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Tabletop RPG Metathread: We Like To Party

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Originally Posted By: Rowen
In AIMhack a Jack of all Trades can do all that a Fighter, White, and Black Mage can and do it better. This seems backwards to me.


Part of why this is true in CoH, more than some of the earlier campaigns, like Selos, is because of adjusted leveling system. The diminishing returns system ultimately encourages everyone to become a jack of all trades eventually. Even the most determined specialist will eventually say "I could get one more point of Martial (Sword), or I could get 4 points in Nature," and decide it's worth diversifying. The earlier campaigns did not have the diminishing returns level system, and they also had a penalty to learning a new skill after character creation. That also encouraged people to specialized rather than diversify.

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Re Fortune, Drama, and Karma:

 

I can see the value of the these categories, but I'm not sure it's enough value. I think the distinction between Drama and the other two is a much more important one than the distinction between random and deterministic mechanical elements. To me, both Karma and Fortune are mechanics, because they work mechanically, like a simple machine. You roll the die and/or read the rule. No judgement is required. The elements of argument and judgement — Drama, if you like — are what make live RPGs different from other games. So the big point is that you can have Drama, and not just mechanics.

 

I was always interested in game mechanics, and evidently still am. But at the time I considered myself a good DM, after what must have been around a thousand hours of practice over several years (many years ago now), I noticed that all those issues had somehow faded away. Beyond a rather primitive core of rules, many of which had grave flaws, the distinction between the game system and the campaign had eroded. A lot of the practically relevant game mechanics were unique perks, based in the world rather than on any generic rules. Or there were carefully worked-out generic rules that happened only to apply to one character, because there was only one such character in the campaign.

 

But it all worked quite well, and convinced me that rules only really mattered up to a point. On the other hand I guess I should admit that the campaign that really worked well had the same players for many years. We all grew up together playing this game, and maybe that's what made rules seem superfluous.

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rules : game :: words : language

 

The actual selection of what word to use for what significand is arbitrary; however, for the language to work, you must have words; you must have words for certain types of concepts; and the words must fit together in a coherent and meaningful way. So it is with game rules.

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Ephesos' Rumors of My Death campaign has just concluded. Postmortem thread here. Expect to see discussion of what went right and wrong in the campaign over the next few days in that thread.

 

When I get around to it I might include a set of links to current and past AIMhack threads in the first post of this thread, for the sake of convenience.

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I've been meaning to ask...how exactly does Alchemy work?

 

I noticed in both City of Hope and Aldath that various things were collected as Reagents (Water, Earth, and Fire reagents, to be exact) ...but I couldn't find any info about Alchemy listed with the rest of the system on Ephesos' site.

 

Is the reagent system something copied directly from D&D, or something that was decided upon behind the scenes? In either event, if you could let me in on how it works, I'd appreciate it. :-)

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Originally Posted By: Lilith
Click to reveal..
Alchemy:

Alchemical reagents are divided into four classes based on the elements. Within each class, some reagents may be more powerful than others.

Earth reagents embody principles of stability and protection. A great mountain range filled with mineral wealth may bring prosperity to an entire civilisation, while even the humblest rock may serve as shelter for worms and insects. Earth reagents include crystalline minerals and animal bones.

Fire reagents embody principles of destruction and change. Fire by its nature is short-lived, but for the time it exists its effects can be immense. Its power is not purely destructive: carefully controlled fire can purge impurities, or convert a substance from one form to another. Fire reagents include caustic chemicals and animals' natural weapons, such as claws, teeth and venom glands.

Air reagents embody principles of motion and creativity. Gusts of wind come and go capriciously, and may either fill a ship's sails or blow down a house, but the air which gives birth to them is a constant life-giving presence. Air reagents include meteorites and animals' sensory organs.

Water reagents embody principles of restoration and persistence. A river may dry up, but when the rains come it will resume flowing along its old course, and its steady work will gradually erode any obstacles in its path. Water reagents include fossils and animals' vital organs.

Primary potions (one reagent, requires 1 point in Crafting (Alchemy)):

Stamina Potion. Requires Earth reagents only. This drink relieves minor aches and pains and banishes exhaustion, restoring some of the drinker's Stamina.

Alchemical Fire. Requires Fire reagents only. This sticky liquid bursts into flame on contact with air, causing fire damage to anything it splashes on.

Stimulant. Requires Air reagents only. A tonic that temporarily increases the drinker's physical and mental agility, giving increased Speed and a bonus on the next few rolls, although at the cost of reduced Stamina once its effects wear off.

Healing Salve. Requires Water reagents only. A balm that can be used to treat wounds, recovering lost hit points.

Secondary potions (two reagents, requires 3 points in Crafting (Alchemy)):

Contact Poison. Requires Earth and Fire reagents. A toxic liquid that can be absorbed through an open wound or less efficiently through unbroken skin, causing gradual loss of Hit Points and Stamina and a penalty to all statistics.

Featherfall Brew. Requires Earth and Air reagents. A mysterious fluid that lightens the drinker's body, allowing them to glide down gently from great heights without injury.

