Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fantasy: Gateway 2008 Characters (the other two)

Here are the other two pregens for this Sunday:

Sister Morwyn, Fae Priestess of the Maiden
Gurtúz, Holy Inquisitor

These two couldn't be more different, really.

I also updated some of the other characters I already posted. Minor stuff, really -- rewording some aspects, editing some phases, that kind of thing.

I made a little cheat sheet, too. If it proves useful on Sunday, I'll post that as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fantasy: Gateway 2008 Characters (two-thirds of them)

Here are four of the six pregens I'll have available this Sunday afternoon at Gateway. Hopefully I can put the other two (a spellcaster and a witchfinder-type) online Wednesday or Thursday night.

The premise involves a group of state-/Church-sponsored adventurer-types solving a mystery in Busra, the capital of Mallora, a country deeply committed to its state-sponsored religion. It's sort of a mix of the Roman Empire and the Inquisition, but that's somewhat beside the point, I guess. I put the official blurb online in an earlier post.

Anyway, the PCs:

Brother Todor, Justiciar of Busra
Olarra del Aburto, Highborn Gatekeeper
Egun, Dwarven Gatekeeper
Paskal Salaberri, Actor, Playwright, Secret Agent

Brother Todor's a no-nonsense, law-enforcing jerk with a bit of a mean streak. The Gatekeepers are a minor order of the Church charged with defending the faith -- and, in a ceremonial capacity, the great Cathedral of the Maiden. And Paskal's heavily modeled on Christopher Marlowe (not the real guy, but the possibly apocryphal legend that he was the head of Queen Elizabeth's Ministry of Intelligence).

I'm looking forward to the playtest. Over the past few months I feel like I've really tightened the screws on "SotS," which oughtta make for a better game than last time. Not that anything was wrong with last time, really, but y'know. In particular, I've paid closer attention to how the characters and story serve each other. Translation: There isn't a character who doesn't have a real motivation for being involved and/or whose primary talent is staying out of trouble.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fantasy: Armor, Fate Points, and Consequences

Guy brings up a good point in his comments on my last post. In a nutshell, he expresses concern that requiring "Minions and those people who are less skilled at combat" to spend Fate Points to benefit from their armor might be unduly harsh. Which is a fair cop, I suppose, if armor weren't anything more than window-dressing for them.

As far as I'm concerned, those heavily armored knights could have the aspect "Elite Guard" or "Heavily Armored" -- it depends on what you want to emphasize. Obviously, the latter will be more limited, but my point is that, as per the SotC RAW, you'll be spending Fate Points on them either way. There's a double-standard in effect between PCs and nameless NPCs when it comes to armor, to the PCs' benefit. Minions are meant to go down in combat. If they run out of Fate Points and take a fatal blow as a consequence, that's just the ultimate expression of them -- no pun intended -- meeting their Fate. Named NPCs are another story, and can benefit from stunts and armor the same way PCs do.

(As I mentioned in the comments to my last post, I allot Fate Points for my adversaries on a per-scene rather than per-adversary basis. It's a good way to gauge how important a scene is to the story. Also, I like disconnecting the conflict from the NPCs as individuals; it feels like it puts the PCs front and center even more. And bookkeeping's a bit easier for me this way, too.)

For PCs, things are different. I'm leaning toward armor-as-skill, with a couple of other perks. One is getting an aspect out of it, which can be more useful than is immediately apparent. I can see a thief avoiding a number of anti-Stealth compels by the aspect "Supple Leather" on his Light armor, f'rinstance.

The other perk is additional consequences: one additional Minor for Medium, and one Minor and one Moderate for Heavy.

A quick breakdown of how consequences work without stress:
  • Normally you can only have one of each consequence, just like in SotC. Stunts and armor can alter this, but the baseline is one of each.
  • An attack that succeeds by 1-3 defaults to a Minor consequence, one that succeeds by 4-7 is a Moderate consequence, and 8+ is automatically a Severe consequence.
  • Minor consequences go away at the end of the scene (e.g., "Knocked the Wind Out of Me" or "Off-Balance" or "Enraged").
  • Moderate consequences require a skill roll of some kind to get rid of, usually between scenes, although what that skill is can vary depending on the nature of the consequence ("Mauled" could be healed with Physik, "Shattered Self-Esteem" might require Resolve, and "Rendered Speechless" could be mitigated with, say, Rapport). Could be the PC's player rolling the skill, or it could be another player -- depends on the situation. It's the GM's call if the consequence goes away entirely, or just drops a level to Minor for the next scene (after which, of course, it'd go away regardless).
  • A Severe consequence goes away by entering the fiction, usually at the end of a story arc. It twists or transforms one of the character's existing aspects somehow. "Sullied Reputation" might change a "Man About Town" into a "Man of Ill Repute." "Bleeding To Death" turns "A Soldier's Honor" into "The Horrors of War." "Paranoid" could make a "Cautious" character, well, "Paranoid" instead. No roll is required -- only a conference with the GM to sort out how the character's life will change as a result of suffering such intense trauma.
  • Minor consequences can be tagged for a +2, Moderate for +3, and Severe for +4.

