Friday, November 30, 2012

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.32 -- The 2nd Mission Zero

With the subversion of yet another of her sisters to the blue, ALECTO realizes that her bloodline is linked to the shard All Saints, and that she may well be the only one who can wear it. Spurned by her former comrades in the Diamond Red’s Second, FIDA reacts to the news of Megaera’s fate in less than rational fashion.

  • Fida authorizes a rescue mission, to be headed by Aly. Aly responds by telling TERENTIUS, which results in a heated confrontation between the two first-tier warders, made worse by the involvement of KENJIRO, but halted temporarily by the latter’s fetching of OLIVERUS, who berates them all for various reasons.
  • The party meets the new Ninth Number, formerly the Eleventh. (See the file The Numbers of the Diamond Grey Legion.) As prompted by AUDEN, traditional gifts are exchanged between the First and the Ninth.
  • THESSALY goes off, as requested, to assist Senator Patricus, who is apparently deeply involved in negotiations with the other legions of the Army of Shards.
  • Fida proceeds to convert the former Operation: Wildflower into a mission to rescue Meg, with the apparent collusion of Kenjiro, such that the “small blue enclave” encountered in the previous mission is included as a mission target.
  • Terry arrives belatedly to put his foot down, with the result that he ends up leading ARCTURUS, BREGAN, CATALINA, MANTIUS, TOBIAS, and VINDAR in search of Meg; while Aly and VARIAN head for the enclave with Kenjiro.
  • Terry’s team is immediately separated from one another, as follows:
o    Mantius finds himself in some sort of forested area with the Bone Collector and White Mage, both embodied. They spy a naked woman in a floating cage; she promises to tell them anything they want if they will free her.
o    Arcturus and Vindar find themselves on a rocky shoreline, facing (presumably) CARESS of the Pallid.
o    Cat is desharded and nearly killed by Lady Blight, but Blight is fortunately stopped by ALINA, who whisks Cat away. Alina equips Cat with a shard (probably the Diamond Azure Cloak) and first invites her to join the blue; then, on Cat’s demurral, urges her to depart. Cat is still arguing with her and DUMAS when the latter shoves a bag of shards and bright light into her hands and sends her away. With no actual slotted abilities, Cat finds herself surrounded by MAXILIUS and the rest of Bregan’s previous number.
  • Kenjiro informs his companions that first “that man” and then “that woman” “… need to be taken down”.
o    Aly attacks the (probable) courtier COVETOUS, but her attack has no effect.
o    Ian politely permits the (probable) courtier GOSSAMER to dress before battle commences; as soon as it does, she tosses him out the window of her tower.
o    Kenjiro plows through an army of blue entities in search of their leader.

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.31 -- The 1st Mission Zero

TERENTIUS and FIDA’S cooperation in obtaining necessary intelligence is instrumental in the success of the new First and Second’s first mission, despite a number of potential disasters along the way.

  • CATALINA and VARIAN make the acquaintance of MS. TENNIN (who may or may not have some prior relationship with M. Auden) and the supply clerk (?) IDAN.
  • With a total of ten people available to compose the six teams needed to broach the bright light facility within the imposed time limit, Ian and KENJIRO elect to face the challenges solo.
  • Entering the last gate into the facility, BREGAN uses the Torrent Academician to save the entire team from the fatal wave of black energy released on the opening of the portal.
  • Cat, ALECTO, and Ian are judged and found worthy through bloodline by the sentience governing the facility, while Kenjiro neatly sidesteps the issue, resulting in the desired reclamation of the bright light facility.
  • Outside the facility, Kenjiro is attacked and felled by PINION, Lambent Angel of Chaos, who thereafter converses with the rest of the team and, somewhat surprisingly, leaves them be. Kenjiro is revived and immediately resolves to be rid of the “small blue enclave” in the vicinity of the facility.
  • Upon returning to Peerdin, Aly notices that ELINORA and LUCIA, of the Diamond Red’s Second, have signed in to the registry. Accompanied by Cat and Ian, she goes to speak to them, learning that the rest of the former Second have perished, with the exception of Fida and of MEGAERA, who has become blue.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Irradiated Roadways: Gears, Gas, and Guns

That there's a sweet ride, Max.
When Car Wars came to my attention (the little plastic boxed set of Car Wars), I immediately latched onto it as a game. It not only called to mind the Mad Max movies I'd seen back in the Philippines and in the U.S., it also reminded me of trucking TV shows and movies like B.J. and the Bear and Convoy.

I suppose it also fed that a need that was also satisfied later by Champions and other Hero System games -- the game within a game of building and optimizing your character (or car, as it were). But at the time, it felt like you were stepping into a bad, but not Mad Max horrible, setting where highway car battles and arena autoduels were a regular occurrence.

Subsequent helpings of post-holocaust fare, like The Road Warrior and Damnation Alley and even comics like Tim Truman's Dragon Chiang further expanded this image of a desolate American landscape (yeah, I know Mad Max is supposed to be in Australia) with wandering heroes and villains that had showdowns in truckstops and gas stations and on the road against bandits, mutants, and raiders.

Chi-Comm trucker Dragon
Chiang gets ready for
the dangers of the Road.
I never played in a campaign, though. All that was the backstory in my mind, but the actual games involved car vs. car combat. I know about the Hero + Car Wars and the GURPS + Car Wars RPGs that were created, but it was never a thing for me. The experiences I had were exclusively arena battles and highway autoduels.

Now that I'm older, is there an appeal for that kind of thing to me? The post-holocaust landscape now seems to want mutants and zombies and survivalists, and most certainly a mixing in of bands of survivors and communities struggling  to carve out civilization once more. Convoys, carrying precious supplies of food, weapons, medicine and technology to isolated, but key locations would certainly be part of that campaign. And arena combats and highway autoduels, of course.

I know that an RPG called Atomic Highway by Colin Chapman is freely available on RPGNow, so maybe I'll pick it up and see if it sparks something.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bookshelf Meme: RPGs

In response to the Grognardia bookshelf meme, I snapped a pic of two of the four shelf spaces I regularly visit. I don't put 'em near my desk, though, as that would be in the bedroom.

To be honest, most of the RPG material I read tends to be electronic these days -- and I have digital copies of some of the materials above.

Earth 641: Cribbing from Super-Team Family

I mentioned before in an older post that I'd be tackling the DC/Marvel shapeshifting race issue some time in the future. This post from Super-Team Family would certainly be a part of that:

But it certainly wouldn't be the whole story. Not with White Martians, Durlans, and Dire Wraiths running about.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Isle Imperium Preview: Pocket Homes

Here are some maps of my character's Pocket Home from later seasons of Isle Imperium. It's kind of a lazy post before I start again on the episode summaries.

