Saturday, March 25, 2017

Book Review: Legends by Robert Littell


If there's one thing college students all have in common, it's that we're all a bit unsure of ourselves. Thrown out of our parents' cozy houses and into the great big world, we're finally faced with the big questions with no one to shelter us from them. "What should I study?" "How should I vote?" "What job should I get?" "Who do I want to be?" "Who am I?"

It's a kind of uncertainty I share with Martin Odum, the middle-aged private eye protagonist of Robert Littell's excellent spy novel Legends, which I picked up at the library a few months ago and recently decided to re-read. Martin's identity crisis is a bit different than mine, though.

As an ex-CIA agent with a long history of field work, Martin has a catalogue of aliases or "legends" filed away in his head. The trouble is, he's developed a case of multiple personalities, and he can't remember which is the original identity and which are fabricated. Is Martin Odum, New York PI, his true self? Or is he actually Lincoln Dittmann, a sniper and Civil War aficionado? Maybe he's really Dante Pippin, the Irish demolitions expert? Or perhaps Martin's psychiatrist is right, and there's a fourth personality repressed deep within Martin's subconscious? It's a hell of a mid-life crisis, but even though it's implausible, the thematic element of "wondering who you are" turns Martin from an aloof operative into a believable, relatable character. And as the mystery gradually unravels, the possibility of a Shyamalanic twist is left open.

Our story begins when a mysterious woman approaches Martin with a deceptively simple case: find her sister's missing husband, a reclusive businessman who disappeared without a trace, leaving his Orthodox Jewish wife without the means to procure a divorce. The job leads him on a journey around the world, from Brooklyn to Israel to Russia, and unraveling a conspiracy that his former CIA handlers don't want him to uncover. This journey leads to great scenes like the interviews with Russian mobsters in Israel, the shootout in London, or the escape from a biological weapons research facility.

One of the great things about this novel is the way the past has bearing on the present. During the flashback sequences in which we gain a glimpse into each of Martin's personalities, we can see where the lines between each legend begin to blur, as quotes and personality traits are repeated and discarded. And the adventures of Martin's past selves are just as interesting as his present: one barely survives an undercover operation with Hezbollah, while another deals arms in a region of South America.

Martin isn't the only character struggling with his identity. Littell masterfully weaves the motif of changing or secret names into almost every character in the story. A cab driver claims to be a former chess grandmaster. A Russian girl takes on the name of her late twin sister. One of Martin's love interests is a Taiwanese refugee living under an assumed name. Martin's client is in witness protection and can't reveal her true name.

Sean Bean as Martin Odum in the TV series
All in all, Legends is a great spy novel with plenty of great scenes, thematic consistency, and a brilliant arc for its main character.  There's also a 2014 TV series starring Sean Bean based on the book, but since I've yet to see it, I can't give an opinion. There are a few overlong sections in the book - I could have done without so many lessons on Russian political history - but the mystery and action is enough to keep anyone engrossed. I heartily recommend you pick it up at your local bookstore or library.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Game Review: Mad Max


Box art
[This was originally going to be three shorter pieces, but I changed my mind, so now you're getting one long piece. I hope you like it. 😅]

The world of Mad Max is one of contrasts and juxtapositions: the wide open road and the stationary stronghold; the hot orange sand and the cool blue sky; the harsh ugliness of mankind's metal ruins and the untamed beauty of the shifting dunes.

The same is true of Mad Max, the 2015 video game. Car combat contrasts with melee combat. The orange day contrasts with the bluish-gray night. The open-world roaming is juxtaposed with the linear "levels" of hostile camps. And the good parts stand out in sharp relief next to the bad parts. 

Now, I'm not saying Mad Max isn't a good game. I wouldn't have spent 25 hours with it if it were a bad game. It's just that Avalanche Studios, the developers, executed very well on some mechanics, and not so well on others. So to review this game, I'm going to use a technique my high school art teacher taught me and sandwich each criticism in between two compliments. So without further ado...

Thing I Like: The visuals
I don't care all that much about graphics. I'm not interested in modding hi-resolution textures into Skyrim or optimizing the frame rate of my monitor. But sometimes a game comes along that wows me with its artistic direction, like Fez and its pixel graphics or the comic book style of Mark of the Ninja. Mad Max is one of those games that managed to impress me with its aesthetic. 



