Fading Suns by JamieTheD
The Stars Are WrongOriginal SA post
Okay, double feature post. The first is just giving my own opinion on Changeling (and, by extension, Wraith). Changeling and Wraith, on their own and not taken too seriously, are actually kinda fun. But the biggest problem with Changeling (not taking into account the whole 'otherkin' thing, which is a problem that only got exacerbated in the last 12 years or so once crazy folks realised they shared delusions en masse) is that
it doesn't fit the rest of the setting
. Want vampires and werewolves to go at it a-la Underworld (or Twilight, if you're a sick fuck)? Sure, go right ahead. You can even have Mages fucking with the war between the Emo Bloodsuckers and the Rampant Ecoterrorist Shamans.
But wraiths didn't amazingly fit in because they couldn't touch or interact with shit unless they got powerful, and Changelings didn't fit in because... Jeezus, just look at the gods-damned art, will ya? They're god-damn sparkle people, all happy and shiny, and crazy . They see a vampire? they'll go "Oh noes, a demon beast!"... and then try whomp on it with their Sparkle Sword +4. No horror, just "Oh noes, he is so scary!" (said in the most weeaboo voice humanly possible).
Meanwhile, because it seems someone noticed that Fading Suns existed, I'm markin' that darn territory right now . Don't care if it means I'm gonna be workin' on 2 RPGs a week!
Fading Suns: The Stars Are Wrong
Fading Suns. It's an edge case for the Obscure part of this thread, because it's beloved of so many space opera fans who also roleplay. It's also an edge case for Mockable, becuase... it's actually kinda cool. But don't worry, I'm sure we'll be able to cover those rose tinted spectacles in brown.
So, What's it all about?
Okay. Count Chocula, in drawing attention to this game, brought up that it's a mix of 40K and Dune. Close, but not quite. Think Dune, mixed with Dan Simmons' Hyperion, mixed with a tinge of 40K, mixed with BATSHIT CRAZY. Oh, and a slight hint of White Wolf stuff, but don't let that turn you off.
We'll be getting into this in a bit more detail, but essentially, it's the far future, there's a feudal system in place, with all the complexities and fun that implies, aliens are scum (but useful scum, for the most part), and the suns are starting to go out.
That's right, the stars are going out. The Church of the Pancreator is blaming it on mankind's Hubris (yes, they capitalise Hubris, and Truth, and other such fun things Harry Harrison would mock), the Nobles are getting what they can, while they can (and ignoring the problem), the Guilds are doing much the same (while some of them secretly think if the Republic was brought back, it'd be magically all better), and various other groups are just living their lives normally.
Alustro, Prayerbitch of Destiny
We begin the core book with the usual fiction that's so popular in RPG books, probably ever since White Wolf started to emo-it-up with theirs. We meet Alustro, a semi-heretical young man (He's an Eskatonic. What's an Eskatonic? We'll get to it) whose uncle happens to be an Archbishop (That's Archbishop of the Orthodox church, not the space-heretics). It's longwinded, not brilliantly written, but still, it gets across several important facts, and the character of Alustro (a pussy):
- Alustro serves his lady well, even though he's a filthy space heretic.
- She's not well liked, as even her brother wants her made very, very dead.
- This is because she's also a filthy space heretic (this will become important later)
- He's on a motherfuggin quest. That's right, a quest.
Let's concentrate on this last point. Essentially, there's some really ancient stuff left behind by an ancient race (maybe races, plural) called the Annunaki. One of the things they left behind was something called The Gargoyle. It sometimes gives people visions, and looks like the Sphinx, only weirder. Essentially, it gave them visions, and they're trying to piece them together, because maybe it's important!
Forget logic here, believe me, people don't operate on logic in this setting. He then rambles on for two or three pages of double column 10 or 12-point, about things that are going to be explained to you in the setting section anyways. Then he tells his uncle how much he misses him, and, despite the fact he's a dirty heretic being chased by heretic hunting ultra-orthodox types, angry nobles, and thugs (along with his companions), he's going to come visit sometime and give unca a big ol' broclasp.
Welcome to Fading Suns. If you want to read this text, and all the other intro fiction dealing with Alustro, you're in luck, because Holistic Design (the guys who made this awesome and crazy game) made it all into a pretty pair of PDFs for your free enjoyment. Here's the first
Next time, I start dealing with the actual setting!
EDIT: ...haha, no, I deal with the intro first!
Run, It's a PASSION PLAY!Original SA post
Well, while this discussion
fascinating, all I'm going to say is that people are going to side with whatever side of the theme White Wolf went for with oMage (essentially Idealism v Rationalism), and fuck what White Wolf decided (Idealism)
As far as CtD goes, there's a distinct element of rose-tinted glasses there, as the serfdom thing shows.
But now, for something completely different.
Fading Suns: Run, It's a PASSION PLAY!
The artwork continues to impress, but... no, it's not a Klingon Bird of Prey, don't be silly!
So, once we've gotten Alustro's whining out of the way (he only rarely stops being a pussy), we get to the introduction. On the one hand, it has all the standard “What Is Roleplaying”, but its own summary of the setting is, with a couple of exceptions, pretty kickass. Take, for example, the intro.
Once the suns shone brightly, beacons in the vast night of space, calling humanity onward. The stars symbolized humanity’s vast potential, a purpose and destiny revealed in progress, inciting an exodus of unlimited growth to the distant stars. Once people looked to the heavens with hope and longing in their eyes.
Then the suns — and hope — began to fade.
It is the Dawn of the Sixth Millennium, And There Is Only War... Nah, just kidding, although there is a fair amount of war going on at any one time, hot or cold, but this is, again, something we'll get to. Essentially, as we'll find out a bit later from the history, there was enlightenment and technology and everything, but all that eventually stopped, and we're in the middle of a Dark Age that is, quite literally, starting to go darker.
Is it going to be a grimdark setting, though? HELL NO!
But not all believe in this destiny. A leader has arisen, an emperor sworn to unite the worlds of Human Space together again under one banner. To ignite hope once more in their hearts.
The Emprah, unlike a certain other (definitely) grim and dark setting of the Far Future, is alive and well. Well, this one is, anyways, we'll get to that in a few updates. He's still one of the better hopes that humanity (and, by association, “lesser” species) have in these times of suns starting to go out, and has done lots of interesting things that will directly affect the player characters.
It is in such a universe that individual men and women must live. Only a few of them will question. Fewer still will act on their questions and seek answers, ways to break the grip of custom and law. To free themselves and once more seize the stars — and their destiny.
The tone of the intro shifts from dark to light, back again, and then round the horn once more in its 7 paragraphs, but, as with all good rhetoric (and make no mistake, this intro is written more like an oration than an explanation), it ends on the above note.
ARE YOU FEELING PUMPED? COS I'M FEELING PUMPED!
Unfortunately, it then segues immediately into “What is Roleplaying?”, then some more intro, then some more roleplaying discussion, and then the history chapter. Well, fuck. I was all pumped, but...
...Wait, I sense... artistic temperament, aka “Omigod, this isn't a roleplaying game, it's...”
If you’re new to this artform and hobby, this book may seem strange to you. Don’t worry; it will make more sense the further you read. Fading Suns is a roleplaying game, a highly imaginative activity which can provide hours of fun and a means of creative expression .
Italics are my own emphasis. This is the first warning sign that the writers may be a bit proud of their creation (although Hubris is totally a big sin in their universe). It is nice that they reassure the new player, and then go into a rough explanation of when the hobby began (No, this isn't one of those “Cavemen were roleplayers, honest!” things, it starts the roleplaying hobby in the 70s, like it should) and how it evolved, but there is an underlying current of about it.
And so, if you hold a big book like me, you'll be a GM!
Luckily, we don't get to see this again until after the “How The Heck Do You Roleplay” style section, where they give a grounded explanation of the basics of roleplaying. Although, again, little warning bells are tingling, as they use the word “dramas” quite a lot, make references to the GM as a “greek chorus”, and it's described with a distinctly lang & lit bent. Players aren't just players, or characters, they're co-authors in a drama . We don't need much (just a d20, a d6, and our imagination... oh, and the book you're holding is kind of important to, is what they don't tell you)
Then, the artbomb hits. Let's give this mofo its own header, shall we?
A Futuristic Passion Play
No, seriously, that's the heading describing the game's ideas.
For those who don't know what a Passion Play is, it's basically a medieval kind of drama where grand themes (such as why you're a devil in disguise if you don't pay your local church tithes) are explored. But one important thing should be noted about this whole section. One, it starts implying that the writer of the intro, at least, either has a much grander vision of the hobby than we do, or is up his own backside. Two, it still manages to help you understand the game better. This is going to become a theme of the review: No matter how derivative, or hipsterish, or sometimes pointlessly ambiguous they can be, you still understand what they're banging on about, and like them despite it. We'll be seeing why over most of the darn review.
For example, I'm going to quote the final two paragraphs of this long, slightly bigheaded portion (which covers most of page 13 of 300 odd)
Like medieval passion plays, Fading Suns deals with grand themes universal to human experience. Its main theme is the Seeking. This is the mythological role all heroes play: the knight on quest, seeking power to vanquish his enemies or the secrets of self-discovery. Success or failure on this quest is not as important as the insights learned while on it.
This first one, despite the high-falutin' language, gets what roleplaying is. It's not the dragon having his arse kicked, or the TPK, it's the fun you had along the way, and watching your characters grow. Admittedly, TPKs kinda spoil that last bit, but even so, you have a lot more fun journeying than you do finishing the adventure (especially when you're totting up the spoils at the end)
The atmosphere of the dramas played out in Fading Suns is one of tragic ignorance. Civilization is in decline, and superstition and fear are everywhere. New ideas and frontiers are spurned by a nervous populace, fearful of change for the harm it brings. But it is just this sort of willful ignorance that keeps civilization from rising again. It is such fear that keeps hope buried and great challenges from being met. The player characters represent the heroes who can break the bonds of this ignorance and bring something new and great to their culture, to reawaken and invigorate life.
Similarly, the writer really gets it here too. The vast majority of humanity, whether inside a fictional setting or out, is rather dumb, and there's always going to be the dickheads who are either apathetic, scared, or just plain fucking ignorant who hold things back. The heroes in a story are special, because they change shit. Not because they necessarily change it for the better, but because they shake things up. Also, this paragraph, like most of the last few pages, are subtly pumping you up for a damn good game. And I think we've all needed a good pick-me-up before running a roleplaying game. This game is a dramatic sci-fantasy power trip, it doesn't pretend to be anything else, and what's more, the first few pages get you pumped for what's to come.
Next time, we see how the setting's historical fluff keeps, or maybe doesn't keep, that buzz going.
History ('At the Beginning' to 'Fall of the First Republic')Original SA post
Well, let's see... pre-update talkiness: CapnAndy, keep up the adventure thing, it's a damn good idea, and I might run through some of the Fading Suns stuff in the same way, if I can find some people up for it.
Yue, I can definitely appreciate your friend not wishing to have a bad part of his career showcased, but, er... I sorta already did . I just double checked, and the poor bugger's name is right there in the writing, art direction, design/layout/typesetting, and additional artwork (where?)
Still, now is not the time for things like this, now is the time to explore the alternate history of:
Fading Suns: History ('At the Beginning' to 'Fall of the First Republic')
Now, for this section, I'm going to be introducing a new feature: The Chain of Derivation. This is my tongue in cheek way of saying that a good 2/3 of the setting riffs off something else, something that's usually obvious. To be fair, however, it also most likely inspired some things, so, where it's applicable, I'll stick a derivation after the Fading Suns one.
Having gotten through the (deliberately) inspirational intro, we're now introduced to the setting. This chapter contains the broad history, detail on the major power blocs (and some minor ones), and a little bit about the [scum] aliens, where appropriate. Not surprisingly, it kicks off with
Oh, come on, you didn't seriously think humans came first or anything, did you? Nope, long before humanity, and even most of the other races existed, there were the Annunaki. They came first, and they were two species. Hrm, already sounds familiar, but let's roll with it. They built themselves up, influenced some evolutions for the lolz, made the jumpgates, and then conveniently and promptly killed themselves off in a massive intergalactic war over which side you butter scones over or something. Their derivation chain is pretty clear, once you take this portion into account:
“The presumed younger race is known as the Successors, or Marauders. This latter name comes from alien legends, for their myths speak of two races of gods or elder beings who often warred against each other. One race protected mortals, while the other harassed them. Scholars believe that these “gods” were not mere metaphors, but memories of the Ur.”
Chain of Derivation
Most dual morality faiths (like Catholicism) → Babylon 5 → Fading Suns → Mass Effect
Von Daniken → Babylon 5 → Fading Suns → Mass Effect
The First Republic
Part of the first jumpgate. They made this a full pager, to emphasise the scale.
So,eventually humanity conquered the solar system, and, lo and behold, they'd formed their one world government from corporations and capitalism. They obviously made this unity through strict control and removing personal freedoms (much like your office's HR department), but this all went to shit several times over when they found the first jumpgate.
See, the first problem came when pilots went through the jumpgate: They got religion. Not the controllable kind, either, the kind based off addictive substances and positive reinforcement. See, the Jumpgates make you trip balls in the most delicious way, and the pilots, obviously, wanted to trip balls a fair amount once they'd gotten hit. This pseudo-religion was called Sathra, after the word some pilots claimed they heard while they were off visiting Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust. This term somehow survived four or five millennia and two collapses (oops, spoilers!), which sort of implies a common experience.
In any case, the First Republic worked out how to block the “Sathra Effect”, and hard-built it into all their jump drives. Then they sent off loads of colonists, and the First Republic expanded. Which led to the second problem. Y'see, various ethnic groups found out how to build their own drives, often sans Sathra Blockers, and made their way out on their own. Didn't matter that the corps tried to blow the shit out of any ship they thought didn't have a Sathra Blocker, they just couldn't catch all of them. This, combined with troubles at home, led to balkanisation, independence wars, and things predictably went to shit.
Now, before we get onto religion, let's deal with the chain of derivation, and then hit on jumpgates.
Chain of Derivation
Cyberpunk → Lots of other sci-fi → Fading Suns
The Forever War → Fading Suns → Mass Effect
Jumpgates, and Why They're Kind of Important
Remember this? That's a jumpgate
Jumpgates, obviously, allow instantaneous travel between gates, so long as you have a drive, and the right codes to send. Fading Suns takes a moderately hard sci-fi line on space travel, in that gates are fine, but unaided FTL is not. Of course, if it were all this simple, we wouldn't have the potential for drama.
Good example: the first jumpgate discovered (Earth to Sutek, named Sathra's Boon during the First Republic) wasn't powered up. Considering that jumpgates are not actually planet sized, for the most part, and it was powered down on the edge of the solar system, it took a long time to find. Why? Ask Douglas Adams, who once famously pointed out that Space... Is Big.
Once it was powered up, though, everyone discovered that you tripped balls while jumping. This Sathra Effect basically made you feel at one with the universe, almost brought to tears by how beautiful it was, and all the usual balls tripping stuff. Obviously, it was highly addictive, and it says a lot that the law stopping you from removing your Sathra Blocker (not actually called that, but it's a better term) has also survived many millennia, and you're penalised pretty harshly for it.
Now, gates are pretty powerful, but they're not indestructible. They're self repairing, and it would take a heckuva lot to blow one up, but it has apparently been done. Obviously, this makes any gate at the other end useless. They were built by the Annunaki, having faces on the uppermost point, lots of Ur markings, and generally being mysterious as all hell. Also of note is that they require, like portals in DnD, some fairly specific means of opening, but, thankfully, this is all in terms of codes and approaches. We'll get into jumpgate keys later, but for now, one final Chain of Derivation .
The Forever War → Stargate → Fading Suns → Mass Effect
So, next time, we're going to cover the introduction of a faith that lasts millennia, and a few alien dicks. No really, they are massive dicks.
History ('First Prophet' to 'Fuck Vau')Original SA post
Well, who's up for more Fading Suns history lessons? Only about three or four more of these to go, then we can get on to some other fun stuff!
Fading Suns: History ('First Prophet' to 'Fuck Vau')
Last time, we found that the First Republic expanded faster than it could cope with, much like any large dictatorial nation (coff). On the one hand, this led to the fall of the First Republic. On the other, this led to some actual variety in cultures, as people tried out all sorts of governmental systems, and apparently nearly all of them worked somewhere. Go humankind, and our refusal to agree on anything!
Naturally, this meant that all sorts of religions cropped up. And then, one man changed humankind forever. Well, he started the ball rolling, anyways.
Zebulon, The Littlest Prophet
The Prophet, and all of his Disciples. The important ones are the prophet (top), Horace (Beardy McPepperSalt on the left), Ven Lohji (Alien woman, far right), and Amalthea (Indian woman with Grail bindi)
Zebulon (it's a space opera, silly names are mandatory!), formerly an Orthodox Catholic priest, found... well, the fluff sums it up pretty well here:
”Da Fluff” posted:
All laymembers know the litany: “In 2723, the Prophet saw the Holy Flame.” On a
frontier world (lost now amid the fading stars), Zebulon was gifted by God with a mystical vision of the Holy Flame residing in the Empyrean. God gave the Prophet new words for his children, to take them into the new age of space exploration. But he was also given a vision of hell, revealing that demons lurked in the “dark between the stars” seeking to snuff the Holy Flame.
All of this is actually sort of important. Well, very important. He gathered up 12 disciples, spread the holy word, and, by this point, people had sort of noticed that the stars were fading.
Here's where it gets a bit silly. Did they blame it on entropy, stars getting really old? Nope, it was Demons, and the Urth Orthodoxy (as it was to become after the Prophet's death) blamed the First Republic, because it used technology and worshipped golden calves and stuff. Y'know, the usual happy funtimes when the Catholic church get really powerful. And make no mistake, as we'll see in later sections, Urth Orthodox is basically Catholic Church 2.0. It even has many of the same sins. But we'll get to them later.
Oh, and just to mess with your head? 'The Dark Between The Stars' and demons and stuff actually exist in this setting.
So, to cut a long story short, his message got out, lots of worlds got converted, and he finally died (or, more accurately, disappeared) trying to make peace with the Vau. More on them later this update.
Chain of Derivation
Catholicism → Fading Suns
My Little Pony: Subjugation is Magic!
Now, during the Prophet's lifetime, two races had been encountered: The Vau, who we'll get to, and the Shantor, who were basically intelligent ponies. No, really, they somehow managed to get around the whole “tool use → Intelligence” thing that got us so stumped for a long time, although humankind had to give them voiceboxes to translate their language. Now, the Shantor, as they are known, have this family/clan loyalty thing, sun worship, blah blah... look, they're amerindians, alright? And what happened to the amerindians (or whatever the fuck the term is now)?
Yup, people wanted the shinies on their land, weakened them by causing some inter-clan wars, and then shipped them all off world to various reservations on various worlds. The fluff again provides us with some more funtime here (read it while listening to this ):
”Da Fluff” posted:
For these reasons, most humans did not feel responsible for displacing the Shantor.
They even saw themselves as a necessary civilizing influence on the horselike race, providing them with jobs in the mines, although with often grueling, laborious tasks. Many Shantor revolted. Those who still lived on the plains led assaults on colony mining operations. The large and clever Shantor are dangerous when riled, and the loss of life and property they caused summoned the wrath of the colony leaders. Armies descended onto Shaprut to put the unruly rebels down. A guerrilla war ensued, but the result
was never in question. The broken Shantor rebels were herded up and shipped off-world, scattered onto reservations throughout human space, sometimes onto worlds hostile to their way of life. Families were separated, their members never to see each other again.
Now, by this time, the Prophet Zebulon was still alive, but didn't have the clout to say “Fuck you guys, leave the space horsies alone!” (although, as we'll find in later books, he did come down to do the Jesus thing to them (“Hey guys, chill, space jesus is telling you you won't be a lonely road forever, y'know!). Then he went and disappeared on a peace mission to the Vau, and the first official space pope, Palamedes, gave no fucks about space-ponies.
As you might guess, the rest of the aliens in the setting suffered fairly similar fates (not really), with one very important exception: The Vau.
Chain of Derivation
Idealist Amurrcan History -> Dances with Wolves -> Fading Suns -> Pocahontas
Lost In Space: Terror of the Vau
A Vau and his Space Gnomes. It speaks volumes that most artwork of the Vau isn't great, like this one.
Now, humankind were quite happily subjugating the dirty xeno scum (who were dirty xeno scum because they weren't human, and thus not beloved of the Pancreator... No, really, that's what they called God 2.0, and that's pretty much the reason for most of the anti-alien sentiment... they're not "reflective"), and they came across a world they called New Monaco. There, they found an insect species called the G'Nesh, who did nothing except go "Er, please don't do this, it isn't allowed", while humankind did their looting and pillaging in the name of Progress thaing they apparently do a lot of.
And then the G'Nesh's bosses turned up: The Vau. This ancient species kicked the everloving shit out of humanity, starting with every single human being and spaceship on and around New Monaco. The first clue humanity should have gotten was when, after killing every single human on New Monaco or around it, they upped and went home.
Humanity has never been good at picking up subtle cues like this, and so the Vau War began. The Prophet disappearing on a peace mission, presumed to have been murdered by the Vau, didn't help. And then, finally, one noble called Benjamin Verden, a diplomat, got accepted by the Vau as an ambassador. He came back super impressed, and basically told people the following things:
- They're way better than us, it would be a bad idea to fuck with them.
- They're not expansionist, wishing to stay exactly where they are.
- They've got a rigid caste system.
- They think we're all white devils (The fluff specifically says that the Vau generally consider humanity a 'pollutant').
Hrm. Where have we heard this before? In case I was being a bit subtle in that last sentence: THEY'RE CHINA... IN SPAAAAAACE.
And so, the Vau became known, both in setting and out, as the biggest dicks of the setting. They're all for purity and stuff, but end up just being massive cocks to everyone, even though they may (or may not) have important information about why the stars are fading.
Chain of Derivation
Victorian China -> Inscrutable Chinaman Stereotype -> Fading Suns -> Tau
Next time, we're going to be taking a look at one of the other major alien races that gets a bit of a crappy deal (THEY STARTED IT!), and see the beginning of the Second Republic. Woo!
Notes on History Part 1 (How This Shit Applies)Original SA post Fading Suns: Notes on History Part 1 (How This Shit Applies)
Now, one criticism levelled at games of the 90s is that they concentrate far more on the setting than some people are comfortable with. A lot of it doesn't seem to apply directly to the player characters, being a history of the universe.
But history affects people, and by extension, fictional history affects characters, in ways many players aren't aware of. So, as such, I'm going to go into brief notes about why sections of the history actually do apply to players.
The First Republic
This, for the most part, doesn't apply. It's waaaaay back in the mists of time, and nobody really remembers the First Republic except for three things:
1) It's when the first Jumpgate was discovered . Why is this important? Sathraism. We'll be dealing with that later, but the Sathra effect can really fuck your shit up, not just because of what it does, but because the moment you become an addict, you're automatically a filthy heretic. Like 40K, heretics eventually get burned . Also, jumpgates are kinda important in their own way, just like all the other Annunaki relics. The Annunaki might still be around .
2) It's when the Prophet turned up . Now, I'm an agnostic myself, but many christians speak as if Jesus is right fucking there, with them. And some of them are actually better people because of this belief (others are asshats because of it). Basically, Space Jesus is kind of important to every religious character (and, due to the setting, "kinda religious" is the default for most human characters), and, as we'll (eventually) see, there's some metaplot mixed with this dude.
3) Near the end of the First Republic, the stars started fading . This is very important, although it seems like fluff. Keep in mind, most people are blaming the Fading Suns on humanity not being pure enough, and on some kind of demonic apocalypse. A lot of people are superstitious about things, and, as we'll see, high technology is considered a sin (even if it could theoretically help with the fading suns phenomenon). Although it's not immediately apparent, this is shit that affects everyone, if only subliminally for most.
Playable race thanks to the Player's Companion, nuff said.
These dicks are unfortunately kind of important to the metaplot, and at least one book deals entirely with them (the second War In the Heavens book). It's at least deeply implied that they know more than they're letting on, and are kind of acting like the Minbari from Bab 5. Most of the time, agreed, they won't affect you, but the GM can indeed bring these puppies out for several reasons, because, even as isolationist as they are, they truly believe they're the gardeners of the universe.
Tomorrow, we'll be seeing more of this history, and in a couple of updates, we'll once again see how it all applies.
We're Getting Closer ('Funtimes' to 'Nobles Die')Original SA post
Iain M Banks and the Celto-Gaelic Alliance will get you, Jack... While you sleep... While... You... Sleep. ( )
Anyways, I have an update that I'd already written, so I have time to post it before I go back to the sodding reviews that are delaying all my updates. Pro Cycling Manager...
Fading Suns: We're Getting Closer ('Funtimes' to 'Nobles Die')
So, the future started looking pretty grim and dark, and, just to spice things up, along came...
The Ur-Ukar War
Now, Humanity had already subjugated the Ur-Obun (spiritual humanoids), and the Obun actually got along with humanity quite well (In fact, Ven Lohji, mentioned last time, was a Disciple... although the Urth Orthodox don't like to mention this). Unfortunately, the Ur-Obun (the “Ur” prefix because they appeared to have historical evidence that they got meddled in by the Annunaki) had some long lost distant cousins, the Ur-Ukar.
The Ur-Ukar were not very nice people, and they were psychic to boot. They'd been united by a Warlord, and decided they'd like to expand their territory, which they did by sneaky means, then open assault. This obviously made humans a bit more xenophobic than they already were, and, after a while, Patriarch Palamedes, First Space Pope, convinced peeps to go kick their shit in. Shit was duly kicked in, the Ukar were heavily monitored, enslaved, etc, and humanity gave no fucks.
Chain of Derivation
For once, no damn idea.
Oh, Look, Another Republic!
So shiny... bet you no more than 50 years!
Humanity gave so few fucks over the next few centuries, that they expanded and matured like they never had before. The Urth Orthodox lost a lot of power, and both democracy (woo) and SCIENCE (woo) held sway. Planets were terraformed, regardless of whether they already had ecosystems, because by god, humanity is the greatest! Mutants were made for various purposes, including pointless bloodsports and war, woo!
Yeah... you can guess where this is going. Eventually, it went the way of all sci-fi utopias, crashing and burning because the welfare system couldn't keep up with the millions of unemployed the system had created for itself. Cue some more dark ages, and religious nutters holding sway again. Once again, the Fading Suns were noticed, because... well, it was getting obvious by this point. It says a lot about the fictional humankind of Fading Suns that this next quote happened, and a lot about real humans that I find myself nodding and going “Wow, another day on pubbie politics chat”
”Human Retardation” posted:
Only after three suns with populated planets noticeably dimmed did people begin to realize that the fading suns phenomenon was not going away. But what was causing it? Many disgruntled and discontented people had their own answers: “The Republic is to blame; some damn experiment gone wrong!” “The scientists are responsible; their technology’s doing this!” “It’s the aliens’ fault, some sort of cruel revenge.”
No mention is made of Second Republic scientists saying “Oh, right, this is a bit sad, but yeah, stars lose their fuel and shit, didn't you know?” And people wondered why I said people in Fading Suns don't think logically... because the entire Second Republic got toppled in a wave of religious, xenophobic, internet-fuckwas style dickbaggery..
Chain of Derivation
Metropolis -> 80% of Sci-Fi set in Utopias -> Fading Suns -> 80% of Sci-Fi set in Utopias.
All Aboard The Feudal Train, Baby!
Ten noble houses, previously corporations led by people of lineage, took over the reigns, and, at first, Church and Nobles lived happily together. And then the church started pushing its anti-tech message, which the Nobles didn't like because pretty toys. They squabbled for a while, and eventually came to an agreement. An agreement that a new power bloc completely fucked up: The Merchant League.
We'll be dealing with all of these groups in more detail later, but, suffice to say, the end of the Second Republic was the beginning of the three major power blocs: Church, State, and Guilds. So, er... what happens when you have a feudal system in place, guys?
Chain of Derivation
Dune -> Traveller -> 40K -> Fading Suns -> Chronicles of Riddick ( )
Space Vikings? Space Ayrabs? Alrighty Then!
Nobody can thumb the mighty SPACE VIKINGS!
Yep, that's right... barbaric peoples who'd previously cut themselves off and modelled themselves on their blood-tinted models of ancient civs (Vikings and Generic Arabian), came back and tried to kick shit into people. These were the Vuldrok (Space-Vikings, even down to the sagas, horned helms that norse generally didn't wear, and pillaging culture) and the Kurgans (Space Muslim Extremists... and yes, their wars against us are Jiihad).
This is basically one of the silliest portions of the setting, and, despite the fun you can have by throwing racial stereotypes intent on killing players into your game, we shall leave it at “They're racial stereotypes that get fleshed out some other time, but generally just want to kill shit in this book.”
Chain of Derivation
Vikings + Arabian Types -> Misinterpretations of Norse and Middle Eastern Medieval Culture -> Dickbaggery -> Fading Suns -> Dickbaggery
Lots of Nobles Die (+1 Important One)
During this period of general slaughter, one man rose up the ranks, politicking, scheming, and generally playing the grand game of statecraft. Vladimir of House Alecto. To cut a long story short, he kicked the shit out of both Vuldrok and Kurgans, and then, while everybody else was a bit stunned with the wars, he moved up his personal forces he'd been keeping in reserve, and said “I'm King Now”.
Not having enough spaceships left, most people agreed. The ones who didn't sort of died. So, Vlad's got the throne, everyone's surrendered, the ceremony happens on Byzantium Secundus (the new capital, humankind having forgotten where Holy Terra was at some point), aaaaand...
...somebody had put a bomb or some other device that makes your head kersplode in the crown. Cue the death of the Alectos, the Gesars, and the Windsors, as the nobles start fighting again, this time over the crown. They can't agree on anyone, so a regent gets elected decade after decade.
Chain of Derivation
Dune -> 40K -> Fading Suns
We are at 27 pages out of 315. Be afraid.
Next time: Two Wars and a Coronation, then we get into what life's like in the Fading Suns!
Two Wars and a Coronation ('Open Warfare' to 'Wow! An Emperor!')Original SA post
The Dream Park logo is retro(or, well, not, I guess for the period it was standard...) in an amazing way.
Though now I wonder, was there ever a Jurassic Park RPG?
Nothing official, Purple, but most peeps on the interwubs seem to agree Savage Worlds would be the way to go for it.
PS - You're free to go Hog Wild on the Player's Companion after the next update (nominally wednesday)
PPS - Have the last Fading Suns history update for a while, peeps!
Fading Suns: Two Wars and a Coronation ('Open Warfare' to 'Wow! An Emperor!')
No art for this particular few pages, so have the cover again!
When we left off last, we'd been so bored to tears that the history update was shorter than usual. Now, we get closer to the modern day, and stuff that definitely affects players!
The Symbiot War
Okay, so remember how the Second Republic liked to genemod and stuff? And how they explored the stars, conquering and terraforming worlds without fear of consequences? Well, in quite a few cases, this bit them in the ass. PurpleXVI's going to be looking at some of those consequences when he starts the Players Companion, but this particular one bit the next government along in the ass.
Essentially, back in the days of the Second Republic, some ecoterrorists were doing their thing on a world called Chernobog, when they accidentally woke up an alien race called the Xolotl. The Xolotl, without really thinking about it, infected the ecoterrorists, creating a new race: The Symbiots. Imagine a mix of Cylons and The Thing (more the latter), with healthy doses of Bodysnatchers and X of the Living Dead, and you have the idea. Some are zombies, some are intelligent shapeshifty types. They all use bioweapons of some sort, and they're highly infectious, making more Symbiots from anything they can get their chlorophyll stained hands on. Okay, so add in some Tyranids for good measure... Anyways, they were such bad news that the Second Republic willingly closed a Jumpgate (remember, closing a Jumpgate is a big thing, not lightly done!), and hushed everything up.
Of course, if 24th or so century humans can open a jumpgate, a race of rabid bio-mutants can most likely do the job too. It'd just take a while. So, long after the fall of the Second Republic, out pop the Symbiots, wrecking people's shit left, right, and centre. The Church had pretty much outlawed high technology, so they were fucked on that front, and anything even slightly heretical (like Psi) was a no-go too, so they were fucked there.
But, as luck would have it, the tide was turned in one world... due to two people. One was Brother Berthold, an Eskatonic (think nutty Gnostics preaching the End Times), who had THE POWER OF FAITH, and Damiana, A Charioteer (Pilot's Guild) who happened to be a powerful psychic. And so, several things happened in a row. The Eskatonics began to get a fairer deal from the Church (who'd considered them filthy heretics), the rules on psi powers were relaxed a bit (because they'd also been filthy heretics), and the war eventually turned round. Much like fighting Tyranids and Orks from 40K, pretty extreme measures still had to be taken to make sure there wouldn't be a resurgence, but the Symbiots were pushed all the way back to just past the Stigmata system. Everyone contributed (and still contributes) people to daily risk their lives against regular Symbiot incursions on Stigmata, and everything seemed alright again.
Ha, yeah right.
Chain of Derivation
Holy fuck, where to begin? It's a mishmash, but, as we'll see, it's an interesting mishmash.... at least, until their own splatbook...
The Emperor Wars
Yup, succession became the name of the game as soon as things had calmed down. See, despite the weakness caused by the Symbiot wars, all the power blocs thought they had a chance at either being on the throne (Nobles/Church), or being the power behind the throne (Guilds/Other). And so, a massive rollicking war was kicked off. Everyone had different goals, but let's sum up the first part's players, shall we?
Hawkwoods and Other Nobles – Want the throne. Darius Hawkwood makes the first push, but others follow.
Urth Orthodoxy (The Church) – Rightly afraid the nobles and guilds are taking too much power, want a Space Pope on the throne.
Merchant Guilds – Want to grab enough land to declare a Third Republic and secede from the rest, living in an Age of Technology and Money. Bless.
Darius Hawkwood pretty much died before anything substantial could be done, but his nephew, Alexius, was a whole different story. Taking his time, he eventually claimed enough worlds, made his push, and compromised with most of the involved parties. The rest later surrendered, including the Decados (We'll get to them, but think House Harkonnen), which kind of freaked everyone out (The Decados must have had an angle, surely!).
And so, there was an Emperor on the throne, and this one wasn't murdered with BombCrown (TM) . So... what did he do with this power?
Wait, Things Are... Better?
As the title suggests, he made a load of sweeping reforms, many of which affect starting groups of players. For example, he formed a group called the Questing Knights, who are basically meant to spread Chivalry, Enlightenment, and so on, throughout the stars, providing an example, and possibly finding a way to stop those suns fading, if they can maybe find a moment... Meanwhile, the Guilds were allowed to take part in the general expansionism this has led to (Questing Knights are all meant to be Captain Kirk, finding new stuff, old stuff we forgot about, and generally trying to make things better), which gives them a chance at new tech. The Church, meanwhile, is pretty pissed about this (Finding old things? OLD THINGS STARTED TO FADE THE SUNS, AND WAS SINFUL AND STUFF!), but really can't do much about it right now.
Meanwhile, everything else is kind of in a holding pattern. The Hazat (Space Spaniards) are holding off the Kurga, the Decados aren't obviously trying to take over the known galaxy from within, the Hawkwoods are fighting the Vuldrok, and the Symbiots seem to have backed off... for now. There's a lot of adventures out there, and it's up to the players to find it!
But before we do that, and make a character... we have the setting to wade through. Don't worry, it's not that bad, there's some fun stuff in there, and it's only about three or four updates! :P
Nobles, The Nicest AsshatsOriginal SA post Fading Suns: Nobles, The Nicest Asshats
Well, last time we checked, we were into the actual details on players and such now, having left the history behind. And so we come to “Life Among The Fading Suns”, a big honkin' section that lets you know what to expect when either you or the GM plays a character.
General Life Notes
People are either serfs of freemen. Freemen have rights, fuck serfs. If you play a serf, you will most likely be laughed at by most Fading Suns players, as you're fucked from the get-go. Luckily, serfs can only be made by custom creation. The three main power blocs are the Five Major Noble Houses (and some Minor ones), the Urth Orthodox Church (and splinter-sects of varying respectability), and the Merchant League (which also has minor guilds. Today, we're going to concentrate on the nobles.
Nobles the First: Hawkwood
The Emprah, Who Happens to be a Hawkwood
Hawkwoods are noble, militaristic types who rule their fiefs with honour and glory, and... look, you know House Atreides from Dune? They're so blatantly Atreides it hurts. However, they're great believers in Manifest Destiny, and, like all Nobles, they're arrogant bastards. One important thing to note (and it will become important) is that these are just general ideas of the houses. As we finally get into the splatbooks, we'll start wondering if anybody lives up to these ideals. Except Decados. Fuck Decados.
Oh, Hawkwoods hate Decados, the Emperor's a Hawkwood but the Hawkwoods are pretty pissed because he's trying to be impartial (IE – Not giving them party favours), and lots of Hawkwoods become Questing Knights. More on those near the end. As the game says, Real Hawkwoods don't doubt themselves, or fail... They're also like paladins, because any GM who plays the setting spot on will have Hawkwoods snub other Hawkwoods who either sensibly ran away or fucked up somehow. So fuck Hawkwoods, despite them being the nominal “hero nobles”
Sneaky Fuckers, Them Decados
A Decados and a Hazat debate Third Way Feminism
Isn't it just a massive coinkydink that the Decados are right next to the Hawkwoods? See, the Hawkwoods are painfully Atreides, these guys are the moustache-twirling equivalent of the Harkonnens. They have a feared black ops group, they sell lots of drugs (being the primary suppliers of the [i[extremely[/i] addictive Selchakah), they think murdering someone is just political maneuvering/social advancement, but, like the Hawkwoods, they don't tolerate fuckups. A few public orgies to enrage those stuck up Hawkwoods, fine... Murdering a Hawkwood (or anyone else) out in the open without framing someone? Whoopsie, guess who's going to be mortally offended by their own family soon! Yes... Offended... Mortally! Ohoho, those Decados!
Fuck Decados too. They're not, despite what this intro-fluff tells you, just moustache twirlers though. It's a bit like the “nicer” versions of the Devil... just be careful, and you'll come out with some backing.
Spanish Honour, The Hazat
Yep, these guys are basically Space Spaniards. Remember Inigo Montoya, from the Princess Bride? Imagine an entire Noble House (made of literally hundreds of people) made entirely of either Inigo Montoya, or military nuts. The Hazat believe in two things: Glory, and Honour. They love duels, they love military engagements, they'll smack you upside the head if you diss their honour, or their family, or their dog, or... yeah, they're stereotypical space spaniards.
Ironically, this makes them the second coolest noble faction. Because who doesn't want to be Inigo Montoya?
You killed my father, prepare to die... ahhh, good times!
House Li-Halan: We're Okay, Honest!
A Li-Halan, Contemplating Holy Sculpture... Or Something
Okay, so, back in the time they were first formed to about the time of the first Emperor Wars, the Li-Halan were hardcore bastards. They dabbled with demons, they dated the dead with necromancy, and they were bigger gits and sicker fucks than the Decados are today. Then they converted to Space Catholicism, and, since then, they're okay... honest they are!
In terms of “what to think”, they're space japanese, immediately post conversion to christianity. They're all about proper forms, doing the right thing by your clan, and occasionally making sacrifices for the greater good. They're quite interesting, because although they are uber-catholics, they still toe the line in some respects. For example, the short story collection of Fading Suns, imaginatively titled “Tales of the Fading Suns”, has two main characters, one very highly placed in the family, who practice Manja. What's Manja, I hear you say? Necromancy.. Good, old fashioned Necromancy, that they learned by twisting around Ukari burial rites. Needless to say, the Ukar weren't too chuffed at this, because they think dead people shouldn't be brought back or talked to.
So yeah, Li-Halan... They're actually kind of fun to play.
Arabia, Fuck Yeah! House Al-Malik
Even female Al-Malik are awesome
The Al-Malik, while nominally being Space Arabs, are the coolest characters in the setting, in my opinion. They're basically the truly tricky bastards of the Nobles, having the most subtle intelligence service, and some pretty keen in-House rites of passage and such. They believe in this thing called The Way of Three Mountains, which sadly isn't detailed in this book. Basically, the First Mountain is to experience a whole bunch... learning new languages, seeing what weird food tastes like... because hey, you can! During this time, they live many different sorts of lives, eventually getting ready for the Second Mountain. This is when they learn to govern, occasionally slipping off to do crazy shit to keep building up the First Mountain. Then, once they get tired of governing and stuff, they go to find the Third Mountain, which generally involves contemplating the universe, God, and other deep stuff.
As a result of all this training being within the house rules, Al-Malik are the best spies. Add in that they're the most tech-savvy nobles (calling computers by their real name instead of 'Think-Machines', how odd!), and are often investigated by the Inquisition for tech-heresy (they joke that they pay their own tithe to the church through the Inquisition, which gives you an idea of how much they get in trouble) makes them pretty strong characters.
In short, Al-Malik fucking rule.
There are lots of them. Most of them mean jack shit to the setting. Some are allied with the major houses. You can be one. That's all you need to know. They're pretty much the “Make your own”, although some Minor Houses are detailed in the Players Companion.
Shit That Nobles Need To Know
After this, we get into about four pages of important feudal/Noble concepts, like Etiquette (murdering your own peasants is perfectly fine, calling a governor “My Lord” when a Duke's in the room gets you in deep shit), Courtly Love (don't like your arranged marriage? Bang someone else on the quiet, and so long as you're pretending it's on the quiet, nobody cares!), Duels (mega-important, and never use guns), and what happens when you're shunned and no longer invited to parties (You're so fucked). There's also stuff about Nobles' entourages (lots) and the rules of Hospitality (sort of... it doesn't go into detail, but does mention your basic rights). This shit isn't exactly hella complicated, but it's wordy, so, unless you're playing a noble or someone who has the right of Hospitality, you can safely skip most of this. If you're a noble, or thinking of playing one, this is required reading .
The Emperor and His Eye
There's a short section here on the Emprah Alexius (Alexius to his friends), and it basically sums up what he's doing, how precarious his situation is (a little, but he's smart), what he's doing with Questing Knights (landless knights get a piece of paper from the Emprah if they swear loyalty to him, which allows them to do crazy shit in his name), and how there's a cult of people who swear he's THE GOD-EMPRAH OF MANKIND. These people are, amusingly, frowned upon by both Emprah and Church. I personally like to think they put that in as a “fuck you” to 40K.
Now, the Imperial Eye is basically the Emprah's personal intelligence service. Thing is, like most intelligence services in fiction, they're eyeballs deep in black projects and stuff, but nobody's able to prove it... oh, and they definitely don't want one of their own on the throne, no sirree bob! Essentially, the Eye are a right bunch of scheming bastards to watch out for, and their section takes great pains to tell us what untrustworthy dickbags they are. Hrmm, this gives me an idea for a story (honest)!
So, that's pretty much the nobles section of the setting fluff summed up for your enjoyment, and next time, we'll be dealing with the next power bloc. Ooh, my, Burners and Gnostics and Cathos ahoy, it's going to be the Urth Orthodox and Pals!
NOBODY EXPECTS THE... Wait, Shit (Clergy)Original SA post
Have you heard the word? The word is... FADING SUNS FLUFF TIME!
Fading Suns: NOBODY EXPECTS THE... Wait, Shit (Clergy)
From left to right: Cool, Dick, Dick, Cool, Heretic (SO COOL)
Having dealt with the nobles last update, this time we're talking about the Church? Which Church? The only one that matters, Space-Catholicism, and all its little splinter sects! Many nobles, most peasants, many freemen, and, obviously, the priests themselves, are all Space Catholics, but there are many different flavours. Let's explore what the core book has to say about most of them. As with the Nobles section, there's a sidebar basically saying “Hey, these are the stereotypes, don't stick to them religiously. As we'll (eventually... oh, gods, eventually ) find, not many pre-written characters do.
Bring Out Yer Sins! The Urth Orthodox
And so, the Pancreator sayeth... 5 Firebirds for the rest of the sermon, folks, your souls are at stake here!
As I mentioned before, these are basically space catholics. Guilt good, Money to Church good, Sin and Technology BAD! Obviously, the main duties of an Urth Orthodox priest are to guide your little sheeples to avoid sin, pay money to the church, and put their bums on the pews. As noted, the church believes nearly everything is sinful, but can only legally smack people down for obvious sinning (Murder, Adultery, the usual fun stuff), Technosophy (Using second republic tech, no matter what it is, unless it's politically expedient or easier to look the other way), or being a filthy heathen (this is a surprisingly large group). They technically have their own navy and army, but they're only meant to use it to defend the faith. As you might have guessed, Urth Orthodox are kind of sanctimonious dicks in general, and they try to expand their power however they can, like everyone else. The splatbooks eventually flesh this out, but for now, just assume that:
1) Urth Orthodox hate technology
2) They also hate filthy heathens
3) They consider themselves the only ones able to save peoples' souls
4) They don't particularly like anyone else.
In short, massive dicks. But fun to play sometimes. They do say that the church actually gives a lot of leeway in interpretation and stuff (Like the real Catholics), but they're asses, just the same. Their Theurgy is pretty generic, just like they are.
I Fight With Faith: Brother Battle
On the one hand, awesome artwork. On the other, this is from Chapter 4...
Ah yes... A pretty obvious Knights Templar reference here, the Brother Battle are basically the Church's holy warriors, the guys who spend their lives training for defending the faithful, then they go out and do it, smacking evil while they go. Again, the splatbook fleshes them out, but the concept given in the main book is perfectly fine too... They're basically catholic missionary monk-warrior dudes, and are generally more chill than the main Urth Orthodox. When they take Theurgy, they're much like Physical Adepts from Shadowrun, buffing themselves and others to smack down the unholy.
Did You Hear The Word? The Eskatonic Order
Eskatonics... One of several groups to get a raw deal from the Art Director.
Filthy heretics who got a lucky break, and are now sort-of accepted. They believe that souls can save themselves, if they work at it, and this pisses off the Urth Orthodox no end. Add to this that they believe that the end times really are coming, but we have a chance of fighting back (as opposed to the Orthodox, who say “Welp, pay yer money and save yer souls while ye can!”), that alien philosophies actually might have some sort of merit (HERESY!), and that some technology might prove useful in reigniting the stars (DOUBLE HERESY!) makes them fairly popular with the more open minded types, and not at all popular with either the Orthodox or the next guys.
In short, they rock. Despite being crazier than a bag full of Molyneux clones. Their Theurgy is generally divinatory in nature, and we all know how broken that can get sometimes... Speaking of batshit crazy, let's move on to the...
Temple Avesti (Avestites, Burny Guys, Intolerant Asshats)
One of at least three awesome pieces of Avesti artwork... guess we know who the writers sympathise with!
Okay, so you thought the Urth Orthodox were bad? At least the Orthodoxy will hear you out. Avestites will just set you on fire. Sometimes with their minds. Avestites are the extremist, completely intolerant, and often illiterate sect of the Orthodoxy. They believe in the Holy Flame of the soul, sure... they just take it a bit more literally, and try to burn anything remotely sinful when they think they can get away with it. Just like the Orthodox, you can play a nice Avestite, but odds are even the nicest one will be looking up recipes for Flash-Fried Heathen with BBQ Sauce. Avestites are nasty, nasty people, and if you see one, hide.
But remember, kids, they're doing it for your own good! When they get Theurgy, they burn stuff. Lots.
Sanctuary Aeon (Amaltheans): The Reddest Cross Of All
Even their artwork is subpar in the corebook. Shame
Amaltheans are basically an entire sect of nurses, faith healers, doctors, and do-gooders. They will try and teach you how Saint Amalthea found the Pancreator, but won't push it... kind of like Taoists and Buddhists. They won't actively preach, they'll just quietly niggle away, slowly pushing you toward the Hippiest portion of the Faith. Thing is, they're often the best educated, and they tend to learn healing miracles if they take Theurgy, so they're the bestest clerics in the whole darned world. Want to be a faith-magic Bones McCoy, or Dr. Kildare in space? Go for these guys!
As a result of being the generic Red-Cross types, they unfortunately get the most boring writeup of the lot, despite the fact that Sanctuary Aeon can and [i[will[/i] go into battlezones to heal people. And they give no fucks about who you are when they do it.
The Generic Option: Hesychasts, Wanderers, and Stylites (or Something)
Not all space catholics are fine with the whole Hierarchy thing, and go off and do their own thing. They don't have any real power, but they also don't have any real burdens, like being an illiterate fucktard who likes burning stuff too much (Avestites), or having all those tiresome oaths to uphold (Everyone). This is the generic option, and, again, taking this is mainly for wiggle room, although there's more stuff in the splatbooks to widen your choices.
Sectarian Conflicts: More Information Later!
No, really, they basically spend about two paragraphs, maybe three, going “Yeah, there's lots of internal conflict, whether between sects, or in groups, we'll go into it more in the Occult chapter (4 chapters away)”.
They don't actually do this to the best of my knowledge, leaving it for the Lords & Priests duo.
Yep, the Inquisition is not just the Temple Avesti. The Inquisition, the official one, is for cracking down on threats to the faith both internal and external. Remember Inquisitors from 40K? Yep, this is those guys. They don't even pretend otherwise. Inquisitors are appointed by a council of other Inquisitors (the Synod), have lots of rights to hunt down filthy heretics wherever they may be, but... they're only granted these powers for individual missions, unlike the 40K lot. An Inquisitor steps outside of his mission's remit, he's probably going to get hung out to dry. Also, there's politics involved, like higher ups in the Synods (plural) or just general higher ups (like a planet's Archbishop) revoking the Seal. There are also the 40K variety of Uber-Inquisitor, but these tend to play it carefully, or they meet with... accidents. Y'know, those accidents which tend to happen to inconvenient people. Hehehe.
I Like The Game Really!
Now, the tone of this update, the last, and probably the next few may have you thinking “Hey, this game isn't so great after all!”. As is, in the Corebook? It's highly derivative and the concepts don't always mesh well for a group. An Eskatonic and and Avestite in a group, for example, should technically be at each others' throats from day one. But the splatbooks, and, to some extent, the in-game fluff, actually kind of save it. For example, there's a group of Avestites in “Tales of the Sinful Stars” (the obligatory short story collection RPGs always seem to have), two stories in fact, and they paint wildly different pictures of the Temple Avesti. The first involves an avestite witch-hunter, looking for sin in an entire town of mutants. Obviously, being a mutant is a sin, and the Avestite, despite all his bluster, basically says “Yeah, these guys are actually okay, they're faithful and stuff, and one of them is built like a brick shithouse and carries a Lochaber Axe! ”, leaving with a massive (heretical) second republic fertilised watermelon for his troubles. The next group in the anthology are nearly all massive dicks, but the main lass, while doubting the Good Father's motives, saves the day with sheer flaming awesome. By the end of the story, she's proven to be a much bigger hardass than the rest of the impromptu inquisition combined, and is a surprisngly good mix of harsh and mellow.
So yeah, the Fading Suns setting is actually quite cool, it's just that this first chapter (yep, we're still in Chapter 1!) doesn't really show it.