First Floor

Second Floor

Third Floor: Manta Configuration

Let me just say I'm in awe of the real cartographers out there. You rock!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Armchair Review: Night's Black Agents

Click the pic to see the RPGNow page.
This little gem from Kenneth Hite and Pelgrane Press comes at a really good time for me. Of course, I've written about my fascination for the Cold War era espionage genre, as well as the more action-packed Top Secret type of game, and other subgenres of the modern spy story before. But I think that with modern TV shows like Homeland and Rubicon, my interest in modern espionage has resurfaced.

Unfortunately, I'm just not up to keeping track of all the various socio-political alliances, tensions and betrayals all around the world for such a campaign. And I'm envious of those who can. I'd been thinking of creating an international evil spy / paramilitary organization, sort of a cross between S.P.E.C.T.R.E., T.H.R.U.S.H., and the WEB from Top Secret / S.I. when I heard about this RPG in development and decided to wait.

Here's the blurb from RPGNow:
The Cold War is over. Bush’s War is winding down.
You were a shadowy soldier in those fights, trained to move through the secret world: deniable and deadly. 
Then you got out, or you got shut out, or you got burned out. You didn’t come in from the cold. Instead, you found your own entrances into Europe’s clandestine networks of power and crime. You did a few ops, and you asked even fewer questions. Who gave you that job in Prague? Who paid for your silence in that Swiss account? You told yourself it didn’t matter. 
It turned out to matter a lot. Because it turned out you were working for vampires.
Vampires exist. What can they do? Who do they own? Where is safe? You don’t know those answers yet. So you’d better start asking questions. You have to trace the bloodsuckers’ operations, penetrate their networks, follow their trail, and target their weak points. Because if you don’t hunt them, they will hunt you. And they will kill you.
Or worse.
Fantastic internal illustration from the book.
Now that Night's Black Agents is finally out, I've gotten ahold of a copy and haven't been disappointed. Here's my shortish review:
There is much to love about this RPG. First, it extends the already interesting Gumshoe game system used for such games as Ashen Stars, Trail of Cthulhu, Esoterrorists and Mutant City Blues. I've been itching to try out the investigation mechanics for Gumshoe, and this recent incarnation and extension of the ruleset affords me such additional rules the combat and cinematic chase rules to support the espionage/thriller genre. 
Next, it also provides rule options to help emulate and support various subgenres of the spy thriller. There are rules for the interestingly-named subgenres: Burn ("psychological damage and the cost of heroism"), Dust ("gritty, lo-fi espionage"), Mirror ("hidden agendas and shifting alliances"), and Stakes ("higher purposes than mere survival or 'getting the job done'"). In addition to the Drives and Sources of Stability that we've seen in other flavors of Gumshoe, the Trust / Betrayal mechanics are particularly interesting and volatile in a espionage game (reminds me of Cold City / Hot War)! 
Gunplay and cinematic chase rules look good from the emulation space, though I'd be remiss if I didn't say that proper playtesting should be done on my part before I can say if it's to my taste. 
As for the vampire aspect -- great latitude is given to the GM and the players is choosing the type of vampires they're fighting (which is good to keep the surprises coming in a thriller), and the organization creation rules married with the classic genre pattern of starting at the bottom of the conspiracy pyramid and moving up through the ranks until dealing with the Big Bad (to borrow some Buffy terminology here) has really ratcheted up my desire to play this game as soon as possible! That's made easier by the sample vampires and their various minions also included in the book. 
Well done, Pelgrane Press -- I look forward to future releases in this line!
So I've started up character creation for a PBEM game with some friends, and hope to put this thing through its paces. I'm already thinking of how the Vampire: The Masquerade elements might be reformed into some kind of more criminal, espionage, world domination-y spin.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.30 -- Future Sight

The Bejewelled Nuncio against a horde of chaos-infested
beasts and opponents.

VINDAR experiences a horrific visionary dream, in which:

  • TERENTIUS, having evidently been away from Peerdin for some time, attempts to visit his and CATALINA’S young daughter, ALIA, but is coldly rebuffed by Cat and TOBIAS.
  • ALECTO, as Daughter of Infinite Sorrow, kills LADY BLIGHT. Together with MANTIUS as Renegade Warder, she is now part of the Black Number, a group which apparently strives to undermine or at least preempt the Diamond Legion (in this case LADY ADRIA, DONOVAN, CRISPIANUS, and HEREUS, who are now the Second Number).
  • VARIAN, while still in control of his own mind, is by some other means apparently controlled by THESSALY, as Daughter of Pleasure, who is evidently his lover.
  • Mantius and Aly attempt to recruit ARCTURUS, who has evidently recused himself from both Legion and Number, preferring the company of his dragons. When he refuses to join them, Mantius takes his dragons away, apparently as part of an earlier agreement with the dragons themselves.
  • SENATOR PATRICUS summons the First, which evidently comprises Ian (as Invincible Fist), Thess (as Bejeweled Nuncio), Cat, MAXILIUS, and ROGELIO. Rogelio declines the mission to go after the Black Number, and Cat uses the Puremind against Thess as the latter continues to manipulate Ian.
  • Mantius and Aly return to base, where they are informed by ALOYSIUS, as Paladin of the Second Hour, that Arc is crucial to their plans. (He also calls Aly Mantius’s “wife”.) Mantius leaves and returns with Arc, while Aly threatens GENARIUS over his wearing the Saint of Warrens, and what he knows about “what happened to the Scholar”.
  • Vindar, as Invincible Blade, overcomes challenges at Castle Thistlethorn to gain an audience with VEDA, now evidently the Queen of Frost. He pleads with her to help him and the Diamond Legion, saying he “will do anything”, but she refuses him.
  • Cat materializes to attack Mantius, who uses the abilities of the perfected Renegade to deflect the damage onto other, distant people. Having evidently perfected the Puremind herself, however, Cat is eventually triumphant, despite her sorrow that “I know my friend is still in there.”
  • Aly ambushes Thess, accusing her, before killing her, of doing something to Varian. Ian in turn ambushes Aly, driving a sword through her, but stops when he realizes who she is, only to be enfolded in the Daughter’s engulfing cloak.
  • Cat is prevented from finishing Mantius off by Terry, who arrives and manages to help her remove the apparently controlling Puremind. They are both then burned by Arc, who attacks from above.
  • Mantius congratulates Arc for his achievement, and Arc asks him if they are now even for what he has done. Upon Mantius’s agreement that they are, Arc kills Mantius using Brother Sun although he is still attired as Prince of Dragons. 
  • Aly appears, ostensibly to comfort the overwrought Arc, but in reality she engulfs him in her cloak as well. Genarius then arrives, bringing the Diamond Legion to confront Aly.
  • On one of the rooftops of Peerdin, Patricus watches the developments. FIDA appears and says, “I can’t believe you did it,” to which Patricus replies, “Gods help me, I had to.”

