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Tides of Shadow
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Prak
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:47 am    Post subject: Tides of Shadow Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

A World in Masquerade
"A person is smart. People are dumb panicky animals."
Most people in the world are too caught up in their own lives to notice what is going on outside their heads. They get up, get dressed, go to work, and just drone their way through their lives. Or they while their lives away with their heads stuck in their computers.

They don't know, or don't care, or aren't involved in the struggles of others outside their windows and across the world.

However, there is a larger struggle which humanity as a whole treats much the same as these people treat the struggle of the homeless and indigent.

Tides of Shadow features a world much like the one outside your window, but it is under a quiet invasion. The invading forces are not foreigners, or super germs, or any of the things that media and movies try to indoctrinate you into fearing. The invading forces aren't even intending to invade. They're victims just as much as our world is, torn from their homes and families and stranded on alien soil.

When they're lucky, they're greeted by someone who's already been through it, who can explain what's going on, and help them get through the first month or so while they adjust.

When they're unlucky... well, blurry photos of cryptocritters didn't stop when people got camera phones, it just moved online and started being assumed to be really well done makeup. There are still stories of chance meetings in the woods with frightening things, but now they're called copypasta. And nothing covers an event up like a government that doesn't want to answer questions.

The Tides of Shadow
Shadowkin- noun, any creature or person who has been transported to an alien reality through the tides of Shadow.

In Tides of Shadows, the multiverse theory is verifiable truth. There are a wide panoply of worlds, and they are all hung in a metaphysical ocean that scholars call "The Shadow Sea." The Shadow Sea is not water, but acts much like it. It has currents, tides, eddies, even mist and spray. It is even "wet" in a way, in that it clings to things that touch it. The Shadow Sea can, and does, pull creatures and objects into itself, much like something can drift out to sea with a tide. Usually, this jetsam washes up on another shore. It is possible for something to wash up on a another "shore" of their native reality, suddenly finding themselves in China when, last they knew, they'd been in Ohio. More commonly, however, a person or creature that is caught in the Shadow Sea finds themselves washing up on the shores of another world, Shadow clinging to them like sea foam and salt, rapidly crusting as the water evaporates off of them.

This has been the state of things for centuries, possibly even millennia. The tides surge and ebb, and it is far from a constant assault. Sometimes a century goes by and no new creatures arrive in our world so far as anyone is aware. Sometimes the Displaced find themselves taking in twenty new denizens in an hour. Usually, though, only a handful of creatures or objects come through the Shadow on any given day. If all such migrations across the world were counted together, there might be a few tens of thousands on any given day.

Normalization
When a creature washes up on the shores of reality, the clinging Shadow from their journey dries like a film over them. They awaken to find themselves appearing different than they last knew, often dressed in strange clothes, and possessing an inherent knowledge of some thing strange to them. This is known as Normalization. it is seen as gift from the Shadow, making it easier for shadowkin to hide in the possibly dangerous world that the Shadow dropped them in.

For a Shadowkin who arrives in the world of mundanes, normalization makes most creatures appear to be human, whether elf, dwarf or even gnoll or ogre. They still possess the physical qualities they had when they left their world, but the people of the mundane realm do not see them for what they are. A human of our world may be looking an ogre who is soaked in gore and viscera, but would merely see a large man in coveralls, hands coated in grease, perhaps.

While Shadow only creates an illusion of human guise, it does genuinely change or even create some object carried by a shadowkin. The above troll awakened after his involuntary journey to find his loincloth replaced by a mechanic's jumpsuit, and a wallet in his pocket. The wallet gave him a name which would seem plausible in our world, an address he could go to for a home, and may even have changed some or all of whatever valuable he might have been carrying into currency appropriate to the region he awoke in.

However, much like the film of sea salt and foam can be washed off in the pure water of the shower, the film of normalcy that comes from the Shadow is dampened and runs off in areas of Shadow. When a shadowkin finds themselves in high-Shadow areas, their guise slips, and their true natures are visible once again. Perhaps most notably, darkness is part of Shadow. Like, that thing that happens when the sun goes down. A shadowkin in an area of no light (or no external light, in the case of shadowkin who produce their own) can be seen for what they truly are. For this reason, it is not uncommon for shadowkin to keep heavy, covering clothing on hand if they know, or are concerned that they'll be caught out after dark. At the same time, however, it is also precisely why many shadowkin establishments are kept fairly dimly lit--just enough for those who cannot see in the dark to be able to, or just enough to read by. Shadowkin have few opportunities to let their hair down, so to speak, so when they do, they take full advantage to revel in what they know to be their true form under the guise of normalcy.

When shadowkin leave such areas, the film of Shadow gradually resolves itself back into the guise of normalcy. In general, it usually takes about five to ten minutes for a shadowkin's guise to fade or reform.

The Displaced
"People are strange when you're a stranger. Faces look ugly when you're alone."

Shadowkin have lived in the mundane world for centuries, millennia even. They long ago began to band together. Some formed companies of bandits or mercenaries, preying on new shadowkin and native alike. Others formed groups that would attempt to track the Shadow's currents so that benign shadowkin were welcomed by helpful fellows and malevolent or dangerous shadowkin could be dealt with approrpriately. These latter eventually became a covert organization, disguised in the modern night as a community outreach and underprivileged aid organization, known as The Displaced. They can better anticipate new arrivals now, and have a presence in most major cities and many towns, but cannot be everywhere. Other organizations with disparate goals exist, but the Displaced is the most far reaching, and the organization most known by shadowkin, as Displaced Welcomers were the first faces so many of them saw after their journey.




Starting on the fluff for Tides of Shadow. Assume this is the intro--is there anything you think should be addressed which isn't? Does this raise any questions which you feel should be answered within this entry, or shortly after?

Am I using any terms which should be explicitly defined which aren't?
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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radthemad4
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

What's in the agenda for crunch here? New classes (technomage?)? Vehicle rules? Googlefu skill?
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Prak
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mechanically, it's meant to be a d20 resolution mechanic, but share just slightly more with D&D than After Sundown shares with World of Darkness.

So, it runs on d20+mods v TN (TN is probably ~15, with success levels every 5 to 10 points).
Ideally it has
  • capped skills that actually scale to level, and not just seemingly scale to it
  • feats which are roughly equally useful (almost a fool's errand, but not quite, one can at least strive for feats which are only situationally useless, like Weapon Focus to an illusionist)
  • monsters which have enough in common with D&D monsters that any conversion guide needed to use, say, Fiend Folio, can be a sidebar at most
  • classes that are built to have something to do in all parts of the game, while also having their area of expertise. This is tricky for me, but I started some work on it.
  • vastly simplified and condensed spells (so Cure ___ Wounds becomes "Cure- 1d8/XCL+1/CL," Summon Monster and Summon Nature's Ally (X) become "Summon- bring in appropriate monster for CL, see chart [monster CR appropriate for CLs]," etc)


Oh yeah, and Crafting and Social minigames.

Because I hate myself apparently.
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Laertes
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

What's your take going to be on the Masquerade? Are you going to try to justify it in character or just have it be an element of player buy-in wherein they have to agree from the beginning to not wreck your game setting?

