Pathogen: The Infected by Effectronica
Character GenerationOriginal SA post The Dregs of Fanwork
Earlier we had a review of Princess: The Hopeful, and people brought up Genius: The Transgression, two of the more popular fan gamelines for the New World of Darkness. Both of them are terrible for a variety of reasons, but at least they have a few things going for them, most important of which is a precedent for the character type in fiction. What we have here, Pathogen: the Infected , doesn't even have that much going for it.
Essentially, PtI is a game about playing somebody that has been infected with a magic virus that is slowly doing things to their body, namely giving them superpowers. This does have precedent, of course, going all the way back to Arthur Machen's Novel of the White Powder , but, if I may rant for a bit, such stories are built around the resolution and denouement. Videodrome doesn't end with the guy learning to live with the signal and his twisted form, it ends with him dying to destroy Videodrome! PtI is built on nWoD grounds, where you live life as a supernatural, and so is built around extended play. But the body-horror story is built around a rapid collapse and decay. It conflicts at a fairly basic level.
To cut things short, a game based around body horror has potential, but it has to be built on and around the genre, and mechanically support it. nWoD does not really have that mechanical support as-is, and PtI does little to hack the system to give it that support.
Okay, enough navel-gazing about RPGs, let's move on to the other bad parts.
Pathogen is unfinished, and the version I am using will remain so, as the author has abandoned it. TvTropes (hah) is currently working on finishing it , so if they ever manage to do so, I am sure that there will be more fodder for the thread.
I'm going to start with "Chapter Two: Characters" for a very specific reason.
The following has been edited solely for font posted:
"Wow, Cheryl," Janet said, "you look great!"
"Thanks," I mumbled, shoveling one of two plates of food in my mouth.
"Did you lose weight?"
"You keep eating like that, and it'll all come back."
"No, it won't," I sighed.
"That looks good on you. Your eyes are clearer. Did you get cosmetic surgery or something?"
"No. It just happened one day. It's what it wants."
"Well, it's amazing! What I wouldn't give for that to happen to-"
"No!" I shouted, smacking her tray, spilling her food on the floor, "No. You wouldn't."
I got up and left.
The author has decided to make this more authentic as an experience by including terrible game fiction at the head of each chapter. Just a page in, and already I'm longing for Hunters to blow them all away.
But anyways, let's look at what it takes to build a sickie.
First, you have to pick a Vector by which you were infected, then you have to pick a Symptom to manifest. These give you your two primary Disciplines- excuse me, Subversions (no wonder Tropers love this shit), which you must spend two of your three free dots in powers on.
The Vectors are:
Airborne : you inhaled a nasty bug, and now all of a sudden your skin is scaling uncontrollably...
Bitten (it calls this "The Bitten", but fuck that): a bite from a strange animal or bug's given you this itchy, itchy rash, and it seems to be forming patterns...
Endoparasite : something burrowed into you. Maybe it was one of those creepy red worms at that factory. Maybe it was in that hotel shower. But now your leg won't bend right...
Imbued : when the hospital called and told you that they had a heart for you after all, you nearly died on the spot with sheer joy. But the new ticker's not pumping right- you taught CPR for years, you know that a heart doesn't pump in a three-stroke rhythm...
Unborn : your mother passed it on down in the womb ahahaha it didn't take long to come to the creepy stuff, did it?
In the document, these were preceded by:
Choose a vector by which your character became Infected. This Vector is how you create other infected, should you desire to do so.
for an extra level of creepy and some stupid stuff; how are Airbornes and Endoparasites supposed to control whether they create more sickies? Why would you let any player who wants to fuck people to create disease-babies play in your group?
Next we have the four Symptoms, for a total of 24 different "genetic" character archetypes.
Dermis : You've started to develop bumps and need to keep in water. From what I can tell, you're turning into a big frog.
Fever : You've got a fever, and not even the cowbell prescription works. You absolutely fuckin' hate cold, too. I think I might detect a slight theme here!
Insomnia : You can't sleep, but when you manage to pull it off (I'll go into more detail on this later) you get some prophetic dreams out of it. Never mind about that theme thing.
Paedomorphosis : You turn into a kid- fucking seriously? A kid? What the hell. You've got: itching, burning, insomnia, and the Fountain of Youth! What kind of disease is this, exactly? You also stop aging altogether, and may end up acting more childlike. Well, that's certainly creepy as fuck.
Next up we have the power stat, Resonance, the morality stat, Fusion, and the power points: Adenosine Triphosphate.
Fusion is why I started with Chapter 2 in the first place, because I wanted you all to get this explanation of it first. See, Fusion supposedly measures how well you sync up with the virus and what it wants. Well, this is one conscientious virus, because here's the chart:
Fusion Sin 10 Not using a subversion for more than three days; selfish thoughts. 9 Eating a chimera; minor selfish act 8 Killing a chimera; injury to another 7 Using a subversion to commit crime (check for the crime, too); Petty theft 6 Eating human flesh; grand theft 5 Eating infected flesh; intentional, mass property damage 4 Killing a human; impassioned crime; manslaughter 3 Killing an infected; planned murder 2 Trying to tell humans about the pathogen (check for blackout); serial murder 1 Hunting a human for food (check for blackout); mass murder; heinous actions
Elsewhere in the rules, in Chapter 1, we have animals being infected with the virus, the Chimera mentioned in the chart, and humans that have been completely consumed by the virus, called "ATP Zombies", who attack, kill and eat people, too. So what gives? Well, morality is generally a terrible subsystem anyhow. What about the power stat?
Resonance is something about how well your body meshes with the virus. Resonance determines how much Adenosine Triphosphate you can have and how much you can spend at any given time. It also determines how frequently you will be attacked by infected animals/plants, called "Chimera" for no comprehensible reason.
At the starting 1 Resonance, you can have a max of 10 Adenosine Triphosphate, spend 1 Adenosine Triphosphate per action, and can be detected by Chimera at a range of ten feet. The next five levels bring you up to 15 Adenosine Triphosphate and able to spend 3 per turn, detectable at a range of 320 feet by Chimera, and able to increase Attributes to 6. You also must lose 1 Adenosine Triphosphate every day to keep from slipping into a coma. Going up to 7 Resonance gives you 20 max Adenosine Triphosphate, able to spend 5 per turn, and doubles the other two effects, as well as giving you a max of 7 for Attributes. 8 gives you 30/7, 9 gives you 50/10, and 10 gives you 100/15. Of course, by that point you're spending six each day to keep from dying.
