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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 109 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [TSOY] Vulfen species design  (Read 18941 times)

Posts: 153

« on: January 07, 2008, 08:35:19 AM »

I've decided to post this seperately from the "Near's Frozen South" thread, even though the ideas are fairly interrelated. Nonetheless, a species splat just popping up in the middle of a cultural discussion didn't seem like the best presentation idea. While I may be brainstorming these up in a somewhat chaotic fashion, its probably easier to keep them distinct when discussed on the Forge. As such, here we go.

Note: Myself and my group are still first edition TSOY users, so we're operating with different rules for harm, ability scores (which range from 1-10), Success Levels, and the like. Your mileage may vary, as a result. Odds are anyone who looks at this in tandem with the old rules (still available online somewhere) can figure out how to refit this to TSOY's 2nd edition, if need be.

Additionally, this is my complete splat for the species, so sorry if the Secret of Natural Weapons/Natural Armor seems derrivative; it is, naturally, but I wanted to make it clear that both were fair game for vulfen characters.

Vulfen: The Primal UrgeSpecies Ability: Savagery (Instinct)
This ability is used when a vulfen is in touch with his wild side, allowing him to instinctually find prey and shelter in the wild. It stands in for Woodscraft and similar abilities when hunting or finding shelter, or for an Animal Ken check if only attempting to threaten or drive off animals. It is also used during battles for status among vulfen, where threat displays and intimidation are everything. Use it to claim advance your status, impress a mate, and follow the tracks of prey.

Vulfen Species Secrets
Secret of Feral Nature
You were born a predator, capable of hunting and killing with ease. You can track creatures by scent by making a Ferocity Ability check. Your claws do +1 imbued damage against soft materials like flesh, leather, and cloth on a Scrapping Ability check. However, your hands are ill-equipped for the use of subtle human tools, and you take a penalty die on ability checks requiring fine manual dexterity. Special: This Secret is mandatory for vulfen characters.

Secret of Animal Attraction
While you may not know anything about traditional seduction, your raw animal nature seems sensual to others. Spend 1 Instinct to use your Savagery ability in place of Savoir-Faire (or another appropriate ability) for seduction against non-vulfen. Cost: 1 Instinct.

Secret of Blood Frenzy
Once you take harm in combat, you can spend 2 Instinct automatically. You gain the number of points of harm you received in that round as bonus dice you can use for the duration of the conflict on any Instinct- or Vigor-based roll. These dice cannot be spent to hide, negotiate, or run away, only to fight more fiercely. Cost: 2 Instinct.

Secret of the Circling Pack<Secret of Darksight
You are capable of seeing in total darkness, even underground. You never take penalty dice for operating in darkness.

Secret of Dominance
You have a position of status in a vulfen pack, either as a val (a beta wolf), a valru (an alpha wolf), or even a ruvalru (an alpha who leads multiple packs, and has other valru who defer to him or her). You receive a bonus die on Orate and Battle checks when dealing with vulfen of lesser status than yourself, but not on Ferocity checks to fight for status. Special: You can lose this Secret by being challenged by a vulfen of lesser status and losing. In that case, the winner can buy this Secret with a free advance, and you lose this Secret but gain an open advance. You cannot regain this Secret without challenging another ranking vulfen for it.

Secret of the Fetch
You have a human slave, called a "fetch," who performs basic manual tasks for you. This slave performs as if it were your hands; you never take penalty dice for not having human-like limbs. Your fetch can also travel some distance away from you, delivering messages or spying on your behalf.

Secret of the Hairy Hide
You are covered in thick fur, which provides you with a +2 imbued defense against cold, whether natural or magical. Anyone who huddles in close to you can bury themselves in your fur, gaining a +1 defense against cold, as well.

Secret of the Howl
Your call carries at great distance, allowing you to communicate in Lupin speech at a range of 3 miles per Success Level you achieve on an Orate Ability check. You can use this ability to intimidate or convey other information at a distance, as well.

Secret of Instinctual Truth
You are not easily tricked by words or similar deceptions, as you have learned to not place faith in appearances, but instead trust your instincts. You receive a bonus die on any Ability checks when opposing deceptions or illusions. However, you take a penalty die on any attempt to outright lie to another or deceive in similar ways (though not, for instance, on the use of stealth to hunt prey).

Secret of Long-Running
You never have to make Endurance checks while running long distances, until you have run for a number of days without eating or sleeping equal to your Vigor score. When you travel for one or more days, your overland travel speed is triple that of an ordinary creature who is running or walking. Additionally, you ignore one penalty die for traversing unstable terrain, such as snow or sand, due to the large size of your paws.

Secret of Manual Dexterity
Your forepaws are better adapted to the delicate manipulation which other humanoids can accomplish, and you have practiced at such. You do not take a penalty die on subtle feats of dexterity, as other vulfen do. In fact, you may choose one ability which requires manual dexterity, and specify a task for which you add a bonus die (such as Complex Crafts checks to weave cloth, or Aim checks to fire a bow).

