So the latest major rework of piecemeal is currently the stealth system. This rules re-work is to move stealth missions from an "all or nothing roll" to a "partial results" system with increasing danger and tension, ie: the good draws of combat.
So currently its a case of ratcheting boredom of the guards versus suspicion that something is up. This works well for chases and escapes, but its causing some problems for break ins where its an active thief versus a passive watchman.
Thus I have been reworking it so that the player does not accrue boredom against the guard, they merely accrue suspicion until they are caught. Thus they can never "safely pass the guard", they always move past: its just a case of how many chances the guard has to catch them. This also works well in a combat situation: allowing a rogue to act as an assassin or sniper, spending luck points to decrease suspicion (And remain hidden while firing) rather than against blows from a warrior.
Now I just need to merge this style in with the "chase" system in both a simple and logical manner. The implementation of this has really increased the use of stealth, mostly because non-rogues can now be useful contributors where before they were just a liability who sat behind and munched on pringles while the rogue hogged the solo spotlight for 30 minutes.
Beta 0.21 of Piecemeal is out at pen and paper games:
A new and improved stealth system! Streamlining initiative Streamlining weapon materials Simplifying weapon range Minor difficulties for missile weapons in melee New combat tricks Minor changes to older combat tricks. New Rogue Power! (dumped Subversion, added Vigilant)
So while I have been quiet I have not been idle. I have been testing a few major changes, there was the hastily spoke upon changes to the stealth system (making it its own system like social conflict and combat), as well as an overhaul to simply some aspects of combat: namely initiative, materials and weapon ranges. There have also been a few more combat tricks added.
I have the code compiled and I expect to have the text dump completed and uploaded in the next day or so.
Thank you all for your patience and/or apathy as I toil away. I also have finally managed to convince someone with layout experience to help me set this into a readable PDF.
One thing I did to improve stealth in Piecemeal was to make it a game everyone could play. In the same way that everyone got better at combat (warriors merely got better much faster) everyone got better at stealth (rogues simply got better much faster). Thus a series of fairly free form comparative stat checks came to be a stealth system and it worked pretty well. But in the last 2 months I have been gaming pretty heavily and stealth missions have become more important to the current group. This has lead me to notice that while better, it still has much room for improvement. One thing that has cropped up is how stats play too high a role, being a stat check it often comes to the fact that a lower level non-rogue with a much higher stat will be better than a pure rogue for some time in particular stealth actions. The system also doesn't truly allow for partial results: The "Three successes to escape" or "gain 2 successes before 2 failures" etc adds some tension, but I think it could be improved.
My thought is to again mirror the combat and social conflict mechanics. Round by round those involved in stealth (or trying to be on watch) would roll to increase or lower suspicion. More importantly this would then allow luck points to enter the equation.
"attacks" and "defense" rolls would use stealth mod as a "combat bonus" and score(or lower) "suspicion" by an ability scores die. Having higher suspicion would cause penalties to future checks (much as taking physical damage causes penalties). Thus you can get in situations where a character hides with baited breath behind a door as a guard looks around.
I hope to playtest this option more and release it in the next version of piecemeal.
Work, sleep, work, end of quarter, yadda yadda yadda. Probably no different than most of you fine folks, never the less it has kept me from writing much the last month. This only ate of MOST of my free time, the remaining hour or two a night (for the last week) has gone to minecraft. Addictiveness aside it had many points I like: Undead that are destroyed by sunlight (something in Piecemeal already) The ability to built a fortress or base of operations Hidden realms of mystery
It also got me thinking to a type of game I would love to run someday: an Isolationist game.
Now I wouldn't want one player, so it wouldn't be a true isolationist game. This could be something like a shipwreck on a deserted island or a magical accident that dumps them in the middle of nowhere. Minecraft would be a perfect example, plenty of monsters and dangers but no actual people or man made structures, just the PC's in a virgin and hostile world. Perhaps you go the sci-fi route and its time travellers sent back to the Jurassic era with no hope of having a conversation with another sentient being (or maybe they find a city of basalt with non-euclidean geometry). Mainly a sense of being alone.
How long do you think such a game could continue for?
So I am using a new method for Random Encounters, with each random encounter representing a distance to the destination.
This is done by rolling a d8, d6 and d4 at once and consulting a chart. One die for terrain, one for people or thing encountered and one for "the twist".
An example might be as follows:
The Main Highway: 5 points
Terrain: 1: Flat open plains for miles 2: The road crosses a small river at a bridge 3: The road moves through a light woods 4: Flat farmland, in the distance a barn. 5: A small hamlet 6: Light hills 7: An Inn 8: Gently rolling hills, some shrubs
People and things: 1: Nothing 2: More Nothing 3: Passing travellers (2d6) with a wagon (if 5+ travellers). Police/Military if total dice 13+ 4: Danger! (Bandits if dice total 13-15, Wild Animals if 6-12, Large Monster on 16) 5: Caravan (Gypsies if Total dice is odd, Merchants if even) 6: Roll Twice more...
The twist: 1: Nothing 2: Shortcut (+1d4 travel) 3. Detour (-1d4 travel) 4. its Raining
This works best with other travelling options. So maybe rather than taking the main highway the heros want to take "Hellscape Pass"
Hellscape Pass: 25 points
Terrain: 1: A narrow winding path along a sheer cliff 2: A deep valley 3: A dillapidated rope bridge over a chasm some 300 feet down. 4: A rocky slope, tiring but able to be walked 5: Dense Pine Foothills 6: A glacier 7: Shattered ruins of a dwarven fort 8: Rapids leading to a massive waterfall
People and things: 1: Nothing 2: The Great Dragon Oerliken, with his 20mm dragon breath (unless already killed). 3: A cave entrance (Treasure if total die is 8 or less, roll once for inhabitant). 4: Orc Warriors (equal to twice total) 5: Eerie quiet(avalanche if loud noises) 6: Nothing if total is 13 or less, otherwise 3d6 Yeti.
The twist: 1: Nothing 2: Roll Twice 3. Haunted (ghosts come out at night, but avoid fire) 4. its a blizzard
Thus a party might be told, "City B is 30 away, it will take you 6 down the main highway, but you could shave 4 if you cut through "Hellscape pass" and brave its dangers.
This is one of a larger group of "Experience Point" flaws. All of the solutions mesh into each other, but for brevity I shall break them into smaller pieces.This one deals with the problem of wholesale slaughter of your enemies. In this particular post I'll deal with murdering opposing villains, the big villain or at least the stalwart dark lieutenant.
Many GM's are frustrated that they cannot have a recurring villain because PC's will not stop until they murder them. Its like a party of Terminators. This is a mechanically based flaw. You either get the same XP for killing, or its the only way you get XP added to the fact that dead villains can't trouble you later.
Piecemeal deals with this in the following manner. When you drive off (force to flee, abandon plans or the like) or kill a villain, your party gets experience points equal to 10% of the villain's experience point total. If you can capture an enemy villain you gain experience points equal to 25% of the villain's experience point total, even if you later execute the villain after a "fair" trial (or sacrifice on a dark altar if your evil). This creates an incentive to not ALWAYS murder, without making it mandatory. While taking prisoners is more valuable it is also more dangerous. If you kill Baron Von Badass he can't escape and menace you later, if you take him prisoner you will gain more. If he escapes and menaces you again, at least you'll be more familiar with his weaknesses (and can gain the experience points again).
Whats the logic behind this? Well, in Piecemeal the implied nature of "heroes" is that they have the blessing or at least interest of the trickster deities, fates, or the like. Thus when you take prisoners you increase the opportunities for high adventure. This has the side benefits that players should know they too can expect to be taken prisoner rather than killed immediately. After all, Baron Von Badass wants more experience points too.
So right now between extreme overtime and travelling from coast to coast I am trying to rework the morale system from a "check to fail" to a more interesting partial results.
The basis will be the social combat rules of piecemeal. Launch "appeals", defend with "rebuttals" and score "influence". This in many ways mirrors combat.
Thus far I have the following notes:
Like regular social combat, score more influence than target's (unsure if leader or each individual) social score (social score now represents bravery as well it seems).
Standards give a bonus to presence.
Every round of combat is also a round of social conflict, limits on the tactics may be based upon the current causes for checks (felling more enemies etc).
The number of participants involved (group size modifier) work as size modifiers in physical combat. If your army outnumbers the opponents 2:1 then you score twice as much influence, and your opponent scores half influence.
The bard leadership skill I am thinking of using as an "Inspire" or "Rally" ability where you can restore points to your morale.
One thing that switches in different points in your life, is the regularity of your players. At some points in life, players can make it pretty much every game. This allows for really easy (95% of the time) continuity between games. Each game kicks off where the last one ended, there is no problem with ending in the middle of the dungeon and starting off next week exactly where you left in the dungeon.
But at some points in life there is the case where other obligations means that half of all games you are missing a player. This becomes a problem with "what to do with the PC in the here and now".
Do they excuse themselves and run back to town? What if they can't get back there easily? Do you bring them along as an NPC? What if the PC dies? Its not a problem if its and agreed upon rule, still blows though. In this case I have set up the "base camp" rule and the "Hans Solo" rule.
