Showing posts with label conversions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conversions. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Plays Well With Others: Blue Rose and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This June I am on a big Blue Rose kick gearing up for my review of the game.  I felt for this review I should play the game more and kick the tires a bit more.  Today, given that it is Tuesday, I want to talk about another progressive game and how well it works with Blue Rose; the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.
I am extremely proud of the work I did on Ghosts of Albion. But I never would have gotten to do that work had it not been for the success of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Both the Show and RPG really. Without Buffy, there would have been no Ghosts on the BBC and without the RPG there never would have been a Ghosts of Albion RPG.



These two games share a lot of themes.  Blue Rose is more character-centric than other fantasy games and Buffy is more character-centric than other modern-supernatural games. Though most modern-supernatural games also tend to be more character focused.

Blue Rose and Buffy also share the +John Snead connection.  He worked on the original Blue Rose (and compiled a great list of must-read books of the genre). He and I also both worked on the Buffy Magic Box book.   Speaking of Snead's book recommendations, I reread The Blue Sword recently and I am struck how much of the heroine Harimad-sol reminded me of Buffy in ways. Also, my Queen Jaeliln was more than a little influenced by Buffy and SMG.

With Green Ronin now talking about Modern AGE (MAGE...snerk), I think the time to dust off my Buffy books is right.  As my old friend +Robert Black used to say, "I have a Buffy-shaped hole in my life."

By the Numbers
Normally when doing a Plays Well With Others of different systems I like to look how the stats convert.  I am less interested in that these days and instead more interested in how to convert concepts and ideas.   In this case, it's a "How would the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer work in Blue Rose?" Though I am not immune to the siren song of numbers.

Blue Rose/AGE has 9 Abilities.  Buffy/Unisystem has 6.  The mappings are pretty logical.
Just take the Unisystem ability and map it onto the AGE ability of the same name; Strength is Strength, Willpower is Willpower and so on.   The three remaining, Accuracy, Communication and Fighting, can be taken from various skills or qualities.  So Fighting is taken from Kung-fu; Communication can be derived from Charisma. Accuracy, depending on where it is used can come from Gun-Fun or Occultism.
Blue Rose/AGE abilities rank from -2 to 4. Buffy/Unisystem attributes go from 1 to 6, with some cases of 0.  Take your Unisystem score and -2.  Not perfect really, but it is really, really close.

Now at this point the numerical conversion stops.  In the Buffy RPG, the eponymous Slayer has Strength 8, Dexterity 9, and Constitution 8.  A straight conversion gives her 6, 7 and 6 respectively.  Not undoable really, but I'd have to bend the rules.  Instead, let's see how close I can get with Rules-As-Written.

I want to do starting characters, but to get her to the power level I want for a starting character I am going start her out at Level 4.  Blue Rose/AGE is fine with this as True20 was.

By the Concepts
What is a Slayer known for?  Killing Vampires naturally.  But in Blue Rose Vampires are not the threat that Darkfiends are.  Indeed, in the RPG and TV show the focus was less on Vampires and more on Demons. Unstable Shadowgates are roughly the same (plot wise) as a Hellmouth.  While magic is common, Sorcery is bad (Sounds like a 4th season episode, "Sorcery Bad!").

A lot of the same themes can be explored as well; family, relationships, sex, sexual identity, friendships and a group coming together.

Mr. (Robert) Maclay: This is insane. You people have no right to interfere with Tara's affairs. We are her blood kin! Who the hell are you?
Buffy: We're family.

So. Who is Buffy Summers in the World of Aldea?  Well, she is the Slayer. The Chosen One. She lives with her mother and sister in a suburban area of Aldis. Here she discovers a Shadowgate linked to the realm of the Darkfiends.  She has been chosen by Maurenna to destroy the darkfiends.

For my own Blue Rose games I have chosen Welsh as the language that represents Aldea, so all the names of my characters will be Welsh or Welsh-inspired.  Buffy Summers becomes Bethan Hâf, she lives with her sister Gwawr.

Bethan Hâf, the Darkfiend Slayer



Name:
Bethan Hâf
Race:
Human (Slayer)
Background:
Aldin
Class: Warrior Level: 4

ABILITY
Score Focus
ACCURACY
3 2
COMMUNICATION
1 Persuasion
CONSTITUTION
3 2
DEXTERITY
3 2
FIGHTING
4 3
INTELLIGENCE
2
PERCEPTION
2
STRENGTH
4 3 Might
WILLPOWER
3

Combat
AR 1
Health 65
Weapon Groups: Brawling, Bludgeoning, Heavy Blades, Light Blades

POWERS, TALENTS, AND SPECIALIZATIONS
Armor Training: Novice
Talents: Quick Reflexes (N), Single Weapon Style (N), Arcane Potential, Visions (N)
Specialization: Slayer of Darkfiends

Persona
Calling: The Sun, Championing the Everyday
Destiny/Fate: Six of Swords, Optimistic/Pessimistic
Goals: To Destroy the Darkfiends invading our home

Relationships
Gwawr (3). She is my little sister and maybe the only one that truly understands me. I will protect her. My wrath on anyone that means her harm.
Helyg (2). She is my best friend, the only one that has shown me kindness. I will save the world only because I have her help.
Brynn (1). She is the love of Helyg and that makes her family.

I like it.  This is a build I could work with.  Note I have not given her a significant other yet. Not sure how I want to work that in just yet. Would like to see where I would take this character first.

Next time lets spend some time with Helyg and Brynn.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

BECMI/4e Conversion, Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens

Last week I talked about RPGs and Sunk Costs.  This lead to a discussion of me converting my 4e collection into something else.  As is my wont, I opted for the most difficult conversion I could do and still be D&D; converting 4e to BECMI.

Since this is a test run I want something simple and something that others can look over to see what they think.  So for this trial, I am converting the free low-level adventure Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens. I am also using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia for ease of conversion here.



Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens is the 2nd adventure for a single player coming off of the D&D 4e Starter set.  The one that looks like the BECMI Basic Set.  Given this the character you are playing should be about 2nd level.   Now when I run this for real I am going to likely use it with a party and scale up the encounters.  But for now I want to see what a quick conversion looks like.
I am taking a lot of cues from the Classic Modules Today folks and just providing the monster conversions. I am not attempting to balance anything at this point.

Special Note: IF (and that is a big IF) I do these conversions I am going to all use the "Prince of Undeath" conversions for the HPE modules that were done by Myrhdraak a few years back.  This conversion makes it more of an Adventure Path style campaign that we now see from Paizo and WotC.  Plus it makes the Orcus plot more interesting.
Details are here:


Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens Conversion

Skill checks: Use the appropriate ability score. Perception is normally Wisdom, but use Intelligence where applicable.
Skill Challenges: Use as skill checks, but only provide XP if properly role-played.

Poison Dart and Poison Gas traps are Save vs. Poison or die.
Psychic Staircase trap is Save vs. Paralysis or take 5 hp of damage.

Sareth is a 1st level Elf with 7hp and 1 first level spell: Shield

Kobold Quickblade is a kobold chieftain (RC p. 187) with 9 hp (10 xp)  [100 xp]
Kobold Tunnelers (4) are normal kobolds  (RC p. 187) with 1 hp (5 xp each) [25 xp each]

Decrepit Skeletons (2) are normal skeletons (RC p. 204) with 1 hp (5 xp each) [25 xp each]
Grasping Zombie is a normal zombie (RC p. 213) with 13 hp (20 xp) [100 xp]

Skeletal Blackguard is a skeleton with 2HD (RC p. 204, 214-215) with 18 hp (25 xp) [250 xp]
Tomb Rats (5) are giant rats (RC p. 201) with 1 hp each (5 xp) [25 xp]

XP values in parentheses () are for BECMI D&D.  For comparison the D&D4 XP values are in brackets [].

In 4e a player would get a total of 725 XP from combat.  In BECMI/RC this becomes 110 xp.
So progression will be slower for RC.

I could follow this up with  The Dungeon of the Ghost Tower the next adventure.

