#RPGaDay 2018 – 24

Which RPG deserves more recognition?

Coriolis obviously! We talk about how we feel our favorite game (and its predecessor Mutant: Year Zero) are somewhat overshadowed by Tales from the Loop (which we also love). We wonder if Forbidden Lands will be similarly shadowed, or will it ride to victory upon Tales from the Loop’s coat-tails?

This podcast special was brought to you by RPGGods.org and Fictionsuit.org. #RPGaDay is an idea from David F. Chapman of Autocratik.com, with the support of Castingshadowsblog.com and Will Brooks. Music is by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing.

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#RPGaDay 2018 – 20

Which game mechanic inspires your play the most?

Dave talks about Feng Shui, we look up the rules and realize that what Dave liked best was Matthew’s “house rule”. Matthew bigs up Coriolis’ prayer mechanic, and RPG religiosity in general.

This podcast special was brought to you by RPGGods.org and Fictionsuit.org. #RPGaDay is an idea from David F. Chapman of Autocratik.com, with the support of Castingshadowsblog.com and Will Brooks. Music is by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing.

Almudakhir and Kharon

My very basic sketch as I tried to apply the aesthetics of an Egyptian Barge of the Dead to space travel. I have no 3D modelling-fu.

For Icon worshipers across the horizon, including the Church of the Icons and the Order of the Pariah, it is traditional to cremate the dead, except those revered as saints. Their holy bodies are preserved so that their spirits may continue to find a way to the horizon and continue their good work. One of the many heresies that the Nazareem’s Sacrifice were accused of was their insistence that every initiated member of the cult was a saint. To the horror and disgust of other societies, The Nazareem’s Sacrifice no dead cultist was cremated. Instead the “beautiful dead ” were interred on Charnel Ships, which constantly plied the Dark between the stars.

Nazareem Charnel Ships were never designed for atmospheric entry. Generally class four of five, they were serviced by shuttle and supply ships. Their main hull took the form of an ancient boat lying on its side heading, keel first, into the Dark. Two huge archaic graviton projectors extended rearwards. The macabre “cargo” was kept externally, the vacuum of space desiccating and preserving the bodies of the saints while giving their spirits the opportunity to commune with the Dark Between the Stars. The structure that holds the dead is a scaffold frame between the graviton projectors, which can be expanded as more bodies are added. It is built around the entrance to the hanger, so that cortege shuttles could pause on their way into the hanger to inter the saintly cargo in their appointed place on the scaffold.

When the Horizon turned against the Nazareem’s Sacrifice in the early years of the Portal Wars, it was considered a matter of both faith and hygiene to instruct the Legion to seek out and destroy every Charnel Ship that the Sacrifice had launched. It is doubtful whether this task was completed. With the arrival of the Zenith, the Legion gradually became distracted by other tasks. There are rumours of ships of the dead still playing the space lanes.

And there is at least one still in operation.

The Almudakhir is hundreds of years old. No one knows its yard of construction, and some have suggested it may have been built in orbit around Al-Ardha itself in the First Horizon. How it survived the purge is unknown.

Features

Almudakhir features ancient glyph-type 8 point armour had predates the sort used by the Order of the Pariah. Apart from being very hard to actually look at, the armor can negate all damage from an incoming attack. (This generates 2 DPs for the GM. If the attack is a torpedo attack, 3 DPs are generated. This effect can be used only once for regular attacks and once for torpedo attacks in a spaceship combat.) Like every Charnel Ship, it carries its cargo externally, there are around 1250 tons of corpses in the scaffolding that project from the aft of the vessel, between two old and outsized graviton projectors. In theory, if there is a revival of the sect, and many more adherents to inter, the cargo scaffold could extend even further. A cloistered arboretum of remembrance sits below the base of the cargo scaffold. It’s a long, square walk with a number of stopping places – benches, tables and chairs or water features. Looking up, the plexiglass ceiling reveals the ranks of the dead stacked high above. (The artificial gravity of board is orientated so that aft is “up”, and “down” points to the keel of the ship and the direction of travel.)

