Nuclear Beasts Blog
Saturday, January 31, 2004
Some kinds of phobias are more prevalent than others in the wastes. I'll just list off a few, since I'll want to put them in the Flaws section.
Snakes (ophiophobia): a really common one, probably mandatory for Horses. It's most strongly triggered by a sudden hiss or the rattle of a rattler's tail. Considering how dangerous the venom of certain snakes can be, and how hard it is to find ancient antivenin, this isn't an entirely unreasonable fear. When triggered by a noise, you tend to panic and flee immediately. If confronted by an angry snake that's within striking distance, you'll often freeze in place until it either attacks you or leaves.
Open Spaces (agoraphobia): Beasts with this phobia dislike crossing open spaces and prefer to stick to underground areas. They can deal with it by staying close to walls and tree cover, but dislike being out on open fields. The less cover there is, the more nervous they are. This one might be mandatory for Rats/Mice. They can buy it off, of course, but it's common enough among them to be considered normal.
Radiation (radiophobia): another not completely unreasonable fear, the Beast doesn't want anything to do with even mild radioactivity. Even a level just barely strong enough to detect will be treated as though it were a potentially lethal dose. This isn't quite as crippling as the human version... most Beasts can detect radiation and don't have to worry about whether or not something is emitting radiation... they can tell. For Beasts with the Radiation Blindness flaw, this phobia is much more crippling and tends to leave them nervous all the time; if you have Radiation Blindness, radiophobia is a Major Flaw instead of a Minor one.
Spiders (arachnophobia): a fairly common phobia, but not restricted to any particular breed. Beasts with this phobia have an unreasonable fear of even harmless spiders (which the vast majority are) and don't like to even touch cobwebs. It's pretty crippling for a professional scavenger (ancient buildings tend to be full of cobwebs) but for others it mostly causes embarassment when they panic at the sight of a small spider.
Friday, January 30, 2004
Inspection's tomorrow. We'll see if the professional can find anything wrong with the place; we certainly didn't notice much ourselves.
I'm thinking of giving at least Bears the "Hibernation" Edge... a really minor racial one that basically just says that in the winter they can choose to go into a kind of suspended animation for awhile, burning through their fat reserves very slowly.
I'm torn on whether to generalize it into some sort of "suspended animation" power that they can use whenever they run short on food, or keep it more realistic and it's just a bonus to your ability to survive the winter months. It wouldn't be mandatory, regardless; a Bear with plenty of food and wakeful company may get a little cranky, but won't hibernate.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Tidbits of the Ancients
So, what about ancient speakers and automated announcement systems as oracles? Superstitious Beasts might regard them with supernatural awe. Most Beasts would just ignore them, though... after all, they didn't grow up with talking machines.
Another important bit is nuclear power cells. If we want some devices to still have power, then the Ancients have to have had access to power cells that last for centuries. Probably some sort of nuclear powercell. Dangerous if ruptured, but luckily they're very difficult to rupture.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Grenades. Incredibly rare. Very powerful. Tends to send foes flying, even if it doesn't kill them.
Perhaps Nuclear Beasts does need some sort of "Reeling" rules? For determining what sort of hit sends someone flying?
I'd want it to be simple... maybe just any hit that does 2 wounds on a single die (scores at least one crit on the damage test). A hit that does 3 could send someone flying further.
Dunno. Watched Big Trouble in Little China and I was thinking about the little bombs that Egg throws... a flash of light and foes go flying through the air, screaming.
Figures. The week before I can legally trade stock (darn insider trading laws), Amazon.com's stock plunges. Down about $5 per share in the past two days.
Well, so long as it doesn't continue to plummet, we should still be fine for the downpayment. We may not be able to do the full 20% like we'd hoped, but we'll still be able to get the house.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
It's quite common for Beasts to lair up in underground areas. Basically, the surface can be dangerous. In particularly hazardous regions, they'll dig underground homes if there aren't any available.
The biggest hazard that this avoids is Exterminators. Bumblebees are the most commonly encountered type, and they pretty much ignore subterranean homes. Beasts on the surface may be targetted and obviously inhabited shelters may be burned down, but they can't do much to underground shelters at all. The kind of bombs and missiles that it takes to destroy a below-ground habitation were mostly used up long ago. Very few Exterminators have that kind of ammunition left and they tend to save it for important engagements, not wiping out wild animals.
Harpies may recognize the signs of an underground habitation, but they're more likely to wait in ambush than to try and enter it. They hate going into confined spaces where their wings become a liability instead of an asset. They have little interest in living underground themselves; Harpies prefer homes where they can take to the air with little warning.
Of the various kinds of monsters that roam the land, only Kobolds are really dangerous to Beasts living in underground homes because they can burrow in through the walls or floor. But Kobolds rarely attack Beasts, generally preferring to keep to their own territory.
Deeps are the most striking of underground settlements. That term generally refers to a sewer or other particularly extensive underground complex originally made by Man.
Correspondingly, some Beasts call simple, underground shelters that Beasts dig out for themselves Shallows. Others just call them dens, lairs, or just plain home.
Individual families often make their homes in the basement of some long-destroyed building. No part of the house may have survived except the basement, but that's enough. It gives them a walled, underground shelter into which they can retreat if threatened.
Home on the (price) Range
Made the offer tonight. It's not official, but the realtor tells us that the seller's realtor was confident that it'll be accepted, probably tomorrow.
Fingers crossed. Now the money worries can commence.
Monday, January 26, 2004
This is basically the power of seeing and hearing things that you normally could, just somewhere else or somewhen else.
Precognitive powers are always difficult to run, since it depends so strongly on the GM coming up with something for you to see. I think it may help to group Precognition together with Postcognition and Clairvoyance. That way, visions of the actual future can be as rare as the GM likes, without making the power useless.
