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Author Topic: World of Rathillien Tabletop - Introduction  (Read 1336 times)
Talanic
Member

Posts: 8


« on: May 06, 2010, 05:56:45 PM »

Greetings.  This is my first post to the Forge - in fact, I only found out about this community today, but would have shown up a long while ago if I'd known about it earlier. 

See, one of my professors in college was P. C. Hodgell, author of the God Stalker Chronicles - you can find out more at kencyr.wikia.com, or check out her books - and last year, I received permission from her to develop an RPG based on her novels.  This isn't a wildly popular property, but it definitely has core fans and may be gaining in popularity - her most recent book sold out its first edition in under two months. 

I worked in my spare time, and I had a *lot* of spare time.  The result is a little under 30,000 words long, and summarizes her novels' setting as well as introduces a set of rules that I made for the game.  I've shown it around a bit, but nobody's had the time to playtest it yet, even though I've been technically ready for it since the end of last year. 

The trait that nobody I've talked to yet has seen in an RPG is the use of what I call real, penalty, and bonus dice.  When performing any action that requires a roll, the player rolls a set amount of 'real' dice, as well as penalty or bonus dice (which cancel each other out - no roll will have both penalty and bonus dice).  Penalty dice adjust the roll's average downward by dropping the highest number of results equal to the amount of penalty dice; bonus dice work the opposite way.  For example, a roll of 4p3 would have seven dice rolled, and the player would drop the three highest results.  A roll of 2b1 has three dice, the lowest of which doesn't count.  This allows more freedom with bonuses without spontaneously turning every character into a superman; nobody can, for example, have a breakfast so good that they can punch through a steel door, but they will perform better than they might've.

The game's based on d6 and uses six attributes per character.  Physique, Agility, Vitality, Cunning, Presence, and Will.  I know that they're similar to the six that D&D uses; I tried to avoid that for a while, until I was damaging what I was making by trying to be different for the sake of being different.

Characters start with 3 in each attribute, then can distribute 5 points among them, but to raise them higher at character creation, they have to take traits (-1 to one, +1 to another). They also get a set amount of cash - I spent a week converting historical medieval prices in an attempt to make a semblance of a realistic economy - and can pick a race and/or nationality, gaining them some skills and protocols (more on that later). 

Powering up a character later involves spending the experience stand-in, Fate, to improve individual attributes.  Fate can also be spent at any point in the game to do such things as add bonus dice, rerolls, stabilize wounds, etc - this is an attempt to make it more versatile, and give players a choice between 'leveling up' and saving those points for emergencies.  Raising skills takes time, practice, and/or in-game currency for training.  More on combat ability later.

Skills are given broad categories - for example, 'Intrusion' - and specific protocols.  A character trying to pick a pocket would use their Larcenous protocol, of the Intrusion category.  If they lack the Larcenous protocol, they can still try to use their Intrusion skill, but suffer penalties.  Similarly, some skills benefit from tools, and some require them outright.  One can't use the Intrusion:Siege skill without a siege weapon, but a Grace:Acrobatics check might benefit from a balancing pole in some circumstances.

Players are encouraged to build their own fighting styles using the rules that I laid out.  Rather than differentiating between a dagger, a dirk, and a hunting knife, I created categories of weapons and armors - the game doesn't address swords anywhere, but they typically are either Standard or Heavy weapons that deal slashing or piercing damage.  The player (or the DM) chooses which type of weapon, what category it is for the purposes of this character, and builds from there.  Part of building the style includes spending points as skill in that style increases, adding special abilities, damage dice, or to-hit dice - or bonus dice.  Characters can possess multiple styles and switch between them with moderate to no penalty, so long as they have the equipment that matches both styles.

In a fight, a character's armor type and quality synergize with the character's physique and agility to create the character's max defense; current defense starts either at max or half, depending on whether or not the character was surprised.  Current defense regenerates at the start of each character's combat round, based on their attributes, skills, and armor..  Attacks decrease current defense; when it hits zero, the next attack actually hits.  Hits are very dangerous, as the odds are decent that a character's attributes will be dropped significantly by a hit; the least impairing type of damage is actually the worst, because it inflicts blood loss.  First aid and medical treatment can get an injured character back on his feet, but it's possible to continue an adventure while bleeding dangerously; rest slows the rate of blood loss significantly.

Magic's kind of weak right now, but it's largely because it's difficult to quantify how it works in Pat's setting.  Minor spells are just a skill that can be used to supplement any other skill.  Major spells work differently based on what religion the character who casts the spell is, new or old pantheon.

I'm not sure what to do from here - although I do have Pat's permission to host it on Authonomy.com.  It's there, but it's an old copy; if people are interested in looking at the full document, I'll update it.  Also, I created a character sheet that calculates out almost everything a player would need to know, including what to roll for any and all skill checks, effects of wounds a character's sustained, the works - but that can't be hosted on Authonomy, as it doesn't do spreadsheets.

Anyway, I hope this was an interesting read; please let me know any questions you may have.  I haven't answered all of the Power 19, as I hadn't heard of those either before today, but I'm looking at them.
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SageThe13th
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2010, 07:21:55 PM »

Cool, this sound like something I was working on last month, though I have recently abandoned the system because it was making certain goals I had in mind very, very hard to achieve.  I'd be interested in seeing what you came up with.

If you want my personal opinion on something.  I'd say that having a "weak" magic system isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I find that the big pit a lot of fantasy RPGs fall in is making magic far too overpowered.  It sucks being a fighter and having to complete with magic casters who are more powerful, more versatile, and more interesting than could ever be.  And the only way many systems try to make it up to fighters is by making them hard to kill.  That being said, assuming the role of party punching bag isn't typically something I consider fun.
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Talanic
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2010, 07:36:42 PM »

I know.  I really haven't gamed on that many systems, mostly just D&D 3.5.  The knowledge that, from levels 5 to 20, a warrior's set of abilities will hardly twitch, but a wizard will wind up able to summon demigods and boss them around, doesn't quite seem fair.  In this system, nearly everyone's expected to use at least a little magic, and someone who focuses on it is likely to wind up as just a different kind of fighter.

Except those who wind up binding demons and such - but those aren't very thoroughly explained in the books, as far as dangers and powers.  The main character chose to flee rather than fight in all situations so far - so we don't actually know what a demon can do in a fight with a mortal.
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greyorm
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Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2010, 09:35:30 PM »

Greetings, Talanic, welcome to the Forge! (Do you have a real name we can call you by? I'm Raven, BTW.)

I realize I've seen the God Stalker books on the shelf at my local bookstore, such as it is, and they seemed interesting, though I didn't pick them up -- I haven't really bought many new fantasy novels in the last few years. As to the game: it also looks interesting; I recognize a lot of elements from other systems I've seen or played over the years, though with some interesting spins obviously.

But I do have one question for you: what makes the God Stalker chronicles unique as a fantasy setting...or perhaps not "unique", but what makes it stand out as a series? What's the touchstone for people who talk about the books, why do they read them, what experience do they get in doing so?

The reason I ask is because -- and don't take this as discouragement, you wrote a 30k word game! -- what I hear right now based on what I've seen of the system in this thread is something D&D or any variety of its clones could do. You know: Fantasy. Blah blah. Fighting stuff. Blah blah. Magic. Blah blah. Levels. Parties. Skills. Etc. All the standard stuff. And having seen a lot of creative-media properties developed as games fall down as expressions of those properties, whenever I hear of a creative-media game property I immediately want to know if it just another fantasy game tied to the property's name, or if the mechanics are really true to the experience of the property. You know, how is this the game for those particular books?

So what make the books so intriguing? And how do you bring that experience to people with this game (rather than with, say, D&D or Storyteller or Warhammer)? (Or do you? Maybe this is something you struggled with in the design, I don't know.)

I look forward to your response (even if it's "geez, I don't know!") and hopefully this question isn't scary or overwhelming!
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2010, 06:37:15 AM »

Welcome to the Forge, Talanic.

Your system seems surprisingly similar to The Shadow of Yesterday, I was immediately stricken by the similarities both in general approach and the game mechanics, which involve bonus and  penalty dice as well as other similarities to your game. You should check that out for comparison and contrast - it's free and all.
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Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Talanic
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2010, 07:27:27 AM »

I'm afraid that it's going to be an "I don't know" answer.  I enjoy the books, but I'm not very good at figuring out why, other than the author's wry wit. 

I'll check out Shadow of Yesterday.  Should be interesting. 

Note:  I'm helping my brother move and will probably be out until tomorrow night (Saturday).
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Jeff Russell
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2010, 08:29:40 AM »

Howdy Talanic,

   I'm new here too, but still and all, welcome aboard, I've been enjoying myself so far. Raven beat me to the punch with the question I was going to ask, because your system seems like a clever and new way to basically do the same stuff you do in D&D. And there's nothing wrong with that! I happen to like D&D and what you do in it. That being said, to help you get at the answer to Raven's question (if you want one, heck) I might suggest thinking about what stuff you've done in your play experience (D&D or otherwise) that you really enjoyed but wasn't specifically covered by the rules. Cos that's where making your own rules gets to be pretty awesome - coming up with a systematized way to do the things you think are cool. Maybe figuring out what you enjoyed specifically about gaming would help shed some light on what you like in particular about these books (unfortunately, I haven't checked them out either, but I'm assuming they're pretty engrossing if they inspired you to write a big honkin' game book!)

Related to what I just said, when you do get the chance to playtest, one notion I'd keep in mind is "is this doing the books justice?" or "does this feel like the books?" I mean, you probably don't want to just recreate the story from the books, but are the kind of stories your game will create the kind that remind you of their source material? I think if you can answer that question, you'll not only be closer to answering Raven's question, you'll also know what your game is good at and enjoyable for. Hope some of that was helpful, I look forward to seeing more.
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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
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2010, 05:41:15 PM »

That is totally not a problem, T. I'm still interested in seeing what you have, though I don't know that my group would be willing or able to playtest it.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Talanic
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2010, 02:21:40 PM »

I've given it some thought and here's a few things to consider.

The world of Rathillien is one where myth rules, sometimes literally.  A large part of the series is that, due to specific circumstances, the things people believe shape reality in concrete ways.  I threw together a few examples below, some directly from the books, some not.

A nearly blind master thief steps off of a rooftop, scrambles across the shingles of the building that stands next to the temple, and makes off with the Eye of Abarradeen.  He knows the building next to the temple quite well, except that someone demolished it twenty years ago, and he just walked across empty air.

Parents tell their children of the Creeper, who skulks in the shadows and punishes naughty boys.  The children behave, and all goes well - until the Creeper decides that the children aren't his only interest.

The innkeeper's wife has to make a stew, but after the cat fell down the well and had to be fished out, there's only two hours before suppertime.  She hauls out her book of spells and the stew finishes eight hours' worth of simmering well before the first diner is hungry.

Nobody remembers the dread god Shaechran.  Forgotten gods are powerless, only able to come out one night of the year, the Night of the Dead Gods.  Someone should have told Shaechran that.

The people called the Kencyr claim to be from another world, and worship only the Three-Faced God, proclaiming all others to be false.  How is it then that the leader of the New Pantheon, Dalis-Sar, was once a Kencyr himself?

A house full of mirrors sits on the edge of Tai-tastigon.  If you look inside, you can see a woman racing through the house, a woman who is a reflection only - but is she trying to find a way out, or looking for someone?

At the edge of the forest called the Weald, one might find packs of wolves that can take the shape of men.  The wolvers say that their own cousins haunt the inside, growing to monstrous size and killing all who enter.  When asked what the deep wolvers guard, they respond that nobody knows - not even the deep wolvers have ever survived a trip to the heart of the Weald.

A woman dug a grave for her son.  He found out, and buried her in it.  The earth swallowed her, and she became one with it, and if you find Mother Ragga's hut, no matter where you find it, be respectful...

Too far to the north and you may come to the Haunted Lands.  The dead don't rest.  Nothing does.  Burn anything you kill and don't eat - yes, it's safe to eat what lives there, as long as it wasn't dead before you killed it.  Never mind that the vegetables scream when you cut them.

