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D&D 5E My critic on VRGtR

They’re quite good! In a nutshell, survivors are simple NPC statblocks that come in 4 varieties; very similar to 1st-level Sidekicks. However, instead of gaining levels in a simplified version of one of the core 4 classes as Sidekicks do, Survivors only gain an extra hit die and Max HP increase (rolled only; no option to take the average is presented), and can pick one of a small handful of new abilities when they level up. They’re very simple abilities, ranging from “gain one additional 1st level spell slot and learn one 1st level spell from the cleric/wizard list” to “you can use your reaction to take a hit for someone within 5 feet of you, and reduce the damage if you’re using a shield” to “when you fail a saving throw you can scream to add a bonus to the roll that can potentially turn it into a success, but the scream can be heard from up to 300 feet away.” They also only go up to 3rd level by default.

The book suggests that Survivors are intended to be used temporarily; either for short one-off adventures, or to allow the players to portray doomed NPCs in nightmare sequences, flashbacks, and the like during longer campaigns. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t run a full campaign with Survivor PCs, if you really want to make the PCs feel powerless.
or to party level 0 pc's.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
or to party level 0 pc's.
Yes, this too!

Also, quick correction to my previous post about Survivors: the two Survivor Talents that grant you additional spells only give you additional spells known, not additional spell slots. Both the Apprentice and Disciple stat blocks are stuck with 2 1st level spells per day over all 3 levels, they just gain additional spells they can cast with those slots (they start with only Minor Illusion and Grease or Guidance and Cure Wounds respectively.)
 

Yes, this too!

Also, quick correction to my previous post about Survivors: the two Survivor Talents that grant you additional spells only give you additional spells known, not additional spell slots. Both the Apprentice and Disciple stat blocks are stuck with 2 1st level spells per day over all 3 levels, they just gain additional spells they can cast with those slots (they start with only Minor Illusion and Grease or Guidance and Cure Wounds respectively.)
still more than the og wizard.
 

Azuresun

Adventurer
This I think is a fair critique. I haven't read the book myself yet, but if that's literally all the book says about it (less than a sentence, a clause really) than it's woefully insufficient. Cosmic Horror is built from the ground up around a definition of "madness" that, at best, makes light of a thing that for many people is quite serious, and at worst, perpetuates negative, harmful stereotypes about people living with such challenges as schizophrenia, paranoia, or delusions.

I think it's possible to play with the underlying tensions and horror that comes from intellectual and spiritual degradation and corruption without falling back on tired "madness" tropes, or something as asinine as rolling on a table of "mental illnesses".

A lot of the time with cosmic horror, the characters technically aren't going insane, they're going "super-sane", seeing the true nature of the universe with an unhealthy degree of clarity and disillusionment. Of course, this often gets conflated with actual mental illness (including by the RPG for a long time), but that stigmatising connection isn't required. Bloodborne represents it as Insight, which makes magic more powerful and lets you see parts of the setting in a different (usually more horrific) way, but also makes you more vulnerable to monster attacks.

(Really, Bloodborne is a very good example of how to do cosmic horror without the baggage.)
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
A lot of the time with cosmic horror, the characters technically aren't going insane, they're going "super-sane", seeing the true nature of the universe with an unhealthy degree of clarity and disillusionment. Of course, this often gets conflated with actual mental illness (including by the RPG for a long time), but that stigmatising connection isn't required. Bloodborne represents it as Insight, which makes magic more powerful and lets you see parts of the setting in a different (usually more horrific) way, but also makes you more vulnerable to monster attacks.

(Really, Bloodborne is a very good example of how to do cosmic horror without the baggage.)
That sounds awesome and a really great way of handling it. Damn, I wish I could grok Bloodborne's combat better. I love everything about it but I just could not git gud at it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
That sounds awesome and a really great way of handling it. Damn, I wish I could grok Bloodborne's combat better. I love everything about it but I just could not git gud at it.
One of the biggest things that tends to trip people up about Soulsborne combat is that enemy attack telegraphs tell you where to dodge, not when to dodge like in most games. You get very few invincibility frames when you dodge, and the timing of enemy attacks can be hard to predict. But it’s generally pretty easy to predict where they’re going to attack and dodge out of the way of that. Also, if you’re like me and suck at memorizing enemy attack patterns, use a fast weapon like the threaded cane and just swing like crazy when you see an opening. Bloodborne rewards aggressive play, and most enemies can be stun locked pretty easily.
 
