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Topics - Shrieking Banshee

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I have come to really loathe "Pop" Cthulu and "Lovecraft Inspired" works as of late. Which I find kinda sucks because I overall love Occultic Horror, and I find Lovecrafts best works fall inside of the genre. In fact his 'Cosmic' horror elements are probably the weakest. By themselves and to a modern audience. 'Cosmic Horrors' are black holes with an angry face. We live in a cosmos of constant horror. I find the attempts to spookify the narrative equivalent of natural disasters to be misplaced.

And while anything can be pop-interpreted and copycatted until people miss the point (Like Tolkiens Elves), I feel that Lovecrafts works have had it especially bad and I feel I can trace it too the Santity mechanic as a whole. Some people really hate alignment in D&D, well I personally hate Santity Mechanics more (outside of abstract simulationist videogames or board games). While stress and sanity are a large theme of Lovecrafts works, its been gimmicked, and I find unlike the Alignment system people don't reject it as much as they do alignment. Not because its not an 'accurate simulation of mental illness' (or whatever) but because it centerfolds the entire fiction on said element.

But I feel thats just one massively misenterpreted element of this sort of horror, there is much more (visuals, themes, the entire idea of a mythos, execution). But I wanted to focus on how I feel at least it should be done right

A: You don't need tentacles. The monsters don't have to be aberrant or all that alien. To a certain extent lovecrafts monsters are not really all that unusual or different. His elder gods are largely just demons. But they took from scary new elements to create something new and at least visually differentiating at the time. Now its overplayed and they look like every other monster. Really any monster works towards occultic horror works in this, even traditional ones. Themes of corruption, or infiltration, or powerful beings being asleep or in control of places you don't want them to be in control works with just about anything. To a certain degree the focus is on mands hubris in relation to these beings, not how creepy they look. Werewolves work as well as deep ones. Vampires work as well as cultists. Anything thats a terrifying explanation for a unexplainable natural phenomena works.

B: It doesn't need to be apocalyptic or unstoppable. Inevitability is narratively boring. If you can't do anything about it, then your just writing a disaster film story with a shaggy dog ending. A horror that cares about the misery its to inflict is much scarier and a much worse prospect because it gives ways of interaction. A room with twisted shadows that play tricks on the mind is generally scarier then a pitch black room where you can't see anything at all. An evil that does have a use for humanity as eternal thralls in great suffering is generally a worse prospect then just being killed.

C: Sanity loss elements have to be used sparingly. Sanity loss causing items in lovecraft exist but work best sparingly and are not really all that different then a wand that makes you evil or something. The core is something that weakens you or corrupts you towards some perpose. Humans are deeply adaptable and adjustable. To a certain extent I find Lovecrafts 'And then a X popped out and drove X person crazy' a really dull narrative element. Works more for a ending zinger then a recurring narrative element.

Talks about what everybody uses as their preferred system for D&D-esque adventures got me to want to present what I use:

Spheres of Power (This is the website for the PF version)
Just as a warning: I do like the system so much I became a freelance writer for it (later) so if you feel that compromises my objectivity thats something Im saying upfront.

What is Spheres of Power?
Spheres of Power and might is a 3rd party supplement for pathfinder that pretty much replaces the existing Vancian magic system for PF. It has the following components:

Spheres: In place of schools of magic there are magic spheres. There are more spheres of magic (20+ some extras) than schools because each one is more specialized. Example spheres include: Alteration (Shapeshifting), Conjuration (Summoning Creatures), Creation (Creating objects or modifying them), Dark (Darkness related stuff), Illusion (Yup). There is some overlap in each sphere but each one is generally the best at what they do.

Talents: In place of spells learned or a spellbook, spellcasters get a number of talents they can invest into spheres. This is similar to feats. You must first invest a talent into a sphere to gain its base ability, but can invest further talents to either gain access to other spheres or increase your ability with one you already have.
This is similar to feat trees, but the vast majority (like 90%) of abilities that you can pick don't have pre-requisites except for possessing the base sphere.

