Saturday, July 17, 2010

Passions in Swashbuckler!

I've nearly gotten Swashbuckler pieced together. I have all of the mechanical concepts worked out, now just to fill in the blanks and make sure that other human beings can understand what I'm trying to express. Because of that, posting it going to be a bit light over the weekend--so expect only one post tomorrow. I guess I'll leave you with something interesting though.

A character’s passions define his or her goals and ambitions. The seven basic swashbuckling motivations are Freedom, Honor, Power, Revenge, Romance, Status, and Wealth. Passions are more specific than these, however. Examples: Revenge on Marquis Dupree, Find True Love, Get Married to Prince Viktor, Buy Back the Family Farm, Find My Long-Lost Father, and so on.

Whenever a character a character is actively persuading one or more of his passions, he temporarily adds 1 to his dueling and skill dice. When a passion is achieved, a character’s total dueling dice predominately increases by 1. This is the only way to permanently raise a character's dueling dice.

This means that between Fortes and Passions a character can increase his dueling dice (or skill) by a total of 2.

Next time, I will talk about skills and the two methods of resolving challenges.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fortes in Swashbuckler!

The character creation section for Swashbuckler! has been coming together quite nicely. You seen my posts on Design Goals and Dueling Dice, now check out Fortes. As with dueling dice, keep in mind that what I show you in these previews may be tweaked slightly or complete rethought by the time I release playtest rules.

My goal with fortes is to allow players to customize what their is good at other than passions and skills and to give different characters situations in which they will shine.

Fortes award a bonus skill or dueling die in specific, relevant situations. A character may only use a single forte at any given time. There are four main types of fortes, which are detailed below. Characters begin player with four fortes, one of each type.

Trait: Some fortes award a bonus die when actively expressing character defining personally traits. Examples: Loyal to the Crown, Greedy, Honorable, Masked Identity, Chaste, Always In and Out of Love.

Location/Situation: Some fortes award a bonus die in particular situations or places. Examples: Taverns & Inns, Drunk, Aboard Ships, Mounted, Under the Orders of a Superior.

Opposition: Some fortes award a bonus die against preferred foes. Examples: vs. Guards, vs. Enemies of the Crown, vs. Pirates, vs. One’s Nemesis.

Tool or Weapon: Some fortes award a bonus die when using a specific weapon or tool. Examples: Rapier, Cutlass, Saber, Silken Goods, Lockpicks, My Father’s Horses.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dueling Dice in Swashbuckler!

I think I'm finally ready to share a few of my thoughts with the community. Keep in mind that what I show you in these previews may be tweaked slightly or complete rethought.

Dueling Dice
All player characters are accomplished swordsmen and begin play with 3 dueling dice. During each a duel round, these dice are allocated as thrusts, parries, or ripostes. As characters fulfill their passions, they will gain additional dueling dice. For each passion fulfilled, a character’s total dueling dice increases by 1.

Combat begins with each combatant splitting their dice between thrusts, parries, and ripostes. Both combatants then roll all of their thrusting dice. If any of the dice roll a 6, the thrust will land unless skillfully parried away. Each combatant then rolls his parrying dice. A parry is successful if the die rolls a 5 or a 6. A single successful thrust may only be opposed by one parrying die. For each successful party made during the round, a character can make one riposte, but no more than he has allocated dueling dice to riposting. A riposte hits if the die rolls a 4, 5, or 6. If the defender has additional parrying dice remaining, he may attempt to parry a riposte, as explained above. Should the parry succeed, the character may then repost back, as explained above. The cycle continues until the a combatant does not succeed his roll or a combatant runs out of relative dice.

If a combatant runs out of parry dice or his parry does not succeed, he is struck. Each time a character is struck, he temporarily looses one dueling die. What a character has no more dueling dice available to him, he dies. Dueling dice lost in this way return as a rate of 1 die per week.

