Nuclear Beasts Blog
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Converting Gifts to Edges
So now that I've decided to switch to an advantage/disadvantage system more similar to Savage Worlds' Edges than Ironclaw's Gifts, exactly what will change?
Well, most Edges will be on a 1 to 2 point scale (basically Minor Edges and Major Edges). You won't get very many compared to Ironclaw (where you could have up to 10 different Gifts at character creation) but they'll be more impressive. Flaws, similarly, will generally be worth -1 or -2 and they can only be used to pay for Edges, not higher skills.
Characters start with 2 points of Edges and can take up to 2 points of Flaws to buy more, so the maximum you can get at character creation is 4 points of Edges (four Minor, two Major or whatever combination you want). Buying them with XP will be doable but expensive... I'm thinking 10-20 XP for a new Edge and I might restrict you to only purchasing one at a time. I might also take them off of the advancement chart and say that you get a free Edge every X adventures, but I generally like a bit more flexibility than that.
So, in Ironclaw terms, a Minor Edge would probably be a 2-3 point Gift and a Major one a 4-6 point one. This may mean that some of the cheaper Edges will become more potent... or maybe just rarer.
A lot of them will be available at both the 1 and 2 point level. For example, Hard to Kill, which lets you take more damage before having to roll a Survival Test, will grant +1 hit point at the 1 point level and +2 at the 2 point level. Long-Winded, which does the same for Fatigue, might only be available at the 1 point level... I can't decide if being able to take extra fatigue is worth as much as being able to take extra damage. I tend to think not.
Racial Edges, on the other hand, will probably stay pretty wussy. Many of them would probably be only 1/2 of a point compared to normal Edges. Rather than giving point costs for various races, I'll give bonuses to the really crappy ones and add flaws to the really good ones so that they're all pretty much balanced. So far it looks like the basic level will be 4 points worth of Racial Edges. Breeds that get less than that will have their Race die apply to some extra skills or maybe just get a free Minor Edge or something to make up for it. Breeds that get more will have to be penalized in some fashion. I'll just have to see how hard it is to do, but I think it's possible. After all, if being an Elephant means giving up that free Major Edge you get at character creation, that's a pretty hefty cost to pay.
Character Sheet Changes - Part II
Well, I think the changes are about done. I redid the radiation symbol that the stats are in, getting rid of Will, thickening the lines and otherwise cleaning it up a bit. Durability is gone. The Gifts & Flaws section is now Edges & Flaws and there aren't as many spaces for them. Fewer skill slots, too. The second column of skills is now "Expertise Skills" and under it I've inserted a Combat Quick Reference that's a little simpler than the old one to reflect the simplified combat system. All of that extra space was used to insert a Rules Quick Reference at the bottom of the page, which explains the basics of Standard Tests, Reliability/Damage Tests, Opposed Tests, Stat Tests, Expertise Skills and the Survival and Endurance Tests.
The back page didn't require as much alteration. Shields have been merged with melee weapons, and armor now has 3 separate protection ratings (vs regular hits, vs critical hits and vs extraordinary hits).
I'm making the assumption that I'll handle difficulties with modifiers. For example, an Easy test will be at +2, a Hard one at -4 and a Nigh Impossible one at -8.
I had wanted to write in the common combat maneuvers, but I didn't have room. I suppose I might at some point remove the Rules Quick Reference and put it on a sheet of its own. Then I could expand it to include stuff like Initiative, healing, combat manuevers, exactly how fast you'll bleed to death if you have a Serious Wound and no medical attention, etc.
Not sure what I'd put in its place, though. I could just expand the Skills and Edges areas, but it would be like adding another 10 lines to each column. Perhaps I could add a big Notes section for listing contacts, character history, etc.
This should be good enough for the playtest, though. I might even not bother with it, and just use the old "scribble stats on white paper" method, especially if I don't have time to fill in the sheets properly before Wednesday.
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Numbered Index and Overview
I added numbers to the Alphabetical Index, mostly so that I could tell how many entries I've written so far. This should make number 140.
Not bad, really, considering how many projects I've abandoned over the years. If the next playtest goes well, I may even switch gears from rules-brainstorming to rewriting the actual gamebook. I haven't seriously touched that file in ages, ever since I decided that the rules needed more work and weren't really ready to go. There's no way I'll be done before the end of December (my original goal), but I might only need a few months after that point.
Art, of course, is the major headache. Once I've settled on how the rules will work (and the current incarnation seems very promising; I've run some makeshift battles between NPCs and so far it seems quite good), I'll need to rewrite the game rules... Hm. Let me make a quick list.
- Rewrite rules manual.
- Incorporate various Blog entries into the rules.
- Write the setting guide, which currently is just a collection of short essays and area descriptions.
- Fill in undescribed areas with at least basic info.
- Layout the text. Insert art, break up pages with text boxes, etc.
- Redo the map, with updated info.
- Redo the character sheet, with updated info.
- Decide how I want to publish... blow a thousand bucks on a serious, comparatively professional version, with editing and additional artwork provided by professionals? Or just put together a handmade PDF and keep it cheap.
I'm toying with the idea of renaming a few things. For example, calling the strength of your animal instincts your "Race" trait is really just a holdover from Ironclaw. I've thought about calling it your Instinct rating or something. I mean, that's what it is, it's just that Race is shorter and rolls off the tongue a little easier than "Instincts". I could also call it your Breed rating, since what it applies to is determined by the breed you choose, but I'd really prefer to avoid all of the low-brow jokes that would inspire.
Perception I'd love to change to a shorter word, just as a "style" thing. Most of the stats could be reduced to single syllable words or already are... it would be Strength, Guts, Speed, Brains, Charm and... and... what, Ken? See? Sense? No really good options. I'll probably stick with Muscles, Guts, Speed, Brains, Charm and Perception.
I may switch to using the Savage Worlds term of "Edge" instead of Gifts, especially since I'm thinking of making it so that you acquire them over time instead of all at character creation. Flaws can stay Flaws. I don't like the Savage Worlds "Hindrances". If I keep Gifts, it'll probably refer to bonuses that can only be taken at character creation... the sort of thing that's "given" to you by birth, rather than something you chose.
Expertise is another problem term. I'd really prefer a shorter word for "something I'm knowledgable about or good at doing". But I haven't got any good alternatives yet.
Low Beast Benefits Over Time
My original plan for making Low Beasts playable was to just give them a substantial number of bonuses at character creation, to make up for their "No Hands" flaw. They could carry more, run faster, take more damage and had better racial skills and natural weapons. All in all, it was quite a benefits package.
But it has worried me of late that while that works fine at character creation, it's a bit unbalanced over time. For brand new characters, it was fine... maybe even slanted in their direction (making a Low Beast slightly better than a High overall). But over time, the High Beast will be able to acquire guns, ancient armor, maybe even a car... and the Low Beast will still be using claws and teeth.
Basically, the more points the characters get, the less impressive the bonus points you got at the start will seem. Getting the equivalent of 30 points when everyone else has 20 is great... but when they've got 100, you'll only be at 110, 10% better instead of 50% better.
So what I'm thinking now is that I should offer them some bonuses that accrue over time but aren't as important at character creation. One way I can do it is Edge pricing. Some Edges can be Major Edges for High Beasts and Minor Edges for Low. Thus, Low Beasts can acquire them cheaper and faster... but High Beasts can still get them if they really want to.
What sort of Edges would be cheaper for Low Beasts? I'm thinking about stuff like Improved Race Trait (your instincts become sharper, giving you bonuses with those things that your breed is naturally good at) and Psychic Powers (Low Beasts could acquire new powers more cheaply). Since you'd only be able to get new Edges periodically (they're too expensive to acquire right away), the benefits wouldn't necessarily show up right away... or ever, really. A Low Beast who didn't want Psychic Powers or a better Race trait wouldn't see any benefits.
So, I dunno. I may have to just get a lot of feedback on this idea. I could also just make Edges slightly cheaper to purchase after character creation for Low Beasts. Over time, that would probably give them a slight bonus. Heck, I could also just say that they always get 1 extra XP, which would let them acquire anything they wanted faster.
So I'm torn between allowing them to advance faster in specific, appropriate areas, allowing them to advance slightly faster in general (one extra XP per session) or just giving them a small benefit at character creation and trying to find other ways to make sure that finding an assault rifle doesn't render the Low Beasts in the party irrelevant in combat.
Now that I'm leaning more towards allowing folks to acquire Edges/Gifts after character creation and just spreading them out (the way Feats are in D20 and Edges are in Savage Worlds), making new characters is actually quite easy.
Here's an example PC:
Dirk the Huge and Burly High Hyena Warrior
Muscles d12, Guts d8, Speed d8, Brains d6, Charm d4, Perception d6
Race d6 (applies to Hyena Howls, Listen, Smell, Tactics, Tracking, Natural Weapons)
Teeth (damage d12,d8,d4)
Scavenger (+4 to survive ingested poisons, can eat carrion)
Echoing Cry (secret hyena language, can be heard at great distances)
Major Possession (Assault Rifle)
Assault Rifle (Expertise) d8
Lynn's Woods (Expertise) d6
Spot (½) d6
The "Expertise" skills are unique ones. Lynn's Woods is the name of his home territory, so the skill covers knowledge of the area and its layout and helps with skills like Wilderness and Hiking there. The Assault Rifle skill covers firing, repairing and maintaining his treasured gun. I'd kind of like a better nomenclature than just putting "(Expertise)" after the skill, but I'm not sure what. I might actually have a separate box on the character sheet for Expertise skills. They'll often require an extra line or two of explanation, to help you remember what they can be used with.
Friday, November 28, 2003
Feats, Edges and Gimmicks
Regardless of what they call them, a lot of games offer what are basically minor powers that characters can pick up during play. They're kind of unrealistic but nice nevertheless. Players love to be able to look over a list of special abilities and choose ones that round out their character in a distinctive manner.
Up to this point, I've always tried to avoid using them. I preferred a "pure" skill-based system, where something like the ability to fight while riding a horse would entail some minor penalties, rather than a binary "This guy can do it; that guy can't" system. But there are cases where it's actually more realistic to handle things this way.
Take the aforementioned fighting-from-horseback example. In a pure skill-based system, you'd probably just apply penalties to their rolls. There wouldn't really be any way to offset those penalties except by improving your skill. After all, "skill solely for the purpose of ignoring horseback penalties" would be so ridiculously specialized that it would hardly be worth including in the game. On the other hand, you could have a 1-Point Feat that says "I've been specially trained to fight from horseback; ignore the standard penalties for fighting while riding."
This means that there's no real way to have the band of mongol warriors who aren't all that good at fighting, but who can still fight effectively from horseback. Well, actually, you can, but it takes special rules like Ironclaw's limits... where none of your combat dice can be larger than your largest riding die. Which means that as soon as your Riding skill hits d12, you're set... you can now fight from horseback without any penalties.
So I've been looking over Savage Worlds a bit. There's a nice mix of different sorts of Edges there. Most of them are just "I'm really good at X, so I add +1 or +2 to it," but there are some interesting ones, too. For example, Florentine means that the character has been trained to fight with two weapons. It requires an Agility die of d8 and a Fighting die of d8 and it grants a +1 bonus to Fighting rolls against foes with only a single weapon and no shield. It also negates the first point of "ganging up" bonus from being surrounded by multiple foes. That's an interesting way to handle two-weapon combat and it's not particularly overpowered or underpowered... although it would be nice if it said what sort of weapons were appropriate.
I don't want too many weapon-combo based bonuses, though, unless there are equivalents for Beasts using teeth and claws. Also, some of them seem kind of lame or odd, like First Strike. That just gives you a free attack against anyone who moves next to you. There are also "Professional" Edges, which basically work a bit like a career. They have a bunch of requirements and then give you bonuses to a handful of skills related to that occupation.
I suppose I should finish working out the basic combat and game rules first, then brainstorm for the sort of feats and edges that folks could get. I could also break with the Ironclaw tradition and use the D20 method instead... you get another Gift Point every X adventures instead of paying for them with the same points that you buy skills and whatnot with. Or I could compromise and say that you are limited to X points of Gifts at character creation, but your upper limit rises by +1 every 3 game sessions (or whatever interval seems most appropriate).
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Well, it seemed like an appropriate day to brainstorm a bit about Beast holidays.
First, the dates of most aren't set. Detailed calendars just don't exist. Most are set immediately after some significant event, such as the next full moon after the first snowfall of winter, or three days after the end of this year's harvest.
And they vary a lot. There's a lot of variation between different communities, because they're often separated by days or even weeks of travel. But I'll list off a few common ones.
Founders Day/Founding Day: many of the more advanced towns and cities have an annual celebration in honor of the brave Beasts who first settled that spot, generations ago. They may honor a specific hero (usually the Alpha of the tribe at the time) or just celebrate the fact that a suitable home was found at all. The date on which the celebration occurs doesn't vary as much as you might think; it's most commonly held in the middle of the summer, giving the Beasts a brief break from their winter preparations.
Winter's Rest: in the colder sections of the country, Beasts generally have to hole up for months at a time to wait out the winter. Winter's Rest is generally held within two weeks of first retreating into their winter shelters. It's celebrated with hot drinks (generally some sort of cider), dancing (generally restrained, ritual dances) and singing around a warm fire. Not much food is actually consumed; a community would have to be very confident of their winter stores to actually hold a feast so early in the winter months. It's intended to give thanks for their shelter.
Springbirth: the counterpart to Winter's Rest, this celebration is held during the first warm day of Spring, often on very short notice. Everyone comes outside into the sunlight and wild and energetic dances are held. It's seen as a time for revelry and romance. If the warm weather holds throughout the day, it's considered a good omen for the year. If the sudden return of colder temperatures interrupts the festivities, it's seen as an ill omen and Beasts worry more about sudden blizzards and unexpected cold snaps.
