Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tid-bit: A combat trick from the game

Combat Trick: Fire Control
Difficulty: 2 per point of base damage
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.
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.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dice Towers

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".

Ding! Take 4 damage.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Update: Piecemeal 1e beta 18 released

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.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wilderness Travel is dangerous

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.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guiding principles of game design: Engineer VS Artist

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)?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some mechanics only become evident with ample playtesting

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?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Initiative VS Range: A further explanation

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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Game Recap: And now for something completely different

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.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Game Recap: Nearly a week late

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.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Changing Initiative yet again

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.