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General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: Maugh on October 14, 2009, 10:37:20 AM

Title: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 14, 2009, 10:37:20 AM

I was recommended to visit this forum after discussing our RPG project with some friends at gen-con this year.  I've found some fascinating, but conflicting opinions on what makes good design and what makes for good games.  It's a great discussion. 

I'd like to get some useful feedback and hopefully some interest in playtesting on the game that we're developing.  Having explored around, I could post this in the connections forum, as I'm looking for feedback, in the playtesting forum, as I'm looking for playtesting.  I posted it here because I wanted to introduce some of the theory behind what we're doing, and this seemed the best place to do that.

The game that we've built is called Mayhem, and our full betabook can be found at 

The power 19 asks:  “What is the game about?”  I actually got this question from someone at Gencon, and had no idea how to answer.  Having thought about it a lot since then, I think I found a better question, from Reiner Knizia.  “What kind of a feeling should the game create?”

The answer is:  Excitement and Interest.  More specifically, it should provide the imaginative image in both combat and characters that makes these games successful.  Just like good books or good movies, role-playing demands high-energy action and solid, interesting characters that are compelling and memorable to the players.

First off, this is a pen-and paper rpg, using dice to resolve actions and a combat map to represent location and timing in encounters that call for them.  Our game materials are a betabook manual and a character sheet.

1.  Flexible and Diverse Characters.
   So those are our goals.  In order to provide better characters, we wanted to improve the flexibility of character generation and progression.  We use an open-ended skill and ability-based system, rather than a hard class system, in order to give players more control over their progress.  Characters progress in their skills as they use them, rather than at distinct level breaks, helping characters to grow more organically.
   We also included a really vast number of character options, each with a distinct style and flair.  It would be very difficult to reach the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, in character development, which makes characters more unique to your gaming group and gives great room for exploration within the system. 

2.  Smooth and Tactically Sophisticated Combat.
   In order to make the combat more exciting and interesting, we started with a groundwork of dice-statistics and the interactions of skills and bonuses, and built them in a way that provides more interaction between players.  Bonuses are more streamlined than many other games, and both an attacker and defender must be involved when actions are made.
   One of the most innovative elements of the system also increases the tactical sophistication of the game.  We use a combat-clock mechanic, a wheel with twelve spots that represent timing in combat.  Actions move a character forward on that wheel, while timing moves space-by-space.  Since faster actions move a character fewer spaces forward and slower actions move them more spaces forward, it gives the chance for faster actions to resolve faster and slow actions to hit harder.  This provides a very dynamic turn-structure for combat, and emphasizes teamwork and quick-thinking tactics in order to best take advantage of the current situation.

Our betabook is free to download on our website, ( and we do have a forum set up for playtest discussion.  I am very interested in hearing feedback for the game, and would really, really appreciate some participation in playtesting.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Callan S. on October 14, 2009, 11:37:50 PM

In good movies and books, what is it that makes characters compelling and memorable? I'm asking because I'd be interested in how much that's facilitated in the product, in case it's good and in terms of your games development if your looking at it that way.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 15, 2009, 12:24:26 AM
Thanks for responding. 

What makes characters memorable for me is a certain tone in personality and style, best shown in the way they interact with others.  A lot of this depends on the player behind the character and their personality, but a lot of it depends on the opportunities that the game provides, methods of interaction in both social and combat encounters. 

Combat should be flashy and fun, with combat maneuvers that would make Salvatore proud.  Our weapon-based abilities are designed to make each style of fighter fairly unique and interesting both in tactics and personality.  Lighter swords will reposte, lunge and counter-attack, creating an in-and-out light-stepping set of combat maneuvers.  Whips use wrapping techniques and can even do more indianna-jones style maneuvers for extra flair.  Axes and maces hit hard, resonating through armor and even battering their opponents about in space and stunning them across time.  Their high damage and slow speed develop a character image that reflects that kind of personality.  Werewolves and other lycanthropes can trigger their supernatural transformations only after attacking a certain number of times, making them play very aggressively, while undead characters trade a lower life total for the capacity to not die during combat, giving them a fragile but carefree and disconnected style of play that matches the personality of that style of character.

Ability Mechanics are designed to highlight the more iconic and unique character styles, and they show that through the action as they fight.

For social encounters, we provide mechanics and gimmicks that present quirky interactions.  For an example in one campaign we ran, we had a gorgon, (medusa) character in a party with a succubus, both as player characters.  The gorgon had it's set of interactions, (usually subtle threats of stony gaze and attempts at intimidation,) while the succubus had more attractive charms, using compulsion effects to dominate those around them and to fascinate and draw attention to herself.  The interactions between the two were vastly amusing, as the Gorgon developed fits of jealousy at all the positive attention the succubus was getting.  It was okay, though, because her snakes were there to comfort her. 

Further attribute abilities based on charisma include elements such as a "fan club," ability that encourages minor NPC's from places the party has visited to develop a sudden devotion and even social gatherings dedicated around the character's admiration.  A "First impression," mechanic and a series of social skills including deceive, haggle, and gossip make it important for characters to develop the social elements of their character and play them out to achieve their objectives.

