Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shadowrunner: Ted Grundy

Shadowrun is the famous combination of science fiction with heavy cyberpunk elements and fantasy into a gritty shades of grey style setting. When magic returned to the world, various mythological creatures manifested ranging from dragons, spirits, angels and demons to less overt things such as elfs, dwarfs, orks, and trolls. As well, magicians of all sorts appeared, and with them have come various traditions relating to their craft. It is 2070, more than sixty years since the return of magic.

The characters in the game are usually the titular Shadowrunns, who are people who live on the fringes of society and range from being professionals just doing a job, to psychopaths out looking for new thrills, to people who just got caught up in a fucked up lifestyle and can't get out. They're hired to go out and perform all manner of jobs for various corporate, criminal, military, and political groups. Such jobs might be as simple as assassination, to as complex as stealing specific sets of data hidden inside vast virtual reality worlds.

Ted Grundy is one such Shadowrunner, but isn't up to doing grand works of hacking or assassination. Indeed, he barely counts as a Shadowrunner as most of his work is gained from gangs and a little on the small scale. He's a Giant, which is a sub breed of troll. Trolls are already huge individuals, standing at three meters tall on average, and being about one and a half to two meters wide. Giants are easily five meters tall, and three meters wide. He lives in Redmond, the slums of the Seattle Megasprawl, and is afflicted with a the Krieger strain of the Human-Metahuman Vampiric Virus, HMHVV. It's a virus that turns the infected into a creature, usually an undead, from myth. All races become vampires, and then there's special racial variants for the others. Elfs become Banshees, dwarfs become Goblins, trolls become Dzoo-noo-qua, and orks become Wendigo. The infected became territorial, except the dwarfs that become Goblins, who developed a pack mentality, and must drain the soul through a symbolic method like eating flesh or drinking blood. In addition, humans have a unique form from a mutated version of this first strain, that turn them into Nosferatu, similar to the Count Orlock from the movie of the same name.

There's a second strain to this disease! Instead of turning the infected into a powerful apex predator style solitary creature, it turns them into weaker pack animals. Humans become Loup Garou, orks become Grendels, trolls become Fomoraiq, elfs become Harvesters, and dwarfs become Gnawers. They're not as powerful as the first strain monsters, but each has a bunch of unique powers, and they work in team. Again, however, dwarfs are the exception. Gnawers do not work well in groups, and tend to be loners. If all of those creatures sound weird and obscure, it's understandable. The second strain is supposed to be odd, and this entry isn't about that.

There is a THIRD STRAIN, god damn. This strain is often called the Krieger strain, because of the scientist that discovered it. They're similar to the second strain, except it effects every race the same. You become a ghoul, a creature with minor allergies to sunlight, and other problems. They only need to eat human flesh, not devour their victim's souls like all the other monsters with this virus. Because of this primary difference, ghouls are almost considered people! The government has recognized them as victims of a horrible disease, and after much mismanagement of their rights, they've finally granted them almost all of the essential human rights. Providing food is an issue, considering how even in dystopian cyberpunk future, the death penalty is still too heavy to promise dead prisoners as a steady supply of food that need it.


So, he's a cannibal giant pseudo-zombie. He's probably fifteen to sixteen and a half feet tall, and stealthy as all get out. You can't hear him walking, he wears an active camouflage jumpsuit, like in Ghost in the Shell, and he likes to sneak up on your and disable your body's nerves. He's quick, and magic augments his strength, making him punch as hard as a rocket. Being a troll sub-breed, his body's covered in dermal deposits, hardened muscle, and body fat which allows him to shrug off gunshots with barely a flinch. Combine that with giants having a bark-like skin, and you're never taking him out with a anything short of an assault rifle. All of this without min/maxing.

He works for a notorious gang of ghouls that kidnap people to strip for food and organs. They sell the organs, and the eat the flesh. His job in this is to return people to them in as few pieces as possible. He's a big, dumb muscle head who can barely use a computer. His only marketable qualities is his capability to move around unnoticed, his immense strength. He's not gotten to do anything interesting yet, except fail to use one of those intercom things that are found outside some offices and apartments. But, he's a literal giant with a disturbing countenance, magical enhancement, and a hunger for human flesh. He's a scary bastard that you're likely to meet down a cold, dark alley.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Creepy RPGS - FATAL, or "These guys cheated, so they're disqualified"