Modules

The arboretum has become the defacto social space for the crew, because the crew quarters are 20 basic “coffin style” bunks with shared facilities. There is also, of course a Stasis hold, which as usual for a ship this size, holds up to 60 people in Stasis. The bridge is on the lowest deck, at front of the vessel. The consoles are set around a large round plexiglass viewport, set in the floor, which can be disconcerting to visitors as the ship appears to be falling through space. The original Nazareem’s Sacrifice chapel, with its cadaver clock, is still in place, but to disguise the true nature of the ship a more normal, nine Icon chapel has been retrofitted around it. Access to the cadaver clock is now through a secret door in Dancer’s alcove. None of the crew actually know what the cadaver clock does, so many mysteries of the Sacrifice were lost in the Purging. Close to the false chapel is a chapel of rest, which had been fitted out to do double duty as a Medlab.

Other modifications to the vessel include a number of weapon systems. There is a torpedo launch system, currently stocked with four ancient antimatter torpedos. Given that this ammunition costs almost a third of the value of the ship, the crew are advised to use them only as a last resort. Even more recently, the vessel was fitted with a data pulse system and an accelerator cannon.

The current crew have not yet explored the entire ship, but they do know there is a workshop and a hangar, which contains a vessel specially commissioned for their mission.

Kharon

The Clave of the Nazareem’s Sacrifice which sponsored this mission have commissioned a modern class II shuttle craft to act as the ships shuttle, and its public face. In an effort to disguise the true nature of Almudakhir and it’s crew, the Clave ordered Kharon from the Chelebs shipyard of Mira, heart of the Icon Church. It’s living quartets include four coffins and more standard cabin. There is a concealed section in the hold, for the transport of illicit cargo such as stolen relics. It’s only defence is an auto-cannon. Designed for atmospheric entry, it leaves its more macabre mothership hidden in the dark of space.

Kharon is equipped with a ship’s intelligence to make it semi-autonomous, capable of operating without a pilot if required. With its brand new, precise, thrusters it is very capable flier. However it takes its mission to hide the true nature of its crew and protect them from exposure very seriously, which can make it somewhat more obtuse than obedient.

Together these two ships, and their crew are on a risky mission. Emboldened by the discovery of a copy of a book once thought lost, A Soliloquy of Sacrifice, and Council’s decision to publicly release the text, the Sacrifice Clave hidden on Zib have repurposed the Almudakhir to seek out other Claves around the Horizon, and especially to recover the knowledge and artefacts that, since The Purging, have been hidden or lost for generations.

A fillable PDF ship sheet for Coriolis

ShipSheetImage
Click on the image to download the PDF

I think there is only a full colour version of the official ship sheet out there, so I took it apart in Acrobat DC, removed the ink-sucking space background and drop shadows, replaced the Coriolis logo with a black version, and of course, made it form-fillable. I left the little crew icons in colour. Please do feedback any errors I’ve made, or improvements I could change in the comments. If you are looking for the character sheet, its available here.

The Mystery of the Church of the Icons

I am guilty of taking the Church of the Icons for granted. And I think that is because for most of us, our experience of churches is of something that has always been there, or at least been around for centuries. Whether for not you go to church, the building itself is a landmark in your life, and similarly the traditions of whatever faith you are, or choose not to be, have become landmarks in our annual calendars. Our churches have become part of the background of our culture. Something we take for granted.

But there is a perplexing mystery at the heart of the Church of the Icons. The Church of the Icons is young.

Or rather, both old and new. The religion or folk law has been around for centuries, but the church, with its trans-Horizon structure, is “the Horizon’s youngest faction”

It’s rise to prominence is extraordinary. New international churches in our world do exist. For example the Church of Scientology, created by Science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, is about as old as the The Church of Icons. It’s a global organisation, yes, but it doesn’t have reach and acceptance that the Icon Church appears to have achieved. What is the secret to their success?

