Thursday, December 27, 2012

Good Fortune

Now that I am finally on a rather large break from work, (My workplace has a VERY long winter break due to standard release schedules) I have an opportunity to sit back, relax and let everything fall into perspective a bit.  Being so close to work all the time, the frustration at certain higher ups and how the bigger picture seems to be lacking me (at least for the last four weeks) and all that.

It helps that I have a piece of technology added to my toy box that I thought I would never own.  Through a fortuitous turn of events an iPad has managed to fall into my lap.  This immediately got me to thinking about all the wonderous and amazing things I could do with an iPad.  First I started considering it's potential for 'pen and paper' gaming.  Then I got distracted by all the iPad games I thought I'd never get to play.  Now I am returning to the potential of mobile pen and paper gaming.

As of now I have installed Skype to the device for my online game, but until I get a dice roller app I am happy with and build a decent character sheet in any kind of app, I don't think it beats my PC yet.  I am however looking forwards to using it to have video as well as be able to talk as loud as I want in the other room while my girlfriend sleeps in the bedroom.  Furthermore the ability to talk to anyone with Skype will be super fun.
I installed an app called Numbers made by apple themselves (I figure if Microsoft makes one of the leading spreadsheet apps for PCs then hopefully Apple can make a good one for Macs, or in this case an iPad.)  This looks like it has a lot of potential for use as a decent character sheet system.  Easily duplicatable sheets, very customizable charts and graphs.  It probably sucks for professional work, but for what I'm doing I think it's going to be perfect.  Never again will I need to have a million pieces of scrap paper everywhere!  I hope..

As far as dice rollers go, I've scouted out the basic free rollers and am a bit disappointed.  I should really get off my ass and see what it would take to make my own.  Just to be sure the programming isn't biased ;).  From the ones I saw, there was one that biased the numbers, and another that didn't have quick rolls.

Eventually I would like to get a drawing app on the device.  Draw character pictures, maps, sketch out plans and such.  This is kind of a stretch goal, not necessary by any means, and I've only done extremely light research into it.  Hopefully I'll find something. 

I was talking to a co-worker at work about gaming on the iPad, and he and I both agree there should be an Ultimate <System> Companion.  Just think, a whole suite with map generators, character sheets, inventory and magic items, dice rollers...  Someone could EASILY sell it for 15$ a pop.  I just hope someone goes in and does it.  I would buy one for each system I actually use if they make it thorough enough.

Anyhow, I'm feeling a bit better than last post.  Here's wishing everyone health, happiness and Good Fortune.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An Update

It is probably a terrible idea for me to post after midnight.  A long time ago I determined that was a bad idea, therefore I'll try not to revert to my young adult ways of painful whining and cheap emotion.  I've considered a new blog for such things, but don't know if it would be worth the pixels it would be displayed on for me or anyone else and I'd definitely not post it here.  I feel this blog should at least pretend to be more... Professional?

The space game has ended.  I've concluded the overall experience was at best a marginal success.  At worst a grand failure.  I am not entirely sure what the failing was specifically.  However, I would be willing to easily submit that it was a combination of things including; the medium (Skype/Maptools), the players, and of coarse myself.

Towards the end, I wasn't into it.  The players would not consistently show up, therefore the main plot could not continue.  Furthermore, I guess I had no player trust.   This I believe was a result of the players previous experience and perhaps the situation I had established.  At every turn they were just waiting for me to steal their ship.  Or short them some stat, or balance the game out of their favor (god forbid I create a challenge.)  Also one player didn't seem to be 'into' the science role.  They assumed it was a doctor, and not that they would man any real station.  Finally, the whole thing was just to test the space combat, and the thing the players were determined to do?  Avoid space combat.  I did however get the opportunity to tweak the chase rules (AKA marginal success).

The players would not retain attention or attendance.  Even during character creation and past campaigns even the best players would be browsing the internet, drawing, or at the worst, playing a video game!  There were mixed expectations, conflicts of vision and so on...  Some expected, but perhaps a tad heavier than overall expected.

