The Natural Attribute Edge
I've just added the Natural Attribute Edge... it's a Breed Edge, meaning that specific Breeds get it automatically and no one else can take it. It basically just says that you get a free increase of whichever attribute it happens to apply to.
I'm bringing it up now, because it occurs to me that I really only use one attribute that way right now... Muscles. Some Breeds will get Natural Muscles once, maybe even two or three times, to represent their innate size and strength.
I currently have no plans to include the other attributes... but maybe I should. A free stat increase is a major bonus, after all. I could make Coyotes naturally charming, Mice naturally smart, Cats naturally fast, etc. It would be more stereotypical than Ironclaw does it, but that's not necessarily bad... Ironclaw is set up to where you can make a small and timid Rhino if you want to. A stronger stereotype would allow me to balance the Breeds a little better (this Breed seems underpowered? Give them a boost in the most appropriate stat) and would make them more distinctive in the setting.
After all, Ironclaw was looking for a "melting pot" effect where all of the races were basically equal except for a few minor differences. I could make the differences more striking in Nuclear Beasts and that would help give the game a distinctive feel; I don't want it dismissed as an "Ironclaw ripoff" after all.
I'd like a bunch of small illustrations for the glossary section. I figure maybe if I can list off a few, maybe I can sketch & ink them at some point. They should be small and relatively simple. They're just there to break up the text.
- The only one I currently have is a poison-marker.
- A skull-marker should be easy. Just a post with a skull on it.
- A worn quarter stamped with a small, wolf-head imprint.
- An obviously old and broken piece of ancient tech, probably the more inscrutable the better.
- A pool of dark, bubbly water, perhaps ringed by small bones and dead plants. I've tried drawing this once so far, but didn't like the result. Perhaps I shouldn't darken in the water, or darken it after it's drawn with some sort of computer-aided dithering. The original black water came out as more of a blob.
- A severed tail for the snip section? Iffy.
- I could do a Harpy or Kukukuk pic, but it would need to be small and simple, since it's for the glossary section. I don't want pics that are larger than their corresponding entries.
- A rusted and ruined car.
- A heavily armed Exterminator (but again, a small and simple pic, not a "real" illustration).
- A slavering wolf-head for the "Rabies" entry.
So, it's about time to rewrite the various Breeds to fit this new format. Let's see...
Ferret, Weasel, etc.
Natural Weapons: Claws, Teeth
Instinctive Skills: Contortionist, Dodge, Smell, Stealth, Tracking
Innate Edges: None
Innate Flaws: None
Bonus/Penalty: 8 free points of Edges
Low Beast: +4 Move, 2x Carrying Capacity
Okay, that's 8 points worth of skills (Contortionist & Smell are both Narrow skills and are 1 point per level instead of 2) plus a free Major Edge. I'm not including Natural Weapons in the list, because everyone gets that. But Ferrets are pretty simple. No special Edges or Flaws. Let's try something a little more impressive.
Wolf, Dog, Coyote, etc.
Natural Weapons: claws, teeth
Instinctive Skills: Listen, Running, Smell, Tactics, Tracking
Innate Edges: Echoing Cry (1)
Innate Flaws: None
Bonus/Penalty: 8 free points of Edges, choice of Garrulous or Taciturn Flaw.
Low Beast: +4 Move, 2x Carrying Capacity
Hm. Only 7 points of Skills at first... is there another 1/2 cost skill I could include? Also, I'm actually moving back towards the old Ironclaw method of giving everything an exact point value. Perhaps instead of giving them 7 points of Edges (which is a really awkward number, considering that most cost either 4 or 8) I should slap them with Garrulous (-1) or Taciturn (-1).
And the names ought to be rewritten a bit... this is all too similar to the Ironclaw version. The idea is to improve on that setup, not duplicate it. I mean, I could make cosmetic changes like changing "Contortionist" to "Escape Artist" but that seems kind of pointless.
I might also split up the skill list into two sets: standard skills and narrow skills. That way, it would be more obvious which ones were cheap. I don't want to make Tracking a full cost skill in one place and a half-cost skill elsewhere.
Is it worthwhile to refer to the Edges as 4 and 8 points? Really, it's Minor and Major, with the possible addition of "Trivial" Edges at 1-2 points. I'd almost prefer the Savage Worlds system of hiding their point value, just so that it's clear that Edges and Skills are purchased separately. In Ironclaw, these would be 2 and 4 point Gifts. There's definitely something to be said for simplifying the classification into Minor/Major instead of giving exact point values... it discourages me from obsessing too much over whether something is 1 point better or worse than something else.
Another quick attempt- let's go for the most expensive Breed.
Natural Weapons: Tusks
Instinctive Skills: Herbalism, Listen, Running, Tactics
Innate Edges: Prehensile Trunk (1), Big x2 (8)
Innate Flaws: Choice of Garrulous or Taciturn
Low Beast: +4 Move, 2x Carrying Capacity
Well, this isn't really good enough. Big x2 isn't nearly enough to represent a full-grown Elephant. Heck, for full-size, real-world elephants, you'd need x10... +10 levels of Muscles, -10 to agility tasks... which is probably too crippling to be desirable. Besides, real-world elephants can learn to do feats of simple Acrobatics and such, it's just difficult. Perhaps Big should be recosted.
Big: Increase your Muscles attribute by 2 levels (16 points). Subtract 1 from Acrobatics, Clever Hands, Climb, Contortionist, Dance, Dodge, Stealth, Swimming and anything else where your oversized mass works against you (that's about 12 points worth of skill penalties, but I'd only count it as about half that for the purposes of reducing the cost). Double the amount of food you require each day (-2?). [16-6-2 would give us 8, which is a Major Edge.] But Elephants would still want 2 levels of Big.
I'll have to think about it further.
Point Cost Revamp - Part II
I'm not sure if the XP award per session should be 5 points or just 4. Each Nuclear Beasts XP is a single character point... roughly equal to 1/2 of a character point or 2.5 XP in Ironclaw.
So 5 XP per session would be the equivalent of getting 12.5 XP in Ironclaw. I originally decided to give larger awards because Ironclaw is full of minor skills that you'll need to round out your character... giving more XP while still requiring that it be split up into multiple areas helps encourage you to pick up those skills.
But the new skill system has fewer and broader skills. 5 XP might actually be too much... although probably not significantly too much. I suppose it'll really depend on what sort of "feel" you want for the game. Since a "novice" Nuclear Beasts PC would cost about 48 points, whereas a novice Ironclaw PC costs 20, it would take you about 10 sessions to double in power in both systems.
Novice: 40 points, no skill dice above d8.
Experienced: 60 points, no skill dice above d10.
Expert: 80 points, no skill limits.
Hm. It would take 8 sessions to get from "Novice" to "Expert", at least on paper. I probably should drop it to 4 XP per session, with 5 for Low Beasts and the occasional "bonus" XP in a particular skill. Advancement in "Specialty" or "Narrow" skills will be quite rapid anyway, since every XP bumps it up a step.
You'll get to choose three things that influence your starting skills... your Breed, which determines which skills include your Race trait, your Type, which will determine your starting Race trait, and your Background, which determines which skills you get a free bonus d6 in. I might change the Background into a "career" of sorts, rather than just giving skill points. I'm not sure; it would have the advantage that you could buy additional Backgrounds later as Edges (or improve them to a higher die, again with an Edge). I'm not sure that's desirable, though.
Normal Skills cost 2 points per level. Specialty Skills, which are considerably narrower in scope, only cost 1 point per level. I'll be depending on the diminishing returns curve to ensure that people who specialize aren't seeing as much of a benefit as folks who spread out their skills.
I'm worried about longterm balance; perhaps I should ask Sean to take a "novice" character and spend 40 XP on them... see how unbalanced the final result is.
The Breeds will probably all be considered equal and not have a point cost at all. What I'll do is give bonus Edge points (up to 8, I expect) to the wussier Breeds. Stuff like Elephants may not get any bonus points at all. After that, you can take up to 8 more points of Edges, but only at the cost of taking a similar value in Flaws.
The big change with using Edges instead of Gifts is that now I'm planning on people acquiring them over time, so there will be very few that you can't purchase after character creation. My original Gift setup was more restrictive and envisioned you starting with most or all of your desired Gifts.
Well, I've started in on the rulebook rewrite. The rules themselves are an 87 page Open Office document. It used to be longer, but the first thing that I decided to do was to shrink the standard font size from 12-point to 10-point.
This doc hasn't been seriously updated since I decided to switch to flat target numbers for most tasks, so it's a bit out of date. I'm trying to be thorough; I don't want old references to obsolete concepts included. For example, the Will attribute has been absorbed into Guts, but there are still several places that refer to it in the rules. That's all gotta be cleaned up.
On the upside, now that I've got a somewhat cleaner system and a better idea of how I want to handle things, I think the final ruleset may come out smaller. Hopefully, anyway. I prefer small, light rulesets; I don't want to have to page through a hundred pages of special cases to find out what to do.
Combat Manuevers from Buffy
Got a copy of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG for Christmas. Very slick design, but that's only to be expected considering that a popular TV-show merchandise product generally has a budget several times larger than a normal RPG. I figured that I'd look through their combat section for ideas. It's got some good ones.
Initiative: They have a very simple initiative system which sort of boils down to "use common sense". Certain kinds of actions get to go first, followed by whoever ought to go next, with DEX to break ties. For example, if two people are fighting and only one of them managed to land a hit last turn, the book recommends letting them go first. Naturally, there's also an optional rule where everyone just rolls DEX+1d10 and they all act in order from highest to lowest.
Catch Thrown Weapon: In Nuclear Beasts, this would be a Speed & Melee roll at -4. If you pull it off, you can snatch a thrown weapon out of the air. Missile weapons (like sling-stones, bows and crossbows) are harder, and take a -8. That's not as easy as the Buffy version, but I'm not looking for that cinematic of a universe. Naturally, you have to have hands to try this defense.
Killing Blow: An attack intended to immediately slay a vulnerable or obviously inferior foe. The attack is at -4 to hit but if you succeed it's automatically an Extraordinary Hit. Basically, you take a penalty so hefty that you'd have to roll a Critical Hit in order to succeed in return for it becoming an Extraordinary hit if you do. If you manage to roll a Critical or Extraordinary hit despite the -4, you'll get a further +2 (Crit) or +4 (Extra) to your damage roll as well. This is basically the "Decapitation" manuever from Buffy without the requirement that it be an edged weapon.
Jumping Attack: You leap into the air while delivering a melee blow of some sort. First you have to roll Speed & Jumping, then a standard melee attack roll to thwack your foe. If you hit, add the successes from your Speed & Jumping roll to the damage done. The downside is that if you fail the Jumping roll you'll fall down and be vulnerable until you get back up. This manuever also requires a bit of room to move. It can't be done in tight quarters. It's a complex action, so you won't be able to do much else during the round, either.
Kick: Only for High Beasts, this is basically just a punch that's -1 to hit and +1 to damage. You can also do a spin kick or some other kind of even more impressive kick that's -2 to hit and +2 to damage, if you want.
Tackle: Basically a kind of charge/grapple. If you hit, roll Speed & Muscles vs the target's Muscles & Muscles. If you win, they get knocked down. If you hit, you've also grappled them, even if they don't fall down. It's a complex action. You can try a Flying Tackle by invoking the Jumping Attack rules above. Add your Jumping successes to the Speed & Muscles vs Muscles & Muscles roll. Of course, if you miss, you'll go flying. Like all grappling attacks, if you roll a Crit or Extra you can apply a follow-up manuever immediately.
