Thursday, December 31, 2009

Armour: Its important, but not required

In Piecemeal armour functions by giving you a Damage Reduction score (DR), allowing you to take less damage per die from each blow. As Piecemeal is based on the concept of choices not problems, armour is not universally good like D&D.

Armour has a downside as well, being bulky it lowers you chance at agility checks, and with dodge rolls (ie, your defensive roll to avoid being hit). So while you will take less damage per hit, you will be hit more often. Armour can also be bypassed by "armour piercing" attacks, such as gunpowder, a crossbow or the like.

This means you may wish to change your armouring based upon the conflict. If you are fighting a swarm of nimble goblins with small knives and clubs, then heavy armour is a good idea. Even if they hit you more, their feeble blows will almost never bypass your armour.

Compare that to fighting a giant, the lumbering brute will hit with such force and damage that the armour will not do much (if any) good..but if you are nimble and quick you have a good shot at never having a single blow land against you.

Now originally I had custom listing of armours each with their own (arbitrary) DR reduction scores versus pierce, blunt and slash attacks as well as their own dodge modifiers and the like.

That irritated me, as historical armours were built to counter historical arms and equipment. When faced with new dangers and new biology's of the wearers, armour could look very different. If you aren't primarily concerned with stopping arrows but troll claws, how would the armour differ? What about if your vital organs are in your lower gut and nothing is really in your upper torso?

For this reason I used a similar system to weapon tags. Armour is selected as a type (light, mail and plate) and then tags with their modifiers to the weapons stats are used.

So light armour has a DR of 1 as a base and a dodge modifier of 0. If the armour is also then it gives -1 to the dodge modifier but also +1 DR versus blunt attacks. armour doubles the DR against slashing attacks but also doubles the dodge modifier. So reinforced mail armour would have a DR of 6 versus slashing attacks, 3 versus blunt and piercing. It would also have a dodge modifier of -4. Other tags can reduce the negative dodge modifier, increase or decrease costs or have other impacts.

A listing how historical armours would break down is still included.

Why is this good?
In terms of the concept of avoid being hit VS ignore damage is a good example of having a choice and no "right" answer, only better situational answers.

The benefit of the tag system is that it removes the need to memorize the abilities of a myriad of different armour types. You can also limit it to "tag-less" if you want to trim the rules down more to something simple and easy to remember.

Why is this bad?
Sometimes you WANT a holy grail of armour, the worlds best system that you want everyone to strive for (such as power armour in most sci-fi games), or you simply enjoy having lists and tables of armour types (nostalgia is a powerful thing, I admit it influences me quite often).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Dragon-Age: Origins" or "How I lost my weekend"

So I was out on boxing day (not willingly) and picked up "Dragon Age: Origins", I figured what the hell? I can depart with $60 pretty easily. 2.5 days and 22hrs of gameplay later I managed to free myself from its grasp and still long to play more. The game is fantastic.. and while it would be so railroady I could puke as a pen and paper game, as a roleplaying game its the most open since Fallout 2.

Now I could act all elitist about how it seems to borrow more than a little heavily from Games Workshop in some areas (Grey Wardens and Grey Knights or the role of Mages), Im not going to. Because its awesome in GW games and its awesome in Dragon Age. Besides, GW didn't exactly invent dwarves nor elves themselves.

Engrossing story, fleshed out world that is still quite familiar and great gameplay. Some things are annoying on a technical level (the way saving works, better autosaving would be nice given how easy death is in some parts)

But kudos, the game is great. I recommend it to those few fellow foot draggers like myself who shied away from its hype.

Plus..every time I play it I can't help but hum "Hawaii Five-O"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Build a Monster Workshop

So I'd been hoping to use this post to showcase the release of Project Xenophon. Then during a final play test of that module someone immediately struck a very good idea, that ruined the whole adventure. So I'm rewriting that portion of it. Not wanting to wait another month for a post, I thought I'd discuss some of the goings on.

