Double Cross by Night10194
Insert Anime OpeningOriginal SA post Double Cross
Insert Anime Opening
Well, this is gonna be different. Very different. I want to talk to you all about a very curious game about playing viral superbeings in an incredibly shonen anime supers game. I don't really care about its default setting (though the default setting is fine, it's like Aberrant with way less 90s edge and way more anime) because I've never actually run a game in the default setting. The default setting isn't even that important; the game doesn't spend a lot of time on it and it's more a vague set-up for you to play out your cool supers game than a detailed and organized world.
No, I want to talk to you about this game because I love its mechanics. It's a great example of a game whose mechanics play into the genre and tone it's trying to convey very, very well. This is a game where your MP bar is also an escalation mechanic and a corruption meter at the same time, and it actually works. Fights have a sense of momentum. There's a good combo system in place for building up huge supermoves, and there are reasonable limitations on using them that prevent everyone alpha striking all the time. There's just enough fluff on the various power sets to suggest flavor, but there's a ton of room for you to fill in whatever you want. This is how I've used this same system for 'Parasite Eve 3' and 'Biblical Fanfiction star in biblical fanfiction'. All you really need for this system to work for your supers game is a sense that your powers are somehow dangerous and that your supers need to balance between running hot for power and keeping themselves at a level where they can get back into safe bounds when the fight is over.
As another note, while I love this game's mechanics, the game's translation is pretty rough. It reads a lot like a 90s JRPG and can be pretty hard to work through. This leads to things like 'I got a fundamentally important rule about power combos wrong for a full year of play'. I don't blame anyone who says this game can be a nightmare to learn; it's very complex as is and the rough translation makes it even harder to understand some of the wording.
But enough about why I'm doing this, let's talk about Double Cross. In normal Double Cross, you're Japanese characters living in a world where an insane magical virus that does whatever whimsical superpower shit it feels like got released from an ancient dig site about 20 years ago. Because this is anime, the guy who discovered it A: Is a very powerful superhuman now B: Is probably evil and C: Dubbed it THE RENEGADE VIRUS. It gives people superpowers when it goes active, and it's dormant in almost all of the human population. The superpowers are awesome, but if you overuse them you can end up at high Encroachment, with the virus replacing your personality and sanity and turning you into a ravening genetic horror. Those with powers are called 'Overed' (Bwahahahah!) and those who go nuts are 'Gjaums' (which apparently means germs or something?). Overed can resist going crazy by a mixture of willpower and a phenomena known as 'Loises' (for Lois Lane), whereby they keep some strong human connections via friends and loved ones that strengthen their identity against the virus.
The only solution to a crazy Overed or a Gjaum is a sane Overed, so naturally there's a big hidden international effort to recruit (force) Overed to defend the world (and grant enormous temporal powers to the people running the show). The United Guardian Network are the 'good guys' who want everything to continue as normal and want to keep the Renegade virus secret, while benefiting immensely from the Japanese magic teenagers they recruit and indoctrinate. Opposing them are the False Hearts, who believe the Renegade virus should be known to all the world, primarily via False Heart boots stomping on human faces and setting up a new world ruled by the 'superior' Overed. They're dicks. They're led by Professor Caudwell (who, this being an anime, has taken on the codename Iscariot, because of course he has), the guy who discovered the virus in the first place, now an incredibly powerful superhuman with a bunch of creepy genetically enhanced children (no mention of who he had them with) who do his bidding. Your standard game is punching these guys in the dick while also navigating the weird conspiracy that recruited you and dealing with the weird superhuman underground of hyper assassins and incredibly anime stock characters.
DX is a fully d10 based system. No other dice are used. Generally, you roll d10s equal to your Stat in a test, with there being a [Body], [Sense], [Mind] and [Social] stat. You only keep the highest die on a roll, and add your Skill and modifiers to the result. If you get a 10 on any dice, they're called a critical and you set them aside and then roll them again as a second dice pool. If you get any 10s, you do this again. For every time you rolled another pool, you add 10 to your result. So, say I'm rolling 8d10, and I get 2 10s, I'd count that as a 10 and then roll 2d10. Then I get a 4 and an 8, so I'd add 8 to 10 and say I rolled an 18 for the check. That's not the complicated part. The complicated part is some of your superpowers will lower the Critical Value for a check. A common power every Overed has is called Concentrate, and it sets your Critical Value anywhere from 7 to 9 for superpowered attacks. In that case, any die that meets or exceeds your critical value on a check counts as rolling a 10. As you might imagine, having a 20-40% chance of a 'critical' per die with die pools that are usually 5-15 dice or so (or more, for some character types) can lead to pretty long 'critical chains' sometimes. It can also take a little while to roll and read. Note that the book will not tell you any of this about criticals and the basic dice system for a long time.
No, the first things we talk about are the optional personality/background rolling system and deciding your Syndromes (power sets). You can choose to roll or freely decide on anything in your background, with separate tables for someone born a UGN grunt, someone who was an Ordinary High School Student until they started throwing cars, someone who was an ordinary adult (DX is totally fine with you playing well adjusted adults and professionals), and someone who was really into crime. We also get a bunch of example characters and they're actually quite useful, or would be if we had any real context for what their numbers mean. One thing that's clear from the Example PCs: You really want to focus on one or two stats, and only one or two styles of attack. There's Melee, Ranged, and 'Renegade Control' (Magic, so I'm just going to call it magic) and they generally run off Body, Sense, and Mind respectively. Some other characters can attack with Social but it tends to be one of the less useful stats. Still, the example characters are dumped on you without any real context so I'll mostly be ignoring them for now and moving on to PC creation.
When creating your concept, you want to fill in your Origin (where you came from, not where you got your powers), your Life Experience, a hint of what kind of NPCs you've crossed paths with in your backstory, some recommended Lois archetypes, and how you awakened to your powers, as well as your secret darkest urge, the thing your virus wants you to do. The Awakening and Impulse (Darkest urge) will combine to determine your base Encroachment Rate, or how close to crazy (and powerful) you start each session, usually in the high 20s low 30s. 100+ is where things get dangerous and most powered attacks cost you 4-7; we'll be talking a lot about Encroachment Rate later. At every stage in your backstory, you can either roll on a chart, pick from the chart, or just freely write your own thing; just get your GM to approve a starting Encroachment value if you want an unusual Awakening or Impulse (just pick the values from some of the premade ones and mash them together).
After you've done that, you pick your Syndromes. Syndromes are your superpower sets, and are essentially character classes. The average character in DX actually has 2, and almost all the combinations will work. You can also choose to have a single Syndrome, which makes its powers potentially stronger and grants you access to two really good 'pure' powers from your set, or you can choose to have 3, but they're all weaker and this is really tricky to make work. It's highly recommended you stick to 1 or 2 Syndromes unless you've got a really specific build in mind and you fucking love doing character optimization. Syndromes have fluff, but what really matters for them is their mechanics; you can fill in a lot of your own fluff beyond the basic suggested manifestations of powers.
The Syndromes are:
Angel Halo: An attacking/wizard Syndrome, Angel Halo is based around lasers, hyper-perception, illusion, and stealth. It tends to be the more precise but slightly lower damage version of a blaster. It can also use stealth and precision to supplement either a melee ambusher or a sniper.
Balor: Gravity and space-time manipulation makes for a hell of a tank, debuffer, and ranged attacker. Balor has a lot of cool no-sell powers and ways to slow down and debuff enemies. It works well with any power set that would be enhanced by being tough as nails or able to fuck with your enemies' initiative and movement. You can just as easily make a great 'sticky' melee tank with it (if you have a melee focused second set) as a powerful wizard.
Black Dog: Cybernetics, technomancy, and lightning powers. Black Dog is very well rounded and works well with other power sets. It gets a lot of self buffs that are 'always on', simply adding to base Encroachment but giving you permanent stat boosts. You can install a railgun in your arm or shoot lightning everywhere. It can do a little of everything and supplements a lot of other sets well, or makes for a flexible Pure type. They're also really good at reducing damage.
Bram Stoker: Blood magic. These guys are weird as hell and get a special pet-class option where they make blood clones, which is really powerful but runs you insanely hot and can make you go crazy quick; your blood clones run off the same Encroachment as you do. Still, pet classes are uniformly quite useful. If you don't want to do that, they have a lot of good enhancement powers that run off your HP or let you drain HP from others, because magic vampire powers.
Chimera: Chimera does one thing and does it insanely well: Smashing shit. You want to be a giant werewolf or the Incredible Hulk, Chimera is all about shifting into a giant warform to get +5 Body Dice and then punching so hard you can put a hole in a battleship. They also get one of the best Flight powers, so people who think they can escape your crazy melee focus by flying like cowards will not be able to do this, especially as they also then get a power for knocking people out of the air. If not backed up by another power set, they can be a bit fragile and often lack for AoE, but they punch like a train.
Exile: The other Shapeshifter/pure Physical class, whereas Chimeras turn into big monsters and animal people or the Hulk, Exiles are horrifying goo people. They focus a lot more on accuracy, flexibility, multi-target attacks, and damage resistance than the Chimera. They actually get the best HP booster in the game; if you want a lot of HP so you can no-sell attacks by being shot to pieces before horrifically putting yourself back together while laughing, Exile does that. You might be thinking they'd work well with Chimera. You would be right; Exile-Chimeras are really goddamn good. They can lack for raw damage compared to a Chimera, and most of their powers are more expensive to use.
Hanuman: Superspeed and sound control. They make surprisingly good wizards and buff-meisters; you can play a superspeed bard who encourages people with magic sound waves. They also work well as another physical attacker class, focused much more on getting around and breaking enemy defenses. They do not, notably, get extra actions except with their limited-use restricted-to-later-in-a-fight ultimate powers. DX knows modeling superspeed by giving someone two turns would make superspeed the most powerful power set.
Morpheus: Morpheus makes stuff. They summon incredibly good weapons, armor, etc, and have one of the best basic magic attacks in the game for some reason. They can summon and pass out gear far better than anything you can requisition, and a Pure (or running hot) Morpheus can learn the spell 'Create Giant Robot', so that's definitely a point in their favor. Their hidden weakness is they're extremely EXP intensive; their powers take a lot of investment and their own Syndrome doesn't help them use the gear the summon as much as you'd like.
Neumann: Superhuman intelligence and skill, Neumann is a buffing and support class that also specializes in martial arts and two-fisted gunfighting. They are the only class that gets an actual dual wield power! And it's actually great! They can do a lot of great stuff to buff allies during the setup phase of a round, without using their action, but it costs a lot of Encroachment and usually doesn't benefit the Neumann themselves. Their actual combat abilities are diverse and consistent, but not as powerful as bigger Syndromes. Still, you can narrate everything to empower your allies, which is a critical anime role.
Orcus: Orcus is the power of 'domain', where you spread particles around and make the plants and space in an area obey you and honestly Orcus has no idea what it wants to be. That extends to its powers. It has some wizard shit, some plant and animal control for buffing or debuffing, weirdly the best summoned armor in the game outside of Morpheus, and in general I have always been disappointed with every Orcus villain I've made. Their most useful powers are dice fuckery; they can cast a spell where they point at that 7 you're trying to crit-chain off for your last die and go 'nah that's a 1', or point at the 2 an ally rolled and go 'nah that's a 10', allowing them to crit one more time. Otherwise they're kind of a weird mishmash.
Salamandra: Salamandra is all about fire. Well, fire and ice. They're thermal control in general, so if you want to burn someone with all the thermal energy you sucked out of the guy you froze last turn, you can do that. They're good at wizard stuff and lots of direct damage, being the pure damage blaster to Angel Halo's precision character. They can also supplement a physical character very well. They're straightforward, sure, but like Chimera, 'I'm really good at fucking murdering people' is a legit specialization.
Solaris: Chemistry and mind control. Solaris is the only power set that can regularly use Social to attack. They're way more about buffs and debuffs (and heals) than anything else, but they're really good at it. They can also pull stuff like suddenly turning their buffs and heals into AoEs that help the whole party, which is really great. Don't underestimate them due to a lack of direct damage; when they pull out all the stops and give the party Chimera -1 Crit Value (stacking with Concentrate for a 6, or 50-50 odds per die they crit) and +15 dice, no-one's going to be laughing at the silly buff-meister anymore.
A PC picks one or two of these, which then give them their base stats, then spends 3 points filling in to make sure none of their stats are at 0. Then they pick a profession, which gives them a couple skills and an extra stat point. Then you go pick 4 starting powers, put 2 levels into them, and you're done. Sounds simple? I'm going to be talking about powers for goddamn ever because going over what you can do with each Syndrome is key to understanding the game. If there's a flaw in character creation it's that your starting abilities are only enough for maybe 1 or 2 tricks. You'll grow and fill in over time, but you start out very simple to play.
What weird combo should I make for our example anime?
Next Time: An Example Character
I cast create dovesOriginal SA post Double Cross
I cast create doves
So, a Morpehus-Neumann combo has the obvious route of 'Two guns, fired whilst leaping through the air and yelling'.
To that end, we begin our aspiring one-person action movie montage by rolling a d4 to see if they're a criminal, government jackboot, normal person, or Ordinary High School Student. That's right, I'm going absolutely full randomization for this to show you the kind of ridiculous backstory that results in. We get Ordinary High School Student, because the Anime Gods are watching. Flipping a coin, our young anime is a young lady.
With a 31 on the Origin Chart, our parents are rich investors. No suggestion of what they invest in, that's up to us. The suggested Lois for this is our rich business dad. Dad's a rich science investor who might be investing in some shady science and Umbrella type stuff but he loves his daughter.
A 48 on our Experience chart as a Student says our young woman is a MAJOR SUCCESS. She's an honors student, or she's a prodigy at something, even before she gets superhuman martial arts and genius and the ability to create guns out of thin air. Our recommended Lois for this (you get 3 total 'lasting' Loises) is a rival, so we've got an anime rival we beat out for first place as an honors student, I'd say.
Our important NPC encounter is a Benefactor that our young anime feels indebted to. She wants to be a scientist and one of the scientists her dad works with has taken her under their wing, helping her with her exams and advising her about college. Perhaps said scientist has SINISTER AMBITIONS (or maybe not).
Our young anime awakened to her powers because she saw someone she cared about getting the shit kicked out of them and that would not stand. This gives her a base Encroach of 16. Going to say she saw her science buddy being threatened by shady corporate commandos or something who wanted her to keep going on some research she didn't feel comfortable with, when our anime suddenly manifested stylish magic armor and a pair of revolvers and explained this would not stand.
The dark urge of our viral superbeing infection is a LUST FOR BATTLE. While our young anime is normally restrained and reasonable, part of her is just itching to dive through a cloud of doves while emptying her infinite magic revolvers into some genetic horror. This adds another 16 to her base Encroachment, for 32.
Her Positive Emotion about an NPC is Sincerity: She trusts her father is doing his best, no matter how shady the world of hypertech science investment gets. Her negative is Repugnance: Her science rival at school is kind of a prick and I dunno, he's really angry a girl beat him out on the honors list and he's being a huge jerk about it beyond all reason. Young Makoto (I think her name will be Makoto) ain't got time for Shinji's weird sexist bullshit about how girls 'shouldn't' be good at science and engineering, she's busy trying to stay on top of the honor's list while also being a real life action heroine at night.
So there, that's the background of Makoto Tachibana, wealthy heiress, gunfighter, and aspiring scientist with magic summoning powers and incredible genius. It's actually not that incoherent.
Her actual mechanics are a little weirder. See, Neumann obviously starts with a lot of Mind, but it doesn't actually use Mind for anything, since it focuses on physical attacks and buffs. So she starts with 0 Body, 0 Sense, 3 Mind, and 1 Social from Neumann, and 1 Body, 2 Sense, 0 Mind, and 1 Social from Morpheus. Added together, she's got 1 Body (kinda frail), 2 Sense (Average for a human), 3 Mind (Bright), and 2 Social (Average) to start. She dumps all her starting points in Sense to be better at shooting. She'll count as a Researcher, since she's spending all her time on science, giving her +1 Mind and a bunch of Knowledge skills in science. She'll also dump her 5 starting skillpoints in Ranged because she's going to be a gunfighter. So at the end she's Body 1, Sense 5, Mind 4, Social 2. She's sharp, perceptive, and decent with people, but kinda noodly.
She gets 20+(2xBody)+(1xMind) HP, for 26 HP. This isn't very much. She can get knocked down easily, especially as she doesn't have any bonus HP powers available.
She gets (2xSense)+(1xMind) Initiative. Init lets a character go first; there's no rolling, the values are just compared. She's got 14 Init, which is great for a starting character. Makoto draws first.
She gets a couple powers just for being an Overed: One of them is Resurrect. As long as she's below 100% Encroachment, if she's KOed, she gets right back up at d10 HP, and adds d10 to her Encroachment. She also starts with Concentration 2 in one of her Syndromes, which means as long as an attack is using a power from that Syndrome, she can pay a little extra to give it Critical Value 8. She takes that in Neumann, since her active attacks will be coming from there. She also gets 'Warding', which turns all non Overed into a scene into Extras when activated; it basically gets people to clear out or pass out so you can have big anime superfights. It's a matter of taste; I mostly ignore it in my games.
She then buys Hundred Guns (Create gun) from Morpehus because hey, guns. There's also a power literally called Double Creation, which lets you make multiple guns at once when combined with stuff like Hundred Guns and makes them better for doing it, so that's perfect. She buys Create Armor so she can summon her cool costume at the start of battles, too. And finally she buys Multi-Weapon (Ranged) so she can fire both guns at once, combining their damage ratings into one big attack. As this is an active attack power, she can combine it with Concentrate, so she has a good bread and butter move. She puts both her starting power levels in Hundred Guns to make her summonable revolvers stronger.
And there you have it. As you can see, she kind of only has one gimmick to start with. It'll take awhile for her to branch out and learn to do more stuff, like disintegrate people with the power of creation, heal people, or narrate scenes in order to make her buddies stronger, but off the bat she's got a summonable costume, two guns, a melodramatic hook (evil science corporation threatening her dad and her science mentor), and she's ready to shoot some dudes.
Also, yes, I let everyone have Simple Powers at character creation. Simple Powers are little tricks every Syndrome has that don't actually do anything in combat. Normally, you don't get these for free and have to pay small amounts of EXP for them, which sucks. These are cute little abilities like 'You can learn any language by listening to it for a minute' for Neumann, or 'perfectly recreate any meal or drink you've had or read about' for Morpheus. My usual houserule is everyone gets 2 of them from each Syndrome, as each Syndrome has 7. Makoto will have Ultimate Chef (Make food and drink at will), Almighty Instrument (if she cannot find the TV remote, she summons one), Metabolism Control (She can perfectly control when to fall asleep, when to wake, etc with her super mind), and Profiling (Can do Sherlock Holmes shit about NPCs, making all kinds of little deductions).
And thus we get Makoto Tachibana, freelance super-detective, ordinary (rich) high school girl, honor's student, and would be renaissance woman. PCs generally come out fun, but I wish there was more guidance on creating higher level character from the start if you want to start out with characters with more options.
Next Time: Getting into the power weeds
Powerful powersOriginal SA post Double Cross
So, before we get into actual powers, we're going to discuss a ton of stuff the game really should have done before you even made a PC. This game commits one of those common organizational sins: Everything about how to use the stuff you created is in the back. You know how I seemed to know exactly what I was looking for while building Makoto? That's because I've been running/playing this game for several goddamn years. When my players first made PCs for our first game we ended up with stuff like PCs with no Concentrated attacks, because you don't know how any of that works on first glance.
So we're going to talk about how power combos work, how powers are conveyed to the player, what puretypes do, what tri-breeds do, etc. We're going to get into the weeds and really discuss why the mechanics work how they work.
First: Power Combos are one of the key points of the game. During a round of combat you get a Minor action and a Major action. You also have a Setup phase before the round begins, and some powers can be activated then, outside your turn order. After that Setup phase comes the Initiative Phase, when you decide who's going first. A lot of Initiative effecting powers are used during the Setup or Initiative phases because then they can alter this current turn instead of next turn. A character taking their turn is doing their Main Process (the actual round). Finally there's a Cleanup phase when you apply Damage over Time, clean up stuff that's run out of duration, etc. You can combine any power that uses the same action type (Minor or Major) and the same number of targets and the same skill into a single action. You are encouraged to write down your combos and give them little anime names and descriptions. So take Makoto: Summoning her armor is a Minor action that costs 2 Encroach. Hundred Guns is ALSO a Minor that costs 3 Encroach. Double Creation is ALSO a Minor that costs 3 Encroach. She can combine all 3 of these powers into a single Minor Action to summon both her armor and both her pistols in one move. She gives it the name Lock n' Load, because of course she would, and writes down what powers are involved, what it does (Summons and equips armor, two guns, with +1 Attack Power each for Double Creation), and a little description of her costume (obviously ultra-modern looking biker gear and armor) and customized pistols (engraved, shiney, infinite ammunition).
Now, Concentrate says it's a 'Syndrome' power. What does this mean? This means it can be combined with any power that uses at least 1 power of that syndrome. I made this mistake for a full year! I thought the entire combo had to be from one syndrome! This is not the case at all! A Syndrome power can be combined into any combo that uses at least one power from that Syndrome, so say Makoto wanted to combine Concentrate with Multi-Weapons, her two-fisted gunslinging attack, and also Gigantic Mode, a Morpheus power that breaks your current weapons but hits a whole area of enemies. She could, because Concentrate (Neumann) is a Neumann Syndrome power, and there's a Neumann power in there. Now say she wanted to combine Multiweapons, Conc, and Reinforce, a Morpheus Syndrome-linked power that adds to base damage. She couldn't, because there's no non-Syndrome Morpheus power in there. Syndrome takes the place of 'skill' in deciding what you can combine it with.
Note also some powers are explicitly going to modify how many targets a power hits. They will say they do this, and it overrides the normal 'your combined powers all have to hit the same targets' restriction on combos.
Otherwise, you can combine as many powers together as you want. They just have to match on what kind of action they use, who they target, and what skill they use. This is a big, big BIG part of the game. Building and managing your combos is very important, because it's how you manage your Encroachment. The obvious cost of putting together big multi-power moves is that they rocket your heat up real quickly. Running too hot can leave you unable to rez (remember, Rez stops working at 100% Encroach, so you can actually get KOed there) or worse, if you can't come back from the infection and walk back under 100%, you lose your PC at the end of the session. We'll go into that more later.
