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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Where I play wuxia

I'm planning to run a wuxia marathon soon-ish. And it seems we're going to start with Fate, namely Jadepunk... although I'm planning to borrow mechanics from each game to enrich the others as well, as well as from a few others.
But we're starting with Jadepunk, So here is a pre-generated character, built to specifications.

Sokol of the Ten Virtues
I follow the word of Ehal, and bring the Twelve Virtues to Kausao. For two of them, I've got to teach by word, but people say I'm keeping to the other ten. So they named me Sokol of the Ten Virtues.
Not at all bad even for a priest of Ehal, which I am. By Kausao standards, it makes me nearly a saint. Although that makes me a saint whose name means "falcon", or sometimes "hero", in his native language...
...Such saints might be what Kausao needs. Yet how could any saint stand the current rulers, when the people suffer daily to enrich them?

BTW, Sokol really means "falcon", I modelled him to a great degree on a real person, including the way his Techniques work! Well, except I made him a bit less disciplined than the original.
And here's the thing about the 10 virtues. Imagine the Twelve Virtues of Ehal rated 1-5 Exalted-style, with 2 being the norm.
The guy has 3 to 5 in all of them, making them Major Virtues to him... except Mercy and Chastity, where he's got 1 in each, the equivalent of disadvantage. Hence, Falcon of the Ten Virtues is both a laudable thing, and a reminder there is stuff he fails worse than the ordinary.
Sokol of the Ten Virtues
Aristocrat 3
Fighter 2
Scoundrel 1
Explorer 1
Engineer 0

Portrayal: Unordained priest of Ehal, weak in chastity and mercy
Background: Immigrant would-be priest from a country conquered by the Naramel
Inciting Incident: I had to kill that guard!
Belief: The Light Of Ehal Shall Guide Us
Trouble: People think I'm Naramel, Naramel know I'm not

Technique: We call that just "dancing" at home! (Keyed to Background) Refresh 2
Flexible: Allows to use Aristocrat instead of Scoundrel to Create advantage
Exceptional: When you use an Advantage you created with this technique, each invocation gives you +3 to the roll.
Demanding: requires a Fair Aristocrat roll to dance well enough, if you miss the roll, you've used up your action for the turn
Situational: Only to Create Advantage actions

Ancient fighting techniques (Technique, duh!) Refresh 1 (Keyed to Background aspect)
Exceptional: On a defence, deal shifts of damage equal to your MoS.
Focus, Situational 2: Gain +1 to Fighter rolls, but only to Defend in combat and only when using a free invocation on an aspect
Demanding: A Fair Fighter roll

Undying Valor of Ehal (Keyed to Belief, Refresh 2)
Faith protects the warrior from harm and scatters his enemies
Harmful 3
Demanding: Requires a Fair Aristocrat roll for total confidence in Ehal
Situational: Only with the Attack action
(Yes, it's funny. But then, think about it, Sokol of the Ten Virtues could easily deal damage on defence rolls - so it makes sense for this PC).

The Fire Tongue of Ehal (Keyed to Portrayal) Refresh 1
Focus3, Situational2: Roll Aristocrat with +3 to Create Advantage, but only when talking about the faith - preaching or using ethical arguments to impress your opponent in a dispute.


Now, I'm not really sure why you couldn't have Troubling or Aspects on a Technique. Seems to me I could easily have a Focus Technique: +2 Fighter against people trained in Kaiyumi (or Naramelite, Tuyangian, Aerish, created in modern Kausao, the curriculum taught to the guards) combat techniques. Using them would make the Kaiyumi (or whoever) pay you special attention, logically speaking.
But that's easily fixable by taking the appropriate Aspects, which I did. Yes, I need to Create Advantage first, but that's logical.
Heh, I think it's time for a real Naramel. Or maybe the Kayumi. There are 5 PCs, so I've got a choice.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Palladium's alignment system

I've recently noticed a brief outlook of Palladium's "alignment" system.
Unlike D&D, Palladium has no Neutral Alignment. Here are the available Alignments and BRIEF descriptions of them.

GOOD ALIGNMENTS: Principled & Scrupulous

1. Always keep word
2. Avoids lies
3. Never kill OR attack unarmed foe
4. Never harm an innocent
5. Never torture
6. Never Kill for pleasure
7. Always help others
8. Works well with others
9. Respects authority, laws, self-dicipline and honor
10. Never betray a friend
11. Never break the law UNLESS conditions are desperate.

1. Keep word to any other GOOD person
2. Lie only to people of selfish or evil alignments
3. Never kill OR attack unarmed foe
4. Never harm an innocent
5. Never torture for pleasure, may use muscle to extract info. from criminals or evil people
6. Never Kill for pleasure, will always attempt to bring villains to justice alive even if evil
7. Always help others
8. Attempt to work within the Law whenever possible
9. Bends and occasionally break Laws when necessary.
10. Distrust Authority
11. Work with groups, but dislikes confining laws and Bureacracy (red tape)

SELFISH ALIGNMENTS: Unprincipled & Anarchist

1. High regard for life and freedom
2. Keep word of honor
3. Lie & cheat if necesary (especially to Anarchists or evil persons)
4. Will not kill an unarmed foe (but will take advantage of one)
5. Help those in need
6. Not use torture unless absolutely necessary
7. Work with a group, especially if profitable
8. Never harm an innocent
9. Never kill for pleasure
10. Dislikes authority
11. Never betray a friend

1. May keep word
2. Lie & Cheat if he feels necessary
3. Not likely to kill an unarmed foe, but will certainly knockout, attack, or beat up one
4. Never kill an innocent, but may harm or kidnap
5. Not likely to help someone without ulterior motive
6. Seldom kill for pleasure
7. Use torture to extract info but not likely for pleasure
8. Doesn't work well in groups he will do as he d**n well pleases
9. Have little respect for self-discipline or authority
10. May betray a friend

EVIL ALIGNMENTS: Miscreant, Aberrant & Diabolic

1. Not necessarily keep his word to anyone
2. Lie & Cheat anyone
3. Most definitely attack an unarmed foe, they are the best kind
4. Use or Harm an innocent
5. Use torture for extracting info. and pleasure
6. May kill for sheer pleasure
7. Feels no compulsion to help without somekind of tangible reward
8. Work with others if it will help him attain personal goals
9. Kill an unarmed foe as readily as he would a potential threat or competitor
10. Has no deference to laws or authority, but will work within them if he must
11. Will betray a friend if it serves his needs.

1. Always keeps his word of honor
2. Lie & cheat those not worthy of his respect
3. May or may not kill an unarmed foe
4. Not kill an innocent particularly a child but will harm or kidnap
5. Never kill for pleasure
6. Not resort to inhumane treatment of prisoners, nut torture, although distasteful, is necessary means of extracting info.
7. Never torture for pleasure
8. May or may not help someone in need
9. work with others to attain his goals
10. Respect honor and self-discipline
11. Never betray a friend

1. Rarely keeps word
2. Lie and cheat anyone
3. Most certainly attack or kill an unarmed foe
4. Use, harm and kill an innocent without a second thought for any reason
5. Use torture for pleasure and info.
6. Kill for pleasure
7. Likely to help someone only to kill or rob them
8. Not work well with groups. Consistently disregards orders to do as he pleases
9. Despise honor, authority, and self-discipline
10. Associate mostly with other evil alignments
11. Betray friends at anytime.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that Kevin S. feels like Anarchists are a worse choice to associate with than Aberrant people. (Also, "nut torture" is totally the best type ever. It should be "but torture". And with one "t", before you ask!)
Source is here:

Monday, 24 November 2014

Musings on Legend's setting (Dragon Warriors). On myth and RPGs, DW and Pendragon

The following was my answer to a request "how good is Dragon Warriors" on Myth Weavers. I think it's interesting enough to put here for those of you not frequenting this forum.

