Thursday, May 5, 2011

First Preview of May

Today, I want to preview some more of the Game Master's Guide to Otherverse America.

The Ubasti, originally presented in Coven of Bast and migrating to the revised core book, are among the favorite races I've come up with for the setting. Sentient, talking lions right smack in the middle of a military/sci-fi setting.... for some reason it cracks me up, like Battle Cat showing up for a cameo in Clear and Present Danger. Anyway, here's a sample Ubasti character from the strike file.

Ubasti Mauler: Hetshutset or “Hetty” (CR 6)
Strong Hero 2, Powered Hero 4
Large Aberration- Ubasti
Init +4 Senses lowlight vision, scent Aura none
Languages English, Egyptian
Allegiances The Coven of Bast, protecting the weak
Defense 15, touch 10, flat-footed 14 (-1 size, +1 DEX, +5 equipment)
Fast Healing 1
HD (6d8+18) (45 HP)
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +1

Speed 25 ft (30 ft unarmored)
Melee Space 10 ft x 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft
Base Atk +6; Grp +14
Atk Options +10 melee (talons 1d8+4 slashing) or
+10 melee (bite 2d6+2 bludgeoning)

Abilities STR 19 DEX 17 CON 16 INT 10 WIS 12 CHA 11
Starting Occupation Clinic Defender
Additional Class Skills Balance, Jump, Tumble
Talents Ground Fighter, Regenerator I, Regenerator II
Feats Armor Proficiency (light, medium), Simple Weapons Proficiency, Combat Reflexes, Cleave, Power Attack, Run
Affiliations None
Skills Balance +7, Climb +9, Intimidate +4, Jump +8, Knowledge (streetwise) +8, Tumble +7
Possessions A couple of nice, cozy blankets, Escort’s Vest with Medi-comp (worn as barding)
Cyber Implants and Smartlights None
Action Points 40 maximum (15 +1d8 remaining)

“We’ve been leaving food out for that big cat [Hetshutset] for a few weeks now. I don’t think we’re the only business who does, but I know we’re the only Bible believing Christians who do, and I don’t feel bad about doing it at all, even if that cat was made by Chooser genetech. When we were getting robbed, every other night it seemed, the cops just didn’t care. But that cat- it turns out she was waiting hidden behind those bushes over there, and as soon as those fool kids ran out with the deposit Saturday night, she pounced. Just knocked the Hell out of them both, and we haven’t been robbed since.

So we’ve left her some food, and I’m not sure if she understands, but my son told her that Jesus loves her very much, and she must have had Jesus in her heart to help a stranger like she did. He said she just sorta growled, like laughed, and says she likes to fight bullies.”

-Pro-Abortion War Lion Protects Christian Business: Can She Be Saved?, article in the La Jolla End Days Report, May 22, 2105

The leonine creature is the hard grey and black of oil stained pavement. Her lean flanks are protected by a colorful and obviously heavy orange vest held to her body with quick release snaps. In contrast to her drab fur, the orange vest is eye-blisteringly bright, and is decorated with hundreds of cheap pro-choice buttons that click and clack as the big cat hunts. Despite her animal like appearance, the big cat’s green eyes are obviously intelligent.

Campaign Use
Hetshutset is a simple and good hearted creature, who spends as much time protecting the humans who live in her barrio, regardless of faith, as she does accompanying Bastian special forces teams on deniable missions. She’s tough and shockingly street savvy, and is a local hero to even SoCal’s Lifer population, despite her impressive war record. She has no animosity to the Lifer nation, and really doesn’t understand the theological basis for the War. She fights only to protect her friends and adopted human pack, and because as she says, she ‘likes to fight bullies’.

Quadruped (EX): As a Large four-legged creature, the Ubasti’s lifting and carrying limits are three times those of a Medium biped with a similar Strength score. Willing Ubasti can carry great weights and can even serve as mounts if they wish. The creatures are very stable, receiving a +4 racial bonus on saves and checks made to resist being Bull Rushed or tripped.

Using its semi-prehensile forepaws and mouth, an Ubasti can manipulate tools and items, though the quadruped might have trouble manipulating especially tiny or delicate objects, such as picking up coins or dice, opening a stoppered flask or writing.

The Ubasti suffers a –2 penalty on skill checks requiring delicate manipulation, and such activities are always full round actions, which provoke attacks of opportunity against the quadruped. The time necessary for Taking 10 and Taking 20 is similarly doubled (requiring 20x and 40x the normal time, respectively).

