Original SA post
Myriad Song is a very different kind of sci-fantasy. Do you like weird space futures where FTL is based on music? Do you like the idea of playing a space robot with implanted speakers who has been programmed to reach harmony with the universe, therefore being able to teleport? Do you like rocket fuel based explosion communism? Myriad Song might be for you. Set in the remnants of the Myriad Syndicate, this is space opera set in what was a space empire of 10,000 worlds, conquered by the space-time shifting Syndics. The Syndics were essentially Gods; they mastered FTL to the extent that anyone who opposed them could just be teleported into the sun. When God can teleport you into the sun, it's kind of hard to be a plucky resistance movement of any note. So for ages, the Syndics did as they wished, uplifting servants, setting down laws, and making the galaxy work how they wished it to, with no real explanation given to anyone for all their space tyranny. They quarantined worlds. They hid worlds behind veils of songs and erased whole systems from memory, for reasons no-one understood. Their uplifted servants were given access to some of their song magic, and granted all manner of wondrous technologies to lord over their less loyal fellows.
Then a century ago, they vanished. All of them. There was no explanation, no climactic battle. The various surviving rebel groups will often tell people they drove the Syndics off their world, but everyone knows it isn't true. No-one knows if they're coming back, or where they went. Are they dead? Did they mess up some kind of super space experiment and evaporate themselves? Are they hiding on those hidden worlds, studying something more interesting to them? Everyone was ruled by mystical space tyrants one minute, then the next, they're gone.
This is a really interesting setup to me. There's been enough time for the galaxy to set up all sorts of independent and unusual governments in place of the old Syndics, but at the same time their old servants have a lot of song magic, a lot of space-time warping guns and sabers, and a lot of the old technology. The old Xenharmonic (song magic) tech is starting to break down, and the Myriad Remanence are trying desperately to keep it working or fix it. Both because they need it to hold on to what power they have, and because they're terrified their masters just 'stepped out for a bit' and will want everything in working order when they come home. Meanwhile, former rebels have come together to build the Solar Creed, a massive and weirdly religious space-communist empire of its own that wants to be ready in case the Syndics come back. The Concord are a bunch of scientists across space eager to look into whatever the Syndics used to forbid people to look into; they argue that the reliance on Xenharmonics was another instrument of control, and now science can follow its own path. The Averlini Mercantile Group are a bunch of incredibly rapacious space capitalists who are taking advantage of the collapse of the Syndic Empire to introduce interplanetary debt slavery and force whole worlds into tyranny. And without the weird space Gods keeping things in check, all kinds of weird alien threats loom over the worlds of the Myriad.
It's a pretty exciting time to be alive. You've got multiple flavors of space tyrant, ancient secrets to uncover, newly formed governments to trade with and navigate, uncharted planets to explore, and a big question at the heart of it all: Why did the Syndics do any of this? Why did they take over the galaxy, and then vanish? Your campaign can deal with questions as big as that, or something as small as playing a bunch of smugglers living on in Remnance space, or a band with a singer who has teleportation powers trying to make it on the fringes of space. Myriad Song is not a game with a lot of guidance; you're supposed to be making up crazy, colorful planets, extra species, and all kinds of weird situations for your players to get into, depending on the kind of PCs they made and what they want to play with. You want to have exciting gunfights and lots of combat? Mercenary companies or war stories abound in a galaxy trying to sort itself out, not to mention the various potentially existential threats that have shown up since the Syndics vanished. Want to be rebels and criminals? There's some really shitty space tyrants left behind, both in the Remanence and other flavors. Want to explore the galaxy? The Concordance scientists will be happy to pay a rag-tag group of scouts and explorers. The one constant is, like all Sanguine games, your PCs are going to be highly competent people with a lot of room to improve.
The other constant? It's going to get weird out there.
Next Time: The basics of the Myriad
Original SA post
We begin with an overview of the Myriad's technology and science. When the Syndics were at the height of their power, they controlled over a hundred sentient species and thousands of planets. Exactly how many peoples and places exist within the Myriad is unknown, because the Syndics destroyed or erased any of their charts of hidden and forbidden places when they left. It's unknown what led the Syndics to quarantine or hide worlds; this is left up to the reader if you want to use it in your game. You're going to see that a lot
in this game; Myriad Song can support a ton of different tones and is intentionally very open-ended with its setting mysteries. For the most part, the playable species are species who are capable of living on and traveling to a wide variety of worlds; there are certainly other species that stay on their homeworlds because they breathe a non-standard atmosphere or need special dietary requirements, too. The Syndics had plenty of laws against invasive species, sentient and otherwise, and in many places where those laws are no longer being followed planets face ecological disaster as alien kudzu or space rabbits get imported and wreck up the joint.
Xenharmonics are the magic of Myriad Song. Xenharmonics are the means by which people travel faster than light, and are also how the Syndics used to say 'Hey, your defense fleet that you were using to defend against us? Teleported into the sun.' By warping the harmonics of the universe with essentially song-magic, the Syndics were capable of folding space such that one point that was light years away was now inches away, at which point you could just step over into it and then unfold space to be there. Xenharmonics revolves around knowing the song of the universe, how it's composed, and changing it with your own song to make it so thought becomes an alteration of physical laws. The Syndics used their mastery of Xenharmonics to build huge song-towers that send out signals across space and time, serving as beacons for faster than light travel and communication. These Magh-Towers or Campaniles (heh, bell towers) are the heart of all interstellar travel, even today.
Not content with just ordering slaves to build massive Xenharmonic devices, the Syndics also uplifted some of their most loyal servants. Genetic and metaphysical manipulation left them with the ability to use Xenharmonics like their masters, even on a personal level. Not only could these Conductors (Xenharmonics users) handle devices better and help ships navigate, they could personally teleport, generate protective shields, call forth magical song-pet buddies and place them in living crystal, and yes, teleport their enemies into the sun (this is one of the attack spells, and what it does if it overkills someone). Many of these Xenharmonics users form the core of the Remanence, the faction of former bureaucrats, generals, and servants of the Syndics that expects them to come back any day now and clings to power in large sections of the Myriad. Xenharmonic magic is currently poorly understood, and many of the devices the Syndics left behind are beginning to break down. The Concord scientists believe that it would be best to let them do so and discover non-magical ways to travel and communicate, while the Solar Creed (we'll get into these people more in a bit) are so out-spokenly against anything associated with the Syndics that they would gladly do away with all Xenharmonic influence if they could get away with it. Worse, there's a growing phenomena called the Dissonance that suggests Xenharmonic overuse might be polluting or changing the nature of reality; whether this is because Xenharmonics as practiced by the Syndics are a blight on reality or because of the breakdown of the devices left behind is another of those things that will be up to your GM.
Energy is easy in the worlds of the Myriad. Almost everyone has as much relatively clean power as they need. The main pollution issue among the Myriad is waste heat. Fission power is common, and the byproducts can be disposed of safely these days. Fission is considered a little 'low class' and best suited for rusty old cargo ships and big colonial ventures. Fusion Power is the hot (literally) new thing on highly developed worlds, with the only arguments against it being the size of the generators and the enormous amount of heat they generate. The Solar Creed is called such because of their enormous solar collection systems, where every world they control has a ring of satellites and space stations designed to collect solar power and beam it down to the planet in the form of microwave radiation; this grants their planets nearly unlimited clean energy. Massive compressible space crystals are grown in zero G farms and made into powerful batteries, while primitive worlds still use chemical batteries that we'd recognize today.
Exciter Tech is a new and exciting (of course) development, beloved by the high energy Solar Creed and the science-loving Concord. Exciters are devices that, well, excite elements and molecules into new states. This is useful for a wide variety of high energy science, but you can also build a wicked ray gun with it; this is the Solar Creed's favored use for Exciter tech. Rayguns are one of the special weapon types a PC can specialize in, and instead of ammunition and reloading like conventional firearms, these powerful beams (and plasma-edged swords, you can do that, too) have near infinite power from their generators. The problem is they don't have near infinite heat sinks. They have to cool off as they heat up from use, with PCs who specialize in them being able to keep them cooler or push the limits on their overheating better. This tech is also used to build fancy electromagnetic resistance armor and personal shields, which again, start to overheat and shut down as they deflect fire.
Medicine is having a renaissance with the Syndics gone. The Syndics didn't especially care about medicine; they wanted their slaves healthy enough to work and not much else. Doctors were left to their own devices so long as they absolutely did not mess with cloning or genetic manipulation; the former was totally forbidden and the latter was only for the Syndics to perform. The aristocrats and favored servants of the Syndics were given tremendous health along with their Xenharmonic ability, while the common people were treated if it was more profitable to do so and left to die if it was cheaper. With the Syndics gone, worlds have taken to using large portions of what used to be Syndic tax money to study medicine and provide services to citizens. Where the Syndics actively preferred addictive drugs that would help make those who needed them dependent on their masters, now pharmacology is free to study all sorts of medications while life scientists delve into the genetics and cloning tech they were forbidden for so long. One of the greatest challenges for a doctor in setting is that almost every world has a variety of sentient species living on it; they have to learn what helps who and what kills who and learn it quick or the malpractice is going to pile up.
With cloning completely forbidden there used to be no other way to replace limbs besides cybernetics. Not only are cybernetics a way to replace crippling injuries, in many cases high end cybernetics are significantly more powerful than the flesh they replace. Cybernetics are another potential power source for PCs, with PCs who specialize in their cybernetic enhancements being able to coax all kinds of superhuman feats out of them. Most cybernetics in setting are slightly worse than the flesh they replaced, designed to get a laborer back on their feet with an old Syndic designed labor model. But among the Concord and other technophiles, you can find all kinds of impressive 'augmentations'. People who intentionally get their arms lopped off to get robot arms are considered pretty weird in normal Myriad society, but they definitely exist. Most people with any sort of prosthetic face a minor, subtle bias, but people who intentionally chrome themselves up as much as possible are considered freaks outside the Concord. Just often not in earshot, because it's not a good idea to make fun of the guy who can punch like a train and who is covered in bulletproofed subdermal armor.
The Myriad absolutely does not have 'modern' computer technology. What we'd understand as a computer doesn't really exist in setting, specifically in the sense that computing devices are all hard-wired and physically programmed rather than being re writable. With the Syndics gone, the implication is that will change very soon. The Concord is already working on what we'd consider modern computers; soft-ware is a hot new idea with forward thinking scientists and already being touted as the wave of the future that will change the galaxy within a couple decades. Still, as of now, all computing is analog rather than digital. Somehow this is still able to build thinking machines via quantum-entanglement? I don't know. I'm a religious scholar, not a scientist, I don't know nothing quantum. Everything is stored in memory crystals that capture these signals, which are starting to break down with the Syndics gone. Some people race to find ways to preserve these massive crystal libraries before everything in them is lost, while other worlds shrug and funnel the money to medicine or the military and don't bother touching the things the crazy alien gods left behind.
Synthetic Intelligence is created by building a crystal lattice that conducts electrical signals in mirror to a sentient's neurons. Most 'Synths' are barely intelligent, designed solely to do repetitive tasks and heavy industrial work. The more intelligent and complex the Synth, the more they develop a distinct personality, gaining likes, dislikes, wants, and dreams. Sufficiently complex Synths are indistinguishable from normal sentience, and are one of the PC species; you can absolutely play a friendly space robot. Attitudes towards Synths vary. The Averlini Mercantile group sees them as a very useful form of debt slave, since you can use them to build more slaves for you in your shitty space capitalism hellhole planets. The Concord loves Synths and eagerly tries to build smarter and better robots, while granting those its built sentient rights and generally trying to foster good relations between organic and synthetic life. The Solar Creed dislikes them and prefers 'natural' laborers and soldiers. There is also the risk that an overly powerful Synth's mental signal can hijack other Synths and mess with their brain matrix. This is one explanation for a faction called the Apparat, an apparent robot rebellion centered around a super-intelligence that may be forcibly rewriting other Synths to believe what it believes (that Synths should rule the galaxy). They're another potential existential threat for a campaign.
Scrounged Tech is another PC power source and a common sight on frontier stations and planets. The Syndics left a lot of stuff behind; not just fancy Xenharmonics but normal steel and spare parts. Someone was going to hack it together and make use of it. Scrounged tech is the art of jury-rigging, building stuff on the fly, and turning a junkyard into a toolkit or an armory. There are entire worlds rendered 'derelict' by disaster or by the interruption of services from the Syndics leaving, and on these worlds the jury-rigging and scrounging talents of the locals have become so good that they're a worthy export. Scrounged tech is hard to use unless you're a character who knows how to build it yourself, but if you want to be the kind of engineer who can throw together a full-auto armor-piercing industrial assault rifle while imprisoned by space pirates and fight your way out? That's a character archetype. Their stuff is cheap, available, and their powers revolve around risking it breaking down to overclock it. Scourged gear is beloved by the Levelers, a group of anarchists who advocate for the workers to own the means of production and for society to be organized around self-governing communes and collectives. Sometimes this works out and a Leveler community is a great and accepting place, sometimes they turn into angry bands of junk-strewn raiders. The galaxy's a big place.
Not everyone has rayguns and exciter armor and fancy cybernetics. Some PCs will have to make due with Primitive gear. Whether due to collapse from the disappearance of the Syndics or because the planet was never granted advanced tech to begin with, or because the locals actually just prefer a 'simple' lifestyle, there are plenty of worlds where people still use the spear and bow and make due with almost no technology. Primitive items harvested from particularly powerful alien species can be just as strong as the best synthetic materials, though, so if you want to be a space Monster Hunter character you absolutely can. Primitive characters tend to be extremely strong and skilled; they have to be to make it work when they're going after a guy in power armor with a rock.
Vehicles in setting are usually fueled by electric, rather than internal combustion, engines. When you've got fusion power and highly advanced crystal batteries, why use chemicals? VTOL aircraft are common, as are wheeled vehicles and everything in between. Syndic legacy space vehicles run on some kind of Xenharmonic particle taken from space itself that seems to be unlimited, granting them unlimited thrust and reaction mass. Many large spacecraft are designed to never actually land, constructed in orbit and kept there. Massive legacy transports travel between the Campaniles signals, and anyone who has one of the old Syndic spacecraft does whatever they can to keep them running. Unlimited fuel in a spacecraft is a pretty big deal! The modern world can still build and fuel more 'limited' Super Heavy Carriers, called such not because they're warships but because they're huge, heavy, and carry lots of stuff between systems. They're just a lot more expensive to run than the space magic ships of the old space Gods. Conductors can take people through space-folding passages (and guide ships through the same) by the Syndic method of Rondological-Xenharmonic Psychometrics. Teleporting is just called 'Rondo' for short. The Syndics themselves used to use this power to travel without ships at all, simply walking from one planet to the next like you'd pop on down to the shop; modern Xenharmonics users usually can't manage that level of power.
The tech in Myriad Song helps illustrate the game's best point: You can do a huge variety of games with this system. You want to be desert raiders on a derelict world, fighting over scrap and ancient tech? You can play cyborgs, primitives, and scrounge-techs. You want to be high tech science adventurers with a robot buddy and the latest exciter gear? Doable. The huge variety of colorful technology and the sense that suddenly, people can do science again and study things that the old Space Tyranny Gods forbid them to study is tempered by bits like the massive invasive species crisis. You can totally play as militant space environmentalists fighting a war every bit as fierce as Australia's continual failure to stop its rabbit population, up to and including biological warfare. The galaxy's a big place, and it's got room for a lot of people.
Next Time: Myriad Factions
You can play as all of these
Original SA post
You can play as all of these
Even with the mess of the Syndics leaving, there are relatively few large scale interplanetary wars. Interplanetary warfare is the kind of thing that A: Ruins biospheres and B: Is too large scale for PCs to handle, so much like in Ironclaw most conflict is smaller scale. While there are big factions in the setting for players to play as or oppose, the majority of ex-Syndicate worlds are actually independent of the large power blocs. They tend to form smaller scale regional power blocs instead, with clusters of systems banding together, threatening one another, or going their own way. After all, you can have a perfectly stable set of societies with just one planet. One of the reasons the independent worlds keep their conflicts smaller scale is because of the stakes: If you're the Remanence and have hundreds of worlds, one of them getting bombed out by orbital bombardment is a recoverable tragedy. If your League of Free Worlds (made up entirely of purple bird people or something) is two planets, losing one of them is a death sentence.
Most people stay on their homeworld their whole life. There's plenty to do on any planet, after all. It's a planet. More importantly, getting into orbit isn't easy for the poor, common citizen. Orbital lift is still a big and expensive process, and while the wealthy may go to pleasure planets for vacations and interstellar commerce and trade are commonplace, if you don't have a good reason to be in space most people keep their boots on the ground. Beyond a planet's jurisdiction lies interstellar space, with no laws. Beyond that lie deep space habitats, domed asteroids, and other spacer living spaces. Spacers travel often, unlike planet-born people, because hitching a term of employment on a passing Cavalcade (the massive jump-ships) is easy when you don't have to get out of atmo in the first place. Hell, if you're a spacer there's a reasonable chance you were born aboard one as it is.
As for our big groups beyond the independent worlds your GM has to make up whole cloth, they're the sorts who have interstellar name recognition. The Remanence is the biggest single power group in the setting, even if they've gone from 'masters of 10,000 worlds in the name of the Space Gods' to 'We have several hundred'. Several hundred planets is still a hell of a lot of people and wealth! The Remanence are ruled by the descendants of those raised to power by the Syndics in the first place, and on most Remanence worlds they pretend the Syndics are coming back any minute now. For all they know, they might! The Remanence nobles hold power because they can manipulate Xenharmonics; they were originally uplifted and genetically enhanced specifically to do so. A mixture of space-time bending weapons and devices and actual space magic (plus excellent abilities at navigating the stars) keep the systems in line for now, but there are always new rebellions and many of the other power blocs dislike the Remanence.
Their big problem is that the initial fall destroyed a lot of Xenharmonic gear and many of the factories that make the spare parts for what remains; if you're trying to fight the guys dependent on their space magic, you go after the space magic supplies. While a powerful Remanence Conductor might be able to teleport a couple guys into the sun, they can't do it to entire armies like their masters could. They were infinitely more beatable in a rebellion, and so unlike their original masters they weren't able to fend them off unscathed. The Remanence's government tries to act like it's the old empire to this day, reminding other worlds their absent Gods could come back whenever they please. Meanwhile, they refuse to do business directly with any independent planet. If you need something from them, you can give up your independence, reinstate your proper genetically augmented wizard governor, and get back to work. Their main form of influence (besides their magic and huge army) is their control over the Imperial Reserve Note, the setting's agreed upon interstellar currency. As they lose systems, they levy harsher taxes, and discontent grows further. They either need to start bending or they're going to break completely. If you want to play as people trying to keep it together or navigating political intrigue (or as partisans and rebels trying to get their homeworld out of this space tyranny) you'll have a good time as Remanence characters.
The Concord isn't a collection of systems so much as a large scale ideological movement. They grew out of a failed rebellion centuries ago, one based on the idea that the Syndics had no right to decide what people could learn and what people couldn't. While they were crushed (space Gods) they managed to go into hiding, and with the space tyrants gone they've resurfaced to show off their technological progress. They form Concords on each world they pass through, collectives of scientists and adventurers who both seek to discover what their people knew before the Syndics took control, and to expand out into the future. Concord teams tend to be utopians, who believe that technology and knowledge themselves will lead to a much brighter future for the whole galaxy. They also want to get the entire galaxy off of Syndic tech, since they see it as a means of control that has extended past the rule of the actual space tyrants. They're technically non-political, but they tend to end up in opposition to the setting's various authoritarians. The only group they want destroyed outright is the Apparat, the Synthetic supremacists. If you want to play as explorers and high tech characters with an idealistic bent, the Concord is a good choice.
The Solar Creed are fascinating. Right before the Syndics vanished, there was a huge rebellion brewing for their once-every-couple-centuries asskicking. The Solis Animus had recruited soldiers and planned to rise on multiple worlds at once, promising to be one of the largest rebellions their masters had every faced...and then before there could be any kind of battle, the Syndics simply left. The epic battle they had prepared for, and prepared to die for, simply didn't happen. They reformed themselves into the Solar Creed, throwing off their Remanence masters with ease but disturbed by the fact that their Gods had fled. Like the Remanence, the Creed believes the Syndics are coming back. They are absolutely certain of it. And so they have shaped every part of their society around the idea of building a civilization that can fight a Space Tyrant God.
They arrived at the idea that they'd turn the idea of the eventual conflict into the center of a grand mystery cult and build a totalitarian collectivist militarist regime around it. After all, they are literally an apocalyptic society, preparing for the actual end of days where the Gods that ruled over and oppressed them return and have to be driven back in an epic battle. The actual details of the Plenipotentiary Cult's beliefs are left to an individual group, but what is true is that anything that doesn't prepare society towards the final battle is forbidden. In return for wholeheartedly accepting Solar art and culture in all ways, though, they do keep their promise to their citizens: As a member of the Solar Creed, you will never go hungry, you will never want for shelter, and you will be protected by the Creed's impressive military might. They send out missionaries and diplomats to spread word of this and induct new worlds into the cause, hoping to build a unified galaxy. Moreover, the Creed does not distinguish based on how useful a world is. The Creed wants worlds because it believes it represents the hope of all the galaxy. To that end, even though you can't leave once you're in, Creed soldiers and officials are sent out all over the galaxy to intervene in humanitarian disasters and offer aid to struggling colonies. If you do as you're told, the Solar Creed will do everything it can for you. If you don't, well, they have a large warrior caste of power armored paladins with rocket fuel pistols and plasma swords for a reason, and it ain't just for fighting the space gods.
The Creed don't get along with anyone else, really. They hate the Remanence for reasons that should be obvious, and provide a lot of the setting's normal military conflict in their wars with the Syndics' lapdogs. They hate the Concord, because the Creed have no use for the past. They gladly sweep away any relics of pre-Syndic culture, because those are cultures that couldn't stand up to the Syndics. If their culture failed, it has no value, and must be replaced by the Creed towards the epic battle they know is coming. The future is all that matters. If you want to play as significantly less shitty Space Marines, the Solar Creed is a fun starting place for a game. And they're happy to insert themselves into any campaign, offering you a chance to join or opposing your players. They are, after all, the only hope for the galaxy. According to them.
The Averlini Mercantile Group are absolute bastards. These are the post-soviet kleptocrats of the setting, having taken advantage of the collapse of the Syndicate to buy or steal every Cavalcade they can to try to gain a monopoly on interstellar shipping and transport. They weren't totally successful, but they were close enough to become an interstellar power. They value only one thing: making the bank account number go up. They will do anything to do this, and hold entire worlds in literal debt slavery towards this end. The rulebook puts it best: "On a world that suffers their monopolies, the population is trapped beneath a toll road sky." Averlini also strip mines planets, contributes to the invasive species crisis, and cares nothing for the pollution and ecological damage they leave in their wake. After all, what matters is next quarter, and there are always more worlds. Averlini agents go among the Independent Planets, promising enormous prosperity and job creation to planetary governments if they'll just let the AMG privatize a feeeeewww little services here and there...and then the population is in debt slavery and worked to death in the mines, while only a few ever see a single Note for it. You probably don't want to play as these guys (though I suppose you could) but they're a lot of fun to kick in the dick.
The Malmignatti Cluster are an interstellar Empire built out of an age-old genetics experiment. The Rhax/Rhagia are a spider-like people whose males are non-sentient, which has always led them to be more open to breeding experiments and genetics work compared to other races. When the Syndics took them over, they pretended to be highly loyal servants long enough to get some of their number altered with Xenharmonics, then quickly began secretly trying to understand what had made them able to use magic and navigate. This got nowhere until the Syndics left, and they could suddenly pursue things more openly. This produced the Spider Kwisatz Haderach, Malmignatta. She is a super-Rhagianly intelligent spider lady who quickly took command of the conspiracy that made her, and then the worlds around it. She is capable of seeing the universe as the Syndics do, though she cannot manipulate it the way they could. Her ultimate goal is to become a Syndic herself, and then to pass on that kind of power to her species.
The Cluster is an authoritarian state ruled entirely by its super-Rhagian space-tyrant. All species may be welcome to be citizens, but only Rhagia are ever trusted with important positions or leadership. She has also implemented extensive genetics programs to breed super-Rhagian shock troops and soldiers, with all breeding among the Rhagia under her command being directed by the Empress of All That Is and her agents. Like the Creed, she is certain the Syndics will come back some day. Like the Creed, she is certain she can beat them, and the Rhagians can rule the entire galaxy in a mixture of spider peace and tyranny for all time. Any grand power they unlock in their genetics will be used on the Empress, of course; she is the guide of her entire race, in her mind, and has no desire to let anyone else become superior to her. Do you like Dune? Did you think it needed more four armed spider ladies who quad-wield pistols and daggers or use two assault rifles at the same time? Here you go.