For example lets say I want to play a blasty fireball chucking type mage. And lets say for whatever reason I have 5 talents. I can invest 1 into the destruction sphere (The premiere blasty sphere), which gains me access to a ray that simply deals bludgeoning damage. I can invest a talent into the sphere further to then gain the option to make that ray deal fire damage and burn continuously after a hit. I can then invest a further talent to allow myself to make a area of effect type ability in place of a simple ray.

I can then invest into alternate shapes that my blasts could do, or maybe invest in other spheres (Like maybe in conjuration to summon elementals).

Caster Level: Spell slots are removed from the system. In its place, what determines how good a class is at spellcasting is their caster level. In place of each magic class having a caster level equal to their level, they instead gain a caster level sort of like a base attack bonus. Weak magic is 1/2 your level. Medium magic is 3/4 your level, and High magic is 1/1 your level. Your caster level determines your sphere's abilities as well as their DC. And caster level stacks between different classes similarly to base attack bonus.
So a 5th level Wizard (CL 5) and 5th level Bard (CL 3): Would have a total caster level of 8. That 8 would determine the dice of damage he dealt with a destruction sphere blast, as well as its save DCs

Spellpoints: While many sphere abilities can be used as much as you like, stronger abilities draw from your spellpoint pool which is a limited daily resource.
So for instance in the destruction sphere the regular ray blast ability deals 1d6 damage per 2 caster levels (minimum 1d6), however by spending a spellpoint this increases to 1d6 per caster level. Shooting it as just a ray costs no spell points but turning it into an AOE blast effect would cost an additional spell point.

Casting Traditions: A big draw of spheres of power is customizability. By default, spellcasting comes with no further caveats than concentration. You can wear any armor you like and don't need to be verbal when casting (this includes wizards).
However you can create a casting tradition that modifies the way your spells work, by taking on drawbacks that limit your abilities in some way in exchange for some level of benefit (the drawbacks outweigh the benefits so this is mostly for flavor).
For instance I could make the classic mage drawback of no armor, verbal casting, and preparing investable spell points beforehand.

Or lets say I wanted to make my wizard more of a heavy metal rocker pyromancer. I could take requiring a focus (In his case a guitar), and require he succeeds on performance checks in order to cast. In exchange I pick the boon that allows me to make intimidate checks to scare people whenever I succeed.
There are also sphere specific drawbacks that grant extra talents. For example I could take a drawback for destruction that grants me the fire damage type, but prevents me from dealing bludgeoning damage with my attacks.

Traditions are a great tool for customizing the gameworld and emulating different kinds of magic (Dark Suns Defilers or Preservers, Blood Mages, Chaos Magic, exetera). As a GM you of course get the final say.

Advanced Talents:
While most talents have no prerequisites outside of base sphere and no restriction, certain talents are locked away behind explicit GM permission and deal with abilities either too powerful or world altering.

For example the ability to make creation sphere items permanent is locked as an advanced talents. So if the GM doesn't want economies broken he could deny the use of said ability. Other examples of locked abilities include stuff like 'look into the future' divination effects or making tsunamis.

Rituals & Incantations:
As an optional system you may permit some use of classic vancian spells as rituals which function as slow casting spells (requiring minutes to cast) which can be learned and written into spellbooks. So for example if I want to allow long range teleportation (but I don't want it to be a spammable thing in combat) I could allow it in as a ritual, requiring 100 gp per casting, and requiring 2 hours to cast.

Incantations are even more esoteric versions of rituals (Which function like PF rituals from the occult book). Requiring weird pre-requisites or limiations but don't necacarily need you to be a mage to cast them. I could say you need to sacrifice a goat under a fool moon to cast animate object over an idol or something.

Overal benefits:

Its a system that rewards and permits character concepts and overall tones down the power mages have access towards while making magic more accessable for non-mages and makes magical multi-classing much more viable.
Its a VERY GM friendly system that allows you to easily fine tune the kind of magic you want in your game.

The system is free online with a wiki, and a 5e version is in development. Link to the discord with public playtests on the wiki.

What about spheres of might?

There is also a similar system for non-magic users thats compatible from the same company but I lack space to write it here. Also available on the same wiki.

