Thursday, December 30, 2010

About Healing and Regeneration

I like how healing has fallen out so far in terms of its uses in the game. I was thinking, however, that healing magic should be especially effective against undead and demons as an attack. Any creature attuned to shadow (maybe?) automatically suffers full damage from a healing-based attack. This makes the warrior maidens of Yahalla especially effective against vampires; with healing +8, she’s going to drop 8 spells in a row on you that deal an average of 15 points of damage. Undead don’t get to resist or defend against this magic- the pure energy is just too blamed strong. I don’t know if this is unbalanced (it probably is… but I’m just brainstorming right now). Maybe you could make this an available application to holy heroes… for 2 CPs, you get an attack (linked to your healing- or to the ability you link healing to) that allows you to deal this damage to undead/shadow creatures. This I like better- Holy Reckoning: once per scene, you roll your linked ability to wound a shadow-attuned creature within rating range. The target automatically suffers the full damage of the attack, and cannot roll to defend or resist. Holy Water then becomes like Holy Reckoning in a can… you throw this stuff and the target must feel it. Holy Water has to be special then- you don’t just buy it in your local temple.

Regeneration has the potential to get really unbalanced as well… here’s where I’m leaning right now with this:
Regeneration as an ability grants you automatic wound recovery at the end of every round. If you put 30 points into regeneration to get it to +10, you almost deserve to recover 10 points every round. As I showed with my Thor example, at high levels, heroes are dishing out large worlds of hurt. Getting back 10 points a click is nice, but won’t always keep up with the damage you are taking in big fights; and you spent 30 of your character points to get it.

Regeneration as an application has to work differently, and be much less effective. It has to give wounds back over time, but not as many per round as the regeneration ability. I am not huge on the way you convert a rating into another rating here, but let’s try this out…

You recover the rating converted as a CP total for a number of rounds equal to the rating… I’ll have to find a clearer way to write it, but here’s an example: with a +6 rating in the linked ability, you get to recover 4 wounds per round (since 6 CPs = a rating of 4) for 6 rounds (a total of 24 wounds). This is helpful and useful, but not as impressive as regeneration over the same time frame (36 wounds), and regular regen continues long after this effect expires. I see ranger types, some necromantic casters and even earth mages taking regeneration as an application. Here’s a breakdown by rating:

Rating (total regeneration)
+1 (1 wound per round for 1 round = 1 total wound)
+2 (2 wounds per round for 2 rounds = 4 total wounds)
+3 (2 wounds per round for 3 rounds = 6 total wounds)
+4 (3 wounds per round for 4 rounds = 12 total wounds)
+5 (3 wounds per round for 5 rounds = 15 total wounds)
+6 (4 wounds per round for 6 rounds = 24 total wounds)
+7 (4 wounds per round for 7 rounds = 28 total wounds)
+8 (4 wounds per round for 8 rounds = 32 total wounds)
+9 (5 wounds per round for 9 rounds = 44 total wounds)
+10 (5 wounds per round for 10 rounds = 50 total wounds)

You do get some big jumps (after +3, +5, +8) where the rating bumps, but this is still a reasonable progression. You could just go half the rating (rounded up) for a number of rounds equal to the rating… this is easier to remember, and not quite as clunky in determining. Let’s check the numbers…

Rating (total regeneration)
+1 (1 wound per round for 1 round = 1 total wound)
+2 (1 wound per round for 2 rounds = 2 total wounds)
+3 (2 wounds per round for 3 rounds = 6 total wounds)
+4 (2 wounds per round for 4 rounds = 8 total wounds)
+5 (3 wounds per round for 5 rounds = 15 total wounds)
+6 (3 wounds per round for 6 rounds = 18 total wounds)
+7 (4 wounds per round for 7 rounds = 28 total wounds)
+8 (4 wounds per round for 8 rounds = 32 total wounds)
+9 (5 wounds per round for 9 rounds = 45 total wounds)
+10 (5 wounds per round for 10 rounds = 50 total wounds)

Wow… that’s almost identical (I can feel the math people rolling their eyes right now… I’m sure there are some statistics classes I could have taken that would have clued me into this a lot sooner). The big disparities are at +2 (4 vs. 2), +4 (12 vs. 8), and +6 (24 vs. 18). The rating conversion method (instead of the take half method) is the stronger system on the whole (the only exception being at +9, where there’s a 1-point difference).

Either of these systems is acceptable, although at lower levels the rating conversion system is stronger… this shouldn’t be a real consideration, but the fact of the matter is that you are only going to link regeneration to an ability you have a relatively high score in (+5 or higher) most of the time. Sure, you could be in the neighborhood of 20 CPs and have Intuition +2 linked to regeneration, but that’s not going to last long…

Okay, one more go at this. What if regeneration fades over time… each time it pulses at -1. This is the easiest by far to remember. Let’s check it:

Rating (Recover in round 1/2/3/…. Total)

+1 (1 point)
+2 (2/1=3 points)
+3 (3/2/1= 6 points)
+4 (4/3/2/1= 10 points)
+5 (5/4/3/2/1=15 points)
+6 (6/5/4/3/2/1=21 points)
+7 (7/6/5/4/3/2/1=28 points)
+8 (8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1=36 points)
+9 (9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1=45 points)
+10 (10/9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1=55 points)

Again, very similar results… some numbers are spot on (again, statistics class: why did I not take you?). This is not a bad system… you activate your regeneration when you’ve taken a good chunk of damage, trying to maximize the return and control your losses as the fight goes on. This one is much more strategic… you wait too long, and you aren’t going to recover quick enough to stay in the fight- you get a big surge right at the beginning (so you know it’s working), and then diminishing payoffs as the fight continues. Regeneration is superior to healing at the top end (a guaranteed 55 points vs. a typical result of 17 wounds recovered, maximum possible result of 22) but healing is better at the low end (at +1, a result of only 1 wound vs. an average of 8). In the middle ground, the results tend to balance (at +5, regen grants you 15 points; healing an average of 12 with a potential of up to 17). The benefit of healing is that you can choose to drop a resolve point to make it more powerful, while with regeneration you won’t have the same option.

Hmmm. Regeneration still feels far too unbalanced… healing restores an average of 7+rating wounds, giving you a total range between 3 wounds (the worst roll of 2 at the lowest bonus of +1) and 22 wounds (the best roll of 12 at the best bonus of +10). Regeneration has to fall within comparable ranges to be balanced… what if we just go with a default of your rating for 3 rounds… so at +1 you recover 3 wounds and at +10 you recover 30.

Rating (Averages for Healing vs. Regeneration)
+1 (Heal 3-13/average 8, regenerate 3)
+2 (heal 4-14/average 9, regenerate 6)
+3 (Heal 5-15/average 10, regenerate 9)
+4 (Heal 6-16/average 11, regenerate 12)
+5 (Heal 7-17/average 12, regenerate 15)
+6 (Heal 8-18/average 13, regenerate 18)
+7 (Heal 9-19/average 14, regenerate 21)
+8 (Heal 10-20/average 10, regenerate 24)
+9 (Heal 11-21/average 10, regenerate 27)
+10 (Heal 12-22/average 10, regenerate 30)

These are more modest results, but also more in line with healing. From +4 onward, regeneration is better over time, but healing is always stronger in the round it happens. As long as you are going to be up for another 2 rounds, regeneration is superior.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

About Tone

Thus far, I’ve taken a very conversational tone in these blog entries, which is a far different tone than I’ve taken in writing games. For one thing, I use the first person pronoun WAY too much in these blog entries. However, there’s something a bit friendlier and more welcoming about this tone, too.

A recent forum thread on discussed how the author’s tone helps/hurts your understanding of the game (at least it did before going waaaay off topic- that’s forum threads for you). I can see how it can do both; too clinical, and you bore the reader, too conversational, and you’re likely to make the game about your personality rather than the system. You want the rules to be as easy-to-understand as possible, but this is a game system and not a textbook, after all… Some rpg writers (myself included) have used first-person text by a character in the world of the game to bring the reader in, and create this sort of connection with the reader in a more superficial (and sometimes overdone) way.