To talk about character building, I also have to talk about EXP. On average, if things go well, you'll gain 15-20 EXP a session. You get a chart where you get 1 point for playing, 1-10 points for completing your mission, 0-5 bonus points depending on how close your ending heat was to 100% (you normally recover d10 per Lois you've got Encroachment at the end of the adventure, you can double the dice rolled by voluntarily limiting your heat bonus EXP to 3, and if you're still over 100 after that you can choose to toss those 3 EXP to roll again and add the number), then 4 points total for playing well with others, helping set up for the session, etc. I just give those 4 as extra gimmies with the 1 for playing because I don't like to quantify 'good roleplaying' as an EXP award. Also note, you gain EXP as the player or GM. The idea being that you keep a running total of EXP so you can build new PCs if someone goes nuts, or dies, or you just feel like swapping to a new main character for an arc. Similarly, the GM has an EXP pool in case you switch GMs and they want to make a PC to play. So if our hypothetical player gets tired of playing Makoto after she earns 100 EXP, they can switch to making a new PC who also has 100 earned EXP. They'll keep track of their EXP total so that if they go back to Makoto, they can level her up. The whole thing is meant so you can play around with swapping perspectives or run short comic book arcs rather than being locked to one PC, even if I prefer stable casts, which it works for too.
Anyway, the point is, EXP is spent to raise stats, raise skills, level up powers, and buy new powers. New powers cost 15, so about one session's EXP, to buy at level 1. Raising a power's level, which will improve its effects, costs 5 EXP per level. So for a whole new power, you could raise a power's level by 3. Raising a stat costs 10 EXP until it hits 10, 20 until it hits 20, 30 until it hits 30, etc. 10 is usually pretty effectively a soft-cap. Raising combat skills is 2 until 10, 3 until 20, 5 until 30, and then 10 per level after. Again, 10 tends to be something of a soft-cap, but that's giving you a baseline of one crit in a skill and that's pretty good. Non-combat skills cost less, because the game knows combat is way more important. They're 1 point until 10, then cost the same as combat skills, partly because non-combat checks rarely have a difficulty above 20 anyway. New Simple Powers, the little fluff powers, are 2 EXP each.
I mention the EXP stuff because it's very important to judging the efficiency of powers: A power you can sink a ton of levels into can end up a more efficient way to accomplish what it's trying to accomplish compared to one that gives a big per-level bonus, but has a low maximum level. This is also what Pure characters get: They can buy any power in their set to 2 points higher than the listed cap. So say you have a power that gives an awesome per level bonus but only has Max Level 3? The Pure can buy that to 5 and get way more out of it. In general, you get more out of maxing some powers rather than having to buy a ton of powers. This is also what I mean when I say Morpheus is really EXP intensive. Makoto's Pistols and Armor powers are max level 5 each, with the pistols doing 4 damage base, +1 per level, and the armor stopping 8 damage base, +2 per level. Her Double Creation adds +Level damage to her pistols, and has a max of 10. To fully max out her basic gear would cost her 75 EXP after creation, which is about 5 sessions. That's pretty significant. She might be better served finding other powers that increase the base damage and effectiveness of her weapons more quickly, but that will cost extra Encroachment. Balancing between these kinds of things is important for character design. One reason her Multi-Weapons is so valuable is it's a one and done power; as long as she has two ranged weapons, she can add their base damage together with that attack for only 2 Encroachment (+2 for Concentrating because be real, you're almost always going to Concentrate).
This is also one of the ways the various Syndromes balance out what they can do and stand out over one another. Let's take three extremely similar powers from three different Syndromes. Giant's Life Force from Chimera, Mark of the Twisted from Exile, and Pain Editor from Black Dog. All 3 of these increase your base HP by 5 points per level, at the cost of permanently raising your Encroachment by 3. They're all very useful ways to make an HP tank. But Mark of the Twisted is the most efficient power of the three, because the other two top out at 5 levels, while Mark can go up to 10. Now a character with multiple Syndromes that can take a power like that might take, say, Giant's Life Force after maxing Mark of the Twisted, but they'd do that because they're really going hard on max HP. Thus, while all three Syndromes can do the same thing, I say Exile is the most efficient (and thus best) at raising base HP. Lots of Syndromes have powers that do the same thing, but one does it cheaper, or better, or with fewer powers needed for a combo to pull it off; this is often how they differentiate themselves. For instance, lots of power sets can raise your base damage, but Salamandra and Chimera do it cheaper and better. A lot of character design comes from combining the strengths of one Syndrome with another. Take for instance the Exile-Chimera who uses Exile to get multi-target attacks, then Chimera for raw physical damage. They could have been effective with either, but now they have the option to use both, at the cost of not having the crazy focus and specialization of Pure.
To discuss Tri-Breed, we also have to talk about "Restrict" powers, or as I like to call them, Ultimates. Every Syndrome has a couple powers you cannot use until your Encroachment Rate gets above 80, 100, or 120. These are your super powerful ultra episode-ending ultimate techniques. These are where powers like 'Take another turn after this one' or 'Hit every single enemy in the encounter without friendly fire', 'actually no shit no-sell an enemy attack's HP damage (but not debuffs or other riders) once per session, no questions asked' or 'Do massive, massive shitloads of damage with a plasma cannon' live. These are really, really useful, but often cost a lot and can only be used when you're already in the danger zone. A Tri-Breed character cannot use most of these; they are limited to Restrict 80 ultimate powers, which tend to be good but not world-shattering. And even then, they can only use the ones from two of their Syndromes. They also have -1 to the max level of all their powers which includes Concentrate. The penalty of -1 to max does not apply to powers with only one level, at least. Given it takes a ton of EXP to start combining things widely enough to make having 3 power sets worthwhile...Tri-Breeds can be really tricky to make work. I'd generally steer players away from them.
Almost any Syndrome combo can work in my experience. You just have to know what you want to do from the two Syndromes. One of the flaws of the game is that you don't really start with enough powers to build a mechanically interesting PC yet; take Makoto. She can only really do one thing in combat (Shoot with Multi-Weapons) and she's kind of incentivized to focus on building that thing up early. Later she'll have way more cool options like buff spells, tactics, movement abilities, and magic, but that takes time. I suspect the fairly simple one-to-two-trick starting PCs are there to help people get acquainted with the system because fuck, it's complicated already, but if you're already used to it I'd consider starting PCs with some extra EXP to play around with.
Also, for reference, at full powered up her guns will be making Damage 38 attacks by firing both of them. You do damage by taking the 10s digit of your final to-hit calculation, then rolling that many d10s +1 (so say I got a 35, I'd roll 4d10), plus the base damage. That's some pretty goddamn impressive damage output for someone who is only using a single (if maxed) base attack combo that only cost her 75 EXP. Thus we can say firing two pistols while leaping through the air is a viable combat tactic.
For the actual Syndromes, I'll be discussing their standout powers and general tenor, to give you an idea of what powers look like, but if I tried to transcribe everything I'd go insane by Black Dog.
Next Time: Energies of Light!
LASER NOISEOriginal SA post Double Cross
So, before I get into this, I need to officially talk about Guard, Dodge, and Armor. So one of things you want in Double Cross is stuff that keeps you from dying. When you get attacked, you get the option of trying to Guard it or Dodge it. If you Guard, you get the Guard stat of one of your weapons (or both, if you have a specific Neumann power) plus any modifiers to your Guard stat (usually from powers) added to your damage reduction. If you Dodge, you try to use a power that performs a dodge, or just roll dice equal to your Body in a normal check. There's actually another power like Conc that's used for Dodging, called Reflexes, but I missed that it existed for like two years of running this game and so my players and I agreed to just let Conc be used for Dodging. Also I'm calling Concentration Conc for the rest of the review. You can't stop me. If you fuck up a Dodge and get hit, you get no DR except your armor (and a few reactive powers that will reduce incoming damage after a failed dodge). Basically Guard tends to be more reliable and with a high HP character, you can reduce stuff to chip damage or reduce a huge hit enough that you survive it to get healed or hit back. Meanwhile, if you successfully and consistently Dodge, you don't take damage, period. It's higher risk, higher reward. Both are useful. Some powers will also explicitly slip past armor, and some will even shatter armor, opening an armored character up to get murdered by other characters, too.
You can do a lot of things with powers!
Angel Halo is focused on being slippery, accurate, and hitting a lot harder than people expect you to. It's great for snipers, mages, and with its tricksy illusion powers it can be surprisingly good for melee characters who have another Syndrome for raw damage. It also has the curious but mostly irrelevant trait where the two summonable weapons from Angel Halo (a lot of characters will summon a weapon with a power at the start of a fight) both cast in setup and the Ranged Angel Halo weapon has pretty much unlimited range. They make up for that by not being very powerful. You're usually better off using another Syndrome's weaponry. Angel Halo's Illusion powers also let it break out of engagements and fuck around with movement a bit; speaking of you also get locked into melee and have to use a full turn to break out if someone engages you. Halo gets stuff like a Dodge rider that lets you break out of Engagement and move immediately when you dodge an incoming attack, which can be really good for a ranged focused character; a lot of heavier ranged weapons and some of the ranged attack spells don't work on people in melee with you. Halo tends to really like Sense and/or Mind.
Halos love Sense partly for sniping, partly for Initiative, and partly because they get a power that will let them use Sense instead of Mind for Magic (so that a character using casting abilities and shooting abilities can draw from the same stat for both at a small extra Encroachment cost) AND one that lets them use Sense and the Perception skill in place of Body+Dodge for Dodging. A Pure Halo who wants to do so can run their Magic, their Dodging, and their Shooting off of one stat. Halo also has some interesting standouts, like Light of Oblivion, which gives a whopping +3 Attack per Level (only 3 levels, though. Most Attack Boosts are 1 or 2 per level) as long as the attack it's linked to is an AoE. Halo also has a solid basic magic attack, Light Bow, that only costs 1 Encroach (realistically, 3, since you'll Conc it) for 2+Level damage (up to 10 levels), and this is our first encounter with basic casting attacks, so I'm going to point out a weird little thing about them: It's 'Target -' so long as they aren't in melee with you. That means you can add in the extra attack power from Light Bow for 1 Encroach to ANY casting attack. Using an AoE spell? Add in Light Bow. It's great, and why it's worth investing in leveling up what seems like a lot of effort for an 'up to 12 damage' attack.
Halo also has ways around defenses, including Light Speed Sword, which will let you remove the option to Guard against one of your melee or ranged attacks once per session per level you've put in it. You can ignore armor with Precision Laser at the cost of -5 damage on the attack, but given Makoto's armor at the lowest level was 10, that's a good trade. Leveling it up will eventually eliminate the penalty, at 1 point per level. You can once per session make a magic attack hit every enemy in view for a penalty of -20 damage, removing 5 points of the penalty per point you've put in Stardust Rain.
Halo also gets the very unique ability to go into Stealth at any time with Heat Haze Robe, turning themselves invisible. What this means is enemies can't actually target the stealthed Halo with anything but AoEs for one turn. They then have a bunch of other powers that either greatly debuff enemy Dodge against them if they're stealthed, or greatly improve their physical attacks while stealthed. So a Chimera-Halo might seem like an unusual combo, but then the giant 9 foot werewolf turns invisible and assassinates you. They can also force enemy AoEs that include them to only actually hit one character at a time, rather than the whole group, by tricking people into thinking they were where they weren't. Halos can also get a passive that permanently lets them ignore enemy Stealth for 4 base Encroachment. They also get not one, but two good Dodge boosts, one of which is cast in setup and boosts all their Dodge dice for the turn, one of which is used immediately to Dodge and thus can be Concentrated. Their ultimates are the ability to make enemy dodges against them have a higher Crit Value (which also means if the enemy was at CV 10, and goes up to CV 11, their dice cannot crit and they're probably fucked), the ability to massively debuff someone's dice on a check right before they make it, reactively, a huge attack boost achieved by splitting into multiple illusions and lasering a fucker from all directions at once, a powerful counter that lets them inflict the damage they just took back on the guy who did it, a no-sell at 120% that lets them say they weren't there to get hit, and a huge attack boost and enemy CV debuff attack boost.
For their Pure abilities, they get a huge once per adventure single-target attack boost that can add up to 10 dice to their attack check and renders an enemy unable to Dodge (can be combined with Light Speed Sword to just totally fuck someone's defense once per adventure) and a reactive debuff where they look at an enemy's check result and say 'you get 5 less'. Pure Abilities usually contain one that turbo-charges something the Syndrome is good at, and one that does something they normally can't.
You might notice Halos get no HP buffs, no armor, and no Guard. You'll need another powerset if you want to do anything but Dodge and pray.
For fluff powers, they get supersenses of all kinds, the ability to mess around with light for fun, the ability to project a completely holographic and illusionary appearance (one Halo in one of our games was literally never where she looked like she was, habitually), and all kinds of holographic projection.
Angel Halos are great assassins, dodgers, and wizards. They're a surprisingly fun power set to add to a lot of different power sets, because what isn't improved by some goddamn lasers?
Next Time: The Evil Eye calls you! By which I mean gravity. Gravity happens.
Gravity BlessingOriginal SA post Double Cross
Before Balor, we have to talk a little about movement. Movement is generally measured in meters, and is unfortunately based entirely on your Initiative stat. You can generally move Init+5 meters with a Minor, and twice that (as a 'Dash') with a Major. This also means if, say, someone were to drastically lower your Initiative during the Setup phase (I'm not saying Balor does that, but Balor definitely does that) they'd not only make you go last but they'd fuck your movement. This is, as you might imagine it, fairly important for a class that can be built as either a ranged support character or a 'sticky' fighter who drags enemies into melee with them and doesn't let go.
I talk about this because the very first Balor power lets you pick a willing target (or yourself) during the Setup phase and let them perform a Minor action move, for free. You just teleport someone. Their next power gives you Flight (letting you break out of engagements at will, or move over obstacles) and a Levelx5 movement speed bonus for one Minor move, super-jumping with gravity. The Balor cannot fly, but they can jump hella high. They also get Setup timing powers to buff allies' initiative, lower enemies' initiative, some decent melee/physical ranged combat dice boosts (Quick Blade is the only booster they get for that, but Level+1 extra to-hit dice for 3 Encroachment and Max Level 3 isn't bad), some fairly standard base damage boosts that can work on anything using Balor powers...they're not really melee powerhouses on their own, but Balor can contribute a little extra kick to a melee or physical combat build. You're more likely to use your Balor for the initiative fuckery (which cannot, generally, be resisted since it's an Auto action meaning there's no check and it happens in Setup) and some later powers, but if you run out of physical combat stuff from another class picking up stuff like Quick Blade or the high +physical damage (+3 per level) but -2 to-hit dice Giant's Axe isn't a bad idea. They also get a really weird ability where they can use Ranged to throw two melee weapons at someone with gravity, performing a Ranged attack with the combined attack power of the two melee weapons. I've never seen anyone bother because why are you carrying two melee weapons as a Ranged character? And what do you do after they're shattered by gravity and a mutant dinosaur skull? They can also summon a decent gun-type weapon where they call up little gravimetric anomalies and use them as a railgun.
More important, Balor are actually great at 'Renegade Control', which again, I'm just going to call Magic because it is. Their basic magic attack is one of the best in the game, doing 2+2xLevel (though with only 5 levels), meaning it's effectively the same as Light Bow except it costs half the EXP to max. Still can't hit targets engaged in melee, but hey. They also get an AoE magic attack that they can use as often as they want, which is unusual, at the cost of it taking 3 dice off their to-hit. It also drags any flying enemy down to earth and does Level base damage, with up to 10 levels. And remember what I said about how 'basic' magic attacks are Target -? That means you can throw Black Hammer (that basic magic attack) in there with that AoE to add its base damage in for only 1 extra Encroach. They can also pump other attacks up into Area (Select) (Most Area attacks are Select, meaning you can pick and choose who in the engagement you toss 'em into gets hit, crushing the 3 mutant dinosaurs but not your werewolf Chimera buddy) as long as they use one Balor power up to 3 times an adventure with Distorted Retribution. They can add a rider to their magic attacks that also drags everyone hit directly into melee with them; if you're a hybrid melee/caster type that could be really nice. They even get a reactive spell that stops an enemy moving in their tracks and wastes their action if they hit them with a magic attack (though as it's a reactive ability you can't combine it with their damage stuff, due to Timing). They also get a couple magic attacks that can't be combined with direct damage, but instead open the enemy hit up to massive damage from allies or prevent them from dodging or reacting to the next attack that comes for them by fixing them in place with physics fuckery. They can even add a rider to an attack (any attack that uses at least one Balor power) that completely reduces an enemy's Init to 0 until they spend a Minor Action struggling through the crazy gravity field they're trapped in, or add in something that inflicts Rigor, which prevents a character moving at all until it's cured. Balor hates your movement powers and wants you to get squished.
But they're not done yet. I told you they're tough, and they are. They don't have any way to give themselves more HP within their Syndrome (which is kind of a weakness for Guard tanking, but hey, you can get another Syndrome) but they get 4 different damage reduction powers outside of their ultimates that are all quite solid. One is our first encounter with a 'Reduce Expected HP Damage' power; this means it's a damage reducer that you throw on after Dodge/Guard has been resolved and after you know how much damage was about to be done. Repulsion Field will reduce damage to a character by d10+(2xlevel), with 5 levels. It can be cast on allies; say your buddy just fucked up a Dodge and is on the verge of getting one-shot. You can throw on Repulsion Field because you already know how much damage they're going to take and you've calculated you can keep them from dropping. You can also cast it on yourself. Its only real drawback is you can only use it once a round. Several Syndromes have similar and these powers are always great. Rampart of the Void is a simple 2 Encroach for 3 per level Guard, max level 3. It's more useful if you're Pure and it can go to 5, but it's not bad as an extra bit of cheap Guard. Gravity Guard is another Max 3 power that gives d10 Guard per level for 3 Encroach. This is the bread and butter Guard defense for Balors; a couple other Syndromes get similar. Once again, I'm sure you can see a Pure would get way more out of it, too; those 2 extra levels would matter a lot. Finally, Fiend's Shield is what I call an emergency Guard. You only get to use it once a battle, but it grants 10xLevel Guard, max level 3. 30 extra Damage Reduction without rolling can be the difference between getting blown away and being unhurt, depending on your HP. Finally, Balor has our first 'auto-counter' in Dark Spiral, where they can once-per-round counter-attack while Guarding for 5xlevel damage (up to 5 levels) in melee. This is also the highest damage auto-guard in the game; most are 3xlevel. They can also pull an enemy AoE attack that targets the Balor and several allies into only targeting the Balor.
Finally, the Ults and Pure abilities. For one of their 80%'s, Time Freeze, they can take 20 damage to make a move during the Initiative phase, which does NOT take up their turn during the main phase. They can only do this once an adventure, but as you know, action economy fuckery is amazing. Their other 80 is the 'enemy cannot react to the next attack that hits them if this hits' lockdown move. They also just straight up get ZA WARUDO with Time Casket at 100. It costs 10 Encroach and you're already hot, and you can only do it once, but you just stop time for a second and declare an enemy's action fails as they try to do it. Great for shutting down someone else's high heat once per battle supermove. Their other 100% spell adds a rider to any Balor using power combo that inflicts a -3xLevel (max level 3) dice penalty on everything a target does for the rest of the round, unless the target gets a turn and spends their Minor struggling free. Their first 120% lets them completely ignore the HP damage from one attack for 4d10 Encroach, just like one of Halo's. Their second is a massive AoE damage spell for 4d10 Encroach at 120 where they just cause (5+Level)d10 damage (max 5) to every foe in an Area Select, no attack check, no accuracy check, no chance to avoid the attack or Guard it. Finally, their Pures are amazing: They get one that lets them ignore 'you can't use this in melee' restrictions while giving +Level dice to the attack for 2 extra Encroach an attack by bending space to make them far away and close at the same time, and they get an extra one that lets them turn any Balor using attack into an Area (Select) attack up to Level times per battle. Note they can use that on, say, their Initiative buffs and debuffs in Setup to fuck with or boost entire parties or groups.
Balor combos really well with a lot of power sets and concepts. They're not great at physical ranged combat; if you're comboing them with physical combat you probably want to pair them with melee. The reason is because if you want to do ranged combat with them, just lean on their awesome magic abilities and take something like Salamandra to make their damage bigger. You're already a space time wizard, why not ALSO summon the sun on guys and be a true cosmic star sorcerer? Still, all their fuckery with movement and initiative and their ability to drag people close and keep them there, plus the tanking potential, makes them very good when combined with a melee focused Syndrome. The problem, of course, is that setting up all this stuff costs a lot of EXP. Still, they do a lot of cool and useful positional fuckery. Also note a Balor has no Dodge options at all. But with great Guard, why would you need them? Also no ability to summon armor. You'll have to rely on buying body armor, which we'll get into when we get to Procurement.
Their simples let you do stuff like walk on walls, keep things from spilling with gravity, slow down time so you can goof off or buy a few extra hours to write your term paper, prematurely age carpet and wallpaper, make a bag of holding, sense people by gravity's effect on them, have a perfect sense of velocity, and of course, float leisurely through the air rather than bother walking, because 'moving at a leisurely pace without the fetters of gravity is the mark of a true tyrant!' in the book's words.
Next Up: Full Metal Anime
Summon Linear Cannon!Original SA post Double Cross
Summon Linear Cannon!
Black Dog is a weird Syndrome. It can work with almost any concept; gunner, melee brawler, wizard. It works well Pure. It works well comboed with almost anyone. This is because what it does is grant you permanent cybernetic buffs in return for permanent increases in Encroachment. It also controls magnets, lightning, and general technomancy. I've also fluffed it as everything from 'overwhelming, constant physical strength' to 'empowered by a bunch of charms and scribed trinkets reflecting the Wisdom of the Most High', so don't feel too wedded to cybernetics if you have some other idea for how you get permanent power ups.
