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The Storm Knights' Guide to Realm Runners
Publisher: Ulisses Spiele
by Nik G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/04/2020 23:52:03

The Storm Knights' Guide to Realm Runners offers more info on what Realm Runners do, a pile of perks, some new archetypes, and new rules on handling Glory cards and on how High Lords respond to acts of Glory (why, with acts of Infamy, of course).

This isn't an official rulebook, so check that your GM is cool with allowing such perks. They're likely to want to review your favorites, and may disallow them or require some change. I'll state up front that I think most of these perks are well balanced; a handful have openings for some abuse, and a couple actually seem under-powered. The one perk that jumped out as significantly powerful requires Gamma clearance, and I haven't played that far along so I couldn't say whether it's actually overpowered.

This review is updated for version 2, as best as I have been able to find the differences. Please let me know if anything here is out of date.

What Realm Runners Do

The book begins with a 6+ page chapter explaining what Realm Runners are good at, and introducing some ideas for non-Core Earth Realm Runners. It's mostly fluff, and most of that describes how Realm Runners are glorified FedEx employees for the Delphi Council. It might help a GM add some flavor to a mission involving a realm runner PC, I suppose.

Perks

Next up are the perks. A whole lotta perks, and not just of the Reality category, although several involve reality mechanics or disconnection/reconnection in some way. I'm spending the bulk of this review here, and it's gonna be long. Feel free to skip to the category that interests you!

There are three Faith perks. The Bright Eyes perk is for natives of the Living Land, and results in the character suffering Fatigue or a Wound instead of disconnecting. It's got fairly steep prerequisites, which is fitting for a perk that makes you immune to disconnection. Actual Realm Runners got nothing on you! A Beta-clearance perk, Pilliar Of The Community lets the character use faith instead of persuasion or intimidation when dealing with members of the same religion and sect. Seems a bit, specific for a Beta-clearance perk, but there you go. The last perk, The Good Word, is for actual Realm Runners who can invoke miracles, and is essentially Storyteller for when both characters are members of the same religion, but without the need for a Glory card. Glory cards aren't that tough to come by, so I don't see much reason to take this perk.

I like the Living Land perk, even though it completely eliminates disconnection for the character. Then again, they could actually be KOed or die instead so it's quite the tradeoff. The other perks seem much too fiddly and conditional to me.

Leadership gets one perk, Lead By Example, with Natural Leader as a prerequisite. Basically if you're up in the front line of battle and get an Outstanding success "on an important roll", everybody who saw it gains Inspiration and removes one negative Condition. What makes a roll important? The fact that you're rolling means what you're doing isn't trivial, after all. Anyhow, although this activates randomly rather than on demand like Rally, it also clears a Condition, which is nice. Do note, however, that while Inspiration restores 2 Shock and rouses KOed characters, such characters are not conscious and can't see anything. :-)

Prowess brings three perks. The Contortionist perk lets you resist Grapples with Dexterity instead of Strength, plus a bit more. Another raises the maximum Dexterity limit on any armor worn (requires Beta clearance and high Dexterity). Lastly there is a Trademark Armor perk that grants a personalized piece of armor with a lower minimum Strength requirement or a higher maximum Dexterity limit. Decent perks all.

Psionics also gets a pair of perks. One lets a psi effectively cast the pathfinder spell as a psionic power, the other is for psionic Realm Runners, enabling them to detect—and possibly locate—use of psi abilities by individuals from other cosms.

At last we get to Reality and its sixteen perks. Seven are Beta-clearance and two Gamma-clearance; can we expect some powerful options here? First up, with the Alpha-clearance perks we have A Different Life, which once per Act allows the character to make any one skill test at a total of +3 adds, even if it's unskilled, as they tap into an alternate version of themselves; that is, it brings a skill from 0, +1, or +2 adds to +3 for the test, and doesn't help for a skill already at or above +3 adds. I'd rather see it cost a Possibility to activate than be gated to just once/Act, but it's still pretty good, and since it's an unofficial supplement, maybe you can talk your GM into my version.

Imbue Item, which requires Grant Possibilities, lets the Storm Knight protect an object from transformation/deterioration for a whole month by storing a Possibility in it—which they can extract before the time's up. Could be handy, especially since you can make as many as you have adds in reality. Why yes, I would like to make 3–5 Possibility batteries at the beginning of every adventure! I sense just a bit of potential for abuse there. :-) The Imbue Relic perk requires Imbue Item plus Realm Runner, and creates an item that essentially grants its holder the benefits of the Realm Runner perk, so they can ignore one disconnect (after that the relic loses its juice). These are distinct from imbued items, it seems, so no extracting Possibilities from them, but again, you can make as many as you have adds in reality in case you want to hand these out to all your teammates. Oh also, they have no time limit, so you can definitely do this with the perk as written. (If I were GM, I would make both perks "tie up" the Possibility, reducing the character's maximum until the item is used up.)

