Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ideals, take 3

In thinking over the 10s are double successes idea, I've decided that a 10% chance per die of getting a bonus isn't good enough. There needs to be a more compelling reason for hewing to your ideals. Destiny dice need to be that much better when you're following the true calling of your heart instead of just being a big damn hero in general.

The double success idea is a good one. I like it. It's still simple and prevents dice overload. It just doesn't get triggered often enough.

So why not just take out the trigger and make it automatic? Act in accordance to your ideals, and any successes you roll on Destiny dice count as double, up to the rating of your ideals in play. Roll those dice over to 10 if it helps you keep track of them.

I think that's the version of the rules that's going to hit the next playtest session.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Use for Ideals

With Dreams squared away, we now turn to the action side of the pool: Ideals. Again, no additional dice, so what whole double dice spent thing doesn't cut it anymore. However, my solution for this is much simpler than the whole rigamarole required to fix Dreams (probably because Dreams required that recovery be fixed first, where this is based on action resolution, which required no adjustments).

In short, every 10 you roll on a Destiny die counts as 2 successes, up to the rating of the Ideal, assuming you're acting in accordance to your ideals, of course.

It's simple. It works a lot like talents and trainings. It doesn't add dice. It doesn't require any additional rerolling. In fact the only concern I have with it at the moment is whether it's a significant enough benefit. After all, you only have a 10% chance of getting a 10 on any d10, and that means that there will be plenty of times when you roll in accordance to your ideals and get no benefit. And even if you do get a benefit, will it be powerful enough to make a real difference?

I could say that we need to play it to find out, and that's true, but this is one I think I want to spend a little more time on. It might need another revision before the next testing session.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Use for Dreams

With damage and recovery worked out, I feel there's enough new ground laid to take a look at Dreams. Dreams are, in the definition of the game, a way to keep the character going. He can persevere because he still has something to live for.

Well, the old rules lost sight of that, sort of. They could certainly boost your damage capacity by adding Hope dice to your pool, but they were semi-action oriented in the same breath. With the new 10 die maximum mandate, adding dice is no longer an option, so we need some other way of representing hopes.

John, for whom this game is written, gave a fantastic idea: Dreams, when either being defended or endangered, act as trainings for recovery checks, meaning that dice up to the invoked Dream can recover on a 4 instead of a 5. That's some awesome stuff right there. It's simple. It's thematic. It uses the existing rules. We're going with that.

I'm going to throw in one additional bonus for defeding your Dreams: you can recover for free as long as your Dreams are directly in peril. So if your wife is being attacked by crazy cultists, and you're fighting them off her, you can recover for free every single exchange with no need to set aside a success from your pool to activate the ability.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Recovery without Die Status

Chucking the whole healthy to bloody and then back to bruised thing for dice means the entire way that health is measured in Heroes of Destiny is up for grabs. Not just health, but damage, damage recovery, and no small number of potencies. There's a whole web of interconnected concepts that need to change together.

Today, I'm dealing with the matter of getting your dice back. Wounding seems pretty simple. You take damage, dice drop out of your pool. That part can stay the same. 2 points knocks loose a Hope die, while a single point bloodies a Destiny die.

The question is, what happens then? How do you get them back, in the middle of things I mean? And make no mistake, you need some manner of recovery, otherwise this is just another death spiral game, and I know of few people who enjoy death spirals.

So, first things first: all dice of a type are the same. This means that all d6s in play act the same, just as all d10s in play are the same. What this means is that a die is in play or it isn't. If you recover a die, it's a full fledged member of your pool. You can roll it, but you can also use it to take more damage. Recovery means you're getting some of your damage capacity back too.

Now that we've got that, how do you get those dice back into your pool? An idea that one of my players had was to roll your injury dice (the ones knocked out of your play, bloodied to use the old nomenclature). For every die that comes up a success, you return it to your pool. Anything that doesn't come up 5 or better stays where it is.

