Original SA post
SenZar! On the one hand, it's surprising that such a semi-legendary "bad game" hasn't been reviewed here when FATAL, Synnibarr and plenty of others have, on the other hand, it's not surprising considering how damn hard it is to find. It's out of print, no one stocks it(except, as it turns out, one used paperback copy found on Amazon.It. Thank you, Italy) and there's no .PDF version to buy on DriveThruRPG or similar. So it's actually kind of hard to track down.
Anyway, the cover is... I wanna say pretty goddamn 90's. I also kind of want to know who the hell THE BRÜNE is, to deserve a pseudonym while everyone else goes by their real names. On the first page of the book, where everyone else is capitalized normally he, she or it is also in ALL CAPS. Seem to have been a primary artist for the game, as far as I can tell. If you can believe it, SenZar also has a pretty hefty flock of playtesters(credited, anyway), somewhere close to 80. And, as a charmingly 90's touch, all of the creators' "how to get in touch" email addresses are @aol.com. That's totally going to date the book even if nothing else gave it away.
Then we've got an index, which actually seems sensibly organized! Though I instantly notice that the combat heading isn't just boring old "combat," it's "COMBAT!!!" Someone really got excited about that part. After the index, there's a brief intro, where the creators tell us that they created SenZar because they HAD TO, presumably as a result of some Dwarf Fortress-esque fey mood(or fell mood, more likely.). Then they go on about how they're going to change the face of RPG's forever
Also keep in mind that I'm transcribing all quotes from the book, since I have it as a physical copy, so I apologize for any typos that slip through.
The underlying theme of The SenZar System is that nothing is impossible when imagination is concerned. Seems like that should be the case in all alleged FRP games, huh? Well, it isn't. First, in most so/called FRP games, the PC begins as a total dweeb, unable to survive even the most basic encounters. Those fortunate few who do manage to weasel their way through encounters then are rewarded with slow, demeaning "level-making"; "fixed" and often immutable statistics which remain with them for the life of their character; and shoddy, effete magick items. Progression is slow, often tortuous, as they struggle to achieve the upper ranks of their chosen professions. And, once--and if--they manage to reach that apex of power, they very often have little or nothing to look forward to, no pot of gold at the end of that long, black rainbow.
Well, that's quite a rant there. It's usually always a "good" sign when the intro to a game starts by taking shots at all those other, badwrong games that don't do things the fun and correct way(even if it might be warranted critique of some games), and even more fun when you've got terms like "effete" being slung around like insults. That just makes me wonder if I'm going to see "fag" or "queer" in the book used as an insult somewhere. Isn't that great?
Well, that's not the case at all in The SenZar System, where no wimps are allowed! Players have the prerogative to determine their PC's attributes, without the humiliating "random die roll" to determine them for them. Fate Points can be used to "edit" crappy die rolls, such as failed Saves or missed hits, as well as to boost the PC's Attributes. Players are encouraged to make their PCs as powerful as possible, to hoard each and every thing that they possibly can, for only then will they be able to progress as far as the ranks of The Immortals, when an entirely new "game" will begin--that of "The Dragon's Game," wherein Immortals contest for ultimate power.
You can just sense the BECMI trauma here, can't you? What was the first game to start using Fate points of some sort, anyway? SenZar is 1996 game, and apparently the first edition of WFRP was from 1986, did it have Fate points? I know the second edition did, but that's a 2005 game. I'm just curious whether SenZar, for all its garbage, was actually relatively early to embrace a mechanic that wasn't awfully common back then, but is more or less accepted now as a way of giving players more agency.
I also apologize for all these quotes, at this point I'm going to end up transcribing the entire fucking book, but it feels like there's constantly some sort of gold here. And I'm not even into the first actual chapter yet.
In The SenZar System, we freely use the term "Creator" (known in other FRP games as the "GM," "Game Judge," "Dungeon Master," "Keeper," or "The Dude Who Runs The Game"). The term "Creator" is not intended to be blasphemous. Not at all. There's enough ignorance, prejudice and fear in "The Real World" as it is, and we do not intend to perpetuate such idiocy in any way, shape or form.
The author's just really cannot shut up, though. Like, I think I've rarely ever read a book with this sort of conversational tone before. It feels like everything needs to be dragged off on a tangent five times as long as it needs to be.
We use the male pronouns "he, him and his" in The SenZar System to represent the he/she/it pronominal spectrum (otherwise known as the "he did what? scatological spectrum). Sure, we're guys, and using "guy-terms" is what guys normally do, but you'd have to agree that "he" is a lot less scary than exclusively employing some generic, androgynous term like "it" or "one." Occasionally the use of the authorative "we" is employed, but this is not intended to promote some Ayn Rand-esque nightmare of "one-ness" or "selflessness" as in her thought-provocative opus, "Anthem." "We" use "we" because more than one "he" wrote this book! Silly pronouns!
So now that you've got the gist of things, and now that all the politically correct (or critically erect) BS is done, we would like to formally welcome you to The SenZar System.
You know, I think the last thing I would have expected from SenZar was Ayn Rand praise before we were even in the first goddamn chapter. I'm not even going to comment on that fucking mess with the pronouns. What the hell have I gotten myself into?
Next time: The actual content
Chargen For The Next Millennium
Original SA post
Chargen For The Next Millennium
So, I had to rewrite this entire thing, because I changed my mind while doing so, I realized that, jackass intro aside, I don't really have any particular issue with SenZar. Sure, they have some editing errors(one in particular perplexed the fuck
out of me while trying to figure out attribute costs), they put chargen before everything else(which I hate, BUT, they actually toss in enough rules info during chargen that you have a decent understanding of what your choices mean, plus the rules are... reasonably simple so far! In a good way that makes them easy to understand!), their "unprofessional" writing is a bit grating at times(please stop it with the asides whispering things to the players and calling them BILLY BADASS) and I'm 99% sure that the promised list of COOL WEAPONS(tm) that they're gushing about is going to contain at the very least one katana.
But it feels like they actually want you to have fun with their game. Like, primarily what they focus on is how powerful you can get, what neat things you can do with that power and how the GM should try to further your fun. They recommend the GM and player getting together to work out characters in ways that are interesting and will fit into the game. They encourage the GM to not be overly stingy with rewards, especially when the players really accomplish something neat or take a big risk(and come on, what other game has a pre-set point reward for SAVING THE UNIVERSE? That's kind of rad). Whenever they chime in with "this is a good way to run the game," the reasoning is more or less always "you'll probably have more fun doing it this way," which I can respect.
You can really tell how fumingly annoyed they were with old school D&D at points, though, like when they blow half a paragraph pointing out that finding money or magic items isn't worth any XP, and even add them into their "misc. scenario rewards" table with big zeroes for their XP rewards.
The game is a bit amateurish so far, but it definitely feels like it has heart
Now just wait for my opinion to change.
In any case, chargen is relatively simple. You pick a race, you pick a class, you spend bonus points to hit your class stat minimums(without going over your race stat maximums), you earn Fate Points from "karmas" and "codes" so you can spend more points on Nifty Cool Stuff, buy gear and then any leftover Fate Points are carried into play as Save Your Ass or Do Cool Shit points. There are ten stats, and you roll a D20 trying to hit or exceed(Your Stat - 21) as a generic check to do things or not have things done to you, even for opposed stuff. Reasonably simple so far.