Things that you can use it for:
- To scry someone's future, basically like casting their horoscope.
- To scry an object's past and see how it has been used.
- To see the current status of someone you're intimately familiar with or have a item of theirs.
- To probe someone's past.
- To probe a person or an object's past and try to see a particular event (difficult).
- To see what's on the other side of a barrier (difficult).
- To see how an object might be used in the future (very difficult- objects don't have free will, so you're basically scrying innumerable possible futures).
- To see the rest of an object or machine when you only have part of it (difficult).
- If touched by a murderer, you might see their crime.
- If someone plots to harm you, you might see a vision of your own murder in the future.
- If you enter a spot where something momentous happened, you might get a vision of that event, no matter how long ago it was.
- If you touch an object that's vitally important in your future, you might suddenly see it in use.
- If someone harms someone you love, you might suddenly see it happening.
- If a loved one dies, even of natural causes, you're liable to know it immediately.
- If something about your body changes dramatically (such as becoming pregnant) you'll usually know it immediately.
- If you're going to die (especially if it's just natural causes), you'll generally sense it well in advance.
- If you enter a place where a lot of people died horribly, you'll often have to suffer through a horrific vision of it. In a post-Apocalypse world, this can happen quite a lot, especially if you enter old ruins. People with the potential for Visions, but no actual control of it often just get this "benefit". They're called Ghostwalkers.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Time and Housing
I may come into a big time crunch soon, even bigger than the one I've been under lately. We're house-hunting right now, and we've just found a second place that we want to make an offer on.
The first offer fell through (someone beat us to it) but it's quite possible that this one will work out. If it does, we'll be moving out of our apartment into a new place over the next month or so.
That will totally kill my hopes of having Nuclear Beasts 0.7 ready for downloads by mid-March. I mean, I haven't had time/energy to sit down and do much on the rewrite in weeks... once we start moving, I'll have even less time.
I mean, lately I've gone back to just doing blog entries. And they've generally been short and sweet and only one per day. Being sick for more than a week really cut back on the amount I've been getting done. Just getting one blog entry done per day may become impossible once we start moving. We'll have to see.
One downside of trying to keep the game somewhat realistic is that you lose a lot of the typical post-holocaust monsters. Giant spiders and giant scorpions... four-armed green humanoid cannibals... giant bears that shoot laser beams out of their eyes...
Okay, so losing those may not be a bad thing.
Reading the Gunslinger series has brought up another possibility... cyborgs. Artificial organisms with cybernetic parts and vastly extended lifespans. Probably not too realistic, but it lets you justify biomechanical horrors that you wouldn't have otherwise.
My current sources of monsters are mutants (but only fairly realistic ones- mostly degenerate forms of ancient predators), bio-engineered weirdoes (created and released by some A.I. for a specific purpose, perhaps to hinder the progress of an invading army), actual robots (they may look like some sort of critter, but they're really purely mechanical) and evil Beasts. Long-lived super cyborgs might be doable, but I'm still iffy on the concept.
Actually, now that I think about it, I do have some plans for enemy cyborgs already. The Legion of Life is a brigade of Kukukuk who have been cybernetically altered by an A.I. to create a battallion of loyal super-warriors. That's probably a better explanation than incredibly long-lived cyborgs... cyborgs made from modern creatures by an A.I. that has the capability to do so. After all, if you can do it, it has definite advantages. They can feed and forage for themselves... it's just that you can send them radio orders whenever you want. You can even make them bring each year's cubs to the facility in order to have the appropriate controlling implants grafted into their heads and bodies. I'll have to brainstorm about this further.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Since I'm thinking about psychic powers, I might as well scribble down some notes about E.S.P., too.
The basic differentiator is that E.S.P. lets you sense things that don't involve sight, sound, smell or any other senses that living beings normally have. It also doesn't cover thoughts or emotions... it involves sensing physical phenomena that are normally invisible. Maybe there's a better name for it than E.S.P.... I'd certainly be open to suggestions.
So it could notice or scan for stuff like:
- Electrical activity from working machinery.
- The state of a being's health (the energy flows in their body, basically).
- The presense of living creatures (again, energy flows).
- The presence of water (traditionally called dowsing).
- The state of repair of a piece of machinery... to whit, does it have the potential to work? This one is difficult, but doable.
- Similarly, they can pinpoint what part is broken if it's a particular part that's bad.
- The presence of areas of open air (e.g., is that wall solid rock or is there an open area just behind it?).
One thing I still desperately need to work out is the whole scan/notice differentiation. It should be possible for a strong psychic to notice a particularly strong energy flow or water source without having to concentrate and exert a lot of effort. There are several possible ways I could handle this.
- No rolls. If the source is strong enough, the GM simply informs every PC with E.S.P. that they notice it.
- The GM can call for E.S.P. rolls periodically, just like sense tests. Of course, if the character fails the roll, they might well feel tempted to concentrate and run an active scan to see what they just missed... that's out-of-character knowledge, of course, but the temptation would be there.
- Players can roll a "passive scan" whenever they want to, without any serious cost (retries in the same spot automatically fail unless something has changed since last time). If they roll well, the GM may tell them what's there... or may just say that they sense something odd and they'll have to actively scan it if they want more details.
- It could be tied in with regular sense tests. If you roll "well enough" on any regular Listen, Smell or Spot check, your E.S.P. could be triggered. This lets the GM call for a sense test when they really want to see if the party psychic noticed something.
- The GM can occasionally roll the character's E.S.P. rating in secret, just like making a sense test without telling the players. Of course, since people's ratings can change just about every other session, it sucks to have to keep track of the ratings yourself.
- Use Luck or Perception rolls and roll it secretly. Keeping track of a relatively unchanging attribute would be easier than keeping track of one or more skills. Calling it a Luck roll could even hide your true intent.