The Metanoic Corps are one of the minor factions of the setting. They are militant space environmentalists who are super pissed off about all the insane pollution, harvesting, and invasive species problems that have popped up since the Syndics left. They try to fix worlds broken by war and climate change, using the same terraforming techniques that originally made them habitable. They attack AMG operations to make it unprofitable to fight them, trying to drive them off the worlds they're ruining. They lobby for sustainable development and try to provide engineers and expertise that can help independent worlds do so so they won't be tempted by the AMG. They try to convince the other power blocs that planetary ecosystems matter. They were originally a corps of Syndicate troops and engineers assigned to terraforming duties, who have since become the protectors of what's left of their masters' environmental regulations. They left the Remanence because they don't care for the aristocracy, but they keep ties to them because the Remanence needs all the friends it can put a fig leaf on and having influence in the largest power bloc in the setting helps the Metanoic Corps. The Remanence also shares ecological records, and leaves defending the masters' old garden worlds to the Corps, reasoning the masters will probably want those functioning and pretty when they come back, anyway. If you want to blow up shitty space capitalists to defend garden worlds, these are a fun bunch.
The Levelers are anarchists who oppose all the large power blocs from the fringes of space. Levelers aren't a coherent faction, and are rather a marker for anyone who not only wants to live outside the law themselves, but to get others to do the same, whether they want it or not. They don't really get a big write up, but they can go good and they can go real bad, on the principle that if someone becomes a shitty crime lord another Leveler will shoot them in the head. In general, the Levelers are much more of anarchists as 'we want no law so we can take what we want, limited by the fact that others will kill us if we take too much' rather than a coherent political philosophy. If you want to be from the lawless fringes of space, or to have a good reason to fight any of the other factions here, the Levelers are for you.
Tzigane aren't really a group so much as a class of people. They're nomads and spacers who don't settle down, forming clans around starship crews and caravans of travelers. I don't really like them because they're your standard 'clever but kind of theft-prone' space-Roma, and really we gotta get past the 'clever-but-theft-prone Roma' thing, RPGs. I know, I know, wandering tricky character is a huge archetype in RPGs, but if you're going to tell me the settled governments make up excuses to persecute Tzigane caravans, don't ALSO talk about how they have a tendency to take everything not under lock and key. They'd be just fine as wandering spacers without all the theft stuff.
The Apparat have been mentioned before. Much like Spider Empress, the Apparat are based around an incredible hyper-intelligence called Colligatarch and his army of like-minded Synths. The Apparat believes organic life has no value. They'll let organics live if they aren't in the way, and then exterminate them if they are without a second thought. They care not for ecosystems nor organic sentients. Most Apparat citizens lived somewhere else, until an Apparat agent 'liberated' them from their older programming. By which I mean reprogrammed their brain to be loyal to the Apparat. They don't see an ethical dilemma in this; they see it as a function of improved cognition in their new citizen. After all, the Synth is now 'freely' and happily a member of their anti-organic Synth supremacist kill-squad and clearly doesn't want to go back. That they didn't want to come before their reprogramming is immaterial! They are a small problem, for now, but the longer the large powers ignore them to fight among themselves, the more dangerous Colligatarch's killbot legions become (the book even calls them killbots).
Finally, we have the Dissonance, who are weird. They're people infected by weird dissonance in the harmony of the universe, described as the sounds of no sound. They hear singing at all times, singing that each Dissonant is convinced is beautiful and possessed of incredible wisdom and truth. They cannot stop the songs. They also cannot understand them, they just know they're important, somehow, and mark the Dissonant as important too. Many go mad from 'knowing' the ultimate answers are being sung to them at all hours and that they can't understand them. The worst, though, are those who think they do understand. Those who try to sing to others, and make them Dissonant too. These people are very rare, even on the fringes, but who knows where they're coming from and why? Is this a function of the pollution of reality by Xenharmonics? Is it what drove off the Syndics? Is it something even weirder? What you do with the Dissonance is up to you and your players.
This is, in fact, the majority of the pure fluff in the game. Every group gets a couple paragraphs, some extra stuff as we get into their game mechanics later, and maybe some sample planets later. You're left to do the filling in yourself, but what's there is enough to give most of them a sense of character. I'm not as fond of the Levelers and the Tziganes; the Tziganes have unfortunate overtones that needed another look and the Levelers are very An-Cap in general tone rather than Anarchist, in a setting that seems like it would fit some more classical Anarchists (what with all the space tyranny and rebellion). But groups like the Creed are actually really interesting and there's plenty for your players to play as or fight on the whole.
Next Time: Game Mechanics already?
Vexed By Space Birbs
Original SA post
Vexed By Space Birbs
So, Myriad Song is about as complicated as Double Cross, except it's generally well organized and well explained. I'll be going over how Sanguine organizes things as we get to each section, but I also appreciate them putting the 'how the basic system works' section before character creation.
You might be familiar with their Cardinal system from Ironclaw; Myriad Song is a refinement on Ironclaw running on the same system, rather than its own new system. There have been some significant changes in balancing and some other alterations designed to make PCs better and to make doing things easier, because it's in-genre for your colorful space hero adventurers to be a little better off than your highly able low fantasy movers and shakers, but not by a lot. In addition to clearly headered sections about each game concept, we also get a simple, organized glossary of short descriptions of game terms right at the beginning, which is nice to have. Everything has a header, important game terms are italicized and bolded, and the section is written without the assumption you are familiar with Cardinal or with RPGs in general; it starts from the basics.
First, it begins with a brief explanation of the narrative role of the rules and dice. They're there to make things more exciting and to give extra decisions for players to make. You roll the dice to work out how the story moves forward; does the hero win this dramatic fight with their rival, or are you going to be sent into defeat, or captured, or worse? That kind of thing. We've all seen it a thousand times, but it's nice to write this section with the assumption that a player needs the explanation. I also like their term for the GM: Sanguine uses the term Host, to emphasize that the GM's job is making sure everyone (GM included) has a good time. PCs are Major Characters, who are expected to have fantastic skills and talents and to be important people who make the story happen. Most NPC mooks are Minor Characters, who don't have nearly the same narrative weight; in game Minor Characters can't take things like 'get out of dying free' powers. The general rules system works on the principle of Declaring your action ('I'm going to shoot the guy!') then Claiming any bonuses and circumstances that help you out ('I Aimed so I claim a bonus on shooting the guy!'). On the same note, you can Claim something in reaction ('He's shooting at me! Am I near cover? I dive behind it and claim a Cover bonus!') so that you don't have to keep telling your GM you're sticking to cover at all times during a gunfight.
The game uses d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 dice. You put your Skill (base ability with an action), Bonuses (situational), and Traits (stats) together, all of them described as dice pools or dice sizes. You roll them all, then take the highest number from the pile as your check result. If you're rolling for something fairly normal, you need to beat a 3. If you're working against someone, or something more difficult comes up, you roll against an enemy dice pool and compare your results to their results in the same way. If your highest showing die beat their highest showing die (or the flat 3 in an easier test) you succeed. You then check your second highest die. If it also won, you score two successes. Then your next, etc. In general, a 1 success success is good enough. A 2 success success is something an expert could do. And a 3 success success is a massive success that demonstrates total mastery of what you were doing. If absolutely all of your dice come up a 1, you Botch and something terrible happens. If your best die and theirs are tied, something dramatic happens around the stalemate. Ties are moments where you either fail, but introduce a significant complication for your enemy, or you succeed, but something comes up that might lead to further plot for you.
Now, you can try to do anything where you can claim at least 1 die. But as the astute among you might notice, even if a character has a d12, if they have only 1 die the chances of botching are significant. If they get at least 1 more die (a d12 d4 dice pool, like someone with 1 point in a skill but the highest possible trait) suddenly they have a 1-48 chance of botching instead of 1-12. Even a little training will give a natural talent a lot more breathing room! The reasoning behind the success levels is similar; someone with a d12 Trait but no other dice could still get a 'good enough' success on anything in the game, since a d12 is the highest possible die and they could technically beat anyone if they're lucky. But that's as well as they can do. Someone with 2 dice, from a Skill and Trait both, has both training and talent and can succeed on a more professional or complete level as well as having better odds of not fucking up completely. Someone with both those things AND some other bonus, like from a Gift (we'll get to these) or a situational modifier? That person has the potential to look like a master.
You can also have a Challenge, where you and an opponent both roll against 3 and count who has more successes to see who beats who. This is often used for dramatic situations where you want to compare skill rather than have a single, sudden contest that can be decided by a single lucky die. The example given is trying to sneak into a compound. The PC rolls against 3 with their stealth skill and applicable traits and modifiers, while the compound guards roll vs. 3 with their awareness. This means that if the PC is a professional with a bunch of d8s from circumstance, gifts, gear, etc, they have a good chance of winning this contest even if the Guards have, say, a d12 and d4 and roll a 12 on that d12, since it's comparing numbers of successes. They're also good for when one player is contesting 5 guards; instead of rolling a separate one v. one stealth test for each, everyone applicable just rolls against 3 once and compares the successes.
There's also Rote, where you don't bother rolling the dice and just do something. Rote is often used without rules; a ship's engineer knows what they're doing and doesn't need to roll for routine maintenance, for instance. But if it's important to see how well a character can do when they're just breezing through a task, assume they rolled maximum on all their dice but halve the number of successes they score, rounded down. So you'd need 4 dice (Let's say our engineer has Skill, Trait, a bonus from tools, and a Gift that helps them engineer) to get 2 successes, and 6 to get 3. Only the best people in the galaxy can make things look so easy that they don't need to roll at all to look like a master. You can only Rote against difficulty 3 (or other fixed number) tasks, never in a direct contest with another character. Rote is often used to save time for large numbers of NPCs, too. 'The guards Rote on Mind+Observation, they have 2 dice, so 1 success, you need 2 successes vs. TN 3 to sneak into the compound' instead of rolling for the 20 compound soldiers, for instance, in the above stealth check example.
Direct contests vs. an enemy dicepool come up often in combat and negotiation. As already said, you roll your pool vs. theirs, compare your highest die to theirs, and whoever has the higher wins. Then compare second highest and if it's higher, 2 successes, etc. A tie on an actual contest means both characters win. In combat, this often means you exchange hits at exactly the same time. In a negotiation, you find a compromise you can both accept. In stealth, they can't quite find you but they find evidence someone was there. Etc etc. If you need to count successes during a tie (successes determine damage modifiers in combat, for instance) you get 1 success for each of your dice that tied their highest die. So if I roll 5, 5, and 4, and my opponent rolls 5, 3, and 1, we Tied but I got 2 Successes. If your opponent Botches during a contest, instead of some dramatic narrative consequence, you just get +1 Successes. If you and your opponent somehow both Botch a test, the result should be a massive comedy of errors that should become a memorable event, because holy shit that isn't going to happen often.
You can sometimes have a rule called Favor with a check; if you have Favor, you may reroll one die that comes up 1 per test. Characters doing something they Favor rarely Botch. The common source of Favor comes from having at least 1 point in a skill, or having it be a skill granted by your Legacy (species) or Career (job). At that point, you get to declare a Favored Use, where you always get Favor. So say I have d4 in Shooting. I can, at any time, declare a Favored Use with Shooting, but that Favored Use will stay forever. So say I have a magnum pistol I've decided I like, and I'm in the middle of a gunfight and Botch on my d8 d4 shooting check. I can suddenly say 'Actually, my Favored Use is Shooting with this magnum' and reroll one of the ones. But then I'm stuck with that Favored Use for good unless I later spend some EXP to change it. The Host has final say on what's an acceptable Favored Use, but they're usually 'with my trusty X' or 'in this general situation' style things.
Sometimes you'll do something over a long period of time. Generally, you roll vs. 3 for every time period you're working and get 5% done with the task per success. Hard tasks might subtract 1 success from each check (so you'd need 2 for +5%, 3 for +10%) etc. This is used for long term projects like building your own power armor between adventures, or checking if you can fix the engine and get off world before the ridiculous space bird mating season.
You can also get bonuses and penalties. Bonuses add to your dice pool. So say I'm trying to fix the ship ahead of ridiculous space bird mating season, and I have the right tools and supplies for the job. I get a d8 gear bonus and thus add a d8 to my dice pool. If you get a penalty, you add it to the enemy dice pool, or use it to determine the overall difficulty of a task if you were rolling against a fixed number before. Say I'm still trying to escape the silly space birds, but one of them stole my only spanner to present to a potential mate while doing a silly bird dance. Now I'm at a d8 Penalty, so I roll a d8 and if it's higher than 3, that's my new difficulty number. Say I'm trying to chase the bird and get my spanner back, but there's a massive storm that's washing away its tracks, giving me a d8 penalty to track it. The wily birb gets an extra d8 added to its dice pool to vex me further.
Allies can also help you out on a check, rolling vs. 3. If they get at least one success (and they may be allowed to Rote this) they give you +d8 to your dice pool. If they have a specific Gift (Team Player), they give +d12. So I'm still trying to escape the damn bird planet after getting my spanner back, and my crew finally finishes their musical number about being meant to be a space pirate because nothing rhymes with orange. They finally pitch in, and 2 of them are able to get successes on the assist check. One of them has Team Player. I now get +d8 and +d12 on my check to fix the engine, and we finally get off this ridiculous planet.
They end the section with the most important rule: Have fun. You're here to tell a story, and it's important to be clear about the rules and explain what everything does so that people aren't disappointed when what they thought would be a cool special power or Gift doesn't do what they want. Be willing to offer to let people make changes to their characters if there were misunderstandings like that. The Host's goal is to challenge players, make them use resources and make decisions, but not to 'beat' them. In general, Myriad Song is the kind of story where after a bunch of dramatic happenings, the players will accomplish their goals; you want it to be a fight, but you often want to balance it towards the protagonists winning in the end. Overcoming things and growing is one of the fun parts of a roleplaying game, and one Sanguine likes to emphasize.
Similarly, they remind a Host that the PCs are important people. You start the game a significant cut above average and have a lot of room to grow from there. PCs should be the kind of people who make big changes, or look into major setting mysteries, or become central to important conflicts. The scale can be whatever you want, as can the stakes, but the PCs should always have central stage in your story. Every PC starts with some measure of plot armor, after all. In general, the goal is a story where the heroes face setbacks and difficulties, and make choices and possibly sacrifices, but achieve something great in the end. It should all be worth it, and PCs should have narrative agency. I'm actually quite happy they include this kind of thing in every game, though I think it was more necessary in Ironclaw due to genre conventions; people need a little more reminding that it's okay to play an important character as your PC in a gritty low fantasy intrigue fest than a wild and colorful space hero setting. But if you want a game about resolving where the Syndics went, or guiding a major faction to victory, or the players eventually starting their own? You should feel free to do that. These things are well within the intended scope of the game. All those mysteries were left open for your group for a reason!
Next Time: Making PCs
Original SA post
First, lets talk about stats a bit, then I'm going to skip ahead slightly because goddamn I want to talk about the species you can play as, they're fun and cool. You get 6 stats: Body, for your physical strength and endurance. Mind, for your mental acuity and perception. Speed, for your coordination and grace. Will, for your resilience and self-control. Career, for your training (You include your Career trait with 3 skills, decided by your Career). Legacy, for the abilities you get from your species. You set two of these to d8, 3 to d6, and one to d4. You thus start with 2 strong points, 3 average ones, and 1 weakpoint. Note there are only 15 skills in game, and having a skill covered by your Career or Legacy counts as having skillpoints in it for purposes of claiming a Favored Use as discussed before. So every Legacy gets included with 1/5 of the game's entire skill list. The short skill list is an intentional paring-down and broadening of skills to make players widely competent; a space hero only needs to know Shooting and they'll be able to handle everything from bows to high tech railguns, etc. Each species will also give you 2 Gifts (special abilities that form the basis of much of character building) and access to a larger species tree of Gifts.
Anyway, our species start with BIRBS. Adhallians
are space bird people who have a very strange method of reproduction. The female lays a single egg with several fetuses, then one dominant fetus eats and absorbs the others within the egg, coming out with a mixture of genetic expressions and traits based on the siblings it absorbed. They vary widely in morphology, but none of them have 'hands' in the traditional human sense. Instead, they have 3 prehensile tails that serve as highly dexterous manipulators; for game purposes, an Adhallian character actually counts as having 3 hands and they're equally dexterous with all of them. This is, in fact, one of their automatic species Gifts; being able to triwield guns, or wield a rifle and a pistol, or use a rifle and a melee weapon or whatever is a pretty big advantage. All Adhallians can also fly with their powerful and well developed wings.
Adhallian society is very territorial, and they have strict social roles based on morphology. Adhallians who come out of the egg with extra eyes are called Observers, and it's thought that they should all become academics and diplomats because of their superior eyesight. Adhallians who come out with buff tails or tails that contain weaponized blades are called Raptors, and are assumed to be warbirbs of unparalleled strength. The two general morphologies leave one another alone and don't like to interact. A new wave with Adhallian families is using newly discovered medical science to extract the fetuses from their eggs rather than letting them eat one another, producing a new wave of multiple births. Traditionalists think this is hideously unnatural and grumble about how chicks need to devour their siblings in the egg-womb for genetic power. This is weird, birds! You're weird! Adhallians are very expressive in body language, often clacking their beaks or nipping lightly and gently whapping people with their tails to make a point. In bird culture, this is normal. To others, it's like talking to someone who makes their points by poking you.
An Adhallian PC gets Winged Flight, the 3 usable hand tails Gift, and gets to include their Legacy with Fighting (any kind of melee, birbs are mighty warriors), Observation (Keen-eyed birbs), and Transport (They can already fly, it's natural they be hotshot pilots). They can buy further Gifts later that either let them use Observe to Dodge (if multi-eyed), or give them a very solid tail-blade that works as a multi-target melee weapon, based on if you want to express that you are an Observer birb or a Warrior birb. Note you can eventually buy both, and be a Weird birb.
are a complex and friendly race of adaptable eel-people. They don't have legs, but their arms are well developed and they can slither fast enough to keep up with any legged sapient. They're generally about 4 meters long, and will lift the upper 1-3 meters of their body up and off the floor to use their hands or look other sapients in the eyes. Elvers never actually stop growing, and there is no known limit to their natural lifespan, either. Elver who are over 100 years old can grow as long as 9 meters, and truly ancient Elver can get so big they can't support themselves outside water anymore. Elvers love ocean habitats and zero gravity both, especially the older ones. Elvers are often nearsighted or night-blind, but this doesn't matter much to them because they primarily perceive the world through electro-sensitive organs instead. Many Elvers wear glasses or goggles to be better able to see the world how other people of the Myriad do, in order to facilitate getting along.
Elvers are very friendly and social creatures, prone to being academic and gregarious. They get along well with a variety of species and have a reputation as cosmopolitans, partly caused by their complex social and gender dynamics. Elver have 4 different genders, which shift throughout an Elver's life based on social dynamics. They are born neuter, and remain such for roughly 20 years, before they develop a current gender. They develop their gender based on the genders of the community around them; an Elver living in a female-tilted community is more likely to become male, and vice-versa. Elver who are kept alone their entire lives will remain neuter. There is also a fourth gender, a midwife, who carries and protects the eggs that a male and female fertilize inside of them. Elvers consider gender a wholly pragmatic thing; a community just needs a balance of males, females, and midwives. They don't assign any sort of other characteristics to the genders, because they have zero sexual dimorphism besides their reproductive equipment. There's no assignment of social traits to each gender, no idea that a male should be fierce or a female should be nurturing. As a result, when assimilating into sexually dimorphic cultures (such as living among humans), Elvers will generally tell their neighbors they are whatever gender they feel like they match best, on a purely social basis, based around what their neighbors think gender means.
Elvers have very developed natural radio and electrical senses, but most learn to speak vocally to get along with their neighbors. Among their own kind, they prefer to communicate by electrical signaling. Their lack of actual lungs can mean they can't speak very quickly, unless they master the art of 'throat singing', in which case they can talk without ever seeming to need to take a breath. I imagine this is especially common among the most lecture prone of Elver professors, of which there are many. Elvers get their Legacy with Academics (They're curious and naturally prone to learning), Athletics (They're actually tremendously strong), and Observation (They like learning by watching as well as studying). They get a gift for their unique body structure: They can always stand up as a free action (since they don't have legs), they can't kick (if that matters), they're immune to Smothering weapons since they breathe differently, and they get an inherent d12 bonus to squeeze through small spaces or escape from grapples. The power of eeeeels! They're also amazing swimmers, getting the Swimming gift for +d12 to any tests involving swimming. They can later buy further gifts to let them constrict people, electrocute people, or hibernate so thoroughly they seem to be dead and can survive all sorts of adverse conditions.
have something I appreciate: They're described exactly the same way and in the same detail as the other species. In general, there's actually no 'main' species in Myriad Song. No one species is massively more prevalent than all the others. An average human is 1.5 to 2 meters tall and weighs 70 to 100 kilograms. They have an enormous number of pigments (the human art in book is very colorful and multi-ethnic) but tend to only have trace body hair and hair on their heads, which is often styled as a cultural display. They experience some sexual dimorphism, but it isn't especially extreme. Females are smaller than males on the whole. Humans have the best and most developed vision of any race in the Myriad, with the best ability to track visual details and the widest spectrum of color perception. Their hearing is about average and they lack any sort of electrical senses. They also have a strongly developed sense of taste and the most adaptable guts of any common Myriad species; humans have and accept the widest diets and are the truest of omnivores. This gives them a reputation as producing the best chefs and most exotic dishes in the setting.
Human reproduction is relatively simple, with the female carrying one or more infants for nine months before giving birth. An average human reaches physical and emotional maturity around 18 years of age. Humans communicate primarily through vocalization, and are known to talk. A lot.
Humans achieved spaceflight and joined the galaxy during the rule of the Syndicate, and for some unknown reason the Syndics had an especial liking for them. There are plenty of uplifted humans, and they rule the Remanence. All 4 major surviving Remanence dynasties are human. At the same time, humans are likely to vehemently rebel against the old ways of the Syndicate Empire; they seem to take both extremes rather than settling in a middle ground. Humans either wish for their Gods to return and follow the old ways, or eagerly seek out new paths for the galaxy. Because of the large number of Conductors and uplifted humans, the rest of the galaxy sees the human figure as one of the faces of the Syndic Empire, and associates them with oppression and totalitarianism.
Humans don't get a racial gift tree, which I think was kind of a missed opportunity to really lean into 'humans are another kind of alien in this setting'. They do get Leadership, which gives every single human +d12 on Tactics checks to Rally allies (which is necessary to help them recover from getting hit and shaken; psychology is very important in Cardinal combat), and Low Profile, which gives +d12 to checks to stay hidden in crowds, blend in with a stolen uniform, or otherwise stay unnoticed. They include their Human dice with Negotiation (Humans are good diplomats), Questioning (And good detectives; they pick up on body language and unconscious expressions well), and Tactics (And good officers. They have a natural tendency to work together).
are space octopi and masters of multitasking. The average Ishato is 2/3 tentacle, 1/3 head/beak, and not much else. Pre-sapient Ishato used to have neurotoxin glands, and modern Ishato can cultivate them with practice and meditation. They still have enormously strong tentacles and sharp beaks that can bite through armor and bone. They generally use 4 of their tentacles as hands while using the others to walk and climb (or swim). They have highly developed senses of touch that far surpass their mediocre vision and they prefer to see the world in 'feels', first. Ishato personal decoration thus takes the form of an elaborate form of braille markings, with Ishato running their tentacles along one another's elegant robes and personal marking tattoos to read each other's appearance. Males have slightly thicker tentacles while females have two bony fin protrusions that don't do anything.
Ishato don't have the same concept of personal space as other species; it's normal and polite to get close to one another and touch in Ishato culture. This is how they talk with one another, after all. Among other races they're capable of talking vocally, but their voices rarely rise above a harsh whisper and they often have to add on sign and body language to ensure they're understood. Conservative Ishato preserve the complex braille shawls and robes that the Syndics introduced to their species, and often look down on youngsters who prefer to 'go naked' and actually touch one another's bodies to communicate. The Ishato were some of the most influenced by the Syndics, and are some of the most likely (and loyal) citizens of the Remanence. They were originally used as shock troops and assassins; they're naturally stealthy, they can use two rifles or shotguns at once, and they can strangle most sapients with their bare tentacles. The Syndics first started the trend of 'wrapping' when they noticed Ishato are also amazing multitaskers and thus made great bureaucrats and administrators, too. They wanted to differentiate the space octopus with a clipboard from the heavily armored shock troopers who made sure your world would be administered by clipboard guy.