Crafting minigames are easy, they just require a lot of maths. Social minigames are vastly harder.


Last edited by Laertes on Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Prak
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The masquerade will be somewhat self-enforced through Normalcy, and more broadly encouraged/enforced by the Displaced and other groups. The Displaced is like an immigrant outreach program composed of naturalized immigrants (I don't really know if that's a thing in real life for literal real world immigrants) that tries to welcome all of them and help them adjust and impress upon them that it's really best to not shake up humans, what with humans' propensity for glassing fields when they're shaken up. Other groups will be more MIB-ish and run around taking out Shadowkin who endanger people/the masquerade/aren't in the boss' favour (depending on group).
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Laertes
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
The Displaced is like an immigrant outreach program composed of naturalized immigrants (I don't really know if that's a thing in real life for literal real world immigrants) that tries to welcome all of them and help them adjust and impress upon them that it's really best to not shake up humans, what with humans' propensity for glassing fields when they're shaken up.


Immigrant groups like that do exist, especially in situations where the immigrants arrive with basically no money or ability to easily assimilate. They tend to be extremely exploitative and riddled with scammers, extortion rackets and other such petty crooks. Not always, but often enough that immigrant communities and organised crime have something of a history of going together.

Naturalised first-generation immigrants like myself tend to be pretty enthusiastic about assimilating at least partially: after all they came here because they wanted to be here. That's not to say they won't keep hold of parts of their own culture that they like, but they'll tend to form a halfway thing. By contrast, second-generation immigrants tend to be the ones obsessed with their identity and "where we came from" in order to form a sense of identity.

Quote:
Other groups will be more MIB-ish and run around taking out Shadowkin who endanger people/the masquerade/aren't in the boss' favour (depending on group).


Think carefully about this before you write it into your setting. In order for an MiB organisation to keep a Masquerade, they need to be far, far more powerful than the KGB or the Stasi ever were. They need to be in absolute and total control of every form of media and communication, and to be able to arrive immediately on the scene of any incident in order to clean it up. They basically need to rule the world, at which point they don't actually need a Masquerade.

You can do this, of course, but then the game becomes all about living in a world which has a police state hidden just below the shadows and uses its unbelievable magical powers to run the sort of dictatorship that Orwell could only dream of.


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Prak
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Laertes wrote:
Quote:
The Displaced is like an immigrant outreach program composed of naturalized immigrants (I don't really know if that's a thing in real life for literal real world immigrants) that tries to welcome all of them and help them adjust and impress upon them that it's really best to not shake up humans, what with humans' propensity for glassing fields when they're shaken up.


Immigrant groups like that do exist, especially in situations where the immigrants arrive with basically no money or ability to easily assimilate. They tend to be extremely exploitative and riddled with scammers, extortion rackets and other such petty crooks. Not always, but often enough that immigrant communities and organised crime have something of a history of going together.

Naturalised first-generation immigrants like myself tend to be pretty enthusiastic about assimilating at least partially: after all they came here because they wanted to be here. That's not to say they won't keep hold of parts of their own culture that they like, but they'll tend to form a halfway thing. By contrast, second-generation immigrants tend to be the ones obsessed with their identity and "where we came from" in order to form a sense of identity.

Given that all shadowkin are unwilling immigrants, they'd probably be more akin to second generations, who are forced to be a little bit like first generations.

Quote:
Quote:
Other groups will be more MIB-ish and run around taking out Shadowkin who endanger people/the masquerade/aren't in the boss' favour (depending on group).


Think carefully about this before you write it into your setting. In order for an MiB organisation to keep a Masquerade, they need to be far, far more powerful than the KGB or the Stasi ever were. They need to be in absolute and total control of every form of media and communication, and to be able to arrive immediately on the scene of any incident in order to clean it up. They basically need to rule the world, at which point they don't actually need a Masquerade.

You can do this, of course, but then the game becomes all about living in a world which has a police state hidden just below the shadows and uses its unbelievable magical powers to run the sort of dictatorship that Orwell could only dream of.

I might consider putting an aboleth-like creature* in control of the most powerful one. They seem like they might be able to pull that kind of thing.

Alternatively, it could be a god that's keeping things quiet.

*powerful uber-illusionist fish aberrations that remember basically everything.
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Laertes
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Then that's fine but then the game isn't about "monsters living in our world", it's about "monsters living under the tyrannical boot heel of an all-powerful illusionist fish god who will utterly destroy you if you step out of line and cannot be defeated." That could be a pretty cool game, but you'd need to pitch it as such and have mechanics that tie into it.

Alternatively you can just state directly to your players that the Masquerade is a genre conceit and they need to shut up and accept that it just works. Some players will be fine with that and others won't.
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Prak
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Well, really what it could also be is "the masquerade is a genre conceit and you can get away with what you can get away with, but there are shadowkin who take it as their mission to protect the masquerade, and they will come after you if you break it, or even just endanger it, and there are shadowkin who are goodly crusading protectors of the innocent, so human law is not the only consequence you need worry about if you plan on killing or otherwise molesting the locals."
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Laertes
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If the Masquerade is enforced by Shadowkin themselves, and that enforcement has been effective enough to prevent PC style shenanigans from breaching the Masquerade throughout history, then it means that the Shadowkin rule the world - or more accurately that there is a subset of Shadowkin which rule the world.

Let's take a worked example:
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


Having the Masquerade enforced by individuals who take it as their mission to do so or who try to be crusading protectors doesn't work either, because players have been conditioned to think of such individuals as nothing more than puzzles to be solved. Your players will be using violence, negotiation and trickery to solve such puzzles every session, and they'll see this as just another one to be solved in the same way. The fact that this monster is guarding a treasure just makes the conditioning even stronger.

So what does work?
A) Having a supernatural secret world government which is vastly more powerful and intrusive than any real government could possibly be. (Vampire and Feng Shui both do this pretty well.)

B) Doing what Monte Cook did and declaring that you're not designing for assholes. This has the side effect that assholes get in a huff about it, but their tears taste delicious.

C) Rewriting the modern-day setting to remove any element which may result in a PC being able to wreck the setting. (After Sundown does this.)
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Prak
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Worlds in Shadow
"The many worlds hang in the Shadow like bubbles of soap on the surface of water"

While the number of worlds that hang in Shadow have not been definitively counted, and could indeed, be quite impossible to count, there are a few known ones. Some seem to be better connected to one another than others--with methods for travel between them well known of, if not well known. Magorb, for example, the world from which most Shadowkin seem to come, is thought to be connected to many other worlds, like a bubble surrounded by smaller bubbles, including Pyremundi, a world of coherent flame, Aquamun, a realm that is said to be a vast sea, and many others, including worlds that sound right from mortal myth. These arrangements are called World Clusters.

A note on terminology and language wrote:
One might notice a certain similarity between the names of of some known worlds and Latin. It is generally believed by Shadow scholars that migrations were much more frequent in ancient history. It is theorized that the lingua franca of the day influenced the names of the worlds as people tried to understand what was happening. Another theory is that Latin influenced and was influenced by the ancient languages of Shadowkin from those days.