Let's talk about the bevy of Cybernetics powers first. Cyber Leg permanently increases your movement speed for 3 Encroach, but more importantly, permanently lets you break out of Engagement with enemies with a single Minor move. The move speed isn't nearly as important as 'I can just dodge out of zones of control with my cyber legs'. Cyber Arm turns your Fists from Damage -5 weapons to Damage 4, Guard 5 weapons that still count as Fists for purposes of moves that can only use Fists. For reference, that's about the stats of a normal broadsword. You can continue to improve them up to damage 13 if you want to go hard on the EXP, making your unarmed punch constantly as strong as a bigass axe. 3 more Encroach for that. Lightweight Customization gives a permanent +1 to Sense and Body (breaking the normal 10/20/whatever soft caps) for 2 Encroach as you improve your body's general function. Weapon Installation lets you pick out a weapon (cost and quality determined by levels in the power) to install into yourself, always having it available and being able to draw it in an instant, for 2 Encroach. Pain Editor is just +5 HP per level, up to 5 levels, for 3 Encroach. And finally, Hard Wired is the signature move of the Black Dog Syndrome. For every level you buy in Hard Wired (up to 5) you get one special cybernetic item slot. For each slot, you can equip a solid Arm Blade that does Damage 9 and breaks enemy Guard by 5 or a Linear Cannon that does Damage 8 and penalizes enemy Dodge by 2, or you can spend slots 1 to 1 on +2 to check results with an attack skill, +2 to Guard rating, or +5 to max HP. You can swap these every session, and with GM permission, can change them out between fights. This is kind of Black Dog's signature thing, being customizable and adaptable. Some power sets have a power that's very 'if you don't pick this up why do you have this Syndrome' and Hard Wired is just that for Black Dog.
I'm sure you can see the value of those permanent buffs, depending on who you're playing and what you want to focus on. Black Dogs also get a solid, but costly basic magic attack from Lightning Spear (slightly more powerful than Balor's Black Hammer but costs 2 Encroachment) and a very solid base AoE magic attack that they can only use Level times per fight. They can also add Daze riders to their physical attacks (Dazed gives someone -2 to everything for one turn) by tasering people, or shock someone so bad it effectively poisons them (only with physical Ranged, for some reason). They also get an interesting physical attack boost that buffs the final score of a check rather than adding dice, in addition to very basic +dice physical boosts. They also get an even better Init booster than Balor, with the caveat that they can only use it to buff themselves. They get a really poor self-heal (but better than nothing) that can only be used once per turn, some good Guards that are almost on par with Balor's, and the option to use magic to Dodge. They can get up downed allies who can't res, or hugely buff a single allied action, and they really sound like do everything types, don't they? You're probably asking yourselves, where's the drawback?
The drawbacks are twofold: One, you kind of want to specialize on doing one or two general things very well. You're not going to want to build a melee character who is good with guns and a wizard at the same time, so you're only going to use part of your Syndrome no matter what. Two, their Ults and Pure abilities are kind of a letdown. That's not the worst weakness to have, mind you; having your super awesome amazing abilities you can only use once or twice not be as great in return for a very solid and consistent base of ability is potentially a good trade. One of their Restrict 80s just gives +10 damage for -1 dice of accuracy, Level times per adventure. Another removes all options for DR from an enemy level times per adventure against physical attacks; Barrier Cracker just knocking out Armor and Guard is very useful against a tank character though it does nothing to stop Dodge. Full Installation at 100% pops you into a cybernetic hyper-mode where you get Lv+3 Dice as a bonus to everything for one turn (once per scene, max 3). Poltergeist lets you wield an extra weapon (destroying it in the process) and add its Attack rating to everything you do for the rest of a scene. Electromagnetic Response Armor blocks 20 damage per use and can be used more than once on one attack, but costs 10 Encroach per use and can only be used Level times a scenario (max 5). Kind of lame for a no-sell ability at 120%. Their ultimate is a self-destruct. When you get downed at 120, declare you're activating it and it'll do exactly like the crazy singularity from Balor. You don't actually die, mind you. You're still just downed and will get back up at the end of the fight if no-one takes the time to walk over and deliberately kill you. Their Pures let them do extra damage equal to the damage they've taken, but drop immediately after doing it (they have a thing for self destructing) and once per battle make a magic attack hit the whole scene exactly like Stardust Rain in Halo.
Their simples are all technomancy stuff, like being able to plug devices into their own body to power them. They can pick up internet or generate a wi-fi hotspot with their brain. They can brick someone's harddrive with a touch. They can kill the power or open electronic locks with their fingers, jam radio transmissions, play DVDs with their eyes, and hide stuff in their cybernetics.
You might notice they seem a little simpler than the other two. Part of this is having less base mechanics to describe; I've already been over them. Part of it is that Black Dog focuses on flexibility. Whatever you want to do, there's something in Black Dog that will help out with it. Whatever other power set you had in mind, Black Dog can help it out somehow, even if you're going to use it as a pretty secondary Syndrome. Similarly, a Pure Black Dog gets more levels of their permanent boosts, and is well set up to make a character who can actually do more than one thing and adapt their stats to various situations. They even have the unusual option of building a character who focuses a lot on static check result boosts rather than dice boosts; if you maxed Attack Program (the +2 to check resolution per level powered physical) and Hard Wired, then put 10 points in Melee Skill, you can build a character who's punching people on a 38 before they even roll dice without even breaking any soft caps. In a game where you're limited some by EXP and having to choose what to do, having a jack of all trades powerset who can supplement whatever the character wanted to specialize in without too much muss or fuss is a nice option.
Next Time: Draculas
Noble BloodOriginal SA post Double Cross
Alright, Brahm Stoker is going to take some goddamn time to go over. They're one of the singularly weirdest and most complex powersets because they're going to make me go over their pet rules. You don't actually have to play a pet user to be a Stoker; they get a bunch of other useful stuff where they can trade HP to summon powerful gear or perform big attacks as is. But the pet class stuff is their big unique selling point.
To get started on pet shenanigans, you take the Red Servant power. Creating a Red Servant costs 5 Encroach and a Major action, and if you have any Servants on the field you take -3 dice to all actions while they're up. You can also specifically only create one at a time. They initially have all stats at 3 and only 10+(5xRed Servant Power Level) max HP. You can normally only make one and they only last for one Scene or fight. This sounds pretty bad, right? Well. Firstly, you can take Red River Valet, which raises every Servant's stats by 1 per level (max level 5) at the cost of increasing your base Encroach by 7 permanently. You can take Life's Blood, which is basically Pain Editor but for Servants, to buff their HP further at the cost of +2 permanent Encroach. You can take Blood Bonds to let you make a Servant last until the end of the adventure instead of the battle, at a cost of +3 Encroach per Servant you summon. You can take The Voiceless to have extra Servant capacity, up to level 3 and 3 more Servants. One of the Ultimates for Stoker summons multiple Servants at once with Army of Fools, at 100% Encroachment. You can take a power that gives your Servants gear, or one that lets them use normal guns and knives and stuff. But they still don't sound too impressive, do they?
The real kicker with a Servant is every Servant created A: Goes on your Initiative, taking their turn with you and B: Has all its masters' powers. That includes all your passives, the ability to summon weapons, things like Cyber Arm, etc. Say you bought Pain Editor to 5 as a Black Dog-Stoker so that you'd be tougher; all your Servants get the same +25 HP. Say you're a Chimera-Stoker and you have crazy powered physical attacks. All your Servants can use them. Servants don't get Skills, so they have less static resolution to work with, but a character who has put a lot of effort into Servants is essentially casting Summon Miniboss every time they use it. The catch is, this is really, REALLY heat and EXP intensive. Buying up all your servant's powers and stuff is expensive and raises your baseline Encroachment. And even moreso: While your Servants break the action economy some, you pay for everything they do. Used a powered attack? It adds to your Encroachment. So you're going to shoot up the heat scale and might end up in a very dangerous place very quickly. A Servant-based Stoker who has decided they don't give a fuck if they overheat is one of the most dangerous character types in the game. If you have a limited number of uses for a power during a session or battle, your Servants using it counts as one of your uses. You can burn through that kind of resource really quickly with Servants.
Outside of creating horrible clone monsters/combat drones/whatever you've fluffed Servants as, Stoker is a grab bag of heavily offense and HP based abilities. They have lots of abilities that have the kicker 'you pay some HP, but the ability is pretty strong' when it comes to buffing their attacks and summoning gear. They have some of the best summoned weaponry and armor in the game, except it costs a lot of HP unless you're a major HP specialist. Their Crimson Sword, for instance, can be Attack Power 17 (which is very high) at level 5. However, the catch is as well as paying Encroachment, you also pay up to Levelx3 HP to summon it, then get a weapon that has a power equal to (HP you paid+2). They can do the same for their freaky blood armor, at similar costs and an armor value of (spent HP+3). So someone summoning both armor and sword at max level would spend 30 HP, which isn't insignificant. To regain HP, they have a self-heal that doesn't cost actions but can only be activated in the end of round cleanup, and they have Thirsting Lord, kind of their signature attack. They use Fists only to hit someone and ignore their armor, but recover 4xLevel HP if they do any damage, because they drink your fluids (that's what the book says). They also get some DoTs and things based around poisoning peoples' blood. They also get a weird ability where they can rez a dead non-Overed character, which will generally turn them into a superhuman at GM's discretion. Perfect for when something really unfortunate happens to one of your Loises. They get a Dodge that uses the Will skill and Mind stat, if they want it, and no actual Guards, but one of those 'reduce expected damage' powers just like Balor. The catch is they can only use it on themselves. A Pure Stoker is going to be relying on their Servants covering them and taking heat for them, because the actual Syndrome doesn't give them shit for defenses for the most part.
Their ultimates are a huge attack boost in return for losing 5 HP per strike at 80, a poison debuff rider that adds +1 to someone's next Critical Value at 80 by fucking with their blood, a huge dice boost to their next action at cost of some HP at 100, the aforementioned 'call multiple Servants at once' power at 100, our first auto-recover at 120 with Eternal Life (get back up with 10xLevel HP when knocked down at 120%, once per adventure), which takes a little explaining. See, the value of that is, if you're over 100 you normally can't rez. This lets you get back up one more time when you're over your danger zone, probably while bloodily putting yourself back together because you're an anime vampire. Finally, they get a 'straight up take a second turn' power at 120 for 20 Encroachment. You don't take the second turn immediately with Night Devil's Domain; you declare it right after you finish your current turn, then it knocks you down to 0 Init for the rest of the round and you go again after everyone else. Still powerful, still useful. The Pure abilities for the Stoker are an extremely powerful auto-counter (hits a guy back for Lvx10 damage when you take damage, usable once per battle, max level 3 but you're Pure so it goes up to 5) and a passive that reduces the HP cost of any and all Stoker powers by its level (max level of 3, 5 because you're Pure) at cost of +3 base Encroachment. That can take the edge off your blood magic pretty well.
You also get a bunch of Servant powers, which you can buy but only the Servants can use, unless you use one of the other powers called Bloody Warhorse to take one of your Servants out of the game to grant you all their powers. Whether this is you merging with them like a Guyver suit or just riding the monster you made is up to you. Servant Powers are pretty basic stuff, meant to fill in holes left by your Syndrome choices for your Servants. They do include a really good Dodge boost, so that plus Bloody Warhorse can solve your defensive problem if you're a Pure Stoker or something. They include very basic ranged boosts, melee boosts, a basic 'make the Servant's attack AoE Lv. Number of times a battle', the ability to make your Servants fly, the ability to make Servants arrive with fancy armored outfits and weapons or whatever you want to fluff Fool's Equipment as, and the ability to use them as living bombs. Yep, you can make your Servants self destruct for you, doing a heavy AoE attack with magic.
The Simples for our good old draculas are about what you'd expect. They can 'clean out old and polluted blood, replacing it with healthy fresh blood' (?) to remain youthful and energetic at all times, they can create specific copy clones to sit in line for them at the DMV, they can make blood sculptures but I'm not really sure why you would, they can track by blood, make themselves better at mundane things by precisely controlling heartrate and blood flow, they can read everything about you from tasting your blood, and they can summon a seemingly real entourage of lesser Servants to follow them around and tell everyone how great they are. Yes, the vampires get a 'create toady swarm' spell. It's called Emperor's New Clothes. Oh, vampires. You do you.
Next Time: CHIMERA SMASH
Awaken, my power!Original SA post Double Cross
Awaken, my power!
Chimera is one of the simplest Syndromes in the game. It's focused, it's effective, and it lets you turn into a giant monster and hit people with a car. If you want phenomenal super strength via shapeshifting, Chimera is your Syndrome. Chimera focuses exclusively on melee, but it does it in some interesting ways and has some really unique power options that get across the flavor of being a massive physical titan, so it's still a lot of fun to play. If you don't want to put people through buildings up close and personal, Chimera isn't going to add much to your Syndrome mix.
First, Chimera has a sort of 'signature' power in the sense of 'if you don't have this, why do you have Chimera': Complete Therianthropy. This is your 'turn into a battle mode' power, which transforms your entire body into your combat form, whatever you've decided that is. Unless you also take Intelligent Beast (which makes using Therianthropy cost 2 more Encroach, and it already costs 6), you can't use weapons while transformed, only your fists. However, you also have the best Fist summon in the game (Reaming Claw, which starts at 9 base damage and tops out at 18 at level 10) so that might not be a big deal for you. What you get in return is 2+Level Body dice, to everything that involves Body, for the rest of the scene you transformed. The max level is 3, though a Pure can go up to 5 as per usual for Pures. This means your average Chimera is going to be throwing around +5 dice on all Body checks without paying further Encroach after their one-time transformation cost. Remember Body is also used for physical Dodging. IF you can get an active Dodge power from another Syndrome (like Hanuman or Exile, we'll get to them) a Chimera can be a lightning fast dodger as well as a tremendously powerful physical attacker. The general physical superiority that Therianthropy gives is amazing; I have a Chimera-Exile in one of my games right now who is regularly throwing around 22 dice on her basic attack combo. As you might imagine that's both hard to dodge and likely to give pretty high bonus damage from attack resolution.
Since they get that huge ongoing buff from Therianthropy, Chimera doesn't really do +Dice powered attacks; they don't need to. They're effectively using one on every attack when they're in Therianthropy. Instead, they get a bunch of sources of +Damage. They have one very cheap 1 point attack that's a bit EXP inefficient but very Encroach Efficient called Nameless Blade that only works with fists/claws (Adds Lv+1 damage, max 10), and the very solid Beasts's Strength (+2 damage a level, max 5, melee attacks only). They can Lock On, declaring their target at start of the round to get a big damage boost against them. They get the best Flight power, too: Hawk's Wings gives the Chimera Flight as long as they want it and also gives them +Lv Dodge dice for a whole scene. Sky's Ruler gives +2 damage per level (up to 5) while Flying, too, and anyone they hit with it gets knocked out of the sky, themselves. This means a Chimera can be surprisingly hard to pin down and flying around dunking other people out of the sky and giving those on the ground aerial piledrivers. Part of DX's solution to 'people run away from the single classed melee fighter' is 'The single classed melee fighter gets a Fly power'. They can also add a tremendous amount of movement with Centuar's Legs, which gives 5-25 extra movement a turn depending on level, to make up for probably having low Init.
Chimera can also get two excellent Guard Breaks: One of them adds to the Chimera's +5 per level attack power (max lv 5) if you Guard against them (and can keep adding to it, making them do more damage than if you hadn't Guarded, if it's higher than your Guard stats). The other Grapples you and debuffs your Guard stat for the rest of the round by 5 per level (max lv 5). A dedicated Guard Break Chimera can blow an enemy tank away by a mixture of sheer damage and holding them down for the rest of the party to hit them. They also get a reactive debuff, Hell Beast's Roar, where the Chimera flexes really hard or yells and scares someone about to make a move into losing some dice, once per round (and at high Encroach cost, 4). They can do the same to reduce someone's attack power right before they hit the Chimera. Chimeras get multiple powers about being so physically imposing that they make it harder to attack them.
Chimeras aren't totally without defenses. They get a very odd power called Dragon's Scales that lets them gain lvx10 Armor (max lv 3) in response to an attack in return for not using Dodge or Guard, but that won't stack with any Guard tanking and there are powers that can avoid armor, so it's a risky move to rely on. They also get Aegis Guard, which does the same thing as the Balor's d10 per level Guard power. You can also get Giant's Life Force, which is exactly the same as Pain Editor (+5 HP a level, 5 levels). There are a fair number of repeated powers for a reason. Plenty of power sets have something like, say the +2 dam per level Beast Strength. Most Syndromes don't have that, Lock On, Sky's Ruler, AND Nameless Blade. A Chimera's specialization in damage is sealed by how they can take more and more powers that provide damage, and how their powers often provide damage more efficiently. Plus, by having these basic abilities in multiple Syndromes, you make it easier to construct combos and incentivize using 'Syndrome' powers that require powers from a specific Syndrome to be added in. Anyway, Chimera's weirdest defense is Blade of Vengeance. The Chimera Counter-Attacks instead of Guarding or Dodging, with no other powers permitted, but at Critical Value 10-Lv (Max Lv 3). Neither you nor your target can Dodge or Guard, though they're probably getting a fully powered combo while you're just doing effectively a Concentrated basic attack. I'm actually not sure if they resolve simultaneously or not; I had it work that the Blade counter goes first and if it kills the target cancels their attack, but I suspect it's meant to go off at the same time on a second look. Still, it says a lot about Chimera that their most unique response to an attack is to trade licks.
Chimera's ultimates almost all focus on, you guessed it, melee damage. Full Power Attack is a Setup power at Restrict 80 that gives a huge +5 damage per level boost, but requires you to set your Init to 0 that round as you're entering your smashing stance and preparing a huge blow. Divine Beast Attack requires you be in Therianthropy when you use it, and ends your Therianthropy when cast. But it gives a truly massive Lv+2 DICE bonus to damage. Max level 3. So +5d10 at max, as if you'd hit by 50 more attack resolution. It's a great finishing blow (since you'd turn back after the fight anyway), especially as it's 'only' Restrict 80. Soul of the Beast at 100 is a simple +5 Dice to a Body test (any Body test) for 5 Encroachment, it's not very good for a Restrict 100. King of Beasts scares someone so bad they can't Dodge or Guard or get anyone to Cover them against your big attack at 100, though they could still use a no-sell power like Balor and Halo's ultimates. The two 120s are Proof of the Hell Beast, which is Eternal Life from Stoker except it can go two levels higher (for up to 50 HP when you get back up) so it's better, and ULTIMATE THERIANTHROPY. You transform into 'the Ultimate Life Form', adding +Level dice to all melee attacks and +10 Armor that will stack with any worn armor, max level 3. It costs 4d10 Encroach. You're at 120. You're probably near the danger point and the fight is hopefully nearly over. But this is the best possible expression of Chimera's schtick: Complete and total physical melee superiority. The Pures are similarly extremely good. Mighty Therianthropy is an add-on for Complete Therianthropy that gives 2 extra damage per level (and since you're Pure, its max level of 3 is really 5) and +3 Armor per level while transformed, at the cost of making transforming cost another 6 Encroach (so 15 if you change, summon claws, and also cast Mighty. This is a pretty significant investment heat-wise). The other Pure gives you a limited stock of melee AoEs with Multiple Arms, letting you punch multiple faces. This is the only way for a Pure Chimera to gain anything but single target damage.
Which gets us to the weaknesses of Chimera. Chimeras do a shitload of damage, but they do it to one guy. They have good movement, but they need another power set to get any AoE beyond Multiple Arms, so they're usually best used on bosses and tough enemies. A Balor or someone who can stop them moving can keep a Chimera away from you and they have no non-melee options. They don't give you anything but melee power, but they're really goddamn good at melee power. They can also be surprisingly fragile, given they have no powered Dodge option without another Syndrome and their Guard is merely okay. Still, if you want to play a pure melee character, throwing some Chimera in the mix will never, ever do you wrong. And hey, needing another power set to cover for your deficiencies is why you usually get 2.
Chimera's simples let you maintain a healthy and toned physique no matter how little you exercise or what you eat, make your transformed form incredibly glorious to behold, give you the ability to sense weather and earthquakes and launch yourself accurately at voles by keying you in to the earth's magnetic field, let you live in the ocean, make animals love you, let you see in the dark, or let you turn into a non-combat secondary form and hang around as a cat or whatever.
Next Time: Exile Gets Icky
The ThingOriginal SA post Double Cross
Exiles are the creepiest of the power sets. If you want actual body horror (whether your PC is terrified by what they've become or cheerfully unaware of how fucked up their powers look) you've come to the right place. Exiles are the 'soft' shapeshifter to the Chimera's hard, and are the other major purely physical power set. Much like Chimera, they don't do anything with magic or mind. Unlike Chimera, they're perfectly capable of supplementing a gunfighting build. They focus on tentacles, stretching the body, pulling Croenenberg-like biomechanical guns out of their own ribcage, fusing with people, that kind of stuff.
While Chimera handles raw damage in melee, Exile does a lot of the other physical stuff. They have abilities that will let you hit multiple targets per attack (at the cost of -10 attack power) with Festival of the Twisted, they've got multiple ways to grant a ton of extra dice and more accuracy on physical attacks, they can turn their melee into ranged attacks that hit any point they can see via stretching their body, they can ignore Guards, they can pull people to them, that kind of thing. They focus a lot more on the accuracy, defense, and fuckery side of physical combat. They do get some damage boosts, but they tend to cost more Encroach while not being as effective as say Chimera's. Critically, their basic +Dice ability, All Range, will work fine with Ranged and Melee both, though they get a second +Dice move, Ravenous Fists, that's melee only and costs a bit more in return for being more efficient at boosting dice. They also get the ability to add some status effects to their melee attacks. They can inflict Hatred, forcing a target to go after a specific target (which can be another enemy!) for 10 Encroach once per battle with Brain Hack (they put goo in your brain and now your brain's fucked up). They can poison people for DoT with Preta Tamer as pieces of the Exile get inside the wound and try to make it worse. They have multiple ways to inflict a status called Pressure. Pressure causes someone to be unable to do anything that doesn't require a test, until they spend a Minor to shake it off. This does NOT apply to Rez, but it means no buffs, no heals, no reactive debuffs, etc until they shake off Pressure.
