Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #60 - Context is Key

Recently my freind +James August Walls made a blog post titled Magic is Lazy. This drove a discussion on Google+ where I and others expressed that perhaps it is less a matter of magic and more a matter of magic without context. Of course it goes a little deeper than that; a fantasy world of elves and dwarfs and wizards and gods provides all the context that is needed for magic to not sit out of place. No, context as we were discussing it was also a matter of trappings, substance, and background. A magical +3 sword is pretty boring without the context to make it fit into your game. A sword etched with runes for power and death that drinks blood in contact with it (and oh hey mechanically provides a +3) has context that makes the item come "alive" within the setting and narrative.

So, basically I want to kick back to Jim that magic isn't lazy inherently, but lazily written magic is an anathema that we can all agree needs to go.

But what is context? Does everything in your game need context to not suck? Well, yes, and no.

What is context?

Context is "the parts of a piece of writing, speech, etc, that precede and follow a word or passage and contribute to its full meaning." Or so says, but I think there is more to it. Context isn't just the stuff that is written or said, but also all the stuff that isn't because of a mutual understanding of the thing being discussed. Consider how basic understanding of genre opens up a certain set of assumptions and allowances within fiction.

In a superhero comic there is not a second thought to men flying, women blasting objects with rays of power from their hands, and aliens from other worlds having lunch with earthlings. These fit the superhero genre, and that genre provides all the context they need. Magic is 100% in context for fantasy genres, while cybernetics, space ships, ray guns, and aliens all fit into science fiction (least least given how widely science fiction applies as a genre).

If I'm setting out to write a new RPG setting I'll probably start with some basic understanding of the genre(s) that apply. I may then add or remove things to fine tune the basic view of the setting to my liking. This is all context, and a lot of it can go without really being discussed by the author. The reader is left to come to an understanding of the setting on their own, and some of that will come from context that is never written explicitly.

The context of your setting will inform the reader/player what to expect on a high level. As they read the details of your setting more context will come to them from the details that you provide. Unlike the context of a genre this is explicit and has to be. If your setting is a typical Fantasy world on the surface that also includes steam-punk elements those elements will need to be explicitly detailed, at least in part, for the consumer to understand that this is more than a "stock" fantasy setting.

All of this is context for the setting, but there are different levels of context. Setting context, historical context, and mechanical context.


Historical Context

Dwarfs and goblins are racial enemies. This is a reasonably common fantasy trope, we've seen it often enough that if you said that in your detailing of your fantasy setting most people wouldn't think twice. That's a shame, because there's no context there. Oh sure, you can leverage the trope and the genre's implied setting context, but really you could also have left that detail unspoken and most would have assumed as much. By putting into your setting explicitly you are establishing a hard fact, one that will have repercussions and connections to other aspects of the setting in all manner of aspects.

A little historical context will go a long way to helping the audience grasp this racial enmity. Say that the goblins and dwarfs came to war with each other because the dwarfs pushed their mines deeper and further into the Greenstone Mountains where the dwarfs used their might to force goblin tribes from ancestral cave homes. This historical fact, only a single sentence in length, sets up great deal of historical context for the racial hatred between the two. It doesn't tell us everything (that'd be one amazing sentence otherwise), but it tells us that all of this started because of the actions of the dwarfs pushing into the goblins home territory.

This bit of context sets the dwarfs up as the bad guys (context here is HUGE because dwarfs are almost always a "good" race, relatively speaking), and it tells us that they not only invaded goblin lands, but drove them from their ancestral homes.  It also might help to explain to the reader why dwarfs are not optional for characters, but goblins are.

Mechanical Context

Mechanical context explains the how and why things work, and what they are. This kind of context has layers that apply within the fictional setting and externally to the way the game plays. In the former case mechanical context tells us that mutants have super powers and that's why they can fly and shoot energy beams. In the latter case mechanical context is how an RPG damage system can track something as hard to pin down as damage with a handful (or a score) of points that the character can never refer to but that the player can speak of directly. Let's look at magic in this hypothetical setting of ours.

Magic in this setting is not your normal spell slinging sorcery/wizardry. Magic comes from specific sources and those sources impact how the magic works and what it can do. In our setting magic comes from natural spirits including the four elements and also animal and ancestor spirits. A practitioner will have a small handful of affinities for certain kinds of spirits, and through communion with those spirits they can work magics according to the demands of the spirits that actually provide the power. Fire is a common spirit because it has little in the way of demands, fire wants to consume and burn, so long as the practitioner has appropriate materials to burn they can draw power from fire spirits.

Storm spirits are immensely powerful, but difficult to work with; they demand that the practitioner be under open sky and that they adorn themselves with certain items. Animal spirits often require that the user wear or wield implements made of their animal, consume the foods that are traditional for that creature (raw flesh, or perhaps unpalatable grasses or berries), and often that the user not wear or use metal. Elemental earth spirits want lasting solidity, they can only be convinced to power through the used of graven runes and symbols.

All of this provides context to how magic works. A fireball now is seen as an agreement between the caster and the spirits of fire to destroy and burn something. Great for killing enemies, less great if they have a parchment you need to recover for your lord. A wolf spirit will give a practitioner abilities that go far beyond their normal senses and endurance, but that man or woman must take to eating raw meat and forsake the use of steel and iron. Meanwhile, earth spirits are pretty happy, so long as you take the time to carve etch, or otherwise create the permanent runes that their cooperation requires.

Suddenly that run covered sword makes more sense. That nearly feral shaman of the wolf and eagle is much more dedicated to their spirits. While the pyromaniac sorcerer of fire is as much a liability as an asset. Context is key to making these kinds of magic feel and look different, but also to making them feel like they are an integral part of the setting. It would make sense for dwarfs to use earth magic, carving runes and symbols of power into their every work. Meanwhile those goblins may get their magic from their own ancestor spirits. Being driven from the lands that those spirits live in makes them less able to meet the needs of their ancestor spirit patrons, and they are cut off little by little as the dwarfs advance and push the goblins back.

Outside of the setting all of these also provide context for the game's mechanics. An earth using rune-scribe may have to maintain their store of pre-graven runes, while the shaman of wolves and eagles will need to wear and use natural materials, hunt for fresh kill, and so forth. The fire mage's pyromania makes a different kind of sense when you understand that each act of arson that is not used to call magic, is in effect granting a later boon from the spirits of fire; effectively creating a "bank" of "arson points" that the mage can use to more easily cast their magic.

