Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"Support your friendly, local gaming store"

Today, SJGames implores us to support our FLGSes. They even have a link that takes you to a GAMA site that lets you find your localest and most friendly gaming store.  I tinkered with it, and for me, it was an exercise in depression.

I grew up in a friendly local gaming shop.  My gaming career would not be what it is today without Debbie's store.  We played games, I learned Necromunda and Warhammer 40k, and between my highschool and her shop, we played Marvel (FASERIP), Rifts, MERP, WoD and, yes, GURPS.  That's where all of this got started.  And when I moved to the Netherlands, I made a point of touring all the game shops, looking for obscure RPGs that others hadn't heard of (yes, I was a gaming hipster back then).  So I hit the gaming shops of Eindhoven, Amsterdam, and everywhere in between, though I noticed the gaming sections seemed to shrink year by year.

Now when I look, I have to expand it out to a 100 mile radius from either my home in Kansas or my home in the Netherlands to find anything, and what I can find, I can count on one hand.  Yes, they're still out there, but they're definitely a dying breed, and I'd have to drive for an hour or two to reach any of them.

 If you haven't been paying attention, or paying attention to the wrong people, you might not know that the comics book industry (especially the stores) are going through a crisis of existential proportions.  I imagine the same forces working against them are working against gaming stores too, so, yeah, if you have a gaming shop, go buy something from them.  I hit up my local comic book (they're technically still a gaming shop, in that they sell board games and D&D) and dumped a bunch of money on them before they shuttered for the quarantine, though they claim that they've diversified enough that they're not struggling nearly as badly as some American shops seem to be.

But I wonder if it's going to make a difference in the long run.  If I look at RPGs, the march away from the FLGS, as much as every gamer will offer effusive lipservice to the idea.  Why do we need FLGses?
  • To buy RPGs, of course (but we have Amazon, DTRPG, Warehouse 23, and increasingly Kickstarter)
  • To have a space to meet other gamers and be introduced to new ideas (but we have facebook groups, forums, discord servers...)
  • To have a space to play RPGs (but we have virtual tabletops and vocal chat that lets us play with people all across the world).
 It's not a trend exclusive to RPG.  Retail in general is dying.  When I first came here, there were three Free Record shops and there were several places where you could buy games.  Now, the only place I can buy CDs are online; DVDs are increasingly only available online, I generally buy music as audio files, I buy all my computer games from digital distribution and even things like PS games tend to only be available in big box stores. Eindhoven's city center went from a bustling, commercial sector to more of a place one walks around and hits up a cafe.  There are major stores that closed down and never re-opened and still sit essentially unused.  Most of the smaller shops that closed down have been replaced with vanity boutiques, or "pop-up" shops, or things like mobile phone repair shops.  The ones that survive tend to be places that offer services more than products, like I take my son and daughter to "Tien Tenen" (Ten toes) to buy his shoes; they're more expensive, but there's staff on hand to give advice about what to get our kids, and the shoes we get tend to last longer and have a generally higher quality than what we get online.  Or they tend to be places with a lot of atmosphere, where you go for the sake of going, like restaurants or nice little shopping places where a couple of ladies can while away the day and then go and get a coffee.

How is a gaming store supposed to survive in such an environment? The 90s and early 2000s were really the heyday of the FLGS, as we were coming out of the stigmatic era of the 80s, the internet was spreading the idea of RPGs around more, but we didn't have things like Amazon or PDFs to compete directly with the retail marketplace, and because of that, there were darwinian pressures on RPGs that whittled their numbers down.  If you were an FLGs, you definitely sold D&D, you probably sold White Wolf, and you might sell GURPS, Palladium, Hero, Call of Cthulhu, other TSR products, MERP, Shadowrun and a handful of others, though by the early 2000s the writing was already on the wall as the number of RPGs began to explode (BESM, 7th Sea, Nobilis, Legend of the Five Rings, Warhammer RPGs) making it harder and harder for a shop to know what to stock.  Nowadays?  Fuggedaboutit. The other day I was tracking the Ennies and I hadn't even heard of half of these RPGs.  I might not be as "plugged in" as I used to be, but the modern RPG industry seems based on the boom and bust of Kickstarter: you start up a campaign, you whip up interest, you get your kickstarter money, you sell all your books, then you fold up shop and go home and perhaps think about creating your next batch of games.  What's even the point of an FLGS participating in that cycle?  By the time they have the product, it's already old hat, been-there-done-that and the hype has rushed on to some other kickstarter campaign. Interest has been spread ocean-flat, with a couple of spikes out there, mostly D&D and Pathfinder (so you can at least sell those) and a handful of games that can maintain more of a presence than "We did a single kickstarter campaign," most of which are die hards who were around in the 90s and early 2000s (Shadowrun, GURPS, 7th Sea, etc) or a few newcomers with some really big names behind them (Gumshoe, Nobilis), but most of these mainly survive online.

