Double Cross by Cyphoderus
PreambleOriginal SA post
Have you always felt your combat-heavy RPGs lacked in the realm of narrative mechanics?
Are you a swine who enjoys storygames, but think they lack that little something in terms of combat?
Have you ever wanted to earn XP as a Game Master?
Are you secretly still 13 inside (we all are) and crave nothing more than pretending to be a high-schooler who spends the day being awkward around girls and the nights beating up giant monsters with lasers?
Or do you really want to play a sentient idea who can throw cars around?
Boy, have I got a game for you.
What is this?
Double Cross (from now on, DX) is a Japanese RPG that has been described as a "character-based conspiracy superhero RPG". That's a mouthful, so let's break it down.
Superhero: in DX, you play someone who has been infected by a virus that gives you superhuman abilities. These include skills that range from shooting lasers to creating autonomous servants out of your blood to turning every car you enter into an instant transformer. The central conflict here is that the more you use your powers, the more they use you. Abuse your monstrous skills, and you become a monster yourself.
Conspiracy: You work for the good guys, who want the best for the world. You fight the bad guys, who want to ruin society and mankind. Everyone is exactly who they seem to be. The problem is that none of these sentences are true!
Character-based: Your character has relationships with the other characters and with NPCs. Your relationships dictate your position in the web of factions, people, and their conflicting interests. Your relationships are where you turn to when you find yourself slowly becoming more like the monsters you face in battle. Your relationships are always changing, and as they change, so do you.
What can I expect from this game?
Fluff-wise, you'll get a setting that has got high-schoolers and adults with super abilities, secret organisations that fight for the good of the world, mysterious otherworldly foes, betrayals and uneasy alliances. The powers employed by the characters are X-Men-like mutant abilities, only on average they're more... gross. Remember the Prototype videogame series? Like that. Imagine what would Persona 3 be like if it was not inspired by Jung but by Darwin, and you've got a decent picture of DX.
Mechanics-wise, think Tenra Bansho Zero meets 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. From the former, you get mechanically enforced narrative flow of quick-paced play with strategic scene framing and rapid character change. From the latter, you get a "class system" and a granular "powers system" that drive combat. There's plenty of mechanics and ideas that are innovative on their own as well, at least compared to Western games. The aforementioned GM earning XP points is one of them, for instance.
The book also offers a default setting: Japan and the personalities associated with it, as well as City N, a generic Japanese city where the action of the included sample adventures take place. Yep, in a refreshing change of pace, you get three entire sample adventures in the core book. The first is intended as the regular introduction to the game for new players, while the following two are direct sequels to the same story.
Tell me more about the book itself.
DX is a game by F.E.A.R., noted Japanese RPG designers. The translated version is currently sold through Amazon , and it is unfortunately only available as a physical copy. Apparently, the game is very beloved in Japan.
About the translation: it is solid. There is, however, not much localisation. The sentences are also written in a not very natural way. In other words, it is very much a translated work. The setting and adventures chapters make no effort to ease the player and GM into a Japanese mindset: they just assume you're playing in Japan and that's it. The factions and NPCs presented are Japanese. This is an issue only because a certain step of character creation has you forming relationships to established NPCs. Thus, creating characters exactly as written means you play in Japan. This is a very, very minor inconvenience if you want to set your game someplace else: just re-fit the existing NPCs or make up your own. Very few classic Japanese tropes pop up in the setting. The most obvious of which is half the sample NPCs being underaged geniuses. None of the Japan-ness of the work detracts from it. Personally, I think it adds to its charm.
As for content itself, the book contains quite a few errors, especially in the powers descriptions. Missing values, properties that make no sense or repeated descriptions for different powers. The most absurd error is in the sample characters, which are essential to one character creation method. The first character has the powers of the second, and every single one of them has the stats of the first. It's ugly. There is, however, a comprehensive errata booklet that comes with the book. The booklet corrects every error that I know of in the main book. So everything's alright, and I can only think the marathon of mistakes was due to a tight printing deadline or something.
DX has something like a thousand supplements over in Japan. The translated version of DX uses the same model as Tenra Bansho Zero: the "core rulebook" we got is actually made up from the original core rulebook and various supplements, including rules updates. So Japan has many supplements but we've got, as far as I know, a lot of the content packaged into our book. We also got right away the 3rd edition of DX: it is apparently a simplification and consolidation of the hugely popular second edition that got bloated with power creep and an excess of choices.
I believe this is it for an introduction. Next time, we'll dive straight in. The first chapter is a summary of the basics of the setting. It tells you all you need to know to fill the gaps with your imagination.
So please, join me next time as we start the read-through of Double-Cross: The Roleplaying Game!
The thing about the sentient idea, by the way? Not kidding about that.
IntroductionOriginal SA post
Part I - Introduction
DX starts out with the classical introductory chapter: we get to know what RPGs are, what you need to play, and the role of the players and GM. No specific mechanics are mentioned, but we learn that the game uses pools of d10s for its rolls. Also, there's something called Roll or Choose: you have a random table that you can either roll on or just pick whatever option you want. Or you can roll and ignore your result and just pick an option anyway. There are some options, like a result of 101 on a 1d100 table, that you can't roll. You either pick them voluntarily or they don't come into play. I'm told RoC is a common thing in Japanese games. I like it, even though it's a formalisation of something we've all been doing for years anyway. When common sense things are explicitly spelled out, "that guy" has fewer things to complain about.
DX treats the GM in a way that's not exactly adversarial, but... traditional. The "golden rules", as the game puts them, consist of the following: the GM always has the final word; the GM can do anything without needing to roll; if the GM makes a mistake in a ruling, the mistake must be corrected immediately, but if there's already been an effect because of it the game doesn't reset and what's been done stays that way.
Like all RPGs with an introductory chapter to RPGs, DX makes it clear that there are no winners or losers in a game. However, it does define "victory": it's when, at the end of the session, the players accumulated a lot of experience points. When there's a lot of XP, it means the game has been played in the intended way, the way that is designed to be the most fun for everyone involved. This seems obvious but it really isn't, as there are lots of games in which XP gain doesn't directly imply the fun way to play the game. All the ones that treat "action points" and XP as one single resource, for instance. DX doesn't do that.
The best part about experience in DX is that it's rewarded to the players, not the characters. Including the GM. Think about it: all the problems you've ever had with rotating GMs and changing characters each session? Gone. We'll get to how that works later, I'm just mentioning it now to tease you guys.
At this point we get to talk fluff.
The Setting of the Game
First, picture a virus. Real-world viruses have derpy names, like human papilloma virus or foamy virus. This one has a cool name. It's the Renegade virus. It works, honestly, a lot like herpes. First, most of the human population carries the thing; about 80% of everyone you know. Second, in most people the virus is dormant. It sits there quietly without showing itself and without you even knowing you're infected. Third, if you go through a particular stress, the virus can awaken. Something drastic happens in your life, and you start seeing the symptoms of the infection.
However, while herpes leaves you with a slightly embarassing oral outburst, the Renegade does one of two things: it either kills you outright, which is the boring option, or it rewrites your DNA and gives you superpowers and superhuman abilities. The people carrying an awakened Renegade and who show such powers are called Overeds.
Overeds exhibit a variety of powers. Some can stretch or compress their bodies, some can plug their brains into surveillance systems, some can turn into a vizzerdrix, some can talk to trees. Scholars categorize the superhuman skills granted by the Renegade in twelve broad groups, which they call Syndromes. An Overed tends to express one or two syndromes, and recently there has been a wave of Overeds who can express three.
Not everything is flowers for the Overeds. Power comes at a cost. The more you abuse the virus, the more the virus abuses you. The Renegade seems to have a mind of its own and encroaches slowly on yours. You use your skills and powers too much, and gradually you become less yourself and more... something else. Until the point where you snap. You surrender yourself completely to the virus and become what is known as a Gjaum. The Renegade takes complete control and your body gets warped into a monstrous form as your mind crumbles under the pressure of the virus.
Worst yet are the cases where you don't become a monster. Superficially, everything is fine – but inside your mind has been shattered in little pieces, or it's been taken over by something else, whatever a virus can have that passes for consciousness. Or you become wrong version of yourself.
The fear of becoming a Gjaum is what keeps Overeds in line.
Now here's the problem: you can't just tell people about this stuff. The Renegade appeared around 20 years ago, and its existence is still a highly confidential secret. Imagine if it became known that 80% of mankind has in themselves something that either kills or creates superpowered monsters. The chaos that would ensue!
There are people who know, of course. The Overeds themselves, for once. And someone has to do research on the Renegade. Someone has to provide help and comfort for Overeds who awakened recently and have no idea what's going on. Most important of all, someone has to make sure the information about the Renegade is managed correctly and doesn't become public until the time is right. Enter the Universal Guardian Network, or the UGN for short. It is a global organisation, extremely wealthy and extremely well-connected.
Now there's people who don't think the Renegade should be kept a secret at all. There's people who think Overeds are better than humans, and should take control. There are even those who think becoming a Gjaum isn't that bad after all. There are Gjaums who want the freedom to follow their impulses and desires without anyone getting in the damn way. Enter the False Hearts. Classified as a "terrorist organisation" by the UGN, the False Hearts have no central leadership. It consists of many independent cells, each working to further its own objectives.
The UGN has teams of field agents: Overeds who are out there, thwarting the plans of the False Hearts, and usually having to directly confront the terrorists' powers with their own. The only way to stop an Overed is another Overed.
When you play Double Cross, you'll probably play an Overed employed by the UGN, fighting against False Hearts agents.
There's way more to the setting, including what I consider the best parts. They aren't introduced in this first chapter, however, so we shall not do so as well. Next time we'll delve straight into character creation.
Next time: Are you better at riding a bike or breathing fire?
Anatomy of a CharacterOriginal SA post
Part II - Anatomy of a Character
Now that you know what you are and what you fight for, it's time to decide who you are. This chapter starts out explaining the difference between a PC and a NPC, and then starts explaining what components make a character. At the most basic level, you've got four major things that define a character. They are: Syndromes and Powers, Work and Cover, Stats and Skills, and Personal Data. Let's look at them in order.
When Overeds started cropping up in the world, scientists observed that when an Overed displayed a determined power, they were more likely to display other powers. Through observation of data of Overed activity, they started grouping powers in related groups. Nowadays, there are twelve of them, and they're called Syndromes. A given Overed can manifest one to three Syndromes, and each Syndrome grants them different Powers.
Incidentally, that is the nicest in-setting explanation of a class system I've ever seen.
But you are not the powers you have. You are a person. As a person, you have a place in society and a daily life that you live. Your set of skills comprise your Work. The way society sees you, the identity you broadcast to the world, is your Cover. The main difference between the two is that Work you pick from a list and it dictates what skills you start out with, while Cover is a free-form descriptor. The book calls Work "what you do for a living", but it isn't exactly so. For instance, someone with Work: Martial Artist and Cover: Librarian might as well work the entire week in a library, but people still refer to him as that martial artist guy, and fighting is what he does. It's like if real life had a Final Fantasy-esque job system.
Stats are your character's innate abilities. Each Stat governs a set of three Skills: the things you know how to do. These concepts are pretty standard and do not escape from your standard RPG preconceptions. The Stats and the Skills attached to them are as follows:
Body - governs Melee, Dodge, and Ride.
Mind - governs Renegade Control, Will, and Knowledge.
Sense - governs Ranged, Perception, and Art.
Social - governs Negotiation, Procure, and Info.
Ride, Knowledge, Art, and Info require specialisation. Examples include Ride: Two Wheels, Knowledge: Medicine, Art: Juggling With Fire, or Info: Rumours. Info is the ability to gather information from a specific circle. The more common ones are Info: UGN, Info: Underworld and Info: Police.
Combat skills work as expected. You use Melee to put a shiv in someone's belly, Ranged to fire a gun, and Renegade Control (RC) to shoot a stalactite of ice.
Procure is special in that it's the skill used to get gear during the game. It's the shopping, scavenging, guilt-tripping-people-into-giving-you-stuff skill. Equipment works off an abstract system and the game doesn't track wealth.
What's left is Personal Data. This is the character's background. This isn't a freeform, "have this blank box and write your background on it" thing. Your background consists of your origin, i.e. what kind of home you come from; a significant experience in your life; a significant encounter with one of the setting's established NPCs (reminds me of 13th Age's icons, only more tangible); the event that made the Renegade awaken in you; and the wicked impulse that you have because of the Renegade, the thing that threatens to take over and make you a Gjaum. Most important of all, however, are the relationships your character has with other PCs and NPCs. These are called Loises and they play a major role in the game. You will start with 3-5 of these. Your awakening and impulse also determine your starting Encroachment Rate, which is how much the Renegade has taken over. Hint: it's more than you think. You'll start the game at around 30%.
There are twelve recognised Syndromes. A Syndrome grants powers that fit more or less in the same theme. Remember, any given Overed can manifest one, two, or three of them. Here they are:
Manipulation and control of light. Blinding foes with bright flashes, firing lasers from your eyes, becoming invisible. You can be like a very stealthy Cyclops-meets-Jubilee. Powers that manipulate the senses, such as smell and taste, are also grouped here.
Control of gravity. Mess with the mass and acceleration of things. Make the scales literally tip in your favour. In this wonderful post-Einstein world, this means you also get to mess around with time and space.
The electrical currents that run through your body are your plaything. You can do the classical electrical attacks, but Overeds with this Syndrome are also known to sport cybernetic implants and be really good hackers.
You guessed it: blood. Manipulate your own blood to use it as a weapon, shiled or accelerete your healing and suchlike. More notably, use it to or create deformed half-sentient life-forms that you command, the so-called Red Servants. Have these guys pick up your newspaper or fight your foes.
The very unsubtle body manipulating Syndrome. Grow wings. Harden your skin into a carapace. Develop poison glands. Develop a poisonous carapace with wings. Become a vizzerdrix or a hork-bajir and anything in-between. Also included here are the super-strength powers.
The subtle body manipulation Syndrome. Make your bones bend like silly putty, accelerate or slow down your metabolism, make your stomach change places with your heart to avoid a fatal strike (but still get some nasty heartburn), sharpen your nails into deadly weapons and grab people with your hair. You know. Subtle.
You are really fast. Everything speed is in here. Not many people can resist a punch that come in mach 1, you know. The Hanuman is also the master of vibrations. Your arsenal is stocked with running fast, yes, but also with shockwaves and sonic booms and the like.
Break the law of conservation of mass like it ain't no thing. You can create stuff out of nothing, and change the stuff that's already there. If you need a gun out of thin air or if you always thought your car should be a giant robot instead, the Morpheus is your guy. The stuff they make is out of a weird kind of cosmical sand, and they also have powers that manipulate that sand directly to protect themselves and deal damage.
The virus makes you a genius. The realm of the Neumann is calculations and strategical thinking. This Syndrome is among the last flashy and the more efficient - what use is having a giant scorpion's tail poking out of your buttocks if you can't figure out where's the weak spot in the enemy's armour? Neumann is ripe with support powers.
You can make the area around you your Domain, and you have power over your Domain. You are the master of your surroundings. Transfer your mind into an animal nearby, know when a foe enters your Domain, and make the trees attack them. Make doors lead where they aren't supposed to. This is the Syndrome most in tune with nature.
Heat is yours to play with, in both directions: increase it and dudes burn, chase it away and dudes freeze. You get power over metaphorical heat as well: making people calm and cool, make people burn with passion.
Your body is a chemical plant, a drug lab, a bio-reactor. Expel pheromones, anesthetise your foes, rob their memories. Want to have a horde of mindless zombie-like drugged people obeying your every command? You can't go wrong with Solaris. You can also cook really well. Seriously.
Three ways to make a character
Now that we've got the basics covered, the game introduces us to three different ways to create a character. They are presented in order of difficulty and involvement.
Quick Start - Pick one of the sample template characters, create Personal Data, you're done. Takes around five minutes.
Construction - What passes for regular character creation in most games. Make your choices, step by step, and in the end you have a character.
Full Scratch - The GURPS alternative. You have a pool of points, use those to build from scratch a character exactly as you envision them.
The sample characters for Quick Start provide you with a broad concept and their entire character sheet pre-filled in with everything you need to play... except for Personal Data, which is, in turn, extremely easy to make on the spot. Thus, the same template can give rise to characters with different backgrounds. It's a very nice way of doing quick character creation.
These concepts are nice and all, but they certainly could use some examples. Next update, we'll go through one of the Quick Start characters and get to know a little bit about Works, Powers, etc. Last but not least, we'll see some examples of Personal Data being set up, and what Loises can arise from character creation.
Next time: Let's make a character!
Quick-Start CharactersOriginal SA post
On retrospect, this should've gone at the end of last update. Oh well, it's never too late. Give it up for
Part II.5 - Quick Start Characters
Double Cross does not shy away from genre cliches and tropes. On the contrary, it embraces them. This is made clear when you examine the selection of character templates you can pick for Quick Start character creation.
These are only the very broad high concept, plus a filled-in character sheet. You only have to flesh them out with Personal Data and you're done. Here are the Quick Start character templates:
You're a regular guy... you try to get through high-school, making friends and liking girls. Until the point where everything changed, and now you're thrown head-first into this world of madness, of violence, of duty imposed on you by people you've never met before. You are now a Renegade. What are you gonna do about it? If this were a shonen series, you would be the main character.
Work and Cover: High-school student
Most people awaken as Overeds as teenagers and young adults. You didn't. You've been an Overed since you can remember. As a child Renegade, you were taken in by the UGN. The UGN's methods are not made clear: we don't know if they search orphanages or take children away from parents or what. One way or another, you've been trained as an agent since the earliest of ages. You blend in with society, but the only life you really know is work and duty and the UGN and the Renegade.
Work: UGN Child; Cover: High-school student
Tri-breed Angel Halo, Morpheus and Neumann
You have a duty, and a fate: you are in this world to protect those weaker than you. That's what you've been taught and what you have always believed. When the Renegade awoke in you, well... let's say your sense of duty only grew stronger. You were recruited by the UGN, but you are so competent and loyal that you quickly rose through the ranks and became a branch chief, despite your age. You'll do whatever it takes to defend the innocent.
Work: UGN Branch Chief; Cover: High-school student
Cross-breed Bram Stoker and Exile.
A respected UGN agent with a good background and a promising career ahead of you. You fight the False Hearts and the Renegade when they show themselves. You had everything figured out... until that pesky little seed of doubt was planted in your chest. You've heard a rumour that the UGN founder has joined False Hearts. Is this true...? Are you sure you work for the good guys? Either way, you try to live your life and do your job as best as you can.
Work and Cover: UGN Agent
Cross-breed Orcus and Solaris.
You're a private investigator obsessed with the truth of things. You always were. Now that you're an Overed, this obsession only grew. You now know how deep the rabbit-hole goes, how much stuff goes on in the world that most people have no idea about. Even now, no one's sure what really goes on with the UGN and False Hearts and the Renegade. You will find out.
Work and Cover: Private Investigator
Cross-breed Black Dog and Hanuman.