Conservative Ishato face a crisis of culture. Their culture was heavily shaped and influenced by the Syndics, and now their Gods are gone. The conservatives have tended to involve themselves in heavily authoritarian projects in the absence of their masters, both as agents of the Remanence, but also in the form of Ishato businesspeople forming the core of the Averlini Mercantile Group. Oh dear. Younger, more cosmopolitan Ishato are very drawn to the Concord, seeing it as a way to build a new culture that won't be so dependent on absent overlords. They are also often drawn to the Metanoic Corps, seeing it as a good and just way to preserve a few of the good things the old masters did without being a Remanence agent.
Ishato include their Legacy dice with Fighting (Strangling), Evasion (Stealthy strangling, dodging), and Endurance (Hard to strangle). Ishato get an Extra Pair of Arms, giving them effectively 4 hands (though not all of them are equally dexterous), and they also get Stealth, giving them +d12 to Evasion tests made wholly to hide. They can buy Gifts that let them recharge 'spend an action to recharge' Gifts when they hide during combat and they can get a special long-range tentacle whip poison sting attack. An octopus assassin or commando can be lethal indeed.
Next Time: Brain Eating Bush, Magic Spider
Original SA post
are bio luminescent bug people. Who can fly. These are the galactic newcomers, rather than humans. They were mostly unknown during the Syndicate period and have only since come onto the scene of the Myriad. They have two arms and two legs, plus their wings, and stand .8 to 1.2 meters in height. They perceive a very wide range of colors and are very sensitive to light, and communicate among themselves with a mixture of vocalization and bio luminescent flashes. Lampyr are defined by their mating rituals, which are so complicated and complex that most suspect they're making them up as they go along. This includes the Lampyr; they often can't explain what attracted them to one another, just that it had to be SOMETHING in all that dancing and flashing and chirping that worked out.
Lampyr reproduce via the pregnant female retreating to a cave and eating a lot before laying roughly two dozen eggs. She and her close family then flash at and protect the eggs for several weeks, with a high mortality rate among eggs. Out of the clutch of 24, only 1-4 will usually develop and hatch into larvae. They are then raised in colonies, where the bugs perch in large numbers and synchronize their flashing and chirping, forming great choirs that they find highly soothing. They have a love of arcologies, spaceships, and other high places to perch and flash.
This is, oddly, about all we get on the Lampyr. They feel like a bit of an afterthought, which is sad, because choral light display bugs seems like a good place to start. They get their Legacy dice with Observation (watch the flashes), Athletics (Fly and perch), and Tactics (COORDINATE FLASHING) They get Winged Flight like the birbs, and also start with Lampyr Sync. They can use their flashing to calm and soothe allies, granting buffs or removing mental and hit-stun penalties from allies. They also get a variety of gifts for blinding and disorienting enemies with their flashing bug butt. They can also get a Gift that grants them extra armor for their shell, helping them dodge. They are also our first appearance of Gifts where you can Exhaust (tap) the Gift, making it go inactive to a bit, to reduce incoming damage. Lots of Cybernetics and things let you do this to represent your extra organs or capabilities suffering damage but stopping a bullet from getting into your vitals and actually killing you.
aren't one species, they're two. A giant species of wolf-bats that prefers to walk on all fours, and the symbiotic slime molds that lives on them and helps them think. The Ldum is smart, and helps enhance the Rabo's mental capacity, while the Rabo is strong, and lends the Ldum their senses. Rabo only live for about 20 years on average, but the Ldum have been trying to help them to live longer, especially because a Ldum can outlive their host and it's quite difficult to transfer them to a new one (though it is doable). Like humans, Rabo can eat nearly anything, and the Ldum survive off of the shed skin and hair of their host. Rabo can vocalize well enough to talk, while Ldum can't vocalize at all. The Ldum will often talk through the Rabo, who may have no idea what they are actually saying but will pronounce it perfectly, and in a highly distinguished diction.
Ldum and Rabo both direct their breeding and genetics towards making better Ldum and Rabo. Their libido is suppressed by their Ldum, and they make decisions about reproduction based entirely on what they think will lead to longer lived, smarter Rabo who have better hands.
Because of their general symbiosis, Ldum-Rabo are very interested in medicine and xenobiology. They have spread across the stars, eager to take advantage of the absence of the Syndics to study all the things they were once forbidden, so it should be no surprise that they're a common sight among the Concord. They're also common with the Solar Creed; they like the idea of many organisms working together to make a better whole, after all. They're also common in the Metanoic Corps, if for no reason than to study the ecosystems they repair. Some even go and seek out primitive worlds, both to study them and to offer medical care to the natives. Ldum-Rabo love are some of the best doctors in the galaxy.
They get an extremely unique Gift: They get 2 Legacy traits. They effectively get 2d8, 3d6, and then 2d4, having a separate Legacy Dice for Ldum and for Rabo because you're playing as both. The Ldum dice is used for Academics (They are genius doctor slimes), Presence (Also highly urbane!), and Questioning (And fine detectives! I say!). The Rabo dice are used for Athletics (Buff), Endurance (Tough), and Observation (High perceptive). All Ldum-Rabo also start with Ldum Medicine, which lets them heal more conditions, more easily, once per rest period with a Mind+Academics+d12 for this Gift check vs. 3. For every success, they can remove one medical condition besides really serious injury, help someone along on healing serious long-term injury, OR they can recharge your plot armor (All PCs get a once-per session 'No, I did not just get knocked into Dying/Dead/Exploded' Save). This is hugely helpful! They don't get any other racial Gifts to buy, but amazing slime doctor and his hyper-bat-wolf assistant/ride is enough, damnit.
are where we get really weird, and I say that knowing we just got past a symbiotic slime mould and their wolf-bat porter/companion. Morphir are plant people. Morphir are normally not people. They're normally just plants. Carnivorous plants. Their homeworld was originally kept secret and their species was originally quarantined by the Syndics. This is because while normally they're just a very aggressive kind of pitcher plant, they can digest just about any organic material in their pitchers. If a female Morphir plant is fed brain matter, it starts to produce buds that can be smoked for an incredible hallucinogenic high that includes some of the memories and experiences of the brain she had eaten, a substance called Chara. If a female Morphir is fed sapient
brain matter, they produce even stronger Chara that sells for immense sums on the black market. However, if they're fed enough, they become sentient, take the shape of the brain they've been eating, and escape from the illegal drug farm as a sapient Morphir.
So yeah. They're produced by evil drug smugglers and farmers feeding people to a pitcher plant to make hyper-drugs. Which then risks making the plant sentient. The sentient plant is not necessarily evil, but she is a shapeshifting creature that can still eat more brains if she wants to to get their thoughts and more easily mimic their form. Sapient Morphir are very capable of pretending to be human, without any sign that they aren't. They most often mimic the human form because they have similar senses, and find human voices easiest to mimic by vibrating their fronds. They can pretend to be other species and are generally masters of disguise. Given most are born of murderous drug smuggling, most don't have happy memories of their initial existence.
Sapient Morphir aren't evil. It's important to remember that. They were born of evil, and people are goddamn terrified of them if they're unveiled as Morphir, but there's actually nothing even driving them to especially desire eating any more brains now that they're sapient. Only female Morphir can undergo this weird transformation. They have a variety of hidden thorns, spores, and weapons they can use to defend themselves, and a reputation as some of the galaxy's most terrifying assassins. The Remanence considers them a living biohazard and proscribes immediate burning for any that are unveiled. Criminals try to enslave them into gangs, using them as assassins, enforcers, and forcing them to produce additional Charas under threat of turning them in to the authorities if they don't comply. Morphir aren't any more violent than any other species, they just have 'uniquely terrible tools' for violence, as the book puts it, and are often in situations that force their thorns to the forefront.
They get a bonus with Deceit (I am not a bush), Evasion (I am a bush), and Questioning (Do you suspect I am a bush?). They get a suite of abilities for being a plant person; they're immune to Poison weapons and Smothering weapons since they don't breathe like humans do. They can Exhaust their Morphir Body gift to break disguise in return for taking 1 less damage from a hit; someone notices you're bleeding sap as your disguise slips. They also get the Disguise Gift, giving +d12 to any check to pretend to be someone they're not. As you might imagine that's a bit easier when you can change shape. They can also buy a whole host of lethal natural weapons, from a fully automatic spine shooter to spore cloud grenades to confuse enemies to briar thorns that attack as they Dodge to yes, eating someone's brain. They can only eat the brains of living, carbon-based characters, but if the attack kills their target, they get a d8 bonus die to a bunch of things the target knew until they refresh the gift, which they can do at their wish. Interestingly, most of their weapons have the cost of revealing them as a Morphir when used, and have to be 'reloaded' by Hiding and resuming your previous disguise.
are an amazingly genetically diverse species, partly because of their own self-directed breeding experiments. These are the spider ladies, whose males are non-sapient spiders the size of large dogs, generally kept as favored pets and companions by their sisters and mothers. Rhagia is the plural, Rhax the singular. A Rhax can vary from 1m to 2.1m tall, and some of them are highly humanoid and human-like, while others are much more akin to very large spiders with 4 usable hands. They're very dexterous, and famed for their skill with their multiple arms. Also quite famed for being able to climb almost anything. Some of them will also have poison glands or spinnerets, and are capable of producing either sticky, entangling webbing or durable silk ropes.
Males live in zoos, or are left to run wild in poorer areas. Females have a complex sapient society, as you'd expect from any sapient creature. They have no real idea of sexuality as anything but a means of reproduction or something of a chore; a Rhax will mate with a male of her choosing, usually for genetic reasons, once every three years or so and have several hundred eggs. Only a couple dozen will hatch. Very few will be female. Males are usually kept as pets until they're adults, while females are cherished and doted on and educated as best a mother can. Because their males are non-sapient and can't talk, Rhagia incorporate a lot of dancing and touching into their communication. Female Rhagia are perfectly capable of talking, but like many species in the Myriad they tend to get up close and touch the person they're conversing with while they do so, out of habit. They're also noted for their nice singing voices, which I think is a cute touch given the Malmignatti Cluster and their desire to grant all spiders incredible song magic.
Really, their biggest role in the setting is their link to the Malmignatti Cluster and the Empress of All That Is. Not every Rhagia is a Malmignatti, though. Many are free to go their own way, or disagree with their hyper-spider queen, or just got sick of the breeding experiments. They are also obligate carnivores.
Rhagia get to use their Legacy dice with Athletics (Climbing), Craft (Weaving), and Presence (Exceptional Spider Charisma). They automatically get the ability to walk on and cling to walls, and an extra pair of hands. They can buy effective paralytic poisons that are very useful for taking targets alive, and the ability to discharge webbing to use as either a rope or a means to wrap up and incapacitate opponents in combat.
Next Time: Robit People, Magnodog, and The Raptor That Hates
Towsers: So dense
Original SA post
Towsers: So dense
are a wide variety of sapient robots. Synths don't actually get that much description, because they're so hard to generalize; they're not really a species so much as an entire class of being. One Synth PC could be a giant hunk of refrigerator-shaped armor with a chainsaw attachment and a minigun named Warbot while another is a near-human-like synthetic companion droid named 'Lysander'; the only thing connecting the two is that they're both inorganic and robotic. Synths are defined much more by their brains than their bodies; a PC Synth is going to be sapient, and thus possessed of a sufficiently complex crystal matrix brain. Synths' brains theoretically last for hundreds of years, and they're able to repair themselves. They also have to defrag their own brains on occasion, which they do in a manner very similar to a human going to sleep.
Synths are usually very logical and precise, and only a rare few show a significant creative impulse. Note that 'a rare few' means that a Conductor Synth (this is completely possible, if their brain was made with xenoharmonic resonating crystal or something) or Synth artist is perfect for a PC. They have no sexual characteristics, being robots, but many will adopt a male or female identity as a social thing when living with dimorphic species, a bit like Elvers. They communicate with one another in short radio bursts, but usually have speakers for vocalization.
Synths are increasingly discriminated against, because the Apparat are fucking horrifying and people are beginning to get paranoid that 'any' sapient Synth could be taken over by Colligatrach. This is starting to slow down production, and increase resentment of their organic neighbors by the Synths themselves. Synths aren't considered 'people' under Remanence/Syndicate law, and are generally second class citizens throughout the galaxy. The Concord is the one exception; they love and trust their robot buddies and treat them as full sapient beings, and advocate for others to do the same. The Solar Creed doesn't care for Synths, seeing too much Syndic technology in them, and tries to avoid producing them.
Mechanically, Synths get to include their Legacy with Endurance (Robots don't get tired!), Transport (Integrating with craft now, sir), and Craft (Self-replicating industrial robit!). Their starting Gifts are just a Cybernetic Body and Cybernetic Brain. The Body means it's actually much harder to kill a Synth than an organic. They are normally Airtight and immune to smothering and poison, and they can Exhaust this Gift (and lose airtight) to say an attack cracked their casing, reducing its damage by 1. They get take damage just like an organic, except when they're heavily injured they don't heal naturally and need a mechanic to fix them over time; this is actually much faster than natural recovery but uses up resources called mechanical spares, which can make it cost money. When they should be mortally wounded, they just shut down and need rebooting and repair, plus some spare parts. No bleeding out! If they're reduced to Dead, they just shut down and need more extensive repair. Only getting totally Overkilled actually puts a Synth out of the game and totals them. The Cybernetic Brain gives them sophisticated sensor suites and the ability to directly interface with technology, and they can also take a ding to the brain (Exhausting this gift until they're fixed) to take less damage just like their body. Synths can also install further Cybernetics much more easily and freely, without constant surgery, unlike organics who want to be cyborgs. Combined with all the cybernetic 'Whoops dinged my system but I'm okay' options, it's really, really fucking hard to kill a Synth PC.
are hyperdense multicolored silicon based dog people, who are also tiny. They are only .7 to 1.3m tall on average, but they generally weigh 100+ kilograms. This is because Towser fur is made of heavy metals. Towser are basically made for industrial work, coming from a massively mineral rich homeworld, capable of breathing carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, immune to a wide variety of poisons, and also still capable of breathing normal oxygen. They primarily eat silicon based chemicals rather than organic food.
The Towser were a relatively primitive species that slaved away in the slaving mines of their homeworld for the Syndics until the Syndics vanished. Then the Towser, being extremely strong and dense, overthrew their local Remanence governor and declared themselves a free people. Then the nice men from the Averlini Mercantile Group showed up, all smiles and promises to help them industrialize and create jobs, and now the majority of their species is in industrial debt slavery. Towser have a much harder time living out in the Myriad than other species, because they have such specific dietary needs and breathing clean air for too long will eventually weaken and kill them. A Towser on their pleasantly polluted and dense homeworld, eating traditional Towser chemicals, will live for 200 years or more. Towser out and about in the universe are lucky to make half that.
Towser are monogamous and mate for life. Females produce litters of 1-4 puppies after a 6-9 month pregnancy. Towser culture is...weird. Some of them assimilate into the Myriad, yes, but others try to cling to 'traditional' Towser culture. None of them know what 'traditional' Towser culture is because they've been Syndic slaves locked on a single world (and then AMG slaves, shipped out to multiple worlds) for so long, so they try to make it up as they go along as weird anarcho-primitivists. They tend to develop serious social anxiety when forced to be in high tech situations too often. This may be because a sufficiently focused Towser can communicate with and perceive all kinds of magnetic and radio signals through their hyperdense heavy metal fur.
Mechanically, they get to include their Towser trait with Athletics (Hefty puppy), Endurance (SO DENSE), and Tactics (Awoo!). They get two weird abilities: Towser Density and Towser All-Fours. All Fours lets them run on all fours when they don't have an item in their hands, giving them significant move bonuses and an extra d8 Dodge. Density makes them immune to poison and extremely hard to hit with forced move abilities. They also run further on Charges and Scrambles (variable distance risky fast moves). These puppies are quick
. Their additional buyable gifts make them the best bare-handed fighters in the galaxy. Towser Bite and Claw gives them a nasty poison grapple bite and an even nastier armor-piercing claw attack that opens enemies up to further attacks by shredding armor and knocking them off guard. Towser can also gain Towser Threat, which lets them bark and sparkle at enemies such that if the enemy attacks someone who isn't the Towser while threatened by the dogman, their target gets the Towser's Presence skill as a bonus to dodge. They can gain Towser Scent, which lets them smell valuable metals (d12 to find them) and gives them a d12 on any other perception test to track by scent. And finally, they get Towser Magnetics, which lets them sense electric and magnetic signals, but also lets them MAGNETO PUNCH people, turning their bare-handed (but not their Claw or Bite) attack into an armor-piercing knockdown slam that opens enemies up. So yeah, they're martial artist sparkledog dwarfs that have been enslaved by space capitalism. Towser are weird.
are the Raptors that Hate. They're big velociraptors with opposable thumbs and warm blood, usually 1.2 to 2m tall and twice as long, weighing 50kg to 200kg. Sometimes, as they're often born two to an egg, they'll combine inside the egg and produce an 'ogre', a Troodon who is 5m in height and as heavy as 500kg. These giants often suffer painful joint disorders and other effects associated with gigantism. They have an excellent sense of smell and eyesight that tracks movement very well. And they like raw, bloody meat. A lot.
Troodon are found everywhere in the Myriad, in two modes. Traditionalists live in roving warbands/packs and fight over mating rights, food, etc, just they've usually also adopted the new traditional Troodon weapon of the automatic shotgun or assault rifle rather than their old stone axes. Assimilated Troodon, who are actually much more common, generally live as a member of whatever society they work for. Troodon are, by disposition, very content being mercenaries and sellswords (or migrant laborers). They like to blend in with new 'packs' and get along well with whatever society they immigrate to, they just also happen to be exceptional killers who are very happy to do exactly that in return for money and acceptance from their new pack. They breed very quickly, producing clutches of 1-12 eggs, each of which contain 1-2 Troodons, and many of them will survive. Traditionalists claim it's important to bury the babies in traditional, natural jungle loam. Assimilated Troodon prefer hospital incubators. They are also a VERY loud people, very prone to excited vocalizations, roars, and yells, with very expressive body language and tails.
Traditionalists tend to be Troodon supremacists and see other races as weak prey peoples. The Assimilated Troodons happily serve as mercenaries, thugs, and cops for whoever hired them, and don't really care that most people look down on them as nothing but a species of warrior-lizards. They do their job well, society needs their job, and they like their job. The Remanence, by contrast, adores its Troodon Janissaries and their uncomplicated approach to their work, which has done much to make the galaxy think of Troodon as the Remanence's main jackboots much the way it associates Humans with their nobles.
Troodons are made for fighting and winning. They get to include their Legacy with Fighting (RAWWWR), Athletics (Jumping and running everywhere) and Tactics (Oh god they hunt in packs). They get a racial gift tree, but their actual base gifts don't come from it. Instead they get Rushing Attack, which lets them quickly close on an enemy who thought they were at rifle range and instead pounce on them to hit them with a stick, and Frenzy, which lets them go berserk and go after the nearest (enemy) target with gun and blade in return for a huge bonus to damage reduction. They only snap out of this when someone Panics or Terrifies them, or they win their fight, at which point they end the Frenzy and negate the Panic/Terror. Having Frenzy also opens up a bunch of Gifts about being berserk and scary as hell. They can buy a leaping knockdown strike with Troodon Leap, they can buy a refreshable damage reduction from their thick Troodon Scales, they can buy a 'activate this AFTER you already know you hit to do a bunch of bonus damage' brawling attack, and they can buy a Gift that lets them roar or scream with Troodon Scream to instantly recharge one of their Gifts that would normally spend an Action recharging, as a free action. It just, uh, I hope you weren't trying to be stealthy right now. Because it's as loud as firing your traditional automatic raptor shotgun.
And that's the races of the Myriad. They're awesome. There's a ton of cool stuff to play as, and they're all weird and fun except maybe the Towser who are just weird sparkledogs. I think the Ishato and Morphir really stand out for me, but if you've ever been sick of sci-fantasy RPGs where you can only play various flavors of mostly-human/Space Elves, Myriad Song has you covered with brain eating bush people and angry raptor mercenaries.
Next Time: Homeworlds, Gifts, Etc
Where are you from, stranger?
Original SA post
Where are you from, stranger?
All characters get a couple Gifts based on their upbringing. Any character of any species can be from any background, no matter how odd it seems. If you want a Synth Aristocrat, go ahead and explain how you are Dukebot 5000, the robot that is a Duke, or how your line of Xenharmonic sensitive robots were built by an eccentric Syndic to see if they could replace humans with them. Want to be a hardbitten Elver Paramilitary who was raised by a one-eyed lunatic who talked at length about how water is weakness? No problem. You can also easily 'retrain' these Gifts once play begins, selling them back for EXP to get different Gifts as going into the wider galaxy changes you. Similarly, if you wanted to make up a new background, it's as simple as picking two relatively minor Gifts and giving a fluff reason for them.
means you were brought up in a Remanence family, as a noble major or minor. You might be a space princess stepping outside of her palace and suddenly realizing how shit her family is, or you might be a minor noble from the fringes who is doing everything they can to protect your holding from the Apparat or some other serious threat. Whatever's the case, you have both the training and the potential to interface with Xenharmonic technology, and probably show some of the signs of having been genetically altered. You start with an Aristocratic Loadout (A bunch of Xenharmonic weapons, a suit of light Xenharmonic armor that protects from them, and your signet ring), which being a Loadout Gift means you can always ask for the items to be returned to you if they're lost or broken. Plot convenience will drop a new force saber into your noble hands once you're done escaping from prison, etc. You also start with Xenharmonic Finishing, which lets you hit enemies who are hurt or vulnerable even harder with Xenharmonic weaponry, since you really know how this stuff works. Note you'll need to buy being a space wizard separately in your Career or with your later free Gifts; this Upbringing just gets you the gear and makes you good with it. You don't have to be a Conductor.
Cross Cultural Upbringing
means you either grew up on a hub world or you were just exposed to wide travel and a lot of people as a kid. To you, everyone else is just people, no matter how weird they look. You're comfortable traveling and fitting in in a wide variety of social situations, and you adapt to and learn how not to offend new cultures very quickly. You start with Cosmopolitan, which gives you an extra d8 to any checks to gossip and gather information or generally socialize and schmooze, plus it ensures you never accidentally cause a diplomatic incident when you fail. It also lets you immediately recognize when someone uses a faction's signature special powers, because you know a little bit about a lot of people. You also get Gossip, an extra d12 to gathering information. That stacks with Cosmopolitan. These guys are great at getting the pulse of the streets and can be great diplomats.
means you come from a post-apocalyptic world, or a planet sized junkyard, or a decaying station on the fringes. You know how to make due. No-one back home got through life without figuring out how to turn junk into usable equipment on the fly, and you're comfortable working with your hands and keeping your hastily-built unipolar crossbow from falling apart on you. You start with Scrounge Loot, which lets you Exhaust this Gift and spend a single Equip action (you get 2 actions a combat round, for reference) to quickly throw together what you need from the junk you always seem to have. You roll Mind+Craft against a 3, and depending on successes, you can literally kitbash a railgun in an instant. You'll need other Scroungetech talents to make it really useful, but you can. You also get Improved Breakdown, which makes all Scroungetech gear more reliable. If you want to do Scroungetech as your character schtick, this is a great background, obviously. You'll just really need the Craft skill and a few extra Gifts to make it shine.
High Tech Upbringing
characters come from the worlds of the Solar Creed, or wandering Concordance caravans, or really important Remanence hub worlds. Or maybe you escaped from the Apparat. Wherever you're from, technological marvels that would be beyond the average person of the Myriad are normal for you. Wherever you're from, your people work hard to make sure they can survive without depending on the scavenged past of the Syndicate Empire. You get a High Tech Loadout (a lightly shielded suit of powered armor, a ray pistol, a laser torch for a melee weapon, and a consistent if small supply of spare parts) and Conservation of Energy, which lets you cool down items like the shield generator on your armor or your fancy raygun much better. It makes it much easier to use them consistently; we'll get to how in the gear chapter. The gear is great for a gunfighting combat character or science hero type.