Thanksgiving: in Man-worshipper territory, this feast invariably requires a turkey as the centerpiece, even if the Beasts are herbivores (they just don't eat very much of it). Elsewhere, Beasts tend to be less picky. Thanksgiving is held at the close of the harvest, when all of the food stores have been gathered. A celebratory feast is held, giving thanks for the bounty and the Alpha or Lorekeeper of the tribe commonly gives a speech or sermon. Particularly perishable foods (those difficult to store over the winter) are often prepared and devoured in great quantities so that they won't go to waste.
Samoc: held on a moonless night roughly around the time of the winter solstice (the longest night of the winter), Samoc is a ritual vigil. Every adult is expected to remain awake and silent through the entire night, keeping watch on the sky. A small fire may be lit (or candles used if available) but for the most part the ritual requires silence and rapt attention. If conditions are harsh, they'll remain indoors, but they still keep quiet and sit listening all night. The rite is widespread but exactly what they're supposedly watching for varies from clan to clan. Many believe that dangerous spirits move throughout the land on Samoc and will attack any clan that isn't watching for them. Others watch for lights in the night sky, considering comets and such to be omens of imminent distaster. Reclaimers generally regard them as a sign that Man is watching and will return soon. It's a common Reclaimer tradition that Man will return to them on Samoc night and it's important for all Beasts to be ready to greet them.
Mass / Mansday: a few areas (particularly Man-worshippers) have actually reinstituted a form of the ancient Christmas celebration of Man. Gifts are given and songs sung. Some tribes believe that Mass celebrates the birth of the first Man and decorate their homes with stylized images of a human with his right arm raised in a friendly greeting. Since it's most commonly held in midwinter, only the really prosperous areas generally pay much attention to it. The others don't have the resources to spare for giving gifts, although they may gather and sing ancient songs from their tribal Litany.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
So, I've got a short list of Psychic Powers that I still want to write up for the game. Some of them may be tossed or heavily revised first, but here are the basic ideas I'm tossing around.
- World Dance: the psychic enters a light trance that enables them to "go with the flow of events" and sense and move with motion around them. It would grant phenomenal balance and major bonuses to dodge, but would prohibit any kind of actual offensive action.
- Soul-Binding: the psychic can tie a person's spirit to their body so that the target can't actually die while the power is being maintained. Of course, the psychic can't rest to recover fatigue while maintaining a power, so if no one manages to successfully treat the victim's wounds they'll eventually die when the psychic collapses from exhaustion.
- Compelling: paralyzing or controlling the bodies of other people with your mind. Definitely a "restricted" (NPC-only) power.
- Hypnotism: putting folks into trances. Probably restricted.
- Shadow-Stalking: a kind of "don't notice me" field that passes for invisibility.
- Influence: subtly influence someone's actions instead of overtly like Compelling.
- Channeling: letting the restless spirits of the dead act through you.
- Possession: leaving your body to seize control of someone else's. Probably restricted.
Character Sheet Changes
I need to modify the character sheet to fit the recent changes I've made to the game. I figured I'd take a few minutes to go over it and list them off, just as a reminder to myself.
- Will has been absorbed by Guts. The center Will circle in the radiation symbol should be shrunk back down to the normal size and the label removed. Other references to Will should go away.
- Durability should probably go elsewhere... for almost every PC it'll be 4. So it should probably go in the combat shortcuts box or something. Only armor will normally modify it. Also, there will be 3 entries, so I should probably provide 3 boxes.
- The "Special Traits" section might end up being irrelevant... I'm not sure yet. It may be renamed "Half-Cost Skills" or something instead.
- Every skill needs a big box for dice values and a small one for putting XP checkmarks. Since it normally only takes 2 checkmarks to improve a skill, we'll only need one small box (if you improve it again when it's already got a checkmark, you erase it and improve the skill a notch instead).
- The combat summary box might change a bit. Specific weapons skills won't be listed anymore; they've been subsumed into Melee and Shooting.
- I should probably add a success chart... equals diff = tie/success, beat diff = success, beat by 4-7 = crit, 8+ = extra.
- Shields should probably be removed from the armor section and made part of a Weapons/Shields section.
- The Survival Test is now Muscles & Guts.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Feeling moody about the game again. I find this happens a lot when I'm short on sleep. Nothing really seems worth doing.
Today's angst is about the "kicker", which I'm using to mean that part of the game that immediately spawns ideas and/or enthusiasm for it. I don't really feel like I've got one for Nuclear Beasts. Oh, there are specific ideas and specific aspects of the game that I really like, but nothing overall that would really fit into like a one-paragraph summary. No "War against the Machines" or "Can you Save the Planet from the Zaroks".
Of course, having a "kicker" may be overrated. I don't think any of the really popular games do. They're just settings and rules and the kicker, if any, is being able to play particular sorts of PCs. D&D doesn't really have one. Vampire mostly doesn't... maybe you could include the whole Masquerade aspect (where vampires have to carefully conceal their existence). I'm not sure. Neither Ironclaw nor Savage Worlds really do, either. The first has a detailed world and the second is totally generic; neither one really tries to entice you with a particular kind of plot.
So I suppose none of that really matters as much as how good the rules are and how cohesive the setting is. I just wish that I had something that really inspired adventure ideas, because I desperately need to run a few playtest sessions. I'm afraid I may be putting it off, because if the latest version of the ruleset ends up turning me off, I'll be hosed again. I've rewritten the combat and psi systems several times already. I'm not really sure that the project could survive another complete rewrite.
At that point, I'd have to seriously think about dumping the rules and trying to salvage the setting... port it to D20 or TriStat or one of the smaller rulesets on the net. Heck, I could probably even convert it back to the Ironclaw system (it spent awhile as a post-Apoc Ironclaw variant, way back when) and try to interest Sanguine in it, but I've had bad experiences trying to get answers back from them before.
Could I add a kicker? Yeah, probably. The main one I've thought of is the Low Beasts campaign... throw out all High Beasts, maybe even all primates, and make a game where no one has hands, but they still have to deal with robots and killer mutants and stuff. The you don't have any hands bit actually makes it even more realistic, because upgraded intelligence is probably a lot more practical in real life than turning animals into humanoids. But it also eliminates a ton of character types, probably loses a decent portion of the "Furry" crowd that might otherwise have been interested, and would require a lot of rewriting of the setting.
The Low Beast Campaign
One interesting idea for a Nuclear Beasts game is the Low Beast Campaign. This is set somewhere between the period where the first Beasts were created and when the High Beasts first appeared.
Every character is automatically a Low Beast or an Ape/Monkey, as the primates are the only Beasts with hands during this time period. This casts the whole setting into a different light. Rather than a partnership between High Beasts who can use tools and weapons easily and Low Beasts who have special abilities of their own, High Beasts are almost completely absent. You can even go a step further and remove the primates, forcing all player characters to be Low Beasts. Chimeras are also practically unknown, since they are generally the offspring of a High and a Low Beast of the same breed.
The lack of hands means that a lot of things that would normally be easy now become serious challenges. You won't find a working forge or a practicing blacksmith in a world where no one can swing a hammer. A normal party containing a mix of High and Low Beasts can just assume that the High Beasts handle all of the minor tasks for which hands are better suited than paws. Furthermore, many Low Beasts benefit from tools designed for them by High Beasts even if the High Beasts are present. Carrying baskets, for example, are generally made by High Beasts then traded to Low Beasts who use them. Without any High Beasts in the setting, these items become really rare or completely absent.
Without them, just carrying supplies with you can become a burdensome chore. Ancient human tools that can be made to work instead become much more valuable. Ancient junk like plastic trash cans, often ignored in the regular setting, might be very valuable. After all, the plastic is generally soft enough to pierce with claws but sturdy enough to hold at least a few heavy objects. Wire could be threaded through newly punched holes to give you some way (however awkward) to carry it with you.
A Low Beast campaign will generally remain lower powered. Potent psychic abilities might be available, but you won't find people putting on ancient body armor and shooting their enemies with refurbished sniper rifles.
Monday, November 24, 2003
Dream-Sending (Psychic Power)
Dream-Sending (Telepathic Communication via Shared Dreams)This is the ability of the psychic to communicate with other people via shared dreams. It requires the user to enter a trance-state somewhere between meditation and true sleep. Each use takes about an hour and costs the psychic 1 Fatigue. The trance can be extended indefinitely at the cost of 1 Fatigue per hour until the psychic gives up or becomes exhausted.
While the dream-sender can make contact with a waking mind, they can't actually communicate with them so long as the subject remains awake. It's common for a dream-sender to maintain the contact for hours, waiting for their target to finally enter slumber.
- Botch: you are assailed by fragmentary, nightmare images and take 1 extra fatigue.
- Failure: you never make contact with the target.
- Success: you achieve contact. Once the target falls asleep, you can send them a short message of up to 10 seconds in length. This will tend to be broken up into intermittent fragments with long pauses between them on the receiving end, so you should keep the message simple.
- Critical Success: you and the target enter a shared lucid dream and can communicate with words and images for about a minute.
- Extraordinary Success: the shared dream can incorporate tactile and olfactory sensations as well, and can last for up to an hour. If desired, you can try to force the target to wake up: if they are asleep naturally, they'll wake up immediately. If they are unconscious due to injury or sickness, they can immediately reroll whatever resistance test they would normally roll to awaken and keep the better result. Injuring them in the dream has the same result as trying to force them to awaken, it's just more unsettling.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Inner Focus (Psychic Power)
Inner Focus (Self-hypnotism)Inner Focus is the ability of the psychic to place themself in a light trance in which all of their mental faculties will be dedicated towards a single task. This lets them muster an extraordinary amount of concentration and devote it to a specific purpose, but they will be worse at doing anything else for the duration.
While entranced they can't talk and will be totally focused on their chosen goal, often to the exclusion of all else. Charm based skills are generally impossible to use and Inner Focus cannot be used to benefit them. Nor can it be used to boost psychic power rolls, but it can benefit resistance checks.
It can only be used deliberately. Invoking it normally takes 3 rounds and costs the psychic 1 Fatigue. It cannot be used on other people.
- Botch: the trance is established incorrectly; you are at -1 to all tasks for the next five minutes, after which the trance will end.
- Failure: the power does not work at all.
- Success: you enter a light trance. You will be at +1 for all actions involving your task of choice and at -1 for any other actions. The trance will last for the duration of a single task (climbing a wall, crafting a weapon, etc.) or a minimum of 1 minute.
- Critical Success: the bonus is +2 and the penalty -2. The trance lasts a minimum of 5 minutes.
- Extraordinary Success: the bonus is +3 and the penalty -3. The trance lasts a minimum of one hour.
Saturday, November 22, 2003
Summoning power flavor text
"I am what you desire...
lover, mate, warming fire,
long-lost friend, ancient foe,
rest, peace, succor from woe,
ancient secret, lost cub-child,
treasure golden, weapons piled,
food for table, water pure,
all yours - follow my lure.
I am everything you desire...
every goal, any fire,
what you need, what you seek
your mind burning, will weak...
Come to me...
everything you want to see,
everything you need me be,
all and more you shall see,
all and more I can be,
Only come to me...
Come to me...
Come to me."
---- Summoning Chant of the Lurker
Summoning (Restricted Power)
Summoning (Siren Call)This very rare power allows the psychic to reach out and draw a vulnerable mind towards themself. The victim is entranced and is generally convinced that they are heading towards whatever they currently desire most. The psychic actually has no control over the form that the lure will take in the victim's mind; it is created by the victim's own subconscious.
To date no true Beasts have been known to manifest the Summoning power. Indeed, so far only the dreadful Lurker has been identified as possessing it, and the Lurker itself is regarded by many Beasts as just a myth.
Using Summoning requires at least 5 minutes of concentration and costs the psychic 1 Fatigue. It can be directed over a wide area or concentrated in a narrow beam. The psychic can also try to place limitations on what species of creature they are trying to summon, such as any intelligent being, any unintelligent animal, a particular breed, or even an individual with whom they are familiar. If they limit it, then their power will not affect anyone else, which is important because Summoning only works on the first being to fall prey to it.
The psychic projects a web of attraction outwards from themself. As it spreads, the creatures it affects will feel an irrational desire to travel towards the current location of the psychic. The victims are affected as soon as the web touches them, so closer creatures must roll first. As soon as one victim succumbs, the web will contract to ensnare them completely, after which they will attempt to reach the psychic by whatever means are available. The psychic can sense the direction and distance of the creature affected (and can choose to leave them alone and continue searching for another victim, if desired) but cannot sense any other details. So long as they maintain the contact, the enthralled victim will continue to journey towards them. If released, they snap out of it after another round, generally with only vague memories of what they were doing.
Any creature touched by the web of attraction can roll an extended contest of Brains & Guts to see whether or not they are affected. Each roll takes 1 round; during this period the victim will feel an irrational urge to travel towards the summoner and may hallucinate about something they already desire to find. If the victim ever rolls a failure or worse they will become enthralled and will begin travelling towards the psychic. The number of successes required to break free varies according to how well the psychic rolled when invoking this power. If the victim does successfully resist, the net will continue to expand and may ensnare creatures further away. It expands at the rate of about 100 yards per round and can reach up to 5 miles away. Of course, the further away the victim is, the more likely they are to be unable to reach the psychic before the psychic has to stop using their power.
- Botch: you take an extra point of Fatigue.
- Failure: you fail to activate your power.
- Success: any creature effected needs only 2 successes to break free.
- Critical Success: 3 successes are required to break free.
- Extraordinary Success: 4 successes are required to break free.
Extra-sensory Psychic Powers
There are three main powers that are oriented around detecting physical objects mentally.
Farsight (Clairvoyance)Farsight is the power to extend your senses in a particular direction, seeing through walls and into darkened areas through the power of the mind.
Farsight is always invoked deliberately. It normally takes 3 rounds to activate and costs 1 Fatigue. The user must concentrate on a specific area that they wish to probe. This can be their immediate environment (everything within 3 yards of themself) or a one yard wide area up to 10 yards away.
