dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
A while ago, I wrote up a description of elves for a science-fantasy RPG setting I'm working on. I liked them, but they were based on elves as creatures of Faerie and didn't really have anything science-fiction about them at all, so now I went back and changed them a lot and I think they fit a lot better:

The elves have always been a people apart. Before the coming of the Mist, the elves were united by the Elven Court of the Elder Wood, the center of elven civilization. There the Queen ruled, advised by the oldest of her people and the spirits of the forest. Even the far-flung communities in other forests paid homage to the Elven Court, their bonds aided by the Emerald Roads that facilitated travel from elven community to community.

The Mist ended that forever. As it washed over the Elder Wood, the elves made a choice. Some of them gave themselves fully to the rule of the forest spirits, forsaking such technology as they used and following the dictates of their shamans. Others saw the changes that the Mist wrought in those creatures it touched and determined to learn from them. They studied the Changed, using all their magic to form bastions among the woods to hold the Mist at bay, and developed the art of fleshcrafting. The former are known as the wild elves, and the latter as the mist elves.

There are rumors of a third group, who fled underground to avoid the Mist rather than ascending to the heights. It is said that the Mist changed them as they fled, that they worship spirits of fungus and spider and unclean things, and that they have tunnels under the surviving lands and raid the surface for slaves. But theses are merely rumors.

Physical Description: Generally taller than humans, elves possess a graceful, slender physique seemingly made of bark, vines and foliage. They vary greatly in appearance, as wild as nature itself. They encompass the colors of all plant life, tending towards shades of green and brown. Their hair grows leaves and branches. The older they are, the more growths they have, sometimes becoming long twisted vines that hang to their waist or longer. Their flesh is wooden, smooth when they are young and furrowing more and more as they grow older until it resembles the gnarled bark of an ancient tree. Their eyes vary from virgin wood green, morning sun gold, rich brown earth, to deep sky blue, but always a solid color with neither pupil nor iris visible.

The wild elves live in the forests and frequently dress in animal skins or clothing of bark and leaves, whereas mist elves wear suits designed to keep off the mist and work with fleshcrafted creatures, or the symbiotic armor given to their warriors.

Society: Where the elves were once unified, now there is a great division among them. The wild elves are ruled by shamans who speak to the forest spirits and look up to the warriors who practice supernatural martial arts learned from the spirits of the animals around them. The mist elves delve ever deeper into the arts of fleshwarping in the hope of discovering the secret of adaptation to the Mist without losing themselves to it.

There are still some similarities, however. Both cultures have a deep-seated appreciation for artistry and craftsmanship, and whether it’s a carved wooden chair or a piece of living furniture, an elven artisan will always work to their utmost and take pride in their work. Magic is held is high esteem, and the lifeshapers of the mist elves and spiritspeakers of the wild elves are some of the most honored members of their communities.

Relations: Others were always suspicious of the elves because of their insularity, and their new behavior has not changed that. It is the wild elves who are the most well-thought-of, because while they are savage and unpredictable, at least their powers are understandable. Wild elves get along especially well with grippli and sesheyans, who share their wilderness homes. Whatever it is that the mist elves are doing in their living strongholds makes the other races nervous, and their appearance, swathed entirely in robes or with visible symbiotic grafts attached to their bodies, does not allay that concern. There are some elves who live in the patchwork human cities that sprang up after the Mist came, but they are often not entirely trusted there, even after long years of residence.

And here's a picture I found on the internet that's a pretty good visual inspiration:

Pathfinder game mechanics )

Exalted stats )

Maybe someday, I'll actually be able to run this.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
I've been tinkering with RPGs again. Some people write fanfiction, some people draw fanart, and I come up with RPG homebrew. Even though I'm in three games right now--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's 7th Sea game, [ profile] mutantur's Call of Cthulhu game, and my own Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom game--and thus have no time for another one, I just enjoy game design. My latest burst of creativity was spurred on by finding Heretical Shadows, someone's fan supplement for using the Shadowrun system with fantasy settings. It's something I've always wanted to try, since there's already rules for fantasy races, magic, and spirits, it's skill-based instead of class-and-level based, and it uses my favorite dice mechanic (giant pools of dice). But it would be a bunch of work for a game that I'm not likely to run anytime soon, so I'm glad someone else did it.

I keep thinking about tweaking it more, but I should actually run Shadowrun for a while first to familiarize myself with the system. I did a lot of tinkering with Exalted, but I ran that game for years. And anyway, one of my players perks up every time I mention canon Shadowrun so that's probably next in the queue. And urban fantasy cyberpunk is a good departure from grim sword and sorcery.

At [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's suggestion, we sat down and watched an episode of Chef's Table about Ivan Orkin, a Jewish New Yorker who ran a ramen restaurant in Japan. So now I want to move back to Japan, and I really want a bowl of ramen. Especially his ramen, with its noodles made in-house using toasted rye flour. He's right that it's very unlikely a Japanese person would have thought to do that, especially since they usually buy their noodles.

This also reminds me of the first time I saw salarymen ordering noodle refills and decided to do it myself. I spent a few minutes psyching myself up and formulating how to ask and eventually said something like すみません、もう麺を一皿お願いします ("Excuse me, may I have another plate of noodles?"), and the ramenyasan looked at me quizzically and said かえだま (kaedama), the specific word for that very thing. Emoji Smiling sweatdrop I did get my noodles, though.

And speaking of food:

Farmer's Market dinner )

Overcooked comes out on Switch tonight and we're probably going to buy it. Usually, if a game is multiplatform I buy it on PC for future-proofing reasons--I just recently played through a game from 1994 with no problems at all--but Overcooked is specifically local co-op only, and sitting on the couch next to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to play is more comfortable than both of us crowding around my computer. It's also about cooking, one of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's my treasured hobby. I'm looking forward to cooking together, on the back of two speeding trucks!
dorchadas: (Warcraft Algalon)
I've been on edge almost all day, which doesn't make it easy to relax on a three-day weekend. I even went to get a manicure with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and while my nails are much more manageable--they were long enough that it was pretty annoying to type--all I could think of while I was there was how long it was taking. I didn't find it relaxing at all. And I meant to start playing ふしぎの木の実 (大地の章) (Oracle of Seasons) today and haven't even booted it up. Instead I finished reading Japan at War, which is admittedly an excellent book, and fiddled with music for hours.

I've been really nostalgic for Warcraft lately. Not World of Warcraft, necessarily. The time of my life when I played MMOs is over. But the Warcraft setting, around which there isn't any way to interact outside of WoW and Hearthstone now that Blizzard isn't putting out Warcraft RTSes. I downloaded and organized the entire Wrath of the Lich King soundtrack, all fourteen hours of it, and have original WoW and Burning Crusade waiting for me to sort through when I can find the time. I booted up Warcraft III and played for a while before I tore myself away. And I made that icon that's up there from one of the few screenshots of Algalon I could find that wasn't full of PC nameplates or raiders trying to murder him.

I originally thought of putting "The stars come to my aid" as the text, since I played a Balance Druid and wore the Starcaller title from the moment I got it until I stopped playing even as I accumulated titles like "The Insane" and "Battlemaster," but I thought the current version would be more broadly applicable.

I'm all fired up over trying to make my perfect version of a WoW tabletop RPG game based on Pathfinder and using the Spheres of Power sourcebook to build spell lists for each caster class and Path of War for the martial classes, because I think it would work incredibly well even if it would be a ton of work. It'd be less work than actually balancing WoW is, though! And I need a new project now that Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom is in tinkering mode and I have multiple other games prepped and ready for when I have more time.

Of course, that's what I need, right? More time.

(On the other hand, an old woman at the nail salon told me that I had interesting pants and the proprietor said she was jealous of my hair, so some good things happened today!)
dorchadas: (Exalted: One True RPG)
I've spent a long time putting together compilation documents for Dragon-Blooded Charms, hearthstones, sorcery spells, and martial arts and putting together a (currently 76-page) bestiary for that game I wrote about two-and-a-half years ago that I'm sure I'll get around to at some point. But despite that, I was never super happy with the Dragon-Blooded mechanically.

Dragon-Blooded abilities, and the Charms associated with them, are split into the aspects, with a surcharge on any power not part of the Exalt's own aspect, and it locks out a lot of character concepts or makes them more expensive. An Air aspect archer? Nope, Archery is a Wood aspect Ability. You'd think Fire aspects make good lieutenants because they're passionate and inspiring, but War is an Earth ability, so they pay a penalty for all the Charms. Earth should be good at contemplation and planning, but Bureaucracy is a Water ability and Lore is an Air ability, so no. And so on.

