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 STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)

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Chris24601
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:12 am

One update and some playtester commentary I'm not 100% sure what to do with just yet today.

The update is pretty brief; I'm going to have to adjust the Bodyguard utility so that Guardians get Enforcers instead. In fact I think I'll have to adjust it so that no PC can have one of those comps who matches their own role. Interestingly, its only the Guardian + Bodyguard that creates an inbalance due to the inherent catch-22 they can set up.

For the Slayer + Enforcer and Enabler + Medic its that they're actual trap options... the enforcer does less damage with its minor action than a Slayer does with its minor action and the medic does less healing/buffing with its minor action than an enabler does with its minor action.

Terrors & Tactics doesn't have a lot of actual trap options. Some may only be super-useful in certain types of campaigns (i.e. you're running a mostly city-based campaign or one that focuses on palace intrigue), but none are just flat-out wastes of selections on their own.

So just to make it even harder to build a gimped character unintentionally I plan to make the rule a blanket for all the roles instead of just due to the overpowered guardian + bodyguard issue.

* * * * * *

Now for the playtester commentary. Basically, it has become rather obvious over the course of playtesting that NO ONE ever picks a non-dark Elf. I quizzed some of my playtesters about it and the remark was that the Caste-based elves didn't feel like they'd ever be a good fit for a mixed-species group and even in an all-elf group the caste system means its not all that fun to play anything but a high elf since otherwise you're basically any high elf in the party's slave and why would a low elf ever even be allowed to adventure with the high or common elves in the first place unless they were playing the role of pack-bearer via the sidekick class.

By contrast, the dark-caste elves were pretty popular as a choice. Presence is useful for any Skilled class, plus Sorcerers, Astral casters and Cunning Primals and an elf could have a bonus to ANY other ability score depending on its original caste. Rolling twice for initiative, getting some bonuses when you spend focus on certain things and getting effectively a free utility out of it, not to mention the immortal and attractive angsty outcast angle of the dark elf option (which also lets them pick ANY background rather than a limited pallet) is like catnip to some gamers.

One of the better suggestions from one of the players was that I should just flip the script and make "Outcast" the default presumption for player elves and make "Caste" the optional selection instead of "Dark Elf."

I'd probably have to rewrite the fluff a bit to put a little more focus on the life of the outcasts and perhaps change the name of the Caste-based culture around such that "Elf" now means "outcast" in their language (i.e. the Caste-based culture would call themselves the Alfair or Sidhe or The Fey or something while the "dark caste" would be called the Elves), but on the other hand it would make the default PC far more compatible with a typical PC adventuring party.

I dunno... I'm just throwing it out here for feedback because its a rather interesting late-game set of feedback that I really couldn't have gotten prior to looking at what multiple different people chose to build.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:21 pm

In both instances, it sounds like you've discovered and solved the problem rather neatly. I like the one player's suggestion of flipping the script on the elves. As far as the new species name, I'm leaning towards alfar. Sidhe has pronunciation issues for casual gamers that you may draw in. I don't know if you have fey creatures in your setting, so there may be some confusion with regard to the species names. Perhaps the elves/alfar that remained loyal to the elven/alfar city call themselves fey, pretending to be something they're not anymore.

With regard to the vampire thing, I think that your problem is sort of an "Our Dwarves Are The Same" and "Our Vampires Are Different" situation: there are so many questions about vampires in a setting: how do they drink blood, and what does it do for them? Does it grant additional powers, or does it merely preserve the vampire. If a vampire doesn't drink blood, does it rot, or does it simply age, or go crazy? What powers does it have, and does it acquire them as it ages, or is it related to the blood the vampire drinks? Does the vampire have a demonic, bat-like super mode or game face, and if so, is it permanent with age, or again related to the vampire's power? I've seen vampire depictions where they are literally rotting corpses and bat-like monsters that grow flesh masks to appear human, and that's within just the Dresden Files. The penanggalan's been called a vampire by some folks, and that thing's head comes off, organs trailing behind it as it flies around to suck blood. I'd say you've got your work cut out for you there.

I've had the idea that maybe vampires are born of a curse, and that there are different strains of curses explaining different types of vampires. What are your thoughts on the subject?
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:30 am

Regarding the existence of Fey... its complicated. A lot of what D&D lumped under Fey actually fall under two different headings in the T&T cosmology. The short version is that critters that embody natural forces (rivers, trees, rocks, fire, wind) are Avatars (which include humanoids, giants, sapient beasts and sprites) while critters that embody intangible concepts (dreams, civilization, invention, fear, death) fall under the Astral heading with the Elves and Gnomes specifically as embodied dreams.

The elves are, in a sense, actually a LOT closer to Tolkien's versions than D&D's have become in the sense that their non-dragged into the mortal world by the Cataclysm equivalents are basically the angels/servants of the goddess of dreams (the chief goddess of the elves)... one of the reasons why, when my niece wanted to know what race she could pick to play which would be essentially a winged human/near-human it was pretty much a no-brainer to make it a variety of elf (and those even picked up the name Archon). They aren't the masters of Arcane magic, they are servants of the Astral powers (i.e. the equivalent of the divine power source in D&D).

I've been pondering it over the course of the day and I'm not 100% sure I need a different name for the caste-following elves after all. Especially with some particular revisions that even preceded this the divide between a caste elf and a dark elf (technically elf of the dark caste) is entirely a social construct. An elf is labeled dark by committing some public taboo, but there's nothing magical about it (particularly ever since I adjusted the dark elf option such that elves labeled as dark by their own actions keep the astral spark benefit and only elves born to other dark elves get the 'any utility' replacement benefit).

