FA update and flat rate flattery

Posted in Fantasy Adventure, Game design, My games/projects, Uncategorized with tags , on May 17, 2010 by Olorin

I really haven’t had a chance to test even the slight changes in the previous post about Fantasy Adventure, and have already come up with new ones. Good thing I find game design enjoyable. :)

Characters & Abilities

  • Characters can now gain Talents, which are Things You Normally Can’t Do or Don’t Know About. They complement the regular abilities, by giving you some new ways to excercise them. E.g. Traps (to discover traps and secret doors, and to arm, disarm and rearm those), Disguise (disguising yourself, or someone else).
  • Different abilities net you different amount of Talents. A Talent gain happens on levels 4 and 8. Fightering and Rangering give you one Talent per gain. Thievering and Journeymanning give you two per gain. Wizarding and Clericing give none.

Magic

  • The magical resource of wizards and clerics is derived from the size of the relevant ability die, dividing its value by two (e.g. d6 -> 3).
  • Magic-users regain their resources by spending one full healing cycle in meditation/worship. The player announces how many resource points she’s trying to regain and multiplies that by two. That’s the difficulty she has to beat with the appropriate ability to succeed. And no, there’s no automatic refresh. You have to put some effort into it, to use that sweet ultimate power.
  • There are no more fixed spheres of incfluence in neither Wizarding or Clericing. The player just picks some keywords for her character, and defines that way what sort of magic-user he is. Examples of applicable keywords: destruction, healing, fire, movement, darkness, death, cursing, blessing, animating, mind etc.
  • How you hurt someone works in a way similarly to healing. The difficulty is based on the intended damage you want to cause. Againts one target, the difficulty is simply the intended damage. Against a group of enemies (like a fireball), you double the intended damage.

Also, I got my beta-invite to Flattr, which I think is an marvelous idea and needs as much support as possible. So if you like my writings and want to Flattr me, go ahead. Here’s the button.


I’m still baffled ’bout how the hell I can actually add it here permanently. If you have any insight on the matter, please speak up.

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Currently playing: Abney Park – Airship Pirate

Hexenhammer

Posted in Random ideas with tags , , , , , , on March 19, 2010 by Olorin

I originally got this idea around 2007 IIRC, and it had been mostly laying dormant ever since. A week or so ago it suddenly sprung back into my mind, and at the same time evolved a little.

This is one of those projects I’m really uncertain of whether I ever will concentrate on, and that’s why I’m putting it up here. Maybe someone else can do something with it.

So I present you Hexenhammer.

It takes place on our homely planet in the ambiguous near future after a Great Cataclysm a.k.a. a very very destructive worldwide war. The remains of humanity have gathered into cloistered domed cities, that keep them safe from the surrounding hostile environment/atmosphere. The society in these cities is pretty much fascist, where the naturalist worldview is enforced on people by the ruling class of scientists. The reason behind this is that the main reason seen behind the Great Cataclysm was religion, or to be exact, the clash of differing religious worldviews. So for that, people are kept “religion-free” with chemicals, and religions and other superstitions of that sort are simply outlawed.

And of course, it’s never the nice status quo the guys on the top would like it to be. For one reason or other, there are people running around free of the government-sanctioned daily medication. These people are called Witches. They are aware of how their leaders are practically telling them what to think and what to believe. And they want to change that. They want freedom. They aim for liberation. They fight the power.

On the other side are the Witchhunters. They have to protect the acquired stability. If they fail it might all crumble, and what would happen to humanity then. Another great war might be the last one. They have to bring the rebels, those terrorist, down. For humanity’s survival.

There is no objective good side in this conflict. Members of both sides might as well be the protagonists as they could be the antagonists.

The main idea behind this setting is my own atheism/scientific worldview, and the desire to study it in completely different circumstances. Religions have caused many bad things, but you can be a bad man without believing in imaginary friends. Is full obstruction of spiritual freedom too big a price for peace? How about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that’s been kept secret? How would and could a Witchhunter react to that, if he bumped into it in some forgotten archive? And how long is a Witch willing to go for his ideals? How much collateral damage is acceptable?

That’s about it. The style of the setting would be biopunk.