Also, I can tell already that the combats for the BECMI version is going to be a hell of a lot faster.  This might not be such an insane idea after all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Willow & Tara: World of Darkness (new)

Willow and Tara in Mage the Awakening

Following up on my post from earlier today on The World of Darkness RPG.

One of the reoccurring themes in Willow & Tara fiction or games is their shared growth of magical power.  As they grow together and grow more in love, their powers increase to a near phenomenal level.  Sort of like the powers wielded in Mage the Awakening.

Now in my last Buffy campaign, "Season of the Witch", I had Willow and Tara become "mages".  Not exactly what is here, but very close.  I would be lying though if I didn't say there was some influence. There was. You can read about that in the last three adventures of that game:
This is also a common theme in the various Willow & Tara fanfics out there. In fact one of the best Willow/Tara fan fics out there is “Unexpected Consequences” by Lisa Countryman.  Lisa even uses the word “mage” to describe their power level even though I know for a fact she has never seen any White Wolf game.  In Lisa’s “Unexpected Consequences” Tara’s Awakening happens too soon and it causes, well, all sorts of unexpected consequences.  It takes place during season six and is far, far better than what happened on TV.  In the sequel fic “Milestones” Lisa deals quite well with Willow and Tara’s true Awakening some 10-15 years in the future.  Not only does she capture 30-something Willow and Tara quite well, it is an excellent narrative of how an Awakening can happen or be done.  Willow and Tara knew it was coming, and yet they are still totally unprepared for it.  It also shows what an Awakening must be like through the eyes of a mundane or other non-awakened witches.

So as they grow old together Willow and Tara will get much more powerful.

Presented here are a possible Willow and Tara right after the events of Season of the Witch.  I am borrowing heavy from Lisa here as well as my own World of Darkness (old) stats.  This would have lead up to my Season 3 that would have been more magically focus. In fact these conversions lead right from my Mutants & Masterminds 2.0 conversions in terms of when they happened (game wise) and when I wrote them (real time).  It was because of these two games that gave me the idea to move the girls to Boston.

Their Awakening in Brief
Lisa and I both consider Willow and Tara to be “old souls”, they have both been reincarnated many times and have shared many lives together.  Our separate visions of this were so compatible that we meshed them.  I had considered their first incarnations to be “Bodhmal” (Willow) and “Liath” (Tara) from Celtic Ireland, Lisa’s are “Belen” (Tara) and “Damara” (Willow).  In either case Willow and Tara’s Awakening in Mage is a similar event to awakening their Old Soul in WitchCraft; contact with their primal soul-selves. In Mage Revised this would have been their avatar. In Mage the Awakening this is the primal spirit that instructs them on who they were, who they are now and what they are to become.  I choose them both to take the Path of Thyrsus.  While they are not really “shamans”, there is an earthy quality about Tara.  It was more for their seeking of their Primordial Soul-selves. Plus in Lisa’s fiction Willow and Tara’s awakenings was always about a surplus of life and life-power. In UC Tara becomes faster, stronger and more confident.  Something she tries to maintain later in MS. What also struck me was the description of the Thyrsus’ extreme emotions.  This also fits Lisa’s fictions.

Delving deeper into the “Tome of The Watchtowers” (which also inspired the name for Episode 13) we learn that Thyrsus was the only Watchtower formed by a woman. The sexual nimbus fits with sex=magic we saw on TV and Lisa’s description of Adourflame (Episode 11).

I could have chosen Acanthus as well since this communication with their previous souls is across time and space, but I did not feel either of them fit the “Fool” or extremely lucky archetypes.

Willow Rosenberg

Path: Thyrsus   Order: Mysterium

Virtue: Justice. Willow is very much about what is right and what is wrong.
Vice: Wrath.  Some people bring a gun a knife fit, Willow brings a flame thrower.

Attributes
Intelligence: 5 Strength: 1 Presence: 3
Wits: 3 Dexterity: 2 Manipulation: 2
Resolve: 3 Stamina: 3 Composure: 3


Skills
Mental Physical Social
Academics 4 Athletics 2 Animal Ken 0
Computer 5 Brawl 1 Empathy 1
Crafts 1 Drive 0 Expression 1
Investigation 2 Firearms 0 Intimidation 1
Medicine 2 Larceny 1 Persuasion 2
Occult 3 Stealth 1 Socialize 1
Politics 1 Survival 1 Streetwise 1
Science 4 Weaponry 1 Subterfuge 1


Merits
Allies
Ambidextrous
Encyclopaedic Knowledge
Language 2     
Striking looks 2
Size: 5
Speed: 8
Initiative Mod: 4
Defence: 2
Health: 8
Willpower: 6/6
Morality: 6



Mana: 9
Gnosis: 5
Wisdom: 8



Personal Data
Age: 27 (in 2008)
Ht: 5’3”
Wt: 115#
Hair: Red
Eyes: Green
Gender: Female


Arcana

Death: 0
Fate: 0
Forces: 3
Life: 2
Matter: 1
Mind: 2
Prime: 2
Space: 0
Spirit: 1
Time: 0




Tara Maclay

Path: Thyrsus   Order: Mysterium

Virtue: Temperance. Tara is nothing if not understanding and temperate
Vice: Sloth. She is not lazy, but she likes things to move a little slower. She does not enjoy fighting monsters.

Attributes
Intelligence: 3 Strength: 2 Presence: 3
Wits: 4 Dexterity: 1 Manipulation: 1
Resolve: 3 Stamina: 3 Composure: 4


Skills
Mental Physical Social
Academics 3 Athletics 0 Animal Ken 2
Computer 2 Brawl 1 Empathy 3
Crafts 1 Drive 1 Expression 0
Investigation 2 Firearms 0 Intimidation 0
Medicine 1 Larceny 0 Persuasion 0
Occult 5 Stealth Socialize 1
Politics 0 Survival 1 Streetwise 1
Science 1 Weaponry 1 Subterfuge 0


Merits
Allies
Encyclopaedic Knowledge
Language 3
Striking looks 2
Size: 5
Speed: 9
Initiative Mod: 4
Defence: 2
Health: 8
Willpower: 7/7
Morality: 8

Mana: 10
Gnosis: 4
Wisdom: 8

Arcana

Death: 0
Fate: 0
Forces: 2
Life: 3
Matter: 1
Mind: 2
Prime: 1
Space: 0
Spirit: 1
Time: 0


Personal Data
Age: 28 (in 2008)
Ht: 5’4”
Wt: 125#
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Blue
Gender: Female

Of all the re-builds I have done of the girls these are in my top 5.
If I were to pick-up playing these characters again I would seriously consider using the nWoD/Mage rules.

For Arcana I gave Willow 11 dots and Tara 10.  This actually might be a little light.
I would love to play around some more with this game some day, but I can't find people to play it.

---

This is my last post for the YAM Magazine LBGT Blogathon.  I wanted to end with Willow & Tara and using one of the most accepting RPG I have ever known.

World of Darkness and Mage the Awakening

World of Darkness and Mage the Awakening

One of the most influential games to ever hit the market was Vampire the Masquerade.  I have talked about this game quite a bit in the past, but never addressed directly.   Well a while back they “rebooted” the entire universe and now we have the “New World of Darkness” and with it a revised vampire game, Vampire the Requiem.

Let’s start basic; both games are all perfectly playable as they are.  All the games cover much of the same ground and allow you to play similar types and styles of games.  All the games have similar backgrounds, realities and even to some degree futures.  Characters created in one game can easily be thought of as having an analogue in the other game.  In fact recently White Wolf created a “Translation Guide” to allow you to move characters from Vampire the Masquerade to the newer Vampire the Requiem.  It was an insanely popular book spending many months in DriveThruRPG's top 10.   They also now have a Werewolf Translation now.  I am waiting for them to do one for Mage.

The same could be thought of when comparing *WoD with Unisystem.  For every Unisystem character there is an analogue in the World of the Darkness (either).    Both games cover a lot of the same ground, just in different ways.

Translations between the two different systems it bit hard than between oWod and nWod, but it can be done.  So the question then is why would I want to?

