Friday, December 23, 2022

(Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition) Dungeon Master's Guide

 I'm over the hump now. I have a lot of 3rd edition books in front of me, but surely none of them will have the characteristic DMG blend of dryly picayune (tell me how a flask of holy water will bounce if a player misses with their attack roll) and the dryly abstract (explain what a "dungeon" is, keeping in mind that at this point the word is basically jargon). From this point on, at least until I read the 3.5 version of the cores, all my D&D books are going to be about something.

But it really wasn't that bad. I may have spent the bulk of my time as a Dungeon Master doing whatever I could to avoid having to crack open the Dungeon Master's Guide, but now, as an exercise in nostalgia, I had fun keeping my eyes open for little dramatic ironies. The book can say, "[rolling for AC as a] variant rule comes in handy at high levels, where high-level fighters always hit with their primary attacks and other characters rarely do," and I can jump up and down, clapping my hands and shouting, "OMG! They knew! The fundamental math of the game was broken by design!"

But, of course, the fact that this disparity was apparent even from the start serves only to raise the question - if they designed the attack-roll system to work so that warrior-types would hit often and non-warriors would hit rarely, then exactly what was the underlying design goal of 3rd edition in the first place? You're 20th level and the game the fighters are playing is fundamentally different than the game the wizards are playing and maybe that's a form of niche protection? Fighters have competitive attrition and wizards have a save-or-die slot machine, with each spell slot giving them another pull at the lever, and ideally, these divergent playstyles deliver a gameplay experience tailored to the sort of people who would have chosen those classes at 1st level?

A bold move, if true. I'm not sure I approve. At the very least, the line "Dungeon Masters who are real sticklers for class balance may want to avoid modifying character classes altogether" strikes me as . . . a bit overconfident. 

But that's just me being a smug little dork. It's only with the wisdom of hindsight that I realized being able to target your foe's weakest save with an incapacitating spell is a much more powerful tactic than whittling down their hit points. There's plenty in this book that I've been ignoring since 2001. Mostly the world-building advice. It does that weird D&D thing where it empowers you to make a hundred different variations of the same highly specific idea. Why are you telling me that "all druids are at least nominally members of [a] druidic society which spans the globe?" Why does my goblin or orc PC need to have been "reared by humans, elves, dwarves, or another nonevil race?"

The thing is, I know the future. D&D 3rd edition is going to give us a lot of material to work with. And somehow, it's going to break through to the mainstream, even though 5th edition was deliberately designed to be conservative. At some point the tide is going to turn, and we'll get more support for diverse worldbuilding than this book's sad half-page about converting the game to an east-Asian setting. I'm just not sure when it's going to happen.

But that's really the worst thing I can say about The Dungeon Master's Guide. Monte Cooke, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams did not reinvent the wheel, even though they had every opportunity to reinvent the wheel, and this particular wheel was long overdue for a good reinventing (seriously, the xp award section was stultifyingly old-school in its reluctance to give xp for anything but combat encounters). However, given the basic limitations of the project - a new D&D ruleset in an environment that had not yet had the opportunity to discover a new D&D culture - these guys are at the top of their game. A book this dry could have been a hell of a lot drier, if you know what I mean.

My favorite part (aside from the magic item chapter, whose primary strength was that it preserved the best stuff from prior editions) was the introduction of Prestige Classes. These things are going to be huge, and I am here for it. 

At the risk of sounding back-handed, prestige classes offer us a peek into an alternate universe where every class is as interesting as the monk or the bard. And yes, you're better off playing a fighter than a monk or a wizard than a bard, but still, despite their relative weakness, they get interesting abilities, driven by a strong concept, narrowed into a setting and party niche . . . like prestige classes. 

The downside to most prestige classes is that you can't play them from level 1. The Assassin would be a really good class if you were getting their 4th level spells at level 8 instead of level 12. The Arcane Archer is a great concept, held back by its lack of a dedicated spell-casting mechanic (instead of delivering regular spells via arrow, it should have a list of magical arrows with spell-like effects). The Shadowdancer should just be a regular rogue build (as in, "shadow jump" should be a feat or something, that any high-level rogue can take). These are character-defining concepts, but they exist off to the side of normal class progression. 

