Friday, October 7, 2016

Gods of the Fall - Gods of the [blank] part 1 - Gods Against the Fall


Gods of the Fall presents a specific game world with a fairly specific set up for the player characters. They're the next gods. Potent. Formidable. And needing to prove themselves. There there are a multitude of other stories that can be told using Gods of the Fall. I touched on this briefly last week, when discussing how you can change the award rate of Divine Shifts and change the way the game plays out over the course of a campaign.

The rules are there to facilitate the story. In the case of the Afterworld this means taking characters who are trying to step into the shoes of the dead gods and restore order to the world. But a GM could just as easily tell a story about demi-gods trying to earn their godhood by doing heroic deeds. The characters could be recruited by gods (or the scions of gods) who are the footsoldiers in a war against the titans or rival gods. Or maybe the characters are part of a pantheon wide civil war. The options are there for a GM who wants to make some changes to the lore and the world, or to lift the mechanics into a new setting entirely, or an old one waiting to be used.

Since October is Halloween month I'm going to dress up Gods of the Fall for the holiday every week. Starting with....

Fighting the Fall

Something happened. A portion of Elenehtar has started to crystallize out of  the the aether, becoming solid in the real world. It's very real weight threatens to drag the whole of heaven from its lofty place and smash it into the world like a fallen star. The gods aren't going to go quietly however and have begun to wage war against the forces that threaten to drag them to their doom. Their children, scions born of unions with mortal men and women are being awakened to their heritage and recruited into the fight.

Character creation is unchanged, but where the characters would have to grasp for their own glory they have it handed to them by their parents. Where these nascent gods needed to first determine how to take the next step, they are instead given tasks and labors by their parents and other gods as the war wages around them. In time they may join the climatic final battle against those forces who seek the downfall of heaven.

The world is different, as Elanehtar slowly begins to crystallize into the realms of mortals the mortal realm of Cavazel is pressed into a holy war against forces beyond them. The gods press the mortals for greater and greater worship and sacrifice while arming mortal warriors for a battle against an unknown enemy. To the west the city-states of Corso and Somorrah stand at the brink of civilization, soon to be pulled into the war on one side, or the other. The people of Cryserech continue to worship life and revel in a simple daily life. Meanwhile strange quakes shake the earth with greater frequency and strength and some wonder if some long buried bane is waking to slay those who imprisoned it.

Adventure Ideas
Your divine father knows the location of a very powerful, very dangerous weapon. He requires you and your companions to retrieve it from the Dragon Nulumriel who hides in the west, banished beyond the lands claimed by the gods. He warns you that she has power and knows how to use it, but that success will give the gods a greater chance to win the war and prevent the fall of Elanehtar.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #93 - Hacking the Cypher System - Insight

What is Insight?
1. an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding
OK, OK, Insight is a new mechanic to the Cypher System that was added in the CSR. It didn't exist in Numenera or The Strange, but it sure could be ported backwards if one so desired. You can find the full rules on page 216 of the CSR. Briefly, it is a means for players to establish facts within the game that will hold true unless they act upon them in some way. E.g. the players can use Insight to know that the security for a bank is always at its weakest on Tuesdays when a less motivated guard is on duty. So long as they don't do something to change this it will be true and remain true.

Using insight

The Insight mechanic is one I don't see used or discussed very often. It may just be that this is a case of being a newer rule, or it may be something that people who started playing with Numenera and/or The Strange don't think of. It's a shame because insight has a lot of potential for any kind of campaign. It's an especially powerful tool when players are trying to plan as it allows them to gain facts on behaviors that they can then plan around as in the example of the bank security above.

When it comes to Insight it's a two sided usage. The GM needs to be ready for it and to (ideally) encourage it to some extent until it is adopted into the player skill/tool set, and it also needs to be embraced by the players as a valid use of XP during play. This is one of the potential stumbling blocks for Insight as there are certainly already a number of in-game XP options and there are absolutely some players who are disinclined to spend XP in game and instead hoard the XP for advancements.

Generally, however, the normal solutions still function. If you have an XP hoarder you can either allow it, knowing full well that they are telling you with their choices what they consider important for XP.  For others it may be worth the effort to create player reference sheets for in-game XP use, or add Insight to an existing XP reference tool. Likewise, as mentioned above, the GM may want to be prepared to ask the PCs if they want to use Insight for the first few sessions until the players are used to it.

From a usage side the advantages for the players and GM are numerous. As stated, Insight allows for behavioral facts to be established that can help players to makes plans in game around known facts. GMs can plan for Insights as clues in a mystery or specific location factors that they can suggest as well. This may help players get used to Insight and also help the GM during session planning, even if the insights are not used they can be potential axes around which to plan parts of the game.

Power Shift - Insightful

As I have found myself wont to do I am seeing more and more ways to expand on the existing Power Shift rules (as discussed here) into new areas. Insight is no different and I think a new Power Shift that allows a limited amount of "free" insight (i.e. without spending experience) to be used by the character might make for a good Shift. As a result I suggest the following new Power Shift:
Insightful - The character gains 1 free insight  per game session that they can use without spending XP to pay for. With two shifts this free insight now refreshes after every 10 hour recovery roll. With three shifts the character now refreshes their insight with every recovery roll.  
This shift would work well for many character types. A warrior may be able to use this to aid in battle planning, or setting ambushes or traps. A thief could use this to establish a guard pattern or even an understanding of the locks used in a building (and then potentially gain a master key). A caster type could utilize Insight to determine the location of places of power, the timing of powerful events, or even the typical offensive magics used by a rival (and thus be better equipped to defend).

So, does your group use Insight? Do you think you'd use it more if you could invest Power Shifts into Insight?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Story Seed - Titanslayer

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Kellac cautiously edged forward. The cavern was dark as death. His foot edged forward and he winced as a rock rolled away from him clattering across the rocky floor before silence abruptly took it. And then a crash as it landed in the pitch black below. The sound echoed about in the dark like a thunderous roar.

Kellac caught a light out of the corner of his eye. He turned toward it slowly. The darkness began to recede slowly as a blood red skull began to glow. Kellac suspected that this was Marwolaeth, titan of destruction. Marwolaeth, slayer of Gods. Marwolaeth, the undying darkness.

Marwolaeth, the last Titan.

The skull glowed from within and below. Illuminated by hellish red light like the pits of hell, or the burning of bodies. The skull seemed so small. Kellac knew that without reference, without knowing how close it was it could be any size, but for a moment he considered that maybe Marwolaeth was so diminished in power that it was rendered down to the size of a man.

He was proven wrong as the glow intensified. Great man sized claws and a cavernous ribcage became obvious as the limned with sullen vermillion. The titan heaved itself upward now towering over Kellac as scarlet gasses and smoke poured from the craggy joints of its misshapen form.

Kellac drew his blade, and willed forth power into it. Verdant flames leapt from the blade and cast a glow about the cavern. Kellac saw just how close to the edge of the precipice he was as he raised a gauntleted hand in warding.

Sunday, October 2, 2016