- Botch: the images fail to form into anything intelligible. You take 1 extra Fatigue.
- Failure: the images fail to form into anything intelligible.
- Success: you get a mental image of the physical objects in that area, but as vaguely defined outlines. You could tell if there was an open area on the other side of a wall, but wouldn't be able to tell a lump of clothes from a sleeping Beast.
- Critical Success: your mental image is clearer. You couldn't read a sign or identify a specific person, but you could tell a Wolf from a Hyena.
- Extraordinary Success: your mental image is crystal clear. You see the area in question as though you were right there and it was lit bright as day.
Life-reading (Sensing Life Force)Life-reading is the power to sense and probe the life force of living creatures. It allows you to not only detect the presence of living beings, it lets you study their health and current condition. Maintaining the power requires concentration, so you must forgo your primary action each round to keep it active. Unlike many sensory powers, though, Life-reading doesn't blot out your regular vision, so you are not blind while using it.
Invoking Life-reading normally takes 3 melee rounds and costs the psychic 1 Fatigue. It can be directed at a single creature in order to study their life-processes in detail, or spread out over an area to detect living beings. The maximum range for both is about 10 yards.
- Botch: you strain yourself trying to invoke the power and take 1 extra Fatigue.
- Failure: nothing happens.
- Success: you can detect the presence of living beings and their size, or you can determine the general state of health of a single target (healthy, wounded, sick, dying, etc.), granting a +1 bonus to the use of the Medicine skill on them so long as you keep your power focused on them.
- Critical Success: if scanning an area, you can identify enough of the size and shape of the creatures to tell what species they are (assuming that you're familiar with it). If scanning a single target, you can detect any major illnesses or injuries and can recognize special states such as being unconscious, fatigued or pregnant. +2 to any Medicine rolls used on them.
- Extraordinary Success: if scanning an area, you can recognize individual creatures that you've scanned before and can detect the general state of health (as per a regular Success vs a single target) of every creature. If scanning a single target, you can even pick up subtle or hidden problems like cancers or poisons building up in their bones. +4 to any Medicine rolls.
Dowsing (Detecting Energy Flows)Dowsing is the power to sense electrical flows in your vicinity with your mind. It normally takes 3 rounds to activate and costs 1 Fatigue. It can be directed at an area to merely detect flows, or concentrated on a particular area to study it in more detail. Since the images block out the psychic's regular vision, they will be effectively blind while using this power.
Dowsing picks up both electrical equipment and natural flows such as rivers or underground water. Since electrical lines are generally seen as a spiderweb of interconnected lines and water as an indistinct rush of mist, it's usually easy to tell which is which.
- Botch: the images fail to form into anything intelligible. You take 1 extra Fatigue.
- Failure: the images fail to form into anything intelligible.
- Success: you can detect all working electrical lines and flowing water within a 10 yard radius or within 20 yards in a single direction. If studying a single machine, add +1 to any attempts to repair, operate or damage it.
- Critical Success: you can detect the potential flow within electrical lines which are hooked up but not actually powered at the moment and you can detect still water as well as moving. The range increases to a 20 yard radius or up to 100 yards away in a single direction. If studying a single machine, add a +2 bonus.
- Extraordinary Success: you can sense the purpose of existing electrical equipment (but only in vague terms, like "security system" or "operates the door") or the purity of water. When studying a single machine, add a +4 bonus.
Friday, November 21, 2003
Empathic Psychic Powers
There are three main powers that involve the emotions of sentient creatures.
Empathy (Sensing Emotions)Empathy is the ability to sense the emotions of living beings around you. It can be used deliberately, by concentrating in a particular direction, but for the most part it's purely passive, reacting to strong emotional states in the environment.
"Emotional states" can refer to a wide variety of states, such as fear, anger, hatred, love or happiness. Even some things not normally considered "emotions" can be picked up, such as intense pain. The intensity of a state is generally classified as one of the following:
- Overwhelming: the subject is completely overwhelmed by the strength of the emotion and has lost most or all control.
- Strong: the subject is experiencing intense emotions but is still maintaining control.
- Weak: the subject is experiencing the emotion, but not in a particularly strong way. Their self-control is not threatened.
- Negligible: the subject is not noticably experiencing the emotion at all.
- Botch: if anyone within 10 yards is experiencing an overwhelming emotion, you feel it sporadically, taking a point of fatigue.
- Failure: you pick up nothing in particular.
- Success: you can pick up strong emotions if you pass within a yard of the person experiencing them and overwhelming ones within 10 yards.
- Critical Success: you can pick up weak emotions within a yard, strong ones within 10 yards and overwhelming ones within 100 yards.
- Extraordinary Success: you can pick up weak emotions within 10 yards, strong ones within 100 yards and overwhelming ones within a 1000 yards. If you pass within 10 yards of someone experiencing an overwhelming emotion, you'll share it. Roll Guts & Resolve vs 4 to retain your self control. The effects of this will vary immensely according to the nature of the emotion being picked up.
Picking up overwhelmingly strong emotions is always stressful for the psychic, even if they aren't forced to make any rolls to resist them. Being in the vicinity of someone in great pain is intensely uncomfortable, while being near someone in a euphoric state will tend to make the empath feel good. These effects can generally be easily ignored by the psychic (and so don't require any special rolls) but they are present and should be roleplayed.
Empathic Vulnerability (Psychic Flaw, -4 points, requires Empathy power)The Empathic Vulnerability flaw reflects an empath so sensitive to this effect that even strong emotions can affect them. Whenever they are within detection range of someone experiencing a strong or overwhelming emotion, they tend to share it. This can even entail them temporarily picking up the psychological Flaws of other people. If there's someone in your vicinity who is suffering from intense pain (as from torture or taking 6+ wounds), you take a point of Fatigue every scene. This applies even if you are the person hurting them; empaths with this flaw are commonly pacifists.
Because of this effect, your character will generally shun large groups. Being in a crowded area can cause exhaustion (from cumulative fatigue), headaches, wild mood swings and general distraction. You'll often be at a -1 (or worse) penalty in large groups. Being confined with a large group of terrified people (where most folks are experiencing intense emotions instead of just a few) could cause you to go comatose. Even positive emotions can cause you to "bliss out" and lose consciousness if there are enough people feeling them strongly enough nearby.
Awareness (Detecting Attention)The Awareness power is the ability to sense whenever someone else's attention is directed at you. It most commonly manifests itself as a feeling that you are being watched. Exactly how much information you receive depends upon how well you roll. Whenever one or more unnoticed observers start paying serious attention to the psychic or his group, the GM should call for an Awareness roll.
- Botch: you get a momentary feeling of disquiet which then it goes away regardless of whether or not anyone's attention is still being directed at you.
- Failure: you get a vague feeling of disquiet which goes away immediately.
- Success: you sense that you are being observed. The sensation continues until they stop watching you.
- Critical Success: you also sense the direction that the observation is coming from.
- Extraordinary Success: you can even tell if mechanical sensors such as cameras are directed at you. If you are being watched by someone you know, you'll recognize their presence.
Projection (Empathic Projection)This is the ability to project an emotional state into another person nearby, altering their mood unnaturally for the duration. It generally only works as a deliberate choice; involuntary use is rare and usually only occurs in psychics who have just recently developed the ability. Invoking it normally takes 3 rounds and inflicts 1 Fatigue on the psychic. They must continue to concentrate, spending their primary action each round to maintain it.
- Botch: you strain yourself and take an extra point of Fatigue.
- Failure: there is no noticable effect.
- Success: the target experiences the desired emotion weakly. It influences their behavior, but they retain full control of their actions. The effects are generally equivalent to a -1 point psychological Flaw and they vanish as soon as the psychic stops concentrating.
- Critical Success: the target experiences the desired emotion strongly. Unless there are strong reasons for them not to, they will act upon it (a successful Guts & Resolve check is good enough, if the GM wants to resolve it with dice). The effects are generally equivalent to a -2 point psychological Flaw. Once the psychic stops concentrating, the effect drops to the level of a regular Success for about 5 minutes, then fades away.
- Extraordinary Success: the target experiences the desired emotion at an overwhelming level. It takes 3 successes on an Extended Test of Guts & Resolve to stop acting on the emotion, with one attempt allowed per minute. Once the psychic stops concentrating, the effect drops to the Critical Success level for 5 minutes, then to the regular Success level for another 5, then fades away.
Weak: the target becomes nervous and easily frightened.
Strong: -1 to interact with anything that seems threatening.
Overwhelming: gripped by panic and will flee from anything threatening. If they can't, they are at -2 to interact with it.
Weak: the target suffers minor aches and pains.
Strong: -1 to any Brains or Charm rolls.
Overwhelming: -1 to any rolls due to agony.
Weak: the target is irritable and easily angered.
Strong: pick a fight with any appropriate candidate and snap at everyone else.
Overwhelming: pick a fight, even with someone you know you shouldn't fight.
Weak: the target feels kind-hearted and merciful.
Strong: seriously consider any pleas for charity or mercy, but don't give anyone anything that you can't afford to lose.
Overwhelming: be nice even if it will have negative consequences for you.
Weak: the target feels romantic.
Strong: flirt and hit on any appropriate candidates.
Overwhelming: even inappropriate candidates, like married Beasts with dangerous spouses.
Weak: the target feels greedy.
Strong: may attempt to steal valuable items that can't be easily traced back to them.
Overwhelming: attempt to steal valuables even if you know you'll get caught.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Prophecy/Augury Flavor Fic
This is a piece of flavor fiction intended for the Temporal Psychic Powers section.
"Can you tell me how my family is doing? Our littlest was sick when I left and I've been worried about her. I don't want to wait any longer; I've got to start the journey home." The High Beast Wolf had the well-worn garments of a seasoned traveller and the scars of a hardened warrior, but his eyes displayed the depth of his fear.
The elderly Low Coyote smiled fondly at Duvain. "You've done us great service, my friend. Let me see what I can see. Give me your paw." He lay across a woven blanket and wore a necklace of many brightly colored feathers. His flesh had been weakened by the years, but his mind was still sharp.
The Wolf, obviously somewhat nervous at the prospect, gingerly extended his hand. Not actually rising himself, the Coyote slowly covered it with his own, much smaller, paw and closed his eyes. He began to murmur gently to himself, his furred body rocking gently back and forth.
"I see... I see a copse of sycamore trees, grown up around an old ruin. There's a cabin there, with smoke rising from it... a cooking fire inside, I think."
The traveller shuddered and nodded, fervently. The old shaman, his eyes closed, did not see, but could feel the motion.
"You're running down a trail. Eagerly. Shouting, I think. There's a High Wolf woman standing in the doorway to the house. You run towards her... she looks..."
The old one cocked his head to the side, his brow furrowed.
"Frightened. She looks frightened. You run forward... someone steps into view... I see a tall, High Badger... he has a rifle... She's screaming... AH!"
With a sudden and violent start, the Coyote's eyes sprang open and he snapped his paw back. Duvain stared at him in shock as the shaman's assistants thrust their heads into the sheltered tent, looking for the reason for the cry.
"Gather the warriors!" he ordered, shifting his head slightly towards the young Coyotes. It was obvious that he was drained; even that motion seemed to tax him greatly.
The old Coyote's voice turned hard. "There is danger waiting for you at home, my friend. But we owe you a great debt. You shall not go towards it alone."
Temporal Psychic Powers
After reading a very enlightening thread on RPG.net, I've decided to rewrite the precognition power(s) into a more unified (and hopefully playable) form.
There are three main psychic powers that involve Time. All of them tend to be triggered spontaneously, although the character can usually try to invoke them deliberately if desired.
Ghostwalking (Postcognition)Ghostwalking is the ability to see images of past events associated with a particular object, location, or person. It is generally triggered spontaneously at least once a week, although areas with a particularly strong psychic residue may trigger a roll automatically. You can invoke it deliberately by handling the target object (or sitting in the appropriate location) for a scene and taking 1 Fatigue. Spontaneous rolls recieve a cumulative +1 bonus for every month you spend in the vicinity of the source, so ghostwalkers rarely live in the same area for too long. The effects of Extraordinary Successes are just too debilitating.
- Botch: bombarded with random, fragmentary and frightening images. Take a point of Fatigue.
- Failure: nothing happens. If it was activated spontaneously, you'll be able to tell that your power was triggered, but that's all.
- Success: brief visual flash of a past event. Senses besides sight are sometimes triggered instead; hearing ghostly voices from the past is common too. You have no control over what past event is seen.
- Critical Success: ghostly images of ancient events appear, superimposed over your environment. You can both hear and see the event being replayed, although sudden jumps and distortions are common. Not all elements of the scene may be visible; it's common to see ghostly figures interacting with nothing. If invoked deliberately, you can specify the type of event you're trying to see, but only in the vaguest of terms; if you were trying to see how a dead person was slain, you might see any particularly violent event in their life, not necessarily their actual death.
- Extraordinary Success: your vision of the past is so vivid, it's like you were really there. You see and hear everything as though it were solid and real. You cannot see or hear things in the real world for the duration of the vision and are effectively blind and deaf if you have to interact with it. If invoked deliberately, you have a good bit of control over what you see, although you can still only specify it using vague terms. You could view the moment that a corpse was slain, but not a specific time of day.
Prophecy/Augury (Precognition)Prophecy is the ability to see images of future events associated with a particular object, location or person. It's very similar to Ghostwalking, even to the point that it is never targetted on the psychic themselves, but only by objects or creatures around them. Like Ghostwalking, invoking it deliberately generally takes at least a scene and costs you at least 1 Fatigue.
Prophecy is almost always centered around a particular physical item in your environment. It almost never shows events without a direct, physical connection to the event in question, but once in a great while it will be triggered by something more obscure, such as an offhand word or even a glance in the direction of the event to come.
- Botch: bombarded with random, fragmentary and frightening images. Take a point of Fatigue.
- Failure: nothing happens. If it was activated spontaneously, you'll be able to tell that your power was triggered, but that's all.