The first other major project I'm working on is a small graphical overall of Piecemeal, to allow for the copy and pasting of text from piecemeal. This will be the first major phase of turning it into a PDF.

In that is also going to go naval rules, though I'm not sure if the existing naval rules I use are really the best. In their case they really require miniature (or tokens) and a map, I'm thinking on ways to make it follow a more abstract pattern in the same manner as hand to hand combat.

But enough news, onto today's topic: Build -a- monster workshop
One of the features I'm working on for the next release of piecemeal is a build-a-monster workshop rather than the current system of specific monsters from an entry in some form of folio, manual or the like.

This would work similar to the "build-a-weapon" system where some basic criteria is designed, and then tags are added.

Tags could include things like "Undead", "Infected/Cursed", "Unique", "Flying" or "Savage" to allow for quick and somewhat "on the fly" monster creation (with the ability to then fine tune to specific cases). In this case "Infected/Cursed" could make the creature vulnerable to silver, while "Savage" would make it immune to morale and unable to flee.

Why I think this will be good (not play tested):

Often some regions will have a myriad of minor monsters that the players may(or may never) encounter. It would seem ridiculous to make up a large number of minor entries for different creatures. How many different 5 feet long insectoid/arachnoid/crustaceans do you really need?

Why I think this may be bad:

Variety may be negatively impacted. The problem with a crutch is you grow to lean on it, while it may be useful when avoiding dealing with a different minor and forgettable winged monstrosity..if that creature becomes a staple as the players decide to settle, it may begin to seem bland and unoriginal. Likewise if the giant crab is much the same as the giant stag beetle....will the Players care to notice the difference?

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Project Xenophon

So the module is fully written as system neutral. My original plans were to write it up in both a retroclone and 3.5 compatible manner, but I must admit I'm running out of steam for the latter portion. How many people truly care for the statistics and numbers to follow along with a module?

Friday, December 11, 2009

They may have broken my nose, but my barbed wit has scarred their ego for the rest of their life!

One of the mechanics that is great fun in Piecemeal (and one of the few bard combat powers), is the Scathing Remark and its brother the Witty Retort.

These abilities allow a bard to cause luck point damage to the recipient. So while they have no use against minions or monsters (as they cannot do physical damage), they can be useful against villains and their trusty lieutenants.

The scathing remark functions very similar to an attack roll. A d20 + bonus + skills, with an additional bonus for the quality of the comment. If this "connects" you cause the target to lose a number of luck points, equal to the roll of one of your luck dice. Thus for an average bard it would be for a d6 luck, for an insanely lucky bard it could be as high as a d12. Note this is a one time per combat event. A bard also has the option for taking a "High Brow", "Normal" or "Low Brow" approach. The idea being taking one extreme lets you re-roll the attack die and choose the better at the expense of re-rolling the luck die and choosing the worse result and vice-versa for the other extreme.

A witty retort works as a defensive mechanism, you try to beat the "attack" of the scathing remark, and if you succeed you launch your own "attack" in the same manner.

Why is this good? The first major benefit is that great lines can make for great memories, and anything to encourage it is a good idea in my books. It also keeps another stat as useful for Bards, meaning they can't really consider any stat a dump stat easily.

Why is it bad? In some campaign themes, the witty banter may not be appropriate. A scathing remark can just as easily be curses to the twelve gods, or condemnations (the same with retort) if you wished to tweak it in that manner to fit theme.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Play Example: Social Conflict Results

In following with the previous post, below is the write up (cleaned up to remove in-jokes and Princess Bride lines) for how the social conflict about two kings and a mutual defense pact broke down.

The King of New Balos believes the two kingdoms should merely sign a non-aggression pact, so as to focus on the larger issues. The Lord of the River Cities believes forming an active alliance is required.

In this case it is a major issue so each side needs to gain 25 influences to convince the other. Neither parties suggestion violates a moral or survival concern of the other, so there are no modifiers to required influence.

Round 1.)

The King and Lord select what they will do this round, and reveal after both have chosen Tone, Appeal and Maneuver.