Secret of Natural Armor
You have some form of innate defense, such as a thicker hide, or a lack of response to minor cuts and scrapes. You follow the normal rules for Imbuing defensive items when you take this Secret, but the armor may never be removed from you.

Secret of Natural Weapons
You have some form of innate weapon, such as vicious teeth or fangs, the ability to distend your jaw, or a refinement of your natural claws. You follow the normal rules for Imbuing weapons when you take this Secret, but the weapon may never be removed from you. Attempts to disarm you automatically fail (though your natural weapon can be sundered, which will require healing to correct).

Secret of Pack Fighting
You can coordinate pack tactics to deadly effect. When one or more vulfen band with you to fight an opponent using the Gestalt rules for Bringing Down the Pain, your natural weapons conferred through the Secret of Feral Nature have their damage rating increased to +2. You receive bonus dice for assistance from these additional vulfen normally.

Secret of Scent-Marking
You can leave simple messages and instructions for other vulfen using your Savagery ability to encode them in scent markers. Decoding any message you leave requires a Savagery ability check. Cost: 1 Instinct per message left.

Secret of Territory
You can spend 3 Instinct to claim an area as your territory. The Storyguide determines how large of an area you can effectively patrol, though you can combine your efforts with those of other vulfen to patrol a larger territory provided they have this Secret, as well. In your territory, you receive a bonus die on Stealth checks, and on checks to recognize land features and hunt prey. In your territory, you also receive a bonus die on Orate, Intimidate, and Savoir-Faire checks against other vulfen, provided they are intruders. Cost:3 Instinct.

Secret of Wary Instincts<Secret of the Whipped Dog
You are used to receiving abuse from other people, and take it all in stride. You roll a bonus die on any check to resist taking damage from intimidation, abuse, or torture (though not conventional attacks from an enemy). However, you take a penalty die on intimidation checks you make, including the use of Savagery checks to assert your alpha status.

Vulfen Species Keys
Key of the Alpha
In any social situation, you must dominate others, whether you interact with a vulfen pack or a group of humanoids.
1 XP: Every time others obey you without question.
2 XP: Every time you make an opponent cower.
5 XP: Every time you defeat a rival and force their submission.
Buyoff: Submit to the authority of another.

Key of the Omega<Buyoff: Stick up for yourself or gain dominance over another.

Key of the Savage<Buyoff: Accept the trappings or comforts of the modern, civilized world.

Anyone who has tweaks or additions to suggest, I'm happy to hear 'em.


-shadowcourt (aka josh)
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2008, 09:52:06 AM »

I'll want to comment on this next week, when I have time; remind me if I'm not on it next Tuesday or so.

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Posts: 153

« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2008, 10:21:37 AM »


Sure thing. You're great to brainstorm with. I appreciate your comments on the other thread, as well. You've got me thinking about how to spice up those keys, and I'll post there, accordingly.

Other folks, don't be bashful though. A good deal of these ideas came from looking at other people's Keys and Secrets, and riffing off of them accordingly.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)

Posts: 25

René López

« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2008, 09:10:36 PM »

I really like your Vulfen ideas.

I'm not so sure about the mandatory Secret and the species' ability, though. Feral Nature has a lot going on, but nothing that really shows what the Vulfen really are. Feral Nature, to me, sounds more like using Instinct instead of Reason or something like that.

I was also thinking about Vulfen society, and I wonder if a Vulfen could be "tamed" like in Jack London's White Fang.

TSOY in Spanish: La sombra del ayer

Posts: 153

« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2008, 08:37:34 AM »


Curse you for discovering the elephant in the room. Actually, thank you for it.

The fact is that I just don't know what to do with the core Secret for the Vulfen, to really capture this quasi-animalistic/savagery vibe I'm going for. You're bang-on in that I want something which twists up their mechanical nature in an interesting way: Immortality and Addiction for the elves and goblins, respectively, have that done so elegantly.

The one you suggest is kind of a cool option, but I worry that it makes the Vulfen a cakewalk at character generation: "I'm gonna pile 5 points into Vigor, and 6 into Instinct! Screw Reason!
1 point in that pool! Whoohoo!" And that brings out the worst twinkiness that I'm really trying to avoid with them. I want them to be something more than the bad werewolf stereotype that they could default to in the hands of a boorish player.

It is a real problem, though. Natural weapons are nice and all, but not all that special, and hunting by smell could just as easily be part of the nature of the Savagery species ability, rather than a feature designated in the Species Secret. It leaves me pondering what to do with a Species Secret to represent their alien mindset and stance on life. Tinkering with their relationship with pools seems an obvious choice, but I haven't hit to one that satisfies me yet.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)

Posts: 928

Don't Panic!

« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2008, 10:53:56 AM »

  Discard that notion. If a player wants to twink SoY, its all too easy. Instead trust the few players that are going to want to play a Vulfen to not twink.
  Imagine something that makes them as cool as elves, but in a different way. Then do that, and "game balance" be damned. Clinton has all but said that the few moments of "game balance" in design that appear in SoY were mistakes. Learn from him and deny the urge to "Balance" Vulfen against other races...

