Monday, March 31, 2008

Botched Math

The following is from the Scion forum. I don't ever want to have to do this math again, so I'm copying it here where it's easy for me to find the next time this topic comes up over there.

Zeev wrote:
My point is, your house rule makes botching more likely than failure.

Let me translate Zeev's point to math...

On 1 die you (obviously) have a:
10% chance of botching,
50% chance of failing without a botch
40% chance of getting one or more successes

On 2 dice you have:
11% chance of botching,
25% chance of failing without a botch
64% chance of getting one or more successes

Now if a person just looked at that you'd get the mistaken impression that botch chance just keeps going up as more dice are rolled. It doesn't though - that's just a fluke of how the equations work that define the odds.

What's happening is that each extra die causes the chance to "normal" fail to drop in half, but the chance to botch is equal to (60%x(chance to botch on one less die)+10%x(chance to fail on one less die)).

As a result, the odds of botching increase when you go to the second die, and thereafter decrease at a slower rate than the decrease of straight failures.

On 3 dice you have:
9.1% chance of botching
12.5% chance of failing without a botch
78.4% chance of getting one or more successes

On 4 dice you have:
6.71% chance of botching
6.25% chance of failing without a botch
87.04% chance of 1+ success

Already you've become more likely to botch than to just fail the roll.

It certain sounds horrible to think that at a paltry four dice you're already more likely to botch than merely fail. And it gets worse...

On 5 dice you have:
4.651% chance of botching
3.125% chance of failing without a botch
92.224% chance of 1+ success

Zeev is correct that at difficulty 1 you have a better chance of botching than failing if rolling 3 or more dice. One could see that as evidence arguing against houserules the preserve botches when Epics are being used. I believe that's where he's coming from on this point, and I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm misunderstanding him.


However, there's where Zeev's concept is a little flawed: Raising the difficulty of the roll beyond a simple success increases the chance of normal failures, but doesn't increase the chance of botches.

For example, raise the difficulty to 5, and roll 3 dice:
Botch rate remains at 9.1%
Normal failure skyrockets to 89.9%
Success rate drops to 1%

Since the vast majority of die rolls in Scion involve a difficulty above 1, it's a non-issue.

For example, if rolling 10 dice against difficulty 2, you have a less than 0.6% chance of botching, and around a 3% chance of failing without a botch.

Only on difficulty 1 rolls can botches occur more often than normal failure.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Orky Heresy

This (and the next several posts) is character creation stuff for use with an Ork RPG. Thematically, it’s based a bit off GorkaMorka, and a good deal more off Orks in 2nd Ed WH40k. Mechanically, it’s based off of WHFRP and Dark Heresy.

The idea is for a light-hearted Orky alternative to Dark Heresy. It uses the career system from Warhammer Fantasy Role Play as opposed to the class system from Dark Heresy for four reasons:
  1. I like that system a bit better. It’s familiar - and has been interesting to me from childhood. I’m more familiar with it, which is a plus.
  2. It doesn’t pigeonhole characters for the duration of their existence. You can change what you are at any time. This matches chaotic orky society better.
  3. Being segmented/compartmentalized, I could start play sooner with such a system. I wouldn’t have to carefully build out every class to it’s maximum level, instead I can just start in with a bunch of basic careers, and fill in other stuff as needed.
  4. There is no upper limit to the character progression. Orks can just keep gettin’ tougher. New Advanced Careers can be slotted in, and characters can spend 200 xp to grab some totally weird career from the bottom of the tree and grow in a different direction.
The system here isn't done. It's cobbled together, but will function for at least the first 10 sessions of a campaign, probably 20, which is enough to get things going.

All mechanics are per Dark Heresy, except for:
...which I'll detail in another post or three.

Peek Behind The Orky Kurtain

I've posted the 10 "basic careers" that an Orky PC can start as. With just those, you should last for the first 6 sessions at least at 200 xp per session (or 12 at 100) but the characters won't have a lot of variety till I start getting the advanced classes posted. It's an ork campaign, so don't expect a lot of fairness, either.

For example - Da Yoof. 'E's got it 'ard as a PC. Crappy equipment, crappy stats, minimal talents and skills. The benefit is that he'll end up advancing to a different career fairly quickly. Concealment and Scrutiny are fairly uncommon skills in Orky society, so they may prove useful. Paranoia and Unremarkable also don't show up in many careers, so there's some advantages to starting as a Yoof. Just the same, you'll likely get beat up a bit by the other PCs in the early stages of the campaign - which is pretty fitting for an Orky game.

I've got another 22 careers written up, which I'll post here soon. (My wife is coming home early, so) I don't have time to get everything posted today.

Here's a list of careers, including all my completed ones, and some several others I plan to write up eventually. I'm putting it here just in case I don't get back to this project in the near future...

Orky Careers Brainstorm:

Freebooter Kaptin
Stormboyz Drillboss
Stormboy Kaptin
Stormboyz of Khorne
Wild Orks
Flash Gitz
Wildboy Drillboss
Wild Boy Big’Un
Jumppack Stormboyz

All Clans:
Waaagh Lord
Big Mob Boyz

Bad Moons
Blood Axes
Evil Sunz

Snakebitez Clan:
Renegade Runtmaster (Naflug)
Chariot Boss
Super Cyboar Boyz
Snake Handler
Pig Dok
Squiggoth rider

Bad Moons Clan:
Weirdboy Warpheadz
Possessed Warphead
‘Eavy Shooty Boy
Teef ‘Arvester
Slop Keep
Eavy Armor
Killa Kans
Burna Boyz

Blood Axe Clan:
Blood Axe Kommandoz
Kommando Kaptin
Blood Axe Komissar
Imperial Whiteshield
Stormboy Drillboss
Cowardly Git

Goff Clan:
Goff Rokker
Goff Skarboyz

Evil Sunz Clan:
Kult of Speed
Bad Ork Bikeboyz
Renegade Speed Freeks
Renegade Mekboyz
Red Mek
Shootah Mek
Outrider Warbike

Renegade Mekboyz
Big Mek
Shootah Mek
Tillery Mek
Mad Doc
Bad Doc
Blue Boy
Shokk Attack Gunner

Misc Oddboyz
Yellerz - priests
Gorker - strong
Morker - cunning

Gargant Kaptin
Gargant Mate
Top Gunboy



Orky Careers

The next several posts will be Careers for the "Orky Heresy" variant/port for the Dark Heresy 40K RPG. They follow the format used in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and as such are predicated upon the following observations:

A typical Basic Career in WHFRP has:
  • 8-10 advancement ticks
  • nothing above +10% or +2 unless it’s a very specialized role
  • nothing above +15% or +3 ever
  • 7 to 9 skills
  • 2 to 4 talents
  • combined skills and talents of 10 to 12
Advanced Careers, however, vary significantly. They typically feature:
  • 13 to 42 advancement ticks!
  • combined skills and talents of 11 to 23!
And they tend to be far more varied and specialized than basic careers.

In general, I've tried to follow those parameters. For example, most of my starting careers use the following template...

– Clanboy –
Restriction: Orky
Description: This isn’t a real career - it’s just a placeholder. If a career exit refers to Clanboy, you may choose a clan and go to that clan’s boyz entry. If the listed Career Exit includes “by Clan” that means you can choose any of the exits of the Clanboyz from your clan. You may only have one Clan at a time, but any Ork can pay 200 xp to become a Outcast. Doing so allows you to choose a new clan when you exit the Outcast career.

Skills: 7 skills - Common Lore (Clan), Survival, Climb or Swim, Carouse, Intimidate, Dodge, +1 more by Clan

Talents: 3 talents - Pistol or Basic Weapon Training (SP), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), 1 other by Clan

Trappings: Axe or Hunting Rifle, Autopistol or Knife, hairsquig or squigpet or 1d6 eatin’ squigs, Flak Vest or Heavy Leathers, Back Plate with clan symbol, 1d10 teef

Career Exits: by Clan, plus BigMobBoy, Outcast , Others
(NOTE: when it says "Others" that's just a reminder to me to come back and update this when the system is done. It doesn't actually reference some weird "Others" career)

Attributes: 8-10 advancement ticks (+5% is a tick) The spread below is typical
nothing above +10% or +2 unless it’s a very specialized role nothing above +15% or +3 ever. In most cases the spread is something along the lines of the following...


More individual classes to come.

Freebooter (Orky Career)

– Freebooter –
Restriction: Orky
Description: You are a clanless full-grown ork, selling yourself out to the highest bidder as a mercenary. Freebooterz live a life of derring-do and constant roaming, even more so than most other orks.

