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Indie Game Design
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Topic: Iron Game Chef - Simulationist! (Read 65212 times)
Jared A. Sorensen
Tooth & Claw: Addendum
Reply #90 on:
May 16, 2003, 08:49:18 AM »
One paragraph that I forgot to add to the main text:
Drowning, falling, fire and disease are all handled by an opposed roll between the dinosaur's Survive Behavior and the severity of the hazard (1 die for a minor hazard, 5+ dice for truly terrible hazards). Note that this is just to resist injury. To escape from a raging river, for example, a Move roll must be made (keeping in mind that successes from Survive can roll over as bonus Move dice).
jared a. sorensen /
Volcanoes and Glaciers:Bloodsong of the Spheres
Reply #91 on:
May 16, 2003, 09:09:25 AM »
Setting Blood and Song
There was a descrepancy on how to create a character's Blood and Song Traits initailly. Defining Blood and Song uses the Action Resolution mechanics. Default for each is 1.
More on Scale
Area Effect: 1x(number of Successes) foot sphere
People: Single person
Area Effect: 10x(number of Successes) foot sphere
People: Small group of people
Area Effect: 100x(number of Successes) foot sphere
Area Effect: 1000x(number of Successes) foot sphere
Raiders from a Volcano:3 Sphere are raiding the PC's home Sphere. Can the PCs stop them?
The PCs come upon a Sphere where Asgard has fallen and giants roam Midgard. The gods have mysteriously disappeared. What will the PCs do?
In the Shadow of Ragnarok
The PCs come up a Sphere on the verge of Ragnarok and with no knowledge of Bloodsong. People approach the PCs and ask them to take them to safety. Unfortunately, the PCs can only carry a small group out of the Sphere. What will happen?
Volcanoes and Glaciers:Bloodsong ot the Spheres
Reply #92 on:
May 16, 2003, 09:17:28 AM »
Even more Errata
Default Sphere is New Midgard, Volcano: 0, Glacier:0, Prosperity:6.
Where is all the equipment?
Players are expected to introduce equipment, allies, etc. in play. This is done by using an Action Resolution check versus the appropriate PC's Signature. Thus, a Warrior is more likely to have a sword than, say, a priest.
Remember that Successes determine the degree of effect. So if you wanted to introduce a weapon, 3 Successes might net you a greatsword, 2 a battleaxe, 1 a dagger, and so on.
How do I run combat?
Use an Action Resolution check. For example, if a player says, "I swing my sword at his head, trying to behead him!" and gets 3 Successes, the opponent is obvious dead. 2 Successes, and the opponent is wounded. 1 Success, and he is grazed. 0 Succeses, the PC misses.
If the player wishes his charcter to subdue or knockout his opponent, the mechanic is the same.
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Reply #93 on:
May 16, 2003, 09:24:48 AM »
Sign in Stranger
formerly: song of the blood moon.
Mechanics in depth:
Alien World Element Establishment
When the characters arrive at their new home, the players begin describing the world in strange and nonsensical terms. The Modes chosen determine the areas that each player is responsible for describing. Go about settling in the characters to their new life, and as each aspect of the daily necessities of living come up, the player whose Sphere each process or object falls into narrates an intentionally obscure or bizzare description of an Alien World Element (AWE). A 2-3 word encapsulation is written beneath the corresponding Mode. The person who creates each element should not have an explanation in mind. This will be established through the interaction of the characters with each Alien World Element. Each AWE is considered unsolved until an Interpretive roll for it has been successfully accomplished.
short desc: enveloped by gelatinous goo (unsolved)
longer narration: Every so often Sxosians swimming about in the atmosphere become enveloped by a large cloud of gelatinous goo which speeds away with them.
Task resolution in this game is accomplished by a simple Pool type mechanic. All rolls are on 6-sided dice, and successes are generally accomplished by rolling a "1" on at least one of the d6's.
Anyone may call for a roll on a task. The person whose Sphere a task falls into will Oversee the task resolution process. If it's the same person as the player making the rolls, another player is chosen randomly. The Overseer may declare the task trivial (in which no dice need to be rolled and success is automatic), or give a bonus die if the task is easy, but the character has no related skill.
For all non-trivial tasks, a player gets one die to roll, and may roll a number of additional d6's equal to the level of a skill on their character sheet. The skill must relates to the task, and the Overseer may rule out the use of a skill, with the support of the other players.
The outcome may be narrated by anyone who wishes to do so, with the player whose character is taking the action having first chance to narrate, then the player whose Mode the action falls under having second. If no-one chooses to narrate it, someone should be chosen randomly by a die roll to do so.
Before a character may attempt any task that involves an unsolved Alien World Element or brings the character into the presence of a member of an alien species, a "Smell" roll must be made. This involves the repulsive trait of the attribute pair assigned to all alien species. The player must roll a number equal to or under the value of the character's "song" points.
Take the following example:
O O O O O smell
*summer with whales
This character has one song point and 5 smell points. In order to interact with a Sxosian, comfortably, the player must roll a "1" on one six-sided die. If the character had 2 song points, then the "Smell" Roll would be successful on a 1 or a 2. Characters with zero "Song" points Panic automatically when they come into the presence of an alien. A panicking character cannot attempt a task resolution roll, and should be role-played appropriately (ie. vomit, faint, run, etc.) Failure other than Panic means the player may attempt the task, but may not use any of their skills to accomplish it.
Interpretive rolls are used to solve Alien World Elements. A character must have just made successful "Smell" and task resolution rolls in conjunction with the AWE in question. Roll 1d6 and succeed on values equal to or less than the character's "song" points. If the roll fails, that explanation is ruled out. A different ones must be tried in future, by whomever attempts them.
When two humans interact that have a difference in their "Song" points greater than 3 (equal to 4-6 points), the one with the lower points must make a "smell" roll to avoid acting agressively or fearfully towards the human with the higher points.
There's a bit more to come....
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.
Black & Green Games
Song of the Blood spheres (Combat & errata info)
Reply #94 on:
May 16, 2003, 11:05:11 AM »
As Mr. Holmes approaches, eyes full of stern fire, gauntleted hand holding the pad-lock of time constraint, a grating whisper comes out of the hush of voices from across the room where the Iron Game Chefs stand, each putting the final garnishes on their own dishes.
"But, Kester, what about hit points and character death?"
Kester turns, a sad look in his eye,
"Well if you absolutely must divert from the story to have such rules. . ."
First, the game has no "Hit Points", per se. Rather characters will loose dice from their action dice pools. For instance:
Grof, Sword Fighting 2, encounters a Fire Harpy, Claw Attack 1. Grof can choose to split his attack into two 1D rolls or attack with full 2D vs. the Harpy. Difficulty Factor should be set by either the GM or group consensus, in this case let us say that hitting the Fire Hardy is assessed as a DF 9 (on foot) and a DF of 12 (when flying). Quite the task for Grof!
This means that Grof has to roll a 13 or better (remember all rolls have to be ABOVE the actual TN) to hit the Harpy if she is flying, an obvious impossibility for poor Grof. Luckily she is not flying, alas Grof's player decides to invest only 1D in the attack and thus rolls a 7. Ah, Grof, why did you attack that Fire Harpy!
Degree of Success
Degree of success (or failure) is assessed by how many points above (or below) the actual TN the player rolls for their character's action. In the example above Grof failed by 5. That’s a fairly wide margin. The interpretation of which is up to the GM or group consensus to determine. In this case the GM decides that the Harpy, being a fierce and fearsome creature, forces Grof to roll a Trait Check vs. Courage.
All Trait Check rolls are made using a D6 and are rolled against the CURRENT Trait score. In the case of Grof this means his player must roll a 4 or better on D6 or suffer the loss of 1D from Courage.
Grof's player rolls a 5 and sighs audibly. However this isn't the end, the Harpy Still has her 1D claw attack. The GM rolls a 6 on behalf of the Harpy. Since the GM has also declared the same 'on foot' DF of 9 applies to Grof this means the Harpy's Claw Attack has failed, by a factor of 4. Grof stands his ground and decides to counter with the remaining 1D of Sword Fighting, rolling a 6. Again his player made the Trait Check
Obviously this could go on ad infinitim, ad nauseum, but Grof's player decides to take a chance and use all the Courage dice in his action pool to try and scare the Harpy away at the last minute.
Grof's player rolls a 15. The GM decides that, after the abortive attacks, the Harpy has thus decided she has no clear edge and has (apparently only just remembering her ability to fly) withdrawn. Perhaps for good, but then again maybe to get more Harpies, either way Grof is now free to take to his heels and flee the area; if that is the action his player decides he should take.
Errata & Misc.
Overall the game is meant to simulate actions with quick and easy dice rolls. Keep it simple. If in doubt defer to the group, keeping in mind that the Game Master is there to be the final arbiter of disputes. You don’t have to agree with them, or even like their rulings, but so long as they are consistent and keep the game running smoothly try not to take it too personally. After all in Ubel They the GM could have been you!
These are very important. For every heroic action a Hero successfully accomplishes they will gain Hero Points. The minimal amount of Hero Points gained is 1 HP and the maximum is 6, based on a random fortune die roll. This ‘fortune’ die applies to everyone. Even the Knight Templar character. At the start of play no character should have any Hero Points. In fact there shouldn’t even be a place for recording them on the Hero Sheet until the character earns the right to record them.
During the typical game session characters should amass enough HP to raise their base action Trait and Skill die pools at least once.
The cost of increasing the current Skill die pool is based on a quick and simple formulae as follows: 10 HP * current die pool. Thus if Grof’s player wanted to raise their Intimidation skill from 1D to 2D they would have to expend 10 Hero Points to do so. To raise the same skill to 3D they would have to later expend 20 Hero Points, and so on.
Note: The Skill Die Pool must be raised linearly from 1D to 2D to 3D and etcetera.
However to raise a Trait die pool the cost is a flat 50 Hero Points per die. Thus if Grof’s player wanted to raise their current Will score from 2 to 4 they would have to expend 100 HP to do so.
Kester steps back, glances at the platters displayed on the table before him, and shakes his head. The competition is steep and not everyone is playing fair. But, he realizes, such is life. Still, Pompeii and Dinosaurs, how can his traditional fantasy spices compete with that?
Hmm, maybe a virgin sacrifice. . . or two.
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Reply #95 on:
May 16, 2003, 12:55:37 PM »
Sign in Stranger
formerly Song of the blood moon.
This game has been developed in the following posts:
Overview of game
Mechanics in depth:
Character skills may increase over time with use. Both skills from the character's life on Earth, and those acquired from training on the Moon. The first two times a skill is used for a roll--whether or not the attempt was successful or not--make marks after the skill recording the use: two successive slashes ("\" and "/") to make an "X". Circle the "X" the next time the skill is used for a roll that has a successful resolution. Once three circled-X's are complete, the skill goes up one point.
Acquiring Personality Traits
The personality traits are simply words or phrases written on the lines below the Second Question on the Character sheet ("What are you like?"). The player writes down 2 or 3 during character creation. Examples would be: "short temper", "obsessive about cleanliness", "hardworking". During the course of play, players may suggest character traits describing the characters of other players. A given character's player may reject a Personality Trait, but not suggest one for their own. Personality traits have no score assigned to them.
Raising "Song" type or Insight Points
Each character has a score associated with the Attractive Attribute of the Species' attribute pair, which has been described as the "song" type points after the attribute from the example species, the Sxosians. This may be known as the character's Insight. Insight points increase as the character has more interaction with members of a given species, their society and world. It reflects increasing understanding and empathy for members of the alien species.
In order to attempt to increase this score, the player of the character in question describes a memory from the character's life that they feel may give the character insight and connection to the aliens. A number of dice is rolled equal to the number of Personality Traits that the character exhibits in the memory. A currently occuring situation may also be used as a catalyst for "song" point increase, and the same conditions apply. This roll is Overseen by another player--determined randomly, or by the the person whose Sphere most closely relates to the events being described as giving Insight--who rules on whether the Personality Traits do indeed relate to the event or memory. The acting player then rolls. A number of ones equal to the character's Insight is required to be rolled. If not enough are rolled in the first attempt, the number rolled is recorded and that many additional dice is added to the pool the next time an attempt is made.
Each character may begin play with one "song" point. Each point will be associated with a memory from the character's life, or an event that happens during play that signifies an aspect of the character's life experience gives them insight into the alien species. A second point may be attempted after 3 successful Interpretive rolls have been made by the character's player. The third after 3 more. The fourth and fifth must have 6 successful Interpretations made, and for the final, the character's player needs to make successful Interpretive roll in each of the Modes for the species.
Damage may be a consequence of any action, to humans, aliens or property. The group should discuss beforehand what level of character mortality they are interested in having. Make an explicit agreement, and be flexible to this changing over time as the group decrees.
There are no levels to bodily harm. If a character is hurt, incorporate the injury into play and let a reasonable amount of time elapse for healing. All attempts to treat the disease or for the character to seek healing should be handled as any other task. Healing, and Religion may be included as additional Modes. If Healing is included, damage suffered to characters would be addressed like any other task, and rolls to treat the character would be Overseen by the holder of that Mode.
My compliments to all my esteemed adversaries. It has been a pleasure to cook test myself against your skill this day. Thanks to our host and judge, Mike-san, for encouraging us and helping us acheive our potential in the heat of the kitchen.
The spirit of the Forge Gaming Arena has again caused inspiration to be born. Good luck to us all!
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.
Black & Green Games
In Your Element, Out of this World
Reply #96 on:
May 16, 2003, 01:14:20 PM »
In Your Element, Out of this World
This game was written and diagramed by Fang Langford. All artwork that appears is by his partner, co-writer, editor, and wife, Caro Langford.
This is a game where you play powerful Elemental Masters, Dueling over your personal Difficulties in the Corona Realms outside of reality. You will control amazing Elemental beings in terrifying clashes, Dueling over even the smallest of slight!
This game takes place in real life,
The only materials you need in order to play is an empty journal. Through it you will reinterpret real life events into in-game material. It can be as detailed or as sketchy as you desire; the only one who will be reading it is you. Please decorate it and doodle on it as much as possible (or as normal for you); personalizing it goes along way towards making the game better.[/list:u]
Inventorying Your Character
The first thing you need to do in order to play is to 'take inventory' of yourself. Start on the third page or so of your journal and just scribble out some notes about what's most important to you or affects you the most. List any 'big problems' that come to mind. (While you may want to censor some of this material for play, right now you're brainstorming; nothing says you can't tear these pages out after you finish your 'inventory.') Try to keep it brief, like a series of bullet points on a list of 'who I am.'
That was fun, right (like pulling your own teeth)? Now go back through this looking for what you need to play (crossing out anything that will remain private and 'out of play'). Don't worry if it isn't 'good enough' for anyone else, just be as detailed as you feel. This isn't a competition, it's an exhibition; please, no wagering. Please don't 'make stuff up,' but feel free to lie to yourself (this is only a game after all). What you are looking for are things to list on the first page of your journal as your 'Difficulties.'
These are the things 'that occupy your time.' They might be preoccupations, recurrent stumbling blocks, or even character flaws (if you're in the mood to be brutally honest), what matters is that they are 'what fills your life with meaning (good or bad).' Any that force you into conflict with people, your surrounding, and your situation are all the better.
Now pick out as many as five of the most interesting ones (for playing this game), each in one of these categories (arranged however you want):
Your assets: this includes 'what you own,' but try to think in terms of 'spheres of influence' and beyond too.
Your values: these are the things that matter to you; if two conflict, list them together.
Your preferences: this is whatever you desire, but not specifically; you want lemon pie, not
lemon pie. These include things you find most pleasing when you interact with them, but don't necessarily impel you to 'get them.'
Your passions: this is anything that 'fuels your fire,' including things you can't help but do.
Your uniqueness: this is the content of your character and the Difficulties that it creates; the things that set you apart
and how they complicate your life
Remember that you are looking for
based on these areas. Not only that but hopefully some of the 'bigger ones.' Each of these categories matches up with an Elemental type. Some simple guidelines or examples include:
Assets are the Element of
- This is the struggle for 'stuff' or influence. Too much causes gluttony; too little creates helplessness. (Spheres of influence would include how you influence 'your stuff,' as extensions of you, right? The earth would be the greatest of all Spheres.)
Values are the Element of
- This is the struggle with your priorities. Too much is greed, too little is ennui. ("Blood is thicker than water" has always meant to me that family is more important; this is about values then.)
Preferences are the Element of
- This is the struggle against 'rapture.' Too much causes lust; too little is too much meaninglessness. (A Song is aesthetic, it is beautiful, and it is highly subjective; air without Song is just wind.)
Passions are the Element of
- This is the struggle between 'control' and your passions. Too much could be wrath; too little is sloth. (Heat so hot that it does more than burn, that it melts the very rock and causes vast eruptions of destruction, that is what I call passion! Anything less is only fire.)
Uniqueness is the Element of
- This is the struggle to be noticed and different (enough). Too much is hubris, too little results in envy. (Anyone who has no sense of Self matters little more than the ether.)[/list:u]
Once you've picked as many as five of these out from your 'page three notes,' list each one, with its Element, on the first page after your name. Rate these Difficulties (from 1 to 10) based upon how much they impact your life and thinking. Be honest! The only person you could be cheating here is yourself. (And the fact that the higher the rating, the more vulnerable you are to influence in the absence of mystical protection.)
Let me see, looking over my journal, I'd say I can find five pretty obvious difficulties. (Hey, the game calls for honesty, let's use the real thing!)
For Sphere, that's easy; in my family and my line of work, I've got this bad habit of expecting all responsibilities to 'get things done' to ultimately fall on my shoulders. If no one else does it, I expect myself to. I guess the root of this is to avoid the feeling of powerlessness versus things I cannot 'fix.' Over the years, it has taught me a broad range of skills and now I succeed much more often than I fail, but at the personal cost of being stressed out about 'too much to do and not enough help.' Let's call that, "The Buck Stops Here" and rate it at...say a 3.
In the Blood Element, my passion lays in examining communications. I almost always assume the literal interpretation of what people say to me and I've got this credo that 'if it was worth saying, it is worth hearing.' A lot of this is probably attributable to my Asperger's Syndrome (we're both very verbal and highly literal). This one would be, "Literally a Problem" and I think I'm at about a 2 with it.
With the Song Element, I'd say my main Difficulty is my overwhelming curiosity. My parents forever sniped at me, "Curiosity killed the cat...." (Until the day I discovered the rest of the saying, "...Satisfaction brought him back!") I get into more trouble because I just wonder what something is, why someone does things, or how something got where it is. Ultimately, I've become very good at deduction and ratiocination to supplant when I simply cannot 'check it out.' I'm gonna leave this as, "Curiously Strong" and rate myself with a 7.