A while ago, I found a document by Ekorren from the Onyx Path forums called "Dragon-Blooded Revisions, Making Terrestrials Terrestrial" that cut all this out and gave each aspect its own set of Charms. Now there were just Air Charms, which covered a huge variety of concepts. Sure, Air aspect combat is focused on range, but it's possible to play an Air aspect swordsman and use the element of Air to do it, rather than having to take Fire-aspected Melee Charms and no longer have any Air powers despite being an Air aspect. Unfortunately, it was half done, with finished Air and Earth and only a bit of Fire.

Well, I took it, modified it, added a bunch of stuff from that compilation document, and now it's done. All five aspects, each with their own Charmset. Each with more ability in that aspects' thematic strengths, but with a broad range of powers that can accommodate a wide variety of characters.

I don't know if it's balanced, and only a quarter of it is my original work. I wrote a lot of Charms here and there, but I was also building on an existing framework and I made heavy use of Charms borrowed from fanworks like Hundredfold Facets of Enlightenment (PDF) or Ever-Cascading Torrent of Glory (PDF) or conversions of A Clutch of Dragons. But it exists and it's enough to run a game on, and I'm finally happy with the way that Dragon-Blooded work.

Now, to just get a game off the ground.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
One benefit of the d20 system and its endless permutations is that if yo spend enough time looking, you'll almost certainly find that whatever changes you want to make, someone has already done it.

Like with the subject of this post. I don't think Armor as DR is more realistic or anything, I just like it better--and admittedly, playing Baldur's Gate II has shown me how easy it is to turn everything into rocket tag when there's no way to mitigate damage other than "don't let them hit you"--and so I've been looking for a formal implementation for a while. And while looking around online last night, I found out that Game of Thrones d20 does that while also having shields that make one harder to hit and opposed roll combat, with both attack and defense rolls.

Okay, cool. That means I can dump the damage roll and move to static damage, since I also found this chart that makes any conversions easy. Just plug in the damage done and the attacker size and it outputs a value. It even accounts for critical hits and variations on critical range and multipliers.

One obvious problem is monsters. Unlike Game of Thrones, where nearly every enemy is human, most D&D settings having plenty of monsters and I can't just turn Natural Armor into DR because Natural Armor is usually inflated to make monsters challenging. I don't know if there's a standard modifier I can apply, like 1/2 NA or 2/3rd NA. Fortunately, in E6 Natural Armor never gets too high, but it's something to watch out for.

A second is, assuming I want to use the variable between attack and defense roll to add to damage--and I do--how to account for penalties to the attacker, which are now also penalties to damage? One way is to make some of them into bonuses to the defender which are ignored for calculating damage. Like, Power Attack then gives the defender a bonus to parry/dodge, but if the attacker hits, then damage is calculated using the margin of success without that bonus.

Or maybe that's not worthwhile and it's easier to have tiers, like "For every 5 by which the attacker beats the defender, they add 50% to their base damage." That keeps hit and damage bonuses distinct while making a skilled warrior do more damage overall beyond the obvious note that a skilled warrior will hit more often. Or even easier, for every 5 over, they move up one size category on the chart. Simple and clean.

This also allows armor penetration as a standard weapon ability or feat. Like, it's easy to take something like Keen Edge and the keen property and make them armor penetration instead.

I'm not sure if I'll get around to testing this since I'm currently on a huge Exalted kick, but it was food for thought. And after months of turning Exalted into a game about 8bit Nintendo sword and sorcery which, amazingly, works, I might be able to make this work too.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
Who knows if it'll ever get finished, but I decided to work on that fantasy RPG I posted about earlier, though with one change--I'm using 2d10 instead of a dice-pool, success-counting system. After all, I have Shadowrun 4e and Exalted already, and Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom is a great set of house rules for low fantasy. Might as well make something new.

I'm running into a problem, though. Specifically, about defense in combat. I want opposed skill rolls, and it's obvious what the attack rolls. But what about the defender?

Do I want a Dodge skill and if so, how do I make it worthwhile investment instead of buying more combat skill that can also be used to parry? What about shields--should there be a shield skill? If not, what does the shield-wielder roll?

For shields, I think I came up with the answer. Have some kind of Advantage called "Shield Training" that lets the warrior use shields with their normal combat skill, and incentivize shields by making them easier to defend with and able to block arrows (leaving parrying arrows for monks). Okay, that's done.

Dodge? Right now, I'm thinking of having an Evade skill that covers combat dodging as well as just generally avoiding bad stuff--the equivalent of a Reflex save as well, going with the Vigor skill and the Resolve skill. That's not super elegant, but it will work.

As for which to roll, maybe add in a couple things to incentivize Evade. Attacks that can't be blocked/parried, like some spells, attacks that are easier to defend against by one or the other defense like Exalted has. That has to be done carefully, though, in a way that conveys the proper information to the players so they can make informed decisions, and without that it's better off not to do it at all.

"Better off not to do it at all" is probably a good attitude toward the whole project, but I like tinkering!
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
I have no idea if I'm ever going to actually put any time into this--probably not, considering all the already-written RPGs I want to run games of--but I've been thinking a lot lately about what my perfect fantasy RPG would look like so here are some characteristics it would have:
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Death Goth)
I've been rereading all the Vampire: the Masquerade books lately and it's getting me thinking about running a game (of course). And that leads to tinkering--even if the odds of me running it are very low, I like homebrewing mechanics.

One of the things that's bothered me about Vampire for a while is that the seven Camarilla Clans have four Clans without a unique Discipline, whereas both Sabbat Clans and all the independent Clans have unique Disciplines. This is a legacy of first edition, when only the Camarilla was playable and the other Clans were mysterious enemies in the night with bizarre and frightening powers, but there's no reason for that to continue. As such, I looked at Vampire: the Requiem's big list of Disciplines and I have some ideas for how to change things up a bit:

  • Brujah: Celerity, Praestantia, Presence. Praestantia enhances combat skills, strengthening Brujah's role as rabble-rousing brawlers, and its hint of prescience helps tie into the time-manipulation powers that the True Brujah have. Hey, I like the Trujah.
  • Nosferatu: Animalism, Nightmare, Obfuscate. This one was easy.
  • Toreador: Auspex, Celerity, Xinyao. Xinyao is about manipulating emotions, and that leaves a place for the Toreador as the vampires who are passionate, or at least as passionate as the undead can get. I'd probably rename it Synaesthima (pseudoGreek for "feeling").
  • Ventrue: Constance, Dominate, Presence. Constance is about supernatural willpower and mental fortitude, which ties into the Ventrue's space as the unflinching rulers of the Damned. I'd probably rename it Pertinax (Latin for "steadfast."
So that's done. Yay!

In doing that, though, I realized that I took away Potence from two of the Clans that had it, and that made me realize I could solve another problem. Ghouls get Potence automatically, and I've seen a lot of debates about whether vampires whose backstory had them as ghouls should mean they automatically get Potence as a Clan Discipline, or could start with Potence. Well, if ghouls get Potence, Potence is inherent in vitae, right? So why not make it universal among vampires and replace one Discipline for everyone else who has it?

That led to this:

  • Blood Brothers: Celerity, Fortitude, Sanguinis. No one is ever going to play one of these anyway.
  • Gargoyles: Fortitude, Obfuscate, Visceratika. More likely to be played than Blood Brothers, but not by much. Obfuscate helps explain why giant stony winged monsters can exist and not have everyone panic.
  • Giovanni: Dominate, Fortitude, Necromancy. That gives them two Disciplines in common with the Cappadocians, their original parent.
  • Lasomba: Auspex, Dominate, Obtenebration. I know the Tzimisce already have Auspex, but I think Auspex fits the Lasombra too. They can see in the dark and into your mind, which fits them being incredibly manipulative along with Dominate.
  • True Brujah: Obfuscate, Presence, Temporis. As with gargoyles, Obfuscate ties into how they're super secret and unknown, as well as being dispassionate observers and scholars. And giving them two Disciplines in common with the Setites helps confuse their origins a bit, which I like.
  • Warrior Setites: The entry already says "A mortal Embraced by a warrior Setite becomes a 'normal' member of the line (that is, learning Obfuscate as a Clan Discipline) unless trained as a warrior from childe-hood" so no changes here are needed. They just focus more on Potence.
There are some Laibon legacies with Potence as well, but most of those are kind of a missed opportunity anyway since they're just obviously "[Clan], but in Africa!"

