Sunday, April 15, 2018

Mechanics Talk: Explain to Me How to Warrior

And so we finally come to the last of the Aspects that we haven't yet covered - the indomitable Warriors, who are out there punching the bad guys and jumping off of tall structures. They're about fighting, true, and nobody's better at it than they are, but they're also about physical championship and skill, feats of strength, and pushing past the barriers that normally constrain peoples' bodies. With style, of course.

What do you do on your adventures and for your group when you have Warrior?

Running, Jumping, and Climbing Trees: Warriors are badasses at sports of all kinds - competing, sure, but also just everyday adventuring stuff. They climb cliffs and trees, they jump over and through things, they throw things distances or catch them when they're coming in, the lift heavy things and move them around and they hurl their companions piggy-back and run them personally out of danger. They can succeed in athletic pursuits even if they've never been athletes themselves - or if they are, they're really, really good ones. People who climb the roofs and jump between cars are usually Warriors, or at least they probably wish they were when it comes time for that roll.

Good Old Fashioned Beatdowns: Some problems just have to be solved with violence when all else fails, and Warriors are the people who are good at that. They have a lot of different options for subduing or succeeding in a violent situation - of course, they can just punch enemies into submission, but they also have a nice selection of Blessings to let them take other semi-violent physical actions, including wrestling and restraining people physically, crippling people with physical injuries that slow or stop them without hurting them too much, or just knocking them down with nonlethal force so they can think about their decision to pursue this line of anti-Hero misbehavior. Of course, they get kicked around a lot in the process, too, but they're good at tilting the odds in their favor so that they stay up longer than the other guy.

Murder Time: Every Hero has the option for the most final of solutions, but Warriors are the best when it comes to literally killing enemies. They usually do so with weapons, which they can use with deadly skill and force, although they can go the slow bare-knuckles route, too; other Aspects have their dangerous moments, but nobody is just a literal menace to life without needing any extra skills or powers like a Warrior is. Of course, lots of groups like to try to solve their problems in ways that don't involve murder, but sometimes, when the giant monster piranha wants to eat you, there just isn't any other way of discouraging it.

What Are Warriors Effortless At? Warriors are the pinnacle of physical awesomeness, which means that whatever physical pursuits they're pursuing, they're generally better at them. They lift heavy things more easily, jump and climb and flex more naturally, throw things farther, hit things harder. They don't even know they're doing it, or if they do, they just know they can bring their force to bear when they need it, and they're better at it by far than people who don't have their physical skill. Anybody can pick up a little physical force buffing in the web, but Warriors have access to more of it just by virtue of being themselves. When you need someone to strain a muscle or two, they're the best bet.

What Are the Downsides of Warriors? Warriors are incredible at what they do, but their skillset is one of the more limited ones in the game. They are great at problems that can be thrashed into submission, jumped over, or hurled missiles at, but after that point they kind of run out of problem-solving skills. Warriors also rely on non-Aspect stats - Defense and health boxes - more than do some of the other Aspects, just as a function of how often they're in combat or otherwise doing things that might bash them around a little, so they tend to feel more pressure to make sure they shore those things up via the webs.

Warriors in the playtests are, of course, busy punching the bad guys and attempting to save the day as a result, but they've also done some awesome other things lately, too, including dragging struggling mortal bystanders out of magical whirlpools, wrestling reptiles into submission for magical breeding programs, jumping from roof to roof in order to escape pursuing motorcyclists, and destroying invading monsters before they can continue to injure people in the local area. So many points of Brawn have been sent off into the aether, never to return.

The Talents under the Warrior umbrella are Athleticism, Brawn, Unarmed, and Weaponry; Unarmed and Weaponry can at first glance seem similar since they're both concerned with visiting mayhem on an opponent's face as necessary, but they mechanically result in different kinds of injuries and have very different options for Blessings underneath them, so Warriors have specialization options even within the realm of beating people up!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mechanics Talk: Explain to Me How to Trickster

Here come the Tricksters, who are one of the most popular Aspects by far! Is it their unique problem-solving, their self-preservation, their skill at manipulating things to use them for unintended purposes, or their ridiculous refusal to let anyone stop them from doing whatever stupid idea they have in their heads that makes everyone enjoy them so much? Let's find out!

What do you do on your adventures and for your group when you have Trickster?

