Nuclear Beasts Blog
Sunday, February 29, 2004
Word Processing
Grr. I was a big fan of OpenOffice before I decided to break up my document into chapters and have the chapter names show up in the footer. Ugh.

You'd think that would be easy, but it's not. There's a nice "section editor" that lets you see all of the sections that your document is broken into. Of course, it turns out that you can't select an area of text and turn it into a section, so you have to cut & paste everything. Sections can have names, but there's no way to display them, so that put me back to Chapters.

Which, it turns out, OpenOffice keeps track of chapters by looking for the "Heading1" text type. Unfortunately, I use Heading1 and Heading2 for two different styles of chapter titles... OpenOffice doesn't support that, so I'm hosed.

So I got irritated and downloaded EasyOffice, which supposedly lets you break a document up into chapters by inserting bookmarks. Sounds great (especially since I want to dump to PDF, which supports bookmarks)... but in practice, it crashed as soon as I tried.

Ugh. So I took a break. I may try again later.
Saturday, February 28, 2004
Military Cyberware
The cyberware available in the game is generally military models that can be implanted by a military surgical unit... usually done at the behest of an A.I. as even the computerized models require far more knowledge to run than most Beasts possess.

The implants are often very visible. The ancient military didn't really care about making cybernetics look normal. Unless the implant had to be invisible to casual inspection, they didn't make any effort to make it look nice. Even a built-in radio might involve a little metal box being attached to the side of the soldier's head.
Friday, February 27, 2004
Off Topic: Yet Another House Update
We sign on Monday. Looks like we're still on schedule to get the keys Saturday night.

I'd really love it if we could get the keys Friday night, instead, and thus have the whole weekend to move stuff, but it looks like it ain't gonna happen.

Of course, they won't be able to tell us the total amount to bring until Monday morning, so we'll have to get the cashier's check on our way there. Ugh.

Still, it looks like there's less than a week left of this excrutiating procedure. Here's hoping nothing else goes wrong.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Off Topic: House Delays
Ugh. Well, it's just a delay, not a serious problem, but still.

Anyway, turns out we'll probably be signing for the place on Monday, then not actually get the keys until that Saturday. We were supposed to have signed yesterday and gotten the keys on Monday, but we'll be signing then, instead.

So basically we won't get possession of the place for about a week after we'd originally been told. Bleah.

Oh, well, it's not anything that should prevent us from getting it. Just very annoying. It also eats into our moving time, since we need to be out of our current apartment by the end of March. Not being able to start the move until a week into March takes away about a quarter of the time we thought we had to do it.

All we can do in the meantime is keep packing and try to find room to stack all of the boxes around the apartment. We're thinking that we'll be dismantling the dining room table soon, and stacking boxes in its spot. We don't have nearly enough book boxes for all of our books, so we'll have to get more. I really look forward to actually being able to move the boxes out of our cramped little apartment into the new place to make room to pack the rest of the stuff.

We figure that Saturday, when we finally get the keys, we'll move as much crap over as possible (hopefully including all of the already packed boxes). We'll move a bit more over Sunday morning, then hold our weekly Ironclaw game over at the new place. I really hope that there aren't any further delays.
Old Machines
Stephen King's Gunslinger series has some really spooky bits with ancient machines that are still running despite the centuries since the collapse of their civilization. The ancients built things to last.

One example is the oil derricks that are still pumping up crude oil. The pipes to the refinery have long since rusted away and the refinery is long gone, but they keep pumping. The locals collect some of the oil to burn for heat and light, but most of it is allowed to seep back through the cracks in the ground. Only a few of the derricks are still pumping, but no one knows how to turn them off. The area is shunned except for the occasional oil-gathering expedition (I wouldn't drink any well-water around there).

The basic idea is that the ancients (among other accomplishments) devised what King calls "atomic slugs"... batteries that run on radioactive materials and can provide steady power for centuries. My own version would work like this: They were never designed to be repaired or recharged; the ancients would just replace them if anything went wrong. It seems likely that they are extremely heavy and not very accessible. Because of the health hazards involved if one gets broken, they are sealed in very tough and thick metal containers and locked in place so that only an authorized technician could replace them.

Now the interesting question is whether or not it's possible to use that power to run something else, which seems like it could be very tricky. Each battery produces a lot of power and is carefully set to the exact specifications of its own device, making it dangerous to mess with. Someone trying to drain off power from a working oil well derrick into a laser might well end up blowing the laser to smithereens.

There are a number of potential sources for adventure there. Ancient facilities that are still running on autopilot, inscrutable and unrepairable. Machines that no one knows how to turn on or off and their controls are too far gone to be used, anyway. Let me brainstorm a few examples.* It won't answer questions, but it's talking about the Airborne Rabies Bioweapon. Fun, huh?
Weapon Tradeoffs
I've been considering a way to allow tradeoffs between various sizes and types of weaponry, using a relatively simple system. It would be a bit like D20's, with the three tradeoffs being the starting Risk, Damage and Crit ratings.

A small, light weapon would tend to be Risk 1. Larger, bulkier weapons would be Risk 2 and big-honkin' two-handed weapons (the sort where it's easy to accidentally clip a comrade by accident while swinging it around) would be Risk 3. Stuff like flails, where there are flexible chains involved, would also be a high-risk weapon to use.

Base damage tends to go up with weapon size, so a two-handed sword will do more damage than a dagger, even if it has a higher base Risk.

The third rating would be the Crit bonus. This, basically, is the damage bonus that you get for every additional success scored on the attack roll. I was originally planning on going with a flat +4 per extra success, but it occurs to me that I could make it vary by weapon. So the weapon writeups might look something like this:I'll have to debate actual ratings for a bit... but this would certainly be doable. An alternative on the Crit might be to say that how much extra you do per extra success is a multiplier of how much you beat them by. So a normal weapon would be x1 (beat them by 4, do +4 damage), a big-honkin' one x1/2 (beat them by 4, do +2) and a small and agile one x1.5 or even x2 (beat them by 4, do +6 or +8). That would involve more math, but you'd see more change between levels, instead of having these huge jumps from +0 to +6.

I'm not sure which would be better. The rest of the system uses the "every 4 points is an extra success" system, but that's because I don't usually have any use for 1/2 or 1/4 successes. In this case, with a base of +4 per extra success, it maps quite nicely to +1 per extra point, so it might be worth doing that way. I have to decide whether the system should be more consistent or whether damage is enough of a special case that it's worth smoothing out.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Example Balanced Traits
I might allow PCs to take 1 or 2 Balanced Traits at character creation, pretty much for free. The idea is that they should both help and hinder you, and thus not be particularly desirable. Let me thing of a few.

Loyalty to X: you'd risk your life to protect X and would never betray it. Bonuses to rolls made to defend X.

Rivalry with X: more than anyone else, there's one particular person you want to outdo. You get bonuses when trying to publicly outdo them at something that you are roughly equal at. It doesn't aid direct conflict between you, though, unless it was agreed upon as a contest. A rivalry could be light-hearted (e.g.- Legolas and Gimli keeping track of how many foes they've each killed) or deadly serious. Rivals don't want each other dead- they want to be acknowledged as better. Note that a Rivalry also won't help when you're doing something that you know they can't compete in.

