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.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CreepRPGs - The Honorable Mentions

Continuing the last entry, we find ourselves with the Honorable Mentions. They're the RPGs that could be creepy, but they take real effort to make it that way and usually end up falling back on their default themes. They fall short of truly achieving that horror caused by things you do not understand, or require a little extra push to achieve it. Whether it's rooted in familiar fears, limited by the nature of the characters, or just unsuited for cosmic horror, these entries didn't make it to the list, but were better suited than the ones before them.

Slasher: Another entry in the World of Darkness, Slasher goes through the process of creating a serial killer character themed after slasher movies. This book is downright creepy, and playing as a serial killer is a very strange experience. It's hard to put down, and the Slasher characters are downright terrifying even from a mechanical standpoint. Strong enough to give any Hunter a run for their money, and a big surprise for any supernatural, there's potential to be creepy. However, while it has minor mentions of supernatural type Slashers, there's nothing beyond human understanding here. Except the sociopath psychology that Slashers usually exhibit.

Promethean: The Created: Yes, there's a lot of World of Darkness here. There's going to be more. Not my fault they've made so many "horror" RPGs. Promethean has you as playing as the Prometheans, attempts by humans to raise the dead, or create humans from scratch. The core Prometheans are styled after the Golem, Osiris, the Muse, and Frankenstein's Monster. Their goal is to become humans, but they don't know how to do that. They must live life as unnatural creatures, hated by the world, poisoning it by existing. Your very nature makes the land around you decay, cities fall into poverty, people are driven to violence, and you're at the center of it. Eventually, in order to truly understand your nature, and the difference between you and humans, you must create another life Promethean to suffer through what you went through. However, if you do it wrong, then it turns into a Pandoran, a writhing monster bent on eating the alchemical fire which powers you. It can hide inside humans or animals, and craves what gives you life. So, everything is out to get you, and what's worse is that you're not really a monster. Werewolves and vampires often kill people, but typically a Promethean tries to understand them. The problem is, the game is hard to make suitably creepy, and it also suffers from other World of Darkness lines' problems of you being a powerful monster able to kill almost anything you encounter. As well, the game is more about loneliness and the contemplation of what it means to be human, not about being creepy.

World of Darkness(Mortals): A game where you're Mortals in the World of Darkness, it could work. But the problem is, most of the time including Vampires, Werewolves, ghosts, or other supernaturals turns it into a monster movie, and not the frightful ordeal facing a monster should be. You could be staring down a man covered in blood, or his bones warping into a strange lupine form, as everything you thought you knew about life turned inside out. But, most people focus on the chase and not the way this would seriously effect your world view.

Little Fears: Childhood monsters from inside the closet are scaring you to death, and the only way to get rid of them is to confront them with your Belief. It is innocent, and full of terror, however while this is a fear of the unknown, and things you don't understand, it also turns out to just be an entire game about overcoming your fear of the dark. Not that it makes for a bad game, but it's not really about things man cannot understand.

Legend of the Five Rings: There's not much horror in the game, except from the Maho spirits, and the Shadowlands creatures. The Shadowlands is a corrupting influence, that turns men into monsters, and sometimes appears very subtle. They have agents all over Rokugan, and they're less trustworthy than a Scorpion Courtier that married into the Crab Clan. The highest levels of Shadowlands taint allow you to not be killed. No, not come back from the dead, you cannot die. And Shadowlands taint is given through exposure to tainted creatures, the Shadowlands themselves, or the fallen god Lu-Feng. And taint is a scary thing in Rokugan. If you're discovered with it, you could be killed on the spot, with impunity. If you're not killed, then you're put in a suicide squad that fights the strongest tainted monsters, praying for death. However, there's also many taint counter measures, and you're not likely to really run into taint.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

CreepyRPGs - The Ones that fail to be creepy

So, I talked to Feed the Rapture about creating a series on Creepy RPGs, what she thought would suffice for creepy, being the creepy story blogger. Her idea was simple, focus on settings in the modern day, and settings that focus on cosmic horror. Stuff man cannot grasp, even when he's a demi-god meant to embody perfection. So, I started thinking about RPGs that fit, and I got a few that just don't work. So, instead of listing a million entries before getting to the good stuff, let's just use this one entry to explain why it would work, and why it wouldn't.

