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Author Topic: Charnel Gods - Fell Weapons  (Read 13659 times)
Paganini
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« on: March 13, 2003, 09:30:27 AM »

Charnel Gods has been bubbling away in the back of my mind for a while, and I got it out again today to have another look.

There's one thing I'm not getting about the Fell Weapons. Just why are they so powerful? In game, I mean, what do they allow the players to do? The example weapons in the back seem to have pretty localised effects . . . not much different than your standard D&D-style magical weapon.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2003, 10:27:24 AM »

Hi Nathan,

If I'm understanding correctly, the real issue is not what they can do, but rather, when they decide not to do it.

Sure, they're magic weapons, or rather, Artifacts in D&D terms. We get that - Artifacts are based on literary object/characters like the Ring and Stormbringer anyway.

However, here's where I think Charnel Gods is more like the literature and less like D&D.

Looking over The Lord of the Rings and the core Elric stories, the "activity" of these object/characters is largely defined by what they refuse to do, and also by the consequences of using them on a large scale that isn't immediately obvious to the character using them.

- Use the Ring: (a) will it work, in the sense that you intend? Or will the fucking thing slip off your finger at the wrong moment, or make its use obvious to someone nearby? Which it seems to do at will. (b) And even if it does work, e.g. to escape someone, who now knows about it? Start looking over your shoulder.

- Use Stormbringer: (a) will it turn in your hand, or take out your best friend, or worse, demand that you take him out voluntarily? Or even say, "Urp, I'm full" and refuse to function for a while? All of which were pretty frequent. (b) Which demon lord just looked up, startled, from whatever he was doing, upon your use? Did you just cement your relationship to Arioch all the more tightly? Did the Apocalypse between Law and Chaos just become that much more likely?

The Sorcerer rules and the Charnel Gods application is, I think, very strongly set up for both (a) and (b) to crop up over many instances of play. Sure, lots of times, you use your Crescent Dagger or whatever and it gets you through fights and out of jams very easily. But (a) and (b) are cropping up fast ...

Best,
Ron
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Paganini
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2003, 10:39:02 AM »

Hey Ron,

That's not quite it. I get the unpredictability of the weapons and the potential consequences thereof . . .  the text makes it pretty clear that the weapons are intelligent characters and may refuse to work, or only work in their own way.

What I'm asking about is a specific setting element. Sorceres in Charnel Gods are serious movers and shakers. How come? It's clear that people who wield the Fell Weapons are seriously empowered in the game world. The text says specifically that the general populace will be falling over themselves to try and get the wielders of the Fell to do things for them. So . . . what is it that these guys can accomplish that normal folks can't? From the weapon descriptions, they just make the bearers fight better. This doesn't seem to match the portrayal of a sorcerer as the precipitator of earth-shaking events. Am I missing something, or is there more to toe Fell weapons than simple combat ability?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2003, 11:04:22 AM »

H'm,

I think that my personal answer to this might be too much based on certain decisions peculiar to me, the people I'm playing with, and various aspects of concepts for Fell Weapons that we come up with.

After all, the Fell Weapons in the book are examples, not "the" Weapons that you and your group are supposed to use. Since I plan on us making them up ourselves, I suspect that the combat-focus would diminish to some extent.

And you may also be overlooking certain implications of abilities that can go a very long way in play, perhaps. Not sure. Even a little Perceive is worth an immense amount in Sorcerer, especially with that many dice of Power backing it up.

Anyway, though, that's merely my take on the issue. I'm interested in others' as well as Scott's in particular.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2003, 12:10:05 PM »

I think I know.

Let's imagine that you were the only person in the world who could become invisible.

How important would that make you? It would make you the most important person in the world.

Charnel Gods characters have access to weapons that make them nigh invincble in combat. Sure they can probably be assassinated. And there are other means of control. But they are sorcerers, right? Strong-willed is an understatement. Driven. So they aren't going to be controlled easily by anyone.

What does that leave you with? A loose cannon capable of anything he puts his mind to.