  Oh, and good luck man!

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2008, 12:36:43 PM »

Hmm. They are animalistic, but not quite animals.

How about some mandatory secret that lets them do some really cool stuff, but makes reason abilities harder for them, seeing as how they aren't exactly great intellectuals.

As in: They can (insert cool stuff), but when they've taken harm, all Reason-based abilities operate with a penalty die because stress causes them to lose their cool.

That way, they can do cool animalistic stuff, but you don't brush over the sucky part of being vulfen, potentially making human/vulfen interactions more interesting than "vulfen rule, hoomans suck, yarr!". OK, I didn't mean that as harshly as it sounded, but you get the point.

BTW I think the wendigo stuff is a cool way to have werewolf-type elements interact with the idea of the vulfen. I can sort of see a lot of local humans seeing vulfen and wendigos as two sides of the same thing -an idea the vulfen would find abhorrent, of course.
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2008, 03:38:48 PM »

What do you know, I've actually resolved this one in... (you guessed it) the Finnish version of TSoY, where I gave ratkin a slew of new Secrets to compensate for what I saw as a lack of "cool stuff". Apart from toxoplasm-based telepathy (which is not relevant here) I had this one:

Secret of Losing the Mind
The character may fall into a special trance with a successful Savagery (I) (a ratkin racial ability; funny how it's the same) check, removing levels from the Reason pool, Reason-based abilities or Secrets equal to the check result. These levels may then be distributed between Instinct and Vigor by the player. The process takes several minutes, during which the ratkin is pretty helpless (and foaming in the mouth), and at the end of which his personality has taken a new turn towards a feral, animalistic side. The change is permanent. Requirements: The character is ratkin (or vulfen, I guess).

So talking about bestial Secrets, you can't beat that one, eh?

Anyway, other than that: I like the general direction here. Consider using partially the same Secrets that ratkin have - I think it's cool that two "bestial" races share some traits.

Individual Secret notes, solely from my viewpoint:

Secret of Feral Nature: Nice, not too bland. It's not necessary that the coolest Secrets are mandatory, this is a fine mandatory Secret as long as the race has other things going for it.
Secret of Animal Attraction: underprised, increase the price to 2 Instinct.
Secret of Blood Frenzy: Nice, but make it on-going: cost to 3 Vigor +1 per subsequent round, give bonus dice equal to received Harm each round until the end of the fight.
Secret of the Circling Pack: Underpowered - give also +1 for own weapons.
Secret of Darksight: Nice.
Secret of Dominance: Nice, a good place for shoot-off Secrets. I'd perhaps make this more powerful: a bonus die against anybody of lower status (wulfen or not), while wulfen also take a penalty die to go against one with this Secret. This way the Secret actually balances better with the usual bonus die Secrets.
Secret of the Fetch: Beautiful, for this alone I'd be tempted to make the Vulfen penalty for hand-use more severe than it already is. Also give rules for gaining and replacing the Fetch: the Vulfen needs to beat the Fetch in a domination check, and it takes time to train the Fetch. For a new Fetch scared out of a random human settlement, the SG distributes Advances equal to 4 times the appropriate Ability check result; if the character has time to pick and choose his new Fetch, let the player distribute half of the Advances. For Fetches caught outside Vulfen lands, increase the Advances to 5 times the check result (as people in average are of a higher caliber outside). A Fetch suffers a penalty dice when going against his master.
Secret of the Hairy Hide: Pretty standard, I wouldn't bother mentioning this. Then again, I guess it is technically separate from the Secret of Imbuement, as this is an integral character aspect.
Secret of the Howl: Love it. Perfect, but I'd put in a cost of 1 Vigor just to encourage Pool economy. Free Secrets are a bane of the Pool.
Secret of Instinctual Truth: A little weak. Also allow unlimited Pool expenditure in those situations, and you're set.
Secret of Long-Running: Excellent. Also give a bonus die in conflicts that hinge on getting there on time, catching something over a long run or similar.
Secret of Manual Dexterity: Lame, but then I think that the original penalty should also be much more severe. Regardless, compensating for it so easily, while also getting the standard benefit of the Secret of Specialization as well... not good.
Secret of Natural Armor: Well, it's dull for goblins, too...
Secret of Natural Weapons: Yeah, right.
Secret of Pack Fighting: Better to express this as an increasing weapon bonus, otherwise it could break the bonus ceiling.
Secret of Scent-Marking: A pretty gross Secret, and perhaps too humorous for the tone of the game. Stretches believability.
Secret of Territory: I like. Consider integrating with my tsafari rules, they have some useful implications for "geographical TSoY".
Secret of Wary Instincts: Also reduce the surprise bonus dice from surprising the character to one die only.
Secret of the Whipped Dog: Excellent, but again under-powered. Limit the damage from those sources to a maximum of one level instead.

