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Friday, 26 May 2017

Classic Rant: Alternate Palladium System Skill Rules

I like the Palladium system. Overall, I have little beef with it. It's mostly very good at what it does; it's fast, it's not particularly complex, it runs smoothly, and it gives you that fast-and-loose kind of feeling.

Except the skills. The skills fail at all of the above. Skills are not fast, and they are complex.  They are the single biggest drag in the character creation process, the one thing that stops one from being able to say that the Palladium system would really be a great introductory or "pick-up" sort of game. Imagine Palladium, but where it only took you five or ten minutes to make a character, instead of having to spend a half hour poring back and forth from your OCC to the Skills section trying to look up the percentages (and progressions) of every single fucking skill, because they're all different. 

It doesn't run smoothly; the percentile mechanic is easy enough, but what happens when you level? This skill goes up 5%, that one 4%, that other one 2%! Once more, you are forced to look up everything (or at least, if you were smart enough to jot all the progressions down in the first place, you still have to take more time than you should have to double checking that you brought each skill up its required amount).

Finally, it's not "fast-and-loose" at all. It doesn't much fit with the rest of the system. In Combat you don't have twenty thousand different maneuvers; you just have "strike", "dodge", "parry", etc. But with the skills you, have "Radio operator: basic"; "radio operator: expert", "radio operator: superexpert"; "radio operator: jamming", "radio operator: techno-wizard radios", "radio operator: DJ", "radio operator: Ham"; "radio operator: shock jock", "radio operator: semi-intermediate that-kind-of-stage-where-you're-halfway-to-expert", "radio operator: ninja", and of course "radio operator: Fred".

It's idiotic.

So in any case, we were talking quite a bit about Palladium's skills a little while back on theRPGsite, and I hadn't forgotten about it. I had asked a few people what their solutions were, but none of them seemed quite radical enough. So here's what I came up with:

You know how all the skills are divided up into very broad categories? Make THOSE categories the skills!
So the new Palladium game system skill list would be:

Pilot Related

Plus the weapon proficiencies, that we'd keep as it is. There you go, twenty million skills pruned down to 14.

Now, every skill would begin with a base 30% + 4%/ level progression.

But beyond that, if you wanted to make it slightly more sophisticated, you could say that the old skills were just skill "specialties", that a given class would get a bonus for when rolling their skill as relates to that specialty. You would now have the skill specialties be automatically determined based on his OCC skills and related skills (and wherever his OCC related skills indicated a bonus to an entire skill-set, that would apply as an overall bonus to that skill including to any specializations; if an OCC related skill set indicated "none", that would mean that excepting any specializations already given under the OCC skills, the character has a value of 0 in the skill). 

Physical skills that gave you actual bonuses to attributes could only be taken if they were one of your OCC skills, otherwise they don't exist. For hand-to-hand skills, you could assume that if the option is given in the OCC to take a "higher" grade of hand-to-hand combat, you will have that higher grade. In other words, every PC will start out with the highest hand-to-hand type permitted by their OCC skills, unless the player himself wants to have inferior combat skills for some reason of character.

So for example, let's take the RIFTS "City Rat". It has for its OCC skills the following: streetwise (+20), pilot motorcycle (+15), pilot automobile (+10), math: basic (+10), running, wp of choice (1), hand to hand:basic. It also notes that the city rat could optionally have hand to hand: martial arts (or assassin if evil-aligned) if they use up one "other" skill.

So first of all, we assume that the City Rat will indeed have Martial Arts (or Assassin). Then we factor in the various specializations to end up with a skill set like this:

-motorcycle +15
-automobile +10
Pilot Related
-streetwise +20
math: basic +10

He also gets to pick one weapon proficiency, and takes running, which gives him +1 to P.E., +4d4 to speed, and +1d6 to sdc.

Now we look at "other" skills. Here is where we will determine the actual values of the skill. In the case of the City Rat, the "Other" skills are listed by category as: Communications: any (+10 to radio:basic and surveillance), domestic: any (+5), Electrical: basic only (+5), Espionage: none, Mechanical: automotive only (+10), Medical: first aid or paramedic (+10) only, military: any, Physical: any (+5), pilot: any ground vehicles, jet pack, robot basic combat (+10) only, pilot related: any, rogue: any (+15), science: math:advanced and chemistry only, Technical: any (+10), wilderness: none.

