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Author Topic: [Celto-Germania] Mythic Bronze Age Loyalty Roleplaying  (Read 1416 times)
Jeff Russell
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« on: May 01, 2010, 03:23:35 AM »

Howdy Folks,

   I've recently cooked up the very very very rough draft of my first RPG. Totally unplaytested so far, unfortunately, as I'm rather a ways out of town for an extended period. At any rate, before I start posting up specific mechanics, I thought I'd give a general overview of what the game is all about and solicit a better name! "Celto-Germania" has been my working name since I can't think of anything better, but I really want a cool, evocative name, and it's just not working yet.

At any rate, the basic concept of the game is that the player characters are all members of the same clan in a mythic culture that is an amalgamation of Welsh, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and a bit of Irish and Mycenaean Greek influence. The main focus of the game is interweaving ties of loyalty and the complications they bring about. The players develop the setting in more detail as they go, and it's highly customizable.

If anyone is interested in delving into the rules already, they can be found on my blog at Celto-Germania Game Page.

More to come soon!
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Jeff Russell
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Posts: 44


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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2010, 06:34:10 AM »

So, the last post was pretty brief because I was called away somewhat suddenly.

To continue in the vein of developing the 'feel' of my game, but to start talking about mechanics a bit, I thought I'd talk about Clan Creation. I'm not going to lie to you, Marge, the clan creation system in "Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes" for Heroquest was pretty influential, since the clans of Sartar are all pseudo-Germanic, and a lot of the demographic information given was identical to what I learned in a class on Anglo-Saxon England in college. However, I made the clan much less of a mechanical entity as it is in Heroquest, and more of a flavor one.

Basically, the entire group (including GM) gets together and goes through the steps to develop their clan. Some basics about "The People" and "The Land" are given to establish the broad feel (A blend of Celtic/Germanic/other Indo-Europeans in a sort-of England/Northern Europe) but for the rest of it, players either decide as a group or take turns establishing elements about the clan and thus about the people they are a part of. I've taken a page out of Vincent Baker and John Harper's books and each section gives a list that you can either roll on or choose from if the player whose turn it is can't think of something on his own.

So, a group goes down the list, sometimes deciding things by consensus, sometimes individually, but the notion is that everybody ends up with a fair amount of buy-in to the setting. The stuff they pick includes the clan's lands, coming up with some important NPCs (that are encouraged to be related to the players), some fantastic places, the Clan's gods, and the stories they tell, among some others.

So, as all good posts here should include a question and not just be "look at my game!" I now ask if you think giving almost total setting-generation control over with the barest of guidelines is going to work.  The oracles from In a Wicked Age are an amazing example of how it can work beautifully, but I wanted to do something a little different, while preserving the idea that players will enjoy world creation more than being handed a fully cooked world by their GM or the game designer, or whatever. So does anyone have thoughts on group world-building?
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Jeff Russell
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Posts: 44


WWW
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2010, 09:57:10 PM »

Okay, sorry to be stringing all of these out over multiple posts, but I'm trying to avoid one big ugly post, plus I have limited access to getting online. At any rate, I figure it's time to get into some mechanics! Since the various subsystems interlock kind of a lot, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and pick one and explain it, and then later explain the way other subsystems alter it. So, conflict resolution seems like the place to start!

Conflict Resolution
For conflict resolution, characters have two things to look at: traits and abilities. Traits are your "stats" and are "Cunning", "Flesh", and "Heart" (mind, body and spirit, basically). Each trait is assigned one of 3 die types: d4, d8, d12 (no, I didn't just pick the most awkward dice possible to be contrary Smiley ). The larger the die type, the better your character is at accomplishing his ends using that trait. Throughout the game, you can attempt any sort of action using any trait, but you have to 'color' it with the trait you're using. So, if you're in a fight, you can either strategize and observe your opponent's weaknesses (cunning), rely on your superior strength and speed (flesh), or use your drive, passion, and gumption to pull through (heart).