Skills: Common Lore (Freebooter), Secret Tongue (Freebooter), Survival, Climb or Swim, Carouse, Intimidate, Dodge or Acrobatics

Talents: Pistol (SP), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), 1 other by Clan

Trappings: Sword, Hand Cannon, heavy leathers or flak vest, backplate with jolly ork symbol, hairsquig or widebrimmed hat, squigpet or 1d10 eatin’ squigs, 1d10 teef, spyglass

Career Exits: Flash Git, Minder, Outcast , Others


Stormboy (Orky Career)

– Stormboy –
Restriction: Orky
Description: Stormboyz are Orky Yoofs caught up in the pageantry and splendor of spiffy parades, polished jackbooks, and tight-order drill. They march in unison and in uniform, showing off thier precision and finesse. Don’t worry - nearly all Stormboyz eventually grow out of such patently unorky behavior.

Skills: Intimidate or Interrogation, Awareness or Secret Tongue (Stormboy), Common Lore (Freebooter)

Talents: Pistol or Basic Weapon Training (SP), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), Rapid Reload or Quick Draw or Arms Master

Trappings: Stub Revolver or Hunting Rifle, Axe or Club or Knife, Spiffy Uniform complete with Jackboots and Helmet, buffsquig (used for buffing your jackboots). 1d6 teef.

Career Exits: JumpPackBoy, Drillboss, Clanboy, Others


Wild Ork (Orky Career)

– Wild Ork –
Restriction: Orky, Starting Characters Only

Description: Feral and Primitive, a Wild Ork is one who’s lived thier whole life thus far without even such basically Orky things as guns and bikes. They’re just plain unkultured. Luckily, it doesn’t take much exposure to the refined graces of Orky Civilization to wake them up to the brainboggling reality of the “Waaagh!” and they quickly slot right in to ork society.

Skills: Survival, Climb, Swim, Intimidate, Awareness, Tracking, Concealment, Trade (Tanner)

Talents: Melee Weapon Training (Prim), Thrown Weapon Training (Prim)

Trappings: Bow or 1d6 Spears, Axe or Knife, 1d6 food squigs

Career Exits: Any Clanboy, Freebooter, Big’Un , Others


Snakebitez Clanboy (Ork Career)

– Snakebitez Clanboy –
Restriction: Orky

Description: Snakebitez are the most feral of all Orks. They shun certain aspects of technology, and are most comfortable preserving traditional Orky ways. They are fond of “pets” such as wild boars, face-eater squigs and venomous snakes.

Skills: Common Lore (Snakebitez Clan), Survival, Climb, Swim, Carouse or Intimidate, Dodge, Wrangling or Tracking or Trade: Tanner

Talents: Basic Weapon Training (SP), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), Resistance (Poison)

Trappings: Axe or Spear, Hunting Rifle, Knife, Grox hides or heavy leathers, backplate with a snake symbol, hairsquig or squigpet or faceeatersquig or mildly venomous snake or 1d6 eatin’ squigs, 1d10 teef

Career Exits: Slaver, PigDok, BigMobBoy, Outcast , Others


Goff Clanboy (Orky Career)

– Goff Clanboy –
Restriction: Orky
Description: Goffs have a reputation for being the biggest, meanest, and most ferocious of orks - and that’s saying something! They love the roar of battle, especially gettin’ stuck-in and scrappin’ up close and personal.

Skills: Common Lore (Goff Clan), Survival, Climb or Swim, Carouse, Command, Intimidate, Dodge,

Talents: Pistol Training (SP), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), Ambidextrous or Frenzy

Trappings: Axe, Stub Automatic or Hand Cannon, Knife, black Flak Jacket (though it can have a contrasting trim or checkerboard pattern), poor-quality Flak helmet with horns, backplate with a bull’s head logo, hairsquig or squigpet or 1d6 eatin’ squigs, 1d10 teef

Career Exits: Skarboy, BigMobBoy, Outcast, Groupy, Freebooter , Others


Evil Sunz Clanboy (Orky Career)

– Evil Sunz Clanboy –
Restriction: Orky
Description: Evil Sunz like life fast and loud. Younger (and poorer) boyz pack themselves into trukks and buggies full of Orks. In their hearts, they all yearn to own their own shiny red warbike.

Skills: Common Lore (Evil Sunz Clan), Drive (Ground) or Acrobatics, Climb, Carouse, Intimidate or Gamble, Dodge, Tracking or Awareness

Talents: Pistol Training (SP), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), Chicken Playa or Eadlong Leap, Leap Up or BuggyMates

Trappings: Knife, Autopistol, red Heavy Leathers, Flak helmet, backplate with grinning face in a sunburst, fuelsquig, oilsquig, eatin’ squig, 1d10 teef

Career Exits: Spanner, Drivahboy, Outrider, BigMobBoy, Outcast , Others


Deathskullz Clanboy

– Deathskullz Clanboy –
Restriction: Orky
Description: Deathskullz are reknowned as packrats and plunderers of the battlefield. They descend upon the wreckage in search of weapons, equipment, clothes and really just about anything. Other orks don’t trust Deathskullz, and think they’re nothing but looters and thieves. Deathskullz tend to be superstitious, and paint their faces blue before battle.

Skills: Common Lore (Deathskullz Clan), Survival, Evaluate, Climb, Carouse, Search, Dodge or Awareness
Talents: Pistol or Basic Weapon Training (SP), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), Heightened Senses (Sight) or Paranoia

Trappings: Axe, Hunting Rifle or Autopistol or Shotgun, Knife, 1d6 clips (each for a different weapon), 1d6 charms, flak helmet (probably blue), flak vest, flak gauntlets, Backplate with a blue and white skull symbol, hairsquig or squigpet or 1d6 eatin’ squigs, 1d10 teef

Career Exits: Loota, Spanner, Syringeboy, BlueBoy, Shootyboy, BigMobBoy, Outcast , Others


Blood Axe Clanboy (Orky Career)

– Blood Axe Clanboy –
Restriction: Orky
Description: Blood Axes have a reputation for being untrustworthy and a bit cowardly. They are even known to trade with humans, train like humans, wear camoflauge, and do other unorky things.

Skills: Common Lore (Blood Axe Clan), Barter or Evaluate, Climb or Swim or Survival, Carouse, Charm or Decieve, Dodge or Scrutiny, Silent Move or Speak Language (Low Gothic)

Talents: Pistol Training (Las), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), Basic Weapon Training (Las), Sprint or Disturbing Voice

Trappings: Axe or Laspistol, Lasgun or Laspistol, Flak Helmet, Flak Vest, Backplate with Blood Axe symbol, camoflauged poncho, hairsquig or squigpet or 1d6 eatin’ squigs, 1d6 teef, 2d10 Imperial Throne Gelt, Imperial Charm, Backpack

Career Exits: Cowardly Git, Smartboy, Drillboss, BigMobBoy, Outcast, UmanBoy , Others


Bad Moons Clanboy (Orky Career)

– Bad Moons Clanboy –
Restriction: Orky
Description: Bad Moons teef grow faster than any other clans, so they tend to have the best stuff and most wealth. Just watch out for those who might bash you on the head and take your teef. Bad Moons are the closest thing to a merchant class amongst Orks, but they also have a reptutation for being ostentatious and a bit excentric.

Skills: Common Lore (Bad Moons Clan), Barter, Climb or Swim, Carouse, Intimidate, Dodge, Evaluate

Talents: Pistol Training (SP), Basic Weapon Training (Prim), Melee Weapon Training (Prim), Quick Draw or Light Sleeper,

Trappings: Axe or AutoPistol, Autogun or Pump-Action Shotgun, hairsquig or 1d6 eatin’ squigs, squigpet or 1d10 eatin’ squigs, brightly colored Flak Jacket, backplate with yellow and black moon symbol, 2d6 teef

Career Exits: Loota, SlopKeep, Shootyboy, Weirdboy, BigMobBoy, Outcast , Others


Yoof (Orky Career)

– Yoof –
Restriction: Orky, Starting Characters Only

Description: You are a very young and inexperienced Ork. You haven’t felt drawn to any particular clan just yet, but don’t spend your time drilling like a Stormboy either. You’re a blank slate, a moist and malleable lump waiting to be molded and beaten by the older and bigger orks - which they are all too happy to do for you.