Characters from a Manufacturing Upbringing
know that we all lift together to get through the day. You may have grown up indentured to the Averlini, or maybe you were one of the people working on the lower levels of the arcology to support the Aristocrat or the High Tech person up there. Either way, you know how to get along with your fellows on shift, how to trade stories about what to do and what not to do, and you know precisely how dangerous all the industrial equipment you work with can be. You start with a Manufacturing Loadout (An Engineering suit that's both fireproof, some okay armor, and that helps you do engineering tasks since it has built in tools, plus some useful power tools that double as solid weapons, and a bunch of spare parts) and Gossip. If you want to be an engineer, you could definitely do worse. Alternately, nice if you want to lead a revolt against your capitalistic overlords; the Power Tools section of the armory lists this as one of their uses, after all!
characters were either raised on worlds that find themselves at war, or were brought up as part of a hereditary regiment or mercenary company. You've been around guns and ammunition your entire life, and you've seen plenty of live fire drills even if you haven't seen combat. You'll come with some military grade hardware and the licenses to carry it as a mercenary. Your old commanding officer might have made a lot of lunatic rants about the purity of being a soldier or something, though. You get Bullet Conservation, which lets you weaken your shots slightly so as to not use up ammunition when fighting with a gun, and a Paramilitary Loadout. This gets you a renewable supply of hand grenades, a suit of paramilitary armor for the the field, your choice of one automatic military grade weapon (carbine, rifle, or shotgun), and a stealthy holdout pistol and knife for when you must combine knife and gun to make knifegun, just like your old CO. If you want to be the rough and tumble mercenary with good old automatic firepower for your group, this will definitely help you do it.
characters are from agricultural zones and backwaters, where people work with animals, plants, and livestock to feed the Myriad. You're kind of boring, to be honest. You're just a simple country hyperbird or the salt of the earth. You're good with a variety of wilderness environments, though, and you're very good with animals. You get Animal Handling, giving you a d12 on anything related to handling animals (from taking care of your herd of gentle giant space-cow-bugs to riding your miniature space dragon to keep the herd in line) and Survival, which gives a d12 to checks to survive harsh conditions and find food. Note Survival works as well in the underhive of an arcology as it does in the backwoods of Eden Nine.
Space Faring Upbringing
characters grew up in space. I mean, it says it right in the name. You've spent more time outside of a gravity well than in one. You've got a space suit and you're willing to travel, selling your experience to whoever needs it. You might be a hereditary Cavalcade crew member out on their own, or maybe you were raised on a station rather than a planet but this is your first time actually traveling. Either way, you're used to low gravity and all the troubles that come with living in the void. You get a Spacefarer's Loadout (Your Spacesuit, a laser torch for welding and fighting, a holdout shotgun for self defense, and either a vacuum capable Air Rifle or a raygun pistol) and Free Fall. Free Fall not only gives you a +d12 bonus to rolls about moving and working in Zero G, it also prevents you having your dice sizes capped in the void. Even if you Botch a roll in space, you will never be left floating with nothing to grab onto. You simply don't get sucked out into space; you know it better than that. Obviously a good choice if you want to spend a lot of time in Zero G.
are rough. You either grew up outside the protection of normal society, or you're from a mafia planet. Wherever you're from, you're from its seedy underbelly, and you quickly learned the world can be a very unforgiving place. You know a lot about how to find and deal with criminals, and you're great at moving illegal goods, because that was one of the only big industries back home. You get Black Marketeer, which lets you sell illegal goods much easier, and buy them for half as much (you know how to avoid the usual crime markups and scams). You can also convince otherwise honest merchants to buy your drugs and illegal guns, and you have a much easier time finding people who deal in that kind of stuff. You also start with one expensive illegal item of your choice, a little souvenir from home. You also get Streetwise, giving you +d12 to all social actions with other criminals. You know how to pick up on local informal power structures and manipulate criminal culture to your advantage. If you want to be a shady crime person from crime planet, this is your perfect crime background.
You might be noticing something: Lots of things that would be a separate skill entirely in most RPGs, like Animal Handling, are instead made into minor 'specialty' Gifts that give a huge +d12 bonus to tests in that context. A d12 is a die that can potentially succeed on any test in the game, so this is pretty useful. All of the various 'just give you a skill' gifts are almost all +d12, because that's a die that's worth spending a Gift slot on. It's consistent across the game's design.
What kind of business are you in?
Original SA post
What kind of business are you in?
Careers are something I've enjoyed as a concept every since IC1e. The idea that your job is a stat, which helps you out not only with your 3 favored skills but generally comes up when professionalism and professional knowledge would be important, is a neat touch. You can make a Career fairly easily, and there is in fact a large set of additional Careers in the game's appendix; the ones listed here are just the most 'likely' PC Careers. Remember, the 3 skills you get from your Career count as skills you have points in, even if you don't put any skill marks in them directly; you still get a Favored Use if and when you want one. Each Career also gives 2 Gifts and some basic starting gear (which I'll be leaving out, but it's stuff like a base melee weapon and some light armor if you're a melee fighter, etc), so don't feel like you'll be naked if you didn't get a Loadout Gift somewhere.
I also like the way they're formatted: A short, succinct description of their fluff, then a 'play this if you want to do X'.
are contract killers. They don't get any direct weapon skills, because ideally they're not in open combat so much as quietly shooting people in the head, or carefully engineering ridiculous and hilarious 'accidents' and ironic fates. They get Deceit (I am obviously the food stand attendant, this is not poisoned), Evasion (I am the night), and Observation (This opportunity will definitely look like an accident). They also get the Gift of Stealth (obviously), and Errata will point out that if you're an Ishato Assassin and thus already had Stealth, you may instead get the Gift of Increased Career or Legacy. They also get the Gift of Sneaky Attack, which adds 2d8 to your combat pool with any Concealable weapon like a knife, silenced pistol, or possibly piano wire.
are totally awesome. They are bare-fisted martial artists and strong personalities, designed to make an impression. Because you need that kind of self-confidence to take on an angry Troodon with his ceremonial automatic shotgun with nothing but your bare hands! They get Evasion (Dodge!), Fighting (Punch!), and Presence (Strut!) as skills, plus the Gifts of Brawling Threat (You Threaten as if armed while unarmed, granting allies Tactics bonuses and being able to Counter armed attacks at close range) and Brawling Advantage, which lets you take an extra action to attack with unarmed attacks. You still can't attack twice in one turn, but having 2 actions to move or enhance your actions by Guarding or Aiming or whatever is potentially really advantageous when you still get to attack.
are burgeoning Space Song Wizards and navigators. These are people who can hear the signal from the Campaniles, and who guide starships and deal with the song of the universe. They get Academics (Knower of a thousand magics!), Psyche (They hear the Myriad Song), and Transport (Being able to fly the ship helps). They also start with the very complicated Conductor Legacy Gift. This makes them highly resistant to Xenharmonic damage, gives them a +d12 to know where they are on a planet, lets them move quickly even while blind because they can sense beyond the world, and allows them to include their Psyche skill on any roll to work with Rondo devices. They can also stop and use Psych+Mind vs. 3 to sense disturbances in the Magh-Signal. Also it turns your skin blue, or some other wild color, or makes your hair purple and your eyes shining silver, or some other cosmetic but curious signifier. They also start with Navigation, which gives a further +d12 to rolls about navigating. Conductors are never lost.
fix things and solve problems. Their job is to get the system rebooted or the ship out of atmo, and do it in a timely fashion. They're not much good in a fight, but not everyone needs to be. They include with Academics (I'll use CALCULUS), Craft (Build stuff), and Observation (Notice problems). They get Electronics, which is +d12 to all tests to work with electrical theory and electrical devices, and Mechanics, which is the same but for mechanical devices and theory. This means your Engineer is almost always going to have +d12 from a Gift, +Career for their Career, and then +Mind or whatever other stat they're working with, even before Skill Marks. The astute among you might note this means the average Engineer PC can easily hit 2 Successes on a Rote in most non-combat situations. They're very dependable at their intended job.
are the antithesis of the Engineer: They spend their entire life planning how to blow shit up. Just breaking everything, all the time. 'Choose this Fighting Career if you want to blow enemies to little bits', the book says. They get Athletics (Throw grenades), Evasion (Dodge own grenades), and Tactics (Place grenades best). They start with Demolitions, which is +d12 to set up or defend against explosive traps and helps them prevent backfires and mishaps, and the Demolition Loadout. This gives them a grenade launcher, a shifting array of IEDs, non-lethal concussion grenades, and frags, a power cutter (which is also a decent melee weapon) and some decent medium-heavy armor. Note that only thrown Grenades use the Athletics skill; using the launcher gives them a ton of range but you have to use Shooting instead.
are lone soldiers who fight from cover and stealth whenever possible. They get Evasion (Strongest in the trees), Shooting (Shoot them in the head), and Fighting (Slit throats). They get Stealth (which I imagine means the Ishato Guerilla also gets the +Trait to Career or Legacy instead) and Cover Buff. Cover Buff gives you a single point of outright Damage Reduction any time you took cover against an attack, called Invulnerability. It's really good for not being murdered!
are snipers and wanderers, who focus on killing their target on the first shot so the game can't get away. Turns out that works out pretty well when you're hunting people, too. They get Athletics (Long distance wandering), Endurance (Roughing it), and Shooting (Right in the heart). They start with the Gifts of Stealth (Hey Ishato, you know the drill) and Desperate Attack. Desperate Attack is basically '+d12 until you first hit someone while attacking in combat', so your first shot is going to be a good one.
knew the dame was trouble, but they needed the dough. They're space detectives, noir obviously optional. You might be a private detective or in the employ of some larger faction. They get Deceit (For snooping), Questioning (For further snooping), and Observation (For putting it all together). They get the Gift of Danger Sense, which gives +d12 to all defenses against traps, +d12 to Initiative rolls (we'll get to this later, but this is really good), and +d12 to spot danger. They also get Shadowing, which is +d12 to rolls to eavesdrop without being seen, tail people, etc.
do the hard work that a colony or city needs. They're strong, tough, and good with their hands. Not bad in a fistfight or when wielding their trusty tools against their oppressors, either. They get Craft (They work for a living), Endurance (They work hard
for a living), and Observation (The union guy sees all). They also get the extremely useful Gift of Strength. This lets them carry a very heavy item without being slowed down, and for every rank of Strength you have, you can carry another and also get +d8 to Fighting checks. It also opens up a whole Gift line of its own. They also get Team Player, meaning when they help a buddy they give +d12 instead of +d8. Space Peasant/Industrial Worker is helpful!
are defined not by their ability to kill people, Soldiers and other warriors do that just fine. They're defined by their ability to wring money out of their employer for doing it and keep themselves out of trouble. They get Shooting (They ARE the hired guns), Fighting (They are also the Brute Squad), and Tactics (Emphasis on Squad). They also get the Gifts of Danger Sense (A good merc can spot trouble) and Haggling, which gives automatic cost reductions on things, gets you better prices when selling 'slightly used' goods you took as plunder, and grants a d12 to any tests for negotiating contracts and business. I love that Mercs are defined by their ability with money compared to most grunts.
make an impact! Of course there was going to be a space performer in this, the game of song magic. They get Deceit (Acting), Observation (Studying for a role), and Presence (ACTING!). They also get Team Player for ensemble performances, and Perform (Their Art), which gives +d12 to all attempts to make an impression with their art. I kind of wish Perform didn't have a 'specify one art form' thing and was a broader 'you're an expert performer'. They're there to be social and make an impression.
are all about saving lives. They're still broadly talented intellectuals, they just focus on putting people back together where the Engineer focused on machines. They get Academics (So many degrees), Observation (Studying), and Questioning (What in all the Myriad did you do
). They get the Gift of Doctor, which lets them roll Mind+Academics+d12 to determine the physical gifts of a subject, treat status effects, treat additions, and treat serious injuries. They also get First Aid, which gives an extra d12 to checks to apply emergency first aid, and makes doing so simply take an action in combat, rather than a Stunt (We'll get to these, but suffice to say this makes being a medic much, much easier). If you take a bullet and drop, you really want a Physician around to make sure you get back up.
Next Time: Pilots! Vanguards! DRUGS!
Original SA post
are obviously important in a game about space adventures. They can handle 'anything with wings', and given the Transport skill works with any vehicle at all, they're not bad at stuff that doesn't have wings, either. They get Endurance (G-Force!), Observation (Always know where Mr. Ground is, he is not your friend), and Transport (To the stars!). They can handle both atmospheric flight and spaceflight equally well, because again, Transport is a very broad skill category. They also get Navigation, which does exactly what it does for Conductors, and Pilot. Not only does Pilot give them +d12 when piloting anything that flies or goes through space, they also never limit their combat dice for fighting aboard a moving vehicle. So if you have to go back into the cargo hold to wrestle an escaped alien monster while your co-pilot holds the stick, you're good.
are absolute miracle workers! Some of the time. Their drugs are less, ah, reliable and fully tested than the ones the Physician uses. They'd probably say they're more experimental and far more cutting edge, while others might say they're addictive and full of side effects. They get Deceit (It's safe, I swear), Academics (They actually do know a ton about biochemistry!), and Observation (Oh. Wow. What that did was interesting. Let me mark it down...). They also get First Aid, so they're still perfectly competent at emergency combat medicine. Then they get Bad Medicine, which is like Doctor, only more...questionable. Firstly, you can try to use it on enemies in combat, at which point they can try to Dodge or Counter. This is because it can inflict status effects as well as cure them. You roll Mind, Academics, and a 2d8 bonus vs. 3 if you're trying to heal people or their defense roll if they don't want your big glowing syringe of terrifying goop. You can't treat long term injury or addiction, but you *can* heal minor injuries, cure status effects, inflict status effects, or recharge someone's plot armor, and a normal doctor can't do the latter. 5 rounds after being treated, someone rolls a save with Body and Will vs. 3. If they get 0 successes, they're Fatigued and Addicted, and can't rest without more of your delicious drugs. If they get 1 success, the get Fatigue as they suffer side effects. If both succeed, they're fine. Pushers are still decent emergency medics, and the ability to blind, confuse, or fuck over enemies is actually pretty useful in combat when it's on the same ability you use to heal buddies. And you don't care about side effects with your enemies, right?
have been dealt a bad hand, and survived. They find themselves on the road, trying to make their way in a galaxy they probably never wanted to travel like this. They know how to wander, and they know how to survive. They get Endurance (We will survive this), Observation (This looks like trouble), and Tactics (We'll only get through this together). They get Danger Sense, which we're familiar with and know is helpful for everyone who has it, and Diplomacy. Diplomacy gives them a d12 bonus on social negotiations that last more than 5 minutes. If you're pleading with the border guards to let you through, that's Diplomacy. They have a grab bag of skills, but Tactics is always useful and Diplomacy is a good Gift to have in your back pocket.
are another class of survivalists, who gather and forage on dangerous and derelict worlds and in broken down places. They're less warriors than survival-minded and less academic engineers. They come with Craft (Get this junk working!), Endurance (Just another hour's walk), and Observation (Some good salvage over this way). They get Danger Sense and Team Player; they're actually great at working with others and a true survivor knows better than to go it alone. I quite like this version of a scav, since it emphasizes that people in truly dangerous or desperate situations are as likely to be cooperative as they are to lash out.
are highly educated academics who go on adventures to push the boundaries of learning. They actually have exactly the same skills as Engineers, but very different Gifts. A Scientist gets Academics (SCIENCE!), Observation (PUSH BUTTON, OBSERVE RESULT!), and Craft (SCIENCE!), but unlike an Engineer, they get Team Player (for better working in large research teams or applying what they know to help out an ally with technobabble exposition) and Research. Research gives you a d12 to all Academics tests as long as you do them in a lab or library; someplace where there's a lot of tools and materials to help with your research. As long as you've got access to references and sources, a Scientist is a formidable scholar who can handle almost any problem!
are professionals. They're highly trained warriors who are best at working together with others, fighting bravely on the front-lines of the setting's many conflicts. Unlike a Mercenary, they're better defined by their professionalism and focus on group tactics, rather than money grubbing. They're also great at countering groups of enemies and taking on large groups of mooks, themselves. They get Fighting (Live by the sword), Shooting (Kill by the gun), and Tactics (And watch out for your mates). They also get the Gift of Danger Sense, as a professional who is ready for trouble should, and Counter Tactics. Counter Tactics lets you gain a d12 to your Dodge or Counter any time an enemy tries to add Tactics dice and benefit from outnumbering you. It might not overmatch their Tactics bonus, but it sure as hell beats getting nothing, and it might scare lesser enemies into not bothering to work together against you.
think using a sword is all well and good, but they'd rather have a good auto carbine. The Stormtrooper focuses entirely on automatic weapons and hails of bullets. Doesn't matter if you can't aim if every square inch is covered in bullets, right? They get Evasion (Know the bullet, dodge the bullet), Shooting (Yes. Stormtroopers have good aim), and Tactics (like most professional warriors). Further, they get Danger Sense, because you want to shoot first, and Rapid Fire Replay. Rapid Fire Replay lets you use up some ammo to reroll an attack (you and the opponent both reroll) that didn't go well for you. You can do this on either a Counter or an attack you started. You can do it as many times as you have ammo capacity in your gun; if the first exchange didn't go well, and you had a high cap magazine, keep shooting! It'll work eventually! Note that guns only have 3 capacity states: High, Low, and Empty. So the most you can use this on one move is twice. Still, quite helpful when you fucked up and want to keep shooting to make it right.
are bureaucrats and administrators. It also strikes me as really odd that absolutely no Career gets Negotiation as a skill, because it seems like these guys would be perfect for playing an official diplomat or something, but they don't. They instead get Academics (Techno), Questioning (Crat), and Observation (Bureaucrat is always watching. Listening and watching and judging). They get the Gift of Research like Scientists, but in place of Team Player they get Administration, which is a simple +d12 on running businesses and planning large scale projects. I gotta be real, 'Choose this class if you want to plan new cities and power grids' does not sell this class as a heroic space adventurer very much.
are a classic of the RPG genre, and will remain, stealing things, until long after civilization has gone dark. It says it right in the name: You steal stuff. You play a Thief if you want to steal stuff. They get Deceit (I lost my keys, can you swipe me in?), Evasion (Please don't look in these shadows), and Observation (Something shiney!), because goddamn everyone has Observation it seems like (it fits, it's useful, but it's easily one of the more common Skills). They get Stealth (normal Ishato clause applies) and Sleight of Hand. This makes stealing things from an enemy a normal combat action for them, rather than a special stunt. It also means they can draw a hidden weapon in a single, normal action rather than needing to dig it out with a stunt. These are both useful things to be able to do. Nothing like taking someone's concussion grenade with one action and throwing it at his buddy so you can make your getaway with the other.
follow the simple rule of ABC: Always Be Charging. Privately, they also think Stormtroopers are nerds who can't handle a proper weapon like a giant axe (they begin play with a giant axe and a shotgun). They get Evasion (SERPENTINE SERPENTINE!), Fighting (AXE), and Tactics (MORE AXES). They also get the Gift of Serpentine, which gives them +d12 to Dodge incoming fire if the shooter is reasonably far away from them still, and the Gift of Charging Strike, which lets them charge opponents within 10m (Short Range) and attack in the same action, giving them time to Aim or Guard or something as well. Note you can use Charging Strike to throw a grenade or javelin or something, too. It just has to be a Fighting type attack.
And that's the basic character classes! After that, we get a bunch of pre-made 3 gift packages in case you're having a hard time deciding what to do with your 3 starting Gifts. I won't list them, I've been too thorough with the classes as is, but they're usually solid and clearly marked in what they'll let you do. Alternately, you can ask to just take 3 Gifts of your choice, without any restriction but Host approval. This is a good place to learn your actual Space Song Magic if you began play as a Conductor.
Every character also gets a Gift of Personality; once per session, when you're trying something that is really in character for you, you get +d12 to that action. So say Ragna the Philosoraptor has the Personality of Thoughtful, and she's pondering the dual nature of Troodon society to try to convince her aunt to go to a medical center instead of burying her eggs in the dirt in the jungle. She declares she's thinking about it for awhile and adds +d12 to her carefully thought out Negotiation check with her stubborn aunt. Every character also gets Combat Save, which lets you negate getting killed or mortally wounded once per session (more, if you have someone with scary drugs and syringes or a helpful slime mold to recharge it). Everyone has plot armor.
Finally, you get 9 skill marks. You can only put up to 3 in one skill at this time (d8), and may buy any skill you wish at a 1-1 basis. At the end of it all, you come up with a little motto to encapsulate your PC, and then you're done. You may now go to space.
Next Time: We make a Space Adventurer
Original SA post
Alright, let's see this all in motion, and also talk about space magic!
Our first example PC is 'Four Hands' Rucel, a Rhax Mercenary who works for a small transport company on an ocean world on the fringes. She's a Rhax, so she gets Rhax Clinging and Extra Arms, hence the nickname 'Four Hands'. She also gets to include her Rhax dice with Presence, Athletics, and Craft. She wants to be awesome at being a spider person (and maybe a result of their crazy Malmignatti breeding experiments), so she puts d8 in Rhax. She also wants to shoot a lot of dudes, so she puts her other d8 in Speed. She doesn't really care about academics or doing things for reasonable reasons, and takes d4 in Mind. That leaves her d6s for Body, Mercenary, and Will. She's quick, she makes a strong impression, and she's reasonably tough and brave. Also not a bad mercenary. Just makes poor decisions.
She used to be a candidate for the Portias, the elite killer spiders of the Empress of All, before she got bored and wandered off to do crimes. She takes Paramilitary Background and picks up a Military Carbine in her loadout, plus gets Bullet Conservation so she can keep firing precise shots when she needs to save ammo. She's also a Mercenary, as said, so she gets to include her d6 Career with Fighting, Shooting, and Tactics and gets a keen Danger Sense and a sense of Haggling to get loot.
She wants to shoot people with two (or more) guns a lot, so she takes the Gift of Dexterity, which makes all 4 of her hands her Good Hand, and lets her draw two pistols with one Equip action. She also takes Tandem Strike, which lets her shoot two pistols or strike with two one-handed melee weapons for the price of Exhausting this Gift (which can be recharged by spending an action). She also grabs Instinctive Shot because it sounds like a cool action hero move. Instinctive Shot lets her Exhaust it to fire a shot that pierces cover and concealment, or exhaust it when being attacked to Counter regardless of what else is happening (since it negates Concealment, by some rules interactions, it lets her Counter even if she was hitstunned). So now she can do that thing where she raises her gun, closes her (many) eyes, and hits her target perfectly anyway.
She wants to be good at Dodging, too, because what action hero doesn't dive between a curtain of bullets? She spends 3 starting Skill Marks on Evasion. She also spends 3 on Shooting, because shooting people is her thing
. Also buys a d4 in Observation so she won't be totally blind, a d4 in Presence to go along with her d8 Rhax to look cool, and a d4 in Fighting so she can go knife fighter on people sometimes.
She takes the personality of Excitable; she loves adventure and she's always up for diving through a window with both guns blazing and her carbine sweeping the room. She also takes the Motto of 'You get more with a kind word and a gun than just a kind word', in the classic space wisdom of Al Capone. She also starts with some extra money for her career, which we'll go over when we get to equipment, but suffice to say it's enough to buy a pair of cool magnums and a semi-auto shotgun to add to her pile of guns. She's an excitable character who makes a high-caliber impression while being surprisingly
good with money, and she's ready to be her team's muscle! Also, she can climb all over the place and drop down on people from above with a pair of magnums in one set of hands and an SMG in the other, and is well suited to do acrobatics and stunts just by her d8 Rhax and d8 Speed even with no points in Athletics.
Our second is meant to be an example Space Wizard so I can talk about Space Wizards. Lady Karoline of the Coliquecot is a Remanence aristocrat who is on the run after her homeworld joined the Solar Creed. She's a talented young Conductor, with a good head on her shoulders, who is going to have to learn a lot about the real world in a very short time while on the run. She's not very experienced at her job, having mostly lived in the palace up until now and taken lessons, so she has a d4 in Conductor. She does, however, have a lot of talent and a sharp mind; she's got a d8 in Mind and Will both. That leaves her a d6 for Human, Body, and Speed. As a Human, she is also a natural leader and gets Leadership. While also being good at pretending to be an ordinary peasant or Cavalcade crew-woman with her Human Low Profile. She also includes his Legacy with Questioning, Negotiation, and Tactics.
As a Conductor, she gets Conductor Legacy and Navigation already. With Conductor Legacy, he has to look a little odd. She chooses to have bright silver hair and eyes that are pools of golden light; she'll need hair dye and sunglasses to stay ahead of the bounty hunters. She also takes an Aristocratic Upbringing, so she'll start with a Xenharmonic Pistol, Whip, Blade, and a Mezzoforte armored Xenharmonic outfit, plus she'll know how to use all of them better with Xenharmonic Finishing. She still has the family space wizard weapons!
For her extra Gifts, she'll take one of the basic Space Wizard spells: Rondo Jaunt. Rondo Jaunt lets her Exhaust it to teleport. No check required, just pick an unblocked spot 10m away and bamf, you're there, carried by the song of the universe. This Gift can only be recharged by spending Focus, like just about all space magic. We'll get into Focus soon, but suffice to say this is a bigger issue than just spending 1 Action to recharge something. Rondo Jaunt is a pre-req for all of the teleportation style powers. She also takes Rondo Castle, which lets her attempt to telefrag someone. She declares a target within 10m, then makes an attack against them with Mind, Speed, and Psyche. If she hits, it does a bunch of armor-penetrating damage and swaps her position with them. If it Overkills them, half of them is where they were, half of them is now where she was, and enemies at both entry and exit point are freaking the fuck out. Finally, she grabs Resolve. This lets her add her Will to damage reduction.
