Monday, 28 January 2019

making of the new shit #2: Abstract and non-abstract. Wall of text incoming, without any practical application as of yet.

This is me using this blog as a notepad, writing wild just to see what happens and maybe power up this trip to the game I talked about in the previous entry.

This post doesn't intend to be anywhere close to the game itself. But taking in account the rules exposed before, let's check what kind of things must be taken into account in a rulebook. Any others will kindly be discarded into the primal void. When in doubt, for purely maniac reasons, i'll try to tend to the minimalism.

STATS: binary: you're either strong or you are not. There is no need for further gradation. If anybody could take down a door because is very weak, just roll to see if you do it in time. If the door is sturdy as fuck, only STRONG characters can apply. Equally with dexterity: every character is equal until there is a substantial difference where you can walk over tree branches like if they were a dance floor. Then we can say you're Dexterous. As i've seen, its done like that in Pits & Perils: they act more like allowing certain actions than as bonus (though of course they can still give +1's or whatever). We could see them as "skills" or "items" (ie: Dexterity is an object that allows you to walk over branches)
So in this case, abstraction is a YES. No need to know which PC would win in arm-westle, they can settle that fighting in person.

SKILLS: They can work binary too. You either know medicine or you don't. You either know swordfight or you don't. Maybe they can be mixed with stats in the character generator engine.
The main issue will be figuring out how to handle things that should stack with each other:
(skill: polearms and skill: strenght should stack when fighting? maybe only with heavy weapons? would that make them too powerful? we'll figure it out later)

MISSIONS: there must be a pre-written list or some kind of generator. The game is about hunting bandits and maybe stolen treasures, with potential plot twists. Hell, we can do a d20 table for 20 bandits, 20 stolen items, 20 things you know about them and 20 things you don't (your gm rolls here)
As I intend combat to be symetrical and as exent from GM fiat as possible, I need the character sheets to be very small so I can create enemies very fast and, if possible, randomly (so back to the previous point). I love random tables that have multiple colums that interact with each other and are fucking well intertwined to the point they generate cool shit that even its author is amazed at their oracular power. I have to figure out one of those. (abstraction here is a NO! workin hard is a YES)

CASH: I honestly like abstract wealth. It spares me from the work of figuring out how much a jar of honey and a quiver of arrows should cost, and comparing it to how much a prize should be worth for capturing a bandit alive or dead depending on his/her crime. Probably i should adapt this shit i made ages ago (Abstract: YES)

INVENTORY: I don't know when it was the first time I started considering the concept of quantum gear (basically, you have slots of gear on your inventory and when you're in need of something, you either declare what it is or roll to see if you have it. Maybe is after I saw a G+ guy called Joe Banner do it in a Dungeon World Lite game. I just loved it at first sight. Well, it doesn't work here, at least a priori. As I stated in the other entry, I want to make gear and its use the primary resource available to players to approach obstacles. Of course, a level of abstraction is inevitable (I can't cover in how many ways can a bubblegum be used ever). But there has to be a list of equipment. In fact I want various lists:
a) the common equipment that everybody can buy at the start
b) rare equipment that can only be bought in special shops (ninja tricks can only be found in ninja shops!)
c) treasure! Special or magic items are things that cannot be bought, ever. They can be traded for money or be kept around for their unique abilities.

In any case, their workings in game must be detailed enough so both players and enemies can use them fairly with the same rules. Keep in mind that the setting is not medieval, but rather a clumsy mix of feudal samurai post-whatever land filled with isolated mad scientists and that if the players find a gun that shoots ensnaring fishnets, there must be rules for that somehow: not necessarily realistic, but fair.  

On Quantum Gear: I can see it on cases of micromanagement (whats inside a doctor bag? what's inside a roll of carpentry tools?) but no more. MAYBE make a case for "thief tools" but that sounds like the most overpowered object ever in a game like this.

(abstraction in here: next to none)

Also of course, encumbrance rules!
WEAPONS: Maybe something like (heavy/polearm/ranged/sword/close); or maybe taking the opposite approach and fully stat the most ubiquitous weapons in the inventory section (and, from there, all new weapons should compare with the stated ones). I don't want to get much into weapon distinction : If a spear has reach and does d6 damage, it works like that for everyone, and every spear-like weapon is functionally a spear.

Here comes the twist: the tone of the game is not deadly by necessity and bandits can be taken alive to the authorities. Making non-lethal damage must be a choice that PCs can take even with deadly weapons. Also non-lethal weapons like solid foam bombs have to be effective; and they might even double as unexpected tools

SCIENCE: Of course, players might not be able to accurately describe how they repair the robot, so a level of abstractness is required for that. I worked rules before for "quantum inventions" in which the players declared what they wanted to have worked on lately (a radar, a robot, etc) and it appeared on their inventories on a favorable roll. Now i'd like to make it different but still usable: maybe making them build it in causal order (state what you want, then spend time to build it) but reducing enough the building time so PCs can afford to stay overnight in an inn and spend piles of junk (a buyable item) to craft an infravision glasses (you could also buy them in a shop, if you find one, of course, and spending much more money!). A PC that can craft shit is much more useful if the game encourages inventory as the great equalizer, so I'm greatly interested on seeing if this can work. Also probably I should differentiate between types of Crafty Guys, even if they end up making the same shit and role (medicine man and clockwork man are different things, though they use different reagents. Maybe the doctor can also brew an Infravision potion. I don't know. Maybe there can be still lists and crafting a substitute for something that is in the other guy's list is harder to do and works slightly different. I don't know yet. But as this is tied to inventory, the rules should be very tight!)

So, for now the booklet consists in:

* Character sheet (SKILLS+INVENTORY. If there is HP or equivalent, it should be tied to "time since you have been adventuring" or other level sinonym, and could be use as a way to add granularity in a combat where two Swordmen fight one against the other)
* Skill list
* Inventory list
* Secret Inventory lists
* Rules for crafting more inventory
* Simple combat rules that add nothing to balance the fights to the PCs side
* Mission generator

Friday, 25 January 2019

Design Objectives 4 the new shit

After one year thinking about it, I think I've finally found some core principles I want to design around, in my quest for making th3 be5t RPG oF 4ll t1Me. I've more or less already set the guidelines on many of the older posts, and I'm always somehow thinking about it, in the back of my mind. I've decided to lay the foundations here in a simple list just to check them when I'm going astray.

#1 The game is basically its cowboy bebop but on a weird-tech-but-fantasy land. And, as the author explains on this awesome article: "Bebop's structure is simple: 1. there's a new bounty, 2. the gang goes after the bounty, 3. the gang doesn't get rich". The latter can be solved by making the party spend money on new gear or by making keeping that money safe a quest on itself. The loop is the loop. Then, while they are distracted by it, me as a GM will push the background of the characters and whatever worldbuilding I have through the very current mission, up to the point in which a story is presented to them in the shape of a bounty.

#2 Though this loop is very akin to D&D "kill monsters, retrieve treasure, get XP", the tone is different from sword and sorcery, and much more anime-esque. Most of the time, the fights are man vs man. There are four tiers of contenders: Common civilians < Soldiers and Mooks < Skilled fighters < Insanely good fighters, probably tengu.
Fighting a guy in your tier is always uncertain and you better get some advantage. A guy over your tier can probably one-punch you.
(A mook can never touch Mugen or Spike, unless they are in numbers AND EVEN THEN)

#3 VERY VERY IMPORTANT: Combat rules must be symetrical. This means that there are no special rules for PCs, and that they work mechanically identical to NPCs. I hate when games do shit like "In case of doubt, PCs always attack first" or "For ambushing, PCS roll stealth, and, for preventing an ambush, PCs again roll to prevent surprise". PCs rolling for everything is the main thing I found upsetting in World of Dungeons (my previous game crush). Also, it completely needs PVP combat to have special rules and PVP is always present in my games.
To complete this, the GM should have little power on bending rules towards any side: Combat rules must be fair and square, and the victory or defeat of the PCs or NPCs should never be saved by a GM's whim. (Even though for the sake of tone, we can say that vanquished enemies are debilitated instead of dead, just like pokemon, if it fits the scene)

#4 Inventory is the god of this game. Your character sheet might give you one or two special things (are you very strong? do you know any kendo?) But what you have on yourself must be the real thing to worry here. What do you choose to carry and buy? What can you forage or steal around? Can you find the sellers of the specific items you want in this city? Is even legal in this town to deal with smoke bombs or poison? Making a normal civilian (or a non fighter) in this game means that you have to think ways around combat if you ever find one (refer to #2). You might not even be able to roll when fighting a samurai (how could you even touch him?) But you always should be able to speak with him (roleplay!) throw sand to his eyes (roll!) or offer him a carved wooden board to see if he can decipher a message that leads to a treasure. It might take a while for him to discern that both sides of it we're covered in glue, and that now he is virtually handcuffed.

#5 Playing a non combat character in a world filled with terrible fighters must be interesting enough for players to choose those classes. This might seem like an oxymoron, but they are a staple in the genre. Ed in Cowboy Bebop, Fuu in Samurai Champloo, Bulma in early Dragon Ball. Bubblegum Princess in AT; etc. I have something for scientists as a class. Some inventory objects might even require a specialized guy to work them to their full potential.

So, in short:

- Bountyhunters in a self-aware loop.
- Very definite power levels and status quo.
- Clever use of gear is a way to bypass it.
- Impartial rules that admit little bending.
- And also, as rules light as it gets!