Trip: Trip up your foe. Roll Speed & Melee (and weapon skill if you have something appropriate like a staff) vs their defense roll. If you get a Success, they fall if they were moving or off balance. On a Crit or better they fall. On an Extra, you can guide them to fall in the direction of your choice or inflict their own Muscles in damage to them. Low Beast quadrapeds get +4 to resist and Chimera quadrapeds get +2. The size bonus from the Big Edge applies towards resisting this roll, but if they do fall and take damage it'll increase the amount suffered as per normal. It's hard to knock down an elephant, but when they do fall, it hurts.
I'm not that fond of wound penalties myself. Nuclear Beasts will probably have them, but only as an optional rule. I think the lack of them lends itself more to heroic outcomes... exhaustion may render a character simply unable to defend themself, but damage won't unless it knocks them out.
That said, though, here's a rough idea for the optional version. Since lethal wounds can't actually occur until you reach d10, that's when I'll start the penalties. The chart below doesn't count Extra Hit Points/Scratches, of which most characters will have at least one.
|10+||4d12+2 and up||-4|
That seems decently reasonable. It doesn't get really crippling until you're probably on the verge of dying, anyway. It doesn't ever get worse than -4, which keeps it from being too crippling.
I'm torn on whether or not the penalties should kick in immediately. I'd tend to say so, just because that's easiest. Sure, adrenalin can keep you going despite injuries for awhile (generally until you notice how bad you're hurt), but broken bones and other serious impairments will still slow you down. I want to keep the combat system abstract, so I don't want to spend too much effort on realism, like figuring out whether or not you broke a bone (and if so, which one).
Most Beasts just barter, generally trading one item for another or occasionally one particularly valuable item for a bunch of small ones. Sophisticated trading is generally limited to food and bullets and even then the final trading value is more dependent upon your ability to haggle than anything else. There aren't any set values.
In a few places, though, currencies exist. Both the Verde and the League of Free Beasts have adopted the ancient currency of Man, after a fashion. Coins and paper money had been phased out by the time of the Last War and had been replaced with electronic currency, but they still existed. The paper money hasn't lasted, but metal coins have.
Both the Verde and the League have adopted basically the same system. They take ancient coins and polish up the ones that are in better shape. Then they stamp them with a particular emblem, so that they are now official currency and their governments give them out as pay. Technically, Verde money isn't any good in the League and vice-versa, but in practice you can usually find someone willing to accept or exchange it. Many professional scavengers and traders go between both areas, selling their products in whichever region will bring the better price.
The value of this ancient coinage isn't necessarily what one would expect, however. The largest coin normally found is the quarter. 50-cent pieces and silver dollars are used, but they're very rare so most Beasts have never even seen one.
Next in value is the nickel, which is largely the most common form of currency. Its value is deemed equal to 1/5 of a quarter.
Then the dime. Each dime is regarded as having a value 1/5 of that of a nickel. A few, more literate, Beasts have examined the inscription and wonder if perhaps a dime should be worth more than a nickel, but that's silly. It's smaller and weighs less, so it's obvious not as valuable. Dimes are the base unit of currency and most full-time laborers are paid a dime or two a day.
Pennies are generally regarded as trash-money. By weight it's deemed roughly equal to a dime, but it's not silver-colored the way that money should be. Most people treat pennies (and any other discolored or unstamped coins) as worth 1/5 of a dime. The Verde doesn't bother to stamp pennies at all and they're officially not currency at all although most places will still accept them... they just aren't worth much. The League actually stamps them and tries to keep people from accepting unstamped ones, but has never really had much luck controlling their use.
The emblem of the Verde is a stylized wolf-head. That of the League of Free Beasts is a five-pointed star.
Counterfeiting is a real problem, but so far not a particularly troublesome one. There's a steady influx of new coins as scavengers locate hidden caches of them, but there's also a steady outflow of coins as their use spreads throughout the Verde and the surrounding countryside. So far inflation hasn't set in.
The secret society called the Caretakers are the only Beasts with ready access to cybernetic implants. They keep the cyberware, and their own existence, as secret as possible.
I haven't quite decided whether being a Caretaker will be an Edge or not... it might well be. True, you're expected to obey the higher-ups and your cyberware does need periodic maintenance, but getting access to lost skills and high tech equipment probably makes up for it.
So, a few example gizmos, of the sort I'm envisioning.
Radio Implant: there's a radio in your head. By subvocalizing, you can transmit shortrange signals that nearby (within a mile) receivers can pick up. Caretakers use this to keep track of other Caretakers in the area. When they are "undercover", this allows them to discuss things without the risk of someone overhearing something that they shouldn't. The battery will last for years on regular use, but can send a high-powered burst signal about 6 times before being drained. This is used to transmit important reports and it has to be used sparingly; Exterminators home in on transmissions like this very rapidly.
It can also be used to scan the airwaves, trying to pick up Exterminator transmissions and other radio traffic. They're usually encrypted, but at least you can get a sense of how much local activity there is.
Subdermal Armor: plastic and metal mesh has been placed under your skin so that you are harder to hurt without it being really obvious. It's generally thin enough that it doesn't seriously slow you down, but it is somewhat encumbering.
Cybereye: a replacement eyeball that can record video as well as reducing penalties for poor lighting. Its records can be beamed back as an encrypted bundle over the radio link, if necessary. It doesn't transmit pain and the dazzle effects of really bright light only last for a single round at most.
Targetting Eye: never used in field personnel, this oversized artificial eye replaces a decent portion of the subject's face and is very difficult to conceal. On the upside, it is much more powerful than a regular eye and includes telescopic magnification, thermographic vision, a sophisticated targetting system and the ability to kick in a kind of "X-Ray" vision that can see through thin walls. This was a common piece of military cyberware during the Last War... it has the advantage that it can be used even when the original optic nerve has been destroyed.
Pain Gate: this implant in your spinal column dulls pain beyond a certain point. If turned up to maximum effect, the subject becomes completely impervious to pain: the most agonizing of tortures will only produce a kind of unpleasant itch. It grants an Extra Hit Point and a +4 bonus to all Resolve rolls.
Nuclear Heart: your heart has been replaced with a mechanical version with a nuclear powercell. It beats steadily with perfect rhythm and will even continue to beat for some time after the rest of your body dies. You get three extra Fatigue levels and a bonus d8 added to your Survival Tests.
Amplified Hearing: the addition of a small computer and some sensory equipment in your head gives you a +3 to Listen checks. This piece of equipment does not stack with Good Ears or Great Ears... the +3 replaces the other bonuses.
Arm Harness: two cybernetic arms, attached to a metal harness wrapped around the upper torso of a Low Beast. This device is almost completely unconcealable, but it grants hands to a Low Beast. It takes a lot of time to learn how to use it, but once you learn how it works quite well. It does reduce your effective Speed by a level, though, because it's quite bulky.
Low Beast Caretakers are often promised the option of having an arm harness implanted someday. It's a horribly unnatural contraption, but to some the allure of becoming "High Beasts" themselves is strong enough to overcome that.
Low Beasts with this device are never sent on field missions. The arms can be detached when secrecy is paramount, but even then many parts of the harness and interface simply can't be removed and have to be covered up.
Replacement Limb: a rarity, but sometimes used in emergencies. These cybernetic limbs are generally only used on High Beasts, because the only available models were intended for humans. While almost tireless, they aren't really any stronger than normal limbs (if they were, they'd tear up the rest of your body). Because human legs generally bend differently than High Beast legs, having one or both legs replaced generally costs you 2 points of movement and requires a lot of time and training learning how to walk again. The metal can be concealed under fake fur, but generally won't stand up to close scrutiny.
Point Cost Revamp
One thing that I'll probably do is revamp the point costs a bit. Previously, I've been using the old Ironclaw standard of giving out XP in 1/2 point intervals and saying that it takes two XP to increase a skill.
But I've started using more and more 1/2 point things... really minor Racial Edges, Half-Cost Skills, etc. It might well be worthwhile to double all of the costs and go with that.
Edges: "Major" Edges cost 8, "Minor" ones cost 4. A few will cost 2 or 1, but they'll be the exception, not the rule.
Regular Skills: 2 points per level.
Narrow Skills: 1 point per level.
PCs get 5 points per session (6 for Low Beasts) but they all have to be allocated to different things. You can't buy a 4-point Edge without spreading it out over 4 sessions. [Should you be further restricted to only spending 1 point per session on Edges? I doubt that'll matter if I price Edges and such appropriately.]
Dedicated training in play can net you a bonus point or two, but usually in specific skills. This can be combined with a regular XP award.
I could be more specific... give everyone 4 Skill Points per session (+1 for Low Beasts) and 1 Edge-Point. Skill points have to be allocated immediately (1 per skill) but Edge-Points can build up. At any reasonable point you can spend your accumulated Edge-Points to purchase a new Edge, but only one per session. That would restrict advancement a bit more severely, but it would also eliminate the possibly unbalancing circumstance of someone who puts all of their points towards bumping up their stats.
One thing that I don't have firm rules for yet is the reliability of ancient equipment. Basically, ancient stuff shouldn't always be in good enough shape to use. Old ammo may fail to ignite, old guns may jam, old flashlights may flicker out.
I want a standard way to handle this. I'm just not sure what that way should be.
- Ignore it: all ancient tech is assumed to work perfectly well unless you botch; then it might break.
- Luck: you have to roll Luck to see whether or not something works. If you roll a Failure or worse, it doesn't. Really unreliable items could add a penalty to your roll, I suppose.
- Reliability Ratings: individual items may have a set of Reliability Dice that you roll to see if it works each time. This would be a bit like the Ironclaw "spark die", where a gun may fail to fire if you roll too low. The downside is having to roll these dice every time. Worse, if you forget to roll, you'll automatically succeed, so it doesn't exactly encourage players to try hard to remember to roll.
- Objects in poor conditions apply penalties to whatever you do with them. Really bad rolls can be blamed on malfunctions. This would be a bit like finding an AK-47 (-2) and having a -2 to hit anything with it. On the upside, this is pretty easy to keep track of and doesn't require any additional rolls. Really good maintenance/repair rolls could reduce or eliminate the penalty.
- Mint condition: no penalty
- Standard condition (worn, well-used, exposed to dust and grime, but otherwise well-maintained): -1
- Poor condition (not maintained): -2
- Salvagable (not quite broken, still fixable): -4
- Broken: impossible to use until successfully repaired
You can roll Brains & Repair Tech on a gizmo to try and keep it in working order or fix it if it isn't.
- Botch: ugh, you damaged it. Reduce its condition by a step.
- Failure: you clean it up a little, but don't really do any good.
- Success: reduce the item's penalty by 1.
- Critical Success: reduce the penalty by 2.
- Extraordinary Success: reduce the penalty by 3.
- Letting it get wet.
- Exposing it to corrosive vapors.
- Particularly heavy use.
- Rolling a Botch while using it.
- Exposing it to lots of grime and grit, such as carrying it through a desert or blasted waste.
- Using it in a non-standard way, such as clubbing someone with a rifle or flashlight.
- Dropping it.
- Time. Things just plain break down over time. Unless the object has been stored in pristine conditions, even just carrying it around for a year might cause its condition to worsen.
Here's the current plan for healing checks.
Roll Guts & Guts vs the difficulty of your Survival Test.
- Botch, Extraordinary Failure or Critical Failure: you backslide and take another Wound. This could entail making a new Survival Test.
- Failure or Tie: nothing happens.
- Success: you heal 1 Wound.
- Critical Success: you heal 2.
