Status update: art for Ruins Of Atlanta

We have good news, and we have bad news: which would you like first? Bad news? We may as well get it over with, then. Due to events beyond our control, both personal and professional, among the Kalos Comics staff, Bulletproof Blues Second Edition is about two months behind where we’d hoped to be by the beginning of August. We want to assure you that this is a delay, not a derailment — the book will be released, just later than we had hoped. We are disappointed, and we know you are, too. Thanks for sticking with us.

Now for the good news! We have the completed manuscripts for Ruins Of Atlanta (by Jason Tondro) and Extraterrestrial Villainy (by Steve Long), and we have started working on the layout for Ruins Of Atlanta. These supplements are great fun, and we know you’ll enjoy them. In fact, we were so pleased with Ruins Of Atlanta that we felt it deserved artwork to go with Jason’s delightful text, even though art for the sourcebooks was not part of the Kickstarter. We scoured the world for an artist whose style would match the setting given form by Jason Tondro, and we found one in James Shields, a freelance character artist who loves superheroes, sci-fi, and roleplaying games. We commissioned ten pieces of original art from James for Ruins Of Atlanta. Like all of the art in Bulletproof Blues Second Edition, the finished pieces will be released under a Creative Common Attribution-ShareAlike license, meaning that you will be able to use them in your own projects!

Here are four examples of works in progress from James Shields. What do you think?

Ruins Of Atlanta preview 01 by James Shields

Ruins Of Atlanta preview 03 by James Shields

Ruins Of Atlanta preview 04 by James Shields

Ruins Of Atlanta preview 02 by James Shields

Ruins of Atlanta

We have finished the editing for Ruins Of Atlanta, by Jason Tondro, and are beginning the layout. This is a fantastic sourcebook, and we couldn’t be happier. Here’s a small sample to whet your appetite.

Ruins Of Atlanta by Jason Tondro

Ruins Of Atlanta by Jason Tondro

The Secret Of The CDC

When Paragon attacked the city of Atlanta, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were his first target. Although the state and federal government, as well as a few other organizations and individuals, have figured this out, it’s not entirely clear why the CDC earned this distinction. Moreover, because Paragon’s attack on Atlanta was the beginning of the nihilistic rampage that ended in his death, it’s possible that the CDC was somehow connected to Paragon’s fall in the first place.

Bulletproof Blues does not offer an official explanation for Paragon’s fall and his decision to target the CDC in Atlanta. Instead, we offer a half dozen potential reasons. As a GM, you can decide which, if any, of these is accurate, and you can use it to inform other aspects of the Kalos Comics setting. Investigating this secret might be a major plotline for players to pursue, or it might be irrelevant to current events, as you choose.

Existential Dread: Paragon learned that he, and possibly many other posthumans, are actually artificial beings grown in tanks housed deep in the CDC. His memories, and the memories of other posthumans who believe they have had normal lives, were constructed by powerful AI and then implanted into the clones. The realization that everything he thought he knew about himself was a lie drove Paragon into a fury, and once he began to massacre people he denied any remorse by insisting, “I’m not a real person, so how can I feel guilty?”

Ex-Terminated: Paragon had a vision of the future in which he saw a psychic alien life form arise out of the CDC and quickly absorb the minds of all it encountered. Atlanta’s million residents were consumed in minutes, and most of the rest of the world followed within days. Convinced that this future was inevitable and that 95% of humanity was certain to die, he went to drastic steps in an effort to destroy the creature and save what remained. Apparently, he was misled and that future wasn’t certain after all, because no trace of the psychic alien has (yet) been found.

“I Couldn’t Save Her!”: While investigating the breakout of a rare virus in central Africa, Paragon’s girlfriend, an investigative journalist, contracted the fever and died in the arms of CDC doctors. Paragon arrived moments later, but it was too late, and he snapped. The CDC was just the first victim of his uncontrollable grief and self-loathing.

Jailbreak Gone Bad: Paragon fell under the mental domination of Professor Petrie, a parasitic worm imbued with vast intelligence and psychic powers, but little common sense or experience in the world. Petrie summoned Paragon from across the country and commanded him to “use your powers to destroy this facility! Destroy! Destroy!” Which Paragon promptly did, obliterating the CDC where Petrie was housed, the rest of Atlanta, and (presumably) Petrie himself. With the mental command still bouncing around his head and no way to turn it off, Paragon continued his rampage until the Justifiers were forced to kill him.

The Last Straw: For decades Paragon had come to hold humanity in contempt, resenting both the pressure of being a hero and the constant criticism that comes with it. In an effort to bribe one of these critics, a scientist, into silence, he gave the man a sample of Isopteran technology. But with this, the scientist accidentally released the Burroughs Plague, a macabre linguistic virus which killed hundreds. CDC researchers called Paragon in to ask him some questions which he interpreted as accusations. He finally snapped, murdering all of them, ruining the city, and beginning his destructive rampage.

