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OSSR: Nightbane
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koz
Duke


Joined: 02 Jun 2008
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Location: Oz

PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 12:10 pm    Post subject: OSSR: Nightbane Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So, I've been asking for this for approximately forever, and every time, I've either gotten no answer, or been told to just do it myself. So... this is me, doing it myself. I'm definitely going to be channeling the anger of Frank and the research of Ancient History as I write this, but I'll probably do a lot of my own thing (and probably make colossal misses as I do so, but them's the breaks).

Nightbane



It's 1995. Bill Clinton is getting it in the White House. TSR is beginning their slide into being purchased by Wizards of the Coast, but are determined to go out with a bang (and a million settings). We're in late second edition Vampire: The Masquerade-times for White Wolf, which has been helping TTRPG nerds and goth women have sexy-times for four years now. And of course, Rifts (or RIFTS as it was probably referred to back then) is already flaccid, meaning that Kev Siembieda needs to get some new action going.

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Into this hot mess (oh dear), we introduce C. J. Carella, who at this point, has been writing game supplements for about five years, and apparently was quite good at it. Given what he had to work with, I guess this statement needs to be made with considerable reservation, but despite this, he seems to have some awareness of mechanics, can actually write worth a damn, and doesn't eat all the paste. From what I can gather, Nightbane is C.J.'s first full-blown standalone work, and as first attempts go, it is (supposedly) pretty good.

Let's not kid ourselves: Nightbane was an attempt by Palladium Games to cash in on the supernatural craze that Vampire sent into high gear several years prior to that. It has a very similar concept (secret supernaturals fighting scarier secret supernaturals; a dark alt-modern world; playing a monster etc.); is executed using a system with a similar level of awfulness (if for different reasons); has a lot of shit that makes no sense on a first, second or tenth reading; and has some pretty sick art (provided by Brom). However, Nightbane is also distinctively different from Vampire, in that instead of having Elven levels of pretentiousness about its bad rules and worse worldbuilding and wanting you to play Vampire: Get Fucked If You Don't Suck Storyteller Penis and Fishmalk, it grafts a mid-eighties D&D clone engine with a thousand realizarm additions to a game about playing dark supernaturals fighting against a world-controlling conspiracy in an ubran fantasy setting. Compatible with all Rifts material, of course.

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Now, given that this is a Palladium publication from the mid-nineties (or heck, as such), we can expect a certain amount of idiotsyncracies here. A major one of these is Kevin Siembieda ego (and cum) stains all over the pages. Now, I'm not sure to what degree this affected Nightbane as opposed to, say, Rifts, but it definitely still shows. The fact that the rules are a drooling turgid mess of wtf is, of course, a given, but in all honesty, when comparing rules quality against Vampire, it's not a high fucking bar. In a strange way, the systems are bad for very different reasons - Vampire is too modernly-pretentious to give a fuck about such things as rules being sane or consistent, while Nightbane insists that game design was perfectly solved back in the mid-eighties and could never improve. Basically, both systems listen to vinyls; the former because it's too hip and edgy for your advanced technologies, and the latter because it's yelling for kids to get off its lawn and doesn't see the point in the last ten years of technological improvement.

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Of course, the other idiotsyncracies regarding layout and suchlike hardly need canvassing here - Kevin Siembieda, in addition to being a Rank S Asshole, is also an infamous Luddite. The fact that I'm reading this as an OCRed PDF from the third reprint of this is just pure irony given how this book was likely put together. One of the things that crops up in a way very relevant to this review is that there aren't any chapters in this thing - according to the contents page, some headings are more important than others, but the book itself just rambles on and on without giving me any indication of this. Thus, I will break the book into the most logical chunks I can (not an easy feat, believe me), and try to do each such chunk in a post.

Bane of Night - An Overview

So, first-off, we have a Satanic-Panic-style warning for this game. I suspect this warning (along with the entire fucking Palladium engine) is boilerplate written once in the mid-eighties and never really revised much (apart from crude fit hacks), and the fact that it probably read as laughably ironic and dated back when this book came out, much less now, is thus not surprising in the least. Additionally, the list of trademarks and copyrights at the bottom of page 2 could sink a law firm - however, once again, this is just Kevin being the litigious super-asshole that he is. After a long (and notably chapter-free) set of contents pages, we come to our first Very Important Section.

Now, here, I want to give Nightbane some credit - for two things. Firstly, it decided not to have some boring tl;dr introductory, 'mood-setting' Forging The Narrative<sup>TM</sup> bullshit. Instead, we immediately launch into a very concise explanation of what this game is about, who you can expect to be playing, and why you should give a damn. This is something that a lot of games (both then and now) could have done with more of - after just reading a few paragraphs, I already have a basic idea of what I can expect to find here, and I didn't have to read any italics or Da Vinci Forward Regular (or kill any braincells) to get there. Basically, there are monsters, you are one of them, and your task is to fight against other, worse monsters, that secretly control the government and the media and want you dead. Apparently, the average person doesn't know any of this, and you're supposed to do all this fighting in secret. Basically, a similar set of circumstances to Vampire and its ilk. However, you don't get made into a monster - instead, this is something you're born with. The monsters you can play are called Nightbane, and the stuff you're up against are the Nightlords and their assorted friends and pets.

Now, I did say credit was due for two things. By this point in time, the 'Vampions' playstyle (and meme) was already well-established, and White Wolf's reaction to it well-known and as pretentious as ever. While I never played Vampire back then (because I was like, eight or so), from the stories I heard, this was actually a workable and fun way to play the game, which was apparently deemed badwrongfun by the howler monkeys at White Wolf. However, Nightbane hits that nail right the fuck on its head from the get-go:

"The game tries to combine heroic and horror role-playing. ... Ultimately, [Nightbane] face terrifying foes in the guise of the Nightlords, vampires, demonic entities and, in many cases, their own inner demons, fears and desires. ... Against all odds, they must expose and destroy the evil threatening the world, or die trying."

So basically, C.J. Carella and Kev are not only OK with Vampions as a playstyle, they actually make it the primary way to play the game! Given the crunchiness and combat-orientation of the Palladium engine, this is perhaps unsurprising, but this is both remarkably sensible and remarkably far-sighted and aware (if only by accident). Also, it would be horribly remiss of me not to mention that, despite sending a clear message, that paragraph arghle-bargles a bit already, as it claims that Nightbane have to face terrifying enemies pretending to be Nightlords, vampires and demonic entities, rather than, you know, the entities themselves. Apparently, according to C.J. and Kev, the Nightbane should go beat up Halloween trick-or-treaters or something.

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Immediately after this, we get a 'history of the world and what you are' in-character section, which is apparently a bunch of text files being circulated on the Internet. The idea itself is quite sound and forward-thinking, but switching from out-of-character to in-character so abruptly is definitely a bit of a weird move. Essentially, the story goes like this: in 2000, we had a twenty-four-hour super-duper eclipse with all the stars blotting out. People lost their fucking shit, and a whole bunch of them (all orphans) suddenly turned into monsters. The ones that survived learned how to turn back afterwards - and these are the Nightbane. Apparently, most Nightbane transform around their teenage years. Their transformed forms (called 'Morphi') are stronger, better and faster than ordinary human forms (called 'Facades'), and by being a Nightbane, you age very slowly (roughly one year per century, if this in-character tract is to be believed). Nightbane can change back and forth between these, but when they first change, they don't always realise it, and sometimes end up killing themselves (or getting themselves killed) before they switch back. Nightbane have always existed, but after this super-blackout (called the Dark Day, sometimes in italics, sometimes not), we got many more of them.

Additionally, there's apparently an alternate Shadow Realm out there, which is just like our world, but Evil.



Basically, that world is darker, scarier, nastier and more hopeless than our own, and it's ruled by a bunch of dark, scary and evil things called the Nightlords. They are also called 'the Ba'al' - which is annoying as fuck, because 'Ba'al' is a singular form; the plural form would be 'B'alim'. While somewhat pedantic of me, I found that super-grating. Apparently, they hate humanity and Nightbane both, and want to do Evil things to them. There's also other scaries there, but there's treasure too - basically, it's a giant Dungeon World (and not of the kind a certain former poster was a fan of). These scaries are Nightlord minions - we have Doppelgangers, Hounds and Hunters (basically killing machines in armour), the Ashmedai (Lovecraftian horrors, on a first reading), and Nemtar (basically like the Mi-Go from After Sundown). Apparently,they also have some truly mad humans working for them as well - so we have cultist-type things going here too. As it turns out, the Dark Day was the Nightlords invading the Earth, and they basically won. Now, as a Nightbane, you're supposed to fight against them because otherwise, they will murder you and everything you care about.

As far as in-character writing goes, it's not terrible - it certainly gives me a good feel for what's going on in a high-level way, and the fact that it's brief and came after an out-of-character high-level explanation makes it much easier to follow. I suspect this part was C.J. Carella's work - Kev would never read so coherently and with so few ego stains on the page. However, one thing that's conspicuously absent is any explanation of 'what is a tabletop RPG' and 'how do I played it'. It's basically assumed that you already know how this all works, and we can launch straight into describing what kind of world we're going into and what you're expected to do in it. That's ... probably the right move, considering who's publishing this book, but it's a little jarring in what's meant to be a standalone product.

Millenium of Shadows

This section (or chapter, or whatever the fuck) is meant to give us a more detailed look at the setting. To do this, it heads immediately back into authoritative out-of-character voice, and begins to tell us what happened around the time of the Dark Day. This is where shit begins to get stupid, and this is what motivated me to put fingers to keys in the first place.

One of the biggest issues with this entire section is that it basically paints a huge, worldwide event in incredibly American terms. Apparently, 600,000 people died on that day worldwide, which is a pretty big figure, but we basically get almost no mention of anywhere but the US in describing how it all went down. Fuck, the example we're given is from New Berlin, Connecticut, where apparently one-third of the population spontaneously committed suicide. Now, there is no New Berlin in Connecticut, but all the New Berlins anywhere fucking near there have at most two thousand citizens today. We're literally making a huge deal out of less than 600 people spontaneously killing themselves when the worldwide death toll was seriously a thousand times that, and skipping everything else. This laughable US-centrism continues basically throughout this section-chapter-thing, and by the looks of it, this entire book. Now, I know that the USA is the default setting for Nightbane, and I'm pretty sure that, given where Kev is from, he's not the most worldly of people. However, this event has huge global impact, and skating over it so casually is fucking lazy. While at the time, neither Kev (if he knew how to use a computer) nor C.J. had access to Wikipedia or even Google, it's completely unacceptable to not even think to mention anywhere but the Yew-Ess-of-fucking-Aye when describing an event that would rank as the fourth-worst natural disaster in human history.

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We then zoom in on what happened (in the US) after Dark Day. Some political organization called 'The Preserver Party' (whose goals basically aren't well-described, but who seem like racist nativist assholes a la Donald Drumf) suddenly got really popular, and got their candidate for president of the US elected in November that year. Now, Dark Day happened in March, and while you and I know that the Preservers clearly had supernatural help (because fucking obviously), that's some serious ninja politics. We then cue both the Senate and the House falling into line behind the new president, and a bunch of laws that 'greatly reduced individual rights'. By instituting 'gun registration and ownership restrictions'. Really? How much more American ethnocentric can you get? Fucking fuck.

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Apparently, all the various alphabet-soup law enforcement and spy agencies got disbanded, and we now just have one - the NSB (har, har). The NSB is basically now a super-crazy state security machine. We then get the usual Nazi playbook, and in the 2004 election, the Preserver President gets 76% of the popular vote, and has fucking SA gangs running around beating people up for him. Oh, and the NSB took down the NRA. Like, seriously, this is played up as a super-serious thing. The American ethnocentrism is starting to fucking hurt me physically at this point.