- Extraordinary Success: you heal 3.
Conditions will adjust your roll, though.
- Full bed rest with lots of pampering: +2
- Rest in bed all day, nothing more strenuous than a brief walk: +1
- Taking it easy; nothing more strenuous than walking: +0
- Normal day: you work normally: -1
- Hard day: you work a lot, or engage in serious combat: -2
- Slave labor: you work under grueling conditions, with little rest or a shortage of food/water: -4
- Someone uses Medicine on you and rolls an Extraordinary Success: +4
- Someone uses Medicine on you and rolls a Critical Success: +2
- Someone uses Medicine on you and rolls a Success: +1
- Someone uses Medicine on you and rolls a Botch: -1
Extra Hit Points
I'd kind of like a better name for this, but that's what it is: Extra Hit Points.
Currently, everyone (by default) starts with one Extra Hit Point. This represents a point of damage that you can take without having to make a Survival Test. Attackers have to first plow through all of your Extra Hit Points before you start taking "serious" wounds and run the risk of being disabled or killed. Actually, technically, it's not that you don't have to make a Survival Test, it's just that the difficulty is zero so you'll automatically succeed unless there are additional penalties.
There's an Edge that gives you another Extra HP. And monsters/robots may get several more. This makes them tough foes without making them hard to injure.
That's important. One thing that really bugged me in Savage Worlds was the way that powerful foes had such high Toughness ratings that only a lucky shot could hurt them; most attacks bounced off, harmlessly. This was because they insisted on giving even dragons just the standard 3 wound levels, so that there was less to keep track of. Personally, I don't mind keeping track of extra info for a major, climactic foe and my players at least preferred to be able to see some progress during the fight instead of having most attacks do nothing.
So most PCs will have one Extra HP. Tough PCs might get 1-2 more, frail ones would lose the only one they have. It helps keep PCs alive... there is a real upper limit to how much damage can be inflicted with a single blow, so if you have enough Extra HP, it may be completely impossible to take you out without hitting you multiple times. I'm fine with that; no matter how well you aim, you are not going to kill an elephant with a single blow from a pocketknife.
Since your Extra HP have a Survival Test difficulty of zero, if you haven't taken any "real" wounds yet, you'll automatically heal each night (barring penalties due to bad conditions).
I may even experiment with a more cinematic system, where the "Extra Hit Points" are considered to be "Scratches" instead of "Wounds" and come back very rapidly. Perhaps something like the very pulpish DangerQuest, where you get half of them back as soon as you have a chance to rest. Hm. In fact, if I kept track of Scratches and Wounds separately, you'd could have all of your Scratches healed up, but still have several Wounds. That would be interesting; if you got hit and took a Scratch, but still had several Wounds, should I make you roll a Survival Test vs the difficulty according to your Wounds, or just zero, since you only took a Scratch?
Like Age of Powers, I'll probably use 3 "standard" resistance rolls. Like D20's Fortitude, Reflex and Willpower saves. Hm. There might be room for a fourth, social saving throw of some sort. Not sure.
Survival/Toughness Save: Muscles & Guts.
Initiative/Reaction Save: Brains & Speed.
Mental Save: Brains & Guts.
Some other, less commonly used combos:
Notice Save: Brains & Perception.
Social Save: Brains & Charm.
Note that Brains applies to most of the so-called "saving throws". Hm. I wonder if I should be using Perception & Speed for Initiative/Reaction instead of Brains & Speed? That might make more sense.
The Brains & Speed for Initiative bit is a holdover from Ironclaw. Speed, obviously, should be part of it, but I could certainly see using your ability to notice stuff quickly instead of your ability to think quickly. Dunno. Really, Intiative could be Brains & Speed & Perception, but then you wouldn't get extreme values as often.
Okay, for today I ought to go through a list of the sort of artwork that I still need for the game. What I've got would result in a pretty sparsely illustrated product. No, I need a good bit more, and I'll probably have to buy some of it. So let me list off a few things that I'd like. I haven't drawn in ages, so maybe this will inspire me.
- Animal Heads: for the listing of Breeds, I'd like to have a lot of example faces in a sidebar. Ideally, one per breed. So far I've taken these from larger pics where the head came out okay, but the rest sucked. The nice bit is that this one is relatively easy; in fact, I could probably sit down with a good animal-drawing book and crank out a dozen if I really tried. I don't want to use heads from other artwork, although I might if I get desperate. I don't like books that reuse art a lot.
- A nice ruined skyline. That would make a good divider or maybe a footer, especially if it were basically as far across as the page. A silhouette would be okay.
- Some desert wasteland pics, preferably with unhealthy looking vegetation.
- Closeups of ruined buildings. Possibly with small Beasts walking amongst them.
- The occasional rusted and possibly broken high-tech gizmo: weapons, computers, etc.
- At least one decent pic of a Chimera character. So far I haven't been able to pull one off, but I've been collecting examples off of Yerf, so hopefully I can make at least one myself.
- Beasts fighting each other and/or monsters would be nice. I could put it at the start of the combat section.
- More monsters. I have a Howler, but I'd like at least one pic per monster. So that requires a Leucrotta, a Kobold, and a Wraith.
- A pic of a Harpy and one of a Kukukuk.
- A pic of nasty-looking fungus, possibly growing on a body or in the wounds of a creature. It would probably be a Black Flake illustration.
- Low Wolf priestess sitting in the Cavern of Secrets among the First Folk. It needs to have a particular carving in the background. I could do just the carving, of course, if the bigger pic doesn't work out.
- Whatever various character pics I can muster.
The centaur-like Chimera is the third option besides High and Low Beasts. They'll be an optional race, so not all campaigns will allow them. Chimeras are the offspring of a High Beast and a Low Beast of the same breed and they rarely live more than a few years after birth. Most are stillborn, with serious deformities very common among the rest. Because most such unions end in tragedy, they're forbidden in all but the most backwards of regions.
Extra Movement Edge (1): If the Low Beast version of a breed gets a movement bonus, the Chimera version gets 1/2 of that bonus.
Extra Carrying Capacity (1): They can carry 1.5x as much as the equivalent High Beast.
Poor Health & Deformities (-2): They lose 1 level from the player's choice of Brains or Guts.
Social Stigma (-1): Because a Chimera is generally born from a forbidden and immoral relationship (as most Beast communities see it), they often have trouble fitting in. Many places regard them as freaks.
Sterile Hybrid (-1/2): Because their genetic code is messed up, Chimeras are almost always sterile. When they can conceive children, they are generally stillborn monstrosities that almost never live to term.
Short Lifespan (-1/2): Chimeras have an effective lifespan only 1/2 of that of the equivalent High Beast. They tend to die young.
As you can see, the downsides to being a Chimera generally outweigh the benefits that they receive. If the GM wishes, they can grant Chimera PCs an additional Minor Edge to make up for it, but usually they're better suited for people who like playing disadvantaged characters for the roleplaying opportunities.
NPC Chimeras are often even worse off than the above, sometimes having several levels of poor health and a number of physical deformities.
Low Beasts as a variant of High
So, what I'm basically planning on doing is treated the High Beasts as the principle character type. If you choose to play a Low Beast or Chimera, it'll modify your stats approrpriately.
No Hands Flaw: your character has no hands and will suffer appropriate penalties to a lot of actions.
Extra XP Edge: Low Beasts receive 1 extra XP per game.
Extra Hero Points Edge: Low Beasts receive more Hero Points than High, normally twice as many.
Extra Movement: Most Low Beasts get a bonus to their movement rate.
Improved Natural Weapons: Low Beast natural weapons do more damage. They can also take this Edge again, giving them a further bonus.
Extra Carrying Capacity: Most Low Beasts can carry more than a High Beast (2x as much) with the same Muscles, because they are quadrapeds. Of course, without hands, the ability to carry more weight isn't necessarily very useful.
Improved Race Trait: They get a starting Race trait of d8 instead of d6. [I've toyed with the idea of dumping the Race trait entirely and just giving everyone a package of starting skills appropriate to their breed.]
Improved Edges: Some Edges provide better benefits to Low Beasts than they do to High. Of course, if you don't take any of those particular Edges, you won't see any benefit.
Alternate Bonus/Penalty System
Someone on RPG.net suggested a possible alternative to adjusting die sizes or results: having bonuses add dice; penalties add them to the opposition.
The basic suggestion was that a +1 bonus grants an additional d4, a +5 bonus an extra d12. Of course, that would make the bonuses a lot weaker... a +3 bonus is a huge advantage in Nuclear Beasts and generally quite impressive in Ironclaw too (it's weakest if you only have a single d12 to roll, because then it's the same as the dice-adding suggestion above).
But it's an interesting thought.
This was offered as a counter to someone who wanted to have bonuses and penalties only affect your largest die, so that they weren't quite so unwieldy as they are in Ironclaw. If I were going to use the Ironclaw bonus/penalty system, I'd give that serious consideration; as is, I think that modifying the final result (while perhaps not as elegant) is faster and good enough for me.
As an added note, one thing I don't like about upgrading existing dice is that it matter a lot what your current dice look like before you can tell whether it's a significant boost or not. If you have a rating of d12 & d10, then boosting one die by 1 step (from d10 to d12) is a big boost. Boosting it by 3 steps isn't really any better... 2d12 & d6 isn't much better than 2d12... definitely not comparable to the big jump between d10 and d12.
Range Dice and Shield Dice
Flat difficulties for the ranges are nice for speed, but, as Sean points out, they do lead to cases where success is impossible.
That's not necessarily bad; if you're far enough away that someone's shots are hitting ten to twenty feet away from you and they aren't taking the time to aim, then the odds should be astronomical against your being hit. So making them be zero is an acceptable simplification, but is it desirable?
Using my old difficulty chart, then, what would those ranges become in terms of dice?
- Close Range: 2d6
- Medium Range: 2d8
- Long Range: 2d12
- Extreme Range: 4d12
Shields are another annoying bit, though. Realistically, they shouldn't help you avoid being hit... it's just that if your foe hits you in the shield, it'll generally stop a lot of damage. But having to roll a damage test that's probably going to end up doing no wounds (because the particular shield in the way applies a -6 or -8 penalty) is annoying.
In Savage Worlds, shields penalize enemy attack rolls and sometimes enemy damage rolls (but only for ranged attacks, and only for particularly large shields). I suppose I could try something like shields add to armor vs regular hits (but not crits or extras), in addition to giving small bonuses to defense. But it would take a lot of playtesting to see how powerful they needed to be.
So I'll probably stick with the Ironclaw-ish, "shields add to your parry dice" system, but I'm still debating it.
A minor issue, but one that needs to be taken care of, is how to represent the range at which a given weapon can be used effectively.
Basically, the target number for hitting someone is probably going to be something like:
- Close Range: 4
- Medium Range: 6
- Long Range: 8
- Extreme Range: 10
But what constitutes Close Range for a given weapon? Well, it varies.
In Ironclaw, there's a little chart with each missile weapon that says something like 10/20/40/80, meaning that within 10 paces is Close Range, within 20 is Short Range, within 40 is Long Range and within 80 is Extreme Range. That's a bit much trouble, really, as far as I'm concerned. I'm tempted to try and shrink the range field to a single value.
