Illegal Gods version .086 Follow-Up

So, I can at least say I had a good time, and my players seemed to, so while I might have left them confused, at least I left them smiling.

Character Sheets for 086b Version  (BigBadCon 2016)

I always enjoy giving out the designs for the character sheets, especially when I throw new neat things into them. I think it probably reflects a lot on my methodology in how many games I just create new powers for without worrying about a system to back them up… or it just says a lot about my Amber DRPG upbringing.

In this case, the “system” worked in that you rolled some dice and the success or failure was noted, although it was weighted towards success. Having played “Earthdawn: Age of Legend” previous to and J. Aegard’s “Monster Draft” after it, I saw a very familiar methodology in it… but it leads to two options, and I’ve got my dislike of each for different reasons:

  1. The GM determines what happens based on the “failure” or “success” with or without additional benefits, delayed or not.
  2. The Player has to control the narrative long enough to come up with what they think “failure” or “success” indicates.

I’m trying to shake it off, but I think those two options are the impetus for a number of schisms I’ve seen (and don’t care to name.) It comes right against this block in my mind that insinuates elegance only in expectation, like having an option for every response. If I have an option for every roll, I don’t actually need to administrate – a computer could GM. At the same time, we get that whole wargamer vibe – I end up building more of a step-by-step than an adventure or game.

And what’s really wrong with it? I would have said the game was basically a success. Not as a playtest (I didn’t do any kind of post-discussion, or really rules questions) but the play of it worked because once having decided success or failure, we collaboratively agreed on the events that followed (with a little kept in my head.)  I did hear a few concerns about assumptions (including the comment that it was “Assumptions: The Game”) but that comes down to my issues with running – again, I’m more evocative than prescriptive.

It’s the “Cuba rule” with me.  “Sure, it sounds like the story is in the haunted house1, but if you say, ‘No way,’ I’ve got story in the bend of the river as much as the obvious plant.”  If you think Cuba’s beautiful this time of year, sure, let’s go to Cuba.  It’s not sandbox, it’s more illusion of choice – the story is about the PCs, so of course it’s going to follow them, right?  And yes, I have the whole core of the game in my head, but everything they needed to know was on those sheets… and in the game description.

And my other problem with running games – I’m an intuitive. Seriously – Myers-Brigg being ridiculous, I still score almost pure intuition as my method of examining the world. (This revelation has caused no end of amusement to my family – “She doesn’t actually listen to you, she just presumes she knows what you’re saying,” has some truth to it.) So I build games where characters have the ability to perceive knowledge passively, not always relevant but if you’re a fox spirit who can see spirits, you’re going to see the spirit taking over the child.

One of the things I introduced in the text was the idea of divine presence as “Grace,” a term I assume I borrowed from “Supernatural” (realized belatedly) but makes sense in the context here, too.  It implies a measure of power. (Literally a measure, a measuring tool.) The Monk in-game (although not noted in character sheet) had his portion of His Most Ardent and Glorious Self’s power break the usual rules (open doors no one else could open as there was no power to them) and such. (“It made sense at the time” is one of the problems with the way I run – I don’t feel like I’m inconsistent, but again, it’s intuition-based running, and if you aren’t making the same leaps I am and riding aboard the same trains of thought it might look random.)

Add this to my way of thinking and having to translate to words, and I should just retire from gaming2. Oh well, I do it for my three fans.  Oh, and someday I really ought to run a horror game.


The game itself went where it would, and everyone except the poor Ambassador reached their goals. The person playing Luscious Lucille ( is who I think it was … not 100% sure – maybe I shouldn’t have accidentally thrown away my notes when packing) I think stole the game. It was hard, I loved everyone’s portrayal of their randomly-chosen characters. The recognition that when the Huli Jing smiled something bad was happening, and yet when it was serious something really bad was happening… the Monk scooping up a young girl with a demon prince residing in combination with her soul and just carrying her through the hallways of horrors.  The Ambassador claiming the observatory deck as property of Sleeper IV (with its very rough scraping away of a Darkover serial number) and of course, the way it ends as a comic book, with the slowly eroding sphere of god-vacuum floating on the deck…

So, I can at least say I had a good time, and my players seemed to, so while I might have left them confused, at least I left them smiling.


Illegal Gods version .086

A little Illegal Gods action, current version.

