Monday, 25 July 2011

More NPCs - Cragge, Overzealous Guard Captain

In most cities, there is some form of law enforcement. And in all but the strictest of cities, there are those who would use the power inherent in their position for their own ends.

You could say that Cragge is like that. You could also say that he's one of the most focused and dangerous members of the force to have on your case, and will stop at nothing to find his prey once he sets his sights on them.

Cragge was born in Raam, on the world of Athas - a City-State, ruled over by a powerful (yet incompetant) Sorcerer-Queen, Abalach-Re. Cragge worked his way up the ranks of her Templars, to finally become near enough her right-hand man. At least, he was the only one stupid enough to take the post - while other Socerer-Kings' subjects live in constant fear of their rulers, Raam's citizens are practically in open revolt. They fight with the Templars on the streets, they lynch them when they go out alone... it's got to the stage where the Templars only go out heavily armed, in groups of five or more, with a cadre of mercenaries nearby (mostly Half-Giants and Muls, similarly armed to the teeth), and constantly masked or disguised - after all, should a member of the public see their face, they could be dragged from their homes in the middle of the night and left to hang as the sun rose, an example to those who would put down the working man.

Cragge wears no mask. He is guaranteed that his reputation should suffice as a warning to those who would cross him. This might mark him as one of the last faithful souls in Raam, but no - he is just as sick of Ablach-Re as the rest of the population. However, he swore a sacred vow to uphold the law in Raam, and he's not going to let poor managment get in his way.

At nearly 7 feet tall, he's imposing enough for a human, but his lean frame belies great strength - he could probably fistfight a Half-Giant and still come out on top. Combine this with no small Divine power, invested by his Sorcerer-Queen, near-full command of the Templars of Raam, and a sharp, brutal mind, and you have yourself a man you do not want to cross.

Cragge started as a suggestion for an important NPC from a thief-type character in a Dark Sun game I ran a while back, and I filled in the details from there.

While he is most at home in Dark Sun games, he makes a useful template for other NPCs to harrass and foil any law-breaking PCs - he's a physical threat, wielding the power of the divine, with a lot of political clout and enough brains to really screw up any plans. Lawful Evil gods of any stripe make for a good sponsor, and maybe some of the Lawful Neutral ones as well.

Biggest Templar in Raam 6
Sharp as an Obsidian Blade 4
Well-Practised Hunter of Lawbreakers 4

This stat-line makes him pretty powerful, but he should really be a background character to start - a presence heard about, and seen through his Templars, not physically confronted barring an ambush, or some other way of levelling the playing field. He allows GMs to bring down the wrath of a Sorcerer-King, without making them so powerless as to be defeated by the players (yet).

Friday, 22 July 2011

Unknown Armies - What Can You Do?

So, while I raved about how awesome a system UA is, I think I missed out something pretty important - in this world of crazy wizards and powerful, man-made Gods, what exactly do you do?

Well, the game is split into three "tiers" of play - Street, Global and Cosmic levels.

At Street level, you're ordinary folk who get a taste of the Occult Underground, whether through a bad experience, weird goings-on, or actually hunting it out. It's probably the most flexible level - you could run it without any supernatural elements, and the system would still shine. Here, you could be bank robbers in a job gone wrong, friends at a bar when a barfight turns ugly and someone sees the old drunk in the corner levitate a table into the fray, or the crew of a TV show out to debunk the supernatural when it comes calling. Best for starting players (and GMs), and can be adapted to suit almost anything.

Global, you're members of the Occult Underground - whether directly, or on the fringe (so, Adpets, Avatars, or just people "in the know"). Here, the main focus is usually on gaining more knowledge about the occult - Dukes are, to a man, selfish pricks with God complexes. You might be a Cabal out to gain a certain artifact - JFK's coffee cup is a classic, and mentioned in the Core Rules as an example of a Dipsomancer's (Booze Mage) wet dream, for giving Significant charges just by drinking from it. You might be just a bunch of kids, messing around with things way above your station, when you are attacked by a Vatican-sponsored Hit Squad. Maybe there's a rival cabal operating out of your area, trying to push everyone else out - and you need to stop them. Or just take their stuff, you know, and make yourselves more powerful. Or you could start getting involved with some of the big conspiracies within the setting (like The Sleepers, a group dedicated to stomping out public displays of the Occult). The weirdness is now a major part of the game, and your characters - it makes it a bit harder for new players to get into, due to the amount of "lore" you need to learn to play Adepts and Avatars.

