Reviews and Ramblings
Eclipse Phase by PurpleXVI - 01/10/14
BESM, 3rd Edition by PurpleXVI - 06/14/09
Trigger Discipline by PurpleXVI - 01/09/09
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GM Startup Guide by PurpleXVI - 06/10/09
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DORF FORT ELLPEE by CAPSLOCKGUY - 10/19/08
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More Fun To Read Than To Play
Now that "all" of Eclipse Phase is out and it's basically a "done" game until an eventual second edition or the rumoured FATE conversion happens, it might be time to look through it and see what it got right, what it got wrong, and which things they go so wrong we should just outright mock them for it.A Brief Timeline
The original EP corebook came out in 2009 accompanied by considerable hype and containing basically everything you needed to play the game, but being at kind of a dearth for information about a lot of the actual gameworld(which can, I suppose, be excused, considering that said gameworld covered nine planets, countless off-planet habitats, asteroids, comets and exoplanets).
2010 provided Sunwards(near-Sol to Mars) and Gatecrashing(away-from-Sol locations accessible via the Pandora Gates) and both were essentially necessary to actually use any of those elements. Sunwards finally gave the Planetary Consortium, LLA and Morningstar Constellation some actual details and gave some canonical habs to work with. Prior to Gatecrashing, there were literally no mechanics or any sort of real information beyond a couple of vague paragraphs with regards to the Pandora Gates, it also had a lot of useful hard-scifi stuff for GM's who wanted to be detailed when making their own alien planets.
Panopticon in 2011 was the book where they made up for largely forgetting Uplifts and realizing that they'd made a relatively undetailed review of hacking and computer security in the core book, despite having a world where even half the population's brains
could be hacked.
2012's Rimwards expounded on the Sol system from Jupiter outwards, again sorely needed considering the very, very vague sketch we'd been given of things in the core book.
Finally in 2013 we got what's looking to be the last Eclipse Phase book until the system gets an overhaul/conversion: Transhuman. It's the only book that's purely mechanics and zero fluff, containing a revised character generation system that does a lot to make things more interesting.
Oh and there's also Glory. Glory is going to get its own subheading.An Overview of Eclipse Phase
The core conceit of Eclipse Phase is that some Unspecified Period into the future, things are going decently for humanity. We're expanding into the solar system and have experimented with Seed AI's(self-improving AI's) named the TITANs. Predictably, considering the ominous name and the utter stupidity inherent in permitting an intellect-singularity, the TITANs go insane and decide to start massively fucking humanity over. Earth rapidly becomes uninhabitable, billions are killed, displaced or forcibly have their minds uploaded into TITAN memory banks.
Earth is sealed off by the off-planet authorities, leaving the surviving TITANs either trapped on Earth or having escaped out of the system through the Pandora Gates, being newly-discovered alien artifacts connecting to vast networks of Pandora Gates in other solar systems, permitting instantaneous travel between them. The TITANs have at this point also basically evolved into horrifying things utilizing femtotech and nanoplagues, real Lovecraftian horror stuff. Humanity eventually stabilizes the situation, and this is where the players are introduced. The game intends for them to be agents of Firewall, a secret organization dedicated to preventing humanity fucking itself over by fucking with seed AI's, TITANs/remnant TITAN technology or alien technology in the future.
Oh yeah, there are aliens. We'll get into that later.
The main "novel" mechanics for EP are that minds can be uploaded and transferred, meaning that players can swap bodies. It also adds a "horror" element that minds can be stolen, modified and etc. But as most people know by now, "horror" RPG's are easier said than done.What They Got Right
All of the in-setting fiction, from snippets to exposition to start-of-chapter/start-of-book storytelling is excellently written. It really does feel like they got people with writing experience doing this, not just random grogs who wanted to write about their goddamn waifu characters. It also feels like, by and large, thought was actually put into how all of the new technologies and concepts would change people's attitudes and lives. The art also deserves praise, as it's well-done, creepy and doesn't just gank some pre-existing aesthetic, but seems very dedicated to creating one of its own.