The King decides to choose a heated (passionate) tone , while the Lord chooses an academic tone. This means the King can score epic failures and successes easily, while the Lord cannot suffer or score any form of epic victory.

The King makes an appeal to emotion while the Lord makes an appeal to Logic.

The King is part bard, but did not choose the debate skill, so he has only standard maneuvers. He chooses "Refute" (Always a defense roll, Appeal roll only if you have momentum). The Lord decides to choose "Interject" (Always an appeal roll, a defense roll only if you have momentum)

Now they roll for Momentum in this round of discussions. (Awareness Die + Social Mod + Intelligence Exceptional Mod)

The King rolls a d10+1 for a 6
The Lord rolls a d8 for a 7

The Lord has momentum in this round of negotiation. The Lord launches his appeal,

"A shadow of the Talon greatly overshadows us as it is, and those who stand against the Talon see us as a resource to aid in their own prevention, our only hope is to form a unified defense."

This is a rational statement (+2), its an appeal to Logic so the Intelligence mod of +1 is used, and it incorporates the skills "Current Politics" (+2). The Lord has a Presence of 4, this totals +9. the Lord rolls a d20+9 for a 21.

The king refutes:

"Your lands are but a herd of peasants and merchants, without a strong army or fortress between then, a unified defense merely means I protect your holdings at the expense of my own. A cost I cannot afford"

This is a rational statement (+2), its a refute so intelligence modifier is used (+0), and incorporates the skills of "Military Logistics" and "Fortification" (+2 each). The King has a Presence of 2, for a total of 8. The King rolls an 11 +8 for a 19. Thus the King has been given pause for thought by the Lords words.

The Lord sees how much influence he scored, this was an appeal to logic so The Lord rolls an intelligence die (d8). If the King had an exceptional intelligence score he would take less damage (or more if it was exceptionally bad). The Lord rolls a 5.

The Lord has thus scored 5/25, while the King has scored 0/25.

Round 2.

The King chooses again to be heated, and to use an appeal to emotion, this time with an Interject.

The Lord chooses to use a Humourous tone (Nobody can score epic successes, you can still suffer an epic failure as per normal), to use an appeal to Logic and a Statement (you score double influence but get no defence roll).

The Lord rolled a d8 for 4 and the King a d10 +1 for 3.

The Lord begins:

"Balos is a god of war, I guess I assumed you would be happy to ride to war if the Talon attacked instead of holing up in your swamp with a non-aggression pact"

This is a damn good argument (+5), it also brings in the Lords Skill in Religion (+2), as an appeal to logic the Lord adds his +1 intelligence modifier and 4 Presence. The Lord rolls a 16 + 12 for a 28. The King is interjecting and lost momentum, thus the King has no rebuttal as he is busy interjecting with his own point. The Lord is making a statement so he scores double influence. 6 x 2, 12 additional influence is score.

The King has interjected with his own point, while trying to ignore the good sense the Lord is making :

"You have a strong reputation for treachery, you have slain the mayors of several of the towns you now run while in their employ, I have no assurances you would come to MY aid."

A solid argument (+2) that uses his "Military history" skill (+2) and his Presence of 2, and social mod of 1 for a total of 7.

The King rolls a 16 + 7, this would have been an epic success when using heated tone, but as the Lord used a humourous tone, no epic success can be scored. A humourous tone is thus useful against heated opponents, but self destructive against an academic tone. As the Lord has no defense roll (he made a statement) the King rolls a d8 (his social die) and scores 3 influence.

So the king has score 3/25 influence while the Lord has scored 17/25, the king needs to make up ground. He decides to throw in a favour to score influence. Between rounds.

He will send his captain of the guard and several instructors to help the lord train an army, to revisit talk of an alliance after the Lord has a suitable military to contribute. This is an issue of minor import, and the offer is worth 7 influence. The King now stands at 10/25 Influence.

Round 3.