Beloved (EX): Ubasti are revered in Bastian culture. They receive a +4 bonus on Diplomacy checks made when interacting with any creature who claims a Bastian allegiance. They receive a +2 bonus on attempts to requisition equipment from the Covenant or any Bastian organization.

Ground Fighter: Hetshutset can make a melee attack from the prone position and suffer no penalty on the attack roll. If her attack roll is successful, Hetshutset may regain her feet immediately as a free action without provoking attacks of opportunity.

Ability Push (EX): Once per day, Hetty focuses her willpower, using intense concentration to briefly enhance her already superhuman metabolism.

Using her Ability Push is a full round action which provokes attacks of opportunity. If Hetshutset suffers damage when attempting to activate the Ability Push, the daily use is wasted without effect. Hetty’s Ability Push provides her with a +2 inherent bonus to her CON score, which lasts for 1 hour.

Regenerator Talents (EX): Hetty automatically stabilizes when reduced to 0 HP or below. She gains a number of bonus HP equal to her Powered Hero class level, and possesses Fast Healing 1.

Also, let me preview some of the plug n' play rules modifications found in the Game Master's Guide. These short rules modifications affect different aspects of the campaign and can be inserted for a few game sessions or an entire campaign. Which rules mods your home group uses will decide what kind of flavor your campaign has: do you want the battles in your campaign to look more like Bubblegum Crisis or Blackhawk Down? Right now, there's about 30 different optional rules found in the GMG, and that number will likely grow before I go to press. As I get cool ideas for rules modifications, I add them to the file.

Take a look at a couple of randomly chosen rules mods and see if they're a good fit for your home campaigns.

Heroic Endurance
Though they can injured badly during battles, the heroes recover quickly.
Characters automatically heal between encounters, without needing medical care or active involvement.

Characters who ended an encounter with more than half their maximum HP are restored to full HP at the beginning of the next encounter.

Characters who ended an encounter with between 25% and 50% of their total HP are restored to half maximum HP at the beginning of the next encounter, and must take some action to recover additional hit points normally.

Characters who ended an encounter with less than 25% of their total HP are restored to 25% maximum HP at the beginning of the next encounter, and must take some action to recover additional hit points normally.

When to Activate this Mod?
This mod makes the action more cinematic, but less realistic. Here, Hit Points measure luck and vitality as much, if not more than they represent blood loss and organ damage. By healing completely between battles, the heroes gain more endurance and flexibility. They can adventure longer before needing to pause the action to rest. This mod does not make any individual battle easier, but makes the campaign as a whole easier and a bit faster moving.

When to Deactivate this Mod?
If you or your players like Hit Points to be a purely physical statistic, not a story element, don’t use this mod. If you feel automatic healing makes the game too unrealistic, avoid this mod. Finally, this rule mod makes a great set of ‘training wheels’ for new gamers, or players without any medics in their group. Groups with access to dedicated healers and savvy gamers probably don’t need the extra help.

Next-Gen Weapons
Energy weapons are exponentially deadlier than conventional firearms.
All energy based ranged weapons and ranged powers inflict an additional dice of damage.
When to Activate this Mod?
As the basic rules stand, Otherverse America’s slug-throwers and energy weapons are just about equal in terms of damage output. Choosing between them is as much a stylistic choice as a statistical one. Add Next-Gen Weapons to the campaign to make slug-throwers seem outdated. This rules mod makes the Lifer military, which uses more ballistic weapons than the Choicer nation, seem even lower tech, which might emphasize their nature as scrappy underdogs.

When to Deactivate this Mod?
Activating or deactivating Next-Gen Weapons is purely a style choice. Do you want advanced energy weapons to dominate the battlefield or not?

Severed Supply Lines
It doesn’t matter how much money you have to spend, or how good your connections are when there just aren’t any supplies to be found.
At the beginning of each session (or discrete period in the game world, such as a month of game time), the game master secretly rolls D20 to determine what type of equipment will be available for the session. Items in categories higher than the D20 result are almost impossible to find. Unavailable gear can’t easily be found for purchase, or for requisition. Effectively, add a +5 or +10 modifier on all skill checks made to acquire the gear, and add +2 to +5 to the Wealth check DC to purchase the items…. If they can be found at all.

If players want a piece of unavailable gear, they must steal or scavenge it.

