Character Creation and Twists of Fate

I’ve been thinking about randomized character creation lately. It seems to me the most enjoyable part of that is ending up with something unexpected. I’m less interested in gambling on the character’s power level than I am in being given a handful of interesting traits an potential hooks.

After a bit of tinkering, here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Start each character with a luck pool that can be spent on rerolls.
  • Roll up some “twists of fate” for the character. These can include background elements, talents, flaws, personality traits, special events, and so on. I’m probably start with 3 twists per character.
  • Players can spend luck to reroll any of these twists.
  • If the player isn’t satisfied with their rerolls, they can spend a little select a twist. I’d likely put a “once per character” limitation on this. That way if the player has a concept they really want follow they can push for it, but they’d still need to leave some element up to chance.

So the final results would be that if a character leaves their initial rolls as is, they get to go into play with a full pool of rerolls. On the other hand, if they want to pick and choose their traits, they have some leeway to do so, at the cost of having fewer rerolls during play. Hopefully that’s a good level of enticement toward leaving things to chance. I want to encourage players to stick with their rolls as those random traits can help the player explore new character concepts they might not normally go with. On the other hand, making the reward overly potent can penalize existing character concepts and encourage fudged dice rolls.

As for the twists themselves, I’m thinking of covering a wide range of traits, but building some flexibility into each one. For example, a species / racial twist might give you an advanced trait package if you pick that species or let you act as a hybrid if you pick a different one. I’d also like to have flaws a possible twists. However, to avoid the issue of randomly rolling a weaker character, I’d likely go with a Fate like approach and have flaws benefit the character after they’re turned against them.

Published in: on August 19, 2013 at 5:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Power Stunting

I’ve been mulling over the stunting rules and would like to try something that’s a bit more streamlined. This is at least partly inspired by Eternity Publishing’s entry on a Revised 4e Fighter. However, in this case we’re take that power building approach and generalize it before building class features on top of it.

Power Stunts

Whenever a character wants to use their powers in an unusual way, they may attempt a power stunt. To perform a stunt, simply describe the effect your going for and select perks that match that effect. You should rarely need more than 2 perks, though you may select the same perk multiple times for an improved effect. Once all perks are selected take a drawback for each perk. As with perks, you should focus on one or two and just take them multiple times if needed.

At any point in this process, the DM may step in with some changes. This should be done sparingly and generally limited to when the stunt described isn’t feasible given the situation or tools used. If a given stunt seem unworkable or exceptionally difficult, the DM may choose to alter it’s effects or charge an extra drawback. In general, even a poorly planned stunt should have something happen, even if it’s not what the character originally intended.

Note that common maneuvers such as basic attacks count as powers and can be modified by these rules. However, stunts are normally only performed during the characters turn, so stunting doesn’t apply to opportunity attacks.

Common Perks

The following perks are generally easy to apply to physical attacks and are should be readily available to most characters.

Barrage
Effects: If the initial attack misses, you may still deal damage to the target equal to your ability modifier.
If you purchase this perk a second time, you can reroll the attack roll if the initial attack misses.

Crushing
Effects: The modified attack may target Fortitude instead of AC.

Distracting
Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target grants combat advantage until the end of your next turn.
A second purchase denies the target their next minor action in addition to having them grant combat advantage.
A third purchase lets you daze the target on a hit instead of having them grant combat advantage.

Ensnaring
Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target is grabbed until the start of your next turn. While grabbing them, the hand, weapon, or item used in the grab can not be used for anything else.
If purchased a second time, the grab no longer ends automatically.

Evasive
Effects: You may shift 1 square before or after making the target attack.

Fierce
Effects: If the initial attack hits, add your choice of ability modifier to the damage dealt. If that ability modifier already applies, you must choose another ability.
For each additional purchase, you can choose to add another ability modifier to the damage roll. If the attack has a damage roll, you may instead choose to increase the damage die rolled by 1.
For powers with no damage die roll, you may use two purchases of this perk to grant 1[W] or 1d8 damage to that attack.
Special: This perk can not be combined with the weak drawback.

Flurry
Effects: Use a single target at-will attack power against a secondary target. This secondary attack has 2 drawbacks applied to it. The secondary attack can not be used on the target of your primary attack.
For each purchase after the first, you can choose to remove a drawback from the secondary attack or repeat it against another target.

Forceful
Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target is pushed 1 square.
Each additional purchase increases the push distance by 1. You may sacrifice 2 squares of push to knock the target down instead.

Guarded
Effects: The user gains a +2 power bonus to a defense of their choice until the start of their next turn.