Really, the mechanics are designed to present fun, memorable situations and to empower the characters to use their unique tactics and mechanics to succeed in a variety of kinds of encounters.  Back to the book/movie parallel, consider what characters do.  They do a lot of different things, depending on the characters, be they audacious, heroic, sinister, sly, or tough, but whatever they do, they do it vividly.  We tried to design the game to provide that vivid action.

Later, if I get any further interest, I can post some of the more structural game mechanics, such as dice/skill/attribute/ability/etc, but I think that the above rambling is enough for one post.  Thanks for reading this far.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Simon C on October 15, 2009, 01:17:08 AM
Why would I play your game over the dozens of other games that promise the same things?

Some of the things that you've said here are interesting to me, especially the part about different combat abilities reflecting different personalities.  That sounds like a cool idea.  Tell me more about this, and tell me why you need the other parts of the game to get to that.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 15, 2009, 11:10:54 AM
There are a lot of really good games out there, to be sure, and I don't want to stand here and say they all suck, because they don't, but there are some really good reasons to check out our game.   Sorry for the longish post, but below I have listed out 14 reasons to play our game over others, starting with six main branches of content, explaining why they're distinct and special,) and ending with eight pieces of our frame-work mechanics, which help understand how the game runs our strengths from that angle.  Depending on a person's preference in character styles and mechanics any number of these reasons could be enough to choose our game.  Pulling them all together into one cohesive whole makes it a mammoth of a game.

(Although they're all decent reasons to try the game, the explanations below go from more minor elements of the game to more critical ones, so keep reading to hear the better reasons.)


14.  Atrribute Abilities

Attribute-based abilities focus on the core attributes of the character, highlighting their strengths and letting them to add new capabilities based on these strengths.  Very agile characters will find themselves more easily dodging attacks, even while up-close and personal, when they'd normally need to parry.  Very smart characters can add a perfect memory.  Very cunning characters can find themselves dealing extra damage when making surprise attacks.  Very charismatic characters will find they gain greater control over crowds and even influence the decisions of individuals.  These are one of the minor elements of the game, but they do serve to highlight the more spectacular attributes of any specific character.

13.  Elemental Magics

The elemental magic system includes over 100 spells across six elemental schools.  This is a streamlined, direct magic system that is easy to play, and have flashy effects, utilizing basic elemental forces and based off of one of six elemental skills, fire, ice/water, air/lightning, earth/acid, void, and plant/poison.  A character can invest in more than one of these skills, creating dualist casters such as a favorite ice/shadow magics caster of mine, but they generally choose one and run with it, becoming a specialist in one of the six elemental types.

If you've ever tried to explain a complicated magic system to a new player, this elemental magic system is a boon.  It's training wheels for casters, and leads up to the arcane magic system below.  As simple as this element of the game is, this is a favorite for a lot of our playtesters.

12.  Ch'i Martial arts.

Our Ch'i  martial arts system includes 6 disciplines of wuxia style martial arts, (phoenix, tiger, crane, dragon, panda, and frog,) each with 22 different 'stances,' and very different strategy, one from another.  Depending on their Ch'i skill in order to use their effects, these abilities provide actions that make your characters function like characters from a jackie-chan or avatar kind of fiction.  There are even more supernatural branches that grant them a force-of-will control over the world around them.  

A character using these stances must focus their Ch'i, taking an action and rolling a Ch'i skill check, which will determine the effectiveness of all their stances.  Having done so, they can switch from stance to stance, taking advantage of different effects at different times, so long as they maintain their Ch'i focus, which can be lost by feedback, (explained later,) or by taking more damage than their Ch'i check result.  

Switching stances changes the way that a martial artist plays strategically, and makes the combat experience interesting for characters investing in this path.  Because of the image and the stance system, this is a favorite for a lot of our players.

11.  Arcane Ideals Magic

The Arcane magic system involves 12 schools.  Compulsion controls others.  Displacement moves characters around in time and space.  Destruction provides damaging magics. Divination provides insight and knowledge on the past, present and future.  Detriment imposes penalties and limitations on other characters.  Enhancement provides bonuses and boosts for other characters.  Illusion creates false images and hiding magics.  Necromancy raises the dead and drains life.  Summoning calls creatures to aid the caster.  Transmutation warps and shifts objects and people.  Vitalism provides healing and plant magics, and Warding provides barriers and arcane shielding to protect against physical and elemental attacks.  

Now, most of these concepts have been seen before, but it's important to note the scale of each school and the way they interact.  First off, the 12 schools are built around 6 ideals, Light, Dark, Life, Death, Order and Chaos.  Each school has two ideals associated with it, and the strength of each school's magic, (and even the capacity to cast magic,) depends on the strength of the associated ideals for that character, which function like their other skills.  Each school stands alone and has enough options to fuel an entire character.  However, there is a certain synergy between schools of allied ideals, and it becomes easy for a character who has invested in one school to spread their skills just a little bit and gain access to its allied schools.  

