Friday, 27 April 2012

E is for E6

I hadn't mentioned this particular love of mine before, but here it is, all laid out - E6 is a "version" of D&D 3.5, that changes the scale more than anything.

Regular D&D assumes that you start at level 1, and work your way up to level 20 and beyond - and, due to some shaky design, some classes start being a lot more powerful than others.

In E6, you have just six levels to make your name. In game terms, this means you're still mortal - no Genesis and private demi-planes and Wishing Genies to give you three more Wishes, etc. You're a guy who is phenomenal with a sword, compared to the man on the street, or who can throw a fireball that can wreck your house - but neither can kill a city. Well, not in one round, at least. But they are still heroes, legends amongst normal men.

After those six levels, your characters can still advance - through purchasing feats. One for every 5000XP above 6th level is the recommended rate, and the creator even encourages GMs to create feats that allow players to circumvent the level limits slightly - a feat to learn a handful of 4th-level spells, or to gain access to a class feature just outside the player's reach.
It also means that bad guys are a challenge from level one right up to the level cap - when a well-placed dagger can kill you at any level, you can't afford to be Great Cleave-ing your way through hordes of goblins, safe in the knowledge that your 30+AC will protect you. You can also use far more recognisable enemies - even Kobolds can pose a threat to unprepared 6th-Level characters. Orcs, Ogres, even Hobgoblins and Drow all scale well from low-level to the end, and Dragons remain top-tier combatants - anything above a CR10 Young Dragon is a major military-level threat, that a group of adventurers should not be facing unless it's with a hundred well-armed men at their back. And even then...

It helps keep magic items magical as well - a +1 sword is nothing to be sniffed at, when +3 items can't be crafted (unless it's by someone with god-like smithing skills), and true Gods would need to intervene to make a +5 weapon like a Holy Avenger. That's not something you roll up on a treasure table - that's a campaign goal. Masterwork gear becomes way more important, instead of just a platform for enchantments - it really does represent the best of the best, as it's nearly as good as magic weapons. Shit must be good. Plus, it encourages players to take more "flavourful" choices (like Wonderous Items) when they're spending their loot (as all the "best gear" is too high-requirement to be made).
With six levels, you also avoid the ridiculous splat bloat of 3.5 - no more "My character is a multiclass Cleric/Sorcerer/Fighter/Rainbow Servant/Tainted Scholar/Mystic Theurge/Eldritch Knight, watch him tear reality asunder with this combination of class features!". You get the main stuff that defines a class at 1st level, after all (like a spell book and funny hat, or Sneak Attack, or Rage), and everything after that is just gravy.

Classes become a lot more balanced - at 6th level, the Wizard is able to throw out a little bit more in the way of damage-dealing spells, and the Fighter is killing everything that doesn't have damage resistance. There's no monsters that require spells alone to kill, nothing that can throw Save-or-Suck spells at you with any great reliability, and the Fighter won't need to start blowing all his money on magical weapons to "keep up" with casters who will be leaving him in the dust with just a handful of utility spells (or replacing him outright with Summon Monster).

Yes, I know - it probably sounds vaguely similar to my love of Microlite20's stripping back of 3.5 D&D. But, M20 lacks depth - it's easy and fun, yes, and I'm sure you could end up running a full campaign with it, but it can feel somewhat "samey". Whereas, E6 has all the crunch of 3.5, with far fewer of the problems - like high-level play, people shooting for certain power-builds, the whole "Caster Supremacy" thing, whatever. It takes the best bit of D&D, the "gritty" low-level stuff, up to the heroic level, and makes it the game - excising the superheroic bullshit of later levels (or, indeed, the God-like levels for Clerics, Druids, and Wizards).

It's awesome. I thoroughly recommend it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


'Cause you can't talk about DUNGEONS without DRAGONS, baby!

And this girl is the Queen of them all. Fuck that Platinum Dragon bitch, he ain't shit compared to the five-headed Avatar of Destruction that is Tiamat.
This is PURE EVIL, kids, learn its smell.
Seriously, though - Dragons are another aspect of the game that's older than the game itself. Legends about dragons have popped up throughout most cultures at some point - they're a powerful symbol of the mythic, the arcane, and of course, the treasure trove.