The core book tell us that the Church of the Icons has “grown strong through collecting, canonizing and institutionalizing the wide, sprawling faith that has existed in the Horizon for centuries.” So, rather than making up a pantheon of Thetans, like L. Ron, the Church of the Icons appears to be more like the Baha’i faith. The Bahá’ís philosophy is one of unity, their belief is that every prophet, every religion, reveals a different aspect of the truth of god. Similarly the Church of the Icons seek out and embrace local variations of faith, progressively revealling the truth of the Icons. But the Bahá’í faith has not achieved the level of acceptance and authority the the Icon Church seems to have managed. Indeed its adherents are persecuted in the Middle East where it was founded by an Iranian, 125 years ago.

How has the Church not only become accepted, but risen to prominence so smoothly and so completely?

Perhaps the answer lies in its structure. The Icon faith is not a cult of personality. There is no L. Ron or Bab. Its a federation, the Matriarch and Partiarch appear to have little power except as notional figureheads, and there are two of them anyway, so neither one is THE leader. The Seekers, an ancient cult which may have had something to do with the founding of the Church, have been marginalised. They “looked upon as wise ascetics and prophets rather than actual figures of power within the faction.”

So, the Church of the Icons seems less like, say, the Catholic Church, under the Pope, and more like the international Anglican Communion, of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is more a figure head than leader. I therefore imagine that the teachings of the church can be very different in different systems, just as the philosophies of the Episcopal church in the United States regarding, for example, homosexuality, are very different from those of their Anglican brethren in Africa.

So, how does anything get decided? How does the church make any decisions, if not by Papal Bull or Fatwa? I think, every two or three Cycles a great Synod is held, with representatives of the church from all corners of the Horizon attending. Much discussion is had, many topics are debated and occasionally, very occasionally something is agreed. Between such Synods, weighty topics might be the subject of an Ecumenical Assembly, which would present its findings at the next Synod. Thus it was the Nine Sacred Rites were only put in writing in CC49, only a couple of decades ago, in game canon. Before that, I imagine, that doctrine which denies the duality of Icons, and that evil exists, not in the Icons but within humanity was agreed in a similar manner, with much muttering around the periphery.

Indeed, I think that despite one of the nine sacred rites being that “Once a year, during the Cyclade, a believer should openly declare her faith by reciting the creed together with others in a temple” that Creed itself might still be in flux. The Creed isn’t defined anywhere in the core book after all, and we know very little about it other than that Icons are only good doctrine.

The core book mentions two schisms, which I think are not schisms at all, but rather issues upon which a Synod has not yet agreed a wording for the Creed. So right now, the creed does not mention Humanites at all. But perhaps, the first Cyclade after the Oikoumene as Najim Assembly has reported to the Synod, the Creed will include a line about whether Humanites have a soul, or are simply biological automata or animals.

Talking of souls, I am amazed that the Creed is not yet clear on what happens to your soul after you die. The Church of the Icons assures us that our souls do not become monsters trapped in the Dark between the stars, for which, personally, I am grateful, but stubbornly refuse to confirm whether you are rewarded with an afterlife in an Al-Ardhan paradise, or as the Seekers believe, becomes one with the Icons in the eternal Aoum.

The fact that there appears to be no ecumenical agreement upon this important matter, surely confirms that the Seekers are indeed marginalised, and are not the power behind the Church. But, conversely this fudging of the issue of the afterlife also raises questions about the rapid growth and success of the Church. In our world, the one key selling point for religions is the promise of an afterlife, be that in heaven, Valhalla, or a more successful reincarnation, if you follow the teachings of the church. And of course the many alternative hells or unfortunate reincarnations for those that don’t follow the path. If the Church of the Icons can’t define how your soul is rewarded, how come so many people, have accepted the Church and the Creed into their lives?

