Saturday, September 29, 2012

Design Journal: Combining Signature Moves

While working on adding combat styles and signature moves to my combat system, I was trying to figure out how to allow players to combine moves in ways that make sense. An idea I landed on was to divide attacks into four categories: basic, speed, precision and power. Signature moves would tie to a category and moves that share a category can be combined or you can combine a basic move with a move from another category

Basic attacks would be based on modifying your base attack. Two weapon fighting would fall under basic attacks as would the tumbling archer signature move from the combat styles and signature moves design journal post.

Speed attacks would be about fitting in as much as possible into 1 action. Having multiple attacks would fall under this category.

Precision attacks would be about hitting the mark. Sharp shooter and improved aim would be precision attacks

Power attacks would be all about the damage. Power attack would be in this category.

I would have a base modifier that could be built on. For example, cleave would fall under basic. The base modifier would be a -2 mod for the first cleave and an additional -2 for every additional cleave attempt. Anybody can cleave using this modifier as long as they drop their first opponent. If someone wanted to specialize in cleave, they can have improved cleave as a signature move. Improved cleave gives them a bonus on their cleave attempt. Depending on character build, a player could use a precision move like flashing blade to reduce their damage to improve their attack or use power attack to improve their damage while reducing their attack.

I feel this setup opens up avenues while keeping things realistic.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Design Journal: Wound

I started with the usual system for damage with some minor tweaking due to lack of levels; subtract damage from your hit points, unconscious at x and dead at y. I later added a fatigue system to deal with spell failure and special abilities (kinda like mana but not restricted to magic).  I then added on a wound system. Hits that did a certain amount of damage caused a wound point, when you received a certain  number of wound points you got penalties to your rolls. I decided that this was way too much number crunching and slimmed things down.

I got rid of hit points because they were too abstract for my taste and didn't do anything that couldn't be done better/easier elsewhere. Any hit that does damage gives one point of fatigue, as does using special abilities and not sleeping properly. Fatigue represents physical and mental wear, when you receive a certain number of fatigue points you get penalties on your rolls. I took the penalties off of wound and made it so that you died when you accumulated a certain number of wound points. This is still a little too abstract and clunky for my taste.

I am changing fatigue so that every point of damage gives a point of fatigue instead of every successful hit, however I have not settled on a satisfying method for wound. There are some things I am considering. One is including hit locations. There would be 5 hit locations(head, torso, right and left arm, right and left leg) and each location can only take a certain number of wound before being irreparably damaged. Another idea is having escalating wounds. When you receive a wound, you have a certain number of rounds to tend to it or it becomes a serious wound and then a mortal one.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Plastic Gun

I just finished reading Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell and it had a very interesting weapon in it that I wanted to share.

Plastic Gun
The plastic gun is completely made of plastic, including the ammunition. It is undetectable by most scanning devices. Because the gun is made of plastic, every time the weapon is fired the barrel deforms. The benefit of this is it changes the ballistic marks, which makes the weapon untraceable but it also effects the reliability of the weapon. The first shot is completely accurate and the second is almost as good. The third through sixth shots are alright at close range but any further shots will be completely inaccurate. On the ninth shot, there is a 1 in 40 chance that the gun will explode and 1 in 6 odds on the 10th shot. There is no way of telling how many times a plastic gun has been fired.
The plastic bullets are capable of killing a person but cannot pierce metal. The stats would be the same as the non-plastic version of the weapon minus any hardness negating properties.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


In Swords and Sabres, I raved about the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Swords and Sabres and I though I would share some of the weapons found in the book.

The Khepesh is a weapon designed to be thrown but can also be used like a traditional sword. It was a favored weapon of Pharaohs.

In D20 terms, I was thinking it should be a light martial melee weapon; 30ft range, d6 damage, x3 critical (because of the sickle sword design), 2lbs, slashing, 15gp.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Design Journal: Skills

I am very fond of the signature moves idea that I came up with for my combat skills. I feel that it allows for more diversification and will encourage players to think outside of predefined abilities. The bugbear in my soup is that I have a different method of application and advancement for each of the three skill sets. It makes things more complicated, which goes against my goals for the game.

To streamline everything, I will be switching my skills and special abilities over to the signature move style. In order to do this, I need to refine(read: actually make up my mind) how I want to handle selection and advancement of moves.

Here is the best idea I have had so far. When players spend their advacement points in a skill group or special ability, they have the choice of buying a new move or improving his or her current moves by 1. If the player wants to focus on improving one move instead of all the moves, s/he may place the new points from the other moves into the one move. No move may have a bonus that is higher than the total points in the skill.  When the player places enough advancement points into a skill or ability to move it into the next level of skill(apprentice to journeyman, etc) all the moves that make the transition improve by one.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chase Tables: Basics

During a game, I set up an ambush for my characters. They were meeting up with a caravan to head off to the frontier. As they walked down the street, they saw a man leaning on a building just before an alley. As they got close to the man, three others emerged from the alley. The ringleader confronted the party and combat was initiated. Two of the thugs went down in the first round (I underestimated things just a bit). The third was knocked unconscious and the fourth took a hit and bolted. One of my players gave chase. A potentially thrilling roleplaying opportunity fell flat because I did not know how to handle it. I may be a noob GM but I learn from my mistakes. The experience gave me an idea for a mechanic for my game.