The Hobbit was once again the kick-starting point of the Dragon's Hoard in modern fantasy - a magpie-like drive to collect gold, gems and other shiny things, for a variety of reasons (in The Hobbit, it was Smaug's sheer avarice - in other settings, it can be as "fuel" for breath weapons, or a literal compulsion and attraction towards the shiny), but there's always a few common themes: gold, and lots of it; magical trinkets and what-nots; the hoard doubling as the Dragon's quarters; and a secure location, a lair or dungeon vault.

Which makes raiding a dragon's hoard the perfect fantasy encounter! You have a well-defended dungeon, controlled by a mastermind, guarded by a great and powerful beast, filled to the brim with riches and rewards worth risking your life for!

D is for DUNGEONS!

Go big, or go home.

Pretty much the cornerstone of our hobby, man.

The first RPGs sprung from wargaming sessions which were conducted on a much smaller scale, using indoor environments to allow for a much more claustrophobic experience, similar to other fantasy literature where caves and lairs were far more commonplace (the archetypal dungeon is still Lord of the Rings' Khazad-Dum, the Mines of Moria, the ancient Dwarfhold where great evil lurks...).

By now, though, the term "dungeon" has been expanded to mean any restricted area of exploration - you can have dungeons underground, or through the streets of ruined cities, or a particularly dense chunk of forest, or an underwater kelp forest, or the lair of some great Evil, or a particular path through the Underworld, or an old crypt/catacomb, or a warehouse filled with storage containers, or a derelict space ship, or...

You get the idea. A dungeon can find its way into nearly any game (my Rogue Trader game has had a few dungeon crawls, mainly on abandoned Space Hulks), as it provides a good encounter - a restricted area, filled with traps, combat, puzzles, and mysteries to be solved. They make for a plot and hook all in one - PCs are the kinds of people who know that dungeon = treasure, and cool stuff. If there's a dungeon, they're going into it. No need to lure them there with hints to greater horrors, over-arcing plots, etc. - it's like a mountain, it's been put there to be climbed. Or delved, as the case may be.

For a while, I moved away from dungeons, decrying them as "immature" and "a poor man's way out" - if you couldn't make a good, compelling story without resorting to a dungeon, you weren't doing it right.

Then, I found out - I was just rotten at running dungeons. And, I'd been running them straight from pre-written adventures, and man, that's just wrong.

I had my little realisation as to how much fun you could have with a dungeon way back when I was running a one-on-one game for my then-girlfriend (the third post I ever made on this here blog!), when I designed a simple dungeon for my introductory adventure. I sat and planned all the wee bits out, making a simple dungeon - then I added a few traps. Then a few more interesting details, and rolled on some tables, came up with a full dungeon ecosystem... I got sucked in. And I had loads of fun - and she loved it. Something so simple, that can be expanded upon to make something so complicated and devious...

I now love dungeons. I try and run a few pick-up dungeon-crawl games whenever I can, simply because they're so much fun. Even just for a one-off session, regardless of the system you're using, they're a great way to spend a few hours with friends. Or strangers. Or anyone, really.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

C is for Cigarettes

Yes, I've just quit this week, and why, yes, it's MURDER.

I don't want to glamorise this filthy habit, but HHHNNNNNNNNNGGGGGHHHHHH
But I wanted to talk about them in gaming terms.

Many players and DMs (myself included) tend to use smoking as a quick characterisation - someone who smokes is generally a rebel, too cool for school, and (depending on the setting) generally a bad guy. It can make a one-dimensional character have the illusion of depth (but mostly makes them smell bad). It's also an addiction that allows someone to remain fully-functioning (unlike drugs, or in some cases alcohol), and gives people an excuse to be an arsehole when they haven't had their fix (though I've met a fair few players who didn't need an excuse)...

In games with "Flaws", Addiction (Smoking) is a cheap and effective one - you don't buy a single dose, you buy a 20-deck! And they work it as "one dose a day" for most addictions, so you're fairly guaranteed (so long as you are somewhere near civilisation) to have a steady supply of your chosen vice.

This is how I Flaw: Crippling Addiction (Tobacco)

I also had plans to make them the motivation in a short one-off one-on-one Risus game to introduce a friend to gaming ("You've smoked your last cigarette. You must adventure out to the shops, to buy more. It's dangerous to go alone - take this." *offers kitchen knife*)

And, as a DM and player, I've had several in-character smoke breaks, including plotting with the sole other Elf in the party as to how we would be the ones to retrieve the McGuffin for our Queen (and then, out-of-character, how we would never let the other one live), and using it as a chance to let the players work out the terms of a deal (with one player approaching me in-character and making a better offer for her services, and the rest of the party as slaves). It can be a lot of fun, and add some vermilisitude, to smoke while gaming - just make sure you're in a smoke-friendly house (most of my gaming friends are not).