I want to keep playing with tone to find a conversational yet thorough and precise way to address the reader. Clarity has to be the number one priority; being conversational and engaging the reader is a close second. For example, I need to use uniform language in discussing rules or how those rules are used in context. I can’t say that an ability ‘stacks’ with another ability (since that’s a specific way to apply bonuses) and then substitute the word ‘synergize’ or ‘augment’ later in the paragraph- synergize and augment are not game terms for applying bonuses to abilities, and therefore are better prose but weaker game writing.

The trick is going to be in adding flavor to the text while also keeping the rule parts clean and direct. I think that’s the difference; keep the rules as succinct and clear as possible, but feel free to get a little more conversational in the ‘how to play the game’ sections (or ‘in play’, as I’ve used in other games).

This I like.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Game Breakers

This is never a fun part of the game design process, but it must needs be done… it’s time to try to break my game. Yeah, it’s not even close to done yet (or even in draft form really), but I have enough of it down in my notes and head to have a go at wrecking the whole thing… Let’s go with Thor vs. the Spawn of the Midgard Serpent, shall we? Let’s take this thing out and see how it handles the tough terrain… I’m not going to give the Midgard Serpent’s spawn Resolve.

Thor, the Thunderer (200 CPs)
Armor +5; Fighting +10; Might +10; Precision +6; Stamina +10
Focus +6; Resolve +8; Warding +5; Call Lightning +10 (Energize Weapon; Control Weather; Flight)
Intuition +6
Carries Mjolnir, a +11 weapon; this deals +21 damage in melee, +17 damage when thrown (up to 10 units)
When he energizes Mjolnir, it deals an additional +2 damage (+23 melee/+19 thrown)
He wears Norse Battle Armor +5.

Spawn of the Midgard Serpent (200 CPs)

Invulnerable +9; Fighting +9 (Bonus Attack); Might +10 (Strike); Focus +8 (Lore); Warding +8; Intuition +9 (Nature); Poison +11; Speed +6

Setup: Having learned that the Midgard Serpent has spawned progeny across the multiverse, Thor has undertaken a quest to find these progeny in their nests and destroy them before they set out to wreck untold destruction on the realm of mortals. That sounds Thor-y, doesn’t it?

Being Thor, he arrives in the chamber, calling out to the serpent to face him… and it does! It’s time for sequence! They start 12 units (120’) apart.

• Thor rolls 8+6=14 and the Spawn (we’ll call him Mid) rolls 8+9=17.
• Mid goes first, slithering across the chamber towards Thor. It travels 3+6 (its speed) =9 units. It’s now almost in melee range.
• Thor uses his turn to energize his hammer, preparing for total pwnage… or so he hopes.
• The serpent travels 2 more units (to close for melee) and takes a -2 penalty to his attack (FYI, I’m thinking you can move up to your total movement- everyone gets a base of 3 units per turn- taking -1 to your attack for each unit you move. Since Mid has this base 3 + his speed of 6= 9, he could travel up to 9 units and still attack… he only needs to move 2 to get in melee, so he does and then bites at -2). He rolls 11+9-2=18 to hit, and Thor rolls 9+10=19 to evade. Thor dodges the lunging bite of the serpent.
• Thor swings his hammer at the thing’s head. He rolls 4+10=14 to hit, and Mid rolls 6+9=15 to evade. Right away, Thor will spend a Resolve point, using his call lightning to drive the attack home, now striking at +24, and hitting by +9. Rolling for damage, he gets 11+23+9=43 damage, and the serpent’s invulnerability soaks 11+9=20 of this. Thor deals 23 wounds, leaving the serpent at 177.
• Mid bites again, getting 7+9=16, and Thor rolls 6+10=16. The serpent barely hits. For damage, it rolls 9+10+10=29 damage, and Thor rolls 3+5=8 to soak. He suffers 21 wounds, leaving him at 179. He has to roll to resist the poisonous bite of the serpent. I’ll use static 7 for the poison, giving it a total DR of 16. Thor rolls stamina, getting 8+10=18. He easily fights off the poison (the benefit of having stamina +10; it’s REALLY hard to poison you…).
• Thor’s quite willing to spend Resolve here, and brings forth another thunderclap as he lets Mjolnir fall upon the serpent’s head… he rolls 9+10+10=29 to hit, and the serpent rolls 8+9=17 to evade. Thor hits by +12; rolling for damage he gets 10+23+12=45 vs. the serpent’s soak of 5+9=14. Thor deals an impressive 31 wounds, leaving the serpent reeling at 146.
• The serpent is feeling the fight turning against him, and decides to try a new strategy… he’s going to bite while also trying to hit Thor with a tail swipe. He’ll need some good rolling to pull this off, but it’s worth a try. He rolls 7 on the die to hit with the bite, and Thor rolls 4+10=14 to resist. He’ll use 7 of his 9 fighting points to bump his attack to 14 and hit, adding the other 2 to his tail strike roll; he rolls the tail strike, getting 10+2=12 to hit; Thor only rolls 5+10=15 to evade this and does so (his fighting is so high that the serpent is going to have trouble breaking up attacks like this… he’ll stick with the bite from here out). For the bite attack, he rolls damage, getting 3 (ugh!) +10+10=23 damage, and Thor rolls 11+5=16 to soak. He deals only 7 wounds, leaving Thor at 172 wounds. Thor has to attempt to resist the poison again, and rolls 7+10=17. The DR is 16, so he barely shrugs it off.
• Thor’s been spending his resolve like water, so he’ll continue… he spends his third resolve point to invoke more storm power, and will also put a fourth resolve point into channeling his own stamina into damage. He throws himself into the mightiest swing he can muster, hoping to deliver a death blow (although I think this is very unlikely…) He rolls 10+10+10=30 to hit, and Middy rolls 7+9=16 to evade. Thor hits by +14. For damage, he rolls 5+23+10+14=52, and the serpent rolls 2+9=11 to soak. Thor doesn’t finish it, but he does deal 41 wounds, leaving the serpent feeling the pain at 105 wounds.
• The poor serpent is starting to feel a little hopeless… a lucky strike against the god of thunder would sure brighten up his day! He bites again, rolling 7+9=16 to hit, and Thor rolls 6+10=16 to evade. The bite barely lands; for damage, Mid rolls 8+10+10=28, and Thor rolls 4+5=9 to soak. This is a good hit, and Thor suffers 21 wounds, leaving him at 151. He has to try to stave off the poison again, and rolls 5+10=15… and fails! He suffers 1 more wound from the poison (ech) and is now at an even 150 wounds, with a little of the serpent’s poison in his system.
• Thor has no reason to change his strategy… this is working just fine! He calls another thunderclap, rolling 11+10+10=31 to hit, and the serpent rolls 3+9=12 to evade. Thor hits by +19. For damage, he spends his sixth resolve point, dealing 7+23+19+10=59 wounds, while the serpent rolls 6+9=15 to soak. Thor deals another 44 wounds, leaving the serpent at 61 wounds.
• It’s the end of the round, so Thor has to roll to soak the poison. He rolls 7+10=17, and ends the poison.
• The serpent goes to bite again, getting 8+9=17 to hit; Thor rolls 7+10=17 to evade. The serpent barely hits. Thor could use a Resolve point to have his intuition (+6) help him evade the blow, but why bother? He’s winning pretty handily at present… he’d rather have the resolve for offense right now. For damage, Mid rolls 9+10+10=29 wounds, and Thor’s armor soaks 9+5=14 of those; he takes 15 wounds, leaving him at 135. He has to soak the poison, and rolls 10+10=20, easily resisting the poison and ending its onset.
• Thor will use his final two resolve points here… one on the attack, one on damage. He rolls to attack, getting 9+10+10=29 to hit, and the serpent rolls 10+9=19 to evade. Thor hits by only +10… for damage, he rolls 4+23+10+10=47 vs. the serpent’s soak of 3+9=12. Thor deals 35 wounds, leaving the serpent at 26 wounds.
• The serpent rolls 5+9=14 to hit, and Thor rolls 9+10=19 to evade. He’s just toying with the snake now, as the creature stumbles around, trying to regain its bearings…
• Thor calls lightning, standing back to finish the creature with pure lightning; he rolls 8+6=14 to hit with the lightning bolt, and the serpent rolls 6+8=14 to defend. Thor barely hits with the lightning bolt, and rolls for damage, getting 9+10=19 vs. the serpent’s warding of 2+9=11… he deals only 8 wounds, but is just as happy to humiliate as finish. Mid is down to 18 wounds.
• The Spawn of the Midgard Serpent takes a frantic bite, rolling 8+9=17, but Thor easily beats its strike away with his hammer, rolling 12+10=22…
• Thor now brings Mjolnir around, rolling 5+10=15 to hit, while the serpent rolls 5+9=14 to evade. He hits by +1. For damage, Thor rolls 6+23+1=30 damage, and the serpent rolls 4+9=13 to soak. It suffers 17 wounds, leaving it at 1 wound!
• Flailing about in absolute misery, the serpent takes a final lunge, rolling 8+9=17 to hit; Thor rolls 7+10=17 to evade. The serpent barely strikes, rolling 5+10+10=25 damage vs. Thor’s soak of 7+5=12. Thor takes 13 wounds, leaving him at 122 wounds.
• Thor brings Mjolnir down on the creature’s back, rolling a natural 2, and fumbling! The serpent has been feigning being unable to defend itself, and leads Thor into overconfidence… now it gets a free resolve point to use on its next strike due to the botch.
• The serpent rolls fighting and adds its might +10 to the attack, rolling 5+9+10=24 to hit, and Thor rolls 8+10=18 to evade. The serpent hits by +6… for damage, Middy rolls 10+10+10+6=36, and Thor rolls 6+5=11 to soak. He suffers 25 wounds from a vicious bite, and is now down to 97 wounds. He has to attempt to soak the poison again, rolling 11+10=21 to easily stave off the toxin.
• Thor swings his hammer again, somewhat miffed at the serpent for attempting to psych him out… he rolls 6+10=16 to hit, and Mid rolls 8+9=17 to evade… this thing just won’t die!
• The serpent bites, rolling 7+9=16 vs. Thor’s evade of 9+10=19. He won’t be fooled again!
• Thor swings, getting 9+10=19 vs. its defense roll of 4+9=13… that should do it. Thor hits by +6, rolling damage 10+23+6=39 vs. Mid’s invulnerability soak of 4+9=13. He deals 26 wounds, leaving the serpent at -25 and D.E.A.D. Thor ends the fight with 97 wounds.