Cthulhu-Tech: It takes place in the far future, Cthulhu has mechs, the Mi-Go have giant bug mechs, shoggoths are hiding inside wizards, and we have mechs, too. It's Cthulhu in the future, with Zenntradi ripoffs. It works because good, old Cthulhu never gots old, but it doesn't work because, well, Tagers(Men that become monsters, think Guyver), mecha pilots, and Engel pilots(Evangelion). And, let's face it, that's what you're in the system for. Otherwise you'd just play Call of Cthulhu in the future.

Werewolf: The Forsaken: You're outcast werewolves who are supposed to fight invading spirits from the spirit world, and protect the world from it. Invading spirits, nice for cosmic type horror. Problem is, you're a Werewolf. You become a giant wolf beast monster man, and rip things to shreds. Obviously, this isn't the only type of werewolf game, but it is your best bet for supernatural horror. Also, when in the World of Darkness, if you include a Mage as an antagonist, you can up the creepy a lot.

Vampire: The Requiem: You're a vampire living in a vampire political court. Things can get creepy, but you've probably seen it all. As I remember, very few vampire clans involve themselves in the more cosmic horror stuff of the setting, even then there's that same problem with Werewolf. Being supernatural gives you enough of an edge that cosmic horrors don't phase you like they should. Tossing a Mage into the mix obviously changes everything, but that just adds points in favor of Mage.

Hunter: The Vigil: I don't hate World of Darkness. I just feel that for emphasizing roleplay over rollplay, they give you too many powers that can be used to make mincemeat out of anything scary. In Hunter you hunt supernatural things, at first using your own wits and a shotgun, eventually using special gadgets, artifacts, or mutations granted from the Conspiracy you might join. Sadly, this again translates into being able to shoot the Cthulhu dead. Mage once again will turn this inside out, but that's because Mage does that.

Geist: The Sin-Eaters: Geist has the potential for being creepy on a cosmic level. You're guys possessed by ghosts, guiding the ghosts back to the afterlife, which leaves room for all manner of dead-but-not type monsters. Sadly, Exalted does this and more with Abyssals. I give it an A for effort, but when you see Exalted's entry later on, you might understand why.

Shadow Run: It's possible, but only if nobody plays a magical character. Ever. Yeah, the cyborg troll is cowering in fear at the horror from beyond the stars, but the the wizard just conquered it and now has it as a pet until next week. It only works if nobody uses magic in the group.

Dark Heresy: Yes, you encounter daemons and beings from beyond the stars. It is supposed to be terrifying. But you know what's more terrifying? That Inquisitor guy, the one who flies you everywhere, pays your bills, trains you, and teaches you about the galaxy as a whole. That guy, who has stared Chaos in the face until Chaos blinked. I'd fight any number of daemons, before returning to the Inquisitor without having finished my job. When Cthulhu is less scary than a man with a big =][= on his chest...

Now, this is mostly me blowing my tastes around. I like what I like, and some things I think won't work if you're going for the cosmic kinda horror. Geist, Vampire, Werewolf, all good for something different. Geist is the horror about the finality of death, Vampire is about the horror that you can less and less hold on to your own life, Werewolf is about the horror of how you're suddenly a danger to everything around you. Hunter's about everything being out to get you, and you're humanity's last hope. Shadowrun is just 80's Cyberpunk Action Movie: THE RPG, well it can be. Dark Heresy can be as well, but usually the Inquisitor is the most terrifying figure you'll ever meet.

