Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thoughts and discussions about classes in RPGs

Last night I was in the shower, after having spent some of my day thinking about my RPG, Stuff of Legends, I had a thought. To intro with some background, I've decided to design Stuff of Legends without classes or character levels from the get go, letting skills and their levels describe the character.

So I had a thought, and it was following playing both Numenera and D&D 5th edition lately. In either game, there are classes present, subtly in the prior, overtly in the latter. The way the games function, and how the characters act out based on and despite of their class, got me thinking on why classes were retained as a feature, despite moving away from the wargaming roots.

My thoughts about classes are mixed for all kinds of reasons, but now I find a warmer spot for them in my heart. The complexity of the 3rd and 4th editions of D&D had turned me off them, but D&D's 5th edition had given me a chance to rethink why exactly I had issues.
I've found out that I do not actually have issues with the concept of classes. The idea that a character had spent their formative years learning a specific trade or, in this case, class, is more than OK - it makes sense. In this regard, I find classes logical, since they provide a lens on the character and their life before being generated.
But I still have issues with classes, despite it. For starters, in some games, a wealth of information and in-game-world choices are present. If a game were to be set in modern times, it would make very little sense to me to rely on classes. If the game is fantastic, or medieval, a different issue rises: multiclassing. I honestly multiclassing has no room in fantasy gaming, unless it is handled like older D&D did it - once you pick up a new class, you can't return to an old one*.
So the train of thought continued and brought me back to my game: why do I not have classes in my game? The answer feels half-hearted: because it restricts the move from concept to on-page character. Restrictions apply due to setting, so you won't find Earthbenders from Avatar in Steampunk England, nor would you find a wuxia hero in a pre-historical hunter-gatherer style game.
But when you look beyond the restrictions of setting, classes seem to restrict in less-ideal ways. Let's use D&D 5th edition for some examples, since it's the most essentially flexible of the bunch. Let's take the Eldritch Knights path for the Fighter. This path talks about wizard-mixed fighters with strictly abjuration or evocation spells - defense and offense. Spells only up to 4th level and a limited amount of them. Assuming we define within the spell levels allowed, you cannot have an Eldritch Knights with Alter Self, See Invisibility and Dimension Door, for a type of spy-counterspy Knight. If you wanted this, you would have to houserule or multiclass. If the GM has chosen to not do the first and not allow the second, the player has a concept that they cannot realize and that chafes for me.
I think that, in the bottom line, I am torn - classes give a very clear outline of who the character sees themselves to be. As far as I know, the vast majority of people in the past several thousand years required a very good reason to change how they were going about their lives. In the context of fantasy RPGs, for a wizard to dip into fighter there would need to be a very major event in their lives, as would the other way around. But in the same time, classes are restrictive in their nature and even the most flexible systems leave things to be desired.

The term discussions serves two purposes for me: the first is to open the floor for discussions, while the second is to point at a subject as something I am not sure about. Below I have a few such discussions for which I would like comments, replies and actual discussion to come up. My thoughts are laid out, in part, above and, while they may change, will direct what direction I want to take with the discussions.
Additionally, before the discussions, are some relevant mechanics from my game, as it is the primary subject of the discussions:
  • Currently, characters receive some definition by spreading points between 3 pillars: warrior, specialist and arcanist, which describe the 3 primary types of characters: combat, non-combat and esoteric. Besides providing advantages, these pillars have no other mechanical use as of yet.
  • The number of skills which describe character roles and capabilities stands at 17, though this number will change. These are grouped under attributes and are as general as I was able to get them, with skills like Combat and Knowledge.
  • Nearly everything comes in 4 levels which map to beginner through master.
Discussions are kept in a numbered list for convenience of reference.
  1. The issue with which way to take, classes or classless, stands strong for me now. So does multiclass - or picking up new skills out of the blue. I prefer to remain classless, but then a skill system needs boundaries as to what skills may be picked up and I'm not sure how to work this out.
  2. If restricting multiclassing, the question of when the restriction lifts is a big one. As this is restriction, rather than banning, when does the restriction lift, how and where does the limit for lifting stands? If for skills, how to even model that?
  3. The pillars currently serve a small but relatively significant role, providing an image of the character which could be filed under multiclassing from the get go. This fails, though, to help map out progression, which is where multiclassing fails for me. I'm not sure if to rely on the pillars for a solution at all.
That's pretty much all I have right now, though more might crop up. I'm not entirely sure what kind of comments and replies I'm looking for, but if I had to define: new views or examples from existing games - things to broaden my scope.

*I recall this from Baldur's Gate, so I suppose the right older D&D is AD&D.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

D&D 5th Edition and Infrequent DMing

I've run my first game of D&D 5th edition just now. I woke up before the sun did and went in with little prep.
Luckily, the results were good.

So impressions from the DM side about the mechanics that were taken into account, given no combat occurred and barely more than 1 spell used:
  1. The minimization of applicable bonuses and calculation thereof is wondrous. Because there are no branching and overly complex stats, calling a roll for anything has become easy and pleasant.
  2. The game still relies a lot on combat, as far as characterizing the characters. There are RP spells and RP character options, but they are a bit too few.
  3. I'm probably skipping a lot of rules by winging it, since the game felt barren of rolls, but it was fun and interesting. I suspect I might need to give the book a more thorough read.
  4. There are not enough monsters to really run a campaign with right now.
However, I'm also brought to another point: I feel like I'm a fair enough, but below average, DM/GM. Partly, the fault lies in how infrequent I get to do so, but I hope to remedy that. In another part, I think I need to get used to getting usable prep done for games, since by how much I'm winging it, I sucking out potential awesome from the game.

While we're here, let me tell you how it went. Playing were +Alex Perucchini and +Other Tim. +Anthony Fournier was slated to play but didn't show up last minute.

The mission the party got was to find out why the heck these local, nice kobolds were acting up and raiding farmsteads for food and goods, taking livestock and anything else they can conceivably lay their hands on.
They headed out, Alex a Paladin and Tim a Warlock, to the den of the kobolds. The guards outside were forthcoming and called for those in charge once they saw adventurers and feared for their lives. Out came a pair of Dragon Priests, who agreed to discuss the recent events within the den.
The party was taken to the priests' chambers, where the aforementioned refused to disclose details, and eventually the priests led the party to their draconic patron, a massive green dragon. The priests did not actually come with the party, so they did not hear the dragon debunk their story and request that the adventurers resolve this. The party got back, entangled the priests and got out of them that they are paying off a hobgoblin racket. Back to the dragon and then instructed to get this all resolved and kill the hobgoblins.
The party got back to see a small riot happening around the priests in the main chamber of the den and through character abilities found out the location of where the priests were keeping the money they were collecting. Since it was hidden, the party surmised that there wasn't actually a hobgoblin threat. With the recovered money, they paid off the town and gave half the remainder to the kobolds to live off.
0 combats, lots of roleplaying and one very big dragon.

+James Young - in case you were wondering what had happened.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another Valoria, WIP and Stuff of Legends draft 3

(click to embiggen)
Above is the map I've chosen to place Another Valoria on, its use gracefully allowed by Herwin Wielink. Thank you, Herwin :)

The current state of Valoria is such:
  • It's populated strictly by humans, although precursor races exist and those are not dwarves, elves or any other sundry race.
  • The humans are centered around several locations and the majority of the continent is wilderness. There are no mechanical differences based on where a character originates from.
  • Magic is uncommon but viewed with careful acceptance.
  • A crystalline element, called Varinium, is relatively plentiful and can be worked into a form that produces thrust. The use of Varinium acts as a scientific catalyst which jump-started advanced locomotion - airships are rare but functional, ships can travel more reliably and hovering vehicles are uncommon but in wide-spread use.
  • The cosmology of Another Valoria places the prime material plane in the center of 7 layers of planes. 
    • At the top is the Essence layer, from which all is made and where the creator god resides. 
    • Below Essence is Light.
    • Between Light and the prime material plane, Fire and Air share a layer.
    • At the bottom is Void, where things cease to exist.
    • Above Void is Darkness.
    • Between Darkness and the prime material plane, Earth and Water share a layer.
    • It is believed that the further up you ascend, the closer you get to Essence. In the same vein, if you descend into the earth you move closer towards Void.
It's not much, but it's progress.