- Set a chance that someone with E.S.P. notices it and roll in secret. Of course, that means that everyone with E.S.P. has the same chance, but what the hey.
Friday, January 23, 2004
I don't think it'll be as difficult to balance out Telepathy as I'd originally thought. Making it a broad power that incorporates all sort of mind-to-mind contact makes it easier. Effects that I want to be really difficult just get really high penalties, like -8.
So, let's see... what sort of mental effects could it cover? One thing to remember: I still haven't decided whether Telepathy and Empathy will be joined in a single power, or split up into two. Splitting them up gives us a nice thoughts/emotions divide, but since I want to make reading thoughts really difficult, it might be easier to say that sensing emotions is easy and sensing thoughts is harder.
- Conversing with someone mentally: very difficult
- Detecting really strong emotions: easy
- Projecting emotions: average to hard
- Sending a one-way mental message: hard, but not as hard as back-and-forth conversation
- Reading hidden thoughts: nigh impossible (mind-reading stuff always messes up plots anyway)
Individual attempts could cost fatigue... psychic power points... wounds (for extreme cases) or just lots of time.
The primary downside of being telepathic is your vulnerability to crowds, particularly ones in the grip of strong emotions. You often temporarily acquire an appropriate mental flaw based on the folks around you... for example, being caught in a riot would probably give you Wrathful or otherwise leave you enraged. This will mostly be represented in the rules by minor penalties (-1 or -2) to all actions until you get out of the area or the local minds all calm down. Players are encouraged to act out the mental side effects, too, but I doubt that I could put together hard-and-fast rules for it.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Inner Focus Revisted
The psychic power of Inner Focus is one of the easiest and most difficult to write up. Basically, it involves the ability of the psychic to dedicate all of their resources to a single task or action, placing themselves in a trance-like state focused on a single goal. It's almost more of a meditative skill than a psychic power.
While you're in a trance, though, your whole being is single-mindedly dedicated to that task. This is represented by penalties when trying to do anything else, and it should also include some restrictions on what you can do.
I think that the more generalized the task, and the more skills and actions the bonus will apply to, the more restrictions there should be on your behavior during it.
- Light trance: you're a bit distracted and suffer skill penalties whenever you try to do something outside of your chosen goal.
- Medium trance: you can't talk or use social skills at all.
- Deep trance: you're so out of it that you simply won't notice anything not immediately relevant to what you're doing. If there's someone back there shouting for you to stop because your house is on fire, you just won't notice them at all. It's not relevant to the task you're working on.
I don't want really silly ones... Inner Focus should be restricted to your own body. You can't walk on water with it, because that would require altering the water. But you could hold your breath for an extraordinary length of time, because that involves altering your own metabolism. Stuff like going without sleep for extraordinary periods or boosting your senses would be fine, too. You could also retrieve forgotten memories or memorize something perfectly.
I'm figuring that a regular success will put you in a light trance (+1 to your chosen task, -1 to others), a critical success will put you in a medium trance (+2 to the chosen task, -2 to other rolls, can't talk unless it's directly related to the task at hand), and an extraordinary success will put you in a deep trance (+4 to chosen task, -4 to others, won't even notice things unrelated to the task at hand). You can choose to take a lesser success result if you want to; rolling a 12 doesn't mean that you have to pick a deep trance... you could take a light or medium one instead if you wanted to.
Boosting a stat should probably be harder than boosting a single skill... and boosting a Specialty (a particularly narrow skill) might be easier than that.
- Boosting an attribute: -2
- Boosting a standard skill: +0
- Boosting a Specialty: +1
- Boosting a broad task like "all combat": -2
- Can't boost Charm or Charm-based skills. Trances always interfere with your ability to interact with other people socially.
- Can't alter things outside of your own body.
- Can't acquire knowledge that you never had. If the task in hand could only be performed if you already had a specific skill or information and you don't have it, you can't focus on that task.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Edges that Boost Skills
So I probably want some Edges that boost specific skills. There's no way to get actual bonuses (e.g. - +1, +2, etc.) by just increasing your skills normally. But bonuses are the best benefit you can buy in the long run.
If your rating consists of a single die, then a +1 bonus is basically equal to bumping up the die size by a single level. For example, a single d8 has an average result of 4.5. A d8+1 has an average of 5.5, exactly the same as a d10.
But bonuses and penalties apply to all of the dice involved in a check. So if you have a rating of 2d8+1, that's almost as good as rolling 2d10 and better than rolling d10,d8. And once you've hit d12, your maximum result will never increase without adding bonuses.
So, let's see... my current plan is for taking a stat from d12 to d12+1 to be a Major Edge (8 points). That's a huge benefit, in that it gives you a bonus with every roll that uses that attribute. A +1 that only applied to a single skill would have to be cheaper.
So I'm thinking of offering this...
Skill Bonus (Minor or Major): Your character is such a natural at a specific skill that you get a +2 bonus whenever you use it. If the chosen skill is a Specialty, this is a Minor Edge, otherwise it's a Major Edge. This Edge can be taken multiple times, but only for different skills.
So, instead of getting a +1 to all of the skills involving a particular attribute, you get a +2 vs one of them. Furthermore, if it's a Specialty (a very narrow skill), it's only a Minor Edge, so you could take +2 in two Specialties for the same cost.
I was going to be more miserly with the benefit, but I want it to be cost-competitive with bumping a stat up to d12+1. A +2 is an impressive bonus, and matches well with my intention to have folks take fewer but more powerful Edges.
Since you can only take it once per skill, the only really unbalancing part would be taking it multiple times on skills that commonly apply together. For example, someone could theoretically try taking a +2 bonus in Melee, Swordfighting (a Melee specialty) and Sword (an expertise in swords that will apply whenever you use Swordfighting). Then they could effectively have a +6 bonus in Swordfighting.