Finally the medium...  Nothing matches live.  Not really.  Nothing ever will.  There's a certain accountability, lack of anonymity and... ceremony involved in the process.  It feels like a good half goes out the window digitally.  Not just GM respect, inter-player as well.  For instance, the previously mentioned attentiveness.  Grabbing and altering another players materials, pushing other players around... tracking resources.

Anyhow, to avoid the content mentioned in the first paragraph I'm stopping here.  Perhaps someday this game will make it to the live table and more things can be noted, grown, developed.  Now I just need to rebuild the steam to push onwards for other projects.

Oh, by the way, I joined a Pathfinder game at work.  It's pretty cool, they have all their content online for free, so I didn't need to buy a book.  The GM is... interesting.  It's a bit slow right now as we basically have two newbies.  The rules are just far enough from 3.5 I find myself assuming too much.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Space Game

It's been a long time since I've GMed a game.  But recently I have officially gotten into it again.  I've modified Savage Worlds vehicle combat to make a space game.  I'm three sessions in, but haven't tested the space combat, as the players are not familiar with Savage Worlds yet, therefore, I am trying to introduce them to the various systems session by session.

The first session was character creation, I introduced the world, the expectations, the disclaimers that things may change due to the experimental nature of the game, and the coming up with rules for things they want their characters to do, but don't have specific or particularly accurate rules for.  Mainly this was an OCD engineer and a few other hindrances.  Mainly as basic versions may not be hindering enough or perhaps even too hindering.

The second session was to introduce skill checks and to get the players their ship.  This used a series of skill checks to scan some information, gather some hard to find supplies, gamble with the rabble on board, and then get into the ship.  The ship itself was mainly random, they got some bonus rolls for some earlier skill checks, and had a chance to get less rolls if they did poorly on said skill checks.  In the end, the party was, believe it or not, vocally disappointed the ship wasn't more of a wreck.  I don't know if this is the case because I listed off a few bonuses they were getting, or if it was because they don't understand how many awesome things there are out there.  Finishing up, they chose their destination, then headed off to the next station.  After this there were complaints about no combat or 'great escape' with the ship.  But I wanted to put off ship combat to it's own period of time.

The third session was introducing some person to person combat.  I tried hard to keep the party from splitting, but even as I was going I saw it happening.  I really didn't want it to happen, but so be it.  There was a lot of social exchanges rather than fighting at first, but then at the end as things were wrapping up, the players actions caught up with them and there was a shootout.  It was the most fail shootout ever, the players just couldn't roll for shit.  On the bright side, neither could the opponents.  I think I also tuned the enemies defenses a bit too high, so I'm going to drop that down a hair next time.  This was person to person, which isn't homebrew at all, but it's just inexperience with GMing the system I think.

The fourth session is coming up, I have plans, but right now things are still in the works.  Waiting on next Friday hopefully when things come together.

Outside the game I spend most of my time figuring out how best to display the space combat, and efficiently convey all the data from it.  I'm hoping things go well when the time comes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meaningful Dialogue

This is a post I've been meaning to get to for a while now. I'd been holding off for a bit as I was hoping to finish a bit of conversation with JB. It's been a while, and the weekend has come, so I don't know if they're just done with the conversation, writing a really long reply or haven't had time to get to their computer.

I'm going to use how the conversation ended as an example, not because they don't have valid opinions, not because they are necessarily wrong, and not because I feel they wrote poorly. But because I think it illustrates what I've been getting warmed up to write.

I used the term 'bashing' in my last post. Unproductive criticism could be another term for it. Unproductive criticism not the end of the world, it illustrates a general feeling towards something, makes a general statement or summary of someone's experience. However, it wont ever improve anything. But, this is not a post on just poor negative feedback. Useless or generally unfocused positive feedback is a possibility as well. These are commonly considered being a fan boy, or masturbatory or any other number of terms.

