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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

FWTD: Chasing Colin and muggings in Manhattan 2080 (sessions 5 and 6, or 7 and 8, depending on how you count)

So, we've got 3 more sessions since the last one I blogged about. Let me see what I can tell you about the last two.

Dorotheia and her runner friend had decided to go to the Omniscients. They did, and after getting off the metro and walking less than a couple blocks, a kid approached them. He (or she, who can tell at that age?) handed them a note.
"Freak, get in the 2nd building left".
And so they did. It was completely dark inside. The Omnscient explained he sees better in the dark. It was probably not an exaggeration.
They explained they're looking for a couple - or maybe 3 - Colin clones. And they asked for help tracking them from the description.
"How am I supposed to do that?", the Omniscient inquired. "I can't just walk the streets and look at everyone that fits your description, right?"
"Then how can you help us?"
"Here, take these bugs in two jars. If you find a Colin, smash one on him, and run. Then send me a note, and I'd have him delivered to you."
In essence, he just gave them two psychic bugs. They even thanked him for it.
After that, they went back to the Colin Hunters. The apartment was empty (the Colins were actually inside, sedated, and kept by a Math Addict. But they didn't know that).
So the Runner left Dorotheia and went to his Black Trader. He sent him on an errand: to deliver a message. And he gave him a bottle of lemonade on a nice red string, which he attached to his belt.
The Runner went on... and he promptly blew his chance to notice he has been followed.
As this happened, he only noticed a trio of guys that were dressed like workers or maybe street persons. There were also 3 Animalist in the same part of the metro, and the three looked at them and rose as one, deciding to go farther away. Well, Animalists are dangerous.
The three passed over the Runner - who even followed them with a glance to make sure the Animalist wouldn't try to kill them or something - but as they passed near him, the train started decelerating.
Which actually meant the momentum was pushing them back towards him. And as it turned out, one of them knew how to use this, by performing a flying kick towards him.
Now, our Runner is a consummate artist with knives. He did manage to sidestep, but the guy passed him by and landed on his feet in a boxing stance. The other two pulled a shiv and a knife.
"Hey, guys, can't we sort this out?"
"Sure. Just give us this bottle".
He had the idea that this was more important than lemonade, and refused. At which point, he had to dodge a shiv.
Actually, he managed that, and tried to go around the boxer.
Well, he did. Except he caught a hook to the head, and fell over.
He was poised for brain damage, but there was actually an NPC with very good Emergency medicine skill (a pacifist, who traveled in the same subway car and just had studied lots of first aid for philosophical reasons).
(To clarify, I generated the passengers in this car of the metro at random, because I expected him to go to the Trader. What I didn't expect him to fail the roll to spot the ambush, but it turned out that he had min-maxed, and his Awareness had taken a plunge. Well, even maximum skill with knives isn't always enough).
So, he could be played in as little as a few weeks of in-game time. It was time for a temporary character. The player decided on an Animalist.

Dimitri from the Orphans, however, lived to tell the story of their first meeting with a Hunter!
After a fight with Skin Borgs, where he had fought next to Hummingbirds, he got invited to a party. Specifically, it was a mud party...but they loaned him protective clothes. Or, as one of them put it, "Youdon'twanttoknowhowdirtythatmudis,sweetie!" Yeah, Hummingbirds often talk like this.
It was a good night, all in all. He got closer to a girl, and enjoyed the music, but during a (live! Can you imagine!) performance from a band that sang about fighting Skin Borgs... she decided to go crowdsurfing towards the scene, gliding over the heads of people.
Except someone dropped her. Good news: she smashed into mud, so the fall wasn't hard.
Bad news: she smashed into mud face-first, and likely swallowed some of it. There are ways to get a nastier disease in Manhattan 2080...but I can't think of any right now.
So, he helped her get up, and after she was over throwing up, volunteered to accompany her to a Black Med (she didn't have insurance).
However, on the way there, he met a weird guy laying in the middle of the street. He was hurt in the leg (which he didn't notice), and he handed him money and a note.
"Take this! It's all for you!"
I don't know what was passing through the player's head - most likely, he decided someone wants to bind him with a contract - but Dimitri only took the note.
The man jumped, thanked him enthusiastically, and ran away.
The note said "you've got 5 minutes to run!" As soon as he took it and the man ran, an arrow struck next to his leg.
Cue ominous music.
Both he and the girl got a City Knowledge check, and she made it.
"I think that's a hunter. Sorry, sweetie, I don't think I can help against one of those sickos... I can send for help, though! Try to live long enough, will ya?"
He promised, and he ran. The only issue was, he didn't make it by a large enough margin.
So he got another arrow, through the calves. Not immediately lethal, but it hurt. And worse of all, he didn't manage to spot whoever was shooting at him.
At this point, he started being cunning... and ran into a store.
"I need bandages!"
Since he was bleeding, the clerk behind the counter decided to gain a bit more.
"$5, mister!"
"Here, and you can have this note as well!"
As he was hoping, the Hunter switched to the clerk, and started sending the crossbow bolts in his hands and feet. Dimitri ran to find a Black Med.
Due to being better at orienting, he found one almost at the same time as the Hummingbird chick. She was impressed with him until he admitted he hasn't killed the Hunter, but passed the note. So she gave him a peck at the cheek, and ran away.
Later the story repeated itself, when he got in the Orphanage. A chick who was fancying him went to help him after his wound got worse - and she calmed him she didn't believe anything people were saying about him.
"Leaving the old man to his fate was just cautious! You might have spent us a war."
"Exactly my thoughts."
"Tell me, how did you run away from this Hunter? I hear he almost killed Orange (a red-head Orphan with round head, who doesn't like Dimitri-note Asen) and his friend Marcel when they went to investigate."
Well, Dimitri was at least honest. He told her how he had dealt with it, and got another peck at the cheek, before she left him, too.
He went back to sleep, figuring out it wasn't the worse option he had available.

