Monday, April 18, 2016

Unfinished Urungus' Towers Two: The Viking Funeral Jobe Bittman Built

Oderus Urungus did not hit me when he died in the same way Bowie did. I said at the time that the jarring disconnect wasn't that Bowie was mortal but that I'd never thought about him not being David Bowie any more. When David Brockie overdosed in the recliner however that seemed exactly like something from the "ways to die" bucket list from GWAR. Dying from too much heroin is GWAR being GWAR, sure as if he had suffocated under a mound of groupies or died from injuries sustained in a cockfight at the planetarium on Laser Zeppelin night. I was also not as large a fan. Oh sure I liked their music well enough in a cartoon idea of transgression kind of way - like when AC/DC says If You're Into Evil You're A Friend Of Mine, which is such an adorable kind of Mumm-Ra turn of phrase - but I've only started really appreciating their musicality in the last couple years. It's probably because, antithetically to a lot of the spirit of metal, I think, GWAR reminds me first and foremost of nice memories about my dad. Those first couple years I went to Dragon*Con were when GWAR would still show regularly enough, and he was super amused by the way they just wandered the floor in character. Did you see that guy with the big foam wiener? That naked chick poked me in the shoulder with their huge spiked tits when they went by. Honestly my folks seemed to enjoy those trips as much as we did, because it was beyond sensory overload for them, often involving things they had no inkling of. Good times.

A lot of my personal connection to GWAR then is not as artists but as celebrities. GWAR were a sort of mascot for a certain epoch of metal, and Oderus was the mascot of GWAR. He was the lead singer, sure, but as the AV Club recently noted GWAR has had a few of those by now. None of them have really been the FRONT MAN Dave Brockie was, though. A kind of ambassador for an aesthetic, he made everything from horse movies to Bam Margera somehow tolerable. He made FOX News watchable. You can call him one note, as has been said about GWAR, but there is a delectably east-Asian idea of the mastery of simplicity that I appreciate from someone who finds their one note (albeit a power chord) and masters it in such a way that they become synonymous with a movement, with a time, with a medium. No one played that note like Oderus & Co.

What their whole scene embodied was a message of fuck yeah but in a joshing way. Like (as Zak noted a while back) Metalocalypse or Beavis and Butthead or for that matter All in the Family, the joke was intended to be on a lot of the very people who became rabid fans. Their characters are dumb as posts but they call people retards. Their personae are sex made foam rubber flesh but with the effect of making everyone lumpy genderless puppets.They sing about how awesome raping stuff is on stage only for other characters to call them out on it in the song, prompting the original fuck demon to defer. They are the id sharpied onto the back of a PE workbook of a thousand virgin warriors. Of course some of those powerless headbangers latched on to GWAR completely unironically. That's not what has kept GWAR going all these years, though; it's the fact that they actually have better musical chops than fellow metal cartoons KISS and a far better sense of humor about themselves. They're a Spinal Tap that kept putting out albums, with Ralph Bakshi and William Gaines as their producers.

What their whole scene embodied was a message of "People who think metalheads are scary, look at us: it's exactly as bad as you feared. BUT, now that you're looking at it, is that bad?" Of course not. Who can actually be scared of foam rubber dildos and still be worth the time spent with them?

Towers Two by Dave Brockie, Jobe Bittman, Jeremy Duncan, Glenn Seal, and Alex Mayo, from James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

Reading Dave's original partial manuscript first, the biggest difference between the two isn't what is in a room but why it's there and how it's described. GWAR acolyte Bittman had the un/enviable task of finishing this manuscript so the rooms that are all him (with help from some of Brockie's other notes and emails I'm sure) are focused on finishing the telling of a story. That story is entitled "What I saw at the GWAR show last night." It is described in that manner, with the blood, shit, come, tits, decapitations, puppets, and special effects center stage. The set list at a GWAR show is never what people talk about on Monday morning. It's more like holy shit I watched Jerry Springer get eaten by a vagina dog. Replicating that experience and finishing Brockie's unfinished draft so that the plot of the module is anywhere close to cohesive are the orders of the day.

With the original text the Why of a room's content is always "to kill you and/or give you a shitload of treasure." The way it is described, though, shows the experience not of just a seasoned dungeon master but of someone who is accustomed to conceiving and executing gags in a performance. The stage is set first and then the freaks show up and maybe do a thing that in itself is grotesque so that the setting, the actor, and the action all are points of interest. This draft is Dave Brockie writing an adventure like he's planning a video or a tour, and the book as a whole is finished through a Vaseline flashback to the GWAR What Was.