We then segue into a section called 'Forbidden Truths', which is meant to be out-of-character knowledge about 'what's really going on'. No, seriously, one of the sub-sections is even titled 'What's Going On?', and basically describes that the Nightlords have taken over everything, and hushed up all supernatural stuff by doing Nazi things to journalists. We get another description of the Shadow Realm, and that the Nightlords run fucking everything, from the government to the news media. A notable thing is that we start getting some bits of intro fiction on some sub-sections, but not others. One of them (the Seekers) refers to something we haven't heard of yet, confusingly, something which the utter wtf of the organization of this book will repeat often in text to come.

In there, we have a section on the Nightbane themselves, again. We learn that all Nightbane are orphans or adopted, no exceptions. This is ... really heavy-handed for no good reason. Nobody knows how the fuck Nightbane came to be, so this restriction and its justification seem like so much weak tea. I don't understand why every character that you play in this game needs to be someone without birth parents in any way, shape or form, and while some variation on this theme is possible, it's a restriction for no sensible reason.

But then, we get to the real bit where my brain fucking explodes. The magic words are here:

"[The] Dark Day changed all this. Before that time, there were only a few hundred manifested Nightbane worldwide. ... Thus, [after the Dark Day], the number of Nightbane has increased a hundredfold. ... [Only] half of all Nightbane in the world manifested ... [and the] late bloomers would "awaken" over the next year or so."

What the fuck. What. The. Fuck. This fails basic statistical analysis. Let's look at this - basically, according to these numbers, there's seriously a few tens of thousands of Nightbane worldwide. Even by the (optimistic, because of deaths and purges and stuff) population figures for the world of 2003, it means that the rate of Nightbane occurence is seriously one in two hundred thousand. The entire fucking city of New York has like forty Nightbane in it. Fuck, the entire continental USA has 1450 or so Nightbane total. Now, I know what you're thinking - are we heading into Vice President of the Anime Club territory?

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Without jumping ahead too far, this game posits seven factions of Nightbane. That means that in the big city of New York, each of these 'factions' seriously had like five or six Nightbane in it. That's not a fucking faction - that's a bunch of buddies grabbing some brews on a Friday night and going fishing for a weekend. Supporting an average gaming group of people in the same faction as each other requires a city the size of fucking New York just to avoid straining statistical credulity. However, this also carries with it the (rather major) assumption that everywhere has equal numbers of Nightbane. As we know that all Nightbane are orphans or adoptees, it means that you're statistically more likely to be a Nightbane in places where orphans and adoptees are more common - which means that warzones, less-developed countries and Eastern European hellholes are statistically more likely to have a bigger share of Nightbane than they're supposed to. This is heading into a clusterfuck that'll only get bigger with time. Even the note that there are thousands of pre-awakening Nightbane in the world right now is piddly shit in the face of this statistical certainty. Fuck, New York isn't getting even a single fucking new Nightbane from this generation.

Now, about those seven fucking Factions I mentioned - the next section runs them down. Even though many of these factions are deeply stupid (for both statistical and non-statistical reasons), there's a bit of sensible advice at the start of this section, which basically says that having everyone belong to the same Faction is good, as it helps focus the party and give them a reason to work together, as well as some common goals. If that wasn't statistically super-unlikely in all but the largest cities in the world, I'd agree. It also says that players choosing antagonistic Factions should be permitted only if they're mature enough not to shit all over the game with them - which makes for remarkably sane advice given what the fuck I just read. Each Faction also has a White-Wolf-esque 'how they get along with other Factions' in its description, but it's written using the out-of-character voice and is a lot less pretentious.

So, without further ado, the Factions:

The Resistance

These are the 'fight the Nightlords and free our country world' Faction. They are necessary and important, but of course, demographics royally fuck them. Even if we assume that all Factions have equal membership, the number of Resisters in the entire USA is seriously like 200. That puts them at about the membership levels of the Real IRA. Now, these fuckers haven't really done anything newsworthy in a damn while unless you happen to be in Northern Ireland, watching Northern Irish news. It's also worth noting that Northern Ireland is not a paranoid police state like the US supposedly is in this world, and it's also about 100 times smaller. Superpowered or none, that's a batshit small force to take on a supernaturally-supported US fucking government. Basically, I have no clue how the fuck this faction even exists or accomplishes anything - they lack the numbers to be anything more than a minor nuisance, if not a complete joke.

The Nocturnes

This is a 'fight the Nightlords and free our country world' Faction. If this seems familiar, it's because it is - the only thing that sets these fuckers apart from The Resistance is that they've apparently been around much longer, and have a bunch of other supernaturals (including vampires, which have only just now been mentioned as a thing), and even some Doppelgangers. Now, given that pre-2000, the number of Nightbane worldwide was seriously a few hundred, this Faction worldwide would have had something like forty Nightbane in it. Since we have no clue how many vampires exist, and how many of the other kinds of supernatural thing we have in the world, we can only conclude that the organization was bullshit-small like The Resistance back then, or that the Nightbane were a very tiny minority.

If you're not familiar with Rifts and vampire intelligences, you're not gonna make heads or tails of this Faction, because these concepts just get chucked at you like it's no big deal. Essentially though, this Faction and The Resistance are not meaningfully distinct - the difference between them is that The Resistance is 'we fight the Nightlords and are statistically useless', while The Nocturnes are 'we and our super-friends fight the Nightlords and we're not statistically useless as a result, apparently'. You could fold the former into
the latter losing nothing.

The Underground Railroad

This is supposedly a 'we teach newbie Nightbane how to be the very best, like no-one ever was' Faction. Now, apparently they've been around for a while, and only adopted their current monicker in the 19th century. I think it bears repeating that prior to the year 2000, they seriously had about forty members worldwide. The chance of any given member of this Faction finding another Nightbane are statistically close to zero, so I have no idea who was teaching whom and what for most of their history. Fuck, I don't even know how this organization stayed coherent being that thinly-spread. Given that they're no-bullshit described as being 'the oldest Nightbane organization known to exist' is laughable on the face of it; prior to 2000, I don't even see how they could be called an 'organization'. The fact that they have such an obviously American-centric name for what is meant to be a worldwide organization is both sad and unsurprising at this stage.

Now, thanks to the current circumstances, to protect newer Nightbane, these fuckers have to ... you fucking guessed it, 'fight the Nightlords and free our country younglings'. If you've heard this before ... it's because you have. Twice. Seriously, the official story is that The Resistance split from these fucks. So we're talking about a schism in the anime club here. With an echo in the room. Fuck, two echoes.


This is what we're getting here.

You could seriously roll together these first three organizations and end up with something both statistically sensible and coherent. I have no clue why they were separated like this or why this is supposed to make any fucking sense. Because it doesn't.

The Warlords

Prepare for an avalanche of bullshit.


Like this, but in literary form.

This is probably the most illogical, US-ethnocentric and stupid of all the Factions. Essentially, a bunch of Nightbane from the mean streets of the USA, in the space of a few years, got the Bloods, the Gangster Disciples and the Latin Kings, as well as 'other nationwide gangs' to stop murderfucking each other and work together. If I drank, my fucking bottle would be empty by now as my brain tries to frantically unpack the sheer, mind-numbing wtfery of that statement.

Let's start with the obvious issue. Just those three gangs alone have a combined membership that is greater than all the Nightbane in the fucking world. And this is not including a number of other major gangs - like La Eme, the Surenos, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Hell's Angels, the Crips, and basically everything you fucking see by watching reruns of Gangland.

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Note that these are all US gangs, and not all US Nightbane are trying to keep them all in line - only about one-seventh of them are. Now, keeping even these individual gangs in line and stopping their members from killing each other is a Herculean task already (as those reruns of Gangland will show). Those reruns will also show that these gangs murderate each other with frightening efficiency and frequency, and any kind of peace between them is ridiculously-to-impossibly hard to broker at all, much less keep. What this game is trying to tell us is that the five or so Warlord Nightbane in New York can keep the Latin Kings not only from murdering each other, but also the New York Bloods? While not being caught and murderated themselves by the Nightlords? I call bullshit. Powerful or not, supernatural or not, that's simply not enough manpower to keep this shit in-line. The fact that the game quickly tries to walk this shit back by saying that the Nightlords ignore the Warlords just makes it even more ridiculous. Why would a paranoid-as-fuck police state ignore supernatural-led criminal conglomerates that would make the modern FBI shit their fucking beds?

But wait, it's even worse. Nowhere is anything mentioned about ... well, the rest of the fucking world, or even other, more traditional organized crime groups. Do the Warlords have any Bousouzoku in their ranks? What do La Cosa Nostra think of this super-gang (literally and figuratively)? The Vory V Zakone? The Yakuza? Law enforcement? Fucking fuck this is lazy. The kind of crime organization they are describing is statistically, logically and operationally an incredible stretch, and they basically make no effort to justify or explain how it affects the world. It's like they basically chucked down some random gang names, decided that they all wanna work for a bunch of Nightbane now, and left it there like a half-eaten sandwich. A half-eaten shit sandwich.

I'm not done yet. The description put in place of this Faction is strongly reminiscent of the Sabbat, complete with hurr-durr-evil stuff and total improbability given most people not believing supernaturals exist. The only way such a small group of supernaturals could control such a large group of gangbangers is through fear - which means that they have to know supernaturals exist. That... kinda means that the major gang population of (at least) the US would have to know that supernaturals exist, which fucks your Masquerade front, back and sideways. And the Nightlords ignore it. The mind fucking rebels. Thus, they are also just as improbable and nonsensical as the Sabbat in Vampire, minus the religious overtones and the Totally Real We Mean It This Time Black Hand bullshit. It also seems to be all about 'defending your turf' NWoD style, which is basically putting dogshit icing on that human shit cake we've been baking for the last few paragraphs. This is a perfect storm of worldbuilding fail, and the more I examine it, the more stupid it looks.

Fuck this Faction.

The Seekers

These are basically magical researchers and occultists, except their powers actually work. This is a remarkably refreshing bit of sanity after all the bullshit before. However, much as with The Nocturnes, The Resistance and The Underground Railroad... the basic purpose of the Seekers is 'fight the Nightlords and free our country I don't give a fuck anymore', and, once again, much as with The Nocturnes, the Nightbane in it are probably a small minority. While the sheer existential threat-ness of the Nightlords certainly makes this goal sensible, and I believe that the Faction still has enough traction (and statistical sensibility) to stand apart, it feels lazy to basically make them yet another force fighting against the Nightlords as their chief mission.

The Lightbringers

This Faction description leads with a story piece. No, I dunno why either.

In this Faction description, we get introduced to another supernatural kind out of nowhere. These are the Guardians (or the Lightbringers), who are basically angels. However, the Guardians have no idea if a god or gods exist - they discovered their powers from a 'light at the end of the tunnel' near-death experience. This organization is a mixture of humans, Nightbane and Guardians (so is statistically sound-ish) and is basically based around where Palladium Studios happen to be. Guess what Faction Kev's character came from...

The Lightbringers (the faction, not the supernatural kind) also have the goal of 'fight the Nightlords and fuck it not this shit again'. The difference is that they have literal angels on their side, but these angels don't really know where they come from. I don't feel as violently offended by them having the same goal as damn near every other Faction for the same reason I feel the same way about the Seekers.

The Spook Squad

This one also has a story piece leading it. Maybe ever Faction was meant to have one, and then some got cut or forgotten at the last minute? Wouldn't surprise me.