The latter there is an especially good example, because a supply of "arson points" (if I ever design my own game that is totally going to be a thing) is something that exists only at the player level, the character probably doesn't know that they have "14 arson points" accumulated, and they certainly are not thinking about the fact that a fireball costs 3 of those points to cast without having a sacrifice on hand (somatic component).

Take the context away and players may wonder why fire mages get a pool of points while wolf mages have equipment and diet restrictions, and earth mages have to spend hours preparing spells prior to use. Each of these only make sense once you have the full context.  Likewise if you strip away both the context and the added mechanics magic becomes a lifeless and boring thing. This guy casts fire spells, this guy uses runes, this guy runs around half naked and wolfs out. Why? "Because magic."

Closing Thoughts

I come back to what my buddy Jim said in his blog post, "Magic is Lazy." I couldn't disagree more with the title of his post, but the content reaches that same point as this blog: context is important. Context can breathe life into a setting, can make routine facets of a game setting make more sense and take on more meaning, and can even add to the mechanics of a game by providing both reason for mechanics, but also a reason for the mechanics to exist in the form that they do.

Next time you sit down to look at a setting or game consider what the context is telling you. Think about what each design choice that was made means for the way that the game plays, and for the way that the setting and the stories within will unfold.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Last Week Today - Week of December 21-27, 2015

Holiday Interlude #2 - The Ginger-Mech Man

Holiday Interlude #3 - Krampus

Nuts & Bolts - Atom Bomb Baby! Fallout 4 Cypher Edition (part 3)


Did you watch  +James August Walls+Ryan Chaddock, and I discuss how to use the Cypher System for playing games of Star Wars? If you missed it you can watch it on YouTube! And if you liked it you can look forward to more, we decided to make this a "thing" on a basis that could be called "recurring." Our second episode of "Cypher Live" will be January 3rd at 9 p Eastern, and we'll be discussing the Numenera book Into the Night.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Cypher-mas!

Just a short post to wish everybody a good holiday season. Hopefully you all got a Cypher or two or maybe an artifact.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #59 - Atom Bomb Baby! Fallout 4 Cypher Edition (part 3)

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Hopefully the past two weeks have been an enjoyable excursion into Fallout. This will be my last post on the topic, not because I couldn't do more, but because Cypher System doesn't need endless posts that detail every tiny variation on theme. This'll cover the most common robots of the Commonwealth Wasteland, and wrap up a couple of other minor topics.

Self Destruct Mode

All of the robots below have a self destruct mode that causes their internal nuclear engines to go supercritical and explode if the robot is otherwise disabled. This is usually the result of having its limbs/arms destroyed. Self destruct takes 3 rounds to hit critical mass during which the robot will pursue its enemies before finally detonating in a 10 damage explosion to everything within immediate range. During the 3 round charge up time the robot will cause 2 radiation damage per round to all within immediate range.

Robot Motivation

All of the robots detailed here follow their programming. Exceptional robots do exist that have the capacity for free thought (see also Synths in part 1) but the norm are those that are simply following whatever instruction they were last given.

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Mr. Handy/Mr. Gutsy

The Mister series of robots are floating eye style bots. With a round central body, three eye stalks, and three appendages fitted with a flamer, saw, and either a SMG (for Mr. Gutsy models), or a pincer (on Mr. Handy models). The Mr. Handy series was a common "butler bot" before the war, and even after it many have been put into service in the wasteland, or continue to follow prior commands. Mr. Gutsy was the military model and programmed with a sense of bravado that could fit well in a Sentrybot.

Level 3 (TN 9)
  • 1 Armor, 12 health, Short Movement
  • Can attack close with a saw for 4 damage, with a flamer for 4 damage in a cone extending to immediate range (Speed defense save for half damage), and Mr. Gutsy can attack with an in-built SMG to medium range for 6 damage. 
  • Self Destruct Mode: As described above, this will engage if all three arms are disabled.
  • Loot: mostly crafting components, though a Mr. Gutsy may yield some ammunition
  • Use: The Mister series will fulfill programming for as long as they are operational. They can be found guarding homes and military installations or convoys, or re-purposed to protect raider bases or wasteland settlements.


The SentryBot is unarguably the most dangerous robotic remnant of the pre-war world. These massive robots are heavily armed and armored, with powerful dual fusion cores to run whatever weapons they need. Equipped with a variety of armaments these dangerous robots are nearly always found guarding pristine military weapon caches.

Level 5 (TN 15)
  • Armor 3, Health 20, Short Movement
  • Integrated weapon systems: SentryBots always have two in-built weapon systems, and can attack two targets a turn. Often these are a pair of mini-guns dealing 8 damage each, but variants may include laser or plasma weapons, missile launchers, or flamers. 
  • Self Destruct Mode: As described above, this will engage if both arms are disabled. In addition a SentryBot will ALWAYS explode when destroyed. Stand back please.
  • Loot: Aside from fusion cores needed to power power armor, the wrecks of SentryBots often contain ammunition, and salvageable crafting materials. 
  • Use: SentryBots can be found protecting old world military assets.

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The Protectron series of civil defense bots saw a great deal of variation in the pre-war years. With models purpose-built for police, medical, construction, and fire-fighting use as well as the standard guard models. Protectrons are robust but their clumsy and slow movement make them less of a threat than their peers.

Level 2 (TN 6)

  • Armor 1, Health 12, Immediate Movement
  • Standard models feature a short range laser (damage 3), while police and medical models have stunners built into their hands (melee attacks deal additional 2 points of speed damage that bypasses armor). All other models rely on simple melee attacks (2 damage).
  • Self Destruct Mode: As described above, this will engage if both arms are disabled.
  • Loot: Usually just scrap.
  • Use: Occasionally found wandering, following a prior command, many can be found still in their charging cradles in police stations, firehouses, hospitals, and construction yards.


The close runner up to the SentryBot in terms of threat level and pant-browning ability. The Assaultron was built to be a fast and devastatingly effective front line melee fighter. They are easily the fastest and most nimble of robots and employ savage melee attacks. Most models also feature a powerful laser for medium range attacks on fleeing targets or during a charge.

Level 4 (TN 12)

  • Armor 2, Health 14, Long Movement
  • Close attacks as level 5 dealing 6 damage
  • Head Laser: Medium range, 5 damage, can only be used every 3rd round
  • Self Destruct Mode: As described above, this will engage if both arms are disabled.
  • Loot: Usually just scrap
  • Use: Much like SentryBots, Assaultron often guard military assets. In addition some are found in the wasteland on search and destroy missions; unfortunately they no longer recognize any targets are friendly.

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Small floating orbs that feature a loudspeaker, these robots are used to spread information, or propaganda. Eyebots are armed with a light laser, and feature very little armor.

