Sunday, August 4, 2013

SUETHULU: Specialist Snowflake

Now we get to where I made my character, and finally I can work from memory.
I knew, from the prequel campaign, that we had a fairly high probability of, at some point, being cut off from any of the technology our characters might come to rely on. Admittedly the party wasn’t mechanically equal to the last one, but I was still counting on being banished to somewhere undeveloped.
At the same time, Darya was running into problems; her weaponry, while highly effective, was also highly illegal, and she was slightly na├»ve about buying weapons on the black market. This was partly a run of bad dice rolls on her Streetwise checks, which Marty interpreted to mean she would walk into a bar, order a beer, and ask the bartender, sotto voce, if (s)he happened to have any grenades that would fit a 40mm launcher “like this one here.” This did not go over well. Curiously, neither their GIA employers nor their extensive contacts had any ability to supply them either. So I wanted to make a character who was good with tools, in order to ameliorate the inability of our veterans of organized crime to find black-market guns in Chicago.
I also had to accommodate Marty’s addition to my character: in order to fit me into the plot, I had to be a member of the Scions of Forever. Ohh, boy.
The Scions are a cult of Yog-Sothoth, and they’re unrepentant trolls. They believe the future is inevitable, but work to bring it about “more easily” according to some divinely ordained and thoroughly inscrutable plan. In practice, this means they do whatever the GM wants, and are collectively worse than Eldrad for “just as planned” foolery. They also have a blanket exemption from pursuit by the Hounds of Tindalos, no matter when they go or what they do.
Okay, fine, I’m game. What, precisely, does Yog-Sothoth want me to do?
“You have no idea.”
This is Marty’s elaboration on how the Scions work. Apparently they have no cult structure as such; they just get visions from Yog-Sothoth that they must then interpret, and they’re left to their own devices to act on their conclusions. The above-mentioned freedom from the Hounds does not imply they’d ordinarily attract their attention, but if they are transported through time through some other means, they won’t get eaten. In effect, you get nothing for being a Scion; it’s just a volunteer organization with ritual magic and semi-random activity.
Okay. Fine, whatever. So I have to be a Scion, which means I need the Ritual skill to be able to check if Yog-Sothoth has new visions for me. At least it’s only one skill.
I also have to be parapsychic, to test that part of the system. This is a problem, because “eldritch casting” is far from done, and it replaces half of your class features with dangerously draining sub-sorcerer casting that gets worse as you level. Parapsychics in particular have a “burn” mechanic that works entirely by GM fiat, at least in Marty’s game. At any time, in response to any stimulus, all of my powers might activate for an indefinite period. “It’s more likely if you use them a lot.”
Well, isn’t that just dandy.
I also have to be favorably disposed toward Tagers, because I’m going to serve as the mediator between the Tagers and the party just as the party are mediating the Tagers’ introduction to the GIA. This, I have no problem with at all. He also wanted me to be secret-agent-like, but I couldn’t be too involved with the government or the Tagers wouldn’t trust me. Well then.
I sleep on it, and come back with the following: Given that the OIS forces parapsychics to publicly identify themselves (and face serious stigma) and imprisons them indefinitely if they do not comply, I figure it’s not unreasonable to think that there exist people who live as far off the grid as possible to avoid OIS attention. Altruistic people might even help others do the same.
I proposed being part of a small group of unregistered parapsychics who worked to mitigate OIS interference with their lives. I envisioned a toned-down, slightly more serious Liberal Crime Squad as run by the ideological offspring of V and the best of the Joker. Since the Tagers, and their support system the Eldritch Society, were in the crosshairs of the OIS just as much as we were, I thought it plausible that we might at least have the phone number of a Tager pack, which in combination with my SoF affiliation would explain what I was doing facilitating the Tagers talking to the GIA agents of the party. Given the Scions’ precognitive capabilities, it struck me that sabotage was infinitely more feasible than combat – and given their beliefs, an individualist Scion obsessed with personal freedom seemed deliciously ironic, and something to struggle with as the plot went on.
The above was what I asked Marty about, stressing that I’m totally fine with abandoning this and coming up with something less involved; I’m fully conscious of my tendancy to let a good idea get away from me and define a character that might not fit. He was receptive, although he pointed out that nothing I could make would pierce OIS power armor. I was hoping for this; I didn’t want to hurt people who weren’t personally responsible for oppressing us, and he quite readily confirmed that the agents in the field had no capacity to modify their orders. Judging from his face, I don’t think he wanted me to be okay with this. More restrictions came; I couldn’t have done anything particularly noteworthy, because then I’d have been killed by the OIS. I had “only” a few dozen people in this “fool’s errand,” and anyone else who knew would consider us traitors and possibly insane, because “the OIS is not evil, dude.” This was also fine by me. If they were benevolent, I was tilting at windmills, and I was already quixotic, ha ha.
I did make a point of asking him if this was okay. I had bought a lot of science Knowledge skills, applied sciences, and demolitions skills, and as I told him, if he let me play this I was going to play it to the hilt and be as creative as he let me—partially to test the system, partly to lend verisimilitude to the character, but partly because it’s just what I do.
He said, and I quote: “Well, this is a system test. Go ahead, do your worst, dude.”
