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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4 - KNACKS
Knacks are similar to feats, in that they're abilities with skill-prerequisites(and sometimes feat prerequisites) that give you new abilities that are, generally, meant to be more interesting than a generic +1 to doing a thing. In Middenarde, you get these, but at each level-up, you can get a +1 to a skill, or you can get a Knack, so good luck ever getting many of these especially considering that some require over ten skill points invested purely in combat abilities and prerequisite combat Knacks. In other words, despite the creator's comments about how characters are meant to not be hyper-specialized(despite no rules preventing this, like, say, separate combat and non-combat skill point pools), there are obviously skills made for hyper-specialized characters, which can only be attained by hyper-specialized characters.
To get an idea of how much specializing they'd require, getting the "apex" sword Knack would require 15 points. You get a minimum of 10 XP per session, with suggested 20XP for a session in which they actually accomplish something, 50 for hard goals. So let's assume that you get 30XP per session, since some are just shooting the shit, others involve minor goals, and some involve major goals. To get to level 14(because we get 1 free skill point at first level) we need...
10+13+18+25+34+45+58+73+90+109+130+154+178+205... 1142XP. Divided by 30, that's 38 sessions of play where you invest in NOTHING but combat skills. Even if we assume the GM is super generous and the game fast-paced, with 50 XP per session, that's something like 22 sessions of specializing in nothing but combat, if someone wants to beeline for that knack. And if they don't beeline for it, damn, it's gonna take them a long time to get there.
Now, if we look at the actual knacks themselves...
Parrier Seeking the Flaws
Hang on a mome-
Subduing the Honored Foe
Tenacity of the Final Warrior
Two Birds with One Spear
Crashing Wave Blow
Kangaroo and Child
Okay, we get it, you like Exalted(and what the hell do kangaroos have to do with spear combat...). I wasn't expecting DRAMATIC MARTIAL ARTS STYLE NAMES in my SHITFARMER: THE DYING RPG, though. Anyway, the first thing that I notice, aside from the crazy requirements and the stupid names, is the imbalance in knack distribution. Swords have PILES of them, six pages, while blunt weapons, spears, daggers, flails and axes have only two each. Considering that some are just renamings of the same basic attack, like a knockdown for swords and a knockdown for blunt weapons, why not just combine some of those into a general "melee combat" knack tree, and have some of the branches be specialized per weapon?
There's also no overview of the skill tree anywhere, or even alphabetic organization, so if you want to find the prerequisite for a Knack you really like, prepare for some paging back and forth. We also get to revisit 3.5th edition D&D's Fighter feats in the sense that stuff that should just be basic abilities, gets gated behind investing in Knacks. For instance, keeping enemies at bay with a spear, that is, getting an attack against them if they try to charge past the point of your weapon, requires a Knack.
Opportunistic Attack posted:
Requirements: Readiness I, Specialization: Spear II
The extended reach of your spear can keep foes from getting anywhere near you. Whenever an opponent attacks you with a non-Reach, non-ranged weapon, you may counterattack them as long as you are using a spear. Your counterattack occurs before their attack. This knack can be used as many times per day as you have ranks in Readiness.
I'm sorry but this is the fucking basic POINT of a spear, so essentially polearms can't even be used for their intended purpose without investing four skill points(three for prereqs, one for the knack.) into them, and reading on you can get the exact same ability with a dagger
. There's a similar feat for getting an advantage when using polearms against mounted enemies. Similarly, it takes eight
skill points(six skills, two knacks) to get to knock people down with a blunt weapon. You can only get an advantage for attacking someone from behind if you're using a dagger(and then again, only with knacks)...
Requirements: Heal I, Specialization: Dagger IV
Knowing where important nerves are on the body, you can target them in a way that works much like a form of Western acupuncture. Whenever you hit an opponent with a dagger, you can choose to leave the dagger in the limb, rendering it inoperative until it is removed (as though picked up). The limb is treated as though crippled. You can only use this knack on minor and major limbs.
I'll be honest here, I've never been stabbed with a knife, but I suspect that you don't need special skills to not pull your weapon out after stabbing someone, and that generally having a knife through your arm will discourage you from using it even if it's not in a special nerve cluster. I mean, really, just getting a glass splinter in my foot is enough to discourage me from using it until its removed. Normally I wouldn't complain about this, but in a game that prides itself on HIGH MORTALITY and REALISM? Fuck off. Continuing on with daggers, they might be the best weapon, seeing as how they can copy spears in keeping enemies at bay and also get to instantly kill anyone.
Gentle Embrace of Death posted:
Requirements: Specialization: Dagger V, Stealth III, Backstab
Getting into a protracted and noisy fight is sometimes undesirable. From a hidden position, you can roll a Stealth check versus Visual Acuity against an opponent. If you succeed, you stab that opponent in the back of the neck with your dagger, disabling them. They will choke to death on their own blood, and die within 6 minutes, blacking out in 3 minutes. Anyone in the room can roll a Listen check (DC 10) to hear them.