Legend undeniably a more gritty setting than most fantasy RPGs present (I refer to the majority of settings as "extra sugar added"). Roughly, think The First Crusade, except for some anachronisms, like plate armour existing already.
The take on the supernatural is also more folkloric. You could be an elf or dwarf, if you rolled just right (not much point in a halfling, you'd never progress past 3rd rank). It's quite likely nobody has seen an elf in living memory, though, so you're still a mysterious figure. (Though the author actually stated on his blog making non-humans playable was a mistake, and I agree heartily - in fact, the game would have only gained from excluding all magic classes or making them NPC-only, IMO).
As much as I can tell from reading the author's blog ( ), the intent was that non-humans don't have societies and don't follow our logic - or at least shouldn't, really, unless we mean normal or changed-by-magic but still normal beasts. But most aren't that, or shouldn't (the occasional Giant-created-by-ambitious-sorcerer is fine). These are familiar to anyone playing FRPGs, though.
The rest of them are more interesting. Theirs is the myth-logic, dream-logic like the Fair Folk in Exalted (though Dragon Warriors actually has a better system, which is doubly funny). The ghosts exemplify that best: they're not wailing on your door because they care whether you'd die soon. They're wailing on your door because they see Death approaching, and last they did, it came for them, then for their loved ones, and now it reminds them of those events of 100 years past nobody alive remembers. But there's a reason this ruin of a castle had remained a ruin! The souls of innocents want vengeance. And one night each year, they can get it. This night is approaching...
Or it could be a different reason. Depends on what has happened, not on what your standing among mortals is, but how much your personal circumstances follow the old story plaguing the ghost. (Ok - that's my take on ghosts, not necessarily the one in the book! The following is, however, strictly by-the-books by Serpent King).
In legend, even goblins aren't 1/2 HD monsters attacking you with rusty swords. They attack you with stealth, sorcery, sharp flying pieces of flint, and swords made of icicles. But if you capture them, they'd give you an oath to pay for their freedom, which they will carry to the letter. And woe to you if the letter of the contract allows them to read it to your detriment, because they will.
Hobgoblins add to that arsenal nets of spidersilk, and poisonous puffballs, the ability to make food in your pack rot, and turn your water into stale muck. They're summoning gusts of icy wind, turning the ground slippery with ice, and summoning packs of bats to attack you. These are the ones that aren't sorcerers, by the way.
Don't think "how do humans survive against such enemies", I made that mistake. They're not a neighbouring kingdom hiding in your forest! They're literally everything people are afraid of in the winter forest.
Similarly, orcs aren't barbarians that live somewhere. They're the barbarians that come in your village, grab anyone who didn't hide behind walls, and breach weak defences or retreat. They're, in a very politically incorrect way, the Other - but they're the Inimical Other that you really must be afraid of. They're the reason people are afraid of armed strangers!
Follow the dream-myth logic and it will bring you success. In fact, I'd give the same advice for the magic in Pendragon. Both games have their basis in myth, legend, superstitions, folk beliefs and oral tradition. Story trumps all, but it's not the GM's story I mean here. It's the story storytellers of ages past would be telling around fires in the dark nights while the wind is howling outside, seeking a way to enter the house and freeze you to death. Wolves are roaming under the walls of your castle, and being thrown out might be death sentence.
What stories would you tell if you were this storyteller? Tell them for Dragon Warriors. They're happening to the main characters, the PCs!
Now, I'm not saying this is well-explained in the new book. I'm not saying the system is perfect for it. I'm saying that in a way, it works great under that model, and the info in the Monster Compendium is enough for that. Just ignore the attempts at explaining where goblins are coming from...they're coming from the Forest. Doesn't matter where you live, it's the Forest. There's only one forest in the world, and it's the Forest. The humans name them differently for their own comfort.
You can bargain with fey creatures, of course. That's why there's an Elven King, and a Gnome King - or Gnome Chieftain, whatever seems right to the group. But these aren't mortal rulers. Going to their realm is literally stepping in another realm, and etiquette, good manners, a strong but compassionate heart and not giving your word lightly, and being careful with your phrasing will keep you alive better than any sword or spell.

So yeah, you can say it's a good, more folkloric setting. Or it might be just another oldschool setting. It really, really, really depends on you!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

If you like chess, would you roleplay in order to play chess?

This is an answer to +John Wick 's post "Chess isn't an RPG". As such, I wrote it in second person... although I doubt he knows about my blog. Ah well. Sorry if the writing style bothers anyone.

Just in case +John Wick reads that: I had missed the original article, so couldn't be expected to express disagreement...I only noticed the follow-up. But hope that does count as a bit more than "UR wrong" with colourful language. Also please note, I'm not hiding behind Internet anonimity).

So, Mr. Wick, let me start by saying I disagree with your assessment of chess as an RPG. Well, at least I disagree partially.
I do think you're right that the way some games are played is unlike how roleplaying games are supposed to work.
I do agree that combat balance is only a part of it and is given too much spotlight in discussions. In fact, I think the best stories would have unbalanced combats.
There are things I disagree with, though, especially with the way you're presenting your arguments.
1) You can play CoC without roleplaying, as well as Vampire. I've seen it with Vampire. They're still roleplaying games. The criterion you're using about what isn't a roleplaying game isn't sound, IMO.
2) The definition of roleplaying games you're using doesn't cover the situation where the game isn't rewarding you for following your character's goals and motivations, but punishing you. Yet I'd tell you someting a character of mine said IC once (because what kind of a roleplaying post that would be if it didn't have some IC quote ;)?):
"You believe nonsense, kid, nonsense teachers have put in your head. The word doesn't turn around what you believe in. You can believe greatly in your righteousness, you can even be righteus - and still get killed by a ruffian who doesn't know right from wrong, nor cares about which one is on his side. You can be fighting to defend your love, and this not being a goddamn romance, you can still die and your love can perish along moments later. You can be a noble warrior, and get poisoned by your own country's leaders - history knows enough examples! Despite that, your heart is in the right place: you should act as you already do. Because that's how a man must act, in spite of the world trying to hurt you for not taking the easy way out. And now I'm going to teach you how to survive the spite of lesser men. The first truth of our school is to take the easiest approach: you've already made it hard enough for yourself coming to this moment."
Thing is, what he said was true in the system:- which wasn't giving any bonuses for pursuing what you believe in. He didn't even get any kind of Fate points out of being righteous. It wasn't mechanical, he just believed in it. Any fight he participated in had the possibility to kill him dead, too. Does it mean it wasn't a roleplaying game? In that case: I've had most of my best roleplaying sessions in non-roleplaying games, so what's the point of having roleplaying games?
3) You make it seem as if roleplaying is different from combat. Thing is, combat is part of roleplaying - you're just roleplaying the actions of an indicidual during a violent physical conflict (and before, and afrer-both of these being stuff some GMs forget, alas). The problem is the same as the problem you've got with the "Social" category in Vampire: when the players and GMs forget that it's not just an attack roll to cause pain, but getting into range, finding a moment for it and punching someone in the kidneys. It's not defence, it's grabbing someone by the ear and ripping it off before he gets the kidney shot.
Or, as stated in your post, it's not a defence, it's thumb-stabbing the big bruiser before he can get a hold of you. With your right thumb, of course. I mean, do you think that Presidio clip you published didn't involve playing a role? Because I'd disagree: it was very much playing a role, during a fight. That's why actors study stunt combat, and not because theatre goers are die-hard D&D fans who expect to see a fight for this session.
The solution to that, however, isn't to ban balanced combat systems. It's using a better combat system, one which makes it seem more real (or more whatever-it-is-supposed-to-be-like-in-the-genre). And if the system actually rewards roleplaying, my experience - especially from Exalted, Legends of the Wulin, DCC, Enemy gods, and Unknown Armies - says that players will roleplay.

So yeah, I guess my point is that you're idenytifying a problem right, but are mistaken about the reasons and your solution to the issue might suffer as a result. Personally, my approach lately has been to consider the rules, the reward system, the setting, the GM advice and the text itself in the book as more or less equal components. A great game aligns them all to do the same thing: to present a situation that's conductive to roleplaying.

Monday, 22 September 2014

New martial art for FWTD:a UFC-inspired MMA variant

It's what the title says. My current campaign is in the Fates Worse Than Death setting, so I'm working on martial arts styles for the system.
If anyone follows this blog, they might remember I made Capoeira. Well, turns out there was a Capoeira style in Hoodoo Blues, which uses the same system, so I might not have bothered...
But then there is more than one variant of Capoeira IRL as well, so I just have two variants now.
However, reviewing my own Capoeira variant (which was inspired by the Crane style, Snake Boxing and Tai Chi in the Tibet book-which also uses the same system as FWTD) , I came with an idea how to get the system to do what I want it to when it comes to representing street fights. Well, styles-wise. I'm not sure yet how to make it represent the random effects of damage without turning it into a random chart-heavy or narrrative system.

UFC-style MMA (Combat): Mainly taught by pit-fighters in more regulated bouts to prospective inheritor of the title, it's a style based on boxing, kickboxing and immobilization with a bit of wrestling thrown in. Gives the following:
-4 to Strike with hands or feet. Striking with feet/knees becomes Easy if the PC has grabbed the head/neck of the enemy or has him in a Wrestling Grab.
-4 to Grab: Pain. Grab: Pain becomes Easy if both combatants are on the ground (seating, kneeling or prone) and Very easy if both are on the ground and the PC has achieved a Wrestling Grab.
-8 to Grab: Strangulation. Grab: Strangulation becomes Easy if both combatants are on the ground (seating, kneeling or prone) and Very Easy if both combatants are on the ground and the PC has achieved a Wrestling Grab or Grab:Pain.
+0 to Grab: Wrestling
-4 Takedown. If the PC has a Grab: Wrestling, the Takedown is Easy
-4 Flip

Anyway, comments and suggestions would be appreciated! You might also post them on the Burn Immediately forum. I'm going to post this style there as well, in the FWTD sub-forum.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Women self-defense: is society going mad or just out of touch with reality?

