Playtesting and Job Hunting

Where to begin…

Financial issues continue, as I only worked 5 hours last week. Basically, I never got called as work has dropped off and we now have a surplus of drivers.  Of course, the “feast and famine” effect kicked in, and I got nearly 30 hours this week. With the flakiness of my schedule, I’ve finally gotten off my ass and started looking for another job again. That’s pretty much a full-time job in and of itself.

On top of the in-flow issues, I paid my car registration online two weeks ago, and have yet to see the money taken from my account. I need to call the DMV, but I don’t know when I’ll get time for it, as tomorrow, I need to take Mom to the hospital for a transfusion, and that’s an all-day thing.

On the positive/gaming side, I managed to do some playtesting of Adventurers!, and I think the combat rules are a little broken. No, they’re a lot broken.

Just to test a combat, I ran a pair of characters with the same stats, same armor (heavy), but with different kit. One character had a one-handed sword and shield, one had a greatsword. I ran the combat three times, twice without skills, once with skills. I never used the game’s “Heroism Points,” as the way the characters were built, they wouldn’t have any. Basically, these were just exercises in how the system works, so I used no minis or tactics. It was two characters wailing on each other until one or the other fell. What I noticed was as follows:

  • Armor works okay, but it seems very flawed. Greatweaponss reduce armor rolls and add to damage when they hit, which pretty much made the armor of the shieldbearer useless, as he kept failing the reduction rolls and taking additional damage. However, the Armor Mastery skill was amazing, enabling the greatswordsman to prevent all the damage dealt by the shieldbearer on most hits. Only a couple of really bad defense rolls on the greatswordsman’s part, along with good rolls on the shieldbearer’s attacks, enabled the shieldbearer to do any damage in the final combat.
  • Shields are virtually worthless. It only activated once in about 20 rounds (when the skill was present, but had no impact), and didn’t prevent enough damage to be worth using. As expected, the shield is too passive for my tastes.
  • The greatsword seems like a superweapon, and since there are few differences between it and other greatweapons, I think it’s just a side effect of the combat rules. The flat bonus to damage and penalty to armor rolls is mentioned above. While the one-handed sword gave a bonus to hit (due to the character builds), the plus one to hit really didn’t sway the math enough to be as valuable as the flat damage bonus.
  • Crits can be devastating. Each character had nine hit points, and crits typically scored about 4 hit points, even more with the greatweapon, upwards of six hit points. The shieldbearer only one once, in the protracted twelve round combat, but lost the other two times. I don’t think a fourth combat is necessary: the math indicates the shieldbearer will likely lose.

I’m thinking I need to go to flat damage for weapons, with crits adding a small amount and no other damage, and armor changing to a flat damage reduction. I’ll need to figure out a new way to do defense as well, working on a way to include shields as an effective defense.

It’s late and I need to be up in the morning, so…


Researching Adventurers! and Armor

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some financial issues, but I managed to pick up a number of the Adventurers! supplements/setting expansions and read them. I’ve enjoyed them, particularly their willingness to write new systems to fit the setting in question. However, I finally found some stuff I’m not real crazy about.

Armor and shields.

In A!, combat is handled as opposed rolls of 2d6 plus derived bonuses. Attack bonus is based on either Strength or Agility, and Defense is based on either Armor or Agility. Armor heavier than light armor has either option, but penalties based on weight. (See below.) If you roll doubles on your defense roll, your shield activates and you get to ignore one point of damage.

Further, depending on the weight of the armor, you can ignore a measure of damage. Damage absorption is handled kind of like armor in Warhammer minis games: roll a certain number or higher to reduce the damage by a certain amount. The armor chart gives stats as follows (AR means “Armor Rating”):

  • Light Armor     DEF Agl     AR: 5
  • Medium Armor     DEF 3/Agl-1     AR: 4
  • Heavy Armor     DEF 4/Agl-2     AR: 3-4: -1, 5-6: -2

So, armor both keeps you from getting hit as well as mitigating damage, and a shield is a very passive defense. The thing is, damage from an attack is determined from the attack roll, based on half the excess over the defense roll (rounded down) plus 1.