And then there was a new PC as well. He's playing an Utopia child who combines anger management issues and military training, having prepared to protect the Utopian community...
BTW, his starting location was picked at random.
An Utopia child went to pick his armour and his sword from a Black Trader.
Granted, that's not the first thing most Utopians do in the city. But this one was special. His community had sent him away and gave him a monthly stipend.
"You have to save the life of someone, to make up for this, before you can submit for examination", his father had said after an anger-related incident. "Until then, you're no longer allowed here".
It was partially for this reason that he went to Manhattan. It was an inner city, and he had heard many people might need help and not get any there.
So, he donned his plate armour and went to see the city in which he had arrived a couple hours ago.
Let me repeat. He donned his armour and went to see the Skin Borgs territory while in it!
It was just a matter of time before he met two female Skin Borgs. They looked at him and, not recognising him, asked him whether he's trying to join.
"Join who?"
"Are you fucking with us?"
Nope, he wasn't fucking with them. Not that he would have minded... or maybe he would have, they didn't dwell on this topic. In short, they told him in no uncertain terms: Skin Borgs and people that want to join them are allowed Skins. Everybody else is advised not to display heavy Skins, like this one.
Actually, he was wondering. But when he heard the explanation "Skins are important, because we love them! They make us feel secure... (etc.)", his face hardened, and he thanked them for the tip.
And then he moved towards 145th street. There were some battles, so he passed through a small passage.
That is, he tried to. He was accosted by dirty, silent people in rags with long, almost animal claws.
(And he had no idea what Maulers even are).
So he kept them at a distance with his sword, until some sounds startled them, and they ran. He put the sword back in the sheath, and moved away.
Next thing we knew, he had approached a Black Med - yes, the same guy - and asked him for directions. The guy, mostly Hispanic-looking, pointed him to a place kept by a guy of mostly Indian descent.
Being well-educated, our Utopia Child pre-paid for the week, which gained him the good attitude of the owner. It was pretty impossible to gain the good attitude of the Sitting Oak, his nephew, who obviously had a genetic mod for size, or just weird genetic. Although that was less likely, with him being almost pure Native Indian, as far as could be determined from a casual observation. The guy, it turned out, was repairing the building as necessary, and acting as a bouncer. He was currently in the process of sharpening his tomahowk.
The PC prayed a lot (it's one of his quirks) and went to sleep.
In the night, he heard a crack, and got a visitation by a mixed group of a man with animal claws, a guy who looked like a nerd...except he was the one who had just kicked the door in, a guy with a cyber-eye and a subliminal truth analyser, and someone else who mostly kept silent.
"What are you doing here, Skin Borg?"
"You're a Skin Borg."
"No I'm not!"
The guy turned to the man with the truth analyser.
"Is he telling the truth?"
"As far as he knows it."
Things went better from that moment on. At the end, they even left him $5 for the door. Then he asked them innocently.
"By the way, do you want to pray with me, to whatever you believe in?"
This lead to a mass facepalm - there wasn't a single religious person in that group - and they moved away. Our hero started the praying part of his routine early.
In the morning, he decided to gather some intelligence. Already being aware that his tourist data chip isn't up to date on gangs and stuff, he went up the highest building in the area, and climbed on the roof. From there, he took meticulous notes on the area - and Dragons territory got his attention just as he noticed the Roofers coming to him.
Of course, he had no idea that Roofers consider roofs their own "turf", and are territorial.
Luckily for him, the first couple of Roofers had a more restrained member, and he didn't like the sight of his sword.
Luckily for them, the guy managed to stop the other one from attacking our hero. He went down and headed towards the Dragons territory. There, he tried to get to a building that was rather aside from the rest of them, reasoning that rope bridges wouldn't be usable, and it's therefore not Roofers turf.
There was just one issue - it was an apartment building with Indies. That means they were rich enough to afford a door, locks, and a guard behind armoured glass. Of course, the guard wasn't really up for letting him in.
"Are you living here? Or do you have invitation?"
"Nope. I just want to get on the roof."
"Sorry, can't let you. Besides, why do you want to get the Roofers angry?"
In short, they talked about the Roofers, and the guard told him who are the Dragons. The Utopia Child wasn't really impressed, or not positively.
"And you're just letting them destroy buildings at whim?"
"Well, there's plenty unused buildings!"
"What do the local gangs think, then?"
"The Dragons are the local gang."
"Aren't they supposed to keep order?"
"I suspect the Dragons would argue they're reaffirming the natural order, or something. Never understood their ideas, myself. Apart from electrocuting people you dislike. That part is easy enough."
He had some Italian food and went back to his room to meditate for the day.

