MAKING A MONSTER: The Medusa

By | February 3, 2018

Earlier this week, Marshall Brengle and Matt Helms in the Google+ Community were interested in how to build gorgons (from ancient Greek mythology, not the weird bull-thing) in Forthright Open Roleplay. This fits perfectly with the Guidebook Ray Watters and I have been working on, and gave us an opportunity to illustrate our design process. So, without further ado, I present how we made the ever-terrifying Medusa:

“Save or die” abilities aren’t in the Core Rulebook because frankly, we don’t think they’re fun. Any ability that keeps players from playing the game = no bueno from our point of view.

What that means is that for those sorts of abilities, we have to find a way to do it that enhances the story, raises stakes, and provides the players with an opportunity for adventure without preventing them from being able to take Actions. And Petrify by its very nature prevents Protagonists from taking Actions.

So, how do we build [such a monster]? First, we know we’re going to need to create some new Boosts, that’s just a given since we left that sort of thing out of the Core Rulebook. Which is fine, that was our intention – to provide the basic pattern of Boosts that can be used as templates for creating other Boosts.

So, PETRIFICATION. This prevents Action, and is equivalent to Knockout. Knockout only impacts Minor NPCs, which are (using the Fair Fight rules) approximately 1/3 of a Protagonist. So Petrification can be looked at as either a single Boost costing 3 Boost Points (3x Knockout), or a 1-BP Boost that requires the target to be hit 3 times before it applies.

Let’s say we want Petrification to be a permanent thing. Well, Injuries give us the model for permanent damage to a character (which can be reversed through special means, like a magical ritual or the like). We definitely want Petrification to have that permanent-but-reversible feel, so Petrification then should be an actual Injury.

Injuries get applied in combat when a Protagonist drops to 0 Luck, so we want anybody going up against the Medusa to get there ASAP. Increasing her Fighting Stance Harm and giving her Persist Harm sound like great ways to do that.

Now, do we want targets to just be able to shake off the Persist Harm effects? I don’t know that “I brush off the stone that’s forming around me” is necessarily the way to go, because I kind of like the idea that you’re getting calcified from the inside. So I’d say that, unusually, the Persist Harm in this case requires a Special Substance (SOFT Potion, for my Final Fantasy peeps!) to overcome. And that’s worth another Boost.

And finally we’ve got the nasty bit. The Medusa needs to be directly observed for her powers to work. Which means her powers bypass Strong and Ultra Defense, and can also really screw up somebody with Acuity! That means she’s going to need a Boost, let’s call it STONY GAZE, that bypasses 2 Boosts and gets triggered on a 3rd, so that seems like a 3-BP Boost to me.

Now, the thought process on our end was that we’re still talking about the Medusa ~3000 years after the first stories about her were circulated, which means that she’s a really big deal. Really big deals are Major NPCs at the very least, but more likely Masters. So:

MEDUSA (Master, Intelligent Monster)

+6 Fight, +6 Talk, +6 Skill, 2d10 Harm Whirlwind, 50 Luck

Increase Persist Harm (x2, to 1d10), Increase Stance Harm (x4, to 2d10), Infiltrator, Orator (Enticing people to look directly at her), Persist Harm, Petrify, Stony Gaze (3), Unshakeable Persist Harm (removing this Hinder requires a specially-brewed softening agent to be consumed)

Petrification: Petrification occurs in 4 stages.

  • Stage One is through the Medusa’s Persist Harm effect, which begins changing an observer to stone by reducing the character’s Luck. The Persist Harm effect can be removed by consuming a specially-brewed softening agent, reaching 0 Luck, or by killing the Medusa. Each attack by the Medusa applies Persist Harm (note: Persist Harm doesn’t stack with itself).
  • Stage Two is the Injury Stiffened, suffered the first time the Medusa reduces a character to 0 Luck: The character suffers from the Neutralize Hinder.
  • Stage Three is the Injury Rooted, suffered the second time the Medusa reduces a character to 0 Luck: The character is Pinned where they are standing.
  • Stage Four is the Injury Petrified, suffered the third time the Medusa reduces a character to 0 Luck: The character cannot take Actions or communicate. The character is now completely transformed into stone.

Tactics: The Medusa will generally try to hide until it is close enough to target unsuspecting enemies with its Stony Gaze. If all enemies are observing the Medusa through mirrors, she will make a Talk Check with her beautiful voice to attempt to entice targets to look at her directly. A successful Talk Check allows the Medusa to immediately attack the targets looking at her directly, on the same Turn as the Talk Check. Once the Medusa is reduced to half her Luck, she will attempt to Retreat.

And we closed with some additional thoughts about the creature and the Injuries it can inflict:

A Rooted character would still be able to be picked up and moved by other characters, he just can’t do it himself.

A Petrified character, while Petrified, would gain Strong Defense owing to the fact that they’re now rock. Once the Petrification Injury is lifted, they lose that.

It’ll take 3 total Recoveries to remove Petrified / Rooted / Stiffened. They get removed in that order.

And lastly, I’d say that the softening agent would probably be a 1-Complexity potion. [It is removing Persist Harm, which generally doesn’t require special tools to remove because Hindrances can be removed with an Action. So the cost of this agent should be as low as it can be while still costing something.] You should probably be able to make 6-Complexity Recover Rooted and Recover Stiffened potions, as well. Recover Petrify probably needs to be a ritual that can only be performed after the poor sap is Petrified.

A Petrified Protagonist isn’t dead, just unable to act, and with all the Medusa’s abilities so clearly telegraphed, any Protagonist that keeps fighting gives implicit consent to Petrification (http://room209gaming.com/2017/11/killing-protagonists/)

I’m very happy with the work we’re doing over in the Community, and all of us here at Room 209 Gaming are thrilled with how vibrant and engaged / engaging the folks in the Community are. We’re looking forward to the Rules Questions and Play Reports to come!

And we’re also happy to point at the Medusa and say, “this game doesn’t need to be as forgiving as it may at first seem.” You can make some brutal, terrifying stuff with Forthright. Enjoy!