Tuesday, January 31, 2023
And Now For Something Completely Different
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
In Theory... Magic
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
Saturday, January 21, 2023
Even further back
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
When Comes... the Lyndwyrm!
Monday, January 16, 2023
Troglodytes and Such
Amphibious frog-folk, troglodytes dwell primarily in swamps and marshes. They tend to be cowardly, raiding rather than waging war. They typically live in small tribes of between ten and fifty creatures.
Troglodyte Raider [CL 1; TR +4; Armor +3; Hits 1d6; Javelin 1d6; Amphibious; Sneak]. 5’ tall troglodyte raiders dwell in marshlands, raiding the communities of more civilized folk. They often train lizards for combat.
Troglodyte Shaman [CL 2; TR +5; Armor +3; Hits 2d6; Staff 1d6; Amphibious; Sneak; Nature Magic Tier 1]. 5’ tall troglodyte shaman act as rulers and advisors of troglodyte tribes. They are more cunning than common troglodytes.
Troglodyte Brute [CL 2; TR +5; Armor +5; Hits 2d6+5; Spear 1d12; Amphibious; Hardy]. Often as much as 8’ tall, these more primitive and brutal troglodytes often bully more common, smaller troglodytes.
Designing In Real Time
Cantrips are minor magic. As a caster, you may cast your level + your casting trait (ex: reason for mages) cantrips per day; after this, each additional cantrip has a 1 in 6 chance of being your final for that day. As a warden 4 with intuition 5, you have 9 free cantrips per day; from cantrip 10 forward, each has a 1 in 6 chance of being your last for that day.
4.03: Spellcasting and Tally Dice
As a caster, you have access to magic tiers equal to half your level; as a level 7 or 8 mage, you have access to spells of tiers 1-4; when you move to level 9, you gain access to tier 5 arcane spells. You have a ‘free’ pool of tiers of magic each day equal to your level; you furthermore have a number of tallies of spells equal to your level before your spell power for that day is exhausted. After each spell (beyond those ‘free’ points based on your level), roll 1d6. If you roll equal to or below the tier of the spell you just cast, you receive a tally. When your tallies equal your level, you are out of spells for that day. If you have some ‘free’ spell power left but cast a spell of higher tier, receive +1 edge on that tally check, discarding the lower die. For example, you have 1 point remaining, but cast a tier 3 spell. Roll 2d6, discarding the lower die. If you roll a 3 or lower on both dice, you take one tally.
In Play: As a mage 3, you have access to tier 1 and tier 2 arcane spells. On one day, you can cast three tier 1 spells or a tier 2 spell and two tier 1 spells before you begin taking tallies. Thereafter, each tier 1 spell gives a tally on a roll of 1 on 1d6; each tier 2 spell gives a tally on a roll of 1-2 on a 1d6. Once you reach 3 tallies on the day (your level), you are out of spell power for that day. As a cleric 7, you have access to tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 spells. You could cast one tier 4 spell and three tier 1 spells (for example) before you begin taking tallies. Thereafter, you receive a tally every time you roll the spell tier of the spell you just cast or lower on 1d6. At 7 tallies you are out of spells for that day.
Sunday, January 15, 2023
As I consider how this game will ultimately be adapted into superhero, space opera, and possibly military contexts, I want to make sure any foundational pieces that might be needed are there. Two of these are scaling and attributes.
In terms of scaling, the big issue is that superhuman ratings escalate beyond the scope of the current proposal for Hack'D & Slash'D. However, the current version of Stalwart Age already has a solution baked in - moving difficulty targets. While the DT for all checks in the core rules is going to be 10, for supers gaming I can use DTs of 15, 20, and 25 as benchmarks. It actually makes a lot of sense; ratings of 0 to 9 are human scale, while anything of 10+ is superhuman scale, and starts the count over again. For example, Spidey could have Might of 12, meaning that he can lift 1 ton (maybe what DT 15 would be) pretty easily, while 10 tons (DT 20) would require a roll of 8 or better. That feels Spidey ish... conversely, the Hulk has might 17, giving him automatic success on 1 ton or 10 tons, and needing a roll of 3 or better to lift 100 tons (DT 20). That feels Hulkish - so the game scale just starts again from 10 to 18, but the measures become superhuman. This is a pretty easy solution. So far, so good.