FATAL is perhaps the worst RPG you could play, and it is very creepy. Not just because there's lots of squick, but because of the implications that the pages suggest about the author. FATAL stood for "Fantasy Adventure To Adult Lechery" in its first run, the author explicitly stating that there's nothing preventing your noble adventurers from being a gang of rapists because "It's period appropriate!" That is a shitty excuse to make the game creepy as fuck, and worse is that in the name of alleged accuracy they make it not fun to play a female character at all. Aside from being weaker than Males in every aspect(Except "Charisma", but when FATAL mentions Charisma they really mean tits.) they also have no rights in society, and are almost all rape victims. No joke, you're pretty much not allowed to play a female that hasn't been raped. Another gem is that half of all men have raped in the FATALverse. Aside from standard stats, you also have a million other stats you roll for, such stats I cannot be assed to remember, and I value my sanity so I won't go digging through the FATAL core book. Some gems that you roll for are your character's cup size(If female), penis size(If male), anal circumference, vaginal circumference(Again if you're a female), and other pointless stats that serve no purpose. All in the name of realism,

Let us ignore the racist stereotypes, glaring historical inaccuracies, pointlessly complex character creation rules, other offensive stereotypes, and the generally retarded idea of making a "historically accurate" fantasy RPG, yet still include shit like ogres, elves, and sorcery. Looking at it just for the overtly sexual themes, this game is creepy, and combined with all of the above it turns into one of the creepiest RPG experiences ever. Not that cosmic creepiness, though, at least not in game. Looking at it from a metagame perspective, it shows that somebody with a deranged mind had made this game. What horrors could that man have seen that possessed him to create this horrifying tome, and even worse defend it as if it should be the new Dungeons and Dragons? This RPG is creepy in the cosmic sense because it shows that somewhere, there exists elder horrors that invade the minds of men, and turn them into horrible monsters that could think this is good.

Also, note that this is the one post in this series that lacks the "bias" tag.

CreepyRPGs - Unknown Armies

So, here it is the defacto creepiest RPG ever. Unknown Armies is a lot like Mage: The Awakening, except it's really nothing like it. Yeah, you're human wizards, and yeah you fight other wizards for power but that's where the similarities end. People joke about the game, calling it Cosmic Bum Fights, and sometimes it might really seem that way.

What happens in the game is you play someone touched by magic somehow. Whether it's a guy with his first magical experience, someone who has been seeking out magic for a while and knows a few tricks, or someone who understands the secrets of the universe and is competing with godhood, magic is the focus of the game. And this isn't magic like "I cast magic missile at your unborn fetus twenty years ago!", but more magic that's bound by tradition, physical links, and the belief of the population. As an example, there's one part of the game's Metaplot where this porn star is going around making all these movies, and she's gaining power from each movie she's in. She's trying to become the Avatar of the Naked Goddess, a goddess of sex and fertility and stuff, and gains power not only from sex but also from being attributed the title, which she's gone so far as to do. In another example, a famous cult leader was assassinated by the government for being too dangerous. Well, it turns out he's used a magical spell that will turn his surrogate daughter into a clone of him if the right magic is performed on her at her eighteenth birthday. He's got a bunch of bastard children that have this sort of spell on them, by the way, so he's got contingencies in case one dies or can't be found.

For more subtle magic, the game usually starts with the characters having a hobby level of awareness. They know it's out there, or know there's something special in the world. Either they heard it in hauntingly perfect music, saw it in a card trick that was disturbingly accurate, or along the surface of a lake during a camping trip. Obsessed they must see more magic, and eventually go down the slow, steady path of insanity. And this isn't your dad's insanity that he got playing Call of Cthulhu, this is insanity where your character drops everything in his life to go off and hunt down the next source of magic to give himself even the slightest advantage. Driven by things you cannot know, addicted to an energy that's impossible to quantify, and eventually forced to do strange rituals that would land any functioning member of society into a mental ward. That is the true nature of Unknown Armies. Eventually, you go crazy, and this isn't taking into account Avatars, which are a whole new level of insanity all together.

Avatars are people that recognize the tropes inherent in the universe, and try to emulate them. The Action Hero, the Naked Goddess, the Gluttonous Gourmand, the Five Man Band, generally any character trope on TV Tropes COULD be turned into an Avatar concept. There is a problem though, and that's as you become more like the idea you're Avataring, the less of the real you remains. As an example, the more you master being the Action Hero, the more you start acting like Samuel L Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger's bastard love child, and less like yourself. For the Action Hero, it's not so bad. For the Naked Goddess, you might not like turning into a total slut, despite the awesome magical power it grants you. In either case, the more power you have, the closer you are to god hood, and the less like yourself you remain. Eventually, you're gone and all that is left is the trope you were the Avatar for.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

CreepyRPGS - Exalted: All of them, but especially Graceful Wicked Masques, Abyssals, and Infernals

So, after, like, a week of downtime I am back. Getting my ass into college, it's gonna take work, and I might vanish.

So, continuing my series on Creepy RPGs we have Exalted. Number two on the list, I could drag this out like World of Darkness, but why bother? Well, I COULD, but Graceful Wicked Masques is like Changeling: The Lost multiplied by a bajillion, Abyssals is what Geist: The Sin Eater could have been, and Infernals... Oh god, Infernals. So, I could reiterate points made in earlier posts three or four times, OR I could get to the two last ones. And they're all games with good creepy potential, played wrong, but take a step back and you'll see just how scary Exalted can be.

