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So, in a previous post I described the use of magic as having three parts: raise the energy, directing it, and dismissing it.

One thing about the three part process is that I’ve had it in my mind—especially since realizing yesterday that there’s no reason not to let quality levels stack—that different things would give bonuses to different parts of the process. So you could be someone who can raise magic at the drop of a hat but isn’t so good at directing it, or someone who’s a pro at directing it but can’t always get it to go.

Today, as I was writing out the description for the personal quality of Fury and the things that fall within its scope, it occurred to me that it could be applied to raising certain types of magic, such as Pyromancy. I started to think about how to quantify exactly what falls under Fury, and whether other qualities should have similar notes, like Tranquility for Hydromancy.

And then I realized that I had an opportunity here both for another way of customizing characters and a way of making the three-step magic system more interesting.

To wit: make it so that instead of raising magic having anything to do with how powerful/skilled you are at magic, and instead tie it to a personal quality, of your choice.

Do you raise magic through sheer force of Presence or Willpower? Elaborate hand gestures (Dexterity)? Is it connected to your Faith? Your Knowledge of lost arts? Your Intuition of other realms? Your Perception of the natural world?

Some people reading along at home but not reading and digesting every game design post I make are going, “Well, everyone will just pick their best stat.”

And sure they will. But that misses the point that these aren’t stats, they’re qualities a character either has in heroic proportion or doesn’t. A newly created character has usually one or at best two of them, and if you’re also wielding magic, it’s going to be one. Since your magic-raising attribute is always going to be at the same level no matter what you pick, you have no reason not to pick something that makes a pleasing combination for you or fits your character concept: Fury and Pyromancy. Tranquility and Hydromancy. Intimidation and Necromancy. Charm or Deception and Summoning. Dexterity and Conjuring. Or whatever fits your character concept.

People who followed the circa 2013 development version (which had a true attribute system) might remember that I toyed with the idea of substituting other specific attributes for the Magic attribute in a similar fashion, though that was tying specific attributes to specific forms of magic.

The best part of this is it can be used to inform the next step in magic use, by helping inform what exactly happens if you badly botch the control: your rage runs uncheck, your calm is disturbed, the spirits you’ve coerced rebel, et cetera. It could also have other wrinkles, as a character who uses Dexterity would have to have their hands free to raise magic effectively

I’m not 100% sure how dismissal will work, in terms of whether it will be a function of your magic-raising quality, the magic quality you’re using itself, or both. Actually, both might be the way to go, as that would make dismissal by default the easiest part to do (because an improvement to either of the preceding steps would improve it)… which, I don’t know if I’d call that realistic, inasmuch as the concept applies, but in terms of magic remaining a viable game option, I feel like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scenario has got to be one of the rarer failure states. Even allowing that the guidelines as written call for un-dismissed magic to lash out once before dispersing into the environment most of the time, if every time you used magic to do something, something bad happened immediately afterwards, how often would you do magic? There’s “magic always a price” and then there’s “the universe clearly doesn’t want you to do this thing”.

Actually, now that I’ve thought about it, I think the raising quality—which I will now call the control quality—will be part of the whole process.

To raise magic, you use the control quality; e.g., Dexterity.

Once the magic is present, you use the power quality (e.g., Aeromancy) to make it do things.

Note that “control” refers to control over the magic itself, not the precision with which the magic performs the duties you direct it to. That’s still a function of power. Power is your ability to accomplish your will through magic; control is your ability to keep the magic from doing anything else.

Each time that you do something significant with the magic or suffer an attack or something that might disrupt your concentration, you use the control quality to keep a rein on the magic. Failure doesn’t mean the magic runs rampant, just that it does something you didn’t count on.


With this added complication, I think I’m going to do away with the idea of a dismissal roll in general cases… it’ll only be a thing if you’ve 1) previously lost control of your magic and 2) didn’t let the magic go immediately after the loss of control. The difficulty of the dismissal roll will be based on the number of control slips you had, which will also be the number of rampaging “things” the magic will do on its way out of the world.

In addition to making magic interesting and counteracting its basic “do anything” nature with added danger of complications, this also prevents any character from being *just* a wizard of any description. They’ll all have some other defining trait that is integral to their character concept. It also distinguishes between power and control (an important distinction to me) without having to monopolize a magic-using character’s resources by taking up two-thirds of the initial slots, insofar as any personal quality stands on its own as a useful adventuring asset apart from magic. If your control comes from Willpower, you’ll have all the other benefits of willpower. If your control comes from Knowledge, you’ll still have approximate knowledge of many things.

Perhaps most interesting is the ability to instantly “flavor” magic as divine rather than arcane by attaching it to a personal quality like honor, faith, or sanctity.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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If there’s any design goal I have a hard time sticking to, it’s the desire to keep things simple. I’m too much in love with intricacy as an ideal, and I have such a good head for complex systems that I have a hard time realizing when I’ve crossed the line from “elegant simplicity” to “Wile E. Coyote style schematics”.

The current core mechanic of AWW in a nutshell is: when you try to do something that requires a roll, you figure out which of your qualities covers it and roll a number of additional dice equal to its level. Simple, right? Higher level equals appreciably higher chance of success without changing the range of target numbers/difficulties you can interact with.

But in the interest of keeping things on an even keel, I’ve been working with the idea that you can only have one quality applied to a problem at a time. If you have similar/overlapping qualities (like the profession/skill set quality Expert Treasure Hunter and the personal attribute quality Dexterity), you pick the one that has the higher level.

My thinking was that this would help encourage players to diversify their abilities more (in the sense of not always looking for the qualities that could cover the same thing) and also keep the failure rate at a level where it still has some significance, by cutting down on mammoth dice pools.

But at the same time I have kept thinking, “But surely you should have some advantage to being a more dexterous-than-usual thief treasure hunter,” and so, accordingly, I have been working out different mechanisms for synergy bonuses and things, all of which have the common feature of changing the core mechanic away from “one fairly simple rule for just about everything with very little to remember”.

So then I started thinking about things from a different angle.

First, I considered what the system I’m designing is supposed to do, vs. what it would reward.

If you can only apply your *best* quality for a certain action, this actually motivates you to *not* diversify your abilities… every time you have a choice between adding another quality or taking a level of an existing one, the mechanically superior choice is to take a level of the existing one.

More, only allowing you to use a single quality the idea that your qualities are not just discrete special abilities but integral components that blend together to create your character. If you have Dexterity, Expert Treasure Hunter, and Perception as your three starting qualities, the “pick your best one” leaves being dexterous and perceptive off to the side of being good at collecting valuable things that don’t belong to you.

Allowing you to combine Perception and ETH when you’re searching for traps or hidden compartments and Dexterity and ETH when you’re trying to disarm said traps or open said compartments allows them to all work together. You’re better at spotting non-treasure-hunting related things than the average person, but noticeably better than that at spotting the stuff you’re trained to spot. This makes your Perception different in focus than someone with, say, Ranger and Perception.

But what about the game balance concern? Doesn’t adding more dice to the pool quickly make failure negligible even at the maximum possible difficulty of 6 (1/6 success rate with 1 die)?

I actually sat down and did the math. If you have a pool of 4 dice (1 by default, plus 1 for each of 3 qualities), you’ll still fail just under 50% of the time at maximum difficulty. Since average difficulty (4) has a 50% failure rate for a character of no particular ability, that works out pretty slick.

You’d have to get a grand total of 17 dice for the failure rate to fall below 5%, which is what “automatic fail on 1” establishes as the lowest possible failure chance in d20-type systems.

And if too-low failure rates were a problem at higher levels, it wouldn’t really matter if players were getting their dice from one outrageously high quality or from multitudes. Any dice cap rule could easily apply regardless of the source.

Plus, no matter how low the failure rate gets, the whole point of the fate system is to add a random element of “wildness” that is not affected by skill or level. The idea of “even if you do everything right, things can still go against you” is present by the fate system, which makes even automatic success not that big a deal.

The other area where I’ve been having to fight my tendency towards feature creep/system bloat is the definition of the qualities. Again, the idea is that qualities, rather than being special abilities or collections of special abilities, are just a description of the quality’s “scope”, the “this is what this is about, these are the kinds of things it’s good for, you might use it for this”, with actual rules being very thin on the ground.

The problem I run into is I think about “extra stuff” that might be useful to a character with that quality and being tempted to put it in as a special ability. For a while I was trying to put one limited-use special ability on each quality, because some of them seemed to be super crying out for such a thing and so the balanced thing to do would be to give all of them one.

This actually steps on more than one of my design guidelines, though.

First, limited use special abilities should be an optional layer of complexity. No character has them if the player doesn’t want them, and you never have more than you want. Tying every quality to a limited use ability means you have a minimum of three of them at chargen, and they just accumulate from there irrespective of whether you want them.

Second, it means that unless you’ve got a mind for rules, you absolutely need to have more on your character sheet than the name of the Quality. Don’t get me wrong, I expect people to put some shorthand on some of them, particularly if the name is unfamiliar or used in an unfamiliar context, but an actual special ability? With mechanics to remember, even fairly abstract ones? And a limited number of uses to keep track of?

(The actual limited use ability mechanic the game uses is called Gimmicks, and they are equivalent in character resource terms to a character piece that gives a smaller static benefit. If you like resource management and having “big guns” to pull out when the going gets tough, you can use them. But you don’t have to.)

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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So, previous Largely Finished But Unworkable Iteration of A Wilder World represented the concept usually referred to as race in fantasy RPGs by the use of Folk Qualities, which were the same as any other character-defining Character Quality (the basic building block of character concept in AWW) in complexity and impact, just with some special rules regarding things like prerequisites. The basic rule was that you had to take one Folk Quality, but you could take more than one.

There were a few problems with this.

First, there was the exceptions. Some Character Qualities weren’t quite folk types, but could take the place of one: Automaton, Undead, etc. You could have those alongside a Folk Quality to be something a zombie elf or a steam-driven dwarf, but you could also *just* be an Automaton or an Undead. The reason they weren’t just Folk Qualities was one part that they didn’t have all the same external pieces to hook into, and one part that there’s a connotation to “Folk Quality” that doesn’t apply if you don’t have a folk.

Second, making folk type occupy the same level of character resource as any other quality and making every character have one means either you reduce the amount of component pieces you have to build your character or you increase the power and complexity of all characters at chargen by the magnitude of one major piece.

Third, this system forced all the myriad different types of people/beings you could play as to be defined at not just the same power level but the same approximate complexity and level. Do you know how hard it is to describe humans and halflings in terms of special abilities that look like a parity choice alongside semi-humanoid snakes and arachnids? It means making the simplest (from a human’s point of view) character types more complicated than they need to be, and trying to make the more complicated (ditto) ones simpler.