Protective Oil. Requires Earth and Water reagents. A soothing oil that protects the user's skin from extreme conditions such as heat, cold and acids.

Toxic Gas. Requires Fire and Air reagents. This unstable mixture rapidly becomes a noxious gas on exposure to air, causing eye irritation and violent coughing. While it does not usually cause serious damage, its effects can be highly incapacitating in the short term.

Purgative. Requires Fire and Water reagents. A potent brew that purges the body of poisons and diseases, although it may have unpleasant side effects, causing a loss of Stamina points.

Sleeping Draught. Requires Air and Water reagents. A potion that quickly brings restful sleep to anyone who drinks it. While the drinker experiences the restorative effects of a full night's sleep in only a few hours, nothing short of violent shaking is likely to awaken them before that time.

Tertiary potions (three reagents, requires 5 points in Crafting (Alchemy)):

Explosive. Requires Earth, Fire and Air reagents. A thick greasy paste that explodes when struck violently, producing little heat but immense concussive force.

Freezing Salts. Requires Earth, Fire and Water reagents. A fine crystalline dust that rapidly cools on contact with liquid. A dose can freeze the surface of a body of water or inflict cold damage if scattered over a living target.

Potion of Clarity. Requires Earth, Air and Water reagents. A drink that enhances mental faculties, giving a temporary bonus to Intelligence and reducing the drinker's susceptibility to illusions and enchantments.

Acid. Requires Fire, Air and Water reagents. A dangerous liquid that can corrode flesh, metal and stone.

Collecting reagents and brewing potions both require rolls. Also, other potion recipes are possible, including epic potions that require more skill and maybe special ingredients. Like with epic spells, learning an epic recipe requires that you find a book or teacher to learn it from.

Aaaaand sniped.

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Will they be going to get a tab in the Compendium, then? That would make things a lot easier to keep track of.

 

(Unless this is a non-canonical system, of course, but from the sound of it, it seems to be well on its way to becoming standard.)

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Originally Posted By: Mistb0rn
Will they be going to get a tab in the Compendium, then? That would make things a lot easier to keep track of.

(Unless this is a non-canonical system, of course, but from the sound of it, it seems to be well on its way to becoming standard.)

Several different people have used it, but canonically it's just one of many schools of alchemy that exist on Mote. We haven't seen any of the others yet since everyone but Lilith is lazy. tongue

EDIT: Here are the higher-level potions I invented for Rowen's Theressa mini-campaign.

Click to reveal.. (Now we're cooking!)
Expert Potions require 7 points in Alchemy.

Potion of Insight. This potion gives all the benefits of a Potion of Clarity, as well as a temporary bonus to Perception and Composure. Requires Earth and Air reagents, and an animal's brain.

Magic Ink. Necessary for scrolls, magic runes, and the like. May be given additional magic properties by a mage with the appropriate spells. Requires distilled water, black dye, and an Earth reagent.

Potion of Perfect Health. This potion takes a few minutes to have any effect, but when it does, the drinker's HP is restored to full and negative health conditions are cured. Requires a Water reagent of uncommon power, such as one from a rare or magical plant or animal.

Master's Potions require 9 points in Alchemy.

Truth Serum. Renders the drinker unable to lie for one hour. He or she can still be deliberately misleading. Requires Earth and Fire reagents and meteoric iron.

Brew of Sudden Genius. This potion makes its drinker quick to master any challenge. For the next few minutes, any skill less than the drinker's Intelligence is treated as equal to it. Requires one of each reagent type, and takes one day to prepare.

Finally, Sarton has one epic-level recipe of his own creation, which requires a skill of 10.

Click to reveal.. (Epic!)
Sarton's Uncanny Vigor. This sweet-tasting brew mends wear and tear of body and mind, effectively reducing the drinker's age by one year. Its powerful side effects include grogginess, irritability, and the permanent loss of 1 point of Strength. Not approved for use by children. Requires diamonds, a falcon's eye, and lacewing's blood.

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The City of Hope campaign has just finished. Mechanics-wise, I feel as if it was a fairly successful test of the new levelling system over the course of several levels. It was also a test of the functionality of MapTool, with somewhat mixed but generally positive results.

 

One particular thing I'd like to talk a little about while I think of it is perks. There is, if I'm reading the mood of the community correctly, a fairly strong social expectation that DMs won't play favourites or overly advantage one character at the expense of another. I think there's also a reluctance to let perks become major character-defining traits, since as it stands they're generally given out by the DM with no player input. As a result of these two factors, perks have generally had a fairly minor effect, usually a moderate bonus to something that might come up once a session, if that. There have been some perks that were significantly more powerful, like Mal's Misty Escape in Rumors of My Death. Do we want a larger number of powerful perks to exist, or are we happy for most of them to have a minor effect?