For skills, she gets 3 in Academics for a d8 (she's actually quite educated), picks up 3 in Psyche for a d8 (she knows space magic really well and adores the Myriad Song) and then d4 in Observation and Evasion (She's learning to survive as she goes). She takes the personality of Noble (in the sense of trying to be a good and decent person), and the motto of 'If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.' She's a good person, really, and her time among the peasants running for her life will help it come to light. She starts with some money, too, but has everything she needs and keeps it for now. She's an academically gifted, intelligent young woman who has some surprisingly scary weapons and some cool space magic tricks to start with. She's just in danger if she gets focused on by enemies and can't Counter with her pistol or Xenharmonics; they get to use her great Mind die, but her actual dodging ability isn't great. She's also kind of a terrible pilot for a Conductor.
I admit, Karoline up there is an excuse to talk about space magic in detail. The two actual spellcasting Gift lines are Rondo and Disjunction. Disjunction is all about channeling spatial anomaly, while Rondo is about personal teleportation and portals. Both require Conductor Legacy and Navigation to get into at all, which is a significant investment given how valuable Gifts are. However, they're both goddamn awesome. Disjunction's 'basic' spell is a 2d12 Cover and Concealment shield you can throw down for yourself or others with Disjunction Legacy (Exhaust to generate the shield of space-time anomaly), which also lets you roll to channel Xenharmonic energy directly through yourself to power alien devices. After that, Disjunction gifts are mostly combat spells: They get AoE attacks the do things like fucking with thermodynamics and flash-freeze a group of enemies, or calling down excess heat energy from beyond the universe to set a bunch of enemies on fire, or what I like to call 'into the firey orb with ye', the good old 'teleport your enemy into the sun' ability. You can also potentially crush people into a tiny nugget of hyperdense matter. These are all exhaustible AoE attacks with different riders (and very low base damage, they rely on bonus damage from their conditional effects) that need Focus to recharge, or a Disjunction gift that makes it easier to recharge multiple Gifts with one use of Focus.
Rondo, on the other hand, is all about teleportation. You've already seen the basic teleport move and the goddamn telefrag, it also includes the ability to either extend the reach of your melee attacks by 100m or grab people and drag them through the portal back to you. You can also make yourself teleport much further, teleport through cover rather than needing line of sight, you can learn to take friends with you or carry heavy objects through space-time, and you can memorize and return to places across interstellar distances. Much like Disjunction, you can also get a Gift that lets you recharge multiple teleport Gifts with one use of Focus. Rondo might not be direct combat magic, but being able to teleport hundreds of meters with Rondo Bridge or being able to reach a kilometer away and snatch your target right to your position, not to mention 'I can telefrag a guy'? Rondo is really cool, too.
But here's the thing: That's all of space magic. One of the things in all the Sanguine games is that there's never a 'do everything' kind of magic. In setting, Conductor powers are defined as being related to FTL, the manipulation of extra dimensional forces, and navigation. And so that's all they can do with them. It's enough to be powerful, cool, and unique as hell, but there's no equivalent to the D&D 'I put I Know Magic on my sheet so I have the ability to do everything in the game' wizard. You'll still know how to do a lot of other things from your general competence as a character, but your magic can 'only' help you leap through the song of the universe and appear a kilometer away in an instant, or teleport your enemies into the sun.
I should also add there's a third school of Space Magic about manifesting a Leitmotif, a magic super-pet that is actually part of your mind physically manifested out of the cosmos. It knows nothing of dishonesty and will happily blurt out your true feelings when it's manifest. It also flies around and protects you with space magic. I'll be getting into them a bit more when I go over general types of Gifts later. I just wanted to cover the more 'spell like' space magic sooner.
Next Time: More on Skills
Original SA post
Alright, it's time to actually talk about what the skills entail in this game. They're very broad on purpose; as you've noticed you get 6 effectively from your Career and Legacy, plus you'll always have at least 1 dice from a trait so you can at least try to do whatever you're trying to do. But actual Skill Marks can give you an even bigger edge, and more importantly, they're actually unlimited. You can have as many marks in a skill as you want, where your actual trait dice are just that: Single dice, capping at a d12. If you get more than 5 marks in a skill, it creates another small die. So a 6 point skill adds d12+d4, and a 10 point skill adds a massive 2d12. There is also no penalty for not having any Skill Marks in a skill; the only 'penalty' is you just don't get any bonus dice with it. You could be a perfectly competent character without any skill marks if you have a specialty gift and/or the skill is covered by your Career or Legacy.
One interesting trend in Cardinal is that every new incarnation of it seems to condense the skill trees (I haven't yet studied Urban Jungle). In IC1e, you had to have specific skills in specific weapons, there were dozens of skills, etc. In IC2e, there were far fewer skills, but there were still separate skills for, say, 'Brawling' and 'Melee'. Now? There's only 15. Which means if you put a d4 in everything and had a spread of 6 separate skills from your Legacy and Career, you could theoretically start with a little skill in every single type of test in the game. It wouldn't be a great idea, but you could do it.
One thing I appreciate: Every skill gives an example of what a 1 success, 2 success, and 3 success result looks like. They talk about what Trait is most commonly used with the skill, give some of the Gifts that most commonly enhance the skill, talk about what the skill is generally used for, and give example Favored Uses. It's a nice, succinct summary of a bunch of broad competences.
covers almost all forms of learning. It is also used for medical science, stellar navigation, research, etc. You roll Academics to see if you remember some relevant technobabble, remember an important historical fact, plot an accurate course through a Rondo (Interestingly, a skilled academic and mathematician doesn't need to be a Conductor to do this, especially on stable routes; Conductors are just better at it and better with exploratory routes), or heal a downed buddy. Instead of trying to guess which of 3 dozen Knowledge skills is actually going to be called for in this adventure, if you have a d8 in Academics and a good Mind (and maybe an Academic career like Engineer or Physician) you'll be generally knowledgeable enough to contribute, which solves a persistent problem with 'lore' skills in RPGs.
covers all kinds of running, jumping, chasing, and swimming. If you're good at Athletics, you're also good at throwing grenades, which is worth remembering. This skill covers almost every general sort of physical competence in the same way Academics covers a wide variety of intellectual subjects. You also need to be a good athlete to handle fighting in unusual conditions. If you find yourself fighting while swimming, or clinging to a rock face, or similar, your Fighting/Shooting/Evasion dice will be 'limited' by your Athletics skill. So say Sergeant Jax the Troodon has a d8 in Athletics, and is trying to gun someone down with one claw while clinging to a rock face with another. None of his shooting dice can be higher than that d8. He'll get the same number of dice, but any d10s and d12s will become d8s. If you want to fight in weird places, be a good athlete.
is used to make stuff and fix stuff. All kinds of stuff. A character who is good at Craft can fix and build almost anything, build their own weird custom weapon enhancements and modifications, and generally do a lot with their hands. Craft is a pretty simple skill in application, but when you need to fix an engine, or save money by building your own assault rifle (or get around the gun laws on your current planet) it's very useful. It's also essential to Scroungetech characters, since their general ability to kitbash stuff out of nowhere is dependent on a Craft check.
is for lying to people. Deceit is often used with Mind if you're trying to come up with a convincing story, or Will if you're trying to lie through your teeth without flinching. Deceit is not the skill for physically sneaking around; that's Evasion. Deceit is for putting on a disguise and looking like you belong; Evasion would be for avoiding the patrols. Obviously very useful for confidence schemes and thief types, it can also be handy for a diplomat or smuggler to be able to lie on demand.
is used to keep yourself going under harsh conditions. If a chase is stretching out into a marathon, you'll be checking Endurance instead of Athletics. If you're trying to see if you'll make it across the diamond desert of Ajax 7 to the famed Oasis bar without collapsing, you'll be rolling Endurance. It's generally useful for surviving rough conditions and long term physical activity, but Endurance is also used for Primitive and Scroungetech characters; they use it to scare up the components needed to make their gear on the fly and recharge their 'have what I need' Gifts. I feel like Endurance is a little redundant with Athletics.
is for evading notice, bullets, and fists. It is an extremely useful skill for any adventurer. Evasion is used to Dodge attacks, which is one of the safest ways to get around someone trying to kill you. You can only benefit from Cover if you Dodge, after all, and Dodges let you evade a shot on a tie. Also, most adventurers like the ability to sneak up on stuff to try to take it by surprise; safest place to start a gunfight is behind someone who doesn't know you're there, with your pistol already aimed at the back of their head! Since you get two very useful and common action/adventure skills for one skill, Evasion is a great investment for almost anyone.
covers absolutely all melee combat. Martial arts, knife fighting, using a rare Sympathetic Resonance Blade, fighting with the spatial-anomaly-on-a-stick that is a Xenharmonic Whip, clubbing someone with a piece of concrete and rebar, that's all Fighting. If you're good at this skill, you can handle yourself in all kinds of brawls; specialized Gifts will just make you better at certain sorts. You can also use Fighting to Counter attacks at close range, defending yourself by attacking instead. This initiates an exchange where whoever wins the test hits the other (and on a tie, you both get hit), so when someone says they'll Counter in response to an attack, something
will happen. As you might imagine, Fighting is a very popular skill with adventurers.
is for trying to convince people to do things, and do them at an advantage to you. Use this skill to try to talk people into letting you go, or talk someone down from a fight. Also use it to negotiate contracts with your employers, or to try to bring Spider Peace so that others know they should not oppose the Empress of All That Is without needing a visit from the gunslinging super spiders. In general, Negotiation uses Mind. If you want to lie a lot during negotiations, you can include your Deceit skill as well, but if you do your opponent gets to include their Questioning skill (if they don't have one, then they're a great target for deceptive negotiations!). The number of successes you'll need to Negotiate with someone will depend on how unreasonable your request is. Trying to get a bureaucrat to get you a license you have all the paperwork for might only require a tie. Trying to get the same bureaucrat to believe you're the lost Imperial Crown Prince of this planet and should have access to all its tax records (even if you are, in fact, the lost prince) sight unseen might take 3.
is another very popular and useful skill, as you might guess from how many Careers included it. It's your general perception skill, which is obviously important for adventurers, who are always hunting for clues, loot, and danger. It's used to oppose attempts to sneak up on you, or to look for useful or interesting details in a scene. Primitive and Scrounge characters also use it with their Endurance to help recharge their 'pull out what I need' Gifts. Observation might be simple, but name me an RPG where 'perception' isn't a useful skill and I'll be very surprised.
is the skill for making an impression. Negotiation is for talking things through over a long period of time. Presence is for when you want to sing a song so beautiful people will talk about it for weeks, or strike the perfect pose after your graceful uppercut just laid out your opponent in the ring. Presence is for when you want to pick out the right fancy space tyrant uniform that tells an independent world they'd better get in line, too. You can also use Presence and proper dramatic posing to scare opponents into submission. Presence is often used with many different stats, depending on what you're trying to do, but Will is the most common for live performances. It takes a lot of guts and confidence to really show off and get into a performance.
is your ability to sense and understand the world beyond this world, and to hear the song of the universe. Note any character can have Psyche; you don't have to be a Conductor, though Conductors get more out of the skill. Psyche is also unusual in that it's the only skill that is sometimes rolled by itself, specifically in cases where someone with no training in the skill has no chance to succeed; if you have no sensitivity to extra dimensional phenomena there's just no way you could see it. You use it to detect when something is wrong with the universe, and Psyche can also be used for combat magic, or included with navigation tests if you're a Conductor. You can also use Psyche to know facts about the mysterious Syndics and their weird space god culture.
is used for asking around the block to see what's going on, or for interrogating a specific individual. If you want to get into space detective work, you will use this skill an awful lot. Being able to go around and find out the local news is always useful for an adventurer, too. Like Observation, it's a fairly simple skill, but one adventurers use all the time. It also helps you oppose active attempts to deceive you, as mentioned in Negotiate.
is exactly like Fighting, but for guns and crossbows and rail cannons and exotic Xenharmonic projectors and plasma rifles. Yes, one skill will cover you for almost all the exotic weapons in the game. Shooting is thus a very useful skill to have if you want to use gun on person to solve puzzles. Just like Fighting, Shooting can be used to Counter people if they're within your gun's threat range and you have ammunition remaining. Yes, you can roll 'shoot first' as your main defensive talent in this space game. Much like Fighting, Shooting is very popular with adventurers.
represents coordination, leadership, and coolness under fire. You use Tactics to come up with a plan, but you also use it to Rally allies who are panicking or confused in combat. You also get to include your Tactics dice (Skill, and Legacy or Career if they grant it) as bonus dice on attack rolls against enemies an ally is threatening. Working together is a skill all its own!
covers every single kind of vehicle. If it drives, crawls, or flies, you can handle it with the Transport skill. Use this to get your small craft through the asteroid field to evade a Remanence cruiser, or to win an exotic hoverbike chase through the forest of
a verdant moon. Also used for making sure you make FTL jumps successfully, so if you're playing a starship crew you're going to really want someone who is good at Transport. Transport also limits your dice when fighting inside an unsecured and moving vehicle (much like Athletics and other wild situations), so if you want to fistfight a space tyrant on top of his war rig, you should probably know how to drive.
As a clarification: Remember that your Legacy/Career skills count exactly like having Skill Marks in a Skill, they're just limited to going up to a d12 at max since they're trait dice. If you have a d10 in Rhax, and you're in a situation that would limit your skills to Athletics, you've effectively got a d10 limit because of your Rhax Trait being included with Athletics.
Next Time: Gifts
Gifted and Talented
Original SA post
Gifted and Talented
Gifts are a big deal, if you've been following the review so far. I described a lot of the Gifts various Careers and Legacies got directly because I wanted to give a good idea of what a Gift does. Gifts are the main form of character advancement and one of the fundamental building blocks of your PC; you'll be gaining Gifts as the story goes, along with extra Skill Marks, but Gifts will be doing the heavy lifting. Want to raise a base stat? That's a Gift of Increased Trait. Want to improve your armor? Gift of Improved Armor. Want to be tougher? Lots of Gifts for that. Want to be a specialist at something, or get in good with a group? Skill Gifts, Insider (Faction), etc are all available.
One thing I like is that skill gifts and faction reputation gifts are absolutely not nickel-and-dime tiny bonuses like they are in something like D&D; if a Gift is only giving you a situational bonus, it will almost always be a d12, which is the die that can theoretically succeed at any sort of hero stuff you want to get up to. Gifts are a big character resource, and so they give big boosts. If a Gift only gives +d8, it usually does something else of use. For instance, the Gift of Strength lets you carry one very heavy item without penalty (like wearing heavy combat armor, or carrying a machine gun). Thus, it's already doing some (very useful) work. Thus it 'only' gives +d8 to Fighting attacks (only Attacks; you cannot claim Strength on Counters) and physical activities relying on your strength. Similar, Cosmopolitan (as seem back in the Cross Cultural Background) gives +d8 to gossip checks, because it's also giving you insurance against social fuckups and letting you identify special faction powers much more easily.
Now, I obviously can't go into every Gift here; there are a goddamn lot of them. I've described the ones I've described so far in detail to give a good idea of what they can do, but we'll instead talk about the various flavors of Gifts you can take and how they interact with character building, we'll talk about the faction Gifts, and we'll talk about how you get new Gifts and generally advance your PC.
One of the big roles for Gifts is specialization. You'll notice the Skills and Traits in the game are very broad and provide a good base of dice. A character who is good at Fighting can do basic attacks with chainsaws, fists, laser knives repurposed from industrial cutters, rebar and concrete warhammers, primitive spears and daggers, elegant Xenharmonic energy whips, you name it. But what if you wanted to be really awesome at martial arts? That's where Gifts come in. I'm going to describe the Brawling 'tree' in detail because A: It's actually really awesome and I really want to play a Bravo some day and B: It's a great example of the differences between a skilled character and a Gifted one. It's also a good example of how you can pick out one or two Gifts from a tree and get a really cool special move or trick even if you don't go all in on it.
The base Brawling Gifts (though none of these Gifts require one another) are the ones you might remember from Bravo, Brawling Threat and Brawling Advantage. Brawling Threat lets you Threaten with Brawling weapons, so you can Counter enemies with your bare hands and provide an opportunity for buddies to include Tactics with their attacks; you're so dangerous as a martial artist that you're always 'armed'. Brawling Advantage gives you an effective extra action a turn to attack with a Brawling weapon (including knuckle-dusters, which you can attach to other melee weapons or pistols and use as a quick, accurate punch with this Gift) but you can still only take the same action once per turn; you may get an extra move to punch or kick someone, but that 'only' opens you up to move further that turn, or Aim (bonus to attack) and then also Guard (bonus to Counter/Dodge) at the same time. This alone can make keeping a knuckle-duster attached to the hilt of your space-saber or whatever worth it, or even the odds a lot when unarmed in a melee.
But what if you want to be even better? Or just want one really cool trick to use with your Fighting skill? You take Brawling Equalizer. This gives you a special Counter you can always declare when you have no weapon (or drop your weapon to do it) where you test Fighting against the enemy's attack at melee range. If you succeed, you inflict some flat damage and hitstun them (all hits generally hitstun, we'll be getting to that in Combat) and take their weapon, kicking it out of their hands or wrestling it away. You can see where either a specialist in martial arts or a character who's just good at Fighting but wants an extra trick might like that option. Especially as that character can Counter even without Brawling Threat. Brawling Finisher makes your Brawling attacks #Finish, a conditional usually reserved for chainsaws, which makes you cause a bunch of extra damage (+2, and for reference, 4 unsaved damage on an attack will knock someone out and out of the fight) when an enemy was already hurt, vulnerable, or otherwise off guard. Brawling Focus lets a character start in a boosted state called Focus (which normally takes spending a turn to achieve, or an exceptional success on Initiative) if they don't fuck up their Initiative roll if they don't draw any weapons. And finally, Wrestling lets you add +2d8 to checks to grapple, strangle people, etc (all special moves are listed as 'Brawling Weapons', so you have things like a weapon rating for Suplexes) and makes any wrestling moves you do make a target Vulnerable. You might notice Brawling Finisher waiting to leap off the top ropes and elbow drop the guy you just rendered Vulnerable with Wrestling.
Now, the gist of this is, getting that whole 'tree' of Gifts costs a lot of character resources. You could start with most them if you were a Bravo who then spent all their Free Gifts on them. And what would you get if you did? A character who can, while mixed up in melee, Aim and Guard at the same time, Counter normally OR Counter to disarm people, render a foe vulnerable and disable some of their ability to fight back with a grapple on one turn and then break their neck or suplex them through a bulkhead on the next, and generally be so dangerous with their bare hands that they can keep up with characters with plasma swords. Any character who is good at Fighting will be solid in a brawl and able to hold their own in fistfighting action scenes. A character with a bunch of Brawling Gifts, though? That kind of character can make their bare hands keep up with space weapons and power armor just fine. This is generally the case with Gift trees for combat or non-combat: Skills and Traits are enough
and you can be cool and good at a thing with those alone. Gifts are major extra powers and awesome tricks you can pull, representing special attacks and big stunts.
There are similar Gift Trees for Exciter weapons, which let you spend lots of heat to make special charged up shots and help you cool your gun. There are special Gifts for fighting with Power Tools (I wish Power Tools had more than 2 Gifts, because 'my power set is chainsaws' is something more games need) that let you make targets vulnerable and really go to town on breaking objects and doors. There are lots of Gifts for being a good leader and rallying allies. There's an entire series of Gifts about panicking and running around wildly, flailing your arms and being comic relief that causes mishaps for enemies and rallying allies with your antics. There are gifts for mastering power armor and exoskeletons. There are Gifts for inspiring yourself by blowing people up with grenades. Two Fisted Gun Tricks where you flank an enemy for yourself with your second gun! Charges, berserking, SERPENTINING, smashing people in the head with a rock so hard their head explodes, if you can think of a cool thing a space adventure hero could do, there's probably a Gift that does it.
There are also entire Gift Trees of secret techniques known only to Insiders (a Gift that grants +d12 to social checks with this faction, and +d12 to defeat their special tricks) for the factions. Metanoic Insiders can summon sentient bark armor and nature-based biological weaponry as the natural world tries to help them defend it, for instance. Rhax Portia Commandos (named for spider-hunting spiders) can combine lots more weaponry together into two-weapon fighting 4 armed attacks than any normal gunslinger (they can use 2 full rifles, or mix melee and ranged). Levelers can master the art of using industrial machinery for murder better than anyone else. Concord heroes can supercharge their science gear and coolant systems and make robots so smart they can see through walls. Remanence characters can do things no-one else can with Xenharmonic weaponry. That kind of thing. There are all kinds of special schticks for either PCs who are really big members of a specific group, or for dastardly Remanence space tyrants to use against them.
Now, as you might be thinking, the 2 Legacy, 2 Career, 2 Upbringing, and 3 Free Gifts you started with don't seem like enough anymore. You want more of these things. How do you get them? You get them through your Goals. You start the game with a Goal you described when you made your PC (Like 'Don't shame my family on my first deployment' or 'Get promoted' or 'Get out of my AMG slave contract') and when you achieve it, you get a Gift chosen to fill in some perceived weakness of your PC. You also get additional goals offered by the Host for the group as you go, with attendant Gift reward. If you accomplish a goal and don't like the Gift that came with it (Say the Gift was Insider with a small independent world you don't intend to be back to much) you can choose to 'Retrain' it and gain 5 EXP instead. You can also later Retrain other Gifts if you want to sell one back for some reason, though you can't Retrain Legacy Gifts.
Now, as for EXP, you need 10 to buy a new Gift (any Gift, though some might require Host approval). You can also buy a Skill Mark for 4 EXP. You gain 2 EXP a session. You get 1 for 'playing your motto', and I hate this. I hate every time a game tries to tie your base mechanical advancement to a subjective measure of whether or not you played your character right. Now to its credit, the player
judges if they should get that EXP point, not the Host, so you won't run into the sorts of issues that can crop up with this sort of thing. I'd rather (if this step is necessary at all) this was given out instead for discussing if you think you played your character true to their concept or feel you have things you could do better, rather than being a binary 'was I true to my concept today or not' pass-fail thing. You get another EXP point for telling the Host how you felt the game went and/or declining to do so, so that's effectively an EXP point a session. I just don't like tying mechanical reward to this kind of thing; suggesting the group have a brief talk about roleplaying and how the story's going and if everyone's happy is a good idea, but I don't think it's necessary to link EXP gain directly to it.
Similarly, I don't like the Goal system being so completely central to advancement. I get the intent; it's to make a more organic and story-tied advancement track for the players, driven by what they try to do. It's also there because some Gifts really aren't worth quite as much as others; Resolve (get Will as an extra damage reduction die) is just plain more valuable than Insider (Random Indep Planetary Government) in most cases, but they didn't want to fiddle around with variable EXP costs and I respect that. Variable EXP costs and diminishing returns often end up straitjacketing characters an awful lot. I just feel the Goal system puts a little too much of character advancement in the hands of the Host. Yes, ideally the Host and players are in communication over character development and they're tailoring what Gift people get from adventures to be something that fits their concept and that the player wants and that fits the level of challenge involved in the Goal, but I'd have rather had a little more general EXP and left Goals as an extra 'arc bonus' sort of thing rather than the core of the advancement system. Yes, you can retrain Goal Gifts you don't like, but that's also effectively halving your EXP rate.
Also, from a simple writing point of view, I'd have liked to have seen more examples of Gifts being personalized from big Goals in the example writing in this section, because the one example given is 'Everyone gets Veteran (+d12 instead of +d8 for Aiming and Guarding, a great base 'I am a professional fighter' Gift), except people who already have it, who get a Gift that required Veteran instead'. That gives the impression you're not supposed to personalize Gifts beyond if someone already meets the pre-reqs, which I'm fairly sure isn't the actual intent of the system because that would risk homogenizing a group based on their adventures a lot more than I'd expect.
Next Time: Alright, a lot of this will make more sense when I tell you how to kill people with a chainsaw
Meet fascinating lifeforms, then kill them
Original SA post
Meet fascinating lifeforms, then kill them
So, combat is the most complex part of Cardinal, as it is with most RPGs. There can be an awful lot to keep track of in combat, even moreso than in Ironclaw, which was already pretty hefty. This is because Myriad Song really loves conditional effects and status conditions. A lot. Let's start with the basics first. I should also mention the little comic for the combat section is probably my favorite silly art in the book. It's a hardboiled sci-fi noir detective trying to rescue 'her' from being held hostage by a probable Aparrat agent as he goes to a seedy weapon shop, haggles with the owner, and wanders a gritty arcology. He ends up in a brutal gunfight with the doublecrossing Aparrat synth, and then rescues his precious, adorable little fluffy space pet; that was the hostage. He'll also be one of the book's sample PCs.