Remember how all the alphabet soup agencies got wiped out? This is where their members who know about the Nightlords ended up. Guess what their goals are? Yeah, you guessed it, 'fight the Nightlords and take back our country extra-judicial surveillance powers'. Because obviously at this point. So we have an organization filled with former spies, Feds and whatnot, with some sorcerous and supernatural backup.

I genuinely have no clue why any Nightbane would want to join this Faction. It openly states that many within it believe that Nightbane should all be killed as a danger to themselves and others, and even those that don't feel that way are quick to blame Nightbane for anything and everything that goes wrong. Being a Nightbane as part of this organization is a bit like being the only African-American cop in the newly-desegregated police department in the Deep South in the late 60s - you're basically asking for trouble constantly from the people who are meant to be watching your back. Given that you have enough problems as it is, I don't really understand why you would want to belong to such an organization, except out of desperation. Here's the rub, though - there cannot be such desperation, as Nightbane as super-duper rare. If your goal is to beat on the Nightlords, there's literally five other Factions you can go join where you won't be treated as a second-class citizen (at best) or as lynch-fodder (at worst).

The Others


No, not that.

In this section-subsection-whatever-the-fuck, we get introduced to all the other supernatural shit that's kicking about in the world. Given that we've already talked about these in the Faction writeups, I don't understand why this was placed here, except by the whim of Kev (or his wax layout machine and a lack of sleep). Basically, Vampires are a thing (and are just like the Rifts ones) and mages are a thing. The Guardians are given a fuller explanation, and it basically tries to paint them as palette-swaps of Nightbane. All-up, this entire section should basically have been put before the Factions, so that when we encountered all this shit, we'd know what the fuck it was on about, and wouldn't need redundant explanations. Not that this would have helped most of the Faction writeups, but still.

We finish off with a lexicon. Because of course they had to - this is the World of Darkness as Done By Kev Siembieda, after all! This lexicon introduces a bunch of concepts we've never seen before (as can be expected), and has a bunch of arcane terms mixed with 'cool'-sounding 'street'-slang. Luckily, it's fairly short, unlike its WoD cousins. We also get a tiny timeline squeezed in - apparently, we're in about 2004 for the game world's 'now'.

Now that this has hit about 6k words, I'm gonna leave it there. Next time, I'll go over how to play this game (because that section-thing is coming up next), character creation and a bunch of weirdly-misplaced rules things.
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Last edited by koz on Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:15 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Koumei
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 12:53 pm    Post subject: Re: OSSR: Nightbane Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

koz wrote:

Let's not kid ourselves: Nightbane was an attempt by Palladium Games to cash in on the supernatural craze that Vampire sent into high gear several years prior to that.


Pretty sure it was also trying to cash in on Spawn (the Dark and Edgy antihero comic character who... something something fight baddies with chains? Possibly made a deal with the devil or am I mixing him up with Ghost Rider now?). If I recall correctly they originally wanted to call it Nightspawn but Palladium actually ended up on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

Quote:
Compatible with all Rifts material, of course.


For what it's worth, the rule is usually that you can port other stuff into RIFTS (TM) but not the other way round. So you can bring a Nightbane into your Three Galaxies campaign, but a Glitterboy isn't supposed to step into spooky USA and go "Knock knock motherfuckers".

Quote:
So, first-off, we have a Satanic-Panic-style warning for this game. I suspect this warning (along with the entire fucking Palladium engine) was written once in the mid-eighties and never revised,


Nah, they actually alter it slightly depending on the thing - when stuff like Biomancy and Necromancy is involved they go extra serious about the disturbing content and it's not real. For Juicers they made sure to outline that Drugs Are Bad, Mmkay? And for Ninjas and Superspies, they did the WWE "Do not try this at home" warning about trying to kung-fu your little brother.

These are the only additions/clarifications/corrections I have to make. So far you've saved people from having to read annoying stupid fluff. Thank you.
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maglag
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:57 pm    Post subject: Re: OSSR: Nightbane Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Good review! Looking up to more!

Koumei wrote:
koz wrote:

Let's not kid ourselves: Nightbane was an attempt by Palladium Games to cash in on the supernatural craze that Vampire sent into high gear several years prior to that.


Pretty sure it was also trying to cash in on Spawn (the Dark and Edgy antihero comic character who... something something fight baddies with chains? Possibly made a deal with the devil or am I mixing him up with Ghost Rider now?). If I recall correctly they originally wanted to call it Nightspawn but Palladium actually ended up on the receiving end of a lawsuit.


Spawn made a deal with the devil but has the gimmick that he has a limited amount of superpower to burn before he's forced to return to hell and no way to recharge (so he often uses guns or basic melee). Well at story's start at least, then things got kinda stupid.

Also it the western comic was based on a manga.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I thought Nightbane was about playing as The Darkness



...then I decided to actually google it

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erik
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

My shining moment in nightspawn was when I inadvertently killed the whole party including a gelatinous tank-form nightspawn capable of sustaining about 1000 SDC as I was welding a turret onto our van full of explosives during a car chase through a corn field that somehow ended in a ravine/cliff unexpectedly. Nobody expects a cliffside in Indiana let alone in a corn field. I cannot take full credit since the falling damage was needed to push him over into dead. That was amazingly my least surreal death.

It was absurd that McFarland sued and won even against a shithead like Siembieda. There are nearly no similarities as ogre's image search suggests.
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 4:33 pm    Post subject: Re: OSSR: Nightbane Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Koumei wrote:

Pretty sure it was also trying to cash in on Spawn (the Dark and Edgy antihero comic character who... something something fight baddies with chains? Possibly made a deal with the devil or am I mixing him up with Ghost Rider now?). If I recall correctly they originally wanted to call it Nightspawn but Palladium actually ended up on the receiving end of a lawsuit.


Spawn and Ghost Rider both made deals with the devil and both had chains. The big difference is that Ghost Rider was a good kid who was just trying to save the life of his adoptive father who had cancer, (who committed suicide in a fake accident because he didn't know that his cancer had been magically cured and he wanted his kids to get the insurance money, the devil is an asshole like that). Spawn was a genuine asshole CIA assassin with anger management issues who murdered a fuckton of innocent people as part of his job and possibly beat his wife and was then killed by his bosses because they considered him a liability. He made a deal with the devil so that he could live again and return to his wife, only to find that several years had passed and she had remarried and had a daughter with another man, because the devil is an asshole like that.

The other difference is that Ghost Rider is from the 70s and Spawn is from the 90s.

Also, Spawn has a giant red cape while Ghost Rider dresses like Evel Knievel with a flaming skull.

koz wrote:

Nightbane in it. Fuck, the entire continental USA has 1450 or so Nightbane total. Now, I know what you're thinking - are we heading into Vice President of the Anime Club territory?


Tiny populations can work if the individuals are sufficiently powerful. Look at the Justice League. It's literally just Superman and a few of his friends. They hang out in their clubhouse on the moon and fight crime and stuff. But then you take a look at their individual power levels and notice that these guys are all global superpowers. They may just by five guys, but they're all a huge deal and any one of them could cripple any modern State at will. Except Batman, he'd need some prep time and equipment.


But the point is, that if you're character is powerful enough that he can be classified as a global power, then small factions work.

I mean, heck, NATO is more than an anime club in spite of the fact that it only has 28 members.


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koz
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 8:05 pm    Post subject: Re: OSSR: Nightbane Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OK, this has been an exercise is 'koz learning that you shouldn't write angry non-drunk reviews late and expect them to come out good'. I've cleaned up some of the linebreak formatting issues, spoilered the large images, and fixed a few stupid typos. Koumei also raised a valid point regarding the Satanic Panic Warning being altered for different books, so I changed my wording a bit to reflect this previously-unknown-to-me fact.

Koumei wrote:
Pretty sure it was also trying to cash in on Spawn (the Dark and Edgy antihero comic character who... something something fight baddies with chains? Possibly made a deal with the devil or am I mixing him up with Ghost Rider now?). If I recall correctly they originally wanted to call it Nightspawn but Palladium actually ended up on the receiving end of a lawsuit.


As far as I can see, they were legally threatened, but not actually sued, and decided to change names rather than run that risk. The sheer irony and self-medication of this fills me with joy, even though honestly, I don't think the suit had any substance (as several of your co-posters have mentioned). It also reminds me that Todd McFarlane (or whoever he works for) is a litigious copyright bully, which means I probably won't be buying anything with his name on it any time ever.

Koumei wrote:
For what it's worth, the rule is usually that you can port other stuff into RIFTS (TM) but not the other way round. So you can bring a Nightbane into your Three Galaxies campaign, but a Glitterboy isn't supposed to step into spooky USA and go "Knock knock motherfuckers".


Except this book (later, admittedly, but still) basically up-and-out states the following:

"Different beings from a variety of worlds can be found in Beyond the Supernatural, Rifts RPG, Rifts Conversion Book, and other Palladium products."

Seriously, Rifts is suggestion number two. Then there's this hilarious walk-back:

"Of course some modifications may be required."



hyzmarca wrote:
Tiny populations can work if the individuals are sufficiently powerful.


Except we basically don't get this. Now, it's a given that the rules don't fit the flavour text (because this is Palladium after all), but based on the in-character screed at the start of the game, we basically get the following:


  1. Nightbane can Hulk Out into monster form, and turn back into humans.
  2. A Nightbane's human form retains most of the weaknesses of being human, apart from fast healing and disease, poison and weather resistance.
  3. The Hulk Out form gives super-strength and resilience, but a cannonball to the chest or a burning still kills you.


Other than that, every single Nightbane is a Steve. Now, based on this, I can clearly tell you that with the kind of numbers of Nightbane this book posits, The Resistance is an absolute joke, and the Warlords' leadership should have been carbombed to death or murdered in their sleep by now. They are not the Justice League or NATO by any stretch of anyone's imagination - and in the case of The Resistance, their enemies have not only more supernaturals at their disposal, they also have more powerful ones.
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Nebuchadnezzar
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So that no one else has to, I made a list of all the Nightbane stuff in the Rifter up through 66, excluding short fiction. It should go without saying that the fluff is ill-considered garbage, but that may be a minority opinion. 1, 15, 20, 42, & 44 are the ones with morphus tables, and once the self-loathing compiling the following produced subsides, I might look at the conversion book and figure out what combination has the biggest combat numbers. At a guess it's a Megalomaniac Military Hardware Talent Shaper.
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Koumei
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Rifter 2 has Nightbane stuff as well: Traditional Hacker (OCC), Net Demon (RCC? It's basically an alternate skillset for Nightbane), Cybermancer (spellcasting OCC). Also includes a couple of Talents (Lightning Rider to physically enter a PC to hack it, and Deus Ex Machina (Machine Control) that basically works like the Machine Control psionic powers of RIFTS (TM)). Also some spells related to hacking.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Alrighty, I think it's about time I tackled another six thousands words of my OSSR. Although this is yak shaving of a sort, it is enlightening for me, and (hopefully) entertaining for everyone else, so I'll keep doing it all the same.

Edit: Thanks to Mechalich for the carrying example - once again proving that Palladium can't do anything right.

Disclaimer going forward

The Palladium engine is a mid-eighties crusty abomination. It is a burning trainwreck, where every car of the train was carrying aged liquid shit. It is incoherent, outdated and insane. It is also extremely difficult to read, as it is very poorly organized and involves levels of mindcaulk comparable to CoC to even parse, much less analyze. Needless to say, I have little in the way of desire to cultivate this much mindcaulk. On top of that, I am not much of a rules analyst. Therefore, it is likely, if not certain, that there will be obvious wtf that I miss as part of the coming sections of this OSSR, as they will largely deal with mechanics. If that happens - please let me know! I appreciate the help. It'd also be nice if someone did an Anatomy of Failed Design on the Palladium engine, but that's a monumental task to which I am not up.