They also have amazing defenses; Exile is one of the strongest overall defensive Syndromes because it can supplement whichever defense you wanted to focus on. It lacks a summoned armor, but the summoned weapon, Bone Sword (pull out your own bones and use them as a mono-sword, or just grow lots of spines for your tentacles) has pretty solid damage but a great 6 Guard value. Their summonable weapons both have solid starting damage but not much growth potential; they can create guns and swords out of their own bones and bodies. They also have the best cheap Guard in the game, though it's very EXP intensive: Distorted Body gives them 3+Lv Guard when used for only 1 Encroach, with 10 levels. Springy Shield is a good emergency Guard, granting +10 Guard when used but only being able to be used once per scene per level (max 3). They also get a power to let them Guard others, taking the hit for an ally. Normally this uses up your turn, but not if you use Life Shield. Moreover, they can get an enhancement that lets them cover allies at range. So not only can you be pretty tough, you can throw yourself (literally, the ranged Cover is default fluffed as breaking off pieces of yourself to throw in the way of attacks) between your squishy Neumann buddy Makoto and the incoming bullets. They get a great basic Dodge in Serpent's Moves (just a basic +Lv Dodge Dice power, but since it's an active dodge you can combine it with a Crit Value boost), and Wriggling Swamp can let them move whenever they dodge, including breaking out of melee engagements. But their real standout, which no-one else gets, is Mark of the Twisted. Mark of the Twisted costs as much base Encroach as Pain Editor or Giant's Life Force, but goes up to Level 10. So an Exile with that maxed has +50 HP. Given you normally get 2 HP a Body point (and 1 per Mind) that's a lotta bonus HP. Combine that with a good Guard or Dodge, and you'll either tank hits well or survive fucking up at least one high-risk Dodge. They also have an auto-counter like Balor, and it can hit people outside of melee range, but still only works once per turn and only does 3 damage per level instead of 5. Your tentacles just automatically counter-slap someone.
Exile also gets a couple odd moves. They have a good heal in Cannibalize, and it's the only power they have that uses the magic skill. This is because almost all of the basic healing powers use that skill, so you can combine two heals into one action for a better heal. They still don't actually have to make a check to use it, it just heals someone by d10 per level, plus a flat modifier equal to your Body stat (max level 5). It cannot heal the Exile, though. They're pulling excess biomass off themselves and setting it to regenerate a friend. How nice of them! They also get a power that will, at a cost, negate any dice penalties their abilities are suffering at the moment. You are too weird to stop! They can also declare a reaction with Devil's String that just stops an enemy's Auto action (like an enemy trying to heal or buff a friend), though the action you stop can't be a super enemy only power or a Restrict 80, 100, or 120 power. Also they can blow up. Like, just explode as a bomb, like the Black Dog. Ultra Bomber just performs an AoE (note it does not have Select, everyone in that engagement gets blown up) Attack Power 5xLevel attack that cannot be Dodged or Guarded without being a Restrict power like Black Dog, but it drops you to 0 HP immediately (though you can still Rez). Hey, remember how a Stoker's minions have all the Stoker's powers? Just a thought on potential synergies.
Exile gets really weird ultimates, as befits Exile. Spiral Attack at 80 is simple enough; use your minor to charge up your weird biology to attack in a weird way and make your attack cause reactions +1 Crit Value, simple. Otherworldly Genes is the weird one: You steal someone else's power, at level 1. If someone else used a power, you can spend 5 Encroach to steal it and know how to do it at its basic level until the end of the scene. In practice less useful than you'd think, but still hilarious. Giant Growth is a very solid attack buff at 100 that just gives your melee attacks an AoE and +2d10 damage, usable Lv number of times an adventure (Max lv 1, though. Unless you're Pure you won't get to use it many times). Sword of Life is a weird one. It adds 3 Encroach to a melee attack at 100 to add +Damage equal to your current Body stat. You might be thinking that sounds amazing for a Chimera-Exile. I can tell you from watching a Chimera-Exile go through guys like wheat with that ability that yes, it does. It's power is that it requires no further investment beyond buying the power; to make it stronger, you pump up Body, which if you're a melee character using a melee ultimate ability, you already wanted to do and which benefits you all the time anyway. Their 120s are Transmission, which is a no-sell power where you just turn to liquid and let an attack go through you for 4d10 Encroach, reducing damage to 0, and Fusion. Fusion is another weird one. You fuse with an ally, and suddenly you two have to move together until the power ends. However, your ally now has all your powers, too, at your levels of power. And you both still get turns. Also only costs 2 Encroach to activate. So your buddy is running around linked directly to you and now they're an extremely powerful Exile on top of whatever else they had. The Pure Restricts for Exile are a very powerful 'declare after HP damage is taken' power that reduces damage by d10 per level, up to 5 levels since you're Pure, and a 'use this Lv times per adventure' power that lets them just add +10 to an attack or Dodge after seeing the original dice result. Which is great for when you just need a little more to put you over the top.
Exile's Simple powers and fluff abilities are fucked up and weird, as you'd expect. They can walk on walls by covering themselves in tiny barbs, they can slip through cracks, they can turn their fingertips into multitools, they can invade a person's brain with their brain invading tentacles and read their thoughts if they're incapacitated, they can slip inside the body of an unconscious target and let them carry the Exile unwittingly into high security places which is fucking horrifying, and they can disguise themselves as anyone and anything. So yes, you can literally be The Thing, right down to Norwegians being unable to kill you with rifles.
Exile is a really weird, but useful power set with a flavor that really sells the whole 'genetic horror' angle. You want to be scary and add some excellent tanking ability to a character, throw on Exile. They play well with others a little better than Chimera, since they do more than just melee powerhouse stuff, but they fit especially well with, well...Chimera. Chimera-Exile is a natural combo that covers for one another's weaknesses very well. But they'll add something to any combo that wants a little more physical ability. Their dodging is great, though curiously they lack the freedom of movement of a Chimera. Their damage resistance and HP go well with almost anything that isn't a pure glass cannon or caster build. They skew a little towards melee, but stuff like Festival of the Twisted works fine with ranged combat and they can supplement a gunslinger character very well; you want to grow eight tentacle eyestalks so you can fire your twin Neumann pistols in every direction, go for it! They also get great tanking abilities that will let them cover their weaker teammates and Cannibalize is good for healing others.
Next Time: Faster than blasphemy!
THE SPEED FORCEOriginal SA post Double Cross
THE SPEED FORCE
Superspeed is traditionally a sticking point in supers RPGs. Often it gets to take the form of extra actions, or otherwise becomes an even bigger form of "Dex is the God Stat". I am happy to report this is not the case in DX. Hanuman is the Syndrome of overwhelming speed and powerful vibration. You can vibrate so hard you buff your allies because the vibration turns into supernatural music and beats. I'm not kidding. Hanuman isn't a dedicated buffer like Solaris and some Neumanns, but it's pretty good at it and many of its buff spells can combo with Neumann's.
Hanuman also gives me a chance to talk about the problems of the Social stat. Social is the least useful stat in the game, because it rarely gets used in combat, which is the main point of mechanical complexity in the game (and unabashedly so, the game tries to make this thus). The thing is, there are plenty of buff powers that use the Negotiate skill and thus the Social stat. The problem is that they're buffs. They thus don't actually have to roll a check. Therefore if I have a 1 Social and 0 in Negotiate, I can still use most of Hanuman's Negotiate powers perfectly well. And I should consider doing so, because they're actually pretty great. Hanuman gets 3 solid buffs off Negotiate and a status heal they can cast on others, which means you can toss in 'all your bad status effects are gone' onto 'also you get buffs' for an ally. The issue for Hanuman's buff spells is they all take a Major action, so you're giving up your attack to buff allies. Hanuman also gets a 5 level power that makes one of their Negotiate checks per battle hit Lv+1 targets, and that doesn't require all those targets be in the same engagement, so you can toss some serious buffing on all your buddies once per battle. I say serious because Hanuman's best buff (which it shares with Neumann) uses Negotiate to give someone +Lv dice (Max Lv 3) AND -1 Crit Value (min 6, so stacks with Conc). Now this kicks in on your next Major action, so you could theoretically cast it on yourself and then take a buffed action next round, too, if you were charging up for your biggest move of the fight. The other buffs are cheaper +Dice and +Damage stuff, but a full compliment of the 3 Hanumann buffs (and the option, if you have it, to add a status heal to the package since they use the same skill) cast on your whole party (no reason NOT to include yourself when using the 'buff multiple people' ability) can give everyone a real boost. You can be the battle-bard with the speedster set.
As you'd probably expect, the speed power set has the best dodge-tanking in the game. Hanuman gets a really good basic active Dodge, but they also get further things like 'If you've moved this round, get 2xLevel Dodge dice' (Shadow Image, max Lv 3) or 'Move during the Setup of the round, including being able to Break Away from melee' (Start Dash). They also just get a passive, huge Init boost power called First Strike that adds +3 Init a level, up to 5 levels, for 4 base Encroach. So they can essentially have better than the Init buff Balor can put out, on at all times. Remember Init also affects your movement rate. Hanuman also gets the ability to break out of an ability called Blockade (which is woefully under-used). Blockade normally stops you from breaking out of melee, though very few powers give Blockade (I think this is a bit of an oversight, Balor should have had this ability. I think only Salamandra and some Enemy powers do it as it stands). Blockade mostly comes from fiction situations, according to the rulebook; You're stuck on a narrow tightrope with an enemy on the other side, etc. Well, Hanuman can break out of that at will with one of their powers. You just can't nail these guys down. They also get an excellent power that adds +Lv+1 Dice to either a Body or Sense check at cost of losing d10 HP, but that can critically be used for either Major OR Reaction actions, meaning you can use the same boost power for active dodging and melee fighting or shooting.
Hanumans also have boosts to their physical attacks, but from an interesting angle. Instead of boosting raw damage (they have the worst raw damage of the 'physical' Syndromes) they fucking hate your defenses. They can completely ignore armor, and with their magic attacks they can actually shatter a character's armor and leave them open for others. They're also amazing at taking out large numbers of weak enemies; they get a power called Sonic Boom that melees a whole Area (Select) of 'Troops' (Weak enemies the GM has defined as Troops) and every enemy that takes a hit does not roll damage, they just drop instantly. They also get a high damage magic attack that ignores armor and attacks every enemy in the scene, without limited uses. That sounds insanely powerful, right? They explicitly cannot use Concentrate with it. So Siren's Song is mostly for damaging lots of enemies with poor defenses at once, since your crit values with it are going to be bad...unless you've buffed your Crit Value with that Negotiate power. A 'Choir' of Hanuman characters singing the song that ends an army would be hilarious. Their magic attacks can have riders that inflict Pressure and Dazed (-2 Dice for one turn), and in general they use their magic less for raw damage and more to do some chip damage while fucking with people and breaking off their armor. So if you want to add some anti-armor to a magic character, consider Hanuman in your power combo. Their physicals can also ignore Guard a limited number of times, or turn their melee attacks into AoEs (representing bouncing between enemies to punch everyone super fast), or attack after making a full round move action.
Hanuman's ultimates are interesting. Their first restrict 80, Primal Ways, gives a massive +10 damage per level (max level 3) but a -5 dice to your actual attack roll and can be added to any combo that uses at least one other Hanuman power. This is their only real damage boost available, but it's a hell of a damage boost if you can handle the to-hit penalty. Their second at 80, Ripple Formation, is a massive 'reduce expected HP damage taken by Lv+1' max level 5 damage reducer, except it can't be cast on the Hanuman. They can use it once per round, casting it to back up an ally and greatly reduce incoming damage on them. Their first 100% is Limit Removal, only useable once per adventure, only has 1 level, but reduce the Crit Value of their next action by 1, min 5. That's further than move CV buffs can go; if someone else has thrown a -1 CV buff on you, you're Concentrating, and you use this, you now have a 60% chance per d10 that you're going to crit on that die. This can lead to crazy crit chains. Their other 100, Light Speed, is what you'd expect: You can perform 2 turns in one turn, once per adventure. As a downside, all Major actions in those turns are at +1 Crit Value. But there's no 'I go again later in the round'. You just go twice. After Image is our usual Restrict 120 No-Sell, where you just say you dodged completely and take 0 HP damage. We've seen this power from several Syndromes already, and it's always fairly useful. Finally, Rapid Beat lets the Hanuman add it to a combo at 120 (at cost of 20 Encroach) to make any other combo hit every enemy or ally on the field. Every single one. Range: View, Scene (Select). Their Pures are a bit of a letdown, though. One lets them act during the Init calculation phase instead of the main part of the round, but you're a Hanuman; you probably had everyone beaten on Init anyway unless they had really massive Init boosting Enemy Only powers. Their other Pure makes an attack unable to be Dodged (limited uses equal to level, of course). You can add that in to the one making an attack unable to be Guarded, at least. Being able to bypass enemy defenses is always helpful, and is Hanuman's specialty.
Hanuman's simples let you play air guitar so well that you play actual air guitar and it's better than a real guitar, let you hear everything, let you transmit your voice like radio, change your voice, silence an area, run so fast you can run up walls and along water, and...somehow create a hyper-oxygenated environment that makes everyone feel good? By vibrating? What?
Hanuman is interesting because I can see a lot of ways to incorporate it into another set. A Hanuman-Exile, for instance, could be the most annoying Dodge Tank to ever dodge. Hanuman-Chimera could supplement Chimera's smashing with some anti-mook AoE and armor piercing. Hanuman-Angel Halo could use Hanuman's ability to add in some status effects and armor breaks to Halo's general laser blasting. When we get to them, a Hanuman's buffing can add well to Neumann, though it won't do as much for Solaris, which tends to use Negotiate to debuff enemies or attack them with poison rather than buff allies (it uses magic for that). Orcus also has some good Negotiate buffs. Hanuman's abilities are broad enough, and it's good enough at its main specialty (dodging), that adding Hanuman in will immediately give you the option to be a good dodger while probably giving you something you can use to help out your other power set. Superspeed never hurt anybody.
Next Time: Who loves giant robots?
That's one of God's weaponsOriginal SA post Double Cross
That's one of God's weapons
Morpheus, on the surface, can do fucking everything. The Syndrome is about summoning extremely powerful gear and enhancing existing stuff, as well as casting Summon Giant Robot and other similarly impressive feats. For a lot of people, all you have to say is 'If you're a Pure Morpheus you can start a fight by summoning a Gundam' and they're in. The issue for Morpheus is that while its abilities tend to have very high caps, they take a lot of investment. Take our girl Makoto and her cool twin pistols. To make those as good as they'll get will eventually make them Damage 19 each, which is slightly better than the amazingly good Reaming Claw on a Chimera for base weapon damage. The issue is that costs a second power, ten levels in that second power, and 4 levels in the original Hundred Guns. She could make them even better with another power, Crystal Sword, which makes each gun +2 damage per level (max 3) for an entire scenario if she casts it on each (cost of 4 every cast) but at that point she's spending 14 Encroach just on her guns (before attacking or anything) and they still only stick around for a single scene. That whole thing would cost about 120 EXP to get set up and maxed out, which is an awful lot and leaves the character kind of a one-trick pony.
This is the consistent issue for Morpheus: You can do a shitload with Morpheus, and a lot of its powers are really good. It's a very strong Syndrome. It's just it feels like it's intended to be the more active/primary counterpart to Black Dog, where Black Dog was great for dipping while Morpheus is surprisingly good at magic, melee, and ranged depending on which one you focus on, but because it requires so much focus in practice you're probably going to just pick one thing you're good at and then also take the armor power because Morpheus' armor is fucking awesome.
So to get at the meat of Morpheus first, let's talk about the ability to summon amazing weapons and armor and the powers that support this. A lot of Syndromes have a summonable weapon or two, and a few can call in some pretty great armor that can surpass the stuff you can buy. Armor is very helpful, since it'll help you whether you're Dodging or Guarding, so solid armor helps any character. Heavy armor normally penalizes your Dodge and Init. Morpheus' armor does not. Makoto's armor summon only costs her 2 Encroach (and can be combined with other Minor Actions like summoning her guns) and gives her 8+(2xlevel) armor, max level 5. That's up to 18 armor with no drawbacks at all. 18 damage reduction against every blow. The best 'buyable' armor later on is AV 25, can only be used for one scene before breaking, and heavily penalizes Dodge and Init because it's a powered exosuit. The actual melee and gun summons are only okay, what really sends them over the top is Double Creation, which you've seen on Makoto. It gives +1 to Attack OR Guard for every level you've got (up to 10) and works with the Create Shield, Hundred Guns, or Infinite Weapons powers. Create Shield is also amazing, creating a high Guard shield 'weapon'. Create Shield starts at 6 Guard at level 1, and goes up to 14 at level 5. 14 Guard as a static boost from your weapon is great, and say you put points in Double Creation, now you're making a gun and a shield or sword and shield at the same time and they're both better. This almost makes up for Morpheus' actual Guard boost active power being the worst in the game.
Similarly, Morpheus actually has the strongest 'basic' magic attack in the game, Sand Blade. You summon some of the energy of creation and try to either cut someone with it or just make them stop being created, for 2 damage a level, max 10. AND it lowers their Guard by 5. It costs 2 Encroach instead of 1, but it's Target - just like Light Bow and others. The problem for Sand Blade is Morpheus doesn't do much else with magic. They can dodge using magic instead of Body, which can be helpful, and they get an excellent Heal (Heal any target d10 per level, plus your Mind as a static boost, max 5) using magic, but the latter doesn't take checks and can't combine with attacks, obviously. They can also inflict Rigor (stop movement) on an Area (Select) with RC a few times a battle with Paralyze, and that can be a vehicle to make Sand Blade AoE. So you can mess with people and paralyze them, but really Morpheus alone doesn't justify specializing in magic, even if it's got good tricks with it.
What Morpheus lacks is that Morpheus can't do much that's very special with the gear it creates once it creates gear. It gets a decent armor penetrator, it has some very basic attack and dice boosts that work on melee and ranged, and it can kill mooks like Hanuman with Genocide Mode (functionally the same as Sonic Boom, but can be used with guns, too), but it doesn't get many other boosts for its weapon attacks until its ultimate abilities. This leads to a situation where you're either relying on your gear alone to be enough (which it could be, Morpheus gear rules) or you're using another Syndrome to help you fight and fill in Morpheus's shortfalls. They also get a kind of neat melee ability where instead of using a weapon, they turn parts of the enemy's body into volatile explosives for 2 damage a level (max level 5) that ignores Armor, but you're probably better off with a magic sword. They're also really good at Ride, which makes sense, because they can summon vehicles. If you summon a vehicle and get on it, it helps you move faster regardless of Initiative and provides an extra layer of light armor. The best vehicle they can summon is Morph Robot, but that requires rank 5 in Vehicle Morph and they can only get that by being Pure or by being extremely overheated (you slowly get +levels to all your powers as Encroach goes up, and this can break caps). This summons a robot with 15 attack power and 18 armor; you can use Ride to attack with your vehicle like it was a weapon, or you can use normal weapons while riding a vehicle.
Morpheus also doesn't have the best of ultimates. Its first, Perfect Control, is a Restrict 80 that gives you +10 to a test after you've already rolled it at the cost of 5 HP, use only once per session. Eh. Support Device is better, giving you a huge Lvx2 (max level 5) bonus to one stat's checks for a round, up to 3 times an adventure, at Restrict 80. You have to choose the stat when buying the power, and have to buy it again to use a different stat, but that's a massive dice boost and it being 'per round' means you could use it on multiple Dodges that turn, etc. Crystallize is just +3 damage a level, power combo now ignores armor, max level 3. Nothing special, but useful. Material Synthesis at 100 lets you shove two armors or two weapons together, adding their stats together into one super item that lasts the rest of the scene. Pretty handy, potentially. Soul Alchemy is our good friend the 'get back up one more time when out of Rez range' power, as seen in several other Syndromes. And Giganto Lance is the same 'Attack all targets in the Scene' power as Rapid Beat was over in Hanuman. The Pures are 'Pick an item and add +5 to one of its relevant stats, X times per session, where X is the power's level' and 'Give yourself +5 dice on a test, Lv times per session', which are simple, but solid and reinforce Morpheus's nature.
The thing about Morpheus is it pushes you strongly towards physical combat if you want to use the gear you make, but you don't have to use it personally. If you're using Morpheus primarily to have a good base for a magic attack from Sand Blade while having access to good armor, that's legit. It certainly works for the Morpheus-Solaris antediluvian Sage in biblical fanfic game, after all. But even if you do that, it might be worth investing in weapons because now you can hand the weapons of the Lord over to your Chimera-Exile buddy and they can go to town with gear far beyond anything they could buy or pull out of themselves. Whatever you do with Morpheus, though, it's going to cost a lot of EXP. It'll be worth it when it's done, but it won't be cheap.
Morpheus' simples are, as you'd imagine, based around making stuff. Forgot your TV remote? Make a new one. Want dinner? Create it from nothing. Need a drink? Your bottle of whisky is always full because you can cast create whisky (my first PC in this game was an undercover detective Morpheus who did this). You can fold your car up into a tiny square and hide it or put it in your pocket, then unfold it in an instant. You can dissolve and recreate walls behind you to walk through them. You can analyze any kind of component or material. You can turn things into other sorts of material or alter their appearance but not their function. You can forge any documents you want as perfect copies. Being able to make shit with magic is really convenient!
Next Time: Brain Genius
Genius As Action HeroismOriginal SA post Double Cross
Genius As Action Heroism
Rather than a gadgeteer or superscientist like you'd see in many Supers games, the super genius power set in Double Cross instead applies all of that genius to combat. Instead of extensive rules for super inventions, Neumann instead get rules for yelling out enemies' weak points to buff their allies, or telling everyone to get organized and get moving during the Setup Phase. Instead of talking about whether or not Reed Richards can cure cancer, Double Cross is way more interested in a Neumann setting up amazing tactical action dances where they rush from one gun to the next, emptying them all in turn as they choreograph their own shootout with their super brain.
Paradoxically, I'd classify Neumann itself as a highly physical oriented power set despite the mental focus. Neumanns actually don't use Mind, because they don't use magic attacks at all; they CAN choose to use Mind for Melee or Ranged checks (using it as a stat-replacement type thing, though this makes it cost 2 extra Encroach an attack) if you wanted to be a caster with your other set, but they get so little out of Mind normally from their own power set that it's kind of hilarious given how much of it they start with. What Neumann does better than anyone else is group buffs. Solaris can give it a run for its money on buffing in general, but Neumann is really good at giving the whole team a big boost (for a big Encroachment cost) before the round even starts. Take Tactics, one of the bread and butter Neumann powers. This gives a whole group (Area Select) of allies +Level dice to their next Major Action for 6 Encroach, max level 5, and you do it during Setup so it doesn't take your action or rely on Init. Neumann can also let a group of allies reposition before the round starts, they can pass out Initiative, they can cure allies of Status Effects during the Setup as they yell at you to snap out of it; they're the 'leader' class. They also get some token out of combat bonuses, like the ability to Concentrate non-combat checks with Genius's Insight, or the ability to use a single skill (Will) for all investigation checks to represent your overwhelming genius. These are nice enough to have, but the real reason you're doing DX is for the action.
