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Started by Librabys, July 30, 2009, 09:29:42 AM

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Here I shall post all about what is going on in AethEra!
You are invited to post any comment or questions as well

First I will copy (and edit) a little sample of a previous entry in first thoughts, as it explain the history and the setting of the game:
(please forgive this imperfect english, for my native language is french)

"10 years ago, this game was simply an Oriental D&Dlike with a D100 system.
It was inspired by Manga, martial arts and stuff, but also by fantasy movies like 'A Chinese ghost story'
As I grew in age I made a Map and realized it had plenty of place in this world for more exoticism
than the original Sino-Nippon setting. I was also discovering the lores from all around the world,
and I came up with realms like Vedic India, ancient egypt and babylonia, another like the 1001 nights,
and a medieval/gothic horror one, all this mixed up with racial cultures and more local tribes.
I also decided that this world would be the last refuge of dragons and legendary heroes and that it is the world in which our astral plane is physically manifested. So I called it Aethera. (It is known by the Magus that the ethereal and the astral plane are not the same thing, but The former sound better.)

As Aethera is related with earth, In this high fantasy setting you CAN go on earth, or in any other world, with your character through some portal, but the proposal included in the game is a cyberpunk trip in Tokyo 2300 or so. (This choice come from the fact I had the impression a multi-setting adventure RPG would be more compelling with rules for technology)
The Setting is also rich in sect and organizations that plot against or with each other,
of jalous gods that strive to get more worship and sacrifices and of space-time spiritual conspiracies."

I am tired, but tomorrow i will post about the creation of the 2 first characters and the first play session: The abandoned mine

A last thought:
They were just two This time, so it was lighter to begin .... I remember when I was playing it 10 years ago, it was always with 2 players or 3...
The funny fact is when I came to test the game with all my AD&D2e team (5 to 6 folks depending schedules) I realized I had serious adjustment to do, because the game really was designed for 2-3 PCs!


First a character sheet is beginning by a little section on specific information:
Race:      Sex:

In the system I used for the 3 first games, It have 8 primary attributes, and 8 secondary that comes in between and are averages, they are placed in a circle, but I will write them in two rows here:

Primary;             Secondary;

(constiution; it is a circle)

Following this you have skills. A beginning character has only lvl 1 skills, that usually give him a 10% bonus in this special task (and opening the way to some powers). They are used in conjonction with an attribute, primary or secondary. They cost from 1 to 5, depending on their impact on the game and the difficulty and complexity of these skills.

You also have powers, like spells or martial art techniques, that are following some skills.

JF`s character :
Krag, Ogre-mage
Principal skills: Draconian magic, axe and buckler (interesting fact, he put more in constitution and stenght in order to have a good charge attribute so he can fight better with his buckler than the axe)
He had been sent by his tribe into an initiatory mission: find and bring back an armor forged by a Yoma master blacksmith. At this purpose he took the boat to reach a foreing country.

(I asked them to include a reason to be embarqued in a boat It was easier to begin with this for me)

Dari's character:
Hiroshi Ma, Yoma (Elvish kind of the underworld), Assassin.
Principal skills: Sai (two forkish daggers, like Raphael you know), Acrobaty, Ambidextry
(she made her to have the bigger number of actions/round possible in the beginning (5))
I don`t have the character sheet with me, bu I know the motivation of this character is to kill and become powerful in killing people (well it is a begginner player) anyway characters get depht with use :)

They had 256 points to place in their 8 primary attributes (average of 32) and 16 points worth of skill to buy. I will give a more complete description of them if needed and when i have the character sheets with me.


So they meet on the boat. It is not a big deal to get along as Krag is looking for a yoma full plate, and Hiroshi is a Yoma. I did not make any special event happen on the boat, they arrived fast near a port-city. As they approach I describe the ambience, the fog, the beginning night... (I chose the goth-medieval realm for this campain)

The boat is not accepted in the port, and they are shipped in little boats to the shore outside the city, being explained that an attempt of poisonning the king just happened, and the city is in terrorist panic. They are not allowed to let any stranger get in without a special visa. this visa can be singed by a priest of Damona after an intention scan. The temple is at one week walk, 3 days horse. They meet a merchant that is in the same sittuation. He offers them a lift in exchange of protection. They accept without other story.

