I’ve got tons of downtime right now, so I’m going to jump into a particularly insane task: I’m going to cover all three of the core books for White Wolf’s Aeon games (Adventure!, Aberrant, and Trinity). It works best to look at them in order, so we’ll start with Adventure!
Adventure! (the exclamation point is part of the name) is a game attempting to recreate the style of pulp novels from the 20s. Think things like Doc Savage. It begins with a short story written by Warren Ellis and starring the setting’s signature character, head of the Aeon Society for Gentlemen Max Mercer. It’s super pulp and if you’re into that sort of thing you’ll probably enjoy it. Then we move on to the actual text, which is divided into two Books: Setting and Rules.
Book 1: Setting – Part 1
So just to get this out of the way, Book 1 is like 94 pages long, and is in White Wolf style largely made up of stories and in-character text. It’s further split up into sections.
Welcome to Adventure!
We start with a couple of pages of Max Mercer welcoming the reader to the Aeon Society. At this point in history the Aeon Society is just a bunch of like-minded adventurous types who want to make the world a better place. They’ve all got different ways of doing this, reasons for it, and visions for what a better world looks like. But for now, they’re mostly playing nice together because pulp land is very black and white (and because Mercer is still around). We get another short story, and then move on to some background in the second section.
The Aeon Society
This section starts with a burned invitation to witness an experiment from Doctor Sir Calvin Hammersmith, who uncovered a method to harness energy from nothingness (which he termed Telluric Energy). It then moves immediately to a news clipping explaining why this invitation was charred, that at the demonstration his machine exploded killing him and some unspecified number of the attendees. We then get some journal entries detailing one of Max Mercer’s friends searching for him when he vanished for six months after the demonstration, eventually being found in the care of another major setting character, Doctor Primoris (who’s basically Doc Savage if Doc was super shady). It continues on to talk about the founding of the Aeon Society, and the strange events that were becoming increasingly common since the Hammersmith Experiment. This leads into the next section.
This next part is written by Doctor Primoris and is in a really rude handwriting font that would make me want to skip it if it didn’t introduce some important concepts. He discusses the three types of characters you can play: Daredevils, Mesmerists, and Stalwarts. Daredevils are your Indiana Jones types who are seemingly normal human beings but for whom the improbable works more often than not. Mesmerists are psychics, as you’d expect. Stalwarts are suspiciously like pulp-scale superheroes. Primoris (a Stalwart himself) makes rather a supremacist statement about Stalwarts being portents of the future, a statement which is definitely not going to be important in the overall plot of the setting at all ever. I’ll actually quote him here, for another take on the classes:
“I think we can look to myth and legend for a different way to categorize the new breed walking the earth, should categories be desired. Daredevils are the heroes of myth, the Daedaluses as well as the Jasons. Mesmerists are the wizards, witches and sorcerers who haunt the corners of our past. And stalwarts? Stalwarts are gods. Gods of the dawning age. But… if we are to be gods, where will mere mortals fit into our world?”
Nope not ominous at all. These gifts are collectively termed “Inspiration” and those with them “Inspired” by Mercer (who is in fact not really any of those things, and has a unique ability to travel through time that is revealed by Primoris in this section). Primoris spends the rest of the section on some anecdotes that lead to his conclusions as to how Inspired powers actually work (for example recognizing that the infant beginnings of quantum theory were important for explaining much of what was happening, which is a major part of the story but not all of it as we’ll see in Aberrant and Trinity). Our next section is on major organizations in the setting.
Agents of Change:
We get some information on how the Aeon Society views some of the other groups that are connected to Inspired in the setting now. These are probably the first really useful information we’ve gotten as far as ‘things that could be good adventure hooks’ goes.
The Air Circus: The Air Circus is a group of pilots led by friend of the Aeon Society “Danger Ace” Stefanowski. They’re an informal group of pilots who fight Sky Crime and fly where nobody else will. Their nemesis is a dude named Doctor Zorbo who is all about lighter-than-air craft and tried to destroy Kansas City with what is termed “Death Balloons”.
Branch 9: Branch 9 are a secret-ass government organization that operates extralegally and deals with the weird shit going down in the world now. They’re not a solely US organization (though they were founded by Teddy Roosevelt) and have branches at the minimum in Britain, Mexico, China, and France. The section ends with a hook, that the Chinese branch has potentially be compromised by the Adventure equivalent of Fu Manchu, the Ubiquitous Dragon.
The International Detective Agency: These semi-Pinkertons are a bit more actual detective than that agency ever was. They’re investigators for hire with that slight tinge of thugs-for-hire you’d expect. Aeon considers them good guys and they’re definitely more legit than their real-world equivalents ever were. Their nemesis is introduced a bit, a criminal known as the King of the World.
The Ponatowski Foundation: A Slavic equivalent of the Aeon Society. They were originally headquartered in Russia and were on the White side of the revolution. They’re potentially headed by a criminal called the Czar who wants to use the secrets they find to create a new Russian empire, presumably after reforming the Russian monarchy given the name
The Contedorri: The secret Mafia, run by the King of the World mentioned above. They date back to before the world got really weird (though it’s always secrectly been a bit, even before Hammersmith’s Experiment). The Contedorri are criminals for hire and the secret masters who control them, not much to it.
The Rational Experimentation Group: This group is, apparently, how mad scientists manage to always have weird secluded labs in the middle of nowhere and plenty of test subjects to play with. Whoever they are, they want to see what science can do unmoored from ethics. Who they are, who is really behind them, and why they do this is left as a mystery.
The Order of Murder: Don’t let their name fool you, these aren’t assassins. They’re a group that provides the rich with the means to fake their own deaths when faced with some pressing reason to do so. They’re English noblemen mostly, and are the sort of Illuminati fucks who think they secrectly run the world.
Le Salon des Femmes Nouveaux: Not actually a French organization in spite of the name (though one of the founding members was French). They’re a group that has looked at the state of the world and come to the conclusion it’s largely a result of men running everything. They’re violent and pretty extreme, but the game does agree that the things they’re against are super shit at least instead of trying to paint them as obviously evil.
The Inquiry: A nebulous secret society engaging in nebulous social engineering by subtly destroying the careers and lives of those it disapproves of. More Illuminati and kind of boring really, not a great way to end the section.
This is going to get pretty long if I try to do the whole thing and we’ve still got the longest and probably most interesting (not all in good ways) section, on the world, to go, so I’ll cut this off here. Next time we’ll finish up the setting with This World of Wonder. And if you want more detail on any individual topic just ask, I can totally dive more into things.
Now we return to Adventure, and get to Book 2: Rules. This post will cover the Introduction and first Chapter.
Pretty much what you’d expect. They start by noting that this is a game of pulp heroism set in the 1920s, and go through the basic ‘hey what’s a roleplaying game, how is this experience structured’ that is generally at the start of these. It then goes on to some more interesting and specific to the game things.
1) Unless something is specifically noted as different from what happened in history, assume that history happened and will happen just as it did in the real world. All this weird shit going on will have been dismissed as tall tales and just in general lost to history, unless there’s a good reason it won’t.
2) We officially begin in the spring of 1924, 18 months after Hammersmith’s Experiment. With the reveal of ‘pseudoaetheric’ energy and the failed attempt to concentrate and collect it there’s now more people who are able to use these energies than ever before, and even more push to find the places where they collect and warp reality.
3) The effects of the Hammersmith Experiment aren’t dying down, they’re continuing and even building.
We then briefly discuss the future, and have some words about Trinity (a sci-fi game set in the setting’s far future and featuring psions, the legacy of the Mesmerists from this game) and Aberrant (a superhero game set in approximately the modern day and focusing on the novas, more powerful versions of the Stalwarts from this game). It’s noted that Daredevils also exist in both of those settings, but as we’ll see those characters would be pretty damn weak in comparison and would barely be noticed.
So they have a goddamn LOVELY paragraph after that, where they note that while a few characters from Adventure are important to the future parts of the setting the metastory they present is entirely optional and if you don’t like it don’t use it. That combines with it being honestly pretty unobtrusive, as most of the events that would ‘have’ to happen and therefore are things PCs aren’t supposed to fuck up don’t really happen within the bounds of time the games are set in (for example eventually the Aeon Society and Doctor Primoris are going to have some shit go down, but that’s not until WW2).
They note you’ll need a bunch of d10s and whatever the hell else gets you in the mood for some pulp, then have some paragraphs on not being shitty if you decide you want to do this as a LARP. Now for Chapter 1.
Chapter 1: Rules
So I really like this, before we even get to creating characters they’re going to lay out the basic rules for how to do things, so you’d know what the hell the numbers you’re picking in the next chapter might mean for your character.
We start on taking actions. They lay out how time works, namely that you have turns in which you take actions during scenes which are part of episodes of stories in a series, with downtime in between. When you take an action you succeed automatically unless the GM (storyteller of course, this being White Wolf) decides there’s a chance to fail, at which point you roll some dice.
Before we get to how that works, though, they talk about Traits. As with any Storyteller system game Traits are rated from 0-5. Traits are your Attributes, your Abilities, and whatever else. When you’ve got to do a thing and throw some dice down, you add together whatever Traits are relevant to doing that and that’s how many dice you’ll get to roll. Usually this will be an Attribute and an Ability, though some Traits don’t have Attributes to go along with them and are rolled on their own (usually Backgrounds, which are rarely rolled against, Willpower, which is what it says on the tin, and Inspiration, the power stat of this game).
Every die in a pool that comes up 7 or higher is a success. There’s no target number weirdness going on as there are in some Storyteller games, just get you them sevens and up. More successes is better, but any success is a success unless there’s a reason otherwise. Botches are a thing, if you don’t get any successes and one of your dice came up as a 1 then you really fucked up. Note that 1’s don’t erase success and mean nothing if you got any successes.
If you have 7 or more dice in a pool, you can essentially take an automatic single success in non-stressful situations (so not in combat for instance). You can also spend temporary Willpower points to gain free successes, and in some circumstances also Inspiration points.
As noted increased difficulty manifests as more successes needed to get a base success, not an increase in target number. Some of these tasks will be Extended, and require multiple stored successes over more than one turn.
Taking multiple actions in a turn is pretty complicated. So for each action you take past the first, you subtract one die from the pool of your first action and one further for each of the additional actions. So, two actions are at -2/-3, three at -3/-4/-5, four at -4/-5/-6/-7. If you wouldn’t have a dice pool left for an action, you can’t do it and should probably not have tried so many actions.
When you’re being opposed by the actions of someone else you’re undertaking a resisted action. You roll your dice, they roll theirs, and you subtract the opponent’s successes from yours. Resisted actions can also be extended, of course. Sometimes you can team up and pool successes, if it’s something where teamwork makes the dream work.
