Category Archives: Adam

Depraved Thoughts from an Unhinged Mind

Mutant: Year Zero Review

Mutant: Year Zero is a post-apocalyptic role-playing game by Free Play League and distributed by Modiphius.  This book was recommended to me by Michael Collett from the Friday Night Roleplaying club. I am unabashed in my love of post-apocalyptic games and settings, and while the genre is incredibly popular for video games, published role playing games in this vein seem few and far between. The grandfather of these is, of course, Gamma World, which was a wonderfully weird look at life after the great mistake. Mutant: Year Zero has a darker tone.

This is a grim and unforgiving take on life among the ashes. The technology level is decidedly modern, lacking the fanciful science fiction elements common in Gamma World or Fallout. In some ways, it is even low tech, with the absence of computers and cellular communications. If you have a working vehicle that is a luxury.  You may have a gun, but you rarely want to use it, as bullets are the currency of the world and must be tracked. You also need to keep track of food, water, and your rot level if you hope to survive long. Life is hard in Mutant: Year Zero, and the game is as much resource management and base building as it is exploration and fighting.

The core of the game is rooted in the zone map. This is effectively a hex crawl, where you go in search of food, water, and supplies. There is a mechanic to randomly generate these zones within the map, which is how I first began running the game. I found this to be a shallow way to experience the world. You miss out on the detail and strangeness inherent in such a setting if you are merely rolling dice and populating an area according to tables. After the zone is generated, the players roll dice to navigate the area and the result of that roll determines what they encounter and any items they find. At early levels it is possible to roll up a death trap for the characters, and if they roll poorly in response, wipe the entire party. While this is thematically appropriate, it can be unsatisfying to be victims to the whims of fate to this degree.

In contrast, the book offers a handful of fleshed out zones for players to interact with, and these are where I think the game shines. You can take multiple approaches and handle the situation in smart ways. It encourages and rewards immersive play. I found interspersing these more crafted areas amid the randomly generated squares to be the best approach for running the game. Sadly, the core book does not give you enough of these, so it is wise to supplement with the zone books for the line, invent your own, or find zones other places. Such as, perhaps, a Zine. Like Survivalism, which is available on the Full Metal RPG patreon.

Shameless plugs aside, Mutant: Year Zero feels like it is really two games married together. There is the exploration part, where you are going out and searching for resources, and there is the Ark, your home base. At the start of each session you generate a new threat, by either rolling or drawing from a deck of cards Modiphius will happily sell you. After this is done, you undertake projects. These are things that increase the technology level, defenses, or resource generation abilities of your Ark. You can build a stable, functional society, or opt for a cannibal death cult that destroys anyone they come across.

The Ark is deeply political environment, ruled over by competing bosses and nominally overseen by the eldest, the last true human of which you know. The mind of the eldest has started to go and the future is very uncertain. Further, mutants do not survive past 30, so if a solution is not found soon, your people are doomed to extinction. The bosses are jockeying for position, and a number of the threat cards are centered around the ark, and existential threats to your scrappy society, both internal and external.

It is possible to run entire sessions either in the Ark or out in the wasteland. The flavor of each is very different. In the wasteland everyone cooperates to find resources, fight off monsters, and survive. Back in the Ark the players had a tendency to split apart and each scheme with different bosses and factions. When the end came for players in my game, it was inside the Ark, as a result of their actions or the wheels set into motion by others.

There is a story underlying all of this. I will not get into it, as I want to avoid spoilers and found it slightly underwhelming. It is not terrible, it is simply a tad predictable and uninteresting, all told. I did not use much of this material when I ran the game myself, but if meta plot is your thing, there is a meta plot here you can run with should you so desire.

The core mechanic involves rolling d6 to resolve actions. There are three types of dice needed: Attribute, Ability, and Equipment. It helps to have different colored dice for these, and Modiphius will happily sell you exorbitantly priced custom dice. 6s represent successes, and 1s are potentially bad. If you do not generate any successes, you have the option to push the role, but doing so causes the 1s rolled to have a negative effect. You either take attribute strain, or your equipment suffers damage.

The game is called mutant, and you are playing a mutant. Character creation is a point buy system, where you start by picking your role, and then assigning attributes and abilities based on that role and its special ability and talents. Mutations are randomly generated, which can make things a bit lopsided. In our play through we had several characters who rarely used their mutations, and others who used them every opportunity they had. Mutations are fueled by mutation points. Mutation points are generated when you take attribute strain, or at the start of each session if you are at 0. Using mutations forces you to roll a number of dice equal to the mutation points spent. On a roll of 1, something unexpected happens and you roll again. A further roll of 1 means you permanently lose an attribute point, but gain a new mutation. The other results have their own effect, but the two ones are effectively the death spiral that is built into the game. Once your attributes are low enough your character is no longer playable.

One final quibble is availability. Mutant: Year Zero suffers from a problem that seems all too common among the Free Play League games: Finding a copy can be an absolute chore. You can, of course, order from the publisher over in England, which can nearly doubles the cost of acquiring the game. The alternative is hunting across multiple game shops until you manage to stumble across a copy and then snatch it up like Gollum grabbing the Precious.

I like Mutant: Year Zero quite a bit. It is not as gonzo as I had initially hoped for, and the resource management and bookkeeping portions can be a bit tedious, but it is a really fun game to run and experiment with. I feel like the zone books are almost necessary to get the maximum utility out of the game, and it really could use a games master book to expand on zone building, adversary generation, creating maps, and offer a toolkit for modifying the game. It is a gritty, dark take on a genre that is often portrayed as weird and humorous. There is a lot here to like and you should pick it up if this type of game interests you. Assuming you can find it.

