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Okay, so let's read this thing [Hurt Locker]

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  • Okay, so let's read this thing [Hurt Locker]

    I'm a complete Chronicles of Darkness novice and finished reading the rulebook just last night. You can read my thoughts on that that HERE. I've also recently started a play-by-post solo game you can read HERE. Now, without any experience, I'm going to jump straight into Hurt Locker (love the name, by the way). My goal with this thread is to present my thoughts as I read through the entire book, and to discuss anything and everything in the book that catches my attention.

    If you didn't read my other thread, I should point out from the beginning. I'm writing this while I'm reading the book and I'm presenting my ideas (and poor jokes) unedited as I go through the book's content. I don't go back to change paragraphs after later revelations and my posts can therefore contradict themselves. If you're wondering what questions I pose and what to reply to, focus on any questions I've posed late in the posts. If I've marked a question with blue text, I want to highlight it especially and create a discussion around it.

    FICTION: HERO OF WAR by David A Hill Jr

    I like the layout of the page here that makes the story look like it's part of a folder. The cursive font is a bit difficult to read though, but I accept it because it fits the layout.

    "A kid named after a parent is like tattooing someone's name on you. It's a stupid choice that too many people make." I wonder if this is an expression of David Hill's own opinions, since he's apparently a "Junior" himself. Since I'm not a native Englisher (as proven by me calling it an Englisher), I'm not part of a culture where naming children after parents is a thing---at all. Unless it's for their middle name. Then it's very common. We don't have an equivalent of "Junior" in Sweden to call someone sharing the name of his father. It seems like a cultural thing that's more common in the US and that I can't really associate with. Paying respect to one's family is usually done through middle names. Does "Junior" dominate the named-after-parent domain in the US, or do you use middle names for that too? My middle name is after my uncle, by the way. I think I'm digressing, but I'm curious.

    Speaking of names, Matthew Randolph Comstock is an awesome one. Man, that letter was a hard read. I'm glad I'm not Mister Comstock. It was good though. You could feel Hannah's emotion throughout. It felt believable. By the way, I'm 100% sure that Mister Comstock isn't going to be able to read this letter. The book is named Hurt Locker after all. The guy's so dead I can smell the rot through the monitor.

    Ooooooh! <--- I just read the part where the revelation is. I was ... kind of but not really right. I liked this much better than what I assumed would be the stereotypical knocking on the door scene with the army guy who the dead soldier saved personally on the field embraces the wailing widow and keeps her from falling to the floor despite the fact that her legs are too weak to carry her.

    Spoiler alert: Mister Comstock is comatose and they take out the plug. It's written that way to highlight the nasty consequences of violence. Had David Hill gone with the scene where the fancy army dude is knocking on the door to tell Hannah that Matthew was killed in an act of heroism, it would have romanticized combat and detracted from the gritty reality that this book wants to present. I haven't read past the introductory fiction yet, but I can tell that much. This book is going to be gritty, nasty, and show you how you'll piss your pants before you die.

    This was a very successful piece of intro fiction, unlike the bad one that introduces the rulebook. Kudos to David Junior.


    So the book will be divided into the following chapters: Introduction, Stories of Violence (seems to be focusing on Storyteller advice which is always welcome), Instruments of Violence (focuses on game mechanical additions to character creation and violence rules), The Other Side (more scary horror fuel), Tokyo (it seems like some kind of suggested setting material), Equipment (more types of weapons and combat-oriented gear) and Conditions (an appendix of additional conditions).

    I'm mainly interested in the Instruments of Violence chapter, but the Tokyo one makes me curious.


    The book references Armory and Armory: Reloaded, none of which I have read or even heard about.

    I've read what the book is about, and I'm sold. I've read what the book is not about, and I'm still sold. I like that it presents violence as a gritty and real thing without getting political about it.

    I don't intend to make my first chronicle about violence. I intend to have some violent scenes, but it's definitely not a focus. My focus is more of a creepy mystery. However, when violence happens, I want it to have impact. I want my player to be afraid.

    The book addresses some balance concerns for player characters using other splats, like Vampires. I don't know anything about how Vampires play yet, and I appreciate the tip because of that.