They note that retrying actions outside combat generally increases the number of successes required to model characters going on tilt pretty much, which kind of makes the attempt futile unless you were just super unlucky. They finish with a discussion of Knacks, which are our supernatural powers in this game. They’re things with their own rules and we’ll cover them later.
We end with the note that if you don’t like something in the rules fuck it, just change it, and a bunch of examples of actions, what you would roll, and what the difficulty might be.
Again, I’m a big fan of laying out the basics of gameplay before we even have the character creation rules, you know the significance of your choices in creation and mechanically what the options you’re taking mean. And further, boiling the rules down to their most basic and then later presenting more detail as essentially optional complexity is really positive.
We’ll get to the character creation next time, where White Wolf will undo all the good work they did here!
Now it’s time to cover character creation in Chapter 2: Characters
They start by suggesting that the players should talk over what sorts of characters they want to play, so nobody’s trodding on each others’ toes or making a character that just doesn’t make sense for the game that’s going to be run. So, if you’ve ever created a new world of darkness character you’ve got some idea how this goes. Character creation goes in two phases, the first where we create our character and define what they were pre-Inspiration, and the second where we deal with all the supernatural shit.
You start with the concept, which no shit. You now pick an Origin, Nature, and Allegiance. These actually all have some mechanical impact. Your Origin gives you a free point in an appropriate Background (they suggest some later in the book, and obviously you could come up with your own if none fit). Your Nature has both a Virtue and Vice component, and they control how you regain Willpower and how you might be forced to lose some. Allegiance can also provide you with a free Background point in Backing(X), but only if you actually have one.
Attributes are next and are easy. It’s got the normal White Wolf Physical/Mental/Social set. You get one point in each for free, then choose which group is primary, which is secondary, and which is tertiary. You get six points for your primary group, four for your secondary, and three for your tertiary. You have three stats per group, and stats can’t exceed five (since you’re only human). We then get 23 points to spend on Abilities, one dot per point up to 3 at character creation for any given Ability. After this we get six points of Backgrounds, which we can do whatever we want with.
We’re close to the end of this phase. We record our initial Willpower, 3, our Inspiration (which is 0 at this stage in character creation), our Initiative (which is the sum of our Dexterity and Wits), and our movement (which is based on Dexterity). We then get 15 bonus points to spend, which let us increase things like Attributes, Abilities, Backgrounds, Willpower, and Initiative. We can also buy Specialties for Abilities, which give us bonuses to do certain things with that Ability. Now it’s time to become Inspired.
We start by increasing our Inspiration to one and choosing what sort of Inspiration we have:
1) Heroic Inspiration makes you a Daredevil. You don’t have any obvious supernormal powers, but you’re able to do extraordinary shit and make it look ordinary.
2) Psychic Inspiration makes you a Mesmerist. You do psychic shit, like it says on the tin.
3) Dynamic Inspiration makes you a Stalwart. You have extraordinary physical abilities.
There’s a section on deciding how your character came to be Inspired. This is just flavor, though different methods of Inspiration lean your character towards different sorts of Inspiration. Let’s move on to how Inspiration actually works because it’s super complicated.
Inspiration has three Facets: Intuitive, Reflective, and Destructive. We’ll learn the mechanics of this later on in the book, but they briefly discuss each. The Intuitive facet rewards immediate action, the Reflective facet rewards caution and forethought, and the Destructive facet rewards the shattering of obstacles (whether they’re physical, social, or emotional). You get one point to allocate for each point of Inspiration you have. When we learn the mechanics of these next chapter we'll see that they're important enough to justify explaining what the hell you'll get out of them here rather than making you dig ahead a bunch to even realize that.
Now we get to play around with Transformation Points, with which we buy our cool shit. We get 13, and here’s what we can do with them:
1 TP buys us two Attribute dots, which we can use however we want as long as we don’t try to raise an Attribute above 5. A single Attribute cost us 5 of our 15 Bonus Points back in that stage, so that can give you some idea how much ‘better’ the TPs are.
1 TP also buys us 5 Ability dots, which mirrors the TP:BP conversion of Attributes (since Abilities cost 2 per). One big difference though is that we can buy Abilities up to 5 with TP. If you want any maxed Abilities at creation you’ll need to spend TP. We can ALSO buy a sixth dot in an Ability that’s at 5 for a TP. We can do this up to three times total.
1 TP buys us 4 Background dots, which is actually a ripoff since they only cost 1 BP a piece earlier. Backgrounds are definitely better purchased with your Bonus Points than Attributes or Abilities, assuming you want to buy any of those things up. Two points lets us buy an Enhancement for any Background at 5 dots, which are super awesome unique bonuses we’ll talk about when we go over Backgrounds later. They’re really powerful and probably actually worth the TP if they fit for your character.
1 TP also buys 2 Willpower, which is again a poor conversion compared to using Bonus Points (the same 1:4 as buying Backgrounds).
1 TP buys an Inspiration dot, which we couldn’t buy at all earlier in creation. We can ALSO buy, for one TP, a three point larger pool of temporary Inspiration. Temporary Inspiration is a bit confusing and they don’t explain it well, honestly. It’s the points we spend to do cool shit, and while we start with our default pool equal to our Inspiration the actual default CAP is 10. So for every point we spend here we start with three more temporary Inspiration and are able to hold on to three more maximum as well. So the more permanent Inspiration we have the more we’ll start a story with, but we buy the cap on how much we can have up separately. If that makes sense.
This is also where we buy Knacks, the special powers of our respective Inspired type. Daredevils get Heroic Knacks, which always cost 2 TP each but have some prerequisites (since you need to be able to semi-plausibly do them for them to ‘work’). Psychic and Dynamic knacks (used by Mesmerists and Stalwarts respectively) have a more tiered system, where you spend 1 TP for a level 1 Knack, 2 for a level 2, and 3 for a level 3. There’s no other requirements on them beyond being the right type of Inspired, though, and they’re not in any way hierarchical. You can never buy a Knack from one of the other types, because as we’ll learn in the later games they work by fundamentally different mechanics that prevent it. The game also mentions Super-science inventions here, but only to note that we don’t buy those with TP. Helpful.
We finish by making sure we’ve recalculated anything that needs it and noting our Soak values, which are how good we are at taking damage. Our Bashing soak is by default our Stamina, and we don’t get any Lethal soak at all. Aggravated damage kinda isn’t a thing we’ll see much in Adventure (though It’s much more prevalent in Aberrant and Trinity) and I don’t think there’s any way to soak anything that potent.
We finish the chapter with a section on character advancement. As usual for the Storyteller system you get Experience Points that you spend on shit. Raising traits requires some kind of explanation for what you did that made that trait increase and an expenditure that escalates as the trait’s rating does. You can also buy Abilities you didn’t already have, Specialties for Abilities, Ability Mastery, new Backgrounds, Enhancements for your existing Backgrounds, and new Knacks (Knacks don’t have levels, you either have them or you don’t).
So I was really nice about the whole way they explained the basic rules so you might have some idea what the fuck you were looking at when creating a character, but unfortunately they immediately plant on their faces by making you fumble around the rest of the book to figure out what the hell some of your options even mean. It feels weird and non-intuitive but for a creation system this open-ended they probably should have put even MORE ahead of the actual creation rules, so you know for example what the Knacks even are and what you can do with Inspiration before you’re supposed to decide what you’re going to do with your Transformation Points. The different things you can spend TP on are as I noted not equally efficient, which is certainly on purpose. It’s a wrinkle that could definitely bite you if you don’t look through the whole of the rules before you do the first portion of creation. The game talks about Traits next, so that’ll be our next stop.
Now we return to Adventure, and a discussion of Traits. I’m going to pick and choose what I give detail to, there’s a lot of pointless lists here.
Chapter 3: Traits
The chapter starts with a list of potential Origins and the Background options that go along with them. You can probably find pretty much anything you need in either this list or by analogy to it. There’s not much to talk about except the very first option (they’re alphabetical) is to be an ‘Aboriginal’, which could have been called something less loaded. Let’s move on to Natures.
Natures each have a Virtue and Vice version, and we need to pick one for each. These don’t work quite the way Virtues and Vices do in new world of darkness. Your Virtue gives you a circumstance in which you regain Willpower, whereas your Vice gives you circumstances where you have to spend Willpower to resist doing something. There’s not a ton of these listed, so I’ll just go over them. They're super variable as to how useful/obtrusive they'd be in play.
Architect: As a Virtue, you see the bigger picture and regain Willpower every time you take a concrete step towards attaining your greater goals. As a Vice, you have to spend Willpower to follow someone else’s plans or not get shitty when flaws in your own plans are pointed out. By the way the game strongly suggests not taking both the Virtue and Vice from a Nature, because a lot of those will kinda lead to you getting fucked over.
Bravo: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you defeat a foe that’s equal or superior to you or force one to back down. As a Vice, when you do that thing above you have to spend Willpower not to gloat about it and monologue on how your victory came about. Which is amazing.
Caregiver: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you receive proof you’ve helped another. As a Vice, spend Willpower to resist helping someone who seems to be in distress. Unlike the last two, this Vice encourages you to get into extra unnecessary scrapes instead of having you do some sorta shitty stuff.
Charmer: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you cheer someone up. As a Vice, spend Willpower to tell someone something they don’t want to hear. You’d get along great with the Architect.
Cynic: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when shit goes south but you’ve got a backup plan in place. As a Vice, spend Willpower if you take advantage of luck instead of something you planned and worked for. That’s pretty rough honestly, might be a good one to take a pass on.
Expert: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you teach someone about whatever you’re an expert in, or when you do something really cool with that skill. As a Vice, spend Willpower to avoid showing off. Be really careful what you specify as the ‘skill’ unless you like spending all your Willpower not to have to make shitty trick shots in combat to prove how cool you are.
Explorer: As a Virtue, regain Willpower whenever you make a significant discovery. As a Vice, spend Willpower not to go running off half-cocked in the face of such things. These are both kinda spooky, because you’re rarely going to be regaining Willpower from the Virtue but much more often going to get fucked if you take the Vice.
Fanatic: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when events confirm to you your belief in the rightness of your cause. As a Vice, spend Willpower to resist making a sacrifice for your cause. The Vice is VERY dangerous, as it’s clear that it’s any sacrifice and if you run out of Willpower you are liable to be forced to jump on a grenade or something equally foolish.
Follower: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you do your job and things go well. As a Vice, spend Willpower to take charge or disobey an order. For some people this would work really well, because not everyone’s a big fan of taking charge in RP situations.
Hedonist: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you and others have a good time. As a Vice, spend Willpower to resist said good times (though if there’s an obvious certain and severe consequence you an forego the spend). I’m glad they added that caveat, because the Vice is already bad enough.
Hot Shot: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you survive a dangerous situation that you entered on purpose. As a Vice, spend Willpower not to do stupid shit that has no point just for its own sake. If you like being Chaotic Stupid I guess this is the Vice for you!
