Wednesday, 22 May 2013
Awesome Arrows of Indra Demo!
I'd like to thank Gianni Vacca for running a demo game of AoI at Eternal Con (in Germany). It was apparently a big hit; Gianni had this to say about it:
"The characters were travelling from village to village to muster forces for the Pandavas in the upcoming war. In one of the villages, they saved a girl from being sacrificed to an Asura. They found out the village was sacrificing young people so that the Asura would not attack it. Then of course they fought against it; during the fight, the Asura exchanged bodies with one of the PCs and fled (it was a body-less Asura and it actually needed fresh host bodies all the time). The fun implication was that they now had to look for the Asura and then fight against it but without doing too much damage to the body. The final fight was very entertaining: they were trying to do non-lethal damage to the Asura whilst a yogin was chanting a mantra to banish the Ashura from the world."
Sounds like a fantastic adventure! When asked, he said that all the players really enjoyed the game, and (I quote) "My daughter (Valentina) thought it was her best game in the whole con".
That's high praise!
I should note that if YOU are interested in running a demo game of Arrows of Indra (at a con or a major gaming store), you might still be able to get some sort of free product from Bedrock Games for doing so; so try to get in touch with them.
Currently Smoking: Stanwell Compact + Image Latakia
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
"Real Magick" in RPGs, Continued
Before I go on with things real magicians do (or would-be real magicians routinely fail to do), I thought I should address a mechanical issue. In "modern occult" themed games, usually there is some kind of special mechanic or set of mechanics that are meant to reflect the state of both a magic-user's power, and the state of his "mental health" in whatever form as he works magick.
Obviously, none of these have been really well done as accurate reflections of what goes on in a magician's career. To give some examples of what I'm talking about here, in CoC you have "sanity" and "Cthulhu Mythos" stats, in Unknown Armies you have the madness meters, in oMage you had "paradox" (if I recall correctly), etc.
So what kind of stats would you really have to have to reflect the state of a magician's attainment, and his deterioration in turn, if you were trying to reflect how "real" magick is done in our modern world?
I've thought about this for a bit, and I think you'd have to do something like the following:
First, you'd need a stat to reflect the Magician's ongoing state of enhanced perception, the flowering of intuitive knowledge, the capacity to see into the supernatural world, or the general sense of transcending the mundane; let's call this Gnosis. Gnosis would start at basically zero, but your goal would be to gain in it as time went by. Gnosis can only be gained by what Gurdjieff called "Shock points", moments of spiritual crisis where something sufficiently outside your mundane understanding of reality happens that it leads to a potential growth in awareness. Basically, "mind-blowing experiences" and general weird shit happening.
Most people have some of this weird shit happen in their life at some point or another, yet usually they end up repressing it (this means that a Shock moment only has the potential to lead to gain in Gnosis, more on that later). But for magicians, there is almost always some initial event that takes place, something that knocks them out of their consensus of reality sufficiently that they can't ignore it, and this leads them into the study of magick in the first place, however half-assed or seriously they may go about it from there.
Gnosis is increasingly hard to develop as you go along; this is because any previous experience is no longer a Shock. For example, dropping acid, the first time that you do it, completely blows out your frame-of-reference, your ego has nothing to compare it to; by the second time you do it, you already do have something to compare it to; the first time.
So a Shock has to be something different each time, and has to lead to a progression in one's understanding for it to even have a chance to increase Gnosis. I would probably run this as some kind of 0-100 ranged stat, where each time you experience a shock you would roll a percentile die, and if you got HIGHER than your current level of Gnosis, you would gain a certain number of Gnosis points. Any experience that was too mundane, or that was a retread of what you had experienced previously, would not grant you new Gnosis points, though it may be useful in other ways. This would be a tricky thing to govern, because your state of mind can affect whether something is a Shock or not; if you repeat the exact same action (for example, performing a certain ritual) but your state of mind has changed sufficiently, it might count as an entirely new Shock, as it provides you with some new revelation.