So how do you get Adenosine Triphosphate? Well, first you have:
A meal of sufficient magnitude or an energy drink can give an infected one point of ATP. The amount goes down by what you consume in one sitting, though, so if you order the left side of the menu, that's not exactly one good meal, but five or six, and if you down a whole six pack of Red Buffalo or what have you, the effect is the same: for each one after the first in the same sitting, you only reap half the benefit, which fractionally decreases the more you consume per day. Drinking that six pack, for example, nets one point for the first can, another point for the next two cans, and one more for the last three cans.
What a mess. Let's rewrite that into something resembling English:
"A hearty meal or an energy drink gives you ATP for each serving. However, each additional point requires one more serving to get: you get one point for the first plate at the buffet, but you need two plates to get a second point and three more to get a third."
Next we have eating two pounds of raw meat to get one point of ATP. This is not subject to diminishing returns, but if you cook it, it counts as a good meal. But wait! Let's assume that a hamburger with chips, a drink, et cetera is roughly equivalent to a single good meal, and to half a pound of meat. There are four such meals in two pounds, giving us two points of ATP, compared to the one. If we boost this up to eight pounds of meat, we get four points of ATP for eating raw, whereas we get sixteen meals, or five points of ATP, for eating it cooked.
This is a less efficient option unless we define "a good meal" as a massive meal, or unless our character eats lots of raw meat. It overtakes cooking stuff at about eight pounds, but at that point you're eating not-insignificant fractions of your own body weight in a single sitting, and even the morbidly obese could only hold about 4-5 pounds of meat in their stomachs at one time, and their stomach would be noticeably distended. I guess this is the real body horror right here.
ATP is used to fuel powers. You can also use it to add two dice to a Wits, Stamina, Strength, or Dexterity test for one point as a Reflexive action. Finally, you can use it to stave off fatigue. By spending up to your Stamina in points, you can put off that many fatigue tests. This is actually critical to the rules.
This is already a gigantic post, so I'm cutting it off here. The next post will finish up Chapter 2 with the different powers and move us back to Chapter 1 to learn about the background n' stuff.
SplatsOriginal SA post Pathogen: the Infected Part II
We are still on Chapter 2. What comes after power stats and morality is a brief section on what your splats do for you and how they intersect.
Airbornes get the primary power of Incorporation .
Bitten get the primary power of Predation .
Endoparasites get the primary power of Bone .
Infused get the primary power of Regeneration .
Unborn get the primary power of Bioelectricity , a little note that they usually have Benjamin Button syndrome, no, Merlin sickness, excuse me, "Paedomorphosis", and the statement that:
The Unborn are the closest an infected might be to an advanced human being, the literal next step in the evolution of the human race.
Homo Superior , eh?
But leaving that aside for the moment, I learned that parasitic infections are quite connected to osteopathy today!
Type-2 Splats are laid out in Chapter 1. Sloppy. In any case, I don't feel like doing the real names any more, so:
Dermatitis victims have the primary power of Vigor , get all wound penalties increased by one, and suffer penalties to Social rolls based on their power stat when they are more than a mile from a lake, river, or ocean.
People with Merlin sickness get the primary power of Bioelectricity . I'll let the game speak for itself here, with a little bolding:
The character doesn't appear to suffer any ill problems other than a few smoother features; to other infected, the Paedomorphs got off easy. To those with this symptom, the truth is far less visible. Neonates have trouble relating to others, they suffer from rapid shifts in their attention span, being able to concentrate one day while their minds give in to distractions with ease on other days. In addition, they have trouble with action-based decision making, having to turn over in their minds a notion to ensure it's a good idea. A Neonate might know it's a bad idea to run out into a crowded firefight with no cover, but actually has to stop and think to make sure it's not a good idea. Those infected afflicted with Paedomorphosis suffer their Dice Pool Penalties on Wits rolls and instant mental rolls when forced to make decisions during periods of stress, such as combat and life-or-death situations.
So it literally gives you a child's mind too. Well. Oh yeah, they don't get 10-again on anything involving Presence, Intimidation, or Expression and 1s subtract from successes on those rolls, but they do get 9-again on Persuasion and Manipulation. The rulebook also encourages you to match this up with being a Congenital , so you start out with two dots in Bioelectricity if I'm reading it right. Why so much detail on this?
Let's move on to Hyperthermics who have a primary power of Adenosine Triphospate Control , suffer a penalty to all Mental rolls during the night, suffers a -3 penalty to resist cold, and can spent a point of ATP to reduce fire damage by the amount of his power stat.
Finally, we have Insomniacs . These guys get a primary power of Adrenal Control , suffer their penalty to Social rolls if they haven't slept in two days, and get to use the Common Sense merit for free every time they fall asleep.
The drawback is that they must, absolutely must spend ATP to keep away collapse, and then use Willpower to stave off fatigue, and then fulfill their Vice and Virtue to refill Willpower, and only when they finally fail can they fall asleep.
<- Imagine that this is an eloquent yet angry meditation on the concept of player agency.
But little of that shit matters. You'll never need to spend willpower. Let's borrow Daeren's Man Your Man Could Kill Like, and let's make him a sickie. We'll just worry about his insomnia for now. He has 1 Resonance, so he has 10 ATP, is able to spend one per turn, and has 5 Stamina and 5 Resolve. So he stays up for 24 hours, spends nine ATP over fifty-four hours, and then must make a Stamina+Resolve roll with no penalties to stay awake for another six. He makes it with ease, having a 97% chance to do so.
He has now been up for three-and-a-half days, but as the rules are written, you can spend ATP to stave off fatigue for a number of days equal to your Stamina, and then must roll normally. Now, without a specified recharge time, you can either spend that much ATP over your character's lifetime, or it recharges once you make that single roll. And careful eating and drinking can easily give you those 9 ATP back over those two-and-a-half days, allowing you to keep doing this indefinitely. The Infected Your Man Could Be Sick Like can only ever fall asleep by cheating, reinterpreting the rules, or putting himself into a coma from lack of ATP, at which point his friends would have to insert a 20,000 calorie IV drip.