At Cosmic, you are the Occult Underground. You're the big movers and shakers - your choices can affect the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people - hell, find a way to pop a Major charge and you could be affecting the world. Here, you don't just want power - you want answers. About life, magick, everything - and you have the ability to find them,. if you know where (and how) to look. You could be a world-spanning cabal, Avatars nearing Godwalker status (and another step closer to ascension to your Archetype, possibly redefining it in the process), or you could be the Vatican Kill-Team previously mentioned, out to wipe out the Occult, and armed to the teeth to do so. Hardest of the Levels to just "drop" into, it makes for a great game for experienced players, or as a continuation of a Global-level game, adding new threats and new layers of lore to get to grips with.

Of course, in a long enough campaign, you can go through all three, from poor, weird wannabes to full-blown crazy world-shakers, but UA's experience system makes for slow progress - playing once a week, you could be years before "finishing" the game.

Not that that's all that terrible.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Pardon the lack of updates - work is busy, the RT conversion is hitting a small wall, and I have the multitude villanies of nature pouring out of my body at an incessant rate.

New content will be here, soon!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Roadies: A Risus Adventure

So, to get my planning and writing muscles going again (in part, in prep for the RT/UA conversion), and my desire for a little bit of silliness, I'm going to expand on a concept I popped up here last year: Roadies.

SexGunn are (currently) the biggest band in the world. They have 5 platinum records under their belt (not bad, considering they've only released three albums), their music featured in adverts for the biggest companies, in every movie from the all-action summer blockbuster to the light-hearted indie romcom, on every radio, mp3 player and music TV station across the globe.

It's the night of their biggest tour yet - The Codpiece of Lustre Tour. The opening night, in [insert your hometown here] is shaping up to be a beast of a gig - no doubt because half their onstage antics will be scaled back for future performances (either due to destruction of equipment, lack of budget, or new laws being hastily written to cover such eventualities).

But tonight, tonight... shit, where did they go?

You are the Road Crew - managers, sound technicians, bouncers, PR specialists, or The Man With The Briefcase of Money Who Makes The Problems Go Away. Your job is to find the band, get the Show on the Road, and sit back and watch as the permed, crimped, drugged up, spandex-clad manchildren of SexGunn take all the glory.

It's a hard life. But someone's got to live it.


Characters should follow the 4, 3, 2, 1 method of assigning cliches - and remember, make the 4 something you are really good at, and the 1 something you can fail at hilariously (or succeed at, against all odds, in the most dramatic way possible).

Assign yourself a role within the group - things like Fixer, PR, Manager, Security, etc. You can overlap roles, but it's way more fun if everyone has their own shtick. Now add cliches and extra bits and you're set.

Example Characters

Bob, Overworked Manager
Overprotective Tour Manager 4
Get Them There At Any Cost! 3
Surprisingly Competent Legal Wrangler 2
Too Old For This Shit 1

Milton, Mild Mannered Lawyer
Master-Expert Legalese Consultant 4
"I Have a Form For That..." 3
The Catholic Sort of Nervous Disposition 2
Took Self Defence Classes... Once 1

Bud, Lifetime Roadie
Well-Trained Hauler of Stuff 4
Full-Time "Social Enhancer" Aqusitionist 3
Capable Bus Driver 2
Quality Lookout 1

Chantelle, Professional Groupie
Been There, Done That, Fucked The Bassist... 4
Somehow Always Backstage  3
Part-Time Receptionist 2
An Interesting and Self-Actualised Person 1


So, the game (preferably a one-shot) takes place over 5 smaller adventures - one to find each band member, and a final setpiece.

Easiest is Bob Bobley, the drummer - he's unconscious in the dressing room, having drunk an entire bottle of floor cleaner. It's time to use your First Aid/drug mixing/sheer manager determination to get him back on his feet.

Valerius Daarkthrone (real name Jack Clark) is SexGunn's guitar virtuoso - and he's outside, having some trouble with the law. It's up to you to find out exactly what was he doing with a baggie of talcum powder, a schoolgirl uniform (in his size), three chinchillas, two Black Cat firecrackers, and a very eager groupie... wait, she's how old?

Bassisst Nikki 5 is allegedly somewhere under the tour bus. He is under the impression that "the Leprechauns" are "gonna try and fuck him" if he comes out. Whether or not this has anything to do with the passing bus for the Little People of America's World Tour, you need to enter his fragile psyche, and try and set him straight. And, of course, watch out for those fucking Leprechauns.

