Questions And Answers
Q) How often do you use Reaction Checks to summarize conversations? I assume you role-play out at least some conversations (we've been rolling for minor conversations but when it's important or I feel it would take away from the immersion to roll, we don't roll and just talk it out). I understand that there is no 'right' way to play but I just wanted the 'official' take on the rules.
A) Phenomenon is a little looser in rule use than our other games. Whereas medieval adventure and pirates and such need stronger rules because of life-and-death situations, Phenomenon is less perilous and more of a detective, "modern-era role-play" style, so the outcomes of conversations are flexible. That said, any conversation can be role-played or summarized with a dice roll, but never should both ways be used in the same encounter, as doubling up devalues each other. The only real official ruling is that any talk with an NPC that is both critical to the structure of the adventure and also enters areas of understanding beyond that of the players should be handled with a dice roll. For example, if the group were interrogating a scientist and trying to learn how to operate some alien machinery, a dice roll should be used, for there's just no way the Players could know how to interpret what the scientist says, and no way for the Game Master to invent what the scientist knows. On a lesser example, if a Player knows how to make a pipe-bomb, then he could talk the talk so-to-speak, but if he doesn't know to make such a bomb, probably the dice roll should summarize his Character's more learned dialogue. Unfortunately, Players and GMs alike often profess to know more than they really do, so dice rolls are encouraged more often than not. Role-playing is encouraged to be used in more dramatic but less technical situations. Another way to look at it is, generally in games, the Characters are physically stronger than we are. A Physique (or other sort of Strength Score) roll is made to account for a Character performing some great feat, far beyond what any of us at a game table could ever do. The same holds true with intellect and even personality. Our fantasy characters are each a genius, indeed a charismatic genius (in their own way), doing what we cannot. That's the attraction of fantasy. So, conversations are usually better left to dice rolls, accounting for the dynamics of the fantasy characters, leaving the role-played conversation to "less important" incidents, such as comical scenes, buddy-banter, or sheer dramatic moments to give the game flavor without taking away from the true abilities of the Characters.
Q) Why is the cover photo for H2 (#3402) given to people in medieval fantasy costumes?
A) Though most of the photos used in Phenomenon are digitally altered for dramatic or comical purposes, we try to use only authentic paranormal photos for the covers. This particular photograph was taken on December 18th, 2002, as several of New Dimension Games staff (including Matt deMille) were waiting in line opening night for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Hence, there were several fans in medieval fantasy costumes, and this was a group photograph. However, the 'dark angel face' that appears was not visible when the photograph was taken. It may be the first phenomena captured on record for a game. We think it's pretty damn cool, actually, and it would be silly for us not to use it. Matt deMille kept the original photograph this was scanned from in case anyone wants to study it.
Q) Why is the Little A'Le'Inn in X4: Area 51 misspelled?
A) We asked for permission of the real establishment's proprietors to use their cool little establishment in our product, but never received a response. So, recognizing and respecting their desire to remain out of out strange fantasy as well as avoiding a legal snafu, we changed the name. Anybody who knows the name of the real place can easily substitute it when they run this Adventure. However, the name isn't really important. What is more important, we feel, is how perfect it is to have an 'inn' on the outskirts of the 'mysterious adventure site'. It just fits the classic role-playing game set-up so well, such as in the medieval fantasy world the tavern being just outside the dungeon for some reason. So, we just had to have an inn there, by any name.
Q) Why is the B-Theme for Characters called 'Blackhand'?
A) We wanted something in-between 'A' and 'D' for purposes of balancing the way the rules read, as well as making its adventure line effectively be 'B-Movie' style, and also to be something comical but not overly so. In actuality, the name 'blackhand' was chosen from a lengthy list of B-titles, which included: buffoon (for an overall sense of silliness), boaster (fitting for the way many gamers tend to play), barbarian (for the violence), bachelor (for the lifestyle of most gamers that would enjoy this Theme), bonedaddy (for pure laughs), basic (as this Theme is closest to the basics of RPGs), bloodplayer (for the gore factor), bizarre (for the over-the-top nature of such Adventures), blackblood (again for the violence), and booby (as in trap). We settled on 'Blackhand' as a tribute to the game group of a similar(ly spelled) name in Knights of the Dinner Table, which offers a great example for all of the above.
Q) How about a 'farmer' Occupation, or for that matter a priest or someone who is self-employed?
A) Such Occupations are certainly available to a Player for his Character, although they are not listed amongst those in Chapter 2 because they would gain no specific bonus or penalty involving paranormal investigations. Quite simply, they would be the chosen occupation of the individual, and stated so on one's Character Sheet, built up by Skills and other scores, but not helped to get there by the rules, so any special consideration one would want due to any such profession would come from his own clever use of his existing statistics and perhaps Building Points.