For example, a player who invests in the ideals of Light and Chaos can use Illusion magics, and really nothing else, since Illusion is built on those two ideals.  (This is really okay for many characters, because illusions alone can be tremendously useful, and there are 40 spells in each school.)  However, if they were to invest in the Life arcane ideal, they will gain access to Vitalism, which is built on Light and Life, and Transmutation, which is built on Life and Chaos.  

If they instead chose to invest in Death, they would still have access to Illusion, but instead of gaining Vitalism and Transmutation, they would have access to Divination, (light/death,) and Destruction, (death/chaos)  I would think that it's pretty clear that a caster with access to Illusion, Destruction, and Divination would play very differently than a character with access to Illusion, Vitalism, and Transmutation.

For fun, here's a link to the diagram that shows the arcane interactions.  Hope it makes sense with the above description.

10.  Weapons and Weapon Techniques

The weapons and weapon techniques are my personal favorite element in the game.  Weapons have statistics of melee bonus (accuracy), parry bonus, speed, damage, and a damage 'amp,' which represents how sharp that weapon is, such that each weapon plays differently than the others in terms of statistics alone.  A dagger has a short range, (unless thrown,) small damage, small speed, average parrying capacity, but is very fast.  A player wielding a dagger will be making small cuts at high speed.  A heavy axe will have a very slow speed, a parry penalty, and a sickeningly large damage.  Once the axe commits, it is going to take them quite a bit longer to finish their attack, but oh, the damage they'll do.  Shields get low damage, and high parry bonus.  They're there for defense.  Spears do decent damage and have low parrying potential, but have a great range.  We have over 50 weapons, each with different statistics along that spectrum.  Different weapons simply play differently, emphasizing that style of play and tactics.  

Now, that would bring up the question of balance.  Balancing those factors was EXCRUCIATINGLY difficult, and took us several years worth of painstaking statistical analysis, playtesting, and mathematical tweaking to get it to all work right, such that one weapon wasn't dramatically better than another.  I'm fairly proud to say that we got it very tightly balanced.  One of the founders of this project is a professional mathematician and programmer, who got a double-major in computer science and mathematics.  I personally work in psychology, where I've had to use a lot of statistical analysis methods in order to analyze research data.  We used these skills to get the balance right, and I think we were very successful.  I am still open to suggestions should we have made an oversight.

Apart from the weapon list, we have the weapon techniques.  Weapons are divided up into 20-some categories, light swords, heavy swords, light axes, heavy axes, shields, daggers, spears, glaives, etc.  Each of these categories has access to a list of 10-12 weapon techniques, specific combat maneuvers that they can carry out if they buy into those abilities.  Like I mentioned above, each set of weapon techniques affects the way that character will present themselves in combat.  It affects their movement and strategy, providing a unique tone and style for each fighter.  Just like a character could play 10 or 20 different styles of caster, each with distinct flair, a player could play a large number of distinct fighters.

9.  Races and Unique Talents

Last, but not least among the branches of content, we have the races and unique talents.  These are abilities, listed in tiered groups of 10, that determine not just what a character does, but who and what he or she is.  There is a tremendous amount of diversity in these options, enough to satisfy the play style of virtually any player.  There are over 90 of these options, each providing ten sequential capabilities.  Below are some examples:

-  Animal Anthro races, including the hawk, tiger, bear, rabbit, rat, snake, minotaur, bat and others.
-  Benevolent races and talents, pulled from mythology of various cultures: the studious angel, the prophetic Seraph, the courageous and herculean Titan, the proud Valkyrie, the Yazata with their voice of power, and others.
-  Demonic races and talents, pulled from mythology and fantasy:  The horned demon Vraaj, the spider-demon Chitinous, the Gorgon and Succubus mentioned above, the exceedingly hard-to-kill cockroach Cucacharan, winged fiends and gargoyles, and more.
-  Elemental fey and kami, creatures with a nature in tune with the elemental forces, also including a pair of draconic characters, one fire and once ice.
-  Psychic talents, including the more obvious telekinesis and telepathy, but also including the time-maniuplating chronomancr, the ability-stealing soul thief and the psychically aggressive Moroi, (and more)
-  Shapeshifters including the werewolf, weretiger and were-rat, and also including the changeling which can take various non-aggressive animal forms, the oriental kitsune fox-trickster, and the more tongue-in-cheek 'sheepshifter,' an animal transformation with a hypnotic sleep ability.
- Undead characters include several different styles of vampiric undead, the decayed nosferatu, the tough dhampir, the classic and classy vampire, as well as more true undead such as the liche, the skeletal champion, the gheist, and the zombie graft, (who can replace bits of himeslef with sewn-on parts of fallen enemies, should he like their capabilities better than his own.)

There are a lot of options, and that's something of an understatement.  Even with this many options, though, Each of these abilities has a specific personality to it, and they all play very differently.  The advantages to having this many diverse options lie in the capacity to play an effectively infinite number of characters and never run out of new ideas to try.