It really gets to the dilemma at the heart of 3rd-edition's class design. Even as early as the core, it's possible to see a fully modular approach to character progression - build any character imaginable using only modular elements like feats, skills, and spells. True20 is going to do this with its Adept, Warrior, and Expert classes and it's going to be great. Alternately, you could build an entire game around a large number of highly-specific classes. . . and I can't think of a game (besides Ukss d20, that is) that does that, but it might turn out pretty interesting. Or you could do what 3.0/3.5 did in practice, which is to recklessly mix the two design tendencies, both in full and prestige classes, so the Fighter exists alongside the Druid and the Dwarven Defender competes with classes that are transparent patches to the multiclass system (though they won't actually show up until around the time of the 3.5 cores). 

Overall, I'm pretty glad to have read the Dungeon Master's Guide, and not just to quickly get it out of the way. I'm at the start of a journey into the most vibrantly creative period of D&D history, and the DMG reminds me that, though the pace is definitely going to accelerate, there was some movement even at the start.

Ukss Contribution: So let's go backwards! To a magic item that was present in both 2nd and 1st edition. The Mirror of Opposition. You look into the mirror and an opposite alignment duplicate jumps out and tries to kill you. It's my favorite kind of magic - specific and powerful and completely unclear as to why anyone would make such a thing. I'll probably give it some other use besides screwing over adventurers (it's not listed as a cursed item, but what is it if not a trap?), but the essential function will remain.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

(Orpheus) The Orphan Grinders


Ew. That name. It's never adequately explained, and the speculation for why this new breed of ex-spectres might be called "Orphan-Grinders" is so weak that I suspect the name doesn't mean anything at all. Maybe they're "orphaned" by the spectre hive-mind, or maybe they're worse than spectres "because they understand the quality of mercy and yet ignore it as a failing," or maybe someone in Orpheus brainstorming meetings came up with a clever turn of phrase and nobody could bear to strike it from the whiteboard.

Anyway, the Orphan-Grinders (ew) do address one of my issues with Orpheus' setting - the bleak reactionary cynicism behind making the fall to becoming a spectre a one-way street. Spectres so far have been one of those "dark side" groups that follows the weird fictional trope of recruiting primarily from among their victims. Like, a dark and sinister ghost who has given over completely to their most terrible passions of hate and rage, that makes sense. And it makes sense that when a serial killer like Cyrus J. Randall dies, they have only a short journey to becoming a spectre. But then the people this serial-killer-turned-dark-ghost tortures and kills, they become spectres too, and suddenly they're on the same side, working towards the same goal? You could very reasonably frame becoming a spectre as a tragedy, that the supernatural rules of being a ghost are such that even well-justified hate and rage make you lose all control, but wouldn't that out-of-control hate and rage still largely target their former enemies?

Sure, sometimes in the real world, an organization will put its recruits through an unnecessarily abusive training regimen and the result will be new members with fanatical loyalty. And sometimes an abused person will cleave tightly to their abuser, but even in those situations, there's a more nuanced psychological process at play here. The recruits can consider themselves elite because they endured the abuse. The abuser's rage is followed up by overwhelming love-bombing. 

I don't know . . . humans are complicated, I guess. However, from a pure storytelling perspective, it's one of my least favorite tropes. It's marginally justified here, because the chthonic deity, Grandmother, incorporates most of the spectres into her hive mind. And the hive-mind experience is, in fact, described as "suffused with love," so telepathy combined with crude psychological manipulation could explain a loyalty to Grandmother. But it's fucking grim. These torture victims are being exploited by their torturers to torture more people and the ratchet only turns towards "evil" because there's no terminology in the system to differentiate between living murderers who became murder ghosts and innocents who died and then because of the fucked-up cosmology became murder ghosts.

I mean, for fuck's sake, the Lost Boys. They're spectres who got their start as abused and neglected children and they never fail to give me the heebie-jeebies, and not in a way that inclines me to explore the horror genre. They have an especially gruesome appearance in this book, and I'm going to have to quote the worst of it, because it's fucking terrible in a way that I wouldn't want to write the words that could do it justice: "A fourth, had wrapped the lower half of its face in duct tape, while the upper half appeared purple and bloated."  It's such a visceral image, especially when you know the backstory - Sister Grace was a nun who "took care" of orphans, many of whom died in the abusive foster homes she placed them in because, "Grace mistook their authoritarian natures as merely strict, but loving, like herself."