Chase Tables!

Here's the basic idea:

First determine the distance between the chasee and the chaser. The chasee can use obstacles to try to gain distance or impede the chaser. Obstacles are determined by the location. Distance is gained or lost in 10ft lengths. The chase ends when the chasee is caught, gains x number of lengths, or the chaser gives up.

An example:

#1 chases #2 into an alley. #2 has a 30ft lead on #1.

Obstacles: Crates and a fence

Option 1 - #2 can pull the crates over to cause #1 to have to successfully dodge the crates or loose a length while #2 climbs over the fence.

Option 2 - #2 can just try to climb the fence faster than normal. If he succeeds he can gains a length, if he fails he looses a length.

I plan to develop the idea and post the tables for specific locations. Look for Small Villages, Medieval Style.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Design Journal: Knowledge

It is my experience that knowledge skills are unimportant(for lack of a better term). Players spend their points and, if they have a few left over, will put them in a knowledge. They are rarely important to the game and generally a waste of a skill point.

 I currently use the standard method for knowledge skills; buy ranks in a specific knowledge skill and that determines your level of knowledge on the subject.

I am considering changing to a more abstract method. Players would not have to buy ranks in a subject. If it makes sense for their character to know something, then they can know it. To determine level of knowledge on a subject players use one of three methods; they use a related skill such as foraging for information about plants, gather information for information gained from people, and research for information gained from documents and other non-people sources.

I like this method because it frees up points for more directly useful skills and is less limiting. You never have to worry about your ranger not knowing poisonous plants from healing because he did not have points to spare for knowledges.

I do realize that this method could easily be taken advantage of. The GM would have to take care to make sure players are being true to their character concepts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Curse for You: Blue Diablo

Reading Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre gave me a great idea for a curse. One of the characters, Chance, is lucky. Unfortunately, all the bad things that would have happened to him, happen to those around him.

The effects of the curse can range from a mild +2 on a check to avoiding death. Roll to see which of the other members of the party will suffer the consequences. The unfortunate party member will suffer a penalty of equal strength.

With practice the character can learn to control the curse. Instead of taking the bonus, they can take a point of fatigue (or subdual) for the strain of holding it off.

The frequency that the curse strikes is entirely up to you. You are free to pepper an encounter with a range of bonuses or save it for thematic moments.

Armin swung his sword at the dragon's leg. As the beast turned, its tail collided with the cavern wall and a shower of debris fell. He ignored the stones in favor of avoiding the tail, which was sweeping towards him. As he dodged, he heard a cry to his left. Drak, one of his fellow baiters lay on the ground, his leg crushed under a boulder. The boulder had become unstable when the tail collided with the wall, when it fell the tail swept it away from Armin and onto Drak.

Armin cursed. He couldn't control the curse if he didn't know he was in danger. He pulled Drak away from the fighting into a tunnel that was too small for the dragon to follow. Once he made sure Drak was out of harm's way, he returned to the entrance of the tunnel and surveyed the battle. The baiters surrounded the dragon, attempting to force it to reveal the vulnerable areas under the wings so the archers could strike it with arrows laced with dragonsbane. The dragon was old and crafty. It knew how to fight without exposing its weak spots.

As he moved to rejoin the fight, he spotted another fallen comrade. He knelt beside the man to help but the archer was dead, bow still clutched in hand and surrounded by scattered arrows. Suddenly the dragon roared. Armin looked up to see it  snatch a man from the ground. As the dragon lifted the warrior to its maw, the raising leg shifted the wing. The underside was exposed!

The curse whispered to him. He could make the shot, but at what cost?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Design Journal: Combat Styles and Signature Moves

I have been working on my system for a very long time. Whenever I made a change I just wrote over what I had already written. I'm pretty sure I have lost some decent ideas this way. In the Design Journal posts, I will document the changes I am considering and any additions I make. This way I will have a log of my ideas and also gain input on the directions I take. First up, combat.
My current combat model looks a bit like this

4 Archery

3 Extended Range

Imp. Ranged Flank

Imp. Point-Blank Shot

Ranged Sneak Attack

Rapid Shot

1 Sharp Shooting


You buy ranks in a combat skill, such as archery, and that gets you a specialization point to spend on the sub-skills like rapid shot. The ranks you buy in a skill determines your BAB and the specializations are modifiers for your attacks.

I want to change over to a slightly different model. You still purchase ranks in the combat style and that determines your BAB. Instead of specializations, I want to use signature moves. It would look something like this


SM1: Sharp Shooter - negate 1 point of cover penalty
SM2: Additional Attack - make an additional primary attack with an AB of 2
SM3: Improved Aim - can shoot 15 feet beyond the range of the weapon without penalty
SM4: Tumbling Archer - can make attacks while tumbling up to 20 feet  at normal movement penalty

I like this model because it increases the character's overall effectiveness in combat and encourages customization. There is no set list to choose from, just a list of possible choices and guidelines for creating your own moves.

