Sunday, August 19, 2012

[Q&A] Simon J. Berman (Unhallowed Metropolis Revised)

[20:03] <+SimonJBerman> I'm Simon Berman and I'm one of the core writers and project managers of Unhallowed Metropolis, Revised.
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[20:03] <+SimonJBerman> Unhallowed Metropolis is the gasmask-chic roleplaying game of Neo-Victorian horror.
[20:03] <~Dan> (Howdy, Wondy! Welcome to #rpgnet, Adderlan!)
[20:04] <+Adderlan> *thumbs up*
[20:04] <+SimonJBerman> We launched our Revised edition last summer after having sold out our original print run of the original game, and moving to a new print run. We've launched a series of PDF supplements earlier this year and are preparing to release our first supplement at Gen Con: Unhallowed Necropolis
[20:04] <+SimonJBerman> Any questions? ;)
[20:04] <+nick3> Why should we buy your game !
[20:04] <+nick3> no really what makes it worth not doing it with our favorite system
[20:05] <+SimonJBerman> If you're into a richly detailed setting inspired by mad science, Victorian horror, social science, mixed with the undead, and grounded in extensive historical research by real world historians and biologists, you can't do better
[20:06] <+SimonJBerman> And if you like doing it with a deeply brutal rule system that details gorey results and the devil's luck, all the better
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[20:06] <~Dan> Actually, to organize the session a bit, why don't we take questions about UnMet in general first, then move on to the changes for this edition?
[20:07] <+SimonJBerman> Sure, although the new edition has been out a year. So I think most people familiar with the original book have heard about the changes at this point
[20:07] <~Dan> Oh? Fair enough.
[20:08] <+SimonJBerman> I'd direct anyone interested in changes to this blog post from last summer: (Link:
[20:08] <+SimonJBerman> but essentially, we cleaned up the core mechanics, added new Callings (classes), new stunts, gear, and greatly refined and expanded our setting material
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[20:09] <+SimonJBerman> and added an amazing map of Neo-Victorian London, 2105 AD by award winning games cartographer Ed Bourelle
[20:09] <~Dan> Nice. :)
[20:10] <~Dan> So does the revised edition say any more about the nature of the world outside of the cities?
[20:10] <~Dan> In particular, I never had a very good grasp of what the mutated flora and fauna were supposed to be like.
[20:10] <+SimonJBerman> We expanded a little on Europe, Prague and Vienna in particular.
[20:11] <+SimonJBerman> That's material that will be addressed more fully in our next book in 2013. That book will feature some material on the waste lands as well as the revenants of Europe
[20:11] <+SimonJBerman> (in addition to quite a bit of other material)
[20:11] <+Drakkar> cool
[20:11] <+Drakkar> i may not actually use the system but i pretty much buy everything sheerly for the setting
[20:11] <+Drakkar> you guys have a lifelong fan just on fluff alone :p
[20:11] <~Dan> Do I surmise correctly that there are non-undead, non-manmade monsters out there?
[20:12] <+SimonJBerman> I think the blight has done some strange things to naturally occurring creatures, but more than that I can't say more about just yet.
[20:13] <+SimonJBerman> We touched on that in my 1st edition campaign, Up the River, set primarily on the island of Borneo
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[20:13] <+SimonJBerman> Thanks, Drakkar!
[20:13] <~Dan> What sorts of critters were featured in that?
[20:14] <+SimonJBerman> We had some pretty unpleasant blighted plant life, giant pitchers, sundews, and some less overtly harmful plants that could be harvested for their peculiar fruits and juices
[20:14] <~Dan> Cool.
[20:14] <+SimonJBerman> as well as the "Borneo Dragon" which was essentially death-tainted Komodo Dragon
[20:14] <+SimonJBerman> and a few hints of worse things that lived in the rivers but weren't statted up
[20:15] <~Dan> I think you're in a tricky area there.
[20:15] <~Dan> I get the desire to keep things mysterious...
[20:15] <~Dan> ...but then you risk having GMs accidentally "overstepping" in stuff they create on their own.
[20:16] <~Dan> Does that make sense?
[20:16] <+SimonJBerman> Well, part of it is that we don't see monsters as the primary draw of the setting.
[20:16] <+SimonJBerman> The core book has only 5 (i think) monsters listed. But each of them gets ten pages, including the common animate (zombie)
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[20:16] <~Dan> That's certainly valid.
[20:16] <+SimonJBerman> There are places where we think it's compelling to add weird blightborne monsters
[20:17] <+SimonJBerman> but we'd rather detail a few recurring threats as much as possible, and make them pillars of the setting
[20:17] <+SimonJBerman> in some ways, our zombies are backdrop. They're a constant threat, but they're like the weather; you can usually plan for them. usually
[20:17] <+technoshaman> for some us here that did know abou the new edition, changes did happen in the mechanics?
[20:18] <+SimonJBerman> But serial killers, and anarchists, and IRA bombers, and the machinations of industrialists are more insidious threats
[20:18] <~Dan> Sure. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think there's a need to make sure GMs know the "setting rules," so to speak. The core book mentions monsters in the Thames, for example. Are there krakens in there? I have no idea.