So now the skill list ends up looking like this:

Communications 30
-radio basic 40
-surveillance 40
Domestic 35
Electrical 0
-basic electronics: 35
Espionage 0
Mechanical 0
-automotive mechanics 40
Medical 0
-paramedic 40
Military 30
Physical 35
Pilot 0
-motorcycle 45
-automobile 40
-ground vehicle 40
-jet pack 40
-robot basic 40 (robot basic combat)
Pilot Related 30
Rogue 45
-streetwise 65
Science 0
chemistry 30
math:advanced 30
math: basic 40
Technical 40
Wilderness 0

As you can see there are effectively only 21 skills for the PC to worry about, and all of them will be going up at the same rate. When the time comes to level up, the player will just have to add +4 to each skill.

Next up, to finish rounding the character out, we see how many secondary skills he would have received. In the case of the City Rat, he had 10 secondary skills. In our system, you multiply that amount by five to receive the total amount of extra points you have to put into your skills listed above. You can put those points into any skill that isn't listed as having a rank of "0" (those are skills not available to the class and will never go up), either into the main skill or the specialization, but any points you put into the main skill do NOT end up raising the specialization at this point (this is to avoid the obvious wholesale points-pumping that would otherwise occur). So in the case of the city rat, you'd have 50 points to spread around into your various skills.

Finally, as the PC goes up in level, every three levels (lv. 3, 6, 9, 12, 15) the PC can choose two "adds" to the skill-set. An "add" can be either a bonus of +10 to a skill (general or specialized, there's no difference at that point), or a new weapon proficiency, physical skill, or robot combat technique, if any of these are allowed to the class.

So do let me know what you think about this solution to the problem of Skills in Palladium! I'll certainly be giving it a whirl if I ever get that RIFTS campaign I've been thinking of running going...


(originally posted june 16, 2007)

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Yes, Canadians, You CAN Get Dark Albion on Lulu!

So, I recently had some people complaining about the high cost of shipping US RPG-book products to Canada.  I wasn't aware of this, but apparently these days shipping books to Canada from the US or abroad has become even more ridiculously expensive than ever before.

Meanwhile, Lulu has a production facility IN Canada, and thus avoid those exorbitant fees.

Now someone recently asked me if I could be willing to put Dark Albion for sale on Lulu so that it would be cheaper for Canadian and other non-US customers to buy.

Well, in fact, Dark Albion IS on Lulu.
It's always been on Lulu. It came out on Lulu first.

In fact, the Alternate Cover Edition of Dark Albion is ONLY on Lulu.

And yes, Cults of Chaos is also on Lulu!

So if you are in Canada or one of those other "you get screwed on shipping/import duties/etc" countries, and didn't know you could get Dark Albion, now you have no excuse!  Go get yourself a real "OSR extravaganza" with Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + H&H's Chestnut

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Real Occultism in RPGS: How to Identify Crazy Wizards by Their Occult Team

I haven't done one of these in a long time, but long-time readers may recall I have done a whole series of entries (archived here) that detail how to incorporate elements of real occultism in your modern occult/horror RPGs. Today, I'm looking less at the theory, practices or mechanics of magick, and more at the social side of occultism. Just like in Harry Potter has Gryffindor and Slytherin, modern wizards have their own rival houses that are very different in look, attitude and ideas. They're all nuts, though. I should know, because I am one. So let's take a jesting look at the four major teams of the modern western occult scene, so that you can learn how to correctly interpret them in your occult RPG game!

1. Traditional/Grimoire Ceremonial Magicians

These guys are old-schoolers. They're divided between wizards that think magic should be done the 19th Century way, versus those who think it should be done the 15th Century way (and a couple who want it the 4th Century way). Regardless, they think new stuff is crap, and constantly showboat online about who's doing it the more old-school way. I say online because 99% of them never actually interact with anyone outside a computer screen.

Their magic involves trying to meticulously recreate the complicated tools and methods of Victorian or Medieval magicians, which sometimes involves a ridiculous amount of hand-crafting weird tools.

Some of them ain't got no time for that, so they just buy them. There's a whole Etsy industry catering to these guys.

It's especially funny because medieval magic is almost entirely Christian or Jewish, and almost none of these guys are. The whole "super authentic" thing goes out the window if you don't really mean all those psalms you're supposed to pray before invoking angels. But it gives you internet props anyways.

Hallmarks: Least likely to ever meet you in person. Most likely to have beards but dress like a square.

