Thursday, February 16, 2017

Psi-Wars: Extreme Aliens!

Hmmm, a little outside of your point budget
For the most part, alien templates work perfectly fine in Psi-Wars: Kendra is a bounty-hunter first and foremost, and she just happens to be felinoid.  This works like in Star Wars where the "jedi" part of "twi'lek jedi" matters more than the "twi'lek" part.  But, for some aliens, this isn't so.  Chewbacca isn't a smuggler who happens to be a wookie, he's, you know, just a wookie who happens to be a smuggler.  All you have to say about Chewbacca is that he's a wookie.  Likewise, Hutts are Hutts.  If you introduce a Hutt into your game, players don't stop and ask "Hutt what?  A Hutt security agent?  A Hutt Jedi?  A Hutt Bounty Hunter?"  No, it's just a Hutt.  And this sort of makes sense.  A twi'lek is just a human with tentacles on her head, but a Hutt's huttness, or a Wookie's wookienss is so dominant that it occupies our attention.  I'm not saying they never have variation, I'm arguing that the central element of these characters isn't their occupation, it's their race.

On a related note, some of the templates I pointed you to back on Monday were too expensive for a mere 50 point template.  None of the racial templates from Monster Hunters 5, for example, are remotely affordable on a 50-point budget, and your horrific Things Man Was Not Meant To Know certainly don't fit on that level of a budget. And, in a sense, that's fine, because they don't really need to fit into 50 points because, like Hutts and Wookies, their race is obviously their dominant trait.  One does not introduce a Thing Man Was Not Meant To Know knowing you'll have to field questions like "What? Like a Thing Man Was Not Meant To Know Cop?  Or maybe a Thing Man Was Not Meant To Know Scientist?").  But if they don't fit in our current model of character design, how do we play them?

We need a way to handle both of these problems, which are clearly interconnected.  Fortunately, we have an answer and, as before in this iteration, it's Dungeon Fantasy that rides to our rescue.  Specifically, Pyramid #3-50 Dungeon Fantasy II, with its article "Races as Professions."  Here, Sean Punch rewrites Elves and Dwarves as occupational templates worth 250 points.  For our extreme races, we can do the same.  We don't have Hutt Bounty Hunters, we just have Hutts, because a Hutt costs 250 points, and he's a self-contained template.

Designing an Extreme Racial Template

We know our budget: 300 points.  All we need to do is design an appropriate template.  Yesterday, I outlined the rules for racial template design, and those still largely apply, but many of them are moot:
  • The Extreme Racial Template obviously matters, because it's the entire character
  • The Extreme Racial Template is obviously accessible, because a player can afford it (provided it stays under 250 points, or at most, 300 points)
  • The Extreme Racial Template definitely still needs to fulfill its narrative fluff (which is easier to do with 250 points!)
  • The Extreme Racial Template obviously "shapes gameplay" as represents the whole of your character.
But we run into a problem with simplicity and cohesion, and we might need to look back at how we shape gameplay.

Simplicity must fall to the wayside because, suddenly, we have a 250 point template that needs to contain everything a race can be.  If all Hutts are crime-bosses, then the Hutt template needs to include skills like Savoir-Faire(Mafia) and Streetwise.  If all Wookies are brawlers, or can be brawlers, they must have access to Brawl, and so on.  But at the same time, the rule about minimal player knowledge still applies!  The uninitiated player does not want to look at a giant stat-block and have to decipher it to understand what the race is.  While your stats cannot be simple, the themes should still be.  In a sense, everything should be even simpler, because one should see an Extreme Race, and know that it's all about its gimmick and little more.

But this can create a problem related to cohesion.  In principle, a racial template represents a mandatory set of traits required to be a member of a race.  Extreme races break this rule, as a Hutt doesn't spring from the womb as a crime boss.  The answer, as seen in Races as Professions, is that all Extreme Races still include a racial template buried in their advantages.  This contains the minimum necessary elements to be a member of the race, following all the standard racial template rules I outlined.  The only difference here is that we're not limited to 50 points.  We can build a 200 point template and then layer 50 points of optional skills, advantages and disadvantages atop it. In a sense, that's all an extreme racial template is: A racial template, with a supporting character structure around it.  In a sense, then, extreme races work like robots do: both are a giant template with a small skill package bolted onto the side.