The current AWW build has you picking three qualities at level one, with a bit more of a structured approach. The recommendation is you pick one outstanding personal attribute (from a long list… we’re not talking STR/DEX/CON/INT/WIS/CHA but more like Charm, Honor, Fury, Strength, Tranquility, Valor, Perception, Intuition, Valor, Cowardice, Dexterity, Empathy, Presence, Willpower, Ingenuity, Knowledge, and many more) to represent your character’s heroic potential, one character type/skillset quality (with things like Alchemist, Fool, and Scholar alongside the more traditional choices like Bard, Druid, Expert Treasure Hunter, and Warrior) to represent your heroic archetype, and one from any category including those ones, signature gear, magical ability, etc. to represent your heroic edge.

As previously described, those qualities are all less a collection of concrete special abilities and more a descriptive rundown of “So here’s what this makes you good at.”/”Here’s what this lets you do.”

The “Folk Quality” concept does not exist. Instead, separately from your three foundational heroic qualities, you pick one Nature. This includes the standard fantasy folk types and the unique ones created for the A Wilder World setting (including the aforementioned reptilian and arachnid folks), but also the fundamentally different natures, like the undead and mechanical ones.

The only really mechanical list is a list of things that every Nature shares is a list of areas they have advantage and disadvantage in, here meaning a simple +1 or -1 bonus to result checks. Like a Quality’s scope, they may be defined rather loosely.

For instance, Humans have a -1 on perception-and-intuition related tasks compared to others, but a +1 when it comes to adapting to or withstanding environments and enduring pain or physical deprivation. That’s Humanity: a bit dull of senses compared to most beings with similar sensory organs, but can overcome anything and thrive anywhere.

And that’s really all the game needs to say about Humans, because since it’s being written for a presumed audience of human beings, there’s no need to modify your assumptions. With Dwarves, Gnomes, and Pixies, though, there has to be some discussion about stature. For characters of a non-biological and/or non-living nature, the lack of a metabolism and what it means for things like fatigue, hunger, and natural healing must be addressed.

And so on.

We could represent these things in mechanical terms, with statistics and rules that govern the statistics and then special abilities that modify them, but A Wilder World is at its core a storytelling game, even while it eschews a lot of typical narrativist components. Changing your character’s Nature doesn’t change the rules of the game, but the rules of the story.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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In case you can’t tell, today I’m taking all the positive creative energy I have and threshing out my game design ideas. So, as much as I like the DORC (Deck of Results Card) system I have previously described, I see several obstacles.

  1. Producing a deck of cards takes greater resources than a set of game rules playable with common dice does.
  2. Purchasing a deck of cards takes greater resources than purchasing a set of game rules.
  3. Playing over the internet is more complicated.
  4. Managing a ~50 deck of cards that’s used for the resolution of every action could also get cumbersome.
  5. Shuffling cards well is a specialized skill requiring greater dexterity than rolling dice.

With that in mind… I’m going to proceed with the development of AWW using a dice model, but with the same basic ideas I liked behind the result cards. This does mean–in the absence of specialty dice, which are still easier to produce than a specialty deck of cards–that there’s going to be a die roll chart. But so long as all the results can fit in one easy access reference thing and there’s no need to dive through books, I think this is an acceptable compromise given that it better fits my goals re: accessibility, affordability, and online portability, with developing a “Deck of Result Cards” as an optional replacement/supplement for the dice as a future goal if the demand develops.

So, here are the things to be kept from the card idea:

  • The player is the one making the roll for any interaction their character has a stake in: players make stealth rolls to sneak past NPCs; perception rolls when they’re on guard against NPCs sneaking past them. Players roll to see if their spells affect another; roll to see if they resist being affected by another’s spells.
  • The results are not just success/fail, but have a chance of being “wild” in some fashion.
  • The player produces a number of “extra” results based on the combination of their ability level in the area and the difficulty of the task. If the player has a net advantage, they pick their favorite result. If they have a net penalty, the Storyweaver picks.

What I’m leaning towards is a result chart that has a 6×6 grid of results, with the rows being numbered according to the player’s result die (chosen from the dice rolled, as described above) and the columns being numbered according to a separately rolled (perhaps by the Storyweaver) “wild” or “fate” die. So you’d look at the wild die, find its column, look at the results you have available and take the best one. Generally, “best” would mean “highest numbered” for the player and “lowest numbered” for the Storyweaver, but there will be the odd edge cases.

It would be very generally the case that a result die of 1-3 fails and a result die of 4-6 succeeds, though the whole point of the wilding system is to make things more interesting than success or failure. For both sets of numbers, higher is better, so 1×1 would be critical failure, 6×6 would be critical success; each would require one more die roll on a separate table/line to determine the nature/magnitude, but other that, the table would give you everything you need to figure out what happened without a subsequent die roll.

I think this would be a reasonably quick playing alternative to cards, and easy enough to translate into a more flexible card system later on. The same element of greater ability level = more ability to control the outcome is still there.


Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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The ideas in the last post spiraled out of thoughts about handling things like character pets, beast companions, et cetera, that I’d also like to take the time to thresh out in blog format.

One of the things I really liked in D&D 4E was the way familiars worked. Specifically, the fact that instead of being limited to a very small range of very small animals, they ran with the idea that a familiar is not *quite* an animal to begin with and defined it as basically a meta class of creature that fits a certain size and has certain limitations in interacting with the environment, but can be just about anything, then defined exception-based templates for many different types, with an invitation to flesh out your specific familiar’s “fluff” in ways that fit your character (crackling elemental energy auras, metallic skin, demonic or fey appearance, etc.)

The original choices were mostly limited to the familiar animal fare, but the expanded offerings included everything from pet slimes to gear-driven automata to disembodied eyes and hands.

The basic problem with such an embarrassment of wealth when it comes to choices, though, is that you have to either define everything you can think of (the 4E approach), or you have to give players a reasonably balanced set of tools to build their own definitions (the GURPS approach), and both approaches tend towards bloat over time.

Jack in particular liked the idea of a roguish character with a disembodied hand as his accomplice, so making sure this is an option has been added to my General System Benchmarking Standards along with “can do all the character archetypes D&D players would look for”. Not in the sense that any system I design would have disembodied hands added to it in order to please Jack, but in the sense that “Can it handle a player who wants to do this?” is a pretty good question given that it’s reasonably specific, reasonably limited, and interesting.

The last major draft of AWW tried to do a compact point based approach to building companion figures, and I don’t think was terrible but was out of place next to the define-by-archetypes system for player characters. Figuring out how to work them out under the Strong Points/Qualities system I’m working with now helped me refine my understanding of exactly what the system is and how it works, which is why I’m going to use the idea of animal companions and similar abilities as an example of how it all hangs together.

Your character’s major features are sketched out by choosing a number of Qualities. Each Quality has its own level. These are the only “levels” in the game. Your character does not go up a level, except within the scope of a Quality.

Your level in a Quality basically means your ability to Get Stuff Done using it. What stuff? Whatever stuff that Quality applies to. All Qualities work on the same level scale, which when applied to Qualities representing a personal attribute like strength or speed or a particular skill set looks something like this:

  1. Would be considered outstanding in a small village.
  2. Outstanding in a good-sized town.
  3. Outstanding in a large city.
  4. Outstanding in a kingdom.
  5. Outstanding in a vast land.
  6. Outstanding in the world.
  7. Outstanding in history.

This is “outstanding” in the sense of “tending to stand out”. Only outstanding abilities register as Qualities; they are the things about you that people tell stories about.

All Qualities have the same basic effect: they give you better results when you try to do something, and shift the upper bound of what you can do. Again, the “something” varies from Quality to Quality. This is referred to as the Quality’s scope, and while some will have definite exceptions, what is part of the Quality’s scope is a matter of interpretation and negotiation.

Personal Qualities like Strength, Speed, Influence, or Perception have a fairly obvious scope.  Archetypal Qualities like Alchemist and Thief, slightly less so. What about Companion Qualities, though? What does it mean to have a Level 1 Wolf, Cat, Horse, or Raven? Or a Disembodied Hand? Or Slime? Or Bottle Imp? Or Gear Thing?

Well, your level of a Quality determines how reliably you can do the things that Quality does, and how impressive the things you can do with it are. So if you have a Level 1 Raven, you can do anything you could reasonably (with dramatically flexible definitions of “reasonable”, as this is heroic fantasy fiction) expect a hero’s raven companion to do, with the same facility as if you were using Level 1 in your own abilities. Same thing with a Level 1 Wolf, or Cat, or Hand.

“So basically,” some people reading this will be saying, “you should put everything into animal companions, because a level in your companion is the same thing as a level of everything.”

Not so!

Your raven is still a raven. It’s scope is defined as things that the person across from the table hears and says, “I could see a raven doing that.” That person also gets to decide how easily a raven could do that. Having more levels of raven cancels out the added difficulty of things the person across the table thinks are kind of a stretch, but your raven remains a raven.

It’s also an autonomous creature with a will outside your own, even if we’re constructing our character in a way that suggests a mystical bond, which means anything more complicated than having your companion follow you or perform a simple trick may call for a draw, which means possible complications. Even stuff that is automatic when you do it yourself involves an element of chance when you send your monkey or imp to do it, because it’s not you doing it.

“Allowing players to define the scope by the type of creature would be seriously unbalanced, because obviously a panther is more useful than a house cat.”

It’s not obvious to me. I’d rather have a panther who was attuned to my wishes in a tactical wargame, but in terms of actual problem solving the domestic feline seems to bring a lot more versatility to the table. I mean, in real life, I would rather have the cat familiar than the panther ranger companion simply because the cat would be more of a pure bonus whereas living (to say nothing of traveling) with a panther complicates things.

Once you get your head around the idea that the Quality itself suggests a scope of things that can be done/problems that can be addressed and the level determines how often you succeed at that, I think the possibilities for creativity become apparent. Balance can be addressed on the fly.

“So why can’t players define a deity as their companion? Level 1, scope: everything.”

Actually, being a character who benefits from direct divine intervention can basically work this way. You just have to add in some limiting assumptions that puts it down to a similar level of usefulness. I mean, it’s easier to imagine a character having access to the full resources and entire attention of a dog than of a god.