Defender of Dreams
Things don't have much of a point when there's the Renegade around, do they? I mean, before, you had your dreams, your life goals. Now they're kind of pointless. Why practice sports when there is the Hanuman Syndrome? Why study math when there's Neumann? Why anything? You are lost. But just because you are lost, it doesn't mean others have to be. Your dream now, your new dream, is to protect the dreams of others.
Work: Artist; Cover: High-school student
Cross-breed Angel Halo and Salamandra.
Another UGN Child. You were raised by the UGN as an agent since childhood, and you survived while other didn't. But you aren't dumb, and you haven't been tricked by the UGN's brainwashing. You know the organisation inside out, and you know all that is good and all that is wicked about it. You don't have a normal life, but you don't want one. You are not a blind cow serving the UGN, but you aren't interested in joining False Hearts. You do your thing, mostly.
Work: UGN Child; Cover: High-school student
Cross-breed Morpheus and Salamandra.
You've worked for the UGN for a long time. You know how bad it is. You know how easy it is to look down on regular people, to think like a False Hearts agent. But you are a branch chief, and you are in charge of the new generation of Overeds. More people are awakening all the time now, and it is your duty to teach them how things work. To put them in the right path. That's something only you, with your accumulated knowledge, can do.
Work and Cover: UGN Branch Chief
You are an Overed... But others don't have to be. It's not worth it. However, you don't want out. You know you need the Renegade now. You need power to survive your world, and fight. You need to fight for the freedom of others, so they don't have to walk the same path that you do.
Work and Cover: UGN Agent
Tri-breed Black Dog, Hanuman and Neumann.
The classical delinquent with a heart of gold. You don't care for society, especially the more hypocritical side of it. In turn, it shuns you, calls you a criminal. You solve your problems with your fists, and you don't give a damn about nothing. But if there's something you can't stand, it's people taking advantage of the weak. It makes you want to renovate their asses.
Work and Cover: Delinquent
Cross-breed Chimera and Exile.
You are fascinated by the Renegade, and the gamble it proposes: die, or use me. Use me sparingly, or become a monster. This entire conundrum fascinates you, and you are powerless to resist your urge to study the Renegade and find out everything about it.
Work and Cover: Researcher
Being a cop is tough. You have to deal with crime up-close, and all your fantasies about the world crumble down when faced with the harsh reality of the streets. Being an Overed cop is so much worse. It's happening all over again: the way you think the world works, it's all falling apart when faced with this new world of superhumans, secret organisations and conspiracies. You try to make the best of it.
Work and Cover: Detective
Cross-breed Bram Stoker and Morpheus.
You're a walking contradiction. Your day job is being a journalist, bringing the truth to the eyes of the public. Your other job is being an Overed, and making sure the truth doesn't reach the eyes of the public. But you can manage your two jobs. You are a vessel of information, and you control how and when people learn about things. The world will learn about the Renegade. When the time is right.
Work and Cover: Journalist
Cross-breed Balor and Black Dog.
As much as humans seek to learn about the Renegade virus, so does the Renegade seek to learn about humanity. How, you ask? Through you. You are a Renegade Being. The link that bridges the gap between virus and mankind. The virus is ever-evolving, and you are its latest manifestation. Hiding among the humans, you observe, and learn.
Work: Renegade Being; Cover: Elementary school student
Tri-breed Balor, Bram Stoker and Angel Halo
You might have noticed something special about the last one there, Ruby Eyes. Yes, Renegade Beings are living, walking raw manifestations of the virus. They are very, very special and will get an update for their own.
Exchange students and blood drinkersOriginal SA post
Part III - Exchange students and blood drinkers
No matter which method of character creation you pick, at the end you'll be doing Personal Data. This consists on a series of 1d100 Roll-or-Choose tables that say what your character's background is like. It's also the point where you build Loises. A Lois is a relationship your character has with an NPC or another PC. The terminology is really strange until you realise it's a reference to Lois Lane, and it makes all the sense in the world.
Loises are kind of a big deal. Your relationships are what keep you human when you are on the brink of losing yourself to the Renegade. This is their big function, mechanically. They also serve as big plot hooks.
First step of Personal Data is Origin. This mostly refers to your family, and what kind of home you come from. This is a big influence on the life of the character, whether they are young and have to directly deal with parents and such or they are older and suffer a more indirect influence from family life. Options here are mostly boring: examples include having a brother or sister, having parents that know about the Renegade, having foster parents, etc. Your Origin comes with a recommended Lois. For most options, that's the father or mother themselves, but there's more uncommon choices. For instance, if you come from a rich household, the recommended Lois is with a personal tutor of some kind.
Next up is Experience. This is a big event that happened in your character's life. Experience has four distinct tables: student, adult, criminal and UGN. Pick the table that best fits the lifestyle of the character and roll on it. Each table has, predictably, its own flavour and set of experiences. A bunch of experiences are shared between them, like having been hospitalised for a long time, having lost someone dear to you, keeping contact with your first love, or the ever-classic amnesia.
Students have experiences like making important promises, studying abroad, and forming undying bonds of friendships. Adults have things like marriage, career success or bankruptcy. Criminals have things like being an underground legend, having caused someone great pain, and having been headline news once. People with UGN experiences have things like despising non-Overed humans, having been born in a UGN test tube, and having been a member of False Hearts in the past. Each Experience option also comes with a recommended Lois related to it.
The last of the "life history" steps is Encounter. This is interesting, and reminds me of a more down-to-earth version of 13th Age's icons. You roll on the table and you get a certain relatioship with one of the setting's established NPCs. For instance, you might find out you have unfinished business with Alexander Cauldwell, the founder of the UGN who recently went missing. Or that you answer directly to Yugo Kiritani, the chief of Japan's UGN branch. You may owe a deb to Therese Blum, a British member of the UGN's central committee. The recommended Lois of this part is the NPC in question.
This means that character creation, as written, gives each PC a direct tie to the established setting. I like this, it's full of potential to tie sweeping tales of conspiracy and politics into the personal lives of the characters, which is kind of the entire point. It also means that if you want to play in different setting, say, Cambodia or Australia, you have to come up with enough NPCs to make this table interesting, or at least reskin the Japanese NPCs to people more appropriate to your own setting.
At this point we get to determine our Awakening. This is the circumstance in which the Renegade awakened in you, the moment you became an Overed. Different from the other tables thus far, this one is 1d10. We have the usual suspects, like having a near-death experience, seeing someone you care about being killed in front of you, or being really, really angry. There are also more exotic options like having been experimented on, or being "ordered to evolve".
Last up in Personal Data is the Impulse. This is the weird thing the Renegade compels you to do. That gnawing feeling at the back of your head that grow stronger the closer you are to becoming a Gjaum. Like Awakening, this is a 1d10 table. The Renegade is not nice, and the available Impulses are... not pretty, to say the least. They include drinking blood, torturing others, challenging the strongest opponents to fights to the death, becoming extremely paranoid, self-mutilation... Impulses aren't something you can easily bend to your advantage; they're bad, and any sane Overed will find themselves struggling hard to fight them back and keep the Renegade under control. Your Impulse is most likely the basal urge that will take over if you surrender your mind and become a Gjaum.
Characters have an Encroachment Rate , which is how much the Renegade has encroached on their minds. Starting rate is determined by Awakening and Impulse: each has an associated rate. Add them together and you get your starting ER.
Now how do you build a Lois ? It's simple. First, pick a target: it is usually another person, but it can be an organisation or ideal if it makes sense and matters a lot to your character. Second, each Lois is associated with one positive emotion and one negative emotion. There are 1d100 RoC tables for both. Third, pick one of the emotions, either the positive or negative one, to be the conscious emotion : the one you show to the world, the one you act upon, the one you admit to yourself. The other emotion becomes the subconscious one. You either keep it hidden deep down, or are not even much aware that it exists.
This is a relationship system that minimises needless complexity but still manages to capture a lot of subtlety. I like it a lot.
A Worked Example
Let's give a concrete example, and go through the steps of Personal Data for a hypothetical character Mr. Tanaka (the Japanese equivalent of Mr. Smith).
First up, Origin. We roll 51, for Noble parents: your family is from a noble background. Maybe we can interpret this literally and say we're descendants of royalty? Maybe we're rich and posh, and look down on the poor? Maybe our family just displays a lot of honour and is admired by the local community. The recommended Lois for this is father/mother.
For Experience, let's say Mr. Tanaka is an adult. We roll on the adult table and get 97, for Forbidden love: you are involved with the wrong person. Oooo, interesting. Now we're talking! Our recommended Lois is our lover. As an aside: if we were a student, this would've been Promise: you swore to forever protect a promise. If we were a criminal, we would've gotten Lone wolf: you live a solitary life. The UGN table would've produced Major msitake: your mistake jeopardised a mission. The recommended Loises for those are, respectively, the person you swore to, an adversary, and a Gjaum. Just to illustrate what these tables look like and their differences.
We have then our Encounter. We rolled 26, for Family: this person is like family or is family , with Satsuki Kamishiro. Looking at the setting chapter, we discover she is an 18-year old executive, president of the Kamishiro group, one of Japan's biggest conglomerates. The organisation works together with the UGN in the area of Renegade research.
Time for Awakening and Impulse. For the first, we get 2, for Experimentation. We were part of an experimented, and among many candidates, were lucky (or unlucky) enough to walk away from it with our lives, but becoming an Overed. For Impulse, we rolled 3, for Slaughter. We get the urge to kill people, not out of hatred, but because we just enjoy watching people struggling to hold onto dear life.
Experimentation's base Encroachment Rate is 16; Slaughter's is 18. Our starting Encroachment Rate is 34%. Starting rates vary from 28% to 36%, ours is in the upper range.
Time for Loises. We could make our own, but we decide to go with the recommended ones. This means we have a parent, a lover, and a young genius executive to go through.
Let's say our family is honourable and traditional, and let's arbitrarily say our Lois is our noble father. For positive emotion, we roll 73, Obsession: you can't stop thinking about the other person. For negative, we get 7, Threat: you feel threatened by the other person. An... interesting combination for a parent, and one that's supposed to be "noble"! I can feel the plot forming. We must pick a conscious emotion, let's go with the positive one: we are huge fans of dad and everyone knows about it, we can't stop talking about him. Deep down, we're afraid of him. Why could that be?
Time to figure out who our lover is. For positive, we get 55, the other person reminds you of the people who have passed away. For negative, we get 56, you hate the other person. Now we could go with this and interpret it in a potentially great manner, but just to remind you guys that this is Roll-or-Choose, I think this kind of makes no sense and I'm just going to pick options I like better. Let's go with a classic: our positive emotion is Love , and our negative one if Inferiority. Love is our conscious one. So we have this person we love deeply, but deep down, we feel we're inferior to them and maybe we don't deserve their love.
Lastly, Satsuki Kamishiro. She's like family to us; let's figure out how. For positive, we get 51, for the same Dying Wishes we had at first with our lover. For negative, we get 91, Anger: this person's ideals or actions make you feel furious. I like these. To mix things up, let's say our conscious emotion is the negative one. Miss Kamishiro is like a sister to us, but her actions make us angry; it's like one of those sorts of rival-like fraternal love. Deep down, she reminds us of someone: maybe we had a sibling or someone really dear to us who died, and the adoption of Satsuki into our family has something to do with it.
So this is what Personal Data looks like. I hope I got to show how great Loises are for being both easy to create and having the potential to be really subtle. They're also great plot hooks, and in my opinion the very best starting point for a "character-based" story. You can do so many things with them, from the classical putting-your-loved-ones-in-danger to incorporating them fully into the conspiracies and mysteries of the setting. As a GM, you don't have to step on eggs when messing with the characters the PCs have Loises with: Loises are expected to be dynamic, to change. The mechanics surrounding them make it impossible for relationships to remain static.
This update has gone on longer than I thought it would. Let's cut it off; I'm trying to keep things short to make them more readable.
Next time, we take on Construction character creation, to take a closer look at the elements of a character sheet in a more mechanical way. In the process, we'll learn about the game's wealth and gear system, Overed breeds, and Works.
I'm taking things in order. To give you guys perspective: the update after the next one, we'll look at the mechanics behind powers. From there on we'll have all the knowledge we need to start looking at the Syndromes themselves. I plan on doing a series of Syndrome Dossiers between regular updates, where we get to learn about what each Syndrome specifically has to offer.
My only concern is that we run out of art before running out of book
Next time: UGN Agent! Detective! Researcher! Programmer...! Housewife...? Stage magician?!
Character ConstructionOriginal SA post
Part IV - Character Construction
This time we'll go through the Construction method of character creation, to showcase the more mechanical aspects of all the elements of a character we've been talking about.
The first thing about an Overed you need to decide is the Breed. This determines how many Syndromes you manifest. There are three different Breeds:
Pure: You manifest one single Syndrome. Your powers with this Syndrome can become more powerful than any other Overed's - you can level them up further. Additionally, you get access to unique, Pure-breed-exclusive powers.
Cross-Breed: You manifest two Syndromes. This is the most common type of Overed, judging by the sample characters presented in the book. You can pick any power offered by your Syndromes, except for the Pure-exclusive ones.
Tri-Breed: Despite the Renegade being around for something like 20 years, only recently in the past couple of years have these Overeds cropped up. You manifest three Syndromes. Out of these, one is selected as a Sub-Syndrome.
A Tri-Breed is more limited in their selection of powers compared to a Cross-Breed, and a little bit more so when it comes to their Sub-Syndrome.
You could have awakened with three Syndromes, but some Overeds have been Cross-Breeds for a while only to suddenly manifest a third Syndrome.
The next major thing you have to decide is your Work and Cover. The difference between the two is subtle. Objectively, Work gives you stats, while Cover is purely for flavour. I like to think of it this way: Cover is the role you play in society, while Work is the thing you know how to do. Work: Martial Artist and Cover: Movie Star would be Bruce Lee.
Work is picked from a rather big list. The list runs the freaking gamut: we start at elementary school student, go through high-schooler and UGN child, to UGN agent, UGN branch chief, mercenary, nurse, doctor, researcher... There are lots of unexpected choices, as well. How about being, to say it exactly as the book does, a house husband/wife? Night entertainer? Fortune teller? Stage magician?
The easiest way to pick Cover is pick the same thing as your Work. You can play with it, however. Cover is freeform, go wild with it.
Time to calculate our Stats. These are based on your Breed and Syndrome. Each Syndrome has a base line of Stats. For instance, Morpheus gives Body 1, Sense 2, Mind 0 and Social 1. If you're a Pure-Breed, double the baseline and you're done. For Cross-Breeds, add together the baselines of your two Syndromes. For Tri-Breeds, do the same, ignoring your Sub-Syndrome.
Each Work gives a bonus +1 to one stat. Forensics Officer gives Mind +1. Singer gives Sense +1. Driver gives Body +1, and so on. You get another 3 bonus points to put wherever you want them.
It's very common to see characters with very unbalanced stats. The very first sample character, supposed to be the iconic "main character" type, has Body 8, Sense 1, Mind 1 and Social 1. As a rule, the more focused you are, the more unequal is your stat distribution.
At this point you also determine Hit Points and Initiative. They work exactly as expected. HP follows explicitly the model of will to fight and mental fortitude as well as physical injury resistance. As such, the Mind stat factors in its calculation.
There's also Move and Dash, which determine how far you can move in battle with a minor or major action, respectively. It's worth remembering that, despite these being measured in meters*, the battle system is not grid-based and actual distance measurements don't play a mechanical role. These interact with the battle system, but this is not a miniatures game.
* Thankfully. Finally, a sensible RPG!
Now we get to pick Powers. Every Overed starts with three powers: Ressurrection, the genre-mandatory "get up after you were severely beaten down" effect; Concentrate, which improves chances of critical hits in battle; and Warding, which incapacitates all non-Overeds in the region.
Other than that, you get to choose four powers among your Syndromes. The only restrictions are those applied by your Breed, and they aren't very big, so for the most part you can go wild on your power selection.
The very next update is dedicated entirely to powers, so I'm not elaborating on them too much right now. Rest assured, by the end of this you'll have gotten to know a lot about them.
We still have Skills left. These are chiefly determined by your Work. A few choice examples:
Work: Mafia gives you Ride 2, Ranged 1, Procure 1, Negotiation 1, and Info: Underworld 1.
Work: Nurse gives you Perception 1, Will 1, Knowledge 2, Negotiation 1, and Info: Academics 1.
Work: Grade school student gives you Perception 2, Will 1, Renegade Control 1, and Info: Rumours 1.
As always, for Ride, Knowledge, and Art, you have to pick a specialty. Every Work gives you at least one level in Info, but these come with pre-set specialties.
You have 5 free points to distribute among any skills you want. Each point spent in Ride, Art, Knowledge or Info gives you 2 points in the skill.
It's also very common to see character who lack many skills, i.e. have them at 0. This doesn't mean they can't use those skills, only that they have no bonus in them. It's like having a +0 bonus in D&D.
The Gear System
Double Cross doesn't track wealth. It assumes every character is well off enough to function in society. Instead, DX has an abstract acquisition system.
The first element of which are your Stock points. They are based on your Social stat and your Procure skill. They're points you use to "purchase" stuff at the beginning of sessions. These items are considered stocked, and if you lose them during the session, they come back at the beginning of the next one.
The other element of the system is the Procure skill. If you want to get something during the session that you didn't stock, you roll to... Procure it. Each item has a Procure difficulty. Beat it, you get the thing. The thing doesn't last beyond the current session, unless you spend your Stock points to make it permanent.
Stock points that go unspent at the beginning of the session become Savings. You can spend Savings during the session for bonuses to your Procure roll.
There you have it, the gear system of DX. I like it. It's not about wealth, but about power to get things. A high Stock and Procure can mean material wealth, yes, but it can also as easily mean smart shopping, stealing, scavenging, and guilt-tripping people into giving you stuff.
Starting Stock points vary wildly among characters. The sample characters in the book range from 2 to 14 Stock. To give you guys an idea:
A cellphone costs 0 Stock.
A katana costs 3 Stock.
A 9mm handgun costs 6 Stock, as well as a bulletproof vest.
A bicycle costs 1 Stock, a regular car costs 8, a helicopter costs 20.
One of the coolest thigs DX does is classify connections as items. Which means at the start of the session you spend your Stock points to have access to various informants and contacts, who give you a bonus to a specific check once per session.
A rumour-mongering friend gives you +2 to a single Info: Rumour check. A Hacker does the same for Info: Web. A fencer helps you Procure stuff; a specialist aids in a Knowledge check. And so on. I just find it really amusing that I can buy gossip at character creation.
And this is where Construction of a character ends.
The Full Scratch method of character creation means you get to taylor-make your character to your liking; you get a set of experience points and you use them to customise the things mentioned in this update. It's the GURPS alternative.
And there you have it. We've seen pretty much everything there is to see about a DX character sheet. What's left are powers. Next update, we'll take a look at how they work, while giving plenty of examples to wet your appetite. And also how power combos work. Yes, you can declare multiple powers at the same goddamn time. Ever feel like sprouting claws and imbuing them with fire and moving at super-sonic speed all at once? Now you can!
So please tune in next time as we learn about powers and combos!
PowersOriginal SA post
Part V - Powers
Powers, powers, powers! They are the superhuman abilities and effects granted to the Overeds by the Renegade virus. The ways the virus manifests are called Syndromes, and each Syndrome has its set of powers, which share a common theme and are related to each other. No power belongs to more than one Syndrome, except for some generic powers that can be manifested by any Overed whatsoever.