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

B is for Barbarians!

Original, and best.
 From the heady days of Unearthed Arcana, right through to 4e's Primal Power, Barbarians have seen a few changes across the years.

The first Barbarian started as an emulation of Conan the Barbarian - an aggressive, intelligent battler, who wore little armour, entered great rages, and feared magic. They were pretty much Fighters with bigger numbers (bigger hit-dice, better abilities), which was balanced by an inability to use magical gear (too superstitious). They got some flak, but were popular enough to be carried forward into the next edition.

2e had several options - from "kits" (similar to Alternate Class Features/Archetypes) to represent a wild, bestial Fighter, through to a much watered-down version of the class. I will admit little knowledge of 2e, so I'll say no more.

Most of these were carried forward to 3rd Edition (barring the Intelligence part - most Barbarians have low, low Int scores, for whatever reason *ahem*pointbuy*ahem*). It also kick-started the mechanical "Rage", giving boni and mali when the character entered a Rage, enhancing their fighting ability but leaving them more open to attack. They turned out something closer to Berserker Warriors than Conan, but hey, horses for courses and all that.

4th Edtion changed them up a bit, but in a good way - instead of just making them really generically angry, Barbarians are spirit-channellers, calling upon the power of Primal and Elemental Spirits to batter the crap out of their enemies. Very cool, very powerful mechanically, and one of the better translations into the new "Roles" system, as it's always been a pure Striker - get in fast, smash face, RAGE, repeat until one of you is dead.

I guess they make for a weird proposition - I can imagine a whole tribe of Barbarians, but can't do that with any other class. I'd even find it weird for a Fighter's Guild to have only Fighters in it, you know? Whereas Barbarian is a Class, race and social class all rolled into one!

It makes for a very good class to add to NPCs who rely on close combat, like Orcs or Bugbears - they seem appropriate Barbarians, and taking a horde of regular Orcs and making their Champion a 5th-Level Barbarian helps keep them a threat to players. With a little refluffing, however, you can class the Rage ability as a sort of "focus", for more refined enemies - a cold fury they enter when battling, to allow them to strike down a certain target as quickly as possible.

In all this time, however? I've never played a Barbarian. Not my style, to tell you the truth. So there's another resolution - next D&D game I play, I'm playing a Barbarian. A huge, burly Viking-a-like, interested only in wenching, drinking, and battle, preferably in that order.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 23 April 2012

A to Z? I'll Give It a Bash...

A lot of people have been doing an "A to Z" theme recently, talking about things which inspire them, or they think are awesome, or whatever pops into their head.
I'll stick with gaming, and try my hand...

A post a day! I'll be knackered after almost four weeks of this...

So, to start: A is for Alien.

The classic "modern" horror movie.

This movie has inspired a lot of my creative bits and pieces, for several reasons. It was one of the first movies that really brought the more sexual elements of horror to my attention - as a kid, my mind obviously never caught them, but really, the movie is about a huge insectoid rapist with a penis for a head.

The damn thing even looks repulsively phallic, and it's no wonder - H.R. Geiger is a strange man, presumably with some strange dreams, and a therapist's bill that would make Bill Gates wince.

I recently used 40k's Genestealers in our Rogue Trader game, and took a lot of influence on how to run them from Alien - it doesn't just pop out a closet shouting "BOOGABOOGA", it waits, slithers about, trails foul liquids and seeks nothing more than impregnating you (with the Genestealers, it's a "kiss", of the very French variety, that places and egg inside you, via an ovipositor in its tongue). I managed to make my player jumpy, in a full light cafe during the day, just by liberally lifting atmospheric elements from this movie.


