Warrior Gambits

I’ve been mulling over martial encounter powers lately. While encounter powers are good at varying actions between rounds, they do encourage throwing out your strongest stuff until you’re down to grinding away with at wills.

On approach I came up with the use of “gambits”. Basically how they’d work is you’d declare them when making a weapon attack. If the attack hits, you get a minor perk and a free secondary attack based on the gambit used. It the initial attack fails, the target instead gets a bonus to defend against further that gambit for 1 round, as they’re on guard against it.

That should create an interesting flow overall. At around 50% accuracy, the player would be looking at a 50% chance of needing to change gambits, 25% chance of an at-will level hit, and a 25% chance of an encounter level hit. I’d have to work out the numbers, but that does seem to be a workable approach. Give the player 3 gambits to start and they’ll have a choice each round even when a gambit is down.

One potentially issue I see is that the chance of heavy hits gets really badly hit by low accuracy. To counter that, I might add a “feint” option. If you take that, a miss triggers the secondary attack instead of a hit. The result would be higher accuracy at the cost of removing the chance to double hit.

Advertisements

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  
Tags: , ,

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  
Tags: , ,

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  
Tags: , , , ,

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  
Tags: , , ,

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  
Tags: , , , , ,

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  
Tags: , , , , ,

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  
Tags: , , ,

Hidden Menace: Seeker Faction

Last time I covered general abilities every player in a hidden menace game might have. Since then I’ve been thinking over what additional abilities each faction might have.

For the “seeker” faction, I’m thinking of giving their agents an uncanny knack for finding a way around obstacles. This would let them initiate challenges to overcome or side step those obstacles.

Challenges will likely work like extended counter attempts. One key difference would be the seeker agents can accumulate some kind of victory point or momentum for each success, with larger reward for each card played against them. The main benefit of these points is they can be used to reveal leads. Once a certain number of leads have been revealed, the seekers may be able to force the end game by revealing the final challenge. Points may also be used for benefits like changing how many cards are in circulating (drawing or forcing discards) or peeking at an opponents cards.

To ramp things up, I’m thinking of letting players lend some of their cards to the seeker’s opponent during a challenge. This allows for a larger pool which in turn means more potential points if the agent wins. By the same token, I may let players raise the stakes by letting them specify a set back if the agent fails, in exchange for more points on a victory.

I’m still working out the exact rules and wording for this, but that covers the basics of what I’m looking at. Next time, I’ll look at the “shadow” faction.

Published in: on October 22, 2012 at 6:09 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Hidden Menace: Basic Plays, Part 2

Last time I covered buy ins, enticing, and countering in my upcoming hidden menace game. This time I’d like to look at the other options the player gets.

Empower

Empowering a game element lets you improve the target by granting it knacks. To empower an element, you must play a card and state what kind of knack you’re going for. Common examples include specific skills or attributes, such as swimming or strength. Overly broad knacks such as “magic” or “mad scientist” may cost an additional card.

If the card’s theme is related to knack you want to add, you may play it face up. As long as the card is in play, the target can use the knack.

If the card’s theme is not related to the knack, you must play the card face down. At the end of the scene, if the face down card is still in play, you must discard that card and draw a new card to your hand.

Knacks can be invoked whenever their owner it trying to do something that matches the knack. When invoked, they add an extra die against any attempts to counter that associated action. Only one knack may be invoked per action.

The knack’s owner can also sacrifice the knack at any time to add it’s card to either side of a counter attempt they’re involved in.

Protect

Players may protect a game element to make it harder to remove from play. To protect an element, simply play one card for each layer of protection you want.

If you play the card face up, you must state what form the protection takes. The target form must be related to the card’s theme. Such protection is powerful, but can be removed if an agent takes an appropriate action to remove it.

Alternately, you can play the card face down to represent more abstract qualities like luck or plot protection. This is less potent than face up protection, but can not be readily removed.

Each protection card on an element may be added to any counter attempts to keep the target in play. If the owner remains in play at the end of the counter attempt, those cards are returned to the owner instead of being discarded or redistributed.

As with knacks, protection may be sacrificed to add cards to any counter attempt the character is involved in. Sacrificed protection cards do not return to the owner at the end of the counter attempt.

Claim

At any time, a player can either introduce an agent to the game or claim an existing element as their agent. Claiming an agent works much like protecting an element with a few key differences.

  • A face up claim represents a character motive, rather than a means of protection.
  • Claim can only be used to counter either attempts to control the agents actions.
  • If the target is removed from play the owner can surrender the claim to discard the claim card and draw a new one to their hand. If they choose to hold on to it, they can try to bring the agent back into play after the next scene finishes.
  • When a player’s first agent is claimed, they must choose an allegiance for the remainder of the game.

I’ll go into allegiances in a later post. The idea here is that players start neutral and gain extra abilities once they get an agent and pick a side.

Published in: on October 21, 2012 at 9:05 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,