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[Let's Read] The Nightmares Underneath

Random Goblin

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A huge part of what is grabbing me is actually the mechanics for interacting with society when you aren't on adventures. This is a big part of what I love about Blades in the Dark, is having actual systems to show how the PCs adventures and off time affect the rest of the world. Also, the nightmare design system looks very interesting and provides awesome tools for generating adventures without too much of a brain tax.

It certainly helps that the book is very well laid out, and has an overall clean and easy to read appearance, but still has plenty of art and graphics. This has always been a big deal to me. It is just plain a pleasure to read.
One of the things I like so much about TNU is the way it conceptually is similar to a lot of the things I like mechanically about Blades in the Dark, but with a setting/premise that is a lot more exciting to me.
 

Atlictoatl

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One of the things I like so much about TNU is the way it conceptually is similar to a lot of the things I like mechanically about Blades in the Dark, but with a setting/premise that is a lot more exciting to me.
Welcome to the conversation!

Say more about this? What are those mechanical concepts and setting/premise elements that draw you in?
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
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Welcome to the conversation!

Say more about this? What are those mechanical concepts and setting/premise elements that draw you in?
Mechanical concepts, off the top of my head:
  • Concrete downtime actions that have an effect on the game world.
  • Easy character building from menu options
  • Clocks (the nightmare countdown die is basically a BitD clock)
  • Tightly defined gameplay (the player characters do a specific thing, so the game has more structure to accommodate a particular kind of gameplay and not just "here's a world and a task resolution system; do whatever)
 

Atlictoatl

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Mechanical concepts, off the top of my head:
  • Concrete downtime actions that have an effect on the game world.
  • Easy character building from menu options
  • Clocks (the nightmare countdown die is basically a BitD clock)
  • Tightly defined gameplay (the player characters do a specific thing, so the game has more structure to accommodate a particular kind of gameplay and not just "here's a world and a task resolution system; do whatever)
Nice. Thanks for this frame. I hadn't been thinking of the game through this lens, but you're right.
 

vitruvian

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it'll be gotten into in more detail later when he gets to the setting chapter, but the Law that mainstream civilization in the default setting follows isn't really a religion of the "Worship God" sort, and more a Philosophy with some spiritual aspects to it
I've read through part of the setting chapter(s), and even though it's presented as as much a philosophy as a religion, they do still keep talking about Divine revelations about the Law and about arguments about which prophets are accepted... so it still seems strange that in addition to the Cultist there isn't a Holy Man/Prophet/Sufi kind of option.

EDIT: Unless that ground is meant to be covered, to the extent needed, by the Scholar?
 
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vitruvian

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The Wizard entry is followed immediately by notes on the categories of the Profession entries.

Hit Dice

We're reminded that Hit Dice are used for both Disposition and for weapon damage, and we're told for the first time that there are modifications to that HD-based weapon damage:

If we're wielding a two-handed weapon, we roll a die one size higher than our Hit Dice for damage. If we're fighting unarmed or with an improvised weapon, we'll be rolling the die size that's one lower. (We're reminded of this in the Equipment section, in a paragraph related to two-handed weapons, so this isn't a case of burying critical info in a place we might have trouble finding it again.)

We're told to roll our Hit Dice at the beginning of the game for our starting Disposition, and to do the same for Psychic Armor if we're a Scholar or a Wizard.


Primary Attributes

We're informed that we'll be getting more opportunities to increase these two Attributes, as we gain levels, than we will for the other Attributes.

If both Primaries are 13 or higher, we get +10% XP. If only one is higher, we get +5% XP. If both are 8 or lower, we suffer -10% XP. Here's the twist: if our Attributes have been temporarily modified in the course of the adventure, it'll affect us when we calculate XP at the end of the adventure (bonus or penalty).

That penalty is interesting, but it's also worth noting that if there's a built-in advancement system for improving Primary Attributes, then it's reasonable to assume that +10% XP will be the norm for our character at some point (with periods of lower bonus XP because we got messed up).


Restrictions, Skills, and Special Abilities

We don't need to think about our character's background, history, or skills during chargen unless we want to. It's fine to crystallize those elements during play. There's a reminder here to make note of our Restrictions and Special Abilities, and to take care to not cross the Restrictions (except intentionally) when equipping our characters.


Spells

A section on Spells is next. I'm going to return to this in my next entry, when I've more time.


Alignment

We must choose one of these for our character:

Chaotic characters may not become Scholars. They believe in self-determination and self-expression and reject complicated social structures. Even when it might be dangerous, personal liberty is to be pursued. Individuals reap the consequences of their actions, for good or ill.

Evil characters may not become Bards. The primary motivator of an evil character is to cause harm. The character might be righteous, and can even be "generous and charitable", but they have "enemies to fight" and are primarily consumed by that fight.