 

As far as perk design goes, I think the best perks are those which give situational bonuses that encourage PCs to do interesting things. For example, I gave Lephista in CoH a perk giving her a bonus to healing when the target was at low HP: my intention was to create a tradeoff, since in order to get the best use out of her healing she had to wait until her allies were already in significant danger. By contrast, Dyen's perk (a +4 bonus to any roll made immediately after a critical failure) was just as thematically appropriate for the character but less interesting, because Dyen's player had no real control over when the perk would activate. Eph's also talked before about giving players of emperked characters more input into the perk-design process. Anyone else care to weigh in?

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Mal's Misty Escape was gained after defeating that Vampire thing in Rikkla's stronghold, both Mal and Josun rolled to see who got it, not knowing at the time that we rolling for that.

 

With the Rumors campaign, since we started at level 5, we all got to make our own perk starting out, which was kind of nice. It allowed us design something that went with our characters.

 

If you're going to reward player A's selfless defense of his fellow players with a perk, discussing it in game would break the flow, but waiting to discuss it after seems to take away from the atmosphere. In that case, it doesn't feel as rewardy to me.

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I once let something like perks rise above once-in-a-blue-moon prominence, and suddenly the players were playing just to get them. If a countermeasure for this is ever needed, I'd suggest making perks not just rare, but predictably rare. Something like: when the DM feels an action might deserve special recognition, there's a 1-in-N chance that a perk accrues. Everyone gets to know the value of N, and if it's large enough, people won't bother acting up for it.

 

And maybe introduce negative perks (quirks!) as well. Particularly dubious actions might incur quirks. Not as bad as a curse; a minor but distinctive liability.

 

Or maybe an action that has both glorious and dubious aspects might have a chance for bringing either a perk, or a quirk, or both. That might be the typical case, in fact.

 

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To be fair, Eph and I did discuss Mal's Misty Escape perk a bit when he earned it; originally, it could be used a number of times per day equal to level. That means Mal now would have been able to use it eight times per day. We both agreed this was a bit overpowered, and toned it back to a number of uses equal to half his level, rounded down.

 

But yeah, I definitely think there needs to be a bit of player input when it comes to perks, even if it's, "Here's your perk. It's open for a bit of tweaking." Another thing I'd like to see is perks that remain current and useful at higher levels. To use an example, while Amadan's Liea's Blessing perk (+1 Fire Attack Accuracy and Damage) is useful at lower levels, it loses its luster at higher levels*. This is because, when facing higher level monsters, a +1 doesn't do all that much*.

 

*This assumes a damage system similar to what Eph used for RomD. In Lilith's combat system, this perk would be considerably more powerful, since a +1 damage would have considerably more influence.

 

At any rate, one thing we definitely have to watch is how perks, especially multiple perks, combine with the character's abilities. Heroic Valor and Misty Escape, individually, are useful perks. Together, they're a defensive duo that'd make even a squishy wizard a royal pain to kill. Give that combo to a high-def character like Mal, and you've got an unholy terror of nigh-unkillability.

 

I don't think we have to worry about players playing for perks, though. It's ultimately the DM's decision who gets what. Also, as for 'quirks'... I don't mind characters having player-imposed weaknesses, but I'd really rather not go the route of 'earning' weaknesses. That's really just asking for trouble.

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I like SoT's idea of having 'quirks'. I think in the end, however, giving perks, quirks, puirks, or qerks is up to the DM and is at their discretion.

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your not a mod null. its not for you to enforce the rules. i can ask questions on here as much as i want the thing says. im just questionative

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I don't recall her mentioning rules at all. Criticizing etiquette is not the same thing.

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Loyal, null, who is male, was pointing out that you can stop filling topics with questions that have to be answered by taking the initiative to look things up yourself. It's a good idea. It's not a rule, but it's polite.

 

Now, please stop filling the thread. The point is made. Everyone, drop it.

 

—Alorael, who will just add the last detail: AIMHack is play-by-chat roleplaying indigenous to Spiderweb. The rules, roughly, are AIMHack. There have been quite a few games run.

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I was not micro-modding, or whatever you want to call it. I was simply asking you to show a little more forum manners without subverting the thread's direction. It's rather annoying to have to sift through lots of one-line questions, especially if the answer is rather easy to find.

 

In any case, if you have a problem with it, please take it up with me via PM. This thread is for AIMhack, not arguing.

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...so, anyway. Moving back to the topic.

 

Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
And maybe introduce negative perks (quirks!) as well. Particularly dubious actions might incur quirks. Not as bad as a curse; a minor but distinctive liability.

 

Man I can't wait to finish writing Escape From Sarden. You have no idea... but the fact that I've been reading up on Deadlands in preparation for an eventual campaign at my place of work should scare you.

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I've been thinking about doing my own campaign (not right now, but after I've more experience doing all this aimhack stuff), except in a more 'modern' environment. I don't want to spoil it on the off chance I actually do ever try it, but it would be like a post-post-apocalyptic world. Like a mix between the Elder Scrolls games and the early 1800's, I guess, with a little steampunk mixed in.