Outside of buffing people in the Setup phase, Neumanns can also react to a situation with Support Fire, using their gun to help an ally out with either an attack or defense for +Level dice (max level 5) once per round in response to an ally taking an action. Any action. They can hand down a Negotiation linked buff that gives +3 damage a level (max 3), a more EXP efficient form of Hanuman's Negotiate buff. They can support an ally's Guard with information on the enemy with Defense Support, they can give out the same '+Level dice and -1 CV' Negotiate buff Hanuman had, and they can use their turn to take a shot that interrupts an enemy and, if the Neumann beats their attack roll with the Neumann's own attack roll, cancels the enemy's move. They're really good at helping out and coordinating with buddies.
But that's not all for Neumann. They're also not bad at fighting back with gun and blade. Their combat abilities are above average when it comes to giving themselves dice, but they do a bit less raw damage than some of the other combat specialists. They can build to do a ton of damage, it just tends to require a lot of investment; for example, their basic damage buff is Critical Shot, which gives 3+Lv damage to a melee or ranged attack. It has 10 levels. At level 10, it'll be better than most Syndromes' '+2 damage a level, max 5' powers, but only by 3 points, and for a hell of a lot more EXP. So while you can become such a genius of combat that you outdo the guy setting himself on fire and putting people through walls, it takes a lot more character resources; you can often get better, quicker combat returns from another Syndrome. The most unique method they have for upping their physical combat game comes from our girl Makoto's Multi Weapons. This lets you use two weapons with the same skill that you're equipped (so two guns or two melee weapons) at the same time, adding their damage together to determine your base damage. This only requires buying the base power, and no further EXP beyond that, while only costing 2 Encroach per attack; this can be a huge bargain! You can go even further with Variable Weapons, which is a 1 Level power that has to be combined with Multi Weapons. It lets you add additional weapons to the mix, up to your power level in Variable. This means a Pure Neumann can somehow figure out how to use 5 weapons in the same action sequence/attack, since they could buy 3 ranks in Variable Weapons. That can get nuts, especially if you know a Morpheus. Even the basic tri-wielding version is a pretty good trick! They can also use Impenetrable Defense to defend with the Guard value of two melee weapons at once. Neumann love dual-wielding! In addition to that, a lot of their combat abilities fuck with the person they're fighting by, say, raising the Crit Value of their reactions against your attack, or lowering their Guard against all attacks this round, or shooting off their armor.
Neumann's ultimates are interesting. At 80%, you get the one outright Counter move in the game outside of the Chimera's Blade of Vengeance, with Counter. This can be used Lvl number of times an adventure, and lets you Counter an enemy's single-target attack against you with any Major Action attacks/combos you wish. If you hit them, they get hit and you don't. Really good. Absolute Prediction at 80% lets you get such a good read on a guy that you raise their Crit Value to dodge you by 2. Simple, useful, though not as good as being undodgeable. Last Action at 100% lets you take a full turn immediately on being dropped by losing all your HP; one last attempt at victory before you go down. Goddess of Victory at 100% lets you pick an ally (or yourself) right after they've rolled and give them a +3xLvl bonus to their final check result, max level 5. Again, quite useful for putting an important action over the top. Mars' Blessing lets you perform a hyper-attack at 120%, where you use every bit of genius and skill to obliterate someone by adding an extra Lvl+4 dice worth of attack power to a physical attack, ranged or melee (max level 3). This hits like a truck if you hit, on par with Chimera's big moves, and is only usable once an adventure. Blitzkrieg lets you pick out a character, even a character who has already moved this turn, and have them perform a full turn during the phase where you're looking at Init and choosing who goes next. If they haven't moved, this won't lose them their normal turn. They just get an extra turn this round. You can do this to you, or to an ally. The Pure powers are an 8 Encroach reactive 'You get +1 Crit Value to whatever you were doing' dick move called Interrupt (limited uses based on Level) and the biggest damage buff for allies in the game. Undefeated Genius is fucking amazing: You can only do it once per session/adventure but it grants all allies in a Scene +4xLevel Attack Power to their attacks this round, up to level 5 (so 7, since you're pure). It does not affect you. Still, up to +28 damage to your entire party for one turn, especially if timed for a moment when people might get to take multiple turns from heat? That's goddamn huge.
So, if you want to buff allies and be a leader, consider Neumann. You'll also have enough cool physical moves and tricks to throw in that you won't spend the whole game watching other people do awesome stuff. Neumann lacks for any way to get the gear it's going to be relying on outside of buying mundane stuff, though, so you'll either need to pump the skills that get you additional gear (Procure, the Social stat) or you'll need to take a second Syndrome (like Morpheus, our girl Makoto actually has a really solid power combo) to supply you. Alternately, make friends with a Morpheus, they're helpful. Neumann's actual combat abilities won't help a caster much, but a Neumann-Something Magical who focuses on Neumann's buff abilities is a completely legitimate choice. The most dangerous place a Neumann can be is alone; otherwise, you can be the force multiplier your team needs.
Their simples are the sorts of genius stuff you'd expect: Amazing deduction, brain like a supercomputer for math, ability to completely control their sleep cycle and brain function, perfect mimicry of mannerisms and spy shit, code breaking, linguistics so good you can not only learn any language in seconds but also talk to animals. They're great at showing off being a Super Genius.
Next Time: We get sick of the word Domain
DOMAINS OF DOMAINOriginal SA post Double Cross
DOMAINS OF DOMAIN
Orcus is the power set of spatial distortion, though it would also be easy to fluff as a general psionic/psychic power set, too. Instead of controlling a specific element or something, Orcus controls an area around the user. As you'll see from its ultimates, it can be a little all over the place. I'd say Orcus is one of the weaker choices for Pure (except that its actually Pure abilities are fucking great), but it gets some really unique tricks. It won't make a great damage character without another set backing it up, but man, is there a lot of interesting stuff you can do if you've got another set. It buffs, interrupts, debuffs, and manipulates targeting.
Firstly, Orcus is probably best off fighting primarily with magic, on its own. It has a solid basic magic attack (though it can't be used on close enemies), but that's less of a problem because Orcus also gets the hands down best distance control power in the game. Orcus doesn't need more than one distance controller because Shrinking Earth is a single power that lets the user teleport. Shrinking Earth can only be used Lvl times (Max 5), but it's a cheap power that lets the user pick a point on the map and bam, they're there. This can also break you out of melee. So if you're playing Orcus as a wizard and someone gets close to you to mess you up, BAMF, you're not there anymore. There are a ton of characters who would find a genuine teleport helpful. Another important note: All of Orcus' damage spells are Range: View. Combine that with being able to go wherever you want and that's quite helpful. They also get a good AoE with the unfortunate limiter of 'once per battle' and a Scene (Select) AoE that can't be Concentrated. Arrow Raindrop is a nice anti-mook power, but it's much weaker than the Hanuman's Siren Song; it doesn't ignore armor and only does 2 damage per rank, instead of 3. You could combine the two if you had an Orcus-Hanuman, though.
Orcus gets fairly standard, if solid, dice boosters (In particular, its Dice Booster is Major/Reaction and so can be used to buff an Orcus-using Dodge as well) and a basic damage buff, but where it really starts to shine is Keystone Formation. This is the AoE enhancer for Orcus, which makes any Syndrome power combo able to hit up to 3 targets, lvl times per session (Max Lvl 3). To explain why this is special, a normal attack turned into an AoE will hit Area (Select). That means you point it at an engagement and everyone you want within that engagement is hit. Keystone, though, hits 3 targets. You can name 3 targets in different engagements, etc. It's Syndrome linked, so anything using at least one Orcus power is game. This opens up a lot of possibilities and Orcus is the only power set with a 'hit X targets' spell this flexible. You want to spread a buff to 3 allies fighting in different combats? It'll do it. You want to pick off 3 enemies in multiple fights? Attacks and debuffs work with this power.
Orcus also gets some really good reactive powers. They have a reactive dice debuff like Chimera's intimidation powers, but they also have a unique pair of dice fuckery powers. Fairy's Hand takes one of the dice in an already-rolled check and declares it a 10. That means it crits. If your ally was faltering on a crit chain, you can keep it going a little longer for 4 Encroach and one of your limited uses of Fairy's Hand. By the same token, Domain of Domination does the same thing, but declares the die result a 1. Enemy down to one die and hoping for a chain of crits? No, their check is over now. They also get a setup power that takes a whole group and gives them +1 Crit Value, though it isn't Area (Select) so you'd better be careful about fucking over allies.
Further, they get two other magic attacks, one which does minor damage to a Single target and hits them with Rigor (can't move until cured by using a Major or Minor to free yourself), and another that hits people with Dazed (-2 dice for the turn) and Pressure (Can't use any Auto actions like healing or buffing until you're cured by using a Major or Minor to free yourself). Note this can be combined with the basic magic attack for Orcus, which isn't bad (it's about as damaging as Light Bow) and Keystone Formation to fuck over a group of foes at once.
Orcus also has some interesting defensive powers: You know how some power sets have had 'reduce expected damage' powers to use to supplement defense after someone has been confirmed hit? Orcus has a good one, but also a unique one: Theirs assists a whole area and so can defend against an AoE attack. It also stops 4 damage a level, 5 levels, so 20 damage stopped to a whole area is potentially really good. They can Dodge with magic, like Black Dog, with Luck's Protection. This is a cheap way to get a Dodge you can throw some crit-boosters on, and since it's a Syndrome power it also works with their dice booster. They get a spell that makes someone else cover someone else within their engagement without using their turn (consensual only, so you can't grab an enemy and throw them in the way of their buddy's attacks) and a rider for it that can make it Range (View). That lets them teleport a tough ally who's willing between a dangerous enemy and a squishy friend (or the Orcus) and then teleport them back immediately. They also get very heavy summonable armor, maxing out at 23 Armor Value but penalizing Dodge and Initiative by 3. They can summon a somewhat weak melee whip that lets them use melee at up to 20m of range, too, but without much melee support in the power set you'd need another set to really take advantage of it. Also have a strong auto-counter against ranged attacks, doing 5xlevel (max 5) like Balor's melee counter.
Orcus' ultimates are all over the goddamn shop. They get a counter at 80% where they use Negotiate (which mostly isn't used in their power set, though they get a buff that can use either magic or Negotiate and a Negotiate dice booster) to roll a check against an enemy check and stop an action going off. They get another 80% that doubles the attack of a physical weapon at the cost of destroying the weapon. Which is weird as they have so little support for physical combat. They get an expensive Syndrome big dice booster that also increases the Critical Value of any reaction against it at 100%. They get an amazing 100% power where after an ally (or the Orcus) has already confirmed a hit, they just add Level+1 d10s of damage to the attack's damage (max lvl 3) for only 4 Encroach and with a limit of using it once a round; they can use it every round over 100% if they want. This is damage on par with that Chimera Divine Beast Attack. They get a 120% that returns all damage they take to the attacker (while still taking the damage themselves). Finally, they get a straight mind control 120. When you use Nerve Hijack, the enemy gets a Will (Mind) check against your magic attack. If they fail, you get to make them perform a Major action of your choice. This has no limited number of uses, but costs 4d10 Encroach at 120% so, uh, that's gonna run real hot if you use it more than once. It specifically can never target more than one person.
Finally, Orcus' Restrict Pure powers are both fucking incredible debuffs. Dominating Particles hits a whole Scene (Select) with -5 Attack per level, up to level 5 (listed 3, but you're Pure, so +2). Giving every enemy -25 Attack for one round once an adventure is almost as valuable as the Neumann Pure's 'All Allies get +28'. They also get a Setup debuff that gives every enemy (it's Scene Select!) -3 dice to all actions this round. Dodges, attacks, everything. Useable Lvl times per adventure. So up to 5 times. Orcus Pure needed to have powerful Pures because in general, Orcus is best when it's paired with another set to take advantage of its tricks. The Pure powers deliver; those are both fantastic ways to fuck over your enemies.
Orcus' simples are also all over the shop and focus on total control of their immediate surroundings. They can take over and control machines with their 'particles', they can gain perfect awareness of their immediate surroundings (this one fits), they can control plant life and make it super healthy or super dead in their immediate surroundings, they can build fools gold copies of items out of sticks and leaves that don't actually work, they have straight telekinesis, they can make little fairy paths and hidden ways through their surroundings, and they can control perception within their immediate area, preventing people seeing what they don't want them to see.
Orcus is a weird power set, but between its targeting abilities, reactive abilities, dice fuckery, decent magic, useful defensive powers, and potentially good debuffing potential it has a lot of combo potential. It's not great at physical combat, but it has enough useful tricks that you could build a primarily physical character who just dips into Orcus for the fucking teleport and stuff like the dice tricks while mostly focusing their physical set if you wanted a melee Orcus. They compliment magic, buffing, and debuffing well. You won't be burning the world down with Orcus alone on pure damage, but some more decent magic attacks coupled with their other tricks will gel well with other casting or support sets. There's a lot of potential in the Domain of Domains.
Next Time: NOW I'M ON FUCKING FIRE!
Operatic Singing, Carnegie Hall on FireOriginal SA post Double Cross
Operatic Singing, Carnegie Hall on Fire
Do you like fire? Do you like ice? Do you like doing irresponsible amounts of damage? Do you like attacks called 'Plasma Cannon' and 'Annihilation Wave'? Then you're going to like Salamandra. Salamandra is all about damage and direct combat. You won't really find any buffing or support powers here. They also have an interesting gimmick where they get several powers that grow more powerful if they don't move. They combine well with physical or magic combat builds, but one thing is for sure: If you took Salamandra, you want to be the person knocking enemies down to 0 on pure damage and direct combat.
Salamandra only gets one movement power, themselves. This is one of their big weaknesses, and why they work well combined with another, faster Syndrome like a flying Chimera or a quick Hanuman. They can jump out of a fight with Ice Cloister as they temporarily gain Flight and super-jump less effectively than a Balor. In fact, Salamandra like holding still, with Blazing Fort giving them a big, efficient attack power boost they can add to any power (physical or ranged) as long as they haven't moved this turn. They also get multiple powers that will take their Minor action and then buff their Major for the turn: They can reduce enemy Dodge, buff their dice, buff their damage as long as the power they use uses a Salamandra power, that kind of thing. They can also use a Setup power to reduce all incoming damage during the turn with Ice Citadel, reducing it by 3 per level (max level 3) but only so long as they don't move. Salamandra likes to plant feet and charge up their super move.
As for what they can do, they have one of the best cheap basic magic attacks in the game in Flaming Bullets. It's exactly as powerful as Light Bow and others like it, but it can be used on enemies at any range. They get two different good basic AoEs, one limited in uses and unable to be used on enemies in melee (but very powerful) and one unlimited in uses but penalizing their accuracy by 3 dice, and in dire need of something like Flaming Bullets on top of it to give it more oomph. They get a Guard Break that causes up to 15 damage directly past all DR. They get a debuff rider that goes well with their AoEs, temporarily reducing an enemy's dice if they're hit by the Salamandra. Their magic attacks are simple, but they're really solid and combo well with one another and with their generic damage boosts.
They're also good at physical combat, both kinds. Outside of their general damage buffs for powers like Flame Blade (a generic +2 damage a level, max level 5 physical buff) they get two interesting dice boosters. One for Body, one for Sense; that's ANY check using Sense or Body, so the Sense one can combo well with Angel Halo (or gun combat) and the Body one with Dodging and melee attacking. Both damage the Salamandra by 3 HP when used, but they give a bigger than normal boost and cover a wide area of checks. They also get summonable Fists, Melee, and Ranged weapons, all of them solid. White Heat is almost as damaging as Reaming Claw for a Fist summon, while having better Guard and more balanced stats. Fire and Ice Sword has a huge 6 Guard and 11 potential attack if maxed at 5. Flame Ring is a short-ranged gun that does great damage (up to 11, which is as good as you get outside Morpheus) but is inaccurate. If you want to do physical combat, Salamandra can help you out.
They also have surprisingly good, if simple, defenses. Their Dodge boost is actually better on pure dice than Serpent's Moves from Exile, but costs more; expensive defenses can really hurt your heat if you're getting overwhelmed on numbers. Their Guards are both very good, having one '2xLevel' cheaper Guard, and an expensive-in-encroach-but-cheap-in-EXP 5xlevel Guard (max lvl 3). They also get one of the best 'reduce expected damage' spells in the game, though it can only be cast on the Salamandra directly: Blizzard's Protection is -d10 per level expected damage (meaning you can use it after a failed Dodge) once per round, max lvl 3. Add to this a unique Dodge boost called Melting that lowers damage taken (by up to 10 at level 5) on a failed Dodge (while giving you a concentratable Dodge move) and a very good dodge dice booster, and as long as you're willing to pay a lot of heat, Salamandra can stay in a fight really well. Especially if you have HP boosters from another set.
They even have some surprisingly good 'sticky' powers to keep people in a fight with them, if they want to be tanking for the team. The Flames of Hatred cause an enemy to suffer Hatred (The User), meaning they'll be forced to target the Salamandra until they cure the status effect. Salamandra also gets the only power that induces Blockade outside of narrative situations. Blockade is a condition that makes it impossible to Break Away from their Engagement. Fire Cage sticks everyone engaging the Salamandra in Blockade for one round, for 1 Encroach. They can also choose to drop the Blockade on a target for target basis, letting enemies flee if they wish to while keeping others locked in a cage of fire with them.
I bet you can't guess what Salamandra's ultimates focus on. Both their 80s increase damage. One gives you +5 damage per level to your eventual Major after spending your Minor charging it, at the cost of 5 HP per level (max lvl 3). One gives a big +4 damage per level (Max 3) at the cost of -2 Dice of accuracy. Plasma Cannon is just a 5 per level (max 3) base magic attack at 100%, to which you can and should add Flaming Bullets for more. Inferno at 100 makes a magic attack cause an enemy to lose their turn if they haven't acted this turn, if they take any damage from it. Annihilation Wave is exactly like one of Balor's 120 ultimates, inflicting 2+Level d10 damage to an Area (Select) for 4d10 Encroach with no accuracy check and no chance to Dodge or Guard. And Burning Soul is the 'get back up when too hot to Rez' 120 we've seen in multiple Syndromes. Like Salamandra, its ultimates are simple, focused on direct combat, and EXP efficient ways to add tons of damage or keep going in combat.
The Pures are very interesting and very useful. One of them is just a dice bonus for Salamandra attacks that also makes them ignore armor for 4 more Encroach. Simple, but very good. The other is a huge 'reduce expected HP damage' shield, reducing the incoming damage by 2+Level d10 damage (max level 5 due to Pure). 7d10 damage reduction in response to an attack getting through is big. The catch is you can't cast it on yourself, only allies, and only once per round as usual. Still, the Pure Salamandra's ability to throw out a huge 7d10 shield on an ally that's in trouble is a great defensive boost to a team, and one of the few support abilities a Pure Salamandra would get.
Salamandra doesn't really bother with debuffs outside of direct -Dice on one or two powers. Salamandra doesn't have buffs for friends. Salamandra doesn't have HP boosters or heals. Salamandra does damage, and Salamandra tanks damage. Its offense and defense are better balanced than you'd expect, but they're all focused on the simpler side of direct combat. Salamandra combos well as either some direct combat potential thrown on a character who isn't so good at doing damage, or by combining it with a heavy damage set like Chimera and then using the additional boosts to go through the roof. It's not complicated, but it's very effective.
The Simples for Salamandra are all heat based. You can make perfect pottery! You can cook delicious meals. You can make your own ice cream! You can survive extreme heat and cold! You can air condition your surroundings! You can walk through fire. You can freeze an unconscious person into a popsicle and let them get unthawed in the future. You can see heat! You can make little fires. What else did you expect?
Next Time: The many wonders of drugs.
Deadly Deadly PoisonOriginal SA post Double Cross
Deadly Deadly Poison
Solaris is a bit of an odd man out in that it's the only power set that can really lean on Social. The expansion books will add more potential to do this, partly to make it easier to combo power sets with Solaris, but for now it will remain something of an odd drawback/quirk of the Solaris set. Solaris is the power set of drugs. Incredible drugs. Solaris loves healing, buffing, and debuffing. It has the weakest overall damage potential of any Syndrome, but damn is it good at what it actually does.
First, let's talk Social Solaris. Solaris gets a great dice boost for Major action AND Reaction Negotiate checks, because Solaris also gets the ability to use Negotiate to Dodge. This is fluffed, for some reason, as the Solaris mind controlling tons of squirrels and other small animals to jump in front of bullets for them and not the Solaris just, like, overwhelming the attacker with drugs such that they miss, which is hilarious to me. They also get a Negotiate ability that actually does damage, as they induce heart-stopping terror with a bad drug trip. Not kidding, the ability is called Absolute Terror and inflicts Lvl Attack Power (pathetic damage) but completely ignores armor. It's also very expensive, at 3 Encroach for a fairly weak basic attack. Most of the Negotiate abilities feel a bit overcosted. They can also force people to move, force down peoples' Init, and the big one, add a 'rest of the scene' dice penalty to someone with Negotiate. Irresistible Words gives -Lvl dice to everything the target does if they get hit by it, for the rest of the scene. No way to remove it. Max level 5. That's a big hit.
If you're running a physical character, you'd think you'd want to stay away from Solaris. But they have some surprisingly good physical riders they can throw around. They can make physical attacks (or any attacks, actually) more powerful with a cheap 'poisoned attack' power (though it's very EXP inefficient, boosting damage 1 point per level with 10 levels and costing your Minor to apply). They can add on melee riders that destroy armor, give a flat resolution penalty to future Dodges by the target that round, or turn any attack, physical or otherwise, into an AoE as long as it's using a Solaris power with Poison Fog. I wouldn't recommend them as a main melee model; you're not going to do hand to hand as a Pure Solaris. But for an extra dip for a physical character, their defense destroying moves are quite nice. They also have a Mind and Body booster that work like Salamandra's: Take a little chip damage to drug yourself with hyper-adrenaline or super brain juice that boosts your Body or Mind dice on a Major or Reaction. They can also add a nasty poison DoT rider to magic attacks of any kind.
