Sunday, September 29, 2013

Obamacare - The Only Thing Really Wrong With It

    That's it, really, that's the biggest problem with the whole system - force.  Everyone is forced into using it.  It's being forced on private and public sector alike.  It's the government using its absolute power, the ability to force people to do something.
    I don't want to get into a political rant here.  It's just something on my mind since I am one of the many people without health care, and thus it is something I'll have to deal with soon.  I've been looking into it, on-line since the news programs have not been much help, and so thought I'd comment on it - from my own point of view, of course.

    Providing health care is a noble goal.  That, I think, would be hard for anyone to dispute.  But as with all goals, the real proof is not in the principle but in the exceptions.  Life and Liberty are noble goals, but we regularly deny them to those who commit crimes.  And rightly so.  Because a principle is nice, but not always applicable, there are times when it needs to bend and flex a little.  Too much bending and it breaks, but too little and it is a straight-jacket instead of strengthening.
    Which leads me to thinking about my own condition.  I would like to have health insurance, in principle.  I don't though for a variety of practical reasons.  Right now I don't have a job, I'm living with my Grandfather helping him out.  He found out he had cancer when someone finally looked at his x-rays and saw that his right femur had been eaten away.  They put a titanium rod in the bone to strengthen it, and then discovered that the cancer had spread there from his kidneys, one of which has a tumor in it.  A fun thing to find out on your birthday.  So while he was in rehab I came out here, having moved close-by recently and not having anything I couldn't set aside.  That was about three months ago.  I do the driving, shopping, cooking and cleaning.  Grandpa is home, and doing very well overall, but that could change at any time.  Plus he's 83 years old, so he is not as strong and vigorous as when he was driving a tank in his youth.  I don't mind helping him out, I'm glad I could since it would have been a major burden on anyone else in my family and a great risk for him to be alone without any constant support.
    So, needless to say, I do not have any health insurance.  Grandpa gives me a little money, and covers all my living expenses, so I am really doing fine.  I've been looking around, but the only jobs I could get would be part-time, and that would not provide health insurance either.  Being a 30-something-or-other couch potato, I am not in the best shape, but I'm not doing too bad.  I always figured if I had some sort of health problem I'd just have to deal with it.  I know that you can go to the emergency room, but I have no intention or, or desire to, do so.  But now comes Obamacare (the Affordable Care and Whatever-Else-We-Had-To-Call-It Act is too long) and the public exchanges open up next week.  According to what I've found, the lowest coverage for me in Arizona will be around $100 per month.  Which will pose something of a problem as I do not make that much money.  If I do get a part-time job (also, not as easy as one might imagine in a smaller town) that will represent a fairly good chunk of what I make.  And that's just the monthly cost.  No details are out yet, but I'm sure there are co-pays and then prescription drug costs that you have to pay yourself.  Which means that even though I'll have insurance, I won't actually be able to afford to use it.  Also, I don't want to use it.  When I did have health insurance in the past all I did was get a checkup, a tetanus shot, and see the dentist - I don't like going to the doctor.  Not sure if there will be dental plans, they may mean "health" as only the body and not the teeth (again, a scarcity of details at the moment).

    So, quite frankly, I want no part of this system.  It does me no definite good, just a theoretical good in the event of an accident or something that I survive.  In exchange for the definite hardship of coming up with money I don't have.  Not a good economic trade-off.
    Except, to get back to the thrust of my article, for the fact that I am being forced into it.  I have no choice.  I could put it off for a year, and pay a penalty of $95 at tax time, putting it off two years raises the penalty to $200+ dollars and three years $600+.  So sooner or later you join or you suffer.  Though, if you join you also suffer, so you're just screwed either way.
    What I don't understand is this: if this is going to be a better system, if it going to improve everyone's lives, why isn't it voluntary?  If it's the better choice, then people will take it.  It doesn't need to try so hard.  Also, like so many other programs, if it's such a good idea, why isn't every Senator, Judge, and even the President required to take it also?  Why can't they practice what they preach?  If it's a good thing, shouldn't it either naturally attract people, or if it has to be forced, shouldn't it be forced on everyone - including those in power?  If it's so wonderful, why march people to it at gun-point?
     Anyways, since it is forced, I will have to join along with so many others.  I am not in a rush though, things have a tendency of changing, so I'll wait until around December to let some of the bugs shake lose before going to join.  Hopefully that will also give me enough time to figure out how I'm going to pay for something I didn't ask for in the first place.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Strange Mechanics: Success And Effect In One Roll

    An idea, since things seem to be popping in my head to distract me from the project I'm working on.  I like zero-based dynamics, that is, games like Fate where the dice tend towards zero, and thus your character's base skill/competence, and go a little plus or minus.  The flat d20 roll and ever-inflating bonuses just feels out of balance to me.  So I had this idea and thought I'd share it.
    Take 2 ten-sided dice, each of a different color.  I'll use Green and Red for this illustration.  You have a skill, could even just be your level.  Roll the dice and add to your skill Green minus Red.  So it will be a -9 to +9 bonus, that should tend towards 0.  From your total, subtract a modifier for difficulty, say Easy 0, Hard -5, Incredible -10.  You skill/base + roll - difficulty then makes a total.  To determine your success, look at the following table:

1 or less    Botch - you made things worse
2 - 5          Fail - you did not accomplish what you wanted
6 - 11        Partial - you sort of succeeded, but not completely
12 - 15      Success - you did what you wanted
16+           Extra - you got more than you wanted

    Now, if you roll a Botch or Fail, take the highest of your two dice and lose that many points.  So, taking combat as an example, lose that many HP.  If you get a Success or Extra, take your highest die and inflict that many points on your opponent.  If you get a Partial, if that die is odd go up to the next even number, then split the results between your cost and your effect on the opponent.  If you get a Botch or Extra, the GM will describe how the situation gets worse or better.
    Weapons could give a bonus to the effect number, and armor could lessen the cost number.  Everything could get a form of HP, like you need so many points to influence a merchant vs so many for a guard.  Maybe a good reputation could be "armor" or even a "weapon" adding to effect totals or reducing cost totals.

    I've had in my head a desire to make as much of a one-roll system as possible.  I'd like to keep modifiers low and the number of things to add/manipulate as few as possible.  I'm not fond of this system because subtracting is more work than adding, granted not by a lot but still.  I do kind of like it more than the "roll over target number" and even the "every point over is a point of effect."  Just going over a number does not feel to me like a good measure of success, just effect, and while the two are related they kind of aren't as well.  I don't know, now I'm babbling on paper (so to speak) - this is an odd idea, not sure if it's worth using or if I ever would try to use it, but there it is.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Going Old School - Thieves Do It Better

    So last night I was lying in bed listening to music like usual, when suddenly something hit me.  I had read a post a while ago about thief skills.  The post talked about how the thief skills were not something only thieves could do, after all anyone can hide in a closet - but they were things thieves could do in more difficult circumstances, like hiding in the shadows (I would give credit to the author if I could remember who/where).  For some reason that came back and struck a chord, and I started thinking of ways to describe the thief skills in terms of what everyone could do, and then how the thief could do it in a different way.  So I broke out my list of AD&D 2nd Ed thief skills and came up with this:

    Everyone can- climb, by using rope, or a grapnel hook, pitons, and all that stuff
    But the thief can- Free-handed Climb, without any tools or support (though the rougher the surface the easier it is)

    Everyone can- find/remove traps, I like a series of posts I read here, that talks about how all traps should be obvious in terms of the trap being there, the challenge is to figure out how to disable it.  I like that idea, so we'll say that this is an 'everyman' skill.
    But the thief can- Bypass A Trap, what we'll let our thieves do though, is get around the trap without setting it off.  This leaves the trap there (to cover the rear so to speak) and gives no clues that the party passed it.

    Everyone can- hear noise, people talking, the sounds of battle, footstpes coming down the hall, all things that anyone can hear.
    But the thief can- Eavesdrop, hearing something you weren't supposed to hear, like reading lips in a crowded tavern, listening through the walls or door, picking up whispers of noise.

    Everyone can- hide, by using some type of object, like a closet, bed, statue, shrub, and such-like.
    But the thief can- Hide In Plain Sight, naturally the darker it is, the easier it is, but a cleaver thief will shimmy up a wall or otherwise position themselves cleverly.

    Everyone can- move silently, by tip-toeing around, assuming they are not wearing anything that creaks or jangles of course.
    But the thief can- Move Undisturbed, like walking through a child's room and not tripping on something, moving in the dark through a china shop and not knocking anything over.

    Everyone can- bash down a door or force open a chest, if you are strong enough, or don't mind risking damage to the contents of a container, you can open anything.
    But the thief can- Open Without A Key, which means the item can be re-closed, and no traces of passage/use remain.
--as an aside, speaking of locks Telecanter had a great idea for an alternate lock-picking system, latest post here

    Everyone can- pick pockets, with the help of a distraction, like a teammate who drops something to cause heads to turn, or from someone who is sleeping.
    But the thief can- Act Unnoticed, doing something in plain sight without anyone being any the wiser.