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Currently playing: Marilyn Manson – Arma-Goddamn-Motherfucking-Geddon

Of the duration of chargen

Posted in Game design with tags , on February 24, 2010 by Olorin

A moment ago I was reading a follow up (in Finnish) to a short review of Warhammer 3rd edition, and it sprung one tiny fragment of discussion back to my mind.

In that particular discussion, one participant compared the time consumption of the chargens of 2nd and 3rd edition, in favor of 2nd, as he said “it took only around 10 minutes compared to the over two hours of 3rd edition.” The only flaw in that argument was the fact that those 10 minutes were the result of experience with the system. Chargen took his group over two hours in 3rd ed because, well, it was their first time. So, a flawed comparison.

But that’s not my main point, which actually goes like this: Is swiftness really an intrinsic value of chargen? And if it is, then why?

I think not. It’s just a matter of whether the process of chargen is entertaining or not. Besides, can you really put any depth into a character you throw together in fifteen or so minutes? But I do understand why it can be an advantage to some people. It lets you get into actual play ASAP, as chargen is part of pre-play, the preparation phase, that naturally happens before actual play. This I see as a feature of certain styles of roleplaying.

Still, this leaves me wondering if it’d be possible to develop some sorts of techniques or procedures to make a longer chargen process more entertaining.

I’ve had very good moments with the chargen of my friend’s game* which lets the player choose between lifepath- and point buy -chargens, although I have to take into account a possible major factor, the chemistry between myself (as a player) and my friend (as the gamemaster). For that reason I really can’t tell if the form/method of chargen in these cases has had any significant influence at all. I’d need to try the same game with other GMs to get any meaningful insight about this particular case.

So, as an outcome of this short contemplation… I really don’t have an outcome. I’ll just throw the ball to you, my readers. What are your thoughts and views? What kind of experiences you’ve had?


*He’s working on a game of his own, and I’ve been participating in the playtesting and mechanical refinement for over a year now.

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Currently playing: Queens of the Stone Age – Go With the Flow

Fantasy Adventure, addendum

Posted in Fantasy Adventure, Game design, My games/projects with tags , on February 20, 2010 by Olorin

My original idea was to have my next post have some Unknown Armies stuff, but that post seems to be more taxing to put together than I initially thought it would.

So, just to fill the silence here are some additional ideas for my project Fantasy Adventure, that I’m going to try out during our next playtest.

What’s in a race
I want to make the differences between different (player)creatures a bit more concrete, so I thought each of them should have some distinctive and unique features. Thus, all non-humans should have two advantages and one disadvantage.

If a character is a halfbreed of said race and a human, the player can choose to either have both advantages and the disadvantage of the other parent, or pick just one advantage without the disadvantage.

Dwarves:

  • +1 extra hitpoint when gaining hitpoints.
  • They always double their healing. Yes, even if it’s magical.
  • Extremely greedy for precious gems and metals.

Elves:

  • Their night-eyes let them see normally, no matter how faint the light is, as long as it’s not complete darkness.
  • Dreamtrance gives a very effetive rest that is comparable to a good nights sleep for a man.
  • For their closeness of nature, they must always protect trees.

Snake persons:

  • They don’t see in the dark, but they do sense sources of heat from a decent distance.
  • Can breath normally underwater.
  • Can’t stand cold. If it’s cold enough, they’ll begin to fall into dormancy.

Orcs:

  • Because of their foul blood, they are immune to all kinds of poison.
  • Primal rage gives them +1 to damage when they drop to half HP or below. And yes, this applies to magical damage too.
  • Their feral nature makes them lust for blood.

To even things out a little bit, humans get one free experience point in the beginning.

Magical resources
Just to put little leash on the overuse of divine and arcane might, there’d be resources for both. Wizarding would have mana and Clericing something akin to responsiveness/goodwill.

Whenever a character rolls a one (1) on a Wizarding/Clericing-test, he’d lose one resource point. When out of points, she has to perform certain rites to replenish the resource. A priest has to engage in some sort of worship (a ritual sacrifice is always good choice) and a mage has to spend time alone, meditating. No matter which, it will require one full healing cycle (a day or a night).