2. Thelemites

The modern wizards. Thelemites are magicians who use the techniques of Aleister Crowley, the greatest magician of the 20th century.

Like their founder, they enjoy being shit-disturbers, but fundamentally have disciplined views on magick. That said, 90% of Thelemites don't actually do very much magic, just read books and look for some fleeting partner to have "sex magic" with (Thelema is big on sex magic, though actually very few of them do that either).

As occult libertarians, they're big into free love, free drugs, and free thought; but they're also big on trying to spook the normies (and Wiccans). They can either be the life of the party, or totally insufferable know-it-alls.

Hallmarks: Most likely to wear black. Most likely to dig Alan Moore. Most likely to hit on Wiccan chicks at a Pagan festival.

3. Chaos Magicians

Chaos magicians are the post-modern magicians. It started as a kind of revolt against Thelema because the Crowley stuff was too "square" (by which they really mean "too hard"). Some of the big names in this movement are decent, because they're disciplined and studied other stuff. But 90% of Chaos-magicians have done anything at all outside of acting all pomo.

Granted, at least most of them have done some magic. Unfortunately most of them have only ever done one kind of magic: the one-trick-pony of Chaos Magic that involves masturbating over a sigil. Not even some ancient sigil, carefully selected and to deal with significant crises (where, in fact, the use of sexual energy to power the operation, even if just by masturbation, is traditional), but just one you made up yourself this morning for, usually for any old kind of bullshit.

(this is why people laugh at you, Chaos-magick wankers)

They also try to claim magic is scientific, by blurting out so much nonsense about quantum physics it would make Sam Harris' brain explode and Deepak Chopra blush. Then right after they tell you how scientific it all is, they tell you that it totally makes sense to invoke Wonder Woman in a ritual instead of Athena.

Hallmarks: Most likely to dress like a reject from an '80s movie. Most likely to dig Grant Morrison. Most likely to practice all their sex-magic solo.

4. Meme Magicians

Meme magick is post-post-modern magick. It is the art and science of creating, posting, and spreading memes to create change in your life and the world. It's either complete and total bullcrap or the most powerful sorcery of our modern era. Either way, it got Trump elected.

(Praise Kek!)

Meme Magicians operate through the power of sigils, like Chaos Magick, but instead of wanking over them, they use the power of the internet: their sigils are memes. The more popular a meme becomes, the more powerful it becomes. Of course, a lot of Meme Magicians are ALSO probably wanking over their sigils, because... you know, the internet.

So memes to them are a kind of hypersigil, and a meme that gets enough fame can achieve a kind of life of its own, or even a consciousness of its own. This is not some kind of new idea, it's called an Egregore, and it's essentially the artificial creation of a spirit through the application of group/collective consciousness. Egregores can be quite powerful, and useful, but can also sometimes be difficult to keep under control if they get TOO big. The most famous Meme Magick example of an egregore is of course Pepe the Frog. He went from being a goofy meme to beinga manifestation of an ancient Egyptian god, Kek

These memes can spill over to have effects on the real world. Some are very personal and can have very personal effects, changing things in small ways. Others can have massive world-changing effects. The most obvious case of this was the meme magick that helped the election of Donald Trump.
Other examples include the "Slenderman", and the "He'll be fine" meme, which is a meme that can be capable of killing celebrities. It may have been what killed Lemmy Kilmister.

Advanced Meme Magicians combine online memes, symbols of their intent, and more traditional occult symbols, as seen in this Jupiter Trump-Pusheen Sigil:

Obviously, you will now want to ask "are you fucking kidding me?", and the answer is yes. 
But kidding doesn't make it not real. Meme Magicians work on the basis of humor, to an even greater degree than the chaos magicians did before them, and the Thelemites did before them (old-school ceremonial magicians, on the other hand, tend to rely on being super-serious). The fact that even most meme magicians don't seem to take themselves seriously doesn't actually mean they aren't being 'real' meme magicians: meme magicians straddle a strange line between being dead-serious and totally fucking with you.

Hallmarks: Most likely to perform magick in their underwear. Most likely to weigh as much as two normal men or be stick-thin. Least likely to bathe daily. Most likely to want to Make America Great Again. Most likely to create an egregore to use for a waifu.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Billiard + Image Latakia

Monday, 22 May 2017

Why Did Time Magazine Not Know What the Kremlin Looks Like?

You've probably seen this cover, of the White House turning into the Kremlin.

