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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In Dark Alleys
Cities & Secrets
Chapter Four: Los Angeles
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 11
11:10am EST - 1/01/2016
And finally, at long last, we actually get to all the SETTING stuff. The very first bit is Chapter Four, which is an excessively long chapter about Los Angeles, being the "basic" setting for In Dark Alleys.
Looks like not even Brian could really
fuck this one up, though, and the mistakes are relatively minor. For instance, a sidebar mucks up the history of Noir, in part as detailed by a friend I asked to look it over because he loves his detectives and I figured he'd know more than me.
The sidebar in question
First, the Maltese Falcon was a book before it was a film, and it predated Marlowe by ten or fifteen years.
Second, it wasn't really based around L.A., though it may have done LA's reputation that kind of damage internationally. I wouldn't really be that surprised; the facts of the matter wouldn't have a lot of bearing on what people took away.
Third, Chandler was in no way the father of Noir. He wrote a lot of influential books, but he was also largely following in Hammet's footsteps, I think -- I may tend to idolize Sam Spade novels more than Marlowe ones, though.
The start of the chapter focuses on historical issues I don't know well enough to critique but which SEEM mostly factual(the one thing I suspect might be his bias is his insistence that the natives prior to Europeans settling the area had holy crossdressers, anyone know how true this is? No one I asked seemed to have a clue).
The L.A. area Indians also had people who dressed and lived as the opposite sex and were generally considered holy.
There's also an insistence that Liberals in LA are basically evil, while everywhere else in the country they are Noble Progressives, in LA they apparently only support good causes because those causes subtly benefit themselves. But they hate homeless people and minorities.
I'm also told by Americans that this bit...
In 1914, Birth of a Nation was filmed in L.A. This movie showed the Klu Klux Klan as the saviors of a South in crisis after the end of the Civil War. Birth of a Nation was generally regarded as the greatest movie of its era by White Americans and it began the shift of the movie industry from the East Coast to Hollywood.
...is somewhat exaggerated in how it portray's people's joy about Birth of a Nation, apparently it wasn't quite so universally acclaimed. But I guess, to Brian Vajra, white man has to be EVIL MAN in all ways possible.
The demographic sections and the descriptions of how miserable it can be to be an illegal immigrant or homeless seem pretty straight-up with no hyperbole, which is a first. Really the most hilarious part of this section is the small bit of art it grants us.
I mean, look at that shit!
I suspect SOME of the stuff about how evil the LAPD is are exaggerated but, you know, I just don't know enough
to really make that call. But if anyone wants to correct me, they're basically presented like the cops out of a cyberpunk story, showing no respect to anyone who isn't directly paying their wages, which is of course rich, white people in walled-off communities.
Slightly un-necessary is probably the "Sex Industry" headline that gives us a detailed shopping list of what it costs to buy various services from prostitutes in different parts of LA. I mean, yeah, okay, I can totally see when it's relevant to know how much a crack-addicted prostitute charges for a blowjob???
But really, it's a mostly unimpressive chapter which doesn't prepare us at all for...
CHAPTER FIVE: SECRETS OF THE TOUCHED
tl;dr, this chapter will blow your miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind
Holy shit aren't you just EXCITED? I totally know I am until I realize that alphabetic organization means we're stumbling headfirst back into Androgyne Avenue. Hang on to your balls before some bishounen with a monstrous, fanged penis steals them from you.
SECRETS OF THE ANDROGYNES
Since prehistory, people have chosen to dress and live as another gender, either with or without the knowledge and sanction of society. Almost every culture in aboriginal North America had what Whites called “berdache”, people who lived as the other gender and were often considered holy or powerful.
In the mid 20th century, when homosexuality was thought of by most homosexuals as a terrible secret (and by society as a crime and a mental illness), men met in public restrooms known as ‘tea rooms’ for anonymous sex. Many of these men lived as heterosexuals except for the few minutes they spent in these tea rooms. Occasionally the sex would lead to a supernatural accident, usually killing the participants. Nobody wanted to admit to being there, so nobody reported or talked about the supernatural accidents.
Later in the century, tea room sex lost most of its power as homosexuality became more accepted and homosexual sex roles and rituals standardized.
Just let that sink in for a moment. Gay sex wasn't dangerous because it might get you beaten to death by intolerant maniacs, it was dangerous because you might accidentally wizard it up and teleport your own head off or something. Then the GENDERQUEERS arrive and they're new and enlightened and their WISE PHILOSOHERS figure out how to recreate the TEA ROOM INCIDENTS to become... The Androgynes
When an Androgyne tries to eliminate gender roles in hirself, two things happen. First, the Anima or Animus becomes weaker as more of it is incorporated into the conscious self. Less psychological energy is caught up in that psychodynamic and the energy is available to the conscious self. Second, genderless sex has less to distract participants from the pure sharing of pleasure and is thus more likely to cause a minor awakening in the soul. Androgynes are trained to recognize these minor awakenings and take advantage of the brief weakening of the laws of physics.
I'm really glad IDA doesn't have a sci-fi supplement of any kind, I can only imagine warp cores that are 24/7 orgies dedicated to weakening the laws of physics enough that the ship can travel at FTL speeds.
Some have found that “miracles” have favored societies that were sexually restrictive, helping them thrive and destroy more permissive civilizations. To an Androgyne historian, the bible is a chronicle of some supernatural force, masquerading as ‘god’, manipulating historical events to wipe out sexually permissive pagan religions.
BECAUSE EVERY NON-ABRAHAMIC RELIGION WAS A 24/7 JIZZY FUCKFEST ORGY BETWEEN BISHOUNEN LADY-MEN.
Various elder Androgynes are in possession of artifacts from sex-related shatters including: Mary Sutton’s Bloody Rags, the Vertigo Card, and the Glory Hole (p.244).
I fucking swear to God.
The Androgyne NPC we get for this section is basically a guy who rapes rich people with his mutant genitalia to "terrify them with bizarre changes during sex." He was first enlightened to the existence of WIZARD SEX when some gay dudes banging in a toilet stall next to his accidentally chopped themselves apart like something out of the fucking Event Horizon. Please note the constant stereotypes that all gay dudes are trawling for dick in public bathrooms, because they're all over the fucking place.
Vox has almost completely stopped thinking of hirself as male or female. Vox thinks of hirself as a lover, explorer and, most importantly, as a freedom fighter trying to save humanity from the tyranny of gender. Sie doesn’t think it’s wrong to destroy property or ruin the lives of those who support, consciously or not, gender roles. Vox loves to confuse, disorient and scare ‘normals.’
Vox's standard reaction to being attacked is, and I quote: "An entangle with hir genital probe."
I don't want to be alive any longer. So I'm going to leave you with a GIFT while I regain the motivation to keep breathing and tackling the rest of the SECRETS OF THE TOUCHED. It is the gift of POETRY.
Passion, by CrotchPower posted:
I stare into your eyes. You seem more real than any person I’ve ever met. Your mouth opens slightly. I feel like I am running down a hill and as the incline grows steeper I must run faster and faster to stay on my feet. Yet there is no fear here, not in this world we have carved for ourselves. Your breath is hard and fast. I can feel my heart pounding in my lips, the lobes of my ears, the tips of my fingers. The air between us is filled with warm moisture. Every part of my body aches with desire to touch you.
We pull ourselves together. We both know the steps to this dance, make them in perfect harmony, although neither is leading. There is softness in your skin, but strength under it. Your body presses against mine and my breath is taken away. We kiss and time is banished. Only this moment exists. Your taste is on my tongue. Your smell fills my nostrils. The warmth of your skin is all over me. Your wordless sounds of pleasure fill my ears. To me there is only you. There has never been anything else and never will be anything. You are the universe.
We lay ourselves down. In no hurry, we slide over each other, positioning ourselves so we can each discover the fire burning between the other’s legs. A touch there and we feel electricity leaping between us, traveling through our spines, filling our bodies with a holy vibration. For a moment we are tentative, afraid that this experience will be too intense, that it will obliterate us. Yet we cannot stop, the parts of our minds that make decisions are like tiny insects buzzing against the wrath of a hurricane.
Our fingers dig into each other’s flesh. We pull ourselves closer and closer together. Our bodies rock in harmony. There is no longer any difference between giving and receiving pleasure. Our bodies have no shape, all we are is moving and feeling. The waves of pleasure grow higher and higher. What once would have been heartstopping pain is now crashing ecstasy filling all known worlds.
And as we reach a crescendo, something stirs in the darkness. Something that is us and yet more than we can ever imagine. Two things for which time and space and life and death have no meaning reach for each other across a terrible void. And the world shakes. Across every reality that has been or could be, thunder crashes. Petty gods are shaken on their thrones. For ours is the passion that can destroy the heavens.
Next time: Animists and... all that other misery. I'm kind of hoping that the Faustians and Survivors will salvage this section.
In Dark Alleys
An un-history of moderately popular ideas
A history of unpopular ideas
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 10
11:05am EST - 1/01/2016
This section is ostensibly Brian telling us about SHOCKING PHILOSOPHIES that have been LOST TO THE AGES(sort of) because either the AUTHORITIES suppressed them or because they just horrified people too much. In practice it's more our beloved author being a completely useless fuckbrain about everything he touches. Let's go over his fuckups in order.
Also note that the second section of each philosophy is "tenants." Yes, he really fucks up writing "tenets" for each of them, every fucking time.
We largely went over his fucked up perception of Animist beliefs with the Animist class, but there are a few new gems here.
Anything that works via unexplainable means, e.g. a medicinal herb, is believed to work via spirits or supernatural power.
People who are physically or mentally ‘different’ than others are often considered to have more power, and in many cultures the role of shaman is often given to mentally ill people who would otherwise have no useful role in the tribe.
To recap: All animists believe everything they don't immediately understand is SPOOKY GHOSTS and they put crazy people in charge! Noble savages! Also all animist systems adhere to the exact same tenets. True facts.
Supposedly Animism scares people because INVISIBLE FORCES control things! Presumably the same people afraid of the concept of Animism live in constant terror of gravity and string theory.
One of my friends, Softface here on the forums, commented a bit on some of these as soon as the screaming migraine the writing gave him passed. I've added his quotes for the stuff I admit I don't really know well enough to nitpick greatly, as he usually knows these things better than me.
Buddhism - It looks like Varja's knowledge of karma came exclusively from the show "My Name is Earl." You have no idea how much I wish people would learn that karma is a complex idea which affects your incarnation in the next life rather than reducing it to petty aphorisms.
This pretty much sums it up, as Karma is essentially reduced to an alignment system that takes you farther or closer from Nirvana, as the book describes it. You reincarnate over and over until you're Lawful Good and then you win the game of life.
This scares people because it's "pessimistic."
Platonism & Neo-Platonism
This is Brian yanking one out to the fact that he knows the old "shadows on a cave wall"-analogy. It doesn't even have a purpose in this fucking chapter as it's not really illustrative of any current patterns of thought(I know what we've inherited
from it, spent most of last semester learning it, so no need to point that out to me) and there's nothing shocking enough about it to give it a "what scares people"-section.
The requisite element for all modern "horror" RPG's with supernatural/divine elements. To the book's credit, as far as I can tell he didn't fuck this one up.
Descartian Skepticism - It's cute that he included this. "Some credit Descartes as the first to come up with the concept of virtual reality." And those people are idiots.
What Scares People posted:
The perpetual and unconquerable uncertainty. Humans can never be sure, no matter what they discover, that what they experience is true.
How unpopular was this idea again? I do not really recall it inspiring any witch hunts, and I'm pretty sure that anyone "terrified" of these ideas would have a mental breakdown after watching a soap opera.
De Sade was mean. De Sade thought all people were fundamentally mean. Spoooooooooky. What scares people is apparently that Sade was a maniac who advocated hurting people. I really cannot see how this is a weird reaction, in fact I'd say it's pretty sane to be adverse to philosophies that involve unbridled sadistic behavior towards others.
Marxism - Starts out with "Karl Marx (b. 1818, d. 1888) was a German, atheist, economist as well as a heavy drinker and cigar [s]moker, who created the first complete economic theory of Communism. Marx died without seeing a Communist evolution." which just seems to me like needless character assassination. Plus his timeline of the History of Communism is entirely off.
Aside from that he seems obsessed with Marx's characterization of capitalists as "vampires" since he mentions it three times in the short blurb.
What scares people: Marx used the word vampires! Oh no! Dracula is a banker! No literally, what Brian says is scary about Marx's writing is him describing bankers as vampires.
You know how the Nazis basically misinterpreted and abused Nietzsche's writings? That's kind of what Brian does here, in pretty much the exact same way.
Nihilism - Where to even start with this? Apparently Nietzsche was the most influential Nihilist writer, despite a large portion of his work saying NIHILISM IS BAD. STAY AWAY. He then goes on to entirely misunderstand the ubermensch, which shouldn't be mentioned here in the first place, even worse than Ayn Rand does. For some reason, he felt the need to include this: "He had a big walrus mustache and piercing eyes." and concludes with "After WWII he was so strongly associated with Nazism that no serious academic would dare discuss his ideas in a positive light." which is like some sort of anti-truth. By writing this he erased some of our collective human knowledge.
For those not up to date with the Niet and his moustache... essentially the argument goes that you should never accept any knowledge without investigating it critically, that you should never let anyone tell you how to perceive things, but instead turn things over yourself and then come to a conclusion. What conclusion you come to does not matter, but just doing this lets you rip your way free from the crowd.
If you then decide that's carte blanche to claim everything is false and start stabbing people for laughs, you're a nihilist fuckhead. If you keep your head on straight and decide for yourself a purpose rather than what people say it should be, you're a step above the crowd, an Ubermensch, who has some degree of responsibility towards the rest of the world by helping others reach that same level.
According to Brian, Ubermenschitude is entirely a genetic thing and the Ubermensch are destined to RULE THE MASSES OF SHEEPLE. If anyone needs to take a break here and just hold their head in their hands, that's understandable.
I don't think Nietzsche ever wrote anything about whether being a Nihilist would get you more fine ladies, though
What scares people: "People are initially off-put by the idea that they, and everyone else, had incest fantasies as children."
Essentially it's less that Freud scares people, more that his ideas gross them out a bit.
Despite saying that Freud has essentially been discredited and discarded by most sane people(though some individual ideas may survive among the larger establishment of psychologists and psychotherapists), a quick read of the description of Freud's "tenants" reveals that it's basically word-for-word the psychodynamics earlier in the book. I guess we know where the author's sympathies lie.
Surrealism - "Although people still love surrealist-style art, the revolutionary and anti-rational ideas of surrealism are scary. Surrealism is about acting without censorship of thought, which many associate with chaos and anarchy. Nonsense is fine when restricted to a piece of canvas, but when people try to apply it to the important matters of life it becomes threatening." Please, Varja, never write about anything related to art again, because you are clearly a child.
A sidebar ties Existentialism to Lovecraft's books for undefined reasons. Aside from that... Just about the only thing that Brian gets right is that Existentialist fiction is often heavily about a protagonist struggling with the idea that they Have To Make A Choice, that they are not required to just go along with the flow in their lives.
He helpfully summarizes the rest of Existentialism as "like Nihilism except for a few minor things." Existentialism is also the cornerstone of Atheism!
Like Freud except that he liked religion and also he wasn't sciency enough so no one ever uses him for anything scientific! Apparently this is also what scared people.
Punk - FUCK YEAH PUNK ROCK. At least he admits that there's no single statement to represent this "philosophy," and takes the time to tell us what exactly a poseur is.
What Scares People posted:
People fear punks because they don’t know what societal codes a punk has chosen to reject and thus a punk is unpredictable and possibly dangerous.
Punks = Fishmalks in IDA.
Paglian feminists believe that sex is powerful and females are inherently more powerful than men. Females are also more a part of nature, which Paglia describes as Cthonian: ugly, dark, terrible, unpredictable, amoral and gross. Out of fear of the Cthonian and a desire to reduce the power vacuum, men have created culture, society, religion and science.
If Brian is to be believed, Paglian Feminism is some sort of reverse crypto-psychotic misogynism, insisting that women cannot be intellectual... and are somehow better due to it???? Also that women should be prostitutes so they can subjugate men with their vaginas.
I don't know if this is IDA being completely insane or Paglian Feminism being completely insane or a combination of the two.
Postmodernists hate science and academia, unless the latter is taught by non-white lesbians. Also all postmodernists never create anything worthwhile, they just circlejerk words until they end up in a linguistic mess that only other postmodernists can understand.
They also think it's adorable, but completely wrong, whenever someone tries to be honest.
Preview of the following chapters:
May 98 – Journal of Genderqueer Poetry posted:
‘Passion’ by CrotchPower
In Dark Alleys
What?! We didn't hit game mechanics yet?!
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 9
10:59am EST - 1/01/2016
Well, we did now. This section starts out pretty calm, re-affirming the basic mechanic that we already know, adding a bit more like the basic, non-skill things stats can be used for, no surprises there.
Save vs Shock posted:
Save vs. Shock Difficulties
Easy (10): Seeing a small child driving a car.
Moderate (20): Seeing a dog driving a car.
Hard (30): Seeing a mass of spiders driving a car.
Legendary (40): Seeing floating globs of congealed blood connected by chains driving a car.
The Hard difficulty one just cracked me up. That and moderate aren't SHOCKING, they're fucking hilarious! Frankly I'd be more freaked out by a kid driving a car, I mean, if a swarm of spiders are driving a car they probably know what they're doing, that kid might skid out and flatten me.
Fucking up our roll gets us a -X to everything(where X is how much we missed the roll by) for as many hours as what we flubbed the roll by. This is also where we're told that # of failures = what we flub a roll by, and # of successes is how much we overshoot our needed number by. Flipping back a few pages, this reminds us that Blood Sigils work for a number of days
equal to our successes, making it even more ridiculously broken! Say hello to a week-long typhoon, City Of Choice!
Fucking finally, I was starting to think that these dumb things were just here to troll us or something. Firstly they can be used as empathic intuition, for instance we can use our Thanatos as a sort of danger sense or something, or use our Shadow to discern if someone has bad intentions. No specific difficulties are set for these rolls, so I guess it's up to our GM to determine when it's incredibly easy to figure shit out and when it's not.
Alternately, we can use them kind of like FATE aspects, in any situation where this particular PD is relevant, we can roll it vs 20. For each point we overshoot, we get a +1 to everything we do in the scenario. Like, Shadow is our aggression and general anti-social side, if we just want to flip out and do something unpleasant and selfish to someone, we can use that. The example in the book is just that, someone using their Shadow to kick the shit out of their boss. Thinking about it for a moment, this means we can use our Thanatos pretty much whenever we want someone to die
. Starting with our THAN at 20 means we're guaranteed to have between a +1 and a +20 bonus whenever we're trying to kill people. Or I guess we could use our SHAD for it, too. Point is: THIS IS INCREDIBLY BROKEN.
