[Review] Mists of Akuma (5e); Enter the Animu

[Setting]
Mists of Akuma (2017)
Mike Myler (Storm Bunny Studios)
Summary: The Last Samurai + Legend of the Five Rings + Red Tide + Shadowrun + Dark Heresy + Exalted + Avatar the Last Airbender + Naruto + Blade of the Immortal + Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure + Bleach + Boruto + Boruto’s Son + Attack on Titan + Weebs FUCKING WEEBS

Requested content. 

In preparation for a donation I have decided to wade through a not-inconsiderable 250+ pages of campaign setting material by a mid-sized publisher, apparently fairly popular so I’d get the proper context.

Mists of Akuma is a quintessentially 5e campaign setting, originally made for the grimdark Shadow of the Demon Lord rpg and later converted to 5e but considering its content I am shocked it was not originally made for 5e. This is the most 5e campaign setting to ever campaign in a 5e setting. A bazillion playable races, steampunk, fifteen different martial arts feats, a big flaming fuck you to any sort of versimilitude and half the book is monsters. Mists of Akuma is THIC and bizarrely anachronistic, an almost 90s genre crossbreed of every vaguely asian-themed rpg that came out in the last two decades, mixed with cyberpunk themes, garbled post-colonialist post-gender roles subtext, insane japanese ghost monsters and WEEEBS. It’s 2010, the RPG.

It’s cool in a tasteless 90s Rifts way and once you embrace that you should be alright. The problem is that before that happens, Mists of Akuma does almost everything to make you want to put it away. So on a chapter by chapter basis, let us go over it and figure out what makes it good, and what makes it fucking garbage.

Presentation
Oof. The cover gives you a better idea of what you are getting into then the actual introduction. The problem is that Mists of Akuma tricks you into thinking it is going to be a brooding, dark atmospheric game where victory is just surviving for another day and there are dark conspiracies n’ shit but it’s ACTUALLY ABOUT FIGHTING A SWARM OF LANTERN ONI WITH YOUR PEPPERPOT PISTOL SENSEI WHILE A STEAMPUNK ROBOT NINJA IS RUNNING CIRCLES AROUND YOU WITH HIS ARMS TRAILING BEHIND HIM AND A KITSUNE MONK DOES ELEMENTAL STANCES IN THE BACKGROUND. If Mists of Akuma could somehow convey it’s disgusting Anime-ness within the first paragraph I would not have had to wade through the first 100 pages of the book, tearing out chunks of my hair in horrified befuddlement, trying to figure out why the fuck a game that takes place in a fantasy japan that is subdivided into martial, magical and tech districts and where entire populations are readily trained in magic and martial arts to fight fucking Oni and all but Japan has been destroyed. It should have started with an Appendix Akuma that was just a coupon code for a month long subscription to crunchyroll.com, a keyword (SHONEN) and a message ‘YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO. GOOD LUCK PILOT.”

Instead we have to get the spirit of the game from the ATROCIOUSLY WRITTEN fucking short stories that TAKE UP 1-3 PAGES EVERY CHAPTER and make you want to kill yourself within one. I will freely admit I stopped reading them after the 4th one.

Hiyoribō had found himself in situations like this a dozen times before but rarely did they escalate so quickly.
Just yesterday he’d managed to acquire travel papers that granted entry to the Fukushu
Prefecture (not an easy thing to do for an oni-touched, especially a ronin) and he was eagerly looking forward to once more know the kindness of a woman in Hakyoku he’d saved from bandits only two years ago. The desire for romantic company was Hiyoribō’s greatest weakness and he once again reprimanded himself as Junichi Nobuko, a retainer for the Ikari Clan, brandished her katana in the heavy rains that had assaulted Nagabuki all day. The water ran an inch deep down the Boulevard of Honor and a symphony rang out from the gutters adorning the Keizei Market beside them to underpin the grave scene about to play out.

All those words? Those are not explained until halfway into the fucking book. This setting uses japanese words for everything from fucking swords to monsters and it’s a chore to figure out what is what. Page long short stories are already a chore (with a few rare exceptions). Page long short stories with made up words are UNFORGIVEABLE.

That being said, I am unsure if asking for MoA to be more self-aware would make it better. Like many a 90s rpg, it is it’s very lack of self-awareness that makes it downright engaging at times. There comes a time when you read about swarms of self-aware paper lantern tsukumogami or Wu-Jen worshipping the terrible powers that devoured the 4 seasons that you are really rooting for it to succeed, but somehow all this grimdark sadness takes place in a universe with business suit wearing monster oni, a city with super humans and a CLEAR AND OBVIOUS BATMAN HOMAGE.

This is not helped by the fact that MoA refuses to use one of the most common forms of setting presentation developed since the dawn of time. Ready? After an introduction, you do rules alterations first since they affect everything else. MoA is still with us. Then you do player options, classes, backgrounds, feats, equipment. Then you do Monsters. THEN you do setting information. This is because all those things before it are essentially building blocks, and your setting is essentially the way those blocks have been assembled. You can sometimes get away with monsters at the end, particularly if it’s important for you to understand where those monsters are found, or how they fit in the setting as a whole.

Mists of Akuma does Setting first. This means that you get chapter after chapter of impenetrable pseudo weeaboo language about places where you know only the bare essentials. You know that extensible arms are blocked in Hikasoru district or whatever the fuck but you don’t actually know what they are, or how to make one, or what they do until you get to the end of the book. MoA does all it’s player content at the back of the book AND IT’S FOR SHAME since once I started to get into that part I appreciated it much more.

Another problem with the book is it’s verbosity, which bloats up to an exhaustive 280 pages a book that could have been done in 200. If I read another paragraph on Tengu social conventions for an animu grimdark steampunk game I am going to throw up.

Art varies from cutesy but semi-decent anime drawings to smudgy semi-japanese folk art (bad). It’s a broad spread, which adds to the semi-professional feel of the whole.

The Setting. 
Mists of Akuma takes place in the feudal japan inspired country of Soburin, fifty years after the Kengen Occupation, when what are clearly meant to be westerners came over the giant chasm in the earth (high concept), wielding super-steam tech and occupied Soburin to serve in their war with another western-inspired supernation. They wiped eachother out, or did some sort of crazy-shit, and as a result the entire world was fucked and Soburin was able to regain independence. To this already unwieldy mixture of Last Samurai, Post-colonialist Steampunk Nippon-Banzai powderkeg are added the return of the mysterious Mists of Akuma, that turn men into hideous monsters, an element that I cannot see not being inspired by Kevin Crawford’s Red Tide, though I am sure you can find examples of mutant death mist far before that. Add to that an exhaustive catalogue of faux japanese names, incoherent setting-lore, anime-protagonist level hyper-magic setting building reminiscent only of Exalted, a Corruption mechanic, 2 pages of short stories with every chapters and nine billion other elements and you have a recipe for a hangover. Mists of Akuma is the game you get if your GM says he is going to use his entire RPG Library at once AND DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES.

Hiyoribō had found himself in situations like this a dozen times before but rarely did they escalate so quickly.
Just yesterday he’d managed to acquire travel papers that granted entry to the Fukushu
Prefecture (not an easy thing to do for an oni-touched, especially a ronin) and he was eagerly looking forward to once more know the kindness of a woman in Hakyoku he’d saved from bandits only two years ago. The desire for romantic company was Hiyoribō’s greatest weakness and he once again reprimanded himself as Junichi Nobuko, a retainer for the Ikari Clan, brandished her katana in the heavy rains that had assaulted Nagabuki all day. The water ran an inch deep down the Boulevard of Honor and a symphony rang out from the gutters adorning the Keizei Market beside them to underpin the grave scene about to play out.