• I like it that a botch on an attack roll gives the target an automatic resolve point to use on the next action. That makes a lot of sense, and can turn the tide of a fight quickly with a few bad rolls.
• I tried to break the game- and failed! Even when dealing with 200 CP creatures, the dice still matter- a lot.
• Resolve is HUGE. Thor was able to lay the smack down early due to liberal use of Resolve points. If you don’t buy resolve, you’re missing out on one of the cooler aspects of combat (at least, I think so).
• The serpent was a little bland, in general. I’d like him to have a constriction attack of some kind or some way to wear down Thor other than just the bite and poison… a constriction attack tied to his might that gives the target penalties and gives him bonuses might have been nice. I’ll put that on my play testing list…
• This was a pretty long combat (10 rounds), and I was happy not to have to roll sequence or determine order more than once… we got going, and just kept taking turns. It was a reasonable rotation, and it kept things moving.
• I totally forgot that speed should give you bonus actions several times during combat! Mid would have been able to take several (6) multi attacks with full fighting on both (a tail slash and a bite both at +9 simultaneously due to its great speed). I’m still confident that Thor would have won, but it would have been a little closer. It really bites that I forgot to do that… 6 more attacks; on average he would have hit maybe three, dealing about 15 wounds each time… so Thor would probably have suffered about 45 more wounds, and the fight would have been a lot closer.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Messari

The messari have been my ‘big bad’ for decades. They’ve been the master manipulators that pull all the strings in my games.

The messari exist beyond time and space. They’re not really demons, because demons are still restricted to the same rules of basic physics (at least in my imagination- I can’t say about the real ones), whereas the messari aren’t. They are sort of an entire race of Kang the Conquerors mixed with Mind Flayers and Cylons- their realm (the Ethereal? Limbo?) is the common glue that binds together all times and places equally… no, that’s not right. It’s not really a glue- it’s more a subtle force that pervades all things- it’s the evil version of the force (and not just the dark side- more the ‘anti-force’).

Their power comes from fear- they serve a creature I’m calling the Devourer (for lack of a better term) who feeds on psychic energy. The more powerful and painful the energy, the bigger the meal. Simultaneously, the messari felt their power waning as the worlds became more settled- people were comfortable across time and space. A general feeling of security had pervaded all realms, and the messari were starting to feel the pinch. In fact, their realm itself was going to cease to exist. They were all going to die. Once mankind became completely free of all worries for his future- once a form of utopia existed in a sufficient number of realities- the ether ends, and the messari die. Just gone.

So, they can’t let that happen. They devise a plan. Or rather, a series of plans. They sow discontent among mortals. Jealousy of their goddess; rivalries with their neighboring worlds; fear of an alien invasion, and set the wheels in motion. Let everything fall apart. Chaos reigns. After the dust settles, all hope for a perfect world has been lost, replaced by suffering and hopelessness.

MMMMM. Now that’s good eating.

The messari bounce back to their home realm, and chill there. Whenever they feel mankind starting to get his druthers on and feel good, they just send a team to wreck havoc and let slip the dogs of war, and all is sunshine and buttercups for them (metaphorically- the messari hate both sunshine and buttercups with equal passion).

The messari become the ultimate bottom feeders. Psychological cockroaches.

But it’s been twenty years. The Children of the Reckoning are coming to adulthood. They are different than their forebears. You see, the Reckonings had a consequence that the messari did not expect; each of these cataclysms (the death of Yahalla, the implosion of the sun, the destruction of Meridian) released a pulse of energy that actually changed people- magically, genetically, spiritually, psychologically. They can become super-heroes, or wield great magic, or master psionic disciplines- in new and different ways than ever before. The messari don’t know why this is happening, and it’s definitely a side-effect they’re not happy with, and the whole thing could muss up their plans.

Frack it all. They just created heroes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And About the World(s)...

I keep thinking about how the various incarnations of the game may be linked- what are the common themes that reverberate between the supers and fantasy (and other) settings- for example, what ties Knights of the Falling Stars to Arvandoria/Del Anon and to the worlds of the supers game? I know that light/dark and good/evil are sort of universal fantasy/adventure conflicts and those are easy enough to use as the common theme linking the various games, but it’s a bit trite. Okay, it’s exceptionally trite.

Then it hit me. Ruins.

Del Anon has been my fantasy world for 20+ years, and I’ve spent that time fleshing it out a little at a time. I’ve always assumed that Del Anon meant ‘the land between’, a not-so-subtle borrowing from both Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the Norse concept of earth as the middle of creation.

Now, I’m only an English teacher and not a linguistic; however, I want there to be some veracity to the way that my fictional language of Old Gallan (as close as my fantasy world comes to Latin) is represented. I know that Del means ‘land’ in Old Gallan, although Anon has a more negative connotation than “between”. In fact, another realm I was working on for a bit I called “Del Marev”, and that feels more like “middle” to me. If Del Marev was the old world (before the Reckoning of the fantasy game) was the same way that Meridian (the city in the middle) was the ‘old world’ before the Messari attack that fostered the creation of Nativity… there’s my link. A virtually utopian world that has been destroyed from within, cast into ruins. The heroes of this world (whatever world it is) need tremendous resolve (hence the title) to fight back the darkness and restore the world to its previous glory- or even better yet, find a new glory.

And my map backs it up.

Previously, I’ve published a map of Del Anon- but it was only half the map I had drawn all those years ago (probably 1998 or so), and I’ve never been quite sure why I had a second side to the continent- I never knew what it was. Now I think I know…

The eastern continent (the side you may have seen somewhere) is the remains of Del Marev, ripped apart through its interaction with the Barrens. The western continent is the ruins of Arvandoria, the faerie land. In short, the eastern lands are darker and more brutal, the western lands more magical and mysterious.