As long as you're not spotted, you can kill anyone, regardless of HP, armor or what they are. An elephant? A dragon? Beelzebub? As long as they don't see you coming, they're dead within six minutes. There also doesn't seem to be anything that really defines a "hidden position," so presumably it just means that you, personally, are not being seen by the target. Just need someone else to distract your victim in combat and it's an in-combat instakill, too.
There's a ranged skill that allows you to attach things to your arrows as long as they weigh "less than a half-unit." Checking the list of equipment, this means that you cannot, for instance, use this skill to attach a rope(weighs two units) and fire it over some battlements, or in fact, anything of utility. The only things you can attach to your arrow is a torch, gunpowder vials, some articles of clothing, knuckle dusters or darts. So it's effectively useless for "utility" purposes, but at no point does it write whether firing a pair of knuckle dusters at someone's dumb face adds the knuckle dusters' damage to the arrow or what effect it might have.
It just gets dumber the farther we get into the chapter, mind you. For instance, we've got an entire skill devoted to nothing but rope use... but knacks for things like rope snares also exist for Animal Handling, making it an even more purposeless niche talent.
At this point I'd also like to address the magic in the game. Namely: It feels like the author forgot 90% of the rules for them. There's the Attunement talent, and there are spells in potions and on scrolls later, there are Attunement knacks related to memorizing spells, but nowhere is there even a single page with an overview on magic and its effects and how it works. There's a knack that lets me memorize a spell from a scroll and cast it at will, which "counts as a use on the scroll," but nowhere does it seem to say that scrolls have limited uses, or even what the limited number of uses is. The scrolls appear to have "Man Hours" for crafting listed, but there's no crafting skill to craft them with
, unless that's assumed to be Literature or Exotic.
All I can really find that references the functioning of scrolls is the specific spells on them, and what they do, and that you need Attunement to read a scroll off a spell, but then it also says that you need Craft: Literature(Runes) to do it in the first place!
Easy: Identifying the purpose of a potion.
Intermediate: Sensing the presence of a magical item in the room.
Hard: Casting a spell from a scroll with Craft: Literature (Runes).
After searching everywhere I eventually give up and search for "runes" in the .PDF, and finally find where the actual scroll/spellcasting rules are... sandwiched as a single paragraph in the Equipment
chapter, between Pets and Potions. It turns out that scrolls have four uses per rank, and apparently the only purpose to "memorizing" a scroll is that it's necessary for copying it, and also that it lets you have your hands free while casting the contents... since it still consumes a use of the scroll. Also for some reason, the more uses and the higher quality a scroll has, the harder it is to actually use(the DC increases. For instance, for a highest-level, "Glowing" scroll, you'd need to pass an Attunement DC of 18 and a Craft: Literature(Runes) DC of 22, but if the scroll is basically on its last legs, the DC's would only be 3 and 7, respectively, instead. Why? You'd think that more garbage-quality scrolls would be harder to use.).
There are no rules for creating magic from scratch, so if you get your hands on a scroll of decent quality, you should just lock it in a safe somewhere after memorizing it, and then become rich by using your craft and attunement skills to mass produce scrolls of Flying or similar. There are prices listed for scrolls, but all of them are out of reach at chargen, so it's basically up to the GM entirely whether any points invested in Attunement will be worth jack shit. There don't appear to be any potentially horrible consequences for fucking up scrollcrafting other than some wasted paper.
Now, Cleverness knacks...
Requirements: Cleverness II
“Common sense is not so common,” as Renaissance philosopher François-Marie Arouet would put it two hundred years later. Once per day, when you or a party member are about to make a decision that would be counterproductive or result in bodily harm, your Game Master will warn you against doing so.
Requirements: Cleverness III
Insanity is doing things over and over again and expecting a different result. It’s best to simply not bother to do it at all. Once per day, you can ask the Game Master if attempting something, or repeating it, would have any effect, or if it would just be wasted game time. The GM is obligated to tell you whether it’s worth your time, but not what would happen if you did it.
Requirements: Cleverness IV, Common Sense
Clever people always have a nagging voice at the back of their head when they’re forgetting something. Once per day, when you seem to be about to gloss over something that you might never come back to, the GM should hint at your error, suggesting you spend a little more time looking around.
Alright so, what's the point
of a hyper-lethal game that requires CAREFUL CONSIDERATIONS... if you can just buy feats that mean the GM has to absolve you from actually using your brain? Plus, in any case, what sort of jackass GM doesn't at least obliquely hint to the players when they're about to get themselves killed doing something stupid or about to waste their time on something pointless?
