The Coriolis Effect – Season 2 Episode 9

The #Dragonmeet Grindbone Special.

We look back on the Forbidden Lands Grindbone tournament we ran at Dragonmeet 2018, bringing you edited highlights of the deathmatch, a great opportunity to learn how the fast and furious combat mechanics work, and how short and deadly fights can be. Guest staring some of our fellow podcasters from Dragonmeet’s #podcastzone

00.00.39: Introduction
00.02.00: World of Gaming – Mutant: Hindenburg; Call of Cthulhu novella; Nights Black Agents: Solo Ops
OO.07.39: Intro to the Grindbone Challenge
00.10.45: First Heat
00.29.22: Second Heat – Featuring Pretending with Dice (Short Interview at 00.30.30)
00.40.40: Third Heat – featuring Ziz from These Flimsy Rituals and Nils from Fria Ligan
00.50.45: Fourth Heat – featuring The Rusty Quill
00.59.25: First Semi-final
01.04.44: Second Semi-final
01.14.08: Final
01.30.40: We talk about next episode and say goodbye

The Coriolis Effect. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric

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The Symbaroum Effect: The Tale of the Lonesome Goblin Part 3

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The Tale of the Lonesome Goblin Part 3

Potboy uses hitherto unseen archaeological skills to discover an ancient overgrown temple in the forest. Rado and Grendel join him to explore its depths, discovering an old friend and some new foes.

The Symbaroum Effect. Presented by RPGGods.org and FictionSuit.org. Karvosti Theme by Iron Pact Orchestra, used with permission of Fria Ligan/Team Järnringen. Typefaces are Code by Fontfabric, and Season of the Witch Black by imagex

Year Zero Engine attributes and skills

Apropos of nothing in particular, definitely not thinking about a Year Zero hack 😉 I am looking at the slight differences between attributes and skills in the across the range of Year Zero games. There are few, but not insignificant changes in the Attributes. While you might expect differences across genres, I was at first surprised to see differences among the Mutant games, that not only share the post-apocalyptic genre, but also take place in the same world.

In the first, Mutant: Year Zero the four attributes are Strength, Agility, Wits and Empathy. But in the sequel, Genlab Alpha, Empathy is related by Instinct. And in Mutant: Mechatron, the characters have four entirely different attributes: Servos; Stability; Processor and Network.

I have never run or played any of the Mutant games, and I only own two: Year Zero and Genlab Alpha, so I wonder how much it changes things when you mix more than one Mutant ruleset in a campaign, which surely must be a tempting thing for GMs. It seems rich with possibility, having a group of PCs that are radically different.

While we are looking at those games, it worth noting that some of the skill names are different. And while in some cases, these differences might just be cosmetic, better reflecting the theme of the game (So, for example Assault in Mechatron may not be different, really, to Fight in Zero and Alpha), some might have more mechanical connotations. Not having the rules to Mechatron, I can’t be sure how different Overload is to Endure for example.

The game that introduced me to the Year Zero system was Coriolis. And, though it shares attributes with its predecessor, Mutant Year Zero, it’s distribution of skills is very different. In the civilisation of the far future, pure physical strength has apparently less value, and adds dice to just two skills, force and melee combat. Wits on the other hand contributes to six skills, including Medicurgy, the equivalent to Heal in the other games, but no longer paired with the Empathy attribute. That’s said Empathy does replace Heal with two new skills: Culture which is analogous of the wits based “Know…” skills of Mutant; and Mystic Powers, which opens up a number of supernatural Talents. Agility replaces Move with Dexterity, Sneak with Infiltration and Shoot with Ranged Combat. It also adds Pilot to the skills list.

Tales from the Loop (and it’s sequel, Things from the Flood) shakes up the attributes. Broadly speaking, in the other games there are two physical attributes and two mental attributes. Effectively Loop gives us just one physical attribute, Body, and three skills associated with it, Sneak, Force and Move. You’ll recognise that sneak in the other games is an Agility based skill. There’s no fighting in Loop. And in Flood fighting is covered by the Force skill.

The other three attributes in these two games are Tech, Heart and Mind. (It’s a small thing to point out, but in all the other games, the Heart analogue, Empathy, is listed last of the four, here it’s third. Is that only because Heart(s) and Mind(s) is the order of a phrase in English?) All three are mental/emotional rather than physical, and Tech is really a second Mind attribute, with setting specific mental skills: Tinker; Programme and Calculate.

Now this is not a review of those games, but I do question the names of some of these skills. Calculate for example, is analogous to the Know… or Culture skill in the other games not, as you might think, a calculation skill. That’s said, if it were, it would be somewhat redundant, covered by programming. The name of the mind skill, Comprehend, would in fact be a better name for Calculate. Comprehend is a hangover from Year Zero, but in this interaction it would be better called Research.

