Original SA post
PART TIME GODS
Preamble: Scion scucked, and a brief-ish overview.
We're all familiar with White Wolf's
. It's their three-book game about the children of the gods in the modern world, where you start as a "hero", and work your way up the supernatural ranks to demigod and then to a full-blown god.
While the premise was sound, the execution could have been a bit better. Stats were unbalanced, with Dexterity being overpowered compared to all the other stats. Raising in power gave auto-successes which quickly scaled to ridiculous heights. What powers you had access to were pretty much only determined by your divine parent, and powers were incredibly narrowly defined in the classic White Wolf style, with some domains being almost utterly useless. The lack of any information on how the supernatural war affects the mortal world. The Storyteller system's usual problems with high-powered play. The Battle Wheel. Fatebinding. Overuse of the word "Ichor". And don't even get me started on the included campaign built specifically around the signature/sample PCs.
It's really a shame, too, because the concept (people finding out they've got divine blood with everything that entails) is one that has a lot of potential. The idea of forging your own mythology is a pretty tempting one, espectially when bolted onto a "high-action" concept like Scion did. When you get right down to it, it's pretty much like being a superhero, with the added bonuses of being effectively immortal, in complete control of an abstract concept, and being able to sleep with maenads, whatever they are.
Unfortunately, it also got bolted onto the White Wolf system, which doesn't mesh well with "high action". So the idea seemed to languish for a while, until someone else finally took a swing at it.
Part Time Gods
is the third game from
Third Eye Games
, whose other works are
Apocalypse Prevention Inc.
(a worldwide corporation dedicated to defending humanity from monsters, some of whom are on the payroll) and
Wu-Xing, The Ninja Crusade
(ninja clans have to put aside generations-old rivalries and warfare to band together against an Empire out to destroy them). They're still a pretty new company, but I have to say I'm really digging what they're coming out with.
The basic concept is the same as Scion - normal people inheriting divine power. But where Scion was about the "epic journey" of starting as a more-powerful mortal and just "leveling up" into godhood, Part Time Gods starts you off as a god right from the get-go, but also requires you to hang on to your mortal life and ties, as opposed to how Scion handled it ("Your mortal what-now?").
Part Time Gods actually starts out with a nice six-page intro before we even get to the "title" page that gives a high-level description of the setting, the system, what an RPG is; basically putting "who are the characters and what do they do?" literally right up front. I'm not going to get into too much detail here, since I'm going to cover a lot of this in the Introduction.
The basic concept of Part Time Gods is pretty straightforward: Way back at the beginning of time there was a powerful entity called "The Source", which battled the gods (or perhaps it was the gods waging war on the Source) for control of the world. The gods won, and learned how to draw power from the Source, granting normal humans with the power of the divine.
As the number of gods grew, they ended up warring with each other (shocking, I know). Battles were fought for territory, worshipers, and ancient Relics of power. As the gods fought each other, the Source managed to push some of its own power into the world, creating monsters in an attempt to destroy the gods and free it from its prison.
Things got steadily worse from there, especially when the gods realized that there was only so much divine energy to go around; it turns out divine power is in fact a limited resource. As the gods numbers dwindled, the remaining gods realized that they were unable to create new gods, as the Source was too securely locked away for them to access.
The power of the Source has leaked into the world throughout history, however; any act of creation can cause someone to gain a bit of divine spark. But where in Ye Olden Tymes this created gods of farming and blacksmithing, nowadays it leads to gods of the Internet or terrorism or video games or the 99%. Old gods can also pass their own sparks on to humans, creating new gods of old concepts like fire or war; these new gods might even put their own conceptual spins on things, like a god of war becoming a god of cyberwarfare.
Which is good, because the Source is once again making an attempt to break out again. It's sending more monsters into the world, which also means that new gods are popping up all over the place. Which is good, because there's nobody else available to stop the "Coming Storm" (as it's known) but once-ordinary humans who've suddenly been granted incredible powers and responsibilities they may not even want, all while maintaining "normal" lives.
'Cause, you know, there's no way that'll go badly.
The best part of this set up?
You can be a god of pretty much whatever you want
. Want to be the god of hackers? Go for it. God of knives? Sure, why not? God of luchadores? If you think you can pull it off, why not? As long as it's something that you could be the "embodiment" of, it's fair game.
The rest of the introduction is the "what is a role-playing game" and a play sample; nothing I think really need to get into.
So now that we have the "Gods" part covered, what about the "Part-Time" side of things?
You know what they say about "absolute power", right? Well, gods have absolute power over their dominions; at least, as close to absolute as you can really get. As gods become more embroiled in their divine lives, they lose touch with the world. They stop seeing people as people, and start seeing them as pieces on the big cosmic chessboard their battles against the Source and other gods take place on.
And let's be honest here...how much do you
care about the pieces in a board game?
The gods learned long ago that the only way to stave off insanity and a dangerous level of detachment is to maintain your ties to humanity. A god of death is powerful, but it's his connections to his family, his friends, his job, his
that keep him from viewing the people around him simply as things that are meant to die at his hand.
So gods have to strike a balance between mortal ties and epic quests; you have monsters to fight and worshipers to protect, but hopefully not too late because you have to go to work in the morning because that mortgage isn't going to pay itself. And be careful who you let know about your ties, because your enemies know that the best way to defeat a god is to attack the things he cares about most.
It's not an easy existence, but it beats just being an ordinary shlub...right?
: Everything is Zeus's and Coyote's fault.
The Coming Storm
Original SA post
PART TIME GODS
Chapter 1: The Coming Storm
The first chapter of the book is the setting, both in terms of background and what's going on nowadays. This chapter covers a lot of ground, but it kind of bounces around from topic to topic once we get past the back story. Still, it's nice to get all the setting info front-loaded like this, since it helps give context for the stuff that comes later on.
The first part is called BEGINNINGS, and talks about how we got to where we are now. It turns out that gods first appeared back when we were still clever monkeys who had just gotten the hang of this whole "smash skull with stick" thing.
A single woman (called names like Eve, Pandora or Izanami by different histories) made her way to a hidden cave that seemed bottomless by pure accident. As the tunnel stretched farther and farther, she noticed she entered another world, one of nothing accept a bright light that encompassed her. After weeks of travel within the swirling cavern, she found what could only be known as indescribable. It called itself the Source of all things past, present and yet to come, and the woman was surprised she understood these words, intelligible language spontaneously thrust into her mind the moment she made contact.
(And yes, "accept" is in the book. There are a few places like this where the proofreader could have looked a little closer.)
The Source told her that its purpose was to impose order on the world, and to this end merged itself with her. She used her power to "evolve" humanity out of "clever monkey" status to the beginnings of rational thought. To make its job easier, Eve/The Source empowered other humans, creating the first gods. These gods were the founders of humanity's "core" cultures. The gods were also much more powerful back then, able to alter the world on a pretty large scale.
The problem with turning people into gods is that they're still people. And if there's one thing people are good at, it's becoming greedy and dissatisfied. It's part of that whole "power corrupts" thing.
It was probably only a matter of time before the gods began to chafe under the very loose control of the Source. After all, why should they play second fiddle to some cosmic battery they can't even comprehend?
One young god, known today as Zeus, called on his fellow gods to join him in choosing their own destiny. He spoke out against the Source, unhappy with the power this mysterious entity had allowed the gods to possess and calling for this power to be turned over to the gods. A most charming god, Zeus and his pantheon were able to drum up the same animosity from other gods around the world. Many gods called for the utter destruction of the Source, but this was not Zeus’s plan.
Zeus' centuries-long plan was to actually trap the Source in a cage made of its own energies. Getting close to the Source under the false pretense of worship, the gods trapped the Source and sealed it deep in the Earth. The gods were now their own masters, and that was fine for a few years of celebrations until they realize that meant that they had to govern themselves.
(Of course, that raises the question of how they could have surprised and trapped an all-knowing and all-powerful entity. If anyone knows the truth about what really happened, they ain't sayin', but it's still a pretty big hole in the story. Fortunately, the book acknowledges that, and leaves it open.)
The pantheon leaders were the only ones who really knew what happened, and they spent a lot of time and energy removing information about the Source from the history books, making it seem like the gods were always the ones running the show. These leaders also made sure to give themselves a way to steal some of the Source's energy so they could create new gods and bolster the ranks of their pantheons. The number of gods grew and grew, but even as pantheons butted up against each other, the gods were content to let their followers do the fighting. The gods were immortal, after all, and if you can't defeat the other guy once and for all, then how do you know you've won?
And then Coyote fucked everything up.
During a heated lovers quarrel between two gods, Coyote the god of tricksters and Demeter goddess of fertility, Coyote stabbed Demeter in the gut as a sign of his displeasure with her. In times past, a god could simply remove the blade, growl at the rudeness of such an action and walk away without any lasting effect. However, this day, Demeter coughed up blood and fell to the ground with a thud. Coyote’s grieving passed quickly, but this development piqued his interest. Coyote was nothing if not experimental, quickly returning to his homeland to thrust a blade into his longtime rival, Raven, and see if it wasn’t just Demeter who was weak. This resulted in the second ever death of a god and Coyote grinned with delight.
Unsurprisingly, it didn't take long for word of this to spread (especially once Coyote went on a killing spree). The message was clear: the free ride was over. It turns out that being cut of from the Source was slowly weakening the gods' power, and for the first time the gods were vulnerable.