Additionally, this section is going to jump from topic to topic like a four-year-old on acid. This isn't because my thinking is incoherent and disorganized - it's because the text is that way. I apologize in advance, for I cannot bring logic forth from something this mind-numbingly disorganized and incoherent - I don't think a tag-team of Godel, Frege and Tarski could manage such a feat, honestly. Although that's a tag-team I would very much have liked to meet.

How to Play a Role-Playing Game
By Kevin Siembieda

It begins.


Of course, Kev is in no way as cool, crafty or successful as Emperor Palpatine.

Kev is well-known as an incoherent egomaniac. However, to his dubious credit, this section is not as awful as you'd expect. One very annoying feature of it is its use of caps-lock for emphasis, which makes me imagine Kev yelling. One highlight of such a thing is the following:

"But the main thing you need to play a role-playing game is IMAGINATION."



One point that I need to raise immediately is "Why the actual fuck is this section put here of all places?". Now, insofar as these 'how do I played TTRPG' sections go, I can agree that there are exactly two places they can be situated:


  1. At the beginning (i.e. the first few pages)
  2. Nowhere


The choice of Option 1 can be justified from the point of view of newcomers to the game. If you're just browsing this book (in a physical store) or reading a sampler (for a digital copy), you want to understand the 'what' and the 'what the fuck' about what kind of game this is and what you're supposed to do with it as soon as possible. The choice of Option 2 can be justified from the point of view of experts. If this is not your first TTRPG, these sections are just pointless filler that tells you nothing you don't already know, and you end up skipping it anyway; thus, you can use that space for something actually useful, like clearer rules examples or more flavour text or whatever.

The choice made here by Nightbane is not justifiable from any perspective. If you are (or rather, were) a newcomer to TTRPGs when you picked up this book, you would never have made it to this section, because this section is on page thirty fucking one, which is exactly thirty pages too far into the book to explain fucking anything to a beginner who just picked this up for a lark. Seriously, this whole book, not including its cover, is only two-hundred and forty pages long; a newbie would have had to read over ten percent of everything just to figure out what on earth they were buying into! On the other hand, if you're an old hand at TTRPGs (which is far more likely given what kind of book this is and who published it), this section is utterly useless to you, here, there or anywhere else.

Additionally, I can safely argue that regardless of its placement, this section would be useless to you anyway, as it basically contains no useful information about how a TTRPG is actually played. A short summary of what this says is basically something like this:

"Descriptions are awesome. You get to pretend to be a fictional character. There's a GM. Descriptions are awesome. You need dice and paper."

The gentle reader will observe that nowhere in this summary did I mention how any of this shit actually works in practice. This is not a careless omission - nothing like this is ever mentioned anywhere in this section. No example of play, no explanation of why you need rules, heck, not even any mention of the fact you roll dice to resolve actions can be found anywhere in this screed. It's a complete waste of space coming and going, explaining nothing useful and basically failing at its basic functionality. You could skip reading this entire section and basically walk away wiser in my opinion.

We then get a glossary of RPG terms. This is not really very helpfully-placed, because a lot of what it defines and describes is stuff we haven't encountered yet or been explained in any way. We are supposed to care about Attributes, but we as-yet have no clue what they are or why they matter. There are some entries that are just puzzling - for example, there's an entry for 'Death', which I always thought to be fairly self-explanatory, that is actually one of the longest entries in the entire glossary. Just like the prior screed by Kev, this section is misplaced. Unlike the prior screed by Kev, this section does contain useful information, but it is presented in a way that makes it very difficult to follow for someone who's not already familiar with all of these terms (or some equivalents of said). Essentially, it takes the fail of the previous spiel and adds on more fail, although of a different nature.

Hold onto that thought, as it's going to be a theme of what's to come.

Creating a Character

And now for something completely fucking different!


Obligatory Monty Python reference is now complete.

OK, now that we have absolutely no clue how to play a TTRPG after reading a section ostensibly about playing a fucking TTRPG, it's time to create our characters. One of the few somewhat-good things about this section is the picture it leads with, which is a dude with a unicorn horn, angel wings and demon claws seemingly attempting a swan dive off some rocks. Or practicing some hardcore ballet moves, maybe? I don't know.

Before we get into this section, I have a mini-rant about Kev's excessive and stupid use of acronyms. Fucking everything in the Palladium engine is acronymized, and not in ways that are helpful or mnemonic in any way. This is particularly bad where Attributes are concerned; I to this day have to look up the difference between MA and ME, because these two things are barely distinguishable and in no way aid my memory. This is terrible design - it essentially makes your game harder to learn and even understand for newcomers, which is simply needlessly stupid. I think a good acid test of common terms in a TTRPG is 'Does this make sense conceptually to a person who hasn't read the rules?'. Fuck, Vampire passes this test: if I talk about 'Appearance' or 'Dexterity', most people would have half a clue what I mean or what it represents. The Palladium equivalents of 'PB' and 'PP' are not in any way useful, except that the latter sounds like a childish term for penis (or urine, depending on which part of the Anglosphere you happen to reside in). Seriously Kev - if you have a fetish for acronyms to rival the US government (or that of the former USSR), there are more productive ways to indulge it.

Now that I've got that out of the way with, let's have a closer look at the actual character generation process. First-off, I'd like to highlight a bit of the text, which I want you to hold in the irony centre of your mind as the full mindfuck insanity of this screed unfurls itself:

"The creation of a character is relatively simple..."

'Relative to what?' is an apt question here, and the answer should become apparent soon enough. Since there are apparently five steps to this shit parade, I'm going to put this into five subsections discussing each one.

Step 1: The Eight Attributes and Attribute Bonuses

Now, a full page after the glossary entry for this concept, we're finally fucking explained what these are. Given that we're all old RPG hands here, I'm not going to waste your time and mine elaborating this concept. What I will say is that this is a section in which Palladium's D&D-derivative stripes show extremely hard, as this is basically D&D's six stats, plus a few additional ones that commonly arise as a result of basic problems with D&D's six stats that tend to become obvious to anyone who's played with them for more than five minutes. Stuff like 'Charisma doesn't mean fuck-all', 'Wisdom doesn't mean much' and 'Dexterity is too godly' levels of obvious, for example. Thus, on that basis, the Palladium engine posits eight stats, which are basically constructed by splitting Charisma into a 'prettiness' stat and an 'impressiveness' stat, killing Wisdom in favour of making the Will save a stat, and dragging 'how fast you can move' into the statline for questionable reasons. Oh, and giving each one an acronym which, for the most part, are in no way mnemonic, in no way aid understanding, and basically eat all the shit.

The way the Palladium engine wants you to generate these is by rolling 3d6 in order. Or at least, I think it's in order - it's never actually stated explicitly. However, there's a twist involved: if your dice come up 16 or higher, you roll an extra 1d6 and add that on to what you already got. Setting aside the fact that this means nobody in the Palladium engine ever has a stat of exactly 16, this is a weird kind of luck fetishism. Less than 3% of all 3d6 rolls get one of these numbers; if we assume a team of four, each rolling eight stats, that's a combined total of only thirty-two rolls, which means that there's a good chance that your team will see a single one at most. It also really widens the gap between haves and have-nots in this system - for reasons we are about to see.

Now, one thing we're not told here is what any given value of anything means. For that, we have to go back to the glossary on the previous page, which helpfully informs us that a 9 or 10 is 'average'. Or more specifically, that this is 'average for PP', which is 'Dexterity' to people who don't masturbate to acronymslist.com. While it would make sense to generalize this to every other Attribute as well, this leads to some rather odd results in many cases. I guess one way to make your rules harder to critique on the basis of versimillitude is to basically never state any assumptions and require fucking Kremlinology from your playerbase to try and understand what the fuck anything was meant to mean.

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Another great thing about this system is that, in most cases, what Attributes you have or don't have makes fuck-all difference. Seriously, in most cases, the difference between a PP of 4 and PP of 15 are negligible, and only when Attributes hit 17 or above do they tend to have serious effects. This is quite unlike most other systems, where differences in such stats tend to be quite meaningful well before you hit probability-defying heights. There's a table to indicate this here, but a lot of this won't mean much until much later on in this book. However, in this case, I think it's forgiveable, as finding a table in a book (even a book like this) is a fucktonne easier than finding something lost amid a huge pile of two-column hurr-durr text, so backreferencing it shouldn't be a huge issue. However, this hopefully shows why making these things such a rarity is a kick in player teeth, and why the gap between those who get lucky and who don't stings this hard.

Some other notable funnies include:

"The exact IQ is equal to the IQ attribute multiplied times ten."

Aside from this sentence being an offence to grammar, it's nice to see that Kev and CJ fap to the idea of IQ actually measuring intellect meaningfully, and also make reference to a scaled score without actually saying how exactly it is calculated. Seriously, no attempt is made to say how the resulting score is scaled, which makes this less than useless even if we assume IQ scores (the real-life ones, that is) meant anything in terms of intelligence. The fact that loving IQ as a measure of intelligence is a USism, I'm going to put this down to the book's pervasive and constant US-centrism in addition to negligence and stupidity, probably in roughly that order.

"A character can typically carry a maximum weight load for the PE times 4 minutes."

Two things: first, obvious typo is obvious; second, this doesn't actually say anything about what 'a maximum weight load' is, and makes no reference to where I might find this rather vital information. Apparently, an average person (again, assuming that all Attributes scale equally) can carry this 'maximum weight load' for 36-40 minutes. I only wish I had some fucking basis upon which to evaluate this shit. Oh, and PE is what non-idiots call 'Constitution', and it is every bit as stupid and problematic here as in D&D, even this many years on.

The Spd times 20 is the number of yards or metres that the character can run in one minute.

Where to fucking begin with this shit?


If I were to try to represent all the wrong with this sentence, it would probably look about as intimidating and vast as this.

First of all, yards and metres are different fucking units: one, a yard is 0.9144 metres; two, yards are only something Americans care about deeply, while the rest of the world went metric fucking forever ago for the most part. The latter is at least attributable to the US-centrism that stains this entire book like semen stains sheets; the former is just lazy.

Secondly, does this represent sprint running or sustained running? I have no idea if this is meant to represent someone going flat-out, or a rate that could be maintained (or, indeed, maintained for how long?). An average person coming out of this engine can supposedly run between 180 and 200 yards (or metres, who the fuck knows) in a minute. If we assume that this is short-term running speed, for comparison, the world record for the 200 metre dash in 2016 is 19.19 seconds, which means that Usain Bolt has a Spd of about 30 or so under this engine, which is the top of the 'high Attribute' chart and an impossible value to start with. For an average person, this also seems oddly slow, as based on my (somewhat casual) research, an average person should be able to run this distance in about half the time the system posits. If this represents long-term running speed, the super-quick four-minute miles (even though that's not the world record) would require a Speed of 22, which is hard to start with, but not unobtainable. An average person coming out of this engine can run a nine-minute mile under these assumptions, (well, an 8 minute, 48 second mile to be exact, in the best case, over nine in the worst). This seems more reasonable, if slow (average is between seven and nine minutes apparently). Which of these is the correct assumption is left as an exercise for the reader.

"The greater the speed attribute the faster the character can run."

Tautologies are made better only by poor grammar, it would appear.

Next, we segue into a section discussing different application of Physical Strength. Why on earth this goes here of all places is unclear, as it's basically rules text that has nothing in particular to do with character creation as such. Putting this information here makes finding it super hard, as 'character creation' would definitely not be the first, second or tenth place I go looking for rules text of this nature. If this is starting to seem like a theme for Nightbane, you would be 100% correct, and should be prepared for plenty more, as organization is definitely not this book's strong point.