    Everyone can- read languages, understanding anything they know (and it's surprising how many languages people know, the D&D world must be full of language tutors :)
    But the thief can- Make Inferences, like watching people and figuring out their emotional states, reading a fragment of something and figuring out what kind of text it is, they can connect the dots when there isn't enough information.

So that covers the basic thief skills, but while I was doing this I though of a few other things that could be considered thief skills along the same lines (though I'm sure any old-schoolers will point out we don't need any more thief skills, the following was just something of an intellectual exercise- not anything I'd actually use in a game):

    Everyone can- disguise themselves, change clothes, rub some dirt on your face, things to make you not look like you.
    But the thief can- Impersonate, a specific race and/or class and/or person (if they've studied the person).

    Everyone can- negotiate, if I give you this then you'll do/give me that, is something most anyone will consider.
    But the thief can- Convince, if all I give are promises and hot air, and you still do something for me, that takes a thief.

    Everyone can- hide their tracks, walking carefully, brushing out footprints, you have to go slower but its pretty easy.
    But the thief can- Lay A False Trail, but to make it look like you went somewhere else is mad skillz.

    Everyone can- communicate, talking, marking things, letting others know what's going on.
    But the thief can- Pass A Secret Message, by communicating in a way that only the target will know something's being said.

    So there are 12 skills that anyone can do, but thieves can do better.  Is this any help whatsoever?  I kinda doubt it, but since the idea kept me awake last night I had to go ahead and write it down.

    Actually, there is something I think useful about this.  Others have commented on how once you introduce skills players have a bad tendency to assume that if they don't have the skill then they can't do the action.  This discourages them from thinking outside the box and trying new things.  Which can be a problem, I've even had it myself from time to time.  Another post, and I can't remember who, said that everything should be a rule.  So everyone can climb at 1/2 their base speed.  Then classes can modify that, so thieves can climb at full speed - and that way you don't need specific skills.  That actually struck me as brilliant, and is something I've taken a look at with my own game I'm designing.  You want to encourage people to try something, to think that they can do anything, that is a core part of what makes pen-and-paper RPGs fun after all. 
    Talysman at 9 and 30 Kingdoms had a great observation in a comment:

There are a number of competing definitions of "new school" vs. "old school" floating around, but perhaps one pair could be "thinks going outside the box is a bonus" vs. "thinks going outside the box is a feature". Or maybe "focuses on the defined abilities and role of the character" vs. "focuses on options outside the defined abilities and role of the character"

    That I think, along with his taking me to task for stereotyping the thief class, was what led to my semi-sleepless night.  Going outside the box is good, and I think its also nice when the rules help layout the box as a toybox to play with in the first place.  So I think having something like this, what everyone can do and what some just do better, is actually a good thing.  So I guess missing some sleep last night was alright after all.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Classes Revisited - With Some Help

    Talysman over at 9and30kingdoms wrote a post about classes to which I commented and mentioned my own post about classes, which then led him to comment on my post.
    God I love the Internet :)
    All this back and forth got me thinking that maybe I didn't quite say what I meant to say, so let me try again.
    To summarize my original post, I don't like classes as they are used in most games.  I feel that they conflate (don't know why but I love that word) three different things: what a character does, what a character has and how a character acts.  My idea is to instead address each one separately, adding them together to form the final character picture.  So let me hit on each of those ideas and try to say what I'm thinking clearly.

    First, why I don't like classes.  Now, let me preface this by saying that I am not trying to suggest I have the One True Way Of Game Design.  This is my opinion, my crazy thinking, and my take on the games I've played and GMed.  I could be, and most likely am, wrong - or at least incomplete.  I am very grateful to Talysman for taking his valuable time to read and reply to my idea to help me re-examine it and hopefully formulate it better this time around.  So take all this with a grain of the proverbial salt.
    I am a tinker, I can't help it.  It's some sort of undiagnosed gamer OCD that I have to pull apart every system I can get my hands on and debate how I'd do it differently.  So I like games where you can get to the most fundamental core of the mechanics, makes it easier to start redecorating.  Which is one part of my problem with classes, they tend to be a sort of black box.  Some things are easy to understand, fighters get better base attack bonuses than wizards because they hit things more often.  Some things are harder to divine, why in Pathfinder are there 8 different numbers of class skills for 11 classes?  What was the underlying balance the designers were trying to go for?  That way, when I start mixing things up, I'll have a better feel for what I'm changing.  More component-based games, like GURPS or Hero System, allow you to build LEGO-like a character out of specific abilities, so it's easy to see how much the designers though something was worth, they gave it a point total.
    Another thing that turns me off about classes is the limited amount of customization.  Original D&D gave you a class and that was it.  Anything you wanted to do to make yourself unique was outside the rules, a sort of "bring your own one special unique snowflake."  There's nothing wrong with that.  I'm not saying there is.  I just don't like it myself.  I prefer it when the rules make some allowance for me to add my own unique stamp on the ideas they present.  Now, let me illustrate this with 13th Age.  In 13th Age you have your One Unique Thing, something that only you, out of all the others characters, have/are/do/whatever.  While I kind of like the system, I kind of don't.  I don't have to be the only guy in the whole world who is whatever, I just want to more clearly distinguish me from the other guys at the table.  If every one of us decided to be fighters, I'd like it to be easy to see the differences between us.  It's an interesting rule, but actually goes a little farther than I'd like myself.  I like Pathfinder with the feat system, doesn't go crazy but allows some mechanically-rewarded customization - except for the fact that Pathfinder has way, way, way too many feats.

    So, after complaining, what would I do instead?  Glad you asked.  As I started with, I see three different things, and so we need to look at each of them to make a character.  Now, you can't take just one, you have to take all three together.  Talysman said that I was throwing up a "smokescreen" here, so I think this is where my explanation stunk then because it's actually the core of everything I'm trying to present.   As he rightly points out, what's really important is what you do.  That is first and foremost, because the game is going to be about you doing things with your character.  So let me re-name this "Purpose," and posit that there are 5 Purposes-

Fighter - defeats obstacles (kill, defend, disable...)
Explorer - interacts with the world (sneak, traps, travel/wilderness...)
Investigator - gathers information (knowledge, perception...)
Worker - makes changes (healing, crafting...)
Talker - interacts with NPCs (intimidate, charm, bluff...)

    Now, the reason I hit on this system is because so far, as clearly as I have been able to define it, everything you could possibly do in the game is some combination of these.  So here is where I think I missed explaining my reasoning - your character has some measure of all of them.  The goal I have is to map the character with the game.  So let's say everybody gets 100% that represents all the time you're going to be playing the game - now divide that percentage across all the Purposes you want to play.
    Maybe I want to be the generic fighter, so I'm Fighter 100%, all others 0%.  All I wanna do is Hulk Smash everything in sight.  Maybe I want a sort of barbarian, so I'm Fighter 70% Explorer 30% because I live in the outdoors and stuff.  Maybe I want to be the dungeon-delving thief and split it as Explorer 70%, Fighter 30%.  Or maybe I want to be the shadowy, smooth talking thief and go Talker 50%, Explorer 50%.  By defining myself this way I've done something very, very useful - I've just told the GM what kind of adventure I want to play.
    Let me illustrate with an anecdote from my own recent experiences.  A friend was going to start a Pathfinder game a while back.  Two of my other friends were going to play.  It so happened that I would also be available to join them.  We were told that every character needed to be able to act without weapons, because there was going to be a city that you couldn't bring any weapons into.  My friends were a Psiblade (makes his own weapon from his mind) and Magus (can cast when not swinging).  Someone joked at the table that I should make a Ninja - a joke because I almost always play a mage, I'm not really a thief-type at all.  I decided to take up the challenge and made a character who could do some fighting unarmed, but was meant to be the fast talker, disguise, investigator type.  I thought that if we were going to be in a city with no weapons then we might have to do some interacting with NPCs, and the other two were not well equipped for that.  I would say I was going for a Talker 30%, Investigator 30%, Explorer 30%, Fighter 10%.  Sadly, the adventure did not go as I had hoped.  We had a few combat encounters, that were too easy, out in the wilderness, saw an NPC from a distance who seemed sneaky but never got to interact with him, escorted a few people who ignored us, and when we got to the city in question the GM just hand-waved the ending since it had gotten too late.  It was a bit of a let-down.  Still, I liked the idea of my character and we all decided to take this world and run with it, doing a rotating GM thing.  But even after, it was always a challenge to find an adventure where I could use my character the way I had hoped to.
    In part, I think it's because "Ninja," while a cool description, really doesn't say enough.  Some people might think shadowy assassin, which really wasn't the vibe I was going for, I should have just gone straight Rogue (I did not realize then that the ninja class was just a slightly re-skinned rogue anyways).  I was thinking more of the 'hides in plain sight' and 'sneaks around' myself.  Which is why I like the Purpose system, it seems a little more explicit.