Next entry will be the honorable mentions. They don't make the main list, but deserve more representation than just "I don't like them for this sort of game."

Monday, February 7, 2011


Gentlemen, I love NPCs. No, I really love NPCs. They're the best thing for a GM to use to take part in his own game. I love it when I'm interacting with them in a meaningful way as a PC, and I love when I'm the GM with an NPC the players can interact with in a meaningful way. They allow a GM to play in his game, aside from combat mooks, the Big Bad, and the various merchants your players will want to visit. However, not every situation requires an NPC, and the players don't always want to have one following them around. As well, you must be careful, because while NPCs should be useful, they should not be so useful the players never need to do anything.

You want to avoid having them stick with the party too long, or atleast actively participate in battle and skill checks, as that would have them run the risk of usurping the party's spotlight, even accidentally. The exception to this is when their specific purpose is to fill a gap in the party's build. You don't want to give them undue favor. If the NPC will die, or the players themselves are plotting against the NPC, let it happen. No NPC that travels at the mercy of the players should be plot important, not unless you want to see what the true mercy of your players turns out to be. Not to saying they can't be in that situation, but if the princess is key to the story, and she's travelling with the players, atleast one person will try something. Usually marrying her, but worse could happen.

You also don't want them to be useless and insignificant. You want the players to like having them around, and to want to keep in their favor. If the king never helps them out, why would they not want to put his brother on the throne? And the same goes for any lower power NPC. Typically, their ability to take an NPC seriously depends on how useful he is to them. Don't make them protect NPCs too weak to defend themselves, and don't make them have to always bail a dude out of a jam with little to no reward.

Also, they should have real lives. NPCs are people in a living, breathing world. The king, the merchant heir, the leader of the guard, whoever they are, they should not be around all the time when the players need them. This is how you get the players to do what you want, by the way. You don't force them, but say they need to see the guard leader right now for one of their personal goals, sure. But, they gotta do him a favor first, and then you guide them into a plot point. It's a little heavy handed, but it works. Generally, keeps them useful, and lets the players know this by having more on his plate than just them.

Now, the important thing to realize is that none of the above applies one hundred percent of the time. Some people like doing favors for the useless NPC as it makes them feel like a hero of the people. Others like having along a weaker, or stronger, NPC either to be someone's hero to have a hero to worship. It is impossible to know how a PC will react to an NPC. As an example, one time in a Dark Heresy game, I took a liking to this guy that was showing my acolyte around. Now, the guy turned out to be in on the Heresy, which made me sad becuase everything I found out proved that the city we were in needed to be given an orbital bombardment suppository, and I was gonna save him from it. Yeah, needless to say, someone didn't get to ride away as their city was destroyed. The GM was shocked that I wanted to save the guy, but it did all happen kinda fast.

Edit: Speaking of NPCs, if anyone wants to be included as an NPC in my games, gimme a brief summary of the character, and I'll work the magic.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


In honor of Superbowl Sunday, we will talk about Bloodbowl. Bloodbowl is another Games Workshop title set in the universe of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. However, instead of being about armies fighting each other on the field of battle, it is about teams fighting each other on the gridiron. Imagine fantasy football, literally. You've got teams of orks, beastmen, chaos mutants, goblins, undead, lizardmen, and all manner of fantasy staples fighting for the Championship. It's a fun game that recently saw release as a videogame, and it's available for free online play through fumbbl, I think.

Anyway, it's pretty nutty. Although I love the orks even in Fantasy, I prefer the chaos team because I love me some beastmen. However, orks are a more balanced team, featuring little guys, big guys, blitzers, blockers, linemen and throwers. Though balanced, they still focus on beating the ever loving crap out of the other team, ensuring that they're too injured to play through a whole game, thus winning by default. Bloodbowl as a game features shady tactics, such as fouling fallen foes, bribing refs, and hiring mercenary all star players to carry your team through that tough battle. Using your team's fortune, you can make the ref call more fouls on the enemy, or ignore your own, have people beat up enemy players, or instigate crowd riots.

