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Author Topic: Thugs and Thieves: First Draft  (Read 6017 times)
ethan_greer
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« on: April 16, 2003, 06:53:54 PM »

Well, as promised, I've got something up on the web this week.  However, not as promised, this is not a second pass but still very much a first draft, and it's rough rough rough.  Real life intervenes - I'm really busy and haven't had a chance to really sit down and hammer the manuscript into better shape.  Apologies, and thanks to anyone willing to slog through my disjointed meandering prose... :)

Click here to check it out.

Here's where you can help me if you are so inclined:

- I'd like some feedback on the organization of the document, specifically the order in which the different sections are arranged.
- I could use some sample descriptors, better/more interesting than the sucky ones I've got down currently.
- How're the mechanics?  Do you like them?  Why or why not?
- What do you think of the way I handled the Vices?
- What do you think about character advancement?

I realize that's a pretty broad swathe of questions, but at this early stage of the design, I'm not lasered in on any particular aspect of the system.  Any comments welcome.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2003, 06:14:14 AM »

First, I have to say that I was originally uninspired by the concept. But what got things turned around for me was the movies you listed. Whereas Sorcerer & Sword is patently against Beefcake Barbarianism, this game embraces it. Which I think is a great idea to base a game upon, personally. Light and fun.

Quote from: ethan_greer
- I'd like some feedback on the organization of the document, specifically the order in which the different sections are arranged.
Hmm. Maybe move the "what the characters do" section up? So the reader has a better idea why all the mechanics are required? Actually it's not too bad the way it is.

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- I could use some sample descriptors, better/more interesting than the sucky ones I've got down currently.
I think they're not terrible. I do worry that with "Dragons" as a suggestion for Beast Lore, that you'll never see "Beekeeper". That is, some of these descriptors are just more appropriate to the sort of characters that one is envisioning by the time they get to the descriptors. "Alert" is one that's so often critical in RPGs that it'll probably get taken a lot. There's nothing wrong with this, except that in the case of players who lack creativity, you're going to get a passel of similar characters. Which may be problematic.

You could mandate round-robin descriptor selections as a fun fix. That way only one character gets to be the "strong" guy.

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- How're the mechanics?  Do you like them?  Why or why not?
Simple and straightforward with no obvious mechanical problems. Combat ought to be clarified as a Prowess vs. Prowess roll. If it's not, then you'll need some Initiative rule.

Injury gives -2 or -4 to all rolls. I assume this means that these penalties are subtracted from the pertinent stat, not the roll itself. Assuming that's true, then what if my stat is reduced below 2 by penalties? Do I still succeed on a 2 (this is what I'd assume from the rules, but you may have intended otherwise). An alternate interperetation is that the character cannot perform any act that reduces his roll that low. Which interestingly means that a player who describes such a roll well, may in fact be able to at least make the longshot roll.

The same questions pertain to the character with a magic item or just high level of ability that assures his success. Are bonuses beyond what gives a player an 11 ability useless? You cap abilities at 12, but does that mean that 12 isn't a failure for such a character?

While the characters cannot die, I can see them getting incapacitated a lot if they get into a lot of fights as fighting is very balanced. That's to say that unlike a lot of games with fighting, the characters in this game do not have much of a mechanical advantage (this assumes NPCs are created equally to PCs, which one has to assume from the text). I'm thinking that fights are going to be common, no? Is it intentional that characters will not do well in these situations?

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- What do you think of the way I handled the Vices?
I'm torn between the fact that the source material characters are the way you describe them, and the idea that it would be cool to have characters do stupid things for their vices. Perhaps there's a third angle that could be worked in.

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- What do you think about character advancement?

Easy and simple improvement. Make the roll to gain an ability opposed by the current level of the ability. That way  it's easier to raise poor abilities, and harder to raise higher ones. Also, as this is "like" purchases, can you make more than one with the -2 penalty? Are these penalties separate from the purchase penalties, or additive with them? The latter would be problematic, as I think players will opt for ability increases over equipment any day.


On Abilities, first, I think that Wisdom seems out of place. Call it Will, or Perception, or both, or whatever, just not Wisdom. It just seems to me that a truely wise character wouldn't have gotten into this line of busisness in the first place.

Also, as an alternate gteneration method, why not just say that the player has 49 points to distribute (with the same caps, and mentioning that seven is the average)? I'm just curious.