Gnosis wouldn't be the only important statistic to keep track of, however. There's the flipside of Gnosis, which is Ego. "Ego" in this case refers to the "illusion of the world", to the construct of ideas and concepts, memories and outside influences on your being that you've patched together and decides is "you", as well as your ideas about reality and how reality works. Everyone would start with a certain level of Ego, a measure of how strong their personality is. Any Shock which successfully generates Gnosis should also reduce Ego. But on the other hand, any Shock which FAILS to generate Gnosis could potentially increase Ego. That is, you perform a ritual or have an experience that presents you with the chance to redefine your whole concept of yourself or reality; it creates a Shock (a spiritual crisis), and the next question becomes how you deal with that Shock. You can be receptive to it and allow it to change you, that means Gnosis is generated. On the other hand, you can simply fail to take advantage of the change. But you can also react strongly against the change, trying to hold onto the Ego. Then you create new kinds of justifications for yourself, to avoid having to change, you rationalize the experience, and use it instead of as a vehicle for alchemical transformation, as a way to reinforce your existing prejudices about reality. Thus, your Ego gets stronger. So I would say that any Shock experience that fails to raise your Gnosis would require a test against Ego, to see if Ego increases. Basically, any Shock event that raises your ego is an experience so terrifying (maybe LITERALLY terrifying, or not, but definitely terrifying to your sense of self-definition) that you just refuse to accept it as it really is and build up a fantasy to help strengthen your existing ideas instead.
The third stat of importance in all this would be Obsession. As Shocks occur, whether they increase Gnosis or affect Ego, they can end up generating a certain amount of Obession in the magician; this is the closest to "madness" that you would see. Someone under the effects of Obsession would be caught up in the distraction of the events that caused the Shock; they would end up getting lost in the minutiae of the vehicles used to obtain the Shock (be they drugs, magical ritual, ecstatic frenzy, kabbalistic numerology, alchemical gobbledygook, metaphysical ruminations, etc etc.), and this would complicate both their ability to function in the everyday world, and their ability to continue developing magically. Someone who is being affected badly by obsession would be that guy who gets caught up in the visible appearances of "being a powerful magician"; the guy who can't keep his mouth shut about the subject, tries to talk about the kabbalah or pagan gods, or whatever he's into, to anyone at all who'll listen; the guy who starts ignoring his regular life and work and relationships to instead spend all his time trying to study or talk about or summon up demons or read tarot cards or find the numerical significance of every little thing that comes along. Like Gnosis or Ego, you'd have to mechanically create a chance of generating Obsessions whenever you had a Shock Experience, and you could require someone to make a roll against their obsession value at different times to see if the Obsessions don't end up interfering with either their magical study (obsession tends to create "blinders" where you ignore certain avenues in favor of your pet obsessions) or their social lives (obsession turns you into a nutter); failing an Obsession check might lead to a small increase in your Obsession level, while doing certain other things (meditation, intentionally trying to build up social connections, psychological self-analysis, etc) might have a chance of slightly reducing your level of Obsession. Later Shock experiences would affect Obsession in such a way that a given Shock might either increase or reduce obsession; so that I'd probably have any Shock point cause a direct percentage "check" in obsession, where if you rolled equal to or under your current level, you'd gain more Obsession, and if you rolled higher than your current level you'd reduce your Obsession. Note that unlike Ego, which would only increase in the case of failing a Gnosis check, obsession would be checked in every Shock event, so you could theoretically gain both Gnosis and Obsession at the same time. That's pretty common, actually.
Should someone get to 100 Gnosis points, they would become an "Adept", someone who has obtained a permanent state of awareness that there are dimensions beyond the material and the ability to connect to that altered state of consciousness beyond the rational mind. Someone in this state would be able to permanently access their "higher self" (in magick sometimes called the "True Will" or more poetically, the "Holy Guardian Angel"). They would not necessarily always be willing to follow the direction and guidance of that True Will, however. Further Shock experiences would not need to be tested against Gnosis, but could still work against Ego, either to reduce or increase it, as the Adept struggled between the construced-psyche he continues to identify with, and the higher state of consciousness he is now constantly (and sometimes painfully) aware of. Note that "True Will" rarely has much to do with what your ego thinks it wants at any given time, it is rather a kind of cosmic consciousness that has to do with your higher purpose; from the perspective of the human being at the level of the ego, it can seem like an entirely different entity, hence this notion of an "Angel" trying to guide you, and often demanding things of you that are very difficult.