The character models and textures are all fine, to be sure, but the two things that really impressed me were the sky and the shadows. Over the course of each in-game day, the sky changes, from pink and purple at dawn to bright blue during the day to pink and orange at twilight to navy blue at night. It's quite beautiful to watch, and helps you connect a bit to the often inscrutable hermit Max, since you share the same admiration for the desert landscape. Or at least, that's my interpretation.

I haven't even mentioned the sandstorms yet. On rare occasions as you roll across the wastes, you'll see an ominous warning, "Storm Approaching: Seek Shelter" and before too long, a massive hurricane of dust will roll in from over the horizon. It's right out of the opening to the recent Fury Road movie.

The shadows are also some of the best I've ever seen in a game. They realistically shift across the dunes as you walk, or as the angle of the sun changes. It adds a lot to the contrast motif I discussed in the intro, since shade is such a precious resource in the sun-soaked desert.

There are also a couple of cool tricks that the game borrows from cinematography, like the lens flare that signals the glint of an enemy sniper, or the way the color palette burns orange when you stand near a fire or burning wreckage. My favorite use of this trick is the way the color washes out when you approach the shrine of Griffa the mystic. And the way his shrine is covered in caveman-like paintings when you approach, but barren after Griffa leaves, is almost chilling. It lends some credence to the idea that Griffa is entirely a figment of Max's imagination.



Thing I don't Like: Audio and Visual Glitches
It's worth noting that I've been playing this game on an Apple laptop, so my experience may not be true for other players. But I feel obligated to point out that the game isn't graphically flawless. I occasionally see the game freeze momentarily, or experience a bit of screen tearing here and there. Max's beard sometimes vanishes if I look at his face at a certain angle. Visual glitches, however, aren't nearly as obvious as the audio mistakes. I have a persistent problem in that certain types of explosions are utterly silent. It's extremely odd, and completely immersion-breaking. But still, it might be a problem with my machine, and not to blame on the game.

Thing I Like: Car Combat

It's a blast - in more ways than one
For those of you who don't know, the post-apocalyptic universe of Mad Max has not enough water and not enough food, but plenty of gasoline and plenty of cars. And the main character, the eponymous Max, is pretty much defined by his car, the iconic V8 Interceptor. That car is stolen from you at the beginning of the game, but you quickly find a lonely mechanic with a new one: the Magnum Opus. It's fully customizable, from the body to the engine to the color of paint. Not to mention weapons, which include Max's classic shotgun, a sniper rifle, a rocket launcher called the "thunderstick," spiked rims for your wheels, and even exhaust-mounted flamethrowers called "sideburners." 

And to be sure, once the Magnum Opus is sufficiently upgraded, car combat is a blast, figuratively and literally. Collisions have a satisfying crunch, the shotgun goes off with a bang, and when you've defeated an enemy vehicle, it explodes with a grand boom

Easily the best parts of the entire game are the convoy chases, side encounters where you pursue a gas-toting rig and its caravan of war machines. Smash your way through each of the entourage before firing a rocket or shotgun blast at the leader and claiming its hood ornament for you own. It's reminiscent of the tanker chase sequence from The Road Warrior as well as Fury Road.

Thing I don't Like: Ground Combat


I think it's fair to say that Mad Max's melee combat system owes a lot of its inspiration to the Batman: Arkham series. You press the X button to attack and the Y button to block enemy attacks. Enemies gather in groups, but usually attack one at a time, so as to keep the brawl manageable. It's simple and elegant - in theory. But in practice, it's a bit more messy. This is just a subjective opinion, but I feel that Mad Max's combat system is vastly inferior to that of the Arkham series and its other copycat cousin, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Whereas Batman and Talion, the protagonist of Shadow of Mordor, can move around the battlefield with a dancer's grace and an acrobat's agility, Max steps slowly around the ring, like a boxer still warming up. Whereas the two more agile heroes can backflip over enemies in the event they're surrounded, Max often finds himself crowded. While Talion can break off of an attack chain to parry an incoming strike, Max commits himself fully to each swing, leaving himself open to strikes from behind. 

There are a few more grouses I have with the combat system: a lack of actual combo attacks, the camera zooms in too close to maintain situational awareness, and the overall feeling that enemy attacks inflict too much stagger. It's a passable system, but fights feel frustrating and repetitive. 

And for those saying I just need to "git gud," well, I have only one thing to say...

That's a fair point.

Thing I Like: The World-Building


It's not often that anyone compliments a game (other than an RPG) for something as esoteric as "world-building." But the map for Mad Max is drawn out as sensibly as The Witcher 3's, or at least that of a great D&D campaign, with roads, camps, and strongholds laid around the wastes in a fashion that reveals much about the world of before the apocalypse. 