The text will often use the term "native." In general, unless otherwise specified, this term is used to refer to mortals who live in the world of Mundus, and display no notable Shadow abilities.
Shadowkin refers to an immigrant of Shadow, that is to say, a being who has been transported by Shadow from their home world to another. Mostly this will refer to natives of Magorb who were transported to Mundus.


The known worlds are as follows:
Mundus: This is the world outside your window, where smartphones and electric cars are the cutting edge of consumer technology and most people would laugh if you tried to conjure flame from thin air.
Magorb: Magorb is a world of elves, dwarves, gnomes, orcs and stranger. Shadowkin come from many worlds, but most of them seem at least familiar with Magorb. Shadow scholars find this odd, but tend to just toss it on top of the pile of strange things about the Shadow they're trying to figure out.
Pyremundi: A world of coherent flame that is part of the Magorb cluster. The shadowkin of this world are frequently extremely tolerant of fire if not outright immune to it or actively aflame.
Aquamun: A large ocean world that is part of the Magorb cluster. Shadowkin who hail from Aquamun are often water breathing and aquatic, with some notably resistant or insensate to cold.
[more to come]

The Glamour
"Oh sure, it'd be great if we could just walk free, let our ear tips stick out, maybe the flayers enjoy a nice bit of home country 'cooking' at the pub... But these Natives can't even keep from killing each other. How can we expect them to not kill us? They kill each other for being a shade darker or following a different facet of a given god, how do you think they'd treat the orcs? Or the gnolls? Or shadowkin who go into Medicine with spells granted by Panacea?"
--Azerk "Izzie" Reanos, Displaced Counselor.


Shadow migrations are nothing new. There are shadowkin who can track their own time since their migration back a thousand years or more, though they are few, and tend to be quite weary of the world. In ages past, shadowkin were much more open about their abilities and powers, and magic as a whole was much more omnipresent than it is in modern days.

This of course about as well as you might expect. Dragons are typically self-centered and ravenous, and Mundus had little with which to threaten them (though this does not mean that mortals could not deal with them--often by hiring ambitious heroes of less obvious Shadow ability). Elves have their own morals, and goblins have few even of their own, and both would prey upon the comparatively gullible mortal natives of Mundus. Natives would take up sword and raise armies to put down the Shadow threats they knew about, often with the help of more benign shadowkin, until they were the only ones left. Then they were turned upon as well.

The mortal natives of Mundus slowly found it easier and easier to defeat shadowkin, and shadowkin quickly learned that their best chance for survival in their new world was to keep their natures quiet. The tradition of The Glamour started, where shadowkin would use makeup and heavy clothing, and, when possible, magic, to cover themselves up. Normalcy didn't exist at first, and the tradition of the Glamour was a voluntary measure. This was also the moment when the Tradition of Welcoming began. Shadowkin would attempt to anticipate new migrations and show up to welcome their new fellow, and tell them that they needed to keep their nature under wraps. For a short while, there would almost always be a fight as morally opposed shadowkin would both show up, in case the new migrant was "one of theirs." It wasn't long, however, before the Tradition of Welcoming included an implicit truce at each site until the new shadowkin had chosen a side. This was doubly handy when the migrant was a shadowbeast, rather than a new shadowkin, and needed to be quickly killed before the unreasoning monster decimated the countryside and called attention to the more peaceful creatures from across the Shadow sea.

No one know how Normalcy came about. Some believe it was a powerful shadowkin mage who created a cunning spell, others believe it was simply Shadow changing, as it does. There are those who ascribe a sort of sapience to the Shadow, almost like a god, who think that Normalcy was a literal gift to the shadowkin, while others of the same pantheistic bent believe that Shadow has an agenda, and Normalcy is a tool to that end, whatever it may be.

Whatever Normalcy's origin, it has not overwritten the Tradition of the Glamour, merely made it easier. As the mortal natives of Mundus grew more technologically advanced, the shadowkin grew more wary. No one knows if a nuclear bomb could kill a great wyrm, or a god, but few are eager to find out. It is an almost universal belief among shadowkin that The Glamour is a positive, even necessary, thing, that it protects them. Even those who dislike having to hide understand that they would likely not last long in the world of man without the support of the shadowkin community. Between the Tradition of the Glamour and the Tradition of Welcoming, there is little need for aggressive enforcement of the shadow community's self-imposed masquerade. Those shadowkin who do plot and scheme to rend their glamour and conquer humanity know that they must have a comprehensive plan before the time is right, and they are thwarted in small, but no less important, ways in the back alleys and warehouses by more publicly minded shadowkin lest it ever get to the point where what they do can't be overlooked.
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Laertes
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This is pretty cool. So who are the PCs and what do they do?
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Prak
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So, yeah. That's really the question, isn't it? Tides of Shadow is really meant to emulate shows like Buffy and Angel and Grimm and Special Unit 2, and to a much lesser extent, Supernatural. But at the same time, it's also meant to facilitate scenes like a spider-themed drow band playing a rock show, or tiefling and aasimar gangs fighting turf wars, carefully making sure that their big flashy magic stuff isn't seen by the mundies, but totally having enchanted pistols and monstrous spider silk lined leather jackets.

So there's really two things that Tides of Shadow is trying to do-
1- Monster hunter shows. Typically the protagonists of these are human, or nearly so. Angel is actually something of an outlier, but even then, the rest of his team is human (I will point out that Lorn is a supporting character, not one of the hunters)
2- Fantasy critters hiding in the modern world, trying to keep their fantasy culture alive while also trying to not stick out and bring the wrath of an uncomprehending modern mob down upon themselves.

Now, while the protagonists of monster hunter shows are typically human or specially chosen empowered humans, there isn't much that requires them to be. There's a precarious balance to be struck here, especially if you play with boring people, because if everyone coming to the table decides to play a Mundus-native human, then... well, all the fantasy has to come from Mister Cavern. On the other hand, if you make the shadowkin too enticing, very very few people will play Mundus-native humans, and you do want those characters to be in the party. Imagine playing a game based on Harry Potter, where all the characters are purebloods, but they're running around in muggle New York. There'll just be this overload of fantasy naivete which is fun in moderation, but game stopping in overabundance.

Finally, there is a desire to have Mundus-native shadowkin. That is to say, the children of shadowkin. I need a better term for them. Or I need a better term for first generation shadowkin. Or I just refer to generations like that. There's a huge opportunity to play up the immigrant experience that is somewhat lost in that this game is being written by a guy whose great grandparents were immigrants, and is so far removed from Ellis Island that he's never had to worry about being of Polish and Italian descent in America because it's just not a big deal anymore.


