Tuesday, January 31, 2023

And Now For Something Completely Different

Have I ever told you about my strange side fascination with RPGs to simulate pro wrestling?

Yeah. It's been a thing.

I remember back in the 80s, there was a wrestling RPG that was advertised in PWI (Pro Wrestling Illustrated - I was as fixated on this as I was on Dragon Magazine and GI Joe comics). I was always interested in it, but never actually bought it. However, I decided to devise my own game, which I called PowerSlam, and which I tried to sell but failed spectcularly. I remember sitting in the family room at maybe fourteen years old, listening to REM's Automatic for the People on infinite loop, and writing this game. It was maybe 40 pages long, but I worked on it really, really hard for about a month.

It was pretty bad, but I worked on it like a madman.

Anyhow, I get a lot of wrestling stuff on my phone's news feed. I don't watch wrestling, but I'm always interested in throwback articles about Brett Hart, The British Bulldogs (my all-time-favorites), or the Macho Man.

I saw an article today, and it caused dominoes to start falling in my brain.

A few hours later, I had a draft for a wrestling RPG. I wanted to get the whole thing into two pages, and I think it works. It also seems to emulate wrestling matches as I remember them (not sure if they are still like this - but I have to imagine that there's not a lot new under the sun in the world of pro wrestling). 

I'll probably post it on DrivethruRPG at some point just to get some more eyeballs on it, but I'll tinker with it a bit before then. I like how it feels. I like the idea that I can put an entire promotion (with a roster of fifteen or twenty wrestlers, the titles they have, and their regular events) on a single sheet of paper. I definitely will create my WWF as of 1986 roster just to do it at some point. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

In Theory... Magic

Okay, the revision to the magic system is coming along VERY nicely. I think there is a nice balance between any caster having some fundamentals in place (all casters can detect magic or stun their foes), but there is also a nice differentiation lining up between the various magical types. 

See for yourself.

However, I want to point out my favorite thing, which is how I've resolved the problem with mana/spell points/tallies. I've stripped down and rebuilt the thing several times, and I'm really happy with the results. Here's a summary (in case you don't feel like perusing several pages)...

You have a pool of spells each turn (1 minute) equal to your level. This is your mana.

Each time you cast a spell, you have to check your linked attribute (for example, persona for a light caster) to see if you spend a point of mana. The more powerful a spell is, the more likely it is to cost you a mana point. The DT of the check is 9 + the level of the spell. On a failed check, you spend a point from your mana pool.

The coolness comes with scaling.... let's look at healing word. This is a simple light spell that restores up to your level d6 hits. However, you get to decide how much risk/reward you are investing with every casting; if you restore 2d6 hits, you need to succeed with a DT 11 persona check or you have spent a point of mana. If you restore 5d6 hits, you now need to succeed with a DT 14 persona check. Since you're probably going to have a linked casting attribute of 6 (primary casters will always maximize that attribute, no doubt), a level 1 spell requires a DT 10 check (meaning you are successful on a 1d12 roll of 4 or better), while a level 6 spell requires a DT 15 check (meaning you are successful on a 1d12 roll of 9 or better). High-level spells are likely to use a mana point, while lower-level spells are less likely to do so. Because of the narrower range of the d12 as compared to the d20, a decision to even roll 3d6 instead of 5d6 on a healing spell increases the likelihood of keeping a mana point by over 16%. This is a genuine 

It ends up replicating a spell point system, keeps the best of the previous tally system I had employed, and makes magic a bit more mysterious, since nobody knows for sure when you're going to run out of power. 

By level 6 or so, you're probably going to make it through most combats without spending all of your points (although deciding to do nothing but drop level 5 and 6 spells might eat up those points quickly), but a playtest will reveal more to me.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Clarifying some Paradigms

After mulling it over for some time, and thinking about the various games I've published over the last several decades, I've thought about my favorite character race options over time, and I think I've managed to get this to several options, linked both to attributes and to magic. Here's the current rundown in my imagination:

  • Elves are associated with light magic, and rely on persona (element: air).
  • Dwarves are associated with deep magic, and rely on might (element: earth).
  • Gnomes are associated with arcane magic, and rely on reason (element: fire).
  • Changelings are associated with wild magic, and rely on intuition (element: water).

Running into several problems caused me to move to this, but it actually feels right. The first problem was that it didn't feel right to link deep magic (which I liked being tied to dwarves) with reason (which I don't like linking to dwarves). Having a type of magic that is rooted in your own physical endurance actually works nicely. Adding changelings gives me a nice alternate option that creates the 'thief' default race, but is magical in nature, and which allows me to shift nature magic from being domestic to more untamed. This also then sets up the idea that other faerie folk (leprechauns, sprites, pixies) can use wild magic too, which is also nifty. Gnomes shift over from nature to arcane magic, and from intuition to reason. That also works, but it does change gnomes a bit from my previous post. It makes them more aligned with the tinker gnome trope, which I am a bit meh about, but I think I can find a way to differentiate them going forward. Any dwarf caster is going to use deep magic (they cannot use the other three); any elf is going to use light magic (again, restricted from the other three). There may be 'general' magic available to all four caster types (detect magic, some fundamental spells like light or a basic protection spell of some kind). 