    There are two other parts to going with Purpose, that's in building adventures and the game rules themselves.
    For the game, it needs some sort of rules for all five of these, because characters might want to do any of them.  Or, if it doesn't have those rules, then it needs to be clear the game is not designed for that style of play.  Pathfinder, much as I like it, is woefully lacking in anything related to the Investigator, and the Worker has healers and craftsmen that are short blocks of skill text, likewise only a little Talker (whole posts have been done about Diplomacy).  I've heard of other games, like Gumshoe, that focus on Investigator, and I saw a sample for Burning Wheel that looked like it had some pretty in-depth Talker stuff.  So it's important to match your character to your game, or else you're likely to be disappointed.
    The other thing is in building the adventure.  I take a Player-centric view of the hobby, I think the players are the reason for the game, and the GM is there to provide some challenge and the unexpected.  I like sandboxes because I don't care what the GM wants to happen in the story, the players are the ones actually playing it and he should be focused on them.  Having Purposes for each character shows what kinds of things they want to do.  And this is where I get crossed in my head with the board-game Descent.  In Descent the GM has a pool of 'doom counters' that he spends to play cards, each card being an obstacle like a monster or trap or curse or something.  I would totally love to steal that for an RPG.  The GM only has so many points to throw a problem at the players with, and the cost depends on the Purposes of the players.  If all the players are Fighters, then monsters are cheap, since apparently the players want to fight things.  But playing a Talker NPC or throwing in an Investigator mystery would cost more - something that can be done, but not done very often, because the players don't want to play that kind of adventure.  I see these challenges as cards, with the Purpose of the challenge on the back (visible to all while hiding the details), that the GM can lay down on the table to suggest what kinds of things are going on in the world.
    Another anecdote.  With the character I described above, and another friend who was an archer/thief, we went on an adventure.  The GM said we had to investigate some scary cult on a nearby island.  So we took a boat.  On the boat there were a few mysterious passengers.  We spent hours of real time, late into the night, investigating the passengers but could never find out anything about them.  Finally we landed.  It was getting late enough that I suggested we call it a night and finish the adventure another day.  I, and my fellow player, were exhausted from looking for clues we could never find, and actually we were both frustrated enough to be going postal (Fighter 200%, IRW).  At which point the GM tells us that we're just beginning the actual adventure and the boat ride wasn't meant to take so long.
    We both could have killed him.  We would have alibied each other too :)
    Now, in my mind I see us playing, and we get to the boat, and he puts down an "Investigation" card and so we can see that there's something fishy on the boat.  We could decide to investigate, or maybe decide we don't care since our goal was the island and just let the ride go by.  Or, we get to the boat and he doesn't do anything so we say we just wait out the ride.  Either way, we would have had a clue as to what was significant and what wasn't, so that we didn't waste our time and drive ourselves (and him no doubt, since he had to ad-lib all this stuff) insane.  And the end of our adventure was a huge fight with an anti-paladin that nearly slaughtered us in two turns (my friend was Fighter 50%, Explorer 50%, but remember I'm just Fighter 10% - even an on-level fight was a challenge for me).  Again I see his Investigation being fairly cheap to play, I had a character for it, but his combat more expensive because that wasn't the main purpose of either of us (adding us and dividing we had only a 30% Fighter Purpose, but say instead Interest.  We just weren't that interested in combat.  We were both Explorers though (40%), so some shadows to hide in, locks to pick, and traps to disarm would have been right up our alley).
    Class is a hint, but it just doesn't say enough for me about what the players want to do.  Though, admittedly, most games are designed for combat first and foremost, so there isn't as much rules variety as I'd like.  Still, I think it provides a useful starting point.

    Second (I'm afraid this is looking to be another long post, I will try to be brief without being incomplete), after your Purpose you need to look at your Tools.  This is the 'what you have' section.  A fighter's Purpose is, well, Fighter (one of the classes I do like because it does just what it says on the box).  How is he going to fight though?  Well, the typical fighter uses Weapons & Equipment.  The barbarian fighter uses Martial Arts (his rage power) and Weapons & Equipment.  The war-mage uses Pattern User (that's spellcaster).  Here is where, in my original post, I described my system of Hooks.  In literary-sort-of-speak a character's Hook is what makes them unique, draws the attention of the audience.  Somehow I appropriated that to mean 'what your character has' many years ago when I started working on my game and now I just can't give up the term.  Since Hooks start to get more specific, there are 10 of them, I'll summarize:

Extraordinary Abilities - you have some super-power, from running like Carl Lewis to leaping tall buildings
Martial Arts - you have mad skills, having trained your mind and body beyond most people
Pattern User - you can manipulate the Pattern, aka Reality, through 'magic'
Split Being - you are not quite human/whatever, like a werewolf or vampire
Allies & Influence - you have friends, from a gang to a corporation or army, that you work for or run
Cybernetic Implants - you have something added to your body, from a technological limb to a demon's wings
Weapons & Equipment - you use stuff, from short swords to ray-guns
Vehicles & Constructs - you have a vehicle or base
Fabrication & Harvesting - you can make your own stuff
Hacking/Cracking - you pown other people's stuff, from hacking their terminals to manipulating their magic or even minds

    Now, the thing about the Hooks is that they represent not only your strength, but also your kryptonite.  If you rely on your Weapons & Equipment, then what if you get disarmed?  Attacked in the middle of the night?  Have to swim for dear life?  If you are a Pattern User, what if someone sends nightmares to prevent you from getting a full night's sleep?  Throws itching powder on you to disrupt your spells?  If you keep adding the chrome with Cybernetic Implants, when do you start to lose your humanity, and how?  This takes your Purpose and starts to refine it, detailing what you can do, how you do it, and what you need to do it.  A mage with no spell slots is Purpose 0% in almost everything (okay, a bit of an exaggeration).  This helps us distinguish between characters nicely.  Lets take two Fighter 100% characters, one has Weapons & Equipment, the other has Allies & Influence as Hooks.  Well, the W&E character is independent, maybe a mercenary, while the A&I character was issued his weapons from the army he belongs to.  Or his super-secret-spy organization.  The first can go wherever he wants, but has to get by on his own wits.  The second gets ordered around, but likely has a friendly platoon somewhere nearby.  Likewise the Talker who is Extraordinary Abilities for her beauty is different from the Talker who has a Cybernetic Pheromone Implant.
    With our Hooks defined, we know what we need to act and the GM can see some fun ways to mess with us.  After all, the GM isn't the one driving the story, he's the one chortling with glee at the looks on everyone's faces when the rust monster shows up for lunch.

    Third, and I'm almost done, is the idea of how the character acts.  Are you charging that dragon for God and King, for the pile of loot it's sitting on, or because someone told you to?  This is the stuff of growth and development.  If, like Han Solo, you're only in it for the money - what happens when the farm boy you took a shine to goes off and the princess is in danger?  What, more importantly, does it say about your character, depending on how you react?  If you are a good soldier, always obeying, what happens when you get an order to commit an atrocity?  Again, this is a necessary part of defining your character, to help you role-play them (assuming you want to, maybe it's just Hulk Smash and let god sort 'em out).  I don't have a system here, yet, it's something I've been debating for a long time.  This is your character's reward system, being a good soldier is important to me/ I'm happy when I obey/ I like army life, and your challenge for growth all in one.  I'd call this section Psychology.  The closest game I've seen to this concept that I like is Fate.  In Fate you have Aspects, which are statements about your character, and they are both good and bad inherently.

    Let me try to make a few concrete examples to pull everything together.  Here are some sample characters (which I'm going to do tongue-firmly-in-cheek since this has been a rather dry dissertation so far):

Derf the Dwarven Fighter
Purpose:           Fighter 100% [attack +10]
Hooks:             Weapons & Equipment (axe and plate armor) [d8 damage, AC 16]
Psychology:     Gold, gold, gold, gold, gold

Bob the Befuddled Barbarian
Purpose:         Fighter 70%, Explorer 30% [attack +7, stealth +3]
Hooks:           Martial Arts (rage power), Weapons & Equipment (sword and manly loincloth)
                                 [d10 damage, AC 12, DR 2]
Psychology:    Crush his enemies and hear the lamentations of the women

Arky Sparky Boom-Boom Man (who is sadly a real character in my campaign)
Purpose:    Fighter 80%, Worker 20% [attack +8, craft +2]
Hooks:      Pattern User (arcane magic), Weapons & Equipment (longsword and chain),
                       Fabrication & Harvesting (magic item creation)
                  [10 spell slots, +2 any roll/slot spent, d8 damage, AC 14, can craft a
                       +2 one-shot item in-between every adventure]
Psychology:    Burn it all, burn baby burn - "Double Chaos Pulse!!!"