Vindar relates the dream to his compatriots, leading to a harsh exchange of words between Cat and Thess, and soon after a shouting match between Thess and Aly. Mantius manages to calm everyone down and bring the group to a consensus that they will tell AUDEN and Terry, leaving out the portion concerning Thessaly’s control of Varian. They gain an audience with the two warders, and apprise them in between announcements by the first tier.

Gathering the Circle of Ten, OLIVERUS allows each mount to select three apiece from the pool of redistributed shards, with certain shards withheld or confiscated as necessary for assigned use on a per mission basis. Led by Maxilius, the Second Number takes exception to this decree, to the extent that they are prepared to abandon the Diamond in lieu of turning over certain of their shards. Oliverus therefore confiscates the shards of and exiles seven of the eight of them, with only BREGAN electing to remain behind. Led by Aly, the Eighth Number offers to take Bregan in; Bregan makes a counteroffer, which is accepted, with the result that Aly, Arc, Cat, Toby, and Bregan become the new Second of the Diamond Grey Legion.

The First and the new Second finish telling Auden and Terry their story, leading to the confiscation of the Daughter of Sorrow and the Fellmind, which leads to the Second being allowed to request new shards from Oliverus.

Auden informs the Circle of Ten that retraining will be required, and that all numbers will be expected to perform to a certain standard, or face expulsion.

KENJIRO gathers the Circle of Ten again, only to then—in rather brusque fashion—dismiss numbers Three to Eight in order to inform the First and Second that they will be departing with him on a frontal assault mission to reclaim a “brightlight facility”. Ominously, he tells them that the recommended taxonomies for the mission are their best shards—the ones that are most likely to help them survive.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fading Suns: Grasscutter Season 01 -- Mysteries & Secrets

These are some of my old campaign planning notes for a Fading Suns campaign that I ran a while back:

The Imperial Frigate Grasscutter, under the command of Captain Tokudane Li Halan, plies the jumpgates of the Known Worlds to unravel the mystery of the Fading Suns. Grasscutter, a powerful ship of mysterious origin, is owned by the mysterious captain but pledged to the service of the Emperor.

The Player Characters have, for one reason or another, been assigned to serve for a year on Grasscutter as field agents. They are members of a team assigned to gather information, procure artifacts, and otherwise execute operations critical to the mission of the Grasscutter. Some have been sought after by the captain, while others have been forced upon him. None are what they seem.

In the course of the campaign, all the characters will discover secrets - about the captain, about Grasscutter itself, and -- most importantly -- about themselves. Once the secrets are all revealed, they may demand painful changes from those who know.

Dramatis Personae
Grasscutter Crew (NPCs)

  • Captain Tokudane Li Halan – Captain of the Grasscutter
  • 1st Lt. Cervantes Weston Hawkwood – Lieutenant attached to the Master Pilot
  • 1st Lt. Jose Apacible Decados – Lieutenant attached to the Master Engineer
  • 1st Lt. Maria Josefina Hazat – Lieutenant attached to the Master Gunner
  • Johann Schmidt – Master of the Grasscutter
  • Yolanda Bermudes – Bosun of the Grasscutter
  • Abraham Jones – Master Gunner of the Grasscutter
  • Martha Apollo XIII – Master Marine of the Grasscutter
  • Thalia di Terlizi – Master Purser of the Grasscutter
  • Olaf Dzunza – Master Cook of the Grasscutter
  • Charioteer Genevieve Latham – Master Pilot of the Grasscutter
  • Charioteer Dennis Loyola – Master Engineer of the Grasscutter

Field Agents (PCs)

  • Azure al Malik – Noble and Psychic
  • Ishmael Li Halan – Noble and Eskatonic Theurgist
  • Strayven An-Yong – Charioteer
  • Engineer Iovna – Engineer
  • Solomon Darlowe – Imperial Eye Reclaimer
  • Chastity Ironthighs – Crusty Old Muster Veteran
  • Abbot E. Costello – Bumbling Scraver
  • Sister Phaedra Stone – Amalthean Healer

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mining Firebirds: the Church, State, and Citizenry

After reading this post about the medieval mindset, and because of how clearly the point of view of NPCs (and perhaps some PCs) in that era might be explained, I immediately jumped to thoughts on how Philippine culture can be mined for Fading Suns RPGs, particularly in the case of religion.

Here are couple of things that you might want to use for your Fading Suns storylines for flavor, or even an adventure premise:

Mass is always full

Okay, not always. The lunchtime mass at the But on Sundays (and Saturday evenings -- anticipated masses), they're full. Sometimes standing room only full.

The "mega-chapel" known as the Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord, located on the top floor of one of the bigger malls in Metro Manila, tends to have long lines on Sundays as the attendees of the next mass await their turn to enter after the current mass finishes. Yes, we have chapels in malls -- and masses in malls -- because it's very convenient in a country where traffic and parking can be part of the trial of keeping the Lord's Day holy. I though it would be very controversial, but it hasn't gone away. And the various other churches still get their fill on Sundays. I don't think churches in malls are particularly Fading Suns-y, unless you consider the Guild worlds and perhaps the more cosmopolitan planets like Byzantium Secundus.

Aren't there other religious denominations in the Philippines? Yes. The Christian services tend to be longer, I think, and also get full with worshippers, according to my Christian friends. And the Iglesia ni Cristo, and Jesus Is Lord, and El Shaddai movements have their throngs of followers choking their churches and causing traffic at their places of worship (public and more private).

So, even with all the atheists and agnostics and lapsed Catholics / Christians / etc. that I know personally in society -- well, basically if you throw a stone into a parking lot, chances are you'll hit a regular churchgoer.

Applying this in Fading Suns, it means that most NPCs spend a chunk of their day of worship at the Cathedral, or perhaps a properly sanctified and recognized chapel nearer to where they live. It's something they make a regular part of their lives, something the either set in stone on their schedules or something they always include on their to-do lists.

And I haven't even touched on the Muslims and the Chinese temples.

Faith and the Syncretic approach

By praying and walking on their knees
from the entrance of the church to the
altar, devotees believe their intentions
will be heard and answered.
This isn't to say that we're saints in this country. Crime and corruption are long-time residents of this archipelago. The sermons about Sunday-only Catholics certainly ring true here.

