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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 62 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: For Your Consideration: Twilight System  (Read 3876 times)
s/LaSH
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« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2003, 04:34:51 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Truthfully, I like to read online, so I like HTML over PDF usually. But anything to make navigation easier. How about both?


I was thinking that, in case someone who can't run Acrobat comes looking. By splitting it up into chapters, it also makes it easier to release and revise chunks - heck, I might even be able to write html that doesn't suck for it (the current task of editing 64 pages including frequent format breaks isn't one my subconscious mind enjoys thinking about).

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The 'group' refers to the decision-making arbitrator, whether an individual or group; by using 'group' I'm trying to take emphasis off one person who dictates all terms of the game world and put a little more onus for thought about the rules and situations of the setting on the players as well. I've got that noted down for revision.
Uh, I'm probably just daft, but that seemed very general, still. Yes or no, is there a single player with powers like a GM? Or is it optional?


Optional. I hadn't read Ars Magica when I created the convention, but the idea of a world defined by group rather than individual is definitely an option I wanted to make available. It might also be useful to have a couple of storytellers on the villain's side, just so they can handle conflicts faster.

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I'd really suggest some sort of recordkeeping, and protocol to keep this all (time management) straight. "Just remember" isn't gong to work for a GM with more than one NPC going.


Too true. A series of photocopied Time Management Sheets is probably going to see most game time. Some kind of 5-sided clock arrangement could also work, but that would be really weird and require special construction. I'll drop that idea for now.

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OK, one thing you ought to do is to have separate terms for time and actions. Something like Effort, and Increments. The first being the amount of INC being put into an action, and the second being the when. So you'd say something like, "If a player puts three Effort into an action then it will occur three Increments later." That's just clearer.


Yoink!

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Initiative (sorely lacking from the current version): At the start of a period of time where increments are important, like combat, the character with the highest Agility may choose to pass or act.

And in each INC where a player can declare actions, right?


Oh yes. Should state that explicitly... (scribble scribble)

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When doing a rule like this, it's so rare for the player with Initiatve to not go last, that it's worth making that the default so that you can skip asking. Make the rule "Highest goes last unless he interrupts to say that he want's to declare first."

But what about ties? Roll off each INC there's two tieing participants. Do you want to put in a tiebreaking stat, first? Or maybe roll once for the whole combat? Lot's of options, but you have to select one.

BTW, this seems to make a high agility crucial. Perhaps more important than anything else.


Yes, valid points. A valid tiebreaker stat might be Intellect, as that's what will govern the under-development Tactics skill. Failing that, auto Focus rolls until someone comes out on top. (Focus is a little skill that allows you to wait and then react faster than normal.)

Agility is very important. The more I think about it, the more it just seems better than Strength. You can use it with certain good weapons, you can use it to dodge. Strength can apply to all melee weapons and to parrying, but that's not really all that useful, especially in ranged combat where melee weapons and parrying are next to useless while an Agility-oriented fighter is always useful.

It would be a major shift for the system, but I am considering dropping Agility as a melee-weapon attribute completely and saying that all melee weapons are used with Strength. Thus Agility becomes the exclusive domain of the archer and the dodger.

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{Snip example}
There. Is that any clearer? Would it help if I made diagrams (in some shape or form)? The use of a whiteboard at the gaming table might become important...
Clearer? Yes, much. Clear? Well. From throwing a little math at this, I see problems. First, some asumptions. It seems to me that damage is multiplied by weapon mod and then divided by armor? Do I have that right? What this means is that, breakpoints aside, two successed scored at once do the same as two one-success attacks (I make all this distiction because in a subtractive armor situation, this isn't true). Can I make as many attacks as I want to make simultaneously? If so, then the best option is to make five INC 1 attacks every INC. You get the same damage as doing one Five INC attack, but you get to do it every single INC.


That's why I threw in weapon weights - they subtract from the total successes of the attack. The 'thousand palm slap' attack is therefore less effective than the single big whack with a sword. I'm aware this doesn't bother unarmed combatants - perhaps a minimum attack penalty of 1 needs to be installed.

And I almost didn't include the part about armour dividing. I think that subtracting from damage is both simpler and promotes larger attacks. I'll probably take out armour absorption and make armour entirely reliant upon a linear barrier rating.