I am also working on Stuff of Legends draft 3. Slowly I write my way through character creation. When I have enough to share, I will.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Short, celebratory post

While I was sleeping, my blog achieved precisely 1000 views. I feel like this number is very much celebration worthy, so here's a post to celebrate that with some bits of information about myself and blogs.

Bit #1: I've had 3 or 4 blogs in the past, my count is iffy. One was when I had been a teenager and another one or two when I was a bit older. The very first one held up relatively well, with infrequent updates, but it was also a personal one so I don't really count that. The other one or two were more about my interests and lasted several months before I completely forgot about them.

Bit #2: I don't remember how many views my blogs had among them, although the later one (might've been another one in the middle, but no idea if it exists and where) has 416. One way or another, I think neither got to 1000 and most certainly not this quick since I created it.

Bit #3: I've been refreshing the view count every 30 min or so last night, since my latest post went up. I have a tendency to define a part of myself through definitive achievements, preferably numbers, and 1000 views feels like one such achievement.

Bit #4: I never thought I'd get quiet so high, given the fact that 1000 isn't even that high.

<edited in>
And here are some fun stats
  • With 63% of all views, Chrome is the browser used the most to access my blog, followed by 29% Firefox and an assortment of others making up the final few percentage.
  • 49% of all views came from Linux machines, 35% Windows and 11% Mac. Picking up the slack are several others, with a whole 6 views from "other Unix" operating systems.
  • A massive majority of views, 810 of them, are from the USA, as could be expected. The far second is, unexpectedly, Israel with 75 views. I know I gave them links, I did not think they accounted for such a relatively large part of my views.
  • The most viewed post is Stuff of Legends - Character Basics with 44 views as of this post. Fun fact: it's using the first draft rules and terms, which were a mess.
I've not messed nearly at all with layout options before this post and any functional layout is probably going to be newer than this post.
 </edited in>

Thank you, readers and bots alike, for giving me the drive to keep writing and sharing by giving me your views and your +1s. Thank you very much! :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another Valoria, take 2

I was writing the third draft of Stuff of Legends, to work with the Another Valoria concept (third draft in chronological order. The second one has not been abandoned... I think). I got to writing about races and I noticed something: I couldn't figure out how to account for 2 entire races being completely wiped out - moreso by a war.
I mean, extinguishing a localized people is relatively simple, given you have the correct tools and methods. But an entire, continent-spanning race? I cannot begin to imagine how one such entire race is wiped out, deliberately, by another race, much less how two wipe each other out.

So the question I'm faced with now: what changes to enact in order to fix this lapse in the setting's narrative. Which bits do I compromise on and which do I hold onto?

Point 1: dwarves and elves evoke certain imagery and concepts, whether present as a race or as history.
Having either or both allows me to evoke certain images and concepts in players and GMs, without having to resort to sprawling descriptions and in depth analyses. This is double-edged, as it provides a familiar foundation, but it also takes away from the wonder in the world, as it sets it firmly in the well known.
Point 1 Verdict: they are both useful, but they aren't necessary. Compromise seems safe. Other races in their place?

Point 2: massive war definitely has immense casualty, but it rarely ends with complete genocide.
To push the part about not being able to imagine just how two races manage to completely wipe each other out. It takes an incredible coincidence to have 2 sides lose to the same degree. In the same vein, some force could intervene and tip the odds. Either the casualty is greater or this just doesn't work.
Point 2 Verdict: this makes little to no sense, except being "cool". Definite compromise. Exterior forces attacking? Shifting of how it ends?

Point 3: avoidance of elves and dwarves as PC races helps avoid reliance on the safest tropes.
Back to point 1: even if they aren't actively around, they still affect the world. Their general presence is a safe bet in design, which I suspect is harming the setting as a whole.
Point 3 Verdict: also back to point 1: other races as a compromise?

Point 4: the state of the continent is supposed to be bad. Disarray and massive swaths of land changed after the Event. Where kingdoms and maybe empires had been, now are city-states at most.
Points of Light is the bread and butter of many D&D-esque games. Adventure is found away from civilization and there is less civilization than there is wilderness. This is compounded by the rarity of safe wilderness, due to beasts and monsters. I want the taste of adventure.
Point 4 Verdict: if I want to achieve that, I need any kind of Event. To continue from point 2, it doesn't have to be a war, although those tend to do it.

Conclusions: It looks like compromise is the way to go here, after I give an honest look over at the original concepts. But it's not yet clear how to proceed - do I nix the elves and dwarves completely? Do I keep them but lose the war? Do I drop the war and find some other Event? Perhaps, is the Event still going on?

Going Forward
I don't really want people to see dwarves and elves in the list and say "Ah, of course!" and take some trope or other. While they are fully in the right of doing so, it feels lazy and plain to me. If I had to cobble together something right now, that takes into account all the compromises:
The Event is likely still going on and is an invasion of some sort - extraplanar or from another planet. There are ways and things. If there are elves and/or dwarves, they aren't recent. Theirs are the grand ruins where the greatest treasure lies. Maybe humans are gone too, since humans tend to be boring. Heck, maybe it's a big like Numenera, where the world now is much different than the world of a long time ago.

Heck, I might do just that.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Playing over Hangouts

After scheduling conflicts had been resolved, I've joined +Other Tim's Numenera game, being played over Hangouts. It's been around a year and a half since the last time I played, I think, and the game had been +Chris McDowall's Into the Odd.
I had fun. I really, genuinely had fun. Numenera is a pretty great game and Tim is a good GM. He really gets in character with NPCs and can really push a particular image or sensation into your mind, in that good way.
I'm playing a glaive that really quite show-offy. He's a decent fighter and a decent person.
Highlights included vivid descriptions of some creepy things, a fight with two mutants which I crushed with skill and really shifting the plot by killing what could've been an important NPC. She was creepy and spoke in my head.
So I'm looking forward to the next session, both since it was a fun, specific group and it's nice, in general, to get back to playing rather than just GMing.

Also, following some short discussion, we're planning to have a one shot of D&D 5e and I'm set for DMing it. Huzzah!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Another Valoria

While in the shower, and shortly before it, I was thinking about Stuff of Legends - the RPG I'm writing. I've hit a rut both in the system itself and in the development of its setting, Valoria. So while in the shower, I thought about what I could do differently, or at least what bothers me so much that I'm stuck, and it hit me that I still have a pretty ordinary fantasy world, except with some palettes switched out for different ones. It took me very little to picture a different Valoria.

Base assumptions
Valoria was thought up with some certain base assumptions: there were elves and dwarves and now there weren't, there was mighty magic and now it's harder to access, there are dragons and they aren't uniformly evil nor good across certain spectrums and finally - there's little actual and true evil anywhere to be seen.
I wanted to get rid of elves and dwarves since they were becoming less interesting for me alive. Their ruins are exploitable, but actual characters are... boring to some degree. Magic has a price, as can be seen in one previous post. Dragons are more of a united race. There are no demons.

Valoria v1
Saying it's the first version is misleading. It went through a bunch of iterations, but it's the first solid version. There are 5 races, after the elves and dwarves had gone, that all stem from humans - warped in one way or another. There are conflicting political superpowers. There are mysterious things to still come to know. But overall, when I write it out like this, doesn't it seem... kitchen-sinky? Not a bad thing to be, but I suddenly find myself boring.

The rut
I've been stuck for ages on other races. A full fledged five! One did this certain type of character well, another did that other type well. In trying to sidestep a trope, I walked right into one. I feel ashamed of myself, in a way. The same goes towards the political superpowers - the same old lady but with different clothes. Their precise creeds, forms of government and cultural quirks do little to make them truly interesting. And then there's the whammy, which hit me hard - what game am I trying to make again? Why do I care so much about political superpowers spanning half a continent? I felt like I lost sight of what I was going for.