The second is more about naming and application of attributes. In Stalwart Age, I swap out wisdom for power, and the substitution works well. Hack'D & Slash'D uses attributes a little differently, so there's not the same opportunity to substitute. There are three options here: add power as a sixth attibute (not loving that because it changes the core of the game), tie power to different attributes (okay with this - it would probably mean that persona becomes the default attribute; not sure here), or just tie powers to level. This is a decent-sized change, but definitely helps with game balance. I don't have to make this decision today (or even this year, if we're being honest), but I have possibilities out there.
I want to make sure that the five attribute names are open enough to port to other settings. I love lore as a stat for Hack'D and Slash'D, but it doesn't make any sense for supers gaming. Here are my current thoughts:
Intuition is the attribute for awareness, perception, and connection to nature. It would be your ability to find stuff. It would also be used for nature magic (if I decide nature is a third field of magic, which it seems like it should be - arcane, faith, and nature seem to be three fundamentally different types of magic, and it makes sense that each of those magic types gets linked to a different attribute. The class/archetype for intuition would be the woodland warrior, such as the warden or druid. Not sure what it will be called yet.
Might is the overall statistic for physical toughness. It is both strength and constitution. I don't see a need for two statistics. Particularly hardy creatures can use an edge to take a bonus when using might to resist something like a poison or sickness. In classic literature, there are not great examples I can think of where characters are durable but not also phyically imposing. The two sort of go together. This is the hero.
Persona is the overall attribute for charisma, willpower, and mental fortitude. This would be linked to faith magic, and would be used to resist charms and control; to bluff, manipulate, or intimidate. This is the cleric.
Reason is the overall attribute for knowledge, logic, learning, lore... all things smart. A mage has it, Iron Man has it, and a supercomputer has it. It is used for solving puzzles, deciphering codes and languages, and for wielding arcane magic. This is the mage/wizard/sorcerer (whichever name I use).
Reflex is the dexterity stat. It's coordination, agility, and quickness. It would be used for all ranged weapon attacks, and for melee attacks with lighter weapons. This means that a rogue can be just as deadly with a dagger as with a bow. This means that most characters would not need might; even a cleric would attack with reflex. This is the rogue. I like rogue better than thief because it is more open-ended. A thief has a narrower application than rogue; I can play a rogue who's not a thief, but cannot really play a thief who's not a rogue. Rogue it is.
These seem to include everything needed, and translate well between settings. These are my go-to for now.
More Building Blocks
Saturday, January 14, 2023
I want to first of all think about the primary mechanism. The current Hack'D & Slash'D is roll under. Roll under is so much easier, but roll over is more intuitive. Rolling high is always better, right? The other thing is that I'd like to distance myself from the d20, and the d12 is such an awesome die. Let's play with that as an option for a moment...
D12, Roll High
If d12 is the default check, then the default target could be 10. If you roll a 10 or better, you succeed. Again, very intuitive. We know that 10 is good. Perfect 10. Scale of 1 to 10. Metric system. We see 10 as a number of completion. If you roll a 10 or better, you are successful. So far, so clean.
This means that things are rated from 0 to maybe 8. A +0 gives you a 1 in 6 chance of success. A +8 gives you a 5 in 6 chance of success. A +4 is 'average', giving you a 50% chance of success. This implies that...
- a +0 (1/6 chance of success) represents a very weak character attribute or the effectiveness of wearing no armor.
- a +2 (1/3 chance of success) represents a lower character attribute or the effectiveness of leather armor.
- a +4 (1/2 chance of success) represents an average character attribute or the effectiveness of chainmail armor.
- a +6 (2/3 chance of success) represents an exceptional character attribute or the effectiveness of plate mail armor.
OGL, We Hardly Knew Ye
So, I know the first thing you thought of when you saw the drama unfolding around the OGL - 'doesn't Mike use that for his games?' - and then you thought, 'My God! What Have They Done?'
The deal is this. I don't make that much money doing this. I like tinkering with games and building them. I sometimes get to play the games I write, but more often than not I just end up writing more game stuff.
I like Hack'D & Slash'D. It's kind of fun. It has some nice things about it. It has stepped ten steps north and to the east from the source material far enough that fully disentangling it from the OGL is not all that overwhelming of a task.
So, I think I'm going to accept the inevitability of the OGL disappearing, and go on without it. While a second edition of Hack'D & Slash'D would be inappropriate after only two months, the changes to the OGL mean that this is now in the offing. So, my plan is to use this space to develop the new version of that game (apart from any propriety information), and then see if and how that could be a foundation for revisions of my other game systems going forward. I presume that at some point relatively soon I'm going to have to take them all down, so I'm preparing for that moment.
I honestly don't mind all that much - it gives me an excuse to write all new games again. Not like I have much else to do :)