Then there's the mythic element. These folks are regarded by their possession of fell weapons somewhat as legends or at least associated with legend.

This all leads to celebrity, power, etc. It all makes perfect sense to me. I think that we're too used to the D&D idea of magic being commonplace such that it has to be BIG to be impressive. But if you're the only person in the world who can cast a spell, even something as lame as magic missile, you're a prodigy of legendary ability.

It's all relative. Relative to a world with no magic, anything verifiably supernatural is the most important thing in the world.

Mike
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2003, 02:05:40 PM »

Mike and Ron are, as always, on the money. In my play of Charnel Gods, I've been amazed at how each ability of my weapon is so powerful. The amount of mileage I've gotten out of Shadow alone is amazing, and Mark is damn useful as well. (When my character Marked a tribal chieftain - who was a sorcerer in his own right - with the mark of Faal, my character's god, my character immediately gained power over him.) Cover's the most abusive of the bunch - a Cover of Desert Warrior at Power 9 endowed on my character makes him, by far, the biggest fightin' badass he'll ever meet.

The other trick is that you should create characters in the game that have that sort of power already. I see too many people create weak characters for narrativist games because they come from a gamist or simulationist background where every advantage for your character must be bought or justified. In making Zohar, my Charnel Gods characters, I wrote down, first thing, that he was head of the cult of the fire god, Faal, in one of the setting's largest cities. It's just a Past, and fits the character concept. (The other character in the game is one of the world's foremost-known beast tamers, and carries a rad Fell Weapon whip that dominates animals and people through sheer destruction of will.)
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Clinton R. Nixon
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2003, 08:38:30 PM »

A thread about Charnel Gods!  Differing takes on my creation!  I'm almost afraid to chime in.

But I will anyway...

What Mike and Clinton and Ron say is all true.  A couple of broadly defined Abilities - Perception and Cover, for instance - backed by the insane Power levels of the Fell makes a Charnel Gods' sorcerer not very unlike a deity.

Take one of my favorite sample Weapons from the game:

PERIFFON

STA 8, WILL 9, LORE 5, POWER 9
NEED: To start a rumor in its presence.
DESIRE: Anarachy

ABILITIES
Special Lethal Damage
Cover: Demagogue
Boost: Will
Travel (always shows up in the right place, at the right time)
Perception (can sense unrest and dissatisfaction in others)


Like most Fell Weapons, Periffon is a monster in combat.  But only one of its Abilities is explicitly combat oriented; the rest play into its Desire for Anarchy.  I daresay that this Weapon, with its interesting Need and powerful combination of Boost, Cover, and Perception, would create all sorts of fun, non-combat type game content.  And its bearer would be a god among men.

To be fair, though, I don't think Nathan is far off the mark.  The game does skew heavily towards violence and combat.  A Fell Weapon is still a weapon, afterall.  Even the fiction bears this out; each piece describes a battle of some sort.  But they also tell stories, or at least hint at them...

So I guess what I take exception with is the implied notion that combat is somehow not valid roleplaying, or that "story" is that stuff that happens in between fights.  I tried to write a game that encouraged dramatic, fun combats, from which stories emerged and are told.  Whether I succeeded or not will be bore out by the play of the game.

Speaking of which, when do I get to hear more about your game Clinton?

Take care,
Scott
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2003, 08:38:48 PM »

Here's an idea: You are the posessor of one of the Fell Weapons, and now people are looking to you to lead them. Why?

Maybe because of its history. Maybe the wielder of the weapon in question was invariably a person of great power, and so you are now expected to be as well, if for no other reason (though there frequently will be, just as Clinton explained) than you're the one carrying the dang thing. You're just one in a long line of movers and shakers.

You are told that you could lay waste to entire legions with this sword because 'everyone knows' that 5000 years ago, someone did. Whether or not it actually happened, or was just an exaggeration, no one knows. And you won't know until you try it. Fortunately for the audience, sorcerers seem to have no end of reasons for trying.

These things have been around for like, forever. They've had to have built up reputations for themselves.