You'll also notice the absence of "elf, dwarf, halfling and orc."  These are fun character images, and have been successful for a long time for good reason, but we tried to steer in a different direction for this game, to give the game a breath of fresh air.  Although some or many of our character images are old archetypes, we've tried to break new ground and handle them in different ways, which is very difficult to do with the classic tolkein/dnd races.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 15, 2009, 11:14:01 AM

8.  Attributes

These are a measure of the core physical characteristics of the character.  These will help determine how well that character will perform in their skills, some elements of how they will function in combat,  and will determine how they will interact in their social encounters.  More specifically, there are eight core attributes in the Mayhem gaming system, Strength, Agility, Endurance, Willpower, Intelligence, Intuition, Cunning, and Charisma.  You think, sure, ability scores, nothing original there, right?  Well, yes and no, which is explained by:

7.  The Skill Die

Each of the these attributes, ranging from 1 to 16, will have a die associated with them, referred to as the Skill Die.  Each attribute, apart from its own use, governs a short list of skills that use the skill die for their random checks.  Strength, for example, uses its skill die for Melee, Parry, and Athletics checks.  Charisma uses theirs for Charm, Deceive, and Haggle checks.  Intelligence uses theirs for Lore, Medic, Tinker, and Wilderness.

The die associated with that skill is determined by a chart, but can be determined easily without it.  The die associated with each attribute is equal to the Attribute score if it is even, or the next lowest even die if the attribute is odd.  For example, if a character has a strength of 6, their skill die for strength skills is a d6.  If a character has a cunning of 10, their cunning die will be a d10.  If the character has an intelligence of 9, they will just take the next lower number and use the d8 die.

Switching out the die for various checks may seem a little awkward at first, but it does add to the flavor and excitement when characters are able to throw their better skill dice.  For every:  “my charisma is not great, so when I try to gossip I roll the d6,”  a character can say:  “My strength rocks, so I'm throwing the d12 for my Athletics check!” 

This also eliminates the need to add extra bonuses in to account for a character's attributes, which streamlines gameplay just a little bit more.

(The Mayhem game does include the capacity for some pretty odd dice.  A d1 has only one result, for example, while a d2 can be performed by flipping a coin or by taking an even or odd result.  The game also includes the capacity for d14's and d16 for particularly high attributes, especially those granted by non-human races.  These dice can be obtained through specialty gaming stores, particularly on the internet, or can simply be simulated easily by using the d20 and re-rolling values above the maximum possible roll.)

6.  Skills and Skill Dice

In addition to the skill die,  A character will have skill levels, ranking from 1 to 20, and will add that skill level to their skill die for the result of that check.  A character using their Melee skill, swinging a sword, will use their Strength Skill Die, and add that value for their skill check.   Skill checks against an opponent are resisted by that opponent's skill check.  Skill checks against an obstacle or other non-personal interaction are set against a specific difficulty.

For example, a simple attack.  Melee is the offensive skill, while Parry, (or in some cases Dodge,) is the defensive skill.  A character with a strength of 10 and 4 levels in their Melee will throw 1d10+4 for their attack.  A character with a strength of 9 and 5 levels in Parry will roll 1d8+5.  If the attacker wins, the attack was successful.

Skills are purchased with skill points, which are the core of our character progression system.  The level of the skill costs a number of points equal to that level.  The first skill level, for example, costs 1 point.  The second 2, and the third 3, up to 20, such that going straight from 0 to 4 levels in a skill costs 10 points.

The game has a set number of serious skills, included on the character sheet, but that doesn't mean that the storyteller can't award unique skills, based on the character's actions and individual history.  We had one character, for example, who spent most of the campaign resolving encounters by cooking for people, and developed a cooking skill.  (Saved us from bandits once with a mean casserole.)  Obviously, we let her run with that as a skill, and it turned out for some fun gaming encounters.  Another character, (who happened to be undead,) took no fear in constantly jumping or falling off of cliffs and chasms and bridges.  There always seemed to be a good reason for this, so we gave him a 'falling,' skill, which ended up being useful several times.  A last character, (in that same campaign, actually,) was playing an archer.  Since he was on the back line and had great defensive strategies, he always managed to be the last man standing.  The other players would drop and he would end up finishing comat, usually in some spectacular fashion or some sickeningly lucky roll.  Since his companions always woke up with him standing alone in the middle of a gory battlefield, we felt it appropriate to give him ranks in 'badassery.'  (Really, he had some pretty creatively aggressive solutions to combat, and that, combined with stellar rolls, seemed justification to give him that particular skill.)

5.  Abilities

Skills are the core of the character's strengths and weakness, but abilities are where the action really shines.  All of the content listed above falls under abilities section.  Abilities are purchased by the character with the same skill points used to purchase skill levels.  The modular nature of this mechanic  provides very few limitations on what abilities that a player can have access too, keeping in mind that some abilities might have pre-requisites, and that the success of most abilities depends on that player's skills. 

4.  Flexibility and Progress

What this ultimately means is that a character is not inherently a fighter or a mage or a rogue etc., unless that's the way the player wants to build that character.  A character can choose to invest in other skills and can combine these abilities and skills in almost any way they want to.  A player could invest in some spells and arcane ideals, as well as some sword-techniques, but will find that they can't afford as many options in spells or in weapontechs as someone who invested in just one or the other.