The question is, what is the difference between productive and unproductive feedback. Or in the terms of this post, what is the difference between meaningful dialogue and meaningless dialogue? Support, and not just experience generally, experience with the topic at hand.

"They are completely ass-backwards in their approach to "role playing:" chasing after players with video game sensibilities (because, face it, you can't "out video game a video game" with a pen-and-paper RPG), instead of emphasizing the things that a RPG can do better than ANY video game."

This could be broken down to have some real support. Perhaps JB could have said that the abilities that replenish after a short or long rest are very similar to a video game's system of cooldowns. Perhaps this is a bad thing, because video games are much better at tracking which abilities are used, and which aren't, while this is unwieldy management for players. Perhaps they could have said the approach to having minions that die in one hit and enemies designed around their strategy rather than class is too meta. Or even that the classes having roles suggested within their description is far to meta, and draws away from their use as a background rather than a method for achieving their goals. Finally, one could bring up the compound effects of many of the abilities as well as some abilities being unlimited and others not reduces the 'immersion.'

With the surprising amount of text that JB put down, there was a surprising lack of some basic elements. These could be acquired through observing a game, reading a borrowed book, or even god forbid, playing a game with someone else's book. No need to support the game when I'm sure you may know someone who has, or have a local library that stocks the content. The dice are the same, character sheets can be on lined paper and so on.

Why is this important? Why should you care? Do you like your games? Your paintings? Your movies? A meaningful dialogue is the most important step towards improvement. Without thinking carefully about what you complain about, without searching for the core of the problem, you may miss out on what the real problem is. Identifying the problem, is extremely important, because then the people making the critiqued piece and everyone else can solve or avoid the problem.

Products and people evolve. Products with a long turnaround time, like say... Role Playing Games or Video Games only get one opportunity ever what, five years to evolve? With enough real and meaningful dialogue, they can evolve in a positive direction. (Assuming they're paying attention.) And even if they're not, there are many independents, modders, writers, homebrews and other folks, who might not be able to figure out why they don't like the product, and may contribute or even learn from meaningful dialogue.

There's also the negative effect, what about other connotations or misinterpretations?

"They are completely ass-backwards in their approach to "role playing:" chasing after players with video game sensibilities (because, face it, you can't "out video game a video game" with a pen-and-paper RPG), instead of emphasizing the things that a RPG can do better than ANY video game."

They don't have enough social emphasis, we should have more rules for social interactions, that will pull the game away from video gamey! They departed from the 9 different alignments, to a linear 5 alignment system (much like say, fallout3), we should have 9 alignments, it was that that screwed it up! Video games use abilities with cooldowns and uses that recharge, let's get rid of those, lets make wizards cast all their spells as much as they want. Maybe we should give players bonuses for sharing drinks with the people next to them, or shaking hands, or dressing up. Video games can't do that!

Some of this may seem extreme, but is it really? All that section (the only one talking about the product itself says) is that pen and paper games should try very hard not to be video games, because JB doesn't like it. A fine statement abstracted out, but it has nothing to do with Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition, or any other edition, or any other game as it has never been grounded with examples anywhere in JBs text. I don't know JB, I don't know JB's experience other than the stated "never played a game of DnD 4th ever." So as someone who is a fan of meaningful dialogue, I need JB to prove to me that I should listen to him, and that his feelings are grounded in logic.

This is all very... Righteous. A bit hypocritically sounding so. In fact, it's an ideal, I'm not above occasionally raging. But I'll tell you what, once I realize what I do, I am shy about it. I'm regretful, and I do some research. I'll even tell you my latest rage I caught myself in. Origin, not the game company, the EA system for selling video games. I raged for a long time about the percieved blatant money grab. I bemoaned their creating of an overblown cash registrar. Then not too long ago I got into a conversation with a very smart fellow. He told me about the good things they've done. They've actually apparently put a bit of effort into making their service not suck. So much so, it sucks less than some services I've already used. So I talked to some other folks, and now I don't feel so down on it. Sometime, I may actually buy something on it.