So overall pretty good, but some not-so-exciting Secrets and a general underpoweredness evident, if you ask me. I have the taming Secret somewhere as well... ah, it was in the Zaru adventure we made with Frank:

Secret of the Beastmaster
The character has exceptional sympathy with the beings of the wild, and may try to tame even normally untameable creatures to his side. A successful Animal Handling (I) check versus the animal's Resistance (R) is needed to tame the animal. This can only be tried in amiable conditions or with the animal in captivity. The check is needed even if the animal wants to be tamed. The character needs to buy Secret of the Beast Familiar for any creature tamed in this way, unless the interaction is only temporary or the creature is intelligent, in which latter case the creature is forced to buy Secret of the Tamed Beast. Cost: 3 x (highest Ability of the target) from Pools based on the method of taming.

Secret of the Beast Familiar (familiar)
A given beast is tamed and cooperative with the character. The player of the character plays the beast as well, although the SG may require checks of Animal Handling (I) vs the animal's Resistance (R) in exceptional situations. If the familiar is lost for any reason, the Advance spent on this Secret is lost. Requirement: Success in taming the beast.

Hmm... adapting this to the Vulfen, we get:

Secret of the Tamed Beast
The character has become tamed, a condition more fundamental than mere disciplined obeyance, resembling religious experience more than anything else, and only possible for bestial characters. As long as his master treats him emotionally well (meaning mainly that he is only punished for genuine disobeyence), he may disobey the master only with a successful Resistance (R) check, which the master may, should he be present, penalize freely with Reason points as penalty dice. The taming may be broken and this Secret removed only when the master mistreats his beast, in which case a Resistance check is made, but the master may not penalize it. (The master may, of course, resist any of these checks normally to enforce his will.) On the other hand, the character also benefits from being tamed: the master may freely give of his Pools to his beast at will, even going temporarily over the beast's Pool limit! Requirement: The character is an animal, a Vulfen or a Ratkin. The character may only serve one master, which may be switched to another if both the beast and the master will it (or the master forces the issue with a check).

The Secret of the Beastmaster would be the Secret used to actually do the taming, under the clause "normally untameable creatures". Unlike animals, a Vulfen would be forced to gain the Secret here, and to pay for it. The Secret of Beast familiar is only relevant here for NPC Vulfen. The following Keys, on the other hand, are quite relevant:

Key of the Tamed Beast
The character has a master, for he is tamed. Requires the Secret of the Tamed Beast.
1 xp: Obey the master.
3 xp: Obey the master despite risk or sacrifice required.
Buyoff: The taming is broken.

Key of the Faithful Beast
The character is faithful to his master. Requires the Secret of the Tamed Beast.
1 xp: Obey the master.
2 xp: Seek to please the master.
5 xp: Protect the master.
Buyoff: The master is unjust towards his beast.

Key of the Troublesome Beast
The character rebels against his taming. Requires the Secret of the Tamed Beast.
1 xp: Act independently for your own benefit.
2 xp: Disobey the master.
5 xp: Escape from the master.
Buyoff: The taming is broken.

The differences with the Fetch condition are intentional, as well as their implications... hmm... consider seriously worsening that hand condition the wulfen have, I don't see one penalty die as crippling enough. Require them to spend a point of Reason any time they want to use their hands and cap any Ability used with hands to Resistance... now, that's something.

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Posts: 153

« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2008, 09:29:13 AM »

Thanks, everyone, for all the responses to the Vulfen posts. Before I even get into individual comments, I thought I'd post two new Keys which have been kicking around in my head. One of them, in particular, serves as a response to something sabbatregent mentioned about being "tame", but I think my approach is a different one than perhaps he intended, or the direction which Eero took.

Key of Territory
Few possessions are actually of value to a vulfen, but control over hunting grounds is a sure sign of power and status. You are territoritally-minded, and place a great deal of importance on defending your land. You can share this responsibility with others, such as a pack or your mate and young, but even they might become a threat to your undisputed control, over time.
1 XP: Force others to acknowledge your hold over an area.
2 XP: Expand your territory.
5 XP: Defend your territory at great risk or cost to yourself.
Buyoff: Abandon your hold over your turf.

Key of Civilization
You have succumbed to the lure of the civilized world of two-legged creatures.
1 XP: Every time you try a new aspect of the civilized world, something you've never experienced before.
2 XP: Any time you face scorn or distrust for engaging in human ways.
5 XP: Any time you civilize or tame a formerly savage creature.
Buyoff: Refuse the creature comforts of the civilized world.

I think the second one could use a little redesigning, but I haven't figured out how to bend it in just the right direction yet. I definitely want it to be an option for those vulfen who are wearing clothing, living in dwellings, and interacting in a more benign, pampered way as the kings and wardens of human settlements, and who are likely to face the contempt of other fiercer members of their kind.



Digging your idea. I know Eero's got one version of it there, but I might blend it and play with it a little, to see what I come up with. I like that "stress period" notion which makes them revert to a more savage state.