Skills: Climb, Dodge, Search, Swim, Concealment or Scrutiny

Talents: Pistol or Basic Weapon Training (SP), Melee Training (Primitive), Paranoia or Unremarkable

Trappings: Axe or Knife or Club, Stub Revolver or Hunting Rifle, Beast furs, 1d6 teef

Career Exits: Clanboy, Oddboy, Stormboy, Outcast, Freebooter , Others


New Skills and Talents for Orky Heresy

Orky Heresy uses the following new skill: Squig Use. Until I get a chance to write it up properly, assume it's much the same as Chemical Use or Tech Use, except more Orkishly flavorful. Squigs come in all shapes, sizes, physiologies and potencies.

Useful skill specialties unique to an Orky setting include:
  • Common Lore: Bad Moonz
  • Common Lore: Blood Axez
  • Common Lore: Deathskullz
  • Common Lore: Evil Sunz
  • Common Lore: Goffs
  • Common Lore: Snakebitez
  • Common Lore: Runts
  • Common Lore: Squigs
  • Forbidden Lore: Weirdboyz
  • Forbidden Lore: Painboyz
  • Forbidden Lore: 'Umans
  • Trade: Painboyz
  • Trade: Runtherdz
  • Trade: Mekaniak
And the following new Talents are (or may be) referenced in the career posts. Some were inspired by mechanics in the WH40K or GorkaMorka miniatures games.

Waaagh: Ability to use Orky psyker powers. Don’t have the details yet. For now, you could just use the Psychic Talents and rules from Dark Heresy, but that's not a perfect match to the colorful powers of Weirdboyz. It's on my to-do list...

BuggyMates: You have a time-share with some Evil Sunz NPCs concerning a poor-quality Trukk or Buggy. Roll a d10 at the start of each session. On a 1-4 it’s available for the whole session, on a 5-8 it’s being used by another NPC and to use it you must track them down and convince them your idea is better than whatever they’re doing. On a 9-10 it’s broken down at the Mek’s Slop this session.

‘Eadlong Leap: +10% to Agility rolls made to jump onto or off of a moving vehicle without killing yourself. You may charge off a moving vehicle, if you hit in the turn in which you do so, you may add +1 damage to any one successful melee hit you make.

Chicken Playa: +10% bonus on resisting fear checks caused by vehicles. +10% bonus on Agility checks to get out of the way of a vehicle that’s trying to run you over or an out-of-control vehicle.

Good Right Arm: As long as you aren’t attacking with more than one weapon, the Penetration value of your melee attacks increases by 1.

Thick Skull: Do to thick calcium deposits or even bitz of metal bolted to your skull, you have +1 armor point on your head. In addition, subtract 1 from all critical hits to the head.

Get Away Driver: You may accelerate a vehicle you are driving by two bands per turn, even if you are doing something else. Accelerate is always a half-action for you.

'Orse Yeller: You get +10% bonus on Wrangling tests to make an Untrained Steed remain in combat. You may use the Trample manuever even when mounted on an untrained steed. However, if you are ever knocked from the saddle or dismount in anger without tying up your steed, the GM is perfectly justified in having them flee.

Skidder: You may subtract 10 from all rolls on the Out-Of-Control or Structural Damage chart (of Apocrypha: Vehicles) of a vehicle you are driving. The same goes for rolls made when the driver of a vehicle is incapacitated, as long as you are within arms reach and have a hand free.

‘Ow Much!?: When you win a Barter Roll, you may roll an additional Teef die (and thus disregard an additional teef die) to make the final cost more to your liking. This is in addition to the extra die anyone gets for winning the roll, and extra dice from Degrees of Success.

Profeshunal: When buying something, you may subtract 1 from any Toof dice that rolled it’s highest value. When selling something, you may add +1 to any Toof die that rolled a “1”. You do so after the decision of which dice to keep has been made, and you may do so even if the other party won the barter roll. You may invoke the “10d10=50” rule even if the other party has already invoked the “10d10=55” rule.

Teef Knocker: Like stunning blow, except instead of stunning, it knocks out 1d6 teef from an ork-sized foe.

Tinkerer: You’re constantly putting together odd bitz into even odder fings. At the start of every session, the GM gives you an item of their choice. It can’t be something they’ve given you before, but any type of tech item, gear, or weapon is fair game. However, you don’t know what it is till you’ve made a Tech Use roll for it, and can’t sell it for more than 1d6 Teef till you figure it out.

Wrecka: You’re really good at wripping apart a vehicle from inside. When anyone rolls on the Structural Damage chart for a vehicle you’re touching, you may choose to add +20 to the roll.

Dat’s My Boy: You may designate one Gretchin Assistant to be your “Best Boy”. The best boy gets +10% on all stats above the rest of your Grotz, plus an extra Wound.

These next two have little to do with Orks, but I'm putting them here to remind me of something I plan to do at some point...

Landing Specialist: +10% on rolls to Land or Dock safely
Defensive Flying: Attackers have -10% to hit your ship

If there's another Talent referenced in post here that isn't in the DH rulebook or on the list above, look for it in the WHFRP rulebook.

XP and Character Advancement in Orky Heresy

Rather than using the existing (and convoluted) Dark Heresy system for character advancement, the Orky port to DH will use the simpler rules from Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. You'll need both WHFRP and DH to run Orky Heresy, I'm afraid.

Here's the briefest of summaries:
  • Buying a skill or talent or +5% of statistic upgrade costs 100 xp.
  • When you have filled all the upgrades of your existing career, you may pay 100 xp to advance to any career that's listed in the "Career Exits" of your current career.
  • In the case of upgrades where you have choices (such as listing "Barter or Evaluate") you may advance provide you have at least one option from each choice, or can wait and buy every option first.
And here's ways this "Orky-port" varies from WHFRP and DH:
  • The WHFRP rule that lets you pay 200 xp to restart at ground level by going to any basic career does not apply to Orky Heresy. Instead, you may pay 200 xp and act weird for a session or two to go to the Outcast career.
  • Don't worry about meeting the prerequisites of Skills and Talents. The careers are set up to make it likely you'll hit the prereq's, but it's no biggie if you don't. They are still available as options. Your options are limited enough to prevent most abuses of this in an all-Ork campaign.
  • When you start a new career, you immediately get all the trappings (items) of that career. This is a bit more generous than WHFRP, but again it's not unbalancing as long as everyone gets the same benefits. Roll the teef dice of your new career, and add them to your total.
  • The system uses a few talents from WHFRP and some new talents. If at first you don't find it in DH, check here and in WHFRP.
  • I recommend the flat XP awards from WHFRP instead of the more organic system of DH. Part of the fun of playing Orks is being able to screw up and not worry too badly, so flat XP works well to make the players not stress over success. Replacement characters should only trail a couple hundred XP behind the character that died for much the same reason.
  • That said, the following XP bonus exists just for Orks: +100 XP in any session in which you took 1 or more wound. The fluff text of the 40k Ork books says that getting injured triggers a biological reaction in Orks to grow bigger and get 'arder. The rules should reflect that.
Again, this is all a playtest / prototype / beta / untested version of the Orky port for Dark Heresy. There's some rough edges, and the GM will have to improvise from time to time.

Good luck, and have fun!

Character Creation in Orky Heresy

You're playing Orks, not humans, so a lot of the cool charts in the beginning of Dark Heresy just won't work. Eventually, I plan to replace them all. For the meantime, here's a playtest version of the bare minimum needed to make it work as a separate all-ork RPG in the Dark Heresy / WH40K RPG...

Except where noted, default to using all written rules for Dark Heresy.

Stage One: Homeworld. For an Ork game, just ignore this step (at least for now).

Stage Two: Generate Characteristics. All characteristics start at 2d10+20.

Stage Three: Career Path. Instead of using the paths of Dark Heresy, this variant uses careers more akin to that from Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay.

Roll up a starting career via a d10 on this chart:
  1. Bad Moons Clanboy
  2. Blood Axe Clanboy
  3. Deathskullz Clanboy
  4. Evil Sunz Clanboy
  5. Goff Clanboy
  6. Snakebitez Clanboy
  7. Yoof
  8. Freebooter
  9. Stormboy
  10. Wild Ork
If you rolled a 7-10, you start without a clan affiliation. Should you ever end up at the "Clanboy" career, or otherwise need to know the clan in your Orky 'eart of 'earts, roll a d6 on that chart.

A kind GM would let the player choose initial career and clan affiliation, but the Ork setting is one of those where random rolls is extra appropriate.

Stage Four: Spend Experience Points, Buy Equipment. Wounds, Fate and Movement all use the charts in Dark Heresy.

Income will be dictated by Career, which will list a die code of Teef. Roll that at the start of the game, and whenever a large swath of time (say, a month?) passes off-camera. Later in the game, when you start a new career, you'll change to rolling the new career's Teef dice. Teef to Thrones conversion rates can be found here, and will empower you to equip your character during the game. You are assumed to begin the game with all the items mentioned in your starting career, and can't purchase anything prior to the start of the first session, because orks barter, bargain, and haggle.