Well there are many reasons.  Maybe you want something new a unique to spring upon your players.  Zombies with more “life” in them, vampiric ghouls, conspiracies from either game.    Given that the in-game realities allow many permutations the question become more of Why not?
Maybe you have tons of books of one system, but want the new challenge of a new system, but don’t want to loose your investment in a world.

Or, lets face it SOME ONE out there want’s to see what happens when a Slayer goes up against the Ordo Dracul, or who really is more powerful, a Mage or a Witch.

For the sake of this post I am going to concentrate on nWod or new World of Darkness and the "Storytelling" system and the WitchCraft and Ghosts of Albion flavors of Unisystem.  Given that, I am going to focus mostly on Mage the Awakening.

Worlds of Darkness
What is different between the two WoD games and why should I care?  To start with the rules have been cleaned up to allow greater playability across all the lines and a new focus has been placed on “normal” humans; something the old World of Darkness sorely lacked.  All in all the rule changes are an improvement.  They are, if I dare say it, more Unisystem-like. Also the meta-plot and background has changed.  In many respects the meta-plot of old is gone, this allows Storytellers great freedom.  But it also seems they purposefully did what they could to make differences more pronounced.  In Vampire this is a good thing, in Mage I am less pleased with the results.

Mage: So What’s New?
Well in many ways much is the same.  Characters are still magic wielding humans that can change the nature of reality through the effort of their will and a butt-load of d10s.  There are still traditions of sorts (now called Paths) and there are still spheres of control (10 total).
The authors really took time to think about the myths of Mage. The results will vary in the eyes of the beholder, but there is no doubt that they craft an interesting world.  It is almost like they took all the myths of the world and thought “what are the root truths to all of these”.  The result is something I describe as looking at the world from a perpendicular or a sideways glance; it looks familiar and yet oddly strange.  Everything is familiar and still new and different. Also there seems to be a general fondness for the 70’s occult revival or the trippy acid-induced hangover of the 60’s. For example the five mages of the watchtowers look like something out of a Black Sabbath album.

Mage the Awakening system wise is much closer to WitchCraft.  Mage: The Ascension is more compatible with WitchCraft thematically.

nWoD: Second Sight
In many ways this the Mystery Codex of the new World of Darkness.  It is also the new “Sorcerer: The Hedge Wizard’s Handbook”. It deals primarily with psychic powers and phenomena as well as “low magic”.  It is a good addition to any WoD game and a decent enough primer of psychic ability for any game if you can’t get your hands on the Time-Life Books series. It does do something that the old WoD was never able to do adequately for me, and that is answer the question of what happens if an already powered character gains vampire, werewolf or mage powers.  Full of ideas of new Supernatural Qualities, Seer Metaphysics, and even Taint based powers.  This book is actually quite useful as is for Unisystem gamers.

What Do Users of Each Game Get?
For the Unisystem player the answer should be quite obvious, a variety new and interesting powers for Vampyre characters. Most Vampire powers can be converted to Qualities.  But beyond mere crunchy stuff, there is the thing that makes both games so appealing; the back stories.  Both the new WoD and the old WoD had very interesting back stories and meta plots to their game, it really gave the feeling of living in a real, living (unliving?) world.
Unisystem Games are not as detailed for another good reason, to allow players the freedom to make the worlds their own.  WitchCraft also assumes that there are many different kinds of magic, not just paths to one ultimate truth.  These magics can coexist with each other and the world.

Conversions to Unisystem
Normally when doing a game to game conversion I like to think these are the same characters in the same world, with just a different way of looking at things. Conversions between Unisystem, d20, BESM, Chill,  and even Kult have worked out fine in this regard. Sure there are some differences in world mythos and ways and means of magic, but all in all conversions can be (and have been) done.

This one is a little more tricky.  While converting the actual numbers is not a difficult task really, it is determining if the numbers mean the same thing.  Then there is the dice pool mechanic vs. the stat+roll compare to a target number mechanic of games mentioned above.
In most cases a direct conversion may not be possible so instead one should try to stat the character using the same concepts.  So my Wicce Seeker of Knowledge ends up being a witch on the Thyrsus Path and a member of the Mysterium.  Not exactly the same thing really, but close.
I am viewing this then as separate but equal (which, thanks to the Kansas Board of Education we know really isn’t) characters; alternate universe versions of each other. So the characters are largely the same, just the worlds are different.

Points to Points
We can look at conversions two ways; a point for point conversion or some external correlation.  In WoD (most) everything is on the same 1 to 5 point scale.  In Unisystem everything is also on an equal pointing scale.
This is good, so let’s start with the Attributes. The new WoD still has nine Attributes in 3x3 categories, with Willpower which is removed from the attribute list and has it’s own scoring.  Unisystem has 6 attributes in 2 categories (mental and physical). So not everything is going to convert nicely.
Intelligence, Strength, Dexterity and Stamina (WoD) line up well to Intelligence, Strength, Dexterity and Constitution (Uni).  Willpower and Perception in Unisystem are slightly different in WoD.
The Social triad, Presence, Manipulation and Composure can best be handled by Qualities and Skills.  In particular Charisma (which can be positive or negative in Unisystem) can handle Presence and Composure to some extent.  Others Qualities and Skills include Influence and Attractiveness, as well many supernatural qualities.

If we count the “free” point everyone gets in WoD for all nine attributes and add the amount allocated we get 30 points total and an average of 2.333 per attribute.
In Cinematic Unisystem Heroes get 20 points for 6 attributes, this amounts to a 3.33 per attribute.  So on the average 1 point higher per attribute.

Going to the external validation let’s do what I did with the Chill conversions; compare the max lift of both games.  At a strength of 1 a character can lift 50 lbs in Unisystem or 40 lbs in WoD.  In both systems a strength of 2 will allow a character to lift 100 lbs.  But it is at Strength 3 that the systems differ. At Strength 3 a WoD character can lift 250 lbs, a Unisystem character 150lbs.  This continues and gives us the following table.

Strength nWoD Unisystem
1 40 lbs 50 lbs
2 100 lbs 100 lbs
3 250 lbs 150 lbs
4 400 lbs 200 lbs
5 650 lbs* 250 lbs
6 800 lbs 450 lbs *
7 900 lbs 650 lbs
8 1000 lbs 850 lbs
9 1200 lbs 1050 lbs
10 1500 lbs 1250 lbs

There is a built in error factor of ± 10% of the weight on Unisystem’s side.

Continuing our look at external validation let’s compare what each system calls their human maximum (* above).  In WoD this is 5 (at a higher point cost) and in Unisystem it is a 6 (also at a higher point cost).

All three of these combined point to one overwhelming conclusion:
WoD scores = Unisystem – 1

Very nice.  A quick and dirty look at skills, metaphysics, merits and flaws and this seems to hold true.

Vices and Virtues
This is new to the new WoD game and it is an interesting role-playing twist.  By having your character role-play one of the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues they gain Willpower points.  My suggestion is to retain these when converting to Unisystem and have players gain or loose Essence Points (for Classic games) or Drama Points (for Cinematic games) in place of Willpower.   In the case of following their virtue they gain a 1 to 3 Essence points or 1Drama point instead regaining all lost.
Of course Experience points can always be given, but by giving Essence or Drama points they take on a different feel.  My personal preference is to use this with Essence.
This is most similar to Kult’s Mental Balance mechanic or the Karma mechanic of other games. My trouble is often my characters do not fit well into the seven virtues or vices.

Skills
Skills seem a bit easier.  Classic Unisystem has more skills than WoD, but CineUnisystem has less.  Five dots is the human maximum in the WoD, 6 is the human max in Unisystem, but some can go to 9.
Use the same conversion formula here, WoD score = Unisystem score -1.
If converting to CineUnisystem, use a wild card for skills not covered (like politics).

Metaphysics
Ah. Now here is the meat of the matter, what makes both games unique.  Mage and WitchCraft’s magic systems are not only very different from each other, they are also largely different from most other games out there. The magic system is often one of the big reasons why people choose one of these games over the other.
In Mage one immerses themselves in a Path and learns (by spending points) Arcana.  These are then utilized by Rotes and powered by Mana (Quintessence in old Mage).   In WitchCraft one immerses themselves into metaphysics and learns the invocations (by spending points) of that area.  In some cases these are also call Aracana. These metaphysics are powered by Essence.