The base camp rule goes that the PC's must have a nearby, relatively secure and supplied base of operations. This could be a fortified cave, a room in the dungeon that has a lockable door, a town, a small island, a military camp (etc). This has to be somewhere the PC's can get back to with a reasonable chance of safety at any given point. This means that as long as the PC's don't end a game mid-combat, players can have SOME reason to go back to base camp (check on supplies, go to the bathroom, prepare a fallback position etc) between games.
This just plays shell games with the problems, now how does the PC get BACK to the party from the base camp? I use the Hans Solo rule. With no explanation of the Falcon gets past the turbolasers that are only unable to effectively target fighters (but can effectively target a much, much larger cargo carrying freighter), he shows up midcombat out of nowhere and jumps in.
This also means he can drop down from a ceiling vent, show up with some other chapter of the lambda lambda lambda fraternity, or pull up with a getaway car in the nick of time. I make the rule they have to answer any question with a throw away line such as "I'll explain later" or "Just get in the car, we'll talk after this"..and then just NEVER mention how.
For the last couple years it has been gnawing on me more and more with piecemeal, the stat mod going up to +5 for a 20 (1-20 spread instead of 3-18) is too much. With such a great spread it too important to have a great stat in some areas for some classes. I have taken some of the old school wisdom and I am limiting it to +3, even then only for a perfect 20 in a stat. Thus a +1 or -1 will be easy to attain, a +2 will be hard and a +3 will have to be something you really want (if you are using point buy), because it is not economical to the benefit you could be getting elsewhere.
This is the kind of pedantic and boring to read about tweaking I've been focusing on for the last month, about increasing choices and reducing problems in the basic set-up. I want a bonus to truly be a bonus, and not mandatory. I have also been tweaking the social conflict mechanics to make it more of a group activity. Trying to tie social conflict mechanics into morale is my next big project.
But yes, progress is occurring, it is just boring at this stage. Hopefully more interesting changes will be afoot soon.
Some of the things I am noticing with Piecemeal is the difference from traditional fantasy RPG's by the focus of it rules. One of those is smart players having their characters do dumb things.
I began noticing more and more players were participating in reckless cliches, fun things mind you, but reckless. Things where the reward wasn't worth the danger, but it was done anyways. These include things that fit popular story cliches for danger (entering the creepy basement alone, grabbing the cursed gem, getting drunk while on watch) that players KNEW where bad idea.
Now this allowed for A LOT of fun, as these created loads of fun situations to get out of. Normally players are able to avoid these obvious situations ("Use a cursed monkey's paw? I think not"). The reasoning form the players? Fate points are granted in part to your ability to do awesome things, defined as "taking extra risk for style".
Players are also focusing on talking their way through problems more. This is no doubt due to the fact that social conflict mechanics mirror combat mechanics, meaning not only that it takes longer than one roll to resolve but that it allows partial results and tactics round to round.
I am still tweaking the social conflict mechanics to aid in this result, but the fate mechanics seems to be going superbly.
One thing that can add a lot of spice into the game is gambling. With high stakes games it can be every bit as interesting as a round of combat..
unless the mechanics involved is "make a gambling check".
Consider using the following mechanic. Each player in the game rolls a d20 and adds their luck score (if you don't have a luck score in your game, a straight d20). This d20 is rolled secret and placed under a cup or mug.
The players (and GM) then engage in rounds of social combat, betting. If social combat is won that player can then look under the targets cup. Highest score wins obviously (assuming no one folds). This can be used for straight money, state secrets on the line..or in a fantasy game for a poker game for extra years on your life, your soul, or what have you.
So I've been quiet these last two weeks, I'm not dead: just heading to and recovering from GenCon. It was certainly a sight to see, I met up with the fine folks of Fear The Boot, bought a copy of HeroQuest from Milton Bradley, found strange new dice (d14,d16 and hex, d24), met Aaron Williams of Nodwick fame...
I am working on some continuing tweaks for Piecemeal as I ready up for book format, a few new maneuvers and some more play testing of some fiddly bits.
One thing I will be adding is rules for playing gambling. This would allow for characters to play any game with a chance and social element (poker, liars dice, etc) as more than a "roll your poker skill", but as a separate event as interesting as combat (or as dis interesting if its just pointless gambling).
Is there any interest for a further write up here of the mechanics?
One thing I have used to great effect with two different groups is the use of a "spellbook". This is not some "Dark Lord of Denny's" or "Mazes and Monsters" affair with a real life version of the Necronomicon and two missing drifters.
This is a simple affair, a dollar store mini notebook. In the notebook between games I will jot down any spells the player learns (all the details). This means when casting a spell a player no longer needs to sort through a big book but can look through a simple journal.
So at the moment I am still making a large number of small changes to Piecemeal (another small update will be out this weekend), but one thing I had hoped to have out soon has fallen through. I had been working to get the text files from piecemeal into a book format through a small scale publisher. That unfortunately ended up falling through, so now I am looking at plan B of making a PDF version of the book (in a more traditional manner). Can anyone reccomend any good layout programs that help for electronic releases?
Following on the heels of my last post, I thought I would post a few of the mechanics I use to help maintain the smooth flow of a group.
The first is the MVP award. At the end of each session, everyone must vote for another player they thought was what they consider "the most important" for the session and declare why. They cannot vote for themselves (very important and shouldn't need stressing but it does). Whomever wins gains +5 awesomeness for the session (another mechanic) and gains an extra fate point (re-roll). I do not consider the GM a player in this case (ie, the GM doesn't vote).
I really enjoy this for a couple of reasons: first it makes players think about how their team mates will view their behaviour, when a good awesomeness score at the end of a session is 7 or 8, a free fate and +5 is a high incentive. Even if the incentive doesn't motivate, the mere act of making players pause to think of how they are impacting the enjoyment of others is a good thing. Secondly it makes players go over the events of the game at the end of the game to justify how awesome someone else is. Having other people comment on how awesome you were is a lot nicer than everyone muttering to themselves about how awesome they were themselves. And finally, I like that it takes the GM out of the equation and lets the group settle things for themselves without forcing the GM to act as judge and jury between two of his friends.
The second rule I use is the relationship tag rule: this is really a quick variant of the group template concept. By forcing a character to tag two other characters in the group with a past relationship (and gain benefits) it forces a character to act like a team and less like someone with a floating PC sign over their head. Originally I had set it so if you could no longer tag at least one other player in the group with a meaningful tag your PC became an NPC and you rolled a new one (ie, the game is about the party: if your lone wolf alienates them he wanders off for his own adventures and you create a new PC). I never really needed to bring this up so I have left it out of piecemeal as "punitive", though I always wonder if it should be mentioned.
There are other smaller rules, but those are the big two that help the most.
So I would like to start by pointing out I include GM’s as players. I am of course referencing “dick players” in the sense of people who you would not in any way voluntarily associate with if not for gaming. This is brought on by this post.
All hobbies attract their share of d-bags. I have mentioned several times I enjoy poker; any public poker game will have many, many irritating jackholes at the table. Most con-games will feature what fear the boot has dubbed “that guy”. But for some reason gaming has an expectation that you should play with such creeps while other hobbies do not. No one would seriously expect to invite some jerkwad to a private poker game in your home just because “he likes poker too”, yet in gaming we see this as being mandatory, especially in some corners of the blogosphere. Since I am not passive aggressive in this case I will mention James Raggi over at LotFP, who while an inspiring person and worthy of praise for putting his money where his mouth is, does share a different view on gaming groups that I do.
The reason I mention him above the handful of others is that he is a big fan of growing the hobby and has taken real and serious effort (and great personal expense) trying to do just that. And my problem with the philosophy of it being no excuse to not play just because some of the players are creeps is that is kills the hobby. Probably the number one inhibitor to the hobby is its image and reputation of being the domain of people that you would not want to spend time with, aka the “Comic book guy” from the Simpsons.
The phrase “birds of a feather flock together” is always on people’s minds, and if you bring a new player to a group of 4 normal people and 1 creep it won’t make the person think the creep is a-ok. They are going to think “That guy is an irritating and perverted creep, and those 4 people choose to spend 5 hours a week hanging out with him”. This isn’t gaming specific; it deals with any organization or group of people. If you go to a book club and one of the people there is a Klansmen, you won’t care how normal the other eight people are, if you go to a karate class and one of the people is a bully who tries to pick fights, you will have a bad view of karate and you’d be right to have it. It wasn’t just that one person was a bully; it is that everyone else seemed ok with that behaviour. Likewise if you spend your time with a creepy combative pervert to play a game, you are implying that you don’t think there is anything wrong with that kind of behaviour...and that says a lot about you.
This has a knock on problem where one person’s bad behaviour will infect the actions of the whole group. They will start to become combative themselves as a defense mechanism. They then move onto other groups themselves and spread bad behaviour (though if mild enough it can sometimes be cured by a fresh group). This is something I do try to deal with in Piecemeal, and I will touch on some of the ways with my next post.
