A few weeks ago I played in a Double Cross 3 session, and wrote up a few reports on it. This post constitutes the final report on that session, in which I describe my experience of the Lois and Titus rules and how they affect gameplay.

Lois and Titus

When you roll up a character in Double Cross 3, you are also required to generate a set of Lois‘s. Lois’s are people you know, connected to you through your life path, who help to keep you connected to the real world of ordinary human life. They can be colleagues, school-friends, family members, or people who helped you in your earlier life. When you develop these relationships you have to roll up a negative and positive trait for them, which will be things like “envy” and “charity” or “rivarly” and “love,” and you then choose one of these traits to define your relationship to the Lois when you start the game. Lois’s don’t have to be present in your life during play – they can be memories, distant figures, or the legacy of dead people.

Ideally, as you adventure in a rich world of secrets and superheroes, you gain more Lois’s. Your Lois’s have three direct effects on the game-play:

  • They give you allies and contacts you can call upon. These people aren’t henchmen, but people tied intimately to your lives who will aid you when you need help
  • They give the GM (and the players) adventure hooks. Just as they will come to you when you need their help, so they also will come to you when they need your help, which gives the GM a lot of opportunities to start or interfere with adventures
  • They save you from corruption. As you adventure, your use of your virus-related powers increases your level of corruption, which draws you ever closer to losing your humanity and becoming a germ. At the end of every session you get to roll 1d10 for every Lois you have, and subtract this from your corruption total. The lower your corruption the weaker your powers, but the higher your corruption the greater the risk of permanently sliding into darkness and ruin

This type of relationship could actually be introduced to Warhammer, come to think of it…

But there is another aspect to the Lois’s which makes them particularly potent. Their kindness (or their memory) can be abused, at which point they become Titus, so-named after the Shakespearean character of that name. A Titus is a lover spurned, a friend whose kindness was abused one time too many, a family member with a grudge… they pursue you to the end, wrathful as only someone once-loved can be. A Lois can become a Titus through your own stupidity, or through the game-mechanics device of sublimating a Lois.


When you sublimate a Lois you get rid of them from your life altogether, passing them from Titus through to gone. In the process of doing this you gain one of a series of in game benefits – adding 10 dice to a single roll, or healing a certain number of hit points, and so on. The in-game benefits that derive from this are quite significant in some cases – 10 dice is a phenomenal bonus – and well worth tossing your grandmother in front of a bus for. I think you can also do this with Lois’s who have become Tituses through the story (rather than a deliberate choice by the player). I’m not sure what the downside of burning a Titus is, besides that you have lost a story hook – this seems to be a way to get a vengeful ex-lover out of your life, which is only a good thing, right?

I haven’t read the section in the rulebook about this yet (I’ve been very busy) and we didn’t get around to seeing the benefits or disadvantages of a Titus in the game I played. So I’m not sure why one would allow the process of deLoisification to stop at merely producing a Titus, but I’m sure there’s a good reason.

The big downside of burning a Lois, of course, is that you then lose the ability to call on them for corruption amelioration, which will make your adventuring life a lot shorter than it would otherwise be (not that your Titus will care).

Game example

In my game, I sublimated my mother and the memory of an old, long-dead client of the Robot-driving business he worked for. I sublimated both of these Lois’s in order to regain 1d10 Hps each time (hey! what can I say? I sell my loyalties cheaply). My relationship with my mother was characterised by hostility, due to anger at her tolerating my Father’s secret membership of the False Hearts; my relationship with the memory of my dead ex-client was ishi, the will of the dead, some long-carried-over request or obligation to his memory.

So how did I burn these Lois’s to get a healing surge? The first was my Mother, whose memory I discarded like an oily rag after the minions of the False Hearts struck me down in an alley. I imagined this as my character realising he had been ambushed and outdone by the False Hearts, and as he struggled to retain his consciousness, recognising that all his life he had been thwarted and ruined by that hateful organisation first manipulated and preyed upon by his father in pursuit of a secret goal, then pursued through the dangerous underworld of Tokyo when he worked in the mecha business – perhaps even to the death of his client – and now to be hounded to death? All this was too much! And then I imagined that his mother called him on his cellphone, just as his last breaths were ebbing away, and that call (of course it has a special ringtone) penetrated the fog of impending unconsciousness – here was all his anger at the False Hearts crystallized in the form of the woman who he had always felt had betrayed him and who would not relent from constantly trying to get him to forgive her. Why should he forgive anyone for the harms done to him? I imagined him surging back to life, anger at his mother charging through him in the form of his viral payload, generating a healing surge at the same time as it destroyed his cellphone in a vicious series of sparks and lightning bolts. Just as every anime character has to surge to wakefulness with a scream at least once [1], so Kintaro regained consciousness surrounded by clouds of electric rage, blasting his phone and symbolically eliminating his mother from his life.

The next was his client. This time Kintaro had been knocked down by the False Hearts leader, his life’s blood ebbing away in some shitty Tokyo Snack. Again, as he felt his defeat looming, he remembered all the failures and defeats thrust upon him by this sinister organisation and raged against them. This time I imagined Kintaro had given up on his hopes of a normal life, and realised he had to fully embrace the powers he had inherited, rather than pretending he could continue to live like a normal person. He would have to cast aside his past life and devote himself to destroying the organisation that had so plagued him. So thinking, he cast aside his last contact with the ordinary world – his last Lois from outside of UGN – and all the long-overdue obligations it had shackled him with. Surging back from that fading state, again imbued with electrical power, he screamed his rage at the world that had wronged him, and reentered the fight…


Lois’s offer excellent game hooks, dramatic opportunities and mechanical advantages. They also offer an excellent narrative technique for justifying (and stunting) healing surges, recovery from corruption, and other phenomena that might otherwise just seem like in-game fixes. I think they could be repackaged in some way as an excellent addition to Warhammer as a mechanism for helping draw PCs back from insanity or corruption. They are another example of the differences between Japanese RPGs and Western RPGs, and an interesting example of incorporation of a dramatic element into the game through the rule system.

fn1: I’m reminded of when only one company distributed anime in Australia – was it madman entertainment? – and their adverts always involved a screaming guy, and someone else yelling “what’s going on in here?!!!”

