Tuesday, March 1, 2011

[Greyhawk] Fantasy Race Packages

As part of writing up Spirit of Greyhawk's Class Packages (Fighter, Thief, et al) I thought it made sense to do some proof-of-concept writeups on Fantasy Race Packages first.

This turned out to be a good decision (for once!) because it did highlight a few things that the Class Packages are going to need to keep in mind.

Here's some highlights on those "few things":

Skills Starting at Different Places on the Ladder

There's a general assumption in Fate that the default level for any unimproved skill is Mediocre (+0). Scattered throughout But there's a caveat that certain skills can only be learned with very specialized training and might default to a number lower than (+0). Expanding upon that, fantasy race packages will have certain starting skill levels that default to a number other than zero, whether negative or positive.

For a while, I thought this posed a problem to the Skill Pyramid and Class Advancement. If you recall from my last article, the level of characters' classes is determined by their Apex Skill. Once you start throwing in the potential for skills starting at levels other than zero, this can pose some confusion to the pyramid.

In other words, if you have an "2nd Level" Elf Fighter that has an Apex Skill of Missile at +2, along with race package skills of Agility (+1), Endurance (-1), Stealth (+1), what does that do for the pyramid?

The traditional (SotC) view of the Pyramid with respect to the example mentioned above might look like this for a 2nd Level Elven Fighter:

  • Missile (+2)
  • Melee (+1), Alertness (+1), Stealth (+1), Agility (+1)
  • Endurance (-1)

So Missile, Melee and Alertness skills were purchased via normal Skill point acquisition during the course of advancing to 2nd level Fighter, but Stealth, Endurance and Agility were received as part of the Race Package.

While on the surface there's nothing really wrong with this view of skills, once you get into advancement, I think there's a couple issues to be dealt with:

  • The character wouldn't really gain any credit in his pyramid for using acquired Skill Points to buy off negative skills.
  • At lower levels, there can be some confusion as to what a player's Apex Skill is going to be.

One way to resolve this issue is by looking at the Pyramid and what it represents in a slightly different manner. Rather than consider the Skill Pyramid as showing the net skill LEVEL, the pyramid could instead reflect skill INCREASES that have been purchased for that character.

Restated: you have the same net skill levels, but the skill pyramid would now look like this...

  • Missile (+2 levels purchased)
  • Melee (+1 level purchased), Alertness (+1 level purchased)
  • Stealth (+0 level purchased), Agility (+0 level purchased), Endurance (+0 level purchased)

...and the pyramid becomes clearer with respect to Class Advancement.

This change in focus also helps when addressing situations where a player would instead chose to instead buy off the negative Endurance skill level (instead of increasing Alertness).

Using the new example, the pyramid would go from this (under SotC)...

  • Missile (+2)
  • Melee (+1), Stealth (+1), Agility (+1)
  • Endurance (+0)

To now look like this...

  • Missile (+2 levels purchased)
  • Melee (+1 level purchased), Endurance (+1 level purchased)
  • Stealth (+0 level purchased), Agility (+0 level purchased)

This is one way to address that +1 skill level on Endurance the character purchased (to get it out of the negative part of the ladder) goes toward supporting the Pyramid.

So now the Pyramid becomes more a matter of what the character's advancement and keeps the accounting on advancement clear and consistent without having to get too fiddly. For future reference: this may have an impact on what a SoG character sheet might look like. :)

Aspects with Stated Benefits / Limitations

Note also that certain fantasy race aspects come with listings of what the potential benefits/limitations of the aspect might be, consistent with the source material. They are listed for those who might not be entirely familiar with how they were originally written in the source material. Consistent with other Aspects, their application in a particular situation is subjective and open to interpretation. However with respect to a character's race, these aspects cannot be bought off using Experience and don't count towards a character's maximum aspects.

With that out of the way, here's a couple Race Packages--I've included the two that have the most moving parts.

Fantasy Race Package "Elf"

(Net Cost to Character Fate Point Refresh: -5)

Class Restrictions (+1 to Refresh)
An elf cannot select the following class packages: Druid, Paladin, Ranger, Illusionist, Monk

Class Limitations (+1 to Refresh)
For the following Classes, an elf has these maximums for that class' Apex Skill:
Cleric (+4), Fighter (+4), Wizard (+6), Assassin (+5)

Skill Modifications (-1 to Refresh)
Agility (+1), Endurance (-1), Stealth (+1)

Race Stunt "A State of Grace" (-1 to Refresh)
Elves take no penalty to Magic Skills when wearing armor or wielding weapons. Keep in mind that the restriction on Magic when combined with weapons / armor as it exists in this particular gameworld is tied to the cumbersome nature of those things, not an aversion to metal by magical forces.

Race Stunt "A Mind Apart" (-1 to Refresh)
When dealing with Sleep and Charm magic effects, elves have two significant benefits:
  • +2 to the elf's opposed skill roll. This is a passive effect.
  • If the casting is successful and the elf is affected by either a Sleep or Charm spell, the effect lasts 2 shifts less on the time chart, if the elf spends a Fate Point.

