Reviews and Ramblings
MIDDENARDE - PART 7 by PurpleXVI - 12/12/16
MIDDENARDE - PART 6 by PurpleXVI - 12/12/16
MIDDENARDE - PART 5 by PurpleXVI - 12/12/16
MIDDENARDE - PART 4 by PurpleXVI - 12/12/16
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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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So far the only piece of art I haven't liked. In parts of this piece it just looks like there's pixelated artifacting at first glance.
2 - BESIEGED
After the art, this bit starts off with a :wikipedia copypaste: dump of historical trivia that has literally zero bearing on the setup for the adventure, which is as follows: There's noble infighting in England, the PC's are on the receiving end of a siege. This is gonna suck. On the bright side, here the PC's are starting at level 12 and so they can begin the battle with some of the gamebreaking abilities mentioned earlier in the review. The players are outnumbered about three to one, however, so even that would probably take a bit of cleverness. Additionally, if the players haven't actually earned a knighthood in the previous adventure module prior to playing this one, the GM is encouraged to just have them as squires to whoever's actually leading the defense, meaning they don't get to really make any important decisions unless they also
have the social skills necessary to mind control him. Or kill him and take his place.
We're given a description of the castle in text, but no maps or similar overviews, which is strange considering that the game encourages using maps and grids for all your combat. In fact, none of the .PDF's have even included a map of England or similar for a sense of scale and distance, presumably assuming that the players can just go ahead and google themselves up a map of 1450's England and work off of that.
You should have informed your players before the game began that they would most likely not be leaving Castle Lawshall, so they should have made their characters with useful long-term skills that they can pass the time with.
They can also take a break and relax, socializing with each other or their superiors if they have any. The GM should strongly characterize a handful of NPCs for the players to repeatedly interact with, whether they be the castle’s lords, high-ranking soldiers, the chaplain, older servants, or whoever else may be residing inside its walls. This will be important for building tension and intrigue in the days to come. Conflict between these NPCs, and the NPCs and individual players, will drive the social aspect of the adventure, as the players can choose to try and diffuse tensions or exploit them for personal gain. Inevitably, hundreds of people trapped in close proximity to each other will not get along.
, as mentioned, encouraged to bring in characters from the previous adventure module, which will almost certainly have ended in a TPK if the players invested in any long-term or crafting skills at all, rather than raw combat prowess to match their NPC opponents. And of course, the lazy fuck who wrote this piece of garbage didn't write up any NPC's like that himself, offloading the entirety of that effort to the GM. Of course, he does offer SOME help... consisting of a bunch of meaningless minor events such as chickens escaping the coop. A servant committing suicide and...
A horse being exercised in the Ward bucks its handler, and its loud whinny startles one of the practicing archers, whose shot goes wide and hits someone nearby, possibly one of the players.
Players randomly getting hit by arrows with no warning, save or anything. Awesome. Mostly the random events are either A) "someone's having some harmless fun, like playing some dice or having a snowball fight in the yard."(the siege is during winter) or B) "someone does something implausibly retarded." Like bored soldiers letting out a fucking captured boar
and teasing it in the middle of the castle. Like what. Boars are fucking scary and actually catching one alive probably risked several lives in the process. I know people do stupid shit, but Jesus, that one just seems implausible even in a fantasy setting.
So anyway, after the first couple of days of the siege littered with this random garbage, we get some actual events, which are also garbage. Like, in theory it's not a bad idea to have some enemy soldiers infiltrate the castle at night... except they kill a patrol on the walls and put on their uniforms, then pretend to be friendly soldiers, gathering intelligence and preparing to open the gates on a future day. Because yeah, everyone's just gonna believe they're part of the defending crew because they're wearing the right uniforms. No one will miss the three or four guys who are mysteriously gone. No one will see the great big ol' fucking blood spatters on the tabards. Stelath is a bit more complicated than goddamn Hitman
. A force of 200-something isn't a place where it's easy for someone to disappear or for others to vanish into the crowd.
If the players don't find the infiltrators after they start cutting more throats and stuff inside the castle walls, they'll manage to stay hidden for ten days
before opening the gates. Maybe the first day is plausible, but that's about it. These infiltrators are literally also all that happens, minor GM-invented events aside, for the first week of the siege. Then we get more minor events, and just like the first, they're characterized by the fact that they're just shit that happens to the PC's and other defenders, not, for the most part, anything they can react to, or try to head off with clever planning and good management/leadership. Just "this guy dies" or "this stuff gets broken" or "lol now you have less food" entirely at random.
Next, fourteen days into the siege, the attackers have tunnelled under the castle and into the basement levels, where there's a catacomb, and have started sneaking men in and mapping the place out as best as they can without getting discovered. Also snatching a servant away to interrogate about the layout and defenses... then pulling the same moron Hitman
trick with him by stuffing someone else into his clothes and hoping no one fucking notices. In general, it feels like this would be a way more interesting game from the perspective of the besieging force, since they're really the only ones actually getting to do shit, if their deadline wasn't "we run out of food" but "reinforcements arrive to break the siege," and they had to come up with tricks to break the defense. Like digging tunnels, sneaking in, using magic, bringing a squad of Trailblazers to harass the defenders with sonic booms, etc.
At three weeks in, the attackers finally mount an actual attack, assuming they haven't managed to win by sneaking people in to take the leadership hostage or open the gates already. After surviving this, which is just more straight-up combat, the GM is finally supposed to suggest to the PC's that: "Gee, you're fucked if you don't go call for some help!" and now the PC's have to sneak out and summon help from a nearby castle. You'd think this is one of the first things the defenders would try to do, if they didn't have it on good authority that there was help already on the way.
Anyway, blah blah, the players ride off, the trip is pretty much trivial since they're at least level 12 and can ice any common soldiers who try to stop them or bandits they might blunder into unless the GM is an absolute retard. Then they reach the nearby count, who just wants to be promised something
in return for helping, really just about anything will do it, and then...
"With Count Ipswich’s army behind them, the players can feel confident that they will win the day if they return to the castle before it falls. Since there’s no significant threat to the players anymore, the last session or two should be spent reflecting on the trials they’ve overcome, the friends they’ve lost, and the horrors of war."
"Now have the PC's spend two entire sessions doing fucking nothing." And then it ends on the PC's getting a bit of money and the chance to participate in more exciting medieval warfare
which the adventure module leaves thoroughly and utterly undetailed. Also, again, why would you make two adventure modules heavily featuring large group combats, or even army vs army warfare, without any rules for making those proceed faster other than "kill 1dx soldiers from each side per round" for the siege?
3 - INNOCENCE LOST
This time, we're going to Wales! Basically, the players are Welsh, they're being dominated by the English who want their magical Welsh gold. So he sends some goons into the Welsh mountains to prospect, they don't return, so he goes down to the local village and asks some peasants(the PC's) to go poke around the caves and find out where his mans went. The PC's, presumably, accept, otherwise this is gonna be a pretty short adventure. Also according to the writing, Welshmen hate being farmers and prefer having dangerous adventures. All of them.
So, the baron's men show up and make the proposal to the village at large. Surprisingly, the PC's are the only ones who consider it seriously... oh wait not fucking surprisingly because the offer is to leave their lands behind to go on a potentially dangerous adventure into the mountains, to a location that may already have killed one group of the baron's men, in exchange for barely enough money to buy a fucking bottle of wine. And not a GOOD bottle of wine, they can afford one of those
if they all pool their rewards together.
But anyway, assuming that the PC's are fucking morons, they go into the mountains and find out that the baron's men were eaten by a fucking griffon. Which was badly wounded in the fight and has a fucking polearm sticking out of one eye socket. Ow. It has a pretty good chance of mangling at least one of them before they get the better of it, though it being wounded gives them a better than normal chance of winning. The cave contains a bunch of garbage and decent equipment(all already pre-damaged, enjoy keeping track of those fucking durability scores, nerds!), and a locked chest which the PC's will likely flub lockpicking(DC 15), and if they break it open, lol they smash the potion inside, which also ruins the scrolls inside, basically depriving them of the best loot in the cave.
Then they come back, get paid worth a bottle of wine by the baron's men, go to bed, and some other
baron, jackass that he is, attacks their village. The attacking soldiers are, in fact, more dangerous than the gryphon due to their larger number, meaning they both have more HP and get more attacks. Also we're just told there are "far too many soldiers for them to fight," so presumably if they do
try to stand their ground rather than legging it into the woods, you're supposed to give them a TPK. This situation, we're also told, is supposed to make the PC's want revenge on the raiders, meaning that their entire motivation from this point on is to kill or severely ruin this guy who's destroyed the village that the players have known for all of one session. Maybe have it last a bit longer so the players will actually give a shit, Mr. Writer Man.
The players will soon realize that they have no hope of doing anything to the Baron Cruciaith and his army without allies and power. The allies they can hope to make by diplomacy and bribery. The power will only come through training and adventuring. Fortunately for them, every town and city in Wales is rife with gossip about ruins and ancient sites which are said to hold artefacts of magical power.
So far, the game's wimpy magic available to the PC's is distinctly superior to the physics-breaking fuckery that Knacks can provide, so just signing up as mercenaries or becoming tradesmen or something would probably be a safer way to get the means necessary for revenge. In any case, the text now dumps a ton of potential places to explore for power and money on us but, as is usual, no fucking map.
GRAVE OF THE WOLF SPIDER
The players are warned away from the spooky grave by the local peasants! The spooky grave is spooky as they approach! There's a fresh corpse inside the spooky grave! ...and ultimately nothing happens and they just get some free money and a free sword.
A clearing with a MYSTERIOUS RITUAL CIRCLE that compelled a monk to kill one of his brethren when said brethren advocated razing the ritual circle for being heathen and awful. The players won't find out about it unless they happen to get this one particular random monk in a tavern drunk, and then they have to either force him into the wilderness or poke around his old abbey to find it. Their reward for finding it is a pittance of gold, a scroll of healing and having to stab a monk(because the monk is angry that they're desecrating the place for loot).
GRAVEYARD OF SAINTS
So, there's another spooky burial ground, but this one is in the mountains and requires hiring a guide to take them most of the way there. They'll be warned off by a guy who lost his arm trying to loot the place before them... but not really told why or how he lost his arm there. Just: "BEWARE, THIS PLACE WILL CUT YOUR ARM OFF." Then once they get there they get attacked by fucking SKELETON WARRIORS. Their reward for killing all the skeletons and looting the graveyard is finding an ANCIENT DRUID in MAGICAL HIBERNATION whom they can awaken as a level 7 ally who'll just help them as thanks for waking him up. Though, this is the weird part, despite being a Celt, he confirms that the Devil exists(Satan put him in magical hibernation for tricking him out of collecting a soul).
Why are there no rules for divine shenanigans in the game? If Satan canonically exists, God must as well, Miracles must as well. Prayer ought to have real power and stuff. But no, the only magic is DRUID MAGIC and GYPSY MAGIC.
LIBRARY OF ANVALLUS
This time, while the party's passing through a town, a guy who's angry about the shoes he just bought, spots the PC's and immediately cheers up, feeling that they look like ROUGH DUDES who would be up for going to Ireland with him and raiding the LIBRARY OF ANVALLUS. Getting to Ireland goes off without a hitch, and then they get searching!
Every hour they search, allow the party to make a Very Difficult Visual Acuity (DC 16) check to find the ruins of the library. If they fail to find it before nightfall, they can return to Kilmacthomas and come back the next day. Be sure to make it entertaining; that is why Brendan is there, to guide their search and keep their morale up. He should lead them across the mountains and talk to himself and them about his thought process.
I'm sure you can all see why this is fucking stupid. I doubt I need to comment much. Keep in mind, the PC's are rolling 3d6, at most 3d6+1 or 3d6+2, to hit that DC16, but more likely just straight 3d6, and there are four of them. But anyway, eventually they probably find the library, either because the GM gets tired of all the failed checks or they pass one. They find their way in, with their guide waiting outside because he knows damn well its dangerous. Upon arriving they discover that most of the library's contents have been eaten by glowing worms, and then 500lbs of rock block the exit and a stone golem with a sword animates and tries to kill them. Thankfully the Golem is a huge chump, it has really minimal armor, despite being made of stone, and is basically incapable of dodging any attack, so there's a good chance the PC's will have it dead before the first round of combat is over.
The reward is, as usual, a bunch of generic magic potions and scrolls with their boring D&D-lite magic.
SHRINE AT RHOS
Again, some RANDOM STRANGER just happens to have a clue to a major celtic artifact site and decides to let the PC's in on it. In this case he's just a bored guy who wants to prove he knew the right hints to find the place, not someone who asks to come along and get a cut. Actually finding the orb at the SHRINE OF RHOS(yes, it's just a big glowing blue orb) has no real challenge, the challenge is that the Orb itself basically has a save-or-die effect for anyone who touches it or looks at it too much(how much is too much, or how long is too long, remains undefined by the author). Even attempting to use Attunement to figure out what the Orb is all about has the same save-or-die effect.
If they succeed, though, they basically have an ORB OF MIND CONTROL, though they have to pass the check again every day or it turns on them and tries to brainwash them. Other than the orb, just some zombies and some cultists guarding it. Forgettable.
In general that describes all of these locations so far. One item, and then on to the next. So I'm just gonna start skipping the remainder unless some of them have SOMETHING interesting in them. Like, about the only interesting thing about the next place is that it has angry merpeople. A ruined castle that has some bad poetry, generic monsters and some CRYSTAL GOLEMS that are actually moderately threatening. And then they go to a Welsh castle through a magical portal, kill some bandits, kill some more skeletons, kapow, more generic magic items. And now the adventure's out of dungeons to explore, so they gotta go get their revenge on the Baron who burnt their home village down.
Or just, you know, retire, rich and happy, in Ireland or something.
Hilariously, the last part, about actually getting the revenge, is incredibly threadbare. We're not even given the baron's stats, we're just told where he lives, and what his daily routines are, and the rest is left up to the GM to decide himself. And then there's a Welsh pronounciation guide.
Jesus, these adventures were some tepid trash.
EDIT: That's it for everything Middenarde so far. But if the creator carries through on his promise of a heavy rewrite, I'll review that as well, if the changes are large enough to warrant it.
Every Monday I make the hike to the apothecary for all of the beeswax suppositories I can carry for my mother in law who got a fever from losing both of her legs but getting an infection before she got her new prosthetics. I can't tell if the apothecary is undercharging or overcharging me; I can't read and I don't know if a songbird is actually capable of writing by dipping its beak in ink. I just keep giving it money until it stops looking angry and starts nodding.
When I walk home, my dick shoes slap against the pavement in a rhythmic beat. Sometimes I like to walk in such a way that it becomes music. Sometimes I'll see patrols of dog soldiers being lead by a bear lieutenantant with a bird sergeant perched on its head. I like to walk so my loud steps match up with the time of their exercises and drills, but if it's hot the beeswax melts all over my hands so most of the time I just go home quickly.
When I get home and finish cramming all the pills up into where they need to go, sometimes I like to take the wife and kids out to the meadow where we can watch the town doctor roll bodies down the hill until they come back to life. It's become a bit of sport to bet on how long it takes for them to live again. When there are no more bodies to resurrect, I head to work manufacturing rifles. My job is to figure out how to streamline the speed-loading process.
I dunno, I guess my life is sort of average and boring.
Hilarious as this is, some sort of ANECDOTES like this, written in first person, about medieval life, might not have been bad. From the perspectives of knights and lords, peasants and clergy, adventurers and druids and whatever. Have all of them be at least partially unreliable narrators so the GM can throw in his own twist on things if he wants, without having to countermand "canon." It would at least have been a far sight better than the muddled mess of trivia that we actually got.
Middenarde has three Adventure Modules, 97 pages of them, in their own .PDF. There's zero introduction for the .PDF as a whole, instead we get two pieces of(as usual, excellent) art, and then we leap straight into the first adventure module...
1 - SCROLLS OF POWER
So, there's some historical trivia about noble infighting in England during the appropriate period, then we're told that this time history's different, because a conspiracy attempting to unseat one of the kings isn't just powerful in money and manpower, it's also trying to acquire dark gypsy magics(seriously, a Romani magical scroll) from a merchant, who doesn't know the value of what he's got lying around on his back shelves. They bungle it, getting the merchant suspicious of them, and rather than taking a fat load of cash to sell them some dusty paper, he packs his bags and legs it. He gets stabbed by an assassin in a tavern, however, where the PC's just happen to be having a drink, and then he gives them a QUEST to avenge him with his dying breaths.
The players, all hard-working men and/or women of Westbury, happen to be sharing a table that winter evening, and in the aftermath of the gruesome killing, they are brought together by their determination to uncover the reason behind his murder. With his dying breaths, he sends them on a journey that will make them pawns in a dangerous game that may have terrible and far-reaching effects on England and all of Christendom.
Scrolls of Power is intended for a group of 3-6 ordinary level 1 characters, all peasants of the town of Westbury, toiling away for its lord and living in houses owned by him.
I feel like one of the bigger issues with this is that we're in a country that ostensibly has guards and some degree of authority, rather than large swathes of monster-infested wilderness and a mostly-absent central authority. The player characters are likely people with jobs, apprentice whatevers, cobblers, blacksmiths, farmers or something. And yet they're still supposed to be eager to pick up a mysterious and magical quest, rather than just telling the guards that this guy got shivved and would you please stop the guy with the knife before anyone else gets stabbed. Why not just assume that the players ARE the guards summoned by the locals? That'd make considerably more sense. I mean, if they're "toiling away" for their lord... won't the guards come after THEM if they just pick up their pitchforks and go adventuring?
The quiet roar of many simultaneous conversations is interrupted by a shout from the middle of the crowd. A hush instantly falls over the ale house as all heads turn to the source of the commotion, where a man in a black robe and a hood has seized what appears to be a merchant or some other member of the middle class. The man pulls a dagger out of the merchant's side and shoves him to the ground, before making a move for the door. As the assassin pushes his way through the front doors and into the dark, the barkeep points and shouts, "Stop him! Call the lord's men!"
So, there are multiple
hilarious things about this. Cutting back to the Setting, specifically Clothing, section of the "core" book...
Black would have been rarely worn unless for religious reasons: mourning, a pilgrim’s garb, a priest’s cassock, a scholar’s robe (scholars were still largely church educated).
If you're an ASSASSIN, why the fuck are you wearing what is, essentially, a highly visible and noticeable colour, and stabbing a guy in the middle of a crowd
, rather than just wearing something normal and murdering the dude later in the night, when most people are in their homes and asleep? Everything about this is so poorly conceived and planned. Also, by the game's rules, you couldn't kill a healthy guy with a single knife stab to the torso, at least, not instantly, he'd have to start bleeding out. And bleeding out can be stopped or stabilized by normal Bandaging skills, so the book, here, has to remind us that we're not allowed to save the merchant, only stabilize him for a couple of seconds with a pretty difficult(DC 15 from 3d6, with a maximal bonus of +1 at this point). Also despite clearly describing Bandaging in the core book as the skill used for this, it here says we should use Heal for it.
By default, all they're going to hear from the merchant before he dies is:
“The scroll… you’ve got to save the scroll. Don’t let them find it.”
And then the authorities show up and take over. If they try to pursue the assassin, the writing says that no matter what, he just escapes. But based on this incredibly vague amount of... nothing at all, they're supposed to wait until the guards have left, being pretty ineffectual, then loot the dead guy's room. Barring them passing some mildly challenging spot checks(sorry, Visual Acuity checks), they'll find nothing. Also if they fail to pat down the guy's body for the key to his room(in the middle of the fucking common room with everyone watching), before the guards show up and take the body away, the innkeeper will just go: "Oh, whatever, dead guy, not my problem, go take his stuff."(there's technically an Influence check to convince him to do so, but it's really easy, and if you've gotten this far without them getting into the room, they're probably gonna go start training the local birds instead.)
Also at this point we're told that if the players patched the merchant up enough to "provide more information" before dying, that doesn't mean more information right when they patched him up, but instead more information upon visiting him, half-dead, the next day, at the local physician's house. Of course, he then dies immediately after providing exposition.
is able to speak with the players and tell them who he is, what he knows about the scroll, and where he’s hidden it, making the task of retrieving it much easier. Unfortunately, he knows very little about what it does, who wants it, and why they were willing to kill him for it.
Aside from the assumption that "wow, we four peasants can totally make some money off of messing with a conspiracy that stabs people in broad daylight!" the players still have no motivation whatsoever to fuck with this. Especially since they now know it's a magical scroll, and it's reinforced that magic is looked upon as heretical, even suggested that the players may be unwilling to mess with the scroll as a result.
Once the party has found the Scroll of Power, inform them (assuming they don’t ask) that the best place to take it if they want to determine its purpose is the closest town, Riversdale. Also inform them that if they’re willing to wait a day, a caravan of Romani travelers (known pejoratively as ‘gypsies’) will likely pass through the village to peddle their wares and may be interested in purchasing some of the things they’ve obtained from John. Furthermore, they might be able to pay one of their wagons to take them there, which would make the 40km journey considerably easier. If they’d rather leave right away, that’s fine; there are several villages along the way where they can stop, including Warminster, Heytesbury, and Codford.