Jester: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you lighten the mood. As a Vice, spend Willpower not to just constantly talk shit. Big fan of this one, especially compared to Hot Shot.
Leader: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when others succeed because of your plans. As a Vice, spend Willpower not to Darth Vader people who fail to do as you ask. If you like saying “You’ve failed me for the last time” this is for you.
Paragon: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you stick to your ideals. As a Vice, spend Willpower to accept a compromise. A great way to be an enforced asshole at the table.
Perfectionist: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when your planning manages to deal with unforeseen complications. As a Vice, spend Willpower to trust anything that’s not up to your standards of perfection. A fan of this one, too.
Skeptic: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you use tried-and-true methods to succeed. As a Vice, spend Willpower or disregard shit that does not match the way you think the world should work. This is going to be a real disadvantage when shit gets weird.
Survivor: As a Virtue, regain Willpower when you survive danger on your own merits. As a Vice, spend Willpower not to do what is best for you in a crisis and fuck everyone else. This has a nasty potential for compelling you to fuck off mid combat if things go sour.
I like having actual mechanical shit that has roleplaying carrots and sticks. It encourages you to get ‘in character’ as however you’ve decided your character acts. They’re definitely not all made equal, though, and some of them can put you into some seriously awkard situations or make you kinda have to be a giant asshole. Keep it in mind and if it’s getting intrusive assess how often you really require Willpower be spent.
There’s a section on Allegiances that talks a bit about some of the groups mentioned in the opening fiction that you could potentially be connected to. It also suggests some backgrounds that fit with membership in the group. Not much to it, really.
We then head to Attributes. Before the explanation, they slip a little feature in: Any Attribute above 3 gets a Quality. You describe a narrow subset of activities connected to that Attribute, and when you do something that ties into you get to reroll your tens and add any additional successes to your total. In other games they call this taking ten again, but there’s no term for it here. There’s not much super interesting in the actual Attributes except for a fucking hilarious rule connected with Wits. Basically for every point of Wits above 3 you can give the Storyteller a note with a straight line that you then presumably have a pre-prepared comeback for, allowing your character to be more witty than you are.
Abilities have as has been mentioned Specialties and can have Mastery. A specialty is a situation in which you get to add an extra die to your pool, and Mastery is an effective sixth dot in the Ability. Not much else to see here.
Backgrounds are a bit more interesting. Allies are, well, allies. They’re defined people who you can generally count on for help but who also sometimes need your help. At higher point investment they can be Inspired and otherwise very valuable. Backing represents your status in an organization. Cipher makes it hard to investigate your character, and actually has a defined mechanical effect (increasing the difficulty of rolls to investigate you). Contacts are people with fewer ties to you than Allies. They’re associates you can generally count on to be willing to deal, but not exactly friends. Followers are people who work for you, they can’t be Inspired and most of them are extras who kinda suck. Gadgets are super-science items that we’ll see the rules for much later. Influence is vague social power. Menagerie gives you animal companions, which is fun. At five dots you can have an Inspired animal companion. Mentor is what it says on the side of the box, your mentor’s power is determined by your rating. Nemesis is fucking cool, you define some enemies (the higher your rating the more powerful) and you can roll against it when you know they’re involved to gain temporary Inspiration as you are much more motivated to take them down. It can also give you temporary Reputation and allies in your nemeses’ other enemies. Reputation is celebrity and the power that comes with that. Resources is a measure of how much money you make, as you’d expect. Finally, Sanctum is a sweet ass secret base.
Enhancements are things you can buy for most of these at five dots, and are super cool nebulous things that can have some broad overarching power. I’ll hit them in specific.
Artifact: The sixth level of Gadget, you can have a super sick super-science item that does some pretty crazy stuff well out of proportion to what you could have gotten at five.
Enigma: The sixth level of Cipher, this makes your secret identity essentially inviolate. You’re Superman, able to put on some fucking glasses and suddenly nobody can tell you’re Clark Kent. Unless you’re being super careless people don’t even get to roll to figure out the shit Cipher would normally cover, and your Cipher rating can now be distributed among other people instead.
In Charge: The sixth level of Backing, it’s exactly what it says. You’re the person in charge of your particular organization.
Kingpin: The sixth level of Contacts, you can basically just come up with a contact you’d need and boom they exist and are down to talk to you. You can expect them to help you with most reasonable requests, as well.
Legions: The sixth level of Followers, you’ve got far more or far better followers than normal. It’s super nebulous and you need to work out the details based on what exactly you want out of your Legions.
Renown: The sixth level of Influence. Within the areas you are influential in, you are considered one of the best and your opinions are hard to gainsay.
Sanctum Sanctorum: The sixth level of Sanctum, your secret base is fucking AWESOME. You’ve got Doctor Wily’s Skull-shaped Fortress or whatever and could literally hold off an army for a while if need be.
Wealth Beyond Avarice: The sixth level of Resources, it effectively gives you Resources 8. You can do all sorts of crazy shit with money, as you’d expect.
We move on to Willpower. Temporary Willpower points can be spent for free successes on a roll as noted in the main rules, and as discussed above are required to avoid indulging your Vice. They also come into play when resisting certain Knacks, and could be required as well in situations where you need to resist your instinctive actions. You regain Willpower for acting in accordance with your Virtue, getting a good night’s rest, during downtime, whenever the Storyteller thinks you’ve done something you’d feel awesome about, and at the end of a story.
This is where we finally talk about what those Inspiration Facets do.
Intuitive Facet: You add your Intuitive Facet to your Initiative score, first of all. You can also spend a point of temporary Inspiration to add your Intuitive Facet to any dice pool involving an instant mental reaction.
Reflective Facet: You can add your Reflective Facet to any roll that involves waiting for something to happen or end. You can also spend a point of temporary Inspiration to add your Reflective Facet to any dice pool involving an extended effort (though this does not have to be an extended check, just something that takes a lot of time).
Destructive Facet: You can add your Destructive Facet as automatic damage successes to an attack once per game session. You can also spend a point of temporary Inspiration to add your Destructive Facet to any attempt to destroy a non-physical thing.
Outside the Facets, you also spend Inspiration to do the following:
Activate a Knack- Psychic and Dynamic Knacks often require you to spend Inspiration to activate them.
Dramatic Editing- You can do some crazy shit with the direction of the story at the cost of Inspiration. We’ll talk about the systems for this in a later update.
Cliffhanger- A special case of Dramatic Editing involving escaping certain death.
Recharge Invention- Super-science gadgets often need recharging and one way to do it is to channel your own Inspiration into them.
Sheer Heroism- A counterpoint to spending Willpower for automatic successes, this lets you spend a point of Inspiration to double your dice pool for a roll. It’s a nice option for situations where you have a bunch of dice and want to guarantee some serious results.
Intuition- Spend a point to ask the Storyteller for a hint or some other useful information. A mechanical way to deal with situations where the players have totally lost the plot and don’t even know where to start on something.
Regaining Inspiration is done in a number of ways, some of which can only take you up to your permanent Inspiration and some of which can exceed it up to your Inspiration cap (again usually 10, but could be higher). Resting for two days and just doing the shit your character likes doing regains you one point up to your permanent Inspiration. Getting at least five extra successes beyond the difficulty of a relatively mundane action where the extra success has little consequence gives you a point even if you’re at the cap, though this doesn’t apply if you used something that cost Inspiration in some way to get that result. If you’d regain Willpower but are already at maximum, you gain Inspiration instead. In one particularly cool twist, if you do come up with something awesome that benefits people beyond yourself and spend Inspiration to do it, you GAIN one inspiration instead of spending it. Don’t rely on this, though, because it specifically suggests that you don’t get this if you’re obviously trying to game it. Finally, you an gain a point for doing something super cool that’s in character with your highest Inspiration facet.
I can’t hate a power stat that rewards you for being over the top and making things more entertaining, even if it is overly complicated.
I’ll cover Knacks next time.
Let’s get back to Adventure with the chapter on Knacks.
Chapter 4: Knacks
So, Knacks are our weird powers in this game. They come in three flavors, Heroic, Psychic, and Dynamic, and you can only take the ones that are associated with your type of Inspiration. They start with Heroic, the powers of Daredevils. I’m going to split these up by Inspired category, there’s a lot of these and I want to talk about them all.
Heroic Knacks are interesting. None of them cost Inspiration to use, and they tend to be really subtle in how they work. They also require minimum values of Traits, because at some level they operate under what it is plausible you could do (even if what you’re doing doesn’t make any goddamn sense if you think about it for too long). Heroic Knacks don’t have levels, unlike the other two types, so they all cost the same to buy (assuming again that you meet the Trait minimum).
One guidance on Heroic Knacks is that they never really SEEM like there’s anything strange going on. There is, but people just watch it and suspend disbelief because it seems like what’s happening is perfectly normal and fine. Basically, being a Daredevil is being an action movie hero. You’re Indiana Jones pulling off some straight bullshit that shouldn’t remotely work or would get you killed 9 times out of 10 in the real world but for you, it’s just Tuesday.
Complete Privacy: This Knack protects you from covert attempts to monitor you. The more subtle the attempt is, the less successful it will be. Some improbable shit will intervene to spoil it without you doing anything particularly yourself. Things like phone taps just plain don’t work on you, and people who want to tail you suffer a +2 difficulty. It’s JUST covert attempts though amusingly, people overtly prying into your shit have no problems. It’s also entirely passive, there’s nothing you do or can do about this. You need to have either two dots each of Stealth and Subterfuge or 3 dots of Cipher to take this. This is pretty cool for spies but again it falls apart if things start getting real.
Death Defiance: This Knack lets you spend Willpower as well as or instead of Inspiration when you’re using the Dramatic Editing rules to avoid death. It requires you to have at least 8 permanent Willpower to take it, so in practice it makes you really fucking hard to kill. There is one downside, if you use this Knack to avoid death you are still apparently dead for the rest of the scene before dramatically returning. So, you can’t just keep not dying in a combat over and over again as long as you’ve got any resources at all. Still, getting 8 Willpower at creation wouldn’t really be THAT expensive and since there are other Knacks that need it this is super solid.
Dramatic Entrance: A really weird social Knack. You get three bonus dice on all Social rolls against anyone during the scene you first meet in person. This doesn’t work on anything other than the first meeting and doesn’t work anything other than in person. It also prevents you from botching connected rolls during this timeframe. There is a downside, if more than half of the people around haven’t seen you before you are at +1 difficulty to remain inconspicuous. If you’re a social character this is kinda bananas, three dice is enormous and really most NPCs show up exactly once. You need to have at least three Appearance to take this.
