Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Journey

To provide some formality around traveling in the game world, I've decided to implement the concept of Journey Roles.  What this does is to allow Heroes to decide on a focus during the journey what this does is to force players to decide what their Hero is going to be doing, while the party is traveling.

There will be break points or encounters that will disrupt these roles, but what they accomplish is allowing each Hero a chance for action.  Each turn at the GM's request, all of the Heroes will make a role Check, to determine how good they do on their desired action.  Assigning a role to a Hero avoids those players that want to be apart of everything by applying the "Me too!" to every good idea that is mentioned.  With the idea of roles, the GM can say all those in the Scout and Lookout roles give me Spot Check, or all the Explorers and Gatherers give me a Search Check.  Those not in the specific roles are initially excluded from action, as they as assumed to be "busy" doing what they set as their goals for the turn.

Some Roles have opposing checks made by the Game Master, such as Hunting...This opposing check is territory or terrain specific, and is meant to determine the randomness of creatures in the area in the case of hunting...Even the best hunter can not kill creatures that are not in the area

Other Roles such as Scouting, also have opposed checks.  These determine the chance of enemies actually being in the party's path, so even a very poor scouting result may not result in a ambush on the party, in the case that there were no enemies nearby.

A journey day consists of six, four hour, turns.  These are typically spent as four active turns (which are all spent in the same role) and two Rest turns.  Based on the results during the Active turns a given amount of progress is made on the journey.  Each day everyone, save the Leader, may switch roles with no penalty.  For the Leader to change role there must be a transition day, where the new Leader takes charge, and the existing Leader falls to the Adviser Role (special case role) for the day.

The party may break these six turns per day up in a any fashion they choose, opting to force march it and skip their Rest turns or take a full day of recovery the spend all six turns at Rest, possibly some members spending the rest in Hunting or Gathering.

During Rest turns, Heroes may switch their roles to new role during each turn, if they so chose.  The most common roles for Rest turns are Rest/Recover (for those that need it), for those taking a watch either the Defender/Guard role or the Lookout roles offers benefit.  Gathering, Hunting and Exploring may only be attempted if it will be their role for the Active turns this day as well, or at a penalty in the case of the Wanderer.

There are a lot more roles than their will be party members, this is intentionally to force the party to decide what their goals will be for the Journey.  For a five Hero party they may have a Leader, a Guide, a Scout, a Lookout, and a Defender, and opt to have five active turns a day, with one rest turn where everyone Rests, betting on the the ability of one of them to conceal their camp.  If any other actions are required during the Journey the GM will pass them onto the Leader to perform.  A more leisurely party have a member Gathering for reagents, and have another Crafting, and perform the standard two Rest turns each day, possibly three if they encounter problems.

The quests should be laid out by the GM, such that Roles matter.  The Heroes only get one active Role a day, so it should be something that they feel is not wasted.  The journey is as much of the adventure as the ruins or dungeon that they are heading to...Often the journey is the real chore, the ruins at the end may be fairly minor or significant in the fact that their is one "Boss" battle...but the journey to there is so taxing that few can make it with sufficient strength to defeat them.

This isn't a system where each day and each battle the party is continually refreshed and at full strength, where they enter the dungeon after a two week journey whose only event was the boxed text as they reached the dungeon.  Each day of travel could possibly have multiple events that could take hours to resolve, but each day will also likely involve a minor (or possibly major) drain on each Hero.  So, they should be rewarded by role-play and Journey Role choices that are relevant and ingenuous, hopefully resulting in multiple days knocked off the journey or possibly being able to bypass a particularly deadly opponent.

Journey Roles

     Leader: This role will settle disputes and their attributes serve as the base attributes for the party in all roles that are unaccounted for.  They also gain bonus checks in certain instances based on if they possess a given Gateway.  The Leader role on a journey can, and should, shift based on the terrain or assumed danger that lies ahead.