It's interesting to note that the highest Mastery a starting character can have is seven, and that's by having all stats balanced at seven. Was that an intentional statement? Very Tao. I'd make "retirement" mandatory at Mastery 8. This allows for a definite ending point to shoot for, though one that can be approached as quickly as the player desires.

On purchasing Magic items I assume you forgot some penalty for buying them? Otherwise why buy a +0 Sword when I can buy a +50 Sword just as easily?

I like the open admittance of the "party" as a genre convention, and other such rules. I think that such will be very effective in play. I can really see this game working with published materials well, and making them more functional than most systems (even the ones they are designed for) would. Just the idea that the standard "stranger in the inn" scenario is forced to work seems to be a boon to me.

You ought to acknowledge Donjon. If it wasn't an actual inspiration, it should have been. Some very similar ideas.

Mike
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2003, 08:31:15 AM »

Holy crap, Mike.  You rock.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I think [the Descriptors are] not terrible. I do worry that with "Dragons" as a suggestion for Beast Lore, that you'll never see "Beekeeper". That is, some of these descriptors are just more appropriate to the sort of characters that one is envisioning by the time they get to the descriptors. "Alert" is one that's so often critical in RPGs that it'll probably get taken a lot. There's nothing wrong with this, except that in the case of players who lack creativity, you're going to get a passel of similar characters. Which may be problematic.

You could mandate round-robin descriptor selections as a fun fix. That way only one character gets to be the "strong" guy.

I like that round-robin idea a lot.  The whole Descriptor thing needs work, obviously.  Beekeeper was mostly a joke.  I just braindumped some Descriptors out there.  As I said, it's rough.  :)  And now that I think about it, Alertness probably needs to be its own Ability, especially considering how often I use it when I run games...

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Injury gives -2 or -4 to all rolls. I assume this means that these penalties are subtracted from the pertinent stat, not the roll itself. Assuming that's true, then what if my stat is reduced below 2 by penalties? Do I still succeed on a 2 (this is what I'd assume from the rules, but you may have intended otherwise).

Your impressions are accurate.  2 always succeeds, even if your injury penalty takes your Ability down below 2.  Likewise, 12 always fails, even if your Ability with modifiers is 12 or more.

I'm not sure about these mechanics, to tell the honest truth.  I like the spread of abilities, but the dice mechanic... I just don't know.  That's something that I'm going to look at when I start playtesting.

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While the characters cannot die, I can see them getting incapacitated a lot if they get into a lot of fights as fighting is very balanced. That's to say that unlike a lot of games with fighting, the characters in this game do not have much of a mechanical advantage (this assumes NPCs are created equally to PCs, which one has to assume from the text). I'm thinking that fights are going to be common, no? Is it intentional that characters will not do well in these situations?

This is another case of the rules being in first draft.  Basically, right now I'm thinking that combat rolls will only happen when the characters are facing a challenge.  So, random guards at the evil henchman's stronghold will fall like wheat to a scythe, no rolls necessary.  Likewise, you won't roll Prowess to take out a group of random goblins or similar beasties.  On the other hand, when fighting significant NPCs (including fell beasts such as giant snakes), that's when the Prowess rolls will happen.

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I'm torn between the fact that the source material characters are the way you describe them, and the idea that it would be cool to have characters do stupid things for their vices. Perhaps there's a third angle that could be worked in.

Not sure what you mean here.  Could you clarify?

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Make the roll to gain an ability opposed by the current level of the ability. That way it's easier to raise poor abilities, and harder to raise higher ones.

*Snaps fingers* A-ha.  Good idea.

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Also, as this is "like" purchases, can you make more than one with the -2 penalty? Are these penalties separate from the purchase penalties, or additive with them? The latter would be problematic, as I think players will opt for ability increases over equipment any day.

Initially I designed advancement to be exactly like purchases in every respect - you roll against Mastery, all penalties apply, etc. etc.  You seem to think that's a bad idea, and I can see where you're coming from.  I'll put it on my list of things to settle in playtest.


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On Abilities, first, I think that Wisdom seems out of place. Call it Will, or Perception, or both, or whatever, just not Wisdom. It just seems to me that a truely wise character wouldn't have gotten into this line of busisness in the first place.

Point.  I'll go with Will, I think...

Quote
Also, as an alternate gteneration method, why not just say that the player has 49 points to distribute (with the same caps, and mentioning that seven is the average)? I'm just curious.

Potato, Patata.  In the end, I'll probably include both descriptions and allow the individual to decide how they want to think of the process, since functionally it makes no difference.