Review: The End of the World: Wrath of the Gods

The End of the World: Wrath of the Gods

I bought this book years ago, back when it was first released. I recall reading it at the time and not particularly liking it. I was much more a traditional gamer back then, and I found the idea of my role-playing group playing themselves in the game to be very strange, and I did not care for how incredibly rules light it was. After all, the point of games is to inhabit a character, and how could such a simple system capture the complexity of a real person I know? Prior to giving away a copy of The End of the World: Rise of the Machines, the Full Metal RPG crew decided we wanted to give the game an actual play to decide what we thought of it collectively. Being the only one with a core book, I was on deck.

First up, we need to talk about the rules a bit. There are six abilities split among the three categories: Physical, Social, and Mental. Two per category. They roughly correlate to more familiar concepts in gaming. Vitality is Strength and Endurance. Dexterity is nimbleness and the ability to work with your hands. You get the idea. You a rating from 1-5 in each ability, and that is your target number to roll equal to or under on a d6.

There are no skills, instead under each category you have an advantage and a trauma. An advantage is something related to that ability that might help you on a roll. A trauma is something that might hinder you. Sticking with the physical category, an advantage would be Distance Runner, while a trauma would be Clumsy. These add a positive or negative die, respectively.

To make a test, you start with 1d6, then you can add a positive d6 if you have a related advantage in that category, and additional d6s if you have equipment, situational advantages, or assistance. Next you have to add in negative dice if you have a related trauma, or situational disadvantages like darkness or needing to rush the job. It helps to have different colored d6s for this reason. You make your roll. Any negative dice cancel out positive dice showing that same number on a one to one basis. After doing that, if you have any positive dice that are equal to or under your ability, you pass! Any uncanceled negative dice add stress under the category you rolled against.

Each of the three ability categories has a stress track. Three levels with three boxes in each level. As those boxes are ticked off, the player comes closer to death, or insanity, or whatever terrible fate awaits them. It is called the End of the World, not Uncle Fuzzies Fun Van, which… is probably also pretty terrible.

You can trade levels of stress for additional traumas, which is the death spiral of the game. As you gain more trauma, you roll more negative dice, leading to more failed checks and more stress until you die.

Ok, enough bookkeeping. What did we think of the game? Speaking for myself, I had an absolute blast running this. It was fun and frantic, which was only amped up given that we were play testing with a two-hour time constraint. Character creation was really easy. After all, who knows you better than yourself? With our sheets in hand, we started playing.

I opted to run the scenario covering the rise of Cthulhu, That Which Cannot Die. Right away that started things off in a pretty dire situation. The game starts at the very table you are sitting it, with the very people you are sitting with. This makes determining equipment fairly easy. What is there immediately around you that might be of use? From there, the players more or less drove the narrative as they decided where to go and what to go. I only had to act as the arbiter of the current state and function of the world. I killed myself as quickly and brutally as I could, because I do not like the idea of running a GM character and it set the mood for what was to come.

Pros:
The game is fun. It is great beer and pretzels game. I could easily see running it as a darker, more somber affair. It would make a good con game, as well. You can stretch or contract the timeline as much as you need to for one shots or a longer-term game, though you do need to keep in mind that it is very lethal.

The system, which I initially did not care for, runs really well and stays out of the way. Players can argue for or against positive and negative dice on checks and it works nicely. Provided you can keep failing forward, there is never a loss of things to do. It almost works like a background system from other games. The players know what they have studied and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and provided you are all keeping each other honest it is really easy to take test and determine outcomes. There were no arguments over the rolls as went, just people deciding what to do and then doing it.

The game understands what it is about and it delivers on that understanding. This is the end of the world. There is not going to be a positive outcome. Even if you survive, you may come to envy the dead as monsters or robots or aliens ravage what is left of civilization and struggle to survive in the ruins. Our game was dark and comic. It could easily be more tragic if run slowly and built up. If the idea of playing an end of the world scenario is appealing to you, then you will find something to like in this series.

You get five scenarios to choose from. If Cthulhu is not your speed, you can try on Quetzalcoatl, Ragnarok, Revelation, or Nature rising up to destroy humanity. They each offer their own set of challenges and awful ways to die. It is not a setting book, so you need to do some lifting to fit events and suggested scenes into your game, but that is remedied easily enough.

Cons:

This is going to turn off a lot of trad gamers. The game is extremely narrative, and the players are playing themselves, so you have to cede almost all control to them. That can be a very unsettling feeling for the traditional crowd. Combined with the really light rules and grim dark nature of the game, it can be off putting to people who want to smash monsters and take their loot.

The trauma system could get too real for people who are suffering from real, deep seated traumas. It is best not to drill too deeply there and let the players decided what they comfortable with putting down and dealing with. Players can always opt to play a character instead, which would be a fine solution. Depending on the direction you are taking the game, an X card may be reasonable to have on hand.

Other Thoughts:

Wrath of the Gods is unrelentingly brutal. Unlike other games in the series where you fight aliens or zombies or robots, you cannot fight the gods. The best you can do is keep running and staying one step ahead of the mayhem. I suspect Rise of the Machines would be a game where you at least stand a change of fighting back, whereas in Wrath of Gods if you decide to fight a Star Spawn, you are probably getting ripped in half.

Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by this game. I had a feeling I would enjoy it more returning to it with a fresher sensibility on what gaming is and what I want out of games, and I was not disappointed. It was a really good time and I would easily run this game again. In fact, I will likely pick up a couple of the other books in the line as well for future game nights. It is fun. It runs well. It is narrative. That checks off three big boxes for me right away.

Death Frost Doom Review

Death Frost Doom is curious book with an interesting history. This adventure launched Lamentations of the Flame Princess back in 2009. Originally written by James Raggi, it was subsequently revised by Zak Smith/Sabbath. It is a clever, unique adventure, and unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Centered around a mountain from which a nefarious cult used to operate, Death Frost Doom quickly ratchets up the tension and refuses to let up. From the moment the players set foot near the peak of the mountain, littered with grave stones and on which a petrified and frozen cabin rests, they are confronted and challenged by a relentlessly bleak dungeon. This is a harrowing adventure, and one from which it is difficult to emerge while still calling yourself a hero.