But more than that, there is an undercurrent of syncretic practice ("the combining of different -- often seemingly contradictory -- beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought") in this worship. Chinese superstition and feng shui are equally present at blessings of homes, offices, and public structures, even if no one of Chinese descent is present. Local monsters, spirits, and creatures of lower mythology have all been lumped together as 'demons' under the Catholic catechism, but provincial residents still have minor ways of appeasing them alongside religious observances and protections. There have been admonitions to the faithful that they should not view the lighting of candles, the kneel walker pilgrimages at the Baclaran Church, and the Holy Week practice of Visitia Iglesia as superstitious rituals, but instead as gateways to deepening faith.

But I have no doubt that in some minds, they're both.

In Fading Suns, this can be seen as the general ignorance of the populace about true Orthodox Church doctrine, and a multitude of local superstitions that have been infused (purposely, or by default) with the original, older set of beliefs that came from the planet's natives and from the earliest settlers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nostalgia: Danger International and short-lived campaigns

Danger International (D.I., as we used to call it) was the RPG we used to run many a modern day campaign. These wouldn't necessarily be your straightforward espionage or paramilitary games, though. These would be the gaming equivalent of one-season, fondly remembered TV shows with a science fiction / fantasy premise as part of the pitch.

I can, of the top of my head, remember the following games (many of which started on off-the-cuff remarks that grew into a "hey, let's try this for a while" type of campaign):

  • Post-holocaust D.I. - After the Plague: a terrible contagion sweeps the world, leaving only -- coincidence of coincidences -- smarter, more motivated, more capable versions of the players themselves as survivors. After rapidly dealing with the emotional trauma of seeing their closest loved ones dead, they begin raiding their homes for supplies and set out to find anyone else who's survived and make a go of it.
  • Monster Fighters D.I.: mildly super-powered versions of the players (think of the slightly more useful members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes) encounter the world of vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night and must endure a life on the run while seeking out their shadowy archnemesis in a bid to end his reign of terror.
  • They Live Among Us D.I.: the PCs, normal people with regular jobs, stumble onto an alien conspiracy and are forced to leave their lives behind. They fight against strange creatures, try to find other people who know, and desperately seek a way to fight back against these strange alien oppressors.
  • Post-holocaust D.I. - Zombies: much like the other post-holocaust D.I., only with the now, very much popular zombie apocalypse in effect.
  • Team Looney Tunes D.I.: a crack special operations unit is sent out to resolve matters that would normally qualify as X-file material: a monster claiming the lives of an isolated Arctic research station; a preternaturally strong humanoid predator lurking in the sewers; a paramilitary cult in the wilds of Africa rumored to have mystical powers. Each team member was code-named after a Looney Tune -- only Bugs Bunny was off-limits. He was James Bond meets Jason from Friday the 13th, called in only when the team couldn't resolve matters.

Yes, it was the Hero System, but before 4th edition, when they really started pushing the system as the core brand rather than a unifying brand across RPGs. And we'd already been shuffling rules around the various Hero RPGs anyway. And it was a lot of fun.

Too bad none of them lasted more than a year. But at least we have the memories, the variety, and the option to go back to the well some time in the future.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Inspiration: Golden Knight Garo

Golden Knight Garo is (or simply Garo) one bad@$$-lookin' hero.

You could make him a villain though: one-shot lieutenant humanoid beast in armor (perhaps a leveled-up hobgoblin, or one in magical armor depending on your flavor of D&D).

Listen to this series summary though:

Garo focuses on the life of Kouga Saejima, who has assumed the title of Makai Knight to protect humanity against dark demonic manifestations called "Horrors." In his quest to purge them, he encounters a young girl named Kaoru whom he saves from a Horror, but who is stained with its demonic blood. As a rule, those that have been stained by the blood of a Horror shall be cut down, or else they will die painfully in approximately 100 days. Kouga spares Kaoru and tries to find a way to purify her before her remaining time expires.

Could be a rationale to have high-powered adventurers running around a fantasy world for a limited run campaign. A real 'wahoo' type of team, but with serious opposition and recurring characters as well. Or just run it as a modern day super-hero campaign, with very limited sources of power special effects.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Armchair Reviews: Fading Suns Player's Guide (Revised Edition)

Any time I talk about Fading Suns, I tend to rattle off many, many, many things. There's just something about the setting that fires the imagination and resonates with my inner GM. So, I'm going to try to keep this short for once:
  1. if you've ever wanted to game in a science fantasy setting that is the Dark Ages in space by way of Dune and Hyperion, this is the RPG for you;
  2. if you're a follower of the Fading Suns brand from a prior edition, this is the confusingly named Fading Suns Player's Guide (Revised Edition), which is different from the prior edition of this RPG -- Fading Suns Revised Second Edition.
  3. if you're an owner of the aforementioned Fading Suns Revised Second Edition, here are the new things that you can expect to see:
    • Timeline advanced to 5002 -- some interesting tidbits for longtime followers
    • Incorporates information on Minor Noble Houses -- some interesting stuff for longtime followers
    • Victory Point System tuned for simpler calculation of VPs -- good
    • Removed high fail/fumble factor from previous edition -- great
    • Spirit characteristics replace opposed Passion traits -- must playtest before deciding
    • Lifepath System streamlined and more flexible -- liked it before, seems improved
    • Number of Skills reduced -- good
    • Traits updated and Fighting Styles added -- must playtest before deciding
    • Psi and Theurgy refined for Spirit characteristic changes -- good
    • Combat system overhauled for faster play -- good
    • Cybernetics updated -- good
    • Expanded Technology and Transport chapters -- great
    • More weapon and armor options in the Armory -- good
    • Guidelines for player activity on Starships -- good
    • More sample Starships -- great
    • Lots of optional rules and sidebars -- good
    • Comprehensive Contents and Index -- great
    • (PDF) Fully bookmarked and hyperlinked throughout -- fantastic if you've got a digital copy
  4. Surprisingly, the list above doesn't highlight a lot of the moderate changes to the Theurgical rules that really make the feel of Theurgy more plausible and 'lived in' for a very religious culture in the future. This will probably be the focus of a future blog post on.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.29 -- The Diamond Grey Legion

VINDAR reveals his latest memory from seed time to CATALINA: that the Renegade Warder’s favored mount Nessus will arrive that afternoon, and the Renegade and his number will depart with him. Cat secretly conveys this information to ALECTO, who promptly takes possession of the Saint of Warrens and Bone Collector shards, in order for Aly to warn the former, and Cat to apologize to the latter. As this is occurring, the party runs into ARSELUS ARTILIAN, Master of the House and Judea’s husband, who proudly informs them that there will be a luncheon in thirty minutes, to “announce the new regime”.