Anyway, what I like about the attributes and skills in Loop and Flood is that it gives Year Zero Engine hackers implicit permission of be really imaginative in their games.

Forbidden Lands, the most recent genre addition to the Year Zero Engine stable day offers sixteen skills, like Coriolis. But unlike that game, it distributes them across the four attributes. Force becomes Might, Fighting becomes Melee and Strength gets a new skill, Crafting. Part of me struggles with this. I feel Craft should be a more dexterous skill than brute force, but I guess, in the medieval milieu the strength of the blacksmith is the more common craft.

Agility’s fourth skill is Sleight of Hand. Wits adds Insight, which arguably is similar to Sense Emotion, an Empathy skill in the Mutant games. The Empathy based skills in Forbidden Lands include Performance and Animal Handling.

So, with more skills to spend build points on, do Forbidden Lands Characters get more points than other games? In Zero, players get 14 points for attributes and 10 for skills. Age becomes a factor in Alpha, players get between 13 and 15 points to spend on Attributes and 8 to 12 on skills. Its the same in Lands, despite having more skills to chose from. And Coriolis which also has sixteen rather than twelve skills, has the same allowance too.

The Symbaroum Effect: The Tale of the Lonesome Goblin Part 2

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The Tale of the Lonesome Goblin Part 2

Rado, Grendel and Potboy find a letter, and the inn is threatened again. The three friends must enter the forest.

The Symbaroum Effect. Presented by RPGGods.org and FictionSuit.org. Karvosti Theme by Iron Pact Orchestra, used with permission of Fria Ligan/Team Järnringen. Typefaces are Code by Fontfabric, and Season of the Witch Black by imagex

The Symbaroum Effect: The Tale of the Lonesome Goblin Part 1

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The Tale of the Lonesome Goblin Part 1

Disclaimer: This podcast contains Potboy. Like any actual play character, Potboy can cause side effects including (but not limited to): distraction, tripping, stress to knees and elbows. While listening to Potboy activities such as running or operating heavy machinery are taken at your own risk. This means you, Kris O’Reilly.

Grendel goes spying, Potboy goes shopping, and Rado is suspicious.

The Symbaroum Effect. Presented by RPGGods.org and FictionSuit.org. Karvosti Theme by Iron Pact Orchestra, used with permission of Fria Ligan/Team Järnringen. Typefaces are Code by Fontfabric, and Season of the Witch Black by imagex

The crew

People listening to our most recent Coriolis Actual Play may have picked up on a few “references” – from a start, and a bad guy, inspired by the movie The Bad Batch, through scavengers modelled after Steptoe and Son (which our American listeners may know better as Sanford and Son) to a wrecked ship absolutely and openly based on the Liberator from Blakes 7

But when it came to the creatures infesting that ruined ship, it was the Coriolis rulebook I turned to. I didn’t really find what I was looking for, but I did find some inspiration. And this is the story of how I riffed on that inspiration, fudged the details, and tested my half-formed ideas in play. 

The inspiration came from a creature that was almost what I wanted: “The darkbound are regular people that are somehow claimed by the Dark between the stars.”

Until that point, I hadn’t decided whether the creatures I wanted were native to the planet, creatures of the Darkness, or as suggested here, fellow prisoners who were somehow changed. And given that the adventure is partly about how prisoners are changed by exile, it struck me, on reading about the Darkbound, it was suddenly obvious that my creatures should be changed prisoners. The description for the darkbound seemed perfect too, looking “like a thin and twisted human, with only a few torn patches of hair left, and with burning eyes and long claws instead of fingers.”

But the real inspiration came from their mystic power. They only have one – well, arguably they have a couple but more on that later. The only power which is most actually described mechanically is NIGHT VEIL. I won’t quote it here  but in short, it is a mental attack. It does not deal out mind-point damage, but it does make it difficult to think , with a -2 modifier on roles for observation, advanced skills and initiative. Now, I didn’t actually use that attack per se, but the idea suddenly made sense of what my creatures were, how they came to be, and the nature of the AI, Qadim, and the ship itself. 

Fans of Blake’s 7 may remember the ship’s computer, Zen.  When I started planning my adventure, I imagined an advanced AI like Zen, having been ripped out of its ship, enlisting the PCs to get him fitted back back in. The Darkbound’s mystic power unlocked a deluge of different, better, ideas. 