 

Not sure how it would work out on AIMhack (probably need a couple tweaks to the mechanics, off the top of my head), but I think it would be an interesting thing to try. Thoughts?

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Originally Posted By: null
I've been thinking about doing my own campaign (not right now, but after I've more experience doing all this aimhack stuff), except in a more 'modern' environment. I don't want to spoil it on the off chance I actually do ever try it, but it would be like a post-post-apocalyptic world. Like a mix between the Elder Scrolls games and the early 1800's, I guess, with a little steampunk mixed in.

Not sure how it would work out on AIMhack (probably need a couple tweaks to the mechanics, off the top of my head), but I think it would be an interesting thing to try. Thoughts?


Sounds like you suggesting Fallout, only from a slightly earlier time period.

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Went on an RPG-theory-reading binge again. Came back with a useful article on meaningful choices in character design. Long story short, choices pull their weight when they produce multiple significantly different outcomes, all of which are interesting and playable. Food-for-thought quote of the night:

 

Quote:
Effectiveness and fun should not be different options. Every option should be both fun and effective.

 

I've felt for a while that Strength is a mildly problematic stat in AIMhack as it currently stands (and I don't think I'm alone in this). This article, among other things it does, spells out why.

 

Will maybe post some comments on what else this could mean for AIMhack when I'm less tired.

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Random thought to add in:

 

Several campaigns have allowed non-magic users to gain a number of abilities (battle disciplines or combat techniques or whatever). I think a common rule for such abilities has been that players may have a number of techniques equal their intelligence number. I would like to suggest this should change. A magic user likes to boost Intelligence because it increases the effectiveness of spells AND lets them learn more spells. A weapon user, however, needs DEX or STR; and yet to make use of fighting abilities they are required to boost intelligence too?

 

Perhaps players could have a number of techniques equal to INT + (half of one martial skill)?

 

/two cents

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Originally Posted By: Triumph
Several campaigns have allowed non-magic users to gain a number of abilities (battle disciplines or combat techniques or whatever). I think a common rule for such abilities has been that players may have a number of techniques equal their intelligence number. I would like to suggest this should change. A magic user likes to boost Intelligence because it increases the effectiveness of spells AND lets them learn more spells. A weapon user, however, needs DEX or STR; and yet to make use of fighting abilities they are required to boost intelligence too?

Perhaps players could have a number of techniques equal to INT + (half of one martial skill)?

I agree, but the catch is that skills in martial and in magic are not mutually exclusive (A strong example here being Grastakoss). So you either have to separate the two entirely (meaning someone skilled would have access to both INT number of spells AND however many martial skills would be decided on), or the two would have to be compatible to allow mixing and matching.

I definitely don't think that fighters should have to train up INT in addition to their other attributes, but...

Wait, hang on. Here's a thought: All attributes provides slots.

STR grants melee-technique slots (sword maneuvers, spear strikes)
DEX grants missile-technique slots (bow maneuvers, sharpshooting, etc.)
INT grants spell slots as usual.

This would allow a character to have battle techniques AND spells if they're trained in both magic and martial, but would also allow a pure fighter (or pure archer) to have a decent array of techniques available to him.

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I've been doing some thinking about the same issue recently. And while we could relax the limit, and there are many reasonable ways to do so... is the limit actually necessary in the first place? It's hardly needed for balance reasons: I don't ever recall anyone complaining about a warrior being too versatile in combat.

 

If and when I run another campaign, I'd be inclined to just let everyone pick a reasonable number of spells and/or techniques, regardless of their stats. If a player comes to me with a list of 25 spells, I don't need to be able to point at a rule in order to say "no".

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Originally Posted By: Lilith
I've been doing some thinking about the same issue recently. And while we could relax the limit, and there are many reasonable ways to do so... is the limit actually necessary in the first place?

In a way, yes. It'd allow magic users to effectively turn into walking deus ex machinas; no limit means they can just pump the heck out of STR, meaning you'd have mages who not only can solve a plethora of problems with a wave of their hand, but also have the HP and melee power of a dedicated tank.

As it stands, the limits force the player to make some trade-offs; Yes, they can have a lot of spells, but they're not going to be a mainline fighter. Or they can put more points in STR and DEX and mundane skills, at the cost of some of their spellcasting ability.

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Originally Posted By: Nioca

In a way, yes. It'd allow magic users to effectively turn into walking deus ex machinas; no limit means they can just pump the heck out of STR, meaning you'd have mages who not only can solve a plethora of problems with a wave of their hand, but also have the HP and melee power of a dedicated tank.


To be honest, my game-design instincts tell me that in the long run, we should seriously consider phasing out the three main stats entirely.

edit: also, obligatory comic:

musclewizard.jpg

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Originally Posted By: Lilith
If and when I run another campaign. . .

You mean "when I run another campaign." tongue

Anyway, mechanical stuff: mages have reasons to invest in all three stats. If combat techniques aren't based on Int, fighters have little reason to go beyond two points. Giving fighters a reason to put points into Int seems like it would promote balance AND makes fighters more diverse by encouraging them to branch out into Int-based non-combat skills.