- Success: you'll briefly see the target or location as it will be at some future point. If someone was in danger, you might briefly see them with a bloodly wound. If they were destined for a major windfall you might see them in expensive garments. Auditory and even olfactory versions are common. You might hear voices speaking from some future point or smell a scent strongly associated with some future event. If someone suddenly but briefly smells like a rotting, putrefying corpse before leaving on a dangerous journey, you should advise them to skip it.
- Critical Success: you'll see not just the target, but some aspects of their surroundings. Multiple senses are commonly affected instead of just one. The future event often plays out right in front of you, making it relatively easy to tell what's going on.
- Extraordinary Success: the future event is so vivid and real that it blots out all sensory data from the real world until your vision ends. If you have to interact with the real world, you will be effectively blind.
Warnings (Danger Sense)Warnings is a limited form of Prophecy that is focussed upon the psychic themself instead of items in their environment. It most commonly takes the form of a kind of danger sense, where the psychic somehow "knows" that they are in danger before the source of the danger is revealed, but even benign events can be sensed ahead of time.
- Botch: bombarded with random, fragmentary and frightening images. Take a point of Fatigue.
- Failure: nothing happens. If it was activated spontaneously, you'll be able to tell that some sort of danger or important future event triggered your power, but that's all. You won't even be able to tell whether it was in the immediate or distant future.
- Success: you'll see a brief mental flash of yourself reacting to the future event, but nothing else. For example, if you were about to be attacked, you might see yourself swinging a weapon or clutching at a wound.
- Critical Success: you'll see not just yourself, but some aspects of your surroundings. Multiple senses are commonly affected instead of just one. The future event often plays out right in front of you, making it relatively easy to tell what's going on. You still won't be able to tell how far in the future this is.
- Extraordinary Success: the future event is so vivid and real that it blots out all sensory data from the real world until your vision ends. If you have to interact with the real world, you will be effectively blind. If you die in the vision, you'll suffer a point of Fatigue from the mental stress. On the up side, you can tell roughly how far in the future this event is- seconds, minutes, hours, days or even (on very rare occasions) weeks, months or years. Visions of the distant future (months and years) are incredibly rare and easily voided but do sometimes occur.
For spontaneous effects, the GM should generally call for a Warnings roll shortly after they become convinced that the future event is likely to happen. How far in the future it actually is may not be as important as how certain it is. For example, if a character decides to travel to a distant town, he could see a vision of a bandit attack near his destination even though he's still a week away from that spot.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
There's another kind of task resolution that I want to playtest: the Extended Test.
This method is good for tasks that can take a good bit of time and have measurable progress. Success is always possible, but skilled characters will finish much faster than unskilled ones. Folks whose abilities aren't reliable may well only get partway through before failing and having to start over (if they can).
It works like this:
Roll a Performance test vs the standard difficulty of 4. On a natural 1, you botch and on a result below 4 you fail. A result of 4-7 is one success, an 8-11 is two successes and 12+ is three successes, as per normal.
The difference with an Extended Test is that you need a certain number of successes to complete the task. So long as you don't roll too badly, you'll be allowed to keep trying until you build up enough total successes to beat it. Each attempt takes a certain amount of time. A basic Extended Test requires 2 successes to complete (if you only need one success, it's not really any different from a standard Performance test) but it can go as high as 4 or even 6 successes (even rolling a 12 isn't enough to get 4 successes in a single time interval).
So, let's say that you were trying to climb a tall tree and the GM said that it would take 2 successes. Each attempt represents 5 minutes of climbing. You'd roll Speed & Climbing vs 4. If you got a regular success (quite likely with two dice), after 5 minutes you'd be half-way up and could roll again. Another success would put you at the top. A critical success or better on the first roll would complete the task in just 5 minutes, since that's worth 2 successes. A failure would indicate no progress at all, and a botch would mean that you fall out of the tree.
A really lengthy climb might need 4 or 5 successes to complete, meaning that even the best climbers will need at least two rolls to reach the top. On a particularly steep climb, even a failure might mean taking a fall and having to start over at the bottom (assuming you survived the impact, of course).
So there are two ways in which the difficulty of an Extended Test can be measured. There's the number of successes required, which will determine how long it takes and how many rolls are involved. Then there's the matter of what happens if you roll a failure. For an Easy Extended Test, a failure just means that you make no progress. For an Average Extended Test, a failure subtracts a success. For a Hard Extended Test, a failure forces you to start over. On a botch, you goof up (and generally have to start over), regardless of the difficulty.
This isn't as random as using randomized difficulties in a Performance Test, but success is still always possible. Really skilled characters will almost always beat the task (because the odds of them rolling below a 4 are infinitesmal), it's just a matter of how long it takes. You can add further penalties to an Extended Test (making the difficulty higher than 4) but that makes failure much more common and unskilled characters may not be able to succeed at all.
Random Thought: Hm. I wonder if it would be useful to handle the Survival Test as an Extended Test. You're stunned until you accumulate enough successes to recover. The effects of a failure depend on how many successes you fell short by. Miss it by one, you're knocked out, two dying, three dead. Probably too simplistic and superhuman characters would never die (roll d12+3 and you'll always get a success), but it's still an interesting idea.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
A character's Dash is how many yards they can travel in a single turn. It's based on their Speed rating.
The basic calculation is that your Dash is equal to the size (the highest number it can roll) of your Speed die plus 2. So it generally ranges from 6 (from a d4) to 14 (from a d12).
You can generally travel a quarter of your Dash as a free action and half of it as a secondary action. Running the full distance is a full action. Running all-out means putting all of your attention into it and dropping all defenses and such. That lets you add the results of a Speed & Running skill roll to your effective Dash but leaves you vulnerable to attack.
I've considered making your Dash be equal to the level of your Speed die (where a d4 is 1 and a d12 is 5) plus 6... that would give us the same rate of 8 for d6 Speed folks (the average). But the range would be compressed; character speeds would generally range from 7 to 11, meaning that the very fastest Beasts weren't even twice as fast as the slowest (barring special Gifts or Flaws that adjust your Dash). That just doesn't seem like enough of an effect.
Your base Dash is also used in Chase Tests. This is when one character runs away from another. Both of them go to all-out runs and we roll to see whether or not the pursuer can catch up. Chase tests work like this: both characters roll Speed & Running Skill and add their Dash to the results. A botch generally means that you slip and fall; it's hard to watch your footing while you're running full out. Whoever wins gets that many yards closer or further away and both sides take 1 point of Fatigue.
We repeat the process until either the pursued has gotten so far ahead that the pursuer can't tell which way they're headed anymore or someone is too exhausted to continue or the pursuer actually catches the pursued.
That process (very similar to how Ironclaw does it) seems a little roll-heavy for my tastes. I might try a simpler system that resolves it with a single roll.
The One-Roll Chase SystemBoth sides roll Speed & Guts & Running Skill (Gifts that increase Dash will also boost this roll). The result is treated as an opposed test. The pursued gets bonuses based on how far away they were, as multiples of the pursuer's Dash. That is, if you were 12 yards away from someone and it would take you 2 turns to run 12 yards, they get a +2 bonus.
Guts is included because endurance is very important in running. Other skills may be included too, if appropriate. For example, if you were chasing someone up a mountainside, you might roll Climbing instead of Running. If you had an appropriate Area Expertise skill, you could include that too, to represent your knowledge of the terrain.
Every Chase Period, both characters take 1 Fatigue; each Chase Period represents several minutes of all-out running. The number of Chase Periods it takes for the chase to end will depend on how well the winner rolled. At the end of the chase (unless someone drops out rather than take the fatigue from the Chase Period), whoever rolled better wins (if they were fleeing, they get away; if they were pursuing, they catch up).
If you both Tie (roll exactly the same numbers) then the Chase Periods continue until one of you hits "exhausted" or decides to drop out. The other person wins. Note that it is possible for closely matched people to both end up exhausted and unable to continue. You can use a tie-breaker roll, or just see whether or not they want to continue the chase after they've rested enough to move again.
If you roll a Success (beating their roll by 1-3 points) then the chase will end after 3 Chase Periods.
With a Critical Success (beating them by 4-7 points) then it ends after 2 Chase Periods.
With an Extraordinary Success (beating them by 8+ points), the whole pursuit only lasts 1 Chase Period.
Concealing terrain generally gives bonuses to the pursued; it's hard to catch someone if they get out of sight. Here are some example bonuses:
- Dark: +2 to pursued
- Dense Cover (e.g.- heavy forest): +2 to pursued
- Terrain makes tracking easy (e.g.- running across freshly fallen snow): +1 to pursuer
Monday, November 17, 2003
Explosions are handled like regular damage, with a few additional rules.
First, there generally isn't an opposed roll involved. If a bomb goes off, it doesn't need to roll to hit. A thrown grenade has to be placed near the target, but the difficulty is based on hitting the area where they are, not the person you want to hurt.
Second, the damage roll affects everyone in the area but people get to add a bonus to to their Soak threshold according to how far away they are. For example, a powerful fragmentation grenade might do 5d10 damage but targets get +1 to Soak per 2 yards of distance between them and the center of the explosion. Once your Soak gets to 10 or above, you're safe; you might get little nicks and scratches, but no actual wounds. The size and type of the explosion will influence how far away you have to be to get a bonus.
This method lets us use a single damage roll and apply it to everyone in the area. You don't have to roll damage separately for each target. A crappy roll generally indicates a bomb that went off improperly or directed most of its force in a useless direction. Note that you can roll separately for each target if you want to... that may be more realistic, but it'll also take a bit longer.
Third, it's often possible for a character to try and throw themselves out of the way or behind cover. This is represented by a Speed & Dodge roll. The GM will have to set an appropriate difficulty for getting behind cover according to the situation; there are just too many variables to provide rules for. In general, a success will result in half of the damage (round in the target's favor, so it'll always stop at least 1 wound) being blocked by the cover and a critical success will result in all of it being blocked.
If there isn't any cover available, or if the cover is too fragile to protect you, you can still try to throw yourself away from the explosion. Make a Speed & Dodge roll. You'll block as many wounds as the number of successes you get, so a regular Success will block 1, a Critical Success will block 2, etc.
Note that both of these actions require you to be able to react to the explosion. If you're completely unsuspecting or unable to move for some reason, you'll just have to suck it up.
Grenades can be very powerful, one-use weapons. As such, they are considered very valuable and tend to be hoarded for emergencies. Be very careful about introducing enemies that use grenades or similar devices, as one good shot could kill multiple player characters. Similarly, bear in mind that if your PCs do defeat them and acquire their grenades, their next major opponent may get blown to smithereens in a single round.
Some grenades, of course, do other things than just explode. They may release a cloud of toxic gas, stun targets with bursts of bright light and sound, or do something even more obscure. Unlabeled grenades can be a real crapshoot. Beasts generally lack the technological resources necessary to look up what a grenade does based on its design, so the only way to determine exactly what sort of grenade it is, is to use it.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
The Big Gift
There's a fairly cute racial Gift that I've added to Nuclear Beasts called Big. Like a lot of Gifts, you can only take one additional level of it at character creation, but some breeds may have one or more levels of it already.
Big is basically a half-cost improvement to your Muscles trait. Every level bumps up your Muscles trait by one level, but it also causes you to suffer agility penalties. This means that you'll subtract your total levels of Big from certain skill checks, like Dodge, Climb and Acrobatics. The larger breeds get Big to represent their sheer physical size and all of the advantages and penalties that come with it. An Elephant, for example, will start with several levels of Big. You wouldn't want to arm-wrestle a High Elephant, but you could probably perform a better somersault.
This has a few advantages over just giving the breed a bunch of free increases to their Muscles trait: it's realistic, in that larger creatures should suffer from problems like needing more food or not being able to climb well. It also makes the larger breeds more playable, because you don't have to pay nearly as many points to play a huge creature. Since it penalizes Dodge but not parrying with a weapon, it leaves them vulnerable to unparryable attacks (like bullets) but not entirely helpless in combat.
Right now I'm pretty much applying it as a flat penalty to all affected skills, but I have been tossing around the idea of making some things penalized twice as much and others half the regular amount. So far I'm sticking with the easy to remember and apply single penalty, but it might be more realistic for some skills to be affected by your bulk more than others.
Advanced Use of Expertise Skills
I've been thinking about Expertise Skills and how they could replace some of Ironclaw's special traits. For example, you could take an Expertise Skill that represents familiarity with a specific person. That's pretty darn narrow, but it would apply to things like persuading that person to do something, predicting their actions, knowing details about their life, etc. So, if you had a hated enemy, you might take an Expertise that represents the fact that you've studied them in obsessive detail. It would apply to predicting their actions, persuading them, or even to fighting them, because you know how they fight. If your feelings interfere with other things that you need to do, you could take an appropriate mental flaw, too; an Expertise represents the useful side of your obsession.
Correspondingly, you could also take an Expertise for someone you loved and it would work just about the same way except that you'd include it with combat when defending them instead of fighting against them. Actually, both skills could probably be applied to both offense and defense, it's just very rare that you'll want to pummel a loved one or protect an archenemy.
Since Expertise Skills are pretty much player-driven, they're really flexible. I just need to provide guidelines for figuring out when one should be half-cost instead of full and what sort are reasonable (and what sort are ridiculous).
Buying Gifts in Play?
Sean brought up an interesting argument recently, over whether or not improving your stats should count as Gifts (personal bonuses like having really good vision or a natural immunity to certain poisons) and (more importantly) whether you should be able to buy Gifts after character creation at all.
It's an interesting question. In Ironclaw, you're limited to just 10 points worth of Gifts at character creation, but you can buy others later with experience. In Jadeclaw (which has a somewhat more polished version of the Ironclaw rules, there are some restrictions on when you can buy a new gift... Personal Gifts can be picked up pretty readily, but Esoteric Gifts require some special event to justify it.