My Volcano Element is obviously this bent I have for Aristotelian dialogue. Very many people take this as a passion for arguing, but I'm rather clinical about it. (I'm not surprised that people see it as such, many people who have too much Blood Element have 'aggression management' problems.) I might title this one "Aristotle Would Be Proud" and give myself a 3...no, better make that a 5 as often as it controls me.
The Self Element is one of the harder ones for many people. I don't have that problem because I am so deliberate. In fact, that's my Difficulty here: deliberateness. I've yet to meet someone who was more deliberate than I, who wasn't also suffering from an obsessive/compulsive behaviour. Unlike most of those, I'm deliberate in all things; that's right a type A control freak (as if that wasn't obvious). Being able to manage so many details, this usually turns out to be a strength, rather than a problem; so let's call it, "Meticulously Deliberate" and rate it with a 5. (A rule of thumb total comes to 22 with Self and Song taking up about 55% of my life; that sounds about right.)
Each of these Difficulties results in an Elemental that you become the Master of through this game. (But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here.)
You need two more things to round out your persona in the game. Make a space for them after your Difficulties in your journal; they are Power and Standing.
If you add up all the ratings from your Difficulties and multiply by 4, you get your 'starting' Power. This is the same as when you make up all your Elementals, you could total all their points and get the same number. Each Elemental is limited to 4 times the rating of its respective Difficulties for 'starting points' to create them. As you practice and battle, your Power goes up, so leave room in your journal to make changes.
The gameplay largely takes place in a 'nearby place' called the Corona (more later). How vaunted you are in the Corona is your Standing.
The Corona doesn't have qualities like distance and time; so neither does your reputation there. Anyone who has been through a Duel or two will be able to 'see' your Standing just by looking at you while in the Corona (one reason there are so many disguises in the Corona). When people discuss you, they vividly remember your Standing from the last time they met you (that's the nature of the Corona).
(This does create the interesting effect that if your Standing starts to slip substantially, you can maintain your 'apparent Standing' by disguising yourself, because then, when you speak to someone, they are forced to act upon the Standing that they last remember. That's what creates a social stigma around wearing disguises; think about what they mean
Standing from the 'in the game' perspective is sustained as 'He beat So-and-so' or 'He runs away a lot' or 'He's a human typhoon;' for sake of the play of the game, keep track of your Standing with a number. You gain one point for beating an evenly matched opponent (one who is within 10 points of your Power). Beating someone in an unevenly matched Duel gets you an additional point of Standing for each 10 they are above you (1 for the first 10 when evenly matched, 2 for 11-20, 3 for 21-30, and so on). Beating someone beneath you either doesn't affect your Standing at all (unless you act unfairly) or drives it further into the negatives (if you're at -1 and you beat up on some little guy, you go to -2). Elemental Masters with negative standings are considered the same as criminals (they cheat, pick on weaker foes, and et cetera); other Elemental Masters usually steer clear of them or hunt them.
You start each new journal with a Standing of 1 (continuations of another game carry over Standing and Power from your last journal).[/list:u]
On page two of your journal, you will list the Elementals associated with your Difficulties (or maybe you'll start on the bottom of page one, I'm just more flawed so I didn't have a lot of room), their Stats, Statuses, and abilities.
Let your mind wander, what we're looking for here are things that are cool or intriguing. You don't have to use the Earth-Water-Air-Fire-Ether cues if you've got a better idea, it's more important to like what you choose. These can be in just about any form that you can imagine moving itself or being carried. A one or two word description ought to be a good enough name. After the name, list what Element it serves - Sphere, Blood, Song, Volcano, or Self. Below that you'll list each Elemental's five abilities (I'm getting ahead of myself, let's save that for later).
While your Elementals do not represent some personification of each Difficulty, you can do that if you like (if everyone agrees that you did it best, you get 3 bonus points to create them with).
This is easy (I designed the game after all). My Sphere Elemental is a giant saber-toothed tiger skeleton composed of rusting iron scraps (with railroad spikes for saber-teeth), call it "Rusty the Saber-Toothed Tiger." For Blood, I'll take a clockwork/steampunk insect, about 3' long in brass composed of many tinier bug-robots that can reconfigure into many different insectoid shapes (my favorite is the Scarab-backpack), call it, "Multi-Bug." I'd like a beautiful life-sized marionette for my Song Elemental (call her "Marionette" or "Mario" for short). Since I've been looking at my Warhammer 40K catalog again, I'd like a gatling-gun/sword combination for my Volcano Elemental (I love the look on people's faces when I pull that out of 'nowhere'); I'll just refer to it as my "Gatling Sword" in play. Lastly, I think I'll draw upon my self-image for my Self Elemental and take a jester's cap, though I'm not sure how I'll use it in Duels yet.
There are five kinds of Elementals:
Symbol: Ball with Highlight
Essence: Efficacy and resources; strength against it limits or prohibits it.
Bests: Volcano (It's hard to covet what you already have: Gorging) & Self (Where you excel is a part of 'what makes you unique:' Authorization)
Symbol: Red Droplet
Essence: Priorities and responsibilities; strength against it causes discord and endangerment.
Bests: Sphere (You don't keep what you don't value: Junkiness) & Song (What you value controls what appeals to you: Desires)
Symbol: Musical Note
Essence: Makes you do things; strength against it is interrupting it.
Bests: Volcano (What appeals to you drives your passions: Seduction) & Sphere (What appeals to you affects 'what you are willing to sacrifice:' Enticement)
Symbol: Triple tongue of Fire
Essence: Motivations to do; strength against it saps, redirects, or stymies that.
Bests: Blood (Your passions change what you value: Enrage) & Self (Where your passions lie is a lot of 'what makes you unique:' the Con Game)
Symbol: Egyptian Eye
Essence: Self-control and independence; strength against it interrupts its integrity.
Bests: Song (Self-determination controls 'what appeals to you:' Freewill) & Blood ('What make you unique' defines 'what you value:' Integrity)[/list:u]
Each Elemental has 'starting points' equal to the rating of the Difficulty it is 'connected to.' These points are divided amoungst six Stats:
- Compared to the opponent Elemental's SPD to determine who goes first (the higher); for ties, the challenger goes first (also used to determine what rounds your opponent misses)
- The base amount of damage done by any physical ability
- The amount of damage subtracted from a physical attack before applying it to the Elemental's HIT
- The base amount of damage done by any mystical ability
- The amount of damage subtracted from a mystical attack before applying it to the Elemental's HIT
- the amount of damage the Elemental can take before being taken out of play
Let's try my Marionette with her 28 'starting points.' She's not strong nor terribly durable. I'll save maybe 10 points for Elemental abilities, that leaves 18 (an average of 3 per Stat). How about
2? Sure she's toast in a hand-to-hand Duel, but I'll stick to mystical attacks (the specialty of alluring Song Elementals, right?)
[/list:u]An Elemental is also described by differences from the generic 'object;' is it big, small, hardy, fast, cute, heavy, or et cetera? Any such features you feel ought to be of obvious effect in Duels will cost as many points as they 'add' to whatever they affect. For example, if your monster Elemental is 'big' that means it can add the points you spent on 'big' to any manual ability or attack that 'suits it.' Having something like 'wings' is meaningless unless you spend a point on it (which would be taken instead as an ability granting Immunity to 'at hand' attacks made by Elemental that 'cannot reach.') Being 'very small' with the idea that it makes them 'harder to hit' (remember all abilities succeed regardless) means that the Elemental starts every Duel as though it used the ability of 'shrinking' (which also cannot be directly negated except by 'growth-style' abilities) that Grants the Immunity to some attacks (use lowered accuracy rules). This is also how you 'pay for special immunities' like a bat Elemental would be immune to Blind Status (each immunity costs 1 point).
Multi-Bug is a little big and definitely kinda heavy, but I don't expect that to count in Duels. It can have wings if I change it's shape, as a matter of fact, the reason I like the Scarab-backpack mode is because it gives
wings I can fly with; so those wings will costs me 1 point. I think being made of metal, Multi-Bug will probably have armor against most physical blows, but that isn't all physical attacks, so I'll give him two more points of Def as armor rather than Def.
Rusty the Saber-toothed is definitely big (1 point) and he has a 'Claw' ability (see below) so I'll spend another point for 'nasty claws and sabers.' (I might even consider a 'Blood Poison' Secondary ability, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)
Some Elementals also have 'problems' like 'too small' or 'no arms' or 'fragile,' these don't affect the cost of creating an Elemental (or the effects of their abilities), but should be noted for 'special circumstance play' during a Duel (more later). It shouldn't be too hard to 'get around' such limitation in both construction and in Duels.
My Jester's Cap has no arms or hands (except if it can act like a giant glove) and no obvious eyes (it just 'sees mystically') so I'll take that as 2 problems. (Though the '...eyes' thing might be a blessing with certain kinds of attacks that target eyes; normal 'blinding' abilities should still work, unless I spend a point on that immunity.) I'm starting picture this 'flying hat,' so I'll have to spend another point on 'levitation' (but that'd go with the previous example).
My Gatling Sword is a little more complicated. It obviously has laser-pointer-targeting-sight eyes, but no limbs or motive abilities. I mean I could see it having a gyroscope that lets it 'stand up' and turn around, but I just can't see it traveling anywhere (not even 'rocket style' using ammo for thrust); that's a pretty hefty limitation except I seem myself wielding it most of the time. (We just assume that attacks only hit it and miss me during a Duel, because I want this and I can't force others to lose Standing by cheating.)
Every Elemental can have as many as five abilities. For each ability, spend at least one 'starting point' and list its specific Target and Effect aspects (some Effects need to be really specified); Additional Effects are optional (and cost one point each)
Self/Opponent - Does the ability work on 'us' or 'them.'
Single/Party/Area (good for 'accuracy impaired' situations) - How many are affected; 'Party' is good for healings
Stats/Statuses - Does it alter a Stat (like reducing HIT is doing damage) or a Status (like curing Paralyzing)
Change (Remove/Pilfer/Add) or Prevent (Target/Type/Natural) - What you do to the Stat or Status (Add STR as in growth or preventing Blindness)
Instant/Perpetual (quarter STR or M STR) - Does it work for only the next this or next round or is it until you swap
Amplifiers/Trade-Offs - An ability that causes another (single or 'classification') to increase in effect (like a area effect that doubles a specific type of attack for it's duration) or things like 'takes an extra turn before (or after) use' and 'self-inflicts this Status'
Secondary Effects - So the power does "X," does it also do "Y" 'on the side' (and costs a point more)
Most abilities do damage and have secondary effects, but a few only do these additional effects. One is to change the SPD, STR, or DEF (including Mystical). Another is to cause Status changes. The Statuses are: Burned, Poisoned, Frozen, Bound, Attracted, Paralyzed, Confused, Weakened, Blinded, and Asleep (see the effects of these below). All of these changes can be either to grant them or take them away and according to standard Target selection.[/list:u][/list:u]
Let's do Multi-Bug's abilities:
Recreate - Self, Single, Stat Add, Instant
Blitzkrieg - Them, Single, Stat Remove, Instant Amplifier (goes first)
Chaff - Them, Area, Status Add, Perpetual Amplifier (stays past swap)
Dive Bomb - Them, Single, Stat Remove, Instant Secondary (flying Immunity)*
Web Shot - Them, Single, Status Add, Perpetual Amplifier (stays with Target)
* Trade-Off: During the first round, while flying, Multi-Bug is immune to attacks that can't reach him; attack hits second round
Dive Bomb 2 (both immunity and Secondary Effect cost, but Trade-Off takes one back)
Web Shot 2
Ready for Play?
Not quite. Before you start actually playing this with your group, you need a little 'background.' The minimum is journaling everything 'significant' since you got up yesterday morning. It might be better to do the major activities of the last week, but you shouldn't feel pressured to remember things you can't very well. Starting your journal a week or so
would be ideal, but...well, life may not permit.
Your Elementals are what protect you on a day-to-day basis from those of others. Whenever you conflict with another person, the Difficulties in play empower the Elementals in battle nearby in the Corona (see below). Should an Elemental be so 'taken out,' one quickly finds out that the other person will make good use of the related Difficulty to make them do whatever that person wants. An example would be how the passions of a young man at a bar overwhelm the loneliness of a girl who didn't really want to go out with him. You can imagine his Volcano Elemental savagely beating her Self Elemental, forcing her to 'do what he wants.'
The difference between you and great 'the uninvolved' masses is that you have not only learned ways to bring your other Elementals (and Difficulties) to bear in these conflicts (Elemental Usage), but also how to see into the Corona and go there (Elemental Mastery). You can tell when wild Elementals seek to influence you and others (seemingly random urges). This is the primary difference your journal should show from what really happens to you; you'll be making these kinds of editorial interpretations on everything worth noting.
Lessee, about a week ago, maybe more like ten days, I had a big argument with a couple of my friends. It was a big blowout with much hurt feelings (at least on my part, I haven't spoken to them since). I was talking about my Meticulously Deliberate and got a little to engaged with my Aristotle Would Be Proud Difficulty, but they completely misunderstood what I was talking about. I know that I'm super-deliberate and at least one of them definitely is not, but I was surprised by how much he missed that. Furthermore, it kinda hurt when the other jumped in and claimed he'd already had had my ideas, claiming they were already in print.
I came really close to calling it quits on these relationships permanently, but decided to give them both a second chance and try and explain it again (if I can keep the Aristotle Would Be Proud to a minimum). Probably because my Curiously Strong lead me to check in on them.
In game terms, my Self Elemental (Jester's Cap) was Dueling with my friend's Song Elemental (I didn't see it in the Corona) when I lost control of my Volcano Elemental (Gatling Sword; this happens when yer not in the Corona and you're a novice like me) and it jumped into the Duel. The other friend came in with his Self Elemental (probably to break it up or at least give us time to slow down), but it wound up having the reverse effect. He's not playing the game, but I'd speculate his Self Difficulty is something like Ivory Tower or some such. The first friend's Song Difficulty may be something like Likes Fighting (at least with me).
For the game, I might consider going over to the Corona and seeing why this happened. I mean, the second friend's attack seemed unjustified and uncharacteristically harsh and categorical (although secretly there may be someone on the Corona using my Literally a Problem to make me perceive it that way). If I were actually vindictive, rather than Aristotle Would Be Proud, I'd probably go over to the Corona and directly attack their Elementals in order to put them at a philosophical-thinking disadvantage when I make my attempt to re-explain what I meant, but I'm not.
Those 'Nearby' Spaces
The reason you don't see people's Elementals romping around the street everywhere is because
they don't exist
. That's right, they're a type of entity that cannot exist in or interact directly with the real world (or you'da noticed them by now). No, they appear in a place 'really, really, close' to reality. In the wild, they appear in realms congruent with their types, but even those are incredibly close to ours.
These places are called Corona because they exist as like a 'skin effect' where reality touches the Elements of the universe. Not every one of these will be Volcanic caves or Song-filled fields, the actual character of the personification of the Element can be quite eccentric. The real trick of it is that everything in the Corona is a direct analog of things in the same place in reality. (Even though two locations don't match up in terms of travel relativity between them in the Corona, each one matches to a place in reality.) If there's a chair in a room in reality, there'll be something in the same spot in the Corona. Some personifications in the Corona can be eerily similar to their real world analogs, but have some noticeable (if you know what to look for) thematized difference (outside of the absence of people - their [insert proper type of] Elemental holds their analogous positions).
The Clockwork laboratory: This one suits Multi-Bug to a "T." Every 'real world' room you go into is decorated (overlaid onto the reality furnishings) in early Universal Monsters: Frankenstein's Lab; there are electric-zap toys and steam pipes everywhere. The floors aren't well swept with bits and pieces of hundred of tiny watchwork inventions everywhere. Outside, all streets are fog-shrouded and dark, with the smell of coal fire and decay permeating everything. Streets are cobbled and plants are wilted. This is my apartment in the Blood Elemental Corona. If I fight to dominate my whole building, unbeknownst to my 'uninvolved' neighbors, their apartments will take on that aspect as well. If I manage to 'take over' the whole neighborhood, just think of the fun; but that's where a Sphere Difficulty can put you on the road to titanic conflict with much more powerful Elemental Masters.
Every Duel is one on one; one Elemental Master with one Elemental versus one Elemental Master with one Elemental. Only one Elemental may be employed
at any one time
, but swapping is okay (see below). (Otherwise it isn't a Duel it's cheating.)
Fairness issues are important (especially to Standing). Dojo Duels (more later) always have a referee; most other Duels do too. This is usually another player who 1) counts the rounds out loud - which is very important at times - and 2) remarks upon questionable tactics. Attacking an Elemental Master bodily is considered unfair and will force the attacker to lose Standing regardless how the Duel turns out. Anything else that might be considered cheating (in game or out) has the same effect.
'Special circumstances' often come up as a result of the arena the Duel is fought in (indoor Duels prevent flight abilities, and et cetera); usage of such only really affects the opportunity to use an ability, but should be watched carefully for cheating. (Hiding to heal is one common acceptable action, much like flying to 'stay out of reach.') Surprise during a Duel is unfair and any Duel that begins with surprise automatically costs the challenger Standing. (Things like 'tunneling' don't result in surprise, but instead give the attacker one round of complete immunity to all abilities before they attack; this can be handy with a slow Elemental because the opponent will not be able to attack first - or at all during that round - due to the 'tunneling.')
Duels are handled as a series of Rounds. During each Round:[/list:u]
[list=1][*]The referee (or anyone acting as time keeper) announces the Round number.
[*]Elemental Master's Actions are resolved first: Swap, Heal, Status, or Rout (and takes the place of that Master's Elemental's action)
Example: My Rusty Saber-Toothed Tiger has taken a lot of damage lately, I decide to forgo his turn and Heal him; I burn 2 points and his
goes up 10 points or to full, whichever is lower.
[*]Determine whose Elemental is faster (has the higher SPD or perpetual ability in effect that gives them 'first go' or ability whose Additional Effect is to go first) - resolve their action first
Example: This Round, I have Multi-Bug use his Blitzkrieg ability, which means even though his opponent has a higher
, the Blitzkrieg goes off first (and as usual I find myself wishing I'd taken the Trade-Off where I must burn a point of Power and the damage is doubled, because he faces a Volcano Elemental).