Huh. I actually really like this. I know some people don't like the proliferation of unique powers since it pushes V:tM toward superheroes with fangs, but we all know that's really what we want from it anyway. And none of these powers are Kineticism, so I'm already one up on White Wolf.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Yesterday, we met for the last session of the flashback in the Horror on the Orient Express game. It went at somewhat of a hurried pace, since we wanted to finish the whole thing up in one game, but we managed to decipher T̝̻̲̲̲̣̃ͯ̅h̬̭̱̖̝̺ͨ̒eͬ̓̅͐ ̰̩͠W̞͔͇̲̘̲h̢̝͕͆ͅi̇̓̏ͫ̋͏̗͚͕͉s͒̊̓ͥ̐ͭ̉p̭̰̓͆͛e̬͖͖͉rͦ̍ͦ͂͟i̲̩͚n̮̩͉͓͍͛g̯̝̝̤̭͍̠͊́ ̷̘͚̉̄́ͦ̃̑̆F̠̹̙ē̶̱̠͍̬͋ͅz͚̲͇̑̉ͧͯ͌ and get Menkaph ejected from the train at the Niš stop. Professor Worth (filling in for Dr. Polat, whose player was absent) used his knowledge from the book to arrest the decline of Mr. Meyers, though it required him to put on a fez himself, adding additional urgency to our quest.

We arrived in Constantinople and met with Professor Demir and learned that his son had been kidnapped, which sent us across the city to find out where he had been taken. While Professor Worth went to the library, Captain Barrington, Mr. Banks, and Miss Meadowcroft visited a man who called himself "the Frenchman" and had an audience with the sultan, eventually learning that the so-called "Children of the Blood-Red Fez" were holed up on the Island of Doomed Princes, a secret tenth of the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara south of Constantinople. Professor Demir knew a fisherman, a "Nine-fingered Abdullah," who knew of the location and could ferry the investigators there, so under the cover of night, they traveled to the island and rowed out to land there.

On the island, the Captain and Miss Meadowcroft distracted the guards by provoking the goats while Mr. Banks climbed the crumbling walls of the tower at its summit and pulled the eunuch guarding the cult leader out the second-story window. In the chaos, Professor Worth dashed up the stairs and engaged the leader in a battle of wills for ultimate control of the fez, eventually winning despite her attempts to dissuade him otherwise. As the fez was destroyed, her head exploded, and the party managed to get Professor Demir's son, and the other prisoner, a Prince Ramazan, out of the tower. Hurling petrol bombs behind them, the party made their escape and went back to the professor's house. At that point, the game time was basically over, so we wrapped things up and went home. Victory!

And the Captain proposed to Miss Meadowcroft, so they or any children they have could be backup PCs if any of the 1920s-era characters dies. Mr. Banks would also be willing to come back for one last hurrah, but Professor Worth's player mentioned that he probably went home, forgot anything like this ever happened, and refused to speak to Professor Smith ever again. Not that I blame him.

Now that I'm playing an official Call of Cthulhu adventure, I can see why Trail of Cthulhu changed the mechanics of investigating. The stakes are often "Do this thing or the world is doomed," and then whether we even know what thing to do comes down to Library Use and Persuade and if we fail those--and this is a percentile system, so that's likely at some point--the GM has to scramble to find some way to get us back on track or else the world ends. It's why I'm glad that [ profile] mutantur laid out the paths for us to take instead of letting us flail around for a while. We did a lot of flailing last session, though we eventually worked things out!

My solution for this is generally to have lower stakes and let the PCs fail--I'm reminded of the time I ran Operation COBALT SHADOW (aka "A Victim of the Art") in Delta Green, where what I thought would be a relatively quick opera took four sessions before F Cell screwed things up so badly that MAJESTIC swept in and they had to extract themselves--and that may happen someday. I mean, it's not for no reason that we have possible backup PCs. I think that since this was a flashback that had to end in a particular way because it "already happened" it exacerbated that problem, though.

I am curious if we'll seriously screw up a leg of the journey. Next time, France!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
A while ago, when I was converting WotMK over to Exalted's system, I decided to use Terrestrial Circle Sorcery for the various groups of creepy sorcerers because that way I didn't have to write a ton of spells. However, I gave every group of sorcerers ten spells, I've written up fifteen groups so far, I didn't want any overlap between the groups, and there's only so many Terrestrial Circle spells that people have written, even with weeks of scouring the internet for them a while back. When I was writing up the latest sorcerous order, I could only find five spells that fit the concept and weren't already taken by other groups. When I found myself writing up several new spells, I realized that I had hit the limits of the parameters I'd set for myself, and if I wanted to be able to write more sorcerous groups--and I do, since there are several countries in the gazetteers that don't have any at all--I needed a full custom spell list for each group.

So I'm going back to my previous approach. You can see an earlier version of that here, from when I was still using Novus, and a modern version below the cut:
The Pyromancers of the Kappa Wastes )

So far, I've done that to thirteen of the fifteen original sorcerous orders I had--sixteen now, counting the one that triggered this whole thing in the first place--and it hasn't been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I did all that in about three weeks, and it leaves plenty of space for expanding into places that the list of Terrestrial Circle spells I have doesn't go.

For example, originally the Servants of Yarikh from B'rabt were just a place for all the Biblically-themed spells in Exalted to go, like Plague of Bronze Snakes, River of Blood, Water from Stone, Food from the Aerial Table, and so on to go, drawing on B'rabt's combo Egypt/Israel thematics (it's based on Birabuto, but I wanted something different than WotMK!Egypt), but now that I'm writing my own spells I can go back to the association of Yarikh as a moon god and write moon-themed spells for them. And keep the serpent imagery as well, because what is sword and sorcery if you don't have sinister priests with serpent-topped staves walking around?
dorchadas: (Exalted: One True RPG)
The Attribute + Ability pairing of White Wolf games goes pretty far in figuring how to mechanically represent something. Roll Perception + Ride to inspect that horse that the merchant is trying pass off as a child of Hiparkes, roll Strength + Lore to use your time as a scribe's apprentice to figure out how to carry all those scrolls, roll Appearance + Melee to impress the comely youth with your display of martial prowess. That takes you pretty far.

But when dealing with skills that interact with other subsystems it's a bit harder, and one thing I noticed when checking up on the Medicine skill for Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom is that as written, it's basically useless unless you have huge amounts of it. Saving someone who is dying is minimum Difficulty 5, stopping bleeding or curing a crippling injury is Difficulty [the number of health levels caused by the wound], and speeding healing or treating poison is completely impossible. Treating diseases is relatively well-supported, especially using Kyeudo's disease fix, but that's less common than just purely healing wounds. This is fine for Exalted because they get Charms they can use, but I think it needs better support for mundane actions.

Here's what you can do with Medicine:
  1. Diagnose Patient: As in Exalted, pg 137.
  2. First Aid: Immediately after battle, roll Wits + Medicine. You may spend successes from this roll to turn Bashing into nothing or Lethal damage into Bashing. Each health level costs successes equal to its [wound penalty + 1], so First Aid for the -4 health level is 5 successes and for the -2 health levels is 3 successes each. This roll is Difficulty 1, modified as normal for lacking materials or adverse conditions (first aid in a swamp battlefield is much harder than a healer's tent), and may only be performed once for each set of injuries.
  3. Treat Disease: Use Kyeudo's disease fix.
  4. Treat Poison: Roll Intelligence + Medicine against the poison's Toxicity. If successful, neutralize a single dose of the poison. This roll may be repeated once per scene or once per interval of the poison, whichever is longer. Poisons with the L tag in Toxicity may not be treated without magic.
  5. Long-Term Treatment: If the patient is resting and not performing any major activity, roll Intelligence + Medicine at the same treatment difficulty given in First Aid. If successful, the patient heals that health level twice as fast (i.e., at the rate an Exalt heals while performing strenuous activity; healing times reference here). This roll must be repeated for each health level.
  6. Stabilize the Dying: Roll Wits + Medicine, Difficulty 3 + [one-half current number of Dying health levels suffered], success means the patient is stabilized at Incapacitated. You cannot perform First Aid on someone you've stabilized.
There we go. Plenty of options that allow people who focus on Medicine to make a measurable difference without shutting down anyone who doesn't use magic.
dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
Working more on that post-magical apocalypse Pathfinder setting and finalizing the playable groups. So far, this is what I have:

  • Humans: I probably don't have to explain these, and I haven't changed them much.
  • Elves: Faerie nobles. I wrote about my take on them here.
  • Fey-Blooded: Either the descendants of faeries or the children of people affected by faerie magic. I included these for people who wanted more traditional "elves are humans but arrogant and pretty and live longer"-style characters.
  • Dwarves: Marooned space aliens. I wrote about my take on them here.
  • Gnomes: Former servants of the elves, now split into two cultures. The sky gnomes live among the humans and dwarves in the traditional D&D halfling niche, and the mist gnomes are Fremen crossed with the forest people from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind with creepy living technology who frighten everyone because they actually live in the Mist.
  • Dhampirs: Children of the rulers of the Nations of the Night, included again here. What can I say? I really like vampires as open rulers. I also added them because I wanted to use the material from Liber Vampyr.
  • Dragonkin: Humans who were taken and changed by the Dragon Kings, those dragons who openly rule lands around their lairs.
  • Grippli: Cute frog people. These are the odd ones out, for reasons I'll explain in one moment.
I want a couple more, but I'm having a hard time deciding what else to include, or if I should just stop here.