Sadly, there's never been a "decent" Aliens RPG in my eyes - the only real one I've found (as in, not homebrewed) was done by Leading Edge Games, and it's very clunky. It uses te infamous Phoenix Command system, a name that will make grognards weep. The main thing about it isn't the guns, or tactics, or grittiness (though a system should help emphasise those), it's the claustrophobia, the terror, the atmosphere of the piece that's important. And that, sadly, is all up to the GM.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Rogue Trader One on One: Part Ten: The Deadliest Game

The screaming was sourced to the outskirts of the village that had sprung up around the drop-chapel - placed up on one of the large staffs bearing the Imperial Aquila and flags marking the end of their territory, was a figure. It had been flayed - the entirety of its skin removed, nowhere to be seen. There were no other markings, threats or calling cards - and tellingly, very little blood around the area. It seemed that the corpse had been abducted, skinned elsewhere, then placed upon the flagpole, all without calling the attention of the night watchmen or any of the locals.

It was eventually deduced to belong to one of the patrol guards - who had been on duty that night, on the perimeter. They began hearing more about the "steel ghosts" that had been spotted, and the Lord-Captain decided she would try and put a stop to this - once she had located the item she sought. Taking her entourage and a squad of guards with her, she loaded up two of her Land Raiders (purchased form the Mechanicus many years ago) and set off into the desert, resigned to the knowledge that, knowing her luck, these "ghosts" would have something to do with her last puzzle piece.

Scanners had shown that the area where the readings seemed to be emanating from was fraught with strangeness - odd auspex signatures, and some kind of "warp static", where Allesaunder could not accurately pinpoint the location of the starmap piece. So, Claudia did what every good explorer does - she got in their on foot and began searching. After a few hours, they located something - a large, black obelisk, flat-topped, buried into the sand. It seemed to be an area where the odd readings were most concentrated, and also where the "static" was strongest. She couldn't feel anything from it - curious, considering her oddly-burgeoning abilities. She ordered her men to begin digging out the obelisk, to get a better idea what they were facing.

As it approached nightfall, the item's true nature became somewhat apparent - it was big. Big. They had dug down about 20 feet, all in, and it showed no signs of stopping. It even seemed that part of it was a large, flat shell - like a roof. The obelisk was, a a guess, a corner-point, a miniature spire on some Cyclopean building, buried beneath the dunes of a dingy backwater planet. Perhaps due to some unknown trigger, the structure began to rise - slowly and implacably. The men on the flat "roof" dived off, sliding down the steep sides into the soft sand. Finally, it stopped, but not before unveiling a sphere, embedded in the side "wall" of the structure - composed of roughly the same material as the rest, though with a distinct greenish hue. After a few seconds, it began to stretch, ponderously forming itself into a long cylinder, topped with what was clearly a weapon. Despite the Lord-Captain's cries of warning, three of her men were lost when it opened fire - huge swathes of green, sickly energy, like thickened lightning, poured from the tip of the weapon, atomising chunks of the men as if in slow motion - stripped layer by layer until nothing was left.

As the weapon was around three feet in length, Claudia saw one course of action - charge the bloody thing. Their weapons (even the ones Jayne was carrying) couldn't scratch the "gun", so they had to get themselves out of its line-of-sight. Getting herself (and most of her men) inside it's ability to turn, they set up the strongest demo-charges they had to hand - meltabombs. A few of those seemed to make a decent hole in the side of the structure, disabling the weapon, and providing them with an entrance. An entrance which was slowly closing - the metal-like material the structure was composed of seemed to be

As they made their way in, the structure seemed almost catacomb-like - all tight corridors, with biomechanical wiring and strange glyphs patterned wherever they looked. Harry the Tech-Priest (a new staple of Claudia's retinue since his actions on The Champagen Room) began making a mental note of the layout, to allow them to (hopefully) find their way out.

As he mapped, he noted that, according to his measurements, the corridor must intersect with itself, though as far as they could tell, there was no run-through - the two corridors seemed to be occupying the same point in space. Harry didn't like any of this, one little bit, but he dutifully kept mapping.

After around half an hour of wandering, they spotted a figure in the distance - and it was armed, and staring right at them. However, it made no movements, nor seemed to acknowledge their presence.

It was a gaunt figure, perhaps dressed in armour. It wielded a gun the resembled a smaller version of the one they had seen on the outside of the structure - and Claudia had only just seen the destructive power it could reap, so she kept her eye on it at all times. As they got closer, they could make out more details of the figure - it was clearly taller than a man, though hunched. It was not wearing armour - its body seemed to be composed of a dull metal, perhaps the same as the structure itself. But its most distinguishing feature was its body - that of a skeleton, with a face like an elongated skull, showing no emotion, eyes glowing the same sickly green as the weapon it carried.

