Monday, January 20, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 085: Our Condolences to Rosario Dawson



In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer’d talk about the end of Cory Booker's presidential run and Michael Bloomberg's campaign spending;
  • Having previously talked to us about youth gun safety, David now talks about adult gun safety;
  • Weer'd interviews Lara Smith of the Liberal Gun Club to find out how the Second Amendment really is for everyone;
  • and then Weer'd fisks a BBC report on the rising gun crime in the UK.




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Show Notes

Main Topic:
Gun Lovers and Other Strangers:
Lara Smith Interview:
Weer’d Audio Fisk:

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Insalubrious Basterds

More Vampire: the Masquerade nerdery.

As you may have noticed. we fans of role-playing are creative, passionate, and impatient. This means that when a new version of an RPG comes out and doesn't update a thing we like, then we will take it into own hands to make that thing ourselves so that we can have it for our game.

So just like I did with the Tzimisce, here are the Salubri for V5.

https://whitewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Salubri

A few notes:

  • The clan bane and compulsion were crafted by my GM Adrian Rook, who I think got the ideas from various sources that weren't quite what either of us wanted, so we made a delicious jambalaya out of them to get what we wanted. 
  • The same goes for Valeran; the list of powers and their levels were largely taken from someone else's attempt t make a V5 version but, oddly, they kept all the V20 mechanics which made me think it was just cut and paste from that edition. So honestly, I did more work converting them to V5 than the other person did. 
  • Veterans of previous versions will note that this is a combination of the Healer's Path (Obeah) and the Warrior's Path (Valeran). I'm okay with this, because V5 already has 2-3 powers per level in all the other Disciplines and the writers apparently want to condense and consolidate the amount of old KNDs into a more manageable number. 
  • Also, in my opinion, Valeran sounds better than Obeah. I don't think Valeran is itself a word; it's probably a derivation of vale, the Latin word for "farewell", because the power is about "saying goodbye to evil". Another possibility is that it is rooted in the Latin valeō, which means "I am strong / I am healthy / I have worth" and also means in New Latin "I leave, I go away" which brings us right back to farewell but in a more badass way. Please compare that to the word Obeah, which is "a system of spiritual and healing practices developed among enslaved West Africans in the West Indies" -- so basically, a religion. Yeah, let's not go and compare someone's religion with a supernatural power of a dead thing, thanks. 
  • Also, fun fact: salubrious is a Latin word which means "wholesome, healthful, promoting health or well-being" which means that they already have the healing thing covered in their name and don't need a Discipline with another name for it as well. 
So, yeah. That's stuff you know now. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Generation is Dumb. Blood Potency is Better.

Nerdpseak Warning: The following blog post will likely be incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't play tabletop RPGs. 

Ever since the first edition of Vampire: the Masquerade I’ve thought that “Generation as indication of power” was a terrible idea. For those who don't know what this means, in VtM the first vampire was Caine (yes, that Caine; vampirism was his punishment) and therefore was the First Generation. Any vampires he made were the Second Generation, and so on. With the game, player characters started off at a default 13th generation, and for the reasons listed below I thought it was a dumb idea. However, with the mechanic tied so closely to the game setting, I didn't know how to fix that problem... until fifth edition came along. V5 gives us Blood Potency (stolen from the Requiem game line and one of the few things form that setting of which I approve), which handily solves my problem by giving us the tools necessary to replace generation.

First my rant about the setting, then the game mechanics.

Why Generation is Dumb: an Essay
Humanity is old. No, older than you think. OLD. The oldest known civilization is the Mesopotamian Empire, which was founded circa 4500 BC, or 6500 years ago.

This out-of-game information gives us an in-the-game date by which the First City, Enoch, must have been founded, and therefore a rough idea of when Caine embraced his first childe, also named Enoch, as presumably the city was named after him.

