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Author Topic: [Ex Deus] System: Simple, Fast, Intuitive, Universal, Compelling  (Read 8579 times)
Garbados
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« on: July 19, 2009, 11:52:56 PM »

I began work on Ex Deus roughly five months ago, seeking to reconcile GURPS' unprecedented universality and detail with White Wolf's compelling simplicity. No single system I knew of accommodated both all the manners of outlandish or fantastic settings I loved to run (magical wasteland following super-science apocalypse, WWI Lovecraftian horror, nonmagical medieval tragedy...) and the level of setting/campaign complexity I sought (sophisticated social combat, realistic physical combat, reasons to be intelligent other than magic, meaningful crafting systems...). Each sacrificed the other in pursuit of something resembling simplicity or speed, but all fell lacking to my needs. So, I thought I could do better, and five months later, here I am. This post explores Ex Deus in pursuit of criticism, concerns, and curiosities.

Ex Deus is a diceless RPG system intended to fulfill the following virtues:
  • Simple
    The rules should be easy to pick up, but challenging to master.
  • Compelling
    The rules should foster intriguing gameplay.
  • Intuitive
    The rules should make sense.
  • Fast
    The rules should never slow down gameplay.
  • Universal
    The rules should bar no setting nor campaign concept.

The name "Ex Deus" comes from a short story I once wrote about a conversation between two gods, where each word of their divine language spawned universes designed to exhibit through their infinite glory and grandeur the intended message.

As for the rules themselves, let's go through the basics.
0. BASIC MECHANICS
  • Task Resolution: Attempt - Challenge = Result
    Attempt = Attribute + Skill + Misc. (Equipment, Circumstances, Specialties, etc.)
    Challenge = Difficulty (sometimes another force's attempt, sometimes an entity's stat)
    Result = Degree of success or failure.
  • "Diceless"
    Using static values instead of dice, Ex Deus eliminates the time-consuming task of rolling dice from the system, but maintains the intrigue of the unknown through the deceptive sophistication of its conflict systems, not unlike Diplomacy, Caylus, or Mancala.
  • Notes about Characters
    Ex Deus features no notions about classes, levels, or stat-independent experience. Stats (attributes, skills, specialties, traits, etc.) grow as you use them.

1. ATTRIBUTES
  • Strength (STR): Increases melee damage, decreases melee and ranged attack speed.
  • Endurance (END): Increases health.
    Health = (END + 1) * 5
  • Alacrity (ALA): Reduces damage taken, increases speed and ranged damage.
  • Charisma (CHA): Used in social combat. Aptitude for persuasion.
  • Intelligence (INT): Mastery of reason and memory. Applicable everywhere.
    By doubling the time it takes to perform an action, you can add "INT + (Relevent Skill)" to its attempt. This can be done up to three times per attempt.
  • Wits (WIT): Perception, both sensory and empathic.

2. SKILLS and SPECIALTIES
Ex Deus features 34 skills, chosen because they have all manifested in one form or another across all human history. I would list them and their documentation, but I dare say it's a bit lengthy. I'll raise specifics where necessary, but the gist is that each skill commands a large number of applications. "Melee" is used for melee weaponry, such as when attacking with them (STR + Melee), discussing them (CHA + Melee), or examining them (INT + Melee). "Economics" is used to barter in markets, lead a business, and divine the value of items, but can also be added to social combat attempts where applicable. "Biology" comprises knowledge of the living world and manifests through knowledge of plants, herbs, fauna, beasts, and their anatomy, and thus is used to garner from them alchemical reagents and other substances and materials. Where skills overlap, you add them together, such as a battle of words veiled in polite conversation (CHA + (Social Combat) + Conversation). Having fewer applications, skills grow faster than attributes.
Specialties are more specific fields of knowledge. Sometimes they comprise sub-genres of skills, such as "Unarmed" versus "Melee", while other times they're manifestions of knowledge too specific to be a skill, such as "Cooking". There is no list of specialties: pending GM approval, anything can be a specialty. Having fewer applications, specialties grow faster than skills.