A "power" is a single effect. It's less like GURPS and more like the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Powers are for the most part designed to be used in combat. Powers that influence the plot in a more narrative sort of way are called Simple Powers and we'll talk about them toward the end of the update.
Throughout this update, I'll be giving plenty of examples; you'll recognise them because the power names will be in italics.
Each power has a Level. Every power starts at level 1, and you can level up your powers with experience points. A power's level usually factors in the calculation of its effect. For instance:
Bone Sword is an Exile power that grows a blade out from the user's skeleton. This provides Attack Power + (lvl+5); at power level 1, a Bone Sword will be slightly more damaging than a regular katana (Atk. Power +5).
Every power also has a Max Level , which is, you guessed, the maximum level you can get the power at. Bone Sword caps at 5, for a max of +10 Atk. Power. Here is the kicker: Pure-breed Overeds are plain better at their Syndromes than Cross or Tri-Breeds. For Pure-breeds, the maximum level gets +2. An Overed who manifests only the Exile Syndrome can level their Bone Sword to level 7 and get +12 Atk. Power out their uncannily sharp ribs or shoulder plates or something.
Combat has two kinds of action: major, which is basically attacking, and minor, which is basically moving – almost equivalent to D&D's "standard" and "move" actions. A power's Timing is what kind of action it takes to be used.
Petrify, the Morpheus power that turn a target's limbs to stone to slow them down, takes a major action to use.
Hundred Guns, the Morpheus power that takes your shirt buttons, belt buckles, shoelaces, paper clips, and creates an improvised firearm out of them, takes a minor action to use.
There are other possible timings. For instance:
Domain of Vengeance, the Orcus power that makes an attacker suffer the same amount of damage they cause the Overed, is used automatically, without an action.
Recovery, the Neumann power that's the Overed giving tactical instructions to help allies recover from bad statuses, must be used in the setup phase between rounds, before characters start taking their turns.
Most power require the user to roll a Skill. This is usually fairly obvious: melee powers require a Melee roll; powers related to shooting firearms require a Ranged roll; offensive powers that use no weapons usually require a Renegade Control (RC) roll. We'll learn exactly how combat rolls work in the future.
Corrosive Red, the Bram Stoker power that turns your blood foul and shoots it at enemies to corrode them, requires a RC roll.
Residual Lightning is a Black Dog power that electrifies a bullet so that after it hits, the enemy takes continuous damage from the residual currents; it requires a Ranged roll, to hit with said bullet.
Fist of Darkness is a Balor power that's punching a foe while holding in your hand a compact ball of pure gravity mass; it requires a Melee roll.
Sonic Attack, the Hanuman power that brings the user's attacks to sonic speed and make them harder to dodge, can be used with either a Melee or a Ranged roll.
These are, by far, the most common ones. Many powers don't require a roll at all, and some are meant to be used with other skills, sometimes outside combat.
Mirror Coat is an Angel Halo power that makes the air around the user mirrored and increases their ability to dodge attacks. It requires no skill roll to use.
The Walls Have Ears is an Exile power that should be taken very much literally: spy on people by detaching body parts. It's an Info roll.
DX's combat takes place in a "zone system" very similar to that of FATE Core's. There's no grid and no squares; instead, there are multiple Engagements. Think of an Engagement as an abstract measure, something like a "sub-battle" within the larger battle. Leaving the Engagement you're in is hard. I say this now because each power has a Target and a Range. The range can be "close" (same Engagement), "view" (any target in sight) or "weapon" (same range as the equipped weapon). Target can be the usual suspects: the user, a single target, an x number of targets, everyone in the current Engagement, everyone in the current combat scene.
Hell Beast's Roar, the Chimera power that shouts so damn menacingly at someone they flub their rolls, targets a single enemy in view of the Overed.
Some powers allow you to select targets:
Thor's Hammer, the Black Dog power that throws a massive lightning bolt, affect everyone in the Engagement, but you can select who. So if there are 4 enemies and 2 allies, you can direct your power to only hit the enemies, or, for some reason, a subset of them.
Arrow Raindrop is an Orcus powers that makes it rain sharp, pointy water. It has Target: Scene (Select), so it can freely target or spare anyone participating in the entire battle.
Remember the character's Encroachment Rate ? The amount they have been taken over by the Renegade? Here's the bad news regarding powers: each single use of a single power increases the ER of the user. No power comes for free.
Metal Fusion, the Black Dog power that recovers HP by pretending you're a robot and patching yourself together with scrap parts laying around, increases your ER by 4.
Being brought back from the dead by using the Bram Stoker power Eternal Life increases your ER by 4d10.
Some powers are permanent effects. These don't raise your ER per use, as they have no "uses", but picking them means your base ER increases.
Weapon Installation is a Black Dog power that quite literally install a weapon inside the user's body, like Robocop's thigh holster. It permanently increases the user's Encroachment Rate by 2. This ER cannot be recovered, ever.
Finally, some powers are Restricted. This dictates the conditions in which you are allowed to use the power. There are just two possible restrictions: some powers are Pure-Breed-only, and inaccessible to Overeds with more than one Syndrome. Some powers require a character to have a minimum Encroachment Rate before they can use the power. This can be 80%, 100%, or 120%. Yes, your ER has no upper limit... you can push your character to 500% Encroachment Rate, but good luck bringing them back after that. The part where we talk about the ER system is still some ways away, however.
Only a Pure-Breed Chimera can use Extra Arms, the power that allows them to target multiple opponents in the same Engagement with melee attacks.
Plasma, a Salamandra power that fires a ball of pure... well, plasma, at the opponent, requires the user to be at 100% Encroachment Rate or more.
Powers take combat actions, right? That's why they have their Timing entry. Let me blow your mind:
No one ever said you had to declare only one power per action.
Powers can be combined! Multiple powers can be used at the same time.
This has a few restrictions, though. To combine two powers, they must have the same Timing and the same Skill. You can't combine a Melee power with a Renegade Control or Ranged power, nor a power that takes a minor action with one that takes a major one. Powers that don't require skill rolls can only be combined with others that also don't require rolls. Other than that, for the most part, it's free game!
You can combine the Salamandra power Flaming Bullets with the Solaris power Crown of Thorns to produce a damaging ray of fire and leave the target irritated, with a penalty to their checks. An itchy fireball!
Some powers list their skill as "Syndrome". These powers do nothing on their own, and exist purely to be combined with other powers of the same Syndrome.
The Orcus power Thorn Constraints is a Skill: RC power, and it attacks a target and binds them in place with thorny ivy. If you combine it with the Skill: Syndrome power Keystone Formation, you can increase the number of targets to 3. If you combine it still with Animal Tamer, you can get a bonus to your check by getting your Domain's animals to help you. So you have three people taking damage and being held in place by thorns, birds, dogs, and crawly insects. Orcus
Combos are numerous and, really, pretty much endless. All the Syndromes have many powers, I'd say like half of them, which are designed to be combined with other powers. The entire system is built from the ground up to take advantage of combinations. There's a place in your character sheet for you to jot down your favourite combos, as well.
There are Common Powers as well. These can be manifested by any Overed at all. Some of them are bland and generic effects designed to combine with other powers and increase their efficiency. Some are legitimately interesting effects. We'll talk about them when we look with more depth at each specific Syndrome; I think this will be the very next update.
...are powers that have no mechanical effect whatsoever. They're purely for flavour, but that doesn't mean they don't have powerful effects in the world.
Childhood Friend is a Solaris Simple Power that releases endorphins that make the target trust you like you two have always known each other.
The Emperor's New Clothes is an amazing Bram Stoker Simple Power that creates multiple half-intelligent servants out of your blood who will admire you and praise you without hesitation. It's like creating your own fan-club.
Profiling is a Neumann Simple Power that lets you figure out people's personalities based on small clues in the surroundings, like Sherlock Holmes.
Morpheus has some of the best ones: Ultimate Chef will make a tasty dish out of any material the Overed throws into the pot. Folding hides any object or any size by folding it flat. You can make gruel out of old boots and never worry about parking again by turning your car into an origami.
I'll be honest here: I adore Simple Powers. They are the greatest, and usually the best part of the Syndromes.
The book says that "the use of Simple Powers has the potential to break a scenario", which is one of the biggest examples of how, like I said in the very first update, DX has a tendency to treat the GM in a very traditional manner, like they were the owner of the plot and the players sometimes just peskily interfere with its development.
At character creation, you get to pick four powers among your Syndromes. The book recommends you not pick more than one power that requires high levels of Encroachment Rate, as to not limit your options at the beginning of the game. It also recommends that you don't pick Simple Powers, because they have no combat use and thus picking them wrecks the balance of your character.
This is, in my view, the single biggest flaw in the entirety of Double Cross: the cool, narrative, flavourful powers take the same "slots" and have the same experience point costs as the combat powers. It's just bad design that hampers fun. It's just encouraging players to skip Simple Powers in favour of combat ones, or else they become less effective.
Thankfully, this is very easily fixed: since Simple Powers have no combat use at all anyway, making them separate from regular powers is no trouble. Hell, just give them to the player with no XP cost. I like my games with plenty of cars being folded into pockets and inserting fingers into people's temples to read their memories (that is an Exile one, by the way). But anyway, I digress.
This is it for now. Next time: the goddamned rules! Finally!
Double UpdatesOriginal SA post
From now on we'll be doing double updates. The first half will be continuing through the book normally; the second will take a closer look at the Syndromes and the Overed's powers. If you're more into flavour than rules, I suggest you skip right to the second part of this update.
Part VI - Rules and Session Flow
Here we are, the rules. They took their sweet time to show up.
DX's central conflict resolution system is based on a pool of d10's. When testing a skill, you roll a number of dice equal to the stat the skill is based on. The highest number that comes up is your result. Add your skill rating to that and you have your final result. Let's say we have to gather some info, and we choose to do that through our network of Facebook gossip. Info: Web is based on the Social stat, which we have at 4. We roll 4 dice and get 1, 5, 8, and 5. The highest number is 8. We add our Info: Web rating of 2 to that and get a final score of 10.
Critical hits are interesting. If you roll any number of 10's, you ignore the rest of the dice and do a new check using only the number of dice that came up 10. Add 10 to the final result of this check. This is recursive and can keep happening as long as you keep rolling 10's. Critical hits are not uncommon at all, especially when your stat is high. You can comfortably get a stat up to 7 or 8 at character creation, and at this point critical hits are already starting to pile up.
Tasks have difficulties, with 8 being average and 14 or above being for very difficult situations. Opposed checks work as expected; the one with the highest final score wins. Bonuses and penalties can be applied to the number of dice rolled, to the final score itself, or the treshold value for a critical hit can be lowered (this is what the free Concentrate power does).
The math isn't too intuitive, but I simulated some numbers. Bonuses to the final result are way more valuable than bonuses to the number of dice rolled. You see a lot of sample characters with very unbalanced stats, like 8/1/1/1. Low stats aren't a huge problem as long as you've got skills. Someone with Body 1 and Melee 4 will win against someone with Body 8 and Melee 0 about 30% of the time. Not negligible!
A Session of Play
A session gets divided in three main phases: pre-game, main game, and post-game.
DX is not designed for a sandbox kind of game. It expects GMs to prepare "Scenarios" ahead of time. During the pre-game, the GM will present the Scenario to the players through a Trailer. This is exactly what it sounds like: a teaser-thing, a couple of action-packed minutes the GM gets to sell the Scenario to the players. Yes, DX fully expects the GM to narrate this in a fast pace, do dramatic cuts, and do voice-acting for snippets of NPC dialogue. It's sort of adorable, really.
Each Scenario will have Handouts. These are for the players, and they say what kind of characters are expected in the scenario. The book implies that "just create whatever, let's see what you guys want to play and take it from there" is something that tends to not happen very often. It expects the GM to have a selection of character concepts that fit the plot of their scenario, and the players to pick the concepts they like the best. I'm not a huge fan of it.
Pre-game is also a time for creating Loises. The character concepts in the scenario handouts can have Loises associated with them – for instance, the handout may say this particular scenario needs a UGN Branch Chief, and whoever chooses to be said branch chief gets a scenario Lois with the leader of a local civilian militia.
At this point each character gets an extra Lois with one of the other player characters. So you have 3 from doing Personal Data at character creation, one from the scenario, and one with another PC, for a standard amount of 5 Loises at the start of play.
The Main Game
A game of DX is divided in scenes. Scenes have a beginning and an end, and are framed by the GM according to the needs of Scenario pacing. The GM has total control: they say what characters are in the scene, and what characters can or need to enter the scene in the middle of it. Characters may ask to get in the scene or leave it, but the GM has the final say in everything. Here's the kicker, and it's kind of a big one:
Every time you enter a scene, your character's Encroachment Rate goes up by 1d10. Yep. Just being there and participating in the game takes your poor Overed closer to insanity.
Scenes are pretty standard fare. The GM frames it by saying where and when it takes place, who the lead character of the scene is, and who is there as supporting cast. Roleplaying happens, and at some point the GM will call en end to the scene. The process begins anew with the framing of the next scene. DX follows the Tenra Bansho Zero school of pacing: divide everything into scenes and don't dilly-dally. In every scene there should be either dramatic development between characters or some purposeful action going on. These games are intended to be played fast-paced and action-packed.
Some scenes have no player characters at all in them, only NPCs. These are called "Master Scenes". DX wholly expects the GM to talk to themselves to advance the plot or present cliffhangers or increase tension.
The main game goes through phases, but they are informal, unlike TBZ's acts. These are just general guidelines.
The Opening Phase is the first few scenes. These should present the Overeds' daily lives, introduce their important Loises, and show the looming danger of the Scenario.
The Middle Phase is the meat of play. There's not much to say here, as what happens in these scenes will vary wildly and depend heavily on how the players go about doing their business. But there are three things that should absolutely happen in the Middle Phase:
The PCs should meet each other.
The threat of the Scenario should be investigated.
Battles and introductions of new threats should happen.
At the end of the Middle Phase, players should come face-to-face with the terrible threat they are facing. This can be an abstract idea or a tangible enemy; either way, we enter the Climax. This will be the final battle of the session, the one with the dramatic music playing and characters putting all their cards on the table to reach the Scenario's conclusion. The characters have to work together to overcome the final threat, and only their teamwork will pull thr-
During the Climax, the GM decides which player characters may enter.
After the Climax, the PCs must do Backtracking. This is when they try to use their Loises to decrease their Encroachment Rate and avoid becoming Gjaums. How this is done is the subject of the next update.
And after everything is said and done, we have the Ending , or epilogue. This is just a short description of the aftermath of the events of the Scenario.
Mostly a time for cleanup. DX isn't a big fan of carrying over things from one session to the next: it really expects an episodic structure to a campaign, a string of related Scenarios that each have a definite beginning, middle, and end.
If at this point your Encroachment Rate is 100% or above, your character has effectively become a Gjaum. They are driven completely by their Impulses, and become an NPC. You lose control of your character.
As for the characters that have managed to hold on to their humanity, their damage is completely healed, and their Encroachment Rate goes back to its base rate – what it was at the beginning of the session, before power use and scenes. So if you escape becoming a Gjaum by a hair's breadth at 99%, and you use the same character next session, they will be back at 30% or whatever their starting rate was.
You have to pick three Loises to remain with your character as lasting Loises. The rest is discarded now. If you have less than three, you get to make new Loises until you reach three. This may look weird, but DX only half-expects you to play the same character again, anyway. This is done so your character always starts Scenarios with 3 Loises intrinsic to them, one Lois with another PC of this Scenario, and one optional Lois from the Scenario handout.
Items reset to the Stocked items. Any item that's Stocked and you lost, you get back. Anything that isn't Stocked and you acquired, you lose.
...are awarded to the players and to the GM, not the characters. Your guy became a Gjaum and is now an NPC hunting innocent people through the city? Worry not, for the XP you got is yours, not theirs. The next character that you make gets to benefit from it.
The XP gain chart is funny. Completing the Scenario is worth 1-10 points, depending on the Scenario. Just being there until the end is worth 1 point, as well as having helped other players and setting up the time and place for the game ("it's the players that gain XP, not the characters").
The character's final Encroachment Rate, after Backtrack, is worth XP as well. Ending the session at 0-30% is worth a mere 2 points, but going all the way to 70-99% is worth 5 XP (going over the edge to over 100% is worth only 3, though).Enhancing your Backtrack roll resets this amount to 3 XP, no matter what the end ER was. Rerrolling Backtrack makes this 0.
The GM gets XP as well! Because, you know, why not? This is equal to the sum of the XP gained by the players, divided by three. I found this math weird until I realised it's designed explicitly so having more players nets the GM more XP. Oh, the best part?
A bonus point of one may be added if the players feel the GM helped with setting up the table and coordinating schedules.
This XP has no use for a GM, but if the role of GM ever goes to another player, the previous GM has a bunch of XP in stock. And the new GM will accumulate XP as well. This makes rotating GMs trivially easy, as there's no rebalancing to be done: everyone is always on the same level, more or less.
There are, of course, rules for character progression and XP costs of new stats, skills, powers, etc. It's worth noticing, however, that using the same character from one session to the next is not even expected. It's something that may happen, if the Scenario to be played warrants it. As a player, you're supposed to pick the character you like best out of the Scenario handout. This is not to say there can't be continuous campaigns, but DX certainly expects them to follow a more... episodic structure.
Next time: Lois rules! Combat rules!
Syndrome Dossier, Part A - Common Powers and Renegade Beings
These will be part of the update where we learn about Syndromes and stuff! But this is part A, and we have to get a couple of things out of the way first, before we delve into the Syndromes proper. But don't worry, they are all really cool.
These are powers available to all Overeds, regardless of Syndrome. There are three powers that all overeds get for free: Concentrate, Ressurrection, and Warding.
Concentrate is a power that increases the margin of a critical hit in rolls for powers – as in, you can treat 9s, 8s or even 7s as critical hits, depending on the power level. It's a straightforward utility thing. It only works for one Syndrome, which you pick at character creation. Increasing critical hit chance is very, very advantageous the more dice you have in your pool.
Resurrect is interesting. It's instant recovery from incapacitation, with Xd10 HP, where X is the power's level. The only drawback is that your Encroachment Rate goes up by the same amount of HP you recovered, and you can't use Resurrect once your ER goes above 100%. The Overed keeps fighting back from defeat, at the cost of their humanity. Mechanical support for a genre trope makes this power really incredible in my view.
But that's nothing compared to the next one. This next power is one of my absolute favourite things about DX. But first, let's talk about Extras. Extras are NPCs that have no stats. They can't affect battles in any way, and there's never a need to roll when dealing with them: declare something, it's done. Extras are intended as background scenery.
Warding is a power that releases Renegade virus particles in the air around you. It turns all non-Overeds in the area into Extras. All Overeds in the area instantly know that Warding has been used by someone.
This power is all kinds of proper game design in every sense. It effectively neutralises non-Overeds. Want to have a big fight in a public square? Alright; suddenly everyone around remembers something really important they have to do at home and soon the square is deserted except for you and your opponent.