Instead the name I need to come up with something pithy to mean "elf in good standing with the elven caste system" and what minor trait it grants in exchange for limiting your background selection by caste, your choice of religion and your spellcasting path (if any). Probably something like increasing the value of their allegiances when dealing with other elves also in good standing with the castes (versus the penalty to allegiance modifiers that had been associated with the dark elf option).

* * * *

My first thoughts are I don't think vampires are such a critical element that a fantasy setting will collapse if they aren't present by name. My main concern would be that any vampire I were to include has to fit into the existing cosmology rather than having to torture the existing cosmology into fitting a traditional vampire into it.

The undead cosmology is pretty simple... Souls originate from the Source and usually return there in death (what happens next; obliteration, reincarnation, hypostatic union; is a key point of debate amongst the many religions of the setting). The exceptions to that general principle are that the souls of those who are exceptionally devout to the Astral gods instead travel to their astral realms and those who don't want to go to the Source (whether because they fear judgement or annihilation or have unfinished business that keeps them from going 'into the light' as it were) go instead to the Shadow World and become some type of undead creature by merging with their shadow.

Those newly undead souls that can possess their corpse (either on their own or with the help of a necromancer) become Wights. Those without bodies becomes Wraiths/Spectres (and can slip into the Mortal world either on their own in places where the barriers are weak or by being summoned by a necromancer).

The mindless undead are basically just puppets animated through the general essence of the Shadow Word by necromancers (though they might give control over them to other intelligent undead).

The main loophole in this would be the Necromancers. They're mortals who rip out part of their own souls and let the Shadow seep into the wound. As they grow in power this darkness within them grows; transforming them from a mortal into an undead Lich. Physically a Lich is mostly just a type of Wight that controlled its own transition into an undead state and so retains the use of the shadow magic it had learned in life (arcane, astral and primal magic does not function for the undead; the Arcane Web doesn't recognize them as a living user, astral pacts end at death and primal spirits regard the undead as an anathema to Creation).

My cosmology is very specific that souls cannot be trapped or damned by anything other than their own choices. You can't be "cursed" to become some type of intelligent undead just by being killed by or fed upon by them. This is utterly non-negotiable (to the point I'd scrap the entire project before I'd give up the point). Something might inhabit the body after the soul has left, but the soul itself is inviolate except by its own free choice.

If I really had to nail down some type of concept, I think a vampire would be much more akin to a Necromancer; someone who damned themselves to unlife via shadow magic and uses stolen lifeblood to maintain the facade of life (basically the classical interpretation of Vlad Tepes). Unlike the Necromancer, they focus on using the shadow to empower their own physical form (basically the shadow equivalent of a shifter) instead of creating shadow-fueled minions. Any spawn it might create would be soulless things (akin to animated dead) unless the victim was themselves wanted to become a vampire of their own free will.

Basically, it feels like something I'd want to deal with in relation to exploring the Shadow spellcasting path more deeply (probably "Blood Wastes of Bestia"); but not something defined enough to be its own thing in a monster section where I've already got two similar opponents (necromancers and ghouls) and am already fighting the page count to get a representative sample of all the opponent types as it is.

To wit... here is the statblock for the ghoul, just so you can have an idea of what I mean about already having something in the ballpark of a vampire;

Ghoul_______________________________________200 XP
Level 8 Opportunist (Medium Shadow Humanoid; Undead)


Initiative 7
Defenses Armor 16, Dodge 13, Fort 12, Will 14
EDGE 80 (bloodied 40); Focus 1
Immune shadow; Resist cold, toxic; Vulnerable astral, fire
Speed 6 paces; burrow 4, climb 3, jump 3, swim 3
Free Strike 12

TRAITS
Consume Appearance: As a free action when a ghoul consumes the flesh
of a humanoid (living or dead), it can take on its appearance (including clothing)
and gains the victim’s memories until it feeds again. The form is flawless (no
disguise check needed), but does not function when in direct sunlight.

Undead: Immune to starvation, suffocation and environmental heat/cold.
Takes damage equal to its level at the start of any turn it is exposed to direct
sunlight (heavy clothing or overcast skies prevents this damage).

MAIN ACTIONS
Grasping Claws: Melee 1 (two attacks) / 8 vs. Armor / 10 damage
(16 critical) and target is grabbed (until escape). It can grab only one creature
at a time.

Entrancing Gaze: Melee 10 / 6 vs. Will / 20 psychic damage (32 critical)
and the target is tethered to the ghoul (ENT). This attack is always non-lethal and
stages to compelled if it reduces a target to 0 Edge.

MINOR ACTIONS
Entrancing Draw: Pull one creature tethered to the ghoul up to 2 paces.
Special (use action): Pull the target 4 extra paces per focus spent.

Savage Bite: Deal 12 damage to an adjacent grabbed creature (24 if target
is vulnerable to untyped damage) and the ghoul can use Consume Appearance if it desires.
Special (use action): The target becomes vulnerable to untyped damage (ENT) or
the ghoul regains Edge equal to the damage dealt for 1 focus each.


CHECKS
Ability Checks STR 5, END 3, REF 5, WIT 4, INT 4, PRE 5; Base Load 60 lb.
Skill Checks Deceit 10 (15 impersonation w. stolen memories), Persuade 10
Senses darkvision

VARIANTS
Lesser Ghoul (100 XP): Level 3, Initiative 4, Focus 0, Edge 40 (bloodied 20);
Damage – free strike 7, grasping claws 6 (9), entrancing gaze 11 (18), savage bite 7 (14);
STR 4, END 2, REF 4, WIT 3, INT 3, PRE 4; Deceit 7 (12), Persuade 7

Greater Ghoul (400 XP): Level 8 (Elite), Focus 2, Edge 160 (bloodied 80);
Damage –as above, but grasping claws 20 (32); Savage bite ends one condition affecting the ghoul.