Then we've got races. We're told that we can play Really Cool Things(tm), so what really cool things can we play? Note that I mostly skip their descriptions here because there isn't all that much interesting detail in them, mostly about when they were kidnapped by/created by/fought the Death Horde and a few details about their societies which mostly tend to boil down to "if you play one of these who isn't a wacky dude that's acting at a 90-degree angle to the rest of their society, they're completely useless as a PC."
Akir! Eight-foot tall half-giant vikings that hit things hammers.
Azaar! Four-armed jungle-dwelling chamelon-dude pit fighters.
Demonians! Real evil dudes who are servants of THE DEATH HORDE. Their aesthetic seems to mostly be "jRPG yard sale weaponry."
Drakkans! Dragon guys. Yeah that's really it, just dragon guys.
Goblins! That you'd call "ogres" in any other fantasy setting because they're at minimum six feet tall. Also their most defining characteristic is that they all stink, apparently.
Golgothans! They're... okay they're fucking Yautja/Predators, Jesus Christ. There's the art, where the dude looks like one and is holding a human skull
. They've also got super stealth skills and can see body heat
. Oh and they like hot and humid climates, you know, like we established in Predator 2.
G'rru! In case you want to be a furry wolf dude who's posing mostly naked in front of not one, but two
Human! So far the only species capable of being less than six feet tall. Also painfully average in all stats. Also at this point I have to admit that I am thoroughly
baffled by the quotes accompanying every species, the human one appears to be something about giant crabs killing and eating people. The Goblin one was simply "POO!" If this book was more recent I'd have assumed it was literally what Kickstarter backers paid to get into the book at a certain backer reward tier.
Khobolds! Greedy wizard dwarves.
K'ryl! Humanoid plant-folk that look suspiciously like classic Greys with a camo pattern.
Mokarr! If you want to play a demon-worshipping clone with a ponytail.
Nazar Ethan! If you want to be a God's weird Aryan ubermensch pet creation.
Saurans! Lizard dudes who are mostly described in terms of how incredibly boring their home regions are and how desperate they are to to get the hell away to a place that isn't just sand and more lizards.
Sidhe! Since they're shapeshifting spirits, of course the creators decided that they should be drawn as sexy elf ladies wearing basically nothing. They can shift to any size between an inch and seven feet tall, and retain all of their physical stats while doing so. Including strength, which defines carrying capacity. Sadly, once they've shifted into one mortal form, they're stuck with it forever. But I'd totally make a one-inch-tall physical powerhouse character. Especially when they can start with the necessary strength score to lift something approximating two-thousand metric tons.
Silestion! Glowing rebel fighty people who have incredibly poor taste in tattoos judging by the race art.
Solarr! Winged bird dudes who lay eggs and therefore hate snakes and anything else that eats eggs a lot.
Starin! Elf Classic with terrible taste in boots.
Tauran! Polygamous minotaurs with harems that have to bang people of other races/species to actually produce kids.
T'leel! Sea elves with, uh. The picture speaks for itself more or less. Jesus Christ.
Tygor! Cat people!
Okay, so the races are a combination of furries(with a bit of a fetish thing from the Taurans), edgelords from the 90's(like the DEMONIANS), misc. ripoffs(Golgothans) and generic fantasy options(dwarves, elves and humans). Not off to a super strong start here, SenZar. I mean, you gotta really hit me up with something that makes me want to continue into the next chapter, to really validate my claim that you've got hea-
Oh, good point. A quick look at the classes chapter shows me that it's got more absurd hair than the 80's, more softcore porn shots than the 90's internet and in general enough ridiculous character art that it's going to be hilarious even aside from the TEXT
Next time: CLASSES
Original SA post
Okay, so, the races were a bit underwhelming, or hilarious, and the classes are off to a strong start by having an Alchemist that looks like something off a Marvel Comics cover, but they're also off to a strong start in terms of fucking up. Read the following.
All Professions are "balanced," with no one Profession enjoying a particular advantage, either in combat or in spellcasting, over another.
All Professions, even the ones with both Combat and Spellcasting abilities, progress the same on the Experience Point chart. The "balance" for this seeming advantage, besides the obvious GenMin increases, is the fact that the majority of the "dual-classed" Professions must adhere to a specific set of unwritten rules, or codes.
Okay, so firstly, sometime around when RPG's first decided to dabble in "pick disadvantages for more chargen points" and half of them inevitably turned out to be "roleplaying" disadvantages, everyone with half a brain realized that these were more or less just free points in most cases. But, then, check this next quote.
SenZar, literally half a fucking page later posted:
Nothing is set in stone, and the Creator should feel free to "tweak" a Professon to suit his own campaign.
Who knows: perhaps, in your campaign, there might be a Shy'R Martial Arts-based cult of Assassins(who may serve a more "neutral" or even "good" cause)
"So our balancing depends on roleplaying limitations on some of the classes, but here we are, encouraging you to scrap them to your heart's content!"
Anyway, that minor screw-up aside, lets get into the classes themselves. Mechanically they seem to make a decent amount of sense right out of the gate. We've got a unified XP chart for all classes, we've got unified HP gain(modified only by our Constitution), and only two separate tracks for combat and magic advancement. So anyway, what can we play as? Does it sound more exciting than the race options? Let's find out.
Alchemists are wizards who also come with a shitload of crafting skills. Everything from scribing through smithing and making poison. Also, for some reason, also astrology. All their "spellcasting" more or less takes the form of hand grenades in some way or another, lobbing alchemical reagents at people's faces, or crafted items. If you like war crimes, this is the class for you. Alchemists are really limited in their spell supply only by how much they can craft and carry, and can use their stuff instantly, but need to prepare it before hand. At high levels, Alchemists also get to make stuff like cloning vats or novel life forms.
If you're an assassin, you have to be evil and can never break your vow of assassin silence, lest your guild hunt you down and stab you in the brain. Unless the GM says otherwise, as noted earlier. You also get BLACK WYRM martial arts, which I scrolled ahead to read about. Basically they're underground(in the literal sense of being made by subterranean evil guys) martial arts that "bear a resemblance to the Terran art of Ninjutsu."
You're a Star Cleric who casts his spells by drawing Zodiacal signs in the air in front of him, which is kind of cool, and handily enough also silent, and your powers will also be stronger during the one month of the year where your Zodiacal sign is ascendant(The SenZar calender is handily more or less like ours, at least similar enough that their year is 364 days long). All their powers are themed around the sky, stars and planets, with the occasional foray into stuff that makes their astrological work easier. They can also summon their own sun in case they need to deal with vampires or anything else similarly vulnerable to proper sunlight, and just carry it with them to incinerate bad stuff. Oh and their peak powers involve creating literal Black Holes. That's pretty Exalted.
Battlemages are wizards with swords who are, for some reason, during training, brainwashed into prioritizing enemy Battlemages over all others. I'm not sure why you'd program them like that, but I guess it's just what you do when you teach a guy to throw fireballs with his off hand while wielding a sword with his main hand, you tell him how he should chump on anyone else who looks too much like himself. Their magic is mostly generic elemental effects focused around blowing up bad guys and defending good guys. Though they also get time magic. Yeah, for some reason these guys' useful haste spells(which cap out at 100x speed for the caster) are capped off with "you can go anywhere in time, have fun kiddo."