So, it’s been a while since I posted anything about Illegal Gods, and a lot of that has been because Hellsing House has had a lot of my attention on those rare instances I’ve had energy for design. I’m a bit stalled on the House for a few reasons (one of which I just fixed while thinking about it) but it’s partially in order to treat the underlying ideas with respect.

But, in a fit of pique, I decided to run an Illegal Gods game at BigBadCon 2016. The system is really the kicker, and I figured I could talk a little bit (spoiler-free) about how this playtest is being designed.

The scenario is actually one from our original game, and I really should give a lot of props to the LintKing as I’m cribbing from some of his notes as well. I’m not so much worried about planning what happens (I know, shocking isn’t it?) as I am working on the characters.

So, I’m pretty sure “Powered by the Apocalypse” is going to have a resurgence with the release of the new version. I’m a little tepid about it, honestly. The reason I mention it is because I see some similarities in the basic strategies of what I’m doing now with Illegal Gods. I have ideas on how to handle rolls of everything from -2 to 16 with a roll being two different stats.

Three things all characters should be able to do:
1) Petition the Gods
2) Choose “fight or flee,” in whatever ambulatory method they have available
3) Get more information on an object.

So, the statistics are awful. I cannot tell you how awful they are. Okay, I can tell you what they are called and you can groan with me:





You’ve kind of seen the word “ligeance” before in “allegiance” Ligeance refers to “the connection between sovereign and subject by which they were mutually bound” or in this case, for Illegal Gods it can refer to the connection between a character and their god, political group, homeworld, or family. That “mutually bound” is part of the number. You may be devoted to His Most Ardent and Glorious Self, but I’ll be honest – He doesn’t even know you exist.  I do like this particular statistic, and might just keep it. 

Content” is hard by itself because it sounds like something that’s included, and I actually mean it more like how mentally at ease you are. It’s hard to move someone who is content, hard to bribe them, but on the other hand, if you’re comfortable you are not actively seeking out new things, you are not hungry for adventure.  I’m less happy with this one.  I want it to include how hard it is for you to be bothered by things, too, from “Unflappable” to “conspiracy-driven.”

Sooth” is the ability to discern things. It could be for lore, or truth, or sensitivity to magic maybe.  The only reason not to put the other side of the coin and make it include how convincing you sound is to provide Cassandra-like characters.  I’ll have to play around with this one.

Finally, “Pioneer” is how able to explore the world(s), develop new opportunities.  Said like that it’s a little bit close to “Content” but this reflects some level of preparedness, such as resources (and the ability to do without.)  Again, we’re workshopping these.

Each character will have a scale from -2 to +2 for the statistics to add to their dice rolls.

What I am doing first is making the characters, writing their background, and writing in the connections between them.  Then I am coming up with thematic abilities.  For example, if I had a sentient pineapple, I might name one, “Piña colada” and have it be something that makes a delicious combination from another person’s abilities.  I want them to have ten to pick from, and I’m thinking they should be able to have six.

I write the adventure second-to-last.

Finally, after the adventure has been written out, I do the pieces. The clues. Partial maps, symbols, puzzles.  Those are the optional pieces that time may mean I have to abandon, but would be nice to have.  For example, the Ambassador to the Dominion Council ought to have some kind of fancy diplomatic paperwork, maybe a passport.  The Pleasure-Bot ought to have a “use and abuse” contract. These are also the bits I design when I have spare time.


Riding Piggyback

I’ve been musing about Illegal Gods system design lately. Yes, in part because I’m supposed to be putting my word count in back at the Portal Doctor, but also because there’s a couple of upcoming opportunities to work with people who know how to design games, and I kind of want to take advantage of that.

I’ve (of course) thought about simply designing it as a piggyback on someone else’s system. There are, for example, a lot of different space-happy Fate1 designs. In my head, Illegal Gods is a space opera. The reason it’s got a space setting is because of the Spiders, and the dream that sparked it, and the entheogens’ science-fiction aspect. The problem is, I also want to have border runs on frontier planets with Uixtochihuatl helping you mine the salt mines, and fighting ice pirates 2(okay, maybe not those) along with political and psychic battles.

Wow, that sounds like fun, right? Sure, I could presumably do most of that with something like the Serenity RPG. But then we have the aspects of the gods to consider. It’s not enough to be a soul-jockey taking over a huli jing, but having to share headspace with Ares who is trying to craft a war between the psionic ambassador of Cottman Four and the colony of Acheron on LV-426.


Yes, we used BESM for the original story pieces. It was convenient and allowed us to stat up a lot of the various neat things we wanted to do, but it wasn’t quite enough. That’s kind of the problem; I can get almost as far as I want with a lot of different systems, but I can’t go all the way. 3The thing with Fate is that if I do it that way, the “Trouble” aspect could simply be the Deity aspect. It fits the scenario well, and even if the “Trouble” is you’re an atheist, that can be used for and against you.  On the other hand, if I’m working with Hellsing House as a Fate game, am I really using the system right to do both types of games?

Illegal Gods: Sexist-free Player Occupations

Just making a feminist sensor check.

I had written previously:

The “standard” (by which I mean, “described and suggested”) character types for Illegal Gods are: Pirates, Ambassadors, various members of Military Forces, Spies, Asteroid Miners, Priests, God Merchants, Soul Jockeys, Demigods, Scientists, Bureaucrats, and Droids. Most of these are fairly self-explanatory, but there are some professions (God Merchant, Soul Jockey) that are unique to the setting.

Pirate is pretty non-gender specific, right? Same with Ambassador, Military, Spy, Asteroid Miner, God Merchant, etc.

So it’s only “Priests” and potentially “Demigods” that hit my (broken) feminist sensor. The problem I have there is whether or not to change them to “priestesses” and “demigoddesses,” the latter of which is clunky at best. I don’t want to presuppose that only those two classifications are feminine, which changing them (in my mind) would suggest. Should I shift “Priest” to “Cleric,” and risk the D&D connection? Probably wouldn’t hurt, but I don’t know what to do with “Demigod.”

Illegal Gods: On Discrimination

I think these are my last words on discrimination. Includes triffids.

Summing up, I can’t force sensitivity on people, but I will not abide harassment. That’s my goal; something where ‘the guys’ aren’t suddenly saying, “Oh, a girl/an individual of Asian descent/a triffid, gotta watch our language,” but, “Hey, we’re aware of you being a woman/Asian/carnivorous alien plant, but we’re only going to make as much a deal of it as you do.” Awareness and acknowledgment, not artificial action.

Illegal Gods: The Role of Women

With the recent reiteration of the “feminism in gaming” discussions, I figured I needed to discuss some of what I was doing in Illegal Gods.

There’s been an explosion of discussion lately about appealing to gamers who happen to be women, and I wanted to note my particular spin on it, especially as I design Illegal Gods, and as a woman.

Cheesecake Art
I like to look at curvy women, and I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you what changed it from good looking to cheesecake. I envision cat girls in skin (fur?) -tight spacesuits.

Actually, I do that regularly. In fact, I got distracted for a moment because I was thinking of something whisker-lickin’ good.

I also don’t imagine them on the cover. Sure, my marketing director may disagree with me, but… My game isn’t about the cool of playing sexy cat girls. (Right now, for the temporary “internal” version, there’s that big astronomical picture we’ve all seen with the nebula that looks like an angel. I’ve been thinking that if I was going to have a separate “GM” section for folks, I’d get rights for a good picture of the Helix Nebula…) Maybe a ship shaped like some ancient goddess art? Oooh. Anyway, I don’t really see any particular characters on the cover. It’s not any pre-existing characters people are looking to play in my game, it’s their own, so why limit imaginations?

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Illegal Gods: Character Creation Brainstorm #1

Some more meanderings on character creation for Illegal Gods. I’m thinking of something both point and dice-size based.

I had a brief brainstorm (no doubt helped by my indulgence in cold medicines) last night before bed as to a possible methodology for character creation in Illegal Gods. I can already see some holes in it, but I’ll write it down anyway so that I have something to use as a basis.

I’m thinking of something both point and dice-size based. A character would be designed with points, but points would relate to dice size. Now, my original thought had been 5 points for a d20, 4 for d12, 3 for d10, 2 for d8, and 1 for d4, but then I thought, what about reversing that for better odds? I haven’t looked it up, but presuming we’re going with percentages, a d4 gives you 25 percent jumps, and then d8 is 12.5% (a number I learned working at a welding supply), d10 is, of course, 10%, d12 is, um, 8 1/3rd %, and d20 would be 5% segments.

Which means?

Nothing, absolutely nothing. Yet.

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Illegal Gods: Amnesty Corazon

Amnesty Corazon, Inquisition Agent.

So we have our pirate captain example. How about something across the aisle? (Again, courtesy of the LintKing who designed all of these characters.)