That’s about it for now. I’ll try to finish my UA-stuff for the next post, that’s a promise. :)

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Currently playing: Tori Amos – Secret Spell

My projects: Fantasy Adventure

Posted in Fantasy Adventure, Game design, My games/projects with tags , on February 2, 2010 by Olorin

The background

So, for quite some time I’ve been looking for a lightweight old skool type of system that I could use whenever I want to run something akin to D&D. Light-hearted adventuring and beer & bretzels dungeoneering. So far every system I’ve checked has either been too cumbersome or too much like old D&D (I damn you to Hell, thac0!!!). The system must be at the same time flexible and yet provide enough crunch to keep it “interesting.”

In the end, there’s only one answer: DIY

This is where Fantasy Adventure comes in. A little over two months ago, some time before December, I got this one idea. The idea was mostly about the function of a character sheet, how it could easily illustrate where your character is going as he gains experience, and also tried to minimize excess erasing. In the optimal situation you, when leveling up, could just check small boxes and be done with it.

I really didn’t have the energy come up with a huge list of things beforehand, so playstorming was the way to go. Come up with things, and refine them, on the fly. The first iteration of the system sprung from that original idea of strict level and class based charsheet. However, during the session one player proposed that what if the different classes would be used as the “abilities.” I
promised to think over it.

During the holidays I began to fiddle with that idea, and after awhile I realised that I had just written 1,5 A4’s worth of notes. This just might be it, I thought.

The system

Basics:

  • The system uses dice from d4 to d12, bigger is better.
  • Characters have six abilities, which are rated at levels from 0 to 10: Fightering, Rangering, Thievering, Journeymanning, Wizarding and Clericing.
  • Every odd level raises your ability die by one step, so level 1 is d4, level 3 is d6 etc.
  • Every time character tries to do something that doesn’t come as an automatic success, you roll the die of the appropriate ability. If you don’t have even that measly d4 in the proper ability – sucks to be you.
  • Thusfar I have defined the target number of the rolls mainly by instinct – I haven’t yet decided on a set formula. A roll of 1 is still always an automatic failure, however.
  • The first option is to take an opposing die and roll them against each other, so that bigger result wins. The other option is to take the TN as [the opposing die/2, rounded down], and then try to beat that.

Combat:

  • Every even ability level gives character more hitpoints. Different abilities give different amounts (Fightering and Rangering give +3, Thievering and Journeymanning give +2 and finally Wizarding and Clericing give +1). Human-like things start off with 2 hitpoints, smaller cretins (goblins et al.) with 1 and bigger creatures (like trolls) with 3.
  • If you want to attack in close combat, you use your Fightering die, and the opponent defends with his, if any. The other option is that both opponents roll against the derieved TN, so that both might get hurt at the same time (basically, at the same turn).
  • With a ranged weapon you use your Rangering die. I have thusfar ran it so, that, similar to melee, you defend with the matching ability. In this case though it feels a bit clunky.
  • The damage you deal is formulated like this: You begin with a base damage of 1. You also always do at least one point of damage, as long as your attack succeeds. You deal an extra point of damage for every to die levels your opponents ability die is below yours. So if you have a Fightering of D8 and the goblin you’re fighting has D4, you deal it 2 points of damage if your attack succeeds. Also, the difference between abilitylevels 0 and 1 counts as two die levels. Yeah, it sucks if don’t know how to fight.

Magic:

  • Both aspects of magic system are mainly handled freeformish. There are no set lists of spells or powers, mut there are some restrictions/general guidelines about what can be achieved with each.
  • With Clericing you can heal, curse and grant blessings. Curses and blessings work as re-rolls atm. I also thought about bonus and penalty dice.
  • With Wizarding you can deal damage, break the laws of nature and [thus far our EVIL WIZARD PC has animated several skeletons, including the skeleton of a huge Mist-twisted catbeast, so it might be something in that sphere].
  • I’ve also added one special feature on the current setting we play in, called The Mist (actually I just ripped it from Final Fantasy XII 8-). The Mist is “the thing” that actually makes magic possible. It’s everywhere and in everything, and when it concentrates on some areas, something usually ends up twisted. I divide areas of concentrated Mist in to two categories: First is Dense Mist. There are quite certainly some oddities in the landscape, it’s flora and fauna, but it is still somewhat safe and predictable up to a point. But then there is Deep Mist. That’s where you can ditch all your safe assumptions, and should expect to see/meet just about anything.