Imitation and intentions
An advice that comes up often is to try and avoid building games from scratch, not because it's hard, but because it can be redundant. It follows with trying to see which game best fits the style you're going for and hacking or imitating it to a worthwhile degree.
And so I gave that some thought: I want adventures and adventurers, but I don't want classes. I want combat but I want it to matter. I don't want social interactions to be a heavy system. I don't want spell slots. There are numerous games out there in the fantasy genre and many fall into any number of these wants and don't wants, but I haven't yet run into one which answers everything. Hacking or imitation sounds about right, though.
So what is my game supposed to be about? It's supposed to be about going out on adventures and delving into dungeons, about exploring the wilderness and the unknown, about attaining power. This sounds like D&D, but some of my don't wants stand out. So do I hack or imitate? Remains to be a question.

And what this post is really about
But I went on a really long, winding path to get to my point. This post is about another Valoria, not necessarily Stuff of Legends as much as the setting that I wish to tie the game into.
In this other Valoria, some things are different but share a common base assumption:
  • The elves and dwarves did die, just not sequentially and quite recently. All out war brought the continent to its knees and the setting takes place during recovery.
  • From 5 races remain 3, and they get a bigger spotlight. Instead of covering bases, I want to make choosing a race an interesting choice. More than giving you general guidelines, I want the process to give you a feel for who your character is just from the racial choice process. I'm playing favorites and nixing races that felt too out of place and redundant.
  •  A multitude of disparate factions in favor of a few unified ones. Gone is the empire and other such superpowers. Spared are those who were far from the war. Points of Light all the way.
  • The elves and dwarves dying out took with them more than just cultures and history - inherent parts of the world became weakened.
  • The Not-Demons can be allowed to be more... unseemly.
These points still fall into many tropes, but out of them I see my vision as more fun to attain. I see a game closer to what I want to do and how I want to portray it, though this setting.

So there's a second Valoria. It isn't the new one, or the better one, just another one.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rough Ideas: Supervillains of another Earth - the Gentleman's Club

I like comicbooks and I like the stories therein. I've pretty much always liked them and always also had a soft spot for superhero comicbooks. Granted, what I like the most are stories about villains - villains gone good, villains doing good and even villains just being villains. Notable titles include Bad-Ass by Dynamite, Edison Rex by Monkeybrain, the Worm web serial, Deadpool (which you could argue is not a villain, but still) and others.

But there's a special spot in my heart reserved for villains not often found - ones that have unique and interesting powers. Granted, most powers have been done to death, but there are always new spins.

So I'd like to present the Gentleman's Club, supervillains of another Earth.


Mr. Multiple

Position: leader of the Gentleman's Club.
Real Identity: unknown.
Power: can create real, physical duplicates of himself, materialized in any pose and carrying up to anything he himself wears or is holding. The distance he can create these duplicates from his own body has been estimated at 50 meters. Neither he nor anyone else know the upper limit on how many duplicates he may create. When a duplicate dies, he simply disappears in a puff of smoke, although they are as durable as Mr Multiple.
(Author's Notes: I know this one has been done to death, but I can't imagine a non-duplicator not being at the top.)

Mr. Curve

Position: right-hand man and bodyguard of Mr. Multiple.
Real Identity: unknown.
Power: Mr. Curve's power is threefold and immensely powerful. It's first part is the ability to perceive trajectories of moving objects - fists, bullets, debris and pretty much anything in motion, as long as it can be clearly defined in thought. The second part is slowed down sensory perception, which allows him to think at normal speed while perceiving everything in slow motion - slow enough to see bullets travel is a leisurely pace. The third and final part is the ability to modify trajectories - the faster and bigger they are, the harder they become to modify. Nonetheless, Mr. Curve has yet to be harmed by a bullet, even at point blank, to illustrate a point.
(Author's Notes: this guy was the first to crop up as an idea. I really like him since he has a finely defined field of work with a massive scope.)

Mr. Fear

Position: in charge of drug trafficking.
Real Identity: Daniel Du Leyri,
Power: triggers acute hallucinations in line of sight which are directly connected to feelings and sensations. Whilst he can cover the entire psychological spectrum, Mr. Fear found that common punishment, in the form of fear-tied hallucinations, and rare rewards, in the form of pleasurable ones, are the best motivators. His primary restriction, line of sight, is also the primary reason why he isn't leading the Gentleman's Club - Mr. Multiple always has more than one duplicate running around and nearly always out of sight.
(Author's Notes: this is one wicked power that I thought up when I was researching tarot cards and thinking of suitable powers based on their meanings. This one is tied to the Moon.)

Mr. Shepherd

Position: in charge of violent operations.
Real Identity: George McNeilly.
Power: in justification of his position, Mr. Shepherd's power allows him to excite crowds in a frenzy that he is in partial control of. While his range is relatively short, at least as far as activation goes, those under the frenzy are susceptible to his commands and directions and are generally healthier and studier than they would otherwise be.
(Author's Notes: where Mr. Fear comes from the Moon card, Mr. Shepherd comes from the Sun card.)

Mr. Vault

Position: in charge of smuggling.
Real Identity: Armand Marney.
Power: has the power to store objects in an alternate, nearby dimension which overlaps with our own and in which time does not move.. The objects occupy physical space that directly corresponds to our own world and that surrounds Mr. Vault. No one but him, and Mr. Shift below, is capable of interacting with the objects within, as well as removing them. It is assumed, when he will die, that everything that was stored will be released all at once. Due to that, he claims, though the veracity of the claim could be questioned, that he has an atomic bomb stored several hundreds of feet above of himself and which is primed to detonate.
(Author's Notes: came up as a power in post-apo setting I've thought of. I liked it a lot.)

Mr. Shift

Position: in charge of covert operation.
Real Identity: Alexander Breen.
Power: where Mr. Vault can store things in that alternate, nearby dimension, Mr. Shift can physically enter it, along with anything he's wearing or carrying. Remaining inside is exhausting and ages him asynchronously in comparison to our own dimension, which has made him actually older, than just appearing to be. Anything that leaves his person, as though dropped or fired, immediately shifts back. While inside, time goes slowly enough as though to simulate that he's actually move abnormally fast.
(Author's Notes: in the post-apo setting, the main character and best friend of the guy with Mr. Vault's power.)

Mr. Devil

Position: in charge of legitimate fronts and promoting crime and chaos.
Real Identity: Tulliver Perdu.
Power: able to grant superpowers temporarily and permanently to others by trading it for something of worth. Mr. Devil is in full control of power retention and can revoke powers as long as someone he has powered is in line of sight. Things of worth are defined by those who trade them in and no one thing has any inherent worth outside of what the one trading it gives. Two lives might be worth very different powers, depending on all kinds of things. The powers given are impossible to predict, but can be directed by trading certain things.
(Author's Notes: the Devil tarot card, in continuation of the Moon and Sun cards.)


And there you have the Gentleman's Club, one of the most dangerous supervillain groups I could think of.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Late D&D 5e impression, schools of magic and play experiences in other countries

So this post is coming in really really late.

D&D 5e Impressions
So, sure, I've seen the Basic rules like a long while ago - about a month. Before I went to London, anyway. So I'm late to the impressions party. But still.
My biggest impression is thus, seeing as I didn't _really_ play before 3.x: this new edition is a fabulous thing. It's back to roleplaying goodness after how 4e had been more of a miniatures tactical simulation with RPG elements, rather than an RPG with major combat elements.
Now to be more precise - I like how...
  • ...classes are less boring, compared to 3.x, most notably spellcasters, which stopped having just the one schtick of spellcasting.
  • ...character sheets are less packed and offer better visibility to different aspects of a character. Also that they aren't the one that won that one contest.
  • ...that they removed a lot of modifiers, making things simpler and DCs adhere to a stricter scale.
  • ...how wizards have been given a middle ground that feels fair about spell prep.
I'm sure there are more things I have to say about the game, but this is the gist of it. I was excited by virtue of reentering the roleplaying hobby to play D&D 3.x, but 5e has me genuinely excited about the game.