Now, with an ordinary 0xp character with 5/4/3, you could pretty much only have a max of 5 dice to roll, still giving you an 83% chance to succeed. Higher Resonance levels make this harder/more comical, because although you have more to spend, you also start having constant drains. At 10 Resonance and 10 Stamina, you would be able to spend 39 ATP to keep going for 234 hours (9 and 3/4 days) at a time, during which you would lose 58 ATP from drainage, leaving you with 3 ATP- but if you ate four meals a day during that and drank a Red Bull with every meal, plus two more at odd points, you would gain about 97 ATP during all that, leaving you with a net loss of 0 ATP if you planned it carefully. So you're still never going to sleep unless you're deliberately incompetent, cheating, or rewriting the rules, in which case you might as well ditch something as absolutely terrible as this in favor of "instead of rolling to keep awake, this character must roll to fall asleep" or something.
This is getting pretty long, so I'll finish up this post with a look at one power, continuing to use the Infected Your Man Could Be Sick Like. He chooses to be infected via parasite, getting a free dot in Bone , and continues to buy dots in Bone .
Bone is all about powers that involve manipulating the skeletal structure.
o - Thicken , costs 1 ATP/turn, makes guns and all blunt-force trauma only do Bashing damage. Self-explanatory; you make your bones thicker to make yourself bulletproof.
oo - Warp , costs 2 ATP, and requires a Stamina + Resonance + Bone roll versus the opponent's Stamina + Resonance + Bone. Whoever succeeds gets to deal # of successes in Bashing and force their opponent to roll for Stamina to avoid a stun, and if the user gets an exceptional success, that roll is at a -2 penalty. This is described as reshaping people's bones in painful ways.
ooo - Bone Body , costs 3 ATP, and requires the same roll as Warp , though unopposed. Botch gives you 3 bashing, and you lose the ATP. Does this mean that you get it back for a regular failure? Failure means that:
Failure: Nothing happens, and the infected probably feels like he has a small willy.
Even women? Freud was right!
Success means that you can split # of successes between three enhancements. These last for Stamina+Resonance turns, and then you can upkeep with 1 ATP/turn after that.
Bone Armor requires two successes to activate, giving you a 1/1 armor over your whole body. Additional successes invested increase either general or ballistic protection by 1.
Bone Blade costs 2 successes to activate and gives you a +2 lethal weapon on one arm that has -2 to all actions besides rip-n'-tear. It uses weaponry+strength to attack, and additional successes do nothing.
Talons cost 1 success to activate, and cause unarmed attacks to deal lethal damage. Additional successes do nothing. Apparently the talons are pretty stylin', since they're described as "wicked".
oooo - Rend costs 1 ATP per turn to make your knuckles erupt with bone and cause you to deal aggravated with unarmed attacks.
So so far, for the cost of 3 ATP per turn, we can be bulletproof, generally have 1/2 or 2/1 armor with a slim chance of 2/2, and deal Aggravated damage with unarmed attacks. The Infected Your Man Could Be Sick Like, meanwhile, would probably have 2/2, 3/2, or 2/3 armor with s slim chance of 3/3, be bulletproof, and deal out about 2-3 Aggravated per turn with his fists against average defenses. This is at the minimal level of Bone and a reasonable level of Resonance (4). Remember that.
ooooo - Aztec Surprise costs 5 ATP. What happens is that the Infected busts out some Vicissitude and uses the ribcage to rip open the torso and unveil the heart. The spinal column then reshapes itself into a spear, which impales the heart. Mechanically, the user makes a Dexterity + Brawl roll. If it succeeds, the user rolls his Stamina+Bone minus the target's Stamina+Resolve. A dramatic failure causes the user to receive 5 agg. A failure causes nothing at all to happen. A success causes the target to receive 3 + number of successes agg damage.
So let's take the Infected Your Man Could Be Sick Like, and pit him up against his brother, who is a mortal with the best stats. The Infected has precisely 10% chance of doing 4 agg, 10% of doing 5 agg to himself, and a 0.1% chance of doing 5 agg to the target. But at Resonance 5, necessary to use the power at all, you can have Attributes of 6. Let's boost his Stamina to 6, allowing him to have a 30% chance of doing 4 agg, 3% of 5 agg, etc.
Now, if we take an average mortal, then we're rolling 6 dice, for an average of 5 agg or so. In order to kill an average mortal outright, we need four successes, which means we need to be rolling 11-12 dice to have a good chance of doing this, which means that we need 15-16 dice, which means that we need 10 Stamina + 5 Bone plus one die conjured out of the air to have a ~60% chance of a one-hit kill against an average human being. So we'd need 10 Resonance too. For ripping somebody's heart out and impaling it with their spinal column, which should also damage their spinal cord, their lungs, et cetera.
Our four-dot power, meanwhile, allows us to kill the average person in about 3 turns, for 3 total ATP cost, without improving any attribute above 5, and allows us, for 3 more ATP, to be bulletproof while we do it. It's cheaper and more reliable. If we go to the 10 Resonance we would need to get a ghost of a chance with our five-dot, then we could potentially have 13 dice against an ordinary mortal, giving us about 4 agg per turn on average, allowing us to kill them in two turns, for even less cost. For an equivalent cost and with 5 Dexterity and 5 Brawl, we could deal out 10-15 agg damage, enough to kill two people reliably, with less xp cost.
Yeah, I think that this speaks well for how much thought was put into the mechanics.
Splats 2Original SA post
Okay, quick shame bit. I was one of the participants in the initial thread that I think this sprung out of.
Which made me go "oh god am I going to get mocked" and then I see all of the stuff I liked about it and contributed to the thread didn't make it into Pathogen, so I'm glad again. Like my ideas of having a morality stat that divorced itself entirely from human norms and was based on not letting the virus govern your behavior, the fact that you didn't have bullshit like airborne spread of your ~magical infection~, and viral powers which were generally less magic "I can control bones" and more "I can grow (horrible thing) on (myself/others)". If I infect them.
One of the ideas I did like that never got anywhere before the project died and some guy resurrected it as the abortion I'm seeing was social powers that involved infecting people with behavior altering viruses like that fungus that makes ants run up to tall places.
Sorry for the spergin'.
No, no, these are all great ideas. Do you have a link to the original thread or anything? Because I'd actually like to read up on these. In any case, this sounds like an excellent segue into a mini-update about Splats 2: Splatterpunk .
So we've already got two sets of genetic splats, for 24 different character combinations. Now we've got the social splats, called Wings . If you want to look for them on the page I linked in post 1, they're scattered throughout the Notes n' Junk section.
