Author: Devon Oratz

I make all kinds of things. This blog is to tell you about the things I make.

“Clanbook: Nyctaphobia”

This is an ancillary document that will appeal mainly to fans of the artist formerly known as Devon Oratz, although fans of “Old World of Darkness” Vampire: The Masquerade might find it an interesting piece of marginalia. It is first and foremost a document for internal use, further defining the vampiric clans that exist in the Nyctaphobia; Hope In The Mist; Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You universe and further differentiating them from the Vampire: The Masquerade clans they were based on circa 2004.

Clans are divided into two major meta-factions, clans which participate in the Wild Hunt (taking part in annual “wildings” in which entire human towns are slaughtered, and the Cotillion, which prioritize the concealment of vampire kind from human awareness above all else and which do not take part in or approve of wildings, although they are not actively at war with the Wild Hunt. Vampire: The Masquerade players will recognize elements of the Sabbat in the former and elements of the Camarilla in the latter.

 

Clan Nightshade

Vulgar Labels: Serpents, Typhoid Maries
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Members: Lorenzo Medici, Meriwether Davis, Catherine Faraday, Melciah Salomon
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Blood-Venom

Notes: Clan Nightshade is by far the most important of the vampiric bloodlines to the overarching plot of the as-yet unfinished Nyctaphobia/Hope In The Mists saga. All of the major named vampire characters from Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You belong to Clan Nightshade. In Vampires Will Never Hurt You, the rewrite of Gilead, Clan Nightshade will have a unique ability where anyone they bite but don’t drain completely will rise as an extremely weak vampire without any of Clan Nightshade’s special abilities. This does not follow “the rules” of how vampires in general are presented in Nyctaphobia, because every other clan must create vampires through an act of abundant intentionality, draining them down to a few drops of human blood and then feeding them their own vampire blood until they are reborn as undead. This is also the only way that Clan Nightshade can create full-blooded members, rather than blood-hungry ghouls. In addition to the vampire-plague spreading venom of their ordinary bite, older members of Clan Nightshade can transmute their own blood into a venom deadly or paralytic even to fellow vampires.

Spoilers: In the rewrite of Gilead, Vampires Will Never Hurt You, Clan Nightshade will be the clan we see “on camera” to be compromised by the Cult of Shade.

 

The Minders

Vulgar Labels: The Busybodies, Management
Philosophy: Cotillion
Members: Seth Rowald, Monica Winters, Hawthorne
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Levitation, Thaumaturgy, Hypnotic Gaze

Notes: The Minders is the second most important clan in the Nyctaphobia/Hope In The Mists trilogy, playing a reasonably significant role in the early parts of Hope In The Mists. They uphold with grave seriousness the dual responsibility of ensuring that humans remain under the misapprehension that vampires are purely the stuff of fiction and monitoring the greater world of magic and the supernatural for existential threats to vampire kind. The Minders have thoroughly compromised many or most human intelligence and law enforcement organizations, so their access to human law enforcement personnel and equipment is unparalleled.

Loup-Garou
Vulgar Labels: Furries, Hairballs
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Animal Forms

Notes: Many humans in their moments of pants-shitting terror mistake the Loup-Garou for werewolves before being torn apart by them, an understandable confusion. The Loup-Garou are not actually werewolves, however, and can take the forms of bats, ravens, timberwolves, and rare individuals have been reported to take on a variety of exotic “creatures of the night” such as mountain lions, panthers, bears, or tigers.

 

Clan Rose
Vulgar Names: Snobs, Eurotrash
Philosophy: Cotillion
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Fascination

Notes: Clan Rose is made up of individuals who are passionate about art in all its forms, and as an organization, is almost exclusively dedicated to the preservation of the very greatest works of art made by man and vampire. Vampiric art and vampiric performance art tends towards the grand guignol, with human life little valued and blood and corpses preferred mediums for artistes to work in. The unique Clan Rose power of fascination

Gargoyles

Vulgar Names: Gargoyles is already a disrespectful epithet. This bloodline does not have a proper name.
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Talons, Claws, and Fangs, Winged Flight

Gargoyles don’t appear remotely like human beings, instead somewhere in appearance between Max Schreck’s Count Orlok in the 1922 silent film Nosferatu and something that might have given H.R. Giger nightmares. Of all the “wilding” factions, the Gargoyles are historically the most cooperative with the Cotillion factions, for reasons that are, after all, fairly obvious. The Gargoyles complete their wildings within the assigned time-periods and geographical coordinates, reliably not going “overboard”, which has led to most of the other Hunt factions referring to them as “the Cotillion’s (butt-ugly) bitch”.

 

Clan Umbra
Vulgar Names: Necrophiliacs, Creeps
Philosophy: Cotillion
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Necromancy, Shadow-Play

A very pure bloodline of French and Italian origin, many have hinted or more than hinted that the purity comes from a carefully curated mixture of necrophilia and incest. While it is fairly parallel to the story, it still might count as a spoiler that Clan Umbra is entirely loyal to the Cult of Shade and has been since time immemorial: however, the Minders have known about this for long enough to prepare “ contingencies” for this primarily European bloodline, a shadow war between the Minders (aided by the Gargoyles) and Clan Umbra that can be assumed to happen somewhere between the events of Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You and the events of Hope In The Mists.