Everything about the game speaks of creators who really, really wanted to do something good, who really had soul, and some degree of talent, and invested both into Eclipse Phase.What They Fucked Up
Sadly, just WANTING to do things right isn't a magical potion. Once past the writing(which does have its issues at times), the game starts to show some strain.
The core mechanic, 1d100-roll-under, is functional enough, but considering the low cap for skills and the lack of any modifiers like perks or feats, characters and monsters tend to end up very similar and there's very little room for describing a truly exceptional individual or dangerous enemy. Considering the hugely generous point pool for chargen, it's very likely that most characters will never see any growth after being created.
Equipment-wise and morph-wise(morphs being the setting's words for the bodies that can be swapped between), there are also a very few, very obviously superior choices that aren't even exceptionally expensive to make them something to aim for in the long run. You can start out with a "maxed" loadout during chargen except for one or two very specialized morphs. In fact, morphs are a specific issue in and of themselves. They're split into three groups: Bio(entirely organic), Pod(heavily mixed cybernetic and biological) and Synth(entirely robotic). Biomorphs and Synths each have their strengths and weaknesses, as well as some mods that the other group cannot use. Pods, on the other hand, have nothing unique or exceptional except for a tendency towards(very shit) natural weapons and low cost, they can't use any of the group-exclusive mods, and have no exclusive mods of their own.
They're really only useful to use if your GM regularly and viciously one-shots party members and they need cheap body replacements, because you may as well otherwise just make a hyperstrong, 'roided out, modded-to-the-max bio or synthmorph that he can't
kill without cheap one-shots.
As mentioned, equipment-wise it's really bad. Literally only ballistic weapons are worth using, a bit of mods and special ammo and they're by far the superior choice for ANY situation. Armors have different kinetic/energy resistance values, but the difference is never huge enough to justify energy weapons over ballistic, and the Spray/Explosive weapons have even less going for them. Melee weapons are really only competitive if you focus EVERYTHING about your character on maxing their damage and then wear power armor to boost it further.
The issue is that the mentality appears to have been that players have a lot of sub-standard morph/equipment choices they might have to resort to in pressed situations, but since they can start from chargen with the best choices, it really requires the GM to take away a lot of their toys immediately after chargen, which is a dickasstastic goddamn move from any GM. Either don't give them the toys or don't just strip them away arbitrarily.
And starting off with all the best stuff and letting PC's make themselves superhard to kill and carrying a bunch of stuff they do not want to sacrifice also kind of sabotages resleeving(getting put into a new body) as a mechanic, because why would they ever swap unless it was for disguise purposes, upgrading(which there's little left to do) or after being killed(which they're unlikely to be)?
Another useless thing they added is Psi. One nanotech virus unleashed by the TITANs rewires your brain towards you being psychic, but without turning you into a monstrous, Lovecraftian terror. Sounds neat, right? Except Psi is basically entirely useless. It has one or two useful powers out of twenty or so, no combat applications, and generally sucks except as a plot hook. There are SOME really awesome, powerful psi sleights... but they're restricted for use by totally corrupted TITAN servants/monstrosities, not for PC's.
Despite really lauding the writing earlier, they also made some slipups there. The core book mentions an alien species, the Factors, that makes contact with humanity not too long after the TITAN issue... and then none of the other books ever really bring them up. They're not encountered on the other side of any Pandora gates and somehow they just seem to not affect humanity at all. They're just there, slightly odd, don't even switch anything up or introduce any cool new technologies. Similarly, two large groups, one antagonist to Firewall, the other neutral(Project Ozma and Oversight, respectively) get brief mentions in the corebook and then, again, never really get elaborated on all that much.
Ozma is just nebulously a bunch of dickheads with no real motivation for it that's ever elaborated on, Oversight(essentially the Planetary Consortium's police force/FBI/CIA) could be an immensely handy ally or potential enemy depending on how players handle situations... but there's nothing to really help the GM utilize them for it.
There are also some hilariously blatant writer biases in the setting. Religion tends to be disparaged unless it's Eastern, and adherents tend to be referred to as "clinging on" to their antiquated beliefs. The main religious force in the Sol system is the Jovians, who are entirely antagonistic and whose churches are literally just religious Wal-Marts, entirely corrupt and commercialized. Anything reminiscent of current social models or economic systems also tend to be ruthlessly portrayed as evil/sinister and part of mankind's eventual doom.