I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible, because Death Frost Doom deserves to be experienced. It is a work of art, but not some still life of flowers or prosaic rendition of people merrily strolling in the park. This is a Hieronymus Bosch painting, full of detail and color and terrible ugliness and absolutely in your face. It is designed to challenge you as a player. As a dungeon master it is plain FUN to run.

Originally designed to be system agnostic, you will need to do some lifting to port Death Frost Doom into the rule set of your choice. I ran it as an adventure for 13th Age after being thoroughly dissatisfied with Shadows of Eldolan, an adventure supplement for that game dealing with the undead. I wanted something rough. Gritty and confrontational. I found that in Death Frost Doom.

Pros:

  • The setting is grim. Dark. Bleak. You are investigating a tomb and it is a terrible and somber affair. This books oozes with darkness and despair. From the moment the players hit the grave laden landscape near the summit to their entrance into the greater tombs containing the secrets of cult at the core of the adventure, they are forced to interact with a relentlessly vile environment and the creatures responsible for its creation.
  • This is a beautifully written book. It is simply an enjoyable read. Despite being short, it is incredibly dense.  I ran it for weeks, and feel like it could have gone on longer. Ultimately, I was operating under a time constraint, but I’m satisfied by the time I spent with it. This is all the more impressive given that Death Frost Doom is digest sized and weighs in at a scant 64 pages. The authors waste very little of their limited resources.
  • The art serves the book well. The interior illustrations are great. The cover, while not a masterpiece of technical showmanship, complements the interior and highlights the frozen and bleak nature of the setting. On reading the adventure you gain a real sense of appreciation for how it was executed.
  • The story within Death Frost Doom rewards you for peeling back its layers. It is harsh and sorrowful and evil. This is not a Dungeons & Dragons style stomp the evil into the ground adventure. You get dirty. You find out things you would rather not know. Magic is bloody and terrible and awful and powerful. This cult is a real face of profane evil and not some thinly veneered bad guy that you need to confront because the story says so. There are numerous Chekhov’s Gun moments in this adventure, where an earlier scene or item is called back to in a way that imparts deeper meaning. When the party meets the sacred parasite, several things they saw and interacted with in the chapel impart additional meaning and depth to the scene. The entire chapel is just a masterpiece in slowly building horror and ratcheting up tension. You can run entire sessions just in that one room.
  • The adversaries is Death Frost Doom are grotesque and horrific in all the right ways. By the time the party enters the Tombs of Greater Repugnancies, they have encountered so much of the handiwork of these foul undead creatures that seeing them in person imparts gravitas and revulsion at witnessing their corrupted flesh. These monsters did this to themselves, and they revel in their vile debasement.
  • Value. Despite how brief this book is, you could easily use it to launch an entire campaign. For under $20 hardcover or less than $10 for a pdf you get an adventure unlike any other. It is hard to understate the utility of this book.

Cons:

  • There are some traps in the game that are decidedly Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Deadly and random. At times punitive rather than encouraging careful exploration. While that is fine for a Lamentations game, for other game systems/groups, you may need to dial these down. I label this as a con from a personal standpoint. Other people enjoy meat grinder style dungeons, but it is worth calling out so that you know what you are getting into. I personally do not like when merely touching something causes a 50% chance for each member of the party in the room to die. It is simple enough to remedy, which is ultimately what I did for my play through.
  • There is very little combat, until there is ALL the combat. The first half of the dungeon is a tense and atmospheric exploration. Then you have an encounter and all hell breaks loose. The pandemonium is great, but the tonal shift can really throw people off. The enemies are clearly a major challenge for Lamentations PCs, but you need to port them to the system of your choice and potentially dial them back if you want the players to have a fighting chance. I was running this game for new players and people familiar with more heroic systems.  Ultimately, I did weaken the enemies, like the traps, but even in that state, I received several comments about how harsh these opponents were.
  • Jokes. There are jokes in this book, and for the most part they fall flat. They undercut the horror and make a mess of an otherwise masterful tome. Ignore them when you can, because they really bring nothing to the table. The most egregious example of this centers around the organ in the chapel. Entirely too much space is spent on what happens when different songs are played on it, and the inclusion of modern music really took me out of the moment while reading. While Inna Gadda Da Vida by Iron Butterfly is a great classic rock song with an incredibly indulgent organ solo, it is included solely so the authors can make a joke about moths pouring out of the organ and attacking you. The moment someone in my group starts talking about playing Hall and Oates You Make my Dreams like keyboard cat, I will stand up, walk into the bathroom, down two bottles of Xanax I keep for just such an occasion, and end it all.

I want to stress that Death Frost Doom is, at is core, a horror adventure. It will confront and challenge you. It is not pretty. It is not easy. But damn if it is not fun. I give this adventure my highest possible recommendation.

Top Taylor Swift Songs about the Old Ones

Taylor Swift is a musical chameleon who has spanned the country and pop genres and created several chart topping hits. She is a one woman tour de force, working as both singer and songwriter, her dulcet tones acting as the voice of a generation of young women. She is also a fiercely devoted cultist of the ruinous powers that lurk behind the veil of humanity, which can be seen by examining her music with a critical eye. Join me on a journey through her musical catalog and into the very eye of madness.

Wildest Dreams

This song is perhaps her most somber, dark work. In the lyrics she exhorts an unknown third party as follows:

I thought heaven can’t help me now
Nothing lasts forever
But this is gonna take me down
He’s so tall, and handsome as hell
He’s so bad but he does it so well
I can see the end as it begins my one condition is
Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams

This person she is addressing is, of course, Cthulhu, dead dreamer of R’lyeh. Taylor Swift realizes no heavenly force can protect her when he rises from his sunken sepulcher. She knows Cthulhu will “take me down” as he takes down all of humanity, proving that nothing lasts forever as all that is or ever was is unmade.