Ghoul Lord (600 XP): Level 13 (Elite), Initiative 9, Focus 4, Edge 240 (bloodied 120);
Damage – free strike 17, grasping claws 28 (45), entrancing gaze 28 (45), savage bite 17 (34);
STR 6, END 4, REF 6, WIT 5, INT 5, PRE 6; Deceit 12 (17), Persuade 12;
Savage Bite ends one condition affecting the ghoul.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:31 am

With regard to the "elf in good standing," my first thought was "light elf," one who in the caste system's doctrine is still blessed by the light of the goddess of dreams and the astral realm.

With regard to the soul thing, I like it. I was on the same page with regard to 4e's "some souls that go to the gods are stuck in the outlying edges of the god's realm" concept as expressed in The Plane Above, but I didn't extend the concept to vampirism. That was a bonehead move on my part, especially since I loathe settings where there isn't a Heaven, or where Heaven is as bad as Hell - I basically had to ignore The Plane Above for 4e. If I were the Demon Emperor in your setting, I would be doing whatever I could to spread the idea that reuniting with the source results in obliteration, thereby deceiving people into seeking an undead rebirth.

Speaking of vampires, I've read of a couple of settings where the soul was either replaced by a demon or the human made the choice to become a vampire. The Red Court in the Dresden Files, for example, get afflicted with a blood thirst, but in order to become a true Red Court vampire, you have to make the choice to kill someone by feeding on them. The White Court, emotion eaters that feed on lust, fear, or despair, work the same way - they're born with a spiritual demon embedded in their psyche, but they can smother the demon early by avoiding the first, inevitable feeding. Even after that first feeding, a White Court vampire can still exercise self-control and free will, as Thomas Raith did. Black Court vamps haven't been nailed down, but they're more rotting, blood-drinking corpses.

One interesting version of the vampire I read about was Peter Nealen's version, in the Silver Cross and Winchester series, about modern-day Catholic witch hunters. In that setting, vampires are lone super-predators made when another vampire bites a human and injects a 100% fatal venom. At the moment of the victim's death, a demon will sometimes come to the victim and offer a deal: become a vampire and you won't die. The blood drinking is a reinforcement of this pact with Hell, one that the victim can only escape by redeeming themselves and allowing the venom to run its course. The victim may still die, but at least their soul is redeemed. The reason that vampires don't run everything in that setting is that they rarely create new vampires - they reason that every new vampire created is just more competition, and oftentimes the people who accept the demons' pact aren't the kind who like to share power.

With your setting, as you pointed out, vampires are like a cross between a necromancer and a ghoul. Really, if I'm interpreting the statblock right, a ghoul could drink someone's blood and gain the benefits of Consume Appearance, making them vampires in all but name.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:53 pm

The 'all but name' thing gets especially interesting when you start to look at "vampire" myths across cultures and how similar they are.

I didn't include them in my version, but some ghouls in Arabian myth are purported to have the ability to change into animals (most often jackals) or mist and to also drink blood as well as eat the flesh of the dead to gain their appearance.

The Chinese hungry dead are believed to be souls that escaped from Hell, inhabit their corpses and consume either the flesh, blood or even breath (i.e. life force/ki) of their victims (depending on the myth). The Wendigo is also similar in Native American myth and feeds on human flesh (and some myths attribute excessive greed for turning someone into a Wendigo).

The common thread is that they are some type of evil spirit (be it the soul of a wicked person in life or a literal demon) inhabiting a corpse-like form that needs to consume something associated with life (flesh, blood, breath) from human victims in order sustain itself. Hypnotic gazes to lure in prey and assuming animal and/or mist-like forms are also quite common traits attributed to them.

You could essentially say, in the original myths (vs. the D&D penchant of taking every possible name for something and making it a different monster), that Ghoul (Ghul) and Vampire (Dhampyr) are just the Arabian and Eastern European words for the same general concept of the Hungry Dead.

So you could easily swap out "flesh" for "blood" in the Ghoul description and they'd be pretty much a European vampire. You could rename the "Savage Bite" action to "Inhale Life" and have one of the Ki-consuming Chinese Hungry Dead.

One reason I do prefer the ghoul over the vampire as well is that I've been going outside of the typical European pool for things like demons and such because I don't have the OGL to fall back on anymore and the Babylonian/Assyrian/Arabian/Kabbalah mythologies are a less traveled source of ideas to draw from (and which also fit better with my cosmology). So my demons include ones like the Gallu, Shedim, Labasu, Lilin, Efreet and Leviathan (I'd rather not tempt fate with calling the primordial sea monster Tiamat or Bahamut despite those names coming from Babylonian/Persian myths for essentially the same critter). The Ghoul comes right from those same sources.

* * * *

Quote :
If I were the Demon Emperor in your setting, I would be doing whatever I could to spread the idea that reuniting with the source results in obliteration, thereby deceiving people into seeking an undead rebirth.
Undeath probably would be the go-to method for those who feared the afterlife if the Astral Gods hadn't basically stolen that shtick by essentially offering their own "Better Than Average Place" to their faithful.

The Astral Gods are basically the "safe bet" of the afterlife. They don't promise the perfect paradise of the Old Faith, but they can provide definitive proof of a reasonably comfortable continuation of existence for your soul after death if you can prove to one or more of the Astral gods you deserve it. Basically you can gamble on Heaven vs. Oblivion or you can take the sure thing of uploading your consciousness into a digital world and avoid the risk of what happens after you die entirely.

This also creates an interesting theological debate in relation to the Old Faith. Are the Astral Domains that souls who follow the Astral Gods...

A) Another type of Hell (forever separated from the perfect paradise with The Source and the 'good enough' will eventually become stale and torturous).

B) A "patch" on reality that The Source allows to keep as many souls from going to the Demon Emperor's realm as might otherwise (i.e. something akin to the concept of Limbo).

