Friday, January 14, 2011


Perhaps a good thing to consider throughout the creation process is how can the players fail? And once they have failed, how should this effect the players?

In most systems, failing an attack roll does not kill you. Failing casting a spell does not normally kill you. It's the opportunity granted to the opponent by allowing them to continue acting for a turn that brings you closer to death. However an unbalanced system from my experience is a social system.

Unbalanced? How so? My players gather information, persuade folks to buy their stuff and lie to get out of trouble. The see through my every attempt to lie to them, use their superior status to intimidate them and gather minions. However, it isn't about what the players do, it's about what the NPCs do. When a player bluffs, the NPCs get their normal defense initiated by the PCs offense. Occasionally or all the time depending on the DM the NPCs lie and the players must actively see through the lies with statements like, "I check to see if he's lying."

Compared to combat it is a completely different game. More like a shooting gallery than a battleground. Failure results in not getting information, then the game is over. Odds are there are no losses during a social check. Of coarse, now it should be the opponents turn to strike. Suddenly the PCs are subject to a diplomacy check for once. What will they say when they're told that while they were trying to sell their loot for more, not only did they fail but they've just been persuaded to buy a 'magic carpet.' Forays into the market just got a bit more interesting eh? Risking their gold while engaging in haggling is one option.

What about the PC getting cornered while wandering around using gather information in the big city? Now they're being intimidated into giving up their valuables. What happens when the intimidation check succeeds? How would the PC react to being forced to give up their precious family heirloom sword?

In my personal system, this would be unlikely due to the nature of the PCs being Heros/Leaders. Getting cornered and being alone when you can theoretically take on 4 normal people handily makes it unlikely to become intimidated. Your persuasive skills on the average merchant would be more than likely better. And being alone is unlikely when by level 20 you probably have an entourage of at least 4 people.

In this case it would become a social battle, primarily based on morale you would take your social maneuvers and hopefully come out ahead. The great question is, in physical combat you die. In social combat what happens? You become irrevocably traumatized? Perhaps it would be dependent on the ability?

If disintegrate kills you you are irrevocably gone. If a fireball kills you you may be a pile of ashes and bones. If you are crushed, absorbed, impaled, sliced, chopped, exploded or dissolved aesthetically it is different, and in most cases functionally the same. You cease to retain control of the character, the character ceases to function and your part of the story ends. Any plot lines exclusive or focusing on them are likely over and questions will go unanswered, quests unfulfilled, rewards left unclaimed.

An examination on social combat would suggest that having aesthetic differences and rare functional differences would be the way to go. Aesthetically they are seduced, break down and cower in fear, become completely agreeable or just plain become a jibbering mess. Functionally, the character loses control of their character until morale improves. They genrally become agreeable to the opponents suggestions, are willing to give up anything of theirs and can lose most things if not everything. Without friends to save them, they are irrevocably lost.

This may seem harsh, but so is dying. When a player becomes close to death they have an option to retreat. When their morale gets low, they will likely move to retreat from social combat as well. Surrender is also an option, and the most likely. If imprisoned they are alive and not dead with health lost, and if they retreat from social combat then they lose only what the opponent wanted, not everything at once.

Of coarse here we have dealt with social and physical combat and checks, but there are other checks, unopposed checks. Traps make checks against players, and players can make checks against traps. What about other challenges? Could working a forge with exotic materials be worthy of having the required heat fight the player physically? Could the sheer challenge of the necessary attention to detail fight them mentally? What is the failure for industry? For travel? For knowledge?

Believe it or not many of these have built in failures. Industry usually risks loss of wealth. Travel could result in falling from a cliff, increased encounter frequency, and any number of hazards. Knowledge however is more unique, should there be a price for failure? To simply say one does not know could be easy, but what about remembering false knowledge? Should this be a critical failure? Or should I add gradients to success and failure, in a similar fashion to Savage World's raise system?

I was hoping to do things a little more statistic oriented and cover some of the things I learned from putting my work together in an organized fashion. Obviously this post is not it. Work continues to side track me. Therefore it is likely that at some point there will be more to come..

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Data Management

One of my biggest issues when trying to create large systems and campaigns is data management. I have reached the point where I have to start consolidating data into one convenient storage location or begin losing it. My first attempt should work allow me the time to get around to it, will be with Excel. However, I have a feeling I am going to be sorely disappointed. I've tried a few methods before...

Binders with folders and dividers. Usually these get hopelessly disorganized after a short time when I need spare paper, forget what a pocket was for or have to classify what goes where. They suffer the same editing and copying problems I have with sheets of paper and notebooks, but have the benefit of quick flipping through documents. I can even widthdraw sheets and replace them for faster management.

Paper on the wall. A gimmicky approach, but scratched on writing on the wall was attempted. This helped me stay conscious of my project almost all the time and had the benefit of rearranging and replacing documents. (I had previously used a rather large corkboard to some success with map filling in so thought this might have merit) However it had severely limited room and the setup time was bothersome.

Text Documents on the compy. This was horrid. While copying and editing was simple, opening new documents, sorting through them, flipping through windows and scanning through documents all made it difficult for me to find things quickly. I also missed being able to put things in odd places on the document... notations and graphs and sketches being difficult.

I see some of those problems coming with Excel, but I'm hoping that my ability to ingrain formula into cells as a kind of sub-dimension will allow me to make the system easier to reference quickly.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Purpose of the Blog

Recently I have considered what agenda I am pushing, and why I am creating this blog. Why am I even posting these thoughts to the supposed general public? As of the moment this is a small audience, but this is for myself as well as anyone who stumbles across this.

The agenda is quite simple. My agenda, my purpose and goal is to say there is a hole in the myriad of systems for a specialized system built to fill the gap, and that it needs to be filled, and that this system will fill that hole. That hole being a system with both roleplaying and solo character statistics and a mechanic of growth to a wargame scale including management of resources. A system that allows the players to develop a hero to a warlord to an emperor and maybe a god while allowing for the desire to wander off with a party or send an army in your stead.

This is all well and good. But why make a blog? Why not just post it in HTML 'stone' somewhere for someone to read, nod, and wait for the next bit of information to come along. For the next bit of god's word to come spouting out. Because I am not perfect. Because I am not god and my system will be flawed, in some ways perhaps fatally. I post this information, these supposed rules and systems and theories and themes in the hope that someone will see and point out supposed flaws. These flaws will only be seen outside the creator, either through playtesting or criticism. If I look and don't believe there is a flaw I will indeed defend my position stating possible reasons for it's strength or covering feature or flaw, and if there is a flaw, perhaps it will save or scrap the entire system. Saving me time, effort and electrons.

This means, when you look at this blog, and see something you think will never work. Some flaw that will require effort and time to fix, thought and creativity, please mention it. Even if you are going to continue on with your life never to read the blog again. Your helpful criticism is appreciated.