Abilities then, explain more directly what you're doing. In the Heroquest vein, abilities are meant to be colorful and broad. "The Sword of my Ancestors" could be used for cutting  up monsters, or for impressing people from a related clan. Each ability is rated from 1-5. When you act, you roll that many of dice using the trait you want (there's a mechanical reason not to just always justify the D12 that I will get to later).

So, a two person conflict: Before the conflict, both sides say the level of escalation/harm they want it to be, and you go with the less severe. The levels of harm are "stakes only", "impairment", and "injury". Then both sides decide on what the stakes of the conflict are, what their goals are.
Both sides have a trait and ability (you only get to use one ability at a time). They roll the appropriate number of dice simultaneously. The character with the highest single die rolled puts that forward and is the "aggressor". He explains what he's doing to accomplish his goal. The responder can then put forward any number of dice. If he puts forwardlless than half of the high roll, he loses the fight. If he puts forward half or more, but not equal to the high die, the aggressor scores a partial success. If it's a tie or higher, but not half again as much (1.5 x the aggressor's die) then he blocks or negates the aggressor's action, but doesn't gain anything of his own. If his match is higher than the aggressor's die by half again as much, he scores a partial success, and if he doubles the aggressors die, he scores a full success and the conflict is over.

At the end of the first round, if the side rolling smaller dice did not have a total success scored against it, then that side gets a glory point (I'll talk about those in a future post, but they're good to have!).

At the end of the round, the loser of the round decides if he wants to escalate to continue the conflict or not. "Stakes only" escalates to "impairment" which escalates to "injury". If the fight is already at "injury" it can continue without escalation, but otherwise the loser has to escalate to continue. Before the loser decides, the players can negotiate an outcome to the conflict and end it there, but the loser gets the final say, and if he escalates and continues, the winner has to go with it.

Also, after the winner and loser have described the actions that led to the outcome of the round, they have happened. Later rounds can't undo them. So, you can't just say "I take the stakes" if it's not a total success, but any events you narrate as taking you closer to or farther away from the success have to be addressed in the 2nd and 3rd round.

Repeat for three rounds max, but the glory thing only happens after the first round. At the end of the third round, treat any partial successes as total successes.

Now, the thing is, the game isn't really built to encourage mano a mano conflict. It's meant to be about groups. So, when you have a group going against a group, each side chooses a leader. The leader picks a trait. His allies each choose an ability. They roll that number of the leader's trait choice of die type. So, if the leader goes with a D8, everybody's rolling D8s. There's some stuff going on with "loyalty points" that I can get into in a future post that limits how much allies can contribute and affects who will want to be the leader and what not, but for now, let's just go with the allies adding their ability in dice to the pool. Once the dice are rolled, though, the leader is in charge of assigning everybody's to the conflict. When an ally's dice are used, he'll describe what he's doing, but it's up the leader when to 'put him in'.

So, my main worry here is that huge die pools will be ridiculously overpowered (that loyalty thing mentioned should limit this some) and make it too easy to get glory for going against larger die types.

I'm also concerned that the spread between die types will be too much, but when I played around with closer die types (like, d6, d8, d10) the 'oomph' of being one step bigger felt too small.

Oh, also, if it's not painfully obvious, I've been *way* influenced by Vincent Baker (especially In a Wicked Age and Dogs in the Vineyard). I'm hoping that I didn't just steal his stuff and mash it up, but I'm afraid I did. So, if it looks that way to you, let me know please.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Gryffudd
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Posts: 6


« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2010, 05:33:10 PM »

Sounds interesting. Unfortunately, when I try to download the rules, I get a .docx.doc file that my computer can't seem to handle. Probably some setting at my end, but I thought I'd mention it in case there was a format problem with the file or something beyond my level of expertise.
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Jeff Russell
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2010, 01:46:56 AM »

Hmmm, I should fix that, thank you for pointing it out! In the meantime, you could try deleting the ".doc" extension, as .docx is the file extension it's meant to have. I should probably go ahead and save it as an old-skool .doc anyway, since there's no fancy stuff in there that requires the newest version of word, that's just what my program defaulted to. Thank you for your interest, I'll get it cleaned up today!
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Jeff Russell
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Posts: 44


