Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Abstract System in Application

I'm considering using the Abstract system in application towards my earlier project. However, it seems lacking in a couple areas. Foremost in advancement to the level 100s.

Once the characters reach level 100, their specializations would likely be around 102 and their average and upper limit for even the highest attributes would be around 17.5 to 30. Is this too little? Is it too much? Do attributes then become meaningless? What does a 102 mean in the long run? If I had smithing 102 and the average NPC level was 5 that makes their smithing at 7. What does that mean?

Should I scale the skills slower? Should I increase the effect of attributes to make an average attribute have more dramatic effect? Should I implement the pay to succeed? Or maybe I should consider adding a scaling attribute system for my game. Perhaps every ten levels an attribute can be increased?

Of coarse then we would have rank 13 attributes which would be a problem, every twenty could result in at most a rank 10, and furthermore if I were to limit each attribute to one increase before 50 and one after then it would max out at 7. I think 7 is tolerable. With an average range of 24.5 and an upper limit of 42 it has up to a 40ish% boost to your rank 102 specialization. Not too shabby. Furthermore it can be another point of separation from non-heroic NPCs by not granting them statistic bonuses. This regular numerical increase, does however bring the game a few more steps away from a role playing game and towards a roll playing game, however I wonder if this would be another reward players could be granted to help encourage them to grow and develop.

So the highest roll possible without 'other bonuses' would be 144. I'm fairly certain that there will be other bonuses. Environment probably ranging from 5-30, tools ranging 5-30, perhaps bonuses bringing it up 10-30 and finally a 5-20 oversight bonus. All told, the upper limit becomes 254. With the only random numbers being attributes, setting the range as 7 to 42 making the range 219 to 252. Just short of 1/5 variance.

Not shabby I think. Not shabby at all.

The question becomes, what will the target numbers be? Should we be looking at two master fighters, both specializing in their respective fields to the maximum, (striking and dodging) The dodger would be looking at armor 30, bonuses 30, skill 102 and attribute 21, for a total of 183 and the master striker would be getting 162 + 7d6 with an average of 186.5. This means at the highest levels of combat we notice the attacker has a 3.5 edge against the defender. This edge is the .5 edge gained per die when using a +3 per die for static numbers while there is a 3.5 average per die.

Using this means the attacker has about a 75% chance to hit the defender. Technically I could lean either way in this matter. I could bring the bonus up to a more average number, granting +3 OR 4 per rank of attribute, alternating between and narrowing the advantage, I could increase it to 4 per rank of attribute, and turning the advantage, or leaving it as is. It all depends on my personal agenda.

Alternating between 3 and 4 would make it 'equal' and narrow the odds closer to 50%. It would however complicate setting numbers for each attribute and balance combat times.

Raising the bonus to 4 would make it biased strongly to the defender. This would extend combat times and drop hit rate. It also would make getting the first strike less valuable.

Leaving it as is would make combats faster, give the first strike an advantage, and have generally a higher hit rate.

Having these high numbers would require figuring out the high results anyhow, so I think perhaps that would make a good topic to consider. When the players have received an indication of notable advancement every level. Does this, and SHOULD this still allow lower level application? What variance should even be considered, and can it even be considered? Once again I think that this should be examined with cross sections using extremes and averages. Perhaps it will uncover some form of major flaw.

First, lets look at starting levels, 1, 3, 5. Then I think 40, 43, 45 should be examined, followed by a stretch range of 20 vs 40. Or even 20 vs 100.

Lows will be untrained and minimum attribute at start. Likely a constant number will be used for all levels.
Ave will be a point every other level and two at start for specializations. It will also have average starting stats.
High will be a specialized starting stat and max points every level.

Low 2d6, 6
Ave 3d6 +2, 11
High 4d6 +3, 15

Low 2d6, 6
Ave 3d6, +3, 12
High 4d6 +5, 17

Low 2d6, 6
Ave 3d6 +4, 13
High 4d6 +7, 19

Looking at this, we can go ahead and start comparing well go with the notation of instigator, level and specialization rate, vs reacting level and specialization rate.

3L vs 3A: Unable to win as defender wins and the defender has 1 rating higher than attacker. Had they invested at least two points, they would have had a chance.
3A vs 3L: Cant lose, their bonus and minimum rolls are 1 higher than the defender.
3A vs 3H: Small chance of attacker winning. There are three possible rolls for success.
3H vs 3A: Small chance of failing. There are three possible rolls for failure.

Alright with this quick comparison it appears that not taking an applicable specialization can put you in hot water very quickly. Looking at this I wonder if maybe a mitigating factor is necessary. But this may be a bit of a quick knee jerk reaction. If players recognize this on their own, they may be mitigating the problem quickly, or accentuate it with some very situational glass cannons. Of coarse this will result in some of the above pairings. I personally am thinking the problem will continue on to accentuate itself in the future....

Ave 3d6 +21, 30
High 4d6 +42, 52

Ave 3d6 +22, 31
High 4d6 +44, 54

Ave 3d6 +24, 32
High 4d6 +46, 56

And here it is. The problem has become evident. Now anyone who hasn't placed full points into the ability has become unable to compete in a direct trait check. Now this will only become worse in the future and assuming we didn't want to gear the game towards specialists, or allow the strong players to always dominate should we gear the game towards the average players we need to seek to mitigate these numbers.

My first thought is to compare how some of these numbers are mitigated in other games.

DnD 3rd either uses a asymmetrical target number or keeps the numbers far from reaching the large scaling problem we just encountered. In the skill system the characters are generally limited to level 20 (we'll ignore epic levels for now) which means additive skill points will reach an upper limit of 23. Assuming average and high once again the expert would have a bonus of 27 (ability bonus of +4) and the average would have a bonus of 11. Given that 3rd edition uses a d20 for skill that means there is an overlap of three possible results (18-20) assuming ties go to defender and defender is the high number.

Their asymmetrical system is their skill vs DC, attack vs AC, save vs Spell DC system. The ability to boost spell saves is limited to only the base ability and level of spell (A couple feats altering this). The AC is basically based on only money and base statistic. The DC for a skill being a static number based on whatever the hell the GM wants. Furthermore these checks use an always fail or always succeed condition in the upper and lower 5% ranges. Meaning only 90% of the rolls even need the bonuses.

DnD 4th implements a similar skill system, but they widthdrew points and ranks. In fact, you are simply trained in a skill or not, meaning you get +4 in that skill or not. Furthermore the remainder of the bonus is gained simply by your level (half in this case) meaning a direct trait comparison between trained and specialized and untrained and unspecialized will at best have a 8 difference at first level. (This expands at later levels with their increasing base attributes later. Without items probably peaking near 11 or 12)

This also uses the asymmetrical system of AC/DC and so on. (I had to, don't hate me.)

White Wolf systems incorporate always having a chance to fail. The range is ALWAYS zero to rating+ successes. If you include rerolls or double counts (depend on which system you use when you roll a 10 on the d10) you can also get higher than skill results. With ratings varying from at least 1 to 10, there isn't even that much of a difference. A person with one die can succeed against someone with 10.

Savage Worlds is much like the white wolf system, except they also use the asymmetrical system of target numbers like DnD's AC, and have small maximums like White Wolf's ten dice max (I know it can go higher, but just going of base stuff here.)

Heroes Unlimited (based on the Palladium system which I likely may not be completely accurate in the following description due to some variances between games) appears to follow a comparative system, but the bonuses crawl forwards slowly. Possibly gaining one every few levels and with only small bonuses for specializing that MAY add up in the end to be a large number, but probably will not breach 20 in combat very far. This system rolls a d20 just like DnD skills and therefore is looking a lot like comparative DnD skills.

The reason I bring this system up however is that it uses percentile skills. It has the player start out with 20-60% ability within a skill then slowly crawl upwards at a few percent per level. Comparative skill checks would be about distance from your percent, trying to succeed at an action alone would just be aiming below said percent. There's also a hard cap for all skills at 98% for most classes. Any penalties to the skill are cut down from there. The mitigations implemented are a hard cap, competing against your own score and static increase.

So from my experience, the mitigation implemented by systems is generally broken down into some of the following.

