Friday, June 2, 2017

Gods of the Fall - Godly Visage

Being a god isn't always about supreme power and limitless possibilities. The mortals who worship you feed you your power and through them you have ties to the mortal world. A god of war whose followers never get a hand winning probably won't be holding onto his mortal powerbase any more than a god of harvest who's too busy "sowing oats" to help ensure that the crops in the world grow. But beyond godly duties there are other downsides to being a god. You might get caught up in the turnings of the wheel of fate (or ensnared in fate's threads, pick your metaphor), or you may find that once you're known for something it becomes all but impossible to shake off.

And then there's the whole look of being a god. You may become known for having an animal head, or missing a body part, or being lame, or any other physical cue. It's possible that this may happen in a way that you aren't terribly happy with. With great power comes a terrible skin condition.

Gods of the Fall presents a fantasy world, one where the characters (and thus the upcoming gods) are all depicted looking like the mortal race into which they were born (I was about to say looking human, but I didn't want to be racists against the Taran and Sleen players out there). It is likely that in this setting the gods are more like those of the Norse and Greek/Roman pantheons; they look like "us," and probably act like us.

But maybe one of your players isn't too keen on looking like "just some guy with some glowy SFX"? The divine aura being those SFX. So what do we do for him? Well, that divine aura doesn't have to just be limited to some glowing and a symbol right? These are gods right? Why can't the "divine aura" be a whole different appearance? Perhaps the god of fire isn't simply wreathed with glowing red and a flamelike symbol, but actually takes on the appearance of a charred body as well? Or perhaps his glow comes from within, and flames roar within his mouth and eyes! The god of war may wear only a light armor, but her divine aura may take the form of ultra heavy battle armor festooned with the trophies of her kills!

So that's my point, the divine aura of the gods need no just be a nimbus glow and a simple symbol. It could represent a more complex appearance shift, in the form of physical attributes or illusory equipment that represents the god's domain.

Unless your game isn't set in a fantasy world. Using the ideas of Gods of the Fall in the modern world (similar to the base setting of White Wolf's Scion), or an alternate history (my idea of Legends of the Wild West), or some other setting idea, is something I've discussed before. In this case instead of the divine aura being an illusory sign of divinity it is mechanically tweaked to be the god's actual divine form, subtly or substantially different from the mortal guise that the gods use to move about within the world.

Regardless of how you decide to use it, the Divine Aura can be as simplistic or as complex as you and your players desire it to be, and can help to deepen the nature of your games where gods walk among mortals, either deliberately hidden, or simply not radiating their full power.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #121 - Hacking the Cypher System - Re-rolls & the XP Economy

I put the poll shown above up a few weeks ago. I was curious to see if my experience at the table, a frequent re-rolling of 1's, was true or not. I expected to see a high skew toward natural 1's being re-rolled, but in fact the opposite was true. Color me surprised.

This got me thinking on the nature of re-rolls and ... well, I realized that maybe it's just not a thing that can be quantified. Some folks are going to re-roll all the time, others will hoard that precious XP for advancement. Some GMs will be stingy with XP, thus making re-rolls rarer because the currency is more valuable, while others will be generous and re-rolls will come cheaply. Still other GMs may be cruel with their Intrusions, causing players to be more willing to avoid them, while others will be more even handed and players will be less prone to avoid them.

I'd assumed that re-rolls were fairly common, but by the numbers the poll shows that 55% re-roll only rarely or infrequently. So where at the outset I had been thinking of this blog being ideas to help curb overly common re-rolls now I see that this is a problem that isn't terribly common. So instead of a hack to fix a perceived issue I see now that it's a matter of play style, both player and GM, and a matter of the XP economy.

As far as fixing any perceived issue with the XP economy that's up to you and your players. A frank discussion is well advised, and it may be that you need to balance your XP awards better, or remind players that unlike other RPGs Cypher's power curve is steep and the end is far less far away than in other games. It only takes 24 advancements to hit Tier 6. If your players are taking an advancement after every session that's a years worth of gaming if you play every other week, and only 6 months on a weekly basis. So remind them that hoarding XP for advancements isn't always ideal. Conversely if you are seeing too many re-rolls you may also see a slower power progression. This isn't much of a problem, so long as the players are OK with the slower rate of advancement. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Furry Road - A Cypher System Homage to After the Bomb

Image Source: via

Oh man, that pun is gonna be all kinds of trouble. 

I've mentioned before on this blog that I got a lot of gaming mileage out of the old Palladium TMNT game line. Specifically the After the Bomb setting. It didn't make it into my Top 5 game settings when I wrote that blog a couple years back, but it probably should have been an honorable mention. Of course that whole blog is probably in need of a do-over at this point; two years brings a lot of new RPG settings.

Still, with Mutant Crawl Classics soon to come out I've been thinking more and more about the Post Apocalypse. Part of why I backed MCC at the level I did was because of After the Bomb. And for my Gen Con 50 after hours game I decided that I wanted to run something inspired by AtB. Since MCC isn't out and I just cannot stomach trying to make pre-gens and run it in the Palladium system. Ergo I am going with my go-to works for damn near anything system: Cypher System.

Specifically I'm going to go all Mad Max Fury Road on the After the Bomb setting by using the Road Hogs portion of the setting. In the post apocalyptic California there are highways aplenty, roving gangs of mutant animals, and fuel shortages. I think it shows remarkable restraint that author Erik Wujcik didn't do all this in Australia. It's also awesome because Mutants Down Under (the Australia portion of the setting) got to be all kinds of different weird.

I'll be making some subtle changes. Instead of New Americorp the "hero" government will be Calivada (since it's basically a sizable chunk of California and Nevada and this game doesn't hide from goofball place names). The Road Hogs gang will be mostly mutant pigs, because duh!, and a more genuine power than they are implied to be in the setting materials.

Of course the big work is on the pre-gen characters. I'll be posting these here in abbreviated form (e.g. no ability text, just names) starting next monday and going through July. Here are the 8 PCs. If I end up building anything new (like descriptors) or making changes I'll be sure to highlight that in a wrap up post.

  • mouse - mechanic
  • Bird - scout
  • Cat - warrior (melee)
  • Dog - driver
  • rabbit - "the face"
  • raccoon - scavenger/scrapper
  • chimp - historian/sage/leader
  • Horse - warrior (ranged)

Either way, I hope this proves to be as entertaining for you all as it is for me.