I think I'll probably rule that when you have multiple skills that have the Skill Bonus Edge, you only get a single +2 if you combine them. That's different from the regular rules, but it would help prevent serious munchkining as folks try to invent as many Specialty skills as they can that will all apply to a specific task.
Also, existing Edges like Keen Ears (adds to the Specialty skill of Listen) should use the same standard unless they provide a lot of additional benefits. +2 to a Specialty if they're a Minor Edge and +2 to a regular skill if they're a Major Edge. Specific Edges could also grant higher bonuses like +4, since they'd be specifically aimed at tasks where that's not unbalancing. I'd feel much more comfortable having a PC who had +4 to Climb checks than one who had +4 to Shooting.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Pretty crappy. In addition to house-hunting and general busyness at work, this week I've come down sick. Can't concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time.
I still need to draw more illustrations, but I'm resigned to the fact that version 0.7 will be showcasing the rules, with very limited art. That's okay, really- I'm hoping to write up the rules separately from the setting for the most part. I wonder if I should specifically mark things that are setting specific, so that you can use the rules generically, too? Probably not worth the trouble, really.
I think I've got most of the rules sorted out, at least in my head, but I need a lot of time to write it out... and then rewrite it again. I'm intending, for example, to rewrite the skills section and add example specialties to each standard skill.
Monday, January 19, 2004
More Combat Manuevers
Fierce Attack: A powerful melee strike that has lots of force but little control. Your attack is -2 to hit and +2 to damage. A character who is successfully Taunted may be forced to use Fierce Attack instead of Regular Attack.
All-out Attack: An even stronger and wilder version of Fierce Attack. Your attack is -2 to hit and +4 to damage, but you can't make any defense rolls at all. All-out Attack is most commonly used when you are confident that you won't be attacked back or you're berserk and don't care about your own safety.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Getting Rid of Race?
One thing that I've pondered is whether or not I actually want a Racial Instincts trait (or Race, as it's called in Ironclaw). This trait applies to anything that your species would be good at (e.g.- the Cat trait can apply to climbing, jumping, stealth, etc.).
So in Nuclear Beasts, your appropriate Breed trait would be included with a handful of skills (and I'd try to make sure that all of the Breeds got an equal value of skills). I could instead just say give each Breed a set of starting skills and say "you start with these." Low Beasts could get a free increase in all of their Breed skills.
This approach has the advantage that I can make some skills higher or lower than others... Cats could start with d4 Stealth, d8 Climbing, d6 Jumping, etc., instead of just having all of those skills at d6. Of course, the downside is that then I don't have an Instincts rating that can be used to apply to tasks like predicting the behavior of other members of your own Breed.
I'll probably stick with the Instincts trait. And that name is slowly growing on me. I don't want to call it "Race", like Ironclaw did, because it would really be "Species" instead of "Race"... and calling it Instincts makes it clearer what it actually means.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Sometimes the situation will call for testing just a single attribute and no skills. For example, if you wanted to see if your character were strong enough to shove a boulder out of the way, it's probably going to be a straight Muscles check. While we might be able to justify including a skill (perhaps Athletics?), it would be iffy.
In this case, the probabilities become odd; if you only roll a single die, you'll botch quite often. That's counterintuitive; if it's something as simple as "Can I lift this or not?" it really shouldn't be that unpredictable.
Because of this, most attribute-only checks will actually call for you to roll the attribute in question twice. This is commonly written as a Muscles & Muscles check, or a Speed & Speed check, or whatever stat is appropriate. This makes the results suitably predictable (everyone always has two dice to roll) so it they fits in better with the rest of the game system.
Friday, January 16, 2004
At the end of each session of Nuclear Beasts, characters will normally receive from 2 to 8 Experience Points, or XP. Each XP is basically a single character point, waiting to be spent.
- 2 XP: A particularly short session, possibly one that was interrupted repeatedly or cut off early.
- 4 XP: The typical reward.
- 6 XP: A particularly long or important session.
- 8 XP: A marathon session that was both very long and wrapped up a major plotline.
After you receive your XP, you can then spend it to improve existing traits and to acquire new ones. Each XP spent lets you add a "checkmark" to a trait of your choice, but you can only put one checkmark on a given trait per session. When the number of checkmarks next to the trait is equal to the cost to improve it to the next level, you erase all of the checkmarks and upgrade the trait.
Specialty skills are treated a little differently; you can add a checkmark next to two specialty skills for a single XP. Basically, they increase just as quickly as other skills (it takes 2 checkmarks to improve it, and thus at least 2 sessions) but each checkmark is only 1/2 of an XP instead of costing the full amount.
If you don't want to spend all of your XP this session, you can save some. Add it to the "Stored XP" box on your character sheet. When you are awarded more XP next session, you'll get to spend those "stored" experience points as well, but you still can't add more than one checkmark to a single trait per session.
Example: Katrin receives 4 XP for a given game session. She wants to put one XP towards the purchase of a new Edge, one XP towards her Melee Skill and one XP towards her Shooting skill. That leaves her with one XP left over. She decides to improve her Natural Weapons specialty as well, which costs 1/2 XP. Unable to decide on anything else, she decides to save the last 1/2 XP for next time. She writes down 1/2 XP in the Stored XP box on her character sheet.