History in MoA can be easily subdivided into several ages (but is doled out in piecemail fashion as you wade through its indigestible mires). In the first age Soburin is ruled by the Imperial Dragons, which are actual Dragons, that are assholes. These get supplanted by the Imperial Siblings, a family of super-powered dudes, but the Human Empire they found does not remain stable for long, giving way to a prolongued period of internecine warfare known as the Ichizoku wars which lasts for a not-inconsiderable several millenia. This is finally brought to an end by the rise of the Masuto Dynasty, which does a comparatively good job of uniting the country for a thousand years of peace. Very stable peace. Sadly its navelgazing traditionalism is rudely curbstomped by the Ceramians, a definetely-western-stand-in that steamrolls all over Weeaboo-land with its metallic warmachines and lightning guns that can cross the Giant Chasm in the ocean and proceeds to COLONIZE THE EVER LOVING FUCK out of Soburin, and use its resources peoples as pawns in a gigantic, globe-spanning super war with it’s other also Western counterpart, the Ropeao. They eventually obliterate eachother (and possibly the world?), which marks the end of the Kengen Occupation and the return of the Masuto Dynasty. The problem is that everything is fucked, the world is probably dying, the corrupting Mists of Akuma have returned, there are still roving Ropeio and Ceramian generals in Soburinland, and OH YEAH THE ONI AND DRAGONS ARE ALSO BACK.

Cat hengeyokai bristled at how the humans brazenly used majestic tigers as
mounts—scornful of the treatment of their distant kin—and the growing unrest spurred
the widow Lady Fujiko Fukushu to order for heightened security measures which were only met with more resentment. This ultimately led to the historic Hanran Shippai massacre, where a resurgence of rebellious neko were put down with overwhelming physical force and extreme prejudice. With her forces in ruins Fukushu’s leader pivoted to embrace magic and quickly gathered the greatest evokers from across Soburin to share the secrets of their craft in the prefecture, transforming the traditionally martial clan into an arcane powerhouse. Her attempts to quell the angry cat hengeyokai were at their very best only a partial success; neko are notoriously similar to the animals they so closely resemble (difficult to earn respect from, though persistent and proactive allies once won over) and they never truly accepted their subjugation

Whatever. In the first chapter we are immediately introduced to FIVE RENEGADE KENGEN GENERALS STILL AT LARGE, each with a unique signature strategy, setting us up for a fantastic anime campaign that is but one of NINETEEN DIFFERENT BATSHIT INSANE THINGS THAT MOA WANTS TO AT THE SAME TIME. Bokokawarui-so let’s fighting. LET’S FIGHTING LOVE.

New Rules.
There is only one major modification to your grand-otherkin’s 5e and it’s the introduction of what amounts to a point based alignment system that serves as an ersatz ability score. One is Dignity. You roll it at creation, and depending on your background you can have more starting Dignity, but Dignity in MoA is meant to keep you from becoming Murderhobos. As written the distinction from Charisma is not super obvious and besides serving as a prerequisite for several social feats (not a huge fan of those) and the driving force behind a vaguely implemented Culture Skill, its importance is unclear. Gaining Dignity means losing Haitoku and vice versa.

A second, far more interesting, characteristic is Haitoku, which symbolizes your character’s fall from grace. Like Dignity, it can also increase or decrease during play, but far more importantly, Haitoku increases WHEN YOU ARE IN CONTACT WITH THE MISTS OF AKUMA. Aha! It also increases if you take Steambernetics. Aha! And you can use it to resist death at the cost of gaining Haitoku! As your Haitoku modifier climbs towards oblivion, you start manifesting strange traits, and once it hits 8 you transform into an addendo-oni and you are dead. The mechanic as written feels like a conversion and the implementation is a little inelegant but its robust enough to work in 5e. This would have been your Taint score in Legend of the Five Rings.

Soburin
So basically all of Soburin is divided into prefectures, and to keep everything under control, these are hermetically sealed with natural borders and so called Torrii Gates, which are giant fortresses that you need a permit to travel through. A vast, thriving market of false papers is blooming, and the so called Bengoshi, NPC GM’s pets meant to dispense quests to our noble heroes, can travel there by seal. Basically the Fantasy Inquisition.

Don’t expect any sort of details on population, exports, market size whatever the fuck. That’s not this game. Expect tea-houses staffed by assassin’s guilds, a swordfighting school, a tower where recruits that recruits can climb to instantly become Generals (no one has ever survived to reach the top level), criminal guilds that use items that become self-aware (Tsukumogami, every item that becomes 100 years old in MoA becomes a self-aware spirit) and FUCKING WEEBS.

A point of criticism. The maps of the cities are impossibly to discern collections of geometric building blocks paved over with asian-font. YAMI-ICHI MARKET we are informed autistically. Every district is given some locales of interest, occasionally with hooks, sometimes with shops of note. This is adventurer land. Versimilitude goes to 3, Kick-ass-ness is permanently on 10.

Tengoku Nogekijō. Seats for every show that has ever played in the “theater of
heaven” have sold out and actors have literally killed for roles on Sanbaoshi’s most
coveted stage. Esteemed Actor-Manager Dirkutā Hibon has run the Tengoku Nogekijō
for decades and is said to have the ear of all the highest clan lords (including Emperor
Hitoshi), making her one of the most influential people in the Imperial Capital. There’s talk that some of her bunraku puppets are more than they seem and tsukumogami hunters find their senses baffled in the confines of the theater, but their protests to the Imperial Palace have so far fallen on deaf ears.

It is IMPOSSIBLE not to imagine some 15 year old kid, somewhere, hopped up on aderol and mountain dew, running the fuck out of this thing in his naruto pyjama’s, only they have replaced all the combat mechanics and the combat resolution is just throwing dice at eachother until one side relents. Surprise combat is handled by hiding the dice through the house and everyone starting in the kitchen. The detail is so fucking autistic but that’s what makes this thing worthwhile at the same time. You won’t get any crippleware. Soburi has 20 provinces? THEY ALL GET THEIR OWN WRITE-UP BITCH. THAT’S RIGHT. EACH HAS ITS OWN CLAN WITH ITS OWN SIGNATURE SOMETHING. CLOCKWORK CLAN. EXPLOSIVES CLAN. POISON CLAN. ANGRY CLAN. SUPERHERO CLAN. TIGER-RIDING SAMURAI CLAN. RIGHT KICK. HIGH BLOCK. HADOKEN.

Endless lists of stats for typical soldiers and typical Bengoshi per clan EACH WITH ITS OWN SPECIAL SIGNATURE MOVES. WHAT THE FUCK. The symmetry makes it autistic too. Every province (or nearly every province) has its own unique breed of demi-human included (they coralled them there during the Kengen occupation) with its own relationship to them.