A Black Med's day
We already mentioned our Black Med. For OOC reasons, he didn't get much time outside of meeting the other PCs.
He heard a store clerk has been shot by a Hunter. The Night Shift at the scene showed him there have been 9 crossbow bolts involved, the last one through the skull. And they paid him a couple bucks for the expert opinion: was the guy even alive when he has been shot?
His expert opinion said that this was highly unlikely, and the bloodloss would have killed him without the last bolt, too. Whatever conclusions the officer had made about the Hunter, he has chosen not to share.

Glossary of Terms in the Fates Worse Than Death setting
Also: as stated at the beginning of this post, here are some terms.
It's the latest session of my campaign in the Fates Worse Than Death setting.
Colin is a self-replicating serial killer that "downloads" his mind in the mind of victims via technology, and "overwrites" their identity, replacing them. Math Addicts, Freaks, Humankalories, Hummingbirds and Orphans are gangs in 2080 Manhattan, and number in the hundreds, some in the thousands. Skin Borgs are an aggressive gang that's contained at 145th street. They're recognisable by, hold on to it, the fact that they wear very heavy armours (or high-tech armours that provide the same protection)!
Pusher gangs are the footsoldiers of the Drug lords, which have a monopoly on the drug market that they have wrested away from the gangs. Gangs are more like mutual protection societies, since they can't sell drugs, the city is monitored against importing guns, and the gang of Sexologists forbids pimps from working. These are, as we know, the three greatest sources of income for organised crime. For example, while the Day Shift is the corrupt part of the NYPD, the non-corrupt cops are practically acting like a gang in the setting, and are known as the Night Shift.
Also, many gang members are part of societies that fight the spread of Colin...while people elsewhere consider him an urban myth. But in the ghetto, there are people worshipping him/them as a god/gods (they're morons and suck, yes, if you ask me, but then nobody threatens them, because Colin might take offence). This makes Colin Hunters that much more useful.
Hope that helps.

Also, I need to remind you that there is a video tutorial for the setting if you're interested to learn more.
As I said, FWTD is an involved setting.

Which makes it similar to all the other settings I like, namely Modern and Historical games, Eclipse Phase, Blue planet, Equinox, Glorantha, Exalted,  Legend (the one from Dragon Warriors and Bloodsword), Orb (from the gamebooks, yes, the game is still in development), Westeros (from ASoIaF), Dune, and I suspect I might soon add Aethos to that list.
None of these is reading-light, as you might have noticed. Not even my homebrews are reading-light. I've said it already on this blog, but that's probably my greatest strength as a GM, and my greatest weakness. I'm not planning to change either way.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

What is the point of RPGs if you had to explain it in a song?

The title says it all.
And here's my answer.

Of course, we don't play RPGs for the same reasons. Just read the Big Purple and you'd realise that rather fast.
So, what would be your answer to the same question?

P.S.: For those not in the know, should any of them ever visit this blog, The Big Purple is a semi-ironic name for the forum of

Yellow the former Triad at Level 2nd

Since I had recently had to create a FWTD character, I also decided to take him to 2nd level, just to see what he would be like.
Also, I asked the GM and he was fine with me taking more Disads than the limit, and he was fine with it. Of course, it helps the GM is me...
Also, I'm using a style from the Tibet corebook for him, but that's because it fits better the backstory. He might be even more terrifying, had I used a style that relies less on Intelligence and more on Strength.
As it is, Li can take on any of the best fighters of the big gangs in the Fates Worse Than Death setting. Of course, he was a former hit-man, so that's kinda to be expected.
I think you can actually read his backstory from his list of advantages and disadvantages. He learned Tai Chi in prison where he was because his father was in maximum security (not from the father). He joined the Triad as soon as he went free. He ran away from a marriage with the Boss's daughter, because he realised she would be unfaithful to him and blackmail him into silence. He took away his bank accounts in an off-shore zone and went to Manahattan where some relatives were supposed to be living.
Turns out, they're VR addicts, so they needed help more often than the other way around, but blood is blood is blood. And since he was into Animal Wars since China, he joined the Animalists.
Of course, he also has to constantly evade the law, and had to deal with hunters from his triad (and one of the gangs in the city wouldn't refuse the money for his head, either). But them's the breaks.