But, to actually answer your question, the PCs are, ideally, a mixture of shadowkin and in-the-know mundies, and what they do is undertake a mixture of classic fantasy and urban stories, typically in urban environments. By mixture, I really mean fantasy stories that use modern urban trappings and modern urban stories that have fantasy trappings. So one story might be a fetch quest given by a powerful arcanist, but what you're fetching is motor oil from James Dean's car and it's in possession of an orc mechanomancer gang, and the next might be moderating a turf war or corporate hostile takeover, where the main players just happen to be drow priestesses and mind flayers that have hot rods and zip guns.

edit: Oh! I should probably elabourate on why the arcanist might want motor oil from James Dean's car. My conceptualization of potions is greatly influenced by the all of one Dresden Files book I've read, and my own love for symbolic magic. The way that potion making will ideally work is that you use ingredients that symbolize the end result you're aiming for, in some kind of medium appropriate to the form that you want to use. So if you're making a potion that someone will drink, you might make your base a soda. Or something edible and liquid that's symbolically appropriate so that your base is also an ingredient. If you're making something for topical application, you're going to want to use something like an oil or lotion as your base. Then you add your symbolic ingredients, expend time and magic, and at the end, you have your magic effect suspended in a medium. If it's a potion, the magic makes it potable, even if you used motor oil and cocaine to create a speed potion. If it's for topical application, the magic makes it so that you're not poisoning yourself when you apply it. Unless that's what you want.


Last edited by Prak on Sun Aug 03, 2014 10:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Basic Resolution Mechanic of Tides of Shadow

1d20+Mods v. TN

Many tasks in Tides of Shadow require a roll to determine success so that games do not play out like Cops and Robbers. To determine success, you roll a twenty sided die (1d20) add all your relevant modifiers (skill, ability modifier, equipment, etc) and compare to the target number (TN). The TN of a task represents it's difficulty:
DifficultyExampleTN
ChildishTying your shoes, walking on even ground 0. Don't even bother to roll.
SimpleDriving a familiar car on familiar roads in fair conditions, hitting a wall in general 5
BasicHitting someone with a baseball, hitting a wall in roughly the 6" area you want to with a baseball bat. 10
Moderate 15
Professional 20
Difficult 25
Impressive 30
Extreme 35
Insane 40
Epic 45

To succeed at a task, your roll needs to meet or exceed the TN assigned the task. If your roll exceeds the TN of your task by at least five, you succeed even more. For a lot of tasks this will be a simple bit of fluff. If you're just tossing a baseball at someone, you can't exactly hit them more, unless you're trying to hurt them, then you can certainly hit them harder. Usually, the only times succeeding more in this manner will be useful when attacking, in that it increases your damage, or when making or creating something, whether physical or magical, in that it increases the TN to destroy or undo the effect or object.

Automatic Tasks
A person can turn just about anything into a rote hind brain function, and can often train to the point where extremely difficult or complex tasks can be accomplished with seeming ease. When a character's total inherent modifiers (any modifier which is not granted by equipment or conditions, usually skill and ability modifiers) are greater than the TN of a task, they may automatically perform that task as if they'd rolled a 1 on their check. If this results in a total that is five or more above the TN of the task, they succeed just as if they'd actually rolled. Automatic Successes are handy when you just need to succeed, but when you need to succeed as much as you possibly can, it may be better to go ahead and roll.
Combat rolls can never be succeeded at automatically.

A note on success and time wrote:
The TN for a task is usually for completing the task in an average amount of time. It is possible to attempt to do things more quickly, and as a rule of thumb, you can add 5 to the TN for every 25% faster you want to do something. For example, preparing a meal can be a time consuming process. From prep to putting food on the table can take half an hour or longer, depending on the meal. Making an omelet could easily take twenty minutes when you factor in prep time. Making an omelet isn't that difficult though, and an american style omelet is a roughly moderate (TN 15) Cooking (Int) task. To shave five minutes off the time, and make an omelet from scratch with no pre-prep in fifteen minutes is a professional (TN 20) task. To shave another five minutes off makes it a difficult (TN 25) task. Making an omelet in five minutes with no prep done ahead of time is an Impressive (TN 30) task (to say the least), as it would involve quickly preping filling as the pan heats up and butter melts. It is not possible to make an omelet instantly, short of magic, and indeed, most tasks cannot be reduced to less than 1/4th their normal time.
You do not need to declare ahead of time that you are trying to rush a task. If you exceed a task's TN by 5 or more, and the task could reasonably be completed in a shorter amount of time, then you do complete the task in the fraction of time which your roll would allow.

Conversely, if you give a task more focus and take your time, you don't precisely have an easier task, but you are more likely to succeed eventually. For every fifty percent longer you commit to spend performing a task, you may lower the TN by one step. That is to say, if you commit to taking thirty minutes to make an omelet, you can treat it as if it were a Basic (TN 10) task. If you commit to spending forty minutes making an omelet, you can treat the task as Simple (TN 5). If you commit to spending the better part of an hour, fifty minutes, making a single omelet, you'll probably get at least one good omelete out of the time commitment, and so can treat the task as Childish (TN 0).
You must declare before rolling that you are committing to attempt a task in more time than it would otherwise take to gain this benefit. However, if you fail a roll, you can generally declare that you will keep trying, and make another roll.

Combat rolls can neither be rushed nor drawn out.


Opposed Rolls
Some rolls are made against the efforts of another character. In these cases, you are trying to beat the character's roll, and whoever's roll is highest wins. For example, one character is hiding, and the other character is searching for them. There are no TNs involved, if the hiding character rolls higher than the searching character, they are not found. If the the searching character rolls higher than the hiding character, they find them.
Occasionally, two characters will be competing to complete a task which has a TN. In this case, if a character fails to meet or exceed the TN, they simply fail. If both characters fail, neither can be said to beat the other. If both characters meet or exceed the TN, the character who rolled highest wins.

Skills
In Tides of Shadow, there are five levels of ability in skills: Untrained, Poor, Mediocre, Expert and Focused. A character generally begins untrained in a skill, but some shadowkin are inherently facile with certain tasks, and so are effectively inherently trained at one level or another.

At character creation, a character has a number of skill points with which to buy levels of ability in skills, and each level costs one point, that is to say that spending 1 point in Brute makes a character Poor, and gives them a bonus to Brute rolls equal to 1/2 (lets say HD, but I'm not sold on using HD). Each level of ability corresponds to a specific fraction of (HD) being added to tasks which use that score:
Untrained: The character has no real experience or instruction in the skill. +0 to task rolls.
Poor: The character has minimal training. +1/2 (HD) to task rolls.
Mediocre: The character is reasonably familiar with, and makes use of the skill occasionally. +3/4 (HD) to task rolls.
Expert: The character is well trained and current with the skill. +(HD) to task rolls.
Focused: The character practices the skill daily, and is quite possibly the best practitioner of the skill for their level. +(HD+3) to task rolls.

The minimum for any skill modifier in which a character has any training is 1. Even a (1HD) character with Poor training in Brute still adds 1 to their Brute rolls.

Transformation, Inherent Training, and Focused Skills
It is rare, but quite possible that a character who is Focused in a skill may gain something which would give them one or more inherent levels of training with the skill. For example, a cat burglar might reasonably be Focused in Hiding. If they were then turned into a Vampire, they would receive a free level of Hiding. In this case, the free level of Hiding becomes a skill point with which the character may purchase Hiding Stunts.