Naturally, though, players who choose such a race will want some personalization.  Of course, the racial template can handle this directly.  The "Races as Professions" article certainly does, allowing us to build an Elf-as-swordsman or Elf-as-magician, it's just that the unique, elf-quality of these skillsets are sort of baked into the racial template.  But we could pull those elements free and treat them as a lens atop the racial template.  For example, we might have a 200 point "racial template," and then allow the player to choose from a specific set of 50 point "skill package lenses" that might be specific to the race.  We might have a shapeshifting race that's known for being tricksters, assassins, thieves, spies, or spooky cultists.  The "I'm a shapeshifter" might come to 200 points, and the various roles they play might come to 50 points.  Then we have a 250 point character, plus another 50 points of power-ups the character can take (which might include a boost on his skill-template!).  These skill templates also give us a way of better defining what the race is, by encouraging us to look at a specific race from multiple angles, to ensure that there's more than one way to play them, and gives the players an idea of what sort of culture this race might have.

A Worked Example

The theory is simple enough.  Let's see it in practice.  Applied Xenology includes quite a few interesting racial templates, but designed from a Monster Hunter perspective, with things like a "Basic Morphology inducer" to keep people from knowing that you're a monster.  Space opera aliens don't need anything like that.  We can also remove the social stigma (monster) as people are perfectly comfortable with our Reptoids as a race, but they dislike them for specific reasons (say, because they eat sapients). A DR of 4 is just not interesting; that could be a DR of 20 for the same price in Psi-Wars and would be more appropriate, but we can go with our Space Monster rules and give them DR 10 with Hardened and Flexible for 12 points.  We'll also remove their Immunity to Metabolic Hazards: the fact that drugs work differently on them than on humans is a feature, as it's a known quantity ("Oh, that's a reptoid.  You need to use reptoid medicine on it.")

The net result is 300 points at its complete value, all things considered, which is just enough for a character. Note that Monster Hunters 5 has a suggestion for how to treat Reptoid Enhanced Time Sense.  I encourage you to use it!  Note that this final template is quite monstrous, which is fitting, as it's derived from a monster template.  Thus, this race might be better suited to NPCs than to PCs, on the final analysis, but I leave it here anyway, to give an idea of how this particular approach might work.  I would like to note that this requires a considerable amount of work and isn't very compatible with the other templates (that is, we cannot have a Reptoid Assassin or a Reptoid Space Knight).  Thus, if you use this technique, I recommend doing so sparingly.

Reptoid Racial Template 150 points

Attribute Modifiers: ST+3 [30]; DX+1 [20]; HT+2 [20].

Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Basic Speed+1.25 [25].

Advantages: Danger Sense [15]; DR 10 (Hardened +50%, Flexible -20%) [12]; Enhanced Time Sense [45]; Night Vision 6 [6]; Peripheral Vision [15]; Regeneration (Regular) [25]; Sharp Claws [5]; Sharp Teeth [1].

Disadvantages: Appearance (Ugly) [-8]; Bad Temper (12) [-10]; Bloodlust (12) [-10]; Chauvinistic [-1]; Clueless [-10]; Odious Racial Habit (Eats Sapients) [-15], Oblivious [-5]; No Sense of Humor [-10];

Features: Taboo Trait (Voice).

Reptoid Template: 300 points

Attributes: ST 13† [0]; DX 13† [40]; IQ 12 [40]; HT 13† [10]

Secondary Characteristics: Dmg 1d/2d-1; BL 39; HP 13; Will 12; Per 12; Basic Speed 8.0 [5]; Basic Move 8; FP 13;

Advantages: Reptoid [150]; Cultural Familiarity (Reptoid) [0]; Cultural Familiarity (Galactic Common) [1]; Language (Reptoid; Native) [0]; Language (Galactic Common; Accented) [4];