Still struggling with why a bunch of peasants would do this, the answer is apparently "because the GM tells them where their players should want to go." Also ha ha wow the gypsies are all fucking assholes, like, amoral scam-artists to the point where it feels a bit like a racist stereotype.
the Romani are in the business of finding or making and selling magical trinkets, they don’t actually much care what they do as long as they can get Englishmen to pay top penny for them. If you’re feeling particularly evil, you might allow them to meet an elderly Romani woman who will, for a ‘nominal’ fee, offer to read the runes on it.
Their attitude basically written as "fuck whitey, let's pass him a magical nuke so he can blow himself up while we laugh." The players at this point are probably 2nd level unless the GM says "fuck that noise, this is retarded," and the adventure module encourages immediately throwing level 4 and 3 enemies at them. Combat-specialized level 3 and 4 enemies, with magical potions, real weapons, and generally unless the players sent both their initial and second skill points on combat, expect at least one of them to die or lose a limb here. The book acknowledges this and suggests letting anyone who died make new characters who join the party for ????? reasons, starting at level 1. They should level up relatively quickly if the GM isn't a fuckface, but even so, for the few seasons where they're behind, DC's will be fucked with regards to them, and it also makes the reasoning behind why the party is on the quest at all even harder to sustain.
The module also says that the assassin at first tries to convince the players to give up the scroll peacefully... but says nothing about what happens if they do. Do they get an invitation to the conspiracy? Maybe a cash reward to stay silent? Does he attack anyway? Who the fuck knows.
So anyway, assuming they don't get a TPK, the party arrives at Riverdale.
Most importantly, they’re going to want to find someone who can either read the scroll they’re carrying or tell them what to do with it. This will be difficult; there are few people in England who can actually use the scroll the party is carrying, due to its incredible power, and there are none in Riversdale. No matter what, their search will likely uncover the wrong sort of attention, and they may face threats from both unaffiliated thieves and continued attacks by the organization behind the merchant’s death.
Why didn't they just go to the guards and go "yo, look, that dead guy was carrying a magical scroll and said it was dangerous." in the first fucking town, get escorted to the local lord to give testimony, etc.? That could've been more interesting, as the assassin(s) could've come after them because A) they have the scroll and B) don't know if the players know more than they do and... it would've just generally made some degree of sense.
But anyway, they arrive in Riversdale, and the only quest-related thing to do there is to find out that there's only one guy who knows a lot about magic scrolls, and he lives outside of town. 37 kilometers outside of town. In another town. Just far enough for the PC's to be ambushed again on the way there. This time the opposition is more equal in level, but unequal in numbers and, again, probably considerably better equipped, for one thing actually wearing armor and, again, having magic potions of healing and stuff, which gives, once more, a pretty good chance of the PC's getting chopped in half by these combat specialized
enemies. UNLESS, of course, the enemies flub a morale roll.
Whenever the target witnesses an ally fall in battle or lose a limb, they must make a morale roll to continue fighting. If the group has a leader, he or she may roll an Influence check with a DC of 20 minus 1 for each member of the group still alive, even if the leader is not in sight. If successful, no morale roll needs to be made. Otherwise, the target makes a Willpower check with a DC of 12 minus 1 for each ally who is still in sight. If the target fails his morale roll, he is too frightened to continue fighting.
Probably the best strategy in either of the forced combat encounters so far is to just focus on killing the weakest enemy so the rest are forced to make morale rolls, since none of them have any Willpower to give them bonuses on that front. If the players manage to take the leader alive, they can get a sub-quest! A sub-quest that results in them getting fucking sliced wide open
since it most likely involves, without any fucking warning, combat with a level 20
opponent. No armor, but decked out in badass combat skills(almost purely combat skills except for being literate, actually...), boosted attack dice, boosted evasion dice and ha ha wow. Even on a four against one situation, the players will fucking die like chumps since there are no rules for opponents getting less block/evasion dice against multiple opponents, or having a limited number of blocking/evading actions per turn. Their only reward for getting out of this alive is a letter that tells them that someone wants the scroll they have and is willing to kill them to get it.
what a grand reward
So, they meet the guy who knows about scrolls. He tells them jack shit except that he can point them to ANOTHER guy who knows MORE about scrolls. Or he can pay them for the scroll and they can go home, considerably richer, since they don't really have much motivation to keep going, unless it's now revenge against the jackasses who keep trying to have them killed. Mr. Level 20 then shows up(if the players didn't capture the bandit leader and then meet and kill the guy first) and tells them that if they're tired of almost being murdered, they can join his evil conspiracy instead, and get fucking rich off of it.
Staying loyal means they go to Southampton and, again, get told that the local wizard doesn't know what the fuck they've got their hands on. What a useful guy. So he sends them to London. We're told how dangerous it is to travel overland to London, but there's no thought given to the fact that the players could take the long way around by sailing
from Southampton to London, since we're only given land-based encounters, none sea-based.
Anyway, they arrive at the last wizard in the adventure's house, he deduces that the scroll is intended for making a brainwashed clone of the King, sends a messenger to the court to get knights to show up and secure it, and then the wizard and the PC's wait. Until the Badguy Conspiracy shows up and starts battering the door down. It might go badly for them, though, since the wizard is fucking Level 47
and has attack dice better than what any PC can have(he has d12's, where PC's can only upgrade to d10's), he could probably handle this encounter by himself entirely, since he's a combination of badass wizard, badass archer and badass fencer(despite the book insisting he's "no good at combat" in the description). Poor evasion dice, though, but if the PC's can just keep the bad guys away from close combat with him, he can probably start blasting them out of existence pretty fast, trivializing the fight somewhat.
The GM should exercise good judgment as to how long the fight will last before help arrives, but 32 rounds is recommended, as that’s how many attempts the soldiers will have to make on average for a dozen of them to enter the fray. Sir Ronald will at first attempt to kill them as they enter with his crossbow, but if they start to overwhelm the group, he will focus on keeping his allies alive as long as possible. Two full sessions is also a good length for the fight, as it will allow for the building up of tension over the cliffhanger, and then combat can be resolved the next session.
So, the creator is recommending a fight between 17
combatants. Four PC's, twelve Badguy Goons and the Wizard Warrior. He suggests 32 rounds
of this fucking mess, stretching over two full sessions
, Jesus Christ. Any fight that starts to last longer than an hour is something I, personally, rush to a conclusion since at that point my players are probably starting to get distracted unless it's something really pivotal. Also all the attacking soldiers are level 15 and, as is usual for enemies in this game by now, entirely combat specialized
. The players are unlikely to be any more than 10th level, and will probably have invested in utility skills as well, so they're probably going to get, as usual, fucking sliced wide open.
I'd also like to point out that after EVERY combat forced by the adventure module, it starts off the post-combat description with "IF THE PARTY IS ALIVE." If the party isn't alive, the GM and module writer have fucked up, that's what. You chode.
So, the LOYALTY path in this adventure is basically being sent from location to location with a fight at each location, or between each location. It's pretty dull. What about the BETRAYAL path? If they hand over the scroll to Mr. Level 20? Well, much the same, but more interesting since, rather than being arbitrarily ambushed at various points, the players are initiating the fights and, seeing them coming, can be more creative with use of their non-combat skills and gear in easing the way. For instance, killing loyalist guards before they can remove their corrupt captain. Or infiltrating a castle to make sure the gates are open and the defenders disorganized in advance of the bad guys' attack proper. The fights are generally also better balanced and less likely to end in TPK's, both because they're not surprise ambushes and because, well, the enemies aren't always numerically superior and
higher level than the PC's.
They've also got a way more powerful wizard buddy this time, level 55. Anyone the players can't take down, he can probably either soften up for them, or straight-up nuke from the back row. But in this case, instead of the final fight being in a wizard's study, they're busting into the royal palace and killing the king's guards so the wizard can make an evil clone of him that will serve the bad guys. Surprisingly enough, the bad guys actually keep all their promises and BETRAYAL players get pretty much the same rewards as LOYALIST players.
Buddies with the king, land, titles, money and basically no reason to ever leave any longer unless they want to fire crossbow bolts at passing peasants for chuckles.
What a garbage fucking "adventure." Which I'll note will just hard lock if the players neither pass the spot checks in the dead merchant's room, or stabilize him enough to tell them where the scroll is the next day.
Addendum: I want to point out that when I mentioned to the author that the PC's could bypass a lot of his encounters just by sailing from Southampton to London, he expressed surprise that London wasn't landlocked. Yes. He didn't know what the River Thames was. This man trying to write a more or less historically accurate RPG about England.
Looking back to see what you can break the game with, I also noticed that the knack Trailblazer, which improves the party's travel speed(not under any particular conditions or after any check), just straight increases travel speed by 25% for the entire party. There's no party size limit, there's no "isn't cumulative"-note. The average walking speed is ~3.1mph, however
, it doesn't say this is our travel speed with any particular method of travel
So, you know, fuck it. Think of the fastest medieval method of travel you can, a bunch of fast horses, sailing ships, or, hell, the 250 years ahead we can go with Anachronism. What was the fastest method of travel invented in the year 1700? Then tell me how many Trailblazers we'd need to propel that method of travel past the speed of sound, or light, or some other arbitrary absurd barrier. How about escape velocity?
Assuming a nice slow stroll of 3 mph (converted to 4.8 kph) and an increase of +25% with each Trailblazer, a group of 41 people would clock 45,138 kph -- which is 12.5 km/s, which is just slightly faster than the 11.2 km/s required to achieve escape velocity at sea level.
I did some sums with some super-fast 1700s ships too but it only dropped the group size down to ~32. It's probably easier to grab another 10 Trailblazers than it is to buy a ship, so.
So if I fired off one arrow, then rolled a 17 on my Visual Acuity check, I'd find two arrows?
In the grim darkness of Middle Ages Europe a small duchy is terrorized by local Birdlord who keeps sending his swarm of Trailblazer pigeons to join the parties of hapless travellers and immediately propel them into the stratosphere
Every time I try to put out a warrant for the Birdlord's head a crow appears outside my window and psychoanalyses me so hard that I spend 2d6 hours as a completely helpless wreck.
I apologize for starting off so many of these posts with quotes, but I some of these comments really help illustrate the bonkers shit in Middenarde, and it'd be a shame if they weren't in the archive, too. Thanks for helping make this review entertaining!
8 - SETTING
WHORES WHORES WHORES posted:
Towns and cities still found walls important even after their defensive use had waned because they forced citizens to use the gate, so their governments could tax and monitor trade going in, and pass useful laws controlling who did what where. For instance, cities banned whoring within their walls, or dictated that all brothels must be within one street of a certain gate.
What is it with RPG's and rules/trivia about whores, harlots and wanton doxies?
Rather than the fantasy staple of town guards ringing a bell and shouting “twelve o’clock and all’s well,” most big towns and cities had proper bands who would play brief musical bars every hour on the hour to let people know the time, and remind them the guards were still on duty.
I am in no way enough of a history buff to know how much of this stuff is true, so I'm counting on some passing good samaritan to do my work for me, and really just posting the things that seem almost hard to believe. Also Dear God, some of this is useful to know, like which names were commonly in use, in order to give a different atmosphere to a 1450's England than a 2000's England, but then we start drifting into irrelevant garbage like who takes whose name after marriage. And why the fuck are you dropping irrelevant trivia on what underwear peasants own? REALLY, THIS IS IN THE .PDF.
Peasant Pants posted:
The average peasant farmer wore a loose collarless shirt or undershirt of cotton, hemp, or linen, with either no underpants or loose linen or hemp underpants with open flies front and back, held up with string or linen ribbons. Undershirts often went down to the knee and split into two tails at the groin, so they fulfilled the role of underpants. They were often worn to bed.
Trousers would have traditionally been made in two parts, knee length mains and detachable lower legs that can be removed so they don’t get wet or muddy during messy work, but at this point one-piece trousers were starting to come back into fashion. Wealthier peasants would wear knee britches and woolen tights, to imitate the fashion amongst the aristocracy and wealthy merchants.
WHY WOULD ANYONE NEED TO KNOW THIS FOR THE PURPOSE OF AN RPG. When the players crash through a peasant's bedroom because they brought too many Trailblazers and their experimental tank made out of tower shields went too fast, he'll either be wearing pants because no one wants to look at his poxy balls, or he'll not be wearing pants because it's being played for comedy. We don't need to know which is more realistic.
Cock of the walk posted:
The more phallic you could make your footwear the manlier a man you were, although the priesthood threw a fit about shoes with points so long they turned back over to touch the top of the shoes, referring to them as the “devil’s claws.” When the nobles and merchants started wearing pointy shoes with testicle shaped bells, the priests declared it to be a sign of the end times. No one cared about this until peasants started to do it, at which point the nobility decided that whilst very phallic footwear for nobles is fine, if it spread to the lower classes it will eat away at their moral fibre and cause chaos, and the fashion ended overnight. This is why by Tudor times stylish shoes are square-cut at the toe.
I... okay, I know sometimes crazy shit happens sometimes. But this just sounds too bugfuck insane and apocryphal to be real. But, even assuming it was real, why would it matter
, if your GM is spending his time describing how much the blacksmith's shoes look like cocks, it's time to start inching slowly away from him at the table, by the time he starts in on the testicles bells, you can probably dive out the window with only moderately crippling cuts and run down the street.
90% of this section is just utterly irrelevant trivia about clothes, names, titles and warfare. Well, I guess the warfare might not be totally irrelevant... except that there are no rules for mass combat or war in the main .PDF or any of the others. So if you wanted any sort of proper war campaign, you'd need to abstract like crazy, make shit up, or roll those potentially 10 times for every single member of a 500-man force involved in a fight... and their numerically similar opponents, too. And the two-hundred war dogs the PC's bring to the fight. There are a few relevant bits, like mentioning that medieval medicine wasn't very advanced and was composed of 90% leechcraft... but then a bunch of pointless trivia about what diet a physician will prescribe if you're tired and have no sex drive(mostly onions).
Butt medicine posted:
Suppositories, made of drugs mixed with beeswax or tallow, are good for patients who need a slow release of drugs to cure an ongoing, long term illness. If someone is too weak to feed themselves a doctor should try liquefying their food, adding some medicine, and pouring it down their throat. If that fails, a large funnel can be used to “feed” the patient via their anus; if they can’t keep their food down without it coming up again, just pour it in the other way and hope that helps.
Because what I need to know for an engaging game in an interesting setting isn't about any on-going conflicts or dramatic cases that could be used as examples or quest hooks, instead I need to know when the local witch doctor is going to jam a funnel into my character's ass and pour chopped onions in there. There's a lot on the horrors of medieval surgery and amputations... somewhat mollified by the fact that we know that if our character loses a leg, prosthetics will make him walk as good as new. This gets all of four pages, while religion barely gets two. Because ass funnels are more likely to drive medieval adventures than, you know, the fucking Church.
There's also some TERRIBLE focus, the section with the medicine is known as "Food and Medicine," then we get the Church section, and then after that a Meals section. Wouldn't that have fit better under Food and Medicine? The religion section, of course, wastes no time in telling us where whores a legal and what they're called. Thank you, Middenarde, thank you. I don't particularly mind that there's a chapter on "meals," though, again, what was historically eaten could be a nice bit of flavour for a game that actually tries to be historically accurate. You know, assuming that this game in any way succeeded at that. I'd also like to point out that the "setting" section only
focuses on England. Not even the British Isles in general, no Scotland, no Wales, no Ireland, literally just England. Not even goddamn France
Not sure we needed the "schedules," section, either, since it just tells us that people wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to work, eat dinner, go to bed in the evening.
JEW MAGICS posted:
Magic was believed to exist, many church scholars claim to have memorized the true names of devils as laid down by Solomon, and thus can command them to do God’s bidding and leave good Christians alone. One bishop of York claimed to have a fairy manservant, also bound in a similar way. After the 1480s, the church quietly cracks down on these claims, mostly for being based in Jewish Cabbala. After the 1480s alchemy is largely also left to the Jewish minority of Europe, but of course anything useful alchemists find becomes the property of trade guilds, particularly any advance in metalworking. Jewish alchemists in Prague in the 1460s experimenting with lead will stumble upon adding antinomy, making lead hard enough to cast into letters that hold their shape, and so inventing mobile type, a technology that Jews are promptly banned from using, and kick-starting the Renaissance. These intellectual forms of magic in England existed only within fringe groups of the church, which at this point includes all the universities.
Wait, is he saying that type-casting and printing are "intellectual forms of magic"? These wandering paragraphs are a wonder.
The GM's Guide is relatively short, so I figured I'd have it here at the end of the main book and then do the Adventure Modules book on its own afterwards.
What is the GM? posted:
The GM is not playing to win. A tabletop campaign is not merely an asymmetrical game that the Game Master is attempting to achieve victory in. A Game Master has absolute control over the proceedings and therefore must exercise restraint. In truth, the GM is not even constrained by the rules laid out in any of the books. You may strike your own path if you so choose, so long as your players find it fun. That is the only goal you are really trying to achieve: to give your players a good time.
The GM is not his or her players’ master. They can walk away at any time and are under no obligation to put up with you. When the relationship between the GM and his or her players turns from arbitrating to adversarial, or even antagonistic, games fall apart. Remember, you as the GM have total control only over how the game is played, not over the people who play it. Concessions may be necessary to keep them entertained, so long as they do not attempt to run the show through you. You should not attempt to impose your uncompromising vision on them if they don’t enjoy it; why should they stay if they’re not enjoying themselves?
As much shit as I give the writer of Middenarde, this is a good pair of paragraphs, and in general, the section on how it's the GM's roles to adjudicate and arbitrate, to keep everyone having fun, not just one person(and especially not if that one person is himself), to stay prepared, to be the guy who keeps track of the rules, is pretty solid. Wouldn't quite be Middenarde without some sketchy stuff in there, though, would it now?
In general, Middenarde allows for and even encourages characters to be manipulated and fought just like NPCs, and conflict might be resolved in-character through a duel, but if tempers grow heated, it is up to the GM to intervene and resolve matters.
This seems to suggest that PC's are subject to social skills just like NPC's. That's always a horrible idea. Never take away player agency that way, and especially don't let another player take away a player's agency, because once that shit is going down, unless one of them agrees that it would be an interesting situation or whatever... you've almost certainly got some antagonism going that's gonna be hard to tone down. But reading this section, for the most part, you get the impression that the writer has played in his fair share of games(probably even GM'ed a lot of them, considering how much he lauds the GM for being such an amazing and important person willing to do all the truly hard work...), some of which met painful ends due to drama, bad GM's or scheduling issues, and is trying to help future GM's avoid those things.
90% of the rest of the book is just a bunch of pre-made NPC and animal/monster enemies. This place does confirm that "Hyperborea" exists, however, since it's apparently where Griffons come from. Why not tell us something about that place, jackass? Seems more interesting than Cockboot County in England. And then a bunch of gems with magical powers like "is made from piss"(no other qualities) and "can cure any disease." In fact most of these gems are related to curing poisons and diseases, it gets a bit same-ish.
But, at least the GM's Guide got us another sweet piece of cover art. Could've been worse!
Middenarde might have the worst gap between theme and mechanics that I've ever seen.
Theme: It is a harsh and gritty world. Life is short. You will not prosper.
Mechanics: Revive the dead with batteries. Erase yourself from the memories of others. Kill a man by calling him fat.
Also a Watt is a measurement of energy over time - a joule/second. If you're Frankensteining it up that is usually portrayed as a delivered in a single instant in which case you'd need less than 20 joules to raise the dead, which you could probably get just by sliding the body down a hill since the rule doesn't say the power has to be in the form of electricity.
If it has to be over time then you'd need a big ass battery even if you were using lightning, because a bolt's peak of 1TW for an instant will blow anything else.
Don't get scientific terms in your fiction, guys.
Now, what we've all been waiting for... to see how high-mortality our high-mortality game really is!
7 - COMBAT
Timg'd because it's page-breakingly wide. Open it up, though, it looks awesome.
7.3.1 Normal Attack posted:
A normal attack may be made as a full-round action with either a melee or ranged weapon. The attacker declares a target, and then enters the attack phase as per section 7.4.
I mean, actually attacking someone is relatively simple, as it turns out, but the writing does everything it can to make EVERYTHING sound more complex and technical than it is.
STILL ATTACKING posted:
Arrows that hit targets may be recovered by picking them up. A Visual Acuity check (DC 16) will return a number of missed arrows equal to the roll minus the DC, plus one. A ranged weapon will take damage as though it hit even if it doesn’t hit, so roll the weapon’s damage dice regardless.