The reason I say grippli are the odds ones out is that all the others are either from somewhere else, like how elves and gnomes are from Faerie and dwarves are aliens, or they're humans or human-descendants who have been changed, like dhampirs or dragonkin. Grippli are frog-people and don't fit into either group, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with that, it doesn't quite fit with the theming. They occupy a similar place as the sky gnomes, but on the other hand, at least they don't have as much overlap as gnomes and halflings usually do, so I might as well leave them in.

While I was writing this, I realized that I should include Gamma World-style mutants as playable, since they fit into the "humans who have been changed" portion and also help play up how dangerous the Mist is supposed to be. I plan to have the Mist be like Gamma World radiation, where too much exposure leads to mutation, and it makes sense that some people wouldn't have escaped it unscathed in the initial chaos. So there's any easy ninth option.

I've got a couple thoughts of a tenth option:
  • More Animal People: Maybe bird people, maybe insect people, maybe lizard people. Something so the grippli aren't alone in their thematic space.
  • Robots: Basically warforged with the serial numbers filed off. Say humans and dwarves cooperated to make electrotech golems for defense against the creatures in the Mist, some of them gain sapience, and now they decided that going into holes in the ground and trying to steal the treasure therein is a worthwhile life goal.
  • Aasimar and Tieflings: This fits with the "descendants of humans," but I already have alien terraforming and faeries as the main sources of antagonists. I'm not sure I want to add angels and demons as well, as it could end up feeling too crowded. On the other hand, I'm a sucker for the war between heaven and hell trope, and there's plenty of material already written about these two, so I may end up going for that.
I'm currently leaning toward mutants and robots, because I love science fantasy and weird settings and turning this into Final Fantasy Legend sounds like a great idea to me, but I'm not quite sure. I'll need to think on it a bit.
dorchadas: (Do you speak Elvish)
Not as different as the dwarves were, admittedly.

The elves—alfar, in their own language—have always been a people apart. Born of Faerie, they primarily dwelt there and uncommonly crossed into Khrone, though there were small communities of elves scattered among the other races until the Mist came. When the cataclysm began, those elves who could fled down the grey roads and slammed the gates of Faerie shut behind them. A few elves remained behind, either exiles or those who could not make it to the grey roads in time, but the vast majority of them were gone from the world for long years.

Now the elves are returning to chilly reception. The gnomes, their old servants, were abandoned when the elves fled and harbor a bitter hatred for their former masters. Many others view them as cowards for running or look on them with suspicion for returning, thinking that they plan to conquer the remnants of civilization as legend said they tried to do long ago. Still, something draws them back to the mortal world. Perhaps the elves will be able to overcome others' wariness through their own actions, and perhaps they will confirm them. Only time will tell.

Physical Description:
Mist elves

Elves are tall and graceful, with clear skin, bright eyes, and shining hair. Their legs end in hooves like those of a stag and their heads are surmounted by a pair of curling ram's horns. The most striking feature other than their horns is their eyes, which are a single solid color with pupil and white barely distinguishable from the surrounding shade. They have a much wider variation of colors than humans do, with green or white or blue hair, obsidian black or snow white or greenish skin, and amber or silver or rainbow-colored eyes all possible.

Those elves still part of Faerie society are organized into two great coalitions, the Summer and Winter Courts, who trade off power with the seasons. Members of the courts call themselves the ljosalfar and the svartalfar respectively, though the political distinctions between them are obscure to anyone not born of Faerie. Those elves who remained during the cataclysm tend to disclaim affiliation in either of the courts, feeling that they were abandoned by their fellows, though their immortality also estranges them from the people they live among.

Elves have a difficult time relating to mortals. For an immortal creature used to seemingly-incomprehensible games of politics to fill eternity, the drive to accomplish something or to leave a legacy is hard to understand. Other races similarly have a hard time understanding the elves, who seem to give no thought to concerns that mortals find important while spending enormous time on trivial concerns, like organizing all the straw in the barn so that it faces east or making sure every herd animal they own is exactly the same color and pattern. Exiles and those who remained behind during the cataclysm have a much easier time understanding mortals, but are still often viewed with a wary eye for their connection with their more capricious cousins.

Game Mechanics
  • +2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma, -2 Constitution: Elves are agile and enchanting, but less sturdy than humans.

  • Medium Size: Elves are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.

  • Normal Speed: Elves have a base speed of 30 feet.

  • Type: Elves are fey with the elf subtype.

  • Low-Light Vision: Elves can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.

  • Keen Senses: Elves receive a +2 racial bonus on Perception skill checks.

  • Immortality: Elves are ageless, seeing the passing of centuries with unchanging eyes. They are immune to aging effects and do not gain any positive or negative benefits of advancing in age categories.

  • Beguiling Liar: In Faerie, what you believe hard enough can become true, and elves are skilled in enforcing their vision of what is real on others. They gain a +2 racial bonus on Bluff checks to convince an opponent that what they are saying is true when they tell a lie, and Bluff is always a class skill for elves.

  • Otherworldly: As immortal creatures of Faerie, elves have a hard time relating to mortals. They suffer a -4 penalty on Sense Motive checks with all creatures not of the fey type.

  • Faerie Resistance: Elves have mercurial minds and bodies infused with the power of Faerie, and it is very hard for an insidious force to gain a grasp on either one. They gain a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting effects and have DR 2/cold iron.

  • Cold Iron Sensitivity: In addition to their vulnerability to cold iron, elves find it uncomfortable and are always considered nonproficient with cold iron weapons or armor.

  • Sneaky: Elves receive a +2 racial bonus on Stealth checks, and Stealth is always a class skill for elves.

  • Starting Languages: Elves speak Sidhelien and Sylvan.

The main inspiration here is kind of a mix of Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies and the webcomic Dark Places, particularly the way the fey behave in the Silver Chain storyline and the backstory revealed here. Nothing wrong with D&D elves--I'm as fond of the arrogant, tree-loving wizards as anyone else--but I'd like something different here. And while I was originally writing this, I realized I can take half-elves and cast them into elves traditional "humans, but long-lived, arrogant, and pointy-eared" niche, and keep the actual elves different, so it's win-win.

The appearance is obviously taken from Magic: the Gathering's elves from Lorwyn, which I've thought was a great look for elves from the first time I saw it.
dorchadas: (Grue)
I finally got some drive to work on that riff on Skybourne I was thinking of doing, but I want to take it even further away from generic fantasy. So I wrote up a description of dwarves that's pretty different from the traditional take, which I present below:

Dwarves claim that their ancestors came from beyond the stars, descending to Khrone long ago to study its people. Their accounts differ on why they remained. Some histories say that some conflict among their people resulted in a civil war, with the losers being exiled to Khrone's surface and the winners returning to their home. Others claim that something happened to the other dwarves out among the stars, and their high civilization gradually fell as their technology ran out. The modern dwarves still have enough of their ancient prowess to avoid being annihilated by the Forest, but they are nothing compared to the might of their ancestors.

Physical Description:
Mist dwarves

Dwarves are shorter than humans, rarely topping four-and-a-half feet in height, and their stone-grey skin and enormous obsidian-black eyes make them immediately recognizable. Their bodies appear thin and frail, but they hide a surprising strength within their limbs. While younger dwarves are completely hairless, elder dwarves often grow wispy white or grey beards, looking more like moss growing on stone than the beards of humans.

Society: Dwarven society is rooted firmly in the clan and the hold, and the advent of the Forest has done little to change that. Those dwarves which were forced to abandon their subterranean holdings did so as a group, and while some settled among the other races they did so in groups. There are many cities now that have dwarven quarters, where the crackling of lightning can be heard at all hours. Other dwarves with more time managed to build flying towns powered by fulmencraft, and travel the winds trading from city to city. While dwarves may seem insular to outsiders, they can be extremely gracious to anyone who has any knowledge they wish to acquire or any devices they have never seen before.

Relations: [not written yet]

Game Mechanics
  • +2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma: Dwarves are strong, sturdy, and inquisitive, but their alien viewpoints and insular nature hinders them when dealing with others.

  • Medium-Size: As Medium creatures, dwarves have no special bonuses or penalties due to size.

  • Slow Speed: Dwarves have a base speed of 20 Feet.

  • Type: Dwarves are humanoid with the dwarf subtype.

  • Darkvision: Dwarves can see in the dark up to 120 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but is otherwise like normal sight, and dwarves can function just fine with no light at all.

  • Guardians of Beyond: Dwarves came from elsewhere, and they have long experience combating the other beings from beyond the sky. They gain a +2 racial bonus on attack rolls against aberrations.

