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re: Weird Fiction in Role-Playing Games
In Elder Sign
liamorourke11
Jun 08, 2020
Warhammer 40k is the only Warhammer setting that I'm really familiar with and it can be a really hard setting to get your head around. They're drawing from almost 40 years worth of development and things have been changed, retconned, and developed a lot over that time. The setting steals things from all kinds of other settings and genres and mashes them together in bizarre ways. Space marines are giant superhuman warriors, some of them are kind of like standard SF marines, but some others are basically Teutonic knights, and one group is pretty much vampires. There's a group of cultists who worship the star gods just like in Mythos stuff, but those star gods are really aliens and some of them are the kind of aliens that eat all biological matter on a planet and some of them are basically the aliens from Aliens. At one point there was a character called something like Inquisitor Obiwan Sherlock Clousseau and the most well known ork character in the game was probably named after Margaret Thatcher. Black Library, the publishing arm of the company that makes Warhammer, also churns out books at an astonishing rate and has a huge stable of authors of varying quality. I've read only a very few of the books, but my impression is that generally anything involving space marines as main characters is mostly going to be about them punching each other, which I've found incredibly dull and mostly seem to exist to please the kind of people who make pew pew noises while playing Warhammer. Much more interesting are the books that follow more minor characters who don't have corresponding miniatures and whose stories don't involve shooting aliens or other space marines as the primary plot. Dan Abnett has written a series of books about two inquisitor characters that are basically mystery stories where the main characters are more or less secret agents. One of those characters is a guy who has to live in a floating life support chair because an airplane crashed on him. I forgot all about Eclipse Phase. I have the first edition book and love the setting, but it feels like one of those games that's great to read but a nightmare to try to actually play. IIRC the second editon should be coming out soon. You're right about it sharing a lot with Altered Carbon, which is also getting an RPG soon. There's not a whole lot of similarity between Coriolis and Eclipse Phase other than the portals, but the portals in Coriolis are purely used to facilitate space travel between different star systems. They're a lot like the portals in Mass Effect except way more unreliable and janky. There's also a lot that's not really developed or described well in the Coriolis core book. The dark between the stars gets a few mentions, but really just to say that people think it's evil and spooky. Similarly the timeline is kind of vague. I think they did this intentionally so they could develop it more in future books. There are a couple of podcasts that have done actual play sessions of Coriolis, but Mud and Blood is the only one I've listened to all the way through. I meant to mention Trail of Cthulhu in my previous comment. I'm biased because I'm not really a fan of Ken and Robins games. They have some neat ideas, but mechanically I think they're kind of garbage. I've got a copy of Trail of Cthulhu on my bookshelf and the core mechanic of the Gumshoe system seems to exist to solve the problem of "what happens when the game master just isn't very good, or is lazy". What I mean by that is that I don't think any game should ever have a situation where the PCs can't move ahead because they didn't find some part of the story. It's the GM's job to keep the story moving and make sure that the players do have what they need to progress the story. There shouldn't have to be an entire system built around that.
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re: Weird Fiction in Role-Playing Games
In Elder Sign
liamorourke11
Jun 07, 2020
I want to second Tales From the Loop, which is having a bit of a moment right now with the recent Amazon show and the upcoming board game. There's another game called Kids of Bikes which I *think* is a lot closer to Stranger Things in tone, but I'm not too familiar with it. Thanks for mentioning Over the Edge. I got introduced to that by the CCG that came out in the late 90s and its a great setting. Free League, the publisher of Tales From the Loop also publishes a game called Coriolis, which is a science fiction game with a lot of weird fiction and horror elements. The basic setting is a far off galaxy, colonized hundreds or maybe thousands of years ago and completely cut off from Earth by a massive war. There are a lot of ancient artifacts, forgotten awful technology, and weird conspiracies. Everyone in the universe believes in and prays to the nine Icons, who aren't quite gods, and might not be real, but can definitely affect things for good or ill, and the universal evil force is called "The Dark Between the Stars" and will definitely ruin your life and make you insane. The setting also has a kind of middle eastern pastiche flavor, which is a cool departure from the normal eurocentric settings we usually see in RPGs. The Mud and Blood podcast does some actual play sessions of Coriolis and it's pretty good. They also do an actual play for a game called Mothership, which is an indie game that's all about horror in space. The game pretty much assumes that most of your characters will either be dead or insane by the end of the game, having been killed by aliens, insane AIs, or driven mad by haunted spaceships and portals to hell. The game includes a couple of really great tables for generating all kinds of weird and terrible things that the characters can find or be killed by. Lastly, you guys mentioned Warhammer and there are a lot of weird fiction elements in that game. The setting has always borrowed liberally from many genres, and there are a lot of cultists, ancient star gods, monsters and demons from outside of space and time, and other cosmic terrors running around. As far as RPGs in the setting go Dark Heresy is probably the best for weird fiction gaming. The game casts the characters as agents of the Inquisition who are specifically tasked with hunting down all manner of cosmic horrors and mysteries and borrows a lot from games like CoC. There's a pretty extensive insanity system and like in CoC characters can go completely mad from what they've seen and experienced and become NPCs. They can also regain a bit of sanity by spending time praying to the god emperor or mankind or can have their heads blown off by plasma guns or eaten by monsters. The game has a number of really detailed tables for insanity and awful injuries. Dark Heresy was part of a series of 40k RPGs that were published by Fantasy Flight games and are out of print, but the games still have a big following and books are pretty easy to find.
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