate's wide open, you can just pad the Feat list out with incremental versions of class features. Toughness gets written as the ultimate "I don't care" feat dump. You rationalize its badness by telling yourself a player who doesn't care deserves to get screwed.

Two years later Complete Deck Swabbing includes the feat Improved Sit In A Crow's Nest and you have only yourself to blame.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019

by sebmojo

Selachian posted:

The thing is, in AD&D days, the DM's response to that would probably be something like, "Okay, roll a Dexterity check, then a Strength check, then another Dexterity check, then roll to hit at, oh, -4, and if you fail any of these rolls you fall on your face." Or an argument over whether or not you could actually do all that in a single round.

If you think I'm exaggerating, there was an article in the Dragon about using attribute rolls to help decide actions, and it suggested breaking down an action into parts and calling for a roll for each one. One of the examples it gave was a fighter trying to climb a rope up a cliff before monsters could get him. It suggested a Dexterity roll to grab the rope and then a Strength roll to climb it. Quite a lot of DMs thought that way, which is why so much problem-solving in the old days revolved around using spells and magic items. Their effects were right there in the book in black and white, so you didn't have to throw yourself on the mercy of the DM's judgment.

The thing is that I'd be okay with your example of Dex/Str/Dex/hit -4 because I'd have a chance to do it. I'm playing a Fighter who's a Swashbuckler, figure my Strength and Dexterity are probably going to be pretty decent anyway.

With 3.5 the GM would ask "Do you have (list of 5-10 Feats)? No? Then you can't do it." Just a flat, no. Not, it'll be harder or you'll need to roll with x penalty. Just, no.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Selachian posted:

The thing is, in AD&D days, the DM's response to that would probably be something like, "Okay, roll a Dexterity check, then a Strength check, then another Dexterity check, then roll to hit at, oh, -4, and if you fail any of these rolls you fall on your face." Or an argument over whether or not you could actually do all that in a single round.

If you think I'm exaggerating, there was an article in the Dragon about using attribute rolls to help decide actions, and it suggested breaking down an action into parts and calling for a roll for each one. One of the examples it gave was a fighter trying to climb a rope up a cliff before monsters could get him. It suggested a Dexterity roll to grab the rope and then a Strength roll to climb it. Quite a lot of DMs thought that way, which is why so much problem-solving in the old days revolved around using spells and magic items. Their effects were right there in the book in black and white, so you didn't have to throw yourself on the mercy of the DM's judgment.

And of course, not a one of them thinks about probability on the level to go 'wait, a 50-50, then a 50-50, then a 50-50, then a 30-70...oh, those are actually terrible odds." Because it's 'realistic' that you'd have to run every single step of that and for a long time people don't seem to have thought about points of failure and how they change your odds.

E: Actually, that was one thing that stood out a lot in WHFRP 1e. It suggesting that if you're trying something that'd be a sequence of two skills, just average your percent chance between them and roll that. Actually usually gives you better odd than doing a sequence.

Also, at a certain point, 'you need to make multiple rolls at X penalty' is just a longer, more time-wasting way to say 'no'.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 02:17 on Dec 22, 2019

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

Ronwayne posted:

Nice. Do you have a post written up elsewhere with your thoughts on the uh, "transhuman" stuff IRL? All I know if the funnier stuff like the robot devil and and THE BIG YUD :byodood: and the general "You can be anything you want so long as it doesn't violate gendernorms circa 1955 in a white american suburb" tone of it.

Oh hell, is this something topical? 'Cuz, along with J.K. Rowling, Richard Morgan of "Altered Carbon" fame (and basically the uncredited writer of Eclipse Phase, since a lot of the game's concepts came from his novel series) outed himself as a transphobe, claiming to be a "bio-materialist" or some poo poo.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements



Young Freud posted:

Oh hell, is this something topical? 'Cuz, along with J.K. Rowling, Richard Morgan of "Altered Carbon" fame (and basically the uncredited writer of Eclipse Phase, since a lot of the game's concepts came from his novel series) outed himself as a transphobe, claiming to be a "bio-materialist" or some poo poo.

EP is way more experimental and, frankly, progressive than Morgan on that front. In large part it's because he considers sleeving/bodyswapping to be a form of alienation and exploitation in the books, while EP thinks that it's a way for people to express themselves, experiment, and develop. While also involving a system of exploitation and alienation, etc etc. They just also think it's cool and would like to do it, as long as it's by choice.

Ronwayne
Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.