  • Inured to Storms: Dwarves have lightning resist 5.

  • Fearless: Dwarves have great experience dealing with a variety of dangerous situations and gain a +1 racial bonus on all saves against fear.

  • Scholars of Ancient Lore: The ancient dwarves were sages beyond modern ken, and the modern dwarves continue that tradition of learning. Each dwarf gains a +2 racial bonus to a single knowledge skill. In addition, that skill is always a class skill.

  • Thunder-Crafters: Fulmencraft is the ancient heritage of the dwarves and they grow up surrounded by the smell of ozone. Dwarves gain a +1 racial bonus to Craft (Fulmen) and Knowledge (Engineering) checks, and these skills are treated as class skills for all dwarves.

  • Starting Languages: Reticuli, the sibilant tongue of the dwarves, and Trade Tongue.

And that's what I have so far!

The proximate inspiration is the description of goblins in Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series, which gives them stony skin, near-featureless faces, and odd habits, and it reminded me a lot of greys. Throw in the Grey Alien Racial Guide I found up for free on DriveThruRPG, put them together with my idea to give dwarves a niche other than miners (in this case, lightning-powered mad science) and you get what I have.

I also wrote up elves with the goal of making them a lot more fey than the traditional tree-loving D&D depiction, but I'll stick to one subject per post for now.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
nWoD does not have multiple actions, and normally that's okay for the kind of horror game that it's trying to achieve. I've heard new World of Darkness described as not having a combat system, but rather having a "murder simulator" before. That's fine in games of playing predators of the night or packs of werewolves hunting spirits in the wilds, but using the system for fantasy gaming like what I do with it means that it breaks down a little bit.

As an example, look at the last session of the Flight of the Phoenix chronicle that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd ran. One-action-no-exceptions means that the kind of boss fight she tried to run is basically impossible, since the party outnumbers the boss. Add in that each additional attack after the first in a round reduce the target's Defense, and RPG staple one boss versus many PCs fights have an extremely narrow sweet spot in nWoD. Either the party wipes the floor with the boss, as we did in the Flight of the Phoenix game, or the boss is too strong and wipes out the party. I want to fix that, with a side order of letting the PCs fight hordes of weak enemies without themselves getting wiped out due to the numbers advantage.

So! Multiple actions. I'm probably in the minority who liked cWoD/Exalted 1e's splitting dice pools, which are summarized in post four here, but I think it would actually work here as long as there's no way to increase dice pools too high. If the average starting adventurer has 7 dice in their main pool, then they can probably default to two actions at -2 and -3 respectively. Two attacks, or attacking and maintaining control of a runaway carriage, or swinging on a chandelier while throwing the treasure to a compatriot. I'm not actually sure nWoD has rules for doing two things at the same time like this and there are also other ways to handle the problem (penalty to Firearms roll while also controlling the carriage, for example), but I can deal with that after seeing if this system works at all.

Speed powers like Celerity would not grant extra actions here, they would let the character mitigate some of the penalties of multiple actions. Maybe some kind of bizarre spirit or horrifying cthonic monstrosity is fast and gains extra actions, but not human-scale opponents.

One benefit of nWoD here is that since armor is purely ablative, then doing a lot of small attacks against a hard target might be pointless since none of them will have enough successes to do damage. Or it might be the strategy, as some party members wear down an opponent's Defense with a few attacks while other party members get into place for a single powerful blow. I actually like that possibility.

Problems I can see now: splitting dice pools this way is intuitive for me but might not be for my players, Defense is devalued because the number of incoming attacks increases (though I already house-ruled this, so I need to see how they interact), and high enough dice pools make the penalties trivial. Whether these will come up in play and break the game, I guess I'll have to find out. As Dungeon Fantastic says, actual play is the real crucible.

On RPGs and failure

2015-Jul-15, Wednesday 17:25
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
This post is prompted by this post about how to be a better player, which I have several disagreements with mostly due to having a different gaming philosophy--nowadays I don't think of RPGs as sitting down to tell a story, I think of them as sitting down to play a game and the story is how how you describe the game to people after it's over--but I'm not going to talk about those because they're mostly a matter of taste! I'm going to talk about failure from the GM's side of the table.

The article says:
We need to view failures as setbacks and explain why our character didn’t achieve their goal, and we need to understand that failure is not the end of the world
which is good advice. If you're playing a game where randomization is part of the means of determining actions, sometimes the RNG won't go your way and you have to deal with that. But it's also important for the GM not to make too many rolls a make-or-break situation either. Here's a couple common examples I've seen and what I did with them.

The first is the humble stealth roll, staple of RPGs the world over. One thing I used to do is have multiple rolls for sneaking in--one per guard, one per area, what have you--but this is setting the PCs up for failure. Even with one PC with a 95% chance to succeed, if they have to roll for each of ten guards, that's only a 60% chance to make it past all of them. Add in penalties for circumstances or two or more PCs who each have to make all the rolls and you're setting the PCs up for failure.

Rule One: Don't Set the PCs up for Failure
I ran headlong into this problem in the past, but nowadays I tend to deal with these situations in two ways. The first is by treating "sneaking into the area" as a single task, so it's not just a situation where I call for rolls until someone fails, and the second is by using the cooperative rules so that a single low-skill compatriot makes the task harder but doesn't mean that it's futile to even try. I also tend to stick to a Three Strikes rule. Much like in computer stealth games, as long as you don't run out and shout at the guards, a failed roll isn't going to immediately lead to a full-auto gunfight, it will lead to a guard saying, "Huh, what's that noise?" and looking around a bit. Further failures result in more alert guards and eventually the giant ❗️ appears over the guards' heads and they attack, but successes get things back on track.

It's like combat. Generally, the GM won't take the player aside and inform them that a sniper shot them from five kilometers away and now they're dead, so sad, better roll up a new character, because while that's the kind of thing that can happen and it is indeed realistic, it's not fun at all. That kind of all-or-nothing scope to the results just sets players up to do literally everything to avoid failure, which leads me to my next point:

Rule Two: Don't Let It All Come Down to a Single Roll
There's a reason RPG combat is almost never just an opposed roll where the loser dies. Partially because it's no fun and the G does stand for game, but partially because those kind of consequences are widely viewed as unacceptable for a single roll. GMs should really take that attitude and apply it to other areas of gamemastery as well. For example, the investigation roll. Call of Cthulhu is so notorious for adventures getting completely derailed due to a failed Library Use roll that an entire RPG (Trail of Cthulhu) was written to solve this problem. If there is a roll where the consequences of failure are "Everyone does nothing because there is nothing to do," don't require that roll. Emoji Objection

A brief aside here. I tend to roll my eyes at articles that talk about improv theatre and not saying no in RPGs because these are different media with different aims. For example, if the players fail a lock picking roll, there's no need to make the alarm go off or the guards show up or please anything happen just because it stops the action. Unlike improv theatre, generally the players have plenty of pre-existing knowledge of the world to draw on. If they can't pick the lock, maybe they can try getting the captain of the guard drunk and stealing her keys. Maybe they can consult with a witch in the town and find out a secret passage. Maybe they can disguise themselves as servants and sneak in. And the flip side is that a GM has to be open to these additional solutions. It's okay to say no to individual courses of action, or to let the RNG shut them down, but not to say no to everything except one course of action.

And now, failure in combat:

Rule Three: Not All Fights Are Fights to the Death
Despite what video games have told all of us, animals do not generally attack on sight and fight until slain. Intelligent enemies will fight until wounded before either surrendering or throwing down arms and running. Fighting to the death is not common and generally requires instinctual overrides like parents defending children or lots of training. In real life, fights generally go until one person is moderately hurt and then stop abruptly. Emoji Axe Rage

As a GM, it's incredibly important to realize this. Have enemies run. Have enemies surrender. Show through NPC attitudes that murdering prisoners and killing literally everyone who ever dares raise a hand against you is the mark of tyrants and is going to raise eyebrows at the very least. This can be hard to overcome, both because video games have trained us that all combats are to the death of one side or the other and because a lot of players have the attitude that killing all enemies prevents them from returning to haunt the PCs later. Which is fair enough, but the solution here is probably to talk to the players about it. If they know that losing a single battle is not automatically a TPK, they won't be afraid to be taken prisoner.

In some ways, this fits under Rule One, too. Even if the party has a 95% chance to win every battle, given enough battles...

And, the final rule I have for dealing with failure:

Rule Four: Set Appropriate Stakes
If the party is fighting to SAVE THE WORLD, of course they're going to be deathly afraid of failing because the world is where they keep all of their stuff. If they're fighting to SAVE THIS TOWN, then that still adds plenty of space for things to go wrong. This also ties in with the other rules and is in some way the ur-rule. Don't make the stakes on a stealth roll "You sneak past this one guard" vs "You fail the mission." Don't make the stakes in every fight "TPK."