I suspect I'll end up doing something similar; it can make a big difference to your game which category a given Gift goes into. Gifts that grant bonuses like Keen Eyes are well worth picking up if you can, so you can expect practically every character to eventually end up with them. I could prohibit acquiring Gifts after character creation at all, but that has a few problems of its own... unless you're very careful, you'll end up with some Gifts that ought to be acquirable later.
So I'm thinking about making the categories very clear. Perhaps instead of just calling them all various types of Gifts, I should offer Gifts and Advantages. Gifts are things that you are born with and can't just go out and acquire. It takes a very special in-game event to justify acquiring a new Gift and you may just get it without having to spend any points. Advantages are abilities which can be taught and acquired. I'm not sure how many of these there will be, but I'd be surprised if there weren't any.
Besides, players generally like to be able to acquire nifty powers later on. D20 Feats are a good example; many players adore 'em, whether they're realistic or not. If nothing else, I should probably leave room for the acquisition of Psychic Powers after character creation. I'm not too fond of the "I was born with this power and you weren't, so you'll never be as cool as me" setup.
To limit stat increases, I'd either have to make them more expensive (which, honestly, they should be) or limit you to one increase per attribute. That might not be too bad... In fact, I could include a little table on the character sheet that notes which stats you've improved so far and which ones you still can. I'd probably allow a single stat to be increased twice, which could bring you up from d4 to d8. But only one stat could be increased like that.
Another alternative is to say that the cost shoots up every time you increase it. So if you improve your Muscles trait from d4 to d6, it might cost, say, 10 XP. Increasing it again would cost 15 XP, then 20 XP, etc. I dunno; I'm tempted to just limit it to one increase per stat and two for a single stat of your choice.
Well, so far so good, I guess. I've been able to transfer the bulk of my old files as-is from the old drive. But it only works for a few minutes, then starts making popping noises and stops reading. So my current plan is to plug the drive in every morning (when it's completely cooled off), try a few transfers, then unplug it again once it starts locking up. It's apparently at least peripherally related to overheating, because it's definitely more reliable when you first start out than when you've been copying stuff for awhile.
But I'm slowly reinstalling all of the requisite software I need and things are shaping up. I may, in fact, be able to work a little faster now, since this machine doesn't get slow if you run a half-dozen applications at once.
I still need to figure out where Mozilla hides its inbox and mail files, though. So far I haven't been able to figure out what folder it goes in, so I can't transfer or extract it. Hopefully I'll find it tomorrow. Ah, located it. Stupid Windows hidden folders.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Well, I'd been planning on purchasing a new system for awhile now. The old one was having weird, periodic boot problems where it might take a dozen tries to start up without locking up. So I'd mostly been just leaving it running and getting quotes for new systems.
Then, this morning... the hard drive started making horrid noises and locking up. Ugh. A replacement drive was no good; the system still couldn't boot, not even to CD. The motherboard had finally gone (2 1/2 years old).
So, I ended up spending the majority of saturday picking up parts and cobbling my new system together. So far it's gone very well... this is a sweet machine, with a 2.6Ghz processor and two 120 GB hard drives, just so I'll never lack for space. The CD/RW should help me back files up periodically and hopefully the 512MB ram and 128MB graphics card will be good enough for Half-Life 2 when it finally comes out.
So I may not get to a "real" blog entry today. There's still one more potential heartbreak... I have to put in the old hard drive and see what (if anything) can be copied to the new drives. Yeah, I'm not looking forward to it. If the whole drive is toast, I won't lose anything critical, but I'll lose innumerable notes to myself, downloaded files, and tons of saved games and random stuff from the internet. The blog, at least, is in no danger. One thing that I really like about it is that it's reflected on two separate hard drives at a minimum and I try to periodically copy it to my local hard drive so that it'll be in 3 spots. That's pretty safe.
So, wish me luck- if I can't salvage anything from the old drive, I probably won't be in any mood to post anything but a profanity-filled rant of self pity. It's been backed up, but you know how it is... you always lose something.
Friday, November 14, 2003
The intelligent avians known as Harpies are a major threat to the Beasts that live in the northern part of the country. They have been slowly expanding southward for a long time now and conflicts have become more common.
They're a mystery to most Beasts. They came from the far north, whereas the oral histories of the various Beast tribes mostly agree that they all came from the south. They can speak english, but generally have such a strong accent (partly due to their having beaks instead of lips) that it's often hard to understand them. They supposedly consist of several different breeds, but only they seem to be able to tell the difference. And they generally aren't very friendly.
The Harpies were created by an ancient A.I. with a goal similar to that of the one that created the Beasts. It chose vulture stock as the most likely candidate for survival and concentrated on creating a small set of very similar breeds rather than a wide variety. If there were other intelligent avians created besides the vultures, they are either all dead or still restricted to the far north. None have ever made it far enough south to encounter the Beasts.
Harpies organize themselves into flocks and live by a combination of hunting and scavenging. Their primary diet is carrion, but they aren't above turning living creatures into carrion if food is in short supply. They can eat almost anything and have been known to survive on rancid fruit or even by tearing up ancient furniture to gnaw on the plant-based stuffing inside. They do get sick, but it's primarily airborne and parasite-carried illnesses, not stomach problems.
Flocks are generally led by smaller, slimmer and apparently smarter Harpies, commonly known as Sirens. These birds act as shaman to their flocks, leading through wisdom mixed with mysticism, rather than force of arms. Most flocks are in awe of the "strange powers" of their Sirens. Practically every flock has at least one. They may be a different breed from the other Harpies, or it may be that apprentice Sirens are chosen from among birds who best fit the desired appearance. Sirens are much, much more likely to possess psychic powers than normal Harpies... in fact, normal-sized Harpies who develop such abilities may be killed or banished by their flock if they are seen as competing with the Sirens.
Harpy philosophy has a strong emphasis on practicality. Everything that lives can be treated as food, with the exception of other Harpies, and that exception has more to do with a belief that cannibalism causes health problems than a belief that doing so is immoral. The only thing more important than the survival of the individual is the survival of the flock itself. Sentimentality is seen as a shameful weakness. They rarely develop strong ties to individuals, and when they do they try to hide it. Outsiders can be allies if their interests coincide with those of the flock, but never truly friends. A Harpy with non-Harpy friends runs a very real risk of being forced out of the flock if his disgraceful emotional ties are ever discovered. Even internal friendships, such as love between mates, are tolerated only so long as the preeminent importance of the flock itself isn't forgotten.
There's a strict pecking order among the common Harpies, with stronger and healthier birds ordering around their weaker flockmates. The Sirens are expected to remain above such petty struggles, and their own pecking order disputes are always resolved in secret so that they always present a united front to the normal Harpies.
Harpies are thus commonly regarded as untrustworthy cowards by Beasts, but they are also survivors. In battle, they exploit every advantage they can. In fact, in life in general they try to exploit every advantage that they can. They've been known to enslave Beasts and use them as slave labor, then eat their corpses when they finally expire. They don't appear to be able to manufacture their own firearms, but they are quite skilled at repairing and maintaining existing ones. Luckily for Beasts, Harpies tend to be poor shots; it's hard for them to use a handgun effectively when they're wielding it with their feet and weigh so little that the recoil can send them sprawling. Heavier guns like rifles generally have to be propped up on something and often require two or even three Harpies to operate correctly.
Exterminators are still a threat to Harpy flocks, but they have developed a very simple method for dealing with most of them. They shed any obvious weapons or garments and pretend to be ordinary birds. Apparently, despite their size, most Exterminators will still regard them as harmless animals and ignore them, so long as the Harpies don't give it any reason to think otherwise. It's possible that they may be misidentified as condors, which Exterminators were programmed to leave undisturbed due to their status as endangered animals. It can be quite stressful for a flock to sit unmoving while a Bumblebee drone floats overhead, lasers at the ready, but it's proven to be an effective technique.
Harpy flocks have about as wide of a variety of technological development as Beasts do. Some flocks have firearms and will use ancient equipment such as night-vision scopes and PDAs. Others are more primitive and make do with simple wooden spears and crudely woven bags. They don't appear to worship anything at all except maybe their Sirens. They regard the wonders of Man as just another resource to be uncovered and exploited.
Their only real forms of art are singing and story-telling. When the flock gathers to divide up food, individual birds are encouraged to try and entertain the others with song or verse or tales of derring-do. Those who do well find their position in the pecking order well improved, at least for a time. Those who do poorly lose status; those who do very poorly may be brutalized by the others and forced to spend awhile as a 'dreg'.
Dregs aren't quite exiles but are only barely tolerated by the rest of the flock. They have to subsist on scraps and are expected to behave subserviently towards everyone else. They are allowed to follow the flock, but can only sit on the edges of their gatherings and are generally expected to remain quiet. Harpies are a garrulous folk and rarely do well as loners. This kind of shunning is very difficult for them to endure, and dregs will generally do anything that they can to win back their flock's approval. An approving word from a Siren or another, well-liked Harpy is generally all that a dreg needs to win back their place in the tribe, but getting that word is often very difficult. The other Harpies will be well aware of the dreg's desperation and will take advantage of it, demanding services and favors and otherwise lording it over them until they've milked it for all it's worth.
A sick or depressed Harpy tends to shed feathers, so those with thin or ragged plumage are looked down upon. Fights are generally limited to ripping out feathers rather than attempting to inflict serious injury. Actually killing another Harpy is a very risky move; the Sirens are fond of draconian punishments for Harpies who have weakened the flock as a whole.
Harpies do have their own equivalent of raveners. Harpies who are kicked out of a flock entirely usually sicken and eventually die, but sometimes they become psychotic instead. These rogue birds (commonly known as Shrikes) tend to hunt alone and are vicious and vindictive. They'll attack any creature that they catch in a vulnerable position, even smaller Harpies. They don't always eat what they kill (a major sin in the Harpy creed of never wasting any resource) but will hurt other creatures out of sheer sadistic malice. They often talk to themselves in crazed voices and their mood changes rapidly from one extreme to another. Socializing with them can sometimes bring them out of it (Harpies just can't take solitude) but it's risky. Flocks that catch Shrikes usually just kill them rather than take the risk that they might fly into a rage again later.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Cost of Psychic Powers
So, in an effort to decide this issue, I'm gonna try and take a step back. It's not really a question of what's the right way to limit weird powers. There are innumerable ways to do it that are just fine. What matters is what sort of feel I want.
I decided what sort of psychic powers I wanted in general, by thinking about what sort I would write about... what kind made for good stories and what kind were lame. I wanted ones that were subtle, required cleverness to use effectively, and which lent themselves to dramatic scenes, not action-filled ones or boring ones. The use of psychic powers shouldn't be routine, nor should it just be a risky roll. I want a cumulative system where you can use it whenever you want, but you don't want to use it too often.
Gervald paused and closed his eyes. He concentrated on shutting out the sounds of battle around him. He heard nothing. He saw nothing. Even the pressure of the earth beneath his feet was blotted out and it seemed that he was floating in darkness. But the darkness didn't stay pure for long. Silver and gold lines began to appear in the distance, criss-crossing each other in regular, boxy patterns. They gleamed like liquid starlight.That's the sort of thing I want, I think. It's not so much that you're endangering yourself using the power, or that you've got a set amount of power to use up, it's just that the power takes so much out of you that you can't really do anything else while you're using it.
The machines came into view, skeletal forms made out of strands of twisted light. There were many, more than the handful that his comrades now faced; dozens more slowly strode down nearby corridors, homing in on their position. He suppressed a shudder of terror and forced himself to concentrate. There had to be a core, a central nexus, a brain... he found it. A cubic mass of light, almost blindingly bright, at the center of the network of lines, like a spider lurking in an electrical web. How could he have missed it before now? And it was no wonder that the thing was trying to kill them... they had accidentally penetrated to its very heart without realizing it.
His body shook and shuddered as he brought himself back to the reality at hand. "It's underneath us!" he screamed, pointing at a section of floor covered by a thin metal grate. "We're right on top of it!"
So there may not be much need for additional rules, just a better description. Deliberately activating a power takes at least a round of intense concentration (if you have to dodge or do anything else as well, the roll is at -4) and most of the sensory powers take minutes to use. It also takes a full round of intense concentration to shut the power back down. Until you do, a lot of normal stuff like talking to people or performing any kind of athletic activity will either be impossible or at a -4 penalty. I can probably go with it inflicting 1 fatigue, too.
I had been thinking about a mechanic like CoC's Sanity, Mage's Paradox or 5 Ring's Taint, but I'm not sure it's necessary. These aren't supposed to be evil powers or "Things Beasts Were Not Meant to Know". They're supposed to be natural abilities.
At this point, I'm going to extrapolate from past wars and make this prediction:
Ten years from now, there will be a North Iraq (Islamic Dictatorship) and a South Iraq (Democratic). North Iraq will be impoverished but well armed and engaged in a sporadic guerilla war with Kurdish separationists in the north. South Iraq will be somewhat corrupt and outclassed militarily, but will survive because it is bolstered by the West.
Saddam Hussein will be considered a treacherous villain in the south, but regarded as a deeply religious freedom fighter and heroic martyr in the north, regardless of his actual history.
The Oracle has spoken. I hope I'm wrong.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Okay, when someone gets set on fire somehow, they'll get a pool of fire damage dice that represents how hot and fierce the fire burns. Every round, those dice get rolled as a damage test and the victim takes the appropriate number of wounds. Any die that comes up a '1' or less, however, is removed from the pool. So even if you don't do anything to stop it, the fire will eventually stop... but you may already be dead by then.
In general, the more potent and difficult to put out the fire source is, the larger the dice. So being lit on fire with a torch might give you one or more d6s of fire damage dice. Being sprayed with napalm, on the other hand, could give you d10s. Since most armor doesn't affect the damage roll, the difficulty will usually be 4... particularly wet conditions will usually increase it. The better aimed the original attack, the more dice you get.
Hm. Would that work?