C) Some sort of waystation where souls not worthy of Heaven, but not deserving of Hell, can eventually work through their issues and eventually move on to The Source.

As with all things cosmological, I'm leaving the precise answer up to the individual GM for their campaign because actual hard answers to those questions makes the various religions all feel a bit hollow and unrealistic (if there is an objective knowable truth about the afterlife why would ANYONE believe something different?). In my cosmology the choices are to take a gamble on Heaven (with Oblivion if you're wrong) if you go with the Old Faith or go with the sure thing of an okay Astral Afterlife by worshiping the Astral Gods, but also risk missing out on Real Heaven (and possibly even being in a "Fake Good Place" version of Hell) if the Old Faith is actually right.

The net result is that actual Undeath is basically reserved for those who really want to say "I did it MY WAY" since the Astral gods still demand certain things from you in terms of proving your belief to earn entry. The Demon Emperor doesn't care WHAT you do with the power of the Shadow World... he's already accomplished his end goal for a given soul by separating another soul forever from the light of The Source.

* * * * *

Which brings me to my next related topic... the more I flesh out the monsters, the more I have to examine them in light of my cosmology and I'm not certain the distinction between Outer Darkness and The Shadow World still works as I'd originally conceived it.

My original concept had the Shadow world as a bit more 'natural'... essentially the World casts a Shadow (just as it has a reflection) and those which fear the light of the Source (i.e. dead with unfinished business) naturally flocked there. It was not evil in and of itself, any more than actual islands that would comprise "The Pirate Isles" are evil because it has pirates living on and operating from them. The barriers could be thin because it wasn't a naturally evil place, just a place that evil flocked to.

But then I hit upon the idea that it was the creation of the Demon Emperor because only in that perfect shadow could it exist entirely outside the light of the Source (whereas even the other demons existed in the Outer Darkness where The Source is still visible as an impossible to reach light in the distance) and that started to change.

I'm not sure the distinction between the Shadow World and the Outer Darkness can survive that.

If it is home to the Demon Emperor then either the Shadow World should be beyond the Great Barrier erected to hold out the Demons or the Demon Emperor managed to escape the fate of all its brethren and has no great Abyss between it and the Mortal World to block its actions. It also makes the existence of the Shadelings problematic as they're basically the creations of the Demon Emperor (and  I already vacillate by the day on whether player dragons need to be revised towards the Avatar end of the spectrum and leave the pure Demon variety to the NPC only category as it is).

One possible solution is that the Shadow World being the creation of the Demon Emperor is an actual myth (i.e. its untrue) and it too is trapped in the Outer Darkness just like all the other demons. Perhaps it created Shadow Magic as a means to corrupt mortals, but the existence of the Shadow World on its own is a natural phenomenon just like solid objects having a shadow is. This makes Shadowborn, including the Shadeling as 'natural' creatures with the distinction being ability to interact socially with fellow PC's the main dividing line on playability between them and other Shadowborn. They're a consequence of Man choosing to murder others as in the original plan for creation the shadow and living person would be united for the entire lifetime of the person.

Another solution is that the Demon Emperor resides in the lowest depths of the Shadow World not because it created the Shadow World, but because it is the Demon Emperor's specially created prison. Its offenses were so great that The Source/Primal Spirits locked it into its own personal prison completely out of The Source's light and completely separated from all the demons it once ruled (basically the greatest Hell conceivable for it). The lost souls, undead and shadowborn are the result of souls making their way to this place for their own reasons and Shadow Magic is either making use of the natural properties of the realm that keeps the Demon Emperor imprisoned or some gambit of the Demon Emperor to try and subvert and/or escape its prison.

Shadowborn in this case probably need to be revised into a sort of "glitch" akin to the Elves pulled into the Mortal World that was caused by the Cataclysm since creating hostile creatures inimical to life itself is not something The Source or Primal Spirits would have included as a property of the Shadow World as Prison concept.

Shadows given life by the chaotic energies of Cataclysm though could still work... though they'd probably need to be a self-perpetuating species which robs them of a lot of the creepy factor of "shadows of murdered X" that they have now and probably means reworking Shadelings into a general "Shadowborn" species since I don't like the notion of irredeemable species as a whole (the current Shadowborn aren't really a species... they're a side-effect of death by violence; there are no baby goblins, orcs or ogres).

A third is that the Shadow World IS the Great Barrier (or is a part of it)... its surface is all the further a mortal soul can reach and "beneath" the Shadow World's surface lies the infinite Abyss where all the demons reside (including the Demon Emperor at the far end of the Abyss, infinitely far from the Source). This has basically the same problems as the previous option for Shadowborn though.

Finally, I could just merge the Shadow World with the Outer Darkness and it becomes a general purpose "Underworld." This would probably necessitate removing the Shadelings entirely as all the Shadowborn would be literal demonic spirits created by murder that have escaped or been summoned up from the Underworld.

Of those, I'm probably most comfortable with the first, blurring with the second (I do like the notion of the Demon Emperor getting a special punishment separate from the rest of the demons), but I am open to suggestions.

* * * * *

One final thought for the day, in the rework of the Elves, I had a notion based on the Elemental Weakness benefit of the Avatars;

Elemental Weakness (Optional): You gain a primal utility but also a vulnerability based on your Elemental Affinity; cold (fire affinity), fire (frost, plant or water affinity), silver (beast affinity), storm (earth affinity) or toxic (air affinity).

The idea would be that some elves have even stronger connection to their Astral/Fey nature and so can gain a second Astral Spark benefit (though they could not choose both Changeling and Archon), but gain a vulnerability to Cold Iron... which in this case I'm defining as nearly pure iron instead of steel (mechanically that would make it a poor quality weapon, but -1 to hit in exchange for all hits being treated as criticals is a pretty potent trade-off).