For example, you begin your journey at the bottom of what was once an ocean bed. Tall cliffs are to your south, where the continental shelf drops off sharply. The roads for miles around are made of packed sand, and there's nothing but dunes as far as the eye can see. All of this region, now called the Great White, was once underwater. Now squatters dwell in the abandoned husks of old fishing boats, and rusty cars roll over dunes where stingrays and flounders once hid. The first stronghold of friendly civilization you find is in the ruins of a lighthouse elevated on a hill which was once an island; the second is in a decrepit tanker ship. To the east is a tall statue, which once welcomed sailors like Lady Liberty, but which now stands as a memorial to a bygone age. To the west lie sulfuric vents, which are farmed for mixing gunpowder.

To your north lies a great concrete wall with only a few known breaches. What's the origin of this? Well, it's the barrier to what was once a harbor. The holes are old sewer drains and canals, which have been barricaded over by warlords looking to protect themselves from the brigands of the Great White. The "friendly" leader of this new region, the Dead Barrens, is called Pink Eye, and she rules from a bombed-out power plant. Roads in the Barrens are made of asphalt, and you can find the ruins of tire shops, seafood restaurants, radio towers, and more now that you're above the old sea level. And the biggest city in the game, Gastown, is smack dab in the middle of a dump. Because where else would the big bad guy make his home base?

See what I mean when I say this world is well-assembled? It'd be a great setting for an Apocalypse World campaign. Maybe it doesn't matter all that much, but it sure is cool to me.

Conclusion

So there it is, my much-prolonged and procrastinated review of Mad Max: the video game. It's a game of highs and lows, good bits and bad sections. But does the good outweigh the bad? It depends on the player, I guess. For me, I think it's a pretty good game, marred by some unfortunate mistakes. I'll keep playing it till the end of the campaign, at least.

If you liked this review, you may want to watch this other review of Mad Max by Noah Gervais, a YouTuber I've been following for a few months now. He covers plenty of relevant topics that I didn't. In fact, I avoided certain topics for fear of accidentally plagiarizing. It's a good video, so why not give it a watch?

Anyway, have a good week, and I'll try to make another post soon!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Even more custom Apocalypse World characters

One of the character classes in Apocalypse World for "advanced" players is the Quarantine, a soldier of the Golden Age who's been released from cryosleep after fifty years or so (think Fallout 4). The Quarantine is advanced because they have knowledge of the world before the apocalypse, and using that knowledge requires extra creativity from the player and MC.

A second interesting thing about the Quarantine class is that they have a partner of sorts. Here I quote from the playbook:



"When you emerged from stasis, Specialist JACKSON, TAMMY M. emerged with you. What happened to her?  

  • The world’s psychic maelstrom inflicted 2-harm, killing her.

  • The world’s psychic maelstrom inflicted 𝛹-harm, shattering her sanity.

  • The world’s psychic maelstrom inflicted 𝛹-harm, and you were forced to kill her in self-defense. 

  • You don’t know. You haven’t seen or heard from her."
A prepared MC could use this last opportunity to incorporate Specialist Jackson into the campaign at a later date. And if there's one thing I learned in the Boy Scouts, it's that you should always be prepared. So, I've prepared three different versions of Tammy M. Jackson to insert into campaigns as the MC sees fit. 


Option number one is that when she finally emerged from stasis, she was attacked by the psychic maelstrom and turned into a Brainer, a scientific shaman deeply in tune with the madness of Apocalypse World. Now she wanders the dunes, a disfigured pariah, begging for help from all she meets, and inadvertently leaving ruin in her path. 
          Name: Jackson
          Look: female, clinical wear, pale face, bloodshot red eyes, slight body.
          Stats: +1 cool, +1 hard, -2 hot, +1 sharp, and +2 weird. 
          Moves: unnatural lust transfixion (allows her to rely on her psychic powers to flirt), direct-brain whisper projection (allows her to use her psychic powers to inflict harm)
          Gear: scalpels, implant syringe (boosts the power of psychic attacks), deep ear plugs (protects from psychic attacks)

Alternatively, the maelstrom might have turned her into a Child-Thing, an animalistic creature of the apocalypse, pursued by abominations from within the maelstrom. 