For example, an attacker with a +3 ATT rolls a total of 11, and the defender in medium armor rolls a total of 8, which means the attacker succeeds by three, so the damage is 2. If the defender had been wearing light or no armor, his defense roll might have been higher and prevented more damage. The defender now gets (basically) an armor save, and with medium armor, he can reduce the damage one point. If he had heavy armor, he could potentially reduce the damage to zero. Also, if he got lucky and rolled doubles on his defense roll (a one in six proposition, which isn’t really bad), his shield would activate, which also would prevent one damage.

(In fact, as I look at this, I’m realizing just how oddball this system is in this regard, as all light armor gets you is a very feeble armor save.)

I don’t like this much at all. The armor affects how much damage results from the single attack roll twice (once by affecting the attack roll difference, once by affecting the damage), and a shield is only moderately useful and totally passive. While in history, the armor mechanics make a certain sense, the shield rules aren’t very realistic or heroic. All the rolling, it seems to me, would totally bog down play.

Now, there are a couple of ways damage can be increased, such as critical hits (boxcars, which nets one additional point of damage), penetrating weapons (which work like shields, giving one additional point of damage on doubles), and great weapons (plus 1 damage and -1 AR), but these don’t really generate that much extra damage (2, as the two weapon specific rules are mutually exclusive). Now, you don’t have a crazy lot of hit points to begin with, usually in the ballpark of 7 at character creation, but the mechanics seem to favor the defender, a lot.

I think I need to take this on a test run before I make a final judgement, but these mechanics seem broken to me, and something I’m going to have to tinker with to correct.

Anyway, it’s Labor Day and I have other things to do today, like enjoying the holiday.


It’s Been a Month…

And I mean that in the “What a month it’s been” sort of way.

My personal life has pretty much overwhelmed my desire to do much of anything with gaming. I did a little tinkering with Adventurers! World (my codename for the game writing project at this point), but not enough to fill a thimble, really. I am thinking about replacing A!‘s Hero Point system with an experience point system more like the Cypher System‘s, which really just adds to the rules I was already heading towards. The idea is that XP can be used to buy re-rolls or bonuses to rolls. Really, that is simply combining two resources (as A! has hero points and experience points as separate pools), and I like the simplicity of that. I’d also add in GM Intrusions, because it’s such a brilliant way of manipulating the players and adding fun to the game and the story. A! also already has a fumble/critical system, but I think I’d expand it a little. The current system just uses snake eyes and boxcars, but I think I might expand it to all doubles.

Otherwise, I’ve been forcing my way through a book I found at one of the rental offices. It’s titled The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. It took 50 pages for the prologue to finally become part of the story, and seemed to pick up. About 100 pages in, I realized that the authors have no sense of time, as a lot is happening in a very small number of hours. They’ve gone across the Princeton campus and through the town of Princeton, including a couple of meals and meetings, all in about six hours. Kinda reminds me of our old Vampire the Masquerade games that would have multiple sessions occupying a single night from sundown to sunrise.

That’s all I really have. I don’t feel like getting into my personal stuff, partly because I’ve been covering it on Facebook and partly because there are some things I can’t get into on Facebook that connect to unresolved issues that I won’t discuss here until they are resolved.


A Little Better This Week

Still feeling a little chore adjacent doing a post, but I felt I wanted to, so I’m doing. Last week, I didn’t feel like it, so I didn’t. I think there’s going to be more whim and less scheduling to future posts. Except in November when I do NaBloPoMo.

Haven’t Pokemon Go‘d in a few days. The weather’s been horrible (around 108 degrees during the day), and the particulate content of the air, thanks to the many fires around the Central Valley, make it miserable to get out. My allergies get activated, and I’m afraid I’ll get another of my endless colds if I push myself too hard. It’s bad enough that I cough sympathetically to my mom’s coughing, I don’t need a consistent cough of my own.