We begin with a discussion of weights for lifting and carrying purposes. Apparently, someone with a PS (Strength to us normal people) of 3 to 16 can carry ten times their PS in pounds. I would make another dig at the US-centrism of this book, but that line of quippery is getting stale now.

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Now, we're going to forget for a moment that nobody fucking has PS 16 under the system postulated here, and instead focus on the exact meaning of this. According to the formula, a PS 9 human (which is supposedly the low end of average) can carry 40.5 kg. We'll immediately observe that it doesn't say for how long said PS 9 human can carry this weight. Oh wait - for that, we have to backreference to that thing I called out about PE earlier, which I'll repeat for convenience:

"A character can typically carry a maximum weight load for the PE times 4 minutes."

Of course, neither of these things refer to each other, but at least they're only one page apart. Basically, assuming that our PS 9 human also has PE 9 (while lamenting the fact that these are nonsensically separate Attributes, of course) it means that they can carry 40.5kg for 36 minutes continuously. While the timeframe here is reasonable, the weight is not. Consider the Pack Test - this is the test given to wildland firefighters, which requires them to carry a 20 kg pack three miles in 45 minutes. An average person can do this, but will feel completely worn out afterwards. So, while 36 minutes is less than 45, there's no way that this could mean we could crank the weight to over forty and still have the same results; this is well into 'trained porter' territory, which is not 'average' at all.

However, apparently, once you break into the magical land of PS 18 or above, your ability to carry things gets significantly better. How significantly? PS 17 gives you a carry weight of 77 kg; PS 18 gives you a carry weight of 162kg, which is more than double the previous entry. This naturally raises two questions. One, why do you need such a dramatic jump in capability given only a single Attribute point? Two, why does this begin at PS 18, and the 'your Attributes are double-plus-good' begin at PS 17? The answer to both, as to most such questions where this book is concerned, is either 'Segmentation fault' or 'Go fuck yourself', which end up being functionally quite similar.

But we're still not done! Apparently, 'supernatural creatures' (which explicitly includes Nightbane) who hit the magic PS 18 can carry even more than everyone else with the same number: PS 18 Nightbane can apparently cart around over four hundred kilos. I think this calls for 'carry the party on their back' jokes.


Like this, except four people and you all look like the horned angel ballerina at this section's start.

Given that nobody actually spells out what makes a creature supernatural or not aside from the specific case of Nightbane, be prepared for lots of arguments with your GM as to whether very strong psychics can carry around one human or a whole family of them.

But wait, there's more! Apparently if you just want to lift something rather than carry it, you double the amount. Now, this specifically doesn't mean 'lift' in a weight-lifting sense, nor lifting above the chest. Thus, what this does mean isn't really very clear - when I think of 'lifting', those two things are exactly what comes to fucking mind. What this is actually supposed to refer to is left, once again, to reader mindcaulk. However, according to this, a weedy average human can lift 81 kg (which is a bit more than how much I weigh), which I find quite believeable, whereas a PS 18 Nightbane can lift over 800kg, which is a bit less than what my car weighs.

Next, we discuss throwing 'heavy' objects. I put those quotes there, because the examples given in this section do not constitute 'heavy' objects in any sense. Fuck, the heaviest object they give as examples in the table in this section is a sword. Once again, we have no idea whether these rules refer to throwing as such, or throwing with the intent to actually hit something. Those are extremely different things, and nowhere is any attempt made to spell out which is being described here. This is also a familiar refrain to us by now, and it never gets any better. The way this is computed is as follows:


  1. Determine whether you're ordinary (PS 03-16), extraordinary (PS 17-30) or supernatural (PS 18+).
  2. Determine the base throwing distance according to what category you fall into.
  3. Add your PS to the result.


Now, this whole fucking table is in feet (US-centrism ho!), and as you can probably guess, the algorithm produces wildly swingy results. Let's go with knife tossing for now, as it's something we could conceivably want to do. The world record for knife tossing is 101 feet into a 12-inch target. What PS score would the thrower need to have to achieve this feat under this engine? The strongest ordinary person this system spews out has a knife-chucking distance of only 65 feet - as the astute reader will recall, nobody actually has PS 16, and the base for ordinary people is 50 ft. The weakest extraordinary human instead has a knife-chucking distance of 117 feet, which basically means that the person who set this record is an incredibly notable strongman (or woman), which I have great difficulty believing. Or maybe they're a Nightbane with PS 18, who can knife-toss out to 218 feet. Note that this is made with the assumption that we're talking about accurate throwing. This is a bit debatable, as you would think that some degree of accuracy would be involved here, and PS doesn't involve accuracy in any way. However, even if this were inaccurate (i.e. purely for distance) throwing, these figures don't add up in any direction to anything sensible. We also have crazy breakpoints as with the lifting and carrying rules, and basically this is more confusing than helpful. That this statement applies to most of the rules we've covered so far should no longer come as any surprise whatsoever.

Once again, though, this section has to double down on its stupid. Specifically, at the end of this section, it mentions the following helpful fact:

"Supernatural characters can hurl their maximum carrying weight one foot per PS point."

Now, there's several possible readings of this sentence relative the rules previously espoused, and none of them make the slightest bit of sense. The most literalist reading would say that a PS 9 Nightbane can chuck forty fucking kilograms nine feet, which basically means that they can basketball-shoot an average 12-year-old standing next to the hoop. Now, the average knife weight is considerably less than this - a big kitchen knife weighs in at only 400 grams, which the quick reader will note is one-hundred times lighter. If there is a linear relationship between throw distance and weight (which is the case, I hope - please correct me if not), then according to this new information, our PS 9 Nightbane should be able to chuck that knife nine hundred feet, as opposed to the sixty or so that the rules given for chucking knives suggest. If we instead assume that this refers to only PS 18 or higher supernaturals (which would be consistent with every other special-casing we've seen so far, but isn't explicitly mentioned), then we have the situation that a PS 18 Nightbane (which can almost throw my car across a two-lane road) can chuck that same knife thirty-six thousand feet, which is a bit more than two miles. Of course, it's totally possible that this doesn't include Nightbane (despite the explicit call-out in a previous section that Nightbane are supernatural creatures), but either of these readings don't make any consistent sense with regard to previous information, and now my bottle would be empty again if I drank.

After that bit of brainfuck, we then move to rules on movement and exertion. There's less for me to critique here, because there really aren't many rules here as such. The only real rule information is a penalty that is applied for every hour of 'intense, continual, physical exertion', which is actually not that large. Notably absent is any information about how long this penalty lasts, but let's be honest with ourselves: we weren't expecting this to make sense anymore. The call-out that GMs and players should 'apply common sense and logic' to this sort of thing reads as laughably ironic and self-unaware, given not only what we've just read, but also the entirety of this section up to now.

Then, for the final segue in this 'step' of 'character creation', we get a bunch of rules about supernatural creatures and dealing damage. Let's not forget two things: firstly, this is supposedly character fucking creation, and yet we get rules for stuff that applies in combat; secondly, we haven't fucking seen any rules for combat yet. I don't think I need to make anymore jokes about lack of organization at this point, as they practically make themselves. The long and the short of this section is that if you're a supernatural (and here, Nightbane are again specifically called out as an example), you hit extra-super hard. Apparently, this extra-super-hard damage is added on to your weapon damage, which is one of the first sensible rules I've yet seen in this entire fucking review. However, this description is still needlessly confusing, as the chart provided gives three damage values for each PS range, and which of these three gets added to your weapon has to be inferred from reading the example, the chart and the 'your stats be double-plus-good' chart with no explanation of this fact or references. Look, I said I didn't need to make any more jokes about bad organization, right? Wrong, apparently.


This is a good abstract representation of the reasoning you need to employ to properly understand one example. Now extrapolate to a whole book. You're fucking welcome.

Furthermore, this period of rules lucidity is very short-lived, because we then get the biggest fucking walk-back in rules sensibility in a damn while with the optional weapon breakage rules.


Given the degree of walk-back involved, I think it might be more appropriate to call this a run-back. And no, these two nice people don't get why Kev and CJ did this either.

Yes, I know these rules are technically optional, but they're given front-and-centre position before the non-optional rules about actually doing extra-super-hard damage. These rules ... don't make a lot of sense. Basically, if you end up doing more damage overall than triple your weapon's maximum, you run the risk of breaking it. The chance is always exactly 30%, regardless of whether this is the first or hundred-and--first time you're rolling and what you're swinging with, and only applies to things which are specifically weapons, as opposed to stuff like rocks, crates or small animals being used to hit people with. Furthermore, by all accounts, use of this rule requires super-strong supernaturals to carry around a golf bag full of weapons. Let's consider the example Nightbane from before - the sword they wield deals a maximum of 8 damage, while the average damage they will deal will be between 23 and 24. So on average, they run the risk of breaking their sword with almost total certainty about every five swings they make with it. That is ... highly stupid and probably not what you'd want in a game like this one.

In a bid to salvage the stupidity of this, apparently, well-made weapons only run the risk of breaking if they exceed five times the weapon's maximum damage. But then, to inject some more stupid, we get this:

"...very well-crafted blades (a master smith's katana, for example)..."

Fucking fuck, did we need bad weeaboo fanboyism to go with the US ethnocentrism in this book that badly? Additionally, magical weapons and artifacts are immune to these rules, which is once again a ray of sanity amid a sea of Giant Frog.

Overall, this 'step' in 'character creation' spends considerably more time on what is actually 'rules text' rather than 'character creation' stuff. Attempts made by it to explain what any given Attribute means are often nonsensical, badly-explained, outright contradictory and typically involve digging around prior or subsequent section with no guidance coming or going. A newbie to this system cannot hope to make any fucking sense of this mess, and people who would want to use these rules in-game would find it very difficult to locate them, as they're not placed in the first, second or tenth-most-obvious place in this book. This stuff is badly organized, badly researched, badly thought-out and generally sucks all that is anus. And that's just the first part! There's still four more of these fucking things to go, and judging by this section, it's not getting any fucking better.

Given that I'm close to the 6-thousand-word target I set myself, and the next section would probably require similar levels of rage and indignation, I'm going to cut it off here. Next time, we'll continue our forays into 'character creation' and hopefully I won't have an brain aneurism from the sheer stupidity I am about to subject myself to.
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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 5:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

koz wrote:
Of course, neither of these things refer to each other, but at least they're only one page apart. Basically, assuming that our PS 9 human also has PE 9 (while lamenting the fact that these are nonsensically separate Attributes, of course) it means that they can carry 40.5kg for 36 minutes continuously. That seems a bit large to me, but I guess it depends on how the weight is distributed. If someone could chime in on the accuracy of this, I would be much obliged.


The weight is too high, but the timeframe is reasonable. The Pack Test - a test used to qualify as a wildland firefighter - requires a person to carry a 45 lb. (20 kg) pack 3 miles in 45 minutes. A person in decent shape but not particularly strong can manage it but will feel like absolute shit afterwards (speaking from experience here). For the 36 minute value a slightly higher weight would be possible, but not to 40 kilos. That's a load for a trained porter - which is absolutely not 'average.'
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koz
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mechalich wrote:
The weight is too high, but the timeframe is reasonable. The Pack Test - a test used to qualify as a wildland firefighter - requires a person to carry a 45 lb. (20 kg) pack 3 miles in 45 minutes. A person in decent shape but not particularly strong can manage it but will feel like absolute shit afterwards (speaking from experience here). For the 36 minute value a slightly higher weight would be possible, but not to 40 kilos. That's a load for a trained porter - which is absolutely not 'average.'