Then you'd get something like:
- Close Range: base range or less
- Medium Range: up to twice base range
- Long Range: up to 4x base range
- Extreme Range: up to 8x base range
This has advantages and disadvantages. It's simpler and easier to remember. But it requires a little math (although there's nothing stopping you from writing down all 4 ranges ahead of time if you want to). It also doesn't support weapons that have unusual range ratings like 40/50/60/70, where anything up to 40 yards is treated as Close Range, but the weapon's accuracy falls off rapidly after that. But I think that weapons like that are going to be very rare, so I can probably handle them with special cases. Since I'm probably not going to get into detail about specific weapons (the book will probably list stats for an "Assault Rifle", not specific stats for an AK-47), it's probably not worth the effort to go into detail about exact ranges and such. It's all an abstraction, anyway... there really ought to be a gap between "Long Range" and "Extreme Range" where the target number is 9 instead of 8 or 10, but I want to keep the system simple.
After thinking a bit about how I'd implement sorcery using the Nuclear Beasts rules, I've decided to start up a second blog. The Age of Powers will hold various ideas for rules and creatures that would not be appropriate in the Nuclear Beasts setting. Basically, I don't want to clutter up this blog with lots of only peripherally related junk. Age of Powers is a fantasy setting with a heavy emphasis on mages and magic; while I'd like to collect ideas for it, it's a sideline project... something to look at when I need to "recharge my batteries" and take a break from Nuclear Beasts.
It may also become a repository for all of the totally off-topic commentary and such, too. I haven't decided yet.
While Nuclear Beasts is obstensibly a Science Fiction setting, with only limited psychic powers available as a sort of "magic", it's interesting to think about how I'd implement magic if I were going to use the rules for a Fantasy game like Ironclaw.
Ironclaw has a fairly nifty magic system itself. The original game even seemed to have a system for designing spells, although it was never actually described as such; instead, all of the spells seemed to fit the same sort of framework. They had a lot of exceptions to the framework, though, and when they wrote Jadeclaw they seemed to throw parts of it away, so perhaps they didn't like it all that much. The basic idea was that the power of a spell (how much damage it did or how hard it was to resist) was equivalent to its difficulty dice. Basically, whatever difficulty you had to beat to cast the spell, that was what your target would have to beat to resist it. The magic point cost of each spell was equal to the number of dice being rolled, so cheap spells were also unreliable spells. Then they had some bits that I didn't particularly care for, like grouping spells into "lists" that you had to learn as a set (indeed, it was apparently impossible for a book to contain a partial set; they were too closely related) and saying that once you had invested as many character points into the spell's skill as its magic point cost, you could now cast it automatically, without a roll.
So, using that as a rough basis... let me brainstorm about a different system, the way I would have done it.
- Spells use the same pool of dice for their casting difficulty, resistance difficulty and/or damage dice, just like Ironclaw.
- The pool normally consists of equal-sized dice, so that it's easy to remember and the results are predictable, also like Ironclaw.
- The magic point cost is generally equal to the level of the dice, plus 1 per extra die after the first. So a spell with a pool of 3d6 would cost 4 points to cast... 2 for d6, then 2 more to add an additional 2d6. I could charge for it just like skills, so that 3d6 would cost 6 points... but since adding dice makes it harder to cast, too, it should probably be cheaper.
- If the dice that you're rolling equal or exceed the dice of the spell, you have "mastered" it and can cast without rolling. This means that if you have a casting pool of d8,2d6 you could autocast any spell with a difficulty of 1d8, 1-3d6 or 1-3d4. You couldn't autocast a spell with difficulty d10 or 2d8, because you can't match or exceed every die. Sometimes you'll want to roll anyway, though.
- If you beat the difficulty, you'll cast the spell. But if you beat it by 4+, you'll critically succeed and end up casting an enhanced version. Beat it by 8+, you get a doubly-enhanced version. This generally means either reducing the mana cost or making it harder to resist. If you cast without rolling (using the automatic success for mastering the spell), you'll always get the normal result, never a boosted version.
- It's often possible to choose the power-level of the spell you're trying to cast. Let's say that Paralyze has a base cost of 3 mana and a base difficulty of 3d4. Every additional mana spent increases the size of the difficulty dice by a step, up to a max of d12. So you could cast the spell at the 3d4 level for 3 mana (easily resisted by almost anybody), at the 3d6 level for 4, 3d8 for 5, 3d10 for 6 or 3d12 for 7. While a 3d12 spell is really hard to resist, it's also hard to successfully cast, so you might want to stick with a less poweful version.
More Success Levels
Here's a random thought: what if you got an extra success for every 2 points you succeeded by instead of 4, but each success was worth less?
So the standard action chart would look like:
- 1 or lower: Botch
- 2-3: Failure
- 4-5: 1 success
- 6-7: 2 successes
- 8-9: 3 successes
- 10-11: 4 successes
- 12+: 5 successes
Of course, five success levels might be a bit tricky; for most cases, I'd expect that you'd have 2-3 of them being duplicates of others. I'm not sure I could come up with 5 different results for a given task, and if I did, I'm not sure I could memorize it well enough to not have to look it up anymore.
Hm. Well, we finished off the two-part playtest adventure I'd set up. Went well, but not perfect. I want to list off a few areas of concern and comments for myself.
- Skills below d8 seemed pretty wussy. Making d6 the "average" skill might not be good enough. It takes an 8 to score a critical success in this system, whereas you could (theoretically) pull it off with a 6 in Ironclaw. d8 seems to be more of the "competent" level.
- Dodge/parry is still awfully random. That's always been a bit of a problem with Ironclaw, too, really... foes are either always easy to hit, because they aren't defending, or pretty random because they have a lot of high dice to roll. It's not difficult to get 2d10 or 2d12 defense dice. Would the PCs be more satisfying if I'd made them as Experienced characters? I'll have to try doing a couple. Limiting folks to d8 at best seemed too limiting.
- Armor is still too powerful, at least against wussy characters who can't get crits. If people can roll crits better, they'll bypass or blow through armor more often.
- Hero Points were added for part II, but most folks forgot about them. Our group generally doesn't play games with Hero/Karma points and what-not, so it would take some getting used to. What little use they had seemed okay.
- Low Beasts are quite hampered in many spots by their lack of hands. They would definitely merit the extra XP per session in addition to their other bonuses.
- Failures vs normal tasks were unusual, but hardly unknown.
- I need a more cohesive skill list. I might dump Observation; I dunno.
- What do Beast tribes normally do with the equipment of the fallen? I'm sure it would vary, but I could see them either considering it sacred (always return it to the family/tribe) or not at all (scavenge whatever you can, leave nothing useful behind).
- I don't think that I could ever make the Low Beasts powerful enough that Sean would want to play one, but that's not necessarily a problem. He's said himself that he prefers playing PCs who can do stuff that he can't in real life and dislikes ones that can't do something that he could.
Statting Out Critters
So, a brief experiment. How hard is it to stat out monsters for Nuclear Beasts? The system is pretty simple, so the write-ups should be simple, too.
HowlersUnintelligent, mutant descendants of wild dogs. Hairless, twisted, prone to disease and deformity and very ugly to look at in general. Their principle advantage is the ability to survive all sorts of illnesses, radiation and toxins that would kill most critters. Cowardly when alone, but aggressive in packs. Commonly found scavenging in the wastes.
Muscles d6, Guts d10, Speed d8, Perception d8 [no Brains or Charm; they aren't intelligent]
Edges: Claws (4d6), Teeth (d10,2d6), Echoing Cry, Keen Nose
Unusual Edges: +4 to resist disease disease/poison/radiation, flesh is generally toxic
Extra Hit Points: none (+0)
Survival Test: d10,d6
Endurance Test: d10,d6
Movement Rate: 12
Comments: the staple "monster" of the wilderness, howler packs sometimes attack Beasts travelling through their territory. They are extremely dangerous and aggressive if they outnumber their prey; they prefer to surround targets and attack them from all sides, often with All-Out Attacks.
GnawersOrdinary rats, mice and other small rodents are collectively referred to as "vermin" or "gnawers". Intelligent High Rats and High Mice don't regard themselves as kin to vermin, and tend to be insulted when someone refers to gnawers as "rats" or "mice." They're generally harmless and flighty and will only attack Beasts when they are obviously helpless (like newborn cubs) or if the gnawer is diseased and/or starving.
Oversided Gnawer (regular ones are no danger to Beasts):
Muscles d8-4, Guts d8, Speed d6, Perception d8 [no Brains or Charm; they aren't intelligent]
Edges: Teeth (d4), Keen Nose
Unusual Edges: +4 to resist disease disease/poison/radiation, bite often carries diseases
Flaws: Skittish, Small x 2 (takes +2 damage, +2 to skills affected by Encumbrance)
Armor: takes +2 damage from all hits
Extra Hit Points: none (+0)
Survival Test: 2d8-4
Endurance Test: d8
Movement Rate: 10
Comments: the "giant rats" of the setting. They generally avoid trouble but sometimes disease or starvation drives them to attack foes who are far more powerful than they are. The fact that they take +2 damage from all hits and don't have any extra hit points means that almost any blow will take one directly into making a difficult survival test. They have claws, but they're too small (damage 2d4-2) to injure ordinary Beasts except on critical hits, so they tend to bite instead.
Did a little research on real-world vultures this afternoon. Some interesting tidbits.
There are two species of vulture that are doing well in North America, the turkey vulture and the black vulture. That's in the real world. In Nuclear Beasts, they've been reborn as the Harpies, oversized, intelligent vultures that are occasional allies but more commonly enemies to the Beasts.
Most Harpies are Blacks. Their head is gray and they have a patch of white feathers on each wing. They are, of course, carrion eaters, but they have been known to kill young and vulnerable animals to provide their own food. They're more aggressive than either of the two other species and generally crowd them out of the way. In the real world, they prefer the warmer climates of the southern U.S., so it makes sense that they'd be migrating south if they were released up in Canada somewhere.
Turkeys (commonly known as Red Harpies) are something of an abused and put-upon minority in Harpy society. They're physically a little larger, but much less aggressive and their claws and beak are poorer weapons. Unlike Blacks, they can digest plant material and eat a fair bit of leaves and grass in addition to carrion. Physically, they look about the same, but have reddish heads and lack the white patches on the wings. Beasts not familiar with Harpies probably won't be able to tell them apart from Blacks, at least not visually. Turkeys can survive in a colder environment than Blacks, so most Turkeys are still living in the north, lacking both the aggressive, expansive urge and the need for a warmer climate that drives the Blacks south.
The third species of vulture in North America is the condor. California condors have been on the verge of extinction for a long time, and probably wouldn't do much better in the radioactive wastelands of Nuclear Beasts. Some Harpy tribes claim that there is a third breed of Harpy, known for their great size and strength and meek tempers, but that they are very rare and may all be gone by now. A few northern Beast clans claim to have seen lone birds of great size, which they call Rocs, but these may only be stories and exaggerations.
So this gives me two, possibly three species of Harpy. I've toyed with the idea of the Sirens belonging to a different species than the regular Harpies that they rule, but I can't really see it lasting... not when they're smaller and have magic powers of questionable utility against an angry or resentful flock. So I'm going to be sticking with the idea that Sirens are a subclass... a bit like Low and High Beasts. They're physically smaller but their brains are different and they're much more prone to developing psychic powers.
How suitable is the Nuclear Beasts game for other settings? Let me think.
The character sheet, of course, is pretty setting-specific, at least at the very top. To use it as a generic system, you'd lose the Race trait, the Breed and Type fields and you probably wouldn't want to use a radiation symbol for the stat block.
Still, these are pretty peripheral elements.
- Drop Race: no biggie, it just adds to certain skills.
- Drop Breed/Type: you'd probably end up replacing it with a "Species" entry, since many games allow you to play more than humans anyway. No real change, just the list of available character races changes to fit the new setting.
