Sunday, February 28, 2010

Continuing Updates on Piecemeal 1e

Just a brief update as I continue plodding along. Piecemeal 1e is moving well and ahead of schedule. One of the benefits of copying from one format to another is the ability to re-read and re-write, streamlining and improving in the process. The rework is about 75% of the way done, the only major hurdles remaining are updating and transferring over the spell lists and cramming in about 5 times as many Easter eggs.

I am also thinking about beginning an online Piecemeal 1e game in the coming months, ideally with new players so I can see if I'm way out to lunch in some mechanics (and have catered too specifically to my current group). Any of you interested?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Social Conflict: Rules for Demonic Possession

One things I like about game design is that if you can create a solid underlying structure, new and brilliant uses for mechanics will emerge.

One of these things is building upon the social conflict rules (though streamlined a bit with some 1e improvements). Dealing with your standard creepy monster situation including demons, but demons aren't just beefed up orcs, demons possess people..that is what makes them most dangerous.

The party was about to be ambushed as they camped via a possession and standard old gaming mentality was about to go with "roll a saving throw", but then I thought I might be missing a golden opportunity.

So I went with a social conflict in the character's dream as the demon tried to convince him to just give up and cede control to the demon. The difficulty and mechanics were a bit out of whack (a new implementation of the rule, bound to be a few quirks), but over-all it went amazingly well and far truer to trope. Later the priest use the same mechanics in an exorcism (convincing the demon to leave the body). This made what would have been a few quick saving throws far more involved and tense situation (and the victory sweeter).

I find it infinintely interesting how new mechanics create new methods of solving issues and shift the focus of gameplay.

Best lines:

From Possession (Demon to Fighter): "All you are to them is a grunt, an expendable soldier. You suffer the slings and arrows in the pursuit of their fortune, but when they no longer need you they will abandon you ,all alone; I never will". Type: Heated Counterpoint that swayed the Fighter.

From Exorcism (Priest to Demon) "ENOUGH! THE POWER OF ROZARIUS COMPELS YOU!". Type: Heated Statement on an epic success that turned the whole thing around from the brink of loss and banished the Demon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Speeding up Character Generation: Equipment Packs (an excerpt from 1e)

One of the things that can often bog down character creation for an extended period of time is starting inventory. Now don't get me wrong, inventory is important. But its often pointless, as if the players need some specific piece of equipment for their journey they can just buy it later. To allow for easier integration with quick start-up, I've implemented a "Starting EQ pack" set up.

Generating a starting set of equipment can take a fair amount of time if you wish full control over each individual item. It is instead suggested that all characters take a starting pack of equipment. Some customization is still required within a ‘pack’ as characters must specify what type of weapons, or what kinds of clothes are included. Below is a listing of sample packs.

Pack: Wanderer
Contents: A wanderer’s pack contains very little. It has a staff or walking stick and a single tool. This tool could be a set of lock picks, a holy symbol or a wizard’s grimoire. Choosing the wanderer’s pack also gives the character 2 fate points.

Pack: Explorer
Contents: An explorer’s pack contains a large number of useful items. It contains a rope and grapnel, a set of light armour, a backpack with two weeks of food, a full wineskin, a set of flint and steel, a piece of navigational equipment (often a map or lantern), 2 militia weapons (or weapons that double for non-military purposes) and one small weapon (a dagger or small sword).

Pack: Wealthy
Contents: A wealthy person’s pack contains very little of immediate use. It contains a set of fancy clothes, a fine fur cape or cloak, an expensive hat, an ornate and high quality personal weapon such as a sword or dagger, 1 tool (such as lock picks or a holy symbol), 3 pieces of jewelry worth $500 or more each, and $1,000 in coins.

Pack: Military
Contents: A military pack contains equipment needed for frontline combat. It contains a helmet, a set of mail, a shield, 1 militia weapon, 1 small weapon and 1 weapon of choice.

Pack: Merchant
Contents: A Merchant’s pack contains a beast of burden and a wagon, or a riding animal. It also contains a backpack with two weeks of food, a full wineskin, a navigational tool (such as a lantern or map) 1 self-defense weapon, a set of light armour and $1,000 in coins or a single tradable good.

Pack: Nomad
Contents: A Nomad’s pack contains a bow or set of throwing weapons, a backpack with two weeks of food, a full water skin, a hunting animal and a tool (Lock picks, a holy symbol, a grimoire etc).