Sneaking Around: Tricksters are sneaky by nature, at least when they're in environments that they can use to their advantage. They're good at hiding, good at disappearing, good at disguising themselves as inconspicuous bystanders and good at impersonating people when it's most helpful to them. They're masters of covert ops, allowing them to get access to places they shouldn't and plant things there, take things out with them again, or sneak right past people looking for them without anyone noticing. They also have access to Blessings that sometimes let them help other people out with those things, too, which can be useful when they don't want their cover blown by their friend who is behind them singing their own sneaking theme music.

Using Machinery: Tricksters are in many ways the representatives of civilization; they are great at things that humanity and its divine creators put into place in much the same way Hunters are great at the natural world and Leaders and Lovers are great at people. They're excellent at figuring out how to operate human-made (or other intelligent races, but Mortals don't get to see that kind of tech as much!) things on the fly based on the general principles of How Stuff Works, so they can figure out how to navigate computers, start up and shut down machines and systems, and operate mechanical vehicles, making them badass off-the-cuff helicopter pilots and security system defusers in crunch moments.

Navigating Cities: Just like they're good at navigating human-made things, Tricksters are good at human-made environments, too. They can find their way in cities and buildings even when they shouldn't by rights know the layout, and they can blend in with the people and situations there as if they were always there, disappearing into different places like they were born for it. Groups who need to find their way to places and deal with local features in cities need a Trickster to help show them the way (at least, if they don't want to end up wandering around or falling down manholes now and then).

Thievery and Villainy: Tricksters are above all good at doing things they aren't supposed to (which doesn't always win them friends, but they're not in it for friends), and that includes general crime - simple and doable, and audacious and difficult, too. They're good at picking pockets and grabbing things without being caught, at sleight of hand and quick distractions, at identity theft and at hacking. That might mean that some people judge them, but Heroes with Trickster have access to all these skills in order to come up with unorthodox answers to problems - sometimes, for the greater good, you just might have to steal a priceless artifact and then run like hell before you get caught by the unscrupulous magical forces that were going to use it for Evil.

What Are Tricksters Effortless At? Tricksters, no matter what their shenanigans of choice, all have one thing in common: nobody tells them what to do. They have an advantage against any power that tries to boss them around - mind control, alcohol, people trying to intimidate them, they're resistant to all of them, even if the person in question is trying to help them out by taking over. Other Heroes can of course also resist these sorts of things, but Tricksters are almost always better, just by virtue of being the badasses they are; they're independently minded and can't be just rolled over by the first person who comes along with a better idea.

What Are the Downsides of Trickster? Tricksters traditionally shoot themselves in the foot once in a while, and HJ Tricksters are not immune to this effect. Even past the usual issues of getting caught if their sneakery and stealing is noticed - and even the best Tricksters do get caught at least once in a blue moon - many of their powers have a small percentage chance of backfiring, usually because the rewards are great but there has to be some risk to balance them out. Tricksters are also often very self-directed and self-involved; some of their powers and skills help them but don't take the entire group into account, and as a result sometimes they squeak out of a bad place but leave some very bad-tempered companions behind, or have to explain themselves after the fact when they do something without full group approval.

In playtest groups, Tricksters have recently been amazing at disguising themselves and others as unnoticeable street folks for the purposes of burglary, using clothing and makeup design to pull off sneaking their whole group into a party much too fancy for them in pursuit of a suspect, hotwiring a series of cars with only minor electrocution injuries, and performing stunt driving that would make a Hollywood executive turn green with envy.

The Talents under the Trickster umbrella are Determination, Disguise, Legerdemain, and Streetwise; they have fancy names that basically all boil down to "I do what I want and your rules are not about to stop me", and that's the Trickster in a nutshell!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Mechanics Talk: Explain to Me How to Sage

Welcome back to our Aspects of Awesomeness series, where it's time for the Sage! Sages are the smartypantses, of course, and it's easy to sometimes discount them as being "support staff" for the people who actually get things done. But that would be a mistake - Sages do plenty of heroic things on their own and are more than capable of being the movers and shakers, and are all about finding and leveraging knowledge, affecting the structure of the greater Saga, and being wizardly. They are the embodiements of the concept of knowledge as power.

What do you do on your adventures and for your group when you have Hunter?