What followed was a lot of me trying to figure out the mechanics of waging a guerilla war against the OIS in an arcology, from the chemistry to the strategy. It was Marty who reacted to my questions about the availability of high-proof alcohol by asking if I was planning to be Irish. Well, I am now; if he’s going to assume I’m drinking it, so will his NPCs, and I’ve suddenly got a reason to carry around several liters of flammable fluid. Ditto cigarettes; smoking kills, but it’s an excuse to carry a lighter.
As for outfit, I asked if Chicago was the sort of city that had only one fashion. Emphatic no. So would, say, a greatcoat go unnoticed? Apparently it would.
So how much stuff can I hide under a greatcoat, anyway? Oh, so they don’t like greatcoats now?
 I ended up with this, although I swear I had no idea the game existed when I started:
It was generally agreed I looked more like Walter Kovacs, though. Actually, “[my] 16 charisma was more force of personality than visual appeal” for no given reason, and that was fine by me. I don’t like playing pretty characters, usually.
I ended up with anomalously high stats, although Marty declined my offer to reroll them so as to be a more useful test of the system. Randomly rolling two 16s and two 17s does not a particularly valid test make. For the curious, my Strength and Wisdom were 11 and 13, respectively; everything else was just amazingly high. I know it sounds all virtuous and self-sacrificing, but I knew Marty; high stats make him nervous.
Thus was Cael O’Caelleigh put together. I wasn’t allowed to have founded the “little parapsychic underground railroad” that I promptly called the Underground Slidewalk, so instead I was the grandson of one of the founding members, and had been in New York until the NY arcology fell to the Nazzadi’s all-mecha armies in the first War. It was there, Marty decided, that I attracted the attention of the Scions of Forever, although he left it to me to define how.
Apparently the only thing the Scions notice is furthering their plans, which of course I could not know before I join. I suggested having done something to save my own hide that had, coincidentally, helped the Scions advance their plans. Approved in theory. Okay, say I, how long could we have stayed in the city after it supposedly fell? Apparently no time at all; there were no survivors at all. In that case, could  something set off in the sewers for an unrelated reason destabilized the ground sufficiently that one of the mecha tripped? They are apparently very fond of “badass” jumps where they land hard, and in any case they move far faster is safe given their ability to stop. That speed is why the above sequence of events is apparently impossible – but then, it was a stretch anyway. Similarly, I can’t have come across an injured/trapped Scion during the fighting and helped them out. “Seeing the future is a great way to avoid getting shot.”
At this point he threw up his hands and said I was recruited because the Scions saw me helping them in the future, because “that’s how timey-wimey stuff works.” If I didn’t understand it, it was because my rank in the organization was too low to think “in that particular flavor of crazy.” Okay, fine. The Scions were also somehow the reason I was parapsychic “because paradox.” This extended to having been behind the powers I’d chosen – suggestion, force bolt, and Mass, which let me use either of the former two on two targets at once.
Suggestion was hilarious, by the way. I had to be within 30’ of the target and verbally say what I wanted them to do while testing vs. being knocked unconscious by my power. If I succeeded, it might get the target to do something “if it’s in line with their basic nature and they already want to do it.” Huzzah, I can be sort of persuasive.
That, “obviously unreal, small visual-only illusions”, and the ability to create a mental pistol shot were apparently worth half my class features. At low-to-mid level. To be fair, it was supposed to be Force Bolt, Illusion, and Telepathy. Then I asked about eventually using high-level Telepathy to, for example, assist an ally in staying focused on a task despite distractions by continuously reading their mental state, damping their extraneous thoughts, and writing it back to them. Boom, Telepathy is now three different powers: Suggestion, Reception, and Communication. Also, I was told “telepathy doesn’t allow access to the ‘mental hardware’ of the recipient. You’re influencing the mind, not the brain.” Okay then. Force Bolt was similarly redefined several times after I asked if it could dent things or detonate shock-sensitive explosives. It is now “just a projection of damage.”
Apparently the OIS does a lot more scanning of the arcology than one would think. The only ‘realistic’ way for my character to exist was by hiding in an abandoned bar in the undercity, which suited me just fine. Then it was the structurally unsound shell of an abandoned bar right next to the actual city so I couldn’t do “anything noticeable”, which I didn’t like as much. It stayed that way.
So that’s Cael: freedom fighter for parapsychics (and small-time Dibbler-esque con man) by day, individualist Scion by night, lives in a bar/chem lab with (now) a dozen similar “activist hobos”. He joined the Scions because they said if he proved he was responsible he might get a Puppy of Tindalos. Good at improvising, especially energetic things, thanks to having made the Computer Use check to have all the old Army technical manuals on improvised munitions. Never without a messenger bag full of tools, which cost most of my starting wealth – which, by the way, he cut in half “because your character wouldn’t be this maladjusted if he were rich.” What, and I never stole anything? I’m vaguely insulted.
This character was built to be hard for the GM to shut down without specifically trying, and I don’t like building characters that way, but I liked Cael. He was easy to fit into things, and he filled a lot of gaps in the party’s skill base without overshadowing anyone. He also had obvious buttons to push, and maybe had some plot hooks with the Slidewalk if there was a gap in the plot, but his ideology was broad enough not to conflict with the party. I mean, it was almost literally “FREEEEEDOMMMM!” Ordinarily I’d shy away from making a character with an entourage, but Jin had his GIA underlings and Darya had contacts so it seemed weirder not to.
Besides, he was fun. Anyone can walk away from an explosion, but there’s a certain amount of style to walking away while whistling a David Rovics song.
Okay, enough of my nostalgia. Next time, plot.