[*]There are no misses (except when affected by accuracy limiting abilities - those abilities fail on Rounds whose number is a multiple of the possessor's SPD)
Example: I know that if that Volcano Elemental hits my Multi-Bug, it'll run down his
in only a could of rounds, even with the 'Armor' he has. I use Chaff this round to make him harder to be hit; it changes the Volcano Elemental's Status to Blind and that means on every turn divisible by 6 (his
) he can hit Multi-Bug; this'll by me a little more time to 'take him out.'
[*]Finally, resolve slower combatant's action
[*]Make sure that both journals are updated with Stat and Status changes and go on to the next round.[/list:u][/list:u][/list:o]
At the moment an Elemental
gone, that Elemental is 'taken out' of play (returning to the person of the Elemental Master - where did you think they were, just hanging around?). An Elemental may not be actually destroyed until two conditions are met: the Difficulty associated with it must be transcended and it's Master must 'let it go.' A replacement Elemental may be 'sent out' at this point sacrificing a turn (just like any Master Action).
Example: I've just about 'taken out' my foe's current Elemental, but I expect him to swap to the one, that can do a 'Refresh' on his whole Team. To stop this I use the 'Taunt' ability I gave Rusty the Saber-Toothed Tiger; it prevents my opponent from using Swap as long as Rusty and his current Elemental stay in play. (This is one of the more intriguing Prevention Effects you can make up.)
Almost every aspect of Duel may have an ability that trumps it. All the Abilities, Statuses, Stat changes, and even Elemental Master Actions can be stopped by a Prevention Effect or reversed by a Change Effect. You can also force any of these using Change Effect. (Imagine forcing them to repeat their last action or making it so that they can only use Attacks.)
Example: Rusty the Saber-Toothed uses a 'Roar' ability to force my foe to Swap Elementals (scaring his Elemental 'away') instead of attacking.
Each Element is strong against two others; any effect it has upon the subject is doubled (except Status changes). Effects in reverse of this are halved. Abilities used by an Elemental of the same Elemental type as it is are also doubled.
Sphere is strong against Volcano and Self.
Blood is strong against Sphere and Song.
Volcano is strong against Blood and Self.
Song is strong against Volcano and Sphere.
Self is strong against Song and Blood.[/list:u][/list:u]
This means if a Blood Elemental uses a Sphere type ability with against a Volcano Elemental it does double the effect. If the Song Elemental had used a Song type ability against the same Sphere Elemental, the effect is quadrupled. A Volcano type attack from a Volcano Elemental against that barely-hanging-on Sphere Elemental does regular damage.
Burned and Poisoned
- Do damage each round, equal to ¼ of STR or M STR for that attack (often used as a Secondary effect to fire or poison-based attacks)
Frozen and Bound
- Halts all physical abilities (if the Elemental has to move to use the ability, it fails)
Attracted and Paralyzed
- Any ability usage fails on Rounds with numbers equal to the multiple of the Elemental's SPD. (The abilities of the Attracted Elemental only fail versus the opponent; things like self-inflicted abilities work fine.)
- When the Round's number is equal to a multiple
of the slower Elemental's SPD
the ability used by that Elemental acts upon the unintended Elemental/Team/Area.
Example: I say I'm going to have Multi-Bug use 'Recreate' to shrug off his
. My opponent reminds me that, as this is an even round and his Elemental's
is 2, Multi-Bug's is Confusion Status means it goes the other way. If I'd been paying more attention, I wouldn't wind up healing his Elemental for
. Yes, slower Elementals benefit from having Confusion Status affecting abilities.
- Cuts STR or M STR is cut in half until the Status is reversed
- Works like Attracted as well as on "Special Circumstances" requiring sight
- Stops all ability use by the sleeping Elemental (except those with the Trade-Off of 'only works while asleep;' good strategy for Elementals who recover HIT by 'napping')[/list:u]
Elemental Master's Actions
- Use of these always forgoes the action of that Master's Elemental that round.
- Switch to a different Elemental from team (make it in your journal any way you like)
- Burn one Power point (temporarily) per 5 points replaced (for whatever Stat)
- Burn 5 Power points (temporarily) to return 'taken out' Elementals to battle with ½ their normal HIT
- Burn one Power point (temporarily) to remove one Status irregularity
- The player and his Elementals run away (no parting shots allowed in 'fair combat' - unfair tactics brand the user with Standing loss - like running away does)[/list:u]
Power can be regained at a school, dojo, healing spring, in reality, or anything else the gamemaster comes up with (along these lines, see below).
Elemental Masters Duel for a variety of reasons. Prior to every Duel make sure you know what the result will be. Some Duels are over property and such, these stakes are easy to determine. Other Duels are a result of bets which are the same. In many cases, a Duel occurs out of a desire to 'show off;' one Elemental Master challenges another simply to raise their Standing and get bragging rights. (Some Duels occur for no reason than practice and leveling up; this is why most locations of healing are heavily guarded - it prevents two people from going there and just Dueling and healing until they reach incredible power levels.)
If a losing Elemental Master does not forfeit their stakes after the Duel, their Standing drops 5 points! That's why forfeiting before a 'total loss' is better than just running away (being Routed); you only lose 1 point of Standing by losing or forfeiting. Duelists can accept additional self-imposed restrictions on their Duels by mutual agreement (things like 'only two Elementals' or 'no using Power during the Duel'). Duels over 'high stakes' usually call for all Elementals to be employed and the loser has all of his 'taken out.' (Make sure to note the Standing changes and stakes gained or lost in your journal.)[/list:u]
The Rest part II
Each Duel you win is marked in your journal and as a 'hash mark' next to each of the Elementals used in the Duel. When you cross four 'hash marks' with a fifth, you may add or change one point of that Elemental's description. You might add a point to a Stat, exchange a new ability for an old one (of the same cost), or increase the Elemental's Character. Every Elemental begins play as a simple, relatively small or seemingly innocuous thing or creature; only being 'exercised' by an Elemental Master allows them to grow into complicated, intricate, or powerful beings (increase in Character).
The amount of Character an Elemental has is the 'creative limit' on what abilities it might have. In this game a change of Character requires a complete makeover. You are not allowed to (for example) simply add wings to your dragon Elemental; it must change significantly (and in such a way not to invalidate the abilities it retains); so a four-legged terrestrial dragon might transform into a hippogriff. A marionette might become a statuette or a shadow puppet. There must be some thematic semblance between former and new Character (but not necessarily throughout the whole of the Elemental's life). Only the Elemental's Master can determine what that change will be (but they can open the floor for suggestions); if it seems inappropriate either find a justification within the session (like capturing a new Elemental) or just razz them about it endlessly. (Cheaters shouldn't be played with; don't bother penalizing them.)
I Decide that it is high time I increased Jester's Cap's Character. For one point, I have him transform into a Jester's Costume. For a few more, he gains the ability to 'Tag Team Attack' with Gatling Sword for one Round (using Gatling Sword's
that round) without using a Swap.
One technique of note, nothing here says that every fifth 'hash mark' must be a 'crossing' mark; you can have just as many groups of four as you like. You can even cannibalize up to one clump of four to make as many others 'become crossed;' that way you can affect as many as four changes simultaneously (good for increasing Character or adding nasty abilities). This is yet another development strategy. (And don't forget that every crossed group adds one to the players Power.)[/list:u]
When someone opens a Portal into the Corona (the only way to get there from here), that person must to stay behind and act as an anchor. Such a portal is created when you 'go over' and destroyed when you return. Also an anchor can admit only one person or group into the Corona at a time. This means no one can send themselves into the Corona. If you exit someone else's portal, it is destroyed and whoever passed through it is lost. No one can open a portal into 'the real world'
A group should try to remain together or dire consequences will result upon the time of exit; if the group doesn't leave together, whoever is left behind is lost when the portal is destroyed. If they don't have the proper Elemental for the Corona they're on, they get thrown to a Corona for which they do (losing all Power). Without an anchor, they quickly drift about and get lost (while specific locations of Corona 'map' directly to places in reality, they don't share the same overall juxtaposition). There is no way to tell where you are going from place to place because such spatial relationships don't 'make sense' over there; an anchor allows a 'traveler' to locate places in the planned physical locales, but travel in between them in the Corona is instantaneous.
There is no limit to the number of Portals that may be opened at any real geographical point (short of 'how many doorways' would fit in the room), so you
pair off and send half the group on individual forays. (See gamemastering below.)[/list:u]
Dojos and Healing
It shouldn't be a surprise the number of people 'stranded' in the Corona. One of the benefits is that you don't age; the drawback is that after a number of days equal to the person's Power, they acquire Elemental traits of their own (making them appear 'more than human') making it impossible for them to ever return. Many of these people become experts of Elemental Mastery and open schools others 'take charge' of areas with special qualities, like healing springs (only places that 'contact with reality' has newly granted special qualities will be unguarded).
If you elect to subscribe to a school or dojo within the Corona, you may 'train' in the use of your Elementals. This allows sparring; sparring is a special kind of Duel (only available to native Elemental Masters) where you may Duel with fewer than your entire team
you receive a 'hash mark' just as though you were in a 'real Duel.' Furthermore, if the Duel takes place
the school or dojo specifically, all Elementals in this 'training Duel' are immediately healed afterwards. Nearly all 'trainers' will only have these kinds of Duels with people who have accepted some kind of subscription terms (like 'loyalty to the school banner' or 'must return weekly' or anything else the gamemaster thinks up when they are asked); a few will allow 'championship Duels' of this kind with wandering Masters of special note or ability (but this is rare in the west). Unlike normal Power recovery, if you add a fifth 'hash mark' while in a school or dojo,
all of your Power is restored.
Guardians are people (some of whom have gained so many Elemental traits that they almost appear to be Elementals themselves) who have chosen to remain in one location within the Corona, restricting access to it from travelers. The most common is a healing spring; at a healing spring, not only are all of your Elementals returned to full Stat levels and no Status impairments, but you also get all of your Power back. (This does not change the limit of time you can spend in the Corona, because that is gauged by you Power, but does not erode it.) Some springs only restore Elementals of their type, but these are uncommon (both this restriction and those imposed by the guardian are complications meted out by the gamemaster, see below). Very many healing springs take on the qualities of hospitals or spas and are guarded by helpful individuals (who are likely to restrict Duels
the spring, if anything; you know, Hippocrates and all).
Other special locations exist, but are left to the imagination, invention, and desires of the players. Outside of these and the above, the only way for a player to restore their Power is by staying out of the Corona; they get one point back for each day away.[/list:u][/list:u]
travel to the Corona simply to weaken the Power of your enemies in reality, but the world just isn't that simple. Every physical point in reality 'belongs' to someone either here or there in the Corona. Sometimes this is just because someone claims it, but often belongs to a fiefdom of more powerful Elemental Masters. What this means is that, while you might like to overwhelm that special girl's Volcano Elemental with your Song Elemental (making it easier for you to attract her), 'where she is' probably belongs to someone who doesn't take kindly to unsanctioned Duel (or she has a guardian or she's more powerful than you expected or...you get the picture).
The point is to deal with the problems the players have Difficulties with.
It's never that easy.
When a player is able to, in real life, deal with their Difficulties, they become 'freer.' This means that, while they may keep that Elemental, when it is not available they are not vulnerable to those kinds of attacks. There are as many ways to deal with difficulties as there are people who have them, but the trick (in the game and journal) is to see how the interplay between Elementals solved whatever the player has solved. If bravery is learned to deal with one's superiors, then the Volcano Elemental has triumphed over the players Sphere Difficulty (and so on). What really denotes true success with one's difficulties is when finds they are no longer concerned with what happens with that Element. (If you're right back to worrying about your standing in your job, then you haven't really dealt with your Sphere difficulty, have you?)
A person who has no Difficulties is immune to Elemental attacks of all kinds. (Ya get this a lot from Zen Masters.) If you lack a Difficulty in one Element, that means you are not weak to 'attacks' on that front. (A person who either 'has everything they want' or 'wants for nothing' can never be bribed; lacking a Sphere difficulty creates immunity to a Sphere type attack from a Song Elemental.)
Many times a person can find strength in their Difficulties. If you have a workplace Sphere Difficulty, you might turn this into motivation to 'succeed at your career' (and that includes choosing to change your venue, getting a new job, because it is always better to choose your fights then let them choose you).
All of these will appear in one's journal (that's right, you should be journaling the gameplay as well) and lead to interesting play possibilities in future sessions.[/list:u]
When someone opens a Portal into the Corona, they must stay behind as an anchor; this player then becomes the gamemaster. The destination Element is limited by the abilities of the player who 'anchors the portal' (if they lack an Elemental, you can't go to that Corona). There is no limit to the number of Portals that may be opened at any geographical point (short of 'how many doorways' would fit in the room), so you
pair off and send half the group on individual forays.
That's where your role-playing gaming group comes in; in something of a coincidence ('inside the game'), you all share the trait of Elemental Mastery instead of role-playing games. When you get together, you aren't there to play a role-playing game; you're there to travel into the Corona with each other's help and 'do stuff.'
When you are the gamemaster, there is no need to plan ahead. The players should have plenty of ideas about what they want to do (based on their journals); if they don't why don't you let them be the gamemaster? What a gamemaster does in this game is create and uphold the complications. (Who would want everything in the game to be easy?) These stem primarily from whatever strikes the gamemaster's fancy in terms of what might make 'what the players want to do' a little more difficult. A good gamemaster tries to tie the kind of complications introduced to either the players' Difficulties or Plans somehow.
Where do these come from?
From the Journals - If a player shares some of their journal with the group, it indicates that this is something to pursue. Dealing with Difficulties should always be a complicated affair (especially considering that the 'real world' outcome of Corona 'meddling' won't be known until the next play). Things shared which are not Difficulties or based upon them should frame the types of complications and rewards the player seeks.
From the Corona - Other traveling Elemental Masters, Schools, Special locations, and wild Elementals are just a few of the things that may cause complications along the path taken by the player(s). Don't forget to lay on a thick layer of 'aspected' Corona on the places that the players take the game to; that itself should create some interesting complications.
The frequency and intricacy of complications used in a game are driven by a couple of factors. First of all, your Power determines 'who is watching you' or 'out to get you' and that always leads to more troubles. The second is a matter of personal taste, if the group seems bored, use more complications, if they seem harried, use less (it never hurts to toss in an anticlimactic resolution when things seem a little too tough). Remember, these initial complications are picked pretty much out of the air; this means that their resolution or 'completion' should be driven first by what seem 'right' for the situation (the more plausible, the better) and (in a close second) by how hard things are for the group (don't antagonize them too much).
Another common source of natural complications comes from within the group. If the players decide to have problems with each other that's fine as long as you don't see it carrying over into the actual friendships at the table; that requires taking a breather from play. A little rivalry is fine, just don't let it hurt the relationships that brought you together to play in the first place. (A little respect should be practiced here, because these are the players' real personal problems; keep that in mind.)
As play progresses, and things 'get interesting,' you'll find that the players (by becoming more powerful) are more likely 'to get noticed.' Powerful individuals as well as coalitions and certain power-bases may take note of 'rising stars' and either combat them or 'put them to use.' One of the most common situations is that someone (or group) of relative influence will take steps, not necessarily to block players, but more likely to 'aim them' at that person's foes (through trickery mostly). Standing or Power are what attract these complications the most and this is commonly the result of the escalation of complications.
As you can see from my journal entry, the gamemaster has much to work from. There could be something influencing my friends, either from reality or the Corona. There might also be someone influencing me the same way (considering the speculation I included). How I put everything in Elemental and Difficulty terms helps him make up who, what, or how this situation was created. The only suggestion I'd make is be careful journaling about people you play this game with, you might find out some uncomfortable things (or they might).
[/list:u]Where do all these 'other guys' come from?
To make things quicker and simpler, everyone takes a hand in creating them. Often the gamemaster will come up with the personage (if not implied by someone's journal), if nothing immediately comes to mind, anyone can suggest something. Archetypes are best (because anyone can be an Elemental Master), but so are 'people the players have never met.' Just describe the individual to whatever extent seems appropriate (whoever first 'faces them' is the one who journals their appearance). From that point, each player tries to come up with a Difficulty and an Elemental until 'enough' are found to fit the 'level of complication' desired by the gamemaster. After that, each Elemental is brainstormed by the group for 'most likely abilities' and up to five are chosen. The most important thing in this process is speed; close enough is better than wasting time and any point of contention should cause both sides to be eliminated (these are just 'secondary characters,' don't sweat the details).
Once complete, these extra characters become the responsibility of the person whose journal they reside in (copying them over transfers this responsibility). Where the journalist isn't battling the character, he takes their role for Dueling; the gamemaster handles the personalities and dialogue for them (with the oversight of the journalist of that character - to keep things consistent). When an extra character's journalist Duels with them, the gamemaster becomes the Duelist.[/list:u]
What happens when you do something in Corona and it doesn't seem to affect reality (as seen later in real life)?
This means something mitigated the eventual results (probably after the fact). The exact character of what caused the Elemental Master's actions to go for naught are a matter for the gamemaster to think up during the initial 'sharing phase' of the next session. (Each session of the game begins with a time where all the players share, from their journals, relevant happenings from the period between sessions. This is where the things that happened in the last game are compared to what 'really happens' afterwards. Players are also encouraged to share anything interesting that they'd like to impact play in the current session.)
That mitigating factor (especially if the player has journaled some explanation for any 'discrepancy') becomes the basis for one of the complications in the next session of play (based upon the journaling of the player they affect). For example, if you 'go after your boss' and he doesn't seem weakened the next day, something must be helping him out. During the next meeting, you can go into the Corona and discover what caused this. If 'your boss' acts differently, but not how the 'go after him' should have affected him, how your journal describes the differences should inform the gamemaster what kind of choices to make for that complication (if you haven't guessed at what caused in your journal; remember, the journals are key to what happens).[/list:u]
To maintain the interest of players (when necessary),
escalate the complications.
Once you have created at least one complication per player, when necessary, work to escalate them into larger complications (using techniques like 'reveal that it is only the tip of the iceberg' or '...and
told two friends' or 'his dad can beat up...you' or 'that
to someone more powerful' or et cetera).
Once all of those complications have all reached 'major complication level' and interested 'the powers that be' (at whatever power level that seems appropriate to your tastes - remember there are always 'higher powers' in every situation that don't need to be involved), start merging these into a couple of 'sources of complication' (or factions) and set these against each other according to 'what makes sense' in the game.