Most of a Solaris' buffing is actually based on magic. They get an incredible 'for the rest of the scene' physical buffer they can throw on an ally's attack power, but it inflicts Berserk, the extremely hard to get rid of Status Effect that makes you unable to Guard or Dodge. They get a +5 Damage, +Level Dice bonus buff with Valkyrie's Guidance, though it takes your Major to use. They get a great heal with Healing Water that heals d10 per level +Mind, which you can use that Poison Fog to turn into a group heal. Or link to, say, Heal from Morpheus. Or to that Valkyrie's Guidance power to heal and buff at the same time. They can also use magic to target and instantly take out one Troop type enemy, much like Hanuman's Sonic Boom but weaker. Also have a nice -Dice debuff they can throw on any magic attack. Solaris often work best split between Social and Mind. They also get an amazing reactive debuff with Blind Sheep. Like Hell Beast's Roar and other reactive debuffs, you declare it right as the enemy is about to do something and it penalizes them. Unlike those, which only go to -3 dice, it starts at 2 dice and goes up to 6 dice at 5 levels. It's twice as good! Solaris are really good at fucking peoples' dice pools. Solaris can also get people up from being downed if they were running too hot, with the usual consequence that if they do that to a normal human it probably makes them Superhuman.
Solaris' ultimates start off with the amazing Berserker, an 80% magic buff that gives someone -1 Crit Value and +2xLvl dice to their next action. Again, stacks with stuff like Valkyrie's Guidance. Max lvl 3. And you can use Poison Fog to make it AoE. I had a Pure Solaris toss something like +17 dice to their entire team at high heat once. Additional Strength at 80 lets the Solaris make a DC 20 magic check (being one of the few buffs to require a check) to give up their Major to give an ally a second turn, once per round, cannot be made AoE. This is also notably only limited to once per round, not once per session. Overdose at 100 is really unique and cool: When you throw it into a combo, ALL powers in that combo gain +2 levels, which are permitted to break their level caps. As you can imagine, in a big ultimate combo with like 5-6 powers, this is really fucking good. Only usable once a session, but hey. They also get a 100% reactive rez, where they get someone else up at Lvlx5 HP with Miracle Drop the instant they drop, once per scenario (cannot target the Solaris). At 120%, they get a 10xLevel (max 3) similar Rez that can be used on themselves or others, once per scenario. Solaris doesn't like buddies dying. They also get a 120 that causes an Impulse check, where someone saves vs. the Solaris' Will check with their own. If they fail, they go Berserk and get +2d10 Encroachment. If they weren't a superhuman, they are now! (Unless negated by the GM).
Their Pures are also amazing. They can turn one Major power into a Setup Power (though it cannot be Combined with anything else) for +5 Encroachment lvl times per session (max 5). Has to be a Solaris power, of course. Still good. They also get the ability to point to an ally once per session and restore one of their limited use powers. This means they can give you a second shot of something you could only use once per session, or once per scene, or whatever. Given some of those are 'I refuse to die' or 'I do an incredible super attack'...Restoring a Pure Neumann's ability to do Undefeated Genius or a Pure Orcus' -25 Attack debuff on all enemies can be pretty big!
Solaris is about support. They fuck with people, they make people better, they heal people. They don't get much that lets them fight directly, but they can gel with almost any other powerset because they have some solid magic and physical riders in either direction. You won't be damage king with Solaris, but you'll be good at everything else. They tend to work better with casters than physical specialists, though; they get more nice stuff for magic than their few physical defense destroyers.
Their Simples are all about the drugs. Lure people with pheromones. Convince people you're their best friend with false memories or mind control drugs. Control how things smell. Have a magical whiskey still/brewery based on your total control of fermentation. Set up a wizard drug lab. Make diet pills with 'revitalizing nutrient solutions'. Communicate at a distance through intense hallucinations that can equal a hologram. You are the druglord. Be lord of drugs.
Next Time: Common Powers
Common Powers and the Matter of EfficiencyOriginal SA post Double Cross
Common Powers and the Matter of Efficiency
Common Powers are something every single Overed has access to. You can buy from this pool no matter what power sets you took. Most of the stuff in this pool takes two forms: Extremely inefficient in terms of EXP, such that if you have a more efficient method in your Syndromes you should do it, or extremely inefficient in terms of being awkward, Encroachment-expensive, or something you can only do once a session. In general, you only buy a Common power if you're at the top of your game and running out of stuff to buy in your focus, or if you absolutely can't buy the thing you want within your power set.
Take, for example, the Common Power 'Attack Bonus'. Attack Bonus gets you 3 points of attack per Level, max lvl 10, for 5 Encroach, and can be added to any kind of attack. The catch is you can only trigger Attack Bonus once per session. But say you're playing a Pure Solaris and you really want something on board to make an impact when you throw out your big Overdosed AoE ultimate combo: This is the only way you're getting that kind of damage and if you're already tossing it on a fight-ender you only do once anyway, it might be worth the EXP investment. Similar, say you've been playing a long time, or started at high level, and you have a shitton of EXP: An extra +30 attack move you can pull out once a session might be worth it. But if you're a fairly normal Chimera, say, you'll have more efficient and better ways to boost your damage without buying a big one-shot ability. Most of the high boost Common powers are once a session, like this.
Also in the interest of disclosure, I was running the game for nearly a year before I realized there's a second Concentrate-type power for lowering Crit-Values on Reactions (Dodges), called Reflexes. It works exactly like Conc, just only for Reacting, and no-one starts with it like they start with Conc. I asked my players if they'd like to pay a 25 EXP Dodge Tax or just keep using Conc for Dodges, and they agreed we'd just keep using Conc for Dodges, so there you go. Just needed to point out whenever I refer to a Conc-Dodge I'm referring to a houserule, and fully RAW you'd need to buy this Power (which costs 2 Encroach like Conc, requires you to name a Syndrome like Conc, and directly subtracts from Crit Value like Conc) to be any kind of effective Dodge Tank.
We should also talk about the mechanics of Resurrect. This ability is extremely important to conditioning play and maintaining the flow of fights, but I think the actual power is a bit badly designed. I think the designers agreed with me, looking at the new power that boosts Res in Infinity Code. See, you can raise Res to level 3, but this won't get you anything worthwhile due to how Res functions. Res kicks in the instant you're KOed at 0 HP, IF you are below 100% Encroach. If you're above, you need an ally with a res power or you need one of those fancy 'get myself up at 120' ultimates. You instantly roll level d10s, gain that much HP, and gain that much Encroachment. It takes no actions to Res. Res is there to prevent every fight from being rocket tag. It's a reserve of 'get back up' moments where one of your animes gets slammed through a wall and then walks out of the cloud of dust and rubble with a bunch of dramatic cuts and bruises. It's a really, really important part of the game's sense of escalation and pacing. The problem is there's no mechanical benefit to raising Res. After all, I get back up every time I go down, and I pay 1 for 1 in Encroach for my Res HP. 3d10 HP isn't enough to stay on my feet, most likely, and I'm still paying as if I tanked 3 attacks that took me out, after 1 attack that did so.
I'm not going to talk a lot about Infinity Code, because I just got it and haven't used it in play, so I can't assess it as well. But I did notice a specific booster for Res in there among the new Common Powers. It gives you up to +20 HP on getting up (2 per level, ten levels) without costing any extra Encroach. If Res did the same thing, where you paid d10 but got 3d10 HP back, it'd be quite useful to raise it since you'd lower the chances you get knocked off your feet again. Instead, since it's 1 for 1, you're effectively spending EXP to pay for extra Res that you might not need, and that might fuck your heat curve even harder. Also note Res happens even if you're afflicted with Pressure (explicitly mentioned). Also note getting knocked over and getting back up does NOT end any status effects you're suffering. You're still poisoned/grabbed/whatever.
Common powers also have a few other standouts: Hyper Toughness gives 3 HP a level at no base Encroach cost, 10 levels. This lets characters who have EXP to burn get in on the 'not being made of paper' action others get more easily from Pain Editor, Giant's Life Force, and Mark of the Twisted. As only three of 12 Syndromes have direct HP boosters, this one's fairly likely to see some use at higher levels by squishier PCs. Similarly, since HP boosters are rare, it's more likely someone really going hard on having lots of life might decide to eventually go in on even more HP (at no base Encroach cost) after maxing their other HP boosters. Speed Up is a base Init booster, on a 1 for 1 level, that's less useful because just raising Sense raises Init by 2 and costs 10 EXP, while two levels of Speed Up cost 10 EXP and raise Init by 2 anyway. Finally, Restrain Command is amazing because it's the only way to remove Berserk. You can use it once per scene per level, and it will cure Berserk (you MUST be Berserk to use it) and up to 2 other Statuses for 4 Encroach as a Minor. Berserk doesn't come up much, but being totally unable to defend yourself is a Bad Idea in Double Cross, so being able to dumpster it is important.
There is also another very interesting Common called Calm Down. This is a Scene wide debuff that hits ALL superpowered characters in the scene for -2xLevel dice to everything, for the rest of the Scene. This hits everyone. You, the enemy, the mysterious guy in a tuxedo and mask watching and smelling a rose during the fight, everyone. If you think the enemy is going to get shut down harder by a scene-wide dice penalty than you, this might be useful.
Common also has a power called 'Little Happiness' that's explicitly about using your powers to get filthy rich and then blow it all on a new anti-tank rifle, granting a huge bonus to Procure checks. We'll talk about those when we get to equipment, I just think that's funny. It also provides some basic 'a limited number of times, use a skill using X stat as if you had Crit Value 9 so you can boost random non-combat stuff' powers (you could use them in combat, but why? Conc is so much more efficient).
In general, Common Powers are used to fill in gaps you can't fill anywhere else. They're what you turn to when you can't turn to anything either because you either already have everything else, or you have no access to it in the first place and need it badly. They help ensure any character can try almost any trick, they just make it very inefficient. In effect, this means outside of powers like Hyper Toughness, they very rarely get taken. This is fine; that means the normal power sets do their job better. But if you really need to fill a hole in a build, Common can probably help you out.
Just be prepared to pay through the nose for it.
Next Time: Okay, finally, let's talk about pacing and Encroachment
Pace YourselfOriginal SA post Double Cross
So, I'm going to first describe the Encroachment system in detail, and then we're going to talk about why it's the core of Double Cross and why it's so mechanically interesting to me.
So, Encroachment's come up a lot. You can call it whatever you want, but this is your standard 'your magical anime powers come with a price and it's coming due' sort of deal. You start with high twenties, low thirties generally. Your powers cost points to activate, meaning your Encroachment goes up. Encountering monsters and entering dramatic scenes makes your Encroachment go up, though full disclosure this is another rule I missed (Where 'entering a scene', any scene, makes Encroach go up d10 points) and just decided not to re-implement in my games when running them. Failing an Impulse check and giving in to your power source's dark impulse raises Encroachment. You can even choose to reach deep inside yourself and draw on more power, intentionally raising your own Encroachment by a number of d10s you choose as a minor action.
Why would you do that?
The key to Encroachment is that it's a corruption bar and mana bar at the same time, but it's also an escalation mechanic. As your Encroachment goes up, you get a boost to all stats. All of 'em. At 60, it's +1. At 80, it's +2. At 100, it's +3. At 130, +4. At 160, +5. At 200, +6. At 240, +7. At 300, +8. That's a really significant boost. But that's not all! You also get Level bonuses to ALL your powers, except a few (like permanent stat buffs) that say they cannot receive a bonus from Encroachment. At 100, all your powers get +1 Levels. At 160, +2. +2 to all power levels, with the ability to break your level cap, is an absolute nuts power boost to a character. Not to mention all your ultimate techniques unlock at 80, 100, and 120 Encroachment.
So as a fight or session goes on, your power level increases. Encroach going up gives you immediate, significant gameplay benefits. Similarly, enemies, who tend to have irresponsible Encroachment rates because they're demons/heavily infected/crazy False Hearts operatives, get all of these bonuses. The big bad anime villain Professor Caudwell or whoever gets to swagger out onto screen at 240% Encroach, throwing around ultimate techniques and not caring about the narrative consequences because he's already a lunatic. Your PCs have a grace period where they can get their asses kicked around a bit (remember that you can't be permanently put down as long as you can Res, and you can do so as long as you aren't over 100 Encroach yet) while they try to figure out what the hell to do about the guy and he makes some kind of speech about the future of the Renegade Virus and its plans for humanity and threatens to unleash THE INFINITY DEVICE. Then, through fighting, Resing, etc, they reach deep and hit levels of power where they can gang up and beat the guy silly. But they have to be careful or they'll go too deep and won't be able to come back to being human. The gameplay element, solely through its mechanics, creates the kind of pacing and dramatic moment that you'd expect in the kind of superhero story it's trying to emulate.
Now, what's the danger of Encroachment? If you're over 100 at the end of a session, you're going to turn into a monster, or be possessed by demons, or join the False Hearts, or have your wisdom clouded by pride and declare yourself greater than the Lord of Hosts or whatever the consequence is in your version of 'dangerous superpowers anime'. The key is your PC will be lost to the party and you'll have to make a new one. If your GM is charitable, you might get an arc about finding and beating the evil out of your old PC and getting them back; I like to have that option open when I'm running. Still, the consequences for going nuts on Encroachment are entirely narrative; you aren't weakened (and are, in fact, massively empowered) in gameplay by Encroachment danger.
In the normal game, you pull yourself back from Encroach at the end of each session by rolling 1d10 per Lois, using your 3 Lasting Loises (those important NPCs for your character who remind them they're human) and then adding up to 4 important characters you've rescued or interacted with or whatever during the adventure, for a max of 7 when you put the 3 lasting and 4 scenario Loises together. The closer you are to 100% Encroachment after Backtrack, the more EXP you get, as I mentioned when I talked about EXP briefly. It's a difference of 3 points between 'almost backtracked to 0' and 'in the 90s', though. It's not a huge amount. The biggest source of EXP is the 1-10 for 'completing the mission' and the 5 'participated in the session' points. You can choose to set your Backtrack Bonus EXP to 3 points (maximum would be 5) to roll double your Loises in Backtrack dice instead if you ended really hot. If, after rolling your Backtrack you're still over 100, you can let it stand and go nuts (you still get 3 Backtrack EXP in this case) or you can give up all your Backtrack EXP to roll the dice again and add the result. So this means you can, if you knew you'd need it, roll up to 4xLoises backtrack dice. You can conceivably get back from some really high risk heat with that.
So, the Encroachment system is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to do up this game. Encroachment is a genuinely excellent mechanic that paces out a session really well. It creates tension as it goes higher, but it also creates excitement because you actually build up to using your big ultimate powers and you get stronger to match the villains. When you finish a fight with a huge combo that included all your best moves and drags you into the danger zone just by paying for it, it feels like a satisfying finisher to a big fight. Important characters don't get knocked out in round 1, they have Res even if they get unlucky and 'one-shotted'. When you start charging up with that Genetic Shift move (the +Xd10 Encroach Minor action) you're making a risky narrative move that immediately speeds up the fight and gives you huge bonuses. It fits its genre and the exact sort of superhero anime story it's trying to get across, while providing interesting gameplay interactions; managing your Encroachment is a major resource management challenge. Similarly, if you decide you're okay with going crazy and shift yourself all the way to 300 because fuck it, you HAVE to win this fight? You probably will. You'll get what you wanted at a great cost, because the consequences don't come due until the end of the session. You can turn yourself into a boss fight and then go at someone, with the understanding this is probably a preview for the players having to fight your old PC next week!
As an added danger for power mechanic, you have Tituses, named for Titus Andronicus. These are where you
A Titus gives you +10 dice to one check, +10 to a check's result after rolling, -1 Crit Value to a check (Stacked with other sources, up to Crit Value 2), the ability to get back up with 10+Body HP even if you were over 100 and out of Res powers because you hate that goddamn Titus or the ability to clear all Status Effects and dice penalties. FUCK YOU, DAD is a very powerful temporary buff, which you get at the cost of -1 Backtrack dice and the fact that a major character relationship that used to define you has broken down completely. You know, little things.
Next Time: Items and 'money
Miniguns! Miniguns for sale!Original SA post Double Cross
Miniguns! Miniguns for sale!
I gotta say, items are one of my least favorite parts of the system. In general, I think the Social stat is one of the flaws of the system; it's very rarely used for anything aside from out of combat tests, and as those rarely top TN 15 (by the book's own rules) you can get through those mostly on skills. Most Social abilities cost more for the privilege of using Social for combat, and most that don't don't require a test to use so your stat/Negotiate skill is irrelevant. What Social is important for is Procurement. Social is used as the stat for the Procure skill, and you also get +2 'stock points' per point of Social, and per point of Procure. Together, these form your ability to buy items permanently and without a check. Every session, you can 'Stock' items up to your Stock Points as permanently available.
Stocking Items is extremely unclear due to the poorly localized translation. The text tells you you 'regenerate your Stock Points every session' and also that any Stocked item is available even if it gets broken or whatever as you get it back at the beginning of the next session. That makes it sound like you get to pick up to your Stock in items and then they're yours forever. But later, it talks about how you can freely trade in Stocked items between sessions and how your capacity for Stock increases if your stats for it increase. Thus, we have to puzzle out what that means, and I'd guess it means that you have a general item capacity based on your Stock, and that items will be freely returned to you between sessions if you leave them on your Stock list, rather than 'you buy up to 20 points of items each session and keep all of them' because otherwise you'd never have cause to 'trade in'. This means a character who has gone to the soft cap on Procure and Social will have 40 Stock points (2 per point in both). This is enough to, say, buy a Powered Assist Suit, one of the most expensive items in the game, so fair enough.
Items have both a Stock and a Procure rating. The latter is the TN of trying to acquire the item mid-mission by hook or crook. There is no limit on the number of times you can try to Procure stuff, except that you need GM permission to make a Procure check in the first place. So you probably only get chances when it's an appropriate moment to 'arm up'. The values for acquiring items can be weird. For instance, take the second best buyabale armor in the game, the Ultimate Clothing. This is sigh hyper-advanced UGN battle armor that is 'based on maid and butler outfits', because of fucking course it is. It not only gives you 10 AV for only a -3 Init penalty, it boosts the check result of all magic attacks by 3, because butlers are fucking magic I guess. Anyway, this costs a huge 33 points to Stock, such that you need to be near maxed out to buy it. But its actual Procure Check is 20, which is pretty easy for someone with a good skill. Also note Morpheus gets a power where they can Procure items by creating them whole cloth, using Will+Mind instead (and being able to use Concentrate: Morpheus, instead of having to rely on the weaker -1 CV Enhance Mind from Common) and rolling the check at a +2 per level bonus (max level 5) so Morpheus can ace these rules, as it should.
Another important note: Melee weapons and armor are generally way cheaper than guns. Good guns are ruinously expensive. You want a UGN lightsaber? That'll be 13 Stock for an Attack Power 12 Guard 2 Supersonic Blade (that you have to turn on with a Minor action but hey). You want an advanced SMG? 20 stock for an Attack Power 9 gun. The Power 15 Chaingun is 27, and requires a Body of 8 or you need to be riding in a vehicle to fire it. I'm not going to bring in many items from the other book I've got, but I would like to mention for all Shadowrun fans that the anti-tank troll w/Compound Bow is enabled by the expansion book: You can get a Compound Bow that has Attack Power (Current Body) and make your Chimera shoot massive tungsten penetrators through people, so that's nice. Also, all weapons are one-handed unless they explicitly mention they aren't, so technically the Chaingun you need Body 8 to wield is a one-handed weapon and you can carry a riot shield or a second Chaingun with it if you're huge enough and somehow got two of them. You want to stand on a roof with two massive cannons shooting down incoming aircraft? This system is all over that idea. Also note Chimera can get a power that makes any two-handed weapon one-handed. Just saying (This is not a very efficient build).
I should also mention the UGN Battle Armor, because this is pretty much the standard armor characters end up using in my games, regardless of what they fluff it as. It's got no drawbacks, AV 8, and it's cheap as hell at 8 Stock. If you can't summon your own armor, this stuff will do you.
You can also buy and ride vehicles. Vehicles get armor, a speed (which is usually enormous), some of them let you fly, and they take a Minor action to mount. You can also get other characters in your van by letting them take a Minor action while in your Engagement; now they move with you. Note that characters can only get in your van if you let them. No enemies hopping into your van without your permission. You can make melee attacks, fire out of your vehicle, whatever. Vehicles also get an Attack Power stat; you can ram people with any vehicle using the Ride skill for that sort of vehicle. If you have powers for boosting Ride, you can even Concentrate these attacks and do superpowered drifting. So if you want to be running over genetic horrors in a nimble Japanese sportscar while Eurobeats play in the background, that's entirely your prerogative. It's not the most efficient way to fight, but a Morpheus who can summon the ultimate sportscar might be funny.
You can also spend small amounts of Stock on 'informants' and support characters. These can be expended as you call in favors to get +2 dice to various out of combat investigation checks. They're cheap as hell, usually only costing 1 Stock per use, and it's kind of nice to be able to fluff a character with a lot of Stock as having real pull. Calling in favors from the military, politicians, researchers, etc is nice.
Consumables and extra gear are also available, but usually not very important. You can also get super drugs, but they raise Encroachment, cost an arm and a leg, and do things like '+5 to melee damage for one round' for 17 stock points and 5 Encroach so, uh, don't bother. Winners don't do (non-Solaris) drugs. Winners do Solaris drugs all the time to win more. You can also buy a pair of sunglasses that read peoples' power levels, so that's nice.
Finally, we get 'Syndrome' items. These are the things the Black Dog 'buys' with ranks of Hard Wired. They also represent the items given to a Stoker's Servants if they bought Fool's Equipment. Hard Wired gives you the option of an Arm Blade or Linear Cannon (Damage 9 and Damage 8 respectively, while the Arm Blade penalizes enemy Guard by 5 and the Cannon penalizes enemy Dodge by 2 dice) as solid melee and ranged options. It also gives you the option of +2 to Melee, Ranged, or magic checks per rank, +2 Guard per rank, or +5 max HP per rank. Remember that a Black Dog can freely swap these item picks around each session, and potentially between fights with GM permission. Stokers get picks for their Servants based on Fool's Equipment. Every Servant gets Level picks, up to Max Level 5. They get either a basic Damage 8 melee weapon, a basic Damage 7 gun, or +2 armor per unused pick. Handy for ensuring your Servants can actually fight and don't need to waste Encroach on weapon summons or something.
I should also note there is an item called the Anti-Warding mask that prevents Warding doing anything to a character. So if you want to have unpowered humans show up with assault rifles and masks that let them feebly spray those rifles at the PCs to have a human mook fight, you can. They'll get their asses kicked because they don't have Concentrate or powers, but that's an option.