This was originally a much, much longer post. Then I accidentally deleted it.
Well, here's my take on the "truisms" that are being spread in Women Self-Defense...circles.
It's borderline insane, people. No matter who you can persuade, it's insane - and especially if you do manage to persuade anybody, it's highly unethical to mislead people.Yes, I'm unfortunately (and uncharacteristically) serious.
Let me see the bullet points of mind-numbingly stupid assertions I've encountered lately. I'm at the point where I want to ask my friends living in English-speaking countries: WTF, people? What's wrong with...some people you are divided from by a common language?
  • Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help problem.
    I mean, it is true-all crimes are societal problems! It's why we prohibit them, duh!
    But FUCK, NO - all crimes are self-help problems first and foremost, to the victim. Well unless you like being a victim. Who else do you count on being there? The predators know you could get help from the "flock". It's why they'd be trying to lead you astray - by charm or by force.
  • The society should work only with the perpetrators and not "restrict the freedoms" of women (and men) that are at risk.
    Now, first, we DO work with the perpetrators. Haven't you noticed those prisons we've got for them? OTOH, that's not enough, know what "social outcast" means, right? Well, most criminals are social outcasts, and THAT'S EXACTLY WHY the chance of society influencing them are...slim. Especially if the interaction only takes the form of punishment - and most countries take exactly this approach. For all I know, that's the dominant approach in the USA.
    Second, that's some IMMENSE bullshit-triggering statement in the second part of the sentence. Warning people that certain behaviours make you more likely to become a target AND less likely to defend yourself AND less likely to get the perpetrator convicted even in case of assault - well, that is giving them the right to an informed choice, not restricting their freedoms. They can still decide to go out and engage in all kinds of risky behaviours. They might even get away with it. There's just a lower chance.
  • Turns out, anti-rape advice like "self-induced vomiting/pissing/shitting" and "telling him you're menstruating" is somehow...undignified? Sending the message women can't fight off an attacker. Oh, and it should be replaced with work with the perpetrators, either way. Because reasons. But God forbid that someone tells people a simple yet relatively efficient way of dealing with an assault they couldn't deal with otherwise. (Because it doesn't fit someone's political stance, is what I read in such statements.)
    First: getting raped is even less dignified. Forget dignity, forget fair play: what's next, telling women they should use their Tae Bo training to square off with an attacker for a couple rounds under boxing rules?
    Second, I've got news for you, darling: most men can't fight off an experienced criminal, either-because he's experienced at fighting, he's mentally prepared to be violent, he picks the time, he picks the place, and he picks a target he believes he can overwhelm. That's before weapons and surprise come into the equation - all factors that are unlikely to be on your side. Yes, the deck is stacked. That's why if you can avoid an assault (which is not a fistfight, these are different - but rapes are seldom fistfights), you do, and if you can't, you fight as dirty as possible.
    Third, no sane law enforcement would work ONLY with perpetrators. You work with them, with the potential victims, and if any, with the potential witnesses. And you give everybody advice they can follow RIGHT NOW. If any potential victim decides to train in self-defense, this is nice - but the law enforcement or college can't make you train.
    Worse: the same piece of advice was prescribing to women to use "the power of their own bodies"...which is fine, except it's not deescalation (removing the desire of the perpetrator to attack you). And deescalation is a priority in self-defence, while physical defence is a last-ditch option. Why? Because, as any good teacher of self-defense can tell you, it often fails - even if you're trained, see the factors above. (And who told you the assailant isn't trained? Seriously?)
    OTOH, telling a would-be rapist the menstruation part is removing his desire to rape, before he commits to overwhelming you.
  • Telling women that being drunk comes with a special risk (note: not only women can be raped, and about 1/4 rapes are male-on-male, if I remember my statistics) means we are pepetuating a social climate that tolerates sexual predation. Therefore, telling young women to stay sober in order to avoid getting raped, sends the message that we do not intend to change that social climate. Obviously.
    No,! I'm almost at a lack for words to explain just how out of touch with reality this idea might seem.
    Worse: that's shifting the blame of the second-to-worst kind: from the perpetrator to the people that are telling you "predators exist, always have, always will, it's a natural part of life. Keep that in mind, and keep in mind alcohol makes you more likely to be picked as target for a crime - anything for a mugging to a rape". These people are doing you a service.
    And besides, recognising the existence of threats isn't nearly the same as perpetuating the dynamic that leads to crimes. It's not recognising the existence of threats that makes crime more likely.
    Want proof? Well, imagine that we all agree it's awful to say such things, and from tomorrow, nobody, and I mean nobody, is telling young women (and men) "beware, monsters be there - they're doing something wrong, but that's why we call them monsters. Alcohol makes you less likely to spot them, less able to fight them off, and less likely to sue them successfully afterwards. Worse, they know that and are more likely to target you". Nope. We're not saying such awful, awful things any longer.
    Did you imagine it? Good.
    Now, does rape still happen in said society? Yes? Then how is your attitude helping people? By failing to warn them?
    And frankly, if you think rapists have just disappeared overnight, because people have decided not to talk about them...I have nothing to tell you, except: I don't want you in the education system, nor in the medical system, nor in the law enforcement, nor in any kind of church or any other shrine, nor in the media, nor anywhere else where your deluded ideas can influence children or the livelihood of people. Because you've just crossed the line from mistaken to dangerously deluded.
Now, don't get me wrong: getting people to focus on how things should be, instead of the way they are, is great for political activism. It totally sucks for helping people to avoid becoming victims. In fact, the people that are focused on how things "should" be (in their worldview...) are more likely to become victims.
Because the criminals don't share your worldviews, and they're looking for people that are in denial of the reality. They make for softer targets (as a rule of thumb).
Bottom line: politicising the matters of self-protection should be criminalised. IMO.
Now, people...what's wrong with the people that are saying those things?

P.S.: After writing this post, I found out that my worst suspicions have been true.
Well, seems like at least some feminists think that the advice how to defend yourself is anti-women somehow. No, there isn't any (sane) logic to it.
Now, is self-defense a good solution to the problem of rape? Well, only if it's successful. But it makes it less likely.
Then why do I think people that support the "teach men not to rape" line are dangerous?
Simple: because they take what they wish for for possible. It's not. Rape isn't a cultural thing, despite the words "rape culture": it's opposed in any and all cultures I can think of. It's a crime.
So, have you seen a culture that has solved the issue of crimes in general? Even a specific kind of crime? A big city with no murders anywhere? No thefts? No muggings? No...whatever?
No. There ain't such a city. Therefore, rape will persist for the foreseeable future, too. And telling people that learning how to deal with it is "anti-women", or discarding good advice because it doesn't fit your political stance is... irresponsible at best.
I'm just hoping not all modern feminists hold to such ideas. Well, guess we'll see.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

OK, it's final! "Schools" are more misleading than useful.

I was just wondering what games I like, whether I prefer old school or new school, or something in-between.
After some deliberation, I was surprised at the number of OSR and old school games that are among my favourites.
Scarlet Heroes and DCC take the lead. Then we follow, probably, with Spears of the Dawn, ACKS, Epées et Sorcellerie, Spellcraft and Swordplay, Backswords and Bucklers, Stars Without Numbers, and arguably even Crimson Blades and Lamentations of the Flame Princess should be there.
If we include old-school games in general, we add Grunts (Fantasy Fucking Vietnam minus the fantasy part) and 43 AD/Warband/Zenobia right next to Scarlet Heroes. And arguably any edition of Traveller, BRP, Flashing Blades and Dogtown should be right there as well. And Dragon Warriors, which I happen to like, even if the system could be improved.

And then we go forFates Worse Than Death and Hoodoo Blues, which are old-school in a good way. And my wife is younger than Pendragon, so the game definitely counts as old-school to me, as far as games go!

Okay, maybe I'm an old-school guy, reading the above...
Except I love WotG and LotW, Sorcerer, Apocalypse World, Monsterhearts, Gods of Gondwane, TBZ, Houses of the Blooded, Enemy Gods, Fate and Shahida just as much, all of them being New School par excellence!
But I also like GURPS, RQ6, Savage Worlds, Artesia, Volant, TRoS, Seeker and Blue Planet, which are some kind of a middle-school. And Celestial Warriors, which is new-school in a different way. And post-GMC nWoD, which is also "middle school" in its own way...

In theory, I'm either the happy guy that can play everything (hah! Good luck getting me to play PF, just to name the example I turn down most often)...
...or we can conclude the distinction between "schools" to be absolute BS. In theory, my tastes should clash with at least some of these games, just on virtue of liking their polar opposites!
In practice, I like each of them for what they do well.
So, this is my conclusion for today. Find a game that does well whatever it does. Play it in a way that would make it shine. Laugh heartily at the idea that games come in "generations". Seriously, there is no difference, except in what was modern at the time!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Creting a character for Barbarians of Lemuria in...I don't know how many, but they're easy steps!

So, I decide to go for a BoL character. And I've decided to make him a hero who can live up to the fluff of being a young Elric.
Why Elric? Because there's always enough people to play the pure swordslingers.
His name is Ashoka, I decide.
So I go and read the setting, then come up with the following. I've decided I want someone with a specialised skill in some weapon.

Malakuti golden lotus
Makes the best entertainment,
Malakuti wavey spears
Claim the most lives,
Malakuti night thieves
Bring you valued treaties,
Alchemy can make you immortal
If you survive the learning.
I am the Malakuti Alchemist!
That was the tl;dr version of his bio, actually.