On the way the merchant explain he came to sell fabrics in the big city (namely Montsiegel) and need this special visa as well.  He is a Gnome with an arab accent, his name is Raoud Mokar. At the beginning the Ogre missed his social throw and this was a little tense, but after another discution he been allowed to re-roll and it was more friendly.

They enter deeper in the forest and Embushed!
2 Kobolds are on the Kart, Some others try to stop it by hooks and ropes.

(the combat rules used in this session: the number of actions you can do in one round is the dizain or your agility (if my agility is 48, my act/r is 4) ,you throw 1D10+this number for initiative, and we count down.
When it is your turn, you can either use all your actions, either keep some to defend. If it is the opponent turn, you can use your actions to deffend unless you have no more.
Attack = 1d10 + ATTack, Defense = 1D10 + DEFense. If the attack is highter than the deffense, you throw dices for damages. If the defense is highter to blow is blocked.
If you have no more actions to parry, your defense is equal to 1+DEF, so it is easy to hit.
At the end of the round you lose you unused actions and the initiative is renewed.)
I noticed after few combats It was better with a fix defense number for the monsters so It make the combats flow better. (so 6+def when they defend, 1+def when they cannot)

Krag get a little cut, and after missing a kobold with his axe, he his another well with a buckler charge. The kobold go roll on the ground.

Hiroshi decide to use acrobaty, and do a nice aerial move to jumb out the vehicle and attack the kobold on the ground. her throw for acrobaty (60%) is a success, she land neer the kobold and use her other actions to attack.

Kobolds attack and do few damages

Krag Is sending the other in the dust...

You can imagine after very few time of this, Krag sending them on the ground with his buckler, and Hiroshi finishing them, it was fast done!

Into the combat, I asked Krag to test perception, what he missed, so he did not notice the kobold who grapped the chest under the sit. After the combat though they notice the koblold with the chest helped by another kobold, entering in a cave aside the road.

Mokar Ask them to help, because in this chest is all his stock of precious fabrics. He offers them 50 gold for this service, service, but some successful social tests make it increase to 100G
Krag accept easily, being tempted by the gold. Hiroshi is not as fast to collaborate but she finally follows.

They enter by the ouverture in what they identify to be an abandonned mine. they first turn right and they arrive in a room with tables that was the miners lunching area but now it is the Kobolds dicing area!
The two dicing kobolds are fastly out of combat...

They go back to the crossing and this time the Ogre make a perception test to notice tracks on the earth. Success! they gone east. they follow this, lose the track next turn, take the wrong, arive in a dead end with rats, Krag got a bite at his foot (10% chances to infect, i throwed a 06!) He found a Dwarvish rusted iron helm at the dead end.

Turn back, try to open a door, they are not able too... change direction, arive at a corner, turn it and TAC! an arrow trap! the Ogre get dammages (not to much) because he was on the front (and miss his defense throw).

They continue, stairs, they arrive to a strange underground lake, but the path continue on the side. Krag, still in front, fall in a hole covered with branches and earth. A successful agility test made him hold on the side though, and i did not fell on the spikes. They pass this obstacle and are face to face with the two kobolds with the chest.

The combat is still very unequal, and they get an easy victory.

They bring back the chest to Mokar, who is very happy and give them 100G as it was supposed.

At this point, the players and me were not able to make a lot of commentaries, because it was quite an introductory game. We all agreed the kobolds were very weak though, and that the most funny battle was the one on the moving kart.

They both liked it (or so they said), even if it was the adaptation phase.

Ok I take a break and I post the 2nd session soon: THE TEMPLE OF DAMONA

All commentaries are very welcome! (Does my way to write it is ok? what should i include more, what should i not include?)

Adam Dray

First of all, your cutnpasted version of the game's setting totally hooks me. My latest gaming fetish is people transposed into other worlds. Cyberpunk people transposed into a fantasy world steeped in Chinese and Vedic culture and mythology? Awesome!

On to the actual play.

QuoteI know the motivation of this character is to kill and become powerful in killing people (well it is a begginner player)

How much of your rules (especially character creation) focuses on combat? This could be a signal to players to focus on combat. Do your rules help players create characters of depth before play starts? How?