I like that. It's pretty simple, and it uses the existing rules. Yeah, okay, there's an additional die roll in that, but it's not too bad, is it? Bears testing to find out; I'd like to keep additional rolling to a minimum, but this particular roll might work out. However, I'd like to add one wrinkle to this: recovery isn't automatic. You need to expend a little effort. So, on any given round you can allocate a single success from your pool to recovery. That lets you recover at the end of the exchange, and those dice return to your pool for use at the beginning of the next exchange.

That's complete enough to begin play again. I'll let you know how it works out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Few Rules For The Other NPCs

One of the characters in our playtest is a former lawman who's given up the badge and moved out west in order to start a new, more pedestrian life with his wife and child. His ideal is Champion, which he defines as standing up for other people when they're in trouble, while his Dreams include his wife, child, and a new, quiter life.

In the train ride out to Redemption, AZ, our family of east coast transplants ran into no small amount of trouble when something possessed a passenger and turned him into a near unkillable creature that was doing awful things to the rest of the people. You can read all about it in the prior playtest reports to Heroes of Destiny.

As you might imagine, our lawman found himself called into action again, and the player found he really hit a groove with the character taking control of situations on the verge of panic and enforcing order while wrangling posses to hunt down the supernatural terror. He found a joy and a sense of purpose in it that he imagined his character had as well, and said that's clearly why he became a lawman.

This put him in conflict with his wife, who he described as nervous and clingy. She was always asking him not to get involved, to stay with her and protect her, just her. In the process of saving the train, he endangered his relationship with her quite a bit and heeded destiny's call just as much. Every time he lost Hope, he dropped his Dream rating for his wife. By the time they rolled into Redemption, she'd gone from a 3 to a 1, and that 1 was damaged down to a temproary 0.

So when he arrived home at one point, she greeted him by throwing crockery at his head. He was confused at first, until I explained to him that their relationship had been damaged both in the long term and short term, at which point he perked up and made the following suggestion:
In addition to providing some personality notes about each NPC that's a Dream, all Dreams should have a health status of sorts. This has nothing to do with combat and everything to do with their relationship to the character. At each rating in Dream, make a note of some change in the relationship. So if your wife is one of your Dreams at rating 3, define a telling point of the relationship at ratings 3, 2, 1, and 0. If your dream is a business, define what your relationship to the business is at each point rating.

Another fantastic idea. I think I'll have a hard time getting the guys to make those charts up mid-play, but for future tests, it's totally on.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Scene Structure in Heroes of Destiny

One suggestion that came out of the last playtest was to add a formal finish to any scene. Most time, play just flows from one person to another, one locaiton to the next, and from scene to scene. That's all well and good, but given that certain mechanics apply for one scene, he asked that we formally declare the end of a scene to clear up any ambiguity.

It's a small thing, but I like it. I think the appealing part of it is that by asking for scene close by consensus, it gets the players thinking about story structure and pulls them into more of a director stance, even if subtly. Anything that helps bridge that divide between players and GM is a good thing in my opinion. Many games have suffered when players show up with no sense of responsibility beyond attendence and playing their own character in a vacuum, and the GM runs games and plots with no eye toward engaging the players, instead looking at their characters as his own playthings. It's gone bad from both ends. Meeting in the middle, even in small ways like this, brings everyone closer together, and I really look forward to seeing how this easily implimented practice changes play.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

NPC Special Abilities

Now that I've got the new way potencies work, in a general sense, I can return to NPC spceial abilities. I still don't want resources to manage on the NPC side. We've seen how well that worked. However, creating interesting opposition requires something that can do more than deal damage. No, this game isn't super-meaty in terms of combat, but still, you do want to mix up the violence now and again. Descriptions are great, and I intend to use them quite a bit, but since a player experiences a game in large part through how it affects his character sheet, I want to put in a few special abilities, similar to potencies, that NPCs can use to make them stand out as different from one another.

In the interest of keeping all the calculations on the player's side, however, I'm staying away from the idea of activating them on my own somehow though. I'm not sure if I'll keep the encounter pool, or how it'll work if I do, but I do know that's not going to be the way that I'm going to invoke their abilities.

So how to do it? The same way we're trying to do everything else in this game: margin of success/failure on the player's roll. Since an NPC's stats are the target numbers for attack and defense rolls made by the players, the special abiltiies can things that trigger when certain margins are hit.