(The exception lies in the races and unique talents.  While it would be fine if a player really, really wanted to play a cat-person-draconic-psychic-undead-fire kami, this is a little much, even for us., and the system discourages it by setting specific limitations to the combinations of Races and Unique Talents.) 

Characters who invest in races and unique talents still have to spend the skill points to develop the advantages associated with them, just like any other ability, which means that the "vanilla" human will have just as many capabilities as other races, just in different directions.

The modular nature of the content also makes it easy to write in new content.  (Which is part of the reason we ended up with so much stuff anyway.)  Players and Storytellers can design their own spells and techniques, should they choose, and simply pay the skill points to add them to their character.

3.  Organic Progression

Relatively few skill points are awarded at the beginning of the game, which makes character creation fairly fast, once players have decided what kind of a character they want to start.  At the end of each session, a character is awarded a set number of skill points to spend however they want to spend them, as well as a few that are given based on the characters' actions.  This means that characters will progress based on what they do each game, growing organically as the sessions progress.  It also means that there is no waiting for the next jump in xp to improve your character.  A player is rewarded every time they show up to a game.

2.  The feedback and recoil mechanics,

In order to provide a limiter to the magic systems, we crafted what's called the feedback system.  Feedback is a sort of mental resonance that comes as a biproduct of casting.   When feedback is incurred, their total feedback goes up by a set number, depending on the effect and their skills.  Every round, that number goes down by 1, or they can concentrate as an action to reduce it by more.  This mental resonance counts up, until they hit a limit, which is based on their intelligence. 

Once they hit this limit, this does not necessarily mean the end of their casting until it goes down.  A character can choose to risk 'overloading,' their mind, incurring more feedback than their maximum limit.  They have to roll an overload check, based on their willpower and with a difficulty equal to the amount by which they overshot their max.  If they fail, they will take damage.  Casters and other feedback-inducing characters have to choose to walk this line of benefit vs danger, measuring the risk of bigger effects and more spells against the capacity to blow their brains out with feedback.

Some particularly powerful spells or effects that would be disruptive if they were to be cast frequenlty have a recoil effect, a time-limit which must be waited before the effect can be used a second time.  These mechanics are particularly useful in regulating magic item and artifact use as well, as may effects will utilize them.  A magic sword that trails fire is one thing, but a magic sword that requires a feedback incurrence to use it's effect becomes more strategicallly interesting, as the wielder must gauge when to use it and when to not.

1.  Back to the Combat Clock

With all the above advantages and options, the Combat Clock is probably still our greatest achievement.  I have yet to see a timing mechanic in other games that allows fast actions to be fast and slow actions to hit harder, and to do so with the same elegance of this mechanic, if I don't mind being a little proud.  The combat clock is core to our game's mechanics, and it really does change the dynamics of combat in some really positive ways.  That element alone is enough to check the game out.  Stacked on top of the long list of other interesting and fun mechanics, it's the cherry on top of the sundae.

(I guess one additional reason to play our game would be that we need playtesters to make it better?)

That post was FAR, FAR too long.  If anyone made it this far, thanks for reading and showing interest.  I really appreciate it.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Tavin on October 15, 2009, 12:43:25 PM
Wow, that is a lot of info right here.  I think it may be easier to see your book and (hopefully) the charts and things there to make it more clear in my head.  I like the sound of it.  The ability to make such a diverse character is very appealing.  I haven't played much, mostly D&D and a little Whitewolf and shadowrun.  Character types are important to me, but what I like the sound of most is givng a character what I want.  An Angel that throws dark magic and uses advanced weapon skills sound slike a fun combo.

The combat sounds interesting.  I am not sure I totally understand it, but would like to see how it works.  It is good to see a reason that not everyone wields greatswords.  I always wondered why some of the weapons existed in other games unless a PC or NPC was just too poor to afford a good weapon.

Can you link any other graphic representations of abilities/characters/weapons to this post, or should I just check out the site?  Maybe I'll do that anyway when I have more time.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Callan S. on October 15, 2009, 03:22:11 PM
Really, the mechanics are designed to present fun, memorable situations and to empower the characters to use their unique tactics and mechanics to succeed in a variety of kinds of encounters.  Back to the book/movie parallel, consider what characters do.  They do a lot of different things, depending on the characters, be they audacious, heroic, sinister, sly, or tough, but whatever they do, they do it vividly.  We tried to design the game to provide that vivid action.
Hmmm, I think that's a mistaken diagnosis of what makes those movie characters compelling. While I agree that what deeds they do often show something that is compelling, I think some statistically stated out powers will convey that. It is the descision to carry out the deed, I would say, that is the compelling thing - the deed itself is not compelling in and of itself. Take this for example "Roundhouse: 1D8 damage" vs "You killed my wife, you bastards! I'm going to kick the shit out of you all!: 1D8 damage"

That anger and rage at the dead wife is just diluted by the perfunctory "Roundhouse", but if you have the second thing on your character sheet, it reinforces that rage - it's not just a kick, it's an execution of the characters primal will! He doesn't do roundhouses - he does revenge! That's compelling!