I want to hear about what is the definitive Shadowrun game to check out. I'm more familiar with 4e and its mechanics, and from what I get Shadowrun has always had dumb plot elements and jank mechanics.

But what else is worth checking out?

Just for ourselves me and some friends decided to make an RPG together (Just primarily as a project to work on as friends). We threw around ideas and settled on some kind of fantastical wild west setting. Different factions competing for largely untamed territories with conflicts with each other and the natives.
The idea would be to focus on being lawmen and investigators for these groups. So you got your traditional adventuring, but also mystery and intrigue.
Trying to think up ways to make the setting genuine to the feel, so we are trying to play off things in reality (such as invasive species).

What sort of ideas and suggestions could you give?

Im enamored with ship combat. In space, on the ocean, in the ocean,  in crystal spheres suspended in flamable gas.
But I can never seem to find a good rulesystem thats both easy to play and allows the ship combat to be satisfactory, while also not becoming its core tennant.
What sort of systems have you read that have good ship combat?

Preferably for a D&D type thing, but I think good design principles can be carried over from any system.

Edit: Something with good and simple and easy to implement boarding action would be hot as well.

Well I decided to run a Godbound game in the near future, but I'm going to tinker with it to my liking. I know of all of Sine Nominees Stuff and generally love it, but what other great OSR content exists?
In my games I like to use skill-based systems a bit more (What I liked from SWN), and I like High Magic Magitech stuff.

So any ideas where to look for such?

Help Desk / How to move a thread
« on: May 12, 2020, 06:52:48 PM »
I posted a historical thread in a media section. How could I get it moved?

Media and Inspiration / The Islamic Golden Age: Why did it end?
« on: May 12, 2020, 06:50:32 PM »
Im on a historical kick recently, and studying up on history and the like from many places old and new. There is propaganda from back then and from now which makes understanding history pretty complicated.

So my current big question is that there was a theoretical golden age in the islamic world of science and study (especially astronomy), and that it ended somehow. So how did it end and why?
And if they where so much more scientifically developed then the west, then why did they not kick its ass more then they did? What did the golden age entail in practice? Bigger Buildings? Better metals? Better medicine?

I hear some explanations of how the Mongols screwed everything up, but the mongols screwed things up for allot of people, and Im not certain how much the mongols actually destroyed because I know they accepted knowledge from places they conquered to some extent.

Im no historian, but I just felt like asking these questions somewhere and was hoping to get some pointers where I could get some answers.

(Whoops I meant to post it in the other spot, how could that be done?)

I'm running a heavily modded Pathfinder game set in slightly pre-industrial time. The game is more about investigation then pure adventuring.

The players work for the government and their foes are part of a large secret organization. While Im good at improv, I like setting structure for myself and my players. Otherwise, it's like paying solitaire but every card is a blank I can pick.

Im looking for good faction mechanics for either PF rules neutral, or adaptable to PF. Any suggestions?

For whatever reason my favorite settings are Science Fantasy. Either Magic VS Technology or Technology as Magic or Magic and Technology or Magic as Technology.

Im curious what neat RPGs people have run in Science Fantasy settings and what settings they made and what settings they used.

This is something that's been bugging me immensely ever since I feel there has been any amount of pushback to SJWs.
I hear so much stuff like:
'Well I liked diversity before but SJWs don't have true diversity! See how white they all actually are?"
"Well my product has plenty of women and gays and whatever: I'm not sexist! SJW accusations are completely unfounded!"

Well, stop doing it. Stop playing a game that only benefits your foes. Diversity is a neutral trait and not a virtue.
I find people often wondering how SJWs still retain and gain so much ground despite how when they have to maintain their own space it always implodes, and in practice, they promote weakness and victimhood. You're being bullied by nerds in wheelchairs.

That's because the SJWs biggest advantage is a battlefield that was prepared well in advance. SJW principles are so drilled into people's heads that even when they try to fight back against it they still use them subconsciously. Decades of pop culture, and academia (either through malice or lazy negligence), as well as some academic elite, have promoted the following values so hard that people still can't shake them off:
1: Diversity in it of itself is a virtue. It is not. Its a neutral value. It can be good or bad.
2: That it's always other people's responsibility to be empathetic to you and you have no responsibility to protect yourself.
3: The world is inherently fair and only nasty people make it unfair.
4: There are a bunch of others but the top 3 are the biggest ones.

Because they can't shake off those false premises SJWs always have a backend into your head. You can't play at their game or beat them at their game because the game is not designed to make sense. It never made sense and was always going to drive to this place of madness without examination or pushback. Its not crazy "Now" after having made sense. It was always crazy it was just quieter about it.
You can't expose SJWs for being hypocritical because the entire system to its core is hypocritical. By playing into it you're still keeping it maintained even as 'Opposition'. Somebody who doesn't play the game at all is much more dangerous than somebody who is within it.

Allot of the reason why people have trouble shaking this off is SJW language control. One of the core SJW principles is mixing in their own principles with existing language and then claiming that their version is the only one that exists. That's how stuff like Racism or Sexism or Diversity have been co-opted over the years. Thats how history and entertainment and education have all been perverted.

So don't play the game. If you want to make stories or have groups of people with non-standard characters that can be OK or good or great. But it can also suck or be terrible. Its a descriptor like "Romantic" or "Dramatic". But it's not a descriptor like "Fantastic" or "Clever".

Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / Best Pungeon ideas?
« on: December 27, 2019, 09:13:25 PM »
Any ideas for cool thematic gimmick dungeons based around 1 theme preferably with max pun potential?

I had a great time with the Gungeon and the crypt of the necrodancer.

In my quest to read and master every Tabletop system ever written, I have read Savage Worlds (The latest edition however its called).

I came away pretty impressed. Its rules-light, but rules breadth. Simple looking, without necessarily feeling too-light.
I was thinking about using it to run a Exalted/Godbound/Spelljammer inspired campaign, and I was curious whats its pros/cons are and what side materials I should get.

Well thanks to Snowman0147 I checked out godbound and found it pretty radical.

I have used Sine stuff before with Stars Without Number. The funny thing is that I didn't even initially look at godbound because I thought it would be the kind of wankery that exalted ended up exemplifying.
Godbounds art is gritty and grim but rules and writing suggest deep optimism. Exalteds art is bright and colorful but its rules and writing suggest a world mired in never ending self pity.
Also how the frack is Godbounds Artwork more consistent in quality?

But some concerns:

I actually like 3d6 systems more then 1d20 systems that feel swingy to me (IE a reason I liked stars without number). I very much liked the subsystems but the core resolution mechanics gave me pause: I feel like there isn't enough options to customize character in Godbound to make characters feel mechanically distinct. Im not a uber optimizer, but one massive turn off I felt when playing D&D 5e was the distinct feeling that my character didn't in any way feel distinguished in my actions from another.

If the mechanics are supposed to be bolstered by GM fiat Id like more guidelines for proper GM fiat. If the difference between STR 18 and 8 is a 15% difference, then Id like some guidelines to make that raw number feel meeningful if I ever got the opportunity to run it as a GM.

Does it sound like a reasonable idea to mix Stars Without Number and Godbound together someway?

I was running a Pathfinder session when one of the players linked me to some olden webcomic I read when I was a wee lad (Keychain of Creation). Out of nostalgia, I checked it out again.
And it was still good. It had a sense of humor, even if it was one of the dem Order of the Stick knockoffs at the time.
Still, it was a good time, and then I realized "Oh, it was also based on some kind of roleplaying game? I kinda missed that initially" (I thought it was modelled after an MMO).
And so I read Exalted, the latest edition.
I feel like I had been punted in the head. Social justice up the butt was one thing. And so where the generally bloated mechanics.

But the prose....The goddam prose. Felt like I was reading fanfiction.
"Im super duper awesome but cursed and everything is gonna die and suck and woa is me but we are awesome but everything sucks, but Woeee is meeeee"

It felt like a setting Im supposed to observe and not play in. Where the plot hooks? Places where my PC could get involved to make a difference? Im just supposed to mess around with the set dressing until the world implodes?

Reading Gurps after it felt like a breath of fresh air. Even in post-apocalyptic settings they expect you to be able to DO something about it.

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