Regular fire: base damage d6 (on a crit, 2d6 and on an extra, 3d6). Wet conditions penalize the roll, with a -1 for dampness and a -2 for being soaked. Immersion (-4) will automatically prevent all damage and cause the fire to go out quite rapidly (only a natural 6 will keep going with a -4 penalty).
Napalm: base damage d8 (on a crit, 2d8 and on an extra, 3d8). Unaffected by water. Napalm and similar compounds contain their own oxygen and will even burn underwater.
You can try to reduce the dice in your pool by rolling on the ground (for regular fire) or scraping off the burning gel (for chemical fires). Roll Brains & Speed. A success drops 1 die, a crit drops 2, an extra drops 4.
That's not too bad. It even leaves room for high-tech napalm replacements which burn even hotter and thus use d10s or d12s as their base die size. It also allows for cumulative effects, like setting someone on fire multiple times. But it may just be too complicated.
It might be better to just say that you take 1 wound per turn if you are "on fire" and 2 wounds per turn if you've been sprayed with napalm. You keep burning until you put it out. It takes a Brains & Speed roll (vs 4) and a full turn to try. A success reduces the damage by 1 per turn, a crit by 2. A botch actually increases the per-turn damage by 1. Other people can help, if necessary, but they need blankets, water, or something similar. Damp conditions add to your chance of success with regular fires, but not with napalm.
People who are on fire tend to panic. Roll Guts & Resolve every round that you take damage; if you take 2+ wounds, it takes a crit to keep control of yourself. Once you start panicking, you can't do anything but scream, flail, and try to put out the fire.
That seems a bit more reasonable. I don't expect flamethrowers to be a really common weapon... although there probably will be a primitive "fire-thrower" available that's pretty much just a one-shot gizmo. It's just a metal tube with fuel, a fuse, and a lot of insulation around the grip. Once lit, it throws flame for a round or two, then dies out. It's dangerous to reuse one, as the metal degrades every time. They're generally made out of scavenged ancient metal tubes and are very cheaply made. They also require matches, flint or ancient lighters, which are sometimes hard to come by. But they terrify animals and ferals and make good signals at night.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Quick status check: what major areas am I still missing rules for? What sort of things do I still need to work on?
- Psychic Powers limits: I'd like some sort of "overuse is bad for you" system, but so far I've only got vague ideas.
- Fire Damage: no rules for "being on fire". I could have it roll a certain number of d6s vs a Soak of 4, or the target could take 1 wound per turn or whatever.
- Electrical Damage: need rules for electrical shock. Probably just a Muscles & Guts check. Botch, take full damage and knocked out (assuming the damage doesn't kill you). Failure, full damage and stunned. Success: full damage and thrown back a bit, but no lost actions. Crit: 1/2 damage, jerk a bit but not thrown back. Extra: 1/4 damage, can continue current action if desired. Thus, a minor shock might do 1 wound and a potentially lethal one might do 4 or even 8 wounds. For steady current (not momentary shocks), every time you take damage you have to roll Luck. If that fails, you are stuck to the source and have to roll Muscles & Guts again next turn.
- Climbing rules? I'd like at least some example difficulties.
- Run some combats to see if the damage system has the right level of lethality. I'm pretty sure it'll be a little more lethal than Ironclaw but hopefully not too deadly.
Monday, November 10, 2003
Currently Nuclear Beasts has 7 basic Attributes. I want to look these over with an eye for which ones are overpowered and which ones are less useful.
- Muscles: covers how much you can carry, influences the damage done in melee and combines with a few skills such as Laboring and Grappling. Basically, it's the strength stat. In older versions it also helped you shrug off damage, but that's missing from the current version.
- Guts: covers your ability to survive damage (along with Will) and how much fatigue you can take. Used with few skills... maybe with stuff like Hiking for long-term travel. More important for surviving poisons, healing, and surviving actual damage.
- Speed: influences reaction time, combines dexterity and agility. Vital for combat, but also important for determining your movement rate.
- Brains: used with most mental skills. Also helps determine initiative (along with Speed).
- Perception: covers ranged attacks and noticing things. I'd like to find a shorter name for it, but I haven't been able to come up with one.
- Charm: covers your social skills and charisma.
- Will: determines your ability to withstand damage (along with Guts). Used with only a few skills like Resolve (resisting pain) and Intimidate.
So I'm thinking about merging Will into Guts and changing the Survival Check to use Muscles & Guts instead of Guts & Will. Will was always a somewhat iffy stat. In fact, at one point I reduced its cost to 1/2 that of the other stats because it just didn't apply to enough things. It was only after I hit upon the Survival Check system where it started contributing 50% to your ability to survive damage that it became worthy of being full price again.
Guts seems like an appropriate name for the combined stat. Folks commonly associate someone who has guts with being strong-willed. Guts would then be a combination of your physical constitution and personal willpower. Special Gifts and Flaws like Frail or Strong Willed could be used to represent characters who are physically tough but mentally weak or vice versa. The typical PC would have both the same, though, much like the way that Perception is assumed to cover both sensory input and aim equally.
Making the Survival Check into Muscles & Guts would also mean that big and strong characters were harder to kill, even if they weren't any harder to hurt. My damage scale (where the difficulty of wounding an unarmored foe is 4) is a bit too narrow to allow your Muscles rating to adjust it directly. I've considered having the base difficulty of wounding a character be their Muscles level plus 2, but then a big d12 Muscles dude would have a base of 7... add in platemail and it would take an 11 to hurt them, making them utterly invulnerable to many foes. I could make it so that only every other level actually gave you a bonus, but I hate doing stuff like that... it creates "sweet spots" where you either have to charge more points or end up with some PCs getting more bang for their buck, point-wise.
Neither Guts nor Will currently have very many skills that apply to them, so it's not like combining them would make the resulting stat too important. It would still apply to nowhere near as many skills as Brains or Speed. The character sheet wouldn't need much of a change, either. Will currently occupies the central circle in the radiation symbol that I put stats in... I had to enlarge it a good bit to put Will there in the first place... I can easily shrink it back and remove that stat.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Armor and Soak Ratings
There's one last area that has to be ironed out before I could seriously playtest the latest iteration of the rules, and that's determining how well a character resists damage.
In Ironclaw, your Body rating is basically added to whatever armor dice you have, forming a Soak pool. This gets compared to the Damage pool to see how much damage (if any) you take. In Nuclear Beasts, Body was basically broken up into Muscles and Guts ratings. Guts and Will are used to determine your chance of surviving damage, but not to how hard you are to injure. I've toyed with the idea of applying the Muscles trait to your Soak rating in some fashion, but I'm not sure it's necessary or desirable.
For example, I've kind of gone off the "Soak pool" method, where the difficulty of wounding your character is randomized. Oh, it's got some cute effects (I particularly like how well it lets you handle armor coverage and armor durability separately) but it slows stuff down and it can be difficult to balance out. So I've been experimenting with using flat values instead. This makes things faster and easier on the GM (especially when it's an NPC vs NPC fight, where the GM has to roll all of the dice on both sides). It's also a little less random... you don't run into the situation where the player rolls really well for damage... only to have the target roll slightly better and shrug off that hit entirely. That's not always a bad thing, but it is a difference.
Here's the current plan. Characters will have 3 different Soak/Durability ratings (Durability is a more accurate name, but Soak is a lot faster to write and say). The largest one is used against regular hits. The second largest against critical hits (hits by 4+ points) and the final one is used against extraordinary hits (hits by 8+ points). In general, the primary rating is the durability of your most armored or readily targetable parts. The secondary rating covers spots which armor often doesn't cover (such as the extremeties) and the tertiary rating is generally associated with hits to the joints and other very vulnerable spots. There won't actually be a hit location system as such; this is just an abstraction.
The default Soak rating for an unarmored character is 4/2/1. The difficulty of wounding them with a regular hit is 4, a crit is 2, etc. Note that the difficulty of 1 for an extraordinary hit means that every damage die will always do a minimum of 1 wound and a result of 5-8 does 2 and a result of 9+ does 3. Extraordinary hits are difficult to pull off, but when they do occur they can be quite lethal, even with minor weapons.
Now, armor increases your effective Soak rating. The bonus is generally +1 to +4, although ancient high-tech armors can go as high as +8. But since +8 renders you pretty much immune to all but the most powerful weapons on a standard hit, I want it to be pretty darn rare. PCs will probably never have armor that good.
Armor coverage is handled a little differently. The more of your body the armor covers, the more benefit you see in your secondary and tertiary Soak ratings. So a heavy metal breastplate might add +4/+0/+0, indicating that it boosts your primary Soak rating by 4 but doesn't affect the others at all. Really expensive, personally fitted armor might also add some benefit to the secondary or tertiary ratings.
Leather armor (covers the torso front and back): +1/+0/+0
Leather armor, extended (also covers limbs and includes leather helmet): +1/+1/+0
Leather armor, full-body (covers everything, including soft leather over the joints): +1/+1/+1
Chainmail (torso only): +2/+0/+0
Chainmail, extended (limbs too): +2/+1/+0
Chainmail, full-body: +2/+2/+1
Plate & Chain (breastplate and backplate only): +3/+0/+0
Plate & Chain, extended: +3/+2/+0
Plate & Chain, full-body: +3/+2/+1
Platemail (torso only): +4/+0/+0
Platemail, extended: +4/+3/+0
Platemail, full-body (e.g.- medieval suits of full plate): +4/+3/+2
For the playtest, I might use a simpler system that went +1/+0/+0 for leather, +2/+1/+0 for chain, +3/+2/+1 for plate & chain and +4/+2/+1 for full plate.
Since many Beasts won't have easy access to armor, there needs to be a downside to using it. Realistically, this should be some sort of increased fatigue cost per round of intense activity, but really- that's a lot of record keeping. So what I'm planning on doing is just saying that armor hinders certain kinds of activity and applying appropriate penalties.
In general, the Encumbrance Penalty for a given suit of armor is equal to its primary protection rating. It applies to skills like Acrobatics, Climb, Dodge, Jumping, Running and Swimming, but not to regular combat actions. So basically, no matter how strong you are, you should avoid wearing platemail when you swim. It's bad. Note that really large breeds may already have penalties to these skills, due to their size. So a High Elephant wearing full-body platemail is gonna be clumsy as heck, but devestating in battle.
Saturday, November 08, 2003
Balancing Natural Weapons
If a High Beast is disatisfied with their choice of weapon, they can trade it in for a different one. Low Beasts generally lack that opportunity; they're stuck with what nature gave them.
With that in mind, it's important to make sure that different breeds' natural weapons seem reasonably priced. In Ironclaw, they're almost all identical... I'd like a little more variety in Nuclear Beasts and I think the system supports it.
The primary ones are: Claws, Teeth, Hooves and Horns. Ironclaw doesn't make any distinction between the claws of a predator and those of a herbivore; it might be worthwhile to have different stats for the different kinds, instead of having a Squirrel's claws work exactly like those of a Wolf.
Since natural weapons are effectively weightless, I can't balance them out with strength requirements. Instead, I'll probably start with setting them up as level 3 weapons (which would normally require a d6 Muscles) and go from there. Actually, that's probably not enough; after all, they have other limitations like being poor at parrying. Let's start with level 4.
Claws (1 point): 2d6 [can't parry]
Teeth (1 point): d8,d4 [can't parry]
Hooves (1 point): d10 [can't parry]
Horns/Antlers (2 points): d10,d4 [parries like a normal weapon]
Small Claws (1/2 point): 2d4 [can't parry]
And now the enhanced versions for folks who bought the Improved Natural Weapons Gift. Bumps it up to level 6. Low Beasts receive this Gift for free.
Claws: 3d6 [can't parry]
Teeth: d10,d6 [can't parry]
Hooves: d12,d4 [can't parry]
Horns/Antlers: d10,d8 [parries like a normal weapon]
Small Claws: 2d6 [can't parry]
And, finally, the superior version for Low Beasts who bought Improved Natural Weapons again. Brings it up to a level 8 weapon... the sort that a d12 Muscles might let you wield with both hands.
Claws: 2d8,d6 [can't parry]
Teeth: d10,d8,d4 [can't parry]
Hooves: d12,d8 [can't parry]
Horns/Antlers: 2d10,d4 [parries like a normal weapon]
Small Claws: 3d6 [can't parry]
There may also be variations like Digging Claws (+1 to the cost, +2 to all Digging rolls). It'll depend on the final set of breeds for the game. But actually, I probably won't use things like "Digging Claws"... I'll just use Gifts like Good Digger that provide the same benefit without requiring me to add another entry to the natural weapons section. As far as parrying goes, I should point out that even a Low Beast can attempt a Bare-Handed Parry, it's just dangerous. Most natural weapons don't have the size and strength to block things like swords, so having claws on the end of your paw doesn't make it much better when you're trying to block an axeblow. Antlers are a bit more expensive because they can block things like swords, at least under certain circumstances.
Friday, November 07, 2003
Attack Rolls, Defense Rolls and Ties
In melee combat, the attacker will generally roll Speed & Melee (which, of course, may include specialized weapon skills or other related skills) vs the defender's Speed & Melee (if they parry or block) or their Speed & Dodge (if they dodge instead). If the attacker rolls less than a 4, there's no need for the defender to roll... the attack didn't come close enough for you to interact with it. If they rolled all ones (or got a zero or less after applying penalties) then the attacker botched and really goofed up.
Since these are opposed tests, ties are possible... in a regular check, a tie is normally resolved in the favor of the character and is considered a regular success, but when it's two opposed characters, we want there to be occasional ties.
Parry: blocking an attack with a weapon. On a tie, the attack is blocked but the two have "locked weapons" and are struggling for control (either side can forgo this effect by declaring that they lose the contest instead). If the defender gets a Critical Success (beating it by 4+), they've not only blocked the attack, the attacker is left off-balance and loses their next action. On an Extraordinary Success (beating it by 8+), they can claim a special bonus, such as a riposte (sneaking an extra attack in with whatever weapon you blocked it with) or disarm (knocking their weapon out of their hands).