Its possible for your Ego to reach 0, in which case you will have become a "Magister Templi", a buddha, completely transformed into a new level of consciousness (where the physical body, the mind, the Higher Self, and what you previously believed to be the Divine are all experientially understood to be one single thing); but only if you can cross the "trial of the abyss", the dark night of the soul that is the final challenge of the ego's will to dominate versus your true will to transcend. A person confronting the Abyss would have to face all of their resistance, fears, attachments and obsessions, and be willing to let them all go. Failing the trial of the Abyss, resisting the annihilation of the ego to the point of shutting one's self in, would result in the creation of a new Ego-construct instead of transcendence; what Crowley called a "Black Brother", trapped in delusions of power and grandeur, and unable to let go of those accomplishments they cling to. It would be theoretically possible, but very difficult, to overcome this and again face the abyss a second time. Mechanically, this initial failure of overcoming the Abyss could be done by having your Ego raised back up to the level of your Obsession (which would be that which the magician would cling to, after all), and for a subsequent attempt to overcome the Abyss requiring some kind of very strong Shock event, and a check with greater difficulty than the former (with another failure causing an increase in Ego to some multiplier of your obsession; ie. obsession x 2, x3, x4 etc. for each failure).
Having an Ego score get up to 100 would simply mean that you have an extremely rigid sense of self and reality, you would be almost completely unwilling to accept anything that was not your own illusions about what you are and what reality is like. It would make it very difficult to be able to reduce your Ego level, as you'd basically be in deep denial about everything. Having an Obsession level of 0 would just mean you're a very well-functioning human being, whereas an Obsession level of 100 would make you utterly batshit certifiably insane.
There's probably one more thing that would need to be mentioned here; and that's what I'll call "Masks". The Ego is seen as a problem for the magician's ultimate goal of "transcendence", unity with the universe, cosmic consciousness, whatever you want to call it; but the Ego is also the personality, it is what we normally define ourselves as, and the basis for our interactions with everyone else, who also define themselves as their egos (in fact, the difference between magicians, and a few other spiritual practitioners, on the one hand and everyday people on the other is that most regular people don't normally question that they are their personalities, and don't even imagine that there is something else much greater beyond that which is also them). So the "successful" magician can quickly run into a problem, which is that if you reduce your Ego without developing any skill to compensate for it, you will end up seeming basically "broken" from the perspective of everyday society; you won't have a real personality, or a sufficiently stable one. You'll seem weird, disconnected (or obsessed, if your Obsession level has grown while your Ego has decreased), and generally uncomfortable to be around. But the fact is that the Ego is just a kind of mask that people have glued onto their true nature, their inner vastness. That vastness is uncomfortable and people can't connect to it (in fact, one of the most common early "Shock" experiences of a new magician is when they run into some kind of teacher in whom they catch some glimpse of that vastness). But if the Ego is just a mask, it is possible for a magician to learn how to put on other masks at will; to basically create a personality (or as many personalities as he likes) and put them on as needed to deal with different people. This would be a magical skill, which could be called "Masks".
To obtain it, the magician would have to perform practices and techniques of invocation, learning about archetypes and how to embody those archetypes, or how to create new archetypes. Mechanically, he'd probably have to develop a level of Masks skill that was in some way greater than his level of Obsession, because Obsession acts as a total barrier to the effective use of a mask. Someone who is successful in the use of a Mask skill would be able to essentially "construct" a temporary personality out of archetypal concepts; and would go from being socially inept due to low-Ego or high-obsession to being extremely socially capable, as he could create a different mask for different occasions as they were necessary (becoming a "regular guy" when he's around regular guys, an intellectual around intellectuals, a hobbyist around hobbyists, a hobo around hobos, a hipster around hipsters, whatever). This is not just "acting" or "bluff", part of what wearing the mask does is temporarily incarnate the qualities of that mask-persona completely (its only comparable to acting in the sense of those very intense method-actors who go so totally into a role that they "become" the character). Someone who became a "master of the temple" would have to continually rely on the wearing of Masks to be able to function in regular society at all.
The easiest masks would be those closest to your existing persona (or for those beyond the Abyss, the imitation of their prior persona); after all, that too is a mask, it just happens to be the one you've been wearing your whole life.
Anyways, that's all I've got for now, and I'm not really planning on developing anything further in this direction; after all I'm not making an RPG here, just trying to create guidelines for others to try to use and develop stuff for their own "modern occult" campaigns.
Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia
(Originally posted August 23, 2011)
Monday, 20 May 2013
Today, the very inaccurately-named "most ridiculous outfits ever worn into battle". Why inaccurate? Because seriously, the winged hussars, and the guys who inspired the fashion of every WFRP campaign ever, can't properly be called "ridiculous" so much as Fucking Awesome.
