Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The old guru who guards the mountain monastery eternally

One of the goals I strive for in Piecemeal is that any trope and NPC can accomplish, a PC can accomplish. In this case it is the trope of the aging priest, monk or holy man who sits eternally in some secluded mountain temple, or perhaps spends an eternity guarding the holy grail in a trap filled dungeon.

In piecemeal this is the miracle called "Unaging", as long as a priest is both in a state of grace (high piety stockpile), and standing upon holy ground, they do not age. Should they ever leave holy ground or fall from grace, they gain back all of their "skipped age" within 24 hours.

This allows a recreation of this trope without making it a "must perform" action. This also explains why the incredibly powerful Paladin spends his days minding a dilapidated cemetery in the woods and sends the young heroes to defeat the goblins rather than doing it easily himself (yet at the same time providing them with training and a safe haven)

So whether you are the last Grail Knight resetting traps of the first Ghost Rider giving it one last ride with Nicholas Cage you can use this miracle for the effect.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Piecemeal VA0.3

A new update, this one contains a few big ones. A couple new spells and miracles, tweaks to the weapon builder for improvised weapons,

and of course the rules for group templates.

Take a look.

The most fundemental rule (important to all rules heavy systems)

The first flaw I will discuss is the simple aspect of rolling dice. We all know the problems that occur in RPG's when dice rolling gets involved. Game play can grind to crawl as players try and figure out all their minor modifiers. This gets worse when a roll is narrowly failed and players huddle around spending 5 minutes counting and recounting modifiers to try and pass, thinking up new reasons and justifications for a bonus.

Sometimes this gets worse and occurs after the fact when players bring up a failed roll from 2 encounters ago that should have succeeded and wish to then return the broken shield to their inventory or any number of other problems. Other problems also come up time and time again.When I wrote piecemeal this was one of the first things I addressed, how to actually create rules to dictate how dice are rolled.

It works as such.First:The player rolling the die announces all the positive bonuses, and any constantly occurring negative penalties (not situational or temporary ones).Second:Those opposing (usually the GM) announce all the negative penalties to the die roll (such as a curse, or an injured limb or it being pouring rain).Finally:The Die is rolled by the player with the end modifier. The result stands. If the player forgot his sword is +5 not +4, or the GM forgot the player was blinded two rounds ago, it doesn't matter.Why? This speeds up the game a lot, you do not even realise how much until a few games using this style of rolling. Its also a great mechanic for getting players involved in a new RPG. Rules knowledge is no longer so immediatly required (and if a new player is forgetting a lot of bonuses, a GM could balance by not "remembering" all the penalties).This means sometimes actions will succeed where they should have failed, that isn't an issue. Consider it cheating fate, and enjoy the smoother game play.

Reposted as part of my "Phone it in" series..
original post


Note that I had originally planned a second post to point out how this rule applies to all other rules. If no one remembers the rules for grappling when they occur, then it obviously wasn't that essential to anyones plan for handling the current situation. Note this means that the incorrect rules may often be used, but if no one interjects with the right rules then who really cares?

Needless to say there wasn't enough for this second post.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Golems: Scary death machines, not shambling robots

This bit on Piecemeal isn't as much a flaw in game play as it is a flaw in concept (in my mind). I do not like mindless automatons being called golems, in my mind a golem is a truly terrifying religious entity. The automatons in most FRPG's are just ye olde robots.

In Piecemeal this is separated. The "Classic RPG" golems are created by wizards (Simulacrum) and have all kinds of fun options of binding spirits, demons, dryads or the like (willing or maybe not) into the simulacrum for all the fun of "evil scarecrows" or "stone golems" from FRPG's.

Priests can craft a golem. Golems are not defined by their material, merely by the standing of their creator with their deity. Golems can be forged with whatever is appropriate to the deity, it isn't the physical form that holds the creature together. The golem is fueled of divine power.

The ritual takes a full two days (no sleeping) and a lot of Piety. So what physical effects does it have? To convert to D&D terms the golem has attributes based on a 1 to 1 score of the priest's "Caster Level", it regenerates damage each round based upon that level, and it has a damage reduction equal to the caster level. This makes it a combat powerhouse that is nigh indestructible, like the golem of legend.

Whats the flaw then? Well unlike the D&D golem this is not a controllable creature. It is intelligent and acts on its own accord to its goal, slaughtering everyone who doesn't follow his creator's deity (though it will not harm the faithful). Its mute, it doesn't talk, but it isn't stupid. Think more "The X-files" and less D&D.

What is its flaw? How do you defeat such a killing machine? The first option is the priest who created the golem can create a control item (he doesn't have to). It doesn't give you control of the golem, but destroying the item destroys the golem. Brute force is highly unlikely to succeed except for very weak golems made by lower level priests. The final way is that the golem is tied to places of worship and holy ground of his deity. If he is removed too far from those sites (or the sites are all destroyed or defiled) the golem is again destroyed.


What does this style of golem allow?

Combat encounters that are not about killing, but about surviving and outmaneuvering the opponent. The golem becomes less of a "stand up and fight" adversary and more of a "Jason Voorhees" villain the PC's must avoid until they can crush him indirectly. This becomes even more so if one or more of the PC's are of the "correct" faith and can try and shield their "incorrect faith" brethren from harm.