Let the actions of the players 'tip the balance' between these 'major sources of complications.' If the players so desire, they may certainly become agents of a power, but that is hardly the only way to involve them. You can also have them sought by 'the major opponent' (for even personal reasons) or turn out to be 'a vital ingredient' in some upcoming change (remember the "trickery"). Things in the Corona can get extremely Machiavellian and even Draconian. The point is, keep the players important to the 'major powers' they have become embroiled with. (And do it cleverly and overtly, that way it gets journaled properly for future reference and maintains the 'integrity of The Dream.')[/list:u][/list:u]
Fang Langford is the creator of
Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic
. Please stop by and help!
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Reply #97 on:
May 16, 2003, 02:43:10 PM »
Gah! Not enough time... 'fraid I'll have to bow out.
Besides, my idea has taken a decidedly narativist drift...
Covenant - A story game of failing conspiracies
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Vesuvius! -- She's Gonna Blow -- Again!
Reply #98 on:
May 16, 2003, 05:41:01 PM »
From outside the Iron Gamer Kitchen Studios, there's an enormous explosion! Security cameras placed around the studio parameter pan wildly, finally focusing on a gigantic blue monster stomping towards the studio!
"Ota! What's going on out there?"
"Fukui-san! It seems as though some giant, blue man-beast is headed this way. It seems to be holding onto something. Luckily the Tokyo Defense Force is mobilizing to stop the beast. They've even rolled out the Toho Special Weapons Truck. Certainly nothing can stand up to the 14,000 tetrawatt plasma projector cannon!"
"Well, it certainly sounds as if things are under control..."
"Go ahead, Ota."
"The monster has utterly decimated the TDF and has just eaten the Special Weapons Truck! It's now just outside the Studios!"
There's a huge commotion in the studio as a portion of the roof comes crashing down. Camera men and junior chefs run wildly about as the Chairman glares disapprovingly. The other Iron Chefs, deep in concentration, hardly pay heed to the massive hand that reaches down and deposits something on the table. A massive booming voice rings out.
"Uh...here you go...man...this is actually tougher than the 24-hour contest. I hope the Chairman and esteemed judges will appreciate my humble dish."
We are Family:
Before creating your individual character, the players first need to sit down as a group and work out the collective connections. All the characters in the game are related to one another. They are a family of Roman citizens living in Pompeii. Starting the game as a fairly wealthy, patrician family with a manor and a staff of slaves lets you explore various facets of the game without worrying too much about money or influence. But you can certainly choose to portray a less-prosperous family without any real difficulties, as money and power are very tenuous things in the game.
You'll need to work out how you're all related to one another. Some of you will be siblings, others will be of an older or younger generation. Try to keep relationships fairly tight. A large family with lots of uncles and aunts and cousins and the like will be difficult to run effectively. Try to limit the number of NPCs (wives, children, siblings) to an absolutely minimum. This ensures that the game stays focused on the PCs. One slot that absolutely must be filled is Family Head. This is the oldest male in the family and provides the foundation for the relationships within the family. It can be filled by a PC or NPC depending on what the group wants to do.
Once you've picked a position in the family, draw up a family tree to show how everyone is related to everyone else. Then, the Family Head defines how he relates (personality-wise) to his siblings (if any), then his wife, and then how he relates to his children (starting with the oldest) and their spouses (if any). If a given role is filled by an NPC, the PC talks it over with the GM. If it's filled by a PC, the two players should try and work out how their two characters interact with each other. Ideally, there's some little story or anecdote you can tell that describes how the two of you relate to each other. Something as dramatic as: "Even though he was honored by the Senate for his service in the Legion, I never bothered to show up to see it” or as tame as: "We'd always go fishing together when we were children, some of the happiest memories of my childhood".
Once the Family Head has gone, his wife (if any) does the same. Followed by any other siblings of the Family Head and their spouses. Then the children of the Family Head take their turn. The order of definitions starts with the oldest generation and goes "across" from oldest to youngest members of that generation. Spouses of family members go immediately after that member takes their turn. Once you've gone through a generation, you move "down" to the next oldest and start from the oldest member of that generation, going "across" and "down" until everyone's gone. Any NPCs controlled by the GM get a turn like everyone else.
When your turn comes up, you get to define your relations with your siblings, then your spouse, and then your children. That's it, you'll define your other relations later on. If you've already defined your relations with an older sibling, you don't need to do it again when your turn comes up.
Once the youngest member of the youngest generation has gone, you define the relations you have with any other family members not already covered. This time the order is reversed, so you start with the youngest member of the youngest generation and work backwards up to the Family Head. There's no particular order in which you need to define relations when your turn comes up.
So once you've gone through this process, you should have a pretty fleshed out family. You should have a good idea of its social status and wealth and how everyone feels about everyone else. Although these discussions will set up some of the internal drama for the game, it's not necessary to have a dysfunctional, soap-opera-like family. Every family has a few rough spots here and there, but on the whole, most of them get along more or less.
Now you can go on to detail your individual character.
Your Reason for Being:
Every person on the planet has a special purpose, a reason for being here. Maybe they're destined to lead a nation, or compose a song, or write a book, or kill an innocent man, or be a raging alcoholic, or just be standing on a certain street corner at a certain time. Sadly, this isn't conveniently written down anywhere and most people never fulfill their purpose.
You're like most people. You've got a purpose but you never really got it right. What is it? Write it down on a slip of paper, memorize it, and give it to the GM. The only people who need to know about the purpose are you and the GM. No one else needs to know. Your character doesn't even know. It's a big, fat secret.
A Sense of Self:
There are two base attributes -- Physical Capacity and Mental Capacity. These represent your potential, both in terms of how well you can perform Physical or Mental Skills and how many of them you have.
All attributes and skills have a Level and a Rank. The Level is a general measure of how good you are at a given skill and is grouped into colors (similar to how there are different "belts" in
martial arts like white belt, black belt, etc.):
Black -- Sub-Human -- Any human on Earth could do a better job at the task -- even if totally untrained in the skill. No human will have a Black Level skill unless there are extreme situational modifiers. This Level is usually reserved for insignificant non-human opposition.
Blue -- Below Average -- Most human beings can do a better job at the task if they have any level of training.
Green -- Average -- This is the Level of skill the average human has if they're trained/practiced. They aren't exceptional, but they can perform pretty much all the major functions of the task without too much difficulty. Only particularly complex or specialized functions will give them problems.
Red -- Above Average -- The best trained and most talented humans perform the task at this Level of ability.
White -- Superhuman -- No human being can hope to complete a task at this Level without extreme situational modifiers. No human can ever have a White Level skill and it's usually reserved for non-humans or flat-out impossible tasks.
Within each Level, each skill and ability has a Rank. A numerical value from 0-10. This represents how well the character is performing right now and the higher the number, the better you're doing. So one day you may have an 8, the next day you might have a 4. Overall, you're still as good as other people at your Level, the Rank just represents the small daily fluctuations.
Skills are generally written with the name of the skill followed by the Level and Rank, as in, Politics Blue-8.
Your character starts with the following:
Physical Capacity: Green-X
Mental Capacity: Green-X
The X means you roll a d10 for each capacity and use that number for your starting Rank (count a roll of 0 as 10).
You can raise one Capacity to Red Level by dropping the other Capacity to Blue Level if you choose.
You now have 5 points to spend on Physical Skills and 5 points to spend on Mental Skills. Skills are pretty open-ended and left up to each player to create. It's OK for two different players to have similar skills with different names. The only restrictions are that you can't pick skills that wouldn't be available to a Roman citizen (so no Open Heart Surgery Skill, no Chinese Literature Skill, etc.). You can't give yourself magical or supernatural skills, although you might know a lot about Religion, Mystery Cults, the Occult and so on. Skills can be as narrow as "Lace Up Sandals" or as broad as "Merchant", but broad skills should only be about as large as an occupation. A Skill like "Good at Everything Mental" is right out. The game assumes that you know/can do just about anything the average Roman citizen would need to know/do in order to get by. So you can speak Latin, you understand the culture you live in, etc. There's usually no need for really basic day-to-day skills although you can certainly buy them if you wish.
You should show your proposed skills to the GM. If the GM feels that a skill is too broad or wouldn't be available to your character based on the guidelines above, you may be asked to make some changes or amendments. Also, some skills (especially broader ones) may seem to be based on both Mental and Physical Capacities. For example, Sailor is a broad, occupational skill and it covers a lot of activities from navigation to rowing. In some cases, the GM may decide a skill falls squarely into one Capacity or another, however, that same reasoning should apply to any similar skills picked by other players. On the other hand, the GM can (and should) be willing to provide some leeway in this regard assuming you can come up with a good argument as to why you think a skill should be based on a certain Capacity. In our Sailor example above, the player argues that his character spends most of his time handling the piloting and administrative duties on board the ship so he feels that Sailor should be a Mental Skill. This is certainly reasonable and the GM should probably allow it. If another player buys Sailor as a Physical Skill, claiming that he worked the oars of a galley, it's perfectly fine for the GM to allow this as well. The GM might ask players to clarify or narrow their skill a bit to better reflect everyone's vision of the work being done. The player who chose Sailor as a Mental Skill might rename it to Captain Ship for example.
It costs one point to buy a skill at the Level of the Capacity it's based on. Thus, a Green Level Skill based off a Green Level Capacity costs 1 point. You can buy a skill at a higher Level or a lower Level if you choose. It costs 2 points to buy a skill one Level higher than the Capacity, or 4 points to buy a skill 2 Levels higher. Conversely, you can spend 1 point to buy 2 skills one Level lower than the Capacity, or 4 skills two Levels lower. You can't buy a Skill at Black or White Level.
To show you your options consult the following table:
If your capacity is Blue you could get:
5 Blue Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 1 Blue Level Skill
2 Green Level Skills, 1 Blue Level Skill
1 Green Level Skill, 3 Blue Level Skills
If your capacity is Green you could get:
5 Green Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 3 Green Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 2 Green Level Skills, 2 Blue Level Skills 1 Red Level Skill, 1 Green Level Skill, 4 Blue Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 6 Blue Level Skills
2 Red Level Skills, 1 Green Level Skill
2 Red Level Skills, 2 Blue Level Skills
4 Green Level Skills, 2 Blue Level Skills
3 Green Level Skills, 4 Blue Level Skills
2 Green Level Skills, 6 Blue Level Skills
1 Green Level Skill, 8 Blue Level Skills
10 Blue Level Skills
If your Capacity is Red you could get:
5 Red Level Skills
4 Red Level Skills, 2 Green Level Skills
4 Red Level Skills, 4 Blue Level Skills
3 Red Level Skills, 4 Green Level Skills
3 Red Level Skills, 2 Green Level Skills, 4 Blue Level Skills 3 Red Level Skills, 8 Blue Level Skills
2 Red Level Skills, 6 Green Level Skills
2 Red Level Skills, 4 Green Level Skills, 4 Blue Level Skills
2 Red Level Skills, 2 Green Level Skills, 8 Blue Level Skills
2 Red Level Skills, 12 Blue Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 8 Green Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 6 Green Level Skills, 4 Blue Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 4 Green Level Skills, 8 Blue Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 2 Green Level Skills, 12 Blue Level Skills
1 Red Level Skill, 16 Blue Level Skills
20 Blue Level Skills
Roll a d10 for each skill to get your starting Rank.
Some players may get the bright idea of taking a Red-Level Capacity and then buying up 20 broad, occupational skills at Blue Level. They may claim that their character "was a rich goof-off who's really smart but never applied himself to anything" or that "I'm a jack-of-all-trades, but rather than take that Skill (which I thought might be too broad), I bought up all the trades I'm jack in separately, just to be more fair". Such players aren't playing to the spirit of the game and should really reconsider. Not only is it highly unlikely that anyone goes through 20 different occupations in an entire lifetime, but taking this route will only hurt them in the end. At Blue Level, even untrained people have a chance of doing as well or better than them.
Characters will tend to do better if they have a strong focus, a couple of complementary skills and a few, weak, unrelated skills to round out the set. Also, remember that the PCs are all part of a family so they may have certain skills in common. A family of weavers might all have skill related to weaving or textiles for example. They don't (and shouldn't) be clones of each other, but having a common skill like that helps link the characters and strengthens the idea that they're family.
Once you've gotten all your skills written down, you're ready to play. But first, we'll explain how you use your skills to get things done.
Task Resolution: How do you get things done?
When your character wants to attempt something, look up the relevant skill on your character sheet. So if you are attempting to audit the records of a business, you would use something like Accounting, or Business Management.. If you don't have a directly relevant skill,
you can request to use a skill that would have some bearing on the task at hand. If the GM agrees that the skill could be used in this case, you can make the substitution. The GM may assign a penalty depending on how relevant the skill is. This may be a 1-point reduction in Rank if it's really close or you may lose all your Rank (having an effective Rank of 0) for really tangential skills. In our example above, if you didn't have a relevant skill you could subsitute Math (at a -1 penalty, if any) or Gambling (probably at a -2 or -3 penalty) or Law (probably losing all your Rank). If you don't have any skills that apply to the task at hand (or can't convince your GM that your character has such a skill), then you can use your base Mental or Physical Capacity score (whichever the GM deems appropriate) at a 1-Level Penalty. In our example, if you had a Red-Level Mental Capacity, you could use it as a Green-Level skill in Accounting.
The other character or chracters you are competing against will be picking the skills they feel are most relevant. They don't necessarily have to have the exact same skill as you (or vice versa), they just need to have something appropriate that the GM approves (possibly with penalties). In our foot race example from earlier, you may use your Run skill, one of your opponents may use Sprinting, another may use Athletics, and another may have to rely on their base Physical Capacity. In cases where there are no opponents, the GM will choose a Level and Rank based on the difficulty of what your character is attempting. This represents the opposition of "the world" as in the wall-climbing example earlier. So that wall with handholds might only be Blue-4, while the sheer, slick wall might be a Red-8.
Now you simply compare skills with your opponent(s). The victor is determined as follows:
* Higher Levels beat lower Levels. So a Red-Level skill beats a Green-Level skill which beats a Blue-Level skill.
* If Levels are Tied, higher Rank beats lower Rank and you switch Ranks. So a Green-6 beats a Green-2, but you then swap the Ranks, so Green-6 is now Green-2 and vice versa. If there are multiple opponents at the same level, each character transfers their Rank to the person on their left at the table. The GM is included in this shuffling for any NPCs involved in the contest (assume they're all sitting together at the GM's chair and pass along their Ranks like everyone else). Also, if there are multiple opponents at different Levels, you only swap Ranks with opponents at your Level. If your Level has been reduced due to a penalty, you still swap Ranks because the "effective" Level is the same.
* If Ranks are Tied, Compare Capcity. The GM declares which capcity, Physical or Mental, is involed. Usually this is obvious, it would be the Capcity used if the character didn't have any relevant skill for this contest. If you were already using the Capacity as a default skill, you will use it again, but this time without any penalties. As before, you determine the winner based on the higher Level, followed by the higher Rank (and be sure to swap the Ranks). If it's still a tie, then it's just a tie and no one wins. If a tie would be a satisfactory outcome to one or more participants (i.e. as long as you can't win I'm happy), then the GM should feel free to impose some minor penalty to those participants (i.e. I stopped you from climbing the wall but I got hurt in the process, or I looked bad in front of someone I'm tyring to impess, etc.).
That's all there is to it. A few examples are in order:
Bob is trying to navigate a boat out of the harbor. Bob has the Sailor skill at Green-8 and it's a nice day out with a favorable wind. The GM rules that this should be no problem for Bob and sets the challenge at Blue-5. Green beats Blue so Bob has no trouble sailing out.
Later, the wind turns and the waters get a bit rougher. Bob declares he wants to keep trying to hold his course. The GM decides he has to win at another contest. This time, the challenge is Green-5. Bob's Green-8 means that he manages to handle the wind and waves, but because they tied on Level, they have to switch Ranks. So now Bob has a Green-5 in Sailor.
Still later, Bob is trying to sail back into the harbor at Pompeii. Of course, it's gotten late, the volcano has blown it's stack and there's a dense, choking cloud of ash which is rolling out over the water. Safely making it back to shore is going to be a real trick. In fact, the GM thinks it's a Red-5 challenge. Bob's boat gets hopelessly turned around and winds up running aground on some breakers. The boat is damaged and Bob has no idea where he is.
Now consider that footrace. We'll say there are 7 people competing in the race, 3 PCs and 4 NPCs. They are:
Andy -- With a Red-5 in Athlete
Bob -- With a Green-8 in Sprint
Cindy -- Cindy has no relevant skill so her Green-8 Physical Capacity is used at Blue-5
NPC1 -- Green-3
NPC2 -- Green-6
NPC3 -- Green-8
NPC4 -- Red-4
NPC5 -- Blue-5
So, first we look to the Level. Based on Level alone, the race looks like this:
Red: Andy, NPC4
Green: Bob, NPC1, NPC2, NPC3
Blue: Cindy, NPC5
Now we need to compare Ranks. Now the race looks like this (Skill Rank is in parenthesis):
Red: Andy (5)
Green: Bob(8), NPC3(8)
At this point, there's a tie that needs to be resolved, but first, we swap Ranks. So now:
Andy has a Red-4
NPC4 has a Red-5
Bob has a Green-8
NPC1 has a Green-8
NPC2 has a Green-3
NPC3 has a Green-6
NPC5 has a Blue-5
Cindy was using her Green-5 Physical Capacity at a penalty, so she swaps the rank with NPC5 and winds up with a Green-2 Physical Capacity.
Finally, we've still got that tie between Bob and NPC1. So the test goes to Physical Capacity. Looking at the two scores involved:
It's clear that NPC1 beats Bob. So the final results of the race are:
If a group of is working together to resolve a contest use the following method to determine the Group’s final Level and Rank:
1. The character with the highest Level is the “main” character in the group and it’s his skill that will be used in the upcoming contest. If more than one character is in the same Level, then the PC with the highest Rank is “main”. In the event of a tie, pick one of the eligible characters.
2. All characters working with the “main” character who are at a lower Level add 1 to the Rank of the “main” character. Characters who are working with the “main” character who are equal in Level add 1 Level to the “main” character. If this would take the “main” character beyond Red, the extra characters add +5 to the Rank of the “main” character. The "main" character's Level can only go up by 1 no matter how many additional helpers of his Level there are. Additional helpers who are at the "main" character's Level past the first one simply add +5 to the "main" characters Rank. Compare the final, adjusted Level and Rank between the “main” character and the group’s opponent (who may also be a “main” character if two groups are squaring off). The “main” character and the opponent will swap their skill Ranks if that's necessary, the assisting players don't.