 

Clan Romani

Vulgar Names: Gypsies, Pikeys
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Levitation, Fascination

Not all Romani are vampires but Romani vampires consider themselves Romani first and vampires second. Every stereotype and epithet assigned to real world “Gypsies” is stapled to the Romani Clan by the other vampires of the world. They are almost universally distrusted and regarded with at best suspicion. It is the fact that vampires as a rule don’t particularly trust each other—that and the delicate internal politics of the Cotillion and the Wild Hunt and the other minor bloodlines not worth mentioning here—that allows the Romani clan to navigate vampire society as well as it does, perpetually a potential “enemy of my enemy” to someone.

Unmasque, Unmasque

For any VtM players who didn’t follow, here’s how I collapsed the original thirteen or fourteen clans into seven. Clan Assamite and Followers of Set: Clan Nightshade; Clans Ventrue and Tremere: the Minders; Clan Brujah, not used; Clan Malkavian, not used; Clans Tzimisce and Nosferatu, Gargoyles;  Clans Toreador and Tzimisce, Clan Rose; Clans Giovannni and Lasombra, Clan Umbra; Ravnos, Romani.

Standardizing Vampire Abilities Kind Of Sort Of Without Numbers

Abilities and weaknesses. And did I mention standardizing and without numbers? What an ask of an ex game designer. Vampires in fiction are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike, from the sparkling twinks of “Twilight” to the bloody tornadoes of fangs and rust from Ben Templesmith’s and Steve Niles’ work on 30 Days of Night. Here is my best attempt at presenting MOSTLY WITH WORDS AND NOT NUMBERS YOUR BASIC GILEAD/VWNHY vampire’s abilities.

Strength: Anywhere between twice and ten times as strong as a minimum would be your basic range. Double the range for each century the vampire’s been alive. In areas where agility and skill also inform strength (like swinging a sword), hundreds of times human competence might be seen. A vampire who had spent two centuries serving as samurai could cut you apart before you saw his hand move.

Toughness: Largely indifferent to bullets except for large caliber shotgun blasts and the like which only slow them down. Decapitation kills, impalement paralyzes, usually the former than the latter. Anything else (fire, blades, blunt force trauma, just plain running them over with cars) damages them normally, but they have a hyperbolically quick regeneration factor. Let’s stay it starts as Wolverine/4 and doubles for every two centuries they survive as a vampire. It never reaches a speed greater than, Wolverine x 4 but in terms of what a vampire can regenerate from, the rules of ridiculousness are “weapons free”.  As long as it has blood to drink, a vampire can regenerate to more or less “full health” after being burned in a fire until nothing but a blackened skeletal husk remained. Exactly this happened to Lorenzo in Gilead. The only thing that stops vampiric regeneration is the paralyzing stake through he heart.

Speed: Any vampire can move too fast for you to see. The differences in speed that come with clans and centuries only matter in showdowns between vampires. Vampires are more perceptive than humans—about as perceptive as a wolf at night, with human intellect—but they can still be surprised. A vampire that isn’t paying any attention isn’t any harder to hit than a human that isn’t paying any attention.

Weakness: The Sun: Each clan reacts a little differently. The sun destroys young blood of Clan Nightshade and the Gargoyles and instantly incinerates even elders of Clan Umbra. Elders of Clan Nightshade and Elder Gargoyles are deeply sickened and weakened by the sun.  For the Minders and Clan Rose, sun means weakness and unconsciousness for young bloods, and an inability to use your powers even for elders. For Clan Romani and the Loup-Garoup, young blood felt weak and sickly in the daylight, but sufficiently aged Elders suffer no special handicap from the sun.

Other Weaknesses: All but the oldest elders can enter a domicile without special permission and cross running water; only the oldest elders need sleep in the soil of their homeland. If a cross is brandished at a vampire, what matters is the faith of the holder in the object. So a Star of David in the hands of a pious Jew is better than a crucifix in the hands of a half-assed Christian. Holy water see above: the person doing the blessing needs to be a true believer. By the same principal, areas that count as “hallowed ground” will be rare. Garlic does not do anything. Only the Loup-Garoup care about silver bullets or other things made of silver. Most vampires would list “fire” under their dislikes.

Innate Abilities: Most vampires have telekinesis of a level commensurate with their age. All vampires can telempathically communicate with their children.

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“Mood Is A Thing For Cattle And Love-Play!” – Gurney Halleck, Dune (1984)

Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise.meme

Anyway ladies and gentlemen, this is a kind of unstoppable force meets immovable object type deal. And from the title, you know I’m talking about MOOD.

As you can imagine it’s been pretty much impossible to be in a good mood since the person I love the most left and abandoned me, taking with her everything I care about most in my life…especially knowing that I deserved it for the most part. However, I also want to observe at present that it’s pretty damn hard to be in a bad mood in this 71 degree and rising San Diego weather, instead of being back home in New York where I’ve heard it is -30 Degrees factoring in wind chill or some such terrifying shit.

I just hope my family is finding a way to keep warm during the New York fimbulwinter.

Suspended Animation

So, I’d like everyone (everyone who cares, a small and elite group, I know) to think of all of ETG’s game lines to be in a state of suspended animation (what a paradoxical combination of words!) like cryosleep. I offer no guarantees that any of them will be thawed out or revivified, but anything is possible. Also, on a personal note, at the moment I’m not dead. To try and not be too maudlin, I’ll just say that while I have no desire at all to be alive–none, not one iota, not one whit–I am badly maladapted towards suicidal action, and besides that, suicide is a fundamentally discourteous thing. It’s way too tempting to start talking in any depth about my personal life now, so I won’t. I suspect that some of the readers of this blog (there aren’t many) are hate readers and I really don’t want to give them the satisfaction of the schadenfreude. I hope no one else is going into the holidays with severe clinical depression or suicidal ideation, at least there’s very few people I would wish that on.