Or so I think. It's a direction to consider if you want to, anyway.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 19, 2009, 08:56:58 AM
That's a fair assessment, and a style of game that has some value.  It's also not quite what I'm looking for.

Game mechanics can be compelling in different ways.  THink of the difference between a clock and a painting:

One is interesting because it is mechanical, precise, and useful.  The interplay of gears and cogs create an intriguing experience.  This is the kind of game that produces effective mechanics like ccg's and wargames.

A painting is descriptive.  It shows an event, a scene, a descriptive object designed for the sake of elegance and exposition.  This produces mechanics more like the more socially driven RPG's, as well as your roundhouse kick example.

The style of RPG that I'm looking for has an interplay of both, I think, but it admittedly leans toward the clock example.  Using the metaphor, we've tried to design a very pretty set of clockwork, that helps define the painted images through the motion of gears. 

To come back to your roundhouse example, we don't describe the roundhouse kick, we describe the duel to the death, blow by blow and insult by one-liner, between the revenge-seeking character and his hated rival.  We want to emphasize the image and personality that play behind their fight, and highlight who these characters are through their actions and styles. 

The revenge-seeking character could be fighting bare-palmed with lightning-fast strikes, gauging the timing and distance between him and the small crowd of his opponent's, using the time between their actions to best capitalize on his own skills and waiting for his rival , the leader of their band, to make his move amidst the bedlam so he can iaijutsu-draw the katana and cut him down.

That's what we're going for.  Thanks for your response.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 19, 2009, 08:59:13 AM
Tavin:  You should really check out the site.  There is a lot of information to dive into in the betabook, looking at the different character options.  Thanks for your attention.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Catelf on October 19, 2009, 09:36:07 AM
At last! someone who isn't into freeform! (Almost kidding....)
Maugh, please check up my Crunched Core Rules at Playtesting (Streed(R) needs directions...), and, at Actual Play... forgotten that thread's name...
and tell me what you think:
We're obviously similar in wanting to make exciting gameplay, by allowing for a lot of alternatives by listing them, and let the player(s) choose from them.
Really, many advices one may get here, is freeform-solutions, and those usually don't work as well for someone intent on clear, noted down options and Distinct Rules for each.
Also, i've had problem working out a fitting Magical "School" system for "Streed Modern Setting", and.... maybe you could help out?

I think your Rules is a Really Good Way To Start, what you need, is to testplay them, and see how well they work together.
Oh, and Playtesting is obviously (not so obvious, really) not only about Playtesting: It is for Any "Work in progress" that has more or less been playtested at least once...
I know what it says in the "Rules for Playtesting", but this matter has been much discussed in another Forge Forum, (under a thread called Actual Play vs Playtesting,.... or something like that).
If you needs any suggestions, just ask.
As it is, i only have this: It looks Good, so all you need is to Playtest it, or have it Playtested, so you, and others, can see how it works, or where it doesn't, and go from there.
Best whishes,

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 20, 2009, 06:20:02 AM
I'd love to take a look at what you're talking about, catelf, but I'd need a link.  Feel free to post it or email it to me.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Catelf on October 20, 2009, 09:40:16 AM I don't know how do Links yet....
Can't you navigate the Forge? Your own Topic, the one i'm writing to right now, is in First Thoughts, uner the name "Mayhem gaming".
Mine is in Playtesting, under the name "Streed needs directions"....
Just go into General Forge Forums, Click on Playtesting, and there look for, and click on "Streed..(and so on)".
But i do understand, it can be confusing until you get the hang of it, it certainly was for me...
Yes, my Core Rules do fit in a Topic here, without Links.
Best wishes, Catelf.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 21, 2009, 02:25:02 PM
It would be nice if people would stop advertising their projects on this thread, so that I can get some feedback on the project that the thread is about.

To link:  Go to the page you want to link.  Highlight the URL at the top of your browser.  Copy it.  Paste it into the document you'd like the link to appear in.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 21, 2009, 10:31:19 PM
It would also be nice if I wasn't advertising for chinese jewelry in my thread either.  Heh.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Catelf on October 21, 2009, 11:44:06 PM
Ok. I am VERY grateful if this works: Streed (R) Rpgs needs directions! (& co-developers?)
Or maybe it didn't, i dont really know what URL is...
But to the important here: YOUR game:

I finally managed to read through some of the chunks i only skimmed through earlier, and i am AMAZED!
Have you really done all that? (Obviously..)
Now to more valid questions(i'll try to avoid too many references to my own game):
* This do seem like a lot of Character Choises(i like that), but how is the World Description?
* Doesn't some Players get baffled at all those choises?
* You may have written it somwhere, it possible to play an "ordinary human"?
* Why should anyone play an "ordinary human" when you can choose a Mage, or a "Mythical Beast"?

For now, it seems that only playtesting remains, with a capital "P", in more ways than one:
One: Regular Playtesting.
Two: Quote from me, earlier in this Thread:

"Oh, and Playtesting is obviously (not so obvious, really) not only about Playtesting: It is for Any "Work in progress" that has more or less been playtested at least once...
I know what it says in the "Rules for Playtesting", but this matter has been much discussed in another Forge Forum, (under a thread called Actual Play vs Playtesting,.... or something like that)."