Asymmetrical Competitions: Creating a non-specialization based target for rolls that merely grows with the character and may be increased or decreased somewhat based on wealth, preference or other method that can allow boosting past creation. I feel like this will draw away from some of the simplicity of the base system, forcing charts and a number of other advancements.

Soft Difference Limits: Indirect caps such as level that prevent specialization from going too far and creating no-win situations. Apparently such soft difference limits seem to hit around the variance of the die with a 10% chance of success. This means I would have to calculate the variance of the average die to calculate my max level. Somewhat restrictive, it would prevent the broad scale I had in mind.

Hard Difference Limits: I've already implemented one, but going further I could implement a hard limit like the maximum of 98%. For instance, the bonus can never exceed 50, or 100. This makes for an abrupt and artificial feeling cap for additive bonuses, but if the system were a percent one it would naturally flow in. This could be achieved using the current system by ensuring that the leveling process is simply slowed to ensure this cap is reached late game and not half way through. Currently I have it reaching 102 with my current hard difference limit, but it appears that it is necessary to either reduce the hard level cap or the points increased per level. This will require finding the breaking point where specialization creates no-win situations. Which appears to occur somewhere likely in the level 10 region.

Always Conditions: Implementing an always condition like the DnD Asymmetrical system or the bonuses and botching in White Wolf and Savage Worlds would allow for comparisons to become more likely to suddenly fail or succeed. The question becomes how to implement them. With our random range changing per rating of Attribute, the odds would be difficult to set as static results. However, since the dice are added not as success per die, they become more difficult to implement using the White Wolf style.

Forced Advancement: Looking at DnD in 3rd edition saves were forced progression. Everyone got them, and they always increased eventually at a steady rate. They could be increased or decreased by other modifiers, but onwards they trudged. More obviously as brought up the skill system in 4th edition. These ensure the character remains relevant. This system could implement it, a forced advancement in certain relevant skills, possibly as a class system. It will not solve the problem for other skills, but could be a way to force the player to at least be average in some key categories. I don't like the idea as it goes against my initial concept of customization, but seeing some of the mess encountered in GURPS skills, it might be useful.

My first impression is to consider a system of forced advancement, always conditions, the current hard limits and asymmetrical comparison and considering some soft limits.

Forced Advancement would be implemented with classes and possibly races. Combined with the general and specific specializations mentioned in the specializations post. A class would likely have major and minor skills. Major would increase constantly at max or two at start and one every other (not sure which yet.) Minor would have one at start and one every other or third. Similarly with races. Players could increase the specializations on their own above this (as long as it is not a generic one, then they would probably grab a sub category and increase that.)

Always Conditions I am considering implementing as follows. If half or more dice are sixes, then reroll and add the second total as well. If half or more are ones, then no dice are added. Should this be 50/50, bias towards the sixes. Only reroll once. This means if you have one die, you can get from 0 to 12, if you have three 0 to 32, five 0 to 60. It also means the odds of getting an always condition changes as the dice change, but not so impossibly as to require all sixes or all ones.

I didn't cover asymmetrical comparisons previously. That is because asymmetrical comparisons will only apply to player vs task. Such as crafting a sword. Your target number will change depending on the qualities of said sword.

As for the soft limits, I want to see what the results of the above do before considering how that applies to the soft limit balance.

So lets review the earlier comparative checks with the idea of Always Conditions.

Low 2d6, 6
Ave 3d6 +2, 11
High 4d6 +3, 15

Low 2d6, 6
Ave 3d6, +3, 12
High 4d6 +5, 17

Low 2d6, 6
Ave 3d6 +4, 13
High 4d6 +7, 19

3L vs 3A: Low is able to win assuming they get at least one six.
3A vs 3L: Low is able to fail if they get 2 ones.
3L vs 3H: Low is able to succeed if they get some good rolls.
3H vs 3L: High cannot fail against low.
1A vs 3A: Definite chance for success.
1A vs 5A: Still fair chance for success.
1A vs 5H: Continuing chance for success.

I like the look of this much better than previously. There is benefit to getting high specializations, but a low specialization does not mean it is impossible to succeed. Let's see how this plays out in later level pairings.

Ave 3d6 +21, 30
High 4d6 +42, 52

Ave 3d6 +22, 31
High 4d6 +44, 54

Ave 3d6 +24, 32
High 4d6 +46, 56

40A vs 40H: There is a chance to succeed. Exactly one. This doesn't appear to work too well still, especially considering the odds of getting two 18s in a row is pretty low to put it lightly.
40A vs 43A: This looks almost identical to the low level similar investment scenarios. Probably doesn't need further investigation.

So we've managed to reduce the difference greatly. But probably not enough. Not enough if I want those who have invested only some to still have a chance to compete with those who invested a lot. Some of the other solutions that could be implemented I'm considering include...

Increasing the variance: Every 20 levels giving the player the option to increase an attribute one die, with a maximum of one increase per stat up to 60 and 80 and 100 allowing a second. That would add a potential 12 to the variance for both, and make the game a bit more high powered. I was also considering the potential of increasing attributes by class and race. This means that should the player be a mage, human let's say, they will get two to INT bringing their variance up to rank 6 dice, at 100 this could be 8 dice. For D6 this isn't that bad as far as number of dice, and at 100 assuming the player assigned one rank and chose a class somewhat relevant brings the variance up a total of 24 for the average rated stat. The specialist gets a total of 48. However, since both can be 0, this makes for a wider potential range of results.

Cutting the Levels: I really don't like this idea. The main reason is that the 100 level system allows for a slow progression of abilities and bonuses in the other half that I wish to develop. With all 100 levels divided for 5 scales of play, and 20 levels within a scale to develop and gain abilities, it grants a decent progression rate allowing players to learn about the abilities they took, then grow.

Alright, let us take a look at the problematic 40 range adapting for attribute increases.

Ave 5d6 +21, 36
High 7d6 +42, 63

40A vs 40H: peaks at 81, target 63. That gives us a bit of variance.
40H vs 40A: Still no chance of failure

This is a bit better, it shows the attacker advantage that has been playing into previous concepts, and the higher skill still benefits. The question I'm now asking, is how often should the static number be used? Personally I like having the static number as an option to accelerate tests, but we'll see. For giggles, I'd like to see what happens at 100.

Ave 5d6 +51, 66
High 7d6 +102, 123

100A vs 100H: With a peak of 111, there's no chance of success. Odds are there hasn't been for what appears to be about 30 levels or so. Of coarse, after level 70 we've probably reached a high powered point where the characters have probably gained enough tricks to work around such walls. I'll have to be sure to build them in.

I think now I've finally reached the point where I'm willing to settle and move on. So in summary here's what we've got.

Attributes can be increased by class and race by one rating.
An attribute can be increased once every 20 levels, but a specific one cannot be raised more than once before 80 and no more than twice after that.

Critical fails and successes are when the dice rolled have at least half ones, or at least half sixes. With a bias towards successes.

At first level specializations can be bought up to rank 3, after that one point can be allocated per level.

Some specializations will be automatically granted, and can be raised beyond the base allotment up to the same cap as if bought manually.

I need to build work arounds to prevent unbeatable opponents.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Referenced before, the specialization system is a modifier for the attributes. This allows the player to allocate bonuses for particular types of actions.

Currently all information on specializations is in flux, I am currently unsure as to how general or specific they should be.

Tentatively they should operate thusly.

At creation the player can allocate up to three ranks in a specialization. Furthermore on advancement, specialization maximums are increased by one point. Specializations operate as an additive bonus to related rolls. This means, should the vessel have a rank 1 specialization, they gain +1 to rolls related to that specialization, should they have 4 ranks, they get +4. These bonuses are also additive to static targets, therefore a rank 1 attribute and rank 2 specialization create a target of 5.

This has a variety of results when combined with the attribute system.

1. A rank 1 attribute with at least 1 specialization acting on a rank 2 attribute with no specialization has an opportunity to succeed.

2. At start, and for every three levels thereafter the player can increase the vessel's specialization enough to effectively counter a low attribute, or raise one attribute in regards to those specific instances. In truth this would actually alternate due to the real 3.5 average on a d6 by three and four levels for the instigator but with the reaction advantage this is only every three levels.

3. This grants a more accessible opportunity for the player to advance their vessel. Advancement ideally would take less than years to achieve. Likely it could take between weeks and months. The downside is that this advancement will definitely have holes.