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The problem is that having more combat techniques doesn't really make a fighter more powerful, since most of the things a fighter might do through combat techniques can be handled in an ad-hoc way through creative action and Stamina expenditure. So the mechanically optimal thing to do is still to stick to two points of Int: going above two just adds extra colour. That's a choice between being useful and being interesting, which is exactly the sort of choice we don't want players to have to make.

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One option would be to have all stats affect everything in different ways. This allows the stats to add colour both in terms of personality and tactics, without actually making one stat progression more optimal than others.

 

For combat, this would mean recognizing that intelligence affects the sort of minor tactical choices in battle that we don't normally highlight or talk about, because they seem so minor: what path do I take in my movement, can I recognize the most felicitous moments to strike, how well can I anticipate my enemy's movements to defend against them, etc.

 

For spellcasting, this would mean making it require careful body movements, such as gesturing, and stating specifically that the strength stat also includes a measure of brawny stamina in some form that spellcasting draws upon.

 

etc.

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The problem with breaking down the barriers between the stats and forcing everyone to invest in all of them is that if everyone has to invest in all of them, why not just eliminate them and instead have the derived stats, like spell slots and HP, advance with level? For instance, you could get "attribute" points like we now get skill points, and then you could point buy using you attribute points on things like spell slots, combat techniques, HP, stamina, movement speed, defense, etc. For instance, let's arbitrarily say that every level you get either 10 or 2* level attribute points, like you do for skill points. Then, let's set up the following totally arbitrary exchange rate:

Code:
1 A = +1 HP3 A = +1 Spell slot3 A = +1 Combat Technique5 A = +1 STA 7 A = +1 Speed9 A = +1 Defense

 

So for instance, here's a standard L1 fighter, archer, and mage:

 

Click to reveal.. (Fighter McWarrior)

17 HP [+7, 13 AP remaining]

12 STA [+2, 3 AP remaining]

5 speed

1 Technique [+1, 0 AP remaining]

 

Technique (Fighterdoken): Fighter may choose to expend 5 STA to hurl himself at an enemy of his choosing. THe resulting enemy takes 10 damage and is knocked prone. All adjacent enemies are stunned.

 

Martial (Swordchucks): 5 [+5, 5 SP remaining]

Composure: 2 [+2, 2 SP remaining]

Craft (Swords): 1 [+1, 1 SP remaining]

Perception: 1 [+1, 0 SP remaining]

Click to reveal.. (Generic Half-Elven Dual-Class Ranger)

10 HP

10 STA

7 Speed [+2, 6 AP remaining]

2 Techniques [+2, 0 AP remaining]

 

Technique (Dual-Wield): After a one-off cost of 2 STA, the Ranger may dual-wield any weapon of his choosing (even a two-handed weapon) at a -2/-5 penalty for the duration of the combat

 

Technique (Dual-Dual-Wield): By expending an additional 3 STA, the Ranger may dual wield two dual wields at a total penalty of -2/-2/-5/-5 for the duration of the combat

 

Martial (Bow): 4 [+4, 10 SP remaining]

Nature: 3 [+3, 4 SP remaining]

Stealth: 2 [+2, 1 SP remaining]

First Aid: 1 [+1, 0 SP remaining]

Click to reveal.. (Black Mage Evilwizardington)

10 HP

11 STA [+1, 15 AP remaining]

5 speed

5 Spells [+5, 0 AP remaining]

 

Spell (Hadoken): A blast of concentrated energy siphons the love out of the universe for 10d10x10+10*LVL damage for all being withing seven miles

 

Spell (Electric Death): A lightning bolt kills the target and damages all adjacent

 

Spell (Meteor): The target is struck for bludgeoning and fire damage and sets the surrounding area on fire

 

Spell (Flare): All Evil targets within range take crippling damage

 

Spell (Ice-9): The spell siphons all heat energy into an alternate dimension, causing the heat death of the universe it is cast in.

 

Magic (Evocation): 4 [+4, 10 SP remaining]

Martial (Knife): 4 [+4, 0 SP remaining]

 

That does a decent job of separating the "survivability" stats into a separate domain as the "useful" stats, so a character shouldn't have to choose between being useful and surviving, and it also removes any possible confusion caused by stat overlap and whatnot. Given that this post is a rough estimate of what a more polished system might look like, what do you think?

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I actually had a second thought that occurred to me, so I thought I'd post that separately, to avoid confusion. Nioca made a comment in a chat at Calref about tying damage to the attributes, which would still encourage investment in all attributes, but incentivize investing in a "primary" attribute so as to not make every character have identical attributes, which would be boring and we don't want that.

 

Every weapons could be split along the lines of which attribute affected it, like so:

 

Code:
STRENGTH    |   DEXTERITY    |    INTELLIGENCE Swords     |     Bows       |      Spells Maces      |   Javelins     |      Scrolls  Axes      |    Slings      |       Wands Pikes      |    Daggers     |      Staves

 

Then, damage would simply be the specific weapon or spell's damage, plus the attribute in question, plus Stamina spent/bonuses active. For instance, a mage with 5 INT casting a Fireball (10 damage), would always do 15 damage, and a fighter with a +1 Longsword of Smashing (base 7) and 7 STR would also do 15 damage. Then, combat techniques would be useful for providing a way to do more damage or damage in styles you wouldn't normally be able to (ranged attacks with a sword, for instance).

 

 

To Hit would still be determined by the same d20+skill+stamina/bonuses. Obviously, rolling a 20 would do double damage, so you don't have to deal with the frustration of rolling min damage on a critical, but so long as you hit, you'd do consistent damage, which would mean that the DM wouldn't have to deal with frustrating weapons rolls, too. Everybody wins!

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Originally Posted By: Dantius
The problem with breaking down the barriers between the stats and forcing everyone to invest in all of them is that if everyone has to invest in all of them, why not just eliminate them and instead have the derived stats
Everyone wouldn't have to invest in all of them. Rather, everyone would have the option of investing in all of them, and each would give different bonuses. That way, you could play a warrior with all his points in Str, or just Str and Dex, or spread around all three skills, or even a warrior with most points in Int, and they would all be effective: voila, no trade-off of fun for functionality.

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I've never liked 'intelligence' as a stat. Players whose characters had high values did too many dumb things. I've come to prefer calling it something like 'talent', meaning magical or paranormal talent.

 

To me this suggests that warrior types with higher 'talent' scores would not become smarter, but rather kind of jedi-ish. Telekinetically pull your sword to your hand from ten yards away, fight with a blade of pure force, supplement your armor with an aura, that sort of stuff. It's cool, it could be effective, and if done right, it doesn't take away anything from either the traditional hulking brute warrior or the traditional spell-flinging wimp.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
I've never liked 'intelligence' as a stat. Players whose characters had high values did too many dumb things. I've come to prefer calling it something like 'talent', meaning magical or paranormal talent.


I've considered suggesting that it be renamed to something like Willpower for pretty much this reason (and the reverse too: I don't want every straight-up fighter to have to be played as being dumb as a post). It'd mean there'd be less justification for linking the stat to a lot of the knowledge-based skills like History or Nature or whatever, but considering the frankly excessive number of Int-based skills compared to the other two stats, maybe that's a feature rather than a bug.

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I've also recently started experimenting with eliminating "ability" scores, but retaining the distinction between strength, dexterity, and talent, by keeping them on as three parallel kinds of XP. I'm not sure how far I'll get with this, because I've only run one game in the system, and I don't know if the campaign will even continue. The intercontinental Skype connections to different sets of nieces and nephews weren't so great.

 

But I think it's a promising idea. The plan is for the gamemaster to somehow decide how many skill points of each type each player gets, after each adventure. The distribution should somehow reflect what sorts of abilities the players exercised during the episode.

 

Then the players can buy whatever skill levels they want with those points. Different skills cost different numbers of all three types of points; it's kind of like a resource management game, where you need the right combinations of different elements.

 

My intent is to have no explicit class system, but for the clustering of skill costs to make it naturally favorable to specialize in certain ways, so that recognizable classes remain useful labels. For instance, if the skill points you've spent until now were mostly Strength, with some Dexterity but very little Talent, then you're bound to be something recognizable as a knight-type armored warrior, or maybe some sort of all-offense hulk-like barbarian. There should be a lot of possible detailed builds, but the aggregate will fit the general warrior profile.

 

With that skill distribution, you'll have an easier time earning new Strength points in your next adventure, and you'll have to be creative to earn any Talent points. But if you try hard, you could do it, and suddenly develop some magical abilities. Maybe five levels from now you'll be a shaman-like magic warrior, and five levels after that, muscle wizard.

 

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hey guys i got drunk and when i regained consciousness i found a draft of a possible social conflict system lying on my desk in handwriting suspiciously similar to my own

 

Click to reveal..
Negotiation:

 

From the outset, keep in mind that this is an optional rule and shouldn't be used for everything. Simple stuff can still be handwaved away with a single Composure roll. These rules are meant to model major social confrontations with significant consequences.

 

Goal of the proposed rules:

 

* To create a dynamic social conflict system, where risks for both sides increase as the conflict goes on, forcing characters to decide whether they're willing to keep pushing for what they want or walk away with what they have.

 

Rules:

 

Each round of arguments is an Exchange. Both players roll and add their Composure. Stamina can be spent to adjust a roll, at a rate of +3 per Stamina point. After all adjustments, the roll must meet a threshold, called the Burden, which constantly increases.

 

Making a Point: If one character meets the Burden in an Exchange and the other doesn't, the character who meets the Burden has scored a Point, and the Burden increases for the next Exchange. A natural 20 is worth a bonus Point no matter what (even if your opponent meets the Burden), and a natural 1 means that an extra Point is scored against you no matter what.