     Guide: Attempts to force the party to keep on pace, and take regimented breaks.  When in doubt they make their best guess at which direction to go.  When a guide is doing good, they party will make significant progress on their journey, but if they are doing poor, then the party's progress will be slowed or they may become lost.

     Scout: This role will float at various locations and directions ahead of the party, to scope out if it is safe for the rest of the party.  They are typically fast and stealthy members, that have skills that allow them to detect enemy ambushes or traps.  A good scout can give their party the advantage in encounters, a poor scout will fail to detect a trap or ambush or worse set it off themselves.

     Lookout: The role stays with the main party, but is focus on keeping track of where all the other members of the party are, and serves as a in-party scout, as they also attempt to spot dangers and creatures that are in the general locale.  They aide many other roles in the party by granting bonuses or lessening penalties.

     Defender/Guard: Those in this role stay in formation behind the Scout's and the Guide.  Those that roll well on their Defender Check will have the benefit of being where they are needed, for that turn when things go wrong.

     Hunter: Similar to a Scout, this is often roaming out of the main party formation.  They attempt to gather food, to conserve rations or simply aid in the party's survival when the rations are gone.  A good hunter can more than make up for the party's daily food consumption, a poor hunter may mistake tracks and errors of this type can quickly cause the hunter to become the hunted.

     Gatherer: Many types of gathering can be done, but in any case the attempt to locate items along the way will at the very least take this party member out of performing any other roles on the journey.  While Gathering, they may be looking for expensive reagents that will aid in spells, potions, inks or poisons, or they may be looking for mundane items such as food.  They typically wander off from the main party from time to time, which can get them in trouble in the rare case.

     Explorer: Like the hunter and gatherer the explorer is often in and out of the parties formation, but they are looking of unnatural signs, ruins, or various other entrances.  This role is often skipped at the beginning of the journey, but as the party approaches their destination more members will switch into this role to attempt to find the ruins or objects that they are questing for.

     Wanderer: This role is a filler, and can choose to switch focus to any of the other roles, except the Leader and the Guide during each turn, declared before when the turn starts, or they are assumed to be remaining in the same role as last turn.  This role takes a -1 Rank on Checks of the role that it is masquerading at.  This increases to -2 on the third time they switch roles, ignore Rest/Recover as a role for this "switching" calculation.

Special Case Roles
These roles are only usable in certain situations, and some are likely not apart of a typical journey

     Navigator:  While aboard a boat or ship, a Navigator role replaces the role of the Guide, and keeps the boat or ship on course.  It uses different skills than that of the guide, but the benefits and penalties of the good and poor results in this role are comparable to that of the guide.

    Oar men/Crew men: Another boat/ship role that the name varies based on the size and type of ship, but a given vessel will have a minimum and maximum number that can be in this role.  This number and their Check results will essentially determine the speed on the vessel.  Often, locals or experienced men are required to fill in these roles, so the party can focus on other areas.  Even for River travel it may be worth a small investment in a local to perform this task.

     Mountaineer: While traveling in regions of altitude, especially when not traveling on common roads or trails in these regions, this role is essentially required to speed travel and reduce the risk of traveling disasters such as slips and falls.

     Trailblazer: Dense forests, jungles and swamp journeys can benefit from this role.  They serve as the strength, often constantly swinging their machete to clear a travel for others to follow.  They have an additional benefit if the party plans on re-tracing their path out of the area, then they do so at an increased speed.  This may be worth the party investing in a locale guide to perform this role if there is one available.

     Adviser: The day after a Leader is replaced the only role that is open to them is the Adviser role, in this they aid the Leader, and in this role the Leader gains +1 Rank in all Checks that they have to make on the party's behalf.  After serving as the Adviser for a day they must assume another role for the next days journey.

     Rest/Recover: During the resting turn those that make it through this phase without event may attempt a Recovery Check.  Most often this is under the watchful eyes of one or more Heroes in the roles of Lookout of Guards.