We're getting fifty kinds of garbage bookkeeping rules before we get to actually learning how to finish off our damn attacks. I don't give a shit about my arrows, just let me know how to hit someone
. Also joke's on you if you think that's the next thing you're gonna read because you're at point 7.3.1 and attacks are just over at 7.4! Because there's another 22 subheadings in the way. And then we get to the actual attacking because I skip all of the fucking idiot intervening points and I want to get to the action. I'm instructed that an attack consists of rolling the ATTACK DICE POOL vs the EVASION DICE POOL. I've never been told what these are. Scroll back, find rules for INCREASING the pools, but not what they start at, realize that it's yet another thing only shown on the fucking online character sheet.
Either pool starts at a single D6, and you can invest in increasing your pool(by adding a d4, though keep in mind, for weapons, it's only for a single type of weapon, you have a separate pool for each type!), or bumping up one of your dice in the pool to the next level(d4 to d6, d6 to d8, d8 to d10, and that's the max). When rolled, the pool totals
are ignored, and instead the two highest dice are compared to each other in value. Ties resolve in favour of the defender, and if the attacker rolls poorly enough, the defender gets a free counter-attack. Though no word on whether this can, in itself, trigger another counter-attack if flubbed badly enough, trapping two characters in an eternal loop of missing each other.
Now, if we hit someone, we roll 3d6 to determine hit location(rather than just using 3d6+static modifiers from skills as our initial attack, allowing us to determine the hit location and whether or not we hit in one go.), then we roll damage(both to our weapon and our enemy/our enemy's armor. Also as far as I can see, shield bashing is almost always aa more effective weapon than, well, actually using a weapon), assuming our damage penetrates, we then apply damage to the location we hit, and to our opponent's total vitality points, calculate whether we sever or cripple a limb, make a second attack and dodge roll if there's enough damage to sever to determine if we do sever the limb, and if we do sever a "minor" limb or a head, the defender may additionally choose to roll to only lose part of that hit location rather than all of it(also bafflingly, it's harder to cripple a bodypart than it is to entirely cut it off?). And then we may also have to roll for bleeding.
So, in a worst case scenario, for a single attack defense, assuming no infinite counter-attack loop, we're going to be rolling 2(attack and evasion) + 2(counterattack + evasion) + 1(hit location) + 1(damage) + 2(extra attack and evade to determine severing) + 1(losing a minor part rather than severing) + 1(bleeding) = 10 rolls for a single attack. And we have to alter weapon durability, armor durability, maybe VP and potentially stats(from losing body parts) with every attack, so at least 2 values, possibly 4.
And that worst-case scenario isn't even particularly unlikely. We can assume that there's no counter-attack, which would at least reduce the rolls by 2, but almost every sharp weapon can cause severing and bleeding, and all of them have the damage values necessary to sever a limb if you don't fuck up the roll completely. The game does live up to high mortality, though, if you aren't wearing any armor, most weapons can kill you in two blows(or one if they lop off a limb and you bleed to death, or just cut your head wide open). Of course, that's assuming you ever get hit, if you've got a pavise(which is also one of the best possible weapons, damage-value-wise, except that shields sadly don't get any special attack knacks), you're unlikely to ever get hit by anyone since that gives you a 2d10 to block attacks with(rather than using your evasion pool).
Also for the cost of either of the two most powerful weapons(great axes or two-handed swords), which do tops 2d8+8 or 2d6+6 damage, you can buy two attack dogs, each
of which can do 2d6 damage. And there's an Animal Handler knack that allows you to permanently upgrade an animal's attack damage(+1) and its attack dice(adding to the pool or simply increasing the dice it attacks with), meaning that the optimal strategy is to hide behind two pavises while a swarm of dogs(or bears, you can train wild animals, too, at that knack level), does all the fighting for you. To speed things up, the Animal Handler then trains a bird(I'm not shitting you, you can do this) to be an animal handling assistant of his own skill level. It can do all the animal training while he's out, and when he's back training some particularly difficult wild animal, it can assist him, boosting his own animal handling by 50%. The only thing slightly limiting the power of an animal trainer is that there are cumulative penalties to training the same animal over and over, but considering that dogs are already pretty powerful and just need to be better at hitting... no great issue(considering how cheap cats are, though, they may be more cost-effective because enough attacks will eventually break ANY armor or fortification).
Sadly, it doesn't specifically say that the bird also gets the knacks allowing it to boost animal combat stats, only that it gets the trainer's skill points, otherwise you could entirely farm out the entire process to a bunch of hawks or pigeons. But you could teach a bird to be a surgeon, a blacksmith, a wizard, an alchemist... any non-combat skill, really. So if you can catch enough birds and train them, you can replace paid human labour with free bird labour. Just as long as you don't teach any of them Mercantile so they can negotiate for better wages. I'd also like to note that "Heft," the skill for increasing carrying capacity, is non-combat, so with enough personal ranks in it, and enough birds to train, you could create, say, a flying fortress, or an airship. Or just get carried everywhere by your trained blacksmith birds.
But anyway, sorry for that aside. Back to combat. If you lose your arms, it sucks. If you lose your head or torso, you die. If you lose your legs, don't worry, you'll be penalized while missing them, but medieval prosthetics will restore full functionality, according to the game's rules.
There are also optional morale rules, but any group of 17 or more, with a leader, will never retreat. Alternately, anyone who can see 9 or more allies on the field, will never retreat either. Because literally the only modifier for morale rolls is how many men the leader is commanding, or how many friends you can see, not how many of your buddies just got gorily disembowelled. Did you start out at 500 men and just watch the remaining 491 get demolished by a horde of dogs and birds, lead by a madman on the back of a bear huddling beneath two shields? Doesn't matter! There are still nine of you left, you're invincible!
I wonder if it actually has rules for losing limbs in the combat section.
Does it EVER. The only thing preventing you from relatively easily lopping off someone's arm with an ordinary knife is that daggers lack the "severing" tag. Pretty much any axe or sword hit that actually HITS, if it hits someone unarmoured, is extremely likely to chop something off unless it hits the torso, which has a comparatively high(but definitely not insurmountable) threshold to being lopped in half. I can post the numbers, if people care.
NOTE: A couple of these posts will be pre-faced with quotes from the original Something Awful thread, when someone posted something that I thought was too funny not to include in the review itself. So you're going to have to deal with my shitty sense of humour. Nerds.
So what I'm hearing is that Middenarde is terrible at being the shitfarmer game it pretends it is but it is actually quite serviceable for playing Exalted.
EDIT: "Okay so the plan is for Jim to hide the river, forcing the invading army to a standstill. While they're stopped Joe and Sam will let themselves get captured so they can brought in front of the enemy general. Joe will then flip it around so they are all in jail instead of him and Sam will take advantage of their surprise to instakill all of them perfectly. They will then make their escape over the hidden river using the motorboat I just built."
EDIT2: "Also you have to tell me whether this plan is a good idea or not."
I'm quoting this for the express purpose of getting it into the F&F archive, because it made me cackle like a madman when I read it.
4 - KNACKS
We're still on Knacks, about halfway through, let's see if there's anything else interesting in there.
Miraculous Savior posted:
Requirements: Heal VI
Some say Jesus Christ healed the lame, but you can keep them from becoming lame in the first place. Up to an hour after a body part is severed, you can reattach it with a successful Heal check (DC 18) and apply a poultice of herbs. Note that it will be nonfunctional for a month, and you must perform an additional check with a DC of 12 for them to ever regain full feeling in the limb. The target must be alive for this to work. No doctor capable of this feat can explain it.
Confounding the Grim Reaper posted:
Requirements: Heal VI, Miraculous Savior
You have exceeded the expectations of your profession to accomplish the one thing thought entirely impossible: cheating death. With a set of Crafting Tools designed for this one purpose only, you can bring back to life anyone dead for less than a day, or a week if their body is kept cool. The process takes two hours, and only succeeds on a successful Heal check of DC 20. You must also have a power source (of at least 20 Watts, or 125 thousand potato batteries) to restart the brain. The recently revived are restored to 1 VP and remember nothing from the moment of their death to their resurrection, as though no time had passed. You cannot revive anyone who was beheaded, bisected, or died of natural causes or disease.
Low. Fantasy. Adventures. With. High. Mortality.
You know, unless Doctor fucking Frankenstein is in your goddamn party! Good thing you don't have to wait for a thunderstorm, either, because the guy with Anachronism can build a simple battery and the wizard can cast Lightning Bolt on the machinery. Meanwhile, over on the Influence side of the Knacks, we're continuing with the "why do I need a fucking feat for this shit?"-trend from the combat knacks, as you need special knacks to piss people off, intimidate them or distract them. How would you ever do any of this without special training. Also, seeming harmless so you'll be ignored in combat requires healing skill as a prerequisite, rather than any sort of acting talent.
Requirements: Influence VI, Skilled Manipulator
You’re so charismatic, people tend to do what you ask without thinking twice. With this knack, you automatically succeed on Influence checks against people who are capable of understanding you and of friendly disposition towards you. A friendly disposition is at the GM’s discretion and may constitute being in a good mood, feelings of respect or admiration, a previous acquaintanceship, etc. The knack Skilled Manipulator may be useful.
Also hey there, mind control
! Obviously still limited by the limits on the Influence skill I noted in, I think, the very first post, that is that it really can't twist people's intentions THAT far, but anyone who doesn't hate you will magically do anything that they could be technically bribed into doing, now, for free. Skilled Manipulator, the prereq that it states may be useful, has the effect of people not knowing that you just manipulated them. Now, I have to point out, that most people, if they know you're fucking with them to get them riled up, or angry, or sad, or to make them ignore you or go along with what you're saying, won't do it. Much of that shit only works because
people are unaware of the manipulation. So what happens without Skilled Manipulator for all those other skills? Do people go along with it for a minute, realize you were a fuckface, then keep all the gold you bribed them with and not do what you said after all?
For that matter, Influence is affected by bribing people, and it's still an influence check when you are, for instance, trying to incite them to violence and get them angry. Is that fluffed as throwing your wallet at their face over and over? Flicking gold coins at their nose until they get really pissed? It's the same for intimidate. The Investigation skills, again, start in on the whole "why do I need a feat for this?"-thing.
You can tell what left that mark. By succeeding on an Investigation check at the GM’s discretion, you can determine through the properties of a mark or blemish, exactly what caused it. The scuff of a boot versus a shoe, what type of knife blade nicked it, and what profession would have wielded such a blade, how heavy or strong the person or thing marking it may have been, et cetera.
Then again, other times you get to literally REWIND TIME.
Seeing into the past can sometimes be more useful than the future. With this knack, you can systematically rewind a room by rearranging it, so that you can get a clear image of how it looked at some point in the past. The DC is how many hours in the past you wish to reconstruct it, minus how many hours it has been since it was last disturbed (or days, if the room is rarely touched). This can give you an idea of who did what in it, even re-staging events.
There's a knack that's required to hear stuff that you haven't specifically declared that you're trying to listen in on, a set of knacks that build up to literal echolocation. Seven skillpoints into lockpicking, you finally get to even attempt
to disarm traps. Actually knowing what stuff is worth is also a knack roughly that distance up the Mercantilism tree. And the apex-level Mercantilism ability is literal mind control, if they fail the initial roll and you sell them something "for a favor," they have to complete that favor. They can be annoyed at you and unwilling to go along with future bargains, but as per how its written, they're "bound" to complete the task for you. Psychology lets you just steal your opponent's combat abilities, even if you've never seen them displayed, just BAM, now you know them as well as he does and can use them against him... or anyone, in fact, it doesn't actually list an expiry point for these "mimicked" knacks. The only requirement is that they're learned from your "opponent."
So I guess the "optimal" strategy is to have one combat monster character, and everyone else just focuses on psychology so they can copy whatever he learns by sparring with him, because someone you're sparring with is technically an opponent. Then afterwards you call his mom a whore and he keels over for 12 hours, crying to himself while you walk away.
Crippling Word posted:
Requirements: Psychology VI, Disrupt Concentration, Mimic
Nothing is more devastating than effective emotional manipulation. With a DC of 20 + their ranks in Willpower, you may make a Psychology check (with a +3 bonus from a successful Sense Weakness) to deliver such a vehement and toxic insult that whomever receives it is turned into a sobbing wreck. They are unable to do anything on their own but defend themselves from attack for 2d6 hours.
Also since all they can do is "defend themselves from attack," that would imply that they can't, for instance, swim. So if you use this on someone trying to swim a river, they'll sink weeping to the bottom and drown.
Just A Rat posted:
Requirements: Stealth IV, Shadow-Walker
It’s a natural assumption that if you can’t find someone, they’ve probably buggered off somewhere else. And you have to let your guard down some time. With this knack, anyone who spotted you has forgotten about you within an hour. If you leave the area and return, they will not be looking for you.
It's a shame so many of these knacks are attached to a bad system that loudly declares it wants to do the opposite of delivering this kind of absurd fun. Because some of these aren't actually BAD. Mimic could, with some limits, be interesting. This seems like an amazing stealth apex power. Crippling Word is a great way to give a social character, a somewhat overpowered, way to join in combat. In any case, the remaining knacks are just boring +x bonuses, so I'm gonna skip those.
5 - EQUIPMENT
This isn't gonna be a very interesting chapter, though I want to note that there are eight
kinds of polearms, but only one type of bow(no difference between longbows and shortbows). Also everything you're wielding will inevitably fall apart, armor and weapons both, just from natural use. Because truly, the most compelling part of any game is to track your fucking equipment's HP with every swing you make. This chapter also encourages the GM to track how much PC's are eating and drinking, and whether or not they should suffer penalties from dehydration or malnutrition. At least the different kinds of food and drink don't have different hydration values and nutrition values.
All herbs weigh ¼ unit and cost 8d, and take 2 MH to craft. They can be used to treat wounds by making a Heal check with a DC equal to the number of VP the patient has lost to determine which humours are imbalanced. The physician then applies a poultice of the correct herbs, made using a mortar and pestle (½ MH), and the patient gains 1 bonus VP while resting for each different herb applied. If no mortar and pestle is available, the herbs can be applied raw at one third effectiveness.
We also clearly needed stats for nine different breeds of dog and three different breeds of cat. As a happy note, cats can't kill you in a single attack, it'll take at least five, or three if they're hitting your head. It took me a while to figure this out, since your maximum and starting Vitality Points are listed nowhere in the .PDF
, instead being hidden away on the pre-made character sheet. If that character sheet ever gets taken down or removed, the players are shit outta luck. In the course of trying to find this out, I also noted that actually attacking
someone, is the 28th sub-heading in the Combat chapter, rather than, say, the first or second. Also, a bite from a dog will do more damage than getting stabbed with a shortsword or getting impaled by a javelin. In fact, dogs are fucking dangerous
in this game, you'd rather be beaten by a mace or eat an arrow from a bow than getting bitten by a dog.
This is also the chapter that has the spells, and they are literally D&D spells
. Fireball, Owl's Wisdom, Lightning Bolt, Flying, Invisibility, Hold Person, Haste, Blink... thoroughly unimaginative. When I pointed this out to the creator, he told me that this game was actually a hobby that he'd been working on for the last 7 years, and that none of the friends who'd played it had EVER complained about this, so clearly I was wrong.
6 - PLAYING THE GAME
This chapter starts off with some of the dullest details on carrying and lifting capacity I've ever read. Do some people actually enjoy
this sort of petty bookkeeping bullshit in their PnP RPG's? Oh and also there are luck points, which we get a finite amount of, one for each level-up, non-recoverable unless GM arbitration says we get some. They can be used for rerolls and for healing less HP than a day of rest, so they don't really do THAT much to tip the balance considering how sparse they are.
KNOWN AS LEVELING UP posted:
A character’s skill progression is modeled through the gaining of levels. A level is gained when a character receives enough XP to pass a threshold known as XPTNL, and they receive eight hours of sleep. The character’s XP is then reset to zero, and they receive a new XPTNL equal to 9 plus the square of the character’s level. This is explained in more detail in section 2.2.
When a character gains a new level, a process known as “leveling up,”
I've literally never read a more spergy description of gaining XP and leveling up. Jesus Christ.
You can’t survive off of hardtack or travel rations forever. Characters need to eat real food or they will suffer adverse effects from a limited diet. Every time a character eats a meal, they should make a 3d6 nutrition check with the DC listed for that food. If they succeed, they suffer no adverse effects. Otherwise, they must make a note of how many checks they have failed, in total, since the last time they had a filling meal, and suffer all of the appropriate penalties:
Oh and the malnutrition penalties are permanent. Generally this chapter is nothing but petty ways for a GM to hunt you for not being omniscient. "Ah, but you only bought NORMAL pants at chargen! Now there's a blizzard and you don't have fur pants! Roll to save vs hypothermia!" "Roll to save vs dysentery!" "Roll to save vs malnutrition!"
Dysentery can be contracted from tainted foods or water. At the GM’s discretion, he or she may secretly roll a 3d6 when a player consumes food or water and determine whether they suffer dysentery
Also on average, any food you don't cook yourself seems to have roughly a 50% chance of giving you dysentery, which has a very real chance of killing your character. The section on how the GM can kill you with dysentery, malaria, smallpox and syphilis is bookended by the rules for throwing objects at stationary targets(or willing catchers) at one end, and the rules for attacking a stationary target at the far end.
Combat rules coming up in the next post. Let's see how HIGH MORTALITY this game gets.
4 - KNACKS
Knacks are similar to feats, in that they're abilities with skill-prerequisites(and sometimes feat prerequisites) that give you new abilities that are, generally, meant to be more interesting than a generic +1 to doing a thing. In Middenarde, you get these, but at each level-up, you can get a +1 to a skill, or you can get a Knack, so good luck ever getting many of these especially considering that some require over ten skill points invested purely in combat abilities and prerequisite combat Knacks. In other words, despite the creator's comments about how characters are meant to not be hyper-specialized(despite no rules preventing this, like, say, separate combat and non-combat skill point pools), there are obviously skills made for hyper-specialized characters, which can only be attained by hyper-specialized characters.
To get an idea of how much specializing they'd require, getting the "apex" sword Knack would require 15 points. You get a minimum of 10 XP per session, with suggested 20XP for a session in which they actually accomplish something, 50 for hard goals. So let's assume that you get 30XP per session, since some are just shooting the shit, others involve minor goals, and some involve major goals. To get to level 14(because we get 1 free skill point at first level) we need...
10+13+18+25+34+45+58+73+90+109+130+154+178+205... 1142XP. Divided by 30, that's 38 sessions of play where you invest in NOTHING but combat skills. Even if we assume the GM is super generous and the game fast-paced, with 50 XP per session, that's something like 22 sessions of specializing in nothing but combat, if someone wants to beeline for that knack. And if they don't beeline for it, damn, it's gonna take them a long time to get there.
Now, if we look at the actual knacks themselves...
Parrier Seeking the Flaws
Hang on a mome-
Subduing the Honored Foe
Tenacity of the Final Warrior
Two Birds with One Spear
Crashing Wave Blow
Kangaroo and Child
Okay, we get it, you like Exalted(and what the hell do kangaroos have to do with spear combat...). I wasn't expecting DRAMATIC MARTIAL ARTS STYLE NAMES in my SHITFARMER: THE DYING RPG, though. Anyway, the first thing that I notice, aside from the crazy requirements and the stupid names, is the imbalance in knack distribution. Swords have PILES of them, six pages, while blunt weapons, spears, daggers, flails and axes have only two each. Considering that some are just renamings of the same basic attack, like a knockdown for swords and a knockdown for blunt weapons, why not just combine some of those into a general "melee combat" knack tree, and have some of the branches be specialized per weapon?
There's also no overview of the skill tree anywhere, or even alphabetic organization, so if you want to find the prerequisite for a Knack you really like, prepare for some paging back and forth. We also get to revisit 3.5th edition D&D's Fighter feats in the sense that stuff that should just be basic abilities, gets gated behind investing in Knacks. For instance, keeping enemies at bay with a spear, that is, getting an attack against them if they try to charge past the point of your weapon, requires a Knack.
Opportunistic Attack posted:
Requirements: Readiness I, Specialization: Spear II
The extended reach of your spear can keep foes from getting anywhere near you. Whenever an opponent attacks you with a non-Reach, non-ranged weapon, you may counterattack them as long as you are using a spear. Your counterattack occurs before their attack. This knack can be used as many times per day as you have ranks in Readiness.
I'm sorry but this is the fucking basic POINT of a spear, so essentially polearms can't even be used for their intended purpose without investing four skill points(three for prereqs, one for the knack.) into them, and reading on you can get the exact same ability with a dagger
. There's a similar feat for getting an advantage when using polearms against mounted enemies. Similarly, it takes eight
skill points(six skills, two knacks) to get to knock people down with a blunt weapon. You can only get an advantage for attacking someone from behind if you're using a dagger(and then again, only with knacks)...
Requirements: Heal I, Specialization: Dagger IV
Knowing where important nerves are on the body, you can target them in a way that works much like a form of Western acupuncture. Whenever you hit an opponent with a dagger, you can choose to leave the dagger in the limb, rendering it inoperative until it is removed (as though picked up). The limb is treated as though crippled. You can only use this knack on minor and major limbs.