Next time, we deal with the bestest group of all... The Merchant League!
They're a bunch of massive dicks, in case you hadn't guessed
Third Republic? Not Us, Honest!Original SA post Third Republic? Not Us, Honest! - The Merchant League
From left to right: Charioteer, Engineer, Reeve, Scraver, Muster.
Ah yes, the Merchant League. In theory , they're the most boring of the three main power blocs. In practice , no group lives long without one of these puppies, because what they're all about is mechanical stuffs, and mechanical stuffs, despite Theurgy and Psi and all that fun stuff we're nowhere close to dealing with, is kind of important. So, without further ado, let's take a look at the League's main hitters!
Oh, and by the way, none of them are dirty third republicans, no sir, honest apples! (Shyeah right)
We Fly Shit. Charioteers
From Chapter 4. At first I thought this was an Engineer, but then I realised: Nope, no cyberware or dumb 40K affectations.
Okay, that sounds like a boring concept, right? They're the guild that flies shit. Woot. But think about it a little more carefully. They're the main owners of jumpkeys, so they have a lot of power. They're also involved in smuggling every now and again (often), so you already have the Han-Solo fetishists covered. They're some of the best gosh-darned pilots in the Known Worlds, because that's their life, so that's your Top Gun type concepts covered. And, as splatbooks will reveal that the whole Guild (well, nearly all of them, actually) is rife with organised crime. Charioteers are fun to play.
The Supreme Order of Engineers... Stop Laughing!
Yep, the order of engineers. The Supreme order... 'cos these guys are often the only ones who know how to fix certain things or keep them going (like second republic mini-terraformers), they tend to have a bit of an ego. It doesn't help that they often “go to great lengths to ensure that their customers do not try to duplicate the technical innovations”. What does that mean? It means, you try and steal Engineer secrets, they killey yo ass. Also, they may have worshipped machines in the... WAAAAAIT A MINUTE! If I read the word “Omnissiah” or “Machine God” somewhere here, I'm going to be very cross at you, Fading Suns!
Engineers, as you might have guessed, are big dicks. They fix stuff, but do their best to make sure nobody else can fix stuff. Unlike a certain machine cult who they appear to be aping a bit, they actually mainly do this for reasons of market domination, like the other Leagues. And would it surprise you to know they're often a target of the Church? No? Good, you're getting the hang of this.
We're Businessmen, See? The Scravers
One of three or four pictures of Scravers in the corebook. They're all cheesecake.
Openly, they're the Scavengers guild, selling what people have left behind. Equally well known, but not openly passed around for health reasons, is that the Scravers are basically into all sorts of organised crime. They're basically The Mob, and if you can think of something you'd normally attribute to organised crime, a Scraver's probably milked it to the bone.
Much like Rogues in DnD, anyone who plays one of these is automatically assumed by other players to be an untrustworthy sort who'll double cross you at the first chance they get. They're not always wrong, despite the fact that Ex-Scravers exist. Living a life in constant fear of 'accidents', but they exist.
Slavery Is A Respectable Thing, The Muster (Chainers)
Even the inker hates the Chainers
A combination of the mercenaries/slavers guild, the Muster are almost as bad as the Scravers. They're rough, they're ready (to slap a shock necklace around your neck and sell you), and you don't fuck with the Muster. People who do tend to be found a number of years later on an entirely different planet, in rags and half dead from overwork. Like the Scravers, most Chainers are not very nice people... are you seeing the anti-capitalist-democracy theme here?
Oh, like the Scravers, they have a “respectable” arm that does temp-work agencies, finding labour for freemen, etc, etc, and that's what the guild fluff here concentrates on, but don't be fooled by the “most”. Nearly every Chainer the GM will send you is of the sort I just described. Especially in pre-written adventures, seeds, or “Shards” (another Fading Suns term for Adventures we'll see late in their publishing run)
Death and Taxes, the Reeves (Gray Faces)
Yup, Holistic actually thought about their guilds, and created... the Reeves. Again, you don't fuck with the Reeves, because they're the Accountants guild. Also the Lawyers guild. The Leaguemeister (big boss of the Merchant League) is a Reeve, and so was the last one. They have a lot of power, and they don't always use it for good. But, to be fair, Reeves generally get a better deal in the fluff than most... they aren't always openly launderers or corrupt solicitors, just some of the time. Essentially, Reeves pride themselves on looking boring, and any Reeve who does something “Unorthodox” is quickly moved out of the way, their actions hushed up due to the favours they sometimes ask in exchange for their loans.
Oh, did I mention they have a battlefleet and small personal army for repossession purposes? Really don't fuck with the Reeves. They are, however, not very good PCs, as far as I've found, which is a shame.
Generic Minor Guilds
As you might have expected from the last two updates, there is a generic option that gets some love in later splatbooks... Minor Guilds. This is, for now, your “point buy, I don't want to be these fuckheads” option, and if you can think of a mercantile concept, even one such as say, Entertainers (no reason I'm mentioning those right now!), you're probably covered by the fact that the Merchant League likes to have its hand in as many pies as possible. You could also be an independent, but, as the next section shows, that's a decidedly risky proposition.
This is actually the header for this section of the book (p. 53)... As you might have guessed, demarcation is the name of the game, and, like many unions, you're not part of the union, or in this case, League, they will make your life a living hell ... until they toss you in waste disposal shortly thereafter. Essentially, get too good at building stuff without being powerful and/or an Engineer, especially that last bit, you're probably not going to live too long if the Guild hears about it. Same with any other speciality of the Guild, which is... er... anything Mercantile, Mechanical, or to do with technology.... heh.
Obviously, most Gms ignore this bit for the “Occasional plot device” that it quite obviously is. Although the book illustrates how far the Guilds will go by pointing out they sabotaged a nuclear powered research facility researching a longevity drug (Lypee-55) that the Engineers had dibs on. Among many others. But this one blew up and destroyed a neighbouring city of 100,000 people. The Engineers gave no fucks.
Shit the League Works Together On
Yup, Merchant League aren't workin' with Pirates, nosir! (That's a Reeve writing shit, btw)
Well, obviously, the League has a fleet of its own, maintained by all the major groups, but they also have their own university: the Academy Interrata. Imagine a place where Guild politics and research can live unrestrained. Then shudder in horror and move on. Oh, and there's a section after this called 'Piracy', that says “Hey, the League aren't openly involved in pirates, but...”
Can you tell the fluff doesn't like the league much, despite their contributions? Anyways, Space Pirates are a thing, and they do space piratey things, boarding, murdering everyone, etc. Beware of that, and things.
So, that's the extremely biased fluff on the League covered, why don't we move on to the aliens? Next time, I guess!
Also, the aliens are the last but one bit of the fluff before Actual Rules ! Rejoice!
Aliens and Rumours, Oh Joy!Original SA post
Y'know what? Fluff and humans are
. Let's wrap up the fluff and get onto the crunch for Fading Suns, ne c'est pas?
Fading Suns: Aliens and Rumours, Oh Joy!
So, we've gotten all the playable factions out of the... Hahaha, no, we've got one more, and I almost forgot them because they're considered second class citizens in game. Ironically, this makes them more interesting to play, as there's a lot more variation in attitude that outright gets told to the DM. Some people love aliens (even inappropriately so), some think they're all animals, some think we should give peace a chance, man! Aliens, likewise, deal with us much the same way, because most of the aliens in the setting (and all the playable ones in core!) are at least human oid . With one notable exception.
Children of the Ur Part 1: The Obun
Elrond goes drinking with his bros. No, there's no other aliens pictured this entire book
No, this isn't the splatbook of the same name, it's basically the first playable alien race. They're one of two races who appear to have actually met the Annunaki in their written history, and they're the ones who got to stay on their home planet. The Obun, ladies and gents: Space Elves. They're intelligent, come to psi powers pretty easily, are technologically advanced (sort of), and might have dominated the universe first if they hadn't a) had an unlucky break, and b) been complacent about it. Yup, that's Space Elves alright!
Obun have weird heads, they can have muliple widow's peaks, they can't interbreed with humans without second republic tech (so all the obun-human halfbreeds are all dead), Obun are also part space Japanese, because they were (before getting their shit kicked in) isolationist, with a distinct family/clan responsibility kick going on (one of the family's kids goes bad, the whole family retreats into meditation on “What the fuck did we do wrong to the kid?” for some years).
If you like playing an intelligent, nuanced species who will forever be dicked over because they're a mix of elves and japanese, this is the race for you. Their space-bros, on the other hand...
Children of the Ur Part 2: The Ukar
Yeah, the Ukar got the shitty end of the stick all the way. First, they were transplanted from their own world to a hellhole called Kordeth (more on why in the Ur-kiddies splatbook), almost dominated human space only to get their shit kicked in and their race largely enslaved (they're sort of free now... sort of), and they're almost constantly blamed while their golden little brothers can do no harm. Thing is? They're loving it. Maybe not the whole “slavery to what they consider a lesser species”, but thing is, the Ukar thrive on challenge. Their whole religion's about being challenged, their natural psychic powers are a daily challenge because their dark-side (Urge) actually has its own independent existence, and can sometimes pop into this reality and go “Hey, I'm going to fuck shit up for you” if they're not careful, and if they meet someone else from the wrong clan (IE- one that hates them), they're probably going to die.
Ukar are split into many clans, some of which work with humans, some of which are barely civilised, some of which are on other worlds. They tattoo themselves with their life stories, and they're basically an advertisement for Stockholm-Syndrome-Psychos.Com. Oh, did I mention they're most likely an allegory for the treatment of african tribes by victorians? Or that, played well, they're one of the best aliens to play in this setting? I did just now? Good .
You Make No Sense, But We Love You: Vorox
Boris Vallejo, Eat your heart out, this chick IS the lion!
When the first few sentences of the corebook tell you something shouldn't be an intelligent species because it's a murder-machine, you know you're in for good times. The Vorox are 8 feet tall, furry, hexapedal engines of pure DEATH. The only ones allowed off their world are ones the Hawkwoods have taught how to act in civilised society, and all that Hawkwood do-gooderness has rubbed off on them. So they're chivalric 8 feet tall, furry, hexapedal engines of pure DEATH. Think a mix of Klingons, WoD Werewolves (without the “OH MY TAINTED SOUL!” crap), and the Three Musketeers. They kick more ass than a centipede with steel toecaps, and I have never seen a Fading Suns group without a Vorox. Because players love them so darned much.
Oh, and Royal Vorox help break melee combat completely with their Poison Claw , which they're allowed to keep because they're the equivalent of royalty among their kind. These are one of Fading Suns Mary Sues, and they are completely unapologetic about it. All hail Vorox!
No, You Can't Play These Yet: Other Races
Yup, more of these three... I think this artist went on to draw for White Wolf
There are several other races that the Players' Companion eventually gets into, but if you just have the corebook, you're shit out of luck for playing these. For the vast majority, this is a blessing. Let's discuss them briefly, shall we?
Gannok: The other Mary Sue alien race, they're monkey-like sentients with smelly oil secretions that get everywhere, a huge penchant for practical jokes, and they love Sticking It To The Man. Some FS peeps love 'em, some think they're worse than Kender. It all depends on the player, really.
Shantor: Native American Analogy combined with Brony-Hater's Worst Nightmare. Difficult to play right, and most Gms I've met just keep these guys away from players. Especially because the “no real hands” thing really screws them over, crunch-wise.
Ascorbites: Remember Thri-Kreen? These are why PurpleXVI has dibs on Players' Companion. They're basically Kreen, and they rock seven ways to sunday. However, just like the Kreen from Dark Sun, they're sodding hard to play properly , and so are rarely seen in Fading Suns games.
Hironem: Hunter gatherer culture, these are the Aborigines to the Shantor's Amerindians. Actually kind of cool to play, but the corebook says next to sweet FA about them.
Etyri: Noble Bird People. Heavily caste based society, lots of different types, but all the corebook tells you for now is that they're bird dudes, mega religious, and consider those of their race who go “out there” are crazy people. Thus, again rarely seen.
Oro'Ym: They're amphibious, they have technology they're not sharing, they mainly live on one world, and they're oh so mysteeeeeeeerious . As you might have guessed, there's some metaplot involved with these suckers, and the whole amphibious thing is a bigger hindrance than you'd think. Rounds out the “rarely seen” group of aliens.
Xenophobia is a Thing? Who Knew?
Now we get into the final bits of fluff. There's a honkin' half page section on Xenophobia, and how it's a thing in Fading Suns. Basically, aliens are second class citizens, often get blamed first for a crime (especially those Ukar and Vorox, ugh!) or a prank (To be fair, most Gannok are responsible for such things, but...), and most people, even educated types, think aliens are either a threat in waiting, or a lesser race that it's perfectly fine to exploit. There are also alien rights groups, some of which indulge in terrorism. Then follows a big ol' section basically saying “Because of this xenophobia, try not to create a predominantly alien group, plz. It hurts everyone's immersion”. Aliens beware, there's a lot more of them than you!
Finally, we're onto the plot-seeding fluff. Don't worry, folks, this is the last we'll see of this stuff for a while!
Vau, Vau, Everywhere, And All Of Them Are Dope
Oh, go on, have this Vau again. Bah!
Yes, more Vau info! You can never, ever play a Vau, by the way. They first got to the stars 1800 our time (it's now 4999, btw... oooh, millennial soon!), so they've been around a while. We've already got their MO (isolationist, don't mind letting conquered species who know the right words to say live as pseudo-slaves, fuck shit up that annoys them), so what have we learned that's new? Well, what they and their tech looks like. They're 7 feet tall, skinny, with wrinkled faces and with the long nostril thing you sometimes get instead of noses on aliens in sci-fi, their tech is all curvy and “aesthetically pleasing”, while still being functional, and once again, it's implied they know shit we don't, however subtly.
They could be anywhere, but you'll tell the dumb ones because they're bright green and look like a mix of stormtroopers and Cylons. They love plants, have a hive mind (the Lifeweb), they can shapeshift but have a “Motherform”, usually related to plants or animals (mostly plants), and their accidental “creators”, the Xolotl, haven't been seen since the Symbiots turned up. The Vau and the Symbiots are both going to become important later ... [ominous music]
For now, they're a threat that goes the whole range of threat levels. The low level symbiots are easy, the smart ones with powers are nigh unkillable by starting or mid-level players.
Rumours, Rumours, Rumours!
Well, there's also a section on possibly important rumours going round, go us! These come in several flavours of “portentous”, and can easily be summed up in around three or four sentences.
When Emperor Alexius turned up, there was a new tiny sun, and people think this is a sign he'll save everyone (This is never mentioned again to my knowledge).
There are nasty occultists out there who talk to demons, the dead, and generally fuck shit up (This is true)
There are things between the stars that eat ships in one swallow, and are scary motherfuckers (This is true)
With that, there's a message that “Hey, maybe you guys can change things!” in the final paragraph (More of a “Hey, things are in a state of flux, go dynamic universe!”, but hey), and we finally get to go onto the rules! RULES, I MISSED YOU!
Player's Companion 1Original SA post Fading Suns: Player's Companion
I'll be leaving the NUMBERS NUMBERS NUMBERS of this thing for Jamie to play with since he'll be handling the crunch in general. Mostly what's interesting (at least to me) about the Player's Companion is the extra fluff it adds to the setting and the new aliens.
And I'm not abandoning the Exalted review, I just told Jamie I'd be willing to handle this bit of Fading Suns, and this seems about a good spot for it.
So first things first: This cover is fucking horrible. In general, the Fading Suns books have highly uninspiring covers, at least to me. This one in particular, though, is downright "no, I think I'll pass on this book." I cannot imagine that many players were: "OH BOY, A SKINNY CORPSE HOLDING A GLOWING THING. THIS TRULY BODES WELL FOR ACTION AND SPACE ADVENTURE."
The book starts with a bit more of Alustro's journal, and then eight chapters of content. The first is "A Day In The Life," and, as you might guess, elaborates on a day in the life of various archetypes. Vorox, serfs, Hawkwood knights, etc. this is pretty good if you want to get into the mindset for a given character or location. Three chapters covering knightly orders, religious orders and independent guilds. A chapter for the military. A chapter for aliens. A chapter for... THE CHAAAANGED(mutants). And finally a heavy crunch chapter, containing variant rules and new stuff that's mostly numbers.
Chapter One: A Day In The Life
A lot of these are kind of dull, but nonetheless most of them provide some sort of relevant information about the organization/character they're about. A bit of insight into how they think.
House Hawkwood is, surprisingly, one of the dull ones. A lady loses a race and does nothing fucking interesting all fucking day.
House Decados is more entertaining, it's a Decados Boyar reporting on his Baron, detailing how he's a lazy fuckface who sleeps in past noon, smokes selchakah(think heroin or something similar for addictiveness and effects, if I remember it right) and has secret meetings with foreigners. Appended to the end is another Decados spy's report on the first spy, informing us that the "lazy fuckface" is actually running the Decados spy agency that the first is reporting to. Kind of amusing and a good example of the sort of "no one trusts anyone"-layers of bullshit that the Decados get up to.
The Hazat character is Zorro. No, really. He's fucking Zorro, he puts on a mask and cape and fights evil with a rapier. His father was killed by sinister badguys, and he's currently struggling with pursuing vengeance further against even the parts of their family not guilty, or satisfying him with having stabbed the perpetrators through the heart . Ultimately he decides to pass the costume and rapier on to the non-guilty parts of the family that wronged him, deciding that they could fight for justice to recover their family's honour, much like he had.
I like the Hazat.
House Li Halan is Asian paladins write poetry and practice fighting, talk about killing the undead(husks) and how they don't want to get married because that means they can't go on adventures any longer.
House al-Malik is gunfights in markets at night to capture hacked synthetic brains and defeat corrupt merchants while ranting about philosophy.
A Householder for House Hawkwood solves problems by promising to have everyone involved whipped and gets laid by promising someone promotions.
The Urth Orthodox have boring politics involving church budgets.
The Brother Battle goes to parties, gets drunk, and then ninja-kicks ceramsteel-armoured soldiers flat on their backs while still hung over. Then she gets involved in politics surrounding recovered artifacts(of course stolen by the Decados).
Somehow I like the Eskatonic Order , as their representative greets people with, "Greetings, Brothers! The end is near! It will be glorious!" And makes friends by scaring away priests with rambling, insane sermons. As can be seen by the image, they also have a kind of fancy look to them.
It seems that Avestites are illiterate and enjoy patrolling for sin , sin like finding a guy with a package full of Selchakah that he's now covered in, because he tried to hide it in a prostitute's dress, and she slammed him in the face with it.
The Amaltheans are a pair of generic nuns who travel around healing people, one of them with FAITH POWERS and the other with SCIENCE POWERS. In this case they're on a Hazat planet with a plague that makes people turn purple and then start to rot. Delightful.
Our representative of the Hesychasts is a guy banished to a sideshow freak monastery for writing stuff he's not supposed to. The monks there apparently spend their time burning themselves and meditating in front of pornographic statues.
Charioteers? Total dicks. "Oh, yeah, I sold this guy something that didn't work. Then when he tried to arrest me, I fled the system, and now I'm going to have the guild blacklist him. Ha ha."
Our Engineer is mentally unstable and starts ranting about the Pancreator just because he can't understand how a broken machine works.
The Scraver story isn't too full of content, but they look awesome
Our member of the Muster is surprisingly sympathetic... in part because his victim for the text is a lawyer. Guy's an old friend, but he's been hitting on the Muster's wife, so he leads him into an alley, knocks him out, and ships him off to fight Symbiots on the border worlds.
Reeves are badass. Someone talked about playing a gunslinging lawyer? Damn straight that's what we're getting here. Some baroness' toady is trying to ruin him and his friends and blocking off appropriate avenues of the law that the Reeve can use to bail themselves out, sabotaging his life at all angles. So he gets out a laser pistol and a camera and starts gathering blackmail material on his opponents. Oh and he's also organizing a pro-democracy rebel movement.
The Serf is probably one of my favourites. Mostly because of how it ends.
The Serf posted:
"Er... the laser? I do not know what became of it, milord! What? Oh, that laser there? In my own home? Surely not, milord. How it came to be there I do not know! As headman of the village, I would never hide such property from you, it is a trick! The criminals somehow transferred it into my belongings before they were taken away!
No! Please! Not the moat! I can't swim! Any punishment besides milord - I beg you! Noooooooooooo..."
The Ur-Obun is a therapist who drugs his patients up with extremely vivid, and somewhat magical, hallucinogenics so that they can have insight into themselves. After his patient rubs one out on a bunch of flowers while believing himself to be a bee, he goes down to a lake, looks in the water, and sees his own reflection as a butcher, causing him to realize that he's a tyrant and should improve himself.
The Ur-Ukar is an unfortunate victim of racism, used as a fall-guy by a member of a psychic coven for an assassination attempt upon an al-Malik noble. The only thing that prevents the assassination attempt from working as planned is that the Ukar is too good and too proud of the work he's commissioned to do... which means that it ends up blowing up the psychic coven member(masquerading as a priest), some thugs, and the better part of a church, rather than the intended victim.
I love the Vorox story. "YEAH ALRIGHT SO THESE PEASANTS ARE GETTING SMASHED UP BY THIS VOROX RIGHT, REAL ASSHOLE. SO ME AND MY BUDS GO OUT TO THRASH HIM AND SAVE THE PEASANTS. HE'S WEARING GUTS AND JELLIED EYES AS DECORATION, SO I MURDER HIM AND WEAR HIS EYES AS DECORATION. SURELY NO ONE WILL THINK I AM A VICIOUS MONSTER LIKE THE OTHER VOROX I GUTTED." Oh and he also carves out the feral Vorox's eyes while it's still alive . That's pretty metal.
Kurgan "Barbarians" aren't that barbarous when they have space fleets, even though they refer to space-travel as being via "starchariots" and "astromancy." Also they kick some Hazat right in the goolies and uh. Their bombers(as in strike craft) are named "Mujahidin." But yeah the point is they're beating up the space-Spanish pretty good and their overwrought style of writing/speech is amusing. "At the Xanadu voidgate, our starchariot whispered the necessary incantations, and the firmaments parted to allow us passage."
Vuldrok Barbarians require being shown in full, as their "day" is basically a poem detailing a raid. It's awesome.
Wait, Rules? RULES! (Rules Pt 1)Original SA post
I dunno, I prefer that Y2K Palladium RPG, where OMGZORS, THE Y2K BUG(S) ARE EVIL ALIENS!
Anyways, this review is burning a hole in my pocket, so onward with Fading Suns! (Forgotten Futures later this week)
Fading Suns: Wait, Rules? RULES! (Rules Pt 1)
Another cover-shot because this (short)chapter is a bit light on artwork? Don't mind if I do!
Yes, we finally get to the gods-damned rules! And my, what an interesting set of rules they are! Unfortunately, the entire first page is a combination of “This is a roleplaying game, hurf durf” and “Rule Zero is important, this is why”. Fuck that noise, let's get some rules on!
The Absolute Basics
You need: 1 d20. And a bunch of six siders. That's it. The d20's for skill checks (what, a d20 system? Hrm!), and the six-siders are for everything else. Then they go into the various time units, and whatever the hell they're calling them this day of the week in 90s RPG land. As you might have expected from the language in the intro (remember that? I don't, and it's been less than two weeks!), it's all pretty drama terms. Except for Turn. Turns are still Turns. But a Scene is now a Span , a Chapter becomes an Act (eh, we're used to that, we'll let it pass), an adventure is now a Drama (Wait, are we playing SciFi, or WoD?), and a Campaign is an Epic . Each one has a longass paragraph telling the hard-of-thought exactly what they mean by all this. Not surprising, since they decided not to use Standard DM Terminology TM !
Then we get into what stats and skills are. For Humans, stats go from 1 to 10. Obviously, being an alien, being buffed by spells, or having wicked cybertech can buff this beyond the human norm. Skills are also 1 to 10. Right, so we can theoretically get above 20, and presumably there's some auto fail, got i- Oy vey... yeah, as you guessed, long explanations for the hard-of-thought abound, including the usual “STR 1 is a babby or an invalid, STR 10 is Hulk Hogan” type stuff. Keep in mind, most RPGs like to think that new roleplayers are a renewable resource. Measurements are all measured in metric units (who the hell uses Kilos anymore, apart from sweetshops who have too many rich customers?), and multiple actions have a penalty to them (-4 to both for two actions, -6 to all for three, no multiples of the same action). So far, so vanilla (even if the penalty seems a little punishing). Guns, however, are an exception, having a Rate of Fire you can shoot them a turn (Combat is in another chapter entirely)
Nope, Still... Wait, Goal Rolls?
We get a brief section on Initiative (Compare skills, highest goes first. Ties compare Wits, and if Wits are matched, actions are simultaneous. Pretty simple, actually!), and then we come to the absolute meat of the basic rules... The Goal Roll. If you guessed “roll under Stat+Skill +/- Mods”, win a no-prize! But there's something that makes Fading Suns unique and quirky, hidden within this section: How crits work, and how the rolls are actually resolved.
Essentially, the higher your stat+skill, the more successful you can potentially be. Because while you're meant to roll under the target, the higher the roll is without going over the target, the better you do! Quirky, huh? I actually like the idea behind this, but obviously, this means that you're not going to want low stat+skill combos at any point. It's poison. The crit itself? Nope, no nat 1s needed here, what you need to roll is the exact number of your stat+skill . That's right, the exact number. On a natural roll. At first glance, you will happily swallow the lie that the devs give you, that this means everybody has a 1-in-20 chance of getting a crit, no matter how good they are. The more astute of you may remember that the average die has a bell-curve probability of results in practice , so middling skilled dudes are more likely to roll crits on your average die. WHOOPSIE!
Also, they don't cover... nah, they totally do cover over 20 combos of stat+skill, because they almost expect you to reach such lofty heights at some point! Nat 20 is a crit fail, no matter what, nat 19 is a fail for everybody, and 18 is the only crit you've got when you have a skill over 18. Nat 1 is always a success, but never a great one. End of basic rolling. Simple, if a bit doolally, what?
Victory Points (degrees of success) can go from 1 to 6 (normally), and opposed rolls are basically comparing your respective stat+skill rolls to see who had more successes. In an opposed test, the defender takes successes away from the attacker, so some monkey rolling 3 successes against the defender's 2 successes ends with... 1 success. Crits double your Victory Points for a roll, so you really want those. Oh, and if you have stats over 20, you get automatic Victory Points provided you succeed.
Complementary and extended rolls are a little different. Anyone who helps you basically adds their Victory Points to your target number (within reason, obviously), while extended rolls are generally “Gain the target number of Vps before the other guy does”. There's also second and third tries. Second tries have a -2 penalty, third tries take a -4, and there are no fourth tries.
Finally, there's a full page sidebar ending the chapter on the optional rule for Accents. What are Accents? They let you mod your roll (not the goal number!) to represent either taking your time and doing it careful-like, or power-blitzing through it without a care as to the results. Obviously, you call this beforehand, spend a point of Wyrd (what's Wyrd? Nobody's said yet), suffer a -3 initiative penalty and the inability to multitask this turn, and have a chance at either more or less Vps (depending on whether you “Positively” accented (giving it yer all quick-like), or “Negatively” accented (the cautious route) respectively).
So, that's it for the basic rules on how to roll shit. There's nothing apart from, y'know, the entire basic system that sticks out as odd, so we'll move onto the fun stuff, making a dude(tte)!
Crankin' 'Em Out: Character Generation Pt. 1Original SA post
Well, after Ettin began some fucked up shit, how about a nice comedown with a bunch of stats that make no sense for another two or three updates? Yep, it's time to play with the lifepath in...
Fading Suns: Crankin' 'Em Out: Character Generation Pt. 1
A Premade Mary Sue. I'll give you the Matty Stu pic next time!
So, as was common for many storytelling type RPGs, there is a lifepath system for you to generate a faceless Mary Sue with! There's also a point buy system (which real roleplayers use), but we'll get to that next time. For now, we're going to make four dudes at once. Noble, Churcher, Guilder, and a VOROX.
So, every single stage begins with an “Early Upbringing”. Everyone gets one, and, amusingly, every single one has the same Blessing (Benefit), and Curse (Drawback) for their social group. All Reeves, for example, get Shrewd (+2 Wits Vs Fast Talking), and Mammon (-2 Faith where money is involved). So let's begin our small army of relative clones! You can tell how seriously I take the lifepath system with the names...
You have no idea how much this guy tempted me to make him a reality. Then I realised Fading Suns does this for me on a book by book basis, and I made Father Badass instead
Our Noble, Don Cabela Avanti Mierda Del Toro , will be a Rural Hazat. You can tell by the long ass name. He gets some Endurance (+1), Perception(+2), Passion (+2, which is now one of his primary social stats... no, they're not explained yet), and some skills, specifically Read Urthish (Literacy, WOO!), Impress, Melee, and Etiquette, all at +1 point. He also gets the Hazat Blessing (Disciplined: +2 Calm in Combat... wait, isn't Passion his primary?), and their Curse (-2 Calm when you diss his honour... again, isn't Passion his primary? This will be important later). None of these numbers will make sense until two updates from now, so just translate it into your head as "Now better at X"
Our Churcher, on the other hand, will be of the much maligned Urth Orthodox, specifically a Poor Country priest. This gives him Strength (+1), Endurance (+2), and Faith (+1). His skills are Vigor (+1, no idea yet, we haven't been told), Drive Beastcraft (+1. He could have known animals instead, but no, he prefers to ride 'em!), and Lore (Wherever the Fuck He's From +1, our first genuinely useless skill in most campaigns). From being Poor, He gets Ego +1 (Could have picked Faith, but he's proud of his rags, dagnabbit!), and the skills Knavery 1 (nicking stuff), and Streetwise 1 (he could have picked Survival, but eh!). He shall be called Father Badass , for reasons that will become clear later.
Our Guilder, Mike Wright (Lesser known descendant of the infamous Phoenix), will be a Reeve who learned on The Streets. This gives him +1 Dexterity, +2 Wits and Perception, and a bunch of skills. Shooting, Impressing, Observing, Sneaking, Academia, Etiquette, Lore (Law), Social (Debate), and Streetwise, all at 1. Along with this, he gets the aforementioned Reeve's Blessing and Curse. As we'll see later, due to the Guild chargen being a little different in many respects, I fucked up, and this is actually his Apprenticeship.
Finally, we have Ungala Adonga , the bestest Vorox! He shall be a Chieftain Vorox, for reasons that will become clear shortly. His strength, Base 4 compared to everyone else's... don't know... gets a +1, along with a boost of +2 to his Dex (no Base boost though), his Endurance does get a Base Boost, and a +2 to boot, His Wits and Tech both get a +1, but their Base levels are reduced to 2 and 1 respectively. Confused yet? He gets Speak Urthish and Speak Vorox (note, no reading!), and a bunch of skills (Impress, Fight, Vigor, Survival, Tracking) at +1, then he gets his Blessings and Curses. He's Predatory (+2 Perception, -2 Calm when Hungry), Giant (+2 Vitality, can run 14 meters a turn), has a Sensitive Smell (Nose, you fools! +1 Perception to smell shit), but he's Uncouth (-2 Extrovert in social situations).
You'd think we were finished with this, but Ungey also has the rest of his racial package! He gets a bite, extra limbs, Poison Claw (which has a cumulative paralytic effect!), the Ostracised (mild) drawback (because he's a filthy xeno scum), and No Occult (Vorox can never learn Psi or Theurgy)
So, so far, the good Don is tough, passionate, and yet apparently gets bonuses to staying calm, despite being hotheaded by nature, Father Badass is the thiefiest priest that ever thiefed thieves, Mike Wright is well on his way to two-fisted goodness, and Ungala Adonga is going to be melee death incarnate, if not too smart. And we're only a fifth through. Let's cover the second stage, and leave the rest to next time.
Kill this inker... and the pictures editor too... whitespace on a white page, no borders? FACK OFF!
Everybody gets this, but it works differently for some people. Let's kick off with Ungala Adonga . He gets no choice whatsoever in what he gets here, with Strength, Dexterity, Passion, Endurance, and Perception all buffed by 1, a bunch of skills (Dodge, Impress, Melee, Observe, Sneak, Vigor, Survival, and Tracking) all buffed by 1, Fight buffed by 2 , and... that's it. It's a bit dull.
Don Cabela Avanti Mierda Del Toro , on the other hand, has a choice. Military, Diplomacy/Intrigue, Leisure (Yes, there's a “lazy fuck” option here), or Study. Leisure gives us the choice of Dandy or Duelist, and we go for Duelist, naturally. Don Cabela shall be Zorro, or he shall die! Luckily, he doesn't, because that's not an option here, instead getting some stat buffs (+1 Strength and Endurance, +2 Dexterity, and, out of +1 Passion or Calm, we pick Calm), some useful skills (Dodge +1, Remedy +1, Melee +2), and some neat Fencing moves, Parry, Thrust, and Slash! Don Cabela: The Dodgiest Zorro.
Father Badass is shortly smacked over the head in his youth and packed off to the planet's local Monastery, where he takes the Urth Orthodox path he was meant to. Wits, Extrovert, and Calm all receive +1, while his Faith gets a major boost of +2. He becomes skilled in Impressing (as opposed to Charming), Empathy, Lore of The Flock (fuck knows, knowing his parishioners, maybe?), Physicking, Remedying, all at +1, and becomes extra skilled in Lore (Theology), and Social (Oratory), both at +2. Father Badass has found his calling as a fire and brimstone preacher. Shame he gets the Orthodox Blessing (Pious: +2 Extrovert among the Sinful) and Austere (-2 Passion before members of the flock). This ever so lightly buggers his chances of being a fire and brimstone preacher, what with being less passionate in front of his parishioners, but fuck it, he cuts loose everywhere else!
Mike Wright , meanwhile, has a wide open choice before him. Except not so much. See, it's here that I realise I fucked up. That Early Upbringing for Mike? That was his Apprenticeship. His Early Upbringing is the same as Priests, so he goes for a Poor Town upbringing. Ego, Wits, and Perception +1, Extrovert +2, Charm, Vigor, Inquiry, Knavery, and Streetwise, all at +1. He's still two-fisted, dagnabbit!
While I go wash the shame off, we'll take a break, and return with the final stages in the next part. Sadly, only in the part after that will we have a clue what any of this actually means . The book's just organised that well .
Back on Track, Character Generation Pt. 2Original SA post
You realise this is Inigo Montoya, right?
Yep! As I said in here , the Hazat are basically Inigo Montoya, the Clan. They're crazy, they're beautiful, and I love them! So, who's up for the longass finale to the lifepath system? 'cos I sure am!
(Oh, and my vote is either Pagan Shore , or the Amber book, depending on which has more votes)
Fading Suns: Back on Track, Character Generation Pt. 2
I am Matty Stu, Watch Me Scowl Generically!
After that somewhat mortifying episode with Kapusti- oh, wait, wrong thread. We're talking about chargen in Fading Suns using Lifepaths, aren't we? Yes, well, let's get this done with, and then we can explain it all next time! I'm sure either the suspense or boredom is killing you right now!
Right, back on track, we start with Don Cabela Avanti Mierda Del Toro . Natch, he's going to be a Duelist some more (one of five paths to take at this stage), having found a talent for swinging on chandeliers at an early age. He becomes more sociable (Extrovert +1, could have picked Introvert), more icy calm (Calm +2, could have been Passion), and gets a bunch of stat buffs at +1 (Strength, Wits, Perception), and a couple at +2 (Dexterity, Endurance). He also get some neat skill adds (+1 Dodge and Etiquette, +2 Melee), and, more importantly, he advances his fencing style. If he'd come to Dueling later in life, he would have gotten the basic moves here. But since he's been doing this since his early teens, he's got a choice of two sets of advanced moves: Draw&Strike + Parry/Riposte, or Disarm + Feint. He's all about the disarming, so he goes for the latter. He also gets his Rank benny, Knight.
Father Badass , in the meantime, goes where destiny has obviously pushed him... being a Missionary (one of six choices). Surprisingly, most of the stat buffs here are +2 (Passion, Extrovert, Endurance, and Perception), with only a couple at +1 (Faith and Wits). Skills still follow the majority rule of +1 (Observe, Drive Beastcraft, Empathy, Focus, Inquiry, Lore (Doctrine), Physick, Remedy, Ride, and Streetwise) with one at +2 (Social: Oratory), and one at a whopping +3 (Impress, natch. Screw Charm!). The good father also gets his first Rank, making him (technically) Novitate Badass.
Mike Wright , Two-Fisted Reeve, looks over the charsheet of destiny, and decides he wants to sign up as a military lawyer, joining the Soldier Early Career (one of eleven for Guilders, the highest in the whole lifepath). Heavy stat boosts abound (+1 to Tech, +2 to Passion (not Calm), Strength, and Endurance, +3 to Dexterity!), lots of skills at +1 (Dodge, Impress, Vigor, Mech Redemption, Remedy, Survival, Tracking, and a Drive skill of our choice! Landcraft, obviously), some more at +2 (Melee and Fight, firmly entrenching him as two-fisted!), and a further +3 to Shooting. Mike Wright, people, Combat Lawyer . Oh, he also gets his first Rank, Associate.
Finally, we come to Ungala Adonga . Being a Chieftain, he doesn't have a whole lot of choice unless he wants a demotion, so he goes for... Chieftain. My, aren't aliens in core exciting? Mostly +1 stats (Extrovert (fuck Introvert), Ego (Sod Faith), Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Wits), with Passion and Perception at +2. Skills are all 1, being Dodge, Fight, Melee, Observe, Tracking, Shoot, and Vigor. Woo. Finally, he gets the benny Family Ties and some Martial Arts moves (Graa, the Vorox Martial Art). First up is BANGA (Charge), followed by Drox (Second Hand, which isn't explained yet).
One day, Ponytail, you will also have a Pope Hat like mine!
Tours of Duty
Finally, we come to the last checkpoint on the lifepath, Tours of Duty. This is plural for everyone but Ungala Adonga , who only gets one because he's a machine of death already, so let's go with the most interesting option to save a mechanically boring character: Questing Knight. That's right, Ungala's going to join the Questing Knights. He can improve two stats by +1 (Strength and Dexterity, obviously! ), gets 10 skill points to spread around (Which he splits between Dodge, Fight, Impress, Melee, and Shoot, because he's a meathead), and gains an Imperial Charter (he is now a Questing Knight!). He also gets to choose some other stuff, and, out of the choices given, he goes for Friends. 100 Firebirds (the currency of the game), and 6 points to spend on various bennies, and Ungala gets tempted by a 4 point Passage Contract (Can always get a starship ticket for a middle of the line shared cabin) and a 2 point Refuge, which he will, in all likelihood, never see again. This is a good thing, because it would have been a cave.
Next up is Don Cabela Avanti Mierda Del Toro , who is boring and will just get “Tour of Duty” (+1 to two stats, 14 pts skills, and a choice of bennies) and “Another Tour of Duty” (the same, but 10 points, and less benny choices). He takes two High Promotions as his bennies, leading him to the rank of Baronet. Can't quite actually call himself Don (that's another two ranks), but he does. The first High Promotion also gives him a Good Riches rating, Looking this up, it means he gets 3000 a year from some business he helps administer, and 300 starting Firebirds. The stats he improves are Strength, Wits, Ego, and Faith. Finally, he splits the whopping 24 skill points between the few skills he already has and a few new ones, specifically Ride (Every noble has to learn this, so he gets it at 4 out of the 14 skill points left), Stoic Body (basically Body Hardening, at 4 points), Stoic Mind at 3 (allowing him to resist psychics and torture), and finally Charm at 3. Gotta impress those ladies!
Father Badass , meanwhile, decides he wants ULTIMATE POWER, and goes for the full on Theurgic package (Neophyte Theurgic Calling, then Adept Theurge). This gives him the extra stat Theurgy, starting at 3 then bumped up to 5, 3 extra Wyrd (which still hasn't been explained or statted), Rites (Level 1, level 2, level 3 from the first tour, then levels 4 and 5, two extra Level 1 or 2 rites, and he's going to get a High Promotion, becoming CANON BADASSS . We'll flesh out his special church-magic at some later point, so he's going to return as an example. Oh, and he gets the Good Riches, +1 to the church Theurgy skill, whatever the hell that is (Focus). He gets no extra skill points, but who needs them when you have POWARRR!
Finally, we have Mike Wright . who decides to go for some cybernetics (Tweaked). Hrm, 20 points of either Cybernetics, characteristics upgrades (3 pts per +1) or skills... [flick flick flick]. Looking at all this, poor Mike Wright will have to wait until the appropriate chapter until he becomes an example again, so for now, we just note he has some shizzle, and he takes Another Tour of Duty for 10 skill points (spread among Lore [Law] (3), Social [Debate] (2), Impress (2), Inquiry (2), and Etiquette (1). He also takes a High Promotion, becoming Chief Mike Wright, Attorney at FISTICUFFS.
So, let's take a look at our chaps, shall we? Next time, we'll even find out what they do!
I would show you character pics, but I'm lazy, so have a picture of a market with an implausibly deshabille dancer instead!
Don Cabela Avanti Mierda Del Toro, Hazat Duelist
Strength (3) 6 Wits (3) 5
Dexterity (3) 7 Perception (3) 6
Endurance (3) 6 Tech (3) 3
Calm (1) 4 / 5 (3) Passion [P]
Extrovert (3) [P] 4 / 1 (1) Introvert
Faith (3) [P] 4 / 2 (1) Ego
Charm (3), Dodge (5), Etiquette (5), Impress (4), Melee (5), Remedy (2), Ride (2), Stoic Body (4), Stoic Mind (3), Read Urthish, Speak Urthish
Rank (5, Baronet)
Disciplined (+2 Calm in Combat)
(-2 Calm when Honour Dissed)
Parry, Thrust, Slash, Disarm, Feint
Father Badass, Flaming Missionary
Strength (3) 4 Wits (3) 5
Dexterity (3) 3 Perception (3) 5
Endurance (3) 7 Tech (3) 3
Calm (1) 2 / 5 (3) Passion [P]
Extrovert (3) [P] 6 / 1 (1) Introvert
Faith (3) [P] 7 / 2 (1) Ego
Drive Beastcraft (2), Empathy (2), Focus (2), Impress (4), Inquiry (1), Knavery (1), Lore [Doctrine] (1), Lore [Flock] (1), Lore [Local Region] (1), Lore [Theology] (2), Observe (1), Physick (2), Remedy (2), Ride (1), Social [Oratory] (4), Streetwise (2), Vigor (1), Speak Urthish
Pious (+2 Extrovert among the Sinful)
Rank (5, Canon)
Austere (-2 Passion in front of flock)
Michael Wright, Attorney at FISTICUFFS
Strength (3) 5 Wits (3) 6
Dexterity (3) 7 Perception (3) 6
Endurance (3) 5 Tech (3) 4
Calm (1) 1 / 5 (3) Passion [P]
Extrovert (3) [P] 5 / 1 (1) Introvert
Faith (1) 1 / 4 (3) Ego [P]
Academia (1), Charm (1), Dodge (1), Drive Landcraft (1), Etiquette (2), Fight (2), Impress (3), Inquiry (3), Knavery (1), Lore [Law] (4), Mech Redemption (1), Melee (2), Observe (1), Remedy (1), Shoot (4), Sneak (1), Social [Debate] (3), Streetwise (2), Survival (1), Tracking (1), Vigor (2), Speak Urthish
Shrewd (+2 Wits Vs Fast Talking)
Rank (5, Chief)
20 Pts Cybernetics
Mammon (-2 Faith when Money's involved)
Ungala Adonga, Uncomplicated Vorox Meathead and Questing Knight
Strength (4) 8 Wits (2) 4
Dexterity (3) 8 Perception (3) 6
Endurance (4) 8 Tech (1) 2
Calm (1) 1 / 6 (3) Passion [P]
Extrovert (3) [P] 4 / 1 (1) Introvert
Faith (1) 1 / 4 (3) Ego [P]
Dodge (4), Fight (6), Impress (4), Melee (4), Observe (2), Shoot (3), Sneak (1), Survival (2), Tracking (3), Vigor (3), Speak Urthish, Speak Vorox
Family Ties (Hawkwood Chums)
Giant (+2 Vitality, runs 14m)
Imperial Ties (Questing Knight!)
Predatory (+2 Perception, -2 Calm when hungry)
Sensitive Smell (+1 Perception with scent)
Uncouth (-2 Extrovert in social situations)
Ostracised (Mild: Xeno)
Charge, Second Hand
Guh, What's It All Mean? (Stats and Stuff)Original SA post
Ah, what the hell, one more before bed! Remember, folks, if you're interested in the whole Fading Suns LP Podcast thing, gimme a gosh-darned mail already! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fading Suns: Guh, What's It All Mean? (Stats and Stuff)
So, so far, we have a bundle of stuff, and no idea what any of it means. Like many RPGs of the period, Fading Suns expects you to flick through things, looking to find your Cybernetics, your Occult Powers, what the skills mean, and even some of the stats. To be fair, most of them are self explanatory (Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Wits, Perception), but a few need a bit of explaining. Along with some notes.
Tech is, essentially, your knowledge of Technology in the world, how to work it, repair it, whatnot. Next to nobody except Engineers has this in any meaningful quantity, as a sign of the times. Either that, or they're FILTHY THIRD REPUBLICANS. So there.
Now, the Spirit stats are of note here, because of how the social skills work. See the stats Calm and Passion? They're effectively part of your character whether you like it or not, and you will have to occasionally roll your Calm to... stay calm when taunted. That's right, you fail a Calm+skill roll in a social situation where you got taunted, the Gms going to say “Right, you now have to react. This is a part of Fading Suns that not everybody's fond of, as nobody likes being forced to do things. As such, Spirit stats are either houseruled or ignored by most groups, although adventures can and will use them. So nearly all the example characters I rolled are going to lose their shit a whole lot. However, Spirit stats have their uses (and drawbacks). Let's go over them:
Calm – The drawback, obviously, is having to roll it to stay calm, but it can also be used to steady your hands for an important task. You center yourself for three turns, A Wyrd point is spent (still no explanation yet), and a roll against Calm (just Calm, so between 1 and 10) is used. If you succeed, the victory points get added to the goal number of one task, which you must concentrate on (not roll any unrelated skills) or lose the bonuses. It's situationally useful, but still doesn't excuse the whole thing.
Tryin' to save the good artwork for next time! But one's Passionate, one's Calm. Guess which?
Passion – Passion, obviously, is a combination of your hotheadedness and your general “being emotional” stuff. Passion is good for social rolls involving seduction, oratory, or any social roll where emotion is more important than being loquacious. The main mechanic for Passion is both its benefit and drawback, as you can “Ignite” said Passion for bonuses related to a task you really care about (IE – Is important, to you, personally). However, should you crit fail, you'll receive negative penalties, and should you crit succeed, you'll have penalties to everything else until the thing you're passionate about is resolved. So be careful with that.
Extrovert – Extrovert is the base for nearly all social rolls involving actual talking to people. You suck at Extrovert? Too bad, you suck at talking to people! Otherwise, it's not often rolled.
Introvert – Introvert, meanwhile, involves matters of the soul, like poetry, writing, and the like. Again, rarely called for outside of art related skill rolls, if your Introvert sucks, you're probably a philistine (or just really terrible at art).
Faith and Ego – I'll deal with both of these together, because they're so rarely rolled unless monsters or magic are involved. Faith is, obviously, your Faith in a higher power, while Ego is your faith in yourself.
Now, whenever you make a character, you have to make one of these your primary: These are the defining parts of your character, and the stats reflect this. Primaries get the normal human base of all stats, 3 (to which you add points), but secondaries, as you may have noticed, get 1, which is basically “Yeah, I exist”. As you can tell, lifepath character generation leads to some interestingly stunted and/or biased people. It also helps (make them stunted and biased) that the spirit stats, taken in pairs, can never add up to more than 10. Have a Faith of 7? Can't have an Ego of 4. Have a Passion of 9?!? Well, you're fucked on the Calm front. You can spend XP to tip the scales back, or whatnot, but yeah, it's supposed to make sense. Except it also ties into skills.
Now, what's all this business with Wyrd and Vitality? Both are mentioned at the end of the lifepath thing (Vitality is 5 + Endurance, Wyrd is... oh, turn to Chapter 4). But what do they do?
He LOOKS boring, but he has Wyrd up the wazoo!
Vitality - In case you hadn't guessed, Vitality is your Hit Points. They reach 0, you're dead. You get below 5, you have penalties. You get to 1, you have to make a roll to stay conscious. None of this is explained until right at the end of Chapter 4, after the basic stats, all the skills, and all the Benefits/Drawbacks. Go, Fading Suns!
By the way, healing is slow as balls, so try not to get too roughed up. There's all sorts of things you can do to help healing, but your best bet is... SECOND REPUBLIC TECHNOLOGY, WOO!
In other words: DON'T GET WOUNDED
Wyrd – Wyrd is a combination of Fate Points and Magic Points. They allow you to incite passion/steady your hand, accent your rolls, and use OCCULT POWERS. For non-psychics/magicians/clerics, it's equal to your primary out of Passion/Calm. If you're psychic, it's equal to the primary of Extrovert/Introvert, and if you're a Theurgist, it's equal to FAITH.
You get some back by sleeping, some by meditating, and some by astrological events or religious ones, but it's largely useless for the vast majority of early characters. Occult characters will spend and gain it like it's going out of fashion.
Skills are pretty simple, although, being a 90s fictional setting, they're often couched in different terms. Mech Redemption, for example, is Mechanic, while Vigor is Athletics. I won't bore you with them, because there's literally 20 or so pages of what they are and what they're used for, and you won't ever see more than a handful adorn any one character you play.
Similarly, Benefits/Drawbacks are mostly white wolf style “Pay some points or get some points” dealybobbers, and range from Blessings/Curses (you're good/bad at certain things), Social stuff (stigma, being attractive, that sort of thing), Friends (what it says on the tin), and Assets (whether you have a steady income, and your status in society). There's also occult stuff, cybernetics, and the like, but you won't see the vast majority of these unless you're psychic or occult. We'll wrap this up with Experience, our old friend.
Like White Wolf and many 90s games, experience is doled out about as often as Scrooge says nice things. For example, you will generally receive between 1 to 3 XP per adventure, depending on how well you did. Where the real XP lies is in the bonus points. Let's take a look at that.
Performing A Great Deed – This is the generic “You faced overwhelming odds and kicked righteous ass” point. That's right, your reward for being a badass is 1 XP. Go you.
Player Roleplayed Very Well – In most groups I've encountered, this is just handed out as a matter of course. Some Gms like to dangle it as a “best roleplayer” point, though.
Character Learned Something New – Ah, the most nebulously described one of the lot. Effectively, it amounts to “You get 1 to 3 points for developing your character (thanks to the plot) in an entirely new direction.” As you can imagine, this doesn't get handed out a loit, although it should be noted that antiheroes who learn how to trust others are just as qualified to get it as the paragon who becomes broken and jaded over an adventure. Some groups try to metagame this one to max out their XP, but most Gms frown upon such behaviour, myself included.
So, let's say you have a whopping 3 XP (the average for a successful session). What can you do with it?