- Drop a bunch of Edges and Flaws that are setting specific, like "Improved Natural Weapons" or "Radiation Blindness".
- Um... the Psi might have to be replaced or removed, depending on what sort of psychic powers/magic are available in the new setting.
So... what sort of games is it suitable for? Even truly "generic" systems are limited as to what sort of games they support.
Well, while it's not the lightest system around, it is fairly light-weight. I wouldn't recommend it to folks who wanted a ton of "crunch" (lots of little details to min-max) or a system as light as basic Fudge or Over the Edge.
The Expertise skills are basically design-your-own, although there will be recommendations about what sort of things are acceptable. Because of that, I'm not sure it would be suitable for beginning GMs, although I want to include a good bit of advice on handling stuff like that properly.
It's probably more Simulationist than anything else... In case folks aren't familiar with the term, it's common on the net to describe a game's priorities as Simulationist (concentrating on making the world cohesive), Gamist (concentrating on challenging the players) or Dramatist (concentrating on making the plot flow in the desired manner). Of course, it's also common on the net to argue endlessly about the exact definitions of these terms, so some folks may use them differently. The only really Gamist element is the Hero Points, which enable the player to pick and choose the points where their character does really well using a system that the character is totally unaware of. The only really Dramatist element is the optional use of Hero Points to influence the plot. So, mostly Simulationist... it may be a lightweight ruleset, but I want to make sure that the results it gives make sense and can easily be extrapolated to new situations.
So, if I wanted to use these rules to play, say, Dungeons & Dragons or some other fantasy setting, what would I need to do?
- Represent the playable races as collections of Edges/Flaws and the occasional exception to the rules. Wouldn't be too hard, I think. To do a simple Elf, you might get Improved Agility, some automatic skill with Wilderness and Archery and the Frail Flaw.
- Make sure that my skills cover all of the requisite abilities of the various classes. To make it really D&Dish, I could add the Career stat from Ironclaw back in so that you could have a rating in Fighter that applies to all combat or Thief that applies to all stealth and thievery skills.
- Represent the magic system(s). The simplest way would probably be to offer new Edges that cover stuff like wizardry. Perhaps Arcane I (able to cast 1st level spells) up through Arcane IX (able to cast 9th level spells), with each level requiring you to have all of the previous ones. Converting the individual spells would be a lot of work, though. I'd need to devise a simple, basic framework so that all of the spells shared the same roots... stuff like "A save-or-be-defeated spell should cost X."
- Convert the saving throw system. That's pretty essential to D&D. I'd probably use the 3 saves of D20: Reflex (roll Speed & Brains), Willpower (roll Guts & Brains) and Fortitude (roll Muscles & Guts). That's just a quick guess, of course. There are a lot of ways to handle it; the difficulty would be in making sure that it's roughly as lethal as the regular game.
- Convert a ton of critters, items, etc.
- Add a lot of new Edges. The "Improved Stat" Edge would probably become something special, so that you recieved it automatically every X sessions or something... in D20, you get it once every 3 levels, so I'd be aiming for about that often.
Look, Ma! No Hands!
So, a quick attempt to clarify exactly what sort of penalties Low Beasts are under, lacking hands and opposable thumbs and all that.
Hands are Essential (-8 or impossible): This task is so complex that it would probably take several Low Beasts working together for several minutes to even attempt it, even if someone with hands could do it in mere moments.
- Aiming and firing a handgun.
- Throwing a dart.
- Typing something that requires you to press several keys simultaneously.
- Playing a piano.
- Climbing a thin cord.
- Driving a car.
- Aiming and firing a rifle or some other weapon that's long enough for you to prop up on the ground or hold in place with a leg.
- Hitting a ball with a bat.
- Typing a message one key at a time.
- Playing a xylophone.
- Climbing a thick, knotted rope.
- Unlocking a door with a key.
- Aiming and firing a bipod-mounted gun that's already loaded.
- Throwing a ball to someone.
- Pulling a trigger or pushing a small button.
- Playing a harmonica.
- Climbing a ladder.
- Turning a doorknob.
- Pushing a box.
- Swatting a ball towards someone.
- Pushing a large button or pulling a lever.
- Ringing a bell.
- Climbing stairs.
- Opening a door with a simple lever latch.
To keep things simple, most diseases are handled the same way.
When you're exposed to a disease or illness, you'll get to roll Guts & Guts vs its infection dice, as an Opposed Test. This represents the fact that contracting an illness is very unpredictable.
If you fail, you'll come down with it. On a botch, you'll come down with a serious case which is more dangerous than usual. On a tie, you get a milder version (reduce or slow the effects a bit and grant +4 to all Recovery Rolls).
If you get sick, you get to make more Guts & Guts checks at regular intervals (generally once a day, week or month). So long as you keep failing, you stay sick. Once you succeed, you'll rapidly recover. If you botch, the infection gets more dangerous; this often means that you've actually developed a secondary infection.
Here are some generic effect levels, to give you an idea of what sort of effects are common.
- Trivial: you have some minor symptoms like the sniffles or a rash and may suffer -1 to certain actions (e.g.- a head cold gives -1 to Smell checks).
- Debilitating: you are definitely sick, but can still do stuff. -1 to all actions and the maximum number of Fatigue you can take before becoming Exhausted is reduced by 1. You may suffer a -2 to certain specific actions (like the aforementioned effects of colds on Smell checks).
- Serious: if you aren't in bed, you probably should be. -2 to all actions (-4 in specific areas), max Fatigue reduced by 2.
- Life-threatening: -4 to all actions, max Fatigue reduced by 3 and you take 1 Wound per day.
- Lethal: automatically Exhausted, only the feeblest of actions are possible. You take 1 Wound per day and are at -4 to Healing Checks.
Rabies (infection rating d8, recovery difficulty 4d12+2): a very lethal illness, rabies generally has no visible symptoms for about a month. After that, you get one chance to succeed at a Recovery Roll. If you fail, the symptoms rapidly develop with death occuring in a couple of weeks. Rabies is generally only transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, so you have to roll to resist infection each time you are bitten (and take damage) by a rabid creature. Symptoms include foamy saliva, extreme pain whenever you try to eat or drink, and wild rages. Animals infected with rabies are notorious for avoiding even the sight of water.
Ancient Man had some medications that could stop rabies if administered early enough, but other than that, very few creatures survive infection. Beasts should treat rabid animals with extreme care; getting bitten is often a death sentence for the victim.
Here are some simple, general-purpose rules for handling the effects of poisons on characters.
Basically, once someone has been poisoned, they need to roll Guts & Guts (a straight Guts check) as a standard test. Bonuses or penalties may apply, depending on the strength of the toxin.
- Botch: an unusually bad case. The character suffers the full effects of the poison and a little extra. In general, damaging poisons will inflict an extra wound, fatiguing poisons will inflict an extra fatigue. Lethal poisons just kill you a little faster.
- Failure: the character suffers the full effects of the poison.
- Success: the character suffers only 1/2 of the standard effect (round down) of the poison. With a lethal poison, they generally become Exhausted instead of dying.
- Critical Success: the character suffers only 1/4 of the standard effect (round down). Lethal poisons just cause them to suffer a -1 penalty to all actions for an hour or so.
- Extraordinary Success: no effect at all.
The methods of application are generally:
- Injected: the most common form is snakebite. These poisons/venoms generally take effect quite rapidly, often within a few minutes.
- Ingested: these poisons generally have to be consumed by the victim. Scavengers are notoriously resistant to them, but if the toxin is lethal enough, it'll kill them, too. It often takes an hour or more for an ingested toxin to take effect.
- Poisoned Weapons: putting poison on a weapon is generally about like injecting venom into the target. The toxin generally takes effect in just a few minutes. It's hard to find a really strong poison that can be used effectively this way, though. It has to be both thick enough to stay on the weapon and thin enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream. And it generally only works with edged and piercing weapons.
- Gaseous: poison gases are hard for Beasts to produce, although they'll sometimes occur naturally in particularly toxic or volcanic regions. They have to be inhaled to have their full effect, although many can still work if they just get into your eyes or nostrils (resist at +4 if you can hold your breath but still get engulfed).
- Contact: the rarest of poisons, contact poisons require mere skin contact. Fur helps a little, but if the victim doesn't realize that they've gotten the poison on their fur, they'll often end up accidentally transferring it to their hands, eyes or mouth. Most take several minutes to several hours to take effect.
Drugs in the Wastes
The use of drugs (both mind-affecting and medicinal) predates civilization by a long time. Most communities of Beasts don't have the chemical know-how to make such compounds (the League of Free Beasts does, but hasn't ever seen a need), but there are always plants to turn to.
Alcohol: there are three forms of alcohol that Beasts have learned to make, but they're all generally only readily available in the largest communities. Beer is made by fermenting grains such as barley; it's most commonly produced by herbivore communities, which grow a lot of grains. Wine is made by fermenting fruit; it's the most common form, often available even in communities of carnivores who normally won't touch fruit. Mead is made from fermented honey and is most readily available in communities which keep bees.
All of them are intoxicating to one degree or another. Most effects should just be roleplayed, but if the GM wants rules for it, drunkenness grants a +1 bonus to Resolve checks against fear and pain but a -2 to ones against temptation. Speed, Brains & Charm rolls suffer an overall -1 penalty. It's slightly addictive, with regular users sometimes acquiring the Drunkard Flaw. Overdoses can cause unconsciousness or even death.
Most alcoholic drinks made by Beasts aren't very strong; the strongest drink available currently is whiskey. Brewers in Zuba City have only recently figured out how to brew it out of fermented grain mash. It's sold as a stronger form of beer.
Tobacco: use of tobacco is pretty rare. It's not uncommon for a Man-worshipper to find a cache of cigarettes and try to smoke one, but they're usually too rotten to have any narcotic effects; they just make you cough and smell bad. A few small clans have figured out that if you burn the leaves of certain plants in a fire the smoke has some pleasing effects, but no one has felt it was worth the effort to deliberately farm the stuff.
It grows primarily in temperate regions.
Marijuana: like tobacco, marijuana still grows in the wild, but no one is deliberately cultivating it. It's used by more tribes than tobacco, mostly because its effects are stronger and more mystical-seeming, but it's generally restricted to special ceremonies. A strong dose (enough to entail a -2 penalty on most actions) can grant a +2 bonus to Psychic Power rolls, but the grogginess tends to last for hours afterwards. It's generally burned in a ceremonial campfire, although a handful of places have found old human pipes and put them to use this way. Using it in food or through a vaporizer is unknown.
It grows primarily in temperate areas and needs a lot of moisture.
Peyote: generally eaten or stewed in hot water and then drunk as a tea, this cactus has very strong hallucinogenic effects, which can last for up to 10 hours afterwards. A substantial dose provokes hallucinogenic visions in the user. The effects of the drug apply a -4 penalty to most actions, but can grant a +4 bonus to the use of Psychic Powers. Unfortunately, as a side effect, botches occur whenever the dice produce an unmodified result of 1 or 2, even if the roll would normally be a success once bonuses are applied.
The drug is also used to treat illnesses, although usually with a lower dose. It kills many kinds of bacteria, granting the subject a +2 to resist or recover from illness, but giving them a -2 penalty to do anything else while under the influence.
It grows primarily in arid regions, being a cactus.