On a professional level, obviously it’s IMMENSELY FUCKING FRUSTRATING that ETG was just starting to hit its stride and really click into the groove when it fell apart, but, to make a stunningly original observation: life isn’t fair. I think in the time we were around, we made some kickass games, adventures, and supplements, all of which would have been impossible without Mik. I felt like we were just hitting a meaningful level of market penetration when the bottom fell out, which obviously sucks ass. Our stuff will continue to be for sale in the usual places. We’re probably doomed to fall into total obscurity as time passes, but at least a few people will hang onto their copies of our games and enjoy them. I can think of worse ways to have invested the last six years of my life.

The exception to the above paradigm of “Suspended Animation” is the fulfillment of the Systems Malfunction Kickstarter. That’s an awkward situation. I have no intention of backing away from our obligation, but I also have been made to understand that the fulfillment is being finalized by Mikaela who is most resolutely not taking my calls, in the most absolute sense. I don’t knows what printer she used (is using? is planning to use?) or what state she’s at in the fulfillment, only that she’s promised me to take care of the fulfillment, and I’m not even sure that’s a promise I should take at face value all things considered, because it was delivered in a missive that was, I have now discerned, about 90% bullshit. It’s all horribly entangled with the destruction of my life and the kidnapping of my pets and…oy vey. Oy. Vey. I will do my best to make sure that everybody who pledged gets a book, but my former business partner is not making it easy for me to get a window into the fulfillment process right now.

I post about this here and not on the relevant Kickstarter because the Kickstarter update would amount to “My life is completely fucked and the person who I would ask about fulfillment stole my dog and has gone off the grid” which seems like the kind of update that would just annoy many backers.

I’ve been trying to focus more on my writing, when I’m feeling well enough to focus on anything, which is increasingly rare with my failing health. Vaguely considering making another blog focusing on that, but very likely won’t bother. Not many people read this (as I make frequent mention of), I don’t know if I could transfer even that pitifully small readership to the new blog, and most importantly, as Egon Spengler so wryly observed back in 1984 (the year, not the book) “Print Is Dead”.

“And that’s the waaaaaaaaaaaaay the news goes.”

Fission Mailed

I don’t imagine I will have a whole lot of game design to be blogging about for the foreseeable future. End Transmission Games is kaput, at least for the time being. I might try doing my own stuff under a different masthead after a while, but I don’t think that will be any time soon.

I had a random thought though which is really the only reason I make this blog post. Considered by many the first “post-modern” video game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty’s themes and messages are more relevant now than ever, particular its Gainax Ending . Just before the final boss fight, the literal talking heads of the Patriots (the La-li-lu-le-lo!), the simulated Colonel Campbell and Rosemary, lecturing Jack on the dangers of a post-fact, post-truth world feel eerily urgent in the face of a game released in 2001 and largely developed pre-9/11. The worst case scenario that they are talking about sounds a lot like the post-Trump, “Fake News” era we live in now. It’s uncannily prescient for a 16 year old Japanese video game. Echoes of the themes of the popular musical Hamilton (“What is a legacy?”) are also surprising coming from a 16 year old Japanese video game. I suggest anyone who has had this gem collecting dust in their collection or never got around to playing it seek it out and a console to play it on, just for the ending.

There’s no good reason that the often brilliant, frequently self indulgent, and always pleasantly bizarre Hideo Kojima should have been able to predict the death of truth in media and the rise of echo chambers and thought bubbles instead of discourse, but he did. It almost makes me wish we had a censorious GW like AI, like that housed within Arsenal Gear, to prevent us from reaching this sad point in our society. Almost.

Transmissions from The End #18: No Country For Great Old Ones

So, while all my many haters will definitely scoff loudly at this, I’ve never really felt comfortable tooting my own horn. But, now that I’ve reached the point where I pay other people to toot my horn, I figure that stepping it in to toot it myself from time to time is really the only decent thing to do. It’s like…really it’s my horn. I bear some responsibility.

No Country For Great Old Ones is an RPG adventure scenario that is coming to the Kickstarter machine in the next two weeks (yikes) based on an idea I had for a Delta Green adventure well more than a year ago. It is not in fact a Delta Green adventure (as of the time of this posting: I will probably figure out some way to release it ported for the DG rules, possibly for free, as long as the KS funds). It has statistics for DicePunk, and is officially licensed and compatible with HERO System and Savage Worlds, which is kind of a big deal, and so it goes without saying it’s gonna have FRED and SW stats too. And it may not stop there. Depending on where we wind up with the Stretch Goals, we might have officially licensed crunch for upwards of six other game systems. If you build it, we will crunch.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAhPAAAAJGM1ZDI5ZDUzLTk3ZmItNDMxZS1hZmIxLTNhMmRkNjNiY2I2NA

Two Sides To Every Story

No Country For Great Old Ones is in the so-played-out western neo-noir crime/Lovecraftian-conspiracy-horror subgenre. The truly cool thing about this adventure in my opinion is that it does this mini-Rashomon type thing where it can be played either from the “A” side of the adventure where you’re law enforcement types, or the “B” side of the adventure where you’re the criminals, and we actually suggest you do play it both ways to get the whole story or at least to see two very different interpretations of what happens.