I'll be honest here, I've never been stabbed with a knife, but I suspect that you don't need special skills to not pull your weapon out after stabbing someone, and that generally having a knife through your arm will discourage you from using it even if it's not in a special nerve cluster. I mean, really, just getting a glass splinter in my foot is enough to discourage me from using it until its removed. Normally I wouldn't complain about this, but in a game that prides itself on HIGH MORTALITY and REALISM? Fuck off. Continuing on with daggers, they might be the best weapon, seeing as how they can copy spears in keeping enemies at bay and also get to instantly kill anyone.
Gentle Embrace of Death posted:
Requirements: Specialization: Dagger V, Stealth III, Backstab
Getting into a protracted and noisy fight is sometimes undesirable. From a hidden position, you can roll a Stealth check versus Visual Acuity against an opponent. If you succeed, you stab that opponent in the back of the neck with your dagger, disabling them. They will choke to death on their own blood, and die within 6 minutes, blacking out in 3 minutes. Anyone in the room can roll a Listen check (DC 10) to hear them.
As long as you're not spotted, you can kill anyone, regardless of HP, armor or what they are. An elephant? A dragon? Beelzebub? As long as they don't see you coming, they're dead within six minutes. There also doesn't seem to be anything that really defines a "hidden position," so presumably it just means that you, personally, are not being seen by the target. Just need someone else to distract your victim in combat and it's an in-combat instakill, too.
There's a ranged skill that allows you to attach things to your arrows as long as they weigh "less than a half-unit." Checking the list of equipment, this means that you cannot, for instance, use this skill to attach a rope(weighs two units) and fire it over some battlements, or in fact, anything of utility. The only things you can attach to your arrow is a torch, gunpowder vials, some articles of clothing, knuckle dusters or darts. So it's effectively useless for "utility" purposes, but at no point does it write whether firing a pair of knuckle dusters at someone's dumb face adds the knuckle dusters' damage to the arrow or what effect it might have.
It just gets dumber the farther we get into the chapter, mind you. For instance, we've got an entire skill devoted to nothing but rope use... but knacks for things like rope snares also exist for Animal Handling, making it an even more purposeless niche talent.
At this point I'd also like to address the magic in the game. Namely: It feels like the author forgot 90% of the rules for them. There's the Attunement talent, and there are spells in potions and on scrolls later, there are Attunement knacks related to memorizing spells, but nowhere is there even a single page with an overview on magic and its effects and how it works. There's a knack that lets me memorize a spell from a scroll and cast it at will, which "counts as a use on the scroll," but nowhere does it seem to say that scrolls have limited uses, or even what the limited number of uses is. The scrolls appear to have "Man Hours" for crafting listed, but there's no crafting skill to craft them with
, unless that's assumed to be Literature or Exotic.
All I can really find that references the functioning of scrolls is the specific spells on them, and what they do, and that you need Attunement to read a scroll off a spell, but then it also says that you need Craft: Literature(Runes) to do it in the first place!
Easy: Identifying the purpose of a potion.
Intermediate: Sensing the presence of a magical item in the room.
Hard: Casting a spell from a scroll with Craft: Literature (Runes).
After searching everywhere I eventually give up and search for "runes" in the .PDF, and finally find where the actual scroll/spellcasting rules are... sandwiched as a single paragraph in the Equipment
chapter, between Pets and Potions. It turns out that scrolls have four uses per rank, and apparently the only purpose to "memorizing" a scroll is that it's necessary for copying it, and also that it lets you have your hands free while casting the contents... since it still consumes a use of the scroll. Also for some reason, the more uses and the higher quality a scroll has, the harder it is to actually use(the DC increases. For instance, for a highest-level, "Glowing" scroll, you'd need to pass an Attunement DC of 18 and a Craft: Literature(Runes) DC of 22, but if the scroll is basically on its last legs, the DC's would only be 3 and 7, respectively, instead. Why? You'd think that more garbage-quality scrolls would be harder to use.).
There are no rules for creating magic from scratch, so if you get your hands on a scroll of decent quality, you should just lock it in a safe somewhere after memorizing it, and then become rich by using your craft and attunement skills to mass produce scrolls of Flying or similar. There are prices listed for scrolls, but all of them are out of reach at chargen, so it's basically up to the GM entirely whether any points invested in Attunement will be worth jack shit. There don't appear to be any potentially horrible consequences for fucking up scrollcrafting other than some wasted paper.
Now, Cleverness knacks...
Requirements: Cleverness II
“Common sense is not so common,” as Renaissance philosopher François-Marie Arouet would put it two hundred years later. Once per day, when you or a party member are about to make a decision that would be counterproductive or result in bodily harm, your Game Master will warn you against doing so.
Requirements: Cleverness III
Insanity is doing things over and over again and expecting a different result. It’s best to simply not bother to do it at all. Once per day, you can ask the Game Master if attempting something, or repeating it, would have any effect, or if it would just be wasted game time. The GM is obligated to tell you whether it’s worth your time, but not what would happen if you did it.
Requirements: Cleverness IV, Common Sense
Clever people always have a nagging voice at the back of their head when they’re forgetting something. Once per day, when you seem to be about to gloss over something that you might never come back to, the GM should hint at your error, suggesting you spend a little more time looking around.
Alright so, what's the point
of a hyper-lethal game that requires CAREFUL CONSIDERATIONS... if you can just buy feats that mean the GM has to absolve you from actually using your brain? Plus, in any case, what sort of jackass GM doesn't at least obliquely hint to the players when they're about to get themselves killed doing something stupid or about to waste their time on something pointless?
Requirements: Cleverness VI
Some people are just ahead of their time. You are one of those people. You are capable of envisioning anything that has yet to be invented, up to a number of years in the future equal to 25 times the number of ranks you have in Cleverness. Unfortunately, this wild imagination is useful only for getting stares and beatings unless you’re capable of crafting the things you envision. You must spend 1 MH per year in the future to create a coherent enough blueprint of the invention for anyone to be able to craft it.
I guess this is what puts a limit to the Craft:Exotic skill, at last. Skills cap out at 10 points, so you can really only get 250 years into the future with this. Since the game is assumed to take place in 1450, that means up to the year 1700 for technology. Just at a quick glance, I can see how this could be used to upset the setting rapidly and make yourself the richest man, woman or street urchin around in short order. It takes 1 year's worth of man-hours per year into the future you want to "invent," but you can spread this out over a team. The game's intended for 4 to 7 players, supposedly, so just make seven crafting-obsessives and have them sit around collecting XP just for existing until they can invent all sorts of timeline-breaking shit. What would YOU make with this to upset the game setting?
Cover Up posted:
Requirements: Disguise II
Using the tools at your discretion, you can make things disappear. You can conceal any stationary object, like furniture, doorways, tunnels, et cetera as something else, or hide them from view entirely. Any casual observer will not notice them, and anyone searching for it must pass a Visual Acuity conflict against your Disguise DC. If they know the object is supposed to be there, they must succeed on a Cleverness check against the Disguise DC to be alerted to its absence, unless it’s something they intended to use and are confused to find missing. In either case, they may add their Cleverness ranks to their Visual Acuity ranks in their attempt to uncover it.
The game appears to have no real provision for "taking 10(or 20)", and only PC's get to break the odds with Luck Points, so good luck to the scrub NPC's who try to figure out where you hid their stuff. It also says any stationary object
. I'm not seeing any limit in size
... so you can literally use this to disguise a bridge, then when the advancing army of 0th-level pikemen and their generals arrive, they can't find the river crossing and will have to abandon their war. You could use it to hide a ship at harbor. Or a house. Or a castle. It doesn't even list a minimum time it takes to use... in general the only time unit used outside of combat is "man hours" for crafting, otherwise rounds and turns only exist in combat.
Requirements: Disguise III, Cover Up
Smuggling is a useful talent, whether you’re carrying illicit goods or much-needed protection. You can conceal a number of units of items equal to your Disguise bonus on your person. Any casual observer will not notice them, and anyone searching you must pass a Visual Acuity conflict against your Disguise DC.
Units are the game's made-up weight values. Let's assume we have Disguise 10, what can we then hide on our person? Sadly there are no "units" listed for animals, so we'll never know if we can hide a horse under our coat, and nowhere are "units" translated to pounds or kilos or something we can use for items not in the book. A raft or a door are entirely possible, however. Also, at maxed disguise, we can hide two coffins
on our person. Now, from that I guess we can extrapolate a bit. "Units" are listed as being "Weight," not something more nebulous like "encumbrance" that might encompass size as well. At a quick google, the "average coffin" seems to weigh between 100 and 300 pounds. So I guess we can hide 200 to 600 pounds of "stuff" under our coat if the authorities come poking around.
Sadly this means we can't smuggle an adult horse around in our pants. But a young one...
Or we could just carry one coffin and 100 to 300 pounds of person inside it. I'm gonna skip over some of the stuff I looked over, but we can carry 1% of a siege tower(in "units"), and the only siege tower weight I found online would put that 1% at 1.6 tons of stuff we can hide under our coat. Maybe the author should've just gone ahead and written "pounds" or "kilos" instead.
EDIT: A friend pointed out that the person you're concealing could also have the same Knack and, themselves, be concealing another person(and/or coffin) and so on.
Moving on to the Escape Artist knacks!
Turning the Tables posted:
Requirements: Escape Artist IV
They thought they had you under control… but they were wrong. At the cost of a -1 penalty to your Escape Artist check, if successful, you can restrain anyone standing adjacent to you the same way you were restrained, effectively switching places. This does not work if what you were restrained with requires something special to open it, like a key you don’t possess, or a lever that’s not within reach.
Now, it's already hilarious that you can warp out of ropes and capture your captor. BUT! It doesn't say they have to be the ones who restrained you in the first place. Tie your hands together, walk up behind someone, use this skill... and now you're free and their hands are tied together. Or their feet. Or whatever... or wait a moment. A key you DON'T possess? If you handcuff yourself, and have the key, then you CAN use this, and they'll end up NOT having the key! Or lock yourself in a box with the key, when they walk up to examine it. SHAZAM. Now they're in the box! You're outside!
This is getting funny now. There's still roughly half the knacks to go, but this post is long enough for the time being.
So, while waiting for the Kult revamp/remake/restart to release, as well as waiting for Desborough to release his Gor RPG which someone made me promise to review, someone actually contacted me, wanting me to look over their Kickstarted RPG
before finalizing the final draft sometime around Christmas and releasing. So keep in mind, hopefully what I critique is exactly what the author will fix... though I have my doubts, since my issues with the game are somewhat fundamental. The Kickstarter promises:
Footsoldiers Kickstarter posted:
Foot Soldiers is a low-fantasy, high-mortality game of medieval strife. A pen & paper RPG system set in England in the 1450s, Foot Soldiers challenges you to take the role of a peasant or a commoner, someone without riches or fame to their name, and bring them to greatness, or die trying. Foot Soldiers tells the stories of real adventurers, people who aren't exceptionally gifted or exceptionally lucky, but still have to make a living. Some of them end up as the skeletons that always litter the floor of dungeons. Others survive, but bearing the marks of their trials, missing limbs and scars. They are ordinary people, like you and me, trying to leave their mark on the harsh and divided landscape.
Classless: In Foot Soldiers, you are not typecast. Like in real life, what you are good at is what you pursue, and no two characters must end up alike.
Statless: Human beings are not defined by statistics, but the strength of their initiative, the skills they hone, and the favor of God. Simply put, there is no system of several physical and mental attributes (Strength, Endurance, Charisma, etc.) that govern a character's ability.
Accurate: The book includes a detailed description of the setting, written by a British archeologist, and the equipment is accurate to the time period.
In Foot Soldiers, you are not what we consider "the hero." Characters in Foot Soldiers have no plot armor. Every violent encounter is a brush with death. A weapon is a weapon, intended to maim and kill, and even the unskilled can deal serious damage to an unlucky foe.
This is very much unlike what I'd normally be interested in, so I can hardly be considered an entirely dispassionate and objective reviewer, but I'm going to give it a shot. Straight off the bat, though, it's giving me some serious Fantasy Wargaming
flashbacks, which is a bad thing(also you should go read that review if you haven't before, I find it consistently entertaining). I'm going to go through the RPG as I read it, rather than going all the way through it first, to give a genuine first-impression as far as possible. So, let's begin!1 - INTRODUCTIONThe text is separate from the actual art in the .PDF, so I'll probably end up copying them separately when they overlap, to show off the art better.
To give the game fair credit, something that I absolutely cannot fault is the art. It's competently done, the style is great, so far I haven't seen any Magical Realm-esque content and... for once it's just nice to review something with art that wasn't made in fucking Poser or was screenshotted from a bad ninja anime. Unfortunately, the rest of the .PDF isn't quite as visually pleasing. There's art separating the chapters, and that's it, the only prettification that the rest gets is a black-and-white border.
It's a functional layout, but really boring, and the large text size also annoys me when the game moves on to listing stuff like skills, since it means more flipping through the book. I'm just generally not a fan, but, that's about all I can comment on with regards to the presentation, let's move on to the substance. As you may have noted, there's a quote on that page, in the upper right. Every chapter starts with a quote, usually from someone that can be called a philosopher of some sort(there's a Sartre one next, for instance), and it just feels really, really 90's. Like in a bad way, not in a funny, B-movie way, just: "I thought we had tried this enough and realized it was a bad idea. Why are you still doing it?"-90's.
You may also note that there's a suggested order to read the book in at the bottom of that first page(or, well, third page, after the cover and the index)... the book is NOT organized in that order. In fact, it's organized almost the reverse of that. It recommends reading the character creation second to last, but instead the character creation is immediately after the introduction and glossary. So why not just organize the book that way rather than forcing the player to flip back and forth? I'm going to ignore this recommended reading order thoroughly.
Then we move on to the subsections present at the start of most RPG's. "What is an RPG?" and "What's the theme of this RPG?" Normally I'd ignore the former and just breeze through the latter, but in this case, I'm going to actually check them out, because they're a bit different from the standard in terms of content.
What Is Roleplaying? posted:
Middenarde is a Role-Playing Game, abbreviated as RPG, wherein players create “characters” meant to be real people within the fictional setting of the game, and attempt to step into the “role” of those characters. One player is the host, most commonly referred to as the Game Master, who does not play a single character but rather controls the world and the story that other players react to. The process of pretending to be a character in a fictional world and reacting to fictional events as that character would is called “roleplaying.”
For one thing, I've never seen this written so patronizingly, with such a massive assumption that the player is retarded and just picked up the book at random, expecting it to be, I don't know, about accounting or something instead.
What Is Middenarde? posted:
It is and it isn’t. Many RPG systems emphasize “heroic fantasy,” which focuses on stories with an epic scale, typically featuring heroes with superhuman powers, battling grand forces of unquestionable evil, going on quests, and delving into ancient ruins. They are frequently beyond the laws of the land, looked up to by its populace, and relied upon to solve crises. Even fledgling heroes are typically more powerful than fathomable by most human beings, and the course of their experience is a straightforward path from relative rags to unimaginable riches. The only thing heroic fantasy characters have to worry about is where the next adventure is and how to spend their newfound wealth.
Middenarde, on the other hand, is designed to be “low fantasy.” The characters in Middenarde begin their journeys without much fortune, and their upward mobility is difficult and hazardous. There is no definite end to a character’s experience in Middenarde, except of course death, but even the most experienced characters are not wildly super-powered.
And it's always kind of sad when an RPG starts off by taking these petty shots at other RPG's, suggesting that they're not deep, that they're pitiful power fantasies or whatever.
What Is Middenarde? posted:
Middenarde is also designed to be “high mortality.” Mortality is defined as “the state or condition of being subject to death.” In heroic fantasy, characters rarely die. When they do, it iseither because they got in way over their heads, or their deaths serve to move the story forward in some way. They have what is commonly called “plot armor,” which means that the plot of the story protects them from harm unless it is dramatically appropriate for them to be hurt, and they frequently escape from dangerous situations and violent battles with hardly a mark on them.
It keeps on like that for another full page or so and pretty much instantly blows any good faith or good will the game had garnered from the excellent cover art.
What Is Middenarde? posted:
Middenarde is a low-fantasy, high-mortality game, so it may not appeal to people who are averse to death, or are only interested in playing powerful and awesome characters.
Don't play this if you're one of those fun-having scrubs, guys. Then there's the glossary, FIVE PAGES of it. I feel like if you have a five-page glossary, either you're terrible at explaining terms in the actual text, or you just have way too many non-standard terms you made up to feel special when, instead, you could've just used some more generally accepted term for something.Let's have some more of the art. It's nice.2 - CHARACTER CREATION
In what's pretty much standard-issue terrible formatting, this game drops character creation on us earlier in the book than the rules, meaning that unless we jump to the back and read the later sections first(though to be fair, the book does suggest we do that), we have no actual idea what the impact of any of our chargen choices are
, except in the most general sense. We're also greeted by YET MORE HARPING ON about how we're going to die face-down in the fucking mud five feet off our doorstep.
STOP HAVING FUN posted:
In Middenarde, no characters are intended to be “heroes” at their inception. In fact, most characters will not even be the master of their own destiny, and will have to struggle for their very survival. It’s likely that no one outside of their family and close friends even knows who they are or will remember them when they are gone. Therefore, when you envision your character, you should imagine someone who is at the very beginning of the journey that will define them as a person.
Imagine them as the seeds that will eventually grow into a sturdy plant. Of course, there is much competition among flora, and few seeds planted actually grow to fruition.
I mean seriously! This is just getting beyond the fucking point of parody now. "You're going to die horribly and no one will miss you! Also my metaphors are painful and superfluous!" This also introduces a link to an online character sheet that we can use to set up our character, that's not too bad, though it does reveal some worrying hints of what's to come, such as grittily-detailed HP, split up over eleven
separate body parts, like Right Foot(Major) and Right Foot(Minor). It isn't exactly Eoris, nothing quite that bad, but if your game prides itself on being high-mortality, then shouldn't the sheet be similarly simple, so that if Bob the Baker gets killed by a squirrel or a house cat, I can rapidly generate Carl the Clown to replace him? And then Dan the Dirtfarmer after that?
In any case, at level 1, we get a single skill point, we get to decide whether we're right or left-handed and we 31 pence(though, bafflingly, the shorthand for pence in the book is consistently d. So we'd be starting with 31d). 25 of these have to be spent on a single "heirloom" item, though, and any of them not
spent is lost, for largely incomprehensible reasons. The example character gets a weapon that isn't garbage, a shirt, some pants and some hardtack. Flipping ahead to the equipment section, there are literally prices and stats for different types of shoes, for loincloths, aprons and wimples. Holy shit. Literally ALL you can afford outside of your shirt and pants is your single "heirloom item," so try to avoid starting off unarmed or something like that. Jesus.
The next section is to tell us that the example character dies after getting ten level-ups and being "stabbed by a thief." That sure is an exciting life for "Jason Baker," the example character. Makes me eager to tread in his footsteps! There are, thankfully, also rules for not being a dirtfarmer that dies just past the doorstep. But the game warns us before using these...
Starting At Higher Levels posted:
Don’t start at too high a level, though; it’s counter to the spirit of Middenarde to begin with too much wealth and power.
Good thing the author's here to tell me what me and my players should enjoy doing with his game. What a jackass. 3 - SKILLS
So, to do anything in this game, we roll a 3d6 and attempt to pass an arbitrary TN set by the GM to succeed. This is pretty simple. To help us do some of these things, we have skills, in which we can have ranks. Nothing REQUIRES ranks to be attempted, ranks are just straight +1's to the roll. We get one of these +1's starting off. Some "skills" are also just passive bonuses to stuff like damage, blocking and armor.
On a 3d6, you can only roll a number from 3 to 18, and your chance to roll a 10 or an 11 is significantly higher than your chance of rolling a 3 or an 18. However, a Difficulty Check may be lower than 4 if there is no chance of failure unless the person is hindered in some way.
A Difficulty Check may also be higher than 18 if someone without the skill has no chance whatsoever of succeeding, but someone with experience might. For example, on a DC 25 task, someone with 10 ranks in the skill would have a 9.26% chance of success, but someone with no ranks in the skill would have a 0% chance of success. Additionally, a DC 19 task may be impossible for one person with no experience, but two people with no experience may work together to achieve a 0.46% chance of success.
So, a couple of things that get me here. Firstly, why is there even a TN for something you can't fail at? Shouldn't you just straight up succeed at that? Is he expecting people to roll for all of this shit? Secondly, thanks for listing out some random, pointless, percentage odds. Maybe you should, say, provide a table of those odds? Like Godlike does? That would help people have a genuine idea of their skill level, and give the GM a genuine idea on how to set TN's to hit certain odds, at least roughly. And after that little pointless aside on probabilities, we're straight into the skill list. Which ends with an overview of skills, rather than starting with it, and the massive text size means there's barely space for two skills on a page at once.