Dragonslayers are noble, valiant, morally upright and super strong nazis. Yeah you think I'm exaggerating but it says they're all part of a 99.9% human order that plans to purge all non-humans from their ranks soon enough. They've got a Paladin-esque code but, as the game says, there's no actual penalty for ignoring it. Considering that they point out how nothing will arbitrarily strip away your powers for breaking your code, I suspect someone had a traumatic experience playing a D&D Paladin at some point. I read ahead and there's a slightly interesting story to the Dragonslayers, though. Apparently their patron deity is Rel, the only deity that started out as a bog standard human, and thus the deity of choice for most humans. Apparently prior to ascending, he provided his followers with tons of advice and guidelines on how to love and serve each other in the best ways. His followers nodded, compiled it all into a big volume, and then started killing non-believers and non-humans. Rel was unprepared for this, and since his flock of followers turned out to be raging psychopaths, somehow that infected his divine mind and he, too, is now more or less as much of a jackass as they are.
In more or less any other game they'd have gone ahead and called these guys "Bards," they're trained in creating illusions, they're acrobats, they play instruments and they know how to sing. Oh and they can steal your wallet. This is also the sort of art you should expect for pretty much every female class picture. More or less anything you can find under the D&D wizardry school of Illusion, you're going to find here, as well as charming spells and almost anything that'd be handy to a thief. Their 10th-level capstone spell is a magic fog that turns any illusion it touches into permanent reality. That's incredibly abuseable, and I love it.
You're Agent #47 as performed by the Joker with uncomfortably tight pants, that's more or less the short version of this one.
The Harlequin is a True Loon: a specially trained Assassin/Enchanter with a decidedly strange passion for theatrical skills.
When the situation calls for an assassination to be made as boldly, as insanely, as possible, then the traditional Assassin, who traditionally operates in a clandestine fashion, is passed upon and the Harlequin is loosed.
The Harlequin begins his training as an Assassin -- but is "weeded out" of the normal training process once the true lunatic nature of his personality surfaces.
"Well, once we found out he was a total fuckup and a danger to all of us, we trained him wrong as a joke." The Harlequin also has a skill called "Poisons & Radiations." The Assassin and the Alchemist have it, too, but for some reason I didn't notice it there. "Poisons & Radiations
." I really hope that it literally lets you mix up a bottle of ionizing radiation and toss it at someone, or make your dagger radioactive. That'd be too great.
This is the nerdy Nazi to the Dragonslayer's jock Nazi. Oh and they're psychic. Psychic powers in SenZar are referred to as being the spell school "Mysticism," which allows you to mind control people, explode their brains, do some minor scrying, disintegrate things, create matter ex nihilo, shoot mind bullets, teleport and incinerate people's souls.
You start off knowing how to kick someone so hard their kidneys come out of their asshole, that's about it.
In case you want to have mind bullets without being a Nazi, play this guy.
The normal Assassin will stab you and then kick your head off. The Harlequin will set up some sort of ridiculous Rube Goldberg machine and eventually you'll want to kill yourself from his terrible puns. The Mystic Assassin trips and stabs out her own liver with the ridiculous crossbar on her sword because she isn't wearing any armor covering her abdomen. If that doesn't happen, though, she's a psychic assassin.
So now we've got a Psychic Assassin, a Psychic Nazi, a Psychic Psychic and here's a Psychic Martial Artist to round it out. Also while the Nazi Paladins don't lose their powers for violating their ostensible code, the Mystic Warriors will in fact forget how to use their brains to kill people if they bring dishonour upon themselves.
With the Necromancer, we're up to 6 out of 13 classes so far who are only available to evil, psychopathic or profoundly nihilistic characters unless the GM grants special dispensation for you to play a good murderer for hire. Necromancers are kind of cool, though, their ultimate goal is to become either a lich or a demon. They accomplish this by duelling undead or demonic creatures, respectively, and whenever he defeats one, he gets to steal one of its skills, attributes or abilities. This is almost certainly profoundly broken, but somewhat novel. Their spells are an even mix of demon stuff, undead stuff and soul-manipulating stuff. I particularly dig how they can use soulstones to trap enemies in, at which point he can then tap their abilities, attributes, special skills and even their mana pool for his own use. So you could have a high-level Necromancer wearing soul-filled jewelry that lets him more or less duplicate demons' physical capabilities(those he hasn't already absorbed from duelling them), dragons' breath weapons and just tapping their power rather than bothering to resort to his own mana.
They are, predictably, divine spellcasters. Interestingly, though, they have a bonus way to earn XP that no other character has, which is conversion. If they can manage to convert an enemy to their faith, said enemy is worth twice the usual XP. I have to admit this is probably the first time I've actually seen a fantasy RPG where clerics or their equivalent are encouraged to proselytize and convert. Their Divine Magic is pretty standard Cleric stuff, healing, harming and warding, with an array of "help god plz I need you to bail my ass out of the dumpster fire I have gotten myself into."
The only noteworthy thing about this class is that this is when I noticed that rather than having a "Bluff" skill, SenZar has "BS." I.e. "bullshitting." Also that they're the only class with the "Party On!" skill which, at first, seems ridiculous. All it says it does is that it allows you to resist the effects of "any intoxicating substances." But then I realized that does
have some interesting applications for a thief. After all, you can dose the same water or food that everyone's eating with drugs, consume what everyone else does with no ill effects, and then rob them blind, without risking getting dosed by something you can't handle or having to somehow charm your way out of having a drink when everyone else is having one.
We had Nazi paladins before, now we have anti-Paladins. Similarly to the Priest, they get double XP for converting enemies to their cause, in this case always evil. Aaaaalways evil.
If you want to be a good fighter guy rather than some variant of evil fighter guy, without investing in any sort of magic or psychic powers, you play a Shy'R Warrior. The only cost is that you have to get a terrible dragon tattoo sprayed across your chest.
Ha ha holy shit the Sorcerer. What the fuck do I even need to say? Look at his fucking art, it's a fucking hoverthrone with missiles on it
. Basically, think Dr. Doom, they learn both magic and science. Their magic starts off as more or less just flying and throwing energy bolts, but then they learn how to turn enemies into mutants or irradiate them to death, and how to forcibly trigger beneficial mutations in allies. His capstone abilities involve more or less making gravity his bitch and, you know those powerful Prismatic [Noun] spells from D&D? He forges one of those into a suit of armor and a weapon and then goes to town with it.
Unlike the Enchanter and the Harlequin, this is our true bard, armed with his own unique magic skill, Spellsinging, which only his class gets access to. They have a roleplaying weakness which compels them to accept any music or singing challenge. So if some random guy insists you take up his banjo challenge, you have to accept it. The loser has to leave, while the winner gets to "stake his claim to the best bars and locales." This is actually kind of awesome, I love that you've got these battle bards
who more or less live to go around having musical duels to determine who gets to perform here.They get about five different variations on the idea of "Power Chord: Kill" as well as the ability to sing eulogies so touching that the gods go: "okay, this dude was pretty righteous, he gets to go to heaven." There's also a spell of Permanent Coolness(tm) that translates to looking like you're always wearing new, black clothes, having your face be forgotten by anyone who tries to remember you or even see what you look like, and leaving no footprints. They also get to do the Blue Mage thing where they can literally steal and learn any spell cast within range of them, at the risk of eating the full effect with no save.