Schools of Magic
So I'm still working on my RPG, Stuff of Legend, and recently really looked into how I want magic to work in my game and setting. After one iteration which didn't prove solid enough, I've stolen the magic schools of D&D 3.x and mixed them up a bit to get a better spread.
There are a total of 8 magic schools, divided into 3 tiers:
  • At the lowest tier are the essentially standard magic: illusion, conjuration, abjuration and evocation. These are scary in their own right, but they are predictable and direct.
  • Above them are more versatile and potentially dangerous schools: divination and transmutation. One can supply information about many things, the chief of which being the Enumeration spell. They are scary because the supply power that's harder to fight against.
  • At the top are the most dangerous ones, capable of the most harm: vitamancy and cerebremancy. The prior has the power to snuff out life indiscriminately with a flick of the wrist. The latter allows the wizard to read minds and cause massive brain damage with as much effort as vitamancer expend into killing. These are so considerably hard to defend against that they are the most scary and most regulated.
Players may choose the lowest or middle tiers when they create spellcasting characters. The schools are intended to speak for themselves, in regards to expected effects and I think I've done a good job.

Gaming in other countries
About a month ago I've been to London, for my sister's graduation from City University London (house of Gryffindor). Before I flew in, I sought out activities with people from the internet that I'm familiar with. James Young answered that call with an invite to their weekly game night he was GMing. The experience was fab.
To start with, it was my first time playing outside of my physical comfort zone - somewhere public that isn't directly tied to RPGs. Cons don't count, for that matter, is what I mean.
I had a beer sometime in the middle, which also counts for points.
My character, which started with the name Arlen but ended up with the name Frog*, lived through the session (well, there was no combat, although other characters had nearly died) and even contributed a bunch by defeating a ghost at Jenga.
We gamed for 3.5 hours, but they were a total blast. All players got as much spotlight as they were seeking and everyone was pretty much really grand.

Sorry that the posts aren't coming in very often, but I'm struggling to leave my social comfort zone of being a lurker. So here, have a late post about things.

*There are two good reasons for this switch in names: 1) the only remaining miniature to represent a character was a plastic frog, and 2) Frog had 4 charisma, which makes the name, at least as a nickname, sound pretty fair I think.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

611 views and Stuff of Legends progress report

I did not expect this. Somehow, since the last time I checked my statistics, this blog had a sudden influx of views. Allegedly, a third of my total of 611 views are from January, but a full sixth is from the last month. I am pleasantly shocked.

So I have some news to report, particularly on the Stuff of Legends front:

First Playtest
I ran a first playtest for a friend, solo session, last week. He rolled up two character and the process proved to be several things:
  • Quick. In under 20 minutes, one player rolled up both characters. Random attribute generation works well (roll 3d6, take middle) and the skills are clear enough as to make putting points into them a simple task.
  • Clear. During that time, I needed to explain fairly little, as the mechanical bits were clear and self-explanatory. Those mechanical bits grew a little in size since, but more on that in a moment.
  • Missing things. Mainly those I've yet to write. You can create complete characters, but there's nothing particularly definite about the entire thing.
The player had some experience with RPGs, so that contributed to the overall speed, so something to consider that, if not for the following entry...

 Not-Really-A-Playtest (Second Playtest)
I had gone to visit a friend of mine who's in the hospital for a little while. I had suggested that maybe I could run a solo session for her and she was psyched. Two birds with one stone! Her prior experience was a single session of Warrior, Rogue & Mage (by +Michael Wolf , aka Stargazer) with a pregenerated character and then a session of BareBones Fantasy (by +DwD Studios / DWD Studios) with a character she made herself, although inexpertly. In short, this playtest didn't test the system's finer points as much as how friendly it was to newbies.
The findings:
  • Viscerally fun. The game now relies on rolling a dice pool that can reach 9 to 10 dice easily for starting characters. Despite what might turn out to be a bit heavy, she found the mechanic fun and satisfying. Also, adequately suspenseful when her thief was getting attacked by guards.
  • Needs a rule reference. I kept slipping up some rules that are somewhat important. I need a rules reference printed out for the next playtests.
  • Clear character creation. The volume of skills had increased ever so slightly between one playtest and the next, from 12 to 16, and their dynamic shifted a bit. Despite the fact, I had to explain very little and a character was created quickly and easily even by someone with less experience. Due respect for this questionnaire for providing a viscerally fun time in figuring out what kind of character she should make.
A fun time was had by both of us and the lessons from the first playtest remained while other were added, as can be seen.

I must say that I'm pleased with the game I have now. It's interesting, fun, viscerally satisfying (rolling many d6s always is) and most of all - simple and intuitive. I have other playtests with other players lined up, although lacking dates, and a distinct want to test out group play before Aethercon III and the session I'm planning on running (Rite of the Black Keep, there).

An Open Invitation
My schedule is clearing up soon and with all this free time I will need some way to occupy myself.
So I would like for you, the reader, to do one of two things:
  1. Find me on Google+, or contact by Hangouts if you already know me, and ask about playtesting via Hangouts.
  2. Spread the word about the first thing, so might be that you are not interested, but another person may be.
Either of these being done would be greatly appreciated, as I really want to run this game some more and work out the kinks.

Friday, May 9, 2014

One shots, TPKs and hardcore Fate Dice

So, after buying a pair of hardcore Fate dice at my FLGS (see bottom of post), I decided to break a habit and join the local Thursday one shot. What followed was a lot of fun for me and a TPK for our party of 6. I may have been the reason for the TPK. I regret nothing.

We were sent by the king, as a squad of elite sorcerer-commandos (in, for some reason, leather armors and wielding short swords), to retrieve his kidnapped son. Apparently, a sorcerer more often attributed to myth than reality is actually real. Banished from the kingdom about 10 kings prior, with a slow turnover of kings, he... I think he vowed the destruction of the kingdom? Allegedly immortal but incapable of raising a mortal army, he has decided to summon demons with a ritual that requires royal blood. Enter us, as the ceremony can only be stopped right as it happens by the heroes.

It stands to reason to mention that the game had been billed as Classic D&D to me, sans actual D&D. As far as I'm concerned, that's codeword for "if one of you survives this, consider it a group win". I acted accordingly. This will factor in later.

So we raided the king's pantry and rode out several hours, leaving in the morning and arriving during twilight to the tower of Burtos the Black (or Burtos the Saint, the king got confused). This is a surprisingly short distance, but who am I to argue with the scenario?

The tower is surrounded by half a kilometer of a medium density forest. Sizable. The forest contained a camp of 40 trolls and the tower with an entrance guarded by 5 additional trolls. I suppose trolls of this amount don't count as an army?

My character was the only one to actually scout ahead, as the others bickered, leading to the discovery of the trolls and entrance. What followed was 45 minutes of additional bickering on what plan to implement in order to gain entry. To say the group was united would be wrong.

We gained entry with some clever illusions and found that the tower, inside, was barren of any and all lighting, furniture or decoration. Odd choice for The Tower of the BBEG. We climbed a nearly endless staircase leading to a ladder. The ladder had no landing (that is, below it was nothing leading to the lower iteration of the staircase) and led to a trap door with no one on the other side. We ascended, nearly lost one of our own, and were presented with another room, this time having no real proportions.

The room had a bunch of supermassive tiles and a stupid riddle about where you can and cannot step. The riddle we very easily grasped and as we moved forward on the tiles, we discovered a very large gap between one good tile and the next. This kind of threw a switch for me, since I dislike bad base construction.

At this point, things started to go wrong. One of the players decided to test what happens when you step on a bad tile and was rewarded with a massive stone crushing his leg into paste. He barely made the first jump across a gap. We later had a second gap and this is where things went worse. We lost one man to the first gap, since apparently a very healthy man cannot jump a 3m gap, much less one made smaller by the stone that scraped my ankle and broke it. I dislike  how this GM chose to interpret the die roll results.

The one we lost to the first gap had his knee crushed and he had become immobilized. I egged the party on to use him as a bridge, corpse or alive. We killed him but were unable to stop bickering long enough to remove his crushed leg above the knee and drag the corpse away. The one with the crushed leg was about to make the jump, after another player, who could cast Telekinesis, made the jump. As the prior was about to roll, I announced that I push him into the bad tile, to get crushed. My reasoning that he would make a fantastic bridge. Saved by telekinesis and having caused 2 stones to drop perfectly into a bridge, I thought everything was dandy.