Q) If there is equipment not listed in Chapter 4, how does one determine the Resources Check needed to acquire it?
A) In such a case, the GM would make a judgment call and set the Check as he sees its realistic difficulty. However, a GM may also opt to not give any number at all and simply rule that an (unlisted) item's acquisition takes one successful Resources Check from the Character's total for that Adventure. However, this second option is encouraged only if the acquisition is of no great significance or expense (i.e. just because a 747 airliner isn't listed for purchase doesn't mean that someone with a 3 Money Resources, about the equivalent of working at a burger joint, could buy one).
Q) I am a GM with one of his Player's Characters running around with a BFG with chainsaw-bayonet attached. How the hell can I get my game back under control?
A) Use his own tactics against him. Generally, what is in a rulebook is there to be used if needed, indeed if imagined or asked for, but unfortunately, many Players see what is listed in a gamebook has what must be used, as if the game isn't fun until they have 'tried it all'. If you have the sort of Players who are going to shamelessly redline your gaming engine, simply let them crash. Have some big, nasty dudes with equally ridiculous guns ambush the Character.
Q) I recently ventured into Area 51 (the beta-test Adventure by NDG, not the real site), and the 'observatory' had cryptic references to the Zeta Reticuli star system, but we couldn't see them. Why not?
A) You refer to the 'coordinates' of ZR-1 and ZR-2. If they indeed referred to the binary star system of Zeta Reticuli, no observatory in Nevada would be able to see it, as those stars are only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Now, are you sure that ZR-1 and ZR-2 referred to any stars at all? Heh-heh.
Q) In X3: Windows Beyond, is the reference to remastering 'Close Encounters' meant to be insulting or humorous? After all, that film is greatly revered in the Rulebook.
A) The reference to 'Close Encounters' actually isn't so much a reference to the film, but to Matt deMille's own tendency to obsessively re-edit, re-compile and make special additions to his own works. Matt takes this in stride, knowing that he is only trying for the impossible: perfection (though none-the-less making better products along the way). The choice of Spielberg's classic as the film for the scene was simply a choice of appropriate subject matter.
Q) Will there ever be an expanded equipment list or equipment supplement, or at least more detailed guns?
A) Possibly some expanded lists within specific adventure products, but not an entire supplement, as the latter would defy the balance of acceptable and manageable detail. As far as guns in particular, they were designed for this game in a very generic way in order to minimize their use, as this is not a predominantly fighting based game.
Q) What about Special Abilities of people that are not provided on the list in Chapter 13 of the Rulebook?
A) The Special Abilities provided in Chapter 13 were selected among the most 'common' of such characteristics, as well as those that made for more universal application to various types of Adventures. There are, of course, countless other blessings and curses people have that would make for a wonderful Character trait. If a GM allows such Special Abilities, they may be acquired at his option (he obviously wants them to be a part of his game and so he should dictate how easy or difficult they are to roll), and then the mechanics of the Special Ability are for the GM to work out, according to his own beliefs and how his Adventures are constructed.
Q) How come contradictory realities, such as ghosts and aliens, or even 'residual emotion' and 'lost spirits'--two totally different explanations for ghosts, are both pushed to their extreme in this game?
A) This game and its Adventures do not enforce any one particular belief. That was a subject long debated and experimented with during the early years of this game's design, indeed which scientific, religious or esoteric view to take and thus how to present this material. Ultimately, it was decided to remain neutral, and simply let the various phenomena speak for themselves, while we embellished them enough to make for an entertaining game. When writing Adventures, we remain objective about everything, and as a rule follow the prevailing theories of those to whom the phenomena is most important (ufologists with aliens, spiritualists with ghosts, etc). To use an old addage, 'you cannot please all of the people all of the time'.
Q) How can a psychic (someone with E.S.P.) see ghosts and spirits?
A) It depends on how they choose to communicate with them. Ghosts, those that are a soul and not residual energy or place memory that is, can think, and thus can respond to such communication as telepathy, and one may also see a ghost's actions in the past with postcognition.
Q) What if a phenomena I use in an Adventure is proven false?
A) I wouldn't worry about that. These mysteries are hardly ever solved at all, and even when they are, it takes hundreds if not thousands of years for this to happen, and even then the truth about them is fiercely debated, leaving things open to anyone's interpretation (or Adventure construction). Personally, I know that many of these mysteries have indeed been solved, at least enough to present the Player Characters with hard facts to reward their efforts. That's the beauty of this game, that we live in a day and age where mysteries are so popular and yet the facts are so often overlooked (especially by our media), that anyone who wants to prepare them for others has the advantage of both presenting an intriguing mystery and having facts to support it.