For example, a brilliant swordsman NPC might have a riposte abilitiy that kicks off with a margin of 3. He has a defense of 5. A player takes a swing at him, but only comes up with 2 successes for the roll. That triggers the swordsman's riposte ability, which means he gets an automatic, free attack against the player. This happens whenever anyone misses him by 3.

Like potencies, these can be tiered as well, with greater effects triggered by greater margins. And there's nothing that says a player has to utterly fail in order for a special condition to kick off.

For example, a cultist has a special ability that allows him to call for aid from others in the crowd when he's in trouble. When a PC makes a successful attack with a margin of 3 or less, the cultist successfully calls another member to his side to stand against the PC.

Now, I thought Gifts as NPC stats was a good idea too, so this sounds nice in theory, but the only way to be sure is to test it. I'd like to say I'm confident, but the last idea worked out so poorly I'm instead going to say I'm cautiously optimistic.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Potencies Redeux

With the idea of splitting your main pool into tinier ones and then rolling them separately, potencies need a rework. However, the new combat method does lend itself for a pretty easy conversion. Instead of allocating dice pre-roll to a potency, you allocate successes from your roll to potencies in order to activate them. In fact, this allows for more robust potencies that exist in tiers. For one success, you can get X benefit, but for two successes, you get Y, and for three you get Z.

That's all nice and vague, so let's slap some examples down on the page.
  • Flashing Blades - you can make an additional attack against a target in the same exchange. This action costs 3 successes. Upon activation, you can apply an attack you've already made a second time against the target. In effect, you deal damage two times from a single attack.
  • Pain Rage - the pain of your injuries burns red, granting you furious strength. This action costs 2 successes. Upon activation, you may add any current damage you are suffering (in dice, not points) to the damage of an attack.
  • Wild Aggression - you throw yourself on your opponent, heedless of danger to yourself. This action costs 1 success. Upon activation, you can apply an attack you've already made against the target. You may not defend or recover this exchange.
  • Take It - you steel yourself to take a hit. This action costs 1 success per level; there is no limit to the number of successes you can give to this potency. For each level, you steel a single die by increasing the amount of damage required to knock it out of your pool. Thus it takes 2 points to knock out a Destiny die and 3 points to knock out a Hope die. You can only apply this potency once to a since die, but may apply it to multiple dice.
  • Berserker - you throw yourself into a howling rage, allowing you to temporarily overcome your injuries. This action costs 1 success. Next exchange, you may roll all your dice, including the injured ones. However, you may not recover or defend in that exchange.
This does make the decision to use potencies something that happens after the roll rather than before, but while that might take a little of the risk out of it, it also breaks up the number of decisions that need to be made at one time, and I think that'll lead to a better play experience. People can roll, figure out how many successes they have, and then decide if they've got the slack to bust out the special moves. Some rolls might make that decision for them, making it a faster process. It's certainly worth testing, anyway.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The New Combat Procedure

In theory, combat already works the same way that non-combat checks do. In our playtest, however, the players never tried to do more than one thing at a time when making non-combat checks, so that similarity never appeared. However, once we got into combat, people were splitting their pools and rolling all over the place, which was exactly how it was supposed to work.

Fluidity was a problem though, so this is an attempt to make it a faster, simpler resolution system. Here's the new proposed combat procedure:
  1. Declare your actions
  2. Roll your Pool
  3. Apply modifiers for talents and trainings
  4. Sort out your successes
  5. Allocate your successes toward your declared actions
  6. Compare them to your target numbers
  7. Record the consequences based on margins of success and/or failure
Seven steps seems like a pretty involved process, I know, but have a look at that list again. It's pretty granular (I'm a technical writer by trade; I'm trained to write instructions in a highly detailed fashion and leave little in the realm of assumed user knowledge). In a nutchell, you're rolling like you would for any other check, the only difference here is that you might be splitting your successes among multiple actions like attack and defense. Otherwise it's identical to a standard roll, and playtesting has showed the standard roll works beautifully.