Some Kencyr priests can hold onto your soul, if you give it to them, and a man without a soul is almost impossible to kill.  The Kencyr themselves will tell you flat out, though, sometimes it's a good thing to keep death as an option. 

(By the way - my real name's Robert)
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SageThe13th
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2010, 07:33:44 PM »

Robert,

I don't know often you talk to, or how easy it is to get in touch with the books' author, but you may want to ask her what she feels makes her fantasy setting different from others, and then emphasize those things.  You, may also want to ask her for details about the aspects of the world that you don't have a lot of information on.  I understand there may be some things she doesn't want to reveal yet.  But, I highly suggest having as much information as you can possibly get.

BTW, my name is Alex.
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Talanic
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2010, 10:23:10 AM »

I'll get in touch with Pat later to see what we can come up with.  However, here's a link to the full RPG, minus a couple tables that just don't upload well:

http://authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=11454

If/when people are interested in playtesting - I'll be disappointed, but will understand if it winds up being something you decide not to play - I'll have an updated character sheet that I can upload or email out.  It handles just about all the math in the game except the dice rolls.
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Talanic
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2010, 11:41:35 AM »

Pat, when asked what she thinks is the heart of her setting (at least, the city of Tai-tastigon, which the RPG is focused around):
"Variety and the chance to play and invent."

I needed her to explain what she meant, and what came out was that was what she built the city on.  Any idea that comes to her, she usually finds a way to use somewhere.  No concepts are entirely thrown out or unworkable; anything could be done as long as she figured out what the right way to use it was.

I didn't even know that this was the way she'd worked, but the RPG is similarly built.  The player can take almost any concept and find a way to make it work in the rules.  Someone asked me about using a coating of marshmallow topping as armor, just as a joke.  I declared it to be medium-class crude (quality 1) armor; more an encumbrance than a help to most characters, but it does something.  How about using a fork as a weapon?  Personal class, piercing, quality 2.  Someone wants to play as a Deep Wolver?  Attributes are there, along with the downside that nobody wants to talk to them and their pelts are prized by hunters.
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2010, 06:49:56 PM »

Interesting. The idea that myth rules the world, that belief shapes reality, sounded really exciting to me. I don't know that that is what the author was focusing on, though, and it sounds more like it is just a grab-bag of whatever, which is a turn-off for me.

So I don't think the RPG is my bag; mainly because I've seen far too many RPGs that are "well, do whatever you want!" which because of that end up being kind of bland and just whatever. My personal feeling is that I don't think the world needs yet another "do whatever you want!" RPG, mainly because why would I use that RPG, why would I bother spending the time to read, learn, and master it, when I could just pick up and use D&D or GURPs (or a dozen other generic games) to the same effect?

Regardless of my personal feelings, I think this is an issue you will have to deal with when and if the product moves into the print phase. (Especially given those established games have better support, a longer history of use, and a larger pool of players available.) Also, I don't mean to be down on you, don't take any of this as a personal attack, just trying to give you some critical feedback on the presentation and on things you may not have considered (if you have, awesome, just ignore me then).

I have, however, read through some of the posted book. I admit, I skipped the first chapter because I don't want to be pummeled with a huge infodump of setting information, and I don't want any spoilers for the novels if I ever read them. First impression: the presentation is rough. But I'm sure you knew that. Right off the bat you talk about skills and target numbers before you define them or explain what they do in the game or how they work. It feels in a way as though you're presenting the system backwards. This is a feeling that persists after reading through a couple more chapters.

For example, we're halfway through the section on Attributes before I learn that Attributes can be negative. I still don't know how high or how low Attribute scores run, how to generate them, or so on. Though based on one line about incapacitation, it appears that a -5 is the low point. But I don't know for certain. I didn't even know they could go up or down in play! We then move immediately into a very brief discussion of Traits and I learn they can affect Attributes somehow, or skills maybe, and some cost something called Fate. The Tiers make no sense: I don't know which is what Tier or whether I would want a higher Tier or a lower Tier, etc.

