Friday, December 31, 2010

Rogue Trader, Part 2

Back when I was in high school, in the dark ages f the mid-90s, I got into playing the miniatures wargame, Warhammer 40,000. A science-fiction wargame set int he grim darkness of the far future, there were any number of factions to play. Nominally on the good guys side were the Imperial Guard, the standard human armies of the tens of thousands of Imperial human worlds, and the Space Marines, essentially super-powered monk-knights with power armor, the elite of the elite, the warriors sent into the toughest fights to face the most terrifying foes. I was always fond of the Eldar, the 'space elves', looking to outrun the reach of the gods of Chaos and survive as a race.

Rogue Trader is one of three tabletop games set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe; the first was Dark Heresy, about acolytes of an Imperial Inquisitor doing their master's grunt work, trying to save the Imperium of humanity from heresy, aliens, and other assorted mischief. The third is Deathwatch, where you play part of a squad of the aforementioned Space Marines, committing commando raids and secretive operations into dangerous territory for the good of the Emperor. Rogue Trader, however, is a different animal altogether.

While the human Imperium in the 40k universe is generally portrayed as superstitious, xenophobic, and sometimes fanatical, Rogue Trader is the one of these that is not like the others. Rogue Traders are privileged traders, merchants, privateers and such that are given special Warrants - signed by the Emperor himself, supposedly - to go beyond the bounds of the Imperium, looking for ways to expand the grasp of humanity - and make themselves rich in the process. Think of Rogue Trader as Star Trek - but the ships are kilometers long, with crews in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, and while Rogue Traders do boldly go where no others have gone before, they don't do so just for the joy of exploration - they do so to make money. And because of their Warrant, they have carte blanche to do what they want - they can associate with proscribed alien races, attack planets, and defy the authority of other Imperium officials in pursuit of their job. This makes Rogue Traders, for the most part, a more free-wheeling, liberal group than other human of the Imperium - though that's not saying much.

Even the standard character types conform to the types of officers and characters you'd expect to see on a Star Trek bridge crew. FIrst, you have the Rogue Trader - head of the crew, the captain of the ship, bearer of the Warrant - the big cheese. Then you have the Arch-Militant - head of the ship's security forces, master of arms, general security officer and soldier. The Navigator - the man whose special talents allow him to navigate the hellish Warp, which allows mankind to travel between stars - is the navigation officer. The Astropath - who blinds himself to augment his psychic ability, which allows him to communicate at intergalactic distances - is the communications officer. The Explorator, a tech-priest who worships the Omnissiah, a technologically divine version of the Emperor, harbors all the secret and divine knowledge of forbidden technology - making him the equivalent of the science officer. The Seneschal, who handles logistics, commercial operations, and is generally the Rogue Trader's right hand, is the first officer. The Void Master, who has mastered one or more of the ship's systems, such as gunnery, the helm, the ship's sensors, or smaller craft, fills a number of roles.

In one of their newer supplements, they added options for players of Rogue Trader to play one of two alien species - a big deal in the 40k universe, since most humans fear anyone non-human, and even those humans who have been mutated by radiation or other problems. The Kroot are a race of alien mercenaries, who consume to corpses of their fallen foes - and who can use the DNA of their foes to alter future generations of Kroot. Though primitive, the Kroot are effective mercenaries, but the real surprise is the inclusion of Orks. In the 40k universe, Orks are the closest thing to a universal plague - they are born from fungi, grow larger through combat and confrontation, and fear nothing. They live to fight - and are something like a cross between an English soccer hooligan and a Terminator. Some can be pacified for short times with promises of combat, or transport to combat, or things to help them in combat, but they have no other joy in life but to fight.

Personally, I'm hoping that, in the future, Rogue Trader supplements add Eldar to the races that can ride along with a Rogue Trader - mostly because I always liked the Eldar, they were an interesting take on the whole idea of elves. I like Rogue Trader, even if I never get a chance to play it, because of the atmosphere of the 40k universe, the idea of being the command crew for a ship big enough to house a small city, and the way to game looks like it would run. Personally, I've always been fond of playing characters who hit, shoot, or otherwise destroy their enemies, but I could see myself getting into playing an Explorator Tech-Priest, or maybe a Void Master gunner or pilot. Any game that tempts me into playing outside my standard character type is one that I want to play, and Rogue Trader is pretty high up on that list.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scion, Part 2

Back in early November, I did my whole character creation thing for Scion, a game where you play the modern children of ancient gods. I'm looking at actually playing Scion for the first time in a long time now, so I thought I might come back to it. It doesn't hurt that the first Scion book is one of the few I was able to bring with me on 'vacation' to Florida over Christmas break.

I've been interested in mythology for a long time, probably since before middle school. Mostly, I focussed on the myths surrounding the Greek and Norse gods, because they are two of the most well-known Western mythological groups. I've also been into White Wolf as a game company for a long time - since high school, at the very least, where I ran a long-running game of Werewolf: the Apocalypse, as well as some other, shorter games, like Project Twilight. That means I've probably had about 15 years of experience with the Storyteller system - which is a little depressing personally, but not terribly relevant.

Bringing mythology together with the Storyteller system was a big deal for me when I first heard about it; I hadn't really thought about it before, but a game about modern mythic heros and demigods really hit a chord. Initially, however, after reading the books I wasn't too thrilled about the system. Looking at the way powers were divided - the personally focussed epic attributes, and the more wide-ranging divine powers - I thought the game wasn't really all that balanced.

Of course, after I thought about it for a while, I realized that was the point. There's no reason a Scion focussed on fertility god powers should be as effective in combat as a Scion of a war god. And even a Scion of a war god can choose to either focus on personal combat powers - in which case he'll take epic physical attributes - or on causing others to be better in combat, in which case he'll take powers in the War purview. Balance is not one of the key ideas of Scion, because mythologically, the gods were never balanced - they were each focussed on their own area.

The mechanics in some ares of Scion are a little crazy, yeah, but a lot of that only happens when you start getting to the higher power levels. Epic attributes, for example, grant automatic successes on certain types of rolls, and they increase geometrically - Epic Stat 1 gives 1 auto success, Epic Stat 2 gives 2, Epic Stat 3 gives 4, and so on. This is fine early on, while Scion is still played in the Hero stage, but near the end of Demigod or God, the geometric successes mean that someone with, say, Epic Dexterity 7 is essentially guaranteed to defeat someone who only has Epic Dexterity 6. That's because the person with Epic Dexterity 7 has twice the automatic successes of the person with Epic Dexterity 6. But this is easy enough to change by just making the automatic successes and such progress in a linear fashion - Epic Stat 3 gives 3 successes instead of 4, and Epic Stat 4 gives 4 successes instead of 8.

After that, there's only a couple of other problems with Scion, and some of them are only going to come up if a player knows the Storyteller system well and how to game it. Scion uses a stat called Legend, for example; it represents how well-known and powerful your character is, and you can't progress to the next power level - from Hero to Demigod, or Demigod to God, without Legend. Now, in theory, though the base level of Legend is 2, you can push it as high as 4 during character creation - and this means you only need a minimum of experience points to push it to 5, and thus Demigod level. But a character who does that is bypassing everything else, and the GM has an easy way to delay the switch to Demigod - the jump in levels requires a visitation by the Scion's divine parent, and a confirmation by them that the character is ready to move up in the world.

It seems that a lot of the mechanical problems of Scion can be solved - but in most cases, they can only be solved with a good GM who pays attention and players who try to follow a particular theme rather than trying to game the system. I know I've been guilty of that before, so I don't count myself out of that group, but I generally try to keep to the spirit of the game. So I am looking forward to being able to play Scion again in the near future, even if I am playing the combat monkey in a group full of characters who can likely lead my character along by the nose. Because half of the fun of gaming, at least for me, is the interaction with the group, and it'll be a crazy time in a group playing the children of gods.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Eclipse Phase

It's been a while since my last entry, but in my defense, it's been busy - the end of the semester with papers due, the new expansion for World of Warcraft, and being down with my family in Florida for the holidays, away from most of my books - and the ones I brought, I've already done characters for. But now, after Christmas, I have at least a couple new games to enter, and tonight, I'll be doing one, called Eclipse Phase.

Eclipse Phase is a science fiction RPG, set a century or two into the future. As time went on, people developed greater and greater technology, and some even moved out into space to colonize and mine and develop there. Soon enough, seed AIs - AIs that could improve and learn on their own - were developed, and not long after, they got angry. They slowly started conflicts that spread into wars, and those wars began to consume the world - and even after humans realized it was these AIs, called TITANs - Total Information Tactical Awareness Networks - they still fought each others. When things looked worst and the TITANs were winning, people fled the earth in droves, both in human form and in digital uploads of their consciousness, and the TITANs followed - and then, for whatever reason, they disappeared through the Pandora Gates, moving into unknown areas of the universe.

Now, humans survive in forms that are often hard to see as human - they have moved into a phase of transhumanism. Minds can be transferred into new, genetically engineered - or entirely robotic - bodies. They can be stored digitally. They can be backed up, in case a body - called a morph - is killed. The mind may not even be human - it may be a carefully controlled AI or an uplifted animal. Humanity, lessened to half a billion from a population of over 8 billion, now lives among the stars, unable to return to an Earth war-torn, ecologically wrecked, and still infested with some TITAN constructs. Split into many nation-states, hypercorporations, and factions, with economies of both money and reputation, doing things as varied as exploration of planets, searching for alien artifacts, negotiating with the alien Factors, trying to reclaim the Earth, fighting for your favored faction, or trying to find out what the TITANs wanted and where they went, the characters of Eclipse Phase have their work cut out for them.

Eclipse Phase uses a percentile system, using 2d10 - one as the tens die, one as the single digit die; the aim is to roll under. For this character, I think I'll want to make an explorer-type character, because exploring this kind of setting sounds fun, and risky. Explorer will be my character concept, then. Next, I choose my Background, from a list provided; I'll make my character one of the first generation of Original Space Colonists; this means that when I get to skill selection, I will add +10 to either Pilot: Spacecraft or the Freefall skill, +10 to a Technical, Academic, or Profession skill of my choice, and then +20 to a Networking skill of my choice. Some backgrounds have a disadvantage, but not this one.

Next comes my choice of Faction; there are quite a few, but I have to choose one. I think the one that fits me best will be the Titanian faction, the faction of the Titanian Commonwealth's socialist cyberdemocracy. This gets me +10 to two Technical of Academic skills of my choice, and +20 to the Networking: Autonomists skill. As with backgrounds, factions can have disadvantages, but not this one. Now, I get to spend some points. There are 7 aptitudes: Cognition, Coordination, Intuition, Reflexes, Savvy, Somatics, and Willpower. I have 105 points to spread between them. For simplicity, I will put 15 in Cognition, Coordination, Reflexes, Savvy, and Somatics. I will put 10 points in Willpower, and then 20 in Intuition. I then gain my natural Language skill at 70 + my Intuition score; I'll take English, and so it will be rated at 90. I then start with a Moxie stat - a representation of my ability to face down challenges and overcome obstacles - of 1. I have 5,000 credits to purchase gear, and 50 Reputation Points to spread between the reputation networks of my choice - I'll put 20 points with Firewall, the default PC organization, and 30 points with the Research Network, a group of scientists, explorers, and researchers.