You don't get any experience to start things off. Instead, (like in Warhammer Fantasy) you start with all the skills and talents of your career, but none of the statistic increases.

For starting items, skills, and talents, if anything is listed as "X or Y" pick one (and only one) to start the game with. "X or Y or Z" also means just pick one.

Too Many Projects

Despite my "infinite" time resource of being intentionally jobless, I have more projects and hobbies than I can support.

I love RPGs and GMing. I'd love to be running more than one campaign right now. Unfortunately, the one game I'm running is Scion. Beautiful setting, but really tempermental rules. I spend too much time developing and balancing things for it to find the time for a second campaign. Okay, I probably could, provided it was a really light system and the campaign involved a lot of improvisation.
  • I've worked out the framework of a Orky conversion for Dark Heresy, for example, but it's too rules-heavy to risk trying to run it simultaneous to Scion.
  • Ditto for Cyberpunk - I can improvise sessions of MOC, but really honing the craft of CP2020 takes a lot of work.
  • The Esoterrorists is rules-light enough, but serious mystery plotlines take a good deal of forethought to work.
One bit of hope is Firefly. Amy and Kevin have recently conceded the fact that the show (and it's universe) is amazing. Now, the Serenity RPG is just a touch too heavy to run side-by-Scion, but there's some possibility to run the Dogs In The Vinyard version we'd discussed so long ago.

Even so, there's many other things on my list.

Tons of old stuff from my various campaigns and harddrives that I aught to stick up on this blog.

I've had some luck with CameraMan, and digitizing my old videos. I also have a script for serious film that doesn't have anything to do with any of that. I want to film more, do more, etc.

I just learned a hot debugging tool for Weird Worlds mods - it could be worth my time to take another crack at Weirdyssey or at least an update of my previous mods.

I miss Magic: The Gathering. I really miss it. I moved to the city where it's made, and promptly stopped playing or judging. How stupid is that? At the time, I needed the break from it, but now the cardboard crack is calling to me. Two awesome sets have released since I last played, and a third even cooler set is but a few weeks away. If I got a job, I could go buy a bunch of cards, but a job would cut down on time for the other projects, and I'd also have to go find a gamestore or tournament center I liked enough to bus to on a regular basis when I could be spending that time playing other games (or doing other things) with my wife.

There's several books on my reading list, too.

Blog posts to write.

Political activism I should be spending my time and energies on.

And I really mean to take a drive down to Portland just as soon as the car is in proper working order again.

EDIT: Painting! I can't believe I made that list and didn't mention painting. I have planned out my next several canvases, but haven't freed up the time to do anything about them!

I have every hour I could possibly expect, and they are not enough. How did this happen? How did I operate back when work (and LARP) filled my hours and days? I used to be so good at budgeting time - yet ironically having more of it seems to have made me forget how to schedule and prioritize it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Revised Knack (Edited)

I reworked See The Inner Self, a knack I'd made two and a half months ago.

The mechanical changes are very minimal. Basically, I changed it to Manipulation (from Wits) as it's not about thinking fast, it's about understanding human nature. It's a tough knack to use in-game, requiring either quick thinking or lots of prep work from the GM, so I gave it a prerequisite (that being the knack Stench of Guilt, which is also about understanding people's secret selves).

EDIT/ADDENDUM: I was compiling (and summarizing) all the knacks I'd consider allowing in my campaign into one big list for my players (Aside: it was a bit of a chore, since it meant scouring 3 books and 3 websites). That's what lead to my reconsidering that knack and posting changes. And about 2 hours later, on the last page of scouring, I (re)discovered that Scion: God has a knack called Psychic Profiler that does nearly the exact same thing. Psychic Profiler is a Wits Knack, with no PreRequisite. It also requires a few sentences interaction, not ten minutes, and doesn't take a die roll to activate.

So the question is twofold:
  • Does the concept belong in Manipulation (cause it's about social interaction and understanding human nature) or Wits (because it's about analyzing so quickly you accomplish in seconds what could take a mortal hours or months)?
  • Am I grossly overestimating the power of the knack, or is white-wolf completely missing how potent (and potentially annoying to the "by the seat of my pants" GM) the Psychic Profiler and Instant Assessment knacks are?


You'd think 2,000 years of rolling a boulder up a steep mountain would result something above Strength, Stamina, and Athletics all at 3 out of 5 dots*. Guess I'll be writing some corrections in the margins of my book.

*: Especially since he's a (Legend 8) immortal Son of God, and thus his maximums on those would actually be 8, 8 and 5, respectively.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

If you see something you like, please comment

Yesterday, I learned that someone I've never met in person (though we have communicated via the Scion Forum) is using several Knacks from this blog in his campaign. It was cool, and a bit flattering, to learn my crazy ideas are getting used elsewhere. It encourages me to continue to post stuff I use in my games. At the risk of sounding like either an egomaniac (or conversely, insecure and seeking outside validation) I would encourage you to let me know when you see something here that you like. If I know what things here are useful or interesting to others, it will make it easier for me to decide how to budget my spare time. If for example, two different topics might be of equal interest to me, but one has an outside audience and the other is only relevant to myself, I'll often choose to explore the topic of more universal appeal. I'd usually rather be helpful than merely introspective. I can't do that if I don't know what you're interested in reading.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brains Over Brawn - Wits Knack

This has been back-burnered for a long time. It's a knack idea aimed at boosting Mental-focused Scion PCs more helpful in combat. The idea has been that I wanted some way for lots of Perception, Intelligence or Wits to be as useful as lots of Strength or Dex. The problem has been that doing so always undermined the importance of those physical stats. However, I figured out a way finally for cleverness to be devastating about once per fight scene without it outperforming Physicals on every attack.

Brains Over Brawn - Wits Knack - No Prerequisites

Your quick thinking and clever stratagems make you a deadly force in battle. You find clever ways to use scenery and situation against your enemies, or to exploit their weaknesses.

When stunting on an attack or damage roll, you may spend a Willpower to use any Mental Attribute (and the corresponding Epic Attribute) in place of Dexterity or Strength. Which Mental Attribute to use is your choice, though it should make at least some sense to the situation. For two-die and three-die stunts, if you spend a Legend as well, you can use a different Mental Attribute (and corresponding Epic) in place of the other Physical Attribute.
Example: Fred, Scion of Thoth, is facing a vampire. His stunt involves impaling the villain on a wooden fence. For a willpower, he could use Intelligence (instead of Dex) on the attack roll to lure it into position. Alternately, he could justify using Perception (instead of Strength) on the damage roll because he lined up the shot with the vampire's heart. If he spent both a Willpower and a Legend, he could do both.
In most circumstances, you may only do this once per scene. Having fallen victim to your clever traps (or having watched their comrades or henchmen fall victim to it), they become more cautious and are unlikely to leave you an opening a second time. However, if a foe is in the throes of a Virtue Extremity (or has 0 dots in one or more Mental Attributes) they may leave themselves open repeatedly, at the GMs discretion.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Witty and emotionally-charged Scion

The plot of the most recent couple sessions of my campaign have had some really interesting situations and performances.

The PCs have this sidekick who's a Scion of Tlazlteotl. Mama Tlaz' has been noting (disapprovingly) that the PCs are Demigods, and her daughter's not advanced that far or fast. She accused them of holding her daughter back for their own benefit. Then she grabbed her daughter by the wrist and hauled her off for this big televised ascension ritual of a rather depraved nature. This did not go over well with the PCs, who attempted to sabotage the event.

It's kinda complicated to convey everything that's gone on in the the 12 most recent hours of the campaign, but in addition to Mama Filth, I've had appearances by Apollo, Ares, Poseidon, Odin, Eric & Donnie, and multiple sequences involving Pan.

The PCs killed Pan, but ended up buried under the Avatar of Earth because Pan was an instrumental part of Tlazlteotl's drastic plans for her daughter.

An NPC involved had Ultimate Wits, and was able to retract the scene back to the moment before they crossed the line (and thus retroactively stopped the situation from escalating). Everyone left alive - even Pan - but things have been quite tense. What a fun setting.

The whole Ultimate Wits rewind thing was premeditated. I created a situation where the PCs could easily hang themselves despite the clues granted by Epic mental traits. Then I kept notes on how much Legend and Willpower they spent and gained in the process of building their own gallows.

It blew up into this hideous climax that would have ended the campaign with a TPK. I let them scramble to save themselves ("everybody take cover beneath the person with Earth 1!") and sweat for a moment, then said "and at the point the friendly NPC activates Ultimate Wits - we back up the story to point X, just before the fatal mistake. You have 23 legend and 7 willpower. You have 42 legend and..." etc.