While the system would encourage players to define their own Qualities, I am planning on having a list of several specific animal companion/familiar types and a few off-the-wall ones with their scope sketched out, to give people a starting point and an idea of how to keep things on a more or less even keel. As a holdover from the previous version, specific capabilities (full combat, mount, flight, articulated hands, et cetera) are mechanically limited in a way separate from scope, so you can have a Wolf (combat!), Horse (mount!), Raven (flying!), or Monkey (hands!) more easily than you can have a Warhorse or Flying Monkey, and a simple animal familiar with none of the above more easily than them.

That disembodied hand? It would be a companion with the “handy” feature (letting it do anything a human hand could do). Its scope would be “anything you can do with your hand without exerting a lot of leverage by moving your arm” (because it doesn’t have any), with some wiggle room to represent the fact that the “handy” trait normally would give you two hands. So it could work thieves’ tools in a lock, even though that’s normally a two-hand job and it only has/is one hand.

Fairly easy to define, fairly limited in scope, but useful and cool.

To sum up: the scope of a Quality is not an exhaustive list of what special abilities you have under a Quality, but a general understanding of what it can be used for. When it comes to Personal Qualities, these are basically attributes. For Magic Qualities, they’re the type of magic you can wield. For Companion Qualities, it’s, “What kind of things could I see this critter doing in a story?”

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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A lot of roleplaying games have rules that allow for characters to have a companion character who is in some ways an extension of the player character. They take up resources you would otherwise use for your character’s own abilities (points, slots, build choices) but more or less belong to you and act more or less at your direction, though sometimes they are under the game runner’s control.

The approach I’m taking to defining broad character qualities in A Wilder World encourages you to think of your character’s main defining qualities as a bit like a Green Lantern power ring to begin with. You still have to figure out which of your qualities best addresses the problem, and figure out how it addresses the problem, but the limits are the intersection of your imagination and the skepticism of the Storyweaver or group at large.

Magic takes that up a notch, in that there’s much less of a clearly defined line where “Okay, that’s just impossible.” Whether or not it’s possible to acrobat so hard you break down a reinforced stone wall is a matter of the game’s tone; if it’s at all realistic, then no, you can’t. Whether or not it’s possible to grow and animate plants with plant magic to take it down is more a matter of opinion, since “realism” and “verisimilitude” aren’t concepts that apply to high fantasy magic.

So magic needs to find its limitations elsewhere. I was talking about this back in June, and while I like the ideas I came up with there for different “magical prices”, I feel like they’re way overly mechanical in the way I imagined them being applied.

But while thinking about how to refine the idea of “low control” magic made me think of a general approach that I really like, and that is: treat magic the way you would treat an “ally” ability, one ultimately under the control of the Storyteller:

It shows up when the player character calls it, mostly.

It does what the player directs it to, mostly.

It does only what the player asks it to, mostly.

It’s the “mostlies” that matter, that make it interesting and that serve as a limitation. And the thing is, they all hinge on the idea that the magic use is successful.

Under this model, the use of magic would consist of three acts, which we might call summoning, directing, and dispersing. Each of them would have a chance for success or failure. If you fail to summon magic, nothing happens, or nothing significant. You might get a rustle of leaves when you wanted a gale of wind. You might get a brief patch of discolored air where you tried to form an illusion. You’re not left with any more problems than you started with, though.

When you direct the magic, you tell it what to do. Success means it does more or less that, but with the possibility of “wild” results built into the result mechanism. Failure would generally mean it does not do what you want it to do, with any significant negative downsides also coming from the play of cards.

You could continue to direct the magic as long as you maintain concentration on it, without having to draw or disperse it in between. This would be the normal state of affairs when a wizard is dueling or doing battle, or using magic to accomplish a large task that is actually many smaller ones.

When you’re done, though, you’d have to attempt to disperse the magic. Success signifies a clean ending. Failure would not mean your magic lasts forever, just that the magical forces you unleashed linger a bit longer and do some damage on their way out the door.

Even when magic is operating under your control, though, it would be like a charmed minion or a familiar or beast companion or cohort or point-bought ally, in the sense that you can tell the Storyteller “I have my magic do this”, but the Storyteller can interject, or interpret things a little differently according to the nature of the forces involved.

Making the equivalent of three checks to do anything with magic might be a little excessive. The concept of “trivial magic” (cantrips, roleplaying special effects, “I’m a wizard” demonstration) still exists. It’s only when you’re trying to achieve something that magic accumulates risk and price. Character gimmicks that take the form of specialized spells your character has mastered removes the need to summon magic before and disperse it after for that single very specific application, leaving only the control roll.

All this doesn’t completely supplant the idea of different “magic prices” I described back in June, but I think it makes for a better baseline approach. As always, my central idea when it comes to magic is to create an experience more like how powerful magic works in fiction than how it works in roleplaying games.


Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

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Okay, let me tell you about the Almighty DORC, which is the system that’s going to put the desired degree of wildness into A Wilder World without having cumbersome dice schemes.

The Almighty DORC is the Deck of Result Cards.

This replaces die rolls for purposes of checks (which are now called “result draws”, to clarify that you’re being told to draw cards). It can itself be replaced by a random number generator and a chart, but the point of using cards is to offer more nuanced results without having to translate arbitrary numbers to results.

The cards come in three basic flavors: normal, wild, and critical. Normal cards are split right down the middle between success and failure. In the default deck build, there is one normal card for every wild card. Wild cards aren’t wild in the usual sense of “wild cards”; they just have wilder results.

Many of them start with, “You fail, and suffer an embarrassment in the process.” or “You succeed, but suffer a complication,” but some offer you a choice, or things that are harder to quantify.

That Was A Thing That Just Happened is a wild success that reads, “You failed, but through coincidental means, more or less the exact thing you were trying to achieve came to pass. Your arrow misses, but the target is taken out by friendly fire, or trips and is knocked out. You broke a pick in the lock, then discovered the door was just a little stuck in the frame. That was a thing that just happened.”

Its opposite counterpart, That Was A Hell Of A Thing, reads, “You succeeded, but coincidental means render your success moot. You knocked out the guard, just in time for the shift change. You picked the lock on the door, then discovered it’s barred from the other side. Whatever you were trying to do, you did it… for all the good it did you. That was a hell of a thing.”

The terms “embarrassment”, “complication”, and “injury”—the three most common meta-consequences—are roughly defined in the rules. An embarrassment is something that makes you look foolish or silly. It can spoil an attempt to impress or charm someone, or an attempt at subterfuge, but otherwise, it’s just fun (as long as you can laugh at yourself). A complication is something that makes your life harder or the situation you’re in worse. It can directly relate to what you’re doing, or be a coincidence. An injury means you take a wound, which in AWW can be either an HP loss, or the placing of one of the Qualities that defines your character into an injured state. Usually but not always such an injury will be to the Quality most applicable to the situation (pulled a muscle!)

The thing is, beyond the guidance for what constitutes an embarrassment, injury, or complication, the card leaves it up in the air. The Storyteller works it out from the situation, possibly with input from the player. Some groups may find it more fun to have players propose their own consequences. A rule variant called Parliament of Rooks means the player always proposes, and the whole group votes on it.

Critical cards actually have two parts: a card that says “Critical Failure” or “Critical Success” that gets shuffled into the Almighty DORC, and a corresponding deck of Critical Failures and Critical Successes. This allows there to be more different types of criticals, without skewing the odds in their favor.

Critical Failures include such hits as I Wanted The Opposite Of That, where you didn’t only fail, you achieved the exact opposite of what you were going for, with examples including things like spreading a fire you were trying to put out, injuring a person you were trying to heal, enraging someone you were trying to subdue, and so on. Critical Successes include things like Bank Shot, where you not only pull off exactly what you wanted, but you can accomplish another, roughly equivalent goal.

In cases where it’s hard to figure out an application for the extra consequences, the usual advice is for the Storyweaver to “bank” a stroke of good or bad luck to be dropped on your head later, though really a lot of the fun is in figuring out what it means to achieve the opposite of something.

The default DORC has 50 cards: 12 normal successes, 12 wild successes, 1 critical success, 12 normal failures, 12 wild failures, and 1 critical failure. A few of the wilds are repeats, as some are meant to be more common than others. One of the signature features of the game, though, is that you can adjust the “wildness” of the game up and down by adding or removing some vanilla success/failure cards from the deck (in equal numbers, obviously) or putting more critical success/failure cards in the deck.

Obviously, taking cards out of a deck each time you draw one changes the odds. Since there’s an equal chance for any card from a fresh deck to be good or bad, it ~*should*~ tend to stay fairly even, more or less, though players who keep a plus or minus count of good or bad cards used up might have a slight tactical edge.

The default rules call for the DORC to be reshuffled following any draw that results in a critical. The Vegas Rules variant has it keep going until the deck is exhausted. The Even Odds variant has all cards re-shuffled each time, which is likely to be cumbersome if you’re not using a virtual deck, but is the default assumption when you’re using a random number generator or dice chart.

Now, you might be wondering how this success/failure mechanism accounts for varying levels of user ability, and varying task difficulty.

Normally you draw one card and use it as your result. If you have advantage (total positive modifiers) for the draw, you take one extra card for each point you have, and then pick the one you want to use. If you have disadvantage (total negative modifiers), you take one extra card for each negative point, and the Storyteller selects the one to afflict you with.

Difficulty is just a threshold you have to reach in advantage in order to have your full points. If the difficulty is higher than your bonus, you lose one point for every point of difference. Most bog standard adventury tasks are difficulty 0, unless you’re going up against someone, then it’s based on their score (or what the Storyteller imagines it would be, if they haven’t bothered to define stats for the character). Sneaking past a sentry with +1 perception, the average person would have net disadvantage -1 (because their score of 0 is 1 shy of the sentry’s), while someone with +1 to stealth could use their one point unimpeded.

Note that result draws are always made from the point of view of player characters as the actors. The player draws to sneak past the enemy, or to spot the enemy sneaking past them. The player draws to hit an enemy, or to avoid an enemy’s attack. This keeps the player invested in what’s happening.

Now, this makes it so that each point difference effectively means you get to “try again” on a draw and use the better result. Any time you’re trying again at a thing with a set chance, you’re halving the chance of failure. So ignoring the complication that cards that come out of the deck are not immediately replaced, you’ve got a 50% of success with advantage 0, a 75% chance with advantage 1, an 87.5% chance with advantage 2, and so on.

While that’s a nice, significant difference for even one point—something that is a design goal—it does have the drawback that your odds of success change by less with each successive shift. But I feel like once you’re past the 75% mark, you’ve got a nice, reliable ability. Points on top of that are useful for helping you overcome difficulty. Plus, the fact that while the odds of success are 50% to begin with, the odds of success without hurting or embarrassing yourself are somewhat lower means that there’s always a benefit to having more points. Higher advantage not only means you succeed more often, but with fewer side effects and more control of the circumstances.

