Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rogue Trader - Alternate/Expanded Navigator Mutations Table

So, after seeing the huge list of other mutations, and Black Crusade's Gifts system, I felt a little underwhelmed by the Navigator Mutations Table. I understand that Navigators are meant to be a more stable mutation (almost Abhumans), but I feel that they should have a little bit more variety.

They're ripped off from inspired by Dune's Navigators, who are a pretty varied lot, mutated in various horrific ways by exposure to the Spice melange - I would assume that the Warp should have a far worse effect.

After all, many of the Navigator Houses are into genetic modification, and perform in-vitro gene therapy on their scions to enhance their abilities, so some oddness might not be too out of order. Plus, the current table means that many Navigators pick up the same mutations as they increase in power - but really, why would fucking about with The Warp result in anything being similar?

Roll 1d100!

01-09 Unusual Skin - your flesh takes on an unusual hue, reflective of your unnatural origins.
Roll  1d5:
1-3 Deathly Pale - much like a corpse that has been left in water, translucent and almost blue. A surprisingly common mutation for Navigators.
4 Yellowish Hue - like someone suffering terrible jaundice, you have an almost bruised appearance.
5 Black as Night - like polished obsidian, pure dark and menacing.

09-13 Slender Frame - you grow dramatically in height, your limbs lengthening to eerie proportions. You lose 1d10 Toughness, but gain 1d10 Agility. You also gain the penalties of the Size (Hulking) Trait.

14-18 Inhuman Visage - the Empyrean changes your features, leaving you looking less than human - perhaps your nose is little more than a pair of slits, your mouth seamless enough to look non-existent, or your eyes are unblinking and a shade no natural being could achieve, shimmering with the roiling chaos of the Warp. You gain the Fear (1) Trait.

19-23 Teeth As Sharp As Needles -over the course of a few days, you teeth begin to fall out, replaced by hundreds of needle-like extrusions. These teeth regularly shed, but are replaced within a day or so. You gain the Natural Weapons Trait (1d5 Rending, Pen 1).

24-28 Marbled Veins - underneath your skin, your veins are a very obvious black - the seething corruption of your twisted birthright making itself known. You suffer -5 to all Fellowship tests.

29-33 Nictitating Membranes - you develop extra eyelids, that closes horizontally underneath your regular trio. You gain a +10 bonus to Toughness tests to resist being Blinded, and a +5 to any attempts to resist Warp-related phenomena (by slamming your Third Eye shut).
34-38 Disturbing Grace - your movements seem less real - as you see the winding paths of possibility unfolding before you, your body chooses its own path before the real world can catch up. You gain the Unnatural Agility (x2) Trait.

39-43 Warp-Fed - the energies of the Empyrean surge within you, providing sustenance where food cannot, and your physiology has been altered to the point where you need some small connection to the Warp to survive. You no longer need to eat or breathe - however, in the presence of a Null Rod or other anti-Warp phenomena, you must start taking Toughness tests to resist suffocation (as per the rules for drowning).
44-48 Unnatural Aura - you exude an aura of ill-feeling - animals are wary (as are people), you smell like ancient places best forgotten, or your sheer presence causes people to taste nought but ashes in their mouth - whatever the reason, all Fellowship rolls are made at -10, except those to intimidate or frighten - those gain +10.

49-53 Clawed Fingers - your nails become long, and shine dully like some ashen metal, or the bones of your fingers protrude past your skin. You gain the Natural Weapons Trait (1d5 Rending, Pen 1). If your roll this mutation twice, the claws become longer (Pen 2) but you suffer a -10 to any Characteristic Tests involving fine dexterity.
54-58 Gaunt Frame - you are little but flesh and bone. -1d10 Strength or Toughness, whichever is lowest. If you roll this mutation a second time, you lose another 5 points of Strength or Toughness.

59-63 Strange Vitality - your body is flushed with strange energies that help wounds heal, bones knit back together, and barely leave a trace of their passing. You gain the Regeneration (1) Trait.
64-68 Hairless -  you are unable to grow any form of bodily hair, and any you may have will fall out almost overnight - no eyebrows, eyelashes, or even protective nasal hairs. You suffer a -5 to Toughness Tests to resist inhaled toxins.
69-73 Unusual Pupils - whether square, like a goat, slitted like a reptile, or a widely variant colour (such as red, yellow, or blue), your pupils reflect the corruption of your soul. You gain a -5 penalty to any Perception checks.
74-78 Stout Frame - you become obese, almost overnight, and exercise shifts little of the flab. Gain +5 Toughness. If you roll this mutation twice, you gain another +5 Toughness, but lose the ability to Run. If you roll a third time, you can only move at your slowest speed increment without assistance, lose -2d10 Agility and gain the Size (Hulking) Trait. 
79-83 Warpsight - more and more, you rely on your Third Eye to guide you, until eventually, the Sight that the Navigator Gene grants you starts to leak over into your view of realspace. The souls of those around you shine like beacons, psykers are miniature infernos, and the creatures of the Warp linger around, sharks sniffing at the blood of those around you. You can see the souls of those around you - all Awareness Tests gain a +10 bonus; however, any Scrutiny Tests suffer a –10 penalty - you are less able to see such mundane things as facial expressions.