I think a form of the character creation chapter would make a better start to the book, with the prior chapters rolled into it. There are still issues, however: skills are discussed here briefly, but you can't find any information on them for another seven chapters. There's more discussion of terms as though the reader is familiar with those terms and their meaning (protocols, for example). And there's something called a "gold altar"...I don't know what that is, sounds religious, or maybe it's currency. Same thing with Fate. I can spend it however I wish? Huh? On what? How? What good is it even and why do I care? I assume this is probably explained in the Fate chapter, but the fact it is mentioned here and I don't yet know why I would care about any of that is an issue. Races come up next, and what looks like character backgrounds (jobs) and what skills those backgrounds get. This is a surprise, I didn't realize your skills were determined by your background. I don't know what One Spells or One Perception means (though I can guess).

Fate is up next. At the end of the chapter, I finally find out we roll six-sided dice in this game. I can see what Fate can be used for, but it doesn't seem tied too strongly to the system overall. It's kind of like XP almost, but not. Gaining it and losing it seems based mostly on GM's whim than any concrete rules. And I still don't know what I can spend it on during character creation, if anything (I may have missed something, I'm skimming pretty fast now). I do like the idea of what I'm seeing, though.

Then we get into combat. I'm going to stop there though. I haven't finished the book yet, but based on what I've seen, I'm not sure I could play the game as written. Mainly because the text I've read so far is a mess. I could suss it out, I'm sure, by reading through the book and connecting the pieces together. But right now I feel like I'm reading a verbal jigsaw puzzle.

Again, none of this is meant to get down on you or as a personal attack, just honest constructive criticism that I hope proves helpful to you in further revisions and editing of the rules. Also, I mention all of the above not so you can explain it here to me in this thread, but so you get an idea of a potential problem with the layout of the current document and how it approaches teaching the game, and what you might focus on fixing for the next playtest release.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Talanic
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2010, 07:14:17 PM »

I understand, and honestly, you just gave me the first useful criticism that I've received on this work. 

As far as target market goes, I'm just hoping to create a fun game that Pat can offer to her fans, that won't be tough for their friends who haven't read the books to pick up and enjoy.  Apparently, I have quite a bit of work left to do...a lot of your points didn't really occur to me.

I've written my own novel (unpublished, alas), and received quite a lot of feedback on it - I've learned to tell (well, sometimes, at least) when someone's providing honest, useful feedback and when someone's just trolling.  Between the two of us, you're probably the one who knows more about games, and I'm definitely going to see how I can improve my work with your advice.
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Talanic
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2010, 01:06:30 PM »

Hrm, doesn't seem to be a way to edit posts so I could append my further musings.

First off, more thanks.  This has all been more than I really have a right to hope for.

Second, about the stories.  The books tend to be ruled by myth, to a great degree - although some characters have figured out what aspects of their lives are and aren't governed by what they believe.  It's not really grab-bag, but there's a stunning amount of things the author plays with, and a ton more that have only come out in chats I've had with her.  I meant, in my earlier post with the examples, to illustrate that the stories tend to have segments that are full of wonder and laughter, punctuated by some really, really creepy stuff.  I recommend the books highly, but note that the author starts decent and gets better and better with each successive book.

I'd like to propose that we work out a few editorial details here before you read further, so as not to subject you to any more jumble - with the feedback that you've provided so far, and a few answers, I can probably provide a better copy that will be more pleasant and intuitive.  I've done my share of reader critiques and the last thing I'd like to do is subject you to something that's less than the best that I can manage.

I realize that some of what happened to my game is the result of no editing oversight.  I'd come up with an idea that I thought was nifty, introduce a few aspects, then wind up changing things when I realized that some of what I'd put down was too cumbersome.  So I'd trim things out - character creation, for example, initially defined Fate, but the idea of using it to define all aspects of character creation was actually a very bad one so I cut it out, forgetting that I referenced Fate without defining it until its own chapter.  I wound up defining each term in the glossary as well as where it first appears according to my original text, but didn't keep in mind that the copy that you have isn't in that same order.  When I ran into the terms before they were defined, well...I already knew what they meant. 

So, the meat of my questions, if they're not too much trouble:
What order should I put the chapters in?  Character creation before attributes, races, skills? 
What things have I clearly taken for granted about the game and my potential players, terms I should define, etc? 
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