Each side has what are I think really strong pregenerated characters but obviously I wanted either side of this adventure to be able to be slotted into anyone’s ongoing campaign here which means they can be thrown out the window in favor of established PCs. And in fact, we will provide guidelines for just such figurative defenestration (hooking in established PCs instead of the pregens) in the adventure itself, specific to our level of expertise in each system the game is translated for. All that being said, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the pregens since they’ve been around over these past couple of years, so I’m going to use their names when I lay out the two sides to the story.

Oh, and this was all vividly inspired by the exceptional 2016 film Hell Or High Water, written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David McKenzie. I can’t recommend the film enough.

Cops

An elderly Texas Ranger within weeks of his mandatory retirement date, Marcus Bridges represents a classic Western stereotype–the man who has lost touch with time, and knows it, the man for whom, like Stephen King’s Roland or any number of classic western heroes and anti-heroes, “the world has moved on”.

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The character of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell from Cormack McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men is the iconic example: an old timer whose memories of a more idyllic west don’t allow him to truly conceive of the chaos and carnage of modern times.

Like many other western antiheroes, Marcus is also rough, gruff, surly, ornery, and generally unpleasant.  As Marcus Bridges represents the longing for the tranquility of the past, his long suffering partner Jorge Quesada represents the uncertainty of the present. He quietly tolerates his incessant politically incorrect barbs about his Latino heritage out of a sense of profound respect for the man’s experience…while worrying that Marcus is looking for an opportunity to die in a blaze of glory rather than face the slow decay of retirement.

US Marshals Roger Barrister and Gina Torres are not “really” US Marshals. They belong to a fractured, fractal conspiracy within the various agencies of the US government and the interstices and interfaces between them. Call it “the Shop”.  Agent Barrister and Agent Torres attach themselves to the Rangers’ case, and of course, they too want to catch the bad guys (and make sure that the situation never becomes publicly visible). They know things that you aren’t cleared to know.

And the bad guys that are taking more than money from the crime scene. Things like fingers. Things like eyes.

…And Robbers

The Quinns were a crime family in the deep, dark, muddy backwaters of the Lousiana Bayou since the turn of the 20th century or even sooner. Throughout the years they’ve operated as smugglers and trafficked in moonshine, “white slaves”, gun-running, and meth. Unsavoury rumors persist about the Quinn clan intermarrying with things from the Black Bay region…inhuman things.

The ghastly rumors about the Quinn family are true. Alectra’s mother Annabelle met her Deep One daddy some time in the late 80s and she followed family tradition. By the time of Hurricane Katrina, Alectra was already beginning to show signs of the change (see appearance).

Jimmy was always shy growing up and he still seems nebbish and retiring much of the time when he’s not in the midst of committing an armed robbery. He was a shrimpy little kid growing up, and a magnet for bullying, and he tends to be quiet and keep to himself. The love of his life is Alectra Quinn, who washed up on his doorstep when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans in 2005. The two are now happily married and love, but Alectra isn’t entirely human and Jimmy isn’t entirely sane. However, deep down, he knows that the Deep-One Hybrid he’s in bed with is more than just his true love, that she’s evidence of a world of hidden wonders and horrors that the average “normal” person will never, ever witness or comprehend until it’s too late, and they’re dead. Jimmy takes great satisfaction in that.

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Here in the dry Texas heat, Jimmy “The Squid” Quinn is a ways from his home in the Lousiana Bayou. He met Chris Foster as his cell mate at the Federal Penitentiary in Pollock, Lousiana while he was doing a five-stretch for armed robbery. Jimmy got out first and gave Chris his contact info, and Chris contacted Jimmy for help on the job. Jimmy brought along his partner in crime, and in love.

Poor white trash from birth, Chris Foster has a criminal record a country mile long, gradually escalating from vandalism and aggravated assault to armed robbery (mostly gas station and convenience stores). Just out of prison on parole, and he was already thinking about the kind of hell-raising that would get him thrown right back in again. But then his straight-arrow brother, Taylor, with whom he’s had a very rough relationship, suggests a more ambitious plan. One which involves robbing a large number of banks in a short period of time.

A wildman outlaw, Chris was born into the wrong era. He takes genuine joy in the chaos and violence of the rough life of a career criminal. It’s not institutionalization–he hates being in prison–it’s just that he feels like the best use of his freedom is raising hell. Various lawyers working to reduce Chris’s prison sentences and increase his chance of parole have had psychiatrists (mostly correctly) diagnose him with anti-social personality disorder, ADHD, sociopathy, and oppositional defiant disorder, which Chris dismisses as “a bunch of bullshit”. His hatred of police and other authority figures is downright pathological. Deep down, he is badly scarred by his alcoholic father’s abuse, and resents his ailing mother for dying while he was in prison. The only person he cares about is his brother Taylor, who he’ll treat like shit, but ultimately, will do anything for. While Chris likes to appear dim so people underestimate him, he’s a lot smarter than he appears.In fact, he’s smart enough to know that he’s not meant for this world–a relic of another age–and is willing to die in a blaze of glory, laying his life down at the right moment.

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Chris Foster’s brother, Taylor has dealt with their poor white trash background and their abusive alcoholic father in the exact opposite way as his brother, by keeping to the straight and narrow in life. He did his best in school, got through some college, met a woman, had kids that are now teenaged, and got divorced, all without once spending a night in a jail sell. Now his ailing mother has died and Texas Heartland Bank stands ready to foreclose on the Foster ranch. Two other things have happened that have given Taylor the glimmer of an idea. His brother is just out from prison, and oil has just been discovered on the ranch property.