And then the telekinesis caster decided to sneak up on me with an arbitrary die roll (which I could not resist because the GM decided) and kill me. I responded in the only logical way when a character I have no attachment to is killed by a character I have no attachment to. I used my Lightning spell to take her out with me. Death count went to 3.5. The player with telekinesis was oddly more mad than I thought she would be.

The remaining were two very healthy players with Wall of Flames and Force Fists spells. And a cripple.

They passed through the next to last door into an encounter with 4 goblins. I suspect that this sorcerer did not take a course in how to defend your base properly.

The encounter saw the cripple dead and the remaining characters to go down to 10% (wall of flames) and 50% (force fists) health. The goblins were played by myself and the telekinesis user and we tried to kill the others dead.

So the two remaining characters enter what turns out to be the final room, past the goblins, and see the sorcerer just about to stab the prince. Force fists are go and the dagger is knocked from the sorcerer's hands. He looks up and says (paraphrased): "You may have foiled my plans today, but this will be your downfall!" and promptly leaps out the window, the only one in the tower, and disappears, as force fists discovers when looking out. I had no idea it was that easy to disrupt a ceremony with no prerequisite conditions.

For some reason, after very little PC-NPC discussion with the prince, force fists throws the kid out the window, knocks out wall of flames and throw him out the window as well and then every corpse he could get his hands on follows suit. And then he jumps, getting himself killed.

And that's the tale of how I believe to have caused a TPK.

I think we all had fun, myself having most of it. The GM was pretty bad and the scenario kind of ridiculous and mundane, but it was fun. I doubt any of them would be willing to play with me again, though.

The aforementioned hardcore Fate dice. Note the lack of blank sides and the inclusion of a double Plus side and double Minus side.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Valoria d20-like - Character Creation, Classes and Advancement

So I said I'd post some thing about Valoria d20-like, so here comes some of it.
After I thought about what to retain from d20 games and what to ditch, I believe I have something solid now.

Character Creation
Among the things I've chosen to retain are the 6 attributes. They are not good, in my opinion, but they serve and they are familiar enough to get things moving quickly. Also retaining levels, HD and a relatively rigid class structure.
When creating characters, you first need attributes which range from -3 to 3 for humans. This is done in one of several ways:
  • Rolling 3dF is the best method, as it tends towards the center and provides a very easy way to generate a simple -3 to 3. Simulating 3dF with d6s is passable but not as good.
  • Rolling 3d6 for a point pool to assign from. Start from 0 and change as wanted, until all points are spent. Negative attributes give back 1 point per negative point (0 to -1 is 1 points, -1 to -2 is another point and -2 to -3 is a third point). Positive attributes require as many points as the score you're going into (1 requires 1 point, 2 requires 2 points and 3 requires 3 points).
  • A 12 point pool to assign from. Static and fine.
  • A standard spread, very likely 2, 1, 1, 0, 0, -1.
Notably, the low numbers on attributes have a very meaningful impact on rolling - much more than the 3 to 18 scale of standard d20 - but that I will cover in a later post.
After you have your attributes, apply any modifiers from racial choice, roll your HD based on race, choose your first class level and add anything the class gives you, like an HP bonus and advancement.

In Valoria d20-like, the choice of class is relatively definite and final. The class you choose at character creation defines the character very heavily and deviations become slight.
Unlike many other d20 games, classes in Valoria d20-like have a specific structure and interaction. The essential structure looks like a hexagon with a central vertex connected to all outside vertices. This structure defines who is neighbors with who and what type of multi-classing that class can do. In the center is the Jack (or Jane). The other six vertices act like a color wheel: primary colors are pure classes - warrior, spellcaster and rogue - while secondary colors are the complementary mixed classes to the pure ones - warrior-spellcaster, warrior-rogue and spellcaster-rogue.
The Jack is a unique class that has no attribute requirements. It's unlikely to ever become the core class of a character, but it is possible. Jacks advance in the smallest increments but do so much more quickly than the other classes.
The other classes require either double or triple the EXP than the Jack does, advance in larger increments and have attribute requirements.
Outside the structure there is a final type of class, tied to the "color" classes: specializations. Pure classes can specialize in only their own specializations and taking these specialty classes increases EXP requirements. Mixed classes may pick from their own special selection or from either of their pure neighbors. Jacks are unable to specialize, but may take more multi-class levels.

Advancement in Valoria d20-like is very simple: as you gain EXP, you invest it into a valid class (core class, multi-class or specialization). That EXP is taken from you and the cost of all valid classes goes up by 1 increment (2^[next level]*[base cost]).
Character receive their first advancement with their first level, so right off the bat. Each advancement provides Advancement Points, which may be spent on Primary Features, Secondary Features or Special Features. Primary and secondary cost 1 point each and special features cost 2 points, with the exception of the Jack.
Jacks receive 2 points, pure classes 3 points and mixed classes 4 points. Every specialization taken gives another point per level after it had been taken. Specialization levels don't provide points but rather give their special feature at the basest level.
There is no limit on how much of which features you take each level, except that you can't take the same feature twice in a level.
On the matter of multi-classing, you simply gain that level normally for that class, with all perks associated. The restriction is that you may not take more than a single multi-class level in any neighbor. Jacks may take 3 multi-class levels total while the other classes may only take 2. Humans receive another multi-class level to take.

I don't think I have anything else meaningful to share for now, so any comments and critique on what I have thus far will be very appreciated. Feel free to message me on Hangouts with any questions about the game.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Valoria RPG - d20-like

So I've decided to take a break from Stuff of Legends (whether it stays diceless or again returns to dice, or both) and find a less confusing RPG creation sanctuary. I tend to go a bit crazy when I don't have a project to think about on demand, and Stuff of Legends has become a bit of a minefield.

So the new project is just Valoria. Despite the mechanical baggage in Stuff of Legends, I still really like the intended setting and plan on using it for this side-project too.

I've chosen to tread familiar lands and concepts and take on creating a d20-like RPG. I say "-like" since I have no intention of every touching any die aside from a d6 here. I don't like other polyhedral dice nearly enough to use them.

There are already things I'm fairly sure I'll be doing: limited amount of levels, magic points instead of daily spell slots, somewhat customizable advancement and a different class paradigm. Nothing particularly distant, but definitely away from d20-based games.

I'll keep posting about it, as things shape up.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Stuff of Legends - More About Dice Mechanics

Apparently I still have a lot to say about dice mechanics that I didn't cover in the last post.

Effects and the Effect Ladder
How I failed to mention this, I do not know.
The effect in a roll is wide concept - it is damage, it is the amount of targets, it is a type of margin of success and essentially ties into most rolls. Below, there will also be a redux on contests, now that I remembered to mention effects.
The effect of a roll is always determined by an effect die, with one special case of the effect simply being 1 - 1 damage, 1 target, a margin of 1. This is where the ladder comes in, since there are ways to affect your effect. The effect ladder has two special notations - high die, or HD, and low die, or LD:

1 > LD > HD > HD+2

After you reach HD+2, each additional increment simply adds another +2. This does mean that you can go into an infinitely large result, but it is unlikely. There are also some special cases where you might regard several effects for the same roll. In that case, you never count the same die twice. If you have 2HD, you count to highest and then second highest.
An effect might also move backwards on the ladder. If an effect goes backwards from 1, it is Shut Down and does not go into effect, normally defeating the purpose of a roll. No effect may move backwards from being Shut Down.

Criticals, Boosts and Drops
Like in many RPGs, Stuff of Legends also has a notion of a critical success or failure.
Criticals happen when you roll the same result on several of your dice, the more of them meaning the greater the critical. A critical success (under the threshold) produces Boosts. A critical failure (above the threshold) produces Drops.
When a critical occurs, the player tallies the amount of identical dice as Boosts or Drops. If he has more than one identical set, he tallies that set separately. Each set may only be applied to one effect in the roll. If there is only 1 effect, only the set with the most tallies applies. For some titles, and in some specific cases, boosts and drops become "free" and may be applied freely. If multiple criticals are rolled for one effect and they are "free", all apply.
A boost moves the effect forwards by 1 step per boost. A drop does the opposite, moving the effect backwards. By the nature of getting criticals, a critical would always produce at least 2 boosts or 2 drops, causing any critical to be at least spectacular.