    This will have to be enough of a starting post so far. Next time I'll get into Chapter One: Stories of Violence.

    Ekorren's Homebrew Hub - Last Update: April 14, 2018

  • #2
    So, my dad was raised Catholic and has four names - his first, middle, confirmation, and last name. My first, middle, and last are the same as his middle, confirmation, and last. My middle name (my dad's confirmation name) is also the same as the first name of one of his many brothers, and this brother also took my dad's first name as his confirmation name. Another of his brothers has a middle name that starts with the same letter as mine, but due to a typo on his birth cirtificut, starts with a lower-case letter. My middle name intentionally starts with a lower case letter in reference to this. My mom's family had the tradition of naming all the firstborn male children William, and if I'd had a brother my parents would have named him that, and given him my mom's last name (which she kept when she married my dad). But, that didn't happen. If I ever have a son I would like to name him William, but I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future.

    I've always found all of my family references in my name to be really cool, personally. Too bad they're typically-male names.
    Last edited by Charlaquin; 03-20-2017, 03:27 PM.

    Onyx Path Forum Moderator

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    • #3
      I'm going to try and read this one with you. I've skimmed Hurt Locker, and focused on Tokyo, but I haven't had time to read the entire book in depth yet. In fact, I hadn't read the opening fiction either, though i did before I read you post. Youch! That is one effective piece of fiction. I like how it doesn't feature the supernatural at all, which emphasizes just how fucked up people can be as a baseline before supernatural shenanigans enter the story.

      Freelancer - Dark Eras 2
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      • #4
        You might want to either tag David so he gets a notification or share it with him on twitter or other social media. I assume he enjoys positive commentary.


        • #5
          If you want to amplify aspects of horror and helplessness in a game which is essentially fantasy, considering the cadre of characters, violence is an excellent option. Grisly scenes can highlight an enemy, and make a player more interested and engaged in their investigations. Furthermore, hints of violence used as a contrasting agent (blood across a blackboard, a gentle stigmatic family member with a malfunction suddenly acting in pain, agony, and fear) can further invest a character/player in uncovering sickening, paradigm-shifting truths.


          • #6
            I'm a reverse Junior. I'm named after my father but not in the same order. Dad's first name is my middle name. Dad's middle name is my first name. Since I was a small smart aleck everytime Dad says I'm doing something backwards I say it's all his fault for naming me thusly.


            • #7
              My mum was named after my grandmother, until she married my dad and took his last name.


              • #8
                Well, my mother's family is Jewish, and you're not allowed to name your kids after living relatives in Judaism, only dead ones. So that holds true for both sides of my family. My family all is middle names for that though. I do have a friend who's family has an interesting tradition, ever generation they alternate first and last names. So his name is, as an example, John Abraham, and his father is Abraham John, and his grandfather is John Abraham, and so on. Interesting little tradition.


                • #9
                  Huh. I thought that was just a tradition in some jewish groups and not an actual rule.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tessie View Post
                    Huh. I thought that was just a tradition in some jewish groups and not an actual rule.

                    Definitely more of a tradition. When it's a dead relatives name though, it's supposed to help keep the in living memory in some way for as long as possibleI'm named after two great-uncles myself, for both my first and middle name.
                    Last edited by Master Aquatosic; 03-20-2017, 09:35 PM.

                    A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"


                    • #11
                      Ah, my family are of the atheist-socialist type of American Jew, so I never really got much of an education in Judaism, so many things I think are rules turn out to be merely tradition and vice versa.


                      • #12
                        CHAPTER ONE: STORIES OF VIOLENCE

                        I have no experience watsoever with the violence mechanics in game. I haven't gotten that far yet in my storytelling of Chronicles of Darkness. I did re-read the paragraphs about violence in the rulebook yesterday to see if I can better grasp the new information added in this book. I think I have a fairly solid idea of how violence works in game now, though I admit I'd have to look at notes to remind myself of the nitty and gritty.