Converting Rotes to Classic Invocations
In Mage magic exist in Arcana and are powered by Mana.  WitchCraft invocations are likewise grouped and are powered by Essence. So they do have surface similarities.
Since invocations have mostly set effects, it is often easier to use Mage rotes as the path of conversion.  But it should be noted that purchasing 7 levels in any WitchCraft invocation often has the same effect as becoming the master of an Aracana (5 dots), again the WoD = Unisystem -1 formula (more or less) comes into play.

For WitchCraft I would take each Mage Sphere and make them a sub category under a new grouping of Metaphysics called “Mage Arcana”.  What separates these from other invocations is the only way to learn them is to be a member of one of the Mage associations.  Mage Arcana might just be a long hiden type of Atlantian Arcana (something both games have) or it might something completely new.  Lost texts from ancient Lemuria come to surface full of this new type of magic for example.
Now certainly there is (and should be) overlap. The Mind sphere should be accessible to anyone with the Sight, and Death and even some Life and Time should be available to Necromancers.

Converting Rotes to Cinematic Spells
When converting to Cinematic Unisystem, Rotes are the way to go.  The dots of the Rote add up to give the Cinematic Power Level.  In many cases this will have to be adjusted by -1.
Witches and Magicians that have more than 9 levels of Sorcery or Magic (respectively) can use the Improvised casting rules in Mage.

Up next, conversions in practice.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Zatannurday: Zatanna as an RPG Character

Magic using characters are interesting, but in comics their powers tend to be all over the place.   Zee is no different, but at least she is not as bad as Scarlet Witch.



I have been thinking about magic using characters a lot of late.  Partially as I wrap up my new Witch books and as I look forward to maybe working on my own system/modern system.

So here are some of the links I have been using of late to help research her character for various games I might want to add her to.

Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zatanna
Comic Vine, http://www.comicvine.com/zatanna/29-5691/
DC Wikia, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Zatanna_Zatara_(New_Earth). This has a good list of her powers
DCAU Wikia, http://dcanimated.wikia.com/wiki/Zatanna
Smallville Wikia, http://smallville.wikia.com/wiki/Zatanna_Zatara. I'll need to talk about Smallville soon.
Her IMDB page, http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0035273/

Interestingly enough, while in some comics Zee is seen to need to use her voice to cast spells (or be rendered helpless if she can't talk) sometimes, like the above screen shot, she can do magic without needing to vocalize at all. Or, as in the past Paul Dini run, she can write the word backwards.

The DC Adventures game has all her spells as "vocal" ones. But even recent comics has shown her writing a spell backwards to get the desired effect.

I'll spend some time looking over her RPG stats for DC Adventures and Mayfair's old DC Heroes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

D6 or not?

D6 from West End Games has always been one of those systems I have known about, toyed around with but never actually played.

DriveThruRPG has the most recent collection of D6 games for free.
I had Hercules & Xena for a while and still have a copy of DC Universe.

I get the basic system (and even better now after talking to Jason Vey).

Is there anything I am missing by not playing/knowing D6?
Is it a system I should investigate further?

I am not a huge fan of dice pool games and I have enough games to keep me busy for the next 10 years to be honest.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vampire Translation Guide

No not how to translate a Sparkler into something more like Christopher Lee's Dracula, but how to translate between the two different versions of White Wolf's signature vampire RPGs Vampire the Masquerade and Vampire the Requiem.

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=86202&affiliate_id=10748

I came late to the Vampire party.  I was playing a lot of AD&D 2nd Ed and really getting burned out (plus I was in Grad school).  Vampire seemed to me to be a pretender to the throne of Gygax.

I did pick up a copy sometime around 1999 and thought it was very cool and would be great for adding to my games; which at that point were a winding down, nearly dead AD&D and one of my new-found love, WitchCraft RPG.  I did pick up Vampire the Requiem when it came out and noticed right away how much it was like Unisystem.   I like the rules of nWoD much better than that of oWoD, but the fluff of oWoD can't be beat really.  So a document like this is a perfect thing for me really.

I seriously doubt I'll ever use it.  I just don't play any of the WoD/White Wolf games anymore.  But I am glad that this is out.

Plus I love how the cover combines elements of both games into something new, yet familiar looking.

You can read my review of it here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Willow & Tara: Cartoon Action Hour Season 2

I have covered a lot of this ground already, but I am surprised I had not actually posted this yet.
To follow-up on my review and write-ups of Cartoon Action Hour 2 I wanted to present my two witches.  The power scale here is a bit different than say the Hex Girls, but it is still very do-able in CAH:2.  In fact the power scalability here maybe one of Cartoon Action Hour's greatest strength.

Keeping with the 80's vibe of the game, I'll use pictures of action figures.

So I am obviously going to start with my versions of Willow and Tara from BESM 3.0 and OVA.  I think they both do a good job of capturing an "animated universe" version of the girls.  CAH should actually do a bit of a better job really since it is so flexible.

With BESM 2r I was going more for a different universe deal. Same characters, different situations.  With this I think I am more likely to go with the characters as they are in the Dragon and the Phoenix/Season of the Witch time lines.  Just different viewpoint on the same characters and events.  Plus it makes filling out the sheets easier since I have a very clear idea of who these characters are and what their motives are.

So going with Season 3 here there are somethings that are new to the world.  Like for example everyone knows magic is real.  While they don't hide they are witches they do hide how powerful they really are.
(For details on this world, you will have to wait till I post all of "Season of the Witch".)


Willow Rosenberg
Series: Willow and Tara, Season 3
Group: Willow and Tara
Appearance: Attractive 20-something woman with red hair.

Factoids
- Is off-the-charts smart
- Fantastic computer hacker
- Is a witch and can do magic
- Is in love with Tara
- Sold her computer company at age 25 so is very rich
- Can still be a bit insecure

Subplots
- Has anger issues
- Secret: Brought down the veil between worlds (outed magic)
- Fears loosing Tara and loosing control of her powers
- has made a number of enemies

Traits
Witch (Spell Caster Cluster), 8 (24 points)
 - TK (manipulate)
 -  Arcane Blast (attack)
 - Shield (defend)
 - Magical Sight (can see magical creatures, magical forces in the earth) (misc.)
Attractive 2
Computer Expert/Hacker, AF 6
Monster Hunter 2
Occult Scholar 5

Anger issues x1
Secrets x2

Base Oomph 5
Threshold 18
Battle Rating 8


Tara Mclay
Series: Willow and Tara, Season 3
Group: Willow and Tara
Appearance: Attractive 20-something woman with blonde hair.

Factoids
- Is empathic
- Artist
- Is a witch and can do magic
- Is in love with Willow
- Is a councilor
- Can heal by touch

Subplots
- Secret: Brought down the veil between worlds (outed magic)
- Fears Willow loosing control of her powers
- has made a number of enemies

Traits
Witch (Spell Caster Cluster), 7 (22 points)
 - TK (manipulate)
 -  Arcane Blast (attack)
 - Shield (defend)
 - Magical Sight (can see magical creatures, magical forces in the earth) (misc.)
Attractive 1
Books of Spells
- Albus Codex 2
- Journals of Tamara Swift 2
- Journals of Megan Mclay 2
Familar (MKF, adds +2 to Oomph), 4
Healing Touch (revives), AF 3
Monster Hunter 2
Occult Scholar 5

Secrets x2

Base Oomph 5+2 (7)
Threshold 19
Battle Rating 7

Friday, July 23, 2010

Willow & Tara: Savage Worlds

So the conversions of Unisystem to Savage Worlds and back went so well it seems a shame not to include a posting about my witches.

Willow & Tara in a Savage World






Given the pulpy feel of Savage Worlds and the general power levels I don't think I should try to convert late "Season of the Witch" or "Generation HEX" versions of the girls.  Sure there are books out there that I think would cover it ("Necessary Evil" is a good choice), but I am sticking with the core book here, or even maybe a modern version of Rippers.   Instead maybe a separate development evolution would be a good idea. So I would start with the girls circa their run in my WitchCraft RPG game and maybe just before the events of my Mutants and Masterminds game.

