Friday, February 24, 2017

Gods of the Fall - A Plague Upon Your House

I've written about using illness in gaming before. That post was pretty general but I think there were a lot of salient points there for the average game.

Gods of the Fall isn't your average game however.

The setting of the Afterworld is, in a way, a two-fold setting. You have the mortal level of a high fantasy world where the gods have died, despots rule, and darkness pervades much of the land. And then you have the god level where the players can seize the power of heaven for themselves, eradicate despots, venture to hell to destroy demons like no other, and eventually bring about lasting change to the world.

Everything in that original post works just fine for the mortal level of Gods of the Fall (or any other setting), but when you have godlings as characters you have to up the ante a bit. Diseases that can effect young gods need to be more than just powerful versions of mortal disease. If you can normally run around calling down divine fire and slaying demons getting the sniffles is ... disappointing.

It's also somewhat silly. Characters can and likely will have a shift or two of divine stamina among them. These characters are going to be unlikely to fail a save versus disease. Godly diseases probably shouldn't infect characters the same way as mortal diseases. Communicable diseases of the mind, or magical (like a curse) or even those that infect based on beauty or hideousness, or skills of certain kind. Its also possible that one simply cannot resist some divine diseases and must either ride them out, or possibly even carry out a divine labor to become cured!

The symptoms should also be similarly grand in scope. A couple of points of damage is probably not going to be very interesting (or crippling), but those same couple of points will be downright terrifying if damage taken from the disease is not recoverable until the disease is first cured. Similarly a step down the damage track is debilitating but the loss of divine shifts is both more interesting and more in theme with a divine disease.

Another possible symptom of a divine disease could be a geas, a forced behavior that is brought on by the disease such as being unable to refuse hospitality, the inability to use certain items or consume certain foods, and similar. Look at Gaelic mythology for some examples of this. Breaking a geas, if the character is able, often strips them of their power or otherwise makes them weak.
A really brutal example of this is the Irish figure CĂșchulainn. He has a geas to never eat dog meat, and he is also bound by a geas to eat any food offered to him by a woman. When a witch learns of these she is able to bring about his downfall by offering him dog meat. With no way to avoid breaking one of his geas he is rendered powerless and eventually perishes. 
When thinking up new diseases for god level characters the GM needs to be thinking WAY outside the box. So to close this blog out here's a couple of ideas to get you started.

  • Nod's Lament - This disease seems to come out of nowhere and causes horrific nightmare and paranoia and even waking visions of terror. It grips a potential god whenever they try and rest. Every time a character tried to take a rest to recover pool points they must succeed on an Intellect defense roll with a level equal to the number of points rolled to recover. Failure results in the character regaining none of the points and wasting the rest opportunity. Recovery is automatic after successfully resting three times.
  • Freedom's Bane - Contracted as a result of interacting with Seraph's of Sin the character gains a random geas as determined by the GM. This gaes remains until the character completes a labor or slays the seraph (if it still lives). 
    • Note you may want to use a GM Intrusion when using this one the first time as there is no chance to "save vs disease"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #108 - Hacking the Cypher System - Initial Costs

Let's talk about Initial Costs. The Cypher System Rulebook details Initial Costs on page 195 (Numenera Core pg 89, The Strange Core pg. 102). Briefly, Initial Costs are an upfront cost of pool points to even attempt a task. Normally tasks in Cypher System are free unless they are an Ability with a cost, or the character uses Effort. This can be offset by Edge. Initial Cost comes right off the top.

You want to shove that door open? It's a level 4 task and has an initial cost of 2 Might just to try it, any Effort adds on top. It's important to note that Edge can only be applied once per task attempt and so if you have an Edge of 1 and apply Effort to the aforementioned task you end up spending a total of 4 Might (2 Initial Cost, plus 3 for Effort, minus 1 for Edge).

I think Initial Costs are underutilized. I cannot recall the last time I saw them at the table as a player or in a written adventure. I must even admit that I don't make use of them very often. I should though, and so should you. Initial costs are a great way to held GMs control player resources. Cypher System characters are quite robust. Pool points and Edge make it easy for players to execute certain kinds of tasks at will or with very little cost. Likewise recovery rolls are easy and plentiful early on, and further extend the characters' resources. Moderate use of Initial Costs can help a GM to either deplete character resources or to help make one in-game choice a little less attractive than another.

Consider if you have two ways that characters can progress out of a current scene. One is easy but leads to a planned ambush or other trouble. The other avoids the trouble. You could make the other option harder, or you could give it an initial cost that must be paid. So the players can choose the easy but risky option or the harder costly version that is safer.

I'm going to make an effort to start using Initial Costs more. I think it has the possibility to make games better and allow me as a GM to substitute costs for difficulty levels. Most importantly I think it'll help me control player facing resources.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Story Seed - Across the Sea

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"Tell me again about how the gods saved the city papa," Hiella pleaded as she wriggled under the covers.

"OK dear, ok, but tomorrow something different," Wollace said softly.

"Long ago, the old titans, those that came before the gods, lived in another realm and helped the people who worshiped them. Our city was a great center of their worship, and all the titans looked upon our ancestors with favor. The great temples held festivals and worship days and offered sacrifices to the titans and in return the city received their protection and grace.

"Many years passed. Many centuries. The city grew and the titans remained pleased by the devotion that the city gave them. The city was blessed, and obviously the favored home of the titans when they were on the mortal plane.

"None know what happened the day the titans died, or how a divine could even die, but there was a great sound of thunder from across the ocean. Soon a wave of water unlike any ever seen by man or divine came rushing over the ocean. The titans knew that whatever disaster had befallen the west was divine in nature, and would claim them as well. The four greatest patrons of the city sought to protect their worshipers and together they expended the last of their considerable might to raise the city above the water and out of reach of the great wave.

"The titans all perished that day, but the four who saved the city did not disappear. They became stone and continue to hold the city aloft to this day." Wollace leaned down to kiss his daughter on the head, "And that is how the titans saved our home."