Li Da Huei
Former Triad Gone Rogue
Male, Hetero
Street name: Yellow

Agy 18
Awr 12 poor people sense
Chm 10 Good self-confidence, friendly, poor with authorities
End 15
Inl 10
Spd 16
Sth 14 Good Punching
Wil 15 poor temper
Back to wall 3
Shiv 1
Razormouth 1
Light sleep 2
Law: Chinese criminal 1
Gambling 2
Animal training 2
Prowling 3
Swimming 2
Tracking 1
Acrobatics 3
English: 4
Assassin Armed 4
Assassin Unarmed 4
Tai Chi 6
Wrestling 1
Torture 1
Animal Sexuality2
Animal Defence 1
Animal Rage 1
Animal Survival 1
Animal Sensitivity 1
Animal Sympathy 1
Wilderness Survival 2

Income 100/wk (theoretically)
Cash 230 (27000 in trusts fund under his control)
Implants: Bloodhound smell Muscle: speed, Muscle:s trength, Pheromone, Longevity, Healing, Anti-Toxin, Immune system,  Backup Diaphragm, Backup Heart, Backup oxygen, Hand Dagger, Micro Tentacle, Sexaul Implant, Spectrogtraph, Third Eye, Ultra-sound imager, Voice synth, Pocket, Internal Psych Sensors
Night vision Goggles deluxe, Voice Stress Analyzers, Arm Guards

Crazy Daredevil, Loudmouth, Street Smarth, Animalist (or Common Sense), Hedonist, Humor

Fortune, Upclass, Free Surgery, Innate Brawler, Pain Experienced, Prison Baby, Property Owner: Major
Multi-drug addiction, Debt: credit, Crus, Ex, Enemy: Gang (Math Addicts), Stalker (dead), ESL, No Healthcare, Hunted: Skin borgs, Hunted: FBI, Hunted: Police, Hunted: Hunter (own  father, in hospital on Yellow's pay), Physically unattractive: Minor, Stupid Relatives, Incompetent Dependent (VR Addict wife), Veteran, Bad Rep: Cruelty, Life Debt (Drake)

Typical Action: Split Pain Grab at 1d20+5 Vs 0 and Disbalancing Parry at 1d20+12 (Special Tai Chi action).
Even more often, he leaves it to the opponent to attack and uses his action as a reaction.
Typical Reaction: Split Parry at 1d20+19 Vs 0 (split action included)and Simultaneous Crippling Strike at 1d20+15 Vs 0  (Split Action and bonuses from talent and sub-attribute included).

Monday, 10 June 2013

What does a real fight with weapons look like? (Two propellers clashing is too simple an answer)

During the discussion on turn lengths on The Big Purple, there was some nice reality check about armed fights from ChalkLine. I thought it might be useful to read it for inspiration.
    I'm going to give the posters here some background to base thier assumptions off. The following refers to hand-to-hand mediaeval combat.

    First off, people are going to imply I do not know what I'm talking about. So I will say to them that I have spent over a decade fighting in and out of harness (blossfechten and harnissfechten) using medieval weapons. Not LARP, SCA or sports fighting. This is study of medieval combat systems.

    - A fight with weapons last seconds.
    - German style fighters attack several times a second, usually two or three.
    - Any attack which is not with lethal intent gives your opponent the chance to land one instead. Therefore there are NO feints when your life is on the line.
    - Grappling is slower, but not by much. It usually accomplished within five seconds.
    - Any blow is possibly lethal due to shock and pain. You only have to worry about a swordsman and a person reeling in pain is not a swordsman. to quote Hindenburg; 'cut the arm, go home, drink wine.' He means one good hit is a kill, not a whittling of 'hit points'.
    - Nothing is more dangerous and lethal than a dagger fight. I include poll axe here. Daggers are fast, lethal and easy to use with training. Liechtenaur says 'God have mercy on those who fight with daggers.' He means you will not come out unscathed even if you win.
    - Harness fights use the same systems but different attacks. You do not batter armour to kill unless you have a poll weapon or a mace/pick; instead you attack where the armour is weak.
    - The Maxim of Combat is this;
    "The Shortest Route to the Nearest Opening."
    What they mean is speed. Speed means your opponent has no time to cover, block or move.
    Perhaps a one second 'round' in this case is too long.

    I'm practising medieval sword use myself, albeit having much less experience. Also, footage of street fights I've studied wherever I could get it has lead me to similar conclusions. Well, that's true as soon as at least one of the opponents is skilled enough to deal real damage unarmed. With untrained opponents, it often looks like an MMA match that usually ends with ground-and-pound.

And yeah, 1-second might well be too long. Right now, as people on this blog know, I'm using FWTD (or more precisely, the ORC-Classic system, since FWTD is the name of the setting) which has 0.5 seconds long rounds. I find it makes for really dramatic fights where people often end up out of the fight within 3 rounds at most. The drama is in the high stakes, and since most fights end up by someone running away, I'm not even talking about PC death here. If you run by a drug-dealer that forces people to inject his stuff, or a serial killer, how many people would get their lives ruined or ended?

OTOH, realistically, fights do tend to drag out if nobody manages to sneak a strike through the other's defences. They only become dragged-out punch-out affairs if nobody manages to end it early.
So, how long are the fights in your games, and what do the look like?