D20 Target Number Type of Gear
8 Extremely basic supplies (Food, water, first aid kits, cheap booze, commercial batteries)
10 Skill kits, specialty gear, consumer electronics, luxury items, prescription medicines, most illegal drugs.
12 Ammunition, firearms, explosives, gasoline or other fuels, military power cells or energy clips for weapons. Civilian ground vehicles. Commercial cybernetic implants or OTC genemods.
14 Energy weapons, military heavy weapons, civilian aircraft. Reloads for military grade weapons, grenades. Military ground transports, industrial equipment, civilian-grade powered armor.
18 Military grade genemods and combat cybernetics. Military aircraft, military grade powered armor. Forcefield systems, ECCM systems or other extremely high-tech military hardware. Space vehicles capable of intra-system travel. Medicines tailored to alien or Lifechained biologies.
20 Lifechained genetic material or mutagens, weapons of mass destruction, ITF capable starships.

When to Activate this Mod?
This modification is best used as a situational modifier. Are the players pinned down a city cut off by a prolonged Lifer siege? Add this modification to make things a little worse after a few days of fighting. Players in War-era campaigns will likely have to conserve ammo, jury-rig equipment and make do with less if you choose to activate this mod. Activating this mod is also a great way to shake gadget-happy players out of their comfort zones and force them to solve problems in new days, and gives characters with a connection to the black market a chance to shine.

When to Deactivate this Mod?
The decision to deactivate this mod is a story one. Have situations on the ground improved enough that regular supply lines can be re-established? If so, turn off this mod. Players might also feel especially rewarded if their in-game actions led to the reestablishment of supply lines, and will feel extra satisfaction when new gear and spare ammo clips start rolling in again.

Stories of Pregnancy

In a setting where abortion drives the conflict, pregnancies, both meticulously prepared for and unplanned, should pop up fairly often. The only problem is that pregnancy rules in role playing games fall into at least one of the following three categories:
1. Ill advised add on rules from third party publishers.
2. Deeply misogynist.
3. So complex and difficult to use they take all the drama, romance and suspense out of a character’s sexual adventures.

These pregnancy rules focus less on probability and biology and instead focus on the story potential of a pregnancy. Assume an unmodified human who takes no precautions to prevent a pregnancy conceives when rolling the highest result possible on a random die roll. The size of the die rolled is determined by how interesting a potential pregnancy in the situation would be.

Characters who take even basic precautions against pregnancy (condoms, birth control pills, or standard contraceptive bionics or genemods) don’t randomly conceive. Conversely, many genemods and cyber-systems allow women to control their fertility consciously- if they desire to conceive, they will.

Pregnancy Dice Size The mother’s relationship status…..
D20 In a committed relationship, in good health and actively trying to conceive. Trying to conceive at a Beltane revel.
D12 In a committed relationship but not actively trying to conceive.
D10 In a casual relationship or one night stand with someone who is not an active threat to the mother’s life, career or social status.
D8 In a casual relationship or one night stand with someone who is an active threat to the mother’s life, career or social status.
D6 If the mother’s lifestyle or metahuman powers would make a pregnancy difficult or dangerous, or if the father’s metahuman genome would do the same.

Obviously, realism is sacrificed for playability and drama, but when cyborgs are shooting rail-guns at each other, realism probably isn’t a prime concern. Likewise, while pregnant characters can play out any form of complication they want, there aren’t really any ability score or attribute penalties for pregnancy.

Towards the end of pregnancy, the mother might be considered fatigued if the pregnancy is especially difficult. The reason is simple: even if pregnancy would justify an ability score penalty in ordinary women, the heroes and villains of Otherverse America aren’t ordinary. They are in excellent health and usually equipped with enough gene-tech to make pregnancy all but painless. The one exception are Half Grey characters and Couriers. Women of these species are specifically described as being infertile- unable to conceive and carry a child to term without multi-million dollar medical assistance. Even if a pregnancy is possible, the mother is likely to be sickened for the entire term, or suffer even worse complications.

Entering combat while pregnant can be deadly, but sometimes there’s no choice in the matter. Anytime an attacker beats the pregnant character’s Defense score by 10 or more, there is a chance she will suffer a miscarriage. The character must succeed at a FORT Save (DC 10 + ½ the damage inflicted) or immediately begin miscarrying. In addition to losing the pregnancy, the woman suffers 2d4 points of temporary CON damage.

Receiving immediate medical care (Treat Injury DC 20 + 1d6) within 10-15 minutes of the injury can save the pregnancy. This requires a surgical kit.

Pregnancy and Experience
Pregnancy is a life changing experience, and in game terms life experience is represented by XP. After a woman’s first pregnancy ends, by any means, by her own choice or not, she gains a level of experience.

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