The Ikari are one of Soburin’s most violent clans, made all the deadlier by having to tame much of the continent’s jungles. Their warriors are masters of the lethal kusarigama, a long chainsickle that helps them traverse the claustrophobic wilderness with almost as much ease as the enjin that live there—ape-like people that the foreign invaders disastrously attempted to force into submission within Ikari cities during the Kengen Occupation. The prefecture’s traditions of martial study made it easy for them to handle the insurrection that followed and though Nesuto to the north housed more of the simian wildmen Nagabuki’s size made it the ideal place for keeping the most rebellious enjin, turning the settlement and its residents as hard as the bark of a tapok tree.

There are rules for banned Science tech which are different for each district, which are disorienting because none of the technological items have been introduced yet. The whole point is that evil Gajin technology is outlawed because of the damage it caused.
Some districts might outlaw everything from gunpowder onward, others are more sneaky, officially banning everything, but allowing for some tech. You will readily find entire populations trained for battle, or turtlefolk black markets or whatever the fuck.

Dragons
There’s an entire section on Dragons that I can’t for the life of me figure out why they wouldn’t just put it with the rest of the monsters. Dragons in MoA are a little different from their DnD counterparts, with the ability to change into humanoid shape as a standard the most major divergence. Expect different elemental theming and the odd special ability but otherwise they are not that different. Void Dragon, Sovereign Dragon, Akuma-corrupted Underworld Dragon. It’s alright.

Monsters
MoA shines brightly when it introduces its bestiary. Suddenly the whole headache-inducing mess started to congeal somewhat. It’s insane but you get it. Your standard DnD nasties have been replaced with horrific Japanese Oni, with the characteristic bizarre touch that sets them apart from their western counterparts. Undead Whales with swarms of devouring undead fish as shield. Smoke-like Baku that feed on dreams. Bizarre hopping Vampires with bizarre methods of destruction.

There’s an entire section on the Tsukumogami. The spirits of items become sentient after 100 years. There’s class concepts built around having an item sensei. This effect extends to some of the Warmachines of the Colonials, meaning some of your battles might be with animated trains with cannons on them. A gigantic CR 17 Invisible Skeleton wipes out entire villages. Swarms of animated paper lanterns. Spider-women that weave generation-long plots of cruel betrayal. Hit after Hit after Hit. You start to figure out what this game could actually be like but you wonder how you can get your friends to take the adderol. Perhaps if you mix it through the mountain dew?

Character Backgrounds. 
Arguably the part where MoA starts to shine, most of the original character backgrounds have been kept and augmented with respective bonuses to Dignity or Haitaku. Why the fuck would you select any of the old ones when you can pick the new ones. Seriously. Burn your Phb after you get this thing. Disgraced Steamber Amputee. Gajin. Heretical Science Tinkerer. Guy that wants to die by someone who is worthy. Ronin. Fine backgrounds for a grim asiatic fantasy.

MoA allows all classes, but again, why the fuck would you play anything but the classes here? The class variants (what would have been called Kits in old games) are well done, and it’s interesting to see how 5e already had customization built into each one, allowing the game to convey their substance efficiently. The classes are interesting, and more importantly, are woven into a lot of the elements of the setting. In fact one fascinating element, the fact nature is corrupted and the very SEASONS have been subsumed by terrible powers, is something that only becomes apparent when you read the classes.

Steampunk cyborg. Druids of corrupted Nature. Druid that can’t cast spells but with unlimited wildshapes (don’t take this one it sucks), Gun priests, Clockwork Mages, Detectives, Herbalists. Some classes offer spellcasting features for classes that don’t normally have them, like the Herbalist rogue or the Priest monk. A crazy ass calligraphy sorcerer that paints his designs upon reality. A scroll wizard. NINJAS. Tsukumogami Hunter. A monk with all its distinctive class features replaced with martial arts feats. A barbarian powered by Haitoku and Mist. A Wu-jen with the weird ass taboos that makes pacts with the fucked up powers that ate the seasons. This is one case where MoA’s tendency to overdo it is entirely forgiven. These are all fucking great.

Races.

Conversely this is a PRIME example where Mists of Akuma’s tendency to overdo it works to its detriment. Does anyone remember Vampire the Masquerade (YOU FAKE WHITE WOLF)? Does anyone remember how well those original…8? 12? Vampire clans were defined and each one had its particular niche? Do you think adding an option to play magic time-manipulation Brujah or half-werewolf wizard vampires, or three-eyed super jesus wizards or magic negro vampires or asian vampires whatever the fuck added anything to that? The answer was no, and each addition made being a vampire less special.

With that in mind, let us consider Mists of Akuma’s demi-human problem or addiction. The setting is already bizarre, already weird, already offers a million different character options. This is one occasion where a few demi-humans, introduced sparingly, would be sensible for people that want to play an outsider or something.

Instead Mists of Akuma goes balls deep, all in, cut-the-breaks lets-take-eachothers-pills WACKO with it. Even the human race has three sub-races. Then we get Henyegokai (shapechangers), six subraces (or nine if you want to be extra special). Bakemono (goblins created by the mists). Enjin (ape men).  Kappa. Mutants. Not to be confused with Enhanced. Necroji (animated skeleton-tech men). Half-oni. Tanuki. I am just describing this shit at this point. Each with a full page of description, which is too much.

It’s not that there aren’t the odd zingers that could be cool, like the weird psychic ghosts that land on Akuma and bring kindness and last only half a century, a tragic bit of beauty that only makes the surrounding decay all the more heartrending, but FUCK ALL THIS GARBAGE OKAY? THE MOMENT YOU TRY TO MAKE ANYTHING SERIOUS AND THREE PEOPLE PICK A FUCKING TANUKI STEAMPUNK NINJA YOU HAVE FUCKING LOST.

Now would also be a good time to point and jeer at 5e’s new convention of giving bonuses and never penalties to ability scores for any race. No comrade, in glorious new 5e, ALL PEOPLES have above average ability scores!

I also feel like there is five times as many flavor text for each race then in the Core Rulebook, somewhat understandable since some of these races are not based on any recognisable myth or archetype, but still exhausting. I would have liked to see a more terse approach here.

Feats.

It’s a post D20 supplement so of course it has feats! Mostly interesting additions like the martial arts feats are interposed by some questionable choices. There’s one that grants you a companion with half your ability score bonuses if you have a high enough bonus on Dignity and another one that allows you to push forward Investigations and gain some sort of resolution that advances the plot no matter what. The first one gives you the ability to do something that you should be able to do without a feat, but I can see it work as an extra that you don’t have to do any work for. The second solves a problem that the GM would be forced to tackle anyway even if it did not exist. An illusory feat.

All these dignity feats are going to rust by the wayside while all your cool friends take Martial Arts feats that allow them to do acid damage with a punch, magic that allows you to draw power from wood or metal, scribe magic tattoos or walk through the mists of Akuma. The stackable martial arts feats are more of a callback to the D20 era and I question whether they are potent enough by themselves to be any good. Overal, this section is pretty cool though.

Equipment.

Something of a missed opportunity. Several animu weapons like kunai and katanas and double katanas and 12-barrelled pepperpot pistols that do 4d6 in a line against all opponents for a paltry 1500 gp are added, or three section staves that you can deal an extra attack with as a bonus action that deals half damage. All delightful for power gamers. Special armor with ablative plates, nice.

One big problem. The firearms rules are shit. As written there is no inherent superiority to the matchlock when compared to the normal bow or crossbow. You can use fancy 50gp magic gunpowder or flashpowder or whatever to augment your damage but why the fuck does a matchlock, the greatest advantage a soldier can have against feudal societies, do only d6 damage. In fact, as written, anyone using the special anti-bullet armor that gives disadvantage on all attack rolls until the ablative plates are broken, actually has a massive nonmagical advantage. Stupid. Also missing the statts for some canons. Bonus points for rules for explosive arrows and grenades.