Here's what I see from your AP report: There's some loose role-playing about a boat, but the players aren't doing much here. Maybe role-playing a bit around the situation you've stuck them in. No interaction with game mechanics there? Then, COMBAT! and you get all detailed with the rules. How much of your rules are about combat? Why wouldn't a player build his character around becoming good at combat?

I am just guessing that your game expects the GM to follow a very D&D-like premise. The characters stick together in a party. They explore strange places. Maybe encounter some traps. Eventually they fight! And the game is really mostly about the fighting, right? That's fine. I love fighty games. But you seem to want something more about it, or you wouldn't be issuing apologies for a "beginner player."

You also say that characters gain depth over time. How? What forces them to make choices about advancement that make the character "deeper," rather than even better at killing? I'd love to hear about your game's advancement/reward system and -- most importantly -- how these players really used it.
Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777


Adam Dray:

yes, you can also do it the other way, that is to send a med-fantasy team in a cyberpunk context :)

I would say, for the killing, I notticed. The rules were too much about combat, I changed it and will apply these change before the fourth session. Now it is balanced between social, mental, physic, with 4 attributes in each.
I gone deeper in my social mechanic and it now is like a combt: presence is your number of actions, speach the quality of your argumentation, manipulation, negociation, etc. Charisma is about seduction and followship. Feel is about empathy, intuition, guessing what the other is feeling, etc. from this you can have a social conflict very like a nice fight :)
For mental it is alike, but I will explain this system after the 3rd gaming session, where it really enter in play.
Doing magic , or inventing a machine, are mental tasks by exemple.

The boat was the initial situation... they did some conversation, but the boat was not the point, it was only like: you arrive there this way... but I see what you say, It is not a bad Idea, I will probably do this next time (but for this time you have to know that the last time I mastered a game fo JF he passed too much time on a boat, i did not want to piss him off lol)

Well yes the characters are expected to team up. Many play experiences seem to show it is best working in an adventure setting. They explore strange place, meet colorful people and weird magic and technology. I really do want include more will conflicts, sollicitate more than combat attributes and skills.
I will challenge them to do stuff adventurers usually dont do too (Make something good for dinner, or you dont have this map.... EEEeewW! that is not edible!)

The Depht is usually automatic. players discover their character while playing and add details, background, etc.
The rewarding system is not exceptionnal, about 5 points a game, you can invest in your attributes, or skills. you can get better at killing or anything else.
I give 10 XP for a character`s drawing and 10 Xp by background page.
In character creation, It is usual to take one or 2 expensive skill like a magic sphere or a fighting style, and others less expensive ones like cooking, knowing herbs, survival, etc.

For the choices the players did, I will come back with it.

You remember me I want to elaborate a set of questions to build the background and personality better. I love when games provide it, and i would love a little more narativism in my game, really!

Thank you for reading and conseiling and asking question!
I am very glad of the interest you show about my setting too :)

Adam Dray

One thing to consider is that you're both the designer and the GM right now. I suspect that a lot of what you do when you are GM is not actually written in the rules.You're assuming that everyone plays like you do and everyone GMs like you do.

For example, the boat thing. Why wasn't that a conflict to get ashore? You made a GM decision that it wasn't interesting to the players, did some role-playing about it, but didn't need to engage the mechanics to find out what happened. That's a good thing. Do your rules cover that? Do your rules make it clear when you should go to the conflict resolution system and when you should not?

Second, creating interesting situations. How does the game help the GM and players start a story? In many versions of the traditional D&D game, the GM is expected to drop the characters into an interesting situation and, to a large extent, the players are expected to accept a little "railroading" to get to the fun part. After they're there, the GM is supposed to let the players' actions and the results of the dice determine what happens. How do your rules help generate situation?
Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777


I am not assuming, but maybay I forgot to say that it was like D&D for these specific reasons (that is same role or so for GM and players than in dongeon&dragon) And you are right, nothing of this is written, only fast notes and setting stuff, and many generations of mechanics. I am just waiting to stabilise a solid rules mechanic through playtesting before to Crystalise it in an actual book. 

Well I thought logic to presume that conflict resolution is about conflicts, and if everything is fine, Its just plain roleplay... but now that you point it out, I sure see that it is not that obvious, and that even I should try different variations with this!