Having returned the shards to VARIAN’S care, Aly, ARCTURUS, Cat, and MANTIUS go—Aly hanging back somewhat to apprise Arc of Vindar’s revelation—to discuss the reestablishment of the Diamond Legion with JUDEA, who unfortunately is less helpful than they might have hoped, being constrained by her office from offering opinions on the decisions of Peerdin’s owners. They note, however, that a red band appears to be progressing downward across the Writ of Diamond, signifying a limited time period in which they need to complete the Legion by filling up the first tier as well as the Circle of Ten.

Meanwhile, hurtful words are exchanged between Ian and Vindar, the latter of whom apparently knows what has happened between the former and THESSALY. Thess comes out of her room soon after and reiterates her love for Varian, who tries to tell her it was a mistake, only to be informed, rather chillingly, that “no one leaves” her.

At lunch, Cat finds out, with the assistance of the Head of Kitchen GERTRUDIS, that ‘announcing the new regime’ refers to the appointment of at least six of the seven first-tier warders required for the new legion. She is able to bargain for three hours for the party to somehow find the people for this number, and—leaving Thess and Vindar to stall on the group’s behalf—Cat, Aly, and Arc first request a dialogue with CANAR, drawing Ian and the Bejeweled Nuncio into the empath communiqué as well.

Despite his somewhat dismaying readiness to abandon Mantius for Nessus, Canar proves more than obliging on a number of the party’s requests; and alliances are formalized between the Renegade’s Number and the new Diamond, and the Renegade’s Number and the former Ninth. The Bejeweled Nuncio, for his part, attempts to convince Varian to depart with them, but Ian declines, asking his friend to understand his loyalty to his troupe. The communication ends and Canar initiates a dialogue with Mantius, in which matters are likewise ended on good terms, with the Renegade leaving his actions available for Mantius’s use.

The quintet of mounts then moves outside the dome of Peerdin in order to call, through empath synergy and the Renegade’s summon sharded mount ability, their hastily assembled list of candidates for the first tier. Notwithstanding unavailable individuals (including the reputedly deceased Aloysius and Banisa), the necessity of convincing people, and Fida’s troubling refusal to comment on the whereabouts of the rest of the Second Number, the new roster of ruling warders comprises:

  • SENATOR PATRICUS, the Diamond Silver Sallet Warder (oversight),
  • OLIVERUS, the Diamond Ash Gorget Warder (strategy),
  • FIDA, the Diamond Midnight Cloak Warder (operations),
  • CINELIS, the Diamond Smoke Vambrace Warder (communications),
  • TERENTIUS, the Diamond Shadow Bevor Warder (intelligence),
  • AUDEN, the Diamond Coal Greave Warder (recruitment and training), and
  • KENJIRO, the Diamond Obsidian Couter Warder (finance)

the last having appeared—accompanied by the Emerald’s Tenth Number’s KATSUMI, Lady of the Broken Mirror’s Reflection and HIRAKU, Triple Jade Unsung Hero, both of whom soon leave—in the midst of apparent heated battle with Terentius.

The entire assembly—now including various members of the new first tier’s previous numbers as well as the former Tenth, summoned by Mantius—moves back into the dome to formalize the appointments and complete the ceremony, only to realize that they are now expected to name the ten numbers of the new legion as well. The former Ninth are thus forced to make some hurried and potentially unpopular decisions, but are able—with the timely arrival of the Mariner of Stars ROGELIO with the Verdant Craft Mage PORTENTIA—to fill in nine of the Ten, leaving the Tenth position open for an unspecified group.

The first-tier warders then recluse themselves to discuss the new course of action, during which time the members of the former Fifth arrive and thankfully consent to divide themselves among the new Third, Fourth, and Eighth; and Nessus makes his appearance as well, meeting Mantius and Varian. The Saint of Warrens evidently elects to remain with the party, as does the Bejeweled Nuncio DIONES, to Ian’s surprise and the Prodigious Scholar’s angry and hurt dismay.

Soon after Oliverus’s public announcement of the confiscation and redistribution of all unworn shards, Cat and Terry’s private conversation via Minder, and the introduction of the irrepressible TOBIAS, the viewers witness VEDA’S negotiation with the AZURE QUEEN OF FROST at Castle Thistlethorn in the Azure Lands, in which the former promises “anything” in exchange for recovering her lost friends. This is closely followed by a scene featuring the tortured but steadfastly defiant NICOMEDES.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.28 -- Better

Information gleaned from the introductory sequence:

  • Arc was not really killed by the Grand Scholar; rather, he was saved by the Paladin of the Lost Hour.
  • The Stalwart Warder was not repaired; this was an illusion fostered by the Bejeweled Nuncio for Varian’s sake.
  • The Renegade’s number has practiced one other seeming on the party before.
  • “Events have brought us into almost perfect position” for the Renegade’s plan.
  • Lord Salinicus had seven children, five of whom remain alive.

As the party prepares to embark on rescue missions in search of other members of the Ten, VINDAR comes to the realization that his visions concerning the fall of the Citadel may have been portents of events still to come rather than of events which have already occurred. For her part, CATALINA learns through the Prodigious Scholar that, given the dissolution of the Diamond Legion, the unmounted shards sworn to that legion will disappear in three days’ time if the Writ of Diamond is not recovered from the vault of Kadmos in the Citadel.

After some heated debate concerning the wisdom of trying to alter what has been foretold, the party travels to Alina’s boat via Feylight Pathmage, leaving Vindar behind to pay the penalty for MANTIUS’S karmic debt. There, they spy the ship of the Stone Bound Warder, to which CATALINA and ALECTO venture, with the intent of explaining certain matters to the neophyte mounts on board, as previously promised. When they get there, however, they discover that the ship has been attacked and all on board killed. With the exception of the Hex Scourge shard, which they rescue, all the shards of the Stone Bound Warder’s number have evidently been taken by the attackers, whom THESSALY determines to have included Bregan of the Tenth.

Having said prayers over the departed, the Ninth proceeds to the Citadel, again via waypoint (not wanting to leave a clear trail to Peerdin). Upon arrival, they are immediately beset by creatures of Chaos, which fortunately are quickly dealt with through a combination of attacks and the synergy discovered among empaths. They are soon after attacked again by a man in blue, accompanied by more creatures, but VARIAN’S thirteenth legion, as bolstered by Mantius, enables the group to escape while the forces of Chaos are occupied by the horde.

Through Mantius’s eternal passage and Aly’s labyrinthine and ingenious touch abilities, they are able not only to gain access to Kadmos’s office, but to open the vault (notwithstanding Thess’s momentary entrapment by revenant hands en route, ably disrupted by Cat). They are pondering how to acquire the Writ from the vault when the empaths become aware of others in the room, whom Mantius reveals to be ISOLDE and JOVAL of the Tenth. These are impressively easily dealt with by Mantius and ARCTURUS respectively, and Thess uses her Silk Agent abilities to extricate the Writ from the heavily secured vault.