A post over at Grognardia about the nature of the renaissance in terms of sculptures made me think to my own game table. I worked in a comic book shop in high school and as a bonus, received a large number of obsolete miniatures and games that simply would not sell. Thus even though I prefer not to use miniatures when I game, the large number I have means the gaming group inevitably makes me pull them out (even though they have minimal if any mechanical value beyond a token to say which zone you are in). Something about the tactile feel a miniature generates its own fun.
None of this is really the topic of this post however, this deals more with the specific nature of sculptures in the renaissance; The abandonment (even if unknowing) of the garish and bright painting for the elegant and pure look of white marble. The classic look of the unpainted sculpture makes me think of a trend with my own miniatures. I have been leaving my own miniatures unpainted as of late, originally due to laziness but I find I really do prefer the simple and elegant look of finely carved pewter to even the most masterful paintjobs. This may only be a recent option due to the growth in casting technology over the years (allowing more detailed sculpts) as well as the switch from ugly lead to shiny pewter (and we know how important shiny is). But maybe it isn’t. Does anyone else out there PREFER unpainted miniatures to even the best paint jobs? And if so, how long has this been the case?
Some types of games simply can't be run in a traditional RPG very easily. The old idiom "a period of suspense or building tension is simply time to reload" when it comes to RPG's. Add to it that most gamers are smart enough to know that mechanically it is ridiculously silly to split the party.
For Horror one shots I use the following rule that is simple to implement and makes games much more closely follow the path of horror movies.
The Monster(tm) rolls a number of dice (for any die roll) equal to the number of surviving party members at the start of the encounter and picks the best result. The party rolls a number of dice equal to half (round down to 1 minimum) the number of surviving party members and picks the worst result.
Why is this good?
Much like in a horror movie, people are helpless mooks against The Monster(tm) as it downs its first few victims. It also means that its a bad idea to have everyone pooled together in a phalanx position since its most beneficial if someone is killed all on their own (The Monster(tm) has its dice roll benefit based on the start of the encounter, this means if it kills Bob outside the boathouse and sneaks in to kill Sally, those are two encounters and Sally's odds have just improved).
Your best bets to take down The Monster(tm) are one or two final survivors, hopefully with some of your fellow players having slowed it down previously.
I also allow each dead player to give a single re-roll at a time of their choosing. Either by giving another PC a second chance or forcing The Monster(tm) to re-roll a good roll. This is to alleviate some boredom after they are dead. The other option I've used is to let a random dead PC control the monster's hack an slash mayhem each encounter.
Other things I do depending on system? Either remove luck points (piecemeal) OR if using Hitpoints (a d20 variant) have the monster's damage be multiplied by the number of PC's.
Combat Trick: Fire Control Difficulty: 2 per point of base damage Effect: After rolling for damage, the warrior may choose to ‘hold the shot’ and not actually fire. This still deals damage and does not use ammunition or require a reload. Limitations: The attack will only cause a loss of luck points and cannot cause body damage. If the target is unaware they are in a combat situation they will not lose luck points, though the attacker may choose to still ‘hold the shot’ and wait for a better damage roll before firing.
Mechanical Purpose: Allows the warrior to conserve ammo
Thematic Purpose: In any movie or book with a sniper, the sniper isn't firing 20 times in a row and "narrowly missing" nor shooting the target over and over again (the target shrugging it off). The target often does dodge as being tracked by the sniper (often followed by a red laser dot). This allows that to be replicated in game for sniper characters.
The right honourable Geek Ken has a very good post up about Dice Towers. I am a big fan of improving the play area, so I thought I'd post the type of Dice Tower from an old board game known as "Invention".
I pushed out beta 18 of Piecemeal. The included changes to the initiative system, tweaks to blunt weapons (mentioned a post or two back) and some changes to a few combat tricks and miracles.
The "prophecy" miracle for instance uses the same minigame mechanic I use for wish. The player uses 2 words (in this case "I Foresee" instead of " I wish") and has X many more words to add to the end for their prophecy. The GM then has half that many words (round up) to tack onto the end to subvert the meaning.
Unlike wish there is an extra stage. Both the GM and PC both add an alternative word to replace one of the other's words. This is an alternative interpretation and creates up to 4 combinations of a prophecy. Also unlike a wish, the prophecy may not make specific mention to people places or things, and has to use metaphor or implications.
And the combat tricks require a once over for some of the new ones (Fire Control, War Cry, Showdown, etc). As is the recent trend, this is both in txt format and the .exe.
One rule I am liking the effects of is my healing rules, they are definitely having the desired effect.
Luck points (day to day hitpoints that represent narrowly dodging damage) heal at the standard 1 per day..UNLESS you are in either spartan or uncomfortable conditions (1 per week) or if you are luxuriating and wasting money and/or time (be it drunk in a bar or communing with nature) in which case its 2 per day.
This means that as most PC's MIGHT take a bedroll and start a fire (when was the last time you saw a tent in a PC's inventory) and probably eat rations to be on the cheap..they will only heal in the wilderness very slowly. Wilderness travel will be a grueling ordeal if they have to engage in combat.
Body points represent real physical injuries, they cause penalties to rolls if they accrue. They normally only accrue after you run out of luck points, and allow a health check to heal 1 per week, with an epic failure costing you an extra health point and an epic success healing 2. This means you can worsen and die. Being in the wilderness requires a healing check once per week even if you are unharmed. This means if you tromp through the woods you could get a painful and crippling injury (slipping on a ravine, getting sick, getting an infected cut) and potentially have it worsen. This is the one easy case where you can take body point damage while still having a full stock of luck points.
This means the PC's tend to plan better for their wilderness trips, taking a few luxuries with them. It also means that they will see a three week trek through the mountains as different than a 6 week trip around them on road network staying at inns. This means the players now have choices and decisions to make about their trip beyond time.
Most importantly the PC's understand that when winter comes, that's their down season..unless they find a way to book a trip somewhere warm and disease ridden instead that is..
Personally I am very happy with its ability to achieve the desired results.
In any kind of design work I personally view there as being two different types of mentality: The Engineer and the Artist.
The artist knows what they want to build but (in this example) doesn't know or potentially even care about the effects. To put this in game design terms, an artist knows a mechanic or a theme they want to build upon and see where it leads. They are building outwards.
The engineer (in this example) knows a goal or effect, and works for a way to solve the problem. They know how they want the game to play and work to make mechanics to suit it.
I guess it could be simplified further in that the artist knows the means but not the end, while the engineer knows the end and puzzles out the means.
So which type of tinkerer are you (most of the time)?
One of the changes I made to piecemeal to encourage different weapon usage, was that blunt, piercing and slashing weapons had slight damage tweaks.
Piercing weapons do repeating damage, slashing weapons do one damage die higher and blunt weapons did extra damage on a critical hit. Mathematically that balanced out between slashing and blunt. Though in play this caused an unfortunate "Wait for a critical" mechanic.
The combat would largely be ignored until the lucky 20 was rolled to end it in one go. So I am tweaking it again. The current idea is to allow a critical hit with a blunt weapon to give a chance to knock someone prone. It will be hard to balance (as being prone has different levels of severity based on location and situation).
So has anyone else had one of those mechanics that look good on paper, but extended play pulls up some unforeseen problems?
One point I often see is using weapon range to determine initiative speed. I thought I would give more explanation to why I make them separate rules.
Weapon range as initiative works great in a duel situation. If combatant A with a knife tries to attack combatant B with a claymore, then B can go first. A great an effective way to abstract it out.
But what if this isn't a duel? What if PC 1 has a knife, Orc B has a sword and PC 3 has the Claymore. Can Orc B kill PC 1 before PC 3 can kill the orc? Does the range advantage of PC 3 matter since the Orc isn't attacking him?
I say it would not. This level of complication increases as the activities increase. What if Orc B is trying to slash a rope bridge before PC 3 slashes him?
One thing that is often forgotten in combat rules, is that combats often (and should) involve more than duels.
So this game was one of politics and decisions. The full party was present and the game began centered around the landsmeet. Anastasia "the princess" sized up the different participants, who needed to be wooed and what not and got the low down.
The King, being broke after his funds magically disappeared, had sold one of three major land grants piecemeal to all the peasants who the party had given Ancient gold to in exchange for promoting them to Yeomen. This left a patch of sandy scrubland beside the bog (which the party had previously explored and found worthless) and a lakeside patch of land to the south. The other noble interested in setting up roots was the Knight Errant Sir Fordrick who had tried to slay the Keltic Tiger.
The mechanics worked as follows: Each noble and yeoman had an "Importance Score" as well as a difficulty in converting and the change they may already support either the princess (Such as the Pagan Knight "The Bear" or Yeoman MacDonald) or against (Such as Reeve Dole, and the Innkeeper yeoman). Whomever had the higher "Importance Number" for those in favour of them got first picks on the land. There were a limited number of "rounds" of social combat to schmooze and bargain.
This lets everyone in the party participate in the social conflict, even if they suck, because one person could not win in time (or not easily). Gifts were exchanged to score influence (giving the captured poodles to the kennelmaster, a gold donation to the king, first dance with the princess etc) and grudges were cashed in by the other side, but the PC's were willing to give a load of spoils and won the day.