Disadvantages: Choose -20 of Bully [-10*], Callous [-5], Disturbing Voice [-10], Duty (Criminal, 9, 12 or 15 or less) [-5, -10 or -15], Gluttony [-5*], Greed [-15*], Intolerance (Specific race) [-5], Odious Personal Habit (Staring unblinkingly, referring to non-Reptois as "the fleshlingssss", etc) [-5], Overconfidence [-5*], Reputation (Race-traitor, Reptoids Only) [-2.5/level], Reputation (Monster, non-Reptoids only) [-3/level], Selfish [-5*], Sense of Duty (Team) or (Reptoid Race) [-5 or -10], reduce your Bad Temper or Bloodlust to (9) [-15] for -5 points or 6 [-20] for -10 points, or reduce your Appearance to Hideous [-16] for -8 points

Skills: 20 point background lens, 50 point skill package

Reptoid Power-Ups

Reptoid Hypnotism 25 points
Advantage: Mental Blow (Psionic Powers 65, Requires Eye Contact -40%) [19]
Skill: Mental Blow (H) Will [4]-12
Technique: Neurological Damage (Daze), Mental Blow-3 [2]-9

Reptoid Scientist 50 points

Attributes: IQ +1 [20]

Advantages: Toxicologist 4 [20]; Choose 5 points from among Per +1 [5], Acute Taste/Smell [2/level], Cheaper Gear (Poison) [1], Contact (Fence, Researcher, Smuggler, Supplier; skill 12, 15 or 18, somewhat reliable) [1, 2 or 3], Gizmo (Drug or Poison only -20%) [4], Hard to Kill [2/level], Precautions [1], Resistant to Poison +3 [5], 

Disadvantages: Choose -20 from among standard Reptoid disadvantages or from ST -1 [-10], HT -1 [-10], Curious [-5*], Loner [-5*], Obsession (Complete specific formulate) [-5], Odious Personal Habit (unwashed gore/chemicals) [-5], Trademark (Specific design methodology) [-5 or -10], Truthfulness [-5*], Workaholic [-5]

Primary Skills: Diagnosis (H) IQ+3* [2]-16; Pharmacy (Synthetic) (A) IQ+3* [1]-16; Physician (Drugs) (A) IQ+3* [1]-16; Poison (H) IQ+3* [2]-16; Research (A) IQ [2]-13;  Hazardous Materials (Chemical or Biological) (A) IQ+3 [1]-16;

Secondary Skills: Beam Weapons (Pistol) (E) DX [1]-13; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]-12; One of Brawling (E) DX+1 [2]-14 or Karate (H) DX-1 [2]-12; One of Wrestling (A) DX [2]-13 or Judo (H) DX-1 [2]-12; Choose three of Area Knowledge (Any), Cooking, Current Affairs (Science and Technology) or House Keeping both (E) IQ+1 [2]-14, Connoisseur (Poison or Sapient Flesh), Criminology, Holdout, Streetwise or Smuggling all (A) IQ [2]-13, Chemistry (H) IQ+3* [2]-16, Forensics, Surgery (H) IQ-1 [2]-12, Search (A) Per [2]-13

Background Skills: Computer Operation (E) IQ [1]-13;  Navigation (Hyperspace) (A) IQ-1 [1]-12; Pilot (Starship) (A) DX-1 [1]-12;Vacc Suit (A) DX-1 [1]-12.

New talent: Toxicologist [5/level]
Skills: Chemistry, Diagnosis, Hazardous Materials, Pharmacy (Synthetic), Physician (Drugs), Poison;
Alternative Benefit: To detect the presence of drugs or poison.

Reptoid Scientist Power-Ups:

Mad Scientist: 25 points
Advantage: Quick Gadgeteer (Pharmaceutical -50%) [25]

Reptoid Slaver 50 points

Attributes: ST +1 [10]; DX +1 [20];

Secondary Traits: Basic Speed -0.25 [-5]

Advantages: Divide 10 points among +1 ST [10], +1 HT [10], +1 to +2 Will [5/level], +1 Basic Move  [5], Ally (Slave; Sidekick or Full Character, 12 or less, Unwilling -50%) [2 or 5], Ambidexterity [5], Contact (Slaver, Criminal Contact, Smuggler; Skill 12, 15 or 18. somewhat reliable) [1, 2 or 3], Contact Group (Gang, Pirates, Skill 12 or Skill 15, somewhat reliable) [5 or 10], Craftiness +1 to +2 [5/level], Fearlessness +1 to +3 [2/level], Fit [5], Hard to Kill [2/level], Hard to Subdue [2/level], High Pain Threshold [10], Quick Sheath [1], Signature Gear [varies], or remove Bloodlust for 5 points.