Snooty Halls the Private Investigator
Purpose:          Investigator 80%, Talker 20% [search +8, interrogate +2]
Hooks:             Extraordinary Abilities (geinus), Martial Arts (has studied everything)
                              [+2 to all mental-related tasks, can attempt any skill at 1/2 search level]
Psychology:    Solve the unsolvable, catch the uncatchable, prove I'm the greatest

Charley the Cop/Detective
Purpose:          Talker 50%, Investigator 40%, Fighter 10% [interrogate +5, search +4, attack +1]
Hooks:             Allies & Influence (police force) [requisitioned firearm d8 dmg, bullet-proof vest
                                 AC 14, can call for backup in d10 min]
Psychology:    Serve and protect, but stay alive doing it

    Is any of that terribly useful, I doubt it.  But I think it might help illustrate a little of what I'm trying to create.  Each character uses the base purposes, almost really like a traditional class, then gets modified by the Hooks and is driven by psychology.  And I think just the little three-line descriptions do a better job showing the character then the job title alone. This is a nice middle layer above me saying "I'm a Fighter Level 5" and the complex piece-by-piece description of, say, GURPS.

    Okay, let me wrap up.  And I'll go back to Talysman because I think we both want the same thing, and that got lost somewhere in my original explanation.  In his original post on classes he wrote:

Fighters can be recast as barbarians, gladiators, knights, and many other "classes", but it's really just a matter of changing the equipment and maybe adding some regional expertise or situational familiarity. Likewise, the Magic-User can be recast as a psychic, alchemist, druid, or many other "classes" just by changing the focus of the spell list and maybe the process of preparing and casting spells, without changing any of the class abilities.

    Well, that's kind of the same thing I was thinking (granted, his uses an existing system and mine requires making a new system - so apparently I'm crazier).  By using a solid base, in my case the 5 Purposes, and tying the core rules to them, you can then customize and skin your character by adding Hooks and Psychology.  I have a totally different terminology, but we're both looking at doing the same thing, a solid core that can flex to account for individual tastes.  So while he might be looking at the Fighter class, I'm just looking under the hood at Fighter 100%, Weapons & Equipment, Get Rich Quick.  And we both could tweak those definitions to suit several different character concepts.
    I also have to point out two things: first that none of this is revolutionary.  All classes have elements of purpose, hook, and psychology in them, either explicitly or implicitly.  My idea is to make it a little more explicit, and to re-organize things a bit.  Not a new thing as much as a change of presentation.  Also, I don't have a game that uses these concepts, not in the way I want/see in my head.  I can't point to something else out there and say, here, this is an example of what I'm thinking.  Many universal games like GURPS or Hero System have just the raw components, they haven't been categorized into Purpose or Hook.  Most class-based games mix the three together behind the scenes.  My own game I've been working on forever is something I hope will be written along these lines, but I'll admit it's a hard row to hoe.  It is a structural shift from traditional games, it seems to me, in some ways.
    And as my final word (for the moment) I have been playing Pathfinder for a while now and enjoying it.  I've played a lot of other games over the years and enjoyed them.  I don't want to suggest that any of them have been inferior, only that every game appeals to certain types of people by virtue of how it is structured.  Classes can be good, they can work great, and can lead to lots of fun times and happy memories.  They just rub me a little the wrong way so I feel the need to tinker with 'em.  Maybe someone else sees things the way I do, maybe I'm just a freak :)  But I am very grateful for the feedback and challenge to tidy up my own muddy thinking.  As always, you can leave your own thoughts below.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Microlite 2d10 Fantasy: Preview 2- Weapons and Armor

    Here's another part of the system I'm working on to create a "rules medium" layer between the d20 SRD/Pathfinder and Microlite20.  Here I'm going to put my current version of Natural and Melee weapons, plus Armor and Shields.  The Ranged weapons have been bothering me, I made a simple system but when I looked at it again I didn't like it.  Again, this is very much Beta-level and most likely changed by the time I posted it...

    Almost every living creature carries some type of natural weapon, and almost anything can be used as a weapon.  We are going to cover the three categories of Natural, Melee and Ranged.  Alchemy and Magic Weapons are covered in the Magic Items chapter.

A) Natural Weapons
    These are weapons that are a part of the character, they come in a few types:

Impact - you hit, kick, slam, or otherwise do blunt force trauma.  These attacks do Non-Lethal damage by default.

Pointed - by claw or fang or horn you create gaping wounds in your opponent.  These do standard lethal damage.

Transmission - you put something into the opponent, poison or disease or such.  By default this does one-time damage, like any other weapon, but you can buy special abilities listed below to change that.  Note that by default you still roll to hit, any extra effects then roll/determine themselves on a successful hit.

Natural weapons have a few possible abilities-
⦁    Rending- Pointed only- if you use both hands to attack a single opponent you can double your Str mod to damage.  Usually from claws.
⦁    Gore- Pointed only- if you take a Full-action (or as part of a Charge) you can double your Str mod to damage.  Usually from horns or spikes.
⦁    Constricting- Impact only- on a successful hit, make a free Grapple check.
⦁    Sustained Damage- Pointed or Transmission only- on a successful hit, at the end of a number of turns equal to this ability, roll damage again (ignoring armor DR).
⦁    Inflict Status Condition- Transmission only- instead of doing damage, this attack inflicts a status condition.
⦁    Disease- Transmission only- instead of damage, on a successful hit the attack inflicts a disease.
⦁    Poison- Transmission only- instead of damage, on a successful hit the attack inflicts a disease.
⦁    Spray- the attack shoots out projectiles, or something, that can hit all others in the same range band as the character.
⦁    Cloud- Transmission only- this ability forms a cloud around the character, any who come within Near range are attacked at the end of each round they are that close to the character.
⦁    Reactive- the attack is not used aggressively, but rather in reaction to being attacked.  The porcupine, covered in quills, has a Reactive Pointed attack.  This is typically only in reaction to being attacked with a Natural Weapon or Grappled (ie, when the opponent is putting hands/body directly on you, being attacked from a safe distance via Melee or Ranged weapons does not trigger this ability).  However, some creatures may have more exotic triggering conditions.  Reactive attacks automatically hit when triggered.  Attempting to use a Reactive weapon offensively is usually a contested Saving Throw.

    Natural weapons cannot be purchased, either you have them or you don't.  They are just listed here for completeness.
    By default Humanoids only have an Impact Natural Weapon, in the form of punching, kicking, etc.  Biting is for eating, not attack, and so counts as an Improvised Pointed Natural Weapon (see the Improvised Weapon rules below).

B) Melee Weapons
    Melee weapons are those designed to be held when used against an opponent.  They are defensive, since you can put the weapon between your tender hide and your opponent.  They are also offensive, since they can add mass or an edge to damage your opponent better.  However, they are separate from yourself, thus they have a Fumble Range.  A Fumble is when the die roll totals within the range, and a negative effect happens.  Different types of weapons will have different effects and ranges, but the default is 2/ Drop Weapon (move act (AOO) to retrieve).  Which means if your attack roll totals a 2 (ie, both dice are 1's) then you drop your weapon, it will take a move-action that provokes an Attack Of Opportunity to pick it up.  For more details on AOOs and action types see the Combat Section.  All melee weapons fall under one of three types:

Light (LT)- takes one hand to use, +1 AC bonus (since you can block/parry with it instead of your own skin), also you can use Dex instead of Str to attack, only gain 1/2 (round down, min 0) Str to damage.  Fumble Range: 2/ Drop Weapon (move-act (AOO) to retrieve).

One-handed (1H)-  +2 AC bonus (larger size and extra weight makes block/parry easier), gain Str to damage.  Fumble Range: 2/ Drop Weapon (move-act (AOO) to retrieve).

Two-handed (2H)-  +1 AC bonus (not as nimble for block/parry), gain 1.5 Str (round up) to damage.  Fumble Range: 2/ Off-balance (take AOO penalty to AC until your next action).

    The base cost for a weapon depends on its type: Light 10 sp, One-handed 20 sp, Two-handed 30 sp.  This cost may be modified by the abilities below.