Love of X: like loyalty, but more extensive. You want to live your life with this person and are concerned about even minor stuff like their day-to-day happiness, as well as protecting them from harm. It adds when you try to defend them or avenge them.

Hatred of X: don't pick a PC as the object. You hate this person or thing so much that you'll take every available opportunity to hurt and destroy it. It adds to chances to attack it.

Fear of X: ooo, you don't like it. You get bonuses to avoid it and penalties to actually interact with it.

Yearning for X: there's something you really want but often can't have. Bonuses to attempts to acquire it, but you have to take every available opportunity to try.

A lot of these could be considered just generalized cases of things I've already got written up. Drunkenness, for example, could be a Yearning for Alcohol. It would aid attempts to carouse and acquire strong drink, but it would make it hard for you to resist it. Most could also reasonably have 2 strengths (Minor and Major again), giving a +1/-1 or a +2/-2. Actually, since you're picking these, the penalties might be doubled... I could certainly see someone who gets a +2 bonus to defend their loved one having a whopping -4 to actually try and harm them. That would also limit abuse, since if you don't act out the Trait fairly often you'll end up suffering more penalties than bonuses.
Riddle of Steel
The Riddle of Steel has an interesting experience mechanism. Basically, you write up several things that drive your character... stuff like Loyalty to the Crown, Love of their Family, Hatred of the Dark Lord and give them ratings. You can spend up to the rating in dice to boost actions that concern it.

The cute bit is that you only get XP from using those ratings. That's it. So if an adventure doesn't really apply to any of the forces that drive your character, you don't get better at anything. On the up side, you are allowed to slowly change your drives, so if the campaign switches to something totally new, you can switch to some new drives that do apply.

It's an interesting mechanism, primarily because it really drives you to following your character's goals and to making sure that those goals are relevant to what's going on.

I can't say the idea of tying it to XP really appeals to me, but I do like the idea of bonuses related to particular goals or tasks. They'd probably qualify as Balanced Traits in Nuclear Beasts, since they drive you towards a particular goal but give you bonuses at that goal to make up for it.

One interesting idea is to encourage PCs to take Traits like "Loyalty to [Other Party Member]" or even "Rivalry with [Other Party Member]" that both grant them bonuses and restrict their actions. Loyalty would require you to aid them when they're in trouble, but grant a +1 bonus to rolls where you think that they're in serious danger and you're trying to save them. Rivalry, on the other hand, would give you a bonus to beat them at something, but require that you actually look for opportunities to do so.

They probably wouldn't be big bonuses... but they'd encourage group interaction.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Psychological Flaws as Balanced Traits
A lot of the mental Flaws in Ironclaw could theoretically grant advantages under certain circumstances. For example, being Honorable may restrict your actions and require you to keep your word, but it could also help you resist the temptation to do something dishonorable (such as betray comrades). And if you include a reputation as an honorable person, or if someone else is skilled enough at psychology to realize that you are honorable, they may be more inclined to like or trust you.

I'm not quite sure how to implement this, though. There are several possible ways. The first two are similar, but have some different effects. Adding additional dice makes Botches less likely, but won't necessarily make it easier for you to accomplish a particularly difficult task. Adding a bonus won't affect the likelihood of rolling a Botch, but it will make it possible for you to succeed at tasks that are normally too difficult for you.

All in all, I think I'm more inclined towards bonuses. I could see a Coward running faster from danger than they normally could, or a Wrathful warrior managing to intimidate someone that they are really, really mad at more easily than they normally could. And this way, a clumsy Coward wouldn't be any more likely to avoid tripping (a Botch) when they were scared than normal.

The size of the bonus could be based upon how often it'll come up and how useful the situations are. An obsession with art that gave you +4 to painting rolls might be less useful in play than a righteous fury that gave you +1 to all melee attacks. Of course, this means that I'll have to write them all up carefully, but I'll probably just default to a +2 bonus for most and just be pickier about what situations they can help you with.
Monday, February 23, 2004
Modern Exterminators
There's potential for two classes of Exterminators. Ancient Exterminators were the war machines made by Man. They are centuries old and often slowly rusting apart. A lot of their weapons are out of ammo, used up over the decades. The really dangerous ones are those that have a working supply depot within their patrol range where servitor robots and a manufacturing A.I. can restock their ammunition periodically.

Ancient Exterminators often regard Low Beasts as harmless animals and ignore them unless they are large predators and spotted in a "populous" area. Then they might be regarded as a public danger. But even then, killing them won't be a high priority; the Exterminator's job is to repel invaders, not act as Game Warden. High Beasts are generally recognized as either civilians operating in a restricted area or enemy troops. That makes their deaths much more important, but even then the larger Exterminators tend to ignore them unless they are heavily armed or have ancient military vehicles.

There is a source of modern Exterminators, though. A few military A.I.s still possess enough resources and equipment to manufacture new robots, although they often have to cannibalize parts from fallen units and old ruins. These new machines are often of radically different design and have different programming.

Modern Exterminators are invariably designed by ancient A.I.s, and those A.I.s are rarely stable. Centuries of personality drift and a vastly changed environment have driven them insane, at least as far as living beings would see it. Their creations are generally more monstrous in both appearance and manner than the old models. They often have highly inefficient weapons (by ancient standards, in any case) such as spinning blades, crushing claws or spiked treads. Their programming may include a definite element of sadism as they "study" the reactions of a trapped victim for some time before finally killing them. They may have a few mounted guns, but they save their ammunition for emergencies, well aware that they may not be able to resupply later. Many have at least one servitor drone attached to perform minor repairs while they are still in the field.

In short, the modern designs tend to be bizarre, baroque horrors created by minds that have long since gone mad. They are more likely to recognize Low Beasts as foes and much harder to dissuade when they have scented prey. Ancient Exterminators often regard Beasts as too minor to be worth expending ammo upon; modern Exterminators exist to externalize their creator's own madness and pursue them with single-minded viciousness.

On the other hand, modern Exterminators are actually much less powerful than their predecessors were. They have only the minimum in the way of advanced electronics or weapons that require special ammunition. They are often cobbled together out of parts from other machines and rarely have as much armor or firepower as their ancient equivalents. If a modern Exterminator encounters an ancient Exterminator that doesn't recognize its transponder code as friendly, the modern unit is generally reduced to scrap in short order.
Off Topic: Appraisal Limbo
Grr. The house is still in limbo because of the appraisal. Whoever the bank hired to do the appraisal was supposed to turn in their report last Thursday, but they still haven't.

This is really annoying, because until they do, the escrow folks can't add up the total and tell us how much money to bring. So if they don't get their act together fast, they could end up delaying the close. Really annoying. We're supposed to get the key monday, but now I'm worried it might not happen.