These are merely sample packs, and your are encouraged to think of your own starting packs that fit with the flavour of your game world.

Why is this good? One of the things I strive to ensure is that character creation should allow a new character to be fully created inside of 10 minutes, with Schrodinger's Character this allows a near instantaneous ability to jump into the thick of things. The gear rules simply add to the effect.

Why is this bad? This does trample on the ability to have the kind of very finite control over starting resources some people truly enjoy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Excerpt from 1e: Group Templates and Relationships

Below is an excerpt from the work on Piecemeal 1e from the section on group templates and relationships.

When a new group of characters is built, it is important to have a group template. This gives the characters a reason to band together beyond meeting in a tavern. Each character must have at least two relationships to other party members; these cannot be both to the same character. You cannot alter another character’s history without the other player’s consent. Thus if you chose 'Romance', you could not declare the two character’s had dated. You could declare that your character had a crush on the other character. Likewise if you chose 'Family' it does not mean their character consider your character family or that there is a blood relation, it may simply be that for some reason your character considers them ‘like family’ (perhaps your character knew their parents). Each relationship has a slight mechanical benefit. A set of example relationships is listed below:

Relationship: Family
Gain: +1 fate
Example: This relationship represents a blood relation, adoption or a strong friendship or sense of obligation resembling family. For example, you could be the child of a close family friend to the other character. Either way, your character feels a familial bond.

Relationship: Protector
Gain: Target gains +1 fate
Example: This relationship represents a sense of strong protectiveness. A parent, a bodyguard or a trusted lady-in-waiting is examples of a protector. A character could feel protective of a character they have only recently met and it does not need to imply a long history. Never the less the relationship is strong not merely a passing sensation.

Relationship: Romance
Gain: Target gains +1 luck point
Example: This relationship covers everything from long-term marriages to unrequited love. This is a romance beyond minor attraction or infatuation and is unlikely to ever fully leave the mind of the character.

Relationship: Employee
Gain: $500
Example: This represents any financial relationship; the character has been paid and has a job to do. This could be that your character was paid by the target, or paid by a third party to watch over the target or perform some other action. This relationship also requires a dedication to reputation and work ethic that this is a major impact on behaviour.

Relationship: Higher Calling
Gain: 50 Piety
Example: This represents a sense of divine duty. Perhaps your character believes the other is a chosen one, or simply part of a wayward flock. Either way your character sees their destiny as dependant on the safety of the target.

Relationship: Life Debt
Gain: +250xp
Example: This represents a deep sense that the character owes their life to the target. Perhaps the target saved their village, spared their life or saved them personally. This could also represent a debt that the character feels he owes to the target’s bloodline, nation or species. Either way, the character feels an unshakable debt to the target.

These are only some examples, feel free to create other relationships with GM approval, they should always be generic however to leave room for both parties to determine exactly what they mean to each character.

These rules are meant to quickly and easily build a group and bypass the cliche of meeting in a tavern. They work very well with "Schrodinger's Character" to quickly build a new party of character without needing a two hour session of prepwork. Simply pick up a pencil and go.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fighting A monster versus fighting THE monster II: Removing the need for the monster manual

This post I'm going to deal with a GM pet peeve of mine, and how I solved it. Monster Stats and prep time. When I am GMing a game, I don't like to need to either pick a monster from a catalog, nor need to devise some arcane formulae to work out experience point costs accurately. I like unique monsters, as pointed out here . If Theseus had just slain A minotaur, and a couple dozen more were still marauding the outlying towns, it would have been no big deal.

I toyed with building a monster generation system , the idea was to use a similar mechanical solution to weapon generation. That system worked brilliantly for weapons (and now armour) to remove the 14 pages of pole-arms and generate quick fun with all the same tactical depth.

It worked, but not really. Oh sure I could generate weapon tags, but it still didn't work as I wanted, it still had too much consideration and fiddly math for no reason other than to do fiddly math.

So I had an epiphany, I'd re-purpose another successful mechanic, the exploration XP mechanic.

And it works smashingly.

Basically monsters are separated into named monsters (THE Minotaur) and nameless monsters (A minotaur). If you defeat a nameless monster, such as a random troll you found under a bridge, calculate its experience point value by adding up a handful of numbers and running it by a multiplier. All in all about 30 seconds of AFTER THE FACT math. This means you can 'wing' monsters fairly easily.