Singer Johhny Pocketrocket (sadly, his real name) was last seen wandering the way of the exit, with a broad senseless grin and a pamphlet for The Church of Scientology Entirely Legitimate Religionology. Can you break into the cult Church's headquarters, crack some heads and rescue the poor bemused vocalist?

And finally - once you have the band back together, it's a race against time to get back to the gig, with but minutes to spare - but is that a police blockade? Or a picket line for Mothers Yodelling Against Rock Star Excess? You'll need to use all your skills to get through here on time!

Of course, it'd be easy enough to change... hell, nearly anything here and make it a fun one-shot game. Try and make the game most appealing to your players - whether that's through more pop culture references, in-jokes, whatever, remember - nothing is set in stone, and with Risus, it's barely scrawled in the sand.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Rogue Trader - I Want A New System

I mean, the general Fantasy Flight 40k system (percentile, roll with modifiers to see if you succeed or fail) is pretty good - but to my mind, there's too many stats, too many fiddly bits, and an Origin Path system that feels... limiting, I suppose. However, the setting is great - I have the Core Book, and it's a joy to read. It's also weighty, tome-like, even, and has tons of setting information and loads of flavour to help you really bring out the feel of the 40k setting. I will still play the system, but the idea of running it frankly makes my eyes go a bit funny.

So I wanted to find a system that would do brutal (but survivable) combat, mass combat and starship warfare, easily customisable characters, and a decent sanity system (after all, in the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium, there is only War and Vicious Screaming Insanity).

So my thoughts drifted to Unknown Armies.

After all, the basic percentile system is there, except you roll under your skill. Seems a good enough fit - the better you get, the easier it becomes. It also takes away a lot of the "Hunt The Modifier" stuff the FFG system had (like, you had no chance to actually shoot someone - so you have higher ground, for +5, take an action to aim for +10, spend money on a Laser Sight for another +10)... it makes combat last ages as well while you tote up all your mods. UA, on the other hand, is still brutal, but seems to have less problems with it. Roll under your skill, you succeed. Modifiers can be adjudicated on the fly, if they are warranted.

Skills - FFG games have a laundry list of them. UA, however, you make your own - so you can pick the most appropriate bits of your character, and make them your focus. Other stuff is either automatic, or can be rolled at a penalty - unlike the FFG Untrained penalty, which is so high as to make it unfeasible to even attempt an untrained action.

With only 4 stats, it's much easier to make a character, and to fit all the stats to the concept - something I found hard with the original system.

Some quick thoughts, which I will expand upon in later posts:

Using the normal UA Madness Meters. Maybe allow for some leeway in when to use them (so, killing normal folks - not good. Killing Heretics in The Emperor's name? Okay, after a few times. Facing off against a Lord of Change? Bad times all round.)

Melee Weapons
Chain weapons get the Big, Heavy and Sharp mods (for a total +9 damage), and do regular hand-to-hand damage otherwise.
Power weapons do firearms damage, no bonus (makes them lethal - pretty appropriate, I think).

Armour... I'll need to work on. Probably have Carapace/Power armour reduce Firearms to HtH damage, others TBC. Gives some defence against Power Weapons, but still means you can get slowly whittled down.

Ranged Weapons
Hmm... maybe lift some of the stuff from RT for these, like the Critical Hit tables. Yummy, yummy, deadly Critical Hit Tables... pop those in as Cherries (for those who take it as an Obsession Skill) or make less effective, general use tables for the everyone else.

Corruption is where things get... interesting. I had thought about making Corruption an extra Madness Meter, but then I remembered one of the cool things about UA - Negative Skills.

So, Corruption starts as a free 15% Soul skill. Everyone has it. You can buy it down with Skill points at Character creation. If you encounter something corrupting, roll the skill. If you fail, congrats, no Corruption (or, in the case of Big Stuff, less Corruption). If you succeed, you gain a set amount of points to the skill. The more corrupted you get, the easier it is to fall further. A nice negative feedback loop, I think. The only way to reduce Corruption is to meditate on the Emperor's benediction and kindness (and spending experience to lower it, like a normal skill but in reverse), or through the power of His Missionaries (i.e. Psychological First Aid kinda stuff). Failing that, there's always the Fire of the Emperor's Wrath...

More to come in later posts - Ships next, I think.