I got to talking about the Reincarnated campaign the other night with one of my long-time friend’s (Rob, the Kids’ dad) about the economy of the Murder God’s followers. I’ve been trying to figure out how a huge band of killers who disdain civilization would maintain a society, and a lot of that hinges on economy. I knew I wanted the base of the society to be the enslaved, but I wondered how to things worked above that. Eventually, our discussion came to the idea that the Murder Cultists have established an economy of fear. Overseers keep the slaves terrorized, and take most of the slaves products, leaving them with sustenance-levels of products, and distribute the rest based on whoever has them bullied into service. Above that, lesser warriors move up the chain through assassination or die. Fear of their target is all that keeps them in line.

Limited amounts of weapons and armor are made. The armorers are part of the system, acknowledging that only the faithful deserve more equipment, and they prove their faith by murdering the weak. But killing those weaker than you only gets you their fear, and while fear has it’s uses, fear can’t buy you respect like killing someone above you can. Of course, the powerful are wary of their subordinates, but if the powerful truly fear their lessers, they are unworthy of their position and their lives.

That’s all I have for tonight. Later.

What to write, what to write…

I’m not in the best of moods, so take this for what you will.

I’m tired of the puppy. She just pissed on the brand new carpet with no warning that she needed out. I’m the only one that even tries to discipline her, and that work is constantly undone by the other members of the household. I’m tired of being responsible for animals I didn’t bring into the house.

While everyone else in the world has been on Pokemon Go, I decided to try out the older game by Niantic, Ingress.I was just looking for something entertaining to do while getting some exercise. The local players are jerks, and my entertainment has been spoiled. All of the younger folk at my Thursday night game are doing Pokemon Go, and there doesn’t seem to be the douchebaggery in that game, so I’m thinking of making the switch, even though I have zero interest in Pokemon Go.

I have no idea why I keep trusting in players on the Internet. Every game out there has it’s early adopters, and those folks seem to all be assholes who trample anyone new who joins. The social elements of these games are pretty anti-social.

I wonder why I bother to do this blog any more. I get five visits a post, and I haven’t had a comment in months. I’m really not enthusiastic about writing it, it’s feeling like a chore, or just a place to vent. That’s why I blew off making an entry last week.

Maybe it’s just my mood tonight. I could gripe about how work has been giving me very few hours, or any of a number of other things. Why bother?

I think I’m done for tonight. I wanted to get something up, and this isn’t really what I wanted, but obviously it’s stuff that I needed out.

Anyway, I’m done for now. Later.

Lessons In Staying Off The Internet

So, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve managed to find a way to keep from being distracted by the Internet. That’s basically by not using it and doing other things. Amazing, no? Now that I’ve gotten past the sarcastic remarks, I can get into a little bit of depth. I’m going to try to keep things short, as usual. we’ll see how that works out this time.

I started rewriting Adventurers!, adding in a few minor details from Dungeon World. With the way Adventurers! works, the partial success of DW won’t work in combat. It could make a nice addition to other skill use, but has no real function in combat, as A! uses the difference in attack and defense rolls to determine damage. Otherwise, I realized that most of the stuff I’d want to add from DW was non-combat associated (except the use of six stats instead of three). Makes the rewrite a bit simpler.

To accomplish all of this, I’m using 3″x5″ cards. I started with writing a card comparing the rules systems for each different segment of the game. One card for each attribute’s associated skills as well. At this point, I’ve focused purely on game systems that affect characters, mainly creation and combat, as well as advancement. Once I had the two different systems outlined, I started in on writing notes on the fusion between the systems. By that point, I’d already determined that DW wouldn’t have as much impact as I’d originally thought.

Additionally, I picked up and started reading Microscope. I was going to use it with the group to create the history of the subregions of the local area, but I don’t think the kids would click with it. The Boy likes to be silly, and I think the Girl would be bored with the game. I’d love to run it with a full set of adults.

That’s really all I feel the need to comment on tonight. I think I’ve managed to keep this short and simple.