The biggest issue for me is the magic system.  I have been going over it more lately and I see it is something I could work with.  One thing is for sure, magical characters in Unisystem start out more powerful than their counterparts in Savage Worlds.  I guess that is ok really.  What I ended up doing is giving the girls around 60-65 XPs to advance them to "current" levels (which puts them into the "Heroic" tier for Savage Worlds).  The amount of magic they have seems less that their Unisystem counterparts, but I think I can live with at really.

Tara A. Maclay  (circa 2007 game time)
Human: Heroic (60 XP)
Female; Age 27; Height: 5' 5"; Weight 125lbs

Attributes
Agility d4  
Smarts d10
Spirit d10
Strength d4
Vigor d6

Derived Traits
Pace 6     Toughness 5
Parry 6    Charisma 2

Skills
Driving d4
Fighting d4
Healing d6 +2
Knowledge, Humanities d10
Knowledge, Occult d12
Notice d6
Riding d6
Spellcasting (Arcane) d10

Hindrances
Curious
Enemy (various)
Loyal

Edges
Arcane Magic
Attractive
Hard to Kill
Healer

Arcane Powers (15 Points)*
Barrier, Bolt, Burst, Deflection, Dispel, Light, TK

For this I went with powers she has (bolt, TK, Light, Deflection) and ones she uses the most often (barrier, Burst, Dispel).  Other spelss might need to be re-classified as "rituals".



Willow D. Rosenberg  (circa 2007 game time)
Human: Heroic (65 XP)
Female; Age 27; Height: 5' 3"; Weight 105lbs

Attributes
Agility  d4
Smarts d12
Spirit d10
Strength d4  (next advance take this to d6, she's been working out)
Vigor d6

Derived Traits
Pace 6     Toughness 5
Parry 4    Charisma 4

Skills
Driving d4
Fighting d4
Knowledge, Computers d12
Knowledge, Occult d12
Knowledge, Science d10
Notice d6
Persuasion d6 
Spellcasting (Arcane) d10

Hindrances
Enemies
Stubborn
Vengeful

Edges
Arcane Magic
Attractive
Charismatic
Hard to Kill
Rapid Recharge

Arcane Powers  (15 Points)
Blast, Bolt, Detect/Conceal Arcana, Dispel, Elemental Manipulation (fire), Fly, TK

Gear
Doll's Eye Chrystal +1 to spellcasting

So. There they are.
Here is what I see.  I would like to figure out a way to increase both of their Power Points.  Tara should have 5 more than Willow since I see her more of an arcane wellspring, but Willow can "refuel" faster.  I think I would rule that Witches start the game with 15 or 20 Power Points instead of 10.  

I would also include a Ritual Casting rule that would allow a magical type to use "rituals" or spells written in books for a one-time effect.  In truth I'd do them very similar to how they are done in D&D 4E.  This gives the "normal guy" a chance to throw some mojo around.  The Power Point cost would have to come from somewhere.  I would rule then that Normal Humans have 5 (or 10) power points that they just can't get too, but can use in rituals or to aid another.  Maybe supernaturals then get 15 and then witches have 20.  Set it up something like Essence from the WitchCraft game.  This assumes a game that is more magic-based than the pulpy action feel that is normal to Savage Worlds.

I would though like to try out these builds in a Savage Worlds game sometime.  The other builds I have a more inherent feel for.  These, I think, would end up being pretty powerful, maybe more so than the numbers let on to me.  I had the same issue with my Mutants & Masterminds builds.

NOTE: I just picked up the The Kerberos Club for Savage Worlds, so I might have more to say on this later.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Willow & Tara: FUDGE

FUDGE

Fudge is a “Universal” RPG, designed to emulate any world, any genre and put the focus back onto characters and story rather than rules or rolls of the dice.

To me Fudge, and it’s younger sibling Fate, were just another one of those “games without a soul”. By that I don’t mean it is a soulless monster, but rather if you held it up to a mirror it wouldn’t reflect anything. At least not to me.
This puts it, in my opinion with GURPS, Action! and Fuzion.  They all do what they do well, and a lot of things good, but maybe not "great".  All these games have some similarities, and even similarities to d20 and Unisystem, but what I feel they all lack is a cohesive theme or look and feel. Tri-Stat in BESM is very much “Anime” flavored, as Unisystem is modern horror. Action! is a little bit better, but True 20, GURPS, Fudge, and Fuzion seem to lack a theme element. 

Because of this I never cared much for these games. That is until I looked into a Fudge based game called “Now Playing”.

I liked it.
I then looked into other Fudge/Fate games and I’ll detail what I found in them later.
In particular I'll talk about Fate when I do a big long review on The Dresden Files RPG.

About Fudge
Fudge used to be known as FUDGE, the Freeform, Universal, Do-it-yourself Gaming Engine. Created by Steffan O'Sullivan, back in 1992 it is notable as being one of the first game systems to be released for free on the internet. It even had an open licensing agreement (though not as open as the current OGL which Fudge now uses) which is interesting since it was released in a climate when most game companies were still trying to figure how to use the internet and control their IP.

Reading the basic (and free) Fudge rules is better than reading the d20 SRD. It is reminiscent of another “universal” game, GURPS. While the SRD is not d20 nor is it D&D, Basic Fudge is a fully playable (if soulless) game. This is where games like Now Playing and Heart Quest can shine. Like Unisystem (there’s that Universal thing again…) what really makes it work are the settings. While I am fan of most Unisystem games, I do have my favorites (namely WitchCraft, Ghosts of Albion), Fudge is the same way. I should note that there is a Fudge SRD as well, it reads like Basic Fudge but is twice as long.

Heart Quest
I mentioned Heart Quest when I discussed Anime RPGs a while back. It is still a good choice and it's different tenor plays off well with Now Playing to create the series I want.  More on that in a bit.

Now Playing
Now Playing is a Fudge based RPG that claims it can emulate any TV show or style with their simple ruleset and guidelines. They might be right. While the Buffy RPG is the Gold Standard when emulating a supernatural drama television show, Now Playing handles everything else rather well. Action shows, Sitcoms, Reality TV, cops shows, lawyer shows, Sci-Fi, and yes Supernatural Drama are all covered in this book.  There is a newer version out now called "The Unexplained" and it looks very similar, but maybe a touch darker.  I don't have it and I have spent all I can on my RPG budget. I would love to have a look at it in detail, until then I'll stick with Now Playing.

Since I want to focus on this game as my premier Fudge game, I’ll turn back to mechanics.

Attributes
This one is so simple that it barely is worth mentioning, but I will just to illustrate the point.

Now Playing/
The Unexplained/         
(Fudge)
Unisystem
Brawn Strength
Agility Dexterity
Stamina Constitution
Reasoning Intelligence
Perception Perception
Will Willpower

Follow these up with the level conversions above and a Brawn of Fair is Strength 3. You almost don’t even need a new sheet. This illustrates Fudge conversion abilities well and Now Playing’s ability to emulate most TV shows and TV show games.

Luck Points vs. Drama Points
The mechanic differs slightly, but the intent is the same, allow the player a chance to “re-write” the scene. In general for conversions sake, 5 Drama Points = 1 Luck Point. Of course there is a higher level of danger in a Horror Drama than a Situational Comedy, so it might be about the same realy.

Skills
As mentioned before Fudge is flexible when it comes to Skill lists. Now Playing offers something that looks like a cross between Cinematic and Realistic skills. Now Playing has 91 some odd skills to chose from compared to Buffy’s 18. Yikes! Skills can be bought the exact same way, though some start out as Poor or Non-Existent. Anyone can try a skill with a level of Poor, but you need training to use a Non-Existent skill. Training is reflected in the 30 points given to characters to improve skills. Without getting too deep into the math this about equal between the games, with the edge going to Now Playing characters. Skills though can be grouped together.