Level 2 (TN 6)

  • Short Movement
  • Light laser does 3 damage to medium range
  • No self destruct: Eyebots lack an internal nuclear engine and do not have self destruct capability.
  • Loot: Scrap and the occasional fusion charge for laser weapons
  • Use: Encountered throughout the wasteland loudly proclaiming something from their speaker-grille.

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An important part of life in the wasteland is the ability to salvage waste and turn it into something useful. Characters with the right skills can formulate drugs, upgrade weapons, and build settlements. GMs are advised to be careful just what they allow players to build normally. Drugs and explosives should follow the usual rules for building cyphers. Weapon upgrades should be limited to small increases in attack (a +1, +2, or perhaps a full asset), extending range, or changing the weapon class (light to medium to heavy). For players who want to be able to craft a full gamut of objects armor and weapons I suggest that those characters should look at the "Crafts Unique Objects" focus (CSR pg 116).

Sample Drugs

A small selection of additional Cyphers in the form of pre- and post-war drugs

  • Mentats
    • Level 1d6; Provides 2 assets to all science/technology based activities for a number of turns equal to its level
  • Grape Mentats
    • Level 1d6; Provides 2 assets on all interaction activities for a number of rounds equal to its level
  • Jet
    • Level 1d4; Provides an asset on all combat tasks for a number of rounds equal to its level. Imposes a 1 level difficulty on all tasks for the round after it wears off (unless another dose is taken, which will compound the eventual crash)
  • MedX
    • Level 1d6+4; Provides +1 armor for a number of rounds equal to its level

See also:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Interlude 2015 #3 - Krampus

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Level: 8 (TN 24)

Health: 48 • Armor: 1

Damage: 8

Movement: Short

Modifications: None

Combat: Krampus attacks with claws dealing 8 damage with a successful attack. He can also grab a naughty opponent and stuff them into his bag. This is a level 8 Speed defense task to avoid the initial grab, or a level 8 Might task to escape from the bag. Occasionally Krampus will also toss lumps of coal up to short range for 6 damage on a successful hit.

Interaction: Krampus is little interested in negotiation, but may be willing to hear the naughty or nice out if there is the chance of gaining some upper hand over Santa.

Use: Krampus wages a strange sort of war with Santa every year. Santa wants all the children of the world to be good and get presents while Krampus wants them all to be naughty so he can take them to feast on. The pair fight for control of the holiday season because if one ever gains the upper hand they will be able to influence the world.

Notes: Krampus is often accompanied by Ginger-Mech Men, or Gingerbread Ninjas, and usually has a minimum of 1d4+1 naughty children in his sack to later feast on.

Loot: Krampus carries coal that he gifts to those not naughty enough to harvest for his feast. Among these lumps are often 1d6 potential cyphers that only need to be uncovered.

GM Intrusion: Krampus summons 1d6 Gingerbread Ninjas or 1d4 Ginger-Mech Men to assist him.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Holiday Interlude 2015 #2 - The Ginger-Mech Man

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There's a surplus of gingerbread themed Christmas artwork so as much as I'd like to do a peppermint golem, or a yule treent, I have to go where the art is.

Name: Ginger-Mech Man

Level: Soft: 3 (TN 9), Stale 5 (TN 15)

Health: 12 (soft) or 15 (stale) • Armor: 0 (soft) or 2 (stale)

Damage: 3 (soft) or 6 (stale)

Movement: Short

Modifications: The Ginger-Mech Man is vulnerable to liquid based attacks and takes double damage. In addition if dealt more than half their health in damage from liquid attacks reduce their level by 1 as they begin to get mushy.

Combat: The Ginger-Mech Man can attack unarmed for its normal damage or fire its Gumdrop Cannon. The Gumdrop Cannon can fire up to long range and deals 4 damage. Targets hit by a gumdrop must make a level 4 might check or become immobilized until they can break free (also a level 4 might check).

Interaction:  Ginger-Mech Men generally follow orders, but they may be willing to accept bribes of white icing.

Use: Ginger-Mech men help to guard Santa's village, but they can also be created by Krampus as part of his Bah-Humbug Brigade.

Notes: Don't insult a Ginger-Mech Man. Just don't.

Loot: Ginger-Mechs contain 1d4-2 sugar based cyphers.

GM Intrusion: A Ginger-Mech attacked by fire in the prior round becomes Stale and increases its combat prowess accordingly.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last Week Today - Week of December 14-20, 2015

Story Seed - Dereliction

Nuts & Bolts - Atom Bomb Baby! Fallout 4 Cypher Edition (part 2)

Holiday Interlude #1 - Octoclaus the Santapus


Did you watch  +James August Walls+Ryan Chaddock, and I discuss how to use the Cypher System for playing games of Star Wars? If you missed it you can watch it on YouTube! And if you liked it you can look forward to more, we decided to make this a "thing" on a basis that could be called "recurring." Our second episode of "Cypher Live" will be January 3rd at 9 p Eastern, and we'll be discussing the Numenera book Into the Night.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Interlude 2015 #1 - Octoclaus the Santapus

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Since I am on vacation for the holidays I am going "off script" and not following my normal update schedule. Instead I am going to be presenting some holiday themed goodies. I also did this last year with a Gingerbread Dragon and Gingerbread Ninjas.

Today we start with one for Numenera. Octoclaus the Santapus is a member of the intelligent octopus races of the deep oceans. Sustained by relics of a prior world Octoclaus is immeasurably old, and possesses great powers. Among those technologies is a Temporal Prism that allows Octoclaus to exist across time and space. Nobody knows why, but Octoclaus uses the temporal prism to give gifts to noble ninth world citizens all at the same time.

Octoclaus the Santapus

Level 6 (TN 18)

Motive: reward the good people of the ninth world

Health: 18 • Armor: 0 • Damage: 4

Movement: immediate on land, short in water, or teleport almost any distance by using the temporal prism

Modifications: Speed defense as level 8

Combat: Octoclaus prefers to avoid combat and will retreat given the first opportunity. If need be he will use the temporal prism to flee in time and/or space. Octoclaus will take part in combat activities only if an innocent and good person is in trouble and needs his help, but he will prefer to save the person using the prism first, and stay in combat to fight second.

Interaction: Octoclaus prefers to reward people anonymously when possible, but will gladly converse with heroic characters.

Uses: Octoclaus may show up to reward a heroic PC or PCs, or the characters may learn of his legend and set a trap for this time traveling creature.

GM Intrusion: Octoclaus arrives to help heroic characters in a battle that is going poorly for them.