Achievement Unlocked: We'll Be Back
Discover the Necrontyr Race.

In the player's own words:

"Fuck you. It's Necrons. We're all going to die."

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Nine: Ghosts of (Not) Mars

All in all, it took a combination of the ex-Arbite leaping onto Wilhelm's back and pounding his skull with a shock maul, two of their biggest Enforcers (equipped with massive two-handed Cyclopea-Pattern shock mauls, capable of flipping cars) taking out his knees, and the timely arrival of Jayne with a needle rifle loaded with sedatives to put the Space Marine down. (The toxin is normally active within seconds of a single dose - she shot him in the arse four times, and it still took about 5 minutes to take effect, with the Enforcers still wailing on him to keep him down long enough).

They dragged the unconscious Astartes to a nearby holding cell, and when he woke up shortly after, the Lord-Captain had the joys of interrogating him. As a precaution, she had the Ecclisiarchy on board the ship check Wilhelm for the taint of the Ruinous Powers, and had Jayne waiting outside with the biggest weapons she could lay her hands on. Wilhelm explained his findings regarding his Chapter to the captain, and apologised for letting their betrayal affect him so. He had fought valiantly alongside his Brothers, in The Emperor's name, for centuries before the Inquisition pinched him - he even claimed to have fought alongside the Traitor Primarch Angron before his Fall.

He claimed that the Inquisitor who took him was working for the Ordo Chronos - a group dedicated to eradicating paradoxes caused by the Warp's fluid sense of time and continuity. He had just so happened to appear a few years before the Heresy, and took advantage of the fact to lay his hands on what were once the Imperium's most feared Astartes.

Claudia offered him a choice - either clean his act up and start working off his debt (he had murdered several dozen workers in his rage and caused a lot of property damage), or go throw himself to the mercy of another Chapter, who would most likely have him killed. Or crawl back to the Inquisition, where his fate would most likely be far worse.

Claudia left at that, in a rage at his behaviour. About an hour later, she received a vox from the Aleph-Five Enforcers - he was back in the area, without his armour, going door-to-door and apologising. Aleph-Five held around a thousand people, so he might be at it for some time. She ordered them to keep an eye on him, and sent Jayne to tail him. He spent several hours trailing through the district, offering his condolences to the families of the deceased and assisting with the clean-up.

By this point, the ancient ship, now christened The Champagne Room, much to the chagrin of the ship's AdMech contingent, had been restored to be at least able to move, and could follow the Vegas through the Warp (though it seemed to not require a Navigator to do so). As such, the crew resumed their journey to locate the third and (hopefully) final chunk of the Eldar starmap. Allesaunder had pin-pointed the most likely area - a small, recently settled moon of a large planet, a fortnight's Warp travel from their current location. The journey was uneventful, barring a few moments of lost gravity and strange dreams for all the crew.

Except the Lord-Captain - following her recent encounters with Eldar technology, and finding new pieces to the ancient starmap, her "visions" of the Pearl through the eyes of another were becoming disturbingly clear. She felt a deeper sense of memory, and even began to catch sights of her "other" self in reflections, just at the corner of her eye... these developments worried her. Enough that she had the Medicae and Chymists work her up some incredibly powerful stimulants, enough to keep her awake and functioning for up to 5 days at a time (with only minor side-effects), and powerful sedatives for when she did sleep, to stop her from dreaming. While this meant she had far more time to catch up with paperwork, she worried at the effects it might have on her sanity.

The crew began a full sweep of The Champagne Room, to see what secrets it may hold. Along with the fruit and veg (of which they found a surprising amount), they located a few hangers full of "space clothes" (the Captain is not a creative namer), made of an unusual fabric, capable of keeping you at perfect room temperature regardless of current temperature (extremes notwithstanding), which vaguely resembled tinfoil jumpsuits, a couple of ancient weapons in varying states of disrepair, a surprising number of "modern" weapons, and some odd bits and pieces. These were transferred to the Vegas, in preparation to be sold off.

After a good few weeks and a few course corrections, they had arrived at the uninhabited planet Allesaunder had deemed most likely to hold the final starmap piece - and were surprised to find an Imperial World. The planet had only recently (as in, in the last 50 years) been settled, and were still waiting for the Administorium to contact them to confirm that they even existed. As far as they could see, it was a true Frontier World - a lot of deserts, and the main population centres were focused around huge cathedrals (which they later learned had been air-dropped onto sites most hospitable to life).