First, when a fight starts, people roll Initiative. This isn't to determine who goes first! This is to determine who was ready for a fight, hence why Danger Sense adds +d12 to this. Init is Speed+Mind, both rolled vs. a TN determined by how surprised you are by combat. Even if you were completely off-guard and taken by surprised by a sniper in the dark from 300m away, you still get a TN of 7, so d8s or better (or that d12 from Danger Sense) can still get you out of trouble on an 8 or better. Usually, if you knew a fight might be coming (you've been talking things up and people have been starting to put their hands near their holsters) you roll vs. 3. If you're not expecting a fight but not completely off guard (someone draws down on you in a double-cross during a business deal; you knew they were there but you didn't expect the gun to come out) you roll vs. 5. If you get at least one success, you can draw your sword or gun for free and be armed and ready as the fight starts. If you get 2 successes or more, you draw your weapon of choice and Focus immediately. We'll get to Focus. It's real good. If you get 0 successes, you don't have time to draw a weapon. If you get all 1s, you fuck up bad and are also sent Reeling. You'll get real familiar with Reeling in time.
Note that as Init is rolled against a TN, you can Rote it to automatically get 1 success if your two dice maximized would've beaten the TN. And with a max TN of 7, someone with Speed d8 and Mind d8 (or a d8 in either and Danger Sense) can always skip rolling Init and just declare they're drawing their weapon. They only have to roll if they want the chance to start Focused.
Whoever initiated combat goes first. That means if you let the space mobster sitting across from you draw his blaster and don't
shoot him first under the table, he's going to go before you no matter how many cool quickdraw tricks you know. If you absolutely know things are going to go to combat, it can be worth it to shoot first. You take turns as a side, too, so you go 'player's side' and then 'enemy side' (and maybe a third side if things are really complicated). Players move in the order they wish, as do enemies. So if you want one character to set something up and another to finish it, you can order your turns that way.
When you're in a fight and it's your turn, you first choose if you're going to act or you're going to Focus. A combatant who is Focusing is studying the fight around them and trying to find openings. They might also be charging their magic or bigger tricks; plenty of Gifts can be 'recharged' by spending Focus. You have to give up your entire turn to gain Focus, but a Focused character can take a single action as an interrupt at any time. If they don't end up doing so, they instead get an extra action on their next turn. If you're going to act, you get 2 actions. You cannot take the same action twice in one turn! So while Attack uses the same action cost as Guard or Aim or whatever, I cannot Attack and then Attack despite having two actions. This also applies if you have a Focus turn, or a Gift that's letting you take a free extra action of some kind. So our expert Brawler from the Gifts chapter who gets an extra free attack with a Brawling weapon can't attack twice in one turn. They can instead Aim, then Move, then Attack, or Aim and Guard and then Attack, or Rally a buddy and then Aim and Attack, etc.
We should also talk about Reeling immediately, because it's a really important part of combat. When you perform a huge stunt, or fire a particularly heavy weapon, or take a hit (even if you take no damage) you're sent Reeling. Reeling gives all foes a +d8 Concealment bonus against you and effectively stops you Counter-attacking until you're cured of it. It also ends your turn immediately. If something you do during your turn causes you to go Reeling (say you were snapping off a shot before running to a position where you were out of an enemy's line of fire and got hit by their counter) your turn ends, no matter how many actions you had left. On your next turn, one of your actions has to be Recovering and shaking off the Reeling effect. No matter how many times you take a hit, one Recover will get you back out of the Reeling hitstun.
You move by spending an action to Dash. You move up to 1/2 your Speed die (+1m if your Body is higher than your Speed) in a straight line, then can Stride an extra meter (or more, if you have Gifts that make you Stride/Dash further) in any direction. You can't Dash twice, because you can only do each action once a turn, but there are other movement options: You can Stride again if you only need to move a little further. You can Scramble by rolling your Body and Speed and any other dice that you get from Gifts, picking a die result, and moving that many meters. You can also Run, but that's a Stunt; we'll get to those. Stunts take only a single action, but immediately send you Reeling because they're the kind of thing that takes you off-guard. Best to do them as your second action for the turn. As you might notice, characters in Myriad Song don't move that fast by default; this is one of the reasons Rondo magic is very powerful. Being able to just bamf 10m to any location (and even further with other Gifts) or being able to reach out and drag a 100m away rifleman directly into melee with you through a portal are really big positional advantages.
You can Aim and Guard as an action. Aim adds d8 (d12 if you have Gift of Veteran) to your attack against a specific target, which is a substantial bonus. Guarding adds d8 (d12 with Veteran) to every defense you roll until your next turn. That includes Counters! If you're a really skilled character, running into a group of enemies and declaring you're Guarding and trying to counter them all to death is a viable option.
You can Control vehicles or pets as an action, too, giving them orders. This is also used to control some particularly huge guns. This is pretty clearly here to prevent having a pet from destroying the action economy, which is an important concern.
You can Equip an item (and put another item away at the same time). This same action is used to reload your weapons. Drawing Hidden weapons without something like the Sleight of Hand gift is a Stunt rather than an action; it takes time to grab your hidden knife from deep inside your coat.
You can also Rally allies with Will+Tactics (and +d12 if you have Leadership). Rallying helps you get rid of status effects (like being rendered Vulnerable), and helps you to cure the nasty Panicked condition. Characters get Panicked when they take more than one damage in a single blow, and it stops them from initiating attacks until it's cured. Panicked characters also cannot, themselves, Rally others unless they have the Gift of Comic Relief. Usually, if every enemy is Panicked, they'll run or surrender and the fight will end. Rallying is really important. A skilled Leader can also grant others Focus with Rally. Note that Rally also suffers range penalties; it's harder to yell at someone to get back in it when you're 30m away.
You can also Recharge a gift that requires an Action to recharge. There are a lot of Gifts that effectively 'bank' an extra action (like Rapid Aim, which lets you Aim without spending an action, but exhausts the Gift to do it, then you can recharge it with this action), or that represent a sort of special attack that you could easily ready again with a little effort. Note that Troodon can get Troodon Scream, which lets them Recharge a Gift as a free action if they roar/scream loud enough to sound like a gunshot. Also note 'only one of each action a turn' applies to Recharging. You can only spend 1 action Recharging a round.
You can also just Stand Up if you'd been knocked over. If you have the Gift of Acrobat, you can get up for free.
Then you have Stunts. As noted, Stunts are big moves that send you Reeling. Some Gifts will make a Stunt into a normal action, like how Doctors can bandage downed/hurt allies as a simple Action instead of a Stunt.
Drawing a Concealed weapon is a Stunt, as noted. Diving for cover with Hide is a stunt. If you successfully Hide, you improve any cover and concealment you're hiding in, and also probably break line of sight. Managing to get out of Line of Sight of all attackers will let you recover from being Panicked on your own, without needing to be Rallied, so crawling into a foxhole and hiding for a second can let you recover from taking a bullet and throw yourself back into the fight. Focused combatants have a chance to detect hidden characters!
First Aid lets you try to save a dying ally. If an ally took a hit that put them in Dying, they're down and bleeding out and need help. They might survive and stabilize on their own, but getting them medical attention is much safer. If you succeed at Mind+Academics vs. TN 3, you get them to stop checking to bleed out and immediately make their survival roll a lot easier.
If you Run, you move the max you could roll on Body+Speed and then your Dash. Note that if you're Burdened by carrying too much gear without the Strength to bear it, your Dash drops to 0. So your Run will also be slower. Then you're sent Reeling.
You can Reason with people to either force them to take a Focus Turn as they pause and think about attacking you further, or to knock them out of being berserk, or to get someone out of the much more serious Terrified effect and back to Panicked. Terrified is much harder to remove, you see, and immediately forces someone to flee, not just pause.
You can try to Scare multiple targets with Body, Will, and Presence, trying to give them Panicked or turn Panicked to Terrified. If you get 2 or more successes vs. their Body, Will and Presence, you can keep sweeping to and trying to frighten another target. If you recall that a fight often ends if all enemies are Panicked, this can be really effective if you're a scary, charismatic character.
You can try to Steal items off an enemy with Deceit and Speed vs. their Speed, Mind, and Observation if they're holding the thing, or TN 3 if they're not. As you might notice you're a little at a disadvantage to swipe someone's pistol out of their hand. If you have Sleight of Hand, Steal is just a normal action. Thieves can totally run around a battle stealing peoples' weapons.
You can also Taunt enemies or Trick them, trying to give them Enraged or Confused and get them to come after you, or trying to steal their Focus. There's actually a lot of social and thieving stuff you can pull in combat.
Also, anything else that's a really big, non-standard action could be ruled a stunt.
Now that we've got the base Actions out of the way, let's talk how you hit people. On an Attack, you strike out at an enemy with the dice your weapon says you should use. So say a fearless punch captain, Gellin Solan, is trying to punch someone with a Knuckleduster. It says it uses Will, Body, and Speed plus his Fighting skill. He thus rolls those trait dice, plus his Fighting skill and any Career/Legacy dice that would go with that for his attack roll. If an ally threatens his enemy, too, he also adds his Tactics dice from skill/Legacy/Career. If he Aimed or had other situational or Gift modifiers, he adds those in too. Most weapons use multiple traits! His target then declares if they're Dodging or, if they have a weapon equipped that Threatens, they want to Counter. If they're Dodging, they can claim Cover and Concealment against his attack if there's any nearby, rolling Evasion+Speed+any bonuses+any cover+any concealment. If they're Countering, they roll their own weapon dice against the attack and whoever wins gets hit. This means on a Counter, something
is always going to happen. If you get a tie on a Dodge, the defender can retreat up to their Stride into cover or behind an ally or raise a shield (if they have one) to make the attack miss and win the tie. Otherwise, if they're in the open, they get hit.
Note on Counters: You CANNOT Counter against someone who can claim any degree of Concealment against you. Someone shooting you from a bush has an advantage. Similarly, since if you're Reeling everyone gets a d8 Concealment bonus against you (you can't make them out properly) you can't Counter while Reeling! Hitstunning someone can let your buddies pile on the attacks without worrying about return fire. You can otherwise Counter as many times as you're attacked during a round, but ONLY if you threaten someone. Most weapons Threaten shorter than they Strike; a carbine can shoot out to Long (100m) but can only Threaten and Counter at Medium (30m), for instance. Also note you drop all range dice if you're Countering. Enemies only get to include Range penalties with their Dodge, never their Counter. If you're in a Medium range carbine gunfight where you're exchanging Counters, no-one's using the range bonus to defend.
If you get hit, you take damage. Weapons usually do +X damage, where X is their base and then they do an extra point per success (die that beat the defender's highest showing die). You don't have HP in Myriad Song. Instead, you have Soak. Soak is based on your armor and Body, plus your Will if you have the Gift of Resolve. You roll your Soak dice vs. TN 3. Every success blocks 1 point of damage. Even if you take 0 damage from an attack, you still get sent Reeling. You can also have Invulnerability from heavy armor, which just outright negates points of damage. If you suffer 1 unsaved point of damage after Soaking, you get Hurt. 2 and you get Hurt and Panicked. 3 and you get Injured and Panicked. 4 and you're Dying and Panicked (and down). 5 and you're Dead. 6 and you're Overkilled, which not only destroys your gear and kills you, but Panics all of your allies within 3m as pieces fly everywhere. PCs get Combat Save and can buy additional other Saving gifts that can negate deathblows; minor characters can't. If you're Hurt, you suffer +1 damage on further hits since you're already hurt. If you're Injured, you suffer +2, making dying way more likely. It is, despite this, a fair bit harder to die outright than you'd think. Lots of foes will stop focusing on you if you're Panicking and can't directly attack (especially as Panicked characters can still Counter) and you'll often have time to run. Most fights end with one side with a few dead and the rest Panicking. Also note you can't get, say, Double Hurt. If you're Hurt and an attack would Hurt you again, it doesn't do anything.
God, that was a lot. And there's even more coming with gear!
Next Time: Suplex is a Weapon
Galaxy of Guns
Original SA post
Galaxy of Guns
Of all the games I've covered, I think Myriad Song has the biggest emphasis on equipment. Yes, WH40KRP was full of gear tables, but that was always the matter of selecting the one or two broken as fuck superweapons listed on said table and then using those, because there weren't actually many mechanical levers for differentiating equipment and also those games were badly balanced trash mechanically.
Equipment in MS is both good and bad. On one hand, the gear types all have a mechanically distinct reason to exist and you can make an effective character using any of them. That's good! There's only one or two kind of iffy weapons overall, which is even better. There's an enormous, enormous number of tags and conditionals to sort through, though, which is on one hand okay, but on the other a little nuts. You'll want to get familiar with what you use and what its fiddly bits do but if you try to memorize the entire gear list you will go mad. Many of these tags and conditionals just tell you if an item counts for various specific equipment Gifts. Some of them are the vast array of 'If this condition, then +2 damage'; these are all marked with a convenient #. For instance, every #Warp weapon causes +2 damage against targets that aren't either Conductors or wearing Xenharmonic armor. A #Poison weapon causes +2 against any living target that isn't immune to poison. Etc.
Some weapons are Flat, Weak, or Slaying in damage. Normally, a weapon has base damage, then adds Successes as damage points. A Flat weapon just has a flat damage number and doesn't care about successes. A Weak weapon lets your target double their soak (including doubling any Invulnerability ranks); lots of Weak weapons actually have very high damage but won't get to use it effectively against tough targets due to the doubled DR. A Slaying weapon often has very low base damage, but counts each success as 2 successes, and thus 2 damage. Slaying weapons tend to be high caliber and crazy murderous, but limited in some way, and rely on good attack rolls. Weapons can also be Penetrating: If so, enemies don't get to include their Armor in Soak, and any ranks of Invulnerability stop being automatic Soak successes and become Armor dice instead.
Many guns have Capacity. You don't track individual bullets in Myriad Song, just reloads. Guns can have 3 states on the matter: High Cap, Low Cap, and 1 shot. A High Cap weapon used to Attack or Counter without using the Gift of Bullet Conservation (which will also also turn the weapon's damage Flat, making it less dangerous) becomes Low Cap, while a Low Cap or 1 Shot weapon becomes Empty and needs reloading. A Low Cap weapon could still be rapid fire, and used for Gifts that require that, but effectively it means you usually get 2 full attacks per reload for the average high cap gun or 1 for low cap guns like magnums.
Other items have Overheating. They start out at a state of Cool, and then when used, become Hot. When used again while hot, they Overheat and stop functioning until they cool off. This is common for energy weapons, but also some energy shield armors, who will have Invulnerability conditional on their heat state. Lots of Exciter Gifts will instantly take your energy weapon from Cool to Overheat in exchange for doing some cool charged attack. Items with Overheat get a cool-down die that they roll at the end of every round. If it gets a 4+, the item cools from Overheated to Hot, or Hot to Cool. Essentially, you reload these weapons slower, and by RNG. Some Gifts and add-on gear can help cool this stuff faster, as can being a Concord hero with their secret heat venting techniques.
Other items Breakdown. These have a die roll that you roll every time you use the item. If any of the Breakdown dice for an item come up 1, the item breaks down, ceasing to function and needing repair. This is really common with Scrounged weapons and armor.
Other items work on Decay. Decay items have a die roll to make just like a Breakdown item, but if they get a 1, the item fails to function and the Decay die drops one size for future uses. If Decay ever drops below d4, the item breaks. Repairing the item will restore the Decay dice.
Some REALLY unreliable items have a Backfire die. If this ever hits a 1, the item explodes in your hands, leaving you Reeling (obviously) and on fire. Being on fire is very distracting, and not good. Being on fire inflicts a Flat 2 damage on you every turn until it stops causing new damage effects or someone sprays you with a fire extinguisher. If you're Fireproof (from armor or something), Burning never happens.
This is also where we get into the difference between a weapon's Strike range and its Sweep and Threat ranges. If you're using a weapon that has exceptional rapid fire or that sweeps through multiple targets on a swing, it will have Sweep range listed. That weapon can potentially attack multiple targets at that range. That range is usually way shorter than the weapon's actual Strike distance, which is the longest range where it can effectively make a targeted attack. Similar, weapons have Threat ranges; within this range the weapon Threatens and so lets your allies use their Tactics dice against a target you're Threatening and lets you declare Counters if you'd prefer them to Dodges. So your Carbine might be able to shoot out to Long range (100m), but only Threaten at Medium (30m), and only be able to Sweep at Short (10m). If you Sweep a target, the new target has to be within Sweep range of both you, and the initial target. So if I'm using that Carbine, my second target has to be within 10m of me, but also 10m of my original target. I can keep Sweeping as long as I can keep hitting new targets; you can't hit the same target twice in one Sweep. All those targets can
shoot back if they threaten you, so you might expose yourself to a lot of danger. Sweeping only uses one attack's worth of ammo or heat, but you DO roll Function Dice (Breakdown/Decay/Backfire) for every target, meaning you're at bigger risk of your gun breaking down if that was a problem. Also, if you Aimed, you only get the Aim bonus vs. Target 1.
Also note: Almost any time you attack multiple targets in Myriad Song, all of them are eligible to shoot back if they have the means. AoE space magic or Blast weapons can expose you to a lot of counter fire. Be careful. Splash weapons, on the other hand, do not. The splash damage tends to be low and flat, the AoE is usually small, but your additional targets can't shoot you (they can still dodge it, though). Your Splash doesn't happen at all if you miss your initial target, though. Blast, Splash and AoE attacks usually have you roll once to attack, and then everyone you're targeting rolls against that attack roll. If you rolled great, a lot of people are probably getting wrecked. If you rolled low, ONE of those guys is probably going to shoot you.
Ranges also impose a Dodge bonus for your target, since they're a penalty for you. Close (1m) and Near (3m) don't have any range dice. Short (10m) is a d8. Medium (30m) is a d12. Long (100m) is 2d12. Very Long (300m) is 3d12. Extreme is only possible with very powerful scopes and specific weapons or powers, and is both 1000m, and 4d12 Range penalty. Horizon shooting is limited by the curvature of the planet and will almost never come up, and is 5d12. As you can see, ranged penalties go up quick. But remember, you don't suffer any range penalty if your target shoots back with a Counter.
Finally note a lot of this stuff is illegal. Proscribed items like military rifles or silenced pistols are hard to get, and require you to either have a permit or to keep them hidden on more developed planets.
As for the actual weapons, Brawling weapons are mostly Weak, but you can use them with no weapons, they often use a lot of Trait dice (more Trait dice are always, always better for you), and they can do some nice stuff with grappling and forced movement. They vary a lot in handedness, with attacks like Brutalize being the 'I'm using my whole body to fight' 2H move (Damage +2 Weak, Body, Will, Speed, Fighting) while punches and headbutts are useable while you're carrying something else (and are weaker for it), and if you've managed to inflict Grappled on someone (by hitting them with an attack that Grapples) they are limited to hitting you back with the fairly weak Break Free attack or hoping a buddy knocks you Reeling. You also Threaten against Break Free even if you don't have Brawling Threat. Once someone's grappled, you can also Squeeze (which, while Weak, is Penetrating. Choking people out/breaking their neck is a viable way for a martial artist to defeat heavy armor) or Suplex them. The Suplex is the most powerful Brawling attack at Damage+3 Weak and also knocks them over. I really just wanted an excuse to describe that attack. Brawling is mostly for desperate situations or less lethal combat, but it's a hell of a trick set if you've invested in it and it'll still hitstun a guy if nothing else.
Standard melee weapons are mostly just solid, basic, damage 1-2 weapons that use a variety of traits. Blunt usually use Will+Body, fast weapons are usually Body+Speed. Brutal weapons like axes are often just Body+Fighting, but have #Critical, which does +2 damage if you already got 2 Successes or more. Simple, cheap, widely available; modern melee weapons and fighting knives are good backups for any PC.
Scrounged melee and ranged weapons get at Scroungetech's problems: It does Flat damage unless you have a Gift (Scrounge Overload) which, when used, makes it roll 2x as many Breakdown dice. This gives you two chances to roll a 1 and break your item. They also usually only include a single Trait+Skill. Why would you ever use these? Because you can pull them out of goddamn nowhere in the middle of a secured area, prison cell, or derelict space station. Not only that, when you do, they often come with Modifications that will make them stronger (and that may be even more illegal and unsafe). There's something to be said for a character who can build a fully automatic Gatling magnetic nail-rifle with a jury-rigged smart scope out of the junk they pulled apart from a zero G toilet and a shaving kit.
Normal guns are just that. Most of them are cheap, solid workhorses. Shotguns do slightly better damage in close with #Nearby but have poorer normal damage, rifles can't counter but are #Critical, Carbines are a good mid-range long-gun, pistols are the solid backup every adventurer wants, and the Magnum is a solid sidearm for any gunslinger. Most guns use Speed+Mind. Smaller, weaker Holdout guns have shorter ranges and less damage, but include Will. Actual Military guns have automatic fire and thus get Sweep Short (or Sweep Medium, for automatic rifles), but they're illegal unless you have a good reason to be toting one. There's also a heavy Machine Gun and an Autocannon, which both impose a Burden on the user. If you don't have a rank of Strength for each Burden you carry, carrying one will limit your movement/dodging dice to d8s and remove your Dash. The Machine Gun is one of the weird outlier weapons. It does damage +4. That means a base hit threatens 'Dead' instantly, which is a fair bit above most weapons in the game. I always suspected it was meant to be Heavy (Shooting it makes you go Reeling) but I can't find it if it is. The Autocannon does more reasonable damage (+2, like most rifle weapons) but also renders targets Vulnerable.
You might also have various natural weapons and tricks from your Legacy. All Legacy weapons use your Legacy dice, plus others. Most of these take actions to recharge. Two do not, and they're both very powerful. Towser Claws are one of the most powerful melee weapons in the game (possibly a bit much, I consider them one of the outliers) at Penetrating+1, Vulnerable. Adhallian Blades (remember the birbs?) are one of the few melee weapons that Sweeps Close targets, and do +0 damage, but with #Critical and using Will, Body, Speed, Legacy, AND Fighting. The birb blade tail is a little nuts, too, potentially.
Primitive Weapons are all Weak, but have huge base damages and have ways to get even stronger via their Gifts. If someone's hitting you with 5+Successes AND they're taking +3 damage for breaking their club on your head, it might not matter that you get double soak. Like Scrounged weapons, Primitives have lots of ways to just pull out their knives and bows in the middle of nowhere, or while in prison, at no cost. Person who knows how to kill a person in power armor with a rock to the head is due respect. You show them respect.
Power Tools tend to have low base damage, use a lot of traits, make a LOT of noise (you're not sneaking up on someone with a chainsaw), and have #Finish. The thermal cutter ones have cooldown dice, but will also turbofuck anyone who isn't Fireproof with #Scorch and #Critical AND #Finish. You get a good roll in with a thermal lance cutter on a guy who was already vulnerable and not wearing heat resistant gear, they are fucking dead.
This is getting a bit long, so I'm going to handle the rest in another post.
Next Time: There are so many goddamn guns. Also, armor.
Outfitted for success!
Original SA post
Outfitted for success!
So! Exotic Weapons are any weapons that don't really have their own Gift tree and don't really fit another category. These are weird weapons like Zero G/vacuum air rifles, or heavy modern crossbows for silent sniping. Or the actual Railgun, which is basically an even longer range sniper rifle that needs Strength to lug it around properly. There's also an extremely illegal chainsaw launcher called a Rive Bow. Why would you build a chainsaw launcher, Myriad Peoples? Why? It's really effective, at least. Like a crossbow, except very loud, because of the chainsaws.
Then there's the utter fucking insanity of Hypergolic weapons. These are essentially rocket-fuel flamers. These are the signature weapons of the Solar Creed's Heliotrope shock troops. They're fairly powerful Sweep weapons that get a Gift tree based around turning them into single target weapons instead, and focusing the hypergolic reaction to set foes on fire or asphyxiate them if they don't have an airtight environmental suit. As it is, the weapons do roughly rifle or pistol damage, but get #Scorch, so they hurt people without Fireproof armor really bad. Unfortunately for them, fireproof armor is reasonably common. Heavy military armor will defeat both #Smother and #Scorch in most cases. Hypergolics also have Decay dice rather than ammo. They use so little actual fuel to produce what they produce that fuel reloads aren't the problem. The fact that you're igniting fucking rocket fuel in a pressurized chamber and venting it out in 100m arcs is the problem. The guns burn out, literally.