There was also the matter of a foiled assassination attempts that night. The Dwarf (Angus) managed to track (natural 20) one of the fleeing assassins and had a frank and polite conversation on the grounds of professional courtesy. The dwarf agreed not to expose the hitmen in exchange for an end to the mark and the right to hire them later. They were unable to determine who hired them, beyond that two flunkies paid the assassins money in the marsh a week ago.
The PC's then bartered with the Gypsy's, paying an elaborate sum of money to get enough food for the halflings to make it through the winter as the village did not have enough extra. As the Gypsies don't keep staple goods, just luxury items..the halflings will spend the winter eating cheeses, jams and biscuits. They also purchased lumber and tools to set up some communal sod houses for the winter. The dwarf sold the demonic gem he stole from the Fungus demon to Giuseppe the wizard for 50 gold. Giuseppe then gave it to the Gypsy's to destroy in exchange for a draw from the fortune teller's deck of many things, drawing the Jack of Diamonds he ended up with +2 to his Magic score. Note that with the deck I don't make it "vulgar" or obvious magic but rather explain it as normal events. Had he gotten "The Knight" for example a 4th level fighter wouldn't pop out of the air, but a wandering knight would end up in such a situation as he would pledge his loyalty. So in this case the Gypsy saw his fortune and offered to teach him some of the mysteries of Gypsy "Star Magic".
The decided that rather than wintering in a sod house they would spend it in Edgarbourough and travelled there with the Gypsy's. On the way Giuseppe caused trouble of a romantic nature, but used a charm spell to bypass the problem. This intrigued the Gypsy Fortune teller who trade a version of the Weakness spell (named "Thinner") in exchange for a copy of the Charm spell.
Arriving in Edgarbourough they decided to throw me for a real loop. After purchasing some big city items with Anastasia's skill "Edgarbourough Underworld Contacts" they decided to book passage on a shady mercenary ship in the opiate running business and head to the Ivory Coast (of Africa). So off they went, the session ended with a big ole pirate battle as two Arabian dhows tried to board the galleon.
Two party members were in the crows nest firing down, the wizard hid in the captains quarters while the dwarf weighed into the melee. The wizard pulled off two interesting moves on one of the ships, firing up a 25 foot tall wall of thorns along the side of the ship and skewering a large number of enemies sailors attempting to swing over, as well as preventing half of the enemy sailors from boarding. Then he followed that up by a fireworks spell which slowly began decimating them and setting the ship on fire. Silas the gypsy swung from the crows nest and with a risky and ballsy move, smashed down the door to the other enemy ships captain's quarters. There they had a vicious sword fight, started a fire and ended up winning with an opportunity attack of kicking the enemy captain into a fire and through the rear window. Silas claimed the enemy captains charred hat (which became his trademark item).
The dwarf had been about to release the Tiger from the hold (yes they brought it), but didn't need to as the enemy surrendered. They managed to put out the fire on one of the ships and now its time to decide if they can lead the prize crew to claim to Dhow.
A busy, busy week means no posting and I didn't even get the game recap done on Sunday. So plus side it won't be a stream of consciousness post and will probably be better edited.
So the game itself was nearly cancelled, half the party cancelled due to RL issues, so the group decided the that those who couldn't attend would return to town and the other half would go exploring these deep uncharted woods, rolling they convinced a trio of the halflings to accompany them as porters.
Angus and Giuseppe (the warrior dwarf and the wizard/thief Sicilian) decided to return to the Pixie and see what they could learn about the woods. Giuseppe traded access to the Fireworks spell ( a version of blast) for whatever the pixie thought fair and in return received a version of glamour. This particular glamour was of a 15 year old Irish Girl. The neat thing about the glamour spell (if you read the spell list at all) is that the more powerful you crank up the spell doesn't make the glamour better (its already top notch) it just allows you to affect more people. So at power level 2 (the most Giuseppe can cast it right now) he can affect two people, if a third person wanders by they would see him as he is. After a victorious social conflict with the pixie (despite both their atrocious social combat abilities), it explained to them where something "interesting" was, a giant tree (turns out a sequoia) was a few days north, and in its boughs was an even MORE interesting thing, through a 'strange bush'.
Running low on food during their travel north, Giuseppe used his herbalism skill to try and find some edible herbs (and picked up a handful) while Angus used his "Scavenging" skill to try and rustle something up, finding a gnawed-on elk leg in a tree. One of the halflings (after rolling) had a useful skill and hunted 2 rabbits. Their fire attracted a group of Pict hunters who (through implied chance of banditry) traded a boar, 2 rabbits and a pair of bronze knives for Angus's spare sledgehammer and a pair of silvers. They also explained where there village was, and suggested heading there for supplies and trade. They also warned of strange bears near the tree (which they knew of).
The party found the tree and didn't find any bears (though they found signs). Getting up the tree involved chopping down a smaller tree, climbing it, then having Giuseppe use his thief skill to climb the tree and lower all of their ropes knotted together. The halflings stayed below.
There they explored around, Giuseppe found a "flying rowan" (look it up in wikipedia) and decided to take it for its magical properties. They also found the bush, which smelled like meat. Taking a sample first, Giuseppe crawled through and found a lush paradise. Realising he had crossed planes into Gaia/Yggdrasil he took a few more samples before being ambushed by a giant carnivorous and venomous plant. A quick escape and retreat brought them deeper into the plane, and after running into some of its other inhabitants they doubled back. Using a captured fly as a spell component Giuseppe cast "Debigulate" (shrink version) on the plant to make it small enough to wrap in a blanket and uproot it. Luckily they managed to pull this off without getting poisoned(natural 20 when needed) and rush back through the bush. Knowing he had a 4 minute duration and he'd never get it down the tree (and it would starve up here) Giuseppe did something murderous and in character. He called a halfling to catch and drop it. The halfling caught it as it zipped down the rope, shortly after he looked into it..was paralyzed and fell over, the plant expanding and eating him.
Their low social scores (Charisma) ended up mattering as the other two halflings took what loot they could (including the food and a magic sword) and booked it. When they came down the tree they were pissed, but Giuseppe had some plant samples and some magic wood for a staff, so went to the woad villages. There they ran into the local trouble having too much money but being unable to buy anything. The village was small (75 or so people) and they couldn't spare labourers or beasts of burden as they were repairing the palisade since a wall had pretty much collapsed in a rain storm (due to the village being on a mound). Guiseppe decides to use his magic to aid with casting wall of thorns. To get the powerlevel that high so as to replace the damaged section he would need much more spellpower and mana. So I set him to work on describing an elaborate ritual with various components he had to get it. It involved the townsfolk planting seeds and throwing down piles of local thornbushes and weeds around the area, a giant bonfire in town square with nothing but thistles, chicken sacrifice and some other elements that required a few difficult (how did he roll so many 20's?) social conflicts. But sure enough he pulled it off and was able to cast the spell with the required power level.
Then they bought a few mules and crafted a plan to catch a dangerous beast plaguing the king's hunting preserve, the Keltic Tiger (renamed "Cringer" by them as it was a green tiger). First they decided to stop back at the pixie circle to have Giuseppe regain mana a little quicker. I had them roll social checks to see if they wore out their welcome. Giuseppe rolled a 1 and Angus a 20. Giuseppe thus woke up devoid of any hair with a bad case of diarrhea while Angus was gifted with a magical plaid hat of unknown purpose.
Heading into the king's preserve they found it to be a well groomed forest with wide spaces between the tree's devoid of brush. They set up camp, played the bagpipes and generally tried to attract the tiger. Unfortunately as Giuseppe was dealing with his medical issues they noticed a dense fog creeping in, and Giuseppe put together it was probably the evil druids that they raided the shrine of last month. Giuseppe had planted samples of thorns in a circle around the camp (using the poisonous samples he received from the carnivorous plant) and sprung his trap into action, summoning a wall of thorns around the camp. The problem was in the fog he didn't realise he was outside of it, while Angus and the mule were inside of it.
Giuseppe found a tree and climbed it, above the fog. Being a thief he was able to hide and see the Tiger in another tree, looking at the circle of thorns that extended through the top of the fog bank. The tiger jumped into the thorn circle, hearing the mule. Giuseppe meanwhile spied the druid and 2 woad flunkies with bows. He cast Fireworks upon the group and battled them from the tree, including a dryad the druid summoned.
Angus meanwhile engaged in a vicious fight, in the fog, around a fire, surrounded by a wall of thorns, with a rampaging mule kicking about. I used the area rules to assign this region a few new "lucky numbers", and rolled a d20 for the fire, thorns and mule. Each result was like a lucky number, in that if it was rolled you could use that trait to invent an opportunity attack. The tiger for example at one point rolled a 4 (the number for the fire pit) and declared that while dodging its attack Angus risked stepping into the fire. At one point Angus rolled an 18 and declared that after striking the tiger with his sledgehammer the tiger rolled behind the mule as it kicked about and risked a mule kick to the head.
Angus managed to knockout (and mangle to a large degree) the tiger with a few lucky rolls while Giuseppe killed the druid and its dryad and jumped into the circle of thorns onto the bed of the mules cart to avoid being killed by the two goons (as he was nigh dead). He botched the roll and took substantial damage from the fall, now requiring several weeks or perhaps even a month or more of healing to carry on.