-- Ben
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"I cast a spell! I wanna cast... Magic... Missile!"  -- Galstaff, Sorcerer of Light
Paganini
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« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2003, 08:51:39 PM »

Quote from: hardcoremoose

So I guess what I take exception with is the implied notion that combat is somehow not valid roleplaying, or that "story" is that stuff that happens in between fights.  I tried to write a game that encouraged dramatic, fun combats, from which stories emerged and are told.  Whether I succeeded or not will be bore out by the play of the game.


Hmm. Scott, I hope I didn't imply that there's anything invalid about combat role-playing. Let me see if I can clarify my comment / question some more. Sorcerers in Charnel Gods are obvious combat monsters. This is to be expected . . .  they do, after all, wield weapons forged by the Old Gods with the specific intent of wracking up many kills. It's Sword & Sorcerey. It'd be a bad thing if it wasn't about combat.

However the suppliment seemed to me to portray the Sorcerers as being in high demand, not limited to the context of combat. I was wondering why that was. Have I missed the thrust of the text, or did you intended for the Fell Weapons to be able to be useful outside of combat? Traditional sorcery includes things like mind control, creation or alteration of the fabric of reality. Does a Charnel Gods Sorcerer have these abilities as well? Could a weapon make its bearer invisible (using a Cover maybe)? Cause someone to fall in love with someone else? Etc.

Edit: What I'm talking about here is basically the same thing that's always bothered me about Saberhagen's "Swords" series. Sure, the Swords are useful for their unique powers, but everyone acts like whoever controls the swords will rule the universe.

I see Ron & Co.'s points though. "Perception" allows a Sorcerer to know things, and "Cover" allows them to do things, which makes for some pretty powerful combinations. I guess I was thinking of Cover as being a mere disguise . . . you appear as someone, not that you actually have the skills of that person.
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2003, 09:33:43 PM »

Nathan,

Hey, I think we're connecting here.

No, the Weapons aren't going to do the really big things you describe, like alter the very fabric of reality.  Not to any great extent, at least.

And no, there's no outright mind control.  Ron left that out of Sorcerer for very good reasons, and I happen to agree with that decision for this game.

But...

The Demagogue Cover (attributed to the Fell Sword Periffon, above) would give you all the skills of an experienced agitator.  Combined with a Boosted Will (also a trait of Periffon), a PC would certainly be very influential among other mortals, especially when stirring them to civil unrest.

It's all about clever use of Abilities.  There's more than one way to affect invisibility with the Sorcerer rules.

To be honest, I've heard people claim that Sorcerer doesn't provide enough demon Abilities.  I don't pay these people much mind.  Sorcerer bends nicely, and offers quite a bit more flexibility than might first be obvious.  More than that though, it provides a framework to work within, and part of the fun and challenge is to be creative within that framework.  

To answer your question: Yes.  The Fell Weapons are intended to be combat monsters, but they're also intended to be useful outside of the battlefield.  And sometimes they're useful on the battlefield in non-combat ways (because there's always more going on during a fight than just who's attacking who).

In fact, if you look at the sample Weapons in the game, you'll see I selected Abilities that would help further each Weapon's Desire.  And although each is vile and destructive, in most cases those Desires have little or no direct connection to warfare or combat.

Is any of this working for you?

Take care,
Scott

EDIT:  In reference to Saberhagen...I've never read the books of Swords.  I probably should.  In Charnel Gods, a sorcerer won't rule the universe, but whole kingdoms (and maybe the world) aren't out of the question.  In the first five minutes of my very first playtest, a PC inserted herself as Queen of Rowan, without ever even drawing her Weapon.  In any event, how the mortal populance views a sorcerer will largely be up to the sorcerer, and what kind of show they can put on.
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Paganini
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2003, 09:44:30 PM »

Quote from: hardcoremoose

Hey, I think we're connecting here. . . . Is any of this working for you?


Yeah . . . It's working good! See, Charnel God's is an amazing mythology (to me, anyway). I'm trying to take all the great idea hooks, possibility maybes, and so on, and realize them into a definite setting that I can game in or write about. (Which, I think is the whole point of the suppliment, right?).