84-88 Weakness of The Flesh - your flesh is barely held on at the best of times, but under duress it seems to slough from you like wet paper. You lose one Wound permanently, and all Critical Damage rolls are treated as though they had rolled one higher. If you roll this mutation again, the effects stack up to three times (so, lose up to three wounds and treat Critical Damage as up to three points higher).
89-93 Twisted Frame - your flesh twists back on itself, and your bones curve in all the wrong places. You cannot Run and lose 1d10 Ag. If you roll this mutation twice, you cannot move unassisted, and lose another 1d10 Ag.

94-98 Disturbing Voice - screeching like nails down a chalkboard, or so low as to make bowels loosen, your voice is a horror to behold. You suffer a -10 penalty to any Fellowship tests involving speech, but gain +10 to any Intimidate tests involving speech.

99-00 Maddening Clarity - your senses have been altered by the Warp, extending out from your body and sensing things man was not meant to know - colours hold dark shades not fit for mortal eyes, sounds echo with the laughter of thirsting Gods, and every taste echoes with a thousand forbidden pleasures. When you open your Third Eye, the Warp seems even stranger than before... almost inviting. You gain the Unnatural Perception (x2) Trait, but also immediately gain 2d10 permanent Insanity Points, and 2d10 Corruption Points.
Should you roll the same mutation twice, reroll - unless otherwise stated in the mutation's description.

You are, of course, free to work any of these as you wish - like Unusual Pupils representing cat-like eyes, or milky cataracts, or just a strange colouration (even albinism). Some might work out kinda weirdly - like granting mutually exclusive bonuses or extras. A good example would be Stout Frame and Weakness of the Flesh - extra Toughness, but also a lot more vulnerable. GMs and players should discuss the best way to integrate both mutations (so, your physiology is tough, you resist poisons well, and your bodily integrity is sound - but some Empyrean rot has settled underneath your skin, letting it slough away at any opportunity, and once it gets past that outer layer of fat, there's nothing there), or, in the case of ones which are totally at odds with existing ones, re-roll - but don't let this be an excuse to get rid on undesirable rolls! Navigators must suffer the fruits of their cursed bloodline - it's all part of the GrimDark.

Legal Note: I have reproduced, without permission, items from a property owned by Fantasy Flight Games. I do not own any of the terms used (including Navigator, Mutation Table, any of the Characteristics, and the word "The"). I'm doing this as a non-profit gig, so please don't sue me. To be fair, FFG aren't  The Evil Empire sorry, Games Workshop, so I'm sure I'll be fine. Just saying.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Hidden Weapons: Some Ideas for D&D

So, I caught a recent thread somewhere about weird and wonderful weapons, and something that came up was that many Indian weapons had sections that could "break off" to provide a backup weapon. For example, most polearms were built with a removable dagger in the handle, presumably to allow for close-quarters fighting in a pinch. Another was the mace with a sword hidden in the handle and shaft - great if your weapon gets stuck, or you need a sharp implement fast.

It's something that isn't well represented on the tabletop, so I had a few ideas about how to implement such things:

  • Polearms with hidden blades allow you to switch from a reach weapon to a close-combat dagger as a Free Action (instead of a Free Action to drop the weapon, and a move action to draw another one). Useful for swarms of small enemies who can get right on top of you.
  • Maces (I'd also allow clubs, greatclubs, morningstars and most other blunt weapons) with blades hidden within the handle allow you to switch from Blunt/Bashing damage to Slashing damage as a free action once per encounter - useful if you get swallowed whole by some huge beastie and need to cut your way out. Should you roll a Critical Failure in combat, causing you to lose or damage your weapon, you can negate the failure by switching to the other weapon (though the attack is still considered a miss).
I might throw together a few more ideas shortly...

Monday, 10 December 2012

RIP Sir Patrick Moore

It's been a tough year for astronomers (even amateur ones like myself), with the passing of two great heroes - Neil Armstrong, and now Sir Patrick Moore.

Moore got himself into astronomy at the age of 6 - he chanced upon a book about the solar system, and kick-started a life-long passion.