    A weapon may have one or more abilities, and some are restricted to certain types:
⦁    Reach- if you are Disengaged then your opponents in the same range band are still Engaged (so only you get the AC bonus). However, if your opponents close the distance and you become Engaged then you take a -2 attack penalty since they are within the reach of your weapon and it is more awkward to fight them (If you are not using the Engaged rules, then give this weapon a flat +2 AC bonus).  Cost: +10% of base cost.
⦁    Defensive- the weapon was designed to parry or protect, +1 AC bonus..  Cost: +10% of base cost.
⦁    Piercing- the weapon concentrates force into a small area, allowing it to ignore a part of DR, 1 pt/rank of this ability (max 3).  If your weapons has Piercing 2 or 3, in addition to the normal Fumble your weapon gains Fumble Range: 20/ Stuck In Opponent (std-act (AOO) to retrieve) - though this also counts as a critical hit if appropriate.  Cost: +20% of base cost / point.
⦁    Entangle - instead of doing damage, the weapon inflicts the Partial Entangle status condition.  Cost: +10% of base cost.
⦁    Double - 2H only - this weapon has two ends that can be used with the Two-Weapon fighting rules  Any weapon abilities must be purchased for each end seperatly.  Cost: +20% of base cost.
⦁    Brace - if you take a move-act to ready yourself before being Charged, you gain +2 hit and damage against the Charging opponent.  Cost: +10% of base cost.
⦁    Disarming - this weapon has catches or is otherwise designed to make it easier to disarm, +2 bonus.  Cost: +20% of base cost.
⦁    Non-Lethal - the weapon does non-lethal damage.  Cost: +10% of base cost.
⦁    Trip - it is easier to Trip with this weapon, +2 bonus.  Cost: +20% of base cost.
⦁    Weapon-breaker - this weapon was designed to break other weapons, +2 on Sunder actions vs weapons.  Cost: +20% of base cost.
⦁    Articulated- by using some type of hinge or chain or rope, this weapon can reach greater speeds and therefore force and therefore damage.  Gain +1 damage for LT, +2 for 1H, +3 for 2H.  However, this weapon is also more dangerous to use, therefore increase the Fumble range to 2-5/ Hit Self (roll damage against self).  Cost: +20% of base cost.
⦁    Short - LT or 1H only - you can use this weapon while grappling (though not when pinned).  Cost: +10% of base cost.
⦁    Throwable - LT only - the weapon is designed to be thrown, using the Ranged BAB and doing full damage (throwing 1H or 2H takes a hit and damage penalty of -3 / -6 respectively).  Cost: +10% base cost.
⦁    Mounted - 2H only - the weapon is long and designed to take advantage of the extra momentum of the mount.  You can use it 1H while mounted, however it takes a -2 to hit penalty when not mounted.  Change the Fumble to 2-3/ Weapon Breaks (weapon loses HP to Broken condition).  Cost: +20% base cost.
⦁    Long Hilt - 1H only - you can choose to use two hands with this weapon, reducing the AC bonus but increasing the Str bonus as if it were a 2H weapon.  Cost: +10% base cost.
⦁    Fragile - the weapon is very thin, or possibly not well made.  Change the Fumble to 2-3/ Weapon Breaks (weapon loses HP equal to Broken condition).  Cost: -20% base cost.
⦁    Precise - LT only- the weapon has a thin, easily directed profile.  You gain a +1 to your attack roll to determine if it is a critical hit (ie, you roll a 14, if that hits the target's AC you count it as a 15 to determine if the attack is a critical hit).  Cost: +20% base cost.

    Since this system is designed to be generic, here are some sample weapons (more in the section on Kits):

possible Light weapons-
Rapier        LT (+2 AC, + 1/2 Str dmg, +1 crit confirmation): Defensive, Precise, Fragile.
                   Fumble 2-3/ Weapon Breaks (weapon loses HP equal to Broken condition).

Dagger    LT (+1 AC, +1/2 Str dmg): Short, Throwable.
                Fumble Range: 2/ Drop Weapon (move-act (AOO) to retrieve).

Club        LT (+1 AC, +1/2 Str dmg (non-lethal)): Non-lethal
                Fumble Range: 2/ Drop Weapon (move-act (AOO) to retrieve).

possible One-Handed weapons-
Sai            1H (+3 AC, +Str dmg (non-lethal), +2 Sunder weapon or Disarm): Defensive,  
                           Disarming, Non-Lethal, Weapon-breaker.
                  Fumble Range: 2/ Drop Weapon (move-act (AOO) to retrieve).

Flanged Mace    1H (+2 AC, +Str dmg, bypass 1 DR): Piercing-1.
                           Fumble Range: 2/ Drop Weapon (move-act (AOO) to retrieve).

War-pick        1H (+2 AC, +Str dmg, bypass 3 DR): Piercing-3.
                       Fumble Range: 2/ Drop Weapon (move-act (AOO) to retrieve).
                       Fumble Range: 20/ Stuck In Opponent (std-act (AOO) to retrieve).

possible Two-handed Weapons-
Quarterstaff        2H (+2 AC, +1.5 Str (non-lethal) dmg, can Engage opponent while remaining
                               Disengaged, -2 hit if weilder becomes engaged, counts as two weapons
                                for 2 Wpn Fighting): Reach, Defensive, Double, Non-Lethal
                            Fumble Range: 2/ Off-balance (take AOO penalty to AC until your next action).

Spiked Chain        2H (+1 AC, +1.5 Str dmg, can Engage opponent while remaining Disengaged,
                                -2 hit if weilder becomes engaged): Reach, Articulated
                              Fumble Range: 2-5/ Hit Self (roll damage against self).

Greataxe        2H (+1 AC, +1.5 Str dmg, bypass 1 DR): Piercing-1.
                       Fumble Range: 2/ Off-balance (take AOO penalty to AC until your next action).

C) Improvised Weapons
    Using something that was not meant to be a weapon as a weapon is certinly possible, but it carries a penalty of -2 to hit and damage (min 1 dmg).  GM's decision of what, if any, weapon abilities may apply to an improvised weapon.

    Armor protects you from being hurt.  However, the weight and restriction of movement also give you a penalty to your skills, including attack rolls.  Being trained in how to wear armor reduces those penalties by half.

    If you are Unarmored-
DR 0,  Crit Range: 16-20/ max damage + wound, Skill Penalty 0

    If you are wearing armor, there are two things you need to know.  First, what type is the armor, and second how much of your body does it cover.  Armor type gives the Damage Reduction (DR) that is subtracted from the damage rolled when you are hit, and falls into three categories:

Cloth - leather, linen, wool, furs/hides, you have wraped yourself in something.  DR 2, Skill Penalty -1
Mail - is metal-based, like riveted links, or metal-backed/enhanced cloth.  DR 4, Skill Penalty -2
Plate - is a solid piece of metal, possibly something exotic, usually worn over both cloth (to prevent chafing) and mail (for extra protection); considered a separate, distinct type.  DR 6, Skill Penalty -3

    The next consideration is how much of your body is covered.  More coverage means less chance of a vital organ being hit, but also more restrictive and higher skill penalty:

Shirt - only covers the torso.  Crit Range: 17-20/max damage + wound, Skill Penalty: -0
Half - covers the torso and arms.  Crit Range: 18-20/max damage + wound, Skill Penalty: -1
Full - covers torso, arms and legs.  Crit Range: 19-20/max damage + wound, Skill Penalty: -2

    And lastly, along with coverage, are you wearing a helmet?

with Helmet - covers the head.  Lower Crit Range +1,  Skill Penalty: -1

    Total all skill penalties, halve this total (round down) if you are proficient with the armor being worn.  Take that penalty (if any) to all skill and attack rolls.  Take your crit range, and increase the lower number in the range by 1 if you are wearing a helmet (since it's covering some vital parts).  So a Cloth Shirt is DR 2, Crit Range: 17-20/max damage + wound, Skill Penalty -1 (-0 if proficient) while Full-Plate with Helmet is DR 6, Crit Range: 20/max damage + wound, Skill Penalty -6 (-3 if proficient).
    Why does armor penalize all skills?  Athletics seems like a no-brainer, but why Knowledge or Communication?  Well, because armor is hot and tiring to wear.  It is a distraction, less so if you're used to it but still not comfortable.  Most people don't like to talk to someone wearing armor, looking ready for a fight means 'willing to fight' to the lay-person.  For some things armor should be a penalty no matter what, like swimming, for some things the penalty may not apply.  These specific cases will be left to the GM and Players to work out.
    Your armor's cost is based on it's type and coverage: Cloth 20 sp, Mail 40 sp, Plate 60 sp.  Modify that by -50% for shirt, 0% for half,       +50% for full.  If you have a helmet add 10% of the base type cost.  This is the overall cost, which may be modified by the armor abilities below.

Armor Modifiers/Abilities-
    Like weapons, armor suits have several possible modifiers:
⦁    Tailored (1-3)- reduce the total skill penalties by the value of this modifier, 1, 2 or 3 points.  Wearing armor that has been Tailored to someone else gives twice the point value as a skill and attack penalty that is not reduced by proficiency.  Re-tailoring armor costs half the total armor cost.  Cost: +10% of the armor's overall cost per point of ability.
⦁    Fearsome- ignore armor skill penalty to Communication skill for the purpose of intimidating.  Cost: +20% of armor's overall cost.
⦁    Embellished- ignore armor skill penalty to Communication skill for the purpose of charm/impress.  Cost: +20% of armor's overall cost.
⦁    Spiked- while wearing the armor your Natural attacks do lethal damage.  Cost: +20% of armor's overall cost.
⦁    Primitive/Ornamental- the armor was not well-made for usage.  Increase total skill penalty by 2 (before proficiency), and the suit cannot have the Tailored ability.  Cost: -20% overall cost.
⦁    Fragile- the armor is made of sub-standard material.  Reduce DR by half.  Cost: -20% overall cost.

Sleeping In Armor-
    If you have to sleep in your armor, double the total skill penalty (before proficiency) until you have a chance to take it off and rest.  Keep doubling every extra day it's worn continuously.