I feel like this resolution system, stacked with what I was talking about this morning in terms of how you define your character and how you describe your actions, puts the game into a flavorful, story-driven realm without succumbing to the typical “narrativist” tropes of “string together seven adjectives and three childhood traumas to decide how many fistfuls of dice you roll to win this gunfight”.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

alexandraerin: (Default)

So, those who’ve followed this blog and its predecessors for a long time know that I’ve spent a lot of time over the years on a roleplaying game project called A Wilder World. It’s had several iterations, none of which made it to completion. The closest one was very close. I had a rules build, I had a rich and deep character creation system, but it had a few problems. In retrospect, it was not a good system. It was three or four great ideas for systems, some of them contradictory, jammed together. I think I’ve said before on this blog that the attribute system and the archetype system both were pretty good on their own, but together it was like making the same character twice in different game systems.

I’ve been talking to fellow game and game design enthusiast Shweta Narayan about what I’m looking for and my obstacles, at various intervals. This is useful because we have close enough tastes and goals to understand each other, but different enough gaming experience to offer different insights.

After talks with Shweta in the winter and spring, I’ve been developing a less archetype-heavy version of A Wilder World. I started with the idea of what I thought of as “The Good Points” system, which would be: take a piece of paper. Write your character’s good points on a line, only mentioning the things that would stand out about them as a hero; e.g., it doesn’t matter who is stronger among Paul and Mary, unless one of them is the person who gets stories told about them for being strong. The game would have some guidelines for what constitutes a strong point, and rules for codifying/generalizing them.

The problem with that approach is that by the time you get done streamlining what random things people write down into, “Okay, that’s basically the example trait the rules describe here”, you’re left wondering why you don’t give people the traits to use as LEGO blocks.

But it got me back to thinking about defining characters primarily in terms of “what are you good at, what are you known for?” The example I used in my talks with Shweta was: if your character is an acrobat, if you are the acrobat in the party, if this is the story of you, the heroic acrobat, then the rules must allow you to acrobat, and acrobat consistently, and acrobat well.

The problem I kept running into was finding simple enough rules to allow for reasonably quick and dirty play that allow you to define acrobating well, merchanting well, alchemisting well, et cetera, in ways that are comparable but account for the difference between being good at tight ropes or being good at beakers of acid.

One breakthrough I came to on my own is that the reasons my combat systems don’t ever really *work* for me is that I’m hewing way too close to things like D&D, GURPS, and (heaven help me) Palladium when the model in my head isn’t “d00dz with sw0rds hacking 0rcz for l00t” but the cartoonier, more clever-idea-focused violence of fantasy cartoons like the D&D cartoon, the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, the Avatar cartoons, and stuff like that. Not exclusively animated fare. You can throw the Classical Raimiverse in there, and probably a bunch of other stuff I’m overlooking.

(And just, as a pre-emptive thing, since I mentioned cartoons: I am aware that Toon exists. But it’s for emulating a very specific type of cartoon. Fantasy adventure cartoons have slightly more rubber physics than your typical D&D world, but only slightly.)

I shared with this Shweta last night, who pointed out that in a TV show, the writers and animators spend a lot of time pre-arranging the clever solutions, whereas in a roleplaying game, players have to think on the fly but definitely want those moments that make them feel clever and cool.

Shweta told me about a couple of card-based games I was only passingly familiar with, and the practice of using a card that gives a situation or move or weapon and then you have to sell the table on how it addresses the problem in front of you. This eventually led to a terrific idea for a conflict/check resolution mechanism that I’m going to talk about in a later post as it shapes up better. But it also led to a shift in philosophy.

See, it made me realize something: the one part of A Wilder World that has remained more or less the same through every iteration, is the magic system, and it basically operates on that principle (sans the cards). If you’re a green mage, you got plants. To solve a problem with green magic, you have to explain how plants are going to solve it. If you’re a necromancer, you got skulls and spirits. To solve a problem with necromancy, you have to explain how skulls and spirits are going to solve it.

And the Green Mage archetype would come with five or six detailed, rule-based special abilities to represent how plant magic is fundamentally different from skull magic (which is fundamentally different from fire magic), the core mechanic of “casting a spell” still depends on the notion that players and the Storyteller can work out between themselves what the limits of plant magic are, and how they differ from skull magic’s scope and features.

And hearing Shweta talk about combat based on “Okay, this is what I got. This is what I’m doing with it.” made me realize that this, the one thing that I have really liked from start to finish, this is the core mechanic. This is how I resolve the problem of a game that lets you be things as absurdly specific as an Elven Merchant/Acrobat or Automaton Noble/Pyromancer from level one without having you remember dozens of special abilities and all the ways they affect the rules is to define “Merchant” and “Acrobat” and “Automaton” and all the other things not in terms of 5 or 6 specific special abilities, but with a broad description of what it means to be such a thing, what such people are good at, and a few examples of applications.

And then when it’s your time to shine, you wield the special ability of Being A Merchant or Being An Automaton in much the same way you would wield the ability of Being A Green Mage: you explain how it comes to bear.

And yeah, maybe it’s easier to figure out how Having A Giant Sword And Knowing How To Use It applies to the problem of the 0rcz and their l00t than it is to figure out how Being A Noble applies to that situation. But not everybody looks for the same sort of challenge from a roleplaying game. And not every campaign offers the same challenges, especially when the rules aren’t centered with laser-like precision around whittling all the HP from 0rcz so you can absorb the precious XP spilled with their blood. And the fact that nobody is just one thing means you can take an interesting thing like Merchant or Noble alongside something that is bog-standard adventure ready.

To be clear, while this will result in a more narrative-driven gameplay experience, I’m not changing from my stance on narrative game mechanics that amount to “string together adjectives and traumatic childhood memories you just made up in order to get a bigger dice pool” as being a very game-y device very game-y games and not at all what I’m looking for. The narrative component is, “This is what you’ve got. What are you doing with it?” The Storyteller rates whether it’s definitely something you can do (basically automatic), something you could probably do (easy chance), something you could do (medium chance), or something you stand a chance of doing. (hard chance). Individual groups/Storytellers might want to reward more interesting and entertaining things with better odds, but the rules don’t dictate to what extent that is part of the game… so the game is only as silly as the group.

Of course, the other advantage to defining archetypes/broad abilities in terms of “here is what being/having this thing is all about” rather than “here are the five or six specific things that this thing lets you do in exact game mechanical terms” is that it makes it easier and less intimidating for players to define their own. They just have to come up with a scope that the Storyteller and larger group agree is not overly broad, like a Good At Everything trait. The fact that the exact scope of an ability can be negotiated through use provides for a little bit of elasticity on traits that might seem either too narrow to be useful or too broad to be fair… they can be basically refined through play.

I have a really good feeling about this direction, because my core gameplay goal with A Wilder World is a quick and simple, easy to learn system that allows you to do all the clever, exciting, wacky, zany, and/or daring stuff that people think about when they imagine a fantasy adventure, but I’ve been going about it by trying to make a quicker, more streamlined version of Dungeons and Dragons and then graft all the exciting bits on as extensions and exceptions.

Also, I’m one of the many people for whom the core of a game is really the chargen system. It’s a lot easier for me to design a kick-awesome character creation system that inspires people to make amazing characters and imagine their fantastic adventures than it is to build a detailed engine to support those ideas.

Well, my advice to writers is always to play to your strengths: if you’re great at dialogue, use dialogue to tell the story. If you’re great at detail and atmosphere, use that. Lean on what you’re great at, use everything else as needed.

So here’s an idea for a system that leans on character definition to deliver the goods. And frankly, there’s an element of “Your character should be good at this and this sounds awesome, it’s the sort of thing you’d totally be able to pull off if this were a story, so even though realistically this is a million to one shot and the rules don’t even provide for a way to adjudicate the odds, let’s roll for it.” to the way I GM most games, and that’s the style of play I most enjoy. This just canonizes it.

I’ll make more posts talking about the specifics as they develop, but I just wanted to get this out there.


Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

alexandraerin: (Default)
For most of the past several days, I've spent part of each day talking to someone about A Wilder World. This coupled with the year-or-so sabbatical from working on it while I focused on a "learning project" that was explicitly more D&D-esque has helped me refine what I'm doing and why.

When I started working on A Wilder World, one of my goals was to try to make a high fantasy adventure game that would be divorced from a lot of the prevalent tropes in high fantasy adventure roleplaying that are really more "D&D tropes" than "fantasy tropes". I was focused on things like wizards with distinct lists of discrete spells, l00t as character progression rather than character development, and the tendency towards fragile, interchangeable protagonists.

But addressing these things without addressing the underlying assumptions behind the system is basically giving things a face lift while keeping the musculature and skeleton and organs the same.

Now, a thing often happens when I talk about what I'm looking for in a roleplaying game, and this is I get recommendations for games that are explicitly "narrativist"... the sorts of games where you add +1d6 to your gunfighting roll because you made up a story on the spot about how you saw a stray dog at the side of the fight and it reminded you of your dead puppy Scruffles gone these past thirteen years. People recommend these games to me under the mistaken impression that they're for people who love story and hate overly mechanistic approaches to conflict resolution, when as far as I'm concerned it's the other way around.

And another thing that happens is people recommend me "Rules Lite" games, the kind of games where you have two or three or maybe even just one stat, and the thing is, I don't tend to like those games because they're bad at what I call modeling, which is my preferred approach to character creation (both as a GM and as a player). It's hard to represent things in a Rules Lite system, however quick and playable they might be.

Now, the breakthrough for how to approach the rules in A Wilder World really came from a simple realization: a lot of people I know play roleplaying games by using the character creation system to model their characters, and then throw out 90% of the rules for 90% of the time. The character creation system itself defines what your character basically should be able to do, and as long as everyone at the table has some basic level of agreement about what that means... well, you don't need a lot more.

I've been saying all along that I want rules to provide an open framework of support on which you can build a story, but I haven't really understood how to make that work. My attempts have continually gotten too bogged down in unnecessary specificity, contingency planning, and other such cruft.

You want dice and some guidelines for their application, at least if you're like me, because all the diceless systems I've seen are a bit too transactional for my tastes. Some uncertainty is good, and dice take the pressure off always being able to answer a "Can I...?" question with "yes" or "no", and help you resolve the "maybes".

But you don't need to define in exacting detail what it takes and what it means to pin someone to the wall with arrows, to knock someone down, or throw someone across the room. You just need some basic tools for navigating the question of who can do these things.

