[TSoY 2nd] The last crunchy bits

Started by Eero Tuovinen, July 20, 2009, 11:49:14 AM

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Eero Tuovinen

I'm almost finished with my TSoY book. This is good, as I'm supposed to go to print with it next week.

However, I have a bit of room in my layout for a couple of Secrets, Keys or other stuff.

The topic of the day, ratkin: I've got telepathy, I've got parasites, I've got the albino weird. Still got one column in the chapter for ratkin stuff, if you have anything you're particularly fond of.

Also, here's a diatribe from the book:

Quote from: Eero himself
My experience playing with ratkin was for the longest time that they are a problem, not a solution: it always seems that when you start playing TSoY with a new group, there is inevitably one player who gravitates towards a ratkin (or goblin for that matter) player character over any other option – this always seems to be because that player wants to avoid protagonism: his ratkin character is a hanger-on with no discernible issues of his own and seemingly no other function in the campaign than to attack squeling vigorously against whoever happens to threaten the real main characters. The ratkin with its humorous appearance and inhuman immunity to human issues is the perfect hanger-on character for the player who couldn't care less about making a real effort in the game.

This all changed when I figured out that I should not be moaning the fact that some of my friends wanted to play sidekicks; I should embrace it. When you have something like four players in the game, where's the problem in allowing one or even two to play unabashed sidekicks? Removing ratkin wouldn't remove this need, and why would we need more than a couple of heroic leads, anyway? Looking at it this way, ratkin are perfect: they're comedic and sympathetic, and suitably compact to fit in the hero's backpack. The Key of Cheese is an example of this shift in my strategy: I can support the comedic role actively, and I should.

This is not to say that ratkin can't be used seriously; they do certainly have many fascinating and serious aspects. I am personally especially fond of their nature as genuinely non-human people in Near, outside the Human Equation and one of the beastkin. I consider it a fully valid thematic challenge to ask a ratkin character to prove that he is actually people and not just an animal, in whatever manner a given campaign would consider such an issue. Ratkin can also be used for their social dynamics and position as a marginalized, gypsy-like underclass in Maldor.

Thoughts? I might have room for some advice and insight as well in this here chapter, if anybody has anything to add. (I do write about ratkin in different parts of Near, too, and all that stuff; I'm thinking more of Story Guiding or play strategy here.)
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Heikki Hallamaa


You might try to give the ratkin a bit of an antihero edge. Include secrets and abilities that help in thieving, spying, crawling through sewer pipes and hiding in filthy places like the vermin they are. As mere animals in people's eyes they tend to be ignored and therefore make excellent spies.

Might write some keys fit for rogues and vagabonds as well. :-)

Eero Tuovinen

That's not a bad angle at all, actually. I wonder why that hasn't come up before?

Thanks, that pretty much settles that hole in my oeuvre. The next mission concerns Three-Corner magic: I decided to add a spread to make room for some examples (better have some examples in all magic systems, frankly; this gets pretty intricate in places), which gave me more room for some choice spells and Secrets. I already added this:

Secret of Divination: See Far
The character can see far-away places, things and people as long as he has something to go on, such as a memory of the sight, or a sufficiently specific name.
Cost: Reason per magnitude:
1   Beyond a wall or other obstacle
3   Beyond several obstacles
6   This side of the horizon
10   On the same continent

And I have some freaky spells like this:

Word of Kwangju
All who hear the word (speaker included, unless protected) forget what happened during the current scene, and do not realize that they forgot. The memory might return after a week or so, provided that something reminds the victim. The word doesn't work on large crowds; only the closest group of people hear it. Requires a Speak (R) check. The cost of the spell is halved for each additional Advance instead of reduced by one.
   l   Alter memories: 2 Reason
   l   Gentle Touch: 1 Reason
   l   Mundane Interface: 3 Reason
      (Divination to Speak)
   l   Mundane Interface: 3 Reason
      (Enthrallment to Speak)
   l   Magical Contagion: 3 Pool (a group)
   l   Magical Persistence: 3 Pool (a week)
   l   Spellcraft: 1 Pool per Advance
Total: 16R/2= 8 Reason

Other things that should be included?
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


  Regarding ratkin. I ran two campaigns. In one, no player chose to play a Ratkin character, and when they appeared, they were treated as nothing more than a novelty.

However, in the second campaign, we had a PC ratkin. And I suspected as you usually do, that this was a sidekick deal. However, I kept asking the player, "ok, time for stakes, what are you fighting for?" And eventually this gelled into the idea that she would unite the Ratkin of Sanctum and ensure all of their safety. This proved to be a driving theme and almost overshadowed every other part of the campaign.
I think to dismiss ratkin  as sidekicks automatically, might be a
little unfair or possibly heavy handed.

I do know what you are trying to say and/or accomplish, but I fear your mini-treatise may be too strongly worded...

  I have two other thoughts about Ratkin that might add something to your game:
1) Ratkin as a tribal force seems off to me. I mean, we have three strongly tribal cultures already. How can you add another and still keep each with their own identity or at least signature style. I think there is room for a tribal thing, but maybe go the route of a Cargo Cult-type thing (they worship the lost technology of Maldor like idols, I dunno, just an idea). Personally, I see the Ratkin of Maldor sort of like the Shirpas of Everest. Meaning that they know the artifacts and technology of old Maldor better than anyone else. But because they revere it, they do not exploit that knowledge. Also, I don't see this culture as one of conquest (territoriality, yes, but conquest no), so it would be interesting to have them be the mad scientists and tinkers of this era, owing entirely to their proximity to advanced magic/technology. I mean, not a paradigm shifting change in the way Near works and feels, but a quest destination. Find a Ratkin Tinker and gain their trust enough to commission work from them, something like that, I dunno.

2) Slavery, I think you are missing a critical touchstone regarding slavery and Ratkin. See, a lot of times, the bad guys in RPGs are considered to not care or understand about the emotional impact of their cruelty. But what if slavers in Near are smarter than that? What if they exploit the litter-bond mentality of Ratkin to enslave whole litters. In other words, when they raid a ratkin village, they make it a point to get the majority of a litter. Then they exploit the litter-bond to prevent ratkin from escaping. I mean, what ratkin would abandon their litter, even if that litter were living in the worst possible conditions? I think there is territory for incredible depth here...

Anyways, I thought I would throw this out there and let you decide if it belonged in your
game or not.
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo


I really have no right to comment, but reading the previous ideas about rats and their litter mates, it made me want to ask "what if being with your litter made what would be otherwise a terrible situation not just necessary, but in fact much less intolerable? What if literally being together was a major value with positive impact, not just a shackle to keep the whole litter down?"

The Secret of Surrounded by Family comes to mind as something to offer.