Carrion Birds Update #1

Let’s talk for a moment about Carrion Birds.

It’s been a long time since I developed velotha’s flock. From what I can see I wrote it back in 2018, and I probably wrote about it back then but it’s been several years so I don’t fault anyone, even if they’re a fan of mine, for not knowing about it.

The lore of the setting is relatively simple. The protagonists are were-ravens (korakthropes) who have traveled from another dimension into our world (or at least a semi-fictionalized version of our world).

As far as supernatural elements go, there’s a variation on Christian metaphysics, with a conflict between G-d and the devil playing out in the background. As preternatural entities, the were-ravens have a more active role in this and can “see” things that humans are blind to, but they’re not really directly involved.

The Feature List

Carrion Birds is rewritten from the ground up, though I’ve tried to retain as much of velotha’s flock as I can, since I still like most of the writing (there are some dreadful bits).

It offers just about twice as many character options as velotha’s flock, and the character creation rules are basically interchangeable. Some abilities received updates to align to the new system, some abilities received a rebalance, and others are untouched.

The actual mechanics are essentially interchangeable, so anyone who’s played velotha’s flock should be able to just pick up Carrion Birds.

However, there are some additional features, such as rules for converting to a d20 instead of a d12 and rules for play with cards (which was something that I had a lot of fun with in playtesting, though it alters the results in ways that lend to more “narrative” play).

Combat

The big changes come in combat, which has been redone.

In velotha’s flock, combat and injuries never satisfied me.

That’s not to say that they were ever intended to be a major part of the system, and they’re still secondary in Carrion Birds, but since most roleplaying games have at least the potential for violent confrontation it deserved a greater examination.

Now the rules allow more differentiation in combat approaches. Combat is a little slower due to added mechanics, but it should resolve in two or three rounds barring some fringe situations. It’s the difference between fifteen minutes and a half-hour, and that half-hour feels a lot more meaty than the fifteen minutes.

One change is how Hits work. Characters can suffer a theoretically infinite number of Hits and keep on ticking, though there’s a hard cap at ~20 and practically getting beyond 6 is mathematically improbable if you want your character to keep ticking.

Under the old system you always just suffered up to a certain number of Hits and then had an existence failure moment, but the way Hits work under the new system is that when you suffer hits you roll against Incapacitation, a test which becomes more difficult as you take more Hits.

Even if you can shrug off Hits, they impose a constant penalty on you, making it harder to act until you recover.

This system feels more risk/reward oriented, and the impact of injuries on play gives more room for narrative depth.

Setting

velotha’s flock was set in a modern setting. I always pictured the 90s, but really just about any modern day scenario works.

Carrion Birds is set in the 1910s, in the background of World War I. It’s not a World War I game. Trench warfare eats characters in the same way Cthulhu does, just at a rate of 1d4 per charge against machine-guns versus 1d4 per turn.

Korakthropes are tough, but they tend to go boom just as well as anything else when artillery hits.

However, this doesn’t mean there’s none of the fun. Beyond being shapeshifters perfect for espionage, there are lots of small and large events that they can witness or take part in, including the formation of the Soviet Union, the very start of Prohibition and suffrage in the US, the end of monarchies in Europe, and a full list of things that I’m not going to bore you with here.

There are also metaplot events related to the flock itself. Though not directly tied to events in the human world, characters may find that there is no escaping the circumstances humanity works itself into.

Kenoma

I have also been working on Kenoma, and want to showcase one of the new playable factions.

The Crickets are the population that live in the demilitarized zone on Hephaestus. Stuck in limbo between the Coalition and the Syndical Front, they have little allegiance to either.

The distinction between a Cricket and a contamm is that the Crickets have a single unified identity, even though they speak different languages and come from different traditions. Their Lawkeepers keep the peace in a place once home only to criminals and the truly desperate.

Hephaestus was home to most of Alcove’s heavy industries before the Day. Because the lack of raw materials means that the Coalition territory has machines idling, the Coalition’s withdrawal from the demilitarized zone left all sorts of manufacturing facilities untouched.

The Crickets have two playable roles:

The Zoner combines a penchant for violence with no-nonsense subterfuge and people skills, something that sets them apart from the contamms who fight against the Fume and nightmares from the Spiral instead of their fellow men.

Lawkeepers have options to develop either social skills or legal acumen. Even though they have no authority outside the Crickets’ domain, they still carry some weight as neutral and skilled arbiters, with honed perception to find clues to solve cases.

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