The Coriolis Effect – Season 2 Episode 2

There is only one salvation, and only nine ways that will lead you there

A cracking episode, uncovering the mystery at the heart of the Church of the Icons; reviewing The Dying Ship;  and playing a Nekatra. Plus Ennies, FreeRPG swag, and #RPGaDay.

00.00.39: Introduction
00.02.33: World of Gaming – the Ennies, FreeRPGDay swag, and our idea for #RPGaDay2018
00.19.55: The Mystery of the Church of the Icons, with discussion
00.43.55: The Dying Ship review/report, and an introduction to the Almudakhir campaign
01.03.06: The Nekatra
01.12.15: Discussion, creating a Nekatra PC
01.19.10: Spectral Corsair update
01.34.00: We talk about next month 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

The Coriolis Effect – Season 2 Episode 1

A better world, a world without sin

Dave and Matthew return for the second season and, a little out of practice go off topic more than usual. But they do eventually remember to talk about Triumvene, Crusader Kings; Character Creation The Legion; a new ship and Solo

00.00.40: Introduction
00.06.31: World of Gaming – Triumvene; Crusader Kings boardgame; The Dark Between the Stars novella and #FreeRPGDay
00.20.50: How to Play – Character creation
00.51.48: The Factions – The Legion, Dave’s observations and our discussion
01.04.53: A class 1 ship design: Black Sheep portalhopper
01.13.50: We digress for Matthew to praise Solo
01.19.10: Spectral Corsair update, and plans for a new crew
01.40.22: We digress (again) to talk about Legend of the Five Rings
01.43.40: Dave sets Matthew a challenge, we talk about next episode and say goodbye (eventually)

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

The Coriolis Effect: Episode 19

Ja, må du leva!

Our birthday episode: Vampires, reminiscences, group concepts, bumper Spectral Corsair and we #MinMaxMankind

00.00.42: Yes, you may live! courtesy of SångHatten
00.04.16: World of Gaming – Vampire V5, Yndaros the Darkest Star, Western and Forbidden Lands
00.19.41: Review of the Year Part 1
00.29.45: How To Play Coriolis: Group Concepts
00.52.47: Review of the Year Part 2
01.07.40: Spectral Corsair Update
01.16.50: Players in the Hamam Special, the crew of the Corsair
01.36.50: #MinMaxMankind
01.39.26: Coming Next and 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

The Coriolis Effect: Episode 18

Every human is a world of its own

Crowdfunding across Europe; Ahlam’s Temple; Spectral Corsair; Mind Warp; and … errm … a recipe?

00.00.42: Introduction
00.02.10: World of Gaming –Symbaroum: Yndaros Kickstarter; Emissary Lost; and Coriolis in other languages
00.13.52: A Coriolis Curry
00.19.56: Discussion – Ahlam’s Temple
00.39.42: Spectral Corsair campaign
00.39.32: Talent of the Episode – Mind Warp
01.02.35: Coming next time, our anniversary episode

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

The Atheist’s Talent

A discussion in G+ prompted me to share this talent, which featured back in an early episode of The Coriolis Effect, but never saw publication on this blog. That is partly because it’s never been play-tested. I wrote it just in case a player might want to be an atheist. So far, no-one has. So this is a transcript of what I said on the ‘cast.

Not everyone in the third Horizon believes in the Icons. As the corebook says on page 191 “The secular Foundation is the part of the Consortium mainly concerned with research and development.”

That said, not everyone in the Foundation is an atheist. On page 243 it refers to “the most ardent disbelievers in the Foundation” which suggests that most of the foundation are, shall we say, less ardent. I’m sure in fact that the majority pray to the Icons, if only under their breath. After all it’s the rational thing to to do isn’t? Even if you don’t have scientific evidence that the Icons exist, uttering a short prayer when you want things to go right isn’t going to do any *harm* is it? We know that Rhavinn Bokor, the Foundation’s Akbar on Hamurabi portal station, is a friend and frequent dining partner of the preacher, Talib Ogor. Not everything in the dark between the Stars can be explained with science.