And excuse me while I all-caps rant for a second:


Okay, that's mostly out of my system now. It's a very uncomfortable adventure. Sister Grace is not nearly tormented enough about her deeds, and the text doesn't seem to appreciate the gravity of the story it's telling. I think you could do interesting horror about the wicked proprietor of an abusive orphanage who was tormented by the ghosts of the children she abused and who eventually came to feel such remorse that she was willing to submit herself to their violent revenge, but in order to be interesting, and not whatever the fuck this was, you kind of have to take the side of the ghosts, at least a little. White Wolf liked moral complexity, but the moral complexity here is in the audience's capacity for forgiveness. She doesn't deserve it. She can never deserve it. But she needs it. That's the terrible power of grace (I'd say "no pun intended," but I can't actually speak for White Wolf's motives in choosing the character's name).

But this gets us to the heart of what's wrong with Orpheus' (and really, Wraith: the Oblivion's) presentation of spectres so far. You can't introduce characters like the Lost Boys and then assign them "it" as a pronoun, or, at least, you can't unless your story is about the tragedy of their objectification. Because they are not the monsters. The Sister Graces of the world are the monsters. The violence of the Lost Boys is her violence, translated forward into the future. It's not proportionate, and it's not just, and it's directed towards the wrong people, but so was what she did to those children. The pain caused by a tormented ghost is just the pain of an uncorrected injustice, made literal through the power of metaphor. The Lost Boys don't need redemption, they need healing

And you can certainly interpret this book's de-spectre-izing mechanics in that way, if you wanted to, but the presentation doesn't make it easy. When you're done with the redemption, what you're left with is an "Orphan Grinder," a dark antihero with powers related to the spectre hive mind, who is constantly in danger of backsliding and become a new, more powerful form of spectre known as a Lawgiver. There's a sweet-spot where that plot works, like with the signature character Tom Hayes, who was an Orpheus agent who died in the raid, then his daughter died from the mass pigment poisoning and he became a spectre to try and rescue her soul, but he failed and came to regret his actions, becoming an Orphan Grinder out of his overwhelming guilt, and so now he's a free agent in the anti-spectre resistance, too ashamed to return to his old comrades, but too responsible to give up the fight, making deals with sinister entities and running the risk of pushing things too far . . . That's an arc. It's good. Now, let's do one for Maria, the former Lost Boy (Girl) who is being mentored by Beth Savitch, former spectre whose main crime was failing to get revenge on the Chupacabra that killed her sister. . . Oh, right, it would be weird to have a character that was the ghost of an innocent little girl who fell into a terrible rage after her untimely death and was subsequently adopted by a grim antihero and trained to be an antihero instead of a vengeful shade and now seeks redemption for the dark deeds she performed before being raised to full awareness of her condition. And, sure, I'd watch that anime, but it would only be good if it somehow acknowledged how weird it was.

All these words and I haven't even talked about the main plot - the worldwide spectre invasion. It's a perfectly adequate plot, and has been fairly foreshadowed in the books so far, but it draws upon the weakest part of Orpheus' original pitch - its tenuous connection to the larger World of Darkness. As we get deeper into Grandmother's motives and origins, we're being introduced to more and more of Wraith: the Oblivion's terminal metaplot. Turns out Grandmother's hive mind isn't the only spectre game in town, she's opposed by Mr Jigsaw, a potent spectre who works for the Malfeans, and that information only makes sense if you knew that the Malfeans were the old enemies of Stygia, the grand kingdom of the dead that no longer exists because Grandmother ate everyone.

In one sense, this is White Wolf just doing the thing that White Wolf always does - introducing a change to canon as a metaplot event. One of the (arguable) weaknesses of Wraith: the Oblivion is that it introduces a whole new afterlife that's not connected to any real-world beliefs or anything the players are familiar with or care about, which is fine for a pure fantasy game (it's used to great effect in Exalted, for example), but maybe a modern horror game about ghosts should focus on haunting the real world . . . I know, let's blow up Stygia and everything in it. Likewise, the shadowguide system was a little weird and intense, so let's change it so that ghosts have exterior spectre dopplegangers and then instead of just pretending that's how it's been all along (considering that this is ostensibly an entirely new game with a new title and branding), we'll have the canon NPC drop a hint that the nature of the ghost-shadow relationship changed around the same time as the shit that went down in the Underworld.