Name: Amnesty Corazon

Race: Human

Occupation: Inquisitor

Age: 24

Gender: Female

Height: 5′ 5″

Weight: 135

Amnesty’s ancestry is something we would qualify as perhaps hispanic and asian mixing, giving her a creamily-tanned skin, chocolate brown eyes, and very rich black hair. Her home planet exemplified these blended cultures, but she was remarkable even there.

When she isn’t actually turning on her intimidation factor, she looks quite adorable. When she does try to look scary, however, she’s good at it, and she knows some very creative threats.

She has a tattoo of a cobra-like snake that starts at her left ankle, circles up the leg, and ends poised across her back.

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Illegal Gods: Captain Drake Hazley

Captain Drake Hazley is a man with a very fuzzy past.

I have been trying hard to work on question #5 of the Power Nineteen for IG, which deals with character creation. While I know what I’d like, I’m kind of stuck with building issues. So instead of finishing that up immediately, I’m offering (courtesy of the LintKing) some of the character types and examples of things I want to be able to do with it.

Captain Drake Hazley is not entirely the typical pirate captain I expect to see in Illegal Gods, but he’s not far off from the option. Please note that the first initial run of the game was used with the BESM system, so while I’m trying to make the references more generic, I might not catch everything.

Name: Captain Drake Hazley

Race: Human

Occupation: Space Pirate/Scavenger/God Merchant

Age: 31

Gender: Male

Height: 5’7

Weight: 150

Captain Drake Hazley is a man with a very fuzzy past. He’s worked for a lot of people…enough that even he can’t remember all of them. He finally went `pirate’ because that’s really what he’s always wanted to be. HE considers himself strictly pirate, but could very easily be described as `scavenger’ or `god merchant’, too. He does have an image of himself as daring, romantic, and `essentially a good guy’, but a lot of it is just that – self image, more than reality. (ala Grosse Point Blank: “I like the lone gunman thing…look at the way I dress.”) He’s actually fairly average looking, a trait that’s served him well; average height, dark hair and eyes, and it takes his eyepatch holo to build these into a good `swarthy complexion’.

Some Advantages:

Skills: Piloting – (space), Mechanics, Electronics, Gun Combat – (blaster), Heavy Weapons – (ship), Navigation – (space), Military Sciences – (Clergy), Acrobatics – (falling), Business Management – (piracy), Cultural Arts – (occultism), Police Sciences – (Inquisition), Gaming – (gambling), Ranged Defense – (ship),

Mechanical Genius

The big note on this is that it lets you modify mecha and items of power (“technologically based”, but I’m assuming we’ll adjust the envelope on that for the genre…I suppose he’s more of an `occulto-mechanical genius’ or something…) as long as the point totals stay the same – so do expect him to swap out components on his eyepatch and the D.S. Malfeasance as we go.

Some Disadvantages:

Easily Distracted by Gambling, maintaining a “Dashing & Romantic” Image, Adventure, and Gadgets

Owned by Gambling Debts

He had literally just transported Lady Luck halfway across the galaxy when he had the chance to join into a high stakes game. He was actually doing quite well for the first half of the game, but he started taking chances, and not all of them worked out…

Recurring Nightmares

There ARE downsides to being psychically linked to a demon, and subconscious glimpses into its home are one of the big ones…

Wanted By the Authorities

Pirate! Also demonic tinkerer, smuggler, and deserter. No one’s quite clear what side he deserted from, actually, but there are people from several factions (including the Clergy) who are, at least, convinced that he had been working for them in such a manner that he should have been more loyal. His response is, “I don’t know HOW I got in their records, I’ve never been the military type,” but…the astute will notice that this response does nothing to explain how he got a demon ship, or how he knows so much about their protocols and tactics.

Skeleton in the Closet

As noted, he HAS worked for a lot of different factions…there are people all over the galaxy who think he’s on their side, or was on their side, or whatever, and if nothing else he’d really rather they didn’t necessarily find out about each other. It’s gotten too tangled for him to keep track of, and he’s occasionally recognized by someone he doesn’t quite remember.

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The Power Nineteen: #4

How does the setting of Illegal Gods reinforce what the game’s about?

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

The problem with doing these one at a time is that I have to refer back to what I’ve already written. Not that I really blink and ask, “Huh? What’s my game about?”

Let’s ask the first question. What is the setting of Illegal Gods?

Continue reading “The Power Nineteen: #4”