Wednesday, March 21, 2012

First Thoughts: Eclipse Phase

Ok, I will be upfront about this, I haven't played Eclipse Phase as of yet.  I have had the book for a while, and have read a good portion of it, and I have been listening to RPPR's ongoing actual play as well, which has been extremely entertaining.  If you are even vaguely into Sci-Fi, expecially hard Sci-Fi with a touch of of Lovecraft, then do yourself a favor and check it out.

Before I forget, the game itself is published under the Creative Commons License so you can grab the book and everything else here, but the hardcopy is a pretty book and well made as well, for when you are sick of reading off your screen.

The game takes place in the future, a few dozen years after the Fall, which, in a nutshell, is when the TITANs, the advanced AI used on Earth for military planning and so on, reached the Technological Singularity.  This is when the AI start learning so fast and in such large leaps and bounds they effectively become omnipotent.  When this happens they turn on humanity, kill nearly everyone, and then vanish.  No one knows where they went, or what they are up to, but Earth is a wasteland, and due to some of the TITAN creations left behind, an uninhabitable planet.  Prior to the TITANs waking, though, humanity has already expanded across the solar system, as the technology to download your mind/memories into other hardware, so as long as you back yourself up, you can be, for all intents and purposes, immortal.  Most everyone in the universe (save for those in the poorest conditions, or those that don't believe in changing the human form) also has a cortical stack at the base of their neck which is essentially a hard drive that houses themselves, so even if they die, if the stack is intact, they can be resleeved (term for getting a new body), and go from there.

At the core of the game, it is assumed that the PCs are members of Firewall.  A secret group that is the hidden police making sure that the TITANs don't come back, and that what they left behind does not endanger all of humanity.  There is more to the universe though, so it could be played with the PCs as members of a certain community just going through life, or as Gate Crashers, a term given to people that make a living travelling through the Pandora Gates which are stable-ish wormholes from one area to another, could be another planet, galaxy, who knows.  The crashers go through the gates looking for tech or other valuables to bring back and sell, whihc would result in a very dangerous and sci-fi dungeon crawl kind of game, if the GM and the players desired to go that way with the system.

For the GM and players this game and universe have quite a few avenues for exploration over just the type of game.  When your body itself is just another kind of gear you can buy, it opens up a lot of interesting questions that could be explored for groups that are looking for more than a hack and slash.  If you could sleeve into anything, like other humanoids, genderless robots, or even uplifted animals (octopi, primates and birds have been elevated by humanity to have critical thinking capabilities in this future,) what does that mean for how you identify yourself.  Do you still see yourself as strictly male or female, or is gender something that can change depending on your whim?  If you are now an immortal, in a way, do you take more risk, or does the idea of dying over and over again scare you more, and cause you to be overly careful?  Things like these aren't normally brought up in other games, and so it lets Eclipse Phase stand out from other techy, futuristic games.

Do yourself a favor and at least check out the free pfd version, and if there isn't something in the first few short stories or in the descriptions of the types of morphs (bodies) that catches your attention, then no worries, but I would think most would be able to find something interesting.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

For GMs - The Art of Fudging It

My group has started another Warhammer 40K campaign, where our fall-back GM is running it, so I get to actually play, which is a nice change.  We just had the first session a week ago, and it was very successful in all ways that count.  The plot was moved forward, everyone had fun, and bad guys were shot in and about the face.  However, in the day following it, Jim, the GM for this story, felt that the combat wasn't tough enough.  We were blowing through everything he sent at us, and granted, the dice for the most part were on our side, but when we were hit, we were never in any real danger due to our armor, or the guns they were using, or a combination of the two.

This leads me into what I want to talk about today, the Art of Fudging It.  Jim was taking combat servitors and a smattering of lesser and greater demons from the books and throwing them at us.  Now we are playing at the Ascension level in Dark Heresy with a few Rouge Trader characters in the mix.  And we are all around 22,000 exp characters, so nothing to sneeze at.  We also have the gear that could be expected at that level of play, and are pretty sure of ourselves.  We are well past the frailness of playing a lowly Acolyte in service to an Inquisitor we have yet to meet, so we are said Inquisitor and his small but proficient band of ass-kickers and tech-savants. 

What this all means is those same combat servitors, even with their arm mounted auto-stubbers, will not stand a chance when you use them as written.  So this is where you take the NPCs in spirit instead of as written.

Define the Threat Level

The first step is to decide how tough whatever it is should be.  If it is a pile of faceless enemies, they are a low threat.  Their purpose is to die at the hands of the PCs and maybe just soak up enough of the PCs resources to make the Big Bad fight that much more difficult.  It isn't a matter on if these threats will die, but how the PCs go about it that will determine what kind of success they will have in the near future.  If the players decide to use their stash of C4 explosive on the hordes of enemies, so be it, but now they are out that when they are faced with a tank.  Granted they got past the horde fight quicker, but good luck taking out the tank's armor with your pistol, sword, and can-do attitude.