And a quote from you,  even earlier:
"Balancing those factors was EXCRUCIATINGLY difficult, and took us several years worth of painstaking statistical analysis, playtesting, and mathematical tweaking to get it to all work right, such that one weapon wasn't dramatically better than another. "

So, Your system has been, in a way, at least partially playtested, and some would clearly argue, that this Topic really belong in Playtesting, and not in Fist Thoughts!

Personally, i don't bother much, and say more or less the same as dindenver said in my Topic:
You know what you want, obviously, so just go ahead and playtest it!

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: lumpley on October 22, 2009, 04:55:54 AM
Maugh, I can scoop spam posts invisibly out of threads. Please don't acknowledge the spam in any way in your own posts. Instead, just click the "report to moderator" link at the bottom right of the spam post. I'll come take care of it.


the Forge's tech admin

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: JoyWriter on October 22, 2009, 05:13:01 PM
I'd be interested to hear the basic idea behind the balance testing, did you set up an array of strategic cases and track expected utility? Doesn't the utility of a strategic option depend on the distribution of different kinds of threats? I've got to that point and not much further, and reverted to the "sweetshop indecision" metric of balance! I'd love to here how you went about it.

Also I'm a sucker for a characterful magic system, so I'm wondering how your 6 polar system interacts with the world you have built; is there a single setting? Does it cause political conflict to become ideological faster, or affect the cultures of those who use it?

On the other hand it seems a little like dark/chaos and light/order picked the short straw a little; enhancement and detriment seem a lot more thematically one-note than the rest. Is that just a consequence of the name? Do they improve in practice?

I like the "species trait as skill" idea, it's one of those simplifications that is so obvious no-one ever thinks about it! Good effort. It's an interesting compromise between freeform traits and the "racial bonuses" you see all over the place.

I'll give a go at the question "what is your game about?", and hopefully you can tell me if that is a hat that fits your game:

It's about swashbuckling your way through the world doing big dynamic stuff.

In that respect it reminds me a little of exalted, perhaps a tuned version. In case you weren't aware, that game already implements a combat clock ( and a wide variety of specified powers ( You can likely learn a lot from the criticisms and praises that game has had, and use them to insure your game is even better.

On the dice system, what difference do odd valued stats make? It occurs to me that if you use the same skill system for deciding attributes, that the attributes could just upgrade from one dice to another, but at a different factor to their current cost per step:

eg a d6 would be  (1+2+4+6)*f=13f vs (1+2+3+4+5+6)*f=21f

the latter would seem less rational, except that the average values from the dice are going up like this:


vs the skills going from 0->1->2->3

in other words if you compare average result/cost on the latter system, it will come out very similar to the skill system, and so capable of being subject to the same unified analysis of efficiency.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on October 22, 2009, 08:56:12 PM
The weapon balancing was a nightmare.  Really, it was like chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole, where every turn brought something a little unexpected and every twist showed us something we -thought- we had understood.


Our weapons use the following statistics: 

Melee bonus (accuracy, ranging from -2 to +2),
Parry bonus (defensive efficacy, ranging from -2 to +3),
Damage amp (sharpness, for critical hits, ranging from 3 to 6 every time someone hits by that amount, the damage increases by one die),
Range (from 1 meter to 3 meters for melee, longer for ranged attacks,)
Speed, (Very fast, Fast, Average, Slow, and Very Slow.  Each category takes one spot longer on the combat wheel, and therefore delays the time until that player can act.)
And Damage Die (ranging from d6 to 3d8)

The goal was to be able to define each of the weapons so that it works most like that actual weapon, but to set it so that one weapon wasn't inherently stronger than others.   We went through various methods over the course of several years, with some aggressive disagreement between members of our group on the best way to consider the balance, and eventually worked out the following methods:

1.  Our mathematician/programmer devised a testing program that tested each weapon against a range of armor, defensive bonuses, and skill disparities, and averaged the results across them to come up with a final version.  I.E.  Test the broadsword against every combination of armor, defensive bonus, and skill disparity, and average all of those results to get a damage-per-round average.  Then, to consider the attacking weapon's parry modifier, each DPR result was adjusted post-hoc to compensate for the advantage of using a more defensive weapon.  He used Ruby on Rails to program his tester.  It takes a few minutes to run on his programming workstation, which gives you an idea of the scale of calculations that it's doing.

2.  I myself devised a testing sheet that tested every weapon against every other weapon in an array.  For example, how does the broadsword fair in damage per round against the battleaxe?  THen I took the reverse.  How does the battleaxe fare against the broadsword?  By taking the difference between those two values, I get the balance between them, measuring which weapon is more effective and by how much.  Then by taking every other comparison for the broadsword, (bs vs rapier, bs vs spear, etc.,) and then averaging those results, I get the average performance of each weapon, which stacks nicely into a long list of balance numbers, determining just how effective each weapon is in relation to its peers and how much more or less effective it was in a ranked and valued list.  I used excel, and I still think that my method is more direct, since it tests for the defensive bonus directly.  Jake disagrees, I'm sure.