Okay, let's look back for a moment.
Black Market, buying Uranium. Difficulty 40. If we max the relevant attribute, okay, sure, that makes it something that only happens on a 20. Pimp out the skill a bit, say, for +8, and we've now got an 12-20 range for succeeding. But then let's say we're doing it because we're an incredible asshole. And our Shadow is 20. That means we're basically rolling 2d20+28 instead of 1d20+28, practically guaranteeing our success.
Since Legendary difficulties are now easily within reach as long as we can find the right motivation, let's look at what our supernatural powers can do.
Animate Toys: Human-intellect, non-sentient servitors.
Area Knowledge, Supernatural: Find working mad science devices in garbage bins.
Birth Servant: Legions of indefinite-lifespan, dog-sized servitors with near-human intellect and a grab pack of super-abilities.
Flesh Control: Ridiculous levels of shapeshifting, near-instant regeneration.
Grab Bag: Every use is another thousand bucks or some ridiculous item. Wow, all these garbage bins are full of shotguns!
Homing: Hey! Check it out! I walked into Heaven! Or Area 51!
Imaginary Powers: I'm going to spend several hours as a flying, invisible creature with 30+ Strength! Watch your heads, little people!
Masks: "Make a building look like a dinosaur." Yeah, okay. The world is fucked when we have this power.
Nihilist Rage: ANIME ANNIHILATION SPHERE.
Mortification of the Flesh: Body? What body?
Untouchable: Literal invincibility if we want it, or 1/10th damage on reflex(I'm sure it's not hard to find a psychodynamic that wants self-preservation in combat situations).
Now, the downside is that the GM can also our our psychodynamics against us, in which case he adds the PD level to his roll, and we oppose it with Willpower. He has Impulses: "You do this thing because I say it's in-character, fuck you." Slips: "You say this thing because I say it's in-character, fuck you." And Hindrances: Which are like when we help ourselves with a PD, but in this case every number over 20 is how much we're penalized
in the situation. Like our Shadow might fuck up our social interactions or our self-preservation PD's might try to prevent us from getting into danger.
A quick cheat sheet on the basic situations these can definitely help us with. And yes, you're right, the GM can use a high THAN to impulse us towards killing ourselves! Better hope you invested in Willpower
Combat & Health
Alright, so BDY is for blunt damage, BLD is for stabby/shooty/choppy damage and INCY is for everything once we run out of those two. The only reason, really, that we shouldn't just invest everything in INCY is that once we hit zero BLD we can only stay conscious for as many rounds as we have Endurance, and we're going to need some medical care otherwise. Of course, if we have something like Flesh Control we really just need a quick nap afterwards and we'll have fully regenerated. But if we DON'T, we might want to be slightly careful.
Or we can just have Revive which instantly recovers us to 1 BLD if we run out of INCY, though the farther we get knocked below zero INCY the harder it is to make the roll. Still, we'll have a high REPT or something that'll give us a ridiculous bonus on trying to stay alive.
As far as I can tell, until we actually get KO'd, we aren't actually any worse at doing stuff, even if we've got so many bullets lodged in us that we jingle when we move.
Armor actually works in an interesting fashion, each piece has an AR(Armor Rating, coverage) and a PR(Protection Rating, actual defense added). If someone hits us and they don't overshoot their minimum needed roll by more than our AR, our armor works. If they overshoot it, they've managed to hit a hole in our defenses.
Some of this art is just goofy enough to be kind of awesome
Then there's some boring shit about saving throws against disease, amnesia and drug addiction. Nothing interesting there, just more of the same: "ROLL 1D20 + THIS STAT TO NOT BECOME A CRACKHEAD."
The skills section is also kind of hilarious, despite the intro saying: "NO MONSTERS, PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR IS WHERE IT'S AT," a good few of the examples involving danger are about "monsters made out of rotting flesh" and similar horror tropes. And a tense chase is about NUMBERS, NUMBERS, ROLLS, NUMBERS, rather than storytelling.
Combat itself is just more of the same 1d20+STAT+STAT vs 1d20+STAT+STAT business, though it's further 'sperged up by each side having a DIFFICULTY they're rolling against, and the actual numbers compared to each other being how much they beat that difficulty by. Nothing's particularly noteworthy about it, aside from it being a bit nitty and gritty about ranges and other such things that frankly no one is going to give a fuck about. Though there are a few odd things, for instance if you hose down an area with gunfire you can be a deaf-blind clumsy cripple, and still hit people, because then it uses your Intelligence as your relevant stat.
Though it's vital to note that once you're gotten someone pinned with a Wrestling attack, they're NEVER getting free, because your difficulty to maintain the Wrassle is 10, and theirs to break free is 30, meaning you're essentially getting an automatic +20 on your roll compared to theirs.
In its defense, there's a relatively wide variety of actions you can use in a fight, but that's honestly something I'd appreciate more in a videogame where there's something to keep track of all the numbers for me, here it feels more like an option to get tangled up and neck-deep in paging through the book while arguing about what the difficulty for Grab(Strangle) is and someone telling you that you're mixing it up with Grab(Pain).
Their COMPLEX COMBAT EXAMPLE is someone getting attacked by a SPOOKY LITTLE GIRL IN A DRESS and then throwing her on the ground and stomping on her head. As much as I hate SPOOKY LITTLE GIRLS in horror, and as much as this is derivative, boring piss, I do feel like those kinds of movies/stories would be vastly improved if the protagonist just opened up on the little shit with a flamethrower or a submachinegun.
Also, as far as I can tell, nothing about scoring a really good hit improves your damage, so I guess damage from all weapons is static. Paging back, this means that unless someone has specifically taken some defects that lower their total health, most people will survive holding a pipe bomb while it explodes. It's also pretty much impossible to drop someone with a single shot. And odds are generally that, thanks to various supernatural shenanigans and armor, most people will soak up more. Especially seeing as how, while lots of weapons are illegal, there's apparently no raised eyebrows if you buy a full suit of SWAT armor, which basically renders you invincible to firearms unless someone's got armor-piercing ammunition.
The combat ends with TIPS FOR GM'S
Tips for GM's posted:
1. Never let the PCs get into a fair fight. Either the PCs should be ambushed, or the PCs should be doing the ambushing, or the PCs should be vastly superior to the people or things they are fighting, or the PCs should be vastly inferior to their opponents.
Translation: Either the PC's should be in fights they can't lose or fights they can't win. The remaining 8 suggestions are just bookkeeping stuff which largely can be summed up as: "Enemies never do anything clever unless it comes to running away, and take notes before your PC's get into a fight."
Next time: "A History of Unpopular Ideas"
Watch as Brian Vajra tackles these important subjects in a sensitive and informed fashion:
Unpopular Ideas posted:
Animism, Buddhism, Platonism and Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Descartian Skepticism, Sadism Marxism, Nihilism, Freudian Psychoanalysis, Surrealism, Existentialism, Jungian Psychology, Punk, Paglian Feminism and Postmodernism!
In Dark Alleys
Still nowhere near done
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 8
10:50am EST - 1/01/2016
The equipment list is RETARDEDLY comprehensive, starting out with guard dogs, capuchin monkeys and police horses. This is the sort of thing I'd expect to see in a D&D manual, not in a goddamn "urban horror game." It also seems to be one of those games you do not
want to play with an obsessive-compulsive GM as it's got lists for all sorts of nitty gritty survival things like bottled water and dust masks.
Imagine the excitement when you finally manage to Get Lost your way into Area 51 and the GM tells you all that everyone who didn't bring bottled water is now suffering from dehydration and has perception penalties because they didn't think to buy a dust mask! Of course there's also a listing for trench coats.
Condoms, giant rack-mounted servers, armors that appear to have listed their issues with the wearer suffering from heat exhaustion, birth control pills(apparently it's a misdemeanor to own these without a prescription? What? Is he trying to illustrate the gruesomeness of the Old White Men in charge or is US law really that crazy?), rules for overdosing on caffeine and roofies. There's so much stupid shit here that no one would ever need to specifically note on their damn character sheets, if need at all.
Someone who's got more experience with drug use than me could probably go through the drug list and nitpick the various effects/side-effects/withdrawal effects of these drugs. For one thing, I've never heard of anyone smoking marijuana who complained of suffering from sudden amnesia after a couple of joints...
As a side-note, remember how the Ultimate Genitals could do "3 ragged damage"? We had no comparison for that before. Now we do. A pickaxe does "3 bladed damage," that's right, that ability turns your dong into a goddamn pickaxe for murdering people with. How the fuck does this still allow anyone to have intercourse without killing their partner?
Tear gas grenades are listed under "self-defense" and along with flashbangs, apparently it's totally cool for random civilians to own and use these without registering or having permits.
But the huge shitloads of LIST PAGES aren't done here.
Suffice to say, if it's some sort of modifier to your character's physical, social or mental condition, it's in here. For a bit of racism, just to kick it off, "being raised in the ghetto" automatically gets you levels of Criminal and Combat skills. Shitloads of them, in fact(onsidering that your starting pool of skill points gives you probably around ten skill levels in total, the three skill levels in Crime from being RAISED IN THE GHETTO is pretty considerable.), it's an advantage. I mean, hell, not like growing up in something definable as a ghetto might leave you socially disadvantaged or anything! Naw, it's just the SCHOOL OF THE STREETZ. Or something. I find it kind of offensive, anyway.
Outside of the fact that being raised in a ghetto and
having prison experience lets you start off with a cool +6 skill ranks in crime and +3 in combat(which is hilariously awesome for anyone keeping note, compare with our predicted plausible amount of starting skills without any boosts), the advantages aren't that bad. But the disadvantages kind of edge into some creepy business when the very first one is having an "Abusive Partner" who basically tries to ruin everything in your life and is a match for you "in a fair fight."
On the other hand, considering that you and your party probably have a combined total of Fuckloads of supernatural abilities... I don't really see why this state of affairs would last for long. I mean, it would be an unsettling state of affairs for normal
people, yes, but when your Animist friend can just give him a heart attack or your Lost friend can dump him in Shanghai... and considering the skill difficulties of Psychotherapy it shouldn't take more than a day to deprogram your psychological dependency on him. It kind of defuses the drama a little.
Disadvantage: Alzheimer's! How the fuck is this even playable unless your campaign is silly enough that it turns him into a goofy Mister Magoo character? If played in a silly fashion, though, it could kind of be an amusing concept for a Lost. He doesn't wander into other worlds because he's stoned out of his gourd, he does it because he just sort of mentally fizzled out on where the world is. But, y'know, considering that spousal abuse and AIDS are the diadvantages right before this one, I don't think that was Brian Vajra's thoughts.
Having a kid is also a disadvantage if you need to take care of them... 'cept it gives you ten Bonus Points, enough to harvest Prison Experience and Raised in a Ghetto, and the kid itself is not just some fragile beanbag you have to protect. No, the kid has goddamn 100 skill points, as much as you! It costs 40 points for a level of an "adult" skill, admittedly, but this kind of elevates them to the level of "potentially handy sidekick" rather than "useless fleshbag." Shit, with the Masks ability they could verge on being invaluable aides for distraction and flim flam purposes. The kid also levels up rapidly, getting another 50 skill points and 4 attribute points every year... so let's see, they start out at 3 to 5 years old, this progression stops at 10... 40 for a level of an adult skill... By age 6 or 7 they could be a goddamn police sharpshooter if their parent has any sort of Combat ability.
Fuck, you could teach them the goddamn Neck Snap ability if the parent is a hitman or something, recreate the movie Leon/The Professional but even more hilarious. And they're giving you points to do this
So by the D's we reach "Disfigured." It makes you hideously ugly, something that penalizes your Seduction rolls so far as to be impossible to pull off, and make you look memorable(just wear a fucking mask)... and it gives you six bonus points. For comparison's purpose, a thing that give you 1 bonus point: a criminal record that prevents you from ever legally owning a firearm. A potentially-fatal allergy or being hunted by a serial killer is 4 bonus points. Chronic pain, epilepsy, a crazy stalker or a dissociative disorder are two points each.
For more crazy points comparisons, having a sexual fetish or herpes are 2-point disadvantages as well. Yes, because I can see so many situations in which having sores on your dick or needing to wrap it in latex to get off are as crippling as a fucking epileptic seizure or some maniac sitting outside your window, writing things on it in his own feces
Lonely (Gives 2 BP)- The PC starts the game with no friends. The PC’s family provides little or no companionship. The PC is unhappy and would like to have someone he or she could talk to or hang out with.
So either this is the most incredibly depressing game ever or these two points turn out to be a super-cheap bonus when the PC meets the rest of the fucking party
Being hunted by the Mafia, a corporation or the fucking government... is less of a penalty than being an illegal immigrant.
Lingering Abuser (Gives 1 BP)- The PC lived for several years with someone who sexually, physically or emotionally abused the PC. Now that person is no longer able to hurt the PC (either dead, in prison for a long time, or too weak to hurt anyone), but the abuser’s personality left such a deep impression in the PC that the PC feels his or her constant presence. The PC dreams about the abuser, has momentary flashbacks of the abuser being around, and hears the abuser’s voice in his or her head. What’s worse, if the PC loses control the PC may find himself or herself acting exactly as the abuser would, even speaking with the same tone of voice.
Years of traumatizing, sexual/emotional abuse! One bonus point! I mean, it's not like you're too ugly to ever get laid or anything! Ha ha! You've just got crippling nightmares about him!
Morbidly obese: 1/3rd of the points of being too ugly to fuck! Being old gives us 15 Bonus Points for every decade after 50 years of age. The stat penalties THAT give us would cost EXACTLY 13 bonus points to buy back. Someone sure did the maths on this one! Fucking idiots. Not to mention that the penalties are negligible enough that if we just blow the points on skills and super-sweet advantages instead, we come out even more on top.
At this point there is really no point to not playing a 60-year-old, scarred badass with a child sidekick, who's spent years in jail and was raised in the ghetto. The actual downsides are negligible, because "prison experience" does not actually require us to take "criminal record," unless we're playing in someone's creepy erotic roleplaying campaign then "seduction" likely won't get much use(and if it did, then any Secret Life with Masks could pretty much just pretend they didn't have the disadvantage) and I've already illustrated how having a kid is actually an ADVANTAGE in this game.
Phobia is +3 Bonus Points and, well, as we saw a couple of posts back, anyone can fucking cure that. So just have another PC take Psychotherapy and rake in the sweet, sweet bonus points.
Shit, I could really go on and on about how many things are considered minor compared to not getting laid, so just pretend that if there's anything in this game universe less bad than having AIDS, Alzheimer's or being a heroin addict, it rewards less bonus points.
Terminal Illness: The most aggressive version drops several stats by 1/4 every week, presumably we die when it hits zero. Compare to Old Age which drops several stats by 1 or 2 every decade
, and Terminal Illness is only two points more. On the other hand, this one actually does make for a pretty interesting plot hook/character motivation, hunting for a supernatural cure for what ails them. Maybe it's a Scribbler or something who knows the supernatural exists and teams up with some Lost and Survivors to try and "petition" the Reapers for an extended time. The sort of crazy faustian bargains that could result from THAT could be the core of an even more extended campaign.
And of course it ends with the predictable, final disadvantage of "Virgin." One bonus point!
I'm really not sure if this chapter is just the product of REALLY bad maths, or the product of Vajra having no fucking clue what the actual impacts of most of these disadvantages are. For someone with a BA in psychology, he sure doesn't seem to know much about how horrendously damaging some things would be to the human brain.
Next time, Chapter two! Game mechanics!
In Dark Alleys
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 7
10:34am EST - 1/01/2016
So this is the section on supernatural powers, which span the stretch from Incredibly Creepy to Incredibly Broken and with some boring ones besides. I'm really only going to bother with the ones from those two categories, though I'll mention the remainder to illustrate the stretch these abilities cover.
Note that these work exactly like normal Skills except that ranks are more expensive(10 or 20 points), they have a governing stat and we can buy more ranks in them for +4's to our rolls, hence it's roughly the same level of difficulty to make them unfailable(i.e., not difficult at all). Outside of two exceptions, WIL or AWR govern them all. So we've still yet to see what Psychodynamics actually do, besides provide a very over-complicated alignment system.
The chapter starts, predictably, at A, with some simple and unworrying abilities. Animal Form and Animate Toys, neither particularly unsettling. Though oddly enough, turning into an invisible ghost animal that can go through walls has a higher challenge level than turning into a physical wolf that is easily spotted, can't float through walls and might get shot by a farmer. We then skip through the B's until we hit Birth Servant. This is an ability that Androgynes get.
Birth Servant posted:
The PC must be in a body with a uterus and vagina to use this skill. The PC gives birth to a servant which does a pre-determined task or follows orders. Servants look like bloody fetuses which crawl around on all-fours. It takes at least 4 rounds to gestate and give birth to the servant. Duration:See below.
Easy (10): Mouse sized servant, 1 STH, 2 SPD, 1 BLD, can do 1 predetermined task, dies within 5 minutes. If it has fangs or claws it does ˝ bladed damage, choose 1 ability (text box below).
Moderate (20): Rat sized servant, 2 STH, 3 SPD, 2 BLD, can do multiple predetermined tasks, dies within 1 hour. If it has fangs or claws it does 1 bladed damage, choose 2 abilities.
Hard (30): Cat sized servant, 3 STH, 6 SPD, 1 BDY, 2 BLD, can follow verbal instructions, dies within 24 hours. If it has fangs or claws it does 1˝ bladed damage, choose 3 abilities.
Legendary (40): Dog sized servant, 4 STH, 8 SPD, 1 BDY, 3 BLD, 1 INCY, has near human intelligence, lives until killed. If it has fangs or claws it does 2 bladed damage, choose 4 abilities.
The noted abilities are stuff like claws, being amorphous or being able to fly. It takes "four rounds" to produce one of these creatures, and I'm guessing that a round is somewhere between a matter of seconds or a minute. Since this ability otherwise doesn't note that it consumes any health or exhausts an energy source, nor that you're limited to a specific number of servants... one creepy Androgyne wizard could flood half a city with murderous spider-fetuses.
After Birth Servant, we turn around and hit Blood Sigils, which is the opposite side of the spectrum, not particularly worrying, but incredibly
Blood Sigil posted:
The PC can draw arcane symbols with his or her bodily fluids then energize them with his or her will such that invisible forces will accept them as ‘commands’. When seen by those who can see the invisible, the sigils appear to glow. Duration: 1 day/success or until the body fluids are wiped off or destroyed.