The Posthuman Plague: Paragon discovered that the federal government had developed a potential counter-measure to posthumanity, a deadly plague that can be carried and transmitted by, but which has no effect upon, ordinary people. This virus was stored at the CDC against the inevitable day that Paragon, or others like him, turned against mundane authority and decided to rule the world.

Black Steel, The Hidden Blade

Here is the full colour version of Tommy Lee, also known as Black Steel, “The Hidden Blade”. Black Steel was the winning character in the GagMen RPG Podcast character contest.

Black Steel by Sean Izaakse

Tommy’s father was Korean, and his mother was an African-American US diplomat stationed in South Korea. His sculpted profile and green eyes gives him striking good looks, but his features are rounded enough to make him inviting rather than intimidating. He is always impeccably dressed when in his civilian identity; as Black Steel, he wears a black gi paired with a deep hood and a domino mask.

At the peak of human ability, even without his powers Tommy would be a deadly foe. But add in his ability to teleport, control kinetic energy, and mark targets, and you get an implacable hunter, able to reach targets where they think they are safest.

Current revisions to Order Of Play

After some discussion and feedback, both privately and over on the Kalos Comics Community page on Google+, we have made the following changes to the Order Of Play section for Bulletproof Blues second edition. Knock on wood, this is very close to what will appear in the published book.

Order Of Play

Everything that happens in a round is assumed to occur more or less simultaneously, but the players can’t all speak at once. To keep the game orderly, we need a way to determine the order in which characters act when combat starts.

The most important factor in determining who acts before whom is situational awareness. If a character is not aware of their opponent, then they don’t have the opportunity to attack. For example, if a hero is lurking on a rooftop and observes a gang of hooligans breaking into an electronics store, there is no need to roll to see who goes first. The hooligans are unaware that there is anyone to fight, so they continue carrying boxes of loot out of the store. In the first round of combat, only the hero has the opportunity to act. Depending on what the hero does and how sneaky the hero is, it’s possible that the hero might be the only one with an opportunity to act for several rounds. Only after the hooligans become aware of the hero do they get the opportunity to act. At that point, the order of action in each round is the hero first, and then the hooligans. If the combatants become aware of their adversaries in a set order, then that is the order in which they act in combat — at least, until someone changes it.

Normally, characters take their actions in the same order that they have an opportunity to act. However, if the various combatants become aware of each other more or less simultaneously, or if you would prefer to roll dice to see who goes first, the players and the GM should each make a Perception task roll at the beginning of the scene. Turns proceed each round from the highest roller to lowest. If a character (or one of the non-player characters) has the Super-speed power, the player (or GM) gets a bonus to the Perception task roll equal to the rank in Super-speed (for example, rank 4 Super-speed would provide a +4 bonus to the Perception roll).

The environment always goes last in a round. Any falling objects (including characters) fall, and any free-rolling vehicles move, after all characters have had the opportunity to use their actions. This does not include thrown projectiles or character-controlled vehicles. If any object or vehicle is under direct control by a character, then the object or vehicle will move when that character moves it or at the end of the round, at the character’s option. If a character chooses not to control a vehicle, then the vehicle will move at the end of the round.

If your character starts the scene by going last, either because your character was caught unaware or because you rolled poorly at the beginning of the scene, don’t worry too much about it. The order of play will change almost immediately. Any character may delay their turn in a round, or force their next action to do something defensive. Additionally, characters who achieve an extreme success on a block or dodge roll revise the order of play so that the attacker whose attack was foiled goes after the defender in the following rounds.

Of course, this is all just an abstraction to make task resolution easier. In reality, everything that happens in a round occurs more or less simultaneously. The difference between going first in a round and going last in a round is less a matter of time and more a matter of who has the better awareness of the situation at that moment.

Delaying A Turn

If a player does not wish to use their character’s turn when they have the opportunity, perhaps wanting to wait and see what an opponent does, the character may delay their turn, with the option of using it later in the round or on a successive round. The character may then pre-empt another character’s turn.

Delaying a turn does not alter the order of play. After the character has taken their turn, the order of play resumes its previous sequence.

Example: Combat starts when Blueshift runs around a corner and sees Ganyeka, who is giving commands to his henchmen. The GM declares that the order of play is Blueshift, then Ganyeka, then Ganyeka’s henchmen.

Round 1 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the second round, Monolith runs around the corner, startling Ganyeka’s henchmen because, wow, that guy is huge. The GM declares that the order of play is Blueshift, then Ganyeka, then Monolith, then Ganyeka’s henchmen.

Round 2 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the third round, Blueshift delays her turn, waiting to see what Monolith does. When it is Monolith’s turn, he attempts to grapple with Ganyeka. Blueshift uses her delayed turn to assist Monolith by coordinating her attack with his.