Example, Continued: Next session is a particularly short one, and Katrin only receives 2 XP. That, combined with the 1/2 XP that she didn't spend last time, gives her 2 1/2 XP to spend. She decides to put 1 XP towards the new Edge that she's saving up for, 1 XP towards her Shooting skill, and she'll blow the last 1/2 XP on her Natural Weapons specialty. Since her Shooting and Natural Weapons skills both already have a checkmark from last session, she erases the checkmarks and increases them both by a die type.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Standard Skills in Nuclear Beasts tend to be very broad. Each one covers a wide variety of related actions. This means that a character has to take relatively few skills in order to be well-rounded. However, if you are only interested in a narrow subset of what a standard skill covers, most of them offer several possible Specializations. Specializations are narrower, more restrictive skills that generally cover no more than a third of the topics covered by the standard skill; they also only cost 1/2 as much to increase.
Note that if you have both the standard skill and a specialized version, they compliment each other. Whenever you get to roll the specialized version, you can always include the regular skill too, if you have it.
There are two primary reasons to take specializations. First, if it covers all of the aspects of that skill that you're interested in, it's worth taking a specialization instead of the standard form just because it's cheaper. A less obvious benefit is in the rate of advancement; you can simultaneously advance both the regular skill and one or more of its specializations. Since you can always include the regular skill in any test where the specialized version applies, you'll be able to effectively increase it twice as fast.
Another important skill concept is the Expertise Skill, which really is just all-around skill in a particular topic of your choice. Some standard skills are actually examples of expertise skills. For example, the Traps skill represents all-around knowledge about traps: how to make them, set them, disarm them and detect them. An Expertise skill can be applied to almost any task involving its topic. Using Traps as an example again, that skill could also reasonably be included with attempts to haggle over the price of a trap or to recall an important fact about some historically important trap in the past. If the topic involves traps, the Traps skill probably applies. A generous GM might even allow it to be included in tests that only peripherally involve traps, like treating an injury that was inflicted by a particular trap.
It's not really important to keep track of whether a given skill should be considered an expertise or not. It's mainly a mechanism to allow for the creation of new skills as they're needed. If your character happened to grow up in a well-preserved ancient arcade that had a mix of working and broken games, you could reasonably take an expertise skill called Video Games and use it to identify, play or repair ancient arcade games that you happen to encounter during play.
That last example brings up one final note. It's possible to have a Specialized Expertise skill, an expertise that's also considered a specialty. If you take an expertise in an extremely narrow field, it's reasonable for it to be treated as a specialization and thus only cost half as much to increase. The GM can also declare an expertise to be specialized if it covers a broad, but probably useless topic. Knowledge of ancient video games, however broad and detailed it might be, isn't likely to prove to be a really vital skill in most campaigns. Allowing the player to purchase it cheaply encourages them to take the skill (which is a vital part of their character background) even if it probably won't see much use in play. We don't want to penalize people for coming up with interesting character backgrounds.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
In Ironclaw, races that normally run in packs or herds commonly get the "Tactics" skill as a racial one, to represent their innate tendency to work together.
But it's not a terribly useful advantage, because the skill is vaguely described and is hard to put to serious use outside of open warfare. You get to include it with ambushes, but that's about it.
And it's difficult to write up a better description. I've tried. I'd like to represent the ability of people to cooperate and use group tactics together, but I'm not sure it's worth the trouble.
I could give bonuses to the whole group based on whoever rolls best on their tactics roll. Hm. One thing I don't want is to effectively negate the bonus that pack hunters get.
How about this? If you get some time to discuss tactics or make preparations prior to launching an attack, everyone who wants to contribute can roll Brains & Tactics. Use the best result. Still, that tends to mean that one or two high rollers set everything up for everyone else. Hm.
Another possibility is to just add an Edge or two.
Pack Hunter: Your Breed is known for working together to bring down large prey. Whenever you cooperate with one or more characters who also have the Pack Hunter Edge to bring down a single target at close range, you can add an additional +1 to all of your attack rolls.
Herd Defender: Your Breed is known for presenting a unified front against enemies. Whenever you are lined up with one or more other characters who also have the Herd Defender Edge, you can add a +1 bonus to your defense rolls.
What do people think? Would a set of simple Edges be better than giving those Breeds the "Tactics" skill?
Adventuring Tasks Breakdown
While I want a section that covers common tasks and how to resolve them, what topics should it include? Let's see...
- Sneaking up on people.
- Scrounging useful items.
- Searching for hidden objects (should Scrounging be included with this? Merged with this?).
- Spotting and disarming traps.
- Cross-country travel.
- Picking locks.
- Escaping from bonds.
- Outrunning pursuers.
- Hunting and tracking.
- Finding food and water.
- Finding shelter in the wilderness.
- Identifying ancient tech.
- Repairing/jury-rigging ancient tech.
- Making friends.
- Lying to people.
- Seduction. Possibly too minor to be worth covering.
- Providing leadership in battle. Might be in Combat instead.
- Using tactics in battle. Again, possibly in the Combat section instead.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Task Resolution Breakdown
What topics should I cover?
- The Basics: traits represented by one or more dice, roll all relevant traits and take highest number rolled as your result. 4 is Success, 8 is Critical Success, 12 is Extraordinary Success.
- Attribute Tests: sometimes just the same stat twice.
- Opposed Tests: when your opponent gets a chance to roll and subtract his result from yours. Slightly different success levels- if you beat them at all, you get a Success, by 4 a Crit, by 8+ an Extra. Same holds true if they beat you.
- Damage/Reliability Tests: where every die contributes successes separately and you count up the total. Represents damage or long-term tasks.
- Bonuses and Penalties: adjusting the difficulty of a roll. Should this be described early on, or later?
Character Creation Breakdown
- Character concept.
- Picking a Breed/Type.
- Allocating your attribute dice.
- Picking Edges and Flaws.
- Buying Skills.
- Picking a Background.
- Starting Equipment.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Okay, what sort of topics do I want to cover, and in what order? Let's see... first, I'll just do stuff in a random order, trying to list off potential chapters and such.