Much fun was had by all, though I suppose it was a touch more fun for me than them. Two out of three players have now indicated their intent to buy Ultimate Wits when they get to L12.

Oh, and don't worry - this isn't railroading or "The GM's glorious NPC alter-ego saves the day!". The players got to see the worst possible outcome of courage overcoming subtlety, and on try #2 worked out a much more clever and less direct way of undermining Pan and Tlazlteotl. They still got most of what they wanted, but first they got to see how she could wreck them if they were too brave for their own good.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fraywatch - Don't Mess With The Game People

Slate misjudged how much of their readership plays D&D, and posted a really tacky obit of Gary. The gamers have spoken.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

CP2020 was right afterall...

VerveEarth reminds me of the way Cyberpunk 2020 views netrunning. Oh, you want to visit a website in London? First you must visit a website in the midwest, then one on the east coast, then a website of one of the atlantic underwater colonies, and finally you can get to London.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Big Dog and RHex

If your game makes droids clumsy and poorly-mobile, it's time to start revising your rules.

Thanks to Brad at and Sophie at Emerald City Game Feast for bringing this to my attention within minutes of each other.

Here's a related video...

History of D&D

Cool article about Gary Gygax at Wired. It gets a little sappy at the end, but before that there's lots of cool trivia about D&D and the history of the gaming industry. The quotes from Gary (Gygax) and Dave (Arneson) are entertaining. "Ah, he just contributed a few ideas." What cards. Rivals to the end. :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Porting Gumshoe

You could easily use "the GUMSHOE system" from The Esoterrorists in any mystery / suspense / horror setting.

In particular it'd be great for Call of Cthulhu - and, I'm happy to report, Pelgrane has aquired the rights to CoC and plans on a GUMSHOE-based Cthulhu in the near future, written by (be-still my conspiratorial Fortean heart) Kenneth Hite.

On a more modest scale, I think it'd be pretty easy to take the GUMSHOE investigation rules into nearly any other RPG without having to touch the other skills and mechanics. Keep the combat system you love, but GUMSHOE the detective work.

Despite all my blathering (last week) about how cool Dark Heresy is, the fact remains the Inquisition-style of DH could be done better with GUMSHOE mechanics. I may just end up running a really oddball homebrewed version of Dark Heresy using the modular career system from WHFRP and the investigation system from The Esoterrorists.

The best Mystery/Investigative RPG ever

Yesterday I purchased and read "The Esoterrorists" (pronounced like esoteric) by Robin D. Laws, published by Pelgrane Press.

It's just over 80 pages, in a large font, with huge margins. It could have been condensed to 48 pages without altering a word. Despite the brevity, it was still well worth the $20 sticker price. In retrospect, despite the low word count, I'd have been happy paying $30 for it - though I wouldn't have known that till I read it.

If you roleplay, and you like mystery stories (even if you've never really liked them in RPGs) you'll love this book.

The rules are incredible - I honestly think this is the best investigation-based RPG ever printed.

Setting: It's a kinda generic Call of Cthulhu meets CSI. The only really cool part is the overall concept. Don't expect lots of "crunch" or even lots of "fluff" - the setting is pretty minimal.

That overall concept does a good twist on X-files "the truth is out there" and conspiracy theory. It's not that there's aliens and demons ravaging mankind, while a sinister conspiracy assassinates presidents and attempts to keep the truths of the world hidden. Instead, the game takes a "reality is majority consensus" take. If enough people believe in something, it becomes real. So, the bad guys hoax monster sightings in order to create monsters. They don't want to suppress the truth, they want to create new truths by preying on faith and superstition.

The PCs are conspirators, suppressing the truth about the supernatural so that it doesn't gain more power from humanities belief in it. The global conspiracy of secret masters is benevolent - it's those crackpot conspiracy theorists who harm the planet. You uncover magical secrets, then actively hide them from the public, for the good of mankind.

That makes me smile. Now, I'm not certain how this paradigm would hold up under the scrutiny of a long-term campaign, but for a one-shot it's a pretty cute idea.

Rules: This is where the game shines.

Say you're watching CSI (or NCIS, or Law and Order, or a Film Noir, or you're reading a Lovecraft story, or a Detective Novel, etc) - How often does it happen that a piece of physical evidence exists (i.e.: it is mentioned by the narrator or the camera lingers on it) but yet never spotted by the detectives, and thus never comes up again? Almost never. If it does happen, it's because the tale you're watching/reading is exceptionally weird, or was edited poorly.

Yet it happens in RPGs all the time. Clue-gathering is typically a single die roll, even in situations where failure to get the clue means the whole plotline stalls out painfully.

That will never happen in The Esoterrorists - instead, your mystery plotline will play out just like it does in the movies and crime novels. I don't want to reveal here how the investigative rules work, since the book is so light I'd be fearful of revealing "the heart of the work" and costing them sales. Suffice it to say, even if gathering the evidence is almost guaranteed, the fun of a mystery scenario is drawing conclusions from that evidence.

The mechanics are elegant, fast, and close to (but not actually) diceless. The GM advice on how to build a mystery plotline is sound, and has already transformed how I think about plot structure.

In conclusion: Buy it. I got mine at Gary's Games in Seattle. Since Pelgrane is a smaller publisher, your local gamestore might not carry it. Their distributors do, however, so ask them to place an order for you.

If you're a fan of the mystery/detective genre, CSI-style television, or Lovecraftian horror, you won't regret it. If you like all of the above, you'll gush about this game like I did.

How do you deal with Epic Mental Characters?

From a thread on the Scion Forums...

One thing I do is allow my players to "poll their epic wits" - that is, PCs with epic wits or intelligence may ask the other players for feedback and ideas. Players can butt in at any moment: "speaking as your epic wits, you might want to try..." As long as they are quick about it, that is. I don't want (and usually won't allow) 10-minute strategy debates every third tick, but I do allow a lot more tabletalk for Scion than any other RPG I've run.

Also, if I see the PCs making a mistake or falling into a trap, I resist the temptation to spring it on them. (Of course, if the trap was set by someone with more epic intelligence or epic manipulation than them, then I'll sit quiet and watch the fun - but that doesn't happen very often.) Instead, I point out that they're so clever they deduce that their intended course of action was about to cause some massive trouble for them. Depending on the situation, I may briefly summarize the likely consequences so they can choose whether or not to go ahead with it.

For example, next session will likely begin with me telling one of the PCs the following:
"As the ship sails back to Dakar, you think about the situation you're facing and realize that you're effectively delivering your own personal declaration of war to a goddess. If you go mess with Tlazlteotl in the way you're planning, her reaction will be drastic. The fact that you're one of the main characters of the story won't necessarily save you - you may just be another Greek Tragedy."
Hopefully, that'll make the player think for a moment and try a slightly less direct approach to the conflict at hand. If not, at least it'll make for a good story.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thrones to Teef

For my Orky-port of the Dark Heresy RPG, it just won't do to have the prices of everything be done in Imperial Throne Gelt. Long-time fans of 40k know that Orks use Teef as Kurrency. It only makes sense, their teeth get knocked-out all the time, rot away gradually even after being knocked out, and regrow fairly quickly.

Eventually, if I actually run the system, I'll work up a full price chart in Teef. In the meantime, I plan on using the following conversion system to wing things.

Variable pricing and conversion rates: Prices within an Ork community vary by day, memory, and whim. For every full 100 thrones something in the book costs, its Orky price is 1d10 teef. If it doesn't cost an even multiple of 100 thrones, add +1d6 teef to the cost. You add these together, so a Bolt Pistol (which costs 250 Thrones) would cost between 3 and 16 (2d10+1d6) teef.
If, however, something is so cheap as to be less than 20 thrones by the books, it costs just a single toof, and you don't roll at all.

The Barter roll: To prevent abuse by PCs buying low and selling high (a terribly unOrky thing to do), every transaction involves a Barter roll once the characters have committed to making a purchase. If both parties fail (or succeed by the same margin) then the cost is just a normal roll of the teef dice, as detailed above. However, if at least one player succeeds, then the player with the most degrees of success may roll an extra die, plus one extra die for every degree of success, and pick which ones to use.

Example: Gazkit wants to buy a Bolt Pistol from Throk. Both make rolls of the Barter skill. Unfortunately for Gazkit, he gets only a simple success, whereas Throk rolled three degrees of success. Instead of rolling 2d10+1d6, Throk may roll 6d10+1d6, (or 5d10+2d6, or even 2d10+5d6 if he really wants) and keep any two of the 10-siders and any one d6 for his total. Gazkit is committed to the purchase before the price is rolled, and just has to live with it. However, he doesn't have to be happy about it, and Throk might want to keep emotional consequences of a trigger-happy Ork with a shiny new bolter in mind when he's choosing his dice.