Arvandoria once had this series of towers that once linked the magical nexus points of the realm, keeping its magical energy humming nicely- unfortunately, those are all broken. The great cities of man from Del Marev? About ¾ are now desolate ruins inhabited by all nasty things… which is a shame, considering the libraries, magical devices and incredible treasures that were once held there.

Oh, and the Supers game? It has the ruins of Meridian buried beneath Nativity; it has the ruins of the Citadel of Tomorrow sitting under the frozen north… and I think it might have other ruins. Valhalla, the seat of the Norse gods? Yeah, it’s been wrecked. Atlantis? A ravaged war zone. Mount Olympus? Not a bad place to visit if you can stomach a little nuclear radiation. In fact, the planet that the Messari took over and used as a staging ground for their first invasion of earth- Mars- yeah, it’s been pretty well trashed as well. Too bad, too, with all those incredible Martian artifacts that are now buried under millions of miles of red sand…

And you don’t even want to know about the Five Systems (formerly the Six systems)… the biggest sun imploded, and the huge black hole at the center of the star cluster threatens to wipe everything out… including the ruined planets hovering on its fringes that may hold the secrets to closing the black hole forever, if heroes can get to them, and survive the horrors they present.

I’ve been playing with these worlds for about 20 years, so let’s make that our starting point. It’s been 20 years- for all of them. All worlds suffered a Reckoning that reverberated across time and space. All things were affected. The great source of power (the most powerful sun, the one true goddess, he who sees all things) was destroyed, and the ripple effects were felt everywhere.

And the Messari were behind it all...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Art Direction

In my first blog entry, I wrote about how all of the elements of the game should fit together cohesively… and then I spent the next 20 or so entries talking purely about mechanics. I figured it was time to talk about something other than number crunching. How about the world?

I spent some time today reading over an unpublished section of the novel I’ve written (I really will get that finished some day- it just needs a week of solid editing and it should be done- I just never get around to it), and started to think about the visuals of the story. How does this thing look if it’s a graphic novel? That’s what I want out of the visuals for the game.

I started thinking about the Stephen Fabian drawings from the old AD+D Manual of the Planes- they had this soft, ethereal quality that I really like, and that I don’t see much of in contemporary games. I don’t know if the feel of the art is at all dated, but I’d like to capture that softer, Charles Vess sort of feel to the world. Very soft and textured.

Of course, I write all this as if I can just start whipping off these incredible drawings modeled on some of the greats in fantasy art. I don’t presume that for a second. However, I think that my drawing may be a little too cartoony and simple for where the game should go, and I either need to learn how to draw differently and push myself in new directions, or find an illustrator who can do these drawings for me. Since this is not a money-making operation of any great shakes, I think I’m going to be stuck doing the illustrations myself.

It will be fun to rough out some concept art and see where this goes…

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wounds and Levels

For the sample heroes so far, I’ve used their CP total as their wound total, since this is the ballpark of where characters should end up. This is pretty reasonable. Every CP you add to your character total is +1 wound you can take before you risk being knocked out. A dragon built on 150 CPs also has 150 wounds. A young watchman built on 5 CPs also can take 5 wounds. Simple enough.

However, I also like the idea of stamina being linked to your wounds. Originally, I was going to go old school D+D style, and have you roll your wounds every level. Each time you advance in level, you roll 2D+ stamina, adding this to your wounds total. On average, most characters would end up with wounds roughly equal to their CP total anyway, although characters with high stamina would end up with higher wounds. For example, a level 10 character (100 CPs) would have:
100 wounds with the first method I talked about.
An average of 110 wounds with Stamina +3 (average roll of 7+3=10 each level for 11 levels).*
An average of 77 wounds with Stamina +0 (average roll of 7+0=7 each level for 11 levels).*
An average of 165 wounds with Stamina +8 (average roll of 7+8=15 each level for 11 levels).*

* level 0 has to count as a level, since you would roll your health at 0 and again at 1… it’s not like a creature built on 1-9 CPs has no wounds at all!

With the random method, a dragon built on 150 CPs (level 15) with Stamina +8 is going to have between 150 and 300 wounds, with an average of 225. That’s a LOT of wounds, but it makes sense that a dragon will have a lot more wounds. Creatures with high stamina should have more wounds.

The real issue I have with this is the concept of levels. The game feels like it’s moving away from levels as an important concept. No abilities are tied to levels or level progression, and I don’t see any need for levels as a part of the progress of the game. For example, here’s the CP progression I’ve had in mind as I’ve worked:

0-9 CPs = Novice, Beginner
10-29 CPs= Apprentice, Initiate, Rookie, Tenderfoot (New heroes start at 10 CPs)
30-59 CPs= Adept, Street Level, Name-level
60-99 CPs= Expert, Hero (Most superheroes start at 60 CPs)
100-149 CPs= Master, Super-hero
150-199 CPs= Paragon, Legend, World Class
200+ CPs= Godlike

This puts Superman in the 150-175 range, and the members of the Fantastic Four, as well as most X-Men, in the 60-99 range. Most Justice Leaguers and the top Avengers (Hulk, Thor, Iron Man) would be in the 100-149 range I’d think. My models of Wolvie and Cap ended up at 99 CPs, and they both felt just about right. Is 99 the cap for a mortal character? That’s kind of a cool concept; your character (if a mortal) cannot proceed past 99 CPs. You’d have to argue then that Superman and the Hulk are not mortal characters, but in some senses they are immortal- or as close as we’re likely to get. Hmmm. I’ll think on this more…

I still don’t know how to solve the wounds issue; I like random generation for wounds, but I don’t see the benefit of putting levels in the game. If you have wounds completely tied to stamina, then everyone is going to have to have some stamina… and wounds are going to stay pretty low. If you have the ability to deal upwards of 25 wounds in a single strike (and most heroes will before too long), 50 wounds is not all that much.

You could go Marvel FASERIP style and have wounds tied directly only to the total of your physical abilities, but then you run into another set of problems; by tying your stealth to your intuition instead of your precision, you just cost yourself 2 wounds. Is stealth a physical or mental ability when you buy it independently? It gets too hard to figure out, and the cost to get there isn’t worth the variety you get in the exchange.

I think that keeping wounds tied to your CP total is the most reasonable solution. Being built on 200 CPs inherently gives you a lot of health. I’ll go with that for now, although the 10-year-old gamer in my heart still wants random health determination… I could always include sidebars for ‘house rules’ allowing you to roll your health randomly, and including ‘levels’ as part of that … every 10 CPs, you roll 2D+ your stamina and add this to your total wounds. This is easy enough to add, gives you more options as a player, and doesn’t unbalance things in either direction. To determine wounds for enemies, just take (7 + stamina) x (level +1)… since you would roll for wounds at level 0.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Let’s have these heroes (from last post) fight a big spider…

Creatively-Named Big Spider (30 CPs): Fighting +4; Might +4 (Strike); Stamina +3; Invulnerable +2; Wall Crawling [2]; Poison +3; Stealth +3
The spider deals +8 damage (might doubled based on strike) when it lands a successful bite attack.

Anj and Mim enter a tomb, looking for a particular book that Mim has heard tell of… and as they step into the cobweb-filled entryway, a spider lurking in the shadows overhead attempts to get in position to launch a surprise attack…

It rolls stealth, getting 8+3=11. Neither Anj nor Mim has Intuition, so they both roll 2D unmodified to notice; Mim rolls 9, and Anj rolls 11. Since ties go to the attacker, the spider succeeds (barely), and is able to get a free attack at +3 (its stealth rating).

The spider attacks Anj, rolling 5+ 4 (fighting) +3 (stealth) =12 to attack. Anj rolls 10+4=14 to parry. She manages to get her sword up in time, blocking the bite of the spider as its mandibles excrete a green poison that drips on her gloves... It’s time to roll sequence.

Anj rolls 9; Mim rolls 7; the spider rolls 7. That will be the order.