Now, I get to spend a lot more points - 1000, to be exact. I spend them to buy skills, Moxie, aptitude points, money, or reputation - as well as an initial body, or morph, to start in. It costs 1 points per skill point up to 60, so I'll start there. I'll take 30 points each in Academics: Astrosociology and Academics: Astrozoology, as well as Academics: Xenolinguistics - I'll designate these three as the targets for my background and faction skills, too. Then I need to take 400 points worth of active skills - those skills which require physical activity. I'll take 30 in Fray (fighting), and 20 points in Freefall. Then 40 in Freerunning (to help me get around on my own). Since I'm an explorer, I'll want a few points in Investigate; I'll spend 20 there. I'll spend 15 points in Kinesics, too. I want to be able to patch myself up, so I'll spend 25 in Medicine: Paramedic. I'll want to be able to find my way around, so I'll spend 40 points in Navigation, and 10 in Pilot: Spacecraft. I'll put 40 points in Perception, as well - nice to se what's going on most of the time, right? I'll put another 25 in Kinetic Weapons, so I can shoot at things a bit. Then I'll put 30 in Infiltration, so I can sneak around - why fight when you don't have to? I'll put 25 more in Pilot: Groundcraft, so I can make my way around on the ground, 40 in Scrounging, and spend my last 40 of the 400 with 30 in Hardware: Groundcraft and 10 in Climbing.

I'll spend 60 points to increase my Moxie by 4, up to 5. Then 50 more, to add 5 points to Somatics, to raise it to 20. I'll reserve 50 points for my morph. This leaves me with 365 points. Now, while I had to spend 400 points on physical skills, I need to spend 300 on Knowledge skills. I've already spent 90, so I have 210 left. I'll start with Interests: Gatecrashing (I want to know all I can about the mysterious Pandora Gates) at 40. I'll also take Interests: Sci-Fi Aliens at 40. Then I'll put 20 in Networking: Firewall, and 20 in Networking: Autonomists. Then I'll put 30 each in Profession: First Contact, Profession: Surveying, and Profession: Smuggling Tricks (sometimes, you just have to make ends meet). That's all my Knowledge skills, but I'll spend a few more. I'll put 20 in Language: Mandarin, and 20 more in Networking: Scientists, and 30 in Academics: Memetics. I have 70 points left; I'll spend 50 to get both of my current reputations up to 50, and the last 20 on the Fast Learner trait (I improve skills and learn new ones in half the time it normally takes) and Situational Awareness (I maintain continuous partial awareness of my surroundings, making me hard to distract).

Now, with my 50 remaining points, I choose my morph; personally, I like the Olympian morph - it's kind of like having your body be like Captain America. It has a decent Durability and Wound Threshold, and gives me +5 Coordination, +5 Reflexes, +10 to Somatics, and +5 to Willpower. It comes with the Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, and Cortical Stack implants This actually only costs me 40 points, but I'll keep the last 10 points for a rainy day.

Then I choose my gear, using my 5,000 starting credits. For armor, I'll buy a basic VacSuit, and for a weapon I'll buy a Kinetic Assault Rifle. I'll buy a few more implants for my morph - the Adrenal Boost, Direction Sense, Enhanced Vision, Medichines, Oxygen Reserve, and Temperature Tolerance. these will help me as an explorer to survive harsh environments, and sometimes harsh people. Then I'll buy an assortment of other gear - Backup Insurance for 1 month (so I can get a new body if I die suddenly), Breadcrumb Positioning System (like GPS, but in SPACE!), a Diamond Axe, Electrogravity Net, Electronic Rope (like rope, but with power!), a knife, portable lidar/radar system, radio booster, shelter dome (fancy tent), spindle with spindle climber, tactical network software, traction pads, and an ultitool (Leatherman x Swiss Army Knife + space tools).

Finally, I choose motivations. These are three ideologies, goals, or other reasons I have to do what I do; whether I follow the ideology of a cyberdemocracy, subscribe to hypercapitalism, or pursue knowledge of nano-ecology. The book has a list, but also encourages you to find your own; for this, I'll go with the book's list, and choose Alien Contact, Exploration, and Nano-Ecology. And so, at the end, my character will look like this:

Titanian Explorer
Background: Original Space Colonist
Faction: Titanian
Morph: Olympian
Motivations: Alien Contact + Exploration + Nano-Ecology

COG 15
COO 20
INT 20
REF 20
SAV 15
SOM 30
WIL 15

Moxie 5
WT 8
DUR 40
DR 60
INIT 70 (80)

Academics: Astrosociology 55
Academics: Astrozoology 55
Academics: Xenolinguistics 55
Academics: Memetics 45
Climbing 40
Fray 45
Free Fall 35
Freerunning 70
Hardware: Groundcraft 45
Infiltration 50
Interests: Gatecrashing 55
Interests: Sci-Fi Aliens 55
Investigation 40
Kinesics 30
Kinetic Weapons 45
Language: English 90
Language: Mandarin 40
Medicine: Paramedic 40
Navigation 60
Networking: Autonomists 55
Networking: Firewall 45
Networking: Scientists 35
Perception 60
Pilot: Groundcraft 40
Pilot: Spacecraft 35
Profession: First Contact 45
Profession: Surveying 45
Profession: Smuggling Tricks 45
Protocol 25
Scrounging 60

Fast Learner
Situational Awareness

Firewall: 50
Research Network Associates 50

Armor: VacSuit
Weapon: Kinetic Assault Rifle
Implants: Adrenal Boost, Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Direction Sense, Enhanced Vision, Medichines, Oxygen Reserve, Temperature Tolerance
Gear: Backup Insurance (1 month), Breadcrumb Positioning System, Diamond Ax, Electrogravitic Net, Electronic Rope, Knife, Portable Lidar/Radar Sensor System, Radio Booster, Shelter Dome, Specimen Container, Spindle with Spinlde Climber, Tactical Network Software, Traction Pads, Ultitool

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd Edition

Sorry for the delay; between Thanksgiving, the imminent expansion of world of Warcraft, and finishing up schoolwork for the semester, life has been pretty crazy lately. On the upside, for anyone who reads this, I seem to have an additional copy of the Hellas RPG basic book; let me know if you want it, because it'll go to the first person who asks.

On to the game for today. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is, like Rogue Trader, based on a big wargaming property owned by games Workshop, though WFRP is based on their fantasy game, Warhammer Fantasy Battles. It takes place in a world that is in continuous upheaval; dark elves assault the ancient kingdom of the high elves, dwarves are under continuous siege from orcs and goblins, and the great human empire, modeled largely on the provinces of medieval Germany, must deal with many threats - undead at their borders, orcs and goblins besieging their dwarven allies, skaven (evil rat-men) under their feet, and the insidious forces of the Chaos gods all around and within. The characters in WFRP don't start out as great heroes, just people in many normal walks of life; heralds, valets, outlaws, mercenaries, rat-catchers, and many others. They fight against the forces of evil, or join them, as they see fit. It's nto high fantasy, but more grim, gritty fantasy roleplaying; there are few magic swords here, btu there is the very real possibility that you will end up dead in a ditch, or converted and mutated by Chaos. But it's all a part of survival in the Warhammer world.

For character generation, I start with race. I have four choices; I can be a human, a proud citizen of the Empire; a dwarf, an ally to the humans, in their lands for trading, fighting, or both; a wood elf, comign into human areas looking for aid against the creatures that invade the forests; or a halfling, a race much like the hobbits if they had been taken over by humans and didn't care. I think I'll go with human, as it is the standard. This gives me the skills Common Knowledge (The Empire), Gossip, and Speak Language (Reikspiel), as well as two random Talents; I get night Vision and Hardy. After that, I generate my characteristics, which are Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill, Strength, Toughness, Agility, Intelligence, Willpower, and Fellowship; as a human, all of these are determined by a roll of 2d10+20. I end up with, in order, 28, 33, 25, 34, 30, 22, 37, and 24. I have 1 Attack, and have 11 Wounds. My Strength Bonus is 2, my Toughness Bonus is 3, my Movement is 4, and I start with 3 Fate points.

Next, I get to determine my profession. There are 60 choices, though some are only for certain races, and I can either determine this randomly, or choose one by myself. I think I'll just choose for myself, and I'll pick a Profession that is a classic in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying - the Rat Catcher. As a Rat Catcher, I gain the skills Animal Care, Animal Trainer, Concealment, Perception, Search, Set Trap, and Silent Move. As Talents, I gain Resistance to Disease, Resistance to Poison, Specialist Weapon Group (Sling), and Tunnel Rat. I also gain the profession's starting equipment: a Sling with ammunition, 4 Animal Traps, a Pole with 1d10 dead rats, and a Small but Vicious Dog. As my first career, I get one free advance; I'll use it to add 5 to my Agility. Also, when I finish this career track, my choices of new careers to enter are: Bone Picker, Cat Burgalr, Grave Robber, Jailer, Shieldbreaker, and Thief. It seems I am quite the low-life, but then, I do spend my days wandering in the sewers killing rats. My final character looks like:

Race: Human
Current Career: Rat Catcher
Previous Careers: None

Age: 25
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Copper
Weight: 150 lbs.
Height: 5' 10"
Star sign: The Gloaming
Birthplace: Middenland

WS 28, BS 34, S 25, T 34, Ag 35, Int 22, WP 37, Fel 24

A1, W 11, SB 2, TB 3, M 4, Mag 0, IP 0, FP 3

Skills: Animal Care, Animal Training, Common Knowledge (The Empire), Concealment, Gossip, Perception, Search, Set Trap, Silent Move, Speak Language (Reikspiel)

Talents: Hardy, Night Vision, Resistance to Disease, Resistance to Poison, Specialist Weapon Group (Sling), and Tunnel Rat

Trappings: Sling with ammunition, 4 Animal Traps, Pole with 1d10 dead rats, Small but Vicious Dog

And now I am ready to go out in the world, likely to be killed horribly. Unless I fight rats, that is.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dresden Files RPG

I'm a big fan of the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher; how could I not like a series of books written in a hard-boiled detective noir style, except having them be about a wizard instead? So I was very happy when the Dresden Files RPG, having been in the works for a couple years, finally came out earlier this year. It runs on the FATE system (which can be found, for free, in a slightly earlier iteration at the Evil Hat website) , which is a very narrativist system; instead of focusing on hit points and powers and minutiae, it focuses instead on the characters and the special things about them.