Still, when Angus managed to smash down the thorns with his hammer (it took a while), everyone else was gone and they took the bound tiger back to the King's keep as a prize for the landsmeet (which would now be mid-session). To wind up the session they stopped by the Gypsy merchants (which arrived early) and bought a few trinkets including some Scotch and a few readings from the Gypsy Fortune telling which unfortunately were botched rolls and cost 2 valuable fate points from Giuseppe (I told the player the exact mechanics before he rolled and he still wanted in).
All in all fun was had by all, though they did dislike the "getting robbed by your pissed off henchmen" event they all agreed it was the right call.
I'll start off by stating WHY I keep retooling initiative rather than just either ignoring it or abstracting it right out.
I am a big fan of the mechanical options turn order brings, as a board game fan this strikes a deep chord with me. Many great board games use variable turn order to great effect. In terms of simulation, being able to react quickly should be very beneficial.
Currently I have players declare an action then figure out initiative by rolling a die and add modifiers based on a few factors each round. The factors are part player build part action choice so there is a lot of choice.
The mechanics of how initiative is rolled isn't what I'll be changing at this point, but rather the "Declare then roll". I always liked declare and roll better than "roll and declare", because "roll and declare" gave an advantage to the slow and plodding, going first or going last wasn't as big of a deal and often going last gave you the best situational awareness. "declare and roll" made it a risk based on speed.
The problem is "declare and roll" in practice slows down, is forgotten, or is ignored. This leads me to my solution: "roll and interrupt".
All players will roll and mark down their initiative. The slowest person will declare an action, and anyone with higher initiative can then jump in and go first. This allows the highest initiative person the freedom of deciding what to do, based on the actions of others.
Example: John the Slow and Willy the Quick are in a fight. John scores an initiative of 1 this round, Willy scores an initiative of 6. Thus John now has to announce what he is doing and declares he is going to jump onto the chandelier. Willy can now interrupt and declare that he will slash the rope holding up the chandelier (if successful it will ruin John's turn). Then Mary Sue steps out of the shadows at initiative 7 and declares she will interrupt Willy by trying to tackle him, etc.
Problem:Variable initiative speeds
This is solved by making the modifier an "After the fact" decision. As the initiative keeps counting up, characters cannot choose to take an action of slower speed if they have already passed. If a wizard with initiative 3 this round has an option between "Slow ball of doom" (speed + 0) and "Quick flashy lights (speed + 5) then when initiative is counted to 3, the wizard has to announce he is using the "Slow ball of doom" or be forced to either use "Quick flashy lights" or pass this round.
Still, the variable weapon speed throws a wrench into an otherwise good system.
Part of my design process is actually playing the rules tweaks, ideally with a new group. In this case, playing the game with a new group and some new roleplayers has given me the following insights I have been adding.
1.) Streamlining social combat and removing a few options for faster flow. 2.) Increasing the frequency of "Roll then make decisions", this speeds up gameplay and still allows for meaningful choice since there is a counter roll that decides success. 3.) Increase the number of combat tricks. I was worried this would seem a lame "Spells for warriors", but it is proving to be a big hit. 4.) Increase the use of "lucky numbers", its got potential but it isn't in use enough.
So this started quiet enough. The party takes some downtime, explains events to the king who states that in a months time will be a landsmeet to discuss changes in the kingdoms power structure. He is unhappy, but unsure what to do with it.
Silas has his level 1 dog gain some combat tricks from the combat master while Angus the dwarf has the black knight's armour refitted to give himself a suit of mail, he also barters a keg of beer and some of his own training with the King's champion to learn some combat tricks. After a week (to allow some healing rolls) they decide not to push their luck and head south to stay with Bear in his hall.
The elven warriors offer to train some new and useful techniques to Angus for his help in rescuing them, while the local wolf pack (friends of the druidess) teach a new combat trick to Silas' dog. Angus then avoids healing an spends a week training in the woods trying to learn "Riposte" and recreate it from seeing it used against him. He fails an intelligence check and gets the whole table to sing "Eye of the Tiger" to earn a re-roll (for having an appropriate montage) which he then passes.
This is when things get interesting; they decide to follow the halfings back to "Candyland" in the north woods. The hire two mules and load up with enough food to get them back (bread and onions). In the woods they get the rarest of all random encounters available here.
The dwarf Angus is on watch, after a few hours he hears some humming, a slight laughter, and decides to wake Giuseppe. An important thing to note in my world is that dwarf's are colourblind to everything except gold, silver and gems. Giuseppe wakes up and instantly see's that the whole area is full of psycadellic shifting colours, also that Angus has the words "I suck" in shifting red and green letters on his armour. Angus can see none of this. Using the detect magic spell "View Veil" Giuseppe finds the pixie causing this and smoozes his way into being taught a spell "Debigulate" (Shrink). Much better than it could have turned out.
Heading to Candyland, the princess, halflings and animals stay outside while the rest of the party crawl through a hole in a bush and come out into a massive open field. A giant white tower stands in the center of the area, surrounded by one winding river of milk and one of honey. Gingerbread houses and a gingerbread windmill make up the town. Sneaking into town they see it is full of the halflings, all noticeably rotund. A brief conversation has one halfling pause from skipping to smile, light up the crazy eyes and declare how happy he is.
Moving into a restaurant they see a halfling snap and start freaking out about how he can't take it and just wants real food. The other halflings smile and say "Time for an uh-oh" before streaming out of the restraunt to the main square. The humans hide while the dwarf follows the halfings into the main square. Two cupids fly into the building and subdue the halfling before dragging him to the main square where they impale him (Vlad the impaler style) onto a giant peppermint stick and sing while the halfings dance around him as he screams in a scene befitting Don Hertzfeld. One halfling falls over and pukes, only to be riddled with arrows by the cupid's as doves land on the impaled halfling and pluck out his eyes.
Deciding this is F'ed the party tries to sneak out the way they came, but a nat20 on the guard's check means they are spotted by a cupid. A sling rock to the head knocks out the cupid while the mage Giuseppe casts Fog Bank and they escape to the Windmill with its wafers turning in the light breeze. Inside as the two giant cookie wheels turn they see a halfing dead in the corner, having chewed out his own wrists. Looking at the fields they see halfing sized teddy bears leading a trio of snarling well-manicured attack poodles.
They sneak accross the river of milk and into the town where they kidnap a halfing and have him talk. He willingly talks, hoping for help for his people. They went into the woods to build a new town after their orchards flooded, in there a little girl of the village had found a shrine and wished for them all to live in a land of milk and honey. At first things went well, but after it was declared that "Happiness is Mandatory" things went downhill and the white witch torments them. Originally the halfing planned to create a diversion by "snapping" and having the guards kill him, but using their large number of throwing and backup weapons they instead take a cue from WWII Russia and lead a mob of frothing halflings to storm the front gate of the tower while Angus breaks in the back gate and Silas climbs up to a balcony.
Giuseppe uses his magic to kill the cupids with a bee swarm, using the river of honey as a massive spell component. The teddy bears and waves of halflings armed with throwing knives, a spork, rapier and crowbar mill about the front gate. The teddy bears fight back, wearing pots on their head, using pot lids as shields and wielding spiked wifflebats. Meanwhile Angus breaks into the back of the tower with his universal lockpick (sledgehammer) and comes face to face with an even larger group of teddybears, lead by a massive ogre sized teddy bear with a big yellow bow. Staring into the eyes of this beast he see's the depths of hell itself. His hammer would be useless, he can't get to the spiral staircase nor find any way to use the chandeliers to his advantage.
Thus he does the only logical thing, he challenges the giant teddy bear to a one on one wrestling match. This takes a few rounds as he is thouroughly unable to harm the teddy bear, and is merely buying time and creating a diversion.
Silas the gypsy rolled a natural 20 to climb the tower (which on closer inspection is not white stone but actual blocks of ivory) and broke into the white witches bedroom. The white witch meanwhile exits the other balcony and with the sound of delightful harps, fires a rainbow at Giuseppe down below. Giuseppe bravely shoves halflings in the way as he dodges for a saving throw. This is so awesome i give him a re-roll as the halflings explode and stumble around a mangled mess of blood and intenstines before falling over. Other halflings grab their sharpened bones as weapons and enter the fray. The next round Giuseppe calls forth a fog cloud to shield them as another rainbow blasts into the crowd. Unable to see whats going on Giuseppe hears the baying of dogs and the galloping of hooves and guesses there is a unicorn here somewhere. He casts a wall of thorns inside the fog to break their charge while the white witch casts "Fireworks" inside the melee, igniting her own teddy bears and slaughtering a great number of halflings. Giuseppe moves to pick the lock and enter the tower as the sound of yelping dogs and smashing brambles lets him know the thorns worked.
Meanwhile after a brief staredown, Angus grapples and rides the Teddy Bear for several rounds as it smashes around. Silas loots the room (taking amongst other things a locked, heart covered diary he surmises is the witches spell book), he then sneaks into the hall and decides to do a running jump over the internal stairwell, smash down the door and roll into an attack on the white witch. Knowing if he fails he'll plummet to his doom he takes the shot, and wins! As initiative starts for the attack he loses initiative and suffers the effect of a charm. He stops his rolling attack and goes downstairs to see whats going on.