[20:18] <+SimonJBerman> Technoshaman: we removed skill specialties and moved things to a pure die + stat/skill roll system
[20:18] <+technoshaman> ahhh
[20:19] <+SimonJBerman> I think whatever things are lurking in the thames are probably the product of alchemical toxins, aborted promethean experiments, and other biological refuse
[20:19] * ~Dan nods
[20:19] <+SimonJBerman> probably not an endemic species, but aberrations. So it's totally appropriate for a Narrator to approach that material on his own.
[20:19] <+technoshaman> cool a more stable reconizable system :)
[20:19] <~Dan> Are there any plans to reveal the source of the Blight at some point?
[20:20] <+SimonJBerman> We definitely know what happened in the canon, and there are some clues in the core book, but we'd rather people arrive at their own conclusions
[20:20] <~Dan> So will it be left a "Great Mystery," like the fading of the suns in Fading Suns?
[20:21] <+SimonJBerman> Most likely. That said, if you take a close look at the history and the timelines in the core book you might be able to make some educated guesses about What Went Wrong. ;)
[20:21] <~Dan> Heh. :)
[20:22] <~Dan> Any plans for a tech supplement?
[20:22] <+eek> So when you play the game, Simon, what's your favorite Calling to play?
[20:22] <+technoshaman> is the setting mostly geared towards humans, vamps and undead mostly or can horror/gothic creatures be blayable werecreatures or frakenstein monster types too name a few?
[20:22] <~Dan> (Let's pause on the questions to let him catch up.)
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[20:23] <+SimonJBerman> eek: I am usually torn between Undertakers and Criminals, but it honestly depends on the kind of game we're going to play. I haven't played a Mourner yet, and that's definitely on my short list.
[20:23] <+SimonJBerman> Dan: We're not planning a pure gear supplement but we'll continue to add equipment among other material. There's a ton of aethertech in Unhallowed Necropolis, for example.
[20:25] <+SimonJBerman> technoshaman: We definitely expect humans to be the most common player choice, however even in the core book we offer the Dhampiri Vampire Hunter as a calling. I don't think we'll release a Thrope calling, but it's perfectly possible to play a character intected by lycanthropy by bite or via a serum. As for prometheans...
[20:25] <+SimonJBerman> keep an eye on our PDF supplements this autumn. :)
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[20:25] <~Dan> So you're planning to build on the current options? ;)
[20:26] <+SimonJBerman> Definitely! We've been releasing a series of PDFs under the umbrella of the Gasmask Gazetteer
[20:26] <~Dan> Catchy name. :)
[20:26] <+SimonJBerman> each issue examines a specific location in hyper detail, usually within London, but sometimes in other parts of england.
[20:27] <+SimonJBerman> That material relates in one way or another to a specific Calling. For example, our most recent Gazetteer, Peterborough Station, is related to the Aristocrat
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[20:27] <+SimonJBerman> in addition to the detailed location, it includes new rules for Aristocrat players, in this case, new stunts that allow a player to build an Aristocrat who is more of an Industrialist than a member of the nobility
[20:27] <~Dan> Oh, I should know this, but were you one of the authors of the original version?
[20:28] <+SimonJBerman> and this playable content always includes a few new stunts, Qualities, and Impediments, and gear of use to players of any Calling
[20:28] <+SimonJBerman> I came on shortly after book 1 was published. I work with Jason Soles, we met at our day jobs.
[20:29] <+SimonJBerman> and I've been writing content since the original Necropolis was being produced. I think the first thing I had published with New Dark Age was the solicitation text on the back of the original (very short run) Necropolis. :)
[20:29] <~Dan> Gotcha. I was just wondering whether it would make sense to ask you the thought processes that went into the original design, like the decision to go with a class-like system.
[20:29] <+SimonJBerman> I wasn't there but I have a pretty good idea of our design philosophies.
[20:30] <+SimonJBerman> The Callings exist because there were very specific types of characters we wanted to see in Neo-Victorian London. We've all played a lot of different RPGs, so we're familiar with more fluid methods of character creation, but we really wanted to give people tool sets to play the most iconic characters possible
[20:30] * ~Dan nods
[20:30] <+SimonJBerman> But even our Callings are sort of open ended
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[20:31] <+SimonJBerman> For example, the Detective calling can obviously be used to make Neo-Victorian Sherlock Holmes, but it's also intended to let players portray barristers or journalists
[20:31] <+SimonJBerman> In fact, an upcoming Detective themed Gazetteer will focus on using the Detective to build journalist characters
[20:32] <~Dan> That's a good point.
[20:32] <~Dan> What's the extent of psychic powers in the setting?
[20:33] <+SimonJBerman> Vast and frightening. :)
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[20:33] <+SimonJBerman> Unhallowed Necropolis, Revised, explores this material in great depth.