You're calmly walking down the street, when you realise it's unusually empty for this time of day. That's when you notice the scent of Warding in the air... you ready your battle stance, for you know an Overed is nearby.
The best part is you can flavour it however you like. You're a Solaris? Just say everyone falls asleep around you. You're a villain? Everyone feels sudden pain and falls unconscious, maybe even dies. You're a Chimera? A primal fear overcomes the people nearby and they run away without knowing why.
I love Warding.
These are the powers every Overed gets for free. There are also other Common Powers you can pick in place of your Syndrome's powers. Most are generic bonuses to rolls, intended to be combined with other powers. There are also generic bonuses to regular skill rolls outside of battle, representing the use of the Renegade to enhance your body and mind and stuff. Here are some Common Powers that merit special mention for being flavourful:
Calm Down pacifies the Renegade virus in the region, giving penalties to checks to every single Overed and Gjaum in the area.
Weapon Mastery is a special attunement of the Renegade with a weapon you have Stocked, and it's a permanent increase in damage. It's like your virus gets a special fondness for that chainsaw you like carrying around so much.
Intimidation is Warding, taken up to 11. It is an aggressive release of virus particles that can instantly incapacitate weaker enemies. Magical viral tear gas.
Soldier's Network is a power that uses the Renegade to create a sort of hive-mind, allowing you to synchronise your actions with those of subordinates (as in, NPC minions under your command).
Research Master increases Info checks and represents your expertise in using your Overed powers when gathering information. The details are up to the player. Personally I like to imagine a Neumann scientist going "citation manager software is for chumps".
Little Happiness is the cutest power in the game. I'll transcribe its description:
"Receive career or social success by properly using Renegade powers for the society." It enhances a Procure check.
It's been hinted so far that the Renegade is more than just a virus. At times, it seems almost... intelligent. But there's no way it could manifest something like free will, right? Right...?
What if it could infect things other than humans...?
Put these two together and you have Renegade Beings. They are what happens when the Renegade infects something in the world that's not a human, and that thing gets so saturated with virus it emerges as a sentient manifestation of the Renegade's consciousness itself. RBs are living, walking, talking Renegade. And, of course, you can play as them.
The rules for creating a RB character are simple, really. What you need is to pick Work: Renegade Being. There special tables for a RB's Origin, Experience and Encounter when it comes to creating Personal Data. You get two powers for free, and access to a few RB-exclusive powers as well. Other than these things, create the character just like a regular Overed. They still have Impulses and Awakenings and Loises, and run the same risks of becoming Gjaums. A RB Gjaum is a formidable opponent.
Every RB gets the power Humanity's Neighbour for free. It is always active and means you can always disguise yourself as a human. RBs tend to be interested in humans and infliltrate human society, and this power allows them to.
Every RB gets an Origin power for free (careful not to confuse it with the Origin table when doing Personal Data, they're separate). These represent what kind of thing you were before being infected by the Renegade. Activating the power reverts you to a more primal form resembling your origins and grants you extra abilities until the end of battle. No matter what, you can still walk and talk and function normally. A RB that was a rock doesn't become a rock when activating Origin: Mineral, but something more like a rock golem. The available origins are:
Animal - you were once an innocent animal before the Renegade got to you
Colony - you were a coral reef, a fungus, a forest...
Cyber - maybe you were a cellphone, maybe you were an internet site, maybe you were a particularly nasty C++ library.
Plant - ever felt like being grass was boring? Your xylem not flowing like it used to? Find some Renegade and now you can conquer the world.
Mineral - you have an inorganic origin, like rock or crystal or marble or cement.
Legend - ever heard about memes? You were an idea, a rumour, an urban legend, an archetype shared by the imagination of people. A whisper in the back of their minds. Now you're real.
The Renegade virus is... kind of impressive, actually. It can infect the idea of Batman.
In addition to these, there are unique powers that are accessible only to Renegade Beings. The ones more worthy of mention are:
Unseen Talker - Not very many people are Overeds, but there's a lot of dormant Renegade among humans. This powers allows you to tap into that huge network of virus to gather information.
Stillness - You can change the balance of Renegade viral load in someone. Decrease their Encroachment Rate, increase yours.
Heartless Memories - Talk to the dead. No, really. From a possession or body part, you can reconstruct a deceased person's memories and converse briefly with it.
Hazard Call - An attack that, if it hits, increases the target's Encroachment Rate. Stir up the Renegade in an enemy.
Renegade Smite - Think Goku's spirit bomb, but with virus instead. Gather up all the Renegade dormant in an area and use it to smite your foes with.
As promised in the first update, this is how you play a sentient idea that can throw cars around – just pick Origin: Legend and the Chimera power Flying Debris.
Renegade Being Life History
Let's take a look at some of the options for a Renegade Being's Personal Data. The tables here are honestly very cool, filled with inspiring options ripe with plot potential.
Origin includes things like having ancient memories of a distant past, being born far away from civilisation (recommended Lois: animals), having been discovered in a hibernation state (recommended Lois: researcher), being born to watch someone, being part of a family of Renegade Beings, being a reincarnation ("you have memories that do not belong to you"), being from goddamn space... there's not a lot here that's boring.
The Experience table is cool but not as good. It includes having spent happy times with a human family, having lived inside a volcano, having cooperated with research on the Renegade, having a best friend ( ), having a past of wanton slaughter, among others.
The Encounter chart is pretty much exactly the same as the one for regular Overeds, with nothing much worthy of mention and nothing that relates directly to the character's status as a Renegade Being.
That's it, for now. Renegade Beings are one of the coolest things about DX, and some of the Common Powers are pretty great, too.
Next time on Syndrome Dossier: Light! Darkness! Get ready for Angel Halo and Balor!
What do you do with Loises, anyway?Original SA post
Episode VII - What do you do with Loises, anyway?
How to Put Yout Boot Through Someone's Stomach, The Easy Way
So what do you do with Loises, anyway? Well, one not-that-small part of it is using them as plot hooks, character motivations and a guideline as to which interactions are important to the character and which aren't. But Loises also have a mechanical purpose. It happens during the Backtrack phase of play. If you recall from last time, Backtrack happens after the Climax, after the final battle. It's the time when Overeds look at themselves in the mirror and realise how deep into the rabbit hole they were forced to go to face the threat of the Climax. You're a Gjaum, Harry.
First, let's talk about Encroachment Rate a little bit. It's not useless. Yes, it's a number representing the slow but unstoppable countdown until your ego, memories, desires and dreams all become the psychological equivalent of a sunny-side up egg, but it also makes an Overed powerful. You've got two effects: high ER gives you dice bonuses to all rolls, and high ER gives you a bonus to the level of all your powers.
During the Climax, the game suggests the use of Impulse Checks, but they can happen any time during play, in theory. They're for when something stresses an Overed so much the Renegade boils and the character's Impulse takes over for a while: the Overed goes berserk. Literally, Berserk is the name of the combat condition you get. It restricts your actions a little bit, you get more aggressive. Other than that, the other penalty of an Impulse Check is 2d10 ER for just having to make one. Ouch!
But there's a way back into humanity. When the abyss is staring at you, you can still spit at its eyes. Your way back are Loises. Your relationships with your fellow humans, with the things you believe in, are what will ultimately save your sanity.
It works like this: during the Backtrack phase, for every Lois you have, you get to roll 1d10. Subtract the sum of the dice from your total Encroachment Rate. So if you have 4 Loises, you get to reduce 4d10 from your ER.
Sometimes that's not enough. You can choose to roll as if you had double the Loises you have. If you do that, no matter what final ER you end up with, you only get 3 XP for it. Even if it is 99%. If that's still not enough, you can roll again, subtracting an additional (Loises)d10 from your ER. If you go for this, your final Encroachment Rate gives you 0 XP. Remember that at the end of a session, all ER under 100% resets to its base rate, so this is all to save a character from going over 100%.
Here is the issue: during the course of the session, your relationships will change. Actions will be taken, words will be spoken, lives will get in each other's ways and nothing will be the same again. If something happens that fundamentally changes the relationship you have with a Lois – say, if the person dies, or betrays you, or you betray them – the relationship becomes a Titus instead. Loises are named after Lois Lane, while Tituses are named after Titus Andronicus.
Tituses do not help a character reduce their ER during Backtrack. But they do have a use: a Titus is a potential for new life. Letting go of your past, opening the way for new relationships, is power. You can discard a Titus, get rid of that relationship forever, for a one-time bonus on a roll. Titus bonuses are the greatest in the game. You can choose among a few options, including adding 10d10 to your pool and increasing your final result by 1d10. Discarding Tituses at the Climax as your character goes through life-changing epiphanies while fighting the big bad villain is the quintessential Double Cross experience.
And now it's time for something completely different: combat rules! We'll focus just on the interesting ones, as the details here are only useful for actually playing the game, not reading about it.
The standard attack roll is cool. The attacker rolls a skill, based on what kind of attack it is: Melee for fists and melee weapons, Ranged for firearms, Renegade Control for raw powers. Remember how powers listed which skill they rolled? This is where it comes into play. The defender gets a choice: they can either dodge or guard. Dodging means the attack roll is opposed, with the defender rolling their Dodge skill. If the defender wins, the attack whiffs completely. If the defender chooses to guard instead, the attack connects automatically.
Damage is 1d10 + (n. of dice rolled in the previous step/10)d10 + Attack Power of the power or weapon. For instance, if you rolled 12d10 to hit in the previous step, you roll 2d10 + Atk. Power for damage. Really accurate attacks grant bonuses to damage. For Attack Power, a standard katana has 5, a handgun has 3, and most level 1 powers are around that range as well. Damage is reduced by the defender's armour (a sturdy leather jacket has 2). If the defender is guarding, their Guard stat further reduces damage. The Guard stat depends on the weapon; a katana has 3, firearms have 0, and there are lots of powers that create barriers that increase this as well.
Initiative isn't rolled or anything. Character act in order of their Initiative stat.
During your round, you get a minor action and a major action, in this order. If you forego your minor and perform a major, your turn ends. Minor actions are used primarily for moving and changing equipment, including drawing weapons.
Major actions include most things, like dashing (moving double your regular amount), breaking away from Engagements, attacking, etc. One cool thing here is that characters reduced to 0 HP are incapacitated. It takes a major action to kill an incapacitated character, but you can declare it in unison with an attack. What this means is that it's easy to just kill of someone in battle, but if they're lying there on the floor you have to spend a major action to finish them off. You monster.
An Engagement is an abstract measure of distance in the battlefield. Characters that can target each other in melee are in the same Engagement, but remember that "melee" is flexible and the kind of media DX emulates is all about really athletic fights. In my mind, the average Engagement spans something like 10m (30ft).
You can't move past an Engagement; if you run into one, you stop and stay there.If you want to leave an Engagement, you have to Break Away, which takes a major action and you can't enter any other Engagements with it. If it's hard to Break Away – say, if you're in a narrow tunnel or inside a burning building or something – it might require an opposed check against the opponents.
One fun little rule is that characters can channel Final Fantasy and simply escape from battle. You have to use a major action to dash (double your movement). If you can do that without coming across an Engagement, you escape and effectively vanish from the scene.
Characters at 0 HP are incapacitated and go back 1 HP when the battle ends. There is no death in DX until someone explicitly declares they are killing an incapacitated character. If that happens, however...
Pray for the character's soul and prepare to make a new character.
There are Bad Statuses as well. These are videogame-like. Taint is a gradual HP drain. Rigor stops you from moving. Hatred means you must attack your hated target. And so on. Usually you can just use a minor or major action and declare you're getting rid of the Bad Status. No roll is needed, but you use your action up.
Some characters have a special property called Flight. This means they can't be blocked by anyone except other characters with Flight (yep, it's Magic). You can move freely between Engagements, and a regular minor action move counts as Breaking Away. If you are in an Engagement, however, the other people in there can target you with melee attacks. Flight doesn't protect you from that. Which ties back into the whole "athletic melee" theme.
Another special combat property is Stealth. If you're in Stealth, no one can target you with anything. You can enter stealth by using a major action when you're not in an Engagement. Performing any action or taking damage negates Stealth.
There are also Vehicles. These are dead simple: you use a minor action to get in or out of one, and you get bonuses to stats depending on the vehicle. You also get the option of a ramming attack, which is just a melee attack with the Ride skill, and of transporting other people with you.
If you haven't acted this round yet, you can Cover other characters, putting yourself in harm's way and protecting them. You're considered to be guarding for that, and you lose your action for the round. You can do this even if the attack targets an entire area; just think of a dramatic huddle.
DX doesn't track ammunition or throwing items or anything. Just assume you have an extra clip somewhere in the folds of your clothing and extra throwing knives strapped to your leg.
Of course, there are powers that interact with every single aspect of combat described thus far. Not only regular attacking and defending, but there's, just to name a few, an Angel Halo power that cloaks you in refracted light so you enter Stealth in a minor action, a Balor power that slams enemies into the ground with gravity so they lose Flight, a Chimera power that lets you move super-fast to Cover allies and not lose a turn... there's a lot of variety.
This doesn't fit anywhere else, so it's going here. DX offers a page on investigation scenes, where the characters are just out looking for information. The attetion is nice, but it's just telling you to use Info checks. It says players can spend their Savings points on investigations, representing them paying off informants or bribing their way to solving the mysteries.
Next time: the setting! Japan, the UGN, civilian militias, criminal organisations, Renegade Beings!
Okay, real talk. Are the updates too long like this? Should I split the Syndrome Dossiers and post them separately? I'd hate for this to become too long for comfortable reading.
Syndrome Dossier, Part B
The Angel Halo
Angel Halo is the Syndrome of light. These Overeds are adept at manipulating lasers, refractions, images, and enhancing their senses. The Syndrome is named like this because the users are known to... shine. Literally.
Angel Halo is the sneakiest Syndrome. Being able to bend light around yourself means you have extreme ease in entering stealth and staying there, hiding the source of your attacks so opponents won't know what hit them. And if the enemy tries to hide, your enhanced vision means they won't get to stay hidden for long. Your senses are incredible, and being able to mess around with the way light bounces off things and into your eyes means you won't ever need to use eyeglasses again. The fact that an Angel Halo can see very far away and be very precise through the use of light lenses means most of them are excellent marksmen. Every gun you hold is a sniper rifle.
Defensively, you are deceptive. You like to stay far away and shoot enemies; if they get too close, you use your enhanced senses to dodge and have something akin to a spider sense. It's hard to attack an Angel Halo because they keep themselves surrounded with mirrors, and when you think you've got them it turns out it was just an illusory after-image. You can produce quick flashes that blind enemies for a short while and allow you to break away from close combat and return to your safe marksman position.
The Angel Halo is nothing to scoff at in direct combat, though. Some Angel Halos have mastered the art of creating lasers of burning light. They shoot blinding laser rays at their enemies with pinpoint accuracy at their weak points. When attacking directly, the Angel Halo enjoys opening the opponent's guard with blinding flashes of consufing light or distracting them with illusions.
Pure-Breed Angel Halos have two exclusive tricks up their sleeves: one is to create a single burst of bright light that illuminates everything around and leaves no place for any foe to hide in; with everything revealed to them, the Angel Halo attacks. The other is the opposite; by stealing all the light away from the enemy and making them effectively blind for an instant, the Overed can drastically reduce the efficiency of the enemy's actions.
Angel Halos with high Encroachment Rates get to create multiple simultaneous illusory copies of themselves, produce so bright a flash they can move freely under cover of the light and attack, use an illusory doppleganger of themselves to flank and target the enemy's weak spot, and reflect damage they take back at the attacker in a burst of light, as if they were themselves a mirror.
An Angel Halo's Simple Powers include dramatically improving their hearing or sense of smell (allowing one to "see" particles, including bacteria and viruses). They can light an area of make it dark with no effort. They can enhance their vision to such a level as being able to see starts during the day. They can cast illusions over themselves, and project the appearance of someone else. And they can cast projections to make an instant bat-symbol up in the clouds or screen a movie on a whim or anything else.
Balor time! This one is among my favourites. These Overeds can produce small, floating pitch-black spheres, called "evil eyes". By rotating, compressing, and expanding these spheres, they can manipulate gravity around themselves. It's like having a pet sphere of annihilation. The Syndrome is named after a Celtic god who is said to have an evil eye.
Balors can mess with the acceleration and mass of their attacks, increasing their damage and accuracy. This trick works with melee, firearms, and thrown objects: pick this Syndrome if you want to be the cool guy who cuts people with thrown playing cards or opens a hole in people's chests by flicking coins at them. For defense, the Balor can slow enemies down by increasing their mass and reducing their acceleration. They can divert punches thrown at them and make bullets lose their momentum with a thought. They can propel themselves in great speeds away from (or toward, really) danger.
Einsten is a cool guy, and since gravity is just a consequence of the way space is folded around itself, a Balor can mess with it as well. You step out on the street and by the end of that step you're on the other side. Do the seven-league boot trick without breaking a sweat. But wait, doesn't time have something to do with that whole relativity thing? Yes, indeed. Balors can slow down time to make themselves and their allies faster and to foil the enemy. Imagine you're going to shoot at Benny and suddenly Benny is holding your gun. That's what it's like.
On a high Encroachment Rate, the well-meaning Balor will be able to freeze time to create opportunities that even the odds of battle, crush the enemy like a cockroach under their own weight, and... oh, I dunno, maybe creating a black hole is enough for you. Pure-Breeds get to play with space a little bit. Throw a punch and nail the guy all the way across the plaza. Hell, you can throw one single punch and nail everyone in the goddamned plaza at the same time. Dimensions? Hah! You play on another level.
The Balor's Simple Powers are all real cool. There's the boring ones, like making doors go where they aren't supposed to, sensing the movement of things around you through their pull on the fabric of space-time, and making things age at unusual rates (this doesn't work on living things, but if you really need that contract you just faked to look really old...). There's one that slows down time so you can read a book, play videogames, do a workout and take a nap all during your lunch break. There's one that creates a pocket dimension, like if you wanted to have your own Platform 9 3/4.
Most Syndromes have Simple Powers that just make you look cool and nothing else. Balor has got two of them. Stick makes gravity lazy so things will refuse to fall to the floor when you let go of them. But its real use is... well, let the game speak for itself:
One can also force his hair and sleeves to "hang" in any direction.
There's also Tyrant Throne , which has no use at all except make you float really slowly in the air. Never walk again*! Because, as everyone knows:
Moving at a leisurely pace without being fettered by gravity is the mark of a true tyrant.
Next time: The Syndrome with lightning bolts and cybernetics! The Syndrome that's kind of gross! Black Dog and Bram Stoker!
* I just realised with this you can make a Balor Stephen Hawking and the concept just won't leave my goddamn mind
SYNDROME(s)Original SA post
Syndrome Dossier, Part C
This time we'll check out two Syndromes with accessories. They're the most notable "gimmick" Syndromes in the game, but the powers system is so tight that they don't feel like gimmicks and require no extra rules just for themselves, except for a few exclusive entries in the item descriptions. Black Dog has mechanical arms, Bram Stoker has bloody little minions. Onward to them!