Currently Smoking: Dunhill Amber Root Bulldog + Rattray's Marlin Flake
Sunday, 19 May 2013
Ok... so I'm about to watch the season finale, the "Name of the Doctor", which promises big... will it deliver? Who knows!? I think its almost promised too much to be able to possibly manage it.
In any case, however, I wanted to say something briefly about the rest of the season: it was great. There wasn't a single bad episode in this half-season. There were some good ones, and some really great ones, but none that was poor. Clara is a good companion, and while they're stretching out the whole mystery of her (I think she's been set up as some kind of trap, an ideal-companion that the Doctor was bound to want to take along with him..), they haven't let that be all she's about.
Plus, we got to see the return of the Ice Warriors, the Great Intelligence, and now the Cybermen even got to have their best story in an extremely long while of being second-rate punching bags.
So yeah, I'm very pleased. Let's hope the last episode doesn't utterly ruin it with some godawful invention.
Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Dunhill 965
Saturday, 18 May 2013
New Arrows of Indra Review
So the pre-orders of Arrows of Indra have already shipped; and the general print edition goes on sale around the end of June.
Meanwhile, buzz on the game continues. For example, this awesome new review of the game. They sure liked it over at Game Knight Reviews, so if you're curious about AoI go check out why they did.
Meanwhile, stay tuned here for more updates and information about Arrows of Indra, as well as ideas and supplementary details that you won't find in the book!
Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja bent apple + Dunhill 965
Friday, 17 May 2013
Lords of Olympus: Curses and Benedictions
In Lords of Olympus, the power to utter divine curses and benedictions is part of Olympian Magic, though my own feeling is that in a LoO campaign, this should also be a power which other creatures and beings may have. I had almost considered separating the curses/benedictions power from Olympian Magic itself. The reason is mainly that this is a very important part of evoking the feeling of Greek Myth in the game.
A lot of Greek Myth ties in with ideas of destiny; there are things that are not destined, and that depend on the ability or choices of individuals, but there are things that absolutely ARE destined, in a magical sense, that in one form or another MUST come to pass. In many cases, this issue of destiny becomes a major source of drama (and often tragedy). Thus, in a Lords of Olympus campaign, I would strongly urge the GM to encourage the use of Curses and Benediction. Without some kind of subtle encouragement, PCs might be very reluctant to use such a terrible power, in part because of the 10-point cost to luck.
What the Players should come to see (through GM example!) is that Curses and Benedictions can have massive significant effects in a game. The GM should ideally demonstrate this by having NPCs make use of this power, and then making it clear to the players what a major force this power has. The GM also has to be careful, while not avoiding the collateral damage that a well-worded Curse or Benediction can cause, to avoid any temptation to end up discouraging the use of curses (or benedictions) out of fear that the GM will just make it come around and bite the would-be curse-er in the ass. The idea of collateral effects is in place to make people think about how they use Curses or Benedictions, and NOT to be used to just make these powers so inevitably self-damaging as to not be worth it; take my word for it, the 10 point cost will be more than enough to keep players from just frivolously throwing around curses (or benedictions). Thus, when they do show a willingness the pay that cost, the GM shouldn't make it any harder for them.
And it should be very powerful, a curse when uttered should be enough to make even the most powerful God very nervous. Fate cannot be avoided, only mitigated; and while a Benediction can remove the effects of a curse, that still brings a serious cost to whomever utters it; and it depends, of course, on the victim of the curse knowing that he has been cursed, which is not always evident! I would go so far in my own game (though I did not explicitly state it in the rules) that a benediction could only remove a curse if the person giving the benediction knows what the curse was and who uttered it (this makes the matter much more interesting than a costly-but-routine reaction to being cursed). And of course, any effects already manifested by a curse will not simply go away by the granting of a benediction.
Finally, as I mentioned above, Curses and Benedictions need not be the exclusive domain of Olympian Magic users. On the one hand, I could see very ancient and powerful creatures having access to this same ability. Certain Primordials, without a doubt, would be able to do something equivalent to curses or benedictions, only in their case it probably shouldn't cost them anything (however, just what kinds of curses or benedictions they can cause should be limited by their alien mentality and their specific primordial interests).