It should probably also be added to gnomes as they're basically the same type of being.

Right now my main reason for not just adding the same form options as the Avatars have to Elves (i.e. Fey beasts) is that the Astral Gods represent fundamentally HUMAN concepts; knowledge, crafting, leadership, skill, compassion, dreams; and so the spirits which embody those concepts (including those that became elves) should also be of human form... but I'm not entirely convinced of that, i.e. what happens when a human dreams about having a dog? What would happen to that dream of a dog if exposed to the same Cataclysm that pulled the dreams of men into the mortal world and made them elves?

I suppose the easiest answer there would be that the dreams of dogs (either men dreaming about a dog or actual dog dreams, take your pick) wouldn't be sapient and therefore aren't playable creatures in the way that non-humanoid avatars are (since all avatars were sapient to begin with).

I'm stopping it here for today though as this ramble as gone on WAY longer than I intended it to.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:42 pm

Some of the recurring mythological parallels are fascinating: the hungry dead, the therianthrope, the animal with mix-and-match parts, the dragon. As a side note, I would definitely include a sidebar in the ghoul entry referencing ways it can be refluffed as a vampire or jiangshi, and how they all stem from a common myth of the hungry dead.

I think that the demons you've just listed could also work within the elemental framework you've established: efreets have an association with fire in modern culture, leviathan is obviously aquatic, shedim had wings and rooster feet, potentially making them wind demons, and the gallu had a tenuous association with Earth - according to Wikipedia, one particular gallu, Asag, led an army of rock-demon offspring ("born of his union with the mountains themselves") into battle. Also, finding images of these guys is hard - the only image I found of a gallu was a Final Fantasy monster. You've got a lot of freedom to work in.

With the Astral Gods and their afterlife, I think that A, B, and C are all possible - the "waystation of the afterlife" could be the original intent, the "patch against the Demon Emperor" would be a nice side effect, and "good enough turning into Hell" could be the fate of some who lingered too long in the Astral afterlife.

Shifting the demon emperor to the Outer Darkness could run into the problem of making him have too many similarities with Daybringer, the leader of the fallen spirits mentioned in the old Avatar entry, unless you can throw him in the same pit as Daybringer. That would make their shared prison sort of a supermax wing, unless the idea of two great enemies in the same location is too risky. I'll have to think on this one.

Just out of curiosity, how many people play shadelings and gnomes? I figure that humans, dwarves, and elves are the most common, with beast-men, malfeans, avatars, dragons, and golems not far behind.


If you introduce the cold iron weakness as an option for the elves and gnomes, I'd spell out the mechanics of a pure iron weapon in a sidebar as well as in the poor-quality weapons section.

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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:14 pm

Yeah... the Middle Eastern demons being a lot more elemental in nature was a big factor in why I picked them over some of the other possibilities. Once you get to the European Medieval classifications its seems like its basically all fire all the time and that's... well, BORING.

Quote :
Shifting the demon emperor to the Outer Darkness could run into the problem of making him have too many similarities with Daybringer, the leader of the fallen spirits mentioned in the old Avatar entry, unless you can throw him in the same pit as Daybringer. That would make their shared prison sort of a supermax wing, unless the idea of two great enemies in the same location is too risky. I'll have to think on this one.
Actually, Daybringer IS the Demon Emperor's Pre-Fallen name. There's only ever been one leader of the Fallen Spirits and that there was a great deal of symbolism to the Primal Spirit closest to The Source... the spiritual embodiment of the sun's light upon the world becoming the Emperor of utter and eternal darkness (it's basically the Ur-example of the evil vizier betraying their king in this setting) and likewise that one of the weakest of breeze spirits growing to become Stormbringer who was the Source's new Right Hand Man and leader of Primal Spirits (i.e. the Ur-example of the D&D adventurer in the setting).

For that matter, I think I need to spend a little time devising a legendary human and dwarf (and possibly the first Malfean to rebel against its parents) to form the First Adventuring Party that was central to defeating the Demon Empire. One of the things I absolutely adored about 4E's cosmology was the idea that the Adventuring Party was essentially an echo of how the gods defeated the primordials in the Dawn War.

The Covenant between the Primal Spirits and Men with the Dwarves bringing in the Arcane magic they'd created seems like THE place to include an element like that... Stormbringer getting around the Demon Emperor's condition by becoming the First Avatar and teaming up with the Leader of Men and the Inventor of Arcane Magic forms the template for adventuring parties down through the ages. Many races, many classes... all working for a common goal against overwhelming odds.

I'm thinking Stormbringer is the Guardian (Abjurer probably), The Leader of Men would an Enabler (likely a Captain), The Inventor of Arcane Magic would probably be the first wizard and an Interdictor. Throw in a Malfean in the slayer role (perhaps a brigand) who seems to have turned against its demonic parent only to stab the party in the back near the end of the story, nearly costing them victory (and ensuring the hatred for Malfeans is remembered down through the ages).

That said, I think there should be a twist to the Malfean betrayal, at least as they tell the story, where the Malfean 'betrayed' them only become the final ritual that would banish all the Demons to the Outer Darkness was also going to affect all the other Malfeans as well (including his brothers, sisters and possibly even children). The betrayal (likely with Stormbringer's covert assistance) was delaying the ritual long enough for the other Malfeans to escape... which nearly caused the entire ritual to fail.

This in turn also sets up another aspect of the setting... the corruptibility of Men (which includes dwarves). Say the original timing of the ritual was the idea of the Leader and the Inventor; basically a shortcut that would have sacrificed some innocents in order to achieve the greater good.

The Malfeans get the blame from humanity for nearly losing the war, but also the promise of a future savior because the Malfean hero sacrificed himself to save them and also the extra support from the primal spirits to those Malfeans who keep the faith.