See, up until this point, if you had a beef with another god, your only option was to glower at him, avoid him at the bacchanals, and have your followers kill his followers. But once Coyote's discovery went public, there was a new option: get rid of the bastard permanently.
Hundreds upon hundreds of lesser deities were killed in the first days of the God Wars. But it wasn't until it was discovered that killing another god allowed you to absorb that god's power and add it to your own that the shit really hit the fan. Not only did killing an enemy get rid of them permanent-like, you also got to take over their dominions to boot.
Things quickly entered a vicious cycle: while the gods were killing each other, the pantheon leaders were still able to create
gods to protect their own asses. Divine armies clashed, their losses made up for almost immediately. The gods started to resent their leaders (who were treating them as expendable fodder), and the gods' followers began to resent the gods (who were also treating them as expendable fodder).
And just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse, the Source decided to try and make a break for it.
While the Source was still incapable of affecting gods or humans, it was able to transform other beings into monsters. These "Outsiders" were created with one purpose: destroy the gods.
This new act of creation had another side-effect: the pantheon leaders weren't able to steal the energy to create new gods anymore. Needless to say, this caused the fighting to slow down a tad as they came to the realization that their infinite cannon fodder wasn't infinite anymore.
It took a few more millenia of fighting for the gods to realize that, "hey, maybe sealing away the nearly-all-powerful source of our power was a bad idea." Each god's inherent power weakened slowly as they were still cut off from the Source. It was now possible to lose your connection to your divine spark and become a mortal, or even for a god to die of old age.
Despite that, the War kept on rolling, until one single event stopped it in it's tracks.
During a night of gallivanting and flirting with women, Zeus was caught in an alley by some of the followers of Supay, a jealous and powerhungry god of death from South America. He attempted to fly away and was caught in a net. He fought with all the divine might he could muster, but there were too many worshippers of death to conquer. This led to the very first death of a god at the hands of a mortal.
Mortals were now able to stand on the battlefield opposite the gods, and they had a pretty good chance of winning.
The divine culture began to shift in the light of these new revelations. Societies of gods called "Theologies" began to crop up, each seeking to make sense of this new cosmic order. The gods loosened their control of the world, and began to pass their powers onto humans they deemed worthy (or convenient).
Slowly, the role of the gods dwindled. Some gods left for other realms or realities, while others chose to live among humans. Even the numbers of the Outsiders began to dwindle, until all memory of gods, monsters and magic faded into the realm of myths.
This all changed on June 13th, 2011. On that day, every god in the world felt a momentary quake beneath his or her feet – the world shuddered. It was so faint the average person had no idea anything had happened, but those who possessed a divine spark knew it for what it was… the return of magic and the stirring of the Source.
Out of nowhere, hundreds of new gods appeared; ordinary people finding themselves with control over some purview of existence. Outsiders started showing up again, picking up old battles right where they left off, targeting the oldest gods first. When Coyote was finally brought down by Outsiders, it was clear that another War was immanent.
The older gods met, and knew what the signs meant: the same thing happened ages ago when the Source tried to escape its prison. It was time to teach the new gods to fight the Coming Storm.
Well, that was exciting! Let's talk about THEOLOGIES!
are basically schools of thought the gods have about themselves and their roles in the world. I'll cover these in more detail later when we get to Chapter 2, but for now let's just hit the high points:
are those gods who feel their role as gods to
gods. They feel they should be feared or loved by mortals; preferably both if possible.
Cult of the Saints
believe that they're not really "gods", and that gods are in fact the servants of higher powers.
create divine territory, cultivating it until it can grow, then move on to the next.
Masks of Jana
feel that gods should exist in secret beside humanity, and have learned unique magic that can affect people's memories.
Order of Meskhenet
has taken the ability to hand down a divine spark, and turned it into a ritualized organization that keeps godhood in the family.
are the opposite of the Ascendants to a certain degree. They believe that gods should work closely with humanity as equals.
take the idea of "food of the gods" to a rather scary extreme; they've learned how to gain the power of mortals, beasts, and gods by consuming their flesh.
are gods who don't concern themselves with the whole "god" thing as much as the other groups, instead focusing on learning how divine energy works.
So how does a mortal go about BECOMING A GOD, anyway?
Well, in the old days the Source picked people, then once everything went down it was the pantheon leaders who did it. Either way, it was the chooser who determined who became a god, and what they became the god of.
Nowadays, things are a little different. There are a few ways people can become gods.
The most reliable way is via a ritual, which passes a divine Spark and its associated Dominions from one being to another; this is how the Order of Meskhnet does it. It's also possible to just spontaneously "gain" a Spark simply by embodying or dedicating themselves to a concept so much, they just gather enough stray energy to become a god of that concept. Still others can get their Sparks simply by being in the right place at the right time when a loose Spark just slams into them.
However you get your Spark, you also get a Dominion to go with it. Dominions are just the things you're the god
. Sometimes that Dominion can be pretty broad (such as a god of fire, or a god of plants), other times it can be something specific (such as hunger or cats).
It should also be pointed out that two gods of the same Dominion won't necessarily view their Dominions the same way. One god of commerce might embody the idea of the "small businessman" and fair payment for a service, whereas another one might be all about the insider trading and cooking the books. A third god of commerce might be a black marketeer who charges people through the nose for things they really need. A person's worldview can affect their Dominions pretty highly, which can affect how they control said Dominion. But we'll talk more about that when we get to how powers work.
Is should also be pointed out that the Dominions a Spark has access to can't change; if you get the Spark of a god of disease, then you're the god of disease and that's all there is to it. Unless you got your godhood by a planned ritual, it's entirely possible to become a god of something you couldn't give two shits about (or is even completely detrimental to you), which can make your life...tricky.
Next up are TERRITORY and PANTHEONS. A god's Territory is pretty important; as a god settles into an area, that area becomes infused with his Spark and his Dominion. What this means in practical terms is that the area a god lives in will start to reflect his Dominion; the neighborhood our aforementioned god of disease lives in would have a higher-than-normal rate of sickness, while the burbs around a god of commerce's house might see a lot of small business crop up.
To avoid constant turf wars (and to band together for mutual protection), gods tend to gather into Pantheons, which is the technical term for a bunch of gods who live in the same area. These gods can merge their Territories together, becoming the Pantheon of Downtown Chicago (or wherever). Once a group of gods interweave their energies and Territories together, it's a permanent bond; the only way to kick someone out is to kill them.
The leader of a Pantheon is refereed to as the "All-Father" or "All-Mother", just so you know.
So where would gods be without WORSHIPERS? Well...pretty much where they are now, really. The lack of serious divine power combined with a fairly cynical world means that it can be hard to get followers in this day and age. In the old time, they were really more of a way to keep score and playing pieces to fling at other gods' worshipers. If you can get worshipers, though, you've got yourself a nice group of loyalists at your beck and call.
OUTSIDERS are still around, too. They've been more or less left to their own devices for centuries, which means that creature that used to be more-or-less unique have managed to breed into significant numbers. Some Outsiders are even able to pass as "human", and live among humanity. Best not to think to hard about it.
The worst Outsiders (and, of course, the most numerous) are Pucks. These are basically spirits of chaos and petty destruction, who delight in fucking with people for no reason other than "because they can". Not even other Outsiders like these guys.
Now where would gods be without DIVINE REALMS?
It was pretty sweet in the old days...you could hang out in Asgard or on Mount Olympus with the rest of your Pantheon and just chill there like it was your favorite coffee house. Unfortunately, once the God Wars started up a lot of these sub-dimensions shackled up the doors, and haven't opened them since. It's still possible to power your way in, especially if you happen to find a portal, but for the most part they're still sealed tight.
In addition to the living rooms of the gods, there are various Lands of the Dead and Paradise Realms. In fact, pretty much every afterlife exists as part of one of these two dimensions, although the Paradise Realms tend to be reserved for the gods themselves. If you have the know-how, it's possible to head into these Realms (which include Valhalla, Hades, Purgatory, El Dorado, and Shangri-La), find the ghost of a human, and bring it back to life. And I'm sure that won't have any downside whatsoever!
Finally, we have a section on STAYING HUMAN.
As I mentioned before, gods can get a little...
when they become disconnected from humanity at large. As their divine power grows, they become the embodiment of their Dominions, but lose sight of what that Dominion means in the overall scheme of things. A god of commerce starts buying and selling people's lives, so focused on profit he's utterly ignoring the human cost. A god of death just kills people because that's what people are there for. A god of fire will...well, we won't talk about that.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, a god does need a certain level of detachment. It's possible to be
grounded and deny yourself real access to the full power of your Spark or start ignoring your divine responsibilities. There's also the fact that your godly duties are important; leave things too long and your Territory can come under attack from rivals or Outsiders. You have to figure out how to best juggle your role as a god with the fact that you still need to pay the rent.
And so, today’s gods are faced with the task of remaining a being of balance. They can see their family and friends on one side of them, and epic quests and mythic foes on the other, but cannot completely belong to either life. Their time must be split between the two as equally as possible, or their lives will turn to utter ruin. They are essentially part-time gods.
Theologicizing! Dipping into mechanics! Sample characters!
Original SA post
PART TIME GODS
Chapter 2: Theologies
Last time I touched briefly on "Theologies", which are the philosophical groups gods organize themselves into. In addition to defining a character's general worldview, they also give your character certain mechanical bonuses and penalties.
In other words, they're White Wolf splats.