A grab-bag of combat, martial arts and stealth abilities intended for kidnapping people, more or less. A Stalker could probably get employed by the Forest Cops or something, to bring in criminals, but it's implied that they're more or less kidnapping people for crime syndicates most of the time.
In case you want to start with a ridiculous belt buckle and six different weapons, like some sort of hoarder with an infinite inventory. Also appears to be the only class who gets to start with boxing or wrestling as a skill.
Male witches are also called witches, not warlocks, is what this class description told me. Also apparently witches are either True Neutral, evil or good, depending on who you ask. Because no one, apparently not even witches themselves, know why they do what they do. Except it may be good, or bad, or neither. Their spell selection is a bit odd, but mostly focuses around minor curses that can only be resisted by literal gods or other witches. Disappointingly uncool, SenZar. A capstone spell that can be paraphrased as "create a sacred grove where you get some bonuses" isn't going to cut it.
Witch hunters are psychic vigilantes who hunt, in order from least to most wanted, violators of the innocent, persecutors of the weak and hypocrites. They're also grim and brooding.
Like pretty much every other class, the book goes on about how useful and powerful they are, but doesn't really describe what sets wizardry aside from, say, the Sorcerer's Techno-Magic(aside from worldview) or Witchcraft(aside from the wizard having less babbling nonsense in his class description), until you flick to the chapter that contains the actual spells. Like most of the other "traditional" spellcasters, Wizards get to fly. They also get style points for having a basic attack spell that can be summarized as "you point at someone and want them to die, and they take damage from that." About the only really impressive thing they get, though, is that they can create unstable wormholes that, if left unattended for too long, will start growing uncontrollably and just gobbling up landscape and objects and drawing them back to the point of origin. It honestly seems more useful as a shit-starting spell than a transport spell.
Okay, so, honestly? I'm pleasantly surprised. With the power scale already established as going up to "create a black hole to ruin people's day" without even needing to break into the Immortal ruleset, they're certainly delivering on giving players power and agency. System so far seems simple. Some of the classes are actually kind of charming, like having Rogues with drug-related superpowers and Spellsingers that have to accept any sort of musical duel or challenge. They've got an interesting take on Necromancers, and the Sorcerer's air-to-air combat throne is fucking rad.
Next up, though, is going to be the skills and combat. That's where things could seriously break down, both system-wise and sanity-wise.
I almost kind of hope it does, I mean, so far SenZar is really failing to live up to the negahype, and is instead feeling like something I might run one day to see how well it works.
Next up: How the game actually works. Exciting!
Freaks, Karma and Codes(Somehow we're still on chargen)
Original SA post
Freaks, Karma and Codes(Somehow we're still on chargen)
So as mentioned, I skipped three classes last time because I was getting tired of scanning stuff, and also because those three classes are in a subchapter of their own, entitled FREAKS. This is because while the rest of the classes are, supposedly, balanced, and more or less run on the same systems, functioning more as starting setups than anything else, the Freaks are unabashedly overpowered. The Freaks also run on unusual subsystems of their own, technically any base class can eventually learn anything that any other base class can learn, even if it'd probably be prohibitively expensive in terms of training time, the Freaks have actual unique traits.
Even then, we strongly suggest that only the most skilled Players be allowed to take on the challenge of playing such warped lunatics.
Shapeshifters are first up, and they more or less get to collect forms like pokemon. The only limit is that your Power score limits how weirdly you can shift, and you can only gank shapes from anyone with a Power score lower than your own. But since you steal their physical stats when you assume their form, just invest everything into your Power score and mental stats and laugh all day as you turn into dragons and houseplants. Also at their top tier they can turn into a sword the size of a moon and cut planets in half(literally, it states that the only real limit is "no turning into other Immortals" and "size must be less than Earth's moon"). This is less "Exalted Lunars" and more "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann."
The Talisman, meanwhile, is more or less a magical null. With the ability to eventually either perfectly absorb or perfectly reflect any spell, drain power points from any item or living creature that has them, and more or less can spend his own soul to incinerate people in the most direct way imaginable. Not really as potentially abusable and hilarious as the Shapeshifter, but probably something you could use as a villain(NPC's are encouraged to be generated exactly like PC's).
And lastly the Voidspawn, which are just big mountains of huge stats, more or less. Kind of disinteresting otherwise and really feel like they were made to be NPC's seeing as how once they become Immortals, the GM(or one of the setting ubergods, but really, the GM, you know it's the GM) gets to set them a mission that they cannot disobey, like, "kill other Immortals" or "become a really evil Immortal to balance out all of the good Immortals hanging around," etc.
Karmas & Codes
Anyway, with the Freaks out of the way, we get to Karma. Karma is.... uhhhhhhhh... at a glance it's a horrible attempt at making a better alignment system. Basically they're eight personality traits which start at 0, which is the best they can possibly be, but at chargen you can raise them, giving you a shittier personality, essentially, in exchange for more points to chargen with. Some things apparently make us roll against our karmas if they're not perfect(at zero), which make them sound like, ugh, Exalted's Virtues. Additionally, if one of our Karmas is bad enough, we get cursed with a "Manifestation," i.e. a mental illness based on it, more or less.
The eight Karmas are Attitude(negative manifestations are Antisocial, Bad Attitude, Grim, Free Spirit, Liner, Smartass, Snob, Trickster), Confidence(Alpha Behavior, Beta Behavior, Megalomania, Overconfident), Discipline(Absentminded, Addiction, Bloodlust, Curious, Total Stupidity, Wanderlust), Fear(...Fear, that's the only possible manifestation. Which is supposed to more or less cover every possible Phobia), Greedy(Greedy, Hoard!!!, Lechery), Harmony(Bloodthirsty, Liar, Hatred, Nightmares, Insomnia), Luck(Bad Luck), Sanity(Depressive, Manic, Manic/Depressive, Klepto, Multiple Personalities, Obsessive/Compulsive, Paranoid, Pyromania). The game also lets you have multiple shitty karmas of the same kind, which can give you multiple Manifestations from the same category. Later, we can also buy off our poor personalities and mental illnesses with the same Fate Points we use to upgrade our character.
For anyone who's ever played a White Wolf game, I think it's pretty obvious that this is leading to some sort of interesting way to break the game in half. Because these are roleplaying quirks
, more or less, that we get character creation points for. Meaning that we can be a shouty, ill-mannered jackass(Alpha Behavior) in exchange for being able to blow people up with our brain better at chargen. Or what if we're Bloodthirsty, Curious and Greedy? Congratulations, we just made half of all PC's in existence, except we're being rewarded for it. A Grim character has the terrible disadvantage of being unable to laugh without rolling a save against his karma. Oh the humanity.