Meanwhile the Men go on to form the First Empire, but soon decide they need slaves of their own and create the Beastmen (i.e. another shortcut that costs innocents in the name of a "greater good") that ultimately seals the First Empire's doom.

* * * *

As to the "how many play X". Humans are indeed the most played. The second most played is actually Avatars. Elves (notably all dark caste), Malfeans, Beastmen and Dragons are all reasonably common and in that order, then its a step down to a few Mutants (generally the more disgusting the better), Gnomes (with the players often running them more like traditional halflings or Kender) with Golems and then Dwarves falling a bit behind even that.

Then there's Shadelings. I have a feeling its a cooler concept to discuss than it is to actually play because no one ever chose one outside of tests where I was using pregens. I suspect that the whole "actually soulless" is a lot darker than a lot of people actually want to play and it could be that I need to push it more in the direction of making the optional "Jiminy Cricket on their shoulder" into the default for the playable version.

Honestly, I could probably push them back to "Blood Wastes of Bestia" and no one outside of people closely following the playtest would even notice. This would, admittedly, solve the Shadeling/Demon Emperor problem I'd outlined previously... but only temporarily.

As to the others... the definite trend was Humans and "Bad Boys" (Rebel Elves, Malfeans and Dragons) being the largest chunk of characters created. The Avatar is also an "outcast primal spirit seeking redemption" so they can fall into that category too, but none of the playtesters ever played them using that as their angle. Mostly it was the appeal of playing an elemental themed character or, in one case, a Werewolf, that drew players to them).

Beastmen and Mutants are worth special mention because both appealed to the WEIRD side for players. For example, one of the testers made a Centaur Shifter Hybrid who took on Crocodile traits so they were were a half-horse, half-humanoid crocodile. For the mutant the Troglodyte was the only "book" option used... the other mutants were made using whatever combo that player felt was most disgusting (ex. cancerous healing, slimy secretions and pulsing brain).

* * * *

And good point about the cold iron weakness side-bar.

It probably wouldn't need all the much. Mostly a line to the effect of...

"Cold iron is much softer than steel and so is considered a poor quality weapon. Poor quality axes, blades, arrows, bolts, flails (except whips) and spears can be made with cold iron at no cost. Sling bullets and bludgeons can be made of cold iron (or have cold iron cladding) at any level of quality for double the weapon's normal cost."

Another thing to possibly add in conjunction with this would be an Unbreakable minor property for magic weapons;

"Unbreakable: This weapon has been reinforced using magic to make it unbreakable. Actions taken to deal damage to it have no effect. Cold Iron weapons with this property can be made at any level of quality. This property does not count when determining if the item is a minor or major item."
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:48 am

So, I woke up this morning and realized I've been a complete idiot when it came to Grunts.

As you may have noticed with the example grunts I put up a while back, I ended giving them all a "non-grunt ally (including PC's) can take the damage for them" ability because I wanted a way to keep them in the fight a bit longer than their own Edge would allow because without the "no damage on a miss" ability of 4E minions (which I've been avoiding to distance them from the 4E IP) they're trivially easy to remove from a battle before they even get a chance to act.

The better solution in the Edge damage sense would be for grunts to closer to the 13th Age "mooks" with their pooled hit points and dropping a mook each time the damage rolled over, but that was something 13th Age could pull off because of their explicit theater of the mind approach to combat while I was trying to duplicate 4E's tactical experience where every piece occupies a specific space on the battlefield and weapons have explicit ranges and so being able to cleave through one grunt and then into one 30 feet away with a single sword thrust just isn't realistic.

But this morning I realized something... While I'd managed to break away from it for PC's and normal monsters, when it came to Grunts I was still looking at their Edge score as "Meat Points" (in part because that was my reason for making their maximum level based on their actual size, because the little bit of Edge they did have was raw meat without any heroic luck to keep them alive).

But its NOT meat. Heck, I renamed the resource Edge and express it in the rules as "spending Edge to avoid damage" and reworked things like falling so that the Edge loss is based not on depth, but the difficulty of catching yourself (and only falling if you lost all your Edge or choose to fall).

Its not meat and it's now explicitly is mostly morale, luck and fatigue. So who's to say that spill over damage that drops a grunt 30 feet from where you just dropped another grunt with a sword thrust is a flesh and blood wound?

What if its just that grunt standing 30 feet away watching you gut another grunt just like him and saying "Frak this! I'm out!" and fleeing at fast as he can run, even dropping equipment if necessary to hasten the escape?

That even FEELS like it should be standard grunt behavior to me, to the point that Mindless Dead (who never fail morale checks because they have no will of their own) feel like they should be the exceptions with special rules instead of no different than a squad of conscripts or goblins (who are noteworthy for their cowardice when faced with stronger foes).

I also think it's a better precursor to my planned mass combat rules than "Allied Morale" as the gist of that was grunts could be formed into units with pooled EDGE totals and make X number of attacks against other units (depending on the space the unit occupies and the reach of their weapons).

What This Means: Not much on the player side, though mounts will probably get a slight Edge boost. The warriors gained via utilities are fanatically loyal to their PC and so having carry over damage doesn't make any more sense than it would for the Mindless Dead, so they'll keep their current "knocked out by any hit that deals damage" rule.

Monster side, the Grunts will probably see their Edge roughly double from the current 1+1/level to 4+2/level for normal grunts with the following becoming a new standard trait for Grunts...

"If a Grunt is reduced to 0 Edge by an action, transfer any excess damage inflicted to the next closest Grunt (if any). Excess damage from an action that targets multiple creatures at once If a Grunt beyond the action's reach is reduced to 0 Edge by this, that grunt immediately flees in terror (EoE) if it can or drops its weapons, falls prone and takes no further actions (EoE) if it cannot. The space they occupy counts as empty for purposes of movement or determining cover."