Thanks for that Mechalich. The text has been amended suitably, and credit where it is due has been given.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The thing on Supernatural PS is... okay, basically, you don't have Supernatural PS unless they say you do. If you are Supernatural in some way but it doesn't say you have Supernatural PS (like the psychic), then no dice. If your telekinesis "has an effective Supernatural PS of X" or your spell "Transforms you to have Supernatural PS" then you're good to go.

Other games actually spell this out. Sometimes. But sometimes (like Nightbane, apparently) they decide they don't need to spell this out, "whatevs man".
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Koumei wrote:
The thing on Supernatural PS is... okay, basically, you don't have Supernatural PS unless they say you do. If you are Supernatural in some way but it doesn't say you have Supernatural PS (like the psychic), then no dice. If your telekinesis "has an effective Supernatural PS of X" or your spell "Transforms you to have Supernatural PS" then you're good to go.

Other games actually spell this out. Sometimes. But sometimes (like Nightbane, apparently) they decide they don't need to spell this out, "whatevs man".


Given that Nightbane has already contradicted itself at least once not forty pages in, it would not surprise me at all if they later decided that Supernatural PS works exactly the way you just described, only to then change their mind again later. Possibly several times. On the same page.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Some of the odd stuff around the stats comes from imitating AD&D. The stat modifiers only become important at 16+, strength explodes in effectiveness at 18 and the intelligence*10=IQ were all in AD&D. The odd acronyms were a habit of wargames; take a look at a Warhammer statline sometime.

The other odd bits probably come from fitting a line to a data point or two when trying to explain to one of the early players what their character could or couldn't do, IMO.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

koz wrote:
If there is a linear relationship between throw distance and weight (which is the case, I hope - please correct me if not)


Ignoring air resistance, there's a linear relationship between mass and (horizontal) distance from a given amount of energy. But throwing has some extra factors. The thrower is exerting a force on their arm, which also has mass, and there's a maximum speed possible, and a more massive object will accelerate more slowly under a given force, allowing that force to be applied for longer over the arc of an arm swing, etc.

A professional baseball player can throw a 145g baseball at 140+ km/h, but it doesn't follow that the same player could throw a straight pin one thousandth the mass at 140,000 km/h (over three times escape velocity).

The numbers given are still absurd, though.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
If there is a linear relationship between throw distance and weight


Not really, sort of with bigger weights, most of it is based on various techniques you can use and limitations for your body around forces through joints and stuff depending on that, plus you're also throwing your hand, and part of your arm. Like, you can throw a 7kg Olympic hammer roughly as far as a 1kg javelin or 2kg discus, but four times further than a 7kg shotput. But you can also throw a shotput a lot further if you use two hands and chuck it like a hammer. There's throwing competitions for 2.5 stone and 4 stone weights (16kg, 25kg), 1-handed on short chains, which work out worse than inversely proportional to weight, which probably has something to do with how a bunch of energy goes into just supporting the load once you get up in proportion to your max 1-handed lift.

And then with levers and spring effects it's just silly because you can store energy and stuff. Throwing clubs have slightly pliant handles because that makes them go much faster and further, but not too long because then it stops helping.

And then light things don't punch through the air as well, and so whatever feels like you can throw it a long way, that's what you can throw a long way. It's an instinct thing for humans, turns out. I imagine any formula you might make would be bullshit, and there's probably just a distance you can throw most light stuff and that's not too bad because you'd avoid doing math that wouldn't be right anyway.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Good to know that the numbers for throwing are still absurd and contradictory, even despite the relationship being not exactly linear. If I knew more physics, I'd probably fix that, but I don't. Rewrite suggestions will be taken.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2016 2:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Force = Mass * Acceleration

That part is linear, and the Acceleration applied determines how fast the object is going when it leaves the thrower's hand.

Distance = 1/2 (Acceleration ) * ( time^2 )

That part is the vertical component of the parabola, where Acceleration instead refers to the pull of Gravity. If you throw something in a totally flat arc ( exactly paralell to the ground (and the ground is flat)) it starts at the height of your hand and falls to the ground in the time given by that equation. You can then get the total distance of the throw by multiplying that time by the speed at which the object left the thrower's hand (neglectin air resistance and some other potential complications)

If you instead throw at an upward angle, you have a y-vector which counteracts gravity ( briefly ) allowing for longer hang time, but at the cost of reduced velocity along the x-vector. In the simplified case of no air resistance, the greatest distance is reached by throwing at a 45 degree upwards angle.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2016 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

koz wrote:
except that the latter sounds like a childish term for penis (or urine, depending on which part of the Anglosphere you happen to reside in).


Both. PP comes out of your PP when you PP. It's also a verb.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This section was delayed a bit - a mixture of PhD report, making materials for next semester's classes and other start-of-semester stuff got in the way. I haven't forgotten though - so here's some more. We still have to finish 'character creation' after all!

Step 2: Hit Points and SDC

And here we go with the fucking acronyms again. Seriously, of all the idiotsyncracies of the Palladium engine, this one grates on me the most. Although in this case, it instead reminds me of a different rules abomination, by virtue of sounding like this thing:

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Now, Palladium runs a 'Vitality and Wounds'-type system. I suspect that this (like pretty much everything in this engine) is not new, but this is overall a semi-sensible idea. However, this is Palladium, so Kev has to stick his ego-penis into even this, with lines like:

"Some players will have a character with a lot of hit points, but don't get too cocky, a gun or even a knife can whittle you down to size in one melee round..."

Yup, because I like my shitty-as-fuck rules to talk down to me while I read. Obviously. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that you get d6 + PE (Constitution to those of us who don't get hard at this kind of thing) Wounds (which are called 'hit points'), with an extra one per level. However, for Vitality (which is called 'SDC'), you get substantially more - either 1d4 times 10 or 3d6, depending on your background. Now, given that this is the first we're hearing of backgrounds or levels, we're rightly somewhat confused. However, despite its inane inability to explain or structure fuck-all, this section somehow manages to explain the basics of how Vitality/Wounds systems work, before driving off the ego cliff straight into a pit full of Oberoni.



This is rather typical of Kev, who goes on several such tirades throughout this book. They all have a very similar structure, which goes something like this:


  1. Describe either a valid complaint with the rules making no sense, or certain players playing the game by the rules, but 'wrong' according to the Gospel Known Only To Kev.
  2. Kev insists that they read his perfect ruleset wrong.
  3. Kev then produces some asspulled shit about how to slap this down, despite not having said anything of this sort anywhere and none of that being supported or emerging from actual fucking rules.


In this case, it is the (quite valid) complaint that objects don't lose any functionality until all their SDC is depleted, to which his response is 'You have to ROLEPLAY it harder!'. No really, his response does not even address the basic issue this time, while continuing to talk shit in his usual condescending attitude. Essentially, by the sound of it, Kev would rather GMs Viking-hatted their games, instead of, you know, Kev writing actual non-shit rules. I'm not really surprised by this fact, but that doesn't make it any less sad.

We then get a segment about recovering hit points and SDC. Given that we're still in fucking character creation seems to no longer matter - fuck it, if Kev wants his rules here, he's getting his fucking rules here, logic and organization be damned! This also mentions the 'first aid skill', which is again the first we've fucking heard of it, and postulates a rather slow rate of recovery, even with professional help. But apparently, Nightbane give no fucks because they have fast healing. How much of it, of course, is not mentioned here - after all, this is character creation, which clearly not the place for such things, right?

We also get a description about how dying works; essentially, if you end up at a negative PE hit points, you're dead, and if you're just below 0, you're comatose. You can stay comatose for PE hours, and then you die. If someone mends you up to positive during that time, you're supposed to make a best-of-three rolls using percentiles based on a table, which, if you succeed, brings you out of the coma. This is needlessly elaborate - why not just, you know, have sane percentages to begin with? The fact that this can be retried every hour also makes this seem like a rather pointless dice-rolling exercise. However, given that most of the fucking game seems to be a pointless dice-rolling exercise up to this point, maybe it's just following the trend. We also get a table of 'optional recovery side-effects', which basically imposes some mildly-annoying penalties on those who have been comatose but got revived. These penalties are permanent and can't be removed, which is basically only ever going to affect players. Why anybody thinks these are a good idea, even as optional rules, is quite beyond me. What they're even doing here is similarly beyond me.

We then get another optional table for 'minor injuries'. Apparently, these kick in when someone loses 'a great amount of hit points'. What 'a great amount' means is of course left unstated even in cursory terms, although apparently, these are cumulative if the same thing happens many times. These are similarly annoying to the permanent penalties above, except their duration is a bunch of d4s of days instead of forever. Also basically only designed to fuck with players, and in this case, it's even worse, because now whether you get hit with these or not depends on whether the number of hit points you lost was 'great' or not according to your GM. Which is probably linearly-related to whether the blowjob you gave was 'great' or not according to said GM, but I digress.



We then get yet another set of optional rules for injuries (seriously, how many do you need?). These trigger if you lose more than 80% of your hit points in one go, and last 1d4 weeks, regardless of what medical care you do or do not get. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that ribs do not mend themselves from fractures in a week without medical attention. But the really hilarious outcome is this one:

"80-89: Weakened immune system and fever."

Yes, in Nightbane-verse, you can give people viruses by punching them really hard. Note that every single other entry on this list is stuff that could reasonably arise from being hit very hard (broken bones, bruising, concussions etc). Why this item even belongs on this list is a question so obvious I'm surprised nobody ever asked it.


One of these things...

And before we can figure out the 'what' and the 'what the fuck' of that last thing, this section is over, as abruptly as it had begun. This section belongs even less here than the previous one for the most part - at least for Attributes, the rules were mainly mandatory! This whole section basically reads like they gave an 80s RPG designer a lot of acid and a time machine, and now they're just flying into the future, littering books with random rules-related argle-bargle in no particular order. Which, to be honest, is a little too close to how this book was likely written for comfort.

Step 3: Selecting a Character Class

The Palladium engine is class-based (much like its D&D not-so-ancestor). However, it is class-based in a very retro way, but also in a way that probably makes Bruce Cordell crap himself with joy. That is no small achievement, and it probably deserves the RPG equivalent of a Razzie.


For 'Worst Mechanical Crossover'.

See, Palladium has three kinds of classes: OCCs, RCCs and PCCs. For once, I'm not going to make any quips at Kev's acronym obsession, and get right to the point: OCCs are jobs, RCCs are 'racial' classes (like Elf back in 1E D&D I think), and PCCs are 'psychic' classes (basically like anything Bruce Cordell seems to have written ever). These are... very odd distinctions, and probably deserve some explanation. Pity you're not getting any, because this is Palladium.

Now, apparently, the people in this game are mostly going to be Nightbane (because no shit), and that is an RCC. Believe it or not, this is the most information we are going to receive about this rather vital bit of game mechanics for another forty fucking pages. In addition, we get this bit of utter inanity:

"... some players may wish to try something else for variety. It is up to the game master to decide whether specific ... [classes] ... will be appropriate for his/her campaign. Different beings from a variety of worlds can be found in Beyond the Supernatural, Rifts ..."

OK, it's time to do some stupid-unpacking again. I have absolutely no idea why, in character fucking creation for a game called Nightbane, about fucking Nightbane, the book up-and-out states 'Y'know what? You can just play whatever.'. That's seriously strange, because the whole point of this game is playing fucking Nightbane! That is the entire goddamn premise of this game, and for some reason, right from the get-go, we're told to play something other than a Nightbane. That's like the one friend you have who goes with you to a Japanese restaurant and still wants to order a fucking hamburger. Now, this is where many people will mention that Vampire allowed you to play Ghouls. This is true, but this wasn't given as an option in the basic fucking book for a goddamn reason! A game called Vampire is about fucking vampires (literally and figuratively!), not their butlers. Likewise, a game called Nightbane is about fucking Nightbane, not Joe Blow or Jane Glitter Girl. The fact that Rifts allows you to import from anything ever is because Rifts is a bizarre sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic genre-mess where everything goes, the rules are made up and the points don't matter. Nightbane is a very different kind of game - it is much more focused in its themes and genre, and really doesn't take well to that kind of treatment.