So what are we supposed to do?  The thing is, I'd love to have an FLGS to drop my son off at once he hits 12 or so, because I think it's a good experience.  You get surrounded by lots of neat ideas and like-minded-but-sufficiently-different people that it helps you expand your horizons a bit. I can recreate that sort of environment at home, or with the help of things like Minecraft, but the internet is "too big" for a 12 year old, and the house "too small."  So, I'd love to see the FLGS come back in a big way, but I feel like we're building sandcastles against a flood.  The times are changing and we can't turn the clock back on it, as much as I wish we could. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Corrosion Confusion

A lot of my recent work has focused on toxic and corrosive things, including slimes and nanoblooms (I've been quiet, but I have been working on things).  As such, I've done a lot of looking at Corrosion, and it's... weird.

As best as I can tell, Corrosion works thus:
  • For every 5 points of basic (rolled) damage, the target's DR is reduced by 1.
  • If a corrosive element continuously affects the same spot of certain materials, such as wood and stone, it treats it as Ablative (this is true of Burning too).
  • If you get hit in the face with Corrosive damage, you take 1.5x damage.
Alright, so far so good.  The examples of "real world" Corrosion are:

  • Acid: this deals 1d-3 if you get splashed with it, and 1d-1 if you're immersed in it.
  • Alkahest: not a "real world" material, but still a standard one from Dungeon Fantasy. It deals 1d on a splash, and 2d-1 if you immerse yourself in it.
  • Nanobots. Devourers deal 1d(2) corrosion and disassemblers deal 1d-2(10) corrosion.
  • Disintegrators (and similar effects) deal whatever damage they feel like.
 So, in principle, we find that most forms of corrosion deal very little damage at all, which makes them of questionable use for me in a space opera game.

Acid deals 1, 1, 1, 1, 2 and 3 points of damage on a splash and will never reduce DR.  It is useless against any armor that its DR 3+, especially if sealed (ie, all Ultra Tech armor worth discussing).  If you swim through acid, it will deal 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 damage, which means you have a one-in-six chance of losing one point of DR.

Alkahest is better, dealing 1-6 on a splash (taking off 1 DR on a roll of 5 or 6, or 1/3 the time), while swimming in the stuff inflicts 1-11 damage (6 on average), which means most rolls will take off at least 1 point of DR and possibly 2, which means your armor will be dissolved within seconds.

It's nanobots where it starts to get weird.  Like, what benefit does armor divisor even provide to such low damage totals?  Consider the dreaded disassembler: it will deal 1, 1, 1, 2, 3 and 4, which will never reduce DR, but it will inflict 1 point of damage against DR 9 or less always, 19 or less on a roll of 4+ and 29 or less on a roll of 5+ and and against 39 or less on a roll of 6.  This is TL 11, so a typical opponent might be wearing a monocrys tac suit which is DR 20, so you're looking at 1-2 points of damage at most... but what does that even mean?  Did they chew through the armor? Did it damage the seal? It says only sealed DR will protect against it, so when is it no longer considered sealed?  I've been hunting over books for rules on Sealed and what it takes to break it (After all, we have rules for armor patches) when I came across this little gem:

Sealed: Impervious to penetration by liquids and gases.  This corresponds to the Sealed advantage (p. B82). It prevents all harm from noncorrosive bioweapons, chemicals,  and nano, as well as ordinary rust and waterlogging -UT 171
So, uh, does sealed armor protect against "corrosive nano" like disassemblers or not?  Either it doesn't at all, in which case, why does it say that "only sealed armor protects against it?" Does it protect fully against it unless the seal is broken? If so, at what point is the seal broken? The armor patch rules seem to imply if any damage penetrates it.  We also have armor damage rules, but only in an LT companion, which obviously doesn't cover sealed armor as none existed in LT periods.  Or does it protect until all anti-corrosion DR has been dissolved, in which case, it'll never be penetrated.

Upgraded Corrosion

I wonder if the intent was to make disassembler 'more corrosive" than, say, devourer or acid.  But if that's the case, we should buff the Corrosion effect.

We actually have a version of improved corrosion in Powers: the Weird, and it stems from a post here, which creates some interesting possibilities.  The core recipe is: Corrosion + Corrosion (No Wounding -50%).  Thus:
  1.  Basic Corrosion deals 1-6 damage, and dissolves 1 DR on a roll of 5 or 6
  2. One extra "non-wounding" die of Corrosion (equivalent to a +50% modifier) would double the corrosive effect.  You would lose 1 DR on a roll of 3 or 4, and 2 DR on 5 or 6.
  3. two extra "non-wounded" dice of Corrosion (equivalent to a +100%) modifier would triple the corrosive effect.  You would lose 1 DR on a roll of 2 or 3, and two DR on a 4, and three DR on a 5 or 6.
  4. three extra "non-wounding" dice of Corrosion (equivalent to +150% modifier) would quadruple the corrosive effect.  You would lose 1 DR on a roll of 2, 2 DR on a roll of 3, 3 DR on a roll of 4, 4 DR on a roll of 5-6.
  5. four extra "non-wounding" dice of Corrosion (+200% modifier, the one from the Weird) multiplies corrosion by 5 or, more simply, subtracts 1 DR per point of damage inflicted.
Thus we can get some modifiers here:
  • +50% intensified corrosion means that the corrosion effect subtracts 1 DR per three damage dealt (more or less).
  • +100% intensified corrosion means the corrosion effect subtracts 1 DR per two damage dealt (more or less).
  • +150% intensified corrosion gets difficult to measure and probably best to skip (I think it works out to 2/3 DR removed per damage dealt)
  • +200% works as the version in Powers: the Weird.

But as interesting an idea as that is as an alternative to Armor Divisors for Corrosive Damage, I'm still a little lost on exactly how corrosion is meant to interact with sealed vacc suits, and how armor divisors are meant to work on corrosive damage with sealed armor, and I can't seem to find anything on it.

Alright, fine, let's kill Axton Kain too! Bounty Hunter Design Diary addendum

One of my players complained when the Bounty Hunter series ended, as he had hoped I would explore how to defeat all of them.  This isn't a bad idea, actually, as it informs the sorts of things bounty hunters should be able to do. The primary argument against it is a matter of time: how much of my time is better spent building sample bounty hunters vs building out more of the setting?  This isn't a rhetorical question, as I don't know the answer, but I've had to balance it, and it does directly feed into Tall Tales of the Orochi Belt, even if we're unlikely to see these hunters right away.  So, shall we come up with one last bounty hunter to fight the legendary Axton Kain?

Some of my favorite people are bounty hunters -- Greef Karga, the Mandalorian

This isn't an entirely inappropriate question.  Patrons have already seen the current state of the Bounty Hunter document, but one element I've begun to include are Bounty Hunter Lodges, organized groups of bounty hunters, and one of the three I intend to release is the Exilium, a group of hunters deeply embedded into Maradonian society, who have the diplomatic finesse to operate across several borders, including in Imperial Space, without being questioned or sanctioned.  Thus, this asks the question: how do you hunt a Maradonian?