Easy (10): Anyone in the area will be either more or less likely to suffer from misfortunes and medical problems.
Moderate (20): Every hour spent in a marked building there is a 1 in 20 chance of dying of heart attack or stroke -or- anyone staying in a marked building heals 1 BLD and 1 BDY per day.
Hard (30): Mark someone for scrutiny by the powers from- beyond -or- cause a natural disaster to ravage a city -or- create a portal to ‘the citadel,’ an alien world inhabited by dangerous monsters.
Alright, so, Moderate basically turns any goddamn building into a fucking DEATH ZONE. Drawing these sigils appears to take no specified time. They can last for up to several days. So even assuming we don't crunk up to pulling off Hard sigils that smite the entire fucking city with tornadoes like we're playing Sim City and spamming the "Disaster" button, we can still murder dozens of people if we find some sort of relatively populated building(like an office building, school or hospital) and scrawl one of these in the damn basement. Or hell, even on the outside should work. And anyone who sees it who ISN'T supernaturally empowered probably just thinks it's some weird-ass graffiti scrawled by a hobo.
In fact since it doesn't specify that the drawer is excepted, it's probably a good idea to draw it on the outside
to avoid that 5% chance of having an instant heart-attack.
The next ability is Change Gender and really wouldn't be that strange if not for the Legendary ability, which gets its own sidebar...
Change Gender posted:
The PC can change his or her sexual anatomy and appearance. Gives +10 to the roll if the PC is experiencing a strong orgasm. Duration: Permanent.
Moderate (20): Change gender, minimal change of appearance (PC will look like a ‘male version’ or ‘female version’ of hir last body).
Hard (30): Change gender and appearance (change ethnicity, build, hair color, features, etc.).
Legendary (40)- Change into an androgynous being with no genitals, multiple genitals or inhuman genitals.
ULTIMATE GENITALS posted:
With a legendary Change Gender roll, the PC can have genitals that are not on any natural being on the planet. The PC’s genitals can have any form and be made out of tissues with all the powers of any other part of the human body. It would not be impossible, for instance, to create genitals with working eyes.
The most popular configuration, often called ‘the flower and the snake,’ allows the owner to engage in any sexual activity a male or female could, as well as to:
-Reach out up to 7 ft. (2 m.) to grab and manipulate objects with 25 STH.
-Pierce objects with a probe doing 3 bladed damage (pierces armor as 6).
-Grab onto flesh with retractable barbed teeth (do negligible damage unless the flesh is ripped away, which does 3 ragged damage) and reel the flesh in at 25 STH.
-Feel objects with extreme sensitivity (+20 to touch based AWR rolls).
-Chew up (and later spit out) wood, flesh, plastic or softer types of stone and metal. Does 2 ragged damage per round.
I think this particular quote really requires no fucking commentary at all. Jesus, Brian Vajra, why would you ever come up with this?
Another broken power is "Command Misfortune," which the Animists get, because OF COURSE the weird foreigners are focused around talking to animals and cursing people! You basically scream at a local spirit to harass someone, and most of the time it'll just give them a nosebleed or make them cough for a few minutes or something similar... but there's a random chance they'll just straight-up have a fucking stroke or heart attack.
It's followed up by "kill a motherfucker straight-up in cold blood," which Survivors get. As long as they get the ability to See Reapers... they can also buy the ability to command
Reapers, and the 20-difficulty one is "command a reaper to collect a specific soul." We seem to be swerving rapidly into the Kult territory of "a lot of these powers are only marginally useful, the remainder will let any player with half a brain kill everything, even if he isn't trying to min/max."
I mean, shit, it doesn't even take a fucking ritual or any time to command a godddamn soul-collector, apparently. It's difficulty 10 to send them to a specific place, and 30 to tell them to ignore a specific soul. So you can pretty much just order them all to fuck off if you want a group of people to be safe.
Flesh Control lets you shapeshift and min/max your physiology. Interestingly enough there are no downsides to fucking it up, you won't accidentally give yourself sickle-cell anemia. And it requires no knowledge of medicine, biology or anything else to know how to improve your body. Since there's no limit to how often you can do this, or any requirements to doing it(except that the changes require nutrients, so I guess you can't do it while dieting), you can just spam rolls over and over until you succeed and get some pretty solid boosts to your physical stats(for every level we have, Strength, Endurance and Speed can be increased by +4. Considering that the max natural level is 20, that's actually a pretty respectable boost). A single Hard check also allows us to heal fast enough that we regrow lost limbs overnight.
Really overwhelming me with my character's potential fragility here.
We then hit the three signature powers of the Lost, which are all three hilarious and incredibly breakable. Behold.
Get Lost! posted:
The PC can dislodge himself or herself from space and time by becoming lost. The state lasts only as long as the PC doesn’t know where he or she is. Being intoxicated gives +10 to skill rolls. Anyone following the PC (keeping the PC in sight) will become lost and will end up wherever the PC ends up. Duration: Until Stopped.
Easy (10): Get lost after walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood for an hour.
Moderate (20): Get lost inside a large office building.
Hard (30): Run around a corner and get instantly lost.
So, since we can booze up to boost, just having a high Willpower means we can basically sprint around corners and jump around in places without a care.
Prerequisite: Get Lost (1). While in a lost state (see Get Lost), the PC can think about where he or she wants to go and will end up there more-or less instantly. Duration: Permanent.
Easy (10): End up in the type of neighborhood (but not specifically the location or city) the PC wants.
Moderate (20): End up in a specific place the PC has been to before.
Hard (30): End up where a specific item or person the PC has seen before is currently located.
Legendary (40): End up in a place the PC has never been to but which has been described to the PC (including places outside this reality).
Now, okay, firstly we can just warp around without abandon, especially if we've had a drink or just have a decent Willpower or a few ranks in Homing and Get Lost. But the shenanigans are already kicking in: Any place that has a corner to walk around allows us to use this, so we can basically easily warp into stores we've been in during the day, gank shit, and warp out again. Our finances are now resolved, as are any needs for weaponry. Oh and we can probably win just about any fights we get in.
If we want to REALLY be a dick, though, we get enemies chasing us, pop into some really dangerous location(or just somewhere quite far away), shake them, and then pop out again alone, leaving them to be incredibly miserable somewhere they can't hurt us.
There's no range limitation at all, so just, say, take a holiday in China or something, and you've got a safe spot to dump people, friends, items and yourself. Hell, manage the Hard difficulty and you just need to have seen a bad guy once, and you can pop into his home at night and set his bed on fire or cut his throat.
But there's a third signature power for the Lost.
Grab Bag posted:
Prerequisite: Get Lost (2). If there is a container and the PC has no idea what’s in the container, the PC can reach in and pull out whatever he or she wants, given that the item is something that actually exists inside a container of this type somewhere in the world. The difficulty is based on the rarity of the item. When the PC uses this skill to get an item, that item disappears out of a container somewhere in the world. The PC can conceivably use this skill on his or her own pockets, but only if the PC is so out of it that he or she has no idea what might be in those pockets (e.g. is coming off of a week-long drinking binge). Duration: Permanent.
Easy (10)- Pull $5 or a plastic comb out of a pocket.
Moderate (20): Pull $50 or a pocket knife out of a pocket.
Hard (30): Pull $200 or a loaded pistol out of a pocket. -or- Make an object disappear by putting it in a pocket.
Legendary (40): Pull $1,000 or a picture of another PC’s mother out of a pocket.
So all this really requires is that we have some friends with pockets. Because we have no idea what they might have in their pockets, and conceivably somewhere in the world, someone has a gun in their pocket. Presto, whammo, infinite armory! And shitloads of cash besides.
On this page we also get told that Wonderlanders basically get to turn invisible, get +40 Strength, fly or a bunch of other superhero-style tricks. It's still as easy to activate as the other powers, but ADDITIONALLY they get up to a +15 bonus by meditating on it beforehand. So if they meditate/concentration for an hour, they can relatively easily have these powers for an hour or so. Either that or they can just activate them round to round, see...
The shortest duration possible is A Round. Activating the power only takes more than a round if the PC wants to concentrate on it beforehand for a bonus. Hence, there's really nothing stopping a character focusing up to turn Invisible for an hour and then using his Unarmed: Assassin neck snap to kill everyone in a ten-block radius because they can't see him coming, boosting it up with the +Strength power just before every neck snap to ensure that he succeeds.
I guess that would be horrible to WITNESS, heads popping off like champagne corks left and right, as some giggling invisible maniac twists their skulls off, but not particularly horrifying to play as.
Most of the other powers I'm skipping are just generic "HAVE VISIONS!" abilities or "DREAM TRAVEL," though one of two are somewhat cool, like "Masks," which allows you to dress up something like something else, and everything will see it as what it is dressed up like. For instance, put a Hulk mask on someone and everyone will see him as the Hulk. Put a stovepipe hat on a tree and everyone will see it as Abraham Lincoln.
It's not overpowered, it's handy and it could provide for some hilarious shenanigans. Someone needs to roll 1d20+AWR and hit 40+ to see through this so, yeah, if you get a good idea with this ability, mechanics aren't stopping you from trolling the world.
It is immediately followed by "Mortification of the Flesh," the signature ability for the Cannibals and oddly enough also available to Survivors. It's what lets you allow to maintain a "phantom" version of a body part, and it has a difficulty of 30, with a -10 penalty if used after removal, none if used during, and you can get up to a +10 bonus by chanting/meditating beforehand for long enough.
Every part we're already missing increases the difficulty by 5, though, so we can't just end up as a floating, ghostly torso unless we really dump all our skill points into this and have some crazy Willpower besides.
Obviously we can remove our arms and legs, and the resulting limbs act as though they have maximum human, or superhuman, strength and speed. Removed eyes give us Predator Vision Modes, and lacking ears allows us to understand all languages. As a bonus, missing an eye, yet still seeing with that eye, isn't really something that'll blow our cover, considering that people will just assume we're using our normal eye.
And there are a bunch more internal
things we can remove without anyone being the wiser. For instance our brain, which hoses us down with sweet +5's to Intelligence, Agility and Awareness, so there's really no reason not to sit around chanting for ten hours while someone cracks our skull open and yanks out our gray matter as the first damn action of the game. Sure, we'll have to invest in 20 Willpower to make sure it succeeds(otherwise, yeah, we're KINDA FUCKED), but the total of +15 to our stats rather makes up for that. Removing the heart gives us a total of +15 more health points(+5 Blood, +10 Incapacitate), since we start with 12 total, THAT'S PRETTY HUGE.
With those being the two ones that would kill us very instantly if we failed, those should probably be taken first by any aspiring Cannibal, both for the sweet bonuses and because with the mounting difficulties, they're ones we really do not want to fuck up. Phantom Lungs would be another +11 health levels(+4 Blood, +7 Incapacitate), plus no need to breathe, phantom stomach/intestines removes our need to eat and if we remove our tongue we become a powerful telepath that can scream people psychically into submission.
Oh and really, with the exception of using our telepathy, no one is ever going to tell that we have these changes unless we go to the doctor
, and since they make us largely invincible, there's no reason that would ever happen. Both Cannibals and Survivors also get to pick Flesh Control, so at least numerically, both are just kind of broken compared to the others. Especially since neither are any of the Secret Lives that require you to kick out skill points in order to have a decent life.
Nihilist Rage is the following ability and it kind of amuses me. Remember how, in Otherverse: America, Lifers could hate/disbelieve evolution so hardcore that it would hurt mutants more? Cannibals and Scribblers get to expand this to a point where it affects all of existence.
Nihilist Rage! posted:
The PC creates an aura of disbelief of the physical world that causes all inanimate objects to crumble, break, fray or corrode. Duration: Permanent.
Easy (10): Things within 7 ft. (2 m.) become much easier to break (difficulty for STH feat or amount of damage required to break is halved). PR of armor is halved. Anything which degrades over time does so twice as fast.
Moderate (20): Everything within 15 ft. (5 m.) cracks, corrodes, sours or frays. Anything bearing weight (e.g. a chair someone is sitting in, the tires of a car) breaks or bursts. Parts of the room the PC is in may collapse. Nearly anything can be broken or destroyed with bare hands. Armor is ineffective. Machines and electronics don’t work.
Hard (30): Everything within 30 ft. (10 m.) cracks, melts, twists, blackens and corrodes as if exposed to a fire or strong acid. Sinkholes appear in the ground, clothes fall apart, buildings collapse. Weapons are too brittle to do any damage.
Legendary (40): Everything within 60 ft. (20 m.) disappears, leaving a semi-spherical crater. The edges of the crater are black as if there had been a great explosion. Anyone in the area is dumped into another plane of existence.
So let's assume we haven't min/maxed like crazy. This ability requires no warm-up, no rituals, nothing. And there are no obvious rituals or special effects marking us as the source. We might get pin-pointed as the center of the decay, but since every thing within 5 meters of us just started collapsing(what if we're standing next to a building? Will its walls give way?), people are probably going to be too busy to do anything.
Oh and since "nearly anything can be broken or destroyed with bare hands," we can use this to tunnel through walls or punch tanks apart, assuming that their own machinery doesn't rattle apart their now-fragile forms.
Also note the Legendary ability. Is it just me or is this starting to seem kind of anime?
Oh and Untouchable, the ability that turns Scribblers, the nerds, into complete combat monsters. See, basically it lets you close your eyes and phase out of reality, taking between half(difficulty 10) and none(difficulty 40) damage. Normally it requires you to concentrate, but you can use it reflexively in combat at a -10 penalty to your roll. Even then, if we've got good Willpower(which we probably have, since anything supernatural we do likely relies on it, no matter our Secret Life), we're pretty much guaranteed to meet the half-damage(10) and have good odds of getting to quarter-damage(20). If we know something is coming, 1/10th damage(30) isn't impossible either, and hell, at that point we can just close our eyes, put on some rollerskates and let our allies use us as a mobile shield, shoving us ahead of them, secure in the knowledge that we're basically immortal. Scribblers also get Mortification of the Flesh, so a couple of quick rituals to yank out our heart and lungs, and we've got hilarious amounts of health besides. And shit, we don't even know what body armor is going to do to us yet.
But we're already looking at 300% normal max health and 1/4 damage from all sources, aside from wacky magical/spiritual shit.
So, really, while a bunch of these powers SOUND interesting? Almost none of them seem like they fit in a goddamn horror game. Either it puts the horror powers in the hands of the PC's(Blood Sigil) or it gets closer to superhero stuff(Flesh Control, Mortification of the Flehs, Untouchable). There's no danger to using any of them(even the Animist power that opens you up to spirit possession says that your guardian spirit instantly boots out any malevolent spirits if they try to come close), unless you save replacing your brain/heart/lungs for last as a Cannibal and fuck up the roll.
Really, the impression I have of this game so far is that it would likely work far better
if the PC's did not have Secret Lives, but instead the SL's were relegated to villains and NPC's as the supernatural shit that the PC's fight. I mean, imagine being up against a Cannibal society, never knowing if some guy in a wheelchair is about to shiv you with an invisible hand or just roll past. A group of the Lost could basically ruin your life by being able to go anywhere you are, or sending you off to far-off places, making you miss work, appointments, etc. Professionals could hunt you for knowing too much, Survivors could mark you as a sacrifice to the Reapers...
These are really all good potential VILLAINS, but kind of shit potential heroes in a horror
game, and their powers really do not change that at all, only emphasizes it.
In Dark Alleys
Day Jobs, Skills
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 6
10:22am EST - 1/01/2016
Day Jobs are, predictably, what we're doing while we're not out doing our Secret Life thing, unless we're a Professional in which case the two are basically the same. Some give us Bonus Points(because they suck), others cost us Bonus Points(for being awesome), and some do neither. Of course we still have yet to know how many Bonus Points we start with(if any) or what else they can be spent on. The book helpfully tells us that we can learn more about them on page 111. We're currently on page 58.
The Day Job section also doesn't get any introductory art, so let's pretend we're in a better setting and that one of the optional Day Jobs is Pirate Space Robot.
Most of the jobs have both perks and drawbacks, even the better ones. Sometimes they're minor, for instance, Alternative Health's perk is that we meet a lot of people(which could be handy for, say, an Outcast or Survivor keeping an eye out for shit going down). While the Drawback is that on account of us being unconventional, we have no pull or authority within the legit medicine establishment.
"Boring Customer Service Job" has the disadvantage "has to deal with lots of crazy assholes," factory workers effectively have a lower Endurance because they're exhausted at the end of every work day, that sort of thing.
Interestingly enough, while these Jobs set our skill costs(apparently, skills are still a chapter away, so not sure what these numbers actually MEAN...), none of them have any skill requirements
. As far as I can tell, we can be a Medical Professional with Int 1, or a firefighter(Dangerous Field Job) with rock-bottom physical stats.
It's not that fascinating a chapter, but there are some interesting bits.
From Business Manager:
+4 BP for Useful Inventory (PC makes or carries something that may be useful in an adventure, e.g. reproduction medieval armor, occult books, bondage gear)
I like how swords, De Vermiis Mysteriis and gimp suits are rated as being equally useful for an adventuring party in this setting. Only a few of the other optional bonuses for professions are very useful or interesting, though, for instance, an IT tech might be maintaining some FBI databases or something, giving him tangential access to information that way.
Numbers-wise, starting with a shop full of leatherware, having your own car, being a member of the Mafia and having access to the FBI's databases is rated as being of equal cost. Some of these seem a bit handier than the others.
Homemaker is an optional job, with disadvantages for either having a spouse that thinks you should be barefoot-and-pregnant, or having kids that need taking care of. Both of those make for excellent quest hook-ish things, I'd note. Having to take care of things without disturbing your family life, or reapers hounding your car while driving the kids to school.
Some of these things, though, just seem like there's no way to use them in the game. Like being the District Attorney or a police chief. I mean, these are roles that NPC's could fill, but not PC's. They're so high-profile that having any sort of Secret Life outside of a Professional would border on the totally impossible. Though it does conjure up the image of a "loose cannon" cop Lost who gets drunk and pops up in criminal lairs with a ridiculous handcannon, or booze-walks the SWAT team past hostage-taker cordons to attack them from behind.
Or for that instance, why are there even rules for being a Religious Professional who becomes a bishop? I mean, yeah, sure, a priest who's a Survivor or something could be fucking interesting, and it's basically where Cannibals would start out, I suppose. But which of these Secret Lives would at all work with being a goddamn bishop?