So if you had the following team:
Their combined score as a team would be Green-13. Blue-8 would be the "main" character. Blue-5 would raise Blue-8 to Green-8 and Blue-2 would add another 5 points making him Green-13.
Combats are handled the same way as any other contest. The winner of the contest determines what happens to the loser (captured, wounded, unconscious, dead, etc.). While this may seem a little harsh, (and unfair to people without monster combat skills) remember that in Vesuvius, no one stays dead longer than a day. The next morning, the Last Day starts again and everyone is fine (or as fine as they were that morning). So there's not much point in spending effort covering the issue except for two points:
1.) If you're using a weapon against an unarmed person, your skill gets bumped up 1 Level. If it's already Red, add +5 to your Rank instead.
2.) If you've surprised or ambushed your opponent, their effective Level (for whatever skill they use to defend themselves) will be Blue. For most NPCs, a few days of study will allow a PC to figure out the best place and time to strike (barring some sort of interference from PC actions). For other PCs, the GM will have to determine if you've made adequate preparations. And yes, you can have skills like Set Ambush or Avoid Ambush to use in combat situations like this (or to prevent the loss of Level).
The First Last Day:
The first play session will establish what you did on the Last Day of your life. You need to decide where you woke up that morning and who you interacted with. Because some of these interactions may be with other PCs or important NPCs, this is a group activity. You'll need to discuss possible interactions and find ones that the Players agree on (although certain Characters may find the interactions to be less than fruitful).
An easy way to manage this is to create a log showing where you were, when you were there and what you did. These logs will be collected into a master file for perusal by players and GMs who want to remember how events originally transpired.
This is also your chance to add some details to the game world. Pretty much anything or anyone you see today becomes a permanent fixture. It'll happen over and over and over. So add some cool people or events as landmarks or as something to experiment with in the early days of the game. Maybe someone takes a fall and hurts themselves. You'll be able to prevent that fall the next time around.
This session is meant to be fairly freeform and unconcerned with rules. However, there are a few key elements that must happen during the session. While this may smack of railroading, remember that this is an important element of character creation. This is your origin story describing how you got to be who you are. If you don't meet these elements, then you won't be in the game. The key elements are this:
* No PC gets killed. That happens at the end of the day.
* Every PC shows up at a central location (probably the family estate) by 10PM. If you get on a boat and sail away from Pompeii, you're not going to be in the game. The explosion caught people almost completely by surprise, you'll be one of them.
* At around 11pm, Vesuvius explodes [ed. not really true in actual history, good enough for this game]. A roiling cloud of hot ash and fiery rock descends on the city. The place the PCs are located at is quickly covered. The temperature is unbearable. It's almost impossible to see or breathe. There's nowhere to run to. Then the Family Head utters a prayer, a plea of desperation. A dark prayer to Saturn, father of the Gods, eldest of the Titans and master of Time. A prayer to save the family. Then there is nothing but darkness and the taste of ashes...
...and then the PCs wake up.
The Second First Day:
So now the game begins in earnest. Your characters wake up in the middle of the night. Probably they think it was all just a bad dream and turn in. But the increasing deja vu all day followed by yet another explosion that night will prove that there's a lot more going on.
Go ahead and play out the next several days as the PCs come to realize when they reach the end of the day, they jump back to early the previous morning. Play out their reactions and their efforts to better understand what's going on. Over time, they'll figure out that certain rules govern their new existence. These rules (along with some basic terms) are listed below. The PCs probably won't formalize these terms and rules in the same way, but they should eventually believe them:
is a PC or NPC who jumps back in time and relives their lives.
is the day that Vesuvius explodes.
The Time Travel Rules:
* Travelers wake up just after midnight on the morning of the Last Day. They can go back to sleep or get started with their day, however they see fit. They'll be fully rested in any event.
* Travelers have total freedom of action and aren't required to relive any events they experienced on their first Last Day. All other non-Traveler NPCs will relive the Last Day exactly unless acted upon by Travelers.
* When a Traveler dies or sleeps after midnight of the Last Day, they "reset" and wake up just after midnight on the morning of the Last Day. They wake up in the same physical condition and location they did on their first Last Day. Any physical items they may have acquired during the previous day are "reset" to where they were that morning. Only the Traveler’s knowledge remains intact and Skill Ranks that may have changed remain change.
Those are the basic rules. There are a couple of clarifications:
1.) Play out a day until all the Travelers have died, or gone to sleep. Everyone resets and starts a new day together. This is called a round of play.
2.) Although Travelers can seriously alter the course of events, the "Butterfly Effect" should be seriously toned down or disregarded for most events. This means that if a Traveler stands in a slightly different position or inhales a second earlier than in the first Last Day, it's not going to throw the entire event sequence into chaos. Active interaction with the sequence of events and the fallout from those actions are what really matters and what needs to be considered.
3.) Unless interfered with by a Traveler, there are no "random events". Making a quiet side bet at the right time is easy money. Once a Traveler gets seriously involved though, anything can happen. Most truly random events aren't that big a deal, but for those that are the GM can just roll a die.
Practice Makes Perfect:
With an unlimited number of "days" in which to practice, there's almost no skill that a character can't get better at. However, focusing in one area means that other areas will suffer and training is even more boring in an RPG than it is in real life.
Generally speaking, a group should agree that they want to take some time to change their skill set and then block off some game time to make the changes. They don't need to play through the time it takes to learn the skills. It just gets glossed over. Assume that all the characters are focused on their personal learning projects and there aren't any other problems to worry about. Remember, there aren't many "time sensitive" issues anymore. Though training periods will cover a span of days equal to a few years, it's not that big a hardship for anyone to wait through it.
During training time a player can either:
1.) Swap Levels between two different skills. Rank stays the same. By focusing on this skill it gets better while the other one gets neglected. During a training phase, a player can make two such swaps.
2.) Replace any skill with another skill at the same Level and Rank as the one being replaced.
At some point, the full impact of the situation the Characters are in will strike home. They can run riot and do whatever they feel like with pretty much no consequences whatsoever. Allow plenty of time for players and characters to get their fill of this. They can go off on a tear and do all sorts of wonderful or horrible things to anyone and everyone. But for even the most jaded of characters, the novelty will eventually wear off. The problem is that since there are no consequences, there’s nothing meaningful to do. Until they start listening to the songs.
Songs of the Soul:
Travelers will also discover that if they concentrate on a Non-Traveler they're looking at, they'll start to hear a song. Some are louder than others, some are more complex or complete than others, but none of them seem to be fully realized. If the Travelers cause changes in the Non-Traveler’s sequence of events, the song will also change a little bit. Some actions will cause the song to become less distinct, others will strengthen and enhance the song.
What the Travelers are hearing is that Non-Traveler’s Soul Song. The song is at it's loudest, most fully-realized when the Non-Traveler fulfills their ultimate purpose on Earth. Based on what most Travelers hear, Non-Travelers have a lot of work to do.
The song can't tell you what the specific purpose is, but the nature of the song (martial, romantic, heroic, creepy) often gives you a general idea. The rest is found through simple trial and error. Travelers cause changes in the sequence of events and see what happens to the song. If Travelers interfere with the sequence of events and actually help the Non-Traveler fulfill their purpose, something magical happens for the Traveler. The Soul Song of the person they helped will ring loudly in their ears (no matter where they are when it happens) and a shimmering, musical ball of light will appear before them and then enter their bodies. These Magical Spheres are used by the Traveler to enhance their powers and abilities. A Sphere is given to each Traveler who helped shape the events that lead to the Song's completion. Once a Non-Traveler has had their Song completed, they are said to have been harvested and they can't be manipulated into creating any more Spheres. The Non-Traveler will continue to replay the events in their lives day after day after harvesting. The only change is that now the Non-Traveler no longer has a Soul Song. If focused on, all you hear is silence -- just like other Travelers. It's clear that harvested people haven't become Travelers, but it's not as certain if the Traveler’s absence of Song is proof that they've fulfilled their purpose. Just another mystery for Travelers to delve into.
Spheres -- what is it they're good for?
A Magic Sphere is potential. When you earn one, it flies inside and lies dormant until you choose to take advantage of it (it "resets" with you every day). Most of the time you'll have a use for it right away, but you can always save it up for later.
When you decide to use your Sphere you can use it to do one of the following things:
* Raise a Capacity or Skill by one Level. You can't go past Red as usual.
* Learn a new skill at the Level of the relevant Capacity. Unlike other training this doesn't replace an existing skill, this is a brand-new skill.
* Raise a Capacity or Skill to Purple Level for one contest. This is the only use of a Sphere that isn't permanent.
* Claim the person you harvested the Sphere from as a Shell. When someone is your Shell you can choose to possess their body by concentrating on them before getting a full night's sleep (or on your Last Day). All your capacities and skills remain the same, you're just inhabiting their body. While you inhabit your Shell, your body will simply replay out all the events of its life just as if it were an Inactive Traveler. Shells have no memory of what happens during the time they are possessed. You can have multiple Shells and once you claim a Shell you can use it as many times as you like. Once claimed as a Shell, that person can't be claimed by anyone else. If multiple people try to claim a Shell at the same time, it goes to a Mental Capacity Test to see who gets it first.
* Push the day you reset back by one. This means the first time you use a Sphere this way, you now wake up the day before the Last Day, live out that day, the Last Day and then reset back to the day before the Last Day. The full ramifications are discussed below.
* You can Return the Sphere. You simply expel the Sphere and it flies out and dissipates. There appears to be no effect, good or ill, for anyone if you choose to do this.
Extending your "replay" time is probably one of the more useful things you can do with the Spheres. Once characters start doing this we introduce some new terms and a couple of modifications to the original Time Traveling rules from earlier:
is the day you wake up when you reset. Your Last Day is the day after which you reset back to your Start Day. At the beginning of the game, the Start Day and Last Day are the same. As characters use the Spheres, the Start Day will move back.
is one who is between his Start Day and Last Day. An Active Traveler has complete freedom of action. An
is one who is before his Start Day. Inactive Travelers are much like NPCs in that they relive the past exactly unless acted by Active Travelers.
Alterations to the Time Travel Rules:
* Play begins with the Traveler whose Start Day is furthest in the past and moves forward until everyone has completed their Last Day and resets.
* Until play reaches a Traveler’s Start Day, they relive the past exactly unless acted on by Active Travelers. For all practical purposes, they are treated as Non-Traveler NPCs (although they have no Song). They have no knowledge of anything that occurs in the future nor any of the memories or skills they gained as a Traveler. Once play reaches a Traveler’s Start Day, they become Active with complete freedom of action and memories of their life as a Traveler (including skills, knowledges, improved capacities, etc.). Players should keep a copy of their original character sheet to use when playing their Inactive Traveler. If acted on by an Active Traveler, the Inactive Traveler is totally under the control of the owning player and can react however the player sees fit. Remember that an Inactive Traveler has no idea that they will become an Active Traveler, nor of anything that will transpire in their future. So there are some constraints on the choices of appropriate reactions.
* Every Traveler plays out the period between their Start Day and Last Day. If they were acted upon by an Active Traveler so that they are in a different physical location, they begin their Start Day at the new position. The Traveler won't remember the actions that produced the change in location -- they just woke up in a new place. Disturbing the first few times, most Travelers will soon realize that someone has been messing with their Inactive past.
* If an Active Traveler kills an Inactive Traveler, the Traveler still plays out their period. On the Traveler’s Start Day, the Traveler will wake up in the body of a Shell, a person they've harvested a Magic Sphere from who isn't claimed as a Shell by any other Traveler, a distant relative, or any non-Traveler on Earth (in that order of precedence). The exact person is randomly determined if there's more than one choice in a given category.
* As Travelers push their Start Day back further and further, they begin the game at a younger and younger "age". Although unlikely to happen in most games, it's theoretically possible for a character to push their Start Day back to their birth or even earlier. To do so, you'll need to have a Shell who was alive before you were born. When your Start Day comes up, you'll always start in that Shell unless you have other Shells to choose from.
When the Start Day gets pushed back by any player, all Players should pause the game and plot out what they were "originally" doing on that day. This is similar to the how the first Last Day got played out. Players determine what their Character did during that day and who they interacted with. Interactions with other PCs should be handled with those Players and interactions with major NPCs should be handled with the GM. The only critical event that must happen during that day is that the PCs wind up where they will wake up the next day. Once this day gets plotted out, you can resume normal play. Add the records of this day to the play log for future reference.
Into the Future:
The big question for most Travelers is if there's anyway to live past their Last Day. The answer is that it's possible but very difficult. Every Traveler has a Soul Song that can't be heard. Their purpose and how close they are to it are a complete mystery. Only the Player and the GM know what a particular character's purpose is, but even the character usually has no idea of what it might be. If a Traveler manages to help fulfill another Traveler’s purpose, they'll harvest the Traveler. By claiming the Traveler as a Shell, the claiming Traveler’s Last Day becomes the Last Day of the harvested Traveler if it's later than the Last Day currently held by the claiming Traveler. This means that harvesting your fellow PCs doesn't do you much good since your Last Days are identical, though the Magic Sphere can be used for any of the usual purposes.
Once a Traveler has been harvested, they lose their Traveling abilities and become just another harvested Non-Traveler.
The Three Stooges ran better black ops.
Don't laugh, Larry would strike unseen from the shadows and Curly...well, Curly once toppled a dictatorship with the key from a Sardine tin.
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Reply #99 on:
May 16, 2003, 06:30:11 PM »
ah! the oven timer tells me that the meat is almost thoroughly cooked; I've added a heavy dose of Arcadians to the soup, and I'm finishing the final bit of seasoning!
of course, I'm fully expecting Jared to get it this time... because come on: who *doesn't* want to spend the next six months referring to Jared as "Iron Game Chef Simulationist"?
ooops, I think a cyclops is trying to get out of the pan... back in a few...
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Reply #100 on:
May 16, 2003, 07:35:08 PM »
Daemons of Strife and Love
a role-playing game based on the sayings of Empedocles
Quote from: Empedocles of Acragas
There (in the sphere) are distinguished neither the swift limbs of the sun, no, nor the shaggy earth in its might, nor the sea, -- so fast was the god bound in the close covering of Harmony, spherical and round, rejoicing in his circular solitude.
Kalinia clambered calmly and carefully up the slope towards the crater, as she had done with daily reverance since first she heard the teachings. she could already hear the burbling of the magma boiling above her, could smell the acridness of the brimstone.
perhaps it was this hellish symphony of the senses that distracted her enough to allow the men to surprise her.
she turned when she heard the rough voice of Eurystheus. he and two other men from the village were scrambling up behind her.
"you must return with us, woman!" Eurystheus bellowed. "you must answer for your blasphemy!"
"poor Eurystheus," Kalinia murmurred, "you do not see that it is blood sacrifice that is the true blasphemy."
"silence!" Eurystheus shouted, lunging to grab her wrist. but with preternatural ease, she stepped to one side, dodging his motion, then scrambled further up the slope, closer to the crater.
"you do not know what you do," she continued, backing away from the men now. "the ox you chose to offer to Zeus could have been your grandfather's father, or your mother's great uncle. you stain your soul with murder."
"do not speak filth, Kalinia!" Eurystheus spat. "when the elders sit in judgement, do you wish them to condemn you death?"
"condemn?" she asked. "perhaps many lives from now, you will understand death as I do."
and without turning, without a trace of fear, she threw herself backwards to the flames of the volcano.
Introduction: the Shape of the World
Quote from: Empedocles of Acragas
For it is with earth that we see Earth, and Water with water; by air we see bright Air, by fire destroying Fire. By love do we see Love, and Hate by grievous hate.
Daemons of Strife and Love
takes place in a fantasy version of ancient Greece: pleasant hills and light woods broken up by volcanic ridges; the people are simple, bronze age farmers and craftsmen occasionally called to set aside their tools and take up arms in endless tiny wars.
religion is simple: there are gods who must be respected and may even smile upon mortals with favor if offered a proper sacrifice. each
may have a few full-time priests and a dedicated temple, but just about any head of a family or village elder can dedicate a small shrine and offer a prize ox to the gods. live a good life and sacrifice well, and you might be taken to the Elysian Fields after death; otherwise, your lot will be shadows and dust.
in the middle of this sometimes pastoral, sometimes violent life, the philosophers appeared to spread dissent. in their heresy, the world was made of four eternal elements (earth, air, water, and fire) changing according to the movement of two forces,
(Strife). at the very beginning of the world, the four elements were intermingled harmoniously together in a sphere, joined together by Love; Strife entered from the outside, seperating the elements into the individual objects we perceive, driving Love into the center of the sphere. upon death, the stuff of living beings is recycled, even the daemon that inhabits the blood returns to the fire from whence it came, only to be reborn in a new body.
the philosophers choose the path of Love over Strife, because the only escape from the cycle of death and rebirth is avoidance of Strife. to escape rebirth and become eternal, the philosophers avoid spilling blood, eat only plants, cheese and milk, and refrain from anger. they attempt to spread the message of Love to all those trapped with them in the prison of Life.
their friends, family and neighbors see this message as evil itself. stop eating meat? how is a man to grow strong? stop making war? that is treason against the
and the act of a coward. stop sacrificing to the gods? that is blasphemy! everywhere the philosophers go, they are met with hate and anger.
but you must not give in to Strife. you must stay true to Love.