- What is roleplaying?: Keep this one short and sweet. Might skip it entirely. Not really necessary in a book aimed at experienced gamers.
- Introduction and setting basics. Not too detailed... save most of it for the Setting Book. Might include the glossary, which is a good introduction to the setting.
- Basic task resolution. Standard tests, Opposed tests and Damage/Reliability tests.
- Combat. Should include fighting, damage and healing.
- Character Creation. Includes stats, skills, breed, edges and flaws.
- Advancement. How to spend XP and regulate advancement.
- Adventuring Tasks. Stuff like swimming, climbing, searching, etc.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
I think I'm going to have to change how I use the blog a bit. It's getting to the point where I need to concentrate on writing up the rulebook and getting more illustrations done.
The illustrations, obviously, I can't really do here. But I can work on material that's more directly relevant to the rules writeup itself.
Basically, I don't want to spend much time writing stuff here unless it'll help me there. For a long while now, my determination to never miss a single day's entry (nearly 6 months now, without a gap) has kept me adding entries here. But sometimes at the cost of not actually touching the version in my word processor.
So I'm hoping to start doing a few things here:
- Planning for how the rulebook will look.
- Writing descriptions that can be copied directly into the book.
- Brainstorming on new ideas/illustrations that ought to go into the book.
- Status reports on stuff I've accomplished.
Saturday, January 10, 2004
One area that I need art practice in anyway is action pics. Ones that show people in the midst of activity, not sitting still apparently posing for the artist. I've started work on a small pic showing a Beast running away from... what? A howler? Some other monster? An Exterminator?
Anyway, I want to do several pics that show a lot of motion. I think they'll add some "excitement" to the illustrations.
It'll be somewhat painful, of course. I've always been better at "still" shots than active ones. But I can use the practice so I'm gonna try it. Doesn't lend itself to blog updates, of course, unless I got into the habit of scanning partial pics and putting them up as I go. Considering how many I end up abandoning, that probably wouldn't be worth the effort, really.
But, some brainstorming for pics:
- A side view of two High Beasts fighting, preferably a small and simple one. Several similar pics could be used to break up the combat chapter, showing different scenes in the same fight.
- A Kukukuk or some similar monster, rushing at the viewer. I know I can find some reference pics of carnivorous dinosaurs charging forward; it's just a question of whether or not I can make something usable out of them.
- A Low Beast leaping at something. Basically a Cougar or Wolf in mid-pounce. The target doesn't even need to be visible as long as the motion is clear.
- A Harpy in flight, probably seen from below. I'd just need a good reference pic of a vulture in flight. Shouldn't be too hard to find.
Friday, January 09, 2004
I'm not sure about the current size of the setting... or really, the setting map. It's a bit bigger than Calabria, since the Nuclear Beasts map covers the northwestern part of the United States.
Getting from one end to the other (particularly with all the mountains in that part of the country) could take a prohibitively long time. If I'm being realistic, of course. You can also just do it the cinematic way and assume really fast or slow travel times... whatever you need to make the journey take the right amount of time.
As is, there will have to be dozens if not hundreds of small towns and villages that just aren't described at all. And innumerable landscape features that are completely ignored. That's not necessarily bad, of course... it does leave room for expansion.
So I've thought about shrinking the setting a bit... picking a particular region on the west coast (so that I still have an ocean border) and going with that. I mean, California alone is large enough to host more towns and cities than I'd ever get around to describing. But that would mean redrawing the map almost from scratch... putting all of the towns and settlements that I have described into new locations.
The map could use a redraw, of course, but I'm not sure I want to do one that dramatic. I don't want to describe every little town and village. Especially since they should (realistically) change quite often. Small towns might break up, be decimated by plague, or expand outwards. Discontented Beasts might establish a new trading post in an opportune spot and it could be gone the year after. No, there's no way that I could define everything. So I probably won't mess with the scale much. But I think it's worth thinking about further.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Visions Rough Draft
The character is periodically assailed by random visions of events in the past, present or even future. With time and training, they can learn to control this power, but it's inherently difficult.
Roll Brains and Visions to try and provoke a vision deliberately, or to make sense of one that occurs randomly.
- Botch, Critical Failure or Worse: the character is assailed by confusing sounds and images. They suffer 1 Fatigue and are at -1 to all actions for the next five minutes.
- Failure: the character feels either nothing at all, or just a vague sensation that a vision is about to occur, but it never does.
- Success: the character sees a brief image or hears a brief noise. The whole vision is generally over in one round.
- Critical Success: the character sees and hears a longer vision, generally lasting from 3 rounds.
- Extraordinary Success: the character is engulfed in a vision so realistic that other than their inability to change anything, it's as though they were actually there. They can walk about and even touch objects (but can't really move or affect them). For the duration (ranging from a minute up to an hour), the "real" world is completely blotted out; only the strongest of sensations (pain, in particular) can be felt at all. To anyone else watching, it will seem like the psychic is sleepwalking and interacting with things that aren't there.
Thus, there is usually a trigger, even to randomly occuring visions. The psychic might touch a person and see a glimpse of their past or future. They might pick up an item and see an image of its last use, or the current location of a missing component from it.
- An event that the psychic would consider immensely important to them personally. Examples might be their mate giving birth or their parents being murdered. This could be occuring in the future or the present; sometimes it's hard to tell. An event in the past isn't likely to be seen unless the psychic was previously unaware of it.
- A serious event occuring to someone the psychic has just met or just touched for the first time. Usually something bad. Examples might include seeing the person fighting or dying or killing someone else.
- An interesting past event in which an item just touched was involved in an important way. Future events can be seen too, but are much rarer. For example, someone touching a key might suddenly see the matching lock. Someone touching an ancient, ruined device might see it as it was long ago.