Western's a province, but call anyone from there a country bumpkin, and you risk losing more than your teeth. Still, it's a place where men go to trade with the natives for herbs and drugs that are expensive elsewhere. You sail them to Malakut by boat on the small rivers, then North-East by boat towards the buyers. And if you try a bit of your own medicine? Eh, who cares, really... there's lots of it.
Ashoka is an alchemist born in Western Malakut. He learned to chew on the Lotus there, before going to the city to study his trade. Sure, he's also a thief, and can take care of a wound in a pinch, and other stuff... he even went on for a brief turn in the city watch, after finally getting in the city proper, long enough to learn some tricks with the spear. There, an older mercenary taught him the secret of combat.
The most important thing in a fight is to not get hit. He was an apt pupil and absorbed these teachings, too.
But his real love is alchemy. Some say he actually loves it too much, especially the potions...
Now, he is trying to set up his greatest invention. He's hunting for ingredients to go towards the creation of the ultimate elixir, one that might grant him immortality. Or so he hopes.
Too bad people that have such ingredients don't part with them willingly. Ah well, did we mention he's a thief, too?
Because he really is, and some people are soon going to find that out! 

Well, that's for those that aren't afraid to do a bit of reading.

So, let's proceed with the stats.
I picture him as the mean, lean and not-burdened by muscles archetype. He's also smart, but not really wholesome. And all those years of training with the spear of Malakut should have thaught him speed...
  • STR 0
  • AG 3
  • MIND 2
  • APP -1
He's all about not getting hit. Not weaker than usual, just nothing particular, when it comes to hitting other people.
Besides, I hit people with Ag+3. Speed is useful both in getting hit and in not getting hit. The edition of BoL I was using says you can put up to 4 points in a single place, so I'm not even min-maxing him as much as I could... remember: a 4/1 spread would have been cheaper to raise to 4/2 (due to non-linear XP costs). But I see him as starting with pretty even in the things he's good at.
Next, Boons and Flaws.
I decide he gets special skill in:
Malakut fighting spear and Blind combat
And he's got special Thieves' tools because remember how he started?

Of course, I've got to pay for these. I need flaws. Luckily, some of them are just so Elric-like!
Addict (Golden/Black Lotus-left to the GM to choose)

He's an addict to Lotus powder, though, and Delicate means just that. So, he gets less Lifeblood, starting with 8, less than a normal BoL character.Well, it's only proving his point about avoiding getting hit! So, his skills....
  • BRAWL 0
  • MELEE 0
  • RANGED 0
Since only Defence is subtracted from the enemies' attack, it makes sense to ramp it up. And he's now better in defence than in attack (+3 on attack with Dexterity, +4 on Defence). Perfect!
And anyone with less than +3 on attack needs an 11 or more on 2d6 to hit me. Minions can't hit me unless they get a 12, and that's a critical anyway. I decide to keep a couple Hero points to downgrade their criticals into normal strikes, and to leave the heavy hitters to the more brawny barbarians.

I get 5 hero points for attributes and all that, though. That should be enough, as long as I keep a couple spare ones in case it goes bad.

Thief 1, because he started stealing treatises.
Soldier 0, because following orders isn't his style...but he figured he ought to do his duty. And the soldiers got a special training in the Malakut spears.
Alchemist 3, because he discovered an apptitude towards the things he was reading about in treatises and such.
Physician 0

Weapons and armour are standard:
  • Malakut fighting spear (roll 1 die more, keep best) d6
  • Walking staff d6-1
  • 3 throwing daggers d3
  • Close-combat curved knife d6-2 (if the GM lets me have this one, otherwise, just a d3)
  • Fists d2 I don't like using them...
  • Very light armour d3-1

And then we get to the bonus of Alchemy. Because an alchemist gets to prepare beforehand.
I choose to make a Common preparation:

A painkiller (1d3 LB restored)

And then I also make an Uncommon preparation:
Malakut spear hidden in a walking staff
Of course, I'd only take it out against a real enemy, or as a way to show-off. But with it, I roll 3d6, take the highest two...and my enemies are much more likely to suffer a Critical. Criticals are nasty in this system.
And with that, Ashoka is ready to go adventuring. I hope to see other PCs with similar level of ability. I mean, this is a system where you can be rolling 2d6 and hitting a minion on anything that's not a 2 (Ashoka would be getting hit on 7+, but that's Ashoka Not My Face I'm Not Fit For Such Games). And you could be rolling a 3d6, take highest 2, effectively giving you a 0.5% odds to miss a minion (like, a normal soldier). Or, if you want a more sensible approach, you could be hitting them with 4+ on 3d6 take highest 2, but the minions only hit you on a 11 or 12.
Think about this-you could be Conan from the get-go, slaying enemies left and right. It is really a Swords and Sorcery game!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tonight's update...

Tonight's update is going to be short.
Finished watching the Watchmen. Need to think about it. But it was all about the different ways of looking at the world.


Dr. Manhattan sees a world where life has no meaning apart from the interaction of atoms and the improbabilities that still happen, no matter how unlikely. Except when he's depressed, in which case, these don't seem as important.
The Owl sees a world pretty much like a normal human. Well, that's in case said normal human has been fighting for so long he can no longer stop fighting and still be a person, but that's not such an uncommon state of mind, as history shows.
Rorschach sees a world in black and white where only other people can be locked in with him.
Ozymandias sees a wolrd that's better off lied to, because the truth propels it to self-destruction. So he creates a common enemy because we unite against this.
The female superheroines, mother and daughter alike, were playing The Normal Ones, because otherwise, we'd have a Sin City episode instead of The Watchmen. Sometimes, when watching Sin City, there isn't a single normal person on screen for too long.


Friday, 6 June 2014

Fairy Tales As Women Tales: Which Are The Modern Ones?

I got a link recently to this post.
Read it before you continue or half my post wouldn't make sense-or more.
Did you do that? Good. I read it myself, of course.
Of course, me being me, I set myself to analyse it as thoroughly as I could in order to get the most information on what the First Edition was like. And then I was reminded of this post. (Sorry, link -time today, read it).

Why? Because the tales, as written in the First Edition of Brother Grimm's Tales, were pop-fantasy in its purest form. Popular fantasy by popular demand... including women at the time and what they dreamed (and dreaded) for.
So it had sex, almost all consensual, and it had violence, but not mindless violence for violence's sake (although the standard for what is worth killing for was slightly different back then-more relaxed, one might say). But still, these were pretty normal characters for those people - probably mostly women, yeah - that were telling the stories.
Oh, and there was magic and superpowers. And it was probably a "tale of the day" format.
By now you might have guessed my answer to the question in this post's title. The modern-day scions of the fairy tales are the urban fantasy stories. Especially if they're series.
Dresden Files, Lost Girl, Vampire Diaries, all the Ann Rice books... and yes, Anita Blake and Fifty Shades of Whatever (there are probably enough imitations with similar titles that you can pick whatever). They feature pretty normal people that deal with the same everyday issues. And they have magic at their disposal, or against them, because many readers find magic fun.
Please note, I'm not debating which of these series actually have good or at least decent story, characters, or whatever... it's besides the point. What I'm saying is that they're filling the same niche.
The problem, and it is a problem, is when people react like the Grimms:
"Eww, sex in my gross!"
Really? Is that the best we can do? One would think sexuality should be accepted as one of the primary motivators of humanity's behaviour by now! So why should it be kept out of the stories? (And yes, it can be used poorly. Everything can. If we avoided stuff because it can be misused, we should stop telling stories right now!)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

How to make a good LotW character?

I realises recently a lot of people are having issues with character generation in some of my favourite Wuxia systems. Which is a shame, because both Legend of the Wulin and Weapons of the Gods are great!
I actually like the WotG setting marginally better, but it's still a very close call. And I'm going to talk about the LotW chargen now.

So, let's just follow the steps on p.15 and the next few. I'll make another character as we go, for the sake of example.

Step 1: Concept.
A female xía character who fights to improve the lot of women in Shen Zhou would be nice. (And to insert a touch of reality, she has learned how to use the advantages of women when it comes to violence, and her teachers taught her to negate the female weaknesses...much like a male character would have to do, too).

Step 2: Rank:
Starting rank is Fourth Rank. Lake 7, River 2, Chi Replenishment 2, maximum Chi Aura
2, and a maximum Skill Bonus of +10.

Step 3: Archetype
She's bucking all the expected roles. I pick Warrior, as that's the least likely in Shen Zhou. Therefore, she starts with Hardiness, and begins play with Secret Arts of the Warrior.
(That's going to be fun. Just believe me).