  1. "Randomly rolling two 16s and two 17s does not a particularly valid test make."

    Well, if the game was being written by anyone competent, it would - a game can break with uberstats. Of course, this idiot thinks his game will 'break' if the PCs _do_ anything, so you were kind of doomed from Day Zero.

    "This character was built to be hard for the GM to shut down without specifically trying"

    He tried. Boy howdy, he tried mightily.

  2. I've read the Elfslayer Chronicles. The DM hated what the player was doing, and tried everything she could in-game to shut him down.

    Key word there is "in-game". Elfslayer was just so damn good at covering his tracks and pulling off plots that, without resorting to DM Fiat, she just couldn't stop him, so he got away scot-free. That's some good DMing, even if the setting was bad.

    Marty here is technically doing the same, but when the system beig used is your own and is being actively modified... Stungeon Master. Because why should fanfiction be the only place for self-important Marty Stus?

  3. I like Cael. He's a walking stereotype, but he's got panache.

  4. High stats make him nervouse? hes turned telepathy into 3 different skills? halved ur starting money based on nothing? Dudes, this is not a GM who is making a game for fun, he just wants to dominate you, and you guys giving him the keys to the multiverse is setting yourselves up for failure.

    And the Gm shouldn't be actively against you, Guys, please, walk away.

    1. reply = very late but this was a while ago, dude. Obviously, they're not still seeing the guy. At least, I hope so, for their sake. And back then, as they explained, it was hard to tell the different flavors of insanity apart with just how messed up their school was and what was stress-based and what wasn't.