We start with Graceful Wicked Masques. Remember how Changeling: The Lost had you playing as people abducted by Fae, who then escaped? Graceful Wicked Masques has you playing as those Fae that abduct people. You can play it three ways, either as a commoner or noble with shape, or as an unshaped Fae. What makes them creepy are the unshaped, and their perception of the "Virtues" of Exalted, which is kind of like personality traits, and kind of how emotions and such are interpreted. For example, to us Valor is bravery, to the Fairfolk Valor is the ability to inflict harm on other beings. It goes from one dot to five, and for a Fae they may possess no dots in Valor. One dot for a human means you're a coward. One dot for a Fae means you can harm other people. Two means you can kill, and three means you can kill without remorse. Four and five dots get downright scary. It kind of escalates like that with all Virtues, they take and exaggerate the best and worst of human personality, and then walk around Creation wearing these masks. And they do that so they can steal your bravery, your work ethic, your self control, and your love. Never mind the crazy games they play with your life, their lives, and the lives of the beings they create. Oh, right, I forgot to mention, magic items in Exalted are controlled by background points invested in the Artifact Background. Fairfolk COULD use this on magic items, but it's just as easy to create a monster of brass, sulfur, and a dirge of fear as it is to create a giant sword of sunlight, or a spell able to twist the laws of reality to their purposes. The worst part is that while there are Fae equivalent to mortals, the dangerous ones are like most dangerous people in Exalted, namely they possess great power and influence, and your contact with one may persist long after you've fled their corner of the world.

Abyssals, as I have mentioned, are what Geists wish they could be. Like a Geist, your character suffered an untimely death, and like a Geist your character was offered a second chance by a powerful ghost. Where Exalted's Abyssals overlaps Geist stops there, as the ghost that gave you power is actually a servant of the dead-but-dreaming corpses of fallen Outer Gods. They want you to destroy the world so that in turn the underworld gets destroyed, and then in turn their twisted labyrinth gets destroyed, which finally destroys them. And then nobody knows what happens. The dead Outer Gods live in giant tombs, and you hear their whispers as you dream, they tell you to destroy things but not in a straight forward way. They give you horrible nightmare visions, showing you things you were not meant to see, as they whisper to you in the programming language which they used to write the world when they were alive.  You, yourself either become an inhumanely beautiful monster, like a well preserved corpse, or a mass of rotting flesh and worms, in either case you're a living doomsday prophecy. If you don't like, you can rebel, but then the ghost that gave you your power is now your biggest enemy, and the Outer Gods are giving you lots of Negative Energy that will manifest in horrible, varying ways. It could be plagues follow you were you go, or your presence causes miscarriages, or your inherent necrotic energy just EXPLODES, or perhaps worst of all is that the person you care most about, no matter how far away they are from you, will die. And there's nothing you can do about it.

And then, there's Infernals, the servants of the remaining Outer Gods. The surviving Outer Gods were trapped inside each other by the Sun and his champions, and told they can never enter Creation unless some bizarrely obscure things happen. The job of the Infernals is to make this happen, but they're not just possessed by the Outer God's will. They're given the powers of the Outer Gods, and the ability to become one if they get strong enough. That isn't their job, though. With a little demon inside their soul telling them what to do, they enact villainous tropes that are associated with their Outer God, and in so doing avoid their wrath and frustration. What makes all of this creepy is that they're semi-demongods themselves, who come from a realm where everything is made of Outer God. Their power is stored in an eternally suffering little girl, sold to the Outer Gods by her mother, crying out for her father. Their relationship with her is one of adoration and love, regarding her as the mother of their own twisted power. They strive to turn the very fabric of the world inside out, and have access to all manner of sorcery to accomplish this goal. The fact that they eventually win has been established within the first incarnation of Exalted from the beginning, and has recently been added to the second incarnation as well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Creepy RPGs - Mage: The Awakening

Mage: The Awakening is the World of Darkness line where you play wizards, essentially. "But Ayrad, that's not scary or creepy at all!" No, it's not Harry Potter wizards. Or Lord of the Rings wizards. These are wizards that can create life at the snap of a finger, destroy life at the snap of a finger, or just about anything else. Still not creeped out? Well, how about this, they could be anyone and they don't hang out in their little pocket dimensions located within the English countryside. They're actively influencing the world, and usually in subtle ways. Vampires and werewolves fall prey to the monster movies they spawned, where people can and do fearlessly destroy them in the end. A Mage has none of that. Go on, try to kill him, I guarantee the moment you make one step toward him, he's sent a mind bullet back in time to give your mother a miscarriage.