Requirements: Cleverness VI
Some people are just ahead of their time. You are one of those people. You are capable of envisioning anything that has yet to be invented, up to a number of years in the future equal to 25 times the number of ranks you have in Cleverness. Unfortunately, this wild imagination is useful only for getting stares and beatings unless you’re capable of crafting the things you envision. You must spend 1 MH per year in the future to create a coherent enough blueprint of the invention for anyone to be able to craft it.
I guess this is what puts a limit to the Craft:Exotic skill, at last. Skills cap out at 10 points, so you can really only get 250 years into the future with this. Since the game is assumed to take place in 1450, that means up to the year 1700 for technology. Just at a quick glance, I can see how this could be used to upset the setting rapidly and make yourself the richest man, woman or street urchin around in short order. It takes 1 year's worth of man-hours per year into the future you want to "invent," but you can spread this out over a team. The game's intended for 4 to 7 players, supposedly, so just make seven crafting-obsessives and have them sit around collecting XP just for existing until they can invent all sorts of timeline-breaking shit. What would YOU make with this to upset the game setting?
Cover Up posted:
Requirements: Disguise II
Using the tools at your discretion, you can make things disappear. You can conceal any stationary object, like furniture, doorways, tunnels, et cetera as something else, or hide them from view entirely. Any casual observer will not notice them, and anyone searching for it must pass a Visual Acuity conflict against your Disguise DC. If they know the object is supposed to be there, they must succeed on a Cleverness check against the Disguise DC to be alerted to its absence, unless it’s something they intended to use and are confused to find missing. In either case, they may add their Cleverness ranks to their Visual Acuity ranks in their attempt to uncover it.
The game appears to have no real provision for "taking 10(or 20)", and only PC's get to break the odds with Luck Points, so good luck to the scrub NPC's who try to figure out where you hid their stuff. It also says any stationary object
. I'm not seeing any limit in size
... so you can literally use this to disguise a bridge, then when the advancing army of 0th-level pikemen and their generals arrive, they can't find the river crossing and will have to abandon their war. You could use it to hide a ship at harbor. Or a house. Or a castle. It doesn't even list a minimum time it takes to use... in general the only time unit used outside of combat is "man hours" for crafting, otherwise rounds and turns only exist in combat.
Requirements: Disguise III, Cover Up
Smuggling is a useful talent, whether you’re carrying illicit goods or much-needed protection. You can conceal a number of units of items equal to your Disguise bonus on your person. Any casual observer will not notice them, and anyone searching you must pass a Visual Acuity conflict against your Disguise DC.
Units are the game's made-up weight values. Let's assume we have Disguise 10, what can we then hide on our person? Sadly there are no "units" listed for animals, so we'll never know if we can hide a horse under our coat, and nowhere are "units" translated to pounds or kilos or something we can use for items not in the book. A raft or a door are entirely possible, however. Also, at maxed disguise, we can hide two coffins
on our person. Now, from that I guess we can extrapolate a bit. "Units" are listed as being "Weight," not something more nebulous like "encumbrance" that might encompass size as well. At a quick google, the "average coffin" seems to weigh between 100 and 300 pounds. So I guess we can hide 200 to 600 pounds of "stuff" under our coat if the authorities come poking around.
Sadly this means we can't smuggle an adult horse around in our pants. But a young one...
Or we could just carry one coffin and 100 to 300 pounds of person inside it. I'm gonna skip over some of the stuff I looked over, but we can carry 1% of a siege tower(in "units"), and the only siege tower weight I found online would put that 1% at 1.6 tons of stuff we can hide under our coat. Maybe the author should've just gone ahead and written "pounds" or "kilos" instead.
EDIT: A friend pointed out that the person you're concealing could also have the same Knack and, themselves, be concealing another person(and/or coffin) and so on.
Moving on to the Escape Artist knacks!
Turning the Tables posted:
Requirements: Escape Artist IV
They thought they had you under control… but they were wrong. At the cost of a -1 penalty to your Escape Artist check, if successful, you can restrain anyone standing adjacent to you the same way you were restrained, effectively switching places. This does not work if what you were restrained with requires something special to open it, like a key you don’t possess, or a lever that’s not within reach.
Now, it's already hilarious that you can warp out of ropes and capture your captor. BUT! It doesn't say they have to be the ones who restrained you in the first place. Tie your hands together, walk up behind someone, use this skill... and now you're free and their hands are tied together. Or their feet. Or whatever... or wait a moment. A key you DON'T possess? If you handcuff yourself, and have the key, then you CAN use this, and they'll end up NOT having the key! Or lock yourself in a box with the key, when they walk up to examine it. SHAZAM. Now they're in the box! You're outside!
This is getting funny now. There's still roughly half the knacks to go, but this post is long enough for the time being.