Being a social worker and a prostitute are of the same cost level, despite it being noted that prostitutes are regularly victims of hate and violence, and the worst it says for social workers is "the work is stressful and tiring." Sure seems a lot less bad than the risk of being stabbed by some maniac because he wants to make a vest out of vaginas.
But that's really it, I'm sure that there are some minor things I might've missed, like maybe some of the skill costs are completely irrational, but right now we just don't know enough to make sense of it. But we might soon! Because here's the Skills section.
Again no art for this section. Lame-sauce.
But at any rate, we have 100 skill points to spread between some skills here. Basically all skills are split into the categories ACAD(Academic), ATHL(Athletic), CMBT(Combat), CRTV (Creative), CRIM (Criminal), TECH (High Tech), INVS (Investigation/Espionage), LABR (Labor), MEDI (Medical), PEOP (People) and TRAD (Traditional).
Our profession determines what the skills in each category costs.
For instance, let us say that our obese Hispanic astronaut is a FORMER astronaut. He/she is an Outcast who saw the terrible truth behind the Moon Landings and, while drowning his/her panic in Twix bars, got out of the business and became a Paranormal Professional.
This instantly eats up 10 of our skill points to learn Act Normal(otherwise we'd have to be a homeless guy, retired or homemaker, I guess the kids don't mind their mom clawing at their faces to get the bugs out). If we wanted a better job, we'd have to burn 20 or 30 points on it.
Being a Paranormal Professional also takes up 4 Bonus Points, but we'll burn that bridge made out of numbers once we get to it. This leaves our skills costing the following:
Skill Costs: ACAD 5, ATHL 7, CMBT 15, CRTV 5, CRIM 12, TECH 7, INVS 10, LABR 6, MEDI 7, PEOP 6, TRAD 7
Fighting is going to be ridiculously expensive to learn, criminal stuff as well, and oddly enough, for someone whose job is likely going to involve a lot of research and investigation
, INVS is our third-most expensive category. Flipping ahead to page 136, it seems that just BUYING a skill only means we can use it at all, it takes another purchase(another level) to get any bonuses, in this case +4 per level above the first.
I recall the basic mechanics and head back to page 3 to confirm them.
"All mechanics are based on a simple system: The sum of attribute + skill + modifier(s) + 1d20 must be equal to or higher than the difficulty of the proposed action."
It's FAR easier and cheaper to have 20 in an attribute, than it is to have a rank of 6 in a skill, meaning that attributes matter way more and, I assume, cover multiple skills to boot. Going ahead one page confirms this. So unless later pages tell us that the original, simple description of the basic mechanics was just a lie, we don't really NEED much more than that first rank in a skill.
Seems like difficulty checks tend to come in increments of 10, too. 10, 20, 30 for Easy, Moderate, Hard. So from chargen we can essentially be sure of beating every Moderate check and have a 50% chance of hitting Hard checks, and that's completely without skills.
The Hard example for Business(An Academic skill) is "Hard (30): Borrow money to buy a shipment of 100,000 pens from China then sell them to an American company at a 100% markup."
So with 20 Intelligence(the governing stat) and a bit of skill in this, we can basically double our money regularly if our GM is a chump and just goes straight by what it says in the book. A lot of these skill examples are AMAZINGLY useless, though. As in, something that could never conceivably come up in an urban horror game.
Law, International: "Hard (30): Prepare a brief, on behalf of one country, seeking reparations from another country for war crimes." Maybe if reapers were behind that genocide, otherwise... not really seeing it.
Science: Psychology (INL)- This is knowledge of the theories and research concerning the workings of human and animal minds.
Easy (10): List some of the consequences of not enough dopamine.
Moderate (20): List Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Hard (30): Name the likelihood of each attachment style.
I like how the trivia that is Maslow's Hierarchy is more complicated to understand/remember than neurochemical voodoo. Or at least, to me, the outsider of the subject who knows about Maslow's but couldn't tell you shit about dopamine to save my life, it just seems a bit poorly conceived.
Bicycle (AGY)- This is training on various terrain with racing and mountain bikes. Gives the following maneuvers (with +4 for each level after the first, see Vehicle Skills, p.137).
Jump (20): Jump the bike over holes or obstacles.
Sharp Turn (20): By leaning over almost to the point of touching the ground, the PC can make tight turns.
Skidding Turn (30): By skidding the rear tire, the PC can make incredibly fast and tight turns.
Stairs (20): Go up or down stairs or similar impediments.
Swerve (20): The vehicular equivalent of a dodge.
Law: Criminal (INL)- Prerequisite: Law: Basic (1). This is knowledge of prosecuting or defending those who have been accused of crimes.
Easy (10): List the elements of murder.
Moderate (20): Figure out whether the ‘deal’ the district attorney is offering a criminal defendant is a good deal or not.
Hard (30): Get the evidence obtained from a not-quite-legal police search thrown out.
So according to In Dark Alleys, pulling a "tight turn" on a bicycle is barely any more difficult than, or costly to learn, than enough law to defend and counsel people effectively in court.
This also seems to have taken Kult's lead on the Fist of the North Star thing. Check this out.
Assassin: Unarmed (Combat)- Techniques for quick and efficient unarmed killing of a surprised opponent. Gives the following maneuvers with hands and feet:
+4 to Grab (Strangulation)
+0 to Special Action: Neck Breaking (Requires a hold on the victim’s head. If successful, instant paralysis and death. STH + AGY +1d20 vs. 40)
+4 to Stomp
+0 to Knockdown
Now, starting with 20 in Strength and Agility is relatively trivial, though it might require us making our character a drooling retard, so let's just say we have 15 in each, if we're #47 we have to be pretty physically fit anyway. Just there, we've got 1d20+30 vs. 40, that's a 50% chance to instamurder someone. But for every rank we have in this over the first, we get a +4. Assuming we've got a class that doesn't have prohibitive casts on CMBT skills, we can pretty much guarantee an instant kill on anything with a head that we can sneak up on.
And this is what we can do well before even reading the combat rules to break its numbers, contemplate supernatural powers or anything else. Outside of this, the CMBT skills are just lising every damn kind of weaponry you can learn, from Anti-tank rockets to kung fu.
The CRIM skills kick us into game-breaking with the first column as it lists its first (40), or "legendary"-level difficulty.
Black Market (CHM)- This is knowledge of where and how to purchase illegal goods and services, how to bribe officials, where or how to sell illegal goods and services and how to determine the value of black market goods and services. The PC is at -10 in any other than the PC’s home area and -20 in other countries. This skill also allows the PC to start play with illegal items (see p.88).
Easy (10): Buy an infraction level item (e.g. a dime bag of marijuana) or pay for a blowjob.
Moderate (20): Buy a misdemeanor level item (e.g. a switchblade) or bribe a cop to forget about a speeding ticket.
Hard (30): Buy a felony level item (e.g. a machine gun) or hire an assassin.
Legendary (40): Buy a capital level item (e.g. weapons-grade plutonium) or hire mercenaries to overthrow a government.
Sadly we don't get to add together two stats for this one, so we'll have to actually invest in the skill itself. But even so, it would be trivial to have the 20 Charisma to give us a shot at making this work at all, and if we choose to start as a gang boss or something, we could relatively easily pump skill points into this and start off making nukes in our basement.
Knowing how to deal with being high without being useless(Drug Resistance) is also a Criminal skill, I guess that in the world of IDA you don't smoke up unless you've got a felony record.
Remember the "Law" skill that would basically let us get defendants out of court thanks to procedural infractions? It's got LITERALLY the same costs and difficulties as "Card Counting," a skill for getting a bonus to playing Poker and Blackjack. I mean. Really? Not to impugn poker players, but REALLY?
HIGH TECH posted:
Anonymity (INL)- This is knowledge of how to access the internet while concealing the source of the access. This is typically done through anonymous re-sender servers operated by privacy advocates.
Easy (10): Send an anonymous email for a $5 fee.
Moderate (20): Make an anonymous VOIP phone call for $1/minute.
Hard (30): Chat anonymously, live and for free.
Invest your points correctly and you can either buy machineguns on the black market or chat anonymously online!
These tough choices, man!
Data Pirating (INL)- Prerequisite: Research: Internet (2).
This is knowledge of how to obtain free software, music, even movies and television files via the various file sharing networks and piracy rings on the internet. Downloading the data can take seconds or days depending on the size of the file and amount of success. A PC with this skill starts with $2,000 in pirated data per skill level, anything else must be pirated during gameplay. The skill also includes knowledge of how to crack the copy protection or digital rights management schemes meant to protect data from being pirated.
Easy (10): Find an mp3 of a rare track from an out-of-print album by a popular country singer.
Moderate (20): Find a camcorder-taped copy of a major motion picture that just came out.
Hard (30): Find and crack a major A/V editing software suite weeks before it goes on sale.
Even accounting for the fact that IDA came out in 2006, this is pretty hard to excuse. Note the prereq., note that "criminal law" has one less rank of prereq costs. It's literally costlier to know how to find a shitty, handi-cam movie online than it is to know how to be a lawyer in fucking court. My God.
This whole section is just a mess of badly conceived numbers. Investigation for some reason houses a "WMD's" skill, a Brainwashing skill and a Torture skill. The latter two will, again, if you min/max, basically allow you to crack anyone's will easily. They get to oppose you with their Willpower, and only that, no beneficial skills, so you're pretty much guaranteed to have the upper hand on them if you invested in the skill at all. And WMD's I guess is there so you know what to do with the fucking weapons-grade plutonium you've got in your garage.
Psychotherapy (CHM)- This is training in helping people overcome psychological problems and traumas using various forms of therapy (talk therapy encourages people to discover their own feelings and mental processes; cognitive therapy teaches people to avoid illogical or harmful thoughts; role-playing therapy helps people prepare to deal with real-life situations; exposure therapy helps people deal with fears by slow exposure to the source of the fears).
Easy (10): Help a patient overcome a mild phobia.
Moderate (20): Help a patient deal with the psychological effects of a recent severe trauma.
Hard (30): Help a patient overcome an ego dystonic sexual fetish.
Legendary (40): Help a patient discover that he or she is paranoid and delusional.
Note that psychotherapy has no theoretical prerequisites at all, and depends entirely
on your Charisma and nothing else. Your intellect is irrelevant, your psyche is irrelevant, your willpower doesn't matter, nothing but how charming you are. This skill is also filed under People skills, alongside stuff like Seduction.
Also, hey, check it out. Even if you have a Charisma of 0(impossible) and only first-grade training in psychotherapy, it's 50-50 odds to rid someone of a phobia! Man, check all those suckers actually STUDYING this shit. Curing people is EASY AS BALLS. I mean, shit, if we actually had the appropriate stat and skill points we could heal everyone's brains easily.
...hang on, wasn't this game supposed to be about craziness and psychological horror? Hm.
Surgery's got much the same difficulty levels. Fixing someone who's been stabbed through the fucking heart
is pretty much guaranteed to succeed if we have just basic levels of Surgery and an above-average Intelligence. How are there even any Survivors in this setting? They just need to get near an even vaguely-competent doctor and they'll be healed.
After all the other categories, though, there's the Traditional, or TRAD category of skills that all Day Jobs have an easy time learning, relatively speaking. Even hobos can be skilled acupuncturists! Similarly, tracking, wilderness survival and building a storm shelter out of discarded tin cans. And I do mean every Day Job. While it's cheapest for Homeless, Retired and Alternative Health Day Jobs(5 per skill or skill rank), it's only 7 for someone who's working in "Trendy Customer Service," Politician or Religious Professional.
I guess even the bishops have to blow off some steam by hunting The Most Dangerous Game.
This section is just an utter fucking mess.
At least that's it for the skills. I was going to do the Supernatural Skills, but this post is already pretty bloated, so I'll save that for tomorrow or something. There is some crazy shit over there.
Next post! ULTIMATE GENITALS
! (yes, that is a real sidebar title)
In Dark Alleys
We'll get back to the actual rules any week now...
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 5
10:12am EST - 1/01/2016
Slow start to the semester, so I may as well hammer down a few more SECRET LIVES.
Basically Professionals are cops or FBI agents or mafia guys(????) or VATICAN SECURITY or corporate security or SOMETHING of that order. They do their job, then one day they end up FIGHTING THE SUPERNATURAL and, for some reason, both kill a ghost(or whatever) and don't consider this big enough news to tell the press that HOLY SHIT GUYS, THE UNDEAD ARE REAL!
This gets them a raise and an invitation to join an Organization, always a Fraternal Lodge(yes, like the Freemasons) which is ruled by OLD WHITE MEN who are now suddenly their pals. As they rise through the lodge, they are one day invited to join the SECRET SUB-LODGE, which is all about defending society from the supernatural badthings.
Of course you can also elect to not join a lodge in which case you're still a cop who shoots ghosts, you just never get to learn why
nor get any supernatural training.
What You Know posted:
-One type of threat is humans who have gained paranormal skills or powers.
-Some of these humans are trying to destroy society (or perhaps even destroy reality itself).
-Some of these humans are in dangerous occult groups that meet in or near bars, accident survivor support meetings, gay/lesbian bookstores, libraries, immigrant communities and abandoned buildings.
-Other humans don’t have control over their powers and go around causing problems unintentionally.
-Sometimes inanimate objects can be the source of paranormal events. The PC has been encouraged to give these objects to the Order for safekeeping.
-Sometimes places are the source of paranormal events. If informed, the Order can pull strings and make sure these places lie abandoned and unused.
-Some of society’s most powerful and important people have a relationship with the Order.
So, to summarize. These guys are oMage's Technocracy, everyone
but Faustians who actually work with their Dances seems to have a decent idea of what they actually are, and Freemasons control the world.
There's also a huge sidebar about the Freemasons and similar/related lodges, but none of it seems crazy and, in fact, it seems pretty similar to what you could find if you just looked them up on Wikipedia. On the upside, hey, it's not crazy. On the downside, hey, it's kind of uninspired.
Also as a side-note, some of them have other supernatural humans as contacts despite this technically being the direct opposite of their job description.
Many who would become Scribblers were already questioning the basic principles of modern philosophy and religion long before they ever heard from another Scribbler. Many were philosophy students who finally found a philosopher who made sense, only to find that nobody considered this philosopher anything other than a joke. The initiate’s favorite philosopher was studied only because it was interesting that someone who seemed so smart could be so wrong.
At some point those who would become Scribblers came into contact with some phrase, most often scrawled on a wall or on a piece of paper hidden in a library book. The phrase said exactly what the initiate had been thinking for years yet
never knew anyone else believed in. It might have said that what we can see and touch is only a tiny part of what there is to reality. Or it might have said that human consciousness can’t have been created in or designed to live in the mundane realm. The clear disdain for orthodox beliefs the graffiti showed was as important to the initiate as any theories the graffiti put forth.
After that the initiate kept his or her eyes peeled for more messages and learned where to find them. Although they could pop up anywhere the writers had the audacity to put them, they were most dense in run-down, seldom or neverused locations where nobody would ever bother to clean up graffiti. The initiate may have discovered, for instance, a ratty old bathroom stall in a dive bar where the walls were coated with scribbling in dozens of hands. For many initiates the discovery of their first ‘bulletin-board’ was the most ecstatic moment of their lives. Sitting for hours, they read not only statements of unorthodox beliefs but also debates, discussions, references to books, references to other bulletinboards, references to places to find supernatural phenomena, reports of supernatural experiences and directions for occult experiments. Many of these experiments included meditating on the falseness of the material world.
Yet another Secret Life who spends most of their time hanging out in public mens' rooms! Badumpsch. Their thing is that they found a supernatural ritual that someone spray-painted on a wall, or painted on a bathroom stall, and instantly took it as gospel and went home to try it. I guess being a gullible idiot is another path to supernatural power.
Their main activities are either said scribbling to contact other scribblers, or scribbling little creepy notes and graffiti to SHOCK THE MUNDANES and make them realize what the world is really like, maaaaaaaan. From their perspective, these guys are basically stuck in the Kult universe: A hostile shithole designed to hide the truth from us, everyone's out to get us, and the authorities have secret armies to stomp our faces with if we get too close to THE TRUTH.
For some reason one of their powers includes learning how to COMMAND ANIMALS and some of them become totally-mean terrorists "destroying the foundations of power." BUT, how is this a "Dark Side" to them? I mean, if The Man really is
suppressing the truth and trapping us in a twisted society trying to hide that having weird genitals is humanity's real state, or whatever, wouldn't this be just the logical, and good, thing to do? Fucked if I know.
Their party role seems to be "that geek with all the books who researches shit."
Survivors died, making them fit their name pretty badly. Then, while their bodies were technically dead, they saw the reapers(no, not the Mass Effect ones, no, not the generic scythe guys either, just weird blue blobs) collecting souls and whigged out. Or at least as much as you can whig out while being discorporated. And willed their bodies to take them back, their hearts to start beating again, and dodged the reaper's, metaphorical, scythe by a hair's breadth.
Now that they know what happens to the dead, they are so utterly shit-scared of it that their terror gives them supernatural powers of regeneration and recovery, even curing prior disabilities. It specifically includes mental retardation as one of the things that get fixed. No word on whether it also fixes insanities.
They also got stuck being able to see the reapers permanently. Turns out these reaper guys hang around where bad shit is about to go down(but never at sudden, randomly violent incidents), and the Survivors often run around trying to get people to safety when they see reapers congregating. Of course, the reapers have apparently not taken lightly to this and have started trying to murder Survivors through violent accidents and the like, blowing up their gas stove or whatever, getting their house to burn down around them while they sleep. In fact most Survivors have heard stories of fellow Survivors being killed in their sleep and are now refusing to sleep at all, as far as possible.
Others become death cultists, deciding that killing people for the reapers to harvest will get them off their backs. That they somehow have to "pay off" their own survival. If this was actually the truth, it would be kind of interesting, balancing morals with ensuring your own survival.
And finally we only have one secret life left.
At a young age, Wonderlanders became entranced in a fantasy world of their own creation. Each had an “adult friend” (usually a relative or friend of the family) that took a special interest in them and helped them escape into the fantasy world. The help may have included giving them a place to play alone and giving them toys or books. Some adult friends invited their young Wonderlander to come stay with them until some family crisis resolved itself. Most importantly, the adult friend told stories to the young initiates based on their own fantasy worlds.
Am I the only one who feels like this sounds just a slight bit creepy? But anyway, after this, the Wonderlanders forget all about this stuff and grow up. Then ONE DAY, when they're FEELING DOWN, they remember it! Weird hobos and living toys are suggested as some of the means of reminding them. Alternately...