That isn't all. You also got spells that you can cast on the field, steroids to give your players, and other fun stuff. At the end of a game, your players gain experience, and if they level up they can gain new abilities. This varies based on teams, like a Chaos player could sprout tentacles, while an ork player would learn to be a better blocker. Each team plays differently, though some have very similar game plans, and others seem like carbon copies of other teams. Be that as it may, it's an amusing game, and a break from the seriousness that Warhammer Fantasy Battle normally is. My only problem, my only complaint, is that it's been discontinued. The rules are available for free, but Games Workshop no longer makes models for it. I might buy some orks or beastmen from Fantasy's line and model them into Bloodbowl players, depending on how finances look. Next year I might even stream actual Bloodbowl, not that anyone would watch Gork's(Or maybe Mork's) Blitzboyz try to take the Old World Bloodbowl league by storm.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Legend of the Five Rings, Sengoku Japan!

So, I also play Legend of the Five Rings, it's a game based off Asian culture in general, set in Not-Japan, where you're Samurai for various clans which are based off of all manner of Asian stereotypes. It avoids that whole "Japan is superior!" you usually see when Samurai are involved, and a lot of it is based around actual Japanese culture and conventions. Usually, it is a game of honor and duty.

My group is playing it during the Sengoku era of Japan, because the GM knows more about that then L5R's Not-Japan, and we're uniting the clans against Nobunaga. We've already got Hojo, and Takeda on the side of our force, as well as some other clans and factions. We're from the Gifu Alliance, headed by Nagamasa Azai, who hates Nobunaga's violent methods and has united a bunch of smaller clans to oppose his brother-in-law. We each represented a member of the clans in the alliance, one from the Shimazu(Pirates that did not want Nobunaga to succeed or else he would wipe them out), the Minotomi(A nobody clan that leads the Alliance because "Well, we don't hate that guy), the Iga(Not really a clan, but a province known for ninjas. He posed as Hojo originally because he did not want to anounce Hanzo Hattori's involvement.), and the Matsumae(My character. A clan of brutish warriors from Hokkaido, who wield heavy weapons and fight demons and Ainu barbarians all day long.)

Well, recently, we hit a block with Kenshin Uesugi, because she was being attacked by Date Masamune and said she would ONLY join us if we got Masamune to join us as well. We tried to lower the conditions to simply have Masamune go blunder off somewhere else. Kenshin wouldn't budge on her position. Even our Diplomancer couldn't get her to reconsider! So, that's when I stepped forth, the barbarian with a giant metal bat, who never removes his armor, and has little speaking skills. I used my Perform(Story Teller) skill to try and convince Kenshin through the story of my people. And I boosted it with my Void stat, so I got two extra dice to keep and to roll. I rolled a twenty one, which ranked as "A fantastic story, but what does it have to do with the event at hand?" I told the following story...