I didn't want it anyway: Normally, an Ork is committed to buying whatever it is that they wanted badly enough to get to the stage of making a Barter roll. However, an exception can be made in the event of the Teef total exceeding more than half that Ork's savings. So, in the example above, if Gazkit only had 20 teef total, he could back out of the purchase if it came to more than 10 teef. However, there are mechanical consequences for doing such:
  1. First off, the Ork in question can't by the same or similar item that session at all, not even from a different seller. Consider it a form of Orky sour grapes. When they say "I didn't want it anyway!" they mean it.
  2. Secondly, if that Ork ever tries to buy the same or similar item from the same seller, he doesn't get to roll Barter at all. The seller still does, and so has a better than normal chance of getting the dice from degrees of success. If the potential buyer does the "I didn't want it anyway" gambit multiple times with the same seller, each subsequent time gives an extra +10 bonus to the sellers subsequent barter rolls.
Eliminating Giant Dice Pools: A 8,500-Throne suit of light power-armor would cost an incredible 85d10. Obviously, no one wants to roll that many dice. So, for purchases over a thousand Thrones either party may choose to just invoke a 10d10 = 55 Teef rule, provided that at least one die is still rolled and kept. In other words, for that 8,500-Throne suit, either the buyer or the seller could choose to drop 80 of the dice from the roll and agreeing the cost is instead (8 x 55 = 440) 440 + 5d10 Teef . This shouldn't come up often. Very few things that cost over 1,000 Thrones are likely to be available at an Orky village, anyway. Note that either party, buyer or seller, may invoke this rule, and the other is forced to live with it. Unless they didn't really want it, anyway.

Resale Value: When selling to an established tradesmen (in otherwords, someone who's just going to turn it around and sell it to some other Ork as fast as he can) your selling price is penalized by -1 Teef. By the same token, such a merchant can invoke "10d10=50" when buying something really big. That way, he's got a slightly better chance of making a profit. Still, Ork merchants live on the razors edge.

Teef In Me 'Ead: Should a PC ever ask how many teeth they (or an NPC) has in their mouth, the answer is 2d6. This is overruled only if a different number was already established this session, the session previous or the day previous (in game-time, regardless of time out-of-character). Therefore, no Ork is ever broke for long, but you also can't just punch yourself in the face every session.

Orky Career Paths

So, I've decided I'm going to slap together an Orky patch/port/supplement for the Dark Heresy RPG. It'll be fun - the humor level will be bumped up a bit, and the fear of PC death will be lessened. I considered three approaches to the character class model:
  1. Dark Heresy's Career Paths, which are kind fiddly, and really hard to balance. What's more, while the paths allow for a lot of variety in skills and talents chosen, they straight-jacket you conceptually. That may be fitting of the regimented society of The Imperium, but it ain't Orky. A good bonk on the head can send an Ork down an entirely new path, and the rules need to reflect that.

  2. Something completely unique and Orky. I could make a new system that's really flavorful, but it'd not only be a lot of effort, it would also limit the system's usefulness. Basically it would have minimal value to random Dark Heresy players who stumble across this via search engine. That's no good - the point of sharing things on the net is to make it so players anywhere might stumble across your ideas and find them inspiring.

  3. WHFRP's Basic and Advanced Careers. This is what I settled on. It's a framework that's already familiar to myself, and to much of the Dark Heresy audience. It contrasts against the Imperiums lifetime Career Paths, yet isn't so different as to feel like a whole other game. Best of all, I don't have to spend a lot of verbiage explaining how it works - I can just direct the reader to a book (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay) published by the same folks who publish Dark Heresy.
I add one little caveat/houserule to the system in WHFRP - ignore the WHFRP rule about spending 200 XP to change to any new Basic Career. Instead, there's an Advanced Career called Outcast that anyone can join at any time by spending 200 XP and acting kinda weird or crazy for at least one session. Outcast has a lot of different career exits, and even lets you change Clans. I'll post more when I have all the details (for at least a few dozen careers) worked out.

White Wolf Marketing Genius

This is really clever. 2 months before D&D 4th releases, White Wolf will be giving away 2,500 free copies of Exalted 2nd Edition. To get one, all you have to do is send them your "lame duck" D&D 3.5 Player's Handbook.

Why? Because White Wolf remembers how the rest of the RPG industry tanked for the year following the release of D&D 3rd. This is an effort to distract a couple thousand gamers away from 4th (and thereby ensure WWP isn't stuck with a warehouse full of Exalted sourcebooks and no audience to buy them).

Come to think of it, I wonder if that's why GW/BI chose to abandon the Dark Heresy line? Perhaps they had no confidence in the line's ability to sell after the event horizon of the 4th Ed blackhole. If so, then it may have been a poor decision for FFG to pick up the DH rights.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Expanding the Universe

I'd like to generate some fan-created-materials for use with Dark Heresy. The question is, "What angle to take?" Here's a brief brainstorm of things I could do:
  • Wargear. I could break out the old 2nd Ed 40k wargear cards and the even older Rogue Trader books, and stat out items to expand the possibilities for tech, gear, and armaments.
    Pros: Easy, and compartmentalized. I could do as many or as few as I like.
    : Wholly derivative, minimal creativity involved. Also largely unneeded 'till many many sessions into the campaign.

  • Classes. I've got many pages of roles/occupations/classes written up from my own aborted attempts at converting WHFRP into the 40k setting. I could either update them to the linear class system of Dark Heresy, or just update them to the skills and talents of DH and reverse-engineer the existing linear classes into WHFRP-style class chains.
    Pros: Fairly easy, as I could dust those off and update them to the gun stats and rules systems of Dark Heresy.
    The version of this that appeals to me the most (WHFRP-style) is going to be the least useful to strangers that blunder across this site - they'll want minor new content, not wholescale revisions to core mechanics.

  • Xenos. Not just antagonists, but PCs as well. A home-brewed Eldar or Ork sourcebook would be cool.
    Pros: It's not likely to be contradicted by anything coming out from Black Library before the freeze. "GorkaMorka: the Role Playing Game" would be ded gud, guv'nor.
    Cons: It's a lot more work than the other options.

Rockin' Ork Art by Flying Debris Guy.

Long Live The Emperor

I got the 40k RPG a few days before my birthday. I am chomping at the bit to play this game. While I have a few gripes, overall it's a hugely awesome book, well worth hunting down. (It's already out-of-print, so act quickly if you're interested).

Good Stuff:
  • Lots of flavor and setting. I mean tons. They captured the "dark ages in space" feel of the Imperium really well.
  • Well written. Lots of little quotes and sidebars. Very entertaining to skim over because of all the dark humor.
  • Psi powers were handled really well - psykers are dangerous, but not just to the enemy.
  • Combat seems quick-paced and mayhem-packed.
  • Investigation section / mini-game is fairly cool. This will be a big boost to inquisition-games (which is the default spin on the setting).
  • Lots of guns and equipment, stated out in a reasonable way. My favorite tidbit is the preservation of the crazy "hallucinogen grenade" chart of 40k as an optional rule. Second favorite is the far-more-subtle "Sacred Machine Oil". The system for determining what's available in a given city/world/fleet is a very helpful set of tools.
  • The character classes are well balanced, which I wasn't really expecting.
  • A 3-page table of contents and a truly functional index. I can't express how rare a thing these are in gaming books.

Heresy, I Tell You

So, I got a copy of Dark Heresy (the 40k RPG) a couple days before my birthday. I love it, but it's not without flaws.