For the story, I am testing a quest mechanic: I created a realm with places and into these places it have events and NPCs  that lead to different plots. some plots are primary, as they are weaved together to form a bigger plut, and others are secondary, as they are independent form the main story.
Then in the primary plots it have triggers for the other ones as they are linked. You follow me? The effect I want to give is that players can explore the place how they like and go where they want, meeting different situations and dealing with them as they like, and discovering the bigger picture step by step. Sometimes I change the place of a clue or the design of a place to make the story flow better, sometimes I place a secondary plot if they go totally where I did not expect them and then I am ok for the game, letting me the week to prepare the new region...
The advantage of this system is that it doesn`t make the players feel limited by the storyline, because it is a storynet.
It also limit the amount of stuff you have to improvise and let you prepare a nice story without too much risk to be screwd. It is another thing that allow the game to flow, and limiting stupid situations like: ''Well the monk really not suggest you to go this way, and anyway it have a tree crossing the road''
Obviously if it is working well I will write about it in the book. I`ve always looked at some chapter in a RPG that would help me to do a plot or a campain, but I never found it, and I would like to provide such a thing.
I will just add that I also ask players to find a reason for their character to quit their towns and go live adventures around the world. That must be things that allow me to put them in the same team. I also use their life goals to build on some events or quests and I use that as a quest motivator too (well, you`ve been offered 1000g and your character want gold over everything else...) He could ask for a will or wisdom test (depending if he don`t go by obstination or prudence) but this is another story :P


Second playtest session: THE TEMPLE OF DAMONA

Players and character:

-JF with Krag the Ogre-mage (see first session)

-Dari with Hiroshi (see first session)

-JP with Eldir Cantalion (human), a treasure-hunter, tombraider type of character. He has a weapon skill, magic (detct-ident),
some other skills like removing traps, reading, climb, etc. Very Indiana Jones like.

Claudia with Isane(human), a psionic with weak combat. Skills: Psi (hot-cold sphere) is her principal one, I don`t remember wat the others were exactly... she probably took Focus and a weapon proficiency as well.

Seb with Zann, a Warrior-monk Elementalist (also human). Attributes balanced between mental and physical, skills like Kung-fu (speciality bare hand), Elemental magic, and so on. It is an action focused character too, but in my campain it is not a big deal ;)

After they created these characters, I was able to see I was meeting one of my goals : a libertine character creation, that allow you to do almost what you like. Players was satisfied with this liberty, that not exist in D&D. In the other side, Players must have an idea, as it have no "templates". Maybe this system of question to build up a character that i wanted to add will help!
another point is that it encourage 'multiclass'. It is not a bad thing in itself, we will see the results as we play :)

I will forward the boat trip. It was quite alike, letting some time to the 3 new characters to meet, and after that straight to the shore. I did the same trick, with this time a merchant with a Chinese accent, trading carpets (JF and Dari laughted to the inside) when they arrived to the same spot they discovered Krag, Hiroshi and Mokar, in front of the Mine, at the point to take the road.

Here again, characters chat, deal with each other and finally the decide to form a caravan with the two Karts.

They arrive to a bridge. I describe strange little lights flying over toward the other direction. merchants stops the Karts.
Krag and Eldir Adventure first on the bridge. IT FALL! Krag and Eldir missing their agility test, they cannot hold on something and fall in the water. It is an Imp Embush! they come out of the forest ant try to attack the three others on the ground. While this round Krag and Eldir was climbing back, as the three others were fighting. The imps were so weak that the heroes did not use any magic or psi... It was just too easy. Next round, Krag and Eldir can merely give one hit to the last ones. One of them had a nice large red hat with a feather. Eldir takes it and after missing his identification spell, decide to try it anyway. '' You guys see that Eldir is a little more attractive ''. In fact it was a +5% Charisma hat.

they arrive at the temple. The Door is locked. They knock. An afraid Priest Open a little trap in the door:

'' Wh..what d..what do you want! '' 

-We came to have visa signed, answered Zann

-After a social check, The Priest decide to trust them and let them enter.

Frater Emer took care of them, healed wounds, and cured Krag`s infected foot.