The Lord-Captain, crafty bugger she is, decided to get on the inhabitants good sides first, and played the proper Rogue Trader - presenting the locals with a great show of wealth and status, laying on a drinks reception and a show of wares (mainly silks and foodstuffs). She was welcomed by the locals with great fanfare, and they offered her minerals and materials in exchange. As they were of a tech-level resembling the Old West of Terra, their offerings were not much - but she accepted them graciously. Finally, after much charming and chatting, she was allowed to arrange an expedition out into the uncharted deserts - where local superstition had deemed that "ghosts" dwelled.

"Great, terrible ghosts... skeletons, fingers like butcher knives, faces like cold, metal skulls..."

They Away Team (including Wilhelm, his armour now redecorated to remove any reference to his previous Chapter, and bearing the colours (if not the insignia) of House Black) decided to head of the next morning, catching some well-needed sleep before the gruelling desert travel that awaited them.

When they awoke, it was to screaming.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

100 Posts!

Technically, with this one, it's 101...

It's been fun, doing this. A lot of fun. I've ran up ideas, started things, never finished them...

So, I vow to post up all the shit I've got sitting as drafts. Necromunda paper minis, more stuff about Delraith, those bloody Tau Careers for Rogue Trader...

I'll get around to it.

As a great man once said, "Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?"

Risus Dungeon Crawl: Character Generation

So, I'm picking and chopping rules from different sources here, which I'll post up in the final post:
Characters are created using a spread of 10 dice, in three categories: Race, Class, Other.

Note that no starting cliche may go above 5 dice!

Race represents your character's ethnic, genetic, or spiritual background. So, you could be a Dwarf, Human, Half-Elf Minotaur, Carceri-Touched Half-Celestial Tiefling-Halfling, whatever you want. The default assumption is "if you read it in a D&D book, you can play it" - but, some GMs may wish to limit or veto certain choices, whether its due to the game world ("Dwarves are extinct") or being too silly for the game they wish to run ("How the Hell can you be Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Half-Drow? Two of those are already Elves!"). You may also add things like temperament, personality, or geographical location (a Hill Dwarf is might be markedly different from a Deep Dwarf, as a Grim and Stout Northerner might be different from a Well-Mannered Southern Kystathi).

Class represents what your character does - whether it's inbuilt (like magical talent), picked up through training (like martial skills), or just their day job (like accountancy or trade). For inspiration, crack open any fantasy RPG book, and take a look at the classes/archetypes/careers within - from the classic D&D Thief, Fighter and Magic-User to WFRP's Rat Catcher, Barber-Surgeon and Jailer, there's something for everyone. I would heartily recommend D&D 3.5 for an exhaustive amount of base, alternate, and Prestige Classes for inspiration for more "traditional" games, and for either gritty or ridiculous games, you can't go wrong with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's Careers. If you can't find something specific, make it up!

This is also a good place to put in specialisations or personality - again, a Charismatic Swashbuckling Rogue will be far different to a Mute Professional Assassin, even though they will overlap somewhat in skills.

Remember, you should establish the Tools of the Trade for your class - much as a Fighter needs his sword and shield, a Wizard needs his dried bat testicles and funny-looking phallic wands, a Rat catcher needs his Small But Surprisingly Vicious Dog, and a cartographer needs his parchment and inks. While you can operate without them (at half-dice), it's always worth knowing what you need, and how you can replace them. For classes without Tools of the Trade, or ones which are part of you (like a Martial Artist's whole body, or a Dragon-Touched Sorcerer's bloodline), GMs will need to be creative ("Yep, he punched out your blood. All of it.")

Other represents what sets you apart from the crowd - are you just a Dwarf Fighter, or are you:

Thorin Groinson Olafsonson
Full-Bearded Dwarf Alcoholic (4)
Seasoned Warrior of Undermountain (3)
Part-Time Fashion Designer (3)

These little things can make your character feel more real, and also add a good amount of extra utility to your skill set. This can also represent organisations, say Second-Level Initiate of The School of The Five Veils, or Fully-Paid Member of The Adventurer's Guild.

You might notice a fair bit of overlap - like personality fitting into any of the three categories. Just pick how prominent you want that feature to be - for example, if your Dwarf Fighter is very proud of his heritage, then your primary cliche might be Stoic Dwarf of The Khazad-Furm, and if it's not too important, pop it onto one of the other Cliches.

