Friday, May 6, 2016

Second Hand Treasures - When the Sky Falls


Welcome to a new semi-regular feature. Like many local game stores, mine has a used bin where occasional treasure can be found at a discount. I don't know how often this feature will show up in the blog, but when it does I'll discuss a recent find on the cheap, why I like it, and how I plan to use it. 

When the Sky Falls caught my eye not by favor of its cover, but by benefit of its spine. Malhavoc Press and Bruce R. Cordell are right there with the title. As a Cypher System fan, Bruce's name caught my eye first, as I keep an eye out for modules just like this by Bruce and Monte. When I saw this was published by Malhavoc, Monte's old company, I knew I should take a look. That cover image certainly didn't turn me away either. I wasn't yet sure what I was looking at but it looked pretty cool.

So, what's in it? Well, as the title implies, this is a book about using meteor strikes in your games. It's an "event book" so its built not as an adventure that you can simply run, but instead as a resource for such events. It's split into eight chapters, of which three are very specifically d20 resources of spells, feats and classes. These may still be of use to more ambitious players and GMs, but certainly will require the most work. The remaining forty odd pages however provide details on how to integrate a meteor fall, creatures and items that may come from the meteor or be forged by its fall, and details on the impact events of three different types of meteors.

I'm most likely to use this within a Cypher System game (as that is my go to system at the moment) and the contents are reasonably easy to use in that respect. Difficulty classes for d20 system can easily be backward calculated to Cypher System difficulty levels. Looking at the three meteor types, mundane, thaumaturgic, and engram arks. Mundane meteors will fit into any setting, being little more than rocks falling from space and wreaking disaster and chaos.

Thaumaturgic meteors are described as "a fragment from an incredible celestial object charged with immense magic." For a fantasy setting, like Ardeyn or Gods of the Fall, this can be taken literally as some piece of fundament imbued with magic. But for a settling like Numenera this could be so much more. There are many relics of prior worlds that still litter the skies and space above the Earth and this kind of meteor could be used as one of these with the EMP and other strange "magical" effects instead being part of misunderstood radiation or other energies unleashed by the damaged or destroyed technology of some prior age.

Lastly Engram Arks are the remains of dead worlds. Again, in Numenera this will fit right in as the engrams within could be cyphers or artifacts that hold skill abilities or fractions of the datasphere, or even genuine remains of an alien world that seek to rebuild their lost home on Earth.

In addition to these base meteor types the final chapter of the book offers even more exotic options. From killer fungi, to fallen celestials, and ancient evils this chapter gives you an additional five ideas for unique meteors that can span almost any genre.

The last two chapters contain items and creatures. You get a options of items forged from meteoric remains, imbued with power from thaumaturgic meteors, and creatures either mutated by the sky fall aftereffects or that crawl forth from the fallen items themselves.

So where could I use this? Most anywhere really, but I think I am likely to use a mundane meteor when I start playing Predation as a means of both foreshadowing and a way to churn up the setting a bring forth adventures. I'd also like to try using either a thaumaturgic or engram ark in Numenera. I think both would fit well into the setting, and I'd really like to see the effects of such an impact on a major population center or significant and iconic relic location. Imagine the change that would erupt in the Steadfast if the Amber Monolith was destroyed, or if a major city like Shallamas was struck with a mutagenic thaumaturgic meteor!

For the $8 price of admission this book has given me a lot to work with and some fun ideas. It's also given me reason to look for other "event books" from Malhavoc Requiem for a God and Cry Havoc either in my stores used section or at this year's GenCon. If you want to see what When the Sky Falls contains you can grab a copy at DriveThruRPG or on Amazon. And if you want to see more Second Hand Treasures let me know in the comments!