All of these changes mean that I'm going to basically clean out the core rulebook I've got going and start over again. I keep rebuilding the game from the ground up, but I'm okay with that. The goal is not to get the game publication ready; it is to get the game to where I want it to be, whatever that ultimately looks like. 

There's a link to the ongoing update to version 2.0 of the game rules over on the left (under Hack'D & Slash'D resources). Feel free to jump over and take a look.


Some Game Design Fundamentals - Alignment

In thinking about foundational game elements, one of the things I've tinkered with is the idea of alignments and good/evil. In going back to the Greeks for my source material, one of the things is that a character often became synonymous with the adjective associated with that character. Shakespeare then borrowed this and used it sometimes. Odysseus is not just Odysseus, but always 'the clever Odysseus'. It becomes his character trait, but also his philosophy - Odysseus will always do what is the most 'clever' in any situation. Sometimes his actions come across as lawful good, and sometimes as chaotic neutral - but always as clever. "Brave" Macbeth is always brave at the start of the play, showing that his descent into madness is most characterized by his growing cowardice. His character arc is largely defined by the loss of his 'brave' aspect. This is also useful for monsters; the descriptor can also serve as helping the GM make play decisions; devious goblins behave differently than warlike orks or savage ogres might. This replaces an ebtire alignment system, but also provides more concrete roleplaying guidance.

However, 'good' and 'evil' (or 'holy'/'unholy' might work better) are useful tags for mechanic purposes. Good objects and creatures have specific game effects, and so do evil. However, while undead and demons are evil, goblins and giants are generally not. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Even further back

In thinking through the different people of game world (I like a term like 'folk' or 'people' for the law-abiding races, and then humanoids for the chaotic ones), I am thinking in terms of their individual folk magics. Rather than having magic be differentiated by arcane/faith (the paradigm I'm used to), I could go with a primal element sort of thing. Here's some brainstorming on it... normally I compose a post in Google Docs and then bring it over here once I've mulled it a bit, but I'm just doing this right here in the blog after chewing on it a little bit yesterday.

Going back to the Greeks, they believed in four primal elements - earth, air, fire, water, with a fifth element as the 'quintessence'. The implication was that humans were the quintessence. I also like the fundamental idea that the other folk of the land are tied to the other four elements - a fire people, an earth people, a water people, and an air people.

However, my previous experience has tuaght me that I don't really love those as conceptualizing the elements in game terms, because I have trouble perceiving water or air as particularly powerful. I have tended to use the elements in game terms as an axis of three: frost, flame, and lightning. I like this better in some ways, but it leaves glaring holes in other ways.

Both have problems. Where does nature magic fall? Who casts invisibility? What attributes govern them? Are they all the same attribute, or is it different by magical type? Is it different by the type of folk?

Here's a specific comparison... Let's say that two of these folk are going to be gnomes and elves (or something like those). Great. I want to say that gnomes use some kind of nature magic (grounded, practical, useful, applicable to things like farming and animal husbandry) while elves are more ethereal and angelic, wielding a form of light magic. Maybe even have elves be a lesser form of angelic creature. 

How do these fit? What elements govern them? Nature magic and light magic?


What about a different paradigm altogether? Four magics - light vs. dark, nature vs. deep magic. 

Light magic is the magic of healing, help, warding, proection and virtue. It is used by the elves. Linked to persona.

Nature magic (pastoral?) is the magic of the natural world. It is used by gnomes. Linked to intuition.

Deep magic (old magic) is the magic of secrets and the primal elements. It is used by dwarves. Linked to reason.

Dark magic is the magic of destruction, chaos, and pain. Linked to persona. the PCs cannot use this magic without being corrupted.

So, there is no need for 'classes' per se. There would only be three archetypes: The hero, the caster (mystic? I like that), and the rogue. If you are a non-human caster, you default to your racial magic type; dwarves who take casting may only wield deep magic. Gnomes who take casting may only wield nature magic. Humans, as the quintessence, may wield any of the three (but use the attribute of the given magic type).

A human could then be somewhat more complex in terms of character building; a typical witch might be a mystic with nature 2/dark 2/deep 2. 

This would change the way I even think about arranging magic; you might have foundational spells and then those that get unlocked at higher tiers.