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Another reason that you want to declare your attack last is that then it occurs first if it occurs in the same INC. That is, if I declare a INC 1 attack, and then you declare an INC 1 attack, in INC 1, you'll get to go first given the LIFO rule. What I envision is that the GM should have a page numbered for INC, and list declared actions. It'd look like this:

INC 1
Set Attacks 1
Isis Dodges 1

INC 2


INC 3
Isis Attacks 3


Etc.

So, each INC should go like this.
1. Determine Initiative (assuming that this has to be done per round; might be something you can do once per combat).
2. In order from lowest to highest each player declares actions. Player may commit as many uncommitted INC as he has remaining.
2.a. After each player declares an action, each player may declare a reaction, starting with the lowest player and going up in Initiative order.
3. Record each action on the chart with INC 1 actions being recorded for the current INC, and those with higher amounts for the appropriate later INC.
4. Resolve those actions for the INC starting with the last listed for the INC, and then moving up the list. Defenses must indicate what attack they are affecting, and mark the results next to that attack.
4.a. After resolving an action, the INC committed to the action return to uncommitted.
5. When all actions are resolved, the INC is over and the next begins with 1 above.

That's probably not perfect, but it gives you an idea of how you have to organize the rules.


Yoink!

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This somewhat assumes that adventurers don't wander dangerous situations with weapons unsheathed. It will come up from time to time, but hopefully not all that often.
If that's true, then why include the rule at all? :-)

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That said, I see where you're coming from. I'd like to think that weapon weight, lethality and special abilities are all more important than how quickly you can draw your sword; however, in some cases it may become important. The granularity of the system becomes important, especially at low levels.
Those other things will be optimized first, yes. So this will end up being one of those tiebreaker stats. The point is that there ought to be a way to not have any breakpoint at all. One simple way is to make readying the same for all weapons. As you say, it's not all that important. For a really cinematic game assume everyone can quickdraw so fast that they might as well just have their weapons out all the time (IOW, no draw time).

Not a huge detail.


It is a bit of a molehill, but it's one I'd like to get out of the way. Perhaps a blanket 'it takes 1 Effort to draw a weapon' would work. It's imperfect, and it means faster characters are disadvantaged because they have to draw at exactly the same speed. Perhaps an additional rule stating that an auto Focus action can draw a weapon instantly if the successes beat the weapon weight? That way, you can have a decent Western showdown - if someone pulls a gun on a hero, they can quickdraw and gun the assailant down first even if the villain had his gun out before entering the room.

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I like to think they're obvious archetypes. There are probably finer, more specialised archetypes, however, ones that ignite the imagination like Bladedancer, Lumbering Hulk What Has An Axe, or Archer just under the 'fighter' heading, and Twilight can easily mix and match so you get other archetypes like Shadow Thief (who isn't a pure mage, but uses magic abilities to walk through walls and avoid guards). I'm making a note to provide fully detailed archetypes in the front of that section now. This should also address the later concern that 'suggested equipment' reinforces certain boring archetypes.
You miss the point made more eloquently by others before me. How does a player even know that a fighter is a viable choice for a game? I mean, if I'm making the setting be one that's about dealing with entrepeneurs in the world of venture capital, how do the players know what to take then?

Even amongst action heroes, your archetypes are stilted. I mean, you've got your martial artist guy, your black ops type, the tough cop, etc. Even amongs sci-fi there's types you don't support at all. What about the expert pilot? And what about the Spunky Kid for all these? How do I build him?  I mean for a game that's supposed to be generic, you seem to cater only to one thing.


The 'expert pilot' would be detailed in the planned first supplement along with vehicles for her to use. The other archetypes... I am seeing a point. It's going to be tricky to cover every possibility, so I won't. However, if I did say the Tough Cop, the Weird Alien, the Smart Hacker, the Manipulative Banker, the Kid Genius and the Mysterious Warlock, would that give more of an idea? There are certain things a character will need to be effective in their chosen field, and if I can cover the basics that should be getting close. Things like 'Take this many skills, it's a reasonable number that makes you as effective as you can be in some areas and leaves the rest up to your attributes'. Is that the right meta-direction? Or have I missed the esoteric point?