Giuseppe opens the gates and the halflings storm in, Giuseppe casts a wall of thorns behind them to keep the unicorn out. Seeing his opportunity, Angus leaps from the top of the bear onto a chandelier, making a few incredibly difficult checks he manages to throw a candle into the bears bow and ignite it, before scaling the chandelier to the top of the tower.
Silas storms down to face Giuseppe who fails to cast sleep, and is instead stabbed and with the roll of a lucky number, kicked over the staircase.
Reaching the top of the tower the witch tries the same spell on the dwarf. Angus saving throw he decided was to say "F*&* you bitch", resulting in a very hard (-10) "crazy enough to work" saving throw, which on a 19, worked. His attack was a natural 20, which did max damage (doubling due to blunt weapons rolling exploding dice on a critical) and triggering his "Batter Up!" combat trick that allows a knockdown attempt as well, pushing her over the tower after taking 40 damage.
Clapping was heard all around as candyland faded, leaving behind only looted items (including 2 injured dogs stuck in a wall of thorns) and the cause of the problem.
A copper monkey idol with its paw outstretched. One finger on the paw now closed in, two remained. The halflings and the rest of the party left as Silas and Giuseppe greedily decided to make a wish.
With a wish they have up to 12 words, two of which are "I Wish". Half as many words are tacked onto the end (round up) to twist or completely alter the meaning. They decided to go short.
Giuseppe said "I wish for gold" the idol tacked on "That's stolen". He ended with the kings Treasury box of 720 gold. As he greedily decided this was acceptable (And transferred containers), Silas decided and went with "I wish for strength", the idol tacked on "of character" and changed his morality to Good.
Today we played a double session (or "marathon session") so I've broken it into two sessions.
Carrying forward from last weeks game the party split in two to gain help for their lost and trapped friend, Silas the gypsy. Half the party went south to the tiny Hamlet of smithwald to gain the help of its Lord, the aptly named "The Bear", last of the Pagan knights. The other returned to the main town of Corroc to fetch the wizard and halfling minion.
Upon returning to the shrine they discovered someone had come, and taken the baby but none of their items. Shrugging for now they went into the earth.
Then we did a bit of a rewind and worked out what had happened to Silas. A few hours early he falls into a dark area. Using flint and steel he lights a few sparks and pulls a root of the wall. The tinder dry root of the JuJu tree went up quickly and he realised it was a fire hazard. Using it as a torch he realised that the zombies were after him. After fumbling and dropping his sling he ran. Looping around he ended up in a dead end at a jail cell containing two zombies. He deftly picked the lock, and then went into the cell and locked it behind him. Drawing his saber he slew the two zombies easily, but found they launched deadly spores upon death. He saw some puffball mushrooms in the corner of the cell, but decided to wait it out as his torch died, slowly singing a song to drown out the groans.
Angus the dwarf shoved hot coals down the quicksand/hole/portal and then jumped through. His excellent darkvision gave him enough info to see around. Giuseppe and Bear followed soon after, bringing cedar tinder and torches. Angus saw a goblin scamper off with a sling, but couldn't catch him so let him go. They followed the singing of Silas and saw the twenty or so goblins.
Giuseppe used the roots of the tree and some fresh cut raspberry branches as spell components to cast a wall of thorns and split the zombies in half so the party could get to Silas, being too cramped for his sledgehammer Angus switched to a torch, while Bear hacked with an axe. Giuseppe used a large amount of mana on a powerful bee swarm that damaged many of the zombies, causing them to explode into spores. Silas unlocked himself and hacked into the fray.
Retreating back to the rope they saw the zombies cut off had doubled back and brought friends. Giuseppe used his last mana for a second wall of thorns and they escaped up the rope as they heard baying coming from the last open path, and spotted a spectral dog heading their way.
Investigating the alter and the tree the party discovered the altar held warnings that below was a gate to hell and that the tree was a corrupted "tree of life", a druidic holy tree. Returning to the druid grove they realised the groves elven guardians were missing, presumably in the hole and the druidess was caring for the baby. The party agreed to help the elves restore the tree in exchange for as much healing as the druidess could manage (not enough to fully heal the dwarf, but almost). They also got information and what is going on.
The caverns are full of a sentient demonic fungus, the fungus has within it many prized treasures who's sole purpose is to draw in treasure seekers. The fungus then infects the unwary and turns them into zombies, who unless burned will return to life. The party then returns underground.
They head to the supposed heart of the tree (ignoring the option to loot for items in the fungus infected chambers), and on the way encounter a trio of goblins hacking up and eating fungal zombies. Electing to talk to the goblins it turns out they are immune to the fungus (and an enemy of it for that reason). They hire the goblin archers to fire a volley of arrows in the first round of combat for a bag of apples.
Upon reaching the heart of the tree they see a Myconoid with burning coals for eyes, the goblin arrows do nothing. It doesn't even dodge, it just absorbs them, the goblins immediatly flee. The halfling hireling fires a flaming arrow, it misses but the myconid does dodge. Using this fact Giuseppe takes his prize possession, a crystal decanter of whisky (the only spirits in the whole area) and passes it to Angus the dwarf, with a single tear they throw it to the ground at the myconids feet, mixing with the burning arrow and creating a flaming mess (with the tinder roots).
Looking around the rest of the party see's two dismembered elves and two tortured elves. Silas and Bear head down and start dragging them from the flames. The myconoid casts sleep, everyone but the halfling makes their save. Giuseppe uses the mana from his familiar to cast bee swarm, but is instantly countered (The problem of using a "public" spell). The next round Giuseppe is knocked down and unconcious for a potent bolt spell (Acid Blast) with a failed dodge while Silas and Angus throw their torches and both get natural 20's and maximum damage. This kills the evil myconoid as the two torches hit directly in the eyes.
Moving to the center of the room Angus discovers amidst the tangled roots a glowing green gem that whispers for him to kill. Using his trusty spork he pries it free and passes a magic save, the tree instantly begins to heal and regrow. They bypass the now lifeless zombies and escape to the surface.
Bear departs and returns the injured elves. The party decides to curry Bear's favour and use their new political capital to remove the priest in Corroc and convert it back to a Pagan town. They first stop at Farmer MacDonald's farm (the wealthiest Yeoman) and through social combat get Marylin MacDonald (his oldest daughter) to confess to an affair with the priest. Anastasia then barters for the right to sell Marylin's right to marriage and hire her as a servant, bartering down to a mere three gold and the right to execute the priest in town.
Riding into corroc they immediately accuse the priest of being in cahoots with the demon cult and bring up his affair. Through social conflict they get the townsfolks support, start a riot and execute the priest. Silas sneaks into the church and loots its antique bible and research books while Angus and Giuseppe loot the inn of its beer and wine. They then decide to head to the king's keep as the town riots.
Thus ends session 1.
Angus gained a trademark item, Giuseppe got a lucky item and Anastasia gained two henchmen (personal items). Fate and XP were gained by all.
One thing about hit points is they are vague, while luck points are not. A hit point is either physical damage or stamina or fate or training or morale, and the problem comes when they are merged and two parties have disagreements over how it should. Luck points create a clear distinction which allows for many new gaming opportunities.
Because a luck point is explicitly luck it allows for (should you wish it), transferability. In my experience this is the favoured trait among players. Luck points can be transferred downstream and end a lot of bad RPG tropes. When I say downstream I mean that a knight could use his luck points to keep his horse alive (instead of mounted combat lasting exactly 1 round at higher levels), but a squire could not use his luck points to keep the knight alive. This becomes exceedingly useful in naval games as well, where the 10th level PC captain is actually better in ship to ship combat than a 1st level PC captain thanks to luck points.
This leads me to point 2, scalability. Because the captain would have no rule benefits if his luck points didn't scale to deal with cannon fire, so if a cannon does "4 hull damage" or what have you, then the Captain can use 4 luck points to have the shot "narrowly miss" the ship or fail to cause any real damage, just as he could use 4 luck points to avoid a well placed dagger thrust on himself personally.
This then deals with the ability to By-Pass luck points. Now bypassing should be a rare and not in any way random event. The most common way to bypass is to simply burn through all of the luck points and deal physical damage. But certain rare elements (say a Destiny point in piecemeal, though perhaps something like a prophecy or magic spell in your game if you used the mechanic) do allow it, as does willful player choice. A player who tackles a figure in the darkness and finds out its a man in spiked armour takes luck damage, a player who chooses to tackle a man plainly wearing spiked armour after being warned, would bypass luck points.
Once you are through the luck points you can use whichever system you like, a death and dismemberment table, a simple "1 hit and you are dead", in my case I use "Body Points" to represent physical damage, this allows for a downward spiral as taking damage gives you universal penalties. It also means luck can heal in a few days but physical damage can take months. For example in my current game there is a dwarf who has healed to 24 luck points, but has taken so much body damage that he is at -5 to all die rolls (Attack, damage, etc) he makes.