How to use the Turn Mod from EABA v2 in GURPS 4e and ORC-C? A.K.A. On short rounds and lethal systems

That's just something I've been discussing lately, and thought you might care to know my conclusions.
Basically, are short rounds realistic? Do they prevent more complicated actions?
First, here is how Mailanka advises to run GURPS games. I totally agree, and this applies for every game with short rounds, BTW.
"GURPS is at its best when it flows quickly. In most games, I'm fine with people taking their time, but in GURPS I will count down from 5 and if you haven't decided, your character does nothing. The point, in addition to emphasizing the speed of combat in a gritty game like GURPS, is to get people to decide swiftly. A good GURPS action sequence feels like an action sequence and not these distinct turns. It's not "Oh, it's my turn? I do this group of related things, and then relinquish control to the next player." Instead, it's "This is a time slice full of things going on in slow motion. What are you doing in this time slice?" So, of course, in some of those time slices you're slotting the clip into place as you slowly fall back from your opponent; Your pulling the slide back into place with a satisfying click as you hit the floor; You're lining up the shot as you're sliding away from your opponent (sliding is an acrobatics check, BTW, totally RAW) while your opponent is also drawing a bead on you; you're firing: Blam blam blam, down he goes.

You have to keep that moving, bam bam bam. None of this sitting around, tapping your chin and picking out your action card/daily power/whatever. If you do that, then players get frustrated with "wasted" turns aiming. No, if everything flows, then it fits. And the benefit of that is that when players do sacrifice turns aiming, they know what they're losing. Then nothing feels like a waste. Of course, there are characters who can dispense with a lot of that and just drop 3 people a second: Gunslingers and weapon masters, mostly. But cinematic heroes are cinematic (and contrary to popular belief here on, GURPS does cinematic very well)"
Here's a link to Mailanka's blog.

However, for melee, I find it better to start with short rounds, and progress to longer ones as soon as both opponents stop to just try and trade blows (usually happens with evenly matched opponents, after they've been trading blows for a while - it's a common saying that fights that don't end fast tend to become drag-out punchdowns). Short rounds account well for the former case.
To simulate the latter, I'd adopt the increasing round durations from EABA v2. (Keep in mind, that's going from a realistic point of view, but the same rule has "narrative" uses as well. Its other use is for more "dramatic" fights with more back-and-forth. That's appropriate for some genres, less so for others). I usually start applying Turn Mods after the 3rd round, and frankly, no fight in the last 5 sessions has lasted over 3 rounds!
Bear in mind, that's for melee. Ranged fights have their own quirks. But right now, due to the setting's specific (and my hobbies), I'm mostly interested in close combat fights.

With that in mind, let's see how to use the "increasing length rounds" and turn mods in GURPS 4e (because I've got better ideas on how to apply them).

Both systems start with 1 second rounds. As the turn gets longer, add the Turn Mod from EABAv2 to your actions, splitting it between your attack(s), defences, Fast Draw actions and allow reloading for expending (as many Turn Mod as it takes rounds in GURPS). Remember the rule that you can't add more Turn Mod to a defence than was added to the attack. Meanwhile, again, the Turn Mod is getting bigger, but it means expending more ammo, and the turn is getting bigger. Refer to EABAv2 (or at least the quickstart) for details on how the rounds increase and what you can use it for.
Done. Yes, it's that simple, IMO.

Now, I still need to deciding how to use the same mechanic for ORC-C (yes, for my Fates Worse Than Death campaign, again). Given the pre-decided number of actions, that might be harder.OTOH, you can and probably should use split actions against a good opponent (or against one who doesn't care about defence). Since the penalty about split actions in ORC-C is big, that's one possible use for the Time Mod. Maybe blind allocation between attack and defence?
I need to think more about it. And maybe for a re-working of the health system of ORC-C, to make results (even) more random.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Capoeira in Fates Worse Than Death

And here I present you with a new martial art, stats are for the Fates Worse Than Death system.

Capoeira (Combat)- The PC has trained in the fighting art of Brazilian (runaway) slaves. Legend says its emphais on kicks was in order to give them an excuse they have never lifted a hand against the owner. In reality, it would be unlikely to stave off a punishment – but the feet could be used after someone was in shackles. Today, it's more of a tradition.
Pre-rquisite: Dancing (2), Acrobatics (2), and Music (drums) 1. Optional pre-requisites: Portuguese and Culture (Brazilian) (take both or it doesn't matter).
Gives the following:
+2 per level to initiative
+4 to Split Action: Jump and Strike (kick) or Jump and Knockdown (you get the bonus to both, but if course, can't perform them at once).
+0 to Knockdown (kick)
-4 to Pain/Stun Attack
-4 to Crippling Attack
-4 to Knockout (kick)
-8 to Dodge. Special: if the PC succeeds in the defence against a hand/handheld strike using the bonus from Capoeira, they're now in position to perform an Easy Crippling attack at the opponent's feet. If the attack defended against was a Kick, the character would get an Easy Knockdown instead!
+0 to Jump away
+4 to Drop Seated (Special action: works like a Drop, but you roll against 25. However, whether you succeed in the defence or not, the PC ends up in a position that counts as Seated/Kneeling. Only if you didn't succeed defending and the attack was a Knockback or Knockdown, does the PC end up prone. Cannot be used against a Knockdown that's trying to sweep the legs-as opposed to a Knockdown that's trying to push the upper side of the body).
Special: When using Jump and Strike split action, the PC can get up from a kneeling, seated or
+0 to Regain Footing: Special action – as a reaction (SPD+AGY+Skill+1d20 vs 35), the PC can dodge an attack and
Special: In the action immediately after dropping to Prone or Seated position, the PC has Easy Knockdown (this raises to Very Easy if it was already Easy).