In an attempt at helping us play the game, each skill has examples of what would be considered Easy, Intermediate and Hard challenges for it. It's not a bad idea, but in practice it... raises some questions.
Easy: Walking a sturdy log across a stream.
Intermediate: Navigating the ceiling beams of a building.
Hard: Crossing a wide gap between buildings, using a chandelier to swing between platforms.
I mean, again, why are you making anyone roll for walking across a log over a stream? That's the sort of thing I'd only even consider rolling for if it had been a really calm session, so I could pretend at some drama and we could all have a laugh over how Edith the Elk-Herder managed to avoid having her trouser leg soaked. I'm going to skip some of these skills, because a lot of them are pretty standard(though quite a few of them overlap, for instance, we need both Investigation and Visual Acuity, but for some reason there's no Auditory Acuity, and there's both Animal Handling and Riding, there's three different negotiating skills, Psychology, Influence and Mercantile, you've got both Healing and Bandaging as separate skills, etc.), and just going to get to the ones that baffle or annoy me.
This skill is used in sensing and manipulating the supernatural. There is plenty of mystery in the world. In the Middle Ages, much was unknown, and superstition was rampant. Because Middenarde takes both the real history of the world and the beliefs of the time as seriously as possible (being what is called ‘low fantasy’), it is assumed within reason that they were all true.
Easy: Identifying the purpose of a potion.
Intermediate: Sensing the presence of a magical item in the room.
Hard: Casting a spell from a scroll with Craft: Literature (Runes).
Like this. This skill and its accompanying flavour text raise SO MANY questions. It's supposed to be based on Middle Ages myth, assuming that most of its real "within reason"(what does that even fucking MEAN). Is the Orlando Furioso real? Norse Myth? Arthurian Legend? Slavic folklore? You can't just drop that in there. And then you've got shit like "casting spells from scrolls," pretty sure that's nowhere
in Middle Ages myth, instead being present only in fantasy RPG's for the most part. And I mean, what can I sense, exactly? Can I use it to spot ghosts? Fairies? Do I generally get to use it to manipulate any magical item, like an old witch's crystal ball? Baba Yaga's hut?
The all-around ability to figure things out, especially when your character should be able to but the player may not. The skill may be used to solve a challenging riddle when enough hints have been presented, draw connections between seemingly unrelated pieces of data, or understand when the odds are not in your favor. It’s best used to keep the campaign going at an even pace or to prevent players from making exceedingly poor decisions.
Easy: Understanding that a pit of bubbling green liquid is deadly acid.
Intermediate: Remembering an element of your training, resisting a temptation.
Hard: Identifying Norman architecture from a book you read ten years ago.
This skill governs one’s force of will. The ability to resist temptation, the urge to survive, and the strength of one’s conviction are all measures of Willpower.
Ah yes, those BUBBLING GREEN PITS OF ACID, so prevalent both in myth and historical Europe! I'd also like to note that this says its used for "resisting temptation." Willpower, it has basically the exact same description, except that Willpower is just a passive skill(i.e. a static number, there's no mention of what it's used for here in the skills chapter, whether it increases some other value or just matters on its own), while cleverness is something actually rolled.
Easy: Solving a crossword puzzle.
Intermediate: Reading a scroll while dodging sword swings.
Hard: Wriggling out of your bonds underwater.
There's also Concentration, which is basically just a weird skill to even have, in that it's straight-up: "If you fail this, and you're stressed, you don't get to do that other skill you wanted to use." Instead of just applying a penalty to the other skill's roll due to the stressful circumstance. Why add a separate skill check? These examples are also weird. The Hard and Intermediate examples suggest what stress levels will require a check(drowning and dodging sword swings, respectively), while the Easy one doesn't, unless solving crossword puzzles just makes the author's adrenaline start pumping, veins in his head throbbing and excitement making it hard to think of anything other than what 11 Across could possibly be.
The Craft skill, which, like usual, is split up into multiple sub-categories, just in case a player wants to be a master wainwright or something. But one of the categories...
In general, anything that isn’t covered here or anything that may be from another time period, assuming the character has the appropriate knowledge to create such a thing.
This just seems like an excuse to get into an argument with your GM about what knowledge is necessary to craft an AK-47. The closest thing the game has to a "knowledge" skill would be other craft specialties, or Cleverness, so if you want to do this by RAW, there aren't really a lot of ways for the GM to limit player knowledge without demanding they roll one of those. There also seems to be no specific skill for MAKING magical items, so I guess Craft:Exotic is also the skill if you want to make Excalibur. Just generally seems like the sort of skill that's a warning sign if any player has it. There are already craft categories for everything INTENDED to be in the game, so why is this one even there?
At this point I'd also like to point out that there are some passive skills, which I haven't been noting, because they're very dull, that give a +1 for every two skill levels. Considering that you only get ONE skill point per level-up, that just seems like a great big old "fuck you" to having any sort of fun. Enjoy spending your entire level gaining a big, fat, nothing.
There's a skill ENTIRELY for using ropes, "Fettering." And a skill entirely for escaping from bonds and traps, "Escape Artist." Those two certainly couldn't have just been rolled into one skill or been made part of something else. Madness. The passive skill Heft which does nothing but increasing your carrying limit, in case you wanted to be the party's mule, tasked with just carrying piles and piles of shit for the rest. Probably the safest occupation in the game, really, since "carrying stuff" doesn't seem to have a skill check you can fail(Heft is also one of the skills that can be advanced in infinitely, there's no skill check for lifting stuff, and XP gains are just tied to "sessions" rather than to actually accomplishing anything, though GM's are advised to offer more XP for accomplishing cool stuff. So nothing's really preventing a given character from eventually being able to lift and carry anything). Investigation is also a weird skill, since it includes both straight-up spotting stuff, and also getting information for people, which seems more like it should have been under one of the three
social interaction skills.
The ability to convince others to do things your way is affected by this skill. Note that it has limits; for instance, no amount of smooth-talking will convince a servant to let a dirty peasant into the lord’s manor without good cause, and people will not betray their loyalties or ideologies. Each day’s worth of pay offered along with this skill adds a +1 bonus. All Influence checks involve at least an idea of what you might say to accomplish your goal; charisma requires substance.
So, in Middenarde, you can only convince people to do what they already want
to do or are likely
to do, and while you need good arguments to get them to do anything at all, better arguments won't result in bonuses, only money will, and everyone who can
be influenced, will also be influenced better by more money. It won't make anyone suspicious at all that they're being offered huge amounts of cash for what seems like a petty task, or offend them when someone tries to bribe them, it's a universal constant. Similarly, you can negotiate with anyone, even if you don't know their language, though it means you're likely to get worse prices.
Blocking, Disarming and doing more damage with Brutality are general passive skills, work for every weapon. Perform, however, the ability to play musical instruments, something which the game in fact straight-out says is a waste of your skill points, is carefully specialized by instrument. There's ALSO a separate skill for actually specializing in a weapon, though. Also in keeping with historical realism, you can invest in Stoneskin which just passively makes you better at shrugging off people straight-up wailing away on you.
This skill governs the kinds of activities you need to do to stay alive; the basic skills of any outdoorsman, like starting fires. This skill can also allow you to get the bare minimum of food and water you need to survive in the wild, if you roll successfully each time you need them. However, these meagre meals have a DC of 15 for malnutrition. It’s impossible to eat like a king on nuts and berries, no matter how good you are.
Ahhh, yes, rolling to avoid scurvy, the true, exciting depths of an RPG, and fits in well alongside all those mythical heroes of Europe that we're going to be including. I remember that time Merlin got dysentery. Swimming doesn't actually say what the penalties for failure are, they can't be getting dunked under water, because you have to make a swimming check whenever you try to dive and then stay under water, too... how do you fail at diving underwater? Do you become magically bouyant and IMMUNE to drowning? Technically, if the generic answer to "you fail" is that "the opposite of what you're trying to do, happens," this seems to suggest that the safest thing to do if you're a bad swimmer is to keep trying to dive, because then you'll never end up underwater(I actually asked the creator and he confirmed that, yes, attempting to dive and failing would result in staying on the surface.).
So, how's the system doing on those promises after three chapters? Classless, sure, but characters get so few points to customize with that they're basically all clones. Statless? Ha fucking ha, they still have stats, just more defined by their equipment than their character. Accurate? Fucking pffffffffffft.BUBBLING GREEN PITS OF ACID
And there's still another 150 pages of this. I can't wait to get to the combat rules.
Simple10: Simply Bad Game Design
03:27pm EDT - 4/21/2016
Today it's time to bully badly-designed "indie" RPG's.
But unlike Hc Svnt Dracones, at least Simple10 seems to be freely distributed rather than something the creators are charging money for.
There's also art, which varies between "bad" and "bland." Mostly it seems to be an RPG designed by someone who's never actually played or read another RPG, despite the foreword describing the creators as "veterans," and somehow this 82-page .PDF(60~ pages of which are just class abilities) took "years" to make.
The Basic Rules
I'm going to sort all of the rules first, which is counter to the game's organization. For some reason they decided it was a great idea to list the races and classes for some 60 pages before really explaining what any of their abilities and modifiers do. The one thing the game does manage to deliver, at any rate, is that it's simple. You roll a d10 vs a TN, if you roll over, you succeed. A 10 is always a success, and a 1 is always a failure. The basic TN is 6, which means that you're going to have great fun fucking up every other time you try to do something, unless the GM decides to give you a nicer average TN.
The formatting and editing are also terrible, I'll note, but I can give that a pass for a project that has no formal editor(though the constant ass-backwards wordings and typographical errors, combined with the generally awful font choices, makes me wonder what the three
people on "layout" were doing).
Let's move on to combat, because the bad combat rules are basically why I wanted to review this thing in the first place. At first glance, combat is so basic as to be inoffensive, you trade blows, costing each other "Hits," until someone reaches zero "Hits," at which point they're "Helpless," and lie around losing "Wounds"(when attacked or just over time), while trying to recover. If they reach 1 "Wound," they're out of the battle(or, if someone walks over and finishes them off, dead, losing the last wound can only happen if someone else attacks you to finish you off.). If you recover, or if someone else helps you recover, you default to being restored to full "Hits."
Then you look up how to attack enemies and how to be attacked by them, and it all goes to shit
The difficulty of hitting an enemy defaults to 6, as usual, if you're of the same "tier."(a stand-in for "level"). For every step you're above them, the TN to hit drops by one, for every level they're above you, the TN rises by one. The higher you roll, the more damage you do. Here's the example damage table against an enemy of the same level.
R O L L 6: 1 damage
R O L L 7: 2 damage
R O L L 8: 3 damage
R O L L 9: 4 damage
R O L L 1 0+: 5 damage
If only the rest of it was as straight-forward and sensible.
Enemies rarely roll on their own. They are instead assumed to roll the opposite of what the attacking player rolled. Enemies that nobody attacked deal 1 Hit to a random player at the end of the turn each.
But wait, what's the OPPOSITE of a roll? Is the opposite of a 10 a 1? The opposite of a 9 a 2? Or is it a -9? Dice rolls don't have opposites
. Besides, enemies don't need to roll anything
to attack players, because check out what happens if you roll under your TN, here's the table for, again, an enemy of equal "tier."
R O L L 5: 1 Hit lost
R O L L 4: 2 Hits lost.
R O L L 3: 3 Hits lost.
R O L L 2: 4 Hits lost.
R O L L 1: Instantly helpless
The "logic" is that whenever you miss with a "combat action," your opponent "counterattacks." This also means that 10% of the time, your character is going to attack, fall on his face and be unconscious in the mud. However, that may be the safest place to be, after all, enemies don't roll to attack, and it specifically says that they do 1 "Hit" of damage when not attacked themselves. When you're Helpless you no longer have Hits, you only have Wounds. By the rules as worded, anyone on their face in the mud, bleeding out, is immune to mooks damaging them(it might seem logical that extra "Hits" would spill over into "Wounds," but again, this isn't stated anywhere
"But obviously, Purple," you're thinking, "These rules only apply to evenly matched opponents, where there's a chance of an attack instantly being met by being knocked on your ass!"
Ha ha, no.
When your tier rises, that's true, the TN falls. But, here's the thing, and they spell this out explicitly in the PDF:
By the rules as explicitly spelled out
, you will always have a 10% chance of KO'ing yourself with any "combat action," which is a delightfully vague term that could probably be stretched to include most skill use and, for instance, firing a bow at someone. It doesn't matter who or what you are, as long as you're not a generic enemy who's denied his roll to attack(and, frankly, it's probably safer not to be rolling at all), every tenth attack will knock you out(or every 5th, if you're using a two-handed weapon, which critfails on a 2 as well as a 1).
So who wants to look at some art before we move on to the badly-written class abilities?
Because, hopping back to the start of chargen, there are also races! Because you can't have a fantasy RPG without races.
You can play as an anime human and, as per usual for humans in RPG's, have a tiny bonus in some edge cases.
You can play as an anime elemental, and, somehow, have even less noteworthy abilities. You get "telekinesis," but literally no thoughts on how it might interact with mechanics at all(also note that at the top of the page it says that Simple10 is in "4th edition," I can't tell if it's a joke or if it literally took them four editions
just to get this far. What was 1st edition? A coin flip?).
You can be a furry, with the ability to eat anything, and being agile. Each race also has noted alternate races it could function as, retaining the same racial ability, in this case it suggests that the "Capra" could also be replaced with catfolk or elves. This amuses me since it'd also mean that elves would retain the ability to eat non-food items, crunching up old cans for lunch.
You can be a second kind of fursona, granting you permanent flight. Amusingly enough, shooting at enemies from the sky with a bow would still subject you to the 10% chance of KO'ing yourself with every attack, so it, in an entirely unintentional way, doesn't quite break the game.
No real hiding it, like half of the race options are various animal people. Considering how mechanically minor the differences between them are(it literally comes up to a +1 in most cases, if even that in some of them), I wonder why they didn't just throw them up as a "pick one and make up a fitting race"-list.
Not really sure why rock elementals should have tits. Probably have the only really "powerful" ability, because they have a 50% chance of ignoring anything that makes them Helpless, once every four rounds of combat, leaving them at 1 Hit instead.
You can be sketchy insect people with an HP bonus.
Or you can be shoggoths who are immune to mind control, probably the dullest extradimensional terrors ever.
Bad Class Abilities
Obviously, I'm not going to list out every ability, but I'm going to point out that they're almost all badly written. Even the ones that are mechanically non-confusing, are littered with vague terms like "nearby," which seem like a great way to get into an argument with the GM for half an hour about what "nearby" includes. Is it within arm's reach? Everyone in the room? More? Less? Or "Inspire," which has the non-combat use of letting you play music, though the actual mechanical effects or rewards of doing this is entirely up to the GM... which seems like exactly what would happen if any PC said "I pick up a lute and play a cool song." Some are just thoroughly pointless:
Con Artist posted:
On success, whatever you say, no one thinks you are trying to deceive them. Characters with evidence or knowledge contrary to your claim may disprove you. Outlandish or ridiculous statements can be seen through. This skill also applies to forgery of evidence and documents.
For the cost of a third of your starting skill points, you get to lie as well as just about anyone else, which is to say that generally people won't assume you're lying unless what you're saying is absurd or there's proof to the opposite! The only niche use of this skill, as written, is in case you're dealing with someone who doesn't trust you and would suspect you of being a deceitful liar no matter what you said.
Scary stories are the oldest kind of stories. 8+ renders a group of targets helpless.
So how much is a "group"? Can I knock out an entire crowd of people? Is this affected by tiers? Also at chargen you get to pick one skill you have a +2 to using. This means it's possible to start out with the ability to instantly knock out a "group" of enemies of equal level, 50% of the time.
There are also constant references to having "minions" or "pets," but no actual mechanics for them beyond skills affecting how many you can have. It never says anywhere what "tier" they act at, whether they have skills and classes of their own, etc.
Don’t be such a baby, ribs grow back. A target regenerates grievous injuries such as lost extremities, damaged vital organs and internal bleeding. Cannot be used in combat, nor restore hits or wounds.
This would be great if there were actually any mechanics for losing limbs or breaking bones. There aren't! So this skill is only useful by GM fiat, since it doesn't actually interact with any mechanics. You get the option to reverse it, which sounds kind of cool and horrifying... except that it doesn't actually heal any damage, so presumably the reverse wouldn't actually cause any damage. So I guess you get to make people's bones snap and splinter, their organs pop out and their limbs fall off... but somehow it doesn't actually hurt them or make them any easier to fight.
Healing Hammer posted:
Mercy and fury are but two hands holding the same weapon. Can direct your other action at an ally, healing them for as much as it would have damaged a foe, or damaging them on a failure.
What "other action"? This skill doesn't grant a second action, and players only have one action per round. Do they mean we get two actions, and the first hurts an enemy, then the second heals an ally for as much as we hurt the enemy? Or do we get one action that heals instead of hurting, but the phrasing is terrible? They should have just named this "Simple Ways To Argue With The GM For 10 Hours." Though I guess it doesn't roll off the tongue as nicely as Simple10.
There's also a skill, "Inure," that gives immunity to a "damage type," but nowhere does it say what the game's damage types are
. "Target is immune to a specific damage type (fire, ice, poison, possessed etc) for a short time." How long is a "short time"? Is it enough to dash through a wall of fire, or enough to run across a volcano's caldera? What even counts as a "type" of damage? Swords? Is "sword" a damage? Or "sharp"? Who even fucking knows with this stupid game.
They also clearly didn't even notice how breakable their game is. The "Knight" class gets an ability that means the first action they take in combat always rolls the minimum needed to succeed. You can combine classes. What if you make a Knight/Bard who uses his "Terrify" on the first round of combat, knocking out a "group" of enemies? Congratulations, every combat encounter in the game is now over before it even has a chance to start.
Hat Magic posted:
You can pull off amazing tricks out of your hat. Conjure anything small enough to fit through the hat out of it, regardless of length. Difficulty Tier depends on the item Pulling out a generic object (e.g.: bouquet of flowers) is equal to the caster, +2 tiers to pull out a specific object (e.g.: the key to this exact door), +4 tiers to pull out an object wider than the hat. Rolling too soon for the same object after failing will cause failure regardless of roll because the universe catches wise to your tricks. Enchanted items can’t be pulled out.
But why would I WANT something specific? If I can pull out anything small enough to pull out of a hat, and my hat is large enough... a door? Sure, lemme just get out a cutting torch to burn through the lock. An enemy encounter? Sure, let me just pull out a few chunks of refined uranium and a beryllium sphere. I mean, there isn't even any limit to length, I could just pull out an unending rod of pure gold until any given opponent goes: "I'll take that as payment for fucking off."
And so on. There isn't a single class in this "game" that doesn't have at least one skill that isn't incomprehensible, broken or has a completely broken interaction with another skill. The creators of this game should feel bad for having made it.
The short version: This is what happens when you make a game without first having played/read other games and learned from them, or if you think you're smart enough to reinvent the wheel without fucking up the same way everyone else did at first.
In Dark Alleys
The Cyclops Wizard strikes you dead with a thought
The Void and the Citadel
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 18
11:58am EST - 1/01/2016
So around the DESERTED CITY, which is surrounded by a TALL WALL is THE VOID, which is pure black(hello Dark City nice to see you here in Ripoffsville). It's a windless, room-temperature void that nonetheless has a pitch black, featureless floor. Nothing here except for an occasional escaped creature from the Deserted City and stuff dropped by people who went to the city and then vaulted over the walls.
Oh and then there's the Citadel.
Basically it's a huge, rambling, weirdly-designed place of concrete, stone and barbed wire. Everything inside is huge enough for a giant to walk around in, but 99.9999% of the residents are just 7-foot, floating, naked, androgynous humans that if they see real humans will scream until a bunch more come around and then they'll kill the humans by tearing them apart. There are no stats for them, so I assume it's a "you die if the GM wants you to"-thing.
Speaking of which, the 0.0001% of the population that AREN'T floating naked people is a giant robed cyclops who sits on a throne, wears a porcelain mask and has a claw for one of his hands. He listens to weird reports from the not-really-human people and if he ever notices a human in his Citadel he'll-
If the figure notices the human explorers it can kill them instantly with a thought and paralyze their souls with pain until a servant can drag the souls off to the land of the dead.
-do that. There are no descriptions of what this figure does, why it exists, how it thinks or any suggestions for what it could possibly do in a game.
Under the Citadel is The Machinery.
The Machinery posted:
There are several pits in the floor around the citadel that lead to a massive underground space. The space is sweltering, filled with steam and smoke, and there is an omnipresent roar of machinery. As far as the eye can see in every direction (including down) there is a lattice-work of machinery that combines every type of tech known to the human visitors: steam pipes, gears and chains, old vacuum tubes, computer circuits. Ladders and walkways crisscross the space, giving access to all the machinery. Yellow light bulbs give a diffuse light to the space. At intervals are binocular shaped viewers attached to a circuit boards. Looking through one a person will see pixilated, amberand- black, bird’s-eye views of our world.