I mean, each Theology gets a two-page spread that tells you about that Theology's history, general mindset, "pantheon role", and even has "nicknames" and stereotypes for each group, and the sample characters offering their opinions about the other groups. The only thing that's missing is the forced "in-character" quote at the beginning of each section, but I guess that's covered by the party line opinions thing.
On the plus side, after character creation's over your Theology doesn't really affect anything mechanically. Yeah, you get a few bonus points in some of your godly skills and the Good Splat-Power and Bad Splat-Power (excuse me, "Special Gift" and "Fateful Drawback"), but it's not a situation where your group makes it easier or harder to learn certain abilities. Once you pick it, you really never have to refer to it again.
It's a weird vestigial organ for the game to have, but at least it's one that doesn't get in the way too badly.
The other problem with this chapter is that it talks about mechanical bits we haven't see yet, in terms of stats and skill checks and how divine powers work. It probably would have made more sense to put this chapter after character creation, breaking up the big block o' fluff with some crunch. Again, it's not a game-breaker, but this book could have been organized a little better.
So let's see what we've got.
First up are the
. This is pretty much the first Theology to come together, since it can trace its ideals back to the original gods who kicked off the God Wars. The Ascendants core philosophy is simple: "we are gods, therefore we should act like gods". They're the ones who love to gather worshipers and cults, and are known to rise to positions of power in the mortal world so they can control the destines of the masses. Ascendants who like a subtler touch are fond of picking mortals to act as figureheads they can act through. Interestingly, they tend to have the fewest direct ties to their mortal lives in order to gain more divine power.
In pantheons, Ascendants tend to gravitate toward leadership roles (whether or not the rest of the group wants them to), and can also fill in as muscle since they tend to be focused on keeping their territories under their orderly control.
The Ascendants' Special Gift is "Inhuman Visage", which translates to getting the "Fearful Aura" power for free, or getting a significant bonus if they buy it anyway. This is your basic "BASK IN MY TERRIBLE GLORY AND BIZARRE EXTRA ARMS AND WINGS" trick. Their Fateful Drawback is "Disconnection": not only do they start with fewer Bond points than everyone else, they also start with a Failing, which is what you get when one of your Bonds breaks.
The sample Ascendant character is Hiroko Nakamura, Goddess of Blood. She's a gothic lolita type who attempted suicide after her father kicked her out of the house and disowned her for daring to not want to be a doctor. She gained godhood simply by being in the right place at the right time; a Spark happened to be drifting through the alley she was in when she slit her wrists. As a god, those wounds are still there, but now she's capable of creating "blood whips" from the wounds. Ew.
Next up are the
Cult of the Saints
. These gods are pretty unusual because they don't actually think they're gods. Instead, they believe that they're actually Roman Catholic-style saints, who've been empowered by God to perform His work on Earth. The thing is, the Saints have managed to tap into...
that only they can hear and provides them with divine guidance. The downside is that they hear a
of voices, and some of them shouldn't be listened to. They listen anyway, even to the bad advice, since it's all the word of God, and "God works in mysterious ways". While their overall goal is to help humanity, sometimes they can get in their own way (c.f. The Crusades).
(It should be pointed out that while the majority of the Saints view things from a Christian mindset, members of other religions have been popping up as well, believing themselves avatars or champions of their Gods.)
The Saints tend to be the spiritual center of pantheons, trying to keep everyone on an even keel and focused on the group's overall goal.
Their Special Gift is "Divine Words": once per session, they can enter a trance to commune with their God (the GM), and get the answer to one question. They can even pull this off in a fight for a large "divine guidance" bonus, but then then spend the next round out of it as they "come down". Their Fateful Drawback is "Voices": once per session the GM gives the Saint a task that he
to perform because The Voices Said To. He can resist it, but if he does it forces him to make a difficult roll to use his Divine Words ability next time.
The sample Saint is Amala Ali, Goddess of Fire. A paramedic, native of India, and a devout follower of Hindu, she gained her power when trying to save a dying man in the emergency room. The man turned out to be a god of fire, and his explosive demise killed two of Amala's co-workers and left her with a divine spark and an extra pair of arms. She sees herself as an avatar of the Hindu gods, and has a small group of worshipers in her community.
Now, when your game has splats, you generally wind up with a "doesn't-fit-the-other-groups group". In Part Time Gods, the closest we have to that are the
. This group is made up of gods who feel that being tied down to one territory leads to stagnation, which in turn leads to complacency, which can only end in destruction. This lead to a practice of finding areas unclaimed by other gods, setting up shop, cultivating things to the point where the territory can more-or-less sustain itself, and moving on to find another new area to begin the process again. This makes it tricky to hang onto strong Bonds, but on the plus side you're probably going to have a lot more worshipers.
In their pantheons, Drifters are pretty much back up. Their ability to create spontaneous territories (which they and their allies can draw on for power) make them pretty handy in the clutch.
Drifters get a pretty nice Special Gift in "Instant Domain", which lets them infuse a 1-mile-radius area with their Spark, making it their territory; this is good because (as I'll talk about more later), you get a bonus when you roll to use your divine powers when you're in your territory, and other gods are at a penalty. Their Fateful Drawback is "Wanderlust", which is kinda weird: once a month, you basically have to make a "save versus wandering", or leave your territory for at least a day (or permanently, if you botch). Yeah, that can affect your Bonds if they're the type that need constant upkeep, but it's also the kind of thing that can wind up happening between "adventures" and wind up not really making that big an impact.
Our sample Drifter is Robert Howell, the God of Hunger. Robert had divine power thrust upon him when a homeless man stumbled into the garage where he worked, grabbed him and screamed "I just can’t eat any more!" As the man died, Robert found himself growing in size and devouring everything in sight, from the contents of a vending machine to the vending machine itself. When he recovered, he ran home to be confronted by his wife, who he was suspecting of having an affair. The hunger took over again, Robert blacked out, and when he came to, his wife and son were dead...with large chunks bitten out of them. Since then, he's been living as a homeless man, hoping to redeem himself by helping as many people as he can.
The Masks of Jana
are said to have been originally hand-picked by Diana herself (Jana being another name for that particular goddess of the hunt). Originally just the clique of the "cool kids" who were above this whole "God War" thing, they eventually went into hiding. They spent a long time assassinating gods who got too close to learning about the Masks, and this practice kind of mutated into becoming the self-appointed policemen of the divine world; their job is to take out gods who've become too dangerous. If a god becomes too powerful and has too little constraint, it's the Masks who'll take him out. Not that anybody outside the Masks knows about this, of course. Loose lips and all that.
In their pantheons, they tend to be the quiet guys who Get Shit Done.
Masks get a pretty nice Special Gift. "Forgotten" allows Masks to make people just...not notice them. They could walk through a crowded room and nobody'd even give them a first glance. Masks can also cause a person to forget they've ever met them in the first place. They can also extend this ability out, hiding a battle between a handful of gods and a squad of trolls in the middle of Main Street. The downside to this is that they're "Cut Off", which makes a few advantages cost twice as much to buy, and makes their Bonds a little less effective.
Sawyer Devereux, Goddess of Orphans, is a 13-year-old Mask. She grew into her power by becoming the patron for the lost and abandoned homeless children in New Orleans after her mother died. She adjusted to her role and power surprisingly well, because her mother practiced voudoun, and the voodoo doll her mother left her has actually become a focus for her power. For the most part, she keeps to herself and just...observes.
Order of Meskhenet
are the gods who've learned to pass down Sparks from one god to the next, and as a result they're something of a self-declared aristocracy. They're unique in that you can't actually "join" them, you're either born into one of the families that comprise the Order (and are therefore automatically a member), or you're not. The Order itself is composed of lots of different families; there's your personal family, then there's the overall Family of the Order.
Their pantheon roles tend to gravitate toward being the backers; after all, they're pretty much the definition of "old money". Surprisingly, they don't wind up as leaders too often, because they're used to being low on the Order's totem pole.
Being born into privilege is pretty handy; the Order's Gift is "Social Status", which gives them a few more character creation points specifically to buy a few select advantages. The downside is "Family Loyalty"; you automatically start with a 3-point Bond to your mentor, and if you screw it up that Bond drops faster than normal.
Colt Bastian (his stage name, his real name is Julian Martin) is a member of the Order, and became the God of Music when his uncle passed away and transfered his Spark to Colt. The infusion of divine energy (combined with his own natural talent) catapulted him to the big time, landing him a record contract and worldwide fame. Unfortunately, the combination of fame and godly duties is beginning to wear a little heavily on him.
is pretty much the opposite of the Ascendants. Where the Ascendants feel that gods are (by their nature) above humanity, the Phoenixes believe that gods wouldn't exist or have a purpose without humanity in the first place. These gods embrace their human halves, and maintain strong ties to the mortal world. They prefer to use a more subtle hand than most of the other groups when it comes to helping people out.
In pantheons, they tend to be the "Face" characters.
Phoenixes get the "Linked to Humanity" Gift, which works like the Orders' Gift in that it gives you some extra points to buy a few advantages. Their Flaw is "Addicted to Humans": because they're so tied to humanity, for every day they go without meaningful human contact (i.e., actually interacting in a meaningful way as opposed to saying "Hey Carl" in the hallway), they get a -1 penalty to ALL their rolls.
Penelope Rivera is the Goddess of Liquor, a mantle she inherited from her father when he returned to her after walking out on his family 18 years ago. Despite the sudden shock of "Hi, I'm your dad, here's my Spark, I die now", she's a pretty well-adjusted person, and sees it as her purpose as a god to help people enjoy themselves and open up. After all, bartenders are great listeners.