Size and Shape of Armor
    All armor is designed for a specific Body-form and Size, it cannot be worn by someone different.  For example, armor for a Horse (called Barding) is designed for a Equestrian (Large) wearer and cannot be worn by a Humanoid (Medium).  Likewise armor for a Gnome, Humanoid (Small) cannot be worn by an Elf, Humanoid (Medium).  You may notice we do not change the price of armor based on the size of the wearer.  This is for simplicity and also because smaller suits require more skill to make (mail that tiny is tricky) and larger suits tend to not cover the entire body of the wearer (barding only covers the vital parts of the horse).  If you want more accuracy, add/subtract 50% of the base cost for each size scale higher/lower.

    Shields are typically circular plates of wood or metal worn on the arm.  They are used to prevent a hit, unlike armor which mostly absorbs the force/damage of a hit.  Thus, shields add a bonus to your Armor Class.  However, they can limit your visibility and get in the way when attacking, so they have an attack penalty which is off-set by being proficient with them.  It's possible exotic protections, like limited armor worn on the arms to block, could also count as shields instead of armor, that is up to the GM.  Shields are rated by roughly how large they are:

Buckler - small, covering only a bit more than the arm. AC Bonus +1, Attack Penalty -1 (0 if proficient)
Heater - medium, covering up to about half the body. AC Bonus +2, Attack Penalty -2 (-1 if proficient)
Tower - large, covering most of the body. AC Bonus +4, Attack Penalty -4 (-2 if proficient)

    Remember to add any penalty from wearing armor to the shield's attack penalty when rolling attacks.  Shields have a Base Cost of- Buckler 10 sp, Heater 20 sp, Tower 30 sp.

Shield Modifiers/Abilities-
⦁    Spiked - a shield bash does lethal damage.  Cost: +20% of Base Cost.

The "Shield Bash"
    Instead of protecting yourself with your shield, you can strike an opponenet in melee with it.  You do not get the armor class bonus for that turn, and it counts as a Natural Weapon.  It only does Non-Lethal damage.  If you also attack with another weapon, then you must split your Combat Bonus as normal for when making multiple attacks (see Combat section for details).

Final Thoughts-
    I really wanted a mix-and-match system to design weapons rather than the endless pages of weapon types.  With a simple and flexible system you can model whatever type of weapon you want, and you can choose how you want weapons to work (since everyone has their own opinions about what kinds of weapons do what :)  I'm happy overall, at first glance it seems to work the way I wanted it to.  Again though, I have not yet playtested any of this, so no telling what it'll look like when the dice hit the table.  Feel free to comment below.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Microlite 2d10 Fantasy: Preview 1- Character Creation

    It all started innocently enough.
    I had made a Microlite20 character for my series of posts on 1 Character, 13 Systems.  Which brought the game into my mind again.  I started gaming with D&D, my current group uses Pathfinder.  While I like Pathfinder, I have to admit just how complicated it is.  Something driven home when I decided to categorize all the Pathfinder feats.  So I loved Microlite20 when I found it for how it simplified the system while still staying true to it's core.  However, I am a newer-school sort of gamer, and I also like some crunch.  Microlite20 was great, but it was a little too simplified for my tastes.  I wondered if you could make a middle-layer, something with more of the original system but not as terribly convoluted.
    I started my path to madness thinking about classes.  In Microlite20 your class does not do much, it only gives you your weapon/armor proficiencies and a few abilities.  A far cry from the full system where class is everything.  So I thought, why don't I look at the classes in Pathfinder, just the core rulebook ones, and see what sort of common options exist?  Thus I went down the rabbit hole.  Classes in Pathfinder (I'm going off of it rather than the original D&D 3.5 SRD because I like it better) have a mish-mash of options.  There are 3 possible BAB progressions, 2 possible save progressions, 8 possible number of class skills, 4 possible skill point/level progressions, 5 possible amounts of starting money, and anywhere from 4 to 23 class abilities.  Things are just all over the place.  So how to simplify for a Microlite20-vibe?
    Well, I decided I wanted three options for players, and one default option that would represent generic NPCs.  So everything needed only 4 options.  I like point-buy, so I'll go from 0 point baseline NPC to 3 point PC awesomeness.  I'll use four attributes, but on reflection I decided Charisma worked fine as the Communication skill instead, so I made the 4th attribute Faith (which could be in oneself/confidence, or in an outside power/object).  All the cleric-y classes needed something like Faith more than Wisdom in my opinion anyways.  I also wanted to keep the 5 skills, but I renamed Physical to Athletics and Survival to Wilderness because they sounded better to me.  I dropped the outlier d12 and made hit points go from 4 to 10, and maximized them for first level.  All of that made for some fairly small additions to the existing Microlite20 system.
    Then things started getting weirder.
    I thought to myself, in Pathfinder you don't have enough skill points/level (usually) to increase all your skills every level.  But in Microlite20 every skill goes up 1 point every level.  What if we simulated the Pathfinder erratic progression by making you buy your progression for every skill, and we'll just re-use the BAB progressions?  Also, we have different systems for calculating to-hit in straight combat, spellcasting, and combat maneuvers.  What if we drop the touch and flat ACs, just make one AC, and let you buy your different BAB progressions for Weapons, Maneuvers and Spellcasting?  Let's also simplify weapons and armor into just 3 types.  I re-named them to sound sorta-historical.  And let's do the variant (mostly for original D&D) where your class is your damage die type, so your weapon proficiency is the die type you roll for damage.  And then what if we do Natural, Melee and Ranged weapon proficiencies?  Also, instead of weapons having critical ranges, we'll make the amount of armor you're wearing your crit range - after all being covered in a Full suit of Plate (crit 20) is better then a Cloth Shirt (crit 17-20).  We'll also say that a critical is just maximum damage and inflicts a wound.  Speaking of wounds, how about they become status conditions (so you're shaken from that critical hit) and we'll make the penalty equal 1/2 the damage done (so that 6 damage critical is a shaken effect with -3 instead of the default -2) ?  While we're doing variable status conditions, why not make the saves follow the BAB progressions, and just do a contested check, points you lose by equals the penalty/effect?  Criticals are also really fussy, let's simplify it by rolling 2d10 instead of 1d20, the 2d10 will make a nice bell-curve of results and make criticals less common, so if you roll the crit range it is an automatic crit without having to re-roll.  I'll change money to a base of silver pieces too, and set four possible starting amounts with some of the lifestyle types, just while I'm at it.
    Crazy as all of that was, it was still bearable.  Then I really did myself in.  Feats also needed a huge change, and class abilities I was going to merge into feats.  I really needed some sort of feat thing because of magic.  In Microlite20 you just get spellcasting as a part of your class, but I wanted point-buy which meant somehow you needed to be able to buy it.  So I decided to overhaul the magic system, going through all 500+ spells in the core rulebook and dividing them by school, but then by a sub-school I've called a Technique.  On top of the character changes, I started re-doing equipment, combat, healing, magic items, and basically everything.  So I'm now in the process of distilling and partially re-creating the entire game.

    While I'm working on that, I thought I'd preview some of the new system to see what anybody might think.  Below I have a part of the character creation system.  This is not my current working system (well, not entierly), rather this is a version of the system that should be fairly compatible with Microlite20, and aside from the new save progressions, should also be mostly compatible with 3.5/Pathfinder, I hope.  I have not been able to playtest any of this yet, so I'm going by what looks good on paper - you have been warned if you try to use any of this:

============== Basic Character Creation ==============

    You have 40 points to spend on the following elements:

    If you are Human, you get a +1 to all skills.
    If you are a Demihuman, you get +1 to any one attribute.

Strength (power and toughness), Dexterity (bodily and manual), Mind (perception and memory), and Faith (devotion and confidence)
Attributes are not used on their own, rather they are added to several other places/stats.
    +0 - 0 pts
    +1 - 1 pt
    +2 - 2 pts
    +3 - 3 pts

Ability Pools
Hit Points/HP (damage/fatigue), Mana Points/MP (internal and/or supernatural power)
Add higher of Str or Dex to HP, add higher of Mind or Faith to MP - each level after 1st add 1+(relevent attribute) to total.
HP may be spent in fatigue to power some abilities, at 0 you are unconscious.  At -10 HP you are dead.  MP is spent to cast spells and bond to magic items- no negative effects if it temporarily reaches 0, but if your maximum ever reaches 0 you have lost your free will and are taken outside the material plane and made subject to another power (or consumed by your bound magic items and turned into an NPC, whichever sounds better).
      4 pts - 0 pts
      6 pts - 1 pt
      8 pts - 2 pts
    10 pts - 3 pts

Base Attack Bonuses
Weapon (unarmed or armed), Maneuver (for combat maneuvers), Spellcasting (for spells and spell-like abilities)
This is used to hit/effect another character or target. [Progressions are below, levels 5, 10, 15 and 20 are in bold for reference]
Add Str to hit with Natural and Melee weapons. Add Dex to hit with Ranged weapons. Add Mind to hit with Arcane spells, Faith to hit with Divine spells, and higher of Str/Dex to hit with Psionic spells.
  Default:       0, 0, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2,  2,   2,   3,    3,   3,   3,    4,  4,   4,  4,   5      - 0 pts
  Slow:           0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4,  5,   5,   6,    6,   7,   7,    8,  8,   9,  9,  10     - 1 pts
  Moderate:    0, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6,  7,   8,   9,    9, 10, 11, 12, 12, 13, 14, 15     - 2 pts
  Fast:            1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20     - 3 pts

Weapon Proficiency
Natural (unarmed and natural weapons), Melee (hand-held weapons), Ranged (thrown and projectile weapons)
Add Str to damage with Natural and Melee weapons, add Dex to damage with Ranged weapons.
    d4 base damage - 0 pts
    d6 base damage - 1 pt
    d8 base damage - 2 pts
  d10 base damage - 3 pts

Defense Proficiency
Armor (acts as DR and gives a penalty to all skill/attack rolls), Shields (gives AC bonus and penalty to attack rolls)
Buy the highest level you are proficient with, when wearing proficient armor or using a proficient shield reduce the penalties by half
    None - 0 pts
    Cloth armor or Buckler shields - 1 pt
    Mail armor or Heater shields - 2 pts
    Plate armor or Tower shields - 3 pts
Your Armor Class is 8 + Dex + AC mods
Your Critical Range is given by your armor's coverage.  If an attack hits, and the die roll totals within the crit range, then the attack does maximum damage and you take a Wound status effect (see the Damage section for details).