Why is all of this better than HP:
Its explicit what luck points are It ends a lot of RPG tropes (killing the horse, HP > 0 = ready to rock, Ships = Shipwreck misspelled). It allows new options (transferring luck, deciding between lost luck and body point, etc)
So the party takes the halflings (now nicknamed Grunka and Lunka) with them, as well as any valuable loot and heads on to Sir Liam's manor. They discover the manor is a large wooden estate on top of an artificial hill, surrounded by a large number of thatch huts for the peasants. After quickly discovering the surrounding village is full of grovelling filth merchants (as they described the destitute farmers and shepherds). So they walked past two dimwitted and poorly armed guards under the orders that the "princess" was obviously expected.
They met with the Knight (Sir Liam) who turned out to be a dandy wannabe Frenchman with blue velvet suit, high heels and wigs. Despondent over being stuck in this backwater burg with money and nothing to spend it on. "Princess" Anastasia (being french) was an instant hit and she claimed the right of hospitality for a healing break. Giuseppe (who's player was absent this week) used the time to heal while Silas the Gypsy and Angus the Dwarf returned to the swamp to gather some of the larger furniture, the troll/earth elementals stone hands, and explore a little more. During the course of the week they found a goblin egg (fresh) and surmised the goblins from the forest were quickly moving into the swamp now that the "troll" was dead.
Anastasia accumulated a "favour" by donating the luxury item that was the candy from the troll hoard (itself from a candy village supposedly in the north woods) and tried in vain to explore the manor for secret passages. She knew they were there but could not find them. Deciding against staying longer (and having won his support as they wished) they packed up and headed to see the local "king", Michael Connolly IV.
They found the king's castle was an old Roman keep of simple design, overgrown with ivy and surrounded by a small town and a wooden palisade. The town was smaller than Corroc (the main town in the region) but much nicer with cobblestone roads and many wood and stone cottages. The two boasted a weapon-smith, armourer and blacksmith, so Silas the Gypsy put in an order for Studded leather armour and some small weapon purchases, while Angus the dwarf wanted a sledgehammer made from the two stone troll fists. I found that idea awesome. This would take a few weeks to make, so Anastasia took the local king up on the right of hospitality, claiming to be looking for a prospective husband. As the king and several of the local knights were single, this was seen as a welcome omen, especially given the news of a recent treasure stockpile from the local bog, and now news of a troll slaying.
Investigating the castle they discovered one of the walls was shoddily repaired with cobblestones and gypsum, and the king seemed very interested to know if Angus had any traditional dwarven skills, taking the hint of why Ivy was allowed to hide the walls, Angus indicated he was in fact a "master mason" and endeared himself. Silas spoke with the kennel master and borrowed some studded leather barding for his dog while Anastasia explored the castle and discovered a local knight errant was lain up from a battle. Prying further they discovered why, and why no game was provided at dinner. The royal preserve had been infested by a dangerous monster, a green and black tiger known now as the "Keltic Tiger". The Errant Sir Frodrick had rode out with mail, lance, squire and a full set of hounds and returned barely alive on an injured horse. The intrigued them, but the full moon was nearing and they wished to search for the cult in the south wood.
So south they went, Angus picking up the leather armour he ordered, and they used the powerful tracking talents of Silas to locate the cults shrine, a charred grove in the woods, a giant blackened dead tree overlooking a smooth stone slab in a field of ash. Investigating before nightfall they decided it was a shrine to Baphomet the corrupter, and very old. Silas hid in the tree with his sling, sabre and some knives. Angus, Anastasia (borrowing Giuseppe's rapier) and Silas dog hid in the treeline. They waited as robed cultists stood chanting (4) and 2 naked dancers in leather masks created a bonfire at the base of the slab. From the north came a knight in black mail and full helm, leading a horse, a red robed priest and 2 dagger wielding strongmen carrying a palanquin chair, seated on it being a large black furred goat-man. This is when tragedy struck and the knight spotted Angus and charged, followed by the Goat-man (the whispered "Black Goat of the Woods"..queue groans). Angus (level 2) went toe to toe with the Black Knight (level 5) and the black goat, while Silas dropped a cultist and Anastasia and the dog continued to hide.
Angus scored a good hit, but also suffered a hefty blow (despite having the range advantage), so the next round Silas sicked the dog on the black goat, while Anastasia used wit and a thrown dagger to take out the priest and silas continued to rain death as the cultists began climbing the tree). The dog rolled a great attack, and decided to attempt an overbear (Accruing risky penalties), the black goat fumbled the defense and was tackled, now stuck in a grapple with a dog savagely lashing into its throat. Angus fumbled and lodged his troll-hammer into a tree, taking more damage, and then had to draw his backup weapon... his original iron sledgehammer (we laughed when he said he was carrying both). This continue for a few rounds, with Anastasia stuck in a sword fight with two knife wielding cultists, the dog managed to rip the Black Goat to bits (with Silas contributing his luck points to keep it alive) while Silas swung through the branches slaying the cultists as they managed to climb up in a trickle.
Angus was in bad shaped, he burned all of his fate points for more luck, and still kept taking critical after critical, on the verge of death he decided he'd try to move to the high ground, all he needed to do was win initiative, his d12 against the knights d8. He failed and the knight stabbed in him the back, and it looked like curtains. Anastasia pointed out that she was technically his employer, and he was a lower level (2 to her 3) so she could use her luck points on him, so she burned through all 10 and left him 1 body point above death. He then took the high ground and swing with a -5 universal penalty, and on his first good roll he got a natural 20, then came damage, a 1. Putting aside his giant scowl he remembered he was a specialist, and thus re-rolled damage for an 8, plus his high strength he managed to do enough damage to down the knight. Anastasia however was nearly pummeled to death (only having 5 body points) and used up all 3 of her fate points on more luck points fighting these mooks, managing to drop one. After missing with his thrown hammer, Angus tried plan b. His last item, a starting item of his choice, a spork.
The thrown spork killed the strongman who was busy wailing on the princess with a critical hit.
They tended to the wooden, stabilized the priest and as many cultists as possible for (show)trial and captured the knight's horse, before deciding to sleep while Silas guarded. Silas then decided to dig around the base of the altar for buried treasure. The party awoke to find Silas missing, and discovered quicksand around the altar that seemed almost sentient as it writhed and moved.
Beaten and near dead, and now missing a key party member (with the mage back in town) they debate what to do.
Combat tricks represent the different actions a trained warrior is capable of reflexively executing. These actions are voluntary options that become available when certain trigger conditions appear, the warrior then gains the option to use the trick. For example, the ‘quick sweep’ trick requires the warrior be knocked prone. If the warrior is knocked prone, the warrior may use the ‘quick sweep’ trick immediately.
The most common trigger condition is difficulty. Difficulty represents the level of training a warrior must have attained to use the trick. This is based upon the warriors base combat modifier, and any universal modifiers for injuries or encumbrance. If this value is higher than the difficulty, the trick can be used.
Learning new combat tricks
The most common method of learning new techniques is through training. If a warrior is taught a technique by a mentor it takes 1 day of practice per point of difficulty for the combat trick. The most common barrier to training is trust. Combat techniques are dangerous weapons in the wrong hands and even amoral warriors must worry about spending so much time with a stranger who may poison them in closer quarters (as everyone needs to sleep). This will lead warriors to attempt to recover ancient training manuals or scrolls.
If a warrior finds a combat trick or maneuver in an ancient (or modern) text or scroll he can attempt to recreate it from instruction. The warrior must spend 1 (cumulative) day practicing per difficulty of the trick. At the end of that time the warrior may make an intelligence check to attempt to learn the trick. If the warrior fails, they must begin the procedure anew.
A warrior may also choose to recreate a maneuver they have seen in action. This takes a base time of 1 season per difficulty of the trick. If the warrior trains in a secluded area, this is reduced to 1 week per difficulty point of the trick. If the warrior trains in an area full of distractions (like a city) this time is doubled to two seasons per difficulty point. At the end of this period, an intelligence check must be made, if it is failed the warrior must begin again. Having proper training grounds will give a re-roll to the intelligence check.
The Dragon Scroll
Please select a combat trick from the drop down list.
Neck Pinch Difficulty: 6 Effect: The warrior makes a hard (-5) attack roll against the target, if this connects the target must make a health check or be knocked unconcious. Limitations: The target must be surprised, unaware or somehow unable to defend against the attack.
Crazy Weapon Tricks! Difficulty: 3 per dot size of weapon Effect: The warrior pulls off a crazy maneuver resulting in a flurry of damage. This maneuver is so frickin rad I cannot describe it. The warrior must describe it, with sound effects. You may roll the damage die again, if it is less than the previous damage roll you may add it to the damage total and roll yet again. Continue until you fail to roll less than your previous roll. A warrior with a dagger could thus roll a 4, followed by a 3,2 and 1 if he were lucky. Limitations: The warrior must be specialized with the weapon and have just struck the target. Each version of this trick only works for one weapon. Thus 'Crazy weapon tricks!' for a scimitar would not apply to a broadsword, they are two seperate tricks.