• Anj swings her sword, rolling 8+4=12 to hit; the spider rolls 7+4=11 to defend. She hits by +1. For damage (without any magical boosting so far), she rolls 6+5+1=12 damage. The spider rolls 6+2=8 to soak. She deals 4 wounds, leaving the spider at 26 wounds.
• Mim boosts Anj’s Might to +4.
• The spider goes to bite, rolling 10+4=12 to bite (fighting). Anj rolls 7+4=11 to defend. The spider hits by +1. For damage, it rolls 8+ 8 (might + strike) +1 (bonus from attack) =17 wounds. Anj rolls 7+3 (her armor rating) = 10 to soak. She suffers 7 wounds, leaving her at 13 wounds. She has to roll to resist the spider’s poison. We’ll use static 7 for that, although we could roll it; she has to resist its total rating of 10 (7+3). This poison will tic up to 3 times, although if she successfully resists it (rolling 11 or better on any tic), she ends the effect. She rolls 7 +3 (Stamina) =10, and fights off the poison this round, although it will still tic 2 more times.
• Anj holds her action to after Mim… she will drop to that position for the rest of the scene, acting after Mim does.
• Mim uses his turn to Energize their weapons.
• On her turn (after the delay), Anj swings her sword, using one of her Resolve points now that her Might is boosted (adding this to her attack for a great cleave). She rolls 10 +4 (fighting) +4 (Might) = 18 to hit. The spider rolls fighting to defend, getting 12+4=16. She only hits by +2 because the spider’s defensive roll was the best it could be… although she would have missed without the use of the Resolve point. For damage, she rolls 6+10+2=18 wounds. The spider rolls to soak, getting 7+2=9. It suffers 9 more wounds, leaving it at 17 wounds.
• On its turn, the spider bites her again, rolling 7+4=11. If it had Resolve points, it would start using them… Anj rolls to defend, getting 6+4=10. It hits by +1. For damage, the spider rolls 4+8+1=13, and Anj rolls 8+3=11 to soak. She suffers 2 more wounds, leaving her at 11 wounds. Since it’s the end of the round, Anj also has to roll to resist the poison again, and rolls 11+3=14. She not only withstands the poison, but her roll is good enough to shake off the effect altogether. The spider can inject poison again, but not until its next action… the poison technically tics at the end of the round, after all other actions are finished.
• On his turn, Mim uses his healing on Anjelica, rolling 5+4=9 wounds. She recovers 9 wounds, putting her back up to 20 wounds (her starting total). That’s Mim’s only chance to heal this scene.
• On her turn, Anj is feeling good, and wants to end this fight; planning to use another Resolve point to cleave, adding her might to her fighting; she rolls a natural 2!. She automatically fails, but doesn’t have to spend the Resolve point. (That rule will have to specifically be spelled out- you don’t have to declare Resolve point use until all dice have been rolled).
• On its turn, the spider attacks again, rolling 4+4=8, and Anj rolls 6+4=10 to defend. She successfully evades the spider’s bite.
• On his turn, Mim finally gets to fire an arrow, and will use a Resolve point to apply his knowledge of spider physiology (Lore) to his fighting attack roll. He rolls 5+2+4=11 and the spider rolls 5+4=9 to defend. Mim hits by +2. For damage, he rolls 4+4+2=10 damage, and the spider rolls 6+2=8 to soak. He deals 2 wounds, leaving the spider at 15 wounds.
• Anj will try again with her Resolve… she rolls 8+4+4 (might) =16 to hit; the spider rolls 11+4=15 to defend. Again, the Resolve point helped her to overcome a great defensive roll. For damage, she spends another Resolve point to add her Fighting to damage (leaving her with 1 Resolve point for the scene), rolling 5+10+4+1=20 damage; the spider rolls 6+2=8 to soak. She deals 12 wounds, leaving the spider badly damaged with only 3 wounds remaining.
• On its turn, the spider bites, rolling 7+4=11 to hit, but Anj rolls 8+4=12 to defend, and the spider misses.
• Mim fires another arrow, rolling 9+2=11 to hit, and the spider rolls 4+4=8 to defend. He hits by +3. For damage, Mim rolls 7+4+3=14. The spider soaks 7+2=9, meaning that it suffers 5 wounds; this drops it to -2 wounds, and it falls.

• The heroes had a relatively easy time of it. Anj ended up at about half of her wounds, but a single heal (although that was all he had), got her back to full, and she never took damage again.
• The use of Resolve points made a big difference. They hit three times when they would have missed without Resolve points. That’s another 1-2 attacks the spider would have been able to make without them.
• Mim doesn’t deal a lot of damage, but he’s not built to- he’s a support character. I think that he can be fun to play, and his use of Lore in combat situations (through Resolve) makes him a viable combatant, and a useful member of the team. The fact that he has a mesmerize spell he never used (and which would almost surely have been successful) means that they could have feasibly faced two of these spiders at once; mathematically, this one spider was a challenge equal to their abilities; two spiders would have been far beyond their comparative level, but the way the two heroes are balanced makes them potentially tough enough to win.
• Giving Resolve to villains is the difference between an average and very capable adversary. As a general rule, common foes are going to have no resolve at all. Goblins, zombies, spiders, robots- no resolve for them.

Let's Make Some Heroes

I guess that I can start a little play testing now… I’m going to go with fantasy characters first. I’ll go with a team of two heroes, and try to maximize their compatibility so that they support each other well. They are both built on 20 character points, making them low level, but not starting characters; they have a little experience.

Note: I’m going to put the total bonus next to rated abilities, but for any ability that does not have the default CP cost, the math will be in brackets; the first number is the CP investment, the second number is a magical bonus.

The first hero is…

Anjelica, a sword-wielding human champion.
Fighting +4; Might +2 or +4 [2/4]; Stamina +3; Armor +3; Resolve +4 [4/+1 shift from being human)
Limitation: Code of Honor (-2 CPs)
Carries a two-handed sword +5 [10]; Wears Chain Mail Armor +3
Without Mim’s magic, Anj has Might +2 and her sword deals +5 damage; after Boost Might, her sword deals +9 damage; with Boost Might and Energize Weapon, her sword moves to +6 [10/2], dealing a total of +10 damage.

The second hero is…

Mim, a Gnome Bard
Fighting +2; Precision +2
Focus +2; Lore +4 (Boost Might; Energize Weapon; Heal; Mesmerize); Resolve +2
Limitation: Vow to protect libraries, books and learning.
Carries a short bow +3 [4]; with Energize Weapon it becomes +4 [4/2].

Strategy: Anjelica immediately engages the most powerful foe. If there are multiple foes, Mim attempts to mesmerize the second most powerful (or more if they are mooks). Mim’s next priority is to Boost Might on Anjelica, then to Energize both his bow and her sword (which he can do on a single turn). Thereafter, he starts plunking away with his bow, stopping to heal if Anjelica takes considerable wounds.

I really like that Mim, as a bard, ties all of his magical abilities to his Lore. He is not a conventional caster at all; he doesn’t actually have an attack spell in the traditional sense; his magic is all tied to his ancient knowledge. His fighting is relatively low, but his Resolve allows him to use his lore of creatures and their physiologies to target weak points during the fight if needed (taking +4 to a fighting roll) and attacking with his bow at +6 for 1 or 2 turns.

Even with low-level heroes, you can really customize them and get very fiddly with the points in building the heroes. You need to work out ahead of time what your stats are going to be based on the different variables (to speed play), but even a half dozen different options aren’t too hard to figure out and have at the ready. You can still easily fit a character on a 3x5 card, even with all the options you could have.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some Applications

Here are some applications I have floating around in my head, and I want to get them down before I start forgetting them. I’m actually starting to get close to building a play test rules document, but I’ll hammer out a few more things first.

Short Hand: Application (linked ability). How it works.