[20:33] <+SimonJBerman> as well as the place of the discarnate dead
[20:33] <+SimonJBerman> that's ghosts and psychics in plain english :)
[20:33] * ~Dan nods sagely
[20:33] <~Dan> :)
[20:34] <+SimonJBerman> There's a good overview here: (Link:
[20:35] <+SimonJBerman> Our psychics are incredibly powerful individuals. But they are also ticking timebombs. The very act of utilizing psychical energy incurs instability. Our psychics are more doomed than others, but that may be a small price to pay for the ability to create incredible conflagrations with your mind
[20:35] <~Dan> So are we talking Carrie/Firestarter-level powers?
[20:35] <+SimonJBerman> And sometimes Akira level ;)
[20:35] <~Dan> Dayum.
[20:36] <+SimonJBerman> Yeah, psychics are bad news. It helps that they go mad and die at the drop of a hat.
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[20:36] <~Dan> Have there been any complaints about that not being thematic?
[20:36] <~Dan> Having psychics of that power level in a Victorian-themed game, I mean.
[20:36] <+SimonJBerman> No, I think it's pretty core to our vision of the setting. I honestly can't say I've heard that as a complaint.
[20:37] <+SimonJBerman> Most of them don't live long enough to reach the upper levels of their power.
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[20:37] <~Dan> Oh dear.
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[20:37] <~Dan> wb, Simon. :)
[20:37] <+SimonJBerman> thanks!
[20:37] <+SimonJBerman> Where was I?
[20:37] <~Dan> "Most of them don't live long enough to reach the upper levels of their power."
[20:38] <+SimonJBerman> ahh
[20:38] <+SimonJBerman> Yeah, in fact, a lot of psychic characters choose to use psychical inhibitor drugs
[20:38] <+SimonJBerman> precisely to prevent themselves from losing control prematurely.
[20:38] <+technoshaman> there are psionics in the game?
[20:38] <+SimonJBerman> We call them "psychical gifts" but yes.
[20:39] <+SimonJBerman> That's roughly half the material of Unhallowed Necropolis, Revised, debuting next week at Gen Con
[20:39] <+SimonJBerman> Really, we view Necropolis as the other half of the core material. Our printers never seem to want to let us publish 500 pages of core rules and art. ;)
[20:39] <+GoldenH> Sounds like we need the Emperor to help keep all those psychics in line
[20:39] <+technoshaman> i missed that in Dan's review on 1e
[20:40] <~Dan> I take it only Psychics can have psychical gifts?
[20:40] <+SimonJBerman> Typically, however we offer rules for Psychosurgical Induction.
[20:40] <+SimonJBerman> That is not a roll you want to botch or even roll low on.
[20:40] <+technoshaman> is there any magic in the setting as well?
[20:41] <~Dan> I ask because it seems potentially limiting to say that, for example, Aristocrats are never psychic.
[20:41] <+SimonJBerman> No. We consider all the phenomena of the game to have replicable and ultimately empirically understandable causes. though they may never be known to the players
[20:41] <+SimonJBerman> Again, we don't view the Callings as hard and fast classes. If you wanted to play a psychically gifted aristocrat, you would choose the Psychic calling and then choose from a variety of Qualities and Impediments to describe his aristocratic background
[20:42] * ~Dan nods
[20:42] <+SimonJBerman> You could increase his wealth, or take the Of Noble Birth Quality
[20:43] <+SimonJBerman> We actually just published a quality in the last gazetteer along those lines
[20:43] <+SimonJBerman> Honoured Past, 3 Point Social Quality One of the character’s parents was knighted; or maybe the character was a nobleman all along, but the records were lost in the Plague Years; or the character simply chose a way of life that caused him to be cast out by his family. In any event, he belongs to the aristocracy even if he is not an Aristocrat. This Quality al
[20:43] <+SimonJBerman> This Quality allows characters with a Calling other than Aristocrat to purchase Aristocrat-specific Qualities and Impediments. This Quality requires the Upper Class and Credentials Qualities and does not allow a character to take Intrigant Stunts.
[20:43] <~Dan> That works.
[20:44] <+SimonJBerman> There are a lot of opportunities to approach complicated character concepts along those lines.
[20:44] <~Dan> I see there's an Exorcist Calling in Unhallowed Necropolis. Is that psychic in nature?
[20:44] <+technoshaman> what are the new callings in 2e?
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[20:45] <+SimonJBerman> We added the Detective and Deathwatch Soldier to the core book
[20:45] <+SimonJBerman> alongside Aristocrats, Criminals,  Dhampiri Vampire Hunters, Doctors, Mourners, and Undertakers.
[20:45] <~Dan> Oh, that reminds me...
[20:45] <+SimonJBerman> Unhallowed Necropolis will add Exorcists, Mediums, Parapsychologists, Psychics
[20:45] <+SimonJBerman> and a brand new Calling, the Alien
[20:46] <+SimonJBerman> We actually just previewed the Parapsycholgists today: (Link:
[20:46] <+SimonJBerman> err the Alienist
[20:46] <~Dan> ...It seems that there's a bright line drawn between combat-worthy and non-combat-worthy Callings, which would seem to limit the potential for mixing parties successfully. Any thoughts?