For other Wonderlanders it was a message they received or evidence that they found that suggested that their adult friend had been psychologically manipulating or experimenting on them. The Wonderlanders found out that their adult friends had unusual interest in their playlands and knew things about them that the young Wonderlanders had never told anyone. Parts of the messages were, for some Wonderlanders, instructions from the adult friend telling them how the power of the Playland could be harvested in time of need.
Doing more research, Wonderlanders discovered that the same thing had been done to other children, perhaps even by the same adult friend.
Which doesn't really defuse the creepiness of the first quote.
Also apparently Playland isn't a nice place. Seems like a lot of Wonderlanders end up stuck tracking down escaped Playland creatures causing trouble for people, or busting into Playland and dealing with shit there which causes trouble in the real world some other way. Their abilities related to Playland are very vaguely worded in this section and we'll have to puzzle about the exact stuff later once we get to the actual powers part of the rules, but for now it just says that stuff can move between the real world and Playland, Playland has aggressive, malevolent and non-intelligent predators, as well as semi-intelligent, "exaggerated" inhabitants. Sometimes the Wonderlander can turn local reality into something that follows Playland rules.
Dark Side posted:
Wonderlanders were experimented on as children, often by people who had an unhealthy obsession with children and childhood. What was done to them is still not entirely clear. In the course of figuring it out, some Wonderlanders start performing their own experiments with children. Many of these experiments may harm children.
Playland Phenomena (Mandatory Disadvantage)-
In addition to the powers the PC consciously controls, there are phenomenon which will happen against the PC’s will. Toys will animate, portals will open to playland, playland entities will cross over into this world, etc. These events are most likely to happen when the PC is under stress. There is a small possibility they will help the PC, but if they have any effect on the PC’s life they are most likely to cause trouble. Sometimes when a PC has a desire he or she is unwilling to act on (perhaps because of moral considerations, fear of disapproval by others, impracticality, etc.) some playland phenomena will attempt to act on that desire on the PC’s behalf.
There's also a bit of illustrative fiction.
The final sidebar of the Secret Lives section informs us that being a child is a miserable, horrible existence of existential angst and worry, only salvaged by the fact that all children have ADHD and will forget about bad things after a couple of days.
The one thing children have going for them is their incredibly short attention span, which allows their periods of stress and dread to be interspersed with periods of joy and abandon while they are doing something fun. Adults tend only to notice and remember the latter, which is why so many adults mistakenly believe that life as a child is more pleasant than life as an adult.
And that's it for Secret Lives. Next time... Day Jobs! Skills! Supernatural Skills!
Aren't you just excited?
Birth Servant (WIL) posted:
The PC must be in a body with a uterus and vagina to use this skill.
In Dark Alleys
Drunk, disorderly and covered in giant bugs
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 4
10:03am EST - 1/01/2016
You know that guy who buys knives off the internet, shows off his katana and tells you how he hopes someone is going to try jumping him in a bad part of town so he can cut him up? Those are Heroes. They're basically your general wannabe-vigilante, so mal-adjusted they can't even hold down a job or a social life(except chatting with other Heroes about leads). Most of them have never even fought a mugger, much less a flesh-hungry ghoul.
PC Heroes, on the other hand, are actually the crazies who have
saved some people while dressed up as Batman(really, it suggests vigilante costumes) and have somehow tumbled to the fact that there are supernatural threats to people out there as well. Some are genuinely crazy, some are desperate, most mean well, but some end up being the sort of people who cut off a purse-snatcher's finger with a bolt cutter and mail them to his family.
They also get some degree of supernatural power, either a magical familiar(cat, dog or horse), a high-tech device(that normal science says should just do nothing, or maybe explode), have occult training(wizard Batman!), got an inheritance meaning they can start off buying anti-tank missiles, have superpowers for another reason,
Shattered Person posted:
Shattered Person- Once the PC, or someone the PC was near, had an intense experience, one in which he or she felt both pain, pleasure, fear, hatred and joy all at the same time. Most likely the experience involved sex. Somehow the strength of this experience ‘broke reality,’ making the laws of physics go haywire in the surrounding area. Anyone nearby was killed and the PC survived only through extreme luck. Thereafter the PC found that his or her body warped the laws of physics around it.
have an enchanted SOUL MATE or some other such crazy shenanigans.
You get the dealy-o. These powers are made with a vaguely BESM-y "cobble shit together and fluff it as you please"-method, and as we have yet to actually know shit about the system beyond our stats and hit points, we can't really tell whether any of this rocks or sucks. Props for suggesting high-tech or secret-government-tech devices powered by MOON ROCKS, though, that's the sort of old-style comic book hilarity I approve of.
Basically they can teleport. But only while drunk
. Or possibly stoned out of their gourd. And they discover this power by getting crunk as all Christ, not giving two-shits and accidentally teleporting all over the place until a fellow Lost who's learned to control his abilities a bit tells them what the deal is.
At adventure one, the Lost has been experimenting with his or her powers for months and is starting to get a handle on what he or she can and can’t do. The Lost has wandered through a lot of interesting places and has even passed very briefly through a place that seemed unearthly: an eerie deserted city, a giant concrete space of unknown purpose, a space filled with endless bizarre machinery, a dark canyon filled with naked marching people, a place with a featureless black floor and sky, or a place that seemed like something from a children’s book.
Honestly? They seem kind of neat. They also learn how to bring friends along. This makes them kind of a great cornerstone for a party, especially as it suggests that these friends often come along to help them investigate the weird places they find.
This would be a great setup for the entire party just being a group of buddies checking out some cool shit, accidentally Lost'ing their way into Area 51 or extradimensional spaces, etc. etc.
This... this doesn't completely
suck shit! They also learn to travel without being drunk, eventually, but it still helps.
There's also a random table for generating places to pop into, all of which could basically work as adventure seeds, and a sidenote on Lost combat, suggesting that when really experienced they can pop around a corner, into a gun store, grab a gun, pop out around another corner, unload on their enemies, and then disappear once more. Or possibly their very pockets just become handy, extradimensional spaces full of random shit.
These guys rock.
Outcasts are the poor people who see weird crazy alien shit and likely end up labelled as schizophrenic or something if they talk to anyone about it. Some learned to turn it off, at least some of the time, and the remainder usually goes completely fucking bonkers.
The book helpfully illustrates the sort of horrifying bullshit they can see and which normal people can't. Not all of it's that blatant, though, sometimes it's weird symbolic shit, like seeing human skulls on a part of a person's body and then it turns out they have a tumor there. So Outcasts spend a lot of time trying to find patterns and explanations for their visions.
A lot of 'em apparently also become hobos.
Their "What You Know" also suggests that Dances may be some sort of gestalt minds created by coalescing pools of memories in old places.
These guys probably have the most expansive What You Know section, really pointing out that they've done some research into the weird shit, see more than the other Secret Lives, etc. Mix a Lost and an Outcast in a party and you'll never run out of stories. The Lost takes them weird places, and then the Outcast sees some vague shit that starts them on the road to cracking the puzzle or just gets them more interested than the place alone. Or the Outcast sees something fucking weird, and the Lost gets them on the road to pursuing it or learning something more concrete.
Along with the whole SCIENCE IS FOR WESTERN IGNORANTS-thing, I'm getting a kind of... Scientology-ish vibe. I mean, we know from the Animists that most mental ailments are actually evil spirits, and the stuff about secret voices whispering to people from beyond the aether kind of reinforces that. Is it just me? Kind of a distrust of the psychological and medical establishment?
As for powers, an interesting aspect is that they get better at seeing supernatural shit if they deprive themselves of sleep. They also get to intimidate Dances, by threatening to burn down their buildings or get the police interested in them, meaning that the Dance will either send a Faustian servant to aid them or otherwise try to assist. That could actually be a decent hook to stitch a Faustian into a party, the Dance has him permanently assigned to help them out and be their gopher to get the Outcast off its back.
All in all, these three classes/archetypes don't seem too bad. Or maybe it's just that after the Androgyne, almost nothing seems that bad
In Dark Alleys
Still living secret lives
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 3
09:47am EST - 1/01/2016
The summary: You believe in PROPER FOREIGN OCCULTISM and can hence use your WILLPOWER to MANIPULATE THE SPIRITS.
The long version: Much more retarded than that!
The Chosen posted:
Almost every Animist is a first or second generation immigrant from a culture that believes in spirits, magic and magical practitioners. Most have a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle who is an Animist. As children, most were respectful of their elders and their people’s ways. Most were smart with an especially good memory. A significant percentage survived a near-fatal injury or illness with the help of an Animist. A significant percentage have suffered from what western doctors would call a mental illness.
Stupid western doctors and their "science!" Thinking they know things!
The Initiation posted:
Animists grew up in communities where the people around them believed there were spirits everywhere. Some spirits live in objects, some float in the air, some live inside people’s bodies and keep them healthy. The people believed in these spirits as strongly as anything they could see and touch. If someone’s car broke down, it was assumed the spirit of the car was angry. If someone had headaches, it was assumed that a ‘misfortune,’ a spirit dedicated to causing trouble, was attacking the person. If a person was depressed, it was assumed that one of his or her guardian spirits had wandered off.
So they grew up in communities where education was a thing that happened to other people and their friends and family died regularly of easily treated ailments because they insisted it be cured by rituals instead of medicine! Except, this is IDA, so they were actually right
and our foolish western views are wrong.
Basically you were chosen by an elder Animist as an apprentice and slowly learned how to do this crazy shit. The trick is that all the rituals are just bullshit to appease people and make what you do look more flamboyant, while in fact your power is acquired from doing immensely stupid things that almost kill you. Like starving yourself half to death or taking dangerous drugs.
Why this doesn't mean every meth-head or person who's overdosed and survived doesn't have a posse of spirit buddies, I can't tell you. Presumably their WESTERN OPINIONS prevent them from being good at these things. You think I'm kidding right? Just turn the page.
WHITE PEOPLE CAN'T WIZARD
Literally: Trying to understand how things work makes them not work, if only you were like the enlightened foreigners who just accept rituals and weirdness instead of trying to use their heads...
I'm trying to figure out if this is more offensive to people from foreign countries who actually DO try to think about things, or to every person with a working brain in general.
A "typical evening" for animists includes finding lost guardian spirits, curing diseases, helping violent gangs and cursing white people! No, not kidding about those last two. Apparently this is common enough that it's listed under the general Animist behavior. There's also a "DARK SIDE" listed where some animists are, gasp, immoral and will use their skills to stop members of their community opposed to arranged marriages or trying to get a college education!
What You Know posted:
The fact that your people were subjugated by imperialists, despite your people having powerful Animists, suggests that the imperialist conquerors had their own spiritual power (whether they knew it or not).
So I guess white people CAN wizard, just not consciously???? Or did the British Empire have an advance guard of stealthy Androgyne sorcerers working for them without them knowing it? Fucked if I know! This isn't elaborated on AT ALL.
Bonus insulting scientists section!
Aboriginal people pass down knowledge about nature, but it is only the information they find useful for their actual survival. If you want pointless facts about how insects mate or diseases that effect trees, ask an entomologist or a botanist, not an aboriginal person.
Hah! Knowing about biology and insects is USELESS if it isn't about what you should eat or avoid! This is all from a sidebar about aboriginal people being in tune with nature is a "myth," mind you.
Aboriginal don’t pretend that they fully understand how nature works, and so when they do something to the natural world and something bad happens, they try to never do that thing again. If someone drops a food dish on the floor and the next day there’s a terrible storm, they decide never to let food dishes touch the ground again. Thus they avoid a lot of the western world’s mistakes, but they also fill their lives with pointless prohibitions.
They're also like adorable retarded children who'll make up absurd magical laws at the drop of a
plate! I mean seriously, what the fuck? While I know that these things CAN happen, I'm pretty sure that, as pattern-recognizing creatures in general, humans usually understand that just two things happening next to each other doesn't always connect them, unless the former is always
preceded by the latter. Just... Christ.
If you're an Animist you're also forced to have a "cannot into modern society"-disadvantage that means you can't have any jobs other than "prostitute" or "boring factory worker" unless you pony up the points for the special skill "Act American." You literally cannot understand spirits if you understand going to college.
Then there's a five-page sidebar about native religions which doesn't seem to be offensive or wrong, just wordy, wordy, wordy. It'd take someone more knowledgeable than me to point out if IDA is somehow wrong about these various things. I guess their stereotypes about the peoples might be insulting but, again, I don't know how true they are, and stuff like "Hmong people don't like physical contact or making eye contact," might actually be right, it doesn't seem straight-up insane or insulting enough for me to call it either way.
Cambodian girls who go against cultural norms are often labelled "slut" or "prostitute." This is especially likely to happen when a girl has premarital sex or complains about her domestic situation (even if she is being abused).
Why yes, thank you, this is so completely different from other cultures that it needed to be pointed out. And it also makes all Cambodians sound like rampant misogynists!
Men, on the other hand, are not looked down upon for having premarital or extramarital sex. Since men are free to have affairs, married women have been known to attack their husband’s mistresses. In Cambodia there has been a rash of attacks by women who poured acid on the faces of husbands’ mistresses to permanently disfigure them.
It also feels like he's trying to make Cambodian relationships in general sound like a crazed, free-for-all brawl where acid and knives are thrown around with reckless abandon, women are abused and men are evil people who abuse their cultural privileges to sleep around every chance they get.
I take back what I said earlier, some of this stuff IS kind of offensive. But I still can't dredge out any more hidden gems, so let's move on! To...
Surprise: This one is actually NOT about tropical flesh-eaters.
Also their art? Kind of awesome!
Essentially what's going on here is that you've got some largely-Christian(with some Jews and Muslims involved) sub-sect that goes by Ye Olde Gnostic Shenanigans. The God of the physical world is evil, reject the physical! And as an extension of this they declare that "the taboos of the physical world are meaningless," eating human flesh is just the ultimate "fuck you" to Evil God and his taboos.
Unlike the former two groups, these guys are relatively intellectual and spend a lot of their time studying religious texts and trying to get a greater understanding of what they're actually about, debating theology with their fellow Cannibals, etc.
On powers, their low-degree stuff is basically being able to phantom-replicate the limbs and pieces they remove, emulating them to a point that they might as well not be missing anything at all. Though the downside is that they can't really run a marathon in public if they have no legs, as they have to keep their Supernatural Bullshit on the down-low.
Cannibals break taboos to break themselves of an emotional connection to the physical world. Usually they break taboos by themselves or with fellow Cannibals. Some Cannibals, however, break taboos with people against their will. Some do so in the belief that it is not immoral to kill, rape, molest or mutilate people’s physical bodies because those bodies either don’t matter or are inherently unholy. Others believe that they are helping people by forcing them to break taboos.
But even with this, most Cannibals are on personal quests for enlightenment and don't really involve the rest of the world unless it wants to be involved somehow. Kind of looking forward to seeing what their potential powers are, later on, as both "Ecstatic Rage" and "Nihilistic Rage" are among them. But that's it, really, the entry for Cannibals(and for Faustians as well) is literally only half the length of the Animists or Androgynes, if even that. Probably more like a third of the latter's length.
Speaking of Faustians, they're actually kind of awesome.
And, incompetent art aside? They do look kind of awesome, too.
This one is easily summarized and doesn't have any bad writing or horrific ideas. Essentially you were a person with REALLY bad willpower, you gave in easily to drugs or some such, or got yourself into the utmost depths of shit thanks to debt or something similar. Maybe got involved with crime. Then at some point where you were utterly desperate for aid, you somehow sent out an unconscious, psychic plea for help, and something answered.
A thing called a "Dance" takes up residence in your skull and gives you the mental fortitude not to fuck your life up again, and in fact to start taking it back. In return, it gives you urges to do certain things. Largely they just consist of guarding some old, abandoned location(often urban) and finding some odd, old objects to take there. Occasionally it gives you an artistic talent, and some of what you create must be brought there as well.
It rarely communicates verbally, and only does so incredibly curtly when it does, instead preferring to just give you an incredible URGE to go get those hobos out of that old church down the street... and leaving the means entirely up to you. The Dance is amoral as FUCK and doesn't care if you skin them alive or just pay them to go get drunk somewhere else. On the other hand, disobeying your Dance can get you in trouble. At low levels of disobedience, or if you just shirk your duties for a while, it can strip away the mental fortitude it granted you, leaving you to fuck up your life again. At high level of disobedience or if you directly try to counteract its goals(destroying whatever location it wants guarded, for instance), it may "try to get you killed," considering that it can give you "urges," I'd assume it mostly does this by trying to make you walk into traffic or do dangerous drugs, that sort of thing.
Still, as strange alien entities go, these don't seem too bad to be allied with. Not concerned with human people's survival, but not fixated on getting them killed either.
I rather hope these get fleshed out more later in the book, somehow. But even if they don't, this is already enough to base an entire setting or game off on its own.
And that's about it for Faustians. Told you they were succinct! Tune in next time for...
Heroes! Lost! And the Outcast! The latter of which get some pretty rad art...
In Dark AlleysStill generating charactersStep Three: Attributes [#]
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 2
09:30am EST - 1/01/2016
This works basically the same as Psychodynamics except now we're statting up our physical self rather than our brain. Mostly.
Agility, Awareness, Charm, Endurance, Intelligence, Speed, Strength and Willpower are our eight stats and there is literally nothing weird, surprising or twisted about any of them. 1 sucks, 10's average, 20's totally awesome.
Well, I lie, there is one odd thing: While Strength increases our melee damage(as per pretty much every RPG in the history of ever), so does Speed. But only for our kicks. Either the logic is that if we're fast, we've also got damn good leg muscles, or the creator is just deranged. Who the fuck knows? Oh and also Intelligence has nothing to do with being smart or clever, apparently. It lets us think faster and be better at complicated tasks, but "Intelligence is not cleverness or wisdom, any PC can come up with a clever plan or completely miss the obvious, no matter their Intelligence."
We also have 12 points to distribute to our Health Attributes. Body, Blood and Incapacitate. Body is our superficial HP which apparently only covers against blunt damage, Blood is our mid-range HP that soaks up everything and Incapacitate is our "lose this and you're fucking DEAD, dude"-HP.
Knowing no more about the system, currently, it seems like there's no reason not to pour it all into Incapacitate. It says that blunt weapons do double damage to our BLOOD POINTS if we're out of BODY POINTS, but nothing about them doing double damage to Incapacitate points. Again, maybe there's some underlying brilliance that only becomes obvious once you know the entire system... or maybe the author is just a fuckwit.Step Four: Secret Life
There are 11 of these, and we're just going to run through them in the alphabetical order they're presented in. This is also going to be our first proper look at whatever passes for "fluff" in this game.AndrogynesThere's also art for every Secret Life
In Brief: Have discovered there is a power to human sexuality, a power beyond and capable of changing our bodies and our genders.