          Name: Jacks
          Look: girl, scrounge wear, eerie face, wrong eyes, child's body
          Stats: +1 cool, -1 hard, 0 hot, +1 sharp, +2 weird
          Moves: the mother's heartbeat (powerful and versatile psychic move), rabid (roll +weird instead of +hard when attacking)
          Wolves of the maelstrom: Jacks is pursued by hostile spirits which appear as machines that make horrible grinding sounds. They appear and disappear impossibly.

Or perhaps the maelstrom merely stunned her, leaving her a normal Quarantine. 

          Name: Jackson, Tammy M. 
          Look: woman, ancient military fatigues, young face, shadowed eyes, thin body
          Stats: +2 cool, 0 hard, +1 hot, +1 sharp, +1 weird
          Moves: leave no one behind (boosts support capabilities, chosen for irony), inspiring (gives XP to those who support her)
          Gear: assault rifle, 9mm pistol, military body armor, military fatigues
          Stasis facilities:  𝛹-isolation chamber (shields from psychic maelstrom, the only reason Tammy was able to survive emerging from stasis)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My D&D Character

It occurs to me that though I've mentioned that I play Dungeons and Dragons, I've never given an in-depth look at my character in the same way I've introduced my custom characters from Apocalypse World. So without further ado, here's the character sheet for Milo Godeaux, the character I play as in D&D!

Milo Godeaux
Level 3 Lawful Cleric
HP: 24/24
AC: 14

Stats
Strength: 17
Agility: 13
Stamina: 13
Personality: 15
Intelligence: 9
Luck: 16

Saving Throws
Will: +3
Reflex: +2
Fortitude: +2
[Spells: +4]

Inventory and Spells
Holy Hammer of Decachronatus
Lay Hands On
Food of the Gods
Blessing 
Magic Shield
Detect Magic
Holy Sanctuary

Biography
          Milo Godeaux grew up healthy and strong in a small village far from Phaidecia. When he was about sixteen years of age, his father died, leaving the farm to his eldest brother. Being the youngest son with no inheritance to speak of, Milo decided to become a wandering bard, traveling the land regaling passers-by with jolly songs and epic tales of heroism. He never expected to find himself caught up in an epic tale himself. 
          After wandering the wide world for a few years, repelling would-be robbers with his massive frame, Milo came to the Lawful city of Phaidecia. When he entered the gates, Milo met an unlucky farmer named Toro who was being harassed by a wastrel. Milo decided to lend the farmer a hand, and found himself caught up in a quest to retrieve a magical artifact from an island swarming with evil spiders and mad automata. During their quest, Milo and Toro encountered the Time-God Decachronatus himself, who gifted Milo with a powerful holy hammer, decorated with motifs of ticking gears of various gleaming metals. In a moment of religious awe, Milo decided to devote his life to Decachronatus and become a Cleric of the Law.
          Since then, Milo has helped found an adventurer’s guild, loot an ancient tomb, traveled across dimensions, and killed a powerful Fairy. He remains a loyal cleric, but his heart is torn between his holy vows and his longing to be a free man again, back on the open road.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The unofficial Fallen London Tabletop RPG

   Sorry it's been awhile since the last post! I'm working on a piece comparing and contrasting the design decisions of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and the Mad Max videogame to determine which is the more successful game. (Spoilers: it's not Mad Max.)
     In the meantime, here's my collection of notes on how I'd translate the browser game Fallen London into a tabletop RPG (Fallen London is © 2015 and ™ Failbetter Games Limited: www.fallenlondon.com. This is an unofficial fan work.). I've prefaced each of my suggestions with an explanation of how the browser game works. If you have suggestions, by all means leave a comment below. I've never DM'd a game before, let alone designed my own, so any advice is welcome. And so, without further ado, welcome, delicious friends, to my little game:

Challenges

     Your ability to succeed in your endeavors is determined by four Qualities: Watchful, Shadowy, Dangerous, and Persuasive. The higher a Quality, the more likely the player is to succeed in a challenge of that quality. Challenges are actions that the player has a chance to fail. This chance is always expressed as a percentage. Qualities are improved by using them, much like in Skyrim. Succeeding in a challenge grants more experience than failing, but failing a harder challenge is more rewarding than succeeding in a modest one.
     For example, let’s suppose I’m a new player with 18 Watchful and 10 in every other Quality. I come across a Challenge to play a game of chess with a friend. With Watchful 20, I would definitely succeed, so with Watchful 18, I have a 90% chance of success. I pass the challenge, and gain a bit of progress toward Level 19 Watchful. Some time later, I come across a nearly impossible challenge: decipher the meaning of the runes on the wall of a Dripstone-Snared Third City Temple. I have a mere 5% chance of success, and fail as expected. My sanity suffers, but my Watchful immediately skyrockets to Level 22. Being stubborn, I immediately try again, this time with a 7% chance of success, and succeed against all odds. My Watchful increases to Level 30, and I gain insight into a terrible secret.
     This process, with thousands of different challenges and incrementing experience bars, works fine in a game powered by a computer, but is nearly impossible for a simple human brain to calculate quickly and reliably. With this in mind, I propose a simpler system, with four types of challenges:
Low-Risk: roll 1d20.
Modest: roll 2d20 and take the sum.
Chancy: roll 3d20 and take the sum.
Almost Impossible: roll 2d10. Treat one die as the tens place, and the other as the ones place, to get a number between 1 and 100.
     In each case, the player hopes to roll a number less than or equal to the Quality being tested. For example, if I have 18 Watchful, rolling an 18 or lower is a success, while rolling a 19 or higher is a failure. I don’t expect player characters to spend enough time to reach high levels in this improvised fan-made game, so “Almost Impossible” challenges should remain truly daunting for the duration of a campaign.

Character Creation

     In the browser game, every new character is exactly the same, with 10 levels in each of the four Qualities. The prologue offers the opportunity to raise one of these stats to 11. This system ensures two key things: personalization of the player avatar and versatility in the early game. Since Fallen London is chiefly a single-player game with social aspects, this ensures that every player will be able to do pursue whatever goals they want with little to no issues.
     This empowering system stands in stark contrast to that of most pen-and-paper RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, in which starting stats are randomly determined by dice rolls and new characters may be wildly different, often with one key strength and many prominent deficiencies. This might sound like a disadvantage, but it leads to a system which encourages fellow players to cooperate. Since no character will have high skill levels in every category, players will have to rely on each other. This is what allows for different roles: mages with high Intelligence, fighters with high Strength and Stamina, and thieves with high Dexterity. So while Fallen London’s system is perfect for the goals of a largely single-player browser game, it fails to promote a strong team spirit among players around a table. 
     The character creation system for a tabletop Fallen London game needs to bridge the gap between the two types discussed above. It must allow players the freedom to excel in whichever category they choose, while preventing players from being so self-sufficient that they can neglect their teammates. I propose the following: set the player’s starting stats equal to 10 in each Quality (or 5 if the DM is feeling cruel), and allow each player to roll 1d10 and add the result to the Quality of their choice. With the Challenge system discussed above, a starting character will have a 50% chance of success in any Low-Risk challenge, but a higher chance if the challenge aligns with their specialization.

Leveling Up

     We must also establish a system for how a player will level up as they progress through a tabletop campaign. Most video games, including Fallen London, use experience points to mete out an amount of time before a given stat gains a single level. But for players using pen and paper, XP and LV together are too much to keep track of. 
      I recommend that the players level up when the dungeon master - or perhaps the title “narrator” is more fitting for Fallen London - deems it fit. Perhaps at the start of each weekly meeting, perhaps after completing a story, perhaps after completing any difficult Challenge. I’m unsure of the best way to proceed in this regard.
      I do have a more definite idea of what leveling up should entail, however. Most Fallen London characters specialize in one Quality, achieve proficiency in another, and leave the other two Qualities by the wayside. To reflect this trend, I recommend the following procedure: 
  1. Choose one Quality, roll 1d10, and add that to its current level.
  2. Choose another Quality, roll 1d6, and add that to its current level.
  3. If your new level is an even number, roll 1d6 for each of the two remaining Qualities, and add that to the current level.
     This process should strike a balance between leaving the player starved for levels or saturated with them, and leave them with high levels in two stats and considerably lower levels in the others. I hope to incentivize players to rely on their teammates and avoid spreading themselves thin. The system may need changes if players frequently choose to boost different stats each level.