Fortitude (endure/soak), Reflex (dodge/avoid), Notice (spot/predict), and Will (resist/ignore)
Uses the BAB progressions, Add Str to Fort - Dex to Ref - Mind to Notice - Faith to Will.
    Default - 0 pts
    Slow - 1 pt
    Moderate - 2 pts
    Fast - 3 pts

Athletics (moving around, moving things, using your body in general), Subterfuge (stealth, disguise, forgery, the thief-type activities), Knowledge (to recall facts about people, places and things), Communication (used to interact with and influence people), Wilderness (navigation, survival, plant/animal lore), Mysticism (for anything magic-related)
Choose 1 skill to be your Background skill with a one-time bonus of +3
Uses the BAB progressions, Add whichever attribute seems reasonable given the circumstances and activity.
    Default - 0 pts
    Slow - 1 pt
    Moderate - 2 pts
    Fast - 3 pts

We only have one feat in basic character creation:
    Spellcaster - 2-16 pts - you can cast magic-user spells by spending MP (choose Arcane or Divine or Psionics).  You can cast 1 school of magic for every 2 points spent on this feat.

Starting Money
choose your starting level-
    Destitute (homeless, guest or transient), 35 sp - 0 pts
    Poor (rent room/cot), 70 sp - 1 pt
    Average (have own apartment or small cottage), 105 sp - 2 pts
    Wealthy (own a large house or suite of rooms), 140 sp - 3 pts

============== Sample Characters ==============

    Here are a few sample characters:

Name:  Gwendolyn of House Baynar
Race:  Human  (+1 to all skills)
Class:  Fighter
Power Scale: 40 pts
Experience Level: 1

Attributes-         Strength  +2            Dexterity  +2            Mind  +0            Faith  +0
Ability Pools-    HP  12            MP  4                                       
BAB-                 Weapon  Fast (+1)        Maneuver  Fast (+1)    Spellcasting  Dflt (+0)
Weapon Prof-    Natural  d6 dmg        Melee  d10 dmg        Ranged  d10 dmg               
Defense Prof-    Armor   Plate            Shields  Tower
                          Armor Class: 14
Saves-               Fort  Fast (+3)        Ref  Mod (+2)        Notice  Slw (+0)        Will  Slw (+0)
Skills-               Athletics  Fast (+5)        Subterfuge  Slw (+1)    Communication  Slw (+1)
                          Knowledge  Dflt (+1)    Wilderness  Dflt (+1)    Mysticism  Dflt (+1)
Class Abilities-

Wealth-    Wealthy (40 sp)
  Weapons     Longsword (1H)
  Armor         Full Plate w/Helmet,  DR: 6,  Crit Range: 20/ max dmg + wound,
                        Skill Pnlty: -6/-3 w/Tailored (-1 w/Prof)
                            Embellished  (ignore armor penalty to Communication skill for charm/impress)
                            Tailored (3)  (reduce skill penalty by 3, cannot be easily worn by any other)
  Shield         Tower shield,    AC Mod: +4,    Attack Pnlty: -4 (-2 w/Prof)

    Backstory: Born to a proud line of warriors, she has taken up her father's armor against tradition to bring honor to her family name.

Name:  Sylphandayelldrill  (just 'Sylph' to her friends)
Race:  Elf  (+1 Dex)
Class:  Thief/Mage
Power Scale: 40 pts
Experience Level: 1

Attributes-          Strength  +0            Dexterity  +3            Mind  +2            Faith  +2
Ability Pools-    HP  11            MP  10                                   
BAB-                 Weapon  Mod (+0)        Maneuver  Dflt (+0)        Spellcasting  Mod (+0)
Weapon Prof-    Natural  d4 dmg        Melee  d4 dmg        Ranged  d6 dmg               
Defense Prof-    Armor   Cloth            Shields  None
                          Armor Class: 11
Saves-                Fort  Slow (+0)        Ref  Fast (+4)        Notice  Fast (+3)        Will  Mod (+2)
Skills-               Athletics  Mod (+0)        Subterfuge  Fast (+4)    Communication  Fast (+1)
                          Knowledge  Dflt (+0)    Wilderness  Dflt (+0)    Mysticism  Mod (+0)
Class Abilities-
Arcane Spellcasting: can cast Illusion spells only

Wealth-    Average (75 sp)
  Weapons      Short Sword (1H)
                       Shortbow (2H, One-shot, Quick Reload)
  Armor          Cloth Shirt,    DR: 2,    Crit Range: 17-20/ max dmg + wound,  
                            Skill Pnlty: -1 (-0 x/Prof)

    Backstory: sent to recover dangerous magics stolen from the elves by humans, she has fallen in love with city life and forsaken the forests.

Name:  Yarkanan, follower of Mercy
Race:  Half-Orc  (+1 Str)
Class:  Palladin
Power Scale: 40 pts
Experience Level: 1

Attributes-          Strength  +4            Dexterity  +0            Mind  +0            Faith  +2
Ability Pools-    HP  14            MP  8                                       
BAB-                 Weapon  Fast (+1)        Maneuver  Slw (+0)        Spellcasting  Mod (+0)
Weapon Prof-    Natural  d6 dmg        Melee  d8 dmg        Ranged  d4 dmg               
Defense Prof-    Armor   Mail            Shields  Heater
                          Armor Class: 10
Saves-               Fort  Fast (+5)        Ref  Dflt (+0)            Notice  Dflt (+0)        Will  Slw (+2)   
Skills-               Athletics  Mod (+0)        Subterfuge  Dflt (+0)    Communication  Mod (+0)
                          Knowledge  Slw (+0)    Wilderness  Dlft (+0)    Mysticism  Mod (+3)
Class Abilities-
Divine spellcasting: can cast Conjuration (healing) and Abjuration spells only

Wealth-    Average (65 sp)
  Weapons       Warhammer (1H)
  Armor           Half-Mail,    DR: 4,    Crit Range: 18-20/ max dmg + wound,  
                              Skill Pnlty: -3 (-1 w/Prof)
  Shield           Heater shield,    AC Mod: +2,    Attack Pnlty: -2 (-1 w/Prof)

    Backstory: Left for dead by his home village, he was found by a Cleric of the Goddess of Mercy and raised in a loving environment.  tempering his innate bloodlust he now travels the land, doing the will of the Goddess.
    Notes: His Spellcasting BAB is only Moderate because healing spells don't require a to-hit roll (no resistance), so it's just for the occasional abjuration spell.

Name:  Talks-to-shadows
Race:  Human  (+1 to all skills)
Class:  Wizard
Power Scale: 40 pts
Experience Level: 1

Attributes-          Strength  +0            Dexterity  +0            Mind  +3            Faith  +0
Ability Pools-    HP  6                MP  13                                   
BAB-                 Weapon  Dflt (+0)        Maneuver  Dflt (+0)        Spellcasting  Fast (+1)
Weapon Prof-    Natural  d4 dmg        Melee  d4 dmg        Ranged  d4 dmg               
Defense Prof-    Armor   None        Shields  None
                          Armor Class: 8
Saves-                Fort  Dflt (+0)            Ref  Dlft (+0)            Notice  Fast (+4)        Will  Fast (+1)
Skills-                Athletics  Dflt (+1)        Subterfuge  Dflt (+1)    Communication  Dflt (+1)
                          Knowledge  Slw (+1)    Wilderness  Fast (+2)    Mysticism  Fast (+5)
Class Abilities-
Arcane spellcasting: can cast all schools.

Wealth-    Destitute (30 sp)
  Weapons        Dagger (Light- short, throwable)
  Armor            none,    DR: 0,    Crit Range: 16-20/ max dmg + wound,    Skill Pnlty: -0

    Backstory: Cast out of his tribe for being a witch, he wandered the land, learning his magic by trial and error, until taking the risk of settling in a city far from home.  Now he has taken up adventuring out of necessity to make ends meet.