It can also allow for tough moral choices. Building a golem can protect your community from hostile and evil forces...but it also isolates it (violently so) into a xenophobic community.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Be careful on Holy Ground

Today's post is going to deal with a common lacking I've seen in many role-playing games with clerics, the lack of importance of a holy ground. While in a lot of fantasy media and historic folklore there is a strong importance of being on holy ground, not so in most games.

In Piecemeal holy ground is a prime consideration for using Priest Miracles. Most healing and damage spells are given a re-roll, or reduced piety cost when cast on holy ground. Weapons wielded by the faithful on holy ground count as magical (making the town chapel an ideal place of refuge when the werewolves attack) and those of enemy faith's cannot heal on holy ground.

This makes being on holy ground (and not being on unholy ground) very important to consider. But how prevalent is holy ground? "Consecrate Ground" is a priest miracle, any PC or NPC priest who wants to spend the piety may use this miracle. It turns a shrine, temple or church into holy ground for as long as the shrine , temple or church remains undefiled. Thus in conflicts it is often important to make sure you destroy the unholy sites of the enemy.


Why is this good?

1.) On a tactical level this adds a spiritual element to the terrain. When fighting an evil cult to Baphomet, deep in the woods around the base of the JuJu tree you need to make some decisions. Do you focus on fighting the cultists and the high priest first and destroy the shrine afterwards? Doing so means your priest is at a disadvantage and t he enemy priest is at an advantage. You could also focus on setting the JuJu tree on fire first, letting the high priest use more infernal miracles against you. And a third option is to perhaps have a thief sneak in before hand and set fire to the JuJu tree as a signal to begin the attack. It adds choices and more strategy to terrain.

2.) It makes the local temple or church more of a "safe house" from the supernatural and occult shrines that much more foreboding of a place to venture.

3.) It allows priest characters the ability to add permanent additions to the world that will have a lasting and recurring benefit to them.


How to add this into other games without using the Priest Magic system of Piecemeal?

Allow a Cleric or Druid to spend a full season blessing a church or sacred grove etc. Afterwards, as long as the church or sacred grove isn't defiled (IE its altar vandalized or the sacred oak chopped down) then all healing spells allow a re-roll for hit points regained and all damage spells allow a re-roll for damage dealt. All mundane attacks against enemy supernatural creatures count as magical. Tweak to taste to give a mechanical (and revokable) benefit to being on holy ground (besides being immune to getting your head cut off)

Friday, July 17, 2009

What im working on for 0.3 Piecemeal

Hello readers. Today as part of my "phone it in Friday" I'm going to write about something that might actually BE interesting. Part of my plans for 0.3 of Piecemeal deals with group templates.

These are useful in any starting game, but mostly with schrodinger's characters. Basically a character can choose two "starting group conditions" from a list. Each ties you to another character in the game. You cannot be tied to the same character twice.

Each "tie-in" gives you a small penalty and a small bonus, if the other player confirms the relationships, they take a small penalty instead and you gain a larger bonus.

One of the examples:

"Only in it for the money"
- Gain one additional starting item
- At first level you have half your maximum starting luck points.
If confirmed by another player, your luck points are normal, but they lose a starting item.
If both of your starting "tie-ins" are unconfirmed "only in it for the money" then you start with but a single luck point at first level.


Now, if you are wondering where I am drawing inspirations for the connections from, I'm not gonna lie..I got a lot of inspiration from the "hire stories" in Firefly (and a few other sources). The one above was obviously Jane.


Why is this good?

1.) It helps alleviate the tired old "You meet in a bar and instantly become best friends who trust each other in life and death situations".
2.) It instantly builds connections (Brothers, Lovers, Mentors. Mercenaries and Students).
3.) They only represent starting conditions, they can change as the characters grow.
4.) They aren't unilateral.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Languages other than common

The flaw I'm discussing today is only a flaw if you are a fan of cunning linguists. In a lot of RPG's there tends to be a "Common Tongue" that everyone speaks. This does smooth over a lot of things, never are there people you cannot speak to.

The simplest solution is to remove the "common tongue" that everyone speaks. Piecemeal does this, this is one step. This creates the problem then of not being able to talk to anyone. True that is realistic, but cuts out a lot of hero archetypes. The Daniel Jackson or the C3P0

Thus Piecemeal ensures the Bard Class can act as "interpreters" and explore brave new lands. Likewise the priest can use the "understanding" miracle to "get the point across" to locals.

Why is this good?

1.) It enables a greater level of mystery
2.) It makes language skills useful
3.) It supports exploration style play that much more. (along with travel XP)

Pitfalls

You have to be willing to overlook the "everyone speaks English" trope that is very common in science fiction and fantasy. That is a fun trope in its own way.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Healing grevious wounds

Earlier I discussed healing of luck points, today I discuss the healing of actual wounds. Body point damage.

Now for back ground reading its essential you have read this post. Luck Points deal with the supernatural ability of heroes to avoid damage and their regeneration can be based upon such things as leisure and be healed in massive doses.

Body Points are actual physical damage, and quite heavy doses of punishment as well. Think about how much damage a dagger blow (a foot long blade) slammed into your leg would really be. A d4 doesn't really seem that piddly does it? Think of how long it would take to have that wound heal on its own.