Hooks and Tales are fun little ways to get some extra dice when creating your character. A Hook is some great flaw, whether it's a crippling addiction, deep, dark secret, or anything at all the GM can use to make you r life a misery. GMs are encouraged to veto any Hooks which just won't come up ("I can't swim" in a desert campaign, for example), and to try and work as much out of a particular Hook as they can ("What's that, Mystery Enemy? BWAHAHAHAHAHA").
A Tale is a backstory - explaining where your character came from, and what he did before action-filled graverobbing and race-specific genocide became his hobbies. At least a page, maybe two or three, is normally sufficient. Players with either a Hook or a Tale gain an extra dice at character creation, and you can take both (for a total of 12 starting dice - though remember, no starting Cliche can go above 5)!

Pumping Cliches can be used when everything seems to be out of our Hero's league. Any character can add an extra number of dice to one of their Cliches (up to the number they already have), for a single combat round or significant roll, to enhance their chances of success. However, once the roll is made, the players takes damage to that cliche equal to the number of dice they Pumped.

So, Thorin may add up to 4 dice to his Full-Bearded Dwarf Alcoholic Cliche, up to 8 dice (!), to tackle a particularly hard drink - specifically, Moradrin's Moonshine (9), brewed by the Dwarven Creator himself! If he loses the roll, then he suffers Cliche damage as usual, and loses 4 dice from that Cliche, leaving him utterly defeated. If he succeeds, he still loses the 4 dice he pumped the Cliche by - perhaps this is not a drink meant to pass mortal lips!

Sample Characters
Some sample characters I've put up elsewhere, redone following these rules...

"Rose" Sharri Vass
Fun-Loving Competitive Goliath (5)
Master Warrior of Stick and Fist (4)
Barmaid and Proprietor of the Laughing Paladin Inn (2)

Hook: Rose is incredibly competitive. She cannot let a challenge lie, and will always seek to outdo the achievements of others.

Saman Longbaugh
A Very, Very Lost Prime (4)
Bemused Ranger of the Kurathi Hill Tribes (5)
On at Least Speaking Terms With The Animals (2)
Tale: Saman was on his way to the privvy, one drunken night, and when he stepped foot through the door, his next feeling was that of falling... and after that, a sudden bump. When he stood up, he found himself in a strange place, filled with weird and wonderful "people", who consistently called him "Clueless"...

After waking up in Sigil, he decided that, while he tried to find a way home, he would need to make some cash, quick - so he signed up for caravan duties out in the Outlands, acting as a scout for a Djinn caravan heading from the City of Brass... now he just needs to find a way to not catch fire...

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Abyssal Genasi - 4e

So, another Planetouched post this time focusing on the Abyssal Genasi, versions of the other Elemental Souls corrupted by the touch of The Abyss.

Now, a little bit of background - 4e doesn't have set Elemental Planes. What it does have is The Elemental Chaos - a place where all elements are free to create, destroy, and generally do their own thing. While there are large swathes dedicated to one particular element (like the Fire-dominated City of Brass), it is for the most part unrestrained mixing of all the classical elements and their combinations.

This is where the Demons were spawned - creatures of pure Chaos. At some point, they were sealed away deep in the Elemental Chaos - the Abyss forming their prison.

Now their influence can be felt even outside their prison - sometimes on the Material Plane, and sometimes within the Elemental Chaos itself. Like the corruptions they might visit upon the Genasi, rendering them as mockeries of the elements they once were.

Cindersoul are the corruption of Fire - and seem to be a straight lift of Ash Genasi from older editions. They are resistant to Fire damage, and can suck the energy out of an attack (reducing damage rolled when they are hit).

Causticsoul are Acid - the corruption of Water, harming where water gives life. They can breathe in water, and can turn into a wave of acid, attacking up to 2 enemies with a move action. Pretty cool. I can see it being useful for a Rogue.

Plaguesoul are the corruption of Earth - a weak link, if you ask me. They seem to be closest to Dust Genasi from older editions, but with none of their cool fluff. Shame. They also have a Poison attack, which would be good if it wasn't the second most resisted form of damage in the game (poor, poor Fire...)

Voidsoul are the edgy, militant nihilists of the bunch - corrupted Air, leaving nothing where there was once life. They only technically exist (and their Racial Power allows them to stop existing for a moment - a pretty cool way to avoid retribution form the monster you just stabbed, and especially useful for Strikers!).