But what about your players? What if a player wants their character to be a hardline foundation scientist, an atheist? How do they play that in the game?

This hasn’t come up for me, yet, and currently, the Factions aren’t a big thing in my campaign – where they do appear they are like the wheel of fate, crushing the characters beneath its rim. That’s one of the things I like about the rules and the setting. Unlike many games with factions, no-one is forced to become a member of one. Indeed, only three character concepts give players the opportunity to start with the Faction Standing talent. But what if your players do want to get more involved in the politics and traditions of the factions, and represent the scientific method if the Foundation? Or to play a hardcore Zenithian with a sceptical view of the Firstcome religion? Or wants to play an atheist just to be different?

How does that work out in play? And more importantly, how does that square with the Icon Talent that every character receives? Shouldn’t there also be an Atheist’s Talent?

My first thought was that perhaps an Atheist should get a bonus on his or her more “rational” skills. But what do you call “rational”? Do I mean all the advanced skills? Well, sure, I can get behind a bonus on: COMMAND; CULTURE; DATA DJINN (of course); and, MEDICURGY but MYSTIC POWERS? I don’t think so.

Indeed I’m making a house-ruling here – you can’t be an atheist and have mystic powers.

So that made me think, you get a bonus, not on advanced skills, but all skills that are based on the Wits ability. I quickly ruled that out though – yes, it extends bonuses to skills like OBSERVATION and SURVIVAL, but it would exclude culture. And more insidiously it equates rationality with intelligence. As my mate Tony pointed out, with all the evidence there is of the existence of the Icons and the Dark Between the Stars that characters discover, Atheism is an irrational philosophy.

So no, I’m not giving a bonus to rolls exclusively involving Wits.

In fact I’m not sure a mere dice bonus is a good idea anyway. My thought *had* been to give just plus one dice to each roll, given that the bonus would apply to so many rolls. But given the way the dice mechanic works, that there’s a perception out there that it makes players feel their characters are incompetent, despite rolling a good number of dice, a plus one die bonus may not cut it.

Especially because I sure of one thing – that the *cost* of the Atheist’s talent is that you are not allowed to pray, *ever*. Well that’s not quite true. I want the cost to be that if you ever do pray, you lose the Atheist’s talent.

The whole point of this rule is to create a situation, where the player must weigh up the cost of admitting that the Icons exist, against the opportunity to succeed when they’ve failed a roll. I want the temptation to pray, to be counter-balanced by a talent that has *real* value’ so that losing it, and opting in re-roll, is a big decision.

And while I think that a plus one bonus on every roll is *actually* a big deal, I worry that players won’t appreciate its value. And will discard the talent on the first fluffed roll.

And then it hit me. Certainty. The Atheists in this universe are stubborn believers in an idea, despite all the evidence to the contrary. They know (or think they know) how the world works. They are confident that they can explain cause and effect, action and reaction.

So how about this?

The Atheist’s talent.

This talent may be chosen instead of randomly selecting an Icon talent. For each advanced or general skill in which they have one level (except Mystic Powers – if they have mystic powers they shouldn’t be an atheist) the player makes a roll, with a plus one bonus before the game starts, and notes the result. A failed roll means that the first time they use that skill in the adventure, the character will fail, but after that they can roll normally.

Any roll with one or more successes can be held until the player chooses to spend it. They don’t have to spend it the first time they use the skill, they can always choose to roll normally instead and accept that roll. Any difficulty penalty the GM imposes is taken from failed dice before dice that rolled six.

If the player chooses to pray (re-roll) on any role, the character loses the Atheist talent, and must spend five experience points to draw an Icon talent.