In Piecemeal a healing check is made once per week. Each week the character basically makes a health check. If the character passes they gain a single body point back. This check is modified by skills applied (such as herbalism) and equipment (medical equipment) but most important to note is that negative penalties for having taken damage still apply. The worse condition you are in, the longer it takes to heal. Someone in critical condition is in serious condition.

The second important note is that while an epic success (20) heals two body points, an epic failure (1) costs a body point. That's right, you can survive a battle and later die of your wounds anyways. Other factors can also change what numbers count as epic success and failures. Resting in a clean hospital might make 16+ an epic success while crawling around in a fetid sewer might make a 10 or less an epic failure.

This, when combined with the weighty of choice of using healing magic (usually a priest issue) can be used to slow the "in game" pace of adventure.

Why is this a good thing?
1.) It makes it a choice (and a hard one) of whether to keep on going when running low on luck points, the reward is often greater by this point but the risks are higher too.

2.) It can slow down the pace of adventuring and in a very natural way, force the players to deal with the non-violent aspects of their lives in the "down time". This allows time to learn new skills (assuming you chose to make learning new skills about time training and not advancing in levels), earn piety, train for combat maneuvers or deal with social matters for the party.

3.) The risk of dying after the fact is very, very small (unless you camp in a fetid sewer for a few months) but stresses the importance not just surviving a fight, but making sure you survive it well. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.

4.) It keeps characters grounded, reminding them that after a viscous beating leaving them near death..they can't always just sleep for a week and be right as rain.

5.) It adds new options and choices in longer term adventures. If something needs doing on a timeline...does the character wait until he is healed? or head out wounded and do the best he can?

What are your thoughts for or against this type of healing?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Build a class Examples

Well as I mentioned this week will be a hectic one for me so my writings will be reduced. That said I still can throw in some filler posts about the game systems by showing examples of the rules in action , recounts of actual game play and sneak peaks at upcoming versions.

Today I'll touch back on the "pie piece" class construction mechanics of Piecemeal with some fairly standard fantasy archetypes built in the system.

Military Officer -2 part warrior, 1 part bard (morale, lying, haggle, interrogation)
*
Swashbuckler - 2 part warrior, 1 part bard (Befriending, Fast Talking, Scathing Remark, Witty retort)
*
Paladin - 2 part warrior, 1 part priest
*
Scoundrel - 2 part thief, 1 part bard (Lying, Fast Talking, Scathing Remark Witty Retort)
*
Voodoo Practitioner - 2 part wizard, 1 part priest
*
Druid - 2 part priest, 1 part wizard
*
Ranger - 2 part warrior, 1 part thief (Sneaking, Hiding, Tracking, Climbing)
*
Ninja - 2 part warrior, 2 part thief (requires Elite Training trait)
*
Witch (enchantress) - 2 part bard, 1 part wizard
*
Missionary - 2 part priest, 1 part bard (Interpretation, Debate, Befriending, Morale)
*
Swordmage - 2 part warrior, 1 part wizard
*
Magician - 2 part wizard, 1 part thief (Pick pockets, Detect Traps, Decoding, Hiding)

I'm running out of archetypes before I run out of combinations, anyone else think of any they would like to see?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Penny Pinching PC's

Alliteration always accelerates awesome content. As mentioned yesterday's post it is going to be a hectic week for me but I thought I would find time for a simple little fix.

The flaw I'll be discussing today is the occasional player who despite not playing a grim miser, spends not a superfluous copper. Why fly first class when you can fly coach for less right? Even though you are a multi-millionaire.

Well, keeping in mind Piecemeal handles luck points and body points differently, luck points (or Hit points for most systems) heal differently based upon how a character leads their life.

Normally it is the familiar 1 luck point per day. If a character is living a lifestyle that is spartan (to them), or full of toil they regain luck points at a rate of 1 per week. If they live luxuriously (wasting time and/or money, relaxing) then heal at a rate of 2 per day.

So for a scoundrel this may mean spending all his earnings in pubs, dancing halls and gambling dens in debauchery. A nature lover may spend the days swimming in the river, eating wild berries and generally being lazy.

Why is this good?

For some players, especially newer players, its a good motivator to get them to think not just about their characters effectiveness, but their enjoyment in life.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Busy Day, Only time for torture.

I've got a hectic week upcoming so my update schedule will probably slow, but not below my original goal.

That said today's flaw is about something that comes up eventually. Torture. Eventually, everyone has come to the point where they capture someone who has information they don't want to share. Fear the Boot had an episode on this, saying it usually breaks down one of two ways. Either the guy talks immediately, the guy will never talk or the players spend thirty minutes describing horrible things they do until he talks. For some people this may be enjoyable, others probably don't really want to get into this. But the need to get information from people who don't want to share it is important.

Piecemeal has one bard skill that deals with this, Interrogation. Isn't that a fancy way of saying Torture? No. Interrogation is purposefully left more broad to include such things as playing "good cop/bad cop", cross examination in the courtroom, holding someone over a balcony, and yes, torture. The only reference to torture is simply one announces how many body points of damage they are dealing to the target. Isn't that glossing over a PC's (or NPC's) actions? Yes. Totally. I also gloss over the fact that PC's use the washroom. I do not expect the PC's to intimately describe each bowel movement including colour, texture and specific odour. If it comes up, simply announcing that they are performing the act is enough.

