Sunday, March 26, 2006

Exalted 2nd ed. Character Sheet

I got bored yesterday, and created what may one day become a semi-workable character sheet for Exalted 2nd ed. Here is the first draft of it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sorcerer

I was reading this thread on The Forge, which was linked to in Ben Lehman's Blog, and got inspired by it to come up with a quick outline for a Sorcerer setting. I don't know what it is about that game that begs for it to be modded to other settings.

Anyway, the idea?

Sorcerers are post-war veterans. Demons are their training, their altered mindsets, their ability to kill, and their weapons. Are Demons entities apart from this? Perhaps. This is something that could be explored in game, particularly if you wanted to go for a more surreal Jacob's Ladder feel rather than something more Ramboesque. Humanity is empathy and the ability to see others as human. At Humanity 0, you simply can't interact with people anymore - people are mere objects, and those who stand in the way of even the smallest of your goals are likely to be killed without thought.

Source material? First Blood, Commando, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, or anything where someone resolves conflicts by relying upon combat training and/or a willingness to step outside of the normal rules of society.

Mandate of Heaven

So, I picked up the Exalted 2nd Ed. Storyteller's Companion last night. I did this primarily to check out the Mandate of Heaven rules. There is a thread on rpg.net with a good overview of these rules, so I won't go into too much detail here. Essentially, the Mandate of Heaven rules are like Civilization: the RPG set in the world of Exalted. My roommate became very excited about it due to the thought that he could run his beloved Birthright in a system that would actually support its peculiarities.

The really notable thing about the Mandate of Heaven rules is that it makes a player/character distinction that one practically never sees in larger-market mainstream rpgs. By default, the players run city-states, nations, villages, etc that their characters may not be directly connected to - this is assumed to be a sort of mini-game that can serve both as a fun diversion, a way of having the players become involved in developing the game-world, and as a plot generator. Yes, there are rules for playing cities that are actually run (or influenced) by the player characters. These aren't the focus, though.

I haven't had the chance to read the rules in depth. I worry that they may be too complicated for casual use. This is unfortunate, as I would see the default method of playing this mini-game as being best used casually in periods of PC downtime.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Too much gaming

Right now, I'm involved in a lot of gaming. It isn't taking up quite as much of my life as it did when I was really involved with LARPing (and this is a very good thing), but it has gotten to the point where I have regularly had to put off plans to do productive things (like organize the kitchen, clean the chinchilla cage, paint, etc.) because of a game. Part of the issue is that work has been busy and refuses to be neatly confined to the hours between nine and five. Another part of the issue is that I'm lousy when it comes to time management.

On top of this, I'm probably going to run an occasional D&D game for my housemates... and I'm eyeing Exalted Second Edition.

The D&D game ought not to be a huge burden. It will be run every third week or so, and will steal time away from other games. I plan on using it to test out a few ideas that I've had about tweaking d20. One of the players will be playtesting a core Tinker class that I designed.

Exalted, I don't have any particular prospects to run, but I like what I've been hearing about the changes. I don't want to run it with the group I ran first edition with - they get too hung up on minutiae. This was a major frustration for me the first time around. If I run Exalted, I want the concerns to be big ones.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How I learned to stop bean counting and love resource management...

As a general rule, I don't like resource management in role-playing games.

There are exceptions, of course. The rule is a general one, not absolute. Ultimately, though, I would rather be paying attention to the action than obsessively counting up tokens or paying attention to how long an effect will last. Steady depletion of resources doesn't build dramatic tension for me. Instead it simply increases my overall anxiety. I hate it when I get the feeling that I wasted something that I was saving for the right moment.

This really hit home the other night. I was playing (the non-d20 version of) Aberrant (reviews), a not-particularly-four-color superhero rpg put out by White Wolf. Like most White Wolf games, Aberrant has a resource pool that is depleted as you use your powers and replenished fairly haphazardly. In this case, it is called quantum, as opposed to quintessence, essence, gnosis, inspiration, pathos, glamour, or blood (betcha can't guess what game that last one was from). Now, I find the idea of resource-depletion management of this sort to be particularly odious in a superhero game. This might be because I still like the old Marvel Super Heroes game put out by TSR where the abilities made the acronym FASERIP.

Aberrant is otherwise a cool game, though. The setting is fairly well thought out to allow for stories based around conspiracies, politics, and changing the world. The rest of the mechanics are fairly strong, considering that they are built on White Wolf's Storyteller system.

I said that playing Aberrant the other night brought home how much I disliked resource management. In addition to managing a quantum pool, different powers have different durations. Some require that additional quantum be spent on them after a certain number of rounds or scenes. Others work as long as you concentrate on them. Going into the game, I was dreading the necessity of keeping track of all of this despite the fact that I was only likely to have 2-3 powers going at any one time. Ultimately, though, the GM decided to simplify things. We'd spend the quantum on our powers and they'd last until the end of the scene. At the end of the scene, we'd get some quantum back and our powers would need to be renewed.

All I had to keep track of was the quantum I used in the scene. He'd announce the scene end and tell us, at that point, how much quantum we'd get back. Next scene? Repeat. This was easy. I could do this without worrying. The relief I felt was tremendous. I must remember to keep resource management in my game designs no more complicated than this.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Neitherworld: Path Mechanics Take I

I am going to engage in a bit of stream of consciousness here. I have some ideas rumbling around in my head about how to use the journeys of an Unborn down the DreamPaths as a locus of the game's mechanics, and I need to have them written down somewhere.

Working assumptions: All players are playing a single Unborn. Each takes on a different aspect to play. These aspects are divided up in terms of different (though simultaneous) journeys down different DreamPaths. A DreamPath is a semi-real-semi-metaphorical path that lies between Earth and the Neitherworld (a space made of chaotic magic).

Let's assume that each player has a limited set of resources that can be assigned to describe how the shared Unborn goes about its journey down the DreamPath assigned to that player. Let's say (for the moment) that there are two options: Destination and Journey. Each DreamPath's Destination lies in the Neitherworld. The higher an Unborn's Destination rating, the less human it is (with respect to that DreamPath). Conversely, the higher an Unborn's Journey rating in a DreamPath, the more that Unborn is concerned with the journey itself and the world of humans through which it travels.

Unborn with high Destination ratings in a DreamPath:
  • Relate poorly to humans with respect to subjects related to the DreamPath
  • Can impose the subject of their DreamPath on the mundane world
  • Have a strong connection to the Neitherworld, and can draw power from there
Unborn with high Journey ratings in a DreamPath:
  • Have an uncanny understanding of how humans relate to the DreamPath.
  • Can influence things related to their DreamPath in the mundane world
  • Have a weak connection to the Neitherworld, but can find sources of power in the mundane world