Zann asked why this fear in their eyes, and why this tension in the air (I described it previously). Frater Emer described the problem: ghouls invaded the basement, and they been obligated to shut the trap with a big rock. Some try to enter by the other doors as well so they are always locked, and usually never opened during the night.

And the frater to say: "for sure If you help us with this, I can do your visas by this time" and he also offered them healing potions in exchange of the service. They were not hard to convince, and few times after they were entering the trap. (Priests gave them Phosphrite torches; It have a crystal that always glow on it. Some are blue, some green, some aqua.)

As they go down I describe the moldy smell, the spiders web, etc.
It have Two ghouls straight down the stairs! They defeated them quite fast still... only one way to continue, arrive in another room with 3 other ways.  In the middle of the room a pool, in each corner a candle. Players lighted the 4 candles to see what would happen. Nothing. (I designed this dongeon as a temple basement, so no real traps or alike...)

To make it fast, they found 4 other ghouls in another room. Besides Hiroshi that was pretty wounded, the combat was still easy (I guess her kamikaze attitude does not help much lol).

After a potion and two doors, they are in a chapel with a silver calice on an altar. I was surprised; they did not take it. 

They also found the food reserve and Krag and Eldir had some vine (mayby a rule for altered states? hummm!)
They arrived in front of a big bronze door with a bas-relief or Damona, pouring water and having girlands of flowers around her.

At this point It was the time for some players to take the last bus back home, so we leaved it there.

Feedback: Players are liking the setting. They have this impression it exist for real because it is coherent. They really had the impression to do what they liked even if they were following my plots in the writing order lol.

Monsters: Still too easy!
Combat: too long, too many actions and too many dices for 5 players! It was long and some people (mostly Dari) were bored. The others even if they agreed it was long were understanding the `testing` issues, and were in fact expecting that for the first sessions at least.

After that I was determined to find a more fluid and fun combat mechanic, but I was feeling happy about how my setting was working well (even if i stayed in classic elements for now).
I was also feeling very grateful to have such comprehensive and helpful testers :) I know this worth gold in game design and Icould achieve nothing real without them!


Hi, here is the Third and last session until September: THE SEAL OF THE VAMPIRE

This time I will not enter in details about the story, but I wil focus on gameplay and what happened around the table.


The sames, but JP (Eldir) could not make it, and we had a new player, Jas.

Jas Character creation was fast, easy and original. I think he did his character in 15 minutes without asking so much questions. It is really good, It is what I want: If you know what you want to do, the character creation is easy :)  this character is named Blake:

Jas: "Can I do an Illusionist monk doing Ninjutsu?"

GM: "Absolutely, does your Illusion powers are magic or psionic? "

Jas: "Hum... I see it as psi, I would have as a limit that I can only project illusion of things I've seen before"

GM: "Ok, but you will also be limited for the wideness of your illusions, relatively to your psi skill level"

Jas: "It is ok with me"

GM: "You also have to choose a speciality in ninjutsu. What do you chose? shuriken, ninjato...?"

Jas: "I want to fight bare hands... Oh, can I be specialist in touching vital points? "

GM: "Of course, this is ninjutsu too."

For the roleplay aspect of this character, Let's say that what is the most important to Blake is knowledge. I proposed him some Gods of knowledge and he chose Hermes as titular Deity.

To introduce him in the story, I put his temple in a town nearby the Monastery of Damona. The temple's Father Sent him in a mission to help Damona priests about their ghoul problem.

The way the psionism work is :
lets say you have 35 in your will attribute.
That give you 35 fatigue points, and 35 sanity points.
When you use a power, if it is a success, it remove a little fatigue point. If it is missed, you lose more (More concentration, more energy spent when it does not work). Fatigue points are recuparated by sleep or meditation, but if for some reason you use all of them, you lose sanity, and this is longer to recover!

For this session, I implemented a New combat system:

Initiative is playing cards (only 1 to 10).  You have a number of cards equal to your speed factor. Each represent 1 action. I chose cards as they need to stay in place for all the round, and a die is so fast rolled! Cards are also very visually obvious.