Moves would be bound by degree of effect, such as 1 point of penalty and 5ft for distance and movement. Moves should be about effects, not about increasing your attack bonus or damage. Negating specific types of penalties to attacks is acceptable, simply adding to your attack bonus is not. Of course, all moves are subject to GM approval.

There are multiple problems that I see with this. The first is that I will have to switch everything over to a penalty system such as:
Increased Range  -1/5ft
Rapid shot  -2/additional arrow

I do like this because I feel it is more realistic. Anybody can try anything but it is harder without training.  Unfortunately, I think it will complicate combat, which is something I do not want.

Also, in the skill system I am using, skills can get up to over 50. Having 50+ moves would be a pain to keep track of. I could say that instead of gaining a new move, you can improve the moves you already have or reduce the rate you can gain new moves to every other rank.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reactions to The Avengers

Hubby and I went to see the Avengers. Once I got past the Joss fangirl giddiness, I realized it served as a perfect example of an issue I have noticed since I started running games.

Everyone wants to be a superhero.

I don't mean it in a literal 'superhero with powers and such' way, but in a 'everyone is obsessed with getting stronger and better' way. Call it powergaming or munchkinism or whatever, it's frustrating (I'm guilty of it too, don't call me a hypocrite).

Don't get me wrong, growth is healthy, but it seems like everyone wants to skip over the origin story and get straight to the supreme bad-assness.

I loved the heroes of the movie (Stark is hilarious), but... want to know who I thought was the coolest person in the movie?

This guy.
Just an average person who did something incredibly brave and kinda stupid. No super-soldier serum, no souped-up tech (well sort of, but I don't think it counts). He took what he had and used it. His death scene was more poignant than Stark's risking his life to save the ship moment or the Hulk being more than mindless destruction and saving his friend.

And in his final moments, he got one over on a demi-god.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Swords and Sabres

Who doesn't love sharp pointies?

As part of the complete customizability goal for my game I started looking up different kinds of weapons. I never found a source that really suited what I was looking for until one day when I was browsing through the bargain books at Borders.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Swords and Sabres by Harvey JS Withers is awesome.

It provides a description of the weapons, an explanation of how they were used, and variations of design. On top of all that, there is fun historical information and lots of cool pictures.

I was able to find interesting new weapons to add to the list I got from open source materials and I also have plans to include weapon modifications that have function as well as fluff.

I don't have Knives, Daggers and Bayonets yet but I took a peek at it while I was killing some time at Half Price Books and it looks like it will be just as useful.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


When I started play testing my game, I used a zombie apocalypse setting. I love the survivalism aspect of apocalypse stories and I thought zombies would make for a fun game. I started looking for stories and movies for inspiration (which was tricky because I am a total wuss. I once got nightmares from a friend describing a scary movie to me). After I got my first zombie nightmare, I decided it was time to take a break from that setting. However, I still like the setting idea and want to flesh it out. To that end, I still look for good zombie stories.

In honor of zombies and blogging, I introduce Feed by Mira Grant.

This story follows Georgia Mason, Newsie blogger in a world where the cure for cancer and the cure for the common cold equals zombies. What I liked most about this story is that society didn't fall. In most zombie stories I have come across, humanity exists in isolated pockets. In Feed, society survived and continued, just more paranoid (Georgia is part of the press detail for a candidate in the presidential election). Everything felt very plausible from the technologies and procedures used to deal with the plague to the cultural changes that result from living in constant fear; I especially liked the differences between the pre and post rising generations.

One thing I knew I wanted to do with my setting was offer play options for different points in the timeline. That way a GM could start during the rising and play through or simply focus on what happened after. This story made me think about offering alternate versions of the timeline. GMs could play through the normal fall of society or play in a world that survives and adapts (possibly due to the actions of the characters?).

To conclude: Feed is an excellent read for those who like more than gore in their zombie fiction and I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


My gaming journey began in my freshman year of college. I met a couple of guys who told me about the games they were playing and invited me to come and observe a session. I showed up, the DM told me about his world and what was going on with the characters. Then he handed me a character sheet and told me to make a character. I hadn't intended to leap in head first. I had only been away from home for a little over a week. I didn't know these people, but I figured 'what the heck' and did it.

On that evening, Virginia Maddock was born. Maddock, code name Sly, was an awesome spy who could create flawless forgeries and steal planes right out from under the enemy's nose. It was fun and left me totally willing to try the other game they were playing.

 That first game was Crimson Skies. The second was DnD3.5. I have also played Werewolf, Serenity, BattleTech, 1 whole session of Pathfinder and some Spycraft/d20 Modern/Future games. Mostly it has been 3.5.

A year or two ago I decided I was going to come up with a way to make DnD classless. I kept changing things I didn't like and adding new things I thought were cool and one day I looked at it and realized that it really was not DnD anymore. I started looking up game design and discovered the online world of rpgs.

After spending a significant amount of time lurking, I have finally decided to join in on the fun.

Here goes nothing...