Combat
There are four skills used to advance a combat-- Brute, Finesse, Dodge and Parry. Brute is used in attacks which are primarily a matter of muscle, generally melee and thrown. Finesse is used in attacks where one's agility is more important, usually projectile attacks and delicate or precise melee attacks made with one hand. Dodge is one's ability to avoid blows and Parry is one's ability to redirect them.
To make an attack, roll the appropriate skill modified by the appropriate ability score (Example- greatsword: Brute [Str]) and compare to the opponent's Evasion: 10+Dodge+Dexterity. If you beat your opponent's Evasion, you strike them, dealing damage (Armour subtracts from the damage dealt)

A character's Evasion can be treated as TN as well, for the purposes of determining great success. An Evasion is always rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5 in this case. For every Success level above that Difficulty, increase your attack's damage by [Damage tracking system not yet determined].

Combat Options
Full Defense: When a character chooses to purely defend themselves, they are focusing entire on avoiding attacks. In this instance, they roll Dodge (Dex), and attacks must meet or exceed the rolled value until the character's next turn.
Parry: As a reaction, a character may choose to parry an attack rather than avoid it. To do so, they roll Parry [Str] against the total roll of the attack, and if they exceed it, the attack is parried, dealing no damage to it's target. If the parry attempt exceeds the attack by five, it redirects the attack to the target of the parrying character's choice, dealing half the damage the attack would have dealt to them. If the parry roll exceeds the attack roll by ten, it deals full damage, and if it exceeds by fifteen or more, it deals an additional 10% damage per five points the parry exceeds the attack past ten.




Just some core system for Tides. After writing up Skills (the last thing I wrote up), it occurs to me that Difficulty TNs may need to be revised. What do others think?
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Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Prak
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm still not entirely sure what classes will look like. At the moment, I'm considering doing Occupations and Classes, were Occupations will determine skill sets and maybe proficiencies and a single feat, while classes give save ratios and features. I'm thinking that classes will just have two levels written up, because i want to use the d20 modern alternating talent/bonus feat structure, and then features are scheduled by character level as prerequisites.
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Laertes
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

What is it that characters in this game do?

In D&D, characters crawl around dungeons and fight monsters. In Vampire, characters plot and scheme. In Shadowrun, characters carry out espionage and other deniable activities against megacorps. In Ars Magica, characters carry out research and build up their covenants. Each of these activities shapes the game and gives you a clear idea of what it is you'll be doing and how you'll be using your powers.

One of the weaknesses of a lot of games is that there's no clear default activity that characters are assumed to engage in. They're just... there. You're a character in the world and now what?
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radthemad4
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Laertes wrote:
What is it that characters in this game do?

Prak_Anima wrote:
So there's really two things that Tides of Shadow is trying to do-
1- Monster hunter shows. Typically the protagonists of these are human, or nearly so. Angel is actually something of an outlier, but even then, the rest of his team is human (I will point out that Lorn is a supporting character, not one of the hunters)
2- Fantasy critters hiding in the modern world, trying to keep their fantasy culture alive while also trying to not stick out and bring the wrath of an uncomprehending modern mob down upon themselves.


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zeruslord
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If most humans are 1HD, then even "simple" things they're focused in will fail one in twenty times in default conditions. Basically, average humans doing something they do every day are rolling somewhere between +2 and +6, so if it's not something people fail one in twenty times, the difficulty needs to be at most 2. Alternatively, ditch the correlation between HD/level and skills, at least for non-PCs, or make the level 1 difference between untrained and mediocre +5 or so.
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Prak
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2014 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

radthemad4 wrote:
Laertes wrote:
What is it that characters in this game do?

Prak_Anima wrote:
So there's really two things that Tides of Shadow is trying to do-
1- Monster hunter shows. Typically the protagonists of these are human, or nearly so. Angel is actually something of an outlier, but even then, the rest of his team is human (I will point out that Lorn is a supporting character, not one of the hunters)
2- Fantasy critters hiding in the modern world, trying to keep their fantasy culture alive while also trying to not stick out and bring the wrath of an uncomprehending modern mob down upon themselves.


Yeah, I think you missed one of my posts there. I "discuss" that here.

zeruslord wrote:
If most humans are 1HD, then even "simple" things they're focused in will fail one in twenty times in default conditions. Basically, average humans doing something they do every day are rolling somewhere between +2 and +6, so if it's not something people fail one in twenty times, the difficulty needs to be at most 2. Alternatively, ditch the correlation between HD/level and skills, at least for non-PCs, or make the level 1 difference between untrained and mediocre +5 or so.

Yeah, like I said, it occurred to me that I might need to change the TNs.

I can, and should, also change the numbers for skill mods. I think I remembered the thing I'd thought about earlier in the day that I couldn't remember when I went to type things up, though.

As it stands, First level characters are encouraged to just spend 1 point in a bunch of skills because at first level everything rounds up to +1. At second level, there's no difference between Poor and Mediocre.

So, what I'm thinking about is just having skill mods calculated in two ways and characters use the most advantageous, something like:
Untrained: +0
Poor: +1/2 level, or 1, whichever is greater.
Mediocre: +3/4 level, or 2, whichever is greater.
Expert: +level, or 3, whichever is greater.
Focused: +(level+3)

Basically, you get a bonus equal to the points you spent until the actual calculation eclipses that. So an average 1HD human has +5 on tasks related to their job, when you account for abilities where I'll give humans at least a selectable +2.

Then there are feats. I realize that Skill Focus and "+2 in two skills" feats are part of why skill mods get out of hand, and thus why spellcasting cannot be skill based in d20, but I might consider making those sorts of feats. In that case, the average human would have a +10, and would succeed at professional level tasks 50% of the time. That's still a bit high of a failure rate. Basically, the ideal would be the average human being able to pump their modifier in the core skill of their profession to the point where they auto succeed.

If I take out Simple and drop everything down a TN, that makes Professional tasks TN 15, which I think is reasonable in a 20 pt RNG. That alone means that the average human with Skill Focus and "+2 in 2" for their primary occupation skills just needs a 5 or higher, so people typically succeed at the typical rolls associated with their job 80% of the time.

There are now two ways to handle this such that people aren't failing 1 in 5 tasks at their job-
1: say that people actually typically take their time at their jobs, such that they drop the DC by 5 and can auto succeed by not doing things as fast as possible. This is a little suspect, but not egregiously so.
2: Write an NPC feat that says they may treat their skill as five points higher for the purposes of a specific task. This would of course replace the "+2 in 2" skill and only results in a net +3. Unless I decide that Occupations give a bonus feat.

Edit: sorry, lets not be dumb. That NPC feat should probably actually be something along the lines of "Auto succeed at one to three designated non-important professional or less tasks associated with a chosen skill. Examples Cooking, Tanning, Watching for Drowning Fucks (etc). Combat skills cannot be selected for this."
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.


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Prak
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Breaking Skills out into it's own post.

Skills

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In Tides of Shadow, there are five levels of ability in skills: Untrained, Poor, Mediocre, Expert and Focused. A character generally begins untrained in a skill, but some shadowkin are inherently facile with certain tasks, and so are effectively inherently trained at one level or another.