The Maradonian aristocracy aren't Jedi by any stretch.  In some ways, they're far harder to hunt, and in other ways, far easier.  On the one hand, their mastery of psychic power leaves much to be desired when compared to the psychic mastery of the Jedi and they're not elite force swordsmen.  On the other hand, they are all psychic force swordsmen, who also have armies and international influence networks and vast wealth available exclusively to them.  When you fight a space knight, you're not just fighting him,  you're fighting his house, thus you must move with caution.  Presumably, a nobleman with a bounty on his head has been cast out of his house, and thus can be as easily caught as any aristocratic pretender, but this is not always the case, especially in circumstances where a rival has begun placing bounties on a member of the house.

Of course, Axton is a little different: he's not psychic at all, but cybernetic.  He belongs to a House that skirts the line between legitimate aristocracy and pirate-lord empire.  Where the other aristocrats play at being a space knight, he's trained in the Old Ways and has personally knocked genetically augmented super-soldiers off their feet with the full force of his cybernetic body, single-handedly taken on a dozen men and shrugged off plasma shots to his chest.  He's not an easy mark to take down, and still, someone in the Exilium must be able to take down a member of House Kain.

So how would you do it?

Monday, April 27, 2020

After Action Report: Tall Tales of the Orochi Belt Part III: Into Port Mongo

Last we left our intrepid heroes, they had entered Port Mongo, a heavily damaged smuggler station in the Botanical Asteroids of the Veridian Belt, having chased off their pirate escort and crashed the the ship of the smuggler Wyatt Van Carlo, and discovered that he carried a cargo of pleasure clones.  Once inside the base, the disgustingly overweight Mongo Corpulain, "Commander" of the base, hailed them, expressed his surprise that the Alliance had an interest in his operation and instructed them that he had no intention to surrender.

Our heroes are:

  • Lady Talia Sabine, the NPC space knight commander of Harlequin Squadron
  • Baron Mallus Grimshaw, aristocratic adventurer and fighter ace, known for his paranoia and overweening arrogance.
  • Viscontess Shay Sabine, aristocratic space knight and fighter pilot and the wingman of Talia Sabine.
  • Sir Tyro Pavonis, Aristocratic (and blind!) fighter ace (though not from as prestigious a family as the other two), and wing commander in Harlequin Squadron. He has exceptional psychic vision, but keeps his sensory awareness quiet, preferring to play the role of blindman.
  • Sir Axton Kain, cybernetic space knight and presumptive heir of House Kain, currently in command of a platoon of Alliance Regulars.
  • Walker Lee, native of the Orochi Belt, rebel hero, and scavenger.  He watches over Jethro, a farmboy from St. Borlaug's Star near the Belt.
  • Xerxes, an Asrathi pirate captain of the Calico and a practicing Witch Cat.  He has a full pirate crew, including the fanatical and blood thirsty Asrathi Sylvar Ro, the heavily armed Born Riksen, the Shinjurai engineer with a bad attitude, Winner Chau, and the innocent Asrathi college student who somehow managed to stumble into being a pirate, Persia Purasinga.

The session begins with Baron Mallus Grimshaw regarding the rest of the fighters jetting about on patrol in the space around Port Mongo, securing it from any remnant defenders.  One brings a hand-carried message from the Hierophant, which is unable to directly communicate with them thanks to interference from the botanical asteroids.  The message carrier brings it to Lady Talia Sabine who stands with Sir Axton Kain and his regulars as they keep watch over their prisoners, the smuggler Wyatt van Carlo and his pirate companion, Scipio Vash. Nearby, the farmer boy from St. Borlaug's Star sits with the candy-haired clone-girl, who now wears a donated coat and breaths from a rebreather.  She has introduced herself as Nixi but has few memories (and was likely only recently decanted from the cloning biofabricator).