Step 4: Skills
I've got 20 points to spend.
• Confidence 5, because she's got to be confident. And because she's got to have some defence against Courtiers.
• Finesse 10
• Hardiness 10, Chi Breath, Injuries
• Might 5 - years of training, people. When everybody is assuming your might is weak, you'd better learn to us it...I'd put 10 on it, but Finesse is more useful, and I want Stealth, too.
• Perform, Politics - not at the start.
• Stealth 5
• Tactics 10

Step 5: Virtues
Well, what do I see her striving towards? I want to give higher ratings to these, in order to get more Joss and Entanglement from them, whenever I get a Deed.
She's trying to improve the lot of women. 
Benevolence (Kuan) 4

She's efficient, not bloodthirsty. Yet she wants to prove her strength, but not by killing, and wouldn't mind proving it without having to beat anyone.
Ferocity (Bao) 1
Force (Ba) 4
She's also quite selfless, as I see here.
Individualism (Si) 2
Honor is a strong point. She is trying to persuade people to make the lot of half the people in the setting, remember? So she would try to push for laws at some point.
Honor (Xin) 4
She's not obsessively pursuing things, though.
Obsession (Chan) 1
However, she is supremely loyal!
Loyalty (Zhong) 4
Revenge is another "bloodthirsty" Corrupt Virtue. We leave it down.
Revenge (Chou) 1
I can see her dealing with law-breakers, but that's not her main goal. And I haven't got more points anyway.
Righteousness (Yi) 3
Well, that's easy. We said she's not ruthless. And pursuing the goal of "better fare for the women in Shen Zhou" "at the expense of others"...well, let's say I don't want a MRA stereotype, mmmkay?
Ruthlessness (Hen) 1

Step 6: Disadvantages
None. I'll pick some in play, or from Loresheets, in order to be sure they'd come up.

Step 7: Kung-fu
External: Subtle force. She's into ending it with minimum casualties...and just as importantly, this is a style that fits very well with Secret Arts of the Warrior!
Her Internal is, of course, Fox-Spirit Song! The most neglected style I know...with no good reason.
Which also means she starts with 11 Normal Chi so far.

Step 8: Final Touches
...I want Flexible, but it's not useful with Subtle Force. So she will take a sword, because classics. And she can always revert to Unarmed.

Step 9: Additional Destiny (and Entanglement)
I've got 20 more Destiny. That's easy: I go to my External first. I take Correct Approach and Heart-Cutting Strike for a total of 4 Destiny. I can inflict temporary injuries with my attacks, even with the sword.And I can stab you in the meridians to inflict a Disrupt Marvel, using my Attack roll.
Then I go to Secret Arts. I get Secret Art of Battle.
I get immediately Unassailable Battle Saint Technique, and Controlling Outer Force, for another 8 points. What this means is that, A) I can start with a Fire combat approach that gives me a +10 Action bonus, and B) If I succeed critically on a roll to inflict a Disrupt marvel, I can Flood a die to increase the penalty to -10. Now, check my External again?
Yeah, she can do that with her Strike. Good luck defending that!
I've got 8 Destiny left.

Next, Internals! I get Fox Leaves No Tracks for free, because the first technique was given when we choosed the Internal in Step 7.
I also get  Mirthful Fox Plays With Her Shadow and Parting the Grass for 4 points without a second thought. One of them gives me a Dodge bonus, and the other one gives me a Laughs at and Fears bonus on my attack. Granted, it's just a +10 bonus (usable for Disrupts!), but more importantly...
It denies the enemy any chance to use a Laughs at in this defence (Subtle Hand has no Fears)! Oh, and it means it stacks with other Internal Strike boosters. Which is very good, because normally, you only take the highest Internal modifier.
Also, normally Subtle Hand can't get a Laughs At bonus at all (the price for having no Fears). Internal techniques disregard that, though...

After some consideration, I decide to go for a Formless technique instead, and take a - you got it - a level 4 Strike Booster!
Now, if I feel confident, I can activate all my attack techniques, and I'd get a +20 total attack, while the defence can't get Laughs At and Fears bonuses. My total Strike is +45 in this case, after accounting for the Combat approach.
Not bad, given that I'd have the same if I had joined the Small Forest sect, too. Granted, it would have been cheaper in Chi, but within 3 Destiny, I can get another Technique, and become more efficient in picking whether to use any Internals. Then I can get a 4th-level technique that adds a +20 to my Disrupt and Disorient attempts. Somewhere along the way I should pick Disrupting Inner Force, in order to screw up Secret Artists that try to use Quickwork. And there are other Secret Warrior Techniques, too - one of them allows me to transfer my Combat Approach on an ally (useful if the ally was going to have a duel). And one of the most important parts of LotW is to have everyone in the party be a Secret Artist that gives you Action Bonuses and Chi Breath for the times when it really matters (Predictionists rule, since they can also stack your enemies with penalties, before even meeting them - no wonder they need to expend Joss at that).
Oh, and the best news? All 20 Destiny goes towards my Cultivation, raising my Chi.
I've got now 12 Chi.

Well, I buy the Loresheet for The Resplendent Phoenix Society for 3 Destiny. I spend another 3 Destiny on Status (Deeds would no doubt raise that). And I get a discount tor Daoist Sexual Techniques, which I'm planning to put to good use later - but I'm not getting it yet. When she has a partner that needs help with his or her Cultivation, she could learn it, though. (I haven't decided on her orientation yet, but I'm leaning towards hetero-Lesbian Stripper Ninja are overdone! And it would reinforce the theme that she doesn't hate men, she just wants the women that aren't Xia to be treated better!)
I could get Sun-Draining Talons, because it's a nice complement to my Unarmed combat, should I ever need to use it. But the truth is, I want to use other Loresheets!
Then I go to the Loresheet I was inspired by. The Woman's life, and "The Three Solutions", of course!
I get the Warrior's solution. She's the successor of the green-eyed daughter!
In practical terms, it means I get a +10 bonus to make people I have fought smitten with me after the fight. She's not a Courtier all right... but fighting her tends to make people well-disposed towards her!

I also decide she has 3 Corrupt Joss, because I'd expect her to gain Virtuous Joss more easily.

She's done, and ready to kick ass for greater equality!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Reading Weapons of the Gods, part 2

A shorther post this time.
In WotG, everything is about kung-fu fighting.
>>"Your kung-fu is weak, you should learn with us and give us your land"... which you can then rent back. Imposing the feodal relationships with kung-fu, the virtuous path.
(Not so different from reality, too. In fact, reality was often close to the corrupt path).
 >>The Guard of the Frontier stops Lao Tzu from leaving.
Lao Tzu assumes a stance and with a single strike breaks his armour.
"I mean, please, write down your teachings before leaving, or our ancestors would be unhappy!"
...Yeah, I've read a somewhat different account in the history of Taoism.
>> The First Emperor fights Han Feizi to give him an opportunity to prove the teachings of Legalism. The winner isn't who you might expect.
Best line in that fight, IMO? "I had to adapt this principle somewhat when applying it to the art of the sword!"-Han Feizi.

Buddhism is presented... well,actually, in a quite historical way, assuming we mean the time soon after Buddhist doctrine was introduced to China.

I definitely don't like how daoism is presented, including the anti-virtues stance. In fact, it would be better to have said "daoism redefines the virtues". But to say that if nobody is virtuous, people couldn't be corrupt and would have to behave...?
Yeah, the data about drug dealers dealing with each other doesn't support that:)!

Well, at least the game doesn't use the name "Legalism" for the Confucianism. Although it has as much reason to do that, given that Shen Zhou is a fantasy setting as much as Tianxia;).

Reading: Weapons of the Gods

So, I'm currently reading Weapons of the Gods by Bradd E. and Rebecca B.;). I'm probably a bit of a weird duck in this regard, as I started out with the Legends of the Wulin, which is the supposedly cleaned-up and updated version of the same.
So, I've been reading Weapons of the Gods. First impressions:
My, that's a gorgeous PDF! I'd bet it's a gorgeous book as well. I like the manhua art!
(For those not in the know, Korean manga comics are called Manhwa, and Chinese manga comics are called manhua. And in my contry, everything is called "comics" if it has pictures and speech and is telling a story).
Been considering a PoD option ever since... or contacting Brad E. to see whether he's still got any copies left. On the other hand, I really don't need extra books at home...
Ok, second impressions.
So far, I'm not seeing the cleaned-up part. Maybe it's because I've already read LotW and how things work is something I already know? Or maybe because I seldom have trouble understanding systems (being too bored with them to bother applying them is a thing, though).
Whatever. I edit texts as part of my work, I'm not going to go into work mode on this text.

What are the differences?
*Well, there are two possible skills to use for attack in WotG, while the new version makes you attack with the same skill, but separates it from your defence. In essence, they've both got 3 skills devoted to attack and defence, except in WotG you can attack with two of them and defend with any, and in LotG, two are strictly for defence and only the third attacks.
*The most conceptual difference is, skills in WotG give you a bigger dicepool, while skills in LotW give you bonuses to the static dicepool... but that's not a clean-up in my book. It just means numbers in LotW can get into the triple digits far more easily. But since it's an opposed roll either way, I wouldn't say it matters,given equal numbers of dice. Well, bonuses are more valuable in WotG, while their relative parity is assumed in LotW (and then you're competing for outlasting the enemy, removing his bonuses and gaining the Laaughs At/Fears, or to make a check where he hasn't got the needed bonuses, like opposed skills). WotG's approach works better for normal humans without cultivated Chi, though (probably, I haven't played it yet!)
*It's easier to combine weapons in WotG. Some weapons are giving you a bonus when used in similar pairs. Mismatched pairs are also possible, and probably more beneficial.
*Grappling is its own thing in WotG.
*Disarming and weapon-breaking is possible. It actually says in the rules that being able to fight unarmed as well is important, because it might well happen and is a thing in the source material.
*In a way, so far my impressions are that LotW is having a Fate influence. I'll see whether Discoveries are a thing in WotG when I get to the Secret Arts (currently reading the setting loresheets)... if there are no Discoveries, I'll be sure there's been a Fate influence.
Not that I mind Fate influences, of course. I just like to know where things are coming from.
*LotW's Loresheets are undeniably clearer and with more options. At least the ones for the major factions are...I find that to be a big improvement, yes. Note: in WotG a Loresheet is a subject you have studied, while in LotW it's something that is part of your CV (if you're disclosing it all).
*Deeds are tied to Virtues, but I like the WotG explanation of the Virtues better. OTOH, they aren't numerically rated.