3. TRAITS AND FLAWS
Traits represent miscellaneous bonuses or advantages to your character, whether physical, social, or mental. Traits come in ranks, where more ranks indicates more benefit. Traits are acquired at character genesis, but can thereafter be earned by meeting their experience requisites through in-game play. (For example, earn ambidexterity by using your offhand instead of your mainhand for seven consecutive days, or earn status with merchants by buying, selling, and trading goods.)
Flaws are the opposite of Traits, and also come in ranks and have experience requisites for in-game acquisition. At character creation, characters can choose a designated number of flaws in exchange for more traits. After character creation though, flaws are purely detrimental. Acquiring them has no mechanical benefit. Broken legs, for example, is a flaw.
Like Skills, there is a list of Traits and Flaws, but the list's size has led me to omit it.

4. COMPULSIONS AND WILLPOWER
Compulsions are manifestations of your character's paradigm that demand indulgence. By indulging them, you reinforce your paradigm and earn willpower that you can spend to enforce your priorities over your paradigm or push yourself to new heights. For example, a greedy character would be especially easily persuaded by money. By cheating someone out of their money even if the character doesn't need the money for anything in particular, the character would have indulged their greed compulsion and gained a willpower. Or, if offered a substantial monetary reward to murder his best friend, the character would have to spend a willpower to resist indulging.
Willpower disappears only after use, and thus can be accumulated over time. Used to buff skill attempts, each willpower grants a +2 bonus; attempts can benefit from up to three willpower.
Like Skills, the Compulsion list's length forbids it entry into this post.

That's all for now. I'm calling it quits now because it's pretty late, but I'll post tomorrow in this thread on what remains to discuss of Ex Deus:
  • 5. EQUIPMENT
  • 6. PHYSICAL COMBAT
  • 7. SOCIAL COMBAT
  • 8. CRAFTING
  • 9. GATHERING
  • 10. MODULES

Thanks for reading!
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Alokov
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« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2009, 12:55:34 AM »

Wow! This system looks awesome. I don't think I want to use it for the game I'm currently developing but if I ever design a game which it would fit with I will certainly consider using it. Of course, bear in mind that I have yet to finish designing my first game.

I might even consider converting another campaign to this system. Which, coming from me, is high praise indeed, since I suck at and, therefore, detest doing anything mechanical in games. (At least when running or designing them).

I hope that this doesn't seem too pompous.
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Bill_White
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« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2009, 05:05:44 AM »

Have you looked at Amber diceless? Some of TonyLB's old posts on his experience with that system may be instructive to you. Essentially, he observed that a lot of "play" took place at the social level as players gamed the GM. Something to consider as you devise procedures for play, which will have to resolve conflicting arguments about the governing attributes in any given instance of play.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2009, 06:00:32 AM »

Hello,

This isn't a First Thoughts topic. In fact, it's basically an advertisement. Since the Forge is here for promoting independently-published games, that in itself isn't a bad thing - but to post here, you must follow the boundaries of the forum definitions.

Please choose one of the legitimate forums for this thread to be in: Publishing, to discuss how it is or is to be published; Actual Play, to talk about what it's like to play it (probably the best choice for promotion purposes); or conceivably Playtesting if you want to talk about that. You can do this by replying to this thread with a post that illustrates that choice. For instance, for Actual Play, merely describe any example of play, whether at the smallest scale of a single roll, or a catch-all description of a whole series of episodes. Anything you like as long it was really played.

In case you're not familiar with the Forge and its history, I'm the co-founder and am the single content moderator for the general forums. I'd definitely like to see your game showcased here, as with any independent role-playing game.

Everyone else: do not post until this thread gets clarified.

Best, Ron
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Garbados
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2009, 07:59:30 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
In fact, it's basically an advertisement.

How so? I vaguely understand your concern, but this system has never been played. And aside from some abstract mathematical guesswork, it's never even been playtested. I posted here thinking I could get some feedback on what I consider a rough and unfinished idea. Now, I do notice the "Rules for the First Thoughts Forum" does state, "don't post a ton of material and ask 'what do you think,' because it won't help much," but honestly I haven't a clue where else to go. Where would you suggest?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2009, 09:21:45 AM »

Oh.

Well, that is an example of me making a mistake. You are authorized for a full-throttle First Thoughts conversation after all! Please, full speed ahead, with my apology.

Best, Ron
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2009, 11:39:58 AM »

What about White Wolf's system do you find as having "Compelling simplicity"?