Dozens of stories down is a blood-soaked concrete floor covered with rows of huge bodies. They’re about 20 ft. tall, naked and have human anatomy. The rows of bodies merge into the vanishing point in every direction. Each body has hundreds of wires, pipes and gear shafts impaling them through blood encrusted holes. The bodies appear asleep and are breathing slowly. They look like a random selection of every age, ethnic group and physical condition. Every once in a while a body will shudder, sometimes make a groan, and the movement will cause machinery around and above it to break, bringing a horde of engineers.
If visitors are lucky, they may see the body of someone they know or they may see giant versions of their own bodies. Bodies of the Touched seem slightly more restless than most of the others (as do the bodies of babies and children). The bodies cannot be awakened or killed. Injuries heal almost instantly.
The place is also full of giant steampunk spiders which, while they have superhuman stats, at least lack any instakill attacks! Hooray! Something the PC's can actually interact with, though so far we have no reason why they would ever want to!
The Land of the Dead
Basically the Land of the Dead is a long, boring canyon where you walk down until you forget everything. If you stop walking or make a fuss then monsters torture you until you get walking again. EXCITEMENT. There is literally nothing to do here, the monsters aren't statted, there are no locations beyond THE CANYON OF WALKING and there are no people beyond THE DEAD and THE MONSTERS.
Surprise! Everyone has a pocket dimension in their subconscious, or multiple, rather, one for each psychodynamic. The Ego appears to be the police of the subconscious, as it prevents anyone from breaking into the Halls of Memory(a big trapped, locked and barred library of everything you've ever experienced, it's possible to steal or destroy memories), the Doors of Perception(a steampunk factory processing sensory information, fucking with these can give a person hallucinations). Aside from them there's The Reptile's Realm(basically just a big wilderness, neither particularly harsh or nice, it's possible to survive there), the Id's Realm(a delightful place full of every awesome sensation you've ever wanted to experience, all the good food, all the best sex, all the craziest things to see. If you poke a hole in the bottom, though, and walk out through that, you emerge from an orifice in one of the bodies described under The Machinery). Troubles are basically all of a person's insecurities and phobias, and they haunt the subconscious as aggressive little critters. Small ones are mooks to stomp, big ones are major villains. Considering that you can erase memories by fucking around here, I have to wonder if killing all the baddies in someone's brain would make them less worried about life...
Oh and this section also claims that "the severely autistic do not have a conscious self." Feel free to poke at that. And the rest of the PD realms are not described yet, if ever.
Because we weren't ripping off Kult enough yet. There's even a fucking Dreaming skill. All the stuff in the subconscious apparently leaks into dreams, but the Ego disguises them with symbolic imagery to prevent you becoming aware that your brain is full of squatters. This is stupid.
Because I'm getting tired of copy-pasting this stuff and fixing the formating
Having the PD's as conscious, somewhat-independent entities is actually interesting, and you could genuinely do some fun or funny stuff with it. Imagine if instead of having separate PC's, all the PC's are just on-the-run PD's from one guy? Maybe they're out to save their "owner," or they've fled because they got tired of his head, or maybe they're just taking a road trip to get a break from chilling out in his brain.
You can literally break into someone's brain and kill off their PD's to eliminate certain urges entirely, though. For instance, break into someone's head, murder their Thanatos and then destroy the Realm of the Thanatos and you end up with someone who has no desire for death whatsoever, in fact probably someone who doesn't think about it at all. Someone without a Shadow would probably be a model citizen.
Further confusing things, psychologically, you can apparently take all these subconscious chunks of your brain and make them part of your conscious, via MAGIC or EXTREME PSYCHOLOGY, basically taking responsibility for them, which... doesn't really describe what it does to your head, except presumably now the GM can no longer compel you to become suicidal or a rapist at will. But it does give you +5 Willpower(HELLO AWESOME MAGICAL ABILITIES) or if you already have 20+ Will, it also gives you +5 points to spend on other things.
Being a complete sociopath apparently integrates your Super Ego and Shadow right off the bat, so I guess that going shopping for that enriched uranium gets even easier if you're just doing it for laughs.
Oh and then there's some art of an Id, just in case you wanted to fight one. I no longer want to fight one. Predictably the Id is just a big selfish jackass who does whatever it wants and doesn't care about anything else.
The descriptions of the various PDs' behavior just makes me further want to run the Psychodynamic Road Trip Game.
Super Ego posted:
Behavior- It travels around peering over people’s shoulders, rifling through their belongings, glowering at them and demanding to know what they have been doing and are planning on doing.
The Super Ego finds every psychodynamic except the Ego to be suspect and thinks of them as enemies. It hates the Shadow worst of all. The Super Ego has a stormy relationship with the Ego: sometimes friendly with it and sometimes hating it.
Typical Attack- A Grab: Pain...
I like to imagine that the Super Ego grabs other PD's by the ear and hauls them around until they say uncle and do as they're told. It also looks like whichever parent you had that was strictest.
The Reptile is a lazy lizardman who just chills in the sun and snacks on stuff. It doesn't really care to talk to anyone or do much beyond just chilling out. The Ego is, as mentioned earlier, THE BRAIN POLICE, it keeps the other PD's from taking over the wheel and also covers things up because it doesn't want to upset anyone.
Most Common Appearance- A woman in a thin white dress. Her appearance is constantly shifting depending on her mood. At times she is young, beautiful and voluptuous, her lips so full that they part involuntarily. At other times she looks plump and kindly. At other times grey streaks appear in her hair, her lips scowl and her eyes have a cruel glare.
Psychology- This is the repository for suppressed ‘feminine’ thoughts and behaviors, yet because Western cultures subdivide feminine into several disparate roles, the Anima has a split personality with a seductive side, a mothering side and a cruel side all trying to make themselves heard.
OH YEAH ONLY THE WEST HAS ODD THOUGHTS ABOUT WOMEN AT ALL. RIGHT RIGHT. LET'S GO LISTEN TO THE NOBLE SAVAGES SOME MORE.
The Stranger is a big cat, as in a big housecat. The other PD's don't really mind it but it only bothers them when it "wants to help them with something." Considering that it has no opposable thumbs and can't speak, I really, genuinely wonder how the fuck it can help anyone with anything.
The Shadow is a blowhard, an inversion of the appearance that the conscious self has(or how they perceive themselves), but even though he looks like an asshole and will be an utter cunt to anyone he meets, he doesn't actually attack people without good reason.
The Shadow posted:
Psychology- The Shadow is a compilation of all the suppressed traits that would have made the conscious self feel like a ‘bad person.’ Cruelty is most common among these traits. Also common are arrogance, sexual ‘perversion,’ prejudice, atheism, jealousy, dishonesty and self-hatred. The Shadow will never attempt to hide any of these traits from anyone, it is intensely proud of them.
So The Shadow is also That Guy who'll loudly and at length tell you about his porn and all the other shit about him that you really do not want to know and don't give a fuck about either.
The Thanatos is a gothy fucker who sits around in places full of DEATH and talks about how beautiful and awesome they are, then gets depressive when talking about life. To further complete the "goth" analogy it feels like an outcast that none of the others like, because, don't you know it, none of the other PD's want to die.
The Animus posted:
The Animus is a caricature of what the conscious self’s culture considers masculine. He is stubborn, bullying, impatient, arrogant, quick to anger, crude, brave and has a huge sexual appetite.
Pocket dimensions that try to force people to take part in pre-scripted events and then kill them off. Essentially all these things are anything you imagine, so if you fantasize about killing everyone at work, out there, somewhere, there's a Going Postal Bubble where anyone who pokes their head in either gets handed a gun or gets shot.
They look for people who imagine things similar to them, then they invade their minds and suck them in. Once you're in, you can break free by doing something completely opposed to the "script," but this requires a difficulty 30 Willpower roll, meaning that Joe Average needs a natural 20 to succeed. Welcome to being railroaded, CHOO CHOO.
THE CREATION MYTH
Step 1: Grandpa makes a bunch of people.
Step 2: Unbirths them all but one.
Step 3: This person cuts themselves to make a horrible mutant person out of.
Step 4: Then rape occurs between these two, which makes all the humans.
Step 5: The world is created as it is because the rape victim wants revenge.
Oh and if you paid attention, The Deserted City is apparently Sophie. Thorn/Spear obvious connection.
Advice on Running A Game
First a big box of Horror Stuff To Rip Off. Named titles: Alien, The Blair Witch Project, The Exorcist, The Grudge, Hellraiser(CLIVE BARKER ALERT), Night of the Living Dead, The Ring, The Shining, Silence of the Lambs and The Sixth Sense. Things to rip off from these: "Sabotage everything the players try to do" and "throw in a creepy kid."
Then a sidebar on Railroading. I'm going to throw it in here in its entirety because of a specific paragraph.
Since In Dark Alleys is a horror game, it is important to put PCs into dangerous situations. Yet many players will feel either that it is their duty as players to fight the GM’s attempt to put characters in danger or that it is ‘good roleplaying’ to have the characters avoid dangerous situations.
Thus, unless the GM and players want to have the adventure end at “So you avoid going in the creepy house and you live happily ever after,” it may be necessary to take away some of the players’ free will and force characters along a certain path. There are two ways of doing this: covertly and explicitly.
Covertly railroading characters means making it appear that the players have choices for their characters, but making it so that every choice the characters make ends in the same outcome. This method is liable to piss-off players when they realize what’s going on. If nothing else, players who discover they are being covertly railroaded will fight back harder than ever against the path the GM has set out for them.
Explicitly railroading involves telling players how their free will has been shortcut. The easiest way to do this is to simply start the adventure in the dangerous situation and then fill in the back story. E.g. “You’re in a creepy house, and this is how you got here…” GMs may even enlist the help of players to come up with a creative solution for why their characters ended up in this dangerous situation, thus giving the players a sense that they do have input and that they have not violated their characters’ concepts. Explicit railroading is less likely to cause player anger than covert railroading.
There are also two example adventures that I will not go into in detail, in the first a guy's soul has gotten lost, go recover it. In the second they find a CURSED DVD(TOTALLY NOT THE RING GUYS HONEST) and shit goes down.
And you know what, fuck it. On that rape-tastic, railroading-endorsing end, fuck In Dark Alleys.
In Dark Alleys
Most of these objects come from Christian martyrs, repressed Victorian girls or homosexual sex in public restrooms.
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 17
11:49am EST - 1/01/2016
So these things come in a few different forms, first are "Shatter Relics," which are caused by intense emotions breaking the threadbare fabric of reality.
Relics of the Martyrs posted:
These relics come from early persecution of Christianity. Most of the martyrs were celibate women who died simultaneously fearing death, hating their executioners, joyful that they would be martyrs and lustful for an idea of Jesus upon which they had projected their repressed sexuality.
Sorry, did I say intense emotions
? I meant intense boners, because apparently all of this comes down to dicks. Also this next one is going to make some biology/medical person's head explode, brace yourselves for flying skull chunks!
Finger of St. Raphael posted:
A finger bone wrapped up in an old cloth in a wooden box. A person clutching this relic cannot be harmed by any amount of heat. However, he or she is also unable to combine sugars and oxygen to create chemical energy, so he or she loses 2 pooled END per round.
A round is half a second, and an unmodified character has between 1 and 20 END. Besides that, the other two example Christian Martyr Artifacts are an arrow(St. Germaine's) that makes all matter near it transparent and all light sources nearby far more intense. The second is a tooth(St. Oglethorpe's) on a chain that makes corpses explode into swarms of screaming, aggressive locusts if brought near them.
The Victorian Girls posted:
At the height of Victorian England’s prudishness, a few women were unlucky enough to grow up without any knowledge of their own sexuality or female anatomy. they were from very religious upper middle-class-homes.
Their mothers died at an early age and they were never lucky enough to make friends with servant girls who could have explained things to them. They grew to adulthood with no knowledge of sex, masturbation, procreation or menstruation.
They only knew that there was something about their anatomies so sinful that nobody would dare speak about it. Many were so unprepared for menstruation that they believed they were dying. Shatters occurred when joy and lust (at discovering the potential for sexual pleasure) coincided with fear and hatred (of their own bodies). The shatters were quickly covered up by the powers-that-be in the Victorian government and the relics were confiscated and hidden away.
The Victorian Girl artifacts are... Eliza Preston's preserved fetus that lets a person's Shadow speak through it! Mary Sutton's "bloody rags" which will bleed forever until everything within 100 feet is covered in it! And...
Elizabeth Hartford's Labia posted:
Two strips of leathery dried flesh. If placed on either side of a human orifice they will attach, becoming living flesh. The orifice will become lined with teeth. If any part of any living thing (save the owner of the orifice) is placed within the orifice, the living thing will be devoured. The orifice pulls the creature towards it at 40 STH, strong enough to break bones. Once the mouth has caught hold of a piece of flesh, there is no way to save the victim without tearing or cutting off the captured parts. The mouth does 2 BLD damage per round to the victim. The mouth can consume any amount of flesh and consumed flesh is never seen again.
The goddamn Cunt of Vecna.
The third category is the Shatter Artifacts produced by those wacky dudes sucking dick in public bathrooms. The first is named, I shit you not, The Glory Hole. It's a piece of wood with a hole in it, if you look through the hole you can see Invisible things, and if you poke anything through the hole the poked-through part phases out and can interact with the Invisible only for a while. I don't really need to say anything more, do I?
The second is the Vertigo Card which, continuing IDA's habit of hiding kinda neat things
inside all the other shit, is kinda neat
. Well okay, the un-neat part is that it's a piece of folded paper with dried semen on it. The NEAT part is that if you unfold it, time in the area passes twice as fast, and if you, for instance, spin it, everything in the area is spun, flung against walls by centrifugal forces, shake it and everyone in the room you're in will get rattled up and down, etc.
The third is a severed, dessicated finger which, if put on the ground, starts to shake until it's violent enough to trigger an earthquake. HOWEVER, consider this: Once it's on the ground, it just keeps shaking until it reaches that magnitude, nothing says that it can or will stop on its own. And presumably if the entire area is fucking rattling like crazy, it's going to be hard for anyone in the area to pick it up and stop it. So presumably if anyone drops this and doesn't scoop it up again quite fast, an entire country is going to be fucked to gravel by never-ending quakes.
Blessed Objects are stuff given from the rather-incompetent POWERS BEYOND to the human authorities that support their goals. They are: A magical table leg, if you spend most of your day near it you become super-healthy. A whip that flicks a new Psychodynamic into control of a person every time you whack them, allowing you to cycle through personalities until you have one that'll tell you what you want to know. An Islamic vorpal sword. A magical mauseoleum that can be used to revive people with human sacrifice. A magical Cane of Charisma. And a badass skull cup that lets you kick your own soul into the aether to go for trips.
Dances can apparently only produce objects that make people crazy from handling them. The example items aren't very interesting.
Chunks of the Deserted City also count as artifacts, the first type is mementos, which always show perfectly happy androgynous humans. The longer you stare at these, the more you'll start glowing and becoming superpowered, until you explode into ash from being too hotblooded. Literally. The second type is just objects, which are always unbreakable and useless and the only thing they have about them that's interesting is that they turn into stuff that people fear or desire very much when no one's looking. The last category is Tools which are Normal Objects That Do Supernatural Stuff. Like the White Fluid, a vial of milk that makes you vomit up a soul-less perfect copy of yourself. The Black Knife, a knife so sharp it cuts holes in reality. Or the Gray Book, another of these "whatever you're most afraid of will be what you see in it"-objects. Which really just sound like Brian wanted to write something spooky but couldn't come up with anything.
The next category is Subconscious Artifacts, stuff dragged out of the brains of people you've visited, like for instance a Wonderlander's Playland. The example item is a knife from the mind of a woman who secretly hates herself and bangs lots of strangers without using a condom, so anyone stabbed by it becomes irreversibly ill until this lady gets some mental help. We're reminded that all this is because of her parents.
And lastly there are Annotated Volumes, basically these are books so scribbled-up by Scribblers that they can teach you supernatural powers if you can tolerate their Philosophy 101 wanking going on for pages and pages and pages on end. Predictably half the example books are written by Jung, Freud and Nietzsche, that is, before someone wrote all over them.
SECRETS OF OTHER WORLDS
Summarizing the intro: Other worlds are whack shit but our tiny human minds can't comprehend them so we subconsciously reform them into something that SORT of makes sense to us. Linear time, three dimensions of space, that sort of jiggery.
The first line of the next paragraph is that all supernatural skill rolls have between +20 and +60 modifiers, this means that anyone with even a single rank in Untouchable and decent Willpower, for instance, is literally invincible. Dances actually become kind of interesting here, since minds can affect reality and Dances are literally wandering minds, so with a bit of a rewrite of their fluff they could become useful sidekicks rather than monomaniacal parasites. Also remember Masks? In THE OTHER WORLDS, it literally transforms the disguised thing into the thing it is disguised as. So holy shit can you hilariously break everything with that EVEN MORE.
Also since Reapers are both visible and tangible here, technically the party could take turns committing suicide and fighting off the arriving Reapers until they're all Survivors and outfitted with Survivor powers to Be Goddamn Unkillable. But that's just me considering how to break this game in half, not that it needs much effort.
So just to make this interesting, before I wrap up this post, let's hit the first of the Otherworldly Locations: The Deserted City. You ready?
THE DESERTED CITY
This place basically looks like whatever a group recognizes as "urban."
To a group of hunter-gatherers that have never seen a city it would look like a massive deserted encampment, in an endless forest clearing, filled with huge huts. To a group from Japan, the city would take on a slightly Japanese flavor. For instance, some of the rooms inside buildings would have sliding screens and tatami mats.
Though any cultural exposure, even if only through media, to "Western Cities," sees them as such. It's always night, it's always cold, there are street lamps that keep the worst of the darkness at bay and it's always goddamn deserted
. But of course you can hear someone sobbing and moaning in the distance because it's gotta be SPOOKY. The place looks like it was super-fancy once, but now it's pretty run-down and dirty, and everything that isn't nailed down has been removed.
"When the PCs can find a sign that’s not too faded to read, the text is just words like “pain” “horror” and “death” repeated over and over again."
"GPS systems, compasses and cell phones don’t work. Radios play a woman sobbing on every frequency."
: So something big and awful poked a hole in the city and now THE GROUND IS BLEEEEEEDING. Basically it's a big black thorn and if anyone pokes at it they just die. Either later fluff sections will expand on this thing or it's just added because OMG BLOOD IS SCARY.
: Some enterprising architect figured adventurers might drop by and decided to make sure the sewers were spacious enough for people to run around in. Also instead of water they have BLOOD. BLOOOOOOD, SCARY BLOOOOOOD. Also sometimes the blood is replaced by black fluids and if you touch them you die. Sometimes there are immortal people stuck in the walls that do nothing but wail and moan and you can't kill them or talk to them, so they're basically just decor.
CREATURES OF THE CITY
: Organic robots that run around "doing tasks" in the city that the PC's aren't supposed to be able to ever understand. Also it's emphasized that they might just randomly reach out and kill PC's. The example creature is a pillar of flesh with a flower of babbling faces at the top. If anyone tries to interact with it, it'll wrap the flower around their heads and scream at them until they die. Also if you don't get someone away from it in two rounds(1 second, remember), they'll be rendered permanently deaf by the cacophony. Much longer and it'll liquefy their brains.
So that's THE DESERTED CITY.
I think I'm going to try to finish off IDA in the next post, because I just read ahead and spoiler: The entire world was created by rape.
In Dark Alleys
Hideo Nakazawa, Atomic Ghost
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 16
11:47am EST - 1/01/2016
So we're still in the GAME MASTERS ONLY section about all the WEIRD SHIT BEHIND THE FACADE. And the first thing we bungle into his H-Tech. This has been name-dropped a few times before, oddly enough, only Heroes have anything to do with this, really. You'd figure there'd be some sort of Mad Inventor class/Secret Life...
Essentially the same slap-dash labourers that designed the Storks and left them capable of mis-delivering souls apparently designed the laws of reality, leaving them full of loophopes and exploits. H-Tech devices are any devices that exploit these holes, and according to conventional laws of physics they simply Should Not Work. The entry here tells us that there will be MORE TO COME, but for now all we're told is that H-Tech devices for seeing the invisible and touching the intangible are kind of common. Also apparently it's relatively easy to make a vest that turns you into a Survivor if you die while wearing it, as it keeps Reapers at bay, leaving the soul with long enough time to figure out how to jumpstart the body's systems.
CRACKS IN THE FACAAAAADE
I.e., more times where the contractors that built reality fucked up and did things on the cheap with plywood and duct tape.
: Someone had a REALLY INTENSE EMOTIONAL MOMENT and that left a hole in reality related to what happened to them. Like if someone had an INTENSE TIME while getting burned there'd be an area where THINGS WOULD BURN or something. One of the example effects is "gravity reversing," I'm not sure what sort of trauma would trigger that. Absolute terror while bungee-jumping?