Media Immersion

So, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been kind of immersing myself in storytelling media: Movies, TV, etc. This started partly because a good friend gave me access to her Netflix account so I could watch Voltron, and about the same time, Mom ended up in the hospital again. So, I’ve basically had the house to myself in the evenings. Some of what I’ve taken in has been stuff Mom wouldn’t appreciate (actually, most of it), while some she watched as well.

In all cases, while I’ve tried to watch it for the enjoyment, part of my mind has also examined the things I’ve viewed with a critical mind. Is the storytelling any good? Were the characters handled consistently? Do the writers have a clear idea of what they’re doing with this work?

So, here’s the stuff I’ve watched lately, and what I thought about it:

Voltron – Legendary Defender: I really enjoyed this one a lot. They’ve handled it like the Thundercats of a few years ago, giving the series a total reboot. Voltron Force isn’t part of the canon, and in fact the original GoLion is more of the source, it seems.

I really enjoyed the show. There are subtle hints as to future plot events that play out naturally. In fact, the entire series is handled rather organically. I got no sense of the plot being forced (although it is strange that the Galactic Garrison cadets that form the Voltron team don’t seem in a real hurry to return to Earth), but there are plot holes that are pretty easily handwaved (like the aforementioned AWOL situation). The villains are cool and powerful and somewhat creepy at the upper ends. I’m looking forward to the next season already.

Penny Dreadful: I picked up the DVDs of the first season a while back, and I actually watched the first couple of episodes before Mom was sent to the hospital. Now that I’ve completed the series, I can say I’ll happily give the disk set away.

The idea behind the series is a kind of “What if…?” focusing on the kinds of stories that were present in the Penny Dreadfuls of Victorian England. Those were cheap, tawdry novellas combining crime, sex and the occult. The main character is Mina Harker’s father, Sir Malcolm Murray, with Jonathan Harker playing no part in the story. Murray is a “Great White Hunter” who is determined to free his daughter from the grips of Dracula, who never appears in this season, but rather is represented by another, Nosferatu-like character (probably because the writers realized they misplayed the Count).

I felt this series was directionless and focused too much on being a “cable show.” There is a lot of sex and violence in the series, for no apparent reason than to titillate or terrify the audience, and failing to do either. Related: Apparently, absinthe had the power to make straight men gay for the night. (I have no problems with homosexual or bisexual behavior, as long as it makes sense for the character; the scene in question did not.)

The quest for Mina is eventually completed, but it seemed overly drawn out, almost forgotten most of the time, with constant delays and misdirections (usually for sex or violence), until the final episode of the season. Then, it seemed like the creators decided they should wrap up the main plot unless the series was not picked up and rushed the ending.

All in all, I think the series didn’t deserve the second and third seasons, and I am not surprised it was cancelled before the fourth. I simply can’t recommend the series.

Brain Dead, S01E01: Another series that doesn’t seem to know what it is. The commercials suggested the series was to be a comedy, but the creators (who created The Good Wife, a very serious show) seem to want a level of drama to the series. The series revolves around why politics are so crazy in 2016, and the Macguffin that’s causing the insanity is some space ants that came to Earth in an asteroid that crashed in Russia. Every time the bugs seem to be influencing someone, our heroine hears All I Want Is You by The Cars. This is more jarring than funny, and the exploding head (handled in the usual “off camera” manner) only serves to make the series more grim. Without a direction, I can’t see the series lasting long.

Person of Interest, Final Season: Fucking brilliant! The storytelling this season has been focused and well thought out. The battle between the Machine and crew and Northern Lights and Samaritan seemed well done and believable, for the most part. The stoicism of Reese and Shaw was shown to be a veneer each character used to hide their true feelings (and yes, I know Shaw was supposed to be a sociopath; she maybe the diagnosis was wrong, or maybe she grew as part of her character arc). The finale, with the final fate of the characters revealed, had every character meeting a logical fate.

I admit that my love of the subject matter in the cases of Voltron and PoI may be influencing my opinions, but I feel that if either of these franchises had produced crap, I would see it for such. Of course, the above was my opinions, and your mileage may vary.

