Friday, July 22, 2016

Gods of the Fall - Descending to Soulrest

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How does one get to Soulrest? There are options in the Gods of the Fall text.
  • A played out silver mine on Seraph Isle. 
  • The Stairs of Oblivion.
  • The Gate of Horn on/in Nod.
But as the case often is, a GM may find a need to have a gateway to the realms of the dead somewhere else. Enter the architecture of stepwells. Most common in India these massive structures act as water reservoirs that people can descend into to remove water when needed. That may seem rather simple, but looking at the architecture of these monumental structures quickly banishes such thoughts. They are massive and beautiful, austere and mesmerizing. 

Take a look at that image above; it should be easy to be able to imagine this as a temple to some long forgotten god of the underworld. The depressed structure and the stairs down to the main "temple" symbolically linking the worshipper to the journey of the soul from the realm of life to the afterlife, to Soulrest. A site such as this could even hold a hidden or forgotten gateway to Soulrest that the living, should they be brave enough to venture the depths of the waters below, can use to venture to that land. 

Depending on the specific architecture of these sites some may be all but hidden from site with narrow, linear structures that cut deep into the earth but are only barely visible from the surface. Others may be more pond-line (stepped ponds) which are large portions of complexes and often adjacent to temples or other structure. Alternately yours may serve some different purpose and take a non-traditional form (non-traditional for the real world anyway).

What do you think you might use a stepwell for in your game?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #87 - Hacking the Cypher System - Power Shifts

I have ALL the Strength Power Shifts!
Art by Boris Vallejo

So ... Power Shifts. The Cypher System Rulebook (CSR) decided to give us the tools to turn our games not just to 11, but all the way to 15 (or so)! The CSR gives us these tools for use in Superhero games, but that's hardly the only way to use them. Gods of the Fall (GotF) has only recently come out and uses the same rules as "Divine Shifts" representing the godly might that the player can wield as they travel down the path to godhood. But what else can Shifts be used for, and how can we possibly expand on the current offerings?

The core Power Shifts as presented in the CSR are flat bonuses that expand a character's ability within a certain category. The core options for Shifts are:
  • Accuracy
  • Dexterity
  • Healing
  • Intelligence
  • Power
  • Resillience
  • Single Attack
  • Strength
Gods of the Fall removed the "Power" shift and added a "Special Ability" shift that, I think, is intended to do the same thing but make it more evident that it expands the scope of powers that are not attacks.
By the by, Power Shifts are basically a free level of always on Effort for the tasks related to that Shift's category. Some exceptions apply. Limited time only. Call now. 1-800-Shift-Me
Some of you may already have seen that some of these seem more martially focused than others, and Accuracy and Single Attack certainly are, and Healing (which is more Recovery than healing) is sort of combat adjacent if you catch my meaning. Still the others, especially Power, have the ability to affect wide scope change to a character's capabilities.

With the exception of Healing and Resilience (partially) all of these function in a more or less the same way. This is pretty handy for keeping mechanics simple and fairly light (lite?), but it stifles options at the design level slightly. Adding free Effort can only do so much right? Well, looking at how those aforementioned exceptions stack up can open up some potentially new options:
  • Raw Potential
    • Some people have more power to pull from than others. The character gains +8 pool points to distribute as they desire to their pools. 
  • Effort
    • The character always has a little bit more potential in reserve that they can apply to any task. The character gains +1 Effort rating, and increases their Effort limit accordingly from 6 to 7 (or beyond). What the character gives up in free Effort they gain in the ability to apply more Effort to any given task.
  • Cypher Bearer
    • Some people know best how to juggle the delicate power of cyphers without mishap. Increase your Cypher Capacity by 3.
  • Defense
    • Some heroes are just hard to hurt. You gain a shift on all Might, Speed, and Intellect defense tasks.
  • Social
    • Since Intellect doesn't cover social abilities this seems a natural add. This grants the usual free level of effort on ALL social tasks regardless of the type of social interaction. 
  • Others? If you have an idea I'd like to hear it.
But what about actually using Power Shifts? The CSR includes them for Superheroes, and GotF has them representing divine power, but what other genres? Science fiction, be it cyberpunk, or space opera, could easily integrate Power Shifts in the form of bionics or cybernetics or even genetic manipulations or alien attributes. I could easily imagine a combat cyborg with multiple ranks in Strength and Resilience for instance. 

An interesting twist on a horror game could be to give Power Shifts at the cost of character sanity or humanity. A vampire might have shifts in Strength and Dexterity, but is now nocturnal and harmed by sunlight and holy symbols. A werewolf may gain Dexterity and Healing shifts at the cost of losing control during the full moon and being burned by silver. Meanwhile a magic user may gain Power or Single Attack shifts at the cost of points from their intellect pool as their sanity crumbles. 

What about a straight up action hero game? Maybe the characters gain just a single shift to show they are action heroes, or maybe they gain none, but at any time they can make use of one (or maybe more?) shift at the cost of sliding down the damage track one step immediately afterwards. This let's the characters execute the occasional epic feat but bruises and bashes them, upholding the longstanding tradition of action movie heroes ebbing and surging throughout the film's climax. 

What other genres can you think of to use power shifts for? What about other unique ways to implement them rather than just building different flavors of superheroes or gods?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Story Seed - Prison

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Nulumriel was too powerful. None but a god could drive her out of the Nightlands, and the gods were all dead. Unless ... We were probably mad to try it. We would likely come to regret it. We had little other options, and desperation makes for strange bedfellows.

My grandfather used to tell us stories of the dragon Torryn. Torryn, if he was real, had been banished to a prison in the far west by the gods of old. Powerful even by the standard of dragons Torryn had set his sights on Elanehtar itself. Seeking to slay and replace Verecocho as the god of magic Torryn assaulted the gates of heaven and earned the ire of all the gods. Even defeated and broken the gods of old found that Torryn was too powerful, his magics too potent to risk slaying him and freeing his soul from his mortal body.

A prison was forged. Aren stole Torryn's original name, seeking to reduce the dragon's power with it, and in chains of soulsteel, in a cage of platinum, the dragon was caged. Far to the west, beyond the deserts and the mountains. A prison chained to the earth. A dragon undying. A threat even the gods feared.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Last Week Today - Week of July 11 - 17, 2016

Story Seed - Lost Hope

Nuts & Bolts - Why Mutant Crawl Classics?

Gods of the Fall - Some Thoughts on Ravers


Have you heard about this little game called Gods of the Fall? I mentioned it a couple weeks ago when I discussed my early opinions. Well if you like the Cypher System and want to know more you may consider joining +James Walls +Ryan Chaddock and I this evening! We will be spending an hour discussing Gods of the Fall on CypherLive!