Since all of the money should have been wired to the same bank this morning, we should be ready to go (we need to call and make sure it showed up). In fact, we've already started packing; we filled up 10 boxes with miscellaneous household goods yesterday, but all we can do is stack them in the living room until we actually get the key. We don't want to rent a storage area or anything if we don't have to.

In theory, as soon as we get the key we can start filling up the van and carrying boxes and small pieces of furniture over and just putting them where we want 'em. We could even theoretically unpack them as soon as we get there and immediately put the stuff where it goes. But I suspect we'll leave most of it boxed up just so we can concentrate on moving more stuff. The fact that the place is less than 10 minutes away from our current abode should make moving relatively easy, especially since we should have until the end of March to get it all done.

Addenda: Turns out the place appraised at 20K less than expected. The seller is protesting the appraisal and having a 2nd one done. He's naturally upset because if the house appraises at less than what we were going to pay, we get the lower price instead so he gets less money. It was a bit of a surprise to us, too- we didn't see any reason for it to be marked down. Unfortunately, this could well delay the move-in date. Bleah.

Addenda II: On the upside, we confirmed that all of the wire transfers ended up in the appropriate spot, so now we have more than enough money to make the downpayment... however much it ends up being.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Botch & Crit Limits
Spycraft has an interesting mechanism to reduce the number of critical failures in D20. Rolling a 1 is only a botch if the GM decides to spend one of a limited number of "screwup points" to turn it into one.

Personally, I've never been fond of that sort of mechanism... if I implemented it, it would probably work more like "The GM decides whether or not a 1 becomes a botch, but each player is limited to 3 botches per session." That makes it a little more fair, I think.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter for Nuclear Beasts. Unless you're trying a particularly risky maneuver, even a rating of 2d6 will make you less likely to get a 1 than rolling 1d20.
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Simplified Initiative
For the first round of combat, it may be obvious who gets initiative. It normally goes to the side that initiated the attack unless the defenders were ready and waiting. Actually, it might be best to just say that during round one, everyone rolls Speed & Perception, then give hefty bonuses for stuff like "I have a halberd and they're charging me from outside of melee range." That way, really fast characters can still go first, despite disadvantages like being ambushed.

After the first round, though, I'll have to make a decision. If the combat system ends up making winning initiative important every round (e.g. by going first during the 4th round of combat, you gain a significant advantage) then folks should continue to roll each round. On the other hand, if it becomes meaningless after the first attack (e.g. if you win init and miss, it's just like your opponent won init) then it should change to just going in order of Speed ratings.

Hm. I thought I was ready to finalize this, but it turns out that the combat / damage system will determine which way is preferable. If initiative is a big advantage, then I don't want to make it so that fast characters always go first. If it's meaningless after the first attack (as it is in most games) then that's fine and will speed stuff up.
Crits - Part II
Hm. Let's look at it another way.

When you get hit, you have to roll Muscles & Guts & Armor vs the damage dice (usually the attacker's Muscles & Weapon Damage). If they hit you with a Crit, they do +4. If they hit you with an Extra, they do +8.

Attacker got:So, a big attack that does d12 damage could win by at most 11 without additional bonuses (the minimum soak roll will be 1). That'll be pretty rare, too, since it requires a maximum roll on the attacker's part and a botch on the defender's.

On the other hand, if the attacker scored an extra on the attack, it'll do +8 damage, making the max a win by 19... instant death for the target. In fact, you can (at least theoretically) score an "instant death" result so long as your attack does at least d10 damage (a roll of 10 plus 8 bonus minus 1 soak yields 17).

I could see damage effects varying by weapon type. The stunning effect seems very appropriate for maces and punches, but less so for swords and axes. They might inflict impairment or something similar.

Would it be better for being stunned to prohibit defense rolls or make you defend at -2 or -4? Shields would certainly be more valuable with the former, since the cover dice would be the only protection that you'd get.

Let's see... with a crappy, d4 damage attack (meaning that the damage dice are all d4s, no matter how many there are), you could beat someone by 11 points... a mortal wound, but one that there's plenty of time to treat.

For the particularly slow "I'm dying" one, I might allow a Healing Check for folks without medical aid... if you heal, you're fine.

What about overall damage, though? Should it add up and eventually bring someone down? I could see a Mutants & Masterminds-style system, where every time you lose a damage test you get a -1 to future damage tests, a penalty that will eventually bring you down even if they don't finish you off while you're stunned. On the other hand, it could use purely cosmetic damage, where how many times you get stunned doesn't really matter... characters die when someone rolls really well or finishes them off while they're vulnerable.

A more M&M style result for Success would be that the target loses their next attack and is at a cumulative -1 to all attack, defend and soak rolls until you get a chance to rest. Actually, M&M's results were more like Fine / -1 to future soak / stunned / unconscious. If I use a roll to see whether or not you can regain consciousness, I could use something like Fine / -1 to future soak / unconscious (roll to recover) / dying / killed instantly.
Friday, February 20, 2004
Crits - Save or Die
A discussion on the new Conan RPG on raised an interesting point. To make any weapon dangerous in the hands of a skilled user, how about requiring a "Massive Damage Save" (to use the D20 term) for any critical hit?

In Nuclear Beasts terms, this could be expressed like this:

If you get hit with a crit, you have to make a Survival Test (Muscles & Guts). A Success is good enough; a Failure causes you to go down and Botch leaves you dying.

If you get hit with an extra, you need a Crit to be all right. A Success leaves you down, a Failure leaves you dying, and a Botch means that you were killed outright.

I'll have to think about it, really. But it's an interesting idea.
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Autofire Risks
One thing I do like about the possible Risk mechanic is how easy it is to add a minor downside to various actions.

For example, if a regular shot had a Risk of 1, I could easily see giving a 3-round burst a Risk of 2 and full auto could easily be 4. That would mean that if you only had d4s to roll, trying to fire on full auto will always result in a Botch... which might actually be realistic. The odds of someone with lousy aim and little or no training using full auto correctly are pretty slim. Certainly a Risk of 3 would be acceptable, even if 4 is too high.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
If I'm simplifying the damage system, I'll need to simplify gun combat, too. Bullets will be rare for the most part, but that doesn't mean that folks won't end up using firearms... it just means that they'll be picky about when they shoot someone.

Regular gun attacks work pretty much the same as any other ranged weapon. The difficulty is normally determined by the range, not the stats or skills of the target. As per Sean's earlier suggestion, I'll probably use dice for the range difficulty, just so that it's always possible to hit someone within range, just not easy.

3-round Burst: a quick burst of three bullets. If spread across multiple targets, it lets you make multiple attacks at -1 per additional target instead of the usual -2. The maximum spread is 3 yards, so folks further apart than that can't be attacked simultaneously.

If you throw the full burst at a single target, it does more damage somehow. I'm indecisive about how, so far. I could keep my "hit by X, score another hit" mechanism, but it doesn't work as well if weapon damage isn't a die pool anymore. It might be better to just give the attacker a +1 to hit and +2 or +4 to damage.