Why is this good?

1.) Graphic descriptions of interrogation is not something everyone wants to go through.
2.) The ability to get information from unwilling people is required in many games.

Pitfalls?

With some groups, the hand waiving of torture may make some people far less hesitant about performing it. This can be a problem if you want to stress the serious nature of torture. If this is the case, you could simply require that any actual torture (use of damage) a listing of the types of torture that are going to do. Not always, not graphically, but as a reminder.

As I recently retooled the social conflict mechanics. (see here and here ), I may try and refurbish the interrogation rules to sync up better.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Falling Damage, Burning Buildings and Rolling Down a Rocky Hill

Yesterday I was skimming through the Urutsk: World of Mystery RPG Referee's Manual over at The Grand Tapestry. Early on, before real life intruded and I had to put it down for the night, I noticed the rules for falling damage and thought on how I handled that in Piecemeal.

Urutsk uses a slight variation on the very familiar 1d6 per 10 feet fallen mechanic. Now I see flaws with this mechanic, but the mechanic is still solid in many games. If falling isn't something that happens a lot, this is more than adequate. Why do I consider it a flaw? Well it all boils down to what you need the system to do. In my case once I ran a game involving a large number of thieves and repeated rooftop chases through Arabian cities, the flaws became evident. Jumping onto wagons, or through windows, or onto hard tile streets versus into the river. A lot of on the fiat (which leads to inconsistent mechanics sooner or later) was required.

So I decided to roll in the mechanics with another system I hated, the fire doing 1d6 damage mechanic. A character shouldn't be able to escape prison by setting his cell on fire and waiting for the flames to destroy the building so he can walk out. Yet at high levels (1 round being 1 minute) he could, easily.

Thus we get to Piecemeal's "Unplanned Damage" system (rolled into the combat guide) works as follows. In any odd or unplanned occurrence (such as falling, house fires, rolling down a hill covered in jagged rocks, being covered with scalding oil, poison) damage can be assessed by two factors: The damage from exposure and the amount of exposure.

The damage from exposure is a die size, the amount of exposure is a number and a method of increase (linear or cumulative).

Thus falling 20 feet onto soft earth might be a damage of d4, and an exposure of 2 cumulative. Thus we would roll 3d4 damage. Falling onto stone tile might be a damage of d10 (thus 3d10)

A simple bonfire might only be a linear d6 (1 d6 per round) but an enclosed building with little air and increasing smoke might increase cumulatively, and if the materials are particularly hot burning the die size could increase to a d12, thus being stuck inside a roaring inferno of an alchemists workshop for 5 rounds could do 15d12 damage (assuming nothing is done for safety)

Which is the next benefit, Damage Reduction. With various armours and spells in Piecemeal you gain a reduction of damage per die. Falling onto soft earth in a thick padded vest is alot less dangerous, a spell of fire resistance makes the alchemist's workshop far less of a deathtrap. In short it creates a lot more opportunities for characters to plan ahead and lower the risk to them when taking certain actions. Someone who plans two weeks ahead of time to go into a burning building is probably going to be in a lot less danger than someone who stumbles into one after all.


So why is this good?

1.) It allows more variety in environmental dangers
2.) Players can take precautions to minimize risk
3.) It provides a much more versatile framework for dealing with new and unplanned dangers.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Monk, The Martial Artist..They are just Warriors

Now the title they are just warriors implies that somehow a warrior is something measly. A Warrior is more than someone who waddles along in armour swinging a sword, and a monk is not averse to wielding weapons, in fact monks are heavily trained in using weapons. Likewise any warrior worth his salt has a lot of training in unarmed combat.

Part of the disconnect I can put down due to the emergent myth that the western world did not have its own slew of elaborate martial arts or that the eastern world had some form of ancient techniques unknown to the world. Both of which are bunk.

In fact both draw heavily from the same original combat teachings, Greece. When the Hellenistic world expanded it brought Greek obsession with the perfect body, wrestling and unarmed combat with it. The Shaolin Monks for instance have Hercules as their patron saint, Hercules goes as far off as Japan in is shrine guarding duties. Meanwhile Roman cults to Hercules spread him throughout their empire in the western world.

From a more practical standpoint, no one who's livelihood depends on people trying to kill you is likely to turn down training in different styles of combat if its available. Both in reality and popular media, many people are masters of many different styles of fighting, some we would very clearly classify as "warrior" and not monk.

On a game standpoint, who wouldn't like their Scottish Highlander to be able to travel to the far side of the world, learn Kung-Fu (including the "five fingers of death") and return stronger than before to defeat his rivals? (and please, no high kicking in kilts)


How does this work in Piecemeal?

Well to start with I'm going to point out that as I loved 70's Kung Fu movies, and my regular gaming group has a MMA semi-pro in it. The style of martial arts this simulates is less of "the matrix" and far closer to what the troll and flame mentions.

As a warrior advances in levels, he gains 'Body Mastery'. Body Mastery is numeric value that can be spend round by round on either physical ability checks or "Combat Maneuvers". Combat Maneuvers work on a "trigger" basis, if Condition X happens the warrior can spend the mastery to activate Maneuver "Y". An example would be the maneuver "Riposte", if the warrior manages to parry exceedingly well, he can spend a single mastery point and immediately launch a free attack.