• Bonus Attack (fighting; only for creatures using natural attacks). You may elect to split your fighting between two attacks each turn. You must designate what the second attack is (for example, using a bite as your primary attack and a claw as your second; using two claws; using a tail strike primarily and a bite as your bonus attack).
• Finesse (precision). Your precision (instead of your might) sets the maximum rating for melee weapons you may wield (rated at precision +1). You now add precision to damage rolls with finesse-based weapons; with might +2, precision +7 and finesse, you may wield a +8 finesse-based melee weapon (a scimitar, a quarterstaff, a katana), and you deal 2D +7 (precision) +8 (weapon rating) damage. If you pick up a war hammer (a might-based weapon), you only deal a maximum of +5 damage with it; your might + the weapon rating, limited to might +1.
• Rage (stamina). You have a pool of points each scene equal to your stamina rating to add to might rolls as needed. You can add all of these to a single might roll, or you can distribute them as the fight continues. The Hulk, with his Stamina +10, has a pool of 10 points to add to rolls with his already extremely formidable Might +12 from his Rage. His might stays +12, but he has a pool of 10 points to bump this up as needed. If wants to use his rage to lift several thousand tons, he’s probably going to be able to do it; even if he rolls poorly, he can always burn a Resolve point to add his invulnerability to the roll (for example), using his own body as a fulcrum.
• Shield Use (fighting). You have a pool of points each scene up to your fighting rating (depending on the shield) to add to armor soak rolls as desired. For example, with fighting +6 and shield use, you can carry up to a shield +6. If you only have a shield +4 available, you only get to add 4 points to your pool each scene to add to armor soak rolls.
• Two-Handed (might). You have a pool of points each scene equal to your might rating to add to fighting rolls as desired. With might +8 and two-handed, you have 8 discretionary points to add to fighting rolls over the course of the battle. You could elect to add all of these to a single attack roll, or you could parcel them out as needed, increasing fighting rolls to score hits later in the fight when you may have barely missed.

Note: You can only apply shield use, two-handed or bonus attack (two weapons, one in each hand) at any time. You could potentially purchase all three, but you’d have to change between attack forms as the fight went on (probably as free actions)… although this might be interesting in a prolonged fight. In an epic battle with a dragon, you begin with your shield out, beating away its attacks… once you’ve used all your shield points, you discard your shield and double-grip your bastard sword, laying into the beast with several mighty blows. Once you’ve used all of your bonus points from two-handed, you slip your bastard sword back into your right hand, and draw your short sword with your left, striking with two weapons for the rest of the battle. I like the dramatic sense of this, and the way a battle flows as a result.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Some More About Resolve

I’m absolutely LOVING how Resolve works… to whit:

• As an archer with high Stealth, you decide to burn a Resolve point to add your Stealth to a Fighting roll with your bow; you make your foe think you’re aiming one place, and at the last second you redirect your shot to another vital area your target has now left exposed…
• As a cleric with high Healing, you use a Resolve point to add your Healing to an armor soak roll, surrounding yourself in a holy aura that turns back the enemy strike.
• As a warrior with high Stamina, you spend a Resolve point to add your Stamina to a damage roll, physically throwing your body into the blow, dealing Might + Weapon Rating + Stamina damage on this particular attack.
• As a capable wizard, you have low Intuition (+1), but at the beginning of a scene, you need a great sequence roll. You use a Resolve point and your remarkable Focus +7 to appraise the situation, calculate the locations and relative strength of your enemies, and rapidly devise a plan of attack before your enemies can get the jump on you, rolling +8 on sequence.

As long as you can explain HOW you are applying the ability to this roll, you get to use it. It’s cinematic, it’s intuitive, it’s easy to adjudicate, and it gives you a TON of flexibility.

However, I’m also thinking that you can use a Resolve point to get an effect (formerly what resulted from trading wounds in previous Resolute editions) in addition to the damage you deal… here are some options:

• Disarm- force a target carrying a weapon to drop it
• Knock Back- throw the target backwards a number of units equal to your might rating.
• Living Shield- force a target in melee range to absorb a blow for you.
• Stun- force the target to lose a few turns
• Draw Aggression- force a foe to focus exclusively on you for the rest of the combat

The best part is that you get to decide in building your hero how much you want to deal with this stuff in play. If you want to have a number of tactical options every fight, you are going to take high Resolve. If you want to have a simple approach to combat, you distribute your points among abilities you use every turn, and only put a few points (or none) in Resolve. For example, a mercenary fighter may not have much Resolve (you’re going to swing your sword every round- that’s your thing) but a paladin is going to have high Resolve, constantly finding ways to use abilities to stack in different ways, constantly changing his strategic game plan. The characters who tend to be most inventive in fights (Batman, Captain America) are also the characters who are going to max out Resolve- this in itself is a great solution to some other balance issues- cap has to designate about 1/3 of his points just to resolve.

In fact, let’s rough him out right now for fun:

Cap Rough Cut (99 CPs)

Armor +2; Fighting +8 (Shield Use); Might +2; Precision +7 (Finesse); Stamina +6; Focus +2; Resolve +10 (Leadership); Intuition +5

Note: The shield is a melee/thrown weapon that also grants 8 shield points each scene. As a melee weapon, he deals +15 damage (+7 from his precision modified by finesse; +8 from his shield- the cap being his precision +1). His Resolve +10 allows him 10 times each scene to stack abilities or perform special tricks. Additionally, his leadership allows those around him to take huge bonuses to their rolls as well; with Resolve +10 and leadership, his allies get to draw from a pool of 10 opportunities per scene to stack +10 to any action, resist, result or soak roll, as needed.

I’m thinking that maybe leadership should be either a ranked ability or an application. Here’s the difference:

As an application (in this case of Resolve), your allies have a total of 10 points in a pool to draw from to add to action, resist or result rolls, as needed.
As an ability, your allies get to take a static rating as a bonus, rating number of times per scene. With leadership +2, allies get to take +2 twice per scene (between them- not 2 chances each, but 2 chances for the whole team to draw from); with leadership +6, there are six opportunities per scene for any one of your allies to take +6 to one action, resist, result or soak roll, as needed.

You can give all of these points to one ally, or you may distribute them (as desired) among your allies. You get to decide when and where allies apply these points. They can’t double up this with their own use of Resolve points; generally, your allies default to drawing upon your leadership when the chips are down and they’ve already burned all of their own Resolve.

Since Cap’s leadership is one of his key qualities (possibly as important as his resolve), I’m tempted to bump his Resolve back down to +8, and move the other 10 CPs into leadership as an independent ability. Here’s how he looks now:

Cap Rough Cut #2 (99 CPs)

Armor +2; Fighting +8 (Shield Use); Might +2; Precision +7 (Finesse); Stamina +6; Focus +2; Resolve +8; Leadership +6; Intuition +5

Note: The shield is a melee/thrown weapon that also grants 8 shield points each scene. As a melee weapon, he deals +15 damage (+7 from his precision modified by finesse; +8 from his shield- the cap being his precision +1). His Resolve +10 allows him 10 times each scene to stack abilities or perform special tricks. Additionally, his leadership allows those around him to take huge bonuses to their rolls as well; with Resolve +10 and leadership, his allies get to draw from a pool of 10 opportunities per scene to stack +10 to any action, resist, result or soak roll, as needed.

This one feels closer to Cap. He’s built on exactly as many CPs as Wolvie, which also feels balanced to me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Attack Abilities and Wolverine

Another of the key differences between the supers and fantasy systems –and between heroes and monsters in the fantasy system- is the use of weapons. We have to go one of two ways with this…

1. The ability to wield weapons is an ability you have to purchase. Melee Weapons (+2 CPs) is linked to your might; missile weapons (+2 CPs) is linked to your Precision. Without these abilities, you cannot wield weapons. This is rough, because everyone would have to pick this up in the fantasy game… and a wizard who never purchases either of these cannot wield weapons at all? Even a dagger? It doesn’t really make sense.

2. The restriction from wielding weapons is a limitation you get bonus CPs for. I like this one better; Batman doesn’t take this limitation, and gets to throw Batarangs; Thor doesn’t take it and gets a big hammer; Superman takes this limitation, meaning that he always defaults to his hands (or improvises weapons; more on that at some point). Enough super heroes wield weapons (Batman, Wolverine, Hawkman/Hawkwoman, Aquaman’s claw, the Wrecker’s crowbar, Absorbing Man’s Wrecking Ball, Backlash’s Whip, heck, even Captain America’s shield) that this limitation would be considered one. Just because a monster doesn’t routinely use a weapon doesn’t mean that it always buys this limitation; a giant spider doesn’t get to take this limitation, nor does a snake.

I love that in the fantasy system, you automatically get to wield a weapon rated at your might +1. It makes things simple and clean; you have might +5? You can wield an axe up to +6.

The supers system and monsters start to really complicate the whole thing considerably. A bear attacks deals damage with its bite… so it adds might to what exactly? Does it just double its might? This works in general, except when you get to Wolverine.