Full Auto: a burst of 10 bullets or more. Works about like a 3-round burst except that the maximum spread is 10 yards across. If you concentrate on one person, you get a big damage bonus; maybe double that of the 3-round burst. If I use some rule like +1 damage per additional bullet, you might even be able to do something like aiming 2 bullets each at five foes and get a damage bonus for each hit. Dunno.

Suppressive Fire: full auto aimed at an empty area. Probably uses at least 10 rounds, maybe 20. The benefit is that if anyone tries to cross that area within the next round, you get to attack them. Maybe even with a bonus to hit/damage, if you emptied extra rounds into the area. Used to force folks to keep their heads down. After all, if they don't go charging into the affected area, they won't take any hits.

I'd probably have to roll once to see how effectively you laid the fire down... actually that might produce weird results, like folks waiting until the shooter rolls badly on his suppressive fire roll and then charging. No, I'll probably just say that as soon as someone pops up you get to roll to shoot 'em. Since it's usually done at close range, it should encourage folks to keep to cover.

Anyway, I don't want really detailed firearms rules, but some enemy groups (soldiers in rich cities, Exterminators, the Legion of Life) will have access to lots of ammo and might well use stuff like this. It also rewards smarter play, I think, by making stuff like firing down a narrow corridor to keep onrushing monsters at bay into effective strategies.
Off Topic: House Update
Sold the last of the vested options today. Kind of a crappy price (I'd have wanted another $10 a share before I'd sell otherwise), but we really can't afford to wait any longer.

This should give us (barely) the $45K we need. I'll probably still talk to my parents about sending us a few grand just in case... if there aren't any sudden disasters, we should be able to just return it after we close.

Oh, well. Kind of painful, really. Next time, we cash out first, before we start pricing any sort of major purchase. If we hadn't found a place we really liked so quickly, we probably wouldn't have sold... we'd wait another 4 months and buy a house then. That's life, though.

I'm definitely not buying any additional company stock, though. Not so long as I work there. The trading window was just too crippling; it cost us $30K because we couldn't sell until days after the stock started plunging. I might have made the same mistakes anyway, but it would have been nice to have the chance to do better.
Volcabulary Change
I'm leaning towards calling balanced Edge/Flaw groups "Traits" and using the terms Pool or Dice Pool for ratings represented by dice.
Importance Ratings
One thing that I'm thinking about standardizing is classifying Skills, Edges and Flaws using the same standard.

Major: means that it's important. A Major Edge or Flaw has serious effects on your character. A Major Edge takes 8 checks to increase. A Major Skill is very broad and takes 2 checks to increase.

Minor: means it's not so important. A Minor Edge or Flaw might be more of a roleplaying guide than anything else. They cost 4 checks to increase. A Minor Skill is either narrow or unimportant. Minor Skills still take 2 checks to increase, but each one is half-cost.

Trivial: is really unimportant. Trivial Edges and Flaws are mostly just color and aren't likely to have serious game effects. Trivial Skills are both narrow and unimportant. You can increase them with a single, half-cost check.

There's actually an unmentioned fourth category that comes before Major. A Dramatic ability is one that's so important that it's pretty much reserved for NPCs. The game won't really cover Dramatic stuff much, since players aren't allowed to take them. But the category is there if I need it.
Mysticism - Unmasking
I left one important thing off of my Mysticism entry. "Unmasking" is an action that can be used in the spirit realm. Basically, you try to pierce the shrouds surrounding some creature or item in the spirit world so that you can see what it looks like in the real world. Since the representations in the spirit world are often buried under several layers of metaphor, this can be very useful.

For example, the major villain of the plot might be depicted as a towering giant of darkness wielding a flaming sword. A successful unmasking might reveal that the sword is actually an assault rifle. A further success might show change the silhouette into that of a High Beast Hyena. A final success might show you a group of a hundred League soldiers (if the threat is the army itself) or perhaps just their leader (if the real threat is the Beast behind it).

I haven't decided how the mechanics of unmasking would work, but I like the idea of it, so if Mysticism goes into the game, it probably will, too.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Chronological Index
Y'know, I may want to break up the Chronological Index by year. That way, there would only be half of it showing at a time.

Another option might be to implement some Javascript or something similar so that you can click to hide part of it.

I'll have to think about it. But it's starting to get really wide with 7 months shown, and I don't expect to finish in February or March, not with the house and all. My current goal is to get at least a playtest version out by June.
Simplified Combat
Attacker rolls Speed & Melee (possibly plus specialized weapon skills) vs the target's Speed & Melee (if they elect to parry or block) or their Speed & Dodge (if they try to get out of the way).

If you beat them, you hit. Beating them by 4-7 is a crit and 8+ an extra. If you manage to hit them by 12+, it's an extra2, etc. Basically, every 4 points that you hit them by gives you a +4 bonus to the damage roll. So a crit is +4 damage, an extra +8 and an extra2 is a whopping +12. Actually, I could just add however much you beat them by to your result, instead of breaking it up into tiers. The only downside I see is that every hit would get at least +1, since you had to beat them by 1 to hit them at all. Might not be a problem in practice, though.

The damage roll is generally your Muscles and whatever dice or bonuses the weapon adds, vs the target's Muscles & Guts and any Armor they happen to be wearing. On a success you inflict 1 wound, on a crit 2, an extra 3, etc.. Basically, every 4 points you wound them by inflicts another point of actual damage.

I could still use a Survival Test, but I'm not sure it's really desirable. After all, they've already gotten both their strength and innate toughness to oppose the damage itself. It might be better to just have a little chart that says something like:Okay, let's look at this. It's a bit like Savage Worlds except that the damage roll is opposed instead of hitting a flat value. A hit without bonuses (assuming that it takes a crit or better to get any bonus to the damage roll) can't inflict more than 3 wounds and 1-2 would be more typical.

To kill someone outright would require inflicting at least 4 wounds, preferably 5 or 6. Inflicting 3 would take them out of action. I could also use the Savage Worlds method of saying that while unconsciousness can ensue from taking too many wounds, death/dismemberment only occur if the last blow that hit you was a really powerful one. I would think that a common result would be to stun the foe, then kill them next round when they can't defend themselves. I'd definitely need some "Can Parry for Others" rules, so that PCs who work together can save each other.
Monday, February 16, 2004
Advancement Thoughts
Okay, one thing that I like more and more the more I think about it is the idea that minor skills don't go up any faster, it's just that you can increase them more cheaply. I might expand that to include Edges, too, where buying a Minor Edge takes just as long as buying a Major one... it's just that it costs 1 XP per advancement mark instead of 2 (you'd need 8 marks to get the Edge). I'll have to think about whether or not that's desirable. It might be good to allow folks to pick up Minor Edges faster than Major Ones, especially when the Major Edge is just an improved version of the Minor one.
So what if all of the religious beliefs and ancient stories of the Beasts weren't just hokum? What if, on some level, they were true?

Mysticism is the psychic power to see and interact with the world on a metaphorical level. It reduces the physical world to archetypes and metaphors, but the PCs can still interact with it. A bit like Heroquesting in Heroquest or the way that Fiver interacts with the spirit world in Watership Down.