One of the big things abotu the system are the Aspects; every character has some. The Aspects are chosen and created for each character in a way that works with the character, and each Aspect helps to do something - though whether that somethign is positive or negative for the character is debatable. A character who's a cabbie, for instance, might have the Aspect 'You'd Better Buckle Up'; this might help the character while driving in a high-speed chase scenario, but might also be bad when driving regularly. A character with the Aspect 'High Stakes Gambler' might be good at gambling, but when he or she loses, it will be a big loss. They can both help and complicate your character's life, and so they're an important part of the FATE system.

Being a Dresden Files game, characters can be regular humans, or they can be magically gifted, divinely inspired, or not human at all. The power level of the game determines how powerful you can be; depending on the starting level, your character will have a varying pool of what are called 'refresh' points, and those are usedto purchase either supernatural powers, templates, or simply useful talents and tricks. This is important, both because any refresh points you don't spend at character creation will be turned into Fate points (which let you change a situation in your favor), and because you always have to keep at least one refresh unspent - it reflects your free will and ability to act on your own. Without any refresh, you become a pawn of your superiors, or simply a slave to your own desires, and lose the ability to act freely - and thus be a PC.

I'll build a character assuming a setting something liek that of the Dresden Files - an urban setting, with some kind of entrenched supernatural power around. What I want to build is, essentially, an Einherjar - one of the honored dead of Valhalla, sent back to the mortal plane by Odin to watch and see what is going on, and whether or not he should be taking more of an interest in things. First, I have to choose a High Concept; this could be somethign relating to my job, something relating to my service to Odin, or a combination of several things; I'll make my Hich Concept 'Honored Dead Man Walking'. Sort of on the nose, but it works. After that, I need to choose a Trouble, somethign that complicates my (un)life with my High Concept. I'll go with 'Out of His Time'; my character, as a long-dead Einherjar, isn't as used to the modern world as he could be, and it causes troubles for him.

Next, I go through a series of phases to develop my character. First, there is 'Where did you come from?', also known as the background. My character will have been a warrior chosen to go to Valhalla, and then, long after, chosen to return to the mortal world to look out for Odin's interests; I have to choose an aspect for this phase, something relating to my background - I'll go with Mortal Wound Scar, the scar from the wound that killed him; hard to explain, but a mark of his current supernatural nature. Next, there is the rising conflict phase, or 'What Shaped You?' Being that my character is a man who died in battle, I'll go with 'Death is only the beginning' sure, it's from The Mummy, but in this guy's case it's true. Then, I move on to the story phase, or 'What was your first adventure?' As a guy who goes on to be sent out as an agent, I'll set it up so that his first adventure was a while ago, when he was sent out as an agent to take care of a problem for Odin. It wasn an ugly situation, but he was the right man, so I'll make his aspect here 'The right man in the wrong place'. The final two phases are times when my character would have 'guest starred' in another PC's stories, so I'll skip those for now, unless somebody has an idea for those; an example from the Dresden Files RPG book has Harry Dresden starring in Karrin Murphy's case, Restoration, where Harry gets in a fight with a troll and trades quips with it, leading the example player to give Harry the aspect 'Epic Wiseass'.

For the mechanical parts of my character, I need to spend refresh points and skill points; I'll start at the Chest-Deep power level, which gives me 8 refresh and 30 skill points. As an Einherjar, I'll take the Emissary of Power template, which lets me choose supernatural powers that would fit with my status. I don't see an Einherjar throwing spells around, but his somewhat hazy status between life and death grants him some benefits - I'll go with Inhuman Speed, Inhuman Strength, and Supernatural Recovery (which True Magic can negate); this makes my character somewhat stronger and faster than an average human, and lets me recover from wounds quickly and exert myself for truly inhuman amounts of time. This will cost me 7 refresh, so that's it for that category. With 30 points, I can get 2 skills each at Superb, Great, Good, Fair, and Average levels. I'll take Weapons and Endurance at Superb; I can dish hits out and take them well. I'll put Fists and Might at Great; I'm pretty good even without a weapon, and Im pretty strong. I'll take Alertness and Intimidation at Good, so it's hard to catch me off-guard and I'm scary when I want to be. At Fair, I'll take Lore and Athletics; I've picked up some odd knowledge being a dead guy for so long, and I'm still pretty spry. Finally, at Average I'll take Conviction and Survival; I'm mentally sound, and I know something about surviving in the wild, though I haven't done so in a long time. So, in the end, my character will look like:

Erik Grimson

Honored Dead Man Walking
Out Of His Time
Mortal Wound Scar
Death Is Only The Beginning
Right Man In The Wrong Place

Superb: Weapons, Endurance
Great: Fists, Might
Good: Alertness, Intimidate
Fair: Lore, Athletics
Average: Conviction, Survival

Physical (based on Endurance): 4
Mental (Based on Conviction): 3
Social (Based on Presence): 2

Stunts & Powers
Inhuman Speed (Alertness +4 for initiative purposes, Athletics checks at +1, remove -1 penalty for moving an acting)
Inhuman Strength (+3 Might when lifting or breaking things, +1 Might when grappling, +2 damage when using attacks that rely on muscular force)
Supernatural Recovery (recover from all injuries with time, recover from physical injuries as if they were of lesser severity, other skills never restricted from lack of rest, clear away minor injuries twice a scene)

Base Refresh level: 8
Adjusted refresh level: 1

this is the first character I've made for this game, so while I hope it is correct, I welcome any spotting of errors.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


After a couple days off to deal with non-internet life, I have returned to continue my quest. Today's game is, as the title says, Heroquest, designed by Robin Laws and Greg Stafford. I don't have the most recent edition of Heroquest handy, so I'll use the second edition, which uses the world of Glorantha as the default setting. I could try to explain, but the Wikipedia article on Glorantha says it better, so I'll quote:

"In Glorantha, magic operates from the everyday level of prayers and charms to the creation and maintenance of the world. Heroes make their way in the world, and may also venture into metaphysical realms to gain knowledge and power, at the risk of body and soul. In the more recent material competing magical outlooks, such as theism, shamanism and mysticism, exist to explain the world. Within each metaphysical system, adherents may also compete - such as when theistic worshipers of rival gods battle each other. The world is flat, with a dome-like sky, and it has been shaped in large and small ways by the mythic actions of the gods. The 'historical' world of Glorantha is in a more or less fallen state, having recovered only partially from a universal battle against Chaos in the mythic Godtime.

Humans are the dominant race, but other sentient beings abound. Some, such as the mystic dragonewts, are unique to Glorantha. Familiar nonhuman races, such as elves and dwarves, are distinct from their common, Tolkienesque portrayals."

Heroquest itself is a very narrativist game; unlike some RPGs that rely of knowledge of the system or rules, memorization, or a talent for math, Heroquest rewards things like creative improvisation, shared storytelling, and a proactive group of players. It comes with three typical methods of character creation: with the Prose method, I write about 100 words on my character, and using those 100 words, I pick out certain keywords to use for my skills and abilities. With the List method, I choose a set of keywords for my character, then choose up to ten additional abilities and up to 3 character flaws. Finally, there's the As-You-Go method, where you start with essentially a blank sheet, and make up your character as the session progresses. Since the first method would be difficult here, and the third method would be impossible for this blog, I'll go with the List method.

First, as a Heroquest character in Glorantha, I have to choose several keywords: an occupation keyword, a homeland keyword, whether or not I take my homeland's religion keyword, and a magic keyword - either for specific magic talent, or simply for common magic. I think I'll go with the Warrior occupation, which is the occupation of a warrior from a somewhat barbaric or 'uncivilized' culture, because I want to take the Heortling homeland keyword, as the Heortlings are the proto-Scandinavians of Glorantha. They have a specialized religion keyword, the Storm Pantheon, which I think I'll take as well; as for my magic keyword, I'll just go with common magic. That covers my keywords; with each keyword will come a number of abilities that I know because of that keyword. Now I have ten choices that I can use for abilities, followers, or special possessions. I think I'll take a polar bear-skin cloak that always keeps me warm, I'll join the cult of the warrior (and adventure) god Destor as an initiate, the Hardy ability, the Hold Drink ability, the History and Singing abilities, Brawling, the Know Customs of Strangers ability, Axe and Shield Fighting, and Speak Grazer. I'm thinking of my Heortling Warrior as someone like Herger the Joyous in the movie 13th Warrior, a warrior but also something of a skald and historian, with knowledge of other people. So, that said, my character, when filled out, will look like this:

Asborn the Able

Homeland: Heortlings 17
Occupation: Warrior 17
Magic: Humakt 17
Common Magic 17

Heortling: Dragon Pass Geography 17, Farming 17, Heortling Customs 17, Speak Sartarite 17, Walk with Snowshoes 17, Wilderness Survival 17, Spear and Shield Combat 17
Warrior: Endurance 17, Guard Camp 17, Know Lunar Tactics 17, Know Local Area 17, Listen 17, Sword Fighting 17, Sling Fighting 17, Recognize Fighting Style 17, Recognize Foe 17, Ride 17, Scout 17
Storm Pantheon: Know Storm Pantheon Myths 17
Other: Hardy 13, Hold Drink 13, History 13, Singing 13, Brawling 13, Know Customs of Strangers 13, Axe and Shield Fighting 13, Speak Grazer 13

Love Family 17
Revere Ancestors 17
Loyal to Clan 17
Worship Storm Pantheon 17
Member of Destor Cult 17

Magical Abilities
Common Magic 17
Destor: Overbear Foe 17, Burst of Speed 17, Sunset Leap 17, Call Clouds 17
Polar Bear Warmth Cloak 13

Active 17
Curious 17
Wanderlust 17
Boastful 17
Brave 17
Determined 17
Fear Dragons 17
Hate Chaos 17
Hate Lunars 17

Possessions & Wealth
Standard of Living: Common
Wealth 13
Weapons (sword, spear, axe)
Medium armor and shield
Strong horse 12M

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Grimm is a game about fairy tales, which you might have gathered from the title; many of the fairy tales that a character might encounter are straight out of Grimm's tales. What's interesting about Grimm, though, is who you play; rather than playing an average adventurer looking to make a fortune or fame off of the stuff of fairy tales, you play a child, probably around 12-13 years old, that has somehow managed to step into the world of fairy tales, and must team up with other children to survive and get home. It's a fun idea, though probably one not a lot of players would like - I know a number of people who wouldn't want to relive those years of their lives again. But it is a cool idea, which is why I ended up buying the game; it's made by Fantasy Flight Games, who has made a number of very cool products.