Black Peyote: this isn't a true species of plant; rather, it refers to peyote gathered from blasted wastes, where the soil is poisoned and most plants can't grow. Getting it is risky and using it more so, but it is extremely strong. Large doses have been known to bring out previously undiscovered Psychic Powers in the user, but they've also been known to kill. When black peyote is imbibed, it grants a +4 bonus to Psychic Power rolls and an additional d12 that should be rolled whenever the user attempts a Psychic Power test. You can even try to use a power that you don't currently possess, but you'll only get to roll the d12. If this d12 rolls higher than the character's own dice, its value is used instead. If it rolls a 1, however, the attempt becomes a Botch automatically and a very bad one, at that: 3d12 damage is immediately taken vs a difficulty of 4. If the user falls unconscious, they will immediately go into convulsions and suffer from horrendous, nightmare visions that last until they regain consciousness. Otherwise, its effects are as normal peyote, including botches occurring on twos as well as ones.
Physically, black peyote looks like just like an unhealthy regular peyote plant.
Ergot: a fungus that can be found on some crops (generally after a cool, wet, growing season), it has some hallucinogenic effects but is rather dangerous to imbibe. While it can grant a +1 bonus to Psychic Power rolls, it's a dangerous poison that can cause the extremities of the victim to turn gangrenous, crippling or killing them. Furthermore, it tends to cause delusions and radical changes in behavior. It's most commonly ingested by accident, or by the Beasts so desperate for food that they try to eat infected crops despite the risk. [Y'know, I still need rules for poisons. I don't have any yet, so I can't really write up the negative effects of ingesting it.]
Hallucinogenic Mushrooms: there are several varieties of wild-growing mushrooms that have strong hallucinogenic effects. Generally the effects are +2 to Psychic Power rolls and an additional d6 to roll, with a -2 to -4 penalty to any other actions performed. The effects last about 2-4 hours.
The real danger involved with using them is that they closely resemble (and sometimes are) poisonous mushrooms that can sicken or kill the user. Often only specific parts of the fungus can be consumed safely. Prepared improperly, they are very dangerous.
Willow Bark: the bark of the willow tree can be chewed for medicinal effects (it's where we originally got aspirin from). It grants an additional d4 to healing checks and is often ingested to treat headaches and other minor problems.
Willow trees are most commonly found on the edges of rivers and streams as they require a lot of moisture. The bark is best when harvested during the spring.
Blood of the Dead: this oddly named substance is actually just water taken from a toxic pool and carefully purified by boiling. The remaining liquid tends to be dark in color and is still dangerous to consume but not nearly as lethal as drinking the untreated water. It does 2d4 damage (vs 4) to the imbiber. Its effects include euphoria and a rush of adrenalin, granting a +1 bonus to Speed checks and a +4 bonus to Resolve rolls, but a -4 to all Brains and Charm rolls. It is highly addictive (a successful Will & Resolve check is necessary to avoid becoming addicted each time a dose is taken, and no, the Resolve bonus from the drug doesn't apply), with regular users needing at least one dose a week to satisfy their craving. The positive effects generally last from 4 to 6 hours, but the negative ones up to 24.
Addicts slowly grow resistant to it, requiring larger and larger doses to receive the same effect. Most heavy users eventually perish from an accidental overdose or from failing to boil the mixture long enough.
Melee Combat Revisions
So, since it hasn't been posted to the Blog yet, here's the procedure for melee combat, slightly revised after the last playtest. Special combat maneuvers and Edges/Flaws can, of course, alter this, usually by granting bonuses or penalties at appropriate moments.
I've changed the defense roll rules so that it only becomes an Opposed Test if you roll at least a 4. That way, defending yourself can never make things worse for you than just taking the hit.
Melee Combat Procedure
- Everyone rolls Brains & Speed for Initiative. Characters act in order, from the best result to the least. Ties can be resolved simultaneously (if appropriate) or resolved by looking at the two character's Speed and then Brains ratings for a tiebreaker. If all else is equal and a tie still wouldn't be appropriate, have them dice again until someone wins.
- If you want to attack someone, roll the appropriate combat skill. It'll usually be combined with Speed (Perception is used instead of Speed in ranged combat). If you roll a 3 or less, you miss automatically.
- If you hit and your target was allowed to defend (if they can't see it coming, they may not be allowed to), they can roll a Defense Test of their own.
- Parry: roll Speed & Melee. Parrying real weapons with your bare hands will incur penalties. If you roll at least a 4, you get to subtract your roll from your opponent's attack roll and turn it into an Opposed Test. On a tie, you and your opponent lock weapons; you can roll an Opposed Test of Muscles & Melee to try to wrench their weapon out of their hands or knock them back.
- Block (requires a shield): Roll Speed & Melee & Shield Dice. Larger shields will weigh more, but will contribute better Shield Dice. If you roll at least a 4, you get to subtract your roll from your opponent's attack roll and turn it into an Opposed Test. On a tie, your weapon gets locked to their shield. You can roll an Opposed Test of Muscles & Melee to try and wrench their shield out of the way or yank their weapon out of their hand.
- Dodge: Roll Speed & Dodge. Remember that Encumbrance penalizes the Dodge skill. If you roll at least a 4, you get to subtract your roll from your opponent's attack roll and turn it into an Opposed Test. On a tie, you will get hit unless you can (and do) retreat from your foe. If your back is up against the wall, you'll lose ties when forced to Dodge.
- If you hit, roll a Damage Test. Their armor (if they have any) may apply a penalty to this roll. Armor that only covers part of the target's body may get bypassed by Critical or Extraordinary hits. Every success inflicts 1 Wound on the target.
- If you rolled a Critical Hit, add +2 to your Damage Test. Depending on what kind of armor they're wearing, you may bypass the target's armor.
- If you rolled an Extraordinary Hit, add +4. Depending on what kind of armor they're wearing, you may bypass the target's armor.
- If you took any wounds from being hit, record it on your character's Wound Track.
- If there is a Survival Test difficulty listed on the Wound Track for the number of wounds you now have, roll Muscles & Guts vs that difficulty as an Opposed Test. If there isn't a difficulty listed, then the difficulty is Zero; you only have to roll if it's possible for you to fail (it usually won't be, but there might be special circumstances which make it possible).
- If you failed the Survival Test, you'll fall down. Your next action has to be an Endurance Test, which will determine whether or not you can continue to act. Regardless of whether the Survival Test left your character Unconscious or Dying (or even "Dead"), you still get to roll. It's possible to be mere moments away from finally expiring (the "Dead" state) and still keep fighting, it's just not likely. If you do manage it, be sure to utter some pithy last words before you finally pass on.
The GM may well ignore the Endurance Test for minor foes, especially if the only thing that they would do if they pass is crawl away from the fight. After all of the combat is over, you can roll for each one to see which foes are unconscious and which ones fled during the confusion.
Really Clumsy Defenses Suck Worse (Optional Rule): If you make a Defense roll you still have to get a 4 or better before it becomes an Opposed Test, but if you happen to roll a Botch (every die results in a natural one), the attacker gets an additional +4 bonus added to their roll. With this rule, a particularly clumsy defense can make things worse for the defender (but only on a Botch) and you'll see extreme results in combat a little more often.
Simplified Initiative (Optional Rule): Characters only roll Speed & Brains for the opening round of combat. After that (once the initial flurry of blows is over), characters act in order of Speed ratings, with Brains used as a tie-breaker. You can even simplify it further, saying that after the first round, the PCs and their allies always act first, with their opponents going afterwards. This makes Edges like Lightning Reflexes a little less useful, but can speed up combat by eliminating the initiative roll every round.
I've decided to make the comments more visible by making the system default to displaying them, instead of hiding them. You'll still have to click on the comments link to leave a new one, though.
I had originally worried that I'd get tons of pointless spam-like comments from random weirdos on the Net, but so far I've only gotten ones from weirdos that I know, which is fine. This should make it easier for me to reply to comments here; I've been kind of uncertain whether I should reply via email or make comments of my own in the past. Now I should be able to post replies here a little more easily.
If this breaks anything for anyone, let me know.
Something that the rules currently lack is any real form of subdual damage- a way to reliably beat someone into unconsciousness without killing them.
It doesn't have to be easy. In real life, it's always risky to do this sort of thing. Most fights end with someone's surrender, not unconsciousness. You'll hear about people who got "knocked out" in a fight and died a few hours later from their injuries; the Hollywood-style "I hit him on the back of the head and knock him out, he'll be fine in a few minutes" stuff just doesn't work in real life.
In Ironclaw, there are attacks that inflict Fatigue instead of Wounds. Since Fatigue and Wounds are tracked on the same bar, they combine to determine the difficulty of remaining conscious. Since characters roll separately for Unconsciousness and Death, Fatigue only applies to Unconsciousness checks. The only way that non-lethal damage can ever kill anyone is if you keep adding more Fatigue after they've "filled up" on Fatigue... extra points start turning Fatigue into Wounds on a one-for-one basis.
But this is a bit more problematic in Nuclear Beasts. By combining the Unconsciousness and Death checks into a single test, I've greatly sped up combat, but at the cost of making it harder to have "Stunning Damage" without making death more likely.
Inflicts Fatigue Instead of Wounds:
Special Manuever, Same Damage Rules:
Should subdual attacks be penalized? I could see applying a -1 or -2 penalty if you try to subdue someone with a sword. Ranged weapons, of course, generally can't be used to subdue at all without special ammo.
Subduing a foe becomes problematic, though. Whatever damage you do inflict won't magically go away in a few minutes or anything like that. The best way to do it is to pummel them repeatedly with a weak attack until they finally fail a Survival Test and pass out. So this doesn't really support Hollywood style "bonk - you're out; 5 minutes later, you're fine" attacks, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Grappling someone and pinning them to render them helpless would still work better.
And there's not much support for weapons that can reliably knock someone out (e.g.- Tasers). They would have to use special rules.
Knockout Special Manuever
If you have complete surprise (the Hollywood-style thump 'em from behind), you might consider the enhanced version. -4 to hit, -4 to their Survival Test and the matching Endurance Test (if any). Again, the penalty can't push the results beyond Unconsciousness. You'd be well advised to use All-Out Attack or Aimed Attack in combo with this move, though, to make up for the -4.
Of course, if you don't do enough wounds to force them to make a Survival Test at all, the manuever is wasted. I suppose I could add a rule that it forces them to make a test vs difficulty 0, which the penalty would increase to 2 or 4, depending on which version you used.
That's very cinematic. One Wound could knock someone unconscious if you catch them completely by surprise. In fact, if they only have a Muscles & Guts of d4 each, it will take them out if you can get them to at least the d4 Survival Test level. After all, they'll be rolling 2d4-4 (maximum of zero) vs a difficulty of d4 (minimum of 1). Failure is guaranteed, at least if they're extremely wussy. If they pass the check, there aren't any additional effects; the penalty is a one-time thing.
Stun Damage on the Wound Track:
Once it goes away, you can retest your Survival Test... if you were previously Dying or "Dead" and you get a better result once the Stun Damage is gone, you can use that instead.
This has a funky effect, though. You might be better off if you took 5 Wounds and 1 Stun than if you just took 5 Wounds... after all, while your Survival Test was slightly worse at first (d12 instead of d10), if you fail the initial check you'll get another chance to roll at the d10 level once the Stun goes away. Since the second roll can't make you worse, you'd have better odds overall getting two shots at it.
Stun Damage in a Separate Box:
One interesting effect of this is that Stun Damage is more reliable than regular Wounds. Someone who has taken 10 points of Stun will fail their Survival Test unless they can roll a 10 or better. Someone with 10 Wounds would have to roll against 4d12+1 and might be rolling against a 13... or just a 2.