It all adds up to a growing sense that we were never actually playing Orpheus at all. That such a game never even existed. Rather, it's a soft reboot into Wraith: the Oblivion, revised and all this Orpheus business is White Wolf taking another approach to the transitional woes that plagued Mage: the Ascension. We're seeing what it would be like if they'd called the M:Rev core The Bitter Road and then slow-dripped the old factions, apres retcon, into the setting as part of an Apprentice-to-Disciple level mini-campaign.

And to be entirely fair, it's probably a good way of doing a radical edition change, especially in an interconnected universe as complex as the World of Darkness. But I'm on the record as never really liking the World of Darkness that much (even as I enjoyed many of the individual games), and I have the same problem here. The best parts of Orpheus were the parts that were distinctly Orpheus and they are gradually falling to the wayside. 

So I don't know how I feel about this book. I like Grandmother as a villain, but I don't care for her backstory. I like that spectre-hood is no longer a hopeless condition, but I don't like the way it conflates victims with villains. I liked the hives blossoming into their final form, but I felt like the spectre invasion was one-sided to the point of overkill. I guess the best way to sum it up is that the farther we get away from the core, the farther we get away from the core . . . and I fucking loved the core.

Ukss Contribution: Frick and Frack, the identical twin ghosts who independently and simultaneously murdered each other at exactly the same time and who have carried their grudge into the afterlife. The names are a little twee, but I enjoyed the horror with a tinge of farce.

PS: Donate to RAINN, if you can.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook (3rd Edition)

 Oh, wow, the nostalgia. This is another one of those books where it hasn't quite been twenty years, but those twenty years ago, I must have read it a dozen times. And revisiting this beloved treasure, my main thought was, "damn, was I ever that young?"

Until very recently, my main thought about this book was as an improvement over AD&D 2nd edition, because when I was eighteen years old, in winter of 2000, my experience was that this allowed me to do things I'd long wished for - demihuman characters can go all the way to level 20, a versatile multiclass system that allows you to make a wide variety of character concepts, a rational skill system, a consistent roll-over system, instead of the weird stuff with  ability checks being roll-under, and attack rolls and savings throws being roll-over, but with lower scores being better.

And aside from my main thought, my secondary thought was that this game is the driving technology behind a lot of great games - Blue Rose and Mutants and Masterminds, d20 Modern and, of course, Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition. This is the start of a creative explosion in the rpg scene, and while many people would describe its era with unflattering terms like "bloat" or "glut" or "bubble," I'm just kind of thrilled that the OGL exists and I love the diversity of the games it inspired. It's a big reason I decided to make Ukssd20 the official rpg of this blog. 

Which is why it comes as such a shock to me that the fatal flaws of the baseline d20 system were so glaringly obvious even from the beginning - its creative new multiclassing system will destroy your core competencies, rogues have thirty-one class skills, spells still take up half the book. I noticed none of this at the time, and I have to assume it was because I was still a child, with only a child's breadth of knowledge. I loved D&D 3rd edition because it was not AD&D 2nd edition, the only other game I could compare it to.

But I could spend all day waxing poetic about the superior hindsight powers of middle age. Yes, this book has deep shortcomings, but some are just assumptions that should have been questioned, but weren't. It introduces "Item Creation Feats," but they spellcaster levels as a prerequisite, because tactical-scale spellcasting, story-scale magic rituals, and background activity crafting magic are all the same basic skill. . . and there's no real reason for that. Other shortcomings are things that were improved, but not by enough. Non-caster classes at least get something at high levels. What that Barbarian is going to do with 4 points of damage reduction or how the Monk is going to benefit from not aging, the book does not say, but they only seem like weak powers when you compare them to bringing back the dead or stopping time. Only a few were genuinely a design dead-end - like the split between combat, skill, and magic competence and being able to sacrifice one to improve the others.

But as much as this book could sometimes seem like a catalogue of ideas we've collectively outgrown, it's also the first game in a long time where I felt tempted to make a character in the middle of reading (it was actually infuriating - this pointless distraction character had the best stat roll of my entire roleplaying career - a total of 84 attribute points, with my lowest roll being a 12). It has a vitality to it, a sense that we're going to have Dungeons and Dragons, but now it's going to be intentionally designed. The chassis is versatile enough that you can build almost anything on top of it. It's taking a tenative, but real step in questioning the old magic system with the introduction of the sorcerer class. I may be jaded by the two decades worth of innovative rpgs that came in its wake, but I did also get the feeling of being present at the turning of an age. Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition is peak 90s design, in both the good and bad senses of the term.