There are numerous different "Combat Maneuvers" from simple ones like "Bear Hug" to complicated ones dealing with nerve strikes to cinematic ones like "Throw the gun!". Learning new maneuvers is part of a warrior's impetus to adventure. To learn more maneuvers a warrior must either find a teacher (the quick way), lost ancient training manuals (the hard way) or have been exposed to the maneuver (ie, it was used on the warrior) and spend time training alone to try and recreate it (the slow way).


Why is this good?

1.) It removes artificial distinctions between Monks and Fighters
2.) It gives warriors the same opportunity for non-level advancement as other classes
3.) It provides an impetus for adventure (plot hooks in a story game)
4.) It adds a lot of spice and uniqueness to combat
5.) Warriors are no longer the 'boring' class.

Yes this is a bit of a lengthy more rambling posts, and its not one as easy to quickly plug and play, but like Wizardly Magic and Priest Miracles this is one of the major overhauls that I find most rewarding.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lessons from Eurogames

In contrast to Eurogames, North American boardgames are heavy in theme and a streak of simulation-ism I guess you would say. Take axis and allies, infantry are better at defense and tanks better in Attack (at least in the edition I play) because that's the nature of how tanks and infantry operate. Battleships were powerful but too expensive for their use, it was a waste to build more (this changed for balance in future editions I believe). Axis and Allies had a bit of a curve. Eurogames such as Catan or Carcassonne tend to have the mechanics as the purpose for the game, the theme is covered over top to make it pretty. The game itself however is about the mechanics with the theme being equivalent to the colour of an appliance. Pretty but with no real purpose. Eurogames are very easy to pick up and appeal to a much wider variety of people than North American games (on the level of individual games).

Why? Because the mechanical underpinning is a (often THE) source of fun it is very easy to enjoy the game without a lot of knowledge of the subject matter. One needs know nothing of France to have a lot of fun playing Carcassonne, in fact playing Carcassonne may lead to an interest in France.

How can you apply this to RPG design? If the goal of your game is to hook new players you need to have a solid mechanical underpinning even if the game doesn't featuring role-playing. Yes the goal with introducing new players is the role-playing...but role-playing can be a more difficult concept to pick up than many gamers realise. Its a case of "obvious if known", that is to say role-playing seems easy and natural because we are already familiar with it. Its like riding a bike, you just do it. That said, the first time you tried to ride a bike you probably fell off.

In the case of Adventuring Party! as an introductory game I made sure the dice resolution mechanic could be fun on its own. It is its own mini-game of betting pairs and runs to try and beat an opposing roll. Because that portion of the game is entertaining enough on its own, it has had a lot higher retention rate of new players willing to give it a second, or third go and in doing so they get more time to try their hand at role-playing. Even if they do not end up liking RPG's, they give the other players at the table who might a chance to keep playing (as if one spouse has stopped playing the other often will in short order at a social event, it is just manners not to run an activity in which half the guests have no interest)

Catan and Carcassonne are often called gateway games for a reason and they have a lot to teach.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Artwork

You may notice Im a fan of public domain artwork. There are a couple of reasons for this, 1.) I love the "romantic realism" present in alot of the artwork, much more so than alot of modern "dungeon punk" (not that that style of artwork doesn't have its own merits, it exists for a reason) 2.) Its Free 3.) Gustave Dore is probably my all time favourite fantasy artist and 4.) When you start a project you need to be willing and able to complete all aspects of it. Thus I could do my own art, spend money on art (no) or use the public domain. I did dabble in the idea of doing my own art however, so below is an ill fated old sketch, my attempt at that (touched up to remove a phone number I later scribbled on it, as well as a coffee ring)





I call it "Whispers in the Dark"

I think I made the right choice.

Rolling a 1 for hit points.

We all know the situation, after hard fought and grueling adventures (or sometimes just starting out) your character rolls for more hit points and gets a 1. The sour look on your face cannot be masked merely by giving a fake smile and saying "well, 1 more than I had before".

Now bypassing that Piecemeal uses luck points instead of hit points, I'd like to mention how Piecemeal handles this issue.

When you go up a level, Luck points are still rolled. The difference is you roll for all your levels all over again. So instead of rolling 1d6 your 5th level thief would roll 5d6. If this number is higher than his previous total he takes the new result.

Why is this good?

1.) It still keeps the uncertain element, the unknown risk. Rolling dice is fun in its own way.
2.) It maintains the old risk (even increases it since you may gain no new luck points) without leaving that foul taste of permanent lost opportunities. After all..there is always next roll!
3.) If you use level draining villains (I no longer do) this makes it way easier than keeping track of how many hit points were gained on each specific level (as at least some versions of the game tell you to do).
4.) If a player has rolled so terribly they are risking going several levels without more luck points (or even they just want more this level) they can always use up some of their re-rolls.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Protecting your noggin from enemy floggin

One thing I noticed in early games is that helmets did jack. This to me is ridiculous, helmets are important when axes go flying about. Still, when arrow fire is incoming I'd probably choose a breastplate or shield over a helmet. So in Piecemeal, Helmets have a simple but useful protective feature.