Contests, revised
I made contests needlessly complex in the last post. At least in hindsight.
New rules!
A contest happens any time two characters are certain goals, normally as opposing parties for the same one. Races, holding a door closed and other activities apply.
A contest has a length, measured in the amount of victories that are needed by one of the parties to succeed over the other. The more victories needed, the harder the goal should be to attain - a race from one end of the room to another is not a 5 victory affair, while a race across the city is unlikely to require just the 1 victory.
Each round in a contest assures a single victor for that round. Every round each participant, normally only 2 of them, rolls the respective skill. The victor is whoever rolled higher under his threshold. In ties, whoever has a higher effect wins. Effect is determined in advance, starting from LD. Certain traits may change the effect for certain skills. In the unlikely case that both roll and effect are tied, all tied score a victory. In the contest had a length of 1 victory, this will usually lead to another contest.

Now I'm fairly certain I've left nothing out.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Stuff of Legends - Magic Part 1

This post could be considered out of order in a way, given that I had said I would have a post dedicated to magic and I think this is a bit early for it. Won't be letting that stop me, though.

From the start, Stuff of Legends was designed with a specific setting in mind. While the rules have a toolbox nature, they are meant for use with the one setting. With that in mind, I looked at justifying some mechanical logic fluff wise. Most of the post below is fluff, with some pointers at mechanical implications.


The most basic thing to establish about magic in the setting is that it is very much a science. Mana, the fuel for magic, is an environmental resource that is used by way of spells and enchantments. Much in the same way the tools that humanity developed as it evolved, the tools the science of magic provides are coherent and predictable. In the same way language can be read and be understood, so can magic.

Magic was first introduced to the mortal races by the immortal First Wizard, shortly after the Dragon Empire had come to an end and with it humanity's subjugation. The First Wizard sent out his disciples and they taught magic to any who would listen. That said, other prominent cultures, notably to the south of the Empire, had already developed their own magics, although those magics saw infrequent use due to the rarity of those who practiced them.

The magic that the First Wizard gave unto the mortals is called Scripted Magic, in that it uses magical script as spells and enchantments. Spells are inscribed onto magically charged vessels, most normally the bodies of wizards, and then tapped into using mana in order to create predesignated effects. Spells inscribed so can be removed, but remain for as long as they are not disrupted. However, that is not to say there aren't limits: there is only so much space to inscribe on and mortals have a certain, inner tolerance to magic - any more strain than they can take, both magically and mentally, is dangerous.
Mechanical Pointer: spells inscribed are limited by 2 things - how much physical space is on the wizard's body, which is their race's size, and how tolerant they are, a number achieved by multiplying ESS with INT. The resulting tolerance is the upper limit of total spell weight that isn't dangerous. Spell weight is the amount of strain a spell has on the wizard.

The method of inscription was the first thing introduced by the First Wizard to his disciples and it has two methods - the first is a "spell-free" spell, it is the simpler of the two, but requires to have mana to spare in advance; the second is physical inscribing with magical reagents, which create a temporary tattoo. In either case, something that does look like a temporary tattoo appears on the skin of the wizard and glows when that spell is cast. Wizards are known to inscribe their arms, as that's the place easiest to reach and look at, and cover their arms well so that others may not know too quickly what spells they cast. The glow from a spell will always be a dead giveaway, since it can shine through clothing.
Mechanical Pointer: in the same way it's described, there are two ways for wizards to "prepare" spells in Stuff of Legends - they either cast a spell or use the Inscription skill. Those competent in either method act quicker and do a better job. High quality inscriptions have advantages, like making casting easier or less costly.

To ease the introduction of magic to the general populace, in particular to those aspiring to be wizards themselves, the First Wizard established what is now known as the Wizardly Academium. The largest school is at the place where the First Wizard resides, and many additional schools that belong to the Academium have been built since. The fast track to becoming a wizard is by studying, for a small fee, at the Academium. Beside the Academium, there are other, smaller schools that teach Scripted Magic of their own designs. The Academium itself has 6 avenues of studies: Fire Magery, Water Magery, Wind Magery, Earth Magery, Force Magery and Practical Magery. Each avenue has dedicated parts of each school.
Mechanical Pointer: nearly every single character that starts with a magic title is bound to belong to one of the Academium's avenues of magic. The graduate will receive a title that derives from that avenue - Fire Mage, Water Mage, Wind Mage, Earth Mage, Force Mage or Practical Mage. The first five focus on those specific magics, which are the most prevalent, while the last one focuses on casting a mix of the previous five in a way that relates to practical use. Practical Mages have an easy time finding jobs.

With the prevalence of magic, and its ease of acquiry, it has supplanted technology in many places and fast-forwarded advancement. Houses are warmed with special enchantments, decorations created with magic simple enough to be used by commoners and other such basic human needs made simple. The mages of the Academium sell their services as enchanters and inscribers and the general population benefits in many ways. Commerce, travel and everyday life have all been affected. The single most outstanding effect magic has had on everyday life is that nearly every commoners carries around at least a spell or two with them at all time, normally one to soothe pain and another that fits the season. The spells used by commoners expire after a time, by design, giving the profession of inscription a place in the economy. Learning to cast a spell is easier than to learn how to inscribe it, both of which wizards normally learn. Commoners find it adequate to not bother to learn how inscribe, even it means a regular money sink.
Mechanical Pointer: nearly every single character the players will play will have at least a spell or two, likely inscribed permanently (that is to say that they do not expire).


I don't recall what else I had to say about magic, so this ends part 1. Part 2 is likely to be a lot more about mechanics.

C&C welcome, as always.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stuff of Legends - Dice Rolling Mechanics

I've probably should've started with this post, on some level. The dice rolling mechanics are usually one of the first things mentioned about any RPG in its back, from my experience.
Well, better late than never.

I'll start off with what I hear relatively frequently - rolling dice is meant for interesting actions. To define an interesting action: any action in which failure will produce a result with consequences for the characters. For the matter, let us take a door. Many things can be done with a door, but only certain things warrant a roll. If it is locked and between the characters and something they want, a roll would make sense. If there's nothing that the characters would actively want on the other side, no roll and probably no lock are needed. In another instance, the door is unlocked but there someone on the other side who wants to open it and it swings to his direction. If the characters wish to avoid allowing him to open the door, they're gonna want to grab that door handle and quick. This would definitely warrant a roll, since the order of who gets to the handle first is important.
Short and simple, as I opened with: if failure has consequences, a roll would make sense.
The second thing to address is additional attempts after a failure. The characters are assumed ambitious yet competent, and with that competence comes a certain awareness of when you fail and why. With that assumption in mind, a character that has failed a roll has no reason to believe that any additional attempts at his current skill level will yield different results. So, a failed roll cannot be reattempted by that same character until he has gained a rank in the relevant skill.

The Dice
In Stuff of Legends, the only dice that are used are six-sided ones, henceforth d6(s).  It is recommended that you have an amount of d6s in the double digits at the table, and at least 4 per player, including the judge. It is recommended that you have 3-4 green dice and 3-4 red dice, as they serve as advantage and disadvantage dice.
The advantage dice are added to the ones the player would normally roll and after the roll the player removes dice until he is left with the amount he would have rolled with the advantage dice. This allows a greater freedom in results and increases chances for doubles or more by a large percentage.
The disadvantage dice are similar to advantage dice, but are different in one way: instead of removing any dice they choose, the player instead removes the lowest dice until he is left with his normal amount. This doesn't guarantee an increased failure chance, but it takes a lot of freedom from the player.

There are 3 types of rolls in Stuff of Legends, corresponding to different situations: skill rolls, reaction rolls and contests.