System: Conflict and Resolution
Quote from: Empedocles of Acragas
For even as they (Strife and Love) were aforetime, so too they shall be; nor ever, methinks, will boundless time be emptied of that pair.
before discussing how to generate characters and handle death and rebirth, it might help to briefly describe the way the game is played. one player, the gamemaster, will describe the events in the world as they happen; the other players, playing the role of philosophers, describe what the characters do and how they respond. many times during the game, there will be conflict: can the philosophers escape the angry warriors? can they untie the ox and free it from the sacrifical pen? can they heal the injured woman? can they convince the guard to free them from their cell?
any time a conflict needs to be resolved, the player rolls several six-sided dice and compares them to one of the character's primary abilities; for more difficult tasks, the player rolls more dice. the character sheet may also list some useful traits, which can reduce the number of dice rolled (or add to the number of dice an opponent rolls.) if the total rolled on the dice is less than or equal to the character's ability score, the character gained the advantage; otherwise, the character lost the advantage.
in some cases, a conflict may go exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly for the character. whenever at least half the dice rolled show the same number (three 5s rolled on five dice, for example,) this is called special success or special failure; whether it is a success or a failure depends on the total score on the dice (a total greater than the ability score used is a failure, a total less than or equal to the score is a success.) if
of the dice show the same number, it is a critical success or a critical failure.
to put this another way: the total value of the dice indicates success or failure, while the number of matches indicates degrees of success or failure.
any game of
Daemons of Strife and Love
is going to contain lots of conflict. for one, the characters are at odds with the world around them: they are true believers with a message of Love surrounded by Strife. for another, the characters do not advance by withdrawal and inactivity, but by seeking out conflict and attempting to diffuse it. characters gain experience
the player must roll the dice; they gain more experience if they act to prevent Strife, and even more experience when they succeed.
characters have two primary abilities: Blood and Breath. Blood covers any material or physical acts (feats of strength and dexterity, applied crafts, even the physical senses,) while Breath represents the soul and includes not only thought and conversation, but also magical power.
there is another ability: Strife. Strife is used in a special way: it allows phenomenal actions, either by boosting Blood or Breath or by allowing a daemon (disembodied character) to affect the physical world. however, the downside is that any use of Strife increases Strife -- and decreases a character's chance of being reincarnated as a higher being. this will be covered in more detail later.
one brief note on the system: it is designed to be faithful to the feel of a specific setting, not to "realism" or "historical accuracy". when attempting to roll a boulder, for example, the difficulty increases if the boulder is more massive than the character attempting the action -- but there are no tables to determine exactly how much weight a character can push or lift; it can vary, depending on how much effort the character can exert. when the gamemaster makes rules judgements, the question asked should be "is it logical?" not "is it realistic?" the setting of
Daemons of Strife and Love
obeys the simpler ancient greek physics instead of the detailed physics of the modern world.
Characters: Birth and Rebirth
Quote from: Empedocles of Acragas
For I have been ere now a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird and a dumb fish in the sea.
Daemons of Strife and Love
, all the players take the role of philosophers who believe in the teachings of Empedocles. the characters know the truth about the world and the cycle of rebirth; they know that if they lead base lives filled with Strife, they will be reborn in a lower form of animal; but if they adhere to Love, their daemons will be drawn to higher and higher forms until they are finally freed from rebirth as beings of pure fire, virtual gods that live in the highest sphere, the Empyrean.
to create a character, players first construct their
, the immortal soul that inhabits the blood of their character and passes from the body at death to be reborn. daemons have only the three abilities mentioned previously: Blood, Breath, and Strife. Strife begins at 10, although it may change later. Blood and Breath begin at 7 each, but these can be increased.
players have a pool of 10 points to improve the character's abilities or purchase traits when the daemon incarnates. thus, Blood could be increased to 10 and Breath to 12, leaving 2 points for traits to flesh out a somewhat cerebral or mystical character.
traits are divided into four categories, based on the four classical elements. each element has its own distinct area on the character sheet, since the number of traits in each category will affect the pattern of rebirth. characters won't begin the game with very many traits, but they will still be fairly competent and can improve quickly. all traits work in a very simple way: they either add dice to an opponent's die roll (passive use) or subtract dice from the character's roll (active use.)
Active trait use
lowers the difficulty (dice rolled) for actions using a specific object or performed in a specific environment.
Passive trait use
raises the difficulty (dice rolled) for all opponents in specific situations, or for specific opponents in any situation.
the number of points spent on a trait indicate the number of dice (+ or -) used to adjust the roll. no trait should be more than +/- 3 dice.
here are some typical traits for each of the four elements. more can be added with gamemaster approval, as long as they fit the setting and meet the restrictions above.
are traits of the environment the character lives in, rather than traits of the character's mind, body or soul; these include possessions or social status.
[*] gold (bonus when spending money)
[*] property (bonus when looking for equipment at home)
[*] good family (social bonus with friends of the family)
[*] renowned warrior (social bonus with other warriors)
are physical traits, either based on a body part (active trait) or on resistance to an extreme condition (passive trait).
[*] long legs (bonus to move when walking/running)
[*] thick hide (bonus to resist damage)
[*] resist heat
[*] hold breath (bonus to avoid drowning or breathing poison)
are what might otherwise be called skills, crafts, or knowledges; it allows using, making and identifying crafted objects or specific environments.
[*] sword (swing a sword, identify quality blades)
[*] shield (make a buckler, block a blow)
[*] woodlands (track game, hide in underbrush, spot animal)
[*] rhetoric (persuade, entertain with speech or writing)
are magical traits that grant characters supernatural abilities, including magical control of specific beasts and the ability to defy natural laws in specific situations.
[*] summon/control satyrs
[*] breathe water
[*] fly on the wind
[*] pass through stone
one final note about the character's first incarnation: a player can gain extra points to spend on Blood, Breath, or Traits by increasing Strife. the exchange rate is:
Quote from: Strife Bonus Table
+1 Strife = +1 point to Blood, Breath or Traits
+2 Strife = +2 points
+4 Strife = +3 points
+7 Strife = +4 points
this may seem like a great trade: more points to spend in exchange for
the ability to use Strife. however, increasing Strife now means probably spending a life as a goat or chicken later.
other than these simple starting characteristics, players should also choose their character's name, write a brief description, and add a few comments about the character's life up until now.
one thing seems to be missing: "hit points". different physical attacks and adversity may cause damage, which is treated as a penalty called a Wound (essentially, a temporary negative trait.) damage will be covered in detail later, but the important thing to note here is: any time a character with a Wound is injured again, the player must roll dice equal to the Wound to avoid dying.
... which isn't as horrible as it sounds, since death merely releases the daemon from the blood. while dead, a daemon cannot use the Blood ability, use any Traits, or affect the physical world; a daemon
communicate easily with its fellow philosophers, communicate with difficulty with others, and observe or move through the world. a daemon can attempt to affect the physical world by using Strife as an ability score, but this automatically increases Strife by one point each time it is attempted. any time the player is ready, the daemon can return to the flames from whence it came and reincarnate.
when reincarnating, the player must first make a unique Strife roll of four dice to determine which direction on the Ladder of Life the daemon will move: if the total is greater than Strife, the character will be the same form as before (a human reincarnating as a human, etc.) if the total is less than or equal to Strife (i.e. Strife wins the roll,) the character reincarnates in a lesser form. special failure moves the character down two rungs, while critical failure moves the character down three rungs; special success moves the character up a rung, or up two rungs for critical success.
here are the "rungs" of the Ladder of Life:
[*] fiery being
[*] aerial being
[*] demigod or nymph
[*] human being
[*] half-beast or monster (cyclops, satyr, centaur)
[*] large carnivore (mountain lion)
[*] large herbivore (goat, ox)
[*] small animal (rat, rabbit, weasel)
[*] cold-blooded vertebrate (snake, lizard, turtle, fish)
[*] invertebrate (crab, snail)
starting characters should be human beings, although if the players and gamemaster can agree on a good reason, a player can choose to start on a lower rung.
unlike the first incarnation, reincarnated daemons do not change their ability scores and lose all previous traits. new traits are gained in a development phase using a special set of rules: add up the total dice adjustment for each group of traits to create an Earth score, a Water score, an Air score, and a Fire score. the player can now describe up to four important events in the character's early life that
give a chance to learn traits specific to that event ("captured by pirates, then escaped" could yield an opportunity to learn to swim or learn to use a sword, for example.)
for each event, roll two dice against the total elemental score. if the roll is less than or equal this total score, the character can add traits, reducing the Earth score one point if an Earth trait is added, for example. after four rolls, or all elemental points are spent, the character's new incarnation is finished; if there are any elemental points left over after the four event, they become experience points, which will be explained later.
Setting: ... and I Am Already in Arcadia
the setting of
Daemons of Strife and Love
, Arcadia, is loosely based on mythic Greece. Arcadia is a warm climate with rolling hills, small woodlands, and volcanic mountains (some still active.) farmers grow grain and tend orchards; herdsmen raise sheep, goats, swine, and cattle. the ox is central to the agricultural society of Arcadia: it is used for meat, field-plowing, transportation of heavy burdens, and sacrificial offerings.
several towns and villages have grown large enough to support craftsmen of many kinds: potters, bronzesmiths, sculpturs, builders. the technology is Bronze Age, but vibrant and prosperous. the market areas are a center not only for commerce, but debate and education.
government is by the consensus of the wealthy property owners, except in a time of crisis; then, a man may be selected as the all-powerful ruler, the
. in theory, the tyrannos would step down when the crisis is over, but some have refused to do so... and some never waited for a crisis, but simply siezed power because they were able.
the social hierarchy of the typical Arcadian town starts at the bottom with the slaves. just above slavery are the poor free Arcadians, who labor for other wealthier families. above them are the artisans of various sorts, then the landowners. there is usually some stratification within each rank.
priests are an exception; how a priest is treated depends on the circumstances. in theory, a priest is a religious specialist: an artisan. in some wealthy towns, the temple owns quite a bit of property, in which case the high priest may be treated as a landowner. however, in strictly religious situations, priests will be treated as above landowners, perhaps even equal to a tyrannos.
life in Arcadia is not perfect. slaves and the poor do not have pleasant lives. those who are better off still have quarrels with each other, sometimes even vendettas. towns bear long grudges against other towns, sometimes leading to war -- and in war, everyone must become a soldier, whether trained or not. and even in the absense of man-made violence, there's plague, famine, and wild beasts.
and supernatural dangers. beast-men and other half-creatures occasionally roam the wild places; sometimes, a centaur band or a mantigora will terrorize a village. to the ordinary Arcadian, these half-creatures are the remnants of divine actions; to the philosophers, they are creatures left over from a more chaotic period. either way, they are far more brutish and dangerous than ordinary brigands; they have accumulated more Strife.
The Details: Bestiary
for most creatures, you will only need one score, Strife, plus scale ratings for speed and size, as well as the beast's traits. most beasts will only have Water and Air traits, although there are some interest possibilities for Earth traits ("lives in brambles" could be used to lead pursuers into a damaging trap, for example.) magical creatures may have a Fire trait; they should probably never have two Fire traits.
Strife for beasts is used as an ordinary ability rather than a boost to another ability. since higher Strife also mean a greater experience point bonus, this means that the more dangerous a creature is, the more a philosopher has to gain from facing the danger non-violently.
Speed and Size Scales are measured in terms of doubling and halving, with "human size" and "human walking pace" being the norm (Size/Speed 0.) thus:
Scale ---- Size Example/Speed Example
[*] bear/human trotting pace
[*] ox/human sprinting
[*] cyclops/deer running speed
for negative size scale numbers, try: -1 = medium-sized dog, -2 = badger, -3 = large house cat, -4 = large rat.
base Strife numbers are set according to the animal's eating habits:
Strife 4 -- doesn't eat, or eats something unseen
Strife 7 -- herbivore
Strife 10 -- omnivore
Strife 13 -- carnivore
reduce Strife 1 point if the creature normally lives in herds or flocks (smaller social groups do not adjust). also reduce Strife if it is a domesticated animal.
increase Strife 1 point for each of the following: hunts, prone to rage, cruel, vengeful, lustful, solitary, timid. half-creatures and beast-men should also add 2 points to Strife.
do not use the adjustments for reincarnated philosophers: they keep whatever Strife they have, until the characters take an action that changes their Strife.
[*] ant (Size -20, Speed -10, Strife 9)
probably the smallest creature philosophers will see.
not a major problem, but they can bite, and travel in swarms.
change the Size to the size of the swarm, and allow damage
to reduce the size.
[*] bear (Size 1, Speed 0, Strife 11)
typical Traits: Woodlands, Thick Hide
[*] boar (Size -1, Speed 1, Strife 10)
typical Traits: Grasslands or Woodlands, Thick Hide, Tusks
[*] goat (Size -1, Speed 2, Strife 8 domestic, 9 wild)
typical Traits: Horns
[*] lynx (Size 0, Speed 2, Strife 15)
typical Traits: Woodlands or Hills, Claws
[*] ox (Size 2, Speed 0, Strife 5)
typical Traits: Horns, maybe Stampeded (for the wild variety)
[*] ram (Size -1, Speed 2, Strife 6 domestic, 7 wild)
typical Traits: Horns, Surefoot
[*] rat (Size - 6, Speed 2, Strife 10)
typical Traits: Teeth
[*] snake (Size -3, Speed 2, Strife 15)
typical Traits: Fangs, Poison
[*] stinging insect (Size -16, Speed -8, Strife 7 to 9)
typical Traits: Poison or Swarm
treat these a lot like ants, if desired
[*] wolf (Size -1, Speed 2, Strife 13)
typical Traits: Woodlands or Hills, Fangs
[*] centaur (Size 1, Speed 2, Strife 14)
typical Traits: Bow, Spear
centaurs usually travel in bands, unlike most other half-beasts.
[*] cyclops (Size 3, Speed 0, Strife 19)
typical Traits: Club, Sharp Nose
solitary and bestial, but some of them are good smiths
[*] lamia (Size 2, Speed -1, Strife 19)
typical Traits: Fangs, a Fire Trait like Sleep
solitary vampiric snake/woman hybrid
[*] mantigora (Size 1, Speed 1, Strife 19)
typical Traits: Tail Spikes, Teeth
another solitary hybrid, this time tiger/man; can throw spikes
[*] satyr (Size -1, Speed 1, Strife 17)
typical Traits: Pan-Pipes, Wine
sometimes solitary, sometimes in small bands, very wild and lusty
Higher Beings: most Higher Beings should be assigned Blood and Breath scores; they are not monsters to be killed, but sources of wisdom and aide.
[*] demigod/nymph (Size 0, Speed 1, Strife 7)
typical Traits: a Fire trait or two, an Air trait for their home.
these are the blessed inhabitants of the Hebrides, the dryads of the woods, the nereids of the sea, the rivergods, the heroes returned from the shadows of Hades.
[*] aerial being (Size 0, Speed 3, Strife 4)
typical Traits: Mountains, Fly, Control Winds, and other Fire Traits.
the inhabitants of the lower heavens live in the clouds and dance upon the mountaintops; they have vaporous bodies and cannot be harmed by a fall from any height.
[*] fiery being (Size 0, Speed 4, Strife 3)
typical Traits: Fly, Control Winds, Create Light, other Fire Traits.
the inhabitants of the upper heavens rarely come down as far as even the peaks of the tallest mountains; they have bodies of pure light that still resemble images of earthly forms, unlike the spherical, perfect gods that dwell beyond the Empyrean.
The Details: Goods and Services
the primary means of exchange in Arcadia is barter, although there are the occasional silver talent to be found. rather than use price lists, goods should be rated as "common", "rare" and "very rare"; common goods have a 2-dice difficulty, "rare" is 3 dice, and "very rare" is 4 dice. this is adjusted by any Traits the item may have; Cheap, for example, makes a tool more difficult to use, but lowers the difficulty of finding or purchasing the tool, as does Broken.
item difficulties are also adjusted by Size. when searching for an object that is twice as small or large as usual, the difficulty increases by one die, with every doubling or halving adding another die. when bartering, it's the Size of the item desired versus the Size of the exchange offered that determins the die adjustment to the more valuable item. haggling rolls are similar to the opposed contests described later, with each side determining the difficulty of the item they are offering for trade and rolling to see the results.
here are some items and common item Traits:
[*]common: wood, stone, cloth, wool, meat, beer, bread, fruit
[*]rare: bronze, silver, gold, purple dye, salt, wine
[*]very rare: iron
[*]generic negative Traits: Cheap, Broken, Ugly
[*]generic positive Traits: Fine, Strong, Famous
[*]weapon Traits: Sharp, Hard
[*]armor Traits: Thick, Hard
The Details: Arcadians
although beasts and monsters can be reduced to a single Strife score when no communication is planned, an Arcadian should be represented with Blood, Breath, Strife and Traits, exactly as would a philosopher. however, the magical effects of Breath and Strife boosting should be reserved for philosophers (you might give a priest a Fire Trait or two, however... )
the scores and typical Traits of Arcadians can be based off their social class and profession:
[*]slave: Blood 7, Breath 7, Strife 12, no Traits
[*]freeman: Blood 10, Breath 8, Strife 11, Farm Trait
[*]artisan: Blood 10, Breath 12, Strife 10, one of Clay, Bronze, Sculpture, Building, Brewing, Weaving or another craft
[*]merchant: Blood 10, Breath 12, Strife 10, Coins, and an artisan's craft
[*]brigand or warrior: Blood 12, Breath 10, Strife 14, Shield and Pilum or Sword
[*]priest: Blood 10, Breath 12, Strife 10, Sacrifice, Song, or Stageplay
[*]aristocrat: Blood 10, Breath 10, Strife 10, Property, Coins
these are all general examples; for a specific Arcadian, Blood/Breath/Strife can be adjusted as appropriate and other Traits added.
Situation: Events and Experience
Quote from: Empedocles of Acragas
There is an oracle of Necessity, an ancient ordinance of the gods, eternal and sealed fast by broad oaths, that whenever one of the daemons, whose portion is length of days, has sinfully polluted his hands with blood, or followed strife and forsworn himself, he must wander thrice ten thousand seasons from the abodes of the blessed, being born throughout the time in all manners of mortal forms, changing one toilsome path of life for another. For the mighty Air drives him into the Sea, and the Sea spews him forth on the dry Earth; Earth tosses him into the beams of the blazing Sun, and he flings him back to the eddies of Air. One takes him from the other, and all reject him. One of these I now am, an exile and a wanderer from the gods, for that I put my trust in insensate strife.
Daemons of Strife and Love
is a game about tough situations. the characters are philosophers firmly committed to reducing Strife, but many of the events the GM will describe during play will seem difficult to deal with; if bandits are raiding and killing travellers along the road to Solonika, how do you stop the killing without spilling blood yourself? and what is the benefit of doing so?
conflict resolution was described briefly in the introduction, but here is a more detailed description, using an example of stealing a lamb about to be sacrifed and carrying it to safety. suppose Kalinia, an Arcadian woman who has discovered the cycle of rebirth, has Blood 12, Breath 9, and three Traits: Long Legs, Deal with Merchants, and Hill knowledge (all at +1). Kalinia's neighbor, Lukanthos, plans to sacrifice a lamb to ask the gods for a blessing on a newly-built home. Kalinia has been telling Lukanthos about the Truth recently and thought he had seen the light, but now fears he is sliding back into Strife. she decides to steal the lamb tonight and take it to a safe place.
the GM tells Kalinia's player that, since Lukanthos is a simple man without fear of his neighbors, there are no substantial barriers to stealing the lamb, but two rolls are required: one to sneak into the yard without being seen, then a second to sneak out of the yard carrying the lamb. the first roll will be of average difficulty (3 dice,) the second roll will be more difficult (4 dice).