For the record, I do feel Roleplaying is a bit hindered in fourth edition for some of the reasons I included in the first section of reasons and examples. I feel it has borrowed from video games, and I feel like it was an interesting experiment with results I haven't seen in another PnP RPG yet. It seems to me like one of the many possible results of evolution, keep in mind evolution is a process of mutation, not always good.

As usual, I'm always open to feedback. Let's get some Meaningful Dialogue going.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hopelessly Optimistic

Maybe I'm just hopelessly optimistic, but I for one am of the belief that almost every system, and at least every major system was designed with the intent to be good. As I've said before, maybe not good at everything, maybe not good at fulfilling your specific needs, but they are good, for someone. I honestly can't imagine a developer/writer/designer saying, "We're just going to spend the next year of our life putting enough words in a book more people will buy it, but not put the effort in making it good at something."

I can see publishers having a budget, a deadline and a lack of understanding the product. I can also see them rushing the deadline, pushing for small staff and asking for irrelevant deliverables. But I can also see the limited staff putting in effort to make the best thing they can in the provided budget, time and staff.

Just a short post on the topic. I just feel like it seems everyone bashes on the people who designed the products. Sometimes it is their fault, maybe they got to close to the work and didn't see the big picture, but sometimes it might be that they couldn't get the money to playtest, or get the necessary tools because the people who wanted the money, cut the funding or deadline to make more.

I don't have evidence against or for the point above. I wouldn't mind if any real evidence was directed my way otherwise. As usual, everything I write is up for conversation.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Space Combat System

So basically the last post didn't get it's intended result. While I did end up getting some work done, I actually ended up finally drawing out most of my combat system for a savage worlds space game. Mainly I didn't feel too great about the system they had implemented, so I drew up a different one. I feel like this one grants a lot more dynamic and interesting system for four plus players in one ship.

Roughly put, each system and facing on a ship has a different damage record. For simplicities sake I'm restricting the facings to fore, aft and starboard. If this seems too few, I'll switch things around and add a top and bottom. Also there is the core and system which can be targeted by another ship.

Attacking a ship is simply a matter of determining which side is facing you, then targeting a side or system based on that. Targeting a side facing you has no penalty, targeting a side at 90 degrees grants a -2, targeting a system is -4 and targeting the core is -8. Targeting the core is targeting the weak innards, while targeting the side is not caring if you hit the armor plating which will absorb a degree of damage based on the classification of ship and type of armor. Once the armor is gone, targeting the core is the same as targeting the side the armor was on. Damage can blow through the armor and into the core if the hit is strong enough to do more damage than the armor has health.

Systems follow a different set of health, each system is in one of five states, finely tuned, normal, damaged, disabled, destroyed. Finely tuned when damaged goes straight to damaged however, and does not grant in effect extra HP, it instead grants protection against malfunction and bonuses to managing its features, such as alternate ammo, granting extra power and whatnot.

The core is the squishy bit. Once you start taking damage there, you better hope you are wearing an environment suit. Each time the core takes damage it causes one of three effects, fire, vacuum and system damage.

Fire results in a chance of more damage, crew damage and general inability to repair in that area till fire is out. Putting out fire requires a repair roll, there are also automated systems which if powered will put out fire automatically.

Vacuum sucks people out into space. If you aren't in a vacuum suit, then you're dead, or a robot, but most likely dead. Repairs here require getting out of the ship and patching the hole. Nothing can be repaired in that section till the vacuum is sealed. On the bright side however, there is no ongoing damage. There are automated systems just like for fire, which if powered will automatically seal such breached parts of the ship.

System Damage means stuff starts breaking. If you're lucky it's only things like engines, guns or special computers. If you're unlucky that includes life support, power grid and generators. If life support or generators go out, you may as well have had a full ship breach into the vacuum, cause it's going to be a long suffocating death.