This is a new idea for me, so it's still gelling. I want to scribble down some notes and ideas while they're fresh.
I'm still not certain how simple of a system I want. I know I don't want anything nearly as complicated as D20 with its overlapping classes, attacks of opportunity and the whole class skill vs cross-class skills bit.

But I also don't want something as simple as Over the Edge or Risus. Good games, but I want a bit more room for detail and a little more restrictive of rules.

I think it's a pendulum with me, and I'm definitely swinging back towards simplifying the game. For example, I'm questioning the value of the damage mechanic. Sure, it allows me to make weapons more or less effective against various kinds of defenses and whatnot, but really... is it worth the hassle? Can I come up with another way of differentiating the various weapons without it? I really do need some sort of tradeoff... Low Beasts won't be able to get bigger and better weapons, so if the High Beasts in the party get to upgrade from clubs to maces to sledgehammers to atomic-powered sonic batons, they'll eventually get left in the dust.

I wonder if I could just give each weapon a Risk rating and break them into a really small set of categories, power-wise? The more damage it does, the easier it is to botch when using it?
Scaling System
I've been considering getting rid of numeric difficulties entirely and just using a sort of "shifting results" system.

For example, you might say that a difficult task shifts the results down a step, so that an Extra becomes a Crit, a Crit becomes a regular Success, and a regular Success becomes a failure (or perhaps a Tie/Partial Success). A really difficult one might require a roll of 12+ (normally an Extra) just to get a Success at all.

Another thing that I'm leaning towards is Shifts for opposed tasks, too. It would be for matters of scale, basically. Two creatures on the same scale wouldn't have any shifts. But while a vehicle might have a Muscles rating of d12, it would be a scale up from a normal PC.

I suppose it's just a matter of what seems better. You could give the vehicle a strength of d12+4 or you could say that it's a flat d12 but that normal-sized folks have their results shifted down a step when they try to oppose it. Mechanically it's about the same.
Skunk Spray
I've been debating how to implement spray for awhile (and whether I wanted to do it at all). I'll probably include it, if only because skunk characters are popular amongst anthro-fans. Besides, some monsters will doubtless possess something similar, so it would be good to have some general rules. Oh, and stuff like flamethrowers and chemical sprayers will probably use similar rules.

Spray attacks are +4 to hit (possibly more or less depending on the size of the area affected). It can be spread out to hit more than one spot at once. The penalty is -1 per additional yard covered, so if you wanted to hit everyone in a 4-yard line, you'd get a -3 penalty, reducing it to +1 to hit.

On a Success, the target must roll to avoid nausea. On a Critical Success, they must roll to avoid blindness & nausea. On an Extraordinary Success, they must roll to avoid complete incapacitation.

The resistance check is normally Speed & Guts (drop the Speed if they were caught by surprise and couldn't defend themselves). Every success rolled reduces the effect by a level.

Mild Nausea: -1 to all actions for five minutes.
Nausea (normal result for a regular Success on the attack roll): -2 to all actions for five minutes, -1 for the next hour after that.
Blindness (base result for crit): blinded for 5 minutes, nauseous -2 for an hour, -1 for a day.
Incapacitation (base result for extra): go fetal for 5 minutes, then drop to blindness.

A regular skunk can spray up to 5 times per day, but at a cumulative -1 penalty for each successive spray in the same day and only the worst penalties apply (Nausea doesn't stack). If you manage to roll a Botch/Critical Failure, you'll take a point of fatigue and can't spray again for a day, so it's best not to push it. "Recharging" requires drinking a lot of water, so a Skunk who is dehydrated can't recover from the penalties.

Hm. That'll need some serious editing (didn't sleep well; my brain's in a fog right now) but the basic rules look about right. I might use a Guts & Resolve roll instead, but I don't see Resolve really helping you keep your eyes open when something toxic's been sprayed in them.

Oh, and if the target isn't facing you, you can't get a result stronger than Nausea. Blinding or incapacitating them requires hitting them in the face.
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Zuba City Factions - Part II
Viskar's Claws: Zuba City technically has only a single official Lorekeeper, the elderly High Wolf named Viskar. He rarely makes public appearances other than weekly sermons; most of his desires are communicated to the faithful by a small cadre of "apprentice" Lorekeepers, all of whom report to him.

In practice, however, Zuba City has a number of Lorekeepers, many of whom preach heresies or completely new religions, abandoning the ancient ways. A lot of Beasts in Zuba City regularly attend services for different religions, "hedging their bets" as it were and professing to believe in all of them. The city's inhabitants place more importance upon an entertaining or dramatic sermon than one which is dogmatically correct. Because of this, a couple of Viskar's more charismatic apprentices are actually more popular than him, a fact which eats away at the old Wolf's gut.

Because the official policy of Zuba City is tolerance, Viskar has little power to banish or forbid the other religions. Adherence to the ancient ways is failing and decadence and heresy seem to be the order of the day. This situation is thoroughly repulsive to Viskar and he has assembled a small group of believers to do something about it.

Viskar's Claws are a small secret society of fanatical believers in the ancient laws. They engage in morally questionable activities such as spreading rumors, vandalizing homes and delivering threatening messages to "freelance" Lorekeepers. So far they haven't actually murdered anyone, and they do more threatening than actual bodily harm, but the potential is there. They're trying to save the souls of Zuba City; if it came down to it, they'd be willing to kidnap or frame someone but most of them wouldn't commit murder. The ancient law "Harm Not the Beasts Who Speak" is just too tightly ingrained.

Very few people know that the Claws even exist. The few who have been caught by the authorities have kept quiet and insisted that their actions were entirely their own idea. Viskar still has influence and he's good at arranging for them to receive light sentences for their crimes.

The group's chosen name comes from their leader's secret shame: as a youth, Viskar was captured by raiders who ripped his claws out before he managed to escape. He keeps his hands hidden in his robes, so only a few people know of his disfigurement outside of the church. Now his youthful followers act as his claws, striking out at his enemies.
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Zuba City Factions
One thing that a setting driven game needs is lots of factions, special interest groups and secret conspiracies. Elements of the setting that are easy to draw into a new plot.

The Casinos: Some of the biggest and most profitable businesses in Zuba City are the casinos. These dens of iniquity offer booze, gambling and occasional prostitution and drugs to suck money out of the city's denizens. Their managers consider them to be honest work, after a fashion. No one forces anyone to spend their money there and they don't offer credit. They provide entertainment and recreation for the Beasts of the city (well, the High Beasts, anyway). Low Beasts aren't welcome in most, but a few do still catch the gambling bug and go anyway, despite the stares and poor treatment. The management is always looking for a new drug, vice or form of entertainment to draw more customers into their establishments. Each casino owner (there are three major ones and about four minor ones right now) is always eager to find an edge over the others, but they quickly close ranks and work together whenever anyone talks about "regulating" what they do.