     Healer: In the case where some of the party is in particularly rough shape, one or more Heroes may assume the role of Healer during a Rest turn, these will make their Healing Check and then grant bonuses to one or more of their patients, based on the result of their Check.

     Crafting: Certain professions can creation items such as potions or inks, or repair weapons and armor.  This items typically require a given amount of progress.  Most crafting requires the Check be made during a Rest turn, but possibly does exist for progress to be made while traveling...For example if the party is on a boat, those not Navigating or manning the oars might be able to Rest or Craft, possibly at a penalty given the situation.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Game Economy

Some things that I've never liked in most RPGs, both Pen and Paper and online is the lack of a sense of real economy in the game.  In most games, starter items have a trivial cost compared to enchanted items, and even these grow at an exponential rate.  The cost these items are such that typically games at hire level deal in a form of currency that is not even known at early stages in the game, where at the same time typical currencies cease to have any value.

Toward the beginnings of a character's career, items are tracked down to the copper piece, soon, copper and silver are not worth bending over to pick.  Items in town some become more money that the whole town used to have, and characters buying items with enough gold (if divided equally) would allow them all to take a year off, and not do anything.

It doesn't stop there, potions begin to cost more than a Warship and weapons and armor are ten times that.  Where is all this money coming from and where does it go?  In online games you can seem that players simply amass enormous amounts of gold and loots, in pen-&-paper games the truck loads of gold that the characters just spend has no impact on local live-stock or ale prices.

I just want a economy system that makes a little sense, where supply and demand mean something as do a silver and a copper.  The system I'm aiming for essentially factors into the value of the raw material, workmanship and time to determine an items value, an items don't just get a factor of 10 or 100 applied to them because they are magical.

I know ancient coins had a lot of odd conversion between one another, and I don't think I need that amount of realism.  After all I don't think the players are coming to the session for a math lesson or to balance their characters finances.

So for coin value, I think metric currency makes a lot of sense...10cp = 1sp, 10sp = 1gp, 10gp = 1pp.  Someone can argue the actual alloy make-up of the coins to get such a system to make sense as far as the raw value of such items are not metric.

In addition to this I think if players think in terms of actual currency for value of these...say a copper is worth 50 cents...then a Silver is about $5 and a gold is worth $50.  Doing so make coming up with a drink costing 1sp or 2sp for something some nice easy to imagine, or when the barkeep says Elven wine is 10gp a glass that is some expensive some, at about $2500 per bottle.

In doing so, you can easily imaging what a laborer might make, say 1sp per hour, or 1gp per day might be reasonable for non-skilled work.  A foreman type may be 2 to 4 gp per day...which equates to about $200 a day.

A shop owner likely makes a decent living, especially if they are skilled labor with apprentices (who typically work for only room and board, and possibly menial spending money), with the owner doing about $500 to $2500 a day in income, so from 10gp to 50gp per day.  Granted they still have raw material cost and shop fees, possibly licencing and taxes to deal with.

But with this thinking you can begin to put things into perspective, a typical riding horse may cost $1,000 to $5,000 dollar or 20gp to 100gp...War trained animals would be much higher, based on the rarity of the creature...but comparing these to vehicle prices now-a-days would likely be comparable...I trained rare mount my go for $60,000 to $100,000 or 1,200gp to 2,000gp.

Dwellings can bought for current housing prices as well...a place to "hang the armor", using a trailer park as an example may cost $25,000 to $50,000 or 500gp to 1,000gp...where as a small keep and a good plot may be in the $5,000,000 or higher range, that's 100,000gp or more.

Sticking would converted or roughly equivalent modern prices allow for players to immediately equate a quality items or rip offs, rather in most fantasy systems the exponential cost growth as level increase, really gives them little appreciate for actual item value.

Allow creature loot and treasure hoards has to take this into account as well.  Bandits may only carry $50 to a few hundred in spending cash...or less if they are hard up enough to attempt to rob an adventuring party.  Where are a good sized hoard might contain $50,000 various loot.

That said the going price for getting a mercenary (a.k.a. a Hero) to risk their life might be $1,000/day (20gp) or more if the risk is known to them...The employer may try to sell the party on "keeping the loot they find"...but that offer only goes so far, if there's a Ancient Dragon known to have the item it its hoard.  Though the party could be tasked with negotiating with the Dragon for the item, if the price is right.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Design Goals

Since it's been a while and I've been re-working a lot of the mechanics, I've been feeling the need to restate some of the goals of the game system that I'm creating here.  Overall I think I can sum it up with the following vision statement:

To create a open role-playing system supporting campaign play that integrates shared story telling and hero development, where the journey is as important and dangerous as the destination.
  • Combat is both deadly and heroic, wounds are often crippling and slow to recover.
  • Actions have consequences, poor choices most often lead to poor outcomes.
  • Every Hero has a role, and every role has a moment to shine.
  • Simplicity is preferred over complex tables and realism is the Game Masters guide.
  • Hero advancement is slow and often temporary or cyclic based on items that have single or limited number of uses. 
  • Having a good time in a shared heroic story telling environment is the ultimate goal.

Now, I realize that many systems can claim these same goals, but I've made significant effort to hold true to these in many of the system design choices that I've had to make.  In some situations, when I've had a difficult time finding a balance between Simplicity and Realism, I've attempted to choose Simplicity as the default, but provide a consistent optional rule to allow GM's add realism when they desire.

Something that I've really tried to do is allow characters to "choose" their battles, based on an underlying terrain type and difficultly of areas of the world.  Thus, roads often mark the "safest" routes between points, but not the fastest, and speed can be gained through adding danger to the journey...or they can self govern their choices by understanding some of the basic creatures found in an area.  Also, it should be quickly apparent when the heroes are out matched, or given the location of an abandon civilization how prepared a party would have to be to even make it there, let alone explore it.

I've decided to move away from the term "character", and settle on the term "Hero" as the base term for the actors the players control in the shared story of a campaign.  Additionally, a Hero begins the game at "Above Average" ability, they are visibly able to handle themselves better than most in the commoners, and because of this they are sought out or targeted as someone to help when most are heading the other direction.  This above average ability only goes so far, as the further from civilization the Heroes get the less apparent they are "above average".  Advancement is possible, but is traditionally much slower than other game systems.

Typically, the Hero a player has at the beginning of a adventure is going to be roughly the same as one that the end of a adventure, assuming they survive.  The major difference is going to be in the loot that they possess, loot being most often in the form of items...Think "Doom" the difference in ready for the "Boss" and not ready is the amount of health and ammo that you have.  Loot is equally as important to the enemy, there's a big difference in a town's folk and a town's folk with a grenade.

Not only does Hero's overall all power vary with the items at their disposal, but the abilities change as well.  There's no doubt that there's a big difference between a dagger and a flail, so I've chosen to grant abilities that are only usable given certain weapons.  A dagger is fast and close weapon, its much easier to hit then your that close to an opponent, it may not deal as much damage, but you can invoke the abilities grant to your Hero by wielding a dagger, abilities such as Vital Strike, Double Strike or even Triple Strike are granted to reflect the weapons speed.  A flail on the other hand, can Trip an opponent, Stun them, or deal a Crushing Blow.

Another item worth mentioning on the "goals" page is that a play session should be spent "developing your hero".  "What would they do?",  should be asked much more than, "What do the rules say?".  Attempting actions based on how you view your hero should be your guide, not meta-gaming to achieve actions that you know would be beneficial in game terms.

Also, I've removed traditional "leveling" to avoid what I refer to as "XP Whoring".  Players that know combat is the way to maximize XP per hour of play, so they can achieve the next level to get increased HPs, Defs, and Abilities, only to fight creatures that also have higher HPs, better Defs and more powerful abilities.  These systems typically minimize actions that occur outside of combat, so players rush characters from one battle to another, never really developing their characters outside of combat.

