Thursday, April 23, 2015

IKRPG: Personal Piledrivers

In any gaming system, one is bound to experience a certain number of ruling mistakes. Even being an experienced Rules Minion, I still (on occasion) misread a rule, or house rule an established mechanic without realizing that the patches I'm placing on top of a RPG system may be covering perfectly tailored and tested mechanics.

I've decided to keep a running list of piledrivers I heap upon my games, in the hopes that anyone encountering them may not suffer through the utterly broken rolls that have occasionally plagued my games.

Combat Caster + Gunmage

Oh man is this a huge one. My good friend Scott created an Iosan Gunmage for his very first character, and let me tell you did it kick freaking ass. I mean, how could it not, combining Combat Casting with Rune Shot: Accuracy and Rune Shot: Brutal, where you're rolling four dice for attack and damage, and dropping the lowest die from each?

That just felt broken, and it wasn't until I actually read the Privateer Press forums that I realized it totally was. Combat Casting, in the way it's written, is only to be applied to magical attacks using one's ARC stat- meaning that Gun Mages, who cast the spells on their bullets and then attack using their firearms (and thus their POI and not their ARC), are unable to use Combat Casting for their rune shots. Scott didn't like me much after I revealed that little gem to him.

Sigh...being a Rules Minion was never an easy job.

Addendum 4/23: I've just realized that Combat caster only affects the Attack roll, not the damage roll. I'm sure all of my spellcasters in my game will be absolutely thrilled to hear this.

Quick Actions and Aiming

Onto one of my own personal piledrivers, this caused me no small consternation after I'd discovered that I'd been doing things incorrectly for multiple game sessions. It effectively dropped my RAT by two points for every round after that first round of combat, and even then I'd still lose the bonus if I had to, say, draw a weapon or send a Drive to a steamjack (something I never managed to do...sigh).

I still managed to turn a fair few enemies into mincemeat, but it just wasn't as super overpowered as it used to be. Ah well.

Heroic Dodge Before Calculating ARM

Oh man this was a HUGE one, but luckily it didn't last more than one or two sessions. You see, in IKRPG Core, the verbiage used for Heroic Dodge indicates that the 'feat point is spent after a damage roll is made,' but also states that a character suffers 'half the damage from an attack.'

What is confusing about this is that:

- Damage rolls, as defined by the IKRPG Core, are [dice roll] plus the POW (or P+S) of an attack, and the formula does not mention ARM.
- Damage, however, is the amount of hit point loss suffered after armor is applied to a Damage Roll.

Now, to a studious reader who is paying attention, obviously everything is perfectly spelled out.

1) Your character gets hit by an attack, the GM rolls for damage and gets a disconcertingly high number.
2) You declare that you are using Heroic Dodge and spend a feat point.
3) The GM calculates the damage he rolled and subtracts your character's ARM stat from the total damage roll. He then applies the effect of Heroic Dodge to the difference, halving the hit point damage your character suffers, rounding up.

What we were doing instead was halving the damage roll, so that when it came time to compare the roll to our ARM stats, we were suffering zero damage per hit.

The game got much more deadly all of a sudden.

Feat: Boost Untrained Skill

Well, here's one that I just this past week fully read the rules on and oh shit it is going to make a serious difference in how my players breeze through my games.

You see, in IKRPG, you generate skill bonuses from a combination of a base statistic and a skill rank. You also gain Feat Points at the start of every session and every time you do something cool (essentially), so they are a constantly renewing resource. One of the most common out-of-combat utilizations for Feat Points is to boost non-attack skill rolls.

My group has not only been boosting non-attack untrained skill rolls, but also non-attack STATISTIC rolls. Holy shit is that a no-no.

As stated by the rules, you cannot spend a feat point to boost skills in which you have no ranks. There is no verbiage to even indicate that spending feat points to boost Attribute rolls is even slightly viable.

Well folks, it was good while it lasted.

Back Strike = Free Strike?

Finally we get to a pretty embarrassing piledriver, and the last for this particular iteration of this post. Luckily we only did this for one session, and to be fair if we weren't I imagine our party would have been TPK'd by the warjacks our GM was sending at us, but yes, we managed to confuse back strikes with free strikes, therefore using positioning to gain unfair and unearned boosted damage rolls.

This was quickly remedied in future games and has not come up since.

Well, that's it for my current recollection of Iron Kingdoms RPG piledrivers. I'm sure I'll experience even more in the future, and hopefully be able to add more to this blog post sometime soon.


Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Session 9

Well, there was quite a bit more action (not fighting, just plot movement) this session than last, but I remain firmly seated on the fence regarding the shorter runtime for the game. It has its pros and cons, but it does seem like there are fewer things the group is actually able to accomplish per session; that lends itself to being both pro and con all on its own.

What I did heartily enjoy about this session was the result of a certain mindset I find myself actually needing to force myself to present at the table; one in which I actually say yes to players occasionally.

Of course, there are circumstances where players will indeed act recklessly, and in those situations you need to punish the players most harshly for their trespasses: there is a good example of this in the tail end of our game, in fact. There was no hit point damage, or potential for death, but when the use of sound and setting gives players a hint of their own mortality, and you gift them a moment of 'oh shit,' such are the joys of being a GM.

I did have a combat encounter planned for this session, however the extra week of prep time will allow me to further elaborate upon a concept that came to me late before last night's session, and thus I would have been unable to fully capitalize upon it. Now, though, it is on. It is so on.

IKRPG Session 9: A Deal is a Deal

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 8

Well, session 8 is a thing that happened, and beyond the plot progression, which was minor, I have a few talking points. Let's just say that events occurred this game, events that were scripted in a less than stellar fashion, and the end result was a slapdash mishmash of roleplaying, roadblocks, and gaming woes.

The first new development here is the introduction of a new player character, who wanted to give the IKRPG a test run. It's always a difficulty introducing someone fresh into a game that's been running for awhile; it's much like a person unfamiliar with a television show just jumping into the newest season with not even a basic knowledge of who/what/when/where/how/why. They're just sort of left wondering what's going on with little to do. Aside from that, there's also the difficulty with introducing a tenuous player, because if they decide not to return to the gaming table (as this one did), you need to find a way to A) get them into the party with as little hassle as possible and B) keep their inclusion as minor as possible, so that if they decide not to return there isn't a massive amount of plot threads just left dangling. It's a fine line, and difficult to walk, and kind of just feels undercooked when it's done wrong, which is pretty much the only way to do it.

Aside from the new player, we also had an experiment with allowing a player to generate plot points due to their weekly interlude. I won't discuss the minutia of this player-input, or my personal reactions to it; all I'm really willing to say is that if you're planning on telling a player they can create some sort of event that will happen in the next gaming session, make sure you know that player and you know how to turn that event into something actually meaningful. I'm of two minds towards how I reacted to this development, despite using it to perform a call-back to another player's interaction with the setting in an earlier game, and I still have a bit to think about regarding exactly how I'm going to move forward from here with it.

Lastly, I'd like to talk about breadcrumbs and plot trails. Usually, I find myself throwing very few clues towards where I want my plots to go, because my players tend to cleverly bungle their ways into my main plot lines in ways that create more and more; however, in this situation I tried to be more sly about my plot crumbs and ended up dead-ending the players' investigations. They have a conspiracy, but no actual way in which to pursue it, and we left our session with them starting across a table at a plot-forwarding NPC with no way of actually getting him to move the plot forward.

This is what comes from games with slipshod preparation. Sigh.

IKRPG Session 8: Old Friends

Monday, April 13, 2015

BRP/Magic World: Sword Art Online

Well, my girlfriend and I just finished the second season of Sword Art Online, and it got me thinking about running a tabletop RPG reminiscent of this game, either in name or some sort of expy-version thereof, but with my most recent forays into the RPG scene being basically from the aspect of Iron Kingdoms, I wanted to dredge up the mechanics of Basic Roleplaying again, seeing as how I've invested a serious amount of my sourcebook income into Chaosium's line of rpgs.

I'm also writing this as a sort of mental exercise for myself, both to increase my postings on my blog, and to keep myself from spending money uselessly signing up for a MMO somewhere and not really enjoying my time playing it, and thus wasting creative energy.

Regardless, I really like the concept of bringing in the actual source as intact as possible because, to reiterate the plot in as spoiler-free a manner as possible, in SAO, when you kill another player character, their actual player suffers a significant electrical jolt to their brain, causing immediate death. This sidesteps one of the standard player mentalities of 'kill everything in sight' by imposing a moral quandary into the more bloodthirsty aspects of the tabletop RPG hobby. Essentially, Player Killers are literally player killers, as their in-game homicides are actual, real-world homicides.

Somewhat breaking from the original source material, however, is the aspect of multiple MMO universes portrayed somewhat later in the anime, and I do quite like the idea of players switching between 'games' occasionally, keeping their attributes but losing their skills, equipage, and money. This does, however, mean that there probably needs to be some sort of leveling system for statistics as well as skills, which is somewhat of a break from the standard Chaosium formula.