The final high concept of this book is that terrible creatures and terrible deeds have consciously and incidentally conspired to take what would be a boring chapter out of any fantasy novel and turn it into a black metal album cover, a window into the fourteenth hell where every single character is the bad guy apart from like four people who are Merely Shits, not actively vile. That's as good a setup as anything but it does mean that this contains all of the worst and most evil and fucked up and gross out things that Guy From GWAR could think of and guess what: that means Towers Two is the world's longest poop joke that strikes the hour and half hour with rapes.

That's onerous, Oderus, but then it's meant to be. There are decades of wrong to be righted here and even the most self-interested or cruel player character will inevitably find themselves the moral superior of the people they meet, if only because so much of the villainy on display is so petty, short sighted, and basic.

Maybe that doesn't even matter. The game in this book is not where you think it is.

Kiel Chenier is showing this off as I type, running this book in a Nintendo tinged campaign. I've seen a lot of people interested in trying similar reskinnings. That's because the trappings of the MTV dungeon are either to your taste or not, and anything that isn't to your taste is effortlessly dismissed with without upsetting any apples in the cart.

I'll let my players run around with a dick sword if they want but genital weapons aren't what's really exciting here. It's who wields them, why, and what powers them. All the non consensual hog porking in the book is interesting as far as "haha, pig sex right?" goes but it's how the creatures involved relate to one another and the power structures in place that matter. Room after dungeon full of Fulci's worst nightmares become honestly a bit of a blur, punctuated by the set pieces and time tables which will tick forward independently of your players.

This is a personal preference: multiple ticking clocks, some or all of which the players may be unaware of without inquiry, are a favorite adventure planning technique. It means if there's a lull or I'm out of ideas or the players take foreverrrrr to figure something out or debate on doing something, I've always got Something Important ready to happen. It keeps things moving without bringing in a random encounter roll. It also means that in almost every way the longer it takes the players to figure something out or take action on something the worse things are going to get for everybody. Things have been getting worse and worse around the Towers Two for a long time, and while nominally at a tipping point the dilemma facing the party is not "save the countryside or don't." It's a question of allowing the grinding down and the toxic spread to continue by degrees or to force an all or nothing gambit.

This is a text which posits an ultimate evil and it isn't exactly Lovecraftian or Biblical even. It's Sumerian, the evil we make as nature --> there is ultimate evil in nature but not ultimate good --> nature is evil and civilization good --> civilization casts a shadow whence evil emerges, and so on. This isn't an evil that gets something or gets back at dad by sowing sin, and it's not a force beyond human scale and comprehension whose existence is corrupting and dangerous. This is a mind with active agency choosing the spread of evil for the sake of the spread of evil. When the world is cinder it starts over not only because of its nature but because also of its decisions.

Now let's step back again for a minute and compare the evil within the Towers Two to the evil of Towers Two: they say rape like eight times, the innkeeper is basically every innkeeper from every fairy tale ever, and there's this Harvey Dent homophobia where there are notes of antiquated gay panic played for a laugh but after the fourth time what is the joke exactly?

If any of that is where you draw the line I totally get it but I also wouldn't want you to confuse the walls with the wallpaper here. While its sheerest ambition lies in the heightened reaches of its stylized debauching this is nonetheless a pony you can ride all day. You can get months of sessions out of this if you play it right. Your players can simply get a ton of use out of this book without ever actually climbing into either tower. The gonzo trophies aren't nearly the sufficient lure they need to be for the absolute threshing machine of the tunnels and towers. The gold (silver, since this is LotFP) is, however, as are the stories. Like the Tomb of Horrors or Death Frost Doom the point of playing a grinder is to be able to talk afterward about how you barely made it out alive or about how awesomely you died. Either way you get a cool new story. Towers Two's story is compelling in its own way but as a generator FOR stories it is really excellent. There are factions at odds in some of LotFP's other big releases like Qelong or A Red And Present Land but there is a grimy quality to the factions in Towers Two because they're tumbling over one another and clipping through each other. One person may be a knowing member of three spheres of intent in this adventure while unknowingly forwarding machinations of another three. The complicated courtly castling of RPL and the spread out surrounded-but-isolated feel of the Qelong hexcrawl are markedly different experiences.