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Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
One of the biggest things that tends to trip people up about Soulsborne combat is that enemy attack telegraphs tell you where to dodge, not when to dodge like in most games. You get very few invincibility frames when you dodge, and the timing of enemy attacks can be hard to predict. But it’s generally pretty easy to predict where they’re going to attack and dodge out of the way of that. Also, if you’re like me and suck at memorizing enemy attack patterns, use a fast weapon like the threaded cane and just swing like crazy when you see an opening. Bloodborne rewards aggressive play, and most enemies can be stun locked pretty easily.
Yeah, I tried all that. Dark Souls I got and platinumed; but I just never really clicked with Bloodborne. I did tend to prefer defensive playing though. And I definitely never got parry timing down.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Yeah, I tried all that. Dark Souls I got and platinumed; but I just never really clicked with Bloodborne. I did tend to prefer defensive playing though. And I definitely never got parry timing down.
Ah, gotcha. Yeah, I suck at parrying too, which is why the Blades of Mercy are my favorite weapon. Who needs to parry when you can just spam R1 until your stamina’a almost out and then dodge away 😆
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
A lot of the time with cosmic horror, the characters technically aren't going insane, they're going "super-sane", seeing the true nature of the universe with an unhealthy degree of clarity and disillusionment. Of course, this often gets conflated with actual mental illness (including by the RPG for a long time), but that stigmatising connection isn't required.

Simply considering that horror creatures are real and acting upon this knowledge would make the neighbours think one has lost his marbles. Let's suppose you buy a nice doll as a birthday present for your daughter, and despite being wrapped in a present package, you just trip on it while cooking fries... You were lucky not to fall and potentially kill yourself with the hot cooking oil. You put the doll back in its package... then you see it by the chair in your living room, which is burning. Back in the package, AGAIN... You were sure it was inside, though... then you go take a nap and you're awaken by a sharp pain... the doll is in your bed, and a knife stuck in your leg... You take the knife, stab the doll, burn it in the fireplace until it's ash.

Two hours later, your spouse get backs home and say "hey look, I've found a really nice doll on the stairs... it was surely abandonned, maybe we should give it to our daughter?". It is the doll, except with very slight traces of sooth on it. Chances are you'll yell in terror and smash the doll with a hammer. What will your spouse think? That you're not right in your mind. It has nothing to do with actual madness being contracted by being exposed to cosmic horror.

If you know that 90° degrees angles attract hounds of Tindalos, it's rational to live in a round hut and put plaster over all the angles of your room. People will certainly comment on your mental health. If you know, on top of that, that an hostile distorted copy of you springs out of a mirror when you see your reflection in it and try to kill you, you'll smash them with a small hammer. At some point assault someone wearing mirrored reflective sunglasses. Explaining why you did that to a judge could lead you to being declared insane (after judicial experts can attest that you truly believe this nonsense and your ability to reason is abolished completely as a result). Same if you decide to protect yourself by tearing your eyes off to avoid the risk of having to hurt an innocent passer-by.

I am not sure where the idea that looking at Cthulhu would make one catch a bona fide mental illness comes from. Mind crumbling totally seems more a trope of the original material than people suddenly getting anorexia seeing strange things in the woods... I guess it was introduced as a gamist penalty to have a SAN score lowered, to avoid a style of play where players say "it's alright, I'm at 90 SAN, I can tackle anything from the Myth without having to worry [and plan to retire the character around 30 SAN].
 
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Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
FWIW, I don't think they're using the term "lineage" to replace "race" in this book. The dhampir, hexblood, and reborn aren't actually races - they are more like conditions that are super-imposed on existing characters of any race, replacing some, but not all, of their inherent racial traits.
 