Noticing the Details: Sages are great at noticing things, which means that it's hard for things to slip past them. They notice clues that are lying around when they enter a room, hiding places and details about what's happening when they arrive, and exactly what small yet crucial changes have occurred since the last time they were here. They even notice things that they have no business noticing - sometimes Sages see or hear or just instinctively recognize thing that human beings normally can't, leading to them being considered psychic by their fellows. The veils are thin to Sages, and while anybody can tell a house is haunted when blood runs down the walls, the Sage is sometimes about to point directly at the offending spirit, not to mention notice what's upsetting it and exactly which creepy doll they probably need to break to slow it down.

Finding Information: Sages are the best combination tech-guru/librarians there are; when the group needs information about something, not only do they know where to go to get it, but they know how to navigate indexes, figure out organization schemes, and find exactly where the crucial facts are buried in whatever database, shelf, or vault full of disorganized paper they need to dig through. They're also often databases in and of themselves, and can retrieve information that seemed unimportant at the time they learned it at just the right moment.

Interacting with the Magical: Sages are great at figuring out and manipulating things that aren't strictly mundane - spiritual energies, magic spells, enchantments and runes, you name it. They don't always figure it all out at once, but they stand a better chance than the average person of noticing magic afoot and then figuring out where it's coming from and what it's trying to do. Many of their Blessings allow them to specialize in certain types of magic, just as their Warrior friends might specialize in certain types of combat; and other Blessings may let them cast spells of their own, although there's always more in the big bad magical world than they (at least as Mortals) can quite manage.

Structuring the Story: Because they have a mystical attunement to the greater world of magic, fate, and other things normal people aren't usually privy to, Sages can also mess with the Saga a little on their own - just tweaks, here and there, to the hem of the garment Destiny is weaving. Some of their Blessings let them discover the roles in the story people are meant to play, or even help nudge them toward ones that are especially beneficial; others let them recognize events to come at least in some small part, forearming them and their allies for the moments when they will be tested most critically. Of course, they can't really redirect the entire story, but they can certainly learn enough to try to make things turn out a little more in their favor within the confines Destiny has set out!

Figuring Out Puzzles: Lots of heroic stories hang on a puzzle: a lock, a riddle, a code, things left behind to guard places or just beyond the understanding of Heroes who really need to find out what's going on right now and don't have centuries to marshal a team to slowly churn through all the possibilities. Sages are the go-to people for puzzle-solving, capable of turning their big beautiful brains into code-cracking supercenters with a much better shot at putting things together than the average person. Anyone can take a shot at solving a riddle, but the Sage is always the one you want to try first (especially if there are, for example, Sphinx-related consequences to getting it wrong!).

What are Sages Effortless At? It is incredibly hard to pull the wool over a Sage's eyes - whether you're trying to lie to them, disguise yourself from them, hoodwink them with an illusion, or in any other way hide what's really going on from them, they're by far the most likely to see through you. Sages are automatically better at seeing the truth than everyone else, sometimes without even really noticing it - where everyone else can invest in the webs to do their best, the Sage just does it. The world is full of information, and they may not even understand why so many other people seem to be so darn blind to it.

What are the Drawbacks of Sages? Sages are awesome at finding things out... but they're not always great rhetoricians or persuaders if they don't have other Aspects to help them, which means that sometimes they have the worst time just getting everyone else, who can't see what they see or understand what they understand, to believe them when they explain what's going on and how they only have nine minutes to handle it before the building explodes. Many Sages have figured out exactly what to do hours in advance, only to spend half of their limited time on desperately trying to get their (perhaps, gently put, not too bright) friends to take them seriously and actually do it. Sages are also sometimes afflicted with the regret of knowing about things they can't actually affect; while figuring out where they stand in the Saga, what role they're meant to play, or exactly what hideous power their enemies have are all extremely useful pieces of information to have, sometimes they can make someone who understands exactly how bad the odds are despair (or even cause their friends to blame them, as if it's the Sage's fault they just happened to notice that the omens say bad things are coming!).

In recent playtesting, Sages have distinguished themselves by inventing a ritual that was able to interfere with an enemy's magical support spell; cracking a security code to let their group break into a building that otherwise couldn't be beaten by the best heisters among them; discovering the last lost scroll of a dead civilization in a library vault that contained the key to finding a royal descendant; and not only recognizing a companion's role as an action hero in the greater story, but mystically supporting them so that they became even better at it when they needed to most.

The Talents under the Sage umbrella are Enlightenment, Knowledge, Mysticism, and Sight; they know, they see, they experience, and then they use those tools to kick the Saga's butt. Stay tuned for Tricksters next!