They're both great books, better than Towers Two, but while they both represent cool stories and cool possibilities for story hooks they won't just generate awesome new stories all on their own. Towers Two has more in common with Deep Carbon Observatory in that respect. Even if you put it at the far end of your campaign world and your players don't get there for three years the fact that it exists at all means that within months every neighboring province is going to be affected, dominoing from there. The yellow brick road will lay itself by degrees until it's right under the players' feet.

It's not nearly as deep as any of those three, though. This book is more along the lines of Forgive Us, LotFP's Free RPG Day adventures, or several members of Zzarkov Kowalski's catalog. That's not intended as a knock, really, but the anticipation for Towers Two and the presentation lend it a prestige above "Four awesome hexes or material." The ghost Urungus haunts its contents (quite literally) as this isn't a book to judge as A GWAR rpg, but THE GWAR rpg. With that scrutiny and standard it's a great adventure but honestly Better Than Any Man (which I know I keep praising but it's that good) is more of a game changer. Looking at that release and Brockie's text it really seems they could have put this together with half the pages if they wanted to. Maybe that was closer to the original intent before tying one off made the book's release much more of an event.

(Speaking of events it seems like everyone is streaming rpgs these days so to James, Jobe, and the remaining members of GWAR, I humbly submit my plea to see this streamed in full costume. I know damn well you all can make a better show of it than the competition. Do it as a fundraiser or do it for charity or do it for both, I'm broke and even I'd find ten bucks for that.)

It's also an interesting venture for Raggi in that it stands completely apart from his current publishing slate but also completely typifies it. As the line hews closer ever on to the early-modern real-world setting its biggest successes seem to be the far, far outliers to this operating mode. Towers Two is that, at least. It shares with Raggi's other output, though, a sensibility not of condoning or endorsing the events and viewpoints of, say, redneck horror, giallo rape killers, or any other bump n grind drive in fare, but instead of the lurid style and music box craft found in those films. It takes both, the style and the craft, and I expect that's why we keep getting the kind of books worth an entire hobby going to war over. Nobody worth anything ever tried to publish at LotFP because they had a book full of cocks and no one would take them. They tried to publish there because they didn't have to engineer, didn't have to schedule meetings, didn't have to run it by legal or focus test anything. They can just build, and nobody is looking over their shoulder tut-tutting about the letters they'll get for painting things creamsicle orange, nightmare blue, or pussy.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Towers Two and GWAR all have that in common: the fundamentals and the technical expertise is there but it's easy for some people to miss because it's all so often in service of telling The Aristocrats.

Alex Mayo and Bittman are on point here, double teaming the layout and content here so that not only is information you'll need to use repeated every time you'll need to use it (funny how much sense that makes) but it's laid out in a very clean, uncluttered, open way. That means if you do want to reskin it for Hyrule or write in some quick-n-dirty HP totals or alternate spell lists you have plenty of room to do so. I don't know enough about layout to speak to it too much, beyond this: good layout to me is clear, never suffers the limb while forsaking the body, is attractive, and makes me think not only that I can use this easily but helps to reinforce "I want to use this."

I also can't speak much to the maps. Nice maps. The book is well made as a physical object, too; while their actual subject matter and content are incredibly different LotFP is the game world's equivalent of Archaia over in comic book land, who for my money make the best physical books (as in the actual things you hold) in the business.

Jeremy Duncan's art, now, that I can go on about. Enticing and revolting my wife in equal measure, these are more akin to animation stills than illustrations. Every chink of armor and hair on a snout represents action interrupted. It's not always in the posture or gesture in a How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way vein. It's down to design: everything looks like it is meant to be used, like it is meant to move, and you can easily imagine how everything here moves. That's a quality missing from even some of my favorite art in rpg books. If I had to sum up his style it would be "skate shop on The Dying Earth" making him the perfect candidate to take over Brockie's illustrations. It's not intended as a slight to say that, capable and useful as Brockie's artwork is, it suggests form and detail and experience but not kineticism. Sad that he died but not that he couldn't finish drawing the book. Talk about elevating material to the quality demanded by the suddenly-higher-profile release. Talk about earning those pages. Well done, ace.