Loot: Octoclaus always has 1d6 cyphers on him at any time to give to people who make the ninth world a better place. Octoclaus also wears a strange red and white hat that has unknown properties.

Temporal Prism

This artifact is a large faceted crystal that shows a different image on each face. It is a level 10 artifact that allows the user to travel up to a year forward or backward in time and anywhere on the planet. Depletion 1 in d6.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #58 - Atom Bomb Baby! Fallout 4 Cypher Edition (part 2)

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"War. War never ... Holy god what is that ARRRGGHH!!!"
Yeah. War "never changes" but the combatants do. So let's take a look at the things trying to eat your face. Since the Cypher System is so easy to "roll up" NPCs and creatures for I can it the high points and move onward without needing to dive deep for each line item. If a stat isn't given, it is calculated normally based on the Cypher System rules. All entries here are for a "normal" member of the species. In many cases there are tougher versions that look very similar which can be made easily by increasing the level and corresponding attributes.

Oh, and if you missed last week you can find it here.


Deathclaws are basically your standard genetic chimera mutated through elevated background radiation levels. Nothing special really. Oh, and they are the most badass killer in the wasteland. Basically just always, always, avoid these guys.


Level 8 (TN 24)
  • Motivation: As predators deathclaws attack creatures for food or for invading their territory. 
  • 2 Armor, Speed Defence to 7 due to size, Short Movement
  • Armor Rending Claws: Deathclaw claws not only deal impressive damage, but they can also bypass up to 2 points of armor. 
  • Loot: Generally very little aside from meat which can be made into steaks that grant a +1 Might Edge for melee damage only for an hour after eating.
  • Use: Deathclaws can be used to ambush characters in the wasteland or by having quest objectives exist within a deathclaw lair. 


What is there to say about Radroaches? They are everywhere, and while they are seldom a threat individually the certainly can prove a danger in groups. Radroaches are most dangerous for the radioactivity in their bite attacks that can weaken and eventually overwhelm even the most hardy of wastelanders.

Level 2 (TN 6)
  • Motivation: Scavengers looking for food.
  • 1 Armor, Immediate Movement, can cling to walls and ceilings with ease.
  • Radioactive: Every attack from a radroach will deal 1 point of radiation damage even if the physical damage is negated by armor. 
  • Increase attack to level 3 when attacking from above. 
  • Loot: Radroach flesh can be cooked for sustenance. They tend to be found in ruins where items of value may be located
  • Use: Radroaches infest ruins and also find their way into settlements as they look for easy sources of food. A single radroach is little more than an annoyance, but a swarm can become a threat.


If radroaches are radioactive annoyances radscorpions are radioactive nightmares. Heavily armored with deadly virilous poison that is also radioactive these giant insects are one of the wasteland's top tier predators.

Level 6 (TN 18)
  • Motivation: Insectile predator looking for a meal
  • 5 Armor, Short movement, can burrow and travel underground
  • Radioactive: All attacks from a radscorpion deal 1 radiation damage in addition to normal damage.
  • Deadly Venom: A quick attack with the radscorpion's tail deals normal physical and radiation damage. Injection of venom requires a level 7 might defense roll. Failure deals 5 points of Speed Damage and 2 additional radiation. Success deals only 2 radiation damage.
  • Ambush: A burrowed radscorpion can pop up from under the ground and ambush prey increasing the difficulty of its attack by 1 level.
  • Loot: Radscorpion tails contain their venom sacs which can be harvested to use the poison on weapons or by certain people to craft various drugs with. Some wastelanders also eat radscorpion meat and eggs which have been known to provide a slight resistance to energy based attacks for an hour after consumption (+1 armor for energy only).
  • Use: Radscorpions are solitary predators who can be encountered in almost any part of the wasteland. 

Mole Rats

What do you get when you take an annoyance like radroaches and give them the ability to burrow and ambush? You get mole rats, which are really annoying. Thankfully they also taste great! Probably. 

Level 3 (TN 9)
  • Motivation: Scavengers looking for food.
  • 0 Armor, Immediate Movement, can burrow and travel underground
  • Radioactive: All attacks from a mole rat deal 1 radiation damage in addition to normal damage.
  • Ambush: A burrowed mole rat can pop up from under the ground and ambush prey increasing the difficulty of its attack by 1 level. They often do this in groups leading to terrifying encounters.
  • Loot: Mole rat flesh can be cooked for sustenance which also grants a slight resistance to radiation (+1 armor for radiation) for an hour after eating.
  • Use: Mole rats mostly attack creatures that enter or near their lairs.

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Super Mutants

Supermutants are the result of the Forced Evolutionary Virus (or FEV for short) on humans. They are big, strong, tough, and often times dumb. They are also dangerous as heck. Probably second only to Deathclaws on an average basis. These are a good mid to late game menace as they scale well with individuals varying from "standard" to "brutes," "masters," and eventually "behemoths" that are progressively larger and more dangerous.

Level 5 to 9 (TN 15 to 27)
  • Motivation: Supermutants want to convert other people into supermutants by exposure to FEV. Also they have been known to make a meal out of ... anything it seems. 
  • 0-2 Armor depending, Short movement
  • Loot: Supermutants may use nearly any kind of weapon, from basic pistols and rifles to super sledges and Fat Man Launchers.
  • Use: Supermutants are sterile and reproduce by capturing humans to subject to the FEV. Supermutants also often take over key locations. 

Feral Ghouls

Feral Ghouls are the result of ghoul degeneration as a result of excessive post-ghoulification radiation exposure. The continued exposure to radiation slowly rots a ghouls brain until eventually they are reduced to an almost animalistic state commonly known as feral ghouls.

Level 3 (TN 9)
  • Motivation: Mindless ferals that attack any non-ghouls.
  • 0 Armor, Immediate Movement, 
  • Radioactive: All attacks from a feral ghoul deal 1 radiation damage in addition to normal damage.
  • Blitz: Feral ghouls can make a short range movement at the start of a combat and immediately attack thereafter. The round following a blitz they are prone and cannot attack as they must stand up. 
  • Loot: Feral ghouls often carry random bits of their former life. From ammo to teddy bears.
  • Use: Feral ghouls can be found most anywhere and attack any non-ghouls they encounter. They are seldom found alone, and are often found in packs of three to six.


Synths are androids. The oldest are crude and look more or less robotic, while the most advanced are bio-machines that are nearly indistinguishable from human. Appearance aside they are essentially human-like opponents, capable of wielding any of a variety of weapons and wearing armor. Instead of providing stats I suggest that you use the various NPC options in Chapter 17 of the Cypher System Rulebook with a single modification. I would add a point of armor on top of any they have to reflect the more robust nature of their artificial construction.


