Monday, November 27, 2017

Moon Slave VDND World Tour- Corruptor (a Rogue Path)

The Ichor Within

At level 3 you gain proficiency with a Poisoner's Kit. You do not have to have the physical kit on you in order to benefit from this as long as you deal 1 damage per level to yourself, using your blood as the physical components of your concoctions. You may only have a number of poison doses prepared equal to your proficiency bonus and you must save against each of these when you take Bludgeoning/Crushing/Falling damage to avoid breaking their containers and exposing yourself. You are only adept at creating contact poisons, which take effect on the target's next turn.

Crow Touch

At level 3 you may use your Cunning Action to perform a Sleight of Hand check in order to safely expose a target within 5' to a contact poison. You may also attempt to "splash" this on more than one target within range but you must yourself make a Constitution save with Disadvantage in order to escape the effects yourself.

Toad Touch

At level 9 you gain proficiency with an Alchemist's Kit and gain the ability during a short or long rest to convert a magic potion to take effect on skin contact.

Moth Touch

At level 13 you may create alchemical poisons that cause the target to be affected as if they were a different category of creature, such as Undead or Infernal or Elemental. The target will be affected as if they were the type of thing in question.

Collector Mentality

At level 17 successful check of both your alchemical and poison use and access to the corpse, willing essence, or unconscious access to a monster will allow you to distill a monster ability such as mummy rot or petrification into one of your contact poisons.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

REVIEW: Bastards on Horseback, by Dex Logun and Lady Croose

Rodney Matthews

When the Second Age dawned on a gray kind of sand and a copper manner of ash there turned out to be a much reduced emphasis on the classic cam-pak, or adventure or anything resembling the modules of other companies. Certain of Adder Entertainment's releases began to feel more like some kind of madman got hold of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and thought that was prescriptive. The kind of dense lore exposition and world building infodump involved would make even a viral YouTube simplification shit bees with confusion. Perhaps the worst offender of these would be our old friend Nathan Goodwrench Hosea, late of Cyclopean Romanse and then-most-recently of the now infamous Stigma Systics. Easily the true champion of this sort of funhouse-mirror-version-of-a-historical-fantasy-novel approach was Japanese-Indian metal guitarist and pog doper Fear Star, alias Jane Mahuri, whose epic exploration of the un-trilogy we will ruminate on later since the story of Time Colossus Go Fuck and its strange transformations is a column unto itself.

What if that box text and crowbarred-in Mary Sue shit didn't just make you go "kill me now?" What if a story could actually talk you to death? The establishment-challenging mixed race marriage of a traditional Æ apocalypse romp and the new hotness of "anthropology textbooks that ain't happened" was put together by one of Æ's unsung giants: The Black Knight. Trapmaster Cosmodamus - founder emeritus Dex Logun, the woman who could trick you.

Bastards on Horseback ride from the horizon in a very literal sense intent on sacking a city. Again, very literal: they are going to break every person, creature, and thing into a smaller more manageable form and then bag up the whole enterprise to schlep back to a between space to be reassembled into a new kingdom and people of their liking. In this way potential always grows, until the tipping point where potential must needs become necessarily kinetic. You could call this a fight with heaven if you like, except we all know Æ actually published that one. This is a pillaging from the Frankenverse.

Lore is a punishment when time is of the essence. Stopping the wildfires takes priority over finding out which fucking teenager carelessly started them. Should the riders breach the defenses erected by the party over the course of their preparations then they are treated to more information about their enemy. There is a hard ticking clock here, though - sunup to sundown - and your enemies have the benefit of paralyzing tiny mortals with the enormity of themselves. The more you know the better you can fight but you lose your greatest weapon: chrono-ammunition. You could always elect to investigate your foe ahead of time but that gives you less opportunity to prepare defenses, even though those defenses would be more elaborate. Bastards on Horseback is a book about making you ask to be told how you lose.

Appendix abuse is rarely so egregious as this publication's Appendix Gray, a brief outline for rules regarding combat, locomotion, magic, and death elocution in the strange horizon would should you choose a pre-emptive strike or actually roust the invading cavalry and chase them back to their homefield advantage. While there is enough here to play a session, a whole campaign even, (we've all made do with less) it is a criminal sin unforgivable from anyone else but from Dex...I like to consider this part of a meta-trap, a grander snare she has set for us all. Some have argued this might be a backdoor cosmology for a company who always deliberately resisted anything approaching continuity. When I first came to this hobby I assumed it was basically a resume' since the writing was by far on the wall in a big fucking God Is Dead And The War's Begun font and AE's second age was already on the precipice of Sickboy territory, not nearly dead but preparing for a long period of glowing embers before their comparatively recent snuffing. They would withdraw and remain Galadriel, Dex Logun as much as any.