Some of their definitions are a bit unusual to me, though, for instance, I had expected the "Lechery" flaw to be all about being a pervert. But instead it's actually pretty controlled and simply goes: "Characters with Lechery are totally self-indulgent pigs who won't think twice about how they look, or what people think about them, as long as they satisfy their baser appetites." I appreciate that as much as they're a bunch of goons who made a classic game design flaw, compounding by making it basically, "the GM tells you when you have to play your flaw, roll to save against being a dumbass," at least the SenZar guys aren't creeps
Codes work more or less like Karmas except in a more alignment-esque way. It compels you to act according to one of two "good" or two "evil" worldviews(or to invest in both good and both evil worldviews), with the primary danger being that beyond a certain point of devotion to it, you're marked as a public follower of that cause and those hostile to it might start to take pot shots at you. Our choices are The Cause(you want to kill evil, you want to kill it SUPER HARD, and if you break your oath, supergod himself, the Dragon, will ruin your day), The Good Earth(you're generically good and would like to keep things alive), The Anti-Life(everyone else must die or become your slave) or The Dark Earth("might makes right, also we worship a really bad dude called Cthon"). The Codes aren't very interesting, but if you were going to kill evil things and take their shit anyway, you might as well invest in The Cause or The Good Earth for more chargen points.
Powers, Skills and
Anime Martial Arts
The next subchapter is more or less just a list of what all the classes' various abilities can do, both special powers and plain skills. Mainly the interesting thing here is that for the highly expensive cost of a 10 in one of our Karmas(or Codes, or hell, we could just pay it our of our starting Fate Point pool), we can be immortal. Now, sure, it says
we need GM permission for it, but come on, surely they wouldn't have put Immortality(or True Regeneration, as they call it, which lets us regenerate even if we're damaged below the point where we're dead, and it doesn't say there's a lower limit beyond which we can't regenerate), on the powers list if they didn't want us to buy it. After learning that we can take the first step to godhood even before we're halfway out of chargen, there's then the monumental skill list, which goes from Astrology to Wrestling.
Interestingly enough, you're stuck with your starting class package at chargen. You can't actually pay Fate Points to learn out-of-class skills during chargen, or even during the game. In fact, the only way to learn new skills is to find a trainer and either convince him to train you, or to pay up to learn from someone, and then spend some time actually doing it(which can eat up to a quarter of a year, so it's not just an idle investment). Amusingly enough the default cost for learning the "Party On!" skill is how much the drinks will cost. I also have to give the creators props for not turning social rolls into mind control, and actually pointing out that just being sufficiently suave will not get people to abandon their sternly held beliefs at the drop of a hat. We're also learning the system piecemeal, chapter by chapter, I'll point out. Using your skills is just a straight roll against your stat, more or less, trying to beat a TN on a D20 that's (Stat-21) in almost all cases, but if it's actually related to a skill, you can re-train your skill up to five times, each time giving yourself a +1 to add to the roll(or to add to the stat when calculating the TN, whichever you prefer).
After that, we get to become anime in the Martial Arts chapter, which stops one Destructo Disc short of being Dragon Ball Z. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it does let us punch people without being near them and move so fast we leave distracting, blurred afterimages of ourselves. Black Wyrm Martial Artists even get a sweet DEATH TOUCH ability where they more or less punch your soul in half so you die. Meanwhile, Shy'R martial artists get to dance their enemies to death, and also to have ridiculous ability names like "THE SWEET PAIN OF WARHAWK," which more or less translates to "do the Fist of the North Star Thing, except instead of exploding, the guy whose fragile nerve centers you just punched keels over and poops himself while crying." Which is at once way worse and much, much better. Also no I'm not making up the part where the guy you just punched to paralysis shits himself, that's literally in the book.
I'm sure that something here, possibly everything, is ridiculous. But do you know why it's hard to point anything out? Besides the fact that "turn into a moon-sized sword and chop the planet in half" just kind of erased my sense of scale, there's also the fact that the game still hasn't introduced us to the combat system. So welcome to having no idea if an ability is a one-shot-death-punch or something that lets you mildly tickle a dude. So for now I'm just looking at what sounds
goofy until we get to the Combat chapter.
Probably we'll reach that next time, along with the deepest lore
The SenZar Cosmology
Original SA post
The SenZar Cosmology
Okay, so technically we're now more or less done with all the chargen material and are ready to move on to the combat rules, the radiation rules and the fluff. And also the rules for becomign a god. If anyone's interested, hit me up with a class/race combo and I can try making some example characters and seeing how silly we can get them right out of the gate(or very close to it).
Anyway, the fluff starts off with the HISTORY OF SENZAR. Once, long ago, there were great and powerful kingdoms and empires that were also total idiots because they practically murdered each other and almost left SenZar a dead world, until they had to band together to fight off an invasion that consisted of either aliens, demons or demon aliens. Then things were pretty cool for a few millennia, as no one blew up SenZar and were instead busy inventing cool new spells and enslaving various indigenous populations to serve as colonial holdings. It'd have been pretty great if the world hadn't been rocked by earthquakes, volcanoes and terrible weather, casting down all of the mighty empires.
That triggers the AGE OF SCREAMING SKULLS, which is a pretty good name for a terrible age where evil demon lords rule your world from the BLACK PYRAMID(this is also where most of the PC races are brought to SenZar, or their ancestors, at least, as slave labour or entertainment for the demon lords who've stolen them from various places in other solar systems and dimensions). Then there's a period of history where everyone briefly unites to kick the demon lords in the dick, then falls back into infighting, rinse and repeat for what is presumably a few millennia. As these ages go on, though, the demon incursions switch from "lets burn everything and make lamps out of their skulls" to "lets just promote racism, greed and the like and watch them set each other on fire while our minions take advantage of it."
At the point in history where the game is going, seven legendary heroes have returned as gods to stabilize the world, which has sort of
worked, in that SenZar is no longer going to hell in a handbasket, but everyone who isn't a benevolent demigod still seems intent on trying to make it happen.
The creators also admit that SenZar's stellar circumstances(two moons, one of which is about 1.5x the size of Earth's, and the other of which is about half the size of Earth's, which are approximately half and a quarter the distance from SenZar that Earth's moon is from Earth, respectively) should more or less destroy it horribly in short order, but tell us not to worry about it, because it's fucking magic. There's also a third moon, which is invisible. It's invisible because the SHADAR DEMON LORDS cursed it to more or less be a huge UV light burning with enough intensity to erase all life from SenZar's surface given enough time, so the forces of Good had to shift it out of reality entirely, except the spell was kludged together hastily, so during certain astronomical or spiritual conjuctions, it'll peek in briefly to give everyone a night-time tan.
I'm also scratching my head over the astronomical details. Apparently both moons orbit SenZar, but for one week out of every four, one of the moons "circles [the other moon] twice per night." I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how this could possibly work out.
The calender and time stuff is more or less "it's Earth's but with more nicely rounded numbers and a few changed names," though the zodiacal signs are somewhat more badass. Capricorn? No, you're not a Capricorn, you're a ZONE OF DESTRUCTION. Seriously, THE ZONE OF DESTRUCTION is one of the zodiacal signs. Said Zone of Destruction is an "oopsie" by the primordial gods that more or less opened a torus-shaped Eye of Terror around the SenZar solar system more or less in line with the plane of the ecliptic. Sadly, despite it sounding like it earlier in the book, your zodiacal sign provides no goofy magical powers, bonuses or drawbacks. Instead it's more or less just a stereotypical personality description... more or less like real-world signs of the Zodiac.