I intend to post a new thread tomorrow, but first I'm going to take my ideas to bed and see what pops out. :)
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2003, 09:51:51 PM »

Quote
I'm trying to take all the great idea hooks, possibility maybes, and so on, and realize them into a definite setting that I can game in or write about. (Which, I think is the whole point of the suppliment, right?).


That's it exactly.

Quote
I intend to post a new thread tomorrow, but first I'm going to take my ideas to bed and see what pops out. :)


Awesome.  I can't wait.

And anyone else with thoughts or questions...I'm all ears.  

Take care,
Scott
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2003, 07:21:25 AM »

Hi everyone,

Awesome discussion - I think I'll link to it from the Charnel Gods page at the website.

My final point is to underscore, if it's at all necessary, that the Sorcerer demon abilities are very easy to overlook for people who didn't grow up, gaming-wise, on early Champions. The abilities are not a list of kewl powerz. They are templates for building unique and often terrifying capabilities.

By manipulating who is and who isn't the user ...

By stacking ("linking" in Champs jargon) multiple abilities ...

By considering the variation within Perception, Travel, and Cover ...

By combining "squishy" ones like Hint with "solid" ones like Special Damage ...

... you can make up stuff that's never been handled in role-playing systems except by the most baroque spot-rule and layered-text imaginable.

Consider Perception, Transport, and Psychic Force, and you can actually bring people, unwillingly, to yourself from afar, striking them unconscious.

"You love Lisa? You want her here, now?" Schma-kam! "Here she is, sleeping, right before you. See how pretty, how peaceful she is? This is the power I offer you."

Consider that the player defines the demon's abilities, not the GM, even for demons summoned during play.

And now consider that sort of ability with the sorcerer as the user, not the demon, with the above dialogue being delivered by a player-character, and the GM being the person who has to cope with this kind of challenge.

That's when Sorcerer makes that Harley rumble-noise, and when it stops being the light-Sim knockoff that some people think it is upon reading.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2003, 10:08:19 AM »

OK, Nathan, Demogogue Cover. with power 9. That's a *nine* die cover. Lesse, superhuman starts about five or so. This makes the user the best talker there's ever been. Better than Ghandi or Adolph Hitler. perhaps. And you wonder why the wielder can affect the fate of nations?

What makes people important in the real world? That's still the standard for the world of Charnel Gods. People become important without powerful magic all the time. Now insert driven folks who are more powerful and skilled in several supernatural ways than the real world cognates.

How can these people not shake the world?

Also, consider that for those who understand the fate of the world, and why the fell weapons exist, for them, the sorcerers are saviors of the world in a way. Best to get on the good side of one so that you don't have to become part of the wall of dead keeping the horrors out.

I'm really having trouble seeing how anyone could see sorcerers in Charnel Gods as anything but movers and shakers. Even if you had a Fell Weapon that was only a combat tool, how would that stop the character in question from becoming Genghis Khan? The only thing I can think is that, as a fantasy world, the assumption is such that one must have worldshattering powers to be important. But that's just not true.

Describe a situation, Nathan, in which you see a CG Sorcerer not being important. Make up an appropriate character with demon, and try to give me some situation where the sorcerer isn't the most important person that anyone knows. I can't even imagine what you're talking about.

Mike
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2003, 11:55:50 PM »

I don't have a helluva a lot to add to the Fell Weapon issue, as I think we're all pretty much on the same page now, but I did want to point out one possibly overlooked element of Charnel Gods: Pacting with Ancients and Bygones.

The Weapons are the centerpiece, but Pacting is a whole lot of fun, and is included specifically to allow characters to "stand out" even further than they already do.  For you, the player, it allows customization of certain imagery and content within the game.  On a character level it fills in the blanks not covered by your Weapon, providing a hero with the transport he needs, or a loyal servant to watch his back while he deals with the green-eyed, non-sorcerous mortals.  Or any other thing you an think of.

It's almost my favorite part of the game, in fact.  Almost.

Take care,
Scott
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