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It's interesting to note that the highest Mastery a starting character can have is seven, and that's by having all stats balanced at seven. Was that an intentional statement? Very Tao.

I must admit it wasn't intentional, but I agree it's an interesting effect.  My knowledge of Tao is limited to The Tao of Pooh, and I can't remember most of that, so I'll have to take your word for it that it's Tao...

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I'd make "retirement" mandatory at Mastery 8. This allows for a definite ending point to shoot for, though one that can be approached as quickly as the player desires.

Interesting.  I just may do that.

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On purchasing Magic items I assume you forgot some penalty for buying them? Otherwise why buy a +0 Sword when I can buy a +50 Sword just as easily?

Heh.  Well, a +0 sword does not need to be purchased using the Vice/Mastery rules, since it's considered standard equipment.  And a +50 sword is right out.  :)  That said, some guidelines are definitely needed.  Chalk it up for the next draft.

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I like the open admittance of the "party" as a genre convention, and other such rules. I think that such will be very effective in play. I can really see this game working with published materials well, and making them more functional than most systems (even the ones they are designed for) would.

That was a definite goal.  It's gratifying that it comes across effectively.

Quote
You ought to acknowledge Donjon. If it wasn't an actual inspiration, it should have been. Some very similar ideas.

Hmm.  Hadn't taken any ideas from Donjon, at least not intentionally.  It seems another read of my copy is in order.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2003, 09:41:23 AM »

Quote from: ethan_greer

I like that round-robin idea a lot.  The whole Descriptor thing needs work, obviously.  Beekeeper was mostly a joke.  I just braindumped some Descriptors out there.  As I said, it's rough.  :)  And now that I think about it, Alertness probably needs to be its own Ability, especially considering how often I use it when I run games...
Basically what you suggest needs to indicate things that are of the same general relevance in terms of coolness. That's all I'm getting at. To make a better example, I think you'll see a lot of dragonriders over, say, horseriders. The idea of controling dragons is just that much cooler than, well, any others I can think of. So don't suggest it. Players can come up with it on their own, and the GM I assume can veto them. So you might still get the Dragon guy. But only if it seems cool to the group.

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Your impressions are accurate.  2 always succeeds, even if your injury penalty takes your Ability down below 2.  Likewise, 12 always fails, even if your Ability with modifiers is 12 or more.
Cool. The text does indicate that, but it would be cool to have an example, or whatnot to make it all very clear.

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I'm not sure about these mechanics, to tell the honest truth.  I like the spread of abilities, but the dice mechanic... I just don't know.  That's something that I'm going to look at when I start playtesting.
Well, the nice thing is it isn't too big a deal to replace it with something else, should you decide on a more rounded out system.

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This is another case of the rules being in first draft.  Basically, right now I'm thinking that combat rolls will only happen when the characters are facing a challenge.  So, random guards at the evil henchman's stronghold will fall like wheat to a scythe, no rolls necessary.  Likewise, you won't roll Prowess to take out a group of random goblins or similar beasties.  On the other hand, when fighting significant NPCs (including fell beasts such as giant snakes), that's when the Prowess rolls will happen.
You're missing my point. Sure you can make a mook rule and put that in. But shouldn't a Giant Snake get really good stats? The way the characters are created, the way it's stated, they are totally average. The snake will be better than them along with all other major protagonists. If the characters are meant to be of a "heroic" calibre, just say that the "average" human is a 6 instead of seven. That way you can rationalize good NPCs being only on par with the PCs. Instead of easily dwarfing them.

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I'm torn between the fact that the source material characters are the way you describe them, and the idea that it would be cool to have characters do stupid things for their vices. Perhaps there's a third angle that could be worked in.

Not sure what you mean here.  Could you clarify?

Well, Conan has lots of vices, but just like you describe in the rule, he's never really adversely affected by it in terms of judgement, or the vices becoming impairing. So the rule matches the characters well.

But then it would also be cool to be able to look at some characters that have Vices that do impair them or make stupid decisions because of them. Could be a whole nother segment to the game. I'm not sure which way is better to go. Assuming you don't have any ideas for an alternate way of handling Vices, I'd suggest staying with what you have. But I'd think it would be cool to hear from anyone who might have an idea on how to make Vices more a part of play than just a static part of the constant situation.

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Potato, Patata.  In the end, I'll probably include both descriptions and allow the individual to decide how they want to think of the process, since functionally it makes no difference.
That's a good way of doing it. Some people will prefer each method, so make both available.