If you've got the optional Pre-requisites at the time of learning the skill (or acquire them after it, but before learning a new level of it):
You get +4 to Slash with straight razors. If the PC isn't wearing shoes, or has boot blades, it can be performed with a blade held by the toes (or the boot blade).

Stats are still subject to change, but I think the idea is clear.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

FTWD: Hunting serial killers, session 4 (or 6)

WARNING FOR EXTREME VIOLENCE in this session!!! The Geneva convention was broken repeatedly!
If you keep reading: You've been warned!
So, this is the 4th (or 6th) session of my Fates Worse Than Death campaign. I recommend jumping to the end of the post if you aren't familiar with some terms, because Fates Worse Than Death is an involved setting.

The Runner looked at the damn Skin Borgs. After splitting with Dorotheia, he had used mostly hits on their exposed parts, because he wasn't trying to kill them. He wasn't keen on getting the Skin Borgs to declare revenge on him.
The Hummingbirds weren't trying to do that, either, he had noticed. It seemed enough to hurt people a bit, and they ran away. Nobody prevented that. Probably didn't want to turn the gang war into a war where no quarter is given.
They were probably wise not to do that, too.
Still, the Hummingbirds invited him to a party. He turned them down, and went home, but received a message from Dorotheia.

Meanwhile, Dorotheia was looking at her decimated group. Well, actually, they weren't the only one in poor condition - the Animalist who had squeezed with her to avoid paying the metro had dealt with a Skin Borg nobody had managed to hurt before. This was the same one that had punched one of the Freaks with a knuckle-duster. Throwing him from the third floor had been enough to overcome his armour, though.
She sighed and turned to her friends.
"Isn't he coming soon?"
"Might take him a while", his Freak friend answered. "He takes some time to do some hunting after a fight."
They began chatting up about the various problems in the City. And when they mentioned Colin, she nodded and said, "Yeah, this guy was almost killed by Colin", pointing at the Runner.
This...didn't go over well. They put him to a grilling interrogation, especially the Freak with smashed face. Finally, this one asked the final question.
"Did you call, like, the Night Shift, or some Colin hunters?"
They haven't. Why not? Well, "we didn't assume it's important, he had to run" didn't go over well.
Actually, Smashed Face pulled a mobile phone and called some friends.
"Hi, it's me, Jerome... yeah. Tell me about Colin activity in our territory... multiple Colins have been spotted? Minutes ago?"
Yes. He was in a Colin Hunting society with the Math Addict that sent Park (see Episode 3: Violence and statistics).
They jumped and ran to the metro. The Runner just had to show them where he has been attacked! And it was close to the place where Colin had been spotted. They had to deal with him-or them. Now!
They got off the train in Animalist turf - with an Animalist with them, they passed with no problems - and went to the building mentioned in the previous episode.
While they were trying to decide whether breaking in was a good idea - after all, it might be a false alarm (nobody knew Park is a psychic) - the Animalist offered an idea.
"I can climb the walls, and enter from the roof. I'd be fast, so the Siders and Roofers wouldn't notice me. And of course, I'd signal you what to do, or jump back."
He went in, climbing the wall as rapidly as a cat scaling a tree.
Who's saying ORC-the Organic Rule Component system - is slow? I managed to run the whole interaction when he met a female Colin, then the battle in under a minute, just by rolling d20 after d20. FWIW, he slashed her face - surprise, bitch, pain poison here! - and while she was distracted by the pain, dived and broke her leg. The knockout strike wasn't hard to deliver after that, smashing her head in the wall.
Well, that pretty much solved the issue. She had shown uncharacteristic skill with a knife, but most importantly... she had shown no emotion at some toothy bastard with claws scaling her wall. The lack of fear is part of what betrays Colins - though by no means unique in the city, it's surprising when you see a young supposed shut-in displaying it.
Minutes later, he showed up, and gave them the go-ahead signal. And then all hell broke loose.
When they kicked the door in, the Runner spotted two kids, 6 and 8 yo. He knew these were actually avatars of the killer Colin, because they had met.