: Apparently nuclear weapons DESTROY THE BODY SO QUICKLY that the Reapers never get a call that someone is about to die, hence they completely miss their appointment with the soul that just got de-bodied. And of course all of the ATOMIC GHOSTS are Japanese people who are super-racist against white people. Of course
. The example ATOMIC GHOST is a Japanese guy who... possesses white people's bodies and then uses them to do lots of drugs and ruin their lives/health. For instance, since this is Brian, he often possesses white people and uses their bodies to rape their families.
A variety of weird things that can happen to souls. Guess we finally get to find out what having a HORSE SOUL means.
: Apparently the SOUL BUREAUCRACY is so stretched by MORE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE that either they're running out of souls to distribute or just keep fucking up because they're rushing. So loads of kids end up not getting souls. Soulless people have no true consciousness, they're basically just biological machines. Apparently the soulless also tend to act as properly Souled people expect them to, meaning that if you enter some weird little country town with nothing but soulless and expect them to come for you with sickles and cannibalism, they will. So I guess if you're a really upbeat and positive person, Soulless will be your best friends forever.
: One soul, split in half. Not very interesting, really, just the generic TWINS CAN FEEL WHAT THE OTHER FEELS-myths.
: Jekyll & Hyde, essentially. One is mostly in charge, but if it's KO'd due to drugs or some weird psychological effect, the other takes over for a while.
Humans with Animal Souls
: Will like things that their stereotypical animal soul enjoys and be a bit less smart than normal humans, that's it.
Animals with Human Souls
: See, Dog King of LA, the.
: Some tumors have SOULS, which apparently just makes them into huge assholes who ENJOY killing the person they're in and makes them hard to treat.
: If you play with genetics you will most likely, literally, create Soulless monstrosities because the Storks are too fucking dumb to figure out how to shove a human soul into a non-standard package. Frankly the fact that mere genetic changes can affect this makes you wonder if, for instance, people with chromosomal disorders do not have souls in IDA, or what about people who are simply odd mixtures of rarely-mixed genetics? Like a German and a Peruvian or something? Do they also have a higher risk of not having souls? Fucked if I know, the implications are just amazingly stupid
See, Kult Ripoffs.
So basically the world is miserable to keep us busy enjoying FLESHY THINGS and fighting for survival, because otherwise if we didn't do that, we'd invent NEW PLAYTHINGS and these NEW EXPERIENCES would TOTALLY BLOW OUR MINDS and we'd see through the illusion and you know what? We still don't know why this is a bad thing. So far NO ONE has told us SHIT about why the Powers From Beyond are assholes to humanity. Did we borrow their lawnmower and never return it? Fucked if I know! IDA sure doesn't see fit to tell us yet.
So essentially what wakes people up is emotional/psychological extremes. Too much suffering, too little suffering, etc. Being awakened really just means you can remember stuff about THE WOOOORLDS BEYOOOOOOND and have some of the same powers as characters with Secret Lives, but more under control. Like you can command Wrigglers(Misfortunes) without wacky rituals, you can "Get Lost" without needing to be actually LOST, that sort of thing. And of course, since they've Awakened under severe psychological duress, they also tend to be mentally damaged as all hell.
The example Awakened is someone who was sold from a Russian orphanage to AMERICAN PEDOPHILES. So basically she got raped for years and years until she went so crazy that she killed the EVIL AMERICAN with her AWAKENED POWERS and now she's a complete nutcase. But... aside from that, she's actually VAGUELY COOL. Essentially, she's abused to the point where the only people she can empathize with are children, and perceives all caretaker/parent figures as abusers. She Lost-walks her way from dark place to dark place, essentially a boogeyman figure. If she finds a lost child in one of those places, she'll basically keep the child captive until their parents/caretakers come looking... and then kill them.
Olesya does not need food or water. She only want to sit in the darkness, sing little songs to herself, play games with random items, and be left alone. She uses her Lost-like abilities to travel between basements. If someone opens a door to whatever basement she is in, she will flee. If unable to flee (e.g. surprised while sleeping) she will panic and use her telekinesis to wring their necks. If she encounters a crying child her empathy will be aroused. She will keep the child from screaming (by paralyzing his or her vocal cords), will hold and caress the child, will wait for the adults to come down into the basement, at which point she will kill them. She thinks she is doing the child a favor. She is unable to realize that the children might not want their parents killed.
: Hello "Jaws!" Basically animals that have been driven insane by horrible stuff become of human intellect and physically superpowered, able to revive themselves from situations that would have killed them, and of enhancing their physical abilities besides.
Supernatural Serial Killers
: Basically they're Heroes who're either rapists or dispassionate "professional" murderers.
: Basically one of their Psychodynamics sometimes takes the wheel and runs their body for a while. So take one of the Psychodynamics listed in an earlier post and have them care about nothing but the realm that PD is all about.
When people are born with little or no mental capacity, intelligence sometimes develops spontaneously. The soul begins to think for itself without depending on the neurons of the physical body. It is this tendency to develop intelligence where there is none that forced the powers-from-beyond to lock human souls in the bodies of intelligent animals (it is safer for humans to have limited intelligence than to develop nearly unlimited intelligence).
An Algernon goes quite suddenly from being profoundly subnormal to being a genius. The more retarded they were, the more likely they are to become Algernons. The change can happen at any time, but it is most likely to happen during a trauma or extreme stress.
Then there's an example Algernon and Jekyll. Basically the Algernon had Down's and now her new intelligence has made her OCD and besides that she very easily gets fascinated with a single thought and forgets everything around herself. All she really does is play the stock market with her MATH MIND and become rich. The Jekyll is a schoolteacher who used a SUPER TECH DEVICE to... become a dominant psychopath who rapes her students and is a total prick besides, except when her Shadow isn't in charge in which case she's just a shy little lady.
: No, really, that's what the book calls them. Basically these are child versions of the Secret Lifers. Thankfully the only ones noted are Lost, Outcast and Wonderlanders, there are no 10-year-old Androgynes. Lost Kids are kind of cool since they're basically driven by their internal fantasy worlds into imagining that, for instance, "through this old closet is a path to somewhere magical!" and they can actually use that to Get Lost somewhere. Outcast Kids are either weirdos who hex their classmates or they're like Constantine and go screaming insane and get electroshock therapy. Wonderlander kids don't really need any describing.
The Creepy Kid NPC is a Lost child who got separated from her mom in a mall and has been unable to get properly back to reality ever since then, Getting Lost from location to location without much control. Most of her time she spends skipping from mall to mall across the world, joining up with whatever kids she meets there and pranking the hell out of mall security. She could almost be a PC for a very light-hearted IDA game. One accidental wandering into a mall in the Deserted City found her a cursed doll which she can wave at people and it'll tell them the thing they fear most of all, scaring them away and giving her a chance to leg it.
: Somehow this is just a tiny side-note about some Native Americans who made ANTI-BULLET SHIRTS with which they FOUGHT THE WHITE MAN.
In Dark Alleys
SECRETS OF LOS ANGELES
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 15
11:35am EST - 1/01/2016
And now we're into Quest Hook Territory. This is where we're going to be relentlessly pounded with badly-designed NPC's that the PC's are supposed to empathize with or fight.
Imagine a Scientology that is capable of using high-tech devices to selectively deleting parts of people's brains until they're mindless servants. Pretty much the same, masquerades as therapy/religion, actually has some techniques that could be useful if used well, but actually just works to make a profit and dominate people. Their SECRET DEVICE That allows them to do the brain deletion was designed by the founder after getting high and having drug-fuelled occult orgies for a month.
Founder is somehow a theist despite actively believing God is just a metaphor.
The Dog King of LA
A super-intelligent dog is behind a loan shark business, he has robot hands and likes fucking female dogs. This is all because he secretly has a HUMAN SOUL. He uses his MIND POWERS to get people he doesn't like mauled by dogs.
Oooooh if you go into a spoooooky supernatural men's room one of the stalls will teleport you to another dimension! Oooooooh! Also you might get shivved by crack addicts hanging around there, ooooooooh!
The Devil Boys
Vietnamese gang hires an Animist to do his weird wizard stuff for them. This works out pretty well and now they're powerful. Like pretty much every other "evil" NPC, we're told how much he digs drugs and getting laid. And like every "ethnic" NPC so far, their shaman freaks out whenever he has to interact with people of other ethnicities.
The Blue Bus and The Lake Creature
The Blue Bus is basically public transit for another dimension. Really, the supernatural in IDA sucks shit at keeping hidden, since people who get on the wrong bus literally get driven to some horrid otherworldly place called The Citadel.
The Lake Creature is a huge, five-limbed, headless "humanoid." It lives in a lake until people near the lake are really depressed/angry, then it crawls out and looks at them with the ghosts in its stomach and they go catatonic forever. It's basically a Soul Janitor.
Another layer of reality which is full of life-sustaining jelly and all the public servants of reality live. Reapers, Storks, Rumblers, etc. etc. Also pretty much everything bad in the world is caused by them, including psychological problems, natural disasters and so forth. I guess this also means that meteorology and tectonics are SCIENCE LIES since THE INVISIBLE controls earthquakes and hurricanes!
If you stand still for too long, one of these things latch on and cause some of the following miseries. Medicine can deal with the systems but never the cause, since the cause is an INVISIBLE GHOST WORM. Despite the fact that there are five Wrigglers to every human on Earth, and 1.5 Wrigglers(on average) attached to every person, only 1 out of 10 diseases are actually caused by these guys. Well, in the West, anyway. We're not told how it is in the ENLIGHTENED FOREIGN REGIONS.
Common: asthma, clumsiness, coughing, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, forgetfulness, headaches, indigestion, infertility, insomnia, nervousness, nightmares, nosebleeds, poor temper, tinnitus.
Rare: anemia, epilepsy, erotomania (an insatiable desire for sex), exhaustion, extreme vertigo, fetishism (inability to have sexual pleasure without some odd element present), hallucinations, sourceless pain, tooth loss, weakness, weight loss.
Very Rare: heart attack, stroke.
Appearance- It looks like a naked human corpse, pale skinned and half rotten, hanging upside down with its legs attached to a wall. Although its mouth doesn’t move it is constantly saying things like “run away, this place is dangerous, get out of here, you’re going to die here.” When it moves it prefers to slide along a wall, although if it must it can leave the walls and float in midair.
Oh man this is just so TOTALLY UNLIKE conventional horror. They would never have scary corpses hanging around. Basically these guys' jobs are to police places where reality is broken and spook people off by mumbling weird shit at them.
Disaster superbugs! Somehow scientists never notice the crazy shit these guys do.
Misc. Weirdos From Beyond
Some sink into the ground and create earthquakes, landslides or volcanic eruptions; others float up into the sky and create hurricanes, floods or ice-storms.
Wolves: Scrap broken or un-needed Invisible entities. Look like manta rays.
Crying Girls: Invisible crying girls that sit around looking miserable in the hope that someone who can see the Invisible will take pity on them. SURPRISE, SUCKERS, if you do that then she is a TRAP and will instakill you by crushing your heart with her ghooooost haaaands.
Starers: The same, except they look like old weirdos who will reach into your brain and give you a stroke.
Bad Talkers: Ghosts who mumble to themselves until you go insane. They have tentacles and shells and ooooo spoooooooky.
Storks: Bring souls to babies. Horses, cats and dogs are apparently the only non-human species who get to have souls.
Please note that 90% of these things just hang around and fuck shit up for EVERYONE. There are so many around that the PC's can't really deal with them, and if the PC's can't see the Invisible at all they can't even stop them locally. Only the Storks(who bring souls) have an even vaguely useful-to-humanity function. And if you get into a fight with these things, most of them can basically instakill you.
Servants of the Powers From Beyond
So these guys can edit history and mind control people. They can, at will, alter any written or otherwise-recorded data. So good luck ever having evidence of ANYTHING if they don't like you, or they can scramble the data on your PC, smartphone, whatever to fuck up your equipment. Made a map? LOLSCRAMBLED. But maybe the PC's can take them in a fair fight!
-Can instantly read and comprehend anything on any storage medium (books, papers, punch cards, film, magnetic tape, CDs, hard drives, etc.) within 20 ft. (6 m.).
-Can instantly change any aspect of the physical world except human anatomy. Takes 1 to 10 rounds depending on the severity of the change.
-Can change human anatomy with a roll of 1d20 vs. 10 (humans get moderate difficulty opposed will roll).
-Can command humans to do, believe or remember anything at 1d20 vs. 10 (humans get moderate difficulty opposed WIL roll).
-Can pass through walls.
-Can know what humans are thinking within 20 ft. (6 m.).
-Can browse through human memories (the humans experience spontaneous recall of those memories).
Or no, they can't, because their lungs are now full of sarin gas and their legs have come off. Or maybe their clothes caught fire or the floor is literally lava. Their "typical attack" is to pelt you with instantly-created bullets of poisonous diamond. Oh and they're superhumanly intelligent and since they can read your thoughts good luck ever fucking hiding from them.
These guys can unlock any blockage just by touching it, cannot be captured on film and can make you pass out just by looking at you. Then they haul you into a pocket dimension and use you for medical experimentation until they get bored.
Pass messages to the mortal servants of the Powers From Beyond and are the ones prodding Rumblers into action when a city needs to be consumed by magma or something similar. This is their entire purpose. Also if they dislike someone specifically they just glow very brightly until the person is roasted to death.
These are beings that the powers-from-beyond have allowed to run free in this world, usually in human form, hunting, torturing and killing humans. They are allowed to torture and kill as much as they want so long as they don’t leave any evidence that they are supernatural. Once they start breaking that rule the powers-from-beyond or the powers-that-be hunt them down and destroy them. The powers-from-beyond may occasionally call on them to kill a specific human.
The torturers all have some sort of grudge against humanity. They like toying with humans and proving that they are superior to humans.
But why? What fucking sense does this make? They can just use angels and Gray Men to incinerate/delete people they have trouble with and have less risk of these crazy murder-bugs cluing people in to the existence of the supernatural! Shit, isn't one of their conspiracies convincing everyone that the Abrahamic religions are real? Then DIVINE INCINERATION from angels should be COMPLETELY IN LINE with their fucking goals.
Anyway these guys are shapeshifting deathspiders that are allergic to silver. The example Torturer has a really shitty sense of humour, like HK-47 with Down's, and just hunts humans to help its poor self esteem because it's actually afraid of us and wants to convince itself that the mean old humans can't harm it any longer.
The Red Sun
We used to have another sun, THE RED SUN, which was intelligent and tyrannical, so the Powers From Beyond flung it into space and gave us a stupid, less-troublesome yellow sun. Now THE RED SUN wishes to return and resume its dominance! Luckily, despite being a literally star-sized mind with FTL travel capabilities, it's too stupid to remember where we were.
Thankfully while it has lots of dumb, down-on-their-luck people convinced that they will become GOD KINGS OF EARTH when it returns, so far all the Astronomers it's contacted in their dreams have apparently decided not to help it, or dismissed its contact as just dreams. Its servants become immune to fire and can make people burn just by concentrating on it really hard for a minute or so. Considering that there's no obvious sign of them being the source of the burning, there's really no way the PC's could ever defeat an even slightly intelligent servant of the Red Sun.
The Red Sun also doesn't need any wacky ritual to summon it, it literally just needs a really good astronomer to think about exactly where in the Milky Way Earth is, then it'll travel here at WARP SPEED, beat up our Yellow Sun behind the school and rule us once more. So it's kind of a... if these guys are succeeding enough to be noticable, we'll have noticed it because we're already fucked. The only PC's who'd ever know about these guys or wrangle with them would really be if one of them was an astronomer they were trying to kidnap, or the PC's were a team of Professionals.
In Dark Alleys
The word Secrets has started to lose all meaning to me
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 14
11:33am EST - 1/01/2016
Alright, still a bit before Wraeththu, I think I've got about 80 or so pages of IDA remaining, and they're going to be all
the juicy fluff stuff. Before I'm done with that, I'm going to get my scanned hooked up and then you can all partake in Wraeththu with me.
Secrets of the Professionals
These were the servants of The Man who killed all the noble freedom-fighting rapists and such. It starts with the bombshell that Powers From Beyond are responsible for the fact that we're not idiots chilling in the trees any longer, they're responsible for Scientific Rationalism, the rise of nations and Monotheism.
Smart leaders realized that is was what they were doing, not who they were, that gained them favor of the powers-from-beyond and so they kept doing it, even passed it down to their successors. The kings of Israel had favor of the powers-that-be because they practiced monotheism and discouraged homosexuality. This favor allowed the Jews to triumph over many superior forces. Yet after the death of Christ, Christianity emerged as a proselytizing monotheism capable of converting the Roman empire from paganism. Favor of the powers-from-beyond quickly transferred to the Christians.
Yet Christianity was born in a time where many cultures were coming together to share their beliefs: Greek philosophy, tribal mysticism, pagan occultism, even ideas from Buddhism found their way into Israel. Gnosticism (see p.152) developed as a variant of Christianity, yet the tenants of Gnosticism were dangerously close to the truth. Gnosticism was a threat to the powers-that-be and its enemies were given special favor by the powers-from-beyond in order to eliminate it.
Honestly if anything really pisses me off about shit like this and Psi-Watch it's how they steal all these genuine issues/historical things and turn them into BIG BADS FROM OTHER DIMENSIONS ARE CAUSING IT! Hence basically raping all of the nuance out of them. And how all the people they don't like are SECRET SERVANTS OF THE BIG BADS.
A sidebar informs us that all Western witches were bullshit. Even in YE OLDE TIMES it had no power because I guess the West has always been TOO LOGICAL. All the witches who had "power" were really just crazy people with poison that they used to kill neighbours, husbands and livestock.
Back to the Professionals, seems that the Inquisition were the first of these guys. So they've basically been mondo assholes since inception. How are they supposed to work as PC's again when their entire job description is "kill what the other PC's are"? Templars, Assassins and Islamic empires were also superpowered by EVIL POWERS FROM BEYOND. The Renaissance? Caused by the EVIL POWERS FROM BEYOND favouring merchants instead of churches, I guess Capitalists are also an extension of Cthulhu.
Written language? Western medicine? ALL EVIL!
So these guys are the Order of the Protector and to ADVANCE IN THE RANKS they at some point tell you to kill someone you know
is completely innocent, just because they say so. Apparently they're testing to see if you're retarded, and you only get to progress if you are. "By the twenty-fifth degree the Professional must be willing to kill children or torture innocent people." What is the fucking sense in only allowing amoral sociopaths to progress? Why would you give more powers to the sort of people who'd feel no moral twinge at using them against you
? This is fucking stupid.
Fifth Degree: Many small cults pop up which ‘accidentally’ gain supernatural powers. These cults should be wiped out quickly, if they don’t destroy themselves first. One group believes they worship a ‘red sun.’ They seek out astronomical charts and have the power to start fires.
Sixth Degree: Certain strong emotions can shatter reality. Places, objects and people associated with shatters can have dangerous powers to warp reality. Christian martyrs, repressed Victorian young woman and anonymous homosexual sex in public places were the source of many shatters.
OH NO, A CULT THAT'S MASTERED MATCHES. And secondly, how the fuck is this supposedly "enlightened" asshole managing to stereotype and degrade homosexuals more than the people who think they should all be burned at the stake? Because yes, anonymous gay hookups in bathrooms are such a huge thing
. And straight people are totally not prone to it because they're being manipulated by the Cthulhus into believing the nuclear family is a great idea!
Professionals get all of two NPC's! The first is Lawrence, a forgettable Professional that will kill you with guns. The second is Wallace, one of the people who CONTROL THE WORLD.
He hates poor people, sexual “deviants” and smart-ass progressives.
Besides gaining power, his other pleasure in life is having sex with children.
In a given day he might ‘fix problems’ by financing a military coup, manipulating markets to cause an economic depression in certain countries and paying the mafia to assassinate a public figure.
When he slips past his security to have sex with children his only protection is his personal assistant, who has a ballistic vest and automatic pistol.
I guess that pretty well hammers home that this guy is an Ultimate Badguy. Also apparently he hates himself. Also I like how the methods of the Guys That Rule Everything is apparently just to make the world miserable. Because, I mean, totally, stability and normality would be harmful for everyone! It's not like some of these supernaturals are directly triggered by seeking extremist religion(Cannibals) or being despondent and drugged-up(Lost, Faustians)! And those things never happen when times are bad! This is stupid.
Secrets of the Scribblers
As we already know, Scribblers keep in contact by believing any fucking thing they see written on a wall. Why they haven't all died because a Professional wrote a recipe for nerve poison annotated with: "TRY THIS TO ACHIEVE ENLIGHTENMENT," I don't know. Especially as they're all Philosophy students, essentially, and hence would probably not know a recipe for nerve gas if they saw one written down. But hey, this is IDA, the Evil Powers of Evil are terminally retarded and just wash away the graffiti instead.