There are seven Wings , none of which is named McCartney or Eastman. Now this means that there are 168 potential combinations of splats, right out of the gate in the first book, and no splat is optional. But while we're pondering the thought process that lead to that, let's look at some of these splats.
Annunaki "claim descent from sky gods, things beneath the earth, aliens, and other, more esoteric things." So I guess that this is the support group for the megalomaniacal among the sick. In any case they dress up for meetings, get together, sacrifice, eat some raw goat, and fuck a lot. Seriously.
Rituals often include sacrifices, feasting on raw meat (often goat), and orgies in which the participants fuse or mutate into horrible shapes.
These guys get the Flesh power for free, favor Strength or Resolve for pumping dots into, and are firmly Evil, as far as I can tell. They only appear twice in the notes, and so do not have a full set of attitudes towards the other splats and gamelines.
Cambions love killing and eating people. They form into packs. The richer ones kidnap and fatten up homeless people, the poorer just eat them right on the spot. They believe that their new constant fevers and skin conditions and insomnia are gifts from the body, and so they must use them to hunt people. RAW, they are essentially unplayable as they continuously commit Fusion 1 sins.
When they recruit new people, they harass them until they use their powers instinctively.
But before you think, "Wow, Sabbat with anything interesting completely removed! They've even got shovelheads!"-
Cambions, however, do not welcome blackout. Their philosophy is anything but childish. After a hunt and feast, most Cambions sit and meditate on the hunt's outcome, the meaning behind it, and what they may have learned about the nature of the monster inside. They believe that in indulging the monster, one can understand and eventually control it.
See? They're, like, poets, folks. Cannibalistic poets.
Their favored power is Predation, and they all believe themselves to be children of either Echidna or Lilith, all being well-versed in mythology and white.
So what do they think of the other splats?
Evolutionary: "Trying too hard gets you nowhere."
Jagda: "Neat! Hold still, let me try this out…"
Neonate: (sound of slobbering) "…..hello, little girl…"
Protector: "Whatever lets you sleep at night."
Stemmer: "Pfft. Loser. OW!"
Mages: "What is that, a wizard or something?"
Vampires: "That's not a monster. It's a corpse pretending to be a spider."
Werewolves: "What savage brothers has our mother wrought?"
Mortals: "So…. Hungry…."
Cannibalism firmly places them in the Evil category.
What they think about others is:
Cambion: "If you stop trying, you never improve."
Jagda: "They, too, will weed themselves out."
Neonate: "They have great knowledge, if only you would seek it."
Protector: "Closest to the thing we once were; we owe them a great deal."
Stemmer: "In time, as all do, they will change their minds."
Mages: "Ahead of their time, or a throwback?"
Vampires: "They just stopped. What the hell?"
Werewolves: "They went backwards, didn't they? Whatever works."
Mortals: "On their way out. Be gentle towards them."
Yeah. I've been inspired by this to make up a Hunter Conspiracy: the WHO Center for Exotic Disease Treatment and Control (WHOCEDTC). Suggestions for Endowments?
The Jagda , who are named either for the Japan Graphic Designers Association Inc. or for the German word for hunt, are Social Darwinists who believe that the weak must be killed in order for natural selection to proceed. I would guess that they regularly commit suicide for succumbing to disease, but then again they never took zoology beyond the highschool level, so whatever.
They get the exact same power that the Cambion do, but that's because the first listing of the Cambion features the Flesh power, while the second listing of the Jagda gives them the Evolutionaries' information. What are their inane ramblings about other people?
Cambion: "A good idea, but the implementation is lacking."
Evolutionary: "Our weaker, pitiable brother."
Neonate: "I'm sorry, was that your mommy?"
Protector: "Evolve or die. I see what you picked."
Stemmer: "Sort of like life's little dropouts, aren't they?"
Mages: "Steer clear. Maybe they're the next step, too."
Vampires: "What, is it amateur hour or something?"
Werewolves: "Weak, weak, weak."
Mortals: "Huntin' time!"
I think that I've got a challenge in mind for the more WoD-literate folks out there, but I'll cover the powers first. These guys are firmly Evil as well.
Neonates speak for themselves:
The Infection is not the Infection, and the Infected are not so; Neonates prefer the term Host. The Host is merely keeper of the home that the guest inhabits, and the Host must endeavor to understand the guest.
The child is the perfection of the body. So it is, then, that symbiosis occurs early in life. You must come to terms with the new relationship you have with your body; the Evolutionaries are correct in that this is the evolution of the human form, but the form is not under the control of the human mind. The human body has awakened as the mind once was, and only by listening to it and its urges can you come to understand it and be one with it.
As a child's form is the perfection of the body, technology is the perfection of evolution. Seek to become one with the technology, for as the flesh can be warped, so can the metals of the Earth, shaped to become the new claws and teeth of the people. Grow machines within and without the flesh, wrap the flesh in and through the machine, and become it. This is the path of the Neonate.
Yyyeaah. These guys are all supposed to have Merlin Sickness and be Congenitally Infected. They do not, however, get a triply-redundant power, instead getting Incorporation, aka the Videodrome power. I'm trying to avoid thinking about this, but-
Neonates may seem like children, but they are far from immature. A Neonate often cyber-stalks a potential candidate for infection and the organization for weeks, months, or even years. Others work within specific social circles, pretending to be adults or the hangers-on of older infected, often displaying genius-level intellect and searching for like minds when attending such events. Once chosen, the candidate is slowly introduced to the idea of the infected through a series of mock dangers and stalking behavior perpetrated by the Neonate's fellows (a decidedly disturbing undertaking for the mortal, who is treated to several weeks of being stalked by a group of strange children). Neonates prefer to infect using needles and careful cleaning of wounds and arms, or, in the case of some infections, administering their 'treatments' orally, from hacking up bizarre worms to open bleeding into the mouth. They then back off and wait for the infection to take hold.
Maybe the quotes about other splats will-
Cambion: "They can't even see their best ideas."
Evolutionary: "Barking up the wrong tree of life. It's more a web."
Jagda: "Yes, uncle. I'll stay out of your basement. You stay out of mine."
Protector: "Can I come over?"
Stemmer: "Oh, get over it and grow up."
Mages: "Isn't the witch the one that ends up in the oven at the end?"
Vampires: "Scary creatures, especially to children."
Werewolves: "Throw a biscuit between them and watch them fight!"