You said, "Ex Deus features no notions about classes, levels, or stat-independent experience."
I just want to be clear I'm reading this sentence right: It does NOT have classes and levels, but it DOES have stat-dependant experience?
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Garbados
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2009, 12:42:55 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Please, full speed ahead, with my apology.

Ah, thank you Ron. These things happen, thank you for your patience and understanding.

Quote from: Thunder_God
What about White Wolf's system do you find as having "Compelling simplicity"?

I discovered White Wolf through World of Darkness, and the way the rules were tied to the fluff intrigued me. It was an efficient way of creating a simple rule-set while fostering the game experience the designers intended. The essential drawback to this is the requirement of fluff, which is what compelled me to create Ex Deus, free of innate fluff but forbidding of none.

Quote
It does NOT have classes and levels, but it DOES have stat-dependant experience?

Precisely! What that means is that characters don't gain experience, but their stats do. In systems like World of Darkness, adventures earn characters experience, which they then spend on improving their abilities. In Ex Deus, there is no experience-spending. Stats grow as you use them: using strength earns experience for strength, using biology earns experience for biology, etc.
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Luke
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2009, 08:38:29 PM »

Garb,

Two things: First, what is your game about? What's it's core goal? What's its premise?

Second, how does your diceless social/physical combat system work?
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Garbados
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« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2009, 01:42:24 AM »

Quote from: Luke
First, what is your game about? What's it's core goal? What's its premise?

About: playing in a compelling story, whatever that is and wherever it takes place.
Goal: facilitate realistic gameplay through simple, easy to learn rules with hard to master implications.
Premise: you want to play a game. Additionally, you may...
  • Be new to roleplaying and want something simple and intuitive.
  • Be an experienced roleplayer looking for more gameplay depth / realism.
  • Be a GM who prefers campaigns outside the bounds of most systems, either by setting, mood, or theme.

I hope that answers the question. I'll be honest, I'm not sure I understood, so if the answers don't exactly make sense, I'd be happy to clarify if you'd be so kind as to perhaps restate the question.

Quote
Second, how does your diceless social/physical combat system work?

This is probably a great place to continue where my first post left off. I'll cover things in order, so you'll have to wade through / skip past the section on Equipment to get to the specific answers you're looking for.

5. EQUIPMENT
Ex Deus' equipment system defaults to high medieval technology, somewhere around the end of the Black Plague and the dawn of the Renaissance. A module dealing with Tech Levels and Equipment Materials breaks down the formulas so they apply across all human history, from the dawn of man to super-future hyper-tech. But, in an attempt to better invade D&D's turf, the core rules default to high medieval.
Equipment, manifesting as Weapons, Armor, and Shields, works on formulas: one major stat, "Speed", determines the item's other stats: Damage, Armor, Block, and Cost. Items that are not weapons, armor, or shields, fall into the category Items, or Miscellaneous Equipment. This includes disguises, tools, and pieces of art, among other things. Their importance is marginal in the context of this overview, so their rules, like the Skill List, have been omitted.
A module called Features and Penalties enables weapons of superior quality, different types, and variable design. Weapons that have been made slower in order to be more effective at parrying, for example, or whose expert craftsmanship makes them deal more damage than other weapons of similar weight. Without this module, the weapon system may seem somewhat bland: a Speed 3 Sword is identical to a Speed 3 Axe, for example, but it does simplify their creation. Like Tech Levels, these modules can be found in "10: MODULES".
Now, the formulas:
  • Weapons
    Minimum Speed 2
    Damage = Speed^2 - Speed
    Cost = 3 * Speed
At creation, a weapon must be designated melee or ranged, and one- or two-handed. Melee weapons can use melee actions. Ranged weapons can use ranged actions. One-handed weapons use their wielder's strength, while two-handed weapons act as if the wielder had 1.5x his actual strength. (So a two-handed greatsword in the hands of a STR 4 character would operate as if he had STR 6.)
Melee weapons have a stat called Reach, which determines how far or close attacks can hit. One-handed weapons have Reach 0-1 (one's own hex and any adjacent), and two-handed weapons have Reach 1-2 (any adjacent hex and any hex adjacent to those, but not one's own hex). As implies, Ex Deus informally utilizes hexes to represent space, though this is only approximation. I imagine most of combat logistics will be executed informally, with distance approximations done by the players/GM at the time of execution. Hexes just make more sense to me than squares when approximating space.
  • Armor
    Minimum Speed 1
    Armor = 2(Speed^2 - Speed)
    Cost = 3 * Speed
Armor reduces damage more effectively than shields, but do not benefit from defensive maneuvers, and cannot be used to attack in any way.
  • Shield
    Minimum Speed 1
    Block = Speed^2 - Speed
    Damage = (Speed^2 - Speed)/2 or Block/2
    Cost = 3 * Speed
Shield Damage represents how effective the shield is at bashing enemies. Shields can be used as weapons, since they feature all the same stats as weapons, plus block.

