Saturday, November 11, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Divine Blood - Character Creation Explanation

I'm not going to call this an analysis because it is revolving around my own game. The basics of the game are very much the same as Strands of Fate, however, I have used specific alterations to the basic structure and the way Power Advantages work. The primary differences between Divine Blood RPG and Strands of Fate is in the gameplay which is very much drawn from Fate Core. While Strands of Fate tends to weigh the importance of numerical bonuses a lot heavier than most Fate games, Divine Blood RPG as I conceived it goes back to using the Aspects as the primary context for viewing the character while still weighing objective stats higher than Fate Core would. So, on to the differences between default Strands of Fate and Divine Blood RPG.

Instead of the power level chart from the Strands of Fate core book, I based the power levels on the optional chart from their Strands of Power supplement. The Strands of Power PL chart reduces the amount of Refresh you start with but provides free Expert Advantages dependent on the level of power you choose. It also results in often having a different number of Ability points available. For the purposes of Divine Blood, I started the Power Level chart at what Strands would call the Hero level so that every character in Divine Blood gets 3 free Expert Advantage choices. 

Another thing I did was to rename the power levels by labeling them as "Rings" in a mirror for an in-universe way that psychics use to measure power. In universe there are three Tiers of power and these are used by educated psychics both to objectively measure capability of producing or channeling life force and subjectively to describe the sort of threat or influence the character has in the world. Tier 3 represents the vast majority of living beings in the world and covers Ring 12 through Ring 9. Tier 2 represents the sort of individuals that acquire a legendary reputation and covers Ring 8 through Ring 5. Tier 1 represents the characters with a global level of power and influence and represents Ring 4 to Ring 1. This system was specifically developed by the Gods and Demons because the idea of living beings things more powerful than Ring 1 is disturbing to them so they imagined an upper power level. And yes, this does mean that even most Gods and Demons are mostly harmless civilians.

For the mechanics of character creation the Rings don't directly match to these fictional levels but are just given these titles as a bit of flavor. The RPG Rings 12 and 11 might actually cut closer to the fictional universe's Rings 10 and 9 because even the Ring 12 and 11 characters are truly exceptional people as normal for Fate games. I did not press the chart beyond Ring 5 yet, but it is possible to represent the First Tier gods, demons, sorcerers, kitsune, soldiers, and the like using these Rings due to the fact that Divine Blood weighs Aspects heavier than raw stats as compared to basic Strands and uses Aspects to guide the sort of scope a character is capable of influencing.

Another change to the Power Level chart is that I removed the caps on Power Advantages from the Power Level chart and put them in a separate chart. There are three suggested levels: Amateur (maximum of 4 points in any Power Advantage), Professional/Talented Amateur (maximum of 7 points in any Power Advantage, and Elite (maximum of 9 points in any Power Advantage). Every power level allows the purchase of Power Advantages and in general once you get into game play, the caps on Power Advantages are ignored. 

The next change I did to the basic Strands of Fate is to add three other Abilities called the Psychic Abilities. In alphabetical order the first is Manipulative representing the talent for powers like telekinesis, controlling energy, healing other people, and otherwise generally altering physical reality other than the psychic's own body. Metabolic is the second Ability representing the talent for powers that change the psychic's own body such as self-healing, shapeshifting, enhanced strength, or the like. The last Ability is Sensitive which represents mental interactions and non-physical senses like seeing the dead or life-force. All sentient beings have some capability with psychic ability but unless they have training or especially strong talent then they generally have 0 in these Abilities.

The addition of three Abilities without actually increasing the number of Ability points available in character creation causes characters in Divine Blood who wish to be psychic have to stretch their points further than the average Strands character. This is representative of the extra effort they've had to take to train and build up a wider range of abilities than most people. In practice most players choose one of the three to specialize in while every once in a while characters will devote heavy resources to increasing all three of those stats. These are primarily those that use psychic abilities as part of their occupation.

Leading on from Abilities, I chose not to use the default Stress Track set up and instead took what Strands of Fate calls the "upgraded Single Stress Track" option. This works similarly to Fate Core in which each Stress Box has its own value and that you can only fill in one box on any given attack but you can take as many Consequences as you want to reduce the Stress. However, the Stress Tracks are still created by combining two Abilities and they thus end up with Stress Tracks similar to what you would see in the Dresden Files RPG rather than Fate Core. Within the universe consequences acquired by Life-Force stress are referred to as Corruption.

I have also added a fourth type of Stress Track called a Life Force Stress Track representing the effort it takes to use psychic abilities or, more rarely, to handle the effect of having your life-force directly attacked. Depending on the character's species this fourth stress track will have a different specific name and use different Abilities to find it (humans have Chi and use Knowledge + highest psychic Ability, Gods have Mana replace Knowledge with Empathy, while Demons have Vitae and replace Knowledge or Empathy with Agility.)