Mortals: "My mommy is still one. Be respectful."
Jesus fucking Christ. These guys have the single most fluff text of all the splats, and it's the most coherent and understandable. They had the single most effort put into them of all these fucking splats and why? For fuck's sake, why get all down-n-pedophiliac in a document that you are publishing online ?!
Final verdict: they are firmly on the side of Creepy As Hell.
Protectors want to protect people from the virus-ahahahaha. No, that would be sensible. Here, let me show you their actual fluff:
A man once said "with great power comes great responsibility," and despite the triteness of the phrase, it is correct and the operating creed of the Protector. Humanity, as the Evolutionaries say, is on its way out. Only the fool and the sadist would make those waning years violent and filled with torment. Instead, the proper response to a fading breed is to wait by the bed, holding the hand of that which is dying, and making the transition as peaceful as possible. Either that, or play hero because that seems like the thing to do with strange and mysterious powers.
The Infected are not the only monsters the world has to offer. Drug dealers, rapists, blackmailers, and other sundry crimes against both the law and humanity reign in the shadows. The goal of the Protector is to defend humanity with what little humanity the Infected has left.
They get the power to control their adrenal glands for free, and what they think about other supers is:
Cambion: "Be careful, lest you become the kind of monster I hunt."
Evolutionary: "Who cares where it's from? Where is it going?"
Jagda: "A sad spectacle."
Neonate: "Sure. I have a bedtime story I can read you."
Stemmer: "It's time to learn some responsibility for your existence."
Mages: "Do they think they're above all laws or something?"
Vampires: "Predators with no moral compass. Frightening."
Werewolves: "Didn't Batman fight a werewolf?"
Mortals: "Remember you used to be there before you judge anyone."
Batman may or may not have fought a werewolf, but I think if I ever run Hunter, I will include these guys, and there will be no moral ambiguity whatsoever .
Finally, Stemmers are Caitiff. They are "Infected" who have not yet joined a Wing, Ward or Room. I see what you did there! Too bad we have no clue what Wards or Rooms are. I assume that they would be subgroups, but somehow that seems too sensible for this game.
What do they believe?
Cambion: "They want to be monsters. That's all I needed to know."
Evolutionary: "Sounds like a religious dogma wrapped in pseudoscience."
Jagda: "Like a religious dogma used to excuse murder."
Neonate: "A group of creepy kids? I saw that movie, too. I didn't like that movie."
Protector: "Scary. It feels like they're pretending to be superheroes."
Mages: "Huh. Neat."
Vampires: "Anything after my blood is getting shot."
Werewolves: "Okay, imagine one of those monster fuckers, but fuzzier. No thanks."
Mortals: "Ignorance is bliss. I miss those days."
I take it back, these guys really are monsters if they hate The Shining . That's three Evil, one Boring, one Creepy As Hell, one Token Good But Not Really, and one Caitiff.
After this, we have a brief section on crossover games. I'll quote it, because really, summing it up can't do it proper justice.
MY brain life mages have o read Awakening again
Kindred who feed on an infected are in for a special treat: for every bit of blood drained, the super-charged blood of the infected yields two Vitae. There's only one downside. While in bliss and thoroughly enjoying the experience, the infected is fully capable of snapping out of it at a moment's notice with no roll; hunting unwilling infected is a dangerous game. Infected also can't be made into ghouls due to the nature of conflicting templates, and they're immune to the effects of the Vinculum (their bodies just rip through the vampire blood like it's a competing disease), though they can still become addicted to the rush.
An Uratha might think that an infected is being ridden or otherwise consumed by a spirit.
MY brain life mages have o read Awakening again
Damn right they're better than yours.
FAKEDIT: I found one reference to Rooms and Wards:
Rooms, Camps, Packs, and Wards
There's safety in numbers.
That was enlightening. See you in the funny papers!
PowersOriginal SA post Pathogen: the Infected IV: Powers
So let's cover these powers, shall we?
The first up is Adrenal Control . Adrenal Control takes 1 ATP per turn, and is a less terrible version of Celerity. What it does is add the number of dots you have in it to initiative, act as a malus equal to the number of dots to any incoming attacks, and multiplies your Speed by 1 + number of dots. So while at five dots the average person is down to a 10% chance of hitting you with a gun at point-blank, because you are just SO FAST while standing still, and you can move 54 yards per round with average Strength and Dexterity, and you'll have +5 to Initiative rolls- at least it doesn't give you any extra actions or anything. And once you turn it off, you take 2 Bashing from it.
Next is ATP Control . ATP Control is about energy, and the body, and the author was clearly running out of creative juices. Its powers are a real grab-bag too.
o - Equalize : This allows you to spend ATP instead of Willpower when resisting diseases and poisons.
oo - Enhance : Getting this means you get +1 extra ATP from any source. This essentially doubles your ATP intake if you're smart about it.
ooo - Overflow : You, by means of physical contact (examples given are a handshake or a kiss), cause the person to overproduce ATP, forcing them to move around or else suffer permanent brain damage as their body overheats....
What this means mechanically is that you roll Stamina + ATP Control. The target then must, for a number of turns equal to # of successes, make successful Stamina tests against yours or take Bashing equal to your # of dots in Stamina. Getting an exceptional success adds two to damage, getting a dramatic failure causes the user to suffer the same effect.
oooo - Give and Take : Spend 1 ATP to roll Stamina + Resonance + ATP Control - Target's Stamina + Target's Resonance. The number of successes equals the number of ATP you take from them. If you drain them or attack something without ATP, you deal 1 Bashing for every 3 successes. So let's assume you've got a decent Stamina, okay Resonance, and the minimum ATP Control, for 10 dice overall. You use this on a fit human, with 3 Stamina. You have a 50% chance of doing 1 Bashing. Now, let's turn this against a fellow Infected, who has decent Stamina and Resonance, giving us 4 dice to roll against him, for between 1-2 ATP taken from him. So unless you beat up on wimpy Infected, you don't even have a good chance of gaining ATP. If you manage to get 5+ successes, then you drain an extra 2 ATP. I'd think that getting five, six Big Macs would give you at least twice as much ATP as you'd get from draining people. So we have a situationally-useful power, an extremely useful power, an okay power, and a terrible power. Let's see what the fifth dot will give us!