Race Stunt "Race Weapon Proficiencies" (-1 to Refresh)
When wielding the following weapons, elves are considered as having one skill level higher than their normal Melee or Missile Skill:

  • Short Sword (i.e., +1 to Melee Skill)
  • Long Sword (i.e., +1 to Melee Skill)
  • Any Bow but a Crossbow (i.e., +1 to Missle Skill)

This is a stackable bonus, but for game purposes consider this advantage as being due to the benefit of accuracy/dexterity, not strength.

Race Stunt "Infravision" (-1 Refresh)
This race can see in the dark and take no penalties to Alertness when in mundane (non-magical) darkness.

Race Stunt "To See the Way" (-1 to Refresh)
Elves have a +1 skill bonus to passive Alertness for purposes of detecting secret doors. This can be upgraded to +2 to active Alertness for the cost of a Fate Point, and the elf is considered to be actively seeking for such things.

Extra Languages (6 Languages, -1 Refresh)
Elvish (native), gnome, halfling, goblin, hobgoblin, orcish, Common

Race Aspect "Interaction with other Races"
  • Tagged for positive social reaction against: Elf, Gnome, Half-Elf, Halfling
  • Compelled for negative social reaction against: Dwarf, Half-orc
There is no cost for the Aspect and the character can neither "buy off" this aspect nor does it count any against any maximum number of aspects.

Dealing with a Negative Refresh Total

The elf package is definitely the race package with the highest cost to a character's Net Refresh Total and would imply that most elven characters will have a negative Refresh until they are significantly advanced where their class-based Refresh would increase to offset the Race negative.

This means that SoG will have to allow for characters playing with a Negative Refresh. In practice, the player of that character is going to have to rely entirely upon free tags or compels in order to accumulate/use Fate Points.

Upon getting to a Refresh, a character with a negative refresh is going to lose that many Fate Points, but never going below zero. So if an elf character had accumulated 3 Fate Points but has a Refresh of -4, then at Refresh the elf character loses all 3 Fate points for a count of 0, not -1.

The end result of this is that until an elven character reached a sufficient class level to have a positive refresh, he would be pretty motivated (forced) to be at the whims of his compels. Indirectly (but in a very real sense), this is likely the true benefit to playing a human: at the low end of the scale, you really do have "free will" compared to your non-human counterparts.

I also feel that this serves as something of a reinforcement of the relatively rarity of elves in the world, along with reinforcing the general feel of elves as a somewhat "brittle" and "static" race.

From the players' side, the extra challenge of a negative Refresh might also serve as a barrier for some folks, especially those who might not be the most efficient at leveraging aspects of scenes and opponents.

NOTE TO LONG-TIME READERS: Some of you might remember that SoG spellcasting is planning to use a "Fate Point commit" mechanic. In other words, you must commit (not necessarily spend) a Fate point to cast a spell. I still plan to use that, but haven't yet figured out how that works with respect to characters with a negative refresh value. Maybe make it cost a Consequence of some kind?

Fantasy Race Package "Dwarf"

(Net Cost to Character Fate Point Refresh: -3)

Class Restrictions (+1 to Refresh)
Dwarf cannot select the following class packages: Druid, Paladin, Ranger, Wizard, Sorcerer, Monk

Class Limitations (+1 to Refresh)
For the following Classes, the dwarf has these maximums for that class' Apex Skill:
Cleric (+4), Fighter (+5), Assassin (+5)

Skill Modifications (No Effect to Refresh)
Toughness (+1), Empathy (-1)

Race Stunt "Magic Resistance" (-2 to Refresh)
Whenever any Magic effect is cast against a dwarf, the spell caster must roll a +1 or better to succeed, instead of a 0 or better. However if the roll succeeds, the shifts still count as if the caster rolled normally. Important distinction: Magic Resistance in this gameworld is only of use to AVOID being hit by magic, not as a reduction in the shifts of effect.

Extra Languages (5 extra languages, -1 to Refresh)
Dwarven (Native), Gnome, Goblin, Kobold, Orcish, Common

Race Stunt "Infravision" (-1 Refresh)
This race can see in the dark and take no penalties to Alertness when in mundane (non-magical) darkness.

Race Stunt "Humanoid Combat Proficiency" (-1 Refresh)
Add +1 to combat rolls when fighting half-orcs, orcs, goblins, or hobgoblins. This bonus is an expression of the knowledge of tactics, fighting styles and the weak points of these humanoid races.

Race Aspect "Short & Stocky"
There is no cost for the Aspect and the character can neither "buy off" this aspect nor does it count any against any maximum number of aspects, consistent with Consequences.
There is also the possibility that a more crunchy version of this could be implemented when a size/scale chart is nailed down.

Race Aspect "A Life Spent Underground"
Benefits:
  • Detect grade or slope up or down.
  • Detect new construction, passage, or tunnel.
  • Detect sliding / shifting walls or rooms.
  • Detecting traps involving stonework
  • Determine approximate depth underground
Limitations:
Agoraphobic, Bright lights bother you, you lose your way in the woods, other negatives that come from a life lived away from the light of day.

There is no cost for the Aspect and the character can neither "buy off" this aspect nor does it count any against any maximum number of aspects, consistent with Consequences.

Race Aspect "Interaction with other Races"
  • Tagged for positive social reaction against: Gnome, Halfling, Dwarven
  • Compelled for negative social reaction against: Elven, Half-orc
There is no cost for the Aspect and the character can neither "buy off" this aspect nor does it count any against any maximum number of aspects, consistent with Consequences.
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