Friday, September 16, 2005

Random Game Crap!

And now I go about showing why this blog is called Random Encounters.

1. Fortune in the Middle Stunts: One of the things that bugs some players about stunt systems like Exalted is that it's essentially fortune at the end -- you either have to severely limit your stunts or stunt as though you'd already rolled successfully. So you describe the big cool thing, then roll to see if you can pull off what you already said you did. Now, I (usually) don't have a problem with this, but I can see the awkwardness.

The traditional response of "make the attempt the stunt, without stunting the results" is a solid one, but limited in the Exalted context. So, what Mo suggested was that you do a more typical FitM setup -- general action, roll, describe result. If you describe the result well, stunt it, then you get a bonus to your next roll. Stunts in this situation don't help you with the thing you're doing, they give you a "karmic" boon to cash in the next time you roll. It works quite well in Exalted where there is a "to hit" and "to damage" roll -- and its easy enough to stunt your damage to give you a bonus on your next hit roll as well. (I also considered making stunts more effective by letting them come after the roll and just giving flat bonus successes for good stunts -- 3 dice in Exalted is pretty small. 3 bonus successes after the roll, however, is brutal.)

2. Instinct reactions to stress in Unknown Armies. UA has one of the best madness/stress systems in RPGs today – but it is fairly narrow in its output range for the immediate scene. If you fail a stress check, any stress check, you either berserk, flee, or freeze. This is the same if the failed roll was from watching your mother get beaten to death or if you have a moment in which you're not sure why you just lied to your wife about where you were earlier. And once you start using UA for something other than its designed use (because you're a bad, bad monkey) it gets more startling – Superman beating the fuck out of someone until they die, for example, is probably not all that fitting.

So, I have considered that in future UA sessions I will steal a little bit I've heard about from Burning Wheel: the instinct. Each player would, at chargen, set up an instinct statement for each of their stress meters that details what they do when they fail at that meter. For high-trust games this can be a general mission statement (Bob has a hidden core of rage that makes him go nuts when he gets into the megaviolence, biting and tearing and going for blood from the throat… Bob's self alienation manifests in him becoming cold and callus towards everyone around him, saying deliberately hurtful things). For more standardized games it could be a triple threat of aggression/passivity/withdraw – three default choices you go to when you get screwed in the stress. Violence, for most people, would probably stay "kill it / run /freeze" – but the other meters (Self, especially) could do well with different options.

3. Heroic Stands in Truth and Justice. Truth and Justice is a pretty bad-ass Superhero game. It has one mechanic in specific that I love: the Revolvin Development. In a Revoltin Development the GM basically had the ability to bribe the PCs to accept a sudden turnaround / loss in the situation by giving them mass Hero Points if they take it. It often gets used in order to have the villain toss them into a death trap, escape with the dingus, or do the other things that happen all the time in comics but that normally drive players nuts when they happen in an RPG.

However, while the GM has a "I must win for the plot" mechanism, the players do not have a "I must win for my vision of the character / to have fun at this point" mechanism. Now there are some obvious reasons for this, but for some players such an absence is not a good thing. So, for those who like to be able to sacrifice character growth for the ability to win when it most counts for the player, my wife and I came up with the following idea.

The Heroic Stand: A player may declare that their character simply wins/succeeds at a contest. The cost of this is a number of MAX points equal to the HP cost of a similar "luck be a lady" purchase.

What this does is let the player know they are going to win, but at the cost of their characters advancement. Those that want to win will win, but the character won't grow from it. As with the comics, the time when a character is most likely to grow is when they put themselves out there, but when it isn't so important they can just pull it out in the end, wrap up the issue, and go home.

4. Heroquest is a badass system. However, I sometimes find extended contests drag on to long, or go to short. And simple contests are all over in one roll. But a recent post on the Forge Heroquest forum made me realize there is a way to do a "medium length" contest using variable augments. I like this idea, because it lets players and GMs together decide (through a slightly push/pull mechanism) how long they want contests to go on, based largely on how many interesting poses they can think up. If you have an interesting modification to throw in, in it goes – but if you're out of ideas (which can happen in the middle of an extended contest, leaving it as a bean counting exercise) then you bring the contest down.