I've also established baselines for average ship capabilities. This means that if I want to have five destroyers come in and do something, I can either slightly modify the destroyer's capabilities or just leave them stock as I wish, and still be within a consistent ballpark.

Finally, I feel like I've come up with the ability to make all the necessary skills per role narrow down to two skills. This I feel is important because I don't want to force the players to invest extremely heavily into large amounts of skills, then find themselves screwed for the ability to do things on the ground, or during events inside the ship. Even better, most of the skills could be used on the ground as well.

Pilots have pilot and knowledge (Navigation). Pilot is used for chasing, and performing attack and evasive maneuvers. It helps the pilot set course and facing in combat. Knowledge navigation is used for managing extra power granted by the engineer and setting long courses, such as plotting jumps, getting used to new navigation systems, analyzing problems with navigation systems or knowing destinations.

Engineers use repair and knowledge (Engineering). Repair is used for repairing, enhancing systems and bolstering systems. Knowledge engineering is for diagnosing problems, identifying parts, systems or ships and for managing power.

Gunners use shooting and knowledge (weapon systems). Shooting lets you shoot accurately. Knowledge weapon systems lets you use special targeting, manage power and manage ammo types.

Science uses Notice and Knowledge (Astrophysics). Notice is used for scanning and identifying basic information using scanners, they are the eyes for this ship as space is big and ships are small. Knowledge astrophysics is just a name, it mainly applies to performing electronic warfare, allocating sensor power and marking targets.

There is no captain role. This means that any one of the four roles can act as captain. Really it might as well be just taking some social skills to be captain. When there are four people in a ship, you can't really waste hands on sitting there looking pretty.

Since there are four different roles, this means a few things. Firstly, odds are only gunners will be attacking, I tried to offset this disadvantage by allowing the science, engineering and pilot abilites that can either boost or penalize the shooting ability and defenses of the ship, and perhaps even boost or penalize the enemy ship. I'm very interested in how this plays out, and whether or not this will keep the players interested. One positive benefit I see is that if each player does only one thing, rounds may go faster as each player does not need to worry about positioning, attack and other abilities and modifiers, just one particular role.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ability, Maneuver and Skill Deconstruction

I last left off talking about working on abilities. And really, this is quite a sticking point for me. I for some reason shut down when I get to them. So, tonight I feel inspired to sit down for a short deconstruction of abilities.


I guess the first step is to analyze what an ability is when compared to other player capabilities. In my previous considerations, it seems to me there are actually three kinds of capabilities. I'll refer to them based on combat terminology, but there are variants that extend outside that as well. I'll call them Maneuvers, Skills and Abilities.

Maneuvers are things every character can do, and for the most part, with the same level of capability. Bob can walk a unit of movement, he can speak a few words, he can bleed, eat and draw a weapon. These generally speaking would be maneuvers. Their distinction and definition isn't to significant without the other two being defined however.

Skills are actions any character can do, but with training and specialization certain characters will do it better than others. These might be jumping, swinging a sword, performing a speech or making a hammer. It's very important to recognize that for the most part these actions ANYONE can do. A wizard can pick up a sword and wave it around, with luck he will hit someone. The village idiot can wrack his mind for the closest water source, and has a chance to locate it. A warrior and a survivalist might do better than those first examples, but the first examples have a chance to succeed.

Abilities are different from the prior two in that not anyone can do them. A wizard may cast a spell, but a warrior cannot. A shadowdancer may hide in plain sight, but a regular thief may not. These are abilities.

With these examples, there are some grey areas that arise, and mostly with the medium being the deciding factor. My favorite example is aiming.

In a MMORPG, more likely than not aim will be an ability. You do not specifically call out that you are aiming unless you are the type of character that does that. You may not see NPCs doing it, you may require a specific class or gear item (when you have limited slots) and so on.

In a FPS video game, likely it is a skill, those taking recoil and sway reducers being better, those with scopes being even better.