[2011-02-04 23:02:54] * Hitodenashi_Kedamono looks up, and can't stand to let this plan fail because Masamune's a dick. He tries to think, but... Wait! There was THAT tale! Surely, THAT tale would solve the problems of this situation, atleast help Lord Kenshin see that she's needed against the Oda! "Lord Kenshin, there's a story among my people..."
[2011-02-04 23:06:10] <Hitodenashi_Kedamono> "It takes place long before the present day, before Lord Matsumae ruled the clan, before we were even a clan, infact! Back in the old days when it was Japanese versus the Ainu/Ursine Alliance versus Oni."
[2011-02-04 23:10:21] <Hitodenashi_Kedamono> "The world was still young, and the primordial rulers, the bears, still maintained territory in much of the world. Within Japan, they faced great resistance, for we Japanese are far too proud to live under the yoke of the bears! And in Japan, they were left to their last stronghold, their fortress in Hokkaido! Desperate, they allied themselves with the Ainu barbarians, hoping to have enough numbers to drive off their mutual enemies."
[2011-02-04 23:16:05] <Hitodenashi_Kedamono> "The Ainu were to attack the Oni fortress, leading them into the Japanese army, routing them, and exterminating much Ainu and Japanese in the process! It would have worked, but a hero stepped forward, the first Matsumae! Using the first recorded instance of the tetsubo, he bashed through Oni and Ainu alike, until both forces allied against him! Still they failed, for no being could stand up to his Mountain Shattering Strike!"
[2011-02-04 23:19:31] <Hitodenashi_Kedamono> "He fought onward, sustaining many blows! The bears watched using their magical crystal viewcubes, fearful that he would reach them! He smashed the Ainu, he bashed the Oni, and he kept moving! The bears used their powerful magic, but it only slowed him down! The man was unstoppable, it seemed. Until he reached their fortress door. The bears found his strength lay in his blood, and were enacting great magic to weaken him forever!"
[2011-02-04 23:22:52] <Hitodenashi_Kedamono> "He was smashing through their fortress door, when combined with their great sorcery, the destructive act created a rift in reality! The first Matsumae's blood spread through all the Japanese on Hokkaido, weakening him greatly. He died shortly after. However, their magic had two effects. All the Japanese on Hokkaido had his great strength and courage, allowing them to storm the fortress, and conquer the bears! The other effect, being that bears all over the world lost their great intelligence, turning into savage beasts tameable only by the Ainu! Every so often, a smart bear is born, like the Bear King, but his smartness isn't able to be passed on to off spring. And so, the bears were defeated, and the world freed. By the Matsumae."
The player characters were like, "Ahhh, yes, the Great Bear War." Kenshin was dumbstruck, but agreed to consider joining us if Masamune did leave her alone. The players and the GM were both impressed by the story. So much so, that I was given an extra point of experience, and let me tell you, one experience is a big deal in Legend of the Five Rings.
I just thought you guys should see this.

Dark Heresy, Getting Started

So, I got a really good question about getting started in Dark Heresy. It's not that hard, but it can be a little difficult depending on your friends, and where you live. You need three things, dice, books, and people. Thankfully, Dark Heresy is very forgiving in the first two categories, but like all RPGs that last category is ever illusive. Ideally, you want your friends to be the people, but depending on how receptive they are to such an idea, you might be out of luck.

Dice and books are the easy part. You want at least two ten sided die per person, as you will need to roll two of them at a time. You will need one that counts one through zero, and another that counts ten through one hundred. This combination is abbreviated as the d100, and gives you a percentile score. Popular names for it also include "Percentile dice." When rolling to see if you succeed at a skill, you roll the percentile dice, or d100. If you REALLY want to look, you can find an actual one hundred sided die, but they are silly and not neccesary. For the books, all you need to actually play the game is the Dark Heresy Core rulebook. It contains everything from the player classes, to the rules of gameplay, and scenarios and monsters for the GM to throw at you, as well as setting information. The dice probably cost about twenty five cents each, depending on where you buy them, the book is about fifty dollars but prices change based on where you go, as well. You can find the book at almost any book store, in Barnes and Noble they keep it near the comic books and graphic novels, in Borders I usually see them put it near the anime and manga, or the fantasy novels. Dice can either be bought online, or at your local comic shop.

Finding people is tricky, but if your friends are real bros, they won't have a problem with trying out the game just once. If you make them get into it, they'll come back for more, but you'll bear the mantle of GM forever. Unless someone thinks he wants to try it out, but trust me, that's rare. If your friends refuse, try your local comic shop, if they host RPG games, there might be a group there. Problem is, you run the chance of meeting real weirdos, as well as pretentious people. Online gaming has the same problem, but you also don't have to actually listen to them complain, and you can always drop out without having to face them again. Play by post, IRC, and messenger play are popular, but all require some dicerolling program, otherwise you may as well just freeform it out.