So essentially what I'm talking about here is a "Lite" approach to play--a game written around the way a lot of us end up playing anyway--without the Rules Lite approach to character creation. And while character creation will basically consist of the same pieces as before, because the rules lack the overwhelming specificity, it should be more approachable. That is, with each character quality serving more as a description "these are the sorts of things your character can do" than "here are five to seven specific special abilities for you to remember you have", it should be more approachable for newbies.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Okay, so I've been having a confidence problem with A Wilder World for a while now... about a year, in fact. It has to do with the numbers at the heart of the game system.

I started off with a simple 1d6 mechanic because I wanted the random number generator to be fairly predictable and I wanted each and every +1 to have a hefty and thoroughly appreciable impact to it. In the typical d20 system, the difference between +0 and +1 just isn't that much. The difference between +0 and +5 isn't even necessarily much to sneeze at.

The problem is that while 1d6 magnifies the impact and is less swingy in that there's a smaller range of results, there's also a very narrow "sweet spot" in which it works. There were also some smaller problems in the system I was using for exceptional results ("acing/flubbing" checks), in that some of the relationships between numbers were non-intuitive. They extended the range of results, but they also added overhead to the game.

In the days since I started to shift back to AWW, I've been mulling over a couple of different alternatives. One is a variation on what I've always called the "fistful of dice" approach, and while I did come up with a system I like for that, it's too cumbersome for a game that involves more than occasional rolls.

The other is sort of a mashup of d20 and GURPS, and after bouncing the ideas off another person (so I could make sure they actually made sense outside my head), I think I have the confidence to develop this.

This post is going to be a bit longer and more circuitous than an actual write-up of the rules would be, as I'm still feeling things out and I'm going to be making digressions about probabilities and my purposes here that won't be necessary in a finished write-up.

First, I'll still be using the same attribute scale I've been working with, ranging from -2 to 5 or 6 for starting scores, and a close to hard limit of 9 for high level player character scores.

The actual dice check mechanic is this: roll 3d6, add your attribute score, meet or beat the target number.

The use of 3d6 instead of a d20 is the key to this. Because it generates a bell curve which the attribute modifier does not in any way follow, the impact of each point difference is quite a bit more than the 5 percentage points you'd get on a d20 scale, and each point's impact in either direction is also greater than the one before it.

Let's say the target number for a "vanilla difficulty" task--one that's meant to have an appreciable chance of failure but still be doable for the average adventurer--is 10. With an attribute of 0, the mean human score, you'd have a 62.5% chance of success. That's pretty close to the "worth it" sweet spot but not by any stretch of the imagination "on first try" reliable. With an attribute of 1, though, the odds become 74%. Marked increase! If the maximum starting score is 6, that would give you a better than 99% chance of success. Not guaranteed, but as close as it gets with dice.

Then let's consider a task with a target number of 16. That's still within the realm of possibility for a score of 0, but with less than a 5% chance of success. On the other hand, our specialist for the task with an attribute of 6 has a 62.5% chance, the same as a character with a score of 0 doing that difficulty 10 task.

So the predictability I'm going for is preserved and possibly even heightened, but the range of numbers we have to work with is increased.

And it has the virtue of simplicity. Roll three smallish dice, total them up, add a number.

Exceptional Results

The first complication comes in when you roll a 6 on any die. When this happens, you add your stat modifier again (once for each 6). Yes, this means that if you have a -2, a 5 is better than a 6. Obviously this rule skews the raw probabilities I referenced above. My thought here is that like the ace/flub rules I had before, it further magnifies the impact of a higher or low score. But it won't add much in the way of overhead because it doesn't trigger additional die rolls, and since a die coming up a 6 is exciting to begin with, I think it will add to momentum rather than stealing it.


Each 1 that you roll in your 3d6 indicates that you might some sort of mistake or misstep. If you succeed, this doesn't undo the success, but you might suffer a consequence ranging from looking foolish to alerting enemies, as makes sense for the situation.

If you have a negative score, than a 6 also counts as a flub.

Trained Checks

I'm keeping with the single level of skill theme of recent editions of D&D and the existing iteration of AWW. Rather than a flat +1 or +2, though, the result of having the appropriate skill among your character's details is that you get another die. So skill has an average impact of +3.5, which is comparable to a pretty hefty attribute increase but a middle of the road one in terms of adventurers' exceptional abilities, but it's not a guaranteed impact. You'll always do better with skill than without, but someone with an attribute of 6 and no skill will outshine someone with an attribute of 0 and skill training.

This might seem counterintuitive (training should be more reliable than innate talent), but the skill system in AWW is meant to be a bonus on top of an already highly detailed attribute system. That is, a character with an Agility of 5 shouldn't need a half dozen skills to be an agile hero.

You can conceivably have the benefit of training from multiple sources that could apply to a given check, but the benefits don't stack. A check is either trained (4d6) or not (3d6). The extra die is affected by the exceptional results rule above, so training further magnifies the impact of an exceptionally high or low attribute score.

Training does have one reliability edge: when you make a trained check, you can ignore one 1 for purposes of flubbing. This ability is not tied to a particular die that is designated the "bonus" one.

Safety Dice (We Can Dice If We Want To...)

Safety dice are another wrinkle, one that is commonly granted by your character qualities. This is part of my attempt to pare down the number of individual abilities each quality grants in order to make things snappier. Safety dice are extra dice you roll on a check without increasing the total number of dice that go into the result.

As an example: a level 1 acrobat gets 1 safety die on every agility check. If you rolled an untrained agility check, you'd roll four dice and throw out the worst one. If you were to roll a trained one, you'd roll five and throw out the worst one. Only the dice you actually use count for exceptional rolls and flubs. Unlike merely being trained, safety dice can stack.

The point of safety dice is to make it so that characters are transcendentally good within their areas of expertise, and by "transcendentally" I mean "in a way that transcends the normal rules of the random number thingy". An Acrobat with an Agility of 4 to 6 and a non-Acrobat with an Agility of 4 to 6 would be limited to the same range of results, but the Acrobat would be more reliable.

The existence of safety dice provides a simple and even scaleable way to make characters markedly more reliable at performing certain tasks without completely deforming the random number generator. It also makes the more general/generic character qualities (like warrior, archer, acrobat, et cetera) a lot easier to establish without the need for a half dozen specific special abilities.

Safety dice will also replace most "roll twice and use better result" abilities, which simplifies a lot of the trickier questions about how different special abilities would interact with each other.

So it's a bit more involved than 1d6 plus attribute, but that required a lot of appendages to really make it work anyway. And while the probabiility mechanics of it can be quite complicated, the actual applications are pretty straightforward. It has the predictability that I'm looking for, it's harder to break, and hopefully it will prove to be easy to understand and quick and snappy enough in play.
alexandraerin: (Default)
I started this post last night before I went to bed, but somehow didn't finish it.

On Saturday, someone got me thinking about A Wilder World, and I realized three things.

1. I haven't looked at it at all since January, and barely since last October.
2. It's actually closer to being done than Adventure Song is. Not only is it a more complete game, but the problems of managing a large scale project in Google Drive means it will take more work than it should to get AS in order.
3. My reasons for dropping it/backburnering it had more to do with jitters/anxiety than anything else.

There were some problems, and some things I needed to figure out a new approach for, and taking the time to work on a different project was helpful there, as was just taking some time off and looking at AWW with fresh eyes.

For instance, one of the last changes I made to the system was an attempt to simplify the ace/exceptional roll mechanic. But what I came up with was that you roll a die, and if it's lower than or equal to your attribute, you roll another die and add it, and keep doing so until you get a total number higher than your attribute. In terms of range of numbers, that's indistinguishable from "roll one die and add your attribute". It just takes more die rolling and addition to get to the same point.

Looking at it now, I understand the exact thought process that got me there, the steps I took simplifying from where I was before to something that seemed like a simpler version that was still more interesting than "roll die and add number". But I also have enough distance from the process to look at where I ended up.

So that's one lingering problem identified, if not fixed.

The other major issue is that Character Qualities--the equivalent of character classes, the main building blocks--were too complicated and unwieldy, given that even starting characters had three of them (one folk quality, two others). The point of giving all of them so many specific abilities was that I wanted each one to be completely distinct, to give a different feeling Well, working on Adventure Song has given me some real clarity on how to define distinct character types with a greater economy of special abilities.

In the past couple weeks of working on Adventure Song, I've felt it was shifting to be more like A Wilder World than I'd ever intended at the beginning. Now that I'm looking at A Wilder World again, I feel like I should maybe be coming back from the other side: taking what I learned working on Adventure Song and putting it into A Wilder World.

It might seem weird and wishy-washy to be shifting gears so soon after having laid out a plan to bring Adventure Song to testing, but AWW is honestly the project that excites me more (and that attracted the most excitement from others, which isn't a small thing). It's not only closer to the finish line, it generates its own momentum.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So, two things that happened with the move are relevant to the development of A Wilder World.

The first is that I stopped working or even thinking much about A Wilder World because I was busy with really demanding things and what free time I had was concerned with spending time with people and seeing the sights of Nebraska while I still lived there.

The other is that I've unpacked books that were in boxes for almost four years and put them on a shelf where I can see them. This means I'm revisiting a lot of the formative influences for A Wilder World. These include GURPS, Tunnels & Trolls, various older editions of D&D, and the Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying Game. This has given me a lot to think about in terms of actual simplicity versus perceived simplicity, and simplicity in the sense of "this game system does nothing" versus "this game system does lots of things but it does them simply".

Relatedly, I've finally checked out the Pathfinder roleplaying game system, something that I've never done because I had very little interest in D&D 3E to begin with, though I like what they've done with it.

The upshot of this is that I'm... well, I'm not *scrapping* what I've done with A Wilder World, but I'm thinking of bulldozing quite a bit of it.

I love love love my character creation system. I think it's pretty much a home run. 9 out of 10.

The basic adventuring rules? 7 out of 10. It's decent. It hits most of the marks, most of the time.

The basic combat system? 5 out of 10. It works.

The advanced combat (attack for effects, et cetera)? 3 out of 10. Workable at best, but clunky.

So what I'm thinking about doing is completely reconceiving the combat system, tweaking the basic adventuring rules (that is, the check mechanism), and leaving character creation the same except insofar as it references the rules. Which basically means that all the pieces are going to be there, but I'll have to define their effects in terms of the new system.

The tweaked check mechanism gets rid of the ace/flub mechanism that required you to know different number ranges for different scores. The new version, you never have to know any number for a Strength Check except for what your Strength is. It also alters the random number range a bit and makes the advantage of a higher attribute being more in line of having a higher minimum roll than a drastically higher maximum roll, which is good. It makes the results a little more predictable and less swingy.