Taylor grew up in poverty and has a plan to finally drag his family out of generations of poverty. His plan is meticulous and if everything goes according to the playbook, he’ll be able to pay off the reverse mortgage on his mother’s ranch with their own goddamn money, laundered through an Indian casino, and they’ll get off scot free. The only challenge is going to be keeping his wildcard brother–who doesn’t believe anybody ever got away with anything and acts accordingly–and the even less trustworthy help that Chris brought on board.

***

And that’s all I can say about that. I really can’t go into any more detail about how the Mi-Go, Yig the Father of Snakes, or the Screamers from Phantasm(2010) may or may not be involved. Look out for our Kickstarter coming scarifyingly soon. But some time time before Halloween. Um…boo.

<End Transmission>

Hellllllloooo Woild!

so if you’re just tuning into this site (if i had to guess, I would guess it has not had double digit readers during its five year plus existence, but I haven’t checked, for fear of confirming sad expectations) or just check it occasionally, i just felt like making a few random declarations:

  1. site masthead is by Mikaela Barree
  2. my “selected ludography” is probably pretty badly out of date, i should fix it some time
  3. my “about me” might be pretty outdated too
  4. i should probably add a permalink to a download for phantasm(2010) at the top since this is currently perhaps the only place it’s available after it was yanked from DriveThru and it is an ENnie award nominated RPG
  5. (if i wanted to get really fancy, I could start archiving the Transmissions From The End posts)

 

Transmissions From The End #17 – Alien Predators

Back with the logical continuation of my Aliens content for the Singularity System. My thoughts on the Predator films, the crossover films, the extended universe, and then all the content you need to include the Yautja and their toys in your Singularity System game.

The Predator Franchise

As a general note, I don’t have the same passion for the Predator films, mythos, or universe that I do for everything Aliens. The exceptions are the original Predator film, which is a superlative piece of cinema, and all situations where Predators are, as I might have said when I was ten years old, “versing” Aliens.

  • Predator (1987): My God this movie stands up well over time. It’s genre slight-of-hand at its finest, and midway through the film a great dumb action movie suddenly becomes a damn fine smart horror movie, in a way that must have left audiences bamboozled on the order of 1996’s “holy shit now there’s vampires!” From Dusk Till Dawn. Dutch and his entire “squad of ultimate badasses” (yes that’s an Aliens quote, shut up, it also applies here) are charismatic and memorable: former wrestler and future Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s Blain certainly has a memorable moment at the center of what has to be the most continuous barrage of gunfire being discharged into foliage in cinematic history, but my favorite character was and continues to be Bill Duke’s Mac, who I refused to believe was really for sure dead until the most explicit cut of the movie made it the most explicit it could possibly be. Arnold Schwarzenegger is at his absolute prime here, contractually mandated cheesy one-liners and all. The film is full of memorable moments, killer quotes, and macho banter, and there’s a lot to watch, from the general unhinging of the special forces’ team’s sanity (“gonna have me some fun, gonna have me some fun, gonna have me some fun”) to Billy’s incredibly brave, incredibly honorable, incredibly ill-advised decision to engage the jungle hunter in single combat, to the unforgettable finale when it’s down to just Arnold and the Predator…this is unquestionably one of the best action/sci-fi/horror films of all time.
  • Predator II (1990): Okay, I know “in the near future, the year 1997” dates this movie horribly, right alongside The Terminator, but that said, this is a solid sequel and an overall underrated film, and whatever time frame you imagine it in, Los Angeles being a violence-ridden hell hole is not that much of a stretch. Danny Glover delivers a capable performance as Lt. Mike Harrigan, and while it’s not his fault he’s not a larger than life 80s/90s action icon like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s almost certainly better at acting in the technical sense of the word. Solid performances from an interesting supporting cast, including my man Bill Paxton (plus an actress who until today I thought was Aliens’ Vasquez, Jenette Goldstein, but turns out to actually be an actress named Maria Conchita Alonzo) round out a movie that expand the Predator lore and mythos and most importantly teases us with this shot, leading to a fan-base drooling for an Aliens vs. Predator picture that finally comes to the big screen 14 years later.
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  • Predators (2010): I only saw this film once, when it came out in 2010, and it neither offended me nor made a lasting impression of delight. I am not sure if the world in general has largely forgotten it exists, or just me.

Crossover Films

  • Alien vs. Predator (2004): Whoever wins, we lose indeed. Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson whose career peeked around one of his first films, the Alien meets Hellraiser pastiche Event Horizon and has largely been a downhill slide ever since, this was a movie that I loved in theaters and have just found stupider and stupider with every subsequent viewing. Understand that when this movie came out I was 18, young, dumb, and full of, y’know, acid blood or whatever. I was so excited coming out of the theater about how “freaking awesome” this movie was that I managed to shatter a ceiling lamp with a music stand in my spastic enthusiasm (don’t ask, I couldn’t do it again if I tried). My major issues with the movie after my first theatrical viewing were that, based on my headcanon, deeply entrenched in the extended universe (see below), no way in hell should one Alien be able to take down that many Predators. On each subsequent viewing of the film, my concerns with it have turned more and more to how overall dumb and disappointing it was. It good have been worse, I guess, but it’s hard to imagine it being MUCH worse. Of course, AvP didn’t come out as a movie until it had been released/published/played/sequelized in virtually every other commercial medium known to man, so I was measuring it against the exceptional totality of the extended universe which preceded it, so again, see below.
  • Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2008): I both own this movie on DVD (or blu-ray, or whatever) and have frequently caught it on television. In spite of that, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to force myself to watch even a full consecutive half-hour of it. It just looks so dumb and so bad, like someone took the most generic teen horror movie setup ever and dumped xenomorphs and Yautja without any thought. I’m going to try to force myself to watch it soon…if I can. Does it have any redeeming value? You let me know.