So he signalled to Dorotheya "it's them", and jumped with his knife drawn. Not even Colin stands a chance. He stabbed the kid that had hurt him, and killed him.
I think this PC gets something like 1d20+12 vs 0 to perform a Vital strike. I might be wrong, of course, but it's likely. Colin couldn't even hope to defend, not to mention that Colin always tries Simultaneous strike instead - he's not afraid of death any more than someone stoned on Godkiller would be.
The knife stabbed, once. The kid lost it rapidly. Then he stabbed again, for good measure. The Math Addict who had just arrived was especially...unimpressed.
Meanwhile, Dorotheya was fighting the other Colin on her own. She stabbed him in the arm, while the Colin Hunters warned "take them alive" When her friend tried to stab this kid, too, he got stabbed in the body with a shiv.
Then the Animalist - who had gone down  by the stairs - grappled the kid. Well, a full-grown man can usually restrain a kid, even if the kid is Colin. Another removed the knife from the kid's hand while the man was restraining him.
Yeah, the murder wasnot what the Colin Hunters were expecting to see. They had assumed these two would try to disarm and incapacitate. The cold-blooded murder wasn't expected.
"Why did you kill him, moron?"
The Math Addict, who had arrived meanwhile, wasn't pulling any punches.
"It's a Colin!"
"If he was, you should have taken him for questioning. If he wasn't, you're now a child killer!"
"I know he was a Colin!"
"How so?"
"He almost killed me!"
"Considering your approach to kids... I suspect he might have believed to have a reason!"
Yeah, most people don't like seeing kids being stabbed. Not even kids that are Colin. The PCs were 
kinda ignoring this. No, the setting isn't about being bleak and depressing - people there are trying to make their lives better despite corruption and crime, not to build a society of sociopaths. That's a finer point, I suspect, that I'm slowly hammering into my players' minds.
Then a young man ran out, and pretended these were his kids. The runner - who might soon be known as the Blade Runner - was unimpressed.
"They were Colin!"
"What the fuck are you talking about? You've killed Jake!"
Then he turned around and tried to open the window to call for help.
Except the PC stabbed him under the ribs. He assumed that's another Colin. The Math Addict hunter tried to stop him, but by then, it was too late. He also tried to use first aid on the guy, and failed. When he realised it, he looked at the man, and said.
"Nothing I can do. Repeat after me: Our Father in Heavens, may your name be kept holy... "
The man looked at him, visibly upset.
"Nothing you can do?"
"Nothing. Sorry. Now repeat, or if you're from some other religion..."
"Fuck that. I'm going to kill God some day! Just... not today."
With that, he died in shocked silence, with an ugly smile. The Runner remembered only then having seen him... while the kids were abducting him, with chlorphorm cloth over his face.
"Told ya, it was a Colin! And speaking of which, aren't you going to help me? I've been stabbed, too!"
"No. You're still stupid for not capturing him! We could have gained much more data! And we have yet to rely on your word that those children were Colin. Go find yourself a Black Med."
"And what do you do with the captured Colins after that?"
"We might hand them to the authorities-or, more like, call you to deal with the body!"
That was when he seemed to start realising that there are good reasons not to start by killing people.
The real issue was when they found there was a mental installer in the basement.
And someone was receiving the Colin package. Progress: 55%.
The Colin Hunters were at a loss. Should they kill him? Should they send him to the psych ward? (And for those that knew more, "which would be the more merciful option, and do we want to show mercy to someone who's only half-Colin?")
Not so with Dorotheya and her Runner.  They immediately decided to maim the guy so he couldn't kill anyone even if Colin takes over. Then they were going to leave him be.
That was when the Math Addict knocked the knife out of his hand... but not before he had managed to cut the Achilles tendons on the man's feet. Then the guys stopped the machine.
Now, that was a bad idea on several levels. Even setting aside issues of morality and whether leaving a cripple in 2080 Manhattan would amount to murder - let's assume he didn't die. This is a setting where getting a new cloned body is entirely possible, and the maiming injuries would simply be covered by the guy's medical insurance (he was a Well).