I ran a Delta Green game for three years, and I'd say the PCs probably failed half the operas they went on. But in some cases, they pulled out a partial success--sure the whole town of Groversville is dead, but at least we eliminated the alien experiments on the water supply--and in some cases the interesting part became how they explained their actions as a success to their superiors even when they considered it a failure. And by letting them do that, I encourage player creativity while also enforcing the theme that too much secrecy is morally corrosive even if you're doing it for the right reasons. Win win.

Failure is what you make of it, but it's important that the GM give the PCs enough that they can make something of it.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
I'm working on what I described as a "Frankensteinian P6 Grim 'n' Gritty strain-based spellcasting psionics-as-skills [module] [module] Dark Sun homebrew" on an thread, and I've recently come to the question of how to handle the preserver vs. defiler split. The original 2e books just treated it as separate classes, with the defiler advancing about twice as fast. D&D 3.x makes all classes require equal XP per level and I don't want to change that, so I went to the drawing board.

One thing I already changed is that I made most character conflict an opposed roll (Attack vs. Defense, Casting roll vs. Saving Throw), so I figured I'd add a roll to draw power from the land when preserving. Preservers have to roll against the local terrain type, with less verdant places having a higher DC, to draw the power out. Failure means they roll again next round and add it to what they've already rolled, Sovereign Stone-style, and when they beat the roll or if rounds equal to the spell level have already been spent channelling, they cast the spell. That way it doesn't take an entire combat to cast one magic missile due to bad rolls.

Defilers get to skip all that, rip the life energy out of their surroundings instantly, and cast with no problems.

I also wrote in that defilers can use metamagic feats with one fewer spell levels required than normal, and there are some metamagic feats that only defilers can use, like the ability to heal themselves with some of the energy or making everyone caught in the area that turns to ash feel sick in addition to the normal penalties. Preservers don't get any of these benefits.

Using "defiler" and "preserver" is a bit of a misnomer, though. There's just sorcerers, and they can decide how to cast spells at any time. Previous editions had them as separate classes, or as a dark side-style choice where too much defiling caused spiritual corruption, but that's stupid. It shouldn't be a tipping point, and it shouldn't be a choice made at character creation, because it should be a constant temptation. For the sorcerer among the dunes trying to pull enough power to cast invisibility before the band of gith finds her, she can think that it's already a desolate waste. How much would one bit of defiling here hurt? What's ash when it's already sand? It's only the one time, after all. And then next time her friends are in danger and she can't risk the glitterdust not going off. But these were special circumstances. It won't happen again. Until it does.

I know balance is important in D20 and this isn't balanced at all, but I don't really care. Defiling is better than preserving in every way other than the trail of ash defilers leave behind them and the knowledge that they're contributing to the death of their world.

There's a reason that Athas is a blasted wasteland, after all.
dorchadas: (Exalted: One True RPG)
I've never really liked the way Exalted handles martial arts styles. In first edition, Brawl and Martial Arts were separate combat abilities, with the former representing untutored street fighting and the latter representing codified fighting styles. In addition to the Orientalism, as the number of styles proliferated, Martial Arts got better and better compared to Brawl. Its breadth expanded, because whatever weapons a style required used the Martial Arts ability instead of Melee or Archery, eventually culminating in styles like Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style, which has a lot of social utility and involves turning into an incredibly beautiful gazellefish, or Citrine Poxes of Contagion Style, which is about punching diseases either into or out of people.

Second edition got rid of Brawl, collapsing all unarmed combat into Martial Arts, but then it turned the old Brawl Charms into Martial Arts styles and gave them a special designation of "Hero" styles, which could be expanded on by the Exalted type they were innate to. Anyone could learn Terrestrial Hero Style, but only the basic Charms, and Dragon-Blooded could expand on that with extra Charms that only Dragon-Blooded could learn. Unfortunately, that crippled Solar unarmed fighting, because Sidereals having the best martial arts is a setting point and so Solar Hero Style was a Celestial style, with less powerful Charms than most Solar ones.

Third edition--or at least, the version I've seen--separates Brawl and Martial Arts again. Furthermore, it introduces Craft proliferation into Martial Arts. No longer does a character have Martial Arts •••, they have Martial Arts (Tiger Style) •••, and need to relearn it if they want to study another style. It also gets rid of the Terrestrial/Celestial/Sidereal split and just gives styles reduced effect when practiced by Terrestrial-level characters and increased effect when practiced by Solar-level ones, which I'm neutral on. But Martial Arts can still do anything.

That's the background. What I've done in my Dragon-Blooded Charms document is turn Martial Arts styles into a concept rather than tying them to a specific ability, so each style derives from an ability based on its concept. That means that I can spread the ranged styles to Archery and Thrown like they should be so that one ability doesn't let a character punch, shoot, stab, and turn into a gazellefish. It also lets me delve into non-combat abilities. Lightning Hoof Style is clearly a Ride style, and Jade Mountain Style fits into Resistance. Custom styles I've found like Reflections on the Tides Style (Lore) or Rebellious Demon Style (Dodge) fit pretty well into this system too, and it provides another way around the out-of-aspect surcharges and elementally-associated Charms for abilities that the base rules don't give them. Earth-aspected Melee, Fire-aspected Archery, Water-aspected Thrown, Wood-aspected Melee, etc.

I really should just go all in, rename the Martial Arts ability to Brawl again, and turn Terrestrial Hero Style into Brawl Charms. That would get rid of the odd "Water aspects are attuned to every Martial Arts style in the world" rule. I can just add an "house rules in this document" section in the beginning that explains it in case anyone I know wants it.

You know, I think I will do that.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
I've had another setting idea lately, probably using a variation of True 20 (as I wrote about here). The basic setting up a world of islands on a vast sea, but instead of an archipelago the islands are mesas and mountain tops, with a sea of corrosive miasma covering most of the world. Water is as precious as gold, and trading airships cross the miasma, binding the remaining inhabitants of the world together. Below the miasma are the illithids, engaged in a long process of terraforming the world to be more to their liking, and the various creatures of the ecology that they're creating--stuff like grick, grell, ropers, various fungi, aboleths, otyughs, and other betentacled horrors. The point here to take the various monsters that D&D usually has as nightmare monsters from beyond reality and cast them all as parts of a single ecosystem.

Non-aberrations would also have been displaced by the miasma too, so there'd be conflict with ogres and kobolds and so on for the remaining living spaces as well as between nations over water and arable land.

The other idea I had, fueled by Planescape: Torment and The War Against the Chtorr series, is that since the mind flayers are basically invading aliens terraforming the world in this scenario, have the githyanki and the githzerai show up as other aliens to battle it out with their ancient foe, turning the world into a three-way battleground. That's the high-end area of the campaign. The mid area is expeditions into the miasma to recover ancient artifacts and fight the ecosystem, and the low end is conflict on the mountaintops.

Fitting with the science fiction-ish theme, I'd get rid of standard wizardry and recast psychic powers through a sorcerous lens. Pyrokinesis would thus be "The Lore of the Flames," Empathy would be "The Lore of the Heart," Teleportation would be "The Lore of the Spheres," and Victorian-style spiritualism would be "The Lore of Whispers." Another part of the reason I want to use True 20 is that it's magic system is already basically psychic powers so there wouldn't be much converting required, other than reorganizating existing powers a bit.

Well, today I was reading my RPG RSS feeds and it turns out that apparently Jeff Grubb came up with that idea twenty years ago.

It's mostly there, other than the githyanki/githzerai angle. Living on mountaintops, cloud sea, mind flayers down below, the works. He focuses on cloudsea versions of existing water monsters as a way to avoid the problems with underwater adventures rather than aberrations as a unified ecosystem rather than lolweird monsters, but the principle is the same. He also doesn't do anything new with the magic and doesn't have the science fiction lens, so I can legitimately feel like I take the basic idea in a new and interesting idea. Still, there really is nothing new under the sun.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
Now that the Dragon-Blooded Charms are mostly done and Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom is statting up monsters, I've returned back to my old Dungeons & Design series about making a fantasy heartbreaker, since it turns out that while I do like Novus a lot, it still does just enough things differently that I'm willing to spend hours kitbashing up something new based mostly on True 20 with added bits from Novus and Ken Hood's Grim 'n Gritty combat rules (PDF warning).

So, I read back over my old post about dice mechanics about bounded accuracy and dice curves, and I have a better idea than 2d10, which does have a bell curve but doesn't allow the full range of d20 results. However, rolling 3d20 and taking the middle keeps the d20 and the full range of results while making it a lot less swingy. Higher numbers are slightly more common than 2d10 and slightly less common than d8+d12, but the added benefit is that I can use the other dice to do additional functions. One concept I really like in Novus is how 1s and 10s always explode, leading to a larger randomization range even though it's not likely to happen, and while it's not quite as elegant with middle of 3d20 I did think of a reasonable facsimile. If any of the dice rolls a 20, add an exploding d6. If any of the dice rolls a 1, subtract an imploding d6. If there's both a 1 and a 20 on the same roll, add an exploding d6 gain a Conviction Point.