No stormsoul corruption. I guess Storm/Lightning is already a pretty chaotic, destructive kinda concept...

There is also mentions of a Gravesoul manifestation, but methinks that might be a typo for Cindersoul.

All in all, not as exciting as the older ones. Less fluff, some pretty good abilities, but just no oomph like the Para- and Quasi- Elemental Genasi had.

Next, an unusual group: Athasian Genasi, from the new Dark Sun setting! This one I'm looking forward to...

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Eight: Battle Brother Baby Puncher

The Astartes' hand tightened its vice-like grip on the Tech-Priest's throat. Claudia could even hear the metal of his augmetics bending under the pressure.

With a few threats of violence and a large gun pointed straight at his face, she convinced the recently-awakened Space Marine to drop the Tech-Priest. Finally, he introduced himself as Wilhelm, of The Emperor's War Dogs. He swore fealty to the God-Emperor of Mankind, and only wised to find out who they were, and why they were on this ship.

(The crew gained a whole new level of respect and fear of the Lord-Captain at that point - there were few people stupid enough to threaten a Space Marine, and even fewer who were successful).

The Lord-Captain explained how they found the ship, and began questioning both Wilhelm and the others about their purpose and reasons for being on the ship. Turns out, the ship belonged to an Inquisitor - the people in stasis were his retinue (or at least, what was left of it), and the smashed stasis-tube with the dessicated corpse inside belonged to the Inquisitor - so there's a pretty good chance that was him in there.

There seemed to be some chronological anomalies in their timelines: as an example, the Hive Ganger was picked up 50 years previous, though both the Noble (200 years previous) and the Tech-Priest (300 years previous) remember him being present when they were recruited. They seemed reluctant to talk about their work with the Inquisitor, unkeen to make too many enemies - especially not with the Inquisition.

As they brought everyone up to speed with the time and date, Claudia discovered that Wilhelm had been recruited a lot longer ago than the others - somewhere in the region of 10,000 years ago, though he only claims to have served with the Inquisitor for a few years. Understandably shocked by the current date, Wilhelm asks the fate of his Chapter - and Claudia had to admit ignorance. She reassured him that they would trawl the library when they returned to her ship, in an effort to help him. She carefully avoids mentioning The Horus Heresey (which he seemed blissfully unaware of).

Over the next couple of hours, Wilhelm assisted the crew in navigating the ancient ship - and also managed to teach a fewof the men how to operate the weapons systems and other controls (which were surprisingly user-friendly, even to the techno-tarded Imperials). A point of interest (and unrelenting fear) for the Claudia was the ship's AI Core - seemingly deactivated. As the approached it, the corridors around it seemed to become somewhat more organic, if still clearly metal. Inside, the ship's main cogitator sat - a sphere, perfectly smooth and featureless at one point, with huge ropey tendrils of oddly organic-looking metal reaching out from it. It was covered with the cold blue glow of a stasis field - Wilhelm conjectured that the Core had perhaps malfunctioned, hence their being stranded and (rather worryingly) the deaths of the rest of the crew. The stasis field was left in place, mainly out of fear as to what would happen should it fall.

Finally getting the ship operational, the Lord-Captain took the survivors over to her ship, for further profiling and testing for Warp taint or Xenos meddling. During this time, she allowed Wilhelm access to both her quarters and her library, until arrangements could be made for him. She organised her men to set aside a room for him, as well as begin production of reinforced furniture to cope with the Astartes' bulk. Returning several hours later, she found her office wrecked, table flipped, her drinks cabinet empty, and one of her larger books (on the descent and succesorship of the different Astartes Chapters) sitting open on a page about the Horus Heresy - revealing the fate of the War Dogs.

They were renowned for their great martial prowess, and close-combat skills - but they were famous for their Rage. A great, powerful emotion, the War Dogs inherited their temper from their Primarch, Angron. And, during The Heresey, they sided with him as he worked with Horus - becoming The World Eaters, most famed of all Khornate Legions.

As if reading her thoughts, her vox chimed - Wilhelm was causing trouble in Aleph-Five, one of the seedier residential housing districts of the ship. He had already killed several people, bare-handed, and was aiming to do some more damage. The ship's Enforcers (led by an ex-Arbite) were closing on his position as they spoke.

To quote a great man, shit had just got real.