There’s not a hint of mundane equipment rules or food or lodging or henchmen but this is 5e super-anime land so this is to be expected. 5 different flying machines, completely useable, with vulnerability, hit points etc. etc. are added. I think I missed the section where they explain if you can just use these? This is another weird choice.

The magic item section is very light, introducing only a handful of new items. I think this is a missed opportunity. Magic items are a great way to convey the flavor of a setting, which is why something like Oriental Adventures for D20 had a shittonne of magic items. Conversely, you are going to be stuck using mostly by the book items for MoA, a weird omission.

The last interesting section is Steampunk Augmetics. I LIKE the way these work, I DISLIKE the surrounding framework. So like in Shadowrun, you can get yourself fitted for an augmetic (just roll a medicine DC or something) in exchange for a permanent increase in Haitoku. A magic spell-absorbing battery, a hand-sword, Augmetic plating, knife-trumpet, shoulder-mounted pepperpot pistol, all sorts of crazy shit. That’s good. There’s no price. That’s bad.

You might be bawling BUT PRINCE THERE ARE NO PRICES FOR MAGIC ITEMS EITHER. No but these are not magic items. It is, in all of MoA, never really defined how you can make them actually. You can find a magic sword in a dungeon. For an augmetic, you will 99% have to go to some sort of black-market steamscientist and get yourself fitted. That means fucking money man, or do you pay in Quests? These things are clearly so common different provinces differ on the interpretation of what exactly constitutes evil science so they should have a gold piece value, an availabilty and a way to make them.

I don’t hate this but the equipment section could have been stronger.

Spells

Again, a good example of when Tyler’s penchant for overdoing it comes in handy. These are FINE spells, and a FINE balance too. Ladders of mist, blood bullets, walls of Bone, all sorts of stuff you’d find in Legends of the Five Rings. Add to that spells to detect the new inhabitants of the land, spells to resist the mists, spells to disrupt technology, some wicked powers to influence the Seasons, a spell that allows you to strike yourself and deal your opponent a double amount of damage for Samurai and Real Men and some Mist Ladder stuff. It’s decent. No high level crap that you will end up never using or fifteen different spells that deal elemental damage. C.

Revenge of the Pale Master (adventure)
Levels 8-10.

Cool that you made an adventure to illustrate what Mists of Akuma is all about. WHY did you make one for levels 8-10, when your game is already 30 sessions in?

Ticking clock investigative adventure. In the ruined industrial Precinct of 3 PAGES OF BACKSTORY GODDAMMIT TYLER. Anyway, a once evil wizard is now a ghost. The guys that watch him were faced with a choice, lose to an opponent, or accept his ghost help in exchange for a terrible price. Some guys foil that, die, but not before brininging the surviving child to his sister, who takes the child to a village. Goddamnit this is long, did Tyler used to write WoD adventures? The hero grows up to be a man DEAR GOD THIS BACKSTORY HAS ACTS tries an attack and fails. Jesus H. Christ.

During Revenge of the Pale Master the adventurers are going to encounter many NPCs before the mystery plaguing Kizaki unravels. Throughout the module you’ll notice that all major characters have portraits—use them! When introducing the various NPCs, show their illustrations to the party and encourage them to keep notes on who is who and what they’re doing. With such a wide and diverse cast even the sleuthiest groups will be hard-pressed to remain on top of the adventure without visual references and those they make for themselves

20 fucking NPCs so I can play tenku ninjas, FUCK MY LIFE. After a description of the city we can finally begin the adventure, with ACTE: 1. MoA does not entirely specify what music one should play so I infer it is K-pop at max volume. Anyway, the adventure begins by having the PCs delivered to a nobleman’s mansion and delivered a monstrous amount of exposition. EVERYTHING IS SO FUCKING LONG-WINDED HOLY SHIT. I think the idea is that the nobleman is too terrified to do anything about the Pale Master and he hires the heroes to go after the dude who kidnapped the kids, but was actually saving them from the pale master, and they figure that out in ACT II. See also nineteen different fucking points. I am not going to read all this. I refuse. This is unacceptable.

ACTE II
The characters must interrogate a gang lord of the Iron Spiders. There are various ways to go about this which are presented well, in terms of conversational topics or attempted bribes versus the possibility of violence. But the PCS ARE LEVEL 8-10. HOLY SHIT. A STREET GANG MAN TALKING TOUGH. This is a perfect set up for characters of level 1-4. Why 10?

Then there is something about a Graveyard. I am not quite sure how the PCs get to there from the ganghouse but I am not going to read it since its another page of backstory. There is something about the ghost of a serial killer attacking and then a priest comes to help and deliver more backstory afterwards. Either way, the orphan (possibly one of the surviving children), leads the characters to a Doctor.

There are three more NPCs with notes on how to play them and long, sprawling paragraphs and dialog and dialog and dialog gaaaaah. Full disclosure. I fucking swore on my honor as a reviewer to PrinceofNothing the FUCK out of Imperial Matchmaker, which is a MoA ADVENTURE PATH. Holy shit am I filled with dread. I promise to try to keep an open mind but this verbosity is not acceptable.

ACTE III:

You finally discover the village with the missing children. You get a random encounter to tide you over on the way. The village is guarded by some clockwork robots that you can sneak by and the entire encounter has nonviolent ways of solving it which is pretty nice. A cool swordfight in a decrepit pagoda with some vampire guy ensues, good on you, they even made a map.

Yikes.

Alright, very long story fairly short and concise, delivered like Mr. Miagi or like Wang from Shadow Warrior; Ahem. Good ideas. Prenty of good ideas. No focus. Idea need STRAIGHTO path to get to heart. You. Path already Furr. Thematic Capacity furr.

Mists of Akuma tries EVERYTHING. Good. Ambition. Hai! But no focus. Take few things. 1-3 Precincts. Few hooks. One central mystery. Work out. Rest, paragraph. Purpose of Mists of Akuma must be clear, like springu dawn over Mt. Fuji. Purpose of Mists of Akuma is smudgy, like face of geisha after bukake. Hohohoho.

This idealized social web was not always Ibutsu’s main priority—it was once known for
assassinations and social intrigue before the ascent of Lady Kikukiyo Ibutsu. The ancestor of the prefecture’s current leader Lady Fukurokujin Ibutsu formed what would later become the Jentorukumo, bringing the rest of the region to heel with several well-placed poisonings by agents schooled in Ayo. To replace the self-destructive ways of the past Lady Kikukiyo enacted social reforms that brought the region together as a whole with the idea that all are strands of a great web, and thus all must do their part. Present-day natives Ibutsu still hold to these ideals; the success of the prefecture depends on its reputation for politeness, social grace, and unwavering hospitality, and any member of the community who presents a conflicting image is harshly shunned. Personal ambitions are encouraged, as they are believed to promote growth and excellence, but these should always be kept discreet, especially from outsiders.

Too many words. Good word like Haiku. Strike at essence. Leave only that is essential. Mists of Akuma, too many words. Exhausting. Too many backstory. Backstory don’t matter too much. Focus. Explain to reader why Tanuki. One paragraph. Then Tenku. One paragraph. Hai! Rest, do in gazzeteer. Leave to GM.