OK, as a Grimm character, I have a few choices to make. First, I have to pick an Archetype for my character to belong to; my choices are The Bully, The Dreamer, The Jock, The Nerd, The Normal Kid, The Outcast, and The Popular Kid. The Archetyoe I pick determines what abilities I start with and at what level, as well as giving me a special archetype bonus and weakness, as well as a list of things I can gain as I progress. I think I'll choose the Archetype that would have fit me most closely at that age, and go with Dreamer. Dreamers are the kids with their heads int he clouds, always thinking up some col new story or playing with a new idea, often ignoring what happens around them for the things in their head. In Grimm, all of that suddenly becomes real, and so they have a bit of an advantage there. The Specialty of Dreamers is that they roll an extra die on all initial tests of Imagination; their Flaw is that they take a -1 to all tests made against charms, illusion, or other mind-altering effects; and their initial Archetype Ability is called I Think I Can - I can choose two iconic Core abilities, one of which must be Imagination, or I can choose Imagination twice, meaning that any time I generate something real with the power of my imagination, it is more powerful. I think I'll go with that.

There are three categories of abilities - Core, Playground, and Study - and each ability has a grade. As a Dreamer, my Core abilities start as: Cool 1st Grade, Pluck 1st Grade, Imagination 4th Grade, Luck 2nd Grade, and Muscle 1st Grade. My Playground abilities start as: Hide 2nd Grade, Seek 4th Grade, Scamper 2nd Grade, Scrap 1st Grade, and Throw 2nd Grade. Finally, my Study abilities are: 4-H 1st Grade, Book Learning 2nd Grade, Boy Scouts 1st Grade, Gaming 3rd Grade, Home Ec 1st Grade. I have no Grade in the Study abilities of Country Club, Industrial Arts, or Juvie. I get 8 points to increase these abilities; Core abilities cost 3, Playground cost 2, and Study cost 1. I think I'll put another grade in Pluck, another grade in Scrap, 2 grades in Boy Scouts, and 1 in Book Learning.

Finally, I get a choice of Talents; I get one at character creation, and may choose an Origin Talent as well. Talents allow for a bit of customization and a unique feel to your character. After looking through the Origin Talents, I think I'll pass on them, leaving me with just my initial Talent. After looking through my options, I think I'll go with Hawk-Eyed; this gives me a +2 advantage on all Seek tests to notice or find small or hidden things. It sounds like it could come in handy. So, aside from some fleshing out, at the end my character looks like this:

Tommy Taylor
Shape: Person-shaped
Stature: Kid-sized
Speed: Average

Dreamer Skills: +1 on initial Imagination tests, -1 to all charm/illusion/mind-affecting tests, I Think I Can

Core Abilities: Cool 1st, Pluck 2nd, Imagination 4th, Luck 2nd, Muscle 1st
Playground Abilities: Hide 2nd, Seek 4th, Scamper 2nd, Scrap 2nd, Throw 2nd
Study Abilities: 4-h 1st, Book Learning 3rd, Boy Scouts 3rd, Gaming 3rd, Home Ec 1st

Talent: Hawk-Eyed

Monday, November 15, 2010

Big Eyes, Small Mouth

Big Eyes, Small Mouth is a roleplaying game with a somewhat generic system that tends towards the anime genre. From the magical girl series to the Robotech/Gundam ripoff, Big Eyes, Small Mouth (or BESM for short) can handle just about anything. In a pinch, it's a decent universal system, too, though it's always been a little too loose for my tastes. In any case, my preferences are irrelevant, as I have been challenged to make a character, and as a gentleman , I must accept.

However offensive, I have been challenged to create that most elusive of characters, the Lesbian Stripper Ninja. I have 350 character points to accomplish this. First, I distribute points to Stats; there are three Stats, Body, Mind, and Soul. The game recommends that I spend 180 of my points on Stats, so I will spend 70 to give myself a Body of 7, 60 to give myself a Soul of 6, and 50 to give myself a Mind of 5. This leaves me 170 points to spend on Attributes. I'll spend 20 points to gain 2 ranks of Attack Combat Mastery (I'm good at attacking), 10 points for 1 rank of Defence Combat Mastery (I can play for the defence, too), 4 points for Heightened Awareness (my senses are tingling), 15 points for Items (my ninja gear, weapons and such; stripper pole optional), 4 points for 2 ranks in Jumping (because ninjas jump like kangaroos), 10 points for Massive Damage (I do l33t damage), 12 points for 4 ranks in the Acrobatics skill, 4 points for 2 ranks in the Burglary skill, 6 points for 3 ranks in Climbing, 3 points for 3 ranks for Controlled Breathing skills, 6 points for 2 ranks in Intimidation, 4 points for 2 ranks in the Occult skill, 3 points for 3 ranks in the Poisons skill, 6 points for 3 ranks in the Sleight of Hand skill, 12 points for 4 ranks of the Stealth skill, 4 points for 4 ranks in the Stripping skill (I am, after all, a stripper), 3 points for 3 ranks of the Urban Tracking skill, 12 points for 6 forms of Special Movement (Balance, Cat-Like, Fast, Light-Footed, Untrackable, and Wall-Bouncing), 20 points for the Dynamic Power attribute (to represent my array of mystical ninja tricks), and 22 points for 11 Combat Techniques (Blind-Fighting, Blind Shooting, Brutal 2, Concealment, Critical Strike, Lethal Blow, Lightning Reflexes 2, Precise Aim, and Portable Armory).

Well, after that laundry list of Attributes, I have now spent 360 points - so now I need to take 10 points of Defects to even things out. Being a lesbian, I will take 3 points of Guy Magnet - it will be extremely uncomfortable to be mobbed by hordes of single men. I will then take 6 points of the Ism Defect; as a lesbian stripper, I must endure extreme sexism from the macho boy's club that is the ninja world. Finally, I'll take 1 point in Easily Distracted. After that, all that is left is to calculate derived values. First, my Combat Value is equal to Body + Mind + Soul divided by 3; this leaves me with 6. My Attack Combat Value is 6 +2 for my ranks in Attack Combat Mastery; similarly, my Defence Combat Value is 7. My Damage Multiplier is 5, +1 for my level of Massive Damage. My Health Points are equal to Body + Soul x 5, so for me, 65. My Energy Points (for using things like my Dynamic ninja powers) is equal to Mind + Soul x5, or 55 for me. Shock Value, the point at which my loss of Health Points will stun me, is equal to max HP divided by 5, or 13 for me. So, the final character, bizarre though she is, looks like this:

Yono Oko
Lesbian Stripper Ninja
Size: Medium
Points: 350

Body 7
Soul 6
Mind 5

Attack Combat Value 7
Defence Combat Value 6
Damage Multiplier 6
Health Points 65
Shock Value 13
Energy Points 55

Attack Combat Mastery 2
Defence Combat Mastery 1
Heightened Awareness 2
Jumping 2
Item (Various Equipment, 15 points)
Massive Damage 1
Skill: Acrobatics 4
Skill: Burglary 2
Skill: Climbing 3
Skill: Controlled Breathing 3
Skill: Intimidation 3
Skill: Occult 2
Skill: Poisons 3
Skill: Sleight of Hand 3
Skill: Stealth 4
Skill: Stripping 4
Skill: Urban Tracking 3
Special Movement (Balance, Cat-Like, Fast, Light-Footed, Untrackable, Wall-Bouncing)
Dynamic Powers (Ninja Tricks)
Combat Techniques (Blind-Fighting, Blind Shooting, Brutal 2, Concealment, Critical Strike, Lethal Blow, Lightning Reflexes 2, Precise Aim, Portable Armory)

(Yes, I feel horribly embarrassed, but I was challenged. Don't judge me.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Well, I got bored, so I came back with today's character creation entry. It is Trinity, the third in a trilogy of EGPs White Wolf made about superheroes in various stages. Trinity is about science-ficiton superheroes in space; technically, Psions, or people who have the ability to manipulate various forces with their minds alone. In the timeline of Trinity, after the Aberrant game, in 2049, Aberrants grow to be such a power that the UN declares war on them and it is a messy war. They destroy Jerusalem in 2051, and in 2061, a growing Chinese space fleet threatened to destroy the entire planet if the Aberrants didn't surrender. They didn't surrender, but they did leave the Earth - though they vowed to return. The Earth forces worked for 40 years to develop a means to combat the Aberrants, and they finally came up with the Psions - first eight individuals, who would later be the basis for the 8 psion orders. They would be humanity's defense against the Aberrant threat, and against any alien life humans might encounter in their journey into space. So now, it is 2120, and the Psion orders have been fully created; rumors of Aberrants returning, in small groups as superpowered terrorist cells, abound. You are a member of one of the Psion orders - can you save humanity's future?

As a White Wolf game, Trinity uses the Storyteller system. Yes, I know, it's tiring to see the same system over and over, but I am almost positive this is my last Storyteller game, so bear with me. As a first step, I'll make my character's concept be Philosopher; he's something of an idealist at heart, believing man can transcend its nature to become something better. His nature will be Explorer, but of a more internal nature than external. Then I choose an Aptitude, a psionic capability for one of the six know Aptitudes: Biokinesis, Clairsentience, Electrokinesis, Psychokinesis, Telepathy, and Vitakinesis. As a philosopher of humanity and its limits, I'll go with Biokinesis - manipulation of his own body and cellular structure. I'll leave his Allegiance as the standard Biokinetic one, the Norca order, who train most biokinetics.

After that, I move on to mechanics. Like other Storyteller games, I have three attribute categories - Physical, Mental, and Social - and a point spread of 7/5/3. I'll put Mental first this time, and put two points each in Perception and Wits, with 3 in Intelligence. Physical will come next, with 1 point in Strength and 2 points each in Dexterity and Stamina. Finally I have Social, where I'll put one point each in Charisma, Manipulation, and Appearance. Then I move on to Abilities; I have ten points to put in the standard Norca grouping (Athletics, Brawl or Martial Arts, Intrusion, Melee, Stealth, and Savvy), and 13 points to spend everywhere else. I'll put two points each in Athletics, Martial Arts, Intrusion, Stealth, and Savvy; I'll then put three points each in Awareness, Investigation, Academics, and Science, with 1 point left over for Meditation. I then have 7 points in Backgrounds to spend; I'll put two in Cipher to make me hard to pin down, two in Citizenship to give me three separate nations to call home, and 3 in Device - this will let me pick up a very nice set of armor, a set of Bioweave Armor.

Next, I move into the actual powers of my Aptitude. Biokinesis has three branches: Adaptation (which lets me adapt my body to surroundings, even hostile and/or extraterrestrial ones), Psychomorphing (lets me explore the inner functions and modifications of my own body), and Transmogrify (which lets me alter myself on a cellular level to change my appearance). I have three points to spend here, though I automatically start with the Biokinesis standard ability, Biosense (which lets me perceive the presence of nearby living beings, even if I can't see them). I think Psychomorphing fits my stated concept est, so I'll put two points there; this gives me access to the Sense Biokinesis power (lets me tell whether or not a given subject has any biokinetic augmentation or manipulation) and Bioshift (this lets me shift my Physical Attribute points around temporarily; if I needed some quick Strength, for example, I could shift my points in Dexterity and Stamina over, giving me a Strength of 6). My final point will go into Adaptation, to give me the Metabolic Efficiency power (which lets me ignore the effects of poisons or toxins).