You know how The Matrix teaches us human beings are just walking batteries? This Syndrome taps the power of the body's internal electrical currents. It's named after the black dog of British legend who "always appeared with lightning" – I'm not familiar with this, but British legend does have its fair share of black dogs.
Predictably, you can shoot lightnining. And channel lightning. Thundershock, thunder wave, thunder bolt, everything is at your fingertips. Imbue your weapons with lightning, deal recurrent damage with residual electricity. You can also pump up your own internal electricity to become more powerful for short bursts of time – a Pure-Breed Black Dog can surpass their human limits and perform amazing feats, beforing fainting from the effort.
You can also play with electromagnetic fields. You can repulse attacks and enemies away from you and stop opponents in their tracks. More interestingly, you can manipulate metallic objects from afar (yes, just like that one dude from the comics). You can remotely manipulate your weapon and be the laziest swordsman, and you can use nearby metallic objects as impromptu shields to protect your allies.
Black Dog Overeds can use their electricity to attune their bodies to electronics. This means they get to do cybernetics! One interesting power lets you participate in a scene through surveillance equipment. You can enhance your physique or install a cyber-arm or cyber-leg. You can install weapons inside your own body ("I am never disarmed," you say dramatically, as you draw a claymore from between your shoulder-blades). You can install programs into yourself to become better at battle. I know kung-fu, indeed.
Hard-wired is a power that basically turns you into a cyborg with a number of enhancements. These include the classic arm-blade and cannon, dermal armour plates, and combat AI, Terminator-style. A Black Dog on high Encroachment can not only produce some mighty lightning, they can also active a self-destruction mechanism inside themselves for massive damage.
For Simple Powers, we've got a few options here. We can jam radios and make anything short-circuit on the spot and force security systems to go haywire. The lights have gone out and you really need to make some juice in the blender? No worries, your ever-electrical body can power that. You can become a walking relay station, receiving and transmiting both wireless and wired signals (never miss the soap opera again, just touch the right kind of wires and it's like the thing's going on in your head). You can also hide small objects inside your cybernetic body, and no one will ever find it if you don't want them to.
Blood! It's great. Blood has ritualistic and symbolic meanings for every single culture on Earth. Its scientific meaning, in medicine and biology and biochemistry is every bit as deep. Blood is life, and blood is alive. In the case of a Bram Stoker, especially so.
The Syndrome is named after the author of Dracula.
Many Bram Stoker powers cost HP from the user, to represent the drawing of blood.
The Bram Stoker Overed can shoot blood as bullets and blades, coat their own bullets and blades with it for greater damage, protect themselves with shields, and all that jazz. They can also use blood from the inside, to slow down or accelerate their own methabolism. There's even a power that stops the Overed's heart for a moment ("no matter what the attack is, it will have no effect on a corpse").
Most interestingly, though, a Bram Stoker can control blood that has left their bodies and turn it into half-sentient marionettes of red gross material. These are called Servants. The "vanilla" Servant isn't too great. It can't do much and kind of sucks. With additional powers, however, a Bram Stoker can create more servants, make them last longer, use them in diversions for their own attacks... more interesting uses include making a Servant resemble another person, using a Servant as a proxy in a scene, and fusing with oneself with a Servant.
There are Servant-exclusive powers. They can only be used by Servants, though they count toward the character's powers. The more interesting ones are making servants fly, making them ricochet around the battlefield to hit multiple enemies, and making them self-destruct.
The Bram Stoker's high ER powers are better versions of their regular tricks with blood, but there's one that revives the Overed from incapacitation with no penalty – except that it can only be used once per Scenario. Pure-Breed Bram Stokers can reduce the HP cost of other powers and make an attack that ages the target by instantly cutting their telomeres in half
For Simple Powers, you can perform CSI blood sample analyses with your fingertips. You can track targets by smelling their blood. You can keep yourself healthy and with a youthful appearance for decades. You can make blood sculptures and put them in your living room. Remember that Calvin &
Next time: ! Chimera and Exile!
The WorldOriginal SA post
Part VIII - The World
This is the chapter with all the setting details, which, quite honestly, aren't that many. Let's dive into it. I'll leave out the things that we know already. There's a lot of setting information that we know already, and since DX is extremely concise and very fond of one sentence explanations, there's a lot of things we already know everything there is to know about.
Twenty years ago, an archeology team discovered some ruins in the Middle East. They were heading home with weird biological samples the plane was shot down. The samples spread through the air. For the following years, mysterious incidents started happening all over the world. Bizarre occurrences that could not have been caused by human beings. It took some time until someone offered some insight into the matter. The someone was Professor Alfred J. Cauldwell, a renomed biologist – let's assume he was a virologist. Cauldwell wrote a paper explaining that the samples from the archeology team were the Renegade virus. He went on to explain the effects of the Renegade on humans, what Overeds are, and how they can become Gjaums. The paper ends with the assertion that the recent bizarre events all over the world are the work of an Overed terrorist organisation: the False Hearts.
Cauldwell's paper was sent to the governments of the world, who kept it very confidential to avoid public rioting. But at the same time, they were also sick and tired of all the unstoppable attacks by these mysterious Overeds. So when Cauldwell proposed to spearhead a new organisation to stop False Hearts, the world gave its wholehearted support, even in secret. Governments and millionaires and multinational companies helped fund and develop Cauldwell's project, and thus was born the Universal Guardian Network... our well-known UGN.
After a few years, Prof. Cauldwell died in action in New Zealand. I guess that's par for the job when you're a professional superhero... Without Cauldwell's charismatic leadership, the organisation fragmented and became less centralised. Individual branches are now more powerful than they were before. The UGN also became shadier, as branch chiefs and agents got more power and influence to pursue their own goals. Nowadays, the organisation is led by a board of twelve members, called the Axis. Under Cauldwell's influence, the UGN was all about researching and discovering a way to incorporate Overeds in human society; now, its focus is more Overed monitoring and security. This is the state things are in at the time of the game.
The UGN has four main jobs:
Incident resolution - dealing with Overeds in the field. Sometimes the help of local authorities is required; the UGN is powerful enough to arrange for that without compromising the next point.
Information manipulation - everything about the Renegade is confidential and known only by a select few. The UGN works with governments and media to keep it that way.
Protection and training - you can't stop Overeds from awakening, the Renegade is a fact of life now. The UGN is responsible for taking in newly awakened Overeds and giving them shelter, information, and training in controling their powers. In turn, Overeds are expected to work for the UGN.
Research and development - teams of scientists in lab coats are studying the Renegade, the Overeds, and developing equipment and technology for the UGN's agents to use. The elephant in the room is the cure for the Renegade... they're working on it but have made zero progress. It's not an issue right now.
The Axis, the 12-member board, is the UGN's highest authority. Below that are the international branches, and below that individual city branches. Among the UGN's agents are what are called the "UGN children": Overeds who awoke very young or maybe were even born Overeds. They are taken in and live under the care of the UGN. There are also "illegal" Overeds, the ones who don't officially join with the UGN. They try to live life as best as they can, but it's hard when you've got the Renegade to contend with. The UGN isn't above working with illegals for individual jobs and missions when they're up for it. It's worth pointing out that the UGN employs many non-Overeds; out of the four main jobs, only incident resolution is something that usually requires agents to be Overeds themselves.
And then we have the False Hearts. Huge, inscrutable, powerful. They are less organised than the UGN, being composed instead of a number of cells ran by agents who mostly go about pursing their personal goals and impulses. Very important FH agents are called "Masters". There is a rumour that several Masters have been brought into Japan's False Hearts network, which I like to think is a subtle nod to that old manga/anime trope of "an enemy team where each member is a different nationality".
The False Hearts doesn't have a standard modus operandi. They can use direct violence, brainwashing, infiltration and spying, guerilla tactics, terrorist attacks... what is certain is that there are plenty of Gjaums among their ranks and they aren't afraid of showing and abusing their Overed powers.
Next the book goes on a little bit about the Renegade, but it's nothing that we haven't seen yet. It mentions how Gjaums are Overeds that cannot leave a berserk state and know only to pursue their Impulses. It goes on a little bit about the skill Renegade Control: different Overeds use different techniques to manipulate their Renegade. The book mentions breathing exercises, meditation, and sleep therapy. It talks about Loises, and how important they are in keeping Overeds sane. One interesting thing: since UGN children have likely spent most of their lives in training facilities, they tend to have less human contact than "regular" Overeds. Which means that they are more prone to going Gjaum. Which is kind of awesome. The person trained as an Overed since birth is more likely to lose control than Pete, who awakened last month. This is in no way supported by the rules, as everyone gets the same number of starting Loises and there is no "Lois quality" aspect. I still find it a nice touch of flavour, if only for NPCs.
It's not all about UGN vs. False Hearts. Many organisations have cropped up throughout the world who have to do with the Renegade and Overeds.
The Strangers are the specialised branch of Japan's Self-Defence Force (the cuddliest name for the military ever) that deals with Overeds. They have specialised anti-Overed gear. Rifles and tanks are not much use against a rampaging Overed, so when the going gets tough these guys are called. They're known for treating Overeds like trash.
Tempest is the equivalent of the Strangers, but in the U.S. Military. Unlike the Strangers, however, Tempest is all about exploiting the potential military application of Overeds ( ). They are known for making terrible inhumane experiments on Overeds. Not surprisingly, the UGN and these guys hate each other.
The Kamishiro Group is a Japanese mega-conglomerate. They have tons of money and do their own research on Overeds and the Renegade. They are, however, allied with the UGN and generally not bad guys. But there has been the recent advent of an anti-UGN wing within the conglomerate: they (correctly) believe that the UGN monopolises Renegade information.
The Guild is the world's largest criminal organisation. The Guild can browbeat the triad into doing what they want. When the yakuza boss needs bodyguards, he calls the Guild. The Guild makes the Cosa Nostra offers they can't refuse.
The Guild employs various Overeds and Gjaums. They are not necessarily associated with False Hearts, even though they certainly sport many infiltrated FH agents. Instead, they're just this colossal criminal organisation who is not afraid to use every tool available on planet Earth to further their goals.
Finally, there's Tindalos, and they rock. They're a civilian armed group based in Japan. They're people who have sworn to protect others from the action of Overeds, Gjaums, and the Renegade. The only problem is that they're not Overeds themselves. They're just guys, armed with guns, some 'tude, and huge balls. What sets Tindalos apart from other similar civilian groups – and of course there are plenty of them, think about it: every fight between Overeds leaves victims, directly or indirectly, it's a matter of time before people discover the truth about the Renegade and swear vengeance or something – is that they have a lot of intel. Tindalos knows about the UGN, False Hearts, and a whole lot about how Overeds actually work. They sort of hate the UGN, because they think the way the UGN handles Overed incidents (as in, cover the thing up, dispatch other Overeds to deal with it) is disrespectful toward the actual people involved and elitist toward Overeds. They're right, of course, even if the UGN won't admit it.
These organisations are all really cool and I really wish the game went more into them. We get nothing beside one paragraph of description, and in some cases what I wrote here is longer than what the book actually says about them. You could make awesome games from the perspective of any of these: there are plenty of "special corps" Japanese shows that are basically Strangers; I could picture a Guild game with Overeds using their powers to pull heists and cons and rob banks; Tindalos is a perfect Hunter: the Vigil compact.
Next time: More of the setting! Renegade Beings and NPCs!
Syndrome Dossier, Part DOriginal SA post
Syndrome Dossier, Part D
You can probably accurately guess the skills of a Chimera Overed based on the Syndrome's name alone. These Overeds can change their body parts into those of animals and manifest wild beast characteristics like ferocity, as well as manifest super-strength of the "lift a van with one hand" variety. The one word to describe Chimera is "predator".
The shape-shifting abilities are numerous. Grow wings to fly, grow a tail that bites like a serpent, grow Wolverine claws or horns or a thick scaled carapace or anger foes with a mighty roar. There are more abstract effects, like intimidating opponents with the ferocity of your gaze, or summoning the vitality of wild beasts to regenerate your wounds. One power, Complete Therianthropy (from the greek for "beast" + "man"), completely metamorphoses the Overed's body into a battle form.
The super-strength powers are as exciting as you'd expect and vary from "hit very hard" to "hit really, really hard" at high Encroachment Rates. Speaking of which, at 120% ER Ultimate Therianthropy becomes available, which is a transformation into a battle form that's... battlier. I assume it involves more spikes, sharp edges, and bulging muscles. The best part is that it can only be used while Complete Therianthropy is in effect, so you can have your Overed go through a Frieza-like (or Toguro-like, if you're into better shonen ) multi-tier transformation.
Pure-Breed Chimera get to sprout more arms to attack, normally an Exile trick, and go into Mighty Therianthropy , which is in some way different from the other transformations and has better mechanical benefits than the Complete version.
For Simple Powers, the enterprising Chimera can breathe underwater by sprouting gills or see in the dark with cat's eyes. They can communicate very well with animals by releasing pheromones and mediating body language, but it takes a Simple Power to allow a Chimera to peacefully turn themselves into an animal and just chill out like that in the scene. Other effects include manifesting the supernatural sensibility of animals to natural phenomena, which allows you to predict earthquakes, floods, and the like, and perhaps even guess the winner of World Cup games (remember that octopus?). You can nab a Simple Power that gives you irresistible soft fur to your Therianthropies, and make people fall in love madly with your horrendous murderous battle forms.
And the last Simple Power: you're so goddamn healthy like a wild animal that you can be in the most perfect physical shape at all times without doing anything about it. Eat buckets of ice cream while coding roguelike games in your mom's basement for six months and still look like Brad Pitt. Truly, the gooniest of powers!
While Chimera focuses on adding beast body parts and characteristics to the human body, Exile is a Syndrome about changing and manipulating what's already there. The name is taken from Hiruko, a Japanese god; apparently the other gods were too freaked out by the fact that Hiruko had no goddamned bones and banished him from their sight. Yes, Boneless Chicken is inspired by myth, who would've thought?
Exile is the grossest Syndrome. Some powers are relatively tame: stretch your arms to attack at a distance or from unexpected angles, soften the impact of blows by softening the body... alright. Grow extra arms, engorge body parts, liquify the body... alright, I can live with that. Detach body parts that attack separately? Shoot internal organs at enemies like bullets?
An Exile is nothing if not resourceful. Sharpened nails are better than an axe at melee and easier to hide. Hair that's alive and can entangle foes is a classical staple of anything Eastern. An Exile can self-destruct, deal ongoing damage by burying a part of their body into the enemy (all those boxing teachers who say you should draw the hand back after a punch are chumps), protect distant allies by literally throwing their arms and legs in the way of attacks... there's a lot of stuff here.
At high Encroachment Rates, the most notable tool in the Exile's arsenal is Fusion. An ally gains the Exile's powers. The Exile cannot act and the target can't use Fusion for themselves. The way this is done is exactly like the power's name implies... the user morphs and fuses into the body of the target. Let's reiterate: .
Pure-Breed Exiles can mitigate damage taken by changing their vital organs around – the old trick of keeping your heart safe inside your thigh – and a crazy power that divides the user's body for attacks or dodges and adds a flat +10 to the check result, making it flat-out one of the best powers out there, mechanically.
Simple Powers have what you'd expect. Liquify yourself and slip through keyholes, change your appearance to resemble somebody else, walk on the ceiling and walls like Supaideru-Men. Never need to carry a swiss army knife again, because you can replicate all that with your maleable fingertips. The same fingertips can be inserted inside a target's head to read their memories, though it only works on consenting people. You can replicate that cool Dark Souls power that turns the user into an object, and hide yourself as an inconspicuous vase or table. Speaking of hiding, are you looking for cool ways to enter Stealth? Well, an Exile Simple Power allows the user to hide inside another person's body. You can only enter when they're unconscious, and there's no mention if the person notices anything different when they wake up carrying a goddamned Overed coiled between their innards.
Again, just for good measure...
Next time, on Syndrome Dossier: gotta go fast
More of the WorldOriginal SA post
Part Eight and a Half - More of the World
The UGN and its allies are eerily effective at covering up a massive, global transformation of mankind into superpowered monsters. But they're not perfect. Some eyewitnesses and victims slip through the cracks of the information control departments of the UGN, and many attempt to, you know, do something about the fact that mankind is being taken over by an intelligent supernatural virus. Their attempts are either shut down by the UGN and associates or ridiculed by the common authorities. Thus, all over the world there are cropping up civilian armed and vigilante groups, intend on taking the Renegade matters into their own hands. Of course, since they have next to no proper intel on Overeds and Gjaums – the exception being Tindalos, mentioned in the last update – they usually treat Overeds like straight-up monsters. But, I hear you say, Overeds have access to Warding! No way a bunch of civilians can take even one of them on! You're right. These groups are usually dedicated to evacuating and helping victims of Overed incidents. Or, altenatively,
Rocket launchers are the most direct way to handle a Gjaum
Okay, remember Alfred J. Cauldwell? The mysterious founder of the UGN who led the organisation then mysteriously died in the field? Well, to no one's surprise at all, it turns out he didn't die for real! He spent many years missing, but just the other day he surprise-hijacked a lot of media outlets all throughout the world. Just like that V for Vendetta scene, Cauldwell exposed the Renegade, the UGN, and False Hearts on public TV. Then he said the UGN wasn't doing its job properly anymore, so he decided to join False Hearts. And then he went and destroyed several important UGN facilities, single-handedly. Gee Cauldwell, you sure are a swell bloke.
Needless to say, the UGN spent the next few weeks like dizzy cockroaches running around to fix the leak. Through liberal application of brainwashing, memory wiping, news cover-ups and media editing, they managed to turn the whole incident into a bizarre urban legend no one takes very seriously (yeah the UGN are way too good at this and I would never want to run into their brainwashing patrol). Still, agents are on edge. Cauldwell, previously the organisation's idol and role model, has turned. Everyone feels in their skin that the days of routine Gjaum-fighting are over.
Something big is about to go down...
We've talked about them before. RBs are living manifestations of Renegade that infect the most varied vessels. RBs are defined by two things: first, every single one of them can communicate with human beings. Second, every single one of them is aware of what it is. Some RBs like to live in isolation and do whatever, but most of them are very, very interested in mankind. They either try to infiltrate human society incognito or they try to actively learn more about humans. This can end in cruel experiments and acts of violence.
The Renegade is really old, and it is said that RBs exist since the dawn of time. However, only 20 years ago when the middle-eastern Renegade samples leaked from the expedition airplane and spread throughout the world, have the RBs gained sentience and free will and the ability to communicate. There was only one autonomous Renegade Being before then: The Planner, who would later be known as Kyouka Tsuzuki and join False Hearts.
A couple of years back, the Planner traveled to Omokage Island in Japan in search of a Renegade Being known as Lord Omoide. Lord Omoide was really powerful, and it could make people have visions of the dead. The Planner and it met, and the entire population of the Earth spent half a day seeing dead people before the visions finally ceased. Everything seemed to have returned to normal, but since then the number of Renegade Beings awakening has increased a lot. Nowadays, there could be tens of thousands of them running around the planet.
(By the way, I can only think the previous burst of "metaplot out of nowhere" is a reference to one of Double Cross' many Replay books out in Japan.)