I'd been planning on making your skill determine their strength but I'm getting iffy on that. I don't want to bother with too much detail or too many rolls. So your skill might actually be used just to try and use your power deliberately. It has no effect on the spontaneous ones, although you might be able to suppress them using it if you need to.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
I need some good rules for the effects of cold and heat. Nuclear Beasts is set in a rather primitive era, and they generally don't travel during the winter for good reason. But I don't really have any rules for it.
I think I'll be raiding some other books to try and come up with some guidelines that seem decent. Right now I really haven't got much... I mean, I could say that you take 1 fatigue per hour under X conditions, which becomes wounds after you hit Exhausted, but I don't know how accurate that is. Ideally, I suppose I should have a difficulty rating that you roll against... it could reasonably even be a flat value.
i.e.: roll Guts & Guts vs the difficulty rating of the cold.
- Extraordinary Failure: take 2 wounds and 3 fatigue.
- Critical Failure: take 1 wound and 2 fatigue.
- Failure: take 1 fatigue.
- Success or better: you're just cold.
You have to check once every... 6 hours? Actually, probably drop the rule about going beyond extraordinary failure and just say that how often you have to check depends on conditions.
+0: serious cold, but not immediately lethal. You can only take Fatigue, so death occurs only if you become exhausted and fall asleep in it.
-4: serious frostbite conditions. Critical Failure (rolling a total of 0 to -3) is very possible. Even tough folks need to bundle up.
-8: lethal frost. Extraordinary Failure (rolling -4 or worse) is quite likely. This is killing cold and even folks with d12 Guts don't want to stay out in it for long.
-12: polar frost. Without extraordinary bonuses from stuff like heavy arctic gear, death occurs quite rapidly.
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Plot-thread Villain / Psychic Powers
I'm thinking a High Hyena or Wolf ravener... a Telepath who's been driven mad by exposure to too many voices in his head. His powers are raw and unfocused, but his psychic shout does a number on you.
Actually, that brings up the possibility of having all four psychic powers come with downsides... hm.
Telepathy/Empathy: the emotions and thoughts of others tend to mess you up a bit. You may suffer backlash when in a large crowd or near someone suffering extreme pain or fear.
Inner Focus: no real downside, actually. This power is entirely internal and pretty much entirely voluntary. Since you have to focus your mind on a single act or idea, it's not the sort of thing that happens spontaneously. Of course, unlike the others, it can't affect other people or objects either.
E.S.P.: hm... again, I don't see any serious downsides coming to mind. Of course, that also means that the power never triggers except when you want it to, so you don't get any benefit or penalty from spontaneous use. In theory, I could give you penalties when you're too close to powerful electrical flows or magnetic fields, but I'm not sure that the "scrying" power is really going to be useful enough to merit penalties. The potentially unbalancing bit is Clairvoyance... I could see folks spending far, far too long going "I scan the pile for useful stuff. Okay, then I scan the next pile." Perhaps I can replace Clairvoyance with some ability that's more interesting and exciting? It's kind of similar to Visions, anyway.
Visions: obviously, the big thing with visions is occasionally being hit with uncontrolled ones, especially when they can blot out the real world.
Monday, January 05, 2004
One suggestion that I want to put to use in Nuclear Beasts is to weave a storyline through all of the examples in the book. It'll encourage me to have a lot of examples (always good) and it'll provide a little more cohesion and interest.
I'm thinking of Katrin the High Beast Cheetah (or some other kind of Cat if I dump Cheetahs) scout and Nuala the Low Wolf psychic. That gives me a good assortment (I don't think it would work as well with just one example character), but I still need a plotline.
So far I'm thinking of something like this:
- They find an ancient map in an old ruin. It's of an small town. Some ancient human drew a red circle around a particular building and wrote "depot" over it. [Katrin makes some rolls to translate it]
- They figure out where the town is [social rolls? Area knowledge rolls?] and it's nearby enough to be a reasonable trip. Since "depot" can mean a storage area, it could be a big find.
- There will probably be at least one fight with a monster.
- And one encounter with a ravener, possibly even a hostile psychic ravener.
The overall "plot" will probably have to be cut and rearranged repeatedly... I'd like for it to run through the whole book in order, but that may mean rearranging stuff so that it fits the order of the chapters. To begin with I'm not going to sweat the details much... I'll just keep track of what sort of examples I need, then try to tie it all together.
Sunday, January 04, 2004
I'd kind of like a name for traits that aren't really Edges or Flaws, because their good effects are cancelled out by bad ones that come bundled together. These would be free (or at least the first one would be) because they're both good and bad for you.
Packages? Tradeoffs? Add-ons? Neutrals?
Ghostwalking could be treated as a package deal, if the penalty involved (being plagued by uncontrollable visions) was worth the benefit (being able to see the past occasionally) but not much worse.
Still, it would probably be more appropriate as a Minor Flaw... sure, you get a psychic power, but you can't control it. If you buy the power separately, then you can control it sometimes, but you still get those darn visions and you don't get the beneficial part of the Flaw.
Anyway, I'll keep thinking about an appropriate name for an Edge/Flaw combo that you have to take as a set.
Making Powers More Flexible
It occurs to me that the psychic powers might be more interesting if they gave you a lot more flexibility. If you could do a variety of things and had more room for cleverness. I'm just not sure how well it'll work in practice. Let me think...
Inner Focus is probably the most flexible of the current powers, but it's just a bonus to a single task. Useful, but not exactly exciting.
I could combine stuff like Clairvoyance (seeing at a distance), Piercing Darkness (seeing without any light), and Dowsing (sensing flows of water and energy) into a single E.S.P. power. You'd figure out the difficulty of what you wanted to do off of a small list and roll against that. But you could theoretically add "new" powers by inventing things to scan for and the GM assigning a difficulty to it.