At character creation, a character has a number of skill points with which to buy levels of ability in skills, and each level costs one point, that is to say that spending 1 point in Brute makes a character Poor, and gives them a bonus to Brute rolls equal to 1/2 (lets say HD, but I'm not sold on using HD). Each level of ability corresponds to a specific fraction of (HD) being added to tasks which use that score:
Untrained: The character has no real experience or instruction in the skill. +0 to task rolls.
Poor: The character has minimal training. +1/2 (HD) to task rolls.
Mediocre: The character is reasonably familiar with, and makes use of the skill occasionally. +3/4 (HD) to task rolls.
Expert: The character is well trained and current with the skill. +(HD) to task rolls.
Focused: The character practices the skill daily, and is quite possibly the best practitioner of the skill for their level. +(HD+3) to task rolls.
Always round down

When the number of points put into a skill is greater than the bonus the purchased level of training would provide, the character gains a bonus on rolls with that skill equal to the number of point spent instead. For example, a first level character puts 1 point into Acrobatics, 2 points into Combat, 3 points into Appraise and 4 points into Listen. Their skill modifiers would ordinarily be +0, +0, +1 and +4 respectively. Instead, the modifiers are +1, +2, +3 and +4. At second level, if they have not put more points into those skills, their modifiers would ordinarily be +1, +1, +2 and +4, instead their modifiers are +1, +2, +3 and +4. At third level, if they don't put more points into these skills, their modifiers become +1, +2, +3 and +6 and using the points spent as modifiers does not benefit them.

When using a skill, roll 1d20, add your skill modifier, and the appropriate ability modifier. Each Skill has a Typical Ability attached to it which is the ability which will be used in most cases. However, it is possible, and in fact likely, that cases will arise when another ability is relevant instead. In the text, when a skill roll is referenced, it will be expressed Skill (Relevant Ability), as in Combat (Str) for a melee attack, or Combat (Dex) for a ranged attack.

The list of skills and they typical abilities is as follows:
Physical
Acrobatics (Dex): Balancing, jumping and tumbling
Athletics (Str): Climbing and swimming
Combat (Str or Dex): Attacking
Concentration (Con): Focusing on a task despite distractions
Dodge (Dex): Avoiding attacks
Drive (Dex): Controlling animals or vehicles directly through analogue systems, such as reigns or a wheel
Bindings (Dex): Making and escaping bindings
Parry (Str): Redirecting attacks
Sleight of Hand (Dex): Pocketing, secreting and inconspicuously moving small objects.

Mental
Computers (Int): Using computers and computerized devices
Craft (Int): Making, repairing and appraising physical goods, including forgeries
Disable Device (Int): Sabotage and destruction
Investigate (Int): Finding clues, tracking down leads
Perception (Wis): Spotting, hearing and finding sensory queues
Research (Int or Wis): Finding information in stores and records
Spellcraft (Int or Wis): Identifying spells and magical effects
Survival (Wis): Finding food, shelter and your way in the wilderness or similar situations
Treat Injury (Int): Administering first aid, and immediate and long term care

Social
Bluff (Cha): Misleading people
Diplomacy (Cha): Persuading people
Disguise (Int or Cha): Creating disguises
Expression (Cha): Nontangible forms of art
Gather Information (Cha): Finding rumours, gossip, small talk and leads
Handle Animal (Cha): Guiding, training and pushing animals and creatures of similar intelligence
Intimidate (Cha): Scaring people
Sense Motive (Wis): Reading people
Use Magic Device (Cha): Tricking magical devices and effects into working when they otherwise wouldn't

Lores
Tides of Shadow, in addition to Skills, also has Lores, skills which, while important in the right circumstances, are important far less frequently. Because these skills are so circumstantially useful, it wouldn't make sense to pay for them out of the same pool of points as skills like Combat, Diplomacy and even Craft. Most of the time, a skill such as Cooking or Knowledge (The Crips) or High School Athletics being put on a sheet would only serve to provide flavour to the character and see use, at best, one time per ten that, say, Combat does.

A Lore is an area of expertise which a character can draw upon for information, connecting with people of different cultures and languages, and knowing the ins and outs of groups or organizations. Lores work exactly like Skills, a character can be poor, mediocre, expert or focused in a Lore, with the same modifier as if they were using a Skill. A Lore can be Academic, meaning it's knowledge based and typically exercised through doing research, Social, meaning it's typically an organization or type thereof and exercised through talking to contacts, or Practical meaning it's an activity and exercised through performing said activity.

Occasionally, a Lore might apply to a task that would normally use a Skill, for example, the Lore "Faerie Lore" might apply when a character is searching a library for information about faeries, normally a Research (Int) roll. In cases such as this, the character applies the modifier of either the Lore or the Skill, which has the higher modifier, and adds the number of points spent on the other. In this example, lets say the character has Poor Research, but Expert Faerie Lore. They would roll 1d20+level (Expert Faerie Lore)+1 (Poor Research)+Ability Mod.

Example Lores
Academic
-Cars and Trucks: General knowledge of motor vehicles, ability to talk about it with others.
-Current Events: Recent news stories and talked about occurrances
-[Field of Study]: Knowledge of a particular area of physical, earth or social science
-[Shadow] Lore: Knowledge of a specific area of Shadow--Faeries, magical beasts, constructs, etc.

Social
-Bar Scene: Knowledge of bar traditions and social "rules," as well as bars in general, and possibly more in depth knowledge of specific bars.
-Carnie Life: The experiences of having grown up or lived as part of a carnival crew for a significant period of time.
-[Specific Organization]: Knowledge of the ins and outs of a specific criminal, social, or business group
-[Sports Team]: History and current events of a specific team, or more general knowledge of what is happening in sports

Practical
-Cooking: Knowledge of how to cook, the science of it, as well as what is going on in "Foodie" culture
-Credit Fraud: Knowledge of how to steal identities and acquire fraudulent credit cards.
-[Specific Sport or Game]: Knowledge of how a particular sport or game is played, without knowledge of the professional culture that might be associated with it.
-[Instrument]: Knowledge of how to play a specified instrument.




It occurs to me that Lores could take the place of the Focused tier. I know from the small bit of experience I have with AS that players will naturally expect Backgrounds to add to their Ability pools in that game when they apply. For example, a player with Fencing might expect to be able to add his Fencing rating to his Str+Com rolls when fighting with a sabre or foil. If I embrace that, I could either replace Focused with a more niche thing. It also quite naturally takes the place of that "Auto Succeed on rolls for a specific task" thing I was talking about. The way I've written it, a player is encouraged to, say, take Focused Combat and the Practical Lore "Shotguns" at Focused to gain Level+7 to their d20s.

So an average human Chef might have something like-
Int 12
...
Focused Craft
...
Focused Cooking

for a mod to his rolls when at work of +9. He would still need to roll a 6 or better to succeed at Professional cooking tasks, but then again, the vast majority of tasks performed in the common job would not, I would say, actually be professional tier. Plus, generally speaking, a job is actually a lot of people using Aid Another.
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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zeruslord
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So, "monster hunter show" actually has a real style of play associated with it. I'm less familiar with the genre than I should be, but I assume there's going to be enough non-combat screen time that non-caster face/infiltrator is a valid role even if he takes Mediocre Combat and Dodge and doesn't get sneak attack dice or anything. If not, you need a different approach to how people get combat numbers; probably something like the really loose point-buy ideas for D20 classes, where you're forced to get either level-appropriate combat spells or level-appropriate to-hit and AC.