I have since approached a new scheme: Appendix Gray is two traps. The first is a way of convincing you to get your whole party killed by trying to warhammer the unknown to death. "You can fight the devil" only means you can beat the devil if you can beat the devil. The option raises the question but does not beg it. The more insidious trap is convincing multiple generations that the story within and the rules within were the same thing. Here's how you don't play the game, it says, which means the rest of the book is how you play the game, and that Gray are special edge rules which must be similarly strictly adhered to. Remember, this was a glacial epoch shift for the company and they needed them a ferryman well versed in punishing players who thought they were smarter (and therefore morally better) than the designers. Here was a candleflame that decoding the epistle was always the aim and invited these brainteasers to a new Gordian challenge. In actuality this was simply Solomon Kane methadone designed to instill some new addiction you wouldn't know you'd acquired until the shakes began.

Dex Logun's ghost work on the Fire, Ice, and Steel era releases from Æ went largely uncredited and since record keeping is an art form even when some nutless fuck isn't setting buildings and people on god damned fire we have a hard time pinning down the scope of her contributions. Memories differ and blame is ping-ponged around and all we come away with is a looming miasma continent-like in drift. It is possible she designed deaths and devices for almost any notable Æ release except for their earliest efforts right through to the end of the Second Age. Her personal life is less the enigma, subject of the Oscar nominated short documentary Row on Row. Their name was in the papers a few years ago for her continued efforts to sue the British government to release Thatcher's body for "reverse-autopsy," a campaign which lost a lot of supporters when she started mailing major news outlets frozen blood phalluses. All the stranger behavior since Dex Logun is from Colorado. Lady Croose for his part was an underground comic book artist who took a for-hire gig in between painfully confessional zine appearances. Their dalliance in the gaming world left them screaming for the mildewed hotel conference centers of home.

You twist yourself into strange postures when you're trying to pleasure a partner seemingly incapable of direct communication. Anything to elicit a response. It's enough to just do something, just to see if it works. Remember with charity that it was a strange time, and gaming was changing faster than many in a faster world. There are treasures to be found in what I call the "histories" of the Second Age but they are largely buried in the very heap which defines them as works. They are sapphires in compost, and like that loam they would give fertile root to better trends in time. They were a kind of trap that Æ had to walk itself out of after building its own cage on all sides. But that, I think is where Dex Logun's Bastards on Horseback really shines. See, puzzles that aren't designed to be solved aren't good puzzles any more than a painting of a door on the wall is a great door for anyone not in a Bob Clampett joint. No, riddles are meant to be answered. Maybe not all devils can be beaten but you also don't have to try to fight the devil, or THAT devil, or on the devil's terms.

The greatest gift Bastards on Horseback has to bestow is splitting the veil and showing you the pharisees are just doing puppets back there. It is a work that invites (fair dares) the player to go "Actually fuck this" and run what they like out of the book and only that, using what rules they choose and agree upon amongst themselves. Game companies are not often in the habit of reminding their consumers that they are not required. It takes a confident creator to make that statement even in between the lines. True a thousand wrong lessons were learned from this in the same way that Dylan led a parade across decades of imitators with voices like cicadas murdering table saws but those were not Dylan's sins. As Faberge egg Bastards on Horseback is a rewardingly intricate museum piece. Shame it's nards as an evening.

Friday, November 24, 2017

I Guess This Is A Whole Game And I Guess It's Called "SHI" Or Something Lazy Like That

Required tools: some paper, some ink, some brushes, and stuff to clean the brushes. 2 six-sided dice, 1 cup to hide the dice in.

While a lot of this is inspired by a lot of East-Asian-inspired RPGs and media I enjoy this shouldn't specifically be used for such. Use it for vikings or Black Panthers, I don't care.

You have 4 main Motives. They are Influence, Movement, Art, and Emptiness. Your default rating in each of these is 1, the default maximum is 4.

If you have military rank then you gain 1 Movement and Emptiness for this and an additional +1 for each higher rank you have attained.

If you have great wealth then you gain 1 Influence for every additional firm or household you oversee and you may carry an additional possession.

If you have some religious training or spiritual wisdom you may elect to begin with any attribute rated at 4 and lose any other bonuses.

If you are a woman you gain no starting bonuses but your maximum attribute is 6.

If none of these apply to you then you may add +1 to any Rush.

These may stack with one another unless there would be conflict, and if it is not clear how to resolve the conflict just flip a coin. Don't dwell here. Finally make four circles near these values, big wide ones to accommodate a strike-through flourish. When you suffer mortal peril strike through one of these. These are Master Strokes and when they're all crossed out you're dead.