Kalinia's Traits are not really applicable here, but she has a high Blood score, which is what a purely physical act would use. she rolls three six-sided dice and gets 6, 3, 1: a total of 10, which is a success, but no matches, so it's an ordinary success. she enters the barn without being seen.
taking the struggling lamb and attempting to silence it, Kalinia's next roll is a more difficult four-dice roll. she gets 1, 3, 6, 3: a total of 13, with half the dice matching. that is a special failure. the GM rules that not only is Kalinia spotted, but the startled shouts of "hey! who is that?" cause her to lose her grip and the lamb breaks free. Kalinia's player decides to let the lamb run loose for now ("perhaps it will evade them on its own," she says,) and instead run to avoid capture and positive identification.
since this has become an opposed conflict, it requires a little more attention to details about who goes first and what is said. Kalinia's player and the player running the opponent (typically the GM) follow this procedure:
[*] the two sides each declare their intended action;
[*] the basic difficulty is determined (i.e. how many dice each will roll);
[*] the GM decides which traits can modify the dice rolls;
[*] both sides roll their dice, with the high roll gaining initiative;
[*] the dice are interpretted in terms of effects;
[*] if necessary, follow-up rolls are made (damage, for example.)
for this kind of conflict -- a race -- what matters is the success or failure.
- both Kalinia and the villager chasing her succeed equally:
the chase continues.
- both Kalinia and the villager fail equally:
the chase continues; if the failures are special or critical, a complication may take place.
- the villager fails, or Kalinia has a higher degree of success:
Kalinia evades him.
- Kalinia fails, or the villager has a higher degree of success:
the villager catches up (special and critical can add further complications.)
in addition to these possibilities, which would be the same for most conflicts, the GM mentions one other possibility before the race begins: if one person loses initiative one round (but rolls a success) and gains initiative the next round (and rolls a success), the second success is one degree higher... so Kalinia could escape the villager even with fairly average rolls, or the villager could catch up.
here is how the chase is played out: Kalinia's player announces Kalinia will run out of town, towards the hills; the GM announces the villager is in pursuit. the villager is fairly average, no special Traits to bring into play, so the GM sets Blood and Breath at 10 each. the difficulty for both would be average (3 dice,) but the dark of the night raises the difficulty to 4 dice. Kalinia, however, has the Long Legs trait, so all her rolls will be with 3 dice.
- first round: Kalinia rolls 2, 5, 4 = 11; villager rolls 2, 1, 3, 4 = 10.
Kalinia won the initiative, so she pulls ahead first, but the villager manages to keep up the pace.
the chase has now reached the hills. Kalinia can now use her knowledge of the Hills to evade the villager. she now rolls only two dice, which means she should succeed on every roll; she only rolls for initiative and to determin if there's a critical success (she can't get a special on only two dice.)
- second round: Kalinia rolls 4, 4 = 8; villager rolls 1, 1, 3, 1 = 8.
both are tied for initiative, but Kalinia's roll counts as a critical, which matches the villager's critical. the chase continues.
- third round: Kalinia rolls 5, 2 = 7; villager rolls 6, 3, 6, 3 = 18.
the villager wins initiative, but gets a special failure; the GM describes a complication for the villager that allows Kalinia to escape... this could be anything from tumbling back down the hill to getting caught in brambles.
all of this die-rolling produces something else for Kalinia: experience points. these have been briefly mentioned before: they are one important means of character advancement (the other means being actual play. if Kalinia seeks out someone in the game world to teach her a trait, she can add that trait without spending experience points.)
what actions are worth experience points? at the most basic level, any action that requires a die-roll. characters earn 1 experience point for every die of difficulty. this only applies to die rolls made while
, however. also, characters get bonus experience from removing Strife.
-- if a character keeps blood from being spilt, the character
earns experience points equal to the potential victim's Strife.
-- if a character convinces an opponent to give up anger and
violence (at least for the time being,) the character earns
experience points equal to the opponent's Strife.
-- if a character successfully heals another person's injury,
the character earns experience points equal to that person's
-- if a character solves any other problem potentially dangerous
to others, the character earns experience points equal to
the character's own Strife.
so, for the above episode: Kalinia made a 3-dice roll and a 4-dice roll during the rescue of the lamb (it doesn't matter that the second roll failed); that is worth 7 experience points. if she had carried the lamb to safety, that would have been worth another 5 or 6 experience points (for the lamb's Strife.) as it is, she still gets points earned from the chase: a 3-dice roll followed by two 2-dice rolls, for 7 more experience points.
how does the GM set difficulty dice? in general, just use 3-dice rolls. most of the time, this will only vary if Traits are involved, although environmental factors can be treated as pseudotraits -- the race took place in the dark, so the GM treated Darkness as trait that increased the difficulty of the rolls. anything simple and easy doesn't require a roll, nor does anything outside of a conflict where the degree of success doesn't matter; if Kalinia sings softly to herself while cooking breakfast, she doesn't roll for either singing or cooking.
the dice can also be affected by Speed and Size judgements. trying to pick up a 12-foot-long log (Size 2) would be a 5-dice roll; catching a fish in a stream (Speed 3) is a 6-dice roll. nearly impossible tasks can be set arbitrarily as a 10-dice roll.
players can have their characters work together on tough rolls. this does not reduce the difficulty of the task, but it allows them to add together ability scores. three philosophers lifting that Size 2 log will have more luck, since their total Blood score will probably be around 30.
physical actions have been covered pretty well, but what do characters use Breath for? one use is mundane: influence. if Kalinia argues with Lukanthos the next day that sacrificing the lamb is wrong, she can make a 3-dice roll against Breath to see if she influences him. this might be affected by other conditions: did he tell the whole village of 150 people that he would make the sacrifice? that's the equivalent of a Size 7 obstacle ... + 7 dice! does she offer to pay for the lamb? does she think of a plan to make the villagers believe the lamb was sacrificed?
the other use for Breath is magic. there are actually three kinds of supernatural actions, two of which use Breath. one is simple magic: any philosopher can use Breath to perform any action that would normally require a Blood roll. the difficulty of the action is calculated exactly as if it were a normal action, but one logical restriction is removed. for example, Kalinia could have replaced her first roll to steal the lamb with a Breath roll to magically call the lamb to her (removing the logical requirement that she would have to speak to call to a lamb.) she could use a Breath roll to see inside a room without opening the door (removing the logical requirement that she can't see through walls.) none of these rolls cause anything to happen that appears miraculous; it all appears coincidental.
the second use of Breath for magic is with Fire Traits, which allow some mild flashy effects. Fire Traits can also be use with Blood, however, so this is really just a special case of the first kind of Breath magic.
the third kind of supernatural effect is to boost rolls with Strife. a player can add a character's Strife score to either Blood or Breath to have a better chance of success on the roll, but this automatically increases Strife by 1 point. the downside of this is that a philosopher is more likely to be reincarnated as a lower form, as explained earlier. this could start a slide back into lower and lower life forms until the philosopher fails to reincarnate as an animal at all, becoming lost forever.
this isn't the only way Strife may increase. any time the character causes anger or fear, or spills blood, the Strife of the victim "attacks" the character: roll three dice and compare to the victim's Strife. success means the character gained 1 Strife from the emotional or physical violence involved; special success means 2 points of Strife, while critical success means 3 points of Strife.
this is one of the follow-up rolls that can occur in a conflict (mentioned in the race example.) another follow-up roll is the damage roll, which occurs when one opponent hits another. the victim makes a Blood roll, with the dice difficulty determined by the size of the weapon, increased by the Sharp trait, and decreased by armor worn. if the damage roll fails, the victim adds 1 point to Wounds, 2 points on special failure, 3 points on critical failure. the first time an uninjured character gains a Wound, all that happens is the Wound is recorded; future actions take a 1-die penalty until all Wounds are healed. if a Wounded character is wounded again, however, the character must make another Blood roll, with the difficulty equal to the Wounds; on a failure, the character dies. the GM can allow two more actions before death on a normal (not critical) failure, or one action on special failure, if it seems appropriate.
to heal a Wound, a character can attempt a Breath roll against the difficulty level of the Wound; success means the Wound decreases by one, two, or three points. there should be an intervening action between healing attempts, which may involve searching for healing herbs or fixing soup. a character will also heal naturally, making one Blood roll every day against the difficulty of the Wound to see if 1, 2 or 3 points are healed. and remember... a character using Breath rolls to heal another means earning experience points, perhaps quite a few.
this pretty much covers all the ways to earn experience points, but what do you
with them? you spend them. characters do not keep track of total experience points earned, but instead earn a few, spend them on a benefit, earn a few more, and so on.
experience points in
Daemons of Strife and Love
are also a bit unusual compared to other RPGs in that they are used to buy
. this comes from the assumption that the way a character improves is by training; Kalinia could seek out a fiery being from the upper heavens to teach her Flame Breath and this would cost no experience points at all -- it would just require a few rolls, and some role-playing. experience points are a shortcut; they indicate that good fortune as a result of a character's actions have given the character an "off-screen" chance to improve something. every improvement purchased in this manner should be described by the player as an event.
to learn a new Trait, spend 10 experience points for every +1 die adjustment. to improve Blood or Breath, spend 40 experience points. reducing Strife also costs 40 experience points; this is the only way to reduce Strife -- to actually experience life and reflect upon those experiences.
Color: the Heart of Volcanic Fire
Quote from: Empedocles of Acragas
For he is not furnished with a human head on his body, two branches do not sprout from his shoulders, he has no feet, no swift knees, nor hairy parts; but he is only a sacred and unutterable mind flashing through the whole world with rapid thoughts.
to round things out, here is some advice for the GM on running adventures in Arcadia, as well as some special cases that may come up.
first, the gamemaster should not be in competition with the players. the gamemaster represents the world and attempts to provide interesting settings and situations for the characters to explore. nor should the gamemaster actually plot out the actions of the character, but instead develop events that occur in the village and the surroundings: a big feast-day is coming up soon and hundreds of oxen are to be sacrificed, or one of the aristocrats is scheming to become tyrannos, or a rival
wants control of the trade along the river, or a centaur band has kidnapped some children.
the GM should not need to railroad in the slightest. just toss out events and ask what the characters do. if they chose to do something else, work off what they choose, and let the other events brew on their own. in theory, all of the above events mentioned could happen on their own, without any character intervention; they would just pick up gossip about what is happening, or see the end results of it all.
but eventually the characters are going to do something -- anything -- because they need to reduce their strife in order to ascend the Ladder of Life and eventually become one of the translucent, glowing spheres that dwell beyond the Empyrean. the players will quite possibly come up with far more trouble than the gamemaster can think of all alone, as long as they are involved in the setting.
the general cycle of the game thus works like this: the players establish their new characters, and with the GM develop the tensions between the philosophers and the village they live in. it should become obvious where the players want to explore next, so the GM can work up the conflicts that will present themselves during that exploration.
at some point, a character is going to die. if the other characters are still trying to resolve a conflict, the disembodied daemon will mainly only be able to spy or relay messages. any philosopher can see and hear daemons and can communicate with them without problem; they can also communicate with daemons who have reincarnated as animals. however, if a daemon wants to communicate with someone who's unenlightened (through their dreams, for example,) the daemon needs to make a Breath roll to converse. likewise, an animal-philosopher can attempt a Breath roll to make a non-philosopher understand; failure means the non-philosopher hears growls or other appropriate noises.
daemons can also attempt to affect the physical world, but they must use Strife in place of Blood to do so... which increases Strife. and Strife cannot be decreased while disembodied: daemons can neither earn nor use experience points, nor can they use or learn Traits. eventually, the player of the disembodied daemon will realize that reincarnation is necessary, and the daemon will float back to the nearest volcano, which acts as a gateway to rebirth.
in most some cases, this will remove the dead character from the current conflict, because the reincarnated character must be born and grow to maturity. the one exception is if the character manages to ascend to demigod or higher, in which case the character can return immediately. otherwise, the other philosophers will have to wait a few years... or, sensing their time has come, they can cast themselves into a volcano voluntarily to destroy their current bodies and move on.
the goal, then, is simple: help others to overcome Strife, remove Strife in yourself, avoid sinking to the lowest level on the Ladder of Life, and instead rise until reaching godhood.
nothing a daemon can't accomplish in ten thousand years of wandering.
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Reply #101 on:
May 16, 2003, 08:29:58 PM »
What’s this? An Iron Game Chef competition with "blood" as one of the keywords, and no vampire games? That cannot be!
But can a chef find something new to say with so over-used a motif as vampires? We’ll see!
a vampire game in a different vein
Exponential functions are a bitch.
Take one vampire. Vampire kills victim, who becomes a vampire. Let’s imagine this takes one year to occur. (Of course, vampires by nature kill far more than one per year, but we must also factor in vampires falling prey to torch-wielding villagers, victims in which the infection fails to "take," victims staked, decapitated, and burned to prevent the Crossing, and the occasional accidental daylight exposure. A year is still way too conservative, but that just helps make the point.)
In thirty-two-and-some-change years, no more humans. Just billions of very hungry vampires.
Of course, the vampire nations never let things get that out of hand. Possessed of foresight and self-restraint at least equal to that of their human livestock, they managed to preserve a few hundred humans. Centuries of careful guardianship (and many setbacks) later, the human population has recovered to a few tens of thousands. They are protected and supported by the vampires, for only they, of their own volition, can provide the Precious Fluid.
Oh, sure, the vampires tried the alternatives. Ruthless domination, captive breeding, permanent restraint, forced feeding, the whole horror show. But it didn’t work. For the humans, there is a simple answer to mistreatment by vampires: the particular form of suicide called the Crossing. No restraints or guards can prevent a human from Crossing, because any human with a mind possesses the power to tempt any vampire into an uncontrolled feeding. (And if the human has no mind, the Precious Fluid is worthless, no better than animal blood or synthetic substitute, able to sustain vampire existence but not feed the hunger.) The human gets rebirth as a vampire, with immortality and kewl powerz in the bargain; the vampire responsible gets no more Precious Fluid, and the resentment of every other vampire around.
As the laws of supply and demand asserted themselves, and the power inevitably shifted toward a new balance point, the new Law of the Night became:
Keep the humans happy.
As long as they remain useful and reasonably cooperative, that is.
Hence, the System. About three billion vampires labor to provide shelter and clothing and entertainment and sustenance for humankind and vampires alike. (This includes the substitute Fluids that sustain vampire existence). They maintain the cities, the roads, the factories, the utilities. They work in the service of the most rich and powerful vampires, especially those with the resources to reward them, once in a very great while, with Precious Fluid.
Humans pay for everything they need or want from the vampires by participating in controlled Feedings. (Controlled means controlled; the vampire is firmly strapped into a stake-o-matic before the human even enters the room, and if the vampire doesn’t like it, it can go suck on a pig.) A human can get a vampire to do almost anything within its powers in exchange for a Feeding. But since such large transactions can be awkward (a feeding for a house, a feeding for a century of service, a feeding for an art masterpiece), most humans and vampires deal in Songs, which are ten-thousandth shares of future Feedings, jointly honored by all humans in the System. (The reason for the name should be obvious. Most normal goods, for one’s daily needs, a human can buy for a Song.)
Just how precious is Precious Fluid?
A standard controlled Feeding allows the vampire to take a little less than a tablespoon (about 12 ml).
A human on an iron-rich diet can spare that amount or a little more daily without long-term ill effect (though the usual practice is to perform several Feedings at once at longer intervals).
With about one eligible (adult, non-pregnant, healthy) human per 100,000 vampires, each vampire, on average, gets a Feeding about once every 250 years.
(Of course, the distribution is far from that equitable. Some vampires Feed every day, while there are vast numbers who have never Fed once.)
In other words: every human has nearly limitless wealth flowing through his or her own veins. The only limits to their power and influence are other humans, and the fact that they’re slow and weak, at the mercy of the vampires’ social order and individual self-control.
So precious is the Precious Fluid that a vampire who Offends – that is, takes Precious Fluid without permission or reduces its future supply by injuring or killing a human -- is signing its own death warrant. If caught, the Offender, no matter his status in vampire society, will be destroyed without mercy by other vampires – even though most of them would Offend too, if tempted beyond endurance. (Such as, by the belief that they could get away with it.)
Preserving this precarious balance demands that the most talented humans, in cooperation with the most self-possessed vampires, devote themselves to one thing:
The game requires a set of percentile dice. Each player also needs four
, also known as "Spheres," for resolving conflicts during play.
Since Spheres aren’t exactly standard game equipment, here’s what you need:
- Spheres must be spherical objects with uniform surfaces and uniform weight distribution.
- They must be sturdy enough to withstand collisions with one another (at low speed).
- They should be larger than standard marbles, but smaller than tennis balls.
- All players’ Spheres must be the same size and weight.
- Each player needs four Spheres of the same color, that are a different color from the other players’ (and the GM’s) Spheres.
- Players must be able to color parts of their Spheres with red and black, using permanent markers or paint, in such a way that red, black, and unmarked portions of the Sphere can be easily distinguished.
Large marbles (3/4-inch to 1-inch in size) or small superballs are good choices.
You also need a Bowl to roll the Spheres in. The Bowl must be large enough to allow as many Spheres as there are players to roll around freely without bumping into each other right away. If the Spheres are large marbles, a serving bowl is amply large enough, but if they’re squash balls, you might need a punch bowl. The bowl doesn’t have to be deep, in fact it’s better if it’s shallow, but it has to be continuously sloped so that a Sphere rolled into the Bowl must end up in the very center. A bowl with a broad flat center won’t work. A Battling Tops board is ideal for Spheres up to about one inch in diameter.
Players play human Hunters, charged with the task of discovering, solving, and punishing Offenses.
Hunters, like all humans, cannot physically harm vampires or defend themselves against harm from vampires. Only vampires can fight other vampires. When a vampire acts physically against a human, and is unopposed by other vampires, whatever the vampire wants to happen, happens. This remains true even if firearms, explosives, or other weapons are taken into consideration.
Hunters, like all humans, can get vampires to do anything within their powers, by offering Songs. Vampires cannot resist a chance to receive Songs. (Remember, they’re always hungry.) The only orders they won’t obey are self-destructive orders (including orders to confess to an Offense or to try to kill an equally matched vampire) or orders that go against the orders of another human who has offered them more Songs.
Each player-character has a practically unlimited number of Songs to spend.
Vampires will normally obey the System and not Offend, making them extremely useful. However, some circumstances make them more likely to Offend. Should such circumstances occur, the GM calls for a die roll. These vampire Self-Control checks are very dangerous! Though the odds are not likely to be very high for any given check, a single Offense is likely to be very harmful or fatal to a player-character, and the long-term odds can mount up against you very quickly if you’re making a lot of checks.