It should be noted Cthulhu is gigantic, truly immense in size. Further, in seeing its true face, Ms Swift’s mind will be shattered, and Cthulhu will appear eerily attractive in its horrid cruelty. The following line “He’s so bad but he does it so well” is a recognition of Cthulhu’s place in the pantheon of the eldest. Taylor Swift’s only hope is that once the dark work is done, once Cthulhu again returns to slumber that this monstrous creature remembers her in its dead dreaming. These memories will stand as the last tattered remnants of her existence.

Looking ahead she says:

And when we’ve had our very last kiss
But my last request it is
<chorus>
You see me in hindsight
Tangled up with you all night
Burn it down

The last kiss being, of course, when Cthulhu shoves her into its ravenous maw, tangling her flesh into its tentacles and devouring her completely as an eternal night falls and the world burns down around them. Truly a nightmarish vision of a grim future Taylor Swift is working to expedite. Absolutely haunting.

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Another dark exploration of the hidden world just beyond the veil. The focus of this tune is Nyarlathotep, the crawling chaos. A closer look shall reveal the hideous truth.

We hadn’t seen each other in a month
When you said you needed space. (What?)
Then you come around again and say
“Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna change, trust me.”

Nyarlathotep is the deity most likely to walk the earth in the course of its grim duties. To do so requires forcing its immense bulk and power into a feeble human form, which it can only do for so long before needing to return to the stars once more, literally needing “space”. As the servant of Azathoth, Nyarlathotep represents disorder itself. It only stands to reason that in its human guise it told Ms. Swift it is “gonna change”, for it is change itself.

As the song progresses, we witness Taylor Swift becoming more erratic and angry, increasingly emotional at the fickle nature of this vile fiend. She practically froths as she sings “I’m really gonna miss you picking fights, And me falling for it screaming that I’m right”. Nyarlathotep is an entity of madness, who destroys the minds of those who it comes into contact with. Taylor Swift has obviously interacted with this malign force, at great personal cost to her sanity, which is why she wows “we are never ever ever ever getting back together, like ever”, for she knows doing so will destroy her utterly.

 I Knew You Were Trouble

Perhaps her least subtle ode to the old ones. It is no mere coincidence that one of the most popular remixes replaces Taylor Swift’s anguished cries with that of a goat, for I Knew You Were Trouble is an ode the Sub Niggurath, the Black Goat of the woods.

The song begins:

Once upon a time a few mistakes ago
I was in your sights, you got me alone
You found me, you found me, you found me
I guess you didn’t care, and I guess I liked that
And when I fell hard you took a step back
Without me, without me, without me

It is possible, perhaps even likely that Shub Niggurath came to Taylor Swift when she was alone in the woods, which she admits was the culmination of a series of mistakes. In its guise as a fertility god, we can imagine Shub Niggurath lifted her into the air with oily black tentacles to show her the teeming masses of its vile children. Finally, it released her, dropping her to ground before disappearing once more into the darkness, leaving her alone again. It must have been terrifying.

The chorus of the song starts:

I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
‘Til you put me down, oh

This confirms our suspicions about what occurred based on the first verse.  Taylor Swift feels shame at the languid embrace she experienced, and abandoned now that Shub Niggurtath has left her behind. Her shattered mind grapples with what she experienced during the brief moments of their encounter. As she wails near the finale, “And the saddest fear comes creeping in
That you never loved me or her, or anyone, or anything, yeah”.

Of course it did not, Taylor. Shub Niggurath is incapable of love, leaving only a swath of devastation in it wake. How nightmarish to be caught in those tides. How much more terrible still to hasten that end.

GenCon Vampire 5th Edition Alpha Playtest

Greetings, cultists and devotes. The Full Metal RPG ecclesiarchy  attended the most recent GenCon, the 50th Anniversary. Our merry company of rot and corruption answered the call of our good friends at the Wrecking Crew to assist in demoing the newest iteration of a game near to our black hearts – Vampire: The Masquerade

The alpha edition comes with a scenario to play through titled Rusted Veins, a coterie of characters for use in playing the scenario, and a new rule set. Written by Matt Dawkins, Rusted Veins takes you back to city of Gary, Indiana, used as the setting for the prior adventures “Ashes to Ashes” and “Dust to Dust”, and focuses on the machinations of the nominally Camarilla Prince Modius and his rival, the Anarch Baron Juggler.

Gary is an economically devastated city. It has passed through Late Stage Capitalism directly into Terminal Stage Capitalism. Situated firmly in the Midwestern Rust Belt, it is a town where there occurred a systemic breakdown at nearly every level: Governmental, economic, corporate, and social. Abandoned factories line the riverfront like tombstones denoting the death of the American heartland, and driving down any major street yields a view of decaying buildings stretching out before you like a mouth full of broken teeth. No one stays in Gary because they want to, they remain because they have to. For kindred it is much the same. Anyone with any skill or ambition left long ago for the more urbane destinations of Chicago or Milwaukee, leaving Modius and Juggler to their squabbles.

I will avoid discussing the plot in any detail, as I am almost certain they will make this play-kit publicly available at some point for you, dear reader, to experience. Suffice to say, it starts with a pretty basic fetch quest handed to the coterie from on high, and then things take a turn for the worse. Every group I ran through the scenario ended it differently. It was fascinating how people interpreted the characters and how they had them behave as they moved through the world. There are a couple obvious stand out characters with regard to the story, who are absolutely essential to have in the game, and two who suffer a bit in terms of agency and interaction with the main arc. You could easily not have them played at all and it would not affect how the scenario runs. The remaining two characters are what you make of them, and can either be along for the ride or a serious thorn in the side of others if they chose to be.

Rules Alterations

There are a couple key changes you notice right away when looking at one of the provided character sheets. First off, willpower is now rated 1-5, not 1-10. There is a new trait, Composure, that replaces Conscience, Courage, and Self Control. Finally, there is no more blood pool, only a series of check-boxes listed as Hunger. We will examine these topics in the subsections below.