 

Pressing Your Case: If both characters meet the Burden in an Exchange, neither character has poked a significant hole in the other's position, but the level of tension between the characters has increased. The Burden increases for the next exchange.

 

Winning and Losing: Once three Points have been scored against a character, they've lost the argument. They may or may not have been convinced of anything, but they've been outmatched conversationally and everyone can see it. Short of pulling out a weapon, there's no way they're getting what they want today. However, if any Points were scored against the winner, the loser can choose one part of their argument that maintains its credibility per Point scored.

 

Breakdown: If both characters fail to meet the Burden in a single Exchange, either the negotiations or the characters themselves have broken down. In any case, a Breakdown means that the negotiation immediately ends on a hostile note, all Points scored are null and void, neither party gets what they want, and everyone wishes they just walked away a little earlier.

 

Walking Away: In each Exchange, a character may choose to Walk Away instead of trying to make a point. Walking Away is an attempt to end the negotiation peacefully by agreeing to disagree. The player choosing to Walk Away rolls no dice for this Exchange, while their opponent may choose either to let the negotiation end or to roll for a parting shot. If their roll meets the Burden, they score one last Point (potentially winning the argument); if the roll fails, a Breakdown occurs. In any case, the negotiation ends at the end of the current Exchange. If either or both sides have scored Points, but not enough to win the argument, they are converted to concessions in the usual way.

 

Issues:

 

* Too complex? I tried to make it as simple as possible without having it degenerate into "you roll a die, GM decides what the roll means".

 

* Too much terminology? Does all the jargon pull its weight, or would it be clearer to just call an Exchange a "turn"?

 

* No particularly intuitive way to extend a social conflict to more than two characters at a time without the mechanics falling apart. Maybe the Burden for one side increases more slowly if a different character makes the roll in each Exchange? This encourages group participation while keeping individual bonuses meaningful.

 

* I don't want to overincentivise Walking Away, but I don't want to make it impossible either. My hope is that players won't be so risk-averse that they'll always walk away whenever two Points have been scored against them, but that they'll seriously consider it at least some of the time.

 

* The starting Burden and its rate of increase have to be set carefully so that victory and Breakdown are both outcomes with a realistic possibility of happening.

 

* Is three Points the right number for the victory requirement? Should the number of Points be variable, depending on how how much of a big deal the group wants the scene to be?

 

* It's kind of hard to make mechanics that analyse the content of arguments, so unless the GM decides to dole out situational bonuses for good arguments (which they probably should, even if it opens them to accusations of favouritism), what exactly the player decides to say doesn't make much difference to the outcome of the conflict.

 

sarachim thought it seemed okay but maybe there needed to be more explicit stake-setting to clarify what the consequences of each possible outcome are? on the other hand i don't want to make it feel too restrictive

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I think that qualifies as a brilliant abomination.

 

It beautifully captures a lot of the feel of social conflict, and it makes it into a neat little mini-game. It might be the basis for a serious model of negotiation and conflict.

 

But it's trying to put rules and die rolls in place of a basic role-playing element. The point of playing live RPGs is that this sort of thing is handled by role-playing it out, not by rolling dice and selecting options.

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Gonna respond by quoting a thing somebody else wrote at you, because he said it better than I can at 6 in the morning:

 

Quote:
Fighting is great! I like fighting in my socially constructed entertainment! I have nothing against games composed solely of action sequences.

 

But what if you're not playing in a game like that, and you want to make a character that is really good at something which is not fighting? You may find that either you are asked to "roleplay" out the entire scene, or maybe to make one skill roll.

 

You may not have a problem with this!

 

But imagine if a GM said to you "You want to fight the goblins? Hmm...well, would you like to describe how you do it, and then I decide whether you succeed or not, or would you to just roll once to see how you do?"

 

One response to the first option might be "I don't know how to fight goblins, but my character is a level 9 goblin-kicker! Why are you limiting the power of my awesome character based on my real-life attributes?"

 

A response to the second option might be "I made this character great at fighting because I like to hear about them being in awesome fights, and so do the other players! Why are you cutting our enjoyment so painfully short?"

 

If you can understand why these objections are totally reasonable, then you can see the main reasons why many designers and players (including me) think that Social Conflict is pretty great, and many games include it in some fashion.

 

I've very clearly said that I don't want this system to be used to model every social interaction. But sometimes you want a system to decide who wins an argument, rather than just having it come down to what the DM decides (which, in practice, is what "just roleplay it out" means).

 

Also, keep in mind that we already use social conflict mechanics to some extent: there's a Composure skill, and it does get used in actual play, just in a somewhat fast-and-loose, arbitrary kind of way. So if what you want is a system where social conflicts are resolved solely by vigorous creative agreement, that horse has sailed. Given that there's already some mechanical support for social conflict, I don't see the problem with improving the quality of that support.

 

By the way, if anyone wants to see an example of a more complicated social conflict system, the system I'm using draws some fairly strong inspiration from Burning Wheel's Duel of Wits system. I've tried to simplify it down to its essential features and add a few improvements of my own.