Creating a Character
Invent a human who fights crime in a world of vampires. This world has present-day technology and infrastructure. (Since the rise of the vampires, humans have not had much chance to make progress in science and technology, while the vampires have preserved what they were already familiar with.) The existence of vampires implies the possibility of magic, but the player characters do not have magic abilities or knowledge of magic at the outset.
Human characters get six points to put into skills. Skills can be chosen from the following list, or players can invent other skills of similar breadth, subject to GM approval. Note that skills are fairly general, so if you want your character to be able to do something very specific (such as planting wiretaps), you should create a more general skill (such as intelligence gathering) that includes it.
Put one or two points into each skill you choose, up to a total of six points.
Marksmanship, speed, firearms knowledge (remember, you still can’t take out vampires by shooting)
Evidence gathering, forensic medicine, criminology, abnormal psychology
Martial arts, melee weapons, improvised weapons (remember, this won’t let you attack, or defend yourself from, vampires)
Diplomacy, salesmanship, political savvy, social graces, fitting in among the elite, confidence games
Stealth and Disguise
Stealthy movement, entry, disguise, camouflage, stalking and tracking
Surveillance, research, contacts, communications monitoring
Survival and First Aid
Extreme environments, foraging, deprivation, field medicine and surgery
Surgery, medical practice, infectious diseases, pathology, toxicology
Construction, repair, and operation; vehicles, industrial machinery, electrical power
Leaping from/onto/between vehicles or buildings, climbing, surviving explosions, improvised extreme sports, fast driving, stunt driving, controlled falls
Libraries, computers, gossip networks, informants, auditing, paper trails
Reasons why many people might be willing to act upon your ideas: political office, celebrity, charisma, media resources
Knowledge of vampire society, recognition and acceptance among vampires (likely including the vampire elite), ability to pass as a vampire
Running for speed or distance, jumping, gymnastics, swimming, sports
The next step is to think about your character’s methodology, an aspect of your character’s personality. There are three aspects to methodology: Force, Finesse, and Focus. The relative weightings between the three determine how your character approaches conflict and opposition.
Force represents overpowering the opposition by trying harder, being more prepared, having better tools or a more thorough plan than the opposition. In a sword fight, Force would be using speed or fancy bladework. At a political dinner party, Force would be more thorough preparation and a bigger smile and telling funnier jokes than the opponent.
Focus represents efficiency and concentration on the key elements of success. In a sword fight, Focus would be probing the enemy’s weakness until you find the perfect opening for a decisive stroke. At a political dinner party, Focus would be picking out the few people in the room with the real power and telling them just the right words. Focus has an obvious advantage over mere Force.
Finesse represents cunning, misdirection, feints, and outflanking. It means the same thing as it does in bridge: wait for (or force) your opponent to commit to a play, and then counter it. In a sword fight, Finesse would be to appear to show a weakness to lure the enemy into an attack which you can then counter. At a political dinner party, Finesse would be to pretend you have no interest in persuading the president toward your position, and while everyone’s attention is on him, secretly persuading the president’s wife, drinking buddy, and advisors. Finesse has an obvious advantage over Focus. But (you saw this coming, I’m sure), Force has the advantage against Finesse.
Think about how you want your character to distribute his strategies between Force, Focus, and Finesse. That will be your basis for creating a set of custom Spheres for your character, representing that distribution, using red and black paint or markers. The portion of each Sphere you mark red represents how much your character uses Focus. The portion you mark black represents how much your character uses Finesse. The portion you leave blank (that is, leave it its original color) represents how much your character uses Force.
It’s up to you how you distribute the colors. The regions of color may be any shape you want and distributed however you want over the surface of each Sphere. You can give each Sphere a single large area of each color, or you can use a larger number of smaller regions. However, you should not use very small dots or thin lines. The regions of different colors must be easily visible.
It’s also up to you how you vary between the four Spheres. You can make them all similar, or make them completely different from one another.
When a player-character wants to take an action that has a significant chance of either success or failure, the Spheres and the Bowl are used for resolution.
Most actions in the game do not require resolution. These include:
- Actions that present no difficulty or active opposition. The character succeeds automatically.
- A vampire attempting any physical action against a human character unopposed by any other vampires. The vampire succeeds.
- A human attempting any physical action against or opposed by a vampire. The human fails.
- A character with an applicable skill opposed by a character with no applicable skill. This is an automatic success for the skilled character, as long as there are no circumstances that make the action difficult. For example, in daytime on a normal city street, a character with a tracking skill (such as Stealth and Disguise) will always be able to track another character with no skill at evasion. However, if it’s dark and the streets are crowded with vampires, then the tracking could be difficult for reasons other than the character’s ability to evade, so a roll would be required.
If a roll is required, the applicable skill levels of the opposing characters are revealed. (If the opposition is inherent difficulty, the GM states the difficulty level as the opposing skill level.) Each player picks up a number of their own Spheres equal to their own side’s skill level, and they simultaneously roll their Spheres into the Bowl.
When the Spheres stop moving, each Sphere will be touching one or more other Spheres. Each point where two Spheres touch is called a Point Of Contact.
A Sphere is counted as a success for its owner’s side if it has at least one "victory" Point Of Contact that fits one of the following three descriptions:
- A point where the Sphere is red is touching another Sphere at a point where the other Sphere is its neutral color.
- A point where the Sphere is black is touching another Sphere at a point where the other Sphere is red.
- A point where the Sphere is its neutral color is touching another Sphere at a point where the other Sphere is black.
RED BEATS NEUTRAL
BLACK BEATS RED
NEUTRAL BEATS BLACK
It takes only one "victory" point of contact to make the Sphere count as a success. Note that it doesn’t matter if an individual Sphere has many "victory" points of contact, it still counts as one success. It also doesn’t matter if the Sphere has a greater number of "defeat" and/or "tie" points of contact than "victory" points of contact; it still counts as one success as long as it has at least one "victory" point of contact. It doesn’t even matter whose Spheres the various points of contact are in contact with. A Sphere with only a Point of Contact with another of the same player's Spheres can still be worth a success, as long as the Point of Contact is a "victory" color combination.
The side with the greatest number of successes wins the conflict and achieves the results (or succeeds in preventing the results) originally stated as the goal of the conflict.
If the scores are equal, either side can agree to raise the stakes for failure for that character and roll another Sphere into the Bowl. The raised stakes must represent a significant complication for the character, not just the use of a Song or other easily expendable resource. The player of the opposing character has a chance to then do the same, or pass. When the additional Sphere(s) are rolled, it will likely change the position of all the previous Spheres, so the entire result must be re-counted.
Mikowski wants to track Reginald, a vampire Offender suspect, to find out who he hangs out with. Mikowski has one point in Stealth and Disguise. Reginald has no special skill to detect or evade tracking, but the GM rules that it’s dark, and Reginald dresses in black just like all three billion other vampires, so he’s going to be difficult to track. The difficulty is equivalent to a skill of one point.
The GM rolls one Sphere for Reginald, and Mikowski’s player rolls one Sphere. The Spheres land with both Spheres red at the point of contact, which is a draw. The question of whether Mikowski can tail Reginald successfully enough to learn what he wants to know is still in doubt. Mikowski’s player declares that he’ll try to tail Reginald from closer in, risking Reginald seeing him and realizing he’s being tailed, which would make the subsequent investigation more difficult. The GM declines to raise the stakes for Reginald, so Mikowski’s player gets to roll a second Sphere.
The three Spheres in the Bowl now have three Points of Contact:
Reginald’s Sphere A BLACK, Mikowski’s Sphere B RED
Reginald’s Sphere A NEUTRAL, Mikowski’s Sphere C RED
Mikowski’s Sphere B BLACK, Mikowski’s Sphere C RED
Reginald’s Sphere A counts as a success, because of the BLACK-RED Point of Contact with B. Both of Mikowski’s Spheres count as successes; C because of the RED-NEUTRAL Point of Contact with A, and B because of its BLACK-RED Point of Contact with sphere A. So Mikowski has more successes than Reginald (2 vs. 1), and succeeds in tracking Reginald and learning who Reginald talks to for the rest of the night.
Each player, after creating a human character, must also create one or two (perhaps three, if one is just muscle) vampire characters. These vampires are "Regulars" who work with the humans in investigating, solving, and punishing Offenses.
The vampire Regulars are not exactly player-characters, even though the players control them most of the time. The Regulars act as bodyguards for the human Hunters, and are competent peace officers in their own right. They’re paid in Song by the vampires in control of the city or county where the game takes place. They will accept Song from the Hunters to perform special favors, as long as this doesn’t contradict their general orders which are, they claim, to assist and protect the Hunters and to carry out punishment on the Offenders.
A Regular gets four points in Skills. In addition to the Skills listed above for Hunters, Regulars can also have the following Skills:
The vampire has the power to call upon, influence, or command other vampires of lesser status.
Vampire Mind Tricks
Confuse, subdue, or elude other vampires; cause intense fear in humans; erase individual humans’ memories.
Kewl Transforming Powerz
Can turn into a bat, a rat, a wolf, or mist.
Teh Vampire Sexay
Knows the exact
shade of black to wear that makes other vampires of either sex weak with helpless sexual desire. Sometimes even works on humans.
As with Hunters, additional Skills can be created with GM approval.
All vampires have a Self-Control stat, which ranges from –2 (very self-controlled) to + 2 (pretty scary). Regulars normally have a Self-Control stat of –2. If a Regular’s Self-Control stat is higher, the vampire Regular gets an additional point for Skills for each point added to the Self-Control stat.
Some other adjustments to Skill points: a Regular gets 1 less Skill point if it is personally fond of the player-character, 2 less Skill points if it is a really close or long-term friend. A Regular gets 1 additional Skill point if it has Fed on the player-character in the past.
When rolling Spheres for actions of Vampire Regulars, the player whose character the Regular is associated with uses his or her own Spheres, since the vampire is taking its orders from that character. The same is true for actions of any vampires when the vampires are being paid in Song by a player-character to perform those actions. All other vampire actions are rolled by the GM.
Vampire characters, even the ones who aren’t Offenders, even the Regulars, are dangerous to be around. With few exceptions, vampires are all hungry all the time. Certain circumstances can make it difficult for them to keep that hunger in check:
Vampire is alone (that is, is the only vampire present) with a human: +3
Only other vampires present are accomplices in conspiracy to Offend: +1 per accomplice, up to +5
Other vampires (not conspirators) are present: - 1 per other vampire, up to - 5
Vampire has Offended before: +1 per Offense
A recent Offense in the vicinity has gone unpunished for 24 hours: +1
A recent Offense in the vicinity has gone unpunished for three days: +1 (cumulative)
A recent Offense in the vicinity has gone unpunished for one week: +1 (cumulative)
Human taunts or dares the vampire: + 1 to + 3
Immediate sight and/or smell of fresh human blood: + 2
Vampire has Fed (legally or otherwise) from this specific person before: +1 per instance
Two or more humans are in an overt Song bidding war for this vampire’s services: + 2
Request insulting to the vampire’s status: + 1
Vampire offered Songs for a task it cannot possibly perform: + 1
Vampire has just won a tooth-and-claw fight: + 1
Vampire has recently Fed: - 1
Vampire has never Fed: - 1
Vampire has a soul: Um, you’re playing the wrong game, dude.
Vampire has personal affection for this human: - 1 to - 3
Vampire hates this human: + 1 to + 3
The vampire’s self-control stat: - 2 to + 2
A check is made if a situation occurs that totals +6 or higher. Add up all the situational factors that apply, and subtract 5 to determine a score. Roll percentile dice: if the roll is the score or lower, the vampire will attempt non-consensual Feeding (or worse) on the human.
Each Hunter get an experience point for every case they resolve. An experience point can be used at any time between sessions to increase one of a character’s Skill scores or add a new one-point Skill.
Due to other commitments this week, this is a way-less-than-24-hour game, so it’s very sketchy in some areas.
Regarding the theme words: the connection to Song is pretty forced, but I think I’m in pretty good company here in that regard. The use of Blood is very strong (though obvious, it’s a direction no one else seems to have taken, cross fingers), and I thought that Sphere just cried out for a game mechanism that used actual spheres. Though said mechanism needs a lot more work, IMO. I managed to avoid the temptation to use Volcano in a completely gratuitous way – the Iron Game Chef equivalent of the squid-flavored ice cream dessert dish.
I hope that this game, with more work especially in background and scenario details, could really develop a strong creative agenda around the theme of exploitation. The echoes here of gender issues, class issues, environmental issues, and society vs. human nature are by design.
Wandering in the diasporosphere
Overtaken by RL...
Reply #102 on:
May 16, 2003, 08:50:11 PM »
My first Iron Chef competition and I won't get finished in time. Just as well, there are so many good games here - I am humbled.
Well, the remainder of what I've gotten done so far:
Quote from: Vulcan's Forge Character Creation
A QUESTION OF CHARACTER
All characters involved in Vulcan’s Forge are defined by several common elements. These elements translate who the character is and what they can do into game mechanics that assess if and how well they succeed at any number of tasks.
All players will create Vulcan characters – cybernetic/genetic human alien hybrids. They are universally despised soldiers and saviors whose sacrifices saved humanity from enslavement at the hands of an insidious alien race.
Despite humanity’s attempts to eradicate them, despite the fear and loathing they directed at them, Vulcan’s live for one purpose and one purpose alone: to protect humanity from the taint of the Fallen.
After the war against the Fallen, and after the war against humanity, when all of the then existing Vulcan’s left this planet, a single secret Vulcan’s Forge remained. Damaged though it was, it has still managed to produce several hundred Vulcans over the intervening thousand years. Each player will take on the role of one of these children of Vulcan’s Forge.
The Game Master will typically take on the roles of all the other characters that the players’ Vulcans will encounter. From the wizened bartender who can clue them into a towns whisper-stream to the malevolent presence of Fallen tainted humans – they are all created and played by the Game Master.
Typically, only the major antagonists should have a fully developed character created using these rules. Extras, the random people that the players’ characters can interact with on a scene to scene basis probably don’t need fully formed statistics anyway. If any situations arise that require dice rolls from an extra, just assign them a single Limit value and use that value as their limit and their skill with whatever action is being undertaken.
All characters have the following elements in common:
1. Three Spheres: Blood, Mind, and Soul that represent a character’s effort capacity for physical, mental, and social/emotional action respectively.
2. Three sets of Traits: Descriptors of a character’s inborn talent, power, or luck with a fairly broad set of activities.
3. Skills: Representing a character’s experience and formal training within fairly narrow sets of activities.
4. Gear: The stuff that a character lugs around with them.
In addition to the above, Vulcan’s and Fallen are further defined by the following elements:
1. Songs: These are powerful abilities defined largely by their governing Sphere. Songs are the kewl powerz that the characters can access through singing in the alien tongue of the Fallen.
2. Drives: These are the people or groups that the character attaches himself to at the beginning of each episode. Anytime a character attempts an action that impacts or involves the subject of a drive, they get to add bonus dice to their dice roll.
Finally, all Vulcan characters have a Make and a Model – which determine which Spheres are primary and what Skills the Vulcan has access to respectively.
BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING
The first step in creating a Vulcan character is to choose a Make and a Model for the character. Remember that each Vulcan is a synthetic human/alien hybrid – they are built from the ground up. Vulcan’s Forge is capable of producing 3 different Makes and 6 different Models of Vulcan.
There is no correspondence per se between Makes and Models, although some combinations will have obvious synergies.
There are 3 Makes to choose from: Wyld, Pale, and Brood. Each Make prioritizes the Blood, the Mind and the Soul Sphere respectively.
Wyld Vulcans get a Blood Sphere value of 9, and get to assign 7 to their secondary Sphere and 6 to the remaining Sphere at the players discretion.
Pale Vulcans get a Mind Sphere value of 9, and get to assign 7 to their secondary Sphere and 6 to the remaining Sphere at the players discretion.
Brood Vulcans get a Soul Sphere value of 9, and get to assign 7 to their secondary Sphere and 6 to the remaining Sphere at the players discretion.
As mentioned above, there are 6 different Models of Vulcan: Knights, Protectors, Stalkers, Seekers, Demagogues, and Gearheads. Each choice affords the character a particular set of skills (see the Skills section for more details). Players will have the option to buy additional skills from other Makes at the end of the character creation process.
Players can assign a number of Trait levels under each Sphere equal to 2 times the character’s relevant Sphere rating as long as no assigned Trait has a value less than 1 or more than 10. So a character with a Blood Sphere of 9 gets to assign 18 Trait levels among any number of Blood Traits – as long as no Blood Trait chosen has no fewer than 1 level and no more than 10 levels.
Blood Trait examples include: strapping, vicious, wild, rugged, rough, sinewy, adroit, poised, lithe, nimble, quick, durable, supple, stout, hardy, indefatigable, swift, vigorous, firm, dogged, and vital.
Soul Trait examples include: magnetic, fascinating, venerable, expressive, animated, amiable, captivating, authoritative, obsequious, credible, enthralling, chic, stunning, mesmeric, seductive, empathetic, tactful, considerate, menacing, affable, and droll.
Mind Trait examples include: conscientious, astute, intuitive, perceptive, heedful, crafty, regimented, erudite, lucid, reflective, alert, bright, sensitive, clever, sly, tranquil, inspired, keen, unwavering, serene, and judicious.
Players should feel free to create other Traits – with the express permission of the Game Master.
The following Skills are available to the characters: awareness, husbandry, unarmed combat, bureaucracy, computers, crafts, ride, empathy, engineering, enigmas, etiquette, expression, finance, firearms, heavy weapons, coercion, research, law, leadership, linguistics, medicine, meditation, melee combat, occult, performance, politics, repair, science, scrounge, security, stealth, streetwise, subterfuge, and survival.
Thanks for hosting and judging Mike. I'm looking forward to finding out the winner...
"Oh, it's you...
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Reply #103 on:
May 17, 2003, 06:55:56 AM »
Like Jason, I must respectfully bow out. It just wasn't going to happen with all the exams and papers this week.
will definitely show up eventually, though, in some form or another.
One Thousand One
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Iron Game Chef - Simulationist!
Reply #104 on:
May 19, 2003, 05:29:03 AM »
Well, all the designs are in, and I'm settling in to review them. Not sure how long this will take, but I'm pretty sure I can gt them in by tomorrow's deadline. Just a heads up.
-Get your indie game fix online.
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