Two stats are derived from what equipment a character is wearing:
  • Combined Equipment Speed (CES)
    CES = Weapon Speed + Armor Speed + Shield Speed
This is the STR-independent method for expressing the combined weight of a character's equipment.
  • Effective Equipment Speed (EES)
    EES = CES - (STR / CES), decimals truncated.
This is the STR-affected method for expressing how a character's strength affects the slowing effects of his equipment. Actions use EES to determine execution time.

5/6. LAYOUT NOTE
Should Physical Combat rules precede or follow rules for Equipment? I've been going over this in my head and I can't come to a clear answer. Halps?


6. PHYSICAL COMBAT
Being a fencer and former leader of a mock-swordplay club, I despise D&D-style combat. Land two fighters in front of each other, and what will they do? They'll bash each other until one of them falls over. There's no tactics. There's hardly even strategy. Ex Deus' combat system is designed to express the tactical and strategic sophistication of realistic combat by breaking down the chaos of warfare into a few very basic and critical options.
Like White Wolf's "Exalted", Ex Deus uses a "tick" system to represent time. Ticks represent fractions of time somewhere between a second and split second. Longer actions take more ticks to execute, and certain actions will push back the tick of their targets, thus slowing them down. Some actions occur immediately, such as changing stance, while others take time to "impact". For example, melee attacks land after EES/2, rounded down. The attacker spends the second half of the attack following through or pulling back to a ready stance. As such, after impact, a character can elect to drop his weapon and act in the very next tick. Before impact, a character can cancel his attack and be ready by the time the attack would have landed.
A module called "Fatigue" instates the following rule: Suffering attacks and other actions puts a character off-balance. Each action against a character, if it came within 3 of his Evasion or exceeded it, incurs a cumulative -1 penalty to all actions taken by that character, until he takes a Speed 2 "Center" Action to re-balance himself. Fatigue also instates some other rule additions. See "10: MODULES" for more information.
The following actions use a number of terms I haven't mentioned elsewhere. These include...
  • Harm: damage suffered. In Ex Deus' formulas, "damage" refers to the lethality of weaponry, whereas "harm" describes injury to the body, though in actual usage "[character] suffers X harm," is effectively the same as "[character] takes X damage." In certain modules, harm rather than damage is increased by especially vicious weapons or circumstances.
  • Evasion: the value produced by a defender as a challenge to actions against him. Thus, the attempt to attack an enemy could read, "Attempt - Challenge = Result," but could also read, "Attack - Evasion = Result."
  • Impact: when an action comes into effect. For some actions, this is immediate (Impact 0). Others, a variable. For a rare few, it is a fixed value.
  • Speed: how long an action takes. A character cannot act until the tick at the end of his action comes up, or he otherwise somehow pushes his tick up to act sooner, such as by dropping a weapon or cancelling an attack.