If people are interested, and don't have conflicting schedules, I might run a Dark Heresy game on IRC or something.

Rogue Trader

Not the post I wanted to make today, but that's okay, you'll see that one later. Right now, I'm gonna tell you about one of the games of Rogue Trader I ran. Rogue Trader is set in Warhammer 40k, and it's the same game, but on a whole 'nother power level. Instead of working for an Inquisitor, although you certainly can do that, you are a member of a Rogue Trader Dynasty, and you usually work for yourself. Typically, one player is the Rogue Trader and everyone else plays the elite officers onboard the Rogue Trader's ship. Usually, you're the head of the Dynasty, but sometimes, you're just one of the many heirs competing for that spot at the top, GM depending.

So, in Rogue Trader you have a ship, and the Galaxy is your oyster. You're a power player in the universe, and your goal is to whatever you want. You can be a merchant prince, a pirate lord, a colonial governer, or just about anything else. In my campaign, nobody wanted to play the Rogue Trader character type, so I had him acting from the shadows, as an incompetant brat using the wealth of his Dynasty to score chicks and future drugs and leaves all the hard work to his officers. His officers were: An Explorator(A tech priest that explores the galaxy for lost human technology, and works to understand alien technology) based off of Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Vegas, an Arch-Militant(A fight without peer, an Arch-Militant could be a former military commando, a big game hunter that hunts the most dangerous aliens, a penetant criminal serving off his sentence through suicide missions) that was formerly an Imperial Noble born with a mutation on her skin that makes her secrete poison from her pores, she left her world when a suitor accidentally got touched by the poison and died, through hard work and dedication she's managed to make it as an Arch-Militant probably through lots and lots of trial and error. The other two were far more unusual, a kroot mercenary(Kroot are aliens that resemble dinosaur birdmen that evolve by eating other creature's genetics, they hire themselves out to anyone who can pay them) that was the ship's cook, and an ork mercenary(Orks are the biggest and the strongest aliens in the galaxy, always looking for a good fight, they sometimes join up with less orky creatures for the purposes of getting a better fight. Because it's no fun being on the guaranteed a win all the time.) as well.

The group's first, and only job was to find out the recipe to a new drug was, one that tasted good, and was highly addictive, but had no other properties. All they knew was that it was an orange powder, and when mixed into liquid, usually water, its full addictive properties were realized. So, they have little leads, except it's coming out of Footfall, imagine every hive of scum and villainy you possibly could, combine them together, and make sure they're all well outside of the law's jurisdiction. Then launch it into space. That is Footfall. Going there, they meet one of the Explorator's dealers, who says that he's got some of the stuff stocked up, and if they want they can have some. But he has to get access to it, which is a complicated process due to increased gang competition. The group accepts to eliminate his rivals, when they learn that their trade lanes are being attacked by orks, but not just any orks, these orks were rivals of their ork. So, in the interest of keeping their trade lanes free of orks, they take a small craft and patrol the nearby lanes.

What they find is a giant ork ship with Gork's(Or Mork's) face carved onto the front, charging toward their little ship! They can hear it, through space, the Orks are chanting, "ORKZ ORKZ ORKZ ORKZ ORKZ ORKZ!" Their psychic gestalt making this possible, the mouth of their ship also opens up, clamping onto the side of their craft. The ship is burned open by plasma torches, and six of the biggest orks they've ever seen board the ship, and one ork bigger than that. They're here for blood. Sadly, the fight went through only one combat round, and then the game never went anywhere due to scheduling conflicts.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dark Heresy

Since Warhammer 40k went over so well in the last post, or everyone has heard of it in some way, I figure I'll keep talking about 40k related things. And, in my opinion, the best thing to have happened to 40k is Dark Heresy. That's the Warhammer 40k roleplaying game. Imagine, if you will, DnD except instead of killing goblins for gold, you're killing cultists for heresy. The game has you as a conscripted squad of acolytes, working as undercover agents for an all powerful Inquisitor. Your job is to uncover the heresy, apprehend those involved, find out how deep the heresy goes, and to infiltrate and eventually uproot the heretics entirely. The game is a lot of fun with the right GM.