Mirelurks are heavily mutated crabs. They are heavily armored, but slow. The

Level 4 (TN 12)
  • Motivation: Predator looking for a meal
  • 15 Health, 3 Armor, Short movement, can burrow (but not travel underground)
  • Radioactive: All attacks from a radscorpion deal 1 radiation damage in addition to normal damage.
  • Loot: Mirelurks rarely carry any notable goods but mirelurk meat and eggs are a good source of nutrition and have been known to contain trace amounts of stimulants that can grant +1 Speed edge for an hour after consumption.
  • Use: Mirelurks are quasi-communal predators who can be encountered near bodies of water, often protecting clutches of eggs buried in mud or sand.

Glowing Enemies

Glowing enemies come in many shapes and sizes; from the mildly alarming (at least after the first one) Glowing Radroach, to the downright pant-browning Glowing Deathclaw (seriously Fallout 4, that was not cool). Glowing enemies show up among normal members of Ghouls, Deathclaws, Mole Rats, Radroaches, Mirelurks, and possibly Radscorpions (I haven't seen one yet, but I expect it's only a matter of time). Glowing enemies add the following to their normal template:

  • Increase level by 1
  • Increase Health by 6 points
  • Add the Radioactive trait or increase the damage of the Radioactive trait to 2 points of radioactive damage

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Alternates Rules for Radiation Damage

My friend +Jeremy Land suggested a couple of other ways to deal with radiation damage. I think both are even more dangerous, but they are cool so I'm including them here. All credit goes to him on these two methods:
  • Instead of reducing a single Pool's maximum by 1 (i.e. Might, followed by Speed, then Intellect), reduce each Pool's maximum by 1 per point of radiation damage.
    • Marc's Thoughts: This is obviously way more threatening, and may actually be better, but as GM you'd also need to make sure to provide more RadAway and/or more opportunities to use medical treatment to remove radiation to compensate.
  • Or, another way to do it is to add a Radiation score: Once it reaches your lowest Pool's maximum, you're always impaired; once it reaches your middle Pool's maximum, you're always debilitated; and once it reaches your highest Pool's maximum, you're dead.
    • Marc's Thoughts: This is fairly similar to the above, but with a little less bookkeeping. It's also very deadly, but maybe that isn't a bad thing. As above radiation removal would need to be more carefully doled out to avoid this being too deadly.
Next week I'm going to tackle 'bots and a few stragglers and odd-balls. In addition I can address any questions or comments that may come up to this or last week's post.

See also:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Story Seed - Dereliction

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"Father, where do these stairs lead?" the young girl had asked.

"They go to the worlds beyond. You know that the world we live in is artificial; a great cylinder in space that the fore-bearers built to save us. They knew that such a world may see its population grow beyond its means, and so they provided portals to worlds beyond. When our people grow too many we send some of them away through the portals..."


The woman's heart beat in her chest, not from the strain of the climb, but from the strange anticipation. She had looked at these stairs for years, as a child and a young woman, knowing that what lay beyond them was truly outside of her world. She craned her head upward, seeking to catch a glimpse of the end of the stair as it twisted seemingly across the great O'Neill Cylinder.

She was ready for this, but at the same time there was a sadness in her mind. Her family were the keepers, they alone retained the knowledge of the operation of the portals. In recent years the population had once more jumped beyond the means of their home to sustain. She would ascend the stairs and open the gateway and allow those chosen to flee this world to pass through the portal.

She nurtured great curiosity about what lay beyond the portals. What did this unknown worlds look like? What new explorations and strange sights did they hold? She wished she could travel beyond.

At last she reached the end of the stairs. A simple arch of stone, the gateway showed nothing more than a superb view of her home. She reached out, touched the archway, and watched as a curtain fell within that simple shape; a curtain that showed the nighttime sky of some world not her own, of rolling fields of grasses and of a sky filled not with the arching land of their world, but twinkling lights and strange orbs.

It was too much. The woman made her decision before she had even realized it. She stepped forward, and passed beyond her world.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Last Week Today - Week of December 7-13, 2015

Story Seed - Raiders

Nuts & Bolts - Atom Bomb Baby! Fallout 4 Cypher Edition (part 1)

Story Seed - The Heart of Darkness


If you're free this evening please come and watch as myself, +James August Walls and +Ryan Chaddock discuss how to use the Cypher System for playing games in the galaxy long long ago and far far away of Star Wars!  Starting at 9 pm eastern we'll discuss how to mash up one of our favorite RPGs with one of our favorite media properties.

Want free dice? Course you do! Sign up for a chance to win here: Easy Roller Dice Giveaway

Friday, December 11, 2015

Story Seed - The Heart of Darkness

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<<water damaged and unreadable entry>>

Day 37: At last! We have found the lost city of Z! It is a breathtaking find. The rainforest has done its utmost to swallow whole the remains of this city, but the architecture still remains hinting at past grandeur. The journey here cost use six good men, but those remaining with us now feel the journey was not a waste of effort and lives. Tomorrow we will enter the city proper and search for the fabled riches of this lost people.

<<water damaged and unreadable entry>>

Day 39: The drums, the drums! They have beaten incessantly for two days! They inspire madness and mutiny. The men have turned on each other and us. Four have fled and three have been slain during infighting. I swear that in the night I could see fires in the city, but when we investigated this morning we found no sign. This place is taunting us withholding treasure and inspiring insanity. I am sure we are close to the find that will make out names! Tomorrow! Tomorrow we will find it ... if only the drums would stop.

<<water damaged and unreadable entry>>

Day 43: They're after me. The workers have all died or fled. Even Percy, every loyal friend and companion, has vanished. I know not if has abandoned me to the natives (to the drums!) or has been taken or killed. I am alone and terrified. The drums are constant now, beating at all hours of the day. Following me! Even feeling into the rainforest has not appeased their unknown whims.

Day 44: If anybody finds this do not seek out the lost city! DO NOT! I am most certainly dead. Or worse. I think I have seen Percy and some of the others pursuing me with the drums. I fear now for my fate. This will be my last entry. I intend to wrap this journal in the oilcloth of my tent and cast it into the Amazon itself with the hope that it will be found. I know my life is forfeit, and I hope only to dissuade other potential victims...

(this was partially inspired by:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #57 - Atom Bomb Baby! Fallout 4 Cypher Edition (part 1)

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"War. War never changes ...."
I've finally sated my bloodlust for Fallout 4 enough to come up for air, and I decided to celebrate by delving into Fallout ... What? It makes perfect sense!