By comparison, anything related to Anarchy, Communism, Socialism and rebelling against THE MAN tends to be shown in a positive light. Even when it's completely absurd hedonism and insanity that results, it tends to have a less vicious vocabulary directed against it. And for the record, I'm actually a proponent of Communism and Socialism and I still
think they're aggressive and ham-handed about the whole thing.
Oh and then there's Glory. Fucking GLORY.Glory, Glory HallelujaaaaaaaarghA detailed review of Glory by yours truly
I reviewed Glory once, but here's the Cliff's Notes: It's a fucking hentai adventure about rapist fuck-aliens planning to spread boner-alien spores all across the solar system and infect everyone with their dongthirst. And it's official. It's not fanmade. It's shit on every level and it's utterly depressing that it was allowed to become a thing. It's an adventure that needs to point out that the exsurgent virus carried by the Glory exsurgents can be spread by sexual contact. Seriously.
And to make things worse it's even inconsistent and doesn't even manage to get its writing and rules working together. Fuck Glory.
Fuck it sideways.A Small Saving Grace: Transhuman
The last released book, Transhuman, did a lot to make the game more playable, more than could be expected for a book that really only exists to market an alternate form of chargen. Original EP chargen was basically "assign points, buy skills, buy gear, go nuts." Transhuman, on the other hand, does "lifepath" chargen, two variants. One where you pick the life path yourself, from start to end, following the trail, and one where you randomly roll your route at each stage.
Either version ends up with less optimized, equipped and powerful characters than the original EP chargen, however, which suddenly means characters have a lot more to strive for, neither they nor the things they fight need to be bumping against the skill ceiling right off the bat to stay "competitive," they might have to improvise with regards to morphs, mods and equipment rather than all starting off with machine guns/sniper rifles packing Shredder ammo.
After having had my hands on Transhuman, I would really never recommend playing the game without it, and more than any other of the expansions, it should have been part of the core book.The Final Verdict
Save yourself the headache and avoid Eclipse Phase until it gets a new edition/FATE sidegrade. Currently it suffers a good bit from forcing you to browse through supplements for specific morphs and pieces of gear/upgrades rather than having one unified list, and even Transhuman doesn't help out the issues with equipment balance, that a lot of it just... feels very similar. None of it really has any distinct properties that make it separate. Using a rocket launcher instead of an assault rifle doesn't change much except for descriptions.
The FATE edition, if it ever hits, sounds like it may have a lot of potential for making the game worthwhile, though.
Why the Dresden Files Are Bad And You Should Feel Bad For Liking Them
12:12am EST - 12/07/2012
So as it turns out, someone was wondering why I had an issue with the Dresden Files, by way of wondering why I had an issue with the Dresden Files RPG.
Well, let's take a look at what the Dresden Files are, for those who don't know. The Dresden Files are basically the World of Darkness but where wizards are the top dog for the most part, they need staves and rituals to cast magic, not all of them are superpowerful, they've got a bureaucracy and by and large they're the most benevolent faction out there. The wizard we follow around is Harry Dresden, a low-ranking mage who works as a private investigator and is highly disliked by the rest of the wizardy fellas because he cut his magical teeth by being in the employ of an evil cultist whom Harry eventually murdered(mostly in self defense).
The core conceit is that Harry is not Gandalf, he cannot fireball his way through everything. Firstly, he must be subtle, the world at large thinks wizards and vampires are just a fairy tale. Secondly, spontaneous magic is tough and relies mostly on the charge left in his staff, ritual magic is way more reliable, and so he cannot magic himself out of trouble every time, he needs to use rituals and preparation. This is largely upheld in the first book where Harry deals with demon-summoners, vampires(reasonably classic ones, the Red Court) and pixies.