Now we gotta talk about the
. Nobody likes these guys for a very simple reason: they're cannibals. Born from cultures that were firm believers in eating the heart of your enemy to gain his power, as well as gods who applied that idea to Outsiders in an attempt to fight fire with fire. While not as overt as they used to be, Puck-Eaters are still all about killing something to gain its abilities. And if that something is a person? Well..."food of the gods" and all that.
Unsurprisingly, Puck-Eaters tend to be the muscle in pantheons. The trick is keeping an eye on them once the fights over to make sure they're not trying to get too many "souvenirs".
The Puck-Eaters' Gift is "Cannibal Behavior". By eating part of a mortal or Outsider, they can gain one of their abilities for 24 hours. Eating a tongue will let you speak all the languages the original owner knew. Eat the hand of a boxer, and get a few skill levels. Eat the wings of a griffin, get some wings of your own. The
problem with the Puck-Eaters is their "Chaotic Tendencies". For every day they don't just commit a random act of violence, they get a -1 to all their rolls until they can cut loose and break something.
The representative for the Puck-Eaters is Victor Resnick, hit man for the mob, convicted murderer, and god of the dead; a title he got by accident when he shanked the previous one. He still works for the Family, since he enjoys killing people. Plus his work gives him easy access to body parts, there's that too.
Last up, we have the
. These are they guys who want to understand the nature of the universe, especially divine Sparks and how they "work". They go about this by seeking out divine relics and taking them apart to see what makes them tick. They're also pretty into new technologies and concepts, which means they tend to be the first to pick up on new Dominions. They're also the group that has the vaguest definition and concept out of all the theologies.
The Warlocks' Gift is "See Connections", which allows the god to see the relationships between people and objects, as well as being able to sense if godly powers have been used in the area recently. Their Flaw is "Focus Item", which means that the god has some mundane object he needs to use his powers. If he loses the object, then he takes a big hit to using his divine powers and available energy until he gets it back.
The sample Warlock is politician Benjamin Lowe. During a flight, he looked out the window just in time to see a woman riding a cloud throwing lightning at a giant. The woman was knocked into the plane, killing her and everyone on board except Benjamin, who gained her Spark and became the god of storms. He's currently running for president, and what this has to do with the Warlocks is beyond me. Like I said, these guys aren't really well-defined.
see what they were trying to accomplish here. It feels like they were trying to set up some "non-classes" like White Wolf uses, so that your character might have something more to build on than just his powers. And that's fine. But while some of the groups (like the Ascendants and Masks) make sense in terms of setting and how gods would organize themselves, others (like the Drifting Kingdoms and especially the Warlocks) just feel shoehorned in for the sake of being there. It doesn't help that each one has these "pantheon roles" that try to tell how each
theology works in a
Overall I'd say this is the weakest chapter of the book, but as I said, it's pretty easy to remove it from the game and not actually lose anything, so it's a bit for forgivable in my eyes.
I still don't get the Warlock's Fate, though.
NEXT TIME: Character creation! Crunch! Interesting bits!
Original SA post
PART TIME GODS
Chapter 3: Building Blocks
Enough of the backstory, it's time to actually make a character!
The first step is to define the character's overall concept. Appearance, history, stuff like that. Nothing new here.
Next we pick the character's
. There are about 30 Occupations listed, ranging from Blue Collar to Student to Housewife to Sex Worker (
). Each Occupation gives your character three things: a starting total of Build Points (BP), a Wealth stat, and a few bonus points in a few stats and/or skills.
Once that's done, it's time to pick our
. These were touched on briefly in the world setting chapter; basically, Bonds are a character's connections to the mortal world. Bonds are vital to keeping a god "grounded" and in control, but the thing is they
to be maintained. It's possible to attack someone's Bonds directly if you know what they are, and that can wind up being pretty bad if you're unable to defend them.
Each character starts with 6 points of Bonds, which are rated from 1 to 5, and fall into one of three categories.
Bonds are with specific people (a parent, friend, spouse, or mentor),
Bonds are with organizations of one stripe or another (your job, a street gang, the Rotary Club), and
Bonds are to physical locations (your house, your church, and so on). The higher the Bond, the more "in control" you are in the relationship; a Bond 1 with your church just means you're just a member of the church, Bond 3 means you probably volunteer to run church functions, and Bond 5 might mean you're a Pastor.
Each Bond also has a
that describes your relationship with that Bond. To continue our church example above, one person might have the Faith passion for their church with the obvious connotations. Another character might use Joy to represent the happiness it brings them. A third character might choose Rebellion as their passion to represent how much he's opposed to organized religion; to quote Nanny Ogg, hate is just love with its back turned.
So what do these Bonds do? Well, for starters, bringing your Bonds into play as part of roleplaying your character can earn you some bonus XP. More importantly, you can get a bonus to rolls equal to the Bond's level when you attempt actions that fulfil that Bond's Passion. So if you have the Bond "My Wife Lisa (4) - Devotion", you'd get a +4 to any roll where your love for your wife would be a factor (like defending her from someone trying to kill her).
As stated before, it's possible to attack someone's Bonds or have then degrade due to neglect. Missing your wife's birthday or letting your neighborhood come under attack can cause the Bond to drop by a point or two depending on the situation, or even just go right to zero if it's destroyed outright.
For every point you lose from a Bond, you gain a point in a
. Failings are also rated from 1 to 5, and are things like "Apathy", "Guilt", or "Self-Destruction". The GM can force you to make rolls to
act according to your Failings. Failings are also rated from 1 to 5, which affect the difficulty of the roll needed to not act in that fashion.
That brings us to Stats. There are six, each rated from 1 to 10 with 3 being "human average": POWER (Strength), AGILITY, VIGOR, INTELLECT, INSIGHT (intuition and mental awareness), and CHARM.
Huh. That looks kind of familiar.
Anyway, you have 25 points to spend between all six stats on a one-for-one basis, except for levels 9 and 10, which cost two points each.
Now we buy Skills. There are 24 "mundane skills", and they're about what you expect. Stuff like Stealth, Athletics, Intimidation, and so on. You get 25+IQ points to use to buy skills the same way you bought your stats.
Skills work on a d20+Stat+Skill roll to beat a target difficulty, which is also pretty familiar. On the plus side, the skills aren't tied one-to-one to your stats. You'd roll AGY+Arts to, say, make a sculpture, but you'd use IQ+Arts to know about an artist's work. It's not quite Death To Ability Scores, but it's a step in the right direction, I suppose.
One nice thing is that each skill has examples of a Simple task (difficulty 10), a Moderate task (difficulty 20), and a Tough task (difficulty 30). It's a lot easier to eyeball a roll's difficulty when you see what's considered a medium-difficulty use for
skill, as opposed to a really general chart of "rough guidelines" for one or two situations.
Also, every 5 points you beat your target number by is a
, which can be used to get more info, increase damage, do something faster, add targets to an action, or just look cooler.
Oh, and if you roll a natural 1, that's a Critical Failure and always fails, and a natural 20 is a Critical Success and always succeeds even if you didn't hit your difficulty. Hands up everyone who's surprised.
Now that we have our stats and skills, we can buy
Gifts and Drawbacks
, for which we can finally start using those Build Points we got a few steps back. Nothing really groundbreaking here; you buy Gifts with BP, and you take Drawbacks to earn up to 7 BP. You can also use BP to buy more points in stats and skills.
There are a
of Gifts and Drawbacks here. There are about 50 Gifts and 50 Drawbacks, and they fall into four general categories: Cerebral, Physical, Social, and Divine. What are some of the things we can get?
Alternative Medicine (2):
The character has knowledge in alternative or “eastern” medicine, in addition to western medicine. They routinely utilize rare herbs and other ingredients (i.e. ground bone, tiger testicles, etc.) to create homemade solutions, instead of needing a lab or access to a pharmacy. The effects are often slower working, but can be quite varied. In game terms, this Gift allows the character to use Medicine checks without the use of pharmaceuticals, hospitals or extensive tests. Medicine checks are still necessary, but this opens up so many more possibilities for the character.
Natural Warrior (3):
The character had a lot of fights growing up and is adept at dealing a lot of damage or great at striking vital spots. This Gift lowers their Boost in combat to 4 (instead of 5). It does not affect Manifestation Skills.
Flexible Schedule (2):
Some careers are more demanding than others, but a character with this Gift can arrange things to work more in their favor. This can include having a friend who you can trade shifts with, having a boss who doesn’t mind if you take off for a little bit or a family member who doesn’t mind sharing the birthday gift to a Bond. This can often save a character losing their job or one of their Bonds.
New Dominion (6):
Most gods begin their journey with only a single Dominion, but those few lucky ones get another Dominion to work with. This Gift allows the character to begin with an additional Dominion they have control over. No god can start the game with more than 3 Dominions without GM approval.
The character is easily incited and often reacts in an exaggerated fashion with huge outbursts to even the smallest stress. They can attempt to resist the urges with a Moderate (20) Insanity check. The GM may raise the Difficulty to Tough (30) depending on the particular stimuli introduced.
The character is a child, no older than 12 years of age. They are short and not as tough as an adult, starting with -1 Stamina, -1 Base damage, -2 Health and can only lift 15 lbs. per POW level. They are used to being told what to do and adults often discount their opinions, giving them a -4 penalty to Intimidation checks towards their elders. However, they receive a +2 bonus to Acrobatics checks for the purposes of Dodging and +2 Movement.