The last one is the most Hollywood-ish of the lot. Stun Damage can never kill (or even injure), it just makes Unconsciousness more likely. When it goes away, you'll be fine again. If you didn't take anything but Stun Damage, you'll be completely recovered as soon as the Stun goes away, no matter that you were brained with a two-by-four a few minutes ago.
I'll have to think about it for a bit. I don't intend to just ignore it, but most of these options are acceptable ways of handling it (I've been brainstorming on this topic for awhile). I just have to decide which version would fit the game best and be the least trouble in play.
Low Beast Compensation
Low Beasts have to receive a fair bit of additional compensation to make up for their crippling "No Hands" Flaw. I know that there are players who would gladly play someone else's pet dachshund no matter how pathetic their character's stats were compared to everyone else's, but I'd like for Low Beasts to be viable characters in general.
The first version (way back when) gave them the following benefits:
- an extra hit point
- +4 movement
- doubled carrying capacity
- 2 increases in their Race Trait
- improved natural weapons
- +4 movement
- doubled carrying capacity
- one increase in Race
- improved natural weapons
Thus, the Hero Points idea from the previous entry. Especially the optional Dramatic Editing rule. If we give Low Beasts twice as many Hero Points as High, they become a bit more playable. Especially because now, even if their lack of hands prohibits them from actually taking part in some important event, they can still contribute by spending Hero Points to help other folks. It's a bit like the "Scoobies" or "White Hats" in the Buffy RPG. They aren't as physically powerful as Slayer characters, but they get more control over the plotline and the flow of "luck" in general.
Another possibility is to steal the "flaws help you refresh meta-game resources" idea from Nobilis. In that game, if your character has a crippling weakness (e.g.- you can't cross running water), you get to restore lost Miracle Points whenever that weakness significantly hinders you in play. You don't get extra points at character creation for it... instead, it helps you every time it hurts you, making it more of a roleplaying opportunity than an actual liability.
It would take a bit of a rewrite, but I could theoretically redo the Flaw system so that it worked like that... you refresh Hero Points whenever your Flaws hinder you... and No Hands is a pretty significant Flaw that is likely to come up a lot.
Normally, I don't really like Hero Points in a game. You have to go "out of character" to use them and I generally don't like how they're handled. But after last night's playtest, I'm thinking that they might actually be useful in Nuclear Beasts, as a way to keep Low Beasts competitive with High... Low Beasts can get more Hero Points per session. It'll also help make up for the grittiness of the setting; without magical healing or regular access to skilled surgeons, it can take a long time for folks to heal, and dying of infection is a real danger.
How many Hero Points does my character get?
This varies according to how cinematic of a game your GM wants. The rule is that Low Beasts get twice as many Hero Points as High Beasts and Chimeras do, in order to make up for their lack of hands and difficulty using tools.
- Very Gritty: None (Low Beasts get 1)
- Gritty: 1 (Low Beasts get 2)
- Regular: 2 (Low Beasts get 4)
- Cinematic: 3 (Low Beasts get 6)
- Add +2 to the roll you're about to make. Yes, you have to declare this before rolling.
- Reroll a test that you just made and take the better of the two results.
- Force an NPC who just did something bad to you to reroll and take the worse of the two results. Note that it has to have been directed against your character. You can't spend Hero Points to help other PCs.
- Apply a -2 penalty to an NPC who is about to try and do something unpleasant to your character. Again, you can't do this if they aren't trying to affect you.
- Turn a Wound into a Fatigue. "It's not as bad as it looked." If you do this after failing a Survival or Endurance Test, you can reroll it with the new difficulty.
- Remove a Fatigue. Often referred to as catching your second wind.
- Negate a Hero Point being spent by someone else to hurt you, on a one-for-one basis. For example, if two PCs were wrestling for some sort of prize, and one of them spent 2 Hero Points to give himself a +4 bonus to the roll, the other PC could spend one Hero Point to reduce the bonus to +2 or two Hero Points to negate it completely.
Yes, they have a chance of refreshing at the end of every game session. For every Hero Point that you're currently short, roll a d6. If you get a 4 or better, the Hero Point is refreshed and can be used again next session.
If this session marked a major turning point, important climax, or the end of an adventure or plot thread, the GM can give everyone a +2 bonus to this roll. On the other hand, if the session was particularly short or ended in the middle of the action, the GM can give everyone a -2 penalty, so that they probably won't get any Hero Points back in the middle of things.
Note that if the session was a major and important climax for only one PC, you can restrict the bonus to them if you want. Just try to be fair about it. Giving someone a +2 because they finally rescued their character's kidnapped sister is great; giving them a +2 because you're dating them in real life is not. Generally it's better to reward the whole group unless the others clearly weren't involved in the important plot point at all.
Why don't they come back automatically?
I like to discourage players from using up their Hero Points just because the session is almost over. It bugs me when people say, "Well, this is probably the last fight tonight, so I'll blow all of my Hero Points. I'll have them back next time, anyway."
Can I use more than one point at once?
You can use up to 2 Hero Points on the same task. So you could blow 2 Hero Points for a +4 bonus to a roll you were about to make, or reroll twice and take the best out of three, or you could add +2 to a roll and then reroll it (still keeping the +2; you reroll the same test) afterwards, etc. You just can't use more than 2 in a single action. Two is the upper limit.
Does getting rid of Wounds or Fatigue count as an action?
Yes, but you can do so again once every minute or two of game time. This keeps characters from instantly jumping back up from hideous wounds, but still allows them to survive if they have enough Hero Points.
Can I spend Hero Points to get extra XP?
No. I know Savage Worlds allows that with Bennies (sort of- each one spent has a 1-in-3 chance of getting you an extra XP), but I don't really like that rule. I encourage folks to leave Hero Points unspent by making it so that they don't always come back right away.
Are there any Edges or Flaws that affect Hero Points?
There won't be any Edges that give you more. Having extra Hero Points is reserved for Low Beasts. But there might end up being a Major Edge that gave you a +1 to the refresh roll, or something similar. I haven't decided yet.
As far as Flaws go, I might have a "You get fewer Hero Points than normal" Flaw. That doesn't really mess up the balance between High and Low Beasts because it's strictly voluntary. If you're playing a Low Beast and you don't care much about the extra Hero Points, you can get a different Edge instead. But I want to give Low Beasts at least one bonus that other character types can never match.
Optional Rule: Hero Points as a Dramatic Device
With this rule, Hero Points can be spent to affect things that don't directly affect your character. You could spend a point to give a friend a +2 bonus at a critical point, or allow a friendly NPC to turn a Wound into a Fatigue and reroll their Survival Test. As a general rule, each PC can only spend 1 Hero Point at a time if it doesn't benefit them directly, but multiple PCs can combine up to 4 Hero Points on the same task. Yes, this means that the group could conceivably give someone a +8 bonus on some roll that they're about to make, provided that enough players agree on it.
If the players happen to disagree on it, you can still spend a Hero Point to negate someone else's Hero Point. But since you're limited to spending only 1 point if it doesn't affect you directly, you won't be able to completely stop it if more than one other player is cooperating on something.
You can also spend them to suggest plot twists to the GM... if the GM doesn't use the plot twist, you get to keep the Hero Point, unspent. Here are some example plot twists.
- "Maybe one of the victims we found is actually still alive. I double-check for survivors."
- "I want to meet a cute she-wolf here."
- "Hey! Could the travelling merchant be my character's brother?"
- "I check the wall for a secret passage and spend a Hero Point."
- "Maybe one of the bad guys left a clue as to where they were going next?"
- "If I spend a Hero Point, would the villain let me live?"
- "Um... I spend a Hero Point. I think we need help. Any sort of help."
- "How about a hint? Okay, what if I spend a Hero Point? Can I get a hint then?"
And here's a working Flaw List. I probably won't bother trying to make it complete; there will be a lot of psychological flaws, for example, most of which will just be Minor flaws. This is mostly for new ideas... new Flaws and Flaws with interesting game effects.
Fragile (Major): Similar to Frail but generally worse, all damage tests made against you get a +1 bonus. This basically means that any damage die that rolls a 3 or higher will inflict a wound on you, instead of requiring a 4.
Frail (Minor): Your character loses the first empty box on their Wound Track. Basically, you can't take even 1 wound without having to make a Survival Test.
Ill-Favored (Minor): Your character is deformed in a minor, cosmetic way that makes you look ugly, scraggly, and/or asymmetrical. You get a -1 to Charm rolls against folks who don't know you well. This penalty is doubled against folks with the Shallow Flaw.
Partially Feral (Major, requires Brains of d4): Your character suffers from mild retardation. Your Brains trait is reduced to d6-2, effectively penalizing all of your mental skills. Your volcabulary will tend to be small and you'll usually be limited to speaking in simple words, but you can talk and use tools. If you couldn't, you'd be completely feral and probably kicked out or killed by your tribe. This fits well with characters who also have Big as a Personal Edge.
Radiation Blindness (Major): Unlike most Beasts, your character lacks the ability to detect radiation. You can't see the poison glow, your nose doesn't burn when you inhale radioactive particles and your skin doesn't crawl when you inadvertently enter a radioactive area. Without this ability, you won't get any warning about dangerous radiation until you've already taken a dangerous or even lethal dose (when the symptoms of radiation sickness start to show up).
Shallow (Psychological, Minor): Your character judges by appearances. You have trouble thinking of anyone good looking as being untrustworthy and tend to assume that anyone who is ugly or deformed is evil or unpleasant. You also tend to choose equipment that looks good (perhaps it's shiny and well-polished) but isn't necessarily of high quality.
Small (Minor): Your character is much smaller than normal for his breed. This Flaw reduces your Muscles trait by one level but gives a matching +1 bonus to all of the skills affected by Encumbrance penalties. Thus, small creatures tend to be better at tasks like Acrobatics, Climbing and Dodge. Small is the opposite of the Big Edge.
Just an attempt to list off some likely Edges and how I want to implement them. Minor Edges are considered to be worth 1 point and major ones 2. Like the Skill List, I'll probably add new ones here periodically, rather than creating new entries.
A Racial Edge is only available to specific breeds. A specific breed may well get other Edges, too, but Racial Edges can't be taken by breeds that don't get them automatically. An Innate Edge can be taken by any breed, but must be taken at character creation. It's generally impossible to add it later. A Personal Edge can be taken at any point during your character's life. Most Personal and Innate Edges can only be taken once unless they specifically say otherwise.
It's okay if Racial Edges end up being particularly poor (1/2 or even 1/4 point, for example), but I want all of the normal Edges to be worth the cost of taking. I'm trying to avoid "cheap, bargain-basement" Edges, too... picking an Edge should require serious thought. If you get an Minor Innate or Personal Edge as a Racial Edge, you can usually upgrade it to the Major version for only 1 point.
Always Land on Your Feet (Minor, Racial): You get a +4 bonus to Acrobatics rolls when rolling to reduce falling damage or land on your feet. Low Beasts get a +6 instead because it's easier with four legs than with two.
Armored (Minor or Major, Racial): You get an extra 1 point of armor against regular hits. With the Major level, this increases to 2 points vs regular or 1 point vs regular and critical hits (your choice).
Big (Minor, Innate): Increase your Muscles rating by 1 step, but take a -1 encumbrance penalty because of your increased size. Some breeds may get this Edge multiple times; the penalties and benefits stack. You can take it once as an Innate Edge, if desired.
Fast (Minor or Major, Personal): You are faster than normal. Add +2 to your Dash and +2 to Running rolls. The Major version doubles these benefits. Many breeds of Low Beast get the Minor version for free.