How does he keep the hat on...?

This post, third in a series describing my recent experience playing the Japanese role-playing game Double Cross 3, which I have been reading and recently had the chance to play-test, describes the character I played, Kintaro.

Character Concept

Kintaro, aka “The Noble,” is a pure-breed Black Dog syndrome male in his mid-20s, who works for the UGN company and hails from a wealthy family. He is a section chief at UGN, and like most Black Dog Overed, relies on physical strength and the power of lightning and storms to do battle. Black Dog powers don’t have much subtlety or information-gathering power. They smash and fry things. Kintaro’s work history is as a mecha-driver and engineer, using equipment similar to that seen in Aliens or Avatar.


Kintaro’s stats are:

  • Physical: 6 (melee 4, resistance 1, Robot-driving 2)
  • Sense: 2
  • Spirit: 3 (Will 1)
  • Social: 1 (Provisions 2, Knowledge-UGN 1)

Hit points: 35


Kintaro knows the following effects:

  • Resurrect (lvl 1): regain 1d10 Hps, but must have a corruption score below 100 to use
  • Warding (lvl 1): Turns non-overed NPCs into “extras” for the duration of a scene
  • Concentrate (lvl 2): Reduces the critical number required for any effect with which it is combined by the level of this power
  • Cyber Arm (lvl 3): Kintaro has a nasty-looking cyber arm that does bad stuff to bad people
  • Arms Link (lvl 2): Adds [lvl] in dice to Kintaro’s attack roll with his melee skill
  • Lightning Attack (lvl 2): Adds 2x[lvl] to Kintaro’s attack power (the damage he does with his attacks)
  • Shield of ball lightning (lvl 2): Adds 2x[lvl] to Kintaro’s guard value (for resisting damage)

Kintaro has one power which he composed of a combination of 4 of these abilities.

Strike of the thunder arm (雷腕の攻撃): Combining the Cyber arm, concentrate, Arms link and lightning attack effects, Kintaro can add 2 dice to his next attack, reduce the critical target from 10 to 8,  and increase the attack damage by 4. His total dice pool using this combination is 8, and he adds 10 to damage after rolling the damage dice resulting from his attack. A potent strike indeed!

Life path

I rolled for life path in the book, and obtained the following details:


A noble family.


A dangerous job.


Old clients, perhaps people in the world of his dangerous job.






From the above life-path details, we obtain Kintaro’s Lois:

  • His mother: Kintaro’s relationship with his mother is characterised by hostility
  • A client of his old work: This client is dead, and Kintaro honours his memory
  • Silk Spider: A UGN agent who values Kintaro’s happiness
  • Fellow Traveller: Kanamoto Saburota, one of the NPCs, whose relationship with Kintaro is characterised by “alienation.”
  • Domeki, a PC, in whom Kintaro sees much promise

(The last two of these were generated for the adventure).

Putting the threads together: Kintaro’s story

Kintaro was born the youngest son of a wealthy family, inheritors of a network of nuclear power stations scattered across Japan. In his late teens Kintaro’s power began to manifest and his father, up until then a remote figure, began to draw him into the family business, rewarding his expression of super-power talents and slowly revealing their shared knowledge of the Black Dog skills. Perhaps proximity to the nuclear power plant induced this particular expression of the Renegade virus, but Kintaro’s powers were never strong, and ultimately his father despaired of him, tired of him, and became angry and hateful towards him. Somehow, Kintaro discovered that in fact his father was an agent of the False Hearts organisation, and confronting him with this knowledge, was offered the chance to join the organization by his father. He refused, and his father said terrible things about Kintaro’s weakness and lack of proper renegade manifestation. Kintaro, angered, suddenly manifested his full power and, in a burst of anger, set off such a cataclysm of electrical power that the power station in which their confrontation occurred collapsed around them. Kintaro, severely injured, fled his home and never returned. Somehow in the cataclysm his body fashioned itself a cyber arm from discarded pieces of the powerplant, and he left his home behind him.This explains the awakening of sacrifice.

Showing an affinity for machines, Kintaro took up dangerous work as a robot operator, heavy machinery operator and ultimately mecha driver. In between he associated with Yakuza, Yanki, and all the dangerous elements of the underworld that surround jobs associated with hard physical labour. He had some confrontations with his mother during this time, but discovered she had always known about and tolerated her father’s secret contacts. Angered, he withdrew from his mother, though she constantly calls and contacts him, and disappeared for years into the simple world of hard labour. It was here that he met one of his Lois’s, the client of one of his companies, who was perhaps a yakuza boss or brothel-owner but was like a mentor for Kintaro, helping him to control his anger. This man died, perhaps in an encounter with people connected with the False Hearts.

Eventually Kintaro’s occasional encounters with the False Hearts brought him to the attention of UGN, and they recruited him. Discovering the truth about the False Hearts and the plans his father had had – and his mother had tolerated – enabled Kintaro to find a new depth of hatred for this organisation and its fellow travellers, and this became his driving impulse. He threw himself into his work, becoming friends with the UGN contacts Silk Spider and Saburota, but his devotion to his work and dangerous manner alienated him from Saburota, so they trust one another but have awkward daily dealings. Kintaro took up working in a UGN mecha shop as his cover, but does a lot of agent work.


It should be clear from this description that Kintaro is a driven character, full of hatred for his enemies and impatience with those who cannot aid him. He is quick to anger and slow to forget, capable of bearing grudges against those he loves and who love him, and driven by personal demons and a strong sense of mission. Though he may not be stupid, he is clearly a man of action, unwilling to tolerate the niceties of diplomacy or social graces. People are a tool in his main goal, which is to avenge himself on and ultimately destroy the organisation which changed his life – the False Hearts. This probably suggests an equivocal view of his own powers, which he sacrificed much to gain, and possibly even a quite calculating view of his own employer. But one thing is certain – his mission is destruction, and he has the tools to carry it out.

About the image

The image is from the Black Dog chapter of the Double Cross rulebook. The inset panel says “before you look,” and the main panel says something like, “A bolt of energy that is surely 440 times the speed of sound, a million volts of power, and as much as a gigajoule of energy… that is to say, LIGHTNING.”