Admittedly, you can use this to give people ATP too, and that would upgrade it to "situationally useful", but still.
ooooo - Slime Body : This power allows us to turn into a gigantic slime mold. For 1 ATP, we become completely immune to any physical attack, though we take full damage from energy and mystical attacks. We can spend 1 ATP/turn to form pseudopoda for melee attacks. We can't use any items, but we can use all powers except for self-targeted Bone powers and the Mutation power. So this definitely would be the best power of the bunch, except that the attack powers aren't all that good. But it's still tied with the two-dot power for usefulness. Oddly, the example given is of squeezing through cell bars, rather than laughing off machine guns, being run over by a truck, and grenades.
Bioelectricity is powers that involve the nervous system and electrical impulses.
o - Diagnose allows the user to gain metagame knowledge. Specifically, it allows the user to diagnose diseases, poisons, and the current health of the individual. However, it explicitly says that they can learn the "maximum health level" of the target, and so I guess they learn the numeric status. How unimaginative.
oo - Shocker Roll Dexterity + Power Stat + Power - Defense to deal # of successes bashing. Exceptional upgrades this to lethal. The target must be within 10 yards for this to work. Thankfully, there's a power that allows you to take Bashing instead of Lethal while you try to get close enough to bio-taser people. Spoiler Alert: There are literally no powers that deal Lethal directly. There are only two that allow you to deal Lethal with other attacks, and only two which involve Aggravated at all. Every other power that does damage, does Bashing damage. To put it bluntly, few powers are as effective as a simple gun.
However, I certainly remember that part in The Fly where the transformed fly-man goes on a shooting spree in downtown Toronto, so no problem there!
ooo - Shared Memory . Roll Wits + Presence + Power to search people's minds for specific memories. You get one minute of the memory for each success. An exceptional success gives you motive and whether they fulfilled a Virtue or Vice in the memory, as well as what those are. Donny uses Shared Memory. He gets 5 successes, and decides to search the memory of his target to see whether he ate Donny's sandwich from the shared refrigerator. Instead, he learns that the guy ate his own lunch, for the purpose of nourishment. He fulfilled his Vice of Banality by doing so.
oooo - Necrotize : Spend 4 ATP and roll Wits + Bioelectricity - Defense. The target is described as "falling apart, literally", but they receive an indeterminate amount of Bashing (I'll assume # of successes for now, but who knows, really?) + 1 bashing per turn for a number of turns equal to Wits + Biolectricity + Stamina - Defense. At average values, this would deal between 7-8 bashing. Not bad, but a far cry from "falling apart".
ooooo - Synapse Burst : The user's brain literally explodes, showing that Scanners are about and dealing 1 bashing to the user and 2 to all enemies within 5 yards- no, instead what happens is that the user spends 5 ATP, rolling Intelligence + Bioelectricity. Success generates a number of electrical arcs equal to the total pool, which deal damage equal to the number of successes to their targets, which include any innocent bystanders or allies if there are more arcs than enemies. With an Exceptional Success, you can ground excess arcs instead of zapping allies. This power has a range of 20 yards, equal to point-blank for a pistol.
We already saw Bone, so next is Evolution . This is all passive powers, so I'll go through them quickly. At one dot, you add Evolution to all sensory-based perception tests. At two dots, you add Evolution to all passive perception tests to detect ambushes and surprises. The Storyteller is also supposed to slip you hints once in a while too. At three, you add Evolution to all Manipulation, Persuasion, and Socialize tests, because you're spewing pheromones. At four, you get the ability to shapeshift, up to and including altering sex. This allows you to add your Evolution to tests to disguise yourself or obscure your physical features, for 1 ATP. At five, add Evolution to all Stamina tests to resist poison and environmental conditions.
Next, we have Flesh. Flesh has no text for it besides two names: Gruesome Visage, and Flesh Cocoon.
After Flesh comes Incorporation , which consists primarily of references to Videodrome , specifically, the cancer-gun. At one dot, you can power a small device or provide ammo for a gun. Pulling it out deals one Bashing, and it takes 1 ATP/minute or shot. It also causes your flesh to extend to cover enough of the object to power it. Two dots allows you to do this hands-free, and turn the device on or off (this raises some questions about doing this with a firearm, but whatever). Three allows you to drain electricity from the power grid for 1 ATP/hour, but you have to remain still while doing so and disgust people while your flesh crawls over the sockets. Four dots is the one-dot power for computers on up, including cars. You still need to use it one-handed. Five dots, meanwhile, is the upgraded version of the two-dot. Long live the new flesh.
Next we have Mutation . Mutation allows you to spend 3 ATP to transform into a monstrous entity. One dot gives you +1 to Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina. Each additional dot allows you to add an additional dot to a physical attribute for your transformed self. They cannot be consecutive. In addition, each dot requires you to pick an aspect for your
Acid Spray: The infected can squirt an acidic liquid or corrosive mucous from its mouth, strange pustules, or bony tubes. The character uses Dexterity + Athletics to attack and deals lethal damage.
Antennae: A nice pair of antennae or other, bristly sensory hairs. The infected adds +2 dice to Perception rolls.
Armor Plates: The Infected gains +1/+1 Armor. This aspect can be chosen up to two times.
Bite: The infected gains a bite attack as the jaw distends and fills with jagged teeth or splits into a horrid mandible. The infected deals lethal damage with Brawl attacks. For additional picks, the teeth deal +1 damage for each pick.
Claws: The Infected deals lethal damage with Brawl attacks. For additional picks, the claws deal +1 damage for each pick.
Extra Eyes: Up to bunches. The Infected adds +2 dice to Perception rolls.
Extra Limbs: The Infected adds +2 dice to Brawl attacks.
Huge Size: The Infected is much larger than normal, and gains +2 to size while mutated.
Opposable Toes: The Infected gains +2 dice to actions performed when climbing.
Spikes: The Infected bristles with bony spikes; he can fire these as an action, using Dexterity + Firearms. Bones dissolve in a few minutes.
Tentacles: Either a few really big ones or a bunch of little ones (or a big long tongue or something). The Infected adds +2 dice to grappling. Chosen a second time, it adds an additional +1 die.
Wall Crawler: The infected gains +4 dice to climb surfaces, even slick surfaces like wet glass, so long as they could support the character's weight.
Weapon: One of the infected's hands becomes a massive talon, strange, bony sword, or spike that deals 2 points of lethal damage; it uses the Weaponry skill to attack. The weapon can fold away.