Eagle Eyes: You get two extra dice on all rolls related to long-distance or precise visual perception, all difficulty penalties due to poor visibility are reduced by two, and all difficulty penalties for long-ranged attacks with ranged weapons are halved, rounding down. And presumably since said long-ranged attacks are in fact also rolls related to long-distance perception, you get two bonus dice on them as well as the reduction. If you like shooting things from far away then this is a no-brainer, it’s pretty damn good. You need to have at least Perception 3 to take this.
Enhanced Impact: This Knack owns. You pick one of Archery, Brawl, Firearms, Martial Arts, and Melee (and you can take this multiple times to get another Ability’s version). When you land an attack using that Ability, they’re knocked back one meter for every health level of damage you do (though Inspired targets may spend a point of Inspiration to negate this on themselves for the scene). It doesn’t do any extra damage on its own but it can knock people into danger and more importantly is just fucking amazing. You can shoot a man with an arrow and then knock them back like ten feet which makes no fucking sense but is incredible. You need three dots in the Ability in question to take this.
Fists of Stone: Your bare-handed attacks do base Strength + 3 dice of bashing damage (as opposed to the normal Strength + 2). You get two extra dice for anything where your grip strength comes up, and your hands never get damaged by anything short of punching solid metal. This is pretty okay and will be a good thing to contrast to the more over the top Knacks the other flavors of Inspired get. You just always do a little bit more damage with your fists, and presumably you’ll be punching lots of Nazis and dinosaurs and shit if you take this. You need to have Strength 3 to take this, which given you’re relying on punching for damage isn’t really a hard ask.
Forgettable: This is a super nebulous one. People you’re not good friends with forget you soon after you leave their direct presence, and it’s hard to capture images of you. The penalties depend on your Intuitive Facet, making this our first Knack that has scaling with a Facet (but nowhere near the last). It goes all the way to +4 difficulty on rolls to remember or photograph you at Intuitive 5, which is kinda crazy. You cannot have any Reputation and have this Knack. If you would gain Reputation, it is suggested you be allowed to convert it into a Background like Allies or Contacts to represent specific people remembering you.
Gadgeteer: You never suffer penalties for trying to use something you haven’t been trained to use. You can just look at shit and kinda understand how it works, though if it’s complicated it can take a minute or so. If you’ve got Ability Mastery in Engineering, Medicine, or Science you can also use this Knack to boost your ability to make Super-science Gadgets, though we’ll be talking about those next chapter. You need Intelligence, Wits, and Inspiration of 3 or more to take this, but it’s pretty great.
Indomitable Will: You’re really hard to influence with mind shit. Mundane hypnosis and brainwashing take three times as long and require three times the successes to succeed, and Knacks that in any way invade your mind are at +2 difficulty. This doesn’t impact anything that creates perceptual illusions, though, and you can’t turn it off so for example it’s hard for a friend to contact you telepathically. You need at least 8 Willpower to take this. If you’ve got the Willpower (say for Death Defiance) you might as well take this but it’s pretty niche and has some downsides if you’ve got a friendly Mesmerist.
Instant Expert: Another Knack that requires you to spend Willpower, you can spend a Willpower to add your Intuitive Facet to the rating of any Ability that you have zero dots in for a single task. You can only do this for any given Ability once per game session, and again you can only do it for Abilities you’re completely untrained on. It works for the full duration of the task as well, so for example you can just do surgery on some dude because you saw someone do it once (but you can’t replicate that feat). You need at least three Wits to take this. Fucking love it, action movie as hell.
Jack of All Tongues: You know twice as many languages as you’d otherwise know (which is controlled by the Linquistics Ability), you never have an accent, and it’s easier for you to learn new languages. You know two extra languages even if you don’t have Linguistics at all, though that feels a bit silly to take this in that case. You can also make a difficult Linguistics roll to just translate some shit you have no idea what it is, whatever guys. You need three Intelligence to take this. This is pretty great honestly, it makes it really easy to avoid sticking out as a foreigner if you’re undercover and being able to translate things from first principles might not come up much but could let you clip all sorts of corners the storyteller hasn’t thought of.
Lie Detector: Non-Inspired characters are at +2 difficulty to lie to you, and if they don’t have at least two dots in Subterfuge they can’t succeed at all. Note that this just lets you know they lied, not what the truth is. Inspired characters with Subterfuge don’t suffer any penalties, but those without are treated like normal characters. You need Perception 3 to take this. This is pretty damn good, especially since Perception 3 was already a requirement for Eagle Eye which is great.
Lightning Reflexes: If you roll lower than 4 for Initiative, count it as a 4. Going earlier in combat is pretty great for obvious reasons, since you ideally want to make enemies dead before they get a chance to make you dead. The interesting thing though is that again this doesn’t actually increase your Initiative value per se, it just cuts out the worst possible results on the roll. You’re paradoxically much more likely to get the lowest possible Initiative roll than before (since four results out of ten will give you it) but that lowest possible roll is higher than before. You need to have either Dexterity or Wits 4 to take this, but you get no benefit for having both.
Master of Dissimulation: This one fucking rocks. You can roll a standard difficulty Subterfuge check to appear to be an expert in whatever the fuck you claim to be. As long as it’s just talking people will just assume you’re a detective or doctor or whatever and treat you as though that’s the case. For someone to detect your ruse, they need both to have more Perception than the number of successes you get AND to actually be whatever you’re pretending to be. If you ever have to actually act on your purported knowledge, you will of course be exposed (unless it turns out you do know something about the subject). The big advantage of this Knack is that you don’t need any props to back it up, you’re able to bullshit your way past anything so crass. You need at least Wits and Manipulation 3 to take this. This is a great Knack to remember that you can spend an Inspiration to double the dice pool, because getting a bunch of successes will make you super hard to expose.
Navigation Hazard: So whenever you’re in a race, chase, or combat and are in or on a vehicle of any kind that you are steering, any opposing vehicle that suffers damage for any reason (whether you bump into them or they just screw up a roll) they take automatic damage equal to your Destructive Facet. This also applies as a bashing damage effect to any passengers, in addition to any damage they’d otherwise take. If the vehicle is destroyed by this and contains anything even remotely flammable it explodes, because why not. Passengers need to roll a difficult Athletics check or spend an Inspiration point to get out of the wreck before getting lit on fire. This doesn’t apply to weapons unless the other vehicle just ran into the weapon in question. This would be pretty fun before the explosions, with them it’s amazing. If you’re a Daredevil and have the pre-req (three dots in Animal Handling, Drive, or Pilot) just take this on principle.
One-Man Army: You’re amazing at fighting multiple enemies in close combat. You don’t get any penalties for being outnumbered, and you get one bonus die to all combat rolls for each extra target past the first, up to a maximum of +4 dice. In addition, if you are up against at least four opponents you gain an additional full action at half your normal initiative. You can split this action as normal. So on one hand you have to be in adverse situations for this to trigger, but on the other hand it’s fucking fantastic. If you’re super outnumbered they’re probably Extras that aren’t really a threat once you’ve negated their bonuses for outnumbering you, and getting an extra action with no penalties is What Is Best In Life. For one thing, consider that all the bonus dice you get for this can cut deep into the penalties for splitting actions, meaning you can quickly turn being outnumbered into everyone else being punched all to hell. Or stabbed or sworded all to hell, because again this is any close combat not just unarmed. You could Jackie Chan your way into some savage hits on the main enemy because they decided to bring friends. You need three dots in a close combat Ability to take this.
Perfect Poise: You never panic unless it’s caused by an Inspired power, and you have to actively choose to in order to display any signs of surprise. You gain two dice on any roll where this could come up, and an additional die if you’re bluffing in a gambling situation. You never trip or spill drinks, and your clothes never get dirty when shit would otherwise rumple or splash them. It’s pretty flavorful and useful for a social character (consider making a Dramatic Entrance into a situation where your poise matters and needing to bum some dice off someone else because you only brought ten d10s). You need Willpower 7 or Wits 3 to take this.
Resilient: You heal all wounds as though they were one level lower, and halve your healing time for the lowest level of wound. This stacks with medical attention. This largely just lowers your downtime, making this way weaker than the Mesmerist and Stalwart equivalents. The essential problem is that even with this Knack it’s a half hour to heal the Bruised level, and that’s only if it was Bashing damage. Take it if you’ve got Stamina 3 and feel like it, but it’s very blah.
Steely Gaze: You always win staredowns against non-Inspired and get a two dice bonus against Inspired. If you make eye-contact with a non-Inspired target (who has to have Willpower equal or lower than your Charisma) and roll Intimidation at +1 difficulty. They lose their next combat action or automatically fail their next opposed Social roll if you succeed, and you can do it to any given person at most twice a day. It’s not QUITE a save-or-die but it’s a really fucking powerful thing someone who’s otherwise a social character can do in combat that ALSO has out of combat uses. You need Charisma 3, and definitely take this if you’re socially focused.
Trick Shot: You have to pick Firearms, Archery, or Thrown Weapons when you pick this (and you can take it more than once). You reduce all the difficulty penalties for everything besides your wounds and visibility by half when dealing with that sort of weapon. THEN you get bonus dice equal to the difficulty penalty before you halved it, up to the dots in the Ability you’re using. The downside if you take advantage of this Knack is that you halve your extra successes before applying them to damage, as your focus was on doing crazy bullshit instead. That said, doing damage at ALL in the situations where you’d gain from this would be hard so it’s super worth it. You need three dice in the relevant Ability to take this. Pair with Eagle Eye for best effect. If you are able to talk the storyteller into it they suggest you could take this for close-combat attacks in theory, at which point pair it with One Man Army and nunchuck the fuck out of people Bruce Lee style.
Untouchable: If you start a fight without a firearm, while you aren’t armed with a gun people suffer a penalty to shoot you proportional to your Destructive Facet (up to +4 at Destructive 5). You can’t have a gun on your person at any point during the fight in order to take advantage of this, but if you’re a melee character that’s a minor problem. +4 is really damn good, absolutely take this if you are a melee character. You should never not have the pre-requisites, Athletics/Martial Arts 3 and Dexterity 3.
Wheelman: There are four versions of this, one for land vehicles, one for air vehicles, one for boats, and one for riding animals. You get to move faster based on your Intuitive Facet, and you get that many more dice for doing maneuvers as well. When the vehicle or mount is moving attacks against it that you’re aware of suffer a difficulty penalty equal to half your Wits, rounded down. You don’t suffer penalties to your rolls due to the damage to your vehicle or mount until it’s completed destroyed or killed, and if you’re injured you can’t lose control as long as the vehicle/mount is moving and hasn’t been destroyed yet. You need three dots in the relevant Ability to take this Knack, with a further caveat that you need a specialty in aircraft or watercraft (both use the Pilot skill) to take Wheelman for those. It’s pretty good if you’re into crazy vehicle stunts I guess.