Round 3 Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Blueshift’s turn (delayed)
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the fourth round, order of play returns to its previous sequence.

Round 4 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

Forcing An Action

Sometimes a character might need to take a desperate action before they have had the opportunity to take their turn in a round or after they have already taken their turn in a round. This is known as forcing the character’s action. Forcing an action allows a character to sacrifice their next turn in order to block, dodge, dive for cover, activate a defensive power, or take another purely defensive action. A forced action can also be used to take a defensive action on someone else’s behalf, such as diving in front of an attack to protect an innocent bystander. The character may not force an action which the GM could construe as an attack, such as blocking a bullet with an opponent’s unconscious body or running into someone. When a character forces their action, they sacrifice their next available turn, whether that action would be in the current round or on the next round. A character may only force an action once per round.

Because a forced action is always defensive, it always takes place at the appropriate time, either before or during the attack which triggered it. The attacker does not have the opportunity to “take back” their attack.

Forcing an action does not alter the order of play. After the character’s next available turn has passed (the turn they sacrificed in order to take a defensive action sooner), the order of play resumes its previous sequence.

Example: Continuing from the previous example, on the fifth round, the order of play is Blueshift, then Ganyeka, then Monolith, then Ganyeka’s henchmen.

Round 5 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the sixth round, Blueshift makes short work of two of Ganyeka’s henchmen with a sweep attack. Ganyeka then pulls out a sinister-looking weapon, aims it at Monolith, and fires. Blueshift forces her next action to leap between Ganyeka and Monolith, taking the full brunt of Ganyeka’s attack.

Round 6 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Blueshift’s turn (forced from round 7)
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the seventh round, Blueshift loses her turn because she forced it in the previous round.

Round 7 Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the eighth round, order of play returns to its previous sequence.

Round 8 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

Blocking

During their turn, or as a forced action, a character may use a task action to attempt to block an attack against them. The defender may continue attempting to block additional attacks until their next action.

A block might entail using brute force to withstand the attack, or it might involve using finesse to harmlessly divert an attack away: the choice is up to the player. To attempt a block, the player attempts a Prowess task roll against the rank of the attacker’s power or weapon. For example, if the attacker had rank a 9 Blast, the task difficulty to block it would be 9 + 8 = 17. If the defender has expertise with blocking, they gain a +3 bonus on their Prowess task roll.

If the defender rolls an extreme success, then the order of play is revised so that on future rounds, the character whose attack was blocked acts after the character who successfully blocked the attack.

Example: Ganyeka attacks Monolith, and Monolith forces his action in order to block. Monolith rolls an extreme success on his block. This revises the order of play so that Ganyeka’s turn comes after Monolith’s turn on successive rounds.

Round 1 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn (blocks attack by Ganyeka)
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn
Round 2 Blueshift’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

Normally, only attacks which inflict Endurance damage may be blocked. However, if the defender has the same power as the attacker, they may use that power to attempt to block. For example, a defender with Telepathy may use their Telepathy to attempt to block the Telepathy of an attacker. With the GM’s permission, a character may attempt to block with a power that has a similar theme or power source. For example, a GM might permit a character to use their Telepathy to attempt to block an attacker’s Mind Control.

A character chooses to block after determining if the attack will successfully hit: there is no need to block an attack that misses. A successful block completely negates the attack. An unsuccessful block has no effect on the attack.

Dodging

During their turn, or as a forced action, a character may use a task action to attempt to dodge an attack against them. The defender may continue attempting to dodge additional attacks until their next action.

To attempt a dodge, the player attempts an Agility task roll against the rank of the attacker’s power or weapon. For example, if the attacker had rank a 9 Blast, the task difficulty to dodge it would be 9 + 8 = 17. If the defender has expertise with dodging, they gain a +3 bonus on their Agility task roll.

If the defender rolls an extreme success, then the order of play is revised so that on future rounds, the character whose attack was dodged acts after the character who successfully dodged the attack.

Example: Continuing the example above, Blueshift attacks Ganyeka, and Ganyeka forces his action in order to dodge. Ganyeka rolls an extreme success on his dodge. This revises the order of play so that Blueshift’s turn comes after Ganyeka’s turn on successive rounds.

Round 3 Blueshift’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn (dodges an attack by Blueshift)
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn
Round 4 Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

Normally, only attacks which inflict Endurance damage may be dodged. However, if the defender has the same power as the attacker, they may use that power to attempt to dodge. For example, a defender with Telepathy may use their Telepathy to attempt to dodge the Telepathy of an attacker. With the GM’s permission, a character may attempt to dodge with a power that has a similar theme or power source. For example, a GM might permit a character to use their Telepathy to attempt to dodge an attacker’s Mind Control.

A character chooses to dodge after determining if the attack will successfully hit: there is no need to dodge an attack that misses. A successful dodge completely negates the attack. An unsuccessful dodge has no effect on the attack.