But I think I can mitigate that though a hybridization of the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition ruleset with the standard Magic World ruleset, basically running the game where statistics are listed as a derivative of 100, then half that, then 1/5 of that to give a core number that can be used to generate stats. Adding a skill checkbox next to statistic's d100 number means that they can be increased using the standard BRP character advancement rules, but also ensures that characters can't get ridiculously overpowered without more home-brewing. We'll talk more about advancement later.

I think what I like best about BRP is that I can create a list of skills to just put on a character sheet and have players assign starting numbers to them, while keeping the d100 ruleset together. This will probably necessitate looking a number of gamefaqs pages and SAO wikias trying to find a unified list of non-combat skills, but I also think I should probably keep some of the standard BRP/MW skills intact, as the translations for some of the SAO skills in the PSP games are what might be seen as pedestrian. I suppose if I were to keep them it might add to the authenticity and aesthetics of the final system itself, but for now I think utilizing more descriptive and enlightening language creates a more approachable hybrid for rpg veterans and converts from the games/anime. Of course, I'm talking about this as if it's going to be the next big thing, and in all likelihood it'll just become a google document sitting on my drive until I delete my account in x number of years.

What really might require some more intense thought in creating the system is the implementation of Sword Skills from the source material. There are some great write-ups regarding this on the wikias for the various games, and I'll probably trudge through those when I'm less caffeinated and more able to focus on a single stream of consciousness, but from what I'm gathering currently there are regular Sword Skills, which are kind of like special techniques, and Original Sword skills, which are more complex forms of chained Sword Skills, created by individual users (at least in the handheld versions of the game). These I'm thinking can be introduced through the use of Power Points from the BRP system, where x skills cost x power points, and PPs regenerate either through the use of items or over time. Of course the recovery through items basically means that currency and economics needs to play a part of the game world itself, thus necessitating another blog post and me looking through the BRP yellow book for rules on Power Points themselves. Where I start getting into trouble, in my own mind, is when I begin thinking about creating rules for players to create their own Sword Skills and original sword skills, mechanically assigning power points to various effects a Sword Skill may grant.

And, of course, one can't talk about Sword Skills without discussing the combat system of the game (and source material) itself. The big mechanic, aside from Sword Skills (I refuse to abbreviate those words) is the Switch mechanic, where one player parries an enemy attack, allowing a second player to 'switch' in and perform an unopposed attack. This sort of emphasizes team-play, which is cool in concept, I'm just curious about its execution in-game. Off-hand, I'm thinking of hybridizing Pendragon mechanics alongside BRP mechanics, essentially creating a situation where players need to split their skill (I need to look at the BRP rules regarding multiple actions in combat, those may be more forgiving) to engage multiple enemies, and therefore Switching would only really happen in the case of one-on-one combats, probably against bosses.

Again, this can be further mitigated by bosses who can perform multiple attacks in a single round, thereby possibly negating the switch mechanic.

Standard combat would, of course, become more Pendragonny, where players and their opponents would compete with their rolls to see who is the more effective combatant, and that would determine who would roll damage, akin to the Call of Cthulhu 7e ruleset.

The biggest break from the source I'm seeing, however, is that hit points become much more of an issue. With BRP rules, even using the Combine, not Average mechanics, means that players will have fewer hit points than usual. I think this might be where armor comes in and starts saving the day, allowing what I'm thinking will be a standard reduction in damage due to an ARM figure, a la Pendragon or IKRPG. Boss monsters, on the other hand, I'm debating on, perhaps they'll have insane amounts of hit points, or they'll have a set lower number, and each time it disappears the boss goes into Yellow or Red mode, resetting their hit points and changing their tactics, as per the anime.

In any case, there's quite a lot to think about here, and I'm really just stoked I was able to pound out a blog post regarding a fantastic anime and the game system I'll probably never create based on it. But hey, if I do, i'll probably run something with it, just for the funsies.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 7

Another week, another IKRPG session. Here we find our party journeying back to Corvis after the successful completion of their eminently great works, and starting to discover just how much trouble they are in.

This session I fell victim to a trap that I tend to find myself actively trying to prevent, which is combat for combat's sake. It's a regretful hold-over from when I used to run D&D 4th edition, and I've been trying to stamp it out for years of GMing, now.

At least it gave me opportunity to break out the minis from Iron Kingdoms Unleashed; it'll be difficult for me to run something in that system for quite some time, due to the over-saturation of the Iron Kingdoms RPG that I currently find myself in.

Next session I'll be experimenting with a shorter-form, basically attempting to get a full session of gaming done in 2.5 hours instead of the usual 3-3.5.

Eh, it's something to find out.

IKRPG Session 7: To Fellig!