In my previous post about playing this game on Sunday, I mentioned that we used a type of module called “Scenario Craft,” in which every element of the module except a vague skeleton of the plot is random. This post gives a little more detail about the scenario craft process.

The book

The scenario craft book we used was called “Public Enemy” and can be viewed here (Japanese). I’m not sure what the background to this module is, but it contained some expansion information for the game, some new NPCs, and the website indicates it has information on the history and development of the False Hearts organisation, which is the evil underworld for crazy superheroes. I didn’t see much of the module book itself, since the GM was using it a lot. The book presents 4 types of adventure based around interaction with this organisation.

The basic idea

The basic idea of the Scenario Craft plan appears to be that the adventures are built collaboratively by the GM and players, through some outline decisions and choice of scenario that the players and GM decide on together, followed by a kind of collaborative decision-making process about some aspects of the PCs that are required to fit the adventure. After this, the players and the GM between them roll up all aspects of the main NPCs, including the bad guy, so we all know what we’re up against and its relationship to the party. The remainder of the adventure plays out through a semi-structured flow chart of action, and a lot of random events, clues and conflicts rolled up during the different stages of the adventure.

The scenario choices

The scenario choices are presented as a vague outline idea, and each scenario choice affects the structure of the action flow chart, the nature of the adversaries/NPCs, and the random tables on which the action is determined. We were presented with 4 possibilities, but I can’t remember the other 3. The one we chose was “Everyday life should be protected” (mamoru beki nichijou, 守るべき日常). The outline idea was that someone in the False Heart organisation was about to find a way to reveal the virus infecting our superheroes, and we need to find a way to stop it.

Scenario plots

Each scenario comes with its own plot, which is very broadly outlined. Here is ours:

The “cooperating NPC” approaches the PCs to tell them he thinks that his underling, the “Rival NPC,” has joined the False Hearts. Simultaneously, the “Heroine NPC” tells one of the players (with whom she has a close relationship) that she is worried about her friend, the “Rival NPC.” The PCs agree to find the “Rival NPC” and bring him back to UGN for questioning.

That’s it. These NPCs are worked into our characters’ lives through a very simple plot mechanism, the Lois (see later).

The action flow chart

Almost all of the adventuring is constrained to two pages of the book. The right-hand page contains necessary tables for randomly generating everything, and the left hand page contains some outline information and a flow chart which breaks the adventure down into 5 main scenes. The scenes are:

  • PC Opening, 4 separate subscenes in which each PC appears briefly to have their intro to the adventure explained
  • Grand Opening, in which the four PCs join together to determine their attitude to the adventure
  • Middle Phase, in which the majority of the adventure happens
  • Climax, in which the PCs get in a big fat fight
  • Flashback, in which the PCs attempt to return to normal life and shed the corruption of the adventure, get XPs, etc.

The main action happens in the middle phase, which is divided up into separate stages in the flow chart. These stages may or may not be sequential or conditional (I think in our case they were sequential). Our main stage within the Middle Phase was “Research Event,” in which we did investigative stuff which triggered encounters.

This action flow chart provides the GM with a structure around which to hang an actual adventure, just like in any normal module, but it really only provides an outline from which to hang all the random tables.The Middle Phase here is also set up to include a lot of random variation in how long and diverse it is, how many encounters there are, and what they are, through the use of a progress tracker.

The progress tracker

The progress tracker seems very similar to the method of Warhammer 3rd edition for resolving drawn-out challenged tasks. Basically, the GM sets a target number of “successes” for some investigative or challenged action occurring in the Middle Phase. Every day, the PCs set about resolving this action, using some kind of skill check (we used our social skill for information gathering). We have to accrue a certain number of successes before we can proceed to the next section, and can only get one each a day. Every day we adventure trying to gain these successes we incur a d10 of corruption points and a risk of a minor encounter, which we will win at the cost of further corruption points. Corruption points make us more powerful in battle but also drag us closer to becoming irredeemably infected (“germs”) and at risk of having to burn all our social contacts to drag ourselves back to reality, so rapid progress up the tracker is a good thing.

There is a separate progress tracker for “prize points,” which are bonusses gained from very high skill rolls. These prize points are rolled randomly on a table, and are essentially hints as to the nature of the problem we are trying to solve. More prize points makes it easier for us to find the correct solution and progress along the tracker to the next stage, i.e. ideally they will help us choose a way of solving the problem which gives bonusses to our rolls, increases our combined successes, and kicks us along the tracker. In fact, this didn’t happen in our game because our GM was a little weak in this regard, but the idea is solid I think. At the end, if you get to the end of the progress tracker, you learn the solution to the problem and go to the next stage (though I presume the GM can short circuit the tracker if the players solve the problem).

I like this because a) it gives an idea of how long the task takes to solve, and solving the task quickly is useful, b) the prize points thing can be used to give XP rewards – particularly if creative thinking gives players bonusses on their rolls and thus more prize points and c) if the PCs are having success in the tasks but the players just aren’t thinking the problem through, the GM has a trigger point at which to allow the skill rolls to determine the outcome, and stop the game getting bogged down because the players just can’t figure it out (or the GM can’t explain it).

Choosing the NPCs

We chose the NPCs by rolling, together, the details of their relationships to us, their appearance, name, their goals, and pretty much every other aspect of their personality except their stats and powers (which were either already chosen, or secretly rolled by the GM). There’s no reason these couldn’t be rolled too, I suppose. But then, would you even need a GM? We also had to choose a PC to be linked to the Heroine NPC and the Cooperative NPC, which was done semi-randomly (scissor-paper-stone). These relationships are a really important part of Double Cross 3, and being able to choose even relationships with NPCs and enemies is interesting too. Especially when you burn them for an extra 10 dice in your attack pool.

Random tables and the progress of the adventure

The random tables included information about where we went to do our research into what the Rival PC was up to. Every day we did research, we rolled up a possible encounter, so on the third day we stumbled into an area that had been “warded” by False Hearts agents, and on other days nothing happened. There were also random tables for where we finally confronted the boss guy, and I think our adversaries in non-boss encounters may have been randomly generated too. Also, the “prize points” were randomly generated, only we kept generating the same two prize points, until we reached the end of the progress track.