So, why does this make for a creepy RPG when you're one of them? Because you're only one man, and while you have allies within your tradition that does not stop the other Mages from going after you. You fight secret wars against other Mages, and far worse things. Among them are powerful entities that can give your mother a miscarriage the moment you think about giving their mother a miscarriage, but I digress. The enemies are usually as horribly powerful as you are, and your fights are not so much actual fights, but warping reality into an instance where you and your enemy are no longer fighting. The problem is, doing this too much results in the universe as a whole getting angry at you and your enemy, and making sure you never existed. This, unlike the miscarriage mind bullet, needs no conscious effort, and happens almost instantly.

While it may not sound so creepy, the atmosphere it provokes really is, as essentially you are one of many human Cthulhus, and you're not even the strongest one there is. And the other human Cthulhus are either not on speaking terms with you because you look at magic differently than they do, possessed by inner demons, mad beyond reason, hateful of magic, vampire liches, serving creatures that hate magic, or fair weather friends. You command great power, but there are many other groups that do, and you end up being completely alone in your pursuit of this power.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CreepyRPGs - Changeling: The Lost

Changeling is a game where you play people who had been taken away to a land of beauty and wonder by the fae, and escaped to find their world had been changed greatly and their spirits broken. Whether they had aged years, while time stood still, or they've been gone years but only feel the effect of months, their lives have changed. Replaced by a fae creature that pretends to be them with almost perfect sincerity, sometimes even being better at living life than you. Your family notices no differences, your wife or girlfriend doesn't notice, your children don't. They've adapted without you, and nothing you can do can convince them that you're the person that they know and love. You've been abused, and turned into some mythical creature hiding beneath human skin. And that's not all. The fae? The ones you escaped? They're coming for you. You can feel it, but you don't know when or where, you just know it's gonna happen.

Changeling is great, while you certainly are powerful, and you certainly are not a normal human, you are still human on the inside. You've got hopes, fears, regrets and dreams. Most importantly, you have your exposure to the True Fae, the horrible memories you carry from that time, and the crushing realization that your life is gone and you have no choice but to move on. Instead, you draw support from other people that suffered through similar, yet different, pains as you who deal with the horror differently. Though, with this support group your fears are not sated, instead you learn that the beings you fear come in many shapes and sizes, and that you are always being watched.

I like Changeling, partly for letting you be anything you want, and partly because you have to fear the Fae, and I like my fairies to be horrible monsters that treat human life as a game. I find it cosmically creepy in part due to the fact that the Fae are statless monsters, you are not meant to kill them. They can just take you. Also, because you've been twisted and warped into something very different by forces beyond your understanding, for reasons you cannot fathom. And you can't continue your life in any way, you're alone in the world, except for those who suffered in similar ways to you. The game's themes are unsettling at the least, and downright horrifying at the most, and there's plenty of ways to play a character's inherent paranoia against them, to where even other monsters sound like Cthulhu Fae hunters.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

CreepRPGs - Call of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu

Today I write about the two big Call of Cthulhu games on the RPG market. Trail, and the original Call, of Cthulhu deal with classic Lovecraft Cosmic horror that we cannot understand. Everything makes you insane because it's something telling you that the universe you know and love is a cold, cruel lie, and that you're the oddity among it all. There are centuries old plots, horrible mutant conspiracies, and alien horrors from beyond the stars all attempting to destroy the world. When told correctly, these stories are scary tales about how nothing is as it seems, and horror is a few feet away and you'll never know. It's a system where being able to read Latin is a far more useful skill than firing your gun, or swinging your sword. It's a setting where your world has been turned upside down, and this has left you with nothing to lose.

However it is in last place, after all the other RPGs, and why is that? Frankly because it suffers from what any monster movie faces. Sure, you can avoid monsters entirely, but then some people get huffy, thinking that in order for it to be Call of Cthulhu you need to be facing down Shoggoths, ghouls, and deep ones on a regular basis. Even the book itself warns against this practice, but people feel like if there's no monster at the end, it's a big let down. I mean, heaven forbid subtle horrors revolving around ancient cults sending kidnapped hobos to the Great City of Yith, and resorting to local children as they've run out of hobos. No, they gotta fight a Yithian, in order for it to be true to Lovecraft.

I really like the Mythos, however like many things I like I really dislike the other fans of it. It becomes tainted by their ideas of what it should be, and if you run a game against their wishes then you're facing blasphemy. And, it is because of the fans that I rate Call of Cthulhu, and Trail of Cthulhu, at the lowest rank. Of the games that actually manage to be creepy. Because it is creepy, the mythos are very able at creating an unsettling atmosphere.

Also, Trail of Cthulhu is like, kind of a re-imagining of Call of Cthulhu's system. The two are very similar if I remember right, which is why I lumped them together.