40K RPG Thoughtdump.
I've been having a bad few days for assorted reasons. (I'm trying to keep myself from posting dreary details of RL that serve mostly just to spread my misery around--nobody really needs to know the day-by-day brain pain, I think.) One bit of make-work that I started on New Year's Eve to keep myself from imploding was to finally buckle down and start gutting Black Crusade to extract the useable parts for our crossover project and make it so that I can dispense with that system's overdone rulebooks.
The last time I did an abbreviated breakout of a tabletop RPG for reference purposes was back in the late 90's with the White Wolf Storyteller games, where I compiled bare-bones summaries of all the important crap from all my various gamebooks so that I wouldn't need to keep a huge stack of texts beside me for reference purposes during game sessions.
One very weird omission in Deathwatch and Black Crusade both is the lack of optional flaws that can be taken during character creation for extra build points. The Storyteller games had this exact system in place, and I believe that others like BESM and Everway and probably more that I'm spacing on right now had similar ideas, like negative specialties in skills/traits (areas that the chara was especially bad at) or being able to drain certain stats/scores to unusually low levels in order to pour more points into other areas. The lack of such a system in DW is not especially surprising, given that all the PCs are supposed to be theoretically-perfect posthumans who consider even obvious flaws to be virtues (hello, Black Templars), but BC allows both Astartes and mortal characters and yet has no in-game mechanism to allow you to boost up some of your stats in exchange for (commonly) some extra effort on the RP front.
Perhaps it's the fact that DW and BC both seem almost frighteningly light on RP in general, to the extent that I wonder why they bother calling them RPGs--the way the rules and character creation are designed keeps indicating that your PC is totally fine if s/he's a personality-free walking stack of numbers. (Seriously, there are tables to roll on to randomly generate a name for your DW PC, for players who can't be bothered to give enough of a damn about their avatars to come up with one on their own. 9_9)
BC includes mental illnesses and physical mutations purely as a result of characters' exposure to the PURE EVIL OF THE UNIVERSE and has no in-game mechanism for making a chara who's had a massive spider phobia from birth, or even someone like Inquisitor Ravenor, whose scorched remains are forever stuck inside a forbidding box but who makes up for that with massive psychic powers. It's genuinely odd to me that you'd be unable to generate characters who have preexisting conditions that may have driven them to embrace Chaos (such as a person born mutated), and thus all PCs are assumed to be in perfect mental and physical health until such time as they deliberately get irradiated by the raw warp. :/ It suggests that, at least in the 40K world, people are neuroatypical and/or physically disabled because they're fundamentally stained by evil and not because they were just...different or unlucky, depending on your POV. This is a different issue from the intensely xenophobic nature of most Imperial societies, where outcasts and mutants are lumped together with heretics and the demon-possessed as "things that are not ideal/normal and therefore pure evil." Systemic in-game social injustice is different from a game mechanic indicating the truth that if you are different in this world, then you must be evil, even if you were born that way.
Intensely narrow-minded, that. Granted, I'm sure that any player could play a born-different PC by negotiating with the GM, but such a situation would be pure house rules--what basic traits that "normal" PCs automatically get would be locked to a particular born-different PC? Would there be skills/traits that such a PC would be unable to buy from the start, such as ones available only through state-sponsored higher education? (No Imperial university would accept a mutant or psyker unless they were stealth-capable somehow.) How many bonus points would you get to spend on available traits if you decided to play somebody who's been lower than dirt since the day they were born? That was the cool thing about the Flaw system--it let you bulk up your character if you really wanted it, but at the cost of numeric penalties or more-difficult RP requirements. In DW and BC, you can buy tons of benefits for your PC but can't cripple them in any way (stat-wise), which is pretty bizarre in the grim, dark future of the 41st Millennium. You'd think everybody would be piling on character flaws to get an appropriately grimdark antihero through which to channel their angst. o_O
Upon reviewing the fundamental mechanics of DW/BC, it may not be as difficult to graft the basic idea of it onto the Everway stats system. In EW, you have numeric values for the four Western classical elements that are linked to assorted special skills. In DW/BC, every test is made against a fundamental characteristic (Strength, Will, etc.) and ratings in skills only affect the difficulty modifiers of the roll. I kind of dig this method, though it'll still get hugely oversimplified when it comes to using Tarot cards to determine the outcome of "rolls." We've already decided by consensus that combat actions are just going to get resolved by narration through the cards and all the super-anal rules about how hits from force weapons differ from hits with chain weapons differ from hits with energy weapons will all get set aside. (What I really need to look back up is how Everway uses its numerical stats to modify card draws. It isn't something so simple as adding numbers to the cards themselves--turning the Empress into the Emperor, 9 Swords into 10 Swords, etc., because some +1 cards are worse than a given card, or nearly unrelated in the case of Trumps...)
Some other assorted bitching, since DW/BC seem to be irritatingly designed to make people feel compelled to buy all the books for a game in order to even get the full range of available PC types (such as specific Chaos legions and Build-Your-Own Loyalist Chapters), leaving me sorely discontent:
-- BC, WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE OBLITERATORS AND POSSESSED ASTARTES. Don't tell me other gamers aren't wondering the same thing. If you can play a Dreadnought in DW, you should be able to play an Obliterator in BC (they're both equally stupid and overpowered). And Possessed Space Marines are probably game-breaking...but so are ordinary Space Marines, actually. :P
-- BC got it right by providing mechanics for both mortal and Astartes characters within the same game system with the understanding that, yes, Chaos Marines are not magical Swiss Army knives who deal equally well with all situations and that the help of mortals is probably necessary for things that do not involve killing people and blowing shit up. A Deathwatch killteam still needs to be plugged into an Inquisitorial infrastructure for basic support and guidance--way to make it seem like, once again, the infantry has no use whatsoever for logistical or intelligence assets. REALISM.
-- DW at least diversified Space Marines a little more. In BC, your Chaos Marines are either some type of pure combat monster or some type of combat psyker. I get the "mortals should be necessary" angle, but it's canonical that the Chaos Legions also have really basic special troopers like Techmarines and Apothecaries. (Even if they're really shitty Apothecaries, like Talos in ADB's Night Lords.)
Anyway, by sticking DW and BC together with 550 cord and 100mph tape, like the good Army soul that I once was, I will hopefully make some coherent whole. Of course, Fantasy Flight did not design the separate systems to be directly compatible (to include point values for certain traits, etc.), because there would never be any reason to run Loyalists and Chaos Marines in the same game. That would just be pure wackyness.
While I am complaining about GW through my headache fog, watching them unleash the hounds on an indie writer whose space marine character is not only female, but also a mommy makes me facepalm continually. I sort of wish that I didn't love 40K as much as I do, because the IP is owned by a cultlike and paranoid evil corporation. There is no way to support 40K and not give these people money--according to their policies, they can even slap fanfic writers (who are not even making money off the IP) with legal threats if they feel that the content of your fic misrepresents their world design. X( DAMMIT, HUMANS.
In other news, I think I forgot to mention that we also bought a pied ball python hatchling a few weeks back, but the online breeder is in another state and we're now waiting for some unknown point in the future when the Colorado lows are not below 30'F. It could be a couple months, honestly, but better to wait it out and not risk the snakebaby freezing to death in transit. :/
We set up his enclosure back when we paid for him. Because his patterning reminded me of certain breeds of koi fish, I went a little insane with his in-tank decor and he is now kitted out with Zen garden bling, including a little Buddha statue sitting under a big plastic bonsai-tree hide. ^_^;; Very swank.