The type of helmet you have determines how easy it is to score a critical hit on you. The better the helmet the less likely someone is to score a critical hit. In piecemeal, without a helmet you suffer a critical hit on a natural roll of 18 or more (with some other criteria about how solid of a hit you score, other methods of critical hits etc). A leather cap would up this to 19, a skull cap or a mail coif to 20, open faced helms to 21 and a full helm to 22. Now, you can't roll above a 20, so the extra protective features only come into play if the enemy has some benefit to scoring criticals (like being on high ground, or a high luck attribute, magic).

The downside however (people do remove their helmets, even in combat) is that you suffer an equal but opposite penalty to all awareness checks you must make (or spot or perception checks if you are porting this to another system). So -1 for a leather cap, -2 for a skull cap or mail coif, -3 open helmets and -4 for full helms.


Why is this good:

1.) It creates a valid use for helmets. They have solid mechanical benefit beyond "flair".
2.) Helmets are not mandatory, in fact its a careful choice. This is a strong element I try and add throughout Piecemeal, that things become a choice to make rather than a problem to solve. The reduced critical hits versus situational awareness.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Piecemeal Update

Piecemeal has been updated to the next alpha, the font changes should be (at least 99%) done. The thief and bard skills were the last major bits ported over in font size, and got a nicer UI. If you like the layout more I'll use it more often. Also, a few more easter eggs.

Traps. Old School? New School? Too Cool for School?

I've been reading some of the fine blogs on the RPG bloggers network and reading some of the views on traps. Old school traps were much more creative to find and disarm..but you were only ever as good at finding traps as you as a player were, worse actually since you can't see things until told them. With a "trap check" you can be a world class expert, but its a shallow victory. "Make a roll to avoid calamity, OK, you made it, moving on."

In Piecemeal, the system I use has the best of both. There is a thief ability known as "detect traps". It is not "search for traps" nor "disarm traps". So how does it work? Its basically a saving throw. The moment right before setting off the trap, the thief gets to make a check to "pause" and notice the trap. If he makes the check he pauses before stepping on the pressure plate and notes the irregular size and slightly raised nature of the brick he was about to step on (as well as the chest height hole in the wall).

If you wish to be proactive however you can still use the old tricks: Sending animals ahead of you, the 10 foot pole, pouring water on the floor etc.


Why is this good:

1.) Thieves aren't forced to announce "I search for traps" every time they enter a room or touch a door or pick a lock. This speeds up the game.
2.) Thieves are still able to avoid traps better than other classes.
3.) Old school trap puzzles are still perfectly valid and cannot be undone by a simple die roll.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Alignment and Morality, A topic sure to go down smooth at every gaming group

Well I figure I'd jump on the bandwagon of a lot of other RPG bloggers this week and discuss morality. The flaw I'll discuss today is the old 9 fold alignment model we all know (I don't need to repeat it do I?). The problems are many and vary group to group, so I'll just describe how Piecemeal operates and why.

Each persons Morality operates on two parts: A major concern, and a minor concern. The major concern is what primarily guides their opinions and their view on right and wrong, their minor concern is what they strive for as long as it does not violate their major concern.

Each persons Morality contains two aspects: Their view between personal liberty and external rules, and their view between self-interest and the good of others. These are couched in terms like Honourable, Lawful, Pious versus Chaotic, Free, Libertarian and Selfless, Good, Compassionate versus Selfish, Evil and Uncaring. There is no "unaligned" or "neutral".

So a character might be Honourable Compassionate, or Selfish Free.

Note that morality is how a person feels not what they do. Someone may be Good Lawful in their morality but sneak out and commit debauchery and engage in vice while their family sleeps. They will just feel guilt about their actions and probably describe it as a weakness.

Morality only comes into place really in Social Conflicts. It is hard to convince someone against their morality, and easier to convince them for. Even then, the rules for "stubborn refusal" keep morality for ever being a straight jacket.

What about spells like Detect Alignment? Well I personally hate spells like that, "plot killers". In traditional Games I've seen this exact event unfold. A murder is committed, the court is sequestered until the guilty is found, no one can leave the ro.. , "I cast detect evil and point out the evil guy". "Just because someone is evil doesn't mean they committed the murder" to which the reply is "No, but it means they shouldn't be the kings advisor either way". And you know what? That's perfectly logical. If we in society had an infallible test to know if someone was a bad person, don't you think we would screen everyone and keep bad people out of positions of power or influence?

But it is a fantasy world an spells like that are part of mythology. My personal solution was to make the spell "Know Morality" a risky deal and a vile act. Its a violent intrusion into someones soul and seen in the same way of other forms of violation. Add to that there is the chance (regardless of if the person is willing) that it scrambles the caster's brain (resulting in possible death even for the mightiest wizard). Thus the spell becomes something you use before trying to prove the innocence of a condemned man, not to prove the guilt of someone at random.


Why do I do it this way?

1.) It adds a lot of variability. A pious compassionate man is different than an honourable selfless man, even if both are "lawful good". A lawful good and a good lawful man might be best of friends and agree on everything, until faced with a dilemma: Do the good thing or do the legal thing?