More Thoughts on Chainmail

I'm moving away from thinking about how to use Chaimail as the OD&D combat engine. Chaimail and OD&D just have too many disparities between them to really synthesize them in a way that is true to the word of each ruleset, although the opinion of the reader may vary from my own. Instead, I've been taking aspects of Chainmail and D&D and rebuilding them from the ground up.

How did this all start? When I was working Swashbuckler! yesterday, I noticed that many of my sword fighting mechanics could be easily ported into, and were like inspired by, Chainmail. I'm not quite ready to talk too much about swashbuckler yet, so I'll discuss my Chainmail/D&D fusion experiment instead. Keep in mind, however, that I am not attempting to unitize whole (or even partial) pieces of either the Chainmail or D&D rulesets.

Basic Combat

Each character and creature fights as a number of men. Player characters, for example, fight as a number of men equal to their level. Rather than having separate attackers and defenders, creatures engaged in melee attack simultaneously. In a two person combat, each combatant rolls a number of d6s equal to his or her fighting capability (equal the number of men he or she fights as). Successful rolls are determined (depending on troop type) and the number of successes are compared. the combatant with the greater number of successful rolls is the victory and slays his or her opponent.

Depending on a combatant's troop type, he may gain certain advantages over his opponents. Take a a light footman fighting an armored footman for instance. For each single success, the light footman needs three if his attack dice to roll 6s. On the other hand, the armored footman's need to roll a 4 or higher for a roll to be considered a single success. Thus, a single light footman with a fighting capability of 1 man cannot defeat an armor footman of the fighting capability. Even three light footmen have a difficult time taking on a single armored footman.

Now, I'm considering some sort of critical hit table rather than instant death. But for the time being, this is mostly a brainstorming exercise, although it might very well turn into something more.

Fantasy Combat

The Fantasy Combat Table allows characters to take on mythical creatures with a slightly higher chance of success than when using the basic combat rules. Each combatant rolls 2d6 and compares it to the fantasy combat table. If one combatant succeeds his or her roll while the other does not, the successful combatant slays his or her foe. Otherwise the combat continues into the next round. Neither combatant's troop type is factored into the combat table. Only heroes (4th level and higher characters) may roll on the Fantasy Combat Table.

Character Classes

Fighters attack and defend as Armored. After reaching hero level, fighters always have the option of rolling on the Fantasy Combat Table.

Thieves attack and defend as Light. When attack unnoticed from behind, thieves throw 1 additional die from 1st to 3rd level. They throw 2 additional dice from 4th through 7th level, and 3 additional dice from 8th to 12th level. Only when backstabbing, does a thief have the option of rolling on the Fantasy Combat Table and only after reach hero level. (Note that thieves also possess increased chances to hide, move silently, pick locks etc.)

Wizards attack and defend as Light. Starting at 1st level, wizards are able to cast spells. The maximum [complexity or level] of a spell a wizard is able to cast is equal to half his level, rounded up. Wizards may never roll on the fantasy combat table.

Clerics attack and defend as Heavy. They are able to turn units worth of undead creatures. Starting at 2nd level, clerics are able to cast spells. The maximum [complexity or level] of a spell a cleric is able to cast is equal to half his level, rounded down. Only against undead, demons, and other unholy creatures and having reached hero level may clerics opt to roll on the fantasy combat table.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Debunking the Myth of Encounter Balance in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons

I see a lot of people saying that New School games, specifically D&D 4th Edition, are meticulously obsessed with combat balance--that every combat encounter should be balanced to the strengths, weaknesses, and level of the characters. As far as D&D 4th edition goes, this simply isn't true. In fact, the Dungeon Master's Guide directly conflicts with this ever so popular belief.

Let me begin by quoting from the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide:

"If every encounter gives a perfectly balanced challenge, the game can get stale. Once in a while, characters need an encounter that doesn't significantly tax their resources, or an encounter that makes them seriously scared for their character's survival--or even makes them flee" (104).

