Friday, September 23, 2016

Gods of the Fall - Rebuilding Heaven

Housebreaking your divine pets can be a real labor.

You know what I like about games with the same mechanics? Stealing stuff! We're about to get seriously Strange here folks!

A major element of the setting of Gods of the Fall is the post-apocalyptic nature of the world, and two events contribute to the state of the Afterworld more than the rest: the fall of Elanehtar and the arrival of Nod. Elanehtar's fall and the death of the gods is the seminal event of the setting and in its wake not only is the world left without gods, but left without a heaven.

The book alludes to a couple of possibilities for characters to reestablish the world's divinity. The first is the hope that using enough cyphers and releasing their bound divinity will allow Elanehtar to reform within the Aether on its own. The second is that perhaps Elanehtar is gone forever, but that intrepid gods might find or create a new heaven within the Aether and call it their own.

As much as I like the idea of the players burning cyphers as quickly as possible with the hope that maybe they will be able to quicken the rebirth of Elanehtar it's the second option I find more compelling. It also reminds me an awful lot of a Genesis quest in The Strange and the birth of a new recursion.

Yes, that's right folks, I'm going to treat the realms of the Aether as recursions in the Strange (though without the Focus shifting properties). I could see a multiple adventure quest involving the players finding a sufficiently large piece of Elanehtar to act as a "reality seed" (The Strange page 138) or perhaps seeking out another suitable object. Then traveling to the Aether and investing that seed with some of their divine essence to birth a new heaven that they could then invest with their choice of natures and properties. Their heaven should have a connection to the Afterworld in a place strong with their worshipers that acts as a means for the gods to move between worlds.

Instead of having their heaven grow based on age as a recursion does I'd suggest that it grow in size as the players gain more followers and expand their influence in the world. This would mean that a pantheon with a few hundred followers could control a heaven between up to level 5 and possibly as big as a hundred miles across (the same as a developed recursion). It's even possible players may eventually gain enough followers to expand their realm even larger if they can count their worshipers in the thousands.

Additionally if the new pantheon has established a heaven and has enough followers their heaven should begin to be inhabited by seraphs or some other divine servant. The first of these may appear with as few as a dozen followers but these servants will be weak and few in number and likely not suitable to serve the gods in the Afterworld. Over time as the gods gain new worshipers these servants may grow strong enough to supplant seraphs as the gods servants both in heaven and the Afterworld. It is even possible that some of the monsters that exist in the Afterworld were once the servants of some pantheon from a fall long past.

Using these guidelines and the recursion rules from The Strange players and GMs can easily allow their god characters to found new heavens as part of their divine labors and personal mythologies. This will help grant an additional level of personalization to the game's story as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #91 - Hacking the Cypher System - All About that Base

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Three experience isn't much. It's less than a character advancement, but it's just the right amount for a lot of cool long-term benefits; like a home base. Of course there's precious little information in the CSR (page 222) for the "Home" long term benefit. It states that it is a "full-time residence" and "should be a secure place" but little more than that.

One assumes that most games, most GMs will have little reason to have that home be anything other than permanent (though it need not be if players aren't careful). But while a permanent home and safe haven is a useful boon, it may lack a little bit of the punch that some players want for an XP investment. As a result I've been considering additional boons and upgrades that one could add to such a home to both deepen the gameplay utility and also enhance the role play options.

Home is Where You Hang Your Hat

It's entirely reasonable that being at home should provide some passive benefits purely by virtue of being familiar and comfortable. A reasonable benefit of this comfort could be to make recovery rolls slightly faster, say 25%, making a night's rest take only 8 hours rather than 10 hours. This bonus should apply to the owner(s) of the home, but not to guests.
As an aside, the 10 hour "night's sleep" recovery came from Numenera which has longer days (28 hours), should a Cypher GM feel free to adjust this length for a more standard 24 hour day? Discuss.
Your home is also secure enough to store things in. These could be cyphers, artifacts, or regular equipment. I think the GM should honor this safety unless they use a GM Intrusion and doing so should really be related to the story; it would make sense for a villain to break into the hero's home and steal a powerful item, but that should be an earned story beat and not just "while you were out for moo shu somebody broke into your house and robbed you" kind of elements.