For once, they were lucky that the Colin Hunters NPCs with them took him off their hands and are now looking for options. Normally, I avoid that, but I just couldn't imagine said NPCs making the same mistake, and NPCs get to have agendas as well.
Of course, in the meantime, they weren't helping the PCs' reputations!

"What the hell are you doing?"
"He couldn't kill anyone like this."
"This isn't even Colin yet!"
"What if the part that is takes over?"
There was mass face palming.
"What if he died? Is his other half guilty he was captured?"
"Do we care about guilty?"
The mass face palming continued.
"Yes. We do.", the Animalist interrupted him.
"Maybe you don't, in which case... you're probably lucky we do. Or we might wonder whether Colin was the only target worthy of our attention!", the Freak added.
"Hey, I've been stabbed by them! I'm fucking scared!", he claimed, showing them the not-yet-closed wound.
"Then don't stay on the front lines when we confront Colins?"
"That's what I do when I'm scared!"
"Hope a child never scares you. Or the Orphans would come for you en masse", the Math Addict concluded.
They didn't tell him that this was why he was alive. They didn't need to. But he needed to leave anyway, because his wound hasn't closed as he hoped to.
Good thing he was still on antibiotics, or another infection might have killed him.
In the meantime, Dorotheya went to see Habey Cox's lieutenant.
"What are your impressions?"
"It's a wonder the Hummingbirds are holding. There are just too many Skin Borgs in high-tech Skins. They're almost invulnerable, it seems. And the number of skins they've got is just incredible. Who's shipping it to them?"
Oops, she's smart. That was a good question. Alas, she wasn't asking the person who had answers.
"I'd hope that you could find out."
She blinked, then smiled.
"No worries. I'm going to find out!"
"Just like that?"
"Well, yeah, we need to know in order to cut their supplies, right?"
She went to the Black Trader she had met earlier, and asked him to find out who's making such shipments.
"I could, but what's in it for me?"
"I dunno, Habey wants to know?"
"OK. Give me his phone, and I'll name my price once I know more."
She gave him the lieutenant's contact details. He promised to call back.
The Saints of the Corner that were keeping him asked Dorotheya whether she doesn't feel dirty dressing like that. She patted the guy's hand.
"Why, aren't you feeling lonely, sweetie?"
"No! God is always with me?"
"Ah, so you're a jerk-off. Do you think of your God while you masturbate?"
He was going to slap her in the face, if she wasn't the Black Trader's client.
After that, she used the Runner's pager, and they met. Together, they went to see the Colin Hunter residence. She met Park there, but the girl was in something of a shock after brushing with Colin. Well, most people don't pay for the experience so cheap.
She looked at them interrogating Colin with forced psychic activity. A Freak and a Math Addict psychics were using Soma in order to boost their abilities enough to slam through his defences. Of course, both the child and the woman were interrogated separately. Bank accounts, leads to other Colins, possible new victims...
The PCs got bored with the details and went to a fast food place to have some Chinese takeaway with halal meat. They ate it under a tree, grown through a crack in the asphalt.
Some guy approached them and asked to share the place. "I always eat here", he explained. "If it wouldn't be a problem, name is Ahmad!"
"Salam aleikum", the Runner answered.
"Aleikum salam... but you can just greet me in English."
He has been an IT specialist who arrived at NY from Pakistan as an 18-years-old... right before the Freedom Wars. He hasn't been able to keep in touch with the developing technologies, so his skills were completely outdated by the end of the wars.
"So what are you doing now?"
"I'm a DJ, man! The Hummingbirds love my stuff, it seems. It's a good life."
At this point they decided they had an urgent job to attend to, and said a hasty good-bye. The fact that they had finished the takeaway might have helped, too.
What was the urgent job? This shall be known next session!

Glossary of Terms in the Fates Worse Than Death setting
Also: as stated at the beginning of this post, here are some terms.
It's the latest session of my campaign in the Fates Worse Than Death setting. Colin is a self-replicating serial killer that "downloads" his mind in the mind of victims via technology, and "overwrites" their identity, replacing them. Math Addicts, Freaks, Humankalories, Hummingbirds and Orphans are gangs in 2080 Manhattan, and number in the hundreds, some in the thousands. Pusher gangs are the footsoldiers of the Drug lords, which have a monopoly on the drug market that they have wrested away from the gangs. Gangs are more like mutual protection societies, since they can't sell drugs, the city is monitored against importing guns, and the gang of Sexologists forbids pimps from working. These are, as we know, the three greatest sources of income for organised crime. For example, while the Day Shift is the corrupt part of the NYPD, the non-corrupt cops are practically acting like a gang in the setting, and are known as the Night Shift.
Also, many gang members are part of societies that fight the spread of Colin...while people elsewhere consider him an urban myth. But in the ghetto, there are people worshipping him/them as a god/gods (they're morons and suck, yes, if you ask me, but then nobody threatens them, because Colin might take offence). This makes Colin Hunters that much more useful.
Hope that helps.

Also, I need to remind you that there is a video tutorial for the setting if you're interested to learn more.
As I said, FWTD is an involved setting.

Which makes it similar to all the other settings I like, namely Modern and Historical games, Eclipse Phase, Blue planet, Equinox, Glorantha, Exalted,  Legend (the one from Dragon Warriors and Bloodsword), Orb (from the gamebooks, yes, the game is still in development), Westeros (from ASoIaF), Dune, and I suspect I might soon add Aethos to that list.
None of these is reading-light, as you might have noticed. Not even my homebrews are reading-light. That's probably my greatest strength as a GM, and my greatest weakness. I'm not planning to change either way.

How to create a party in a historical game set in Europe?

That was actually something prompted by a post on +Gianni Vacca blog. I like him a lot, and owe him and his "The Celestial Empire" setting a lot of fun times!
That said, his post that in East Asian settings make it easier to form a party because collectivism s. individualism, really wasn't helpful. To begin with, for most of history, people in Europe were seen as part of a family first, and individuals only after that. That's not so different from Asia. Western myths and stories might be perceived to have a single protagonist, but that's not exactly how it works.

So, how to put different PCs in the same party? Well, it's not any harder than putting them together in an East Asian setting.
Let's see what examples of "natural PC parties" I can come up with.
Students of the same fencing academy/teacher that go drinking together.
Soldiers in the same regimen, assuming roughly equal rank.
A noble, his son or daughter, and their hired guards.
Members of a gang.
Extended family, especially if they have been wronged.
Members of the same Guild, who often practised together as a militia.
Knights of an order.
A Viking expedition, or just members of the same crew.
A knight, his squire, and the mercenaries and conscripts that are just necessary to keep the nobles from encirclement.
A noble and his retinue, including advisors, heirs, relatives and suitors for his daughters' hands, acrobats, jugglers and minstrels.
Members of the same occult cabal or heresy.
...just to make it clear, that's far from an exhaustive list!
There are lonely heroes, like Conan, an wandering knight, a xia, and Li Flying Dagger. There are also most other people in the setting, be it China or Europe.