The revised combat system is going to be a bit more abstract, but more intelligently so... less dice, less math. I think any attempt to describe it in a paragraph is not going to give the right idea or really do it justice at all, so I'll make a separate post about that later on.
alexandraerin: (Default)
I probably won't have time to actually write out the simpler rules for effects before the move unless the middle of next week ends up being really sedate, but my brain insists on thinking about them anyway and so they're shaping up pretty well.

The basic rule is: if you want to inflict a single effect (trip someone, shove them, pin them to the wall, etc.), you make your attack as normal (though with a lot more flexibility of which attribute to use, in a lot of cases) and if you succeed, the effect happens. Instead of some effects requiring a solid hit and others working on a glancing hit, each effect will have defined levels for what happens on each.

Examples: A glancing hit on a trip attack means the target stumbles but does not quite fall. A glancing hit on disarm means the target's weapon stays in their hand but they have a penalty to attack and parry with it for the next round unless they spend an action securing their grip (which in most cases they would do rather than attacking). A glancing hit on a knockback attempt means that they are rocked back a bit but don't go a full 1D away... distance and location being abstract, this means a glancing knockback attack lets you say that the target is no longer close to someone/something they've been knocked away from, but doesn't let you say that they're now in a different location that was 1D away. Or to use a specific example: if you're fighting someone and there's a pit on the other side of them and you try to shove them in, a glancing hit means they don't start the next round close to you, but they also don't fall.

I'm thinking you will still be able to string multiple effects together as a single action if they can be described as the same attack. I'm not 100% certain on the mechanics of that, but I have some strong ideas. This is how things like higher levels of knockback or stronger holds will be determined; if you want to knock an opponent back 3D, you make three knockback attempts. There will probably be a hard limit of three effects for an attack, with damage counting as an effect if you're attacking for both.

Balance wise this means that it's going to be as easy to trip an enemy as it will be to disarm them, when it seems like the trip should be easier, both from a logistical/skill standpoint and a game balance standpoint. But the thing is, disarming should be a legitimate strategy for the heroic player characters to pursue. If the players are the superior combatants, they can probably win the fight with straight attacks for damage but if they want to do something flashy (and maybe minimize the enemy's ability to inflict damage on them along the way), why not let them? If they're fighting a superior foe... well, they need a way to level the playing field, and getting the superior foe's weapon away from them might be that.

At the end of the day, the usefulness of most effects is going to be highly situational anyway, and in most cases inferior to an attack for damage. The exception is things like stun that seriously impairs the ability of the victim to fight... in order to make ongoing conditions more of a gamble, I think I'm going to effectively give the victim of ongoing conditions a "saving throw" by letting them try to resist as a reaction at the start of the first round. This will be the equivalent of having a higher cost/difficulty.
alexandraerin: (Default)
So far, most of the (still constructive and helpful!) negative comments on the AWW Player's Guide have centered around the rules for attacks for effect. There have been some other parts where it's been pointed out that a line of writing is unclear, and a bit of "I think this might make sense to me if I see it in play", which is to be avoided where possible but might just be part of the nature of the beast, but no one's flat-out said that they can't make sense of any of the rules outside of the attack for effect, and at least three people have said that. I'm not saying that everyone's been mystified by it, but out of about ten people who've given me substantive comments on the guide, three people told me they couldn't make heads or tails of it, two people needed clarification, and nobody has yet said anything positive about it, which leads me to suspect that most folks aren't grasping it. Not because I think the system is so inherently impressive that anyone who isn't blown away doesn't grasp it, but because it's kind of the "candy" part of the combat system.

And I kind of expected this to be the trouble spot. It's the most complicated part of the most complicated part of the game.

I do have a plan B. I'd planned on testing the game with plan A and only instituting plan B if plan A (effect points) failed to hold up, but I'm thinking the failure to click is widespread enough that I can declare plan A a failure.

Plan B is... checks. I.e., the same system used to revolve everything else is used to revolve it when you want to trip an enemy, or disarm them, or whatever. The advantage of this approach is that it's not another sub-system awkwardly stapled on for combat only, it's the core rules of the game.

I avoided Plan B because of potential game balance issues, but to be honest, that was mostly about the danger of monsters with high stats being able to steamroller over player characters with checks. But the game officially takes the stance that the special combat tactics in the Advanced Combat chapter are for player characters... that NPCs only use them if they're defined as using them, that they essentially need a special ability to do so. I can't stop someone who's running from the game from going "nuts to that, the octopus would want to win the fight so obviously it would disarm and restrain everyone", but I also can't stop anyone who's running the game from saying that rocks fall and everyone dies.

...and to be honest, the game balance issues comes from the fact that without something like a chart or table of modifiers to the checks then all effects would have a roughly equal difficulty, varying only with the attributes of the characters involved. But the catalogue of effects with their costs buried in their description isn't any more user friendly than a table of modifiers would be.

I wasn't 100% about this change when I started writing this blog post and I'm still not 100%, but in the course of writing it, I'm at about 80%. This will just be so much snappier and easier. Want to trip an opponent? Agility vs. Reflexes. Want to shove them over? Strength vs. Agility or Strength. Obviously the rules will still be more involved than that (types of effects will still be a thing, for purposes of bonuses and resistances, and effects combined with attacks for damage will still be a thing), but still, simpler in the long run, and more intuitive considering that you'd be making opposed checks for the equivalent actions outside of combat.
alexandraerin: (Default)
I had been about to make a post that would have listed all the CQs that will be available for the test, with a note that I'm pretty sure I've gotten all the ones that came up when I canvassed for requests done... and then I realized that I was missing one of those.

Somebody had mentioned (in conjunction with discussion regarding the enchanter) that they wanted a CQ for a not-at-all-wizardy character who can basically enchant on the fly, to do things like channel energy into weapons to give them elemental effects. I toyed around with an "Imbuer" concept that I couldn't pull together before deciding to focus more specifically on the channeling-elemental-energy-into-combat-gear aspect. The result is the Power Channeler, which has a weapons-free option to help out mystical martial arts characters.

* * *

OPTION: Self-Channeler: Instead of weapons, your abilities apply to your limbs for unarmed attacks. Each use of Energize Weapon and related abilities are tied to a specific limb (usually an arm, though you can energize your foot or head if you need to). Energize Armor applies to your skin rather than armor, though you can wear things over your skin and still have full effect.
Basic Abilities
[A] Energize Weapon: One weapon that you wield at any time gains the blazing magical trait and counts as a magical weapon. You can choose the type of energy the first time in a scene that you activate this ability, or another ability that uses such energy. Changing it thereafter requires a focused action, even if you've switched weapons. The weapon returns to normal seconds after it leaves your hand, allowing you to make throwing attacks but not pass the weapon to someone else to use. A weapon that already has the blazing trait can be made to blaze brighter for a +2 bonus to damage. If an improvised weapon is augmented and it breaks, the person who breaks it can be made to take a die of damage if they're close.

[B] Charge Weapon: Pick one magic weapon trait worth 1 Magic Gear Point. A weapon you energize has this trait, if applicable.
Standard Abilities
Augment Weapon: In each adventure, you have Gear Points equal to your level that can be spent to add traits to the weapons you energize. A given weapon can't have additional traits worth more than half your level at a time. You can choose which of the traits you've activated go to which weapon, but you cannot change the trait selections once you've made them.

Energize Armor: You can energize armor you're wearing, while you're wearing it. This allows you to either increase its Physical Damage Resistance by half your level, or allow you to inflict damage of half your level against anyone you successfully withstand a close physical attack from. You make the decision when you activate this ability. If you choose the damage option then your armor glows with the same energy you're using for Energize Weapon, and any damage inflicted is of the same type. You are invulnerable to this energy type; halve all physical damage from it and convert it to mental. Ordinary clothes can also be energized in this fashion, with the same effects. Once per scene when you use this ability, you can give your armor or clothes one magical trait worth 1 Magic Gear Point that somehow relates to your energy type. If you change energy types, this effect is lost.

Energy Bombs: You can transform small objects (including rocks and other debris) into energy bombs, which function as the bomb expendable except for inflicting damage that matches your energy type. Roll for exhaustion as a normal expendable, but you get a fresh supply each scene.

Overcharge: You can make a simultaneous attack against either all enemies close to you or all characters except you with 1D of you using your energy channeling type. This only requires an action, but to do it you must cancel either Energize Weapon or Energize Armor and cannot use it again in the following round.
Standard Abilities
Level 2 Dual Channeling: You can use two different types of energy for your energy channeling abilities (for instance, one for your weapon and another for your armor), though you're limited to two types no matter how many abilities you have that use energy. Changing either or both of them requires one action. You can also energize two different weapons, one with each energy type.

Level 4 Energy Blasts: You can make ranged physical attacks using either of your energy types. Treat this ability as a one-handed ranged weapon with the blazing magic trait and 1 Gear Point worth of other traits, plus 1 GP for each additional level. As a focused action, you can make simultaneous attacks against a group of enemies that are close to each other using this ability.

Level 6 Supercharge: Once per adventure, you can gain the following effects for the duration of a scene: one, use your full level with Energize Armor instead of half your level. Two, gain both effects from that ability. Three, you can energize up to two weapons at a time. Four, your energized weapons and Energy Blasts both inflict an additional die of damage. When you activate this ability, you gain three dice of Fight Points. You can activate it as a reaction when you drop to 0.
* * *

Maybe not the most interesting or varied abilities, but that's why you get two CQs. People who saw the "Elemental Weapon" draft might notice there's quite a bit of overlap. I'd actually temporarily withdrawn Elemental Weapon for re-tooling before I started this one, and some of the abilities I played with giving to Power Channeler will probably end up in Elemental Weapon instead.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Today, I am unabashedly devoting a day to working on AWW. I've barely touched it since I've been back in the attic, and before then it was mostly odd moments here and there.

Right now I'm working on a previously nonexistent (though occasionally referenced anyway) category of gear called one shots. One shots are expendables that come in a stock of one. Your character can have a whole stash of minor healing potions, but you have to buy individual potions of invisibility.

One of the challenges here is duration. The "industry standard" is to use real world units of time, but AWW avoids that. D&D 4E pretty much has everything last for an encounter (capped off at 5 minutes), a single round, or until you break for the day. I could very easily just make potions last for a scene, but the approach I'm going for is to figure out what the useful duration would be.