Let us assume, purely for sake of argument and to make the math easier, that all of Caine’s childer waited 100 years before they created childer of their own and begat the Third Generation, and all their childer waited a century, and so forth. This gives us the following timeline:
  • Second Generation created: 4500 BC
  • Third Generation created: 4400 BC
  • Fourth Generation created: 4300 BC
  • Fifth Generation created: 4200 BC
  • Sixth Generation created: 4100 BC
  • Seventh Generation created: 4000 BC
  • Eighth Generation created: 3900 BC
  • Ninth Generation created: 3800 BC
  • Tenth Generation created: 3700 BC
  • Eleventh Generation created: 3600 BC
  • Twelfth Generation created: 3500 BC
  • Thirteenth Generation created: 3400 BC
  • Fourteenth Generation created: 3300 BC
In just 1,200 years we have reached thin-bloods, and this is assuming very generous restraint on the part of sires... and yet we are to believe that thin-bloods are a recent occurrence, only happening now in the modern nights? Balderdash and bullshit. The lore and the rules aren’t in harmony.

There are ways to correct this, but each involves decoupling some parts of the lore from the rules.
  1. Generation no longer matters (except as a point of prideful lineage to Ventrue and other snooty types), only Blood Potency. Except for your clanmates, no one cares that you’re Caine’s 66th grande-childer. This is the system I outline below.
  2. “This has happened before, and this will happen again.” Gehenna is cyclical, with the Antediluvians rising periodically to feast upon their lineage before siring fresh childer and returning to torpor. This could easily happen every 1000 years or so, which nicely explains the death and doomsday cults which pop up every millennium or so. This is handy if you want to use the 1e-VRev notion of thin-bloods being a portent of Gehenna and you want to run a Final Nights campaign.
  3. Want to go really dark with that last option? Assume that Elders and Methuselae know this, and are encouraging the creation of thin-bloods to form a herd for the Antediluvians. “Our clan founders periodically rise and feast upon kindred blood? Well, then, it’s a good thing we have cities full of weak kindred for them to eat. Have all our high generations, grandparents, and go back to sleep.”

Replacing Generation with Blood Potency
In V5, and contrary to previous editions, Generation is no longer a background to be bought; rather, it is more or less a bit of roleplaying fluff. What is important is Blood Potency, which is not purchasable during character generation, but is rather determined by how long your character has been undead. As a rule of thumb, BP increases by 1 for every 100 years of activity (time spent in Torpor doesn’t count), although there are shortcuts such as by spending XP (if permitted by the GM) and of course the every-dangerous but time-honored method of diablerie, aka drinking dry the body of a vampire older than you and consuming its soul in the process.

All of this leads me to wonder, Why even bother with Generation in the first place? I've listed my in-game objections to it above, and there's no longer a mechanical reason for it, so just jettison it altogether. Thin-bloods aren't the result of high generation, but rather what happens when a vampire with low BP tries to sure.

Name
# of years    
undead
Min BP
Max BP
Thin-Bloods
Irrelevant*
0
0
Neonates
0-99
1
4
Ancillae
100-249
2
6
Elders
250-999
3
8
Methuselae
1000+
4
10
Antediluvians
All of Them
5
No Limit  
 * Blood Potency cannot increase without Diablerie.

Absent the A Taste For Blood power, there is no way to discreetly test for Blood Potency, so a vampire who went into torpor 250 years ago as a Neonate will be treated like an Elder in kindred society… at least until it is shown that his blood lacks the strength to maintain that position. Some wags call this “The Big Effect”, after the Tom Hanks movie.

Mechanics
A Neonate who spends no XP on blood potency will, after 100 years of activity, have his BP increased from 1 to 2; a Neonate who spends XP to increase BP will find it capped at 4 until he puts in a century's worth of existence, at which point that cap rises to 6. Of course, diablerie changes all this.

Blood Potency and Diablerie
Given that V5’s rules on diablerie focus exclusively on Blood Potency rather than generation, there is no need to alter any existing rules and the mention of “If the victim was of lower generation, the diablerist lowers their generation by one” can be ignored. However, if the Storyteller feels that this is insufficient reward in the case of a hard-fought diablerizations against a potent victim, then the diablerist’s Blood Potency may further increase by one dot.

Blood Potency and Dominate
Make the following edits: “A vampire of lower higher (stronger) generation Blood Potency can resist Dominate attempts from higher generation lower Blood Potency vampires by spending a Willpower point, negating the effect completely.”