Named monsters are worth a little more. In terms of "Named", this does not have to be a proper name; a title such as ‘The serpent of widows peak’ works just fine. Hell even no title if the creature is unique. Alien featured THE monster, Aliens featured a pile of "a monster"s. This is the difference between fighting a minotaur that just happens to be roaming about and fighting THE Minotaur, love child of Crete’s queen and entombed in the labyrinth. A named monster is worth the experience points of a nameless monster or the following experience (whichever is more).

The monster is:
500xp Local legend
1000xp Regional threat
5000xp National threat
10000xp Cultural icon
50000xp Fabled monster
10000xp Mythological being

A local legend would include a giant one eyed grizzly bear rumoured to live in the local hills. A regional threat might include a hill giant that is terrorizing the outlying farms. A national threat would be a small dragon that is cutting a swathe of destruction throughout the kingdom. A cultural icon would be a creature such as the medusa. A fabled monster might include an ancient dragon said to be sleeping in the caves deep below the foundations of the royal castle. A Mythological being would be a creature such as Typhon.

Why is this good? A GM can generate a monster as he sees fit and worry about experience points as a secondary matter. In addition to drastically reducing prep time, this makes monster hunting a player-driven event and perfect for sandbox play. Some people climb mountains because they are there, others slay dragons to prove they can.

Why is this bad? If you like balance, this turfs it right out the window.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

And now for something completely different: Order of the D30 random background generator

As its sunday and I decided it was time for something silly and best used once and ignored, the D30 Instant Background generator. All players roll a d30 as they create their character and go nuts.

1. Polymorphed Chipmunk: You are the result of testing a wand of delayed polymorph. You've been a person for two years now and are still trying to get things down pat.
2. Rightful Heir: You are the rightful heir to a minor nobles throne. Of course you are currently heir to a much better throne as long as your cuckolded 'father' doesn't find out.
3. Rabbit Warrior: Trained in isolation by a druidic cult since you were a baby, you are one of the seven animal warriors. The eagle warrior, the bear warrior, the wolf warrior, the viper warrior, the lion warrior and you. Truth be told they are all *#$%'s to you and make fun of your rabbit suit that you wear, so you've decided to strike out on your own.
4. Go-Getter Undertaker: You completed your undertaker apprentice ship, problem is there isn't enough work for all the existing undertakers. Being an impatient sort you decided to generate some business.
5. Thog: You are Thog, Thog Not Speak word with more than one
6. Klingon: K'Plah!
7. Emo: You're middle class parents didn't get you, so you eventually left your room (Rent? As if) and took your chances in the greater world. You tell everyone your name has the word dark in it.
8. Penitent Clown: Your whole life was one of dignified academia, you struggled to be valedictorian in clown college..but then a pie related accident due to your own negligence killed over 40 nuns and orphans, now you are a self-flagellating clown, destined to atone for your one error.
9. Jo the Temp: You were just supposed to run some errands for the day until the regular got back, this...this seems like a lot more than you signed on for.
10. World's Worst Mime: Your propensity to announce everything you are doing loudly has made it hard to find work as a mime. Adventuring is the only work you can get.
11. Elvis: A freak accident in the time space continuum warped you into this bizarre realm, now you are just trying to do the best you can.
12. Dr. Sam Becket : You have leaped into this body, and need to set things right where once they were wrong. Hopefully Ziggy will have some more advice.
13. I Drew the Knight: Someone drew the Knight in a deck of many things, but then died of a heart attack. You have no history before yesterday.
14. Cliche: Your parents really WERE murdered by orcs and you really DO have a psychological condition where you trust anyone you meet in a tavern who wants to go on adventures with you. This makes you really sensitive when you think others are faking your conditions.
15. The copier is like really broken: While trying to fix the copier at work, you left the accounting department and wound up here.
16. From Oz: The freak tornado that through Dorothy in Oz? It threw you here 20 minutes ago.
17. From the other Oz: Those prison officials really should have confiscated your RPG books earlier, with the help of your character Blackleaf you learned magic and teleported here.
18. TRANSFORM AND ROLL OUT: While it in no way impacts your stats, you are a transformer, you can transform into +1 crossbow in a full round.
19. Vampire Slayer: An accident in the early 90's warped you from the USA to this bizarre realm. Time to fight evil and make 90's pop culture references chosen one.
20. Normal Guy: You are actually pretty normal, your parents are alive you had several well adjusted siblings and you really don't have a lot to complain about.
21. Last of the the Taarakians: You've got wickedly awesome knockers. I hope your playing a girl character.
22. Mel Gibson: You are any one of Mel Gibson's characters transported to this fantasy realm, with the caveat that for some reason you are really well adjusted and think this is a normal switch.
23. Cat: You are an anthropomorphic cat, you talk, somehow manipulate objects as if you had fingers and are yet still able to poop in a box. As a magical side effect, no one seems to find it odd that you are a talking intelligent cat and they will alternatively treat you as either a person, a pet or both.
24. Deformed Orc: You are a hideously hideously deformed orc, your tribe has shunned you and you have fled for human lands. Oddly enough the deformity makes you look like an attractive human. You find the sight of yourself revolting though.
25. One and a Halfling: Although you insist you are a giant and powerful halfling. You seem just like a kind of short guy. You are beginning to wonder if you are crazy or everyone else is.
26. An illusion: You are actually just an illusion, and people could disbelieve you if they had any reason to. You are determined to make sure that everyone doesn't disbelieve you at once, then you might stop existing..
27. A towel: You are an anthropomorphic towel. You are truly the worst character ever.
28. Disney Princess: You are a Disney princess of your choice. Somehow your happily ever after was stolen from you and you ended up here. While you do want to get back, you are noticing you can do things that were physically impossible curse..or be unladylike in any manner..
29. Which one is real?: You have the same background as the player seated to the left EXACTLY the same.
30. Uh oh: You rolled a d30 to check your characters background and ended up having your mind transported into their body in the fictional game world. Crap, the GM loves TPK's too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Screenshot of 1e format