Combat Actions
  • Attack (Melee)
    Speed: EES
    Impact: EES/2, round down
    Attempt: STR + Melee + Damage
    Challenge: ALA + Armor + Block
    Result: Harm
  • Feint (Melee)
    Speed: EES/2 + 1, round down
    Impact: EES/2, round down
    Attempt: ALA + Melee
    Challenge: WIT + Melee + Block
    Result = Penalty to Evasion until the defender next acts
    Result/2, round down = Tick Pushback
  • Wait (Melee)
    Speed: 2
    Impact: 0
    Attempt: Wit + Sense or Melee
    Challenge: 0
    Result: Bonus to next Attack, Feint, or Grapple. Each repeat halves the result.
  • Charge (Melee)
    Speed: 3
    Impact: Special
    Attempt: ALA + Athletics
    Challenge: EES/2, round down
    Result: Yards (hexes) moved. Minimum 1.
    Move Result/3 yards each tick. Can only move in a straight line. Stop when you enter your target's hex.
    Upon entering your target's hex...
  • Bull Rush (Charge)
    Speed: 0
    Impact: 0
    Attempt: STR + Melee
    Challenge: (STR or ALA) + Block
    Result: Pushback in yards (hexes)
    Result/2: Tick Pushback
  • Slam (Charge)
    Speed: 0
    Impact: 0
    Attempt: STR + Melee + Damage
    Challenge: ALA + Armor + Block
    Result: Harm
  • Grapple (Melee)
    To attempt a grapple, you must be in the same hex (Reach 0) as your target.
    Speed: EES
    Impact: EES/2, round down
    Attempt: STR + Melee
    Challenge: ALA + Melee
    Result: If >0, Grapple succeeds. Else, fails.
  • Attack (Grapple)
    Must use a weapon able to attack at Reach 0
    Otherwise identical to melee attacks
  • Lock (Grapple)
    Speed: 3
    Impact: 1
    Attempt: STR + Melee
    Challenge: ALA + Melee
    Result: Penalty to Evasion until the defender next acts
    Result/2, round down: Tick Pushback
  • Escape (Grapple)
    Speed: 2
    Impact: 0
    Attempt: (STR or ALA) + Melee
    Challenge: STR + Melee
    Result: If >0, Escape succeeds. Escapee moves out to an adjacent hex. If <0, fails.
  • Attack (Ranged)
    Speed: EES
    Impact: 1
    Attempt: Ala + Ranged + Damage
    Challenge: Armor + Block + Range/3, round down
       Range is measured in hexes, each of which is one yard in diameter.
    Result: Harm
  • Aim (Ranged)
    Speed: 2
    Impact: 0
    Attempt: Wit + Ranged + Sense
    Challenge: 0
    Result: Bonus to next ranged attack. Each repeat halves the result.
  • All-Out Attack (General)
    Like a normal attack, but doubles STR (and thus affects EES) at the cost of losing Block and any attributes in evasion.
  • Full Defense (General)
    Speed: 2
    Impact: 0
    Doubles ALA and Block until you next act.
  • Move (Non-Grapple)
    Speed: 2
    Impact: Special
    Attempt: ALA + Athletics
    Challenge: EES
    Result: Yards (hexes) moved. Minimum 1.
    Move Result/2 each tick.

That's basically combat. Wow, that's a lot of writing. I can only hope it makes sense.