Blood Potency and the Embrace
There are three ways you can handle this, depending on how you want your game to run.
  1. Age is All That Matters: Regardless of the sire’s Blood Potency, the childe always starts at 1, and only age (or diablerie) can change that. This avoids problems such as “If Caine Embraced a childe today, they’d be a Second Generation neonate” and requires either patience or aggressive ambition to rise in power.
  2. Inherited from the sire: A childe’s Blood Potency is that of her sire -1. This gives the GM freedom to create characters for the story who are quite powerful in terms of vampiric strength but without the commensurate skills or disciplines -- in other words, an above-average opponent who won’t wipe your entire party.
  3. Happy Medium: A childe's Blood Potency is 1/2 that of his sire. This gives a bit of both worlds without breaking things in either direction.

Thin-Bloods
Regardless of which of the above options you choose, Thin-Bloods are what occur when Blood Potency 1 vampires attempt the Embrace. Unlike in previous versions of Vampire, there is no existential crisis inherent with the existence of thin-bloods across the millennia. There is already a long and vicious tradition of older vampires manipulating younger ones for their own benefit and without concern for the neonates’ survival; the thin-blooded, being weak and easily intimidated by even neonates, are frequently used as disposable pawns by kindred society, and so they rarely last more than a few years of unlife.

Conclusion
I am aware that doing away with generation will upset many traditionalists. However, V5 has already slaughtered several sacred cows by dispensing with such concepts as Virtues, Blood Pool, and the Appearance stat. Each of those was removed in order to make the game more playable, and each was a far larger change than removing generation. My proposed system better integrates the mechanics of the game with its history.

But do as you like. I’m not the Prince of you.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 084: We Can't Think of a Title



In This Episode:
  • Erin and Weer'd talk about the end of the holiday season, and then give some recognition to the deceased heroes from the White Settlement church shooting;
  • David discusses gunsmithing and how to become an armorer;
  • Weer'd talks with Chris Cheng about the Second Amendment Rally in DC and then his appearance in a New York Times Gun Violence Round Table;
  • and Weer'd brings an audio fisk on a BBC segment about knife violence in the UK.




Did you know that we have a Patreon? Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that’s $1/podcast) and you’ll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays, as well as patron-only content like mag dump episodes and our hilarious blooper reels and film tracks.


Show Notes

Gun Lovers and Other Strangers:

Chris Cheng Interview:

Weer’d Audio Fisk

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Vicissitudes of V5

Buy the PDF here and I get a few bucks back!
OK, time for some nerdiness again.