We'll see about my impressions as I finish the game.

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Great Exalted XP Debate

I'm following the Great Exalted XP debate over on It's still going...strong isn't the word. It's going boring. Yeah, that's the word, boring.

Why? Well, let me sum the debate for you and save you reading 800+ posts on the Great Purple.
Group A: "The linear BP costs in chargen, combined with quadratic XP costs for advancement leads to different XP costs depending on whether you buy your skills in the order A, B, C or in order B, A, C. Therefore, it makes sense to either pass to using Build Points instead of XP, or to use templates that have the same XP values, at least for skills." (1)
Group B, including the developers: "That's not an issue, because being an Exalted is hard. Therefore, if you want to act in the normal order, it should be hard to you as well!" (2)
Group A: "But it would still be hard if it wasn't screwing over anyone that doesn't master the chargen minigame,and rewarding the system mastery disproportionately!" (3)
Group B: "But it doesn't feel hard! And it should! Just max out skills and attributes and buy for the minimum XP needed." (4)
Group A: "Ok, just state that clearly in the book in order not to screw over new players?" (5)
Group B: "And raise a controversial topic that might lead to discussions? No way in Malfeas we're doing that!" (6)
Group A: "You do realise you're screwing other people for playing to their concept? We're just going to houserule it. But that's the Rule Zero Fallacy, so it doesn't fix the game you're selling, just our playtime experience. Also known as "keeping it together on spit and baling wire". The whole damned point of Exalted 3e was we shouldn't need to houserule so much...and we're having to start before the damned game is out!" (7)
Group B: "You're just mean and that's why we're keeping all the info about the game under lid!" (8)
Now pick a random statement and an answer and read it again. And again.
You can also randomise it. Since more than one person is discussing on both sides, sometimes the answers don't reply exactly to the point before them (and that's what the quote function is about). Now throw 800-900 d8 and you're done!

Here you go. I just saved you reading the whole mastodont of a thread.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Two Internal Styles for LotW

Burning Meteor Palm
That’s a style that attacks with the practitioner’s palms being engulfed by flames. As such, it is not usable if your weapon isn’t Unarmed, or at least including Unarmed.
Unlike Fire Sutra, there are almost no open eruptions of Flame. The flames engulf and protect the body, focus on the palms to deal damage, or speed your moves like dancing flames. 1. Scorching Palm
Your palm is hot! Any enemy should beware of being struck by your fiery assault!
Use a Burn attack with a +5 bonus as a Minor action on the attack roll.
2. Raging fire palm
Your flame is hot like a raging fire, a ball of flame hanging right in front of it!
Use a Burn attack with a +10 bonus as a Minor action on the attack roll.
2. Flame-propelled meteor fist!
The fire within transforms to ash at the moment of impact, making your fist as strong as a mace! Any enemy that doesn’t avoid it, is bound to be sorry.
Add the Massive tag to your strike, subject to the usual restrictions. Even if you have another technique improving your Unarmed, you can’t exchange Unarmed to combine the two tags.
2. Flames protect the heart/h
The flame burning in your centers bursts forth from your skin, making your enemy step aside. Even though you might have moved just a little, in the end the strike is averted, and the enemy learns that playing with fire is risky!
The attack of any enemy attacking from the same zone Fears your defence and cannot Laugh at it. If you also boost it for 2 Chi, it suffers a -5 penalty.
2.Whips of ash follow the prey
A prehensile whip of hot ash extends from your palm, changing direction as to chase a fleeing enemy!
Add the Flexible tag to your strike, subject to the usual restrictions. Even if you have another technique improving your Unarmed, you can’t exchange Unarmed to combine the two tags.

3. Hanging flame sleeves
The flames surge upwards to your shoulders and linger there, hanging like red-hot sleeves that repulse or burn any weapon. Thus they allow your hands to cover a much broader area!
You receive a +10 Block round-long
3. Burning Fist Shatters The Ice
Your flaming palm shatters the
Use a Burn attack with a +15 bonus as a Minor action on the attack roll. If it provokes a Rippling roll, you get a +5 to the results of it.
3. Dancing Fire Burns Everything
The practitioner allows themselves to follow the dance of the fire, gliding across the battlefield to strike at everything in reach.
Your attack is an Area Attack. Additionally, if you have decided to Cover Ground and reach another zone or zones, everyone in the zones you’re passing is subject to your Area attack.
4. Volcano fists burn the heart
The fire covers your fists like molten lava, making it impossible to withstand their touch.
Use a Burn attack with a +20 bonus as a Minor action on the attack roll. If it provokes a Rippling roll, you get a +10 to the results of it.
4.Fire Drives The Cannon Ball
Your attack is as fast as a cannon’s ball, hitting explosively and leaving no room for defence.
You have a +20 Strike. If your attack hits, it inflicts an additional Ripple.
5. Sparkling Meteor Palm Turns The Heart To Ashes
The palm is engulfed by fire, flying like a meteor through the air.
Use a Burn attack with a +25 bonus as a Minor action on the attack roll. If it provokes a Rippling roll, you get a +15 to the results of it. Additionally:
You get a +10 Strike.
This attack can even hurt spirits and immaterial beings that cannot be dealt with by a normal weapon.
Still haven't decided which one...

Dark Palm of Seth
That’s a Corrupt style that attacks with the practitioner’s palms being the primary tool for delivering dark energies. As such, it is not usable if your weapon isn’t Unarmed, or at least including Unarmed.
Some say it’s the dark variant of Burning Meteor Palm. BMP stylists often take offence at this.
Others say BMP was derived by this style, and BMP stylists often start flaming the bearers of such ideas if they express them within hearing – and therefore scorching – range of them.
1.  Cursed Palm
Energies Man Was Not Meant To Use fill your attack, turning it into an energy-draining strike!
If your attack hits, it inflicts a Curse instead.
2. Jump of the hopping vampire
Your palm flies first, forcing the enemy to defend, while you avoid the weapons pointed at you
You have a +5 to Speed and +5 to Finesse.
2. Paralysing touch of the undead
Enemies touched by your strike feel it hard to move.
Make a Finesse Disrupt Marvel based on touching your enemy. You can stack up to two of these marvels on the enemy’s Strike, and their effects combine. It cannot target Toughness.
2. Who can hurt evil?
The master of pain hurts others, it's not his style to get hurt!
The attack of any enemy attacking from the same zone Fears your defence and cannot Laugh at it. If you also boost it for 2 Chi, it suffers a -5 penalty. You can only boost it up to twice, no matter your rank.
2.Mind-Dissolving Presence
When the dead come for them, even the bravest soul knows fear. The dead, on their side, know no fear.
You Laugh At the defence of the enemy and cannot Fear it, and he Fears your attack.
3.Unescapable Death
The corrupt energy makes you hurry to hurt the enemy, changing its direction in order not to allow escape.
Add the Flexible tag to your strike, subject to the usual restrictions. If you extend your attack in another zone, you must use your Strike result as an unannounced Covering Ground result. If it’s not enough to Cover Ground to the enemy, your attack fails. However, if you’re in combat with another enemy and his initiative was higher than yours, he can roll his Lake only for the purposes of stopping your movement.
3. Negative energy fills the space
Wherever the enemy turns, there's a cursed palm coming. Avoiding one is no guarantee of avoiding the other.
You have a Secondary attack
3. Dancing Fire Runs Before The Storm
The practitioner allows themselves to follow the dance of the fire, gliding across the battlefield to strike at everything in reach.
+10 Round-long to Footwork
4. Mastery of the hidden
The corrupt yin energy of this style don't make you invisible, but it's nearly so fire covers your fists like molten lava, making it impossible to withstand their touch.
You get a +10 to Stealth and the enemy gets -5 to Break your Waves
4.Murderous Intent
Your attack is as vicious as the charge of a demon lord.
You have a +20 Strike. If your attack hits, it inflicts an additional Ripple.
5. Just a touch of bad luck
The corruption is strong in this one! It can even change the will of Heavens - at least for a moment. Sometimes, a moment is all it takes.
In an opposed roll, your enemy has to re-roll his entire lake.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

[OSR/Tianxia] One day in the year of the fox..

[I]Here's a Tianxia one-shot that I set in the Red Tide setting, in Xian. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Yeah, I know one of those is run an OSR setting, and the other uses the Fate Core system... well, let's say I don't see that as a bug!
Besides, Red Tide is a Southeast Asian setting with heavy Chinese influence. Tianxia would be a rather poor wuxia game if it couldn't represent that!