At this level, barring any miraculous rolls from the NPCs the damage to the characters is minimal.  Know what the players defences are (this can be armor points, hit points, stamina scores, or whatever the 'soak pool' of your system of choice is), and make sure that the guns are doing just a touch over what the characters are capable of soaking.  You may have a player or two with an effective soak magnitudes better than the rest, and I am sure he/she paid good character points to get that way, so let him feel a bit indestructible against lower level minions.  They may get a lucky shot in, or they may figure out they need to bring the bigger guns out against him.  This way you can have that one faceless NPC enemy that has the bazooka or giant laser or three story tall sword, and not just destroy the PCs with smaller soak pools or smaller hit points.  Everyone will feel challenged, and so the combat should be a bore no one then.

Use Weapons That Are Equal Opportunity

By that I mean use weapons that should affect all of the players the same.  If they are have around the same amount of hit points, but the PC's armor values are vastly different (like as can be the case in WH40K where one player has full power armor and one is still rocking a body glove), use a high penetration, moderate damage weapon.  If it hits it will do around the same damage to everyone, since the penetration is useless against those with little or no armor. 

This can also be something that doesn't do standard damage, but things like poisons delivered via a gas.  Your players will either be able to do something about it or not, but the lethality will be more or less the same for everyone. 

There are also usually 'caster' types, and when magic, or high level tech in some settings, comes into play, then all the rules are more then flexible.  Now you have access to things that can bypass the defences of your most armored up PC, and if it affects them differently based on other stats.  So the character with the high Willpower, or Intelligence, or any other stat that is not usually the 'soak pool' stat can be the tough one or the tank in that particular fight.  Doing this kind of change up can keep the players on their toes by changing up the party dynamics every now and then.  It is interesting to see how the player that is decked out in full plate that is used to standing in the front of the group reacts when he realizes the current enemy's attacks affect the mind, and he is no longer the best one to take the brunt of the attacks.  Does he stay within his perceived role and still try to take one for the team, or can he adapt and let the mage-type be front and center in the battle of wills while he finds another niche he can fill in the conflict.

Just Lie

This one you can't overuse, but it is important to keep in mind.  Table top gaming is for the fun of the story as it plays out, and because of this, if something threatens to limit that fun or the awe of the story, then it should be ignored.  This is even more so when it is an errant die roll that threatens the story.  A lucky shot that was meant to be just for flavor as the handful of enemies scatters away from the PCs shouldn't be the killing blow to one of the heroes, unless that makes for an interesting story hook in and of itself, but don't let your game be thrown off the rails because of something like this.  If the players are all looking forward to a big final confrontation with the Big Bad in the next room in the scenario above, and the one PC who was betrayed by the Bid Bad shouldn't be killed by a no-named NPC in the room before, maybe seriously maimed so his defeat or victory over his betrayer is that much more climatic.  So instead of using the max damage you rolled, use half of it, or let the player make a stamina or toughness test to make it through to see this out, and depending if they make or don't make that they are at the 'One Hit Point Left' or you will die after this, but you will see this through. 

Likewise, when the final confrontation happens, and the Big Bad uses his world ending power, and you roll all 1s for damage, let a few of those be 5s just so the players don't think they have this in the bag.  This fight should be tough, and, depending on your play style and your group, some people shouldn't be walking away from this battle on their own accord, so make sure you give you players the fight that they are expecting.

As I said before, don't use this as an excuse to make it so you, the GM, wins (that shouldn't be your outlook on this at all, anyway, and if it is, please stop GMing), but it is a trick for behind the GM screen to make sure that your game is entertaining for you and your players.  So try to only use it for good.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

WH40K Coversion Rules to Black Crusade

The group recently converted our WH40K Dark Heresy characters to use the newer, cleaner rules of Black Crusade.  The following is the conversion rules we used, as well as some of the rule changes that would impact what our characters had brought with them and how they operated.  Let me know if you and yours have done something similar or if you have any questions about what is below.


  • There are no more ‘simple successes/failures’ if you succeed or fail by less than 10, that is one degree of success, and every full 10 is another degree of success.
  • Good quality Armor does not give 1 AP to the first hit of the round anymore. Now it gives a +5 to Charm or Intimidate checks, depending on the look, armor showing off your trophies would give the bonus to Intimidate, while well kept up gleaming plate would grant it to Charm.