Poor Hygiene (1-5):
The character simply doesn’t take care of their hygiene, often smelling horribly and constantly dirty. For Each BP, they suffer a -1 penalty to CHM checks that involve looks, etiquette or general presence (except for Intimidation). Also, any trackers receive a +2 bonus per BP to their Survival checks to track them based on scent or to use their sense of smell to lower Blind-fighting penalties.
Strange Hunger (4):
Some gods inherit a thirst for virgin’s blood, liquid feces or even bean curd, all based on the character’s concept. Mechanically, Strange Hunger works the same as the Addiction Drawback, but applies to their unique substance.
So it's kind of a mixed bag there.
Next up is
. You have a number of Health "boxes" (actually outlined X's down the side of your sheet) equal to your POW+VIG+6. There are two types of damage: lethal and non-lethal. When you take non-lethal damage you fill in one "slash" of an X, if it's lethal you mark the whole X.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? On the plus side, there's no penalties for being wounded, which is something I always forgot to do when I played White Wolf games anyway.
Just as an aside, it's interesting to me how I don't get angry at the "borrowed" mechanics here like I did with THE SECRET FIRE; mainly because Part-Time Gods doesn't have its head up its ass and isn't acting like it did something completely innovative by taking two existing systems and sticking them together. I'm sure there's a grognards.txt post in that thought somewhere, but this isn't the place to find it.
Anyway, next up is a brief bit on
, and there's nothing really noteworthy here except the fact that your movement per round is actually based on your stats instead of a global constant.
From there we move to
. Everyone gets (INS+VIG)/2 Stamina, and those points can be spent to boost things like damage rolls or skills, to perform extended physical acts or to pull off certian combat moves. If you run out, you're at -3 to all your rolls until you can get some rest.
Next up, we learn about
. Spark is our godly meta-stat, and is what is used to figure how powerful your godly abilities are. Spark is rated from 1 to 10, and starts at 1 for everyone. Spark can be increased, but there's a catch.
You remember all that stuff about hanging on to your earthly ties to avoid becoming a batshit insane aloof god? Here's what that means mechanically: your max Spark stat is equal to 10 minus your total Bond levels. In other words, if you want to be come a more powerful god, you need to remove yourself from the world. But as we already established, lowering your Bonds generates Failings, so to become a more powerful god you need to become a worse human being, but being a better human means limiting your divine potential.
It's a neat little balancing price-of-power mechanic, and I like it because it fits what's established for the setting and makes sense in context, and at the same time it doesn't "get in the way" as much as, say, the way Scion/Exalted handled it.
In addition to Spark, you also get a pool of
equal to your Spark x 3. These are the points you actually use to do divine stuff like godly powers and ignoring damage. You regain twice your Spark per day, more if you have Worshippers or a Sanctuary.
. Again, we follow the White Wolf model of "you get 3-5 points per session", for showing up, roleplaying your Bonds, getting Spotlight time, doing something awesome, and "Morale of the Story" (sic), which is supposed to say "moral". Fortunately, experience costs don't seem too out of whack; 10 for a stat, 5 for a skill, and 20 for a Spark level.
"But wait," I hear the two of you still reading these say, "what about the god powers?" That's the next chapter, so those'll have to wait until...
How to be too pretty to get hurt.
Original SA post
PART TIME GODS
Chapter 4: Divine Powers
Okay, this is the part we're here for. So you made your character and determined what you're the god
. The next logical question is "so what can I actually
as the god of coffee?"
Every god has a few inherent powers that are of the "always on" variety. First off, a god can automatically sense the Spark of any other god or otherworldly being within about a mile. It's not good enough to track that being down (unless you share a Dominion), but it's enough to let you know that something's nearby.
Every god also has a Territory. This starts out as just the place where you live, but will grow gradually over time. Territory does nothing for you directly, but any god who tries to use a power in someone else's Territory suffers a -2 penalty. It is possible to share or combine Territories with other gods in your Pantehon, in which case you don't get the penalty.
Gods can always hear the prayers of their followers as soon as they're made. It should be pointed out that, even though you
every prayer whether you want to or not, you're not required to actually
anything about them. You can ignore every little request made, but if you don't at least pay a little attention to your worshipers, they're probably going to stop hanging around.
Gods are effectively immortal. When you recieve your Spark, you have a divine lifespan of 100 years from that point and stop aging (although you can choose to age if you want).
It should be pointed out, however, that you can still "die" through violence. If your body is killed, it reforms in perfect health three days later, but this costs you a permanent Spark level. If your Spark gets knocked down to zero because of this, then you actually lose your divinity: your body still heals and you still come back to life, but it's as a mortal because your Dominion travels to a new host. This also causes all those lost years to catch up to you, so if you've been around a long time you're not going to be sticking around too long.
In the three days it takes your body to reform, you get to be a powerless ghost hanging around waiting for your new vessel. This is incredibly dangerous, and not just because there are countless nasties waiting to drag your etherial ass to the Underworld; it's possible for a god to devour the Spark of a disembodied rival. Devouring the Spark of another god gives you their Dominion (or gives you a power boost if you share the Dominion), and earns you another 25 years of life. Of course, there can be side effects, which range from temporary dizzyness to a permanent Failing you can never get rid of all the way up to death. Still, no risk no reward, right?
Next up are
. Entitlements are those godly abilities that sit in that middle ground between "always on" and skills. Think more along the lines of racial abilities; these are the things that just work without needing to make skill rolls or whatever. Each character starts with two Entitlements.
Entitlements come in two varieties: Passive
Extra Arms (P)
The god is gifted with an extra pair of arms at their sides, in the vein of Shiva the Destroyer. This gives them a +2 bonus to Fists and allows them to split their actions once per Round with no penalty. Most gods keep them tucked away in a coat when not in use, but the character can spend 1 Spark Point to suppress them for the Scene if they so choose.
Some gods use their Spark to protect them from horrible fates or push their luck to even greater heights. This Entitlement lets the character spend 1 Spark Point in order to make ANY check twice and take the better of the two checks. This can even be done after the first check has already been made.
Gods also hae access to
, which are items inbuded with a bit of Spark and as such are capable of enhancing a god's natural abilites (like Thor's hammer). Unfortunately, nobody actually knows how to create Relics anymore, and the ones that exist tend to be pretty picky about who they'll let use them. The game does give a few sample Relics, and has guidelines so the GM can make more.
This magical shield has saved many a god throughout myth and legend. If an opponent attempts to attack the god with a Manifestation, Entitlement or Special Ability, the god can spend 1 Spark point to imultaneously resist the effects and reflect the attack back at their opponent. If their resistance check is successful, their attacker must then resist their own attack. Its power takes time to recharge and can only be used once per session. One should time their deflection wisely.
And yes, Thor's Hammer (or at least, one of his hammers) is provided.
There is no story about Thor that goes by without mentioning his divine hammer, Mjolnir, used to defeat his enemies. In actuality, the god known as Thor had a number of hammers created for him and his descendants. It is heavy (requiring POW 8 to wield), but deals 6 (NL) – Boost 4. Usually, it is carried as a normal-looking hammer only to transform into this legendary weapon when needed.
Now, before we can get to Manefestations (the actual godly powers), we need to go back and talk about
a bit more.
Dominions fall into six broad categories:
Dominions relate to animals. Cats, Horses, and so on.
Dominions tend to be more abstract. This is where your gods of Beauty or Justice are.
Dominions are about natural forces: Fire, the Sun, Storms, Winter, etc.
Dominions cover Fear, Love, Joy, all the things that make life worth living.
Dominions are those that cover a task or profession. If you're the god of Cops or Dancers, this is where you fall.
Dominions are about those things you can actually interact with like Computers or Music.
It's important to know how narrow or broad your Dominion is, because it is possible to exert some control over things that are tangentally related to your Dominions, albeit at penalties. A god of Computers is (of course) able to affect normal computers without a problem, but might have a harder time with a smartphone and be completely unable to affect a car's internal diagnostic computer, because those are not what people tend to think of as "computers".
Once you have your Dominion, it's time to choose your
. There are eight Manifestation skills:
is all about shielding and defense.
lets you summon things related to your Dominion.
is used to travel around (or through) your Dominion.
lets you create sidekicks, or turn items into little helpers.
lets you exert direct control over things related to your Dominion.
covers divination and special senses.
is good old-fashioned divine wrath.
lets you alter things, physical or otherwise.
Each character starts with three ranks in one of these skills, two in another, and one rank in a third. You also get a few ranks depending on your Theology, starting you out at 9 ranks all told.
Manefistations work pretty much like every other skill: add a stat and your Spark level, add 1d20, try to beat a difficulty. If you make the roll, the power goes off, but if you fail then the divine energy difuses into the environment, which will cause the god's Dominion to affect the area. If a god of anger flubs a roll, then the people around him are going to get more hostile for a bit.
Here's the thing, though: like normal skills, Manifestations aren't tied to one stat. They're useable with three stats each, and depending on which stat you use with the Manifestation you're going to get a different effect.
What does that mean? Well, let's take Beckon as an example. As I said before, Beckon is about calling things to you. You can use this skill with CHARM, INSIGHT, or IQ. If you use CHARM+Beckon, that's "Summon", which lets you call something related to your Dominion to you. If you do INSIGHT+Beckon, that's "Banish" which lets you send things away. The third option is to use IQ+Beckon, which is "Illusion", which lets you summon visions unto the target.
It should be pointed out that you don't need to buy each of those effects separately. If you have ranks in Banish, you can pull off any of those tricks so long as that trick makes sense in terms of your Dominion.