Reaching the end of the progress tracker showed up one of the big flaws of any kind of randomized adventure scheme, because our GM wasn’t up to the task of wrapping up all the random encounters into an information package from which we could extract the clues we needed, so he ended up just kind of … handing us the information we needed. This is a good aspect of the progress track if the failure to draw a conclusion is the players’ fault, since we incur a corruption cost but don’t fail the adventure; but if it’s the GM’s fault it leaves you feeling like you didn’t succeed in the adventure. I don’t think there’s a way around this aspect of randomized gaming, except to have adventures without a plot or a conclusion. The progress tracker at least gives the GM a trigger at which to get rid of the investigative phase of the adventure and get to the finish.


I like this schema for mostly-randomized adventures, and the layout of the module was such that it was very easy for the GM to run the whole game collaboratively with us without giving away any details early, or getting too confused. It was fun generating our own adventure as we went, but it was also frustrating when it wasn’t tied together properly and we just skipped from progress track to ending, a problem I’ve always had with adventures that aren’t fully prepared by the GM beforehand. in truth this can happen with traditional modules that have been badly designed, or with work that a GM does by him/herself. I think when a GM writes their own adventure they tend to go through a wider range of scenarios in their head, and know the plan better, so that they are more flexible at adapting to player stupidity/their own gaffes. GM-written adventures are hardly immune to the problem though.

In general the Double Cross stuff I’ve seen so far has been very well laid out and clear, and they’re fond of very easily understood flowcharts and diagrams. I think that this is a strength of this adventure setting too, and a lot of careful thought has gone into making these modules playable on the fly. Also, of course, they’re ideally suited to day-long conventions.

At this month’s Oita Evil Spirts Konkon convention, I got a chance to play in a session of Double Cross 3 (DX3), which is the Japanese RPG I’ve been putting up information about here. This was my first (and only?!) chance to play this game, and so even though I was sorely tempted to join in a Japanese Old School D&D session, I took it. This proved to be a good plan, since it was in the DX 3 adventure where all the sandboxing was happening.

A few outline notes

We completed character creation and a full adventure in the single session, which lasted from 10:30 to 18:30. The game we played used Rule Book 1 (which I have), Rule Book 2 (which I don’t) and some additional information from the Advanced Rules in combination with a module book called “Public Enemies,” which is based on a mechanism the DX3 company, FEAR, appear to have pioneered, called Scenario Craft. There were 4 players – 2 women and 2 men – and the GM. We were playing characters with a little bit of experience, so we didn’t start entirely fresh-faced; but three of the players were beginners, and one very experienced. I will talk about Scenario Craft separately, but essentially it’s a way of introducing as much randomness as possible to the strict structure of a module format. We rolled up every aspect of this game except our characters (though we rolled up a lot of them too!)

The Characters

The players and characters were:

  • Handleless Mr. Mutabe, who played Rugaru, a High School student with the Chimaera power
  • Ms. Furudera, with whom I’ve played a few times, who played Watermelon (that’s the codename), a High School student with the cross-breed Orcus/Salamandra powers
  • Ms. Ryo, who played Doumeki Rin, a Housewife with combined powers of Orcus and Solaris
  • Me, playing Kintaro “The Noble,” a Section Head in the UGN organisation whose cover is Robot Engineering (i.e., Mecha) and who is a purebreed Black Dog (electricity) user

I’ll put up the details of my character later. I had 3 Lois’s at the start of the game: My mother, the memory of a dead client from back in my Robot driving days, and Silk Spider, a UGN agent. I also had to choose an NPC as a Lois. There are 3 NPCs in this adventure, and I chose the NPC who cooperates with us as my Lois. Now that I’ve played, I understand the whole Lois/Titus thing better and will explain its effects in practice later.

The story

The cooperative NPC, Kanamoto Saburota, my Lois, is a doctor within UGN who has failed to realise his true purpose in life, but loves collecting information and learning things. He aims to nurture and support the PCs, but his serious and gentle character is hidden behind a cheap, gaudy exterior – this is a doctor who wears Hawaiian shirts and cheap jewellery. He approached Kintaro, his Lois, to tell him that he thinks his underling, a UGN agent called Hasebe Kappei, has joined the False Hearts and is working as their agent in my area. Simultaneously, the Heroine of the story, Kano Kasumi, approached Rugaru to tell him she was afraid for Hasebe, who had gone missing. The characters convene at Kintaro’s mecha workshop, and decide to find Hasebe.

Kano Kasumi, the heroine, is also a High School student. She is a mere slip of a girl, described in the book as being “in every way like a fairy in appearance” (we rolled this randomly). I take this to mean she’s tiny, thin, birdlike, with elaborate and complex eye makeup, fake eyelashes, nails, and glitter and colour wherever she can put it. Definitely thick white knee-socks and lots of cellphone straps. I didn’t write down the details of her relationship with Rugaru, but I think it might have been brotherly love. Kasumi is in every way ordinary – but she’s guessed that Rugaru is not ordinary (must be the Wolverine-style claws and powerful physique that gave it away; or maybe it was his 21 Jump Street style not-really-high-school-age look?)

Saburota Kappei is another High School student, described in the book as being “so gigantic in physique as to be almost entirely unusual,” and having a relationship to Watermelon that I also failed to write down (along with Watermelon’s proper name). Anyway, he’s going to be our enemy, so his personality matters not a whit[1].

So, having identified the threat (the big guy) and the goal (protect the chick), we move into the “middle phase” of scenario craft, which is primarily the “Research Event.” Every day we went information-gathering to find out where Kappei might be, and rolled up random events. Kintaro mostly worked his UGN contacts, Watermelon and Domeki did the whole computer intel thing, and our wolverine-y Rugaru did the streetwise gossip thing. The GM was keeping some kind of progress tracker a la Warhammer 3, with a certain number of successful checks required for us to meet our goal. There was a lot of incentive for us to get these successes early, because every day spent researching increased the risk of an encounter with False Heart agents, and every day we researched we also had to add 1d10 to our corruption level. Corruption level determines the risk that you’ll go native, turn into a Germ, and become an NPC on a rampage. You finish an adventure on a certain level of corruption, and there’s only so much you can recover, so efficient resolution of scenes is important if you want your character to last a long time and not have to be hunted down by your mates and put down like a dog.