Here are some thoughts for light magic (T = your caster tier):

  • Healing. Use 1 action to restore Td6 hits to one living ally in short range. At tier 1, this restores 1d6 hits; at tier 5, this restores 5d6 hits.
  • Bless. Use 1 action to grant a pool of Tier edges to the target; these edges must be used within 1 hour.
  • Smite. Use 1 action to deal Td6 damage to an undead or evil foe in short range. The foe may check persona for half damage.
  • Ward of evil. Use 1 action to grant the target resistance to the attacks and abilities of evil or undead cretures. Against the next number of attacks equal to your tier, the target checks your tier; if successful, that attack is completely ignored.
  • Cure disease (Tier 2). At tier 2, you unlock the ability to cure any disease of a living creature in short range.
  • Removed curse (Tier 4). At tier 4, you unlock the ability to remove a supernatural curse.
  • Raise the dead. (Tier 6). At tier 6, you unlock the ability to use 1 turn to perform a ceremony that restores 1 dead creature to life. The creature must have died within the last 7 days, and the body must be present.

This also changes the tally system as I've conceived it. Now, you might have a number of tallies per day equal to your caster level; you roll 1d6 after every spell you cast; on a 1 you get a tally. For a caster 1, each spell that day might be the last; as a caster 6, you can earn 6 tallies before running out (meaning that you on average get 36 spells a day). Hmf. That's excessive. Okay. I need to re-think tallies, but I like the idea of simplifying tallies to a 1 in 6 chance, and then using edges to increase or decrease the likelihood of a tally.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Gnomes, Halflings, and World Building

I've been going back and forth between stoutlings/halflings/hobbits and gnomes for Hack'D & Slash'D. The first edition had halfings, because ... you know. But as I've thought about it, I've hewed towards swapping them out for gnomes in the next edition; here's why:

- While I like halflings, I've always personally had more of an interest in playing gnomes. Gnomes, to mhy mind (for some reason) are more curious, clever, and adventurous. They're also (again, to my mind- because neither of them actually EXISTS) more flexible in terms of character options; I only ever really see halflings in the roles of rogues - and maybe heroes... but the whole point of heroes in this game is that they are big and strong - and halflings are neither. I have a hard time seeing a mage or warden or cleric coming from the quaint villages of halflings, insofar as I imagine them. Maybe my mind is too small. By contrast, I see gnomes as more likely to become enamored of traps and machinery and the challenges of being a rogue, the path of arcane magic, a holy calling, or even a harkening to nature. I don't see them as heroes, either, but I don't really see elves as heroes either. Maybe heroes would be only allowed for humans (but then where does the archetypal dwarf fighter come from? I would have to reconcile that still).

- I've tended to play and write characters who are gnomes. I have one 'stoutling' character that I truly liked (Pax, the last survivor of his home village), but that's only because he's a tragic, sad, angry 'anti-hobbit' who hates himself. That's not very useful as a game foundation. Conversely, I've created several gnome characters I've liked playing, most notably my character of Mim/Mimsby, who I have written several unpublished stories with (and a few I've shared). Halflings are little humans who think and act like easy-going humans. Gnomes have their own thing going on that makes them different.

- Gnomes are innately magical. They are from the magical world. Tolkien used hobbits are the emissaries from the 'normal world' (albeit in a fantasy realm) who cross over into the special world. Their prespectives and backgrounds provide a contrast by which to measure the fantastic that's around them. I don't know that a fantasy game needs that same level of contrast (or it would even work). Heck, I'm not sure it could even be pulled off today at all - we already know and expect the fantastic in our fantasy stories, and it's getting harder to impress us. This game is about 'special folk' called to a special purpose in a dark and dangerous world. The whole point of the hobbits was that they were common folk who did special things. 

So, gnomes it is. Now, I need to go back to mythology and see how I can somehow make this game's gnomes interesting enough so that they aren't just standard fantasy game gnomes who use illusions and blow things up.

When Comes... the Lyndwyrm!

I'm going back to mythology and folklore for my monsters (rather than 1981), and found the lindwurm. I like him. I thought about how I might adapt this legendary creature to the game, and ways I could make him a little more related to wyverns and dragons. I started with the idea of him being a wyvern (hence the y's in his name) that lives in swamps - not as powerful as a wyvern but a good threat for a low-level party. Maybe the troglodytes keep one of these as a ceremonial symbol of their god's favor? I have included the line drawing and the original inspiration from the wikipedia page below.  

Lyndwyrm [CL 3; TR +6; Armor +6; Hits 3d12+6; Bite 1d12; Hardy; Large; Spit].

Sometimes called a ‘mud dragon’ or ‘muck dragon’, the ponderous lyndwyrm dwells in marshes, swamps, and muck. Relatively slow (-1 edge on initiative checks) the lyndwyrm can use 1 action to spit a glob of mud at one target once per turn to short range; the target must check reflex or be slowed for 1 turn. Lyndwyrm heal quickly in mud or muck (recovering 1 hit per turn). They gather treasures in their muddy pools (+1 edge on treasure checks). Their wings are largely cosmetic, since these are too weak to actually allow flight. Though not amphibious, lyndwyrm can hold their breath for up to six hours, giving them +1 edge to sneak checks when they are still in their pools.