                        This chapter addresses storytelling violence and the first thing it does is to remind the reader that immersion comes from narration. With a decade of Exalted experience, I've done my fair share of narrative stunts, and I even try to add those details to less story-intensive games, like Dungeons and Dragons. To show and not tell is the 101 of impactful storytelling in any medium. Some of my friends like shocking descriptions of violence for heightened tension (interesting fact is that the one who likes the most shocking descriptions in game is also the one who is the most queasy when it comes to violent movies) and others are at least tolerant to it. I don't try to make every attack into a finishing move in Mortal Kombat, but I do tune the descriptions up towards the gory more often than not. I still want it to be believable though. Too much often becomes silly.

                        I 100% agree with the mention of chronicles being about individuals, and that "evil" or "good" characters rob people from exploring variables. I try (and sometimes succeed---sometimes fail) to keep this in mind even when I roleplay "supernatural evils." I've had Abyssal campaigns for Exalted where even Deathlords have expressed mercy, and empathy, because though they are seen as evil and their atrocities have been considered evil, their driving forces have not necessarily been so.

                        The chapter goes on to discuss the impact of violence in other related gamelines. Since I'm not familiar with those yet but I've already decided to read Vampire: The Requiem next, I'm curious to see the differences. Actually, what interests me most when reading this is the information on all of the other splats. It shows how little I know about this when I see the word Uratha and realized I had probably never encountered it before. And yet the premium Werewolf book is right there on my couch next to me. It's getting all the more compelling now, but I'll still read Vampire first. Mages seem absolutely terrifying and limitless. I haven't played Mage, but I think they could be scary villains for games where you play other splats. I still can't really wrap my head around Prometheans. I see Frankenstein's Monster and I see Exalted's Liminal Exalted, but something tells me that I still don't really see Prometheans. The paragraph(s) about Changeling is the longest and most substantial, probably because David Hill used to develop Changeling. It doesn't give enough information to actually tell me what Changelings are, but neither is that the intent of the paragraph. It's written for those already familiar with these splats.


                        This presents a system replacing the standard Integrity loss rules with an attrition-based system using counters. Your Integrity track has three unfilled dots which will be the counters you need to threaten Integrity. So far, I have no idea what is meant by this.

                        When the player's character participates in violent/traumatic scenes, I (as the Storyteller) hands him a counter. I do the same whenever he'd face a breaking point. Whenever he gets a counter, he also gets a Beat. Once these counters fill the Integrity track, the player gives back the counters to the Storyteller and reduces his Integrity by one. I get it.

                        The counters owned by the player acts as a penalty to Empathy, Socialize and other rolls reflecting the character's ability to relate to other people. So when he holds two counters, he's at -2 to all those rolls. Once he gets the third counter and finally breaks, he can act without a penalty again but his Integrity has been eroded.

                        The character can shed counters by positive experiences. Once all counters are gone, another positive experience could potentially bring back a dot of Integrity.

                        This is an interesting system. It didn't explicitly say so, but I assume that each time the Storyteller would hand out a counter corresponds to a breaking point using the core system. The rolls are made like normal, but the counter is handed out alongside whatever condition the character may have gained from the experience. Correct me if I'm wrong.

                        There are two new Merits associated with the Integrity by Attrition rule. One of them lets you shed the social penalty for a scene in exchange for a Condition. The other Merit lets you swap out using your unfilled Integrity dots for your combined (Resolve + Composure) dots.

                        FRAMING SCENES

                        The book gives some solid advice on how to portray mechanical advantages and disadvantages through the scene. This is something very valuable to me as a new Storyteller since I have issues with figuring out what bonuses and penalties to give my player's character.

                        I don't have that much to say about this other than that it's solid advice for me who is new to the system. I'd even go so far as to say that people thinking about picking up the rulebook should also pick up Hurt Locker as a package deal.

                        The book goes on to give a large number of example scenes presented using this system, with listed advantages, penalties and dramatic failures. It encourages me as a Storyteller to start listing potential scenes like that as well.

                        VIOLENCE GROUPS

                        Barring mental illness, people aren't violent without reason. The book takes a lot of space to explain the mentality behind violence, and how "sane people" need Aspirations to be their driving force behind violent deeds. Without such driving forces, inflicting harm shouldn't come easy.

