Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Monster Spotlight - The Corpsemen



By C. N. Constantin

Without a doubt the big bad of North America is the Fallen Lords. I made them such because of three words: necromancy industrial complex.

This is why the backdrop of the Necromancer Wars is the overall theme of North America.  It allows for the seeding of its aftereffects to generate plot hooks and adventures.   While the majority of the war occurred in what was known as the Midwest United States, the nature of the enemy means they could "recruit" anywhere on the continent.

Worse, most are either mindless or fanatical.

They can't be reasoned with...or at least they couldn't until recently. Ever since the end of the necromancer wars, the undead legions have gained more free will over time.  Sadly this usually means they have been seduced by their darker nature.

The Corpseman are these undead forces have retained most of their discipline and they're usually a merger of undead and machine.

Death and Industry:

Most of the Corpseman are created, not raised.  While necromancy is most certainly involved.  They are created in dark factories and often bolted together on an assembly line.  This is often accompanied with dark choking smoke that blocks out the sun.

Since the Necromantic wars ended, most of the factories are now dormant, but smaller factories are now hidden in plain sight and are often difficult to track down.

Function:

The following are a frame of reference when compared to its military equivalent:

Airforce: Bloat Corpses, Parameat
Armor: Groundpounder
Black ops:  Ash Ghosts, Spooks
Cavalry: Skuttler
Dog Pack: Skelepack
Infantry:  Flesh Eaters, None Comissioned Dead (NCDs), Recruits, Suction Ghouls
Medic: Sawbones
Obstacles: Bone Mines
Officers: Brigadier, Lieutenant, Skull of Arms
Scouts: Crawling Claws, Skuttler

Additional Reading:

The following are exerts from the Dark Revelations – the Role Playing Game:

The Aftermath of the Necromantic Wars, Dark Revelations - The Role Playing Game – Player’s guide – page 3
Corpseman Monster Entry - Dark Revelations - The Role Playing Game - Book of Danger and Monster Manual - pages 38-65
New Beckford (a town built in the aftermath of the necromantic wars) – Dark Revelations - The Role Playing Game - Book of Adventure  – page 214-232
Revisiting the Key Regions – The Moundlands – Dark Revelations - The Role Playing Game - Book of Adventure – page 203

Inspirations to Draw on:

Note: Feel free to recommend other ones in the comments.  This list will grow over time. .
Army of Darkness (movie)
Skeleton Warriors (cartoon)

One last thought:

When in doubt, watch a war movie you like, now replace the enemy with necromancer undead.  The Campaign writes itself. :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How to Sell a World

By C.N. Constantin


Ultimately Dark Revelations – the Role Playing Game is a world that is based on our own.

The Planet Earth is filled to the brim with awesome ideas and that’s even before we get to our fiction.  I want to show our readers how awesome this crazy world is.  A blending of the familiar and the fantastic was one of my wishes for Dark Revelations – The Role Playing Game.

One of my goals for Dark Revelations – the Role Playing Game when it comes to region material is as follows:
1.       It should be playable to anybody whom lives in a particular region.
2.       It should be playable to those that aren't native to a particular region.  In fact, it should highlight some of the best features that the region has to offer.
3.       The region should have things that make it unique to the rest of the world.
4.       It should follow the rule system of what has already been created.

While the current books are currently built around North America, I really want to cover the globe and give each continent its own feel as well as a draw to bring gamers to a particular location to enjoy its unique feel.

I won’t claim to know everything about this beloved planet of mine, but if you wish to suggest stuff for a particular region, I would love it.  Just realize that I really want to play more with “local themes” and less with stereotypes.

For example, I probably won’t get to Australia right away, but I want it to be something more than Mad Max and Australian Dreamtime once it begins.

When I finally do write it up as an effective part of Dark Revelations RPG, I will play on the following themes:

1.             Australia is a harsh land filled with danger, especially if you’re unaware of it.
2.             Australia is different and sometimes stuff that would be common sense elsewhere might not work properly because of this different nature.
3.             Australia should be a fun rpg environment with both a draw and what’s scary about it.

While we slowly work our way around the globe, we intend to give it the due diligence that a good gaming product provides.