During the research phase, we discovered rumours that if we stick around near Kasumi, something’s bound to happen; and we also worked out pretty fast that Kappei is a False Heart. Then, suddenly, Kasumi manifested as an Overed (infected with the virus we have), and had to be hospitalized. At this point we moved on to the climax.

In fact, before we could finally work out where kappei was, we ran into an area that had been warded by False Hearts thugs, and when Watermelon worked out that they were doing this, we had to have a fight with them.

False Hearts Encounter: My first DX3 Fight

So, there were four of them, two who attacked with darts formed from their own hair, and had bodies covered with spikes; and two who were using some sort of disruptive light-flash attack. I charged straight into battle using my patented Thunder Arm combination, and Rugaru sprouted talons like scimitars and leapt to join me using his Child of the Supreme Wolf combination (that’s a lyrical interpretation – there was a word I couldn’t read in the combo name, but it was something about a wolf-child, so bugger it, there you go). Combat was slow because we were learning, but in essence everything was over fast. The sequence of events was something like this:

  • Round 1: thorny guys attack with a flurry of darts, everyone takes half their HPs in damage
  • Round 1: the two girls in our group cast disruptive attacks on the False Heart light-wave kids, knocking them into a dazed bad status effect, and keeping them out of the battle
  • Round 1: I charge into the first thorny guy, turn him into a human battery with a powerful smash in the face and blast of lightning, and he nearly dies
  • Round 1: Rugaru charges into the other thorny guy, and tears him nearly limb-from-limb (both thorn guys are nearly dead)
  • Round 2: Thorny guy 1 hits me, killing me. I use my resurrect power to regain 8 hps at the expense of 8 corruption, and come roaring back from the dead
  • Round 2: Thorny guy 2 hits Rugaru, nearly killing him
  • Round 2: Domeki heals me for another 13 or so hit points, so I’m back just past halfway
  • Round 2: Watermelon destroys one of the dazzly-light kids
  • Round 2: I fry my guy while punching his face out the back of his head
  • Round 2: Rugaru dismembers his thorny guy
  • Round 3: I turn the remaining dazzly-light guy into a flesh-based capacitor, fight over

So, 3 rounds, 4 people vs. 4 people, one of us died once but used the DX3 version of a healing surge, and now we’re all up near 70 or 80 corruption risk. This becomes significant soon.


So we visited Kasumi in hospital and Watermelon identified that Kappei was watching us using a scrying power, and traced it back to its source – his favourite bar. We paid him a visit. Moving to the final scene cost us all a lot of corruption points, and by the time we arrived there Kintaro and Watermelon were up above 100 corruption. This, you will see, causes significant problems, as well as making your powers much more powerful, and leads to some interesting character decisions, as you’ll see. I imagined my character crackling constantly with undischarged static.

We had a short chat with Kappei, during which I helped myself to shots from his Keep Bottle (High School Students shouldn’t drink anyway!) He revealed that Kasumi had manifested a power which causes normal people near her to manifest their virus too (recall that 80% of humans are infected with this virus but most never manifest), and the False Hearts – who happen to have a remedy for this power – want to take her as a way of using her to spread the number of manifestations of the virus. Having established motive, we went to work killing him. The fight went like this:

  • Round 1: Kappei wins initative by a long shot (he’s fast) and blasts us all with a massive ball of lightning that does 28 damage and dazzles us. Me and Watermelon die instantly.
  • Round 1: I’m above 100 corruption, so I can’t use my healing surges anymore. Instead I have to “burn a Lois,” meaning I have to permanently sever all ties with a Lois, render them outcast from my life, and then I get to regain 16 hps. I chose Mum, and came screaming back from death (see my next post on Lois/Titus/Corruption for my interpretation of what this means)
  • Round 1: Watermelon is just below 100, so she uses  a healing surge to recover, and this tipped her past 100, so no going back for her either
  • Round 1: Domeki casts some kind of awesome combination of powers which adds 6 to all our dice pools, reduces the number we need for criticals by 2 (see here for the task resolution system), and adds 6 to all our ability scores
  • Round 1: Rugaru charges in, thorns out, Child of the Supreme Wolf in every way, rolls a 22 dice pool for a total of 77, does 62 damage, but Kappei is still up and running
  • Round 2: Kappei attacks Rugaru for quite a large amount of damage, knocking him down, but Rugaru does a healing surge and hauls himself out of a pile of his own fried entrails to reenter combat
  • Round 2: Domeki heals everyone for 2d10 of hps, very timely. I think now everyone was over 100 corruption
  • Round 2: I attack, rolling an 18 die pool for a total of about 50 damage with my Thunder Arm combo; Kappei shrugs it off.
  • Round 2: Watermelon does some kind of supporty thing
  • Round 3: Kappei attacks me and kills me. Again. I’m past having any healing surges, so I have to burn another Lois. This time it’s the good memories of my dead customer from my mecha days, he’s out the window and I’m back on 16 hps.
  • Round 3: Domeki does another round of healing
  • Round 3: Rugaru attacks Kappei,  doing negligible amounts of damage
  • Round 3: Watermelon does a beam attack on Kappei. To boost it, she decides to burn a Lois, and add 10 dice to her pool. I didn’t realise I could do this. Furudera san, a mild-mannered and soft-spoken young lady who blinks a lot, yells “Sayonara, Mother!” checks her mother off the Lois list, and picks up a veritable handbag-load of dice. Kappei shrugs off the resulting attack, and that’s it
  • Round 4: Kappei kills Watermelon again
  • Round 4: Watermelon says, “Bye bye, Kintaro Sensei” and crosses me off her Lois list, back from the dead (again)
  • Round 4: Domeki gives everyone the die pool boost effect again
  • Round 4: Me and Rugaru give Kappei everything we’ve got (but I don’t burn a Lois – had I done so I would have had a total dice pool of 29!)
  • Round 4: Watermelon scratches a third Lois (I think Furudera san was enjoying the tabula rasa approach to family history) and rolls another massive dice pool. This time whatever beam attack she was using manages to finally smash through Kappei’s armour, and he goes down like the oversized sack of overripe DNA that he is.