Anyways ... Fallout is one of those video game franchises that has lasted for a good many years (nearly 20!) and managed to do so without any major missteps (though that will certainly generate an argument from somebody). While some are decrying the lack of true RPG options in Fallout 4, with the game being more shooter-y and less "I can solve this any way I like" the fact is that not only is it more Fallout, it's also Fallout set in Boston! (And seriously, there are a lot of options for talking stuff out if you have a good Charisma, but don't expect to avoid shooting stuff with a Charisma below like 6.)

I don't know if I'll have the time to get a chance to actually play a tabletop RPG set in the Fallout 'verse, but that's not going to stop me from laying the bricks... and since I can choose what bricks to lay I am building my Fallout TTRPG hack from Cypher System bricks...

Oh and since I'm feeling very much in a Fallout 4 mood this'll be geared toward the Commonwealth more so than say, the Capital wasteland, or the Mojave.

New Rules

I mostly hate doing this, but sometimes you just need to add stuff to make things work. In this case Radiation needs some specific rules beyond what are built into the Cypher System Rulebook (henceforth CSR), and I want to address specific concerns over weaponry and Power Armor.

  • Radiation - In prior Fallout 4 radiation sucks. Like it really really sucks, and it is something to genuinely be afraid of and have a real desire to get rid of. To model the crappy as heck radiation damage use the following rules.
    • Radioactive attacks (such as those from feral ghouls, radroaches, and other wasteland creatures) do their normal damage and also reduce the character's might pool by 1 point. This reduction lasts until treated with Radaway (see cyphers), or by a medical professional with the appropriate equipment (a level 5 task that requires a medical suite).
    • Exposure to radiation from environmental sources removes 1-5 (typically) pool points from Might per scene, modified by any leaded armor, or RadX. 
      • GM Intrusions may also create environmental radiation sources that do instant damage (e.g. mini-nukes, exploding nuclear cars, and the like)
    • Radiation damage beyond a target's Might capacity will decrease Speed and then Intellect as normal. Each pool reduced to Zero by radiation requires a Might Defense check of level 4+[Number of pools at Zero], failure means the loss of additional pool points equal to the difficulty of the check. Characters who succeed may chose to become Ghouls and replace their current descriptor with the Ghoulish descriptor.

  • Power Armor - Power Armor consists of three separate items of note: Power Frames, Fusion Cores, and Armor Sections. Each of these 
    • Power Frames - The power frame is the skeleton that supports the rest of the armor and contains the motive systems. Frames require a Fusion Core to run. When powered with a fusion core a power frame will generate the following bonuses:
      • +3 Might Edge for lifting and carrying objects and damage on melee attacks
      • Inability on Speed Defense tests
    • Fusion Cores - Fusion cores are the small but potent power source that makes Power Armor function. Cores are treated as artifacts that can activate a Power Frame. When a core is new it rolls for depletion on a 1 in d20. If the core continues to be functional it then rolls for depletion on a 1 in d10, after that if the core remains functional it rolls depletion as a 1 in d6 until the GM determines the core is depleted via a GM Intrusion.
    • Armor Segments - I'm simplifying armor segments greatly because Cypher System is a fairly narrative game and I already feel bad about the stuff I am bolting onto it. Simply put each section of armor (left arm, right arm, helmet, chest, left leg and right leg) each provide +1 armor for a total possible 6 Armor. This armor has no penalty beyond that of the penalty imposed by a Power Frame.

  • Weapons
    • Laser Weapons
      • Laser Pistols are a Medium Range, Light weapon
      • Laser Rifles are Long Range, Medium Weapons
        • Laser Sniper Rifles increase their range to 300 feet
      • Gatling Lasers are Medium Range, Heavy Weapons with Rapid-fire
    • Plasma Weapons
      • Plasma Pistols are a Medium Range, Medium weapon
      • Plasma Rifles are Long Range, Heavy Weapons
        • Plasma Sniper Rifles increase their range to 300 feet
      • Gatling Plasma Weapons are Medium Range, Heavy Weapons with Rapid-fire
        • Gatling Plasma weapons inflict 8 points of damage per attack instead of the normal 6 for a heavy weapon
    • The Syringer
      • Medium Range (long for sniper modded)
      • Treat as a Light Weapon but it deals no base damage
      • Ammunition can be loaded with disease or poison to affect the target
        • Effort for "damage" increases the level of the Might Defense 
    • Fat Man Launcher
      • Can launch Mini-Nukes (see Post-War Cyphers) up to long range 
    • Junk Jet
      • Heavy Weapon with a short range 
      • Can fire any object as ammunition

Post-War Cyphers
  • Radaway 
    • Level 1d6; restores 1 point of Radiation damage per level of the cypher when used
  • RadX
    • Level 1d6; provides 1 armor for radiation only per level of the cypher for 1 hour
  • Nuka-Cola Quantum
    • Level 1d6; restores one pool to full, and provides an asset on all tasks for a number rounds equal to the cypher level
  • Bottle-cap Mines
    • Level 1d6+4, deals its level in damage to all targets in short range
    • After being set, Bottle-cap Mines explode when an enemy comes within immediate range of them
  • Mini-Nukes
    • Level 10; deals 10 damage to all targets within medium range
    • Can be thrown up to short range (see also Fat Man Launcher)
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Cypher System types are your archetypal role. They fill in the character's "core proficiency" where their descriptors will provide some "attitude" and their focus provides their unique "skills."
  • Warrior
    • Warrior is a good fit for most any of your soldier type characters. These could be raiders, Brotherhood of Steel Knights, or even just really belligerent vault dwellers.
  • Explorer
    • Fallout is as much about exploration as anything else, and so the Explorer could easily be the heart and soul generalist of the game. 
  • Speaker
    • Fallout has always used the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system (more on that later), and some have always been inclined to invest heavily in Charisma. Speaker is the type for you if you would rather talk your way out of raider camps and run convoys between the wasteland's many settlements.
  • Why no Adepts?
    • Fallout has a long history of characters with powers that verge on ESP and more. These are fairly rare however, and have never been available for PCs in my memory. It feels to me like these should stay out of the hands of PCs as a result. GMs other than myself are free to "unlock" Adepts for their players if they want to embrace the weirdest parts of the wasteland as PC options.
  • Flavors
    • Any of the flavors aside from magic would be a good fit in a Fallout game as well. The freeform nature of character building in Fallout lends itself to people making stealth flavored speakers or skill flavored warriors. 
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I said above that Descriptors are kind of like a character's "attitude." They color the way the character interacts with the world and their history. The following list covers probably 90-95% of those in the CSR as there were really only a few that didn't fit the game as I see it. I'm not going to comment on all of these, but I may note some apt connections.
  • Appealing
  • Brash
  • Calm (probably a Vault dweller or Brotherhood scribe)
  • Charming
  • Clever
  • Clumsy
  • Craven
  • Creative
  • Cruel
  • Dishonorable
  • Doomed
  • Driven
  • Empathic
  • Exiled
  • Fast
  • Foolish
  • Graceful
  • Guarded
  • Hardy
  • Hideous
  • Honorable
  • Impulsive
  • Inquisitive
  • Intelligent
  • Jovial
  • Kind
  • Learned
  • Lucky
  • Mysterious (the Fallout New Vegas courier perhaps?)
  • Naive
  • Perceptive
  • Resilient
  • Rugged
  • Sharp-Eyed
  • Skeptical
  • Spiritual (Cult of Atom perhaps)
  • Stealthy
  • Strong
  • Strong-Willed
  • Swift
  • Tongue-Tied
  • Tough
  • Vengeful
  • Virtuous
In addition I'd like to do something that prior Fallout games have not: allow Ghoul player characters!
  • Resilient: You gain +4 to your Might pool.
  • Hideous: Your skin has fallen off leaving you with a grotesque appearance. You have an inability with all pleasant social tasks.
  • Extended Lifespan: Ghouls have radically extended lifespans. They stop aging at the point they become ghouls and do not age. You can only die from damage, and gain training in all Might defense tasks.
  • Radiation Resistant: You don't take damage from radiation normally. Instead of the normal rules for radiation damage you heal an amount of Might and/or Speed points equal to the radiation damage. Each time you are exposed to radiation do also lose one Intellect point (can be recovered normally).  
  • Feral Tendencies: Any time your Intellect pool is reduced to zero you must make a Level 4 Might defense roll. If this reduction is caused by radiation the difficulty increases to Level 6. If you fail this roll you permanently lose points of Intellect equal to the difficulty of the check. If this loss reduces your Intellect pool to Zero you become a feral ghoul. 