There were some things in Towers Two I found not to my taste. That's fine, I can easily wash over those. There are themes which repeat themselves one too many times; to borrow an adage, one dead baby joke is shocking and funny, eight dead baby jokes is a little depressing. But there is too much goodness to be found in Towers Two. The GWARness may be its easiest selling point to promote and it's certainly the easiest thing to object to if your sensibilities are bruised but the food chain of betrayals, interconnected conspiracies, the clustered-in-time precipices of a dozen disasters, that's the real shit. Not the monster makeup or the fanatic recreation thereof but the mind from behind the mask and the affection from behind the enterprise.

Raggi has said Towers Two will never be reprinted so go buy one. This article was brought to you with care and super generosity by Arnold K. He didn't ask me to say this but please stop by his Patreon and throw some nickels his way because we need more articles by Arnold K. Special thanks to +Kiel Chenier for helping me count rapes. And if I may end on a personal note, ask for help.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Making TSR Marvel Super-Heroes Wrong

You get a small pool of points for FASERIP and a pool of points for powers. You can transfer any amount of power points to FASERIP but not the other way. For every super power you have you pay a high tax: your overall pool of power points is way lowered. Please note those values below aren't per-power, those are what you have to spend for all your powers. Yes you can start with Poor stats in all FASERIP and one Unearthly power but I do not recommend that at all - put some of those points in FASERIP please.

Choose between:
  1. 30 pts for FASERIP, 100pts for 1 power
  2. 30 pts for FASERIP, 50pts for 2 powers (or one of those powers with an asterisk. That's 50 pts total, not 50 for each power)
  3. 30 pts for FASERIP, 30pts for 3 powers (or one asterisk power and a second power; that's 30 pts total, not 30 for each power)
You can keep going down like that and end up with 10 pts for 4 super powers but I think that would be dumb.

Talents cost 10 power points and do not count as super powers
Talents with an asterisk cost 10 points but DO count as super powers

I only choose 1 power so I have a total of 130 pts to work with. I take Body Armor at Remarkable (30) so I have 100 pts left to put into my base ability scores, my FASERIP. I decide this gal is clever and her armor augments her physical abilities. That plays out like so:

F Poor (Good)
A Poor (Good)
S Feeble (Excellent)
E Poor (Good)
R Remarkable (Remarkable)
I Typical (Good)
P Poor (Good)

She has only 50 pts dumped into her FASERIP without her armor's augmentation and 100 pts spent in parentheses representing her armored abilities. We've essentially left all those points back in her armor, we've just made that power work for something other than flat damage reduction. We don't have points left for extra Talents. Her overall HP is only going to be 14 but she has strong defense and better than human ability in most areas so long as her armor stays intact. If the armor is targeted directly by magic or magnetic attack we can see at a glance it'll have 50HP.


I want 2 powers, so I have a total of 80pts to play with. I want Matter-Eater-Lad powers and I want Medusa powers, because I am insane. I take Digestive Adaptation at Good (10) and Prehensile Hair at Good (10) leaving me 60 to work with, but wait: I can take a talent; maybe my guy is some weird biologist. That sounds right, so I take the Biologist talent at a cost to me of 10. I then put 50 into my FASERIP:

F Typical
A Good
S Typical
E Typical
R Good
I Typical
P Typical

We've got 28HP but we're way more naked than the first example.


I want 3 powers, giving me a total of 60 pts to work with. If you go with this method know that all your various normal or super abilities will be low level. The key is picking things that still let you do what you want. Here's a straightforward superhero type: I want Communication with Animals, Animal Transformation, and Animal Mimicry. I'll take each of these at Typical (6) and pick up a talent in Zoology leaving me only 32 pts for FASERIP. Ouch, that hurts because even taking every ability at Typical would cost 42! We've got to shave...

F Typical
A Typical
S Poor
E Poor
R Poor
I Poor
P Poor

It's important to note here that having Poor reason doesn't necessarily make you act like a dumbass, you just have low problem solving and innovation skills.