It also turns out that SenZar and Earth(or "Terra") are located in the same universe, canonically, sort of. There's a fourth wall(The Dream Barrier) separating the two, but we're told it's not completely
inviolate(also a couple of pages later we're told that the humans on SenZar were, in fact, imported from Earth in ancient times by the demon lords). We're also given a run-down on the various planes we can visit, which is more or less the standard, "here's where the Gods and souls go," "here's where the demons and bad guys go," "here's Time World, keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times," "here's the Border Ethereal, except we're calling it The Shadow World," "here's a vaguely described place called The Far Side of Shadow where the Eternals live," and "here's where magic goes when it's done being magical." It's not very creative, but it's functional. Plus, I kind of like the name Far Side of Shadow, it's neat.
There's a section on the various languages of SenZar and what they sound like, and whether they're spoken or written. About the only interesting thing I spotted was that, of course, the elven language is "lisping
and ethereal." Because why wouldn't it be?
It's honestly not super detailed, in fact there's a baffling lack of information about the world itself and what's on it outside of general descriptions of some of the cultures(usually as off-hand remarks), repeated information(we get four separate sections on the moons. First a general one, then a second general one, then a third one about stories about them, and then a fourth one about the UV moon rather than just stuffing it in with the rest of the moons). But, it's cool, because now we finally get to the meat of the game. The thing we've been waiting for
Yes, it has the three exclamation marks in the book, too. It starts off by telling us about the action economy, essentially each round is split into ten "phases," everyone goes in the first phase, then everyone with a second action goes in the second phase, everyone with a third action goes in the third face and so on. It's not a bad idea, because it allows for multiple actions without allowing someone with a shitload of them to alpha strike the rest of the fight out of action in the first round. If I remember right, WFRP handles multiple attacks in combat the same way, too, or at least somewhat similarly. Attacks always take one "phase" to pull off, but some stronger spells may be initiated in one phase and then not finish until you've gone through several more of them. Of course, spells that take more than one phase to finish might get interrupted if someone beats you over the head with a mace in the meantime. Sufficient Willpower might allow you to resist it(if you pass a WILL save), but it's far from guaranteed.
There's no rolling initiative, it's determined entirely by your Speed rating what order you go in, though ties are broken by a D20 roll.
I have to admit, this is probably one of the better initiative systems I've dealt with.
Also, as a basic combat action, aside from attacking, using items and casting spells, you can also try to browbeat someone with your charisma(or PRESENCE stat). If you have sufficient charisma, you can more or less stunlock or scare off a number of enemies equal to your charisma. If they fail a contested Presence roll, they will at the very least act last in every combat phase, possibly get shifted down a combat phase(so, for instance, rather than taking their first action in phase 1, they'd take it in phase 2), lose an entire combat round or, in a worst-case scenario, just run away. Some enemies may be too stupid or fearless for it to work, but in most cases, charisma is literally one of the strongest weapons on the SenZar battlefield if you can back it up with a sufficient speed stat.
In general the combat chapter is pretty well-organized and easily readable. The basic attack roll is also pretty simple. D20+Attack Value-Defense Value. 0-9 is a miss, 10 to 18 is a normal hit, 19 or 20 is a critical hit which does 2X damage and has a chance of crippling the victim(reducing their attack and defense values by 10 each, and penalizing all skills rolls by 10, until the damage done by the wound is completely healed).
It's not exactly 4th edition D&D, but it does also give combat characters more to do than just hitting enemies. Allowing for called attacks(which can lop off or destroy important parts of the target's body), dodges, parries, sweeping attacks, etc. it's honestly reasonably satisfying. Also nothing appears to prevent you from using your non-combat skills in a fight either, so it seems entirely possible to, for instance, use your pickpocketing to remove important stuff from enemies who aren't paying attention to you in the fray. In addition, some combat options not listed in this chapter, but instead in the skills chapter, like the various martial arts maneuvers.
There's also the sort of RAW stuff that the Murphy's thread could possibly have fun with. For instance, it doesn't say you can't act while asleep, merely that you have a -10 to all "applicable skill rolls" and saves while asleep. To me that reads like you can be a sleepwalking potion mixer if you're good enough at it. The whole combat chapter is also laden with decent suggestions for GM's on how to handle various situations or how to modify them.
More or less the entire combat chapter just solidifes my desire to one day run SenZar.
Next: Equipment(if it's interesting), making a character(if anyone wants me to) and then the Immortals' Rules
A cruel twist of fate
Original SA post
So, bad news, the review is probably permanently canned. I got tired of transcribing and scanning everything with my shoddy old scanner, so I sent my SenZar book to get OCR'd and PDF'd so the review would be easier and so the book wouldn't fall apart on me before I was done(because the binding was already coming off in the back).
the fucking postal service managed to damage or destroy a book in a cardboard box which was, within that box, wrapped in three layers of bubble wrap. I say damage OR destroy because they've merely gone "whoop we broke it, here have some money and please don't ask any more questions." But now I'm pressing them for answers on HOW damaged it is, whether I can possibly still continue with the review with what's there, even if it might not be scannable any longer.
So, uh, if anyone else has a copy or can get one, feel free to continue, take over or restart the review. Because I think I literally got my hands on the last SenZar book for sale in all of Europe.
Original SA post
It feels like part of the problem with Chaos badstuff is that they got it backwards. You touch it and then you're instantly, randomly fucked. Feels more like it should be tempting to engage with. Like anyone can invoke Chaos for a boost or benefit to something they're doing. Tzeentch for wizarding, Khorne for chopping, Nurgle for surviving, Slaanesh for socializing(just to chop it up into rough terms). If you're out of Fate points, they should be able to replicate the same effects, or better, and the first time's free. But every time after that, Chaos wants something in return. It starts out with minor sacrifices and favours, accelerating as you ask more or simply get more indebted, and entirely bad mutations should be the result of failing to pay off your debt to Chaos, while beneficial mutations are what you get as rewards, whether you asked for them or not. Asked Khorne to help you beat this dude in a fight? Maybe you get huge swole demon arms so you can take him down, but now you've got a visible sign of Chaos forever, so you're gonna get into more trouble, which will require you to ask Chaos for more help, which will get you more marked.
Rather than a save-or-die, make it a conscious choice to start the downward slide(though Chaos would not be above engineering situations where you'd want to ask them for help to stay alive or succeed) which may or may not have had the best of intentions, and which involves as little random chance as possible.
Plus that way it may even result in an interesting story! I mean, there's nothing interesting in the story of "here's the guy who looked at the wrong page in a book and now he's a mewling blob of tentacles," but maybe there's something interesting in the story of the noble knight who wanted to save someone, but ended up in a situation where he had to ask Chaos for help to pull it off, and now he's trying to pay off his debt to Chaos without digging himself a deeper hole or ending up with a squid for a head.
But enough about Chaos, it's time for...
When we last left off, we'd just finished with the core mechanical parts of SenZar and I'd been pleasantly surprised by the fact that, for all its insane presentation and goofy writing, there was a reasonably competent game at the heart of it, with mechanics that I wouldn't be afraid to run a game with one day. What's next is the equipment chapter which starts off with generic gear(I mean, you can't go adventuring without rope, ten-foot poles and lockpicks), currencies(each made from their own valuable metal) and exotic materials(ranging from black moonlight to V-Steel and Vibrazyne, there are a total of 28 rare materials for things to be crafted from). You can also make armor and weapons from what is more or less fantasy uranium-anthrax, totally a great idea to wear a helmet of it, I'm sure, or wearing an armor made from literal magic light.
It's over the top, as would probably be expected.