Dice Pools and Success

Dice pools are assembled as usual, with an attribute + a skill giving you the total number of dice to roll. Different colored Hunger die are placed into the pool first, one a one to one basis with the characters current Hunger rating. More on Hunger below. You round out the pool with normal dice and roll. Anything showing a 6+ is a success, and difficulty is the total number of successes you need on a roll to achieve your goal.

A roll of two or more 10 results on your normal dice is considered an exceptional success. 10s no longer explode, and 1s do not cancel out 10s. The botch mechanic is gone.

If you come up one success short on a roll, you may Succeed at Cost. You accomplish your goal, but you generate a complication in doing so. It is up to the player and storyteller to determine what that means. For example, if you are breaking into a house, you may succeed, but you drop your wallet as you enter, leaving it behind.

Willpower

Willpower is no longer spent for extra dice on a roll. Instead willpower is spent to re-roll any dice you would like to on a roll. You can keep any dice that show a success and only re-roll the failures. Given how powerful this mechanic is, it makes sense the willpower pool is now smaller. It can have a huge impact on the game when employed correctly.

Hunger

Hunger is an abstract representation of the current state of the kindred you are playing. As you employ disciplines and heal, you make hunger rolls to do so. A roll of 4+ and you are fine. The power activates or you heal a point of superficial damage. On 1-3 result, you active your power or heal, but you first increase your Hunger by 1. This increases the number of Hunger Dice in your dice pool.

Hunger dice have a couple of mechanical ticks. A roll of 1 or 2 is called a Fang result. Roll two fangs, and you have generated a Compulsion. Compulsions represent your vampiric nature coming to the fore, and are aptly named. They represent a complication for your character and how that character interacts with others and the world.

In practice, complications either need to occur more frequently, or have their severity increased to have any meaningful impact on the game. I only had two complications show up in all five games I ran, and they had no real impact on how the characters worked beyond one of the Brujah being slightly more punch happy, and said Brujah was already pretty punch happy.

A roll of one or more 10 results on your hunger dice represents a Messy Critical. A Messy Critical is as close as the new system comes to a botch. You succeed at what you were trying to do, but at great cost to yourself. In one of my games I had a character generate a messy critical when attacking a police officer with feral claws. I ruled he killed the man, but in so doing got his hands stuck in the officers body armor and was going to have to spend time and take damage extricating himself from the situation. A messy situation when you are surrounded by his armed, angry friends and wearing him as a bracelet. An exceptional success always overrides a Messy Critical.

As a final note, having Hunger rolls, a Hunger meter, and Hunger dice all having similar names but representing functionally different things caused a lot of confusion among the players. I eventually went back to calling Hunger rolls Rousing the Blood from the pre-alpha rule-set, and that helped a lot. Hunger and Hunger dice are linked enough that keeping their names the same worked out well.

Composure

Composure is rolled to resist frenzy and spent to avoid compulsions. The compulsions encountered in my play-throughs were never bothersome enough to warrant spending composure to resist them. For frenzy, you roll your current composure, seeking to roll under your humanity for the die to be considered a success. Thematically, this works well, as it represents less humane vampires being closer to their beast, and thus more likely to frenzy. From a rules perspective, this is an inversion of the usual process and caused a great deal of confusion for my players when we encountered it.

Humanity

Humanity has has significant alterations. It is still rated 1-10, but gone are the Hierarchy of Sins. Instead you have Touchstones, which are three mortals who hold special meaning to your characters. Having a touchstone be damaged causes you to lose a humanity. Having a touchstone destroyed loses two. If you are responsible for the injury or death, you lose more. Embracing a human causes you to lose an additional humanity. The worst case scenario, then, is to embrace your own touchstone. That will set you back quite a ways on your humanity track. Effectively you can kill humans when feeding or in combat without any effect. It is up to the Storyteller to decide when your character does something so heinous that she wishes to impose a humanity loss for the action.

Other Rules

There are changes to Initiative and Combat, but I don’t want to bog down too deeply into those, as I consider them ancillary to a Horror game. Necessary, but not the primary focus. Suffice to say, combat is fast and deadly. Vampires can destroy humans easily. All is right in the world for people who want to rip off someone’s jaw bone and beat them to death with it. Celerity level 1 is almost comically broken in a gunfight. I am hoping someone takes a look at it and either addresses it with regard to multiple combatants or changes the wording entirely.

Final Thoughts

The new vampire promises to be very good, even exceptional provided they continue their strong writing and focus on noir urban horror. As the global jyhad rescinds into the background, a more personal struggle for survival in the final nights takes center stage. The world is relentlessly bleak and the future is anything but certain. Welcome to YOUR World of Darkness.

Warhammer 40,000 Armies Review

There is a lot of debate in the Warhammer 40,000 community about which army is the “best”.  Usually it depends on the current shape of the tournament scene scene, which codex was released most recently, and the scenario being played. I believe we can now call the argument settled, however. The best army is…

The Ultramarines. Period.

Smurf marines are the greatest army in the history of ever. They are the only Space Marine army that ever had their own Citadel paint color: Ultramarines Blue.

“But, Adam, that is clearly untrue. What about Dark Angels Green?”

Oh, you mean little bitch green?

“And Space Wolves Grey?”

Little bitch grey?

“But, Adam, I really like my army, the…”

Let me break this down for you:

Other Space Marines: Little bitches
Eldar: Pointy eared little bitches
Dark Eldar: Emo pointy eared little bitches
Chaos: Little metal band reject bitches
Tyranids: Little bug bitches
Imperial Guard: Little flashlight bitches
Necrons: Little bitch bots
Tau: Little anime bitches
Orks: Orks are pretty dope. They are all right.

It wasn’t always this way. There used to be room for debate, but what sealed the deal for me was this:

https://www.warhammer-community.com/2017/02/03/march-for-macragge/

Look at this shit. Feast upon it with your eyes. It is beautiful. Roboute Guilliman is back. He is here to fuck up everyone’s day. Lets just take a trip through his abilities:

He has his own special gear: the Armour of the Fates and the Emperor’s sword. That is right. He carries the sword of the Emperor of mankind. Does he need it? No. He can kill every other model in the game with his bare hands.  Look at this blonde haired, blue eyed, ubermensch looking fucker. I’m sure seeing this model gives Richard Spencer a boner.