Specialization ideally will present more than just general raw ability to perform actions. Early on (until around three advancements) a single rank in ability can still outpace specialization, but a lifetime of training in a particular specialization will allow the specialist to reliably outpace an equivalent ability ranking and eventually outpace the untrained completely. An agent with both high specialization and high ability would be one of the top of their field in the world eventually, but odds are there are many others with a great deal of advancement already, so don't expect those with only a few advancements to be at that level.

Currently the implementation in my mind of specializations has a variety of different implementations. I'm unsure of which to pursue, or if a combination would be warranted. It depends on whether or not this system will implement classes and races or not.

The first question is the how general the specializations should be. I am quite tempted to leave them completely unlisted with the GM as the one to rule on the limitations based on the scope of the game. If the GM wished to have players with a wide breadth of skills, very general specializations would be warranted, if they wished the players to have narrow focused characters, then specific specializations would be appropriate.

A few examples.

Combat - Most generic, probably for campaigns with little physical altercations.

Melee Combat - Still very generic, for cinematic campaigns with little interest in dealing with players having to find appropriate armaments for their regions or training. Likely also for campaigns with highly skilled vessels.

Swords - Probably near the median. This causes the players to specialize their interests a bit, or sacrifice other specializations to master many weapon types.

Fencing - Forces the players not only to specialize in weapon types, but also styles. This further limits weapon selection and possibly even effectiveness against other styles.

Foil - Forces the players to choose each weapon individually. Likely in a game where players will choose combats, be unlikely to lose items, or should be feeling helpless at times.

Foil Strike - VERY specialized, this is a specialization just to HIT with a weapon, likely paired with Foil Damage and perhaps Foil Parry. This is extreme, to master a particular style of combat would probably consume quite a great deal of specialization points.

Further variations could include dual wielding styles as opposed to just singe weapon, and possibly defensive vs offensive and so on. Personally if I were to run this with only one degree of the above I would likely stop at swords. However, I have some other ideas of how this could be implemented outside simply choosing one level.

Allowing all levels and doubling spendable specialization points each time the player chose to drop a level. (Likely would require structuring the specializations before hand.)

1. This would reduce the application of the specialization, but could allow someone to turn one point in combat into 8 points in specific weapons.

2. This would also enable powergaming to a degree. By splitting the points in to many smaller categories a player could have their vessel able to be amazing at precise fields, but useless outside their element.

3. This could decrease required sheet space. By a lot. Imagine, no listing 4 influence skills, just put down 'influence rating 3". Vessels would only be as complicated as the GM/Player wished.

Another variation would be special case general specializations. For instance if classes were implemented, the player could be granted the 'Magery' specialization. Likely this would progress at it's own rate with no opportunity for the player to directly invest, but perhaps the player could choose sub specializations that only cost anything they would add to Magery. For instance...

Bob the Orc is a warrior. Therefore he has taken the Warrior class giving him the Warrior specialization. This gives him +2 at creation to Warrior and another +1 every other advancement.

At creation Bob decides he want's to have a higher sword skill. As his Warrior specialization is +2 by default, Bob only needs to spend 1 point to get a rank of 3 in sword.

However, if Bob wanted to get runecraft (this would be under magery) it would not get a boost from Bob's Warrior unless for some reason the campaign's backdrop stated all orcish warriors had runecraft.

1. This allows classes to smoothly fit into the puzzle and grant bonuses in a simple manner. Most likely the class page would list many of the specializations listed in the book as suggested degrees.

2. This would further reduce sheet consumption, as a general class skill would quickly define a large degree of the character specializations.

3. This would suffer from a fair degree of subjective issues if a player assumed that the class skill covered X when the GM believed it did not.

Beyond this, is the question of how many points should be granted to rank up specializations on creation and at each advancement. I believe that if I assemble a list of recommended specializations and create some sample vessels that perhaps this should be easier to establish. Also perhaps having some other people create some 'sample' vessels might help as well.

Now you may have noted, that so far I have not mentioned much on the association of specializations to abilities other than that specializations are added to ability rolls. This is because specializations will NOT be directly related to any particular ability. Rather than associate all rolls with the sword specialization MUST utilize the Sixth Attribute, you may roll using the sixth attribute to connect with the target, then against the Fourth Attribute to determine the damage.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Attributes 2

The previous post only details the basics of each attribute and their use individually. It gives no specific details on their use their scale or their value. As listed they have a very particular and distinct order. This is on purpose. The names of the Attributes are final, these are not working names.

Working information follows, these may be subject to change in scale or even effects, but right now I feel these are appropriate until circumstances imply another method would be better.

Each attribute ranges from a rating of one to five. Three is considered average. Each level of rating grants one six sided die when rolling to perform a test. This results in the following average and high or low end ratings before specializations.

Very Low Attribute (Rating 1): 1-6 avg, 3.5
Average Attribute (Rating 3): 3-18 avg, 10.5
Very High Attribute (Rating 5): 5-30 avg, 17.5

Important things to note are below.

1. Distribution will trend towards the average at higher ratings. This represents the idea that it will be less likely a more trained or capable person will roll poorly with the trending number always increasing. This also means that a lower attribute rating will have spontaneous areas of increased numbers giving them more unpredictable, but definitely lower attribute contribution to tests.

2. Both the minimum and maximum numbers increase as progression occurs. There is a definite benefit to increasing an Attribute, a multiplicative benefit. This means that each rating has a large and definite effect assuming that target numbers and other modifiers are appropriately set.

3. The attributes themselves are operating on a very small range. This is due to the fact after initial creation, there should be little or no increasing or decreasing of these variables. Also this avoids having to roll more than five dice.

4. Selecting the six sided die establishes a specific degree of volatility. Should I have wished for the variable range to widen, I would have increased the number of sides. This I felt would devalue the specializations to increase the numbers, also adding big numbers can be hard for some people, resulting in valuable time lost.

Attributes are likely to be implemented in many ways, a static number may be necessary to roll against. Therefore if a static target number becomes necessary, the number should be the rating x 3. In any situation, defender wins should there be a tie. This number is specifically chosen.

Without specialization an acting agent should be unable to succeed against a reacting agent with a rating above their own. Furthermore it becomes difficult, but not impossible to fail on a test against a reacting agent with a lower rating with no specializations involved.

This number also divides a die in half for a fifty/fifty odds should equal ratings meet in an agent vs agent test.

During creation of a vessel, attributes should be assigned based on the following scheme. Firstly, the vessel's attributes should all be set to rating 3. Reducing an attribute grants the player one point. Increasing an attribute costs one point. The vessel begins with no points by default.

This was chosen for the extreme changes each attribute grants. Should the player decide to reduce a vessel's attribute, that places the vessel at an extreme disadvantage against an agent utilizing an average or above attribute. However, this grants the vessel an extreme edge against an agent utilizing an average or lower attribute. It is for the player to decide what their vessel's fate will be in these tests. In the future, it may be that the player may not increase or decrease a vessel's attribute by more than once.

Increasing and decreasing an attribute should be a difficult prospect indeed. The methods listed make the task seem simple, however the further from the vessel's starting rating the player wishes to move their attribute, the more difficult it should be to change and the easier it should be to shift back to the starting rating.

Increasing past the starting rating only one unit should be a task requiring years of effort, and may only be implemented as a class or racial bonus in the future should those be implemented.

Returning to the starting attribute, should be the matter of months of effort for one rating back to starting, and weeks for two ratings back to starting.

These increases are for both up and downwards. This means outside extreme events, attributes should be unlikely to change, and should desire to return to the starting score.

This means that should the player wish the vessel's score to break the starting rating, they must represent the vessel putting effort to maintaining the higher score or it will be easier to lose. What takes years to gain, could take months to lose. However should the vessel take years to degrade through prison or lifestyle, they should find it easier to recover.

Finally, a special note on attributes. Should any attribute be reduced to zero rating, all attributes beneath that one are reduced to zero as well. This represents the dependency each attribute has on the other. Should the First or Second Attributes fail, the vessel is dead or in danger of dying.