”Not A Whole Lot” posted:
Characteristics (Body, Mind, Spirit, Occult) 3 x current rating
Learning new skill 2 pts for level 1
Raising skills 2 x current rating
Combat actions, Lore skills 1.5 x level (round up)
Occult powers 2 x current rating
Wyrd 2 x current rating
Yep, that's right, not a whole lot at all. Characters grow slowly in Fading Suns, much like a WoD game. Also remember that Fading Suns encourages peeps to enforce the “You have to have a reason for it!” school of advancement. Woot.
So, next time, we deal with The Occult . Get ready to see the balance get skewed at both ends of the occult spectrum!
I Make His Head Explode (Occult Part 1)Original SA post
[looks left... looks right]
...I think it's a good time to tell you about psychic powers...
Fading Suns: I Make His Head Explode (Occult Part 1)
Ah yes, Occult powers. The meat of many a setting, Fading Suns is no different here, as the occult, demons, and whatnot are a thing that exists alongisde stupidly high technology and stupidly large amounts of ignorance. At the moment, it comes in three flavours: Psi, Theurgy, and Antinomy (Demon Worship). First off, we're going to be taking a look at Psi, and- Oh.
Psi: The Fluffening
Essentially, people worked out that Psychic powers were a thing sometime during the Second Republic (other races, like the Obun and Ukar, got there well before them). Obviously, a new science was created to study these powers (although it's not named), and one particular group, the Phavian Institute, worked out how to improve people's psi through training regimens, meditation, and the like.
Then everything went to shit. Nowadays, psychics are mistrusted, and using psychic powers without being recognised by the Church (more on that in a bit) will most likely get you a comfy seat. On a bonfire. Obviously, some Psychics got a “Next step in human evolution!” kick, people didn't like this, and the Phavian institute was disbanded. These groups became, respectively, The Hidden Path and the Favyana, although this is not discussed until much later, if at all. There is, in fact, a third group, and these are the Fading Suns equivalent of Paranoia Registered Psychics.
Penitents are church registered psychics. They're spied on every day of their lives to make sure they don't succumb to Urge (this is a bad thing. Also an awesome thing), and they're also urged to pay more attention to matters of the soul than your average person (because Psychics are much more dangerous when they're sinners, obviously!). Unregistered psychics and psychics who impersonate Pentitents will occasionally be found out, and they have several choices when they are (after they've been publicly tortured for being a filthy psychic): Lifetime imprisonment, Chainer slavery, or a trip to the Penitent Monastery to be “reformed”. Reforming is apparently quite a brutal process, turning psychics into the equivalent of psychic witchhunters. On the upside, their Urge is completely purged In the process. On the other... Psi levels can also be purged by the nasty regime the Penitent Monastery pushes.
I wasn't joking about the head-splodin'
All occultitsts have some form of stigma, a really recognisable thing they do or have that peasants will immediately recognise them as occult types if they have a grasp of superstition (funny that, peasants are really good at the whole “being superstitious” thing!). It differs from type to type, but this time we're dealing with Psi. Psychic stigma tend to be things like witches, werewolf, or vampire marks from superstition (hairy hands, even on the palms, monobrows, moles with pentagrams on, that sort of thing). It's something you can keep hidden, but not very well.
Psychic powers vary a whole lot in terms of what they do, but they follow the rough disciplines of Psi we allegedly see today, albeit with different names. You can start on any one path, and move to others as time goes on, but keep in mind that you need a Level 1 power before you can get a Level 2 power, and so on, so forth. Hence, most psychics specialise. This is the first balancing act that Fading Suns pulls off vis Occult Powers. Let's see how well it works, by briefly examining the Psi paths in the core, shall we?
Powers generally cost 1 Wyrd, but you can often spend extra Wyrd to either increase the duration, get extra effects, or increase the distance you can use them at. Keep in mind, though, that it lowers your goal number by 1 each time you up the distance by one category. So it's a risky proposition, and the book hasn't told us the whole of it yet either.
This is Telekinesis. Low level powers are low level stuff, although by Level 2, you can throw shit at people quite hard. By Level 5, however (Psi taken twice in the Lifepath system, or 5 PSI plus the ritual cost), you can crush people (grappling from afar), wield weapons without holding them (even turning someone's weapon against them), and throw a number of objects equal to your Wits. Nearly all the powers use Extrovert + Focus, and cost 1 Wyrd to activate. Useful, but not broken, as even the Level 9 power is just “You can levitate a group of people and send them all in the same direction”.
Precognition/Postcognition with just a hint of necromancy, Omen cannot be bought until you've reached level 6 of Psi. This gives you some idea of its scope. Postcognition is basically damn useful, while precognition is generally inaccurate because they're going for a “proabilistic” as opposed to “deterministic” future. It's still fairly well placed on the power scale, so good work, Holistic!
Ah, Telepathy. As you'd expect, at low levels it's pretty utilitarian (sense emotions, project emotions, read minds, send thoughts), but by Level 5, its power starts showing through, and by level 9, you effectively have Dominate Mind for 1 Wyrd a person.
Ah yes, a psychic power that improves the senses. The uses of this are obvious, and by Level 5 (top starting character), you can see something up to a kilometre away for 1 Wyrd, upping it to 5 Kilometres for another Wyrd, although the penalties for not knowing the place you're lookin at are punishing (-6 for completely unknown). Considering that Level 2 gives you what's effectively Darkvision for an entire scene (which can again be upped with more Wyrd)... This is a useful power, and a must have for sneaky bastards.
Side effects of Soma include bad tattoos and delusions of Dhalsimhood
Ah, now here we come to the interesting one! Effectively a combination of indian meditation techniques, body hardening from martial arts, and cleric buffs from WoW in psychic form, Soma buffs your stats. Level 5 allows you to change your height and mass for a scene, while the next level up gives you basic shapechanging. Even at low levels, this is a powerful one, because Level 2 gives you +2 strength for a scene (thus, easier to hit people, and you hit harder), and level 3 gives you armour. Must have for combat psychics, and powerful for its low, low cost.
Hrm, begins at Level 3, you say? Effectively, this buffs psychic powers with certain situations, people, and places, and allows for all sorts of buffing/debuffing fuckery. Shame it's so expensive compared to other powers, and thus nigh useless. Unless there's a group of psychics, then it's a must have. More on that later.
I know what you're thinking... Yep, my balls are the glowiest!
Aha, energy manipulation! Even at level 2, this is absurdly powerful, allowing you to effectively turn off someone's blaster or cybernetic enhancement for 10 turns, and the psychic can spend some Wyrd to make this “prolonged” (one scene). At level 5, personal shields can be created, shocks can be given, and you can hypothetically get a power to sense Annunaki, Symbiot, or Vau energy. There's a lot of “You must buy a new power at a higher level to do something much better” with this... but by god, it's worth it!
GM Verdict: Broken as all fuck.
At this point, a little sidebar points out that, with Sympathy, you can effectively create group psychic powers, where everyone contributes. This has limits, but... a group made entirely of psychics, all bonded together, can severely ruin someone's day... from half the damn planet away.
At this point, the book also points out that future splatbooks will have even more fun toys to play with! As if this wasn't enough, being one part of the Occult out of three...
Next time, we'll be dealing with the downside of occult powers, that is also the upside if you're a bad, bad person... Urge! This is where being a filthy occultist heretic gets fun !
Player's Companion 2Original SA post Fading Suns: Player's Companion
Religious and Knightly Orders
The Knightly Orders in the book are honestly kind of dull, and we only get two.
The first is the Company of the Phoenix, which sounds cool, but all it amounts to is that they're crusaders/paladins. I.e. they fight for justice and they go around kicking people in the nads for the Emperor, and most planetary governors distrust them since said knights wouldn't mind kicking a corrupt or oppressive governor off his throne. They also tend to be the ones that go out exploring new worlds and fighting barbarians.
Three minor adventuring orders get name-drops: Mantis(Decados who pretend to be good, but go around hunting Questing Knights), Shroud(In thrall to sinister psychics) and Vladimir(They're about POWER TO THE NOBLES instead of POWER TO THE EMPEROR).
Church Knights are the ones who, instead of going off adventuring and being PC's, stay at home and defend priests and churches. Exciting . There are also two smaller variants dedicated to defending Amaltheans and Eskatonics, respectively. The only crunch for this chapter is that we can blow some of our chargen points on Charters.
These are kind of cool, actually. If we have an Imperial Charter, we basically get to be RENEGADE BADASSES, we can hitchhike on any Navy ship, we can inspect any records we damn well want to and no one is allowed to prosecute us(instead, cases can be brought against us and tried in the court of our knightly order). Which basically means we can stomp the corrupt and unpleasant with impunity(of course, they might try to have us assassinated instead.).
The Church version is a bit wimpier, we can hitchhike on church ships, collect church taxes and accuse people of HERESY if they piss us off(or are actually heretical assholes). The downside to having a charter is that, of course, we kind of have to act in accordance with our order's rules and laws otherwise we get booted out.
The religious orders are thankfully a bit more interesting. And lengthy.
Chorali are religious singers. Think bard/clerics, we basically get to influence people with awesome singing and music. There's also some downright magic involved, not just psychology, as we can, for instance, cause fires to explode into extra fury(including people who are already on fire), haste people or belt out some aggressive Death Metal screams that literally shatter inanimate objects. In an action-heavy, church-focused campaign, these guys could be pretty awesome.
Gjarti used to be a fancy, hippie-tastic, New Age religion all about dreams and drugs until the human worlds went through some of their first series of miserable collapses, and now it's turned into a shamanistic, sort-of-pagan religion mostly practiced by barbarians. They've got three variants: Village shamen, crazy hermits and crazy hermits who occasionally talk to people. Their abilities are less impressive than those of the Chorali, and a huge issue with them is that most of their visible priestly powers are considered Serious Goddamn Heresy by most people outside of the barbarian worlds, so fitting them into campaigns as anything but NPC's or perhaps backup for some Vuldrok barbarians would be a challenge.
Manja is outlawed and about ancestor worship, it's some wacky shit that some nobles(Decados among them) picked up from the Ukar. They escaped being persecuted for a while until they got fucking dumb and decided that blood sacrifice would totally spice up their ceremonies. Oh, and the Ukar? They think it's fucked up, their religious stuff was never meant to be used for this , they believe in leaving the dead where they lie. Not in chatting them up and summoning them. Unfortunately it's really only useful for some minor divinations or for people who have interesting ancestors, so it could be a power relevant to a noble NPC/Bad Guy, but for most PC's, even PC nobles, there'd be little purpose to it. The example Manja-using NPC's are also a bit unsettling, one of them being a Hawkwood obsessed with resurrecting/talking to his grandmother.
The section on guilds is really kind of odd. It has a mixture of fitting PC stuff and strange things, each given roughly a page or so of write-up. There's jesters, assassins, magic hobos(in that order, yes, it's neither alphabetical or sensical. The hobos get to use magic twigs and to run away very effectively.), prospectors, apothecaries, weaponsmiths, courtesans and mercurians.
It does explain that the courtesans aren't just prostitutes, but usually also spies, but then decides to go off on a tangent about how alien prostitutes are quite popular. I hope the writers were thinking of Obun/Ukar, not Shantor.
Mercurians are Anarchist Pranksters, they're somewhere between Fishmalks and Planescape's Xaositects. Doing "wacky" things like causing cities to be evacuated due to orbital bombardments of rubber chunks. They're secretly trying to TEAR DOWN THE ORDER, FIGHT THE MAN, but it seems kind of a goofy way to go about it and there's a dearth of suggestions as to how they are, in fact, the serious threat that the book claims they are.
Weaponsmiths, apothecaries and prospectors are obvious and useful fits for any sort of group going adventuring, you want your gear in order, your body not falling apart and to be able to assess the cool shit you find.
Magic space hobos are... actually an honourable conspiracy of homeless people. Well then. They also kill muggers and other criminals and steal all their stuff. Oh, right, so they're not magic space hobos, they're D&D PC's who got lost in the wrong game. They're also all reasonably enlightened about the pointlessness of material possessions. I'm not even sure where to start making the jokes about these guys.
Slayers/Assassins would make sense as PC's except that they can never reveal they're a member of the Slayers, on pain of death, and they can't work out their own contracts, on pain of death, they can only take the contracts they're offered by their guild contact. Unless the entire party is a Slayer team, they just wouldn't really work as part of a party too well.
The SPACE JESTERS are actually multiple guilds, the main of which are the Masque and the Carnivalers. "The level of antagonism between these guilds often rises to brawls and even outright warfare." So if you ever felt that your Fading Suns game needed more clowns punching each other, there you go. Though I suppose as quest hooks go, PC's being hired by one circus to take down a competing circus can only end in hilarity.
Player's Companion 3Original SA post Fading Suns: Player's Companion
This section starts off with an overview of what sort of military forces exist, the answer being: Shitloads. Everyone's got their own private army. The Emperor, the Nobles, the Guilds, the Church, the Barbarians. Usually it sort of trickles up, one Hawkwood world has an army, but the guy one step up in the hierarchy can call on his own army, that world's army, and a half dozen other worlds' armies, and the guy one step up from that can call on all those and some more, etc.
House Troops are mainly serfs, some freemen and then knights for the leadership, while the Church and Guilds tend to be mostly freemen. No statement on the Imperials. And such distinctions are a bit pointless for the Barbarians. And of course aliens can also serve in the armies, but no one respects them for it since few commanders like to brag about it when it's an Ukar regiment that saves the day.
Of note, Li Halan fields Vorox, Hawkwood fields Ur-Obun and al-Malik specializes in Ur-Ukar commandos.
Next we're presented with a metric assload of careers for various positions in military forces. From peasant levies through cavalry, heavy weapons forces and biological/chemical warfare specialists. And it just keeps goddamn going, they've got everything covered. There's even a Special Forces section for stuff like Rangers, Cyborgs, Chem Corps(think Juicers, supersoldiers powered by combat drugs) and the Stigmata Garrison.
It also offers some detail on what being a member of the Stigmata Garrison entails. If you serve for ten years, you get your own land on the planet. And land on Stigmata is fucking awesome , either rich in minerals or ideal farmland. Of course, the downside is that at any moment, a swarm of Symbiot ships might pop into the sky and start trying to drive the entire garrison off the planet, killing and infecting anyone in their way.
Then there's guerillas/freedom fighters, navy men and women, the air forces, and Space Legions .
Space Legions again come with a good bit of extra fluff, explaining how much shit is involved in keeping spaceships running in the current era. Most of them are ancient , generations old, new spaceships are rarely made and often only operated by the biggest forces, the heads of House militaries, the Stigmata garrison, the Emperor's own troops, etc. Almost everything else is salvaged wrecks or stuff that's been patched up hundreds if not thousands of times over the years. Trajectories need running recalculations since old ships can't maintain steady speeds, half a dozen systems need fixing after every jump or long period in space.
There's a section on intelligence services and then finally the chapter ends with Weird Forces.
They cover forces that are either alien or use psi/church wizardry to fuck badguys up. The aforementioned Li Halan Vorox Commandos, Manifest Light(Theurgist warriors), Dervishes(Psychic warriors), Grimsons(think people genetically engineered to have the physique of a Space Marine from WH40k), Doppelgangers("Metonyms," shapeshifters), Merchant League troops wielding strange tech, electronic warfare specialists("Think Machine Warriors") and finally the literal Thought Police(theurgists and psychics employed to gib people for thinking wrong).
You certainly can't fault this chapter for not covering every fucking possibility. It's short on fluff, but chock full of crunch of every kind you could want.
But seriously, you guys are here for the Aliens chapter, which I'll crack into right now. And first up? We're dealing with the Space Ponies.
They have the dubious honour of being the first sentient species that humanity bumped into in space. Contact was pleasant at first, with many Shantor abandoning their old ways to follow "The ways of the People from behind the Sun." They were exploited and enslaved pretty quickly, had a brief period of decent rights during the Second Republic, and now they're back to being second-class citizens of human space again. But they whisper of a Great Runner who will one day free them.
Humanity first noticed that they weren't just dumb horses when they saw them using tools in battle, apparently they could grip spears in their teeth and whip their necks around fast enough to hurl them powerfully and accurately across the battlefield. But, having initially perceived Shantor as animals, most humans never really adjusted to seeing them as equal sentients. They got shoved off their land, enslaved, rebelled, then had the rebellions put down. Then when the Ur-Ukar declared war, Ur-Ukar psychic guerillas pushed the Shantor into starting up yet more, even more violent, rebellions that got vast masses of the Shantor populace killed.
Physically they're pretty much like horses except for a "highly-developed dewclaw" that acts as a sort-of-thumb and lets them pick up SOME things with their hooves. Senses-wise they're reasonably close to humans, except that the ranges of hearing and smell differ a bit... oh and then there's the obligatory completely un-necessary paragraph about horse sex and horse pregnancy. Goddammit. Oh and a section on how they're amazing at farting. I mean, really, is this shit necessary to know?
Societally, there's the OLD TRADITIONAL SHANTOR who worship fire, have a great oral tradition, amazing memories, are big on competition, fucking love running and have an amazing and unique language called Windspeech. And oh God there's another paragraph about how they're so un-embarrassed about sex and their bodies that the church has tried to convince them to wear pants/codpieces to hide their horse dicks because WHO WANTS TO SEE THAT FLOPPING AROUND, NO ONE DOES. Oh and the last straw that pushed them to their original revolt? Laws against Shantor fucking in public because WHO WANTS TO SEE THAT SHIT? NO ONE DOES.
They also consider being "ridden" to be equivalent to sex, so only horrible deviant Shantor(Darkwalkers, the ones that go to space and stuff) will let someone ride them, and even then only someone of the opposite gender(like a female human riding a male Shantor or vice versa).
There are also the non-traditional Shantor which OH GOOD FUCKING GOD WHY IS THERE A MENTION THAT THEY ENGAGE IN INTERSPECIES SEX? D: WHY. In general, believe me when I say that every second paragraph is about horse pregnancy or horses fucking.
But... if you ignore all that, they're basically a stereotype of Native Americans. Except as horses, and the new Shantor are that but into more drugs and violence. So just... think of that and you're good.
On the bright side! See that goofy mask up there? You can have one of those for your horse so he kind of has a hand. Oh and you can mount turrets on Shantor, too, effectively making them galloping tanks.
I'll handle the rest of the aliens in another post. Because fuck the Shantor and whoever wrote them.
Player's Companion 4Original SA post Fading Suns: Player's Companion
After horse-dudes, we have monkey-dudes! And predictably, when humanity first met them, they acted like monkeys. Mischievous little ape-dudes who stole gear and generally made pasts of themselves as human archaeologists were scouring their homeworld for Annunaki artifacts. No one figured them sentient, not even when they started imitating the archaeologists by dressing like them(stolen clothes), using things they'd stolen appropriately or living in crude mockups of the archaeologist camps.
The point where they figured the Gannoks had brains was when they started walking over and correcting the sketches of them that the archaeologists were making, offering constructive criticism on how to draw the Gannoks more accurately. That's right, the Gannoks just picked up human language like it was second-nature.
Now, Gannoks had basically fuck all skills, but they're amazing mimics and learners, so rapidly they became interesting. First as pets, and then secondly, everyone decided it'd be a great idea to teach them how to be mechanics because they could easily scamper around cramped spaceship vents and hull spaces. Contact with humanity just kept giving them more chances to use a natural intellect that never got much exercise on their homeworld, and by the point of the Fall, the Gannoks had even produced several brilliant scientists who'd beaten the humans they were imitating at their own game.
Physically they are what they look like, four-foot, ape-like mammals. They're highly flexible, good at recovering from injury, can eat just about anything and in large amounts(the quoted example is an injured gannock literally eating an entire horse) and that's about it for their physical oddities. Though there's a side-note stating that they may be highly resistant to Symbiot shenanigans, or entirely immune.
Behaviorally they're really not too different from humans, except for a love of practical jokes and the fact that dealing with modern stress turns a small-but-noticeable minority into vicious sociopaths. They don't even have any spectacularly strange racial abilities.
Horses, monkeys and now birds. The Etyri are bird dudes. Beaks, wings, feathers, the whole set of shenanigans. Humans intrude on the Etyri during a period in their history where they're basically getting slaughtered by giant lizards at a higher technological level. The humans land on the planet and are like: "Oh man, these lizards are more advanced! They must be smarter!" and try to chat them up, but the lizards are pricks and basically try to eat the humans or tell them to fuck off. So after a few weeks of watching, the Etyri pop over and go: "Yo 'sup we're cool bird dudes and not lizardy assholes ." While the Gannok are generally good mimics, Etyri are mostly just good vocal mimics, so they could talk to the humans right up.
They become friends with the humans rapidly, because they look kinda familiar, you know, being birds and not having too weird a mentality. They also start helping out colonists. So, seeing them become friends, the lizards get pissed, and extra-genocidal... and so the humans start lending the birds better weapons so they can survive. Yeah okay so the lizards fucking die, and all is happy, until the humans decide to creatively "interpret" some friendly treaties with the Etyri to read "we can have all your shit," prompting the Etyri to first try diplomacy, and then go for insurgency.
The usual bit of terrorism and suicide-bombing and such goes on, but eventually after the human loggers take a lot of damages, other human parties step in and negotiate an appropriate treaty. Nowadays the Etyri are valued as flying troops when they decide to join military operations and are otherwise just valued for looking kinda cool.
Physiology? They're fuckin' birds man, except for having two extra limbs to use as arms, they're goddamn birds. As you can see from the image farther up, there are four sub-species, each having a different way of looking funny to the rest of the world.
Sociologically, they've got a "dark and primal" religion with a "warrior's code of honour" that's policed by the "Huar'raugh"(the eagle-looking guys), presumably to punish the rest of their race for naming them after a vomiting sound. It's summarized as: Don't lie, be honest, die for a good cause, and then you'll go to bird-Heaven. Their religion does have some slightly interesting touches, though, as it basically considers that the farther down something is, the less "dead" or "not-alive" it is, hence they basically referred to humans as zombies when they met them.
So, play an Etyri if you want to be a fuckin' KNIGHT BIRD. Oh and they also have priestly wizardry called DEATH GAZE , which is kind of metal. It involves checkin' out corpses, stabbing suckers in the face, and reading dead people's guts for divinatory purposes. Some of this stuff lets them basically relive a dead person's last moments, see what they last saw, or read whether someone has ever killed a sentient creature. So I guess you play an Etyri if you want a Paladin Cop Bird Wizard.
Man, look at that smug asshole in the middle.
They are effectively scaly lizard-people and function like humans in every way that's relevant. Humanity kind of shoved over their society by replacing their rather rigid caste-system with one based on wealth-by-gadgets/technology, as they showed up and promptly started trading equipment for permission to use Hironem land. It worked out pretty well, despite grumblings from traditionalists, until House Decados took over the planet.
They promptly did everything they could to piss off the Hironem, bombed the ensuing insurgency from orbit, and then when the terrified Hironem sued for peace, took it as a chance to lock every part of the race they didn't have a use for away in little reservations.
And that's kind of it for their wacky history.
Their society, however, is pretty fucked, and it's easy to understand why a lot of them were happy to abandon it. You've got the God-King at the top, Warriors under him, Makers(anyone who produces a physical good) below the Warriors, and at the bottom the Outcasts... which include service-industry workers, merchants and bankers. If you do not physically produce anything or wave around a sword, Warriors are allowed to stab you for laughs and Makers are allowed to refuse you any sort of dealings.
Of course, you CAN rise and fall in the castes if, for instance, a Maker or Warrior decides to teach you their craft. And not just kill you as a joke.
One amusing PC-seed for Hironem is being a missionary: "You've heard of the Fading Suns phenomenon and you know exactly what the cause is: Almost no one outside of your homeworld has heard of the God-King! You must spread his name!" Even if it's largely going to cause no end of fucking trouble for a group.
Ultimately they're not very interesting but I think they look kind of cool, they remind me a bit of Kroot.
Next time: The last couple of damn aliens.
GM Fuckwittery For Fun and Profit! (Occult Part 2)Original SA post
Thought Psi was 80% broken? Think again, it's time for...
Fading Suns: GM Fuckwittery For Fun and Profit! (Occult Part 2)
INKER MANIFESTS, KNEEL AND PRAY, SINNERS! (Note: This is a bit more dramatic than what actually happens at anything less than 9 Urge)
Oh, I've been waiting for this so long... Now, being a psychic isn't all roses and making people's heads explode with psychic fire. Oh, no. Every time you fumble (crit fail), you get a point of Urge. Well, that's only part of it, there's a great honking table on the following page that shows how you gain or lose Urge, and while some are wacky, like “Refusing Sacrament”... It's moderately easy to gain Urge... for example, murder (killing someone in cold blood, as opposed to where someone picked a fight with you) is 1-2 Urge if you succeed in a required Passion + Focus roll. This is a theme with Urge... you do something bad, and if you succeed in the roll it asks, you get Urge. This is not a good thing for most people, as the Urge is your Jungian Shadow. Wait, what's a Jungian shadow?
Well, a Jungian Shadow is basically your “evil twin”, a subconscious construct made of all the nasty things about yourself you deny. And it's under the Gms control, even down to power use.
So let's say you gain 3 levels in Urge. The Urge automatically knows all Urge rituals, so it can fuck with you in a surprising number of ways. Level 1, for example, allows it to make a roll to twist your words into something else. Literally. Every victory point it gets, it's allowed to change one word of what you say, and if it gets a crit, it can change an entire sentence. It won't do this in obvious ways that will definitely screw you over, unless you have a stupidly high Urge, but it will do things like change the following sentence (4 VPs):
“My lord, their forces are numberless, and we cannot stand against them, with your martial prowess!”
“My lord, their forces are [puny], [yet] we cannot stand against them, [what] with your [marital] prowess!”
and that's Level 1. By level 4, the Shadow is stealing your Wyrd and putting it into its own pool for future use, by level 6 it's fucking with your emotions, and if you're dumb enough to get it to Level 9?
”You're fucked now, boyo!” posted:
(Level 9, Extrovert + Vigor)
This is the true birth of the Doppelganger; the Dark Twin
is finally realized and becomes a separate, physical being,
able to run around the universe all it desires. It has exactly
the same traits as the psychic (although the psychic’s Urge
9 becomes Psi 9 for the Doppelganger), but its Wyrd rating
is equal to the pool it has been developing out of the psychic’s
own mistakes (see Wyrd Drain, above). The victory points
from this roll are used as a negative penalty against any
other character’s Perception roll to tell the difference between
the real psychic and the Dark Twin.
The Doppelganger is permanent — losing Urge will not
make it go away (although regaining Urge afterwards will
build yet another Doppelganger). The Doppelganger is real
and subject to all the things which will kill a living person.
Urge is called Hubris for Theurges and Antinomists, and acts differently for each. So a psychic is fucked, right? Wrong. You can lose Urge, but it requires a hell of a lot more than the thoughtless acts that make it. Examples include Pilgrimage (an atonement journey, obviously), Selfless sacrifice (muahahahaa), and the like. Suffice to say, it's hard, and it's rare. The Urge, as noted, is under GM control, although he's encouraged not to be a dick about it. Due to the fact tha gaining Urge basically requires either bad luck or being an asshat, most Gms I've met tend to tackle this on a case by case basis. You got Urge level 5 by critical fumbles? The GM's going to give you a (relative) break, give you chances to lower it, etc. Got it by being a murderous asshat for no good reason (IE – Not part of the character as created?)... oh, yeah, the GM's going to have a field day!
Suffice to say, Urge is the main reason Occult powers aren't broken. The others are that such powers are going to get you killed if you use them indiscriminately, and that only a few are broken to need them in the first place.
Next time, we deal with priestly magic, and their own fun little mechanic... that you've seen everywhere else.
The Power of My God Is (Literally) With Me (Occult Part 3)Original SA post
Okay, let's give Cyphoderus a bit of a buffer so he can continue LOSING HIS SOUUUUUL! Gotta use all mah Shining Dodecahedrons!
Oh, and to buffer Cyphoderus' posts, give him a chance, here's the end of the Occult Chapter in...
Fading Suns: The Power of My God Is (Literally) With Me (Occult Part 3)
Why am I repeating these pictures? Because this is where they actually belong. Boring Eskatonic Dude will make sense, soon...
This section begins with an outright lie. “Unlike psychic powers, theurgy rituals do not have paths; characters simply learn the individual rituals at their required levels and do not need to buy a lower level first.” Why is this a lie? Because all the rituals are segregated by which part of the religion you belong to. Ergo, they're Paths, but under a different name. Now, psychics have the fun mechanics, Urge has GM dickery, what does Theurgy offer you, mechanic wise?
Verbal, Somatic, Ritual. Or, more accurately, Liturgy, Gestures, Prayer. Fun times. While psychics can just spend an action, and your head explodes, Theurgy is limited by the ol' Gestures and Loud Words model of Vancian Magic. You can skip these (at a -3 penalty to your goal), and there's not always a reason for this, but often enough it's worth mentioning that this is technically to balance things out. Now, without further ado, let's dive into the powers themselves!
Oh, wait, more stuff.
Vestments, Relics, and Rituals
Yup, because it's all Vancian, Theurgy gets things which give a bonus to whatever you're doing. Store Wyrd, and can do group rituals without all this tedious Bonding business (albeit slower). Most of it is nigh uesless unless you really need a buff to certain types of Ritual, or are spending Wyrd like it's going out of fashion. Psychics will eventually get the same treatment, but only in later splatbooks. Joy. Okay, powers now? Powers.
Generic Theurgy 101
Yep, all theurgic priests get access to a base school of rituals that cost just the base cost of the ritual to buy. Most of these are buffs, debuffs, and generic cleric stuff. Only one level 5 power is of note here, and it's basically “Permanent (small) situational buff to the entire group, so long as they follow a certain code (one of the saints' personal codes), and they don't dick each other over). Breaking this oath turns the bonuses to penalties until they atone, and can be seen by Theurges and psychics. Sucks to be you!
If you want to buy powers of a different sect to you, it's an extra point during chargen per level, or the ritual's level x 3 in XP during play. This effectively cements it all into paths, although it must be noted that you don't need to know the previous level to get a ritual of Level (Not One). It's not often worth it though.
The Orthodox rituals are, for the most part, more generic clerical bullshit. Consecrate at level 1, Light at level 2, Armour that can be put on someone else as well as yourself at level 3... They don't even get Turn Undead until level 5 (Yep, that's an Orthodox one, sorry everyone else!). Only at Level 8 do you get something truly worthwhile. Poor Father Badass will probably have to go elsewhere for decent powers. Which he can, because the lifepath doesn't specify the rituals, despite rituals of other sects having an increased point cost and thus slightly breaking the system!
See that massive dude behind him? The guy in front summoned this guy. Fear him.
Ah, this is some fun stuff! Right from Level 1, we have something damn useful, a ritual that adds +3 to non combat physical goal numbers for a scene. Level 2 introduces 10 rounds of combat buff, and level 4? Level 4 is special . It's called Fervor, and it allows the priest to be completely immune to persuasion away from whatever the hell he's doing. It has a downside, sure, but having the power to willfully ignore orders from above In the execution of his duty? Badass. By level 9, they're summoning a fricking high order Battle Angel. Don't fuck with Brother Battle.
Ack, More Fluff?
Yep, all this is interrupted with a page on Church Cosmology. It's Middle Ages Catholicism with a different name, deal with it.
Want to be a clerical detective? Join the Eskatonic Order Theurges today! This theurgical “Path” gives you the ability to know your time and position (within a certain error period) from the get go, adds in “Get Clues from GM” at Level 2, Aura Sight at Level 3, and by Level 5... oh ho, what's this? You can turn things to stone. Not people, or at least, not in this book, but you can permanently turn, say, someone's gun to a chalky, brittle stone. For 1 Wyrd. For extra wyrd, you can add more mass that you can transmute, but considering that the base is Theurgy x 20 Kg... Yeah. Level 7 gets you a potentially useful, and potentially extremely nasty power called Refinement of Essence. Effectively, this purifies something to its most refined form. Explosive stuff becomes more explosive, chemicals become more effective, and...
”Well, this isn't open to abuse!" posted:
Unlike Transmutation, Refinement may be used on living beings for beneficial effects, but the same penalties apply and considerable discrimination and forethought are required; benign drugs and medicines, surgical implants, transplants or tissue grafts, and even undigested food will be forcibly expelled from the target’s body. Cybernetic enhancements may break down or cause damage to their bearer.
Did I tell you that Eskatonics are awesome? Because they are.
Knowing Sinners, Pyromania, and OH MY GOD, THEY'RE MEAN! By Level 4, they can create fire (size not specified, but the need for fuel after a short while is, and can be allayed by spending weird), and lie detect, they have Sense Filthy Heretic at Level 2, and level 5 gives them what might as well have been called “BREAK FILTHY HERETICAL MACHINE, DURR”
Considering splatbooks give them even more burnination in their power lists? Avesti are mean .
A standard Group Ritual involving healing. Stupid robes are mandatory for this.
Want to purify, heal, calm, and generally be the Buddha without killing the Buddha? Sanctuary Aeon is your ticket to this. By level 5, they have their dibs of Purify, Heal. Know Current State of Mind, Calm The Fuck Down, and Make Food Last Longer. Oh, and they can get a second Level 5 ritual that's effectively Cure Poison. By Level 9, they have “No, Fuck You, You Can't Fight Anywhere In Here For A Whole Scene”
In their own specialised way. Amaltheans are possibly the most broken of all the Theurges in the core.
There's also a sidebar showing that hey, people can do group rituals together! Wasn't this somewhere earlier too, in the same chapter?
Oh well, we're not too worried about that, because next time, we get to deal with some more fun stuff. See, Urge is for Psychics... Priests have something else to worry about... Hubris!
Hubris, Every Priest's Best Buddy
Remember how Urge fucks over psychics? Well, Hubris is exactly the same, but for priests. Once again, we get a big honking table about gaining and losing Hubris, but this is almost copy pasted... In fact, it only adds a few things, but they're important. For example, Inventing Proscribed Tech. Made a new sinful technological device (somehow)? Whoops, You just got Hubris'd, Son! Similarly, losing it has a few extra possibilities (like Converting peeps), but basically, it's even easier for Priests to have their Hubris go up and down like a god-damn yo-yo. Mainly up.
So, what fun stuff does Hubris do? Well, since Hubris is basically “The Universe hates you for being a POWAR PRIEST and sticking two fingers up at the Pancreator”, many of the effects are permanent until you reduce the Hubris below that level.
Yep, priests are more powerful, but they're also extra fucked. Let's see how fucked, shall we?
Level 1 means animals go batshit crazy with fear around the priest. All the time. This is not a good thing as is, although there's no mechanical effect behind it (It's GM discretion). Level 2, the priest might be forced to freudian slip his hidden sin out into the open, for an entire scene if he fucks up a Theurgy roll, a Faith roll, or crit succeeds on an Ego roll.
You can see where this is going, can't you? Level 3 results in warts and blemishes growing on the face and hands, an obvious sign of sinning, Level 4 is like level 2, only it involves actions designed to reveal the sin, Level 5 gives some sort of physical drawback like crippling arthritis, Level 6 causes people nearby to become depressed and faithless, even committing suicide in some situations...
We're going to skip right to Level 9, because... Wow, being a priest is a heavy responsibility. By the time you've reached Level 9 Hubris, things are pretty fucking bad, but...
”Get a load of this!” posted:
Standing at the brink of damnation, the theurge’s insufferable pride is swollen to encompass his entire planet. The Pancreator has cursed the world on which he preaches. The planet he is on when he gains this level of Hubris becomes a wasteland — the entire planet dies. Only when he is healed of his Hubris (all of it) or is dead, will the planet live again. Priests whisper that this was the fate long ago of the planet Nowhere, the reason why so much of the planet — said in Second Republic texts to be lush — is now desert and windblown wastes.
Theurgy... Overpowered at times, but the downside is OP in a way you really don't want. Talk about a tool for encouraging faith!
Luckily, we're not quite done with Theurgy yet, as we still have one more tidbit to go through before dealing with Antinomy...
Anyone can pray for a miracle. Anyone. The player is to be encouraged in roleplaying the prayer to the hilt, and actually does have to, in-character at least (not at the table) take the time to pray. Obviously, this isn't a great idea in combat.
Now, once someone's prayed, they spend a Wyrd point (or spend a week without Wyrd regenerating if they have none), and roll against Faith. Just Faith. The result depends on the success, as opposed to victory points. For 1 or 2 points, a simple help-along occurs. For 6-7 points, something highly improbable happens. I'll just quote the last two possible results (10 and Critical, which are technically synonymous)
10 Deeply profound, soul-stirring events: mass visions; parting seas; new constellations in the heavens; an Avestite judge shows clemency, etc..
Critical Totally undeniable impossibilities: raising the dead; halting the sun; surviving the vacuum of space, etc..
I especially like the last one, since you sort of have to either be about to be thrown out of an airlock, or actually in the vacuum of space to have this one apply. Nonetheless, I'm really fond of miracles, as it fits the crazy, mixed up world that is Fading Suns. Obviously, players try to abuse miracles, the GM is generally encouraged to spank them like a red headed stepchild... with a miracle.
Next time, we deal with... Antinomy! Demon Summoning! Fun Stuff that only Evil People get! Wait, no we don't...
We're Not Antinomists, Honest! Note the Inker's self-portrait in the centre of the picture...
There, the big fat heading tempts you in, and... FUCK, MORE FLUFF. That's right, there are no Antinomy rituals in the core, no rules for it, just “There are demon summoners, they don't often work together, they work with what's probably Goetic or Qabalistic demons judging by the whole Qlippoth thing, and they are EEEEEEEEEEEVIL!”. For half a page. Oh, and a bit going “Gms, use twisted versions of the powers already in the book to make devil worshippers”...
...Fuck you, Fading Suns, we're moving onto combat while going into less detail about this than you do. Next time, folks: Hitting Things for Fun and Profit!
REALLY Don't Get Hit (Combat Part 1)Original SA post
So, just to let you know, the Combat bit of Fading Suns (first part, anyways) is written, but I'm currently waiting for Purple to let me know whether I should tone it down a bit... we both got a bit emotional after discovering our beloved RPG had some decided retardation, in both core and some of the respective books we're looking at, and, as a result, my JaysNotes version of healing is somewhat... fruity.
Yeah, healing... it's a thing.
EDIT: Ah, there we go... a certain sentence had to be edited out, but otherwise, we're good to go!
Fading Suns: REALLY Don't Get Hit (Combat Part 1)
Meet the WoD artist again. He cannot draw natural breasts to save his life, and this shall become a theme in later books. This image heads the "Healing" section. Mmm, Healing Boobs!
So, we come to the meat and two veg of the rules, the combat. The Combat chapter doesn't really mention wounds and healing, so let's flick back to Chapter 4 to see what's going on there.
Healing, and How It's STUPID
So, you may have noticed that you have a little number, called Vitality. Vitality is basically your health, and comes in two flavours: Over your Endurance, and under it. The 5 points over the endurance are nonvital. They hurt, but they don't do much else. Under your endurance? Bad things happen. You get penalties to your rolls (quite bad ones too, as you get closer to death), you have to roll Endurance + Stoic Mind to remain conscious every round you're at 1 Vitality Point, and when you do conk out, you stay out for an hour, even if you get healing. If you didn't receive medical attention and survived the hour , you're going to be weak as a kitten. There is no crunch to support this.
0, by the way, is dead. There is no healing for this.
In fact, lack of crunch, or lack of clarity in the crunch, is going to be a theme here. Let's sum up how retarded it can get.
Natural Healing : One week per point of “non-vital” Vitality, one month per “vital” Vitality (Your “over endurance 5” and “under endurance” Vitality scores, respectively. Don't get hurt.
Physick : See remedy, below. Allows you to use MedPacs and Nanotech MedPacs. Also allows you to... do (cosmetic) surgery? Er, okay... Has no other crunch uses in core, and nothing about serious wounds, making this somewhat... awkward.
Remedy : Someone with Remedy can quickly work on an injury (just one per roll, hope you're tracking 'dem injuries and what they did!), and heal one point of vitality, two if they crit. Now, the important things to note are as follows.
1) It must be before 10 minutes have passed since the wound occurring.
2) The RAW makes no provisions for repeated attempts, and nothing is mentioned about critfails.
3) The RAW also states that the first-aid is applied to “stop the wounds from worsening”. There is no crunch for this.
So, from discussion, it would appear that, if you were the type to go by pure RAW, you can just make repeated First Aid rolls after combat, and heal everyone up that way. A normal GM would veto it, but, as has been pointed out, it's the RAW we're looking at here, and the RAW is fucking stupid, and stupidly written. This will also become a theme.
Elixir : Elixir makes no fucking sense . Here's Chapter 4's take:
This drug requires a Wits + Remedy roll to administer properly. If this roll is successful, roll the drug’s potency dice (usually 5d, with a goal number of 13 or less)
Now, most of that won't make sense anyways until we get to damage (5d6 is 1 to 5 vitality healed, not 5-30), but, from discussion, Purple and I think we've figured it out, even with Chapter seven directly contradicting this and just saying “Average dose heals 5d damage, straight up, no roll). Essentially:
1) Roll Wits + Remedy to apply successfully. Failure just wastes the dose.
2) Roll the drug's potency (Roll d20, Potency = Victory Points +1. 19 or 20, it's a dud. This is never explained, anywhere)
3) That's how many healing die it uses.
Ambiguously worded, seemingly contradicted elsewhere, and the potency mechanic is never mentioned anywhere else in the corebook. Well fucking done, But wait, we're not done with the stupidity yet!
See, Elixir costs 25 Firebirds for the injector (uses not known before it breaks), and 10 per dose of Elixir. Yeah, that's right, 10 Firebirds a dose. This is cheaper than a MedPac (Which is used in First Aid, but there's no crunch for how many uses, what it does, etc), and is a hell of a lot cheaper than the next stupid piece of RAW.
Nanotech MedPacs : When used by a qualified Physick, it reduces the healing time by a quarter. There are generally no instruction manuals, but again, there is no crunch for failure consequences with what could essentially turn into Gray Goo if misused. Also, how can it be misused, it's probably got pre-programmed nanites with a fucking injector, how hard is that going to be?
Noooooo, it's individual fucking nanite groups . Which have to be jabbed in at the right places, etc, etc.
Expensive, nigh useless, and Elixir is available at the same Tech Level outlets (7). Well fucking done.
Actually Hitting Things, And Hurting Them
Okay, now we've gotten that out the way, let's actually show how wounds are caused! Combat is a fairly simple affair, but can be a little time consuming. Why? Dice Pools.
So, first off, your initiative is pretty much pre-set. You've announced your action, which is usually to wallop some guy or whatnot, and that skill+stat (plus or minus initiative modifiers) is your initiative. Movement of more than 1 meter is considered a full round action (run your full running speed), or part of multiple actions (Move up to your Vigor+Endurance meters). Multiple actions, as noted, have penalties, -4 to both actions for two actions, -6 to all actions for three. Multiple actions, by the way, go by the lowest modified stat+skill.
Then, you make your roll for whatever the hell it is you're doing. If the other guy is blocking, dodging, or doing something else defensive, you'll have to get more successes (a higher number while still being under or equal to your stat+skill+/-modifiers) to hit them. If a dodge successfully goes through, you miss. If you win, but they dodged, their successes take from yours. So you hit, but you don't do as much damage. Still simple.
Then, you compare your end successes to the damage table (providing you were trying to hurt them, instead of doing something sissy like fixing something mid combat). This may or may not provide you with bonus damage die.
Now, here's where it gets fun. You roll a number of damage die, which are d6s, equal to the damage of the weapon, plus modifiers from your successes. Each one under 5 hits for one point of damage. Then armour, shields, armour piercing, and all the other fun stuff come into play. Let's sum that shit up, and move onto combat maneuvers and the base weapons next time, a'ight?
Armour : Armour has a rating. You roll that many d6s. Each under 5 takes off one point of damage. There's other fun stuff about Armour, but let's not deal with that till equipment comes up.
Energy Shields : Shields are dealt with under equipment, but basically they're a big “Fuck You, I take no damage from fairly to very damaging blows. More on them under equipment, but suffice to say, the slow blade breaks the shield. That, or sustained autofire.
Armour Piercing : Some weapons do this. They straight up subtract an armour dice for each point of this.
Next time, maneuvers, followed by equpment!
Player's Companion 5Original SA post Fading Suns: Player's Companion
We've ended up saving the two coolest alien species till last... because that's how it's organized. Don't ask me what sort of deranged mind decided to completely abandon anything resembling alphabetic organization for practically all parts of this book.
Ascorbites are bug people , as you may see from the image, and I personally fucking dig their design. Like a more sinister, ant-ish version of Thri-Kreen. They're also one of the species that has some interesting meta-stuff going on with the Annunaki. For those who don't recall, the Annunaki are basically the ANCIENT ALIENS DID IT(except they actually existed) of Fading Suns, even more ancient than the Vau, but now gone. They've got a bunch of artifacts left over, and shitloads of alien species have legends that could be about the Annunaki.
In the case of the Ascorbites, their legends say that they were once just big bugs, but then the Annunaki engineered and uplifted them to be more awesome. They live underground, they're alien as all fuck, they rarely talk to humans and are just hard to figure out. Mostly because they really do not give a shit about large parts of existence. They "happily" pick up human weaponry or cooperate with humans, even helping them settle their planet(happily in quotes because Ascorbites are not big on emotions). But if the humans try to fuck with them, they'll just as coldly march out the jungles of their homeworld in the thousands, butcher dozens or hundreds of settlers... and then go back to working for them like nothing ever happened, point made.
Physically they're bug-like, can leap vast distances, have an armoured carapace and are very, very strong(most unaugmented humans can basically be bent into a pretzel by Ascorbites, by the fluff). They have vestigial wings and second limbs, which they just usually just snip off once they reach adulthood because they serve no purpose. Oh an in addition to their mandibles, their tongue is basically a sharp, blood-draining weapon(Blood is literally the only component of their diet.). They're also highly adaptible to toxins, the Decados once gassed them, killing off thousands, the survivors just shrugged and considered it business as usual... and the second time the Decados tried to gas them, it didn't kill a single one. This hyper-adaptability also extends to environments of other worlds, the Decados allow few Ascorbites to leave their homeworld, but those who do are pretty much always in peak physical condition despite wide variations in temperature, humidity, local bacteria, etc.
Oh and they're similar to xenomorphs in reproduction. See, they start out as little parasites. The adults capture prey and store them in thick resin, then jam a first-stage Ascorbite inside them to grow to adolescence. In their second stage, they're rather similar to large centipedes, but already intelligent(these are kept away from humans as much as possible, because they may pick up unsightly mammalian habits like emotions otherwise). The third stage is what you see above, a big, nasty predator with a terrifying amount of intellect.
Here's a fun fact: They've got a mythical fourth stage of development. No one's ever seen it and lived to tell the story, but as the Ascorbites speak of it, it will only occur once "Those Who Dwell In The Night"(the Annunaki) return. Considering that the average adult Ascorbite is already pretty superior to an adult human, this isn't something that anyone is looking forward to finding out more about.
On their homeworld, Severus, house Decados basically uses them as native labour, but sometimes entire work forces will just walk into the jungles for a few days or weeks to attend to Ascorbite business. The Decados have, by now, learned not to retaliate against such things, or try to stop them, as their losses from the resulting counterstrikes tend to number in the hundreds.
With regards to their society in private, they rarely talk about it, but it's a simple matter of listening to their elders and betters. One of the rare cases of Ascorbites being amused was when humans assumed they were some sort of matriarchally-run hive-mind, when in fact Ascorbites don't give a flying fuck about genders except as far as reproduction goes. They also do not bother with worshipping the Pancreator, as they just shrug and go: "He must be a fuckin' wuss, because our gods still rule the night." And the Church is getting more and more convinced that Those Who Dwell In The Night are actually demons from Qlippoth.
As individuals(and hence PC's), Ascorbites never lie if they can help it... but they'll happily simply omit information or ignore questions. In general they're stubborn fuckheads, and most of the wars they've had with their Decados colonial masters were results of them being too stubborn to just tell a white lie. So it's more of a character flaw than some sort of noble trait. Their usual goals, race-wide, is semi-Norse, in that they're preparing for some ultimate, universal Ragnarok when the gods return and it all goes to shit. About the only creatures they're capable of feeling affection for are their own families, humans and other aliens are classed as amusing animals, you might be a bit disappointed if an entertaining or reliable one dies, but ultimately they're replaceable assets.
But their ultimate character trait is similar to that of the Thri-Kreen which they resemble: They're predators. Cold, calculating and bide their time before taking any sort of action, filing away offenses and missteps for future retaliation.
They're a bit short on reasons to go adventuring, but seeking Those Who Dwell In The Night or further means to strengthen their race before Bugnarok seems like good motivations/plot hooks to me.
And finally we've got fish people . They're pretty boring physiologically, but have one of the more interesting histories.
Way back in the mists of time... they were still fish people, but things were pretty awesome for them. Something like ten million years ago they defeated the terrible lobster people of their sea world's oceans, and became the pretty much undisputed masters of their planet. And then the Annunaki showed up and were like: "'sup, you're cool fish dudes, want to be uplifted?" And then they yanked the Oro'ym to the stars, outfitted them with spaceships and blaster rifles, and the two of them had crazy fucking adventures. If you read a bit into their legends of the time, they may even have visited Earth . So yes, it's entirely possible that these guys showed up to build Atlantis, Stone Henge, the Pyramids and the Sphinx.
Aaaand then the Annunaki disappear pretty much overnight, at the same time as a huge meteor slams into their homeworld, wrecking their capital city for good, gouging the heart out of their culture. Other races come howling out of the dark wastes of interstellar space, razing their colonies and pushing them back to the homeworld, where the survivors dive deep into the seas, emerging decades later to find that everything is gone.
In desperation, a group genetically engineer themselves to be TELEPATHIC MIND KINGS OF THE LOST SEAS, enslaving the rest of the Oro'ym as a soldier/labour caste to fight and work for them. This lasted for thousands of years, until a rebel movement learned how to toss off the telepathic shackles and shake them off the rest of their race as well. Eventually the former slaves rose and butchered the MIND KINGS... but it was a bit late for their race as a whole. Thousands of year of war, disaster and the MIND KINGS monopolizing all advanced knowledge meant that they were basically back to the stone age again.
The Oro'ym find species-wide peace... and so it's all good for a long time until they meet humanity. Humanity takes an awful long time to really figure out that they're there, settling the planet's scarce land masses for almost two thousand years before finally confirming that the Oro'ym exist(in part because local fishermen who know they exist, help the Oro'ym hide their existence, to avoid them being abused like the Obun, Ukar and Shantor.).
It's not until after the fall of the second republic that the Oro'ym really start meeting humanity, and it's all a pretty cordial relationship under the control of the guilds. They trade with the Oro'ym, and use them as guides and guards for their sea farms, as well as for when they dive into the deeps to salvage from the truly ancient, higher-tech Oro'ym cities.