My first Dark Heresy was GM'd by Veteran Sergeant Gary Eraklin of the Legio Gary, and I played a female Arbitrator. Think like Judge Dredd, only in SPAAAAACE. My original idea was to use improvised weaponry to beat the ever living heresy out of heretics, however that went to hell when I discovered I had unnatural luck on ballistics checks. I got great rolls, almost never missed with my autogun, and I instantly regretted selling the shotgun Arbitrators get as standard equipment just so I could upgrade my armor. However, I wasn't involved in that game, and dropped out to help beta test the Trigger Discipline RPG. I played a few other games with that group afterwards, but I kept feeling like I was too far behind.

Fast forward to the present! I've played in a few ill fated Rogue Trader(Think like a higher level of Dark Heresy) games, ran a Rogue Trader game myself, having great fun even if the games went nowhere, and have had more experience with Dark Heresy as well. Currently, I am joining a new game as a Feral World Psyker with a shockmaul and a laspistol. Dunno what's going on, but one of the guys in one of my IRC groups offered me a position in his game, and I aim to take it.

The guy's name is Lokas Spiritbound, and is the odd man out of his family, not so much in not being a warrior, but not being the one choosen to serve in the Allfather of Man's Warband. Well, him and his older brother, anyway. He was discovered as a psyker, sanctioned, found strong enough to resist the Warp, and stood before the Allfather Himself to complete his sanctioning. His older brother was a murderer, and was picked up by the Inquisition. It was not known what happened to him until Lokas became sanctioned, found his records as a penal assassin, and learned that his crime was pardoned due to his untimely death. Lokas' father died in service as well, but his mother and younger brother are still fighting against the enemies of the Allfather. Lokas himself has served with the Inquisition for a long time, since he is in his thirties, I'd say atleast seventeen years. I don't know what amazing things he has done in his past, but I would imagine they're along the lines of what any Norse style berserker would do. He's looked at weirdly by the more Puritan Inquisitors and Acolytes for his homeworld's interpretations of the Imperial Creed, but his Inquisitior knows he is a valuable asset, despite his quirks.

The biggest quirk among them is that he believes if you kill someone, or something, and wear their skin you turn into them while wearing their skin. This has earned him some serious mind probings, but he's Emperor loyal, even if he sticks to primitive beliefs. A side effect of his Sanctioning is that his teeth have daemon wards applied to them, it makes him struggle to say the names of the Chaos Gods, and he stutters when speaking about daemons in general. He has a mask, probably made of someone's skin, that he keeps from his life back on his homeworld, and a ring of prayer beads as a reminder of his sanctioning.

So far, Lokas has not done anything, as I have not yet had my first session with him. I'll be sure to post logs, or something, of his adventures, so you guys can see where he's going.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Actual content

So, like everyone else in the world, I have hobbies. My biggest money sink is the assembly, and painting of models. I like it for being a creative hobby with all manner of outlets. I get to assemble things, I get to paint them, if I'm feeling plucky I could use them for a character, or write a story for them. But, they are a money sink, though I've never gone over what I can live off of. Right now, I only have Warhammer 40k and Warmachine/Hordes models, as those are the two model lines that have games which I am interested in playing. I've got about three hundred dollars of Warhammer 40k sitting around unpainted, mostly orks with one Imperial Guard Basilisk(Bought before the current codex, when Orks could take Guard vehicles as looted choices) and one old school Hive Tyrant(A project for a friend) and a Tao Crisis Suit Commander, and about one hundred and fifty dollars of Warmachine, split between Trollkin and Khador almost evenly. I think I need to buy a Khadoran Warjack to keep the spread even.