Finally, I get to the finishing touches. My Willpower begins at a rating of 5, which is nice. My Psi, the rating of my character's psionic capacity, is Stamina + Wits + Charisma, divided by two; in my case, this gives me a starting Psi of 4. My Initiative is equal to my Dexterity + Wits, so 6. And then I get 15 bonus points to spend. This will go quickly; I want to buy another point of Psi, to put me at 5; this costs 5 points. Then I want to buy another point of Strength for 5 points, and a point of Wits for 5 points. Since I added a point of Wits, my beginning Psi, without the bonus point, is 5, which means I now start with 6. So the final character looks like this:

Concept: Philosopher Nature: Explorer
Aptitude: Biokinesis Allegiance: Norca
Physical: Strength 3, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3
Mental: Perception 3, Intelligence 4, Wits 4
Social: Charisma 2, Manipulation 2, Appearance 2

Athletics 2, Martial Arts 2, Intrusion 2, Stealth 2, Savvy 2, Awareness 3, Investigation 3, Academics 3, Science 3, Meditation 1

Cipher 2
Citizenship 2
Devices 3 (Bioweave Armor)

Psychomorph 2 (Sense Biokinesis, Bioshift)
Adaptation 1 (Metabolic Efficiency)

Willpower 5
Initiative 6
Psi 6

Doom & Gloom

Since I can't seem to bring myself to make an entry for today, at least not one in my series of character creation, I just thought I'd vent for a moment. I have all these RPGs; my count comes to 48, and those are just the ones within easy reach of my computer. Of those 48, I have played a grand total of 6 : D&D, Scion, Exalted, Big Eyes Small Mouth, Hunter: The Vigil and a short-lived game of Buffy. This may be a function of my lack of ability to connect with other gamers in real life, or my general ability to be rejected for every online game I've ever tried to join, or just the fact that I get frustrated easily and don't take setbacks well and this means any online games I try to run myself are virtually doomed to failure. I have a newfound respect for raid leaders in MMORPGs who have to manage to get 10, 25, or even more people together on a weekly basis for several hours at a time and can manage to hold the raid together, because I can't manage 4-5 people once every couple of weeks. Feel free to comment, but any comments about how I just don't try hard enough will be ignored, and deleted if possible; I feel like hell already, I don't need help in that area.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Aberrant is the middle child of a series of three superhero-themed games made by White Wolf; Adventure!, a pulp-hero themed game, was the first, and Trinity, aimed more at science-fiction superheroics in the future, is the third. Aberrant is the more typical, as supers games go; it is based in what is more or less the present. In Aberrant, super-powered beings, or novas, began to appear in 1998 after a special satellite blew up in orbit and somehow distributed a certain type of radiation into the jetstream as it crashed. The world reacted, in many ways; religions sprung up around the novas, there were new TV shows and blockbuster movies about and starring them, and they became key players in the world; a major UN-associated entity, Project Utopia, recruited novas in order to help do many things around the world, while a group of nova quasi-terrorists called the Teragen declare that they are above humanity and thus not subject to the laws of man. Now, ten years later, one of the world's most popular novas has been killed, and a number of novas formerly associated with Project Utopia (and their official superteam, Team Tomorrow) have left, citing beliefs that a cabal inside Project Utopia, called Project Proteus, has sinister plans and may have killed their friend; these breakaways call themselves the Aberrants. This is the world that Aberrant assumes; let's make a character for it.

I'm a big comic reader, and so I can think of a lot of character's I'd love to imitate or copy here. But since this is an example character, I'll go with a pretty standard idea. As a White Wolf game, this game uses the Storyteller system, so Attributes and Abilities are used here, obviously. For Phase One of character creation, I build my character pre-nova; I'll choose a concept of Thrillseeker, and since I'll be going for a physical-based character, I'll make Physical my primary attributes; this give me 7 points. I'll put 2 each in Stamina and Dexterity, and 3 in Strength. Next I'll go with Social; this gives me 5 points, so I'll put 1 in Manipulation, and 2 each in Charisma and Appearance. Finally, I come to Mental; I have 3 points, so I'll put one each in Perception, Intelligence, and Wits.

After that, I move on to Abilities; I have 23 points to spend here. I'll put three in Brawl, because I anticipate using my hand s a lot, and 3 more in Might; I'll put 3 in Athletics, and 3 each in Endurance and Resistance. For my last 8 points, I'll put 3 in Awareness, 3 in Intimidation, and 2 in Rapport. Then I get 7 points to spend in Backgrounds; I'll put 2 in Influence (so people know who I am), 2 in Cipher (so it's hard to find out who I REALLY am), 2 in Node (which lets me recover and use my nova powers more efficiently), and 1 in Eufiber (to give me a super-suit that's hard to destroy). Then I rcord my initial Willpower, which is 3, my initial Quantum (measurement of how powerful a nova I am), which is 1, and my Initiative, equal to Dex +Wits, which is 5. I then have 15 bonus points to spend; I'll spend 7 to give myself another point of Quantum, 5 for another point in Dexterity, 2 for another point in Willpower and 1 to raise my Initiative to 6. That's it for my pre-nova stuff.

Phase Tow is the Nova phase; it's how I change my character from a normal human to a superhuman. First, I have to decide on how I became a nova; since my character is a Thrillseeker, I'll say it happened when he got too close to a fight between novas that got a little explosive, and he survived - and became a nova in the process. Then I get 30 nova points to spend to give myself powers. I'll spend two nova points to add 6 Attribute dots; one each in everything Physical and Mental. Then I'll spend 5 more to raise my Quantum to 3. Actually; wait; I want some stuff that would otherwise cost more than I have, so I will take a hit of one permanent point of Taint (which slowly could drive me crazy, as I use forces the human body was not meant to handle) to cut the cost of the point of Quantum in half; rounded up, that is 3. Then, I will spend a whopping 18 points to get Mega-Attribute ratings of 2 in each of Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina. Each rank of Mega-Attribute gives me an attribute-specific enhancement, so for Strength I will choose Shockwave (I can stomp and cause a small earthquake) and Thunderclap (what it sounds like); for Dexterity I will choose Fast Tasks (I can do normal tasks is vastly reduced time, like pain a house in a second or two) and Rapid Strike (again, obvious); for Stamina I will choose Resiliency (I'm resistant to damage) and Regeneration (what damage I take, I heal fast). This leaves me with 7 points; I will use 6 of those to purchase one rank each of Flight and Invulnerability, and my final point to purchase a rank in the minor power Luck. So, in the end, my character looks like this:

Adrenaline (really John Freeman)
Concept: Thrillseeker
Physical: Strength 5, Dexterity 5, Stamina 4
Social: Charisma 3, Manipulation 2, Appearance 3
Mental: Perception 3, Intelligence 3, Wits 3

Brawl 3, Might 3, Athletics 3, Endurance 3, Resistance 3, Awareness 3, Intimidation 3, Rapport 2

Nova Abilities
Mega-Strength 2 (Shockwave, Thunderclap)
Mega-Dexterity 2 (Fast Tasks, Rapid Blows)
Mega-Stamina 2 (Resiliency, Regeneration)
Flight 1
Invulnerability 1 (Fire attacks)
Luck 1

Quantum 3 (Quantum Pool: 26)
Willpower 4
Initiative 9

Friday, November 12, 2010


Exalted is a game of epic fantasy storytelling, made by White Wolf. In Exalted, you play (what else?) one of the Exalted, a group of humans chosen and elevated by the gods in order to protect and take care of the mortal realm. In the ancient past, the Primordials, the creatures who made Creation and the gods, ran everything, but as the gods watched their master grow decadent, carelessly destroying things or warping the minds and bodies of living beings simply because they could, the gods decided their masters needed to go. Cleverly, the Primordials had created the gods such that the gods could not revolt directly - but, with the aid of one or two Primordials who agreed with the gods, they created a group of mortal warriors to fight the war for them. It was a brutal, bloody, terrible war, but in the end the gods won, and left the caretaking of the physical world to their warriors, the Exalts.

The greatest Exalted were the Solars, created by the greatest of gods, the Unconquered Sun; it was they who were placed in charge. The Lunars, creations of the moon goddess Luna, were placed as advisors, mates, bodyguards, and friends to the Solars, while the Sidereals, chosen of the Five Maidens, were put in place to plot and plan and keep reality running. The Dragon-Blooded, children of the Elemental Dragons, were the footsoldiers of the Exalted. As time went on, the Solars, too, grew decadent and cruel, and the Sidereals, with the help of the Dragon-Blooded, hatched a plot to overthrow the Solars, kill them, and keep their mystic Exaltations from reincarnating in new hosts. When the Solars died, and died hard, the Lunars who survived fled to the boundaries of Creation, where the Wyld, the stuff of chaos, bled into the borders of ordered reality, and hid.

The Dragon-Blooded took over, with the Sidereals directing them from behind the scenes, until the spirits of the defeated Primordials grew restless - and decided to try to kill or corrupt all of Creation. The spirits of dead Primordials, the Neverborn, crafted an army, using the spirits of 13 former Solars as their generals and stealing some of the hidden Solar Exaltations as their greatest warriors to destroy reality. The Yozis - the Primoridals who surrendered and were imprisoned - use their control over demons, and a handful of stolen Solar Exaltations, to try and corrupt the world and free themselves. The Fair Folk, formless creatures who simply want to return creation to the chaos of the Wyld, await the chance to enter reality, and the hold of the Dragon-Blooded on the Realm they have crafted is slipping. Into this come the Solar Exalted, their Exaltations freed after millenia of imprisonment; to what cause will they lend their great power? And if you were one of these Chosen of the Sun, what would you do?

(Alternately, for an amusing take on the setting's history and culture, go here:

As a Storyteller game by White Wolf, the Exalted system bears a number of similarities with other White Wolf games; attributes and abilities remain mostly unchanged. To create a Solar Exalt, first I need a background; I'm thinking a character who aspires to be a thief so great, literally no one will ever know he was there. This moves into choosing a caste; there are 5 castes of Solars, Dawn, Zenith, Twilight, Night, and Eclipse. Night is the caste that best fits my concept, with favored skills like Athletics, Awareness, Dodge, Larceny, and Stealth. It also has a special ability that allows me to not only mute my expression of power when I get (and use) my supernatural powers, but also to extend that muteness outwards from me, making me harder to notice. Seems handy to me. Then, I move on to attributes; as a Solar, I get 8 dots for my primary set, 6 for my secondary, and 4 for tertiary. Since I want to be a Night caste thief, I need to be pretty physical, so that will be my primary; I'll put 4 points in Dexterity, and 2 each in Strength and Stamina. I'll take Social as my secondary, and put 2 points each in Charisma, Manipulation, and Appearance; finally, for Mental, I'll put one point each in Intelligence and Wits, and 2 points in Perception.