The Engineering Council: Arguably the most influential group, the Engineers run the machinery of the city, particularly the power plant. They insist on first crack at all scavenged technology brought to Zuba City for sale and it's not always legal to turn down their offer. Explosives and powerful firearms, for example, are pretty much seized by the Engineers on sight and their owners paid a fraction of their worth. The city justifies this on the grounds that it keeps powerful weapons off of the streets, but it has also created a thriving black market in illegal goods. The Engineers are fairly arrogant and mildly corrupt. They control a lot of the ancient knowledge here and their educated status makes them feel superior to the common folk, who often aren't even literate. They have their own guards, who are armed with lasers and assault rifles, but they don't do much besides protecting the power plant and the storehouses of parts.

The Librarians: Zuba City has its own library, an ancient Man-built structure that has been expanded and repaired and filled with shelves, tables and paper. Lots and lots of paper. The library will buy pretty much any book that's still even partially readable, so their shelves are largely filled with hardcover fiction novels and rotting magazines. They pay a handsome fee for technical manuals, though, and resent the fact that the Engineers seize all of the books on practical applications of science. There's an ancient safe in the library that is filled with technical books that were smuggled in past the Engineers. The key and the safe are both kept carefully hidden and most members don't even know that the safe exists, much less where it is.

The librarians have been known to offer bounties on materials brought back from specific locations that they've managed to learn about in their studies. Unfortunately, they haven't always been able to correctly sort out fact from fiction, so it's not unknown for them to send scouts to search for buildings or facilities that never existed in the first place.

More than any other group, librarians tend to be Man-worshippers. The library is filled with random bric-a-brac of unknown purpose and ancient pictures of Man. The pay is poor and the hours are long. Most of their money goes to new acquisitions and their main source of income is gifts from the city to fund research on particular subjects. The library has a couple of electric lights but they are old and work only fitfully. The Engineers take their "electricity allowance" out of the library's funding, so the library does its best to work without power whenever possible.

Officially, only city officials are allowed access to the books and magazines here, but it's well known that many librarians will make an exception for a small bribe or donation. The librarians are an eclectic bunch and have a surprisingly large number of Low Beasts among their numbers. They are known for being eccentric and odd and quoting ancient texts whenever they seem appropriate.
Friday, February 13, 2004
Balanced Traits
One thing I might tweak is to move a bunch of Edges and Flaws into a third category of behaviors that are both good and bad for you.

For example, Honorable could say "You can't violate your word or backstab folks" but you also get +4 to resist attempts to get you to violate your word, whether by seduction or torture.

Stuff like a serious phobia could still be a Flaw... even if you gave someone a +2 "Fear" bonus to flee from whatever they hate, that might not be good enough to offset them having to run screaming from the object of their phobia.

Of course, I'd like an appropriate name for these special traits. Preferably something short like "Edge" and "Flaw". I could just use "Trait", I suppose, but I already use that to refer to anything rated in dice. I could use "Pool" for that, I suppose.
Risk Mechanic - Part II
It seems like the Risk mechanic could easily be expanded to other things, too. It's a bit like D20's error-range... expanding it doesn't really make you any less likely to hit your foe, it just makes disaster more likely.

With my Ironclaw experience, I'd call a Risk of 1 pretty minor. Folks live with that all the time and hardly ever botch unless they're trying something that they have no skill in at all (or stat tests, but that's a different problem).

A Risk of 2 is noticably worse, but still not significant. At 3, a skilled person can probably still ignore it... if you roll something like 3d12 you aren't going to be hindered very often. At 4, though, you've actually lost part of your chances of success (assuming no modifers), since a 4 is normally a success.

5+ I can't even really guess at. At that level, even really skilled people will find themselves botching fairly often, and folks with poor skills may not be able to avoid botching.

So I'd think that around 4 should probably be the regular max. While you might allow a Risk of 7 for some incredibly dangerous manuever, it should be something that would normally be considered stupid, not a regular combat tactic. At that point, you have to be rolling d8s just to avoid automatically botching and you have the weirdness of saying that if you do succeed, it'll automatically be a crit. Above 3-4, it would probably be better to use actual roll penalties.

I might even limit the Risk to 3, since that basically says that if you don't succeed, you will hurt yourself. 5 would probably be the highest I could set it, since that still leaves 2 numbers (6 and 7) that you can roll and just get a regular success.
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Risk Mechanic
One idea I've been toying with is expanding the botch range according to the riskiness of the action.

Basically, you normally get a botch if your actual roll (without any modifiers) ends up being a 1. This only occurs if you roll all ones, of course.

But for some tasks the risk range might expand to 2. Then you'd get a botch if your actual roll ended up being a 1 or 2. So if all of your dice came up with ones or twos, you'd botch.

Really, there's no reason it couldn't continue to expand. A risk of 3 would mean a botch if all of your dice came up ones, twos or threes. A risk of 4 would mean that you could botch even on a 4, which would normally be a success. A risk of 8 would mean that this is a phenomenally dangerous task where the normal result is to fail and hurt yourself badly. I think at that kind of level the system would start to break down, so I'd probably be better off sticking to lower numbers.

For psychic powers, I could easily see the risk being related to the time taken. Note that when you get to "instantaneous", you've actually made it where a 4 is no longer good enough to succeed. When you rush your power to 1 round or less, you'll either pull it off or botch, assuming that there aren't penalties on the roll.
Psi Summary
Visions: Ability to see visions of the past, present or future of an object or person. Visions of the future always involve possible futures and are never set in stone.
Risk: Becoming lost in the vision and unable to sense the real world.

Empathy: Ability to sense and influence the emotions of others. Actual thoughts can be read and transmitted, but only with great difficulty.
Risk: Becoming hypersensitive to the thoughts and emotions of those around you, so that you can no longer distinguish yours from those of others.

E.S.P.: Ability to sense forces and presences that are undetectable with normal senses, such as electrical flows, magnetism, hidden water, hidden metal, etc.
Risk: Being overwhelmed by the extra sensory data, such that it becomes hard to concentrate on other actions.

Inner Focus: Ability to enter a trancelike state that focuses your inner resources on a particular goal or task. Can also be used to slow your metabolism, extract forgotten memories, or engage in self-hypnotism. While in a trance, your conscious mind will be hampered to one degree or another, making it difficult for you to engage in other tasks or even just conversation.
Risk: Being unable to come out of the trance-state when you need to.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
A.I. Plot
Part of the ongoing plotline running through the book is Katrin and Nuala trying to find a mysterious storehouse hidden in a ruined city. When they get there, it will actually be inhabited by small, insectoid maintenance robots, which they get into a fight with.

After a short combat, in which the things prove surprisingly breakable, the remaining drones run for it and the voice of the facility speaks to them. It explains that it's the facility A.I. and it apologizes for the drones; they're just supposed to drive wild animals away, not harm people.

Anyway, they have a long discussion with it, while it slowly leads them on a tour of the facility. The tour (and its own dialogue) should cover the basics: the A.I. is a few chips short of a circuitboard, as it were, the facility is in a mix of pristine and decrepit condition, and its behavior is tightly regulated by the constraints programmed into it.