Here are the rules I was tinkering with: As with all Heroquest contests, set the stakes and chose the primary abilities that will be used for the contest. On your turn you declare either "modifier" or "ender" for your action. A modifier contest either raises or lowers your or your opponents default ability for the contest. An ender brings the contest to an end, win or lose.

A modifier action uses a non-primary ability of yours to augment your primary ability, or your primary or non-primary attribute to lower the primary ability of your foe. You describe your action, including how it could help you or hurt them in the contest, and then they must resist with an ability that would let them counter what you are trying to do. If you win you get an augment to your primary ability or they get a penalty as shown on the following chart.

Complete Victory -- 1/4th of the attribute as a bonus to you or penalty to them
Major Victory -- 1/3rd of the attribute as a bonus to you or penalty to them
Minor Victory -- 1/10th of the attribute as a bonus to you or penalty to them
Marginal Victory -- +1 to primary attribute or a -1 penalty them
Marginal Defeat -- -1 to primary attribute for you or a +1 bonus to them
Minor Defeat -- 1/10th of the attribute as a penalty to you or a bonus to them
Major Defeat -- 1/3rd of the attribute as a penalty to you or a bonus to them
Complete Defeat -- 1/4th of the attribute as a penalty to you or a bonus to them

Note: Secrets that give greater benefits for augments are treated as 1 level more successful. A secret with a Complete Victory gives ½ of its rating as a bonus.

An ender works just like a simple contest – one roll between the current values of the primary abilities, winner takes normal results for a simple contest.

So when you want to show your abilities, you must use them and win with them to have them help you. It also makes a step between simple and extended contests – longer contests, but with out AP bean counting.

GMs and players can still use it to determine the length of the contest – mooks might always go for an ender, meaning they only get one roll (or players could penalize the big bad by hacking down his mooks, which he has to resist with their crappy combat score instead of his own massive one), while big bads may do multiple modifiers (with PCs doing the same) before the climactic ender. Similarly PCs can try to stretch things out for a longer fight if they are at a disadvantage, or go for the quick or lucky kill with a fast ender.

45 Comments:

Blogger John Harper said...

Allow me to respond to each idea on its own merits:

1. Sweet.

2. Awesome.

3. Rad.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Chad said...

Dude, post this to the T&J LiveJouranl community (or the Yahoo Group).

Damned cool.

CU

11:34 PM  
Blogger Bradley "Brand" Robins said...

As a note for #4 -- it works as stated only if you don't let there be auto-augments in the contests. If you do, you'd need to adust the victory scale so that a marginal victory is 1/10th (what you could have had anyway), and moving up from there.

Personally, I'm to the point of finding auto-augments to not do what I like them to do in game (show the dynamic and important aspects of the character in a significant way -- as a +2 to a roll where you already have a skill of 45 isn't that much, so to get significant bonuses you have to stack on lots and lots of sub-atts, which just makes them all less individually important). But if you're not, you'd obviously need to tinker.

1:04 PM  
Blogger John Harper said...

Dammit, I forgot #4!

4. Cool.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Charles Wotton said...

These are great, especially, for me, #4, as Heroquest is the game I play most often. I too have found the bonus from auto-augments a bit...bitty, not significant enough to make the kind of statement you'd like to.

Wouldn't an 'ender' have to be called by everybody in the conflict--everyone should declare an ender before the conflict ends. Otherwise you could just declare an ender as soon as your opponent loses a modifier roll.

What would you do with augments for which the opponent might not have an ability to resist? Relationships are really common augments, but I'm not sure that it'd always make sense for your enemy to oppose it. Basic resistance of 14? That'd be motivation to put lots of points into relationships, maybe not such a bad thing.