Items are all over the place. They're powerful enough, though never as good as what a dedicated Weapon or Armor summon can get you (by design, maxing those is expensive). In practice, you'll usually end up with one or two characters who rely on human made items and buy lots of them, while others summon their gear. Many of the holes in the armory do get filled in with the expansion book, but I haven't had a chance to use it in play and so can't speak for it as much. It does add rocket launchers and the ability to beat someone to death with a legendary guitar, though. Francis York Morgan would be proud.
Next Time: Enemy Powers, and why they're fun
He's too strong! Take him together!Original SA post Double Cross
He's too strong! Take him together!
So, not only do your enemies often not worry about Encroachment, just getting the benefits from a fixed rate while not having to track it going up as they use powers (though you can definitely fight 'normal' foes who have Res and track power increase just like you), but they get access to special powers no PC can take. This is because the designers of Double Cross understand that A: You're going to want to take on one super powerful villain with your whole team sometimes and B: If they don't address the action economy difference you're going to fucking wreck that guy.
Thus, Enemy Only Powers. For the most part, these function like way, way superior Common powers. To demonstrate their superiority, let's examine a practical example.
A PC who is an Exile-Black Dog can have the best possible HP boosts for a PC. Say they max out Pain Editor, Mark of the Twisted, and take HP for all their Hardwired ranks, plus max Hyper Toughness. They'd have 130 bonus HP on top of whatever their Body and Mind give them; this is a huge amount and even the most powerful of foes won't be able to drop someone who went that hard on HP in one attack.
By contrast, someone who has even 1 of the Life Up Enemy Only Power gets +30 HP. It has 10 levels. There's even a second one, Life Up II, with another 10 levels, in case your monster really needs +500 HP on top of whatever they get from normal Syndrome powers. Infinity Code has multiple pre-made foes with 500+ HP. This is because even the strongest Chimera is going to struggle to do more than 100 damage in a single blow; if your enemy is that tough, you can have players landing blows and tearing off bloody chunks but it can stay standing and keep hitting back.
They also get powers that will let them take 2 or 3 turns in one turn, in case you wanted to even out the action economy that way, though these are limited use. Limited by Level. If you want to simplify an enemy rather than having to roll their Dodge every attack, you can give them Evasion, which just gives them a flat Dodge of 'Dodge Dicex2+Skill' instead of being able to roll to Dodge; good for mooks or enemies where you want it to be reasonably easy or predictable to hit them. Troops can be given the ability to Cover like they were a real character, throwing themselves between their masters and the PCs' guns. Your villain can have an instant 'teleport out of the battle and run' power for escaping (while shaking their fist at the PCs) and an upgraded version where they rescue their dumb lieutenant or some other important character at the same time.
Is your villain hard to kill? Give them Revival and they can Res once at 1 HP regardless of any other powers or Encroachment. The Enemy power for curing status effects cures them all instantly, but hurts the villain by 5 HP for every Status they removed. They get a +5 Movement per rank speed boost and a +2 per rank Init boost instead of the shitty +1 Common power. They get Armor Piercing at cost of HP. They can have +10 Stock Points per rank in Stock Enhancement (max 10) because your villain has a better car than you. NPCs can be immune to Warding even if they aren't a superhuman. A villain can be a Tri Breed who can still take ultimates and basically acts like a normal crossbreed. They can Blockade you. They can be outright immune to specific status effects. They can regenerate 10-100 HP in the Cleanup of a round (up to 3 times a battle). They can have a second form where they vastly increase their Encroachment bonus!
Villains can use these vast powers to fill in for their Syndromes and emphasize that someone who has really given in is far stronger, individually, than your PCs. They'll need the power of friendship and action economy to take one of these big bastards down. And that's great! Also, most of these powers, you'll note, don't improve the villain's damage. They're primarily about making them look more impressive and giving them more tricks. The book cheerfully says to estimate how long and intense you want a fight to be and then structure enemy HP around that with Life Increase, plus to decide whether or not you're going to use one big villain or add in a bunch of mooks and 'adds' for the players to take down as they struggle with the central boss. The book implies no adventure is complete without a big boss fight somewhere in there. It knows what kind of game it is!
And that's all without getting into the Syndrome Enemy Only powers. Because secretly, the Syndrome ones? Mostly hugely scaled up Simple powers for flavor and narrative, with only a few having real gameplay effects.
Halo villains can be aware of everything that happens in a scene despite not being there, watching you from the stars. They can make an attack from Stealth undodgeable. They can create massive illusions of any sort they wish, building their own stage or making an illusion-dungeon for the players to struggle through, not knowing if it's real or not.
Balors can drop everyone around them by 2 dice and prevent them using Timing (Initiative) powers. They can make a space of altered reality, a subspace rip where only the Balor and the party exist and you can fight in a weird swirling void. If that isn't enough, they can also summon a flying building. No, I'm not kidding. They get 'Summon Castlevania, in which I nest like a trapdoor spider and await the foolish heroes' as an Enemy Only power.
Black Dog can make an attack totally unguardable, break all electronic communication, or completely possess a single building to use all its systems and mechanisms to herd the players around their new technodungeon. You may have noticed many of these are 'summon Boss arena'. This is intentional.
Stoker can adjust the physical age of themselves or of non-superpowered characters at will. I'm sure part of the intent of this is to create 'oh she looks like she's 10 but she's really 8000 year old' creepy shit but age manipulation by a superpowered vampire lord can be used for a lot more than that. They can eat a Servant to get back up with all the Servant's HP when downed (once an adventure). And they can sever their link to a Servant and make them self aware, creating a new character. That one has a lot of potential.
Chimeras can turn into a massive 10-20 meter tall Kaiju that has 5-25 more melee power and +50 HP, but can't Dodge. They can breathe in space! And they can terrify all non-supers so badly that they just throw up their hands and try to hide.
Exiles can 'absorb any organic matter, though this does not work on living characters'. They can freely escape from any scene by liquifying and slipping through security. They can break off part of themselves within a character, infect them, and take over their brainmeats completely, moving them around like a meat puppet. Exiles are horrifying.
Hanuman can run so fast they create a hurricane that forces all flying characters to the floor. They can deafen non-supers. And they can teleport around the scene. Hanuman's kind of suck, honestly.
Morpheus gets another good old 'summon Castlevania/Hubris Palace' where they create their own labyrinth in an instant by will alone. They can break molecular bonds to instantly destroy equipment. And they can create any miscellaneous item they wish, from 'food to metal to medicine' from air alone.
Neumann can erase a non-super's ID, or completely cover their own tracks, disappearing from all government records. They can shut down your ability to use connections and spread paranoia among your allies. And they can totally fuck your paperwork and finances such that no-one can perform Procure checks. They're dicks.
Orcus just mind controls dudes. Straight up, total mind control. Just without the creepy 'a piece of me is running your brain' Exile flavor. They can make you completely forget another person, too. Or create their own back alleys and escape routes at will.
Salamandra can perfectly control the atmospheric temperature and use it to cause hurricanes, lightning storms, or whatever other weather they wish. They can give themselves a one time 5d10 damage bonus. And they can just burn entire skyscrapers to ash. Just snaps their fingers and now that whole building is on fire (or completely frozen) and now you're fighting them in a burning skyscraper while trying to get panicking civilians to safety. They 'summon boss arena' by arson.
Solaris can make everyone in a scene Hate one character until they've attacked them once, once per session. They can inflict one important non-super with a plot disease, which can also turn them into a super. And they can take over the minds of an entire city block with hallucinogens and mind control chemicals, trying to turn thousands of civilians into willing meat shields/angry mobs against your PCs.
Renegade Being villains (creatures that were never human) can turn off all superpowers, including their own, for an entire scene and force everyone to use mundane abilities. They can potentially recover from Death in the next scene, requiring players to find some weird method to put the seemingly immortal beast down for good after it comes back and surprises them later. And they can be completely immune to aging and natural death.
Enemy Only powers let you really up the stakes in a fight and make an enemy that's going to take the whole party to beat. Be careful not to overwhelm them completely, but remember; part of the game is pushing the players to reach deep and use all their power to overcome these enemies. Tough foes make for epic battles that force the PCs to use all their resources and abilities. You're meant to be having huge superhero anime fights, after all.
And if you mess up and wipe out the PCs, well, PCs only actually die if you choose to kill them. There's always getting your ass kicked, having a training arc, learning some important lessons about yourself, and then punching the villain right in his smug monocle next time!
Next Time: The setting of Double Cross
The Stage of History!Original SA post Double Cross
The Stage of History!
One of the other interesting things about DX and its approach to setting up a game is that the setting is left pretty blank. There are the contours of ideas, and prompts for ideas, and there's more information on macguffins, plans, etc in the other books, but this is not going to be the kind of setting where half or more of every book is history and fluff. It does this fairly well; what you get is enough to build a story on without the oppressive metaplot of something like Aberrant.
The Renegade Virus, which has the most anime ass possible name for an evil virus, is a virus that hates humans and infects humans to give them superpowers and try to take them over. If it takes them over, it turns them into an even bigger superpowered dick called a Gjaum. A Gjaum may look totally human and may not even know it's a Gjaum. It also might go all Akira. Anime viruses are playful and mysterious things, just ask Umbrella. This virus has been running around causing superhuman mayhem for 20 years, give or take, when your game is assumed to begin. Governments all over the world are facing a crisis of terrorism and paranormal incidents that they can't explain as superhumans run amok.
A scientist named Dr. Alfred Caudwell started out warning the world's governments and telling people about the Renegade Virus, and got them to form the Universal Guardian Network, the UGN, to try to keep this stuff in check, study the Renegade, and promote harmony between humans and Overed. The idea behind recruiting and sending Overed to kill Overed is that while you could get one from out of Warding range with a cruise missile, firing cruise missiles at Tokyo is not a sustainable solution. Sending in some superpowered teenagers probably causes less collateral damage. Probably. Depends on how many Salamandra you recruit. Caudwell also warned the world of an organization called the False Hearts, a group of Overed and Gjaums who believe that mankind should be ruled and controlled by Overed on the basis of 'we can shoot flaming bees out of our hands and you cannot'.
Caudwell did a good job of getting everything set up, the UGN was gaining international acceptance even as it was kept off the public record, and the strange paranormal incidents started to calm down on account of superpowered secret agents kicking the shit out of them in back alleys. Then, 10 years ago, Caudwell had an incident with a superpowered lab monkey (they don't say what happened exactly, just that an animal in animal testing went berserk) and there were no survivors. Without him around to be Professor X, things started to change at the UGN. Ever since Caudwell supposedly got his face ripped off by a lab animal, the UGN has gone harder and harder towards militarization and enforcement and de-emphasized research and reconciliation. They've become ever more focused on monopolizing the power of the Overed for themselves, with tremendous political and financial benefits for the UGN top brass. Young Overed are strongly pressured to join.
Then Caudwell came back, hijacking every TV in Japan to announce he was now a member of the False Hearts terrorist organization, that he was going to force the world to acknowledge the existence of Overed, and that he was going to personally burn down the entire UGN. People think his broadcast was some kind of crazy prank, since the UGN did everything it could to convince them this was some silly TV hijacking trick. The UGN, meanwhile, are terrified. Not only is returned Caudwell an extremely powerful Overed himself but he's their founder. He knows a lot about all of the hidden hidey holes of the organization. It didn't help that he proved his strength by burning down a couple regional branch offices as a demonstration. Worse, some of the UGN's own started to leave to go join the 'beloved' founder, reasoning he must have a good reason to oppose the UGN.
I tell you all this because this is how DX does its story: You'll note there's no firm reason behind what Caudwell is doing. Is he taken over by the Renegade Virus? Is he a misguided extremist? Is he just using the False Hearts as a convenient way to correct the UGN and stop its slide into authoritarian conspiracy? Is he magic Hitler? Is he going to be your final boss, or are you going to switch sides halfway in and have him for a mentor? All of these things are left open. There's enough of a story to suggest reasons and plots, but there's no firm 'this is what Alfred J. Caudwell wants' because what Alfred J. Caudwell wants is to be a setting element for a GM to play with (and to burn the existing UGN to the ground, that part is firmly established). They don't even tell you his actual powers, just that they should be impressive, so you can make him do whatever you think would be fun for players to interact with.
Similarly, there's a section on 'building your Stage' where they tell you to design a sub-setting to be the stage of your adventures. They give an example of a Tokyo suburb with a nice public school, a crime infested industrial park, and a bunch of minor mundane details. The idea is to establish a little bit about a place before you play, then fill in details over repeated adventures in the same area. Start broad, fill in in play is the general philosophy of Double Cross's setting material and it works quite well. It also makes it a lot easier to rip all of this out and run a different setting entirely. As long as you've got superhumans with powers that can go wild on them, and powerful enemies who are stronger because they're willing to completely embrace the monstrous side of power, you can do it in Double Cross. The approach where they have jusssst enough detail to spark ideas and help serve as a guiderail for your powers, but enough wiggle room to do your own thing, makes it fairly easy.
This flexibility is also enabled by the way the story is told through the game's mechanics, which is the primary reason I'm doing this review. All that stuff about Caudwell is potentially fun for adventures, yeah. But you already get a story through the game's mechanics: You've got Encroach, it goes up, you get stronger and stronger as things escalate, and eventually get to the point where you and your buddies can match the swaggering and powerful monster who completely gave in and went nuts. You grow in power and complexity even if you stay sane, and eventually your powers will be strong enough to match lesser villains one on one, even as you still have to work together to crush the really big guys. Your power set provides mechanical complexity and interesting decisions to make in combat and character building, but you also feel its impact through what it does in gameplay.
When a Pure Solaris throws down an ultimate buff chain that gives the party +20 dice and -1 Crit Value at the critical moment, all the hype about their superpowers is revealed through the gameplay effects of their abilities. When your Exile-Chimera hits 100% Encroach and pulls out their big Divine Beast Attack with Sword of Life and does enough damage to rip today's boss fight in half, that shows off their abilities better than a ton of fluff about how awesome they are. Your experience with the actual game mechanics will often match what you hoped for. There's an actual sense of escalation and rising action during the plots, which is mechanically supported. No PC can just get one-shotted in the first exchange of blows, because A: That's not mechanically satisfying and B: That's not how a big anime super fight goes. Of course the bad guy put you through three buildings. And of course you got back up, cursing, with a bunch of cuts and a roughed up costume.
Double Cross is a game where the Crunch is the Story. It couldn't be a rules lite or less complex game, because the rules and complexity are where it gets its genre emulation and its gameplay. Why else do you get massive one-time critical power boosts from shocking revelations about the supporting cast? This is a game where a changing relationship and a huge revelation powers your fight-ending hyper-combo. Of course you make up cool names and descriptions for your most often used power combos. Double Cross embraces its genre, and uses its rules to help you get into the same spirit. By knowing what it's trying to be, and doing that well, it uses a ton of mechanical complexity to make a game with strong theming and pacing that really is fun to play, if a bit exhausting to GM at times (due to the rolling system).
Next Time: A word on pre-mades, possibly some example characters and villains
Infinite PowerOriginal SA post Double Cross
Alright, I've had some time to mess around with characters with these options, so I'm going to cover a bit of what's in Infinity Code, too. I will not be covering the new Ouroboros Syndrome, because I have less experience with it and a 'build your own' power set plus a bunch of Encroachment manipulation feels like the kind of thing I'd need a lot of time working with to be able to comment on properly. This other stuff, though? This I can cover right now. I'll be covering six syndromes in one, then six in another, plus the new Commons (which are actually great).
Infinity Code's add-ons for the power sets are mostly focused on helping them fill in things they hinted at but didn't commit to sufficiently (like giving Balor some more options for melee) or tossing in one or two more powers to make some of the more hyper-specialized power sets play nicer with others (Chimera is the big beneficiary of this). Excepting Brahm Stoker, which gets 15 new powers (mostly related to Servants) and then 8 new Servant powers, every Syndrome gets 3 new normal powers, a new Restrict 80, a new Restrict 100, and a new Restrict 120. They manage to do a lot with only a couple extra powers.
Angel Halo gets a new focus on illusion and dodge-tanking. They get a power where the Halo can step in for an ally and Dodge for them if the ally fails a Dodge, which is really great. It's limited to Lv (max 3) uses per adventure, but it's a great safety net for allies who aren't as evasive as the Halo, and it can work at any range; you can be sitting in the back throwing out lasers and then your big Chimera-Neumann weapon-master buddy completely flubs a critical Dodge, and you go 'Naw' and put out an illusion and save them. They also get a power where they name an enemy during setup, and if that enemy attacks anyone BUT the Halo this turn, they get a Lv+1 dice penalty (max lv 5). So either you get them to shoot at you, the Dodge Tank, or if they go for anyone else they suffer a significant penalty. They also get a new 'turn a single target attack using any Halo into an AoE' but that's not very exciting, plus the ability to drop the Crit Value of their Dodges with their new Restrict 80 at the cost of some attack power. Their new Restrict 100 is 'Dodge even if Dodge is supposed to be impossible', and their new 120 lets them switch someone's targeting with another character in their engagement. In other words, you swap places with illusions and your enemy shoots his buddy thinking it's you. Nice.
Balor gets a weapon summon, which produces a high power but inaccurate gravity melee weapon. It also gives good Guard and has the excellent, excellent 'anyone hit with this suffers Rigor' rider. No need for extra powers for that, you just have a spear that on any melee hit stops people moving unless they spend a Minor or Major action to free themselves. You want someone to stay 'stuck' in melee with your guard-tanking Balor, that helps. They also get a stacking melee debuff that inflicts -1 dice to everything on a target with each hit, though it's limited to Level uses (level 5) per adventure. Still, throw that on with the Pure power that lets you turn anything into an AoE and the powers that let you pull people into a fight with you, and there you go. Their new Ranged power just directly debuffs movement. Their new Restrict 80 is just Salamandra's Plasma Cannon if you were a caster Balor, except it can go 2 levels higher but can't be used in melee like Salamandra's, and costs more. Still, a high damage direct damage blast is never amiss. They get a 'use a power useable once a round twice' ability for their 100, so they can throw out damage reduction for their buddies more. And at 120 they get a damage reflection power, making a target suffer the damage the Balor just took.
Black Dog actually gets some new Hardwire options. A 15 power, 10m range wire-whip melee weapon that takes 3 Hardwire slots, an armor-ignoring swarm of flying turrets for a gun that take 3 slots, too, armored skin that can be expended for emergency damage reduction, and a direct magic damage boost (2 per slot). They get the ability to speed up allies' movement by hitting them with lightning, and a kind of shitty 'spend your minor action and take 5 damage for +2 per level Black Dog damage' damage enhancer. I guess you can take it if you already have your other damage buffs? They get a stun shield that does chip damage and dazes an enemy who drops you while you were Guarding, which seems kind of meh. They get a magnet grab for their new 80, which pulls a character out of their current fight and into engagement with the Black Dog. You can use it to rescue allies or grab enemies. Their new 100 lets them throw down the ability to ignore armor on themselves or an ally as a Major action buff. Considering it can be combined with the '+Dice, -1 CV' buff spell they get, that's better than it sounds. Their new 120 is better than exploding themselves: It's the 'let someone go again, or go now, or go twice' power from Neumann. All in all, Black Dog mostly benefits from the new Hardwire options and the neat ultimates, with their new normal powers being kind of eh.
I can't go into detail on every new Stoker power because there are dozens, but the big theme of the new Stokers is doing cool shit with (and sometimes sacrificing) your servants. You can feed servants to one another to create terrifying superbosses. You can sacrifice a servant to gain enormous power for either your Crimson Sword summon or your Fists (this is important for a Pure Stoker, because they have that great Fists-only life-stealing attack, but without something like Chimera have no way to make their Fists good). You can now eat your servants for a significant heal and max HP boost. They also get a bunch of new blood attacks to 'fill in' that their powerset was so deeply split between bloody moves and servant stuff. They can blind people with blood, gain even more strength from blood, debuff with blood, etc. Their new 120 is also just a massively powerful direct damage boost, the new 100 is eating a servant for power, and the new 80 is a Setup move that costs them some HP to boost their damage for the turn with Stoker powers. In general, it's much more viable to play a 'blood' Stoker and not bother with servants if you don't want to, and your servants are now much more flexible and customizable if you invest in them.
Chimera can now be a Muscle Wizard. See, one of Chimera's problems was that it was so good at boosting Body that if you, say, played a Chimera-Salamandra and wanted to be a fire breathing dragon or something you'd always feel kind of weak breathing fire. Chimera now gets the ability to spend 2 Encroach to activate Hell Beast's Intuition to use Body for magic. That means Therianthropy can buff your magic attacks for some extra cost. Flex hard enough to laser guys. Breath fire all over people. Whatever you want, Chimera can now do a hybrid melee-caster build much more effectively. It's less heat efficient, but it's worlds more EXP efficient, and that's a tradeoff I bet a lot of Chimera hybrids can live with. They also get a magic attack, and it's...okay. It's fixed damage (+5 damage), but levels in it give you +Dice, so it might be worth investing for a cheap way to get some extra damage and dice onto other magic combos. Then they get a terrible power where they stop a forced movement by going Berserk. Ehhhhh. They also get a Restrict 80 where they grab an ally and have them 'ride on their Monstrous Backside' (that is the name of the power) to let allies move with them. Their new 100 lets them Guard or Cover while Berserk, which is potentially life-saving. Their new 120 lets them take 2d10 less damage per level, max level 5, being a weaker form of others' 120% no-sells. The addition of Muscle Wizard Chimera combo potential is a huge, huge boon. This power has prompted several characters in current games getting rebuilt to work around it.
Exile has also gotten in on the wizarding a bit. They get one of the best basic 1 encroach magic attacks (since it's Damage 4+Level, max 10, instead of 2+level max 10 like most) so that your Exile-Balor caster dodge-tank now has even more solid magic potential, plus a great magic rider attack that gives both Pressure AND Taint (the DoT poison) at the same time. Sure, those are the only two magic attacks an Exile gets out of Exile, but if you wanted a caster who has Exile for their tankiness, now Exile can dip a couple magic powers to help out with their caster side, too. They also get a breakaway move, where they stretch and squish and slip away from a fight. Also good for horrible bio-wizards! Their new Restrict 80 lets the Exile turn into a shape that supports allies, taking -5 dice to their actions to give all allies in an area +5 dice. Interesting, and a lot of tactical potential. They can also choose to go Berserk for one turn during the setup for a huge attack and dice bonus for their 100. Also an interesting ultimate, making yourself vulnerable to go fully on the offensive. Finally, at 120, they get a 'restore a use of a limited number of uses per session/scene power' ability, which is expensive, but could save your life. Exile got some really nice stuff that like Chimera, really opens up new combo potential. Both the physical Syndromes have a little more to offer a wider range of combos, now.