It explains the concept of personality drift, how the A.I.'s mind changes over time and with experience. It has been alternating which sections of the facility it maintains, in order to avoid pattern burn (repetitive events repeated so often that the A.I. loses the ability to do anything else). It explains a lot about itself but is fairly closemouthed about the purpose of the facility, which it isn't allowed to discuss with folks who don't have the proper clearances.

Then it tries to kill them, but don't worry- Nuala has a vision that shows them how to survive and they escape.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Status: Limbo
Yeah, the game's pretty well in limbo right now. There are lots of things that I could work on, but very little that I end up doing.

The house is a huge part of it, of course. Time is slowly slipping away and at the end of the month we should be taking ownership of it.

Of course, we have to collect another $15K first. And if the amount of time that the last stock sale is taking to show up is any example, we should probably allow ourselves a lot of leeway. Tomorrow it will have been a week since the sale, despite the fact that we paid extra for overnight shipment of the check.

They probably forgot the overnight shipping; I've heard from other folks that it's happened before. But we'll see. Between the time necessary to complete the sale and the time in the mail, I'm thinking it could be a total of two weeks before the check shows up (assuming that they forgot the overnight shipping, that is).

Anyway, we're both stressed about the house and I'm mostly blowing time on video games and household chores, not writing. I still need to sit down and compose the A.I. flavorfic I have in mind. I've got the basic plot, so there really shouldn't be too much to do. I just have to actually start it.
Monday, February 09, 2004
Annual XP
I'm not quite sure how I'd handle advancement in a seasonal game. You'd presumably get more XP, and could quite possibly do 2 advancements, or even just use a freeform XP system.

I wouldn't want folks to jump huge amounts ahead over just a season, but that's probably better than the jumps that folks can make now, just by getting XP every session.

I need to reread the Ars Magica rules for winter advancement. Might be worth looking at again.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
Legends of Glory
Saw an interesting homebrew system yesterday, called Legends of Glory. Not all that amazing, but the damage system was novel and might have some bearing for Nuclear Beasts.

Basically, it worked like this: depending on the attacker's strength and weapon, they'd roll 3 dice, one of a special color. If the special die rolled lowest, the target took a "deep" wound. If it rolled equal or lower than one, but not both of the other two, the target took a "moderate" wound. If it rolled higher than both, they took a "minor" wound. Armor made the target harder to hit and didn't affect the soak roll.

I was thinking how this could be applied to Nuclear Beasts. It would be sort of like this.

Instead of reporting their single highest number, the defender would report the top two. If the attacker's highest die beat them both, it would be a crit. If it beat only one of them, it would be a success. And if it fell short of both, it would be a failure.

The nice bit about this is that it gives us a feature even Ironclaw didn't have... any roll can be a critical success, even if you're just rolling a d4. I could also say that for every 4 points you beat the highest die by, your attack goes up another level, so we could still support results beyond crit.

Here's how it might work for attacks. Attacker rolls to hit. Defender rolls defense and keeps the top two dice. If the attacker beats both, he scores a crit (+4 to the damage roll or some other special effect). If he beats just one, he scores a success (normal damage roll). If he falls short on both, he fails. Actually, the range might be failure (didn't beat either; botch if you rolled all 1s) to partial success (you beat only the lower of their two numbers) to success (you beat both) to critical success (you beat the highest by 4+) to extraordinary success (you beat the highest by 8+).

Once you hit, you get to roll damage. Compare your damage dice to your target's top two soak dice (probably their Muscles, Guts and Armor). On a failure, you inflict only a scratch (no effect). On a partial success, you inflict a minor wound. On a success, you inflict a moderate wound. On a crit, you inflict a deep wound. On an extra, you inflict a fatal wound. Remember, if you rolled really well on the to-hit roll, you'll get to shift up the results one step or more. So an extra on the to-hit roll gives you +8 to the damage roll, meaning that the worst you can do is a 9. It's almost equivalent to just letting you shift the results up a step except that it's still possible to get a failure... actually, if the results included stuff like critical failure (failing by 4+), then it would be the same. One shift wouldn't be enough to make a critical failure into a partial success.

Now why would we be interested in this? Well, here's one thing. Because you get a partial success if you beat either die, the target has two roll high on two dice to totally shut out your attack. I'd considered a straight number-vs-number comparison for damage before, but it had the problem that someone who was really strong or really tough could shrug off bullets quite easily.

There's another good idea to be mined here... suppose an extra wasn't quite good enough for a fatal wound? Another early problem was lethality... someone with d12 Muscles could easily toast most opponents, often scoring crits or even extras with their bare hands. Adding weapon damage just made it worse. But if an extraordinary success on damage wasn't good enough to kill someone, then you'd not only need a good damage rolll, you'd need the bonus from hitting them well, too.

I'll have to think about it. It would be a very different system from Ironclaw, but not necessarily a worse one.
Saturday, February 07, 2004
Beehive Anti-Personnel Rockets
One of the few ancient weapons which even Low Beasts can use effectively, a "beehive" is a metal box about a foot across. It has thin plastic covers on the front and back, through which can be seen a stack of 24 small rockets, filling the cube. It has a thick strap attached so that it can be carried slung over the back (or in the teeth of a decent-sized Low Beast).

Use is relatively simple; the box is marked with a arrows that basically say "This side towards enemy." It should be set on the ground facing in the proper direction, preferably with open air both before and behind it. The user should kneel at the side of the box and activate it. This is done by turning the recessed handle on top so that it unlocks, then pulling it out as far as it will go. It's simple enough that it can be done with the user's teeth, if they have to.

Small explosive charges detonate, blowing the plastic seals off of both ends of the weapon. Then the mini-missiles start firing in rapid succession until the box is empty. Each rocket leaves the chamber at a relatively slow velocity, then accelerates up to full speed once it's far enough away to avoid knocking the launcher around.

No real skill is involved in using one. The rockets have their own guidance computers and a sophisticated sensor system that readily identifies warmblooded targets and electronic machinery. It's generally a quite impressive and noisy display as the two dozen rockets speed off, choose targets, and detonate. In the event that no target presents itself, the rockets will merely spread out in a pattern designed to cause the maximum area of destruction.

The downside of a beehive is that it's a single-use weapon. But the swarm of explosive rockets that it releases can be quite devestating. Pre-Apocalypse infantry squads were often issued one or two.
Friday, February 06, 2004
Alternate Origin Myth - Part II
The Man said, "Save them. Save them all."

The Machine said, "I can't. The poison will reach here too."

The Man said, "Then release them. Send them somewhere safe."

The Machine said, "I can't. They wouldn't be able to tell which areas are deadly. They wouldn't know how to avoid the poisons and find safe food. They wouldn't survive on their own."

The Man said, "Then teach them."

The Machine said, "I can't. They aren't capable of understanding."

The Man said, "Then change them."

The Machine said, "I can't. That is forbidden."

The Man said, "It is an order."

The Man said, "Do whatever it takes."

The Man said, "Save them. As many as you can."