Skill Conversions
For a truly cinematic game my advice to Now Playing characters is to take the 91 Now Playing Skills and group them into Buffy’s 18 skills as Skill Groups per the Fudge rules.
Buffy skills are listed first, with Now Playing Skills in parentheses. For example, does anyone really care which type of Kung-Fu Kim Possible or Batman uses (they both know many kinds), no, just that they can kick some butt.
Buffy players can use these groups to specialize in one or more areas.

Acrobatics (Acrobatics, Balance, Jump)
Art (Perform, Photography)
Computers (Computer Use)
Crime (Breaking & Entering, Escape Artist, Forgery, Gamble, Haggle, Hide Traces, Pick Lock, Pick Pocket, Shadow, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Streetsmarts, Surveillance)
Doctor (Autopsy, Diagnose, First Aid, Surgery)
Driving (Drive , Pilot , Ride Animal )
Getting Medieval (Weapon )
Gun Fu (Weapon )
Influence (Bluff, Hypnosis, Interrogate, Intimidate, Oratory, Pantomime, Persuade, Seduce, Tall Tales, Uplift Spirits)
Knowledge (Area Knowledge, Business Sense, Culture , Etiquette, Gather Information, Knowledge , Nature Lore, Primitive Tools, Profile, Psychology, Religion , Research)
Kung Fu (Brawl, Martial Art )
Languages (Decipher Script, Innuendo, Interpret Language, Language , Read Lips, Write)
Mr. Fix-It (Craft , Demolitions, Disable Device , Engineering , Repair Device )
Notice (Direction Sense, Navigate, Notice, Sense Motive)
Occultism (Cryptozoology, Occult Knowledge, Parapsychology, Ritual , UFOlogy)
Science (Science )
Sports (Climb, Fish, Run, Sail, Swim, Throw )
Wild Card - anything

There are others that didn’t quite fit. Some are dependent on the situation used. For example Appraise in NP would part of Art if it is used to appraise a piece of art, but part of Occultism if used to appraise an ancient occult artifact. Animal Care could be a Wild Card, or part of Influence. There is a whole “animal” axis of skills as well as some social skills that could be covered by Unisystem qualities.

Directors of either game will have to re-parse out Skill points to accommodate for the reduced or increased number of skills.
When converting characters have a Now Playing character take the max or average of the skills in a skill group to represent their Buffy skill and for Buffy characters they should record their Buffy skill level in each of the Now Playing subskills, re-distributed based on character concept. No Now Playing skill should be higher than its Buffy skill counterpart.

Skills in Fudge work differently than Unisystem. In Unisystem a “Skill roll” is the skill + an attribute. In Fudge it is just the skill. All Unisystem skills start at 0. Fudge skills have different starting levels, some can’t be used untrained others can, but at the lowest possible level.

Qualities and Gifts
Qualities convert to Gifts and Drawbacks to Faults like outlined above. I am happy to note that Resources converts to Income very nicely. In fact Buffy players should look into Now Playing’s income ticket mechanic for purchasing items based on income/resource level as opposed to actual money. A good model of “TV Economics”.

Magic
Now Playing adopts, mostly, Fudge’s magic system. To me this is where it falls flat. There is a Magical Aptitude Power (roughly equal to The Gift, Sorcery or Magic Qualities) and a skill roll (again, roughly equal to Occultism). Already I see two separate checks to see if the magical power can be gathered and then used. This doesn’t really work for me. Let’s look at some magical TV shows. I don’t recall Piper, Phoebe or Paige needing to go through all of this. A “Power of Three” spell (their most powerful) does require a ritual (grasping hands and reciting the spell) and sometimes it does not work (Cole was able to break free at one point), but no gathering of mana. And I don’t believe that Samantha or Sabrina even did that much. So a simpler mechanic is really needed to mimic the Cinematic Unisystem magic system better.

Now I’ll be honest. The magic system in WitchCraft is the best I have ever used or read. The magic system in Buffy and Ghosts of Albion runs a very close second. So in my mind anything else is going to need work. Hell, I think the Buffy RPG does a FAR better job of explaining magic and how it works than the Buffy TV show. That being said here is a way to convert Buffy magic to Now Playing.

Magical Aptitude is a Power with the default level of Terrible. It effectively combines the old Magical Aptitude and Handle Mana Skill. It can be taken in levels (Terrible to Legendary) just like a skill or attribute. In order to cast a spell the character needs to match the level of the spell cast (also Terrible to Legendary). Some things can adversely effect this, such as concentration during combat (usually -1 to -4), stress, fatigue, or other factors. Other things can help such times and places of power (as described in either book).
So to cast a Legendary spell or a simple spell with Legendary effects, one must have Legendary Magical Aptitude, or at least be able to roll up to that. The same rules apply to critical failures and success. To convert a Buffy Spell take it’s Power Level and use the conversion matrix above. So a starting character with MA of Terrible (0 in Unisystem terms) only has the appitude, they can’t cast a Poor level spell (1 in Unisystem terms) unless they roll at least 1 +.

Putting it all Together




I used the Now Playing rules, with some cues from Heart Quest, Shoujo Anime and other Fudge games to create a new Series than can be run under Fudge or Unisystem. As usual I will stick with something I know well.

Using the Now Playing guidelines on spin-offs I created a Buffy-spin-off, or actually a spin-off of my spin-off. “Willow and Tara: Generation HEX” is a spin off set around 2006 or 2018 with the two lead characters Willow and Tara.  I did this with "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and "Season of the Witch", but this one has a bunch of new rules. 



I have often wondered what a supernatural/horror series would be like in the hands of Television master David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal”, “The Practice”, “Ally McBeal”, “Picket Fences”…). So in DEK tradition, I moved the Series to Boston (something I was doing anyway for a variety of reasons, but this works well) and  made it less about two witches fighting the supernatural and more about two women, who happen to witches, trying to lead a normal life while also dealing with the supernatural.  Also, given the events of "Season of the Witch", Tara was pregnant.   I did say it was going to be a new series.  I debated on whether to do it right after Season of the Witch or later when the kids were teens.  I ran part of it using Mutants & Masterminds and it was right after.  The Now Playing stuff was written with 2018 in mind.  Still don't know where to go on that yet.  

Demons have been over-done, so I focused instead on other types of supernatural creatures: ghosts, spirits, faeries and the like. Heart Quest has quite a bit of guidelines for dealing with these types, Now Playing deals with your typical Cryptozoological beasties (much like Conspiracy X or Dark Matter) as well as faeries and spirits. Between the two there are plenty of creatures, threats and distractions so I never have to use a vampire or a demon. After all the point of a spin-off is to establish it’s own identity. 


Let’s borrow another page (or two) from Heart Quest and set the series in school, maybe a school of girls, but certainly a school where magical things are happening. This would work well with the Magical Girl and Teen Romance options. Tara has been offered a job as a teacher and youth councilor (Girls Councilor if the school is co-ed). We can extend the DEK metaphor more and use “Boston Public” as a guide. 


This type of setting allows more play than just a “girls fighting monsters”. My players tend to like social issues, so I’ll take a dramatic turn then. Dealing with the supernatural has become easy, almost cliché really. If it’s evil  then kill it or send it back where it came from. What do you do if your character is sued by parent because their daughter claims the Cast Member made unwanted sexual advances at her? It’s not true, but it still a problem and you can’t just kill the student or parent. Now let’s say your character is a lesbian. How does that play out? How do you fight that battle? Certainly a courtroom showdown will be in order, complete with an impassioned monologue from the cast and their defense attorney. 


Life though is not just drama, sometimes it is mundane. Sure we can do episodes of Willow recalculating her mortgage or Tara working in the garden, just like real life, but that would not make a fun game. Though the other moments in life are equally important and worthy of games. Life is funny, sad, calm, hectic, reflective, sedate, often loving, sometimes pornographic, but all in all much richer than what is on TV (or even should be shown on TV) but a game can reflect all of those facets.


Willow Rosenberg
Leading Character
Brawn: Mediocre Reasoning: Superb
Agility: Mediocre Perception: Great
Stamina: Fair Will: Superb

Luck: 3 Income: Great* (Willow sold her security firm for 7 figures).