Here's a fun trick for this kind of character, though: intentionally limit your power. This will let you roll that power as if it is 1-2 categories better than normal. So if I say the above 3 powers only work with Spiders then I'd probably give this character a +2CS for those powers, meaning they roll them as Excellent, not Typical, but can never mimic bat sonar or turn into a cat. If I further say that Zoology is the even narrower Arachnology then I can say I have +2CS to identifying and fun spider facts, and if I say communicate-with-animals only works with spiders WHILE this character is a spider then that might be worth +3CS. This stuff adds up. OBVIOUSLY I WOULD NEED TO RUN ALL OF THIS BY THE GUY RUNNING THE GAME, because he might think my adjustments are too generous....or not generous enough! HP for this silk-sack is only 20.
Do not bother about resources, popularity, or contacts. For that matter if you're building yourself a Stun Rod go ahead and take super powers equivalent to a stun rod but if you want to buy a gun do not buy a gun. Anything you can equip yourself with at a Bass Pro Shop please neglect.

So who are you anyway? Well you can see that by most superhero standards your abilities will be either modest or way crazy powerful compared to how typical you are, beyond your ability to effectively control them often. I'm going for a kind of Planetary/Doom Patrol thing where you are usually the most powerful motherfucker in the room but your powers are really dwarfed in the face of the weirdness and forces around you.

This is the Green Room. It's a teleporting room, a base of operations that superpositions itself over an existing room somewhere in the world. Within it are medical facilities and technology that while not out of this world will not be available to the public for fifty years or more. Any pie in the sky tech you've read about lately - 3D printed organs, smart food, cockroach drones, this room does not have those things but it can hook you up. It's not a room out of time, just a place ahead of its time.

It is run by machine intelligence that is in turn composited from one million minds around the globe. It is an aware social media mind that is keyed into people whose mental processing it deems valuable, and it uses their engagement with it to power itself and improve itself. These are the Subscribers and they can make a superhero out of nothing.

You're Shift. It's not your job to save the world or the change the world. It's your job to make change possible, to save those capable of bringing change, to remove obstacles to change. The Green Room is neither good nor evil, merely forward, and so to must you be for to be else is to be monkey.

This is what you were told about the Green Room. By the Green Room.

When it is time to kick all ass, when you are preparing yourself to go be super, you have your chi manually centered and spend some time waiting in the Green Room until the time is ripe.

You have no idea how many other Shifts may be employed by the intelligence, or how many are working at seeming cross purposes to one another. When you die someone else will join the Shift.


What you do know is that there are worlds and worlds and most worlds are set on a mathematical path oh let's call it predestination. Ruin or Eden in their atomic structure, everything in between. Yours is one of few worlds that are Fireweed, universes which exist in the void left behind from entropic collapse. You were born and thrived only through chaos so this is a chaos universe. Anything can happen here. The Green Room wants to give anything, literally anything, the chance. It is a breeder of possibilities. You have to fight for any future you can, and anything that produces more possible futures than not has to be nurtured. Sometimes that means killing the President. Sometimes it means erasing everyone's memory of that President. Sometimes it means becoming that President so the dominos continue to fall. You have no idea how many of you there are, no, nor any idea how many there have BEEN. You may have lost colleagues, friends, brothers, and now even their absence doesn't exist for you. To the good of all futures.

Quite apart from that, in this world there are angels and demons.

No one gang or league holds sway in this world, though there are scores of little power cults all over. Most individuals who are special operate singly. Some have multiple identities. Some are incredibly public in their displays of power. Almost to exception however these agents operate covertly.

If Superman lived here everybody would know who Superman was. If Godzilla lived here everybody would know who Godzilla was. And if one particular journalist made it his life's mission to spread the word about threat/menace Spider-Man then yes that would get out. For the most part people are ignorant of the small wars around them. A bank is robbed, there is an explosive confrontation, maybe he gets away or disappears. Maybe he's apprehended but some men in suits are there before the car even pulls away, taking custody, working for Not My Concern. Ireland seemed to be on fire with light and sound last night. Then it stopped, this phenomena people are calling a mass hallucination, here's someone in a wig to scream about how ISIS probably did it.

The knowledge is out there. People know the angels and demons visit them. But knowing them, tracking them, is the domain of the conspiracy buff and secret intelligence. Apart from them these super powers are as mysterious as the strange forces they fight.


Naming conventions run the gamut from pulpy stuff like Jack Lightning, Marvel Age stuff like Golden Goose, obscure 90s alt superhero stuff like Mse. Extacy, R&B style stage names like Flicka or G2E, or just go all 21st century and use your own name or a screen name (Batman2482).

Killing is discouraged as it is in the original Marvel rules. Unless you're being sent out explicitly to kill someone, killing anybody else is eroding potential and attracting the attention of people who want to kill or imprison you. It is bad all around so don't kill anybody you don't have to. Absolutely fucking murder them, though.