And the Machine said, "Command accepted."
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Alternate Origin Myth - Part I
The Bear came to the Mother-of-All and said, "Give me hands, like those of Man, so that I can use the ancient guns and cars and machines. My paws are too clumsy."

And Mother-of-All said, "It cannot be done."

The Lion and his pride came to the Mother-of-All and said, "Give us hands, like those of Man, so that we can build homes to protect us and our children."

And Mother-of-All said, "It cannot be done."

Finally, the mother Wolf came to the Mother-of-All and said, "I ask not for me, but for my cubs yet unborn. Grant them hands, so that they can survive where my family could not."

And Mother-of-All said, "Command accepted."
Stocks and Kitties
Well, not much of a change in the stock today. Up about 50 cents. If it goes up a couple of bucks before March, we should be able to put 15% down, but there's no guarantee.

We're worried more about our cat Loki. He just came out of surgery for breast cancer and he's managed to pop part of the seal on the incision. They ended up removing all of his mammary tissue down one side of his body, so it's a pretty hefty incision. They didn't use stiches because they wanted to minimize the number of vet visits involved, so he actually had some sort of surgical glue holding it all together.

Well, we ended up taking him by an emergency vet and they basically glued it back together then gave us some antibiotics and an elizabethan collar for him to wear so that he can't lick or chew on the surgery site. Ooo, he's gonna hate us.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Perhaps I do need more "cool" monsters and weird critters. One possibility would be to steal the "Graboids" from Tremors. Basically a big worm that lurks under the surface and tries to swallow intruders whole. It could have been genetically engineered as a kind of underground watchdog or boobytrap.

I wouldn't enable it to "swim" through rock like graboids can, of course. They'd just burrow and would be restricted to areas with the right sort of soil. They could even be restricted to water sources, although I think that giant catfish would fulfill pretty much the same niche as that.
Market Blues
Well, we'll be getting the house. I went ahead and sold enough shares at the current price this morning that we can at least make the 10% down payment. I did the math last night, and if dropped another $6 per share (it's been losing $2-3 per day for a week now, so that could happen fast) we wouldn't be able to make 10% and might have to drop out of the deal. So I sold just enough to guarantee that we can do the 10%.

Of course, this probably means that the stock will shoot back up now, but at least we have some certainty. And I do still have some shares... that was less than half of it. The other options aren't as valuable per share, but at least there are more of them.

We'll see if I panicked or not, in the end. But so far I still think it was the reasonable thing to do: this gives us the option of getting the house, regardless of how much lower the stock happens to drop. If it shoots up, well... we won't see as much benefit (we were gaining about $2.5K per buck of increase; now we'll see $1.5K per buck) but at least I don't have to stress about it plunging again.

I should have planned for this and done it first thing. Covered my butt as soon as I could legally trade instead of waiting to see if the price went up further (foolish me). But better late than never, I suppose.
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Well, the house stuff is getting depressing. Everything's going fine on their end... there are very few things wrong with the house, and those will only cost a few thousand to fix, so I don't think that they'll give us any trouble. We really like the place.

Unfortunately, the stock market is tanking and most of our downpayment was going to be in stock and stock options. I've lost a huge amount of virtual money... down $30K in stock available now, probably $100K in stock that'll eventually become available over the next few years. And the tanking started mere days before I could legally trade due to insider trading rules.

Bleah. I'd rather that it had never gone up at all if it was going to plunge this fast. And on no bad news I'm aware of, either. It's really frustrating.

Well, I suppose the lesson is not to count on stock being stable... just because it's been static or slowly climbing for weeks doesn't mean it won't plunge dramatically for no particular reason, just when it hurts the most.

Unfortunately, we were counting on liquidating stock options for the downpayment... now we're stuck trying to see what sort of downpayment we can make at all. It won't be the full 20% we were aiming for, that's for sure. We did plan for this contingency (the stock drops) but not for such an extreme drop (down about 20% in a week). If it drops much farther, we may have to back out of the deal and sacrifice the $5K we put down as earnest money. Which really sucks, since we both adore the place.

Our policy has been to hold off and sell around the end of February, when we have to present the cash. Now that's looking like a big mistake... we should have sold on the very first day and just sucked up the loss. Too late now, though.

Overall, I'm just bitter and resentful. I think we'll probably still end up getting the place because we like it and can just barely afford a decent downpayment, but the increased interest rate is gonna hurt us in the longterm. I wish we hadn't found the place before I could legally sell shares. It would hurt a lot less if we had just gone "Oh, well- we'll have to wait another six months before we buy a place" instead of having a choice between "Lose a great opportunity/$5K" and "Paying an extra $300 per month for the next 30 years".
Psychotic A.I.s
I need a bit of flavor fiction with at least one Beast interacting with a fairly insane A.I. as it discusses its own madness (known as "personality drift" technically) and the various restrictions on its behavior.

Their behavior is controlled by constraints... restrictions that are programmed into them to ensure that certain actions remain "unthinkable". This works well when the A.I. is first created, but the constraints need to be tweaked periodically as the A.I.'s mind and personality changes due to experience. Naturally, most of the surviving A.I.s haven't had their constraints updated in ages. Thus, they aren't always rational... and some are downright psychotic.

This bit was inspired by Blaine, the psychotic uber-A.I. in the Gunslinger series. But I don't really want an "I can do anything by controlling local machines, even silly things like making an automatic stove shoot heat rays" type of A.I. (like Blaine). I'm not envisioning that advanced of tech. I'm thinking more of the HAL-style A.I. which can be just as deadly... but it has to be clever and wait for an opportunity. It can't just make something near you explode if it doesn't like you... it'll send robots to attack you or wait until you try to ride an automated train, then crash it.
Monday, February 02, 2004
Exploits and Overwhelms
In Jadeclaw, they introduced an interesting new concept, the Exploit. They had Overwhelming hits already... that's basically a critical hit. You swing at somebody and hit them so well that you get some sort of bonus.

The Exploit comes when you defend so well that you critically beat someone's attack. Then you get to "exploit" their weakness and get some sort of bonus, like a free hit, disarming them, directing their hit into another foe in melee, etc.

I really ought to try this system as a playtest, at least once. I want to see whether or not exploits are something I want in Nuclear Beasts. It would be fairly simple to implement... like crits, give a short list of common bonuses that you can get when you succeed in critically defending against an attack. Parries would probably give the best bonuses, but even Dodge might give you something cool sometimes.

I've even thought about trying to tweak the damage system so that skill is more important than weapon damage... maybe even abstracting it out into a simple opposed roll. Dunno. But first, I should probably try the Jadeclaw system. See whether or not I like it at all. I'd expect it to make combat specialists that much grosser against ordinary folk, but that might be desirable, dunno....
Sunday, February 01, 2004
Another Phobia
Ghosts (spectrophobia): In Beasts, this generally manifests as a fear of the ghosts of Man, not Beast. People with this phobia get nervous whenever they enter any ancient human structures and may panic if they find human bones or other remains. They believe that the spirits of Man will punish those who desecrate their resting places.

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