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so I'll have to take your word for it that it's Tao...
Just that balance makes for a settled soul.

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I'd make "retirement" mandatory at Mastery 8. This allows for a definite ending point to shoot for, though one that can be approached as quickly as the player desires.

Interesting.  I just may do that.
This could also be defined by participant consensus before play as a statement on how long everyone want's to see the game go. Options are probably good here.

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Hmm.  Hadn't taken any ideas from Donjon, at least not intentionally.  It seems another read of my copy is in order.

Equipment/Resource handling. Explicit handling of Situation to enforce "adventure" play. Not strong links, but I thought of Donjon instantly when I saw this.

Mike
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2003, 10:22:29 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Basically what you suggest needs to indicate things that are of the same general relevance in terms of coolness. That's all I'm getting at.

Here we agree.

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To make a better example, I think you'll see a lot of dragonriders over, say, horseriders. The idea of controling dragons is just that much cooler than, well, any others I can think of.

Ahh!  Now I get it - by "Dragons," I meant knowledge of dragons, not the ability to control them.  So, I think what all this indicates is the complete inadequacy of the Descriptors as I have them down right now.  PCs riding dragons - ack.  Major overhaul of this section is in order.  I may just get rid of the descriptor examples until after playtest when I can see both what the players come up with and what types of things work well in play.

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You're missing my point. Sure you can make a mook rule and put that in. But shouldn't a Giant Snake get really good stats? The way the characters are created, the way it's stated, they are totally average. The snake will be better than them along with all other major protagonists. If the characters are meant to be of a "heroic" calibre, just say that the "average" human is a 6 instead of seven. That way you can rationalize good NPCs being only on par with the PCs. Instead of easily dwarfing them.

Gotcha.  I'm going to have to give this a lot of thought to figure out exactly where I want the characters to stand in the grand scheme of things.  Are they heroes, or are they everyday folks?  I think the document unintentionally wavers back and forth between these two styles, and that needs correcting.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2003, 10:41:39 AM »

I think you're on the right track. That said, I wish at least one other person would come in here and tear up my perspective. To give some contrast to the discussion.

Anyway, the only other point I have is to say that I like the descriptor idea. Doubles the detail about each character. You just need to find a good way to rein it in appropriately. Anyone got an idea there?

Mike
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2003, 11:09:11 AM »

Taken as a whole, the game is very good. Obviously in the next draft you may want to nail down a more... hmmm... specific? or detailed section on magic. Even if it is window dressing, it would be possible to make magic that secret and forbidden thing that the characters never trust.  Maybe all practitioners of magic have one green eye and one red eye? Though that may run into setting a bit.

One thing I am very impressed with is the monetary system.  I myself lioke detailed ones with coins and exchange rates but your seems just as detailed but in a different way. I am not sure if that is of your own devising or inspired but either way its cool.

sean
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2003, 11:32:30 AM »

Quote from: ADGBoss
I am not sure if that is of your own devising or inspired but either way its cool.

The money system seems similar to me to the abstractions in Donjon, but it's certainly original. I've seen GMs use the, "well, you spend all your money and are looking for more" idea before. Even seen articles suggesting it. But I've never seen it encoded in a game system. That's the really cool part.

Mike
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2003, 11:37:00 AM »

Thanks, ADGboss.  The magic section is definitely on the list of things to flesh out!  It's one of the last things I wrote, when other things were starting to force my attention...

As for the monetary system, I guess I have to give some credit to Clinton R. Nixon, both for Donjon (now that Mike pointed it out, I remember the inspiration...Funny, that...) and for the comments about monetary systems in this thread.  It just got the ideas bubbling about, and the Thugs and Thieves system is what came out...
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Tar Markvar
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Posts: 27


« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2003, 12:18:05 PM »

A couple of thoughts that I had:

1) The stat spread. It seems a bit high for my tastes. I don't have a probability chart for 2d6 in front of me, but it seems that once a player has 9 in a stat, probabilities are rather heavily in their favor. There are only, what, 4 rolls that will result in 10, 11, or 12? On the other hand, 7 or below will show up more often than not, it seems.

I suppose the question here is, how important is advancement and the search for better equipment to Thugs & Thieves? If it's not so important, then no big deal, but if it's important to the idea of the game, you might want to give more room for advancement from the start. Otherwise, with Mastery tied to the lowest stat, people will only raise their lower stats (which could be fine, given playtesting).