The King goes for a heated debate, an appeal to emotion and a refute.
The Lord goes for a heated debate, an appeal to logic and talking points. Talking points allow two appeals, but each with a penalty, it also does not allow a defense roll.

Momentum is rolled.

The king rolls a d10 + 1 , for a 7.
The Lord rolls a d8, for a 3.

The King begins.

"Without a suitable host of warriors under your command, it is fairly pointless for me to risk it all defending you, arm yourself first"

This is a weak argument, but it was something (+1), its an appeal to emotion (+1), and there is a presence of 2, rolling a d20 +4 the king gets 22, which is also an epic success. The Lord is issuing talking points, so he has no defense.

The King rolls a 7, x2 is 14 points. Ouch.

The Lord, sensing he is about to be dismissed by the King and his dreams of an alliance dashed, lashes out in a series of poorly backed talking points.

"Let me break this down for you, One, your kingdom is a squalid dump in a swamp facing down the Talon Empire, you need all the help you can get to even avoid starvation. and TWO, I bear with me the power to tap into the arcane powers and grant use those advantages we may need against superior numbers".

For the first appeal, the Lord suffers -5 for a talking point, +2 for a solid point and +2 for his "Economics" skill, +1 for his intelligence modifier and +4 for presence. The lord rolls a d20+4 for a 13.

For the second talking point the lord suffers -5 for talking point, +0 for a flaky and vague point, +2 for the "spellcraft" skill, +1 for intelligence and +4 for presence. The lord rolls a d20+2 for a 9.

The King refutes:

"In the long run we may need butter , but for now we must focus on swords. I doubt your dabbling in the black arts will bring us boon as much as bane".

The King's first refute has +2 for a solid point, +2 for presence. A d20 + 4, 14. He brushes aside the notion that his kingdom is not somehow self-sufficient. Against the black arts he gains +1 for a somewhat rational point, and +2 for his presence. 3 + 3, he fails to refute the notions of the power of the black arts. Somewhere deep in his mind his irrational fear and wonder of magic has begun to influence his decisions.

The Lord rolls an intelligence die to score influence 1. Unimpressed (And worried) the player burns two fate points and finally rolls an 8.

The Lord thus scores 25/25 influence, while the King has scored 24/25 required influence. The King has been convinced, though he had his doubts up until the end. He may still claim "Stubborn Refusal" and refuse to form this alliance, resulting in his own penalties to luck and destiny points..but why would he? He does need SOME kind of defense agreement in place after all.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Play Example: Social Conflict

I'll be running through an interesting social conflict tonight, so I thought I'd write it up in two parts. The first part (this one) will deal with the participants and situation.

Participant 1.) The King of New Balos

A brooding warlord in possession of a formidable fighting force, but a small and newly settled kingdom unable to sustain it in the long term. The kingdom is situated in a swamp and the bordering foothills of the nearby mountain range.

Level: 5
Class: 2 part warrior, 1 part bard
Intelligence: 11
Awareness: 16
Social: 13

Participant 2.) The Lord of the River Cities

A wandering specialist who through a combination of intrigue and military might has conquered or taken as allied vassals the cities and towns along a major river, up until it reaches the swamp. The once poor and backwater towns and villages are becoming prosperous due to the unified market and trade opportunities of the river. The lord has developed a reputation for beginning to dabble in dangerous magics in his court.

Level: 12
Class: 2 part warrior, 1 part thief, 1 part wizard
Intelligence: 13
Awareness: 14
Social: 10

Scenario: The two neighbouring kingdoms have each had issues with the neighbouring Empire of the Talon in its continual conquest of other nations. To their other side is the Grand Kingdom of the Eagle, which has recently assimilated (forcefully) the League of independent knights, in its own bid to counter the oppressive strength of the Empire of the Talon. Combined with the plague that has recently run through the region, killing over a quarter of the populace of some towns and cities, and it is a dangerous time to be a small fish in the big pond.

These two small kingdoms will need to work out arrangements for mutual defence, but they each have their own differing (and religiously motivated) views on how that should go down.