It's also completely mangled, organization-wise. It starts off with prices for the basic stuff, cost modifiers for "exotic" materials, then launches into descriptions of how we can artifice super-cool bows as well as the list of Cool Weapons(tm) including stuff like the DEMONIAN HATE FANG and the DEMONIAN DEATH SPIKER(Demonian weapons are literally described as "the pointiest") before we're even told how much damage a normal sword, dagger or axe do. But really, would you want an axe when you could have a SUN BOW or a STAR JAVELIN instead? I think not. Though once we get over to the normal weapons, there are 17 kinds of different swords before we even get to the rest of the armory. They haven't skimped on variety, for sure. Next to the catapults, there's what's described as "a very wicked M1-A 1 Main Battle Tank" powered by a nuclear reactor. Its weapons are still inexplicably "compact ballistae" instead of cannons, for some reason.
Most of the weapons aren't mechanically differentiated, they mostly just do more damage than the preceding type, have a cooler name and sometimes require two hands to hold. Oh and of course after the tanks, flying battleships, catapults, swords, spiky murderswords and such, there are also assault rifles, gauss rifles, laser pistols and rolling pins.
Also the paragraph on shields is hilarious for a couple of reasons, none of which probably the intended one.
Fair Warning: In The Sen2'.ar System, where combat kicks your teeth in and bleeds you to the bone hard and fast, there is little room for lumbering about and cowering behind a garbage can lid.
We will acknowledge that the "Low Level" PC may find that using a shield helps him by making it harder for all those Bad Guys to hit him. And we will also acknowledge the fact that some folks out there just like the damned things. But that doesn't mean that we like them.
In The SenZar System, Shields do not provide additional AP Value. They do, however, grant the character who actively employs them during combat a Defense Value Bonus, which is added to the character's own DV ("Actively employs" means that the character is using a hand/mm to bear the shield, and not just walking around with it stuck on his back, or taped to his forehead)
So while armor makes you take less damage, a shield just makes you harder to hit.
There isn't a whole lot to talk about in this chapter besides having a laugh at some of the over the top shit they put on the gear tables, but the next chapter(which I'll tackle next post) promises to be more entertaining. It's the Magic chapter. And it starts off by shitting on Vancian casting. Good show, SenZar guys, good show.
Original SA post
It's time for SenZar's chapter on Magic
. Of course, it starts out by shitting on how other
games aren't doing magic right.
Magicks, Spellcasting and Spells in The SenZar System are really · cool. Why? Read on and discover for thyself why The SenZar System RULES ...
No Memorization! Once a spell initially is learned by the spell- · caster, then that spell can be cast as many times as the spellcaster desires without the cumbersome burden of having to memorize the spell time and time again!
Once they are learned, spells become a part of the spellcaster's arsenal. No further "memorization" or "study" is necessary for the spellcaster in order for him to cast the same spell multiple times. Once the spell is learned, it's there for good.
Instead, this system runs off of mana/spell points, in this case being Power Points(tm) that fuel your ability to nuke enemies out of existence. Like fighty types, spellcasters also tend to be able to do multiple things, maybe even cast multiple spells, per combat round. But as I think I mentioned back during the combat chapter, this is limited by casting times. The authors also spend a good amount of this chapter doing something that it doesn't feel like a lot of games do, which is discussing their design decisions. Like, why is a combat and magic class still more or less balanced despite an action economy discrepancy? Why are the hybrid classes still balanced? Why did they choose to limit this thing? Etc. I like it because it makes things feel less arbitrary, and also because in case I decide to sit down and houserule some of this stuff, I've got the authors' thoughts on why another action phase per round for the Sorcerer or whatever might be OP.
I feel like the last time I actually remember an in-depth digression on game design reasoning was in the 2nd ed AD&D DMG.
Though it's probably a bit too much that one thing gets a Neato, Wicked, Radical, Cool and Awesome explanation(that is to say, one of each) for why it's a sensible design decision.
Writing quirks aside, the start of this chapter is primarily just wizard maths, the more detailed cool shit comes up later. There's a decent amount of maths because many combat spells are essentially just a template, and the exact effects depend on the effort(power points) expended by the caster, which define the damage done, range, area of effect, etc. It also means that mages have some options for "pulling" their punch by not feeding the maximum amount of power points into a spell and even restricting the blast radius on stronger spells.
We're also introduced to making magical items here(before we've even gotten to the spells) and the baked-in mechanic wherein if someone runs in and shoves the evil wizard over while he's enchanting his Rod of World Domination, he'll probably explode/implode horribly(you link your soul to a magical item while pouring Power Points into it to enchant it, if someone interrupts the process or you fail a check while doing it, you take an unmitigable point of damage for every Power Point you tossed into the thing). Magic items also generally need to be made from exotic materials, which you can't just forge on a boring old anvil, you need a cool-ass lava/volcano forge, or some cool sci-fi laboratory to do it in. Only the Khazaks know how to make volcano forges, though, so you may need to bribe/kidnap/play one of them if you want to make it easy on yourself.
For some reason, poisons, venoms and radiations are also in this chapter, but it seems like the rules for becoming a mutant weren't ever released, or were in one of the "campaign builders" that are incredibly
out of print now(the bestiary, Creeping Death, still seems to have a few extant copies, but the remaining two "campaign builders"(i.e. supplements) were released on CD, of all things, so I think that short of actually contacting Todd King, I don't think there's any chance of getting a hold of them). Here we learn that there's a type of dragon(purple dragons) that apparently breathes/bleeds mutating hard radiation and that absinthe is a poison. It's apparently also reasonably likely that you'll survive a poison that causes your blood to instantly combust. Seriously.
Afterwards, diseases! Everything diarrhea to venereal diseases. Yes, this bit even points out that if any players bang prostitutes, they should probably roll CON saves or catch something nasty. Most of the nasty things consist of attribute drain until horrible death. I have no idea why the rules for getting Parkinson's are in the middle of the magic chapter, and, in fact, placed in between the rules for actually casting, using and learning magic, and the big master list of the spells themselves.
For some reason, while doing the classes, I also didn't notice that a good number of the Spellsinging spells are named after real songs, like "99 Ways To Die" and "The Unforgiven," just in case you were wondering what sort of music Todd King and The Brune listened to while making this. I've already commented on the sort of spells you can expect for the various spellcaster classes earlier, so there's not much to add there. But afterwards are the magical items and... most of them are really less insane than I would have expected. They tend to make sense and be useful. And then of course there's this
Frank N's Stein: This unusual stein has the unnerving "Party On!" ability to remain filled to the brim with whatever "normal" liquid is originally placed within it, and never to drain for the duration of the night, though it be slammed, chugged, and consumed like madness itself. Once dawn breaks, however, the party's over, and the contents vanish-but come nightfall, the madness can start again!
The definition of a "normal" liquid is left vague and undefined, so here's your potentially gamebreaking goofball item.
The Ball: This demented little "grey putty ball" is in fact a sentient "living artifact," capable of any possible Shapeshift (see "Shapeshifter") at will! The only problem with this otherwise cool artifact is that anything it shifts into (and it'll shift into anything "commanded" of it by the character) is doomed to be "Faulty"that is, sexually explicit, demented, sick, twisted, and gross. The Ball prefers to maintain a foot-high phallic form when not "in use," perched upon the shoulders of its "owner" for all to see.