Bad Stuff:
  • Mostly, I regret the change to character classes. The new system is well thought-out and leaves plenty of area for personal development, but I was really fond of the old WHFRP system. While I can see that system was open for abuse, it was nothing that couldn't be solved by just getting rid of the "pay 200 to go to any class" clause. For the record, I don't buy the argument of "people have less freedom for social mobility in the 40k universe" - not only was there little such opportunity in medieval Europe (and thus the setting of WHFRP), but the default PCs of Dark Heresy are the henchmen of the Inquisition - if anyone has opportunities for crosstraining and social advancement it's these PCs.
  • Bolters seem a touch underpowered (compared to things like autoguns that they should outclass by a greater margin). But that's a minor nitpick, and may prove unjustified once I see them in combat and get a feel for the actual powerlevel of "Penetration 4".
  • Xenos v Hereticus v Malleus. That is, you have a game that rather than allowing for all of the 40k Universe just focuses on the Inquisition. So far, so good. But then to require the party as a whole to be further focused on just 1/3 of the Inquisition's purviews could really limit story options. I realize it matches the setting, but it seems ill-considered. Especially since the main book gave stats for precious few Xenos. When I run it, that thirding/Ordos distinction will be mostly lip-service, with the PCs having to investigate all sorts of situations.
  • The GM needs a good handle on the difficulty system - if you're not applying modifiers to 3/4 of the rolls, the PCs will never accomplish anything and it'll all feel pretty random. Once everyone's got the hang of it, it'll be cool, but the learning curve may prove troublesome.
  • There's a lot of charts and oddball rules - the drug "Spook" gives one of thirty-or-so random psyker powers for d5 hours! On the one hand these are part of the charm, on the other hand, it's kinda overwhelming. It'll take a really good GM to make this flow smoothly. At least it's mitigated by perhaps the best index/table-of-contents in the history of gaming.
  • Certain omissions. It's an Inquisitor game but you can't play a Grey Knight. Digital Lasers and most other wargear cards are missing from the equipment section. The xenos/antagonists section doesn't have Genestealers or even just Hybrids. This would all be a minor quibble if the game had promised long-support, but instead they've pulled the plug. As a result, this is incredibly frustrating. Heresy, I tell you.
So, I said I intend this site to not be just another place where some random curmudgeon bitches about the state of the world. When I hit a wall, I intend to brainstorm ways over, around, under and through it. So, expect some efforts in said directions in the near future.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Previously, On Scion...

Ash (CIA agent),
Alyssa (Federal Prosecutor),
Omar (sort of a bounty hunter / hit man / international vigilante)

Campaign started in Seattle, Washington. PCs were each independently pursuing the same criminal/giant. They met, killed him and most of his henchmen, but spared the life of one henchwoman, who is now their sidekick. A few sessions later, they similarly convert the minotaur of the Market into a minor ally.

As a result of all this intelligence gathering and creative problem solving, they became aware of a big plot on the part of Mr Caponeson, an even bigger Giant, who's trying to free an Ogdoad / Titan / Cthulhoid that buried under Downtown Seattle and Puget Sound. To prevent that, the Dwarves told them they'd need a few things to fashion a titan-proof diving suit. Dragonfire, a nemean hide and a sea-gods toga.

But first, they had a gripping chase sequence through the Seattle underground, and then had to fight some terrorists, who probably weren't connected to the whole muspelheim mafia thing. Still, it gave them a chance to look bad-ass because they were trouncing mortal evil-doers and zombies and lived through a pretty scary gas attack.

They decided a Benu/Phoenix was close enough to a dragon, so they climbed up the Space Needle, and rescued the Wheedle from Caponeson's harpies.

From there they went to Albuquerque, to meet with Hercules. As fate would have it, they stepped on board a plane that was being sabotaged by a little gremlin in a nazi uniform. Totally unrelated to the main plot, just the impact of fate. They save the commercial airliner full of people, and land it in the midst of a busy highway.

They finally get to New Mexico and meet Herc. He looks like Steve Reeves, but runs a demon-beset gamestore in Alb. He climbed up into the ceiling storage space of the game store to find his old Nemean hide for them, but no luck. He did however, find some other tools and armor that could be helpful in hunting a Nemean, so he gave those (and complimentary copies of the players handbook and a starter-level magic deck) to the PCs. Since Nemesis (mother of one of the PCs) had cursed him to never leave the game store, he sent the PCs on their merry way to battle the Nemean Bat in Carlsbad.

The PCs outwit a bat, and get close enough to grapple it. They skin it (using it's own teeth as knives) and head back to Seattle.

They're still a bit uncertain how to get a Sea God's toga, so they start nosing around Caponeson's operation again. This results in an argument with Ivar. Trying to avert a major war between Loki and Hel (Loki's related to several of the giants in question, but his daughter Hel is the mother of one of the PCs), Caponeson offers a truce. The PCs accept it, but start moving secretly against his agents anyway.

They get a lead on a sea-god's toga. The PC with Prophecy has a vision about talking to a nixie who lives in the fountain near the space needle, and carrying a mermaid away from the Hiram Chittendam Locks. A quick stop at the fountain introduces a nixie whose mermaid friend was supposed to visit today, but is a couple hours overdue. "She's never late, and I'm starting to worry about her".

They bushwack the wackenhut-meets-innsmouth guys at the lock who had the mermaid pinned in the fish ladder. But there's this other guy there who's a bad-ass. He's dressed in barnacle-encrusted gladiator armor and riding a nautical chimera (part gigantic angler fish, part gigantic lobster, plus a few tentacles and a stinger for good measure). There's a pretty fancy battle, and while two PCs escape with the mermaid, the third PC is kidnapped by the gladiator guy.

She awakes in a watertight internal chamber of an ogdoad. It has two fairly gross exists - one opening beneath Puget Sound and one opening onto the shores of the river styx. The gladiator takes off his helmet, and says he'll unchain her if she promises not to attack or escape for one hour. He just wants to look at her, and to talk.

For the past several thousand years, he's been fighting a guerilla war against Poseidon. His full name is Julius Quintus Nautico, but no one's called him anything but Tethysion since the fall of Rome.

His wife, bless her soul, was a Scion of Nemesis who was raped and murdered by a Scion of Poseidon. For political reasons, Nemesis couldn't strike the rapist down directly. Julius became disillusioned with the Goddess, and turned to Tethys for empowerment. He drowned the Poseidon-scion in vengeance (imagine how happy I was when Scion: God came out months later and said Tethys drowns her enemies) and then started working his way up the ladder. Polyphemus nearly killed him, and he decided to tackle things more his own size, hence his pursuit of the mermaid, great-grand-daughter of Poseidon. His failure to keep upping the ante is what stuck him at Legend 5 but not yet a Demigod for all time - an important thematic lesson for my players - raise the stakes or be left in the dust.

Then comes the big bombshell (stolen straight from Dracula). The captive PC is the very vision of his long-dead wife. Perhaps she's reincarnated? He tries to woo her, but she sticks to business and logic.

Tethysion becomes convinced (by his reborn love) that Tethys is a villainess, seeking to destroy mankind, and that it's wrong for him to run around killing and raping mermaids. He decides that in order to regain his honor, he must fall on his own trident. But first, he gives his old centurion locker to Alyssa (the PC who was his wife in a previous lifetime). Inside is their wedding clothing from ages ago - a beautiful stolla and palla for her, and for him a toga that was a gift of the gods.

The other PCs show up to save her, but she's already ready to go. They take a stroll on the shores of hades, then head home. She needs a couple days to just sit and think.

During those days, they deliver the toga, nemean hide, and benu to the dwarves. They're reluctant to build the diving suit, because the dwarf leader's wife is being held hostage by one of Caponeson's luitenants. Apparently, they aren't the only ones paying lip service to the truce.

Then a building blows up. It was the 30-story building whose penthouse served as home to one of the other PCs. Ivar had rigged it to explode in vengeance for the way the PCs had treated him previously. In a cool series of super short cut-away scenes, he learned about Caponesons truce and rushed to the building just a minute too late. The whole building collapses, and Omar (one of the PCs) is barely able to save the life of Cleopatra.

Crap! I forgot to mention Cleopatra. Famous Queen of the Nile - it's a long story, but she's his girlfriend. Everyone's a little unclear how she ended up in the slave auction beneath the Pike Market, but Horus had paid for her on his son's behalf. It all started really uncomfortably, but has grown over time. That was back in the session where they converted the minotaur.

Anyhow, the "terrorist" bombing downtown is enough to wake Alyssa out of her "did I just talk my soulmate into committing suicide?" funk. She takes part in the rescue efforts at ground zero. Since Dubya was trying to replace AG anyway (Alberto had had a nervous breakdown when Alyssa confided in him that some of the criminals she prosecutes aren't exactly human), and Alyssa is a Federal Prosecutor with a primo photo-op, she get's sworn in.

That's the moment I did their assenscion to demigodhood. Big fancy montage of divine intervention scenes, with each visitation plucking them from the real world and returning them changed. Barbarella (the NPC sidekick Scion of Tlazlteotl) is left out. She's been a bit unreliable, running away once or twice 'cause the PCs sometimes use manipulation instead of charisma when motivating her. Anyhow, she's feeling "second class" and is none-too-happy.