Only, that's not the Kremlin. That's St. Basil's church. Time magazine doesn't know what the Kremlin looks like.

But worse: I know why.  If you do a google search for "kremlin", a lot of the images that appear are of Red Square, where St. Basil's and the Kremlin are both located, and some of the pictures that come up INCORRECTLY identify St. Basil's as the Kremlin.
See, this is St. Basil's (but the search claimed it was the Kremlin):

See the building on the right of the cathedral in this next picture? THAT is the Kremlin:

The Time magazine cover was done by someone who had to google to see what Kremlin was like, and got it wrong. And several million Democrats have been nodding sagely not realizing that Time Magazine knows fuck all about Russia and now they too know fuck all about Russia, thanks to thinking that a group of culture-studies-grad Establishment Journalists can actually have anything intelligent to say about the Trump presidency, foreign affairs, russian politics, or anything other than than the 'safe space'/microaggression nonsense they learned in school.

That cover is the ultimate triumph of the dominant Left-wing paradigm of "narrative/feeling over fact/truth or reason".  It symbolizes absolutely everything about the bullshit "Russia hacked the election" fabrication.

That is your brain on fake news.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Soltario Volcano + C&D's Chestnut

Wild West Campaign Update: The Murder of Dora Hand & The Intrepid Posse

The PCs started the session preparing for the upcoming wedding of former Gambler and secret Mormon, Hale, to his beloved former saloon-girl Becky.  After Miller had nearly caused a scandal for Hale by incorrectly thinking he was secretly a Catholic (he came close to the truth), Miller offered to make it up for Hale by running his bachelor party.  The fairly milquetoast Hale was reluctant but decided to accept the offer.

Miller paid for everything and held the party, which involved a poker game for various "prizes" (mostly prostitutes) at the top floor (the floor usually reserved for high-stakes games) of his Gambling Hall attached to the Beatty Hotel.

During the game, which was incredibly being won mainly by David the Mexican in spite of his having no idea how to play, one of Miller's employees comes up to inform him of a situation.  It turns out that an impromptu high-stakes game has taken place downstairs and is attracting a huge crowd, on account of how there's currently $20000 on the table.

The man holding up the game doesn't have enough to match the current raise of the only other player not to have folded yet. But he's trying to get a $10000 loan from Miller now, because of his insurance:  he'g got a four-of-a-kind in his hand.
Miller takes some time thinking about it (after arriving in Dodge near-penniless only 2 years ago, he was now wealthy enough to make the loan if he wanted), but in the end decides that he's too distracted by the party upstairs and on impulse says no.  However, the town bank manager says yes and gives him a cashier's check for the value, that whoever wins will be able to cash first thing in the morning. The gambler was sure of his victory, but everyone is stunned when the other man at the table has a royal flush.

After the game is over, the PCs and the other guests continue enjoying themselves at the bachelor party. All except Doc Baker, who calls it a night early.

Some time in the night the losing gambler leaves town with his tail between his legs. The next morning, first thing, the winning gambler cashes his check, and heads out of town quickly (not suspicious, given that he's likely to be nervous about someone who heard the news trying to hijack him).
Then the bank manager tries to hang himself. He's found in time by the teller, and they get him to Doc Baker, but Doc is nowhere to be found! They bring over Kid Taylor, the second most skilled medic of the town, to examine the manager.

Marshall Bassett is concerned about Baker's absence. He and Kid start to look around, and they discover he's nowhere to be found. Miller ends up finding out from the town drunk Louis that Baker was seen last night with the losing gambler.  What none of the PCs know, nor nayone one else in town except for Miss Jenny, is that long before Doc was a doctor, he was a riverboat gambler on the Mississippi, and he recognized the old scam: the two gamblers were in on it together. They'd set up the game to secure the loan and walk away with the bank's money (though Miller had been their original target). Unfortunately, when he was following the losing gambler in the hopes of finding proof of his suspicions, he got spotted and taken hostage.

A manhunt ensued, and eventually Kid, Jim Masterson and Wyatt Earp ended up finding them in a shack in the red light district. They'd doubled back into town and were trying to figure out what to do with the Doc and how to get out of town.  The lawmen were soon joined by the two Millers and Bill Tilghman, but they still had a hostage situation.  It turned out to be the young and usually bloodthirsty Jim Masterson who solved the issue.  He agreed to the men's demand that they be able to walk out with the Doc, and when they were too far to run back into the shack he drew on them, making it clear that they might kill Doc but six guns would end up mowing them down like dogs. The men surrendered.