A sentient artifact that mostly just wants to be a dildo.
A good few of the artifacts are also clear D&D knockoffs, like a Deck of Many Things expy, and an artifact that feels somewhat inspired by the Eye of Vecna. Of course, there are also things you'd never see in D&D, like an artifact chaingun and revolver pair, and a magic skull helmet that gives you immense magical powers and raven servants... except the magical raven servants that are meant to grant you near-omniscience by scouting for you are, in fact, lazy, poorly motivated and prone to just not doing their jobs and instead lying about what they saw or just plain making shit up.
But really, SenZar is primarily about one super-important thing
Original SA post
But really, SenZar is primarily about one super-important thing, the promise that we can be Gods if we keep at it for long enough and are sufficiently non-dweeby and badass. This all kicks into gear when/if a character hits 20th level(and an appropriate amount of Fame, apparently, because otherwise the supernatural forces of the world just won't notice you exist...), at which point the world starts taking notice of him as being a superior badass, and the various supernatural forces of the world start sidling up with offers ranging from "have all these magical items if you join us" to "nice immortality, be a shame if something happened to it..." Essentially it boils down to being Lawful, Chaotic or "who gives a fuck, I'm here to be a super cool dude" in the grand scheme of things. Though if you told the authors that you wanted to call it, say, Lawful, Chaotic and Neutral, just like in D&D, they'd probably look at you like you took a shit on their book.
The unaligned choice is to be a "Material God," which means you stay on the mortal plane and just continue accruing sick amounts of power. It leaves you less tied to anyone, but also with less allies and considerably more vulnerable if you really piss someone off(which you more or less did by turning down the Lawful offer from the Deific Gods and the Chaotic offer from the Eternals). It's probably the least complicated, and the one most likely to appeal to the sort of psycho who killed and stole enough to reach 20th level in the first place. You're also a bit more fragile than the other options, they need to be utterly annihilated(brought down to negative their max HP) or they will eventually regenerate back to full health and power, while Material Gods can be killed permanently just by lopping off their heads(anything else they'll still regen from, though) probably because the authors saw Highlander like a week before writing this(seriously, if you chop off an enemy Material God's head, there are even badass special effects and you eat a chunk of their Primal Points). Oddly enough, becoming a Material God requires you to actually die as a mortal, though. When you fulfill the requirements and die(either by suicide or by making a dramatic sacrifice), the setting recognizes you as someone super cool and resurrects/reincarnates you as a Material God, usually with some appropriately badass special effects.
Then there's the Lawful choice of becoming a Deific God, which makes you more like a D&D God, with worshippers and a sphere. Your main weakness here is that you have to shepherd your cult/religion, and as it waxes and wanes, so do you. You start this one up by hitting the requisite 20th level and etc. and then finding a God who wants to take you on as an apprentice, essentially. He gives you a minor sphere of influence and you grow your cult until you have the power to become a Demigod, at which point you're a divine journeyman and can do your own thing without being strictly subservient to your former master. This requires about a million worshippers if you want to do it in just a year, so you may be working at this for a while, especially because the primal power you need to advance in divine rank, is also the stuff you'll be burning to do cool shit that could affect a growth in your cult and faith. Other options involve having a shitload of sanctified temples(and keeping them from being defiled) or mass human sacrifice. You're a lot safer than a Material God, though, since your actual body is hidden away on your divine plane, and you'll mostly be interacting with the real world via Avatars that only lose you Power Points(not your life) when destroyed. Unfortunately if one gets taken out, you're unable to create a new one for a year and a day, so it can give some folks free run of fucking up your faith while you can't interfere.
The Eternals are the Chaotic branch of things. Their description makes it sound more or less like they treat their divine club mainly as a social thing where it's about winning arbitrary "Points" and fame in the game of the day, to show the others who the coolest Eternal is. The "Points" they earn also happen to be how they advance in power, unlike normal XP, head-loppings or human sacrifice, as well as being nuclear bombs. Yes, really, they can toss their points at people for absolutely ridiculous amounts of damage, being well into the pentuple digits I think that throwing your "points" at enemies is probably one of the most effective means of ending a fight rapidly. Like Gods, Eternals also don't have physical bodies as much as they do avatars. Rather than being ensconced on a safe plane somewhere, though, they're all consumed by the bookie administrating their games, "The Pool," which dissolves them and handles all the escrow services and other necessities for running a cosmic, divine-level gambling/gaming club. Eternals are a bit more at risk than Gods, though, if their Avatars get nuked out of existence, they'll still be reincarnated within a year(but within that year, if their slayer makes it to the Eternals' HQ they can claim their souls and points for themselves...) but at the lowest possible Eternal rank, unlike the Gods who just lose a negligible amount of power for it. The Eternals are also a relentlessly unfunny sack of garbage, like, they make Kender look like a hilarious addition to a campaign. There's an extensive list, but basically they gain points from the Pool(in addition to the various games) for being WACKY(pyromania, starting wars, etc.) and making bad puns, and lose points for, well, losing or being uncool(more or less treating mortals as anything but furniture).
As a shared thing, everyone who's an immortal gets to breach the normal chargen limits of the game, have absurd numbers of actions per combat round, cast all the spells, cast them super quickly, be telepathic, see in all spectrums, etc. etc. A lot of it still needs to be bought with Primal Points(tm), but if you stay alive as an Immortal for long enough you'll be a pretty scary dude to deal with. There are also some PRIMAL MAGICKS that only Immortals of various stripes can learn, along with some dubious balancing. For instance, if you're a mid-tier God you can more or less effortlessly wipe any planet clean of life with a hard radiation bombardment, which is cheaper(in terms of Primal Point expenditure) than summoning and binding super-demons and super-dragons. If you want to be a bit more picky, you can spend ten times as much as it'd take to annihilate the entire planet to just kill one species on the planet. Considering that one of the setting's few named-and-defined gods is literally a humans-only supremacist, you'd expect that he'd be snuffing out other species one by one.
You'd think there'd be more to talk about here, but a lot of this stuff is defined by the fact that you're breaking free of the rules. The numbers become absurd(like, literally, five-digit damage numbers and up to millions of POWER POINTS and PRIMAL ESSENCE POINTS and worshippers and so on), Material Gods gain undefined-by-RAW powers that they negotiate with the GM, Primal Magicks are mostly defined by the fact that they let you(aside from a number of ways to commit genocide, destroy the planet or destroy the entire universe) cast Wish, or gamble your own soul to chain-cast multiple Wishes(there's literally a specific spell for summoning a MILLION wishes at once). At this point you're entering into the realms of a group fiction-writing exercise more so than running or playing a game.
For all its claims that this is the apex of the game, it feels like the whole thing works better at the mortal levels. But who knows, maybe the supplements
have more info that will make the divine-level play more engaging!
You know, on the off chance that any actual human being actually has any of them. The first supplement(monster manual, basically) was the only one that was published on paper, the remaining two were only published as CD's, so good fucking luck ever getting your hands on those outside of tracking down Todd King and harassing him to put the entire SenZar library up on DriveThru.
And that's it for SenZar, for now, unless someone develops a brain tumor and scores the remaining things. I'd actually really have liked to get my hands on one of the CD-only supplements because one of them is the one that actually details the world and setting, and I feel like that's the sort of shit that'd make for both fun reading and fun reviewing more so than a monster manual.