Mists of Akuma setting. Fun idea. Not deep. No emergent stuff. Style only. That fine. But why so much backstory? Why so many explanations? Focus on mood. Theme. Monsters good. Classes good. Too many japanese words. Makes exhausting. Many things it can learn.

Imagine weeb: 240 pound, spectacles, pony-tail like tail of Genji hoihoihoihoi, my-rittre-pony t-shirt like lamellar, thin wrist supported by OhMyGoddess! mousemat, back like Godjira supported by many wifu pillows, exprain ‘actually, her distinctive feminine Keshō and fan-implant marks her as a Geisha of the Yokuba clan. Would you like to Iajitsu your Wazakishi’s or simply greet M’lady like a mere gaijin?’

Fine idea. Not campaign setting make. Focus. Cull. Cut. Look for thing that makes setting come alive. Ask; Why this? Why not D&D normal setting. Give answer in first paragraph.

**

 

 

 

 

 

 


27 thoughts on “[Review] Mists of Akuma (5e); Enter the Animu

  1. “Mists of Akuma does Setting first. This means that you get chapter after chapter of impenetrable pseudo weeaboo language about places where you know only the bare essentials. ”

    As soon as I saw this, I knew my services would be required. Overwritten, setting-first, impenetrable, tragically Nineties, amateurish layout and illustration… is this fifth edition VtM?

    Oh, weeb shit for weebs? It’s second edition. LET US PROCEED.

    “Haitoku, which symbolizes your character’s fall from grace. Like Dignity, it can also increase or decrease during play, but far more importantly, Haitoku increases WHEN YOU ARE IN CONTACT WITH THE MISTS OF AKUMA. Aha! It also increases if you take Steambernetics. Aha! And you can use it to resist death at the cost of gaining Haitoku!”

    It’s the bastard offspring of Humanity, Sanity, Willpower and whatever Shadowrun has to deter you from becoming an awesome metal bastard man. The cycle is complete, the Wyrm has turned, Gehenna is upon us and actually I kinda like trackers for “doing specific kinds of awesome/dumb shit” as incentives or deterrents for behaviour, even if I too often find social combat systems a chore. They are useful things to have for chronic mech-heads who never took an improv class, and uphold the principle that what does not exist in rules is not part of game, but I do like them to *scale* instead of bringing polearm-table detail to the art of putting on a funny voice and bickering.

    “Don’t expect any sort of details on population, exports, market size whatever the fuck. That’s not this game.”

    Thank fuck for that, because I played THAT game back in the d20 boom, it was called Iron Kingdoms and did its best to make proto-steampunk pirates, dragons and fookoff great magic robots *boring*. At least all the screeching you go on to describe feels like the stuff of legend.

    You know what this reminds me of? Kim Newman’s short story Yokai Town, and the subsequent novels. There’s something about Japanese-ish settings that encourages the mind to go wild and just set the whole story in a 100 storey death skyscraper and throw everything it knows about the local mythology into the mix. I would like to see this sort of thing done with restraint but I suspect no Western audience or creator is primed for this and I’m told full batshit is the cultural standard over there. I’ve watched most of My Hero Academia during quarantine and the tone is STARTING to make sense but I still only have one cross-class level in Otaku Nonsense.

    “Does anyone remember Vampire the Masquerade (YOU FAKE WHITE WOLF)? Does anyone remember how well those original…8? 12? Vampire clans were defined and each one had its particular niche? Do you think adding an option to play magic time-manipulation Brujah or half-werewolf wizard vampires, or three-eyed super jesus wizards or magic negro vampires or asian vampires whatever the fuck added anything to that? The answer was no, and each addition made being a vampire less special.”

    It was seven, which became thirteen after the first wave of supplements. I guess 8 if you count Caitiff but Caitiff are in there for the sort of people who want to play the NPC classes in d20 and I don’t care for them.

    You are correct in your scathing accusation but not one in a hundred VtM fans will admit it because they’re too busy starting up their Kiasyd (what happens when a Lasombra Embraces a Changeling? It learns Necromancy for some reason that will FINALLY be handled twenty years later in a decision that ends up pissing off the very people who care about this sort of thing, that’s what…)

    I will make allowances for thin-bloods because they represent a significant change in how being a vampire functions and add new possibilities to gameplay while removing others for variety, and also because only one VtM fan in a hundred actually wants to play one. Anyway, nobody came here to hear me pontificate about fookin’ vampires, let’s move on…

    “Each with a full page of description, which is too much.”

    *hollow laughter, knowable only to one who has read fifth edition VtM*

    You haven’t suffered nearly enough. One page of salient information? BLISS. I bet it could come down to half with rigorous bullet pointing, though.

    “Now would also be a good time to point and jeer at 5e’s new convention of giving bonuses and never penalties to ability scores for any race. No comrade, in glorious new 5e, ALL PEOPLES have above average ability scores!”

    As a model of how being from X species improves you from a hypothetical baseline that is itself unplayable, I can get behind this, but I suspect that’s not how it works. Do mere humans get any bennies in 5e or is there a mechanical incentive to “three gay tiefling bards and a warforged” that I’ve been missing all along?

    “The firearms rules are shit. As written there is no inherent superiority to the matchlock when compared to the normal bow or crossbow.”

    Oddly enough I get uptight about THIS more than the player character species stuff. I get that, when expanding Fantasy beyond the High Middle Ages, one has to find a way to make bows and swords ‘compete’ with those technologies which have replaced them in the real and sensible world, but you’d do it with something like damage resistances making traditional weapons a better choice against oni because metaphysical reasons, not hobbling the gunpowder weapons. If you want to hang this hat of “evil technology corrupted our people en masse” you need the hook of “the evil technology is worth being corrupted for and even the unwashed masse can tell.” And in a D&D derivative you need to do that with weapons because that’s where the rules and culture direct player attention.

    On a related note I like the Dignity feats but not in a game like this, where the attention is so very clearly on things of manifest indignity. You either strip dow the combat, magic and gear and beef up the social mechanics (at which point you are no longer developing for D&D of any sort) or you accept that to gain access to that 90% share of the RPG marketplace you must lower yourself to the common denominator (and stop pretending either your character’s Dignity or your own are of any relevance here).

    “Cool that you made an adventure to illustrate what Mists of Akuma is all about. WHY did you make one for levels 8-10, when your game is already 30 sessions in?”

    In these unenlightened times it is assumed that a childe, fresh out of Critical Role, can sit down and prepare a character of the eighth level, selecting options with which to play out the contextual matter that explains those options?

    Foolish. Not even night’s dark masters make this elementary error.

    Also, 20 NPCs is about as many as I use for a whole damn *campaign*, or indeed chronicle, because somewhere between those turves is where we’ve ended up here. The actual content of Revenge of the Pale Master sounds fine, and the title is reminiscent of the best WFRP/WFB crossover AND the only prestige class I ever wanted to play so I am predisposed to liking it, but I agree it sounds like small fry stuff that could be done, done and onto the next one in eight to ten pages max, which is what you want for a starter adventure. Showcase the world, foolproof the vibe, set up trails from possible outcomes that are properly foregrounded in the adventure. Oldenhaller of course nails it. Even Blue Rose landed two thirds of the job. Waste of an epic-sounding title but then, this is anime, going for a shit is a three episode arc with dramatic internal monologues and squealing.