Thanks! It's not so much "game balance" as some people use the term, but a desire for things to be fun and challenging around a table when they should be. Conflicts which are just fait accompli aren't really conflicts, so things which grossly unbalance important game elements can have a tendency to turn what should be the most dramatic scene into one of the least. It's a weird fact that some of my best drama players are also the ones who have a keen eye for how to exploit mechanical advantages.

I don't want things to be wildly out of balance, because while those players will deliver good story each time, they often do it with a generous self-handicapping that they shouldn't have to do. They've found the weak point, exploited it, and now they play with kid-gloves in that part of the rules mechanic, 'cause they know they can break it. It leads to overall feelings of badness; why shouldn't they be allowed to do what their abilities say they should be allowed to do? People shouldn't have to self-censor. I'm not worried that every Secret is as powerful as every other-- some things will go "pop", while others go "KA-BLAM!", and that's fine. But I don't want to have a character type that doesn't have to worry about a specific pool at all, ever. It just doesn't seem cricket to me.


I like your Losing the Mind Secret, and I'm *almost* ready to use it or something like it as the main Species Secret for the vulfen, but something is still holding me back. At minimum, I'll probably end up using it as an optional Species Secret. While I'm not totally happy with Feral Nature as it stands at the moment, I also can't seem to give up on the perks it provides right off the bat.

I agree with most of your suggestions, and will comment on the ones that stand out.

Secret of Animal Attraction: 2 Instinct? Really? I was almost worried that this was too costly at 1 Instinct. All its doing is providing Savoir-Faire options; doesn't the schema of "Spend 1 point to use an Ability in an unusual way" apply here? Wouldn't 2 or more be for supernatural effects?
Secret of Blood Frenzy: Isn't that going to create an orgy of bonus dice? I'm worried its going to make that vulfen unstoppable, effectly. Again, I don't want to get tied up in "game balance", but it hits the fait accompli issue for me (see above), which is a ruiner of drama sometimes.
Secret of the Fetch: Particularly in light of what you're suggesting for the vulfen hand penalty, I like your suggestions. Wow, though; I had no idea the implication would be to fully stat out the fetch; we don't always do that in our group. Mostly, we use secrets like these, which provide lackeys or animal companions or such to have players use their own ability scores with bonus dice, without penalty dice in hard/special circumstances, or when they're not present, sort of ability-by-proxy.
Secret of the Hairy Hide: The only reason it bears mention, I think, is that "shielding other" clause in there: it provides +2 defense to you, and +1 to those near you. I wanted it to be clear that this could be used to provide shelter to friends, fetches, etc etc. A teensy bit of vulfen altruism.
Secret of Manual Dexterity: This one was a respnse to Clinton's "I always hate Secrets which inflict penalties on their users" sentiment, back when we were discussing a Shadowrun-TSOY port. I didn't want someone who was creating a vulfen craftsman character concept to feel totally boned, but you're right in that forcing the issue towards fetches makes it way more exciting. You want to play an enlightened vulfen artist, who's actually a nice guy? Fine, fine. But he still has to find himself a fetch to express his art easily-- the nice thing is that he can, at least, become friendly with his fetch, and take Keys all about protecting/loving/treating him nice.
Secret of Pack Fighting: Can you explain what you mean? is the implication something like, "When fighting prey in this manner, your natural weapons receive an imbuement of +2 against prey you have cornered or circled"?
Secret of Scent Marking: Okay, admitedly, I had considered this about scratching objects, marking them with your scent glands (like a cat does, rubbing against them), or even shedding blood on them. It wasn't peeing over your territory to leave messages. But I can see how this'd lead to silliness, on occasion. Perhaps if I clarified just how the marks were made?

The beast taming stuff is pretty fun. it does point fairly clearly to something that vulfen should be able to do with Secrets, and there are some scary beasts out there in my vision of Vulfland (consider a fair smattering of Ice Age creatures, including mammoths and smilodons and other large creatures), so ones with vulfen masters are always interesting. And it gives us some options for yeti and humans who have done the same with these great beasts of the snows.

I do like your suggestion for the Reason-based penalty for the vulfen. That change is totally geting made.


Awesome ideas, guys. This is one of the things that makes me happiest about The Forge, in general; the collective brainstorming pushes some great ideas to the fore.

Also, though it should be obvious to everyone, it always bears repeating: go your own way with this. If I see a problem where you don't, and I fix it with something that doesn't suit your own tastes, do it the way that's right for you. Maybe these ideas won't appeal to anyone else, and it'll solely be for my own TSOY game, but if you like these, steal 'em and modify 'em to your tastes. Hopefully everyone knows this by now, but that's the creative process, and lord knows its what I do all the time. Make it your own, and hopefully, we've all created something which works for each of us.

Thanks so much,

-shadowcourt (aka josh)
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2008, 12:43:00 PM »

Counter-counter-comments on your counter-comments. I'll leave the other minor issues raised here to rest for now; take some time to fiddle with them, perhaps, and then consolidate the materials in a new thread?