He automatically passes all leadership tests.

He automatically wounds on all hits.

He automatically hits.

He counts as HQ, Elite, and a Troop choice.

His penis counts as a power weapon

He gets 400 attacks per turn. 401 if he is in close combat and can use his penis.

He cannot be wounded, ever.

He immediately claims all objectives on the board as soon as he is placed on it.

If the opposing player so much as looks at the model, they are struck blind.

If anyone in the gaming store fails to take a knee in reverence when you reveal the model, they are immediately killed.

You don’t deserve to field this model. No one does. He has changed the game forever. You field this model and everything dies everywhere. Game over.

Ultra. Marines.

Gamma World – Man down

We met for Gamma World again, though we were down a man, so I had to quickly throw something together. I had this idea (it was a really one note idea) that if needed I could run as a session when one of the players disappeared.  With that background, I tossed something together for Mae Lyn and Krunk Mayhem.

Our session started with the trio surveying the carnage wrought by the leviathan in the wake of the battle of the bros. That escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast. Our heroes, if we can call them heroes at this point, stood in awe of the great beast, when a beam of light descended and sucked Sports Authority into the air, like in Fire in the Sky or Whitley Strieber’s Communion, which I was incorrectly attributing to Ridley Scott the entire time. Whatever, it is all aliens.

Surveying the landscape, a now winged Mae Lyn (yay, alpha flux!) started to sing A Whole New World From Aladdin after rolling very poorly. Krunk Mayhem fared better and saw a crashed saucer in a nearby building.  Could it be connected? Of course it is. Off they went.

Inside the saucer they met a little gray alien by the name of Probeulon15783754EXC, though he told them they could call him Probeulon15783754 for short. Attempts to refer to him as Probe-y or Probeulon were rebuffed. And thus began the theme of the session: One long “joke” about aliens probing rectums. I am hilarious and clever.

Eventually coming to terms with ol’ Probe-y, the now dynamic duo were about to be sent into orbit aboard the alien mothership to locate Sports Authority. They acquired some guns that would allow them unlimited ranged shooting aboard the craft (because science reasons, and because there hasn’t been much gunplay in the game). A side mission was to find cleaning fluid for all of Probeulon’s various probes, which he had run out of on account of his gratuitous probing. Another side mission was to kick some ass on the mothership because, “Those guys are all dicks.”

With a good enough reason in hand, the party was teleported away.  Boarding the alien craft, they wandered the hallways, finding some aliens with which to do battle. This was a hard fought encounter, particularly for Mae Lyn. It was very close at several points and swung wildly back and forth. Encounter design for two players is a pretty dicey proposition. With worse rolls from the enemies the player’s would have steam rolled it. If a couple other rolls had gone in favor of the baddies, the party would have wiped. Battling against lasers and probes and laser probes, it was rough.

After the fight some spectacularly bad rolls resulted in them disabling gravity on the ship. A roll of 1 followed by another 1 trying to fix the first failed roll. They bounced around the ship, finding cells holding other prisoners, who they released. The prisoners led our duo to the probing room, where they hoped to find Sports Authority. Entering the facility, another fight broke out. And by broke out, I mean they walked into the room, rolled initiative, and were promptly dropped in two hits by Rocket Drones. Those things are insanely overpowered for level 3. Glass cannons. Since the drones won initiative on a roll of 20 and they have a blast recharge power it was a hilariously lopsided battle.

Gravity restored, Mae Lyn and Krunk Mayhem awoke on the probing table. Mae Lyn used her new dominate Alpha mutation power to great effect, while Krunk Mayhem rolled another 1 and hurt himself struggling against the restraints. Mae Lyn charged the now reduced in strength enemies, but also rolled 1 and smacked her head on some probing equipment.  The rolling was very uneven this session.

Luckily the rocket drones could no longer roll a hit so this encounter was a steamroll in the opposite direction. The dice giveth and the dice taketh away.

Finally rounding up some aliens who were unarmed, and with a solid science check, our heroes could communicate with the aliens. They told Mae and Krunk a story of how none of them really wanted to be there and they were just doing this job for the benefits and how no one liked Dave, which was Probeulon’s real name. Inquiring about Sports Authority, the aliens confessed that Sports Authority had begun eating them as soon as he came on board, so they locked him in the room with the abduction beam and called it good.

Reunited (and it feels so good?)  our newly reforged trio grabbed the probe disinfectant jelly and headed to the transporter room. The aliens, all battered and bruised by the party as they ravaged the ship, were happy to see the PCs depart. Sports Authority continued chewing on an alien the entire time.

Back in Tempeh and talking to Probeulon, our heroes agreed to go after the cult operating out of Sun Devil Stadium who had stolen the gigantic probe intended for use on the leviathan. A drawing of the probe firing mechanism resulted in something looking like the Navigator from Alien. At this point the alien offered the heroes some of the leathery eggs he had collected from an intergalactic hunting craft, and we reached peaked pop culture references for this session and called it done.

It was weird, it was wild. It was Gamma World.

Back on the horse

Recently I made the grave decision I know I will soon come to regret of getting back into miniatures gaming. Not content to constrain my folly to a single game line, I have opted to start in on Infinity and Warhammer 40,000. I do this because I am a masochist to some degree. That or I hate money. One of the two. Possibly both.

I call this back on the horse and not back in the saddle because this is plastic heroin. I’m not bravely setting out on some journey of self discovery, I’m retreating back into a hobby that I know will end in rapidly escalating competitiveness, hard as nails lists, hurt feelings, massive blow ups of friendships, and finally dumping all of my collected figures either into the attic or on ebay. There is no other path.