Physically, they're scaly, cold-blooded humans with big, coloured frills they can puff out to impress the ladies, and they can regenerate limbs if they lose them(it's often a bragging point among Oro'ym how many times they've lost limbs and healed them up again... which is kind of like bragging about how many times you've had your legs broken, not really a sign of strength. But what do I know? Aliens!).
Their society is basically a relatively enlightened and progressive thing which is democratic in a lot of cases, theocratic in a few others. Their religion is animism, stuff has spirits, be nice to the spirits, and so forth, with a dash of reincarnation and being sad because they revered the ones who once uplifted them as gods, and feel like they've sinned in some undefinable way that makes them less worthy. A few strange off-shoot religions also exist, like ones that worship Bizarg the Albino Shark(sacrificing live people to the giant behemoth) and others who worship Nidderdak From Beyond The Stars(coincidentally the deity that the LOBSTER PEOPLE I offhandedly mentioned earlier, claimed created them, hmmm...).
They've also got an odd superstition that wearing human clothes imparts them with some of the power/abilities of the human who used to own/wear them, so they eagerly snap up second-hand clothes from human nobles.
There's also a rumour that some Oro'ym colonies from their rise period still exist, particularly on a planet in the Sirius system, but with no found jump gates leading there(as far as anyone has found out, the ancient Oro'ym FTL systems from their high era didn't require jump gates, but instead used some wacky magnetic field technobabble), no one's been able to tell. Nonetheless, you can't tell me it's not a cool plot hook that there may be Oro'ym colonies existing in deep oceans on other worlds, that'd be a great reason for an Oro'ym to take up adventuring(or hell, for an Oro'ym to sponsor a group of adventurers of other races).
Their aquatic nature doesn't even prevent them from going adventuring, as they just need to take a shower, get hosed down or be lightly misted at least once every three days(it specifically says they need moisture , not submersion in water, so going by that , they wouldn't need any help in, say, tropical environments), and being cold-blooded just means that they suffer some stat penalties in extremely warm/cold environments, but proper clothing could completely negate both of these disadvantages(there's even a listed WET suit that automatically hydrates the Oro'ym wearing it for a week, or a month if you get the costly version.).
Their Special Racial Skill is God Lore: Effectively, they still remember a bit of Annunaki vocabulary, enough to trigger voice-activated Annunaki artifacts at times(though, not enough to always control them...).
So, do you remember this lady?
She's not an alien, she's one of... THE CHANGED!
Way fucking back in the First Republic, when tech was shiny and awesome, people decided that just modifying themselves to survive in non-Terran conditions was easier than terraforming and space suits... or they just did it for laughs or to make themselves more awesome. And some of these changes also affected the recipients' germline cell, meaning that the changes got passed on to their kids. With the more... luddite approach to tech in these days of the Fading Suns universe, the Changed are usually considered unholy abominations, and anyone with obvious modifications had best cover them up or find a good patron to help them.
Most fall into one of seven categories: Inhumans(Completely unrecognizable as humans, Pancreator only knows what the creators were thinking), Animalized(Supposedly "some of the most reviled," apparently even the future doesn't like furries. Some of their genes are recessive, though, so occasionally Animalized kids will pop out of completely normal families when everything aligns right or the genetic lottery just decides it's time to show off), Mutations(a few, often largely cosmetic, oddities), The Tweaked(no superficial signs of change at all), Grimsons(a recent breed produced by the noble houses who wanted some serious warriors, Grimsons are among the more imperfect ones due to the less advanced tech available these days), Metonyms(shapeshifters who can alter everything but their skeletal system... or at least, the Metonyms claim they have that limitation) and finally Clones(we know what clones are, but it should be pointed out that the Church REALLY fucking hates these guys).
I cannot parse what is going on here
System-wise, the whole Changed thing basically means you buy genetic modifications with points. The categories mentioned before are largely just guidelines as to what archetypes you could aim your character towards.
Most of it seems reasonable and interesting, though there are some odd ones out like "Sexual Pheromones," which give you a huge bonus to Charm if you've got a hard-on. Oh and you can play that goddamn guy from Total Recall with the mutant growing out of his stomach. You literally create a half-grown siamese twin that lives in your abdomen and has practically no physical abilities, but half your own point total to spend on stuff. It can even, if I'm parsing this right, detach from you to crawl around and do stuff. So if it gets enough XP for some decent physical abilities, you can have your own midget scout/assassin/thief hiding inside your stomach.
Besides that it's largely just general physical changes like extra arms, breath weapons, tentacles and being able to survive in various non-human-friendly environments.
There's also a very short bit on non-beneficial mutations, despite it earlier being stated that Grimsons, for instance, would easily have as many disadvantages as advantages. However, I suppose it wouldn't really be a huge effort to reverse some of the bonuses to work as penalties, or bonuses such as horns could be said to be purely cosmetic(maybe they're too brittle to slam anyone with), which means they would only work as a "HELLO THE CHURCH WANTS TO BURN YOU"-marker.
The final section of the Player's Companion is a repository for mostly-just-crunch things, which contain new gear and abilities, but also alternate rules. For instance, I really feel the dice-pool damage system is incredibly out of place when the rest of the system is a relatively simple roll-under matter. What do we have here? A system for doing damage with d20's instead. Fucking bazam, this is good design, letting players modify the system as they like.
There's also a big list of Curses here that anyone can buy, mostly physical problems and... there's no reason why you couldn't also use these as disadvantages for Changed characters to balance out their beneficial mutations.
Most of it isn't hugely interesting from a fluff perspective, and it's been too long since I last used the system for me to really be able to quickly tell whether any of it's unbalanced to a goofy extent. I'll leave that up to Jamie if he decides to take a crack at it. But I will show you the dumbest fucking thing in the Rules section... behold...
THE DECADOS GROIN GUN.
Next: I get back to Exalted
Actually Hitting Things, And Hurting Them (Combat Part 2)Original SA post Fading Suns: Actually Hitting Things, And Hurting Them (Combat Part 2)
Okay, now we've gotten that out the way, let's actually show how wounds are caused! Combat is a fairly simple affair, but can be a little time consuming. Why? Dice Pools.
So, first off, your initiative is pretty much pre-set. You've announced your action, which is usually to wallop some guy or whatnot, and that skill+stat (plus or minus initiative modifiers) is your initiative. Movement of more than 1 meter is considered a full round action (run your full running speed), or part of multiple actions (Move up to your Vigor+Endurance meters). Multiple actions, as noted, have penalties, -4 to both actions for two actions, -6 to all actions for three. Multiple actions, by the way, go by the lowest modified stat+skill.
Then, you make your roll for whatever the hell it is you're doing. If the other guy is blocking, dodging, or doing something else defensive, you'll have to get more successes (a higher number while still being under or equal to your stat+skill+/-modifiers) to hit them. If a dodge successfully goes through, you miss. If you win, but they dodged, their successes take from yours. So you hit, but you don't do as much damage. Still simple.
Then, you compare your end successes to the damage table (providing you were trying to hurt them, instead of doing something sissy like fixing something mid combat). This may or may not provide you with bonus damage die.
Now, here's where it gets fun. You roll a number of damage die, which are d6s, equal to the damage of the weapon, plus modifiers from your successes. Each one under 5 hits for one point of damage. Then armour, shields, armour piercing, and all the other fun stuff come into play. Let's sum that shit up, and move onto combat maneuvers and the base weapons next time, a'ight?
Armour: Armour has a rating. You roll that many d6s. Each under 5 takes off one point of damage. There's other fun stuff about Armour, but let's not deal with that till equipment comes up.
Energy Shields: Shields are dealt with under equipment, but basically they're a big “Fuck You, I take no damage from fairly to very damaging blows. More on them under equipment, but suffice to say, the slow blade breaks the shield. That, or sustained autofire.
Armour Piercing: Some weapons do this. They straight up subtract an armour dice for each point of this.
Next time, maneuvers, followed by equpment!
What Do We Do With A Kung Fu Vorox (Combat Part 3)Original SA post Fading Suns: What Do We Do With A Kung Fu Vorox (Combat Part 3)
Your average fight, courtesy of White Wolf Dude. This is actually fairly accurate.
And so we come to the most important part of the combat rules: What you can actually do in a fight. Maneuvers are an interesting beast, being effectively a combat feats sytem, mixed with actual combat moves, all tied to skills. Confused? No, really, it's very simple. You spend some skill points on, y'know, your actual skill with a weapon, and then, if you choose, you can buy special maneuvers with those weapons, for some other skill points. Of course, some of these are free, and we'll deal with those first.
Free Combat Manuevers
Obviously, they're pretty damn rudimentary, but everybody can use a gun in its most basic manner (Aiming, shooting, short bursts), so long as they have some levels in Shoot. Similarly, when you fight with your fists, you can automatically kick, punch, charge, and dodge. Now, keep in mind that you can do, at most, three actions a turn, with penalties for more than one action. So, how does Dodge work?
Well, Dodge works much the same way it does in Shadowrun, namely that, if you get attacked before your action, you can “Abort to Dodge”, meaning you give up your next action for a dodge. This part is fine. What's generally less fine, and I generally house-rule it out, is what happens if you get attacked after your action, and want to dodge.
So, you do something, someone reacts, and you want to get the hell out of the way. You're in trouble, because you have to give up your next turn's action, and, if you want to do anything at all next turn, you'll have to take that -4 penalty for 2 actions. To make things worse, you can only do one action next round if you dodged after your action this round. In theory, this aids the deadliness of combat. In actuality, it sets you up for the old “Forced to dodge infinitely” pattern. Hence why I often houserule it out.
Apart from that, the basic combat maneuvers pretty much make sense, even down to the Charge's -3 initiative modifier (you're running at someone from a way away to shoulder barge them into the ground... yeah, they're gonna see you coming!). So let's move on to other maneuvers.
Ah yes, the old Chop-Sockee. As you might expect, Martial Arts has cheap maneuvers in the first three levels that are basically improved punches, kicks, and grapples, but there are some fun things here that give it a bit of a fun flavour. For example, Head Butts. Head Butts are a thing of beauty, because they're telegraphed (-2 initiative), but if you do the right damage, they have a better chance of knocking someone out providing they do enough damage. Either way, it's a fun addition, although I'm a bit confused it's part of Martial Arts. Anyone can head-butt, I say! Oh well.
The title, really, is a bit misleading, as it's basically a collection of advanced combat maneuvers, from blocking to bear-hugging. At levels of 7 or above, though, it gets really fun. Group Throw, for example. An opponent attacks you. You win vs the opponent's attack (melee, obviously)? You get to throw him 1m per success, up to your strength, and he takes a minimum of 3 damage dice, plus 1 for every three meters you throw him. The best part? You can throw one attacker per level of Fight you have. So there's your Fight 7 dude, surrounded by 7 dudes, who all attack. Providing you beat each individual attack roll with your Dex + Fight roll (yep, you gotta roll against each attack)? You've just taken no damage, and thrown every attacker at least 1 meter away from you. I'd assume the GM would also allow for throwing one of your attackers into another, thus allowing you to potentially take no damage from eight guys attacking you, and damage/knock down others from further away. Fight 7 is achievable from day one, by the way, and thus you'd only need to save for the maneuver, especially if you bought its prerequisite (Martial Throw) in chargen.
Vorox Martial Arts
Bring aht yer guns! Fancy Guns For One And All!
Vorox Martial Arts has three “maneuvers”, but they're both basically damn useful (and available to nearly all Vorox who use the Lifepath method of chargen). They're all pretty simple, being “Charge like a freight train”, “Don't get off-hand penalties for upper off hand”, and “Don't get off-hand penalties for one of your lower hands”. Note that this actually means you get no penalties for having a second or third action in your round if you have both of those last two.
The first two are both available at character creation, while Throx (No penalty on third action) is kind of expensive, being a Fight 9 Maneuver. You see now why I think Vorox are broken, and love them so?
Right. Watched a Zorro movie? Or any other swashbuckling flick? Then you've probably seen the vast majority of these maneuvers. Surprisingly, not a single one of them is truly broken, but they do give you more tactical options, like disarming, stop-thrusts, and counterattacks. All in all, interesting, but not worth F&F scrutiny.
There are three of them, they're boring, but add tactical options. Nuff said. Also, they're for tradtional shields, not energy shields. Energy shields, as we'll see, are highly situational.
Firearms (Gun Kata, Anyone?)
For the first five levels of Shoot maneuvers, there's nothing special. In fact, the vast majority of “Under 5” maneuvers are in fact, the free ones everyone gets, and the rest are pretty much quick reloads and draws. Woot. But then, like a bolt from the blue, the magic starts to happen.
Level 6 Maneuver: Recock. Remember that bit from Evil Dead or Terminator 2, where the protagonist cocks the shotgun and fires it in one smooth motion? Yup
Level 7: Leap and Shoot. Level 8: Roll and Shoot, along with Two Gun, for extra Woogasmic goodness. Level 9's sole maneuver is basically “I shoot based on sensory cues, not sight”, and only takes 1 point off your Goal number.
The Combat chapter ends with a small table of weaponry (to be dealt with next chapter), and a few environmental factors, like falling, fire... oh, and deliberately going for a KO. The long and short of that is: It's a called shot, and you have to beat their endurance in one go. Good luck with that!
Next time, we'll be dealing with... TECHNOLOGY! In all the Core's... somewhat lacklustre glory. No really, it's really fucking minimalist.
The Fluffening 2: Electric Boogaloo (Technology Part 1)Original SA post Fading Suns: The Fluffening 2: Electric Boogaloo (Technology Part 1)
Yes, you can have one of these. And then get mauled by Nobles for having one without a license.
As you might have guessed from the title, the Technology chapter (known as “Shit To Buy” to you and me) begins with... FLUFF! Is it good fluff, or is it bad? Well... It's kinda “Eh”. Y'see, it explains how rare technology is, and why. I can give you the Jaysnotes version: Church doesn't like tech, The League jealously protects what hi-tech designs it owns, and a lot of 2nd Republic information was lost (read: PURGED), so there's a data problem. And, just to make things even more fun, the Inquisition tends to hunt down Engineers who engage in TL7 or 8 inventing projects (That's my eyeball estimate), and has also purged hi-tech info from other species too. Go the Space Catholics!
So yeah, I mentioned TL. Just like Traveller, and a few other sci-fi RPGs, how advanced shit is is measured by TL... Tech Level, obviously. So let's discuss...
Interface/Coding... Ye Wot?
No, really, that's the header for this section. So, as noted, Tech Levels go from 0 (Stone Age), to 4 (Information Age, aka Late 90s, which is where the Fading Suns are at overall ), to 6 (Second Republic, Beginning of), all the way to 9 (UR-TECH, aka SHIT YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND), and it gives us a fun little rule that isn't discussed anywhere else . You remember that Tech stat? Well, we are only told right now that this literally represents what Tech Level of kit we understand how to use. So let's take my current group, and use them as examples:
Just Dave is Tech 3. According to this, this means he doesn't understand computers, advanced chemistry, or assault rifles. So far, this has suited him just fine, because while he doesn't understand his cybernetics, they're simple things that are within his bounds of knowledge (sword in arm, pocket in body, extreme subdermal armour). Were he to pick up a Blaster Pistol (TL 7), he would have a -4 penalty (TL – Dave's Tech) to using it.
Stinky , the brave and lovable smelly space-monkey of our group, has Tech 7. He can use blaster pistols with no problems whatsoever. However, he gets no bonuses to using tech well below his level. So what's he got to compensate for that? Well, read on, and see!
Essentially, while you can understand shit of your Tech's TL, you can build and/or invent shit that is up to 2 TLs lower than your Tech. So Just Dave can, at best, invent a new kind of axe that is actually three axes, or some medieval bullshit like that, whereas Stinky can potentially create a new starship design, on his lonesome. As you might have guessed, though, nothing beyond cybernetics increases your stats beyond 10, so unless you take a perk to add two points to your maximum Tech and power-level, you're never going to be able to make Ur-Tech. By the way, that option isn't really available in the Core, Also, the Player's Companion (which has the proper Blessing) expressly states that nobody should be allowed to buff their Tech or Occult in such a way. No Kwisatz Haderach for you , young man!
EDIT: One of my players, Pussy Cartel , has noted that you can theoretically do this with a blessing in the core RAW (Innovative: +2 to Tech when Inventing). Two things were pointed out to counter this: 1) You can build Ur-Tech with this, but not repair it, and 2) No sane GM would allow this to stand. As Pussy Cartel's character Victor Teller has a Tech of 8, I am now watching him like a hawk. Like a hawk , I say!
Can you guess which one's the bodyguard? If you guessed the sad one, correct!
So, there are some interesting surprises in the Money section. For example, there are only three “mainstream” coins, which are Firebirds (the equivalent of a GP or 10 dollars), a Wing (A Firebird split in half, the equivalent of an SP or 5 dollars), or a Crest (A quarter of a firebird piece, the equivalent of CP or... 1 dollar? Somebody at Holistic fails at math). Obviously, there are other “Rogue” currencies about, with their own wildly varying exchange rates and problems, but the Firebird is stable for two reasons: One, it's made in one place, and two, it's controlled by one group. That group, obviously, is the Imperial Eye. We shall be seeing why this is potentially a massive problem much later on, but for now, you need to know something amazing: Because the material for Firebirds (Prismium) used can only be forged by a rare second republic process, the coins are actually worth what they say on the coin!
Of course, just because the coins are worth a single value, doesn't mean merchants and the like won't try to fuck you, oh no! After all, there isn't a stock exchange or anything, so merchants on a world will charge whatever the fuck they think they can get away with. This rapidly becomes important to your average group. Now, let's find out what some things are worth, and what you get paid for doing certain jobs.
The Rat Race
Okay, so an okay meal (one meal, out of your three a day), is going to cost you 4... Talons? Guess what, guys, there's a fourth coinage type, and it's only mentioned under Rogue Coinage! It's an eighth of a Firebird, because Firebirds have phoenixes with 8 talons on them, and it's the lowest possible denomination. So, essentially, two standard meals (or one good one) costs us a firebird. And a private room for the night costs us a Firebird and a Crest. So, what would we get paid for doing, say, bodyguard work?
10 Firebirds a month , more if there's immediate danger involved. Either expenses are involved, or Holistic once again fail at basic math. A butler has it even worse off, with 5-15 Firebirds a month, A Courtesan would have to work like billy-oh (5 Firebirds a client), as would a Doctor (10 FB a visit). I mean, I'm unemployed, I know what hard living is, but seriously? These guys are fucked . Especially the Bodyguard.
Okay, weapons, obviously, come in several flavours. Damage goes from 1 die (Small Rock), all the way up to 9 dice (Blaster Rifle), with the majority coming between 4 and 6. There are some fun effects, but this gives you some idea of how lethal the world is... without armour, you will die in one, maybe two hits from any of these weapons. And remember, most of the high damage things have fun effects to add as well! But wait, not all is lost.
Nearly everybody has at least some of this, and it works on the same rule that damage does. However, armour goes from 1 to 14 , with a couple of situational additions like Frictionless Gel, Flame Retardant materials, or... okay, that's all core has to offer right now, but 14 dice of armour is nothing to sneeze at. To illustrate what I mean, Just Dave survived several rounds of combat, with anything up to 5 guys whacking on him at once , with just 4 armour. And clothing counts as 1 armour.
Energy Shields, contrary to Dune, do not explode when hit with lasers. But energy weapons have a chance to bleed through them, and fire also has a chance to bleed through them. So they're mainly a kinetic weapon defence. However, they're... a bit pants. Remember how the average damage a weapon puts out is 4 to 6, and that damage number is actually a maximum of Vitality they can suck out any one round? Well, Shields only activate and block damage when a single attack does 5 or more dice of damage. They may or may not block falling damage (more likely not), they can only take a certain amount of 5+ hits (Full auto can count as multiple attacks for this purpose), and if they take a hit of 10 or more damage (exceedingly unlikely with most weapons), they're going to burn out then, too.
So, while Energy Shields are situationally useful, fuck them. Fuck them hard. Next time, we deal with the fun stuff in the basic kit, and start on Cybernetics!
O Code, Where Is Thy Sting? Poison, Thy Glory? (Technology part 2)Original SA post Fading Suns: O Code, Where Is Thy Sting? Poison, Thy Glory? (Technology part 2)
One of two pictures of random Engineers in the section.
Hrm... I'd thought we could leap over to Cybertech, but I'd be doing you all a disservice if I didn't deal with the final three categories of non-cybernetic kit, which are actually both interesting and full of potential GM dickery. First up? Poisons and Drugs!
Better Killing Through Chemistry
So, there's not many poisons here (the catalogue will be added to in later books, however), but the core already has a small selection of the most dangerous chemicals in the universe. First up, the mechanics are what you'd expect... it's resisted with Endurance+Vigor, as you'd expect, are quite powerful, and can be dealt with permanently by certain Theurgic rites (which, natch, the Amaltheans have a stranglehold on). And the first poison out of four is, strictly speaking, not a poison... but still fucking dangerous.
It's called Selchakah, and it's basically HYPER-OPIUM. Addictive as all hell, blisses you the hell out, and is exclusively produced by the Decados. If that wasn't already a warning sign, the fluff for it takes great pains to point out that the Jakovian Agency (the much feared Decados Intelligence Agency) addicts anyone it wants to control. It doesn't cost much, at first (3-7 firebirds), but if you hadn't worked out the dealers are going to raise the prices really sharply once you're hooked, you don't deserve to play a roleplaying game. Generally, like Opium, it's smoked, although other forms can be injected or orally taken.
Because a Vorox picture fits here, and there aren't many
The next poison isn't deadly except in huge doses, but comes naturally to a certain species. Yep, Vorox Claw Poison. The stuff is a slow acting paralytic, and can be extracted from a willing Vorox (Y'know, because that's common). Due to this little fact, Vorox Poison is expensive as hell for what it is (20 Firebirds for enough to coat a small dirk). How it works is, if they fail the poison roll, they'll receive a cumulative -1 to actions a turn until the modifiers reach the same level as their Vitality, when they're paralyzed for the rest of the scene. It can be hidden in food if you hide the distinctive smell, or applied to a weapon.
Then we have the two most famous Ukari poisons, Plox and Grixi (Bless me? Dunno what you're talking about!). The first is a paralytic that's generally put on blades, and is more expensive than Vorox Poison (25 firebirds a dirk's worth), but this is because it lasts 3 strikes, and has a slightly nastier and quicker effect. Grixi, meanwhile, is 50 firebirds a dose, and, in case you hadn't guessed, this is the option you go for when you want something very, very dead. It adds a bleeding effect that lasts until they take the time to staunch it, or five rounds, whichever comes first. Also, the bleeding effect can only be stopped by Elixir or Theurgy, which, as we've noted, isn't a grand problem, but it lasts for two strikes, and is again put on your weapons.
Locks and Eyes
Yep, you can buy locks, including the GEN-LOCK, which only opens with your genetic material (and is thus ultra expensive). Of course, where there's locks, there are ways to open them, and, by and large, they're cheaper than the locks are. So that's alright then! No, the thing of note here is the VS Perimeter Security. The company that made them, the fluff tells us, is long dead, but they can still be bought. They're tiny orbs, controlled from... they don't actually tell us, but presumably a think-machine (computer). Either way, while they're hella expensive (200 FB an orb), they're useful spying devices, being flying mechanical cameras that are really tiny. But wait, we haven't actually seen any Think Machines yet... Why is that, I wonder?
Computers? Nah, Nobody Here But Us Think-Machines
He's programming something, honest!
Well, there are various single function machines (organisers, mappers, journals, etc), with all the problems of a society that doesn't really know how to maintain them well has, but the real fun is with the programming languages. Before we deal with those, let's mention they're all fairly clunky, start at 500 Firebirds, and are not very user friendly as a rule. Obviously, they're TL 4-8, depending, and this is a good time to talk about programming languages!
Core has 6 programming languages, and someone with the Think Machine skill only knows one. They can buy more (2 points a language), but, as we'll see, knowing more than three is a bit of a difficult proposition for setting reasons.
Turing is the Engineer's guild programming language. It's fairly efficient, and it's also fairly common, but the downside is... well, only Engineers are taught it. Anyone else demonstrating that they've figured it out is likely to receive a visit from the Slayer's Guild (guess what they do) in their near future.
Constantinople is a horrible, horrible language. Picture, if you will, a language made by accountants, who think they can code. While there's no crunch to support this, it's stupidly hard to use, and only Reeves know it. This is presumably another reason why the Reeves have such good security... nobody wants to program in Constantinople!
Lex V.V is a fun one. I'm pretty sure it's meant to be a parody of Linux users, but I'm not 100% on this. Okay, so imagine a programming language by a bunch of technophobic priests, where the programming functions are all in latin, and different declensions of the same term are often entirely new functions. There were two versions of this, one of which is stupidly hard to use, one of which is still stupidly hard to use, but they promise it's an improvement. Much like Windows (hence the not being 100% sure)
Ië is the Obun programming language, and is thus rare as all hell outside their own tech. According to the fluff (no crunch to support), because it uses Obun cultural references, it's apparently annoying for humans to code in on an almost instinctual level.
Link is a metalanguage that most Golems (robots) can be programmed in, even though all have their own coding methods. There's no other fluff on this, but I'd assume it's much like that C++ variant they use for LEGO robots.
Suprema is a Second Republic programming language, and is thus supremely easy to use (+2 to Think Machine rolls when dong something in Suprema). It was the predecessor of Turing, but is hyper rare, because any Urth Orthodox priest who finds something that uses it tries to install Lex V.V over it (Because it's apparently "more efficient"). Fuckers.
So, next time, we still don't deal with cybernetics! Just vehicles, dagnabbit!
We Can't Be Arsed (Technology Part 3)Original SA post
Awwwwh yeah. Gotta love that troll humour. Especially the one about the cart. It's like listening to the thugs from Arkham City telling a joke!
Also, Fading Suns update!
Fading Suns: We Can't Be Arsed (Technology, Part 3)
For all we know, this is a landcraft. Why am I reusing art? look below
So, as you might have guessed, one of the weak points of Fading Suns is that technological items and anything vaguely useful that isn't strictly space opera gets either next to no print-space, or is ill thought out. This trend continues, with the six, maybe eight vehicles of the vehicle section.
Yes, you heard me right. Maybe eight vehicles. And at least two of these aren't technically “vehicles” except in the strictest sense of the word. So, let's take a look at what we have and don't have, shall we?
Oh, wait, rules.
Well, vehicles have some extra rules, and some rules that are just plain missing. If you've seen vehicle rules in any other game, you'll have seen these. Can shoot at the vehicle or occupants, don't need drive rolls for normal day to day shiz, chases and collisions... it's all there in its most basic form, although it is amusing to note that veering to avoid a pedestrian is apparently as difficult as a hairpin turn.
Want to know what's not in the rules? Any form of customisation. Since I've already mentioned that there are maybe 6 actual vehicles in the technology chapter, this was a pretty bloody stupid thing to ignore. Also, as far as I am aware, vehicle, robot, and starship construction rules are never put down in crunch form. Even inventing a new device is pretty fricking vague. Well done. Right, vehicles, finally...
The Brute Cart
It's an animal drawn cart. Essentially, the most common kind of peasant transportation there is apart from donkeys or other non-combat riding animals, the Brute Cart is a wooden shack on wheels of some sort pulled by Brutes or other such pack animals. What are Brutes? All we know for now is that they're pack animals, and they're apparently quite common. It doesn't go very fast, and requires feeding and rest once a day (probably more). Tech levels vary according to what improvements it has, and cost also rises according to shit that, as mentioned, isn't in the crunch anywhere in the core.
Thus, Holistic have given you all the “Beastcraft” you'll ever need, apparently.
Not Ripped Off From Aliens, The Scraver Buggy
Hi, I'm the only vehicle pictured in this section. Suck it up, losers!
To be fair to Holistic, there aren't many ways to design an all-terrain buggy. However, the suspension on that thing is, to say the least, somewhat unreal. This is the entirety of the “Landcraft” section, and it's basically an ATV pickup truck, that Scravers use to smuggle shit, and everyone else of importance apparently uses to pick up their groceries. Want the Noble equivalent of a crotch rocket or a rice burner? Nope, you just have this massive unwieldy thing, It uses petroleum type products, has a range of 500 Km, and is apparently only 3 Vitality stronger than a large, but rickety wooden cart. This sort of thing will become a common theme. They cost 3,000 Firebirds, beyond the purse of most players.
Wait, Two Vehicles A Category?
For Skimmers (aka Gravity Hoverthingies), we have two entires. This section is one of two categories of “vehicle” to do this. Skimmers kind of suck because they always float a certain maximum distance above the ground, and thus will plummet/otherwise cock up if the terrain changes height somewhat rapidly downwards (or slightly upwards). Well done once more, Holistic, you missed the whole point of floating gravity vehicles! These wonderful machines, if core is to be believed, come in precisely two flavours: Bikes (ridden by bored young nobles, and hated by peasants who tend to get run over by bored young nobles), and Hoverpacks (which have adjustable height, but to some maximum or other). They are, respectively, as tough as a Brute Cart and less tough than a Brute Cart, so decidedly risky propositions either way.
Oh, and just in case you weren't dissuaded enough, the more player-useful of the two (hoverpacks) require a special drive skill of their own, mentioned nowhere else in the book. Also, the jetbike costs 9,000, the Hoverpack 7,000. And that's without taking into account merchants dicking you over and non-existent modifications.
Flitting From Place To Place
Flitters, as they are called, appear to be stratospheric capable jet planes running on Fusion Generators. Only nobles can really afford both the vehicles themselves and their maintennance, and trick them out with all sorts of stupid bullshit like re-entry capability (when you want to land really fast and scare the shit out of Air Traffic Control). If even a group of players can afford the 25,000 Firebird price tag, you know it's time for them to start taking over the Known Worlds.
There's literally no confirmation of what hoppers are, so have a sexy engineer instead
Hoppers, on the other hand, are an extremely ill defined category. The one example given here is obviously a junker cargo plane type deal (The Wagon of Paulus is its name), and its function is basically to transport a lot of one thing from one place to another in the world. With a range of 5000 Km (compared to the Flitters 3K Km) and a speed of 500Km/H (as opposed to the Flitter's 750), it's still a respectable thing. The price given in the equipment section is for a used one, as they aren't really built that often anymore, and are controlled by the Guilds. Considering you'll get something that can transport 20 people for one pilot and 15,000 Firebirds, this is one of the few useful vehicles in the entire section, especially considering it's built like a brick shithouse compared to even many starships.
War Ma-Ha ha, Nope!
Oh hey, here's a section telling us, in about two paragraphs, that the book doesn't have any of these, and we should look to future sourcebooks! Precisely two, maybe three out of all the sourcebooks have any sort of military vehicles for GM use, and the total from these books is something like 10, of various classes. So, unless you're good at extrapolating and keeping the batshit logic of the vehicles consistent, good luck with having a war story, guys and gals!
Not Really Vehicles, As Such
Now we get two kinds of ridden animal. Nope, brutes aren't here, look elsewhere, folks. Instead, we get warhorses (which have almost as much health as a Wagon of Paulus), and Pherizas, aka Spitters. Spitters are basically eight foot long lizards with wall-climbing that have acidic spit glands. Tamed ones have generally had their spit glands removed, and wild ones will spit at anything that even looks at them funny. They generally get imported to hot worlds, and they come from the world of the Avestites, Pyre. Unsurprisingly, they're somewhat popular there.
That's all the vehicles, and we're finally going to get to Cybernetics, for real, next update!
Making A Better You (Technology part 4)Original SA post Fading Suns: Making A Better You (Technology part 4)
Cybernetics, finally! It's a cause for celebration, as we're almost through the stupidity of this chapter, and doubly so, because this is the first actual section to have some decent crunch! In fact, the Cybernetics section is almost 100% crunch, and it's all vaguely sensible, even if it does require flipping back and forth like a loony!
But first, we have to deal with something important, that's mentioned in an odd place in the section.
Humanity and Edition Wars
Shadowrun, eat your heart out!
You may have noticed, way back when, that Holistic were really fond of opposing social stats in pairs. They were, in fact, so fond of this that they had an extra pair for first edition: Alien and Human. The higher your Alien was, the more penalised you were in social situations with humans, empathising with humans, the like, until you reached 10 Alien/0 Human, and became an NPC. Obviously, there were a few problems with this, including that there were more factors that added Alien than there were keeping your Human high. So, when second edition rolled round, various other mechanics were instituted to replace this frankly silly and limiting system. One of these mechanics is Incompatability.
What's that? It's basically a measure of how much metal and biotech you can shove into your body before you go absolutely bugfuck crazy. For players, it's essentially a hard limit on how much stuff they can shove in their own bodies, stopping everyone and their mum from becoming the 6 Million Dollar Man. This can have variable results.
For example, Just Dave has a total of 12 Incompatibility. He has, by the current point in the campaign, used 10 of those on just three things: subdermal armour, a longsword in his arm, and a flesh pouch (more on that later). He can fit nothing else of substance inside his body, and this is perhaps just as well, As it is, he's tanked entire groups of thugs, a warbot, and a shot from a laser cannon, with just his 4 armour. He has also literally sliced some people in two with his arm-sword. And, for reasons that will become clear, we still haven't worked out where his flesh-pouch actually is . There's a small table of your limits, but it's basically based on your Ego, and it goes from 5 max (Ego 1), to 14 max (Ego 4, the average), to 29 max (Ego 9, and if you have anywhere near this amount of cyberware, you're probably under a “burn on sight” order from the Orthodoxy).
So, onward to the actual crunch, which comes in several steps.
So, What's This Do Again?
First things first, you determine, from a big honking list, what the damn thing does. There are four and a half pages of things you can do, including toxin filters, embedded/implanted weapons, a Think Machine in your head (one of the few ways you'll easily get a Think Machine at character creation), and even things that boost your stats (except Tech. You're not allowed to get Tech above 10, ever). Some items deserve special mention, however.
Cybersenses, for example, are relatively cheap, and, overall, don't accrue much Incompatibility for their function. However, they generally cost as many Extra-Points as Incompatibility, and, since Incompatibility can be accrued at every stage of making a cyber-implant, you have to be damn careful when building a character around these. For those who want to pointlessly waste Incompatibility, they can have a flashlight installed in their bodies, and for those who want something that looks sensible at first glance, but is ridiculous when you look at it, there is... the Flesh Pouch.
The Flesh Pouch generally takes about 2 incompatibility and a few Extra Points to put in your body, and is basically a hidden compartment in your body. Sounds useful and sensible, right? Until you realise that you can put a Medium Item in it. Now, let's skip back to the equipment section and see what counts as a Medium Item...
...A Main-Gauche (large parrying dagger, usually with a basket hilt) is a “Medium” item. A Medium Crossbow or a Hunting Bow are both Medium Items. A Club is most likely smaller than at least two of those, and is considered a Large Item (I've houseruled it to a Medium in my campaign). That means there is a cavity installed in your body that is at least a foot and a half square, and half a foot wide (minimum, in the case of the Medium Crossbow), somewhere in your body. And, as you may know, your internal organs are somewhat tightly packed, so the torso's probably not a good place. I defy you to find a good place to put a crossbow, medium or no, in your body.
Anyways, once you've got a function from the list, you move on to other factors.
This is not the weirdest weird science of the Fading Suns
From here, you then modify it with every single factor that applies, which will gain you or lose you Extra points and (mostly gain you) Incompatibility. How is it attached to your body (IE- is it removable)? What powers it (in cases where it's a weapon or an enhancement like movement boost)? How obvious is it (The more obvious, the more Incompatibility and social modifiers in certain situations)? What's it made of (More Incompatibility ahoy!)? How well made is it? And how does it work? To demonstrate all of this, we're going to build some cybertech according to these rules, and a guy with a bog standard EGO of 3.
An EGO of 3 means we can have up to 11 incompatibility points, and every character built with point buy has 20 Extra Points with which to buy bennies, including cybernetics. We don't want to go hog wild here, so we'll use 10 of those extra points.
First off, our character is a Scraver treasure hunter, so he's going to want to see in the dark. UV will count for this, apparently, and will cost us both 2 Extra points and Incompatibility points. Obviously, we don't want this to be removable, so it'll give us the EP back to bond this shit into our bodies. On the upside, this means they're always with us. On the downside, if they get ripped out or damaged, we get damaged too (and obviously become blind). If we wanted to come out ahead, we could make it so that the eyes would cost us 1 Vitality for each round of use, but since we want these to be our normal eyes too, that would be stupid.
Power wise, it's pretty obviously powered by our body or an internal power-plant (preferably the former, considering). This costs us a point each of EP and Incompatibility, and makes this TL6 minimum to repair. This usually happens with most cybertech, so it's just fine. Now, here's where it gets a bit silly.
No matter what level of visibility we take for our cybereyes, it's going to cost us another Incompatibility. Why this couldn't be factored into the base costs is beyond me, but what the hell do I know, am I right? So the question is more “What are we willing to spend here?” We're only at 1 point for some rad UV eyes, so I'll happily go for Incognito (meaning that, if someone were to look close, my eyes would be a slightly different colour, because there's a UV filter or something). If I really wanted to game this, I could get that 1 point I spent back by making it Unsightly (giving me a negative penalty to Extrovert social rolls), but the cost outweighs the benefit here. 2 EP and 4 Incompatibility isn't that bad a deal, to be honest.
As far as materials go, plastic is fine. Anything better than that ironically costs us Incompatibility, even though at least one option is “vat grown flesh-alike”. Since our eyes were already going to be TL6, we don't really care that plastic would make them so again. As far as how easy to maintain it is, we're going to go for the norm, as going for automaintennance is going to give us more Incompatibility and cost us a shedload of points. Finally, we make it auto-use (which can either be defined as always-on or just “don't need a roll to use”). This costs us another 2 EP and 1 Incompatibility. One pattern you'll always find is that, with the cybernetics that require power, maintenance, and the like, it's going to cost more Incompatibility than Extra Points, and for simple stuff (cf Just Dave at the beginning of the chapter), it just costs more Extra Points. With this one item, we've eaten just under half of our Incompatibility, and just over a third of the Extra Points we were willing to spend. But those UV lenses will no doubt come in handy!
Next time, we deal with some more customisation rules... only half-assed to hell and back.
Our 5 Year Mission, To Half-Ass Our Rules (Technology Part 5)Original SA post Fading Suns – Our 5 Year Mission, To Half-Ass Our Rules (Technology Part 5)
90% of Fading Suns players will never see this
You know how I mentioned, a few updates back, that the Holistic boys didn't write any decent crunch for anything not directly related to space-opera or necessary stuff that every RPG has? Well, with this update, I show you that I was... half right. The starships section has one actual ship. This is balanced by having actual rules for creating a starship, which is then balanced again by having most of these rules somewhat fuzzy. You'll see what I mean through the rest of this update.
But First, Some Fluff
Yep, once again, a section starts with some fluff. But this fluff is somewhat different, as it is both useful and applicable to all characters. First, I'm going to ask a question of Fading Suns Gms and players... did your group have a Charioteer? If the answer to this is 'no', then odds are the group got in trouble with them. Jumpgates, and how they operate, is the reason why.
Now, as we've mentioned long, long ago, Jumpgates are hideously complex Annunaki artifacts that allow travel between the Known Worlds. Stargates, in general terms. But where you end up, if anywhere, depends upon jump co-ordinates, signals that link Jumpgates to other jumpgates. The problem is, not all jumpgates connect to every other jumpgate, there's generally only one in a system, and the signals sent to a jumpgate are too complex to just extrapolate by hand. Without the proper signals sent, the jumpgate just won't open. It won't reset (we'll come to that in a bit), but it won't open. Now, the main acceptable method of doing this is via specialised think-machines connected to jump-drives, and the data-cylinders they use, called, unsurprisingly, jumpkeys.
Jumpkeys are the exclusive bailiwick of the Charioteers, and anyone caught using one without a Guild pilot who has the license to use it, or Guild license themselves, is in deep shit. Remember, Charioteers are everywhere, and, like many Guilds, they're run by the equivalent of organised crime groups. Each jumpgate generally has one jumproute programmed in, although keys with more than one route are not unheard of. Without a jumpkey, you need to actually have, or somehow magically divine the co-ordinates the jumpgate will use. Because of the sheer number of possibilities, just randomly entering numbers won't help, and probably won't get you to anywhere you'd want to go even if it did work.
There's a little bit of crunch to go with this, but, suffice to say, it's a bad idea to go travelling the stars without a Charioteer, and it's a similarly bad idea to let anyone know you have jumpkeys if you're not.
Oh, and that bit about Jumpgates resetting? They do that after every ship jumps, for anytime between a minute(Natural 1) to a week (Natural 20). Generally, it's about half an hour, though.
Ships, Ships, Ships
One of two ships in the entire book
So, with that out the way, we're thrown straight into rules for building our very own starship. In the basics, it's a simple (if expensive) process. In detail, it's a royal pain in the arse. Firstly, we pick a ship class from the bigass table on the opposing page. This determines how big our ship is, its maximum allowed shield rating, its HP (yes, HP... Hull Points), how fast it should be able to go, its required crew, its size, and how many hardpoints we can have. Each class can be divided into three subsets: Landers (not amazingly large, but quick), Atmosphere Craft (Seems to mean “Biggish, but atmosphere capable”), and Void Craft (The ships that are only built and meant to stay in space, like Dreadnoughts). The base cost for a ship is 10,000 Firebirds x The Size Rating (noted, confusingly, as the Hull Rating outside of the table), and everything else is additional.
Now, as far as engines, guns, and shields go, it's all pretty sensible. Shields are fairly cheap, but, as with personal shields, aren't perfect. Guns have their own HP, and can be targeted, with only certain sizes being able to mount certain gun types. All ships, unless otherwise stated, move at the same speed for their category (measured in percentage of light-speed). Now, here's where it gets a bit silly.
Sensors don't need hardpoints. They don't take up space. Everything except the super-rare and highly situational Psi-Sensors (sense neural activity, and fuck-all else) is fairly cheap. And this is where the problem lies. Because a group with more money than sense (most groups) can buy nearly all sensor types up to their maximum rating (10AU max distance), and there doesn't appear to be anything in the fluff to stop them.
Transmission methods are based on sensors, so you better hope you have something good there, otherwise help might be a long time coming... since they're based on sensors, they don't require space either. And nor do probes, emergency buoys, and a 25 AU SOS Broadcaster. The book then takes the time to tell us “Oh hey, there are no such things as life and atmosphere scanners”. Fair enough, says I! We have a brief interlude of common sense with crew.
Each ship class has a certain required crew. From Landers up, it's unlikely a party can fulfill all functions unless they're expecting a space-campaign where they're crew. At the high end of Atmosphere Craft, they're going to need to hire crew regardless of whether they can all serve. And it always helps to have backups. Luckily, each ship class can bunk a total number of people corresponding to the Ship Size plus one. So your average gaming group will need a Size 3 Lander, minimum, if they're going to do much travelling. Sanity, ne'er were you so welcomed (or reviled).
In any case, the rest of the section before starship rules is taken up by standard stuff you will be expecting, such as food supply in days per ship, cargo space, and the fact that there are various Think Machines in starships, for obvious reasons. Think Machine is an important skill, which makes one wonder how most groups get by without all being Guild members.
We are then provided with two pre-made ships (both rather situational, and told about ship combat, which is pretty standard).
Just One More Fluff, Daddy, Please!
The OTHER ship in the entire book
Before we kiss goodbye to a decidedly iffy chapter, we are told about three kinds of Annunaki Artifacts: Gargoyles, Soul Shards, and Philosopher's Stones. Gargoyles are basically enigmatic Annunaki statues that do various magical/heinous things to the surrounding area or people around them (no two are really alike, and they dampen both Hubris and Urge. As we'll see in later books, they feature heavily in the unfinished metaplot. The most important Gargoyle is the Gargoyle of Nowhere, which gives weird visions to some of the people who visit it. Visions of the Future, woooooo!
Soul Shards are basically psi boosters, healing aids for psychological wounds, and Wyrd batteries. Some of them can do other things, but that's basically a soul shard. Not very exciting. Similarly, Philosopher's Stones are powerful artifacts. They're one trick ponies, but that one trick is generally game changing. The most famous of these, once held by Vladimir Alecto, allowed ships to jump anywheres without a key or a gate. Like many uber-powerful artifacts, owning one is both the blessing and the curse, because they're quite literally priceless game changers that make everyone greedy and paranoid around them. Use with care.
Oh, by the way? No examples are given of any of these, stat wise so far. Next time, we'll be dealing with... Gamesmastering! Let's see what Holistic have to say about one of our favourite past-times!
"Masterful" Advice (Gming Part 1)Original SA post
WARNING: This next update involves
(because no pictures in the damn section), and
(which is always up for contention)
Fading Suns – "Masterful" Advice (Gming Part 1)
So hey, we're almost out of actual material, just a couple more chapters to go, and BAM, that's the core book! Why have I taken so long over this section? Because, even for a “Babby's First GM Sesh” section, there is a hell of a lot that is obviously stated... then obviously stated some more, for good measure. And not all of it is good advice. For a start, it's never a good sign when one of the authors (Andrew Greenberg) is giving advice that is supposedly separate to the rest of the chapter, yet it's put in bold, italicised text, often in the middle of the chapter making the same god-damn point, with Andrew's Maxims at the beginning of each of these incredibly obvious statements.
For example, every GM has the so-called “Rule 0”, otherwise known as “Ignore a rule if it doesn't make for fun”. It's a much argued rule, and is noted as Andrew's Maxim #1 in something like the third paragraph of the chapter. I'm not really going to go into detail for this update, I'm instead going to briefly comment on some of the Maxims. For example, page 254 has this beauty:
”Andrew's Maxims” posted:
Can’t stop with just one. Once you have a basic idea for a drama (the characters have to rescue an alien prince), combine it with another (a character’s hated cousin, a Scraver, is smuggling lethal chemicals off-planet) for twice the fun. This is a traditional device in books and movies (meshing plots and subplots) that works equally well for roleplaying.
Yes, that's right. Now, some of the time, this is a good idea. The vast majority of the time, you don't want multiple subplots, because it's only going to cause grief for players, especially newbies. This, by the way, is the second Maxim under the heading “The Beginning” (of an adventure... no, wait, sorry... DRAMA ). Then Andrew buggers off for a while while such weighty concepts as conflict (what, exactly, is the enemy here?) and Theme (is the adventure trying to go for a feel, or even, LE GASP, a “message”?). And then, for “The Middle” (guess), he returns, like a god-damn bad penny.
”Andrew's Maxims” posted:
Andrew’s Maxim: Suspense, suspense, suspense — then up the suspense some
more. Suspense comes from having almost all the information. The players should have enough to know something of what is going on and care about what they don’t know.
Yes, because being overdramatic about things, keeping the players in suspense, and almost knowing all they need to know aren't mutually exclusive in, ooh... a lot of adventures. For example, an investigation has them only knowing almost all they need to know toward the end. Push events too far with too much “OMIGOSH, MOAR MYSTERY!!!”, and it becomes bedlam. Remember, this advice is likely the first thing your eye is drawn toward as a neophyte GM.
Now, the book as it is gives some helpful advice for when a story bogs down, slows down etc. It basically says “shake it up with some action that might get them back on track”. This is very similar to FATE's “Ninjas. Always Ninjas”, and has some very solid grounding. After all, you win the fight, the GM can usually just hand over an NPC who gives them a clue, tells them they're getting too close, whatever. You can even tailor it to the occasion (although Ninjas, as another RPG knows well, are always an option). So, after this brief discussion and helpful hint, what's Andrew's Maxim?
”Andrew's Maxims” posted:
Andrew’s Maxim: When in doubt, blame a conspiracy.
At first glance, it looks like good sense... then you realise it's the most tired god-damn cliché in the book. It's not fun, it's not clever, and by this point, I already decided I didn't like Andrew Greenberg and his god-damn Maxims. The fact that he wrote Chicago by Night (the setting book that formed the template of all other oVampire setting books) isn't endearing him to me either.
But wait... could it be... GOOD GOD, SOME ACTUAL SENSE! At “The End”, he finally makes some damn sense! Wait...
”Andrew's Maxims” posted:
Andrew’s Maxim: Try to have a picture of the end when you start. Just don’t expect
to ever see it.
Yeah, while it does make sense (players can derail anything ), it's not actually helpful , except to put off novice Gms who have never encountered the various species of PnP player out there, and now will never learn how to fend off the much-maligned (and rightfully so) Dickish Rules-Lawyer.
Now, keep in mind, most (not all, but most) of the advice in the chapter is quite sensible, and has thus far only applied to single adventures. Now we get to Epics, Mr. Greenberg becomes a bit more comfortable, and most of the advice he gives is useful, as is the main text's (For example, give NPCs something slightly memorable, like a kicking rad tasche or a lisp... he doesn't mention that you don't generally give mooks this to avoid pointless work, but that's fine). As such, while the Gming chapter has its lownotes, it's generally alright.
And then we get to the pre-written antagonists.
People You Love To Hate (Gming Part 2)Original SA post Fading Suns – People You Love To Hate (Gming Part 2)
Ah, antagonists. What story could be complete without one? Yes, yes, but apart from “Survival against the elements”, “Exploration of Deserted World”, and about fifty other different types, what story would be complete without someone to punch in the face at the end with an air of smug self-satisfaction, or give the GM a glow of smug self-satisfaction themselves as they get away to annoy the players another day? Well, don't worry, Fading Suns has you covered, because it has a wide variety of... well, you'll see. They're antagonists, a'ight?
Lady Renele Goddale Hawkwood – Daddy wouldn't buy her a pony, and she was bored, so she sold her lands, bought a frigate, and became a space pirate. She hits things very hard, shoots things well, pilots a ship in the same half-assed manner a new character specialised in Piloting would, and has between 20 and 40 mooky pirates to go with her (Warning: Pirates do not come with statblock, use Thugs, and switch some shit round). Her defining character quote is: “Adventure, Excitement, Glory... Am I doing this right?” No, you aren't, because the designers gave you a “bleh” piloting score, then lumped you with a shitty tech score for further penalties. Oh, and her Think Machine is even worse.
This, and other defining quotes, remind me of that old exchange in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
”Awesome film” posted:
Sultan: Have you any famous last words?
Baron Munchausen: Not yet.
Sultan: "Not yet"? Is that famous?
Father Boris Spitteri – A corrupt priest who's gone into fencing religious artefacts, and has a gang to steal them? SAY IT AIN'T SO!!! His defining quote is pretty good for a generic concept (“Only a sinful soul could make an accusation like that.”), and, natch, he's good at fighting, shooting, and... is half assed at everything you'd expect a priest of some years to know. He's not even that good at one of his defining things, identifying relics.
”Likely Hypothetical Situation” posted:
GM: So, you're walking along the agora and [secretly rolls... a 10 on a D20]... er... [secretly rolls again, and gets a 14]...
PLAYERS: [Waiting expectantly]
GM: Er... nothing happens, the NPC has completely flubbed his Relic Lore skill, and doesn't even realise you have anything he could steal.
Now, I know nearly every GM will fudge that situation seven ways to sunday in reality, but this is just stupid. The character has an 8/20 chance to identify a relic [Wits + Lore]. And if it's super rare (and thus worth LOADSAMONEY), he will never get the VP to identify it on anything less than a crit. Well sodding done.