Okay, so The Planner was until this point a member of False Hears, under the moniker of Kyouka Tsuzuki and the appearance of a young woman. After Omokage Island, she disappeared. She emerged shortly thereafter with the appearance of a 10-year old girl, leading a mysterious organisation called Xenos. Xenos is a faction of Renegade Beings with unknown intentions. It seems every member just does as they damn please. Both the UGN and False Hearts don't really know how to deal with this; they accept Xenos' help when their interests align and fight it in case they find each other in opposition. Only one thing is certain: if Xenos is plotting a greater scheme, it is all going according to The Planner's... well, plan.
The Renegade Beings we've talked about until now have their own bodies, an infected version of whatever-the-hell they were before the Renegade. However, some RBs are incorporeal. Controller RBs are parasites: they find a host, destroy the host's consciousness, and take over the physical body. Collaborator RBs do the same without throwing the host's consciosness in the trash. They live alongside the host, sometimes being the voice inside the host's head, sometimes staying hidden and taking over at key moments, only for the host to wake up hours later without recollection of recent events.
Other Renegade manifestations
What if the Renegade infects something non-human, but the resulting creature doesn't gain consciousness and self-awareness? Such cases are known as EX Renegades . They are animals or objects or places infected and demonstrating special abilities, but they don't have free will and don't act autonomously. Many beasts and weapons of legends were actually just EX Renegades. Think of them as the "enchanted" things in Double Cross' universe: an "enchanted sword" is a special sword infected by Renegade. A "magical beast" is probably an infected animal. A "cursed place" is an infected mansion or forest.
When a lot of Renegade virus material lumps together, it can crystalise. The resulting object is known as a Renegade Crystal. They're not just concentrated solidified virus: an Overed can incorporate the crystal into their own body, and the extra viral load enchances their powers. The only problem is that it's impossible to remove the crystal without either killing the Overed or forcing them to turn into a Gjaum.
Both of these are neat things, but at no point does the book ever tell you how to use them mechanically.
At this point, the book goes into (relative, one-paragraph) detail about various setting NPCs. They are the ones you form relationships with in the Encounter phase of Personal Data creation. One cool thing is there are no stat blocks. The book explicitly says this is case so the GM can stat the NPCs at whatever power level they like, depending on the story: Yugo Kiritani, the chief of Japan's UGN branch, can be a powerful deus ex machina or he can go down to the first Gjaum attack; it's up to the requirements of your specific Scenario. Man, I wish we could go back and tell all those 90's RPG designers about this. And about some other stuff. A lot of stuff.
Most of the sample characters are extremely generic NPCs that are there to have relationships with the PCs and thus gain form through actual play. Some of them we'll meet in the sample Scenarios a couple of updates from now. They all get very, very brief one-paragraph descriptions.
Here they are:
Yugo "Leviathan" Kiritani is Japan's UGN branch chief. Since Cauldwell returned and focused his attention on Japan, the UGN's central committee has put a lot of pressure on Kiritani to keep the Japan branch running smoothly. It isn't.
You already know Alfred "Iscariot" Cauldwell. Currently a False Hearts cell leader, his Syndrome is unknown and he's got a 240% Encroachment Rate. No one knows what his deal is anymore.
Johan "Master Wraith" Cauldwell claims to be Cauldwell's son. He's a 17-year old brat, but a powerful one. He's had many direct confrontations with the UGN but has never been injured. ER: 210%, eek.
Also, this person enjoys sweets.
Kyoji "Diablos" Kasuga is False Heart's Scooby Doo villain. He was once renowned, but now he's kind of disgraced because he's the villain in the first sample Scenario and is thus destined to spend the rest of eternity having his plans thwarted by "those stupid kids".
Rosa "In the Name of the Rose" Baskerville was sent by the UGN's central committe to "assist" Yugo Kiritani in the Japan branch. Of course, her real job is to watch over him and make sure he doesn't mess things up. Fun times for all in the Japan UGN headquarters.
Yurika "Rafflesia" Himemiya is a creepy researcher working for the UGN who gets way too excited about the Renegade. You know the stereotype.
Tsubaki "Silk Spider" Tamano and Hayato "Falcon Blade" Takazaki are a generic duo of grown-up (read: 19-years old) UGN agents. Nothing special here.
Therese Blum is a 15-year old child prodigy who ascended as a member of the UGN's central committee without being an Overed herself. She "has earned several doctorates", has a pet owl Over-Animal perching on her shoulder at all times, and is a moderate trying to placate the conflicting factions within the UGN.
Ayame "Artemis" Shikishima is a high school student and UGN illegal – remember those? The Overeds not affiliated with the UGN but who work with them from time to time. Very generic.
Mia "Meerkat" Nekogawa is a hacker and information broker. She is, of course, 17.
She was shocked when she learned that meerkats are not cats.
Soichi "Predator" Iba is a 260% ER assassin, feared as one of the most powerful Overeds out there. He just enjoys battle and blood and violence and is not affiliated with any faction.
Satsuki "Daybreak" Kamishiro is another prodigy 18-year old, this time the president of the global conglomerate Kamishiro Group. She and the Group work together with the UGN, but there's an anti-UGN faction forming inside the conglomerate, and Satsuki is in trouble.
Takemichi "Paint it Black" Kurosaki is the leader of the Strangers, the branch of the Japan Self-Defence Force that deals with Overeds with extreme prejudice. Turns out he's an Overed himself, who would've thought? This one is a 110% ER Angel Halo/Black Dog.
Shusei Tani is the friendly but hardened detective who handles all Renegade cases for the Japanese police. The news here is that the police has a Renegade division at all. Not an Overed.
Kyouka "Planner" Tsuzuki is the obligatory ancient being in a 10-year old body. She's the oldest and meanest Renegade Being on the planet and the leader of Xenos.
Tiger Eye is a Renegade Being who's a necklace. Really. Wear him around your neck and he invades your mind. It's not clear whether he's a Controller or Collaborator-type RB, since the text clearly missed an edition pass and says "Manipulator type".
Nagi "Minerva" Sakatsuki is a Xenos member and Renegade Being. Minerva is actually a Collaborator-type RB, which means it and Nagi Sakatsuki, the human, share the same body. The two understand each other, though: Minerva is into trying to understand humans, and Nagi is into fightin' dudes. The result is that they try to understand humans by fighting them.
Wakana Yaegashi is the popular, overly joyous, probably dubbed by someone with a really high pitched voice, high-school student body president. Not an Overed.
"Cesario" is a Collaborator-type RB living inside high-schooler Kiyone Hoshino's body. But Kiyone isn't aware of Cesario. When there is dangerous Renegade activity around, Cesario takes over the body and fights the villains, then goes back to sleep while Kiyone is left wondering what the hell she has been doing for the past half an hour. Basically, these two are a tokuhatsu series waiting to happen.
Takeshi Aiba is the local loner delinquent who throws down with biker gangs for a hobby. Picture the stereotype. Not an Overed.
Jyunji Shigano is a carefree journalist who tries way too hard and often gets involved in Renegade incidents. Through the immutable laws of comedy relief, however, he never figures out the truth. This guy is Bulk & Skull, basically. Not an Overed.
Takashi "Merchant" Minesaki is a member of the Guild and a fencer of all sorts of goods: guns, computers, even airplanes. This guy is the shopkeeper of Double Cross' videogame. What're ya boyin'?
...and that's it for the setting chapter.
Next time: the Player's Guide! There are some genuinely interesting tidbits in this one!
OVERED: THE GJAUMINGOriginal SA post
OVERED: THE GJAUMING
Syndrome Dossier, part E
Hanuman! These guys can go fast. Like, really fast. The Syndrome takes its name from the monkey hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana. This predates Sun Wukong, by the way. This one has some very interesting powers.
The Hanuman has the powers you'd expect from a "speedster" Syndrome. Ease of movement, dashing attacks, and fast attacks are a given, as well as avoiding attacks by moving out of the way and leaving a lasting after-image.
But Hanuman is more interesting, because these Overeds are also adept at manipulating vibrations. This means they can shoot shockwaves, balls of vibrating air that ignores armour, and slice the air in half for a ranged slash attack. They can also make their weapons and bullets vibrate so fast they pierce armour and deal more damage.
Having control over the way air vibrates means having control of sound. Hanuman are the best Overeds at hearing, and they can pull the old "scream so hard the glass (and the other guy's cranium) shatters" trick. More interestingly, however, Hanuman can modulate their voice to cause specific effects. They can encourage their allies with a voice so pitch-perfect the allies get objectively encouraged. They can scold their enemies so hard their brains vibrate and their actual nervous functions go haywire. Among other neat tricks with voice. Yes, DX's bard-type character is the Flash. I like to think these powers make the Overed sound like acapella metal , complete with backing vocals, of course.
Pure-Breed powers are taking your action while everyone is still rolling initiative, literally, and being so fast the other guy can't even attempt to dodge your attacks. Other remarkable Hanuman powers are using sonar to enhance perception, and Battle Beat: you create a persistent rhythm and you fight better if you follow the rhythm. Ladies and gentlemen, a power that turns battles into dance-offs !
Simple Powers. You can project your voice and be the best ventriloquist in the neighbourhood, and you can project your hearing if you're really into hearing pins fall from far away. Disguising your voice to sound like someone else's is a given. There's also a power that creates an area of silence around you so you can have your private conversations in public, and one that grows a bubble of oxygen-rich air around. Inside, people are healthier and concentrate better, or you can do it underwater to breathe. Qinggong is a cool power that lets you run so fast you can run up walls and over water.
And then we have Air Instrument, competing solidly for best power in the game. Direct quote time:
Playback any speech or song by utilising the atmosphere as various instruments and speakers. As long as the User clearly remembers a song or conversation, he can perfectly recreate it.
Morpheus is power over stuff. Matter is clay to the Morpheus Overed, and "law of conservation of mass" is for chumps. You'd think conjuring a giant sword out of thin air would leave a giant-sword-shaped hole somewhere in the universe, but that's not the case. Butcher physics as much as you want with this Syndrome! The name comes from the god of dreams.
Morpheus has a variety of powers associated with weapon manipulation. Change its shape to make it heavier or more penetrating, make it grow twice its size, make your sword become 14 blades that attack at once, cover it in crystal... and, of course, create things out of nothing. You can produce melee weapons, guns, shields, armour... you name it. Imagine that scene in The Matrix where Neo opens the trenchcoat and reveals the guns, but if Neo was naked. That's a Morpheus.
Messing willy-nilly with matter leaves a byproduct, some kind of weird sand. There's an entire class of Morpheus powers that manipulate this sand directly, for offensive and defensive purposes. A Morpheus is also so good with material stuff they can "listen to" inanimate objects. Make a forensics investigation by checking out what the walls have to say about the crime, let a violin tell you how it likes to be played and a car how it likes to be driven.
Vehicle Morph creates an instant vehicle for you to use. Available are cars, bikes, boats, helicopters and of course, a giant robot. On 100% ER, the Morpheus can do Material Synthesis, which combines two weapons into one for the scene: finally, you can make your gunblade! Or your shotgunaxe! A sniperstaff! A slingmaingauche! A gungun! Okay, I'm done.
The Morpheus has figured out what people have been trying to do for thousands of years. Gold Alchemy is literally turning anything into gold (it increases your starting Stock points). Soul Alchemy , available at 120% ER, is one of the many "instantly revive" powers, but...
The User can create his own soul through alchemy with this power.
For Simple Powers, the enterprising Morpheus can change an object's appearance without changing its function, so you can have something like a window-in-a-jar or a candy wrapper that's a TV. They can perfectly understand the structure and components of something, including chemicals, and make perfect forgeries of anything. They can create household appliances from objects at hand, aka the MacGyver power (need a dishwasher? Thank god you have that paperclip and bubblegum at hand). The Morpheus can walk through walls. As mentioned some updates back, they can fold anything flat. Anything. Take the city park in your pocket as an origami (and force people to make Perception checks to notice: "I'm sure there was a park around here..."). Lastly, you can cook like a boss. No, actually, that's not true. You can cook like you always could, but don't need trivial things such as "ingredients" or "a stove". But if your meatballs are crap they'll still be crap, even with superpowers.
Next time, on Syndrome Dossier: the nerd and the hippie! Neumann and Orcus!
...a flailassaultrifle! A grenadewhip! A machetebrassknuckle! A...
On the Nature of the PlayerOriginal SA post
Chapter the Ninth - On the Nature of the Player
This is a short one. I've been slacking, but from now on updates should come out faster because I want to finish the book before traveling away and leaving my book.
The Player's Guide! This is a short chapter in the book dedicated to practical advice for players. I know I said in the last update that there would be some genuinely interesting tidbits in here. Turns out, I misremembered. This is one unremarkable player's guide. To be completely fair, however, if you're the kind of gamer whose idea of RPG consists of "Dungeons and Dragons" and whose idea of revolutionary player advice is "maybe it's not such a good idea to play an evil character in this party of noble warriors and clerics", then this chapter will have a lot of breakthrough information for you. I think this kind of player is not one to buy a Japanese superhero drama RPG, though.
We start with the idea that the GM shouldn't be expected to entertain everyone at the table like a dancing monkey. Players are... well, players of the game, and they should aspire to entertain each other. DX then throws the towel and admits it doesn't have much in the way of advice on how to be entertaining, neither expects a bunch of basement-dwelling gamers to be able to even apply it, so the book will focus on how not be an asshole to your fellow player.
Actually, that's a good idea, and more games should do it.
DX comes forward with the revolutionary idea of taking action! What if you could do more than react to what the GM tells you? What if you could... do things? DX encourages players to have ideas and act on them. Of course, "act on them" really means asking the GM permission to act on them.
There's an entire section dedicated to coping with the horrendous feeling of when your suggestions get put down by the rest of the group. This section poses the following three pieces of advice:
"Have you considered that your suggestion really sucked?"
"Your suggestions are more likely to be denied if you make them while being an asshole!"
"When your suggestions are denied, don't keep pushing them!"
The next section is called "Gaming Manners". It boils down to:
1. don't get too passionate over elfgames, it's creepy
2. express yourself clearly
3. don't be an asshole to anyone else
4. try and have fun
I'm torn between being completely in awe at what kind of players DX expects people to be, and being actually kind of glad that a game has an explicit chapter just for telling players to respect each other and act like normal human beings. Then again, I haven't read grogs.txt in a while and my faith in gamers has been going strong.
The second half of the Player's Guide is designed to aid in character creation.
There's way too many options offered by DX. You look at the Works, the Powers, the Syndromes, you get flooded. It's hard to pin down a coherent concept and make a character out of it. DX's suggestion for how to deal with choice paralysis is interesting. First, you grab the one aspect of the character that's clearest in your mind. Then, you build the character outwards from that.
If you have an idea for a character based on their role in society, start creation by picking Work and Cover. If you want a specific Syndrome or Power, start from those; DX also suggests picking a fighting style. Deciding if you want to be an attacker who focuses on melee, firearms, or Renegade Control, or a support/healer type, facilitates power choice very much. If you want a certain kind of background, there's nothing wrong with starting with Personal Data.
There's also more groudbreaking advice: "get help and ideas from other players" and "get help and ideas from the internet".
The last bit of the Player's Guide, fondly named "Words of Caution", is about bad characters. Yes, DX tells us, there is such a thing as bad characters. These fall in two categories: the characters made to harass other players, and character completely inappropriate for the Scenario being played. The assumption is that the GM will give Scenario Handouts and present a Scenario Trailer before the players make their characters, so they come in with an idea of what's appropriate and what's not.
Don't make bad characters, kids. The GM may veto them, and then you'll be sad.
And that's it for the Player's Guide. Again, it's not very... constructive, if you play with nice human beings. But then again, there are many stories out there about gaming groups who are anything but nice (and some are still debatable about the "human being" part). Judge for yourself whether you think this chapter is a good addition to the book, I guess.
Next time: the GM chapter! It's more interesting, I swear!
Syndrome Dossier, Part EOriginal SA post
This one was written sort of hurriedly because I think my power is about to go down, sorry.
Syndrome Dossier, Part F
Named after the mathematician Von Neumann, this is the genius Syndrome. These Overeds' brains work at maximum capacity all the time, and then some, for they have special extra neural circuitry when compared to non-Neumanns. It's hard to compete with Overeds that have literally more brains than you!
All the intelligence gives the Neumann a penchant for tactical thinking. This Syndrome is the warlord's choice: you understand the battlefield better than anyone, and get a number of support powers to direct your allies tactically.
But there's more. Neumann really shines when they're being aggressive themselves. Being smart means you think about combat more than anyone else, and thus this Syndrome is filled to the brim with combat powers. To put it simply, if you can think of something fancy to do in battle, there's a high chance it's a Neumann power. Fighting with two weapons, targeting enemy weak points, feinting and attacking, predicting incoming attacks to dodge better... just because it's the "smart" Syndrome doesn't mean the Neumann isn't a fearsome fighter.
Some remarkable powers include: Variable Weapons , which lets you attack with more than two weapons (imagine Dante from DMC cycling through all his guns in one attack and you get the picture); Inspiration , which is the most efficient information-gathering power in the whole game: you get a flash of genius and get to ask the GM directly about one mystery of the setting; and Intercepting Bullet , which is, well... you block an incoming attack with a bullet Yep, you could block a bullet with a bullet
High Encroachment Rate tricks include getting one last action off before falling unconscious, countering incoming attacks, and being so goddamn good at tactics you give an ally one entire extra turn All of DX's action-economy-breaking powers like this one, by the way, are limited to be used once per Scenario/session. Pure-Breed powers are: being a really good commander (and giving one hell of a damage buff to an ally) and a vaguely worded power that implies using your allies to distract enemies, giving them an accuracy debuff.
A minor, but extremely important note that Cyphoderus missed: The power that allows you to hand out a hell of a damage boost by being an awesome commander that Cyphoderus mentioned doesn't target an ally, it targets allies , plural. It only lasts for one turn, but Undefeated Genius (such is the power's name) is the single biggest damage buff in Double Cross by an absolute ton if you have more than one friend with you, eclipsing even 'ultimates' like the 120% powers, because it adds a maximum of 28 damage per attack (in game terms, this means that having a true blue Neumann leading a team is worth as much as sticking TWO CHAINGUNS on each ally that listens to him! ). For comparison's sake, the best Morpheus power for adding damage, Crystal Sword, works for the entire scenario but only adds 10 damage per item when used by a maxed out Purebreed, cannot be stacked with itself (so you have to spread it out or buff a Neumann who can dual or triple or fuck it, even penta-wield shit), can only be applied to three weapons (so it barely beats a one-ally use of Undefeated Genius at best) and costs just as much ER as each Undefeated Genius use. When he said Neumann was the 'Warlord' syndrome, he wasn't kidding - the difference between having a Purebreed Neumann leading the troops and anything else is so colossal that they can easily turn any fight the entire party joins into a cruel joke at the GM's expense. This is a reasonable repayment for the fact that they're one of like two syndromes that has to pay a Feat- err I mean Power Tax to be able to do jack shit by their lonesome, but it's appropriate: It means that if you see Amadeus Cho leading a team of superheroes, you better get the hell out of the way before superior tactics roll you over. The mind is Double Cross' strongest weapon!