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Well, I could see using this for some relatively rare cases where the interplay is going to deal with a lot of boring detail that the characters can be presumed to know, but that the players aren't going to want to learn (and the gamemaster doesn't want to make up in detail). Law court cases, for example; or duels of wits among courtiers, over politics and innuendo that have to be current in the court.

 

I have used die rolls to help decide verbal interactions myself, since I use "Leadership" and "Guile" as skills. But the way I make that work is that a skilled character with a good roll gets a hint (intuition) about what line to take, and is presumed to have great delivery; the player still has to give me the gist of what they're trying to say, and that still makes a difference, too.

 

Lots of people have fantasies about being a mighty warrior, who couldn't personally fight their way out of a bag of holding. But I find it hard to imagine a player who really wants their character to be a suave and persuasive diplomat, but hasn't the faintest notion themselves of how to argue and persuade. Maybe it's just that most of the players I've known were really into verbal interaction. But see, that's why they were into role-playing games.

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I feel as if you're creating a false dichotomy. The fact that there's mechanical support for social interactions doesn't mean you can't also roleplay out the interaction: it just means that once you're done roleplaying it out, you've produced an outcome instead of just a bunch of words. Most RPGs have mechanical support for combat, but only in dysfunctional groups does every action degenerate into "I attack the goblin" with no further description.

 

Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
Lots of people have fantasies about being a mighty warrior, who couldn't personally fight their way out of a bag of holding. But I find it hard to imagine a player who really wants their character to be a suave and persuasive diplomat, but hasn't the faintest notion themselves of how to argue and persuade.

 

I'm sure most people have notions of how to be persuasive, and that those notions are all a little different. I don't think the GM should have to decide which of those notions are correct.

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A naive version of my complaint might be a false dichotomy, but that's not my point. I don't doubt that sometimes you'll want to use a system just like yours — court cases and trading barbs with the king's jester, for example. And whenever you do use it, you can also flesh it out with some description, the same way you can celebrate a roll of 20 with an elaborate depiction of the goblin's dire fate.

 

But my bet is that you won't actually want to use the system very often. And that if you do use it, then any efforts to flesh it out with description will tend to undermine the system. Players may accept their characters losing an argument on a pure die roll, just as easily as they accept losing a toe to an ogre's axe. But if you add some flavor text to the toe chop, they're unlikely to see your description of shoe leather flying as grounds to doubt the declared outcome. Add some words to explain how they lost the argument, though, and they'll very likely object immediately: that's not a valid counterargument, who could think that?, that makes no sense, that's not funny at all ...

 

And I don't think that's a problem of implementation detail. I think it's a basic flaw.

 

RPGs work by papering detail over with abstractions. In real life, if you get hurt, you have to be hurt somewhere in particular. In a game, you can just lose HP. Some games do try to be more specific, but no games I know of deal in blood vessels.

 

But you also need to have some content, some stuff that gets treated explicitly by the game. The normal deal is that discussions are in this class, because they're the one thing you can really do. If you abstract them away, you may as well play a straight wargame, or a CRPG.

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The Riddle of Steel actually does track blood loss (and shock, and some other medicalish variables) for every character.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
But my bet is that you won't actually want to use the system very often. And that if you do use it, then any efforts to flesh it out with description will tend to undermine the system. Players may accept their characters losing an argument on a pure die roll, just as easily as they accept losing a toe to an ogre's axe. But if you add some flavor text to the toe chop, they're unlikely to see your description of shoe leather flying as grounds to doubt the declared outcome. Add some words to explain how they lost the argument, though, and they'll very likely object immediately: that's not a valid counterargument, who could think that?, that makes no sense, that's not funny at all ...

And I don't think that's a problem of implementation detail. I think it's a basic flaw.


I agree the fact that half a page of rules text isn't smart enough to analyse the content or quality of arguments is an inherent limitation. I'd say this limitation could be seen as a feature rather than a bug: it may be better not to analyse the content and quality of arguments too deeply during play, because everyone at the table has a conflict of interest in doing so. As a result of this conflict of interest, players will feel the urge to object when their characters lose an argument regardless of whether or not there are social conflict rules; having codified rules helps them suppress that urge by giving them something objective to refer to, which is conducive to harmonious group play.

Quote:
But you also need to have some content, some stuff that gets treated explicitly by the game. The normal deal is that discussions are in this class, because they're the one thing you can really do. If you abstract them away, you may as well play a straight wargame, or a CRPG.


I'm not sure I'd call it the "normal deal" any more: the vast majority of modern RPGs have some kind of mechanic for extended social conflicts. Have you actually played a game such as Burning Wheel or Dogs in the Vineyard that features well-designed social conflict mechanics? My experience with them is not that they take anything away from the enjoyment of roleplaying out conversations: quite the opposite, in fact.

By the way, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, I'm inclined to put less stock in your arguments because you don't actually play with the rest of us, so the decisions our groups make don't affect you in any meaningful way. If you're the only person objecting, then ignoring you is pretty clearly the right thing to do.

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