Bare-handed Parry: works basically the same way, but at penalties. Using a bare-handed parry against a blunt weapon is at -1, a hafted weapon (like an axe, where there is a haft that's safe to touch) -2 and a bladed weapon (a sword or anything else where there is no safe place to touch the weapon except for grabbing the wielder's hand) at -4. Most natural weapons use the bare-handed parry rules (horns don't; that's their main advantage).
Shield Block: a shield is treated just like a parrying weapon, except that a shield generally gives you some bonus dice to include with your defense roll. That way, you don't actually have to be really skilled to use a shield (although it'll always help).
Dodge: the only real alternative to parrying/blocking in melee. Uses the Dodge skill instead of the Melee skill. On a tie, you successfully dodge if you are willing and able to back up several feet. If you can't or won't retreat, you get hit instead. Once you manage to back someone up against a wall, you'll start winning ties against their Dodge rolls.
Locked Weapons/Shield: your blade is pressed against their shield/parrying weapon and you struggle for dominance. It's an excellent time to exchange threats or try to intimidate your foe. As soon as someone tries to break away (it can continue indefinitely if both sides want to talk), both sides roll Muscles & Melee. On a tie, the struggle continues. If you get a success, your opponent is thrown off balance and loses their next action. If you get a crit, they are disarmed (or hit, if they were using a natural weapon). If you get an extra, you can disarm them and hit them or just hit them with a crit.
This adds a bit of drama and also supports some special maneuvers. For example, a really long weapon can be used to Sweep... a sweep is -1 to hit, but -2 to be dodged. This is the sort of slashing attack that folks have to jump over or duck under to avoid... it's usually used to force good dodgers to try and parry instead. You could also use a Low Sweep, where you aim so low that their weapon can't easily block it... this is -1 to hit, but parries are at -2 if their weapon/shield is too short to reach their feet. The names aren't really important; what matters is that you can try and push it towards one defense or the other. If your foe is equally good at both, this won't do you any good... they'll just use whichever defense is better in that situation and you'll suffer a penalty to hit for nothing.
A Battering Charge is when you throw your full weight behind your attack. You'll include your Muscles trait twice with both damage (if you hit) and your first roll on the Locked Weapons manuever (if you tie). On the other hand, you don't get any defense rolls when using it.
All-out Attack is discarding all hopes of defense and concentrating entirely on offense. +2 to hit but no defense rolls are allowed. Full Defense is the reverse... +2 to all defense rolls, but no attacks are allowed except for the Riposte, which requires that you beat them by 8+ anyway.
A Feint lets you roll Mind & Tactics vs the target's Mind & Tactics. A success grants you +1 to your next attack (provided that it's against the same target you used the manuever on), a crit grants +2 and an extra grants +4. Of course, if you tie or fail, they see through your manuever and you wasted your time.
Specific weapons can alter these rules, of course. A whip can't be used with a battering charge. Many unbalanced weapons have penalties to parry, whereas some especially well-balanced ones get a bonus.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
I may want to add an essay to the game about picking the right types of dice. Since you could have to grab a different set of dice for every combination of stat & skill(s), it's nice if your dice aren't all identical in color and pattern. If you can glance at your dice and immediately pick out all of the d10s because they're the only red ones, that'll speed things up a bit when you need to grab 2d10, d6 and d4.
Well, perhaps not an essay. Maybe just a paragraph. :-)
There are two main ways I could handle ranged combat. Like Ironclaw or like Savage Worlds. My final version will probably have some aspects of each.
In Ironclaw, ranged attacks are handled just like regular ones, with the defender making a defense roll (usually Speed & Dodge, sometimes Speed & Shield Block). The big difference is the addition of "range penalty dice". Basically, depending on how far away you are, the defender will get from 1 to 4 bonus d10s added to their defense roll. Even if they aren't suspecting trouble and default to a defense roll of '1', they still get those bonus dice. This has some odd effects. For example, it's random enough that shooting someone at short range (1d10 range) might be difficulty 10 and thus possible only for an expert. The effects of the range dice are very unpredictable. If I were to use this system for Nuclear Beasts, I'd probably use range dice like 2d6 -> 2d8 -> 2d10 -> and 2d12 instead of d10 -> 2d10 -> 3d10 -> 4d10. That way, the closer ranges are more predictable and even an 11 or 12 might miss at extreme range.
In Savage Worlds, the difficulty of a ranged attack is a flat value based on the distance. The target's stats don't directly influence it, although there may be additional modifiers. Unfortunately, I can't remember any of them offhand. I need to break out the Savage World rules again.
Here's what I'm thinking of: the base difficulty is a flat value, based on range (e.g.- close range is 4, short range 6, long range 8 and extreme range 10). If you spend your entire turn dodging, you can roll Speed & Dodge, too and use the better of the two numbers. That may be oversimplified. The further away you are, the less likely it is that dodging will reduce your chance of being hit, especially if you aren't very good at it.
Now this flat value will mean that a normal shot by a character with poor aim might have no chance of hitting someone at a given range. The "average" shooter (say d6 stat and d6 skill) can't hit at target at long range (diff 8) without aiming first. And unless he has a really powerful scope, even aiming won't enable him to succeed at a shot at extreme range (diff 10).
Is that bad? Well, it's mildly unrealistic. While a lousy shot should miss the vast majority of shots at any kind of serious range, it's always possible for a bullet to hit the right spot, just unlikely. If this is seen as a serious weakness, then the thing to do would be to replace the flat difficulties with random ones again, so that it's always possible that the given difficulty will drop down to 1 (or at least as low as 4). But doing that means rolling defense dice for every ranged attack, whereas using a flat value means that the defender doesn't have to roll anything. This can also be annoying for the GM. For example, if a sniper takes a shot at a PC, you won't always want to tell the PC the exact range that the sniper is at. So the GM has to roll both the attack and the defense (the range dice). I suppose it'll take playtesting to see for sure which method I'd prefer.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
I resized the Chronological Index again. I got rid of the margin-space on the left and right so that the table of entries would fit a little better.
Let me know if anyone has any suggestions for it.
Another easy way to add flexibility to firearms in the setting is to provide rules for specialty ammo. Without advanced tech, most Beasts are limited to crafting simple, standard bullets at best, but there's always the chance of finding a well-preserved package of unusual ammo.
I don't want to go overboard here. I'm already simplifying things by putting bullets and guns into 4 simple categories, ignoring the wide variety of different calibres and lengths out there. Including rules for obscure stuff like shotgun "firebreather" rounds (they turn your shotgun into a mini flamethrower, but really mess it up) seems pretty iffy. So I just want a short and simple list.
The most obvious kinds are Armor Piercing and Hollowpoint (anti-personnel rounds). AP rounds are designed for use against "hard" targets like heavily armored foes or people behind cover. They can actually end up doing less damage than regular rounds against unarmored targets because they tend to blow all the way through them without "mushrooming" (expanding to do more damage). Hollow-point rounds are designed to break apart and mushroom even when they hit fairly soft targets, so they don't penetrate armor very well but inflict more lethal wounds on unarmored targets.
I think this can actually be handled pretty well just by altering the dice pools. Let's try.
|Firearm Type||Standard||Armor Piercing||Hollow Point|
Hm. That's balanced, but not necessarily accurate. AP looks fine to me (although I might want more extreme results) but HP isn't actually any more lethal than normal unless you roll a critical or extraordinary hit.
So, given the damage dice system I've been working on, how much damage will guns do?
First, there has to be a tradeoff... guns can be potent, but not overwhelming. If that makes them unrealistically weak, that's fine... erring on the side of player survival is generally a good thing. Since Low Beasts generally can't use firearms at all, it's important to limit their effectiveness. There are several potential ways to limit them.
- Guns are rare and expensive. Not so hot, because you can get guns in ways other than just buying them, so PCs will eventually end up with them anyway.
- Ammunition is rare and expensive. This one is better. You need to make sure that every shot counts when you only have 10 rounds and can't get more.
- Guns are unreliable and break/misfire a lot. I'm iffy on this one; it might be realistic (and I'll probably want some variant of it for guns that haven't been maintained properly) but it's extra rolls and record keeping. And, in the heat of combat, it's easy to forget to roll that "misfire check" before actually attacking.
- Guns do crappy damage. Definitely not. I want decently realistic guns. Making them wussier than throwing daggers would just be silly.
- Guns are really inaccurate. Again, too unrealistic.
- Guns are forbidden. Eh, the setting wouldn't really support that. In a few places they might be, but I can't see an overall ban ever working without a strong, central government.
Damage will probably range from 3d6 and up. Since guns supposedly penetrate armor well, I don't want to use a lot of really small dice. They might use a range like d8,d6,d4. Since you don't include your Muscles die when using them (unlike melee weapons), they'll all get an extra die compared to normal weapons.
Rather than try to be really realistic, I'll probably break bullets up into Light Pistol, Heavy Pistol, Light Rifle and Heavy Rifle ammunition. Groups that actually want to deal with compatibility issues between .22 and 9mm ammo can easily add that distinction in; I'm not sure it's worth it except as background "color". Certainly I'm not enough of a gun expert to know which bullet should do d8,d6,d4 and which should do 3d6.
I'll try a simple version first. Remember that a regular weapon generally adds a d6 (2 levels) to its damage, on average, since that's the average Muscles die. With adventurer types, though, the average is probably more like d8.
Light Pistol: 3d6
Heavy Pistol: 3d8
Light Rifle: 2d8,d6
Heavy Rifle: 2d10,d8
Hm. That doesn't penetrate armor so hot. Perhaps I should use fewer dice?
Heavy Rifle: 2d12
Light Rifle: 2d10
Heavy Pistol: d10,d8
Light Pistol: 2d8
That makes a light pistol about like being hit with a club. Hm. I can't decide how powerful I want them to be. It's dangerous to make them too potent, because automatic weapons can theoretically hit someone multiple times with a single shot.
I also have to settle on a way of handling automatic fire. My current method is that your weapon will have an Autofire Modifier based on its accuracy and the range between you and the target. The best you can usually get is 2. This means that for every 2 points you hit the target by, you score an extra hit. So for an average difficulty shot (diff 4), a 6 would result in 2 hits, an 8 in 3, etc, generally maxing out at 5 hits with a roll of 12. All hits with automatic fire are considered to be normal ones, so it's lousy at hitting weak points (you can't score a critical or extraordinary hit if you fire multiple bullets).
Optionally, you can declare that you'd rather have the crit or extra and drop that many "bonus" hits. Pick the "base" level that you want to start calculating extra hits at. All hits are rolled as though they hit by that much. So if you rolled a 10 vs difficulty 4, you could choose to score 4 normal hits or you could use 8 as your difficulty (8 being the number you'd need to score a crit) and score 2 critical hits instead.
That's not particularly realistic, but it does allow you to roll all of the damage at once, since it'll all be against the same difficulty. Realistically, we ought to apply the first hit at the number you rolled, then subtract the Autofire Modifier and apply the next hit at that level and keep repeating until you drop below the base difficulty and miss. I'm just not sure that's worth the extra effort of recording every hit separately; I like being able to lump all of the damage together and roll it all at once.
So, let's say that you have a light automatic pistol that does 2d8 damage. You aim at a target for a couple of rounds to get a +2 bonus, then fire. You'll have to declare how many rounds you fire before you roll, so we'll pick 3. The Autofire Modifier in this situation is 2. Now you roll Perception & Shooting vs the difficulty. Let's say you get a 7+2=9 and the difficulty was 4. So you beat the target by 5. Now you could call it a critical hit (difficulty 8) but since you only had a 9, you wouldn't do any extra damage, it's just that the difficulty of wounding them would be reduced. It's probably better (unless they're heavily armored) to call it a regular hit and hit them with all 3 bullets. If you'd rolled a 10, you'd theoretically be able to hit them 4 times, but you only fired 3 rounds so you'd still only hit 3 times.
Now you roll 6d8 (3 times the normal damage) and compare that to the difficulty of wounding them with a regular hit. If they're unarmored, that's probably just a 4, so you'll do an average of 4.5 wounds and a max of 8. If they have an armor rating of 8, though, you'd be lucky to do even 1 wound and would definitely be better off taking the critical hit.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Adventure Nugget: The Tower
As the party travels through a fairly desolate area, they come across an old electrical tower that's still standing. These bare metal frameworks are fairly common, since electrical cables were strung along from tower to tower across most of the country. Many have since corroded and fallen down, but they're still used as landmarks by many Beasts. The wire and transformers have usually been stripped already (the towers are pretty easy to find, so they're usually only intact in isolated or primitive areas), but this one still has what looks like an electrical transformer at the top.
Once they get closer, though, they'll be able to see that the lump isn't the transformer, it's actually a cloaked body huddled near the top of the tower. It looks (and smells) like some poor Beast climbed up there and then died, but it isn't immediately obvious why.
Possible Twist: a pack of howlers chased the poor fellow up there, where he died from his wounds. A good tracking check will show that there are a lot of weathered bloodstains on the metal beneath him and the lower rails are heavily scratched, as though with many claws. If the pack is still in the area, the PCs might find themselves climbing up to reach safety, too. How long will the milling howlers stick around before hunger drives them elsewhere?
Possible Twist: a little more "Tremors"-ish than just howlers, the poor fellow was fleeing from a Wraith. Driven by its need to kill, the thing actually lurked below until the Beast died of exposure... but it's still lurking in a pool of foul water nearby. While the Beasts investigate the tower, it attacks, probably driving them up the tower, too. The amorphous thing can't climb metal, but it's tireless and difficult to kill without special weapons. Can the PCs find a way to distract it so that they can get away? A fast character might be able to jump down and lead it away, but they'll be in big trouble if anything goes wrong. Wraiths are very dangerous.