All this being said this is not necessarily a super grimdark affair. Have fun with it.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

TSR Marvel Super-Heroes From Memory

You were born with powers, or you acquired powers, or you built/purchased some items that approximate powers, or you're some weird category that blurs those lines like Superman or Vision. You figure this out first.

If you never played before you've got to know two things which are really one thing: the power ranks (which are descriptive in that there are comic book style adjectives for every tier) and percentile dice, unified in the form of the Chart. I like the Chart, every other table in the book suffers for not being compatible with the Chart.

Now you either pick a guy, roll a guy, or build a guy. If you pick a guy you have access to pretty much all of Marvel's 1988 stable to choose from, and you can play that guy straight or you can slightly reskin them, turn human torch into Inferniex, boom you're John Byrne now.

If you roll a guy then you do some character's stats on THIS table and a different kind of character's stats on THAT table and you raise and lower power levels and add and remove features and so on, THEN you roll up your powers, talents, or contacts, then you roll to adjust your resources with the table I've only ever used for adjusting resources so it's pretty pointless?

If you build a guy then you win a free argument with your DM (Daredevil Man) about what the point build threshold should be, do we need different pools, can we swap between pools, do I get a bonus to these pools for this kind of guy...Otherwise you just buy everything you want in terms of FASERIP and powers by using the median values on the Chart (so 6 for Typical, 10 for Good, etc) and then get completely finished before you remember about talents fuck shit is this a whole other pool or do I have to readjust my guy damn it...

You also get to determine what powers if any are off limits, in case you don't feel like dealing with the fact that teleporting across a room is more difficult than walking into another dimension. Some powers count as two powers, some powers come with bonus powers, some powers let you roll for an additional power...Usually when rolling characters everyone has an upper limit to their number of powers or contacts before advancement, for building characters I suppose just don't be an asshole about it is a good rule?

Now it's time to play a game. This usually breaks down like
  • Hear about a current attack or investigate the threat of a future one. If the former, head right over there and fight.
  • If the latter you need to exploit your superhero and non superhero contacts and talents and make a lot of reason and intuition rolls. Zak made an excellent post about this recently. Anyway since you're a superhero you may spend most of the session using your cleverness and powers to position a confrontation to your advantage but it's ultimately a build up to a confrontation each session. Talents usually change which column you roll on and contacts affect what kind of help you can receive.
  • Confrontation: combat time. One side goes first but which side? I know intuition modifies initiative and some super powers let you slide around in initiative. I guess roll a d10 for simple initiative and we go in order of highest intuition or super power. I know the book had something like everyone says what they're doing then you roll initiative and resolve mental attacks then energy so forth, something like that, but this way is easier. I guess some super powers let you act outside of initiative, like even if you lose initiative you get to go first?
  • Moving was by area and like everything else super powers fucks with this. I don't remember how movement was done so we're going to say you can move 1 area and attack, two areas and defend, or 3 areas but you automatically go last in initiative (like even if you win initiative you go after the bad guys) and can neither attack nor defend. Super powers can make all of this hell.
To attack or use a super power you roll on that column of the Chart. You get one of four results and then you cross reference that with the attack types across the top of the chart and check it against your actual super power's writeup to see what else is going on there. After a few times this gets more automatic but with new players/characters/powers it's slow going at first. If your players take the time to gear up before battle by rolling their Resources to see if they can bring weapons and like a jet car, this can be a lot of the night, going what does this do again?

You defend by either rolling to dodge and reduce the efficacy of an attack by shifting its roll column to the left; interposing an object and letting its material strength absorb some of the attack, with you taking the spillover; or just hiding or hanging back, staying out of combat as much as possible and getting a bonus for jumping back into the fray later.

Damage is first reduced by super powers and body armor and then taken out of Health/HP. When you go to 0 HP or when you've been hit with a Kill you start losing a level of Endurance every round and when you're out of schlitt's you're out of beer. I think you're supposed to roll to stop endurance loss but short of someone helping you out with medicine or powers I don't see how you can walk off a head shot. I'd let someone roll to stabilize but then they'd be out of the fight until they received attention.

Popularity is a little misleading but basically means people know who you are and are inclined to help you out without threat of force or promise of profit. This is something from the investigation section really but when you're playing in a group it means that the whole group's popularity is basically the most popular guy's rank, unless you have like Carnage along for the ride to mess things up. It only really matters when you split the party, which players are generally reluctant to do even though it's super genre appropriate.