7. SOCIAL COMBAT
Unlike physical combat, which imitates reality in pursuit of tactical sophistication, social combat pursues a much faster "rock-paper-scissor"-style arrangement through the use of three major skills: Expression (acting, control of body language and appearance), Rhetoric (mastery of argumentation), and Empathy (ability to read others). When a character initiates social combat, he does so in search of something, either to convince his foe or demand something from him. Whatever it is, the difficulty of being convinced or relinquishing the demanded item/services enhances the defender's attempts.
Like rock-paper-scissors, each skill has a certain edge against another skill: Rhetoric doubles when replying to Expression, Empathy doubles when replying to Rhetoric, and Expression doubles when replying to Empathy. Every time a skill is used, Charisma suffers a cumulative -1 penalty. Each attack faces a challenge that was the last attack's result. Or, "Attempt - Challenge = Result, where Challenge = Last Result"
Combat ends two ways: when one participant's attack cannot exceed the other's, which ends with the victorious participant successfully persuading the loser, or when one of the participants' charisma reaches zero, indicating that the argument has devolved beyond any mutual conclusion.
As a note, remember that you add any relevant skills to an attempt. Social combatants within an art gallery could arguably add Art to their attacks. At a dinner party, they might use Conversation to veil their threats under polite banter. Whatever it is, both combatants are entitled to use whatever relevant skills the other argues to use.
EXAMPLE:
  • Rat and Wolf are arguing. They both have Charisma 3, and all three social combat skills at 3.
    Wolf accuses Rat of stealing his breakfast toast. The GM knows Rat did it, so Rat gets no bonus to his attacks to defend himself. Wolf says, "You slimy vermin, where'd you take it? I'll gut you if you don't tell me." I'd say that's CHA + Expression, since he's trying to convince Rat through his body language that he means what he says. With 3 CHA and 3 Expression, Wolf's accusation has an attack of 6.
  • Rat replies, "Oi, I didn't steal nothin'. Prolly yeh ate it 'en forgot, mos' like." Again, CHA + Expression, since Rat is trying to hide that he really did steal it. With identical stats to Wolf, Rat's rebuttal also has an attack of 6. This fits into "Attempt - Challenge = Result" as "6 - 6 = 0", posing Wolf's rebuttal a challenge of 0.
  • Wolf replies, "Stole nothing my hairy arse, I saw you with my own eyes! And look at the crumbs on you. Filthy with evidence, you are." As crude as Wolf's rebuttal is, he's citing evidence and forming an argument of facts. That counts as Rhetoric, which doubles what would be an attack of 5 (CHA -1 + Rhetoric) to 10. With no challenge to reduce it, Rat will be facing a hefty accusation.
  • Rat guffaws, "I'm a rat, what d'yeh expect? Look, Wolf, I know y're hungry. We're all hungry. What say I buys yeh some tenderloin, next caravan we see, yah? Sound good?" By appealing to Wolf's emotions and, specifically, his hunger, Rat defends with (CHA -1 + Empathy), which doubles against Rhetoric to form a defense of 10.
  • Facing a challenge of zero (10 - 10 = 0), Wolf could do two things. One, he could press his rhetorical argument - "Like I'd be fool enough to trust you, Rat. I recall you told Toad something oddly similar, and that you still owe him that flank steak." - or bind Rat another way, by pressing his intimidation: "Alright, sounds good. But if I don't have that bloody meat in my paws before we depart the caravan, it'll be your throat 'twixt my claws." CHA -2 + Expression, to show he means it. Doubled against Empathy, Wolf produces an attack of 8.
And so on and so forth. You get the jist of it?

Omigod this post is huge. I'll deal with what remains tomorrow. I hope that answers your questions, Luke, and wasn't too overwhelming. To anyone who has made it this far, thanks for reading! Your interest is my inspiration.

What remains:
8. CRAFTING
9. GATHERING
10. MODULES
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2009, 03:33:38 AM »

I will try to read it all later, but a simple mathematical help:

X^2-X is simply: X*(X-1), and might be simpler for many people.
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Guy Shalev.

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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2009, 04:46:02 AM »

Interesting dynamic on the social combat.

It seems the rock-paper-scissors dynamic of it, without simultaneous declaration (so it's a guessing game) means that people will tend to follow Rhetoric with Empathy, Empathy with Expression and Expression with Rhetoric, in a cyclical pattern, assuming roughly equal stats. I don't see any reason why you'd want to break this pattern at all, and it seems like you'd be at a small disadvantage to start the argument, because you can't double your starting figure.

Also, I'm unclear on how to win?
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Luke
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« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2009, 05:57:29 AM »

Garba,

Perhaps I missed something, but I didn't see how combat actions are taken.

Is action selection open? Are stats known to all players? If so, the results of each conflict are predetermined.

If the action selection is private, then there's a slight chance for variation, but you still have the conflicts weighted toward a higher stat.

As for my initial question: Your answers are kind of vague and not insightful. What do you use this game for at home? How does your group play this game? If you haven't played it, then tell me how they play in general.

-L
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Garbados
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« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2009, 08:13:35 AM »

Retcon:
  • Armor = 2 * Speed^2
  • Block = 2 + Speed(Speed - 1)
  • Harm/4, round down = Tick Pushback
  • Charge, Slam, and Bull Rush use 2x STR but deny the character any evasive attributes and block, just like an all-out attack.

Quote from: Luke
Perhaps I missed something, but I didn't see how combat actions are taken.

Action selection is open, but stats are private. PCs can share their stats if they're so inclined, but NPC stats are all hidden. The exception to open action selection is feinting: by having the same impact-speed as a real attack, PCs and NPCs alike can hide that their attack is a fake.