This system encourages day to day actions, where typically everything can be a opportunity for character development.  The whole session may be spent shopping for supplies, or crawling around a dungeon, the rewards are based on the actions performed and the ingenuity of the player, not the body count at the end of the night.

Yes, combat can be heroic, and is apart of most sessions, but it should be apparent that it is too be avoided, unless the party has the advantage and that there is a significant reward in proceeding into the battle.  The battles are typical one or two per session, possibly more if they are minor skirmishes of single entities.  However even minor creatures, given a bit of luck can leave a lasting wound that has significant penalties or even death.

I think that about does it for giving an idea of the design goals for the system I am creating here.


I've spent a lot of time thinking about Attributes that are required to describe characters of all types.  The basic thought process here was to define an attribute for each of the archetypal character classes.

The five core attributes and the corresponding archetypes are Strength (Barbarian), Leadership (Knight), Intellect (Psychic), Awareness (Wizard) and Dexterity (Thief).  In addition to these there are five more sub-attributes to cover the remaining common character types, Reflex (Assassin), Coordination (Ranger), Power (Fighter), Willpower (Monk) and Faith (Cleric).  The names of both the Attributes and the Names were chosen for the thoughts and imagery that they invoke and so all have unique initial characters.

When listed in a circle the Attributes: Reflex, Dexterity, Coordination, Strength, Power, Leadership, Willpower, Intellect, Faith, Awareness...then back to Reflex.  The corresponding classes are Assassin, Thief, Ranger, Barbarian, Fighter, Knight, Monk, Psychic, Cleric, Wizard...and back to Assassin.

The attributes are linked to success in the skills that the class matching them would most require, but there are many other skills that they will be attempting in their adventures, and balance between excelling in certain areas and sacrificing in others must be made.

The skills performed in a game session will take the combined rank of two attrills to determine it success or failure.  The ten attributes mentioned above when combined are referred to as Attrills.  Even though the game system does have skills that can be learned and increased over time, most tasks will be performed will take into account the intent of the player an the situation of the character, then the GM will tell the character what Attrills will be used in the test to determine the success of the action.
Many of these attrills have been given names, to allow both GMs and players to more easily determine situational effects, but it is encouraged to think up meanings that make sense to your group when using these.  Most of the given explanations consider one of the Attributes to be the dominant one in the way it is used, but in reality both play an equal part.  However, this ambiguity allows for debate in sessions, which is why some guidelines and samples will be provided, to set down some guidelines for GMs to follow.

Above you can see a prototype character sheet.  The top center being "Strength", which is an important attribute for nearly every character, such that it can stand alone, as many common attrills will use this as one of the attributes to determine success.
To the top left are Coordination, Dexterity and Reflex (Red Diamond)...These combine with a racial adjustment and multiplier to determine a characters Luck.  I'll go into details on luck more later, but I thought it's an important enough characteristic to warrant a spot on the record sheet.  I think "Luck" comes into play in a number of areas, but I also like the idea of "Spending Luck" to give players some added control when their dice seem to be against them.
The top right Power, Leadership and WillPower (Green Diamond) combine with racial modifiers to determine characters Health.  This equates to how much abuse/damage a character can take before dying.  This represents the "Max" number, the current health of a character will vary greatly in their adventures.
To the bottom center Intellect, Faith and Awareness (Blue Diamond) combine with racial modifiers to determine the characters Energy.  This essentially converts to what other systems call Mana or Spell Points, or even Stamina.  This represents more the mental/arcane/divine strength of a character, and though Willpower seemed to have a place in this stat, rather than doubling up on that, I choose to leave it out for elegance sake.

I'm still messing with the names and definitions of these attributes and grouping, but this essential gives a good idea of where I'm attempting to go.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I've been busy

I've been swapping things from a d20 to a "Dice Pool", the core mechanic change rippled through the system like a tsunami, but also caused the rift between this and traditional D&D to widen greatly.  My reasons for doing this was simple...There's simply no  story that can be told with a single die roll, it really boils to to success or failure, and not much else.  Yeah sure, "Nat 20" is an epic success, and "Nat 1" is a horrible failure, but it's too much.