I’ve been tinkering with Dungeon World and the two-page RPG Adventurers! RPG. Last Saturday, I was at my FLGS talking to an old friend who had more experience with DW, and I was explaining my issues with DW‘s lack of organization. I failed to convey to him that I am interested in tinkering with the system on a pretty deep level. When the subsystems are scattered throughout the book, it can be difficult tinker with things and know how it will affect balance and game play. But he did follow my rambling enough to convey to me how DW is not good for long running campaigns like we tend to run in our home game.

So, later that day, as I was looking at adding things from A! into DW, eventually I realized:

Why use Dungeon World as the core system and not Adventurers!?

And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I was looking at eliminating classes and the pseudo-Vancian spellcasting of DW, and I realized it would be easier to add the things I like out of DW and mix them into A!. I think this is going to result in rebuilding the A! system, as it is a three attribute system, and I like having six attributes (especially as they use two physical stats and one mental, like the Cypher System), as well as some other minor issues. But I think I can work it out pretty easily. And then again, I may be kidding myself. I think two systems with the same dice mechanic can be mixed-and-matched in some respects and work together.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for this round. Later.

Better Than Last Week…

There was no post last week, not because I went to see a presidential candidate (I wish) but rather because my left shoulder locked up. A pinched nerve flared up, and I avoided my laptop as much as possible all this last week. I could think of at least seven reasons for the problem, but why (except the lack of exercise) is really irrelevant. I was unable to move my arm without pain and didn’t want to stress it more by dealing with the laptop.

Last Tuesday, I went to one of those mall massage storefronts (I don’t want to type “parlor”🙂 ), and the masseuse there managed to get my back loosened up enough that my body was able to do the rest. I’m just getting full range of movement back, but there’s still some (tolerable) pain.

Sunday, instead of finishing this post, I watched The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, loaned to me by one of my Thursday night group. It was a lot of fun, and hit a lot of the notes I’ve seen from gamers in my nearly 40 years of gaming. I could see myself in a couple of the characters, and other friends in other characters. The appearances by the gaming industry folk and the support they gave the movie was great. Two thumbs up on the movie.

I’ve also realized I’ve come to an understanding the OSR movement, finally. I don’t get the reminiscing that I see in that group, but I understand the desire for simpler games. This realization dawned on me as I was reading Adventurers! by GRAmel. It’s an extremely simple RPG (as evidenced by the “an RPG on 2 Pages” tagline), very similar to Dungeon World. I could easily see mixing and matching the two systems, especially as I’m considering rewriting the core of Dungeon World after my outline of the system.

My gaming currently is also contributing to this thinking. The amounts of accounting and combat slog in 4e is really beginning to get to me. The various distractions at the home game don’t help (being a 14-year-old who wants to ignore all non-combat activity and his adult brother coming in and ranting about his day, ignoring that the rest of us are in the middle of something else), but the general tediousness of the game is at the core. And the FLGS game is no better, as we’re epic level, and there are a large number of us, so combat gets bogged down to one or two rounds a night.

I want to be able to do faster encounters. I want more story, again. I’m getting bored with the games I’m in right now. I need a change. And the streamlined nature of Adventurers! and Dungeon World seem to provide that. For now.

Anyway, I need to head off towards bed. Gotta drive tomorrow.


A Hopefully Quick Post

My eyes are on fire, having been worked hard today, so I’m going to try to not be so long winded as I can be. I’d rather have a larger word count, but it’s quality, not quantity that important.

Once I got the idea in my head that I needed other worlds for the Reincarnated campaign, I decided to read the Plane Shift Zendikar file WotC made available a couple of weeks ago. Basically, the file takes one of the worlds of Magic the Gathering TCG and gives some background and racial mechanics for use with D&D 5e. The background was what sparked my interest. I was looking for how the world was structured in relation to the five types of mana in MTG, what influence the plane-devouring Eldrazi had on the world,  what the Eldrazi themselves are like, etc.