Combat is weighted towards higher stats, sure, in the hands of a skilled player. I wanted combat to resemble something like the searching back-and-forth of real combat, where rather than simply hacking away at a foe, you need to find or make an opening. For example, let's take Grunthak and his brother Clegor. Clegor just totally slept with Grunthak's wife, and Grunthak is mad. They're both hefty fighters: Clegor has 5 STR, END (30 Health), ALA, and WIT, is hefting a nasty two-handed 4-speed battleaxe (12 Damage, uses 1.5x STR) with 3-speed plate armor (18 Armor) and 5 Melee skill; Grunthak is the younger and weaker of the two, with 4 STR, END (25 Health), ALA, and WIT, but with 4 Melee skill wields a two-handed 3-speed longsword (6 Damage, uses 1.5x STR), and wears a light 1-speed leather jerkin (2 armor). Clegor's CES is 7, which falls to an EES of 6 because his 5 STR is effectively 7 with the two-handed weapon. Grunthak's EES is 3, down from a CES of 4, for the same reason. Because of Clegor's higher alacrity, he starts the fight.

TICK 1
Clegor figures this can't be too hard. He swings his axe, hard. We'll call it an all-out attack, so his 5 STR, after becoming 7 because he's wielding his weapon in two hands, doubles to 14, reducing his EES to 5 for this attack. It's a savage blow: 14 STR + 5 Skill + 12 Damage = 31 Harm. Luckily for Grunthak, it doesn't land until Tick 3.
TICK 2
Grunthak backs up and out of the weapon's range. His Athletics is 2 (his brother's is 3), so ALA + Athletics - EES = 4 + 2 - 3 = 3, enough to make it out of the way just in time. He moves back 1.5 yards, or half his move, each tick.
TICK 3
Grunthak leaps back, and Clegor's battleaxe whizzes by. For an instant, Grunthak thanks his lucky stars, but feels his heavy beard is significantly lighter. Close call: it's lying on the earth before him. Clegor's occupied with readying his weapon until tick 6.
TICK 4
Grunthak charges his brother. He moves (ALA + Athletics - EES/2)/3 each tick for the next three ticks or until he reaches his target, which becomes (4 + 2 - 1)/3 or 5/3 yards each turn. So in the first tick of movement, he closes the gave but for one-third of a yard.
TICK 5
Grunthak slams into Clegor. His 4 STR, increased to 6 in two hands, becomes 12 on impact. That lands a formidable blow: 12 STR + 4 Skill + 6 Damage = 22 Attack. Minus Clegor's evasion, which is equal only to his armor because he took an all-out attack, thus 18, he suffers 4 harm. His tick is pushed back 1, and he's down to 26 health -- the least bit more than Grunthak -- so he can't act until tick 7.
TICK 6
Grunthak feints his brother. The attack won't land until EES/2 rounded down, or 1 tick from now -- tick 7.
TICK 7
Clegor, stunned, sees only his brother's sword coming for his head. He enters full defense, doubling his defensive attributes and block, if he had any. Grunthak's feint of 8 does nothing against Clegor's evasion of 16 (WIT + Melee, doubled).
TICK 8
Grunthak, repelled but winning, backs up with a grin on his face. Moving back 1.5 yards, he shouts, "Brother you are a fool, so quick to falter 'neath the weight of steel. Come and fight me like the arrogant pity you are, and I will give you the beating an adulterer deserves."

Do you see how proper play versus hack-and-smash won out? If Clegor kept playing brashly, he would've lost. A well-played character, even of lesser numerical prowess, can win out. And this was only one-on-one combat: divining the correct moves becomes harder and harder as the number of participants rises. Imagine if Clegor had more STR than ALA, or Grunthak more ALA than STR. Tactics and strategy morph with stats, and victory revolves around intelligent play more than big numbers.

Thunder_God: Thanks for the recommendation. I'd originally written it that way, but for some reason I thought X^2 - X looked simpler. Anyway, I'll write it X(X-1) from here on out.

Lance D. Allen: Indeed! There's some things I'd like to clarify/discuss about social combat for you, but I have to be off to work right about now, so I'll address it later, jah?
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Luke
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« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2009, 11:06:12 AM »

What are the players doing here? If it's all out in the open, if all the choices and timing are there, what's preventing you from choosing the optimal strategy each time? There are only a few stats, they'll only remain hidden momentarily.

And you didn't answer my other questions.

-L
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