As the group prepares to leave, BREGAN arrives and attempts to negotiate for possession of the Writ. When it is clear that no accommodation can be made, neither party willing to give way to other, Bregan regretfully announces that they will have to fight, whereupon he is promptly overborne by various attacks. He goes down, and given the nature of his Torrent Academician shard, a proposal is made to deshard him, but fortunately Cat obviates the moral dilemma ensuing from this by using her Daughter of Passion abilities to simply prevent him from undoing what has just occurred.

The party returns the way they came, but Varian and Thessaly are plucked away en route by the GRAND SCHOLAR, who cordially informs Varian that he intends to kill him for defeating the Scholar in their last encounter. Before Varian can respond, Thess attacks the Scholar and is thereby gravely injured, though she manages to hold her own and injure the Scholar in turn in the resulting battle. As Varian cradles the injured Thess in his arms, the two of them manage to emotionally manipulate the Scholar (along with his belly bag companion) into letting them go and returning the shards taken from the party earlier. (The Scholar also mentions that “the warder of the Third” has been in the blue area recently as well.)

Back on the boat (to which a frantic Mantius led the rest of the group from Peerdin, when they discovered the two missing), everyone is thankfully reunited, though not before Thess implies to Varian that her pretended feelings for him were not, in fact, pretense. The reassembled party returns to the area outside their stronghold, where they find MAXILIUS, GENARIUS, ARIUS, and TEREGAN of the Tenth awaiting them.

After ascertaining that negotiations are not going to be entertained for the Writ (which is inside the dome of Peerdin, having been delivered into JUDEA’S hands earlier by Aly), the members of the Tenth reluctantly but graciously swear their fealty to the new Diamond Legion, in which they are now counted as the Second; and the former Ninth, the first. They depart thereafter, and Vindar comes to apologize to all about his earlier vehemence, Thess in particular.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.27 -- The Citadel Falls

As the Ninth make ready for their second official mission, THESSALY and VINDAR seek to access the Lord of Autumn’s seer abilities; ALECTO and ARCTURUS meet the redoubtable MS. TENNIN in their attempt to request some healing items; and MANTIUS discovers that CANIS VARAS is able to transform into a man in his twenties, who is troubled by “the need to eat you to protect you”. Fortunately, Canis manages to restrain himself; as meanwhile, in the course of trying to learn more about the upcoming mission with CATALINA, VARIAN falls into a mental conversation with an apparently female being of Chaos.

The Chaos bears they acquired at the House of Mim will “remind me of my lost childhood,” she says. They “will save you if you show (them) to me, but not for a long time.” Her husband and son, mother and daughter, she adds, will act when she cannot.

Soon after this, Arc and Varian—as Unconquered and Stalwart Warders, respectively—receive an urgent call for help from Terentius, to which they promptly respond, vanishing. As Aly, Cat, and Mantius settle down to wait for their return, Vindar rushes in with a warning not to answer the distress call, as it is a trap.

Alarmed, Mantius deshards the Bone Collector and dons the Renegade Warder, putting off the penalty for such action for later using his karmic debt ability (and at least partially forced to do so because the Prodigious Scholar, through an unwilling Cat, was blocking Mr. Potior’s attempts to do something about the situation).

He is thus privy to anguished warnings in the same vein from Oliveros of the Seventh, Veda, and Terry himself, learning in the process that Aloysius, Orana, and others have already been lost to the deception. He also hears:

  • a faint, frantic message from Fida, asking for help in the wake of Elinora’s disappearance
  • a stern admonition from Maxilius of the Tenth that no one should panic or congregate
  • an official transmission to or from Iason of the first tier, including the disjointed words “all… warders… recalled… do not… city… emergency”

All five remaining are also witness to Leontes’s communication, through a sudden thundercloud, that Aeneas has been taken.

Elsewhere, in an area of intense blue, Arc and Varian find themselves facing an albino man clad in blue, who calls their attention to the remains of six warders he has already killed, and challenges them to an honorable duel. Arc attempts to question the man’s right to have anything to do with a matter of honor, and is immediately beheaded for his trouble. When Varian accepts the challenge, however, they find themselves in need of an arbitrator, and Arc is therefore restored.

Despite the severe handicaps afflicting both his and Arc’s attributes, Varian manages to triumph, but is attacked from behind by a baglike Chaos creature (at the albino’s apparent but deniable behest), which aside from hurting him, tears open the pouch containing half the Ninth’s shards, spilling them out. Arc therefore levies a penalty on the albino for violating the terms of the duel, and two warders flee before even worse can occur.

Returning to Peerdin, they make their report to the party’s general dismay—especially, in the case of the Renegade Warder and Prodigal Scholar, over the loss of the Bejeweled Nuncio and Saint of Talons. Prompted by the Scholar (who realizes that the albino is in fact her former mentor, the GRAND SCHOLAR), Cat realizes that the dormant Saint of Warrens, worn by Aly, might be able to save some of the stolen shards.

Despite her growing distrust of those two shards of the Renegade’s number, Aly has a conversation with her shard, who confirms that they might be able to rescue as many as five if they are willing to risk destruction in the attempt. Shard and bearer agree to do so; and the Saint of Warrens calls upon one of the many favors evidently owed to her by each of the saints in existence. She is therefore able to assume the guise of the Azuris Beatus (a saint apparently on the side of Chaos!), and the pair travel back to the blue where, in the course of a deceitful conversation with the Grand Scholar, they manage to recover the White Mage, Bejeweled Nuncio, Saint of Talons, Sacred Fist, and Blue Mage shards before fleeing themselves.

Back at Peerdin, the stronghold has been put on high alert, with the Peerless Warder LORD SALINICUS maintaining the Citadel-class defense (and reputedly able to so for as long as fifty years). Cat confers with the warder’s daughter, JUDEA, as to how to proceed in light of Vindar’s revelation that the Citadel has indeed fallen. They agree to implement breakaway protocols, and make arrangements for the Ninth to come and go through the defenses as they try to find and gather their comrades.

Through Varian’s use of the Bejeweled Nuncio’s opal ability, the Ninth ventures out to rendezvous with TERRY, VEDA, and BANISA. Veda is persuaded to return with them and Banisa to Peerdin, and Terry promises to follow after searching for his own number and other survivors. He departs on his own, though not before kissing Cat. The group returns to Peerdin and holds a ceremony for their lost friends.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.26 -- The Past Revealed

Having remained behind at the Citadel of Warders, MANTIUS goes to the bank, where he discovers that the Renegade Warder has a joint account with the Saint of Talons (formerly the Saint of Potence), to the tune of over 200,000 AP, with the last deposit recorded just over a year ago. He also has an interesting conversation here with the Torrent Academician BREGAN of the Tenth Number, in which he learns: that the ‘Torrent’ shards, if properly guided, have abilities related to time; that the Tenth purportedly have only twelve shards and purposely refrain from accomplishing some of these in order to retain certain abilities; and that the Tenth is given to separating in order to pursue various tasks. Bregan makes an offer to trade for the Ninth’s Torrent Mariner and Mantius says that the group will consider.