Manifestation rolls can also be modified by circumstances; spending Spark points, blood sacrifice (your own or someone else's), trying to increase the duration or range, things like that.
What's great about this is that it's an effect-based system, and the Manifestations you can buy aren't limited by your Dominions. If you want your god to take Aegis and use the "Invincibility" effect (VIG+Aegis), then as long as you can define that invulnerability in terms of yoru Dominions, go for it. A god of fear could make himself immune to supernatural terror, or a goddess of beauty could ignore any attack that would mar her good looks. A god of mechanics could use the "Banish" ability to exorsize some gremlins from a workshop, while a god of cops could "Banish" all officers from an area; they just all get called away.
Obviously, this requires a bit of agreement between the GM and players as to what makes sense and what doesn't for your god of whatever to be able to do. While this does have the unspoken understanding that the GM or players aren't dicks, the game also helpfully gives a good amount of examples of how your Manifestations could tie to your Dominions, as well as difficulties for a few standard tasks.
IQ + Minion
“I turn…into a minion.”
This effect makes the god the giver of life itself, as long as their minion revolves around their Dominion. This is usually utilized by turning a physical object into a servant, imbuing it with the same Spark that created humanity. Without a physical Dominion present, the god can instead conjure up a small glowing wisp with personalities that reflect the Dominion. However, they lack any kind of tangible ability to affect the world.
Difficulty for checks is based on the minion’s size and the level of intelligence the god wants to bestow. Their check also determines a number of BP the player gets to spend to create their minion. The player and GM should determine the physical Attributes of their minion and then the player spends BP on Skills, Gifts and even Entitlements (if appropriate) to enhance it based on concept.
Gives life to a small minion with limited intelligence (IQ 1) and BP equal to half their Minion level (rounded down).
Creates small minion with average intelligence (IQ 3) or a big minion with limited intelligence. BP equal to Minion Level.
Creates a small minion with heightened intelligence (IQ 6) or a big minion with average intelligence. BP equal to 2x Minion Level.
Instill Life Examples
A god of dogs could give their companion human level intelligence, while a god of ravens could create a temporary familiar in order to see through their eyes.
A god of sportsmanship could give life to a scoreboard that would never cheat, while a god of wisdom could make their library reorganize itself.
A god of earth may create a small mud man, while a god of the forest could ask a tree if anyone has passed by.
A god of love could create a floating wisp that talks of nothing except who should end up with who, while a god of excitement may create a wisp tht continually goads them into greater and great actions.
A god of tailors could enchant their materials to create a suit for them, while a god of sailors could ask the ship the best route to take.
A god of the dead may create a zombie from a corpse, while a god of computers could create an AI that can perform most tasks.
I gotta say, I wish more games were that good at providing "here's how you use this power" examples.
I love how the powers are set up in this game. It's a nice middle point between a full-on "design your own powers" thing like, say, GURPS or Wild Talents and a rigidly defined system like, well, Scion.
I always hated how Scion's powers were set up as "You can have power over these fifteen things. This is the power over X. You can only use this if X is related to your concept, and this power only lets you do the following list". Not to mention that trying to figure out how to make your god of a non-standard thing (like, say, cars) based on the limited list of available powers was a joke at the best of times.
But in Part Time Gods it's the other way around; you bend the loose powers around your concept instead of trying to bend your concept around a rigid set of abilities. If you think being the god of cars would let you bring cars to life and have them try to run over people you don't like, you can do that; not because you bought the Cars power at enough levels to do something useful with it, but because you're the fucking god of cars and you can bring things to life because you're a
Good luck trying to do that in Scion.
Smiting! Things to smite with! Unnessecary complication!
Gear & Combat
Original SA post
LET'S READ PART TIME GODS
Chapter 5: Gear & Combat
Okay, now it's time to learn how to smite things!
First, though, we have to know how to buy stuff to smite with.
Every character has a Wealth stat, which is determined by the occupation they took during character creation. Wealth (like most other stats here) is rated from 1 to 5, and if you want to buy something, you just have to make sure your Wealth score is higher than the object's cost. Characters can also combine their Wealth for big purchases, or get loans for really expensive things. The book provides the costs for a couple of pieces of mundane gear like first aid kits, gas masks, and silencers.
The only real problem here is that while they talk about how Wealth is abstracted, they don't break down what a 1-cost object is versus a 2-cost item. I appreciate that in game that take place in modern day, it's kinda silly to track individual dollars and credit and such, but some guidelines would have been nice.
Next up are Vehicles. Vehicles have four stats: Durability, Speed (slow/meduim/fast), Size (small/average/big), and Cost. Vehicle chases are handled by opposed AGY+Travel rolls, with the faster vehicle getting a +5 bonus for each "speed level" above the other vehicle. When a vehicle hits something, the damage is based on its size and speed.
Now that we have that crap out of the say, let's talk weapons.
Melee weapons in PTG have a few stats in addition to their damage: Strike, Parry, Throw, and Size. The only "new" stat that ranged weapons have is "Marks/Throw", which I'm
sure is what the weapon adds to your Marksmanship or Throw roll, but the book never comes out and says this (or defines any of the weapon stats, as near as I can tell). Damage is classified as Lethal (L) or non-lethal (NL).
The game lists 16 melee weapons and 15 ranged weapons, and considering the style of game the lists are pretty...mundane. The most "exotic" melee weapon listed is nunchucks; everything else is normal stuff like axes and swords. Which makes sense, I guess, since this game is rooted in the modern era (unlike Scion, where you have this whole lineage supporting you). Still, a few more options would have been nice.
Just for reference, a basic sword does 2(L) damage, has Strike +1, Parry +2, Throw +0, and size 2. Those numbers will make a bit more sense later.
Guns are kept general for the most part (pistol, revolver, SMG, rifle, etc). Pistols and SMGs are broken down into "heavy" and "light" versions, but everything else stands on its own.
A Pistol(heavy), just so you know, does 5(L) damage, and has a "Marks/Throw" of +1.
So how do we use said weapons? Well...this is where the game starts to creak under its own weight.
Following are the rules for how to stage a fight in Part-Time Gods, but there are a few things that should be mentioned first. The GM’s job is to create the scene for the players. This means describing the locale, taking environment into account and giving the players a good idea of all the things in the scenario so they can act accordingly. The players then must take their character concept, Bonds, skills,
weapons and powers into account to plan out their actions and roleplay a battle as realistically as possible. They are encouraged to ask as many questions as necessary. GMs should give as much information up front as possible, so the players have all the tools they need to craft the scene together.
Combat starts with everyone rolling initiative (AGY+IQ+1d20+mods), and turns go in order from highest to lowest. If you get multiple actions each round, then your first action happens on your initiative, then the next one on your initiative-5, and so on.
So what can you do on your turn? You perform a
, that's what.
Maneuvers are the list of things that you can do on your turn. And when I say "list", I mean that in the D&D 3.x sense. Maneuvers fall into four categores: Action, Reaction, Grappling, and Set-Up. For the sake of example, let's look at the "Action" Maneuvers.
The Action Maneuvers are Light Strike, Full Strike, Strong Strike, Gunshot, Knockback, Notch and Fire a Bow, Pain Strike, Sweep, Tackle, Throw Weapon, Touch, Use Manifestation Skill, and Use Standard Skill. Each of these has an associated roll and a paragraph of description.
Now, that's a pretty standard list of things you can do on your turn, like you might see in any RPG. But they go a little too far in separating everything out; Light Strike, Full Strike, Strong Strike, Gunshot, and Notch and Fire a Bow are all just variations on "attack someone" (with the strikes being melee and the others being ranged), the only real difference being which stat+skill you roll. Why not just combine them all into an "attack" Maneuver and call it a day?
For the record, here's "Light Strike".
(POW + Fists or POW + Melee, Damage +1)
The character delivers a quick attack like a jab, short kick, a slap or a quick stab of a blade. It hits more often, but may not do much damage.
Damage is based off the weapon you're using, of course, so using a sword would be POW+Melee and do 3(L) damage.
One weird thing is that the only difference between a Light, Full, or Strong Strike is that each version up from Light Strike is -3 to hit for +1 damage, and that's it. Again, did those need to be called out as separate things? Why not just put the "trade -3 to hit for +1 damage" in the "Melee Strike" Maneuver? It just seems like they're so worried about making sure everything's covered they went a little overboard.
Also, why is even the weapkest melee weapon damage given +1? Ranged attacks just do flat weapon damage; why not do the same for melee, and fold the general +1 every move gives the weapon's damage into the weapon's base damage?
Reaction Maneuvers are your defensive moves, and all of them can be done when it's not your turn. Trying to do more than one of these per round will impose a -1 penalty for each Reaction Maneuver after the first, though.
(AGY + Fists or Weapons)
The character knocks away or blocks an incoming attack with their free limbs (hands, feet, knees, etc.) or with a weapon. Fist against fist or weapon against weapon are easy. Parrying a weapon that deals Lethal damage while unarmed, however, suffers -6 penalty. If the fighter fails, they take full damage. If parrying an unarmed attack with a bladed weapon, the attacker takes half damage (rounded up) if the defender is successful.
Grapple Maneuvers include Grapple (duh), which leads into the other moves like Pin, Stranglehold, and Meat Shield (where you use a target as a human shield), so I guess we could make that god of luchadores after all.