Chief Songho Chook
Yes, he knows martial arts, torturing, and, as the picture shows, he has a topknot. His quote informs us that “[his] employer requests that you die”. He's an obvious chinese stereotype, but he still works as a character, silly tattoos and all, because he's actually good at what he does. This is because, like every other character so far, he is good at hitting things and shooting things. What makes him weird is that he has a Tech of 7 for litte apparent reason, as opposed to Rene Hawkwood's Tech of 5 (Y'know, not able to pilot a starship properly because they're all TL6 minimum) . He has no tech skills, but he does have a laser gun. Do you maybe get the idea not a lot of thought was put into this, just maybe?
But these are all minor leaguers. It's time to meet some of the big villains, the ones you won't see face to face for at least half a campaign. Some of these people are actually important.
Duchess Salandra Decados
From this point on, you can immediately tell the focus of a character when you look for the 8's, 9's, and 10's in their skills. Of which, in Duchess Salandra's case, there are a lot of. And they're all to do with socialising, backstabbing, or intrigue. As you might have guessed, Salandra rocketed up the noble ranks, despite her parents handing her off to the Engineers at a young age, and, while she was psychotic in her youth (hence her parents sending her to the Engineers), nobody has ever caught her being psychotic since (y'know, despite several people who disagreed with her/were in the way of her plans dying suddenly and suspiciously). Oh, and she might have occasionally slept with and/or dated the Emperor (this note is supported in future fluff). This one is both a Mary Sue and a Mary Sue Killer, because she has a grab-bag of the best bits from Psi (she has high levels in Soma, Sixth Sense, and Psyche), Cybernetics (Think Machine in her head, Lithe Wire... think Enhanced Reflexes... and an Ether Ear, which listens to radio), and... look, she is the undeniable “Big Bad” of the Antagonists section, and everything about her screams “That final bullshit boss in Vidya Game One or T'Other”.
Brother Lazio – He's a charismatic douche who wants to set up a theocracy with him as the head. Nowhere near as impressive as Duchess Salandra in stats or kit, but it's implied they're more of a “facilitator” villain than anything else.
Hasaline akir Vetenant – Hey, hey, it's our favourite Space-Not-Africans, the Ur-Ukar! Except this Ukari's a villain, and, surprise, surprise, she's actually someone you can vaguely sympathise with! Except she's a filthy space terrorist out to start inter-human wars up again because of how she was mistreated, so that's that out of the window. But still, it's nice to see someone who mainly works the social angle, although, like every single character in the list so far, she could probably out shoot and out fight (or at least hit more often) than most beginning characters, or even mid-level characters.
Zulaykha Turakina and Ragnald the Red – Well, we've handled a noble, a churcher, a guildsman, an alien, a couple more humans for good measure, what have we got left on the checklist of power blocs? Oh, yes, the Barbarian Worlds. As I mentioned before, the Kurgans are Space Muslims, and the Vuldrok are Space Vikings, so can you guess which stereotype they went with here?
Well, Zulaykha (more on her later, in a sense), is a courtesan who wants to get back into the Caliphate, despite causing the Caliph's nephew to be... indiscreet. Her quote is something I will most likely never say in an RPG session. But here it is:
”Hoo Boy” posted:
“Never in all of my years have I been experiencing a lovemaking so passionate, and yet so consummately skilled, as yours, O my lord!” (or, “O my lady!” as circumstance demands…)
You'd think it would mention that she's also ruthless, but, apart from one line about wanting to get some intelligence that will buy her way out of exile from the Caliphate, and another about how she once made a Vorox soil itself with her scowl (when the mask slips), it just keeps going on and on about how she uses her charms to entrance people of both genders, how she thinks this is a grand old thing, and my my, she's always surrounded by suitors and well-wishers. Oh, and a bigass albino eunuch with a scimitar. It's like they're not even trying anymore.
Ragnald the Red is an uncomplicated one. He raided once, settled down for a while, but now he's bored an wants to raid again. I have no problems with him, as at least he's a stereotype that won't lead to bad poetry, potential NWS material, and immaturity.
But wait... we're still not done. We'll deal with the last few NPCs, creatures, et al, next time. After all, these three groups need a bit of explanation.
Psychics and Psychos and Hull-Rats, Oh My! (Gming Part 3)Original SA post Fading Suns – Psychics and Psychos and Hull-Rats, Oh My! (Gming Part 3)
It's only now, in this late segment of the book, that we're properly introduced (via the GMNPC section) to Psychic Covens. There are two of these puppies in the main, and they represent two opposing schools of thought that you may find extremely familiar, especially if you ever read an X-Men comic.
Psychics, as you may have gathered, are feared, distrusted, often hated. Two groups evolved as a reaction to this. The first, Professor Xavier's Insti- Oh, wait, the Favyana (although a psychic institute will eventually come into the story, don't worry!) and the Brotherhood of – Er... The Hidden Path . One is made of people who just want psychics to be given proper rights, but won't force it on people, instead helping psychics and stopping those other psychics, the Bro- I mean, Hidden Path, from doing terroristy things with their psychic powers because that group believe Psychics to be superior to other human beings. Remember kids, Psi-Corp is Mother, Psi-Corp is Father, and Psychics will rule the universe, because Bester said so!
Natch, the two GMNPCs for this group reflect these respective philosophies. One, Mama Rahveloon , helps smuggle disenfranchised psychics to a safe house on the House Juandastaas homeworld, where they'll be taught not to fear their differences, but keep their powers hidden, and improve them, hopefully without hurting those poor unenlightened humans. To emphasise this, it is literally the first time in the chapter I've seen someone without a combat skill.
It was hard not to draw a Dick Dastardly 'tasche on him... *sigh*
Gablante , the Hidden Path counterpart, scratches off two boxes at the same time... He's a Space-Not-Elf! Yay! Now we can mock the Ur-Obun at the same time as this bunch of moustache twirlers! See, this Obun realised that their philosophy was killing them (more on that in a future splatbook, haha!), and his response? Go join the Hidden Path, murder anyone who got in his way to power, and start attemtps to destabilise the empire so the massed psychics (because, you know, they're are BILLIONS of them) can rise up and conquer the Known Worlds... he doesn't have a plan beyond that, as is usual with moustache twirlers.
Surpsingly, his psi isn't all that impressive, with most of it being stuff that complements his fighting skills... somewhat. Nothing too broken, nothing too weak, he's just... kinda blah. Well, damn. Oh, well, at least we have the next minority power bloc that hasn't been mentioned yet!
So, nearly every time you have cybernetics, you have cyber-psychos, or people who believe that going full-borg is the best thing since sliced human (or was that toast? I can't remember, and neither can they). Interestingly, they don't like Robots or Ais... nope, only cybertech, and they call themselves Cyber-Evolutionaries. As you might have guessed from my discussion on Cybernetics some updates ago, this can potentially lead to pure broken. Nope, they just went for a Baron with a Lithe Wire, StimuSim (+2 Perception when touching stuff) and Second Brain (a Think Machine in your head), combined with... no combat skills, and a palm laser. That's right, this one's genuinely a facilitator villain, with the stimusim and extra reflexes for... no real reason. Well thought out there.
And then the book decides to half-ass it some more with The Changed . No mechanics, no NPCs, just: “Oh hey, there are mutants, and people dislike them, because many of them are dangerous, self feeding cycle of hatred blah blah blah mutants evil blah blah blah”, and then, under an entirely different heading, we get a subgroup of these (The Animalised), which takes a quarter of the page, and two fairly long paragraphs, to basically say “They're Moreau Animal-People, people dislike them, they have a tendency to give in to their animal natures, by the way, no GMNPCs or crunch here either, fuck you”.
A Hull Rat. Isn't he adorable?
To finish up this chapter, they give us one, at most two examples of each type of creature we may, or may not encounter as major threats. For animals, we have Hull Rats and Vrasht Bugs . For Hull Rats, think of DnD's Osquips (weird rats that can eat through anything except force fields and ceram-steel), and you'll have roughly the right idea. Vrasht Bugs are basically “How many poisonous looking things could we fit into the life-cycle of a poisonous bug that murders people with neurotoxin, and is found on the same planet as the introductory adventure?”. They are small, weak, yet very deadly in numbers, which they always will be. Much joy. However, we finally get to learn what Brutes are!
...They're yaks with skunk-musk glands. Good fucking job, Holistic. Good. Fucking. Job.
Oh well, we'll have better luck with the Weird Monstrosities then, no? Hrm, Zombies, but they're called Husks in this, Pretty standard zombie stuff, but then, zombies are like Graham Crackers. They're not tasty, they're not filling on their own, but add a bit of cheese, and you're set. The more powerful, the better. Can't really complain about that one. Similarly, I can't really complain that the only example of a Demon was that old standby, the old Possessed Priest gag. The fluff on demons is vaguely interesting (it goes by a Qabalistic/Christian Gnostic viewpoint, with the demons emanating from one of nine “Qlippoths”), but it's not really anything you haven't seen before. They tempt people, occasionally they go crazy and kill, and they're all . So yeah.
Then, we have Golems. Three quarters of a page of fluff lets us basically know the word Golem refers to both Androids and Robots, with AI vaguely coming under the category too, the usual stuff, including the same “Technology bad, Orthodox good” that the setting has as its theme whenever high tech is discussed, and then, after a picture of a Johnny-5 lookalike, we have stats for... The Protector . Ah, a bodyguard robot. Just what I was looking for to spice up my game. Maybe the final group can help me in my quest, as a new GM (honest!) to have an interesting template NPC, saving me some effort?
Have a picture of Fading Suns' Johnny 5, instead of a symbiot. Because.
Jenner the Symbiot , as I shall call him, is one of those NPCs meant to show the Thing-like threat of the Symbiots. He normally looks like a fat peasant, but when the time comes for him to start infecting peeps with spores/sabotage something/kill shit/do whatever is plot expedient, the skin turns green, he starts sprouting thorns, and the temporary shapeshifting too. Useful, but not remarkable.
All this time though, something has been missing. What is it? Was it one of the power blocs or threat blocs? No, I believe we've got that covered (with the exception of Mutants). What the hell is missing from this tour de force?
...Oh yeah... A complete absence of any robot crunch, or indeed, any guidance on creating NPCs/Mooks/Viable Animal Threats in any way, shape, or form!
Yep, that's right. If you're a novice GM, you're fucked unless you learn how to wing it pretty damn quickly. Even the rest of the sourcebooks don't provide much help in this area, if any, so I hope you're good with calculating how broken/easy to beat something is!
Next time, we'll briefly skip over an optional campaign type, and move on to more fluff, this time about individual planets of the Known Worlds, yay!
Whistle Stop Tour (Worlds, Pt. 1)Original SA post
Hehe, PurpleXVI: Credit to Team! Still, I want to be getting onto some new books soon (even if they
within the same series), so have another post, and another soonish.
Fading Suns – Whistle Stop Tour (Worlds, Pt. 1)
The Known Worlds are... while I was going to say “many”, do you really count around twenty as many? I don't, not in my space opera! Still, the roster does get expanded, and the Jumpgates give you some reason to be able to expand your campaign whenever the GM feels like it... but for now, we have twenty worlds, and only one of them is going to get any real page space. So let's have a look at the list, and I'll summarise the one paragraph descriptions of
the important ones even further.
Because that's genuinely how much space they give to their worlds. One paragraph each, with absolute bare bones info. Buy the splatbooks for more, if you don't want to have to improv, suckers!
The Pyre Tourist Board welcomes you with a lovely bonfire!
Absolution – Symbiots own this world now, so fuck y'all. People are terrified that the Symbiots might have another route out of the system. Later splatbooks will confirm this.
Apshai – The Vau, G'Nesh, and Humanity all live here under a Vau treaty. Obviously, the Vau portion is larger, and Imperial Spies here don't learn anything, leading to the phrase “Assignment to Apshai”, meaning a holiday.
Artemis – Sanctuary Aeon HQ lieth here. As such, Planet Law = Church Law, and immigration policies are strict. Er, weren't the Amaltheans the nice ones? Oh, apparently this is to “minimise conflict”. Obviously, this is where the best healing is, for a... tithe. Or penance, your choice.
Aragon – The Hazat homeworld. It's near Leagueheim, so the rich are really rich, and the poor are stupidly poor. Think Nal Hutta, but with spaniards in charge instead of alien slug-things.
Aylon – The Prophet stopped off here (after his vision)! Used to be an Ur-Ukar world, now it's Al-Malik, and it's largely hunting preserve and tourist trap. Clever!
Bannockburn – Three things of importance are on Bannockburn: Muster HQ, Gannok homeworld, mostly (MOSTLY) looted Annunaki ruins. The rest is just crags and moors, honest!
Byzantium Secundus – The Emperor's bailiwick. Think of it as Coruscant, but with more... active politics. This is one of maybe two, three worlds to get their own splatbook, for obvious reasons.
Cadiz – The Hironem live here, under the benevolent (really!) rule of the Decados. It was going to be a big place because of Vau negotiations, but the Vau said “fuck no, let's have it here”, and so the Decados were pissed. Not much else of note.
Chernobog – Symbiot homeworld, not covered until the ill-fated War In The Heavens books. No adventure is set there to my knowledge. Because Symbiots.
Criticorum – Want spies? Guns? Drugs? Al-Malik? If you want any of the above (especially Al-Malik), you're in luck! Criticorum is one of those trade hubs, but because it's a trade hub of all sorts of things, there's lots of espionage going on. Joy.
Daishan – It got carpet bombed by everyone, to stop the Symbiots from completely owning it. It won't appear in a future splatbook at all, and isn't important in the metaplot of the game, nosirree bob, honest injun, cross my heart, etc!
NB – It has the longest description in the chapter.
Delphi – Home of House Hawkwood. That's really all they tell you of any importance, the rest is just “Hey, Hawkwoods, they're going to win it all... maaaaaaayyyyybeee.”
De Moley – Almost vacuum world where the few habitations are sustained by... not explained. Brother Battle HQ is here, because if you want hardasses somewhere, why not a hard-to-survive mars type world? Also, beware lots of storms.
Grail – House Keddah (beast-tamers and cavalry types) live here, and so do the Etyri (bird aliens). The Prophet got healed by Saint Amalthea here, so, natch, Sanctuary Aeon live here too.
Hargard (Vuldrok) – Right past Leminkainen is Hargard. This is all you're going to know about Vuldrok space, forever, until you buy a certain splatbook. Fuck you for any more information, reader!
Hira (Kurga) – It's off the map, but because the Hazat sort of reconquered it, it's in several splatbooks. But for the rest of Kurga space, fuck you, same splatbook as the Vuldrok. Because (There actually is a good reason, but we'll get there when we get there).
Holy Terra – Only world to have more words than Daishan. As you might have guessed from the name, this is Orthodox country, pardner. The Patriarch was (officially) born on Mars, by the way. Because I know you cared about that. Oh, and nothing else of importance is said here, and it doesn't get its own splatbook.
Icon – It's where the Li-Halan stopped being filthy heretics (mostly). It's hinted that Icon has almost as many heretics as a later world, Manitou. Funny, dat.
The Istakhr Bazaar. Dancing Girls cost extra.
Istakhr – Remember what I said about Al-Malik being Not-Arabians? Oh look, stupendous buildings, an interstellar Bazaar where anything is for sale, a place where stories, perhaps even 1001 nights of them, happen... Yep, not Space-Arabians in the slightest !
Iver – This world doesn't get much detail until a much later splatbook, but it's a political hotbed, because about six different groups have a claim on it, and there's all sorts of awkward shit going on, like heretics, Third Republicans, and it's ruled by a noble house that's meant to be dead (House Chauki, which, as we'll see, is somewhat awkward for the Hazat!)
Kish – Li Halan homeworld, big woop. Maybe has more peasant uprisings than the Li-Halan are admitting. Also big woop.
Kordeth/Ukar – Natives call it Kordeth, humans call it Ukar. It's a hellworld, where every sane person goes underground, and natch, the Ur-Ukar/Ukari live here. As you might imagine from Space-Africans in a setting reminiscent of Renaissance Europe, they're not too chuffed with their lot. Gets a quarter of a future splatbook.
Leagueheim – The Merchant League HQ. Vicious politics, lots of tech, lots of money, lots of crime. Doesn't get a fair deal until a later splatbook.
Leminkainen – Another world that bordered the Vuldrok! Also, full of pagans who defy the church, somehow!
Madoc – An oceanic world that has the Oro'Ym living on it. It's not important to the metaplot they never finished at all . Really, it isn't. DO NOT LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN!
Manitou – A Vau/Human world. The Vau live on the majority of the world, the humans are suffered to live here. The Vau don't allow the Inquisition on this world, so all sorts of filthy heretics call this place home.
Midian – Birthplace of the First Orthodox Patriarch, Palamedes. For reals this time. There be heretics here, and it horrifies the now ultra-Orthodox Li-Halan. Nothing brings greater joy to my heart than this news.
Nowhere – A barren wasteland with one notable feature: The Gargoyle of Nowhere. It's a MacGuffin, the same one that drives the Mary Sues and Matty Stus we know as Alustro and his LJ Buddies, or Those Doofs We Read About At The Beginning Of Every Book. Rumoured to have become a barren wasteland because a priest let his Hubris get to 9, a long, long, time ago.
Pandemonium – See the entire chapter devoted to this shithole. Where the intro adventure starts, and, by extension, most Fading Suns campaigns.
Pentateuch – Y'know how certain cities in Europe were built to some exacting Hermetic/Qabalistic plan, people fucked up, and now it's known for weirdness? Welcome to an entire world like this. This is one of the few worlds I will actively enjoy covering when it turns up in the splatbooks. I'm not spoiling this world's many surprises until then.
Pyre – It has a really hot desert in it, is named after fire, and is presumably rather hot in general. Guess which religious group really likes this place? If you guessed Them Blokes Wot Like To Burn Stuff (Especially Heretics And FILTHY BOOKS)... You win an imaginary cookie! Don't eat it though, they'll burn you for unspecified heresy!
Ravenna – Emperor Alexius was born here, Mostly, the fluff is about how Alexius would totally go to war with the Vuldrok if Ravenna were attacked. Here's a hint: No he wouldn't.
Shaprut – Fucking pony town. No, the ponies who totally aren't amerindian natives aren't exploited for the good of their overlords, it's to pay for their safety from Symbiot raids, honest inju – Oh, wait, that would be insensitive about the ponies here, wouldn't it? HONEST INJUN IT WOULD!
Come to Stigmata for coffee, stay for the soul rending horrors!
Stigmata – If your GM sends you here, he's either setting you up for War In The Heavens (you're fucked), or he wants the campaign to be over already (you're fucked). It is important to note, however, that the former is infinitely preferable to the latter's “You get sent to Stigmata, Symbiots raid, you die because I hate you all”. War In The Heavens at least gives you some room to maneuver out of certain death!
Ungavorox (Vorox) – It's another hellworld, this time poison themed! Everything is poisonous and/or deadly with claws/teeth, including the natives, woo! Sort of owned by the Li-Halan.
Vau – You ain't goin' here, no sir, never ever. Vau don't want you dirty
humans polluting their lovely
Vera Cruz – It's pretty. It's Hazat owned. Not many people come here anymore, because while hot, tanned Hazat are indeed a tourist attraction, Hazat troop buildup isn't.
Velisimil (Obun) – Home of the Space-Elves. Gets a quarter of the same splatbook Kordeth does. I couldn't possibly think why . The book's only been hammering it in our faces every time the two are mentioned...
Vril-Ya – Wanna talk to a Vau on behalf of the Emperor? Come to lovely Vril-Ya!
Finally, we get a section on Lost Worlds. Hey, they're lost because the jumpgates closed, or people lost the co-ordinates, or everyone on those worlds died of horrible contagion no-one else wanted... it varies. We'll be seeing actual Lost Worlds in a future splatbook, but the core-book basically says “This is where you put your own damn worlds, experienced Gms”.
Next time: Wait, a planet design proce- No, wait, just a bunch of fluff disguised as a crunchy process. And Pandemonium.
Four Adventurers Walk Into A Shithole (“Appendix” Pt. 1)Original SA post Fading Suns – Four Adventurers Walk Into A Shithole (“Appendix” Pt. 1)
Remember how, last time, I said there was a planet design process? I'm not even going to put you through it. It's literally “Babby's first Worldgen Article”, without any crunch to back It up. No, I lie, one table, showing what the Garrison Number of a world means. It goes from 1 to 10, 10 being Byzantium Secundus. You figure it out.
Oh, did I mention it's 8 or 9 pages? Fuck. That. Noise. Especially since it doesn't tell you anything of actual substance . So instead, we're going to start dealing with the Appendi- Look, I can't take this seriously anymore, it's the chapter that should have been called “This Shithole Is Your Campaign Start Because We Only Fleshed This One Out So Far... Oh, There's An Adventure Here Too, If You Were Curious”.
So let's learn what we can about the shithole, eh? First off, it's called Pandemonium. It used to be called Grange. This should already inspire confidence that it's a super-happy fun place full of super-happy fun people. We'll begin with the big sidebar they always paste about these worlds, which “summarises” the world.
It's Decados ruled, by some guy called Count Enis Sharn. Check. It's at least nominally Orthodox. Check. The main marketplace is run by Scravers. Fuck. It has a moderately crappy military/police presence. Check.
It's capitol is called... The Hub. Fuck you. And then it says “Jumps: 4”. Que?
Ah, well, if you'd read the nine fucking pages of non-content , you'd have found that “Jump” stands for “How many Jumps would it take, minimum, to get to Byzantium Secundus from here?” WHO GIVES A FUCK?!? BYZANTIUM SECUNDUS HAS LOTS OF POLICE, IT'S NOT GOOD ADVENTURE TERRITORY FOR YOUR AVERAGE, TESTOSTERONE POISONED GROUP, DAMMIT! (Yes, I know it's the capital, but it's still a really meaningless statistic, for several reasons... including "It Lies")
Huff... huff... okay, all better now. Adjacent worlds are Rampart and Apshai on the dayside Jumpgate (never mind that “dayside” is a misleading term), and Iver on the nightside (this will become important very quickly in 90% of campaigns that use the corebook's beginning... forcing Dms to either wing it, or buy a splatbook. A very specific one too).
It tell us, in the summary, there are lots of planets. These will not actually be handled in any detail for a long time. Possibly not even in another splatbook... No, wait, this is the other world that gets its own splatbook!
It has a Tech Level of 5. Anything better than that, odds are it's sold by the Scravers, Engineers, or Charioteers for vastly inflated prices. The human population and alien population, however, have a very interesting note. On the one hand, you can tell Fading Suns is filled with xenophobes because Pandemonium has 500,000+ people (But they're not really certain, It says so right in the sidebar!), yet... only 100+ aliens.
To make things even more fun, the world is mainly for mining and artefact hunting (because Ur Artefacts are apparently quite common here), but the main exports add “slaves” to the list. No wonder that population is only an estimate... some people vanish, others magically appear through means that local authorities totally don't take bribes for!
Actually, they really don't, Decados are pretty cool about slave trading, so long as they get a cut. Finally, it mentions the world's condition. Essentially, the only thing that was keeping Pandemonium going were terraforming machines. Now that they've started breaking down, the world's rapidly going to shit, although there are still fertile areas. Oh, yeah, and there are nomads, which adds to the census confusion.
Next time, we deal with the history of the world, its present conflicts, its secrets (all as laid out in the 9 pages of so-called “planet generation”), and the update after that, we start dealing with the last part of the book: THE ADVENTURE.
We Don't Need No Steenkin' Terraformers! (“Appendix” Pt. 2)Original SA post Fading Suns – We Don't Need No Steenkin' Terraformers! (“Appendix” Pt. 2)
"An entire planet... of Detroit" - JamieTheD, running a game on Pandemonium
Last we left off, we were pretty clearly in the arse end of the Known Worlds. As intended by the game's writers and designers. Thanks guys, we love you too! So, let's summarise the history, present conflicts, secrets, groups, etc, etc, blah blah, about Pandemonium!
A long, long time ago, a bloke called Gilgar, who studied under an extremely famous terraformer called Doramos of Tyre (Doramos “made” Pentateuch) bought a planet called Grange. Nobody knows why it was called Grange originally, because it was a god-damn desert world. But Gilgar set up a shitload of terraformers, and, a long time afterward, the Fall happened. Grange was lost, and the population tamed the world even further in the meantime.
Fast forward to 100 years ago (4899 or thereabouts), when the Vau sold a minor noble called Count Vano Juandastaas a jumpkey, which he later discovered led to Grange. He quickly took over, and shit was good. For a while. Unfortunately, the Al-Malik lived on Grange, and won the planet from him in 4951. Cue many years of a crazy Al-Malik noble looking for treasure a fortune teller had told him was on this world. His world, until he ran out of money and had to admit he'd probably been defrauded. His noble family bailed him out by selling the world to a Decados noble called Count Enis Sharn.
Then the fun times began. A second (albeit incomplete) jumpgate was found in the system, something completely unheard of until then. Then the terraforming machines started breaking, and Count Enis basically said “I can only afford to protect The Hub, get all your asses here”. And lo, many earthquakes happened, mountains came out of nowhere as the terraforming machines broke, and things started going to shit except around The... Hub. Fuck, I hate that unimaginative name!
To make things even more complicated, study of the incomplete jumpgate led to the rediscovery of Iver, a Lost World that made everyone's lives awkward. The Decados, natch, claimed it by right of “We have the only jumpgate there” (this is actually bullshit, but nobody, not even the Decados know this yet, as it isn't revealed till a later splatbook), the Hazat want it because an awkward piece of their history (the noble house they murdered to become the Hazat) might actually still be around on Iver (or they might be fakes), the Emperor wants it (not revealed till a later splatbook) because he doesn't want the Decados to have it, and there's other fun stuff that involves said later splatbook.
And thus, that's the history of Pandemonium. Present conflicts wise, it's all about the Ur-Tech, Iver, and the shit that's resulted from the breakdown of the terraforming machines. Since everyone except the nomads have flocked to The Hub, crime is at an all time high, and the Scravers certainly aren't helping. It basically out and out states that a) Most of Pandemonium's population is now at The Hub, and b) If you don't know how to kill, you're probably meat, but if you do, damn are your services in demand!
Oh, and to make things even more fun, creatures and plants long thought killed off by terraforming are magically returning. It's fun times for everyone!
Then we come to the two supposedly interesting facts about Pandemonium: Graaf, the King of Thieves, and the Cathedral in the Badlands. In order, the Graaf is totes not a Scraver, and totes Imperial Eye (probably not revealed until the Pandemonium splatbook), and that the Cathedral somehow stands unharmed, despite being out in the shithole left by the terraforming machines breaking down... and it may just be a front for an Orthodox archaeological dig for Ur Artefacts (y'know, to keep them out of the hands of dirty heathens).
And that's genuinely all the info you'll get about Pandemonium until I deal with Complete Pandemonium , the splatbook. Next time, we'll deal with the adventure, “Diplomatic Immunity”, and I'll give you a choice as to where we go after that!
Bodyguarding For Dummies (“Appendix” Part 3)Original SA post Fading Suns – Bodyguarding For Dummies (“Appendix” Part 3)
Welcome to Pandemonium! Happy dwarves abound among the peasantry!
Welcome to “Diplomatic Immunity”, the pre-written introductory adventure for Fading Suns. What does it have to do with diplomats? Well, the noble who hires you is a diplomat, maybe... that's about the only connection I can find. The plot outline is simple enough: Don Marchenko Catilla Arronto Justus, a Hazat noble, is hiring you to go to Iver so you can go find out if the Chauki really are the Chauki, but he's going to be tied up for a few days sorting out the paperwork and visting friends In the meantime.
Right out of the gate, the GM is pretty much told that Don Marco (as my group quickly named him) isn't going to change his mind on his itinerary or plans. I really don't know why this is stressed, because, as we'll see, he has all the agency of a damp washrag in this story.
From the first scene, trouble starts, The scene is set as a really hot day at The Hub's spaceport, and a fight breaks out between a mixed group of 100 Muster and Scraver Guilders just as the ship carrying Don Marco arrives. The fight is largely inconsequential, except that the adventure starts the players... right in the middle of said group, forcing them to fight free, or have to tank damage. Anyone even vaguely skilled in Dodge is going to get away with minimal damage, but all of this, as you might have guessed, is a distraction. Cue the first Spot (Wits+Observation) roll of the game, as Don Marco starts coming down the gangway off the ship!
Yep, the fight was cover for a small bunch of Scraver (officially... Muster works just as well) thugs to try and whack Don Marco. If nobody spots them, the thugs attack, and that's the warning they get. Except there's a small problem...
Don Marco has a Wits+Observation of 18. And a Dexterity+Melee (“whalloping things with the rapier he has” roll) of 15. He has excellent clothing (1 Armour), stupid melee skills, psychic powers... He needs no damn help whatsoever. To be fair, the few times he was forced to fight when I ran it, he murdered one of the thugs in two rounds... out of the three or four the fight lasted.
So, first fight, a non sequitur with an opportunity to impress Don Marco with your (relatively pitiful) skills. And believe me, no starting characters are going to have more than 15 in a fighting skill unless they specialise. After the fight, people can ascertain that... some agent provocateur set the whole thing up! Oh noes! The party head back to Don Marco's, and he tells them what he wants them to do, and what his plans are for the next few days. These plans mean jack shit.
Second day, he goes to visit a noble friend... Count Enis Sharn (who has nothing to do with this plot). On the way, a bunch of unwashed peasant fanatics led by a preacher will ambush the party. Sort of. Effectively, they'll only preach for a bit and move on if nobody has any obvious high tech gear on them, but will viciously throw rocks and attack anyone who does. If players are even halfway competent in character generation, this won't actually happen, and if it does... they're basic thugs led by a fanatic. Injure enough of these peasants, they'll all run, and so will the preacher. He's not enough of a threat to even make a recurring NPC. This, by the way, is a scene setter, as opposed to something our mysterious agent provocateur has arranged.
But wait, it gets better! On the way back , we indireclty meet the actual antagonist of the adventure, as he shoots Don Marco's horse with some poison that causes the horse pain. Predictably, it bucks Don Marco and starts going wild. And the exact same problem with the first scene presents itself here. Dodge 15 (to get out of the way of the horse), Ride 16 (to calm the horse down), and, once again, Don Marco doesn't actually need the PCs to calm or shoot the damn horse. Not that I told my group this.
This is Bitash. Impressive, no?
And then, the piece de resistance? The assassin (a guy named Bitash) pretends to be Don Marco's Physick, and, after that gruelling ordeal, gives him something to help him sleep (Don Marco has PTSD). Except it's a slow acting poison. Never mind that Don Marco's got Wits, Observation, and Inquiry through the wazoo (Not to mention Soma). Never mind he's a noble, and thus innately suspicious, especially after, y'know, someone tried to make his own horse kill him... no, the poisoner poisons him, fuck you players. Oh, if nobody has the medic skill, it's all down to GM rolls/fudging whether Don Marco lives, and whether the players can find the real Physick.
And then the assassin sends 12 thugs to beat down the door, while he climbs in the window to try and directly murder Don Marco. This, ironically, is the only good plan in the entire adventure. 12 thugs, shitty as they are, will screw people's shit up through sheer attrition, and Bitash, when he's not rolling like ass, is a credible threat. Still, he's not really that good, and, despite my group also rolling like ass for most of this scene, managed to capture Bitash with minimal problems.
So now, the players get to actually know what was going on right? Prepare for a really big “Fuck You”.
The person who set the Scravers off, and hired Bitash was... Zulaykha Turina. She had been setting up an informant network through Hazat space, and she was afraid the Hazat were going to get Iver if Don Marco's plan came to fruition. As we'll see in a later splatbook, this is highly unlikely, and just confirms that Zulaykha is not very smart.
So, to recap: The main NPC doesn't actually need any of the help the PCs provide, the plot is railroaded at least twice, and the rationale behind the attacks is, frankly, laughable. Oh, and Zulaykha is long gone, fuck you players, you don't get closure.
Luckily, while this is one of the worse adventures Fading Suns has to offer, there are better ones out there, and the story/characters can be rejigged. But it's still a shitty introduction. And there's no writer credit for this one.
Final Thoughts On The CoreOriginal SA post
Pretty good! Although I vaguely remember that one of the many, many instant-death paths in City of Thieves led inside the palace, where either Azzur or his harem were encountered. Wasn't much of an appearance, but I vaguely remember it was there...
Anyways, moving swiftly on... to a vote!
Fading Suns – Final Thoughts On The Core
You can already see that Fading Suns is a problem child, just from the core. It wants to develop that rich, rich setting, but is hamstrung by lacklustre amounts of crunch to back it up. It wants so hard to deal with social themes, but the combat is quite obviously the focus, even though the combat actually isn't that great, and most of the pre-written NPCs who aren't shitty thugs will decimate the characters given half a chance.
You can definitely see conflicting desires of design here, and, as we move on to other splatbooks, we'll see other problems as well: Lack of continuity or errata between editions, the continuation of lacklustre crunch with pages and pages (literally) of fluff. We'll even see our fair share of pure GM bullshit, such as nigh unkillable (or literally unkillable) monsters/NPCs.
But, in the end, with a half decent GM, I would generally recommend this. The fluff, at least in the splatbooks, teases some awesome plot ideas, and continually makes reference to the metaplot of the setting (which, if you've ever watched Babylon 5, will be no surprise to you... especially if you wrote a Dune/40K/Bab 5 crossover fanfic). Sure, if you want to make a robot/alien/vehicle/NPC, you're just going to have to wing it, but hey, this is why I said “half decent GM”.
Is it mockable? Hell yes.
Is it obscure? Sort of.
Is it playable? Easily.
Is it enjoyable? If you can make your own damn creatures and NPCs with an eye to balance, definitely.
So, from here, there are several places we can go. PurpleXVI has actually mentioned nearly all the Player's Companion content I'd care to mention, but there's still shit in there. In the meantime, I give you the following choices, not based on release date, but the chains of thought we can go down, splatbook wise.
Nobles – For this choice, we'd start with the Noble splatbook, Lords of the Known Worlds , then go on to the various “Imperial Fiefs” books, and choose again from there.
Guilds – Merchants of the Jumpweb , followed by the shitpile that is Forbidden Lore – Technology (or Arcane Tech, whichever one is actually the reprint)
The Church – Priests of the Celestial Sun , followed by Church Fiefs , followed by The Dark Between The Stars , the book of “I'm Evil And I Know It”.
The Worlds – Complete Pandemonium , Byzantium Secundus , then Star Crusade 2: Lost Worlds .
Adventures – All the Shards, and all the prewritten adventures, starting with Weird Places , which has what it says on the tin.
Filthy Aliens and Barbarians – the Obun and Ukar book ( Children of the Gods ), followed by Star Crusade 1 (Crusade Hard).
The Metaplot – War In The Heavens , both books. Plus my own idea of what they were going to go for with the third, based on my knowledge of the writers.
ADDENDUM: So, after a bit of research, it actually turns out that both co-creators were ex-White Wolf employees (Bill Bridges helped with oWerewolf, among other "fine" oWoD products... Andrew Greenberg, as mentioned, is to blame for the template of every single "By Night" book , because he wrote Chicago By Night). And so were some of the artists... It explains a lot of the... things we're going to see in the future, and why the metaplot is amazingly amazing, highly derivative, and extremely stupid... at the same time.
Also, if I can afford it at some point, I will be getting back to the core... more specifically, the Revised Core, published by a company that just won't die (FASA) literally last month. Just to show you the "differences", what few of them there appear to be.
Lifeweb, The Introing (Fading Suns - War In Heaven: Lifeweb Intro Pt. 1)Original SA post Fading Suns: Lifeweb, The Introing (Fading Suns - War In Heaven: Lifeweb Intro Pt. 1)
Book by Bill Bridges, terrible cover by Bill Bridges... Inspires confidence, doesn't it?
Hello everybody... sitting comfortably? All happy after the batshit crazy that was the corebook's take on the setting? Well, I'm going to be ruining that for you over the next few months, because I'm going to be dealing with War In Heaven: Lifeweb , the first of the major metaplot splatbooks/adventures for Fading Suns.
What's wrong with it, I hear you ask? Well, while the basic Fading Suns fluff is fine, and the hints for the metaplot sprinkled throughout the other books give off an awesome Babylon 5 Vorlons v Shadows type vibe, Lifeweb and Hegemony, the first two of a planned trilogy about the "War in Heaven" hinted at in all the books deal with the equivalent of the Drakk and the Minbari respectively... or, since Bill Bridges wrote some oWerewolf as well as this (and it shows), Shifting Races and whatever the hell you can link to Weaver, respectively.
This particular splatbook deals with the Symbiots... Terrifying, shapechanging monstrosities that infect beings wherever they go, and murder things mercilessly. Except they're not so terrifying, according to this splatbook, and just want to make the universe a better, more eco-friendly place. I'm not even joking here. The adventure will involve meeting a few Symbiots, in an adventure that promises to change the setting's path and so on. We'll see about that when we get there, but for now, a basic breakdown of the book:-
Prologue - Oh, look, it's Alustro and the Whiny Bitches. I will most likely cover this within a few paragraphs, if that, it's White Wolf style intro fiction, except that nearly every Fading Suns book uses exactly the same group.
Intro - Bill Bridges lays out the metaplot.
Book One - Split into several chapters, this half of the book (more like two thirds, but hey, who's counting) tells you more about the Symbiots than you ever wanted to know. No, really, it goes on and on and on , and out of 34 pages, maybe 12 involve some form of useful crunch. I say maybe, because it's mostly magical symbiot shapeshifting powers.
Book Two - This is the promised adventure, oh-so-imaginatively called "Living Planet". What does this have to do with the adventure? Very little, actually, and this appears to be a running theme of the badly written adventures in the game.
So, I'll be seeing you for an actual update tomorrow, and then whenever I can after I've moved apartments!
Your WitH Primer (War In The Heavens: Intro Pt. 2)Original SA post Fading Suns: Your WitH Primer (War In The Heavens: Intro Pt. 2)
This is meant to be a priest, who's nice and repentant. Art Direction FAIL.
We begin the book with another of those short fictions about Alustro the Eskatonic, this time set on the Al-Malik held world of Criticorum, where a town is inexplicably being assaulted by Avestites (y'know, the ultra-conservative burny types). While hiding out,
Now, in theory, this should be terrifying, as Criticorum is only 1 jumpgate away from the Emperor's bailiwick of Byzantium Secundus, but no, this is a book about the Symbiots, and, in a fashion very similar to certain White Wolf products, we already get a taster that this book is going to present “A different viewpoint” (read: “Oh noes, the bad guys aren't all that bad!”).
They didn't move, and the thing bent down further into the dim light coming from the doorway. “I was an Illuminatus grade monk on Stigmata. I fought Symbiots, and believed them to be evil and demonic. But then I was changed, converted by a stray spore they had spread months before. They came for me and taught me who they really were. They aren't like we think. They are a good people, living closer with nature than you can know.”
sigh So the murdering and constant spore spreading is just their way of saying “Hi, how do you do?”, then? Or perhaps their forcibly converting people (mostly into mindless drones) is for everyone's good? Already, I hope you're seeing where this is going: War in the Heavens, like the WoD “Metaplot”, and various books released for WoD 2.0, fell into much the same traps (bad writing, mainly, possibly combined with being high on their own piss)... Unsurprising. Considering the writer. But, while this will become a regular rant while talking about these books, we're here to learn the lowdown on the War in Heaven.
It begins pretty promisingly on the first line: “Many cultures have mythical legends about a cosmic war fought by the gods in times past.” It even carries on the promise for the first page, where it briefly explains the following things:
The myths are true, and evidence of higher races who used/uplifted the races we see in Fading Suns today. There's just too much evidence in-setting (Jumpgates, Ur-Artefacts, Annunaki Ruins, Gargoyles).
For a while, this was studied scientifically, but now, with the New Dark Ages, the Annunaki have been split into two factions by humans... good ones, and bad ones. Problem is, they're technically correct. I'll be examining this when I eventually get onto the Obun and Ukar books, among many other places, because, like any good metaplot writers (notice I said “like”, not “they are ”), they scattered little hints all the way through most of the books.
The Symbiots and the Vau consider themselves knowledgable about their predecessors (for different reasons which are largely ignored in both books), and believe that they're coming back. This subject will also not be dealt with in either book in any sensible fashion, if at all.
Then, however, it starts falling apart. Because Bill Bridges is not an adventure writer (not a good one, at least), and he decides to give us some hooks to foreshadow the coming adventures. These include:
Religious nutter makes a prophecy that happens to come true, so he gains a following. Then he starts raving about the Symbiots declaring their “true intentions”, although he doesn't say what they are.
A Decados knight is handed a data-crystal by a low-ranking Vau, which claims to be from higher up, and to be a warning that the War In Heaven will resume. It's derided as a hoax.
A prospector base supposedly triggers an Annunaki film-projector (known as Magic Lanterns in the setting, after the victorian name for cinema), which shows Gargoyle-like tanks fighting, and soldiers with what appear to be some Oro'Ym features (they're the fishmen from Madoc)... the magic lantern, the prospector, and most of the artefacts are supposedly blown into space by a pirate raid.
Now, let's just make a little educated guess here. Remember Andrew's Maxims? When In Doubt, Blame A Conspiracy. This is the same sort of writing that made a lot of WoD metaplot, so why shouldn't it work for Fading Suns?
Well, firstly, because Fading Suns isn't strictly horror, like WoD. Secondly, because we've seen this plot done before, and better... I did mention before, didn't I, that Bab 5 was definitely an inspiration. Finally, because a conspiracy without clues isn't a conspiracy story, it's fucking idiocy. X-Files left its clues that anal-probing gray men were taking over the world, and enough of them were seen by Mulder and Scully to piece it together; Bab 5 left hints that the Vorlons were as big a set of dicks as the Shadows (who were hinted a good half a season, maybe more, before they turned up). These aren't hints. They're flavour. Oh, and none of these threads will be truly dealt with in this book, although the Vau one is dealt with in Hegemony (on a scale of “Half-assed” to “WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK?!?”, guess how well Billy-boy handled that...)
So, with all that crap out of the way, we're told a bit more about War In The Heavens: First book (this one) deals with the Symbiots (or Xildur, as they know themselves). Second (published) deals with the Vau. The third, which was never published, and, to my knowledge, never created, was meant to give us the lowdown on the Symbiots. Oh, and there are promises that there would be more symbiot books, and rules for Noble Armada with miniatures for them (the latter happened, the former didn't)
Next time, we dive headlong into the “history” of the Symbiots, beginning with the boneheadedness that led to their creation.
Eco-terrorists Make Everything Better! (Lifeweb Fluff Part 1)Original SA post Fading Suns: Eco-terrorists Make Everything Better! (Lifeweb Fluff Part 1)
Yep, that's right, folks... the existence of a species that wants to kill us all, but isn't bad, no really, honestly, it isn't... began with a bunch of eco-terrorists. Reminding you of anything? I'll give you a hint: They're large, furry, and don't like either worms or Wyrms. Specifically, this all began with a group called the UWW (United WildWorlders), who were basically like the extremist elements of Greenpeace, but in space. Natch, there was a corporation involved too, and a world about to be terraformed. Why is all this natural? Well, you terraform a world with indigent species (sentient or no), you either have to change the species beyond recognition, or (more likely) just let them all die in the process of making the world cool for humans to live on. A particular group of UWW terrorists decided they didn't like that, landed on the world of Chernobog, and decided to raise hell.
Naturally, they got in trouble, had to run like hell, and ran straight into a bunch of dormant alien creatures that woke up and infected them with something weird. Thus began the Symbiot race, although the creatures that first infected them (the real deal, the Xolotl), went extinct at some undefined period thereafter.
This is just a brief summary of something like three and a half pages, and there's a lot I've not mentioned here, but 90% of it is the kind of fluff many a goon seems to hate: the kind that will never, ever, affect players' characters unless the GM either does a time travel plot, or is a massive dick. But here's some of the important stuff:
- The first ever symbiot, if only by a tiny margin, was a man called Galt DeVatha. DeVatha is an important name in the Fading Suns universe, because in the days of the Second Republic, they were the primary jumpkey manufacturers, and, these days in the setting, they're a powerful clan of Charioteers.
- Galt was psychic, another member of the group was a Gjartin (think pagan syncretics with miracles, you've got the right idea), and both of these guys survived the Xolotl attack ang gained even more superpowers, because they both had Psi/Theurgy.
- From that moment, they could shapechange, and see the Lifeweb. What's the Lifeweb? Think of it like the Force, but a bunch of wires and balls instead of the fluid that people think of when Force metaphors inevitably come into play... They could basically see connections between life-forms, the life-force of the planet, that sort of thing... and they eventually learned to be able to fiddle with it.
Also from that moment, several different philosophies arose among the newly born Symbiots, all three or four of the ones who came out of the incident relatively sane, intelligent, and with superpowers.
So, now you know how Symbiots were born. The book makes this out like some mythical thing, with a fair amount of “This person said this, and so was born the Fuckanetic Philosophy among the Symbiots” (No, that's not a real example), but, in the end... one of the biggest threats to the Fading Suns was born because a bunch of hippies had an argument, woke up some aliens, and got nommed on for superpowers.
Next time, we'll start talking about the people in question, and the beginnings of their philosophies, social castes (oh, like Werewolf Clans? Yes, like Werewolf Clans), and how it all started going south from the very beginning... because, y'know, an apocalyptic scenario must have some element of “Oh, my tortured soul”... well, at least as far as Bill Bridges appears to be concerned, anyway.
Ship of Fools (Lifeweb Fluff Part 2)Original SA post Fading Suns: Ship of Fools (Lifeweb Fluff Part 2)
"Er, hello, we'd like to sell you insurance. Not change you into heretical beasts... just selling insurance..."
So, now that we've given you a brief outline of the stupidity that led to a (supposedly) murderous scourge on the universe, let's talk a little about the architects of this grand cosmic fuckup. First, we have Galt DeVatha . In a very real sense, he kicked this whole thing off. He was heir to the DeVatha company, but dropped it all in favour of being an eco-terrorist. Then he organised a job that got a merc company on their tail (because his team killed a few of the mercs, making it personal... no, really, that's what they wrote!), and then, when the group fell to bickering, he tried to psychically convince people to follow his lead, which woke up a bunch of aliens that turned him and his compatriots (won't call them mates, for reasons that will become clear) into some of the first Symbiots.
Then there was Solomon Frem . He was raised poor, joined the Gjartin “faith” (like many pagan faiths, it's got a lot of branches, schools of thought, etc), and became an ecoterrorist because, well, the world-mothers shouldn't be fucked with, mang... He shares the blame with Galt for waking up the Xolotl, if only because he tried to stop Galt using his empathic powers by utilising his own freaky Gaian magics.
Chi Hashimi was the third, a Ven Lohjin worshipper (Ven Lohjii is an Obun religion, not really described very well anywhere, but basically Confucian in nature)... oh, and a gengineered hermaphrodite (don't know why this was mentioned, to be honest, but more on that in a bit). Riva Alecto was a rich-girl turned space-hippy, Aldo Rimes was a writer looking for cheap thrills. Leena Riggs was a wilderness survival expert, and finally, there's Ann Basque , a former terraforming architect (who is then not mentioned for a little while).
From the moment they woke up and started experimenting, there was dissension. Oh, and they'd all turned into half animal, half human things (sounding familiar?). Chi Hashimi, despite getting crazier and crazier from doing so, felt that all of them could change into whatever the hell they wanted. Leena Riggs didn't have much say, as she was the narrative's demonstration that some people just die from Symbiot infestation. Aldo also didn't have much to say, because he turned into an animal-thing and ran off, hinting what is already known in-game, that not all Symbiots come out of it with human sentience, or much of a sentience at all. Leena, natch, has no further part to play.
Galt, Frem, Chi, Riva, and Ann all argued about what they were, the limits of their abilities, etc. Riva was the one who came up with the idea of using a shitty fake language created by a linguistics professor who faked an annunaki rosetta stone, Xoglazi, and Galt liked the idea of considering themselves a new, better species. You'll never guess which one of the two started the militant faction of symbiots, and which one the mystic... I'll give you two big clues: Riva claimed visions that validated Xoglazi, and Galt stated that nobody would laugh at them again....
Finally, there's Frem and Ann. Frem, being a bit of a hippy, realised first that Symbiots use life energy from the surrounding area to change, and that changing the body too weirdly screws with the mind (coining the game-friendly term 'Antipathy', after the Gjartin variety of Hubris). He would eventually form a new caste. Ann, meanwhile, gets jack squat input in the early days, as she is seemingly forgotten in this historical narrative.
From here, the narrative introduces the most basic division of Symbiot society, as the first Symbiots discover they can create more Symbiots by infecting other people (in this particular case, the merc company that was hunting them). The first one, taken by Chi, became a Drone (mindless, follows the commands of its creator). This isn't the first drone, but seeing as the other was a kitten, created by the animalistic Aldo Rimes... The second, taken by Frem (who later realised what was being done, arguing that only willing converts should be taken) had some brains, but mostly followed orders. That was a Servitor. The third, the leader of the company taken by Galt himself, had intelligence, but lost his identity, until Galt imprinted a new one on him. That's the most dangerous kind, the True Symbiot.
Now, before we finish this particular segment, I'd like to talk a little bit about the writing here: It's dull. You can see what they were aiming for (if you guessed Mythic, Mythopoetic, or any of those “Hey, isn't ancient history really interesting!” styles, you'd have a coconut...), but it's a long string of “This guy was like this, here's who he is, oh, here's his mates, they used to do this and this and that, they met the things, and weird things happened, and then they were a cat-person and a lizard-person and a bird-person and...”
Not that it's without proper paragraph breaks, sentence structure, whatever... but if you think my summaries of this fluff go on and on and on... picture this: I've just summed up seven pages of text in something like 2. Seven pages, which all deal with the absolute beginning of the damn species. Out of more than 120 (30 or so fluff, 35 or so Symbiot Powers, 40 or so are the adventure and stats, and the rest is the intro, opening fiction, character sheets for symbiots... yes, for symbiots... and assorted shite)
Next time, we'll see what they did with their powers. As if we didn't know...
Can't Form A World Without Breaking (One) Egg (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 3)Original SA post Fading Suns: Can't Form A World Without Breaking (One) Egg (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 3)
What is this meant to - I don't even...
I'm not going to bore you with the page and a half on how they converted the entire of Chernobog, then how the Second Republic shut the warp-gate to the system down... it's just too god-damn boring. But one of the main bullet points here is that, as with any group of people, there were a bunch of god-damn idiots who willingly bought into the whole thing for various reasons. Some of them like the power, some of them liked the eco-message, but either way, there were two camps among the Symbiots at this time: Galt's, and Frem's. Frem gave you a choice. Galt was convert-or-die, that time-honoured tradition. It was then that the symbiots learned something new, interesting, and very annoying: their imprinting started wearing off if they were too far away. There were sometimes other, weirder side effects of imprinting (groups with hive minds, et al), and, of course, there was no way to control who became a drone, a servitor, or a symbiot.