Note that without the Third Attribute, the vessel is unconscious, but not in danger of death, it has lost it's ability to be consciously aware of anything however it's internal organs are still able to function.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Attributes

The First Attribute: Before the physical being, there is a will to be. There is the reaching from the spiritual to the physical and forming a bond. Connecting to the physical. This defines the connection with the divine, and the raw force of will to defy an attack against the soul or it's connection to the physical.

A high First Attribute will allow for greater defense against non-physical magic, psychic, and dominating social attacks. It will grant a greater connection to the spiritual world, and a stronger will to exert change upon the world through internal force.

A low First Attribute will cause one to be easily dominated, easily effected by mental exertion and have a tenuous connection from this world to the divine.

Improvement can be through spiritual enlightenment and development, self realization and cultivation of the soul. Degradation occurs through spiritual attack and neglect, through apathy and a reduction in self actualization.

The Second Attribute: Once the will for the self is present a vessel is required in the physical realm. The Second attribute represents the fitness and health of this vessel. It defines the ability to take damage, withstand fatigue and endure extreme environments. It is also the physical presentation of the self into the world.

A High Second Attribute will cause the vessel to have a high ability to withstand damage. It will improve general appearance and tolerance to environments outside the norm. The stability of the vessel will be greater as will the resistance to physical attacks.

A Low Second Attribute will cause the vessel to be fragile and susceptible to disease and possibly malformed. The vessel is vulnerable to physical attacks and hostile environments.

Improving the Second Attribute is achieved through rigorous fitness exercise regimens, healthy diet, good living conditions and careful personal grooming. It is reduced by poor exercise, poor nutrition, poor living conditions, repeat exposure to toxic substances and poor personal care.

The Third Attribute: After the vessel is made, it's first experiences must be taken in, to do this there is the Third Attribute. This attribute governs the collection of the information around the vessel. Sight, sound, touch, spatial awareness and the many senses are governed by the Third Attribute.

A high Third Attribute will allow the vessel to be in constant awareness of their surroundings. They will know exactly what is going on, and many details on the actions, objects, environments or vessels around them. They will be difficult to surprise, and they will more easily detect emotions and body language.

A low Third Attribute will cause the vessel to be mostly unaware of their surroundings. They will be easily surprised, and will often miss even obvious cues. Details will escape them frequently. Their ability to spot emotions and body language will be limited.

Increasing the Third Attribute can only be done by practice and dedicated exercises. These would focus on exploring the world around the vessel, interacting and scrutinizing environments, vessels and objects. Decreasing the third attribute can occur due to losing sensors such as eyes, tongues or nervous system damage. It can also occur due to the vessel being in a bland or otherwise inactive setting for a prolonged period of time.

The Fourth Attribute: After the vessel has become aware of it's environment it will be driven to interact with it. It's first interactions will be broad sweeping changes. The Fourth Attribute is the measure of these actions. Moving the vessel through running, jumping, climbing. Pushing, pulling, swinging and lifiting. Basic and key elements relying only on sensing and acting. These actions value power and accuracy.

A high Fourth Attribute will grant the ability to lift very heavy objects, run fast and jump far. It will allow speed and power. Vessels attacks will be more powerful and the vessel will be faster. It's ability to manifest it's will on the physical world will be great.

A low Fourth Attribute will limit the ability to lift objects and their speed. They will lack the speed and power other vessels maintain. Their ability to exert their will on the physical world will be limited.

Increasing the Fourth Attribute requires exercise regimens directed towards physical power. Regular lifting, running and manifesting will in a physical manner are key to these exercise regimens as is maintaining the Second Attribute. Decreasing the Fourth Attribute occurs as attrition due to lack of power related activities and for similar reasons as decreasing the Second Attribute.

The Fifth Attribute: After interacting with the environment the vessel will see the effect they have created. Noting that they created an effect, and through experimentation eventually recognizing the regular patterns is exercising the Fifth Attribute. The Fifth Attribute governs the ability to interpret cause and effect, to form hypothesis and predictions on what caused and effect or what effect an action may cause.

A high Fifth Attribute grants the ability to interpret the information the Third Attribute grants. The vessel will have a greater capacity to manipulate other vessels, to predict future events and to formulate plans. They also have a greater ability to sort through large amounts of information and to judge the worth of each piece.

A low Fifth Attribute limits the extent of the vessels awareness of what will happen in the future. They will likely have little idea of why they are where they are, or even what has caused an event that is currently occurring. They will also have little power to alter another vessel's intended actions and opinions.

Increasing the Fifth Attribute can be done by study, instruction and mental exercises. Interacting with the environment and scrutinizing the results carefully will aid in the expansion of the Fifth Attribute. Decreasing the Fifth Attribute can occur through nervous system damage and becoming out of touch with the current levels of technology or culture.

The Sixth Attribute: Now that the vessel has learned that it's sweeping changes can effect it's environment, and has the capacity to understand how to reproduce changes, it may desire to make more intricate actions occur. These actions would rely on predicting a preceding action synchronizing with other actions, or knowing that many many smaller actions may work together to create a greater whole action. This would be governed by the Sixth Attribute.

Those with a high Sixth Attribute are capable of greater physical reaction speed, better ability to manipulate complicated mechanisms and a greater ability to predict another vessel's reaction to your own physical action and act accordingly. Their understanding that fine changes can have dramatic results allows them to account for these changes extremely well.

Those with a low Sixth Attribute will find they are constantly slower at reacting, find complex mechanisms difficult to interact with, and find it difficult to act in a way to intercept an aware opponent. They are unlikely to know how to make the fine changes necessary to make the results they wish to have occur.

Increasing the Sixth Attribute requires practice and training. Both in the concepts necessary to understand before performing these actions, and the actions themselves. Decreasing the Sixth Attribute can occur through poor maintenance of the Second Attribute, as well as extreme lack of practice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Congratulations you won!

Alright, I finally got another bee in my bonnet. Therefore another rambling post emerges.

So I'm playing in a system that abstracts much of the game. It's a homebrew based on the white wolf system. It's been altered to fit his own needs so I am unaware of how it originally was 'supposed' to work. Regardless it's not about what's behind the facade to me, it's about the camera side of the set.

Regardless, my intent was to play a captain of a ship. Therefore I chose to spend 8 points of my 16ish background points buying a ship (5pts) and a crew (3pts.) Then, seeing myself as a son in a prominent merchant family, I gave myself resources 3 (3pts) to represent my wealthiness. (5 being the ceo of a successful international company in modern terms. and 3 being the max to buy at character creation.) (for the record all advantages like this range from 1-5pts 5 being amazing.) Other players spent these points on enchanted weapons, big guns, powerful spells, amped up defenses and magical pets.

Unfortunately, this plays out rather poorly in functionality. The flying ship so far has only managed to give us the advantage of not having to get over a town wall once. The pet another player has (for 5 or less points) has scouted out various locations, tracked down enemies inconspicuously, killed several minions and has a psychic bond with its owner. I have a flying boat that occasionally makes an appearance. Oh and that crew of 4 people? They are slightly better skilled than a janitor, demand pay before going into any kind of fight, and sap all the cash I get periodically from my resources. Meaning, I have absolutely ZERO spending money except what we get from adventures. The alchemist's dog never gives him shit when they get to payday... Never mind the fact I probably wouldn't be allowed to even USE the ship without the crew.

And here we arrive at the core problem that has arisen. Here I am purchasing an advantage for myself, and devoting half my character to making it work from creation, only leaving me with absolutely NO cash, little unrelated skills and a bunch of documents detailing things that will rarely come into play. All the early bookkeeping coming to naught. As a player this is frustrating. It is just like getting a letter in the mail saying I won a million dollars, so long as I just send them my credit card information and get drawn out of a list of 1000 other entries... I've bought this advantage, now I have to pay for it until the one day it may become useful.

That isn't so say that once anything is bought it should not have upkeep at all. However, it's utility should be equivalent to it's cost. In Dungeons and dragons, the greatest upkeep for a starting adventurer, is likely the sustenance of self, and perhaps a horse. At level one this maintenance can be restrictive. However, owning a horse should not bankrupt the player. Especially considering the degree of benefit granted. Currently one could look at my character as thusly, to get my 'horse' I sacrificed all my money aside from bonuses indefinitely, a couple weapon proficiencies and some movement speed. Reasonable cost for reasonable benefit is almost the essence of balancing in these games, and I basically payed an arm and a leg for a leg.