    Rules-wise, Dense Mist gives the wizard one bonus die on spell casting and Deep Mist gives two. When casting a spell, you roll all the dice just normally and look for the biggest to use as your casting die. If you have scored the highest number possible on the die, congrats! It “explodes,” so you can throw it again and add the results together. There is no limit how many times it can explode. But of course, there is a catch. If even one of those dice turns up as a 1, you’re screwed. You’re spell turns on you (or your comrades) one way or another. So far our PC wizard has twice blinded himself when trying to cast a Light-spell. I just can’t wait that moment he goes on a Misty fireball-rampage. >:)

Healing:

  • Magical healing: You can either restore hitpoints or cure one ailment (such as blindness…). When restoring hitpoints, you decide how many hitpoints you try to heal and use that number as the TN to top. You, of course, need to be touching the patient.
  • Natural healing: If you are resting in good conditions (rest, food, water and herbs) you always heal automatically 1hp per one rest cycle (=one day or night). You can also make a Fightering test similar to that of magical restoration. If you fail, you still get that one free point. In inadequate conditions the natural healing does not happen, but you can still try the Fightering test.

Gear and equipment:

  • Adventurer’s kit: Contains usually everything an adventurer might need from bedrolls to ropes, from cooking equipment to torches, and so on. Every kit has a quality die which you roll when it’s needed to know whether the character has a useful thing or other with him.
  • Weapons and Armor: I have no idea whether these should have a mechanical effect, and what sort of effect that should be.

Experience:

  • Characters are awarded 1 or more experience points per completed quest/adventure. They can also be awarded bonus points for special occations, like passing some barrier in a creative way.
  • When raising abilities you pay experience points equal to the new level of that ability. So buying Fightering from level 5 to level 6 costs 6 experience points, etc.

The direction

That’s about all I’ve thought up so far. I have already come up with some ideas to give different races twists of their own, but I think I’ll first check them with my players.

What do you think?

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Currently playing: Fiona Apple – Not About Love

Exalted is a great game, but White Wolf is doing it wrong

Posted in Game design, Gamecraft, Games with tags , , , , , , , on November 10, 2009 by Olorin

I originally intended to write this post in June, but sometimes things just don’t work out as planned. At that time, I had just recently bought Manual of Exalted Power: The Infernals, a great source of information on the Green Sun Princes and their immortal masters.

A week before coming up with the idea of this post I had also bought HeroQuest 2.0, the new edition of Robin Laws’ story-oriented roleplaying game, at the Tentacles Convention. But more about that soon.

So, what actually is wrong with Exalted?

Firstly, I think I have to make clear that I really, really like Exalted. The setting and the attitude, that is. The problem is, the system doesn’t properly enforce either of these two things. Yes yes, we have the Stunts. Big yahoo-friggin’-doodle deal. The system fucks that up, too, especially in the second edition.

Still, it’s not my intent to belittle the work those designers have done. It’s not that the system is objectively bad. Rather, it’s a good system for some other game. You don’t get fast-paced anime-action with a system that makes you count Ticks and micromanage your resources (mainly, Essence).

Yes, the Golden Rule is there. But that is just a smokescreen to go on with sloppy design. You see, if I started to change the aspects that I see as needing fixing, it would brake too many related things. It’d be an endless cycle. Might as well do it myself from the beginning.

For example, dropping Ticks altogether and switching to exchange-based conflicts, would lead to the need of dropping or changing the movement rules. These two changes would brake many Charms. So you’d have to fix those too. Et cetera ad nauseam. Why drop the Ticks? They are just venom to doing Stunts. Ticks force you to break your narration into tiny bits that, when separated, aren’t that impressive.

Like this:
First action: “I run towards the huge two-headed serpent.”
Second action: “I run up it’s back and left neck.”
Third action: “I take a good foothold, raise my Grimcleacer and chop into it’s cranium.”
And between every action, there are (likely) other people’s actions and almost-narrations of almost-cool things almost-happening.

It’s not like all that glorious Stunting-goodness is grinding the game to a halt, you don’t need to come up with specific mechanics to tone it down!

There are also other, smaller things on my list that seem counter-intuitive to the supposed “spirit of the game.” To make your character unique in the field of magic, you have two options. Your combos, and the option to come up with your own charms. And they they don’t support the latter. Why does that feel like there’s a “We’d prefer you playing with our pre-made charms instead of having you, like, being creative” -mentality behind that? The other option is that they’re just either lazy or stupid. And let’s be honest, none of these options is a desired conception.