Skills: Acrobatics (Fair), Brawling (Poor), Business Knowledge (Good), Computer Use (Legendary), Craft, electronics (Great), Crime, general (Poor), Cryptozoology (Great), Dechipher Script (Good), Engineering, electrical (Great), Engineering, mechanical (Good), First Aid (Mediocre), Handle Mana (Legendary), Influence (Fair), Knowledge, general (Legendary), Languages (English, French, Latin, Greek), Magical Rituals, most (Legendary), Melee Combat (Mediocre), Notice (Good), Occult Knowledge (Legendary), Parapsychology (Legendary), Religion, Jewish (Good), Science, general (Great)

Gifts: Ambidexterity, Attractive, Wealthy

Faults: Ambitious, Enemy, Minority (Lesbian, Jewish, Wicca)

Powers: Awakened, Anamchara, Magical Aptitude

Props: Brownstone House, Bike, Computers (servers and laptops), Subaru Outback (special hybrid converted model), Doll’s Eye Crystal.

Real Name: Willow D. Rosenberg
DOB: August 1, 1981 (Age 24 in 2006)
Identity: Public, but unknown as a witch
Occupation: Part time computer instructor; Private Computer Security Systems Analyst; Witch
Height 5’3”, Weight 110lbs, Eyes Green, Hair Red


Tara A. Maclay
Leading Character
Brawn: Mediocre Reasoning: Great
Agility:Mediocre Perception: Superb
Stamina: Fair Will: Superb

Luck: 3 Income: Great

Skills: Acrobatics (Fair), Art, creative writing (Good), Art, painting (Good), Art History (Great), Brawling (Poor), Computer Use (Good), Crime, general (Poor), Cryptozoology (Good), Dechipher Script (Fair), Diplomancy (Mediocre), Driving (Fair), Handle Mana (Legendary), Influence (Good), Knowledge, general (Great), Languages (English, Japanese, Latin, Greek), Magical Rituals, most (Legendary), Melee Combat (Poor), Notice (Good), Occult Knowledge (Legendary), Parapsychology (Legendary), Perform, dance (good), Perform, singing (Good), Profile (Good), Psychology (Great), Religion, Wicca (Good), Science, general (Great)

Gifts: Attractive, Wealthy

Faults: Code of Behavior, Enemy, Minority (Lesbian, Wicca), Soft Hearted

Powers: Awakened, Anamchara, Healing Touch, Magical Aptitude, Sense of Empathy

Props: Brownstone house, Bike, Occult Library (includes the White Codex, Journal of Tamara Swift and The Journal of Megan Maclay).

Real Name: Tara A. Maclay
DOB: 11/07/1980 (25 in 2006)
Identity: Public, but unknown as a witch
Occupation: Youth Counselor and Art instructor; Witch
Height 5’5”, Weight 125lbs, Eyes Blue, Hair Blond

Depending on when this is set they also have their daughter Brianna who is either 1 or almost 13 (depending when I decide to set this; gotta find some new players first).

Notes: As usual, I am going with “The Dragon and the Phoenix” versions of these characters.
Briefly: Tara is back from the dead, Season 7 never happened, they defeated the mad god Leviathan. This would be the start of my Series 3 with Willow and Tara.  I used the Now Playing rules as the dominant feature in these conversions, but converting to Heart Quest (or any other Fudge game) should be easy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chill: Adventures into the Unknown

Chill: Adventures into the Unknown 

To many role-players around my age their first introduction to Horror roleplaying was the venerable “Call of Cthulhu”, but not me. Mine was Chill. I had the Pacesetter version (1st Edition), which I remember quite fondly, even if I did not get much of a chance to play. The Mayfair version (2nd Edition) is of course superior, but it lacks some of the feel I associated with the game. Maybe it was the lack of the Jim Holloway art or the darker tone. Picking up a copy of the Mayfair version now I get the impression (true or not) that the makers of Kult saw it and thought, “yes this is good, but what if the world was much, much worse?”
Recently I started going through my Chill books (Chill Vampires for either version is a must buy if you are at all serious about using vampires as adversaries in any game) and started thinking about converting some of my characters over. It has been interesting because I never actually played. I ran some Chill games (I was a ChillMaster!), incorporated Chill into my AD&D games, but I never actually made any characters. It’s very odd…

I liked Chill also because it had Midwest sensibilities. Pacesetter was from Wisconsin; Mayfair was/is in Niles/Skokie, a suburb of Chicago than is not to far from where I live (and has one of my favourite pizza places). It was while playing Chill that learned that the best horror was horror close to home. I don’t know, or much care really, what Hollywood thinks is horror. How can a place that gets like 350 days of sunshine know what is horror? On the other hand East Coast horror (Lovecraft) has a completely different flavor. It’s almost alien. Chill may have had a global scope, but the horror is home grown. Chill remembers that there is simple horror in the haunted house, or the strange creature from the Unknown. It is not about the bigger-badder-more horror of some games, where every game has to up the ante on the last game.

Chill has influenced pretty much every horror game I have ever played.  Ideas in my game like "the darkness can be fought" and "the heroes matter" are from Chill, not CoC.

Converting Chill Ability Scores 
Conversions between any game is no easy task, especially between a point based game system like Unisystem and a random generation one like Chill 1st Ed. But here is a go at it.
The basic Ability conversion formula is to take the square root of the Chill Ability and then minus 4 to get the Unisystem Ability; to convert to Chill from Unisystem, take the ability, add 4 and then square.

So your basic Unisystem scores produce the following Chill scores

Chill  Unisystem
25        1
36        2
49        3
64        4
81        5
100      6

For normal humans Unisystem Abilities typically run 1 to 5 and Chill Abilities typically run 26 to 80 (10 to 90 for 2nd Ed.). Starting Unisystem characters are usually a bit tougher, but rarely does a starting character have any “6’s” before qualities. Sure there are Vampires and Ghosts and things like that in Unisystem that go beyond 6, but none of these are normal humans nor are they playable types in Chill.

The average roll you get with Chill is 53 for any of the eight scores, based on a normal curve. The average score for an Unisystem character is about 3 (based on a flat point distribution) so, they are about equal.
The biggest trouble is of course, using a normal distribution for one and a flat for the other. Squaring helps that, but it will never be perfect, at least not without some more math. This can be seen by comparing the max lift for each game at their converted Strengths. The distributions show the greatest differences at the extremes and coming close right around Unisystem Strength of 6. So characters in the 3 to 9 region will make the best conversions. This is assuming the Max Lift distributions are roughly equal, which they are not but they are close enough.

Not everything translates as well as strength. So here is a proposed Chill/Unisystem translation matrix. Use the math above to get the scores. In all cases the formula is
Chill = (Unisystem+4)2

Chill  Unisystem (qualities and/or skills) 
Strength  Strength 
Dexterity   Dexterity (missile combat; fine motor skills) 
Agility  Dexterity (melee combat; acrobatics) 
Personality  Charisma Quality* 
Perception  Perception + Notice 
Luck  Good/Bad Luck Quality* 
Willpower  Willpower 
Stamina  Constitution 

*For Qualities such as Luck and Charisma use the Unisystem Quality (-3 to +3) add 3 and use that number in your equations. So a character with a Good Luck of +1 has a Chill Luck score of 64 (1 + 3 = 4 + 4, 8 squared is 64).
In some cases in stead of adding 4 I added a skill, half the skill or the average of a group of skills. This is helpful when making a differentiation between Dexterity and Agility.

Again, with all conversions, math is only half the answer, the other half is decided what is the best way to portray the character in that particular system. This is why I use Willow and Tara (and another witch of my own), they represent a “golden mean” or a standard I can use.

2nd Edition Chill Abilities
This also works roughly for Chill 2nd Edition 10-90 point spread. Again, no conversion is perfect. The range of 10 to 90 is roughly equal to Unisystem’s 1 to 6, or in this case 0 to 6. Unisystem converted characters then will not produce Chill characters below 25 points in any attribute.

There is the added caveat that Chill has 8 abilities while Unisystem only has 6.

2nd Edition has some other minor differences, but nothing that should matter here except for maybe magic rules.