Would I be in charge of the game, I would make the assumption that by owning the background advantage, you also own the means to support it (ala Rogue Trader.) I'll keep playing this game with this setup, because regardless of my unrest, I'm going to make it work, or lose the ship and the crew while trying, and gain a net bonus of cash.

Friday, September 9, 2011

On the Subject of Subjectivity

I was going to go into an all caps rage on why 3rd edition skills are no worse than any other, but time cools my temper if not others. Especially after some thought. I've concluded this for now.

Subjectivity is one of the most useful and painful parts of role playing games. When a person in a undefined setting tells you that there is a clock, you gain an image of what that means to you. Perhaps you see a sun dial, perhaps a grandfather clock, or even perhaps a digital or building sized clock. Even within these definitions, should someone say it is a sun dial there are still variations, is it a great stone block in the ground that supports it? Is the sun dial stone itself? Is it one with just posts or an ornate bronze one with carefully embossed numbers? This is the nature of subjectivity within describing a concrete object. The fortunate thing for us is that all of the above clocks tell time, furthermore, should you decide to say it's a sun dial, we are now informed how it does it's job as well.

The real problem is that in role playing games we are constantly barraged with subjective responses to abstracts, imaginary constructs and even new laws of physics or logic. Magic cannot be seen in the real world, aside from movie magic versions implanted within us or magicians, it is practically an unknown. More effort is required to define it for the players in a 'tangible' and definite way. More effort is required to make it predictable. For instance, if I were to tell you a mage just caused fire to appear and harm you, in DnD there are a plethora of possibilities for this cause, also you all probably came up with a variety of forms for this to occur. Burning hands with it's fire erupting from fingers outstretched, Fireball with a small bead of energy erupting into a circular wave of destruction, or perhaps flaming arrows? Here in each instance we hearken back to the things we know. Is it pure happenstance the spells that persist throughout the editions are the ones that practically spell out their appearance in their name? I doubt it.

And what about new physics? What do you see in a bag of holding? How does it appear? Like a fish eye lens as light is forced to bend into a strange space? Or like a window into a room? How does it appear when the objects 'shift' to the top for easy acquisition? What does a sphere that annihilates everything look like? A black hole? Is there a swirl of air around it and a great sucking wind pulling towards it as the very air is pulled in? What is your reasoning that there isn't? Or that a ten foot pole held by characters is the only thing annihilated when they poke it, but when they touch it through gloves the entire person is? These subjective instances can result in conflicts. The conflicts can result in a feeling of inconsistency, dissatisfaction or even arguments that effect those who had no such conflict.

But the most problematic subjective thing in my opinion is the subjective nature of the abstracts. Believe it or not the numbers and statistics of the game are perhaps the worst of all. Let us bring to the fore the greatest offender, base statistics. This is a pain in the ass. Even within themselves there is a real problem with setting an agreed interpretation, but when extending into their derivative statistics things get worse. At first you have to name the buggers, strength, vitality, stamina, vigor, constitution, toughness... Many of these get used together in the same system! What makes toughness different than stamina? Furthermore, how does strength not effect constitution or depend on it? Imagine for a moment a person with an outstanding strength and miniscule constitution. How do they maintain said strength or even get it in the first place? There are stories of body builders with such strength they break their own bones! (And probably lose their strength after and are horribly deformed...) How could a sickly person have that strength? Intelligence and Wisdom? Where does one end and the other begin? They are all abstracts, subjective and all around messy.

But the game itself is centered around these subjective abstracts, and for all their mess, they are what make the game playable, both statistically and creatively. You can interpret those differences to make a genius who is absent minded (although memory is constantly put under intelligence yet somehow low wisdom causes this.) Or a glass cannon of melee, dishing out tons of melee or thrown damage, but unable to take a hit. You can set up skill challenges for someone strong or fast or smart or just plain tough. But, the naming isn't all that makes them subjective, establishing the effects and power level is highly subjective. What is average? What can an average person do? Who is average? If all the people in the fantasy world are above average compared to earth humans at something, is the average for their world or ours? Once we've established a baseline stat, how much variance is there between increments?

This comes up a lot. "This stat is above average! *I* can lift that, why can't my character?" or, "But you're at an 8 in intelligence! You would NEVER know that!" It's subjective, and conflicts will arise time and time again. But when extrapolated into the derived skills we come across an even more interesting and problematic situation.

Let us continue on with the idea of Dungeon and Dragon's idea of third edition skills in mind. John Doe has a baseline stat of 10 int. This is established as an average person's ability. Orc McGee has a 6, this is established as a mentally disabled level of intelligence, halving it would put him on par with animals. Both John Doe and Orc McGee are presented with the problem of building a crude stone wall. Orc McGee is given a few tools, and John Doe is given nothing. Following the system's logic of bonuses and penalties, Orc McGee gets a penalty of -2 for being dumb as the rocks he's using, and because John Doe is without tools, he gets the EXACT SAME penalty. But not being given some tools (which perhaps he could improvise for piling rocks strategically) he is reduced to the skill level of a mentally disabled person. Hell, if you give them both tools and throw some cold weather at John Doe it does the same thing.

This sounds like I would say this is a bad system. Arguably I would say it isn't by it's very nature, but due to subjective preconceptions we've established, we have concluded that it is. For instance, by looking into the system further we can get some more interesting information. Being a d20 system means that if one assumes that there is a chance for success with or without bonuses or penalties, being mentally disabled only reduces the chance of success by TEN PERCENT. Hell, assuming that we don't use common sense, the town cow has a 30% chance to have common knowledge about literature with their hefty penalty of -4. Thus subjective and abstract numbers can create conflicts. Things like this are where 'rules lawyers' start really moving and can really get into conflict with, or take advantage of 'role players'.

If skills sound bad, we can further extend the problem into the GM's territory. A GM who is too uncertain to take a stand can get into real trouble and put themselves right in the frying pan. If the monster has an intelligence of 6 would it really do that? Or even, what is the percentage chance that a mentally disabled person should have to build a rock wall? The rules book gives numbers, but often the rules book has an agenda and bends the rules to a subjective direction good for them and not necessarily you. For instance, following the earlier DnD reference, it shows a strong preference for specialization. The rogue is the trap master, but you better max out your spot and search or you're in trouble! Trap DCs can extend pretty high, many of the starting level traps having DCs of 20 and above! If you go into the game with an average wisdom and no skill in spot or search, you only have a 5% chance of preventing some serious hurt! Furthermore, if you want to learn a skill, you only can take skill points at half rate if your class isn't oriented towards that skill! You want to analyze a spell? Most classes cant even guess what that wizard is going to cast, even if they watched them cast it ten times in a row in the stock rules. If you put one rank into the skill and have an average intelligence, you only have a 30% chance of succeeding on even the most feeble and basic of spells. In fact, if you read into the core books to get their intent, the idea is that every character gets their moment to shine. This means that every other character is shit out of luck if they want to try. The agenda is specialization. Know your role and do it WAY better than everyone else. This can cause problems when the GM is not aware of this agenda.

Some games, such as Savage Worlds, offer the opportunity to succeed at skills while being the least optimal build possible for doing so! I could be the weakest most pathetic person on the field and have a chance to kill a giant monster in one blow! It's highly improbable, but it's there. The system's agenda is more about telling a story. You take your character, give them some vices and strengths and thrust them into a world with some generic abilities. The intent being that you will follow the path you want your story to go, and it will give you a chance to have your sickly tremor ridden character get the clinching shot and save the day. Because it makes a great story. The system is also ridden with exploits and inconsistencies that don't interfere with telling a great story, but might hurt a gritty realistic game.

Sure! Each system has it's strength! You probably knew that right? But each system's strengths are based on it's subjectivity as well as the actual system. Dungeons and Dragons could make all the skills MUCH more accessible for everyone with just a few changes. Hell in fourth edition they already have! They granted a bonus of half your level to all skills and have you just get a static bonus to all your skills you specialize in. You could easily plug that right into third edition and still play the game. You could also reduce the DCs for all skills, or automatically give successes for 'common knowledge'. A creative, thoughtful or at the least flexible GM could push the subjective bonuses, base skills, DCs and everything very far in any direction they want, making 18s in stats 'average' or setting all the DCs lower. It all depends on if you want to make the game harder or easier on your players.