Anyways, the gate got shut down, Galt decided building a society with him in the middle, trying to preserve the Xolotl that remained, and that society was built around power and will, instead of hippy ideals, like Frem wanted. Nonetheless, Frem and Ann were about to have their own moment in the sun, one with long-reaching consequences. But first, some framing info:
The jumpgate was shut, so no new worlds. Galt apparently swore a blue streak when he discovered this, then calmed down and realised his kind were safe too.
Due to there being tons of symbiots, or for some other arcane reason, not all Symbiots could “breed”, and each generation was weaker than the last. Now, before you shout “Oooh, WoD!”, note that this was hinted with the whole “Use more power, use more of the world's energy” thing.
Naturally, those last two points mean that the Symbiots weren't in the best of all possible worlds yet.
Effectively, Frem and Ann went to the main terraformer at the north pole, got in through mostly luck (most symbiots don't remember electronic tech, and symbiots, natch, have been conditioned not to trust it by... drumroll please... GALT AND THE DUMBASSES!), and, while they were there, Frem did his Gjartin meditatin' thing (which didn't often work anymore for some reason), and saw... the Lifeweb, reaching down into the planet, all leading into a big ol' green egg which happened to co-locate with the Terraformer core. So he touched it... no punching, kicking or anything... and it shattered, releasing a shitload of energy across the world.
Why'd it do this? Well, in Fading Suns, terraforming is as much alchemy, hermeticism and qaballa as high technology, much like the architects who designed Prague and a few other places. So it's not unreasonable to assume that the energy of a world can be tapped, trapped, whatever, through various occulty means, or semi-occult ones like the terraforming machines.
Either way, this wave of energy flowed out like a tidal wave, and, natch, the terraformer sort of broke. Thunderstorms, fault-lines reopening, the sort of thing a terraformer's meant to stop (in this universe, anyways), all started happening again. Thing is, it wasn't just the weather that got a bit of a supercharge. Symbiots who were just fucking around suddenly and accidentally turned animals and plants into True Symbiots (IE – ones with full-on brains), and this had a long term effect for two reasons:
They were two new kinds of True Symbiot, that could “breed” on their own, but, due to the basic nature of the process, still had animal-like or plant-like perceptions, sentience or no.
Natch, this meant they didn't take orders from any ex-talking-monkey worth shit, couldn't be controlled for a while, and then formed their own little societies that, by and large, didn't interact with the rest.
A little later on, the next improbable and culture changing thing happened: Chi decided he wanted to merge with the world. Yup, he'd finally gone bonkers, over the top, whatever... the important thing is, to a certain extent, he actually did it. Galt and the ship o' fools discovered this, went looking for him, and found a freaky ass landscape which would grow mouths, eyes, whatever, and mutter at them in Xoglazi. For various reasons, they tried to talk him back to humanoid form, but he wasn't having any of that, and eventually stopped communicating.
So, what did our brave crew of idiots do? They dug around in Chi, to find something to keep/bury, and they found... something weird. Some gunk, that they then called zigchi (Chi's Children), which duplicated when you tried to infect it, and could be formed into a load of shapes. Oh hey, free biotech! The Symbiots, by way of fucking up, had finally got basis for kicking ass and taking names.
Next time, we'll see how all this starts going a bit to shit, and we'll almost be done with the history fluff.
W B Yeats Would Have Been Good Here (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 4)Original SA post
Is that actually part 4 or did you or I miss one somewhere?
Edit: Wait... shit . Part 4 incoming!
Fading Suns: W B Yeats Would Have Been Good Here (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 4)
Literally no artwork for this section, so have the cover again, to remind you what we're dealing with...
So, as you'd expect from White Wolf standard writing, the protagonists of this book (can't call them heroes now, can we?) start arguing, bitching, and splitting up. The price of diversity, or a tired plot device we've already seen from a different company (White Wolf) at least 10 times now? Nonetheless, it happened, and I'm here to give you the highlights.
Spooky Scary Symbiots!
Remember how Riva had some sort of religious vision, claimed that the Annunaki weren't dead (ooh, metaplot!), and was generally a little crazy? No, it was a blur because of the awful writing? Can't blame you, I only spotted it because I'm doing this in detail (Kiiiilllll... meeeeee....)
Well, surprising to anybody who hasn't read about fifty White Wolf books (or even two), this is the beginning of the evil faction that nobody's willing to acknowledge! Essentially, Riva painfully mutated and re-imprinted a bunch of Symbiots, spoke some mystic bullshit, and seemingly vanished from society. To foreshadow the fact that (Le Gasp! Shock! Horror!) at least one group of Annunaki are
”Mystic Evil Person BS” posted:
I have had a vision, from the Annunaki we have thought long dead. You and Frem preach a new life, a new connection with nature. It is a lie. The ultimate truth lies only in death, in the cold void that was our birthplace and will be our grave. I have come to preach this new truth, and to guide our children to it. Their bodies are the signs of a coming chaos, harbingers of transformation.
Hrm, hrm, hrmmmm... Bill Bridges worked (heavily, it is implied) on Werewolf: The Shapechangening (y'know, oWerewolf), and this is sounding like exactly the sort of twaddle that came out of... er... let's see... the Nephandi, the Wyrm, and pretty much every “Evil/Death/Destruction” aligned group that came out of White Wolf's printing presses. This is, sadly, the first major warning sign of what War In The Heavens is going to let us in for, and another piece of evidence for the “anti metaplot” camp of game designers out there...
The Center Cannot Hold...
As you might have guessed, this first split led to others. Ann Basque, who, up till now, had had very little interaction in this “grand tapestry”, put her head down and researched Zigchi and weather control, somehow figuring out how to create Symbiot Element Guns (spit lightning, ice, or other “elements”) in the process. Naturally, this pissed the somewhat authoritarian Galt off, and he became a bit of a tyrant. He attacked Ann's research base, alienated Frem in the process (who went to go and do his own thing for a while), and got his ass handed to him.
At this point, two important things happened: The birth of the Zuldor (Shaper) caste, an independent nation at this time, and the Animal/Plant Symbiots (those that came from animals or plants, not humans) essentially turned from Galt like a stereotypical emo teenager, stating that they could never (Unnh!) follow someone “human tainted”. Natch, this enraged the hell out of Galt, but he couldn't fight a war on two fronts (especially since, as we'll discover, both fronts were more powerful than he was)
Things Fall Apart.
Galt, despite the advice of everybody sane, attacked Ann's fortress, and barely made any headway until Ann came out herself to tell him to sod off. A fight resulted, and, long story short... both of them died. Galt crushed her head, Ann had attacked him with anti-healing symbiot-stuff, so he died of his wounds. His last words? “We... will live...”
Whatever coherence the Symbiots had, fell apart. So how did they actually become a threat? Tune in next time for... More history, yayyyy!
Some Things Are Better Left Unscrewed (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 5)Original SA post
Y'know what everyone needs? A lovely mental image. Second large paragraph down from this one, guys... enjoy!
Fading Suns: Some Things Are Better Left Unscrewed (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 5)
Presumably, this is Xokor Tlan... "Hey guys, I have a lizard in my head, BOW BEFORE MISTER SCRUFFLES!"
...And people wonder why I can't take this book seriously...
With the death of Galt, everyone kinda split into their own enclaves. Because of the hive-mind nature of the Symbiots, they're naturally called “Hives”. Galt's lot, the warmongers, are called the galzai, while we've already mentioned the shapers (Zuldor), and then there are the others. The animal/plant dudes are known as Wildlings, or Ornzai. And the nutty ones who change shape like nobody's business are called the Xanxi... although I have no idea why they suddenly switched to chinese language roots for that group (to sound different to the different people?). Anyways, they all split up and had very little to do with each other for a long time. It was during this time that...
...Okay, you ready for some shit right here? They fucked a lot, and the book considers it quite important to let us know that big Symbiots don't breed little Symbiots. They instead breed whatever the parent species is, and even takes pains to let us know that humanoid/animal crossovers have an unknown chance of resulting in one or the other. It also (more usefully) informs us that turning kiddleywinks into Symbiots tends to make them go insane or waste away before they hit adulthood. Gee, that's great compensation for the image of a fox bearing a human, Bill...
Still, something actually important happened during this period: Symbiots were starting to lose some control of their powers, Antipathy was on the rise (think of it like Urge or Hubris, but for shapeshifters), and when one Symbiot got Antipathy, others seemed to follow quickly. The Symbiot race, it seemed, was dying out.
But no, we know it's not the end of their story, because a full few centuries later, they ravage Humanity once again... so who do we have to blame? Solomon “Hippy” Frem. Down from the mountain he came, lo, and he spaketh thus... Obviously, it isn't written exactly like that, it's much more dry, but still...
...Turns out the energy of a world happens to be limited, even in Space Fantasy land, and that if the Symbiots were to survive, they must ration use of their ultra-super shapechanging powers! Thus a new group, the Phazul, or Mystery Weavers, was formed, or rather, revealed itself. Now, considering that Frem has put his hand up to be the Space Jesus of his people, can you guess what happened?
Well, consider that Bill and Andy here have been playing the Catholic angle for the entire game line now (Urth Orthodox are basically Space Catholics), and think about a common accusation levelled at the Catholic Church, especially during the Dark Ages and the Renaissance... If you guessed “The message got twisted to keep Da Man in power”... You'd be absolutely 100% correct. See, a bloke called Xokor Tlan took on the message, went to the terraforming station, took it over. In the process, he discovered that he had more energy there than anywhere else (Because he's closest to this World Egg thing they keep banging on about... I dunno, something to do with Gaia Hypothesis or something), and was thus able to declare himself Ruler of all Symbiots, or some crap like that.
Frem, naturally, disappeared, and, much like the other Space Jesus we've met in the setting, nobody knows what actually happened to him. Some say Xokor murdered him, some say he went to kill the Xolotl, but got killed by the guards, some say he died peacefully on a mountaintop... Heck, I'm sure there's some guys out there who theorise he banged his mum and those children are the chosen ones to break the DaVinci Code or some such. What matters is he left his group behind, and the Mystery Shapers form the final group, made to guide the herd in the same way the Urth Orthodox guides serfs in the Known Worlds.
Finally, we're going to be getting to the nitty gritty... the Symbiots' expansion. Tune in next time for that!
It's Not Different At All, Is It, Steve?!? (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 6)Original SA post Fading Suns: It's Not Different At All, Is It, Steve?!? (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 6)
Yep, still no artwork. We've literally gone about two pages. That's it.
As you might have guessed from our being at 6 parts of fluff, this book, like many sourcebooks for Fading Suns, is about 60% setting fluff, 20-30% crunch, and 10-20% adventure. So let's just slog on through, yes?
After the Xokor Tlan came to power (and, by the way, made Xokor Tlan another phrase for “Symbiot Ruler”), the Symbiots tried to recover their tech, but using Zigchi biomass, instead of normal technology. Effectively, they went through the same Dark Age everyone else went through post Second Republic, but for different reasons.
Firstly, they didn't have many technical types. So they offered immunity against conversion, so long as some talking monkeys went quisling and helped them work out what was what. The ones who didn't take this offer were forcibly converted, and, most of the time, the Symbiots lost either way, because Symbiosis often results in lost knowledge (or, in most cases, the complete loss of intelligence, making Drones). Terraforming Engines actually being on the planet were helpful, because it helped them codify their mystical BS regarding the Lifeweb, World Egg, and all these lovely Gaian concepts they held so dear and appeared to perceive. Not all technology was remarkably different with biomass, however.
For example, computers. Sure, computers made of Biomass could communicate with each other easily, have intelligence, all that jazz, but they needed EMP protection in-grown, or they would wipe each others' storage regularly and stop working. These EMP shells, in turn, would get diseases, get injured, or fade in usefulness, making computers no different than they are anywhere else. Biomass STL ships ran on different fuels, it's true, but they still moved by the power of things exploding, like any other STL ship. Lightning guns, acid guns, hailstone guns... all of these things could be reproduced with technology, so, capability wise, the Symbiots have only one trump card (their Symbiot abilities). But technology still had one thing that couldn't be reproduced in Biomass form.
The Symbiots eventually worked out how to make jump-drives. This was apparently hard as balls for several reasons, but they managed it. What they didn't create, because they didn't know it was necessary, was a Sathra Damper (that field that stops people tripping balls when they go through a Jump-Gate). Now, before you move on to the next paragraph, consider why this was a big problem...
...Symbiot ships, by virtue of being living creatures, tripped balls whenever they went through a Gate, same as every other living creature. And, like other living creatures, they got addicted to the sensation. The Symbiots didn't have a clue this was the case for a while, and then they discovered something: They couldn't actually build a Sathra Damper out of Biomass (for the obvious reason that it, too, would trip balls the moment they went into a Gate). Hence, the invasion of the Known Worlds was delayed by the simple virtue of a flicky on-off switch for making sure living beings didn't trip balls. They did eventually get round that, but we'll be dealing with the results of that next time. Before we do, however, let's note something.
Symbiot society had changed dramatically, and so had the lives of the humans on Symbiot worlds. Kids now felt that they couldn't wait to reach their teens to become Super-Awesome-Shapeshifty-Things, and their parents apparently loved them whatever the outcome. Oh yes, Bill, lay that Shiny Happy People crap on me... The Wildlings didn't like all of this, and would occasionally try and screw shit up for the “Human tainted oppressors”, but Wildlings were just as susceptible to losing control of their drones during times of high stress as the human-Symbiots were, and so nothing really came of this.
Now, it's time I add my own comments, not simply pointing at the flaws in the source material: Essentially, at this point, Symbiots have now been codified as an understandable enemy, with the same statistics any other bugger has (we'll see that later). In the next book, the Vau will be codified in exactly the same way. Does this make them easier to use? Only sort of. It limits their use as much as it eases it... and that makes them no more scary than Salandra Decados the Cthulhu-Statted. What makes this worse is that you can see exactly where their inspirations come from, and how they're shoddy copies of other concepts (a dumb-ass mishmash of The Thing, oWerewolves, and the Zerg, although the Zerg didn't really exist until 2nd edition came out, so it's entirely possible).
This is the flaw with a lot of metaplot content... we've seen it in Deadlands, we've seen it in oWoD, we've even seen it in Paranoia (where your buddy, The Computer, was actually destroyed in one book, as far as I'm aware). But people seem to really love their "endgame" (to the point where Diablo 3 apparently now has an "endgame"... y'know, post wrecking Diablo's shit again ). I wouldn't blame you if you stopped reading the War in the Heavens posts from now on, because it's genuinely going to get worse from here. But I will say one thing: This is not representative of the setting itself. The setting itself has some great ideas, with only a few stupid things in the background (Shantor Wang, anybody?), but books like the War in the Heavens series, or the Armageddon books for oWoD, tend to colour perception.
Anyways, rant over (for now.) Next time, we actually see how the expansion got off the ground. Expect references to other cultures we haven't really looked at yet.
Two Failures and a Landing (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 7)Original SA post Fading Suns: Two Failures and a Landing (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 7)
For some reason, people being angry at Alexius was more important for the next four pages than Stigmata, or Symbiot attacks. Expect recycled art next update.
Well, the Symbiots got to space, they got through the Jump-Gates... where did they visit as their first stop on universe conquering? This, goons and goons, is where they accidentally had their first stupid idea (of many). They jumped to a little system called Abydos, which you won't have heard of in the core book, because it's technically part of Vuldrok space, and so is covered in an entirely different supplement (Star Crusade). Considering it's Vuldrok held, naturally, they encountered our good buddies the space-vikings. While they didn't exactly whip the Symbiots (in-fighting, low tech, and disorganisation made sure of that!), they only lost the world of Abydos, as the Xokor Tlan felt that hatching Abydos' World Egg was a bigger priority than making sure a bunch of superstitious, clannish, easy to conquer types were assimilated... Hey, boys and girls, can you say “Plot Armour”? 'Cos I Can!
The Symbiots' next step on their Road Trip of Disaster were the Vau. This time, there wasn't, as such, an invasion. Nope, it was wrecked by something else entirely. The Symbiots were having a peaceful dialogue with the Vau, letting them look round the ship and all, because they had quite rightly realised that the Vau could blow them out of the water. Then, one Symbiot decided to try and convert one lone Vau functionary. To the surpise of every Symbiot, including Riziel (the one who had disobeyed orders and converted this Vau), Vau can be converted, but not imprinted (for those who've already forgotten, replace “imprinted” with “brainwashed almost immediately by maaaaagic”). So the low level Vau functionary turned tail, sprinted back to his bosses, and begged them to kill him. Another Vau then drew some pretty patterns in the air with his iPad, and seemed somewhat afraid of the result. This will be explained in Hegemony, the second book, although the Vau did turn to the Symbiots and say “Dark Taint”, before he and his bros left the ship in a hurry. They then informed the Symbiots they weren't welcome anymore. When the Symbiots argued this, the Vau fired a “warning shot” that went straight through the ship, thus demonstrating that neither Bill Bridges nor the Vau really know what a “warning shot” actually is. Luckily, the ship was able to hightail it out before the Vau decided to "warn" them some more, and Riziel, the Symbiot who started all this, was interrogated. The results were disturbing to the Symbiots, but largely unsurprising to any reader familiar with Bill's work...
...Because, Oh Noes, it turns out that she was a descendant and cultist of Riva Alecto (y'know, crazy lady), member of a group called Urgunzai, or The Dark Womb. Yes, the same group who are basically Wyrm-tainted, entropic, types, and they have supposedly (y'know, just like in every WoD product ever) infiltrated every level of Symbiot society! You may now faint in horror, scream, or (more likely) sigh in disgust and move on. I am going to spoiler something right now: Absolutely none of this seems to have any bearing whatsoever on the pre-written adventure that's meant to be mega important. None of it whatsoever. What comes next, however, has a bearing, if only because it begins the war that has gone on unto this day, etcetera, etcetera.
It all started on the world of Daishan. Daishan had no idea of the unholy levels of shit that was about to come down on it. First, the Xokor Tlan ordered deep infiltration of Daishan, in a pattern that was going to become standard for later Symbiot incursions. It's not mentioned in this extract, but this means that Symbiots get dropped in out of the way places to convert wildlife and generally get ready for an attack from behind (figuratively). Then, the feint: A single assault ship, the equivalent of a troop lander, attacked. They caused a lot of shit, a lot of panic, and a lot of people ran away from the planet, which was exactly what the Xokor Tlan wanted... or rather, what the Phazul wanted, under their “No Forced Conversions” platform. Nonetheless, a lot of people stayed for various reasons, and so the final assault had lots of potential converts.
The final assault, when it came, was twofold: A fleet turned up at Daishan, and the Symbiots who had been in the background all this time unleashed their cute and cuddly toys all over, causing chaos. Daishan, in short, fell to the Symbiots, and the humans fell back to Stigmata, because the Symbiots shifted or evolved defences as fast as the humans on Daishan could come up with attacks. Not even Fire, standard favourite of the Avestites, seemed to work. Absolution, another world nearby, was also conquered, but this is unclear anywhere except the core book's system map, for reasons I'll get into next time.
Next time, we deal with the aftermath of Daishan/Absolution's conquest, and the main Stigmata war.
Stigmata, For All Your Holiday Needs! (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 8)Original SA post Fading Suns: Stigmata, For All Your Holiday Needs! (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 8)
When the next update rolls around, I want you to compare this image with the next chapter's opening pic. I'll let you make your own conclusions.
Let's begin this one with an important note: Bill Bridges sucks at editing his own work. I have been reading the paragraphs leading up to the whole Stigmata garrison business, and the same problem arises: Daishan and Absolution are two separate planets (it even shows them as next to each other on the jumpweb map that comes in the inside cover of the FS Core book), but the book seemingly refers to the two as if they're the same world. So my possible conclusions are:
1) Bill meant to add that Absolution had also been conquered, but it got cut half-assedly.
2) Bill meant to add that Absolution had also been conquered, but it got written half-assedly. (On reflection and re-reading, this is the case)
3) Bill no rite gud. (See 2, further evidence incoming... for the rest of this book)
It is a fact that Absolution got conquered by the Symbiots around the same time as Daishan did. However, Absolution, as far as I am aware, didn't get the Daishan treatment. What is the Daishan treatment?
Well, sure, Daishan got conquered, but very shortly thereafter, the fleet that arrived decided that their best tactical plan should come from an Old-Urth magic lantern show called “Aliens”, and promptly firebombed it from orbit, because of the possibility of contamination (or, in this case, the absolute certainty of contamination). This had both expected and unexpected effects. The expected: Nearly everything on Daishan died. The unexpected (and unknown to humanity): turns out that the firebombing of something connected to the Lifeweb had a knock-on effect, as Symbiots everywhere felt the “death” of Daishan, and promptly went bugfuck insane (sometimes permanently!). The Phazul dropped out of the war, claiming to be disgusted with the forced conversions and the Xokor Tlan. The Xokor Tlan gave no fucks, and promptly decided to attack Stigmata. And lo, for a while, shit got real.
Stigmata Wins, You Lose.
The battle at Stigmata (more of a War than a battle, but hey) went pretty well for the Symbiots for a while... and then those gosh-durned psychics and theurgists turned up. Not only could psi and theurgy counter Symbiots quite well, it also laid Symbiot minds open for reading, which was a bit more than the Xokor Tlan felt they could deal with. So from the moment the first psychics hit the battlefield for real, all True Symbiots (y'know, the ones with minds) had been permanently pulled from the battlefield itself, leaving only Drones and Servitors. So the current situation is as follows:
- Stigmata is a permanent deadlock, as the Symbiots still have millions of drones and servitors to throw at the barricades every now and again, but can't send their heavy hitters, the actually smart Symbiots.
- Humankind thinks the Symbiots can't get through, but this is not technically true. There's a second jump-route that involves going through Vuldrok space to Bannockburn or Leminkainen, and infiltrating from there. Not many Symbiots take this, however, because the Space-Vikings are still somewhat mad at them.
- Meanwhile, humankind has sort of forgotten how to tell True Symbiots from humans, although Servitors and Drones are pretty easy to figure, so True Symbiots still (mostly) get through checkpoints pretty easily.
- However, the Symbiots aren't actually expanding anymore. Not only was Stigmata a bit of a wake up call, the Phazul allied with the Ornzai, and basically told the Xokor Tlan that he wasn't to expand anymore. He didn't take it too well, obviously, but the whole war has, in fact, ground to a halt.
Of course, this only lasted until the Emperor Wars. Then, the Xokor Tlan made a do-or-die attempt against Known Space, and came up against... Alexius Hawkwood, soon to be Emperor of the Known Worlds. That, and the new knowledge that the war for Stigmata was ripping the Lifeweb apart there, finally stopped outright aggression against Known Space.
And that, boys and girls, finally gets us up to the present day, where, OMG, the Symbiots' anti-war faction is on the rise, and peace talks may occur! I'll leave you to guess exactly how much of this actually has a bearing on the pre-written adventure!
Next time, I sum up an entire chapter yakking about the culture of the Symbiots, and the real pain begins!
We Knew This Already (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 9)Original SA post Fading Suns: We Knew This Already (Lifeweb Fluff Pt 9)
Image marked NWS for: dripping thighs, phallic objects, symbiot nipples, hanging gooey balls
Symbiot society has pretty much been gone over again and again in the interminable fluff beforehand, but, for those who couldn't cope with Bill's “style” (and I use the word loosely), he's handily given us a short chapter, something like 6 pages, to tell us everything important about Symbiot culture. That it is, in fact, 6 pages says a lot about the loving attention to detail. For comparison, in the books devoted to nobles, churchers and guilders, each individual group gets a 12 or 15 page chapter... plus a little bit of crunch. Anyways, on to the summarising!
True Symbiot (Xildur) – The ones with brains, who rule the Symbiots.
Servitors (Xilkim) – The not so smart ones, they follow orders. They may, over time, become True Symbiots.
Drones (Xilkuz) – Not able to change, not able to think, Drones are the slave caste, and they're too unintelligent to even realise. Essentially, people/animals/plants turned into bio-robots.
Animals (Lozai) – Naturally mobile, this is basically a catch-all for “it ain't plant, microbe, or mineral”. Symbiots can mix and match traits between species, generally breathe oxygen in some form or other, and are mobile. Beyond that, anything goes. So much for useful info!
Plants (Imzai) – While Plant Symbiots can grow legs and move about, most of them choose not to, unless they were mobile beforehand. Bill shows his amazing knowledge of plants by stating that fungi are counted among this category, even though molds and spores can't make proper symbiots.
Molds (Gimzai) – They make Drone symbiots, and possibly some forms of biotech, but that's about it.
Bacteria/Microbes (Gozai) – Used for bioweapons, for the most part. Very dangerous to the maker as well as other species, because Symbiot biowarfare adapts as well as Symbiots do.
Hives are basically like Tribes from oWerewolf, or a more hardcore Caste in pure social terms. Each “Hive” has a series of Symbiot powers that they generally have on their own, a creed detailing their philosophy, and how to advance in the ranks, but for 90% of them, if you can't figure it out from the general type description, nobody can really help you...
Galzai (“Mighty Horde”) - Ooh, look, it's the muscle-boys. Think Confucian beliefs mixed with warrior culture, you have roughly the right idea. It's their fault the Symbiot war started. Advance by being a better warrior, woot. Pro-war.
Phazul (“Mystery Weavers”) - If you guessed they're analogous to whatever Moon/Tribe in Werewolf loved their mystical BS the best, you'd be 100% correct. They're the hippies, the occultists, the mystical peace lovers. They still believe everyone should be a Symbiot though, so the idea that they rise through the ranks based on their intelligence is somewhat laughable. Anti-war.
Zuldor (“Shapers”) - The techies of the Symbiots, combined with the scientists, mad or otherwise. Natch, their entire focus is Biotech, and if you suck at Biotech, you'll not rise far in the Zuldor. Relatively neutral toward the war, so long as they can keep experimenting.
Xanxi (“Flux Dancers”) - Xanxi are, bluntly put, the “benevolent” nutters. They're sensualists, love exploring (and breaking) the limits of Symbiot shapeshifting, love diversity, love art, blah blah blah blah blah. As such, they give no fucks about the war.
Ornzai (“Wildlings”) - Think Red Talons from oWerewolf, then magnify it by about ten. Wildlings believe instinct, not reasoning, is the key, give no fucks about “human” matters (like the war), and give even less fucks about any hierarchy that doesn't involve pissing on trees or somesuch. Serve absolutely no narrative purpose in Symbiot life except as more evidence that Bill Bridges wanted to remake his eco-terrorist hippies elsewhere.
Urgunzai (“Dark Womb”) - Oooh, spoooooky, it's the ones that want everything to die, because life inevitably goes toward death, and other self-justifying bullshit that doesn't explain why they haven't killed themselves already if they believe it so god-damn much!!! Yes, folks, it's the bullshit faction everyone who's ever played an oWoD game just looooves to hate, and, surprise surprise, you get found out as one of these, you're toast.
Xokor Tlan (“Supreme Warlord”) - Nuff said, he's the head honcho.
The rest of this chapter has to do with lifecycle, how the Symbiots love their children, work hard like average folks, have art (that involves biotech or shaping their surroundings naturally), and generally how they're just another race in space, mang! I have not summarised this crap because it is, essentially, two pages on how great the Symbiots supposedly are (“Oooh, look at how we're not limited to any one perceptual framework, monkey!”). There is, of course, one true taboo in Symbiot society (what, you mean apart from being one of those dirty Twilight Abortion types?!?), and that's Antipathy. Of course, “More details on Antipathy and its effects are to be found in the [next] chapter”.
Fuck you, Bill Bridges. Oh, and while we're on the subject, doesn't this chapter's setup seem awfully familiar? There's even an “Origin” and “Upbringing” style bit, although with no crunch to back it up (yet)... This is because of one of the silliest bits of doublethink I've ever seen. Symbiots aren't meant to be played as characters, the book (and the core, and anything else which vaguely mentions Symbiots) tells us. Yet here's a nice handy reference for your (not allowed) Symbiot character, and the next chapter has rules on what Symbiot powers your (not allowed) Symbiot character has, oh, and while we're at it, in the back of the book there's a (not allowed) Character Sheet for your (not allowed) Symbiot character.
Unsurprisingly, I don't allow Symbiots as PCs in my games full stop.
Next time, we'll be taking some looks at the crunch, before we get on to... the second worst pre-written adventure in the entire product line!
EDIT: Oooh, lookie here, I made a random guess, flipped open my copy of the rarely-opened, read, or even thought of "Freak Legion" (y'all know that book if you're here, don'tcha now?), and guess whose name I found? Yup! "DEVELOPER: Bill Bridges"! Suddenly, this book makes a lot more sense!
WHY, PANCREATOR, WHY?!? (Lifeweb POWER FLUFF pt 1)Original SA post
And now, for one of the hardest F&F posts it has been my "pleasure" to write... I eventually decided
to tone it down.
Fading Suns: WHY, PANCREATOR, WHY?!? (Lifeweb POWER FLUFF pt 1)
I'm making a lot of Bill Bridges being Designer on Freak Legion. This, and the five or six other pictures like it that are in this chapter alone, are why...
Just when you think you're actually going to get some crunch... You get given a load of fluff that should have been added to the end of the last Fluff chapter, instead of poisoning the crunch with more of Bill Bridges' eco-hippiness! Sigh... Welp, time to dig in to more crap that will have little to no bearing unless you're running an entire campaign based around infiltrating Symbiots, or actually playing Symbiots (which isn't allowed)
And the worst part is that 90% of this fluff is re-iterating what Bill “I <3 WYRWULVES” Bridges has been hammering into our heads for fifty fucking pages or so. You want half a page telling you again that the Lifeweb is pretty fucking important to Symbiots? NO, I SODDING DON'T, BUT YOU'RE GIVING IT TO US WITH YET ANOTHER MADE UP NAME TO GO WITH IT, AREN'T YOU, BILL?!? Oh, look, it's another bit about the World Eggs, and how they're mighty important, too! Life force exists across the universe? My players would never have guessed this, considering they've either been trying to lessen it, or it's been trying to lessen them!
As you can guess, if you'd actually read the fifty or so pages of fluff that led up to this point, and expected some sweet, sweet crunch, you're going to be disappointed (and not a little annoyed) for another... 2 or 3 pages, before it gets into anything vaguely useful: Namely, how the fuck they use these mystical lifeweb hippy Force powers to shapeshift, and what the hell the crunch is for them.
I'll sum this up: It's a psychic power with another name (Synergy), and it allows them to shapeshift too. Everything has a “motherform”, a base form they revert to in times of stress, or when they're not actively holding a different shape. Oh, and in case you thought I was exaggerating about the “doublethink” last update?
Fuck you, Bill Bridges.
When people get converted into Symbiots, they convert their Wyrd directly into Life-Force, their Psi or Theurgy directly become levels of Synergy (minimum one if you have no Psi or Theurgy), and... ah, yes... Alien/Human becomes Symbiosis/Mundane. If you haven't heard of this, it's no surprise, because it's from way back in first edition. Y'know, the first edition that got replaced the same year. Since there is no direct correlation between Alien/Human and anything in 2nd edition, it can be safely discarded.
Synergy powers, in general, follow the same power curve Psi or Theurgy does, with Level 1 being the usual “I sense stuff”, and Level 9 being “I can shapeshift into a pure elemental form”. There's a couple of new skills for being a Symbiot, one of which is a natural knowledge of the language Symbiots speak (Khiglazi, a variant of Xoglazi, which you may remember is the bullshit language made by a conman), and a couple of benefices, neither of which are really of note.
Hell, Bill manages to keep it sane for most of the Symbiot natural powers (which also cost Life Force, but are bought like combat maneuvers!), until we hit:
OOZE: The Symbiot exudes a chemical or fluid through whatever orifice or organ desired.
Now would be a good time to put one of the OTHER images from this chapter in, for emphasis...
Well done, Bill, considering the artwork in this book, the tone, and all, no player of yours is ever going to make something fucked up based on that little power, is he? Oh, and while we're here, let's not forget Sexual Pheromones, which do what they say on the tin. Thankfully, Bill has not thought his stupidity through, and says “The opposite gender” without considering that, in pure technical terms, Symbiots don't need to stay limited to a single gender!
Apart from that, the powers are your normal mutant abilities you'd expect anywhere else. Either way, the way mutations and Synergy work, a Symbiot is actually less effective than your average player, because they have to use Life-Force (Symbiot Wyrd) to use two power sets of varying use, and thus run out of Wyrd faster than anything in the game so far!
Before we (swiftly) move on, let's mention one thing that, like every other tantalising and useful thing in Fading Suns, gets mentioned for a whole paragraph, and is then swiftly forgotten: Symbiots see areas, mostly in deep-space, but sometimes on planets, called Nullities, a sort of anti-life field that seems to be draining the stars, creating monsters, and fucking with people's heads. If it weren't for the similarities to Nephandi lairs or Wyrm-tainted zones, I'd say they did something interesting!
Next time, we carry on watching Bill run this shit into the ground, yeah!
Bill No Fink Gud (Lifeweb Crunch Pt 1)Original SA post Fading Suns: Bill No Fink Gud (Lifeweb Crunch Pt 1)
This generally doesn't happen, except unless you ignore RAW...
So, we're finally on to some form of crunch, having briefly dealt with powers last time. This time, we're going to go back to those powers, and also the way Symbiots are created (and no, it's nothing to do with daddy and mummy symbiots).
Going back to the powers, let's take a closer look at what I said about them being less effective, shall we? A normal human has a Wyrd of 5. Even a psychic or theurge has a Wyrd of something like 8 or 9. This leaves Symbiots with a Life-Force of around the same level. To use a Synergy power costs, at least, 1 Life-Force (it follows the same rules as Psi and Theurgy, so more can be spent). An active mutation costs, at least, 1 Life-Force (some cost more). So, assuming our Symbiot (let's call them Steve) had both Synergy and Mutations, and was in a fight. Even if we don't take into account accenting rolls, Keeping Calm, or Inciting Passion, they can potentially lose Wyrd at least twice as fast as a human. Oh, and all that stuff about Symbiots being really hard to kill? There's no support for it in the crunch. Mimicking takes Life-Force. Breeding takes Life-Force. Regenerating Life-Force, like Wyrd, takes time. So Symbiots, if we're to take RAW, really aren't anything more than glass cannons, and not even good ones at that. Unless we abuse the RAW horribly, which, with powers like Pheromones, Mimic, et al, I'm sure any vaguely imaginative player can do with impunity.
So let's move on to Breeding. Naturally, only Symbiots who've learned the Breeding power can do this, and, for the most part, it goes exactly as you'd expect: Forced conversion is an opposed roll, willing conversion needs no roll for the first step. Then comes the “Fuck You” roll, beloved of Traveller players everywhere... There's a chance, if you fail a roll (Human + Stoic Body or Stoic Mind, so fuck knows what it is in 2nd ed), that you'll just die during conversion. No save, just a big fuck you.
Then comes the biggest fuck you of all, and more evidence that either there's some doublethink going on (can't play symbiots, but...) or Bill Bridges really didn't think this one through: There's a roll to determine how much of your memories and identity you keep. You flub this one with a low roll, and you're basically an NPC, no save. To be a proper, sentient Symbiot, you have to have, at absolute minimum, an Ego + Stoic Mind of 8. And crit (rolling an 8). If you don't feel like crits, you have to have an Ego + Stoic Mind of at least 16, and roll 15 on a d20. If you want all your memories and skills, fuck you, that requires 18-20 (whether through crit doubling, or having an unfeasibly high stat+skill)
Finally, there's another roll the Symbiot makes to see how Brainwashed you are. If it fumbles, you're a drone, no save, fuck you. If it fails, you're insane and can't control your abilities, no save, fuck you. If it succeeds, how much it succeeds is how much you're irrevocably brainwashed. There is a system for how long Imprinting lasts, but it's hidden away in the power crunch, and is pretty much useless.
So, in summary: Symbiots shouldn't, RAW, even be alive today.
Next time, we start dealing with tech. After that, the much anticipated (yawn) Antipathy, and then we move on to... Living Planet, the thing that dares call itself an adventure for this abomination of a book!
Universally Boned (Lifeweb Crunch Pt 2)Original SA post
Know what else there's no escape from?
Fading Suns: Universally Boned (Lifeweb Crunch Pt 2)
Your friendly Symbiot Tech Support Team, hard at work!
Now, once again, we come to bits of fluff before the crunch, but, mercifully, it's actually pretty useful for a DM centering the plot around Symbiots. For example, biomass is vaguely explained (it's basically Silly Putty that can do literally anything within reason, being used to shape guns, grow ships, computers, all that jazz), and, more importantly, we get more hints of the hidden dangers of the Symbiots, which is what players bought the book for in the first place!
Essentially, the main problem for Symbiots is energy usage. In short, as the crunch suggests, they use way too much, too fast, and, while the potential exists for the Symbiots to take Life-force from the stars themselves, the Phazul are basically warning against it, for the very sensible reason that most life sort of needs them thar bright shiny gasballs, and, as is, Life-force drainage on the scale war-ready Symbiots engage in could potentially kill entire planets (like Nowhere, a dead world that once held life... y'know, a long time ago).
The book then goes into building tech. Much like everything the Symbiots do, it requires a new Symbiot only power (Shaping), and has similar guidelines to building tech in the core book (IE – Half-assed, for the most part). I may come back to those, but more importantly, we have the example items. From the word go, we already have some techs that make us wonder how the hell the Symbiots are such a god-damn threat.
The Symby-Doll , the very first entry in the list, is actually both interesting and creepy, being a living doll that plays with the child, then murmurs Symbiot propaganda and “life lessons” (read: brainwashing) while the child sleeps. Shame the authors decided that a bad pun could be used to introduce it (without Symby Dolls, children supposedly only “[kill] wild pigs, [break] glasses, and lord it over flies”. Ho fucking ho.) Also, it has no in-game use that I can see.
THRRRRRRRRPT! I'M MUMMY'S SPECIAL STOL CRAFT!
The Symbiot Shaset (Fire Extinguisher) is an example of how utterly terrible Symbiot tech can be. It's an amoeba like form (science goons, don't get angry, think of it as one of those fungal gel things instead) that expands in the presence of heat, cutting off the fire's oxygen by virtue of smothering it all. Thing is, it takes days to die after a fire, and stinks worse than a Gannok. The one example of a flitter (STOL) craft in this section is also pretty bad, as it's a lifeform that creates one kind of gas to keep itself up, and then propels itself while floating using... another type of gas forcibly expelled. Considering the science behind such a thing, I absolutely refuse to believe that this Fuming Flyer (oh ho ho ho) can reach the 500km/h the stats claim it can. And even if it could, it wouldn't go far. Bill no fink gud, once again.
The weapons (the majority of this section) are mostly gimmicky, slightly wrong sounding, or both. For example, Screamers are musical instruments that induce emotional changes in the listeners. Thing is, it requires quite a few victory points (it says successes, but I believe it means Victory Points, or it's broken) to do anything decent, and it requires a crit with high skill to make any of these emotional changes last more than a single combat round.
Meanwhile, the Pounders are an example of balance just being thrown out of the window. Supposedly, these things are only hurled at shielded or heavily armoured targets, but think about this: They latch on (in the case of shielded targets... to what? No fucking clue), and start humping frenetically at their target, doing (wait for it...) three attacks a combat round for five rounds, eight die damage pool if they hit, which they will 75% of the time (15 or less). Because they're a weapon, they don't have health, and pulling them off is an opposed roll against a target of 14. In short, you get hit by one of these, odds are unless you waste a round, you just die pretty quickly. Even if you do pull one off, another is probably going to be shot at you, and you'll die.
Continuing the “Fuck you, Balance” theme of this section, the Lobotomy Gun fires a little worm that, if it hits (three VP or it doesn't count), will instantly bypass shields (because fuck you), burrow into your brain (because fuck you), and reduce two points of Wits (one if you succeed a Endurance + Stoic Body roll)... Theurgy may be able to heal this, although it's some (very) small comfort to know that using it against anyone but Crazy Symbiots, Psychics, or Theurgists will merit Antipathy gain. Woo.
Finally, wrapping up the Tech section (that's right, as usual, it's “Make your own, slackers!”), we have medical tools. Well, one medical tool (a Leech that's also a medical scanner, that works by draining special scan fluid from a Symbiot, then turning various colours before dying to show what's wrong), one torture device (Oh, look, another variation on that sci-fi trope of “Pain Inducers”! Antipathy if you use it on someone who is nebulously defined as not deserving it, though!), and one restraint device (Inject this into a Symbiot who's lost control of his metamorphic powers, or has gone crazy, and they can't shapeshift or use Synergy powers for a while, yay!)
Now, before we end this update and move onto Antipathy, let's briefly note something: Only Symbiots can use these things without getting spored up, as far as I'm aware. And most of them are only of use to Symbiots, or massive Fuck Yous to your players. However, for people playing Symbiots, it's all grand (except the Fuming Flyer, because WHY?!?). As DM tools, they're also pretty dubious, and all except the Symby Doll are of limited scene-setting value.
Next time, we'll look at Antipathy. Oh, and another little fuck you from Bill.
Slapsies (Lifeweb Crunch Pt 3)Original SA post Fading Suns: Slapsies (Lifeweb Crunch Pt 3)
Can you guess which ones got Antipathy and which ones learned new powers? Nope, I can't either!
Symbiots, as you might have guessed from the Power Crunch way back when, have to learn new powers (much like WoDlings have to learn Disciplines or Rites or such), and are limited by group at the beginning of their lives (much like WoDlings of various stripes). However, they can attempt to learn, independently or otherwise, powers from other groups, or entirely new powers. Obviously, this is easiest to learn by being taught, but this costs money, biomass, or favours (guidelines not defined), as well as the experience you'd need to buy the power in the first place. However, failing after being taught just means the teacher sucked, and you can try again sometime (still gotta pay for the tuition though, win or lose).
Learning it on your own, while it can let you learn almost any power, is dangerous as all get out. Firstly, you're limited to your Synergy in terms of how many points you can learn of a power (there are power guidelines, but, like most creation guidelines in Fading Suns, they're not very good). The Symbiot then needs to make (3 x the power's Synergy level) Victory Points in an extended roll (10 turns between rolls, spend 1 Life-Force each roll, 12 hours max between rolls, or you just fail). A single failure means you get to make an Antipathy roll, which is like an Urge roll, in that failing is the preferable option. Fuck up (succeed) the Antipathy roll, you lose all the Victory Points you gained, get some points of Antipathy (defined later... maybe), and can't learn any powers for a week. Fumble it, and you actually activate your Antipathy (more on that later for definite!), and can't learn powers for a week!
Once you've done all that, you have either the rest of the adventure, or a month (whichever is shorter) to spend the XP to gain the power permanently. Don't manage that, and you lose the use of the power until you spend XP or go through the process all over again (with a 3 VP bonus... wooo).
Then finally, we come onto Antipathy itself. Like Urge, it lays dormant for the most part, until it's triggered, either by gaining another Antipathy point, or when the DM feels like dicking you over some. Effects range from levels 1 to 9, like Urge, Hubris, and every other "Fuck You, Magic!" Stat in Fading Suns, and, up until level 4, are psychological. Obviously, things get worse and worse, until, by Level 7, you:
- Obsess over something for a scene (L1)
- Get scared of something for a scene (L2)
- Lose one of his Learned Skills for a scene on failing a roll (L3)
- Lose control and shapeshift under certain triggers (L4, again, for one scene)
- Lose control and shapeshift under emotional trigger (L5, 1 scene)
- Have a permanent Insanity (L6, Until you lose Antipathy)
- And finally, have one of a plethora of DM F.U.s to do with your metabolism, healing, or wounds for a scene (L7)
All of this happens at the same time... Every time Level 7 Antipathy goes Active...
Obviously, by Level 9, there's no hope for the Symbiot, and only the cleansing of fire (Plasma preferred) will “save” the Symbiot and its surrounding community, as it's become contagiously tainted, giving Antipathy to other Symbiots under a number of conditions, all of which are quite common. So, how does one gain or reduce Antipathy?
Well, gaining Antipathy includes such things as “Draining lifeforce from an unwilling victim”... y'know, like enemy soldiers, who are, by their very definition, unwilling? That's 1 point if you succeed an Ego + Stoic Mind roll. There are other examples (including being Exposed to another Symbiot's Active Antipathy, or fumbling when Breeding or Shaping), but you know what isn't there? Anything we discussed at the beginning of this update, or the use of those Lobotomy Guns, and quite a few other things that supposedly cause Antipathy!
Losing Antipathy, funnily enough, is pretty easy. All you have to do to get rid of 1 level of Antipathy is... submit to torture by your fellow Symbiots! I mean, there are other ways (including communal Hive Mind therapy which... makes every Symbiot who does it make a “Gain Antipathy” roll in exchange for potentially losing 1 Antipathy... and another “Gain Antipathy” roll for everybody if it fumbles, yay!), but they suck. Being tortured is a quick fix. However, if the torturing isn't for a good reason, the torturers can gain Antipathy for doing something that's (clearly!) for your own good. So that sucks too, and, in general, Antipathy will go up and up and up if your GM is either too literal with the crunch or even slightly dickish...
And so ends the Antipathy section. Next time, we'll start dealing with the pre-written adventure for this book, “Living Planet”, but, in the meantime, I want to ask you all two questions, because I genuinely don't know the answers myself:
1) Did anybody think this crunch through? Or even the fluff?
2) How the hell are Symbiots still alive, considering the boneheaded mistakes, the poor crunch, and such “innovations” as stinky fire-smothering amoebas that are possibly a bigger threat to the users than the fire is?!?
EDIT: For those goons wondering why I called this update "Slapsies", think back to your experiences of that erstwhile child's game... or any other where the objective is to smack some portion of your friend's anatomy before (s)he does it to you... much like the crunch here... nobody wins, and hence the title.
EDIT ADDENDUM: So, What Do We Know?
I thought I'd add this at the end, because there's really nowhere else to put it before Final Thoughts, and those are long enough as is. What, considering both fluff and crunch, do we know about Symbiots? Let's take both the worst case and the best case, and extrapolate a little.
- They run out of energy and go insane really quickly. When they go insane they infect other Symbiots with their insanity, then a bunch of symbiots firebomb the place and run the risk of going a little bit insane themselves. (Most of the crunch to do with powers)
- Their genesis has to do with eco-hippy terrorists being idiots, and some of them still care about the ecology/whatnot. The rest give no fucks, being concerned with either a) Being special little snowflakes (Ornzai, Xanxi), b) Conquering everything because POWARRR (Galzai, Xokor Tlan), c) Wrecking and murdering everything for their dark masters, who they know full well aren't going to spare them (Urgunzai), or d) SCIENCE! (Zuldor)
- Their biotech sucks massive donkey bollocks (Most of the tech fluff and crunch)
- They like kinky shit more than the Decados (Ooze, Pheromones, most of the artwork in the god-damn book)
This is what, sadly, a lot of players will see.
- They're a species who at least partly care about planets and stuff, and have taken the stance of "We want to be left alone" in recent years.
- Their biotech is an interesting way to approach things, and they know things about the Dark Between the Stars that might help all the races, themselves included.
- They're mostly just as horrified about the Urgunzai as anyone else who'd discover a cult that worships The Dark Between the Stars (hinted at being one of those Annunaki/Ur races, somehow trapped in some space-time... thingumajig.
There's probably more, but here's the major problem with the fluff, crunch, and artwork of Lifeweb: It's overwhelmingly tuned toward the "Worst Case", when it's pretty clear from the writing that Bill Bridges wants us to think "Best Case... but with a hint of 'Oh Noes!'..."
Is the fluff and crunch usable in its RAW form? No, not really. Is it usable in general though? Yes, especially since it gives us yet more hints that not all is right in the Universe, and the Symbiots may be victims as much as everyone else. Think how the portrayal of the Yuuzhan Vong changed over the EU (while remembering that it had been done before a lot of it was written, and was thus planned in the EU from before Star Wars: Legacy... the comic books, not the shitty EU novels), and think how shittily written it felt in the midpoint. This may be the same thing.
Thing is... as anyone who's read EU will know, the Yuuzhan Vong were pretty shittily written the whole way through, and that comparison doesn't bode well for even the possibility of the final War in the Heavens book ever being written... Although it must be said that, as far as FASA/Redbrick are concerned, they got in touch with Mr. Bridges, and he apparently has no interest in finishing the trilogy at the moment. Probably something to do with the fact he's been helping with nWoD, and presumably being paid more for it...
Nope, You're Doing THIS (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 1)Original SA post Fading Suns: Nope, You're Doing THIS (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 1)
This image is pretty cool, in a cheesy way. Shame it has about as much to do with the adventure as the adventure does with the metaplot!
“Living Planet” is meant to be an important, for, as the blurb at the back of the book tells us: “This adventure pits the player characters against the Symbiots... with the fate of the Empire at stake.”
This is, by and large, utter bullshit . In any case, it can be played at any level, because the NPCs are the usual mix of utter bullshit and... utter shit full stop, and hints are given as to how to slowly foreshadow this adventure. Many of them are false leads, and the ones that are fully true are, by and large, either to do with the adventure itself, or are parts of the larger metaplot we've already encountered in the fluff (OMG, The Symbiots aren't fighting on Stigmata as hard!). But none of this is particularly interesting, so let's instead move on to the first point of true note in this thing: A disclaimer.
It doesn't claim to be a disclaimer, but it basically is, and mentions the following things, albeit in softer terms than I'm using:-
Here be railroading! (True... soooo true!)
There are still some choices, though! (False for the majority of the adventure)
Also, what the players do here is important! (AHAHAHAHAAA nope )
There's also an outline of the adventure, but, since it's spoilertastic (like all plot summaries), I'm just going to give my own version:
Daishan, the world wot got bombed to death during the Symbiot War, may still have people and Symbiots on it. The players will be sent there from Stigmata after [insert contrived reason to get them to Stigmata here] by Imperial Intelligence, whether as a genuine “best hope”, or because there are no other schmoes available who are both useful and expendable (yeah right), and shit will happen.
"You see this, what do you do?" , "I yawn, aim my blessed +2 Plasma Pistol, use Pancreator's Utter Bullshit, and blow it to smithereens.", "v v"
So let's get into it! The first act is relatively short, and is set on Stigmata. Why are the players on Stigmata? If you're a good GM, it's because you've been planning this for some time, and have set up the right conditions for them to be trusted by the Imperial Eye, and sent on the mission... Well, okay, if you're a good GM, you'd not run this adventure, but still... For everybody else, there's being drafted. The game goes into about three or four pages of detail on how you get drafted, what happens once you get drafted or shanghaied (the latter being more likely, if the suggestions are to be believed), how, unless you have high Status in your Guild/Church Sect/Noble House, you aren't getting out of this, and if you try to get out of this, people will hate you forever abloo bloo bloo... You may have noticed that the majority of these options are railroading, as opposed to setting the scene. This is perhaps indicative of what's in store (It so is).