But why did I need to run that one-shot? Well, it was due to the GM of our Tianxia game (actually, everyone but me and another player) catching a case of absentium ininterruptus (i.e. needing to cancel in the last minute, see you next week, guys), I ran a Tianxia one-shot instead. I kinda ran it at short notice, but since we were there already, why miss the change to try something new? I have already a place in the Red Tide I'm used for a short story (no NPCs met here are from it, though).
The player chose to play an Iron Dragon stylist again, but I insisted on creating new characters, so it wouldn't intersect with the longer Tianxia campaign.

One change I introduced to the Red Tide setting: historically, people didn't make much of a difference between martial arts and magic (actually, supposed magic spells were part of the pre-battle preparation of some participants in the Boxer rebellion). So the PC was created according to the rules in Tianxia, and was an illiterate martial artist. Yet in the setting he was considered a magician, and could become daifu if he proved himself - although he would be of the kind that can't read (promoted for outstanding martial skill).

Here's a short outline, written by the other player.

Before we began, though, I set up a couple Campaign Aspects.
No, I'm not going to tell you what I compelled them for. But here they are, you can try to guess.

"One day, in the year of the fox..."
"When the strong young man of the rising sun heard the tolling of the great black bell..."

I'm relatively well-known for utilising ambiguous Aspects. But, some people would say, which reading is the true one?

I allow all of them, by default. Yes, that includes the contradictory ones. Both people and settings are complicated and often-contradictory. Fate points take care of using "the right reading at the right time".

Wu Kuang was the second child of a farmer in the Xian protectorate. He was a stout and strong but simple man, having learned some Kung Fu from a passing master several years ago. He often took cattle and other produce from his father's lands to the nearby town of Banakampure and the events described here happened on one such trip. It was near sunset and Kuang was sitting in one of the local establishments know for its special services provided by the serving girls but also for the its cuisine, in which the young man was more interested. The girl that brought him dumplings leaned over while putting the dish in front of him in one clean motion and whispered slily if he'd like to help her play a flute in the back room. A surprised “I am not a musician” left her stunned. She thought he was joking but realized that he wasn't when she observed him burn his fingers several times while ravenously eating dumplings with his hands. A man burst through the window screaming “The Kueh! The Kueh want to kill me! I saw them, they chased me!”. The town bells were singing a dark song in the distance to warn of impending danger. The patrons and staff were greatly stirred by what the man said and the alarming cry of the bells. Within seconds the inn was completely empty. Everyone had ran as fast as they could towards their homes in fear and worry. Including our hero, who decided it was no business of his what some demon-worshippers might be doing. Although the only Kueh that might appear would be smugglers or pirates, as the Sultanate,(being founded by a converted Makerite who became Xianese daifu) didn't trade with them on religious grounds.
Soon after exiting town, Kuang saw, not very far from where he was standing, six men dressed in odd black clothes and carrying weapons... he tried to avoid them by running as fast as he could down a narrow path convenient for his escape. An arrow whirred past him and hit a tree slightly off to his left. Fortunately he outran them (keeping hidden between the trees) for now, but he knew they would eventually catch up to him when the path reached the river and where the archer in their group could have a clear shot, so he left the path and took through the forest.

He lost them. But now he sensed another presence, he saw it in the distance – not quite a human figure, moving through the crowns of the trees, jumping from one branch to another as agile as a cat. He couldn't outrun this foe. Kuang took a defensive position behind a tree hoping to avoid an attack from above by doing as a squirrel, moving around the trunk hiding from a clear line of attack. The black figure jumped straight at the tree, pulling out a sword and hacking into the tree trunk to alter its course, spinning round the side and dropping straight on Kuang. The young man tried to deflect, the figure in black spun in the air and delivered a cutting blow to his face. Kuang got a shallow cut, but it would definitely leave a scar. Strength was to his advantage so he grabbed the Kueh in a lock, the Kueh tried to push himself up the tree with his legs in order to slip out of Kuang's grasp- he failed and they both dropped on the ground for a struggle. His grasp tightened around the arms and neck of the killer.

A quick jerk by the Kueh allowed him to hit the cut on Kuang's face with the back of his head but the young man persevered. Another tightening of Kuang's lock made the Kueh lose consciousness. At this moment Kuang saw they were not alone, yet another figure lurked in the dark... he managed to make out the shape of a tiger. Now he was in real trouble. Quick thinking! He cut the Kueh's body in several places and ran hoping the tiger would be satisfied with him rather than Kuang. The plan worked. So far, so good.

Upon reaching his home he saw it burning, the cries of his parents and siblings coming from within. Only one way in – he burst through the burning door and started dragging them out. Singed by flames and choked by fumes he pulled the last of them his little brother and Little Sun Wukong, a 'mischievous macaque he took as a pet and grew fond of over the years. Three times he dove in, dragging two people each time, as the flames tried to choke him or engulf him.

The pirates outside were waiting for him. They had surrounded him and his family. One of the men in black said, “Put them back in, especially that one! Than lock the door from inside. You can leave her outside, though”, pointing to his little brother and his little sister, respectively.

Kuang went on the attack, the only thing left. He dashed a few stabs from the spears, grabbing them and knocking out the man in the middle with a kick. Kuang pushed the spears back to their owners' faces leaving them stunned and one of them losing grip. Kuang swung the loose spear and with a single swing took out both of them. He made it out with only a few scratches from the 2 archers that were now running scared.

Then it was time for the next two Aspects. However, due to scheduling issues, we didn't play long with them before switching. They were mostly a way to compel him, once.

"Fire in her stare, in the woods without a sound"

"Feel no sorrow, feel no pain, feel no hurt, there's nothing gained..."

A halfling appeared form the forest with a heavy breath....
“Looks like I missed the fun”, she said, “well I gotta catch up to them!”. She ran past Kuang and Little Wukong darted after her.
“Hey, who are you?”, Kuang yelled runnig after her and his little friend. She stopped.
“It doesn't matter. I have business with the Kueh. They're not going to strike only here. What are you gonna do now?”
“Are you going after them alone?!”
“Yes, so what are YOU gonna do??”, she replied with strange confidence.
“You're crazy! Come with me to town, there will be a militia!”
“Phah! You're way too scared for a man your size. I mean, look at me, I'm not scared!...Huh! I can't be wasting time with local cowards!”, she disappeared in the darkness among the trees.

(That's actually not what she said – she actually said “if those of you that are 2 meters tall are no good hiding, those 1.20 meters will do the job”. But that's how the player remembers it, and he wrote the AP. So I'm leaving both versions here).
I get a feeling he was going for more gongfupian feel, though, while I was going for the more typical wuxiapian. We should discuss this before next time.)

Kuang picked up LittleWukong and went back to his family. His parents and siblings stayed with relatives in Banakampure, while he joined the militia the next day. The militia was led by a strong and hardened dwarf - Gadril, a master of the underground Kung Fu. He led them from village to village, everywhere they went they saw carnage and burned buildings. What was peculiar is that there were a lot of Kueh corpses strewn in some places. Villagers, what little numbers survived, spoke of a female halfling saving them, sometimes in the last moment. They reached a village almost near the border with the Shou territory. A survivor told them that a halfling appeared and scared off the Kueh... but this time another being appeared, tiger-like yet somehow human. It snatched the brave halfling after an uneven fight and dragged her deep into the woods. The militia was at a loss, although Wu Kuang could confirm the tale of the weird halfling girl.

And it was time for the final confrontation, because the time was running short. This Aspects!

"Once a world of glittering hope, this world is not the world we knew..."

"I have died a thousand times watching all these angels fall"
Also see: disclaimer, again

“There's an old Shou temple nearby, no doubt it's from that cursed place, they used all kinds of black magic!”, Kuang told Gadril.
“We don't have any leads so this is probably our best guess”, the dwarf agreed,”But it's gonna be just me and you, it will be too dangerous for the others, you at least know some Kung Fu.”

Nobody lived at the temple because the magi that conquered the place used terrible weapons on it. Only the temple was left standing, legends said, while the jungle around was levelled with the ground.

Kuang could only conclude that this was a cursed place. Which it was in more than one way.