If carrying a single potion of underwater living takes up the same character resources as a basic weapon (1 Gear Point), then it needs to be something you can get a serious advantage from using. So rather than being something you can run out of time on and risk drowning, I've simply declared that once it's been taken the potion remains inert until you try to breathe water and then it remains active until you try to breathe air.

Potions that protect from damage are similarly inert until damage triggers them, and then they tend to last for a scene.

The potion of seeming, which lets you alter your appearance, lasts until you sleep.

Most one shot potions can also be bought as an unguent instead, which takes several minutes to apply but extends the effects in some fashion.

Any one shot potion can also be bought as "vapors" or "incense" for three times the value, which affects the whole party at the same time. Vapors are quick like a potion, incense is slow like an unguent, but has the same benefit.

Potions are listed as gear with gear point costs, but they're so context-specific in their usefulness compared to most gear that I suspect most of the time they'll either be sought out mid-adventure or produced by someone in the party who can produce such items on the fly. They'll also make good treasures/rewards.

The effects of potions are also going to work for a category of magic gear traits called "empowerments", because they literally give you a power. If there are potions of invisibility and rings of invisibility, there's not a lot of point in duplicating efforts.

Not all one shot items are necessarily potions. There will probably also be big alchemical bombs in there, too, eventually.
alexandraerin: (Default)
I'm doing an assessment of where the Basic Character Guide stands right now. It needs quite a bit of work... it needs far more consistency editing than the BPG does... but I'm feeling pretty good about the idea of having a public draft available before my move. This draft would be the character creation rules used for playtesting. The actual descriptions of abilities/mechanics behind them might be re-written, but such edits wouldn't be meant to substantially change what they do, simply clarify them or bring them in line with the rules as they've evolved.

The final count of qualities that will be in the test version looks like it's going to be right around one hundred.

One of the original draft ones, Itinerant Priest, has been renamed to the less wordy "Preacher"... while it was conceived of as a *wandering* cleric, that idea wasn't really integral to any of the CQ's abilities, which focus more on connections with people. I also gave the Preacher some abilities that are explicitly tied to prayer (though not explicitly supernatural), so it's not so much just Generic Charismatic Person.

A planned future CQ, Temple Priest, will probably just be called Priest... the difference between Preacher and Priest being that the Priest CQ is more about connections with an establishment and hierarchy. I'm a little leery of calling any CQ "Priest", generically, though, so that one might end up being called something else, like "Templar" (which calls to minds "temples" but will might have the disadvantage of giving people who know history and/or play the right video games the wrong impression). I might just go with "Cleric" or "Clergy"... "Clergy" is awkward, but it doesn't have the gaming-baggage of Cleric.

Another original, Weapons Expert does not currently exist... I realized that about half of its abilities related specifically to having two weapons at a time, which is a different specific a concept than "has and uses a lot of weapons", so I split those off built another CQ around them called Weapon Expert: Paired. This leaves the original Weapons Expert in need of retooling. It might also be renamed to Weapon Master or Weapon Collector to differentiate it more strongly from the bevy of Weapon Experts. It will probably make it back in to the basic set, but not necessarily as part of the first run of testing.

I think those are the only two among the previously seen examples that have been renamed or dropped.

I can't remember if I've said this or not, but part of the expansion of the basic set from 20-something to 100-something is that individual Advanced Qualities to match the basic ones are no longer going to be included in it, though the fact that you gain new abilities as you level means that the tiers have been merged together to a degree. By launch, there will be a handful of generic Advanced Qualities (ones not tied to a specific quality) and probably the one for each folk quality included in the basic set. Other CQ-specific Advanced Qualities will come out as part of appropriate themed expansions, and I'm not going to prioritize having a specific Advanced Quality to go with every quality.

I've also been having thoughts about the packaging of the game as a product and the distribution, a lot of them crystallized by finally looking at what Paizo's been doing with Pathfinder, but I don't think I'll be getting into them yet.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Maybe it's just because it's one of the easiest supernatural abilities to fake in real life, but the ability to produce objects out of thin air has always seemed to me to be one of the quintessential forms of magic. When the officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons cartoon wished to convey to the general viewing audience that Presto was a wizard, they didn't give him a book containing four incredibly specific spells he could cast once after he did his homework and had a good night's sleep... they gave him a hat that he could pull things out of.

(On that note, if you understood the reference in the subject line of this post: well done, you.)

Basic Abilities
[A] Conjuration Specialization: You can add a +1 method bonus when doing a spell that involves bringing an inanimate object to you, or creating/summoning one out of thin air, or locating an inanimate object, and can use Deception or Dexterity for such Spell Checks.. You can increase this bonus to +1 at levels 1, 3, and 5. You can also add a +1 bonus to any Spell Check if you can put the hand that will produce the effect out of sight (e.g., in a hat or pocket) during the casting.

[A] Dimensional Storage Space: Items in your possession can be made to vanish and then reappear on your person at will. Each item stowed or retrieved is a separate action, though an attuned implement can be summoned without an action. Initially, only your personal gear can be stored. From level 1 on, you can store two additional items per level. A stock of consumable items counts as one item, as do paired items that are stowed and retrieved together.
Standard Abilities
What We Really Need: For each level, you have 1 Tr that can be spent in a given adventure to conjure a non-companion item that is needed, which appears in your hands. For common items worth 2 GP or less, this can be assumed to be automatic, essentially Trivial Magic, but you may be required to make a Spell Check for more valuable or harder to find items. You can add your level to such checks.

Conjure Convenience: You can create items of convenience such as a chair, candle, pillow, or entertaining book as a form of Trivial Magic. You can have one such object extant per level, or two per level if they are similar or related objects (two different books, a pillow and a blanket, a chair and a foot stool). These items are temporary objects that begin to fade away as soon as they are abandoned or neglected. If you wish them to fool anyone into believing them to be real permanent objects, you must make the equivalent of a Deception Check as a Spell Check, meaning this is no longer Trivial Magic.

Conjuror's Cornucopia: Three times per day, you can produce decent quality food and drink for six people per level. Your ability provides ordinary quality tableware as needed to serve and eat the food, and these are temporary objects as described under the previous ability. The food behaves as a temporary item if not eaten. You can increase the quality of the food and dishes by decreasing the quantity or vice versa, allowing one person per level to eat like a king at one extreme or twelve people per level to subsist on the equivalent of bread and water or gruel at the other.

Conjure Couture: You can bring forth clothing items worth up to half your level in GP or LP (round up) each. You can have one such item for each level extant at a time, and can cancel previous uses at will. Any disguise attempt that involves clothes conjured with this ability can add your method bonus to the check.

Prestidigistraction: You can add your level to any check to disguise spell casting or for mundane sleight-of-hand.
Advanced Abilities
Level 2 Found Money: Once per scene, you can create Treasure worth your level. However, doing so gives you or a willing ally 1 Jinx Point, and if you try to keep the Treasure in your group past the end of the scene in which it was conjured, catastrophe will remove it from you.

Level 4 Equivalent Exchange: Once per adventure, you can swap one piece of non-companion gear for another worth equal or fewer GP. If the original item has any MGP traits that you have fully mastered, you can include them in the new item, if applicable. Alternately, you can give the new item MGP traits worth half as much. You can only have one item exchanged at a time, but you can swap the item back at any point. Additionally, you can expend actual points of Treasure (excluding those gained through Found Money) when you use What We Really Need to summon items, though you cannot get anything that costs more than your level in Tr in this fashion.

Level 6 Conjure Creatures: Your method bonus expands in scope to include summoning creatures, spirits, and such things. If you already have a method bonus for summoning, use the higher one +1. Equivalent Exchange and What We Really Need now wok on companions, though you cannot spend Treasure to summon companions.
* * *
alexandraerin: (Default)
...with the heat and the sleep deprivation, here's another sneak peek while I wait for my room to cool down since I foolishly didn't set the window fan on intake earlier.

This is Nature-Touched. Like the other "Divinely Touched" CQs, it's intended to be a more cleric-flavored form of supernatural superpower than the *omancers are, hence it's a list of things you can do that are long on blessing and protection and with no mention of Spell Checks.

This one is particularly meant to be druid-like. Basically, I thought of all the things that strike me as iconic druid spells/abilities from D&D. Now, I know as soon as I say that, the post-AD&D generation is going to get completely the wrong image. The thing is, druids didn't use to be all about shapeshifting. In AD&D, that was like the ultimate culmination of what they could do, and it was limited: like, once a day a piece, they could be an ordinary bird, a mammal, or a reptile. Their main schtick was "nature clerics". They were actually included in the PHB as an example of the sort of thing you would do for a variant cleric that followed a drastically different model than the templar-inspired warrior-priest that was used for the cleric.

In 3rd edition, the shapeshifting became a lot more flexible, and due to the power creep associated with it, it went from being their ultimate thing to their primary thing, and in 4E, it just plain became their thing.

But if you go back to 2nd Edition or even just looking at the spells that populate their list in 3E, you'll see the basic idea I was going for.

And here we come to the point of AWW's plug-and-play character building: I can describe what a druid character is to me, and you can describe what a druid character is to you, and we can both make our characters and they'll be recognizably what we were talking about. (In theory. I don't actually have a freeform animal shapeshifter in yet.)

* * *

Basic Abilities

[A] Natural Harmony: You are immune to natural diseases and natural poisons in their original state (for example, you could eat poison berries or handle poisonous frogs, but would not be immune to poison extracted from those sources) . Animals and predatory plants (including plant beasts) will not attack you if not under the direction of an intelligent force, unless you attack them or provoke them. From level 1, one other person per level can share in these benefits if they travel with you.

[A] Blessing of Oak and Hide: By touching one weapon, shield, or armor made primarily or entirely of wood, cloth, leather, or other organic materials, you can impart a blessing to it until the end of the scene, or until you rescind it. At levels 1, 3, and 5, you can give one more blessing at a time. Weapons gain a +1 bonus to attack and parry, shields have their Block score and defensive bonuses both increased by 1, and armor has its passive damage resistance increased by 2. If the item can take traits, you can give it 1 GP worth of traits. Blessing an item more than once gives one more GP only.
Standard Abilities
Cornucopia: You can find or produce food in the wild, including edible plants and if desired, unfertilized eggs, and milk from local animals, or meat, though if you gain meat through this ability then local animals will no longer be peaceful as described under Natural Harmony for the remainder of the adventure. You can feed a whole party indefinitely using this ability. Additionally, during an adventure you can gain items made of wood or plant material (including weapons, clothes, and herbal items, but not written materials unless it's a duplicate of something that's on hand) worth 1 GP per level.