One might have thought that would be all the action Dodge would see for a while, but the very next night a real tragedy struck.  In the middle of night, Dora Hand (one of the most renowned and beautiful singers of the west at that time, and one of the most famous citizens of Dodge) was shot dead.

She was killed in the house of Mayor James "Dog" Kelley, her lover. Kelley wasn't in Dodge at the time, having gone to Ft. Dodge for some medical attention while Doc Baker was missing.
The murderer was Spike Kenedy, the heir to the largest ranching fortune in this part of the west, son of cattle-baron Miflin Kenedy.

Spike had fallen madly in love with Dora Hand, and he hated Dog Kelley for being her lover. He'd actually tried to assassinate the mayor six weeks back (only to have the case thrown out thanks to his father's influence) and some three weeks back he'd come to town and challenged Dog to a fist-fight; in spite of being decades older than Spike, Dog beat him to a pulp.

This time, he'd gone to Dog's house in the night to murder him stealthily, not realizing that it was Dora who he'd shot.

Spike fled the scene, and Bat Masterson immediately put together a posse: Bat, Charlie Bassett, Bill Tilghman, and Wyatt Earp, accompanied by Bill "other" Miller, and Kid Taylor as deputies. The four lawmen were at this time four of the most famous lawmen in the west, and the new Ford County Register later reported on the matter, naming them "The Intrepid Posse", as never before had such famously intrepid lawmen all ridden together in such a celebrated manhunt.

Charlie Bassett:
Bill Tilghman:
Wyatt Earp:

They chased Spike Kenedy down, at night, through a raging autumn rainstorm. About 7 hours after they set off they caught up to him. He tried to ride off but Bat Masterson shot him through the upper arm with a .50 rifle while Wyatt Earp shot his horse out from under him. Spike cried out "Did I kill the bastard?", and one of the posse told him it was Dora Hand he'd murdered.  Spike glared at Bat and said "you should have been a better marksman"; to which Bat replied "I tried my best".  Spike would end up surviving his injury but only after the doc took about five inches off that arm, leaving it permanently paralyzed.

The murder of Dora Hand and the Intrepid Posse that caught the killer would become part of the wild west's legend.  Little do the PCs know that for one of the men in that posse, it would be the last time he ever rode as a Dodge city lawman.  But that's a story for next session.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Classic Rant: Sex With Ted

So, it has now come out that Ted Cruz has apparently been involved in affairs with five different women besides his wife.  As implausible as it sounds that there could really be a total of six women on the planet willing to sleep with Ted Cruz, it certainly seems like the National Enquirer (who broke the scandal, like they did the John Edwards scandal before this) have showed more actual Journalistic skill on this than the entire rest of the mainstream media.  They were very careful to cross all their Ts and dot their Is, because this is how they avoid lawsuits.  So it sure looks like it's the real thing.

In honor of that, I present to you my collection, thus far, of the @KasimirUrbanski "Sex with Cruz" posts from Twitter and G+. Visualize, if you have the stomach for it, what sex with Ted Cruz must be like:

Imagine this face, looking down at you, drenched in sweat, making animal-like moaning noises from his dead lips as he humps you to the sound of "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" playing in the background...

He asks you if he can talk dirty to you while you fuck, and if you reluctantly agree, he starts telling you about how David smote the Jebusites.

He has a part of his body he  calls "'Lil' Ted"... but it's not his penis.

"Ted Cruz will show America the face of GOD" -Heidi Cruz

It turns out, "the face of GOD" was Ted's nickname for his penis.

Imagine that face, those lips, whispering into your ear in mid-coitus "Can I call you Hillary"?

"My son is an Anointed King, destined to take control of all sectors of society" -Pastor Rafael Cruz

Now we know what he was "anointed" with.

Imagine if you were a woman and Ted Cruz was going down on you. 

It would feel like if you were getting oral sex from a blobfish


If you have an affair with Ted Cruz, he won't promise to leave Heidi for you, but he will promise to speak with Jesus on your behalf on Judgment Day.  

It gets really awkward when Cruz asks you to dress up as Mary Magdalene and wash his feet with your tears.

When Cruz goes down on someone, he never stops talking about "carpet bombing"

Cruz also cries after sex, but he says it's only because he's thinking of the Founding Father's greatness.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

(Originally posted March 25, 2016)