Young Freud posted:

Oh hell, is this something topical? 'Cuz, along with J.K. Rowling, Richard Morgan of "Altered Carbon" fame (and basically the uncredited writer of Eclipse Phase, since a lot of the game's concepts came from his novel series) outed himself as a transphobe, claiming to be a "bio-materialist" or some poo poo.

Can't find the original post, but some goon put it best:

quote:

Conservatives/reactionaries are hilarious when it comes to this stuff, because it's the absolute embodiment of their contradictory desires to transcend mere humanity and become a Master race but also their desire than everything be like the 50s again

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion


As far as jumping through the window, rolling on a table, and stabbing a guy, shouldn't that just be a single Tumble check? With a bonus to your attack roll if you succeed?

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!
Who of you has more money than sense? Since this poo poo exists:



https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/260047/The-Blackest-of-Deaths--Dire-Old-School-Fantasy-RPG-Ashcan-Version

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!

DID SOMEONE SAY MY NAME.

If this is short-ish I'll give it a look in between DL modules as a Christmas special, otherwise I'll do it once I'm done with the main line of modules.

Selachian posted:

The thing is, in AD&D days, the DM's response to that would probably be something like, "Okay, roll a Dexterity check, then a Strength check, then another Dexterity check, then roll to hit at, oh, -4, and if you fail any of these rolls you fall on your face." Or an argument over whether or not you could actually do all that in a single round.

And a GM in 3.x could also decide to call for your Tumble roll with an absurd penalty on it. At some point there's always going to be an aspect of difficulty judgment call and the GM will always have a chance of misjudging this and loving up.

If you look at the actual published examples, even in a rather "gently caress the players"-set of modules like the original DL series, the stat checks are usually just a single one per challenge, except for a few horrible outliers like the piloting check at the start of DL7, and "chaining" checks where loving up one check ends you up in a situation where you get a second check to avoid the full consequences of the first failure(eg. first check is a fall, second check is a chance to grab a rope while plummeting, etc.).

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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

PurpleXVI posted:

DID SOMEONE SAY MY NAME.

If this is short-ish I'll give it a look in between DL modules as a Christmas special, otherwise I'll do it once I'm done with the main line of modules.

Here's hoping! I also have a supremely edgy game in the reserve, but I want to finish Degenesis first... even if that's years away.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019

by sebmojo

JcDent posted:

Here's hoping! I also have a supremely edgy game in the reserve, but I want to finish Degenesis first... even if that's years away.

I cited it as a "For Christ's sake don't do this poo poo in your game" in the WoD thread, but after having re-read Carcosa, I'm considering doing a review of it. I'm hesitant to do this because I really like my new (to me) MacBook Pro and I don't want to ruin it by vomiting blood from my eyeballs.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Everyone posted:

I cited it as a "For Christ's sake don't do this poo poo in your game" in the WoD thread, but after having re-read Carcosa, I'm considering doing a review of it. I'm hesitant to do this because I really like my new (to me) MacBook Pro and I don't want to ruin it by vomiting blood from my eyeballs.

Having liveblogged a reading of it, I think the main issue you'd run into is that it's honestly just frightfully dull except for the spell list - and the spell list isn't even interesting, it's just 30 variations upon human sacrifice and rape.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019

by sebmojo

LatwPIAT posted:

Having liveblogged a reading of it, I think the main issue you'd run into is that it's honestly just frightfully dull except for the spell list - and the spell list isn't even interesting, it's just 30 variations upon human sacrifice and rape.

Like I said in the other thread, Carcosa is more indirectly interesting to me than anything else. It paints an effective picture of "this is how hosed up people will be if the Mythos well and truly gets a foothold in our world.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

Everyone posted:

Like I said in the other thread, Carcosa is more indirectly interesting to me than anything else. It paints an effective picture of "this is how hosed up people will be if the Mythos well and truly gets a foothold in our world.

If the main effect of the mythos is "everyone commits a lot more rapes" then it's way more prosaic and boring than its fans like to paint it.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.


Grimey Drawer
The Mythos according to Cthulhutech.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007



Mors Rattus posted:

If the main effect of the mythos is "everyone commits a lot more rapes" then it's way more prosaic and boring than its fans like to paint it.

We already had a review of

Bieeanshee posted:

The Mythos according to Cthulhutech.

:argh:

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Mors Rattus posted:

If the main effect of the mythos is "everyone commits a lot more rapes" then it's way more prosaic and boring than its fans like to paint it.

The Mythos is generally more prosaic and boring than it's painted, but a lot of that is simple over-exposure. Hard for something to pretend to be mysterious and unknowable when the monsters are all famous and have been used over and over again for ages.

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