2.) Its not in any way a straight jacket, its not about deeds its about what you feel is right..even if you don't live up to it. That doesn't mean good committing evil in weakness either. The Pirate captain might have a morality of Uncaring Free, but despite no ability to profit and the risk of death he for some reason turns his ship around to save the heroes from the tribe of Island Cannibals. Thus you never get "That not how someone of your alignment should act!", maybe they shouldn't but from time to time they do.

3.) Detect Evil sucks.

4.) Neutral is a cop out. Everyone has a view deep down on these matters. If you don't have any view at all, you'd be Free and Uncaring. "Evil is the absence of Good" as the quote goes.


How to make simple changes to make this fit?

The Morality system is easily plug and play. For the spell 'detect evil' etc. Give a saving throw to a target, if you try and detect their alignment, on an epic success on the save (mandatory save, can't not take one), make the wizard take a save vs death. For any "protection VS Evil" make it only function on supernatural evil, or people you know are evil conclusively OR people you legitimately think are evil..whether or not they are.

Its not perfect, but its all about the type of game you want. If this isn't the trope you want, it is not be worth it.


what are your thoughts?

Friday, July 3, 2009

I make Bear Lore an impressive skill.

RPG Blog II recently introduced me to "Bear Lore" the skill, it inspired me to write about General Skills in Piecemeal and how bear lore would be damn useful. The flaw is the catalogue of skills that goes on and on, and obviously has a few "phone it in skills". See Bear Lore.

The solution in Piecemeal is player defined skills. I'll talk about how skills work.

Beyond conducting investigations, skills are used to grant a +2 bonus. To what? Anything you can justify really. So someone with bear lore could claim a +2 bonus to tracking a bear, a +2 bonus for an argument involving bears (say whether or not to go through the woods due to the danger of bears), +2 to hide from bear, +2 to find a bear that is hiding, +2 to spot a bear sneaking up on you.

Now skills can also be stacked, often this is in the form of more and more specialized skills. So a local hunter tracking a bear might have woodlore (+2), Bear Lore (+2), Knowledge: Local water sources (+2) and Bears in this particular forest Lore (+2) for +8 total. If he hunts in a strange forest in another kingdom his bonus would drop to +4.


Now bear lore does fit well for the next mechanic, so I'll go with say blacksmithing. You can use skills (In conjunction with one or more ability checks) to perform tasks. So a blacksmith who is designing a complex tool might require a hard (-5) intelligence check modifier to plan it, a fairly easy strength check (+2) to build it an an awareness check to examine it for flaws and touch it up. And of course, on all these check he can bring in bonuses from other skills.


Why is this good:

1.) It allows for a vast breadth of skills without requiring a catalog
2.) It encourages player creativity in finding justifications for their skill bonus to apply to situations, this really encourages some unique solutions to problems, rewarding solving them in a way that people with a very different skill set (their characters) might.

Pitfalls:

If you like balancing encounters, then the ability for characters to have a lot of skill training in the types of situations you are throwing them up against can make them seem much stronger, which is lost when they run into something they have not been trained to handle.

The player defined nature means you will occassionally get skills that are way to broad "I take stuff-lore!" or abusive/stupid "I take knowledge: Stabbing people", but a few quick "narrow that down" comments will work.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Magical Weapons and Incorporeal Creatures

This is just a tiny post to describe a minor flaw and a simple fix. If you are like me, you may have wondered why an incorporeal being (the kind you need a magic weapon to hit) takes more damage from a magical sword than a club, does the cutting edge really help?

In this fix the damage dealt to incorporeal creatures is based solely on the magic bonus. Now I don't mean they deal the bonus as damage only, that works, but its boring. Rolling dice is fun in a tactile way.

Without going into the piecemeal die size chart, I'll just make this easier to use for other systems (it works identical in practice).

+0 = d3
+1 = d4
+2 = d6
+3 = d8
+4 = d10
+5 = d12

So swinging a +5 dagger at a ghost does a d12 damage, while a +1 great axe does a d4.


Why is this good?

1.) Its somewhat more intuitive
2.) It adds more options to the use of magical items in combat.
3.) It allows for simple magic items that are meant to fight ghosts...+5 prayer beads from a mountain monastery dwelling guru for instance... no use against an orc, but goodbye ghost.

Edit: As a note because I wasn't explicit, when I mention the weapon does a die worth of damage, I mean unmodified, especially for things like strength. Hitting the ghost harder doesn't harm it more.

Items that grow with you (other than fungal rot)

Today's flaw isn't even much of a flaw for a lot of people. But for anyone who likes to collect things of no practical or current use (every gamer with a gamer shelf) this game fix might appeal to you. If you look at most fantasy RPG's, how many times does a 20th level character still have much of his first level gear? In the end it tends to get swapped out for the magic items of heroes past. In piecemeal, heroes tend to have their epic tales of daring rub off on their mundane equipment. This takes the form of Trademark Items, Lucky Items and Holy Relics.


Trademark Items are the domain of warriors. When a warrior completes an epic battle, or a fairly large battle and then rolls his level or less on 2d6, he can choose one of his distinctive mundane items to be his personal trademark item. A trademark item will keep growing as the warrior fights in more and more battles, giving a bonus to his awesomeness score (resulting in more re-rolls) and even giving more XP (he's more famous). A warrior can only ever have one trademark item, and as a slight bonus for choosing a trademark weapon (thus losing the benefit of using a magic weapon) at level 10, the warriors trademark weapon counts as a magical weapon (blessed by the fates) for the purposes of harming creatures requiring a magical weapon to harm.