So, these are going to seem potentially really weak once we see the Knacks of Mesmerists and Stalwarts. The thing to remember is that almost all of this is just stuff that happens with no expenditure of any resources on your part, and none of it costs Inspiration. This gives you lots of free Inspiration to do shit like double your dice pools that other types of Inspired have to save for doing their super shit. That Stalwart’s sweet powers or the Mentalist’s crazy mind mojo don’t mean anything if you throw down like twenty dice and knock them the fuck out in one punch. Being a Daredevil is about being just as over the top as the other two, just in ways that don’t seem obviously unnatural.
That’s it for Heroic Knacks. Next time, we’ll have the Psychic Knacks.
We’re finishing the Knacks in Adventure with the most powerful set, the Dynamic Knacks of the Stalwarts.
Dynamic Knacks are also tiered by Level. While Psychic Knacks were powers of the mind, these are powers of the body. There’s again no Trait requirements, but some of them will cost Inspiration to use.
Level One Knacks:
A Single Bound: You can jump much farther than a normal person. Triple jump distances, and double movement rates on bicycles as well since those are both leg things. This doesn’t impact your foot movement rate or damage you’d do kicking, which makes this a cool and flavorful but pretty rarely useful Knack. The rare non-broken Dynamic Knack!
Cool Hand: Your physical composure never fails. While you can still be injured by effects, you never get penalties to Dexterity-based checks from things like wounds, illness, or stress. You get a bonus die in any task that requires ultra-fine manipulation (but never in combat). Your ranged weapons have doubled effective range because your aim never wavers. You also don’t get any physical effects when you drink. You still get drunk, but there’s no sign of it in your motions. This is a much cooler one, it gives you a bunch of little and fun bonuses.
Heightened Senses: It kinda says what it is in the name. You get two bonus dice on all Perception rolls that would be on the edge of human perception in some way. Your aimed ranged attacks get double the normal range. You are vulnerable to sensory overload if the storyteller wants to fuck with you because you argued with them for an hour about whether taking this with Cool Hand tripled or quadrupled your range. It’s pretty good, though.
Mad Scientist: This is the Stalwart’s super-science buff, you spend Inspiration to drastically cut the time it takes to invent something. The downside is that this relies on making crazy jumps of logic that make no sense to anyone who isn’t a Stalwart, so you can’t use assistants who aren’t. Super-science is potentially great, we’ll see the broke stuff it can do next chapter.
Powerlifter: You can do crazy feats of strength. You get your Destructive Facet as automatic successes when you roll Might as long as you got any successes at all. These also count towards a chart that determines how much you can lift. Fucking charts. It doesn’t make you punch harder, though, that’s coming up in a bit and god damn is it powerful.
Sex Symbol: Powerlifter but for getting laid. Take your Intuitive Facet as extra successes when you roll Seduction. I feel like there’s not enough support for a Social Stalwart (which is a shame because Novas will have plenty) and this kind of doesn’t have much of a place in their power set. Also it is way too easy to go creepy.
Superhuman Reflexes: It’s what the name says, and you get +3 Initiative. It’s got great synergy with something we’ll be seeing at level 2!
Level Two Knacks:
Aetheric Vision: This lets you see shit outside the normal range of human vision. You spend an Inspiration to use this for a scene, and take no penalties for low light. You’re also able to see active electrical circuits, heat, whatever the fuck. Doesn’t even really have to make much sense, if you can dream it you can ‘see’ it because this doesn’t really work the way it claims to. What you see using this doesn’t have to match what we know you would see if you were say looking at infrared radiation for reasons that won’t really make sense until we get to Aberrant and learn how Nova powers work. This is pretty fun, though.
Blazing Speed: Okay and now we break the game. Before you roll Initiative spend an Inspiration. This turn, subtract three from your Initiative roll in exchange for getting a second full action after everyone else has acted. Daredevils needed to be outnumbered to get an extra action, and Mesmerists couldn’t do it at all. You don’t give a fuck, you’re the fucking Flash. Superhuman Reflexes obviously negates the penalty, or just be part of a Psychic Synergy and use someone else’s better roll. Why not. That’d also give you 5 bonus dice so you can split all your actions three ways and still be doing better than you would have been outside the synergy, six actions a round probably doesn’t break the game or anything. Not like you can take another power and make all your attacks do five dice of extra damage a few down the page…
Blindfighter: I heard you like Daredevil and want to be Daredevil. You suffer no penalties for movement or close combat in low light or darkness. Rolls related to anything but spatial awareness still do suffer penalties. You can sonar shit out to twice your Inspiration in meters, but this doesn’t give you precise enough information to aim ranged attacks. Because Daredevil doesn’t shoot people jeez. You know if you want to take this, it’s as much a flavor thing as a useful power.
Optimized Metabolism: A laundry list of cool effects. Once you’re an adult, you age at a rate of one year per [Stamina times TEN] years that pass. You can hold your breath for five times as long as normal, need to eat only once a week, and can’t be poisoned, diseased, or drugged. You can still be burned by things like acid, though. Pretty damn strong, just cut out a whole bunch of bullshit from your life.
Piledriver: I heard you like punching so I put some more punch in your punches. Whenever you roll a damage effect based on Strength of any kind, add your Destructive Facet to the damage. This is crazy town right here. Let’s compared to Fists of Stone. That’s 8 base dice at Strength 5. Well with the same Strength 5 and Inspiration 5 (so you can have Destructive 5) you do 12 base dice with a punch. Except you are allowed to use weapons too. So why not use a Sword and its Strength + 5 Lethal? 15 Lethal dice, why not. Doesn’t cost anything to use this power either, so you’ve got plenty of Inspiration to use Blazing Speed.
Sun Tzu’s Blessing: You’re a tactical genius. You get automatic successes equal to your Reflective Facet when you’re rolling to plan out tactics. Strong but comparatively laughable after we earlier got the ability to throw down ninety fucking lethal dice a round. It’s also got no bonus to actual leadership, just tactics.
Touch of the Muses: This Knack buffs physical creative exercises. You get to add your Intuitive Facet as automatic successes. For once one of these is REALLY sneaky good, and they note that having this Knack would justify halving the cost of raising any background where you being a fucking baller artist could help. It’d also be great for raising a bunch of money if you’ve got some moderate notice. Even more and even quicker if you don’t mind turning your art to forgery.
Level Three Knacks:
Body of Bronze: I wonder who inspired this ability. You get innate armor, with Bashing rating equal to two + Reflective Facet and Lethal equal to two + Intuitive Facet. It’s at least [2/2] as a result. The Lethal rating is a lot more useful, prefer having Intuitive Facets if you’re taking this (I mean after you have all the Destructive you want to break Piledriver open). At least this makes you chase a different carrot than Piledriver, so you can’t have absolutely everything you might want.
Indisputable Analysis: Sherlock Holmes shit. Spend a minute observing a scene, spend an Inspiration, roll Intelligence + Awareness. Every success gives you a bonus die to all your Investigation rolls that deal with the scene you’re observing. This manifests as the sort of crazy but in retrospect logical jumps of the real Sherlock Holmes, though if the BBC one had come out before this they’d probably have gone the over the top mind palace route because that is VERY Stalwart/Nova.
Man of Many Faces: You know your shape? You can shift it. Concentrate for 30 seconds, spend an Inspiration and roll Disguise or Perform (depending on whether you’re just trying to change to not yourself or are trying to be a specific person). The change lasts for the rest of the scene, though you have to be able to concentrate on it so taking too much damage or getting knocked out will end it. The number of successes you roll determine how much you can change yourself, with 5 successes even allowing you to be someone of the other gender or a giant. You still need to be able to act to fool people reliably if you’re supposed to be someone specific. This is a pretty solid one, great for disguises.
Reptilian Regeneration: You go into a trance, spend an Inspiration, and roll Endurance. Each success lets you heal a level of damage, requiring one minute for a bashing level and ten for a lethal level. You can’t be awakened by anything short of a bashing health level during this time. One of the few powers you could directly compare and say ‘yeah the Mesmerist got better’, this is nice for healing yourself after combats and certainly better than the Heroic healing one but is still vastly inferior to the Touch of Life.
Sensory Filtering: This allows you to ignore anything you don’t want to pay attention to. You negate all penalties from anything sensory (including the risk of sensory overload if you have Heightened Senses). You can choose to isolate specific sensory inputs, like listening in on a single conversation in a crowd. This is a subtle one but just being immune to things like blinding from flashes and deafening from loud noises would be pretty great. If you’ve got this, REALLY make use of it because there’s tons of creative applications.
Threat Awareness: You can tell people are going to attack sometimes even before they do. This allows you to take one action before the attacker in the first round of a combat. You also get a bonus to your initiative in the first round, which slowly fades as combat progresses. It’s a very focused effect but making someone be dead before they’ve even had a chance to attack is not exactly weak.
The Future: Stalwarts vs Novas
Stalwarts will one day become the transhuman Novas of Aberrant, and if you are familiar with that game you can see that a lot of these Stalwart Knacks are actually applications of Mega-Attributes from that game. Which actually kind of makes sense, Stalwarts are still on the bleeding edge of the evolutionary change that results in Novas and it’s just not quite there yet. When we get to Aberrant and cover Mega-Attributes just watch for all the Extras on them that are literally a Dynamic Knack.
Conclusions: Stalwarts are really, really powerful at the things they do. For the most part that involves beating the absolute shit out of people. One problem, honestly, is that there’s not a lot of support for focusing on anything other than combat or Perception stuff. I’d consider adapting some more of the Mega-Social effects to Knacks to give that as an option, though maybe it doesn’t need it. The Daredevil is firmly the best Social character and maybe that’s fine.
I’ve been mentioning super-science a lot and next time we’ll learn all about it. It’s… a thing. I'm also going to start working on some of the characters now that we've seen all the Knacks and are about to get to the last thing a character can have.
Now for our final character connected section of Adventure, super science. And boy is it a thing.
Okay, so first some categories. Super-science can do three things: create devices, alter organisms, and develop compounds. There’s also tiers of invention: Advancements, which merely improve something that already exists, and Innovations, which go beyond simple improvements to create something that duplicates an Inspired Knack. All Inspired can create Advancements, but Daredevils can’t create Innovations (though they can use them just fine). You can have as many inventions at one time equal to your Inspiration score, though things you purchased as Gadgets don’t count. If a super-science item is important to your character’s concept you should buy it through the Gadget background, because that gives it some level of narrative weight and importance such as to not unfairly rob you of it or make it impossible to get back if it’s lost. You can spend TP to buy inventions at character creation, if you feel like it.