Death and Failure

     Death is not the end in Fallen London, merely an inconvenience. Why this is so is not well known or understood, but suffice it to say that only a particularly thorough execution can permanently dispatch a citizen of the Neath. 
     Death is one of four fail states in the browser game, the other three being Imprisonment, and Insanity and Exile to the Tomb-Colonies. Each of these fail states occurs when a corresponding Menace Quality rises to level 8: one dies from Wounds, imprisoned on account of insurmountable Suspicion, becomes insane due to Nightmares, and is exiled on account of Scandal. Each of these Menaces rises only when failing spectacularly in a Challenge of the corresponding Quality. Failing a Dangerous Challenge can get you wounded. Shadowy individuals attract Suspicion, and Watchful individuals are prone to Nightmares. Making a fool of oneself while trying to be Persuasive can create lasting Scandal. 
     There are ways to reduce these Menaces which are relatively simple. Nightmares can be cured with Laudanum, though this method tends to increase Wounds, or by sharing one’s fears with a friend. Wounds can be cured by eating, seeing a doctor, using a Tincture of Vigor, spending time in bed, or asking a trusted friend to nurse you to health. Suspicion is reduced by getting alibis from other players or using Instant Absolution Ablution. Scandal can also be alleviated with Absolution, but it is also reduced by being publicly seen at church services, or simply staying out of the public eye.
     Quite a lot of rules, eh? It may be daunting, but I aim to preserve as much of this system as I can in tabletop form. It only makes sense to me to allow players to experience the same triumph and tension in non-combat interactions as they do in violent scenarios. I propose that each Menace be kept track of via a “doomsday clock” like that in Apocalypse World. This clock should have eight segments, corresponding to the eight levels of the menace required to induce failure. I recommend that the clock be set back by four segments between sessions, and by one segment each time a player uses the corresponding consumable or seeks help from a fellow player. When the clock strikes eight, the player should prepare to be punished by the narrator. 

Shops, Equipment, and Consumable Items

     However well-specialized a character may be, they’ll be naked - literally - without the proper clothing and tools. However, it’s worth noting that tools in the browser game do nothing more than add to a player’s four Qualities. I see little reason to change this system, with the one exception being weaponry. It only makes sense that different weapons deal different amounts of damage. Perhaps hits from different weapons should deal varying amounts of Wounds. 
     There’s only one market in Fallen London, and that’s the Echo Bazaar. Everything one could wish for is bought and sold here: pocket-watches, wine, human souls. I don’t intend to create a comprehensive list of every equip-able and consumable item in the game here - there’s a wiki for that - but just recommend that the narrator understand the intended use of an item (a magnifying glass, for example, should raise Watchful) and be open to suggestions of alternate uses (a player could fit the glass as a scope for a rifle, increasing its damage).

Class

     Characters in Fallen London don’t adhere to strict classes like in some RPGs. Rather, they have Professions which are best suited to characters with certain stats. A Dangerous and Watchful character may become a Monster-Hunter, while a Dangerous and Shadowy character will likely become a Licentiate, a contract-killer in the criminal underworld. In the browser game, each Profession yields a unique form of weekly payment, and deepens Connections with the factions the player most frequently deals with. For example, a Monster-Hunter will gain Favors from the Docks, while a Licentiate will gain Criminal Favors.

Alignment

     Fallen London characters don’t have rigid alignments like in other RPGs, either. Rather than being determined from the outset, each character’s personality is revealed over time by small decisions, and manifests as personality Quirks. There are ten Quirks in total: Austere, Daring, Forceful, Heartless, Hedonist, Magnanimous, Melancholy, Ruthless, Steadfast, and Subtle. Some of these are diametrically opposed, such as Austere vs. Hedonist and Magnanimous vs. Heartless. Others have no clear opposite, like Melancholy and Daring. It is possible for a character to have seemingly conflicting Quirks. 
     Factions in Fallen London can also have an effect on Quirks. Carousing on the rooftops with Urchins tends to raise Daring and lower Melancholy, while attending Mass at the Church tends to increase Austere and decrease Hedonist. 
     Quirks rarely have an effect on challenges. I can think of only a handful of times when my character’s personality was called into question. I think that, given my own inexperience with designing tabletop games, Quirks should not be considered numerical stats required to pass a challenge. Rather, the narrator should simply consider the character's nature when presenting opportunities for Quirk recognition.

A Final Note


     As stated before, the rigid, computer-driven system requires that each quality of the player character be given a numerical value. However, the informal style of a tabletop game allows - even requires - some improvisation on the part of the dungeon master and the players. For example, the browser game may have a challenge that can only be passed with Connected: Hell greater than level 100, while a human narrator can simply recall that the player has done a great service to Hell in the past and grant them success in the challenge by mere fiat. I expect that mastering this improvisational tone will be the key to successfully translating the FL browser game into a tabletop RPG.
     Once again, feel free to leave comments below if you can think of a way to improve this prototype. Thank you, delicious friends, and may all manner of thing be well with you!