Disadvantages: Choose -20 from among standard Reptoid disadvantages or from -1 IQ [-20], Compulsive Brawling [-10*],  Impulsiveness [-10], Intolerance (Slaves) [-5], Laziness [-10], Lecherousness [-15*], Obsession (Enslave specific sort of target) [-5], Odious Personal Habit (Checks teeth, tells people what price they're worth on the market) [-5], Sadism [-15*].

Primary Skills: Beam Weapons (Pistol) (E) DX+2 [4]-16, Fast-Draw (Pistol) (E) DX+1* [1]-15; Stealth (A) DX [2]-14; One of Brawling (E) DX+2 [4]-16 or Karate (H) DX [4]-14; One of Wrestling (A) DX+2 [8]-16 or Judo (H) DX+1 [8]-15; Choose one of Shortsword or Whip both (A) DX+1 [4]-15 or improve Brawling, Karate, Wrestling or Judo by +1 level for 4 points;

Secondary Skills: Streetwise (A) IQ [2]-12; Choose three of Jumping (E) DX+1 [2]-15, Climbing (A) DX [2]-14, Acrobatics (H) DX-1 [2]-13, Area Knowledge (Any) (E) IQ+1 [2]-13, Holdout, Merchant, Smuggling, Shadowing all (A) IQ [2]-12, Psychology (H) IQ-1 [2]-11, Swimming (E) HT+1 [2]-14, Lifting, Running both (A) HT [2]-13, Observation, Urban Survival both (A) Per [2]-12 or Intimidation (A) Will-1* [2]-11

Background Skills: Computer Operation (E) IQ [1]-12;  Navigation (Hyperspace) (A) IQ-1 [1]-11; Pilot (Starship) (A) DX-1 [1]-13;Vacc Suit (A) DX-1 [1]-13.

Reptoid Conspirator 50 points

Attributes: IQ +2 [40]

Advantages: Improve Language (Galactic Common) to Native [6] for 2 points; 

Disadvantages: Choose -20 from among standard Reptoid disadvantages or from -1 ST [-10] or -1 HT [-10], Compulsive Lying [-15*], one of Overweight, Fat or Very Fat [-1, -3 or -5], Jealousy [-10], Laziness [-10], Megalomania ("The Reptoid Empire shall rise again!) [-10], Paranoia [-10], Trickster [-15*], Unfit or Very Unfit [-5 or -15], Vow (Protect a secret) [-5], 

Primary Skills: Expert Skill (Conspiracy Theory) (H) [4]-14; Intelligence Analysis (H) IQ [4]-14; Psychology (H) IQ [4]-14;

Secondary Skills: Beam Weapons (Pistol) (E) DX [1]-13; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]-12; One of Brawling (E) DX+1 [2]-14 or Karate (H) DX-1 [2]-12; One of Wrestling (A) DX [2]-13 or Judo (H) DX-1 [2]-12; Choose three of Area Knowledge (Any) (E) IQ+1 [2]-15; Acting, Administration, Gambling, Leadership, Merchant, Propaganda, Shadowing, Streetwise all (A) IQ [2]-14, Forgery, Strategy, Tactics all (H) IQ-1 [2]-13, Body Language, Lip-Reading, Observation all (A) Per [2]-14, Detect Lies (H) Per-1 [2]-13.

Background Skills: Computer Operation (E) IQ [1]-14;  Navigation (Hyperspace) (A) IQ-1 [1]-13; Pilot (Starship) (A) DX-1 [1]-12;Vacc Suit (A) DX-1 [1]-12.

Reptoid Conspiorator Power-Ups:

Conspirator: 25 points
As Diplomat Conspirator

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