    Final verdict from the brother of Mr. Momomoto, Famous Japanese Who Can Swallow His Nose: much like the fifth edition VtM to which this unworthy soul has repeatedly compared it, this sounds like an almost-there piece of genre emulation badly in need of an art director and ruthless developmental editor who know what they’re doing and brook no silliness. Instead of which we get this overexcited jizz stain, less than the sum of its parts because they are so many, so overdone in the wrong direction, an ultimate disappointment to any save the wise man who knows that nothing good will come of weeaboos.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A fine June for a sharp question. I shall answer.

        A handful of the bloodlines represent either former clans superceded as the metaplot marches on, or dark secrets in the origins of those clans we think we know. On these grounds, the True Brujah, Old Clan Tzimisce, Salubri and ONE (only one!) form of ex-Cappadocian get to stay. While even these have their flaws they are tied to major events in vampiric history and provide a suitable level of mystery for veteran players who are tired of doing ‘what is Traditions, how is neonate formed?’ for the sixth time and want to do a deeper dive.

        I will also tolerate the Laibon as a viable alternative to whichever ‘independent’ clan you happen to think is the biggest crock of shit.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. How closely you skirt the commandment, that never a man’s comments shall eclipse a man’s posts, lest doom befall him. It is good to have you back.

      [Social mechanics]

      As an incentive to be a good boy it can be helpful, particularly in settings where the GM tries to uphold a sort of rigid code of honor. It’s tits on a shark in Akuma I think, yet another feature in an impenetrable mess of influences.

      [My Hero Academia]

      It’s happening. Anime discussions with FWW. I think a friend showed it to me once. I can disguise my love for Berserk as semi-adolescent and Jojo as semi-ironic but how do you justify My Hero Academia. I’ve heard the plotlines are really good but it looks like a children’s show.

      Most of my exposure in recent years has been Weeb novels, and they were all nutso, some good some just nutso so I’d concur with you. I notice an appreciation for aesthetics and beauty that tends to be absent in western sf, which tends to focus more on concepts and ideas.

      [Clans]

      So controversial opinion: I think the game was probably at its best when it was just 7 bloodlines. The other 7 should have been a seperate campaign, where you play a reverse Sabbat game. 14 in a core game is already too much. VtM should have just said that you are expected to pick mostly those 7 and the most gothic of your party is allowed to pick one from the next tier list or something.

      [Description length]

      I think context matters in this case. VtM was fucking bloated as fuck, but at least it was trying to be more of an edgy horror game with fancy horror mechanics and it made sure you understood what it was not about (by omitting a magic item and monster section originally, or it had some sort of antagonist section but not 100 pages of lantern dragons).

      I think this feeds into your point that you either go full-social mechanics (for the record I hate most social mechanics, fuck them raw, just roleplay everything, although I am okay with a reputation score or something) or you follow the classic format but you don’t bolt one onto the other willy nilly and expect the unwieldy leviathan to somehow work.

      [Intro adventure]

      Can we agree that for a setting heavy adventure the best introduction adventure is probably the Oldentaller Contract? It’s basically just A NIGHT IN WARHAMMER FANTASY the adventure, but it does a heck of a job setting everything up. Good job bringing it up.

      [Blue Rose]
      How much of Blue Rose did you play, before you fell from grace?

      Like

      1. Not going to comment on the product beyond saying that the person who asked you to review it owes you a big favour.
        Concerning WFRP Introductory Adventures, the Oldenhaller Contract does indeed cover key themes. However I was never thrilled with the “dungeon part”: two criminal gangs so close together could have started a feud just because one wouldn’t throw the ball back. For 1E, I prefer either Night of Blood or Rough Night at the Three Feathers. (With a Little Help from my Friends may be even better, but doesn’t cover enough tropes.) For 2E, the core book adventure is rubbish, but I would happily recommend fan adventures “The Bigger They Are” and “The Eye of the Tiger”. (In the former, you a hired to assassinate an ogre gladiator champion, and the one thing you must not do is try and take him on in a fair fight.) I didn’t like 3E as much as the first two, but the introductory adventure “An Eye for an Eye” works well (despite being a little obvious). The freebie first adventure for 4E was OK but rather wordy.

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      2. Should really have mentioned “Pretty Things” for 2E: that is rather good and for inexperienced characters. And another fan adventure “The Nine Virtues of Magnus the Pious” is very ambitious, and with a little more refinement could have been superb. (I’d still recommend it.) Newbie PCs begin in a hopeless situation, in a city besieged by Chaos forces.

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      3. I walk the line between good and evil every night, and am yet living, but yes, I got a bit carried away with that one.

        Regarding tits on sharks, social engineering mechanics and the Oldenhaller Contract we stand united as ever; for the sake of brevity let us consider those and say Done.

        [My Hero Academia and other Media for Children]

        I have an advantage in that as a working scholar of media I can justify watching any old shit to see if it is well-made or worth commenting upon as children’s media. Adults make this stuff and it behooves them to understand their craft, an understanding achieved by the activities of those such as myself. That and if it’s better crafted and more emotionally honest than material ‘meant for adults’ I’ll take my kicks where I can get ’em, thanks.

        This notion of a science fiction which appreciates aesthetics and engages with emotion (often to a point somewhat insipid to the Western palate, but I think that’s an acquired taste) is solid. A colleague has attempted to explain doujin culture and its sense of media as personal extension of the creator rather than product for shit-eating battery animals to get angry about and ‘own’ because they paid for it and I think that has an impact too. It seems the Japanese creator gets to make whatever the hell they like and see if anyone likes it. I’m sure that’s somewhat romanticised but it seems like a useful and perhaps better way of going about things than the shrieking how-very-dare-yous that constitute Western fandom.

        [Core Clans]

        Oddly enough, the developers of V5 would agree with you, which hasn’t exactly made them many friends among those who would charge into eighth generation Lasombra antitribu Abyss Mystics as their first character because it’s in the book and sounds like the darkest snowflake available.

        “… you are expected to pick mostly those 7 and the most gothic of your party is allowed to pick one from the next tier list or something.”

        Exactly how I roll. I’ll allow one Setite or whatever in most games. Very occasionally, especially for a two-player game, I might say “what if you both roll into one of the niche clans and we’ll do something a bit more focused”, which works well for everyone as those niche concepts tend to be more easily explored when everyone at the table’s involved.

        [Description Lengths and Divers Matters]

        I suppose VtM had a bigger job to do in repeatedly insisting that THIS IS NOT YOUR DAD’S DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS and being, if not the first storygame, the first to achieve major success. When you’re trying to expand the whole vocabulary and mindset of a medium you can be excused for going a bit far.

        One *cannot* treat social affairs with the same depth that D&D treats combat without treating combat with the same offhanded “who cares, one pass/fail” that D&D treats social affairs. That way lies madness, and two pages of marginally different stats for rhetorical fallacies to go with your two pages of sodding polearms.

        [Blue Rose]

        In another life I did as you do here, extended close readings of shit I’d never intend to play as a weekly column for a then-successful wargaming blog that brought me in as RPG columnist. In the course of that I did a two-hander on Blue Rose first edition and Novarium in which Blue Rose came off worse. The acquaintance of whom I spoke earlier in this ponderous wall of text (good Christ I’m going on here, I blame all the time on Reddit) is trying to get me into second edition Blue Rose and I’m actually curious. An attempt to do D&D with a different tradition of Fantasy Literature is not without merit and if nothing else it will be good research for – no, never show a fool a job half done. I’ll wait on that a while longer.