  • All Backgrounds
    • Defends the Weak
    • Crafts Unique Objects
    • Entertains
    • Fights Dirty
    • Fights With Panache
    • Leads
    • Is Licensed to Carry
    • Looks for Trouble
    • Masters Defense
    • Masters Weaponry
    • Metes Out Justice
    • Murders
    • Needs No Weapon
    • Never Says Die
    • Performs Feats of Strength
    • Solves Mysteries
    • Stands Like a Bastion
    • Throws With Deadly Accuracy
    • Wields Two Weapons at Once
    • Works the Back Alleys
  • Wastelander
    • Carries a Quiver (may be considered apocryphal)
    • Controls Beasts
    • Explores Dark Places
    • Explores Deep Waters
    • Hunts With Great Skill
    • Lives in the Wilderness
    • Slays Monsters (wasteland beasts like Yao Guai & Deathclaws)
  • Brotherhood of Steel
    • Battles Robots/Synths
    • Conducts Weird Science
    • Hunts Nonhumans/Ghouls
    • Slays Monsters (wasteland beasts like Yao Guai & Deathclaws)
  • The Institute
    • Builds Robots
    • Conducts Weird Science
    • Fuses Flesh and Steel (Synth)
    • Fuses Mind and Machine (Synth)
That's it for now, and should get most cypher GMs going easily enough using the NPCs provided in Chapter 17 of the CSR as raiders, wastelanders, and the like. I plan to do a second post next week detailing some of the wastelands more infamous creatures, such as mirelurks, supermutants, deathclaws, and the like. 

Meanwhile how did I do? Anything you would do different? Anything I missed that I should add? Let me know in the comments.

See also:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Story Seed - Raiders

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The helicopter cleared the ridges with less than a dozen meters to spare between the standing struts and the treetops below. Mac peered out the side and watched as the ground dropped away in huge steps. Far below a silvery snake of water rushed through  graven gorges wending its way through the stony mountains. Looking up and ahead Mac saw a great plateau rising up from the opposite side of the river. The walls were steep and clean until its sharp rise suddenly broke and allowed stunted trees and shrubs to cling to the rocky terrain.

Mac whistled appreciatively at the sight of the ruined temple complex. The foremost building was a complete loss; the walls were caved in and the roof had collapsed leaving little in the way of structure. Thankfully the main temple was still intact. It was a glorious site after all these years searching for it.

The pilot slowed their movement, bringing the aircraft to a near hover as he peered down for a landing space. "Nowhere to land sir," the pilot's voice confirmed Mac's fears.

Mac scowled and then made up his mind, he'd waited too long for this and there were too many rivals who sought the idol. "Just get me close, I'll drop down on a line."

The pilot looked at Mac and seemed about to object, instead he shrugged and brought the craft in low over the ruins while Mac got ready. "Give me two days and come back at noon on," he thought for a moment, "Thursday. Got that? Make sure you bring somebody who can help pull me up." The pilot nodded and Mac dropped from the aircraft.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Story Seed - Death's Door

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I was at death's door.

Hell, I was knocking with one hand, and picking the lock with the other.

Exposure is a bitch. I was so cold. My heart was going off like a spastic snare drum. I couldn't place why all this was happening. Memory issues are part and parcel with the worst of hypothermia. You could say I was in bad shape.


I still don't recall what happened to me. How I ended up out in that valley. Cold. Alone. Dying. The strangers showed out of the icy mists like some kind of apparition. It was like they stepped out of some forgotten hamlet. An oil lantern, a crooked staff, homespun clothing, even handmade shoes. I was too out of it to appreciate it all at the time.

They came and helped me up. I asked them to get me someplace warm. Ha, I was a fool. They just shook their heads sadly. I raged at them. I swore and fumed and finally I realized ...

... death is but a door.

So, I closed the door behind me; it seemed the polite thing to do.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #56 - The Language of Wales

OK, no, not really, but it makes me chuckle.

You'll notice of course that I spelled Wales without an "H" and that is because I mean the country Wales and thus the language of Welsh. Welsh is ... kinda weird compared to English. The phonetics are just way different and as a result the written language can look really foreign.

Which makes Welsh my go to for alien and/or fantasy languages.

Take for example something you might hear on a derelict alien space craft:
Warning! Hull breach imminent!
Pretty standard fare for a craft that is unstable and starting to fall apart with the players on board. Saying that in English will be kinda boring though, and just saying that an alien voice is saying something while klaxons run is likewise less than awesome. But run that same statement through Google Translate from English to Welsh and you get:
Rhybudd! Torri Hull ar fin digwydd!
Another example:
Intruders on main deck!
Looks like:
Tresmaswyr ar brif dec!
You get the idea, and you can easily play with the Translate tool as well. Your pronunciation of these Welsh words will likely vary versus my own, and most certainly will be inaccurate to the proper Welsh pronunciation, but no matter how you say it it'll sound very different from anything else, and it may well be conveying any number of things that the players could be worried about.