One could argue restraint would win the day, but I am incapable of it. Already since making this decision I have spent:

$70 on an Infinity starter set
$65 on Warhammer Kill Team
$150 on  Death Masque
$50 on Codex Deathwatch
$40 on Codex Necrons
$50 on paints (and this is a fraction of what I actually need)

I started this back up last Friday and I am already $425 into this pit and showing no signs of slowing down, let alone stopping. I’ve got a list of stuff I want for my Deathwatch Kill Team and Necron army that easily doubles that number. It gets worse when I consider I’m flirting with the idea of buying a Flesh Eater Courts starter box for Age of Sigmar and heading down that path to depravity as well.

I’m not writing this because I want sympathy. I don’t want anyone to stop me. I just want to serve as a warning to others. Teach your kids about the dangers of miniatures gaming before someone else does. Or get them into it because they won’t have money for drugs.

And now some red meat: Pictures!

 

Rogue 1.5

Having seen the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise, I think we can all agree it was better than the lackluster rehash that was The Force Awakens, and vastly superior to execrable prequels. Having said that, viewing it in the larger context of the Star Wars whole does complicate matters. Rather than a by the numbers review, I thought I would address these points by adding on a post credits sequence that I think would have really cleared things up.

Oh, EXTREME SPOILERS for Rogue One, by the way.

I’m not even kidding. Here there be spoilers.

Spoilers, yo!

Ok, you were warned enough. Here we go.

**************************************************

INT – PALPATINE’S THRONE ROOM

Emperor Palpatine is seated on his throne. Beside him is Darth Vader, breathing like an asthmatic trying to do chin ups. In front of them stands an Imperial actuary in a smart uniform with a clipboard.

ACTUARY
And so you can see, we achieved a 300% increase in combat effectiveness with the use of simple hand grenades…

PALPATINE
No grenades.

ACTUARY
Why no grenades? Literally every main character, er, rebel agent of any import was killed by a grenade or an explosion of some sort during that last skirmish.

PALPATINE
I don’t like them. I have already gotten the rebels to agree to no grenades. No grenades.

ACTUARY
If you will forgive me, your highness, they were very effective. Ridiculously, stupidly effective. The rebels probably can’t even afford that many grenades, which is why they’d be eager to agree to such terms. Meanwhile we’ve been blowing our budget on ineffective plastic armor for the Stormtroopers.

PALPATINE
I am done talking about this.

ACTUARY
Very well. That brings us to the matter of Galen Erso. I understand we murdered his wife in front of him.

PALPATINE laughing darkly
Yesssssssssss.

ACTUARY
Was anyone at all concerned about this? How it might affect the quality of his work?

PALPATINE
Not really.

ACTUARY
Do we have something on this guy? Are we blackmailing him with information that would ensure compliance? Like… Does he eat people? Because that would be great to know. He really wouldn’t want that getting out. Being a cannibal.

PALPATINE
No. That is a completely different show.

ACTUARY
Did we at least have people peer review what he was doing? Any oversight on his transmissions?

PALPATINE
No. You have to trust your people, you know. It is what good leaders do. Delegate.

ACTUARY
Look, there is delegation, then their abdicating your responsibility to ensure the safety and security of…

Vader begins force choking the Actuary.  The Actuary gags and gasps until Emperor Palpatine waves his hand and releases the man.

PALPATINE
How did you like that, eh?

ACTUARY
I… I didn’t.

PALPATINE
I bet not. We’ve got more where that came from, you know.

ACTUARY
Can I just… Is that like a sexual thing for you guys? Does it turn you on?

VADER, defensively
No! I just choke people. And then my heart rate increases and my breathing gets faster and my blood pressure goes up.

ACTUARY
You are describing arousal…

VADER
And then little Vader gets excited and stands up to look around and see what is going on…

ACTUARY
Still describing arousal…

PALPATINE
Enough of this. Did you have further questions, or must you insist on wasting the time of this august body?

ACTUARY
Of course. My apologies.I’d like to talk about Eadu if we may.

PALPATINE
Of course.

ACTUARY
Am I to understand we had a shield that covered the entire planet and made it immune to penetration by both weapons systems and ships?

PALPATINE
Yes. It is an impressive piece of technology and we did not steal the idea from the movie Space Balls.

ACTUARY
Of course not. And are we putting this same shield on your… Death Star?

PALPATINE
No.

ACTUARY
Can I ask why not? It seems like that would be an excellent precautionary measure.

PALPATINE
That shit won’t work.

ACTUARY
But why? It…

Vader begins force choking the Actuary again. The Actuary gags and chokes, falling to his knees.

PALPATINE
Oh my God! You were right! He totally has an erection right now!

Vader loses his concentration, dropping the force choke. The Actuary stands back up.

VADER
Wait, what?

PALPATINE
Oh, when I was rebuilding you I had them put in a bunch of sensors so I could monitor your… you know what? Never mind.

Pause.

ACTUARY
Awkward… Moving along. Now the data the rebels stole. I understand they transmitted from the surface using an imperial dish. Do we know what they transmitted?

PALPATINE
Not a clue.

ACTUARY
None of ships picked up the blast of data from the planet’s surface…

PALPATINE
Our shit didn’t work.

ACTUARY
You know, our technology seems incredibly fickle, like it only works in a very specific set of circumstances that… Whatever. Fine. I understand Tarkin gave the order to fire on the facility. Is that correct?

PALPATINE
Correct.

ACTUARY
And he did this despite the fact that the rebels were fleeing and we could have examined the missing drive to determine what was transmitted, or reviewed the outbound logs for the planet, which Director Krennic alluded to them keeping, to determine what was sent?

PALPATINE
I mean, I guess so.

ACTUARY
Do you have any idea how damaging it is to troop morale to fire on your own people? Please tell me you fired him.

PALPATINE
No. I put him in charge of the Death Star. Forever.

ACTUARY
Of course you did. Great. That’s great. And that brings us to you, Lord Vader. I understand you chased the rebel holding the plans at a brisk walk.

VADER
Correct.

ACTUARY
And cornered said rebel, who slid the plans through the door.