One last thought.

While the rough flight plan is to head to Latin America first and then head across the Pacific, it is not written in stone.

Any feedback of where to head first will determine what we end up creating for your enjoyment.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rifting Back Through Time




By C.N. Constantin

I love Rifts.

I love the sheer gonzo of the environment, the use of the familiar and the fantastic and the enthusiasm that the environment creates.

I have had many a campaign through my own gaming career that I have played the night away

However, despite my love, the game system is showing its age.

Part of the reason I created Dark Revelations – the Role Playing Game was to make a “Rifts that makes sense” without destroying the magic that made Rifts one of the most popular rpgs of all time.

The reason I picked d20/ogl as a base is, for all its faults, it emulates that give and take that Rifts tried to create within their system.

In particular, it was to address the following:

1.        Front Loaded Characters:  with the exception of spellcasters and psychics, most Occupational Character Classes (O.C.C.s) are defined at 1st level.  Despite a system of gaining experience and rewarding for “clever ideas”, most changes of characters were based on going to the store to buy new toys.
I picked ogl/d20 so we could show this personal progression using feats and talents.
2.        Duplicate classes:  There are at least 6 military classes in Rifts that are essentially minor tweaks on a base class.  This is where Builds come in handy: they define the class/path without changing the overall rules. 
3.        M.D.C. – this is a great idea that I seriously considered using, but ultimately rejected because its main purpose (showing an enemy is particularly tough) is already built into the CR system.
4.        Power Creep:  Nothing stinks more then somebody bringing a shiny new book to the table that either. breaks your game, or is unused and becomes a waste of money.  We saw this after Rifts Atlantis, and it showed the difficulties of building a group together.
This is why I’m going to use the following metrics for new material:
                                                               i.      Can it be built using existing rules and classes?  If so, it’s a build and/or reskin of previous rules.
                                                              ii.      If it needs new material, can we work our way up from feats, talents, paths and then race/class as necessary? 
5.        Duplicate Equipment: There is a ton of equipment within Rifts that does more or less the same thing.  While I enjoy thumbing through the various arms company’s products, and the art associated with it, a ton of it will never be used.
As we expand our equipment and material, if a weapon has the same stats, it will be a reskin with some color text.  This is to provide a consistent gaming experience. 
6.        No Spine:  Despite being a level based system, there is little rational on how giving a rough idea of what sort of opponents would be challenging while avoiding either a player curb stomp or a tpk.   For all its faults, the 3.5/ogl has a clearly defined spine that once refined really allows for consistency.
7.        Magical Quirks:  Magic in Rifts had this swingy affect that either made it all powerful or useless.  When I was playing Rifts in the late 90’s/early 2000s, spellcasters were suddenly nerfed.  Not only were spellcasters suddenly not allowed to wear environmental armor, but their casting times became unfeasible for real time combat.  While this has been rectified in later editions, it is a lesson that hit home for me when I ended up creating my own variation of spellcasting for Dark Revelations - the Role Playing Game.   Namely, a spellcaster should be able to cast spells in battle.

8.        Races Definition.  As stated in the previous blog post, I like monstrous races, but while Rifts allows a wide range of options, it doesn’t always consider problems in playing such a race without house rules.  For this I always use one of the sillier races in Rifts.  Cactus People.  I like them, but they have some serious flaws for playing as a pc:
a.   sdc in an mdc world. This is not a big deal per say, if it weren't for the next point.
b. They require ultraviolet light to live, making it really difficult to setup a means of wearing armor, in spite of being S.D.C. creatures in an M.D.C. world.  You would have to house rule a piece of equipment in order to get past this first issue.
c.       They have a packet of skills that allow for little change.  This means you need to house rule them to allow them to take an O.C.C.
This race cemented in my own game design belief that any race available for P.C.s should be clearly defined. While we are saving our plant races for the upcoming Book of Arrogance (also known as the book of Cats, Dragons and Rock and Roll), it was my insistence that we have it well defined so any number of concepts can be easily played.

I fully intend to do this to maximize racial options while still having a consistent game.