Skill Rolls
The basic type of roll the players will make is a skill roll. They take their own skill rank and match it against the skill opposition. If their own rank is above the opposition, they have some flexibility in the amount of dice they roll. If their own rank is under the opposition, they must roll as many dice as the opposition.
Example: an archer aims her bow at a monster. The archer's Ranged skill is at rank 3 and the monster's Reflexes and Acrobatics are both at rank 2. The archer may choose to roll as few as 2 dice or as many as 3. In another case, a different monster has Reflexes and Acrobatics at rank 4, forcing the archer to roll 4 dice, despite only having a rank 3 Ranged Skill.

Reaction Rolls
In many cases, after an opposing party has made a skill roll, a reaction roll may be done. Reaction rolls are used when defending, for instance. After a skill roll was successful, the judge will usually ask if the target of the skill roll is interested in reacting. When reacting, the skill roll result acts as a type of minimum threshold: the reacting party tries to roll under their own threshold, but above the opposing skill roll result.
If the skill roll result is above the reacting party's threshold, no reaction can be made.
Example: the archer from before has hit her target with the rank 2 skills. The monster, attempting to avoid the arrow, reacts with its Acrobatics. The archer's Ranged result was 12 and the monster's Threshold is 15. If the monster hopes to avoid the arrow, it can't roll less than 13 or more than 15. Had the archer hit with a result of 16, the monster would have had no hope of avoiding the attack.

Contests are relatively short rolling contests between two parties, each aiming for a certain goal before the other. Normally, the goal is the same, like racing to the end of the street, climbing the cliff face first or reaching for a certain door handle before someone else.
In contests, the rolls are made differently than in skill and reaction rolls. First and foremost, contests have a predefined length, measured in victories, and predefined round ending conditions, measured in margin of loss. Both are predefined in advance of each contest by the judge.
The length, or victories, is how many times one party needs to win against the other. Winning can be achieved in two ways - either your succeed in a contest round and the other party does not or the other party's margin of loss is too big. A length of 1 or 2 is common, while 3 or more are exceptional.
The margin of loss is how many success ties can be had. If both parties succeed, the one with the lower result takes a disadvantage on their next roll. The margin of loss is how many disadvantages may be taken before the round is over. If the round is over by having too many disadvantages, the other party wins. A margin of loss of 1 is very common, 2 relatively common and 3 or more extremely rare.
A contest with a length of 1 and a margin of loss of 1 is called a quick contest. All other contests are simply contests.

I believe that these 3 mechanics cover every type of action that might come up - active, reactive and opposing.

As normal, critiques and comments are welcomed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stuff of Legends - Character Basics: Skills, Titles and Traits

I know I implied this post would be up a couple of day ago. So sue me for being busy.

A quick glossary for terms below:
  • Threshold - the number the player needs to roll under to succeed in a roll. Composite of attribute, confidence and skill rank.
  • Skill Opposition - every skill, when rolled, has an opposition. Sometimes it's a static number and other times it's another skill or attribute. This opposition is the minimum number of dice that may be rolled when using the skill being opposed.
    An opposition that is higher than the opposed means you must roll the opposition number. (A skill of 3 versus an opposition of 5 requires 5 dice, despite the slim chances.)
    An opposition that is lower than the opposed means that you may roll a number of dice between the opposition and your skill rank. (That same skill of 3 versus an opposition of 2 means you may roll either 2 or 3 dice.)
I've covered the attributes and confidence in the previous post. This time I would like to cover those things that accentuate characters and define them better - Skills, Titles and Traits.
  • Skills are the bread-and-butter of performing actions. Any  action that can be done in Stuff of Legends is tied to a skill. All skills are used in conjunction with one attribute, so a character with a high attribute would benefit from skills that are frequently used with that attribute.
  • Titles are a bit like classes in other fantasy games. Where they differ is that by themselves they aren't much. Just having a title doesn't make the character considerably more powerful or special in any way. Every title has Traits, below.
  • Traits are a sort of improvement for characters that titles can provide. Traits, as a whole, accentuate the use of a certain skills in a certain way. Every title has a nested list of traits that improve it.
In Stuff of Legends, skills are the majority of what defines a character - his ability to fight, to pick locks, to cast spells or to express themselves in a certain way. Skills have ranks and each rank contributes 3 points to the threshold of the skill when rolling it and raises the maximum of 6-sided dice that may be rolled with that skill.
Example: a character with a rank 3 Melee skill adds 9 to his threshold. He may also roll up to 3d6 when using the Melee skill, if the skill opposition allows.
The list of skills in Stuff of Legends is relatively sparse and separated into several categories. The category separation is meant to make the skill choice simpler and offer hints at what attribute would be more relevant for skills within. The categories are: physical, mental, professional, social, magery and combat.
A short excerpt from the skill list, sans any explanations, to offer an image:
  • The physical category includes: Acrobatics, Athletics, Reflexes, Riding, Stealth and Vigor.
  • The combat category includes: Light Melee, Melee, Ranged, Shields, Thrown and Unarmed.
Notably, the combat skills are considerably generalized. This is to offer a basic level of specialization and to better define the character's combat skills. Titles are what offer the more in depth choices and differences.
Finally, skills are the only thing that define the character's tier, their "level": the lowest skill level of among the five highest level skills is the character's tier. It serves to suggest a relative power. GMs are encouraged to provide the tier of a certain character if asked for it.

Titles are what fills the shoes of character classes. Each title implies several things and accentuates what the character is. Titles are usually relatively general and each one belongs to one of 4 groups: combat, expertise, magic and unique.
  • Combat titles are warriors, monks, archers, knights and anything that engages in regular combat. Having a combat title allows the character to learn combat stances (which will be covered in a later post).
  • Expertise titles are thiefs, assassins, merchants, rangers, priests and anything that would otherwise have a practiced trade. Having an expertise title allows the character to learn skill secrets (which will also be covered in a later post).
  • Magic titles are wizards, blood mages, healers, druids, necromancers and anything that uses magic on a regular basis. Having a magic title allows the character to learn magic more potent than cantrips and on a larger scale. Magic will have its own extensive post.
  • Unique titles are titles that don't readily fit into the other titles and serve to give characters a special definition. A paladin in other games is a type of holy warrior. The holy part isn't implied as a combat thing and so won't fit into the combat group. The warrior part, if defined as warrior, prevents it from being an expertise or magic title. To fill this niche, paladins will have a secondary, unique title which will unlock holy powers. In the same way this could turn an expertise priest into the more well-known cleric.
Most characters will gain 2 or 3 titles over the courses of their career, having started with one. Edge cases and some humans will reach as high as 4 or 5. When several titles are used in conjunction, it's usually recommended to come up with a word that would mix them. A wizard and warrior might become a warmage or a spellblade on the singular title level.
An example of several titles from the game, from all groups in no particular order: warlord, wizard, assassin, alchemist, champion, knight, arcanist and elementalist.
Every title is constructed out of 3 parts - the core feature, the core trait and traits:
  • The core feature always provides a channel to earn Legend Points by way of a certain skill, sometimes in conjunction with a combat stance, skill secret or spells.
  • The core trait always accents the core feature in a way. It may add an advantage when using a certain combat stance, skill secret or spells and in the case of unique titles might provide an new option altogether.
  • Traits will be expanded upon below.
A final important thing to note about titles, specifically unique titles: characters may only start with a non-unique title. Humans begin the game with 2 titles and may choose a unique title along their non-unique one. Unique titles also have a special caveat - they might be fickle or offer special restrictions. Become a vampire is a unique title. Gaining the favor of a god is a unique title. Anyone with the vampire title will die in sunlight. The favor of a god may be lost. In the first case, you die. In the second case the title may be lost. Every unique title, in this respect, requires a certain type of maintenance.