Secret of Animal Attraction: My reasoning here is that while the effect is not mechanically superior, in the right kind of game it can be dramatically devastating. I could imagine a dramatic, romantic game where the issue of whether my character feels sexual attraction to a werewolf-type monster would be rather major for the entire character identity. (It's effectively bestiality, which is a major transgressive theme for a game with any romanticist imagery.) Upping the cost to 2 makes it prohibitive to use the Secret for long in BDtP, was what I was thinking, so a player could insist on his character resisting the animal attraction via BDtP. I don't know if it's the best method for avoiding potential problems of this kind, though.
Secret of Blood Frenzy: Compare with just removing the spending limit from Pool-based bonus dice, which is also done with one Secret. Assuming that the character takes one more Harm each round (he shoots for parallel actions, in other words), he's going to pay three Vigor for one die on the first round (rather, second, for he activates only after getting Harmed), and one more each subsequent round for an increasing benefit. On the fourth round he's spent 5 Vigor for 6 bonus dice, at which point he's better off than a character just buying bonus dice; however, he's also taken three levels of Harm to get here, which means three penalty dice (or more, if the Harm was high-level). So effectively he's paid 5 Vigor for 3 bonus dice and three levels of Harm. On the fifth round he's going to take another penalty die (continuous this time) and four bonus dice, for a net sum of six dice for six Vigor paid. On the sixth round (if the fight has not ended) he finally gets to benefit compared to another character with the Pool-limit removed: he's taking two penalty dice and five bonus dice, for a total of 7 Vigor spent and 10 bonus dice gained over the course of the fight. The sixth round also breaks the character, so he goes on the seventh paying a Vigor surcharge for continuing to fight, taking a third continuous penalty die, for six bonus dice: he's paid 9 Vigor for 13 bonus dice. That's the end of the story, because if he hasn't won yet, he's out of the fight next turn. End-result: The character won 4 dice over the simplest Secret in the book, and that only assuming that his opponent couldn't score any high-level Harm against him. I guess that the character could shift to perpendicular actions later in the series when his Harm gives him significant dies but before he's dead; still, it's a complex combo to set up and requires the opponent's cooperation, as it's easy to see a mile off what the Vulfen player is trying. For the most part this Secret just counters the effects of the Harm penalties. If it seems too powerful, a simple way to balance it is to require a BDtP action to bring it up, Exalted-style Wink
Secret of the Fetch: You're right that the Fetch does not need to be statted. However, I definitely want to have some rules for statting them when and if it is needed. I also like the idea of Vulfen travelling to other lands and dealing with the strange new cultures in the only way they know: catching appropriately-skilled humans for fetches who help them cope with new things in ways apart from the lack of hands. But for practical play, I can definitely get behind a dual standard: if a Vulfen does not use the statistics of the fetch character, then those stats are not needed and the SG won't give the Vulfen player a hard time about the fetch's personal wants and needs. But if the Vulfen wants to utilize the personal resources of the fetch, then those domination checks, possibility of escape and such are also on the table. So customize to taste!
Secret of Pack Fighting: Damage bonuses should be limited to +3 at maximum, as the TSoY scale simply isn't too large. The simplest way to express this is to generally call any damage or armor bonuses "equipment bonuses", because those are already defined this way in the book, and have rules for overlapping equipment and whatnot. I've made Secrets where the whole point is that they provide further bonuses that can be used alongside equipment, but those always have an attendum about not being able to raise the total bonus over +3.
Secret of Scent Marking: It's not only that peeing all over the place is humorous, but also that at least my aesthetic sense rebels at the idea that even rudimentary messages could be transmitted by scent alone by creatures not especially adapted to that. So at least it'd need more fluff to justify it.

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Posts: 153

« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2008, 02:02:45 PM »


So interesting! I think that our differences on these are actually nestled entirely in 1st edition vs 2nd edition TSOY issues, and some differences in how we run the game which are purely stylistic choices which each Storyguide comes to himself. I'll summarize below, for your sake, and for that of everyone else following the thread, so they can ultimately make their own decisions.

Secret of Animal Attraction: Totally see where you're coming from on this one, really good points. Those alone make me want to raise this to 2 Instinct, because you're right, getting it on with a vulfen is not everyone's idea of a picnic. Perhaps I've been playing too long in decadent Ammeni, where nothing is too shocking for those jaded folks. *laughs*

What's more interesting here, though, is where you stand on taking it to BDTP to "run out the clock" on other character's pool points. We don't allow that sort of thing in our games, and its purely a personal choice. If pool expenditures were enough to make something happen in a single roll, and its not going to happen because a character goes to BDTP, he needs to win BDTP fairly, not just exhaust the other character's pools and declare himself the winner.