This does mean I can probably drop the "Basic Sweep" action as it was literally included just to allow high level warrior types to cleave through multiple grunts in a single round (i.e. make Focus score basic weapon attacks that deal half your Focus score damage each) and that's just not needed if the damage from a single target attack spreads to other grunts on its own.

Allied Morale might still stick around though, at least for the sapient grunts, as it allows PC heroes and leader-type monsters to effectively improve the morale of the grunts just by their presence; which seems fitting for the setting.

Area of Effect attacks might be a bit unbalanced if they can drop a group of grunts as a LOT of damage would then carry over to other nearby grunts... but on the other hand, seeing three of your allies incinerated with a single spell probably SHOULD throw the other grunts into absolute chaos.

If I leave it with AoE damage overflowing though I almost have to put something into the Death Knight because "Kills half the opposing army with its frightful glare and causes the other half to flee in abject panic" just seems so over the top that it... that it...

Fuck it... It STAYS exactly like that.

Its too cool a moment for the PCs to shine to not let it work exactly like that. Death Knights and Death Lords are literal "Army Breakers" that only PCs can stop like the Big Damn Heroes they are. That is EXACTLY how this setting rolls.*

* The above, complete with the ...'s and mild expletives is a dramatization of my actual thought process as I started trying to explain just why it would be terribly unbalanced to let a Death Knight get away with something that broken. I feel it accurately conveys just why, in this case, the unbalance is probably actually not worth fixing. If anything, it suggests that what I actually need is to add a Level 16 "King of Death" variant to the Wight entry.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:36 pm

I have a couple of varied updates today;

First up is grunts. After looking it over, I ended up NOT making the 'spread damage' a universal trait to all grunts because the way it worked for men needed to be a bit different from mounts and the mindless dead. As such, the spreading of damage varies from grunt type to grunt type.

Here's the soldier variety;

Allied Morale (Grunt only): Total the Edge of all grunts of this type in the conflict. Damage dealt to any of them is taken from the total. Remove one grunt for every 6* Edge taken, starting with targets of the damage dealt (any others removed exit the conflict by the most efficient means possible; flee, hide, surrender, etc.).

* this value varies with the grunt type and is equal to the edge value of one lone grunt.

The ability to soak Edge for grunts has been made into a special ability available only to certain other creatures (ex. the Officer) and to PCs.

This actually works very well for a foundation and is going to make the Mass Combat rules I've got in the wings for the Blood Wastes book a LOT easier to integrate into the game's normal rules (one of the main goals of the mass combat system is that you don't have to use any sort of "conversion rules" for PC's engaged in the battles).

* * * * *

Second and Third, I finished the rebuild on the elves and, combined with the debate I've been having over the nature of the Shadelings led me to a very interesting thought and prospect for expansion in the future.

Since I was reworking the elves a bit anyway and had added an optional trait that would let them become even more "celestial" at the cost of a vulnerability (which I finally settled on calling "Star Iron" rather than Meteoric Iron and is a special property just like Silver is)... I started thinking.

The elves are essentially the embodied dreams of Men; spirits from the astral realm of dreams. But since they're getting a bit more overtly angelic, why limit them to just dreams? The lore is already there that the high elves view themselves as the descendants of the astral gods. Why not expand the concept out and instead of being just from the dream realms (why would they only be from the dream realms, anyway?); they're from all the astral realms.

The answer is because that's actually a LOT of work and trying to nail down a specific Astral Spark benefit for each of the dozen astral gods (changeling would obviously be the one related to dreams) would eat up a ton of time and add to an already quite bloated Player's Guide page count.

BUT it has given me an idea in terms of overall world-building and a game mechanics concept I could expand on in future books that even links into my Shadeling problem. So here it is;

Spirits from ALL the astral realms were pulled into the Mortal World by the Cataclysm... BUT they weren't all dumped in the same places. Elves are in the core book because they happened to have landed in the Old Praetoria region of the world which is the default setting in the core books.

But the spirits of the Sea God, the Queen of Passion and all the rest came too... but they ended up in completely different parts of the world. Some might be called elves elsewhere (ex. Sea Elves, Sun Elves, Wild Elves), but others might get different names entirely...

Like, say, Shadelings.

I think my loophole for Shadelings is that while they closely resemble the Shadowborn, they're actually astral spirits like elves who were servants of The Grey Huntress (the astral goddess of death). This gives them an actual spirit that could reincarnate as the elves do and, more importantly, gives them the ability to have a conscience and be driven by more than their base urges.

Perhaps the current Shadelings are more akin to gnomes; spirit guides for the dead who can slip between worlds easily while an adult variety (say Fetches or Shadow Elves) is the kind that has been bound to the mortal world. Hmmm... Fetch sounds like a better name than Shadeling for that matter and the ability "fetch things" from the Shadow World even makes that name make sense (I'm now thinking one of their options could be some sort of "shadow conjuration" where they can make tools and weapons from shadow).

Regardless, the Grey Huntress and her servants are diametrically opposed to the undead in all their forms (and I think an interesting take in terms of keeping the spirit world a bit more mysterious is that these astral servants don't worship the Elven version of the Pantheon, but the Imperial variety with its dualism... so the elves don't have the end-all-be-all answer to which version of the astral gods is correct) and, given the amount of re-working they'd need under this revised concept (and their general unpopularity as they currently exist), I think moving the Shadeling back to Blood Wastes (along with the mass combat, shadow spellcasting path and more undead) might make a good fit as a part of the groups who war against the legions of the undead arising from the Blood Wastes.

The additional exiled Astral groups would also be good things to cover in later supplements as well; "Sun Elves" in the "Sun Empire and Star Kingdoms" location, "Sea Elves" in the "Endless Archipelago" location, etc.