Next Time: More power! MORE!
Poor NeumannOriginal SA post Double Cross
Hanuman's new powers focus on their role as hyper-bard. They get a heal they can combo off their Negotiate buffs, which is nice; being able to heal people while handing out a ton of buffs, or being able to make that heal multi-target with Wind's Messenger? These are very useful options for making Hanuman better at support. They also get a cheap +Level dice buff that they can throw out to an ally once a round as a reaction to an ally making a check (max level 5). They also get an amazing new passive: Any round where they've Broken Away or Dashed (and remember, Hanuman gets another passive that lets them melee after Dashing or Breaking Away) they get a bonus to damage. So you can pinball around the battlefield from fight to fight, hitting harder than ever because you're making dash attacks. Also boosts any attack, not just melee. Hanuman's new 80 is just 'use an ability you can only use once a round twice', their new 100 lets the Hanuman take a hit for an ally but disallows them using any damage reducers when doing so so it's kind of questionable, and their new 120 is really confusingly worded. They can cancel an enemy power, but only if it's an Auto action, a Restrict - power (as in, not a restricted power), or an Enemy Only power. So it's kind of a shittier version of something an Exile can do all the time, but as a 4d10 Encroach Restrict 120.
Morpheus gets some new magic riders: One is a guard break that lowers enemy Guard for the rest of the scene until they take a minor action to shake it off, which is great for opening an enemy up for allies. The other is a support magic power that throws down a +2 per level (max 5) armor boost for an ally, stacking with any armor they're wearing and lasting all scene. Note they can also cast this on themselves, stacking it with their amazing summoned armor. Still, a nice way to help support your buddies. They also get a power that sounds cool but is mostly useless: They can customize two handed weapons and make them one handed. Not many weapons are two handed. This power also permanently raises Encroach by 2. And if you're a Morpheus, you're almost certainly summoning better gear than you can buy, eventually. Still, two winners and one meh isn't bad. They also get a new Restrict 80 that lets them target multiple foes with a magic attack (up to Level+1, max level 5) at the cost of -5 Attack and -4 Dice, making this a shittier version of something that, again, Exile does normally with Festival of the Twisted. Still potentially useful. Their new Restrict 100 lets them get +2 per level to a skill for the rest of the scene, which is...eh? For a 100? And their new 120 is awesome and lets them reactively add +4d10 to an ally's check, or their own, after seeing the original result.
Neumann's new normal powers suck. They get the ability to attack and dodge with Negotiate. That's it. These powers are almost precisely copied from Solaris' Negotiate combat abilities, save instead of one of the best debuffs in the game, they get the ability to cause Pressure. Again, Social is not a well implemented stat: It should have just been a full fourth fighting stat in general. Because if you're buying these and you don't have Solaris, you're missing most of the decent Negotiate offensive moves. If you do have Solaris, these powers are useless to combo with it because paying 3 more Encroach and 35 EXP to add +5 damage to a combo that isn't primarily about doing damage in the first place is a massive, massive waste of resources. Similar, you've already got a Negotiate Dodge from Solaris and you probably don't have a high Social to use with it unless you're Solaris anyway. Just not a well thought out addition to Neumann. They also get a really shitty damage reducer 80, where they cause someone to take 10 less damage in response to a hit. It's not BAD, just not very impressive for a ultimate. They also get a 100 where they can swap places with an ally, Reacting in their place, taking damage in their place, which could be useful. And a 120 'take no damage' no-sell, which is always handy to have around at that level. So, two potentially useful ults and not much else. Good thing Neumann base was already really solid.
Orcus, by contrast, gets one kinda meh power and then after that it's all good. They get the ability to turn a ranged attack into an unlimited range attack with -5 Guard against it, which is okay but not that special. Then they get the ability to add a -Level Dodge dice debuff to their magic attacks, which lasts all scene until the enemy spends a Minor to shake it off. Not bad. Then they get 'teleports behind u'. Backstab adds a massive levelx3 damage buff to melee attacks after using their great teleport spell, max level 5. You want an Orcus-Chimera who just dips the Orcus for the amazing teleport and some armor? They can now pick up a hell of a backstab move out of it, too. It really opens up the possibility to add an Orcus dip to a melee fighter of any kind, for both the teleport and now this power attack after it. Their new Restricts are mostly great, too. At 80, they can put a huge static debuff on someone's check score in response to their roll; -5 per level, max 3, cast after you see if they were going to hit in the first place and if you can make them miss. Once per adventure, but still nice. Their new 100 is fucking AMAZING. They can take ANY attack performed by ANY character and make it target everyone you want it to in the entire scene, at the cost of taking 20 damage and only doing this once an adventure. Your big bruiser just pulled out their strongest single-target only attack? Suddenly they're teleporting around the whole scene, simultaneously killing every enemy out there. Their new 120 makes it hard to remove status effects inflicted this turn. It's meh. But holy shit that 100!
Salamandra gets an amazing ability that turns one of their magic attacks into a powerful AoE burst without restriction, except it also makes it melee range. It's still (Select), so you won't hit yourself or allies, but you have to be tough enough to hang in melee to get the best use out of it. Luckily, Salamandra usually are. They also get a huge, huge buff to the Fire and Ice Sword summonable, which adds +2 to Guard or Attack per level (choose one or the other when casting it) max level 5. +10 Guard on a weapon with Guard 6, that also does reasonable damage? Huge boon to Guard Tank. Alternately, makes the sword stronger than Reaming Claw, potentially. Barely, but still. They also get a (fairly expensive) regeneration, where they heal some HP during the Cleanup phase without using an action. Designed to help the close in Salamandra Guard Tank. Their new 80 lets them take their great damage reducer spell and make it AoE, defending more of their team. Their new 100 lets them Guard an unguardable attack with an energy shield. And their new 120 is basically just the Neumann Restrict Pure that gives a massive attack boost to the whole team, except it also affects the Salamandra. +4 damage per level, 5 levels, but you're at 120 and have to spend 4d10 Encroach to turn it on while the Neumann Pure can choose when they want it. Decent fight-ender.
Solaris focuses on giving it more flexibility to not use Negotiate for combat, which is hilarious given the Neumann stuff. They get a basic magic attack that kind of sucks (+5 damage at level 5, ignores a small portion of enemy armor, costs 2 Encroach), an AoE magic attack that adds +8 damage in the process which is awesome, and the ability to charge any attack with Taint as a Minor rather than needing to use a magic attack and Bloodletting Spores like before. Simple and useful for comboing Solaris better with other sets. Their new Restrict 80 is an AoE Rigor inflicting magic attack that doesn't do damage unless you combine it with stuff. Their new 100 stops enemies Guarding against whatever the Solaris is doing that turn. Their new 120 is a shitty power. It kills the Solaris to get an ally up at high HP. But they already HAVE two ultimate 'get back up' powers. Why would you bother? In general, most of the new ultimates are less impressive than the core book's.
The new common powers are EXP intensive, but potentially worth it. Focused Weapon is a simple one: Pick a weapon your character has Stocked. It gets +Level dice on attacks (max level 3). You take 3 more Encroach permanently. Not a bad trade for a mundane weapon user. One lets you run supremely fast once per scene for 1 Encroach. One gives a buff to your HP when getting back up with Res, at no extra Encroach cost besides the 2 you pay for buying it. It can go up to 10 level and gives +2 Res HP per level. Getting up at 20+d10 is significantly better than d10; you might survive an attack at that point. Healing Virus is interesting: It's a chip heal for a whole AoE, performed in the after-round cleanup. 1 Encroach to cast, heals 1 HP per level to an AoE, max level 10. It's so cheap to use that while the EXP cost is huge, it can be a useful way to extend a team's health. Another lets you take an extra Minor action that turn that can't use Powers, so you can more easily shake off all those 'spend a Minor to break free' powers. And finally, there's a Common Restrict 100! It lets you take a turn after successfully Dodging, once per adventure, at the cost of 10 HP. Nice and efficient way to turn a dodge into a counter.
You also get some 'common Simples', now. You can have freakish scarring or odd mutations that mark you as you. You can turn into a completely different person as a result of your powers, changing age, gender, appearance however you want, such that people who knew the old you will never recognize you. You can mark areas in ways only superhumans can see, you can communicate on a level only superhumans hear (YOUR CELLS ARE COMMUNICATING), and you can stare down normals so hard they shrink away in fear. You can also make your Simples able to affect superhumans who want to let them affect them (it is time for the Solaris to become the true drugmaster), you can become incredibly resilient to minor illness and heal quickly at the cost of needing tons more food than a normal human, and you can hide your status as a superhuman.
And that's it for what I'll be covering from Infinity Code. Many of the new powers do a great job of opening up new options for combining power sets and builds in interesting ways, or build on cool themes from the original set. Shame about Neumann, but they were already cool.
Next Time: A word on Scenarios and their baffling structure
Insert anime endingOriginal SA post Double Cross
Insert anime ending
So, we're going to talk a bit about scenarios and how they're structured, then we'll get into the final writeup of the game, because believe it or not this is just about over.
So, scenarios are interesting to me because they're a good way to look at what the developer intended in terms of structure and content. DX's scenarios also do an interesting thing where they include notes from playtest groups about possible pitfalls or places the scenario could go off the rails, which is a genuinely good idea. They're also very structured, down to including specific lines for specific characters and the assumption that you'll play a group of PCs exactly as noted in the scenario design. For instance, the first Scenario stars a bunch of the pre-made characters from the beginning of the book. It also explicitly stars 'PC 1', who will be playing a Puretype Chimera pre-made and who starts as an ordinary high school student with no powers. This is because he is the most shonen protagonist possible pre-made. The other characters are supporting cast from the UGN, here to explain things to PC1 and get him into the organization during the adventure.
PC1 is living his ordinary high school life and probably having a crush on the scenario's extra Lois, a fellow student in his class. Then a False Hearts asshole triggers a terrorist attack that forces PC1 to awaken. The same terrorist has a crazy stalker crush on Manaka, the aforementioned extra Lois, and is certain killing everyone on the bus will make her awaken and turn into a superhuman who will join him in the False Hearts and love him because he's fucking nuts and over Encroach 100. PC1 has no control over his awakening and reflexively saves Manaka's life, then is told he can't do anything else for the rest of the scene. The UGN arrives on scene to try to save any of the dying citizens and investigate what happens, etc etc. Meanwhile we keep cutting to the other PCs, who are UGN agents and officers, as they act out their own scenes. It's railroaded all to hell, but that's because it feels like it's trying to be more like acting out a play based on an anime episode, with the combat system being the only real place the PCs make decisions or do anything.
For instance: False Hearts will try to recruit PC1. PC1 does not get the option to join them or even really listen to them. The UGN will try to recruit them. PC1 IS allowed to say no, at which point they're dragooned into being a UGN auxiliary in all but name anyway. PCs chase leads and have near encounters with the villains, but can never actually engage them until the scenario says it's time for a fight; the terrorist and his handler will always pull out some power and get away until it's time for all 5 PCs to engage them. The UGN mindwipes Manaka, PC1 eventually gets the choice whether or not to tell her this (with the warning that she will become a Titus for some reason if he does), Manaka gets kidnapped by the terrorist, the False Hearts recruiter loses a fight with the PCs, then teams up with the terrorist and loses again because he's apparently a setting NPC whose entire job is getting his ass kicked by PCs over and over again, the crazy terrorist goes down fighting, the PCs save Manaka, etc etc.
Only the terrorist is really a serious threat during the actual combat scenes. The recruiter isn't bad on offense, but he's got 0 Enemy Only powers and in a fight where the PCs A: Have a Pure Chimera and B: Outnumber him he's going to get his shit kicked in. The combats are not especially difficult; this is an intro adventure. You'll still need all 5 PCs to comfortable take on the two villains in the finale; the terrorist DOES have Enemy Only powers, specifically about +60 HP, and he's at 150% Encroach so he'll probably kick the shit out of a lone PC1 unless they work together with their new UGN 'buddies'. If Manaka was made a Titus some measure of her awareness remains even after her second mind-wiping (poor girl spends the entire story getting kidnapped and mindwiped) and she now hates PC1 for trying to tell her the truth for some reason, and avoids him. Everyone gets 5 EXP, Encroachment bonus EXP, and then probably the 5 'showed up to session' EXP. End scene.
I admit, I would get pretty annoyed playing a scenario like this. Being given a script and a heavily railroaded adventure is really not what I play RPGs for, and it's not what I run them for, either. I know this is probably primarily a difference between a western and Japanese RPG group's tastes, but still, makes this material kind of useless to me. All the scenarios are done in the same style, too, not just this tutorial. And that's why I won't be covering any more of them; I just wanted to talk about the structure and give an example.
So, that's it for DX. DX is a really interesting game that I wanted to cover specifically because the rules system itself uses the complicated combat system and Encroachment system to tell its story. You have a game with a very solid built-in pacing mechanism, and more importantly, a game where a ton of different character types are really useful. You also have a game written with a really difficult to use English translation, which makes the dense mechanics much harder to parse and work with; I admit I partly wanted to write this up to give anyone trying it a little more clarity via a lot of this stuff being covered by a native English speaker. The character building is really rewarding once you're familiar with the system and once you've got enough EXP to work with: There's room to build two characters with the exact same Syndromes and still have them come out feeling different. It IS very complicated, though, and again, you're working with a fairly poor translation and with the need to figure out exactly how to read the power cards. Little details like a power's 'timing' or number of targets matter a huge amount; I never understood why someone would play a magic character for a long time until I noticed all the basic magic attacks are Target - so they can be cheaply combined with pretty much anything else a magic guy does. That kind of thing. But when you work it all out you can build characters who have lots of options and feel really powerful in combat.
One of the best parts about the game is that whatever you build for, you can do. Melee characters are viable. Gun characters are viable. Magic characters are viable. The main hybrid I would generally avoid is Gun-Magic, but that's because functionally both do the same thing (attack at range) and you generally want to avoid spending lots of EXP on redundancies. Buffing is actually really powerful because most of it either doesn't take up your turn (though it can be really costly in Encroach), or if it does take your turn it's really impressive to be worth it. Being a good healer doesn't take massive investment and can keep tanks on their feet very well. Guard tanks, Dodge tanks, pure striking characters, debuffers, all of these things are doable and all of them are effective within the system. If you want to be durable and you take the right Syndromes, you can be running around tanking hits while everyone else feels like they're playing rocket tag, and you can even take those hits for your squishy buddies. Ultimate powers and super-combos are satisfying and effective fight-enders. Res does a good job of preventing one-shots and anti-climaxes. Enemy Only Powers are there entirely because the designers understood action economy but also genre; you're an action anime. You're often going to be a team of heroes against a super powerful bad guy. With Enemy Only Powers you can build one who can stand up to that.
There are problems, like the implementation of the Social stat, the sort of uneven distribution of items (though that gets solved some with add-ons) based on cost, and some of the powers being a bit weak for their EXP cost. Concentrate (the crit-value boost everyone starts with) is so essential that 'do they have Concentrate' is the main thing deciding if an enemy is a mook or a threat, and it makes unpowered attacks mostly useless except against said mooks. But they're relatively minor in the face of playing a game where it feels like the designers actually playtested and put serious thought into how their combo system and default-multiclassing systems worked. DX can be rough, but it's worth it. An excellent example of a game where there's a good reason it's got all this crunch, and one of my favorite supers games.
Next Time: The music of the universe?!
Limited SuccessesOriginal SA post Exalted 3rd Edition: Limited Successes
Chapter 4 is where we finally hit system traits. We start with the one everyone knows and hates – Limit. When the Exalted slew the Primordials who would become the Neverborn, they were stricken with a terrible death curse. This, the Great Curse, lingers in the hearts of the chosen. In their moments of greatest stress, it emerges to inflate their passions and feelings to unrestrained heights. Limit represents this growth of stress and self-doubt pushing them towards a moment of uncontained reassertion of their darker side. When a Solar hits 10 Limit, they suffer a Limit Break.
Limit is gained in three main ways:
1. Once per scene, when you act in a way that opposes one of your Major Intimacies, you roll a die, gaining 1 Limit per success. Weakening an Intimacy always counts as opposing it, as does spending Willpower to resist an influence roll that takes advantage of that Intimacy. If you have already had a Limit roll from a Defining Intimacy in a scene, you can’t gain Limit from a Major one.
2. Once per scene, when you act in a way that opposes one of your Defining Intimacies, you roll 2 dice, gaining 1 Limit per success. If you have already triggered a Limit roll off a Major Intimacy this scene, you roll only one die. Weakening an Intimacy always counts as opposing it, as does spending Willpower to resist an influence roll that takes advantage of that Intimacy.
3. When your personal Limit Trigger, chosen in chargen, occurs, you roll 3 dice, gaining 1 Limit per success.
Whenever you successfully achieve a major landmark goal or accomplishment, such as reclaiming your homeland from the Realm or winning the love of an ancient Lunar, the ST may allow you to lose 1 Limit. This is called a Legendary Social Goal.
So what can a Limit Trigger be? Unfortunately the answer is ‘extremely stupid.’ They range from shit that is exceptionally easy to trigger constantly (‘You are insulted, belittled or deliberately frustrated by another character,’ say, or ‘You see innocents suffering and are unable or unwilling to help them.’) to ones that are going to cause a ton of table arguments (‘You are hindered by the self-indulgent and intemperate behavior of those around you’ or ‘Your emotions lead you into a course of action you regret’). So that’s going to be extremely irritating. Once you hit 10 Limit, you enter Limit Break, but the GM can declare that it remains in abeyance until a situation with greater potential to cause chaos rather than happening immediately. Your Limit Break is expressed via a Virtue Flaw. You do not have a set Virtue Flaw – the GM declares which one happens based on circumstance, and is only told to consult with the player if they’re uncertain of which would be most dramatically interesting and appropriate, though it does at least mention you shouldn’t assign one that goes directly against someone’s concept, and to pick ones that are more like exaggerating a character trait that is already present.
All Virtue Flaws:
1. Force you to act out some behavior harmful to yourself or those around you, and is treated as a Defining Principle for purposes of resisting influence rolls to get you to stop or being influenced to keep doing the thing. If you could treat an influence roll as Unacceptable Influence during Limit Break, you do. Period. You cannot choose to listen if you have the option not to.
2. Reset your Willpower to its base value when the Limit Break ends, as indulging your Virtue Flaw is a powerfully cathartic experience.
3. Last either a full session or one scene, depending on severity, and have a condition that, if met, will end them prematurely.
4. Remove all Limit once Limit Break ends.
What are the example Limit Breaks? Well, let’s see.
All-Consuming Grief: For one scene, you can do nothing but stop and mourn what you’ve lost, brood over injustices done to you and grieve. You will seek to be alone if possible but will ignore everything around you if you can’t be. You will not even stop grieving to help allies. This ends prematurely if you are attacked of if someone you have a Major or Defining Tie towards is incapacitated.
Berserk Anger: For one scene, you attack and attempt to kill everyone you see, starting with foes but turning on innocents or bystanders if you run out. You may choose to not attack those you have positive Ties towards, but if they attempt to impede you in any way you can no longer ignore them. This ends prematurely if you run out of valid targets or incapacitate someone you have a positive Tie towards.
Chains of Honor: For one session, you are filled with regret for misdeeds and will refuse to tell any lies, even lies of omission or half-truths, and will not break any promise or sworn oath you have made. If you have deceived someone in the past, you will seek them out to tell them the truth and do whatever you can to atone, and will do the same to those you have broken oaths with, taking on whatever labors or tasks they demand as recompense. This ends prematurely if you are forgiven by someone you have broken an oath to or harmed via deception.
Compassionate Martyrdom: For one session, you cannot ignore the suffering of others. If you see a suffering innocent, you must intervene as dramatically as possible. If they are being harmed, you must either take the blows or kill the attacker. If they are suffering poverty, illness or other such things, you must find a similarly dramatic way to help them, and must not stop working until they are no longer suffering. This ends prematurely if you see that your actions cause the people you’re helping to fear or reject you, or if you lose a fight you started because of this Limit Break.
Contempt of the Virtuous: For one session, you become completely certain of your own righteousness and must strive to correct the moral failings of those around you. If you see anyone engaging in immoderacy, indulgence or dishonesty, you must correct them and lecture them on their failings. If your words are mocked or rejected, you may even turn to force or violence to prevent them from sinning. This ends prematurely if you are forced to question the righteousness of your own actions, either because you are confronted with the unintended consequences of them or because someone else persuades you.
Crushing Doubt: For one session, you suffer crippling self-doubt. You will seek assistance from allies on any task, no matter how small or simple, and will pass on any duties or responsibilities you have to others you believe are more capable. If you are separated from your allies, you must try to return to them or find others, and you will flee from any danger or obligation you encounter while doing so. This ends prematurely if you are forced to face a significant danger alone and succeed, or if you singlehandedly save an ally from significant danger.
Deliberate Cruelty: For one session, you no longer recognize anyone else as having any worth. You will harm them without a thought if you benefit from doing so, and have no aversion to torture, terror or mutilation. You are cruel and scathing in your manner, even with friends and allies, and will mock and verbally torment them. This ends prematurely if your actions cause harm to someone you have a Major or Defining Tie towards.
Heart of Flint: For one session, you feel almost no emotion and lack in any empathy. You are treated as having no Intimacies whatsoever, making all decisions based purely on what is most efficient. You also get -2 to all social rolls while in Limit Break. This ends prematurely if your apathy allows someone you have a Major or Defining Tie towards to enter life-threatening danger.
Rampaging Avarice: For one session, you suffer intense greed and will let nothing come between you and your desires. Whenever you get a chance to indulge in something you enjoy, you do. If someone would deny you your pleasure, you will take it by force, even if it would be trivial to obtain by other means. While you may restrain yourself from killing or raping, you will not hesitate to destroy property or hurt others to get what you want. This ends prematurely if you harm an innocent to get what you want, but only after you finish enjoying it.
While the chapter then continues on to castes and what they do mechanically, I think I’ll leave this here.
Next time: The other shit on your sheet.