Possible Twist: his death actually due to electrocution. The tower has some unusual equipment mounted on it, and it actually still held a lethal charge. The body is draped over an experimental amplifier (bolted to the tower) that still gives off a faint hum. The machine would certainly be valuable (it's obviously still got working parts and some sort of stored power) but can they remove it and get it down to the ground safely? The current left in it isn't quite so lethally strong anymore (the first victim's death drained a lot of it) but it could still kill an unlucky Beast.
Regardless of the reason, they can still collect the victim's goods (he has some valuable metal tools) and it would be nice to at least bury the remains somewhere nearby. If there's a town or village nearby, they might consider wrapping the body up and taking it to them. Returning the body of a missing local would be an unpleasant task, but it would probably help establish friendly relations with the inhabitants. They might be accused of killing him, but any serious examination of the body will show that it's been dead for awhile.
Monday, November 03, 2003
Twelve Breeds Experiment
I've been debating the wisdom of trimming the game back to a small number of distinctive breeds that fill important roles in the setting with minimal overlap and saying that other breeds are rare or completely absent. That would allow me to concentrate on describing them and relieve me from the hassles of describing how minor breeds fit in. So I want to try shrinking it to 12 or so and see how practical it is.
- Bats: as the only flying breed, they make great scouts and messengers.
- Wolves: the prototypical pack carnivores.
- Bears: big and strong, grizzlies could be the musclemen of the setting.
- Pumas: appropriate for the part of the world and better suited to survival than intelligent housecats.
- Squirrels: small but agile tree-dwelling herbivores.
- Mice: small burrowers known for breeding rapidly and forming underground colonies.
- Horses: strong and fast runners. Probably limited to Low Beast only, but that's not a big deal. Always popular, too.
- Gorillas: the first High Beasts; they don't always get along with the newer breeds of High Beast. If there are no High Beast Horses, then it's good to have a breed for which there are no Low Beasts.
- Hyenas: pack predators useful as a foil to wolves; seen as just as deadly, but more ruthless and prone to scavenging.
- Otters: the best swimmers and the most aquatic of Beasts.
- Badgers: small but very tough and feisty. Could be replaced with Wolverines to emphasize it even more.
- Armadillos: slow, but well-armored. Also appropriate to the setting area. Adds another herbivore.
- Some popular breeds, such as Foxes, Coyotes and Tigers.
- The social dynamics of Lions.
- The construction skills of Beavers.
- The sheer size and muscle power of Elephants.
- The digging power of Moles.
- The clever hands of Raccoons.
- The quills of Porcupines.
- The stinking spray of Skunks.
- Innumerable minor Breeds that someone will want to play just because they really like Chinchillas. I guess that's not really any different from the current setup; having stats for three times as many breeds is nothing compared to the variety of real-world critters out there.
Having fewer breeds also lets me drop some troublesome bits of questionable usefulness, like properly representing the effects of Skunk-spray in the system (not to mention the juvenile humor sometimes associated with how they spray foes). If I drop, say, Low Beast Mice, then I don't have to rationalize the whole size thing as much. Dunno. It's somewhat tempting to try and unify the setting behind a well-developed group of breeds/species instead of trying to provide a framework for many dozens of different intelligent species, both High and Low.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
One aspect of Ironclaw that I didn't particularly care for (but it didn't really become obvious to me until recently; there was a post on the mailing list today that really made me think about it) is the undervaluation of d4s. They're pretty darn useless. They minimize the likelihood of botches, but otherwise they don't really help with most skills. See, the "typical" difficulty in the system is 2d8. A task that's difficulty 2d6 is considered only routine. And, as you can see, if you have a difficulty of 2d6, then there's a really good chance that one of those two dice will roll a 5 or 6, making success impossible if you only have d4s. A d4 only gives you about a 50% shot at accomplishing a task with the ridiculously simple difficulty of 1d4. That's actually what the rulebook calls a difficulty of d4... ridiculously simple. But if you only have d4s to roll, there's still a decent chance of failing a "ridiculously simple" task... if that die comes up a 4, then the best you can do is tie.
This means that the dice ratings that you really care about (the ones that are usually useful) are basically d6 and up and d8 and up if you want to succeed reliably at a "routine" task of difficulty 2d6. In opposed tests, you're usually going against someone's stat of d8 (the average) even if they lack the appropriate skill. Again, a d4 isn't much use.
For Nuclear Beasts, I intend to make the typical difficulty of adventuring tasks 4 and lower each of the stat dice by a step. So the "average" stat will be d6 instead of d8 and the "intermediate" difficulty will be the equivalent of 2d6 instead of 2d8. That should have the effect of making starting characters more competent and making d4s more useful.
Now while I'm planning to use set difficulty numbers in most places, there will be spots where we'll want randomized difficulty levels. There are spots where there are advantages to using 2d6 instead of a flat rating of 4, even though the averages are quite similar (2d6, taking the higher die, has an average of 4.47).
Here are some times when you'd probably use randomized difficulty instead of a set one:
- When success should be difficult but inevitable, provided that you try long enough. For example, shooting a basketball through the hoop from a good distance away. If you try long enough, you'll eventually get it, but it may take a number of tries.
- When the difficulty could be over a wide range, depending on factors you haven't decided on yet. For example, if someone tries to get a date from a random female NPC, the difficulty could be almost anything. Has she already got a boyfriend? Is she lonely? Does she have the Lustful flaw? If you haven't even named the character, the odds are you haven't thought about any of those other factors, either. Using a random roll to determine the difficulty makes it possible for it to be a particularly easy or difficult task, while still setting the "average" difficulty appropriately.
- When victory should always be possible for either side, even if one side seriously outclasses the other. This usually implies opposed rolls between two opponents, but it's also used for Survival Tests. I want a wounded PC to always have a chance of pulling through, even if it's a very small one.
|Level||Set Difficulty||Randomized Difficulty||Average|
Weapon Damage Pools - Part II
Okay, I want to set the damage pools for various weapons as though they were skills... assuming that a d4 is worth 1 point, a d6 worth 2, etc. The damage system will hopefully be balanced around a target number of 4, which will be the rating of the typical, unarmored foe. I'd originally considered having 4 be the rating of a lightly armored foe, with 2 being unarmored, but that seemed like it might cripple unarmored characters too much. With a lot of Low Beasts, armor is hard to find, so I want unarmored characters to be playable.
For melee weapons, I'm mostly going to determine their total damage value (the sum of the point cost of all their dice, so a weapon that does 2d6 has a value of 4) by the weapon's weight. For the moment, I'll assume that you can easily wield a weapon whose value is equal to the value of your Muscles rating plus one. Thus, a character with d4 Muscles can wield a weapon of up to value 2, and a d12 can wield one of up to 6. That makes the difference between really strong characters (d10 to d12) and really weak ones (d4) more equitable... x3 instead of x5. So the typical person, with a Muscles of d6, can wield a weapon of value 3 easily. That's a weapon that does d8, d6 & d4 or 3d4 damage. If it's unbalanced (meaning that it's at -1 to parry attacks), it'll get another point of damage value. Actually, I'll use that system for any bonuses or penalties and see how it looks...
Mace: d10 (-1 to parry)
Staff: d6 (+1 to parry)
Axe: d8,d4 (-1 to parry)
Hm. I'm not really sure about the Spear entry. The damage sucks against armored foes... a regular hit can't hurt someone wearing even leather armor. Perhaps I should give it a -1 parry? Then it would be d6,2d4. That seems a little more reasonable.
The ultralight versions for d4 Muscles folks...
Small Mace: d8 (-1 to parry)
Small Staff: d4 (+1 to parry)
Small Club: d6
Axe: d6,d4 (-1 to parry)
Javelin: 3d4 (-1 to parry)
Now the heavy weapons for d10 Muscles folks...
Heavy Mace: d12,d4 (-1 to parry)
Heavy Staff: d10 (+1 to parry)
Heavy Club: d12
Battleaxe: d10,d6 (-1 to parry)
Heavy Pike: 3d6 (-1 to parry)
And ultra-heavy weapons for d12+1 Muscles folks... stuff bigger than what humans ever used (in one hand, anyway).
Great Maul: d12,d8 (-1 to parry)
Cut Log: d10,d6 (+1 to parry) [decided to keep it below d12s]
Great Club: d12,d6
Greatsword: d10,d8 [keeping swords balanced between two similar dice]
Greataxe: d12,d6,d4 (-1 to parry) [keeping axes as only one big die]
Greatpike: 2d8,d6 (-1 to parry)
That seems fairly reasonable, actually. Those huge weapons are actually nastier than they look, because you can't wield 'em easily unless you've got another +1 bonus from great strength (if you have a d12+1 Muscles rating, that +1 is added to all of the dice in your damage roll, not just your Muscles die).
Another issue is two-handed style... how heavy of a weapon can you wield with both hands? In Ironclaw, it's around 1.5x as much as you could with one hand, which seems reasonable. So someone with d10 Muscles (level 4) could wield a greatsword (level 6), but it would be a two-handed weapon. Depending on whether I round up or down, a character with d8 Muscles (level 3) might be able to use a level 5 weapon or just a level 4. I'll probably round up unless playtesting shows a need otherwise. Besides, Ironclaw-style, I'll probably allow you to wield a weapon of up to twice your base level, just at penalties, so the minimum strength necessary to wield that level 6 weapon is actually d8 Muscles... they'll just be at a -1 penalty to do anything with it.
Saturday, November 01, 2003
Gamma World D20: The Verdict
Well, I doubt I'll get much use out of the new GW book. It's got some nifty ideas, but the execution is kind of poor. And while they've trimmed back the silliness a bit (the default explanation for the more ridiculous powers is now "nanotech" instead of "radiation"), the book is still mostly oriented around stuff that has little or no place in Nuclear Beasts. The setting is just too serious and the tech more conservative, in comparison to Gamma World.
There are nifty ideas here. For example, they have a form of "magic" that basically says that the ancients had released swarms of generic purpose super-nanotech into the environment that were just supposed to hang around until they received signals telling them what to do. If you get infected with the proper kind of nanites, you can mentally signal other nanites in the area to do stuff like build a ladder out of local materials. Since it's "magi-tech" level nanotech, they can do almost anything really, if instructed properly, including deflecting incoming bullets so that they don't reach you. In areas where the nanite swarms are healthy, this becomes a very powerful ability... but every use consumes some of the local nanites, so you may eventually find that your power just stops working there.
Then there's the "communities as characters" bit, which is nifty but crippled by the complete lack of any explanation of what the ratings should mean in practice. Hopefully the GM's guide will have some instruction; as is, it's pretty useless.
I was hoping to steal material from their psychic powers section, but it's really inapplicable. The only powers are Precognition, Psychic Shield (defending against other psi), Telekinesis and Telepathy. There are 3 "power levels" of each, but otherwise it's basically just those four. So no really nifty powers (those four are all covered by powers I've either already included or decided to leave out because they didn't fit in) and I'm not that impressed with their "feedback" mechanism which limits how often you can use your powers. Basically, every use has a flat 5% chance of causing you take damage and possibly be knocked out.
I could still use D20 Modern, but since I don't have much interest in that otherwise, I'll probably hold off. Maybe if Nuclear Beasts did really well it would be worth porting the system to D20, but it's pretty iffy. The current version of the rules bears very little resemblance to D20 and, worse, depends on some aspects of the dice system (like combining skills making rolls more reliable, but not increasing the max) that just don't exist in D20.
I've switched the Chronological Index to use smaller text. Now that I've got 4 months listed, the table was extending too far. Let me know if this change interferes with the page in any way. It shouldn't, though.
If the blog lasts too long, I'll probably have to do a separate index per year or six months or whatever. I don't think it'll last that long, though. I mean, the point is to help me whip Nuclear Beasts into a publishable format. Once it's published, the daily updates will probably shrink to weekly, then maybe vanish entirely. It's been a good experience, though; I'll probably use a design blog for any future projects, too. I really like being able to make progress in little increments and track the progression.
Weapon Damage Pools
Okay, so for the moment I'm assuming that weapon damage will be pools of dice. Weapons that require a lot of skill to use well, but which can be very lethal if aimed properly, will get lots of low dice. Weapons which can batter their way through armor well will get fewer, larger dice.
So I'll throw out some reasonable values. Each weapon will also include the wielder's Muscles rating when it does damage, so there will always be at least one additional die added. Since all weapons are supposed to be balanced at difficulty 4 (a regular hit on an unarmored target), I'll start out by trying to use the same system as skills... d4 = 1, d6 = 2, d8 = 3, d10 = 4 and d12 = 5.
Let's start with some prototypical ones: sword, mace, spear and axe. Mace is the one where skill counts for least... I mean, it obviously helps to aim well, but you often can't deliver the full force to a really small and precise area because you'll hit other bits on the way. For example, if you aim well enough to hit a foe in the eye, a stabbing sword might go through the socket without hitting the outer bones of the skull at all. A flat mace is going to hit the skull. So mace gets the fewest dice.
All of these are 5-point weapons, but they won't perform the same in play. The mace is the best at injuring heavily armored foes while the spear-wielder can be devestating if he hits the right spot. This can actually be tweaked further. For example, an unbalanced axe might get another point of damage dice (d12,d4?) but be -1 to parry attempts.
As a general rule, I'm going to say that the total cost of a weapon's damage dice is roughly equivalent to its weight (at least for melee weapons). You can use a weapon whose total damage is equal to your Muscles rating with one hand. You can use one of up to half-again your Muscles rating if you use both hands. You can also wield something heavier than that, but you take a -1 penalty to all rolls with it; above Muscles x 2, you can't wield it effectively at all. I'll have to look at some examples to see if that's practical. It might make weak characters too weak... after all, a d4 Muscles character would have to use two hands to wield a weapon that did just d6 damage (total d6,d4), while a very strong, d12 Muscles character could use a 2d12 weapon and get a total of 3d12. I might need to center the numbers a bit, so that weaker characters aren't entirely screwed and strong characters aren't overpowered. After all, 3d12 could do 9 wounds on a regular hit against an unarmored foe... d6,d4 is limited to two.