There's also a ton of grenades. They do everything from stunning people to dispersing teargas to blowing people up. Grenades aren't the most lethal weapons in the game, but with Panic and Reeling you can leave whole groups stunned and looking for a way out of a fight. There's also lots of Gifts that make explosives better, including one great one where any time you blow at least 3 people up you get to Recharge another Gift free because it reminds you of how great life is. There are also microjet and cone rifles and pistols, which fire mini-rockets and act like a cross between a conventional firearm and a grenade launcher, and a Grenade Launcher if you need to put grenades on targets at very long range. Thrown grenades use Athletics, while the launcher is a normal Shooting weapon. Blowing people up is an effective way to fight.
Exciter Weapons are extremely powerful. They are the main source of Slaying damage, but remember the overheat rules; someone with Bullet Conservation snapping off single shots can Counter a ton of mooks before running low, but even someone with the anti-Overheat Gift (which lets them roll to cool the weapon each time it gains heat AND at the end of their turn, instead of just at the end of their turn) runs the risk of their gun getting burning hot and shutting down in their hands. They're also all rare and reasonably hard to get except the basic Ray Pistol, which the Concord goddamn loves and gives to every science hero they turn out. These guns do more overall single target damage than any other weapon in the game, and generally remind me of blackpowder firearms in Ironclaw. They don't have great range, though, and only the full Plasma Cannon can Sweep. There's also a plasma blade for a Slaying melee weapon that uses Body, Mind, AND Speed, and a sweet physical sword with a plasma edge that loses the Slaying but gains Penetrating and Sweeps Near (so out to 3m). RULES OF NATURE optional.
Xenharmonic Weapons are really interesting. These are the actual weapons left by the Syndics for their Remanence servants, and they are handy weaponized space magic that works by disrupting physical law and producing a Xenharmonic Wave. The Concord and Solar Creed worry that destructive Xenharmonic Waves are actually polluting the very concept of spacetime and may eventually destroy the universe, but they would say that, given how much both groups hate Syndic tech. In practice, Xenharmonic Weapons come in whip, blade, carbine, pistol, and rifle form. They all use Body+Mind for the melee weapons, and Speed+Mind for the guns. They all do 1-2 Flat damage, but all have #Warp (+2 damage if the target is neither a Conductor nor wearing Xenharmonic armor) and render the target Vulnerable, plus the Gift tree for Xenharmonics lets them do stuff like trade damage to make the gun or blade AoE. The blade and whip also both strike out to 3m, and the whip counters out to there, too. They also never, ever run out of ammo or cease functioning. Amusingly, a Giant character (A Gift that gives you +1 range bands of melee reach and the ability to carry a Burden, because you're huge) with a Xenharmonic whip can melee out to 10m due to how the range bands work, which is great. Xenharmonics probably won't kill your target on shot 1, but they definitely set them up to die on shot 2 and they have a lot of neat tricks you can play with. Also, anyone can use one; don't need no space magic ability.
There's also a ton of illegal special ammos you can use in normal firearms (and bows, and railguns, and anything that fires a projectile) that are very expensive, but pretty effective. AP rounds, high pressure rounds to add #Critical but risk breaking the gun, HE rounds that add Splash, guided rockets, incendiaries, all kinds of things. Being able to use all these special ammunition types is another point in favor of non-energy weapons. If you really try, you can find someone who will sell you a high explosive chainsaw for your chainsaw launcher crossbow.
There are also a ton of weapon mod kits you can add to your guns and blades. Many are very illegal! These range from simple bayonets to underslung rayguns and grenade launchers to putting knuckledusters on your pistol or sword to give you a punching option. You want to turn your pistol into a gatling pistol? You can! You'll need a Control action to fire it, but you can make it suddenly have a +2d8 to hit and Sweep Near where it never swept before! You want to make your Magnum into an insane manstopper? Give it a Large Bore (-1 base damage, becomes Slaying) and sure, you'll only get 1 shot, but when you shoot someone with Damage+1 Slaying #Critical, they'll feel that one shot. Special sights, scopes, full auto conversions, you name it, it probably causes -1 damage and makes the weapon risk breaking down while doing what you want.
Next comes one of the game's real mechanical innovations, an idea I really like. Instead of normal Armor, you equip an Outfit. Your Outfit isn't just your armor, though it does provide armor in most cases. Your Outfit is all the incidental gear that usually clutters up every RPG's gear section and never gets used. So say I have an Engineer's suit from my Manufacturing Loadout when I'm playing a combat engineer. That gives d6 Armor, equivalent to light combat armor and perfectly okay for the average adventurer. It also gives 'Repair d8 and Sabotage d8' and has the Fireproof tag. That means the Outfit makes you immune to #Scorch and Burning, and gives a +d8 die to repair work, explosives handling, and stuff like that for all the tools and misc. gear you're carrying in your dozens of pockets and toolkits. All without having to have dozens of incidental items in the section. This is a great way to handle this and to mechanically distinguish a bunch of this gear.
A lot of heavier combat armor is a Burden, of course. Some armor is also an Exoskeleton. Interestingly, Exoskeleton powered outfits are not the best pure damage reduction outfits. They're okay at it, but you really wear one for the utility and exoskeleton systems, which get their own series of Gifts to improve your function in these artificial muscle suits. There's also plenty of armor that grants Invulnerability on a conditional; for instance, the Excitoplex series of armors grant guaranteed soak successes, but at cost of using the Overheat system. Better hope you don't take too many bullets in too short a time or your shields will burn out! Other, more ablative outfits have Decay or Breakdown, which means not only does the Invulnerability sometimes fail you, but in the case of Decay outfits it gets less reliable until the armor breaks entirely. I also love the little detail that the Xenharmonic outfits A: Eventually make you Fireproof through being able to say fuck you to thermodynamics and B: Look like fancy space tyrant uniforms.
All Outfits that provide armor dice provide d6s, which is a huge change from Ironclaw. To improve your Armor Dice, you need the Gift of Improved Armor, which improves all Armor dice one size per Gift. No armor provides more than 2 Invulnerability or 3 armor dice. Most of the top end armors top out at 2d6 armor and then a bunch of utility abilities. You can wear armor made of Towser hide and fur if you are an awful person and it will be very effective and dense. Why are you wearing skinned pastel dogmen. What is wrong with you. Still, the Outfit system is a great idea in place of a conventional armor system and adds a lot of flavor and mechanical distinction to picking out your cool gear.
In general, gear is mostly balanced. There are dozens of items, sure, but they all actually do different things and have a role or reason to exist or enable a certain archetype or power set. You want to be a hard-working combat engineer in an industrial exoskeleton fighting with a bunch of bulkhead breachers? You can do it. Elegant space tyrant with a fancy uniform that shields them with space-time distortions and a space magic song-blade? Doable, and mechanically useful. Normal space marine (not Space Marine) with an armored spacesuit and a hand crafted custom automatic shotgun? Go ahead. The gear enables a lot of variation in characters and mechanics, so I can't really say I'd cut it down. There's just a lot of it.
Next Time: Buying, Selling, Misc
Make a Note of it
Original SA post
Make a Note of it
One of the key pillars of Remanence relevance is their control of the galactic reserve currency, the Monetary Note (Obviously, its symbol is a cute little eighth note). These were originally printed on xenharmonic coins by the Syndics themselves, and I'd imagine those ancient coins would fetch a good sum as collectors' items nowadays. Now, Notes are printed on fiber-optic paper with encoded patterns to deter counterfeiting (they do not wholly prevent it), and are generally agreed upon to be worth one day's minimum wage labor. A single Note is actually a fair bit of money, though PCs will obviously earn quite a bit more than a Note a day when they get to work adventuring. The Note is accepted almost everywhere in the galaxy, and the Remanence knows their control of the main form of intergalactic money is a big deal, ensuring that monetary policy is (mostly) carried out with care to prevent rampant fluctuations in the value of their currency. The Note is, of course, filthy fiat currency because backing your currency to a direct commodity is a silly idea for goldbugs and the value of all money is an agreed upon social construct as it is.
Scrip is issued as local currency on many worlds, or small unions of worlds. It never really replaces the Note, and people will still take Notes everywhere, but you can do business just fine in local money as long as you stay within a cluster or a gravity well. A common scam is promising migrant workers a lot of money to come and work a mining or agri colony, then paying them only in scrip rather than Notes, which Cavalcade operators and spacers usually won't take. That gets them stuck on world, where the only person who'll take their scrip is the 'company store', so to speak, which then leads to a life as an indentured sharecropper or miner. Hello, AMG, you absolute dicks.
Both the Concord and the Solar Creed have tried to make their own currencies to surpass the Syndics. Both of them base and back their currency on power generation, which seems like kind of a stupid idea in a setting where power generation is so easy and electricity is such a common commodity that waste-heat venting is a bigger concern than power production. The Concord is just so sure everyone will eventually see the Remanence fiat money is illogical next to their commodity backed, rational 'one Masey is worth 10 liters of boiling water!' currency, and that this will produce a reliable currency that isn't subject to market forces at all! Oh, Concord, you lovable scamps. At least they don't mine bitcoin. Both the Concord Masey and the Creed Sol aren't considered particularly valuable, with an exchange rate of 100 of either to 1 Note. The Creed doesn't especially care, as they mostly only use money as a marker and focus much more on the 10 year, 100 year, and 1000 year plans of the Plenipotentiary for the distribution and production of commodities.
Now, one of the issues in game is that items have a listed Note cost, but also a signifier: Are they Cheap, Affordable, Expensive, or Extravagant? Cheap items are usually so cheap they're disposable, and can usually be scavenged instead of bought. Affordable items are easy to buy off the rack, and players can start with as many Affordable items as they want. If you want a fire axe to hit people with on top of whatever gear you started out with, take it. Expensive items take actual shopping trips to find and buy at a reasonable price, and usually cost more than 10 Notes. Extravagant items are commissioned to order. These are things like advanced power suits, or Xenharmonic Fortissimo combat armor, or Hypergolic Pistols. These often cost over 100 Notes. Rare items generally cost twice as much (they'll note if they're Rare, and the Host may declare a Rare item common on specific worlds that manufacture it, or a common item Rare if you're someplace it would be hard to find).
Also, you can always sell used gear for 20% of its cost (30% if you have Haggle), but illegal gear goes for only 5% and takes a lot of effort to sell, unless you're a Black Marketeer, in which case you get 10% and can sell it much more easily (and buy it much cheaper). You can also make your own gear, which is actually one of the better ways to get expensive stuff and another reason Craft is really useful. You pay out 20% of the value to pick up the materials you need, then roll Mind+Craft (Or Body, or Speed, or even Will, depending on what the Host rules you're trying to work with. Heavy physical labor uses Body, technical work Mind, fine detailing Speed, and extremely unpleasant work Will) vs. 3. You get any relevant Gift bonuses, plus any Outfit bonus for having the right tools for the job, plus an extra d8 if you have a full, proper workshop. To build the item, you work towards filling in its market value, so to speak, 'making' Notes worth of progress per success you get. The more expensive the item, the more successes you need on a single roll to actually make any progress, though you count all the successes on a successful roll. If the item is Rare or Proscribed, you get a bonus to progress because the Rarity doesn't matter (since you're building it yourself instead of paying extra for the scarcity) and you don't have to bother buying stuff around permits and black markets for Proscribed. You make more progress per success depending on if the item is Cheap (1 Note of value per success), Affordable (3 Notes, need 2 successes minimum for progress), Expensive (10 Notes, 3 Successes min), or Extravagent (30 Notes, 4 Successes min).
Now that all sounds really complicated, so we're going to do an example. Kenna Cousland is a human engineer recently rescued from the AMG and given access to a workshop. She wants to build a proper exo-suit for herself so she can do better work for her new employers and have bigger space adventures. She has a workshop aboard the Remanence Battleship Harmony, her new place of work, and thus gets the d8 bonus for that. She's wearing her old Engineer's outfit, and gets d8 for that. She has Mechanics as a Gift, and so gets d12 for that. She mostly did unskilled labor for the AMG, and so only has Laborer at d4, and a Mind of d6, but she has an actual Craft of d8. Thus, her crafting dice are d4 (Career), d6 (Mind), d8 (Outfit), d8 (Workshop), d8 (Skill Marks), and d12 (Gift). With 6 dice, she can also choose to Rote this and just claim 3 successes if she's building an Expensive item. She elects to build a simple, 42 Note 'Amplifier' industrial Exoskeleton, an Expensive item. It's Rare, so she makes double progress. She pitches in 8.4 Notes (her signing bonus) for the materials, then claims Rote and makes 30 Notes of progress, x2 for the item being Rare, which gets her the suit after a single interval of work. If she'd wanted to build an Extravagant Battle Suit, she'd have had to roll, because 3 successes wouldn't make her any progress.
One of the issues is there's never a great sense of how much money PCs should be making on average, so to speak. There's never really a 'baseline' of wealth established, or guidelines for using wealth and gear as a progression element. Also, Crafting is really surprisingly quick and easy to do, and much cheaper than shopping, plus it has no established interval of how long each check is. I'd probably allow one in the downtime between adventures/sessions. In general, I think this game would actually really benefit from something akin to WHFRP4e's Downtime system, with time off between space adventures or traveling to the next planet becoming a resource you can spend on crafting and other off-screen ventures, and might work on adding that sort of thing to my campaigns. There's never a good sense of exactly how hard it is to get Extravagant items, too. They mention you have to have them made to order, but don't give, say, a direct difficulty on commissioning them or a modifier for how much that might jack up the price.
There's also the fact that the Cheap/Affordable/Expensive/Extravagant system, and some other subsystems in the gear section, feel like trying to have their abstraction cake and eat their direct money/weight measurements too. For instance, you get a note that most Outfits weigh 4 kg, most 2 handed weapons the same, most 'good hand' items are 2kg, and most off-hand items are 1kg, with Burden items weighing 20kg or more. You then get a little table telling you how much each Body die can carry without being Burdened (2xBody die's highest result kg), and a +16 modifier for each Gift of Strength or for having Giant. The thing is, we already have a fairly elegant abstraction with the idea that particularly heavy items are a Burden and need Strength ranks or someone who knows their way around an Exosuit to avoid penalties for them. There's no real need for the kg stuff, too. I get the intention; especially with being able to start with as much Affordable gear as you want, they don't want a PC carrying a sniper rifle, six shotguns, a fire axe, eight pistols, and a live squirrel. But that's the kind of thing you can sanity check while sticking with the Burden/Strength system for 'big' items. The Cheap/Affordable/Expensive/Extravagant stuff is fine, as is still having costs in Notes; I'm not bothered by directly tracking money.
The issue is that when you then get into stuff like Starships and vehicles, they're immensely, immensely expensive to the point that listing their cost in money feels a bit unnecessary, and if players somehow have the cash to purchase a ship, they can buy as much personal scale gear as they could ever want. Another abstraction system I like is the idea of Spares; you scrounge up or find consumable Mechanical/Chemical/Electronic/Xenharmonic Spare Parts and use them to fix items or recharge Gifts that need rebuilding and repairing. Your Loadout Gifts might give you consumables, like grenades or Spare parts; these get refreshed periodically (with each new Chapter/major scene) intentionally. While you can always exhaust your Loadout to request you get your gear back, you can't do this if you just sell your Loadout gear for money. You do not have an infinite supply of saleable military rifles because you took Paramilitary Loadout.
We also get all kinds of medical care, drugs, and services, which contain some interesting fluff tidbits in among the descriptions. For instance, there are FTL communication devices that work on Xenharmonic frequencies, but they'll only work about 2 systems away. This is as good as FTL comms get, which means if you want to spread word of what's happening in one cluster of space, you'll have to go somewhere physically and warn the authorities, etc. You can't just radio someone across the galaxy. Another cute thing: Spaceship sizes are measured by how many contact points you have to rent to stick the ship on a Cavalcade transport for tandem jumping. You also get passenger rates for chartered FTL travel, both in case you need to pay to go somewhere, or in case you're playing a starship crew and want to know the going rates you can charge passengers. The cost goes up the harder the Rondo jump is, because past a certain point it takes a Conductor to reliably make those jumps. An independent starship captain with a Conductor on board who isn't beholden to the AMG or Remanence can potentially make a lot
Note that just because ships are measured by how much space they take up on a Cavalcade for tandem jumping doesn't mean smaller craft lack Rondo drives. If you want to be the crew of a 3-point (1 Pilot, 1 Copilot, 8 Passengers/Crew on average) tramp freighter flying about and exploring lost jump routes, you absolutely can. The Points system is just a standardization that was convenient and enforced by the Syndics. You also get exact pricing on how much it costs to have enough fuel to reach escape velocity and still have sufficient reaction mass to mess around in space a bit. As an added note, old Syndic-built ships and cruisers often have Xenharmonic engines that effectively have infinite reaction mass, and don't require fuel. People will kill to get hold of these and do almost anything to keep them working. Rondo Jumps also have a good chance of destroying the ship's capacitors, so you'll need to keep spares on board or a good engineer around.
So while there's no space combat rules, there's enough on what it's like to work a spaceship and how much you can make doing it to make it worth playing a starship crew. If combat comes up, just abstract it as a series of Transport or other checks as dramatically appropriate, or arm the boarding grapples and come to grips so you can swashbuckle in low G. After all, starships are extremely expensive, and your average space pirate isn't so much interested in killing you as confiscating your weapons and supplies (and ship). Why wouldn't they prefer to capture your ship with boarding shotgun and plasma saber?
Next Time: Spot Rules
Original SA post
The 'Spot Rules' section is so full of detail that there's no way I could describe it all in full. These are all the various 'well what if I want rules for-' sorts of things. Rules for property damage (if it's super important to know if you can cut through that bulkhead in time), rules for environmental exposure, rules for starvation, rules for how close you can get to someone without being spotted, anything you might decide you need rules for is in here. They're potentially very useful, but these are all of the 'non-core' rules that don't directly relate to the core system of conflict resolution and combat, and you won't necessarily use all or any of them during a campaign.
A few are particularly important, though, and should be described in detail. One is the actual procedure for Rondo jumps, because this gets at why you benefit from having a Conductor aboard your ship outside of their direct space magic and ability to sense weird phenomena. Anyone can program a ship for a Rondo jump. It doesn't take a Conductor at all, and Gifts like Mathematics and Navigation will help you with it even if you don't have a Conductor. It's perfectly possible for groups like the Concord and Solar Creed who don't like Syndic technology to make safe FTL jumps just by being very good at math and science and stellar navigation, which is an important bit of implicit fluff. Rondo has to be done well outside a planetary gravity well because folding space and transiting between the points can do some weird stuff when you do it with an object the size of a spaceship. The fluff on this section is also where we get the title drop: The harmony and mixture of FTL navigation signals from the Campanile towers is often called the Myriad Song.
After you're out of the gravity well, you need an hour or two to charge the capacitors onboard. Rondo bridges take a huge amount of energy, and ships have to use huge capacitors to hold it all, capacitors that often burst during the jump. There's a 1-10 chance a good commercial capacitor breaks, a 100% chance a cheap and intentionally disposable one does, and a 1% chance a Cavalcade's capacitors burst. If they do, you'll need to fix or replace them before you can jump again, adding to the time between jumps.
Next, you have to navigate. A Conductor can hear the Myriad Song without special equipment, and they can hear it better than others. Others use a device called a Carillon, which lets them receive and read the FTL signals from the Campanile navigation towers. If you have a Conductor, they get to include their Psyche dice in the eventual Navigation check, and since Psyche is also a Career skill for them, there's a good chance this means the Conductor is a good 1-2 dice up on a normal navigator. You also use Mind and Academics, plus Astronomy, Mathematics, and Navigation is you have them as Gifts. Number of successes (and the number of successes you can Rote) really, really matter for this, so every extra die is a big help, especially as it's a standard vs. 3 check. You need at least 3 successes to get anywhere. 0 Successes breaks your device and you need to fix it, a Botch sends you wildly off course and onto a totally different adventure, 1 success means you need another hour to plot the course and try again, 2 successes means you only need 5 minutes.
3 Successes means you can lock on and jump to a Strong signal. These are for worlds with working Campanile towers that are fairly nearby; this means that to Rote a jump on a normal commercial route you need 6 dice. 4 Successes picks up weak signals, from worlds with damaged towers or worlds that are really far away; jumping to far spaces is hard because of the distortion and fading of the signal, not because you can't break space like that. You're already breaking all physical laws to go FTL. 5 Successes will help you find lost worlds that don't have a functioning signal. To even go to such a place, you have to have researched why it might be there, or otherwise have some reason to believe it's there. Such worlds are rumored to be full of treasures and mysteries the Syndics wanted to keep from others, but also terrible dangers and mysteries. Two people can work together to program a Rondo device, so an ally can help you out and make this easier even if they aren't a Conductor.
For a working example: Lady Ryllin Solan is a midshipwoman of the House of Solan and a Conductor in training, tasked with plotting a jump to test her skills. She is a Conductor with a d6 Career die, a d8 Mind, a d8 Skill in Psyche, and the Navigation Gift from being a Conductor. She didn't put any Marks in Academics, trusting to her Career and Mind dice for that skill, but she's also wearing her Mezzo-forte Outfit, which provides d8 to Psyche; she includes that with her check. Thus, with 6 dice, she could easily Rote a standard jump and ensure it goes off with no trouble. If she needed help, her friend Kenna is a Laborer and has the Gift of Team Player, d4 in Academics, and a Mind die, and thus could Rote assisting her and grant her an extra d12. To try to plot a longer jump, Lady Solan would need to roll and get 4 successes on her dice. To plot a jump to an unknown world to pursue a grand mystery (because c'mon, you're space adventurers, that's got a good chance of coming up) she'd need to succeed on 5 dice; better get Kenna's help for that.
Once you've plotted and opened the Bridge, you Segue through it (I love that hyperjumps are called Segues) with a piloting test. This is where misjumps can happen; if you don't maintain a very clear course when you just folded space and time like a soft shell taco you can end up light-years from your plotted exit point. The pilot rolls Mind+Transport vs. 3 and if they get 0 successes, you fail the jump entirely and something bad happens. If they get 1, you make the jump but something goes wrong. If you get 2 or more, you make the jump fine. The Mishaps are things like misjumps, a command console exploding like we're original series star trek and wounding an officer, shipboard fires, a chance of a crash due to slight off-course jumping, etc. They should introduce a complication to the adventure rather than derail it entirely.
So why is all this in the Spot Rules section? Because chances are you aren't going to roll all this every time you make a hyperjump. It's there for when the jump is being done under pressure, trying to get out and on target before a Solar Creed patrol cutter on intercept burn catches up to and boards you, etc. It's also there for cases like long jumps or jumps to hidden worlds, where you really want a Conductor among your explorers. One nice thing is that Conductors are useful in general, not just for stellar navigation; nothing stops them having skills beyond Conducting, their magic is a handy and unique powerset, Psyche is useful on its own for all kinds of mystical events, and Academics is used for a lot of useful checks anyway. Even if you don't end up using the detailed spot rules for jumps, your Conductor PC is still going to be a useful part of the team, unlike the Rogue Trader Navigator. The jump rules are also more about 'only someone really skilled could do this important step in solving this huge mystery' rather than 'and then you randomly get turbofucked and that's the main purpose of these rules'.
The other rule that absolutely needs description in detail is Size, because while Size is technically a spot rule, it comes up a LOT in the (fairly extensive) bestiary. Things have a Size rating relative to a normal person-sized sapient PC. Note that the Gift of Giant does not make you a size category bigger; you're only big compared to a normal person of your species. Giant is for being an 8 foot tall hyper-space tyrant/hero, not being the size of a tank. Something with a Size rating gets a point of Invulnerability per point of Size (giant enemies like space T-Rexes are Size 2, for comparison), moves faster, does +1 damage per Size, and is easier to hit with a gun based on its size. They also can't take cover behind smaller combatants and terrain; a chest high wall is not going to protect Godzilla. Larger weapons also increase their Threat, Sweep, Splash, and Strike distances by 1 band per size larger they are. So a Ship sized Machine Gun (Size +2) would go from Long range to Extreme Range and from Damage +4 to Damage +6. Fighting giant space monsters can be tough; hits that would splatter a normal combatant will only injure them slightly and make them very mad.
In general, the spot rules are pretty well done and reasonable, but if you try to use all of them at all times you will go mad. That's why they're spot rules; they're there for if you want to add mechanical weight to a situation that's going to be central to an adventure, not to keep on at all times. You're not, generally, going to be checking if the players have food and water during their standard space adventure, but you might when they're marooned on a desert world and trying to survive. If you want to see if you can just stand tall and use sheer presence to stop a bunch of mooks from even going for their guns every now and then, the spot rules are there for you. If your players really insist on getting into a fight in a tank and don't want to have it be a normal extension of the normal combat system, the vehicle spot rules have your back. If you want to have cover getting blasted away and forcing people to move in a gunfight, that's here too, along with rules for your villain grabbing a hostage for a sapient shield.
Next Time: Space Monsters!