However, commonly in pen and paper RPGs, specific mentions of aiming are listed as maneuvers. I think likely this has to do with another important factor, cost.


Player actions generally have some form of cost. All actions do. What is very important is considering what those costs are. This is something you'll see is a common theme throughout sports, video games, board games and pen and paper games. Some of the costs I consider prevalent are the following; specialization, actions, time, energy and wealth.

Specialization is probably the most obscure. Specialization deals with class choice, advancement allocation and ability choice.

Class choice is generally the most defining cost. The value of this choice, is completely determined by the creator of the game. You can find games with little or no cost upon choice (usually single player games with full respec processes) or some that can completely close you off from any other actions. This cost is mainly determined by the amount of abilities to skills to maneuvers.

At first one may say that MMOs might be the best examples of a high cost choice, but if you look at the underlying systems you may discover that each class has similar abilities with similar cost to result ratios.

Advancement allocation generally is a less costly choice to make. Generally speaking advancement allocation is small increases that can be chosen later if you prioritize something else. They make the character slightly more accurate, increase their speed or durability slightly or even upgrade particular abilities a little. Many games even offer the ability to undo some of these choices and switch paths.

Ability choice is a less often offered option. Many times this is covered with class and specialization choice. However, some games offer this as an option. For instance spellcasters in some games must choose an ability and keep it for the rest of the game, never to be undone. These are choices over a specific ability and not an increase like advancement allocation and class choice.

Specialization costs are generally opportunity costs to be viewed at a 'party scale'. Not all games operate at a party level, but if you receive NPC assistance later (or right away) and are not set on one choice ahead of time, it is generally considered best to set these choices based on your companions for optimum efficiency. If a party has someone who will distract the enemy, you can lean further away from defense and optimize things like healing or damage. If everyone focuses on distracting, nothing may ever get done. If nobody knows how to pick a lock, the group may never get past the door and so on. Pen and paper RPGs have a strength here in that they can be GMed by a dynamic entity that can adapt to the players, meaning should the players be lacking in an area, they can present less challenge there, or artificially augment the players ability in that field.

Actions are another cost involved in abilities, maneuvers and skills. Actions are commonly used to offset the power of a desired effect. I have distinguished this from time for a very important reason. Actions can be simultaneous, they can exist away from chronological time, and can take place within a single turn. Actions limit other initiations of abilities, maneuvers and skills within the period the character is given to create more effects. This ability or that ability, but not both. Actions are a cost that occur before or simultaneous with an ability, maneuver or skill.

Different types of action currency can be used. In recent DnD this is literally actions, standard, move, minor and free. A greater action can be sacrificed for a lesser, but a lesser or series of lessers generally can not be substituted for a greater. The player must choose whether they shall move twice, move and attack or just attack multiple times. In White Wolf systems these are ticks. In board games and card games these may be plays, rolls, purchases, bids and what have you. The important thing is, that a choice must be made whether to use one or the other but not both (or two but not the third and so on.)

Time is a cost that extends after actions. Commonly this is used as a way to offer a choice between lesser gains now and greater gains later. These are generally buffs, debuffs and effects that occur over time.

An ability that consumes an action, but offers no immediate benefit, only granting their benefits on later actions or even other actors turns is an action with a time cost.

For instance, a bless spell does no damage, it will never kill an opponent or increase ones own health, however it will make ones companions and ones self more capable of harming an opponent later. In many cases a +1 bonus granting a 5% boost in efficiency to the receiving targets. If there are twenty characters with equal damage capacity gaining this benefit for one action including the caster then the benefit has tied. However, if this effect is drawn out over 40 actions (about twenty turns) it need only be applied to one person to gain full effect.

One of the important drawbacks to consider for the time cost however is premature conclusion. Should an encounter conclude 5 turns in and the effect was applied for a 5% benefit to two people of equivalent capability, the turn was wasted. It was only a net benefit of 50% that could have been spent creating greater short term effect. That is the essence of time cost, and one of the reasons why a time cost ability usually has greater total effect than an ability with no time cost (all other costs equal.) Also these particular costs do not restrict later actions, they should not require concentration or other sacrifice of actions.