(POW + Fists -5, Damage +3)
The character lifts their opponent and slams their back down onto their knee, cracking it and causes debilitating pain. The target takes damage as normal and suffers a -2 Pain penalty to all checks for the next 3 Rounds They are also now on the ground and must make a Stand Action in order to fight again. Opponent resists with POW + Fists.
Lastly, Set-Up Maneuvers are for movement and those edge cases like disarming and feinting. Some of these don't require rolls, but are trading your turn for a bonus next turn.
The character moves to a different position. They can make a half Movement (rounded up) Action and still attack without penalty in the same Round. Full Movement becomes a Rush Action.
...which is kinda silly, since the game uses abstract positioning.
All told there are 31 Maneuvers available, which cover most of you'd want to do in combat. Again, I'm not against having a "here's what you can do on your turn" list in a game, I just feel like it could have been presented a little better or condensed a bit. Not a deal breaker, just a little off-putting.
Anyway, you pick your Maneuver, roll the appropriate stat+skill, and your opponent reacts (if it can). If you hit, damage is equal to the weapon's damage + the maneuver's damage + your base damage for melee + Boost ("Boost" being every five points you beat the attack's target number by).
There is armor, of course. Armor provides a flat damage reduction for Non-Lethal and Lethal damage; a Flak Jacket is 2/3, meaning it negatese 2 points of NL and 3 points of L damage.
There's also the usual selection of Odd Combat Situations like blind-fighting, going full auto, firing into melee, and teaming up. Nothing I'm going to go into detail about here.
There are a few special effects if you roll a Critical Hit or Critical Failure, too. Rolling a natural 1 gives the GM options like having you take extra damage or falling over or missing your next action, among other things. A Natural 20 can let you do extra damage, heal a point of non-lethal damage, or give you a bonus on your next attack. While the crit/fumble effects can be debated to be a good or bad thing, it's nice that they at least gave multiple options for each.
Oh, and there's this too.
Interesting descriptions that bring the players into the scene are encouraged throughout all of game play. Specifically, it can turn an “I hit him” action into an engaging “I lunge forward and perform a leap kick to knock him against the wall and then I ready for the guy behind me”. The GM can give a bonus from +1 to +5 depending on the quality of description given.
There's also a weird "multiple actions" rule where if you want to split your action. Splitting an action costs 1 Stamina, and you have to declare how many actions you want to take at the start of your turn. For each action after the first, you take a -3 penalty to
actions taken that round. Doesn't really seem worth it.
That's enough about hitting someone. What happens when you get hit?
Part Time Gods follows the White Wolf damage model, where every character has a certain number of "wound levels". When you take Lethal damage, you mark it off with an X, and Non-Lethal is marked with a slash. Unfortuantely, I couldn't find anything about what you do when you take Lethal damage when you already have some Non-Lethal; does it overwrite the NL damage, or does it "push" that damage forward? I don't know, because it doesn't say anywhere that I could find.
Unfortunately, the damage rules don't get much better from there.
First off, if you take half your total Health or 6 damage in one shot, then you have to make a roll to bot get knocked out. If you get reduced to 0 Health from non-lethal damage, then you're automatically knocked out.
When you've taken more than half your wound levels in Lethal damage, you start bleeding and take 1(L) reach round until someone can patch you up. Which is annoying and not very epic.
If you fill all your wounds with Lethal damage, then you're dying. If you spend a Stamina point and make a difficulty 20 VIG+Fortitude check, then you're stable and incapacitated, but not dead. Otherwise, you're dead-dead. (Which, as stated earlier in the game, isn't as final as it normally would be, but it's still a pain in the ass).
Oh, and as an added bonus, there are wound penalties! When you're at one half, one quarter, and one eigth of your total Health, you suffer a -2/-4/-6 penalty to
your rolls. You can ignore those penalties for one round by spending a point of Stamina and making a difficulty 10/20/30 roll. With the pain modifier in place, of course.
(Just want to say, though, it took about 150 pages before I hit rules I didn't like and wouldn't use.)
The chapter closes out with a pretty detailed two-and-a-half page combat example, which shows off the mechanics you're going to be using most of the time. Again, I like how good this game is at providing examples of how the rules work.
So that's combat. A little clunkier than it needs to be, but still serviceable. My advice, though? Just ignore the bleeding and wound-penalty-downward-spiral rules, and you're pretty much good.
People to use the combat rules on!
Original SA post
LET'S READ PART TIME GODS
Chapter 6: Antagonists
Yup, it's the monsters chapter. This one's gonna be pretty short.
Creatures and bad guys in PTG have the stats you'd expect; health, stamina, Spark (sometimes), combat values, and skills. Nothing shocking there.
Non-human baddies also have two more stats: Fear and Payoff.
Payoff is just the benefit a Puck-Eater gets for consuming part of that creature; Claws, Wings, and so on.
Fear is a one-time passive intimidation check of sorts. The first time you encounter a creature with a Fear rating, you have to make a INS+Discipline roll. If you beat the Fear rating, you're good. If not...
A failed check against Fear leaves the character’s heart racing and their focus suffering. They’ll being reading into every movement and every word spoken as potential for an attack, whether the antagonist is aggressive or not. This affects the character in combat as well, making them suffer a -2 penalty to all Actions for their first Round against the antagonist that has frightened them. The character’s survival instinct kicks in at the second Round and gets rid of any penalties.
Really, the penalty is so small and last for such a short amount of time, I have to wonder why they bothered in the first place. Especially since you apparently you only have to make the check the the first time ever you see the creature in the first place.
First up are a half-dozen or so normal animals. Dogs, large cats, horses, you get the idea. Nothing major here.
Next up are a few sample human opponents, like cops and gangsters and cultists. Again, nothing to really go into detail about.
We then come to
. Touched are people who have a bit of divine Spark but aren't actually full-on gods. There are Champions (people chosen by gods to fight on their behalf), God-Killers (humans who've learned how to kill gods for their Spark), Hags (humans who traded their souls for power), Seers, and Skin Walkers. These are the "middle ground" between mundane threats and supernatural badness.
Here's a stat block, to give you an idea:
Hags (Fear 11)
Dark entities exist that can grant a human immense magical power. Hags are sorceresses that have made pacts with these Outsiders, but it comes at a price. No matter how young the woman, their body withers, they develop sores and cracked lips, their hair goes grey and teeth begin to rot. One usually becomes a hag in order to ruin someone else’s life, bargaining for the tools with which to do it. Hags are the witches of the fairy tales, capable of creating horrible poisons, haunting nightmares and ruining someone’s luck. They are often seen with a familiar of some sort as well, a black cat or a raven specifically. They are no physical threat to most gods, but their nasty magic can prove to be quite devastating.
Arts +6, Discipline +10, Empathy +8, Knowledge +9, Medicine +9, Persuasion +8, Survival +7
Initiative +10, Movement 10, Close combat +5, Range combat +5, Defense +5, Damage +0
Hags have a laundry list of powers, accessible with the cost of 1 Spark Point per use.
Pick one of the Hag’s powers.
The Hag can look into the mind of her target and root out their dreams. By spending an additional Spark point, the Hag can shape the dream their prey has.
Small animals can be turned into a Familiar. The Hag must spend 1 Spark in order to view through their familiar’s eyes.
Even though their real form is quite disgusting, they can put on the face of a young, beautiful woman with this power. The effect lasts for 1 day.
They can use Fate Shaping (pg. 137) with a +5 bonus to affect
their opponent’s checks.
With a touch, the Hag can force a Tough (30) check against Poison. If the target fails, they suffer 6 NL damage and must make a check against Knockout. This poison can be passed onto food for ingestion if they wish, red apples being a favorite.
Hags are weakened by concepts of purity and holiness. They cannot take a step onto consecrated grounds and virgins are immune to their powers. A splash of fresh water even acts as an acid to them, causing 4 (L) when dowsed.
After Touched come Outsiders, and this is where mythological creatures start showing up. Djinns, hellhounds, minotaurs, gorgons and rakshasas are represented here. There's a pretty good spread between "annoying fodder" and "major threat" here, and there's a pretty good spread of creatures across the various mythological lines.
Minotaurs (Fear 18)
The first Minotaur was born from the coupling of the wife of King Minos and a sacred bull, by the hand of an angry Poseidon’s magic. It grew up isolated inside a sprawling maze and eventually died a sad death at the hand of Theseus in history, but that is not the end of the story. Poseidon started doing this same thing to several other failed worshippers who did not have the wealth to create ample jails for these beasts. Minotaurs became Outsiders of pure destruction and were turned on several pantheons during the God Wars as well. Modern Minotaurs stick to collectives in secluded glens or mountain villages, keeping the story of the first Minotaur as a constant reminder of how important family can be. They are fully capable of speech and intelligent thought, allowing them to make deals for land and resources that keep them separated from mortals for long periods. Their clearest motivation is protection of their own.
Athletics +16, Arts +7, Beast Handling +12, Fortitude +14, Intimidation +18, Medicine +8, Survival +12
Initiative +15, Movement 24, AR 2/1, Close combat +13, Range combat +9, Defense +11, Damage +3
Besides their superior combat ability, Minotaurs are one of the strongest Outsiders around, able to lift up to 2 tons quite easily. These grand beasts are unstoppable juggernauts, able to crash through anything. They receive double the bonus for Rush attacks and ignore any structure’s AR when destroying inanimate objects.
Natural Weapons – Horns or Increased Strength
With the Coming Storm, many of these civilized Minotaurs are turning into feral beasts when struck by new a fresh dose of the Source’s power.