  • Standard attacks now have a +10% to them as default
  • Aiming helps non-single shots / melee attacks
  • Semi Auto has no modifier anymore but is a half action
  • Full Auto has a -10% but is a half action
  • Fatigue only affects Weapon and Ballistic Skill tests, not all rolls (-10% as per usual)
  • Lightning and Swift Attacks have changed to mirror the Full and Semi Auto Attacks, see Talent section below



  • Untrained skills that can be used untrained now have a -20 untrained penalty, no half characteristic

New Skills

New skill = Old skills that are replaced
  • Acrobatics = Acrobatics and Contortionist
  • Athletics = Climb and Swim
  • Awareness = Awareness, Lip Reading and Search
  • Charm = Charm, Blather and Performer
  • Commerce = Barter, Commerce and Evaluate
  • Deceive = Deceive and Disguise
  • Logic = Logic, Gambling and Tactics
  • Linguistics (Certain Language) = Ciphers, Literacy, Secret Tongue and Speak Language
  • Medicae = Chem-Use and Medicae
  • Operate (Type of Vehicle) = Drive and Pilot
  • Parry = New Skill, if you have a WS of 50 or your class has ‘cheap’ WS increases you get it
  • Stealth = Concealment, Silent Move and Shadowing
  • Survival = Survival, Tracking, and Wrangling
  • Tech-Use = Demolitions and Tech-Use
  • Toughness is now used for Carouse


  • For individual skills that you have that are now combined (Demolitions and Tech-Use, for example), set the new replacement skill to the highest level you have of the old skills.
  • New skills go up to +30%, if you have the Talented (Skill) talent, increase that skill to one level up from what you have from the first step

Ascension Mastered Skills

For the Mastered Skills one of three things will happen; the mastered skill will work as it did, the mastered skill will not have an array of skills it effects (the combining of the skills above already did that part of the mastery), but it will bump your rating to +20% as per usual, or the mastered skill will become obsolete, as it combined skills that are combined in other ways now.
  • Athletic Mastery – Masters skills Athletics and Acrobatics
  • Commerce Mastery – Only effects the Commerce skill now
  • Common Lore Mastery – No change
  • Cryptological Mastery – Obsolete (see Linguistic Mastery)
  • Decadent Mastery – Obsolete (see Scholastic Mastery for the Gamble part, and Charismatic Mastery for the Performance part)
  • Charismatic Mastery – No change, includes some Decadent Mastery
  • Driving Mastery – Gives +20% to all ground based Operate skills
  • Fieldcraft Mastery – Combines Navigation (Surface) and the new Survival Skill
  • Forbidden Lore Mastery – No change
  • Investigation Mastery – No change
  • Linguistic Mastery – Loses the Lip Reading Section (see Observation Mastery) and now includes the Cryptological Mastery
  • Observation Mastery – Only effects Awareness and Scrutiny now, other skills already included through Awareness, also takes Lip Reading from Linguistic Mastery
  • Piloting Mastery – Gives +20% to all non-ground based Operate skills
  • Scholastic Mastery – No change
  • Shadow Craft Mastery – Disguise already included in Deceive, otherwise no change
  • Stealth Mastery – All old skills now Stealth, gives +20 to Stealth
  • Tech Lore Mastery – Now effects Tech-Use and Medicae, as other skills are rolled into those
  • Warp Lore Mastery – No change


  • Crushing Blow – Add half your Weapon Skill Bonus to melee damage instead of +2
  • Lightning Strike – Weapon Skill check -10%, one hit per Degree of Success up to a max of the attacker’s Weapon Skill Bonus
  • Mighty Shot – Add half your Ballistic Skill Bonus to ranged damage instead of +2
  • Swift Attack – Weapon skill check, one hit for the first Degree of Success, then another for every two additional Degrees of Success up to a max of the attacker’s Weapon Skill bonus
  • Weapon Training is now based on Weapon Type, not Class, so you know how to use all Las Weapons or none. Basically if you have two styles of a type (pistol and basic, let's say), then you would have that weapon type trained.  If you only have one type, then either you have that weapon fully trained (if you are a class that has high weapon aptitude, like a guardsmen,) or you keep just that specific weapon and type until you get another type.  If you are in Ascension and have Pistol Expertise, then that will stay the way it is.


  • Unnatural Characteristic is now additive, not multiplicative. When you succeed with am Unnatural Rating in the Characteristic you add a number of additional Degrees of Success equal to half your rating. A rating of 3-5 is equivalent to the old x2. Unnatural Speed is gone, as Unnatural Agility now does increase movement ratings
  • Daemonic will also have a Number Rating that adds to the Toughness bonus and stacks with Unnatural Toughness. A rating of 3-5 is the same to how it was in Dark Heresy
  • Brutal Charge will have a number rating that is the amount of bonus damage made on the same round as the charge instead of a flat +3
  • Multiple Limbs will have a number rating that adjusts the modifier instead of a flat amount from Multiple Arms
  • Quadruped no longer multiplies movement rates, but rather adds a +2 for every extra pair of legs
  • Toxic deals damage to anyone who successfully attacks the creature with Toxic, also has a number rating which is the penalty to the Toughness test equal to -10% times the rating