                        I think this is important to keep in mind for believable storytelling. It's often forgotten in roleplaying games, mostly so in fantasy games, where heroes strike down a hundred bandits and then have a beer afterwards, not even feeling the slightest remorse over a single one of those kills. I enjoy when violence has emotional impact even in such games. I like the show Critical Role, not because of any particular fondness for Dungeons and Dragons (I do play it sometimes), but because the actors involved are all roleplayers who enjoy emotional and narrative depth to their story. If you can add emotional impact to a game like Dungeons and Dragons, then you're a good roleplayer. If you can't even do that to a narrative-game like Chronicles of Darkness, then you're going to lose out on the experience.

                        The books describes how to build a group, organization or violent mob where you basically averages traits for the whole group. I wonder if there are group sheets as well, sort of like character sheets. There's a new Merit called Organization Size that you can take when part of a violence group.

                        I haven't commented too much on the very substantial information about violence groups. Some paragraphs were a little too substantial to retain interest, but it's been very valuable as a whole. For when I want to bring organizations into my game, I have here a serious source to look into for helpful information.

                        I'm going to continue with Chapter Two: Instruments of Violence for the next post. Anything I've addressed above is open for discussion, but I'd like to mainly bring up the Integrity by Attrition optional system. Do you use that system in place of the standard one? How do you like it? What don't you like about it? Should I use it?

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                        • #13
                          I've used something similar to the IbA system before, and it's worked rather well. I handed out the tokens at places of stress/duress (breaking point triggers), and only made the players roll to decrease Morality (Integrity) when they'd gotten four. Using that system, coupled with the Forbidden Lore alternate concepts, was an interesting take on human functionality in extreme situations.

                          I'm still partial to the Unknown Armies stress system.

                          I think there's three points to make. First, I enjoy seeing a published, streamlined version of the system I hacked together. Second, I don't think you should switch to too many alternate systems if you or your player is just getting acquainted with the rules. Third, I think that if you see a rule you like, use it: whether or not people agree with you, and whether or not you feel the need to adjust things to fit, or even if you want to plug-in a concept from outside WoD/CoD, you are the one framing the story your players tell. If you like Integrity by Attrition, I say go for it. I don't think it's inherently better or worse than any of the other alternates.

                          I thoroughly agree with you about how useful this book is, for concepts and hard mechanics. One of my favourite additions to the game stock.


                          • #14
                            You seem very curious about the supernatural gamelines, would you be interested in a brief summary of what they're each about? Or do you prefer to remain as unspoiled about them as possible until you're ready to read them yourself?

                            Onyx Path Forum Moderator

                            My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

                            Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.


                            • #15
                              I think Integrity by Attrition works for a particular kind of gameplay atmosphere. Using the roll for Integrity Breaking Points, if you can keep your head, if you have the fortitude represented by Resolve + Composure, if you use the centring techniques of the Meditative Mind Merit, you can shake off the trauma and keep moving forwards. That suits an atmosphere where tenacity and force of will are the things that keep humans alive in a harsh world.

                              The Integrity by Attrition system, on the other hand, works if you're telling a story where it is important to show the toll trauma takes on a person and their relationships. No matter how strong your willpower (Resolve + Composure) trauma takes a toll, but the more used to the hurt you are (lower Integrity) the harder you need to be pushed to break. But each counter is a penalty to Social Actions (except Intimidation, is the way I've run it), meaning the strain of keeping it together is getting to you, and you find yourself removed further from other people until you break and find a new plateau to sit on. The other side of Integrity by Attrition, though, I absolutely love, because I like (for the most part) doing away with paying Experience to restore Integrity Traits. It's also the reason, I think, the subsystem is under the section Stories About Moving On. Positive interactions with people remove Breaking Point Counters. You go to people in your support network, and you reach out for help, and it helps you heal. Seek help often enough, and you start to get better if you have the Willpower (Resolve + Composure) to accept your new sense of self.

                              The two Merits attached to it are also pretty good (Smile Through It suggests to me that in a strict reading of Integrity by Attrition you get a Beat per Breaking Point Counter in lieu of the normal Condition, and the Merit lets you get the Condition more or less on demand to force relatively normal social interaction) and help enforce that mood. You can, through force of will, endure a little more, fake normalcy, but if you don't get help, eventually it will get worse. It's very humanizing, and I personally like it, though it might not be the best system for a group of relatively isolated PCs who don't have people they can (or would even want to) go and talk to.

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