An example would be someone using Three Corner Magic to turn his foe into a toad. Normally, its something he can accomplish with a single roll, and the use of some Secrets, which all cost pool points. If the resisting player takes it to BDTP, that's fine, but he doesn't get to keep demanding the cost of all of those Secrets over and over; he has to beat his opponent with dice rolls. This *doesn't* hold true for us with pool points spent as bonus dice, or as ones which are tacked on Secrets if you win a round of BDTP, a la "Knock Back" as an example; those are all one time, icing effects. But that Three-Corner Magician can keep using his Transformation Ability during BDTP without repaying the pool cost every round.

Again, this is just the way *we* do things. Not everyone will like that method, but it stops a trend which we didn't like in our previous games.

Secret of Blood Frenzy: This is all about how Harm worked in 1st ed vs 2nd. You're right in that it should work the way you describe for you guys, but for us 1st edition folks, even that first attack from an opponent might net the vulfen 3 or more bonus dice. For us, it should probably stand the way it is. We had an attack last game that did 6 harm, and it was an opening shot. Characters fall out of BDTP when harm reaches 18, in some cases.

I know, I know, its one reason why many people didn't like 1st edition. But I'm working with that mechanic, and it provides us with all sorts of interesting options for Secrets. One, for instance, is something I generally refer to as "harm ablation" Secrets. In these cases, much like the Secret of Blessing lets you spend 1 pool point to net a number of bonus dice equal to the Success Level of a check, a "harm ablation" Secret gives you a number of "bonus points" which eat points of harm before they hit your character. They tend to be for spiritual and mystical types of Secrets, but they're a useful alternative to the armor and defensive Secrets.

As for the others, I totally see what you're talking about, and I'm with you. Thanks for the clarification on all of that.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2008, 03:59:27 PM »

That is an interesting technical difference! My own logic in these situations is to be exact about what's at stake and what's just a means to an end. Therefore, a player could not normally have the stakes of "I turn you into a toad"; that's not something an average character can do. However, successfully activating that toad spell not only allows this, but also determines the Ability check required. Assuming success, we've established that this character does, in fact, have rights to this stake of turning another character into a toad. Now, going into BDtP, the character does not need to continue casting that spell again and again (and paying for it), as it has already been established that this is his goal in the conflict. His actual actions in BDtP can be snippets of Three-Corner ritual needed in the "final execution" of the spell or something completely separate. I could imagine a successful parallel action where the wizard takes a club and strikes the other character, who suffers in the throes of wild transmutation magic; knock out the guy and he's sure to become a toad much easier Wink Likewise, the wizard could do the classic "you know you want to be a toad" thing and help the magic along by talking to the victim... lots of things that he can do to further his goal of changing the other guy into a toad without having to recast the spell again and again.

Interestingly enough, should the wizard change intents and then change back, one could rule that he would need to cast the spell again. The original spell was what allowed him to state those stakes in the first place, so he can't just restate the "special stakes" without recasting the spell that allows it. In practice I would go strictly by local understanding of the Three-corner metaphysics on this one; if the spell were still "there" after the break in concentration, the wizard probably could just continue casting it from where he left off.

On the other hand, what if the wizard's goal was to get past this other character, and he just happened to use a spell to achieve that? Or he wanted to hide the other character, or make it so his mother wouldn't recognize him? In these cases the success of the spell is not one of the stakes, which makes it really insidious: if such a spell is cast in BDtP and it succeeds, it takes effect immediately! The only way for the other party to stop it is to immediately change intent into resisting the spell, which pretty much means that he has to discard the original conflict to do that. Therefore the other player has to decide whether he still can continue in the conflict as a toad or not (which, again, depends mostly on the specifics of the spell).

But let's say that the conflict and BDtP were about hiding the other character from a third party, what happens after the spell is successfully cast in BDtP? First off, the casting check is compared against the opposition normally as perpendicular, parallel, supporting check or whatever. Additionally, from now on the action statements of the BDtP need to conform to the fact that the target character is a toad; at the very least the opposition is gaining penalty dice for finding him, and perhaps the toad form has some suitable Ability for hiding, like "Small" or "Ugly" something. It would even be entirely possible for the SG to rule, in parallel with the hostile casting situation, that a character who doesn't expect or know of magic is simply unable to cope with the new conditions, losing automatically. The conditions have simply changed so far that the original conflict (of finding this character who no more looks, sounds or feels like himself) has become impossible.

So yeah, we don't recast the toad spell either. However, the bestiality situation is altogether different in this regard because the Secret doesn't actually do anything to the stakes or the fiction to cause either of the above situations. Therefore there really is no basis for allowing the purely mechanical effect of the Secret to persist, which of course has to be then accounted for in its price, whatever it is set to be. 1 or 2 points per check is a good price, depending on how far-out and crucial to character psyches the end-result of doing the nasty with a wolf-man is considered to be.