The different names are a reference to the Beijing Conference of 1815 where the mortal psychics of the world first started standardizing the terms they used to refer to things. Given the conference was dominated heavily by the British and the Chinese there was a lot of what other groups considered to be unnecessarily precise labeling. This annoyance results in things like the kitsune delegate informing the conference, in all seriousness, that kitsune call the tools they create from rice plants "mono", the Japanese generic word for "thing." That said the names also function as an Aspect as the life-force of one species behaves in different ways than that of another. Looking again at the three major races: Demonic Vitae is strong and fast but wild and hard to control, being prone to creating waste. Godly Mana is stable and abstract, making it difficult to take apart or predict, but it is also slow to build. Human Chi is adaptable and efficient allow them to minimize the effort necessary, but it is also comparatively weak in terms of raw force. 

Overall, the difference in Life-Force more accounts for difference in approach than effectiveness, but these differences can be invoked or compelled like any Aspect. The GM might compel Vitae's wildness causing you to bleed more life-force in an extraneous display of energy, causing the player to take more Stress. Or a player might invoke Chi's efficiency in order to reduce the amount of Stress they suffer when using a power.

Similarly, using the word corruption for the consequences is deliberate and mostly targeted at the sort of campaigns where some if not all of the characters are new to the supernatural and only recently discovered it. The societies where pyschic abilities are as commonly used as a smartphone consider most corruption to have the seriousness of a headache (and it might even manifest that) and will wave it off with a suggestion of some rest, only getting concerned if the corruption is obviously extreme (such as blood blisters appearing under every inch of skin) or persistent and then suggesting seeing a healer. However, "corruption" is often used in other circles to represent dire moral or metaphysical issues. As such a lot of akira (untrained psychics) getting introduced to the idea of corruption might freak out about becoming evil when the person mentioning it is unconcerned because it's something that should go away in an hour or two. This is duplicated for the players who are likely to see the term corruption used in other games as a sort of morality mechanic.

The next change I made was to assume that all Power Advantages operated with the Strenuous advantage. This means that instead of being activated by spending Fate Points, they are primarily activated by making a roll. Failing this roll causes Stress on the Life-Force Track and is the primary way Life-Force is stressed. Most professional psychics try to pace themselves, preferring to limit themselves to tricks and techniques that they can use with great reliability. However, sometimes a psychic might find themselves having to basically sprint. Such as when a succubus with lots of manipulative talent is drawn into a telepathic mindscape to battle a sidhe telepath and illusionist. (Said succubus ended up hospitalized afterwards and experienced a severe corruption that mimicked frostbite though she successfully bluffed the sidhe into backing off). 

Finally, I do not use Tech Level. This likely won't be a concern here, but there are several powers in Strands of Fate that have their base level be determined by tech level. These are primarily attacks and defenses. Divine Blood would technically range from Tech Level 5 (near future a la Shadowrun) to Tech Level 6 (Gallifrey and MCU Asgard) and this would mean that on taking the Armor Power Advantage you would start with 5 or 6 Armor Rating. As guns and weapons remain dangerous even to many untrained Gods and Demons and the average psychic has not weaponized their abilities even if they got them through apprenticeship to a shaper or magician, I decided not to use it. For Divine Blood the base Armor Rating of the Armor advantage is 1 and the base Weapon Rating of psychic attacks is 2, about the same as using a knife or small pistol.

There are a number of offered templates in the core book intended to make it possible to more quickly create a character but these are optional. They primarily are designed to represent the most common package of abilities a member of a particular species would have. For the most part I designed them around trying not to go higher than a 6 point package so that someone in Ring 12 who reduced their Refresh to 1 could still take any of the species available. The adult succubus was the only one that had such a wide range of abilities, even though they were mostly low power, that it was difficult to do that resulting in the "Immature Succubus" package. 

This being brought up, gorgon is a specific species that was included in the Divine Blood core book per the request of one of the backers (though given my obvious liking of the concept, I'd have likely done it anyway). However, the famous petrifying gaze of Medusa is not the one ability all gorgons have and is indeed quite rare. Instead, the ability gorgons are most connected to in Divine Blood is shapeshifting. This is not becoming an animal or disguising as someone else, indeed after the first time a gorgon's powers awaken they have difficulty disguising themselves as human. Instead, a gorgon's basic head and torso remain unchanged but they can alter their limbs and do things like grow the iconic snakes for hair, something that is common only because it has been popular for hundreds of years. Gorgons are also connected to a type of healing ability referred to as Exchange where the psychic can heal someone else at a cost to themselves or heal themselves at a cost to someone else.

A final bit that is connected to all gorgons is that their emotional state has heavy impact on their powers and appearance. The more extreme the emotional state a gorgon is, the more powerful a shapeshifter they will be and often any other talents they develop will be similarly affected. In addition, they tend to where their emotional state on their faces. A happy gorgon will tend to be more attractive than the average person while an unhappy one will tend to be less attractive. How this will manifest might also be dependent on other aspects of their personality. A psychotic gorgon happily torturing someone may will be beautiful or handsome while doing it but the appearance will be disturbing. By contrast, a sad but kind gorgon may look ugly in a traditional way but seem unthreatening despite this.