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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2010, 09:46:22 AM »

Gryffudd (and others),

   I've changed the file format to a plain old .doc, so that should make it a little more friendly to download. In the meantime, I'm going to keep posting snippets of the rules here for easier discussion.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Jeff Russell
Member

Posts: 44


WWW
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2010, 10:35:37 AM »

Okay, so, I'm gonna keep posting replies to myself with more content, and hope to spur some discussion Smiley

I mentioned before that the conflict resolution system interlocks with some other subsystems that I have dubbed "the three resources" (as a caveat, I'm not positive that I'm using the term "resource" in a technical sense as understood by other people on this forum, and if not, I will happily accept correction). These three are "Loyalty", "Wealth", and "Glory". I'm trying to think of better names that fit the Bronze/Iron Age Britain feel a little better, but they're my working names right now.

At any rate, Loyalty is one of the key ones in the game. A character gains loyalty points from another character, so they might write it down as "Alfred: 2 Loyalty", and then if that character owes Alfred any points, Alfred's player would write "Beowulf: 1 loyalty point" or whatever.

Specifically relating to conflicts, Loyalty plays two important roles. One, as mentioned above, in a given conflict, there are always two sides, each of which has a leader, and each of which may or may not have allies helping him. The number of dice that allies can contribute to their side's pool is limited to the ability he's using, and also to the loyalty he owes the leader, whichever is lower.

To use the above example, if Beowulf is leading a conflict, and Alfred is using an ability of 3, he'll be limited to 2 dice for his 2 loyalty points.

So, after a conflict, characters can gain loyalty (you can also gain it from oaths, but that's another topic). The leader of the winning side of a conflict gains one loyalty point from each of his allies ("Good job boss, supporting you was a smart move!"). Whether a side wins or loses, though, the leader owes each of his allies a loyalty point ("You guys stood up with me, so I owe you").

The other important thing Loyalty does in conflicts is being a motivation to get allies to join in. When a character goes into a conflict as the leader of a side, he can ask for support from the other characters (i.e. ask them to act as allies). If a character who owes him loyalty points declines, he can "spend" those loyalty points to try to compel that character to join the conflict. If the character being compelled still refuses, the guy calling him out gets a "grudge" against him equal to the points he spent on the attempt (Grudges are a mechanical advantage in future conflicts against the person who wronged you). This is getting vague, so let me throw down an example using our two characters above:

Beowulf enters a conflict. Alfred doesn't want to join in, so he refuses. Beowulf is all "I'm calling on our ties of loyalty for you to support me!" and his player says he'll spend one of the two loyalty points Alfred owes him. If Alfred relents and joins in, he'll only be able to contribute one die. If he still refuses, Beowulf gains a level 1 Grudge against Alfred, but still has 1 loyalty from him.

I'm hoping that this creates a dynamic where different characters lead conflicts, and numerous ties are created between characters, that at times come into contention.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Steenan
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Posts: 3


« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2010, 11:09:53 AM »

From how you describe the conflict, it seems to me that having rolled the highest value is very bad. The aggressor, in general, loses, unless the opposition is much weaker.

I'll try to explain what I mean. The aggressor pushes forward a single die. The opponent replies with as many dice as he wants - and beating the aggressor's die value doubled wins the conflict for him, with no more rounds to play. It's easy to beat a single die with all yours, even if your dice are smaller.

Did I get something wrong?
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Jeff Russell
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« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2010, 06:02:18 AM »

Howdy Steenan,

    I seem to remember having some sort of balance against that, but right now I can't remember exactly what it was Smiley As a more useful response, my aim was to make it very hard to outright win in one round, so that using lots of dice becomes a strategic choice. Winning early rounds at the cost of the ability to win later rounds is bad. On the other hand, as you said, if you *can* put forward all your dice at once to double your opponents high roll, then you win outright, and that's a problem.

Hmmm. I know I considered this, and I *thought* I came up with a solution, but right now, an arbitrary limit on how many dice you put forward seems the only real way to do that, which takes some of the strategery out of what I had in mind.