ECMO3

Hero
It’s a tricky line to walk, right? On the one hand, options are always good, and options for significantly de-powered PCs would be highly appropriate for a horror toolbox book. On the other hand, how far can you take it before it feels like “why are we playing D&D instead of CoC in a fantasy setting?” I think the Survivor rules strike a nice balance. A great option for one-offs, the idea to use them to play out flashbacks and nightmares is awesome, and if you want super low-power PC options, they fit the bill.
The problem with super low power PCs is you need super low power monsters or a mechanic put in there to allow characters to avoid fights completely. You can't have fights with werewolves and vampires with weak survivor-type characters and expect to actually survive.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
The problem with super low power PCs is you need super low power monsters or a mechanic put in there to allow characters to avoid fights completely. You can't have fights with werewolves and vampires with weak survivor-type characters and expect to actually survive.
I mean, it could be argued that not being able to expect to survive is appropriate for horror. But, yes, it’s not going to be the right way to go for everyone. I myself probably won’t be running a survivor PCs game. If I want that kind of horror I’ll use a different system. But, it’s good that the option is there for folks who want it.
 


Stormonu

Legend
The problem with super low power PCs is you need super low power monsters or a mechanic put in there to allow characters to avoid fights completely. You can't have fights with werewolves and vampires with weak survivor-type characters and expect to actually survive.
Not necessarily, the players have to be willing to accept a different style of play. The game will likely be about gathering the right materials, luring the enemy to the right spot or otherwise not engaging in a straight-up fight. Allies and/or some of the party might not make it to the end alive, but with the survivors being so mundane anyways, it's easy enough to have a pool of extras the players can pull from if someone bites the dust early on.

It's a case of, instead of the players choosing to play, say, the video game Colonial Marines, they're choosing to play Alien Isolation instead.

Way back in 2E, there was a 1st level adventure called Night of the Vampire. Throughout it, the characters were collecting information about the module's vampire, and at the end if the characters had played smart, they would have the tools and knowledge to defeat the vampire. The range of outcomes was quite varied depending on how well the PCs did - it could range from a TPK if they did poorly, a character dying or sacrificing themselves to bring an end to the vampire with middling effort and as a best case scenario, they find it's lair in the day, defeat its guardians and stake the thing without great risk to themselves with direct confrontation.

And I can assure you, from first-hand experience, this game style does work. It's the exact same gamestyle my group and I used recently playing in the Aliens RPG, where the characters were playing "ordinary" space truckers vs. two "abominations" and a true xenomorph. Out of three players and six or so characters used through the game, only one survivor made it ("The last survivor of Chronos I, signing off...") - and none of the "aliens" ended up being killed...
 

FWIW, I don't think they're using the term "lineage" to replace "race" in this book. The dhampir, hexblood, and reborn aren't actually races - they are more like conditions that are super-imposed on existing characters of any race, replacing some, but not all, of their inherent racial traits.
Which, mechanically, amount to a subrace of any race. (or lineage, if you prefer). Whatever the wording you prefer or apply it amount to the same thing. At some point, I care more about the effects and implications of these will have on a character story and how it will affect its social interaction with the NPCs that the character will come across. As I said, Ravenloft is mostly human based/inclined. I doubt that the first two would be welcomed with open arms by the inhabitants instead of pitchforks and torches. Even the reborn might have a hard time...
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
Which, mechanically, amount to a subrace of any race. (or lineage, if you prefer). Whatever the wording you prefer or apply it amount to the same thing. At some point, I care more about the effects and implications of these will have on a character story and how it will affect its social interaction with the NPCs that the character will come across. As I said, Ravenloft is mostly human based/inclined. I doubt that the first two would be welcomed with open arms by the inhabitants instead of pitchforks and torches. Even the reborn might have a hard time...

I meant that some folks seem to think that WotC's use of "lineage" in this book implies that they will be adopting that term instead of using "race" moving forward. As in "my lineage is elf". I don't think this is the case.
 

I meant that some folks seem to think that WotC's use of "lineage" in this book implies that they will be adopting that term instead of using "race" moving forward. As in "my lineage is elf". I don't think this is the case.
Whatever... race or lineage is exactly the same mechanic. It is just a change of word. I prefer "race" but for some the out of game context makes that word offensive. So lineage is as good as any but the mechanic will be same nonetheless.
 

Is... Giving the audience what they want a bad thing...?
No it is not a bad thing to give an audience what they want, it just feels like they gave a very narrow slice of the audience what they wanted. Maybe it is just me, but this book just falls flat and does not add much of anything interesting to the game.
 

No it is not a bad thing to give an audience what they want, it just feels like they gave a very narrow slice of the audience what they wanted. Maybe it is just me, but this book just falls flat and does not add much of anything interesting to the game.
then what do you want instead? as if it is just what we had before it can grow sales which is anathema for a corporation.
 

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