I like Orks because they're the one faction where I can get another faction's vehicle, slap a coat of red paint, draw Mork on the front, and BAM! it's an Ork vehicle now. Though, my orks will probably remain unpainted and unassembled for a while, I need Tyranid bits to complete the look of my army, but I fully intend on one day painting them, as aside from the Tau and some old Rogue Trader era stuff, they're the only faction I find interesting. They fight for fun, not because they hate everyone or want to kill the galaxy, and their codex is the most entertaining to read. Their unit choices looked cooler as of last codex, but that was when everyone had nobs that could take squigs as wargear, and I love me some squigs.

Warmachine/Hordes is easier for me to get into painting, as I have so much less than what I have for Warhammer, and it's less overwhelming because of it. I've got Khador's battlebox, Old Witch, and Scrapjack to paint on the Warmachine side. Imperial Russia and Baba Yaga, what's not to like? All their Warjacks, except Scrapjack are heavy, so they're good at dealing damage and taking them. They're slow, though, but that's not a big deal. Plus, there's Karchev the Terrible, an awesome Warcaster that's trapped inside a Warjack body which means he can do things that a Warjack can do, like throw units! The only thing I dislike about them is that they're... Ummm, actually I got nothing for me to really dislike. Their design is awesome, their units are great, and their fluff's badass.

Trollkin are my Hordes faction, and they're a bunch of Scottish themed trolls that sided together because humans are trying to take their ancestral lands, or using them as buffers between invading armies. They don't have the best Warbeasts, but I like them for being giant trolls that eat everything. Their infantry and warlocks are smaller, more human-like trolls, generally intended to take the place of orcs from your typical generic fantasy. They're all tough, and usually good for melee fighting. Some units are able to do ranged attacks, but the faction's general specialty is melee. Not that I follow that, my favorite Warlock is Grim Angus, a guy who is all about shooting, and my favorite Warbeast is the Dire Troll Blitzer, a giant troll with a machine gun on its back, being aimed by a pygmy troll. I also have another warlock, Chief Madrak Ironhide, who had once made a blood oath with the current king of Cygnar, and because of it, he has received surpluss military weapons to arm his people. Sadly, that's not keeping Cygnaran troops from attacking trollkin villages for supplies, or forcing them out of their lands to build camps, so Madrak is leading his people in a fight for independance.

I've been thinking of picking up Magnus the Traitor as a mercenary warcaster, and Bloody Barnabus as a minion warlock and fielding them with their respective contract or compact. Magnus because I like his background as a loyal soldier to the former King of Cygnar, who is willing to do anything to get his lord back on the throned. Barnabus, I like his look as an executioner gatorman, and the gatorman compact gets a giant turtle as a Warbeast, so what's not to like? Hell, had I known they were getting one, I would have held off on getting Trollbloods, and just started collecting gatormen.

I don't see myself sticking with Warhammer 40k until the grimdark of the far future. The game was always about Space Marines, but now they're not even trying to hide it. New Codices for more Marine Chapters, while other people have to wait for their army to get updated? It's a shitty deal, if you ask me, that they put aside full army and model rangers, in order to give us another Space Marine army. Worse, that they say they won't be giving us individual Chaos Legions, Eldar Craftworlds, Ork Waaaghs, or other subfactions within the other factions. We're left with normal armies, and a million Marine variations. Thanks, but no thanks.

The First Stream

So, I decide today that I need a place on the internet to say things once again. Facebook has too many watchers, I don't "get" what Twitter is about, and some places on the internet are not my personal blog. Since Blogger is so gracious as to provide me with a space on the internet that nobody knows about, I can't see the harm in using it. The content will be frequently updated, as I have this retarded problem about having to always say something, and I'll usually talk about the things I like or don't like. My favorite topics will probably be roleplaying games, video games, models, and movies. Gonna be frequent, as I find myself with more free time than I like.