Returning to Temple Mount for his convalescence, Mantius is visited by Orestes’s junior warders LORIC and JARDA, ostensibly to debrief him on the ‘Sister of the Sun’ mission, but also to request that he “continue to foster the relationship” with Terentius, who evidently has a habit of going off on unassigned missions on his own, and is therefore being closely watched by Intelligence.

Mantius gives them his information concerning Genarius’s actions back in the Aeternum, which soon leads to a formal visit from ORESTES himself, closely followed by NICOMEDES, the latter having been alerted by Mantius (and accompanied by his own juniors, the male one bearing a startling resemblance to Veda). Despite some obvious tension between the Masters of Intelligence and Operations, they are soon united in their concern over the irregularities in the Ninth’s recruitment, and agree to look deeper into the matter without attracting the attention of the Master of Recruitment, Vasilis.

In the wee hours of the morning, INEA comes to request a conversation with Canar, the Renegade Warder himself. Despite the fact that he will be unaware of what transpires, Mantius agrees. When he wakes from the slumber required to enable this, he is visited by ALINA, who covertly warns him that “the big top could come down”, but that she is doing what she can to protect them. By mid-morning, Nicomedes informs Mantius that the Ninth have finished their first official mission, and the three warders go to join them at Peerdin.

At the stronghold, Orestes and Nicomedes show the party what Intelligence has managed to discern from their records:

  • Fourteen shards (the maximum generally sent, as compared to the minimum of seven) were initially sent out to Varian, who was requested by his father to be assigned as the prime mount for the fledgling number.
  • The courier delivering the shards was attacked by All Saints, as a consequence of which the courier was killed and his shard destroyed, one other shard destroyed, and two more not only destroyed but replaced with new shards.
  • All Saints, in turn, was attacked by six shard-bearers, led by GENARIUS and supported by a many-eyed creature of Chaos, as a consequence of which the bearer is killed and All Saints taken by Chaos.
  • The Chaos creature then attacks Genarius et al from behind, which causes the thirteen shards in their position to go flying, apparently resulting in the catastrophic white event at Koros.
  • The original party is saved by the shards as follows: ALECTO, White Mage; Alina, Storm Talon; ARCTURUS, Blue Mage; CATALINA, Fire Mage; DUMAS, Blade Bravo; Mantius, Bone Collector; and VARIAN, Saint of Shadows.
  • Following this, Genarius and his ilk go back in time repeatedly, attempting to kill Varian. In one of these attempts, he is foiled by the sudden appearance of a screaming, glowing woman (ELIANDRA) in the sky above Koros.
  • Eliandra and ZOILO appear in a later iteration, discussing incomprehensible matters.

Having shown the preceding, the first-tier warders consider which of their colleagues might be involved, not excluding the most senior of them, Kadmos, although his involvement seems perplexing given that he is poised to become a centurion. After informing the rather dismayed Ninth that they have arranged for them to be trained the following month in a series of joint missions with the Sixth, they introduce the man who will of course be doing the training: the Easterly Blade Gallant AUDEN.

Despite some initial confusion and diffidence, father and son are at last (tearfully, but in a manly way) reunited, and Varian learns that Auden sent his own shard, the Stalwart Warder, for Varian to bear. Auden soon has to go tend to his other duties, in the wake of which departure Varian dons the Stalwart Warder, learning to his delight that the shard is considerably more impressive when worn by the son of its favorite mount.

Meanwhile, Mantius dons the Bone Collector (much to the Prodigious Scholar’s disgust), which results in a conversation in which Mr. Potior grants Mantius his previously hidden tenth action and attests that the Harmonic Warder and Thornthumb were the shards inserted in their number by All Saints.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gaming Benefits: Vocabulary Part II

The adventurers stealthily begin the assault on the dreaded Gazebo.  (courtesy of Dariel Quiogue)
The Gazebo. A terrible D&D monster that few have -- hmm? It's a what? Oh. Heh, heh. Of course I knew that. I was just testing you.

Seriously, though, D&D has expanded the vocabulary of many a young and not-so-young gamer. I posted about this before briefly, but the time has come to add a few more anecdotes.

Unknown Nouns: Gazebo

The story goes like this: GM mentions that players 'encounter' a gazebo, one player (a fighter) doesn't know what a gazebo is and attacks it, GM fails to explain what a gazebo is (or is amused by the player's lack of knowledge) and allows the gazebo to either be defeated or allows the player to destroy said gazebo.

I honestly don't remember where this appeared online, but I've gamed in two different countries, have searched the web, and have encountered the rampaging gazebo many times as part of gaming group lore. There must have been a module that this appeared in, just waiting for the brave, albeit mildly ignorant fighter to begin assaulting it.

Could someone point it out? I'd love to find that module.

Pronunciation: Braziers vs. Brassiere

Because we don't all know the correct pronunciation to many words, there are times when those do know the pronunciation are thrown for a loop. When the GM talks about walking into a room with "burning brassieres" as opposed to "flaming braziers", the sense of tension he may wish to impart to his players may not be what he expected. I say he, of course, because female GMs would (I hope) seize upon the pronunciation problem right away...

It's a bit less of a problem with the internet and pronunciation aids these days, but back in the Web-less days, this type of thing happened every so often, with hilarity and embarrassment ensuing.

Mythtakes: Elves, Dwarves, and Succubi

Leafing through the Monster Manual as a kid was thrilling, but I went into it not understanding that just because the MM said this is what a goblin is and these are the stats, it wasn't necessarily how other people, other cultures, other countries thought of what a goblin (or elf, or dwarf, or succubus) would be.

What are your own RPG-related verbal experiences (spoken or written or whatever) in your gaming group?

NaGaDeMon Day 03 -- Thoughts on Dice

I'm limiting myself to D6s. They're the easiest dice to procure locally (in the Philippines), and I've enjoyed systems that were based solely on them, so I know it's not impossible. I was briefly tempted by cards, but I'll do that some other time.

What resolution roll styles am I considering?