Lucky Items are the domain of thieves. When a thief completes an epic heist,assassination, or stealth mission (or simply a large heist, assassination or mission and then rolls 7 on 2d6) the thief may choose to have one of his mundane items become a lucky item. Lucky Items give benefits such as bonus luck points, re-rolls when using the item or a bonus to "luck ability checks". An item can become lucky multiple times (making it more lucky) or a thief could end up with multiple lucky items. The item upgraded should be one most critical to the success of the mission, if no item clearly sticks out, allow the player to choose an item. The downside with lucky items is that if a thief loses a lucky item they suffer a penalty equal to the bonus until they regain the item, or a season has passed and they have given up on regaining the item.

Holy Relics are the domain of priests. Anytime a priest (or pious individual in a state of grace, but that's another matter) completes a large task of their faith, they have a small chance of one of their personal mundane items turning into a holy relic (doubles on 2d6). If they complete an epic task, one or more of their items automatically becomes a relic. Relics either gain an increase in effectiveness in the manner of magic items or by reducing the piety costs with calling forth specific miracles. An item can be "upgraded" more than once or a priest can end up with multiple relics. The item upgraded should be one most critical to completing the task and upgraded in a way similar to its role in completing the task. If there is no clear item to choose from, the player should choose.


Wizards can build their own magical items, and Bards are primarily about people, not items.


Why is this good?

1.) Its something fun to check for at the end of the session. Seems obvious but important.
2.) It gives players an extra sense of ownership of their deeds. A permanent memento of their actions.
3.) It works as a motivator for class goals.
4.) It gives players more attachment to their characters, they don't have randomly rolled boots of elven-kind, no he's got Ali's lucky boot's that held true when he had to run across that flaming bridge.
5.) In recurring campaigns its great for new players to find the personal items of their previous characters, 'The holy wineskin of St.Raynard' or 'The banner of Sir Reginald' are big hits to their players and their new characters.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Material Spell Components are the best thing ever and Im sure no one ever ignored them.

Well today I must celebrate the glorious confederation of great nation of Canuckistan. So before I leave the ol'Igloo to club a baby seal and BBQ it I figured I'd do up a short topic on something most people are familiar with.

Spell components (of the material variety)

So Im guessing most players with wizards have done one of the following:
1.) ignored them completely
2.) had a spell component pouch that just had all the common items you need

Now with 1 you are really cutting out a great opportunity for fun, with two its hand waving that ruins its own fun. I mean, with components like 'a grasshopper leg' and 'a bit of bitumen (tar)' just sitting loose in a pouch..can you see just reaching in and getting exactly what you needed in any reasonable time frame? And what happens if they cross-contaminate?

Of course there is a reason these rules came into effect in the first place, pixelbitching your inventory to make sure you have enough grasshopper legs is stupid...and not every player with wizard wants to be grubbing through a bag of bat guano like a dung merchant before majestically hurling a fireball. Not the cinematic issue they want.

The solution with piecemeal is (as mentioned) not to make material spell components mandatory. You are never punished for not having them.

Spell components work in a pretty nebulous way, the hard and the main concrete rule is different kinds of spell components have to be kept separate from each other (in separate clean and otherwise empty containers, thus taking up precious dots).

Magic is by nature unknown and if I attempt to catalogue it too much, it becomes mundane and even banal..which is a very different feel than I like in a game. So a player can declare anything is a spell component, and based on the difficulty of acquiring it, obvious connection to the spell, and how "mystic" the player describes the item, it may give different benefits to be negotiated by the GM and Player.


Play Example:
Thus a player might use a goblin skull as a component in casting Scry..the GM unimpressed gives him a small bonus of -2 to difficulty and -2 to mana overall for trying. If the player used "the skull of a goblin shaman, decapitated with a silver blade under the light of a full moon", the GM and player might decide on a -2 to difficulty and -2 to mana per power level, even though it is exactly the same item..just described better. Then the player announces he is also gathering local herbs to burn around the skull, this is pretty generic so the GM lets him use his skill bonus (a +2) from herbalism against the mana cost. Finally he announces he is staring into the smoke from the burning herbs around the skull when he scry's. Smoke plumes are easy to acquire but are a traditional method of scrying..so the player suggests -1 difficulty per power level, being reasonable the GM agrees. Note the bonus applied could be anything, extra range, bonus damage on combat spells etc.


Why this is good:

1.) Its not mandatory, so players who don't like it can ignore it.
2.) It keeps players from hauling around a bajillion spell components
3.) It gets players looking around their environment for situational bonuses (hey..that goblin is holding A torch, can I get a bonus to damage from my fireball?)
4.) It gives players an opportunity to be really creative and descriptive with their eye of newt and toe of dog.
5.) Anything can be treasure to a wizard now.

Pitfalls:

If the GM and Players aren't on the same wavelength about magic and its strengths and limits it can cause friction. Thus I purposefully made this section very easy to remove.

Side note: Laptop keyboards suck.


So what are your thoughts?