Final Notes-
    So far the whole system is totally crazy, but I like the looks of it.  Trying to keep the heart of a game and simplify it is actually a lot harder then you might think.  I'm more impressed by Microlite20, it may look simple but it was a conceptual shift to develop.  But I like the heart of the d20 system, and with some streamlining and revising I think it could make an awesome system that's "rules medium."  I hope it will at least, or else I'm wasting a lot of time.  I will publish more snippets of my work-in-progress soon.  As always you can leave a comment below.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Work In Progress

   It's been a while since I last posted, and not because I'm taking a break after the epic 1 Character, 13 Systems series.  I actually got to looking at Microlite20 again, having made a character for it in said series, and thought about how I would tweak it.  I like Microlite20 a lot, it is a great distillation of the d20 rules, but at the same time it is a little too simple for me.  So I wanted to try expanding the character creation into something a bit closer to the SRD yet still simplified.  This idea, like so many of mine, then spiraled out of control.  I'm now in the middle of creating an entire new game layer in-between the simplicity of Microlite20 and the insanity of the D&D3.5/Pathfinder SRD.  I'm going to start releasing a few parts of it, since this is turning into an Epic Project, to get some feedback, and I'll release the whole thing in PDF form when I'm done.  Currently I'm calling it Microlite 2d10 Fantasy.  More to come...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Strange Mechanics: What Can You Do With 3d10?

    I was reading the Tales From The Rocket House column on (the only good active column unfortunately, but some of the archived ones are cool - read Archetypology if you haven't) a while ago and he mentioned rolling 3 dice and taking either the highest, middle or lowest.  This got me thinking, out of the blue, in the shower yesterday - what all could you do with three dice?  More specifically, what could you do with three ten-sided dice?  I was wondering just how many mechanics could be hung on that single dynamic - so here's a little list I brainstormed.  Not sure what, if any, of this would be useful- I'm just thinking on paper.
    Now, one thing I'll mention in advance is re-rolling.  Any of these systems could be modified by allowing some ability, stunt, feat, expertise or hero/fate point to give you a re-roll of all or some dice.  Since that's a generic possibility I won't discuss it in each system.  Also, for the maximum amount of combinations, I'm thinking that 2 dice are the same color while 1 die is a different color.  So sometimes I'll say "roll same" or "roll odd" if you are to roll the 2 same colored dice or roll one of each color (if it's roll all 3 then I'll just say roll all the dice).

Single Die for Result, Roll Three, Choose High/Middle/Low
    This is the idea from the article I linked to above.  Roll all three dice, and take either the highest, or the middle or the lowest.  Which one could be determined a few ways.  The article talks about externally, normally you take the middle, but if you have an advantage take the highest, if you are at a disadvantage take the lowest.  Or it could come from the character- novice or unskilled take the lowest, skilled/professional takes middle, expert/master takes the highest.  You could even stack shifts, so expert skill is a +2 shift, but a bad situation is a -1 shift, so you'd still end up taking the highest (thus more skill off-sets bad circumstances).  3 or more shifts could be even an automatic 10 or 1, you're in so deep you'll fail, or so blessed you'll succeed, automatically.

Add Two Dice for Result, Roll Two or Roll Three and Take High/Low Pair
    Building on the above, but for a more d20 spread of results.  If you have a middle result (from wherever else you determine that) then roll same and add them together.  If you have a high or low result, roll all the dice and add the highest + middle or lowest + middle.  If you wanted to do the shift mechanics, a shift of +2 or higher could even mean add all three dice, while -2 or lower shifts is add two but subtract the other die.

Two Dice Success (low or high), Third Effect
    A crazy idea to try to set up a little inverse relationship.  You have to be either low or high, player choice or from somewhere else.  Roll all the dice and take the lowest + middle or highest + middle.  This is your chance of success.  The remaining die is then your result - in damage (base then modified or total) or cost or something (hmm, even maybe to-hit location?).  This might be kind of fun.  Choose if you want to hit, but lightly, or maybe miss but hit hard if you do.  A bit more random than a flat modifier, which could be good or bad.  I originally though of this as add the two, but I'm wondering if you could even make it percentile?  That would be tricky, though the high/low die could be 10s and middle die 1's, so I guess it'd work.

Add All Three Dice
    This isn't anything special, roll all three and add them together.  What I'm wondering though is how the probability spread would look.  It seems like this should give you a wicked-high bell-curve.  Three ten-sided dice is, what, 1,000 possible combinations?  So your odds of a 3 or 30 is 1/1,000?  That's a lot smaller than the d20's 1/20 chance!  So for something that you really wanted to hit the middle of the curve, and make outliers rare and unusual, adding all three sounds like it'd do the trick.  It does give a pretty big spread though, from 3 to 30.  I'm sure I've got a program that would show me this, but I'm too lazy right now - this is just a brainstorm anyways.

    This is a bit crazier than the ideas so far.  Roll all the dice, put the odd-colored die in the middle.  Then somehow, choice or hi/lo or whatever, put one die on each side, left and right.  Each side maps to something different, like offense and defense, and then read the dice in both directions.  You can compare, like go so many points difference from the odd die to the side die, or add the side die to the odd die.  Or subtract one from the other.  I don't know what exactly would be the use for this, it was just something that hit me.

Split Decision redux
    This is from an idea I read over at Daniel Solis' blog (which has some awesome games he's developed).  The idea is to choose a side, his uses 4d6 in two colors, and that works a lot better than this idea does I'll admit.  So you roll odd, and each color represents something different (evil or good, dream or reality, and so on) that you'll gain an xp point/development towards.  Then you roll the last die and choose which side to put it towards and gain the xp/whatever for.  Add the dice for your chance of success (ignore the solo die).  This is a character mechanic, to represent the angel and devil on your shoulders, and for when succeeding at the immediate action might cost you something down the road.  It's tricky to work into a good system, it works best to model times when there is not one clearly superior choice but rather either way brings consequences.  I have been racking my brain for a good way to use this since I first read it and have yet to find something I like.  Anyways, this is sort of that but with different dice.

Roll and Swap
    Okay, what about rolling the same dice and swapping the odd die for one of them?  Likely for adding a total, though might possibly work with percentile.  This is obviously good if you can control the swap, only taking it when it helps your total - if its a forced swap or only when the odd die is low then it could work as a penalty.  It's pretty much the high/middle/low system though, just named funny.  Okay, never mind.

    Three dice would let you do a blackjack-styled roll high but under.  Might roll two and then choose weather or not you want to roll the third.  I guess you could keep your total and re-roll somehow.  Or a high skill/ability/stunt/point might let you re-roll one die on a bust.  Would need a margin of success to force you to risk it and try to roll high.

Group Dice Pool
    Roll all the dice, but choose one to put in a group dice pool.  The idea is to create pairs or triples or runs (1,2,3 or 4,5,6 or such) that can give a bonus.  This is a kind of conflicted mechanic in my head, if you keep all your dice then you can take the highest two as your result, otherwise you keep the dice you don't give away.  If that really matters, maybe not.  Maybe if you keep them all you add them all, then you could also give away 2 or even all 3 of your dice.  This is to let the group somehow work together.  It actually came from a group idea I had with cards - poker style with a river of cards that each player used in building a hand, but the trick is that the players have to discard some of thier hand to create the river.  So you can be a team player and discard to help everybody, or keep a really good hand for yourself.  Just something more dynamic than a "+2 aid another" effect.  Possibly the group dice could also go to a background effect - like stopping the evil cultist's ritual, while the player dice went to the battles and maneuvers with the cultist's minions?  With only 3 dice to roll it's just really hard to do any kind of matching, so you'd need the whole party or at least two player's dice to make sets with.

Die minus Die
    This is another way to combine two dice with a center around zero, for a Fate-styled resolution system.  Roll two dice and subtract one from the other.  This could also go in the same style of hi/mid/lo by rolling all three and saying highest minus lowest or vice versa (even middle minus high/low).  This does go from +/-9, which is a lot further than Fate's +/-4, and might be a bit too much of a spread depending on your base number.

    That's all that I can think of, for the moment at least.  A few different possibilities, maybe even some things that might be cool, and all just using 3d10 which any gamer worth the title has.  I admit I like d6's just because they are so readily available, but for most of these ideas I think I'd stick with the d10s for the extra granularity.  Another thing about rolling dice is that while it's fun, it also takes time.  The more dice you have to roll and compare or manipulate the more time it takes at the table, during which possibly nobody else is doing anything except for watching you, which is less fun for them typically.  So keeping the dice few and making the most use of them, like only needing 3 dice for all these different systems, sounds like a good idea to me- a way to add some color to different tasks without fumbling through a bag-full of dice looking for the right ones.  I'm still tinkering with TB's resolution system, I have yet to find something I like and right now am considering using a few different dynamics depending on the situation.  It's a tricky thing, you have to consider the possibilities you want and the feel it gives the players.  I do like a few of these ideas though, so I might end up using one or two of them.
    Well, just to throw this out there.  Maybe it'll give you an idea as well.  Feel free to comment below.