I tried to write an AnyDice program to demonstrate this myself, but there's enough complexity there that I couldn't get it to work right, and I don't understand Troll's syntax well enough to even make the attempt. I did go post about it on, though, and the creator of Troll kindly wrote out a program that was a lot shorter than I expected:
x := 3d20;
m := median x;
if 20=x then \ if there is a 20
  m + sum accumulate i := d6 while i = 6
else if 1=x then \ if there is a 1
  m - sum accumulate i := d6 while i = 6
else m
Which you can copy over to Troll or scroll down the user rolls drop-down until you get to "Median 3d20 + exploding/imploding d6."

What I learned is that the odds of rolling a twenty under this system are 5.6%, which is almost the same as the base d20 system's 5% odds, and the odds of rolling a 1 are 4.3%, so it's very slightly biased above the usual d20 average due to the times both a 1 and 20 are rolled exploding and not imploding. But that's fine with me, and it means that I probably don't need to mess with d20 DCs at all, which is good! Less work for me!
dorchadas: (Exalted: One True RPG)
This is my attempt to retool Exalted mortal-level combat into something I like a bit better and that's more suitable for people who aren't leaping all around the landscape all the time and who don't have dozens of discrete rule-breaking packages to draw on. It draws on a few ideas I've mentioned before, which I'll summarize here for the benefit of putting it all in one place rather than scattering it over a handful of different blog posts, often months in the past:
  • Flurries Don't Exist: Everything has a Speed and everything is a single action. The closest to an old flurry is Double Attack, and that still takes place on separate ticks.

  • Defense Is Rolled: References to DVs below always refer to the total defense value, i.e. the raw Strength + [Ability] + Defense or Dexerity + Dodge + Essence, which is rolled in response to an attack. The smaller dice pools available to mortals and the removal of flurries should make this a much more tenable option.

  • Grapple Is Extensively Changed: I wrote about this before, but see below for more finalized rules.

  • DVs Do Not Naturally Refresh: Combatants must take the Guard action to refresh their DVs. The intent of this is to model constant attacking leading to combatants overextending themselves and leaving themselves vulnerable, which is what stacking DV penalties on flurries used to do before I hacked them out.

  • Movement Is Not Reflexive: This is more experimental than the others, but I'm going to try removing reflexive movement and requiring an action for each move.
Several of the descriptions are taken from here, though some parts have changed to account for the rules above.

(Speed 3, DV -1)
When Aiming is declared, choose a target. Aborting to attack the target adds a number of dice to the attack equal to the ticks spent aiming (max 3). Aborting to any other action gives that action a -2 internal penalty. Aiming may be maintained indefinitely.

(Varies, DV -1)
Make an attack. Speed is based on weapon type. There are several types of attacks which carry their own characteristics.

  • Brutal Attack (Speed Varies, DV -1): A Brutal Attack action is identical to an Attack action, save that it has an Accuracy penalty of -1 and it increase the raw damage of the attack by three. Punch and kick are thus replaced by unarmed Attack and unarmed Brutal Attack, respectively.

  • Charge Attack (Speed +1, DV -2): This combines a Move and an Attack into a single action, allowing the character to advance up to twice their Move rate and immediately make an attack at the end of it. Anyone currently taking the Guard action gains a +2 bonus to defend against a Charge Attack.

  • Double Attack (Speed Varies, DV -3): A Double Attack action makes two separate attacks with the same weapon, one right after the other. The Speed of the whole action is the highest Speed of the weapons involved, though the second attack takes place one tick after the first. The first attack suffers an Accuracy penalty of -4, and the second suffers an Accuracy penalty of -8. Weapons with Rate 1 or with the 2H tag cannot be used to make a Double Attack.

  • Quick Attack (Speed -1, DV -2): A Quick Attack action is identical to an Attack action, save that its DV penalty is -2, it has an Accuracy penalty of -2, and it reduces the Speed of the attack by 1.

  • Thrust (Varies, DV -2): A Thrust action is identical to an Attack action, save that its DV penalty is -2 and it carries the Piercing tag.

Coordinate Attack
(Speed 5, DV -2)
When Coordination is declared, choose a target and participating allies (which may include yourself). Roll Charisma + War, difficulty (Half the number of participants, round down). Allies included usually need to Aim or Guard until your next action. During your next action, the target's suffers an external penalty to their DV equal to the number of successes rolled, to a maximum of (number of participants) against any attacks made by any participant during that tick.

(Speed 3, DV -2)
Dash allows the character to move [(Dexterity + 6) - Mobility Penalty] * 3 yards, or half that amount of hexes if using a battlemap. As a special condition of Dashing, characters cannot apply their Dodge DV while performing a Dash action.

Defend Other
(Speed 5, DV -2)
This combines the effects of Defend Other and Blockade Movement. The character may interpose their own Parry DV between an attacker and a target within the range of their weapon. If the attack misses, no further effect occurs. If the attack hits, the character may choose to suffer the hit themselves or allow the threshold successes to continue through to the target, who may also defend separately against it. In addition, the character may make a contested [(Strength or Dexterity) + Athletics] roll against anyone moving within range of their weapon. Success stops that character in their tracks, and they must Disengage to escape combat. Only melee weapons may be used for Defend Other.

(Speed 2, DV -0)
When one character wishes to withdraw from combat without being attacked, they may make a contested [(Strength or Dexterity) + Athletics] roll against those in melee range. The character rolls only once, though anyone in range of her may oppose their roll. If any opponent beats the character's roll, they may make an Unexpected Attack against the character if they choose to Move away from combat. If none of them do, the character may move up their Move rate away without suffering attacks.

(Speed 6, DV Special)
Make a Grapple roll [(Strength or Dexterity) + Martial Arts] as an attack with Speed 6, Acc +0 and Rate 1. If it hits, the character gains a number of clinch points (CP) equal to the threshold successes. Clinch points do the following:

  • Reduce the target's DV by the total CP.

  • Reduce the target's effective Strength + Athletics for Feats of Strength by the total CP.

  • If CP reduce the target's DV and Feats of Strength score to zero, the target may not move or defend and can only attempt to break free of the clinch.

  • If CP exceed the target's Stamina, the attacker may throw them up to [Strength] yards away. The target checks for knockdown.

  • CP may be converted at a one-for-one ratio to dice of Bashing damage, which is treated as a Step 8 damage calculation. This damage is Piercing, and each die of Bashing damage reduces the amount of CP on the target by 1.
The character who is clinched may roll [(Strength or Dexterity) + Martial Arts] against the current CP total, with each success reducing it by one. Multiple characters may attempt to clinch the same target simultaneously, and add their CP together to determine its effects.

(Speed 3, DV Special)
Guard resets the character's Defense back to maximum. A Guarding character may abort to another action on any tick after the first, but may otherwise maintain this action indefinitely. In addition, they may make appropriate social attacks (calls for surrender, attempts to intimidate, etc.) while Guarding.

Miscellaneous Action
(Speed 5, Varies)
This is the term for any number of combat actions that don't fall into the other categories, like standing up from being prone, drinking a potion, picking up a dropped weapon, and so on.

(Speed 2, -0 DV)
The character moves [Dexterity - Mobility Penalty] * 2 yards, or half that amount of hexes. The Mobility Penalty cannot reduce the character's effective Dexterity to less than one for the purposes of calculating Move distance.

The intent of this is to establish interesting tactical choices in the absence of the Charms that usually carry that responsibility in Exalted, but it's entirely possible that this will make combat a hell of confusion and annoyance. I'm most worried about the removal of reflexive movement, and I might end up reintroducing move-per-tick but keep it at the minimum of 2 yards per tick--I won't prevaricate, it's basically reinventing the Five-Foot Step. But as long as I don't have a giant chart of Attacks of Opportunity, I should be okay.

I'm inspired a bit by the guy at Dungeon Fantastic who's running a dungeon crawl game using GURPS, which is much more on the level of game systems I find interesting even if I wouldn't want to use it specifically. And that does rely on the players, too. It's entirely possible that this system will work and hang together and be consistent but the players won't like it, which makes it pointless. It needs more playtesting, is what I'm saying.
dorchadas: (Exalted: One True RPG)
One thing I noticed in my Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom combat test was the huge movement rates. Moving every tick does keep people engaged and allow for some interesting strategy, but it also slows combat down a lot and requires a large area griddedhexed out, especially if one of the combatants has a ranged weapon and faster movement speed. So I thought, what if I added a cost to movement?