The higher card begins. Equal numbers are simultaneous.
When it is your turn, lets say you have ten, you chose what you want to do with this action, let's say you simply attack.
Then your attack power = (card + precision + weapon+ skill) so, if your precision is 43, your basic attack power is +4, the 3 will count only on equals. And lets say you have a dagger with a power of 2, and I have a dagger proficiency to the second level. the attack power here is (10 + 4 + 2 + 2 ) = 18
If my monster defend, lets say he have a 9 on his higher card (lower cards can be used in all time to defend passively, but to use them actively, you must wait your number), a solidity of 36 and he block with a short sword (3) with lvl 1 skill in sword. His defence power so is ( 9 + 3 + 3 + 1) = 16
He blocked most of the blow, but still take 2 damages (18-16) + strength adjustment (a number between 1 to 5 at the beginning)

For simultaneous attack, both opponents can attack and the higher win the assault, the lower is becoming defence by default (if 17 against 10, the one with 10 will take 7 damages ( + strength adj)

You can also spend an action to move around, flee, jump, whatever.

If you cast spells, by example, the number of actions is determined by intelligence, not speed! but For now, I will let you with this, and you can ask me if you want more precisions on some points!

Briefing: They finished the cave, found out the ghouls was coming from the forest, by an emergency exit.
It is interesting to say that Isane used her psionic abilities in a combat to infuse Krag's Axe with cold ( for extra cold damages)

All ghouls have the same necklace. When the asked to the priests what it is, One of them recognized the seal of Von Kephesh, an horrible vampire dwelling in a dark castle, in the Lounoir Forest behind the temple. they did some research in the monastery's library, but the only useful thing they found was a scroll with a map of the entrances for the underworld (Krag was looking for it) (searching a book is a test of intelligenc; Blake has an archival skill lvl1, so for him it is intelligence + 10%)

After that they gone out of the temple and entered in the forest. I did throw them a Giant black wolf, to give them a little chalenge before the end of the game. The wolf was strong, but I should have sent two :)

Some feedback:

Players was not used to this system of combat. Even if they liked the cards idea a lot, and that they were willing to use them to know if they touch or succeed too, they did not want to calculate the damages from them, because it was a lot of new things.... so I allowed them to throw dices for damages like the old system, but it was clearly not balanced with this system, as if you defend you are likely to have lower, and that if damages are independet, you absorb nothing and even with a 9 deffense against a 10 attack, you get full damages! That was clearly not working this way, and decided to go back to the difference = damages system.

Another thing is that 3,4,5, or even 6 actions a round is nice with 2 or 3 players, but with five players, we found out it was better to divide them by two, so each have 1,2, or 3 actions, that is easier to manage!

The system, in general, is not bad for the first tests, and i think I will be able to stabilize and cristalize it in a very nice mechanic.

I will be taking vacations for 3 weeks, so the AethEra tests sessions will be back in September!

They were not used to this new system of combat.


Sorry, the last sentence of the last post as you can see was not supposed to be there, it is an editing mistake.

Question: Does my playtesting reports are useful, do I speak about what you want to know about it, or am I totally beside the track?

Ben Lehman


What are the primary problems that are going on with your game right now. In your posts you talk about combat dragging on for a long time and being boring. Do you have other problems as well?

As far as combat is concerned, is a lot of the time spent in trying to decide what to do, or in basic procedures (rolling dice, declaring actions, adding and subtracted numbers, etc) or both or something I'm not thinking of?



It was in fact both, both It was for three main reasons:

1) the system was lacking Oil, Lub, or grease.... It was not entierly unified, too much things to decide on the go...

2) the players was learning it... and me too in a way! As it had some changes between every session it was also confusing.

3) the character sheet was badly designed: players was obligated to look at 3 places (attribute, skill and weapons, by example) every action they were doing (this was the main proble i gues)

The problem 1 is near to be fixed, it will take a little more playtest, but i am very coming up with something more polished

the problem 2 will be fixed by itself, as the system stabilize and the players get used to it  (and by fixing number 3 as well)

the problem 3 is perfectly fixed, new character sheets, very easy to read, with little tables containing all the bonuses for a same thing together (you want to use a dagger to attack, you look at your waepon table and you have your total attack bonus with this dagger, this skill, etc, everything being pre-calculated and easy to find...


Edit: Forgot to tell:

For the actual mechanic that I sorted out after and because of these play tests, please refer to "first thoughts" / {AethEra} : the System