Now that the battle is over, we get to regain 2d10 corruption points for killing the boss guy, and then we do “Flashback,” in which memories of our ordinary lives draw us back from the brink of corruption. This is represented in game terms as a reduction in our corruption risk of 1d10 per remaining Lois. I started the game with 4, picked up 1 during the middle phase (that 1 being Domeki) and burnt two staying alive, which leaves me 3. I remove 3d10 from my corruption, leaving me with a grand total of 77. I started this game with 35 corruption and end up 32 further along, having made a conscious decision to abandon all the memories and attachments of my pre-UGN days. I have been cast adrift from the mortal world, and only my UGN associates (not all of whom do I trust or feel affection for) are keeping me tethered. I need to make some new connections to the real world fast, or I’m going to be a germ before my 3rd adventure is out…

That’s it for the day’s slaughter.

Some opinions

  1. this game is deadly. Once we’re used to the rules and the dice pools, this system will churn through battles very fast. Also, a conservative approach to combat is needed – 4 rounds of combat using my Thunder Arm increase my corruption by 24, and I only have 3 Lois to get that back with. So two or three combats in a session and I’m already tipping over the edge into becoming a reckless will-o-wisp on a mission from hell.
  2. this game really encourages you to think about the relationships you have with your other PCs and the world in general, and represents the importance of those relationships in terms of their ability to keep you from becoming inhuman. I like that a lot, and I think it would be a really interesting thing to explore in a campaign setting.
  3. with the correct descriptive passages and attention to character detail, this game really encourages a lot of role-playing.
  4. the Scenario Craft idea is kind of cool, and means that the adventure was collaborative and interesting. Unfortunately, our GM was indecisive, weak and a little shy, so every time he was presented with a random choice he would say “oo, this is tough,” and um and ah, and Ms. Ryo had to help him through quite a bit, which made gameplay slow and meant we lost a lot of the opportunities the randomness offered. This is a problem with these types of approach to gaming, they rely on a certain robustness that not every GM has.
  5. the dice pools are fiddly, but they are also fun.


Once again the world is safe from the corrupting influence of the secret evil superhero, so you can rest safe in your bed, dear reader. And I will be playing DX3 again if I get the chance.

fn1: DX3 is definitely set up so that these kind of “just gimme the fight” sentiments don’t really work.

We saw in my previous post how a simple character is made in the Double Cross role-playing game. I have subsequently skipped across the more complex character generation rules straight to the bit about how the characters operate in practice, i.e. how tasks are resolved. This is basically divided into two parts, the standard skill resolution system and combat. It’s also very strange, because it uses a mechanism I’ve never seen before.

The basic resolution mechanism

The basic resolution mechanism is the use of a pool of d10s to calculate a value, which is compared against a difficulty to determine success. However, instead of simply counting successes on dice (as in Exalted) or summing all the dice (which would, I contend, be madness), Double Cross 3 uses an insane hybrid. Under this system, you roll all the dice and take the maximum value that occurs on the dice. This would give you a value between 1 and 10 (which for large dice pools will almost always be 10!), except that Double Cross 3 has a critical system, in which any die that rolled up a 10 is rerolled, and the maximum of this new pool of dice is then added to the previous maximum (10). This continues until all subsequent sets of 10s have been exhausted. We’ll consider an example of this shortly.

Rolls of 10 are considered a critical, but it’s possible through syndrome effects to reduce the number required for a critical from 10 to, say, 8 or 6. In this case any die that hits or goes above the critical number is rerolled, and added on to the maximum from the previous roll.  It’s not clear from the rolls whether this maximum is the new critical effect limit, or the maximum on all the dice. If the latter, things get very fiddly. There is an example in the book of someone rolling 16 ten-sided dice against a critical target of 8, for a total of 33.

The difficulty classes are given as:

  • Easy: 3 – 5
  • Normal: 6 – 9 (success to be expected in most cases)
  • Difficult: 10 – 13
  • Really Hard: 14+

However, challenged skill checks go directly off the competing skills, so if you have a PC using stealth against an NPC it will be a direct application of their body against the target’s sense, with the higher roll winning.


It’s a little fiddly, so let’s consider an example. Yumiko has a sense of 9, and 4 levels in missile combat, so when she attacks with a gun she rolls 9 10-sided dice, and adds the 4 for her missile combat skill at the end. Let’s consider such an attack. Her fine specks gives her an extra (level*2) dice, or 2, in this case, for a total of 11. I don’t have enough dice for that sort of stuff, but let’s give it a go. She rolls and gets… 1,2,2,2,5,6,7,8,9,10,10.

That’s pretty poor. So we roll the two 10s, to get… 4 and 5. So adding the maximum of the previous round (10) to this round (5) and her skill of 4 gives us a total of 19.

Yumiko’s body is 1, with 1 level of dodge skill. So if she wants to avoid getting hit she needs to roll above 19 on that 1 die… let’s try it. She rolls and gets… 10! Rolling again gives us… 4, for a total of 14, +1 for dodge gives 15.

So Yumiko hit herself. Damage is then resolved as the total success roll divided by 10, plus 1, plus any effects due to syndromes. So in this case it would be 19/10, plus 1, or 3 dice, plus any weapon/syndrome effects. After this Yumiko gets to take off effects of armour, and the remains are hit points of damage. I haven’t yet found the rules on rounding down damage. I presume the same effects apply in other situations where damage can be applied.

That seems quite potent; with 3 dice one can easily struggle above 15 damage, and our little schoolgirl only has 23 hit points.