Weapon Qualities

  • Concussive (X) – Rating times 10 is the penalty to the Toughness check, old weapons are a (1) Rating
  • Felling (X) – Reduces the Unnatural Toughness of the target by X, old weapons with Felling (1) should be a rating of 3-5 to match the changed Unnatural Characteristic Talent
  • Flame, Spray – Old Flame quality is now these two qualities. Something that has a chance to set someone alight is Flame, where something that you don’t test Ballistics has Spray, old Flame weapons have both
  • Primitive – No longer a weapon type, now has a number rating with is the max damage on a rolled d10
  • Reliable – Now jams on a natural 00 roll
  • Scatter – At point blank range adds +10% to hit and +3 damage, at short range adds +10% to hit, and at long range or above takes away 3 damage to a min of 0
  • Shocking – Character is stunned for number of rounds equal to Degrees of Failure on the Toughness test, not half the damage taken
  • Snare (X) – Now has a number rating, Agility test is at a penalty of X time 10% to not be entangled, old weapons are Snare (1)
  • Toxic (X) – Same as the Toxic Trait above, old weapons are Toxic (1)
  • Twin-Linked – Double the weapon’s RoF, wielder can choose to either get a +10% to hit, or score an additional hit if they get at least one successful hit
  • Unbalanced, Unwieldy – These weapons can no longer be used for Lightning Attacks

Psychic Powers

I am not going to go each of the powers, as there are just too many, but here are the main conversion points:
  • Starting at an easy (+30) Willpower Test, each range of 5 in the Threshold (TH) increase the difficulty of the Focus Power Test (a Willpower Test).
    • So a power with a TH of 7 would be a Willpower Test at+20, while a TH of 27 would be a Willpower Test at -20
    • Anything that modifies the TH now changes the Focus Power Test
      • Power Well, which used to add to the dice rolled, now decreases the difficulty by one level (Power Well 1 would make a -10 test go to 0, and Power Well 2 would have a -10 test go to +10)
      • Mastery of a discipline decreased the TH by 5 in Dark Heresy, so now that decreases the difficulty by one level in Black Crusade rules
  • All psychic powers have the Concentration subtype.  Any that work on an unwilling target also have the Attack subtype
  • Range is now a function of the Psy Rating level the power is activated at.  What we did was take the static range in the Dark Heresy series, and divide it by two.  This is the range factor for the converted power, so something that had a range of 20m in Dark Heresy is now 10 x PR in meters.  This was kind of a judgement call, doing it this way made some similar powers between the systems pretty close range-wise, but some powers were closer to the old Dark Heresy value divided by three.  My group went with dividing them all by two, though, since it made the math a bit easier, and it makes the PC a bit more capable, so why not
  • Powers that were sustained in Dark Heresy are still sustainable in Black Crusade.  Most are Free to sustain, but the rules to have multiple powers active still apply.  Black Crusade does this differently since there is no Threshold anymore, but it does work the same after the above conversion rules are done.  Some powers in Dark Heresy say they take a full or a half action to sustain, so that would still be the case after the conversion
  • All overbleed is gone, things that were overbleed of 5 are now for each additional Degree of Success, and those that are overbleed of 10 are every other extra Degree of Success
  • Powers that required an opposed Willpower Test after the power was activated now use an Opposed Willpower Test as their Focus Power Test, so the secondary WP Test is unnecessary. 
  • As a general rule, anything that used the Willpower Bonus in the power now uses the Psy Rating that the power was activated at.  This could be the number of targets, or the number of minutes or rounds the power lasts, all dependant on how the power works

Welcome and the Master Plan

Welcome to Throwing Polyhedrons, my little portal to the webs on my thoughts of table top RPing, with a sprinkling of other, similar hobbies.  I am not entirely sure on the schedule yet, but I plan on having things like reviews of systems / gaming worlds, random thoughts that can translate into your games, excerpts from my own experiences to help illustrate points or to call attention to certain tropes, and a bit of random dialog on video games and other media that coincide with general RPer tastes.

A bit about myself to put everything in perspective, I am a 12-year role-player.  In my current group I am the default GM, but I do get to flex my player muscles every now and then.  We are currently on a Dark Heresy, Ascension level campaign that I started about a year ago, and have recently passed the reigns over to one of the players so I can get mine.  I am a bit biased and usually play caster classes (or whatever the equivalent is if it is a hard Sci-Fi game,) but not exclusively.

I hope that everyone will find something interesting here as we get this off the ground, and I do appreciate any and all feedback on what you would like to see more of, or stuff you never want me to ramble on about again.

Thanks for visiting.  Roll initiative.