By the second book this is quickly in shambles and it only gets worse from there. First we get "splat-bloat" that would make White Wolf recoil in terror: Four kinds of vampires(Red, Black, White, Jade), three or four factions of wizards, demons, angels, dragons, three kinds of werewolves, two kinds of Fae and the list goes on. Secondly, Harry rapidly drops the idea that "he's gotta prepare" and starts to DBZ his way out of most conflicts with vividly-described energy blasts and masturbation over guns so overt you can literally hear Jim Butcher(the author) panting in the background. He has bondage sex with a half-vampire, fifty percent of the text is dedicated to describing tits(including a friend's teenage daughter's tits, eugh, Harry, keep it in your pants) and yes, it turns out that Harry's half-brother is a vampire.
In short, Harry rapidly becomes a goddamn wish-fulfillment Sue of the worst kind. He even redeems a fucking Biblical demon and becomes an archangel's chosen. It's goddamn stupid. Also by the point where zombies, undead T-rexes and wizard laser battles are spilling into the streets of Chicago for days on end, humanity in general would need to be suffering from severe brain injuries not to realize something was up.
The point where I finally gave up on the series was when Harry's half-vampire baby got introduced. Fuck's sake, Butcher.
HOW TO MAKE AND RUN PEN AND PAPER CAMPAIGNS ONLINE, THE BLAXPLOITATION WAY
11:52am EST - 12/28/2009
Hello. Chances are if you've ever gone to the sup/tg/ IRC, you know who I am. If not, then it doesn't really matter, both those unfamiliar with me and those who know and hate me can read this article, I don't fucking care, I'm not your mother.
Anyway, this article is about what the title says: Making and running your very own PnP campaign to run online. I'm being very broad here, but this guide should work for any setting, be it High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Mid Fantasy, Higher Fantasy, Pulp, Noir, Sci-Fi, Horror or even Ero, if you're a weirdo pervert. The difference is, I'm not going to try and make some ALL ENCOMPASSING GUIDE TO RUNNING GAMES or anything. Chances are these guidelines won't work for some people. But, that's what this list is: How to run games as Blaxploitation does it.
Now, chances are that most people who read this have NEVER EVER played a game I have run, or even know I DM at all. The truth is that I do in fact run Pen and Paper games quite often, so I know what I am talking about, fuck you. But, again, if you've played in one of my games or if you haven't shouldn't make a bit of difference.
So enough Rambling and introductions, let's go on with the LIST.
BESM is short for Big Eyes, Small Mouth, which some might recognize as describing a stereotypical anime character's deformed mutant face. And BESM is, indeed, mostly billed for running anime. All the art is anime-related, a lot of the fluff sounds pretty anime-tastic and it's hard to ignore that most of the system seems geared towards replicating DBZ or some sort of harem anime.
But that would be selling this thing short, because it can do so much more.
BESM relies on a simple mechanic of rolling 2d6+stat(of which there are three, possibly also +skill or some such) or 2d6+(defensive combat value/offensive combat value). In the former case you roll against a TN from 6 to 24, as decided by the GM, in the latter case it's an opposed roll. Armour and damage are static, so combat is fast and easy, with the occasional extra roll to control or resist some side-effect of an attack.
Extreme freedom for character creation. At first it looks like BESM merely has a sizeable list of pre-made abilities with everything from flight through sixth senses and highly customizeable weapons. But then right in the next chapter, it lets you customize those abilities with special limitations and side-effects that can make your character even more unique. If it's not for some GRIM DARK DARK GRIM GRIT game, you can make your character in BESM. BESM works well for sci-fi, fantasy and just about anything with a dash of supernatural or superscience.
BESM also handles high power levels really well since it doesn't, like some games, blossom into absurd numbers of modifiers, rolls or dice.
Simple mechanics and high customizeability are rarely wedded as perfectly as they are in BESM.
Freedom requires a lot of vigilance as BESM unfortunately makes it very simple to make completely broken characters, even without trying. Additionally, two characters made with the same point total can also end up highly divergent in actual power. So it requires a capable GM to make sure no one is going to hog all the glory in one form or another.
The art is pretty much fucking atrocious from one end to the other. It's actually so bad it might count as an Up because it's fucking hilarious half the time.
Simple and customizeable, and the only things that mar it are essentially superficial.