Ukss Contribution: A lot of the flavor of this book is legacy material, with all the weird cruft that entails ("Stone to Flesh" is still in here), and in that tradition, the best type of stuff is the extremely niche spells that are absolutely delightful as character powers, but which are not reasonably worth the opportunity cost in D&D's system of limited spell slots. My favorite example is the "Shrink Item" spell. You take a regular item (which can include an actively burning campfire!) and reduces it to a cute little cloth patch. Then, at some later point, you toss the item onto the ground and it returns to its normal size and composition. Yeah, you can have a whole host of useful mundane items available on demand, but you have to renew the spell every few days and you're giving up "Fly" or "Fireball" to do it. It's the sort of spell you only use during downtime, which means it doesn't really need to be a spell at all.

But it's an incredible image. And Ukss doesn't have to cleave to spell slots as a mechanic, so I might be able to implement it in a more practical way.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

(Orpheus) Shadow Games

Ah, the gradual transformation of Orpheus into a new edition of Wraith: the Oblivion is proceeding nicely. But don't let my sarcastic tone fool you, I'm largely okay with it. The antediluvian mystery of the old spirit world is one of the key elements of Orpheus' spooky atmosphere, and it continues to develop nicely here - a dread tower of imperishable ghost metal is hurled by an apocalyptic storm through the barrier between worlds, where it strikes the earth like a meteor, causing a terrible earthquake in the physical realm. Meanwhile, the baleful intelligence coordinating the spectres' reign of terror is becoming bolder, revealing itself to the psychically sensitive through recurring nightmares. She is a chthonic death goddess, known only as Grandmother, and through her agents in various cults, she's spreading the cursed street drug, Pigment, which causes anyone who dies with it in their system to become a weak and tenuous shade. Soon, she will herself breach the barrier and her army of fanatical ghosts will reap a terrible harvest of souls.

All very exciting, but I still miss Orpheus. It was the game's most interesting invention, that single-handedly shifted it into a new genre of horror/fantasy, and nothing in any of the books has filled the gap caused by its absence.

Oh, the book tries. It introduces a new replacement - Lazarus Redux - which at least tries to be ethical to both living and dead and whose entire reason for existence is to prepare against the possibility of a new underworld apocalypse. Which, okay, I'd have to be some kind of cynical turd to hate it for that . . . but maybe I'm just learning a thing or two about myself in the course of this blog.

First of all, it misses the entire point of having "projector firms" in the first place. Like, the theme of this book is the player characters' transition from reactive to active, from victims of shadowy conspiracies to a bold resistance movement, but is this something I even want? Shadow Games gives us a vision of what early-2000s White Wolf thought a well-run projector firm might look like (the local coffee shop, Spooky Brews, is an unofficial satellite office!), but I was much more invested in the story of a poorly run operation. If you're going to pitch me something you insist on calling a "coalition against entropy," at least do so in the shadow of the late-stage capitalism that would make such a thing unthinkable.

Also, Lazarus Redux is officially founded by the game's signature NPCs, who canonically survived the destruction of Orpheus, and that's the worst kind of metaplot shenanigans. The purpose of signature characters is as a placeholder for PCs, so that when you're reading the book, you can imagine the sort of things the players might get up to. Unfortunately, there is no suggestion anywhere in this book that you might want to run a "PCs found their equivalent of Lazarus Redux" campaign. The suggestion that "if you ask, you're certain to find that each player has a favorite signature character" was . . . adorable in its optimism. That you might exploit these preferences to feed missions to the PCs does not strike me as tenable.

But the worst thing about Lazarus Redux is the name. Just yikes on that branding. You could have just named it "Lazarus," and people would have gotten the picture. Or, if you were feeling bold, you could have gone with "Redux." It's modern, it's vague, and it has all the exact same connotations as "Lazarus." Combining the two just comes across as goofy.

I know I've been a bit harsh on LR in this post, and most of that has just been resentment at the fact that it's replacing the main thing that drew me to the game in the first place. Honestly, you could run a ghost-hunting game as heroic fantasy. And you could make the new heroic small business into an NPC operation in order to spare the PCs the tedium of securing permits and zoning and whatnot. But the thing with the name, that's not even my opinion. It's commented on in the opening fiction. By the second paragraph of the book, the narrator calls it "stupid" twice. Before we know literally anything else about it. Maybe, if you find yourself in the position where you're going to publish the words "Damn stupid name if you ask me" you can just take a few minutes and brainstorm something else.