"Shadowkin trying to keep their culture alive" doesn't really tell me how many times they roll dice and how much spotlight time is spent on what. I can see it lining up well with the monster hunter version, but I can also see it going dreadfully wrong if you're a Drow street gang or something.

Actually, important question: what kind of weapons and what degree of overtness are PCs looking at? Obviously magic swords are a big part of the genre, but do you keep it in the trunk all day? How about non-magic swords, spears, and the like? I don't expect to see military heavy weapons outside of campaign-ending scenarios, but is the upper limit on modern weapons going to be handguns, sport and hunting rifles and shotguns, or AK-47s? Are people going to be wearing more armor than just motorcycle leathers?

What does Normalcy do for mundane equipment, aware mundanes and later-generation shadowkin? Obviously it's going to help orcs not look like orcs, and their parents will give them reasonably appropriate names, but does a second-generation elf who learns magic get to be a lawyer through Shadow-equivalency bonuses? What happens when a troll needs a new mechanic's jumpsuit and nothing at Walmart fits?

Combat and Athletics Skills
Acrobatics, Athletics, Combat, Dodge, and Parry strikes me as a really weird way to set things up.

Depending on what you actually mean by "tumbling" in the acrobatics skill, that might also be a thing you just kind of pick up in a bunch of other places. Any martial art involving throws, anything involving being a few feet off the ground, or any sport where you're expected to get knocked over will teach you how to fall while hurting yourself as little as possible. If you mean 3e tumble, that's a stupid hack you only need if Sneak Attack is supposed to be a means to real combat viability and AoOs are significant. I'd be more in favor of something where you have a general Athletics skill that hands you fairly basic climbing, swimming, and jumping on the cheap (poor-expert in all three at the cost of one), and then make being really good at one of those or having any practice with fancy stuff like parkour or gymnastics something you buy on top of that.

Combat Skills
For combat, I don't see any reason to separate the defensive melee skill from the offensive melee skill. If you're actually just trying to avoid getting hit, rather than engaging, the best way to do that is called running. If you plan to stick around, you avoid getting hit through a combination of blocking blows, deflecting blows, stepping out of distance, keeping them occupied with your attacks, using the threat of your attacks to keep them at a distance, and actually dodging out of the line of an attack. Blocking and deflecting tends to be less popular in unarmed combat or when using small weapons, but even then you learn the dodging skills as part of combat training. Real parrying doesn't mean deflecting blows onto other people; depending on the pedant, it is either anything involving weapon-to-weapon contact with the intention of preventing a blow from hitting or some subset of that. Any real martial art is going to involve both the hitting side of things and the not-getting-hit side of things, and any real fight is going to involve doing some of each no matter how big the skill disparity. There are martial arts where redirection is a big deal, but that's usually things like Judo or Aikido where you redirect your entire opponent into the floor, and probably wants to be modeled specially anyway (probably a feat-like mechanism). Dodge might have a place as a ranged avoidance skill, or maybe as part of running away, but it's not how you have a standup fight. Guns being part of the same combat skill is kinda silly. In D&D, for professional adventurers, it makes sense that the people with weapons training can be archers if needed, but they're two really separate skills that happen to be correlated. Shadowkin probably come through with melee skills and maybe archery but no firearms training, while any one mundane is likely to have a limited selection based on ethnic and social background.

Realistic Ability Usage?
My combat realism stream of consciousness led here, and I think it's worth mentioning, but not something I'll fight for. That said, I don't really believe in the finesse weapons thing - you don't need to be the Incredible Hulk to use a rapier, but it's not actually any lighter than a longsword, just longer and thinner. With pretty much any real melee weapon, the reaction speed and precision of the weapon is going to be limited by both what D&D calls Strength and what D&D calls Dexterity. Heavier weapons and armored targets will shift that more towards strength, but even with something as light and agility-focused as a pistol-grip electric foil, a male Olympian weighs 180-200 pounds. If I wanted hardcore realizarms, I'd probably use the lower of the two, an average, or something involving a minimum for each to use a weapon effectively and then bonuses if the primary attribute is above that.
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Prak
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

disclaimer: I ramble, it's what I do, it helps me work through ideas. And the ideas presented in this post aren't necessarily the best, just the best answer my mind can ramble around to at the moment

zeruslord wrote:
So, "monster hunter show" actually has a real style of play associated with it. I'm less familiar with the genre than I should be, but I assume there's going to be enough non-combat screen time that non-caster face/infiltrator is a valid role even if he takes Mediocre Combat and Dodge and doesn't get sneak attack dice or anything. If not, you need a different approach to how people get combat numbers; probably something like the really loose point-buy ideas for D20 classes, where you're forced to get either level-appropriate combat spells or level-appropriate to-hit and AC.

Yeah, ideally, faces will get screen time where they talk to people to follow leads and get info from people, as well as some kind of court/boardroom social combat minigame that I still need to work on (there's a thread here that has some early passes at that). Infiltrators will get their screen time when the party needs to steal something or sneak up on, say, a vampire nest. I'd like systems that allow all character to contribute something to all parts of play, and I'm thinking that skills will be given in such a way that all character will have at least some amount of social and mental skills (giving points by category) even if they primarily have physical skills.

Quote:
"Shadowkin trying to keep their culture alive" doesn't really tell me how many times they roll dice and how much spotlight time is spent on what. I can see it lining up well with the monster hunter version, but I can also see it going dreadfully wrong if you're a Drow street gang or something.

It's probably much more of a setting theme than a play theme.

Primarily the game is Monster Hunting, Investigation, and...Urban Politics? I want there to be games that aren't basically just gang warfare, where it's totally viable to defeat the mind flayer's plot by preventing him from taking over B(r)ain Capital through corporate measures, rather than running into his penthouse and Highlander-ing him (I'd have said "Colombian Necktying him, but do mind flayers even have tongues?). I mean, I want both styles to be viable, and maybe the endgame of Urban Politics is chopping off Mr. Brain's head, but if a group wants to play lawyers and corporate spies and go after shadowkin trying to take over Mundus through businesses in the boardroom and the courts, that should be something they can do and be supported by the rules in doing.

Quote:
Actually, important question: what kind of weapons and what degree of overtness are PCs looking at? Obviously magic swords are a big part of the genre, but do you keep it in the trunk all day? How about non-magic swords, spears, and the like? I don't expect to see military heavy weapons outside of campaign-ending scenarios, but is the upper limit on modern weapons going to be handguns, sport and hunting rifles and shotguns, or AK-47s? Are people going to be wearing more armor than just motorcycle leathers?

I think it varies.