The Extended Universe

Long before the turn of the millenium, and in fact–I’m just learning now–even before theatrical audiences could have seen that xenomorph skull on that Predator space ship, Dark Horse Comics got the rights to AliensPredator, and yes to Aliens vs. Predator. I don’t have time to get into all of the AvP videogames and what nots, so I’m just going to mention the Dark Horse Comics which I never got a chance to read and actually talk about the novelizations of them which I did. And actually, considering this is stuff I read like 20 years ago when I was like 11, rather than trust 11 year old me’s judgement, I’m only really going to talk about one of them.

  • Aliens vs. Predator: Prey was the 1994 novelization by Steve Perry and Stephani Perry (published by Bantam Spectra) of the first Aliens vs. Predator comic series published by Dark Horse, and if there was an AvP movie to be made, it should have been made using this book as a basis (and there were for one brief golden moment in the 1990s plans for exactly that), not whatever fatuous bullshit Paul W. S. Anderson’s screenwriters sprang on him in the early 2000s. Clearly set in the world of Aliens, it introduces protagonist Machiko Noguchi as the supervisor of the ranching colony of Ryushi as it is beset (unsurprisingly considering the general premise) with aliens and rogue Predators at the same time. What I thought this novel did best was its handling of the interiority of the yautja, namely I thought it very deftly walked a very fine line, making them both just relatable enough that you could see that there were stand up guys and bastards among yaujta just as there were among humans, and just alien enough as to still be really frightening. The novel ends with nearly everyone dead but Machiko who is Blooded by the Predator she had been forced to team up with, Dachande or Broken Tusk, who sacrifices himself saving her. As she is Blooded, she is now effectively a Yautja, which means from this point forward, the Predator race recognizes her as one of them. She now runs as a hunter among Hunters. Pretty cool, right? Virtually all of my headcanon in terms of Predator lore comes from this novel, and if my brain has embraced it, it must be right!

Races

Maybe you thought it would only be race because well…Predator. Ha! Did you forget about Ash from Alien and Bishop from Aliens?

Please note that in term of game balance, these races are roughly balanced with each other, and each approximately twice as powerful as a human starting character.

Synthetics

bishop-main

“Actually, I prefer the term ‘artificial person’…”

Advent Adjustment: Max Advent of 2, and -5 to starting AP Pool (23 instead of 28 in an average game).

Attribute Adjustments: +4 Strength, +4 Fortitude, +4 Quickness, +2 Intelligence, +2 Cyber. Their starting caps are 10 for Strength, Fortitude, and Quickness and 8 for Intelligence and Cyber.

Artificial Person: Synthetics have Armor 3. This is cumulative with worn armor, making Weyland-Yutani “combat sythetics” a real force to be reckoned with. Synthetics cannot be poisoned and have the Durability and Toughness traits automatically, along with the First Strike and Ambidextrous traits. They cannot take the Charisma, Juicer, or Will to Live Perks. They cannot take the Addiction, Addictive Personality, Allergic Reaction, Missing Limb, Missing Sensory Organ, Obesity, Space Sickness, weak Immune System, Weap Pain Threshold, or Venerable Weaknesses. Synthetics built to obey the classical prime directives (see Aasimov, Isaac) must take the Mercy Weakness.

Built Tough: Synthetics are immune to all drugs and toxins and to all standard means of first aid. A Synthetic reduced to 0 Health is broken. A Hard Engineering (2) and Hard Electronics (2) test can restore them to 1 Health, but if only one success is achieved on either test, the machine is hardly functional. It is so badly damaged that it will “never be top of the line again”, but it can still provide a brief audience and share anything it chooses to with the characters that repaired it. The first (Fortitude) points of damage that a Synthetic takes can be repaired with an Armorer (15 Minutes) Test: each success restores 1 Health. Additional damage beyond Fortitude can be repaired in a similar way, but using the Electronics skill instead.

Eidetic Memory and More: Synthetics of course have eidetic memory. They also benefit from all of the benefits that can be installed in Artificial Eyes, from the Biotech sourcebook. They are damaged by Pulse weapons, and as usual, Pulse damage ignores all of their Armor.

Morally Inflexible: A synthetic must follow its programming. A synthetic programmed to follow the classic Asimovian prime directives, cannot “by action or omission of action allow a living being to be harmed”. Robocop must 1) Defend the public trust, 2) Protect the innocent, 3) Uphold the law (4, classified: not harm or arrest any employee of OCP). The Terminator only has to Terminate Sarah Conner. (Understand these are just examples: neither Robocop nor a T-800 would necessarily use the same “race) described here.) Ash, on the other hand, was programmed to serve the interests of Weyland-Yutani’s exosciences division. In any case, a synthetic must follow its programming. If one welcomes the canonicity of Alien: Resurrection, the exception would be Aut-Auts, synthetics built by synthetics who have free will.