If anything, the selection of the system you favor, should probably be the limits of bending the subjective portions of the game, rather than the stock game itself. Of coarse, by altering it too far from the base game, you begin to challenge the subjective views of your players, and therein lies more conflict. Perhaps that's part of the draw in me building my own system, and investigating new ones. A clean slate of preconceptions, any number of possibilities, seeing the visions and agendas of different game makers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pay to Succeed

So it struck me while catching up on some blog reading Here the concept of consistency in numbers. Currently every system I read requires a random roll be used in most situations. I understand the use of this, I understand why and where its coming from. But while reading the inspiration struck and thus I begin my stream of consciousness idea vomit.

What if it wasn't random. What if the player would know that as a brute he could bench press 300lbs every time as opposed to asking himself how much he was going to be able to bench press today... Or this encounter... Yes, perhaps there is some luck involved in things, but you either know it or you don't, you don't spontaneously gain knowledge. You can either lift it or you can't, waiting 5 minutes wont help. What if stepping into the arena, 17 strength always got you the same result every time.

Highly trained with his sword every basic attack dealt the same damage. There were no rolls. Every attack had the same degree of accuracy and would or would not hit against the opponent with the same degree of ability in dodging and absorbing hits.

The solution of coarse to this would be boring and pre-determined battles. Of coarse it doesn't end there. Now lets add currency. From here, the player then must invest to improve their abilities and overcome challenges they cannot overcome.

Throwing a shield up sacrifices durability to gain absorption. Taking a penalty to attack to spend more focus on defense grants a bonus to dodge. Spending fatigue energy grants a bonus to damage. Taking time to aim or set up an attack gives a bonus to attack. And finally, to bring the game back into the game, all these investments are gambles. When you add to your strength to put that extra oomph in for lifting, you get 1dX bonus to your strength for lifting. You don't get a static number because extra effort is uncertain, you DO get a benefit, that is sure, how much is not.

Some of this has been done before, for instance, 4th edition DnD implemented a passive perception to roll against to simplify sneaking up on someone. But this cuts out both ends. Imagine sneaking up on an opponent, you have a base sneak skill, you're trained, you know the penalties for sneaking through that terrain at that light level, you don't know they're skilled, but they're elves they get a bonus to listening. So since you're concerned, you put a little more time in, moving slowly to get an extra +1d6. Moving along slowly, ever so slowly, you roll, was it enough? You don't even need dice for many things. Pass or fail.

This reduces a lot of dice. Just add up the modifiers, and it reduces the questions of how a person could fail so horribly and be so skilled. And increase the threat of the incoming knight in plate mail...

But this works for combat and physical things, but what about social? How can this be implemented in that arena? What about social currency, favors and bribes? What about sacrificing reputation or time? The same could be said for crafting, and other long skill checks. It would require the system be built around it, or some severe balancing, but I think it could work.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Through some advice from someone on writing, I am now going to write about something I know and am feeling a bit passionate about right now. Something that's been on my mind and itching to get out. Diplomacy. For any of you unfamiliar with DnD 3.5, it's a skill the player gets and improves as they level. Specifically it improves the target's impression of the character. I've had some good and bad experience with this in the past, with one specific occurrence bothering the most.

Roughly put the following is my interpretation of diplomacy and how I've conflicted with others, or when I feel it's worked well.

Firstly and most importantly. I see diplomacy when used beyond just improving the reaction of the target to actually negotiate as simply operating to improve the reaction level of the target in regards to a specific request. Which means, it is limited by the same limitations of all reactions. The upper limit being, willing to risk harm to themselves to help the player. This is a very fine distinction and should be carefully noted. The willingness is AT MOST to RISK harm to themselves. This means they will not by default harm themselves. Also, this does not mean they will risk harm without at least using their brain first. If the player tells them to shoot their grandma, they will A: not do it as that would be harming themselves (an extension being things very important to them) and B: would likely ask why and or try to guide their friend to a different alternative.

Furthermore, this does not cover the area of over time interaction. Imagine for a moment a bucket. The amount of water in the bucket is how much the NPC is willing to do for the player. Diplomacy puts water in. However, prejudices, past experiences and reputation can cause another effect. For every negative prejudice, past experience and reputation the Player has for the NPC put sand in the bucket. For every positive take sand out. There's an upper limit to what Diplomacy can sanely do. Furthermore, some personalities and NPCs are just plain stubborn, and won't budge as much to diplomacy. Take experienced and diligent guards, Dwarves (the race not the other kind) and other difficult to impress beings. Those are basically like using a smaller pipe to bring the water to the bucket.

My major conflict I can't get off my mind with diplomacy is this. It was used to persuade a large group of people to begin burning their own city to the ground. If my best friend turned to me and said, "Burn this city to the ground." my first question would be why. My second thought and expressed being would likely be, "No, because I live here." Under my diplomacy interpretation, you cannot get an NPC to actively harm themselves without magic or some extreme situations. Such as implying something very much worse is going to happen if they don't. After this point, I was penalized alignment wise for killing 'innocent' people after ensuring they were not magically motivated. Alignment issues aside, the intent was to penalize me for drawing a conclusion that I found logical, people burning down a city I am to protect while not under magical compulsion are the enemy. Oh well.

However, there have been times that diplomacy has gone well for me. Currently I am in a campaign with a VERY diplomatic character. I think the GM is becoming a bit wary of it, but I think they should approach it from the same perspective. As long as I'm not requesting self harm, and am not tapping the bucket too much, there probably shouldn't be a problem. And so far, I've gotten about the expected responses for most NPCs.

Anyhow, this is really just more a look into my mind on Diplomacy and 'friendly' social skills. There's an upper limit. Anything more than that, well they have spells for that.

Monday, June 13, 2011

And So We Begin.

I think that's the line at the beginning of Fable... Anyhoo on topic.

The party has been released into the wild. With the exception of the cleric. He's still fiddling with his character, question asked, but some key answers not given about background and that he's done setting things up. He keeps wanting to change the world as it was given to him. (created for him actually) To hold up the charade and for reasons of balance and parity I'm turning him down on rebuilding the custom god. Well at least he's asking questions, some of the wrong ones after working for a few days to clarify his real intent, but he's asking them, the paladin was not so concerned.

The party and their contributions is thusly.

I have inserted a familiar opportunity in the future. It's an abstract loot thought should the environment be convenient. Also he named a town and it's environment over the mountain range that has sprung up for the opening scene. He's also invented a new kind of mushroom unintentionally.

Created a new god of knowledge, industry and goodness. Also a plot line to be followed involving a divine mandate.

I have inserted a type of armor in the future as loot, same as the familiar. So far he hasn't added much but himself.

Hasn't added anything. A very passive player who has posted twice as opposed to the others with at least 10 to 15 times. I've already NPCed them once to forwards the plot, I don't like doing this, but am only using it to do things that only THAT character can do when the party seems interested. I need to carefully phrase everything that comes out of his mouth during NPCing so it doesn't become the voice of GOD.

Has added about 20 gods to the human pantheon in insisting he wanted to see a 'list' of the gods and pick from it rather than let me choose one to his liking. I inserted the god I would create for him within the list. He chose it. Other than developing out the pantheon little additional creation. Especially since he isn't in the game world yet. Apparently being out for a week didn't mean he couldn't post so I should have worked to get him into the world. For the record, telling someone that you'll be out of town when it wont change your posting habits is unnecessary.

As a group
The temporary names I gave the players were VERY popular. I'm going to find some way to insert it into the plot.

Current History
-Each character was setting out for an adventure separately before this adventure started.
-They awoke in a fairy circle on the other side of a mountain from their original position, with no knowledge of the time between this and setting out.
-They have headed to a nearby town and have been informed of it's current situation with some room for hooks.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Preparation

The pieces are falling into place. The game is hosted, and already three players have joined in.

The first, apparently a power player. Looking to get every edge in, he settled on a fighter after going through a laundry list of disapprovals, from taking an ability that allows him to ignore one projectile every round to wielding two handed weapons in one hand. Tonight I'm going to have to block him by actually tallying how much all his gear costs and shaking my finger at him. I think I'll actually enjoy this one.