Similarly, there should be world/realm-specific "magic" that mortals might learn that allows for the creating of curses and benedictions as well; however, these would not be nearly as powerful as the Divine Curses or Benedictions available to those with access to Olympian Magic. In most cases, this mortal-curse or mortal-benediction power should only be able to apply in the specific world where it is given; and simply avoiding that world would allow one to "escape" the curse (not to mention changing reality on that world, of course). It could also be conceivable for there to be a kind of "Promethean Curse" power that mortal magicians could make use of, that could work in a greater range of the multiverse; though again in this case someone with access to the reality-altering powers of Olympian Magic should be able to rid themselves of its effects.
Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Billiard + Rattray's Marlin Flake
Thursday, 16 May 2013
Back, at Long Last
So from here on there should be a return to regular posting, starting tomorrow. It won't be as soon as that but stay tuned for the long-overdue review of Red Tide!
Anyways, thanks all for putting up with my classic rants.
currently smoking: Lorenzetti Stanze + Image Latakia
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
RPGPundit Reviews: Titan: the Advanced Fighting Fantasy World
This is a review of the new printing of the "Titan" setting book, the primary setting where the vast majority of the old "Fighting Fantasy" gamebooks (as well as the "Sorcery!" gamebooks) were set, and the default setting for the Advanced Fighting Fantasy and Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition RPGs. It was originally written by Marc Gascoigne.
This book is, like the Out of the Pit monster compendium I reviewed a short while ago, a straight reprint of the original book that came out in the 1980s. The main difference between the two (apart from printing date) is that the former was in a slightly larger-than-average "penguin book" format; while this one is in a typical RPG-handbook sized format. It has been reprinted by Arion Games and Cubicle 7. In this version, it clocks in at 128 pages.
I haven't looked at the Titan setting in literally decades, but I must admit that I still have a tremendous familiarity with it, because back in the day it was one of my favorite settings for gaming, alongside Mystara and the old Forgotten Realms. I ran the old AFF with it as a setting; I ran RC D&D with it as a setting. I ran 2nd edition AD&D with it as a setting. Relatively recently, I even ran a True20 campaign set not in titan but in the city of Port Blacksand taken directly out of a (sadly, yet to be reprinted) Sourcebook for that city in particular. So its fair to say that I loved Titan. But how much of that is nostalgia or the folly of youth? Is Titan too imperfect to take seriously in our later years? Let's find out.
For starters, we get an overview of the setting. The world of Titan has three major continents: Allansia (which I always guessed was named after someone called "Allan"), The Old World, and Khul. Allansia is the setting of the majority of the FF gamebooks, Khul a minority of the same, and the Old World is the setting of the "Sorcery!" gamebooks. These continents don't have much to do with each other, which makes it a good thing that they are each separated by monster-infested seas that makes regular contact very difficult between them.
Not that this really matters, because other than the Old World, which has some level of consistency, the individual places in each continent are setup like a total crazy-quilt. Remember when you were 12 and decided to make up your own fantasy world? And you just jumbled everything in all over the place with no consideration of why there would be a frozen viking wasteland right next to the tropical island chain; or why the Robot Kingdom would be right next to the land of the intelligent humanoid Rust Monsters? Well, its kind of like that. In Allansia and Khul you have jungles next to deserts next to tundra, with the lushest riches valleys next to the frozen wastelands; no real consideration of geography or topography or climate patterns, and kingdoms of utterly different cultures very close to one another. Its like the designers just threw darts to decide where to put everything. The "Chinese" type culture? its right next door to the European Medieval fantasy culture... but the Japanese type culture? Its on a totally different continent, right next to the pirate pastiche and south of the ruins of the old egyptian pharaonic kingdom.
I mean, I know I'm a big Mystara fan, and that's the setting famous for having Vikings right next to Arabs, but somehow Titan manages to make Mystara seem well-ordered by comparison.
I think the point, however, is that you're not supposed to care. This is "High" fantasy, in the fantasy sense of that carefree fantasy of your youth that doesn't really have to make a lot of sense as long as there's tons of adventure. Come to think of it, this might also be "high" fantasy in the sense of it being fantasy that makes a lot more sense if you're high.
The important thing is that the overall style is that of a fairly gritty kind of sword-and-sorcery most reminiscent (to me, at least) to the "young kingdoms" setting of the Elric stories. Lots of city states and small nations, chaos that surrounds pockets of civilization all over the place, danger at every turn, instability, and the sense that powerful gods of conflicting alignments use the setting for their battleground. The influence is very Moorcockian.