After reading the digital file, I found it points the reader towards an artbook on the Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch MTG releases. So, I went to the local Barnes and Noble and picked up the artbook. I’ve read some snippets here and there, and what really interested me was the idea that over the millennia since the Eldrazi were imprisoned, the three main creatures had become worshipped as gods, disassociated from the monsters they spawned. They become heroes in the eyes of the descendents of their victims. I thought that was a great twist on the history of the world. The kind of twist that it might be interesting to have the PCs in the Reincarnated setting have to deal with.

That is, what if the gods the PCs worshipped and worked for so long ago are now reviled for abandoning their followers to the horrors of the invader gods. This makes for a more interesting origin for the dark elves and goblins than I originally had, which was simply the pressures of wars against immigrants. That still has an appeal, especially with modern politics, but it’s almost too close to reality.

That last bit was also suggested by some of the rules in the PSZ PDF. Each race is presented in that file as a partial set of stats, but each non-human character must decide on a tribe or philosophy they are part of, which completes the race by providing the missing pieces. For example, all elves have +2 Wisdom, but the Tajuru Nation elves get +1 Charisma and the Joraga Nation elves get +1 Dexterity. There are more special items in each division, but this gives you a general idea of the importance of the subraces. Each race is also associated to a certain type of mana, which suggests personality traits and other roleplay elements.

I’d like to incorporate some of these ideas into the Reincarnated setting, as I think that world might benefit from some of these sorts of ideas. The mana flavor idea is what I want from the worlds beyond the world of the Reincarnated. I had originally had an idea for humans to have different races based on locations of origins as an explanation for skin colors and such.I have no idea if I’ll stick with that, and in fact I probably won’t. But I do know I want to get away from some of the tropes of fantasy that currently exist in gaming (like the very white high elves and very black dark elves). I’d like to more the route of the elves of Warcraft (the Night Elves are human allies and blue skinned, and the Blood Elves are orc allies and European in appearance), but different.

Yeah, so much for not being long-winded. I’ve written far more than I wanted here. I think this is a good thing, but my eyes are killing me. Time to go.


Feeling Creative Again

Last post needed to include a couple of events that I neglected. Well, one that I can remember right at the moment. The Smalls and I went out and saw Captain America: Civil War, which as has been commented elsewhere was basically the unannounced Avengers 2.5 movie. That’s not a bad thing, nor can I think of any connection to gaming, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Probably because that’s the point I felt this current creative streak started.

I also watched Pacific Rim. It had some neat ideas, particularly the explanation as to why the mechs/”jagers” required two pilots. However, it also had impossibeasts. While that’s part of anime, I really find them frustrating in all the artwork I see on Pinterest. To define “impossibeast,” I mean those impossibly large monsters that are most kaiju, as well as many large dragons in artwork. Get much bigger than a dinosaur like an apatosaurus, and their ability to move, much less consume enough calories to get the nerve impulse down a foot of tissue, becomes impossible. My mind has a lot of trouble suspending disbelief when encountering those crazy things.

That influences my thinking on creatures in my settings. So, the StarSea will have no creatures larger than a dinosaur, nor will the Reincarnated setting. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s something I want to keep track of. Of course, since I dislike the idea so much, I doubt I need the reminder, but it is part of my personal mission statement.

I actually did the analysis of the Dungeon World system last weekend. I ended up with about 4 pages of condensed notes, and those got me going on ideas for the StarSea. Mostly, I was considering ideas for how to work Corruption with the DW system (and likely, by extension, any Apocalypse World-based ruleset. I just need to figure out some of the details, but the idea that there are some actions/moves anyone can take, I was able to cobble together a basic idea.

In regards to the Reincarnated setting, I did come to the conclusion that I’m going to want to add in alternate realities. That’s part of the Corum books and part of Age of Sigmar, both major inspirations for the setting (there’s even a bit of that in the Forgotten Realms where the Salvatore book I got the initial idea from). I haven’t much planned anything yet, but I think it’s a necessity. Maybe part of the plotline is to find allies in other worlds, or maybe the other worlds will show the players what will happen if they continue to lose to the Invader Gods.

Anyway, it’s now late and I need to get up in the morning, and I need to get the house shut down, so that’s all I’ll report.