Interestingly enough, if the Secret said that it "changes the character in the target's eyes to seem like a sophisticated and alluring lover, replacing Savoir-Faire with this other Ability" or some such, then I would rule that - barring the Secret stating a duration for the effect - the effect is in force for the entire scene, or until dispelled somehow. The difference is solely in whether the Secret actually causes an in-fiction persisting condition, or whether it just causes a mechanical result. The Three-corner magics are a good example here, as they are all explicitly in-fiction conditions that have durations, ranges and other physical properties. Something like the Secret of the Mighty Blow is a good counter-example that really just causes a mechanical result which is then interpreted into fiction any which way.

Anyway, be that however it may: if you want the effect to persist, you can just say so in the Secret description. Write "this Secret persists for the whole scene after activation, but only towards one target at a time" or something like that in there if you want. That doesn't even hike the prise much IMO, it just makes it a solid 2 instead of a border case.

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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland

« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2008, 05:28:23 AM »

On the other hand, what if the wizard's goal was to get past this other character, and he just happened to use a spell to achieve that? Or he wanted to hide the other character, or make it so his mother wouldn't recognize him? In these cases the success of the spell is not one of the stakes, which makes it really insidious: if such a spell is cast in BDtP and it succeeds, it takes effect immediately!

The fact that BDTP is not re-entrant and actually makes it easier to achieve certain effects merits it's own thread.


Posts: 153

« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2008, 12:16:27 PM »


I think we're more in alignment than it even seemed at first, having read your suggestions. Interestingly enough, we rarely have a problem with this around our table; perhaps my players are just very agreeable by nature, or used to talking out what is and is not clearly within the stakes of the conflict, even while the conflict is going on. I agree with you in that the situations where the stake is to get by the character or hide him, the "turn you into a toad" spell is merely an effect applied to a successful roll, and applies automatically; its sort of a loophole in the way magics work, in that you'd get your magic to succeed with less fuss by appending it to a roll *during* BDTP than setting it as the end stakes.

but I also wouldn't impede the defender's ability to actively resist the caster in any way-- if he was using Infantry to block the passage before the attacker decided to cast the spell, he doesn't default to using an Innate Ability to resist the spell, but continues to use his Infantry actively. If he loses that round, and becomes a toad, he doesn't necessarily fall out of conflict either. Granted, the "how do I block this passage now that I'm a toad?" question is an interesting one, it isn't impossible in TSOY, and the mechanics certainly support it. That toad can feel free to leap on his attacker's head, trip him, or in other ways befuddle (granted, Infantry might be out of bounds, but odds are that a character's strong skills were swapped with SOMETHING if a Transformation spell was cast, so he can feel free to Croak and Leap to his heart's content to stop his foe).

I'd also allow some of this to be handled by stakes negotiation during BDTP. I'm not sure if we agree on this point or not, so let me try and state it plainly: I don't think the defender would have to change his stakes, necessarily, to resist the spell, so long as the spell was being used to help the attacker overcome the defender and achieve his stakes. In this respect, the "turn you into a frog" Transformation ability check is no different than a Savoir-Faire check, a Sway check, or a Bash and Hold check--none of which would necessarily require the guard to change his stakes to resist. But again, that's my liberal interpretation of the mechanics, and it may be different for others.

I like what you suggest for Secret of Animal Attraction, however--your suggestion of the solid 2 Instinct rewrite, and how it applies towards a specific character for a slightly longer duration is really the vibe I was going for. I *do* see it as the sort of thing that someone might wake up from the next morning, horrified by what they've done, but it isn't going to work on everyone, naturally, so its not something which a vulfen should be getting away with cheaply. I'm sold on 2 Instinct.


-shadowcourt (aka josh)
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2008, 01:21:07 PM »

(As if this wouldn't be a topic for another thread...)

It's notable that, technically speaking, a spell is not any easier to get through in BDtP if the opposition opts to resist it and the group indeed allows changing intents in BDtP to stop new actions (perhaps allowing the original action to get through). I find it wise to do this, for otherwise players could sneak their real intent through in a more assured manner by starting a fake BDtP about something else and then doing what they really intented. To clarify: the armsman to be spelled into a toad does not need to change intents to roll his initial Resist check against the spell; he only needs to change intents if he wants to contest the spell further, to bring its effects into BDtP as stakes. In that case we'd have a basic change of intent situation.

As for the toad-transformed character, our position on this has been that the toad acts in BDtP just like any toad with the stats of this particular toad would, whether he's been changed into the toad from the beginning or not. It's the same principle as a character who drops down a well (an example I was troubled by a couple of years ago, as it seemed that dropping in a well would prevent a character from continuing in conflict) or really any situation where the conflict narration changes the environment. Thus, I'd say that the toad could try to still continue in the conflict, but he'd probably suffer from penalty dice for most strategies available to him. If, after the transformation, he had a high "Croaking" Ability (perhaps the toad-equivalent to Savoir-Faire?), he'd most likely have to not use it solely because it is not relevant to stopping armed, violent men. So yeah, in practice the toad is screwed is my position, which is why the character might wish to resist the toad spell as mightily as he can - it's an instant conflict ender for most situations.

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