Getting ahead of myself. Somewhere between ground zero and being sworn in, the PCs fight Ivar, who barely escapes with his life. Then they kidnap the right-hand henchman of the luitenant who kidnapped the dwarf. The hostage exchange goes poorly at first, with a PC incapacitated in the opening round of combat. But then a different PC has two ridiculously unbelievable rolls back-to-back and one-shots a higher-legend Undead she shouldn't have been able to hit.

Anyhow, a side tangent on Ash. She's been playing both sides of the fence. Loki visits frequently, and Hel does every so often, too. Ashilda's had a couple non-violent interactions with the dreaded Mr Caponeson, who has offered her a position in his army come ragnarok. So her visitation ends with a big party at the Jotunheim Bonfire, Mr Caponeson's nightclub. This will matter further down the road, but not in this post.

After the demigodness, I switched gears, trying to give each PC a look at how much simpler and meaningless their day-to-day life is now that they have all that divine power.
Alyssa gets scenes in the courtroom and before congress, and she outperforms the leaders of the free world.
Omar gets a job to overthrow a petty dictator in Africa. I expected him to use his uber-strength and magic armor to just walk in and crush him.

Instead, Omar invites the others with him. Their African vacation involves overthrowing 3 different warlords, converting one of them (the one most acceptable to Ash's CIA superiors) to worship the three of them, and put him up as a puppet state of the US. PCs dodging law rockets and heavy machine guns, then using Sekem Barrier to humble the militants, and massive social stunts to restructure the region. When all is said and done, they've improved the lives of a good hundred thousand people in central africa. But they've also fatebound themselves to the wartorn country they are in.

After some research, they deduce the only way to untie themselves is to exit to the underworld so that some portion of mortal fate will slough off them. The best Terra Incognita route to do this is guarded by an Adze and his buggish minions. They best him, and head into the unknown. There's a chase by a dinosaur, lots of Fenrir, and even Garm.

Somewhere along the way, creepy little twin girls tell them that the relic ring Ash wears, which she took from the corpse of the Undead back on Ballard Bridge, once belonged to the Adze she just fought. Loki had traded four Lindwurms to the Adze for it - and then presumably arranged the situation to make sure Ash got her hands on it. Whose side is Loki on, anyway? He showers his grand-daughter with gifts, while at the same time putting more and stronger foes in her path.

Eventually, they manage to punch through to Helheim, and accidentally walk in on Hel and Balder in an intimate moment. Balder expresses an interest in Ash, and implies that Ash's daughter's father is not that no-good mortal Ex of hers. This all gets really uncomfortable, which is a big plus for dichotomous Hel. Eventually, the PCs catch a ship back to midgard.

A big storm blows in, and a the longship full of PCs somehow ends up in a viking display in the British Museum. This is all for the best, the PCs had long ago considered researching in the Egyptology section here to learn more on how to fight an Ogdoad. Apparently, Hel or the Fates had heard their idea, and decided to be helpful.

But an old enemy, Caponeson's wife (before the truce, they mailed her photos of Caponeson having an affair), is waiting outside. She's been lead here by Sisyphus. Ol Sis outtalks the PCs, and convinces Maia Zipacna Caponeson to attack the PCs. She grabs Cleopatra's Needle (all 160 tons of it) and chucks it through the crowded front of the Brittish Museum, taking down most of the building. The PCs manage to avoid most of the publicity here, and Mrs Caponeson ends up fighting British anti-terrorist forces on a live BBC feed. She's fatebound to London, they aren't.

They scavenge some relics they need for the Ogdoad battle from the ruins of the museum, break up a local ring of titan-worshipers, and head to Cambridge.

En route, Hel calls Ash. She says Balder took a liking to her, and since Balder's birthday is coming up, she'd like to treat him to a threesome. This was a throw-away comment intended to reinforce how inhuman Hel is, asking for a menage a trois with her own daughter. I wasn't expecting the player to say "Hell yeah - Ash'd do anything to sleep with Balder! He's a hunk! He's the best-looking god in my whole Pantheon." There was no die roll involved, but I rewarded her spunk like it was a 3-point stunt.

Backing up a moment or two - in the museum was a temporary exhibit about the work of Iman Wilken's, a scholar who believes The Illiad and Oddyssey predate the greeks, and are in fact proto-celtic in origin. He places Troy in Cambridge, and Odysseus's voyage as being across the Atlantic. Prophecy (and a couple NPCs) had hinted the PCs would retrace the first half of Oddyseuss's voyage, so the PCs take a chance and head to Cambridge.

Waiting for them is The Maltese Falcon, an enormous luxury sailboat with a Legend Rating of 1. They hop aboard, write the world's best classified ad, and hire some crew. The ship was prepaid by Horus (just as he'd cryptically prepaid for Cleopatra many sessions before) so the PCs took it in stride. The made some rolls to weed out crew that would have mental issues in the event of attack by sea monster or cyclops, and head out to sea following Wilken's map.

First stop - the land of the Ciconnes, a place Odysseus sacked because the natives had sent troops and supplies to support Troy. Wilken's identifies it as the sunken city of Yves, once rival to Paris. Yves is also important in grail lore.

The PCs don the armor Hercules gave them oh-so-long-ago, and fly overboard, using Terra Incognita to enter the realm of St. Yves Ciccones. There are mortals there, 6 large villages and a monestary who have been cut off from the world for countless generations. For the past 20 or 30 years, they have been plauged by ghosts. Aten has torn three rifts to the underworld, to places matching the trisociative nature of Yves. There's ghosts of proto-celts, trojans and achaens, crusaders and arthurian knights, and even a couple frenchmen on penny-farthing bicycles, all pooling up here. The titans intend this to be a staging ground for bringing the war to earth.

The PCs do some exploratory probing of the rifts, outwit a Hekatonakhiere, and kill 3 angels and 4 cherubim. They seal the rifts, and convince the people of Yves that everything they previously believed is false. The turn them away from God (aka Aten) and start them worshiping the Norse, Greek, and Egyptian (sans Aten) Pantheons - or, more specifically, just worshiping themselves. Large-scale rituals are cast to shore this place up from further ghostly or angelic intrusion. They build some aqueducts and printing presses and such to improve the quality of life for their new worshipers, then head back to the ship.

They find it adrift and looking deserted. Below decks, they are ambushed by one of the crew they'd hired back in Cambridge, by the name of Wendy-Lou Smith. A PC throws everything he has into his very first attack, and takes her head off. Despite her awesome armor, she couldn't survive the 35-levels of lethal the PCs dumped on her in one action.

Later, they learn from her ghost that Wendy Lou was the daughter of Weyland Smith, aka "The Norse Hephaestus", what's more, she was Hercules's common-law wife. They'd kinda broken up over a Nemean Schnouzer. Wendy had moved back to Europe till the Nemean puppy passed away naturally, but was now ready to get back with Herc since he wasn't going to mistreat her dog. She'd been sent below decks before the PCs changed into the armor Herc had given them. They'd left their Aztec sidekick behind, who also changed into her armor from Herc. Turns out all that armor belonged to Wendy, gifts from her dad or suits she'd made herself. She'd assumed Herc was robbed by her new employers, so she beat up the rest of the crew and passengers and tied them up.

Somewhere in the midst of all that, Nemesis shows up and says she's proud of Alyssa for the whole converting Yves thing, and wishes she'd spend more time dealing out justice and less time being moappy about reincarnation. Right, I forgot to mention the part where, after chasing off the Hekatonakhiere, Alyssa was nearly raped by Hades, and had to Social her way out of it. "The Unseen" is now holding that over Nemesis's head - "as a favor to you, I didn't take your daughter's virtue or feed her pomegranite, so you owe me". The greeks are a sick and complicated lot. Nem actually said "Next time, just have faith that'll extract vengeance for whatever evil befalls you" to her daughter.

That's about where we left off. We play again this Saturday. On the itinerary:
  1. Cape Malea and/or Cape St Vincent, Portugal
  2. Land of the Lotus Eaters and/or Senegal
  3. Land of the Cyclopes and/or Cape Verde Islands, Atlantic
  4. The Aeolian Isle and/or Saba, Netherlands Antilles
  5. Lamos-Telepus and the Land of the Laestragonians, and/or Cuba

After that, presumably they'll step off Wilken's Oddyssey map, through the Panama Canal, and back up to Washington State to stop an Ogdoad.

Sorry - I've been busy elsewhere.

It's been a bit quiet here lately. I've been spending my time working on short films. You can check out the goofiness at my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gary goes to Valhalla

From the Minneapolis Star & Tribune:

Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax dies at 69

By EMILY FREDRIX, Associated Press

MILWAUKEE - Gary Gygax, who co-created the game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

He was responsible for something that's brought a lot of joy to a great number of gamers.