Karma is a good system of instant experience points and it was always hard to remember when to dole it out and by how much, so accustomed are we to doling out advancement at the end of a session. So basically you can add karma to any roll to improve your chances but you have to declare your add before your roll. I think this makes players reluctant to risk "wasting" hard earned karma so I ignore that part. Otherwise you can lose karma by killing people, hurting people, fucking up, letting bad guys get away, letting chaos or disaster go unchecked, etc. You gain it by kicking ass and succeeding but also by playing the absolute hell out of your guy, and for my money the person who plays a Spider-Man that sounds and feels like Spider-Man will always have more Karma awards than the guy who only pays attention when it's time to roll to hit, even if the second guy is absolute aces on the dice and nails it every time.

You can use karma for an instant reward in the form of a successful roll, for which you may earn karma back, or you can hoard your karma up against the possibility of advancement. I remember this being slow going, superhero power levels being more or less static outside of plot point shifts. So I would encourage people to either forget about that altogether or spend their karma forging new contacts if anything.

One of the best uses of karma is on power stunts. Basically if you have something it seems like your powers should be able to do then you can try it but if it's a little weird and you've never tried it before the roll to pull it off is difficult. You only pull it off on a red roll, next time you only pull it off on a yellow roll, next time you can pull it off on a green roll. If you fail a roll at any level you're sort of stuck trying to nail that roll until you do. Once you've successfully vetted this aspect of your powers you can pull it off all the time. So you see how spending a lot of karma can help here. Using weather control to fly is a good example. Or how Spider-Man used to make baseball bats out of webbing and hit bad guys with those, haha what?

Now all of that sounds like a lot but if you're someone who never played the game you've got to keep track of
  1. the English language, being able to read the words on your character sheet
  2. how numbers work, and to a lesser extent how percentile works, since that's all you'll be rolling to exclusion in this game apart from the occasional initiative roll
  3. which color is which, to know if you succeeded and how well
  4. a general idea of how superheroes work and there are people walking the earth who were cannibals sixty years ago and still know who Superman is so this might be a lower barrier to entry than some of the above...
That's an easier game than BX. And since it came out around that time and from that company there are other similarities. Like unless your bad guy is a mega bad guy any one guy is not going to be nearly as effective as a bunch of HYDRA agents by dint of simple initiative.  A ton of super powers also seem to have a built in changeover like the Magic-User spellbook, with lower levels and lower results being kind of useful but higher levels and results being god mode...and yet not all super powers, since you can only breathe so much water in the day...

Now I know I got a lot of this stuff wrong. And I know all of you out there can correct me. But this isn't my misunderstanding of the text as read, this is my hazy memory of the game from four years ago mixed up with different modifications made on the fly. So I don't need or want correcting, and I think it will work better with my ignorance frankly. There are too many little fiddly tables covering movement and equipment and materials that really should all be judgments made from the Chart, to my mind, so not remembering how those work isn't really a detriment. I'll revisit these assessments after the next time I run, assuming that ever actually happens.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Favorite D&D Weapon

In a game where a dagger costs 5g the hook would cost 15g. This is not for verisimilitude but compensation for a hook's versatility.

Functionally it should work like a dagger (does piercing and slashing damage, 1d4) but is ineffective thrown. You never get a bonus to hit from your ability scores, as this is an awkward weapon. You get other benefits.

+1 to open doors that swing toward you, using it much like a prybar.
+1 to your strength calculations for how much you can carry when you're hauling it with a hook.
+1 to your check to climb or keep your handhold under duress.
On a crit you do no additional damage but do grapple your target.

If you put a big hook on the end of a pole it only comes with the crit benefit.

If you put one on the end of a chain or rope it can act as a grappling hook, conferring both the climb benefit and the crit benefit.

It's also the kind of tool that most farms and any settlements of real size can provide, repair, or replace. Squatfuck of Nowhere can't scare up a smith to put your sword back together. Anybody you talk to has one of these in the barn, though.

Palace of the Silver Princess Rewrite By Like Everyone
There's 0 chance that anybody who reads this doesn't already follow all the other awesome people who worked on this but hey: just a reminder, go check this out. A lot of it is really good and then I also did some things.

Get it here.