Some notes on this mechanic

This mechanic is fundamentally a pretty tricky one, combining as it does the counting aspects of a system like Exalted and the adding of systems like D20, along with division at the end. It also includes a system of challenged dice rolls, which I’ve been suspicious about since I tried playing Talislanta (I think it was Talislanta). Challenged dice rolls are also a property of warhammer 2, which takes a long time to chug through skill resolution. This system could take an awfully long time if one has low critical thresholds and high dice pools – Yumiko is first level and already up to 11 dice!

Probabilistically, this die-rolling mechanism is evil. It involves taking a sum over maximums of chains of multinomial distributions where one parameter in each link of the chain (the number of trials) is conditionally distributed according to the results of the previous step in the chain. Compare this to the standard Exalted mechanism, which is simply a sum of multinomial distributions where each multinomial distribution has 3 outcome values (0,1 or 2) with relatively fixed probabilities (0.6, 0.3 and 0.1 respectively) and the number of trials is fixed (by the dice pool). Simple!

So, over a period of some days, I have calculated the probability distribution for the skill system, which can be done using transition matrices[1]. I ran some calculations in the stats package R, and the probability distributions are shown in the figure below for three sizes of dice pool: 4 dice (black), 8 dice (red) and 16 dice (green). I also ran some simulations (not shown) which roughly reproduce these probability distributions, so I think they’re correct[2,3].

Three Double Cross probability distributions

So with 4 or 8 dice there is a 25% chance of getting a 9, and in all dice pools of size up to 16, 9 is the most likely value. This kind of surprised me, but obviously it has to be true. Actually 10 is the most likely value, but it gets redistributed immediately across the remaining (infinity – 10) values. Considering just the first 9 values, in a die pool of size 16 as soon as you roll a 9 all other values become irrelevant; whereas if you roll a 2, any of the remaining 15 dice could be larger. So, on any die pool larger than 1, 9 is the most likely value when you’re taking maxima. The Double Cross authors seem to have recognised this by setting the difficult skill checks to above 10; on a roll of 4 dice there’s only a 35% chance you’ll get above 10. Of course, starting with 11 dice the probability is 69%, so really it’s not so hard for Yumiko to do hard things with her sense (i.e. her guns).

This is the weirdest skill resolution mechanism I’ve ever seen. It’s going to be fun just for its sheer kookiness, but I suspect it breaks down fast. As soon as I get a chance to play this, I’ll let you know…

fn1: We can represent the process of calculating the total as a series of steps, with the full dice pool rolled at step 0. For a dice pool of size k, we can define a matrix P, whose ij-th entry gives the probability of going from i dice in a step to j dice in the following step; a starting state vector s, which is a  vector of length k whose j-th entry represents the probability of j 10s occurring in the first roll; and a final probability matrix Q of size kx9 representing the probability of any number less than 10 occurring at a given size of dice pool up to and including k. The number of steps required to reach a given value x can be calculated as the quotient of l=x/10. Denote this number of steps as j. Then the value x can be written as x=l*10+r. For step 0 we calculate the probability of 1 to 9 directly in order to construct the first row of Q. For all step sizes greater than 0, we calculate the probability vector of all values occurring at step l as t(s)P^(l-1)Q, where here the t() represents the transpose (I can’t write maths here easily). The probability of the value x is simply the r-th entry of this vector[2].

fn2: You probably think I have too much time, and right now I *really* don’t, but I haven’t done any decent stats in 6 months and this kind of stuff is fun for a weirdo like me.

fn3: Actually I think there’s a tiny error in these values, because the sum over 40 or 50 values doesn’t come to less than 1 in all cases, which it must do. But they’re close enough, and I can’t find what the error could be, so stuff it. I think there is a very small error in my calculation of the probability of maximum values, or I have to include some modification for the probability of stopping at step l, but I can’t quite see how to do it.

I promised I would read through this game and give a full report, and by now I’ve read far enough through to make an attempt at character creation. There are two methods of character creation, Quickstart and Construction. The former is done by choosing a sample character and then developing a life-path for it; the latter is a full creation process. I haven’t read the latter, so I’m going to try the former today.

Quickstart creation essentially uses all the statistics from the sample character, and the only creation part the player engages in is the social history of the character. I think this reflects the importance of the social setting in this game, and the role played by a character’s social supports (their Lois). Also, characters have a cover, which is chosen for you in the sample characters.

Basic characteristics

There are 4 basic ability scores, and under each ability score a couple of skills which are affected by it. The ability score is, I think, determined by your choice of syndrome (I haven’t got that far in the book to be sure), while the starting skill values are determined by your cover (so a high school student has different skills to a company man). The ability scores and skills are:

  • Body, which is strength and constitution, and covers three skills: melee, dodge and ride/drive.
  • Sense, which is a kind of intelligence score, and covers the three skills of ranged combat, knowledge and art (which has various sub-specialties)
  • Spirit, which is a kind of willpower score, and covers the three skills of Renegade Control (used for powers), will (important for resisting triggering your impulse), and knowledge (which has sub-categories)
  • Social, which governs diplomacy, requisition (for preparing items, which I think might be special objects in this game), and information (about research and gathering information)

Again, these skills indicate a strong social element to the game, and a simple framework (I haven’t got to task resolution yet!)

Other character creation elements

Having chosen your sample character, you need to determine the following elements of your life path:

  • Your origin, the environment in which you were born and raised
  • Your experience, which can be chosen from four background tables: High School, Company Life, Underclass, or UGN (the company that our heroes work for)
  • Encounter: determines a person you met in your life who is very important to you
  • Awakening: How you discovered your Renegade talent
  • Impulse: an emotion which, when triggered, threatens to evoke overwhelming emotions which carry a particularly high risk of overwhelming your control of your powers, and causing you to lose your humanity and become a germ

The first 3 sections of this process each give rise to a Lois, a person with whom you have a particularly close bond. One of these will be an NPC. For each Lois you need to determine a negative and positive trait in your relationship, and turn it into a narrative for your relationship with this person.

All these decisions are made by “ROC,” Roll or Choice, so you can create your character completely randomly by rolling on d100 tables, or you can choose everything. Since choosing everything involves decoding lots of entries in lots of tables, our example character is going to be done randomly. Shall we try?