I don't know if a native speaker of Welsh would find the translation accurate, and really that's not important either ... unless you have a native Welsh speaker in your gaming group, in which case you probably want to use a different language ... because that is the point. The idea is to convey alien/foreign languages in the best way possible with the tools you have available. Google Translate isn't a perfect tool for actual translations, though it'll get you close 99% of the time, but that doesn't diminish its utility to game masters.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Story Seed - Search

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The commander's heavy footfalls echoed off the steel flooring of the deck. The ship was quiet, late during the third duty shift with only a skeleton crew running essential systems. "Computer, bring up the main sensor array and scan the system's fourth planet."

A chirp  from the computer was followed by the rising hum of computer- and holo-systems powering up. The main holographic display came to life, starting with a pin prick of light that expanded, growing into a translucent sphere of glowing light that resolved into the system's fourth planet. The world was a watery one, over 90% of the surface covered by a vast ocean, and as a result the difference between the initial low-resolution projection and the high resolution updates were negligible. The sensors highlighted a handful of small archipelagos and one slightly larger landmass that was little more than an island a few dozen miles across. "Scan complete. Ninety eight percent accuracy in cartographic projection."

The commander frowned, but knew that 98% was the best he would get from a scan over ten AU distance out. "Enhance primary landmass, maximum resolution." The simulation exploded as the sensors performed a narrow beam scan of the largest island, rending it up on the display as a horizontal sand table with full elevation. "Projected accuracy?"

"Eighty seven percent."

"Adjust scans to full EM and overlay," the commander said aloud. "It's gotta be there," he added under his breath as the scan commenced and the display began to update. "Come on Max, you have to have survived."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving Folks

It's a day early I know, but seeing as I am taking the week off I have reason to be thankful today.

See you Monday ...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Week Off

It occurred to me a little bit ago that some people may have been expecting a post. I did mention in my post on Friday that I was taking the week off, but just in case ... I'll be back with be content on the 30th. Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Scrap - an unfinished story seed

I'm finding myself pressed for time this week, typical for a week before I take time off of work. As such I'm going to post this scrap in place of a finished Story Seed. I have come back to this one more than a few times to try and finish it or "fix what's wrong" and haven't been happy with it. Since it seems unlikely I will "crack that nut" I figure I'll post it as is to fill what would otherwise be a hole in the schedule.

By the by, I'm taking next week off for Thanksgiving though I hope to queue up some stuff for the week after to avoid being rushed as I was with today's post.

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What passed for rain on the streets was little more than a fall of filth from above. That's how it was in the world; the filth flowed down from above to those below - figuratively and literally. The streets were washed in the runoff waste coming from the tall towers and flying terraces of the more privileged. Folks down here look up and see not the sky but the dirty underside of their supposed betters. You take small comfort from the that fact you know that they too did the same until at some great height those rich bastards who juiced the world for all its worth like some kind of fruit stood under clear skies and admired the view from the top.

I shrugged the hood on my coat up and hunched my shoulders. Stepping out into the gutter the dirty precipitate washed over me.  I bowed my head, ducking under my hood as best I could and pushed through it. I glanced across the traffic heavy road and spied a drug deal in progress, a woman practicing that oldest of trades, and a pair of gangers sizing up the occupants of the street for a shake down. This place was flooded with filth both literal and less so.

Ahead of me I saw a grocer, his wares precious in this dark stinking place of deprivation, slip a nutratube to a young homeless child. The little boy seemed stunned, but quickly tucked the gift into his rags and darted away, slipping into a crumbling edifice that was now boarded over and slipping ever closer to the tipping point between building and rubble.

I was so taken aback by this sight that I nearly collided with a scrawny young woman. I mumbled some half hearted apology, still amazed that decency and mercy managed to find foothold here. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #55 - Good for a Laugh

OK, So technically this probably shouldn't be a Nuts & Bolts column since I won't be steering anywhere near game mechanics. On the other hand, I've been pretty liberal with my subjects already, and this is gaming related ... kinda.

Basically I want to point out a handful of comics I read regularly. Two of these are full on RPG related, and two are ... more tangential.

The Order of the Stick is the one webcomic I will never stop reading. At least until it reaches its final panel, which is something that may well happen. OotS focuses on a typical adventuring party in a D&D-esque world run with D&D-esque rules. Early on the humor came from the game behind the world as much as it did from in-strip developed humor. After 1000+ strips (!!) however it has shed most of its 4th wall breaking "poke fun at D&D" humor and uses the situations and character to develop the jokes instead. The characters have grown and changed as much as the intentionally simple artwork. Even if you don't play D&D (like me) I cannot recommend this one enough. Fair warning though, the irregular updates can get a bit frustrating for some.

Table Titans is a newer comic and lately has been rocking and rolling with four updates a week. This comic follows a GM and his group. The story is told in game and at table depending on the needs. There is probably a little less humor, but the stories as great, and this one is a great example of how I think most of us perceive our hobby.

Atomic Robo is a real comic turned webcomic that is still a real comic ... yeah, that sounds complicated, but basically after dealing with a small publisher the creators decided to turn Robo into a webcomic for free using Patreon to try and make their living. Atomic Robo is a non-linear tale of one Atomic Robo Tesla the nuclear powered "automatic intelligence" creation of Nikolai Tesla. The stories jump around to various points during Robo's life following his exploits as an "action scientist".  Also there is a FATE based game based on the comic now. It's a great read that is full of action and heart. If you like pulpy tales this one is for you.

The Last Halloween is the newest of these as far as I know. Told in all black and white, it's probably the least humor focused. The story of a little girl thrust into a world where monsters are not only real, but have taken action to take over the world it's a great "fish out of water" type tale on one side, and a wonderful "good monsters" tale on the other. Urban fantasy/horror that has a really different take.


I'm not getting anything out of promoting these comics. These already have pretty big followings as it stands, so it's not like some new indie thing I am trying to help stay alive.  No I wanted to single these out as examples of the kinds of storytelling that I strive for in my RPGs. They show that humor can have its place, that horror doesn't need to devolve into tropes, that high action can still have heart, and that a good RPG can bring together people in ways they didn't even know. It this the "good stuff" in my opinion. And if you aren't one who reads these already maybe check them out.