Traits are the thing that would make any two character with the same title different. Between 2 monks one might favor becoming an agile killing machine while the other might aim for a body that can take a beating and dish out powerful, unique attacks. This is done by choosing traits.
Each title has several traits and there are general traits which aren't under any title. I won't talk about general traits at all this time.
Title traits, as in those traits under titles, come in 3 varieties - core, unnested and nested:
  • The core trait, as mentioned above, is the single most defining trait in a title. It affects nearly every single roll performed under that trait. To continue the monk example, the core trait increases unarmed damage.
  • Unnested traits are standalone. They might or might not have traits nested below them. these traits normally accentuate a single aspect related to the title. A monk might have a natural armor trait or improved dodging trait that are unnested.
  • Nested traits can only be taken after taking their parent trait. A nested trait will always improve on the parent trait in some way. The monk with improved dodging might have a nested trait below it that allows a free retaliation to attacks if they do get hit. Nested traits might have another trait nested below them.

I feel like I haven't covered all I could, so if there are any massive holes I could patch up, please say so.
Comments and critiques welcome as always.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stuff of Legends - Character Basics: Attributes and Confidence

Full disclosure - since the last post about Stuff of Legends, the game and design had undergone some streamlining and restructuring. I'd like to believe the current iteration of the below is better than what I had presented last time.

Characters in Stuff of Legends are similar to the ones in D&D. There, that's on the table now. The full concept and original intention behind Stuff of Legends is a type of OSR game with a very different approach to characters ad progress, very similar to what BareBones Fantasy did, I think.

Every PC in Stuff of Legends has several important bits: attributes, confidence, skills, titles, traits and derivative stats. On top of all those stands the "level", called tier. The tier does not really matter.

Today's I'd like to cover attributes and confidence.

Attributes in Stuff of Legends are half of the core of characters, next to skills. There are a total of 5 attributes and they have a natural range of 0 to 5 although racial modifiers may bring an attribute as low as -1 or as high as 7. Each attribute, when it is high enough, gives an attribute bonus which is usually applied to certain rolls but also sometimes apply elsewhere. Attributes at 0 or -1 impose restrictions on characters.
The five attributes are Strength (STR), Health (HLT), Dexterity (DEX), Intellect (INT) and Essence (ESS):
  • Strength - STR is the measure of raw physical power a character has, as well as the primary attribute for most combat types. It's the basis for many physical skill rolls and the bonus from strength is applied to the damage of most attacks.
    A strength of 0 means the character cannot help others in strength rolls or wield a weapon larger than medium.
    A strength of -1 means the character cannot make strength rolls at all, nor aid others in strength rolls. They also cannot wield a weapon larger than light.
  • Health - HLT is the measure of the overall physical condition of a character and an important attribute for all characters. A character's Endurance is derived from their health.
    A health of 0 means the character
  • Dexterity - DEX is the measure of a character's overall speed and coordination and an important attribute of all combat types and some expertise types. Nearly all attack rolls rely on dexterity and the bonus from dexterity aids ranged damage.
    A dexterity of 0 means the character cannot aid others in dexterity rolls or take aim.
    A dexterity of -1 means the character cannot make dexterity rolls at all, nor aid others in dexterity rolls.
  • Intellect - INT is the measure of a character's overall intelligence, cognitive abilities and focus and the primary attribute for magic types and some expertise types. Intellect applies to many skills and its bonus aids in spellcasting and mental skills.
    An intellect of 0 means the character cannot aid others in intellect rolls or learn or cast magic.
    An intellect of -1 means the character cannot make any intellect rolls or aid others in intellect rolls. They also cannot learn or cast magic nor can they magical implements or devices.
  • Essence - ESS is the measure of a character's magical potential and it is important strictly for spell casters. It affects the amount of Mana a character has and the potential power of their spells.
    An essence of 0 means the character is magically impotent and cannot cast magic.
    An essence of -1 does not naturally occur. If a character does have an essence of -1, they become a type of magical vacuum and the GM is suggested to interpret this as they see fit.
Along these five fairly fixed attributes, there's also Confidence. Confidence is an ever-changing attribute that applies any time a character makes a skill roll. By default every character has 3 confidence, but this serves as a base number when characters begin a new adventure. Some races have a higher or lower base and traits (below) may change a character's base confidence.
Confidence goes up or down in certain situations:
  • When a character rolls a successful double or higher, they gain 1 confidence.
  • When a character wins a contest, they gain 1 confidence.
  • Whenever a character would receive a Legend Points from their Title's core feature, they may instead gain 1 confidence.
  • When a character rolls a failed double or higher, they lose 1 confidence.
  • When a character loses a contest, they lose 1 confidence.
*Note: I would like some input on more opportunities to increase or decrease confidence.*

That's what I got for this post. Another may go up today about skills, titles and traits.
As usual, any comments and critiques are welcome. Granted, I would like to discuss any critique you might have, so that I may learn.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

1/1000 - Species Profile: Humans

Following this post and starting with it, I will present profiles of each species in 1/1000. Each will have a list of what is going for them, what are the problems they face and how their situation might look a year, 10 years and 100 years after the bomb hit.

To start us off: humans.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

1/1000 - First Thoughts and Concepts

So 2 of my friends at school had their first RPG experience a week ago, at our relatively new FLGS by way of a one shot. The theme was zombies. They enjoyed themselves immensely.
Wanting to bank on this, I decided to do 3 things:
  1. Offer myself as a GM so they could get drawn into the hobby.
  2. Expand out of my High Fantasy zone of comfort by planning to run something with similar themes as to what they played.
  3. Allow them to choose what precise theme they would like to play in and then make that one interesting.
So they picked zombies, after my other offerings didn't pan out as far as complexity went. And there I was, then, trying to figure out how to make a zombie scenario interesting. After a day or so of thought, I now have the beginnings of the setting, which I'm naming "1/1000" (as in one thousandth).

1/1000 is a game about a horrible situation. I have taken the zombies theme as "humanity stopped being that, for the most part" and ran with it to other places. Normal zombies are fine, but the drama in the situation will just probably rehash The Walking Dead so I preferred to find my own spin.

One bright day (wherever the campaign takes place it was a bright day) the Change happened. All at once, all of humankind found itself convulsing on the ground and only 1/1000 of the population remained themselves afterwards. The rest? They turned into something near enough to a zombie - they lost most their intelligence and their bodies and senses became stronger and sharper. The Changed, as they are called, are stronger, quicker and harder to kill than any human ever was. Anything that would instantly kill a person before would do so for them too, but short of that, they just keep going. The Changed are cannibals and predators, eating any meat they can chew through.

The remaining humans are stuck in a really bad place - across the globe, they number around 7 million, including those who had died in the first few weeks after the Change. Actual number of the living? Closer to 4 million. Some of the remaining know this, others do not. To complicate lives further, elevation entails an unlocking of unique qualities and capabilities. In humans, it unlocked functional superpowers. Elemental manifestation, psionic powers and other more and less odd powers slowly started activating across the survivors. Every human that hasn't Changed has become a type of superhero, essentially.

So how did this happen? All an act of good will, or so it was intended. A quality humans could not quantify had reached sufficient levels to get on alien radars. Wanting to elevate a whole race to the galactic arena, one alien species made their way to Earth and dropped a bomb that would elevate those who have a sufficient quality and kill off the rest. Progress comes from hardship. Unsurprisingly, as with all things concerning humans, the entire thing was a bad idea. The bomb wasn't meant for humans and where it killed elsewhere, it merely short-circuited the majority and gave a considerably smaller boost then planned to the remainder. The aliens went from elevating a race to doing damage control.

While the Aliens, now with a capital A to signify them as a faction, started on that, 2 other aliens species arrived on Earth after the news of an odd elevation event spread around. One were the Angels, intent on subjugating, with good conditions, the peculiar human race. The other was the Shadows, a gelatinous, amorphous species of hyper-engineered beings. They see humans as an illness and a danger and are intent on our annihilation. Conflicting with the plans of the Aliens and the Angels, the alien species war it out and only a few of them ever come in contact with humans. When they do, the results are interesting.

The optimal way to play in 1/1000 is around your home, after the Change. You know the layout and the area and anything that could be used to some degree. Ideally, everyone playing will stick to a character that shares a likeness to the player and allow for maximum immersion.

Those are my thoughts and concepts behind this. I'm still hammering out some kinks, as well as optimal times since the event in the setting that play is probably the most interesting.

As usual, accepting comments and critiques.