Anyway, Lazarus Redux is the sort of business where the founder is the CEO, and the CEO is the main point of contact for clients and contractors, so that makes it a more wholesome form of capitalism. None of those tedious dark and sinister secrets lurking around in the background, threatening to become subplots.

Yeah, okay, I could very well have just held off on running the Crusade of Ashes story until the conspiracy stuff was fully played out, using the shocking swerve in the game's direction as a signal for the beginning of the campaign endgame, and the canon story actually works pretty well if you assume that each subsequent sourcebook has an accelerating pace. It's just a weakness that the Lazarus Redux plot acts contrary to that tendency (they are set up to act as a new patron, suggesting this stage of the story is in it for the long haul.) And that's exacerbated by Shadow Games' mishandling of the series main villain - the mass murderer turned ghost by Orpheus' unethical experiments, who now serves as Grandmother's point man in the physical world, the practical and ruthless intellect behind the spread of pigment - Uriah Bishop.

Now, Bishop is a good villain, but book 4 is too late in the series to be learning this vital information. It's revealed that he's Crusade of Ashes' "Mysterious Antagonist #1" and the information just completely fails to land. Oh, the guy who was name dropped in the core, then barely showed up in the next two books, is actually the one behind everything? I guess that's more economical than having a second named NPC suddenly show up out of nowhere. 

The only things we definitely knew about Mysterious Antagonist #1 is that he had a strange ability to secure the cooperation of the spectres and his pockets were deep enough to afford to keep NextWorld on call indefinitely, even as it deliberately drew-out its murder-for-hire scheme. And we learn here the reasons for those traits. He can cooperate with spectres because he made a bargain with the dark goddess that controls their hive mind. And he has a lot of money because his cult is a linchpin of the pigment trade.

This just goes to show the weakness of the information slow-drip, though. Because the plot only works if it's established that someone out there is making Pablo Escobar-scale money off the pigment trade. And the fact that the head of that cartel has a connection to Orpheus only works if the PCs know who the head of the cartel is. And the PCs can only know about the head of the cartel if he has a presence in the campaign. And if he has a presence in the campaign, then it's also super relevant that he is the leader of a cult.

If I were to try and fix this plotline, I think I'd have to largely reverse its course. Baseline, the core Orpheus experience is this sci-fi/fantasy world where science establishes the existence of ghosts. Orpheus advertises on prime time, imitators have been spawned, and the idea has permeated into pop culture. And part of that, as something that's a big setting element even from the beginning, is a religious reaction. The Missionary Works of the Holy Ghost presents itself as a mainline Protestant denomination that is at the forefront of incorporating these scientific revelations about ghosts into its theology and practices. It has developed post-life sacraments and offers its fellowship to Christian ghosts. And at the start it serves mainly as a foil to Orpheus, an ostensibly altruistic organization that underbids the Orpheus Group for many of its so-called "fumigation" or exorcism services, but respects the spiritual gravity of what it's doing.

Then, you dig deeper and discover some disturbingly cult-like behavior among its upper echelons. It turns out the head of the church is himself a ghost! Then you find out that the church is super-rich, thanks to its role in the pigment trade. Then the Crusade of Ashes plot happens. The ghostly head of this wealthy mega-church is the prime suspect, but why? So you dig deeper . . . OMG, he's the ghost of a dead mass murderer, and he has a connection to Orpheus' sinister Project Flatline. Was this just about revenge? Maybe it seems that way at first, but then the poisoned pigment thing happens, and that traces back to Bishop too, which seems contrary to his well-established interests. And that is when you learn about his connection to Grandmother.

Of course, I may have to reassess this position, pending the withheld information from upcoming books. The thing I'm discovering about Orpheus, reading it from the position of a more experienced consumer of media, is that it has a lot of great parts, but that the whole suffers greatly from being spread out among six books. It seems like a prime candidate for a cleaned-up 20th anniversary edition.

Ukss Contribution: The Maggot Revolver. It's a magical revolver that shoots maggots. The wounds are exactly as awful as you're imagining. Gross, but I'm going to remember it forever (in fact, I do remember it, not just from Orpheus, but from Exalted: the Abyssals. I suspect that it got its start in Wraith: the Oblivion, because it definitely seems like the sort of idea that you want to reuse as often as possible.)