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.