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[20:48] <+SimonJBerman> I think it depends a lot on the Narrator's intentions for his campaign. Mixed groups like that do work well, but often when they are predominantly made of one type of character or the other
[20:48] <+technoshaman> what is the deathwatch solider?
[20:48] <+SimonJBerman> For example, we've had fun playing with groups of Aristocrats and a single Undertaker who can be a fish out of water in socially motivated scenes
[20:48] <+technoshaman> what is the "shitck"?
[20:50] <+SimonJBerman> Deathwatch soldiers are members (or former members) of the standing military force responsible for enacting quarantines in the case of Plague outbreaks
[20:50] <+SimonJBerman> They get a lot of options relating to physical endurance and survival, as well as access to some military weaponry
[20:50] <~Dan> Can I just interject that that's one aspect of the setting I love? The way they seal off sections of the city and blow the bejeezus out of it?
[20:51] <+technoshaman> ohh ok
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[20:51] <+SimonJBerman> haha thanks! That's a favorite of mine as well. We're rather fascinated with Victorian pragmatis, so we turned the dial way up on that
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[20:51] <+SimonJBerman> *pragmatism
[20:52] <+technoshaman> how frequently do spirits show up sense this setting fits?
[20:52] <~Dan> I forget... Does the Doctor calling cover "mad scientist" types as well -- not just reanimator types, but Tesla wannabes?
[20:53] <+SimonJBerman> The discarnate dead are everywhere. Neo-Victorian london is an incredibly haunted place. The other half of Unhallowed Necropolis deals with ghosts, spirits, and those who interact with them via natural gift or aethertech
[20:54] <+SimonJBerman> Right now the Doctor is definitely more grounded in biological mad science but Tesla inspired stuff is something we'll certainly revisit. Most likely in a Gazetteer
[20:54] <~Dan> What's the bleeding edge of technology in the setting?
[20:55] <+SimonJBerman> Definitely bio-science
[20:55] <+SimonJBerman> One of our principles of world building is that the impetus behind technological innovation in the 20th and 21st century was not the nuclear arms race, but the desperate desire to cure the Plague
[20:55] <+technoshaman> oooo, what is the Alien calling?
[20:55] <~Dan> Makes sense.
[20:56] <+SimonJBerman> as such, we have extremely advanced biological science in the form of re-animation, anti-agapics (anti-aging drugs) and alchemy
[20:56] <~Dan> Alienist, tech. A shrink. :)
[20:56] <+SimonJBerman> but nuclear physics is sort of a curiousity, and the transistor nothing anyone is very serious about
[20:56] <+SimonJBerman> The Alienist is sort of a cross between an anti-Psychic and Neo-Victorian Dr. Freud.
[20:57] <+Adderlan> Damn dyslexia, I read 'Cure the Plaque' and started imagining a dark neo-victorian dental squad. *shudder*
[20:57] <~Dan> What's state-of-the-art military tech? I recall that there are plasma cannons of a sort... Are there zeps and ironclad dreadnaughts?
[20:58] <~Dan> Adderlan: *chuckle* :)
[20:58] <+SimonJBerman> ambient energy lightning guns and other galvanic weapons are probably the most blatantly destructive weapons available
[20:58] <+technoshaman> so Exorcist are riligous types, Mediums are natural attune to the spirit world and talk to ghost naturally, parapsychologist use tech to tap in the spirit world and Psychics are people with powers, am I correct on this?
[20:59] <+SimonJBerman> The Prussians maintain a fleet of zeppelins, and the British have their own dirigibles, but in both cases we took a real-world view on the utility of those devices. They're present, but they are not especially predominant. Naval power is definitely a pillar of the British armed forces, though
[20:59] <+SimonJBerman> technoshaman: that's pretty accurate on all points
[21:00] <+technoshaman> cool, making sure :)
[21:00] <~Dan> Do I recall that there's something of a cold war between the Brits and the Prussians?
[21:00] <+SimonJBerman> Yes, definitely!
[21:01] <+SimonJBerman> They are enjoying the sort of unpleasant detente that existed in the Victorian period 200 years before the present day of the setting
[21:01] <~Dan> So... how does warfare take place in a countryside overrun with zombies?
[21:01] <~Dan> Or has that not even happened yet?
[21:01] <+SimonJBerman> Both nations have reached a point of recovery where they have begun to long for Empire but neither has made an overt move
[21:01] <+SimonJBerman> There's been no prolonged campaign yet
[21:01] <~Dan> Any thoughts on what that might look like?
[21:02] <+SimonJBerman> But some very unpleasant things happened to the Prussians during an aborted invasion of France
[21:02] <~Dan> Overrun by zombies?