Let me repeat that even to the creators of 4th Edition D&D think that perfectly balanced encounters make the game stale. Now, take that with a grain of salt though. When they say "perfectly balanced challenge", they mean balanced to absolute perfection. But the Dungeon Master's Guide then goes on:

"Easy encounters are two or three levels below the party, and might include monsters as many as four levels lower than the party: these encounters allow the character's to feel powerful. If you build an encounter using monsters that were a serious threat six or seven levels ago, you'll remind them of how much they're grow in power and capabilities since the last time they fought those monsters. You might want to include an easy encounter about one per character level--don't overdo it" (104).

I like the idea and intent of easy encounters; The designers got this spot on, but with the length of 4th edition combat, they just aren't worth it. I don't want to play out the same encounter that I know the party will eventually overcome without casualties for 30+ minutes. It's just not my cup of tea. Should an easy encounter only take 10 to 15 minutes to complete, I would consider them to be a great chance of pace and depth to the campaign.

"Hard encounters are two or three levels above the party, and can include monsters that are five to seven levels above the party. These encounters really test the character's resources and may force them to take an extended rest at the end. They are bring a greater feeling of accomplishment, though, so make make sure to include about one such encounter per character level" (104).

In my year of playing 4th Edition, I can tell you all that an encounter that is two or three levels above the party isn't really very challenging. It's a little tougher, but in reality, it just takes longer to complete. I did loose a character, Sir Rodrick the Warlord of Tallina, though to a encounter only two levels higher than the party.

"Monsters that are more than either levels higher than the characters can pretty easily kill a character and have a chance of taking out the whole party. Use overpowering encounters with great care. Players should enter the encounter with a clear sense of danger" (104).

You heard it: "Use overpowering encounters." That's right, the 4th edition Dungeon Master's Guide says to use them. Make your players run an cower in fear that their precious characters will die. Even most old schoolers believe that players should be warned when they are getting into a possible TPK situation. Take a took at these posts form Planet Algol: A Picture of a Dungeon Room With Cthulhu in it..., Another Rhetorical DMing Question, and An Explanation Regarding Recent Posts & TPK!

Taking the information above, here are some basic guidelines to creating varied encounters in D&D 4th Edition.

Roll a d10 to determine the encounter difficulty:

1: Party level - 1d4
2: Party level - 1
3-5: Party level
6: Party level + 1
7: Party level + 1d4
8: Party level + 1d6
9: Party level + 1d8
10: Party level + 1d20

This all being said, I'm not a huge fan of 4th edition D&D. But if we are going to discuss something with any real level of integrity, we need to understand both sides of the issue. In this post I have taken the time to analyze and discuss combat encounter balance of 4th Edition D&D and have shown that the popular mentality is incorrect and uninformed. We all, including myself, need to do better to insure that we use logic and understanding rather than pure emotional reactions when discussing sensitive topics and differences between different aspects of this magnificent hobby.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Swashbuckler! Design Goals

A couple of days ago when I announced I was working on a Swashbuckling rpg, I recieved a comment from OdRook:

A swashbuckling rpg? Color me intrigued. I'm frequently looking for something that will convey the stylistic delights of the genre without bogging down in unnecessarily-complex rules that turn every duel and every exchange of insults into an hours-long dicefest.

So, do keep us updated, please. Combining elements of game design from older and newer styles could be just the thing.

He has a point: just about every swashbuckling game is filled with complex fencing rules and, often, character are not rewarded by acting within the confines of the genre. Not I know Savage Worlds has a swashbuckling source book, but Savage World isn't really my system of choice. Edges and Hindrances just aren't my thing.

Swashbuckler! has 2 main design goals:

1) Fencing sequences should be both colorful and complex in addition to taking less than 15 minutes, real time, to play out.

2) Swashbucklers should be rewarded for acting according the genre. Honor and Romance, in additional to jumping off chandeliers, will play a prominent roll in the game.

I'm not ready to start releasing too much information at this point, but I will do my best to provide you readers with a weekly update.