(I don't believe any of this is original on my part -- it's pretty much cribbed whole-cloth from Colin Jessup.)

So now then. Some armor lets you take additional consequences. This may seem contrary to the breakneck goals of No-Stress, but No-Stress isn't about upping the danger quotient -- it's about making wounds more interesting than checking off a box or recording a number. The more consequences you can take, the more interesting combat will be for everyone concerned.

I have a story about playing in one of Colin's "Spirit of the Force" games at Gamex in which my blind Jedi swordsman (or... "lightsabersman," I guess) leaped headlong into the midst of dozens of battledroids, leaving his compatriots behind. One failed Weapons roll later, he ended up with a Minor consequence: "Overconfident." What I love about this is that it was appropriate, subtle, and expanded the character. It wasn't, say, "Blasted and Bruised" or any other sort of physical consequence, but instead a reflection of the character's mindset in situ that was bound to get him in trouble later, and/or be exploited by the enemy. Instead of trying to answer the question of "What were the consequences of failing that skill roll?" it instead answers "What is it about this character that had him getting in over his head as a consequence?"

So much better than "Limping."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fantasy: Gateway 2008, Armor/Weapons

Whew! July just flew by, didn't it? Man, I didn't post once. What a slacker.

I'll be running another playtest-ish session of "SotS" at Gateway over Labor Day Weekend. Specifically, it'll be on Sunday the 31st at 3:00 pm. Here's the cornball write-up:

Foul deeds are afoot in Busra! When a few vagrants turned up missing here or there, no one even noticed -- but with the disappearance of an acolyte from the Cathedral of the Maiden, the Theocracy decrees that something must be done... discreetly. Will you solve the mystery of the vanishing clergy? Or will you be the next victim?

So if you're attending, come on out and give it a shot. It'll be better than the last "SotS" game I ran. I mean, I liked "Election Day" well enough, but this'll be better. Con pre-registration is on now! Event pre-registration starts tomorrow (the 16th)!

Plus, I'll be testing the No-Stress rules, so that oughtta be interesting.

Speaking of no stress, losing the stress tracks means some serious changes to the way weapons and armor work. You can look back through the archives and see for yourself, but the main issues are these with the rules as they stand now:
  • Armor provides extra Health stress boxes
  • Heavy weapons let you increase the severity of a consequence you've dealt by spending a Fate Point

Both of these obviously need to change.

I toyed with the idea of armor providing stress boxes anyway. They'd be, like, the only stress boxes a character would have (excepting spellcasters, but I'll get to that later). Ultimately, though, I decided that that would be pretty dull. I mean, if light armor provided, say, one Health stress box, then it'd only benefit you if your opponent succeeded by one point -- and then only once! So that's not very exciting or useful. Here are some other ideas I came up with:

  • The armor's aspect is invoked as usual, but the heavier the armor is, the greater the benefit. E.g., Light is invoked for +2, Medium for +3, and Heavy for +4.
  • The armor acts as an additional skill, outside your skill pyramid, to be used only for defense. Light is a Fair (+2) skill, Medium a Good (+3) skill, and Heavy a Great (+4) skill.
  • The armor acts as a skill, as above, but it's a back-up to Melee when defending. That is, if your defensive Melee effort doesn't exceed your opponent's attack, you get a second chance by rolling Armor.
  • The armor lets you replace one or more Fudge dice with normal six-sided dice when using Melee to defend: 3dF+1d6 for Light, 2dF+2d6 for Medium, and 1dF+3d6 for Heavy. Add 'em up and that's your total.
  • Same as above, but you only take the highest d6 (and all of the Fudge dice) instead of adding them all up.

I've already made a decision, but I'd be interested in hearing your ideas.

As for weapons, only a few are affected. I think you'll agree that the ability to increase consequence severity is pretty unbalancing when every hit results in a consequence. Here are a few ideas I've had to make those heavy weapons more interesting without making them game-breaking:

  • On a successful hit, pay a Fate Point to put a fragile aspect on your target (e.g., Stunned, Off-Balance, Life Flashing Before His Eyes, etc.). It can be tagged once, for free, then it goes away.
  • If your Melee effort results in spin, put a fragile aspect on your target. Tagging the aspect costs a Fate Point.

I'm leaning towards the first one, but the second has its appeal, too. What do you think?