My favorite example in this area is the 20 Str Barbarian attempts to open a stuck door, let's say the party is 10th level, so the Str Check for the Barbarian is a +10, and the door is really stuck, DC 15.  The Barbarian comes at it, and rolls a 3, for a result on the Str Check of 13...Fail.  The next vocal member of the party is the Wizard, with a Str of 8, for a +4 on his Str Check.  He walks up to the door and rolls a 13, for a result of 17...and the door is open.

Now thinking in terms of a Dice Pool, a simple pool is a base dice, with an extra dice added per Rank of the given skill.  So, in this example, I'll just use a d10 as the base dice, and a d6 per Rank.  To avoid "negative" dice we'll assume the Wizards base Str is Rank 0, and that would put the Barbarian at Rank 6 (assuming eack +1 grants a rank).  Since a DC 15 is fairly easy in game terms, and anyone would pretty much succeed about 30% of the time, let's assign the DC of the door to a 8, which is what the Wizard would need to open the door (and 8, 9 or 10 on the d10 would open it, so 3 in 10 or 30%).  However the Barbarian with a Rank 6 Str, now rolls a d10+6d6 now only by rolling a "1" on every dice does this guy fail...nearly 2 in a million chance of this happening.
Maybe rather than the Barbarian being defined as Rank 6 Str, they might be Rank 3 At 20 Str, but even that would give them a distinct advantage over the Wizard, d10+3d6, would result in a shaped curve averaging on 15, and to fail on a DC 8 check would very rare, though the scenario of the Wizard beating the Barbarian is still possible, it would be very rare.

That's about the simplest example of a dice pool, other systems like "The One Ring" add much more story telling aspect to the dice rolls.  In this system the base dice is a d12, sides are numbered 1 to 10, then there's an Eye Rune and a Gandelf Rune.  The Eye when rolled essentially not only is a "0" for the base dice, but often denotes a very bad result occurred.  The Gandelf Rune on the hand counts as an automatic success.  To go with is special d12, the players roll a d6 per Rank, with a "6" also denoting a "Special Success".
So, if a player has 3 Ranks in a task, they roll the d12+3d6, against a given DC of a task, often around 14.  But, say the d12 was an "Eye", and the d6's were a 1, 2 and 6.  Even though the total is only 9, the 6 that was rolled denotes a "special success", along with the Eye being something tragic.  This allows an interesting story telling opportunity..."While struggling picking the lock Ravi (the Thief) was forced the lock too hard and his pick actually broke off in the lock, then while fishing out the piece he heard a click as the lock popped open and the broken piece fell to the ground."

A long time time ago I decided that the d% were worthless, as if normally came down to a d10, and if rolled the one edge number then the 2nd dice mattered.  The d20 really seems to be that same way, at least as far as 4E goes.  It just seems that all characters in 4E begin at +4 to +5 now on their main stat, and then you factor in the weapon and it goes up to a +8 to hit at 1st level.  Then the monsters essentially scale to factor in this max'd bonus, so your forced to MinMax or die.  Worse yet, you get artificial bonuses every other level and assumed magical weapon bumps every 5 levels, but none of this matters either, because the monsters all have increased Def as well, so it basically comes down to consistently rolling above a 10 in battle (especially on encounter powers or daily powers).  At least in the "Old School" editions, every bonus to hit really mattered, and AC wasn't so much a factor of a creatures level, so your bonuses seemed to make a big difference...In 4E and Pathfinder to a lesser degree, the attack bonuses are simply expected to survive, and if your not MinMax'd then your not going to make it.

This is the reason for me reworking the mechanics of the system to move away from a d20, and move toward a Dice Pool.  It turns an Attack Roll into a "fortune telling" event, there's good and bad in most rolls, the overall success if easily determined by simple calculation, but there's often more of story to the result than simply a success or failure result.