It should be noted that neither of these works by what is, in the strictest sense, good science. It’s a bunch of weirdy-beardy hand waving bullshit and illogical jumps that somehow work, with a lot of Inspiration acting as band-aids in reality. Think of an Advancement as being Skaven technology from Warhammer, it’s something you know works in principle that’s had a bunch of magic shit jammed into it and now works way better (and since you are actually engineers without ‘warlock’ affixed, your shit hardly ever explodes). Innovations are 40k Ork technology, there’s really no reason they should work at all. A non-Inspired scientist looking at your shit is going to be baffled at how it works, and you’re not going to be able to explain it to them because they won’t follow the logical leaps that underlie its principles since they don’t actually make sense and shouldn’t goddamn work. Again since you’re actual engineers your gears do at least actually touch but you should probably avoid any papers more mundane scientists write about how your shit is bullshit, that way skull shaped fortresses lies.
To start, you need Ability Mastery in either Engineering (for devices), Medicine (for organisms), or Science (for compounds). Then, you also need three dots in whatever Ability is relevant to the item you’re creating. We then move on to R&D, which is going to be a roll against the Ability you’ve got Mastery in that you’re applying. The more successes you get, the less time you’re going to have to spend in the lab. If you fail but don’t botch, you can try again. Lab assistants, spending Inspiration, and those three Knacks I mentioned all come into play here.
Now we get to construction. The time required goes up the longer R&D took, so in general the more complicated something was and the worse you rolled the longer it’ll take to make the eventual invention. You also need some funding, how much depends on what you’re doing. You’ll need whatever facilities are required for construction, and finally you’ll need the plans you drew up in R&D. If they get stolen you’re fucked, but this also means you can steal someone else’s schematics and make their shit. You’ll also need to spend some Inspiration if you’re making an Innovation, because it’s got Knacks and that needs power.
Now it’s time to use the crazy things. Advancements are weird super-science versions of regular items but at the end of the day they’re still just a regular thing, and you just need to Ability relevant to them to use them. Innovations are a bit trickier, they have usability requirements that are determined when you create them and also have charges of Inspiration that are required for them to work. If they ever run out of charges entirely they literally just melt down into slag. Repairing a damaged invention requires the same Mastery that was used to create it.
Advanced items work by adding bonuses to existing things, as I’ve noted. How this works in practice is that there are tables of Advancements and the amount of time it takes to research that. A few notes: You add one to the difficulty of your R&D rolls if you want to stack up the same advancement, and the game specifically notes here that super-science is actually OP as hell and you should glare at people who are just being powergaming assholes.
You can increase accuracy, damage, ammunition and range, make things more easily concealed, have them be hidden as a more mundane object, and swap the damage type (there’s no aggravated damage in Adventure). You can have a total of six bonuses, and most of these are limited. If you want to be crazy and eat the +4 difficulty to R&D, you can do some silly shit like make a sword with +3 Accuracy, +3 Damage (which would make it 8L+Strength base damage).
These work the same way as personal weapons, though there are fewer options since some of them don’t make sense.
There’s a whole bunch of crazy shit you can do with this, if you can dream it or see it in some old pulp story expect it to be possible.
This includes both relatively sane improvements to Attributes and Doctor Moreau shit. Any Attribute can be improved, and it doesn’t actually say you’re limited to the human maximum. You can also do all sorts of crazy shit adding animal bits, as noted. I’d rule you CAN go past human maximums but it leaves you with the + difficulty to social rolls any obviously inhuman augmentations cause. You do have to go down to Crippled as part of this, and a botch on the rolls involved will of course kill you. Whoops.
A whole bunch of little options, this can make shit like drugs that buff Attributes, poisons, silksteel armors, and immortality drugs. It’s pretty cool, and there’s a lot more obvious room for coming up with other things than are on the list.
Innovative Super Science:
Now for the big dog, Innovations. These copy Knacks, with a twist. See, the bodies of Inspired are simply unable to handle the stress of attempting a Level 4 or 5 Knack, which is why they don’t exist. Innovations can in theory generate these effects, though. They give some guidelines on how this might work, personally I’d take some guidance from the Aberrant and Trinity books as to what more powerful abilities in the vein of the Stalwart and Mesmerist might look like. You’ve got a bunch of things you need to spend successes on when creating one of these, including who can use it, how durable it is, and how long it’ll last (you have to spend a PERMANENT Inspiration point to make it just last forever without needing constant rebuilds and overhauls, which is a big reason none of this super-science shit is still around by Aberrant). Innovations also have Charges of Inspiration that they use to function. When an Inspired is using them, they can just use their own. Otherwise, or if they don’t feel like doing that, they can be externally powered by other sources of Telluric energy. They’re pretty complicated to make in theory, but in practice it’s just deciding you want a Knack you don’t have (possibly from another type of Inspired) and deciding not to dream it, but to be it. Take them as Gadgets if they’re super important because that makes them have guaranteed Permanent Warranty.
Alright, I’m going to do a quick character now, because I’ve been inspired myself. We’re not going to do the full process, just hit the highlights of what it takes out of your resources at creation to do this. Let’s make Jetstream Sam from Metal Gear Rising.
So, Physical Attributes are going to be Primary and we’re just going to start with 3 in each. We’ll be buying those up. The other two Attribute types don’t really matter at the moment. We have 23 Abilities and things can be up to 3 right now, which lets us get 7 at 3 then have two more points. So let’s go with Brawl, Might, Athletics, Melee, Stealth, Endurance, and Resistance with our last two in Awareness. We can buy some more stuff as we go. We need a three point Background to buy a +3 Acc, +3 damage Sword, and we’ll be doing that right away. We have three more Background points to use at this point, they can be whatever. Bonus points can go into whatever’s flavorful, there’s plenty of options. Let’s get to the Transformation Points. First of all, I bet you think we’re going Stalwart here but no, we’re going Daredevil. Trust me, I’ve got a plan. Three go into maxing our physical stats, so we’ve got 12 left. We’re going to max out Melee then add one each to Athletics, Endurance, and Resistance for another point, then fuck it let’s buy Ability Mastery in Melee. 10 left now. We’re going to buy One Man Army and Untouchable for Knacks, taking us down to 6. Now let’s do some bullshit. One more point buys us 4 dots of backgrounds, and a 4 dot Gadget is Sam’s cybernetic arm that gives him the Level 2 Dynamic Knack, Piledriver. We’ve got 5 left, and 4 are going into our Inspiration. All 5 dots are going right into our Destructive Facet, because Sam’s all about tearing down unfair bullshit. We’ve still got a point to throw into whatever we feel like, but here’s the important thing:
At character creation, Sam does 13 base Lethal dice with his sword, and can spend an Inspiration to use the Piledriver knack in his arm to up that to 18. Since Piledriver doesn’t normally cost Inspiration at all, I’d argue that works for the whole scene instead of needing it every single time. If you’re fighting multiple enemies you get bonus dice and eventually a second action, and since you just have your sword and are Destructive 5 Untouchable gives everyone trying to shoot at you +4 Difficulty. And again I need to emphasize this is a STARTING CHARACTER, zero experience spent. You could easily back off on one or two of these things and get a bit more versatility too, then just use experience to pick up what you missed at creation. One Man Army would be an easy one to get later for me, the big things are to have Untouchable, Piledriver gadget, and dat Destructive 5. Oh and remember, you’re allowed to once per session add 5 damage levels boom fuck it to a successful hit. So when you need to cut a tank in half or something add 5 automatic successes to the result of your 18+ successes lethal hit. Why not have someone with Psychic Synergy and Inspirational Aura around too, give you 5 bonus dice and reduce all your difficulties too. A great way to make the Storyteller base all the plots around delicate social interaction because they’d have to throw Cthulhu at you to even threaten you.
We’ll be covering systems next time, though there’ll be nothing in there that will be a surprise if you’re used to White Wolf games. I’ll also do another character or two.
Okay now for a really boring chapter for the most part, the systems in Adventure.
Chapter 6: Drama
We start with a bunch of discussion of things you can do and the skills that you use to do them. I’m not going to talk about these except for the very last one, Staredown, because it’s pretty fucking cool. You lock eyes with a person, and you both roll Intimidation as an extended action. The person who gets successes equal to their opponents Wits + 5 first wins, and their opponent at that point has to either spend a Willpower to continue the staredown and try to at least get their opponent also losing Willpower or give up and be unable to act directly against the winner for the rest of the scene. It’s pretty awesome and some Heroic Knacks give you buffs to do it.
Now we get to Dramatic Editing, one of our systems that we can spend Inspiration on. This lets you fuck around with the events going on to the benefit of your character. There’s a few guidelines given:
1) You must be believable. You can’t do shit that is just completely implausible. STRAINING plausibility is fine, but you’re going to need to come up with some actual chain of events that makes your edit make sense.
2) You must be consistent. You can’t contradict things that are already established or overrule the result of a dice roll after it’s happened, except in the case where a player character is being saved from certain death. You also can’t contradict or negate someone else’s use of Inspiration.
3) Dramatic editing results in feats of luck, not skill. It’s not something the character is doing at all, it’s you the player intervening on their behalf to provide a lucky break.
4) The storyteller can always override your dramatic editing if it would just fuck the whole damn adventure up. No guessing what’s going on in scene one and using a tricky edit to just win.
So what can we actually DO? I’m glad you asked!
Minor Offscreen Effect: For one point, we get this. It’s some kind of assistance that is somewhere between fifteen minutes to an hour away. It won’t solve your urgent problems but it is good enough if you’re in a bad situation that won’t kill you immediately.
Minor Extension: For one point, you can build on something another player has done with Editing. This basically lets you get ‘in on’ the benefit they’re getting for their character.
Minor Onscreen Effect: For two points you can give yourself a minor bonus. It can’t save you, but it can give you some breathing room to save yourself. It can be something like an ally arriving who can help or some unexpected equipment.
Major Onscreen Effect: This is how you save your life/the lives of your team. It costs three points.
Obvious Continuity Violation: This is for stuff that breaks either plausibility or consistency. It requires some creativity, but it’s your last resort if you’re really boned.
Plot Ramification: You add one to the cost of one of the other forms of editing to do this. This means that either the editing gives you or the group some unexpected benefits to do with the overall plot of the adventure (like a clue or a setback for the villain), or alternatively is the cost you have to pay if your character has gained advantages at the expense of another player.
Plot Complication: On the other hand this reduces the cost of the editing by 1. This makes your character suffer some kind of negative consequence as a result of the editing. It has to be pretty major, you can’t just stub your toe to get out of an Inspiration point.
We then move on to the concept of the Cliffhanger. This is a special type of scene you can use as a Storyteller, where you end a session with something nasty happening then resume with the players explaining how they’re getting out of this mess. This will likely include dramatic editing from the entire group, and it’s intended to be a collaborative effort. It’s not something to overuse and they suggest giving the characters rewards like refunded Inspiration points for doing really cool shit during it.
Stunts are a thing, coming up with awesome descriptions of how you’re doing something or using the environment can give you some bonus dice. Be creative.