Other Names: Genderqueers, Metasexuals, Two-Souls, TransTantrics.
So seriously, is there any fucking "dark horror" game out there that manages to resist the temptation to have some sort of retarded sex wizards? Any?
Those who are chosen are most often those who are seen acting in a way that defies stereotypes of either the straight world or the gay world, e.g. a straight woman who gets into bar fights, a straight man who goes to clubs with gay male friends, a male crossdresser who makes no attempt to act feminine, an otherwise ‘butch’ lesbian who wears a pink dress, etc.
So this is a group made out of tomboys, cross-dressers and people who just dress hideously in general. Their "initiation" consists of a sexual encounter and, I shit you not, one of the locations suggested for this place is "a jail cell."
Oh fuck it I'm going to quote this shit in full because I could not possibly summarize it in a way that would make it seem more ridiculous than the actual writing.
Jesus Christ in Heaven posted:
Most Androgynes are initiated via a random sexual encounter. They meet someone at a club, bar, house party, LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual) bookstore, P.F.L.A.G. (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meeting, jail cell, college lecture, protest, tea room, etc. The initiator is usually very androgynous and the initiate finds hirself instantly and powerfully attracted to the person. Drunk on passion the initiate follows the initiator to a secluded place (most often the initiate’s home) and they have sex.
During intercourse, through, something undeniably supernatural happens. Perhaps the androgynous stranger changes gender. Perhaps the two briefly switch bodies. Perhaps the androgynous stranger’s genitals transform into something not human. In most cases the initiate is so overwhelmed with shock, physical exertion and pleasure that sie passes out. The initiate awakens the next day to find a short note with a cryptic statement like “what’s between out legs is so powerful that even the heavens fear it,” or “sex is the most powerful thing a human can do, that’s why society puts so many restrictions on it” or “only when you stop letting society tell you who and what you are can you find out what you’re capable of.”
Along with the cryptic half-explanation is a time and address for the initiate to find out more.
I'm starting to miss Black Tokyo. Oh and then the thing starts using "hir" and "sie" for pronouns which just makes me want to strangle the author. Fuck that ridiculous bullshit.
The new member is initiated by picking up a bunch of anonymous challenges from the ANDROGYNE UNDERGROUND to either dress like the opposite gender or fuck members of both genders. An alternate introduction is to hang out with "the pre-eminent genderqueer philosophers," something that sounds like it would drive me suicidal rather than discovering magic. Unless that magic would let me make my/their heads explode.
Only after the initiate has proven hir willingness to transcend boundaries of gender and orientation will the initiate be rewarded with another sexual experience, often with hir original initiator. In this experience, though, the initiate witnesses having hir body switched, hir original body’s gender changing, and being transferred back to hir original body but this time as another gender.
The sudden change of gender has different effects on different initiates. Some are able to hide it via careful choice of clothing and makeup and go on with their normal lives. Some adopt new identities. Some quit showing up to work and, when they can no longer pay the rent, become homeless. Wherever they end up they are always left with instructions on how and where to find their next supernatural sexual encounter.
PLAY AN ANDROGYNE IF: You want to be a roaming hobo searching the dark alleys of reality for supernatural blowjobs.
So while they fuck their MYSTERY PROSTITUTE, they get to roam through his/her(I refuse to write "hir" If I can get away with it) memories and learn that the ANDROGYNE UNDERGROUND is about EXPLORING SEX MAGIC and ABOLISHING THE IDEA OF GENDER.
The initiate learns that sex has incredible power, and that intense sexual experiences can lead to a temporary breakdown of the rules of physics. This is a dangerous power and most who have such experiences are killed in the process. The genderqueer movement is the only way to shed the sex act of its cultural ‘baggage’ and thus have some hope of accessing its power without being killed.
I'll be honest, this actually makes me look back on Kult's HELLSTALKER BONERS with fond memories. Somehow this shit is just WORSE.
Yet for all their powers the Androgynes must practice in secret or else they will be hunted down and killed by the ‘Powers-That-Be,’ a conspiracy which they presume secretly rules mundane society and enforces gender stereotypes. Androgynes have been told that the Powers-That-Be’s agents have their own supernatural powers, although few Androgynes have encountered an agent and lived to tell about it.
Much like Otherverse: America, I'm already feeling an INTENSE desire to play the "bad guys" and hunt down the insufferable fucks who use terms like "mundane society."
Typical Evening posted:
Most androgynes spend a portion of their evenings meeting with other androgynes. They meet in private homes, college classrooms, GBLT bookstores and in the back-rooms of gay bars. They discuss the theory and practice of androgyny.
Androgynes spend many of their evenings out on the town experiencing what it’s like to interact with people as a member of a different gender. Few androgynes are in a monogamous relationship. Most are sexually active and seek to explore the potential of passion by having sex with many different people as many different people. Thus they spend many of their evenings hitting the bars and clubs, both gay and straight, where singles congregate. A good evening means bedding an interesting person, exploring passion and the power that comes with passion, and leaving the lover with a supernatural experience that will alter hir life forever.
Some androgynes think of themselves as cultural terrorists whose duty it is to disrupt gender roles. They remove signs from bathrooms, paste gay porn on the walls inside churches, seduce famous and important people and then “out” them as gay, spray anti-gender graffiti on walls, dress statues of famous people in drag, etc.
Wow, I hope Androgyne SEX MAGIC involves something that makes them immune to herpes, otherwise these people likely aren't being hunted down by Men In Black, but rather by the CDC who're hoping to control an outbreak of whatever dozens of hideous plagues these people's genitals are crawling with.EXCITEMENT SIDEBAR
This shit is incredibly fucking wordy and there is really no way to summarize it much without losing the impact of it.
A brief paragraph on WHAT YOU KNOW which is basically DESTROY GENDER, USE BONER SPELLS and then...
-The rich white men who rule the world want to protect their power by discouraging experimentation with sex and gender roles.
-Heterosexual monogamous relationships are a means of keeping wealth and power concentrated in families by keeping lines of paternal descent clear
So if boners are so magical, why aren't these people who "rule the world" using them for their own sex magic? I mean, seriously. It seems like the easiest and most enjoyable way to get your wizard robe and hat. Just bone a lot of people! This is not explained except to the depth of MUNDANES BAD MEAN PEOPLE.
Supernatural Skills posted:
The PC can purchase the following skills at 10 skill points per
Be Other (WIL)
Birth Servant (WIL)
Change Gender (WIL)
Switch Bodies (WIL)
There are others, but I'm already dreading our eventual encounter with the chapter full of horrifying magical abilities that will no doubt be later in this book.
Recommended Equipment posted:
Recommended Equipment- Makeup Kit, Wardrobe, Condoms, Makeup: Theatrical.
And of course it's suggested that your character's day job is being a prostitute.
That was more exhausting than I'd expected. At least the remaining Secret Lives can't be as bad. Tune in next time for...
Animists! Cannibals! And Faustians!
In Dark Alleys
Part 1: Twilit Corners
FATAL & Friends Repost: In Dark Alleys, Part 1
09:19am EST - 1/01/2016
Aside from an earlier skim for some bad art for people to giggle at, and people telling me that oh boy oh boy is IDA bad, I've had no prior experience with this RPG. This is pretty much a blind read, so if anyone who knows the RPG better has anything to add on specific points(relevant info about the author, stuff I've missed or overlooked, or things that only really become apparent after a good bit of play) feel free to comment.
As per usual, these games have a foreword...
IDA is apparently a horror game(shocker!) but there are no common tropes or pre-known monsters for us to cling to!
This is a horror game, yet players are not given the comfort of a monster they know from legends: there are no ghosts or vampires or devils. Instead, the ‘monsters’ are the people, places and things that we depend on and believe in and that suddenly turn malevolent when their true nature is perceived.
And then right afterwards he ruins this acceptable concept by elaborating on it.
In Dark Alleys draws style from three main sources:
-Movies from the Japanese “horror revolution” (and their American remakes).
-A number of American Indie comics whose creators found innovative ways of bringing readers into the damaged psyches of the protagonists.
-A certain sci-fi trilogy that uses questions about the nature of reality to form the basis for furious action.
Man, what is there even to say about this? Except that I have no idea what "certain sci-fi trilogy" he refers t- oh wait a fucking moment. Is he talking about The Matrix? I mean, I guess you could SAY The Matrix was related to horror, but only in the poor execution of the sequels. My mind is already spinning at this idiocy of Fieldsian proportions.
The setting for this horror is basically the generic Modern Occult "just like the real world 'cept there are totally monsters in the basement," and apparently the particular part of the world that will be elaborated on for IDA is Los Angeles. Characters are just "those dudes who know weird shit is going down."
Game Mechanics- All mechanics are based on a simple system: The sum of attribute + skill + modifier(s) + 1d20 must be equal to or higher than the difficulty of the proposed action.
And I guess the system is basically D20. Alright. Kind of a shaky start, but this could either shape up to be something worthwhile or something incredibly, hilariously, agonizingly bad. Knowing my luck I think I know which we're in for.
This is a long, meandering sidebar/intro about why it's In Dark Alleys
. About how modern society values BEAUTY MORE THAN TRUTH and how THE ALLEYS BEHIND THE FACADES SHOWS THE REAL WORLD.
"This game is about those who are tired of the shallow pleasantness of façades, tired of being told comforting lies, tired of a standard of mass-manufactured prettiness that strives to be as inoffensive as possible."
And really it makes me suspect that the author was probably bullied a lot in high school. Hell, he probably still gets wedgies to this day.
Chargen is nine steps and is largely recognizable from other games. Pick a concept, design a personality(which we've got 80 points to do, this step is labelled "Psychodynamics"), attributes(another 80 points), Secret Life(what we know about THE ALLEYS), Day Job(OUR FACADE), Skills, Equipment and the usual Advantages/Disadvantages shenanigans.
Sadly, unlike Kult, I doubt we can make the Fist of the North Star here, so let's wait and see what the book lets us make.
Step One: Character Concept!
Let's see, recommended points to fill out... Family, Gender/Sex...
What is the PC’s gender and sexual preference? Is the PC looking for any kind of long-term relationship, and if so then what kind? What does the PC find attractive in a man/woman? Does the PC have any kinks? Does the PC ever wish to have children?
So, we are exactly... five pages in. Counting the front page. This is literally the first page of chargen, the first page past the index. And we're being asked to consider if our PC has any sexual fetishes. Maybe it's just a little bump in the road. I'm going to pretend it is. It'll be gravy and sunshine from here on!
...Ethnicity, personal history, appearance, all standard...
Ah! Something interesting! Drive! What our character's motivating passion is. There are a few example motivations and they can all be summed up as either: YOU WISH TO KNOW THE TRUTH or YOU GET A KICK OUT OF THIS or YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE.
There's also a sidebar summing up the ten or so Secret Lives we can choose from, but I'm going to ignore that by now and wait until we get the actual write-ups on them so we can go into them in-depth.
We have 80 points to spread across 8 personality elements, with a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 20 in any given box. Having a high score in any given one apparently risks it "interfering with rational thought." We can elect to have these things "corrupted" with future disadvantages, too, and this chapter tells us what happens if one of these is such.
ANIM is the strength of our male/female side(masculinity or femininity, but the opposite of what our physical gender is), and apparently at 20 we're supergood at interacting with the other gender, while at 1 we're completely incapable of interacting with our opposites. If corrupted: "the opposite gender is frightening and reprehensible." Definitely a corrupted psychodynamic for most people on the internet, then.
EGO is basically self-control and self-understanding. At 20 we're fucking in charge of ourselves, at 1 we can't keep our own head on straight. It also incorporates some aspects of raw willpower as it generally lets us ignore discomforts and interruptions. If the EGO is corrupted, our brain keeps dredging up things and memories that we don't like.
ID is "the part of the PC that seeks pleasure and avoids discomfort," if it's a 20 we really hate things that suck and love nice things, at a 1 we're an ascetic monk that couldn't give less of a fuck. If this one is corrupted we love things that aren't pleasant, but then wouldn't they be giving us pleasure? Meaning that our scale is merely inverted compared to THE MUNDANES? Fucked if I know. I'm having trouble figuring out how this one matters at all.
REPT is, oh boy, "the PC’s most basic instincts, those we share in common with reptiles." If it's 20 we're really concerned with SURVIVAL(and boning) and will react very swiftly and decisively in matters involving these. Oh and we also won't really care about morals if they get in the way. So I guess it makes us a very pro-active rapist. If it's a 1, we rely on ideals and logic to resolve things rather than just reacting to what we want here and now, but we also have slow reactions in "life or death"-scenarios.
Corrupted Reptile posted:
If the REPT is corrupted, the PC’s instincts will tell the PC to do bizarre and unhealthy things: e.g. eat a newspaper, go to sleep on a cold sidewalk, have sex with a relative, attack a larger and meaner person, etc.
SEGO is our super-ego. It's the part of us that fears being punished for doing bad things. At 20 we like cops, don't break the law. At 1 we've got no conscience and don't give a fuck about breaking rules unless we have a good reason not to do so, so basically it makes us a raging asshole because it also means we ignore social norms. The corrupted version of SEGO is kind of hilarious, though, as it makes the character feel guilty about things that no one gives a fuck about, like brushing their teeth or whatever. TOOTH COPZ HERE TO BUST YO ASS FOR USING TOOTHPASTE.
SHAD is Shadow
, our dark side! The higher this one is, the bigger a jackass we are, and we need a high EGO and SEGO to keep it in check. If it's a 1, we're basically a nice guy who never thinks about kicking down the neighbour's door and stabbing him in the throat. Or maybe not. It can also mean we're a complete and utter sociopath and our destructive impulses are ones we AGREE with, rather than ones we avoid. Corrupted SHAD is actually kind of interesting, as it locks away part of the personality to be under the control of the Shadow, for instance an artist may only be able to draw while entertaining his darker impulses or such.
STRA is Stranger, or basically: "Are we afraid of different things?" At 20 we're a xenophile who loves new people and new cultures and take inspiration from their weird new things. At 1 we're a bigoted moron who makes fun of everything we don't already know what is. If it's corrupted it's... odd, in that we develop some sort of self-loathing where everything like us has bad attributes in our mind, and everything similar to others has good attributes.
THAN, Thanatos! At 20 we're a crazy death-cultist...
At 20 THAN, the PC has an obsession with and desire for death. The PC likes morbid humor, has little fear of death, and generally thinks death will be a good thing. Death will be like going to sleep after a hard day. Knowledge that death is inevitable helps the PC deal with the trials of life. The PC also likes the idea of an armageddon where the whole world is destroyed.
And at 1 we apparently have trouble dealing with hard times because death doesn't seem like a nice way out
. So let me just re-emphasize this. This is a stat that either makes us cheerful because we're obsessed with death, OR makes us miserable because we can't deal with the idea of killing ourselves. Does this seem fucked up to anyone else?
If this one is corrupted then we just think OTHER people need to die.
Ultimately it feels like most of this could have been boiled down to two, maybe three stats, since half of them in some way or another go: "Do you violate social norms or go along with them?"
Next time: Stats! Secret Lives! Day Jobs! And More!
I know I certainly can't wait!
FATAL & Friends Repost: Kromore, Part 7
01:42pm EDT - 8/16/2015
So I get back to Kromore for the final stretch, the fluff chapters, after two weeks of being too sick to write worth a damn, and I immediately wish I was sick for a third week: The fluff chapters are fucking awful. And not just the entertaining, Fieldsy kind of awful where every second page is about cocks, but also the sort of terrible editing that makes me wonder if Gene Ray wrote this. Sections will jump from a paragraph about alien invasions to paragraphs about how much of a random planet's surface is covered from water with no warning. Let me quote an example section, just so you can tell I'm not joking:
Fear of attacking unknown aliens from the worm hole located in the Alpha-1 nebula are often discussed as priority scenarios amongst high ranking galactic commanders in later era time lines.
Riddled with ancient islands and history, the planet Kromore has seen its share of alien visitors for close to ten thousand years. Most of the planets land mass has been either destroyed by nature, war, rebuilt by new nations, or formed into stable living environments.
The planet of Kromore is made up of nearly 40% water.
Much like the rest of the book, terms are thrown about haphazardly and only explained twenty pages down the road, if at all, and often the description completely fails to answer most of the questions you have. I'll try to put some sort of sense to the book's ramblings but it's not easy, so this will probably get a bit incoherent, too.
How the fuck you pronounce "Жo-Rin."
So anyway, the core of the setting is that the "Жo-Rin" are moustache-twirling evil aliens from an evil galaxy with an evil lich king, and the Tesck(the entirety of their description is "blind and matriarchal," they're blind because they're from a part of space without any light. Really.) are decently-nice Ancient Aliens who, in the face of the Жo-Rin conquering everything they see, evacuate species from their homeworlds and transplant them to others so they can survive. Unfortunately, despite having the capacity for inter-galactic travel(Earth is in this setting and is in a separate galaxy from the planet of Kromore, the Жo-Rin eventually conquer Earth and strip-mine it), they seemingly dump just about every species they rescue on Kromore, which is, in galactic terms, right on the Жo-Rin's doorstep.
It is believed the Tesck have gathered most of the life forms from the surrounding galaxies to the refugee planet Kromore in hopes of protecting them against the Жo-Rin and their vastly growing control on galactic space.
(The Tescians also apparently suck balls
at this "rescuing species"-gig since Kromore has about a half dozen intelligent species, yet there's supposedly a couple hundred other sentient species that the Tescians never bothered to rescue or otherwise work with.)
The Tesck generally fuck around being useless albeit well-intentioned, then there's the Alliance(largely Kromore) who fuck around being "good guys" and mostly spend their time getting their ass kicked, the Prime(Earthling refugees with some other refugee species, none of which we're ever actually told a fucking thing about despite their supposedly being huge parts of one of the major factions in the setting) who can actually belt the Жo-Rin but then turn out to be dictatorially-minded and the Жo-Rin themselves who do evil things entirely because they're evil. Once you've read this, you largely understand the "metaplot" of the setting. It's in the specifics that things get really
stupid, for instance, the Жo-Rin are a species of galactic conquerors... but a group of Kromorians in the fucking middle ages
manage to defeat a Жo-Rin settlement attempt and drive them off.