Good Ears / Great Ears (Minor or Major, Personal): You have particularly keen ears and tend to notice noises that other people miss. You get a +1 bonus to Listen rolls with the Minor and +2 with the Major version.
Good Eyes / Great Eyes (Minor or Major, Personal): You have particularly keen eyes and tend to spot small movements and such more easily than normal people. You get a +1 bonus to Spot rolls with the Minor and +2 with the Major version.
Good Jumper (Minor, Personal): When you make a Jumping roll, add the two highest dice together to determine the distance travelled. This Edge can be taken once as a Racial Edge and once as a Personal Edge. If you end up taking it twice, you get to keep the top three dice to determine distance.
Good Nose / Great Nose (Minor or Major, Personal): You have a particularly keen sense of smell and tend to notice subtle scents that other people miss. You get a +1 bonus to Smell rolls with the Minor and +2 with the Major version.
Hard to Kill (Minor or Major, Personal): You can take more damage before collapsing. You get 1 extra hit point with the Minor version and 2 extra with the Major.
Improved Stat (Major, Personal): Increase a chosen stat by one step. You can take this Edge multiple times. [Should I limit it so that you can only take this one once per stat? Hopefully the other Edges will be nice enough to keep folks from just taking this one.]
Lightning Reflexes (Minor or Major, Personal): Include an extra d8 with your Initiative/Reaction roll. With the Major version, include an extra d12.
Long-Winded (Minor or Major, Personal): It takes more Fatigue than normal to leave you exhausted. You can take 1 extra fatigue with the Minor version and 2 extra with the Major. You also get a +1 bonus (+2 for Major) with Guts rolls that involve exhausting labor. [I might drop the bonus and give +2/+4 fatigue.]
Lucky (Minor or Major, Personal): You are luckier than normal. Your Luck Trait becomes d12,d8 with the Minor version and 2d12 with the Major one.
Prized Belonging (Minor or Major, Personal): You start play with a particularly valuable item, usually a working piece of old tech like a high-class firearm or a vehicle that actually runs. The level depends on the item chosen. If you lose the item in question, your GM should ensure that you are able to acquire a replacement of some sort or replace this Edge with a new one. If taken after character creation, it can grant this special status to something you've already got, but it won't grant you a new item automatically.
Psychic Power (Minor or Major, Personal): Can be taken multiple times; each time you take this Edge, you get a new Psychic Skill at d6. Taking a Major Power makes this a Major Edge, otherwise it's a Minor one. Note that Psychic Skills generally don't have any stat applied to them, so you'll be limited to just that d6 until you improve it.
Psychic Reserves (Minor or Major, Personal): You have extra Fatigue points that are used solely to pay the costs of using psychic powers. The Minor version gives you 2 extra Fatigue and the Major gives you 4. This Fatigue recovers at the rate of 1 point per 6 hours, but doesn't require you to rest or sleep to get it back. [If Long-Winded changes to +2/+4, this will probably have to be +3/+6 or something.]
Sure Footed (Minor, Personal): You get a +2 bonus to all rolls involving keeping your balance. This bonus can also be used to offset penalties for moving over rough or unstable ground.
Well-Favored (Minor or Major, Innate): You appear unusually sleek and beautiful to other members of the same breed. Grants a +1 or +2 (for Major) bonus to Charm rolls vs Beasts who might reasonably find you attractive. That's mostly members of the opposite sex who are the same type of Beast (High or Low) and who belong to the same or a closely related breed, but it can help with folks who tend to judge people by their appearance, especially if they have the Shallow Flaw. The bonus is doubled against Beasts with the Lustful Flaw.
Cinematic Success Levels II
A thought had occurred to me that the +1 bonus for every extra 12 rolled might not be good enough. Most penalties come in pairs, really, so that they match up with the way that die sizes increase. A penalty of -2 or -4 is going (I think) to be a lot more common than a -3. I'm honestly not sure yet.
So there's a definite possibility that I'll actually make the bonus +2 per extra 12. That should be pretty cinematic. I might even need to add an Extraordinary2 (that's Extraordinary Squared) Success category, or just a general rule that every additional 4 you succeed by is worth another success. Someone rolling a 16 is pretty darn rare in the regular system... you'd have to get a +4 bonus and roll a 12. But with the above rule, it wouldn't be too unlikely for someone who had 5d12 or so to roll to get a 16 occasionally.
Still, it'll probably remain a GM call. If you like the more cinematic system, where someone can get unbelievably good results if they're good enough (shooting the bullseye dead center despite poor visibility, a concussion, and the fact that they're dancing at the same time), the +2 would probably be your best bet.
It's kind of a pain when you deal with modifiers sometimes. For example, armor subtracts from the damage you take when you get hit. Do I give the protection rating as a negative or positive number? Armor generally only protects against a certain quality of hits... so do I give the protection rating as something like 3/0/0, meaning that it provides 3 points of protection against regular hits, but none against critical or extraordinary hits? Or just say it provides 3 points of defense, but have a separate stat that says that it only works on regular hits? The only real advantage that I see to writing it as 3/0/0 is that I could then theoretically have an armor that provided 3/2/1 or something similar, instead of always providing the same benefit.
There's also the choice between target numbers and modifiers.
For example, I'm currently going with set target numbers. A final result of 4 is a success, 8 a crit and 12+ an extraordinary success. An easy task gives you a +2 bonus and a really hard one might give you a -4 penalty.
Let's say that a particular task was at -3. Mathematically, it doesn't really matter whether I increase the target number and say that you need to get a 7 instead of a 4 to get a regular success or say that you still need a 4, but your roll is at -3. But it would be nice to be consistent about it.
So right now I'm planning on leaving the target numbers alone and applying modifiers, but I know in practice I may decide to do it the other way.
So, here's my plan for balancing out armor. It's kind of important to get this right, since High Beasts will generally be able to get armor cheaper and can put it on and take it off without aid. Low Beasts generally can't.
Armor generally has three ratings. First, there's the Protection Rating. This is how much the armor subtracts from damage tests when it gets hit. Next, there's Coverage. This has three levels: Tunic (covers the torso only), Coat (covers arms and legs too) and Full (covers whole body). Coverage is really just an abstraction; what really matters is what sort of hits it protects against: Regular Hits, Critical Hits or Extraordinary Hits. Finally, there's an Encumbrance rating that determines how cumbersome the armor is.
|Leather Tunic||1||Torso||Regular Hits||None|
|Leather Coat||1||Torso & Limbs||Critical Hits||-1|
|Full Body Leather||1||Full Body||Extraordinary Hits||-2|
|Chain Tunic||2||Torso||Regular Hits||-1|
|Chain Coat||2||Torso & Limbs||Critical Hits||-2|
|Full Chain Suit||2||Full Body||Extraordinary Hits||-3|
|Plate & Chain||3||Torso & Limbs||Critical Hits||-3|
|Full Plate||3||Full Body||Extraordinary Hits||-4|
|Heavy Breastplate||4||Torso||Regular Hits||-3|
|Heavy Plate & Chain||4||Torso & Limbs||Critical Hits||-4|
|Heavy Full Plate||4||Full Body||Extraordinary Hits||-5|
So this seems about right... the basic equation is that the Encumbrance is equal to the Protection Rating - 1. Add one if it covers torso & limbs (and thus works against Critical Hits as well as Regular Hits) and add two if it covers everything (and works against all hits). Oh, and the "Works Against" column is cumulative... if something protects from Extraordinary hits, it'll protect you from Regular and Critical hits, too.
At one point I'd experimented with a secondary penalty for wearing armor, a Fatigue rating that ate up X points of fatigue whenever you wore it. That gave me two ratings to increase, so I could do tradeoffs like "this one tires you out faster" and "this one encumbers you more"... but it seems kind of unrealistic. Also, keeping track of the reduced Fatigue track was a bit of a pain.
High Tech or finely crafted armors might reduce the Encumbrance rating by a notch, while greatly increasing the cost. Ancient armor can even get better than -4 to damage rolls... The best armor in existence is pretty much Heavy Powered Armor, which is practically bulletproof at +8 and covers your whole body. The Encumbrance would be -8, but it's greatly reduced by the motors... without power, it's basically unwearable.
Y'know, I don't think I've ever seen an Initiative system that I really liked.
Ironclaw: roll Mind & Speed. Folks act from highest result to lowest. Reroll Init each round. This is traditionally how I've been doing it in Nuclear Beasts... Mind has been renamed Brains, and I have a few rules for held actions and such, but otherwise it's basically the same.
Call of Cthulhu: Everyone acts in order of their DEX rating. This has the advantage of being really simple to remember... you can even seat everyone in order of DEX so that you just go around the table each turn. But it's also pretty predictable and your mental speed (e.g.- INT) has no effect on it. Of course, that would be easy to houserule if I needed to.
Sovereign Stone: Everyone declares what they intend to do simultaneously, then rolls it. Folks act in order from highest roll to lowest, so anyone who is really good at doing something tends to be really fast at it, too. Nice, but kind of awkward since all declarations happen at once.
Simplified Init: Can't remember a specific game that did this, but I know that my games have sometimes devolved into "PCs act, then NPCs, then repeat." No real initiative system at all, just folks taking turns.
Savage Worlds: Cards are dealt out and people act in order. Basically, initiative is completely random (everyone has the same chance of drawing any particular card) and your stats don't affect it. About the only things that do affect it are certain feats which allow you to draw multiple cards and use the best one. A side feature is that drawing a Joker gives you a special bonus, but that's not really relevant to this discussion.
I'm not sure what sort of feel I want. I wouldn't necessarily mind a simple system like CoC's, but I'd want some support for trying to go faster in emergencies. After all, if someone is only slightly faster than you, it makes since that you'll beat them to the punch sometimes.
Quick brainstorm... default Init is equal to the average result of Brains & Speed... folks act in that order, but can insist on rolling it if they need to. One problem with this idea is using whole numbers... if the default rating ever ends up being slightly less than the actual average, it would always be worthwhile to roll, at least on average. Of course, if a botched initiative roll meant that you lost your action, then it would always be a little risky to try. Hm.
Initiative Rating: equal to 1/2 of the higher of your Brains or Speed traits. So if you have a Brains of d10 and a Speed of d6, your Initiative will be 5 (10/2). Now, that said, the average result of d10,d6 is 6.08, so you'd usually get a better result if you rolled... but bear in mind that one time in 60, you'll roll double ones and end up losing your turn entirely.
Actually, another problem with that is that if I only consider the higher die, the only possible results are 2-6. So even in a small group of PCs, there will probably be at least a couple of folks with identical ratings. I suppose I could sum the two ratings and then divide by 4, so that it would range from 2-6 but include 0.5 values, too. Eh, still not that great.
Cinematic Success Levels
Here's an optional rule I intend to include. It's mostly intended for high-end games, where some characters are really, really good at their specialties, but it will occasionally kick in at lower levels.
This rule makes extremely skilled characters a little more effective and helps keep opposed tests between powerful characters from just being a series of ties. The rule is, if a character rolls more than one natural 12 on a test, each additional twelve after the first adds +1 to the final result.
Thus, a character who was rolling 5d12 and got 12, 12, 12, 9 and 3 would have a final result of 14 (a single twelve with a +2 bonus for having 2 extra twelves), not 12.
There is no effect on other numbers or on modified rolls. You have to be rolling d12s, and they have to come up with multiple natural (unmodified) 12s to see any benefit.
Here's a rough guide for how competent a given character is, based on how many d12s they have to roll for the task at hand.
- 2d12: Expert
- 4d12: Renowned expert
- 6d12: One of the best in the world
- 10d12: The stuff of legend.