Attacking is essentially like any other skill check, roll your applicable traits, check the difficulty, extra successes add to the damage effect. Damage only comes in two flavors in Adventure, bashing and lethal. Adventure characters are human and can’t soak lethal damage without armor. You always get to soak bashing with your stamina though. Vehicle scale weapons get to add extra automatic successes against human scale enemies.
Armor gives you extra soak rating, which reduces the number of dice rolled for damage (no matter how you get it). Vehicles also get to automatically ignore some of your successes depending on how tough they are if you’re hitting them with personal-scale weapons. This does not stop Jetstream Sam from cutting a truck in half though, trust me he can do that with 18L base. We get a bunch of combat maneuvers, how long it takes to recover, and we end on other ways to get damaged.
There’s some rules for poisons and diseases, falling, electrocution, fire, suffocation, drowning, freezing, the usual. There’s also rules for breaking materials. Some light mental illness rules finish things.
Dramatic editing is the main thing we get in this chapter. It’s a lot of what Daredevils will be doing with their Inspiration since their Knacks don’t have active costs. It’s strong, but the really good shit is quite spendy if you’re not willing to take a complication. They also note that you need to watch out for people using it to fuck around with other people’s characters for out of game reasons. Doing that would make you very douchey, and the only defense is the storyteller keeping the reins tight.
Next time, we’re getting to storyteller content.
Now for a section on roleplaying for Adventure.
Chapter 7: Roleplaying
It starts with a discussion of character teams, and making sure that people don’t end up with characters that overlap so badly that one or the other of them won’t have much to do. They point out that similar sounding characters can in practice have very different roles if they do a good job of thinking through how the operate and what their specialties are. They then discuss the focus of a team, which speaks to how the characters are even together. They give some examples of ‘focused’ team types, where everyone is there for the same reason (whether they’re scientists, investigators, vigilantes, what have you).
It moves on to some advice for dealing with situations where you have players who can’t always be around. They suggest everyone give the Storyteller a brief description of their character’s personality so they can run them as an NPC (or give them to another player, but they note that’s much more fraught since some people will have the temptation to drive their temporary character like a rented horse, hard and in in the rain). They even note that if someone really fucks up at acting in character for someone else (including you as Storyteller) you should lean into that shit and whoops they were replaced by the diabolical Chameleon or somesuch. Another option is to have a stable of characters who are just run by whoever’s there (with people able to make most sessions getting ‘dibs’ on a character that’s ‘theirs’). It finishes in some advice as to how to handle Cliffhangers if players can’t make the next session. This is all some really good advice for casual groups, honestly.
We get some more advice on thinking through what motivates the group and why they’re together. We then get some advice on what to AVOID from the pulp genre, namely what it terms The Doc Savage Problem. A lot of pulp’s signature characters, while they might have allies and running characters and such, are at the end of the day the main character of their stories. Everyone else exists to further their plot. This isn’t just Doc of course, The Shadow and The Phantom and who knows who else are the same. You’re cautioned against making everything about one character, which no shit. They then make sure to tell you not to make everything about your special snowflake NPC, which hell yeah. I will say there can be a good niche for player-equivalent npc allies if you’re just in a situation where you don’t have enough players and they’ll be unable to complete combat encounters as a result. But you need to be super careful about it.
They then talk a bit about the setting. They note that where not otherwise contradicted it’s supposed to match real history, and that does mean players can and likely every so often will come into contact with real ass historical people. Run historical characters with a sense of respect for them as dead people even if they’re shitty people and equally don’t let your players try and run roughshod over history using their out of game knowledge. Maybe Hitler really is a fairly stable veteran of the Great War and focuses on his mediocre art, but have you heard about this Nazi movement Klaus Hoessler started? They’re really scary, they might be a problem.
Magic gets discussed, noting that magic isn’t real per se it’s all Z-waves but at the same time this can all LOOK like magic, be interpreted as such by the users/viewers, and since Z-waves have always existed it’s possible any given thing you decide could have actually been Z-wave powered not-magic. It also suggests if you want an actual hidden magic game you should play fucking Mage, though not in so many words.
They suggest you go look up actual old photos and such to help make the setting feel real when they’re somewhere historical, which is a great idea. They also point out that maybe you don’t even care about long-term repercussions, like say running a one-shot story. Just figure out how/if the characters fucked up history afterwards if you run again.
In another sidebar they talk about aliens, giving a couple of options. First of all, you could dig out Trinity and just fucking have some of the aliens from that show up. They’re all pretty cool and aren’t necessarily even going to be ‘bad guys’, some of the Trinity aliens are pretty chill and fun. The other option is that Z-waves have propagated to nearby planets and made little green men from Mars a real fucking thing (in the same way they’ve made there be an actual secret hollow Earth).
They then have the two paragraphs that make Aeon much better than a lot of settings of the era. They’ve said this before but they reiterate, while there is theoretically a metaplot you can and should just fucking ignore any of it that you don’t like. If some part of Adventure doesn’t work for you fuck it change it the game’s not about their ‘clever’ metastory. And never, ever feel like you need to do something JUST to maintain consistency with Aberrant and Trinity. They point out the specific deets of those settings are just one possible chain of events, and if you don’t like them or fuck something up significantly then whatever, it won’t happen that way. And that’s totally your call for that to happen. We’ll see this in the Trinity adventure series I have but they’re also much better in general about letting the players actually be important to events that are major in the setting. When earth is to be saved, while your victory is made plausible by outside assistance you’re still the ones who actually deal the final blow against the threat.
We then get a lot about what Pulp really is. The big thing they note is to remember that pulp is very black and white. Even when characters are ambiguous in their moral choices or might have some really good points, at the end of the day The Shadow’s a good guy and Fu Manchu’s a bad guy and that’s that. The political upheaval going on in depression-era America is also a big theme, with pervasive crime and corruption. Air travel hasn’t become commonplace yet, and to a large extent that’s what kills the ‘wonder’ of the world between Adventure and Aberrant. They also bring up a good point, because there’s a pulp elephant in the room if you’re familiar with fiction of the era. Horror is pretty common and Lovecraft’s work was pulp as fuck (The Dunwich Horror is a great example of a pulp-y Lovecraft story), but you’re not running Call of Cthulhu so find a good middle ground on it.
There’s then a bit on what Pulp ISN’T. Pulp isn’t noir, for one. Noir isn’t so much black-and-white as just all black. It’s equally not camp. You’re not supposed to be quite that over the top or silly. This isn’t a superhero game yet, that’s later. Just to keep in mind.
Genre and period conventions come up next. It’s all about action, and sometimes it’s the bad guys doing pre-emptive action on the heroes. Be crazy in your stunts, action movie shit is the word of the day. The setting is unavoidably really fucking racist at a level that most people will find uncomfortable so make sure you’re handling that carefully. Science is also key to the genre, but don’t let things mire down in it.
It then gives some storytelling advice, nothing that really need summaries since it’d kind of apply to any game but it’s actually pretty good shit. We close on some thoughts on creating villains, with our final paragraph noting that skull shaped fortresses tend to be very explosive. Love this book.
Next time we’ll be talking about the story characters they include in the book, which are actually pretty cool. After that I’ll make some more characters, then we’ll move on to Aberrant.
Alright we’ve got one last update of the Adventure book before I do some more example characters and broken combos for an update. I’ll then move on to Aberrant.
Chapter 8: Heroes and Villains
We start with the Aeon Society. We get a description of who they are and an idea of what they do, without getting a detailed stat block. Pretty much any of these NPCs can do what you need them to when it comes down to it.
Maxell Anderson Mercer: The founder of the Aeon Society, he’s the stereotypical genius badass pulp protagonist. He and his friend Michael Donighal were the two closest people to Hammersmith’s machine when it blew up, and it had some… strange results. Max was knocked out by the explosion, and woke up surrounded by the Aeon Society, in 1942. Including an older version of himself. Mercer’s able to travel through time, and spent quite some time exploring it before returning to six months after the experiment failed. He’s got a bunch of Background Enhancements and skills, but his main mechanic is his Chronal Awareness. He can travel through time, but especially easily to certain key times in history that also relate to the Inspired. There’s no real system for it, if you need him to be able to do something he can do it as long as it’s wibbly-wobbly timey wimey stuff (including speeding up and slowing down the personal time of people for to beat their asses).
Whitley Styles: His father ran a gross exploitative company in India, and some locals took offense. Unfortunately for all involved, those locals were the villains from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Whitley was kidnapped and brainwashed into becoming a deadly assassin, eventually killing his own father. Max Mercer rescued him some time after that, and was able to bring him back to his senses. In the mean time, his father’s partner had stolen the company. He struggles against that douchebag and the murderous cultists who still want to kill him for his betrayal. He’s a powerful Mesmerist and a bad motherfucker in a fight. He’s also one of the characters who will live long enough to be important in Aberrant.
Professor Benjamin Franklin Dixon: This dude lives hard and sciences hard. At the urging of his future wife and shortly thereafter future ex-wife he signed on to assist Dr. Hammersmith, which is how he became Inspired. He’s a stalwart with Mad Scientist and some others, and he’s considered the world’s most talented scientist (which is why his ex-wife who we’ll meet later is also his Nemesis). Cleaning up the booze and vomit from the plans for some amazing invention amuses me.
Danger Ace: Real name Jake Stefanowski, he’s one of the world’s most skilled pilots. And adding to that, he has entirely supernatural talent for not getting dead. He’s a daredevil with all those Knacks for doing hilarious vehicle stunts and Death Defiance. He’s so bad at dying he manages to still be alive to be known as Jake Danger, Aberrant Hunter in the future.
Crackshot: Annabelle Lee Newfield is the daughter of some awesome circus people and deadly as hell. She was invited at the age of 14 to join the Society both because she’s one of the deadliest motherfuckers on the planet and also because the next member we’ll meet was being super shitty and Mercer wanted to prove that women can be just as awesome as men. She gets off this train we call life violently shortly before WW2 but that’s how it goes sometimes. She’s a daredevil with things like Lightning Reflexes, Trick Shot, and Universally Deadly along with Ability Mastery in Archery, Firearms, and Athletics, but she min-maxed at life so she’s a bit behind in other things.
Safari Jack Tallon: The douchebag who provoked Crackshot’s invitation. He’s the stereotypical Great White Hunter, and he’s old as FUCK. He’s got some exotic remedies he takes daily that give him the equivalent of Optimized Metabolism, and he’s a daredevil with a wide array of Knacks, skills, and Backgrounds. While he’s racist as fuck in theory, he doesn’t actually view the less developed world as not deserving of respect. He thinks the civilized world could learn just as much from them as they could benefit from better technology.