Common Powers time. You can decipher any code or language known to man, and you can perfectly copy the personality and idiosyncrasies of someone. You can hold something in your hands and know very well how it was made and what it's used for. There's the old GURPS staple of picture-perfect memory, and the more unusual power to become master of your hypothalamus and control your own metabolism, controlling your sleep, digestion, immune system and even emotions. There's a power for being so good at languages you can speak with animals (it's called Doctor Dolittle ). At last, there's the Sherlock Holmes power: look over a person and use the tiniest of details to form a very accurate picture in your head of that person's personality, lifestyle, and whereabouts.
One of the more interesting Syndromes. The Orcus gains control over their surroundings, which becomes their "Domain": the Overed becomes lord over their Domain and can manipulate it in various ways. The Syndrome is named after the Roman god Orcus, ruler of the underworld, his Domain.
Orcus' offensive capabilities are all indirect. You can make the earth itself rise and chuck it as a spear, you can trap opponents in sharp thorns and intercept their attacks with flying objects, you can make rain water so sharp it does tangible damage. In short, Orcus is the Syndrome you pick to play Poltergheist or Beetlejuice.
Lots of Orcus powers are nature-themed: you can take control of animals in your Domain, which is one of the coolest things: it's a generic combo power that gives bonus dice to checks, so you can insert animals into the description of any other Orcus power. You can create whips out of plants (another indication that DX takes serious, direct inspiration from Yu Yu Hakusho). You can even send an animal into a scene as your substitute, i.e. your character doesn't have to be physically present at the scene but they're participating through a proxy hiacynth or something.
Orcus also has many powers that are more abstract: "manipulate your Domain to do this thing", their description says. You can interpret those however you like, and it really depends on what Domain you're working with. "Utilise all objects in one's Domain to cage in a target", for instance, is going to look very different when it's used in a computer store than when it's used in Machu Picchu.
Other cool powers include manipulating vehicles from far away using your Domain (if the Black Dog version of this makes your car a transformer, the Orcus version makes it Herbie) and making armour out of random objects in the Domain.
High Encroachment Rate powers include
For Simple Powers, you've got the obvious Telekinesis , to remotely make things move, but there's also the much more interesting Machine's Voice , which gives a simple order to an object that it follows mechanically. Basically, Sword in the Stone's Merlin's cottage. There's the green thumb power that makes plants grow better in the Domain, and the power that lets you create replicas of other stuff using soil and leaves from your Domain, very useful for faking important items. You've got Sharp Ears, which is the obligatory "sense everything that happens inside your Domain" power, and Cat's Path , the power to make impossible shortcuts to improbable places within your Domain – open a door here, step through over there.
Finally, there's Invisible Domain . What it does is create your own pocket dimension. No, really. Basically, you hide an area within your Domain and no one can see it or get to it, even when it's right in front of them. The range is huge, too: 1000 square goddamn meters per level in the power. For reference, a
Next time: Salamandra and Solaris! Fire, ice, and... organic compounds?
Syndrome Dossier, Part GOriginal SA post
A minor, but extremely important note that Cyphoderus missed: The power that allows you to hand out a hell of a damage boost by being an awesome commander that Cyphoderus mentioned doesn't target an ally, it targets allies , plural. It only lasts for one turn, but Undefeated Genius (such is the power's name) is the single biggest damage buff in Double Cross by an absolute ton if you have more than one friend with you, eclipsing even 'ultimates' like the 120% powers, because it adds a maximum of 28 damage per attack (in game terms, this means that having a true blue Neumann leading a team is worth as much as sticking TWO CHAINGUNS on each ally that listens to him! ). For comparison's sake, the best Morpheus power for adding damage, Crystal Sword, works for the entire scenario but only adds 10 damage per item when used by a maxed out Purebreed, cannot be stacked with itself (so you have to spread it out or buff a Neumann who can dual or triple or fuck it, even penta-wield shit), can only be applied to three weapons (so it barely beats a one-ally use of Undefeated Genius at best) and costs just as much ER as each Undefeated Genius use. When he said Neumann was the 'Warlord' syndrome, he wasn't kidding - the difference between having a Purebreed Neumann leading the troops and anything else is so colossal that they can easily turn any fight the entire party joins into a cruel joke at the GM's expense. This is a reasonable repayment for the fact that they're one of like two syndromes that has to pay a Feat- err I mean Power Tax to be able to do jack shit by their lonesome, but it's appropriate: It means that if you see Amadeus Cho leading a team of superheroes, you better get the hell out of the way before superior tactics roll you over. The mind is Double Cross' strongest weapon!
Out of interest, what's your preferred syndrome Cyphoderus?
What I'm saying is, I'm very partial to Balor and Orcus, myself.
DOUBLES AND CROSSES 3.0
Syndrome Dossier, Part G
We learn in school that "fire" and "ice" aren't elements in a cosmic game of rock-paper-scissors, as games in general would have you believe. Instead, there's only warmth, and things either have that or don't. So cold and warm are just different ends of the same process. Double Cross takes this concept and runs with it to give us the Salamandra Syndrome, the one with both fireballs and ice blasts. DX is physics-friendly! Well, except for all the parts where it laughs at physics' face. But never mind those!
Let's talk Salamandra. The usual stuff is here. Fireballs, firestorms, firefists, firewalls (not the computer sort), fireblasts, firestuff. Ice has got the standard tricks: ice blade, insta-ice bridge for rapid movement, ice walls... there's also separate powers for going Human Torch and Iceman. These are all expected.
Things get interesting when the Salamandra gets creative. I mean, there are a lot of dick move powers in this game, but it's hard to find something more assholish to do than increase another person's brain temperature to make them dumber. Other cool tricks you can do are adjusting your own brain temperature to make you think better (I'm reminded of Detritus the Troll); burn away all the oxygen in an area, asphyxiating your foes; and get rid of any status effect by manipulating temperature, including freezing a disease dead inside your body.
At high Encroachment Rates, you can produce a whole lot of heat, and you can even use it to heal your wounds, in the most traditional "you can never defeat my burning spirit!! " sort of way. The Salamandra Pure-Breed has access to an armour-piercing attack that destroys molecular bonds by alternating between extreme hot and extreme cold, and a powerful barrier of flame that protects an ally from harm.
In the Simple Power department, we've got some boring stuff. Touch things and make them real cold, or create fire from your fingertips. You can be really good at temperature-dependent crafts like cooking and pottery and blacksmithing, and you can make yourself immune to fire or cold (though not combat powers). More interestingly, you can gain infrared heat vision, or perfectly adjust the temperature of the surrounding room – yes, being a walking air conditionating device makes the Salamandra the single most useful Overed. Finally, we've got a somewhat creepy power... it's called Cryopreservation, and does exactly what you think it'd do, leave someone in a permanent state of frozen non-decay.
This Power can only be used on Incapacitated characters, the dead, or the User himself.
This one was named after a "planet in a famous science fiction novel" and it's about being a walking meth lab. The Overed can synthesise all manners of drugs and chemicals in their body, both for external and internal use. Eddie Bravo defends that being high boosts fighting performance, so why shouldn't you?
There's not much to say here. Any possible effect that a mind-altering drug can have, you can bet your horses the Solaris has in their arsenal. You can boost your allies by administering the right kinds of stimulants; you can cripple your foes by giving them hallucinogenics, paralysing spores, and the like. Solaris isn't the greatest at direct damage, but it's filled to the brim with support powers.
There are some interesting powers worth special mention, though. The first of them is Tablet. Not content with spreading your chemicals via liquid (I imagine the Solaris is always spitting everywhere) or gas form? Make them solid and throw them at the goddamn target. Yes, this is a thing: you can produce a pill of agonising-illusions-inducing stuff and just... chuck it at someone. Another cruel trick you have up your sleeve is releasing pheromones that attract all manner of small animals and bugs to you. These serve the sole purpose of being a living shield against attacks. Way to fucking go, man. The Solaris can also turn non-Overeds into mindless zombie creatures that follow their orders... I'm starting to think this isn't such a nice Syndrome...
The cruelty has only started! When we get to the high-ER powers, the Solaris is even more of a dick. Even the support powers are about overloading allies with excitatory stimulants and turning them into hyper-caffeinated death machines. Overdose is drastically increasing the dose of all powers used in a combo, and yes, you can use that on allies or enemies. Lastly, we have Spiralling Despair, a hallucination so powerful it will immediately cause Overeds to make an Impulse check to avoid letting their sociopathic Impulses loose, and it can very well cause non-Overeds to awaken the Renegade in response to the mental stress. Shit, Solaris, you suck.
Pure-Breeds get the ability to produce their chemicals really fast, in the setup round of combat, and a power that recovers one use of another power by taking some time to replenish the biological stock of the chemical in question.
Simple Powers. Of course you can produce pheromones that cause people around you to go ecstatic ("even faint", the book says). You can change the taste of food! Make ungodly amounts of money by offering to make health food taste like hamburgers. You can produce
Communicate one's will to a faraway person through the use of hallucinogens.
And that concludes the 12 known Overed Syndromes! To recapitulate, we went through:
Angel Halo, the light guys
Balor, the gravity guys
Black Dog, the electronic guys
Bram Stoker, the blood guys
Chimera, the wild beast guys
Exile, the body freak guys
Hanuman, the speed guys
Morpheus, the stuff guys
Neumann, the smart guys
Orcus, the poltergeist guys
Salamandra, the fire and ice guys
There is still one chapter of Syndrome Dossier left, however.
It will be the coolest chapter. No, really. It's my favourite part of Double Cross.
So tune in next time in Syndrome Dossier for... nah, I ain't telling just yet!
The Game MasterOriginal SA post
Generic Universal Double Crossing System
Chapter X: the Game Master
Our GM chapter starts fairly standard. It tells us what a GM's role is, and they are as much a player as the players. The game should be fun for the GM as well.
The first interesting tidbit here is we get to talk NPCs. DX separates NPCs in three categories:
Guests have full-fledged stats, like PCs. Use them for important characters, likely the ones the PCs will have to face head-on in battle. DX isn't anal about its NPC statblock: it outright tells you to give a Guest whatever stats, items, powers and Encroachment Rate you want.
Troops are a bunch of NPCs bundled together into one. In game terms, they are one character, with one stat block. In fiction terms, they're are a bunch of people. Use them for minion-type enemies and to make combat exciting by battling hordes of dudes.
Extras exist only in the game's fiction. Mechanically, they're irrelevant, and have no stats. They're the... well, the extras of the story. In game terms, what the Warding power does is turn all non-Overeds in the area into Extras.
Now, DX is pretty awesome because it gives some concrete advice on how to stat up bosses. You know, for the climactic battle at the end. So many games leave that in the air, but DX puts its feet firmly in the earth and says: figure out how much damage your PCs deal, on average. Figure out how many turns you want your big battle to last. Give the boss HP proportional to that. Which is some great advice, really. It also suggests coming with a unique gimmick for the final battle.
One issue is that, since Encroachment Rate and use of Tituses are things that increase over time and can't be recovered, you can't stat up a final boss without knowing in what state the characters will be in going into it. So you have to plan in advance how many fights your Scenario will have. In a bout of common sense, DX suggests one fight during the main phase of the game, and the climax battle, no more. This will make for the best combination between roleplaying scenes and combat scenes, which are more complex to resolve.
The next interesting bit of advice concerns Loises. The Scenario Lois, the one the players get from their individual Scenario handouts, should be something that draw their characters into the Scenario: a client, a victim, a heroine, a rival, etc. Something important that I don't think I've mentioned yet is that it's possible to acquire more Loises during the course of a Scenario, up to a maximum of 7. DX suggests that new Loises come at the end of the last scene before the climax. It will serve to remind the players of what's at stake, and can even be the very person they're rescuing or protecting.
Some very cool advice here, mostly because it's concrete.
It says a lot about DX's Japanese shonen inspirations when the very first thing the book advises you to do when writing a Scenario is think who the final boss is, and what are their objectives. The book gives you a list of suggestions for what the motives of the final boss are.
Then, you come up with a "Heroine", which is the name DX gives to a MacGuffin. It's the thing that motivates the player characters to take part in the Scenario: it can be anything they really want, from a piece of information to an actual damsel in distress.
Then it gives some ideas for the Opening scenes. These are the first few scenes of the game and correspond to Tenra Bansho Zero's Act 0. Each PC should, ideally, get one scene here that details how their character gets dragged into the events of the Scenario.
Since every time a character enters a scene they get their ER increased by 1d10%, there is an ideal amount of scenes in a Double Cross game. Ideally, by the end, the characters should be close to going Gjaum, but still be able to be saved by their Loises. DX suggests seven or eight scenes in the middle phase of the game, before the climax. Three things should happen in the middle phase: the PCs should meet each other and somehow agree to work together; some information must be sought after though an investigative scene; and there should be a trigger event: the "no way back now" scene that sets off the events of the climax.
Then there's the climax, which should be the easy part – this is what the entire Scenario is leading up to and it's the big setpiece you had in mind when you first read about Double Cross (I know you had one).
DX leaves the Scenario writing section with a warning to GMs: things will go sour, the players will be unpredictable. Don't try to plan ahead too much, and go with the flow. GMs shouldn't be bound by scripts. Then it suggests that new GMs use the pre-made Scenarios that come with the book, which are totally bound by scripts. Gee, Double Cross, get a grip.
Then we get some advice on how to distribute experience points, and a section of frequently-asked-questions regarding some of the less obvious mechanical gameplay interactions. A great idea that more games should do, really.
Troubles and Judgment Calls
The meat of the GM chapter is this, advice on dealing with problems not related to the rules. Every tabletop RPG rulebook should have a section dedicated to this.
It talks a lot about communication itself: it's important to be interested in what others have to say, and really listen to them. Be empathic and deal reasonably with the player's requests. More importantly, the GM is only one person, while the players are many. DX just goes ahead and says it's not rude to put one person on hold while dealing with another person. I love it that a game finally had the guts to go ahead and say it. As a GM, you should stay cool and collected and deal with things one at a time, or else you'll just confuse yourself, and the game suffers for it.
The next part is one of the best written things in the entirety of Double Cross, and some fucking golden advice for new GMs, and even old ones. It talks about the divide between the players and characters, and how that line can get blurred when players use their own knowledge to influence their character's actions. It's great, and I will not be good at giving a summary of it, but I will transcribe this:
To be clear, all games have a metagame element. As long as two human competitors partake in human-like communication, this factor will always exist.
Then there's some advice on what to do if players guess the development of the Scenario. DX says this a great thing. Wait, stick with me for a moment: if a player guesses exactly where the GM's scenario is going, that means the player understands the GM pretty well. That is great! It means communication is happening in all the right manners. Also, when a player guesses where a scenario is going, that is an indication that this is what the player expects! Use it to know exactly what your players expect from the game, and play with their expectations in whatever manner you choose. See? When someone figures out right from the start that the client is a double agent, that is reason to rejoice, not to brood that your intricate plot was unravelled.
The GM chapter is where the game's "bestiary" is located. There's stats for a bunch of different enemies. They are:
Troop-type NPCs, the minion fodder of DX combat. We've got police officers, riot police, army soldiers, Tindalos members, generic Overed agents, UGN special forces members ("Strikehounds"), False Hearts special forces members ("Moon Dogs"), and fodder low-ranking Gjaums.
Then we have regular enemies, with various flavours: melee, ranged, and defensive. An Overed terrorist and a Kamishiro Group Agent get individual entries. There's also a melee and a ranged variety of Gjaum.
We've got more powerful enemies with more elaborate statblocks: a powerful Balor/Black Dog Gjaum; a Gjaum who was a Bram Stoker's Servant until it grew and swallowed its master, it is now a giant blob who lives in the sewers and sucks human blood; an Overed with leadership skills and powers, a commander-type; a False Hearts version of a mechanised soldier who is both a cyborg and can transform into a Chimera battle-form ; an elite soldier of Tempest; a prototype mechanical Overed hunter employed by the Strangers. These are all very powerful foes who can pack a mighty punch.
And then we have Enemy Powers, which are, you guessed it: powers that can only be taken by NPCs. They're incredible. The next Syndrome Dossier update will focus on them, because I love them.
And with that, we're done with the GM chapter.
Next up: City N and the pre-made Scenarios!
The City, and Happenings ThereinOriginal SA post
Part XI: The City, and Happenings Therein
DX has a lot to say about its setting and NPCs, but not so much about specific locations. The only thing we get is a tiny chapter about a sample city. I've got to say, however, that it is quite nice. They basically went over the city and asked, "what here is a good location for a game?" and just wrote a little bit about each place.
City N is a generic Japanese city. There's not much going for it besides having a railroad station and being on the way to Tokyo, so many workers go through the city every day. There's a shopping mall near the station, and a downtown area that's kind of dirty and has many cheap stores and tenement buildings. To the west of the station, there's a public park with a lake. And sakura trees, of course. Right next to the park there is an amusement park with attractions like an ice rink, a pool, and cinemas. People tend to go to these locations for leisure and to enjoy their free time with friends.
To the east of the station, there's a rough neighbourhood of abandoned buildings where you can go to make shady deals and meet shady people. To the south of that there's an old industrial park that was built a long time ago but nobody uses anymore, so it's here if you want the classic factory setpiece.
City N has got public middle and high schools, as well as a private university that's also a middle and high school. The university is funded by the UGN and is equipped with dorms... you see where this is going. There's also a univeristy hospital
And that's mostly it for City N. There's not a lot about it, but everything that is there is a cool setpiece location.
Now we get to the sample Scenarios. DX has not one, not two, but three sample adventures in its core book. It's a nice change of pace. Here is how they're structured:
A stupidly corny Trailer for the GM to read aloud to the players in a dramatic voice before the game, and Scenario handouts for each player. A handout consists of a character template: a high concept, Work and Cover, a Lois, and which Quick Start character to pick if you go that route. The handouts in these sample Scenarios are more restrictive than regular handouts; these Scenarios are intended to get people playing quickly and the character concepts are mostly pre-defined. Each offers 5 handouts for up to 5 PCs; you're supposed to pick them in order. So, if you have three players, you should get the first three handouts (called PC1, PC2, and PC3). The last two are less important to the Scenario.
The Scenario itself is divided in scenes, and each scene gets a set-up, description, setting, etc. Again, these sample Scenarios are supposed to be more restrictive than what you'd come up with in your own prep. What happens in each scene is pretty much pre-defined.
Also, there's dialogue to read aloud. Actually, how would I say this? It's not that there's a set script the GM has to go through with the players, but rather... DX gives a bunch of one-liners to its NPCs, for the GM to drop off when they're appropriate. Needless to say, they're all perfectly corny. For instance, for the very first scene of the very first Scenario, we've got this selection of lines for the main female NPC:
"It seems like my timing's been off all day. First I had this endless club meeting, plus my teacher wanted me to help her, too, and first thing you know I'm like totally late getting home. Was your day like that too, PC1? I guess we're both just unlucky."
"Mind if I sit with you? Look how crowded it's getting."
"Uhm, gosh, is it okay for me to ask this? I head a rumour there's a girl in our class you really like. Is that, like... true?"
Our first sample Scenario, a pretty standard adventure to rescue a kidnapped innocent.