Yautja (Predators)

“When I was little, we found a man. He looked like – like, butchered. The old woman in the village crossed themselves… and whispered crazy things, strange things. “El Diablo cazador de hombres.” Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We begin finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skins… and sometimes much, much worse. “El cazador trofeo de los hombres” means the demon who makes trophies of men.”

Anytime.”

Honor Instead of Advent: Instead of an Advent stat, Yautja have an Honor stat that starts at 2 and works the same as Advent except for how it increases (AP cannot be spent on it). Honor represents the pride the Yautja and its status in its community. A Yautja first gains an Honor for successfully killing one of the “hard meat”, an alien drone. Such a Yautja is considered Blooded and is permitted to hunt the “soft meat” although might not wind up actually doing so until they have Honor 4. The increase from 3 to 4 Honor comes when a Yautja survives an ordeal such as escaping alone from a xenorph hive or single ritualized combat with another Yautja. The increase from 4 to 5 Honor occurs when a Yautja hunts and kills a suitably badass warrior of the “soft meat” (human beings). This hunt cannot be begun with the blessing of the community until a Yautja has Honor of at least 4. No less than taking the skull of an Alien Queen increases a Yautja‘s Honor from 5 to 6, making a Yautja an elder or tribal chief. Only the GM can determine what feat of honor could increase a Yautja’s Honor from 6 to 7.

Note that Honor can be lost for dishonorable actions: the loss of and failure to recover Yautja technology (the Yautja guide their technology jealously), or the killing of helpless prey (not befitting of the galaxy’s greatest hunters) or pregnant female prey (depriving the hunting ground of a potentially suitable prey animal in years to come).

Attribute Adjustments: A Yautja has only 20 AP to spend on its attributes, but receives the following bonuses to them: +8 Strength, +5 Fortitude, +3 Quickness, and +1 Cyber. Their starting attribute caps are 14 for Strength, 11 for Fortitude, 10 for Quickness, and 7 for Cyber. While Yautja are more technologically advanced than humans, they are not necessarily more intelligent. They may simply be benefitting from a head start.

El Diablo Cazador Los Hombres: Instead of getting to pick two free perks, Yautja instead start with all of the following specific free perks: Catlike, First Strike, Outdoorsman, and Toughness. They can take up to two weaknesses to gain up to two additional perks.

Hunter’s Training: All Yautja begin with the Dismemberment and Trick Shooter Combat Maneuvers from Firefight. Additionally, when attacking a xenomorph with a melee weapon, a Yautja can use the Pick Target action specifically to avoid the xenomorph’s acid blood backsplash.

Thick Hide: A Yautja‘s hide is much tougher than human skin. They have a natural Armor rating of 1, cumulative with worn armor.

Deadly Reflexes: A Predator with Honor 4 or higher automatically has ReAct -30. A Predator with Honor 6 or higher automatically has that upgraded to ReAct -20.

Predator (Yautja) Technology

I’d like to give a shout-out to the helpful fan-site Xenopedia with helping me remember the details of some of these and reconciling it with my own headcanon.

Instead of being purchased with credits, these items are acquired based on a Yautja’s Honor level. Any human (or non-Yautja) attempting to use any Yautja weapon does so at a +1 Difficulty Stage penalty until they have successfully hit with that weapon ten times, at which point they are considered to have gained familiarity with it.

Bio-Mask: Requires Honor 2 or higher. The Bio-Mask allows the predator to see in the Infrared, Ultra-Violet, and EM-Field spectrums, along with numerous others. The EM-Field spectrum is specifically designed to spot Xenomorphs, while the Infrared Spectrum is specifically designed to spot humans (although being infrared, it can be tricked, such as by a human masking his thermal signature). Switching modes is a free action. The mask provides +2 to Perception tests (to spot creatures when in the correct mode; the rest of the time it amplifies sounds and allows for digital zoom, providing a bonus to Perception tests in general). The mask also provides access through a series of dreadlock-like tubes to the Predator’s supply of oxygen mix from its home-world. It is a fair assumption that this oxygen mix is not very different than that of Earth, because Predators remove their masks in the presence of worthy opponents on Earth and seem able to breathe well enough to function.

Wrist Blade: Requires Honor 2 or higher. Free action to extend or retract. Uses the low-tech weapons skill. Size 0, Damage 4, Piercing 6. Harder than a diamond and sharp enough to cut through bone, or the hardened carapace of a xenomorph drone.

Plate Armor: Requires Honor 2 or higher. This plate armor notably does not cover a Predator’s lower torso or thighs, which are instead wrapped in a black wire mesh. It does cover the predator’s upper torso, sometimes asymmetrically, and also includes gorgets, spaulders, tassets, and greaves, as well as foot armor. Armor Rating 3, with two points of special resistance to Piercing. The plate armor is very strong, but ultimately is inferior to some human combat armor in that it does not provide full body protection. As a final special quality, a Yautja‘s plate armor does not have its rating reduced by the backsplash of xenomorph blood.

Medicomp: Requires Honor 3 or higher. The Medicomp is a small case that contains various medical supplies should the Predator ever be injured. This healing kit contains enough tools to perform minor surgery and repair superficial wounds. Among the medical supplies are vials of liquid which, when mixed with heated minerals, creates a regenerative sludge that can be used to cauterize wounds. Also contained are a shrapnel extractor, wound staplers, one stimulant shot, and one antiseptic tube. If the Predator has the First Aid skill, the Medicomp provides a +4 bonus to First Aid tests. The stimulant shot automatically restores Health equal to the Predator’s Fortitude, but once it’s used, it’s gone. If the Predator does not have the First Aid skill, the Medicomp is semi-intelligent, using its own First Aid skill of 5.