Here is a screenshot of the new easier to read and better organized format:

The pages will all have (barring section covers) identical formats. Navigation links on the left, glossary links on the bottom, images and the right and the main text in the center. The central text is selectable (thus you can copy paste) and you can scroll. There is also a history feature so you can move back and forth between different pages in a section quickly and easily.
For those of you without either a windows machine or the desire to run this file through Mono, the pages are also now being stored in a controlled format. This will allow me to quickly export every page to a text file fairly quickly, which is then a fairly quick jump to at least a basic PDF.
Ideally Beta 1 should be ready within a few months at most (depending on my work schedule). So far I've managed to port over about a quarter of the content (also it's the easy quarter however).
This has caused me to be slightly quieter on this blog, but I wanted to assure you I am not dead, merely working on getting this finished. Once the Beta wraps up. I HOPE to have full fledged final version for a Paper, PDF and Electronic release by the end of the year.
I'd like to thank everyone for their support and feedback, it has been very helpful and I hope it will continue to be as helpful, motivating and constructive.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Suggested change of PC race to include two fantasy genres

So, as Im building Piecemeal 1st Edition (unlike the older 0e piecemeal), I'm mulling a decision on altering the player races to have two settings. One for a Low Fantasy game, and one for a Mythic game. Take the dwarf.

In Low Fantasy game the dwarf is much as one would expect from every stock fantasy RPG, with maybe one or two quirks I like. Notably they see in black and white with the exception of Gold and Gemstones, hence their love of wealth.

In a mythic game, a dwarf could reproduce asexually by crafting another version of himself. This would be a painstaking, expensive process and would grant the new dwarf a certain percentage of his "father's" memories (say 30-100% at random). Thus dwarven grudges would last for a long time, since many generations down the line would still remember the slight as if it happened to them personally, they may even forget that forgiveness had been granted but remember the slight. Dwarves in this case would be subterranean because the light of the sun ages them, eventually turning them to stone over several years exposure. Dwarves would only venture out if the need absolutely requires it, such as to gain more wealth, to build a son (whom sharing most memories would be unquestionably trustworthy, at least until experiences drift too much).

In a Low Fantasy game, we know how elves behave. In a mythic game the elves may be literal nature spirits, emerging from plants like a disturbing Anne Geddes picture brought to life. Their bones are made of wood and they will die off if removed from the wilds for too long, creatures truly anathema to civilization. Of course this would limit the ability for the "High Elves" of Tolkien with their glittering towers and shinning elven steel.

The exact details I am still working out, but I do like the options to more easily break away from certain moulds.