Wings: The Infected can fly at her standard speed. The host can only climb at a third of her speed.
Next, we have Predation . Only one of its powers works, where, for two dots of investment, you can add Predation to Stealth rolls. The others are unfinished, but the description of the five-dot is that it would allow you to gain bonus ATP from hunting and killing things.
We now have Regenerate , which is self-explanatory. At one dot, our character stops aging and adds his Regenerate to rolls to resist poison and diseases. At two dots, we can spend 1 ATP and roll Stamina + Regenerate to restore 1 Bashing per success (or 1 Lethal for every two). Three dots allows us to roll Regenerate + Resonance to heal 1 Lethal per turn for # of successes in turns. It costs 2 ATP to activate and 1 ATP per turn to use. Four dots allows us to spend 1 ATP/turn to heal 1 Lethal/turn. Five dots means that when our character dies, she loses 1 Resonance and 5 ATP to resurrect after six hours. Draining her last point of Resonance makes her a mortal again, and if she gets infected again, she then gets 2 free dots in Regenerate too.
Last is Vigor , which allows us to add Vigor to Strength rolls and the amount of feet our character can jump, all for 1 ATP/turn.
So, I'm going to issue a challenge. As we saw in the last update, most Infected splats are contemptuous of vampires and werewolves. I am going to build me a 0xp Infected. Anybody who wants to can try to build a 0xp Vampire or Werewolf that can cope with the (hah) unstoppable might that this chapter has unveiled and utterly crush the Infected. So, then:
William Rubin Endoparasitic, Dermatitic, registered in the Robert Jagda Wing Attributes: Skills: Intelligence 2 Brawl 3 Wits 3 Firearms 3 Resolve 3 Athletics 3 Strength 3 Weaponry 2 Dexterity 2 Socialize 3 Stamina 3 Empathy 1 Presence 2 Academics 3 Manipulation 2 Computer 2 Composure 2 Medicine 2 Merits: Brawling Dodge 1 Fighting Finesse: Fake Katana 2 Resources 3 Language (Japanese) 1 Resonance 1 Fusion 7 Adrenal Control 1 Vigor 1 Bone 1 Powers- Thicken Size 5 Speed 10 Defense 2 Initiative Mod 4 Willpower 5 Health 8 Equipment: Light Pistol Replicant Katana (Treat as Knife with size 2) Trenchcoat Cheap-looking Sunglasses
Reply to the challenge in #4Original SA post
So, I'm going to issue a challenge. As we saw in the last update, most Infected splats are contemptuous of vampires and werewolves. I am going to build me a 0xp Infected. Anybody who wants to can try to build a 0xp Vampire or Werewolf that can cope with the (hah) unstoppable might that this chapter has unveiled and utterly crush the Infected. So, then:
Mathylde Broodchyld, Dark Lady of Aggravated Damage Mixed Martial Arts
Attributes: some good physical ones, also Wits/Resolve/Composure to taste
Skills: Brawl 5 (Speciality: Exploding Someone's Head By Punching It)
Disciplines: Protean 3
Merits: Fighting Style (Aggressive Striking) 3/Fighting Style (Defensive Striking) 4
Theodore Shagmist, Werewolf Dandy
Attributes: Dexterity/Strength, everything else is gravy
Skills: Weaponry 5 (Speciality: Not Getting My Claws Dirty)
Tribe: Storm Lords
Gifts: Something that lets him talk down to his butler I guess, this totally doesn't matter at all. Oh! I know he totally gets the thing that lets him change how his animal forms look, and he totally gave them all French Poodle curls.
Merits: Fighting Style (Fencing) 5
Mathylde does like 20+ dice of aggravated damage in melee, and could probably nutpunch an elder god into oblivion as soon as she gets some XP to raise Defensive Striking to 5. Messr. Shagmist does six automatic lethal, without having to roll, every time he scores a single success on an attack (this in addition to whatever he rolls on 12L or so). Also, once per turn when attacked, he gets to make an attack which pre-empts the person attacking him and which is exactly the same dice-wise as him attacking on his own turn. If he gets some XP to buy a Fetish rapier, he can upgrade his weapon's lethal damage to aggravated when it's used to attack members of a broad, specific group - say, Infected.
Fluff, Madness, and TVTropesOriginal SA post Pathogen part the last: Fluff, Madness, and TVTropes.
So this will be the last post on Pathogen. We've covered the mechanical ends and some of the fluffy parts. This will cover the rest of the fluff, a truly bizarre section of the site, and a brief overview of the TVTropes attempt to finish this, which will eventually turn into a rant.
Okay, so let's go back to Chapter One. Here we learn that infected "eventually display all the symptoms of the pathogen's infection". So apparently you're supposed to eventually show every single symptom. So you'd be feverish, have a skin condition, be an insomniac, and look childlike. Well.
In any case, we then go on to the possible causes. In order, we have:
1) Parasite Eve Ripoff : Symbiotic and commensal microorganisms within our body have turned against us! And they're now a colonial intelligence of some kind!
2) The Spanish Influenza on Steroids : A mutation of an already-existing parasitic microorganism or infectious virus is now intelligent!
3) Prions killed the Dinosaurs : The virus is actually some ancient virus, which may have wiped out dinosaurs or caused the Permian mass extinction. It doesn't kill frogs for some reason. It may have also kick-started the Cambrian explosion. But now it's not actually deadly at all, but just gives you cool superpowers.
4) We already did this with Number 2 : An entirely new virus is causing this. It is a recent development. And it's intelligent!
5) Ghosts give you Cancer : The pathogen is actually an invading force of some kind. Or maybe it comes from demons, or ghosts. Blahblahblah Echidna, blahblahblah Lilith, but whatever is doing this is controlling the sickness.
6) Captain Trips : The sickness is artificially created in the laboratory. There is also a conspiracy or something that gives infected strange numbers and pictures, and when they blackout they're actually terrorists who
7) There isn't really a virus. Psyche! : The infection can't be detected, but it spreads nevertheless. Maybe it disguises itself as an ordinary protein, maybe it's all in people's heads, and maybe it insinuates itself through the retina of the mind's eye.
8) Lice just got a whole lot nastier : The infection is either from a macroscopic parasite, or from fungal infections. Guess what! These are some of the smartest nematoda and arthropoda you will ever find!
The problem with these is that most of these are a)not mutually exclusive with one another, necessarily speaking, but b)are mutually exclusive with certain character types. If the infection is only a year old, how come there are societies of infected? How does the Endoparasite option work if you declare that infection comes from the Blue Flu?