The second, sounds like a lady. There's an approach to their typing, the words they say and how they approach things that seems to come through. I may be wrong... Anyhow, she will be playing the dwarven paladin. We shall see how that goes. I have a feeling they will adhere to the provided rules without pushing the borders. I have a feeling they're more interested in their character and events.

The third character will probably be abandoning the game before two weeks is out. The elven rogue. Not too many words, some mispelled, quiet. I would expect after expanding on a thought as much as I did to get more than a 4 word reply. Either they are always very brief in the conversation, or they lack a zeal to get in there. We shall see how it goes.

Beyond this I've already received at least 3 more requests, however I'm feeling more picky. I feel like a dynamic of 3 is the minimum necessary to play, and some of the offers seem less than desirable. A Mary Sue possibly, a person with a pre-written story, someone with the already acquired roles in a party. I think I'll wait till everyone's created their character before I start. Maybe between now and then I'll get some good ones.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Wild Idea

I have a wild idea. Using RPOL an online gaming forum designed for roleplaying online, I'm going to create a game with no planning whatsoever. Only an opening scene and the desires of the players. I will make no maps ahead of time, no plot, no monster research and nothing but planning with the players and their desires. From there, I will craft the world as they push to explore it.

My hope is this will help me grow my creativity and ability to react to situations brought up by players. It also will help keep me from melting down just during the preparation. Finally, I will not be wasting anyones time in person.

Meanwhile, I will still be preparing for real people.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is it Terrible of Me?

The question is twofold. One, is the way I capitalized the title terrible? I really need to take the time to research exactly how the title should be capitalized for things like it and of.

Two, is it horrible of me to want to play a DnD game that is upcoming amongst some friends? This sounds innocent at first, but it has some things that make it more questionable. Firstly, the game will be some pre-fab adventures. Secondly, it's in a pre-fab setting (Dark Sun). Thirdly and most grievously it's fourth edition.

But, I'm still excited by the potential of the game. For a handful of reasons. One, it's with some roleplayers I played with previously and I know to be an awesome group. Two, it's going to be a foray into online transmitted game using skype, and a maptool. Three, I honestly am somewhat excited to play in the Dark Sun setting. It's the most distinct and interesting setting I've ever read in novels, and played on the compy and will be the first time ever on paper I've touched it.

It wont by any means be 'upping my game,' but I see it as an opportunity to hopefully have some fun playing with some friends while I work on other projects. And hopefully after I settle into my new position at work, I'll be able to post some real content here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


So I believe I made an excessively powered character in a a game on saturday. I am unsure where to proceed with the situation. In my usual fashion I come up with a character in a somewhat systematic fashion.

A: Get a concept or theme. This usually involves some idea I've been meaning to get to, or a burning desire to create a pirate or fire mage or three headed monkey.

B: Compile everything I might want to get. In more complicated creation methods (point buy and skill based and classless systems) this is a useful stage.

C: Narrow down to only the stuff along the theme.

D: Expand again if room remains.

Apparently this led to an almost bulletproof character. And mostly stab proof. Now this is a cinematic campaign, sort of a GI Joe thing, so I'm wondering if this is a bad thing, I'm also wondering if I should work with the GM about solving it. I'm considering consulting with him on the matter. Because, while I'm bulletproof theoretically, I also have other issues, with things like fire, and drowning, and am not too hot on climbing... Anyhow, I think I need to talk with the GM. But we'll see what comes out of it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Adventure Table!

It has been brought up recently on a blog I frequent that encounter tables are not enough. They are contrived and feel out of place. They lack the ability to give a believable and predictable experience. Therefore the question arises to me, aside from some other shenanigans that I feel sidetrack from my true interest, how to make it believable and predictable.

This makes me think that there should be adventure tables. For the lazy GM, or just to pick out of periodically. Shall we expand on the original article's content of a ship voyage? I think I shall in my usual stream of consciousness with minor editing methodology.

A: The party wants to go on a voyage! The adventure is chosen already. To take a sea trip.


TableA1 - Ships in Harbor
roll d20 + modifier for city wealth - bad season modifier

1-5 = no ships in harbor for a season roll next season
6-10 = 1 ship in harbor
10-15 = 1d4 ships in harbor
16-20 = 1d6 ships in harbor
20-25 = 2d4 ships in harbor
26-30 = 2d6 ships in harbor
30+ = 2d8 ships in harbor

TableA2a - Destinations!
roll d20 + modifier for destination city wealth for each ship
1-15 = Ship not going there
15-20 = Can charter entire ship paying full cost
21-25 = Can buy overpriced passage
26-30 = Can buy reasonable passage cost
31+ = Can get free passage

TableA2b - Capability
roll d20 - weather modifier for every ship considered
1 or lower = Incapable crew roll 1d6 encounters on trip
2-4 = Poor crew roll 1d4 encounters on trip
5-8 = Mediocre crew 1d4 -2 encounters on trip
9-15 = Decent crew 1d10 -8 encounters on trip
16-20 = Strong crew 1d20 - 18 encounters on trip
21+ = Excellent crew, no encounters

Table B - Encounters!
roll 1d20 for every encounter encountered, roll for number of encounters every month, if trip is less divide the result by the amount of time less and if the result is less than one there are no encounters.

1-8 = Nothing happens
9-12 = impending poor weather roll 1d20 for the next few days, weather gets worse on 10+ and better on 9 and below, after three worsenings ship is in danger, two the ship must travel slower
13-16 = Crew unrest. Roll 1d20 for the next few days, unrest gets worse on 10+ and better on 9 and below, modifier of -X with assistance of good food, or entertainment, a natural 20 results in a particularly nasty passenger/crew member, see Oh Shit a Problem Crewmember table. Three failures results in mutiny, robbery, marooning, infighting and so on, also see Oh Shit the Crew is Unhappy
17-20 = Sea monster. Roll 1d20 for the next few days, on a 10+ situation grows more dire, on 9 or below signs of monster fade. On three failures an attack occurs, on two you cannot escape, on one or before you can turn around to avoid it. For monster table, write your own damn table for your own damn system, I don't know what books you have.

Tables C all that other shit
TableC1 Oh Shit a Problem Crewmember!
roll 1d20 if you have one (a problem crewmember that is)
1 = assassin on board trying to kill the party, good luck writing that into your plot hope this isn't the first adventure
2-7 = passenger brings disease on board, and it's spreading!
8-13 = Wanted criminal on board, was disguised as (1-13 a woman, 14-19 a barrel, 20 a party member)
14-18 = A crewmember has started complaining excessively and nobody can get any rest, roll vs insanity or try and kill the bastard.
19-20 = Monster on board, probably a doppleganger or critters in the supplies.

TableC2 Oh Shit a The Crew is Unhappy!
1-5 = Crew and leadership divided, passengers caught in the middle, hope you haven't made too many friends with either. A fight ensues
6-10 = One crew member has stood out as being a troublemaker, most of the crew want him out, but some of his friends and him are tougher than normal sailors.
11-16 = The crew is actually stealing the ship to become pirates, party gets to figure out what to do here.
17-20 = They were just letting the party on to mug them, good luck.

There you go, enjoy your sea travels mateys! Ah nothing like an 11pm stream of consciousness tablespam.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Designer's Block

I'm at one of the many stages I get, where I'm hesitant to start poking my system towards a definitive and decisive direction. I'm forced to ask myself if I should continue, organically creating abilities and bonus' for each character by their roleplaying 'theme' in a form of evolutionary shotgun technique or if I should intelligently design based on establishing a system and statistical theme for each class.

A number of questions arise, such as the variations between damage. With the introduction of morale, health and energy as the most malleable statistics, and arguably the main or at least secondary targets of combat, it gives me many options. However, should casters be themed to only do morale, or physical? Should I carefully balance buffs, debuffs, damaging and healing abilities by class? Should I balance it so every class has at least one? Should I focus classes towards Area of Effect and single target?

I have ideas, but this is my stumbling block. I need to gather my energy to bull rush this one out of the way. But, I'm not there yet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

On the Vehicle Combat

The meat of the work for setting up my Savage Worlds campaign is going to be in the technology, and a majority of that will hopefully be space ships. And there are three areas I'm focusing on; content, activities and speed. I think each of these areas are very important for a successful combat system.