Keep the same overall move distance per tick, but make Move a Speed 2, DV -0 action, so each Move action moves (Dexterity - Mobility Penalty) * 2 yards, and then each Dash action moves (Dexterity + 6 - Mobility Penalty) * 3 yards. I already made each hex two yards across, so the average soldier in armor will be moving one hex per movement action, or 10 hexes per Dash action. Dash has its own DV penalty and prevents any parrying at all without a stunt, and since mortals rely on parrying due to Mobility Penalties to Dodge caused by armor, Dashing probably won't be common other than in the beginning or near the end.

I'd need to end up adjudicating edge cases so there aren't any situations where leapfrogging movement prevents people who should be next to each other from actually attacking, but that probably fits under the spot ruling I made for Attacks of Opportunity for people disengaging from combat--Dexterity + Dodge (-Mobility Penalty) vs. Wits + Melee, if the defender wins they withdraw safely, if the attacker wins they get a free attack against DV 0. In a blind rout, I'd go straight for the attack and avoid the roll-off.

This is partially inspired by buying some glass beads, since I can use those to count ticks. Every time anyone does an action, draw a number of beads equal to its Speed. Every tick, toss one back in the pot. On the tick a character tosses the last one in, they act. Repeat as necessary. It could be really fiddly and annoying, but it could also offer a nice tactical feel for combat.

It's also inspired by old Action Point CRPG combat systems, which Exalted is pretty close to already.

None of this is a consideration in any game that actually has Exalted in it, because when Monkey Leap Technique and Instinct-Driven Beast Movement come into play there's no point in tracking movement on a grid at all. There's a reason Exalted 3e is going to FATE-style Zones instead of tracking movement by the yard, after all. And it's not necessary in a lot of battles where exact position at the degree the game supports isn't super important, like one-on-one duels. But for a game where the combatants aren't jumping all around the map all the time, I think this has a lot of potential.

This might call for more testing!
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
Since I bought Legend of the Five Rings 4e, I've thought about running a game inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire because a lot of the particulars are pretty close. Unified nation that's mostly independent power blocs? Ruling family with the Mandate of Heaven? Mysterious pre-humans who are mostly gone nowadays? Low-key magic? A giant wall beyond which are the enemies of all humanity? Peasants who are treated like dirt by the nobility, who are obsessed with honor and duty but mostly just have all the weapons?

It turns out I was totally wrong about the low-key magic, but the rest of it fits reasonably well.

A couple days ago, I was looking at my copy of Sengoku and thought, "You know, this is really overcomplicated, but if I converted it to dice pools and simplified it a lot, I could run it without too much trouble." Then I thought, "Actually, I could do that and then use L5R's setting and rules, subbing in okuden for bushi schools, ki powers for kiho, and prayers for magic. That'd let me tone the magic down a bit, too. I like the idea that the real path to magical power is blood magic." I've only read Legend of the Five Rings in fits and starts, so I'll need to read it cover-to-cover, but I was planning on doing that anyway. Trying to convert over specific mechanics is usually more trouble than it's worth, but I'll want to make sure there's a mechanism for courtly actions and one for duels.

So now that's the latest RPG fire in my brain. How come all my RPG ideas require bunches of conversion work?
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
Maybe it's the fact that my read-through of all the Dark Sun books is almost done, but lately I've been thinking about running a Dark Sun game using the Exalted rules. Bleeding, permanent crippling, infection, environmental damage, and weapons and armor granular enough that it's possible to model the "metal is rare" and increasing scale of wood < stone < bone < obsidian < metal weapons without much trouble. There's even a great list on of a ton of armor types made from chitin, wood, leather, monster bits, and so on to steal from. I never thought D&D of any sort was a great fit for Dark Sun's hardscrabble survivalist brutality.

I've given a bit of thought in how to translate the interesting parts of Dark Sun over to the mechanics, too.

This is easy. I can use Revlid's Mutation Revisions and build them all out that way, the way I did for standard D&D in my Dungeons and Exalts post. That'll take maybe 30 minutes at max.

This one is easy conceptually, but would take time. Basically, Exalted's Charm structure makes it easy to make psionic power cascades. A Telepathy one starting with Contact and everything branches off that, a Psychometabolism one starting with Biofeedback, a Psychokinetic one starting with telekinesis, and so on. Or maybe two or three entrance points into each tree. That's similar to how the Complete Book of Psionics worked, and it's how Exalted's Charms work too, so they're a natural fit.

Also, I could use the Essence stat as a measure of psionic power, to emphasize how central psionics is in Athas. And I can even keep Exalted's supernatural martial arts by stealing the fluff of the sensei kit from The Will and the Way and recasting them as psionic fighting styles. The elemental focus of martial arts even fits Dark Sun's fluff, too. Anything that leads to less work needed for a project like this is good in my book.

This one is a bit harder. The way I'm thinking of it now is to assume that all magic is basically the same (no arcane/divine split) and requires external power, but priests and druids get theirs from powerful entities and wizards have to draw energy out of living things. They'd draw on the same spells, then, but wizards would get a wider selection with a side order of witch-burnings.

I could do it in WFRP-style spell lores, divided into three circles each. So, the Lore of Fire for fire clerics, with...I don't know, Torch Circle, Bonfire Circle, and Inferno Circle, with five spells or so per circle. Then Lores for the other three elements and the para-elements (Sun, Rain, Silt, and Magma). Elemental priests get all three circles of their element and the first circle of a related element. Druids get the Lore of Animals and the Lore of Plants and the Lore of one related element, and pick one at three circles, one at two, and one at one. Templars get anything their sorcerer-king deigns to give them, which makes them a lot more powerful and versatile, but it's that way in the original source material too, plus they're tied into their city-state hierarchy and all the backstabbing and treachery that comes with it.

Wizards get anything with no restrictions, including stuff that no one else can get like the Lore of the Dead (making undead creatures, surviving death, etc.), the Lore of the Spheres (traveling to other planes), the Lore of Enchantment (enchanting items, which would be a wizard-only thing), and probably some other stuff, but have to deal with witch-burnings and their existence being illegal basically everywhere. Get the Larceny and Performance skills and pretend to be a mindbender or a priest.

Unlike the source, I wouldn't bother to mechanically distinguish preservers and defilers beyond modeling spellcasting, where it would be the same except preservers would take longer to cast their spells and defilers would leave ash behind. If not leaving black ash everywhere were an easy choice, then Athas wouldn't be a blasted desert hellscape, now would it?

It seems like it would work really well, yet as with many of these ideas I have, the main thing that puts me off is the writing. I just spent a couple dozen hours writing down all the Dragon-Blooded Charms and applying the various layers of errata to get a single PDF with all the Charms in it that doesn't require flipping through multiple books so that I could run that Ollantijaya game I mentioned a while ago, and do I want to start another project immediately? It could work, but it would take work.

Well, that and I already have a couple dozen complete RPGs that require less tinkering that I could run, once I have time for another game. It's true that I like RPG tinkering for its own sake, but I'll just faff around forever messing with projects unless I set some limits.
dorchadas: (Exalted: One True RPG)
While I was pretty happy overall with Exalted's combat system when I tested it out, there's still one thing that annoys me--that the defender doesn't get to roll. I prefer opposed-roll combats, which is why when nWoD is played in our house, Defense is Dexterity + Wits and the defender rolls. Since DV is based on the mathematical average of the defense pools, it wouldn't cause too many mathematical problems.

It would make combat deadlier, though. Since DV is the mathematical average, roughly half of the rolled results will be above it, and half would be below. All the rolls above lead to the same expected result, since you can't defend any harder than completely. But some of those rolls below would lead to hits that would not have otherwise occurred under the static DV system, and that means more damage done overall. How much more, I'm not sure. I'll have to see how it works out.

This also lets me change the Onslaught Penalty from only applying on flurries (which are dumb) to applying to all attacks that take place between actions, the same way it works in nWoD. It makes it half as effective, since it would be -1 Defense per attack and 2 Defense = 1 DV, but that's fine with me. I implemented it in the test battle I ran, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd said she felt like there was nothing she could do to prevent it.

Actually, I can probably get rid of DV penalties on basic attacks if I'm using both of those changes. That will work to reduce lethality, so it'll help counteract the way the previous two suggestions increase it and prevent some annoying bookkeeping at the same time.

I'm pretty sure this hack breaks down completely once Charms and buckets of dice come into play, but for mortal-level games I think it'll work. I'll have to test it and see if it slows the game significantly.

That only leaves rolled damage is the remaining annoyance, but that's way too much work to strip out. If I make damage values static, then even mortal Exalted turns into iaijutsu duels, and reducing that requires reworking the damage values of all the weapons, powers, and enemies in the game. I have better things to do with my time.


dorchadas: (Default)

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