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A very valid point. There is actually a small section entitled Experience at the end of chargen that describes how to advance characters. However... the weakness of beginning characters is fairly evident.

One possible fix involves greatly advancing the starting character. What say a beginning character's stats are defined with 30 points, in 5-point increments? So the minimum you can have in a stat is 5, then 10, etc. This means that you can quickly figure attribute values and they're guaranteed not to have wasted points. Is this worthwhile as a starting default?
Well, what's your tolerance for dice? I like em, so I'd go for it.

BTW, it's hard to tell from what you have that this makes for weak characters. I mean there's nothing to compare to. I assume that you'll be put up against characters that are of similar capabilities.

That's not quite right. Basically, we around here tend to think that the idea of character "advancement" in terms of power is not a great idea. For too many reasons to go into here. Suffice it to say that most of us would agree that one ought to start out characters as powerful as they need to be to be fun to play. That often means starting them off as heroes. Or at least competent.

That said, since you have nothing to compare to, whatever level you set for starting characters is whatever level of compentence you call it. Is 30 fifths compenent? Cool.


In conflict situations, two evenly matched characters will normally behave in the same way no matter what their point totals are, so there is no way to infer basic competence. However, there are two places where you can actually find some kind of physical reference point. One is certain parts of magic (where so many successes has a result of so many units of weight), but I haven't got that out yet and magic isn't too realistic to begin with.

The other good place is under Acrobatics (Balance), where it dictates the rules for moving across narrow areas. How much balance does the average human have? How well would you or I cross a six-inch beam? I did the maths, and it seems the answer requires a Body of around 20 for those who aren't gifted in agility.

This long train of calculation eventually results in the realisation that this is wholly outside my expectations. Even 30-point buy doesn't produce RPG geeks (label applied to self) who are smarter than strong, but have a 20-point Body. Trouble is, I want 30-point buy to be the default starting paradigm now because of its neat (almost Babylonian) mathematical properties.

Therefore, the solution is obvious. I should go into the rules and crank down the Balance difficulty. In fact, I'll reduce it so that you only need to beat your move rate in squares in a 'balance-critical situation'. This way, you only need 5 points in Body to make that balance feat; considering that your average gamer probably has around 10 or (at very, very most) 15 points in Mind in comparison to Body, we can see that a 30-point buy character is indeed larger than life.

Character advancement... I'm aware of the school of thought that promotes heroes with the abilities to accomplish their goals. It takes away the whole 'must level' metagame mode of thought that so many computer gaming webcomics enjoy to mock. However, it also takes away the heroic journey of unassuming characters discovering hidden powers and defeating the bad guy. (I'm aware that the heroic journey framework can be purely allegorical in nature; I'm refering to typical fantasy/scifi literature with a quest involved.) In the variant game section ommitted from the demo release, I discussed the idea of a no-advancement game where everyone starts off at a certain level and stays there.

The Riddle Of Steel's character goals (about which I know fairly little; haven't read those quickstart rules yet, just a couple of examples on the website) are one thing that could take the place of regular advancement in terms of rewards. However, actually completing those goals is sort of an end to a character's motivation, essentially winning the game. I don't know... I don't like it on some level, although it's very cool. It just seems to limit the focus of the game inward on a known quantity, instead of outward on exploration.

There's probably some neat middle ground I can seek out and occupy. I've got ideas already.

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If you took Heal (Self-only), however, you'd still be capable of using healing on people (it can be used untrained), you'd only get the skill bonus if you were using it on yourself.
Um, OK, but whatthehell does that represent? How can a person learn to heal themselves better than they can heal another? How can I know how to bandage myself, and not how to bandage other people? What skill can one learn that one can do to oneself, and to others that one can learn at different rates? Seems like an unneccessary complication.


Heal doesn't just describe applying medical aid. It's more about making someone feel generally better. If you've got an unusually active metabolism that causes your wounds to scab slightly faster than someone else (but not fast enough to be worthy of the Regeneration racial skill), you're better at making yourself feel better than anyone else. That's the sort of concept I'm getting at here.