9.        House ruling:  I don’t think I’ve ever played a Rifts game where something wasn’t house ruled.  To be fair, it was a product of its time.  It was created and evolved during the Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition area and it did a lot of things that were innovative for its time.  However, if your players come up with some sort of crazy idea, it’s easier to “wing it” and dole out the experience based on feel, then it is to figure out the rules for allowing the crazy plan.  D20 wasn’t much better in this regard, so I ended up creating a Skill Montage system of which I will go into in more detail in future posts (or you can read the rules in Dark Revelations – The Role Playing Game – Player’s Guide for the details).
10.     Defining something before you destroy it.  As a species, humans get attached to things.  This attachment has been used to push and drive stories since the dawn of time. 
Rifts have this bad habit of trying to destroy their role playing environments before they are created.  My favorite two examples are Rifts Africa where they dropped the four horseman of apocalypse on a continent that wasn’t even defined before then, and Siege of Tolkeen, that didn’t even give us a map until it was up in flames.

One of my goals for this project is unless it already starts as background, to generate material that people get attached to and letting the G.M. decide whether it needs to be destroyed.

To conclude, while I like Rifts, it didn’t fulfill my needs and this rpg is an attempt to address what I find as flaws within the system.  Here’s hoping it scratches that particular itch.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Differences from d20 games



 

By C.N. Constantin

Many of you are already familiar with the normal d20/ogl mechanics, you’ll notice there are a number of changes.  This post is to explain such changes:

1. The Sweet Spot: Most ogl systems are most fun from level 3-10.  Too low and you are basically fodder. Too high and prep time and the new toy are pretty much the only factors. 

It's why I added a hit point kicker at level 1, which straightens the parabola and lengthens the
sweet spot.  It's also why I did talent trees and redesigned the magic system, and increased the tech power level. It was to make it more enjoyable for both pc's and npc's to go up to 20th level.

2. Playing Monsters:   I like monsters, from the smallest demons to the largest dragons.  I enjoy playing the weird and bizarre, not just for the power, but but for the different perspective in both a physical and cultural aspect.

However, the rules of the OGL are designed to counteract this enjoyment.  They have slanted all races to emphasize the standard races and made  it complex to balance such races, especially when compared to other games.  Yo often end up with a monster character that has a "glass 
 jaw."

Previous editions of  dnd had the opposite problem.  After the Complete book of humanoids, it was infinitely preferable to play a monster over the standard races.

I believe I have found the best model to do monsters without going overboard and keeping things balanced.  To use all monsters PC races start at ECL 0, and you have the option to take racial talents instead of class talents to represent the really powerful racial abilities.

It's also why for many of the critters why I am pushing the envelope of what is normally considered standard 3.5 critters.  I want to find out where it breaks and plan my future races accordingly.

I'm also using this race building as a base to figure out how to do other concepts common in my post-apocalyptic environment (such as mutation, cybernetics, etc.).  Hopefully these will be revealed in a later date.

3. PCs and Monster are Built Differently:  In normal ogl systems, there was an attempt to make all the rules universal.  This was a heavily needed action at the time, as previous editions had all sorts of optional rules all over the place.

However, it complicated both pc and monster generation.  Because monsters had some players options, it ended up increasing gm prep time.  It also made most unusual options for pcs a complicated mess.

Dark Revelations - the Role Playing Game has attempted to expand the separation to keep both sides of the rules clear.  Monster and villain building should be easy for the gm and pcs should have the majority of the options for their characters, as they have a vested attachment to their character.

3. All Classes are Useful: When I was playing an ogl game, I noticed a severe disparity between spellcasters and non spellcasters.  In a nutshell, in ogl spellcasters dominate situations over non-spellcasters even in areas where a non-spellcaster had an expertise.

I really like what 4th edition did, but I also don't want to rip them off. As a result, I developed a class/path system to have a measuring stick to confirm balance and to allow for future building concepts.  It's also why I'm using a talent system, for it can allow "specialization" in a particular feature of the class or path.  Not only do this give choice and a focus, but it also makes it possible to add new material with comparable ease in later books.