I used to present shows in the Glasgow Science Centre's Planetarium - and Moore was a massive influence on those shows. His jovial, excited manner about all aspects of the field was infectious - he knew that he wasn't just looking at pretty, twinkling lights, but at primal forces of nature - huge explosions, beyond all human scope, the building blocks of the entire universe (all matter, from the lowliest hydrogen atom to the most complicated elements, was at some point passed through a star; without them, complex life couldn't exist), givers of life and destroyers of worlds.

Fair enough, he was also a xenophobic, un-PC, crotchety old bastard (quoted as saying "the only good Kraut is a dead Kraut" not but a few years ago), but his work in the science of astronomy, and ensuring it was passed on the the masses (The Sky At Night ran for 55 years, and he only missed presenting one show, because he had food poisoning) was worth more than a few poorly-chosen world views.

One again this year, I'm going out to look at the stars. I hope you'll join me.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Hunter: The Vigil - Why "The Code" Is An Awesome Idea

I've always had some issues with games which have a Morality stat/Alignment/whatever. Human morality is such a flexible thing, and so many terrible actions can be justified in so many ways that really, there's no way to measure or codify them without forcing your views on the subject onto other people.

As an example (and a great way to start a dinner table fight), is rape worse than murder? What "numbers" do you put on either of those? Remember, killing is not the same as murder - the premeditation, the lack of mitigating factors...

It's a slippery slope to get started on, and not one I want to get drawn into today. What I wanted to look at is the World Of Darkness Morality track, and why Hunter: The Vigil introduces one of the best ways to run it.

You see, Morality is ranked on a scale of 1-10, as are certain severity of acts. Should you commit an act that is at the same severity as your current Morality, you need to roll dice - if you fail, your outlook on life is irrevocably changed, and your Morality falls by one. After that, you need to check to see if you gain a Derangement - a mental illness, phobia, etc. It's a slightly clunky system, which suffers from a somewhat arbitrary list of crimes (burning down a building is almost as bad as killing someone, Grand Theft isn't as bad as burning down a building), as well as the fact that shoplifting once can net you a minor mental illness due to the Derangement system.

For a game of dark, personal horror, where you are expected to go mad and plump the depths of depravity to achieve your goals, to push your characters (and players) to see what they are really capable of, then go for it. See you on the other side, as you push your way out through the filth and despair to find your true self. But I want to run a game of Hunter where it's okay to kill a monster. Where the biggest problem with burning down a building is someone catching you doing it. Where you know these things are necessary, and don't want to go crazy from doing what's right.

So, I'll be using a couple of the suggestions from the Hunter book, but most prominently - The Code. Using The Code allows you to "swap out" Sins on your Humanity meter with others you define, making the Morality track that little bit more relevant to you, and re-enforcing one of the game's central themes - that The Vigil is an incredibly personal quest; that everyone might come to the same path from very different perspectives. However, each time you move away from this "standard" Morality, you find it a little bit harder to understand why people do the things they do, and why they can't see that what you are doing is okay.

To steal an example right out of the book - say you're a Hunter to has to scrape together the last of your paycheck to pay your bills, your healthcare, your kid's private tuition, and you need to eat on top of that... that doesn't leave a lot of cash to buy supplies for the Vigil. So, you might need to shoplift some stuff from the local DIY store, to build a zip-gun to stake a bloodsucker from a distance.

Under the normal system, if you were at Morality 7 (the average for a starting character), you would need to make a test to see if your Morality drops, and possibly acquire a Derangement. Under The Code, however, you could use this as a Trigger Point - a time when you use The Vigil to justify acts that separate you from regular humanity. You could substitute "Minor Theft" with "Not Sharing Resources With Team-mates" at this point, or even "Letting My Family Go Hungry" - whatever the ST agrees to. From that point on, shoplifting isn't a concern for you - but not feeding your children, or leaving your Cell without proper support, is.

For taking a Trigger Point, you gain a Tell - pretty much a Vigil-specific Derangement (like Paranoia, Hypochondria, or starting to find the Vigil to be a little too... arousing). Each one of these you accrue nets you -1 die to all your Social rolls.

... what? So, I shoplift to feed my family, I gain a specific problem, and that affects all my attempts at interacting with the world? What about people I don't know - do they know that I need to jack off after I beat a monster to death? Am I incapable of hiding my hypochondria about catching supernatural cooties when I'm chatting with my friends? There are well-documented reports of people who seem "like such a nice guy", then they find all the bodies stuffed into his fridge.

People lie all the time, but they can hide it. Why can't a Hunter? Are they that far removed from the human condition, just because they can take an objective view of what they do?

I call shenanigans.

For my campaign, you will get Tells from Morality 5 Sins and lower, for breaking one of your new Morality Sins, or for repeatedly breaking a level 6 Sin.

At least, that's the plan at the moment - we'll see how it pans out in-game.

Props to Subject to Stupidity for the awesome picture!