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It's something I should put more detail into, yes. And I should definitely emphasise the fact that if only one person in the group owns any house at all that's probably unbalanced. Yes, you should buy a horse if you're a knight. No, you probably shouldn't if your group is all knights or a band of adventurers who happen to get from town to dungeon by means of horse. Yes, it's wildly interprable. I should offer a few 'economic archetypes' to demonstrate.
"Wildly Interperable" doesn't cover it. I have no idea from that last paragraph where you're going.

Have you considered making wealth a skill that you roll against? Or just not handling it at all? That is, allowing players to buy whatever seems reasonable and leaving it at that? There are lots of ways to skin this cat.


True indeed, I suppose, although I've always just buried the little critters. (Sorry, awful metaphor. It's true, though.) I'll present a set of wealth options to the reader. I'm seriously considering a far more skill-oriented equipment system - basically, equipment gives you skill bonuses, but in this case at half cost or maybe out of an equipment skill points budget over and above the normal 2-to-1 stat point level.

As far as economic archetypes go, this is what I had in mind:

The group (GM?) should decide on the basic necessities of life that are available to the characters. In a modern setting, that's probably a house and car and all the other things we take for granted. In a military setting, your characters all have default weapons at no cost. In a medieval setting, you might take the role of wanderers heading from battle to battle; you need horses to travel quickly, but nobody takes their horse into battle, so you can just decide everyone has a horse and leave it at that. Everyone has access to these basic necessities. You might be able to trade or sell or even blow them up later in the game, again at the discretion of the group (GM?).

That said, if I can wrap my head around it I'll probably get something set up so you know how many 'points' a house is worth. That should smooth this section out considerably.

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That's not entirely true. To be perfectly honest, it's fairly closely based on the D&D3e ranger ability, but there are a lot more skills that just killing things in Twilight. It will make you better at killing things, but at the same time it will make you better at learning what makes them tick (Command), what they find attractive (Distract), what they're better at sensing (Stealth)... you don't have to use it in combat at all. "It's all right, people, I know guardian carnophages. I'll just throw a rock into the bushes and sneak past while they're distracted; their sense of sight is attrocious." I will, however, make a note to change Race Focus to Creature Knowledge and include rules on determining characteristics of members of that group from the skill.
Then you'd better include in the list those races that aren't just the "monster" races. In fact, why have a separate list at all? Just say that any race that the player knows about can be taken.


'Monster' is really a subjective definition, especially when a PC can fly and shoot acid bolts out of his eyes. But yes, this should be swivelled around a little.

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Yeah, weapons are actually as light as they can be. However, there is a handling difference between even a light rapier and a kitchen knife - a battleaxe is going to have a marked difference to both. They won't break your arms, but weapons will slow you down ever so slightly during combat. The 'weapon weight penalty' is my answer to claymores versus dirks - a claymore will cut you in half, but a dirk will hit you first.
Um, nope. This is an artifact of RPG thinking. There is no "balance" between well desinged large and small weapons. The larger is simply superior. That is, there's an optimum size for a weapon, and it's about sword sized. Daggers are just inferior swords that people carry because it's often not polite to carry a people killing weapon like a sword (often not allowed at all).


Optimum in sum, yes. To any decent character, the weight penalty is pretty tiny and so the major characteristic of the sword is the damage multiplier. Which is much bigger on a sword. I'm certain that a sword is just plain better than a dagger, it's just that the dagger can physically be moved faster than a sword. I've tried this, OK? My wrist just isn't strong enough to move my rapier at the same rate as a kitchen knife. Someone with stronger wrists wouldn't care as much, but they have higher stats than I. See my point?

There is the problem of greater reach on a sword, however. Someone with a dagger will not get close to someone with a sword because their hand will get cut off. Twilight doesn't quite model this, unless you count the superior parrying power of a sword as 'I tried to attack him, but he swung his sword and I pulled back' instead of 'I tried to attack him, but he blocked really hard'. Of course, the active defence system of Twilight means that if the guy with the sword doesn't swing it at you while you're trying to stab him, you get to stab him anyway.

Anyway, as always, you say things that need saying and I haven't said to myself loudly enough. I can see nebulous plans for Twilight in my head that are far greater than I had ever dreamed... and I believe my mind is Freeing. Which is good.
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