The Override Possibilities perk also requires Realm Runner, and lets you make a realm-specific Possibility generic every now and again. I suppose that could be useful sometimes; depends on how often your GM hands those out. The Possibility Shard perk builds on its prerequisite Storyteller perk, empowering the Storm Knight to create a temporary Eternity Shard on a die roll that could trigger a Glory result. One more reason to shuffle those cards around for high rolls! Quash builds on its prerequisite Negation perk, adding a stymied condition to the target. Short, sweet, and useful. Last of the Alpha-clearance perks is Sense Reality Anchor, giving the character a radar sense on items with excess Possibilities, such as hardpoints, talismans, and eternity shards. No prerequisites. Also a handy-sounding perk.

Reality's Beta-clearance perks start with Extortionist, which requires you have Negation, and, when you use that (or any other ability that negates an enemy's use of a Possibility, such as Nullify or Quash), lets you also draw a Destiny card. Very nice! The Override Realm perk builds on Override Possibilities, letting you make a generic Possibility realm-specific, and letting you use that prerequisite perk more often. Again, how useful this is depends on how often your GM makes use of realm-specific Possibilities, and whether you find them useful. Next perk is Possibility Loan, for which you need Grant Possibilities, and which lets you draw a Destiny Card when you grant one, with the option to ditch a card to get the Possibility back. Getting more cards is always good; the refund bit is minor icing since you have lose a card and the perk doesn't increase your hand size, so you wind up short one card after all. Still, it's a bit of card cycling to fish for the good ones.

Then we have Possibility Revenge: When a villain spends a Possibility for certain things, the character gets one Up against them right after. Good for face-offs & Reality Storm duels The Trademark Anomaly perk requires Realm Runner, and makes one of your items from another realm never cause contradictions for you when used. As worded, it can still trigger a surge, but it's still a decent benefit among the various options for avoiding disconnections (Realm Runner, Adaptable, and Realm-Dancer).

The final two Beta-clearance Reality perks build on Storm Caller. Storm Striker grants a special attack against targets outside of your reality storm. Wind-Talker lets you trade a Destiny card with a teammate even while in a reality storm.

At Gamma clearance for Reality we have Reality Hacker, requiring both Realm Runner and A Different Life. It lets you perform a test or make an action that requires particular equipment or a particular perk, without having that required thing. You could hack without a cyber interface, or borrow your Orrorshan friend's medallion (why they would lend it to you is another matter). This is very powerful, as it lets you use items created by or based on perks as if you had those perks. You have to pay a Possibility to activate it, but that's a cheap cost indeed for huge versatility. Lastly we have Reality-Savant, which makes you immune to disconnections in one other cosm. You have to have Realm-Dancer in addition to Gamma clearance to get it. If you spend a lot of time in a particular realm, particularly if you use gear or abilities outside your axiom, you might just want this perk. You only get one, so choose wisely (I might have made this perk repeatable, each time taken for a new cosm.)

The Reality perks cover a lot of ground within the category. I got this product because my current character is a Realm Runner, and I have to admit that none of these tightly fits my character's concept, particularly with the various prerequisites that would break my XP budget, but a few are quite tempting regardless, especially the perks that grant card draws. I'm far from Gamma clearance, but Reality Hacker got my attention too.

The Social category offers one perk, Cosm Chameleon, for natives of Pan-Pacifica. If you have several adds in both persuasion and reality, you can fool reality itself into thinking you are native to the current cosm, for purposes of Disconnection tests and the like—basically making you immune to Disconnection. It permanently costs you a Possibility, which is a fairly steep cost (which a Pan-Pacifica native can't even offset with Prodigy). I'm not sure how I feel about folks from the Living Land and Pan-Pacifica getting blanket immunity from Disconnection across all realms, when the Realm Runner can still only mitigate the likelihood or gain immunity in one specific realm (at Gamma clearance to boot), but both perks are very flavorful and involve a hefty tradeoff, whereas a Realm Runner pays nothing but perk slots.

Next up we have five Spellcraft perks. At Alpha clearance there is Occulted Tradition, for Core Earthers only. It gives you one more spell from the Dabbler list, but it has a 1-hour cast time. Um, what? Why wouldn't I just take Spellcaster again and get it as a proper spell? Well, this perk lets others contribute to a Combined Effort to cast the spell, at double the bonus. If you have your eye on a spell you don't plan to use in combat, then, take it with this perk.