Original SA post
So, what do enemies look like in this system? You've got a bunch of choices and basic templates for foes. The most common enemy is a Typical NPC, who has d6s in all their stats, maybe has a Career based around shooting or fighting for a 3d6 or 2d6 combat array, and only has their basic Career and Legacy Gifts. When your players are mowing down AMG rent-a-cops or fist-fighting with common street thugs, this is what they'll be up against. They need to outnumber the PCs, by a lot, to really have a good chance. If you don't put any armor on your Typicals, they'll have a 1-6 chance of botching their Soak rolls and not only reducing damage by 0, but taking +1 damage, which often means head explosions and panicking allies.
Elites are tougher, but not by much. They have a d8 in all their stats, plus the Gift of Improved Armor on top of their Legacy and Career Gifts. They're meant to be more of a challenge for PCs; these are Remanence Janissaries or basic Apparat Killbots and stuff like that. The d8 makes them much more of a match for a starting PC who didn't specialize in combat, though with their other skills, advantages, and gear a PC should beat them most of the time.
Enforcers are minibosses, and you might've noticed a pattern: They go up to d10 in everything, plus an extra Improved Armor and the Gift of Toughness, which lets them declare one attack Weak during the combat to try to shrug it off. These are generic enemy officers or the toughest guy in the gang, etc. They look a bit scary, but you can definitely still take them, especially if the PCs work together. They're very hard to kill, but remember that even if they're soaking damage, they're still losing actions to getting sent Reeling by being shot. Hitstun and action economy will beat them, and a well-built starting combat PC will kick their ass in a duel as it is (The example Mercenary gunslinger character among the sample characters rolls an average of 2d12+2d8+2d6 with his dual magnums, because Dexterity lets him set up his own flank with them and he has a d12 Career dice, with his Career giving him both Shooting and Tactics, so he'd crush one of these guys most likely). They're most dangerous when they've got buddies; you usually need your best fighter or a couple other characters ganging up on one of these, and that keeps them busy and unable to deal with the Typicals/Elites backing up the miniboss.
Supernauts follow the same pattern and are meant to be goddamn terrifying, having d12 in everything, d12 armor dice, and 2 ranks of Toughness. Personally, I never use direct Supernauts because if I want someone who is going to take the entire party to beat, I'm usually making that person the main villain of the adventure and I'm going to plot them out fully rather than using a simplified character plan for them.
You also get a bunch of upgrade packages you can add to these templates, plus suggestions for what that could represent in fluff. Hordes get the 'don't get panicked by Overkills' Gift and a Gift to help them make outnumbering people count more, etc. There's even a specific 'make this guy into a boss who doesn't need allies' package, the Solo. The whole thing is a nice way to do simple sapient enemies and customize them on the fly when you just want to shoot some space pirates. I'm partial to making the actual major named characters myself and trying to give them more mechanical gimmicks, because it's a fun way to get to play around with character building and make memorable personalities for the players to have duels with. Big enemies are also a great place to play with those 'specific faction gifts' from the back of the book; the elite super-rhagia gene-troopers jumping your players at a dramatic moment aren't just Elite Typicals, they're PORTIAS, with the full Portia Dual Attack special move and two shotguns blazing! That kind of thing.
There's also a huge pile of Monster Gifts that you can use to build scary space monsters. These can be really nasty, and generally aren't available to players. You can put them on your Leitmotif magic pet if you're a powerful Conductor, and if you choose to be a Mutant (which is its own big mechanical/RP mess. I really don't like the implementation of Mutants: You get a nasty +1 damage to all attacks that hit you but +d8 to Soak rolls per mutation and it's just weird) you might have access to these. They're generally quite powerful! These are everything from various energy ray attacks, to psychic powers, to regeneration, to breathing in space. Using these, you can build almost any of the space monsters in the actual Bestiary, who exist primarily to give you little bits of fluff and some examples of how to use these Gift rules.
That's right, every single monster in the bestiary is built out of the components that they give you. You could build them all yourself out of the templates, Gifts, etc provided in this section. The decision to give bad guys all the same die type is done to make them easier to run. Instead of trying to remember which dice to roll for each random nameless enemy, you just go 'Oh, they're Typical, and they have X things giving them a bonus die here, so they roll Xd6 dice'. It also means that outside of the biggest possible enemies, any player character who can claim a d12 has a chance of beating any enemy outside of major campaign villains on any individual test. In practice I'm usually comfortable with major foes having variable dice instead, but this definitely works better for when you just need 8 space pirates or rent-a-cops or a squad of killbots. In all places in the Bestiary/monster building rules, the book urges you not to make enemies so complex that they're difficult to run. It's okay for the PCs to be complicated, they're the stars, but space cop #78 shouldn't send you scrambling through 8 special rules, nor should Space Bear. Not unless Space Bear is really important, and even then, you should be certain Space Bear's complexity doesn't get in the way of focusing on the PCs.
Next Time: Fluff! Example planets! A chance to talk about the fluff-crunch balance and what it means for design!
A Thousand Worlds
Original SA post
A Thousand Worlds
The example worlds are explicitly examples, nothing more. They're good, and most of them would be fun to set an adventure on, but they're there as an example of how to build worlds and a few plot hooks, not a definitive setting. They do bring some more interesting implicit fluff for the factions, though. For instance, the Concord protects most of its actual worlds/megastations with enormous arrays of nuclear weapons, which is kind of amusing for people who are the Space Union of Concerned Space Scientists most of the time. There's also some good basic advice on structuring plot hooks, in addition to the planetary plot hooks. "Start with a mystery or problem, entice the players with a reward or interesting personality, and then have some extra complications and questions for the adventure to bring up."
I could go into a lot of detail about the planets, but again, they're there as examples and starters to help you come up with your own planets. Instead, I'd like to take this time to talk about the fluff-crunch balance of Myriad Song and why I find it interesting, but also why I'd say it's one of the bigger challenges for Hosting the game.
Myriad Song is the first book in a new IP, set in a colorful and older genre of science fantasy. Normally, you'd expect such a book to be brimming with fluff as the authors try to capture something I heard of at a con once called the 'textbook effect', where players and readers and authors are often interested in writing a huge quantity of made up history. When done well (and specifically in a way that suggests plot hooks), that kind of thing can be really fun, but we all know how often that results in 40-50 pages of the thousand year reign of the Azurians and how they fought the Xardaxians for the fate of Mundus and no-one goddamn cares because it's a parade of made up nonsense worlds and dry psuedo-history. Or where every goddamn setting problem already has a helpful heroic NPC with a big backstory already handling it. You could say Myriad Song averts that because it has so goddamn many rules to get through that it doesn't have space for fluff, but I don't think that's the case at all. After All, Ironclaw had a lot of interesting history and fluff about the 4 Great Houses And Also The Celtic Wolf Guys. Instead, I think Myriad Song's light fluff is completely intentional.
Take the Solar Creed. What do we know about the Solar Creed? We know how they reacted to the Syndics leaving, the big event that drives a lot of the setting's factions. We know roughly that they're authoritarian, but ambiguous; they really do keep their promises to provide for everyone if you do what you're told and they generally try to spread their Creed by disaster relief and missionary work rather than forcing people to join them via threat of orbital bombardment. We know they like rocket-fuel flamers, and that they have an elite warrior class called Heliotropes. We get a Career for Heliotropes later, in the optional/NPC Careers, and they're interesting: They're fighters, yes, and they have Shooting. But they also have Presence and Questioning, and are defined by the Gifts of their Legal Authority and their Heliotrope Loadout. Their armor specifically provides decent (2 dice) combat armor and a bonus to scaring people and doing police work. They're as focused on being charismatic and standing out as they are on actually fighting people. You can draw your own inferences about their organization from those mechanics, but the book isn't going to tell you if they're crazy 'BURN THE HERETIC AND THE DEVIANT INDIVIDUALIST!' jackboots or if they're meant to be the vanguard space paladins of the Creed, leading by example and showing people what the new future should be. That's up to your game.
This is generally true of all the aesthetics and details of Myriad Song. The setting is designed as a big writing prompt, without a clear setting villain or hero. This is because the setting villain is whoever you've made it in your campaign, and the setting hero is your PC party. It's interesting to see the book's definition of Space Opera: It doesn't define it by genre signifiers like giant space fleets and epic scale, it defines it by the way your story will be driven by the personal interactions and goals of larger than life characters. Your group is going to have to do a lot of the legwork when designing your campaign and the planets and places you're going to adventure across. This can be a significant challenge and takes a fair amount of work and investment, make no mistake, and it's something anyone buying the book ought to be aware of. The setting material is evocative and interesting, but it's there to get you started and you're going to end up putting in some time to design your game.
The reason I think this is a good thing here, where I kind of panned it in 40kRP, is because of two things. One, this is a new IP that doesn't have to deal with the kludge of 30 years of dozens of authors writing about how the big blue guy with the shoulder pads hates the big red guy with the shoulder pads but they're too evenly matched to ever successfully punch one another, so there's a lot more room to fill things in. Two, what's there works with you instead of against you. I've been comparing this game to 40kRP a lot in my head as I've been writing this, because they're in a similar place. Weird space opera with a lot of crunch and gear rules, plus a setting where you're going to have to do most of the work of filling in the details yourself. The difference is there's nothing as omnipresent or oppressive (Oppressive in the sense of every story written in that setting tends to be about them, not as in they're crazed space nazis) as the Goddamn Imperium of Man. Also the rules actually work. But what I mean when I say it works with you is, the writing prompts are explicitly written as prompts. Why did the Syndics leave? Don't know, up to you. You know how people reacted to it, and that forms enough of a basis to have factions to work with, but they're also loose enough to be interpreted in ways that a more 'filled in' setting wouldn't be.
There's also no 'main' faction in Myriad Song, and no main species. You don't have to delete wide swaths of what's there or 'work around it' to change things. You even get the full rules guidelines on how the authors designed Careers and Legacies, with suggestions for how to make your own; there are way more than the base playable species living in the Myriad Worlds. By keeping things implied and open, you have a lot more freedom to get where you want to go without having to toss out or change a lot of what's there. There's much more room to invent rather than needing to alter, and things were written that way on purpose. You start with an opening hook (The Gods who oppressed and ruled the galaxy are gone) and then some basics of how people reacted to that hook. I also adore that the setting isn't stagnant like many space opera settings; there are active plot hooks about people eagerly trying to design non-Xenharmonic FTL, or working on the first digital computers, or studying all the thousand and one things the Syndics forbid them to study. Your PCs can be a part of inventing wholly new things that the old Gods never allowed anyone, rather than spending the whole game rummaging about the ruins of a 'golden age'. It is not a setting about maintaining an eternal status quo.
You're going to have to do a lot of work in writing for this game, but the work is rewarding to do, the hooks are interesting and creative, and what's there already is a solid and colorful guideline. The sheer variety of mechanically viable character concepts also helps. You can be a slave laborer from an AMG colony who discovers they're the last scion to a lost Syndicate Dynasty and their genes will unlock fantastic secrets. You can be a cheerfully mercenary Troodon, because sometimes playing to type is actually fun. You can be an Apparat Kill-Bot designed to learn Xenharmonics who had his mind expanded by contact with a gentle guru of metal, and who now seeks to free the whole galaxy through music. You can be a shape-shifting sapient space bush on the run from the drug smugglers who built you by mistake, trying to run a small transport company on a backwater ocean planet and occasionally having shootouts with the mafia. By allowing a wide variety of PCs that are mechanically effective, and a wide variety of interpretations of an interesting set of setting hooks, the setting does what it can to prompt you filling in all those blanks it left you.
Next Time: GM Advice and Variant Rules
Original SA post
So, Hosting a Game is a section of general advice for running Myriad Song. I always find GMing advice chapters interesting, because they tell you some of what the designers thought they needed to convey to someone writing for their setting/game. They start with the Theme: Myriad Song is a game about rebirth, reconstruction, and renewal. You are living in the aftermath of a bloody and terrible Empire ruled by impossible space Gods, but its fall is 100 years away from where you are now. The worst of the collapse is over, but it still left behind space tyrants and new governments fighting over what happens next. There are many mysteries left behind by their departure, and you are the kind of people who either solve those mysteries, or help new worlds and new orders come to life from the ashes of the Syndicate.
In general, MS is built on the assumption the players will eventually overcome their challenges and find their way to a happier ending. It's an optimistic sci-fi setting where people are still inventing things, people are still building things, people are trying to overcome the limitations imposed by the Old Empire, etc. There's plenty of evil out there, and weird space monsters and terrifying plots, but you're playing a Space Opera: You're the kind of people who overcome these things and shift the status quo for the better. It's actually really nice to see a game that has a default assumption that you'll change the status quo, rather than just defend the one that exists. I also really appreciate the general sense that the people of the Myriad aren't just stuck clinging to an 'ancient Golden Age', because A: The age wasn't really golden, it was a space tyranny and B: The 'Golden Age' was in living memory for some people of the setting. The idea to set it 100 years after the Syndics disappeared rather than 10,000 or whatever like you normally get in these settings was inspired; you still have time for whole societies to form and collapse in the wake of the Syndics vanishing, but there's still plenty of memory of what they were like and what the old Empire was.
One of the biggest pieces of advice in the book is KEEP THINGS PERSONAL. This is a Space Opera. You might be involved in a clash of enormous battleships or something, but it is in-genre and appropriate for the heroes to fight their way through to the bridge of the enemy ship and personally duel the enemy admiral and their command team. It is also in-genre for that admiral to get away, shaking his fist and swearing revenge, and come back later with more cybernetics. This is why everyone important has Combat Save: It's so you can have direct, personal, even violent confrontations between the protagonists and villains without the risk that your major campaign villain gets blown away in one lucky magnum hit. This is a truce of genre conventions between the players and the Host; the players are afforded the same courtesy, and so should expect their villains to get away to fight again another day from time to time the same way PCs do. This is about the clash of personalities, goals, and hopes for the post-Syndic world. You shouldn't have to keep villains and heroes separated from one another for fear of every situation turning lethal between them.
Another nice bit of advice is to know yourself and your audience: If you're excited about the story you're writing as the Host, you'll have a much easier time putting in the work. But it won't matter if your audience doesn't like it. Pick up on their cues. Use the debriefing. Communicate honestly. Set the tone and some of the conventions to something you can both agree on. If they love puzzles and exploration, and you prefer lots of diving through windows firing two guns at once, work together to create a story where both things happen and compliment one another. Write motivations for your villains. Use things like your players' Mottos to know what their characters want to do and why. When you write motivations, remember that one of them should usually be 'survive'. Most people don't want to die, and this system is practically designed to help you portray that better. Remember to make things happen because people make choices to make them happen. Even if that Remanence villain gives a big speech about how he 'has' to do what he's doing for the sake of Order, remember that he made a lot of choices (and probably has a lot of stakes and benefits in it for himself) to get to that point.
Their assumption for the average plot is that the antagonists would succeed if not for the player characters. This sets up situations where the players are pro-active; they choose to get involved. Focusing things on the players' choice to get involved is the book's idea of what's good for gaming
plots, specifically; the whole advantage of a role-playing game relative to something like a cRPG or a novel is you get to make choices about what happens. I actually really enjoy this section's focus on the specifics of what makes for good interactive
storytelling; tropes and ideas that work in novels don't necessarily work in RPG plotting, after all. Once people have decided their goals are in conflict and they've committed to opposing one another, your plot can flow more naturally from there.
I also appreciate the general way the book is written as if it's someone's first RPG, or first GMing advice section. You can't assume your audience has seen lots of RPGs in the past, and these books are teaching tools and instructional manuals as much as they are setting books. I appreciate an involved approach to pedagogy in the way the book is written.
There's also the same section on dealing with players who potentially cause issues that's been in pretty much every Sanguine game. The Author who wants to take over the story, who needs to be gently encouraged to let the others have time in the spotlight even as you try to encourage them to keep contributing. The Professional who wants to be the best at their schtick. They're best solved by letting them do so, but making sure it's only a part of the story rather than writing the entire story around them. If you've got a master Conductor who wants to be the best navigator in the galaxy, let them find amazing things and the others explore them together. If you have a master martial artist who loves facing strong enemies, add in colorful enemies to duel occasionally to draw attention while the others sneak into the mansion. Etc. Don't let the Professional become a Decker Problem, but let them do the thing they're excited about sometimes and show off just how good they are. They want to. If you have someone who knows the rules really well and takes great pride in it, be a little more careful changing the rules. Let them help you with rules questions.
The actual Rules Lawyer is the most hated of all players for the writers, I think. There's going to be a lot on them and on 'power gaming' (as opposed to the Professional) in these sections and it stood out to me. I suspect this is partly because the system is set up to make it so characters who would be 'suboptimal' in a lot of other games are viable, since players are (by genre convention) meant to be broadly competent, but someone who really focuses in on one thing can be insanely good at it, too. I suspect part of the reason for the experiment in making Gifts very goal driven was to prevent 'I take 3 ranks of Improved Armor, Veteran, Toughness, Die-Hard, and Resolve. COME AT ME.' because it's really clear the game isn't intended to be about just being incredibly good at killing people. They want to enable storylines like 'discover you're a Conductor all along and your hard-bitten mercenary learns about the song of the universe' and other things that make you branch out based on life experience. The Professional can be fine because a story about a great pilot or martial artist or whatever is in genre and still a story. The thing the writers seem to have a vendetta against is the player who takes abilities because they're seen as a 'required build', I think. Someone who thinks every PC should have X not because they're excited to use X but because they think X is the most powerful ability.
Anyway, the way they define a Rules Lawyer is someone who knows the rules really well, but instead of trying to help make sure things go 'correctly' like the first example, they want to use them to make sure they win. The issue with the Rules Lawyer isn't so much that they cheat, but that they see the game as adversarial rather than cooperative, which pushes things away from the Host and players collaborating to tell a fun story. I actually think this is a fairly insightful view of what makes that player a problem player, and as noted elsewhere in the thread, their solution to minimize rules lawyering is to make the game more about remembering your bonuses than 'forgetting' your penalties. The Butcher, who measures success in game via kill count, is also potentially a problem given the game's focus on not slaughtering goddamn everyone you fight. More importantly, such players are often bored outside of combat and can build PCs who don't do anything but combat, locking themselves into a Decker Problem of their own making. The advice is the same as always: Try to talk it over with them and find things they'd be excited or interested to do outside fighting. The Monomaniac likes your game too much. You need to gently encourage them not to be quite so excited and not to take over the game. Finally, if you have a player who is often absent, find out why. If they're just busy, write around their PC being absent often. If they're just not interested, talk over what would get them interested, or possibly suggest they drop.
All in all, the focus on communication and finding ways to involve people and compromise between tastes is good. As is the encouragement to have regular communication about how the game is going and what people would be excited to do, and the general advice on making this a collaborative affair. It's good to encourage GMs not to see the position as being lord and master of the gaming table, but also to emphasize that they're often going to have to be arbitrator.
There's also a lot of decent advice about how to narrate multiple successes, when to roll and when not to, how to use the Rote rules to speed up NPC actions and move scenes along, and a refrain of 'Let the players think of how to use their abilities here.' Let them propose what they'll attempt and what dice it will use. Players should be rewarded for coming up with ways to apply their strengths to problems. Especially when giving one another assistance. Let one player make a Will+Presence test to have their pop idol get a security guard to beg for their autograph while the party thief counts that as an assist on their Evasion+Speed to sneak past. Let them try unusual skill and trait combinations for tasks. Encourage them to find ways to use their resources and get involved in situations. If they're using multiple skills on one roll, raise the stakes by letting the enemy do so, too; if someone is using Deceit+Negotiate+Mind to lie and trick their way through a talk, let the enemy include Questioning as well as Negotiate (And suffer for it if they don't have Questioning).
Combat gets its own advice section that has one bit that really stands out: An acknowledgement that getting players to run away or surrender is really fucking hard. Mechanics like Panic, or Combat Save, are designed to give players time or impetus to run from time to time. The problem is players tend to think losing a fight is a failure, or assume that surrendering will get them killed. The whole party becoming Panicked means a fight will almost certainly end in favor of their enemies, the same way it would have if they'd Panicked all surviving foes. The book advises warning players when they're running out of extra saves; they don't have their narrative shield anymore and are suddenly very mortal, and might consider backing off. I think they would have been well served to advise you give players an out, too. Give them an escape route they could take. Or condition the expectation that if they're captured, it will lead to an escape sequence instead of an execution. They want fights to have sensible reasons to start, and stop, and they want them to stop without everyone dying on both sides. I appreciate the goal of making it possible to lose fights without dying as the PCs, though getting players to give up is still really goddamn hard.
You can change the game and its rules, obviously. You shouldn't need to (and honestly, you don't. The rules are well put together and outside of my objections with a possibly overweening focus on Goals in advancement, they work well in play), but you can. Just be careful you do it with the consent of the players, and that you work together towards rules you'll find enjoyable and that benefit your story.
That leads me to the bad part of the appendices. The Variant Rules. The stuff on creating Legacies and Careers is good; explaining the design logic of the 'canon' ones is a good idea, as is working to enable players doing that kind of thing themselves. The variant rule for point-buying characters is a little meh, because by their own admission it can be used to create crazily min-maxed characters, but I'd be more worried about it creating less useful ones. There's a lot of moving parts in this system and the relative guidance of normal character creation does a good job ensuring you make someone who is Good At Things and who can participate in plots. The Variant Power Levels rule is solid, giving a wide variety of starting levels of stats and Gifts and Skill Marks in case you want to play higher or lower power PCs, along with the effective EXP boost each represents.
I'm not at all fond of the Variant Rule for Flaws. You make up a Flaw. If your Flaw causes you trouble (which it does at Host discretion), you get +1 EXP for the session. You can have up to 6 Flaws, and you can remove Flaws easily. This means the player who takes up more narrative space (and sets back the party more often) gets personal benefits for it, if they survive. I know this is a throwaway one or two paragraph rules variant, but this is not a good implementation of this kind of subsystem, especially with the relatively low rate of free-EXP gain as written. There are also rules for Individual Initiative, which is fine, but might make the complex combat system much harsher on you. I do like the rule for speeding up combat and movement when you're at very long range, as combats beyond 30m if you don't have people with Rondo can be kind of awkward in the base system; you let people move further and take more actions until they've closed with one another.
The variant rules that annoy me by existing are the Something Always Happens rule (Any damage result will inflict a new damage result on someone) because it suddenly interferes with some of the subsystems, renders some Gifts useless, and is generally not thought out how it will interact with the system as it exists, and the Reality Modeling set of variants. Look, I know. There'll be demand to cut out the space wizards from any sci-fi RPG. I know this is a throwaway 'variant rule' set for people who want to play Traveler in Cardinal or something, or to placate the group that talks about 'verisimilitude'. But 'rip out all Xenharmonics from the setting' feels like a weird suggestion when it's the core of the setting's FTL system. Especially as, well, this is sci-fi; we're pretending we can travel faster than light and making all kinds of assumptions just to have easy space travel and stellar colonization as it is. There's also a suggestion to disallow 'dodging bullets' that literally just makes it easier to shoot people because they can't active Dodge against guns. A 'realistic' rule that makes it vastly easier
to shoot someone with small arms in a chaotic gunfight isn't realistic at all. Where's my 'realistic' rule for pinning people down with automatic fire and then calling in artillery or grenading them (it's in Sanguine's version of Albedo, that's where it is). All 'no-one dodges bullets' would accomplish is making people play gun characters instead of melee fighters, all the time. Similar for 'drop all the Plot gifts and Save Gifts'. The damage system is specifically built on the idea that important characters take multiple deathblows to prevent anticlimax and provide room for a fight to develop a narrative.
I know, these are throwaway variant rules, but it's just kind of sad to see a short section of 'just throw out most of the underlying design of the game, without considering what this will do to balance'. The main game works great, at least.
I should also mention, I've been unsure where to put this, but one of the weaknesses of this book in general is the art just isn't very good. This has long been a problem with Sanguine's games; it doesn't bother me that much, outside of really egregious examples like IC1e, but there's just no real sense of tone to the art. Most of it is blandly cartoony, and there isn't a huge amount of it anyway, but it's just not a major strength of the book.
And so that's Myriad Song. I'm actually quite glad to hear it wasn't a commercial failure like I feared; it's a fascinating game that has a really unique and fun sci-fantasy setup, a good attitude towards players and GMing, and a lot of good writing prompts. It's well written and clear, even though it's complicated as hell, and the actual rules are well designed and mostly well balanced. There's a wide variety of mechanically viable character types, there's lot of mechanical variety in equipment, there are even some real innovations like the Outfit system replacing the dozens of shitty tools no-one ever pays attention to in RPG equipment sections. If you want to have colorful space opera adventures and you're willing to do some mechanical and narrative legwork, Myriad Song is a good option for the 'good' kind of crunchy game, where the mechanics help you tell the story and give you meaningful decisions to make.
Next Time: The first Cardinal Game