        Like

      4. @Wombat

        Concerning WFRP Introductory Adventures…

        I have always felt Rough Night at the Three Feathers overrated. The attempt at a darkly-tinted farce is respectable but falls short on two fronts.

        First: players will do as they do and break this delicate machinery with one wild goose chase and the adventure is a whole is too meticulously timed and scripted to be of any use once they do. Second: the meticulous timing and scripting would not suit any group for which I have ever run. I am sure actual players would either bumble through it all confused because they haven’t had a chance to parse the material before the next thing happens, or handle it with the usual gentle ‘we do this after work for fun you know’ kind of pace, for which the adventure is not suited. It really needs to be banged through quick sharp, and the lack of flexibility in the material means it’s going to do so on rails, which I suppose is a third and more ideological problem (are railroads badwrongfun, or a potentially enjoyable if less interactive experience?).

        I do like Night of Blood though. That’s a different kind of WFRP but one that’s as valid as what Oldenhaller does; the edge-of-darkness folk-horror stuff where the forest is alive with mutants and monstrosities, and any isolated person or community may fall into their thrall. Elements are in place but open enough to respond to the strange unplanned fancies of the player group. It’s less ambitious than Rough Night but succeeds at what it’s trying to do.

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      5. You make good points about Rough Night at the Three Feathers, especially for new players. I guess I was thinking more of experienced roleplayers (especially those brought up on D+D) new
        to WFRP: now the ideas that you have to defer to nobility, sometimes find an ingenious solution rather than swing your sword, and above all not get caught, are good pointers for future play. I have refereed a group (many years ago) who did interact with most of the strands.

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      6. [WHF adventures]

        Sounds like a damn good time and thank you for the recommendations. The characters being the underdogs and in over their heads is a fundamental part of what makes Warhammer Fantasy work. It’s always a cobbler, a ratcatcher, a prostitute with a wooden arm and an alcoholic knight against a demon-summoning champion of the Dark Powers.

        [Creator Approach]

        Amen brother. Defund the stazi publishers and studios and let’s make ourselves some fucking freedom. Ooh-Rah.
        Independently published books I’ll give a shot at times, the little modern western fiction that is still semi-readable.

        [Core Clans]

        I can see merit in your point that as an eventual expansion it makes sense, so I would posit that these additional options be placed in either a seperate manual or otherwise segregated from the core game so their purpose and point becomes obvious.

        [SocialvCombat]

        A treatment of social and combat mechanics in DnD as diametric opposites? An interesting contention but where is the evidence? Is it not more plausible to suppose that mechanical complexity across games is expressed in the design philosophy as a single variable, measured simple to complex, and old DnD uses about as much mechanics for social interaction as are required to get the job done?

        [BR]

        You are either contemplating a book about RPGS or your own RPG. I have not figured out which is the more pretentious. Do it.

        Like

      7. @Wombat

        I concur that Rough Night is an easier ride with players who can roll with it and keep up the momentum. This isn’t necessarily a matter of experience – a total novice who is familiar with farce as a genre will pick this up better than the Sun Tzu of the tabletop who likes to take twenty minutes to establish exactly what’s afoot here and where the +10 bonus is to be had, or the ‘talking is a free action’ crowd who can’t do anything without bantering first. But I was definitely thinking of ‘introductory adventure’ in the sense of total novices to roleplaying, which was an oversight at the time.

        @Prince of the Lands that Sink Not

        [Independent Publishing]

        Glad to hear it. My day job involves occasional contact with small presses and first time authors and they generally produce something more interesting than Yet Another Sexy Tudors Historical Novel.

        [Vampire Segregation]

        Such was the way of old and such is the way again, but a generation in between has been raised on Revised and V20 and as such suckles deep from the “all clans are created playable and all playable options are equally viable” teat. I lament. I mourn. But I dare not judge. I mean, I always play Cappadocians or Giovanni given my druthers.

        [SocialvCombat]

        “A treatment of social and combat mechanics in DnD as diametric opposites?”

        A miscommunication. The suggestion is not that social and combat systems are opposed. The suggestion is that that developing social systems to the same extent as D&D combat while retaining combat in its existing and developed form would create an unplayable behemoth of a game.

        “Is it not more plausible to suppose that mechanical complexity across games is expressed in the design philosophy as a single variable, measured simple to complex, and old DnD uses about as much mechanics for social interaction as are required to get the job done?”

        I would argue that in this age of roleplaying, the social dimension needs a little more sophistication than pass/fail single rolls with modifiers, and the kind of granularity which separates the long from the bastard sword is largely unnecessary. The roleplayer of today is not a historical wargamer with one foot in the literary tradition, and social interaction forms a more significant part of their experience and expectations than it did in yer da’s AD&D.

        [BR]

        You are either contemplating a book about RPGS or your own RPG. I have not figured out which is the more pretentious. Do it.

        Like

  2. Setting-first is almost always an automatic disqualifier. Such arrogance!

    The rest of it sounds so ponderous and dire. Do the pages have a shitty faux-scroll background? That’s all I want to know at this point. I really like a game that makes you work hard to play it. That’s why I have a minimum page count – four-hundred, thank you – for the core rules of any game that I play.

    I think you can put together a checklist of red flags, and if a game has more than X number, a psychologically healthy reader should put it down and walk away. You and Bryce really have a masochistic impulse that worries me. It’s positively irresponsible to ignore all these warning signs.

    This review is a keeper for the phrase “lets-take-eachothers-pills.” An excellent adverb for “gonzo.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s more like a smudgy grey, like multiple wet newspapers have been papier-mache’d together.

      I recommend you try Kromore if you like indigestible gibberish games, and perhaps I should save that as an ill-considered play by post game.

      Like

      1. Wait, WHAT?

        Venger, fix that shit. Watch all of Samurai Jack.

        Then watch Primal. Prince, you’ve seen Primal, right? Right???

        Basically, see anything animated by Genndy Tartakovsky. He made the best Star Wars content since Empire – see his Clone Wars shorts, they are amazing.

        Here’s the Mace Windu fight he made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF3ocZu4cZo

        Genndy is a genius.

        Like

  3. Will this receive a martial arts side book that completely f*cks the game system so hard that the writers have to clarify things using their blogs? Will it also have contradictory rules that seem totally paradoxical when meshed with later books? And will it have so many game-breaking customizations that will inevitably cause rules lawyering to the inane degree? If so, hooray, we have ourselves Exalted-Lite. Even with my amateurish understanding of rules, I could even see the sh*tshow that was Exalted Second Edition.
    (Sidreals martial arts makes people sad,both in-game and out.)

    I think this also has some Warmachines influence.

    On the tone itself:
    Does this game want to be a “dark world” on the edge of consumption but with tiny flicks of wonder (Dark Souls with it’s Painted Worlds and talking cats, or Sekiro with it’s gun-monkeys) or “high fantasy” with oozing wounds? (Stormlight Archives with its war crime scenes, Exalted with its ever present threats of Oblivion eating the world)
    When I think grim-darkness I don’t think giant robots and superheroes are the first things to come to mind. Doesn’t mean you can’t have that (Evangelion, Worm, Brennus,Recokners) but from your writing it doesn’t seem like the game is using it in those ways.