This, coincidentally, also creates vampires when some idiots decide to eat Жo-Rin corpses, these vampires are just generally vampiric(about as generic as imaginable) and get recruited by the Prime as their secret police/special forces when they briefly occupy Kromore. This is a nice arrangement that lasts until the Vampires discover that the Primes, not being total fucking idiots, had made special vampire-killing gear in case their cannibalistic allies ever completely lost their shit and had to be put down.
The council discovers the Prime has hidden information about new weaponry equipment specifically designed to kill Vampires. The clash between Vampire and Prime is violent and leads to the fall out between Vampire and Prime overnight. A civil war within Kromore between Vampire and Prime leaves nearly all Vampire extinct in the year 4300 ASC. The small war opens the door for further corruption scandals to unfold within the Prime governments on Kromore.
Inexplicably, killing vampires somehow leaves the Primes open to more corruption than having a secret bunch of bloodsuckers with mind control powers
as part of their oganization.
And since we're talking about vampires, let's also talk about the H.I.V.E.. Because they're the second
secret underground species haunting everyone, basically they're little bugs that mind control people by crawling inside their spine and pretending to be the host for the two to four years until the host curls up and dies, leaving the larvae looking for another host. A brief side trip into H.I.V.E. fluff is one of the first side trips the setting of Kromore does, in the middle of explaining the galaxy's geography, revealing to us that the H.I.V.E. larvae both die rapidly without a host and
are capable of just chilling out on an asteroid for years while waiting to crash on a planet where they can infect someone.
The planet spawns H.I.V.E. regularly, but without host bodies nearly all of the young hive lings die shortly after birth.
The home world of the H.I.V.E. is known to harbor massive amounts of young larva H.I.V.E. waiting for passing rocks and ships to latch onto.
(We're also told we can play a H.I.V.E. infectee, which comes with no downsides besides requiring "intense roleplay," and just gives us a grab-bag of expensive abilities for free. We only need to switch bodies every few years.)
Also keep in mind that for every paragraph I'm writing here, the fluff section of Kromore has ten paragraphs about, say, Kromore's moons(one is blue and icy, the other is red and volcano-y), after which we get told that wormholes are dangerous and full of bad aliens, and that Kromore is 40% water and that now the book is going to tell us why the Steampunk shit is totally justified and really works!
Steam transfer technology developed out of the end of the Age of Nations movement when fossil fuels and combustion engines were placed on the side line for a cleaner steam transfer technology.
The process involves tubing shaped in a 2-part cylinder consisting of a primary (tube side) and a secondary loop (shell side) made from special super alloy metal compounds. An exhaust valve is located often on the secondary loop allowing for pressure to release in the event of pressure build up.
Except no, we're not told anything. It winds up for explaining all the steampunk shit but then instead just tells us that steampunk stuff requires a cylinder made from special super alloy metal compounds, and that it has a safety valve. Also on Kromore, batteries that are literally just containers full of highly pressurized steam which are, in this setting, more efficient than actual batteries holding an electrical charge. Then, in the usual whiplash fashion, it's a leap into a paragraph about living conditions in modern Kromore, about how they were super cramped, and also about Kromorian identification papers when Kromore was occupied by the Prime. Apparently the Primes, if I'm reading this shit right, and I'm not sure anyone can
read this right, would blow up Kromorian villages if the "galactic allies"(by which I assume off-world aliens?) of Kromore did not apply for Kromorian citizenship.
...and then we reach the actual Timeline
for everything, way after all these fucking incidental facts.
The timeline is just so dull
, it's literally an incredibly dispassionate recital of everyone who was ever at war with anyone, and when they were at war with them, and the occasional anomalous event thrown in. Like, a giant comet hits Kromore's moon and plunges the world into a hundred years of darkness, but that just sort of passes and the only real upset is that people get very angry at wizards afterwards for no real fucking reason, when they never had any problems with wizards before and wizards were completely unconnected to causing this. After the darkness passes, the Kromorians spend 450 years murdering the Жo-Rin who'd tried to settle their planet. This apparently happens well before the invention of the printing press, so I can only assume that these DANGEROUS GALACTIC CONQUERORS were literally defeated by swords, bows and maybe some primitive gunpowder weapons, especially since magic is still basically banned and no one's using it.
Like, this is roughly some 6000 years of history and the only noteworthy thing is the comet, the Tesck dropping off more loser species on Kromore and a bunch of savages with sticks beating up an alien species with plasma guns. Everything else is really just some permutation on "and then these guys invaded those guys and some other dudes were angry." It doesn't help that half this shit is never explained, like the STEAM METAL MEN destroy a nation by using nerve gas and the S-BOMB. What's the fucking S-Bomb? It's never been mentioned before, it's not in the armory section, it's nowhere else in the fucking document. Is it the STEAM BOMB? Did they parboil an entire fucking nation? What? Explain yourself to me, Kromore, you piece of shit.
Also now the Tesck show up and just hand over technology to people, but apparently don't seem to give a shit about all the warring and killing, and they're kind of absentee-parents considering they weren't around to give a fucking hand with clearing out the Жo-Rin or helping anyone when the planet had a hundred years without light. Somehow, floating cities are constructed before
computers, not like you'd want anything to help you with all the calculations necessary to keep a fucking city afloat by whatever means you intend. Also for some reason the planet has an organized rebellion terrified of nuclear steam power(same as normal steam power, but now the STEAM BATTERIES are "charged" by nuclear reactors) and computers, also exploring space is now apparently commonplace without any mentions of space programs being initiated and the METAL MEN decide to all throw themselves into a black hole. A mysterious
It's almost a footnote that the Жo-Rin just wade in and conquer Kromore, the core location of the setting. It gets literally as much text as some minor trade treaty does earlier. Then in as much of a footnote, the Prime are introduced, showing up and saving Kromore from the Жo-Rin. They're described as "tyrannical," but this is rarely explained, except that they hate wizards and force everyone to carry an ID card. There are no great racial purges or abusive laws passed that the book ever tells us about, I guess we're just supposed to insert our own villainy for them. The metal men show up again, blow up the Tesck homeworld, turn out to have an evil virus corrupting their brains, fight everyone, get cured and then a paragraph later they jump into the black hole once more. 800 years pass without anything happening, one of the moons of Kromore turns into a pure dark void, swallowing anything that touches it, is designated a no-fly zone by the Prime, and then in the next paragraph we're told that mining on the moon(which was just a paragraph ago an all-destroying forbidden area) has unearthed a new horrific menace called the Leech.
Also the book keeps using "empirical" instead of "imperial" and it's annoying me way more than it should.
Two paragraphs ago, the Leech are described as "devouring" Жo-Rin ships alongside everyone else's, but now we're told that they're encountering the Жo-Rin for the first time and the two just casually form a symbiotic bond to become an entirely new species. The metal men return after 1600 years of being in a black hole and, despite being literally over a millennium and a half out of date, technologically, are totally helpful to the good guys by blowing up some Жo-Rin. At this point the fighting with the Жo-Rin is over 2500 years old and literally the only noteworthy thing they've done is to occupy Kromore for half a decade before the Prime booted them.
Congratulations, you're now caught up on all the notable points of Kromorian history. I.e. literally fucking nothing
except that magic is now banned and we have space travel, compared to the start of the setting.
What remains of the book is mostly trivia, first there are the stats for Жo-Rin, Ancients(which can apparently just casually eat suns
, why even stat something that powerful?), enemy Ferrians, enemy Gyx, enemy Zatilok(hidden deep inside a bunch of fluff rather than being with the other enemy stats), enemy vampires(the only enemies to get more than one type of stats, to account for different tiers of stats, apparently every enemy Ferrian is level 10) and enemy shadow demons(but no stats for Tesck, who only get a description, Metal Men, or so many other things we've been told exist). Next up, there's a bunch of forgettable data that largely amounts to telling us what sort of exports the various nations have during various time periods, practically nothing of any real consequence unless you really need to know that the Kingdom of Kelmoria was big on exporting hammers. There are the major religions, all of which have existed unchanged from the start point of the setting's history and then 10,000 years onwards... and that's the fucking book, really.
It doesn't make for an entertaining review despite being a frustrating read, because so many of the stupid, frustrating things are in the editing, and it's hard to really convey just how much it overreaches itself in trying to have TEN THOUSAND YEARS OF HISTORY and then devoting maybe five lines to fucking two thousand years
of said history. And a major event like an entire species, the Metal Men, having their brains corrupted, and whatever it takes to uncorrupt them, taking up a grand total of half a page. The quest to cure an entire fucking species of a corrupting infection takes up less space than what was spent at the start of the book to tell us how to effectively railroad our players.
Fuck this book. I'm done with it.
FATAL & Friends Repost: Kromore, Part 6
01:23pm EDT - 8/16/2015
202 pages into Kromore and we actually get to the rules in any sort of concise format. We had a "RULES BASICS" at the start that only told us how many dice to roll, and nothing else. We had some scattered stuff in the Skills section on how skill checks worked and what a given difficulty of a check was. But it's not until 202 pages in that we hit the majority of the ruleset. Just to recap what we've already been told, though, because the game doesn't do that
for us even though we were introduced to them a couple hundred pages back... the basic check is a roll of STATd4+SKILLRANKS with no weirdnesses or complications, no critical successes or failures, you either beat a static number(for most checks) or an enemy's roll.
The first thing the chapter tells us is that we're gonna need a board or battlemat(informing us in the process that hex grids are vastly superior to square grids), this makes sense when we check the index and find that literally the entire rules chapter is combat, leaving the full extent of non-combat stuff as what we can do with skill checks and the few spells that aren't about throwing some variety of painful elemental energy at enemies(or summoning things to cut their faces wide open). Then we're told how to roll initiative, what a round consists of(five seconds of real time, split into three actions that we can assign as we see fit, unless we do a single thing that consumes more than one action, like some spells... and about half the list of default actions, like attacking with a two-handed weapon or just about any skill check. Some things, like putting on heavy armor, require up to nine
actions, meaning that they consume a total of three full rounds). All these actions are just actions
I'll note. No major, minor, free, bonus or whatever separation, removing the need to keep track of any such goofery.
In the game's defense, it's all pretty neatly organized. There's one table that contains all the default actions, you can quickly check if something provokes free attacks if done at melee range and how many actions it takes... attacking and defending is also relatively simple. Rather than having separate dodge and damage resistance, like most modern games, or having one huge dodge pool like D&D, there's just one big soak/damage resistance pool. First dodge subtracts from incoming damage, then your shield, then your armor and finally it impacts your life points. Shields and armor also have their own pools of hit points, which, when drained, mean they're coming apart and can no longer soak up anything, as well as a damage resistance stat indicating how much they can soak per round. It's a bit abstract, definitely not for anyone obsessed with verisimilitude, but it seems like it'd make combat flow pretty quickly since you're just rolling once to attack(weapon damage + Muscle or Agility + your combat bonuses), versus a static number(Dodge+Shield+Armor).
FINISHING A TARGET
A character can spend a 3 actions to kill an unconscious and immobile target with direct contact to Life Points of that target. This is a target unable to fight back. Considered a mercy killing or a murder.
Despite my moderate praise, though, the writing is still fucking awful. What does it even mean to have DIRECT CONTACT TO LIFE POINTS OF THAT TARGET? This is nothing compared to the next section which uses CRITICAL CALLED ATTACK so many times it's lost what little meaning it has, including all its permutations like "critical called area attack" and "critical call called attack." For some reason the mechanic for making targeted attacks isn't just "called attacks," it's critical called attacks. It's making me dizzy just trying to read these pages.
Any attack can deal critical damage. The amount of LP dealt in an attack to a region represents a critical hit to that region. A critical hit is a one time attack and the amount of LP taken at one time from an attack represents the devastating blow.
Sure, any attack can deal critical damage, but "critical damage" is something that only happens when you hit a specific region of someone, and you can only hit specific regions when making critical called attacks, not when just attacking normally(unless we're supposed to assume that normal attacks are critical called attacks to the torso/"body"? ...which it tells us several pages later, almost at the end of the actual combat rules). These sure are some words but fuck if they don't lose all meaning in this idiot writer's hands.
The rules for critical damage are surprisingly detailed and brutal, and reward having some sort of medic or healer in the party. Basically any attack will cause at least a temporary effect(in the case of limbs and body, most likely just a "scar" for low damage), but if you go more than 24 hours without medical treatment, a lot of them advance into becoming permanent effects(this also happens if someone completely fucks up trying to heal a temporary effect). The name is a bit of a misnomer, though, as "permanent" effects can still be cured by medicine(and for that matter, "temporary" effects aren't temporary either, they don't seem to go away with time? I can't tell). It... doesn't say whether permanent effects replace
the temporary effects, or simply stack on top, but I have to assume that they stack on top, otherwise broken bones would magically heal themselves after 24 hours.
Though either way it leads to some weirdnesses, like severed heads not causing death until 24 hours later, severed limbs not bleeding until 24 hours later, gushing arteries(which you'd be lucky to survive for a couple of minutes, 1 LP lost per round, 5 seconds, between 10 and 15 LP's in most cases, critical damage causing the bleeding likely already removing the majority of your LP's... a tourniquet can solve the problem temporarily, I suppose) turning into internal bleeding. A severed arm will, 24 hours later, cause the much slower internal
bleeding(1LP per hour), while a severed hand instantly
causes a gushing instadeath artery(likewise losing any "appendage," defined as an eye, finger, toe, ear or "other." That's right, losing an ear will make you bleed out faster than someone lopping off your fucking arm), yet broken
arms and legs also cause instant bleeding... okay there's something
fucking goofy here, though I can see what the author was trying to do.
Moving on to the section about movement and facing, which is largely just common-sense stuff about when someone is considered to be facing, flanking, etc. I also have to give Kromore props for illustrating everything
with diagrams. Most of it is, as said, pretty common sense, but it ensures that there's literally no doubt and everyone can follow along, even if they're relatively unused to RPG's and boardgames. It also starts to become obvious that Kromore is really
envisioned as a combat-heavy boardgame, more than an actual RPG, in most cases, especially in light of all the character abilities being, in 95% of all cases, aimed towards combat uses only.
Also we don't have falling damage in Kromore. We've got SASFAFF.
Surface & Stun From A Fitness Failure(S.A.S.F.A.F.F.)
I could literally not make this up. They invented an entire custom acronym for something that fills a grand total of half a page and consists of checking how far they fell(which requires paging back to the skills chapter, and seeing what height a given difficulty of skill check for climbing fits with), then referring to the matching row for what kind of damage they take(stun or lethal), how much damage and how many rounds they'll spend stunned. Despite the dedicated mechanic name, falling is actually reasonably safe in Kromore. Most people will have 10 to 15 Life Points, and a fall of 26 to 35 feet will do 3d4 damage(3d4+3 if it's on to a hard surface), which there are good odds of surviving(though you'll probably break your legs or something). The scale also isn't open-ended, damage caps out at 6d4(+5, for a hard or jagged surface), meaning an average of 20 damage from just about any distance(no special rules for atmospheric re-entry). With armor and shields being included in soaking falling damage... just a thick suit of platemail and a tower shield could let us survive a fall from near the edge of the atmosphere.
There are also a few weirdnesses here and there in the tables, being medium or large gives you a +1 to dodge, being one step up, huge, is a +2, then down to a +1 again for gigantic, 0 for enormous and -1 for colossal. Why that arbitrary bump for Huge?
More nice attention to detail in the combat rules, though, as we're told what side effects elemental damage has(rules for ice spells locking up enemy armor by freezing it, electrical spells breaking sensitive electronics, how long fires will continue to burn, and a handy table for converting ice magic damage to how much you can freeze solid, in case you want to use ice bolts to cross a river or something). Also standard damage values for various environmental objects exploding, like fireworks, gas tanks, etc.(according to the rules, the average person in Kromore is almost guaranteed to survive a "grill propane tank" exploding right next to him unless it rolls absolutely maximum damage. Most of my understanding of exploding propane is from videogames, but shouldn't that be relatively fatal? Of course, Kromore isn't too realistic. Cars in Kromore apparently explode like in Hollywood action movies, according to the table).
When something is frozen it requires time to thaw before it is useable again.
The table includes damage values for freezing warm-blooded creatures, but doesn't specify whether PC's survive cryogenic suspension or whether it kills them outright.
The end of the chapter is half a page of rules for time travel, which summarizes as follows: First we have to leave reality, then we have to use a captured soul of a Lovecrafty "Realm" creature as a guide to drag us back in time. We cannot go forwards in time beyond where we've actually been "naturally." However, any time traveller can bring along hitchhikers, and they CAN be brought further forward than they themselves have been. Unfortunately, all "technological" items crumble in the world outside the physical universe, so we can't smuggle plasma guns into the past and set ourselves up as a techno warlord. I've no idea what they define as "technology," though.
A character who alters a previous time will cause a ripple effect that generates a new time line.
This alternate universe exists within the realms and results in another matter realm.
Kromore’s history within this text represents the original history of Kromore, but that history has the potential for parallel versions if characters change the time line. This change allows for multiple versions and histories to exist within the universe of Kromore.
Coincidentally, the chapter titled "The Kromore Universe" begins on the next page, so I guess we'll shortly find out just what the canonical Kromore is like.
Right now, though, I'm kind of disappointed that Kromore wasn't more of an amusing clusterfuck in the rules section, so I'm taking a break.
Because fighters don't deserve nice feats
I suspect this is not the same guy who drew all the fucking terrible character art
FATAL & Friends Repost: Kromore, Part 5
01:07pm EDT - 8/16/2015
So, the Abilities chapter is up next after the professions. Abilities are pretty much analogous to 3E/5E Feats, except that you get a shitload more of them, right down to being broken in the same stupid ways. For instance, I can pay an ability point for a permanent +1 to Fitness rolls. Fitness is basically Athletics from most other games. Jumping, climbing, swimming and squeezing into narrow spaces. However, if I'm not retarded, that same ability point will also buy me "Cooking Persuasion," also known as "Cakes = Mind Control," which basically doubles my pre-existing bonus to Negotiation(almost guaranteed to be more than 1) towards anyone already friendly enough to accept a piece of candy from me or unaware enough to not react before I shove something in their mouth. Or I could be a wizard.
The same one skill point is also all it costs for Innate Magic abilities(one each, but still) that let me conjure up weapons and armor for free and effectively without needing to bother with any checks(unless I decided to make the world's only wizard with Down's). Or I can learn necromancy, which lets me raise undead minions. Raising a minion takes a Hard(DC 19) focus check, but there's no penalty for screwing it up, and the time consumed in the casting is less than five seconds(two actions, a round has three actions and lasts five seconds). Of course, you only control the undead servant for 1d4 hours, after which it just shambles off to eat flesh.