Sample Character: “Sparkling Twin Bullets”

We’re generating a Japanese role-playing character here, so one thing is fixed: they’re going to be a high school student. Any of the sample characters can be, of course, but there is one that comes with a pre-packaged High School student picture (click to enlarge):

Odd-coloured shoes: the hazards of school-girl life

The text at the bottom left of the picture says

UGN Children. Awakened as Overed in infancy, these children are raised by the UGN agency. You are one of these

Your earliest memories are only of study in order to control your power. You realised that you are not normal, and you have a duty to fulfill.

It’s not the case that you don’t yearn for ordinary life. It’s not the case that you don’t imagine a world at peace.

But, for now you are using your power to protect others. In this there is meaning, you believe.

This is the path you learned to follow…

The big text at the top left says “Duty! Roger! Finish this quickly!” and the part at the right is this schoolgirl’s character image (the “Sparkling twin bullets”) writing.

The UGN children story is not essential to the sample character, so we can change her, but let’s not. We’ll give her a UGN background and assume that she’s still in high school, because the stat block for her character sheet says that’s her cover; but the rule book says that UGN Children have to select their experience life path element from the UGN table.

We’ll call our girl Yumiko, in honour of my friend who has been recently helping me with my Japanese study. In Japanese characters, Yumiko means “Free Beautiful Child” (由美子)

Basic statistics

Syndrome: Yumiko is a tri-breed, so she has 3 syndromes, which are Angel Halo (manipulating light), Morpheus (creating and manipulating matter), and Hanuman (changing the nervous system to increase speed or reflex).

Basic stats

As might be expected of someone with this focus, Yumiko’s stats and skills are:

  • Body 1, 1 level of skill in Dodge
  • Sense 9, 4 levels in missile attack
  • Spirit 1, 1 level of skill in Renegade Control
  • Social 3, 3 levels of skill in requisition and 1 level of skill in Information (UGN)

She has 23 hit points.


Effects are the powers her mutations give her. In addition to the standard (concentrate), she gets the following:

  • Fine specks: increases her ranged attack by improving her precision (this is an Angel Halo perception effect)
  • Hundred Guns: in exchange for some raw material, this creates a ranged attack weapon, the form of which is up to the player (this is a Morpheus matter creation effect)
  • Penetrate: Enhances a gun so that it penetrates armour better (this is a Morpheus matter modification effect)
  • March Weapon: Gives the power of using two weapons at once, either ranged or close combat (this is a Hanuman sensory modification)

Those are some serious powers with guns! Yumiko is a deadly schoolgirl!


Yumiko has a connection to an executive in UGN (however would a schoolgirl do that??!!), which gives her a bonus on her Information (UGN) checks.

Life path

So, using random rolls, let’s go through Yumiko’s life path.


Inheritance of power: Born the heir of a family that values its genealogy, Yumiko has always carried an inheritance. The Lois for this origin is a teacher. (I rolled 27)


Dirty job: As a UGN Overed, Yumiko had an experience on the battlefield that she doesn’t want to think about a second time. The Lois for this experience is a fellow soldier. (I rolled 87).


Herself: Yumiko has minded her own business and had few encounters with others. Her main connection in UGN is Artemis (Shikishima Ayame), a UGN illegal with great powers who tends to look after isolated members of the organisation. (I don’t know yet what a UGN illegal is, and I rolled a 2).


Ambition: Yumiko is driven by a single eternal goal, and will bravely consider any sacrifice to achieve it. She only has one dream, which is for everyone to admire her, and to be able to overcome any enemy. When she achieves this goal, she is uplifted. (I rolled 4 on a d10 on this table, and it gives a corrosion probability of 17%, near the high end)


Hunger: In her heart, there is an empty hole. Nothing she consumes can fill it, but it has to be filled. So, by any means… (This flaw gives a corrosion probability of 14%, the lowest)


This gives us three Lois‘s, characters with whom Yumiko has a close relationship she cannot neglect. One of these is the NPC, Artemis. The others are a childhood teacher, and a fellow soldier. For one of these, Yumiko needs to establish a positive and negative emotion, which conflict in the same relationship. I choose to make these for the comrade-at-arms, and off we go…

Positive:charity! This person is a figure like a junior member of her team who always strives at hard tasks, a sick sister, etc. who Yumiko cherishes (I rolled a 21).

Negative: threat! This person has the power of a formidable rival, and may be someone Yumiko is afraid of losing to (I rolled a 10).

These two elements need to be worked into the same relationship, so I think we can see what is happening here.

Let’s put it all together, then…

Yumiko’s full story

Born into a wealthy family from whom she stood to inherit a great deal, Yumiko manifested her Overed powers early, and was taken in by UGN. Her family were a typical loveless aristocratic family, and during her powers’ awakening she was cared for by an elderly teacher whom she still respects very much (this is Lois 1, the teacher). Taken in by UGN, she was assigned a cover as a school girl in this teacher’s school, and mentored by the teacher while she learnt to control her powers and fit into society. At an early age she was thrust into a terrible task, of the “burn this school down to save it” sort, and in this horrific battle she endured much grief and many battle scars that she dare not think over again. There was only one survivor from this battle, a junior soldier who Yumiko protected to the end out of a sense of duty, and she carried him bloodied and battered from the ruins of the school. He recovered, and to this day they have maintained their original relationship, as if she were his senior and more respected figure; but in fact his powers have grown fast and there is increasing tension between them as he chafes within the bonds of her charity (this is Lois 2).

And the bonds of her charity can be great indeed, for she has few friends or associates and has always been lonely, from the time of her loveless early childhood right through her training at UGN. She has always withdrawn, and focussed sullenly on the development and control of her powers. Some say that she feels rejected and spurned by her family, cast aside in the unloving embrace of UGN, and that she has a deep, dark desire to be accepted which also drives her ambitions and her stern sense of duty, both to UGN and to her junior colleague. This complex attracted the attention of Artemis, herself a loner, who recognised the risk that ambition thwarted, duty spurned, or acceptance withheld could trigger a great shock for Yumiko, and drive her to dark deeds.

Also, Yumiko is a very good shot, and has a fine selection of schoolgirl outfits, many with matching shoes.

ijo desu!