Gorgons are related to humans and a particular clan of therianthropes (It is also suspected they descend heavily from the extinct naga. Though most humans have some naga genetics as the naga went extinct because they kept marrying humans). They are occasionally born to human parents. Also some gorgons might go their entire lives without their natures awakening and thus live and die appearing to be human. That said, their life-force won't be the green Chi humans have but rather the silver colored Entity. Though if they haven't awakened their talents then they also likely haven't studied any of the skills like sorcery or magic and thus it will be unlikely they've ever manifested their life-force visually to see this. Among gorgons whose family are part of the Community (largest population of civilian psychics in the world, accounting for roughly a third of all psychics and non-humans), they can have their powers awakened rather painlessly or taught ways to keep the powers from awakening if they prefer to look human. For akira gorgons whose families are unaware that they have this trait, it is likely that the first awakening will come at a moment of high emotional trauma. High emotional triumph can sometimes trigger an awakening but as survival is rarely threatened in such cases that is much more rare.

A final note is that I expanded the type of Facilities to include a facility designed to make another task taken against the area to be harder. This type of Facility has a rating of Resources +2 and increases the difficulty of any attempt at the related task. This could be a series of locks and security measures to increase the difficulty of getting in without permission, or way of keeping the place hidden and off records so it is hard to find.

Gorgon Archer - Ring 11 Professional

Defining Aspect: A Gorgon with a Bow
Ambition Aspect: Return to Competitive Archery
Background Aspect: Awakened in Crisis
Conviction Aspect: Secrecy No Longer Protects Us
Disadvantage Aspect: Bitter Attitude

Physical: Agility: 3, Endurance: 2, Perception: 2, Strength: 2
Mental: Craft: 2, Knowledge: 2, Reasoning: 2, Willpower:3
Social: Deception: 1, Empathy: 2, Persuasion: 3, Resources: 2
Psychic Manipulative: 0, Metabolic: 2, Sensitive:1

Health Stress Track: OOOO
Mind Stress Track: OOOOO
Reputation Stress Track: OOOO
Entity (Life-Force) Stress Track: OOOOO (Highest Psychic + Persuasion)

Extraordinary Skill: "I used to win Archery tournaments..." (Agility)
Foe: " I track criminals and monsters." (Persuasion)
Gear: Torque of Lapis Lazuli (Resources)
Help: One of Psyche's Butterflies (Persuasion)
Inferior Skill: I have no patience for fools. (Willpower)

Expert Advantages
Weapon Specialist: Bows - +1 to Attack rolls with Bows
Sniper - +2 bonus to Perception rolls to make maneuvers related to taking careful aim
Occultist - +1 bonus to Knowledge rolls related to the supernatural.
Eye for Crime - +2 to Perception bonus for noticing someone committing a criminal act.

Heroic Advantages
Easy Mindscape - You can defend yourself in a mindscape while remaining aware and active in the physical world. You have the Aspect Mind and Body are Split while doing this.

Favored Visualization - When forced into a mindscape, she automatically forms a Visualization of her "Gorgon with a Bow" Aspect as a WR: 2 Weapon Visualization.

Experienced (20 XP +2 Ability Points)

Power Advantages
A Fluid Shape: Transmogrification, 4(6 in emotional extreme) Shapeshifting Points, Momentary (Transformations only last 1 Scene, Master of the Flesh (+2 Metabolic only for activating this power), Flowing Flesh (+2 shapeshifting points when forming transformations, Activation Roll: +4 vs a difficulty of 6. (+6 during an emotional extreme), Free Action in Emotional Extreme

A Gorgon's Passion: Emotional Link: Transmogrification (Swift Shape: Transmogrification is a Free Action, Master of the Flesh, Flowing Flesh), Emotional Extreme (no specific type of emotion, but it must be extreme), Emotional Limits (your use of the power must be tied to the current emotion. Fear will result in changes toward defense or escape, rage will result in changes toward attack). Auto-Trigger (The GM can cause your power to trigger on its own as a compel)

Refresh: 1 (Reduced from 5)

Torque of Lapis-Lazuli - Life-Force Armor versus deliberate attacks only, AR: 2, Stress: OOOO - A Torque of Lapis-Lazuli

Life-Force Reactive Beads - Glow in presence of recently high-use of Life-Force. Glow in appropriate color. - One of  Psyche's Butterflies

Manual on Common Curses - +1 bonus made to Knowledge rolls for discerning whether a curse is a natural affliction or the result of an attack. - " I hunt criminals and beasts."

Compound Bow - WR: 3 - Gorgon with a Bow

Bullet-Proof Vest - AR: 2, Stress: OOO - Bitter Attitude

Warded Home - Rating: 4, +4 to all difficulties to find her home via psychic means.

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