After that, I move on to abilities. My caste abilities, listed above, are easier for me to advance once play has started, and I can pick another five Favored abilities; I'll choose Investigation, Lore, Socialize, Thrown, and Martial Arts. I have to put one point each (at least ) in each Favored ability; I'll put one each in all but Investigation, where I'll put two. I then have 22 points left to distribute in abilities; I want to be good at my caste abilities, and can't raise anything above three yet, so I'll put three in each of my caste abilities: Athletics, Awareness, Dodge, Larceny, and Stealth. That leaves me with 7 points; I'll put another point in each of my Favored abilities (actually, 2 more in Thrown), and then my last point in Survival, just in case.

After abilities, I move on to Backgrounds. I have seven points here, and they're pretty useful; I'll put two in Resources, so I have some cash to fall back on, 2 in Contacts, so I'm in touch with the people who matter, and 3 in Artifact; with those, I'll nab myself an artifact Mask, which lets me alter my appearance at will and control any emotions I may show, as well as misdirect any observers as to my true motives, for 2 points, and then an Artifact chain shirt made of orichalcum for the third point - can't be too careful. then I move into the interesting part of character generation, charm selection.

Charms are the supernatural powers of the Exalted, and as a Solar, I start with 10; charms are each tied to an ability. First, I want to be able to Dodge any attacks; first, I'll take Shadow Over Water, which lets me ignore any penalties to a Dodge roll, and then I'll take Seven Shadows Evasion, a Perfect Dodge charm - this lets me dodge any attack I see coming, no matter what it is. Satisfied with that, I'll move on to Larceny. First, I'll pick up Flawless Pickpocketing Technique, which guarantees success on a pickpocketing attempt; then I'll take Stealing From Plain Sight Spirit, which lets my character literally steal anything in plain sight, and others won't, and in fact are incapable, of noticing it for some time. I'll take Lock-Opening Touch, as well, making it trivial to open even the hardest locks. Then on to Stealth; I'll pick up Easily-Overlooked Presence Method, which makes me hard to notice, then Mental Invisibility Technique, letting me compel others to ignore my presence. Finally here I'll take Vanishing From Mind's Eye Method, which lets me literally erase myself from the memories of others. Then I'll take Graceful Crane Stance, which lets me automatically keep my balance in almost any situation, and Spider-Foot Style, which lets me run on any surface, even vertical or upside-down, from Athletics. Finally, I'll go with a combat charm or two from Thrown; I'll take a First Thrown Excellency, which lets me add dice to a Thrown roll, and then Joint-Wounding Attack, which lets me stun and wound foes by hitting tendons, muscles, joints and the like.

After Charms, I move on to Virtues, which are not as fun but are important; they determine my Willpower, for one, and also the nature of my Flaw. The Virtues are Compassion, Conviction, Temperance, and Valor; I start with one in each, and then have 5 more points to add. I'll put three points in Temperance, which reflects my self-control and clear-headedness, and then 2 in Conviction, which reflects my resistance to mental and physical hardship. Guess I won't be very Valorous or Compassionate. This means, hat because my Temperance and Conviction combined equal 7, that that is my Willpower. I start with 2 permanent Essence, and a pool of Essence from those two permanent points equal to (as a personal pool) Essence x 3 + Willpower, and (as a peripheral pool) Essence x 7 +Willpower +total of all Virtues. Finally, I have bonus points to spend - 15, in fact. I'll spend 7 to get a 3rd point of Essence, 2 each to raise Stealth and Larceny to 5, 1 point to add a point in Dodge, and the last three to add Specialties of 3 dice each to Larceny and Stealth. So the final character looks like:

Dieb the Incorrigible
Night Caste
Physical: Strength 3, Dexterity 5, Stamina 3
Social: Charisma 3, Manipulation 3, Appearance 3
Mental: Perception 3, Intelligence 2, Wits 2

Caste: Athletics 3, Awareness 3, Dodge 4, Larceny 5 (Specialty 3: Con games), Stealth 5 (Specialty 3: Moving Silently)
Favored: Investigation 3, Lore 2, Martial Arts 2, Socialize 2, Thrown 3

Resources: 2
Contacts: 2
Artifact: 3 (Artifact Mask, Orichalcum chain shirt)

Athletics: Graceful Crane Stance, Spider-Foot Style
Dodge: Shadow Over Water, Seven Shadow Evasion
Larceny: Lock-Opening Touch, Flawless Pickpocketing Technique, Steal From Plain Sight Spirit
Stealth: Easily-Overlooked Presence Method, Mental Invisibility Technique, Vanishing From Mind's Eye Method
Thrown: First Thrown Excellency, Joint-Wounding Technique

Compassion 1, Conviction 3, Temperance 4, Valor 1

Willpower: 7
Essence: 3
Personal Essence Pool: 16
Peripheral Essence Pool: 37

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Earthdawn is an interesting idea for a roleplaying game - it's like someone asked, what happens if we take a post-apocalyptic RPG and a fantasy RPG and ram them together? Earthdawn is the result. In the past of Earthdawn's world, magic was a growing force, and civilizations flourished under it - but some magicians realized that the magic growing slowly opened holes in reality, holes that would eventually let terrible, Cthonic entities called Horrors into the world. Eventually magic reached a point where, even if magic use ceased, there was enough to let the Horrors in, so people began to prepare for the inevitable, and created sanctuaries called kaers. They filled with the various peoples quickly, and then they were sealed away as the Horrors began to enter the world - and they remained that way for generations. Some kaers were destroyed due to weak protections, some due to accidentally allowing a Horror in with them, and at least one due to hubris, but for the most part, they survived - and now that the Horrors have mostly gone, and people are emerging, the rebuilding begins. It is your task, as one of the newly released, to explore what remains of the world, facing what the Horrors left behind, finding what has been lost, and helping to forge Barsaive's future.

So, to create a character in Earthdawn, first I choose a Discipline, like a class, and a race. I'll go with the Warrior Discipline, because I like to hit things, and the Obsidiman race; they're a 7-foot-tall, 800-pound race of beings seemingly born out of living rock, who are very strong and tough to hurt. My starting attributes as an Obsidiman are Dexterity 8, Strength 18, Toughness 13, Perception 9, Will 10, and Charisma 9. My movement speed is 5, and my karma modifier is 3. I have two abilities: an Increased Wound Threshold of +3, and Natural Armor which gives me a Physical Armor Rating of 3 and means I can't wear standard armor.

After that, I have 25 points to assign to attributes. My key attributes as a Warrior are Dexterity and Strength, so I'll put some points in them. Attributes cost 1 point each up to 3 points, then 2 points after that. I want to get my Dexterity to 14, which costs me 9 points, and then my Strength to 20, for 2 more points. I'll then add 5 points each to both Toughness and Will, which uses up the last of my attribute points. I then record these, and then have a number of characteristics to determine. First, I check for Armor; as an Obsidiman, I have Physical Armor 3, and can't wear other armor, so that's easy. My Mystic Armor Rating, based on my Will score, is 2. I then check my Physical Defense Rating, which is based on my Dexterity, and find the rating is 8. My Spell Defense is based on Perception, which in why case isn't great, so I have a 6. My Social Defense is based on Charisma, also not very high, and is also a 6. My Death Rating, the number of points of damage required to kill my character, is 42, and my Unconscious Rating, the number of points of damage it take to knock me out, is 34. My Wound Threshold, the number of points of damage an attack has to inflict in order to inflict a serious Wound, is 12, 15 because I'm an Obsidiman.

After that, I determine Initiative, which for me is 6, and then Karma, which as an Obsidiman is 3. My Carrying Capacity, due to my prodigious Strength, is 260 pounds. Then, I assign Talent Ranks for my Discipline. I start with eight points, and my options are Avoid Blow, Karma Ritual, Melee Weapons, Unarmed Combat, and Wood Skin. Since I'm an Obsidiman, I think I'll pass on the last one for now and assign two points to each of the first 4. Then I get to skills, which are divided into 4 categories: Knowledge, Artisan, Language, and General. I automatically have 2 points in Knowledge Skills; I'll put a point each in Ancient Weapons and in Horror Lore. Then I have one free Artisan rank; I'll put it in Rune Carving. Then I get two points in Speak Language, and one in Read/Write Language; I'll take the most common language, Dwarf, and Obsidiman for speaking, and go with Dwarven for Read/Write. Finally, I get to General Skills, and I have 8 points to use here. I'll put two points in the Battle Bellow skill, 2 in Craft Weapon, 2 points in Shield Charge and 2 points in Sprint.

Finally, I equip my character; I start with an Adventurer's Kit, Rune-Carving Artisan Tools, a dagger, traveler's garb, 1 week of trail rations, and 100 silver pieces; I'll spend 25 to buy a broadsword and then 50 more for a Crystal Buckler. I'm now ready to start adventuring. So, my final character looks like:

Obsidiman Warrior
DEX 14 STR 20 TOU 18
Physical Armor: 4 Mystic Armor: 3
Physical Defense: 8 Spell Defense: 6 Social Defense: 6
Death Rating: 42 Unconscious Rating: 34 Wound Threshold: 15
Initiative: 6 Karma: 3 Movement: 5 Carrying Capacity 260

Avoid Blow 2, Karma Ritual 2, Melee Weapons 2, Unarmed Combat 2

Ancient Weapons Knowledge 1, Horror Lore Knowledge 1, Artisan Rune-Carving 1, Speak Dwarven, Speak Obsidiman, Read/Write Dwarven, Battle Bellow 2, Craft Weapon 2, Shield Charge 2, Sprint 2

Adventurer's Kit, Rune-Carving Artisan Tools, Dagger, Traveler's Garb, 1 week trail rations, 25 silver pieces, Broadsword, Crystal Buckler

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Godlike's tagline is 'superhero roleplaying in a world on fire 1936-1946', and that's basically what it's about. It's a game created by the (often creepy and disturbed, but generally awesome) minds of Dennis Detwiller, of Delta Green fame, and Greg Stolze, who did Unknown Armies. They've collaborated on a number of projects - notably this, Wild Talents, and also the Xbox game Prototype. Essentially, superpowered people started appearing around the world starting in 1936, and their appearance changed, at least in some ways, how World War II was fought. These heroes aren't Superman or Green Lantern, though - they generally have only one power, and are almost always vulnerable to some form of non-superhuman attack. Der Flieger, for example, the first superhuman, could fly, very fast - up to 800 mph - but once the Allies figured out how to track him with artillery, they shot him down. So, the question is - what do you do with your superpower? How do you contribute to the war effort? Who do you throw in with? And how do you keep from getting killed?