The messenger drops off the communicator and an image of the Grand Dame, Contessa Styliana Sabine, herself appears.  "My eyes are opened, the prophecies are true," she intones formally, and then continues:

  • The Hierophant is unable to communicate with them directly due to interference from the botanical asteroids and the "morass" between them.  They are coming to them, however, but going is slow thanks to all the asteroids.
  • No other ships arrived; they have the last hyperspatial signatures of them, so a good idea of where they've been scattered across the system.
  • They must control the base.  It is clearly the "mountain fortress" of the prophecy, but they must avoid death where possible.
  • They have detected some movements at the edges of the belt, some corvette-sized signatures that might be additional pirates.  They've sent some fighters to investigate.
  • Talia is in charge.
While the message plays, the Shieldmaiden-pattern robot, Elara, approaches Xerxes and his pirate crew.  They discuss the possible haul from the place, with Born Riksen, heavy set and jovial in his heavy armor, bragging about his knowledge of the sort of operation going on.

"Whatever you do, we have to get to the processing center.  I bet they have a scrimshaw blade and some marentine gems.  They'd be worth a fortune!"

They're interrupted by the arrival of Elara, who invites Xerxes to join Axton, as they have heard he had a vision pertinent to their circumstances. The pirates argue about their deployment; Sylvar Ro bristles at being left behind, his tail lashing as he moves with his reavers to guard the entrance, and Born exaltes at he and his maurauders joining their captain, which only irritates Sylvar further.  And so, Xerxes joins the rest of the group.

They arrive to find Callister Lee and his robot, Nubbins, explaining that they've managed to isolate the hangar bay from the rest of the comm systems and surveillance, so they can talk privately here without Mongo overhearing them.  He then suggests that he and Nubbins watch over Nixi while they repair Axton's Lancer.  Walker, Jethro's guardian, looking askance at his ward's mooning over the clone-girl, readily agrees. 

The group describes their best strategy.
  • Xerxes expresses concern that the dark Asrathi god, Kilrah, has been trying to contact him and may be trying to disrupt the mission. He believes the base to be under a dark influence, and informs them that Kilrah wants him to kill.
  • The group believes it best to keep the pirate and the smuggler alive, but to arrest them and keep them in the brig on Axton's ship.
  • Thanks to one of the Regular's scouting (Lance Highguard), they know there are several different paths they can choose: the industrial section, the habitats, the command bridge high above, or the bowels of the base, likely where engineering is. 
  • They choose to go into the bowels first, to see if they can smoke out Mongo and, perhaps, restart the fusion reactors.
  • Talia decides to stay behind with the majority of the Regulars, to keep the hangar secure and to distract Mongo by "negotiating" with him.
And so begins the "Dungeon Crawl" section of the Tall Tales of the Orochi Belt.  In addition to the space combat, I wanted to see how well the fighter aces handled on the ground.  This is a BAD 1 scenario, so it should be relatively easy and, as we'll see, it will be (especially given that everyone is 300 point characters).  I also wanted to put some extra work into bringing everyone together, which is easier in a ground-combat scenario.  I also want to note that I had all of this planned out before I knew what the PCs were like, so some of it might seem tailored for Xerxes, but it actually wasn't, he just made certain aspects a lot easier!
We did a couple of character things before this started.  First, I talked to Shay's player about her ST, and I agreed to allow her to reduce it to 9, mostly to better reflect her physical stature; this would prove an interesting choice, as it gave her the option to pursue more psychic powers, but the additional frailty of that lost HP would turn out to matter a lot.  We also explored our disadvantages more clearly, and I required a few people to invoke the Ham Clause on some of their more obscure disadvantages.  This included:

  • Shay's Dreaming Nymph addition 
  • Mallus's secret agenda
  • Walker's Superstitions and his secret and obsession (merged into a single -2)
  • Xerxes' Disciplines of Faith (Though I forgot to consider his Asrathi disadvantages).
This helped bring their disadvantages more to the fore, and made them think a bit more about their characters and their disadvantages.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Hey guys, let's fight everyone! Bounty Hunter Design Diary Part III

So, as part of my Bounty Hunter designs, I've been picking on one of my Tall Tales players, Xerxes, because he actually has Bounty Hunters as an enemy, so it's fun to tailor some opponents around him. But realistically one would not expect to see every bounty hunter tailored to their target.  Certainly, if bounty hunters realized that a Witch Cat was their target, those who specialize in hunting Witch Cats would pick up their kits and rush out the door to take down their preferred target.  But that anti-cyborg guy needs to put food on the table too.  Sure, he might not be as good at it as the first guy, but he only needs to get lucky, right?