There are also only 500 Scribblers world-wide, yet apparently they're all concentrated enough that they can pass each other these physical messages. One guy with a camera near a painted-up wall and the Professionals could get the identities of 99% of them. This. Is. Stupid.
Metaphysics- Although the techniques Scribblers use to gain supernatural abilities can be traced back to Gnosticism, Greek mysteries, occultism, psychotherapy, surrealism and even rituals stolen from the Templars, all rely on the Scribbler’s disbelief in the physical world as their source of power.
So I guess if you like surrealist art enough you become a WORD WIZARD????
Scribblers disdain the world of external phenomena which they believe keeps them from the truth.
I fucking know, right? Fuck empirical data! I'm just going to believe
my way to the truth! Because Plato gave us so many scientific advances!
An example of a library book ruined after Scribblers have had their filthy hands near it
Their NPC is an old, disillusioned dude who did experiments to confirm that reality was a lie
. But wait, wouldn't that entail empirical data? Wouldn't that entail humouring the real world for long enough to do experiments? Isn't this... GAH! Fuck internal consistency, I guess! He's also a terrorist who uses his magical powers to attack the FBI, police and schools. Great guy! He also hates the world so much that he basically Nihilistic Rages everything around him into destruction unless he tries to control it.
Secrets of the Survivors
Yadda yadda, not much new here except we're told that the "storks" are actually ghost birds, not actual birds. At least that makes the setting make a bit more sense. We also get stats for Reapers, who are dumb as fucking rocks. Literally an Intellect stat of 0. But thankfully, as we know from the stat chapter, INL doesn't actually determine how cleverly you can act.
Reapers look kinda neat
Do not die of old age, and their memory is limitless.
Reapers are about as intelligent as a cat, yet they have instinctual knowledge of various things that are dangerous to human life. They thus excel at problem solving where the problem is how to alter the environment to kill a person. They are emotionless and fearless. They do not communicate. They only do the job they were created to do.
Reapers are beings created and manufactured by the powers-from-beyond to do a specific job. They are the smartest and toughest of the beings manufactured for use in this reality. They are the main line of defense between humans and immortality.
The Survivor NPC is a guy who got told of a MAGICAL CAVE by MAGICAL INDIANS and went there and the Reapers chasing him got vaporized by the creepy cave. Since all it took to get this done was basically to interview every mystic weirdo in sight and since the Reapers were apparently dumb enough to follow him in there and get disintegrated, it's really a wonder that there are any Survivors not
free of their Reapers. Also he's lived for so long that he's now an asshole because apparently living for a long time makes you bored, and when you're really bored you become evil.
He often forces his lovers to join him on dangerous adventures (robbing convenience stores, driving up to gang members and calling them ‘putos,’ driving the wrong way on the freeway) which he does simply to enjoy his dates’ fear.
Also note that he's staggeringly rich and important. So, how the fuck does he get away with doing ALL THIS HIGHLY PUBLIC SHIT, AND BEING A VERY VISIBLE FIGURE, and not getting tracked down by the Professionals? They were apparently canny enough to hunt down Scribblers when they were just writing anonymous notes in a fucking library book, but they can't find and incinerate this asshole? Also despite being born in 1820 he has somehow not spent his time learning anything beyond how to be a really good wrestler and how to snap people's necks. Interestingly enough he uses the hilarious "breaking necks is fucking simple"-loophole to be monstrous at it.
He does sort of make a decent enemy, though. He's not hanging out in alternate dimensions and he's brutal enough with Flesh Control and similar to make for a murderous boss battle. Plus he's a giant asshole so the PC's would have a reason to end up fighting him. On the other hand he pretty much stays out of all supernatural business, so the PC's would really have no fucking reason
to fight him unless they want to wring the location of REAPER KILLER CAVE out of him.
Secrets of the Wonderlanders
In Brief- Victorian Children’s book authors discovered how to travel into the subconscious of kids by linking the subconsciouses to a vibrant fantasy world, learned to become immortal by living in those subconsciouses.
It wasn’t until 1910 that the children’s books authors used techniques recently developed by Freud for probing the subconscious mind to determine that the playworlds were manifestations of the children’s subconsciouses. Using an admixture of spiritualism, occultism and Freudian techniques the authors discovered ways to send their consciousness into the playlands of their children.
An ailing elderly member was in a Playland when her physical body died, but she soon contacted the other members to tell them she was still alive in the playland. The group devised a scheme for their own immortality. They would each escape death by hiding in the playlands of their children, then convince those children to do the same.
You know, I hate to say it, but so far this is pretty much some of the sort-of coolest stuff in this book, once we get to the details of the Wonderlanders. Hell, you could base an entire game about Lost and Wonderlanders diving into Playlands to kick these guys in the junk, because they're basically brainwashing the poor kids whose Playlands they're in. The whole thing's layered sort of like bubbles, if a mind dies, then the Playland it's created dies as well. But if the owner dies while in a Playland, the mind keeps going, essentially, I presume, making that Playland "self-sustaining" as long as no one charges in and fucks it up.
Humans have incredible power over reality. They can make things ‘exist’ simply by believing hard enough. The requisite belief is emotional and not intellectual. Humans have to feel the truth of a thing, which is a power which dawns with the birth of imagination and slips away quickly as a young person becomes more indoctrinated into the rules of “real” and “not real.” The ability to imagine things real peaks at around 4 or 5 years.
OH, YES, WE ARE INDOCTRINATING CHILDREN, TOO. TAKING AWAY THEIR MAGIC BY TEACHING THEM ABOUT THE REAL WORLD. Fucking IDA, is there any part of the modern, adult life you don't loathe with a passion? But yeah that's it, a creepy cult of old brainwashers are using children's minds as hideouts to be immortal in by basically programming them to believe in these things and nurturing these beliefs as they grow up.
The Wonderlander NPC is a "spider at the center of the web,"-type, living within Playlands within Playlands within Playlands, etc. until she's tucked away deep enough that no one who doesn't know she exists will ever find out. Her only real goal is to keep her "empire" existing and expanding, and if anyone ever threatens or pisses off "her children," or might get in the way of them developing proper Playlands, she basically wanders into their brains and shreds their Psychodynamics, making them them insane or braindead.
She's made herself a Playland mansion where she spends her time puttering around in the garden like a nice old grandmother, and she forces "her children" to resume their child forms and personas when visiting her, otherwise she beats them to within an inch of death. She's a right old cunt. But all in all, she could kind of work as a game villain, assuming the PC's have ways of keeping her from just murdering their minds in passing.
Anyway, that's it for all of the Secret Life secrets. Beyond this is now the setting fluff, creatures/enemies and at least one pre-made adventure, by the looks of it. Thankfully we'll soon be done with this pile of shit.
In Dark Alleys
Up to my neck in secrets
Secrets of the Heroes
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 13
11:24am EST - 1/01/2016
If you remember, Heroes were our lovable semi-insane vigilantes who had either animal familiars, Generic Occult Powers or High Tech Devices that helped them DO BATTLE WITH EVIL. This section basically tells us that they are literally
serial killers who are just more picky about their victims.
Familiar: These Heroes have come across a partially awakened animal. This is a servant of humanity from before human souls were trapped in this reality. Like human souls, these servants are more-or-less immortal and are kept prisoner by the powers-from-beyond in the bodies of animals. Due to some supernatural or h-tech accident the animal became partially awakened and regained some of its powers and intelligence. It cannot remember its life before this world, nor can it escape from the body it has been placed in, but it was able to find its former master.
Wait what? Kult? What are you doing here? What did Brian do to you?! Way to jack Kult's setting and make it even worse, jackass.
Their end-of-section note is a stained piece of paper from a Hero detailing his HEROIC EXPLOITS. First he kills some drug dealers, then he kills a prostitute, then he murders some "gangbangers & family members." After every killing he obsessively washes his hands and notes for how long. Finally he kills a supernatural creature that begs for mercy and tells him it's just taking revenge for MEAN OLD HUMANITY that used to have its kind as slaves back when we were powerful! (hello again Kult) He then scrubs his hands until he can see muscle and tendons.
The Hero NPC is... something.
Richard was born to a working-class Black family. He was a sensitive, shy boy. His father left when he was seven and this sent him into a spiral of isolation, self-hatred and loneliness that left him friendless during his adolescent years. He entertained himself with fantasies of violence, of him slaughtering armies of racists, terrorists, mafioso, etc. Soon he was living more in his fantasies than in the real world. After high school he had a series of demeaning customer service and manual labor jobs that barely paid the rent. He was poor, lonely and desperate.
One evening blood started to drip from his ceiling. He called the cops but nobody came. He went to check on his neighbor and found his neighbor hanging from his neck, pierced with a dozen kitchen knives and masturbating. There was an explosion and a knife cut his hand. Moths started flying from the wound until Richard bound the wound up.
The wound would not heal and continued to expel moths whenever unbound. Richard decided the moths were either a curse or a gift from god, and that he was responsible for using them to smite sinners. He trained and equipped himself as a vigilante. Over the next 30 years he killed more than 100 drug dealers, as well as pimps, rapists, abortion doctors, convenience store robbers, carjackers, child molesters, serial killers, innocent people who he mistakenly thought were committing crimes and innocent people who were hit by stray bullets.
His most intense relationships are imaginary relationships with the people he saves. There are a number of terrified young women who he harasses with anonymous letters and phone calls. Richard has a black and white view of morality: anyone who kills or rapes deserves to die.
So basically we have a wannabe-tough guy with a hand that shoots moths. How the fuck does this guy manage to rack up over 100 kills including
shitloads of supernatural things without getting his head taken off? The moths will "fly out and bite people," but all it does is create distracting pain and briefly blind them with the swarm, not actually doing any damage. This guy has no concept of subtlety, so why hasn't a Professional offed him by now? Why hasn't some random goon with a shotgun
offed him? Why, in fact, haven't the fucking COPS done something about this guy who runs around on the streets in riot-armor dual-wielding silenced pistols? MOTH HAAAAANDS isn't exactly subtle or an ability that lets you evade a manhunt.
Unlike most of the other NPC's, I guess at least he's functional as an opponent because he has no truly bullshit/unbeatable powers, and the PC's have reasons to find him(and the ability to do so) and murder his eerie, fuckfaced self.
Secrets of the Lost
There have been Lost as long as humans have had souls. Becoming Lost was frightening and dangerous: an aboriginal person who got Lost would most likely wind up in the camp of some group who spoke a different language and would kill a stranger.
Yes, because those horrible savages would murder anyone who looked different on sight! This is only mentioned in relation to this, apparently all other eras have Lost bungling into only CIVILIZED COMPANY that accepts them as friends.
Psychogeography was created in 1958 but didn’t really become popular until the 1980s. It was popularized by the Situationists, a group that was influenced by the Surrealists and Existentialists. Psychogeography is the art of wandering a city at random and mapping how different parts of the city made one feel. Some of the psychogeographers became Lost.
This is apparently a real thing. But judging by a quick browse, he's simplifying it to the point of aggressively missing some of the point. Then we get BLAH BLAH MORE KULT RIP-OFF, THE BODY IS A PRISON FOR THE SOUL. YOU CAN TOTALLY BE FREE OF THE "TYRANNY OF SPACE" IF YOU FIGURE THIS OUT.
Killer Lost sidebar posted:
Although very few Lost have ever thought to do so, it is possible for very powerful Lost to use the Grab Bag skill to kill people by remote. They need a body with a large hole in it. They can then reach in and pull out the internal organs of an enemy. The Grab Bag skill requires that the person not know what’s in the container, so the Lost can’t know that the body they are reaching into doesn’t contain the organs of their enemies, which means they can’t know whose body it is they are reaching into. This skill is therefore extremely difficult to use. Yet when done correctly it allows a Lost to kill an enemy anywhere in the world and the enemy doesn’t have any means of defense.
Welcome to a sidebar which, while kind of cool, is basically useless for the game. If an enemy has this, the PC's will just keel over dead, missing vital organs, with no defenses, no way of tracking him down. If the PC's do this, they trivialize any fight against any human opponent as long as they have access to a morgue or can find and kill someone whose intestines they do not know in detail.
The Lost doesn’t experience revelations by being told things but by seeing things. The Lost have the ability to wander out of this reality, to see the subconscious, the land of the dead, the deserted city, the citadel and the machinery of this reality. A member of the Lost may even find the sleeping body of his or her true self. Whether the Lost has any idea what it is they are seeing is another matter.
Metropolis? The Citadels? What sort of ass-tastic ripoff is this turning out to be? I mean seriously, we've yet to reach the fluff on these parts, but so far it's REALLY sounding like they're just ganking Kult fluff left and right.
The Lost NPC is a brain-damaged old Mexican who has maxed levels in all the Lost abilities(Grab Bag, Get Lost, Homing), he has brain damage to the level of Kender/Fishmalk ADHD, no concept of morality and practically no ability to remember things past the last few minutes. If anything pisses him off he'll instantly whip Grab Bag'd submachineguns out of the nearest container and hose the party down with bullets.
So basically: He's got powers the PC's will never be able to beat, he can always avoid them or kill them and is untrackable, making him an awful choice for an enemy. And his brain damage means that he's completely useless as an info NPC. He couldn't even be used as a pre-made PC because of a combination of his power level and brain damage.
Secrets of the Outcasts
IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS, EVERYONE BELIEVED THAT THE CRAZY SCHIZOPHRENICS HAD INSIGHT. THEN WE LOST THIS CLEVERNESS AND THOUGHT THEY WERE CRAZY, AND LOCKED THEM UP, OH WOE IS OUR LACK OF WISDOM. NOW THEY ARE WANDERING ARMIES OF CRAZY HOBOS WHO HAVE CULTURE WARS ABOUT WHETHER THE MIND WORMS ARE DEMONS OR ALIENS.
The explanation for their SEEING SHIT is basically that they have SOOOOOOUL EEEEEEEYES like what Cannibals get when they pluck theirs out, but most people are, and I quote, "too lazy to see the truth." Not blinded by metaphysical bullshit or physical limitations, just too LAZY.
They may discover that this world is a machine: storks bring souls to human fetuses, wrigglers plague us with problems to make sure our lives are not easy and when we die reapers take our souls away.
My mind is full of WHAT THE FUCK? Are we talking ghost storks? Spirit storks? Is everyone born without a visiting physical stork some sort of soulless machine?
Nothing noteworthy about the Outcast NPC or End Text, except that the Outcast NPC is actually kind of useful. He's not overpowered or cripplingly insane. He's in charge of a bunch of crazies at an institution, meaning he has a group of minions that could technically cause trouble for the PC's without instakilling them, and he Sees Shit like any other Outcast, so he could be a good info NPC.
In Dark Alleys
Secrets of the Animists!
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 12
11:18am EST - 1/01/2016
In Europe, the last real Animists (“witches”) died in 1490 (see p.206 for more). Today, modern society is encroaching on the few remote wilderness areas that still have animistic cultures and converting those people to Christianity or Islam. There has been recent interest in shamanism by Westerners, but this ‘neo-shamanism’ is no threat to anyone. The neo-shamans approach shamanism from a framework of western thought and ideas and, like modern occultists, are almost never able to achieve real power.
THE WEST IS SUBJUGATING THE TRUE RELIGIONS THAT UNDERSTAND THE SPIRITS, yet it only mentions Animism, Islam and Christianity. What about polytheistic-yet-not-animist religions? Were they also evil creations of the POWERS-THAT-BE? Or did they have power, too? I guess IDA doesn't bother to consider these things. Nothing in this world but WHITE MAN VS BROWN MAN, HERMAPHRODITE VS THE NON-GENDERQUEER.
Some animists are also powerful enough to become WIZARD GHOSTS when they die.
Much of Animist practice involves identifying, removing and even attacking people with what many Animists call ‘misfortunes’ and Outcasts call ‘wrigglers.’ These are the invisible beings that cause many of humanity’s diseases and other problems. Yet not every illness is caused by an invisible creature. Some are caused by microorganisms or physiological failures, just as scientists and doctors believe, and Animists find themselves powerless in the face of these illnesses. In cities the proportion of illnesses caused by microorganisms and toxins is greater than in Animist’s aboriginal homelands. Thus many Animist healers find their powers faltering in the face of modern medicine.
So wait, in the West, most illness IS caused by scientific things, and can be resolved by scientific means... then maybe the Powers That Be are just oppressing the Animist stuff because it seems like ineffectual bullshit to them? And the GM may happily decide that an Animist can't do something about some trouble because SCIENCE DID IT, NOT SPIRITS? And wait, if the West is
largely right about how we treat things in our part of the world, how are we misguided by stomping out this shit?
And for that matter, if illnesses in far-flung corners of the world are NOT science-caused, shouldn't that mean that things like quinine and vaccines wouldn't work against native diseases? Because they'd be EVIL SPIRIT WORMS?
This makes no fucking sense.
Animists’ ‘guardian spirits’ are really human psychodynamics. The ‘spirit world’ they live in is really the combined subconscious realms of the psychodynamics. When Animists are possessed they are allowing psychodynamics (or occasionally Dances, see p.193) to take control of their bodies. Most of an Animist’s psychodynamics take the form of entities from the Animistic culture’s myths. Insomuch as the ‘spirits’ have self-awareness, they believe they are those mythological figures.
Ah, I guess the answer is that even the Animists are wrong and TRUE SUPERNATURAL POWER is... actually granted by incarnate Freudian psychodynamics? I suspect that my brain is going to start leaking out of my eye sockets when we reach that bit.
The Animist NPC is an absurdly powerful WIZARD GHOST who never hangs around in the mortal realm if he can help it, on account of Reapers wanting to collect him for the afterlife. So basically he's never going to be anywhere the PC's can interact with him if it's up to him, and he's lost most of his memories when his physical body died anyway. Despite having an above-average intellect, his reaction to "white persons" is to circle them like an animal and throw rocks at them.
Secrets of the Cannibals!
Background: The Dead Sea Scrolls were actually all sorts of crazy Gnostic heresies that revealed how to become a Cannibal!
Wizard Secrets: Normally the soul conforms to the body, Cannibals know how to rigid it up so they can lop off parts without losing a chunk of their soul in the process, and then use that part of the soul to do what the lost part of the body used to do.
That's seriously all there is about them. Oh and their NPC is a floating, limbless, mostly disassembled corpse who will punch out your heart if you disrupt his meditations. He has literally no contact with, or understanding of, the modern world, and spends all his time hanging out at a monastery and chanting and/or meditating. He's even less likely to encounter any PC's or deal with them in a helpful manner than Indian Ghost Wizard from the Animists.
Secrets of the Faustians!
In Brief- Experiences, and the desire to express them, in undisturbed abandoned buildings coalesce into entities (‘Dances’). These entities become powerful and intelligent when they reproduce themselves in human subconsciouses. Powerful Dances can make backup homes and can turn humans into undead experience-machines.
This section actually makes Dances intensely creepy. They're these blobs of sensory input that want to replicate themselves and guard themselves. So first they get some Faustians who keep them safe, then they get those Faustians to create copies of the places where they were created, in both feel and appearance. Then they capture weak-willed people, even weaker than Faustians, or the Faustians capture normal people and break their minds.
Then those people get stuck in one of those replica locations and get to just stay there, forever, experiencing those same experiences over and over and over and over and fucking over, to perpetuate the Dance. And eventually, the Dance will be sated with that, and will need to "bud off" again. But before it reaches that point, it'll want to accelerate the pace of saturation. It does this by cutting its captives in half, vertically, so they can experience twice as much
at the same time. So you have these severed corpses just prancing around old, mouldering apartments, reading books, listening to the radio, looking at pictures...
Even for Faustians the Dance grows in their head like a tumor, slowly stealing more and more neural processing power and pushing out all other influences. This is really how Dances become sentient, by processing themselves on human neural architecture.
Of course, Dances are kind of vulnerable because you can either burn down their core lairs, kill their servants or even just run in and experience wrong
things, or mess up the lair so that the drones there experience non-Dance things.
Sadly, the Dances feel kind of peripheral to the setting as a whole. If they were more intelligent, more prevalent or had any plans beyond PRESERVE SELF they could be kind of cool setting villains. As it is, Faustians get the wimpiest and least interesting powers and even if they manage to discover the Dance inside their own heads and take control if by pure force of will, all they can force it to do is abandon its hosts. Dances don't even know enough by themselves or learn enough things outside of what they are that they can be used as handy informants. Kind of a shame.
The Faustian NPC is a black hobo with chloroform and a silenced pistol. Unlike the others, she's more of an antagonist NPC and PC's might A) actually encounter her and B) might actually be able to fight her if they do!
The little shred of fiction at the end details a patient who's an obvious Dance-host. The cops broke into one of its lairs because of the missing people, and chopped-up puppets, inside, and arrested the only surviving puppet(this guy). The people in the asylum who're keeping him stored(because they figure he's insane, not possessed) start reporting that the other inmates are beginning to act like him, talk like him, draw things he describes... becoming more Dance-puppets.
Next time: More secrets! Including one that is pretty much a straight-up rip-off from Kult! Oh boy!
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