I need to take a look at my own rules again for a moment, but thanks for pointing out what might be a stupidly obvious, but very important flaw Smiley
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Jeff Russell
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Posts: 44


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« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2010, 06:50:57 AM »

Steenan,

  I took a look at my rules as typed up and realized that no, I had not in fact put in anything to limit that option. But it kind of reminded me of the thought process I did go through when writing it. I am now submitting that process for critique since it hasn't been playtested:

My thinking was that a) if you have a big ol' group of guys against one guy or a smaller group, they *should* have the potential to win more easily, and b) that if you commit lots of dice to anything *but* a total victory, the dude with bigger dice has an advantage in later rounds. Also, there's the slightly lesser consolation to the 'aggressor' that he gets to set the narrative tone, even if his action ends up getting blocked or deflected or countered.

All of that being said, I would very much like to make sure the rules encourage good play rather than require it to work. So any thinking on how to improve would be much appreciated.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
SageThe13th
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Posts: 15


« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2010, 08:38:32 PM »

I think you need to consider the usability of your current system.

For one, there's the dice you need to play the game.  5d4, 5d8, 5d12.  These are not the easiest thing to get a hold of.  I only have one store in my area, out of about four or five stores, that sells d12s separately from a regular D&D dice pack.  Which means a regular person who doesn't frequent every gaming store he can find, would have a hard time getting enough dice will out spending a lot of money, or special ordering.  You could always share dice, effectively splitting the cost, but that's a good way to lose your dice.  You could, also just roll the same die multiple times, but keeping track of that without forgetting numbers is going to require extra time unless you have a good head for keeping numbers straight.  So, keep in mind that it's easy to get a lot of d6s and d10s, but not always other dice varieties.

Other than that it seems pretty cool.  I like the flavor of the setting with being part of a clan and everything and also your take on the tri-stat system.
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Jeff Russell
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Posts: 44


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« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2010, 12:05:21 AM »

Hi Sage,

   I'm glad you like the flavor, that's the main thing I have going for me with it right now Smiley I actually did consider that I was using perhaps the 3 oddest choices of dice (except maybe for the d30 or d100), and I think I tried to 'make up for it' by designing a little dungeon hack board game that can be played with two decks of cards, coins, d6s and tokens of some kind (like poker chips, more coins, peanuts, whatever). I'll admit to a little bit of willful perversity of trying to give the unloved dice some spotlight time, but mostly it came down to the probabilities of the values you roll 'overlapping'. When I played around with d6, d8, d10 (or d4, d6, d8) having a higher die didn't make you that much more likely to roll significantly higher numbers, and I wanted the system to pretty much require a minimum of 2 dice to block a good roll on a higher die, and more to beat it.

All that being said, I've only sat around with a dice rolling program and played out a few made up scenarios with myself, not actually sat down to playtest the rules (hence the 'First Thoughts' forum). Ironically enough, in my current situation, I have zero access to anything besides d6s, and I certainly don't have any d12s rolling around here. I hadn't really designed this to be a game for 'new gamers' (though I certainly don't want to discourage such) and didn't think too hard about the realities of not having stacks of dice sitting around at home. I think that online ordering makes up some slack for that, but that can be a pain in the butt. So I'll definitely think it over, especially if I find a way to accomplish my design goals with more common dice.

Oh yeah, and d12 is a multiple of 3, which is something of a theme (the game finally got named "The Book of Threes") so there was some geeky snickering there. Again, thanks for the feedback.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
SageThe13th
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2010, 12:43:52 AM »

Yeah, I was reading your blog so I figured the situation was something like that.  I'm totally all for giving the weird dice some love.  The big issue was that to play in the most effective manner didn't just require d4s, d8s, and d12s, but five of each of them.  Also I can totally understand playing sorts of number games where the dice have some meaning attached to them.  My current project uses 2d10, and because most d10s have the ten side printed with an 0 instead of a 10; I decide it would be cool have the value of rolls be 0 - 18, rather than 2 - 20.
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Jeff Russell
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« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2010, 01:17:52 AM »

Howdy Everybody,

I've started a new thread now that my game has a working title that can be found here
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
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