The first 25 pages of the book give you details on all three continents, complete with one big world-map and three more detailed maps for each of the three continents. Allansia is set up to be the default setting, more or less; the Old World is the one area that you can tell was all designed coherently and at one time by a single guy (Steve Jackson), and it seems a little out of place, being a more "civilized" kind of region of more stable, larger kingdoms that are often in conflict with one another. Khul is the dark lost continent where chaos is perhaps strongest and where small pockets of civilization exist on the fringes of that savagery. We're given details about some of the most interesting places in each continent, like the great city of Sardath, built majestically on giant stilts over a lake and between two mountains; or the theocracy of Arantis, ruled by the Overpriest. We're told about the vile Port Blacksand, city of thieves (and to me, still the very best lawless fantasy pirate-city ever designed for an RPG); and the lizard-man swamplands of Silur-cha. We're told about the Chaos Wastes of Khul; Shakuru, the city of beggars, and the Old World's Khare, city-port of traps. We get a lovely astrological map of the heavens over Titan.
Next we get told about the history and legends of Titan, beginning with the creation myth, and the conflict between the Gods of Good, the gods of Neutrality, and the Gods of Chaos and Evil. We learn that once all the lands of Titan were in a single continent, but this was split asunder when Atlantis sank beneath the waves. You get 17 pages of legends of the past of the setting, including stories of great wizards, warring city-states, great lost empires (like Carsepolis, the great city over who's ruins the foul Port Blacksand was built), and how a great sweeping wave of evil chaos armies ravaged all three continents some 250 years ago, explaining why civilization is still in such a very tenacious state in Allansia, and why most of Khul is still today infested by chaos (as well as explaining the political state of the kingdoms of the Old World).
A lot of the material in this section amounts to backstory, but much of it is backstory that a clever GM could use as the basis for running a great campaign or two on.
The next three sections, taking up a significant part of the book, detail not just the gods but the overall forces of Good, Neutrality, and Chaos/Evil in the world of Titan. In each section you begin by getting details of the Gods, then races, heroes (or villains), artifacts, and other such things. The races of good, for example, are the Dwarves and Elves (as well as lesser races like sprites or pixies). Dwarves and Elves get great write-ups, including illustrations of dwarf weapons, a spectacular two-page map of Fangthane, the Dwarven capital in Allansia (a massive city-dungeon carved inside a huge mountain), the dwarven rune-alphabet, a nice one-page map of the Elven treetop-city of Eren Durdinath, and information on elven weapons and language. You get information on great heroes of good, like Colletus the Holy Man, the story of the three great wizards Nicodemus, Yaztromo, and Pen Ty Kora (as well as a great cut-away illustration of Yaztromo's wizard-tower in the Darkwood), and information on the Southern Mask magic and its healing powers.
The neutral gods are dominated by Logaan the Trickster, about whom you get quite a bit of information. Also, there's the court of the Animal Gods. On the whole, however, Neutrality gets short shrift compared to good or evil/chaos.
The Dark Lords of Chaos are detailed in the next section, including the gods of Death and Disease, the sibling gods Slangg and Tanig (gods of malice and envy) and the Demon princes. You get an abstract map-illustration of the Demonic Planes, and information on the Demonic Hierarchy of the Pit. A significant number of pages are devoted to Orcs, which are very warhammer-esque in style (or maybe we should say Warhammer Orcs are very Titan-esque?). There's info on famous Orc tribes, orc armies, and a full-page map of a sample Orc-dungeon, the Bonerat Caves. Goblins, Troglodytes, Trolls and Ogres get similar treatments, as well as the evil Snake-People who have sophisticated cultures in Allansia and Khul. You get lots of info on the Snake People, including a map of their desert cities. A related race who also get much coverage are the Lizard Men who rule a dangerous and powerful empire in Allansia from the swamplands of Silur-cha; considerable information is given about their society, capital, and armies. Finally, several pages are dedicated to the Dark Elves, your typical drow-like evil elves who live in vast subterranean kingdoms.
We also get a description of a number of the major individual servants of chaos, including Razaak the Undying, Malbordus the Storm Child, Shareella the Snow Witch, the "demonic three" evil wizards who are Balthus (lord of the black tower), Zagor (the warlock of Firetop Mountain), and Zharradan; Sukumvit (who built Deathtrap Dungeon) and his hated brother Carnuss; the Archmage of Mampang, and the mighty pirate-king Lord Azzur, mysterious ruler of Port Blacksand. Here we also get a spectacularly detailed two-page street map of Port Blacksand.
