Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another Day: Failed Rolls

If you recall, I said most of the optional actions you can take during your travels didn't have a difficulty number. Thus, you can't really fail at these actions. If you go hunting, you're going to come back with something. If you try repairing your gear, you will restore it. It's a question of how much, not if at all.

Encounters, however, are different. They've all got target numbers, and until you beat them, they stick around. What's a failed roll mean in these cases?

It doesn't mean failure. It just means you haven't completely overcome the encounter yet. The thing is, if you don't wipe an encounter out in one shot, it hits back. See, in this game, the GM rolls no dice. All he does is slap down cards and narrate. Encounters hurt you when they aren't taken out.

For example, you're wandering through a plague ravaged land. The GM slaps down a 7 of hearts for the encounter, but nothing happens until you bed down for the evening inside the ruins of a building. While you checked it for corpses, rats still infest the walls, and their fleas bite you. You realize it quickly, and roll your medic skill to treat yourself. Unfortunately, you're not a very good medic and you have no gear to aid the roll, so you come up with a high score of 4. The encounter loses points equal to your roll, dropping it to a 3, but it sticks around.

This is your shortfall. You failed the roll by 3, and since the encounter is still alive and kicking, it does its rating in damage to you. In this case, you burn with fever and take 3 points against your health. Tomorrow, you can try again, this time against a difficulty of 3.

This does, however, leave you with another decision. Do you deal with this encounter again and let another day go by, or do you press on and deal with the lingering effects of this encounter while running into another. If you're alone, you're gonna stay put, of course. But let's say you're in a party. Food's running low, but the group thinks it can make it to the next safepoint if they press. They want to go on.

That next day, a new encounter card hits the table. It's a Jack 10 Spades encounter. Raiders rush your position, and your party needs to put them down as fast as possible, because their wild hooting is drawing more of their clan to your position by the minute. But you're still sick. You can either roll against the illness, or you can help the party fight the raiders. That's bad for your health though; you'll take another 3 points of health from the fever. Then again, unless the party can come up with a collective 10, everyone will be taking damage from the raider assault. But remember, you only get one action per day.

Choose wisely.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another Day: Them Bones

With all this talk of difficulties and optional actions, it stands that we really need to talk about dice. So let's do that this week .

Another Day is a die pool system. Yes, another. I like them. Sue me.

In this case, it's a pool of d6s. I tried this originally with d10s but didn't like the results as much. Given that target numbers only go above 10 in the rarest of circumstances, it seemed necessary to keep the die to a d6.

Your character has skills. I have a sample, list, and it's pretty specific, but you can go as specific or general as you like. Whenever you attempt to do something, you roll your skill in dice. Look for the single highest die. That's your result.

Now, there's one small wrinkle in this. And that is like dice combine to higher number. Add 1 to the result for every like die. That means if you roll a pair of 5s, your actual result is 6. If you roll four 5s, your actual result is 8. Thus more dice is better. Skills top out at 5 dice, by the way.

And this is where cooperation comes in. Players working together on a problem can merge their results, getting more matching dice and driving that final result higher. They don't even have to be using the same skill, as long as they're working together on the same problem.

And that's all there is to die rolling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Day: Other Actions

So now we've got how to generate an encounter, and you're always going to have an encounter to deal with. But I did at one point mention ignoring an encounter. Why would you ever want to do that? Because sometimes you just gotta. If you're really ground down, you might not have the juice required to soldier on. You might be out of ammo, or worse, out of food. Someone might be violently ill, while someone else is nursing a terrible gash in his leg which you just know is going to get infected.

And then, worst of all, all these injuries are going to reduce the party's carrying capacity and you're going to have to start leaving gear behind.


Each day, every player gets one action. Dealing with an encounter is an action. But sometimes fate will smile on you and you'll pull a low number. One or two members of the party can probably handle that. That leaves the rest with a free action to do something else. What could they possibly do?

They can scrounge for gear, hunt for food, tend to the wounded, rest for their own recovery, and even try some field maintenance on their erroding stuff.

How's that work? Pretty similarly to rolling against an encounter. You roll the appropriate skill, except in this case there's rarely a difficulty number (occassionally there will be). Your margin of success gives you what you're looking for. Want food? Your roll tells you how many days worth you brought back. Looking to repair something? Your result restores that many points of wear to the thing. Etc.

The thing is, if you're doing that, you're not dealing with the encounter, so make the most of your downtime, because tomorrow you might draw that Jack King 10 encounter.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another Day: Random Encounters

As if there's any other kind!

In this game, encounters are generated on the fly using a standard deck of playing cards, jokers included. Each day, the players deduct from their food/water rations or take starving damage. Then the GM slaps a card down on the table. Everything about the encounter is on that card, mechanically speaking, of course.