He’s a huge problem. Wolverine may only have might +3 or so… he takes strike (+2 CPs), allowing him to deal damage with his claws at double his might rating. How nice… he gets to deal +6 damage… that’s about as much as the night watchman in Beldin Mere. Wow. That sucks.

We have two options here… he can purchase the claw as another ability that stacks with his strike. Again, this doesn’t make sense… why does he have to buy this ability when the night watchman does not? The claws and the sword are both sharp weapons…

I’m thinking you almost need a “Wolverine Rule”… an ability you can buy for something like this. What about “Armor Piercing”? This is a ranked ability that allows you to completely ignore your target’s armor/invulnerability a number of times per scene equal to your rating? With armor piercing +8 (20 CPs), wolverine gets to ignore the target’s armor or invulnerability 8 times per scene. If he’s fighting the Hulk, he has 8 times he can just slip his claws right past the Hulk’s prodigious defenses. This is a huge ability, but it offsets his relatively low typical damage output… he’s only dealing an average of 13 points of damage each claw strike (7 on the die +3 might +3 from strike). The Hulk is soaking all of this (7 on the die +10 =17 wounds typically soaked each hit). However, Wolvie gets to hit 8 times for full damage- the full 13. He can decide to save his chances for when he deals exceptional damage; he rolls 10 on the die +6 =16 points, and burns one of his armor piercing attacks to rip through the Hulk, completely ignoring all of his protection, dealing the full 16 points. This effectively gives him +17 to damage several times; the ability is more effective against heavily-armored or high-invulnerability foes, but it’s limited by the number of times you can use it (your rating).

Even better, Wolverine would pick up finesse (2 CPs), using his precision rather than his might to determine weapon damage. He’s about speed and accuracy rather than pure power with those claws. Now, with his precision +5 (+10 damage from his claws), an average attack is going to be just barely soaked by Hulk’s invulnerability, but when he uses his armor piercing attack option, he’ll do in the neighborhood of 17 points on average. Since he can do that 8 times per scene, he knows that he’s going to deal an average of 136 wounds over 8 rounds. Wow. Okay, I’m no longer worried about his damage output! Maybe this should still allow the target to roll to soak, but it ignores the armor or invulnerability ability rating… the target rolls an unmodified soak. Now, the Hulk soaks an average of 7 wounds from an average damage roll of 17… it’s a solid attack, but not overwhelming. Wolverine is going to bump his precision to +6 (or even +7… this is Wolverine) to offset that.

Here’s a rough build for him…

Wolverine (99 CPs) Armor Piercing +8; Fighting +8 (Bonus Attack); Might +2; Precision +7 (Finesse; Claw Strike); Stamina +5; Intuition +6 (Nature; Stealth); Resolve +4; Regenerate +3

Wolverine can do a whole number of things:
- Attack with one claw, rolling +8 to attack and +14 for damage.
- Attack with both claws, attacking with the first at +4 and the second at +4 (for instance), dealing +14 damage with each.
- Choose on any attack (up to 8 per scene), to completely ignore the target’s armor or invulnerability rating on the soak roll, dealing the full damage (an average of 14 wounds; damage of 21 vs. a soak of 7).
- Use a resolve point to add his fighting +8 to this damage, now dealing an average of 22 total wounds.

It’s really important that the game be fully compatible between the two systems- you don’t have to tweak the rules when you move from one system to the other. A fantasy wizard is the same as a super-heroic wizard in every way. It seems like I'm getting closer with this build...

FYI, Regenerate allows you to recover your rating wounds every round. This regenerate +3 is pretty considerable, but it’s only 3% of his total health that he recovers every round. That’s about right for Wolverine, who heals very, very quickly.

One more thing about this… maybe for beasts, rather than purchasing a specific physical attack type (“Bite”), you simply purchase “Strike”, since it works in the same way, and you can explain what the strike is in the beast description. This keeps the terminology from getting confusing (“Uh, Mike, how exactly does a spiked tail swipe work?” “Oh, the same as a bite… or a claw… or a gore attack…”) “Strike” covers it all, and keeps it from getting confusing. Then, in the Wild Boar’s description, referring to its Strike +5, it will say “the boar’s primary strike is a gore with its formidable tusks; it uses its bonus attack to either kick with its hooves or trample a foe.” Now, I can decide that this turn the boar will gore at +4 to attack, and kick at +1 to attack.

I especially like how each layer of the game gives more tactical options through combat without adding to the amount of paperwork you need. You get a lot of mileage out of those few character stats.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The ability to soak damage is an integral part of the system, and there are several ways to solve it… I originally wanted armor and warding as applications, but the linking of these kept ending up wonky.

One of the key problems is that the supers system benefits most by having a single ability that absorbs all damage- the Hulk can withstand punches, bullets, sledge hammers, radioactive isotopes, bursts of flame and bursts of arcane power with comparable ease. The fantasy system benefits more from having different ways to soak damage; the knight absorbs physical damage well, but fire, cold and darkness magic slip right past his plate mail; the wizard can soak up these elemental/arcane attacks, but doesn’t have much ability to turn back a war hammer attack. Originally I wanted these as applications (armor linked to stamina for instance), but I’m thinking there are three abilities, all purchased as rated abilities:

• Armor allows you to purchase physical protection in the form of armored suits (fantasy system only). You are allowed to wear armor rated at your ability rating +1; with armor +0, you still get to wear a suit of padded armor +1 or wizard’s robes +1.
• Warding allows you to purchase elemental/magical protection in the form of amulets or other totems (fantasy system only). With warding +5, you can purchase and wear and amulet of warding +6.
• Invulnerability soaks all damage (except mental damage). It’s a combination of both armor and warding. (monsters in the fantasy system and all characters in the supers system).

Invulnerability is inherently slightly cooler than armor or warding… For 12 CPs, you can purchase armor +4 and warding +4, giving you +5 to soak both physical and magical damage; this same 12 CPs gives you invulnerability +6. It’s not a huge discrepancy, but enough that invulnerability in an inherently stronger ability. At the top end it’s a wider gap; you need to spend 50 CPs to be able to soak all physical and magical attacks at +10 (+9 rating in both armor and warding), while invulnerability gives you this same protection for 30 CPs. I can live with this, although it’s still not ideal. The other option is to make invulnerability cost twice as much as other abilities, and this just scales all wrong- no ability is worth 60 CPs to get to +10.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Applications or Abilities?

There are several abilities/applications that I’m torn on, but I think I have a solution. For example, should Lore be a distinct ability you purchase, or should it be an application of your Focus? What about Nature? Stealth? Poison Use? Healing?
The list is pretty long…

Here’s what I’m thinking right now…

Many abilities will be designated as ranked or application. This means you can purchase them in one of two ways: as an ability (rated from +1 to +13, with escalating costs), or as an application (at a default cost of 2 character points).

- If you purchase something as an application, you get to use it once per scene (although you could potentially use a Resolve Point to re-use an application you’ve already used).
- If you purchase something as a distinct ability, you can use it as often as desired, and you also get to build other abilities off of it.

Here is an example for two heroes who take Stealth:
- The first is an elfin ranger who purchases Stealth as an application of his Intuition. Once per scene, he can use one turn to Stealth, getting the full benefits of the Stealth ability equal to his Intuition rating (a bonus to his next attack roll, the ability to move about undetected, etc). However, once his Stealth ends (he’s discovered or he attacks), he cannot Stealth again that scene without spending a Resolve Point.
- The second is a magic-wielding thief. He purchases Stealth as a unique ability, pumping as many points as he can into it. For this character, he actually manipulates shadow energy, allowing him to fade into shadows and shape them to his will. In fact, he becomes so good at it that he purchases Energize Weapon (as an application), Shadow Dart (as an application) and Teleport (as an application). He can use his mastery of shadows to Stealth at will (using one turn each time), getting the bonus to his attack rolls each time he does this.

Both characters are good at sneaking around; one of the heroes spends 2 character points and gets to do it as a complement to his other abilities; the other hero builds his entire character around being a super sneak, investing more CPs into it as a core ability.