Energy costs are costs that should the player's character only rest, and neither succeed, nor fail, nor instigate effect in the world, will be recovered. In many games this would be mana, spell uses, health, ability uses and in some cases cash. It is very important to remember, that energy costs are temporary costs, they WILL be returned and the player can and should expect that such should happen. Should the player fail a quest, these will be returned so that the player can still attempt another venture and have an opportunity to recover their losses. These could be once a day abilities, mana using spells, taking a hit from a sword and tapping a land unit.

The difference between actions and energy is that actions cannot be saved. Inaction does not preserve an action for an unlimited time, a player cannot do nothing for five rounds of combat then perform five rounds of actions simultaneously. A player can however preserve their mana while performing actions such as basic attacks. Energy costs can be sneaky, for instance, in games where thrown weapons can always be recovered, they are energy costs and not wealth costs as the player can expect to recover those that cost at a later time.

Finally wealth costs. Wealth costs are costs the player cannot expect to ever recover. This is gold pieces spent on a nice room, purchasing a sword. They are used to receive a bonus or avoid a penalty in either the short or long term. These could be single use potions or scrolls, or cards that are removed from play after use. Wealth rewards are commonly rewards granted via the player's success, and commonly used to increase the odds of greater success. All games do not necessarily use currency as a wealth cost. For instance, some games grant the character a consistent wage. These games would allow the character to accumulate currency for no action whatsoever.


Costs however are not the only important part about abilities, maneuvers and skills. The part most people see, and what I touched on a few times are effects. They are easily the most visible and followed part, while to those who truly wish to optimize, build or tactically choose pay attention to the costs as well. Generally effects fulfill four categories; Currency reduction, Currency increasing, Buffs and Debuffs.

Currency reduction is one of the most widely used effect. Ideally against opponents. Currency reduction could be picking a pocket, stabbing someone with a sword or causing an opponent to lose an action. Currency is very closely tied to costs, as costs are the willing reduction of currency, currency reduction is an unwilling effect.

Ideally Currency reduction reduces the opponent's currencies greater than the cost to create the effect. A basic sword strike generally sacrifices an action to reduce an opponent's health. Generally speaking this is sacrificing something gained in 6 seconds what may take a day or more to recover normally. It is also used to hurry an opponent to the point at which they cannot reduce ones own currencies. This could be killing, incapacitating or forcing an opponent to flee.

Examples of this are, stuns to attack actions, dispelling of buffs or debuffs to attack time, damage to attack energy costs, stealing to attack wealth costs and rarely level drains to attack specialization costs. Specialization costs are generally considered a very harsh target for a currency drain and are generally recommended to be avoided.

When choosing which currency reduction to pursue not only are the normal costs good to be considered, but also the value of the currency targeted. For instance, against opponents you will be fighting only once, specialization currencies may not be as ideal as energy currencies. For long battles attacking time currencies might be viable. For recurring villains, wealth and specialization currencies are prime targets.

Currency increasing is an effect that is less focused on, but also very straightforwards. Usually these effects are less numerous, but are generally effective. These could be healing spells, abilities that renew time cost effects and perhaps even abilities that recover specialization or actions lost to negative effects. Generally these are used to recover from currency reduction up to a maximum deemed 'normal'. The most ubiquitous is the healing spell, a boost to health to recover from damage done by an opponent. There are also stun breaks commonly used in MMOs and debuff removers.

The important thing to remember is that these only recover currencies lost by currency decreases. They should be measured according to both the character's capacity to reduce the opponent's currency and to the opponent's ability to reduce the character's capacity. Frequently this measurement is performed on a party level. One character focusing on currency increasing at great skill so the others may decrease currency at great skill.