[21:02] <+SimonJBerman> I added a section on Prague and Vienna in the revised core book, actually
[21:02] <+technoshaman> i can almost  \see a ghostbuster type campaign with this
[21:02] <+SimonJBerman> let me see if there's a good short quote there
[21:02] <+technoshaman> :P
[21:02] <+SimonJBerman> technoshaman: That is definitely an intention of Unhallowed Necropolis ;)
[21:03] <+SimonJBerman> The Habsburgs of the early twenty-first century ruled over a pathetic remnant of their former empire. Intimidated by the growing power of Prussia and the Papal States and hungry for the former glories of empire, the young Emperor Sigismund II dispatched troops from Vienna to march upon Prague in an effort to “enforce our rightful claims upon the Kingdom of Bo
[21:03] <+SimonJBerman> Bohemia" in September 2023.
[21:03] <+SimonJBerman> The brief war was an utter disaster. Almost a quarter of the poorly equipped and provisioned Austrian army was killed en route. Attacks by animate hordes and stranger, more vicious revenants took a heavy toll. When the army finally reached Prague, they were repulsed by Czech forces armed with stateof- the-art alchemical weaponry.
[21:03] <+SimonJBerman> The Battle of Prague lasted less than twelve hours, and the Austrian forces were virtually annihilated. Only one regiment returned under the command of Count Leopold von Hess.
[21:04] <~Dan> Heh. Yeah, that's about what I'd have thought would happen. :)
[21:04] <+SimonJBerman> Essentially, a battlefield is a breeding ground for zombies. Sometime soon, a conflict analogous to WWI will probably occur
[21:04] <+SimonJBerman> and people are going to have a Really Bad Time.
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[21:04] <~Dan> Yeah, I would think so.
[21:05] <~Dan> I'd hate to be in a trench in Zombieland...
[21:05] <+SimonJBerman> I'd love to do a Great War supplement, sometime
[21:05] <+SimonJBerman> but that's a just a dream right now.
[21:05] <~Dan> That would rock.
[21:05] <+technoshaman> when does the game take place,, like how many years after 1e?
[21:05] <+SimonJBerman> it's still set in 2105, just like first edition. Two hundred years after the Plague in 1905.
[21:06] <~Dan> Can you give an example of alchemical weaponry?
[21:07] <+technoshaman> so no time jump like most othe rpg setting has done between editions
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[21:08] <+SimonJBerman> Just at a glance through the core book, something like Crone could probably be weaponized with ease
[21:08] <+SimonJBerman> Sometimes called rackobone, crone is a powerful alchemical solution that temporarily and rapidly ages a user. In a matter of minutes, the face puckers into a mass of sullen wrinkles, the flesh pulls taunt and withers, and the bones turn weak and brittle. Crone has been used as both an extreme form of disguise and as a method of incapacitation.
[21:08] <~Dan> Yuck.
[21:08] <~Dan> I like it!
[21:08] <+SimonJBerman> haha thanks
[21:09] <~Dan> Can you say anything about what life's like in the U.S.?
[21:09] <~Dan> I recall that being mentioned as future supplement material, I think...
[21:10] <+SimonJBerman> We actually have some pretty exciting things in the works for America, but I really can't talk about that right now. The core book gives some very broadstrokes information, but we've got some pretty awesome stuff in the works
[21:10] <~Dan> Cool.
[21:10] <~Dan> I seem to recall that the U.S. is pretty high-tech due to the presence of Tesla himself?
[21:11] <+technoshaman> are there any callings that could have beastial companions and not sure if this setting deals with exotic mounts as well?
[21:12] <+SimonJBerman> Yeah, Tesla died in Brooklyn in 1929 and received a state funeral. The civilized world is powered by his contributions to ambient galvanic energy
[21:12] <~Dan> Well, you could have your Frankenstein monster give you piggyback rides, I suppose...
[21:12] <+SimonJBerman> We've never talked about mounts, though we do have an item listing for an equestrian gasmask (real thing, look it up!)
[21:13] <+SimonJBerman> But the next issue of the Gasmask Gazetteer in September will have some material that I think you will get a kick out of if you like animal companions
[21:13] <+SimonJBerman> Plague Hounds out of Ireland
[21:13] <~Dan> What are those?
[21:13] <+SimonJBerman> dogs bred to hunt animates. at a cost...
[21:13] <~Dan> ...
[21:13] <~Dan> That sounds unfortunate.
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[21:14] <+SimonJBerman> It's pretty dark! Our usual editor wrote this issue, she's obsessed with Ireland so it's some awesome but dismal material ;)
[21:14] <~Dan> Do you find that it's more difficult to come up with ideas in a setting that explicitly lacks "magic"?
[21:15] <+SimonJBerman> Not at all. I think it forces us to consider the ramifications of any blighted or undead creature to the setting in great detail
[21:15] <+SimonJBerman> and that helps us make those additions fully realized within the context of the setting.
[21:16] <~Dan> Well, that's what I meant, I guess... That it must take more work to come up with stuff, because A Wizard Didn't Do It.
[21:16] <+technoshaman> can you have more han one calling?
[21:16] <+SimonJBerman> We'd never consider adding a monster for its own sake. We want any new creatures to exist for good reasons be they thematic or related to the twisted ecosystem. Co-creator Nicole Vega is getting her PhD in some hideously complicated discipline of biology. so i think our science writing really shines
[21:16] <+SimonJBerman> It does take more work, but we don't really think of setting building as "work." That's the part we like best
[21:17] <~Dan> (Nicole's awesome, btw. She ran a demo game for me at GenCon.)
[21:17] <+SimonJBerman> technoshaman: no you may only have one Calling, though we offer some rules for creating your own Callings
[21:17] <~Dan> Cool. :)
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[21:17] <+jtbullet> Hi hi I missed ya earlier Dan!
[21:17] <+technoshaman> hmmm
[21:17] <~Dan> No problem, jtb!
[21:17] <+jtbullet> What a good word count per day when writing a short novel?
[21:18] <~Dan> No idea.
[21:18] <+jtbullet> And you're ok with your subpar talent
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[21:18] <~Dan> We've got a Q&A going at the moment, btw (see topic)
[21:18] <+jtbullet> Ok sorry
[21:18] <~Dan> No problem. #rpgnet2's there for general chat.
[21:19] <+jtbullet> Ten four
[21:19] <~Dan> Simon: I've heard it said that the setting is too bleak and hopeless. Comments?
[21:19] * ~Dan holds out mike
[21:19] <~Dan> (Just realized that I sounded like a reporter.)
[21:20] <+SimonJBerman> I would describe our setting as comically bleak and hopeless. ;)
[21:20] <+jtbullet> What do you rely on to create that feeling?
[21:20] <~Dan> From a personal standpoint, a world standpoint, or both?
[21:20] <~Dan> Is it a given that the world is doomed, I mean?
[21:21] <+SimonJBerman> I think from our perspective, the world received a diagnosis of terminal cancer in 1905, but the patient is struggling for life
[21:22] <+SimonJBerman> that said, there are plenty of opportunities to rage against the dying of the life, but every character is corrupted by the blight of the new dark age
[21:22] <+SimonJBerman> it's a question of how you'll meet that doom, as a noble resistor, an early death, or a ravening monster who embraces it
[21:22] <+SimonJBerman> jbullet: we read a lot of social science stuff on the victorian setting for inspiration
[21:23] <+SimonJBerman> or just general history. The real world Victorian era's history s a treasure trove of nightmares.
[21:23] <~Dan> What are your thoughts on nobility in a nihilistic setting?
[21:23] <+jtbullet> Interesting...pardon a moment while I consult Monsieur google to acquaint myself with your game
[21:23] <+SimonJBerman> Even simple wikipedia searches lead you to dark places. Searching "victorian children's theater" will bring you to the Victoria Hall disaster: (Link:
[21:24] <+SimonJBerman> I think it's a great element. You can play with some cool material, doomed Byronic heroes and the like. Frankenstein's monster has a real nobility to him, and we all know how that ends
[21:25] <~Dan> True... but I'm not sure that the "world" of Frankenstein is intrinsically nihilistic.
[21:26] <+SimonJBerman> no, but that story would be easily transplanted to Unhallowed
[21:26] <~Dan> Oh, certainly.
[21:26] <~Dan> Hmm... How to put this...
[21:26] <~Dan> I find this is the case with Call of Cthulhu, too, by the way...
[21:27] <+jtbullet> 73000 days later, with a corset
[21:27] <~Dan> I just wonder if you say up front that there is no God and no good and that everybody's doomed... does heroism just seem pointless and foolish?
[21:27] <+SimonJBerman> jbullet: that's not a bad description!
[21:28] <~Dan> (This is me musing out loud here, for the record.)
[21:28] <+TQuid> But, that's the world we have.
[21:28] <+TQuid> If you're an atheist anyway.
[21:28] <+TQuid> Oh, wait. Missed the "no good" part. Carry on.
[21:28] <+jtbullet> Dan it makes opening up poison canisters and flamethrowers indiscriminately a lot less of a soul search
[21:28] <+SimonJBerman> I think that's a personal question that players approach in a variety of ways. Personally, I'm of the opinion that there is no god and everyone's doomed but that heroism is its own reward
[21:29] <+SimonJBerman> Alternately, we've made a game that encourages people to play deeply flawed people, so there's no real baseline expectation that your characters should be heroes in the first place :)
[21:29] <~Dan> True.
[21:29] <~Dan> Interesting...
[21:29] <+SimonJBerman> the Narrator should find what kind of story he/his players want to tell and then lean into that by finding ways to motivate that set of characters
[21:29] <+SimonJBerman> Survival, wealth, and power are all powerful hooks
[21:30] <+jtbullet> It's a bit reminiscent of the world of lxg in my mind. Alan Moore fans?
[21:30] <+jtbullet> Simonjberman plus the chicks
[21:30] <+SimonJBerman> Yeah, From Hell specifically is a tremendous influence on us
[21:30] <+SimonJBerman> not just the story, but the aesthetics of those comics
[21:30] <+SimonJBerman> and the themes
[21:31] <~Dan> I guess this just touches on something that interests me about RPG settings in a metaphysical sense: many (if not most) games explicitly define the setting's metaphysics (or lack thereof). It's interesting how that casts PC behavior in different lights.
[21:31] <~Dan> To me, anyway.
[21:31] <~Dan> (Not to sidetrack the discussion, Simon. Sorry.)
[21:31] <+SimonJBerman> Yeah, absolutely. Unhallowed is a bleak nightmare, and it's always interesting to see how different players respond to that
[21:31] <+jtbullet> Yeah he clearly wishes that civilization had ended in a classier age than the present one
[21:31] <+SimonJBerman> (black comedy is a common way)
[21:32] <+SimonJBerman> Agreed, Dr. Gull's horror at his glimpse of the 1980s is powerful stuff.
[21:32] <+TQuid> I grew up in the 1980s. Truly it was a dark and terrible time.
[21:32] <~Dan> How long do you think humanity has left in the setting?
[21:32] <+SimonJBerman> Indeed!
[21:33] <~Dan> (Bah. The 80s rocked.)
[21:33] <+TQuid> You're familiar with the original John Constantine comics I assume?
[21:33] <+TQuid> (I know, I kid. Though a lot of the fashion was terrifying.)
[21:33] <~Dan> (Parachute pants FTW!)
[21:33] <+SimonJBerman> I think that will depend largely on how they manage their resources. But it's worth pointing out that the lower classes of Neo-Victorian london subsist largely on a diet of scop (reformulated fecal matter). So draw your own conclusions. ;)
[21:33] <+SimonJBerman> I am, but it's been a long time since I've read those comics, TQuid
[21:34] <+jtbullet> The penultimate rpg setting is my hometown circa 1985
[21:34] <+TQuid> Another Alan Moore character that has a lot about class conflict in the 80s under Thatcher, a sort of new victorian age as far as the whole "dark satanic mill" thing, seems up the alley of the material we're talking about (warning: I haven't read Unhallowed Metropolis)
[21:35] <~Dan> So the lower classes take a lot of crap off of people?
[21:35] <+TQuid> /drumfill
[21:35] <+SimonJBerman> Yeah, I think it's very relevant. In a similar vein, Jason Soles and I independantly watched the Red Riding Trilogy last year and we both thought it had tremendous relevance to our vision of Unhallowed
[21:35] <+SimonJBerman> Dan: That is indeed the joke. ;)
[21:36] <~Dan> :D
[21:36] <+SimonJBerman> We've even talked a little about using Red Riding as a jumping off point for an Unhallowed campaign, but nothing serious has come of it
[21:36] <+SimonJBerman> Yet.
[21:36] <+Melum> I tried to watch the first one but the accents proved formideable =P
[21:37] <+technoshaman> what type of technology is in the setting? like for communication, transportation and entertainment mostly? I mentioned dillengers but what other types?
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[21:37] <+SimonJBerman> Communication is largely the written or typed word, though telegraphs do exist for those who can afford their use
[21:37] <+SimonJBerman> transporation is mostly by foot or horse drawn cab, and entertainment varies highly based on class
[21:38] <+Adderlan> Well, at least the rich people in this setting actually give a shit...
[21:38] <+SimonJBerman> nobody likes to travel much. just walking outside requires a gasmask on the best day.
[21:38] <+jtbullet> Source of the plague?
[21:38] <+SimonJBerman> Good one!
[21:38] <+technoshaman> so no radio yet
[21:38] <+SimonJBerman> Ah yes, the radio does exist
[21:38] <+technoshaman> ahhh
[21:39] <+SimonJBerman> Jtbullet: I talked about that a little earlier. We haven't revealed the source of the plague, but there are clues in the history and timelines of the core book.
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[21:40] <~Dan> Do you have a release schedule for the planned supplements?
[21:41] <+SimonJBerman> Unhallowed Necropolis, Revised will debut as a pre-release at Gen Con next week!
[21:41] <+SimonJBerman> pre-orders are available now: (Link:
[21:41] <+SimonJBerman> the book will be widely available through game stores and the book trade in september
[21:42] <+Adderlan> What tone do you usually see this game run under? For example, despite Vampire setting a tone of 'gothic personal horror', it was usually run as 'leather clad political superheroes' (which is TOTALLY a genre). So do you usually get more dark humor, personal drama, fights to change the status que, or what?
[21:42] <+SimonJBerman> Gasmask Gazetteers are always available through DriveThruRpg: (Link:
[21:42] <+SimonJBerman> and the next one will release sometime in September, followed by two more Gazetteers later in the fall.
[21:43] <+SimonJBerman> Adderlan: I think our games tend to involve a lot of dark humor and desperate decisions. Usually the kind where not every character is going to walk away at the end of the night.
[21:44] <~Dan> What's the mortality rate in your games, Simon?
[21:44] <+SimonJBerman> as an aside, Leather Clad Political Superheroes may be the best way to describe that kind of gameplay I have ever heard.
[21:44] <+SimonJBerman> I tend to run one-shots more than campaigns, so probably an average of 1 per session
[21:44] <+SimonJBerman> but I know people who run campaigns that have never lost a character
[21:45] <~Dan> Oh, I just recalled something I wondered about from the original version...
[21:45] <~Dan> Can you refresh my memory regarding gaining benefits from giving in to the "Dark Side"? I forget the terminology.
[21:46] <+SimonJBerman> You can reroll a die one time per session per point of Corruption you possess
[21:46] <+SimonJBerman> in exchange you gain a point of corruption
[21:47] <+SimonJBerman> You may also use the Devil's Luck once per session to automatically succeed at any action, even after you have failed by gaining a permanent point of Corruption
[21:47] <~Dan> Right. See, that strikes me as being awfully metaphysical for a setting that's (pseudo)scientific.
[21:47] <+SimonJBerman> you may choose which of your Corruption paths you gain the point in, but reaching five points in any path indicates that your character has either died or become a monster in a matter befitting that path
[21:48] <+SimonJBerman> From my perspective it's an indication that the blight simply finds risk-taking hosts more favorable vectors of infection :)
[21:48] <+SimonJBerman> but it is more of a story telling element than an indication of metaphysical forces
[21:49] <+SimonJBerman> it's a way for us to move your character along the arc of his doom
[21:49] <~Dan> Let's see... I'm trying to recall what I said about this in my review...
[21:50] <~Dan> I think it's hard for me to visualize what's happening from a setting perspective there.
[21:50] <+SimonJBerman> I wouldn't assume that the reroll is a manifestation of the game world's physics or metaphysics
[21:50] <~Dan> Insofar as the characters aren't doing anything "bad", but rather drawing on a nebulous "bad" to succeed.
[21:50] <+SimonJBerman> the player chooses to alter the story and in return the Narrator grants him a point of corruption, indicating a new chapter in the character's arc has opened
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[21:51] <+SimonJBerman> in some cases it might be directly related, but if the character gains another point of Consumption from a sneaking reroll, as the character's time is just running out in general
[21:53] <~Dan> How long-term are your development plans for the game?
[21:53] <+SimonJBerman> I don't want to talk in specific increments of time but we have no shortage of ideas, plans, and supplements in development through the next several years at least
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[21:54] <+Adderlan> Still, I get what Dan's saying. Perhaps if a 'Corrupting' action was also one which included an intent to betray another person or your values or something.
[21:54] <~Dan> Yeah, exactly.
[21:54] <+jtbullet> Well it's all a suspension of disbelief really
[21:54] <+SimonJBerman> Sure, I think there are ways to make that work situationally, but it's not our core intent
[21:54] <~Dan> I guess it seems like from an in-settign perspective, it seems like the characters are going from normal to cackling monster for no particular reason.
[21:55] <~Dan> Unless I'm missing something.
[21:55] <+jtbullet> That seems to be the point though, right
[21:55] <+SimonJBerman> Anyone who lives long enough in this world is going from normal to cackling monster, or diseased lunatic ;)
[21:55] <+Silverlion> Y'all are still chatting?
[21:55] <+Silverlion> Wow! I didn't miss it completely.
[21:55] <~Dan> Okay, fair point. :)
[21:55] <~Dan> We got a late start, Silverlion.
[21:55] <+Silverlion> Did y'al cover the new system?
[21:56] <+jtbullet> Can you remove corruption or is it really cumulative forever like COC insanity?
[21:56] <+Adderlan> But I can also add that as a player when I choose to take a Corruption earning action anyway.
[21:56] * ~Dan nods
[21:56] <+SimonJBerman> Corruption is irrevocable.
[21:57] <+SimonJBerman> Silverlion: we did but you can read an overview from our blog from last year's release: (Link:
[21:59] <~Dan> Guys, I need to call it a night on my end, but Simon, you're more than welcome to hang out and field questions as long as you like.
[21:59] <+Silverlion> I heard the original system was rough, and was hoping the new one was smoother. I've been trying to get a copy, but money comes and goes when it was available (1E) I had no money, when it went--I had money. Its mocking me you see..:D
[22:00] <+Silverlion> Keep it in print. And I'll get it eventually :D
[22:00] <+SimonJBerman> I'll hang out for a few more minutes but I really need to hunt down some dinner soon!
[22:00] <+Cassie> Dinners are yummy.
[22:00] <+SimonJBerman> We'll be in print for a good long time. We've had a great year and an ENnies nomination for Best Setting will surely help :)
[22:00] <+Adderlan> night.
[22:00] <+SimonJBerman> Thanks for chatting, all!
[22:00] <~Dan> Sounds good. Thanks so much for stoppying by, Simon, and I look forward to you coming back to talk about IK2!
[22:01] <+SimonJBerman> Yes, I hope I can make time to come talk about the new Iron Kingdoms after Gen Con
[22:01] <~Dan> Also, I'll get you a log of the chat tomorrow, if you like.
[22:01] <+SimonJBerman> that would be great, thanks!
[22:01] <~Dan> Sure thing. Talk to you all later!

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