Next, we learn that animals and plants can be infected and become Chimeras, which eventually form into little microecosystems by infecting everything around them. There are no rules for Chimeras, which are supposed to regularly attack Infected. I guess you're just supposed to freeform it based on the animal statistics we have in the core book. Hope your players are up for an endless stream of mutant bats!
In addition, sometimes humans become "ATP Zombies", which also have no rules for building. Oh well.
Or rather, in Ch. 4, we learn that for every month a zombie is active, it gains one of the features from the Mutation power. I guess you're just supposed to plunk that on top of an ordinary human.
Ch. 4 tells us about potential antagonists and storytelling. The only things that are new are "Lost Ones", who have no memory of their prior lives and are essentially harmless going by the description, and:
Very recently, infected have found themselves pursued by shadowy organizations and strange paramilitary groups who seem disturbingly informed about the presences of ATP zombies and chimeras. It is obvious that these groups don't know about the infected in general, possibly because zombies and chimeras are much more common manifestations of the pathogen. The organizations seem to man facilities stocked with beakers and cages, talk of viruses, macrophages, bacteria, and all manner of more bizarre things, including references to old gods or darker things.
Oh shit it's Saint Francis Mercy paramedics run! The only other thing in this chapter are a couple of lists for later expansion.
Ch. 3 also includes some rules. I'll sum them up for you. Infected need to eat three times as much food as a normal person at a minimum, or risk Decay, which has nothing mechanical to determine whether you undergo it or not. Infected can also eat anything organic and we have another reminder that you are supposed to be urged to cannibalism by the virus despite the virus also telling you no.
Finally, we have four unique derangements:
Dissociation (Mild): The host begins to believe that the pathogen is in more control than it possibly could be, or that he or she is controlled directly through some means other than her own mind. The character doesn't mind; in fact, far from it. He likes the idea. It means he doesn't have to make his own decisions, and indeed, doesn't. This can cause an emotional disconnect from the world, as the infected character ceases to believe himself responsible for his own actions, and argues vehemently that it isn't his or her fault.
Blackout Human Syndrome (Major): The infected believes he or she is the pathogen, and the personality that emerges during blackout is the original human inhabitant of the body. In this scenario, the human is possibly an enemy, a friend, or something to be suppressed. In extreme cases, the infected believes herself above the law, the law being a "human institution." In all cases, the infected believes that the strange writing, odd pictures, and nervous tics inherent to all infected to be attempts by the human personality to re-assert control and visibly becomes annoyed or angry at these actions; the host also often creates a new name for herself, often from folklore or a random string of letters.
Alien Hand Syndrome (Mild): The character's non-dominant hand begins to move by itself. Not dangerously or outright maliciously, but it acts according to the blackout persona's virtue and vice. For example, a "charity hand" may be prone to giving things to others out of the character's pocket while a "glutton hand" may seek to stuff food into the character's mouth. Otherwise, the hand may simply wander and explore the surroundings and perform utilization behaviors. Social skill penalties may apply.
Alien Ambulation Syndrome (Major): The character can't sit still. His eyes wander, he refuses to sit in one spot even if he wants to, and picks up and handles everything. This is, in effect, a more severe version of alien hand syndrome. Even when trying to hold a conversation, he may walk away and look at something unrelated, fail to maintain eye contact, or display incorrect body language.
Well, I guess they're certainly derangements. Yeah.
Moving on, we have Chapter ?: theTRUTH . This is game fiction, I believe. It talks about how Mages are all dragons, talks about how Vampires are Supernal entities from Stygia/the Underworld. Except that it says that only Banishers, Scelesti, and Seers are dragons, because the Five Watchtowers and the Pentacle Mages are actually how the world is controlled. On the whole, it's tedious, a love-letter to the second-worst parts of oWoD (the rest of Pathogen is a love-letter to the worst parts ) with rants about SCIENCE (the author CAPITALIZES words in order to make it seem more SCHIZOPHRENIC), and the only part that's actually funny without reworking it is simple:
ICE CREAM TRUCK IS THEIR SPACESHIP
It's frankly embarrassing. The only part that actually annoyed me is the lack of stuff on Changelings or Werewolves (it mentions Prometheans briefly, as another mechanism society uses to control people), instead obsessing about BLOODSUCKERS and DRACOS. Oh well.
We end at the beginning, with the introduction, where we learn that the Theme is supposed to be body horror and the Mood is supposed to be anxiety. You know, that's not a bad idea, but the rules don't support this. The fluff doesn't support this. The entire system of various splats works against this too. Well, I'm saving my rant for later, so let's check out the section on inspirational works.
The body horror genre is almost exclusively a by-product of the 1980s, having been spawned by the likes of David Cronenberg and other directors seeking more shock-related horror than anything with depth. As the directors moved toward more serious studies of the body and the implications of this sort of transformation, films about alien hand syndrome, the Capgras delusion, and others began to appear until at last, the genre slowly began to die out, and is now consigned to the bargain bin and low-grade action flicks.
So we see that he has terrible opinions about fiction. His idea of "depth" has nothing to do with the ideas that are explored, but about the conformation to medical science of the films. To say that there is no subtext to any of Cronenberg's films is frankly the opinion of an ignoramus. We also see that he ignores The Fly in favor of classifying Resident Evil (both films and games) as body horror. Hah.
Well, we've finished with Pathogen: the Infected proper, but let's take a quick look at the TVTropes attempt to finish the project.
You can read that right here if you really want to, but frankly it's dull. The biggest problem with it is that it hangs onto the dumb parts, like the splats, rather than dump everything that's not part of the basic concept and start over.
I mean, if I were to make a game about body horror, within the nWoD setup, there would be no splats whatsoever, beyond potentially a choice in how you were infected. Instead, you would have a power stat and a morality stat that were cross-linked. Morality would be how much of your body remained to you, while power would be how well you could use the changes to your benefit. In order to gain power, you would need to surrender more of your body to the infection, and at low levels start spreading it. "Moral" degeneration ought to be initiated by the player (though not the character necessarily) and should come with mutations rather than derangements. Powers themselves would be more generic and less specialized, and overall the math would be tightened up.
Meanwhile, the best TVTropes has come up with is mapping the social splats onto the stages of grief. Well done on fixing all the problems with it as a whole!