There are many more small things that just annoy the hell outta me, but it’d take the whole night to go through all of them, so I’ll just stick with these that could be remedied quite painlessly (by changing the core design philosophy).

It might seem odd to state that despite all of this, I won’t abandon the game’s own system altogether. It is still sufficently good when I want to do some semi-heavy character-micromanaging, and of course for powergaming. That system positively welcomes anyone who wants to game the system or play the mechanics. It’s bulk just isn’t for every game.

But, it’s easy to complain about this and that, and do nothing about it.

This is where HeroQuest come in. With it’s flavor-driven character creation the second point above, the uniqueness of magic, is easily achieved. I have also been thinking about how the different magic systems in Exalted should be structured in HeroQuest. I have made some progress, and might put it up as a post of it’s own, some other time.

The first point is quite easily fixed with HQ, too, because it doesn’t have combat system that traces your actions, second by second. You’re free to “Stunt” your brains out.

So in conclusion, the people of White Wolf mean well. Their execution just doesn’t do justice to the game’s spirit.

I think I’ll leave it here for now. Let’s see if I want to poke on the pile of things-wrong-in-Exalted again some time.

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Currently playing: Machinae Supremacy – Anthem Apocalyptica

Chilling Heat, conclusion

Posted in Chilling Heat, Games I've ran with tags , , on November 8, 2009 by Olorin

So, that was about it. It was a very amusing game in the end, although somewhere along the way I had doubts whether it’s gonna hold together or fall apart. Main reason for this was of course the fact that I honestly didn’t know, at least for the first two sessions, where it should, could or might go. My preparation for the game was a list random things that had came to my mind at some point. It was only between the second and the third session that I finally came up with some focus and direction: the unspeakable servant and fate of Richard Shanahan.

I tried to find some relevance and meaning for the abandoned house and the mystical mirror, but it just wasn’t there. It was too random, too different. So that’s one thing I’m gonna drop if I ever run this scenario again, or write it up properly. Other thing that will be cut is that damned snowfall. Yes, it certainly generated very enjoyable event, but in the end it was just too weird. Although I might say that a tornado avoiding things and generally not breaking anything at all is too weird, also. Maybe I’ll just go with regular snow.

So what really had happend? Why were there two dead bodies of Dick Shanahan? Elementary, my dear Watson. The one in the basement was the real one. He had just finalized the ritual for the servant when this one nameless fleshworker came seeking for the McGuffin, that precious knife. (Now that I think of it, I realize I forgot to mention that the characters found this outsider’s wallet, which included a driver’s licence with his previous face on it, while they searched for the knife.) And that’s not all. The nameless fleshworker was also possessed by a demon which knew some really strong magick. Magick, which allowed “them” to see Dick’s memories, to reveal the whereabouts of the knife. But they also found out that his niece and a student of a friend were coming, and decided to play along a few days. They didn’t want Dick’s death be known quite so soon. So the demon read Dick’s memories and the fleshworker worked his magick to become Dick.

Too bad the demon was a bloodthirsty sadistic son of a bitch, who just couldn’t help himself and used the poor fleshworker’s body to his own ends. And that ended up well, didn’t it?

So that’s definitely the thing I want to preserve. That’s just too juicy a twist to throw away. I will also keep the NPCs, and possibly come up with a few more. The fire at the school was directly related to Megan’s Noble Trigger, so that’s really not a keeper.

I actually have only one thing I’m not that sure about. Should I write the PCs by myself or do it like the first time, and only give some guidance and pointers?

I might definitely have forgotten something, but those are propably things that aren’t worth mentioning to begin with. :)

And that’s finally it. I wrote the first post for this write-up over 16 months ago. That certainly took way too long to finish. I really have to re-think when’s the next time I’m gonna do something like this again. I have one campaign log from an Exalted campaign that I thought I’d like to write-up, but this really gives some perpective. This game was only five sessions long, and still… damn. And that Exalted campaign took somewhere around 8 months in real time, maybe 20-24 sessions or so, to play through.

That’s some heavy perspective.

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Currently playing: White Skull – Time for Glory

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