    [Product Itself: In no particular order]
    There is a certain part of me that will always love 90’s White Wolf, even though I was never born in that time. Something always allured me to its dark bosom. Maybe it was its prose of it being a “deep, dark world”,its takes on popular monsters, or its plentiful,to the point of uselessness, variety of races for each and every game line. It allowed me to bring my black-with-red-strips OC to life. I still have Werewolf the Apocalypse and all three “Book of…” on my shelf to this day. So this product absolutely reeks of it and I kinda have a little smile on my face as I read this review. But enough about my own autism.

    -Soburin
    That is absolutely insane that the area is so in-detail. I’m honestly asking why it doesn’t leave some to the imagination. Are the descriptions entire paragraphs or does it at least leave some room for a GM’s own interpretation? Are each prefectures distinct enough that they don’t blend in together or could be considered chaff?

    -Races/Backgrounds
    I think for the sake of simplicity both of these should be eight. Eight races and eight backgrounds. You have enough variety for everyone,but not too many to be overwhelming. Although this is a personal opinion.

    I also feel you on the vampire stuff, the core thirteen were cool and should’ve been kept there. None of the others sounded cool to play, were meant for a particular sort of person, or were just a mess. I’m not familiar with it too much,but was the Blood Brothers of VtM a playable bloodline? The gargoyles?

    -The Adventure
    Why was this adventure not meant for lower level characters? Its strange, but it sounds pretty decent on a whole. But to parrot the comment above me, why are there 20 NPC’s? That is a whole lotta people to have in just one adventure.

    Finally: “I train with my Katana every day, this superior weapon can cut clean through steel because it is folded over a thousand times, and is vastly superior to any other weapon on earth. I earned my sword license two years ago, and I have been getting better every day.”

    Sugoi~

    Like

    1. [Exalted]
      Exalted is a roleplaying fighting game where describing how cool your moves are is more significant then any sort of preparation or strategy. In that it has captured the logic of Animu perfectly.

      [Grimdarkness]

      It’s difficult because I think its a matter of degree. It’s definetely the first, the world is a shitshow, crime and tension is rife, most of the races are hardened and there’s a few specks of wonder here and there. That’s why some of the entries are a little puzzling because they don’t really contribute to that theme.

      I have read Jim Butcher but not Stormlight Archives. What do you like about it?

      [WW]

      Did you ever run your White Wolf game?

      [Soburin]

      No it’s 2-4 pages per province. They all have their own clan running it, and they all have a unique demi-human race. Not enough hooks, the most important thing.

      [Races/Backgrounds]

      There’s no hard number but option fatigue sure.

      Sugoi old son.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. [Stormlight Archives]
        I loved the first book, meh on the second, and liked the third book. The first book’s perspective through the eyes of what is basically a slave-unit was great. Bridge-4 was such a amazing group as we followed them during their outings.Second book was meh, not bad but not as good as the first book. However,it has probably one of my favorite scenes in recent fantasy memory as one of the heroes basically goes “f*ck you” to one of the villains. He just stabs the ass through his eye and then leaves his corpse to rot. Third book had such an twist of a reveal that I can’t spoil, but it was just eye-popping to read.

        It does however rely heavily on the rest of the Cosmere, Brandon’s universe, so it did have things that flew over my head. And it looks like its going to involve much more than I thought, so i’m going to have to read through his other works to understand some ideas that are being thrown around.

        [White Wolf]
        It would’ve followed the adventures of a Get of Fenris, a Glasswalker, a Silver Fang, and a Red Talon all investigating the rumors of a Wyrm-Infested Pentex facility. Upon infiltrating said facility, they were met not by Wyrm-abominations, but by Wyld Spirits. Like for example a employee-of-the-month wall coming to life with the occupants of the pictures spilling out and attacking the group. Now how did unrestrained creation become bound, the group would have to journey in deeper into the facility to find out.

        And then various factors made me move cities, so that game never finished.

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    2. I never played Exalted, which seemed to be the perfect fusion of the worst aspects of WoD (the combat) with weeb shit for weebs (everything else), but I know people who worked on the (third?) edition and attempted to un-cluster-fuck it while still respecting that Exalted had a fanatical fanbase who actually LIKED that sort of thing. Or at least bought it by the truckload.

      [Warmachine]

      … when you say that, do you mean the Privateer Press miniatures game or something else of which I am not aware?

      [Bloodlines]

      We did this upthread but your mention of the Blood Brothers has brought on a Rouse check and, alas, I have failed. The problem is simple. When WW puts something in the ass-end of a book under the Antagonists section it is understood that the something in question is not meant for players. Sadly, they didn’t implement this policy as thoroughly as they should (inconsistent quality control being a hallmark of the imprint since the start) and that’s why you get shit like the Blood Brothers and Harbingers of Skulls written up as playable bloodlines even though everything about them says they’re not and even the writeup says “we’re doing this to explain the concept in a format you recognise, these really aren’t meant for players.” If that’s the case, don’t do it in the player-facing section, in the player-facing format that you use for player-friendly options, you cackhanded employers of Leif Jones!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really wish to know who controlled the Exalted teams when they worked on books. Like how the Darkbroods(main villains of this particular species) in the Mountain Folk’s book were only two entries or how the Hannya never got there own book even though they were pivotal to another race’s entire idea.

        How Sidereal martial arts could make the system your b*tch or how some character builds could literally beat the ass of the main gods who controlled the universe. How emissaries of the primordial deities of the universe were supposed to be all inspiring terrors,but were basically cows due to how literally the laws of the universe were rewritten. Where was the editor, or creative controller, when each book was being written?

        [Warmachines]
        Yep. A foreign power coming into the setting,and in-turn, causing a revolution resulting in giant robots sounds a little too Warmachine to me. Maybe i’m stretching the comparison though.

        [Bloodlines]
        Huh. So they were some with merits, good to know. I’m actually pleasantly surprised. Laibon sound quite interesting from what I read from their wiki pages. While Old Clan Tzimisce sound badass in general.

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  4. Pretty spot on. I read through this setting myself, and as much as I love gonzo and 90’s grimdark weeb bullshit, this was just to disjointed and all over the place. I think it fits better with the Shadow of the Demon Lord system, another game for masochists and real men. This is a case where less is more. Never the less, there still seems to be a lot of good ideas floating around in there. If nothing else, it can be mined for ideas

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    1. SotDL looks interesting but I think I passed the stage where I am looking for that non-DnD derived holy grail. I might check it out later.

      MoA CAN be mined for ideas but the problem is that most of its ideas have also been used elsewhere. I can see a GM stripmining the player option and monster sections for parts though.

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      1. SotDL is worth a read through, but if you’re already ready comfortable in your game then I could see not using it. The corruption and insanity mechanics do a very good job of portraying the horror theme of the game however.

        Stripmining for the more entertaining mechanics seems to be the most commonly used thing in third party 5e products. Monsters especially

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  5. Geez, Prince, it’s time.

    Time to get some decent blog software. You can have shitty commenting UX or long detailed discussions in the comments…not BOTH. I’d love to be part of some of this conversation but fuck this interface.

    I’m sounding angry. I’m not angry. I just have to fix my internet persona switch….ah, there we go.

    Could you please install a more contemporary commenting plug-in, or whatever this site uses? You’ve got an interesting comment section but I find it too much trouble to navigate the weird nesting, and the way that you can’t reply to a comment past a certain depth.

    Like

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