But on top of that, suggesting Rifts as a source of classes is ten kinds of insane. I wasn't kidding when I posted that Glitter Boy picture - this game is supposed to work with that shit. Frankly, I don't even know what the fuck. This is so setting-breaking, I don't even know how or why this got off the conceptual level and onto actual printed pages. Of course, there's another hilarious walk-back right after:

"Of course, some modification may be required."

Um, yeah, no fucking kidding. Fuck, this isn't a walk-back, it's a fucking sprint-back. Of shame.

Then, for some reason, we go into skills. Not a section on skills - just some random shit about skills in the class-related section. Apparently, there are three skill categories, and something about skill bonuses and PPE (basically psychic power points), and nobody fucking cares because none of this has been introduced or explained anywhere and it's in the wrong section and holy fuck my brain. We have no idea what skills do, but even here, the stupid peeks through:

"Maximum skill level is limited to 98%, because there is always a margin for error no matter how skilled one is."

Yes Kev, there is, and it's always one in fifty. Always. No matter what, for any task. Even the greatest sushi chef in the world fucks up one order out of fifty, and the most capable writers still write one idiotic sentence for every forty-nine amazing ones. Truly, you are a genius of game design - is this system, by chance, that 2% margin for error you just described? It'd fucking explain a lot.

Step 4: Equipment and Money

We get a paragraph basically saying 'look in your OCC'. No seriously, that's all we get.

Step 5: Rounding Out One's Character

We get ... another paragraph. However, in that paragraph, we get these golden lines:

"Everything else is optional, including insanity."

Uhhh, I dunno, so far, I think insanity is pretty fucking mandatory if this game is to make any sense.

"Use it or do not."


This seemed appropriate here. Why or why not, there is no know.

"Insanity rules will be most appropriate in long campaigns."

I swear that this is a self-aware quip.

And with all that, 'character creation' is ostensibly done. Now, I can guarantee you that if you do all these things, you won't create character, because (surprise surprise!) most of the information you actually need lies elsewhere. Of course, this section won't tell you where this is, because that would be too easy. Instead, we get a big rant on alignment. Oh fucking joy.

Alignment

Alignment is a deeply-stupid thing that D&D has been saddled with for its entire existence. It isn't internally-consistent, some parts of it make literally no sense, and even the parts that do are subject to caveats so large they might as well be undefined for all the fucking difference it would make. Furthermore, the ultimate arbiter of this insanity is your GM, which basically turns alignment into a giant penis-greasing contest and a huge pile of table arguments. To put a perfect cherry on top of this ass-shaped cake, alignment ties into mechanics quite strongly in many cases, which means that if the blowjob you gave your GM hasn't been adequate that day, you could end up losing most of your abilities, in some cases with no way of getting them back. However, none of this is news to any of us here - these are problems that have been well-canvassed elsewhere.

So, in light of this, whenever I see an alignment system in a game, I tend to be quite wary, and assume that it's basically broken from the outset and does nothing positive. That being said, there are degrees of idiocy, and with that in mind, let's have a look at what the hell Kev and his minions made of it.

Now, there is a big rant here from Kev; however, it isn't about the many things alignment gets wrong. It's not about 'how evil is evil'; it's not about 'the fact that law and chaos don't mean anything'; no, it's about Kev's hateboner for neutral alignments. Now, based on this rant, it appears that Kev believes that 'neutral' is some kind of 'perfect balance of everything' alignment (kind of like how 1E and 2E druids were supposed to be, if I remember correctly), and that, when taken to its logical conclusion, leads to some truly dumb shit. Now, I would argue that the alignment system present in D&D under any edition taken to its logical conclusion leads to dumb shit, but that's not really the point here. To me, the bigger issue is that, especially according to this book, alignment is 'a code of ethics and morals', which requires you to be a sapient agent to even make any goddamn sense. Tigers don't have concepts of ethics or morals, and nor do newborn children - they aren't capable of forming such thoughts. However, simultaneously, it appears that everyone must have one - so what alignment to give to the things incapable of being moral agents? The answer that 3E D&D gave was 'neutral', which represents 'doesn't much care'. This is also probably the most common stance on ethics and morals among people - making Kev's rage against neutrality seem very under-considered. His character in some ancient D&D game probably got seriously messed up by a druid or something, I dunno.

Now, the alignments themselves are basically the nine-grid of D&D, eliminating neutral good and neutral, renaming 'neutral' alignments that remain to 'selfish', and also giving multi-point guides to behaviour. Now, I would say that in some ways, this is actually an improvement, as it gives more concrete examples of behaviour that does (and doesn't) fit within alignments, rather than the vague (and contradictory) platitudes that we get from D&D (or at least, 3E D&D, which is what I played and am familiar with). However, even there, the stupid creeps in pretty fast. Let's have a look at Scrupulous (what Kev calls 'chaotic good'). Apparently, Scrupulous people 'keep their word to any other good person'. This is already severely problematic on the face of it: do they mean good as in 'good alignment'? If so, how the fuck are we meant to know to whom we keep our word? It's not like I interrogate people about their moral and ethical codes (and expect them to be truthful!) before I tell them anything. Or does it mean 'good' in the more vague, fuzzy sense? In that case, that translates to 'keeps their word to anyone they fucking feel like', which basically is Lunar-level 'honour' shit which doesn't belong in any alignment which is ostensibly 'good'. Let's compare this to Unprincipled: they 'keep their word of honour'. So this means that being Unprincipled actually requires you (under any interpretation) to be more truthful than being Scrupulous? This runs counter to any kind of logic or normal understanding of those words. The fact that every single one of these has a whole separate point on whether a character of that alignment will use torture or not comes off as more than a little creepy, too.

Basically, this whole thing is a wash, flavoured by all the problems that alignment has had for the entire history of D&D, with a bunch of perspectives from someone whose prior behaviour appears to indicate very little understanding of ethical or moral standards. Thus, it turns out to be just as useless as before. Additionally, by failing to answer the very basic question over what alignments you are meant to give to animals, this system actually ends up worse. This is truly an impressive achievement, but it gets better! Apparently, alignments aren't just ethical and moral codes - they physically radiate from you as well! So now, apparently they're also universal energies - again, just like D&D - with all the ensuing problems. We also get the whole who-is-really-supernatural-or-not problem again: apparently, supernaturals radiate their alignment, but ordinary humans don't, and Nightbane, Wampyrs (zing for a new term never-before-explained!) and Guardians don't either! It also confusingly mentions that psychics will be unable to truly sense the intentions or dispositions of those three groups of pseudo-supernaturals, which isn't really an alignment thing - just because I happen to have an alignment does not mean that all my actions are derivable from it, since they give a lot of leeway in how I can choose to act (and what I think about any situation). So basically, more vagueness and confusion can only arise from this, leading to more table arguments.

Experience Points

Hoo boy. Piecemeal XP awards have received a very thorough logical teardown before, so I won't restate why they are an awful idea that never gives the results you expect. Of course, Kev has to retain it, because it was in D&D, but not before he wipes his dick on a page 'proving' to us that the system is somehow superior to the alternatives. So what does Kev's wisdom have to add to this conversation?

"The reason I use an experience point system is because I find them extremely realistic and practical. Training is useful, but there's no substitute for experience."


Nothing like quoting a James Bond film to show one's age.

Words fucking fail me. Again. So, in Kev's version of reality (tenuous, I admit), people go wrestle a bunch of dogs because they're a few XP short of that PhD they've been after for so long? Seriously, issues of realism and practicality go out the fucking window the moment you introduce piecemeal XP to a game system. However, based on Kev's previous 'spirit of the rules'-type rants, I suspect that he doesn't really think through the consequence of what he writes into a rulebook (and CJ Carella probably just enables him, which evidence suggests is actually very accurate). Given that, based on the stories I've heard of Kev, he doesn't seem to think through the consequences of his non-rule-writing actions either, every part of this rant is inexcusable bullshit.

But what of the system itself? Well, let's just put it this way:


Do I grit?

No, seriously. There is an entry on the XP table which says, and I quote:

"25 Performing a skill (successful or not)."

So basically, I can just get my character to whatever level I fucking feel like by repeatedly trying (and failing) to do backflips over and over again for years. Anything else written into this homesick abortion of a rules section means diddly-fuck-all with stuff like this as an official rule. But of course, no section of these rules could possibly be considered complete if it didn't contain misplaced rules text that you'd never expect to find here (specifically, how many hit points you gain on levelling up), as well as obvious tautologies (that 'per level' means 'per level'). So basically, it's exactly as bad a D&D ripoff with Kev ego stains as we have been taught to expect so far. Good to know.

Insanity

No.


Counter target idiotic rules section.

Mental health in TTRPGs has a long and depressing history. Although CoC are probably some of the worst offenders in this regard, there's plenty of blame to go around. Nightbane certainly doesn't help things, especially not with lines like:

"I've found that having a character roll on the insanity tables after a terrible trauma is very appropriate, realistic, and fun;..."

I... don't even words. This section is utter garbage and should be burned. I won't even give it the credit of anger in this review, because fuck, I can't do this.

Skill Descriptions

We are first dazzled by a page-long list of all the skills in the game. That's four columns of this shit. There are a lot of skills, many of which are amazingly niche (Communications: Laser anyone?), while others are ridiculously broad (Electrical: Electrical Engineer anyone?). Some skills have specializations which are separate skills (Science: Chemistry and Science: Chemistry - Analytical), while others are just multiple sharded skills (Science: Mathematics: Basic and Science: Mathematics: Advanced). Some sub-skills are marked using dashes (Science: Chemistry - Analytical, Technical: Lore - Demons), others with colons (Science: Mathematics: Basic, Physical: Hand to Hand: Basic). Basically, this whole table is a microcosm of this entire book: droolingly incoherent in every way, including its typesetting and spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Now, for those less-enlightened, Nightbane skills are sorted into categories (like Communications, Medical etc). Each of the skills are percentile-based, and start at a basic number, increasing as you gain levels. It would be fucking amazing if the skills section said anything about this anywhere, but it doesn't. All you get is a giant table followed by 'detailed' (with the biggest caveats on those quotes you could possibly think of) descriptions of each skill by section. The only way you could have extracted this information is from unrelated sections, the skill descriptions themselves, or having played a similar game before. Organization, thoroughness and basic logic are not strong in this one, and this whole section pretty much continues this trend.

Additionally, we're missing some incredibly vital information, which makes the skill descriptions insanely stupid when missing - any concept of some tasks being more difficult than others. According to the system being described here, the only influence on the difficulty of success on any task is the level of the dork attempting it. This is exactly as insane as it sounds. Let's consider Communications: Cryptography as an example. According to the skill description, a 1st level crypto-hustler has a 25% chance to break any cipher, given two hours' work and no special equipment. Now, if said cipher is a Caesar shift in a language the crypto-hustler knows on a short text, this is pretty much right (just a frequency table and a bit of guesswork); if this cipher is 4096-bit RSA, you'd need the power of months, if not years, of supercomputer time, on a machine the likes of which doesn't exist today, much less back when this is apparently taking place. But no, apparently, either of those can be broken 25% of the time, given two hours' work by a 1st level crypto-hustler with pen and paper. In this case, the situation is actually worse (the task can be retried any number of times without penalty), but even if it weren't, this is still stupid on a level that's hard to believe anyone could actually write and present as rules.