  • 3d6 -- gives a nice bell curve, and very close to the Fuzion / Hero approach to things;
  • 4d6* -- a modified 4d6 roll where all 6s are equal to 0 when totaling the value; gives a ridiculously curved 0 to 20 range of values;
  • dFate -- evenly distributed +, 0, and - values on four six-sided dice;
  • dBody -- similar to FATE dice, but 1 is -, 2 through 5 are 0, and 6 is +; tames the FATE die roll quite a bit, but is a lot more predictable; HERO gamers know this as rolling for Body

That's all I have for now, just bits and pieces staggering toward a goal.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nostalgia: Dice, Character Binders, and Rulebooks

Back in my early gaming days, there was a default gaming kit that I always brought with me in my backpack. They consisted of the following:

The Dice Bag

Still a gaming staple -- that seems to be eroding in importance given the various digital options available for random number generation -- of the gaming culture, I used to have a dice bag. Or a dice tupperware. Or a dice cigarette tin.

It was important to bring your own set of dice, and important to keep track of your dice (because of dice thieves in the meta-group at the recreation center I used to frequent, and at conventions).

I used to have favorites among my dice. A small set of three black & red d6s for all my attack and skill rolls. A large set of blue & white d6s for all my damage rolls. A red & blue flecked D20 for any D&D combat rolls. And so on.

The Character Binders

I remember having two character binders. One was a 3-ring binder with blank paper and plastic sleeves. Every single character I'd built was kept in these things: one-shot convention characters, long-running characters, just-in-case characters for RPGs that I really like but I've never had a chance to play.

The Rulebooks

This really depends on the games I plan on playing that night or that convention. Most nights it was HERO, so that meant the relevant rulebooks and sourcebooks. Other times, it would be Call of Cthulhu, or Rifts, or even the Rules Cyclopedia + the Gazetteers during that brief stint that I ran my Karameikos-based campaign.

Earlier on, it was the WEG Star Wars RPG set of books, or the Paranoia boxed set, or the set of little Traveller rulebooks -- or the AD&D triad (PHB, DMG, MM).

These days, I don't bring most of these things anymore. Most games are so rules light, someone else's dice will do, and the character sheets are online, along with the PDFs of the rules.

NaGaDeMon Day 02 -- Ratings and Rankings


In many games there are non-numeric rankings of stats.

The classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG has the following very descriptive FASERIP descriptors:
  • Feeble
  • Poor
  • Typical
  • Good
  • Excellent
  • Remarkable
  • Incredible
  • Amazing
  • Monstrous
  • Unearthly
And each of them had their corresponding numerical values and places on the brightly colored table used for action resolution.

From FATE, there's the "Ladder" or "Adjective Ladder" with the following (taken from the StrangeFateSRD):
  • Terrible
  • Poor
  • Mediocre
  • Average
  • Fair
  • Good
  • Great
  • Superb
  • Fantastic
  • Epic
  • Legendary
  • Mythic
  • Divine
And each of them also have corresponding values. The importance of things like this: game flavor or color. It sets in the mind of the Players and Gamemasters exactly what the numerical values are supposed to mean in 'qualitative' terms rather than quantitative terms. Of course, the onus is then on the mechanics to ensure that they actually match the results quantitatively in the course of gameplay. There are game systems out there that say that if you're Rank 5 in something, you're among the best in the world, but seem to routinely fail at normal uses of the skill, or even against a rank amateur (1 or 2).

While this is somewhat useful, my concern is that having an upper end to this kind of thing can compress things at the upper end of the scale. Furthermore, having the same thing for Actions (attempts to do things that aren't automatic successes) vs. Effects (the end result, and how spectacular it was) can make things tricky, because they aren't necessarily meant to be on the same scale.

Action Items
  • come up with a rudimentary, scalable ladder of descriptors
  • check out existing mechanics to see what might best match the descriptors in play

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaGaDeMon: Day 01 -- Seriously?

Yeah, so there's this thing where you're supposed to put together a game (in my case, an RPG) in one month. So here I am. Working on an RPG with the working title of Axion.

Ultimately, I'm looking at finally kludging together my favorite bits of RPG rules from various sources and seeing how they hold together (hint: not well). What rules bits are these?

  • Hero System: I really love this system, as it has become my fundamental basis for understanding things like 'game balance' and 'game effect' and 'game special effect'. I'd argue it became my first gateway into the concept of game design, given the different tweaks done on the various genres. It is a point-buy system, and I like the independence of all the various game stats and powers, and many of the core philosophies despite the bad taste in the mouth it gives to some people with 'all the math'. It's not really that complex (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are all you do here -- no factorials, no exponents, no roots), but I suppose the amount of math rather than the difficulty puts people off.
  • Marvel Super Heroes: I loved the random generation of characters, and the way that the Basic version of the rules explained things all 'in character'. I like the FASERIP stats and the text-based ranks of ability from Feeble to Unearthly and Beyond.
  • DC Heroes: rounding out the obvious influence that superhero RPGs had on me, DC Heroes impressed me with their use of APs -- a device that somehow merged solid math (exponential jumps in ability) with a way to 'fudge' how big an effect was by using 'benchmarks' or ranges of effect.
  • Fuzion: I really liked the concept of switches and dials, the ability to change the 'physics engine' of the system by tweaking key bits of it. I appreciated the attempt to merge HERO with Mekton, but it didn't really all gel that well. I also liked the ability to compress stats cleanly, making stat blocks for NPCs easier to reflect.
  • FATE: now that I finally understand it better, based on my fave gateway drug RPG -- Marvel Heroic Roleplaying -- the concept of having Traits or Disadvantages that players (either the PC in question, or other players) or the GM will be able to invoke or compel is a great one. I liked the old HERO rules for randomly determining if a disad might come into play in a given game, but this is a nicer way that ensures that the so-called disads get triggered every so often.
It's a lot to tackle in the month, but what the heck -- I'm not getting any younger.

Mining Firebirds: Saints Alive

In Fading Suns, the dominant religion seems to be a mix of Muslim and Christian (Catholic and Greek Orthodox?), with the worship of the Pancreator and the Prophet who revealed the truth of the Holy Flame.

The Eight Disciples of the Prophet Zebulon were the first saints of this religion, but there are many more that are mentioned fleetingly in the material.

I wanted to bring in a bit of this into the Fading Suns gameplay, with a bit of the local color I've discovered.

In the Philippines, there are regular devotions to saints. There are these almost human-size statues of saints that are paraded around on small floats or carried on a palanquin once a year during that saint's festival. The rest of the year, it's in the home of a devotee.

It is said that the intentions of the devotee will be answered by God, through the intercession of the saint -- but the devotee will, in the course of his or her life, undergo a similar trial to that of the saint. Naturally the martyred saints seldom get this kind of the devotion, but some would prefer some physical pain over the social or cultural persecution that other saints have endured...