Skills run from 41 to 135 and have levels of Student, Teacher and Master. The easiest is to just convert the levels. Student = 1-2, Teacher = 3-4 and Master = 5-6. Rough, but it works well enough.

Fortunately to play Chill only requires only d10s. Something a Unisystem player should have in abundance. Course in Chill you need to roll a percentage less than your Ability. And there is the Action Table…but that is basically the same idea as Success Levels.

In Chill 2nd Edition the rules were expanded to include Edges and Drawbacks (still a somewhat new idea at the time) and the various skill levels were altered slightly. Also a big change was now Disciplines of the Art were now Schools of the Art and now could be rated at S, T and M levels.

New Unisystem Rules based on Chill
A lot of the rules in Chill can be found in one way or another in Unisystem. In fact one gets the feeling of seeing evolution in process when comparing similar rules in Chill and Unisystem. Successes, Fear Checks, even proto-Drama point usage (of a sorts) are all here. If one is more used to modern games, the Chill versions do seem unwieldy and even a bit primitive, but looking at them the other way, the Chill rules were a landmark for the time. Indeed there are a lot of rules in existence today that we take for granted that were still cutting edge in Chill.
But that is not to say that Chill does not have something to offer the Unisystem player.

Ambidexterity
1-Point Quality
You can use either hand as effectively as the other. You suffer no penalty in using your off hand in attacks or skill checks. This includes any writing, melee or other handiness skills, but not Disciplines of the Art (Magic). This quality does not increase the number of attacks you can make per turn.

Model
4-Point Quality
You have the grace, the looks and the talent. You have even hired an agent and shortened your name to a single word. Being a professional model has its perks, and a few disadvantages as well.
Anyone with the quality automatically adds 3 levels of Attractiveness. Models typically have Attractiveness of 3 or better, with the best at +4 or +5. Unless the character is a supernatural creature (or descended from one) +5 is still the best they can be, any points above and beyond that are lost. The character also gains 2 levels of resources. This can come from work the character does as a model or in form of gifts that beautiful people also get.
The model has an Obligation to her job. This can be in form of a contract, or needing to be certain places at certain times, of being seen on the arm of the aforementioned gift giver. This is a 1 point drawback. The character must also choose 2 levels of drawbacks. Typically these will be the in form of various mental or emotional problems such as covetous, fear of rejection, fear of commitment, delusions (believes they are the most beautiful person in world), extreme vanity or even cruelty. Addictions are also not uncommon, with drugs, smoking, diet pills, and even sex being rather common. The character should not have any of these in excess, otherwise they become ex-models. One level of some emotional/mental problem and one level of an addiction is the most common combination.
Authors Note: Why Models?
It seemed to me that nearly every Chill book I ever owned has some model or former model as an NPC. Of course it also fits the role a S.A.V.E. envoy needs to serve. Successful models and ex-models are young, travel the world and have the money to spare. Plus it fits well with the early 80s feel of the Chill game.


S.A.V.E. Envoy
6-Point Quality
Prerequisite: Sense the Unknown (or better quality); Resources +4 or better.
You are an official S.A.V.E. Envoy with the rights and responsibilities thereof. You have been recruited by S.A.V.E. not just because you have the time and money to spare, but because you have a desire to investigate the Unknown.
With this Quality characters gain financial support for S.A.V.E. sponsored excursions, legal and medical aid. They also gain a worldwide network of contacts and access to S.A.V.E. archives. All in all this will add +2 to the characters resources when on S.A.V.E. missions, a +1 to their Occultism and Knowledge skills, and increase their Occult library by +1, and +2 levels of Contacts.
These benefits come at a price of course. Envoys have an obligation to follow the rules of S.A.V.E. and they gain a Secret to boot. Research must be turned over including any and all magical tomes. Characters violating these rules, or caught participating in what S.A.V.E. considers Dark Magics, will be removed from the organization.
Ex-Envoys may find their future explorations into the supernatural hindered or even completely blocked.

Sense the Unknown
1-Point Quality
Some characters are sensitive to the varied psychic emanations of creatures from beyond. All natural animals have this ability, and some humans can hone it with practice or training. This acts as sort of a limited sixth sense to paranormal or supernatural activity.
You can make a normal perception check to include things that might otherwise go unnoticed in the mundane world such as the effects of magic and the presence of some supernatural creature. When such things are viewed with the trained eye (use of the Occultism/Occult Knowledge skill) then this quality gives a +1 to correctly recognize or identify these phenomena.
This Quality is not required for magic using characters (Gifted, Magicians, Witches) or any supernatural creature (Vampires, Ghosts, Bast) though it will give them a +1 when making any Perception based check for anything related to the Supernatural or the Unknown.
The range for this ability is limited, only 30 feet.

Chill Bast vs. WitchCraft RPG Bast
Often times the hardest thing about converting games is when there is a concept that is so similar in nature and yet developed in completely different ways. For example the Bast.
In both games Bast are cat people relating to ancient Egyptian Goddess of Bast. But there the similarity ends. Chill Bast are women with cat heads and always evil, or at least agents of the unknown; which makes them more akin to the old Irish cat-head demons. WitchCraft Bast are shape-shifting felines that are neither good nor evil. So what can we do to work out the differences.
What I propose is that the Bast seen and recorded by S.A.V.E. agents are in fact Tainted Bast or
Maahes.

Vampires

I single out vampires in Chill for a very good reason. All games before, and many after, dealt with vampires much the same way, little carbon copies of Hollywood Dracula. Sure, some made attempts at doing different things, but most were weak in implementation. But Chill (and to be fair a D&D article in Dragon about a year before) did something that no other game had done before, give us varieties of vampires. So it was not just pack your stake, holy water and crucifix, you had to know what species of vampire you were after. So that stake would be fine against a Common Carpathian and by luck the Macedonian Vampire, but completely useless against an Alpine Vampire. This played well into Chills other evolutionary concept, in game research.
Some of these vampires represented a type or species of vampire. The Common Carpathian, Macedonian and Oriental Vampires are of this kind. Others were most likely unique individuals with a specific vampirism curse, Elizabeth Bathory is a good example, she is most like a Common Carpathian with some things that are unique to her nature in life.

Chill Vampires in Unisystem
All of these are based on the base 15 point Vampire (or Vampyre) quality. Nearly all have some form of a Unique Kill Quality, though maybe not a full 5-points worth. So instead of one way to kill, there may be very limited ways to kill them. All Chill vampires also can assume two or more alternate forms. Wolves, bats, mist are common, but other odder forms such as cobras, snow drifts or even becoming extremely thin. In WitchCraft all of these could be duplicated with a proper invocation or supernatural quality. In addition all Chill vampires emanate the powers of the Evil Way. In game terms this means there is something just not right about them, even when they are guised as human. All vampires in Chill are soulless monsters. Soulless not that they lack a soul, but rather they are incapable of the things we hold the most dear. They live forever, but rarely learn anything from it. They can lust, but never love.
All in all, a Chill vampire type would cost anywhere from 20 to 25 Quality points. Players though should be reminded that in Chill, vampires are hunted, not played.

Common Carpathian
20-Point Vampire Quality (or 5 if purchased with Vampire/Vampyre)
The defacto Chill vampire. The Common Carpathian gets their name from the area they were first recorded, the Carpathian Mountains area of Eastern Europe. These vampires have many unique powers above and beyond that of the normal Vampire (Vampyre).
They can become wolves, bats, or even mist. They can cling to any surface like a spider.
A stake in the heart immobilizes it, but doesnt kill it; one has to also cut off their head. Garlic, holy water or a crucifix (but not a cross) will repel them, fire will kill them. They cast no shadow or reflection and cannot be captured on film or videotape.
Examples: Count Dracula, Elizabeth Bathory (with some modifications)





Final Thoughts
Chill was fun, but when I picked it up again to do these reviews/conversions I realised that the RPG world had passed it by. Percentile systems are not very much in vouge anymore and some of the concepts to seem dated.  I had high hopes for Chill 3rd Edition, but it never came to be.

Still though it was a lot of fun reading over the old books again and seeing the origins of things I still do today.
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