So, the folks are on Stigmata, what happens next? Well, they're given a guided, educational tour designed to make sure the recruits don't fuck up in some amazingly stupid way, and, as soon as that tour is over, a flitter touches down and drops off wounded... one of whom sprays out spores, infecting two medics, who turn into Lizard men after a brief flirtation with spider legs (that drop off). The players can fight the Symbiots, and frankly, there is absolutely no reason not to, especially as the adventure stresses that not fighting them is considered cowardly behaviour (which won't change you being sent to Daishan at all, by the way). Also, just as importantly, their stats are amazingly poor, with 8 vitality, attacks that cause, at most, 3 die of damage, 2 die of armour, and can't even hit people over half the time (7 or less on a d20 to hit). Considering the average player arms himself with 6 die weaponry ASAP, sometimes heavier... you can see why this fight isn't a challenge. Nonetheless, whether the players fight or not, the lizard dudes are taken down quickly by everyone else nearby.
At this point, the book is a little confused as to whether it's railroading or a more open adventure, and states (at the end of the section dealing with the lizzie-medics) that, if the characters were press-ganged (as in two-thirds of the suggestions for kicking the adventure off...), the Imperial Eye agents who were meant to go to Daishan instead of the PCs replace the medics (with no stat changes, ho ho ho!), and the next portion assumes that the Imperial Eye are impressed with the PCs no matter what... In any case, after the fight, the PCs are brought into the presence of Salima Sahar, Imperial Eye agent, who has a little mission for them.
Next time, we'll find out what the heck she wants (hint: It involves Daishan and more Symbiots). They also don't have much choice, as you'd guess!
Boring Crap We Don't Need Redux (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 2)Original SA post
and, because I wuv you so much I want you to
, have this update at the same time!
Fading Suns: Boring Crap We Don't Need Redux (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 2)
This is Zelaya Hebron. Her statblock is OK. She will not be doing much if she goes with you, nonetheless.
As every good GM knows, setting the scene and proper plot exposition are important factors in a good adventure. Making sense is another. So Lifeweb immediately pratfalls after (and indeed, during) the opening by dragging the PCs (who, in two thirds of the openings, are random schmoes shanghaied to be dog soldiers at Stigmata) into the presence of Salima Sahar (real name: Daronza Masseri), Imperial Eye Agent (quite high up, in fact), for a highly sensitive mission and briefing. In a concession to these conscription plot paths, Salima will be bitchier to the players if they're conscripts... but she's going to send them on this mission anyways.
I'll spare you the printed dialogue (stilted), and instead give you the summary: Your mission, should you choose to accept it (If you don't, she'll argue, then send you off and get revenge on you later, murdering you silently if you ever speak of the conversation to anyone... oh, and you'll be on an Imperial Eye watchlist forever. No pressure), is to go to Daishan, which got nuked in the Symbiot War, and (according to her) recover some data on a miracle cure for Symbiosis, samples of it if at all possible. The players are also given a message, supposedly from Emperor Alexius himself, claiming this is mega important, and, on the inevitable acceptance, are bundled on a ship to Daishan crewed by the Imperial Eye.
On the way there, they're going to get harassed by the Inquisition, who are narked that the Imperial Eye are in Daishan space (this will seem stupid in just a moment), and try to get someone to talk about the mission. Anyone stupid enough to do so will receive the eternal hatred of Salima Sahar, who is forced (Horror!) to pull out a document that instantly ends the encounter.
Yep, that's right... the Imperial Eye aren't immediately showing that document because... because padding, really. Anyways, the party get to Daishan, and are shown on board...
Super Secret Space Station Daishan Z
The real name for the place is Spacebase Edo, but, basically, it's another stopping point, more yakking and padding, and some info and equipment, should the party need it. In order:
- The Symbiot Cure is apparently the objective. It's somewhere on the Southern Continental Peninsula, although nobody really knows where. This will be useless information for several reasons, one of which will become clear next update.
- Spacebase Edo was only re-opened recently, on Alexius' orders. The recent history of Daishan (IE: It got fucked up during the Symbiot Wars) is expounded upon.
- Daishan is currently only defended from space by automated Symbiot fighters, most of which have been shot down. Despite this, nobody's probed to test before the mission, and nobody's been able to scan the planet either. As far as everyone's concerned, it's a lifeless, irradiated rock.
Useful equipment is handed to the characters on request, and a ship is loaned to them. If they don't have a pilot, one is provided (Zelaya Hebron, a green rookie who has a stake in proving family legends or some bullshit).
Of course, since the first act can't be over yet, we have some final bullshit padding, in the form of...
Ooo, (Pointless) Foreshadowing!
This is Cap'n Aladotti. His stat block is better than your average player's. As such, he is most definitely not going on this mission.
Firstly, the players are asked to come to the bridge (after the briefing) via a ladder. Why a ladder? Because the elevators aren't working yet (the station only got opened up again a few weeks ago). The life support also isn't working properly, but this is a red herring intended, presumably, to create drama... which is then instantly defused by engineers brusquely telling everyone they're on top of it, so shut up.
On the bridge, they meet the commander of the base (Name unimportant), who knows about the mission, and three dudes from the Manifest Light (Stigmata Psi/Theurgy Soldiery Division). The leader of this group, Captain Iscarino Aladotti, immediately tells the players that this mission will risk their very souls, because Symbiot Taint, Oooooooooo! With all this over, the players are given their Odyssey class Explorer (y'know, the small ship from the core book?), and are immediately plunged into Act Two.
So, at this point, a little commentary: So far, the players have (worst case scenario) been railroaded, shanghaied, probably argued with a few times because they (rightfully) feel that conscription is a shitty way to start a plot, been snarked at by an Imperial Eye agent who nonetheless wants them to go on an important and life-threatening mission (or else!), and then told that it's going to be a complete and utter SNAFU for them. Meanwhile, they have engaged in one pitiful combat encounter (where starting characters can outperform the two Symbiots), two briefings (one of which was superfluous), an inquisitorial harassment that could easily have been sidestepped within seconds, some pointless foreshadowing by a man who appears precisely twice in the plot (and still, somehow, has a full stat block), and sent onto a dead world that may or may not be defended by automated Symbiot fighters (nobody knows).
Best case scenario, the players have voluntarily undergone a sensitive mission, and... well, from leaving Stigmata onwards, it's exactly the same, really... Stat blocks are presented for the NPCs of this chapter (a nice full one for Captain Aladotti and Friends), and, suffice to say, it's not a good idea to take on any of these people, as they are slightly more competent than the players, have many mooks (except Zelaya, obviously), and are, in general, better equipped than at least a starting party.
...I feel good about this, don't you? No? Then the next update will come as no surprise!
Predictably, Things Went Wrong (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 3)Original SA post
Ye gods, there is so much wrong with this adventure that it's a total of 7 updates... for an in-game period of about a week... and slightly more than 3, maybe less than 4 times the number of pages...
Fading Suns: Predictably, Things Went Wrong (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 3)
Nothing this awesome will happen in the adventure unless you seriously fuck up.
Act two (Survival) begins, as you'd expect, with the approach to the planet going horribly wrong, and a crash landing being forced. If you also guessed there's a “But first, some padding!”, you'd be perfectly correct, as it takes six days to get from Spacebase Edo to Daishan! In this time, they can talk to Zelaya (if she's their pilot), who knows as much as the players do, they can sort out their respective roles in the mission, or... they can try and hack either the ship's computer or the think-machine they've been given to see if they can find any information they've not been told yet. The ship's think-machine has nothing, and it only takes two Vps to find that one encrypted piece of nothing (Spacebase Edo repair data). The PDA (for that's what it is) given to the players, however, requires a whopping 18 Vps on a sustained roll (three hours between checks, so assuming a relatively competent person doing it? 27 hours on average.) A fumble will lock the think machine off for 48 hours, which may make a later portion of the act... awkward. Keep this in mind.
Oh, and the players can turn the ship right back around, in which case, Aladotti will pull strings to let them go, and Salima Sahar will hate them, just as if they refused the mission after she snarked at them for a bit. It's at this point that I wonder how many players got this far in play-testing... If it was playtested at all, because there are no playtesting credits.
In any case, as soon as the players get to Daishan...
Oh Look, We Crashed
Nope, this doesn't happen either, unless the Symbiot pod fractures after what happens... happens...
...A single servitor pod ship will suicidally attack. No, you don't get a space fight, you get to instantly have the ship disabled in the upper atmosphere by the pod-ship's last gasp, and two Wits + Piloting rolls are made, the first to determine how far away from the objective you are, and the second for how smooth/bumpy the landing was, since most of the thrusters are offline.
Natch, the landing will ensure the ship's too damaged to take off again after this, and several important things will be noted. Firstly, that the planet is not irradiated, just damn cold (as you'd expect after nuclear bombardment from orbit, although you'd also expect the planet to have sustained heavy damage to its basic integrity...) Secondly, the PDA will chirp, and then (providing they didn't fuck with it beforehand, and actually plug the PDA into the ship... even though the ship's computer's fucked...) play a message that can be summed up thus:
“Oh, hai thar! We weren't actually lying about the Symbiot vaccine, but it's pretty secondary to what we actually want you to do, which is go find some supposedly peace-loving Symbiots somewhere near that base we told you about (which you are guaranteed to be far away from), and see if they're open to yakkin' with us. Kthnxbai!”
That's right... even assuming the “best” path, the players have been sent on a mission where the objective isn't actually what they thought it was, but involves risking their very lives and souls by directly interfacing with Symbiots! Keep in mind that anyone even vaguely aware of Symbiots knows, for a fact, that merely being near them is risking Conversion, and not in the “You shall see the Light of the Pancreator” way, but in the “You're going to be shapeshifted and brainwashed and probably die/become a mindless slave” way.
Only, as noted, the ship can't take off, so let's carry on with the railroading! But wait... the players don't have any idea of where they are or where they're going, really, do they? No matter, the ship has a rough map of the planet, that may help, right?
Wrong. Apart from a general location (As far as I am aware, the PDA doesn't have a GPS, and it certainly doesn't mention how the players are meant to find their way from Point A (Ship) to Point B (Certain Death!)...), this information is useless to all but the prepared player! It's even worse, because, through the magic of railroading, the players are nowhere near their supposed objective, can't radio anyone because, and their only real choice of action is to look for a nearby bunker, in the opposite direction to their objective (which is half the world away), and look for parts to fix the ship that not even Zelaya (a supposed pilot) has much of a chance of fitting unless there's an Engineer in the party, yay!
In other words, we let them get lost a bit, and then...
Well, we'll see next time, won't we?
And Now, A Random Encounter! (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 4)Original SA post
Spot the BBEG before I reveal it, win a no-prize!
Fading Suns: And Now, A Random Encounter! (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 4)
Totes the BBEG... Naaaah, it's just a hull-rat, which is basically what one enemy in this next bit is... but Symbiot-y , ooooo!
Last time we left off, the party was hopelessly fucked on an arctic world that they hadn't expected was an arctic world (and thus have only general survival gear, not arctic survival gear), with no way of contacting anyone, half the world away from what they believe to be their real objective...
...Then the book recommends a 2 day hike, during which they will have to camp at least once (with a risk of the cold interfering with their rolls the next day and the next), and they will have to fight/run away from/deal with the local Symbiot fauna. The examples given are a Chukash (essentially, omnivorous, and thus dangerous, rat swarm) and Flying Cats. No, really... Flying Cats. Bill once again shows his complete ignorance of biology by having the Flying Cats be the size of panthers... with the wingspan of condors/eagles. Oh, and they have a tail now that's strong enough to grab hold of someone, then drop them into their “nest” for easy rending, or drop them from a big height to kill them that way. So not only does it make no sense (wingspan definitely not big enough for powered flight, caudal appendages on cats are notoriously weak and fragile), it also has the potential for instant lethality... because.
On the upside, their health sucks and they have no armour. So that's alright then!
Hey, Huma- Wait, What Are You Doing?
Once they reach the mountains, the party encounters two strange things. The first is a bubble of temperate climate that's 10 degrees above icy death on a sharply defined spherical boundary, and goes to a whopping 62 degrees (Fahrenheit, or Centigrade? Bill doesn't tell us, all that matters is that it goes from what is presumably -30 to 62 degrees over a matter of meters). That's the good news. The other good news is that there are humans still alive on the planet!
The bad news is that they're going to ambush and capture the group (despite terrible stats that won't let them do this very well), and send them to Sister Sergia, who shall determine if they're a “Symbiot trick” or not.
Doesn't really give the impression of a pacifistic group of Symbiots, does it? But it will all make sense soon. A twisted sort of sense... but sense nonetheless.
Sister Sergia: Totes Not A Demon Worshipper
This is the woman you're supposed to trust through the entire adventure, despite her setting off even the most unobservant person's bullshit alarms... Also, totes not the BBEG, so there!
Here's where it gets a bit weird. The players can convince either the hunting party or the survivor encampment (yes, there's a survivor encampment these chucklefucks are from), but all this does is either jumpstart you to a section titled “The Sacrifice” (portentalicious!) or whether Sister Sergia attempts to convince the players to bundle the survivors into the Odyssey class (which hasn't got nearly enough room) and hightail it out of there.
The optimal path for learning the true nature of Sister Sergia, funnily enough, is to not convince the tribe of anything, or to kill part of the hunting party (which will piss off the survivor encampment enough that they'll be ambushed when they get there, and skip straight to “The Sacrifice”). Listening to Sister Sergia will have her talk about the Symbiots supposedly “taking sacrifices” (y'know, like you were meant to be), by being tied to a post in the back of the cave, and the stakees are supposedly never seen the morning after a big rock is rolled in front of the entrance for the night. Oh, and apparently, the Symbiots forced Sister Sergia and company to make the altar according to their specifications... This is complete and utter bullshit, and, if you skip to the Sacrifice portion, you'll see why...
...Although if you say that the ship's buggered, or that you can't possibly rescue the survivors with your tiny ship, she'll have you “sacrificed” anyways, claiming that “I must protect my people.” If you guessed that this is also bullshit, congratulations! Now...
The Sacrifice (Most Dangerous, Most Optimal)
HIL STAN! Yep, the Altar is totes the BBEG, it has better stats than Salandra Decados... even though it can't move.
Odds are, sooner or later, the players are going to be tied nekkid to three large stakes (Vorox are double chained, people with claws are chained, everyone else is just bound with heavy rope, and may have to double up on the same stake), with all their shit in a corner. There is one way out of this, but it's so unrealistic that 90% of players won't get it, and it will actually harm the plot (Say yes to getting people out, explain that they need to repair the ship, tell her where the parts are, and she'll lead them there... but nobody gets to see the Altar properly, and thus have no idea about this bit...)
So, instead, Sister Sergia will seal them in, and they have half an hour to escape and/or find stuff before... she comes back. More on that in a second. Roped characters have it the easiest: 3 rolls, maximum (each ten minutes of work) to get 9 Victory Points (rolls of 10 with a strength+vigor of 15 will get three Vps, as they have a -4 to their stat+skill... crits double Vps). Vorox have to get 6 Vps in a single ten minute roll to break one of their two chains (They need two of these rolls, but are probably still an okay bet, as the average Lifepath starting Vorox has a Strength of 8, and a Vigor of at least 4... but human strong types have a much better chance). In any case, once this (bullshit) set of rolls are over with, the remaining time can be spent making a Perception + Search roll (no penalties). 1 VP gets you a dagger that will free the roped dudes in a few turns, 3 VP gets you The Grimoire. Anyone who has Wits+Occult can make a roll, 1-2 VP will then allow them to instantly recognise it as a demonic work... Simple, right?
If all of the characters are free, Sister Sergia will crawl through a hole in the floor (noticable with another roll, and movable with yet another), and claim she's here to rescue them. If only a couple are free, she'll actually attack them. Guess which is the more optimal path for the adventure? Considering the bullshit required to free even the roped dudes, it is incredibly likely that the latter happens, and this is, funnily enough, the optimal path... especially since the characters' clothes and equipment are on a rock shelf nearby!
The fight will be pretty hellish, as Sister Sergia is an accomplished Brother Battle who happens to also be an Antinomist (Demon Worshipper). Essentially, characters should trust to their armour and try to free the others. Spoilers: She's secretly the BBEG of this plot. Look at the picture for the last two sections, see how totally secret this is!
More on this next update!
Hate To Say I Told You So (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 5)Original SA post
Kehehehe! Little did they know, that all this 3.5/PF spergin' opened the way for...
Fading Suns: Hate To Say I Told You So (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 5)
Unless this is meant to be the air-duct, this has nothing to do with the adventure... y'know, like 70% of the art in this book...
When last we left off, Sister Sergia was laying into the characters, pretending to be innocent, or... what if the players hadn't escaped? Well... you ready for a massive “Fuck You”?
If the players haven't freed themselves by the time Sister Sergia arrives, she starts a ritual... which takes 20 minutes. She won't be able to do anything else during that time, so players have two more rolls to escape and smack her/free their mates, before, surprise surprise... a demon is summoned, possesses the weakest character , and starts draining their Wyrd at a rate of knots. Once the Wyrd is gone (pretty quickly), it moves onto Vitality (Health), then, once it's finished nomming on the weakest guy, it moves to the next weakest , doing the same thing until everyone is dead. At which point the book reminds us that all this could be avoided... if they'd told Sister Sergia that they could totally rescue all the survivors, and pretty please would she show them to the bunker?
As you can see, there's a lot of branching here already, but I'm going to quit talking about it, and instead sum up the possible endings:
1) Sister Sergia goes with the party to the Bunker, with them completely unaware she's secretly an Antinomist (which she is)
2) Sister Sergia gets her ass pasted over the cave, and she fulfills no further part in the adventure... the Survivors, however, truly believing she's their great white hope, will hate you forever if they find out.
3) Sister Sergia will kill the entire party before the third act begins.
4) Sister Sergia will be beaten, convince the party (somehow) that she's not an evil demon worshipper (and an apostate, to boot!), and the plot proceeds as if 1 happened.
It must also be noted that her speech, like all the dialogue in this god-forsaken pre-written, is stilted as all hell. For example: “Yes, I am a lying wretch. Why trust me, who has betrayed my people to the Symbiots? But I did it that my people should live!” Yes, the adventure makes it pretty clear that you're supposed to believe the Symbiots here are all devil worshippers on top of this, instead of the ex Brother (Sister?) Battle, who is clearly not an apostate at all! Keep in mind, that while the average FS character considers Symbiots to be baby-eaters (much like every foe), it is drummed into their heads by the Church on an almost daily basis that Demon Worshippers aren't tricked into it, they're all a bunch of murdering fuckheads who deserve to die as slowly and painfully as possible (but with their hands bound and their mouths sewn shut, so they can't summon demons).
We cut ahead now to the Bunker, which is literally half a day away. It doesn't matter what plot path you take, the party does have a map of sorts to the bunker, so they're going to get there regardless. Keep in mind, though, that doing it without Sister Sergia's help is supposedly super difficult, requiring 12 rolls on a Wits+Survival sustained roll to find it (23 to find the sekrit entrance) compared to... as many straight Wits+ Survival rolls as the DM deems fit to listen to directions, or no rolls at all (only more stilted dialogue) if they get Sister Sergia to follow.
Oh, and if they escape, knowing her secret, but not killing her? She gets the Survivors to hunt the players down like dogs. There really is no winning here. On that note... Act 3!
Optionally, within a day of the players arriving, Captain Aladotti comes looking for them, and falls for Sister Sergia's bullshit, hunting both the players and the Symbiots down... Keep in mind, both Aladotti and the Manifest Light troopers with him have the Theurgy ability “Knowing The False Heart” (Avestite Lie Detector spell) and “Scent of Evil” (Allows the Theurgist to sense Antinomists... y'know, like Sister Sergia).
I've said it before, I'll say it again... Bill No Fink Gud.
Getting Into The Bunker Part 1: SEKRIT CLUB, NO YOOMANS!
Pictured: One of five flying assholes you're probably going to meet, because you weren't nice to Sergia, like Bill wanted you to be.
The first option of Act 3 is that Sister Sergia leads the players to the SEKRIT ENTRANCE, thus reinforcing that we really are supposed to believe her twaddle about “Being forced to do it by the aliens, yes sir, not a demon worshipper at all!” More stilted dialogue, and then we actually have getting inside. Basically, at night, an air duct will open, be stinky for a bit, and close again. This is your secret way in, and it's a massive hairy cockpiece. You see, the air duct is liberally coated with Drone Spores, something seemingly invented for the adventure (Remember, the Breeding roll requires someone with the power!), that forces the players to make three Endurance + Vigor rolls or...
...bet you thought it was going to turn you into a Symbiot, considering the way things are going, right? No, instead it makes you trip balls a tiny bit, and have Lifesense (like the Symbiot power). You see people glow slightly, see them glow a lot if they're a psychic or theurge, can somehow tell the difference, and... see that Sister Sergia's aura is dark as fuck, and has obvious signs of being . Yes, that's right, somehow this is meant to be your first real clue that Sister Sergia is an evil demon worshipper! Oh, and she'll hide her aura (a very difficult thing to do, and also counterable in RAW by just sensing better) if anyone mentions it and claim it's a Symbiot trick.
Seriously, how stupid do you think we are, Bill? She couldn't be more obvious if you painted EVIL NUN in blood over her jumpgate cross tabard! Her picture pretty much says “I am not a nice person, and anyone even vaguely glancing at her sheet (as players are wont to do, bless their little hearts!) is going to spot the demonic powers! From there, they come to a grate, and then the Environment Control Room. A map is helpfully provided.
But what if they didn't have Sergia, weren't quite competent (somehow), or were just fucked over by the kind of DM who would run this crap a little much, having to go through (HORROR!), the main entrance ?
It's simple. Five flying panthers or whatever, attacking because... well, actually, it's not really explained why the Symbiots (specifically J'azeer, the boss) left them there, but we're going to be briefly charitable and assume it's because they wanted to be left alone...
...Next time, we actually deal with the indoors, and hopefully bring this trainwreck to something approaching closure!
Sturgeon's Law, In Map Form (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 6)Original SA post
Crap, I mislabelled one of the updates, so it's actually three total before we're done. Sod.
Fading Suns: Sturgeon's Law, In Map Form (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 6)
No, you don't get a key. What do you think this is, well-written or something?
As you might have guessed from the title, 90% of the map is largely empty of anything interesting whatsoever... the purpose of these rooms is always clear, but there is sweet F.A. In most of them. Four floors of Sweet F.A. I'm going to sum up the important bits, what floor they're on, and why they're important, because otherwise, I'll be here for months doing this. I don't particularly want to, ta, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to suffer through it either...
1st Floor: Containment Cells – Here, we have a very telling note saying that someone from the same team as Sister Sergia didn't believe... a woman... about the idea that Symbiots can turn people inside out, and suspects something nastier going on. If you guessed that, in true cliché form, the note is cut off before it gives any actual information, and that Sister Sergia lies about it, you win a Raggi.
2nd (“Lower”) Floor: Lab – Two things reside here... one of the three, maybe four Symbiots that live in this base (who will investigate if it hears something... what's so bad about that, precisely, Bill?), and some Symbiot grass that grabs the legs of players once they walk through it, is immune to flame, but does fuck all else (although apparently it used to drain life... no way for the players to know this). This is actually the first opportunity to end the fucking act already, but is any mention made of this? No sir. Although it may amuse you to know that the Symbiot was once a guy called Blaisedale, is now B'laz D'al (oh, my sides are splitting with your cleverness!), and his quote pretty much shows he's not up for a fight (“Hmm? Oh, Don't mind the ooze, it's pretty much a part of me now.” … Yes, he has Ooze as a power.)
Provided you get here, you can be led to the end of the act, one way or another. But, because adventurers can be notoriously stupid sometimes, we do have to go through the rest. Sorry.
2nd Floor: Environment Plant and Stores – These two contain kit (10 elixirs/medkits in the Storeroom, free Volt and Mech redemption toolkits in the Enviro-plant), but it's really the Enviro-Plant that's important... here is where you can switch the lights on, and can let everyone know you're here. Otherwise, it's dark, and it's easier for other people to... to what, say “Er, hello, is someone there?” They're pacifists!
3rd (“Barracks”) Floor: Bunkrooms – These are important for three reasons, and mildly notable for a fourth. Let's deal with that fourth reason first... a think-machine disc in the Captain's Quarters that, when played, talks about the early-mid Symbiot War on Daishan. File it under “treasure”. Also in the bunkrooms are Gazaal, Reena, and Zal, who are all Symbiots who will investigate when they hear someone. Gazaal is, for some reason, hiding.
4th (“Hangar”) Floor: Everwhere – Both J'azeer and the Think Machine parts are here. The former is surrounded by creatures that will defend him if he's attacked, and the latter is in one of three hulks. If the players were paying any attention whatsoever, they'll know to deal with J'azeer (preferably peacably... they really aren't given any reason not to except from Sergia) first.
Now that we know what's important in this map, let's deal with the Symbiots!
No pics of these symbiots, so have a map. Pictured: One ship. Not pictured: The other two ships you might have to search for bits, and the complete lack of anywhere for them to take off out of. Somehow.
B'laz D'al is a pretty cool guy. He'll quite happily talk to people, asking about the Known Worlds (he kinda misses them), telling Zelaya that he did indeed know her great-grandfather (although this slightly depresses him, as said dude was his direct superior back when he was human), and will inform the players that, while he has one sample of the Symbiot vaccine, J'azeer probably has the rest, and one sample isn't going to be helpful. He also tells them, essentially, that this vaccine has to be reinjected monthly, and can only be injected six times before it causes biochemical problems. This somehow translates to “It can keep soldiers in the field for eighteen months without risk of infection”, and we shall be examining this claim later. Otherwise, he gives no fucks. Meanwhile, Sister Sergia will constantly be urging the players to attack and, when that doesn't work, will naysay pretty much everything he says, even when he gets confused and says he doesn't have a clue what the players mean by demonic sacrifices.
Reena and Zal are really happy to see Sergia! After all, Sergia and Zal used to have a thing, and Sergia was thinking of luring that one away from Reena... however, for obvious reasons, Sergia is, at best, nonplussed at seeing them (not helped by Zal's Pheromones power), and, unlike Blaisedale, won't constantly be naysaying or trying to get them to attack. In fact, if the players really have been dumb enough to bring Sergia along, she'll blessedly be quiet for most of the conversation. Reena and Zal will notice that Sergia's puttin' out them demon vibes, but won't know what that is, and will instead ask her about it. I'm assuming that, like Blaisedale's “Nope, don't know everything, but pretty sure we don't sacrifice folks”, the combination of Reena and Zal's “Nope, don't do forced conversions, that's pretty sick!” and “Oh, hey, your aura's all black and smoky and shit, and... oh, it went away, do show us how you did that, and by the way, have you thought about becoming a Symbiot?” is meant to be another clue. Of course, Reena is a furry, while Zal is a furry-lover. Joy of joys.
Gazaal the Mad is, as you might have guessed from the title, cacklingly insane after having changed. He runs up to the players, begs them to kill him for a few minutes, and then (providing Reena and Zal don't use Organic Empathy to calm him into “a slobbering stupor”... Dms choice, effectively), will attack the players to get them to kill him in self defence. Sergia also knew him, and will try to kill him if the players don't (perhaps incurring the wrath of Reena and Zal, for some reason? No fucking clue.) His entire purpose is to a) show why J'azeer doesn't do forced conversions anymore, and b) Piss J'azeer off if anyone kills him. Y'know, like Sergia will if allowed...
Next time, we'll deal with J'azeer, wrap up the whole Sister Sergia cockup, and hopefully end this trainwreck!
The Big Revea- Ballsup (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 7)Original SA post Fading Suns: The Big Revea- Ballsup (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 7)
In the Blue Corner: Old Age Mutant Pacifist Turtle! (Strength 12, generally hard as nails if you're dumb enough to fight him.)
This is it. The scene where Sister Sergia, the true focus of this adventure, is revealed to be a big bad. On entering the presence of J'azeer, so long as the players are seen to be trying to parley (and thus prevent other people fighting, like... y'know, the Big Bad Battle Nun), they're probably going to get away with only fighting Sister Sergia... providing she hasn't been taken out already (Which any halfway competent group is going to do, invalidating 90% of the adventure's challenge.)
Of course, it's a bit of a dickpunch to these not-so-clever players that absolutely none of these reveals include the players working it out, and, in fact, the entire adventure's challenge has been written around the premise of a clearly demon-worshipping Brother Battle somehow being believed for the entire adventure. Either Sergia will attack J'azeer himself (not wanting the players to work out that she's actually been lying to the players and the survivors this whole time, despite... y'know, not doing anything but naysay or act irrationally to silence the players...), Reena and Zal will give it away by mentioning the black smoky aura (which J'azeer checks and instantly recognises), or J'azeer will notice himself and demand explanations, causing the attack.
The Red Corner, and reigning Champ of the Player Dickpunch League!
So, assuming we're still running this dross RAW, that means that in the Red corner, weighing in at so and so pounds, is Sister Sergia and Her Demon Pal Z'wotsit (Zre'heva), and... in the Blue corner (presumably, unless they're fucking idiots), J'azeer, the players, possibly Reena and Zal (who, while not exactly amazing, are at least only slightly below the average starting player), and... J'azeer's animal pals, two Mikaboshi (think Symbiot Wolverines, with fear pheromones, 4d damage, and hitting on a 16 or less), six Chukash (the rats), and three Flying Cats. Now, assuming the players weigh in (and Sergia's summoning of a demon instantly once the fight goes even slightly against her, if not her previous actions, will ensure this), let's see how that fight would play out, number-crunching wise.
Sister Sergia is tough, especially once she summons her demon buddy (14 to hit before, 18 to hit after, if only because 19s autofail, and 20s crit-fail), and the demon's power of summoning an energy shield (5 to activate, can take 15 in one hit before crashing, or five minutes... hint: it's not going to last that five minutes, and can be used once) definitely skews the odds a little bit. But her Dodge, while impressive (13 before, 19 after) can't be used against everyone, she only has 15 Vitality, and 3 of that is going to vanish the moment she goes Super Saiyyan. Compare this to the average starting party, who will have 4-8 damage die weapons, she only has 2d armour (like nearly every starting character), she has literally only a few turns of J'azeer's Drain Lifeforce power before he banishes the demon, and, even in the event he doesn't, Reena, Zal, and the Friends of J'azeer will all make sure she doesn't survive more than two rounds, three at most.
Whereupon... wait for it... SAVE OR DIE! That's right, the demon's going to leave the body if Drain Lifeforce isn't the last power used on it, and try and possess someone else, requiring a Faith + Stoic Mind roll. Faith and Stoic Mind are, respectively, the dump stat of all but Theurgists, and the dump skill of all but Occultists. On the (vanishingly small) chance the group is highly pious, or somehow everyone manages to succeed said roll, the demon is dead forever. However, if the demon possesses someone, it buffs them like it did Sergia, and goes on the rampage, requiring the same nonsense to be pulled again, this time potentially killing a PC. It won't survive the second time, but, frankly, it's going to be a piss-poor fight anyway, and a player-character is going to die because of it.
So, that's the fight with Sister Sergia.
Next time, we conclude the adventure, mentioning what happens if you completely fucked it up... and I have my say about the experience overall. Naturally, it's not going to be positive.
If You Somehow Fuck This Up... (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 8)Original SA post Fading Suns: If You Somehow Fuck This Up... (Lifeweb Adventure Pt 8)
And now, a retrospective, because there are no further pics in the book...
Sister Sergia is, at the conclusion of this fight, either exorcised and comatose for a week (J'azeer successfully uses Drain Lifeforce enough during the fight), or, more likely, very very dead, possibly along with a PC. We'll get to the parley (conversation tree) in a bit, but first...
What If They Cocked Up?
If the players really are so stupid as to believe Sister Sergia and fight with her the whole time, congratulations: You are either super-suave, or they are super-dim. Either way, you're financially set for life off the backs of your players, and I wish you karmic debts on a grandiose scale, not just because you probably have already taken advantage of this (and are thus a bastard), but because you actually put people through this adventure, unmodified, of your own free will (and are thus a bastard).
Nonetheless, it's a tough fight, because you'll have to not only kill all the Symbiots, you'll also have to deal with Sister Sergia, who plans to sacrifice you to her demon patron. Even if you survive this, I'm going to spoil this now: Everyone will think you're an idiot, even if you find the cure, and characters from the Imperial Eye up will hate you and want you dead. Congratulations, you're a bunch of blind, deaf, and gullible morons, and you deserve everything you get. The adventure says this too, and for once, we are in perfect agreement.
Yakkety Yak Yak
Isn't it great to look back through this terrible artwork, at least a fifth of which had nothing to do with anything within 10 pages?
The adventure here suggests using the social skill mechanics to parley, but, considering what just happened, I'd personally skip the Extrovert + Charm/Empathy rolls it recommends, and have either one roll to do with either explaining why the hell you let Sister Sergia trail you for so long, or no rolls, and just get the hell on with it. It's a page full of text, and the conversation ends (with them being asked to leave) if either J'azeer realises someone's trying to use a power on him (he has no ability to sense it, but maybe you're giving off... oh, who am I kidding, it's a DM-fiat!), or you fuck up too many of those social rolls (Which I don't believe in, but a lot of 90s games did). Here's the rough summary:
- J'azeer didn't know shit about Sergia's sacrifices, and will get horribly offended if you ask him why he did something that's clearly Sergia's fault. If you actually ask this, see what I said under the last sub-header... Oh, this probably fucks up any chance you had of getting the extra sample you needed.
- He's anti-forced-conversion, and anti-war. Good on you, bro! Furthermore, if asked, he'll say there are Symbies who don't want to war with humans.
- If they let him scan them for their intentions (IE – are they going to blow the shit out of J'azeer and co?), and they come up clean (which they sorta should, if you've gotten this far), he'll quite happily let them loot the think machine parts, and even show you where they are.
- The weather is J'azeer's doing, in an attempt to heal the planet of its radiation scars and the like.
- If the players are reeaaaaaaallly nice, J'azeer will mention that no other Symbiots appear to live on Daishan, and he's totally cool with co-habitation, provided nobody stops them asking nicely for people to become Symbiots every now and again... y'know, like any other “nice guy evangelist”...
Similarly, if they really, really impressed him, he'll give them that other cure sample they need, on the rationale that “Yeah, it'll hurt the war... but there's enough folks who want to convert anyways!”
All of this is, as far as the adventure goes, true. With that, the players repair the ship, go back to Spacebase Edo, get interrogated seven ways to sunday, and blame or reward is apportioned appropriately.
Oh, wait... the Survivors. They won't trust you or go with you if you say anything but “Sister Sergia was a hero, and died a heroic death”. You can fit them in the ship, but it'll be crowded, and doing so will earn you extra kudos, despite you being a filthy liar.
Rewards and Punishments
Assuming you were total idiots, Sister Sergia will go scot free, and start a widespread demon-worshipping cult, with herself at the head. Furthermore, you won't have the cure, the survivors, or any sort of peace negotiations, and will presumably be taken for a short walk out of the nearest airlock. This will be totally justified, in my GMing opinion. You'll also have 2 less XP than you thought you'd get (minimum 0)
However, assuming you were even halfway competent, the rewards are pretty sweet. 3000 Firebirds, a chance to join the Imperial Eye (and an ally in the Imperial Eye regardless), your own ship if you don't have one, and the gratitude of the survivors (who will eventually settle on Leminkainen) is quite good, in and of itself. The fact that you'll earn anything up to twice the normal amount of XP, depending on how many of the goals you fulfilled, is also pretty sweet, and being able to determine how negotations with Daishan go in future with your report is mildly gratifying, if not actually hugely important in the grand scheme of things...
...But it's not all roses, as, regardless of the outcome, you're going to be put through several interrogations, including one by Aladotti if he hears about Sister Sergia. Zelaya Hebron will also file a report on you, but Salima Sahar will mostly ignore it, as she's the more practical kind of espionage agent, as opposed to a witch-hunter. Thus... the adventure ends, although... the Vau secretly express interest in the party from this moment on... portentalicious!
Final Thoughts on Living Planet
And so, we leave a shitty adventure in a shitty book. And no fucks were given.
Short short version: Piece of shit.
Not so short version: The main villain is pretty strongly hinted to be a villain from the moment you meet her, can (with some difficulty) be handled by a starting party (especially if there's a Vorox there), yet does next to nothing for most of the adventure. There is, once you get past the villain's somewhat obvious porkies, no real reason to believe the Symbiots actually mean harm from the moment you meet Blaisedale the Gooey Scientist, and, once you've dealt with Sergia, the rest of the adventure is an almost literal walk in the park. The plot is railroady as all get out, makes assumptions that the players are so unbelievably stupid they won't notice Sergia's (metaphorical) massive sign written in blood saying “I SUCK DEMON COCKS, AND I LOVE IT!”, and seemingly punishes the player for any deviation from the storyline of “Road-trip with the demon worshipper”... except for the idea of killing Sergia as she ambushes/sacrifices them in the second act. Most of the first act is padding, most of the second act is bullshit, and the third act, played by any halfway competent group, won't involve Sergia at all, and is generally a cakewalk.
Also, there are several holes in the design. For example, you may have noticed the plot pretty much requires an Engineer (to install the Think Machine, or jigger one of the other ones), and is broken in half by any halfway competent starting Theurgist/Psychic (especially Avestites, Eskatonics, Sixth Sense, or Psyche).
So, to sum up... this is the second worst pre-written adventure I've ever encountered. We'll be dealing with the worst sooner or later, as, funnily enough, it's the pre-written for the next book in the never-to-be-finished trilogy.
Next time, my final thoughts on Lifeweb, and, after that, a break of relative enjoyment as we plum through the second book, Hegemony, which only has a few truly sucky sections. Sadly, this includes the adventure...
The Party's Over (Lifeweb Final Thoughts)Original SA post Fading Suns: The Party's Over (Lifeweb Final Thoughts) ]
Lifeweb, the book, is a massive pile of suck. But it nonetheless gives us clues to the metaplot, which has elements of cool in it. So why does the book suck? Because it utterly fails to address a single one. What are the Xolotl, really? The book shrugs, moves on, and never mentions them again. What's making/inside the Nullities? The book shrugs, moves on, and never mentions them again... although many other books in the line hint that, yes, there is something in the cold, dark places, and it ain't friendly. What's with the Urgunzai? By this point, the book has already given no fucks, so we're left with an impression that they're generic bad guys of the type White Wolf is ever so fond, when so much more can be done with them.
The book is filled with tantalising hints of things that could have been awesome, but are left completely alone. Xoglazi being real, instead of a delusion? Well, holy fuck! At least one group of Annunaki literally being space bastards? Well, holy fuck! Especially when mixed with what we learn in the Obun-Ukar book (which we haven't dealt with yet)! Even the adventure, which is lauded as being the first step to answering the Annunaki question and apocalyptically climaxing, falls limp and spent at our feet without ever having really exerted itself. We haven't made peace with the Symbiots in the adventure, we haven't done any great deeds... No, we stopped a crazy woman and met an Old Age Mutant Pacifist Turtle. But we see these tantalising hints in other books, and they're similarly unexplored.
This, really, is why War In The Heavens falls so short of its promise: The writers chose to focus on the pawns, and not in any real way that foreshadows the masters. No, instead, we have a picture of these Symbiots as being completely different, human-like in their goals and methods, and, worst of all, boring. Not even in the humdrum way, in the “Shut up, I don't want to hear any more!” way.
I could be uncharitable, and entirely blame Bill Bridges. This entire book reads like Freak Legion, Guide to the Technocracy, and all those other books that make the bad guys out to be “not really that bad” (while still being terrible, bad, evil, and selfish). The Symbiots aren't terrifying after you read this book: They're just another WoD cloned pod person race, internally fighting while saying “Oooh, look at how special we are!”... and, even worse, they suck at it.
Simply put, even the other writers didn't really have a clear mission statement for this one. You can see those hints, in all the books, that something awesome is happening (even if it is a rip-off of Babylon 5), but not a single one of them is ever cleared up, ever put into the spotlight it deserves. But who knows, maybe we would have been disappointed with that truth too, instead of the nonsense being spewed here.
Next time, we begin work on the Vau book, Hegemony. Buckle up, folks, this is going to be a long one. But, from now, I'm going to be marking these hints of awesome with (HoA), so you don't miss them. And when we finish Hegemony, I'm going to tell you my view, based on the Hints of Awesome we've had so far.
Commercial Break (Advertisements)Original SA post
Easing myself back into posting...
Fading Suns: Commercial Break (Advertisements)
Now, what with the general lack of RPG advertising these days, it may shock some of our more recent gamers that RPGs, even as little as 5 years ago, were being advertised in magazines. Twenty years ago, you could actually buy CCGs and RPGs from your local Virgin Megastore (I shit you not, and I still hate myself for not buying the Star of the Guardians CCG).
So, what did these adverts look like? Well, they really varied. Palladium RPGs, for example, were advertised in much the same manner they were written: Shoddily. Anyone who's ever read a Dragon magazine will know that DnD products were announced with a helluva lot of gusto in the later years (CLEANSE YOUR PALLET! [Apocalypse Stone], CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTIONS [DnD 3E], and the like).
Fading Suns took much the same philosophy as it does on its covers (shiiiiny), and I'm going to show you a couple of them, along with the gimmick they took in their primary advert spot: The Knights of the Dinner Table magazine.
Firstly, from 1999, we have this product line advert. This is one of the more uncommon ones, simply because it didn't include a mini-strip from Brian Jelke and Jolly Blackburn. Keep in mind, this is the book list from just after 2nd Ed came out, and many of these books actually use 1st Ed rules. You can see now why I've been taking a break before Hegemony... there's a lot to cover here, and I intend to cover as much as humanly possible, because nearly each and every one of these books adds some sort of fluff to the universe, and each and every one of them has at least one thing worth noting on the “Borked In Some Manner” checklist, along with something that's just aweseomesauce (Decados City Killer, I'm looking at you!)
Next up, we have an ad for Hegemony. You'll notice poor Jolly and Brian didn't get review copies before they penned the script (or they took creative license), because one of the important things about Hegemony is that it sticks to its guns on the “Can't Play Vau” line the rest of the books hold to. Still, of the adverts, it's definitely the most understated of the lot.
Thirdly, we have a similar advert about Letters of Marque 2, which is basically a set of deckplans for use in both Fading Suns and the miniatures game associated with it, Noble Armada (A game I have never played). You'll notice that's a full page ad for a book with four deckplans that would probably cost $20 nowadays. They're big deckplans, it's true. But deckplans is deckplans is deckplans the world over.
Finally, we have... *sigh*... the miniatures line. For the time, these would have been considered good quality miniatures (just look at some of the old GW models for mooks as a comparison), but, pre-painted as they are, they haven't aged well. Note very well the Decados noble, the women who don't quite look like women (a common problem with 90s/early 2000s miniatures), and the Vorox's massive hands. As far as I'm aware, the models really didn't sell very well, and there's mention of products I've never actually seen until recently, such as... Passion Play: Live Action Roleplaying In The Fading Suns (I recently got this to see how bad it could be... I may write a paragraph or two on the subject once my opinion's down.
EDIT: Nevermind about the Passion Play writeup... if you've read Mind's Eye Theatre , you've read this. Case in point below:
These are an all-Decados group... Goth-nookie, anybody? :P
Another Intro (Hegemony Intro)Original SA post
Hokay, double post time, as I'd rather get intro and part 1 done than just the intro!
Fading Suns: Another Intro (Hegemony Intro)
Once again, we're back, this time with Hegemony, the second of the unfinished (and failed) War in the Heavens trilogy. This time, it's dealing with the Vau, the space not-chinese aliens we have so far heard sweet FA about. It begins, as always, with an Alustro story. But this is an Alustro story with a dark twist: Oh noes, Alustro can't follow Erian Li Halan and the Gang to Vau space, because he's too injured! That's, almost literally, the whole of the story. Oh, apart from a vision of the Vau and their Glyphs that makes no sense. So that's that.
Then, of course, we're dragged, kicking and screaming, to the intro of this book. As before, it's split into fluff, crunch, then adventure. If you read the intro to Lifeweb, you won't find a whole lot that's different here, except the “Foreshadowing the War in Heaven” bit is thankfully gone.
So, what's actually different about the Vau book, compared to the last one? I will say this: The crunch is less disappointing, and is actually useful. On top of this, there's no faffing around with being able to play Vau this time (No, you can't, fuck you, that's final!), and the fluff isn't quite as painful. The adventure, however... But we'll get to that when it comes.
For now, let's just sit back, enjoy the cover, and wait patiently for the first bit of fluff to appear.
The Vau Came First (Hegemony Fluff Pt 1)Original SA post Fading Suns: The Vau Came First (Hegemony Fluff Pt 1)
Guess which one became Vau
Already, we encounter our first major difference... the Vau fluff is written by an unreliable first person narrator. This is to emphasise the theme of this book (The Vau are experts at “benevolent deception”, benevolent dictatorship, and all that jazz that makes them not-chinese), and, if you're reading it instead of this update, like I am, it's going to get on your tits. But let's ignore that for now, and get on with the history of the Vau, according to
It all begins on a world called Hoom (Home?), where a bunch of “ornithropod hadrosaurs” (read: vegetarian dinosaurs) are just chilling out. It's important to note that the name is mentioned as deliberately being picked from Stout's Megafauna of Old Earth , a book about Terran dinosaurs. Anyway, these hadrosaurs were pretty much like any other hadrosaur, but, over time, they evolved socialisation, tactics, and hierarchy. Then a special bunch, the first Vau (“Wisest”) were born. Now, certain key things must be noted here:
This first Vau (long ass name with too many vowels, let's call him Ho) was apparently born, not strictly from one of the mammy hadrosaurs, but by a sacred star. Why is this important? Remember that myths, in Fading Suns, are often clues to Annunaki intervention (ala Chariots of the Gods), so this is firmly marked as a Hint of Awesome. This Ho apparently was an “order of magnitude” smarter than his bro-Hos. Also of note is that, even in pre-history, Vau had physiological differences between castes (yes, they have a caste system). Apart from being the first, and uniting the various subspecies into one big-ass group, Ho is...
...wait a second. Doesn't this seem awfully familiar? They're descended from lizards... so are a certain other benevolent dictatorship species in overdone space opera... They're united by a leader Caste, physiologically different than the rest... so are... But no, the Tau came later, it couldn't possibly be... The Vau came first (also, fuck anyone who says Greedo shot first, you're worshipping Lucasian Revisionism, and so you suck.)
Anyways, the Vau's first real trial came from the Id'lakh, a species that were fairly mobile, and had spiky tails that really, really... HoA two: those are also recognisable as Terran dinosaurs. For those wondering how such a plot twist is possible: Go ask an archaeologist about how long artefacts of civilisation last without a fecking miracle or really good conditions. It's an unlikely twist, but plausible enough that it's kept conspiracy writers going, kept Lovecraft in the stories about pre-human shizzle, and inspired this sort of stuff here. So how did the Vau beat the physically superior Id'lakh? The same way us monkeys did, with tools and superior brains! Oh, and a breeding programme designed to give their Worker and Soldier castes intelligence, while still keeping them loyal to the caste system... y'know, pretty standard rising empire of aliens stuff...
The tool that really made it for the Vau were crystals, that could be shaped by sonic resonance (caused, funnily enough, by banging the rocks together, guys! ). These made superior weapons and armour, and could be found nowhere else they looked! Yay! The Id'lakh, in short, had their asses kicked, and their musical instruments and other cultural stuffs appropriated by the Vau, as according to long standing sociological tradition (IE – You nick the other guy's stuff once you've kicked him in the fork). Debate exists in Vau records as to whether the Id'lakh went extinct quickly, or actually devolved over time, to live as animals in some Vau reserve (because, naturally, the Vau are horrified by the idea of exterminating their enemies, honest!)
Next time, we'll see more sex, lies, and videotape as we continue to explore the history of the biggest lying bastards since Baron Munchausen's World!
Chariots of The Fire Gods (Hegemony Fluff Pt 2)Original SA post Fading Suns: Chariots of
Er, this wasn't an attempt to distract from the low amount of art in this section. A Vau said that, so it must be true!
The whole Id'lakh war is the first, last, and only major detail that arises during the entire history of their rise to power on Hoom. Now, remember that this is a first person narrator, unreliable and all: It's nothing important, but you get a lot more GM fodder if you think... “Why is this important?”
Also of importance is the almost footnotes that arise during the last few paragraphs of this section, after the Id'lakh defeat: Firstly, not all Vau Mandarins (presumably from the bloodline and caste of our old friend Ho) saw eye to eye. As far as our narrator tells us, the wars were rarely obvious, but the effects afterward nearly always were. Secondly, there is mention of precisely one successful rebellion against Mandarins. One. From the moment they first appeared, to the moment they finished conquering it and... something else happened. The leader of the rebellion survived for 27 years, and then apparently the place got reconquered again quickly. Also note that the city in which this happened isn't named, and nor is the rebel leader.
Speculation the first : Bloodless war between rising civilisations at odds with each other... unlikely.
Speculation the second : One successful rebellion in what must have been centuries, maybe millennia? Unlikely. And no others mentioned, beyond “They didn't work, or if they did, only temporarily”
Speculations outcome : Somebody not a million miles away from the Vau Central Bureaucracy, or whatever they call themselves, has either been engaging in some very hefty historical revisionism, or has had a good PR department for as long as Mandarins have been around...
Anyways, then... something big happens.
Something Big Happens!
A Vau, still with some form of sparkly...
A star falls from the sky (literal author's words here), and the Progenitors arrive. The writer makes it quite clear that this heralds “A new civilisation – that of willing servitude to higher powers”. Turns out, the subjugation of the Id'lakh really impressed them, and the Progenitors helped them spread to the stars, giving them technology, new worlds to conquer, all that jazz. From the writer's tone, it's quite clear that the Vau feel like the favoured children of these Progenitors, even though nobody knows much about what happened during that time themselves (there's some caste, the Jaykata U'moti, who keeps knowledge of this stuff relatively secret).
Now, other things are important to note (because more details turn up later): For example, yes, the Vau were hit as much as everyone else by the leaving of this one group, who the Vau call Ban'kesh So'kaata, or The Architects, from Known Space. These Architects got into a galactic bust up with another group, the so-called Abrogators (Quarl'nan Kwot), and I'll be getting into that in a moment. But these names, and their methods, are important. Because, if you look at the Obun-Ukar book (Children of the Gods), you'll find two very similar groups... but the roles of “good” and “evil” are reversed, even though the methods are the same. I'll spoiler this right now, and say that one group (evil in Children of the Gods, except to the Ur-Ukar, and good in Hegemony), prize conflict, strength, etc, and have a tendency to increase people's technology rather than culture, while the other (good in Children of the Gods, except to the Ur-Ukar, and evil in Hegemony) tend to focus on more naturalistic endeavours, shaping the culture of a race, and trying to promote harmony through unity and philosophy, as opposed to conflict (although, when the war kicks off, this changes, and out come the bad boys, in both books!).