Buffs are the increasing of effectiveness of abilities and skills. For the most part maneuvers by definition to not receive buffs. Maneuvers however CAN grant buffs. Aim is a classic example of a buff, the player sacrifices an action or series of actions to receive a bonus to accuracy. All costs can be sacrificed for buffs. For instance, some buffs may last 30 minutes in most MMOs but offer a small bonus, while actions and a 30s span may offer a much greater bonus that may or may not stack with the 30 minute bonus. Wealth is commonly used to offer buffs, a bonus for a night in a nice inn, or a specialization or class choice granting a permanent bonus. Generally buffs used within combat have an action and or energy cost associated.

Buff costs need to be carefully measured. It can be very easy to grant ones self a 20% bonus to a single action one could perform twice instead. However, such buffs could also prohibit an opponent from creating an effect by incapacitating them before they could act. It may also overcome a resistance buff on an opponent or a debuff placed on the one using the buff. It is also important to consider who in a party may receive the greatest benefit to a buff. A classic example is the haste spell in DnD. It grants extra attacks, but is cast by a wizard, one who does not specialize in melee, however if cast on a warrior it can be used to devastating effect.

Debuffs are effects that reduce an opponent's effectiveness per ability, maneuver or skill. Maneuvers generally are not exempt from this as they are from buffs, and are commonly targeted. These could be speed reductions, accuracy reductions or even effect reductions. Usually for effect reductions debuffs target currency reducers and increasers rather than debuffs or buffs.

As with buffs, debuffs need to be carefully measured. And generally they are harder to do so with as the capacity of the opponent is not commonly known. Generally one must guess whether the cost will be worth the result. However, if used properly, debuffs can be devastating. Reducing some opponents to complete ineffectiveness or reducing an opponent's currency reducers to a degree that ones currency increasers overcome the deficit.

Finally there's one last topic I wish to cover, but am not entirely certain where it should be placed.

Choices. Choices are a currency that cannot be forgotten. It is usually a sum of many other currencies and effects and is always in flux. Ideally you wish to reduce and eliminate your opponent's choices and increase ones own. But reducing them is done by both debuffs and currency reducers. Furthermore it is also reduced and increased by their own spending AND availability of currency. I feel like it might be well suited to the costs section, but it just doesn't seem to fit well there.

An expert in manipulating choices will use all available effects to make some choices less desirable than others, in effect reducing that currency and guiding the opponent to their own ideal conclusion. However commonly not all choices are known or controllable. So their own goal is to just reduce it to the least possible number.


One of the most commonly seen working example in games is that of the party. Commonly this is one or two tanks, a healer or two and the rest damage dealers, usually at least twice as many as tanks and healers combined. Some games also allow for another role, the controller, there may be about as many of these as tanks or healers if such occurs, but commonly this is a role each character has the ability to touch on.

Each role is specialized in implementing their own particular manipulation of effects, variations within each role usually defined by the costs associated with their abilities or the long term buffs to skills. The tank specializes in buffing their ability to reduce damage, and reducing the opponent's choices to attacking the tank, usually through threat of currency reduction or debuffs. The healer specializes in buffs and currency increases and has buffs to increase their currency increases. The damage usually has buffs to increase their currency reductions that lead towards the opponent's incapacitation, they also have debuffs to help weaken the opponent against such currency reductions. The controller usually focuses on reducing the opponent's choices and actions through debuffs and currency decreases, and has long term buffs that increase those debuffs and currency decreases.

Working together well, the opponent is forced to target the tank to little effect. This effect is eliminated by the healer, while the damage dealers clean up the enemy, usually by focusing on one at a time so that they opponent gets as few actions and opportunity to create effects as possible.

In case you read it all

That came out longer than I expected, and I guess its not really just ability deconstruction, but a deconstruction of Maneuvers, Skills AND Abilities and their common systems on a generic level. I don't know if I taught you anything, but I'm glad I got all that out of my head. Maybe I'll get some inspiration. I don't know. But, this is the kind of thing that goes in circles in my head.