Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fantasy: Talk of Updated Rules. Also, Rambling About Consequences.

In a quickie attempt to meet the stampeding demand for rules updates, which I honestly didn't realize existed until today, here's... something. On the whole, the stunts-ectomy greatly simplifies things. I would kick myself for all that time I spent poring over the stunts chapter of SotC and making minor adjustments, but the truth is that there really isn't anything wrong with that approach. Sticking closer to the SotC RAW is still totally valid, so if you're into that, go to it.

Me, I'm going a different way. Right now that way is called "Boons," but I don't know if I'll stick with that. It's basically replacing stunts with this, with the change of limiting the +2 narrow-specialty bonus to maneuvers only. Otherwise, I've recently experienced, it's just too open to abuse -- the drawback of only getting that +2 with, say, your father's sword is not commensurate with the benefit, and creates an artificial situation where the GM will constantly be forced to try to steal said sword to make the drawback worth it. In FATE, a +2 is too huge to just give away so carelessly. However, I love me some aspects, and I love maneuvers because they create more aspects in an interesting fashion, so limiting that +2 to maneuvers will hopefully encourage the use of them. That, or it'll discourage people from taking the +2 boon in the first place. Either way, I'm happier with the result.

Anyway, for this weekend at OrcCon, I'm going the route of higher Endurance/Resolve allowing the character to take more consequences: +1 Minor at Good, or +2 Minor and +1 Moderate at Great, all of the appropriate type (physical or mental). One of the PCs, Rain-Splitting-Rock, has Great (+4) Resolve and Good (+3) Endurance, and can take as many consequences as a character could possibly withstand under these rules (three more mental consequences, one more physical consequence). I'm doing something similar in "Spirit of the Fist" -- the big consequence-withstander in that group of PCs has Great (+4) Spirit, allowing her to take a total of three Minors and two Moderates (Endurance and Resolve are combined in "SotF" as a different skill -- Spirit).

Here's my it's-not-hit-points rationale for this: I see a character's skills in FATE as an indication of how he'll solve problems. It's not necessarily a literal indication of how good or bad the character is with a given skill, though. For example, if you're playing a silver-tongued swordsman of some repute, you can have Average (+1) Melee and be no less of a swordsman -- but if you have Great (+4) Rapport and Good (+3) Status, you'll solve most of your problems through talking or weight-throwing-around than through violence. And if you have an aspect or two that can relate to your skill with a blade, you can still perform in combat when it counts. Your apex skill says to the GM "Here's what I want this guy to be about," regardless of his backstory.

So then. Endurance and Resolve are both passive skills. Endurance is almost never rolled, and Resolve is almost always rolled in response to someone's else's action. If you put either of these skills at the apex of your skill pyramid, you'll succeed more through perserverance and toughness than through offense, generally speaking. For this to make game-mechanical sense, or at least have a game-mechanical payoff, the character has to be able to withstand abuse. Since stress tracks are gone, the only way to do that is through consequences. I usually have a hard time expressing what I see as the difference between consequences-as-hit-points and consequences-as-narrative-protection, but... well, I do see a difference between the two. One is the literal ability to withstand damage, whereas the other is narrative stick-to-it-iveness.

Let's take the aforementioned Qing Pei-Pei. She's not the "toughest" character, strictly speaking -- not the strongest, or the best fighter. If you're looking for a combat monster, she ain't it. But she's stubborn and headstrong (and maybe lucky) enough to keep going somehow, no matter what's thrown at her. Having Great (+4) Spirit and Fair (+2) Weapons tells the GM, "Go ahead, put me in over my head -- I can take it!"

Does that make sense? Or is it so friggin' obvious that there was no point posting it?


Unknown said...

To your last paragraph of questions, I think the answer is two-part:

1) Yes it makes sense. To me at least--but I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what "power players" can do to bend the rules. Or how newb players might back themselves in a corner and have a bad play-experience.

2) As for how obvious it is, I think it depends upon the target audience:

* Most GMs probably wouldn't need to hear it. They're definitely on the lookout for a "hook" on a PC's writeup.

* I think most players probably would benefit from something like that, as it might not be intuitively obvious. I would think most players of "rules-lite" games would be actively looking for a way to see how a particular game system is going to support the character they want to play.

Anonymous said...

Hey, (speaking of rules), did that swashbuckling system you mentioned back in November ever show up anywhere? That is the sort of thing I am interested in using SotC for, so I'd very much like to see your take on it.

Mike Olson said...

I haven't pursued that farther, no, but I'm still definitely interested in it (in fact, I signed up for a Flashing Blades game at OrcCon, but the GM never showed -- how awesome of him!). The big issue with that right now is this "advantage" mechanic I'd want to use for duels. It's either as cool and fun as I think it is, or an unnecessary and mechanically redundant annoyance.