Doctor Primoris: Also known as Michael Donighal, he goes by Doctor Primoris as much to be shitty to everyone else’s nicknames as to showboat how awesome he thinks he is. He got at least as much exposure to the Hammersmith accident as Mercer, and as a result he’s crazy powerful. In the end his differences with the Aeon Society will cause them to break apart, as he eventually decides his own goals are incompatible with theirs. He’s a stalwart in theory, but he displays psychic knacks as well as dynamic. Mercer thinks he’s holding back and is right, because Primoris is actually a Nova, as far above a stalwart as a stalwart is above a normal human. We’ll be hearing much more about him under an even more melodramatic alias in Aberrant.
Now for major characters who aren’t affiliated with the Aeon Society. Some of them are villains, some aren’t.
The Ubiquitous Dragon: This guy’s basically Fu Manchu, and also the dark mirror to Max Mercer. While Mercer believes everybody is fundamentally good and has hope for the future, The Dragon believes everyone is corrupt and aims to prove it by taking advantage of the flaws in his enemies to rule the world. His father was an honorable man who’d once worked for a cruel warlord. When the warlord tracked his former advisor down, he killed him and took his son as his own. This proved to be a mistake, as his efforts to turn the boy into a man as terrible as has father had been good succeeded extremely well and he naturally turned on the warlord. Now he runs the Dragon’s Coil Tong, and one way or the other has become a powerful Stalwart. He’s got a special Knack called the Curse of Many Dragons, which lets him create weak duplicates of himself to literally be in multiple places at once. This is one of the very few times you’ll see an actual Nova power as a dynamic Knack rather than a mega-attribute enhancement, since this is clearly the Clone power.
The King of the World: While the King of the World is real, it’s also a misnomer. Because, as it happens, it’s actually a Queen. She’s the Lady Argentine de Winter, and she’s thieved and connived and used the political influence and money of her family to weasel her way into the heart of crime in the Old World. She’s a mesmerist with pretty much everything you could need to be sneaky along with a psychic version of Sex Symbol because major characters don’t give a shit about the rules. She’s also got all the backgrounds you’d expect for being Crime Queen.
Mister Saturday: This gentleman used to be Dr. Hammersmith’s butler. He managed to scheme his way into become Hammersmith’s sole heir and moved the whole lot of it brick by brick back to Haiti. He rules through fear of his ‘black magic’ and is super mysterious in his aims. It’s also an open mystery if he had something to do with the explosion of Hammersmith’s machine. His self-portrayal is as a Robin Hood like figure robbing from the West to give to the Caribbean, but he’s also a major part of the criminal underworld. He’ll pretty much work with anyone, though, especially if you’ve got money. He’s maybe the strongest mesmerist alive, with almost every Knack. He also has a super-science concoction that can raise zombies, because voodoo.
The Lone Gunman: Scalper Dutch is an old dude with six-shooters who’s noted as ‘the meanest bastard you’ll ever run across.’ He’s a mercenary and when he’s not working on someone else’s dime he roams around being a crusty old fucker who hates everyone. He’s super focused on being the scariest gunfighter you can be as a daredevil and gets to use Untouchable while armed.
The Czar: A greasy Russian noble who runs the Ponatowski Foundation in secret. He fled the Russian Revolution with a whole bunch of treasures stolen from Nicholas, including Princess Anastasia. He’s trying to undermine the Soviet Union while keeping a close hand on the Princess so that he can become the true Czar (she’s starting to get restless, though he’s not wrong that she’d be in danger if her existence was revealed). He’s got lots of resources and Inspired agents, but he’s not Inspired himself.
The Machinatrix: Dr. Dixon’s ex-wife, Hephaestia Geary-Wexler. She’s attempting to create intelligent machines, which she calls the Sanguine Prometheus. She wants to create a world run by machines, so humans can enjoy a lifestyle free of care. She’s also crazy as an outhouse rat and willing to sell her inventions to anyone, whether it’s the Aeon Society or their enemies. She’s a stalwart with similar knacks to Dixon, and also has done medical super-science on herself to gain new Knacks.
Manifest Destiny: Former Sentator
Armstrong Ernest Caldwell thinks America should take the initiative to become masters of a world-spanning empire before someone else does, and has gotten a bunch of WWI vets together try and make that a reality. With his Manifest Destiny Infantry, he’s invaded the Bikini Atoll and conquered the inhabitants. He’s officially denounced as a terrorist, but has a lot of unofficial support from the US government because they are as shitty as you’d expect. He’s a daredevil, but doesn’t have any known Knacks, just tons of resources and skill at exploiting people’s fears.
The Jaguar Queen: A legend made real, “Ocelotl” is supposedly the illegitimate child of an Aztec queen who escaped into the spirit world and became the immortal bride of the jaguar. The truth of what the hell is going on with her is left up to the Storyteller but she’s a badass stalwart.
The Turk: An Imam who, after witnessing the Hammersmith experiment, turned from peace to attempts to destroy the West. He used to be friends with Safari Jack Tallon. He’s a mesmerist with mind control powers that he uses to create assassins that strike at Western culture because he fears what it will create next.
Master of the Inner Earth: His real name is Hammond Barnes, and he’s a real piece of shit. He’s a failed fiction writer who came up with an elaborate and shitty history of the supposed Inner Earth. After his wife left him (for his increasing obsession with his writing), he started believing the Inner Earth was real. And unfortunately, after the Hammersmith experiment the wrong person believing something that isn’t true very strongly can sometimes wish that thing into existence. He vanished from his home and reappeared in the caves of the “Inner Earth”, where he used his stalwart powers to assist the people of that world. Unfortunately, he’s crazy as hell and now rules as dictator. He’s opposed by our next character…
The Mighty Gar, Lord of the World Below: Gar’s part of the tribe that Hammond Barnes oppresses, and he was Inspired after falling wounded into a cave filled with crystals supercharged with Telluric energy. Traveling with his dire world Tak, he works to unite rebels from his own tribe with the Neanderthals they were battling (as it happens because there wasn’t enough food in their area of the caves). He’s a stalwart the equal of his nemesis, and theirs will be the battle for Inner Earth.
Tyrant of the Skies: Doctor Zorbo (actually kind of correctly) believes that human development will destroy the world. While he originally merely worked to create more sustainable ways for humans to live, he was unhinged by his exposure to Z-rays and now tries to solve overpopulation and over-industrialization by force. He’s got Death Balloons and wants to steal the crystals from the Inner Earth to power sky cities. He’s a mesmerist with a bunch of fun knacks and super science stuff, including a goddamn sky fortress.
The Sun Disk Made Flesh: Probably the youngest Inspired, the supposed “Queen Nefertiti” is usually Emma Nazir, daughter of Egyptologists. Unfortunately an evil ass cult kidnapped her and a bunch of other kids, most of whom they vaporized with a giant sun laser as you do. When she lived through it (because she’s got Body of Bronze), they decided she was Queen Nefertiti reborn. They returned her after using hypnosis to make her sneak out of boarding school to return to the Hidden Pyramid, and they keep working her over to try and make her spend more and more time as ‘Nefertiti’. She doesn’t know she has any powers at all when she’s Emma, though she still does.
The Intrepid Investigator: The archetypical reporter, Sarah Gettel always seems to show up just in time to report on whatever crazy shit is going on. She’s a daredevil with absolutely no Knacks, just some Background enhancements and a whole lot of chutzpah.
We get rules on Extras and stat blocks for some common things you might encounter, and that’s it except for an appendix with equipment. Next time I’ll make some characters.
So we’re going to finish up for Adventure with some more character builds. I’m going to mostly cover how best to stack shit and how conceptually broken you can get certain things, not so much going to fully stat out the ‘irrelevant’ portions while noting how much you have left in resources at creation.
Let’s see how you’d make a Flash in Adventure. So we want to be a Stalwart, since it lets us take Superhuman Reflexes and Blazing Speed, the obvious combo for this. That’s only three Transformation Points though, and at that point literally everything else we take is gravy. There’s a couple of conceptual ways we could go from this point. We could go versatile and just rely on our ability to shit out extra actions. We could also go deep Inspiration and Destructive Facet (4 TP), pick up Piledriver for 2, then drop 4 Backgrounds (either one TP or from our starting set of them) to Gadget Untouchable from the Daredevil list. Now we can flip the fuck out throwing crazy punches while being super hard to hit. We still have plenty of TP to buy up Abilities and Attributes, too. A pretty solid build, honestly.
Sid Melton, Suburban Carpenter:
Let’s do some fucking superscience with carpentry guys! We’re going to get Engineering 5 and Mastery (twoish TP, since we need 1 for the mastery and part of another for the Abilities), and fuck it let’s get the baffling Engineering Specialty of ‘Using Wood’. Let’s spend another to have Arts Mastery as well, and Specialty ‘Carpentry’. We want to be making implausible wood shit and to me that means Innovations, so we have to be a mesmerist or stalwart. I think Stalwart works better, because we can take Mad Scientist (which halves our research time but only stalwarts can help, which fits with our crazed use of wood for things that it shouldn’t work for). I feel like we need to drop some points on a Sanctum Sanctorum that’s an impenetrable tree TARDIS, what are you guys thinking on that front?
Batman is going to be pretty straightforward really, we want to go for the Untouchable/One Man Army build with as much Destructive as we can manage. We also want to buy up some Background Enhancements, and probably Steely Gaze too. This is a much harder one to swing with a starting character, honestly, Batman’s got a lot of Knacks that work (Dramatic Entrance and both the Willpower related ones could work well, as could Gadgeteer) and there’s just not enough points to buy them all. Which is fine, honestly, if you could just be fucking Batman with your starting points why would you be anything else?
So, most of the other suggestions are kind of covered by the busted combos we’ve already seen, but let’s look at some more.
Social Daredevils: We start by wanting to take advantage of Dramatic Entrance. We’re going to pair that with Steely Gaze and Perfect Poise, which is going to give us a whopping seven bonus dice in Staredowns against Inspired opponents in our first encounter with them and just automatic victory otherwise. We’ll also have five bonus dice to use Steely Gaze’s stun attack if we want (again the first time we encounter someone but when you are using a save-or-die on them they don’t get a second time). Master of Dissimulation rounds it out, since again we’ll almost always be using that with people we can trigger Dramatic Entrance against.
Spooky Mesmerism: I’ve already mentioned breaking shit open with Psychic Synergy and Inspirational Aura, but let’s go with something different. We want to build for Evil Eye first, which is Wits + Destructive. Generally we’ll want to just drop our first success on making it last the rest of the scene, then everything else on nerfing their stats. Since Willpower rolls are always impacted and you can even drain Willpower, the obvious synergy is with Brainstorm. Cloak of Dread can help you have the time you need for The Combo on a real target by keeping all the Extras off you. Brainstorm also uses the same stats as Evil Eye. Psychic Control can also synergize well with this, especially since you’re fucking great at knocking someone out after taking all their temporary Willpower away to give you the time you need to work them over.
We’re going on to Aberrant next time.