4. Magic verses Technology: Spells: Expanding on point 3, because of the nature of dnd, magic is god.  Magic spells are essentially "rules benders" that change the nature of a game.  Some spells are flat out game changers that aren't even controllable even by an experienced gm.  In particular, save vs. die or save vs. lose spells basically change the game so that you’re either the star or feeling useless.
 
 I've already audited the spells to some degree with this in mind. 
 
 Permanent effects from magic should not be available till 6th level at the earliest...because that’s when you get permanency.
 
 Spells should be fun to useful, but not game breakers or stoppers.
 
 It's also why I did my magic system the way I did.
 
5. Creation of Magical Items: As a player I love this, but there are some real issues with allowing pc's to make magical items. The concept leads to player entitlement, escalating arms race, the breaking of the "sweet spot", and disparity between PCs (it is the spellcasters that can make the items).


It also increases the likelihood of building items that are based on the big magic items (magic weapon, magic armour/protective device, stat booster, saving throw boosters).

However, the items that seem to have the least amount of issues with it are the limited use items (potions, scrolls and wands), and I've based my rules on Faustian Mechanics on the last one, with some tweaks.  
 
The other half of this is magical items with respect to non-magical equipment.  the 3rd edition Dungeon Master's guide created a fairly fastidious formula in creating magical items.  However, there is no similar formula used with the overwhelming amount of standard equipment.  When I did my weapon audit, I noticed a lot of weapons  that really didn't make sense in the way they were designed.
 
A similar effect happened with non-magical items.  When you start putting tech that compares with magic, you need some sort of gauge. Oddly enough, when I started using the conversion chart from Purchase dc to actual numbers, modern d20 was a lot better gauge than originally thought for both equipment and modern weapons.  It also surprisingly lined up with modern weapon costs as well.
 

In my opinion, the gun is the great equalizer. A wizard or similar spell caster is a lot more vulnerable to a fighter if he or she is armed with a firearm. It's also why I decided to not have them magical, unless it is built as a Faustian device.  It's simply too gonzo after a certain point, and it allows me to fulfill a niche for my Faustian Mechanic path.
 

It's also why we spent a hell of a lot of time working on the driving rules and the vehicles themselves.  They need to be useful, but not game breaking.
 
6. Playing a Character: This is not a problem that is solved easily.   
In my opinion, when you build a character, you are building an archetype of some sort.  One that is malleable and can be modified as you see fit, but also stays true to the basic concept.

This doesn't mean you can't do builds.  Quite the opposite, it is why we have free downloads for builds on this blog.
 
 My reasoning is as follows:
 

  1.   They are for newbie players to start quickly playing, especially if playing with other newbie players or veteran gamers that aren't interested in helping build a character for the newbie.
  2.   They are for quick building of characters for short games (nothing more annoying then spending more time building the character than playing it).
  3.   It can be faster to tweak a build then to build from scratch.
 However, the builds aren't written in stone and are more ideas, to show what you can do with the path.
 
 It is the closest means I have figured out of having your cake (building characters quickly) and eating it too (building the exact character you want within the archetype and level).
 
 7. Nasty Permanent Effects: There was this old module known as return to Castle Ravenloft.  It was probably one of the nastiest adventurers I have ever been in.  Part of the reason is because it
 picks away at your character till there is nothing left.
 

While this fits the theme of the module, it is bad game design for the purposes of player/gm enjoyment.  I've revised energy drain to make it more forgiving.  I’ve also attempted to remove any “stop game” powers and spells, which is basically anything that forces you to revise your character drastically during combat and other intense situations.  Instead combat puts status effects that have a limited duration.
 
8. Cleric Stuck in Medkit Mode:  Cleric's in the original ogl system, have gotten increasingly more powerful to the point they are unbalanced.  One of the reason is because one character was stuck in being resident healer. While it can be a fun character to play, not everybody wants to play the concept.

Because of this, I have created technical repair and healing rules that are based roughly on the healing spells that are available to the witch (the closest class/path to the old 3.5 cleric).  I have also  given the option to all ritualists to take both the old cure/inflict spells, in case you want another option.

It creates an "agony of choice" that forces a character to either heal or perform another action and separates the niche so it's a shared burden.