VADER
Correct.

ACTUARY
And at no point did it occur to you to rip the plans from his hand with your force powers, even though we saw you do that seconds before with the rebels’ blaster weapons, or to throw your lightsaber, or force choke him into submission, or anything?

VADER
Uh… I forgot.

ACTUARY
You forgot.

VADER
I forgot I could do that stuff. Yes.

ACTUARY
And where are Tarkin and this Death Star headed now?

PALPATINE
Alderaan.

ACTUARY
And why are they going to Alderaan?

PALPATINE
So that when we capture Princess Leia we can demonstrate the power of this fully armed and operation battlestation!

ACTUARY
Right. And you need to demonstrate this to her despite the fact she watched you use your super weapon on Eadu and will would likely mention something to that effect?

PALPATINE
Oh, she won’t do that.

ACTUARY
Really? Because that seems kind of important. Like she’d at least bring that up…

PALPATINE
Won’t happen.

ACTUARY
You know what? Fine. Final question. Given that you are seemingly unconcerned with collateral damage or the damage to morale caused by firing on your own troops, can you explain why you had to go through this convoluted effort to build not one, but two secret armies to wage war against each other so you could destroy the Jedi and take over the republic when you could have just as easily waited to finish building the Death Star and fired directly on the Jedi Temple, killing them all in one go? I mean, it is not like they’d have seen it coming given they were standing right next to you multiple times and could not tell you are a Sith lord.

PALPATINE
Well, I, that is… actually a way better plan.

Palpatine begins using force lighnting the Actuary. The man writhes and screams as bolts of blue electricity arc through his body

PALPATINE
Oh my God! I have the biggest boner right now!

END SCENE

Gamma World 4e

Gamma World Returns!

The update no one demanded. I forgot my notes, which turned out to be slightly less of a problem for reasons we will get into later. We leveled up to level 3, taking a new utility power and some extra hit points. This installment finds our intrepid heroes delving into the ruins of ASU. Only they are not really ruins. Surprisingly well maintained, actually. Robot servitors keeping the grounds and the Science and Technology Department in near perfect shape, save for an ominous Omega symbol spray painted on the front.

Sports Authority, Krunk Mayhem, and Mae Lyn entered the building, making their way to the lab. There they found a young man in a lab coat going by the name of AlBro-t Einstein. He explained his theory of Broletivity and introduced them to his peer: Erwin Broedinger, who told them about his box that contained a cat. If the cat was alive, you had to take a drink. If the cat was dead, you had to take two drinks. Opening the box the cat was very dead, leading Broedinger to lament a lack of airholes. Moving on, they met ABroham Lincoln and Broseph Stalin. Then on to the special projects division, where Robert Broppenheimer and Neils Bro-hr were working on their doomsday weapon: the Jager Bomb. Explaining their need for nuclear material to arm the devices, they lamented all of that was taken by “the nerds” who they had stolen the building from. They also mentioned having broken the nerds’ robot EVA by hitting it with a whiskey bottle, instilling the robot with a hatred of humanity and sending it out into the wastes.

Things got a little meta at this point, and the conversation veered several times. Eventually the trio agreed to go look for the nerds and return the nuclear material. Setting out for South Mountain, they took a detour to scope out the Fry’s Electronics. Inside of Fry’s, they found a quartet of cyber zombies, dead humans merged with the technology they used to sell. They were only marginally less apathetic and useless than living Fry’s employees, though they did hunger for human flesh. Wielding keyboards, they attacked our “heroes”. The fight started rather by the numbers, with zombies swinging and missing, and the player’s connecting some solid hits. A zombie made a wild swing, but rolled a 1 and instead performed a dainty pirouette, followed by a gentlemanly bow at the end. Combat continued. Then one of the zombies dropped. This triggered an electric reaction from one of the survivors, who let loose with force lightning on Sports Authority and dealt a massive amount of damage. Some handy Omega tech blunted to worst of it, but it was clear things were going to get worse. Shortly after, Krunk Mayhem got flanked by a pair of zombies. Two big hits landed, the first zombie smashing him in the face, right into a savage blow from behind by the second. From full hit points to one hit point in the space of two attacks. A new utility power was used, teleporting everyone out of harms way and allowing the players to regroup.

It was much more by the numbers from this point onward, with the player’s eventually triumphing, and scouring the ruins. Mae Lyn and Sports Authority found omega tech. Krunk Mayhem found a vacuum cleaner and a returns desk. Krunk returned a piece of omega tech he was not using for a new card. Everyone seemed satisfied. On to South Mountain!

Running short on time, we skipped the planned encounters (that were with my missing notes anyway) and fast forwarded to meeting with the nerds. The players negotiated an agreement with Doctor Parker to clear the frat bros out from ASU and give them back control of the lab. They learned the professors had retreated to South Mountain after having been ousted by the frat bros to work on a doomsday weapon. A pulse wired into one of the towers that would make being stupid painful, with the idea that they could cleanse the wastes of dumb people by forcing them to commit suicide or flee. The group agreed to send the bros packing, and headed back to ASU.

At ASU they gathered the bros for a presentation, with the intent of sending them after Baws Hawg, the guy Mayor Cluck Cluck had hired them to kill to begin with. Sports Authority expended his hypnosis ray, and Krunik Mayhem rolled a natural 20. Whipping the bros into a steroid fueled frenzy, their implements of destruction hit the streets, chanting and raging. Unfortunately, no one gave them a route to take, and bros chose the quickest path to the airport, taking the bridge over Tempeh Town Lake, home of the leviathan. A massive aquatic beast arose and began slaughtering the bros, who ripped their Tap Out shirts, screamed “Come at me, bro!”, and charged the beast. They, of course, met grisly deaths. It was a gruesome blood bath, which was watched by cheering mermaids and our trio.

Thus ended Gamma World for this week. Tune in next week where we find out… whatever we find out. I have no idea what is going to happen in this game anymore. I barely understood what we were doing this session.