New Additions

At the base cost of 3 XP a home should be big enough for a single person's bedroom plus an appropriate amount of living space. If multiple characters want to invest in a home the cost to double the living space should be 2XP per doubling. Therefore a team of 3 characters could invest a total of 7 XP for a home big enough for 4 bedrooms and living space to match. In this way a group could afford a large home together, or a single character may pay to house multiple NPCs or allow themselves the luxury of space for guests.

Expanding the Rec Room

A comfortable and familiar bed is the least of things a home can offer. Defense, workshops, training areas, and the like should all be theoretically possible upgrades to a base home. For 2 XP a character or group can upgrade the capabilities of their home. This can cover most anything so an exhaustive list isn't possible but some ideas are:

  • Comfort (allows guests to receive the comfort bonus on recovery rolls reducing time by 25%)
  • Defense (grants an asset to all actions and defenses made when defending the home)
    • can be upgraded to "Well Defended" (or similar) to grant 2 assets
  • Hanger/Garage/Docks/Stables/etc (facilities for routine maintenance of associated craft type, can be bought multiple times for multiple types of vehicles)
  • Workshop (Smithy/Woodworking shop/Chemistry lab/Electrical lab/etc) (grants an asset for the crafting and repairs tasks associated with the workshop type)
    • can up upgraded to "Well Equipped" to grant 2 assets
  • Recreation Facilities (grants a +2 bonus to recovery rolls)
  • Medical Facilities (grants an asset for all medical tasks and treatment attempts, decreases recovery roll time by an additional 25%)
  • Barracks (can house up to 50 hirelings)
  • Armory (can safely house all manner of weaponry)
  • Vault (10'x10' vault can safely and/or securely store whatever is inside)
  • Power Generation (sufficient in size to power the home)
  • Hidden Location (ideal for a secret base or a backup home/bolthole/safehouse)
These upgrades may also be a good way to have GMs who use a more quantitative based money/loot system to get players to spend their money or loot. 

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. A fantasy world may have a robust system of magic that allows for teleportation circles and even magic to allow the inside of a home to be larger than the outside or fully extra-planar or extra-dimensional. A high tech science fiction setting may allow players to have a large space vessel as a home, capable of  transporting them from world to world, or facilities for cloning the dead and transferring brain recordings to the clone, creating a form of immortality. 

The sky's the limit (possibly literally). Do your players buy homes? Do you think you'd use these simple rules to allow players to construct powerful home bases and facilities?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Story Seed - Home

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"Come! This way!" Hedert led the way crossing through the golden passage. The was a sensation of both falling and leaping forth, and then the golden light faded giving way to a lush environment. A forest and plains, rising mountains and rocky obelisks, and in the distance the shattered architecture of a palace. As the others began to join him Hedert took a deep breath, feeling the air of this realm suffuse him with a feeling of might and health that he had never felt in the Afterworld.

"Is this? Are we?" came the tentative questions of the soft spoken woman behind him. Ariul clutched a short spear as though she had forgotten it was even in her hand. Her eyes were wide as saucers and a grin began to pull up the corners of her mouth.

"Elanehtar? Yes, I think so. Can you not feel the divine energy? If it is not then surely this is some other heaven, home of a pantheon long forgotten." Malbeth's deep voice spoke with its usual authority; if anybody was to be matter of fact when finding a heaven for the first time it would be he. He wove a hand over the staff he carried and studied the resulting glow, mumbling to himself and almost immediately becoming lost in some sort of magical divination.

"No, not the home of a lost and forgotten pantheon." Hedert pointed toward the ruins, "We will repair them and make this place ours. We are a family forged in divine labor and quenched in the blood of our sacrifice and this shall become our home, our realm." Behind him the others offered words of agreement and assent. They felt the words and intent bind them to their new realm, the same forces that had bound their fledgling pantheon together now bound them to their home.