Hindering
Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target is slowed until the start of your next turn.

Lingering
Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target takes ongoing damage equal to an ability modifier of your choice. The chosen ability can not be the one used to hit the target.

Piercing
Effects: The modified attack may target Reflex instead of AC.

Common Drawbacks

Clumsy
Effects: The modified attack suffers a -2 penalty to it’s attack roll. This can be taken a second time to increase the penalty to -4.

Reckless
Effects: The user grants combat advantage until the start of their next turn.

Weak
Effects: Each time you select this drawback, you must sacrifice one die of damage. If this sacrifice removes all damage roll bonuses from the power, count it as an additional drawback. If the power lets you add an ability modifier to the damage roll, you can sacrifice that instead of a damage die.

Published in: on July 10, 2013 at 3:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Combat Styles: The Siren

A while ago I was talking to friend about bards. We got to talking about how it’s a shame that people often think of it as a “fiddle while my friends fight” class when there are some powerful character types that can fall within the class. Here’s one example and how it might work in play.

Siren (Combat Style)

Sirens have honed their voices to be extremely compelling, even mesmerizing. With a few melodic words, they can weaken and bend the minds of their opponents, draining their very will to fight.

Inspirations: The sirens from the Odyssey are the style namers, tough the vocal powers of the Bene Gesserit from the Dune series are a classic science fiction example.

Attacks

Sirens attack the minds of their foes through speech and song. Such attacks usually radiate out from the siren, though they can also be focused in an arc or even on a single target.

They also tend to gain an increasingly strong grip on the targets mind as these attacks are sustained. Initially, the target may simply be distracted, finding it difficult to complete their tasks. From there they may find their perceptions and actions manipulated, making misstep and possibly confusing friend from foe. In the final stages, the target will forgo other actions to pursue the sirens calls.

However this progression is hardly inevitable. With enough help or if compelled to act against their nature, characters may break out of the grip of the sirens sound. So long as the target has some will remaining, they may struggle against and potentially break free from the siren’s grasp. When that happens, the siren generally has to change tactics as newly freed targets find their minds and hearts hardened against the siren. Entering a state of fighting fury is a common alternate plan, but other options are certainly possible.

Defenses

A Siren’s best defense is to quell any desire to attack them. In any game with defense pools, this can mean being able to spend defense points to prevent an attack from being attempted. In other games, this may fall on distraction penalties to hit the Siren while they’re using their abilities.

Published in: on May 26, 2013 at 4:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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HP Musings

I’ve been thinking over the classic portrayals of hit points as raw toughness vs hit points as skill and luck. That in turn got me thinking about using a more general “defense pool” that lets you shift the number to ensure the character’s safety for an otherwise debilitating or deadly hit.

In fact, you could easily take this even further and let the defense pool fuel more indirect forms of defense. For example, you could give a character the ability to spend defense points to remain hidden. For character with the right abilities, like binds or manipulation abilities, you could even spend points to keep an opponent from attacking you at all. To make things more interesting, such abilities should probably have varying cost so the locked down character’s player has a way to up the cost if they stay engaged in the action.

You could potentially expand this to a more general “cheat point” approach. That could work nicely as it would let major push to accomplish extraordinary things at the cost of making them more vulnerable. However, I would want to limit this, both to keep these points from dominating character competence and to keep players from blowing all their points in a single “bidding war”.

Published in: on May 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Project Links

Hi folks. I’ve gotten an early version of Hidden Menace up. It’s pretty bare bones, but the rules are complete and there’s a brief intro in place. I’ve also got the Lua version of my combat sim program up here. Things have been a bit busy on this end, so I’ll probably be posting smaller scattered snippets over the next few weeks as I figure what to focus on next.

Published in: on May 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Project Update

Hello all. I things have been a bit busy on this end, but I’ve still got some projects going forward. The “Hidden Menace” playtest has been trimmed down to a lean 6 pages. I’ll likely pad that out with some intro text before release, but we’re still looking at less than a dozen pages. Given it’s small size, it’s likely that system will be released as a free, open source project.

While that’s in the works, I’m teaching myself Lua by building a monte carlo style combat simulator. That will let me test things like the effectiveness of certain tactics and abilities. Once the script is ready, I’ll share it through the site so you folks can do you own tinkering.

Between these bigger project, I may start putting up some setting material I’ve been tinkering with. It seems like it might work well with the Fate system, as there are certain elements that work nicely with compels.

Published in: on February 6, 2013 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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4 Point Adventurers

While hidden menace is in testing, I’ve been musing over how you could trim down classic adventuring classes for an evening of light dungeon bashing fun. Here’s what I’m currently tossing around.