Let’s do this for healing:
- The Paladin purchases Healing as an application (2 character points) tied to his Resolve +8. Once per scene, he gets to cast one healing spell that restores 2D+8 wounds to one target within 8 units.
- The Cleric purchases Healing as a unique ability at +5. 5 times per scene, he can heal a target within 5 units and restore 2D+5 wounds each time. His heals are not as powerful, nor do they have as strong a range as the Paladin’s, but he’s able to heal much more often. On average, our Paladin heals 15 wounds each scene, while our Cleric heals 60. The Cleric spent 9 character points and the Paladin spent 2. If our Cleric gets to Healing +8, he’s now 8x more effective than our paladin (although he’s spent 20 character points to get there). He’ll heal 8 times per scene, up to 8 units, for 2D+8 wounds, restoring an average of 120 wounds. That’s a LOT of healing, but he’s made a huge investment to get it.

I like this because it really differentiates different healers… one of them is a part-time healer, and the other is a full-time healer.

The break point of value for investment is going to be different for each hero… if you have healing linked to a +10 ability, you will need to put +4 or so into Healing as a unique ability to make it worthwhile having separate. In theory, you could have both… you have a single powerful heal linked to another ability, but you also purchase a small heal that gives you short range little bursts of healing. As a Druid with Intuition +7, healing as a +2 application and healing as a +2 ability, you heal three times per scene: one is a big heal that allows you to restore 2D+7 wounds to a target 7 units away, and you also have two little heals that allow you to restore 2D+2 damage to targets up to 2 units away. This gives a LOT of variety with a little bit of math. I also like that this allows min-maxers to play with the numbers a bit. It gives you a ton of options for building your hero.

This is neat because if you want to play a hero who has the ability to bandage wounds and apply first aid (for instance, a young ranger trained in herbal remedies and applying these in combat situations), you take Healing +1. You get to heal once per scene for 2D+1 wounds to a target in the same or an adjacent unit; you can spend a Resolve point to do this again, if needed. You are by no means the main healer for a group, but in a pinch you can help out a little, and you’ve only spent 1 character point to get this ability.

I especially like the implications for building foes too…

The drake has breath weapon as an application of his Stamina- once per scene he gets to unleash a big breath of flame at a foe; a dragon, however, purchases breath weapon as a unique ability at +10, usable 10 times per scene… a poisonous snake has poison linked to his stamina, while a wyvern has poison as a unique ability at +8, usable 8 times per scene. This keeps the players guessing- is that the only poison the spider gets, or can it poison me again?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bonuses and Stacking Abilities

One of the reasons I even started thinking about a new edition was the difficulty I was having stacking abilities and granting bonuses (remember my super-suit example from about ten posts ago?). Here’s how it’s playing out conceptually right now…

- A shift is an automatic modifier to the rating of an ability. This is the most powerful bonus, since it adds right to the rating. I think that racial abilities grant a shift; this actually gets more powerful as you increase an ability. If dwarves get a +1 shift to stamina, this only amounts to 1 character point in bonus when your dwarf has stamina +1. Conversely, when you move your Stamina to +8, this +1 shift (to +9) is worth 5 character points. I like that this scales with character growth- your racial bonus gets ‘better’ as you grow, and is worth more over time- assuming that you continue putting character points into that ability.

- A boost is a temporary improvement to an ability through an increase in the character points invested into it. If you purchase a spell to boost the target’s might, and this is linked to your lightning bolt +8, you invest 8 character points into the target’s might. This means that if your target has might +3 (4 character points), you boost his might to +6 (12 character points). Boost rules also apply when you drink a potion that grants a bonus, when you put on powered armor that grants you a bonus, or when two characters work together to do something (when two heroes with might +5 try to work together to hold up a falling bridge, they have a combined might of +7- the two ratings of 9 character points add together to 18 character points- this is 2 shy of +8, so goes to +7). I think that energize weapon works this way too… if you have flame magic +8 and you use this to imbue a sword with flame energy, you add 8 CPs to the rating of the sword. If the sword is +3 right now [4 CPs] you improve it to 12 CPs, or +6. If it’s already +8 [20 CPs], you increase it to +9 [28 CPs]. You’d need to imbue 2 more points into the sword to get it to +10. Most boost spells would allow you to distribute these among your team- so if you boost might and have an extra point or two lingering after boosting your best fighter, you can boost your own might as well (even if it only brings you from +0 to +1 or +2, it still could prove handy).

- Stacking is when two different abilities add together to give a new total. Your hero’s might rating + his weapon rating is stacking; you get to add the two bonuses together. The previous example (last post) for the Invisible Girl allows her to stack her invisibility with her stealth. Stacking only happens when two different abilities combine. One of the options for using your Resolve points would be to stack abilities. You stack your might with your fighting to land an incredibly powerful strike; you stack focus with stamina to fight off the effects of a particularly powerful venom. Basically, you would always stack your top ability with the ability in question; as a powerful caster with Bolt of Cold +10, you will always stack a defensive ability with your bolt of cold when needed; this makes sense. Warding off the bite of a powerful dragon and deflecting the bolt of an enemy wizard would both cause you to use your ice magic to bolster your other abilities, if using Resolve points. A paladin would use his high fighting to bolster his other abilities through resolve. This actually solves one of the things I was concerned with about healing. If you link healing to intuition (the most reasonable connection, I’d think), you can stack other abilities with it to heal more by spending points from your Resolve pool. Sweet. I like that this gives you more tactical options, and makes more sense for your hero. Conversely, if you used Resolve to bolster your primary ability, you’d have to use a secondary ability to do it; with Fighting +8 (your best ability) and Stamina +6 (your second-best), you could use a Resolve point to stack your stamina with your fighting for one strike, throwing your body into the blow. This is pretty nifty.

Heh. I just solved a problem I had slated for later… Resolve (the replacement for hero points), gives you a pool of opportunities to stack abilities each scene. With Resolve +8, you get 8 times you can stack two abilities together on a single roll (as long as you can justify how and why you’re doing this). This does allow you to double-dip some; you use your fighting + precision to aim directly at a narrow chink in your foe’s armor, and then you still roll precision + weapon damage on the subsequent damage roll; precision counts twice on this particular attack. However, you can’t simply double a single ability; your Fighting is +9 and your next-best ability is +3, so you double your Fighting! Nope. You take your Fighting +9 and add your Precision +3 to the strike.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


The only other ability that it feels like everyone would need to consider is a sense/awareness ability, which I’m going to call Intuition. This serves a few important functions:

- It becomes the way you determine combat sequence. Your ability to quickly jump into combat is about both your physical reflexes and your ability to process information quickly. Since precision already has a number of applications, I’d prefer to have intuition determine sequence- it feels better for balance.
- It becomes the core ability linked to a number of non-combat applications. Nature (the ability to hunt and track) and stealth would both be linked to this (at least theoretically).
- It becomes the core ability used to notice, perceive and detect the unknown. Foes using stealth or sleight of hand target your intuition.

I like a number of these ideas, but here are some problems I already see coming down the pike as we continue:

- What about healing? I see in some ways that healing should be a spell ability linked to intuition (for druidic types)… but I can also see this related to resolve (for paladin types). I can see it related to holy bolts (for clerics) and to your mind strike (for psionics who can also heal). I suppose we can allow any (or all) options, although this gets a bit much. I want to keep away from the idea of any application/spell that links to the ability of your choice- especially one as useful and broad as healing.
- The difference between stealth and invisibility in the supers game. For example, Legolas has high intuition, and he has both Nature and Stealth. These are linked to his incredibly high senses; he would not spend 16 character points to get stealth +7 (about where his stealth would be), but would link stealth to his +7 or +8 Intuition (probably +8; he is Legolas). However, the Invisible Girl has high invisibility (Stealth +10 range), but relatively low Intuition all things considered (probably +3 or so). I just don’t see her being the super-aware type who can hear a pin drop on the other side of the Baxter Building… She would have invisibility as a unique ability (probably at +8 or so), and could elect to pick up stealth with her intuition. These could combine to give her a total of +13 to avoid detection… if it’s just to avoid being heard, she’d only have +3, but to avoid being seen she’d roll at +13.

These seem like reasonable solutions… I will muse more on this…