I was asked to join an online game of Vampire: the Masquerade recently. Here's the short version of events:
  1. Someone who knows my work at OBS contacted me on Facebook looking for information. 
  2. During the process of informing him, I found out he lives in Orlando. 
  3. I asked him if had been at Orlando Pride. 
  4. He said no, and regretted not being there, because if he had been he'd have brought a Dungeons & Dragons book for me to sign. 
  5. Puzzled, I asked him "Why D&D"? 
  6. He said "Because I read your blog and I know you're into roleplaying games."
  7. Then he mentioned he was currently running a Vampire game over Discord. 
  8. This promptly kicked over my geek box as I have a long and well-documented love for the original game (not that new Requiem crap) and I mentioned to him that back in the day my Werewolf tribal name (long story there) would have been "Owns-All-the-Books."
  9. I then became a geek resource for him as he asked me for details about the game setting as I literally got in on the ground floor with it back in 1991 and stayed with until White Wolf Studios got tired of making money and ended their entire game line in 2004. (They came to their senses in 2011 and began releasing 20 year anniversary editions of the games, which did well, and now Modiphius is publishing the 5th edition, aka V5. 
    • In case you were curious, that numbering goes 1e, 2e, VRev (3), V20 (4) and V5. 
  10. I was lonely and bored on Halloween because it's supposed to be a spooky event and I had nothing spooky going on, so I asked if I could join his game and he gave an emphatic "Yes!"
So I have a lot to say about V5, but at this moment I don't have enough experience with it to give it a proper review. I'll hit the highlights with a more in-depth review later. 
  • The useless "Appearance" attribute is gone and is replaced with Composure, which is basically a stat for self-control and remaining calm under pressure. 
  • The "Perception" attribute has become a skill under a different name (Insight) and replaced with Resolve, which is a mental toughness. Pair it with Composure and that's your Willpower rating. 
  • Blood Pool is gone and replaced with an abstract Hunger mechanic which is nifty but difficult to explain. The short version is that the "leaky gas tank" type vampire is gone and with a few bad rolls you could end up really hungry really quickly. The best way to explain it is to imagine D&D but instead of Hit Points you rolled a Fortitude save each time you were hit to determine if you were knocked out or not. 
  • Willpower is a wound track, meaning that you can take mental damage from social attacks like intimidation, frustration, humiliation, etc. 
  • Speaking of wound tracks, there's no such thing as wound penalties any more. I'm not sure how I feel about this but there hasn't been much combat in this game so far. Hopefully more on this later?
  • In general, the mechanics have been.... re-vamped (hah!)... and overall I like it. 
There is, however, one tragic oversight. You see, while the core rulebook included the obligatory 7 Camarilla clans plus the Caitiff, and other books included independent clans like the Banu Haqim (née Assamites) and the preciously-renamed Ministry (née Followers of Set) and even the "Surprise! We're part of the Camarilla now!" Lasombra (the Sabbat has kinda... gone away. I haven't yet read all the fluff because honestly, there's a lot of it and I'm busy, but I'm cool with this because I thought the Sabbat was rather dumb) and whatever the Clan of Death is calling themselves these night (Hecata, actually, though I'm not clear on why).... 

... wow, that was a long sentence...

... I found myself incensed because one of my favorite clans was not represented. They had the gall to update the Setites but not the Tzimisce, the clan of Dracula? FILTHY PEASANTS! 

[Rage! Frenzy! Excessive scene-chewing!]

https://whitewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Tzimisce
And so, in cooperation with Adrian, my GM, I bring you this V5 version of the Fiends. It will of course be eventually eclipsed by canon, but who knows when that will be? Until then, you are of course most welcome to use mine. 

I translated the discipline into V5 as best I could, with Adrian making sure the terminology was correct. He and I collaborated on the clan weakness (now called a Bane) and their corresponding Compulsion. 

Oh right, before I go, a quick explanation:  V5 seems to be trying to do away with what I call KND Syndrome. KND stands for Kewl New Discipline, and anyone who played in previous versions of Vampire knows exactly what I mean by that even if they haven't heard the term before now. And so in an effort to reduce KND, the writers have been trying to consolidate the disparate clan abilities into as few disciplines as possible. For example, the old Assamite discipline of Quietus has been subsumed into equal parts Obfuscate and Blood Sorcery (née Thaumaturgy, and I don't know why they changed that name); the Malkavian discipline of Dementation has been folded into Dominate; etc. 

So when it came time to write up Vicissitude, I folded it into Protean (both powers are about changing shape, after all) and I did it three ways to give flexibility to GMs:
  1. I made it a 3-power system so that it became a variant fork of Protean;
  2. I made it a traditional 5-power system so that people who wanted all of the old powers Vicissitude could get them;
  3. and then I just added some more details, removed the amalgam prerequisites, and turned it into its own discipline. 
Yes, this way means that Gangrel can get access to what was once the province of only the Fiends, but I'm okay with that, because first of all they're both clans of shapechangers and it's thematically appropriate, and second because I'm tired (and I've been tired for a long time) of people who play a clan just to get access to their unique power. This way, only the people who want to play the Tzimisce will choose to play them.

Also, it gives the Fiends access to more nifty powers too, which is always acceptable in my book. 

Monday, January 6, 2020

Assorted Calibers Podcast Ep 083: New Year's Round Table - Jack Wilson is a Hero



In This Episode:
In this ACP Round Table, Weer'd, Erin, Oddball, Steve, and David were planning to review 2019 and talk about the New Year... but then a shooting happened at a church in Texas.





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Show Notes

The Fine Print


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