Each character starts off with basic training in a fighting style as well as a secondary area of expertise.

For the fighting styles, I’ve been considering “3 slot + 1 trick” approach. The slots I’m thinking of are a “main hand” or primary proficiency, an “off hand” or supporting proficiency, and an “armor” or passive proficiency. From there, just adding a special “thing this character is good at” and you’ve got some decent ground work for an fighting style.

I still need to mull over the areas of expertise. Right now I’m thinking of using areas such as exploration, investigation, persuasion, and logistics. I may adapt the 4 point approach of fighting styles to these. I can see “What tools do I use?” and “How do I stay safe?” being solid questions to ask for any of these.

I may post up some mock classes over the next few weeks to see how this works out. If that goes well I may revisit making an light rpg with an “Old School Hack” flavor.

Published in: on December 11, 2012 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Projects and Variants

Hi folks. I’d like to mention I’ve finally finished the reworking of the hidden menace playtest. I’ll do some early testing over the next few weeks, but I’m planning to put it through its paces over the Christmas break.

In the meanwhile, I’ve been tinkering with some rules variants in a 4e colonization game I’ve been running. Here’s a variation my wife is trying out.

Scout Variant – Whirling Stalker

Feature Swap

Trade Dual Weapon Attack for the following features.

Warding Slash — Ranger Attack
Any foe foolish enough to stay within reach of your blades will feel their sting.
At Will — Martial, Weapon
Opportunity Action — Melee weapon

Requirement: You must be wielding a melee weapon in your off-hand.
Trigger: An enemy ends their turn adjacent to you.
Target: The triggering enemy.
Attack: Dexterity vs. AC (off-hand weapon)
Hit: 1d4 damage and the target takes a -2 penalty to its attack rolls until the end of it’s next turn.
Level 15: Change damage die to [w].

Thrill of the Chase — Ranger Feature
The sight of your enemies fleeing before you fills you with renewed vigor.
At Will — Primal
Opportunity Action — Personal

Trigger: An enemy that started their turn adjacent to you ends their turn not adjacent to you.
Effect: You gain a cumulative bonus to the damage rolls of your weapon attacks equal to half your Dexterity modifier until the end of your next turn.
Level 9: Raise bonus to Dexterity modifier.
Level 25: Raise bonus to Dexterity modifier + 2.

Play Style

These features are meant to discourage grouping and encourage repositioning. The idea is to make the enemies only good choice to try spreading out and staying away from the ranger. Much like a defender, this feature set is meant to give targets several bad choices. If they stand their ground, they suffer extra damage and find their own attacks deflected. If they shift away, they may be able to save their own hide, but the ranger becomes stronger and may either pursue them or take it out on their buddies.

Published in: on December 6, 2012 at 2:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Project Progress

Hi folks. I’ve been doing the first round of playtests for the Hidden Menace game. So far the results have been promising, though I want to refine my cheat sheets a bit more. We’ve had a lot of fun with it and the rules are simple enough I’ve been able to share it with my oldest kid. Granted, she also plays a mean game of Gamma World if you handle the reading for her. Hopefully I’ll be able to refine this over the next week or two. It looks like the final product will be around the size of Lady Blackbird, so it should be a good pick up and play game.

On a side note, it looks like the Coles are starting up a Kickstarter for an adventure rpg game (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1878147873/hero-u-rogue-to-redemption). Those are the folks behind the spectacular Quest for Glory series. Seeing as that one of my favorite series growing up, I’ll definitely be backing this. In fact, it’s probably my favorite series in that genre. How about you folks, any adventure game favorites? I did enjoy Kings Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, though I haven’t made it through Space Quest yet.

Hidden Menace: Shadow Faction

Today I’d like to take a quick look at how the “shadow” faction will operate in Hidden Menace.

As I’ve mentioned before, their main ability will be gaining influence by completing agendas. These will normally be played face down to one side so the player can reveal them as they’re completed. I can also see agenda cards being found by other players and used as either clues or potential barter material. I may even make peeking at or flipping agendas a victory point fueled ability.

Their secondary ability will likely be the ability to send out major threats and obstacles to slow down the seekers. I’m still working out the exact trade offs, but I like the idea of having shadow players send out lesser threats before the big bad is revealed. I might let them tap agenda cards to do this.

This article seems to wrap up most of the core game play. I still need to work out the end game details, but I’ve got enough to do some early internal testing. I’ll be working on an “cheat sheet” style rules right up this week and start the first round of testing.

Published in: on October 24, 2012 at 5:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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