2) I think I'd like to see Vice figure more actively in the game. Maybe something to the effect of a Mastery roll whenever presented with an opportunity to indulge in the Vice (the town you're camping in on the job has a brothel, or the man you're supposed to assassinate invites you over to his house for a toke). Also, is there a mechanic for losing Mastery? Not sure if that would help or hinder the design, honestly, but I'm curious. :)

OVerall, I like it a lot. I think there are some definite Donjon and InSpectres influences, especially in the abstraction of money, which I like a LOT. The game as written has a tight, clear focus and a clear idea of how it should be played. A few tweaks and it's very playable, I think.

Jay
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2003, 12:35:13 PM »

Hey Tar,

1) There's a 16 percent chance of rolling 10+.  There's a 58 percent chance of rolling 7 or less.  I hear your concerns about the spread.  Just something that'll need tested...  I want one more revision under my belt, and then I'll start playtesting.

2) That's not a bad idea.  I'll have to mull it over.  In the meantime, Vices can figure into the game by providing possible adventure seeds in and of themselves.  For example, getting thrown into the local drunk tank.  However, that's hardly formalized in the mechanics...

InSpectres?  Never read it, although the more I learn about it, the more I'm inclined to.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2003, 01:27:22 PM »

Quote from: ethan_greer
1) There's a 16 percent chance of rolling 10+.  There's a 58 percent chance of rolling 7 or less.  I hear your concerns about the spread.  Just something that'll need tested...  I want one more revision under my belt, and then I'll start playtesting.
The 2d6 curve (pyramid, actually), is pretty time tested. Traveller used it for a couple of decades. I think it'll be fine here. Far from fine grained, but then the whole game is designed for chunkiness. If you like more of a spread, play with 3d6, have 10 be the "average", and only allow from 7 to 13 for starting stats. Should work very similarly, but leave more room for expansion.

Quote
2) That's not a bad idea.  I'll have to mull it over.  In the meantime, Vices can figure into the game by providing possible adventure seeds in and of themselves.  For example, getting thrown into the local drunk tank.  However, that's hardly formalized in the mechanics...
You could simply formalize it by having a "trouble" roll between scenarios against Mastery (that cold use a different name), that when failed simply made the GM come up with some description like the drunk tank thing that would be directly linked to the upcoming adventure. The players would realize that it was again, enforced situation, but at least the characters would have slightly different putative motives in each adventure. The guy in the Drunk tank would be doing the mission because the Magistrate allowed him out if he would do a mission. Whereas the Lech character was caught with his daughter.

Count the failure on that roll as a -2 penalty on the purchase rolls after that scenario representing the character getting less loot due to being on the mission for other reasons.

That's rough, but you get the idea of what you can do with it.

Quote
InSpectres?  Never read it, although the more I learn about it, the more I'm inclined to.
Can only recommend it.

Mike
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Tar Markvar
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« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2003, 01:28:23 PM »

Quote from: ethan_greer
InSpectres?  Never read it, although the more I learn about it, the more I'm inclined to.


I'd recommend it. That and Donjon have made me a huge fan of more abstract in-game resource systems. InSpectres also has a cool, abstract system for creating the party at large and the party's communal resources, as well as a cool system for putting spoils won during a mission back into the group as an investment.

Jay
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Jeph
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Jeff Schecter


« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2003, 01:55:42 PM »

On retirement at 8: I'll say it out right, bad idea. Groups who reach Mastery 8 and want to stop will stop. Groups who reach mastery 8 and don't want to stop will ignore that rule completely. So why include it? The only result I can think of is some pig-headed GM not letting a campaign continue once the PCs reach mastery 8 even though the characters want it because "it's in the rules".

On buying magic items: I think a simple penalty to the roll (or Mastery when making the role, however you want to phrase it) would be an easy, smooth fix. Maybe -1 or -2 for tings like potions depending on GM fiat, and a penalty equal to the bonus provided for things like magic weapons and armor.

Average Human Stats at 6: I'm completely in favor of this. I've never liked 'average' characters, if I want real life, I'll, well, get off the computer for once, or something, I guess . . .

Maybe you could have a rule on selling items for other items. For instance, you could sell a +2 sword to get +2 on your next roll to purchase some stuff, as long as it's made quickly. Or maybe you could sell valuable items to make a purchase roll when you haven't gotten a paycheck recently?

You know, this is one of those games that has more support for the theme, than for the setting. For instance, I could use T&T to play gangsters in New York. I like that. Heck, I like this whole game. Great work!
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