Seventh Son has no prerequisites, and allows untrained/unskilled use of all the spellcasting skills, although doing so is Disfavored. In addition, if you ever do learn any spells, you pick one signature spell that never causes backlash for you. I can't think of a spellcaster who wouldn't invest in their spellcasting skills. Also note that allowing unskilled use is not the same as having adds, so having this perk doesn't let you take Spellcaster without having at least 1 actual add in 1 spellcasting skill (p. 105 of the rulebook), or let you learn any spells without having the required skill level for the spell (p. 184). So the untrained thing actually doesn't work for spells, and all you get is to make one spell, which you must get via another perk, not do backlash. Maybe there are situations where you need a spellcasting skill that aren't actually casting a spell, but even then, huh? You're better off getting Resilient for -1 Shock on all spell failures, or for the unskilled-use thing, A Different Life for +3 on that rare, rare occasion nobody in your party has the requisite spellcasting skill, or better yet, Fake It Till You Make It from the Nile backer archetypes (it lets you pay a Possibility to drop a +1 add onto any skill at 0–1 adds).

Wyrding Way requires having at least one Reality perk, as well as Spellcaster. It gives a bonus to divination tests when you use a Possibility to add to the roll. Also, when a villain uses an ability activated by spending a Possibility, the roll to use it against that PC is Disfavored. This is a really nice perk for diviners and lines up well with their theme.

Beta clearance offers Augured Incantation, requiring a Magic Axiom of 20+, Reality Scholar, and Spellcraft (Spellcaster). Hefty entry qualifications. What you get is Favored on additional rolls when spending a Possibility on a spellcasting test. A strong perk indeed. The second Beta-clearance perk is Wild Magic, requiring you have the Realm Runner and Spellcaster perks. It gets you one spell from a non-Core Earth spell list, and if it's above your personal Magic Axiom level, it's Disfavored to cast. I think risking a Four-Case Contradiction most of the time is scary enough, so I doubt anybody would take a high-Magic spell with this additional damper, but access to other spell lists is good.

Archetypes

This book features five new archetypes, and this review is already really long, so I will just briefly describe them.

  • The Cautious Catburglar is a Realm Runner and Contortionist.
  • The Heavy Weapons Specialist is a Realm Runner with a Bazooka for a Trademark Weapon. Yep. :-)
  • The Invincible Hacker is a Tenacious Realm Runner with a computer and a mobile phone.
  • The Stunt Driver is—wait for it—a Realm Runner with a Trademark Vehicle—a Mack Truck. I'd love to see him jump a row of buses in that thing.
  • The Zombie Apocalypse Survivor is—a Realm Runner! What a surprise! He's also a Storyteller, wields an electric katana, and uses a STOP sign for a shield.

Given all the non-Realm Runner perks in this book I might have expected one or two non-Realm Runner archetypes, but what they heck, they all look perfectly viable.

New Reality Mechanics

The last chapter is squarely for GMs. It talks about strategies of the High Lords for placing stelae and how Acts of Glory give hope to their victims. There's a sidebar on the various internets of the different realms and what makes them distinct. Then things get into various options for playing Glory cards (including by the villains, oh no!) or limiting their use.

The meat of this chapter seems to be the Acts of Infamy, which gets into what exactly a High Lord is prone to do when our heroes perform an Act of Glory. Especially if they keep performing them. Things start out small, with added patrols, crack teams of assassins, gospog crops, on up to the final Act of Infamy itself, on a scale of Baruk Kaah's destruction of Seattle. This is interwoven with the stuff about Glory cards, but not in a terribly confusing way, since even the ramp-up to Acts of Infamy is related to Glory card use.

There's a lot of detail to this chapter, with tables for each cosm to help a GM figure out what level of response to throw at PCs unleashing Glory all over the place. I'm not a GM so I don't have much more to say on this chapter, but it looks like it would be pretty useful.

Final Thoughts

This is a pretty hefty third-party supplement, with lots of good stuff for players and GMs. Most of the perks are described fairly well, useful, and well-balanced. A few are unclear or confusing, and while a few seem woefully underpowered, nothing jumped out at me as brokenly overpowered. There are a lot of typos, misspellings, and misnamed things, but I was usually able to figure out the intended word or game term.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Storm Knights' Guide to Realm Runners
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Feats of Prowess
Publisher: Ulisses Spiele
by Nik G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/27/2020 15:53:31

Are you looking for more perks for your Storm Knight, without all the flash and sizzle of spells or pulp powers, miracle or psionics? Do you want a hero who's just really, really good at something more or less "normal"? Feats of Prowess offers over two dozen such perks, grouped by several Attribute- or skill-related themes, described below.