Next we get information about the underwater kingdoms of titan, including details on the sunken kingdom of Atlantis.
From there, the book moves on to more mundane details of life on Titan, including a calendar system (with names for years vaguely similar to the Chinese zodiac; "year of the horse" etc.; plus names for months and days), details for major feast-days, and travel times from one place to another. I'll note a major typo here; the header for this sections (which in the original book was "the Titan Calendar" and "The adventuring life") here accidentally reads "The Underwater Kingdoms" and "The Underwater Kingdoms", repeating the title of the earlier section on the same. I don't think that's a very big deal, but it may be confusing to some as these are clearly not the calendars, feast days or travel times of the underwater kingdoms.
Finally, in the end of the book you get information on money, trade, typical coins, and a list of costs for typical items (divided into three cost columns; for cities, towns, and isolated regions). You get a section on inns and taverns; with popular drinks and entertainments, and a map of a typical tavern (the "Black Lobster" tavern in Port Blacksand).
So, does Titan make sense? Only barely. Is it playable? Yes. There's probably more adventure per square mile on Titan than in most fantasy worlds; its absolutely packed with dangerous places, famous dungeons, and evil forces to fight. So I guess whether you'll like it or not, aside from the nostalgia factor, depends largely on whether you put more value on a coherently sensible world, or whether you're willing to just say "well, a trickster god made it that way" and just run with things as they are. If the latter is true, you certainly could do far worse than running a game on Titan.
I will note, finally, that there's is NO actual mechanical information from the AFF system in this book. The book is all, one hundred percent, setting. That means that you can safely buy Titan without having or wanting to have anything to do with Advanced Fighting Fantasy itself, and use it as a game setting for D&D; WFRP, BRP, or any other fantasy game.
On the whole, coherence aside, Titan holds up surprisingly well as a setting-book for an RPG fantasy world.
Currently Smoking: Raleigh jopo + Image Latakia
(Originally posted August 18, 2011)
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Roleplaying, Chess, and "Fairness"
I've heard the advocates of social mechanics in RPG going on about the subject from the perspective of "fairness". It is not "fair", they say, that your character should be able to swing a sword well whether or not his player could but your character can't give a convincing speech if his player suffers from chronic shyness. That's pretty much the argument, right?
There's a serious flaw in this logic, which is that the opponents of social mechanics aren't "unfairly" giving more weight to one thing that a character does than to another, they're just actually expecting an RPG to require that you be capable of doing the one thing an RPG is supposed to be for: Interpreting the character.
No one questions the fact that in chess you can move the knight piece without having to know how to ride a horse; nor do they question that to play chess you need a certain kind of intelligence. Its not "unfair" that people who lack that particular kind of intelligence cannot play well, its just an unfortunate fact. They can't play well. Maybe poker or tiddly-winks is more their style. No one would suggest that we create a complex set of mechanics to simulate the kind of skills that are involved in playing chess well, so that a person with low chess-playing intelligence could have a "fair chance" against a grandmaster, do we?
It would be absurd.
Likewise, in roleplaying games, the whole point is to interpret a character. A prerequisite to roleplaying games is being able to play out a character in social situations. If you can't do that, its not "unfair" that other people can; its just the nature of the game. Too bad for you.
But you know, its not all hopeless. Someone with relatively low chess-intelligence can still learn the game, practice hard, develop certain skills, and eventually compensate for a lack of natural chess talent. They might never become a "grandmaster" but they could, if they wanted it badly enough, end up playing a good game.
Likewise, if someone is a socially inept person, playing RPGs could theoretically allow one to develop skills that will help to compensate for that. If you work hard at it, play a lot of games, and want it badly enough, playing RPGs can help have a transformative effect on you. You might never be a social butterfly, but I've seen several people who went from being either terminally shy or socially-inept bozos for whom serious RPG play helped, in the long term, to turn into much more socially competent people.
Of course, that only happens if you don't substitute the actual roleplaying parts with a bunch of rolls.
Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia
(originally posted August 16, 2011)
Monday, 13 May 2013
Follow Up on Firefox vs. Chrome
So I've switched my little laptop over to Chrome, and I have to say its running quite a lot faster now. I hate to admit it but Chrome may have to become my default browser on all my machines.
Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Altadis' Balkan I
The wielder of the Flaming Keystrokes of Truth, daily rants about the RPG hobby and Industry