So, we should have at least one "generic" bounty hunter.  This also makes it useful since you, dear reader, are unlikely to need a bounty hunter who specializes in hunting Witch Cats.  Thus, of the three-ish hunters I've proposed this week, this is the one you're most likely to actually use.

But what to do?  Every hunter needs a schtick, and our first one already melds excess collateral damage with precision planning.  Our second one melds melee excellence with a sympathetic character.  Every hunter should feel different enough that they represent a unique challenge for the PC, so ours should feel different.

Well!  I've been discussing Bounty Hunters with some of my Patrons, and Gentleman Gamer suggested that most bounty hunters are "either bosses or groups of mooks." I corrected him on the latter: you're unlikely to see a group of mooks.  "Why?" he asked.  Well, the real reason is that we expect to see highly competent loners doing these tasks, and that it's hard to pay an entire crew off of the sorts of bounties most people collect.  But that just means its rare, so why not have a bounty hunter with a group of mooks at his disposal?  It offers some unique opportunities: when searching for the character, his posse can canvas an area as a group and when they close in for the kill (er, capture), they can "beat" the target towards the primary hunter, like dogs in a hunt.  Gentleman Gamer went on to muse about drones, robot dogs and Shinjurai hunters, and I'm not going to dismiss any of those as ideas.  There's an entire world of hunters we could be making.  I'm going to focus, for now, on a guy who uses human mooks to help him fight.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Hey Guys, Let's Annoy the Witch Cat: Bounty Hunters Design Diary Part II

Yesterday, in an effort to keep the blog from being empty and giving the impression that I'm not busy behind the scenes, I unveiled some of my thoughts on making an interesting and rather tailored challenge for a character who took Bounty Hunters as an enemy.  The point, of course, is not to single him out for having the temerity to take the Enemy disadvantage, but to use his Enemy disadvantage as a spring board to create some interesting NPCs, because I expect you'll want to feature Bounty Hunters in your campaigns too, and why not have some ready, on-hand ones, even if these are rather specific.

But not every game is D&D, and even D&D doesn't really benefit from making every single encounter as lethal as possible.  Yes, we can treat Bounty Hunters as random Boss encounters, but  we don't have to.  An encounter, especially with something as "random" as a broad and general group of ill-defined enemies, offers us opportunities to explore and reveal some things about the setting.  Not every enemy needs to be lethal.  Some can really suck.  A weak opponent not only reveals something about the world, but makes the game feel less like a mechanical series of ever more difficult encounters and more like a real world to interact with.  And an inept enemy creates an interesting set of choices.  Sure, you could just, you know, kill them, but are you the sort of person who would do that? Or you can leave them alive to threaten you further and eventually they might get lucky.  Or you can try to talk them out of killing you.  But suddenly, you have a more interesting set of choices beyond just "kill or be killed."

So, I propose we introduce a bounty hunter or, actually, a team of bounty hunters that isn't constructed to be a thoroughly dangerous opponent, but an interesting NPC encounter that happens to involve a strong desire to kill you. I want to introduce a "newbie" bounty hunter.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Hey guys, let's kill the Witch Cat

Pardon my silence.  Both of my children were born this month, and there's Easter, and a quarantine, so I've been busy.  I'm also trying to figure out how to handle polls on multiple patron sites without spending $20 a month on the right to get more than a couple of answers, and I'm behind on my art comissions.

But the real reason I've been quiet is that a Patron asked me to work on bounty hunters, and they're up there with Mystics and Space Knights for "You don't know how much work you just asked for." In any case, if you missed it, there's a preview up for Subscribers and Patrons. One of the reasons it's taking so long is that there's a lot of reasonable "factions" and culture-groups that we might associate with bounty hunters and while we've worked out a ton of detail on mystics and space knights (and commandos and officers and etc) under the guise of working on philosophies and factions back in iteration 6, we haven't really touched on bounty hunter or criminal factions yet, which are both things we really need to explore, but we only have so many hours in the day.