This isn't an official rulebook, so check that your GM is cool with allowing such perks. They're likely to want to review your favorites, and may disallow them or require some change. I'll state up front that I think most of these perks are well balanced; only three seem overly powerful, and I get into how as I describe them.

The Centre of Attention perk group gives your Charismatic character even more of that je-ne-sais-quoi. Six perks here make you more irresistible and memorable, better able to make/have friends or get information from passersby, or at Beta clearance, to seduce or charm your unsuspecting targets into divulging sensitive information or to draw the attention of the people who call the shots in the area. These perks seem reasonably well balanced to me, since when you draw attention to yourself, if things go awry later the bad guys know just who to come for.

Fearsome is for fans of the intimidate interaction skill, possibly the best friend of the Centre of Attention when things go awry. :-) Four perks here let you use intimidate to get gear, posture back at someone who fails to intimidate you, use your intimidate skill as melee/unarmed defense, or at Beta clearance, to be even more intimidating for each round you last in a fight without actually fighting or taking damage. These all require multiple adds in intimidate, and are very thematic without handing the character an I Win button.

Original Thinker is for people who like to think out of the box—or at least to have their characters be able to do so. It comprises five perks that let you apply your Mind attribute to skill and attribute tests it normally isn't involved with. One lets you straight-up substitute Mind for another attribute once per scene. (The description is ambiguous about whether this can be used for skill tests or just raw attribute tests.) Another perk is for situtations where you have time to think about a challenge before tackling it, gaining a bonus to the challenge itself based on the result of a Mind test. There's also one where you pay a Possibility to immediately gain the benefit of an Awareness or Idea Destiny card. It's more involved than that, actually, and a little convoluted, but after reading it a few times I think I understand how it works. (This is the Mind category after all!) One note: I have never heard of an Awareness Destiny card; I'm guessing the author meant Alertness. The one Beta clearance perk reduces Multi-Target penalties on trick when it is the approved action. The last perk reduces one Multi-Action penalty for a test involving the Mind attribute. You're expected to have a high Mind score or plenty of adds in trick to get these perks, and they are pretty well-limited in effect. The one perk has fiddly logic but it's still fun.

Vulnerable Fighter is for brawlers who disdain armor. These six perks require you not wear armor or anything granting an armor bonus, and grant you various bennies if so. The entry perk, which is a prerequisite for the rest, lets you run in combat without the -2 action penalty after. With the other perks you can suffer a (Very) Vulnerable condition to get a bonus to hit, or to damage (1 perk for each), you can do Multi-Target or Multi-Action actions with less penalty, and at Beta clearance, you get Favored on certain attacks when they are approved actions. If you want to be a Pictish warrior, or a Tarzan this is the set of perks for you. Once again we have a nice thematic set of perks that offer solid benefits with risks & tradeoffs (my favorite kind of perk).

Finally, we have Walking Encyclopdia, the nerd perk tree (bush, actually). It's based off the scholar and science skills, and you need 2+ adds in each just to qualify for this tree (bush) of five perks. The entry perk makes all your scholar and science tests Favored, and is a prerequite for the rest. Once you have that, you have access to a perk that lets you try a Dramatic Skill Test step involving either skill even if it isn't on the current Drama card. Or, a perk that lets you apply either Favored skill to any test once per scene, attacks included. Another lets you use those skills for any interaction attack, and the attack targets their matching skill (or Mind). Finally the Beta clearance perk lets you grant a bonus to another character by testing either skill. Of the five groupings of perks in this supplement, this is the one I thought to be overpowered. Granting Favored all the time to two skills with one perk, however niche you might consider those skills, seems a bit much. Allowing you to then sub those Favored skills—which of course you're going to max out—for any other skill on the fly, even limited to once per scene, well, that's a lot. (Compare to the meditation miracle, which grants Favored to one test, if you had 30 minutes to invoke it ahead of time, with no skill substitution.) And the perk that permanently subs those Favored skills in place of intimidate, maneuver, taunt and trick, targeting the same skill (which is very often going to be low), well that just feels brokenly powerful, even with the prerequisites.

So there you have it. All in all a good set of perks for skill-based characters, well themed and, for the most part, well-balanced. I would tweak three of those Walking Encyclopedia perks, but the rest all seem pretty good.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Prowess
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