NEGOTIATION: Negotiation tricks auto succeed on the Zombie, Intimidations and logic negotiations always fail.
It'd be great, though, if you had an undead minion without that problem, and one that couldn't be tricked. Skeletons have the same "tries to kill everything after a few hours"-issue, plus they take a whole
round to summon. Time is money, can't just waste it on something as frivolous as bony guardians. That's why you use your 1 ability point to learn how to summon ghosts instead. Ghosts never break free of control, are moderately intangible-
Interestingly enough not immune to fists or rocks
IMMUNITIES**: The spirit is immune to steel weapons and wooden weapons, stuns, KO, and poisons.
-and have an AoE stun attack that stacks. Meaning you just need enough ghosts and you can zero out anyone's combat stats, after which you just need to raise a single skeleton to go around cutting throats. Assuming we make an ULTRA WIZARD who can do NOTHING but cast magic well, back-of-the-envelope, simple min-maxing allows us to roll 6d4+6 to attempt to summon a ghost, vs a DC of 19. That's a 50+% chance of making our DC, since our ghosts need no materials to summon(aside from a "grave or burial ground," but how hard can finding a graveyard be? We just take a few minutes' walk through the nearest graveyard and we've got our ghosts for the day), and we're not working off any sort of stat pool or resource, that means we can spend all our waking hours summoning. Our only real limit to how many ghosts we can make is that we can only summon a number of ghosts equal to our SOUL stat per day, meaning we'll cap out at 6(and there's literally no way for us to not get that many per day). Hence, as soon as you've made a necromancer, time is literally the only thing standing in the way of him conquering the world at the cost of only twice as many skill points as it costs a fighter to get +1 to jumping(twice because we also need to shell out the massive price of one skill point to unlock magic in the first place).
And since two PC races, one of which is available in most time periods(metal men) and the other of which is available in all time periods(Daeadrin humans, which also get a bonus to the Focus skill used for all spellcasting) are literally immortal and unaging... time is not that
big an issue. Now, in the game's defense, it does gate "Rule The World With Magic Ghosts: The Ability" behind requiring the caster to be level 10... however the storyteller section recommends roughly a level-up per session, which is also about what you'll get if you use their manual XP-handout rules, so it's not really a huge barrier. You can spend the intervening levels pumping up your Focus skill to make sure you succeed on all
your ghost summons and also learning combat magic that does more damage than any weapon short of artillery, has an AoE effect, has no hit roll(even if enemies pass their save, they still take damage and get hit with status effects) and doesn't require any ammunition, unlike all the really nice fighter weapons. It also still only costs one skill point to learn.
Ultimately all the abilities fall into this. You can either get a +1 if you're a fighter or you can expend an ability point to replicate a non-wizard's abilities(and if you DO decide to pick the abilities that give you a + to the Focus skill for spellcasting... you get +1d4 or +2 instead of +1 like you'd get if you chose better Fitness rolls). Jealous of the medic? Learn healing magic. Jealous of the sneaky thief? Learn to turn yourself into a table from level 1. Remember how Sci-Priests had a "melt stuff with their bare hands"-class ability? Well get fucked, that's a spell, too. Practically every magic tree has some sort of attack spell that rapidly levels up to outclass weapons. If we're impatient for ghost supremacy, at level 6, we can summon tornadoes. Anyone who touches a tornado has to succeed at an epic(DC 24) fitness check or get sucked in, flung away and hammered for shitloads of damage. And keep in mind that anyone not as min-maxed as our wizard will be hard pressed to roll 24 on a check. As a sci-magi we also specifically get the ability to double
the effect of all spells from second level onwards, in exchange for an absolutely trivial focus check.
Of course, min/maxing our caster makes us awfully fragile. So it's a good thing we can use a first-level spell to turn ourselves into solid rock so we're difficult to injure(or even a
rock so no one will ever even realize we're a mage). Shame that some spells require vocal and somatic components... which we can ignore with another first-level ability, permanently. Now we just need another party member to carry us, or to learn the first-level wind spell that lets us slowly shove ourselves along. We basically only need to ever stop
being an inanimate object on occasion to eat.
I could really go on. But the point is: This is some wizard supremacy on a level I've rarely seen in any fucking game.
In the game's defense, there's really nothing wrong with the basic mechanics, I like how it leaves in some degree of randomness while still providing a very sharp bell curve and a generous static modifier, so players can generally rely on their skills and attacks landing in a given region of results, but with just a bit of randomness to provide some tension. There are also a lot of helpful rules for what you can do to make sure your skills succeed, "taking 20" from 3E expanded up to pretty much any span of time you could imagine... though it seems a bit excessive that the table also includes "1 year" and "1 lifetime," and that "1 lifetime" only provides 1d4 more than a year. Though I suppose it does encourage not wasting too
much time. Unlike a lot of RPG's, there's also a useful table for GM's advising them on what DC of check is usually appropriate to what level of character... and the suggestions actually aren't bad.
There are of course, some oddities that crop up. For instance, the Charm(CHA) stat is used not just to negotiate, but also for medicine and grappling. Flying a plane or riding a horse both work off of pure Agility(and the same skill...). There are a few wonky things in there, though not exactly something unforgivable, though it doesn't really salvage the fuckups in the previous chapters.
This chapter really helps hammer home that either the author or his editor did not have English as a first language, though.
Hard: Identifying a face in a crowded market street, hearing a whisper from two closed doors away, or seeing a hidden item that took a great deal of time to hide. Doing a scan of an area to find hidden people or objects without the pretense of a Story Teller asking for the check is always a Hard or higher. This form of an awareness check is often at the level of a trained investigator or a detectives observation abilities.
Also the return to Railroad City! If you try to do something without the Storyteller specifically asking you to, it automatically becomes more difficult! Choo choo!
I also find it amusing that the hacking mechanics that it took Eclipse Phase, like, ten pages to make totally confusing, even an RPG as generally confused and ineffable as Kromore manages to make more natural and more easier to work with in the span of two pages. One check to breach a network, then successive checks to increase your "security level," and a given security level gives you certain privileges, for instance, at security level 4 you can copy data off the device rather than just read it, at 5 you can delete it, at 8 you can scour a network to alter or remove someone's identity and at level 9 you can make computers explode like a Hollywood hacker. Then a few quick rules for HACKER DUELS and what happens if you fuck up your hack checks.
What I realize at this point is that if you just cut out all the non-wizard(sorry, Grifter) classes out of Kromore, I'm actually not too opposed to the system itself so far. Most of the spells are actually... reasonably fun and useful-sounding(breaking the game with ghosts aside), the only thing that kind of poisons the game is that NOT being a wizard is 18 out of 22 class options, only one of those 18 options getting any fun abilities(Grifter), and of the remaining 4, Realm magic(Sci-Magi, Sci-Priest) is vastly superior to Innate Magic(Adept, Demon Hunter), at the same cost, and Sci-Magi by far get the more fun abilities compared to the Sci-Priest, so the game really only leaves you with two options to play. The basic mechanics are relatively easy to use and the developer did a lot of work to give you benchmarks for your numbers.
Of course, there's still combat
and the EXCITING SETTING DETAILS left to shit on things, but if the combat isn't somehow a total shitpile(I'm guessing it might actually not be, though I doubt it'll make physical classes worth playing)... I could actually see myself scrapping the setting, telling three or four players to roll up some Sci-Magi and letting them loose to do some damage with fireballs. I'm also largely going to skip over the Armory section except for poking at the art, since they made the ~brilliant~ decision not to explain the equipment stats in the chapter that the equipment is in. There's probably some really broken rules, but I can't tell yet, all I can identify is when something stupid in the writing or art jumps out at me, like the fact that "Disrupter" weapons are illegal but nothing explains WHY they're illegal, for instance what they DO that's illegal when other guns are not.
There's also LITERALLY no sensible organization to the order that weapons are presented in. It goes like this: Melee, thrown, bows, shotguns, pistols, steamguns, "disrupter" guns, advanced
melee, rocket launchers, the "dual clip" pistol(see below), lightning guns, flintlocks(just in case you thought it was by escalating technological advancement), powder wheel, plasma, cannons, mounted guns.
On the one hand, poor art and ugly as sin, on the OTHER hand, it's steampunk without any fucking meaningless gears and goggles.
I legitimately cannot tell what this is.
Breaking new ground in retarded weapon designs!
Also, if anyone's interested, this is the DA of the guy who did all the actually awesome Kromore art: http://balaskas.deviantart.com/
FATAL & Friends Repost: Kromore, Part 4
06:29pm EDT - 8/15/2015
"Outland Professions" are basically described as adventurers, characters who travel the globe getting into fights and stealing stuff. They consist of the Privateer, Mercenary, Duelist, Grifter and "Ferrian Vanquisher." Most of them are relatively unremarkable, aside from the Grifter and the usual bizarre wording and logic that pops up in some of the abilities.
Outland Trickster: The privateer is often stuck off grid from the rest of society. The privateer learns to combat the forces of mad men, wild beast, and thieves with the power of quick thinking. As 1 action and a hard survival skill check they can render a target prone until their next turn. The privateer uses their survival skill to find a weakness in terrain, environment, or enemy gear.
Because yes, I absolutely translate "often out in the wilderness" to "knows how to trip people up." Also note that despite this being related to fighting the forces of "mad men, wild beasts and thieves," nothing prevents you from knocking over a robot or a cop with this. It also simply specifies "target," so unless something is specifically unable to be knocked prone, you can flip over tanks, giant mecha and just about anything else with it. There's also no specified range, and the fluff on how it works is delightfully vague, so potentially you can do it from across a room as long as you can come up with an excuse? Or from even farther away? I mean, the fact that you can use a "weakness in the terrain or enemy gear" that, presumably, the player gets to invent himself opens it up to just about anyone, anywhere, in any situation, as long as you know they're there.
The real star of this update, though, is the Grifter.
Grifter Charm: A grifter makes a negotiate check in combat as 1 action and gains up to 1 point of their charm attribute as a bonus to attack that chosen target until it flees or is defeated.
The Grift: A grifter can steal anything from a target they have declared their grifter charm on as long as the grifter is within reaching distance of the object. The grifter is not required a sneak roll to steal the object nor is the target allowed an awareness check as long as the grifter has initiated combat and succeeded their grifter charm.
So yes, we can literally steal ANYTHING from an enemy as long as we're within reaching distance and manage to "grifter charm" someone. If you wanted to be very technical, you could presumably steal someone's eyeballs or, if you rule that "distance" only considers how far you can theoretically reach, and not what's in the way, also internal organs. Also again, even without wording it to instakills, remember that we have three actions in a given round, and unless specified otherwise, anything we do defaults to requiring one action. So even if we need to use one action to close up to stealing range, we can still steal a dude's weapon and armor. By the level where we get THE GRIFT, our Grifter Charm has also been upgraded to apply to three targets at once. So we can literally disarm an entire squad of dudes in one round if we can get into melee range.
The Grifter is made even more amusing by an ability detailed in another chapter, where any class is allowed to spend points to get a "Civilian Vocation." The first rank of the Chef vocation provides:
Cooking Persuasion: A chef gains the ability to cook amazing meals that can persuade targets by allowing the Chef to make a negotiate check against their target after feeding them a meal. The negotiate gains them x2 their normal bonus to negotiation against that target.
Also note that there's no limit on how long after eating a meal that they'll be easily persuaded by you. At the most aggressive you could rule that "feeding" means you have to at least serve it to them, so you can't be the owner of a candy shop or kebab booth that eventually makes an entire city vulnerable to his Negotiate attempts. So if you use your presumably sky high, if you're going for this, Negotiate abilities to charm your way into taking over an army's field kitchen or something, moments after dinner time you can declare you're starting combat and start liberating everyone of their gear.
It also notice that it just says a meal
, not even necessarily a meal that the cook himself made. The RAW for Kromore is hilariously dire.
Weirdly enough this also seems to make the Grifter a far more potent thief in combat than out of combat and in any stealth situation, and looking up the rules for Negotiation, it's basically ROLL FOR MIND CONTROL. If you get 16 or more than the target number(determined by their Charisma), you can literally convince them of anything, and there appears to be no upper limit on how high skill bonuses can go.
Duellists and Mercenaries are both dull, except that mercenaries get the weird ability to make makeshift bombs out of "a simple fuel and a hard object. (Ex. Rocks, Tin can, Battery, etc.)," and can, at higher levels, and with a decent intelligence score, guarantee that they can make makeshift bombs so fast that they can make and throw them in the same round, and still have an action to spare. A quick glance ahead in the book reveals that these bombs made out of tin cans and batteries do more damage than "plasma sniper rifles," at least by just looking at the value on the tables and without involving any skills or other modifiers. By the point he gets to do this, the Mercenary also has three NPC companions, so he could just spend all three of his turns making bombs, passing them to his companions, and having them throw them. This seems to add up to way more damage than he could ever do by actually giving them or himself weapons, and cheaper, too.
Ferrian Vanquishers are only notable for the fact that their weapon is their hair, and telling us that apparently it requires "diamond blades" to cut Ferrian hair. Why no one captures Ferrians to shave them bald and weave an impenetrable set of clothes/armor out of their hair, I don't know.
Next up are the "combat professions," listing the Battler, Warrior, Combat Artist and Brawler. Including them, we now have the: Soldier, Duellist, Mercenary, Battler, Warrior, Combat Artist and Brawler, to list the ones that are just a fighter by any other name, and that's being very generous and leaving out some. In any fucking sane RPG they'd just be the same base class/profession but with different fluff and specializations chosen by the player after first level. And there's literally no interesting fluff or detail to any of them, they're all just a tiresome blur of combat modifiers. The Battler can go berserk and the Brawler is a 3rd ed D&D Monk, that's about it. The art does seem to try to outdo itself by being fucking awful in new and exciting ways, though!
And now it's time for wizard supremacy. Sci-Magi, who are chalk wizards. Adepts, who are sorcerers. Sci-Priests, who are "soulful combat fighters." And Demon Hunters, who are dark, brooding characters that no one trusts.
In addition to getting skill boosts and abilities of their own, some of them quite rad and even, dare I say it, kinda cool, Sci-Magi also have an additional column in their level up spreadsheet that no other class does, that grants them free abilities
. Any class can buy into magic abilities, but these guys, in addition to getting as much shit as everyone else, gets them for free.
Chalk: A Sci-Magi can procure 1 piece of chalk every action without the use of an action to draw the chalk, but the chalk is required carried.
The Sci-Magi can also create chalk as 1 action and a basic focus check out of thin air if they need to. This created chalk disappears if the caster drops it and is only useable in a spell. Often casters use both created and drawn chalk for spells.
Chalk? Well, sure. CHALK, but what can a wizard do with CHALK? Well, for starters, a Sci-Magi can crush a piece of chalk, specifically, nothing else, to have it function as a flashbang that he's immune to. Chalk is also the item needed for most sci-magi abilities, drawing sigils, etc. and since he can just make more out of thin air, he can never really be disarmed of those abilities unless he's tied up. He can also find anything non-living(easily circumvented, just tell it to find the guy's shirt instead), without needing a check, as long as he has a "crystal" to imbue with a desire to find it, then he has a magical compass for finding it.
Doorway: A Sci-Magi can use chalk to draw doorways to the other side of a wall or structure.
Realm Fire: As 1 action the Sci-Magi can use a medium focus check to transform a piece of chalk into a blue fire like ball of energy.
Invisibility Spell: Using a hard focus check and 2 actions, the Sci-Magi can turn invisible with a crushed piece of chalk in both hands. ... Attackers make epic awareness checks to discern the location of the Magi.
An "epic awareness check" requiring that someone get over 24 as a result of d4's+skill modifiers. And no, it doesn't require any check to turn invisible, just chalk, chalk that you have an infinite fucking supply of. Without chalk, the sci-magi still has telekinesis and the ability to turn any reflective surface
into a portal gateway. The text specifically calls out "the surface of the ocean on a still day," and specifies that it counts as one continuous surface, which happily negates the limits on how far two surfaces can be from each other. So, you know, have fun teleporting from one continent to another as long as the weather permits.
And this isn't even getting into the fact that anyone with Realm Magic can make an infinite army of ghosts. Yes, you heard me right, we'll get to that in the Abilities chapter.
Adepts don't get as much overpowered shit as sci-magi, presumably because they're not proper wizards and hence don't deserve proper supremacy. Instead they get to make inferior lesser classes like rogues feel irrelevant.
The adept can produce basic elemental items. The items are not completely stable and deteriorate into air after a number of mins equaling the adepts SOUL attribute. Often times the adept will create a key or something they are searching for without realizing it, but then the object vanishes again in a few hours. The items created are elemental in nature and fit into the hand of the adept as a solid item with no moving parts. Example: chalk, flint, wood, soft rock, metal, coal.
Suck it, lockpickers. Also if you want to break the game, point out that there's clearly permission for organic chemistry since coal is mentioned, and that there are plenty of toxic and corrosive substances that could do notable damage even if you didn't produce more than the weight/volume of a key, and they certainly have no moving parts. This stuff also takes up only one action and with an "easy focus" check to pull off, we can do it pretty much at will.
Homeopathic Touch: The adept can identify the status of a persons thirst, hunger, core temperature, sleep, salt hunger, and LP by touching skin to skin.
Though what the fuck is a salt hunger
? Like is that a term in another language that means something, but has no meaning when translated literally to English? Please. Help. But aside from making rogues irrelevant and checking if someone's cold or hungry, basically they can throw fireballs and heal themselves, that's it.
The Priest is a soulful combat fighter
The jazziest of professions, but it's hard to judge whether they suck shit or completely break the game until we get to the crafting rules, because that's literally all these guys get a bonus to: Crafting and being able to melt non-living matter with their hands. Of course since this is expressed in hit points' worth of damage to stuff rather than in some sort of narrative term or a volume of decayed matter, it's impossible to tell how much it actually matters. I tried searching the entire book and nowhere does it seem to actually list what, say, an average door has in terms of hit points, making this ability entirely pointless.
Despite being in the wizard section, this one is actually a trap choice for fools who think fighters are relevant! That is to say, literally half their abilities don't work unless the storyteller is merciful and let them fight demons on a regular basis, as said abilities require demon blood, souls, etc. to craft items from. And of course their only actual cool ability, being able to trap demon souls in equipment for bonuses, is sequestered at the very top of their levels.
Tune in next time when we check out magic and abilities and how they let us become an evil overlord as long as we've got time to waste. And of course as long as we're a wizard, we don't get to break the game if we're not a wizard.
Pop quiz for the next update: Which of these three is it possible to do with/to a zombie: Negotiation? Intimidation? Or logical debate?
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