This is intended as a guide for startup GM's, for the people running their first game(or second, after the first one imploded dramatically and they want to do THIS one right...).Read More...
The Google Docs upload of Weave [#]
Weave: The Threads of Reality
11:03am EST - 1/30/2009
So I talk a lot about making games, and I often add a lot of unsolicited advice about other people's game-making, I even tend to feel that I have a lot of ideas for improving professionally designed games. You know, the kind you buy for dollars(or pieces of bark and wood, if you're Canadian, you get what I mean.).
Here's my attempt at making a little thing of my own. Still very much under development, but I like to feel that even though I cranked this out over fifteen minutes of original writing, twenty minutes of talking to people and then five minutes of revising, this thing is pretty close to its final shape.
The basic concept is a game where magic(in this case Weaving) is synergistic with other skills, rather than some sort of separate profession that makes you way more powerful than others. Instead, the people with access to Weaving use it to craft impressive or useful items, to make themselves more powerful in combat, etc.
Of course, some people are capable of using Weaving without combining it with skills, more close to traditional magic, but this is a tricky and dangerous thing to do, as fate, known as the Great Loom, dislikes those who try to escape the predestined way of fate so grossly. In systemic terms, it temporarily robs you of Pattern(the way in which fate defends those vital to the proper happening of things with small miracles), making you more susceptible to being killed by accident or people with unpleasant intentions.
I like to feel that I've taken the chance to rob nice things from several systems(Earthflame's Mosaic inspired parts of the "Weaving" system, Trigger Discipline inspired the minimalistic approach and I've probably been inspired by a few other things without realizing it) without ripping off any of them.
Latest version of the rules.
So, when I first heard of Trigger Discipline, I looked at the name, I looked at where it came from(/tg/) and assumed it was some crazy-detailed, realism-wanky piece of shit and completely ignored it. Later some people mumbled something about mecha and I still proceeded to ignore it, because, hey, come on, giant robots do NOT need realism, are we agreed? They need to be all BAM BAM BAM, SPEED, BOOM, POWER GIANT LASER KATANAS, KABOOM, POWER, SHAZAM.
On closer inspection Trigger Discipline actually turns out to be pretty close to this.
Board and Card Games on XBLA
10:04am EST - 11/21/2008
Now Fa/tg/uys Never Have to Leave the House
Board and Card Games on XBLAPart I: Catan
Pause: A Game of Times and Place
07:22am EST - 11/20/2008
That was the last real sound. The cut off so sudden, so loud in that sea of silence. Everything around was still, even your own flesh. Not paralyzed, not changed, not even sore. Just still. And then breath came again. The air around you moved sluggishly as you slowly stood up, and looked around the now silent lecture theatre.
All was still.
And then it wasn’t. One by one, a couple of others stood, shaking off a tangible slowness, and gazing around the room in shock. Everything was frozen. Chairs on the verge of sliding, drinks on the edge of spilling, a thrown paper aeroplane carrying a message from one side of the crowded hall to the other, all stopped in their tracks.
A silent, frozen world, populated by the five, counting yourself, you could see almost wading through the sea of slowness. Some seemed to be speaking, yet there was no sound passing through the still air. How odd…
Then a crack appeared through the wall. Except, it wasn’t in the wall, and even as you watched it spread, moving through the air, the furniture, the people, seemingly without effect. A sense of profound wrongness surrounded it, a feeling of instinctive dislike and discomfort, a knowledge that, whatever it was, it was Wrong.
Ultima Online: The MMORPG Version of PnP Gaming
12:29pm EST - 11/19/2008
So, upon reading the subject line you're gonna ask: "LOL PURPAL MMORPGS IS ABOUT GRINDANS AND LOOTANS HOW CAN THEY BE ANYTHING LIKE A PNP GAME HUR DUR I'M GOING TO GO CHOKE ON A DICK RIGHT NOW?" Because, hey, I know you people. This is what you're like. Crazy for dick and retarded.
But, merciful that I am, I am going to tell you how Ultima Online is fucking awesome and worthy of your attention.