Combistick: Requires Honor 3 or higher. This is a spear-like combination weapon made from an ultra-light, ultra-dense, ultra-sharp alloy completely unknown on Earth. It has a length of less than one meter when retracted, but can be telescoped outwards as a free action, and is more than two meters long at its full length. It has several modes of attack, and when used in melee or thrown as a spear,  it uses the Low Tech Weapons skill, has Size/Accuracy of +2, does 6 Damage, and has Piercing 4.  The other end of the Combistick can launch a net to restrain prey before the final kill. The net has an Accuracy of +2, an accurate range of 30 meters, and does 2 Damage, Piercing 4. More importantly, a target hit by it is entangled in it and most likely pinned to a wall behind them: the net has more than enough velocity to drag a man sized target backwards until they hit a wall. Even attempting to wrestle free of the net is potentially fatal, because the net is made of sharp metallic wire and responds to all outward pressure by tightening further. To escape the net, a victim may attempt an Opposed Strength test versus the net’s Strength, which is equal to their own Strength times one and a half, rounded up. If they fail to achieve a net success and break free, they suffer damage equal to the successes the net achieved; this damage is Piercing 4. The netgun loads only one net; collapsing and reloading the net

Cloak: Requires Honor 3 or higher. A Predator’s cloaking system is controlled by its wrist computer and activated as a Minor Action. When activated, all Perception tests to see the Predator are Hard, and all Stealth tests the Predator makes are easy. If the Predator becomes even partially submerged in water (more than a foot deep) the cloaking device shorts out until it is repaired with an Electronics (10 Minutes) Test. If the Predator is wounded (i.e. loses Fortitude points of Health) the cloaking device becomes effectively useless due to the vivid green of the Predator’s bright green blood.

Sat-Comp: Requires Honor 3 or higher. This device, also located in the wrist computer, serves as a local GPS and through millimeter wave scanning, allows a Predator to map out the area surrounding it in moderate detail, including the positions of prey. This requires a Comms/Sensors test. One success maps out a 0.5 Km radius, and each additional success increases the radius mapped by 0.5 Km.

Plasmacaster: Requires Honor 4 or greater. A shoulder mounted plasma-cannon with a fusion power pack laser guided by the signature triangle laser sight and linked to the bio-mask for greater accuracy. Some of the oldest predators, with Honor 5 and higher, disdain the use of ranged weapons such as this, preferring the challenge of going in for the kill with just melee weapons. The plasma caster uses the Energy Weapons skill. It has Accuracy +3, Damage 6, a maximum Rate of Fire of Single, and Piercing 3. One shot can easily kill either an elite human soldier or a xenomorph if a Predator uses the Aim action while Cloaked and the Pick Target action (from Firefight) before taking the shot. The plasmacaster has effectively infinite ammunition, so it can keep firing continuously unless it is damaged (it is not completely waterproof) or discarded by a Predator seeking a fairer final confrontation with worthy prey.

Self Destruct Device: Requires Honor 4 or greater. Built into the Predator’s wrist computer, this is a weapon of last resort designed not to kill the Predator’s enemies, but to destroy it, all of its equipment, and its ship so none of them can be recovered by “lesser” civilizations. The only thing more shameful than being forced to use a Self Destruct Device (which renders a Predator’s Honor irrelevant as that predator is vaporized) is failing to for some reason at a time when its use would be appropriate (causing the immediate loss of 1 point of Honor). A self destruct device takes 2d6 Full Turn actions to set. It then goes off anywhere from 60 seconds to 300 seconds after the Predator sets it (it’s the Predator’s choice). As implied by the name, a self destruct device cannot be survived: not only would this be extremely dishonorable, but it is built into the Predator’s wrist computer which is effectively impossible to remove from the Predator’s wrist short of hacking it off at the elbow. When it finally goes off, a self destruct device creates an enormous nuclear fireball that deals 500 Damage, Blast -2/1 Meter, eradicating the Predator, its equipment, its ship, and approximately half a mile in radius of whatever else happens to be around.

Smart Disc: Requires Honor 5 or greater. Combining the Yautja‘s futuristic technology with the deadliest qualities of boomerang and chakrum, the smart disc is a programmable, mono-filament sharp, throwing weapon that rotates at extraordinarily high RPMs like a circular saw. Thrown on its own, the Smart Disc uses the Low Tech Weapons skill to attack one target, has an Accuracy of +1, deals 10 Damage, has Piercing 10, and returns to the Predator at the end of the phase. Alternatively, the wrist computer can be used to program the disc with targets. A Predator can take a Minor Action to make a Computers (2) Test to program one target into the disc’s memory. The disc can have a total number of targets programmed equal to the Predator’s Cyber. When the disc is finally thrown (a Major Action like most attacks, using the low tech weapons skill), it calculates a path through the room to hit each target before returning to the Predator at the end of the turn. Its accuracy for each of these attacks is equal to the Predator’s Computers skill + 1, with the damage the same as if throwing an unprogrammed disc at a single target.

Finally, in a pinch, the Smart Disc can be used as a melee weapon (Low Tech Weapons), with Size -1, 10 Damage, and Piercing 10.