This, ladies and gents, is the War in the Heavens: Two, possibly more Progenitor species, fighting it out over philosophical points neither can reconcile with the other. If you've read the Uplift trilogy, or watched Babylon 5, you have the basic idea. The War itself is mostly... not described. In fact, beyond a few basic facts, it's the author wittering on about how unknowable and inscrutable it all must have been, even at the time, along with a lot of philosophising (A common trait among Vau and their servants). But, before we end this section, let's go over those basic facts, and speculate a bit:
- The Hegemony writer claims that the Architects built the Jumpgates, were generally cool, and the Abrogators so envied them their power. This mostly corroborates with CotG.
- They also claim that, when they started losing the war, the Abrogators turned around and unleashed the Dark Between the Stars (DEEEEEMONNNNSSSS!), which the Architects had held in some fashion all this time. Obviously, nearly everything died at this particular point. This also jibes with CotG... but again, only mostly. Keep in mind, all three (Hegemony, CotG Obun section, CotG Ukar section) are written from the perspective of the races serving their respective masters.
- The Architects are represented as orderly, logical, largely emotionless, while the Abrogators are represented as chaotic, angry, violent bastards. This jibes with the uplift of the Obun and Ukar respectively, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to actually corroborate from any of the perspectives. For reasons of derivation (IE – Fading Suns is a somewhat derivative setting), I'm putting this one under “Probably True”
- The War ended, although nobody can say who the victor was. The Architects managed to protect the Vau, but at a terrible cost: Completely wiping their occult/psi potential. This supposedly saved a lot of worlds, but nobody knows anything beyond “Suddenly, both sides went away”. The Architects also left the Vau a consolation gift: The Everwatchful Eye of Auspicious Gleaning (how... Confucian!), whose powers are described later. Suffice to say, it's an interesting consolation prize...
So, so far, we know that one side is meant to be Chaotic and Evil and shit, and one is meant to be Lawful and Good and shit (but emotionless). Both regularly uplifted species (although only a few of those survive now), and both left their little toys behind every now and again. Now, if only we had several even older Progenitors, who could settle this argument, get them to go to new galaxies and whatever, and leave the god-damn lesser races alone, so they could carry on the grand tradition of becoming the next Major Galactic Assholes, eh?
But we're not nearly so lucky, as the title sort of gives away. Next time, we deal with the aftermath of this grand cosmic fuckup!
Not Long At All Went By, And Then... (Hegemony Fluff Pt 3)Original SA post
Gonna be two posts up here soon, but first... some more Hegemony... I
get through this, by god!
Fading Suns: Not Long At All Went By, And Then... (Hegemony Fluff Pt 3)
Why am I reusing artwork? That's Ho the Second, that's why!
You may be wondering about the title... suffice to say, the very first paragraph after the cosmic fuckup, the other Mary Sues of the setting get right down to rebuilding after “many twen'tlo ”. How the fuck long is that? I'll tell you. 2 and a half fucking years. Oh, woe is us, we've lost all our knowledge and communication with each other!
2 and a half years later? The Vau Mandarins have actually kept order very well, so they had the damp-sponge equivalent of a Dark Age. This was helped by their unshakable belief that they alone held the rituals that kept the universe in order. No, really, they believe that to this day. And, because it's Fading Suns, we can't exactly say they're wrong with any certainty... Fucking writers. So, how did they deal with this massive upheaval of everything they ever knew, apart from giving next to no fucks and continuing exactly what they were doing before (but without any form of psychic powers or theurgy)?
Essentially, on one world, the one Vau who somehow managed to remember everything started building ships. I'm not going to bore you with the various alien language terms that are peppered through this section like somebody threw a dartboard at a dictionary, but, suffice to say, this is where the writing begins to break down and sound like the usual “And lo, there came some messianic fucknugget, and they did shit, and other shit, and so on, and so forth, until all was red and rosy and shiny again”
And lo, 'twas all shiny again, for that usual government in-fighting was beaten in one stroke by the Chosen One Ho the Second (I'd imagine nobody is actually meant to notice that they used Ho as a prefix twice, but hell, who would turn down two Hos in one historical document, eh? ), who used all manner of debate and rhetoric and shiny holoprojections (which probably included Pie Charts). No, really, that's about the level of excitement found in the small saga of the Vau reuniting politically, according to our totally impartial source!
Expansion, aka Benevolent Reconquest
Essentially, this next section and the last bear about as much resemblance to the truth as somebody's mother telling them they love them while handing them a cyanide-filled chocolate bar for their birthday, so I'm going to summarise the important points here, to save you from some brilliantly written propagandist bullshit: IE – Boring as fuck, you know it's all lies, but you still have to look at it for the nuggets of truth the writers have gracefully let us have...
Ho the Second formed a new government, called the “All Influence”. We are meant to believe this was not so much megalomania as an expression that “persuasion, not coercion” was the aim of this government. As we've all heard that line before historically, I'm not going to dignify it with any more comment.
There were aliens, who didn't have resources the Vau needed, but suddenly a prophecy came out of nowhere (shyeah right), saying that if they weren't conquered, bad shit would happen to the Vau, and so the “All Influence” became the “All Empire”, aka the Hegemony of the Vau. This is totally not megalomaniacal, by the way, honest injun!
There is the usual “one example of nastiness we had”, that involves Soldiers on one world slaughtering lots of things. We'll never really know what happened, because all the Soldiers on that world were slaughtered as 'defective', and replaced by off-world Soldiers. The supposedly “barbaric” episode has apparently been mostly forgotten. Again, totally not historical revisionism.
The Vau empire expanded a lot.
No, really, that's all you can get out of about half a page of propagandist junk. On the one hand, this is really well written. On the other, precisely because it's well written, it makes my eyes bleed.
Aliens We Met, by the Vau (Aged ???)
Aliens They Didn't Meet At This Point, by Some Artist, because there's no other artwork until the next update...
This next section essentially outlines how, with the various meetings with alien races that were later brought into the Hegemony, how Vau foreign policy and the like evolved. First were a bunch of crabs (who are never statted or mentioned since), who were nice, and joined the Vau willingly. Then came the Manshogo, who were not. From this, Vau tech was adjusted to basically not work on command, so aliens couldn't steal it, and certain worlds were declared “Watchworlds”. It's sort of similar to the Prime Directive of Star Trek, except, in this case, it's more like that first episode of TNG, with the Vau as Q... The aliens weren't allowed off their worlds until a) They were nicer to the Vau, and b) Had advanced enough to not be dicks to the Vau anymore. You may notice that these two goals basically mean “Join us, or we'll trap you on your planet until you say sorry.”
Obviously, this heavy handedness meant that a lot of species just went and, rather sensibly, hid. But then the Vau met their third big race, the Ool. The Ool are basically gas-giant and ocean dwellers, look like Jellyfish, and were advanced enough to communicate with the Vau before the Vau communicated with them. This was apparently such a mind-bendingly wonderful experience that it changed their foreign policy, and made the world they first contacted the Ool (Shelek'Sa) a holy place where people could go to just yak to the Ool. The Ool play no further part in the narrative, by the way, so rest your minds about them being the secret masters of the Vau... Although it's apparently a mystery how they weren't made by the Progenitors, or influenced by them, somehow survived the cataclysm of their war, and spread themselves around a lot of worlds...
Finally, Some Actual Plot Happens
So, time went by, the Vau went around, bringing worlds into the totally loving fold of the Hegemony, and finding stuff the Progenitors left from time to time. It's here that the writer finally tells us how long the Vau have been going. Sort of.
Essentially, if we are to believe the narrator, the Vau started their stellar expansion somewhere between 1802 and 1813. This carried on until the 24th century, where some horrid shit and bad omens happened. But we'll save that for next time...
Humans? HUMANS! (Hegemony Fluff Pt 4)Original SA post
I'm reading Buck Rogers XXVC at the moment, which I saw a request for a while back. I see no reference to it in the OP, but is anyone planning on doing it? Basically, I'd enjoy doing the writeup, but you'd all get a better quality one from someone else.
General rule, afaik, is that if you think you can do a good job on it, and it's obscure and/or mockable, go hog wild. I'd say take your time, look at it, see whether it's really mockable (it's only really obscure to the modern reader, but it is still technically obscure), and get a handle on it before writing. I'm only writing about FS and CyberGen because I've actually run these games before, and know of their horrors and delights first-hand.
Speaking of which...
Fading Suns: Humans? HUMANS! (Hegemony Fluff Pt 4)
Two Vau shit themselves with the news of prophecy. No, really, see the fear in their faces?
It's almost painful for me to just sum up the next bit, because, even though it's the usual mythical bullshit, it's well written mythical bullshit. Here's a taster.
On Zyuil'Thala, a low-level Mandarin, advisor to the Aesthetic Council, raised his cup of tea and drank blood. Spitting forth the poison, he stared in horror at the cup, perceiving a pattern in the red stain: Zwam'ze'baal – the Glyph of Chastening. He reported the incident to the First Council, and spent the next three twent'lor in a Refuge, purging inauspicious thoughts.
This is but one of several omens that rocked the Vau worlds all of a sudden in the 24th century, and nobody could work out what they meant. Eventually, though, it was discovered, through a massive astrology and I-Ching session spanning several months (the Vau divination system, left behind by the Progenitors? Totally I-Ching) that a) Manitou was going to be the focus of big things, and b) that the War In Heaven was going to go for round two.
Naturally, this scared the Vau so much that they stopped nearly all expansion, went back to the Watchworld system, and held a tight and conservative grip on things for a long while. Obviously, this didn't go over too well with the subject races, and there was once again friction, until some little old bunch of hermits sent an old lady who pointed out that you can't study a prophecy if you keep fiddling with it (The original sounds more awesome, but, due to space, just take my word for it.) So the Vau allowed worlds to govern themselves, so long as they didn't take their government elsewhere. The G'Nesh (remember them from waaaaay back when in the Corebook?) also get their first mention here. But something else gets a mention... in fact, it gets a whole god-damn section.
Gwindor, aka Humans Wot Work With Vau
You may remember that I said, several updates ago, this was written by a human who worked for the Vau. Well, now this human gets to explain where he and most of his buddies came from. It was around the 24th century that a bunch of humans went to colonise a world they called Beelzebub. This particular group was led by a dude called Alcaz Jeremiah Jones, who led the African Autonomous Zone colonists (hereby never mentioned again), who'd allied with the Oregonians (eco-hippies), and the Secular Monks (end-of-the-world nutters who kept knowledge against civilisation collapsing).
This ragtag group arrived on Beelzebub, found that the usual corporate malarkey of indenturing peeps to control the colony was going on, said “Fuck this!”, rebelled, and moved elsewhere on the planet. Help was asked for to deal with the rebellion, but by then, the Republic had met the Vau, had their shit kicked in, and was evacuating everyone in sight from worlds claimed by the Vau. So the only “help” that came was an FCC evacuation that the nutter group didn't believe in. The Vau then turned up, only scanned the area the FCC had colonised, and went away thinking no-one was there.
A generation later? Vau colonists turn up, and are just a tadge surprised to find humans! Luckily, the humans got along alright with the Workers, so this resulted in a bollocking for the first fleet's commander and the world becoming a Watchworld, not to be informed of anything going on outside, instead of the fleet simply wiping out the humans. Since the Vau had technically named the world first, its name was turned back to Quadi (which was what the Vau called it).
So time passed, and these humans grew, knowing nothing of the Republic, or indeed the Second Republic. Until...
Wait, Actual INFO?!?
Just in case you forgot what Space Jesus looks like. Also, because this book is extremely sparse with the artwork!
Another plot thread from history finally gets extended in this book, as, surprise, surprise, it turns out the Prophet did actually go into Vau space, and the Gwindor have evidence that he did! Here's the excerpt.
”Prophecy is what men demonstrate to the children of their children,” said the Prophet. “Only when you stand in the light now can you cast your shadow into the future.”
The Vau wrinkled his brow and consulted his think machine. The glyphs had fluxed: “void,” “incomplete” and “unknown” had become: “light,” “hand” (intent) and “yet to come.” The Mandarin gasped, and looked to the Prophet, but the bearded man had already begun his journey to the starport.
Joseph Armala, “The World Read Through Veils”
Unfortunately, as this is first person narration of history from someone who buys the Vau line through and through, we can sum up this section as “Space Jesus came, Space Jesus may have been killed by the Vau, may not have (no, we still don't know), a bunch of loonies worship him and think the Vau definitely killed him, but we don't need the pure teachings of Space Jesus, we have the Valukes Ha'Eni (Vau I-Ching), and besides, he said there was something bigger than the Progenitors, some God or something, and that's clearly bollocks.”
Fuck you, Vau-Stooge, and fuck you, Greenberg, you prick-teaser!
And So, Many Centuries Passed...
Humankind did eventually become a client race, or at least, this offshoot, but it didn't happen until the 42nd century. There is much bitching and moaning by the narrator that they didn't get this powerful soon enough to save the Second Republic, and much sucking and licking at the Vau's collective puckered ringpiece, but essentially, it happened, and it's all apparently part of the Vau's big plan.
Anyways, the fluff is almost over, but you'll notice that the Fading Suns phenomenon hasn't been mentioned yet, or any of the other fun stuff... don't worry, we'll be dealing with that fun stuff next time.
SPEAK BLOODY ENGLISH! (Hegemony Fluff Pt 5)Original SA post Fading Suns: SPEAK BLOODY ENGLISH! (Hegemony Fluff Pt 5)
This dapper chap is a Mandarin. Notice (s)he actually has hair. Awesome hair.
This final section of the historical fluff deals with something we already saw in Lifeweb: Namely, the Symbiots' meeting with the Vau. I'm going to sum this up, along with the section that comes before it, because, like many Fading Suns products, and indeed, many White Wolf ones, this particular section of the fluff throws around terms that are only explained next chapter like they're going out of style.
The Fading Suns, Redux
The Vau, super-smarty pants race that they are... actually know nothing about why the stars are fading. This much is clear from the four paragraphs that cover the whole phenomenon, according to our stooge-human writer. Essentially, the Vau's reaction has been “We're not following the omens, people, that's why the stars are fading!”... and this has been their line since they began, a few centuries ago. Naturally, this is starting to wear thin, and things are getting a bit tense... And that tension wasn't helped by...
...Oh hey, Symbiots!
...Yup. As mentioned, we get the Vau side of the story now, and... it doesn't actually tell us much that's new. If you remember the story, the Symbiots met the Vau, and everything was going swimmingly until the sekrit evul peepul tried to make a Vau Worker a Symbiot. Then they got a “warning shot” that almost murdered them, and were unceremoniously told to fuck off and not come back. So what have we learned that's new?
Well, first there's the name of the diplomat who went on board with his entourage. This info is largely useless, because, as far as I'm aware, he never pops up again. Then there's the fact that the mystic Vau I-Ching doesn't work on the Symbiots... Which, to the Vau's mind, implies that the normal rules of Fate and Destiny don't apply to them, or some such. Finally, there's what happened when the Vau diplomat pointed his I-Ching Machine at the Symbiot who was nomming on Vau Worker Sammiches: The glyphs fluxed into being, in the worst possible configuration, which has several fancy names, but I shall call “Oh Fuck, Bad Progenitor Stuffs Ahoy!”. This is what caused them to peg it, shoot the Symbiots till they left, and seal the gate behind them.
Reading between the lines? The Vau have themselves a handy dandy way to find bad Symbiots, who serve the Evil Space Demons, if they only realised what it was. But Vau don't think like us, and besides, they don't have the whole story, so that's pretty much left as a device for the smart GM to put in for an endgame.
However, this has all had two effects: One, the Vau are scared enough to open diplomatic channels once again to the Emperor and the like, because they realised that humans fought Symbiots better than anyone else, and the stooge-human's boss, one Yoma Zal Vord'Rumph (Yoma seems to be a title... wait a minute [flick flick flick]... oh, whoop-de-doo, a leader of the Council... of Nine... seems I'm bang on the money with the Babylon 5 “inspiration”...) is now allowing a certain group of humans (y'know, your party, because you totally played the Lifeweb adventure, amirite?) to come visit a certain Vau world to test their mettle... for the Vau truly believe the War In the Heavens has finally kicked off again, and the Symbiots are the bad guys...
Some Caste Info... And Language Lessons
I'm not going to bore you with the endless apostrophe laden terms the Vau use, but I am going to summarise this next, moderately long bit, because it deals with the Vau hierarchy. So, deep breath, and here we go!
Vau are born into one of three genetically different castes: Workers, Soldiers, and Mandarins. They're all thick skinned lizard dudes, with two sexes, and, while they prefer humid tropical climes, they can cope with pretty much anything, especially while wearing a Sheath (Stop laughing!). Workers are double jointed, all the castes have hair of some sort, usually a little fuzz on the top, but sometimes a magnificent mane, Females outnumber the males, and you can tell a female because she's naturally ornamented with feathers and crap. Except you won't tell, because, much like a nakedness taboo, Vau wimmin don't like you seeing their feathers... Well, different strokes, I guess!
They're all vegetarians, and still think that you're not truly enlightened if you eat meat. Still, let's look at the different Castes.
It's easy to see why the Mandarins are the leaders. For a start, they're 10 foot tall on average, and live for 230 years. They're skinny buggers, not really used to fighting, and they're also the smallest Caste. Mandarins, of course, are totally humble about being rulers of all they survey, Also, they get nervous without Soldiers and Workers around, for some totally unimaginable reason...
Anyways, their role, obviously, is leadership, although they're also meant to follow the Mystical Vau I-Ching, because the Vau believe it knows all, and thus is a beautiful and elegant means of expanding, controlling, and nurturing their sphere of influence. They have a herd mentality, form councils which democratically discuss things for ages, and are slower than Midkemian Elves about deciding stuff.
They have about ten ranks, each with a more flowery name than the last, but it's the usual Councils within Councils stuff, so don't worry too hard about that.
Vau dress in clothes determined by their own version of Feng Shui, which only they understand. It would not surprise me in the slightest to find out these guys are the galaxy's unknown masters of Mornington Crescent, at this rate... Anyways, under their robe is a bodysuit, and over the robe is a Sheath, which is basically high tech armour/temperature control/whatever disguised as ornamental head-dress, chest plates, and the like. We are promised a return to the topic of Mandarins many times, and my eagerness about this can only be described as
Not so dapper, but would you argue with this mo'fucker?
Ah yes, eugenic killing machines, bred for murdergames... They're only eight feet tall, but make up for it by having muscles on their muscles, and occasionally horns or bony ridges meant for headbutting. They only live about 80 years, but, since they make up a quarter of the birth-rate, that's just peachy... They take orders, don't act without orders, and the ones that don't take orders or rebel are declared insane, and eventually euthanised if they continue. Obviously, their role is protecting mandarins, killing things the mandarins want dead, and won't stop killing something that attacks unless the Vau order them very sternly to stop.
They generally wear armour (sometimes powered), use staves that sometimes have 'splodey tips, and a rank/unit identifier on their armour. Beyond that, they're either drab green or in whatever colour the Mandarin decides heightens his own Feng Shui. That's it for Soldiers.
Around 71% of Vau are Workers (yes, that leaves a full 4% for Mandarins, ain't that sweet?), and Workers are basically the people who actually do shit. They specialise when they grow up, become craftsmen or writers or whatever the hell, and always follow orders. Workers are the littlest Vau, at 6 feet tall, and are basically the equivalent of chinese peasantry in the Vau's totally not-chinese society.
Next time, we take a look at Vau families, and all the other Vau societal bullshit they're going to put us through... Except language. Fuck that noise...
Family, Time, and Customs (Hegemony Fluff Pt 6)Original SA post
So, since the theme of this week is "No, we game designers
Fading Suns: Family, Time, and Customs (Hegemony Fluff Pt 6)
Workers: Societal Function - To Give No Fucks...
Well, we're out of the historical fluff, and right into the societal stuff. They sure don't make it easy to sum things up, or pick out particularly queasy or excellent bits of text, because it's all roughly the same quality (dry as fuck, but still readable), and even the artwork is lacking the noticable awfulness we've seen in FS artwork previously so far (mainly due, I suspect, to its being so sparse.)
Anyways, as you'd expect from herd animal descendants, there are clutches, or families of Vau, and they clump naturally into these groups even today. Some families fight, but obviously, other families step in if either it's wrecking the Grand Cosmic Plan they have (IE – Don't let the kids see Mummy and Daddy Vau fighting too hard) or it's genuinely getting out of hand (IE – Pissing off higher-ups/client races). There's also breeding details, but, being about herd animals, there's none of the skeeviness we saw from, say, the writing about the Shantor. You find that sort of minutiae interesting, get the book, because 9 out of 10 gamers will skip past that section once they find there's no immediate plot points in it.
Gender roles are a bit odder, because it's not so much about gender roles, as the fact that the race has a breeding programme going on... y'know, breeding more docile workers, or workers who are even more stupidly dextrous than they are right now, or soldiers who can kill shit faster without going psycho... It's a short section, but the between-the-lines ideas it could generate could be quite interesting...
Age, like Gender, isn't really about gender roles, but more about maturity (which, as every goon knows, is an entirely different thing). Essentially, all that needs be said is that Vau mature differently, Mandarins and Workers come of age quite quickly, but Soldiers even more so. Keep in mind, these people apparently come into full adulthood around 20 odd, and stay that way for... well, a long time if you're a Mandarin...
Something like a fifth of the fucking tables about "correspondences"...
Much like the Chinese, there are several dialects of Vau... I'm not going to bore you, but there are at least seven dialects, one of which is only spoken by Mandarins, and one of which is only spoken to Foreigners. As you might guess from their being not-Renaissance-Chinese, these two are at opposite ends of the scale. Then, as with any book with aliens in where they actually bother to show the culture, Greenberg reminds us once again that hey, you have a different culture, it should have its own terms, pronunciation, and measurements... over two or three pages. Naturally, I'm skipping over this, because thankfully, most of these alien terms are explained where they first appear. Enough aren't that it annoys me, however. Yeah, cool, they call a toilet a [insert alien word here]... but let's call a spade a fucking spade, eh? There's never enough language there to form an actual language, and never so little as to be easily ignored, so please, RPG writers, skip that shit already, nobody's going to make a Klingon Dictionary for your niche product. Nobody sane, anyways.
Vau and their servants have longass names that aren't fully revealed. This is nothing new under the sun, even for humans. But it does give you the order in which it happens, which is nice. For those who care (few), it's: [rank] [honorifics] [clutch/family unit name] [personal name] . Of course, it's also useless, because different customs happen elsewhere in the Vau empire, even among Vau.
Next up is special sounds, because, as any language student knows, we don't all go “Uh...” when we're confused. The special sound for today, kiddlewinks, is “oooh”. Vau is apparently also a tonal language, so practice those “oooh”s folks, because you're gonna need them! Similarly to speech, writing comes in three major dialects, one for normal speech, one for Mandarins, and one for... Vau Special I-Ching! Yup, nobody else is allowed to write in it, it's literally something you learn to identify and go “Oooh [sound of pleasure version], a new omen!”
Then we come to customs. Remember I said these guys are blatantly renaissance-era Chinese? I might have to shove that estimate back in time a bit, because these guys are seriously Confucian. Rituals, customs, following the right Auspices and Omens and Fates and Magic Whatnots... The Vau are all over that shit. There is a page of auspices and good times for doing things and... look, you could probably just crib off a chinese fortune telling book, and nobody would actually know the difference. Honest.
Next time, we'll either be looking at time as the Vau see it, and their thoughts on Religion and Science, or I'll have shot myself, because there is still a chapter or three of this stuff ahead, and summating/ commenting on it all is getting a little wearing...
But Will It Blend? (Hegemony Fluff Pt 7)Original SA post Fading Suns: But Will It Blend? (Hegemony Fluff Pt 7)
This is a G'nesh. We'll talk about them very briefly later this update.
Thankfully, we're near the end of the “culture” fluff. I could probably sum up this entire section as “We're not medieval/renaissance Chinese, honest!”, but the sheer laziness in cribbing is amazing. Hawkwoods are Not-Germans. Li Halan are Not-Japanese. Decados are Not-NKVD. The list goes on, and it's in Hegemony (or Children of the Gods, if you read that first) where it begins to become obvious how much cribbing (read: stealing and slapping a different label upon) has been done here.
But enough bitching, let's see what these Not-Chinese have to say about religion and science, eh? But wait... there's still time to deal with. Let's make this quick: The Vau think of time in three different ways, which compare roughly to spiritual enlightenment, “organic time” (more on that in a sec), and actual physical time (as in, it takes t seconds for thing x to happen).
Organic time is a slightly retarded concept. It assumes that every living thing has the same lifespan, but... wait for it... it experiences it at different rates, which means everything has the same subjective lifespan! So, by this rule, dogs would experience as much in their one year to our (supposedly) seven years. Or the other way round, whichever one makes sense. The authors are even seemingly aware of how much bullshit this is, as the following section shows...
Religion and Science (aka BURYING THE BULLSHITOMETER NEEDLE)
On the one hand, the Vau have supposedly mastered what we talking monkeys haven't: The ability to reconcile a Big Sky Daddy with evolution, science, et al. This would be a fine achievement, except for two things:
1) This is because they were literally uplifted by Big Sky Daddies!
2) Their “religion” is basically Confucianism, which, with its emphasis on a natural order, sort of helps the scientific mindset (although it didn't always do so historically... )
We also get... a revelation that's not a revelation, and has been around since the days of Bohr... that everything is Energy. I highly suspect this entire section, trying to establish some version of The Force for the 90s, was written by Greenberg as a demonstration that yes, ex-White-Wolf writers still don't understand this little thing called science. Oh, and their approach to science is holistic, not specific. So that's why it looks like religion, apparently...
Nine Senses, Eh?
Now comes some classy Vau bullshit. Let's sum it up, shall we? First off, the Vau find Humans silly for thinking there are only five senses, and that those senses are actually controlled by them thinking to perceive stuff. While technically it's true that we don't control our senses as well as we think we do, I'm gonna chalk this one up to monkeys and typewriters.
The other four senses, apparently, are thoughts, dreams, emotions, and Will. The fourth can be trained, and governs the other eight only when you've sat under a waterfall for hours contemplating your navel or something. And the other three aren't just from your brain, they're apparently messages sent by the Cosmos...
...The Vau, ladies and gentlegoons... Certifiably insane.
Anyways, they believe in some analogue to Fate, called the Weft, and they like looking for progenitor stuffs, because, let's face it, who doesn't (the church)? Finally for this page, we have the fact that the Vau don't believe in morality, only the Legendary Vau I-Ching (no relation to the Legendary Khemri Passing Game, because the latter exists, and the other's complete bullshit.)
The Last Metaphysical Straw
So, ready for some more mysticism? No? Me neither, but we're going to get it anyway! Let's sum it up real quick to make it less painful. There are three things a being has, according to the Vau: A Presence (yes, they physically exist, well done, Not-Chinese-In-Space-Guys), an Essence (yes, lots of them believe in souls or some immaterial essence like you do, well done again), and not all of them, according to the Vau, have Will (I highly suspect this is part of their Legendary Vau I-Ching Religion, and a justification for conquering people). There, that's that, it's over, and next, we're going to skip an entire chapter, because it's entirely stuff you don't need to bother with unless you're specifically Gming VauGames!
That Next Chapter
I think this is meant to be a space-bear? Either way, Greenberg really can't let go of Werewolf, can he?
It has one line summation of Vau core planets, the system of government that's been mentioned twenty times already, and some of the races the Vau lord it over. Wait, you actually want to know about them? Well fuck... fine!
Gwindor – They're humans, they love the Vau instead of the Pancreator and the Emprah. That's all that need be said.
G'Nesh – These are the guys that sat around saying “Oh no, don't stay here” to humans before the Vau returned to their worlds, found humans there, and kicked them the fuck out. The G'nesh are still around, and they're bugs. Bugs of all sorts, apparently.
Ool'Shurru – They're the slow species, they're terribly mysterious, and, unsurprising to anyone who's read The Algebraist, they're amoeboid jellyfish things.
Velek Zzum - Space-crabs who are now Space-Truckers and Space-Miners in Vau space. Nuff said.
Manshogo – Think really warlike Devonians from Star Wars, and you get the general idea. They get a page to themselves and their “Death Dance”, which is basically the ability to go into a faster metabolic state for a while.
Fah Selani – They're snakes, they do science. No, they're not espionage snakes, they're science snakes. Somehow, they've managed to achieve sentience with no limbs.
Sobolzitin – They're plants, generally hexapedal, and the Vau think they were deliberately created by somebody.
Okay, that's the normal races. Now for the ones that are on Watchworlds. Then can we wrap this up, pretty please Fading Suns, and get to the crunch? Yes? Okay.
Lun'Grar – They're space-bears. They followed the other kind of Progenitor, and thus the Vau keep a close eye on them.
S'Rib – This is a planet the Vau keep a military base on, to keep those filthy humans and Symbiots out.
And that's it for the... oh, wait, technology. Well, we'll deal with that next time, and then... [flicks ahead]...
...Oh god. Oh Loki's Testicles On A George Foreman... It's The Pre-Written Adventure... In two updates' time...
...Be afraid. Be very afraid...
STOP LAUGHING! (Hegemony Fluff Pt 8)Original SA post Fading Suns: STOP LAUGHING! (Hegemony Fluff Pt 8)
And we shall solve a mystery: That helmet thing? That's a Sheath.
And so we come to the end of the fluff, with a short (1 and a half page) section on Vau science. Surprising nobody, the other darlings of the setting have nanocrystals, easily man-portable energy shields, and an alloy that is called metacrystal. The Vau build lots of their stuff out of this, including starships, and it's apparently got a high tensile and compressive strength... but the shear strength? Nuh-uh. It reacts to hard impacts barely better than steel. Unsurprisingly, they rely on those magic force-fields a lot. Except in buildings, for the most part. Wait, no, they use force fields with a combination of magnetism and forces unknown to Urthish scientists (a theme we'll be seeing a lot, and dealing with in a second) to make morphing buildings. The writer opens with a statement that, in-character, says “Yes, you all want to know how Vau tech works... well, I can't tell you”, and, out-of-character, is essentially saying “Haha, nope, fuck you, no crunch here, just waffle!”
Then we come to “Energy”. Surprising nobody who's read a New Age tome, right from the get go, we get more proof that ex-White-Wolf writers (specifically Greenberg, in this case) have a grip on science somewhat more clammy and loose than Capcom's. I'm just going to quote this bit.
All nanocrystal is worthless without the advanced understanding of energy fields that power it. There are many subtle spectra recognised by the Vau, none of which are known by Urthish science, and only a few of which were theoretically conceived by Second Republic scientists.
Remember that he's talking about energy here. Particles I could understand. Elements, I could understand. But, as blinkered as I sound while saying this, I'm pretty sure 21st century science has uncovered a good 80-90% of the types of energy interactions in this universe. Of course, it gets worse. One of the energy fields is organic, and is perceived through... “[yoga], as it pertains to subtle anatomy.”
At the time of finishing that sentence, I just sat, sighed, and tapped my index finger against my face a few times in annoyance. All this clever writing at the beginning, and it all falls down like a house of cards before the end. I liked the historical fluff, it lied , forced you to actually think. But once we got to the cultural stuff, I'm just repeating to myself “They're totally not 1800s chinese”, and now... Yeah, this is not the best section of the book. Just half a page into a 1 and a half page section, and the Vau, instead of being machiavellian, mysterious beings, are a bunch of hippies/yuppies/whatever the heck they are who have somehow survived by being bigger bastards than anyone else.
Anyway, energy fields. They have a lot of them, including a sphere that makes plasma out of quantum particles (fired from Vau ships, used to wreck other people's ships), morphing building fields (because nanocrystals and fuck you), and Vau energy shields, which, unlike energy shields by humans, won't work if you're wearing thick clothing (because organic-energy and fuck you.) Self important terms, both in Vau and english, are peppered throughout this segment, and it has only two effects:
1) Making me think the writer's a bit too into the whole New Age thaing.
2) Wanting to strangle the writer.
But let's quickly move on.
I Said Stop Laughing!
Nope, no new artwork in this 1 and a half pages, move along, nothing to see except... spaaaarkleeeee
Yes, this is the time where we go into a tiny bit more detail about Sheaths. To sum it up, there's half a paragraph of “I told you about these already in among more interesting notes”, and then there's the gem that the Vau are so obsessed with auspice that only the most basic models don't automatically adjust their shape and colour to fit the Feng Shui of your outfit! That's right, some provide armour, some give extra speed, some protect you from bad environments, but nearly all of them are programmed with innate knowledge of Vau Feng Shui! I can almost picture the poor bastard reading this piece of in-setting text (for lo, it is meant to be in-setting), and just... pissing themselves laughing. Even the high and mighty Vau, it seems, really do want to be fashionable, in their own, slightly moronic way...
The Eye of Prophecy
Ah yes, now we come to Legendary Vau/Progenitor I-Ching, the Valukesh Ha'eni , or Eye of Prophecy. And it is here that the Vau become slightly horrifying and mysterious again. Remember there was all this talk of the Weft? Turns out, all along, that this is a term to refer to the Architects' (the supposedly good Progenitors) amazing reality altering machines, and the Eye of Prophecy is their analysis software... of the entire universe. The Vau have machines, called Oriel, that allow them to communicate with it, and for it to return data from surrounding or inputted conditions...
...Reading between the lines time, folks. Remember, the Vau are essentially using this thing as a probabilistic calculator on a massive scale, they probably haven't gotten the interface quite right, no matter what they claim, and they're basing their every move and policy on the data they get back.
I'd like to remind you all of one of the oldest maxims of dealing with computers here, and I'd like you to think about it for a minute: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Also, interfacing with the Eye tends to drive you loopy if you look at the “higher symbols”, which are more accurate, which kind of implies this has more in common with a 100% accurate Lovecraftian Tome than Vau I-Ching.
Want to play with one? Well fuck you, because they're biometrically encoded to a single user on so many levels that you just fucking can't. They talk about energy fields again here as the keying mechanism, but I'd much rather say biometric encoding... because it makes more sense. Oh, and let's not forget the glyphs are their own language, and take “many years of instruction on the glyphs […] to read them, let alone protect oneself from their power.”
And, on that chilling note, the first person narrator bids us farewell, and finally names himself. His name is silly, so I'm not going to dignify it with a mention beyond that. And, on a similarly chilling note, next update, we begin what is literally the worst pre-written adventure I've ever seen in the Fading Suns line (although not the worst full stop, old adversarial RPGs trump FS on that score).
Hope you're looking forward to it!
The Dickmoving (Hegemony Adventure Part 1)Original SA post
On the downside, this adventure is tedious to read, and is too long. On the other, at least I can summarise the
out of the first act...
Fading Suns: The Dickmoving (Hegemony Adventure Part 1)
"Oh, shit, they're giving me a metaplot!"
Hegemony, suffice to say, did not sell amazingly well, and it is no secret that, while there are many people who want Andrew Greenberg to conclude the trilogy (like myself), he has so far refused to do so, in part because of the many, many Fading Suns fans who roundly criticised him for it, or found it after the hullabaloo and severely disliked at least half of it (like myself... in the latter category). Much like Lifeweb, this second half is, I feel, the major contributing factor in the failure of the War in Heaven trilogy. Let's go through some of the warning signs of what's to come, shall we?
“This drama gives player characters a greater glimpse into the Hegemony than any outsider has had before.” - While technically true, it's a grandstanding sentence that, as we'll see, somewhat overstates how exciting it is.
“With this drama, player characters swing wide the gate to the Hegemony, bringing increased – although cautious – interplay between the Vau and the Known Worlds.” - Again, technically true. Although, for reasons we'll go into, it is again not the grand thing it claims to be.
“Ideally, the player-character cadre will have completed the 'Living Planet' drama from […] Lifeweb.” - Ideally, the GM would have run something else and called it “Living Planet”, saving him from the inevitable lynching he's going to get for running this adventure, even if the players somehow liked “Living Planet”.
Then there is the Tech Talk, which can be summed up as: “Players who think Vautech is cool, and want to understand it more, can't beyond the absolute basics. So fuck you.”.
In fact, the entire first and second sections of this introduction have a minefield of claims that don't live up to reality, but I'll ask you to keep this one in mind, and judge for yourself whether they succeeded:
”Elabi” owes much to Phillip K. Dick's vein of science fiction, not just his ontological questions about the nature of reality, but its context of religious liberation from an oppressive authority that is not merely political (as in Orwell) or mental (as in William S Burroughs) but cosmological – a truly Gnostic vision of a universe in chains, ruled by shadowy archons. “Elabi” asks: What happens when the archons are gone but their prison remains?
Let's Get Railroaded!
The adventure begins... well, actually, it begins in whatever the hell village, township, or city the players are at when the GM feels like running the adventure (much like “Living Planet”), and it always begins the same way: A random Vau turns up, hands you a cube without speaking, bows, and walks off. Whereupon two groups of goons turn up, one of which is a mob of peasants led by a crazy anti-Vau monk, the other of which is led by a local candlemaker, and believes the Vau are the best thing since sliced bread. While the players are trying to sort that shit out, a Scraver tries to steal the cube before you can even read the god-damn message (which is an invitation from the Yoma Zal Vor'Drumph, or whatever... y'know, the human stooge's boss from the fluff earlier?). Oh, and then some guards turn up, and arrest everyone, whether you've recovered the cube or not (Recovering the cube is not mentioned as a part of the adventure, by the way. Despite the fact the adventure can't continue without it.)
Now, people, I'm going to tell you the absolute best way to avoid a shitload of crap that's going to head your way. By the time your GM runs this piece of shit, you should have your own damn spaceship. When the two groups turn up, you run the fuck away to your ship, contact the nearest Imperial Eye agent (to get the obligatory briefing that's to follow), then contact the Vau (you can do this), and they will tow your ship to the planet. For reasons that will become clear, this avoids all the bullshit that is about to follow.
If you didn't?
Don't Say I Didn't Warn You!
Don't bother memorising this face, it appears twice in the entire adventure.
Let's assume (for sanity's sake), that you get the cube, get told that you have to go (the Vau are very emphatic about this, both in the message that's hidden in the cube and to the Imperial Eye), and get bundled aboard the main ship that's going to get toed to Shaduveen (the planet the Vau have set aside for these shenanigans). Y'know what's gonna happen on the way? Do you? No? Well, let me put it like this: Bend over, and smile while you're doing it.
If you don't accept some sort of Imperial Eye oversight and help, you're fucked, period. They lock you up, then send you down for 10 years work-camp in the worst case, and you're on the run in the best case. If you get on board that god-damn ship, one of your players is going to be replaced by a Metonym (shapeshifting spy), who doesn't have the skills to impersonate anybody , and whose role in the plot is to be unmasked at the end of the act by... the Vau. The book refers to a section called “The Envoy”, but this section doesn't actually exist, and so, until a much closer reading, I genuinely thought she no longer existed in the plot. No, she just faffs around for a social engagement scene that you also can't skip if you go on the plot-ship (I won't bore you with the details, but everybody wants something from the players when they return, and there are unstatted spies galore in the background), and then gets unmasked and replaced again with the real PC before the second act.
Ah well, at least they get some free kit out of it all... Also, it could be worse, she could replace the Imperial Eye agent who also goes with you. GM, don't do this, you're just fucking your players over unnecessarily if you do.
Then it's on to Shaduveen, aka, the Vau homeworld. In short, fuck Act One. Next time, we find out what Greenberg thinks is an “open adventure”. Spoilers: It's not great.
Who Had The Map Again? (Hegemony Adventure Part 2)Original SA post
Big Thanks to David Bowie, whose latest album is allowing me to get through this adventure writeup without destroying more of my computer out of sheer hatred.
Fading Suns: Who Had The Map Again? (Hegemony Adventure Part 2)
"We are non -caged aliens, sirrah, not like your Known Worlds ones, who have leg irons and are whipped daily!"
There are precisely two kinds of “open-ness” in this adventure, and, in Act Two, we are exposed to the first definition as Andrew Greenberg understands it: A selection of random encounters until the players get bored, the GM runs out of further ideas, the players get hurt enough to need help, or any combination of the above. But first... Remember I said the human Vau-stooge who had a silly name wasn't important?
Well, he still isn't. But he does put in an appearance, to demonstrate Sheaths (full bodysuit models), so as to allow the players to breathe and act in the atmosphere of Shaduveen. If anyone's dumb enough to not want to, the nausea and definite rankness of the air (IE – clues that the atmosphere is poisonous to humans) should get them in fast enough. It also allows them to understand most kinds of Vau and client race languages, except, of course, secret Mandarin speak. Don't worry, that last portion isn't actually going to be important, but, suffice to say, nobody needs to learn new languages.
And then? The group is told to wander through the woods between the landing pad and the meeting place, take their time, see the sights, and if they need help, say the magic Vau safe-word which will summon Soldiers to their location to escort them the rest of the way. Hope they can survive whatever trouble forced them to use it for 15 minutes, though!
Not that there's an amazing amount of trouble. The nastiest pre-genned “random” encounter the players will encounter is a rabid boar-analogue. The most interesting one, however, is a hunting pack of Manshogo. If there's no aliens in the group, they won't believe they're from the Empire, but will get curious and ask lots of questions if they prove it somehow. More interestingly, if any aliens are in the group, a lot more questions will be directed at them, and the nature of those questions is telling... Most of them have to do with horrific rumours of alien enslavement that the Manshogo seem to believe. Okay, so aliens have a bad lot in the Known Worlds, but that's some serious propaganda!
Anyways, after a lot of potential encounters (between seven and ten, to be precise, 80% of which are social), the players get to the palace, where none other than Yoma Zal Vord'Rumph is there to meet them! He guides them through some more crazy stuff, including a genuine M C Escher style staircase (with all that that implies) that was somehow meant to prove a point to the petty humans. But we never do get to hear what this amazing point is, because the next place the group is guided to contains an animal cage that suddenly malfunctions, releasing the pre-starved animal (more sabotage), who immediately mauls Yoma Zal Vord'Rumph... Yes, his shield was sabotaged too, and if anyone tries their energy shields, they'll find they just don't fucking work.
That's right, the Vau palace built specifically for meeting this group of players and pumping them for info about Symbiots while looking cool has been given the hax. You'd think somebody would have checked this beforehand, wouldn't you? But no, the group is then separated by teleportation type devices, force-shields, illusions that are solid, whatever the hell works, and are now being chased by Vau Soldiers (who, as we'll see, are no fricking joke). Thus ends Act Two, whereupon we'll find the other definition of “open-ness” according to Andrew Greenberg... But first, the players have to deal with the animal, preferably without killing it.
You Are In A Maze of Twisty Turny Encounters, All Alike
There's an Ool in the Pool, and he's really cool.
Yoma Zal Vord'Rumph is relatively okay, being in a Vau life-cocoon, a magic device that's going to keep him safe. The same does not apply to the players, as their energy shields don't work, There's also a background that's meant to explain this shit, but the players will have little to no chance of working most of this out. Want to know what's really going on?
Yoma Zal Vor'Drumph wanted to put the players through his magical shifting palace to try and teach the about the Weft (the Progenitors' hideous reality altering machines), then lightly mind control them and send them back to the Known Worlds as unsuspecting Vau spies. See, it turns out that only occult/psi species can access the Weft, and, since the Symbiots scared the shit out of the Vau, they've upped the timetable on their plans to control this ancient universe altering technology... But somebody threw a spanner in the works, and amusingly, it's the only people who are bigger dicks than the Vau... Religious nutters, a sect called the Elabi.
The Elabi are where the whole Phillip K Dick homage is meant to be, because they believe the universe is an eleborate illusion that's also a prison, locking them away from the Truth (yes, with a capital T). As far as the Elabi believe (we still don't know if it's true), the Prophet was meant to be the embodiment of potential freedom from this prison, and the Vau killed him because they're this false-universe's jailers. Cue the Elabi attempting to convey this message (and the Vau's plans to control the Weft) in overwrought religious metaphor and illusion.
This entire act? Is basically showing the Vau and their servants for what dicks they are. Both sides. Let's go over some of the random encounters and messages, shall we?
The Mad Worker – There's one room with a crazy worker who was apparently left to go nuts by Vord'Rumph. He's made some artworks. Don't touch them, they're traps.
The Map Room – Want a copy of the Vau jumpgate map in character? Go here, except, of course, it's sodding random (1d20 roll where you end up, afaik... you can affect it some, but still).
The Jellyfish – There's an Ool in a pool here. The Ool in the pool is here to school... specifically, nice players who don't flirt or hurt the Ool in the pool will get points for psychic powers. They have to be nice as spice for the Ool in the pool to point their joints. Why yes, I was in a silly mood when I wrote this, why do you ask?
The Poetry Reading – One of the three messages is an excerpt from The Book of Urizen by William Blake. Specifically, it's this:
”Book of Urizen (Ch 5, V. 12)” posted:
They began to weave curtains of darkness
They erected large pillars round the Void
With golden hooks fasten'd in pillars
With infinite labour the Eternals
A woof wove, and called it Science
The Central Chamber, aka, the Important Bit
This is actually the chapter picture... oh, so innocent... and yet, look below, it's actually three nutters with a tool of cosmic power
After going through some bullshit ritual, listening to a bunch of religious nutters urging you on, and going where they tell you, the players are instantly transported to the central chamber, where... another bunch of the same nutters explain the Vau's plans and the building. Then the palace's nano-dudes attempt to capture the players while they either attempt to escape or attempt to hear the other side of the story from Yoma Zal Vord'Rumph. But we'll be dealing with that next time, along with the aftermath in general.
We'll deal with that next time, and then finally... the appendix, where, like the Vau, I've lied to you. Again.
Nothing Really Matters To Me (Hegemony Adventure Part 3)Original SA post Fading Suns: Nothing Really Matters To Me (Hegemony Adventure Part 3)
Yep, no new artwork here, move along!
So, the adventure is going to be concluded, but the players have a choice: run the fuck away now, or hear the other side. Funnily enough, I recommend the seemingly stupid option of waiting, as does Greenberg (unsurprisingly). Why? Because Yoma Zal Vord'Rumph gives few, if any fucks. He openly tells the players the following things in the final scene (all in my own words):-
“Oh hey, yeah, those religious nutters are terrorists, but they do have some interesting ideas on the... oh, wait, Progenitor stuffs, sorry, can't actually tell you.”
“Er, the brainwashing thing? Yeah, I was going to implant hypno triggers in you and shit, and send you on your way, but my I-Ching told me I'd have some difficulty doing that, so it's all good!”
“Oh, yeah, have this magic plot key for the next episode of War In The Heavens, Pantheon. It'll only come out of your body if you die, move to the nearest group member if you do, and somebody else was given one, don't know who... suspenseful, eh?”
What happens next then depends on one thing, and one thing alone: Whether the players were dicks or not. If they were Knights of the Dinner Table or Campaign Trail style murderhobos, then they're knocked out and quickly ferried off world in cold sleep. If they weren't, they get a Vau magic plot key (which another mysteeeeeerious group also gets), and also the fluff in book form. Then, of course, there's the usual interrogations by the Imperial Eye, handing out Xps, and a warning about the next book in the series that never manifested, Pantheon. It was meant to finally deal with the Progenitors/Ur/Von Daniken SpaceGods, etc, etc. But, before we deal with that (in the final update for Fading Suns), let's talk about the adventure.
In Memoriam: What Could Have Been
Wow, that adventure we were promised was a doozy, wasn't it? Open ended, with the potential to change the fate of worlds again.... and even a bit of Phillip K Dick love! Shame it wasn't the adventure we got, though, wasn't it? Because what we got was two acts of getting lost in Greenberg's idea of a fun-house, one act of dickmoves, and a ham-handed fanfiction writer's idea of Phillip K Dick in the final act. Oh, all that loot you got inside the palace, except the potential psychic powers and the magic plot key? Nanite illusion, fuck you, it melts away. Except the map, that was real. And what did you actually change? Well, as it turns out... extremely little. The Vau decide after this adventure that they're not sure a race of murder-hobos should be in charge of the Weft (under their guidance, of course), and while the diplomatic envoys chosen are allowed to visit freely, the Vau don't actually do any talking to them. So, instead of the massive changes we were promised, we get “You get another possible holiday spot.” Great.
So let's go onto the appendix, shall we?
Oh, Look, The Corebook (and I) Lied, What A Surprise!
In Memoriam: The Useless NPC
You remember I said you couldn't play the Vau, no way, no how? Well, I lied. This final chapter of crunch has point-buy racial templates for every race we've encountered in this book, including Vau Mandarins, the Ool, and Vau Soldiers. Vau can't take psi or theurgic templates (anything occult, really), but damn, they're immune to all non-physical psi and theurgy. For 5 points. They're pretty powerful, even with the “Takes twice as long to do anything thanks to worrying about Auspices” flaw, and the whole “Can't be magical” thing. There's also kit, but literally none of it is special (sheaths aren't actually all that good, and the really good stuff isn't statted, at all.)
Well, this is awkward, we've got space. So let's finish this up, shall we?
Conclusion, AKA, It's Not That Bad, Honest!
For all my (and PurpleXVI's) talk of Shantor wang, crotch guns, and ye liveliest awfulness that is the War In The Heavens series, Fading Suns is actually an interesting and enjoyable setting, and I would recommend getting the core-book (Revised Edition, while not having been edited very well, is still the best bet you have, as it actually stats vehicles properly, and there are more of them.) The main problem with Hegemony, I feel, is that last section of the fluff (the Religion/Technology thing) and the final adventure. Up till that point, it's mostly written to be dry, but with interesting tidbits if you're willing to accept that the Vau are a bunch of lying dicks. Which they are. So, what would Pantheon have done? There are two possibilities I'm going to present: What I think would have been awesome, and what you'd probably have gotten.
The Awesomesauce – In Pantheon, we learn all about the Progenitors, the true stories behind what the Vau and Symbiots have said, and the Prophet's death was real, but a willing sacrifice to actually help keep one half of the Progenitors from getting a foothold. It failed, of course, and the adventure is either the players having to find a way to shut out the Progenitors for all time (destroying the Weft in the process), or kickstarting a Babylon 5 like War In The Heavens, with the Vau being the Minbari and the Symbiots being the Centauri: mostly unknowing puppets of their dickbag ancient overlords.
The Greenberg Effect – There would probably be a first person narration by Alustro about the dangers of the Progenitors, pieced together from his and Lady Erian Li Halan's explanations, and full of plot holes and misconceptions. The adventure would have the other group with the magic key tattoo nanite thing being secretly Symbiot-tainted, and the two groups face off, with a little subtle help from either the Symbiots or, in the case of the players, the Vau. Nothing actually changes as a result of this adventure, and we get some knowledge of the Progenitors. Also a Progenitor servant race template or three, and actual crunch on some Progenitor Tech (none of which is amazingly useful, except for one or two things that are completely broken.
But there, that's it, we're done, and I hope you've enjoyed my ranting on Fading Suns. Toward the end, I may have mocked it mercilessly, but, as mentioned, the corebook is fine, the nobles and priest book is mostly fine, the Obun-Ukar book is actually interesting, and most of the pre-writtens have the usual range of awesome to terrible that RPGs do. Weird Places is definitely recommended, and the Dark Between the Stars if you want bad guys. That's about it, really, except for one final point: Avoid the War In The Heavens like the plague. You know now exactly how bad they both are.
See you next time for Alternity!