Next up are
. Pucks, as you may recall, are basically the assholes of the supernatural world. Unlike most other creatures that are either footsoldiers or planners, Pucks exist solely to make everyone else's lives as miserable as possible. They're the ones who cut the cable holding up the steel beams at a construction site, they're the ones who cause your engine to break down in the middle of nowhere two days after you got a tune-up, they're the ones who whisper in the ears of the disturbed.
Pucks all have the same stat block, but are modified slightly by the Puck's individual type (Goblin, Gnawer, Hider, or Possessor). I like Pucks as presented because they're a nice mix of subtle threat and credible target.
Gnawers (Fear 0/15)
These Pucks are particularly cumbersome to society as a whole, keeping to the cities where there is plenty to eat. Yes, Gnawers love to take bites out of everything they encounter, but not eat anything entirely. While this may seem meaningless, they have been responsible for destroying buildings and vehicles by taking choice samples out of their structures. In general, they are cute looking creatures with big eyes that can make any mortal melt from cuteness. As soon as they open their mouths, however, they reveal their gaping maw with sharpened teeth.
The bite of a Gnawer can go through anything, giving them a +9 bonus to Close combat (instead of +4), ignoring AR and dealing +3 (L).
From Pucks we move on to
. Spirits are ghosts, animal totem spirits, elementals, and the like. Like Pucks, spirits have a very lightweight "default" stat block based on the strength of the spirit, which is then tweaked slightly by the spirit's type.
These spirits are totem animals, once worshipped by ancient tribes. Sometimes animal spirits are actually ghosts of dead pets, but they are most often guardian spirits. As there is apparently no afterlife designated for animals, these types of spirits abound to those willing to pay attention.
For 1 Spark Point, animal spirits are known for manifesting to fight beside the person they choose to protect (stats equal to mundane animals). They can also spend 1 Spark Point to lend an aspect of their animal to a person, such as heightened smell of a dog or the ability to land safely from a cat.
We finish up the chapter with
. Again, we have a base "giant" template to work from, and then it gets a Dominion based on the type of giant it is: Frost Giant, oni, cyclops, etc.
Average Giant Template
Fortitude +18, Intimidation +20, Perception +15, Survival +16, Two Manifestation skills at +14, One Manifestation skill at +10
Initiative +13, Movement 20, AR 4/2, Close combat +18, Ranged combat +16, Defense +18, Damage +6
Giants benefit from Superior Strength, capable of lifting several tons without breaking a sweat.
Due to their size, Giants do not show themselves in the open very often. It will be truly disastrous if they ever stop caring about such things.
While I like the "template" stat block idea, I wish they had taken things a little further and applied that design descision to the rest of the chapter; three types of creatures all get the same base stat block which is then tweaked slightly, but every "human" antagonist is given its own individual stat block. I also would have liked some guidelines on how to make a balanced creature so I can use my own monsters.
Personally, I like the modular design idea since it makes it easy for a GM to stat up new threats on his own instead of waiting for a "book o' monsters" or trying to reverse-engineer something from the book. Still, there's enough critters here to keep players busy for a while when they're not beating up other gods.
How to be a
Original SA post
Because one or two of you still care:
LET'S READ PART TIME GODS!
Chapter 7: Storytelling
The final chapter of Part Time Gods is the GMing chapter, and I'm going to gloss over a lot of stuff here because a lot of this is stuff we've all seen a bunch of times before; advice on themes and moods, how to assemble a campaign, things like that. The game's main theme is (of course) "balancing mundane and divine responisbilties without losing either", and there's a few things about how to tweak the game in a few thematic directions.
There is a brief section about the game's inspirations, but there are only four listed: "Comics",
Percy Jackson & the Olympians
, the works of
Dead Like Me
. It's an...interesting mix, to be sure.
We also get a section on "Developing Stories" that gives a few story types you can do (Initiations, Personal Conflict, God vs. God, God vs. Gather Storm), and each one has a few example story hooks.
(I do want to point out again that one of the things I like about this game is that they're very good about providing examples of how things are supposed to work or what the authors are trying to say. It's really helpful even to experienced gamers, and I wish more companies were like this.)
Next is the "GM Advice" section, which consists of five very good pieces of advice, and I'm going to quote a bit of each because they're very good pieces of advice:
1. Have Fun
As the GM, it is your privilege to craft a story that you and your friends will all enjoy. Any game should be played with the intent of having fun above all else. The moment that creating the story and playing through a setting starts feeling like a chore or your players stop having fun is the moment that your game will falter.
2. The Characters Are the Story
No matter how tempting it is to create the cool¬est NPCs with epic abilities or mysterious origins, only the player’s characters matter in the end. They are the central focus of the story.
3. Don’t Control Everything
It’s your job to direct the action, plots and stories, but it’s the players that have true control over the game’s direction. You as the GM may control the world, but you do not control the characters.
4. Involve Bonds, Involve Everyone
All players deserve to take the spotlight during the story at one point of another. At times, one character may have more at stake in the current plot point than another, but the other characters wouldn’t be there if they didn’t also have a reason.
5. Be Descriptive, Not Definitive
One of the GM’s major roles is to filter descriptive information in the best way to create a mood for each Scene. Describe the feel of the environment and the NPCs characters encounter, but you should be sure to leave out “exacts” and avoid being too “definitive”.
That is good advice right there.
The last part of the chapter is a bunch of sample NPCs. There are a few that are just given brief descriptions.
This skinny, lanky young man is barely 21 years old and a fan of Hawaiian-themed shirts and speaking in impossibly long run-on sentences. Most know him as the god of squirrels or more directly as Squirrel Boy. He has a great group of friends that accept his eccentricities and he does everything he can to protect them from outsider threats. While one might think that being the god of squirrels is useless, they don’t know about his specially bred friends that he can summon instantly to chomp on his enemies. Chris is a great example of how a seemingly weak Dominion can be useful.
Goddess of Charity
The territory of this wholesome, beautiful god is full of people who give to their community and has one of the lowest rates of homelessness or deaths from hunger. Taking a closer look, however, perhaps as the characters must meet with her as a contact for their adventure, they’ll see a cruel woman. Julie is quite prosperous herself, as she simply wills people to be charitable toward her and hand over all their goods. This goddess is a great way to show how a seemingly “good” Dominion can still lead to corruption.
(I should point out that there's no indication if Chris Mobberly could defeat Thanos. I'm going to go with "yes", though.)
There are also a handful of fully-stated up NPC gods that can work as contacts, rivals, or enemies.
Richard Logue - God of Justice
got the job when he touched a magic sword he found after crashing his truck. He's determined to become the living embodiment of Justice, which puts him at odds with a lot of really powerful beings.
Seraphina Brennan - Goddess of Light
spends most of her time in a "support role" (so to speak) working in her church or with various support groups, adopting the idea that embodying "light" means being a beacon to those less fortunate.
Lee Langston - God of Games
is an inveterate gambler, and is hoping his divine power and extended life will let him outrace the gambling debts he owes the mob.
Michael Brightbill - God of Technology
just got his Spark out of the blue one day, but prefers to spend his time researching new technologies.
Kristine Roper - Goddess of Cats
is more of a puppetmaster than anything else; she's not powerful on her own, but her ability to control cats gives her access to a
of very subtle help when she needs it.
Kyle Horner - God of Time
is a writer who uses his powers more to help himself meet deadlines than fight bad guys.
Nelson Barajas - God of Bone
is an MMA fighter and Puck-Eater who, early in his divine carreer, devoured the Spark of a god of rage. It didn't quite take, and now Nelson has an effectively split personality constantly trying to take over.
Gary Jurman - God of Screen Printing
was originally a god of doorways back in the 1920's. He aquired his second Dominion from a friend in the 80's, and is now starting to approach the end of his divine life. He knows it's coming, of course, and is seeking someone to pass his Dominions down to.
After that, there's a two-page glossary, a nice index, and we're done!
So. My thoughts?
I know the crunchiness of the system put a few of the people in the thread off the game, but I feel that the crush isn't unnessecary or overly complex for the most part. Compared to Scion (PTG's closest competition), it's pretty damn loose.
The thing I like most mechanically about the game are the way divine powers are handled. It strike a really good balance between giving players a simple list of abilities to choose from without being overwhelming, but at the same time it lets people customize those powers so they make sense for what their character can do rather than trying to shoehorn a rigidly-defined power into his concept. It's a tricky balance, but Third Eye Games seems to have found it.
The other thing I like (as I mentioned before) is that the game's very good about providing examples. Every power that's more complex that "add this flat value when you do that" has an example of how it works, and every divine power has several examples on how to work them around different concepts.
That's not to say the system's perfect, of course. Don't get me wrong: it works fine. But it's a weird mis-mash of d20 and White Wolf's Storyteller system; you can easily tell which system most of the mechanics were taken from. I can't help but wonder if the game could have been served better by its own custom system, but hey. If you're gonna cheat, cheat off the smart kids.
At the end of the day, I'd say that Part Time Gods manages to do Scion better than Scion. Simpler mechanics, a
of a lot more flexibility, and no lead-around-by-the-nose campaign built specifically around the sample PCs. If you're the type of person who enjoys the "WE ARE AS GODS" type of game, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of
Part Time Gods
. I also recommend checking out
Third Eye Games'
stuff in general; they've got some good stuff out there and I feel they deserve more attention than they seem to be getting.
I wanted to say something witty to sum up, but I guess I'm the god of being able to write a good closing line.