Natural Helper: You have 1 GP per level that can be used to summon minor animal companions of types that would be found in the area. You can converse with these animal companions as if you shared a language and they had the intellect trait.

Wild Growth: Outdoors, you can cause vegetation to grow wild, increasing the cover of the immediate area by one level for the duration of a battle scene. If existing cover is mostly from vegetation, you can also decrease it by one level. By taking a focused action, you can cause both effects to apply for the round selectively, increasing cover for your allies and decreasing it for your enemies. Indoors, you can turn an area of no cover or sparse cover into an area of sparse or abundant cover, which also has the effect of making it count as an outdoor area for any ability that depends on vegetation or a natural environment in general.

Animalistic Transformation: You can give yourself or a willing target you can touch a Beast Feature that could relate to a natural animal. You can give one feature for every level of experience, either to the same person or to multiple people. They last until the end of the scene, or until you or the recipient wills them to end.

Bless Food: Once per level per adventure, you can bless a piece of food. The person who eats it is instantly refreshed as if they had a full night's sleep and have been adequately nourished, and can ignore half their Wound Points or gain Fight Points equal to your level during the next fight scene they participate in.
Advanced Abilities
Level 2 Natural Rejuvenation: Each person who eats your blessed food loses one die of Wound Points, once per adventure per person. Between adventures, you and your allies can all heal one die of Wound Points for free.

Level 4 Hamper Movement: You can cause insects, plant growth, or similar natural hazards to hamper enemies' movements. By taking an action, you can cut the run speed of one enemy in half. By taking a focused action, you can prevent one enemy from running and require an action for them to walk, or you can cut the run speed of all enemies in half. If the enemy can fly, they cannot be slowed by this ability, but instead must spend an action every round to remain airborne, or focused action if you are using a focused action against them alone. These effects of this ability require no check, but they only take effect at the end of the round and remain for the following one.

Level 6 Natural Guardian: Once per adventure, you can summon an animal, plant beast, or animal-like beast companion worth 6 Gear Points. This companion has the combat companion trait for free, though it only remains for one scene.
* * *

There's strong synergy between this CQ and the Primal Empath one, since the Primal Empath can boost the summonings that are possible with this ability to do things like make them combat capable or allow them to share senses. To me, Primal Empath/Nature-Touched or Green Mage/Nature-Touched would be the perfect iconic druid. But, again, that's me coming at it from a perspective where druids weren't primarily shapeshifters.
alexandraerin: (Default)
Okay, I haven't had the time or energy to do any of these in a while, so here's a two-fer: Goblins and Kobolds. I believe a previous draft of Goblin (where they had the ability to imitate plants, which has now been relegated to their cousins, Trolls) was present in the version of the BCG that went up last spring. Kobolds were discussed in this post.

* * *

Basic Abilities
[A] Goblin Heritage: You can take Goblin and Ogad Folk Details as background details. You can choose details from the Beast Features category, though you do not have any extra ones. You can also "turn off" any Beast Features you choose at will, as they are actually alterations you've learned to make to your form. This does not apply to Beast Features gained through other qualities. You have the Inorganic Life and Dark Eyes Special Natures for free.

[B] Goblin Camouflage: You can alter the color and texture of your skin and alter your facial features, though duplicating exact details are difficult. This allows you to use the better of Stealth, Deception, or Magic for checks made to hide your presence visually, or to hide your identity, or impersonate someone else visually. As long as you're motionless, you can hide anywhere regardless of cover. With a little concentration, you can communicate with someone in writing by making words appear on your skin. From level 1, you can add half your level to these checks.
Standard Abilities
Malleable Form: You can add your level to any check to escape from bonds or a hold, to wriggle through or out of a tight space, to avoid damage from falling or impact from a heavy object, to reach an object, or to climb. You can stretch any or all of your limbs by one inch per level, and can alter your height up or down by one inch per level.

Goblin Resilience: You have resistance to wounding effects equal to your level. Subtract your level from the physical damage you suffer in a scene before figuring Wound Points. Subtract your level from your Wound Points before figuring Fight Points for a scene. When you're conscious, add your level to any Healing Check to aid you.

Sproinginess: You take no damage from most falls or similar impacts (including slam effects). When you suffer knockback, you can at your option halve or double the distance that you travel. If you double it, you can move the normal distance and then change direction, even if the attacker directed the knockback. You can aid your own check for jumping or racing someone by making another jump check, with no penalty for aiding yourself.

Visual Mimic: You can add half your level to checks to comprehend languages when you are speaking with someone and you can both see each other. If you're communicating visually (through signs or writing), you can add your full level.

Advanced Abilities
Level 2 Alter Size: Once per adventure, you can double your base size and the range of your ability to alter your size with Malleable Form. This lasts as long as you desire, as long as you remain conscious, and can be maintained for multiple scenes. At levels 4 and 6, you gain an additional use of this ability. Note that if you are already a notably different size from an ordinary Goblin, you can choose a different end result from this size-change, such as a Giant Goblin becoming Human-sized or Goblin-sized, but you must choose one "target size" and keep it.

Level 4 Pseudopod: You can sprout an additional limb at will. This functions as an arm, but it cannot make Dexterity Checks or other fine manipulations, or it can take the place of a leg that has been disabled. The pseudopod can reach twice as far as your normal limbs can. At levels 5 and 6, you gain an additional pseudopod.

Level 6 Biological Rejiggering: You can make Healing Checks to affect yourself using Toughness, Magic, or Mind, and can do so once per round as an extra action for shaking off a condition, or as an action to patch yourself up. When someone rolls a 6 against you with their first die for a physical attack, they must immediately re-roll that die and use the second result. If it's a 6 again, it remains a 6.

Basic Abilities
[A] Kobold Heritage: You can take Kobold and Ogad Folk details as background details. Add a +3 bonus to any check related to digging or tunneling or shifting dirt or rubble, including breaking through earth or stone barriers. Double the speed for completing such a task (or halve the time). You are immune to any effect that would transmute your body to stone or other inanimate minerals. You have the Inorganic Life and Dark Eyes details for free.

[B] Stone Fist: Your unarmed attacks are not weak (+2 damage if they aren't weak for another reason), you can parry barehanded without risk. Your hands are considered a heavy weapon. You can buy additional traits for them as if they were gauntlets.
Standard Abilities
Stone Hide: You have Physical Damage Resistance and resistance to wounding effects and a bonus to withstand equal to your level. If you successfully withstand an unarmed attack or parry it with your hand, your attacker takes physical damage equal to your level.

Sculpt Features: You can alter your appearance, including the texture and color of your skin though you always appear like some kind of stone to close inspection. You can add a level bonus to Deception Checks against organic folk to imitate another Kobold or stone being, but no bonus or penalty otherwise. You can rearrange the location of your facial features and body parts at will, allowing you to actually change where they connect to your body. This allows you to add a die to any attempt to escape from bonds or entanglement, or any climbing check. Shuffling a limb or sensory organ counts as an action in combat, though you can "unscramble" everything as a single action. You can have Beast Features, and though you don't get any extra ones for free, you can turn them on and off if they weren't gained from another quality.

Stone Hiding: When hiding in a stone environment, you can add your level bonus to any Stealth Check and can use Toughness in place of Stealth for such purposes. You can also assume the form of a rock or stone statue of your general size/shape. Unless someone is looking for a Kobold, they will probably overlook you without a check, and you can add your full level bonus plus a die roll to any Deception Check or Stealth Check to hide or pass yourself off as inanimate object or part of the scenery. You cannot move while in stone form, but you get double your Physical Damage Resistance from Stone Hide.
Advanced Abilities
Level 2 Chip Off The Old Block: You can make ranged attacks using shards of stone from your body. Treat this as a ranged weapon that requires no hands to use. You can buy additional traits for this weapon as normal.

Level 4 Gather No Moss: Once per round when you make an unarmed attack against a single enemy, you can use a movement bonus instead of a movement penalty and add 1D to your running speed. If you're attacking for damage or for knock effects, the bonus applies to result as well. Increase the result bonus by 2 for each additional level.

Level 6 Metamorphic Rock: Once per scene when you're in contact with stone or earth of about eight times your mass, you can absorb it into yourself. This allows you to up to double your size, though in this state it takes an action to walk, a focused action to climb, and you cannot run or jump or swim. You gain Physical Damage Resistance and resistance to all physical effects equal to your Toughness and can add your Toughness to any Strength Check and to the damage of any close physical attack. You can end this effect with an action, which can be combined with a simultaneous unarmed attack using Strength or Toughness against all enemies who are close to you as the extra rock explodes outwards from your form. Using this ability or ending it ends all physical conditions on you, and you do not accumulate physical damage while it's active (though you still lose Fight Points from it).

Additionally, once per adventure, you can absorb stone or earth of about half your mass to heal all physical damage and Wound Points you have suffered. This requires a focused action during a fight scene. You can heal yourself completely for free between adventures.

* * *

"Ogad" is the name given to to the order of life that Goblins, Kobolds, Pucks, Trolls, and Ogres belong to... originally I was going to have Goblins as a sort of "base" and the others be things they could grow into using Advanced Qualities, but I decided that the concept would work better if there were multiple base types. It took me a long time to come up with a generic term for all of them... I almost gave up "Goblin" as a distinct folk type, but then I settled on "Ogad". Browsers of TvTropes might be able to puzzle out that it started life as an acronym, though in the game world it's just a word.

Ogad (with the exception of Ogres, who were artificially created or force-grown to be bigger than and resemble Humans) are mostly diminutive creatures of about two and a half feet tall. They differ from other folk in that they're more homogeneous, not having bones or many organs or much internal differentiation. They're all shape-shifters after a fashion. Most of them are patterned after a particular type of life or matter: Kobolds are mineral, Trolls are vegetable, Pucks are animal, and Goblins are polyps (the zoological kind, not the oncological kind). Kobolds and Goblins will definitely be in the basic set. Ogres may well be. I'm on the fence about trying to fit the others in or not. There are also more esoterically patterned Ogad (Bugbears or Bogarts = dreams, Gremlins = magic) that probably will wait for an Ogad-themed booklet.

The Goblin's shapeshifting abilities have been beefed up a little even as they've shed some of their abilities to their cousins. Before, you would need to max out Goblin and get an Advanced Quality to successfully imitate larger folk without something like a stool and a counter to hide your lower body, but now you can get that with a second level ability.

I haven't made a lot of progress on the BCG since those consecutive weeks I spent at my parents' house in a row. I haven't had the time or energy. It's more been small refinements. But I did make a lot of progress during that time.


alexandraerin: (Default)

August 2017



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