Content means to me that there is loot, there are settings, there are enemies and there are allies, and there are many different varieties. The player ship will be broken down into a hull and several systems. Depending on the hull class and subtype it will have differing numbers and potential qualities of systems. The NPCs will appear very different (easy fluff) and have a variance of hull type, role and faction bonus' (this partly plays into the speed category) When I'm done, hopefully I can create the ships with a series of dropdowns in an excel sheet rather quickly. There should be at least 6 hulls, 4 roles and 10 factions, for a reasonable 240 possible ships. There should also be a variance in the skill of the crew, however that will be a tad more complicated. As for settings, it's space, it's beautiful, full of nebulae and asteroid fields and unknown phenomena.

Activities is VERY important, especially for the style of space game I am pursuing. Each person in the ship will need to take on a role, and each role will need to be interesting. The main roles I'm considering in the ship right now are; Gunner, Science, Navigation and Engineering.

Gunners shoot things, they do it well and they do it with skill. This will be more than just the shoot skill, it will also require knowledge (gunnery) This skill refers to the ability to do advanced actions with weapons, route extra power, advanced aiming, utilizing the computer systems for more than stock optimizations, lock on with missiles/torpedos and so on. It's a fairly straightforwards role, in combat they will be busy, outside, they may assist with grapples and other likely unrelated skill checks.

Science is software. While the Engineer will be dealing with cables and patching holes, the science specialist's job will be both defending against and jamming enemy communications and scanning, they will also help with any other software tools, including hacking and stabilizing systems. This is a harder role for me to narrow down the purpose for in combat, but I think with enough development this is the right direction. Outside of combat (or rarely inside combat) they should also be responsible for watching the scanners (notice checks) and advanced scans for activities like salvaging and investigating anything other than visual analysis.

Navigation is moving the ship. This is another interesting one, while it seems like it would be a rather key role, in space it tends to be just open... well space. Most of the summary of combat would be, get closer to them, get further from them, stay at X range from them. Therefore I'm going to look into creating a system of maneuvers including evasive and offensive. Choosing an offensive maneuver against target A grants a bonus based on how well you do to attack A, choosing an evasive causes an bonus to defense. Other maneuvers if the players ever work with other ships, would be things like formations. Outside of combat, they will function making rolls during asteroid fields, knowing destinations and locations and performing FTL calculations.

Finally Engineering, the hardware of the ship. Engineers perform upgrades, repairs and manual stripping of other ships. They manage routing power and emergency repairs during combat. Emergency repairs could be reducing the effects on damage to systems and emergency hull patches to prevent breaches. Power routing sends power to various systems that either automatically get converted by the computer for certain uses, or used for other things based on the operator of the system. (Extend the range or power of guns, improve the signal of scanners, boost the maneuvering engines and so on...) Out of combat, they perform complete repairs, convert spare parts to ammo, repairs, or new systems, salvage hardware, or whatever else hardware might be required.

Now these four roles are separated only in concept, theoretically everyone could have a little of each, as to take on a role requires only two or three skills. This would work, especially if each player instead of taking a destroyer between the four of them, went with fighters. Of coarse this means their travel will be pretty restricted, and their average skill rather low, that and ideally a few supporting skills will aid every role. During creation for the first game, I'm going to ask all the characters to choose a role and explain them just to get things going in the right direction.

Finally, speed is a concern. I want the combats to not take FOREVER as I resolve four NPC ships and one player ship. In the beginning when the enemy will be fighters (one to two man craft) this should be easy, but later I'm considering treating them using averages for skill with the exception of boss ships. But as is, each player should be performing one or two actions, and referring to no more than three skills with a very consistent effect. Outside of combat, skills should be almost exactly like adventuring with a few modifiers based on equipment.

I am a bit concerned about balancing bonuses. Right now there is a high potential for granting bonuses to the gunners. Science, Engineering AND Navigation each able to grant a bonus. It makes me wonder if with all these bonuses if I should counterbalance the ability to miss and heavier weight armor to make hits less devastating. This area I think will work itself out with tweaking and playtesting. Right now I'm considering maximum power tolerances and possibly making bonuses only apply to different traits. (navigation removes penalties, science increases accuracy and engineering increases damage or something.)

So I have a few questions to anyone who may actually read this. Assuming you had any interest in a space campaign, do any roles interest you? Do you find the idea of customizing your own ship intriguing? Do you see any areas that could heavily slow down play?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Second Introductions

So I've been silent for a while. I have been debating what to post on. At one point I considered doing another musing on the definition of fetishize, but decided that A: It might not even be a real word and B: it wasn't too relevant. Then came the debate whether or not to introduce the other project I have been working on.

While I am frustrated at not finding a system that can do everything I want, I do enjoy playing other systems. They all have their purposes, each person created their system in frustration over what was not available. I currently have a short term project using the Savage Worlds system. Short term as in, when we finish our current campaign I am going to suggest I host one. Of coarse, I cannot leave the system unmolested. It's really not in my blood. I want to run a space campaign, with a focus on the entire party in one space ship, cooperating in combat and their epic travels through space to various exotic locales.

I am not satisfied with the vehicle combat system as I have been exposed, especially if all the party members are going to be in the same vehicle. Therefore, I am going to rewrite vehicle combat for space. I also have had a little bit of fun so far setting up a stage for the whole thing to take place in. Mostly human dominated, leaving room for one or two random races for a particular player who doesn't like playing humans (I'm giving like that, but he's going to have some serious disadvantages.) And a bunch of politics already planned out.

This has been consuming what inbred second cousin of attention and focus I have lately, and I think I'm going to post on it further until I have some greater advancement in my full system progress.

Monday, February 14, 2011

No Upper Limit

An interesting component of a game I’ve been playing in a system called Savage Worlds is exploding dice. The only DnD equivalent being the critical hit system. The basics of exploding dice is this, If I roll the maximum number on a die, then I get to roll it again and add the result together with the original roll, indefinitely.

This system brings an interesting mechanic into play, the idea of no upper limit. Strictly speaking we may be playing the game somewhat inappropriately as some of the veterans are rusty, but as we’re playing it a huge amount of diversity is added to the game. Potentially an unskilled person could seemingly succeed on an extremely difficult task, and not only that, do it very well.

Thus the title, No Upper Limit. Theoretically the player could roll an infinite number, and while the system does not necessarily have no upper limit to the degrees of success (defeating the target number by 4 in most cases being the limit) it allows a crippled, inexperienced person in extremely unkind environment manage to do something amazingly well.

Most systems place a limit, sometimes a high one, but still a limit to the reach of the player’s success. For instance 3rd edition and 4th edition DnD offer a d20 + X to a roll. 1-20 doesn’t matter for a skill check, so your upper limit is 20+X, some DMs offering explosions, but officially none. In combat, a critical officially has a single explosion limit. GURPS 3rd and 4th editions also offer only rolling 3d6 and comparing to a stat offering only success or failure. Apparently the World of Darkness d10 system recently officially added exploding dice as well allowing a “10 again” system.

An interesting note on both systems that use this explosion method and the systems that don’t. Relatively speaking from my mediocre experience with different systems, and with exception to the recent 4th edition DnD, the more complicated systems with less generalized abilities have upper limits. The systems that generalize things such as shooting skills and athletics don’t. Does this lead to more powerful generally able players? I think definitely, is this desirable? Perhaps not for my system, but I do think it allows for a great deal of tension, allowing everything to hinge on one player’s unskilled attempt at something VERY difficult. Our party was saved last night from imprisonment and torture due to unskilled attempts.

The blind warrior used an unskilled lockpicking attempt on his cell door while I distracted the guard with an unskilled taunt. This followed with an unskilled stealth check as the warrior approached the guard followed by my barely skilled attempt to help subdue the guard with my strangling them with shackles… And so on… Without weapons, companions, and my case even my spells, the night was a long series of unskilled checks we could all have a chance to succeed at, and in many cases did so. Of coarse, when our true power was unleashed, we finally became competent and powerful, the encounters cleverly scaling up. Maybe the GM was just realizing our characters were perhaps too powerful and throwing everything he could at us.

No upper limit, or perhaps, always a chance to succeed. Something to think about.