To build a Godlike character, first the game tells you to work out your Background, Nationality, Age, Family, Education, Dependants (if any), and a Motivation for the character. Since my favorite superhero is Captain America, I'll go with a similar background. A young man from New York, terrified and angered by what he sees and hears about the Nazis (and to a lesser extent, the Japanese) doing, enlists as soon as he is able. He's idealistic, and wants to help save lives, and defeat the Nazis. He's got a mother, but no siblings, and his father died when he was 10 from complications arising from old war injuries (from World War I). He's just out of high school, and might have been thinking about college if the war hadn't been going on. He's friendly and sociable, gets along well with most people, and is motivated by a desire to set things right, and bring down the evil he sees as the Nazis.

Then I get to the mechanics. There are six statistics - Body, Brains, Coordination, Cool, Command, and Sense. I start with 1 in all of them, and then have 6 points to spread around as I like. I'll put one in everything but Sense, and then put the last point in Command. I add together my Cool and Command scores to get my Base Will, which is 5. Then I get 20 points to spend on skills, but I can't raise a skill higher than its governing stat - so any Sense skills I take won't be very good. I'll take Leadership and Inspire at 3, and then Athletics, Endurance, Health, Dodge, Rifle, First Aid, and Mental Stability at 2. Then I get into my Talent - my superpower. The game says 25 points is about average for a starting game, so I'll stick with that. I want to be fairly simple, but have a character who could be fun to play, so I'll go with one major and one minor ability. First, I'll spend 21 points to purchase 3 levels of Heavy Armor; this means that against small arms fire, my character is practically bulletproof. And then I'll spend the last 4 points to add two points of Command as a hyperstat - this makes my character a good, if inexperienced, leader who likes to lead from the front - and can afford to, since most bullets bounce right off him. So, in the end, my character looks like:

Roger Stevenson
Male American
6', 200 lbs., Age 18
Brains 2
Body 2
Command 3
Coordination 2
Cool 2
Sense 1
Base Will 5

Inspire 3
Leadership 3
Athletics 2
Endurance 2
Health 2
Dodge 2
Rifle 2
First Aid 2
Mental Stability 2
Language (English) 1

Heavy Armor 3
Hyperstat: Command 2

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Deadlands Reloaded

Deadlands is an odd game. It is set in the Wild West, only in a different version of our world - one where, instead of the North winning the Civil War, something supernatural happened, allowing the South to regroup after Gettysburg, and effectively letting them put the North into stalemate. Now the cause of the supernatural hysteria, a substance called ghost rock, can be mined out west (especially in the Great Maze of canyons and tunnels that is much of California after a devastating earthquake), but other things are happening; the dead rise up in odd places, bizarre new creatures are emerging, and the world is moving in very strange directions - and nobody seems to know why, only that it's probably bad. So you play a wanderer out in the West, trying to make a living, or find out what's going on, or to make a quick buck, and sometimes you can do it with supernatural help.

Deadlands uses the Savage Worlds system, which is also on my list, and which I'll get to at another time. It's actually a fairly easy method of character generation, so I'll get to it. Since I absolutely loathe the idea of playing a Confederate (see my previous opinions on such in my quasi-review of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood), I'll play an ex-Union soldier now working as a freelance gun, making his way in the Weird West. I have 5 main attributes: Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Vigor. They each start at a value of d4, and I have 5 points to spend; each point raises an ability one die type. Since I'm going to be a gunslinger, I'll put 2 points each in Agility and Vigor, with the last point in Spirit; I won't be the smartest gun in the West. I then have 15 points for skills; these also start at d4, and I can purchase them up to the die size of the attribute they are tied to for 1 point per step; anything beyond that is 2 points. Being a gunslinger, I'll want Guts (Spirit), Fighting (Agility), Riding (Agility), Shooting (Agility), and maybe a little Stealth (Agility). I'll put 3 points in Guts, 2 points each in Riding and Stealth, and 4 each in Fighting and Shooting.

I have a couple secondary statistics now; Charisma is set at +0, Pace is at 6, Parry is set at 2+half my Fighting die, which is a d10, so 7, and Toughness is equal to 2+half my Vigor die, which gives me 6. I also have one point of Grit. Then we get to Special Abilities. I can take a number of Hindrances no,w, either to give me extra points to spend or to let me purchase Edges; being human, I get one Edge for free. I'd like to put at least one point each into Strength and Spirit, so I'll need at least 4 points of Hindrances - coincidentally, the maximum I am allowed. I think I'll go with the Code of Honor Major hindrance (I have to keep my word, treat prisoners well, and try to act like a gentleman), the Loyal Minor Hindrance (I never leave a man behind), and Doubting Thomas (I have trouble believing in the supernatural). This gets me the points I need to add 1 each to Strength and Spirit. Then I get my free human Edge; I'll take True Grit, raising my Grit by 1.

I then have $250 for equipment; a set of clothes (with obligatory duster and Stetson hat) will cost about $30, then I'll want a backpack ($2), a bed roll ($4), canteen ($1), and a mess kit ($2). Then on to the fun stuff. As a gunslinger, I'll need a gun belt ($2), and a quick-draw holster ($11). I'll also pick up a rifle boot ($3), for when my shootin' iron ain't enough. That leaves me $195 for firepower. I'll buy a Colt Frontier for $8, and a Colt Revolving rifle for $24, and 100 rounds for the pistol, along with 50 for the rifle, for $11. This leaves me with $152, enough for a horse with $2 to spare - and I'll have to ride bareback. Ouch.

After this, I would normally fill out my background and then my character's worst nightmare, but that's not necessary for the purposes of this, so I'll leave it at this:

Jim Stirling
Ex-Union Gunslinger
Agility d8
Smarts d4
Spirit d8
Strength d6
Vigor d8

Guts d8
Fighting d10
Riding d8
Shooting d10
Stealth d8

Secondary Statistics
Charisma +0
Pace 6
Parry 7
Toughness 6
Grit 2

Code of Honor (Major), Loyalty (Minor), Doubting Thomas (Minor)
True Grit

Clothing (pants, shirt, boot, duster, Stetson), backpack, bedroll, canteen, mess kit, Colt Frontier, Colt Revolving Rifle, 100 rounds pistol ammo, 50 rounds rifle ammo, horse

Monday, November 8, 2010


Scion is a game I had big hopes for - I mean, come on, you get to play the sons and daughters of old pagan deities in the modern world, fighting against the evil Titans/Jotun/ what have you and their minions to decide the fate of the world! how could that not be cool? Sadly, it didn't work out as well as it could have; mechanical elements of the game - using White Wolf's Storyteller system - just didn't work very well in implementing the feel of playing a modern-day Hercules. It's still a cool game to think about, though, and maybe somewhere on the internet, somebody has managed to figure out how to rework the game so that it works on a higher level. In any case, that's my game for tonight.

When making a Scion character, the first thing I really have to consider is which divine pantheon to make a scion of. My options are Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Japanese, Voodoo, and Aztec; there are other options outside the basic book, but those are the ones I'll start from. I'm feeling Northern tonight, so I'll go with Norse. Then I choose a god (or goddess) to have my character be the child of; my options are Baldur, Freyr, Frigg, Heimdall, Hel, Loki, Odin, Sif, Thor, Tyr, and Vidar. I think I'll go with Baldur. This means that when I get to Powers later, I'll know my parental associated powers are Epic Appearance, Epic Charisma, the Guardian, Jotunblut, and Sun Purviews. Baldur's associated abilities are Art, Athletics, Brawl, Melee, Marksmanship, and Presence. I'm also likely to have trouble with any scions or servants of Hel or Loki, and also Apollo, Horus, Izanami, Kalfu, and Miclantecuhtli.

As a Storyteller game, it uses the standard Attributes, and so there are three division, Physical, Social, and Mental. As a Scion of Baldur, I'll make Social my Primary, Physical my Secondary, and Mental my Tertiary. So I have eight points to spread in Social; I will put 4 in Charisma, 3 in Appearance, and 1 in Manipulation; I don't think my character will be much of a plotter. For Physical, I'll make it an even spread, 2 each in Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina. Finally, for Mental, I have 4 points, so I'll put one each in Perception and Intelligence, and 2 in Wits.

For Abilities, I have 30 points to spread around, and can't raise any ability above 3 yet. Since I'd like to be pretty competent in any skill I take, I'll go with ten skills at 3 points each. I want to be faithful to my deific dad, so I'll choose Athletics, Brawl, Melee, and Presence for his associated list. Then I'll choose Awareness, Control (so I can drive some kind of cool divine vehicle), Empathy, Fortitude, Integrity, and Investigation. At this point, it kinda looks like I'm shaping up to some kind of super-cool two-fisted private detective with divine heritage, which sounds cool to me; I'll roll with it. Then I get 5 points to spend in the four Birthright categories: Creature, Followers, Guide, and Relic. I'll put 3 points in Followers to represent some friends my character has who happen to be in a Norse-themed biker gang, and 2 points in Relic, allowing me access to two of Baldur's divine Purviews.

I then get 10 points to distribute between Epic Attributes and Boons from Baldur. I'll split the points - 5 for Epic Attributes, 5 for Boons. I'll put a point each in Epic Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Appearance, and Wits; I then get a special Knack for each epic attribute; in order, I'll take Cat's Grace (it is hard to knock me off my feet, and I take difficult terrain well), Solipsistic Well-Being (once per scene, I can't be hurt by an attack I don't see coming), Charmer (I'm good at convincing even skeptical or suspicious or even hostile people to help me), Center of Attention (I can literally draw everyone's attention in any room I walk into) and Instant Investigator (I take an intuitive 'read' of any crime scene, knowing clues in seconds). For Boons, I'll take a 2-point Guardian Boon called Aegis, which grants a measure of divine protection to a person or object I designate, and then the 1-point Sun Boon, Penetrating Glare - which lets me see through smoke, fog, and similar translucent impediments with no penalty - and then the 2-point Sun Boon, Divine Radiance, allowing me to literally emit sunlight.