They set straight for the temple while the rest were led back to Banakampur by a local girl who had weak Kung Fu but was one of the two other militia members to know any. After several hours the duo reached the old temple towering above the trees. It should have been crumbling, yet it was like new, and casting a grotesque shadow, nearly as grotesque as the spirelike building itself. They searched through it, starting by the undergrounds, and finally found a corridor leading to a room in the uppermost floors of the temple, the room was different, there was some sort of energy coming from it.
“You came back for more...this time you won't be so lucky as the time you left me to that tiger.”, said a creature that appeared as if from the slight gust of wind that suddenly shot from the room up ahead. Kuang and his companion saw a slender but sinewy figure that resembled both human and animal, it was definitely humanoid but had the fur, facial features and step of a tiger.
“How?!”, yelled Kuang,”... the tiger killed you!!”
“It did, and didn't. We joined.”
“Where's the halfling??”, asked Kuang.
“I ate her.”, said the tiger-like creature and it jumped to the low ceiling.
Gadril had fallen into an unexpected trans, and Kuang realised what was happening after it took him as well. He was following the smallest hints of the enemy's movements in order to set-up a devastating counterattack. But the man-tiger on the ceiling was doing the same... it was much like a fight, except nobody was fighting. Yet it was going to decide the outcome, he knew!
So Kuang had no choice but to join. He realised the tiger would jump aside – his Chi was strong that way, and he'd disappar in the shadows,he realised.
Instead of attacking, however, he whispered, “She was really tasty. You will be next...”.
Kuang sensed him right behind his back and turned sharply to deliver a blow. As he did, he realised it would have connected! A flurry of blows would follow. But it was just the murderous intent of the enemy he had sensed. At least now he could see him again.
The young man prepared mentally to get the tiger in a lock but his minds whispered his hands would slip - once, then a second time. And the enemy would use this to his advantage, using their attacks to load his "internal spring" and surge forward...
It was at this point Wu jumped forward. So did the dwarf. Yet they haven't read the enemy well, and he had managed to guess their tactics! As a result, they didn't expect him moving forward to intercept the closer one, and kicking ferociously into Kuang's chest, throwing him backwards. He struck his head in the wall, and things got kinda blurry. Did the man-tiger break Gadril's leg then, or later? He couldn't tell.
More blows followed – fully real this time – and then a kick to the face finished it. Kuang was done, the already dim corridor went completely dark, he lost consciousness and regained it again. Or was it that he realised he can't win now, although his ferocious training still kept him on his feet?
He half-remembered running, while there were crunching sounds behind him... maybe he just didn't want to remember details.
He “woke up” in the jungle. No trace of the tiger-like Kueh or Gadril, except maybe some tiny specks of blood on his clothes. He was alive... but as he headed back towards Banakampure, dizzy, he realised a few things.
That wasn't the last time they were going to meet! This enemy wasn't going to stop killing people, but Wu Kuang wasn't ready for him.
So he needed to learn more kung-fu if he was to survive it next time!

Yeah, I kinda left it open for continuation. Because you never know. And just because a player had conceded is no reason to discard a fully formed and already introduced archenemy!
I also belive he learned a thing or two on Tianxia tactics, seeing me deal with him with 1 Fate point per scene. And yes, Tianxia is a tactical game!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Musings on RPGs and numbers

Let's talk about a new system. Here's a link to what the Vivid RPG system is meant to accomplish.
(You can check Gods of Gondwane on rpgnow, it uses Vivid AFAIK. I'll be waiting for the Hari Ragat RPG, because I love Southeast Asian settings... and Southeast Europeans ones, for that matter).
Now, I'm not going to copy and dissect the post for you. Instead, I'd tell you what impresses me most.
It is the part about "descriptive character creation". I've lost the count of people who play freeform and told me they want to join one of my games...
If that's all, they just join. However, if there is a "but", you can almost safely bet the next sentence would be "I'm bad with NUMBERS".
Isn't our hobby doing itself a disservice by insisting on the "lots of numbers, quantify everything" model popular with, say, Pathfinder? It's not a matter of simulationism or narrativism. I've played good sim games with less than 5 numbers on my character sheet (usually by approaching some indie game as a simulationist).

It's a big question, and one I have no answer to. I'd say time would tell, but games like Vivid are unlikely to replace PF on the North-American market regardless of comparative qualities! Popularity, marketing, should I enumerate it?
But maybe they can get a hold in another region of the world first, especially one where D&D and Pathfinder aren't running the show yet? Or maybe you can get freeform players to try it - and face it, freeform players outnumber us by orders of magnitude! Some of them have even invented their own systems by taking note of random or resource allocation solutions they've heard about or invented for use in a past game. Which is more or less how D&D was invented, too, AFAICT...

This post will rightfully be titled "musings". I don't offer any particular insight, just a new game to look at, and even more importantly, I offer you questions. You answer them for you.
Then we could compare notes in a year or two.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Surprising myself, or just buying what I haven't got yet?

Okay, I just made an unexpected observation about myself.
Most of my latest purchases have been either OSR games (DCC, Scarlet Heroes) or narrativist games (Fate-based, but also High Valour and Beast Hunter. And Circle of Hands, if that counts). And I'm considering more OSR games, mainly the Red Tide setting and ACKS (and if Kiero comes to develop his historical setting for ACKS, this one as well).
If it wasn't for Esteren's KS, Tékumel's KS and Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane, I wouldn't have purchased a proper* simulationist game for over a month!

*Proper here means "meant to be simulationist". I find many so-called story-games to have better simulation than some so-called sim games. But they're not meant as such, and that's another topic.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Fates Worse Than Death: A post-PCs setting (I gave up on counting the sessions)

The PCs have left their mark on 2080 Manhattan, so I felt like giving you an idea.
... now it's not just Bleeders and Night Shift looking for Colin. FBI is looking for Colin, too. And Interpol. And NSA. And everyone and their dog, too.
It's all on the news now, thanks to a Night Walker who has been taken to meet Colin, and social media. Call the Math Addicts what you want, but they can calculate how to spread news optimally.

So, after the different PCs captured several Collins, the existence of Colin has been proven. Needless to say, that doesn't make Colin too happy.
The Colin-Eater is there as well. And he has revealed one of his copies.
The Hunt For Colin has begun! Estimated victims in the first 3 days: 18. Expected victims over the next 10 days: 180. Estimated number of Colins killed in the Hunt: 1-3 (yes, between 1 and 3). Colin is much better at not attracting attention than most Crazies are. And addicts disappear for days, then reappear and behave weird. Several unfaithful husbands have been clubbed to death, poisoned, strangled, or set on fire (the latter by a pyromaniac wife) as well.

Directly concerning the party, the Freak PC is currently making an appointment for a date with a Sexologist chick. Problem is, said Sexologist is a recently turned Colin.
So the question is, can Freak sex influence Colin to not kill someone? The Freak PC doesn't go on dates that don't end in bed, so applying it seems likely. Not even Colin's Willpower stands a chance.
The effects, however, might differ.

Back to the wider picture, the war on the drug lords has started.
The Night Shift captured one of the drug kings. Only trouble is, they were too good at it - when they cut off his retreat to a helicopter, the pilot waiting for him asked for instructions. He was a mole for the drug lords.
The drug lords therefore instructed him to enforce the Plan B. Plan B involved killing everyone in the compound with napalm bombs.
Estimated Night Shift losses: 72% of the strike team, which consisted of roughly 50 people. Estimated losses among the Humankalorie back-up (they have joined forces with Night Shift and the Wave-Riders against the Drug Lords in an uneasy alliance): over 80%.
The Hungry got into a fight with the Skin Borgs. They're suspecting them to have become Drug Lords' catpaws (and they're right, although most Skin Borgs didn't actually know about it).

The Congress is debating National Anti-Colin Act. A certain Reverend has applied for registration and for receiving religious grants as a persecuted religion.

Chaos reigns supreme! In other words, the PCs have left their mark on the setting.
Hopefully what emerges will be better, but entropy makes that unlikely.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

What do John Rain and Marc Macyoung talk about when meeting up? Roleplaying, obviously!

I'm just reading "Campfire tales from Hell" and it's a great book.
There have been more than a few surprises. One of them is an explanation of Lichtenauer's style of fencing - which I'm practising. (OK, that and some Bulgarian stuff you wouldn't find on the Net...yet).

The other is a story where the fictional assassin John Rain meets up with the fully real Marc "Animal" Macyoung who wasn't nicknamed "Animal" for being smart, nice and on the right side of the law. And they discuss "tricks of the trade". 
So, what do John Rain and Marc Macyoung talk about when meeting up? Roleplaying, obviously!
No, I'm not kidding. I suppose +Marc MacYoung might flip out if he learned that what he is talking about is actually "D&D" but, there it is.
The two of them are talking about "pretending to be someone they're not (in order to avoid notice, no less) to the point of being, feeling and acting like that someone". They mention acting, and admit it's not a good analogy, but they're lacking vocabulary for it.
Thing is...roleplayers have had this vocabulary ever since the hobby existed, or shortly after that. Because guys, the thing you're talking about?
It's called "immersion", and many of us practice it for fun.
Well, to most roleplayers (those not in the army or LEOs - although there is a surprising number of those in such a hobby with zero physical activity) it's the other way around. They tend to pretend being someone that's used to violence. (John Rain and Marc Macyoung were talking about being "a civilian", which is the inverse). But the process?
Yeah, it's the same thing.

Well, except the GM (Game Master, in case this post is read by someone who doesn't know what roleplaying games are) doesn't kill you, assault you or send you in prison if you don't immerse well. The greatest danger you might face is losing experience points...

Still.  Makes you wonder whether Marc Macyoung has ever tried roleplaying. And if he did, one wonders, would he favour a deeply immersive style? (I admit it, reading his site, it seems he might have a general knowledge of the idea - his explanations about fighting against a knife made me smile and think "death spiral". For those not into RPG terms, some RPG rules - not D&D, of course - work exactly like that).
I'm pretty sure this guy should never be allowed in a game without social mechanics - or he would be running circles around the GM and solving any problems by social manoeuvring alone.

Questions, questions... OK, I admit it. This post is just my musings, and not really likely to lead to any substantial insights.