What if the relationship between Qadim and the ship was more complex? What if Qadim was the rational thinking part of the ship, the ego? And when it was ripped out what was left behind was the id, the instinctive, feeling part? What if both parts of the ship were damaged by the separation? Qadim can calculate and communicate but it can’t really understand the humans it works with because it has to fake empathy.  I’m going to say it’s autistic, while recognising that’s a massive oversimplification of a complex condition. 

Meanwhile, the ship, which Dave called Starsinger, but I am going to call Siren, can feel, and emote, it can run subroutines, and try to repair itself but it can’t really communicate. It moans, it sings it’s despair.  And it’s that which makes it difficult to think. It’s not a mystic attack at all – the longer you spend in the ship, the closer you get to where Qadim had been ripped out, the harder it becomes to make a wits roll. Mechanically I ran this as a -2 penalty to any wits based skill roll when they were in the chamber which is equivalent to the bridge (but I think I’d recommend doing it slightly differently in future). 

So these creatures are not the perpetrators of the mind-dimming effect, but it’s victims. Previous salvagers who spent too long in the vessel, and literally lost their wits. It’s more than that though, they have been transformed in other ways by prolonged exposure to the song of the Siren. They have become automata, part of the ship’s systems. I wanted the alien technology to feel properly alien, unknowable. I wanted it to be composed of strange sealed units that would be absolutely baffling to my engineer. So I imagined these creatures bodies were so changed by the influence of the Siren, long longer eating, sustained only by the song, that they are almost etherial, they can reach into the strange machinery of the ship to maintain and operate it.

They also needed to be a threat to the PCs though, and I had stolen their only mystic power to use as a more general effect. Well, I say it is their only power, and if you look at their stat-block, it is the only one listed. But the description mentions a couple of others, they “move incredibly fast, closing in on their victims in the blink of an eye to sink their claws into them.” And “Just the touch of a dark-bound can paralyze someone completely.” So I treated their touch like a paralysing poison, activating it not on “just the touch”, but when they actually do damage to a PC. 

I didn’t want them to be too aggressive though, so I wanted some sort of trigger for an attack. Thinking back to the separation of Qadim’s ego from the Siren’s id, I decided that they would only attack when a PC would try to reason with them, talk to them, so unused were they to communicating in anything other than the raw emotion of The Siren. I liked the idea that they might now be integral to the operation of the ship, and that, if they manage to get off planet in the Siren, the PCs would have to put up with them scuttling around and also remember not to talk whenever they were nearby. 

So I was done. However testing them in the play, I decided that, for our ill- equipped adventurers, the paralysis power could be … not dangerous, exactly, but not fun. Combined with their natural speed I saw that it could easily create a situation where the whole party was paralysed, and though they might not be dead (why would the creatures kill them if they were quiet) it might be a very frustrating experience. And the scenario was already frustrating enough. So I am thinking instead about a mystic power which, for the cost of a darkness point, allows them to ignore the effects of PC armour (and maybe, for another DP, makes it easy for them to inflict unarmed crits). 

Finally I needed a name, because I feel these creatures are now quite different from the Darkbound that inspired them. I have called them Aabdel’rd, a corruption of an Arabic word that means, simply, crew. 

The Coriolis Effect – Season 2 Episode 8

 

If you go down to the woods alone, you’re in for a big surprise.

Sitting around the same mic for a change, we talk over each other just as much, as we discuss Forbidden Lands 121, creatures from our recent AP and the OGL.

00.00.39: Introduction
00.05.30: World of Gaming – Nemisis boardgame, and looking forward to Western, Things from the Flood and Flying Circus
00.21.24: Forbidden Lands One-to-one – with a Hat Tip to Tom Pleasant (and Jonathan Friendly, whoever HE is…)
00.45.16: The Aabdel’rd
01.04.27: The Year Zero Open Game Licence
01.10.25: We talk about next episode and say goodbye

The Coriolis Effect. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric

Song to the Siren Part 5: Siren

In the final part of our current Coriolis RPG Actual Play, Salem, Salah and Yaphet set out to “the Temple”, which they are convinced is the space ship that will they need to escape the prison planet. What they find isn’t quite what they were expecting.

Song to the Siren, a Coriolis Effect Actual Play. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric.

 

Song to the Siren Part 4: Qadim

In the fourth part of our Coriolis Actual Play, Salem, Salah and Yaphet finally meet the mysterious leader of Club Topeka, Qadim.

Song to the Siren, a Coriolis Effect Actual Play. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric.

 

Song to the Siren Part 3: Club

In the third part of our Coriolis RPG Actual Play recording, Club Topeka welcomes three new members – Salah, Salem and Yaphet

Song to the Siren, a Coriolis Effect Actual Play. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric.