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Orpheus: How Did You Handle Bedlam, Flesh-Flux & Helter-Skelter?

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  • Orpheus: How Did You Handle Bedlam, Flesh-Flux & Helter-Skelter?

    I'm currently running an Orpheus campaign with a great group of players: We're nearing the end of the first book, which (without spoiling anything) means very exciting times are ahead!

    However, I'm having a bit of difficulty with a few of my crucible's Horrors, and I'd love some advice! (First, I should be clear that I allowed both the Phantasm and the Marrow to be selected at the beginning of the game, since I'm of the opinion that the game offers little believable reasons for withholding those shades for as long as they did. But I'm beginning to suspect that the Bedlam and, especially, Flesh-Flux Horrors might be balanced for later on in the campaign---and would love insights into how I could tone them down, or if you think I need to.)

    Bedlam: I have a single Phantasm being run by a very creative player. Of all the Horrors in Orpheus, the illusion-shaping Bedlam is the one that benefits the most from creativity, and this woman is an artist. I absolutely do not want to discourage creativity---quite the opposite!---but I also don't want clever applications of Bedlam to overshadow the contributions of my other players. To that end, I've created a set of "clarifications" on Bedlam's use, in an attempt to circumscribe exactly what she can and cannot do with it. (Some of these simply emphasize the RAW, I realize, but they're important nevertheless):
    • Discrete Effect: An illusion must be defined as adding or subtracting a single, discrete aspect of reality. You can make a group of people invisible, but only as long as that group remains together (i.e. remains a "single, discrete" thing). But if that group splits up, the illusion will fail---because the single, discrete "group" has now become multiple "people".
    • One Illusion per Target: A person can only be affected by a single illusion at a time, regardless of whether the illusion is general or if it targets them specifically. So, if you target one person with the illusion that they're covered in spiders, that person won't be affected by a subsequent general illusion of a wall that's meant to be visible to everyone.
    • Vitality Minimums: External senses (sight, sound, touch, smell and taste) do not have a minimum vitality cap. Internal senses (pain, balance, hunger, fatigue, nausea, imminent explosive diarrhea, etc) require at least 3 Vitality. Mystical senses (sensing Vitality, sensing Nature Groups) require at least 5 Vitality. Note: Pain and Touch are distinct senses, and must both be engaged to make an illusion of, say, setting someone on fire "perfectly believable" (see below).
    • Believability: A target does not necessarily need to suspect they are witnessing an illusion to get a roll to disbelieve it. Instead, several factors will determine if a target gets to roll, as well as the difficulty of such a roll:
      • any applicable senses that you have left out of the illusion (e.g. for a flashbang: leaving out "sound" is definitely going to earn a disbelief roll; leaving out "smell" is a little less risky; leaving out "pain" will almost always be safe)
      • how distracted the target is, which can include the effects of the illusion itself (e.g. if you set a man on fire and invoke "pain", his shock and agony will make it harder for him to notice the absence of "touch", "sound" or "smell")
      • sensations divorced from causes (e.g. inflicting raw "pain" on someone is risky---they may believe they're suffering a heart attack, sure, but if they know they're in good health, that may give them cause to doubt; the same goes for simply blinding or deafening a target out of nowhere)
    What do you think? Anything I should add, subtract, or clarify further?

    Flesh-Flux: Firstly, I'm confused as to how this Horror works. Every other Horror operates on a 0 to 5-Vitality scale. Is it implied that Flesh-Flux behaves the same way? Are players limited to spending 5 Vitality, maximum, on the Horror? If so, do they have to divide those five Vitality up amongst the "grab-bag" of listed effects, or are the costs treated as thresholds such that a 5-Vit expenditure allows activating any/all of them? I tend to think Flesh-Flux is an exception to the 5-Vitality scale, and require each listed power to be purchased independently---but I allow a maximum of 5 Vitality to be spent per turn. So, if you want to manifest a dozen Stains at once, it's going to take a ton of Vitality and several turns to pull off.

    I am worried about the absurd flexibility of this Horror, particularly in comparison to hues, whose advantage seems to be completely overtaken by Flesh-Flux. The power to manifest any Stain (not just your own), and subsume their drawbacks, has resulted in some absolutely ridiculous Frankenstein's Monster-style transformations. For example, my Marrow handed me this list last session, and proceeded to tear the opposition to pieces:

    Expenditure 1 - Withered Stain, so I will not send out Vitality pings when I spend more.
    Expenditure 2 - +2 Dexterity by loosening my ligaments to improve flexibility, improving balance, grip and speed.
    Expenditure 3 - +2 Strength by adding muscle mass and density.
    Expenditure 4 - Gaunt Stain, no drawback.
    Expenditure 5 - Brute Stain, no drawback.
    Expenditure 6 - Corrosive Pustules Stain, no drawback.
    Expenditure 7 - Bristling Hide Stain, no drawback.
    Expenditure 8 - Nauseating Stain, no drawback.
    Expenditure 9 - Claws, no drawback.

    2, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3 = 28 Vitality, which I'll spend over six turns.
    I had no issue with this---it was awesome, and it did cost him almost thirty Vitality---but I'm wondering if this might be too much flexibility on my part?

    Helter-Skelter: I'm having something of the opposite issue with this Horror---I'm having a hell of a time coming up with opportunities for my Poltergeist to shine, because Helter-Skelter is just so damn limited in its application. Short of turning a room into a meat grinder (something Wail and Witch's Nimbus can do already), how can I create niches where Helter-Skelter is the right tool for the job?

    Thanks a ton in advance for any insight/advice you can give!
    Last edited by Eunomiac; 09-08-2017, 12:41 AM.

  • #2
    It's been a while since I dug into the mechanics of Orpheus like this so I'm going to have to dig into my books. On first glance, though I think you are handling Bedlam well and I've long been of the opinion that Marrows were poorly integrated into the game and were there more for a nod to Wraith than anything. There's no good reason for them to be a late game addition, but they are clearly balanced that way. Don't massive Vitality expenditures attract Spectres, though?

    I keep assuming Helter Skelter would be the horror responsible for Final Destination like deathtraps, but I'd have to look at the core book again to make sure.


    Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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