I've never played 'Truth and Justice' but the Heroic Stand idea sounds like it could be ported into other systems. I don't think I'd actually use it in my HQ game, but who knows--a cost of 2 hero points, doubled for each mastery the opponent has on you...

Charles

2:43 PM  
Blogger Bradley "Brand" Robins said...

Charles,

You could have everyone agree to have to call an ender, but I wouldn't want to. Part of the "game" aspect of it is deciding how much to risk and how hard to push to get modifiers and augments, as well as the ability for one side or the other to push to end the conflict before the other is ready. If you blow a big roll, then you'd better hope the enemy isn't ready to kill you at that moment....

(Oh yea, that's the other thing -- to do an ender you, obviously, have to have narrated yourself as being in position to end the conflict in the way you want. If you're on the other side of the country you can't kill em with your sword, after all.)

As for things they can't resist, well, that's perfect for you. If he's the bastard that killed your mother, what can he say to keep you from using your Love Mother rage to pump you into murder? If you can answer that question for that character (his taunt, to make your rage hurt rather than help: his Luke I am Your Father, to fuck your whole family vibe) then you've got your resistance. If not, then zoom you go -- which may make relationships and personality traits all that much more potent.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous charles wotton said...

OK, I've got it now. It took me a while to picture it--if you see an opening why not go for it if you can?

Very cool.

Charles

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Kasumi said...

With 1):

You know to those who know Exalted well, that change would actually make zero difference?

The key is that the dice are trivial. I'm pretty sure they're just a throwaway lure on top of the real system. Stunts are all about the essence and WP rewards, not the dice - the dice might fudge probabilities a little, but the main action of the stunt is its interaction with the economy of character power. They're a statement that if you contribute to the game in an easy but consistent fashion, your character gets the power to achieve your agenda.

So, yeah, you can fiddle where the dice reward is given with zero problems because it's transient anyway :) Me, I nix the "success" requirement because it's too hard to adjudicate, and let people do the descriptions however they like.

4:03 AM  
Anonymous Kasumi said...

Oh, and please enable RSS!

4:03 AM  
Blogger Bradley "Brand" Robins said...

Kasumi,

Yea, I know the dice are trivial. It's really about the essence and willpower regain. (Especially for me -- I mostly play Twlights when I'm a player. And Willpower managment with Celestial Circle Sorcery can get brutal.) Which is why I suggest making them autosuccesses -- 3 autosuccesses after a roll can make a difference. Especially if you still get the willpower. OH yea.

However, the real point is to make stunts more FItM -- so that you don't stunt this cool thing only to have it not happen.

2) I think RSS is on: http://www.randomencounters.blogspot.com/atom.xml

3) Good to see you here! If you're the same Kasumi from RPG.net you're one of my fave Exalted comentators.

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2:53 AM  
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12:27 AM  
Blogger 水慧 said...

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10:18 AM  
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Better be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion...................................................

6:52 AM  
Blogger 暴枝盈 said...

After a storm comes a calm...................................................

11:25 PM  
Blogger 伯臻伯臻 said...

任何你憂慮的事,你都應該去採取一點行動,不要只是在那邊想......................................................................

2:34 PM  
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2:44 PM  
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人不能像動物一樣活著,而應該追求知識和美德.................................................................                           

7:54 AM  
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10:04 PM  
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7:27 AM  
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5:23 PM  
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10:20 AM  
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11:21 AM  
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11:12 PM  
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5:29 AM  
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9:27 PM  
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8:58 AM  
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4:50 AM  
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1:26 AM  
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5:49 AM  
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2:30 AM  
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10:19 PM  
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5:33 AM  
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6:08 PM  
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生、死、窮、達,不易其操。......................................... ........................

9:06 PM  
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你不能左右天氣,但你可以改變心情.................................................................

9:08 PM  
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12:27 AM  
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如果你批評他人。你就沒有時間付出愛......................................................................

9:40 PM  

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