Difficulties could be flat, or I could make them sets of dice, so that the results of using Psi aren't as predictable.
Ghostwalking, Augury and Warnings could all be combined into a power called Visions. It indicates the ability to see the future or past of anything nearby, with the downside that it's often triggered by events that involved negative emotions. Ghostwalker might even be a Flaw; your power senses the past even when you don't want it to.
Hm. Assuming that I have some rules for using Inner Focus on stuff like healing faster, temporarily boosting stats, etc., I can probably make it nifty enough to be worth taking.
Then we could have a big category called Empathy. This would cover Sensing Emotions and Projecting Emotions.
Hm. We could put powers like Mind Link (link people together so that they are subconsciously aware of each other's current state), Dreamsending (long-range communication via shared dreams) and... hm. Well, maybe those two would be enough for a Telepathy power. I wouldn't want overt mind-reading. I could add Thought Sending, which lets you communicate over a distance via line-of-sight. Like the Elfquest Sending power, it's hard to do at long range and easiest if they meet your gaze. It could even be used subtly, with penalties, to attempt to put a thought into someone's head without them realizing that it's from someone else. That would work best on dumb animals, of course, but it could be useful anyway.
Astral Projection could just go away and be absorbed into Clairvoyance. It could actually be a Clairvoyance "stunt"... sending a free-roaming viewpoint out to study the area instead of studying just a single point.
Hm. Inner Focus, E.S.P., Visions and Telepathy. That certainly covers most of the non-physical psychic powers, especially if we allow psychics to "tweak" the effects in a fairly freeform manner. It would probably be a Major Edge to take a Psychic Power, but only a Minor Edge if you wanted just a small subset of that power (like only being able to Ghostwalk).
Saturday, January 03, 2004
Goals for Version 0.7
I'm slowly making progress on the 0.7 rewrite of Nuclear Beasts. In particular, I'm working on the rulebook, as opposed to setting details. I've got a few goals for this version.
- Write up the basic rules in a concise manner, probably 30 pages or so.
- Write up the Breeds so that they are all basically equal, rather than having some cost more points than others. Ones that I just can't balance can get a few extra skill points or be required to take a Minor Flaw of choice, but I want them to be as equal as possible.
- Rehash the skills a bit, making them more balanced.
- Simplify the Edges and Flaws down into Minor and Major versions instead of giving them each point costs.
- Explain the differences between standard skills, expertise skills (these are basically just "invent your own" skills) and specialty skills (these are 1/2 cost skills because they only apply to about 1/3 as much as a standard skill) clearly.
- Codify my ideas for handling advancement.
- Trim the Breeds down to a smaller set that covers a few species well; it should be easy to extrapolate new ones.
- Just rewrite all of the old sections on general principles. I find that I always come up with a few new ideas whenever I rewrite old stuff.
- Settle on a set of psychic powers that is both useful and interesting and isn't too specialized; give psychics some room to improvise.
- Put together a PDF version that I can solicit commentary and opinions on.
- Possibly submit the PDF to one or more minor RPG publishers as a potential product. It's not likely that I'll get more than some constructive criticism, but even that would be great. I haven't ever been able to get much feedback on my ideas from outside of my immediate circle of friends.
Friday, January 02, 2004
Weird thought of the day from RPG.net; what if you treated the initiative roll more like a damage test and handled each die separately?
Basically, it could work like this: everyone rolls Perception & Speed and takes note of both numbers.
The GM starts counting down from 12. You get to go whenever either die matches the current initiative number, so everyone gets 2 actions per turn (Lightning Reflexes would give you a third and would become more valuable). This would have some interesting effects.
- Lightning Reflexes and similar abilities become more valuable.
- Really fast people can end up acting twice right away, a fairly hefty advantage in combat, really, but not an overwhelming one since your foe will get to do the same after you.
- You could reasonably set a lower limit so that you don't get an action on a die that rolled a 1, or something similar.
- You get at least twice as many actions per initiative roll, so rolling every combat round isn't as big of a deal anymore.
Thursday, January 01, 2004
British vs American Spellings
I have a definite habit of spelling some words in the British manner, but only a few of them.
I tend to prefer "travelling" to "traveling" and "worshipper" to "worshiper". I'm not really sure why; it's probably a combination of my early reading habits and the fact that they look more like they're pronounced.
I haven't yet decided which form I'll use in the final version. Getting rid of the double-consonants is regarded as "more correct" in the U.S., but it always looks funny to me and I have a definite tendency to spell it the other way.
Psychics and Stats
When someone acquires a new Psychic Power, they really need some sort of decent "base chance" so that they can start using it immediately. I haven't decided how I want to handle it yet.
- They get the skill at d6 and can start increasing it or adding new dice normally. There is no stat involved in rolls; it's just skill.
- They don't get any dice in the new skill, but it does include a particular stat so they can roll that instead. A given power might use Brains & Skill or Perception & Skill or even Charm & Skill. I'd probably use Brains as the default for ones where no stat seems really appropriate.
- They get a new stat, Psychic Strength or something, at d6. This stat applies to every Psychic Power that they happen to pick up. There would be Edges / Flaws that apply to that rating.
- They always get a flat d6 to roll with Psychic Skills; there's no way to increase or decrease it.
Another change I made recently is making the first Psychic Power that you take a Major Edge... adding more is a Minor Edge.
I'm also thinking that I should combine some of the more closely related powers together... make them more flexible. Perhaps just an E.S.P. power instead of Dowsing, Clairvoyance, etc. It could be a Minor Edge to take just one of them... or I could dig out an old idea and say that if your power is unusually limited, you get a +1 bonus to the roll. Making it a Minor Edge runs into the problem of what if you wanted to take a second, also very limited, power? It would already be a Minor Edge, just because it's your second power.