Earthflame's Games: An Introduction
04:56am EST - 11/15/2008
Hey all, this is Earthflame. No, I'm not coming back any time soon. No, I'm not entirely better yet. I'm going to return at some point, but until then, I'll satisfy myself with writing articles. I'm not yet back on /tg/ or the sup/tg/ IRC, but I will answer questions posed in comments or emails. I'd prefer if these focused on the game or matter being discussed, rather than my own personal health or somesuch. There'll be plenty of time for that later.
This brief Article will, hopefully, serve as a foundation, giving the basic premise of the following articles, as well as a list of the games I've currently thought up, letting people know what's coming.
It also serves to let me put out a little of my game design philosophy. First and foremost, I design my games to be fun. Second, and nearly as important, I try to design games which will, at the end of the day, work with the players to make a good and interesting story.
Optical Character Recognition and You: A Primer and Handy Guide
10:07am EST - 11/13/2008
But, what’s OCR? Why should I care if my PDFs are tagged with the (OCR)? Well, fair reader, let me explain.
Optical Character Recognition, or OCR, is a method of recognizing letters in a PDF in order to make it searchable. By stringing letters together to form words, the program – Adobe Acrobat – is able to turn what was a jpeg or similar image into clickable, highlight-able, searchable text. Sounds pretty handy doesn’t it? Why yes, yes they are! OCR technology makes reading a PDF that much simpler. In addition to making the text interactive, it also allows for the compressing of PDFs. Take your average Dark Heresy scan. It’s about 200 megs, give or take a few megs for the differences in scans available. Once run through an OCR converter, that size can shrink all the way down to under 50 megs. Repeat this process for any book out there.
“But if OCR is so good, why aren’t all books OCR’d!” one might be wondering. Well. There is a slight loss of quality involved in the process. The same Dark Heresy book lost some of its quality. It still remained an excellent scan, however during the OCR process it does lose some. The remaining problem is the necessary equipment. Not just any program either. Adobe Acrobat is the only one I’ve found so far that is able to perform the process. Along with the program, a certain amount of time is needed, usually a few hours for the OCR to take place. During this period, the program uses a large amount of resources, making other endeavors nigh on impossible.
However, this brave author, has started OCRing books, in a venture he calls UNLIMITED OCR WORKS. Through this program, he’s OCR’d a fair number of books, and the library grows often. Though intensive, I have a number of books that I have OCR’d personally. The catalog will be updated and posted shortly, along with handy links.
If you have a particular or special request, please field them. It’s kind of fun to OCR books and stuff, so let me know over the IRC or something.
Technical Read Out 3015: The Collective
09:10am EST - 11/13/2008
As you may have guessed, I love mechs, and Mekton is my system of choice for robot fightan. What you may not know, though, is that I greatly prefer “harder” scifi to Newtype hax and experimental mind-powered units that are actually the demons. I have created a setting to accommodate this, and in so doing, I feel, have curbed the worst excesses and exploits of Mekton. These mechs are powerful, sure. But they rely on a good pilot, accurate shooting and tactics rather than flying, beamspam and the Itano Circus (although I would argue the Bane-3, YMN-6Y or LGB-12C could probably outshoot any Valkyrie when you’re talking missiles, but a Battletech versus Macross debate should probably stay in /m/.)
This article will take the form of a series of flavour texts for 6 “medium” mechs, followed by a link to where a collected set of datasheets can be downloaded. They make good enemy units or NPCs in a semi-realistic, “3025-era Battletech” style campaign - the weapons are not hax powerful and there aren’t any really odd things.
Jachin Akhenaton: Epic Death in Two Sessions
01:09pm EST - 11/10/2008
So, what's more epic than a character who steps in, kicks a ton of ass, delivers some awesome one-liners and rides away with the girl at the end?
A character who goes out with a bang while saving the party, the world, the girl or all of them. Especially if he gets a fucking set of RESPEC' KNUCKZ from his deity afterwards.
Let's Go to the Mall!
01:42am EST - 11/10/2008
Sometimes, what creates the best game setting it taking something familiar and turning it on its ear. In this spirit, I present to you a game setting that I simply call "The Mall."
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