You know how sometimes in high school this guy will, out of nowhere, become completely obsessed with a girl who doesn't even know him? It happens. Only the guy is usually not an Overed member of False Hearts. So what does he decide to do? Ah, he waits for her to board a bus home and then overturns the bus and makes it explode. You know, in case she awakens as an Overed and they can live happily ever after as a terrorist superhuman couple.
The plan backfires (who would've thought) when the girl doesn't awaken, but a random guy sitting next to her does. This guy is one of the girl's classmates, and as a newly awakened Overed he protects her from the accident. This guys is our PC1 for the Scenario. PC2 is a UGN child, PC3 is the chief of UGN's City N branch, PC4 is just a UGN agent and PC5 is a freelance detective – see how they get less vital to the story as you increase the number of players?
What follows is pretty standard. PC1 is approached by the UGN in the form of PC2 arriving as a transfer student at his school. He gets approached by a senior False Hearts agent and asked to join them, which you're supposed to refuse and a battle ensues. The PCs have to find out who the instigator of the bus accident was, and they discover that it was the FH kid in their class. The kid comes up with another amazing plan (maybe if I kidnap this girl she'll like me and ask to become an Overed!). It's up to the PCs to search for the City N False Hearts headquarters and rescue their classmate, fighting both the obsessed kid and the senior agent in the process.
Oh...! You guys need to see more of the suggested dialogue. It's great. Here's some from the villains in the climactic battle of this Scenario:
"If I kill you in front of her eyes, maybe Ayase will wake up to her own powers." (Begins combat)
"If I win, I'm taking Ayase for False Hearts. She'll be one with me!"
(Falls in battle) "...No! Nooooooo!"
This one is really, really cool. I like it a lot.
So you have UGN children, right? The Overed kids that the UGN takes in and trains as agents from early age. Only the UGN isn't that humane, and those kids often go though some rough shit. It turns out one of them, Kouya Messenger, gets sick and tired of this life, fakes his own death, and runs away. He takes with him a bunch of other UGN children who think the same way, and they form the rebel group called the Liberators.
They plan to stop child abuse by the UGN and decide that the best way to do this is by revealing the existence of the Renegade to the world. They get the help of Daisuke Yogi, the UGN instructor who trains all those UGN children – he is very guilty about participating in this and offers the kids his help. They come up with a plan: threaten the government with some goddamn missiles into publicly revealing everything about the Renegade. How would they get some military missiles? They're Overeds. Also, they've got a girl with them who's practically a medium and gets the access codes to the missiles.
The plan backfires™ when Yogi realises Kouya's plan is not to use the missiles as a bluff, but to load them up with Renegade virus, launch them for real, and infect the entirety of City N. Who gives him the idea is Professor Cauldwell, the founder of the UGN turned False Hearts. Yogi protests and gets killed. So now the PCs have to hurry to stop the rebel kids from launching those missiles.
There are some interesting characters here. PC2 is also a UGN child, and they know Kouya, having been trained together. PC1 is either an illegal (an Overed who cooperates with the UGN but isn't a proper agent) or a newly joined UGN agent (the game suggests using the same character as PC1 in Crumbling Days ), and they join the Liberators as an undercover agent. The Liberators, the faction of kids pissed off at being treated like objects by the UGN is damn cool. The guilty UGN instructor is nice as well.
The climax battle is a cool battle set-up where the Liberators will try to get the missiles to a specific point and the PCs have to stop them before they get there.
Truth or Fiction
Some time ago, a UGN agent went rogue and detroyed a research facility before going to join up with False Hearts. In the process, he killed Subaru, the daughter of one of the researchers. Said researcher goes bonkers and obsessed, and starts looking for a way to ressurrect his daughter.
The Scenario starts when the researcher is killed by "Bandersnatch", a FH agent. The PCs, working for the UGN, discover that he actually succeded in his quest and his daughter is back. But Bandersnatch is after her, too, and now it's up to them to protect her. It gets interesting because PC1 is a UGN child who knew Subaru personally, before she was killed, and PC2 is an agent who knew the researcher himself.
The PCs will soon discover that Bandersnatch is the same guy who went berserk and killed Subaru the first time. But they'll also discover that the researcher wasn't as succesful as it seems: he never ressurrected his daughter. What he did was create a Renegade Being capable of copying both the appearance and the memories of Subaru, so she really thinks she is the deceased man's daughter. What Bandersnatch wants is Subaru for the False Hearts, because her mimicking powers are just too good to ignore. It doesn't matter whether she's a Gjaum or not, it turns out.
When confronted with the fact that she is a walking lie, the poor girl becomes so torn she goes on the brink of becoming a Gjaum. It's up to the PCs to protect Subaru, stop her from being a Gjaum, and accepting her a
And that's it for the Scenarios presented in DX. There's also two Scenario ideas that are just the ideas, not being fleshed out: one about a school that's an undercover False Hearts experiment to awaken more Overeds, and one about a conspiracy with an undercover FH agent infiltrating the UGN and a little girl who is supposed to be a Gjaum but isn't.
Disclaimer: I wish I could go through the Scenarios in better detail, preferrably devoting one update for each, to look for interesting mechanical or plot quirks. Alas, I leave the state tomorrow and didn't want to leave you guys hanging until January. If anyone wants to do a more in-depth analysis of the Scenarios, feel free.
The very last thing in Double Cross is an appendix with powers listed alphabetically and the page they appear in. A very handy resource for a book that isn't available in electronic format.
This concludes the core rulebook of Double Cross! However, we still have one update left before we can say this write-up is finished: the last Syndrome Dossier. It should go up later today.
Enemy PowersOriginal SA post
Syndrome Dossier, Part H: Enemy Powers
Enemy powers indeed! These powers are exclusive to enemies, and players don't have access to them. Soon it will become clear why that is.
We start with Common Enemy Powers. Like the regular Common Powers, any enemy can take these, regardless of Syndrome.
You know how everyone just eyeballs enemy stats and gives them unique abilities based on necessity? DX's philosophy is that it would be easier for everyone involved if you just built an enemy like a PC, and then added individual powers to represent this eyeballing. These are what the Enemy Common Powers are like. They are the kinds of stuff you give important enemies without second thought because they should be able to do that. In other games, these would be a collection of houserules for enemies. Here, it's just enemy powers.
Case in point. The very first one is a power that gives an enemy a fixed Dodge score; instead of making up a Dodge skill and rolling it every time the enemy wants to dodge, like a PC would, they've got a fixed score and the PC just has to beat that. The second option is a power that gives the enemy a free action in the beginning of the round: the kind of thing you want to give your solo NPC boss fights to counterbalance the fact that they're one and the PCs are many, as we learned with D&D 4th edition. Other things include being able to flee a battle without going through the hoops the PCs have to, increased HP, armour-piercing attacks, resistance to a specific bad status, instant revival, access to 80% or 100% Encroachment Rate powers for Tri-Breeds... you get the picture. Functional stuff to make your NPCs bypass some of the restrictions put upon PCs. If you've ever played around in RPG Maker, you probably remember those special options you could give enemies to make them more flavourful. These powers feel exactly like that.
There's a few powers here for having subordinate minions: summoning them, and increasing their power. Like a commander calling in reinforcements. There's also a very interesting power called Anti-Warding Factor , which does precisely what you think it does: it makes a non-Overed immune to Warding. With that power, and a bit of reflavouring of other powers, DX wholly suports mundane foes. Guess it'll be a bit of a surprise for your players when that rugged dude with a scar for an eye completely fails to fall to their Warding and starts taking the assault rifle out...
Then we have Syndrome Enemy Powers. Each Syndrome gets 3 powers that are exclusive to enemies. Some of them are boring: powerful attacks out of reach for PCs. Some of them... well. Some of them are entire setpieces waiting to happen, some serve as inspiration for an entire plotline, some are an entire enemy concept just on their own. These enemy powers are the best thing in the whole Double Cross book, in my opinion. It's one of those rare things in RPG books where you read through it and at the end you want to play the game really badly and your head is swarming with ideas.
Look, I'm not one to talk about every single power individually, but this time I'm going to, because there's only 3 per Syndrome and they all deserve it. Let's get to them.
Flash Eye: an undodgeable attack from Stealth. The famous "dick move".
Midnight Cinema: make any illusion, anywhere in the scene, and it lasts as long as the scene does. Perfect for showing the PCs the villain's plans coming to fruition elsewhere. Hah! We're just the fucking decoys, man.
Third Eye: Angel Halo are so good at enhancing their senses they can get virtually claiwvoyant. Know everything that happened in a scene, without needing to be there. Oh, yeah. Had a fight with your girlfriend? Made an infallible plan with the branch chief at a top secret UGN meeting? Bought an illegal stash of stuff from an underground fence? The big boss villain knows about it. Good luck sleeping tonight.
Gravity Area: : increase gravity for a dice debuff that affects everyone other than the user themselves. Useful for solo bosses or for showing how that enemy is so evil they don't care about their own allies.
Space-Time Rip: the enemy has a pocket dimension to themselves and complete control regarding what can enter and what cannot. The GM decides how it can be destroyed, and there's a clause that when it is destroyed, all its contents get spilled onto a specific place of the GM's choosing. DX supports the Room of Renunciation, and really, there are hundreds of Scenarios that can be built just around this power.
Sky Castle: raise a building into the sky. When the enemy dies, the building falls. It seems simple, but it's one hell of a piece of game design, this power. It is perfectly villainous. Give your villain this power and the climax of your Scenario writes its damn self. "That time when the shopping mall took to the sky". Castlevania. The classic Pandemonium from Saint Seiya's Lucifer (who even remembers this) . Go nuts with it. Perhaps my favourite power in Double Cross.
Lightning of Fate: combo this power into anything and it can't be blocked, and Cover (remember, Cover is protecting other allies) doesn't work as well. It's the dramatic lightning attack, the one where the sad music starts playing and the character we've grown to love starts slowly being burnt alive. It's the Emperor's lightning at Darth Vader.
Communication Control: the enemy gains complete control over all the communication devices in the scene. People may only use the devices the user allows. The user dies, the effects of the power end with them. Another amazingly villainous power, though trickier to write into a climax than Sky Castle. Still, you can get awesome story mileage out of this one.
Domination: the enemy gains complete control of the security system of a single building. You know the image of the hacker overlord, sitting in his tiny dark room, manipulating every single turret and laser and doorlock in the building? That's it. Perfect for setting up a dungeoncrawl where the players have to get through an assortment of traps and reach the top level (or the lowest basement) of a building within a set time limit, only it's modern.
Aging: the enemy turns either themselves or a non-Overed older or younger, though their physical appearance doesn't change. Great for immortal characters (Raz Al'Ghul, anyone?) and for screwing with the player's loved ones (you know your sister? She's 90 now, good luck saving her!).
Sacrifice: when the enemy gets Incapacitated, they can ressurrect if they have a Servant out. The Servant is consumed in the process. Two possibilities here: either the villain can dramatically consume their Servants to regain health and freak out everyone at the table, or (and I like this interpretation better) the villain really dies and the Servant becomes the new version of the villain. Freak out everyone even worse with this one.
Servant's Awakening: the villain makes a Servant who has self-awareness. Man, I can't even begin to list all the story possibilities of this one. How about a kind-hearted Servant forced to serve a villainous master, fated to eventually help the players and die dramatically for it? Maybe an excessively intelligent, creepy right-hand man for the villain?
Titan Therianthropy: if you were wondering where the hell the "become giant-sized" power was in Double Cross, look no further. The enemy will morph into a battle form like any good Chimera; the catch is that the battle form is 20m high – that's... 60 feet, I believe, for the metrically-impaired. When you stop and think about it, all those Power Rangers monsters were actually Chimera, so it adds up!
Instant Adaptation: the enemy survives any hostile environment. Any. Great power to give your villain the second time they appear, after the players have already tried throwing them into an active volcano or out of a spaceship. Ta-da, I'm back!
Proof of the Feral Beast: the villain is so goddamn scary and wild that non-Overeds simply cannot move or take action near them. It's a bit like Warding, in which you take non-Overeds out of the picture, but this time it's more evil. They're scared out of their mind. Good for setting up the scene for a climactic battle.
Exile villains with these powers are the most punchable characters you'll ever meet. Which means they make great villains!
Repulsive Dinner Table: the enemy can assimilate into their body any organic matter, including corpses, but not living people. It isn't said so outright, but from the name and specific mention of corpses in the description, this is totally a cannibalism power. PC Exiles are already ... villain Exiles are worse.
Elusiveness: the villain can squeeze through any crack so well they can appear in any scene, at any spot, at any time. Having a romantic evening with your boyfriend on a ferris wheel? The villain shows up sitting between you two. Having that secret UGN meeting? You swivel your chair out of boredom and notice the villain calmly sitting there at the end of the table. But you're inside an underground bunker.
Mental Invastion: yeah, that. Take control of another's mind and manipulate their actions. The catch here is that the target is conscient throughout the whole thing, but can't do a damn thing. And it lasts until the end of the Scenario, not scene. The imperius curse opens up hundreds of thousands of story possibilities (the game is called "Double Cross", after all).
Storm Tower: negate Flight of all characters in the scene other than the user. Great for setting the flavour of a battle setpiece: what's a climactic confrontation without strong winds, black clouds, and crackling thunder?
Wall of Silence: make one non-Overed target deaf. Many enemy powers are designed to create victims in distress for the PCs to save, and this is one of them. What's interesting here is that the enemy can make the target deaf only to certain things. So suddenly you find you can't tell a person the one significant piece of information they needed, or something like that.
Whirlwind: move to any place within the scene, instantly and without hassle. Yo, look behind you!
Bond Break: break anything down into sand. Anything. Well, except for Stocked items. Other than that, the enemy can effectively destroy any item or object. Another one of those shock-value powers that's meant to establish the villain as a force to be reckoned with.
Element Transformation: turn anything into anything, provided you know the molecular structure of the thing. Lead into gold, water into steel, wood into tungsten, paper into plutonium. Just begging for a scenario where the players have to stop a Morpheus from getting their hands on the research notes for something... a super-powerful radioactive element, or maybe even the Renegade vaccine.
Kingdom: the enemy makes buildings and structures. As many as they like. Have you ever wondered how come that necropolis of ominous black steel buildings just happened to grow from the middle of downtown? Like Sky Castle, an power with amazing atmosphetic potential. Instead of confronting the big boss in an abandoned warehouse, you have to go to their own personal Taj Mahal of steely death. Combine with Sky Castle and make that thing Dr. Manhattan does on Mars.
Untouchable: targets either the user or a non-Overed, and erases all their traces from society. Effectively zero-out one person. It's cool because if the user does it, it's a dangerous thing and you can't get information about them; but if they use it on someone, it's like an attack on the person's life and the PCs will have to step in to save the poor erased person from social oblivion.
Paranoia: the villain plays mind-tricks with the target so hard, they break down and stop trusting anyone else. The mechanical effect is that the target can't use connection-type items (remember? Like "rumour-mongering friend"), but I like its fictional implication more. Another one of those "create-a-victim" enemy powers.
Organizational Breakdown: yeah, the Neumann is so smart they shake the internal structure of society to the core. The mechanical effect is no one can make Procure checks for the entire goddamn Scenario. Forget that thing about Neumann being the best battle commanders. These guys can make the economy crash with their thinking skills. The user dies, the effects end... possibly the best power for a campaign finale, honestly. It's like what Bane does in Dark Knight Returns . The players fighting a desperate struggle against a villain who has just turned society upside down? Yes, please.
Brain Hijack: another mind-control power. Not much to say here; another "make-a-victim" power. The villain controls the target's actions completely until the end of the Scenario.
Lost Neighbor: the villain makes a target forget someone. You get home to your wife and kids, they look at you blankly and go "who the hell is this dude". Properly villainous thing to do. Again, if the user dies, the effects end: many of these powers lead naturally to a final, physical confrontration against the villain, which is thematic and appropriate as hell. Leading naturally to thematic situations: good game design. Props to DX.
Unseen Road: another Orcus power that's just like an Exile one. The enemy can create a path in their Domain that leads anywhere. Thus, they can appear in any scene, at any time, in any spot. You're chilling at home, when suddenly the door to the pantry opens and out walks the big boss villain. Suitably appropriate for some tense, middle-of-the-game talks.
Burst Break: a ridiculous, free bost to the damage of one attack per Scenario. Not much for flavour except it's a really fucking devastating attack (damage +5d).
Flaming Disaster: burn down a building. That's it. Having a building suddenly go up in flames can serve surprisingly large amounts of story purposes, really. What's more traditional than a climax inside a burning building?
Weather Manipulation: another one in the family of "setting up the scene for a climactic confrontation" powers. The enemy can turn the weather into anything they like. One thing is defending the school from Gjaums, another one is doing so while The Day After Tomorrow rages on outside the window.
Furious Heart: makes the target develop mindless hatred for another person. There's a mechanical effect, because the bad status "Hatred" does exist, but it's best used as another one of those "make a victim" powers.
Undermining Voice: releases chemicals that make the target really agreeable to the user. Can only affect Extra-type NPCs – a restriction that, curiously, neither of the two previous mind-control powers had. This is the classical fake way to make a friend; good for making an ally of the PCs change sides suddenly and sincerely, confusing everyone in the process.
Untreatable Disease: and you thought you'd leave Double Cross without coming across the old Japanese trope of the mysterious, nondescript, but definitely lethal disease? No way. The enemy Solaris can do this to a non-Overed target. There's a chance that the target awakens as a Overed because of the experience, but what's more likely is that they simply die of mysterious causes. Another one for the "make a victim" train!
Ageless Body: the user doesn't become old or sick, at all. Note that DX explicitly says the body can mature as normal, so being the "old soul living in a 10-year old's body" isn't mandatory (you can be living in a 20-year old body, or a 60-year old instead). The user can still die; it's only that they know no such thing as aging.
Immortality: this time, the user can't die. More precisely, they can come back from death as if nothing happened, only not in the same scene as they died. The GM can come up with a way to permanently kill the user. In short: liches are too good of a concept to pass, so DX has its own. Or something even more exotic, maybe. Perhaps the villain can only be killed if their name is said backwards.
Fall Down: the user makes the Renegade stop working. Yep. For this scene, there are no powers. Overeds become mundanes. Every one of them, including the user. The GM may decide there's a special way to end the effects of the power. Another classic story trope, where the characters, who have come to rely too much on their superhuman powers, get taken down a peg for a little while and have to solve problems with their own skills.
And those are the enemy powers. Phew! Understand now why I said they're the best? They're the best.
This concludes for real the Fatal & Friends writeup of Double Cross.
Here's the thing with DX: it is succinct, and dry. It is full of great inspiration and awesome ideas, but they're hidden behind obtuse power descriptions, dry sentences, and non-obvious mechanical interactions. With this writeup, my intention was to cut through all that and present to you all the distilled awesome stuck behind DX's poor presentation of itself. I used a conversational style and let my own voice, my own interpretation of some things in DX, come through. When reading DX, you have to read between the lines and pay a lot of attention at all times, to catch what the game is really about and how great it can be. I hope I have succeeded in showing off the great things about this game for everyone. I'd guess that I did, at least a little bit, seeing how many people have posted about wanting to get and really getting the book after I drew attention to it with the writeup.
That's the end, folks! Hope you enjoyed all the Double Cross!