Bounty Hunters represent a whole host of interesting puzzles, especially in that they're natural monster hunters (There's even a lens for it: "Hired Gun"). A Bounty Hunter naturally specializes in their preferred prey, and so may have means of disposing of particularly troublesome aliens, robots or space monsters that the average person doesn't have.  That is, after all, why you pay them!  But if we're going to introduce Space Witchers, we need to think about monsters which, against, brings me back to a concept I've been tinkering with but haven't had the time to really explore: Epic Psi-Wars. I've discussed it before, but the idea is that while running Psi-Wars for normal action heroes is fine (and the premise of many of its more procedural inspirations, such as Killjoys and Star Wars films like Rogue One or Han Solo), you can make the case for Psi-Wars-as-Monster-Hunters, also based on its less procedural inspirations (like the Old Republic or Metabarons).  In fact, the Action Genre itself does this, as Monster Hunters Sidekicks points out, as well as the finest action-genre RPG ever written: Nights Black Agents, which clearly illustrates how one migrates from a bog standard action story to a deeper thriller.

Bounty Hunters tend to straddle that line pretty well, especially in a space opera setting.  One session, they're busting some guy out of prison, or taking down a crime  boss.  The next session, they're using their specialized knowledge to kill a space vampire.  This lets them walk between the world of the smuggler and commando, and the world of the space knight and the mystic.  But this also means that in describing Bounty Hunters, I need to describe the things they hunt, and that means tackling some of the monsters of the setting, and that's taking me awhile.  Apologies.

The other thing I've been thinking about, and the real point of this post, is that Bounty Hunters make amazing enemies.  Raymond Chandler famously said that his preferred technique for spicing up a story was to have two guys kick in the door and start shooting up the place whenever the story got stale.  In space opera, the two guys who kick in the door and start shooting the place up are, of course, bounty hunters.  They can reasonably show up at any time, they should always present a unique, flavorful challenge, and once you defeat them, you have to ask the question "Who put the mark on my head, and how do I get rid of it?"

Thus, I've been thinking about Bounty Hunters as a challenge.  I asked one of my friends to see if he could make one, but then I decided that was an unfair challenge, because I wasn't sure how best to make one myself. It's not enough to slap some stats together and have a guy shoot at people.  I mean, it is, but as we'll see from the After Action Report of Tall Tales of the Orochi Belt, even a couple of BAD 1 Henchmen backed by 10 or so BAD 1 Mooks are not a serious challenge to starting PCs. We need more than big numbers: we need to think about what makes a bounty hunter a challenging encounter.  How can they be difficult and interesting to defeat.

We should be able to finish the following sentence: "This bounty hunter always get his man because..." or "This bounty hunter is unstoppable because..."

It just so happens that on of the PCs, Xerxes, an Asrathi Witch Cat, has Bounty Hunters as enemies, so I thought it might be an interesting exercise to explore how a Bounty Hunter might defeat that specific PC and how we can make it an interesting encounter. Come, and let's muse together on how to murder on of my PCs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Apprentice Consulting Occultist: What is Magic, Really?

I put up a patreon poll every month (when I remember to, anyway) and this time, I introduced no new elements, but brought up a bunch of old ones, and this one overwhelmingly. This will be a consulting occultist post, where I lay out some of my research into the worlds of the murky and the occult, and the most pressing question was: in the real world, in the real, and actual world, what is magic?

I've been slow in writing this post, not because I wasn't sure what to write, but I wasn't sure how to cut it down to something reasonable.  Do you want more research and quotes? Do you want deeper explanations? How long should I make this post?  The answer is, of course, that this is a rabbit hole without end, as can be seen from the occult section of any library, or the fact that Kenneth Hite has been writing about this my entire adult life. So I've chosen to focus on the barest of answers and analysis.  The idea is to give you a feeling for what the real world occult actually is, how it actually works, and how you should try to treat it when researching it yourself.

As for what the truth of the occult actually is\, you already know the answer to that.  It's...

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