Then I proceed to Virtues; each pantheon has a set of four, and the Aesir have Courage, Endurance, Expression, and Loyalty. I start with one point in each, and then have 5 additional points to distribute; I'll put two each in Courage and Loyalty, and 1 in Endurance. My character isn't much of a poet or artist, so no points in Expression.Then I move intot he final stages of character creation. My Legend , which is the measure of my power as a scion, is 2; I'll raise that to 3 with bonus points. My Willpower, which represents my strength of purpose and determination, is the same as the total of my two highest Virtues; that makes it 6. Then I have 15 bonus points. 7 of these go to raising my Legend, and I'll spend another 2 to make my Willpower 7. I'll spend 4 more to add another point of Epic Charisma, and take the Knack Never Say Die (I can inspire allies even after taking a beating). The last 2 I'll spend on 2 points of Marksmanship - even a two-fisted detective with a winning smile might need to use a gun sometimes.So, the final character looks like:

Don (Short for Donar) Knight
Two-Fisted Private Eye
Strength 3, Dexterity 3 (Epic 1), Stamina 3 (Epic 1)
Charisma 5 (Epic 2), Manipulation 2, Appearance 4 (Epic 1)
Perception 2, Intelligence 2, Wits 3 (Epic 1)

Athletics 3, Awareness 3, Brawl 3, Control (Automobiles) 3, Empathy 3, Fortitude 3, Integrity 3, Investigation 3, Marksmanship 2, Melee 3, Presence 3

Followers 3 (10 biker gang berzerkers)
Relic 2 (Grants access to Sun and Guardian Purviews)

Cat's Grace
Solipsistic Well-Being
Never Say Die
Center of Attention
Instant Investigator

Penetrating Glare
Divine Radiance

Courage 3
Endurance 2
Expression 1
Loyalty 3

Legend 3
Willpower 7

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fallout and American Culture: Through a Mirror (of Science!)

I mentioned the other day on Facebook that I was having an idea about a paper based on the Fallout series of video games, seen as a reflection of 1950s-era American culture. It's been bouncing around in my head for a while now, and so I thought I'd try and put a few of my ideas for the series down on (virtual) paper to see how they look. All comments are welcome; as a Medievalist primarily, my knowledge of the actual facts of 1950s American life and culture is pretty limited.

In the world of Fallout, the nuclear war that Americans feared throughout all of the 1950s happened. The war killed most life on the planet, leaving the few survivors to try and pick up the pieces and make new lives for themselves in a world which was no longer a very friendly one. Many of the common themes you see in Fallout games, though, are themes that were very present in the American mind between the 50s and 60s. Culturally, even though the Great War in Fallout doesn't occur until 2077 or thereabouts, American life and culture stays at about the 1950s level. The Fallout America, instead of focusing on miniaturization of electronics, chose instead to focus on the creation of massive supercomputers, the harnessing of the atom to a degree unseen by our culture, and robotics. This causes some big changes right away.

The choice to go away from miniaturization in the Fallout universe means that the television never becomes as prevalent a communication and entertainment tool as it did in our world. People have television, certainly, but they remain black and white, with few shows; radio remains the most common form of mass media. This essentially locks the Fallout world into 1950s-era culture, because they never get the kinds of developments that come with advancing media technology.

Hatred of communism, a staple of 1950s culture (House Un-American Affairs Committee, anyone?), continues in the Fallout universe, but instead of being focused on the USSR, the Fallout America sets its hatred against China. This is most obvious in Fallout 3, where you can find a number of dead (or ghoul) Chinese spies, sent to infiltrate American culture; there's even a piece of DLC that lets you virtually replay the reclamation of Alaska from Chinese invaders.

Just because the culture of Fallout America is stuck in the 1950s, though, their technology advances - though it seems to advance in line with the sorts of things 1950s Americans thought they would see in the future. Household cleaning robots become common, and one model of security robot, the Protectron series, bears an odd resemblance to the Robby the Robot character from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet. Cars don't fly, but they become powered by fusion engines, which makes them much more efficient - though, as any player of Fallout 3 who has had a firefight near a car knows, also very explosive and radioactive. Powered armor is developed, making soldiers look like robots, often wielding weapons that seem to be lifted directly from 50s science fiction - the Fat Man, the plasma rifle, even the standard assault rifle. The various laser and plasma weapons to be found do exactly what they would in a standard 1950s pulp science fiction movie - reduce an opponent to ash or goo.

Computers, without the focus on miniaturization, change as well. No longer is it possible for every person to have their own personal computer, even in 2077 - computers are still clunky, and the transistor was created in Fallout America not longer before the bombs dropped, and there is no evidence that the semiconducting microprocessor chip is ever invented. While in Fallout 3 and New Vegas there are references to e-mails and such, implying that some form of internet had been created, it seemed to be mostly business-related, especially since only businesses could really afford computers anyway. And computers in Fallout America are ugly: the tiny display and the the keyboard for the vacuum tube/transistor 'personal' computers are merged into a single piece, while digital computers require entire rooms for storage. The primitive GUI (graphical user interface) shows they had not progressed into user-friendly territory, either. They did, however, have one advantage - massive processing power. This made it possible for primitive artificial intelligences to be created or develop on their own, like the Calculator in Fallout: Tactics.

Even some of the personalities of main characters in the Fallout games have been lifted straight from 50s and 60s culture. The 'President', Dick Richardson, in Fallout 2, is said to have been based in large part on Richard Nixon. President Eden in Fallout 3, despite who and what he turns out to be, spends much of his time trying to communicate through radio in a manner similar to FDR's Fireside Chats. Robert House, founder of RobCo Industries, and a main character of Fallout: New Vegas, was inspired by eccentric (or crazy) media mogul Howard Hughes. Even the Master, the villain of the original Fallout, was inspired by the tales of H.G. Wells, especially the Island of Dr. Moreau (The Master's original name was Richard Moreau).

Finally, one of the big changes in Fallout America that make it a reflection of our own 1950s and 60s is what happened as a result of the Great War. While we know that radiation in large doses is likely to cause cancer, radiation sickness, and other unpleasant side effects, the effects of radiation in Fallout reflect what would be seen in 50s and 60s horror and science fiction movies. Giant irradiated ants (a la Them!), ghouls, super mutants, centaurs, mirelurks, and many more are all made possible by radiation, which for ghouls becomes the reason for their extreme longevity. While the main character of Fallout games can generally be harmed and killed by extreme radiation, this seems to be because he is, almost always, a regular human. Plus, it eliminates the horror aspects of being eaten by giant radioactive insects if you, too, can become giant by hanging out at a toxic waste dump.

That's basically what I have so far; there's probably more, but it's not coming to mind right now, and this entry is already fairly long. As I said before, feel free to comment, criticize, provide points of research, whatever floats your boat. I don't know if this will develop into something more serious, but it's good to get it out of my head for a bit.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


King Arthur is a persistent part of Western culture, even if there's no real evidence for a historical king of the same name. So of course there's an RPG based on the world of King Arthur, and Pendragon is that RPG. It takes place in the 6th century AD, bringing together the actual historical facts of 6th century Britain with the whimsical and fictional ideals of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. You play a knight in the court of Arthur, questing about the realm during the height of its glory, not knowing about the dark future that will come. Well, technically your character starts as a squire, but that's pretty close, right?

According to the character creation guide in the Pendragon book (I'm using the 4th edition), first I need a name. I'll go with Galardoun, and according to the book, I am from Salisbury, was raised in a Cymric culture, and am a Christian. then I determine my father's name; that will be Caulas, and he is (or was) a vassal knight. I am the eldest son, and my lord is Sir Robert, Earl of Salisbury. As I noted earlier, my character is a squire, and he lives in the Salisbury manor of Idmiston.

After my personal data is determined, I move on to personality traits and passions. Traits are opposing values; the Valorous trait, for example, is opposed by Cowardly. This is true for each pair of traits, and the combined value for each pair must equal 20. Because I'm a squire, I put Valorous at 15 and Cowardly at 5; then I list each of the Christian Virtues (Chaste, Forgiving, Merciful, Modest, and Temperate) at 13, with their opposing attributes at 7. All others are left at 10 on both sides. I have an option to have one Trait at 16, as my 'famous' trait, the thing for which I am well-known, but I'll pass on that for now. Then I list my Passions, things my character feels most strongly about; I start with five, Loyalty to my lord, Love of family, Hospitality, Honor, and Hatred of Saxons. These all start at 15, except for Hatred of Saxon, which is determined by a 3d6 roll - mine is 12.

Third, I move on to statistics. There are five key statistics here; Size, Dexterity, Strength, Constitution, and Appearance. These are pretty self-explanatory, and I have 60 points to distribute among them; in order, I'll go 13, 12, 13, 10, 12. As a cultural modifier for being Cymric, I get +3 Constitution. There are then a few derived statistics; Damage is equal to STR+SIZ/6, which is essentially 4, meaning I do 4d6 damage. Healing Rate is STR+CON/10, which rounds up to 3. Movement Rate is STR+DEX/10, which is also 3, then Total Hit Points, equal to CON+Size, in my case 26, and I become Unconscious at Total Hit Points/4, which is 4. I can then choose a single distinctive feature; I'll choose broad-shouldered.

Next I move on to Skills. Pendragon has a number of skills, and the basic values for most are already determined. I get to choose 2 non-combat skills to set at 10 - I'll choose Heraldry and Hunting. Then I choose one skill at which I excel; I'll go with Sword, and set it at 15. Then I have 10 points to distribute among the rest of my skills; I'll put 2 points in Lance, 3 points in Horsemanship, and 5 in Tourney. I can bypass the Previous Experience portion, as I'll be starting at minimum age (which is 21), and so the last thing I determine is Glory, how I am seen in the eyes of my peers and my betters; initially, I have only the Glory I gain from being my father's son (which comes to 175), but once I become a full knight I will get much more.So, the final product comes to:

Galardoun, eldest son of Caulas
Squire to Sir Robert, Earl of Salisbury
Cymric, Christian
Age: 21

Personality Traits
Chaste 13/Lustful 7
Energetic 10/Lazy 10
Forgiving 13/Vengeful 7
Generous 10/Selfish 10
Honest 10/Deceitful 10
Just 10/Arbitrary 10
Merciful 13/Cruel 7
Modest 13/Proud 7
Pious 10/Worldly 10
Prudent 10/Reckless 10
Temperate 10/Indulgent 10
Trusting 10/Suspicious 10
Valorous 15/Cowardly 5

Loyalty (lord) 15
Love (family) 15
Hospitality 15
Honor 15
Hate Saxons 12

SIZ 13
DEX 12
STR 13
CON 13
APP 12
Damage 4d6
Healing Rate 3
Movement Rate 3
Total Hit Points 26
Unconscious 4

Distinctive Feature: Broad-shouldered

Awareness 5, Boating 1, Chirurgery 0, Compose 0, Courtesy 3, Dancing 2, Faerie Lore 1, Falconry 3, First Aid 10, Flirting 3, Folk Lore 2, Gaming 3, Heraldry 10, Hunting 10, Industry 0, Intrigue 3, Orate 3, Play 3, Read 0, Recognize 3, Religion 2, Romance 2, Singing 2, Stewardship 2, Swimming 2, Tourney 10
Combat Skills
Battle 10, Horsemanship 13, Sword 15, Lance 12, Spear 6, Dagger 5

Glory: 175

Equipment Carried
Reinforced chain mail, 2 spears, shield, sword, dagger, 5 jousting lances, fine clothing, charger, rouncy, sumpter, personal gear, travel gear, war gear

that's essentially it; Galardoun is now ready to go adventuring in ancient Britain to make his way in the world and become a knight of King Arthur's court.