Archive for February, 2010

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.

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.


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


  • 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.


  • 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. :)

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


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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. >:)


  • 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.


  • 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?

Currently playing: Fiona Apple – Not About Love