Iron Fist Difficulty: 2 Effect: The warrior's unarmed attack gains the 'devastating' tag. Limitations: The warrior's unarmed attacks cannot currently have a conflicting tag (such as 'vicious')
Joint Snap Difficulty: 3 Effect: The warrior may make a comparative strength check with the target. If the warrior wins the target suffers a strength die of additional damage. Limitations: The warrior must have just scored a critical hit in a grapple.
Eagle Claw Difficulty: 3 Effect: The warrior's unarmed attacks are considered slashing attacks; This will increase the die size by one category. Limitations: The warrior may not hold any items in their hands when using this trick and must pretend to speak in dubbing.
Nerve Strike Difficulty: 3 Effect: The warrior's unarmed attack gains the 'vicious' tag. Limitations: The warrior's unarmed attacks cannot currently have a conflicting tag (such as 'devastating')
Defensive Fighting Difficulty: 2 Effect: The warrior's unarmed attacks gain the 'defensive' tag. This will allow a parry attempt. Limitations: The warrior must not be wielding a weapon in either hand.
Throw the Gun! Difficulty: 0 Effect: The warrior throws an empty firearm at the target; If this connects the warrior rolls a luck die and costs the target that many luck points. Limitations: The warrior must have fired the weapon until it was empty at the target. More than half of the shots must have connected(not dodged or blocked) and have dealt no damage to the target. The fire must have been completely ineffective.
Combo Attack Difficulty: 2 cumulative per previous attack Effect: The warrior may make a free unarmed attack with a -2 penalty per previous attack. Limitations: The warrior must have a free hand and must have hit with their previous attack. The warrior may not have been struck since their previous attack.
Humiliation Strike Difficulty: 5 Effect: The warrior may make an immediate standard attack upon his opponent. If this attack connects it grants the warrior +1 awesomeness per point of damage dealt. Limitations: The warrior must have just disarmed his opponent and successfully grabbed the weapon in a free hand. The free attack is with the opponent's weapon.
Whirling Parry Difficulty: 2(cumulative) per previous parry Effect: The warrior may make an extra parry against an attack coming from any angle. Limitations: If the attack is coming from an angle the warrior could not normally parry, only a +1 bonus is applied(including magic). The warrior still cannot parry with or against a weapon that disallows a parry.
Momentum Throw Difficulty: 3 Effect: The warrior may make a hard (-5)agility check to throw an opponent prone behind him. Limitations: The warrior must have just succeeded with an unarmed parry to a charging opponent. The opponent cannot have a larger size modifier than the warrior.
Quick Sweep Difficulty: 4 Effect: If the warrior can pass an agility check, the warrior may make a free and immediate 'knock down' trip attack against their opponent. Limitations: The warrior must have just been knocked prone by their opponent.
Jump Attack Difficulty: 2 Effect: The warrior charges at their opponent and leaps into the air to chest height, most likely gaining the high ground benefit. Limitations: The warrior must announce this trick before rolling initiative, the warrior cannot make a defense roll before their attack. If the warrior suffers a critical hit the warrior is knocked prone.
Staff Block Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may parry with a pole weapon as if it had the defensive tag. Limitations: The warrior must be wielding a pole weapon in two hands.
Sword and Buckler Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may wield a 'hand and a half' weapon in two hands for an attack, and still hold and block with a small shield. Limitations: The warrior must have one initiative against any opponents attacking the warrior.
Body Check Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may make an immediate 'knock down' attack against his opponent. The warrior may add their shield's dot size to their attack roll. Limitations: The warrior's opponent must have just scored an epic failure in an attack against the warrior.
Follow Up Difficulty: 2 Effect: The warrior may make an immediate attack with his or her off-hand. Limitations: The warrior's opponent must have just been knocked 'off balance' by the warrior.
Shield Punch Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may make an immediate standard or knock-down attack with their shield. Limitations: The warrior must have just rolled an epic success on a defense roll while blocking with a small or medium shield, or blocked by a margin of 5 or more with a small shield.
Shield Wall Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may attempt to block an attack against an ally adjacent to the warrior. Limitations: The warrior must be holding a large shield.
Bear Hug Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior deals a strength die of shock damage. Limitations: The warrior must have just connected with a grapple attack on either an epic success or a lucky number. This does not count as the opportunity attack.
Feint Difficulty: 0 Effect: The warrior may cancel their current attack, and instead launch a power attack. They do not suffer any of the normal penalties for a power attack. Limitations: The target must have just suffered an epic failure on a defense roll against the warrior's attack.
Riposte Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may launch a free attack against their opponent. Limitations: The warrior must have just scored an epic success or succeed by 5 or more with a defense roll against the opponent, while using a parry.
Clothesline Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior deals a strength die of shock damage to an opponent, allowing for a re-roll to choose the higher result. Limitations: The warrior must have just scored an epic success on a defense roll versus a charging opponent with an equal or lesser size modifier.
Headbutt Difficulty: 2 Effect: The warrior may launch a free 'headbutt' attack. If this attack connects it deals 1d4 shock damage to both the warrior and the target. If either combatant is wearing a helmet they suffer 1 less damage. If either combatant is wearing a metal helmet their opponent suffers regular damage, not shock damage. Limitations: The warrior must have just been struck with a grapple attack by a humanoid of the same size modifier.
Stomp Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may make a free attack on an opponent. If this attack connects it deals a strength die of damage. Limitations: The warrior must have just knocked their opponent prone in front of them.
Brute Throw Difficulty: 2 Effect: The warrior may throw their opponent a number of feet equal to the warrior's strength score, this can take the form of an attack against another target. Limitations: The warrior must have just struck their opponent with a grapple attack that rolled a lucky number. This does not count as the opportunity attack. The opponent may not have a larger size modifier than the warrior.
Pommel Strike Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may cancel their regular attack, and instead declare a pommel strike before any attacks are rolled. The warrior re-rolls their initiative with a speed of 8. Limitations: The pommel strike will only deal a d2 blunt or piercing damage and has a range of 1. The weapon must be a swung weapon and cannot be a flail or pole weapon.
Coup de Grace Difficulty: 3 Effect: The warrior may convert a hit into a critical hit automatically. Limitations: The warrior's target must be prone.
Multi-Shot Difficulty: 2 per additional arrow Effect: The warrior fires multiple arrows from a bow at once. No other players are permitted to complain about the physics of this maneuver. Limitations: The warrior must be wielding a bow. The warrior rolls one attack roll for each arrow, but all attacks use the worst roll. No single target can be the target of more arrows than its size modifier, to minimum of 1.
Trail of Carnage Difficulty: 2 per previous attack roll from the initial shot Effect: The warrior bolt, bullet or arrow from the warrior travels through the first opponent’s body and slams into a target directly behind. The warrior makes a fresh attack roll against the new target. Limitations: The warrior must be using a ‘high powered’ weapon and have just slain the first target. The attack against the next target will be resolved with a damage die one lower than the previous attack. Thus this will eventually fizzle out to a d2 and then nothing.
Stumbling Shot Difficulty: 2 Effect: The warrior fires a bolt, arrow or thrown weapon into the path of (or perhaps directly into) the targets feet, causing an additional knockdown attempt as they risk tripping. This does not require an additional attack roll. Limitations: The warrior must be using a weapon that has ammunition capable of tripping over; a firearm for example would not work unless body point damage is dealt. The attack roll must have been a lucky number, note that this does not count as the opportunity attack.
Improvised Parry Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may grab both ends of a flail they are wielding and parry incoming attacks with the weapons chain. The flail gains the ‘defensive’ tag. Limitations: The warrior must be wielding a flail that does not have the ‘vicious’ tag and must have a free hand.
Entangle Weapon Difficulty: 2 Effect: The warrior may make a free disarm attack against an opponent. Limitations: The warrior must have a higher initiative than the target and just successfully avoided an attack with the roll of a lucky number, while using a cape or cloak to block. This does not count as the opportunity attack.
Batter Up! Difficulty: 1 Effect: The warrior may add the effect of a 'Knock Down' to their attack in addition to regular damage. Limitations: The warrior must have just hit an opponent with a two handed blunt weapon, on either an epic success or a power attack.
So I've had this idea for an awesome encounter for some time in two variants, the problem being I can't place it in the type of games I run, it is a very cheesy illogical "Screw you" encounter to kick it up a notch.
The gist is to either A) have a medusa and a vampire teamed up or my personal favourite B) have a vampire pretending to be a medusa.
In the case of B the vampire's castle would be conspicuously festooned with very well made marble statues of warriors and common folk with a look of abject terror on their face. All of the mirrors would have been smashed to pieces, with many small breed pet snakes roaming loose. The crumbling Gothic castle would have much neoclassical add-ons and ancient antiquities. Portraits of individuals in classic swords and sandals attire, columns, Greek phrases over the archways.
The vampire herself would either have a wig of live snakes, dead snakes or a magical glamour/illusion depending on the level of magic in the world. Clues could (and should) be available in the journals that the vampire was enthralled by the ancient era in life and views hiding from the sun as an analogy for the medusa having to hide from the world.
In either A or B the gamist situation has players looking in vain into a mirror to avoid being turned to stone, and being unable to see or strike at the "medusa" unless they risk a glance and realise it is not a medusa at all.
Unfortunately I just can't see a place to put such an encounter for the time being.
Also: The updated piecemeal exe and text files have been released.