Using either method, a perfect balance is really pretty much impossible, especially when trying to fit stats that best fit the weapon's personality, but by lowering the balance number on my test and by streamlining the total DPR in Jake's test, we get a very, very tight list.  You could probably find problems in it if you really looked, but it's a big gap from dnd 3rd, where if you weren't using a greatsword and a buckler you were pretty much completely tactically inferior. 

Sounds complicated enough, right?  Well, it gets worse.  How do 1 and 2 handed weapons mix into this?  Should 2H weapons be stronger, since they limit options?  What happens when you equip a very offensive and very defensive pair of weapons together, (such as a morningstar/shield combination,) Why wouldn't they just use the aggro one to attack, and the defensive one to defend and how does any other combination compete with that?  How do you operationalize something like range, which doesn't effectively fit into the mathematic equation at all?  Should bows and crossbows be competitive with melee weapons?  Oh hate, we forgot about the reload factor in the crossbows, how about mounted combat?  What happens when we factor in bonuses from magic or weapon techniques?  What is the value of frontloaded weapons that do damage now and then slow the character down versus weapons that allow small damage now and tactical options later?  Does the rain in Spain REALLY fall mainly in the plain?...  (okay, that last one was just to see if anybody was still reading.)

Hopefully you can see why it took several years of discussion and testing to get it to the point where I think it's right.  It was a fun little puzzle, and that's like saying that a degree in biochemistry is a fun little puzzle.  In the end, we had to develop list after list and address individual concerns until we came up with something that was satisfactory to all involved.  At the end of the day, I think that that programmer friend of mine is still tweaking the list for his own use, but the final product we have is pretty solid, (although there could be some inconsistencies.)

So yeah, we did eventually have to cede a few points away from a perfect balance.  We balanced it mathematically as best we could so that the weapons are as fair as we can get them, and we really tried, but a few factors like range and such we just had to roll with what looks best on the list, which is what I think you're saying when you say "sweetshop indecision" method.  Weapons that got underused got boosted up a little bit, and I have to admit that I overbalanced the katana just a hair, since the katana is the porsche of martial weaponry...


So yeah, we looked at the weapon balancing pretty heavily.  Check out the weapon list in the book.  It's tasty.

As for order/light getting the short straw, actually detriment plays pretty well.  It ends up doing a lot of 'hexes,' and 'curses,' kinds of effects.  They're tons of fun to play, and lowering an opponent's skill levels through skill penalties ruins people's day.  Enhancement gets haste effects, which are flat out glorious in a timing-based system.  Read the spells, if youve got doubts.  Detriment is one of my favorite schools, actually.

On the dice system, the odd valued stats don't change the skill die, but they do allow access to some abilities, and the attributes each affect something apart from just the skill die.  There is a branch of the game called the attribute abilities section where players can pick up abilities that fit their characters, but these have skill requisites. 

Each attribute also affects something else, which is frequently just as important as the skill die.  Endurance affects total life, willpower your critical state and overload mechanic, intelligence max feedback, charisma first impression, intuition and cunning affect your intuitive defense and surprise attacks, and strength and agility affect what kinds of armor and weapons you can equip.

We have tried a few scales for dice and attributes, and eventually settled on the even-value distribution because it is so straight-forward.  6 Str, d6, 8 Agi, d8, etc.

The species traits function as abilities, rather than skills which is a subtle but important difference.  Abilities are purchased with skill points, but skills make checks, and abilities rely on other skills to make their checks.  The monkey totem still needs to invest in Acrobatics for that skill, they're just a little better at it than most.  The switch-up is that you have to buy into the racial ability to get access to that bonus, so it's modular, just like all the other abilities in the game.  The human that doesn't take any race doesn't get the bonus, but they also have a few more points to spend on other abilities and skills.

 We're actually in a pretty big transition with the races right now, because they weren't 'races' per se in this last draft, and are becoming formally races.  It's a semantic change, for the most part, but it's a big edition to the book.  It will be a while before we finish that next draft, though, so it's not something to wait for just yet.

"Swashbuckling your way through the world doing big dynamic stuff," works pretty well.  Thanks for the read.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: JoyWriter on October 30, 2009, 05:12:03 PM
What a monster file! Just downloaded it. Can't get it readable though, any chance you could check it out?

I'll probably save on commenting on the finished weapons list until I get a look at the rules properly.

I'm a little disappointed I misunderstood you on skills vs attributes, in some ways, because it occurred to me that just by having racial skills as well as attributes, you expand the range of possible actions that those characters can pursue. A flying skill etc.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on November 01, 2009, 07:33:45 PM
The file should just be a PDF.  It's a big pdf, lots of images and such, but it should be readable with just acrobat reader.  Works for me just fine.  I'll look into the compatability issue.

Title: Re: Mayhem Gaming,
Post by: Maugh on November 01, 2009, 08:56:29 PM
All righty.  I had my wife look at it, (she's the graphic designer that designed the layout and such,) and she said that I exported it all kinds of wrong.  She tweaked it, dramatically reducing the file size and hopefully improving the backwards compatability for older versions of acrobat.  Sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope this works much better.  Thank you for your patience.