* * * * *

Fourth, I just statted up the Crocodiles and due to an intersection of their tactics and the suffocation rules they're scary in the same way the healing draining undead of 4E are.

Basically, they can grab you on a hit with a pretty high escape TN and are big enough to drag you underwater with them and you don't get a chance to hold your breath first (since you can only do that on your turn) so you're immediately making Fitness checks (DC 10+1/round without air) and each failure costs you a heroic surge.

The dire version (level 14) is massive (4x4 squares) and can actually grab multiple targets by swallowing them whole. Who needs a sea serpent entry when you've got a prehistoric nightmare like that? (that said there is an aquatic dragon and the giant squid/kraken as well).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Yesterday at 7:48 pm

Thanks for clearing things up regarding Daybringer. With that in mind, I would probably move him to the farthest reaches of the Outer Dark, as far away from the sun as he can get, basically your first option in that previous post.

The adventuring party as historical figures is a neat pattern that does a lot to reinforce the game tropes. The leader, inventor, and malfean are all controversial figures in your history, with alternate versions depending on who's telling the tale. What about Stormbringer, though? I figure that both sides hold him in high regard. I think it's kind of ironic, that he was the First Avatar, yet he doesn't carry the shame of cowardice associated with them - I figure that it's because he was a little breeze spirit, yet he stepped up. I wonder if the avatars' exile was an attempt to offer redemption, by giving the deserters the same chance.

I figured that the races played out somewhat like that - avatars got more play than I expected, and I figured that the gnomes would be run like regular halflings. Nobody playing Shadelings is a shock. Between nobody picking them and the reworking you're doing of gnomes, I would definitely move them back, as you stated.

Speaking of elves as divine servants, I think that some of the gods have more natural ideas for servants than others: The sun lord, sea god, and nature mother have concepts, as you stated, but what would the champion and queen of passion have, for example? Some of them, like the storm king and fire god, might have more elemental servants, which could be redundant with the avatar mechanically. Perhaps golems could be connected to at least the forge god, some of them at any rate.

Something else I just thought of is that you could rebuild elves, gnomes, and shadelings as part of a generic astral servant race, kind of like how you did the avatar and had it include giants, werebeasts, elemental humanoids, and elemental beasts. I know you're pretty far along, but it might be worth exploring.

Finally, the bit about the crocodiles makes sense - their death role is no joke.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Today at 5:35 pm

Well, the thing to remember about Stormbringer is that the war against the Demon Empire occured BEFORE the Avatars were placed into exile. Being embodied as an Avatar was a loophole in the Demon Emperor’s ‘hostage deal’ with the Primal Spirits from the old Avatar fluff... the Demon Emperor had created a ritual that would slaughter every last human if an immortal not bearing the Emperor’s mark tried to enter the Mortal World (The Great Barrier that holds out the demons is essentially an inversion of this, destroying any demon that tries to enter the Mortal World under its own power).

So Stormbringer (and later other Primal Spirits) cast aside immortality and manifested as a mortal and limited being to fight the Demon Emperor. The Primal Spirits then gathered the humans and dwarves and shared the Covanent with them (giving them access to primal magic) and eventually won the Demon War.

Only after the demons were cast out did attention turn to those Primal Spirits too cowardly to pick a side. While not deserving the Abyss, it was decided they needed some form of penance and it was decided that they would be exiled to the same Creation they were too afraid to fight for until such time as they earned their redemption by protecting Creation.

The short version is Pre and Post Demon War avatars while physically identical came into existance for different reasons.

* * * *

As to the Astral servitors, I’m kinda wanting to keep them seperate species mechanically because having them all have the exact same hierarchy and caste system as the elves doesn’t quite fit conceptually to me.

For example, I don’t think that Nymphs/Satyrs (the likely serivors for the goddess of passion) would work with High/Common/Low distinctions. Likewise, I think they’ll be more interesting if different types adhere to different versions of the Astral faiths (Imperial, Bestian, Elven, the Astral Bureaucracy of the Sun Empire where the gods are believed to be ascended mortals) as best fit their type.

As to the possible elemental aspects overlapping with the avatars, I’m not too worried. For the astral gods the elemental aspects are secondary to the aspect of human culture/existence they represent. The Sky Father’s opposite number is the Tyrant and overall they are the god of rulership and authority (so the Sky Father’s astral servitors should all be his sons/nobles and so super-rare (and all winged) rather than the more numerous dreams/elves which everyone great and small has.

Likewise the Earth Mother/Mother of Monsters isn’t about Nature per se, but man’s relationship with nature; agriculture in the positive and the dangers of the wilds in the negative. I’m inclined to towards making their religion another divergent one that seeks to integrate the primal spirits more fully than most Astral religions do (the default for the Imperial/Bestian/Elven faiths is that the primal spirits aren’t any different than demons (technically true in that demons are fallen primal spirits, but also obtusely missing the point) and while not quite wicked enough for the Abyss, they are still capricious and dangerous spirits that are not to be trusted and will lead you to ruin and then abandon you to a dark fate... an echo of the primal spirits’ silence during Beastman uprising).

Another point worth mentioning with the servitors is that the Astral Gods first followers were the Beastmen and so their default representations are often in their likenesses (ie the Sky King is usually depicted as a hawk-headed man akin to Horus, the Earth Mother as a cow-headed woman and so forth). While not all their servitors match their gods’ appearances, some certainly will (the Sky Father’s sons probably would, but satyrs look nothing like the queen of passion (the nymphs on the other hand...).

The point being that the Astral servitors are, at least in my head, far more different from each other than the avatars (who represent simpler concepts... an element in a given shape. Ice-man, firewolf, earth giant, etc.) and so probably need more separate entries than the avatars do.
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