Shi is a game about traveling. The party is traveling somewhere. They may make several detours and defeat all kinds of obstacles on their way to where they're going. The game is over when everyone is dead or when some or all of the party arrives at the intended destination. Maybe there is lots of fighting. Maybe there is magic. Maybe there are mysteries to unravel. Maybe you simply have to survive the wilderness.

When you run into an obstacle or attempt to resolve a conflict you must be sensible about your approach.

Use Influence when you are trying to coerce, deceive, convince, seduce, empathize, intimidate, or otherwise throw around your weight as an upstanding member of the community or utilize your force of personality.

Use Movement when trying to dodge, jump, climb, run, swim, catch, safely fall, fight, or defend.

Use Art when trying to employ any fine craft or artform, including poetry and calligraphy, as well as horsemanship, memory, thievery, and lovemaking.

Use Emptiness when observing, learning, intuiting, lie detecting, meditating, praying, searching, withstanding evil, and identifying creatures or plants. Emptiness may also be spent to utilize the other attributes after they have reached 0.

When engaging with a static conflict such as involving an object or harmless animal or hazard you must either pay 1 point from your Attribute or attempt to guess whether the DM's dice result are even or odd (as in han or cho). Answer correctly and resolve that conflict without spending 1 point, answer incorrectly and you lose the point anyway and usually suffer some additional penalty. Guessing incorrectly when your attribute is at 0 always costs you one Master Stroke.

When engaging with a live opponent like another person, a dangerous animal, or some kind of supernatural monster or force, you may elect to Rush or Stand. If you Rush you spend as many points from the relevant attribute as you wish in an attempt to meet or exceed your opponent's value. If you Stand you have the benefit of seeing how much the other side is willing to spend and one-up their value if you can. It pays to Rush if you have the advantage of numbers but in a larger conflict you run the risk of overspending to defeat your target. It also pays if you suspect your target has a low value, down to 0, in an attribute, because then you can take them out for cheaper. The victor in this conflict reaps the rewards and the loser, well...

If the conflict in question is martial then a loss always means one or more Master Strokes for the loser. If the losing party is unarmed a loss in combat is always fatal (4 strokes) but if the defeated party is armed they may mitigate this (down to a minimum of 1) by spending 1 Emptiness. The winning party may spend Emptiness of their own in order to block this mitigation, and this goes back and forth until one side relents.

A nice tea service, bath, or other ritualized comfort and a night of rest restores all attributes to their original values but does not reset Master Strokes. A typical session will cover several days of travel quite quickly but Master Strokes are only reset between sessions: the first session after you've taken marks reduces your number of Master Strokes down to 1, and if you survive this session without accruing any more the next session will reset them to 0. Otherwise the best you can hope for is to always mitigate down to 1 Stroke against you at start of play. Remember that other things can cause Master Strokes besides just combat, such as a guilesome poison, environmental hazard, disease, madness, and spiritual corruption.

Your abilities do not improve over time but do improve over the session if you're lucky: each time you succeed at something using your lowest attribute you gain +1 to your highest attribute. Your values reset at the beginning of the next session.

Each character may have 4 possessions and each possession must be something that player can crudely draw using a maximum of 4 brush strokes. You can make a decent sword with two strokes, a nice bow with two, a teacup with three, a decent coin purse with but one....horses and spellbooks and stuff are basically off the table since they can't be as effectively rendered. You are presumably traveling with more stuff but these are the things you can use to aid you in problem solving.

The DM may compel you to guess against the dice for a number of things that do not require you to spent your points down or suffer a Master Stroke, like wandering encounters or favorable weather. A final note in this area concerns whether you play this game with elements of the supernatural: there are some effects that no natural force can spare you from so it is down to chance and the gods to decide your road. The DM will throw dice in these instances and all characters present for this phenomenon must guess the lowest value of the dice in the cup. Any who guess correctly are spared its effects. If the effect is dangerous or lethal this may mean taking some Strokes but if it is merely inconvenient (like an illusion) a player may elect to suffer a Master Stroke instead in order to avoid this effect. A pious spiritualist may also avoid this penalty by paying 2 pts Emptiness.

Players whose characters die haunt the table for the remainder of the campaign, even if they are permitted to create or steer new characters next session. A haunting character's player may be allowed by the DM to peek at their dice or the attribute value of an opponent. If the DM permits this all haunting players must look except any player being tested. Haunters must try their best to use this information to confuse the player being tested, trying to convince them of different things. Whatever your character was in life their spirit is capricious so no haunter should ever prove too trustworthy, lest they attract the attention of even more dangerous sleeping spirits.

Gameplay should run about two hours. This is a small and in some ways silly game but it should work fine.