Good characters may not become Assassins. More than anything else, they want to help people. A few ways they might accomplish that are listed: charity, healing, effective organization and management, as well as some others.

Lawful characters may not become Cultists. Their primary goal is "working toward preserving law and order in your community". This character seeks a well-ordered society.

Neutral characters may not become Champions. They're all about personal gain and self-service.

These alignments actually feel playable, and I can see how even "opposed" alignments could play together in the same group. I like that it's the Neutral characters that come across as potentially the most vile; even Evil characters have a redemptive angle and could find their way into play.
That's an interesting setup. I imagine it leads to arguments and debates like, "Okay, Javert - truly Lawful with no flexibility, or Evil because his primary motivation is to see the guilty punished?".
 

Random Goblin

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I've read through part of the setting chapter(s), and even though it's presented as as much a philosophy as a religion, they do still keep talking about Divine revelations about the Law and about arguments about which prophets are accepted... so it still seems strange that in addition to the Cultist there isn't a Holy Man/Prophet/Sufi kind of option.

EDIT: Unless that ground is meant to be covered, to the extent needed, by the Scholar?
Yeah I do think that that role in society could be covered by the other classes. Bard, fighter, scholar.

That's an interesting setup. I imagine it leads to arguments and debates like, "Okay, Javert - truly Lawful with no flexibility, or Evil because his primary motivation is to see the guilty punished?".
Probably it makes more sense as a way to prospectively design player characters than to try to fit onto other media.
 

vitruvian

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Probably it makes more sense as a way to prospectively design player characters than to try to fit onto other media.
Given the frequency with which my players at least start off with inspiration from a fictional character in coming up with their character concepts, that is often a distinction without much of a difference at my table. The latest was the newest addition to the group picking assassin over warlock because they could relate it (especially with Expertise in Acrobatics in 5e) to Assassin's Creed. Guess they hadn't played or seen Dishonored... ;-)
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
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So I have a nuts and bolts question about delving incursions long-term. Say you've got a very typical Tunnel Incursion (a level 1 Lair connected to the Kingdom of Dreams, a level 2 lair that connects to the level 1 Lair, a level 3 Lair that connects to the level 2 Lair, and so on) exactly like the sample illustration on p.278.

The players delve into the Level 1 Lair, fight the Nightmare, get the Anchor, take it back to the KoD for XP and rest. But then the level 1 Lair fades away, leaving the level 2 Lair with no more connection to the KoD. (all of this is discussed on p. 306) So how do the PCs go back to delve further? Isn't the rest of the incursion effectively cut off for the time being? Even if it eventually re-attaches to a level 1 Lair, that just re-starts the problem, doesn't it?

Or, alternatively, the PCs delve into the level 1 Lair, fight the Nightmare, get the Anchor, and decide to press on into the level 2 Lair. The level 1 Lair fades away, trapping the PCs? Maybe it leaves a way out, but this is still not 100% clear--the rules say that nobody gets trapped in an anchorless lair, but the PCs in the level 2 Lair are not trapped in an anchorless lair--they're trapped in a lair with an anchor that no longer attaches to the KoD via a level 1 Lair.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
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So I have a nuts and bolts question about delving incursions long-term. Say you've got a very typical Tunnel Incursion (a level 1 Lair connected to the Kingdom of Dreams, a level 2 lair that connects to the level 1 Lair, a level 3 Lair that connects to the level 2 Lair, and so on) exactly like the sample illustration on p.278.

The players delve into the Level 1 Lair, fight the Nightmare, get the Anchor, take it back to the KoD for XP and rest. But then the level 1 Lair fades away, leaving the level 2 Lair with no more connection to the KoD. (all of this is discussed on p. 306) So how do the PCs go back to delve further? Isn't the rest of the incursion effectively cut off for the time being? Even if it eventually re-attaches to a level 1 Lair, that just re-starts the problem, doesn't it?
The party has to wait until another incursion happens, and it will, before they can enter the deeper lairs.

Or, alternatively, the PCs delve into the level 1 Lair, fight the Nightmare, get the Anchor, and decide to press on into the level 2 Lair. The level 1 Lair fades away, trapping the PCs? Maybe it leaves a way out, but this is still not 100% clear--the rules say that nobody gets trapped in an anchorless lair, but the PCs in the level 2 Lair are not trapped in an anchorless lair--they're trapped in a lair with an anchor that no longer attaches to the KoD via a level 1 Lair.
That is a good question. How I would interpret it is they are not lost in the inner lairs. When the party claims an anchor and the lair collapses, the party within it returns to the Kingdom of Dreams unless they move to another lair before then. Otherwise it would be much harder to play a higher level game. There is no version of Plane Shift in The Nameless Grimoire.
 
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