The suit of the card tells you what kind of encounter this is:
  • Clubs - nature. This could be a storm, an earthquake, a collapsing building, falling tree, or whatever else tickles your fancy. The one thing it must be though is active. No tree blocking the road or anything like that (though that could be a component, provided there's some other element, like a raging fire behind you). You could even say they've wandered into the middle of a minefield. Not exactly nature, but close enough for me, and I'm writing this game, so if I say it's okay, it's okay. This, like all encounters, must place you in immediate danger.
  • Spades - violence. Call them whatever you like, this is a wandering monster encounter.
  • Hearts - ancient hazard. The exact nature of this varies according to what ruined your world (no, I'm not talking about the players; be nice). This can be a plague village, spoiled food, parasitic infections, radiation zones, drifting chemical clouds, or anything else that threatens the health of the travellers in a way that doesn't involve cutting, crushing, burning, or shooting them.
  • Diamonds - gear. Pull a second card and slap it down on this one. The encounter involves some kind of gear that you might be able to scavange. That doesn't mean it's passive treasure waiting to be harvested. I mean, it could, but what old school GM isn't out to hurt his players in the worst way possible? We're talking Tomb of Horrors here! So instead of putting that fully functioning .50 cal machinegun with pristine ammo in a carrying case and handing it to the party, put it on an automated turret and drop that thing into a plague village. The players trip the automated defenses when the walk in, discover everyone dead from a strange disease, and then face the gun when trying to get out. Apparently someone set the defenses to keep the sick in before everyone died, see. Now, if they can successfully deal with the encounter, they have the added benefit of possibly walking out with the gun too, but it will be shooting them in the meantime....
The number of the card tells you the difficulty of the encounter. That's the target the players need to beat in order to move past the encounter. Yes, they can work together. Remember, I said teamwork would be rewarded in these rules. In fact, they probably should work together. This means if they get anything between a 2-4 on a draw, they'll breeze through it no sweat more than likely. Start getting above 6 and there's going to need to be cooperation and gear.

I know, that doesn't mean much now because you don't know how dice work. That's another post, coming next.

And then there's the face cards. These add certain mechanical twists to the encounter. Grab another card and slap it down in order to get the difficulty, but use the suit of the face card. If you draw another face card, you apply its effects as well and keep going until you get a number card.
  • Jack - The difficulty of this encounter keeps mounting. Add one to its difficulty every day you don't completely succeed.
  • Queen - These encounters are especially punishing. Partial successes still reduce their difficulty, but they deal damage as if 2 points higher if you haven't overcome them yet. Thus if you reduce a Queen encoutner to 6, it deals 8 points of damage.
  • King - The difficulty of this encounter isn't reduced by partial successes. You need to clear it all at once or not at all.
  • Ace - Draw two cards. Both encounters occur simultaneously. Again, if you draw face cards, keep applying them and draw until you pull a number.
  • Joker - There's no cooperation allowed in this encounter. The bandits manage to split the party up and hunt them individually. The fire separates them. Automated defenses in the old tech building seals them in different sections. Whatever the reason, each player is on his own.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another Day: Wandering the Wastes, Olde School Style

I've already mentioned that play in this game is getting from point A to point B, the assumption being that both points afford safety, and the in between most assuredly does not. Now, travel quests are nothing new, but the way I actually envisioned this was something closer to a dungeon crawl, sans dungeon.

Rather than ask the GM to plot out a map for every session and stock it with a massive number of encounters so that the players will encounter at least some of them, I decided to try abstracting the whole thing. And since old school design received such a hard push in this, I figured what the hell, let's randomize it while we're at it. Old school games loved random elements.

So here's the rundown: at the start of play, you decide how many encounters you'll face before you reach your next safepoint. This could be because the distance is long, but it could also be a short overland trek fraught with extreme danger. Up to you. Also up to you is what "you" means in this case, meaning that the players could request a certain encounter count, everyone could come to a consensus, or GM could just tell the players how many they're facing. He could also not tell them, if he wanted to be like that.

That's so old school.

Then, once you've got the number, everyone plays the journey, day by day, encounter by encounter. Every day you consume some food (or you take starving damage), and you deal with an encounter. That encounter might beat you up, force you to consume some resources, maybe both, and if you don't successfully deal with it that day, nothing says it won't be there tomorrow too. Remember, your journey's only over once you face a certain number of encounters. That could take 3 days; it could take 3 weeks. You've only got enough resources to survive for so long. Now, you can choose to ignore an encounter (and suffer for it) in order to scrounge for food and gear, but that takes time, and time means more food and water consumed.

In essence, the game is one of resource management across multiple spectrums. Health metrics are interlaced, and there's an ever dwindling pool of resources to contend with. Every day is a decision to push forward or break and loot, which comes with no guarantees.

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Stuff! Now on Wednesdays

Another bit of administrative shift here. For now, posts will appear once a week, on Wednesdays. Remamber that Wednesday night game I told you about? The one that's playing 7th Sea? The one that was going to be my new playtesting bed?

They want to play Mage now. Trying new stuff isn't high on anyone's list, so I'm kinda stuck here. Accordingly, playtesting has largely fallen apart for the moment. But I've taken a bite out of a big project, so there's going to be a lot more on theory and design, and less on how it turns out, at least until I can scare up a new group and time somehow.

In the meantime... theory-ward!