Additionally, frequently, the skill descriptions don't make any fucking sense. Let's consider Technical: Language as a particularly egregious (though far not the only) example. Supposedly, this works 50% of the time at first level. What does this even mean? Do I roll per word? Per sentence? Per conversation? Languages simply don't work that way no matter how you look at it. I don't consider myself particularly high-level, but I'm pretty sure I don't misunderstand every other word, sentence or conversation of English (or I wouldn't be writing this). Even in languages I'm not so great at (Russian and Japanese), this kind of pattern would be absurd and would make no sense. Which of these incomprehensibly-stupid interpretations of Technical: Language is the correct one, if any of them, is left to you to mindcaulk together and then argue with your GM about, seemingly.

Furthermore, the percentages given are ridiculously low. Rogue Skills: Streetwise represents knowledge of gang colours, symbols and mannerisms (basically, 'watched reruns of Gangland, the skill'), but it only starts at 20%. This means that a bunch of 1st level gangbangers get the colours, symbols and mannerisms of their own gang wrong 80% of the time. Maybe that is how the Warlords run all the US gangs despite there being so few of them - their members are too incompetent to even realize what gangs they belong to!

Last, but not least, not all skills are born equal. Some scale on percentages, some simply give a one-off bonus, some provide other benefits as well, and some do other things (for example, Domestic: Sewing needs to be taken twice to let you tailor clothes). None of this is very well-indicated, often requiring deep reading of the skill descriptions, cross-referencing with other skills (with no page references of course) and other parts of the ruleset (some of which we haven't even seen yet), and generally makes very little sense coming or going. This is around the time when a normal person's eyes would glaze over due to the sheer mind-numbing stupidity of the organization style (and rules-writing style) employed here. Fortunately, I am not a normal person, as I have already penned 17,000 or so words about Nightbane as of roughly this sentence. Given that the average book is about 250 words per page (and Nightbane, with its tables, headings and pictures, is probably less dense than this), what I have thrown together is approaching a third of the length of Nightbane itself. I would make a joke about how much thought went into which bit of writing here, but that would be too easy.

One category of skills deserving special mention is the Physical one, as this one is the biggest 'modify stuff having nothing to do with skills' category. The idea is basically this - by having training in these skills, you also improve some other things. Many of these (like the Hand to Hand skills) modify combat stuff that we haven't seen yet (at least we get a section reference this time though!), but many of the others also modify other things. These benefits all stack and are all front-loaded upon acquisition, mostly modifying physical Attributes. By having large numbers (or all) of these, you can raise your PP (Dexterity), PS (Strength) and PE (Constitution) by a very non-trivial number of points, which probably means that you are going to do that. Quite a few of these add SDC (Vitality) as well.

It would be remiss of me not to point out that even here, the bizarre alternate-humanity postulated by Nightbane rears its ugly head. Under Physical: Swimming, we are helpfully told the following:

"A character can swim a distance equal to 3x his PS in yards/metres per melee. This pace can be maintained for a total of minutes equal to his PE/endurance."

It's nice to see that grammar torture continues here - maybe that is why Kev insists on saying how OK with torture every alignment he wrote is. It's also nice to see that even this book shows that acronyms everywhere serves more to confuse people than to explain anything. We also have the usual 'referencing rules we've never seen before without telling us where to find them' crap, and the special-snowflaking of particular subsystems that cover rather similar things (in this case, running and swimming). But even setting aside all of that (as well as many other things I have already canvassed at length about this previously), the pace given is insane. One melee (a fact that is super difficult to locate anywhere in this book) is 15 seconds, which means that a weak-end-of-average PS 9 human can seriously swim 27 metres in 15 seconds. The idea that an average person can swim at a speed rivalling some Olympic records (that's 100 metres in less than a minute!) is totally ridiculous on the face of it. Also, according to Nightbane, Michael Phelps has a PS of 10, which I find a bit hard to believe. The biggest question, however, is 'how the fuck does having Physical: Swimming actually help you be a better swimmer'? If these rules only apply to people who have the skill, every 1st level average dork with Physical: Swimming is Michael fucking Phelps and what percentages they do or do not have in it mean precisely zero. If these rules apply to everyone and just happen to be situated here, then the percentages still mean precisely fucking zero, because nobody ever explains when you roll these skills or why. Argh!

Lastly (for this section, at least) there are also something called 'Weapon Proficiencies'. These give you a bunch of modifiers related to combat (most of the rules for which we haven't seen yet), and quite a few refer to a subsequent section on 'modern weapon proficiency explanation'. These are similar to the Physical skills, except that their bonuses apply to specific groups of weapons (or even specific weapons if you're really unlucky) and actually somewhat scale with level. Needless to say, these categories are nothing like balanced with each other in terms of the number of weapons they apply to, or indeed, how similar said weapons happen to be. Consider the difference between Weapon Proficiency Whip and Weapon Proficiency Heavy; the former is rather self-explanatory, while the latter covers 'machineguns, bazookas, LAWS and mortars'. I also have to mention that Kev can't help indulging his acronym fetish here, as 'Weapon Proficiencies' are called 'WPs'.

Once again, I'm a bit short of 6000 words, but I'm gonna leave it here, as the next section will require much more space to contain my rage.
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Last edited by koz on Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:26 am; edited 2 times in total
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So, is there any good reason to not just replace the nightbane's SDC with MDC?
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koz
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

hyzmarca wrote:
So, is there any good reason to not just replace the nightbane's SDC with MDC?


If ported to Riftsverse, this is in fact exactly what happens.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

koz wrote:
However, for Vitality (which is called 'SDC'), you get substantially more - either 1d4 times 10 or 3d6, depending on your background.


I forget, do you get more SDC per level in Nightbane? In the other games, you get a pile of it at first level, then everything else comes from skills, and it basically doesn't grow from there.

Quote:
Yes, in Nightbane-verse, you can give people viruses by punching them really hard.


I'm not saying it's common, but you actually can cause fever and immunosuppression through severe injury. I mean, a solid kick to the kidney can cause waste products to build up and filter into the blood, heavy damage that causes swelling and bruising and potential clots can also result in fever... it's possible. I'd honestly only include it in a game about MMA (where Bas Rutten can just kick your liver in half and then you spend two weeks in hospital) or about surviving in snow-capped mountains where "Save vs Hypothermia... now Save vs Gangrene" is a thing.

Quote:
Apparently, Scrupulous people 'keep their word to any other good person'. This is already severely problematic on the face of it: do they mean good as in 'good alignment'? If so, how the fuck are we meant to know to whom we keep our word? It's not like I interrogate people about their moral and ethical codes (and expect them to be truthful!) before I tell them anything. Or does it mean 'good' in the more vague, fuzzy sense? In that case, that translates to 'keeps their word to anyone they fucking feel like', which basically is Lunar-level 'honour' shit which doesn't belong in any alignment which is ostensibly 'good'. Let's compare this to Unprincipled: they 'keep their word of honour'. So this means that being Unprincipled actually requires you (under any interpretation) to be more truthful than being Scrupulous?


I mean... you could bring up the "Lying to Nazis" thing for Scrupulous, and that would make sense: only lying when it's specifically to protect people from harm or to directly thwart the efforts of evildoers? But that doesn't cover the bit about Unprincipled. The only thing that would make sense there is "They don't give enough of a shit to lie" and that sounds more like the Aloof Neutral he hates so much.

If you're going to use Alignments (and that's a big if, honestly consider going back and changing your mind on that one), then I agree it's important to make them different and distinct, and to provide lists of things they would and wouldn't do, or unofficial codes of conduct that would usually match your actions or whatever, but... he still did a crappy job of it.

Quote:

"The reason I use an experience point system is because I find them extremely realistic and practical. Training is useful, but there's no substitute for experience."


To be fair, Palladium pre-dates Vampire, and he copy-pasta'd the write-up from the very first AD&D hack he put together in high school (presumably Palladium Fantasy 1st edition, published just as he wrote it back then). So here are the different forms of experience available at the time:
1. Like D&D where your class determines how much XP you need and you level everything up all at once after failing enough backflips or kicking enough dogs.
2. None. You only gain new gear, your base stats remain as they are because you're part of a 10-man squad on the table.

So yes, "doing stuff makes you more experienced and you get better at stuff and learn new skills at the same rate as you (hopefully) grow and develop as a character" does make more sense than "None". He isn't comparing it to alternate XP systems like spending XP and raising individual traits over time, or "add a mark to each skill/stat as you use it, every X marks you increase that trait".

And he never does. RIFTS (TM) had its Ultimate Edition released within the last 10 years (now with even worse layout and chapter arrangement!) and still claims that level-by-level is the best and most realistic way to model advancement.

Good work getting through some of the really monotonous crap there.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Koumei wrote:
I forget, do you get more SDC per level in Nightbane? In the other games, you get a pile of it at first level, then everything else comes from skills, and it basically doesn't grow from there.


Not that I could see on a first or second reading. I might be wrong, however.

Koumei wrote:
I'm not saying it's common, but you actually can cause fever and immunosuppression through severe injury. I mean, a solid kick to the kidney can cause waste products to build up and filter into the blood, heavy damage that causes swelling and bruising and potential clots can also result in fever... it's possible. I'd honestly only include it in a game about MMA (where Bas Rutten can just kick your liver in half and then you spend two weeks in hospital) or about surviving in snow-capped mountains where "Save vs Hypothermia... now Save vs Gangrene" is a thing.


Well, I guess I learned something new today. I still think the result is rather odd, considering it has immediate onset. It's like, one kick and you have the flu. Which obviously isn't how it works.

Koumei wrote:
I mean... you could bring up the "Lying to Nazis" thing for Scrupulous, and that would make sense: only lying when it's specifically to protect people from harm or to directly thwart the efforts of evildoers? But that doesn't cover the bit about Unprincipled. The only thing that would make sense there is "They don't give enough of a shit to lie" and that sounds more like the Aloof Neutral he hates so much.

If you're going to use Alignments (and that's a big if, honestly consider going back and changing your mind on that one), then I agree it's important to make them different and distinct, and to provide lists of things they would and wouldn't do, or unofficial codes of conduct that would usually match your actions or whatever, but... he still did a crappy job of it.


Much as of everything else Kev has ever made, it's a bizarre mixture of retroclone, ego trip and severe linguistic issues.

Koumei wrote:
To be fair, Palladium pre-dates Vampire, and he copy-pasta'd the write-up from the very first AD&D hack he put together in high school (presumably Palladium Fantasy 1st edition, published just as he wrote it back then). So here are the different forms of experience available at the time:
1. Like D&D where your class determines how much XP you need and you level everything up all at once after failing enough backflips or kicking enough dogs.
2. None. You only gain new gear, your base stats remain as they are because you're part of a 10-man squad on the table.

So yes, "doing stuff makes you more experienced and you get better at stuff and learn new skills at the same rate as you (hopefully) grow and develop as a character" does make more sense than "None". He isn't comparing it to alternate XP systems like spending XP and raising individual traits over time, or "add a mark to each skill/stat as you use it, every X marks you increase that trait".

And he never does. RIFTS (TM) had its Ultimate Edition released within the last 10 years (now with even worse layout and chapter arrangement!) and still claims that level-by-level is the best and most realistic way to model advancement.


This is a valid critique - if we were discussing the 1995 edition. Fact is, even in 1995 alternatives did exist. The fact that Kev assumes game design was perfected by him in the mid-80s and nothing better ever happened since then is made pretty much crystal clear by the inclusion of these rules as-are, along with the stupid 'Do I grit?'-style mechanism for backflipping your way to real ultimate power.

Koumei wrote:
Good work getting through some of the really monotonous crap there.


I always eagerly await your comments on each section - they're almost half the reason I do these lately. So thank you for the encouragement!
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