Primarily, characters are probably looking at being kitted up like Dean and Sam, with a car trunk that would get them branded as crazed fundamentalists or terrorists (but I repeat myself), which means that they can seriously gear up at Big 5, Walmart or a swap meet, then make a run to a New Age shop, but at the same time, a bunch of gear comes over through the Shadow. Not enough to equip an army, but a fetch quest for a fabled sword that you use to take out the dragon who's slowly consolidating the city's gangs into their own personal army, augmented with fell rituals and sacrifices, should be something that happens, and often enough that the party slowly accumulates enough ancient weapons for it to be important they know how to use them.

Of course, First-gen shadowkin don't know how to use firearms (except in that they know crossbows and can at least make a guess as to the general principles) so there will actually be a lot of people in Tides that are using swords and spears and shit whether because they're from "the old world" or their crazy conservative and it's their grandfather's axe. Hell, for that matter, there will totally be Normalcied naga businessmen who have actual enchanted katanas hanging on the boardroom wall, because snakemen with flaming samurai swords is fucking awesome. That's not even me saying it'll be an established setting thing, that's me knowing nerds and knowing that whether I write it in or not, it'll happen so long as the game supports it.

To cut the rambling short-
Enchanted swords and trunks full of weapons (whether car boots or foot lockers) are genre conventions, and the specific world set up supports both ancient magical swords of legend, and magical boots that just came into Mundus last week. It also supports an economic model where magic items can actually be bought, because if you take an elf adventurer from Magorb and put them in Mundus, suddenly, going into the countryside to kill monsters doesn't put bread on the table, and a cloak that makes them better at hiding is suddenly substantially less important to their survival than a Walmart gift card. So there will be Shadow swap meets where Shadowkin sell their magic daggers and boots and shit and are seriously willing to accept cash, gift cards and baskets of food for them. So magic items are available, but a lot of shadowkin will be no less vulnerable to guns and machetes.

When shadowkin hit the streets, they take their bats and machetes (or clubs and short swords that normalcy can make look like those things), but when they're in abandoned warehouses in the commercial district and there's not a mundie around for a mile or more, they break out the most effective weapons they have, whether they're guns that have been magiced up by a mundus-side mage, or artifact swords that were carried through Shadow. But generally speaking, we're looking at commercially available guns, sporting goods, and motorcycle jackets, but mithral chain shirts under those jackets, or enchantments on them, aren't out of the question.




Need coffee. So I will respond to the rest after a shower and drive to Starbucks.
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Prak
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

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What does Normalcy do for mundane equipment, aware mundanes and later-generation shadowkin? Obviously it's going to help orcs not look like orcs, and their parents will give them reasonably appropriate names, but does a second-generation elf who learns magic get to be a lawyer through Shadow-equivalency bonuses? What happens when a troll needs a new mechanic's jumpsuit and nothing at Walmart fits?

Hm, good question.

Ok, so when a creature washes up on Mundus, Normalcy makes them look like a person you could plausibly run into. I think part of that will be that they are moved into the realistic range of human sizes, so when Gus the Ogre washes up, he finds that he is suddenly about seven feet tall. Still a big fucking guy, but he can go to Walmart and get a new jumpsuit when he needs. A pixie shadowkin turns out Verne Troyer-sized (though they're still magical, and Normalcy just changes their size, so they are actually discernible from genetic little people by their proportions). When a normalcied ogre rolls up to a Shadow pool, clothes rip and reveal the monster within, and when a pixie shows up, they seriously get a scene of their clothes suddenly emptying and them flying out of them in the buff, or enchanted armour (though I might say that enchanted armour specifically resizes in Shadow Pools... especially if they're purple pants).

Then there's the question of what happens to mundane equipment. Let's actually walk back a bit of what I said above, and say that mundane clothing changes, and they get the relevant cards for their Shadow-created history that would be on their person (so a driver's license, and maybe any professional identification), and mundane things they carry with direct analogues get an illusory conversion, so short swords and clubs are glamoured to appear as machetes and bats, but axes are still axes and crossbows... well, I guess it wouldn't be too strange to see a crossbow, so they just look like modern ones. Meanwhile their money... well, I don't know. How generous should I be? If an elf adventurer washes up on a Shore with a pouch full of gold, they can seriously walk down the street to a pawn shop and trade their reasonably pure gold coins for actually useful money. If they're greeted by in the know welcomers, they can even be told that, or the Displaced can just straight up do the trade there. Given how trivial it is to swap Shadow money for native money (if Shadow money is precious metal or stone), there's little reason to not allow the possible storylines that exist when you show up in a strange land with strange money to exist. Sometimes a shadowkin doesn't get greeted and has to figure shit out with a bag of gold that few stores are ready to accept, but a lot of people on the street are more than willing to take.

As for aware mundanes and later-generation shadowkin... Well, for the later-generations, I'll say that Shadow is a little bit hereditary. Or The Displaced try to make sure that shadowkin can give birth in Pools so that the kids get drenched in Shadow that becomes Normalcy as they're born. Or kids get a bit of Shadow in the womb through the inherent magic of their mothers, which quickly "dries" into Normalcy after birth. It's still ideal for shadowkin to get to a Shadow-friendly hospital or doctor, but that's more so that the doctor doesn't freak out when they deliver a baby ogre which looks perfectly normal just a minute or two later. Then there gets to be a subplot where some ambitious shadowkin actually try to give birth in Pools to see if it empowers the kid at all, but then other shadowkin are really wary about the idea because making a pregnant mother change shape or form is always a less than great idea.

Aware mundanes...

Awareness
I felt like something was seeping into my brain... soon the mugger wasn't just looking like a monster in the dark, he was under a streetlight and looked exactly the same. Except that he looked like a monster wearing a misty suit that looked like a person. I thought he'd drugged me or something, I was scared, I gave him my wallet and ran the fuck home.
...the next day I looked out my window and my neighbour... well, Ted was always kind of short and wide, like Danny Devito, but that day he had this massive bushy beard--guy was clean shaven just yesterday--and his wife... I mean, she was beautiful before, but that day she looked like a super model. With pointed ears. And both of them had these hazy shapes around them that looked more like the Ted and Barbara I'd known. I was sure I'd gone insane. I'm still not sure I hadn't, but if so, at least I'm not the only one.


When a native has an encounter with Shadow, sometimes they come away... changed. Shadow gets into them and becomes a part of them, and suddenly they see the world differently--they can see the true forms of shadowkin, hidden beneath their glamours. These natives are said to be Aware, or have Awareness.

It's not enough for a native to just interact with shadowkin. It's not like every waiter is Aware, or a guy on a construction crew once worked with a guy who was seven feet tall and suddenly could see him for the ogre he really was. If Awareness worked that way, there'd be no point to the glamour of normalcy.

When a native has a run in with a shadowkin in an area of Shadow, typically a pool, or a highly enchanted area, the ambient Shadow literally gets inside them, seeping through their eyes and ears and mouth and nostrils, and clinging to their mind in much the same way that Shadow clings to new migrants to dry out into normalcy. Where Shadow on a migrant's body dries into a glamour, Shadow clinging to and pervading a native's mind is changes it such that they are no longer fooled by the glamour and can see Shadowkin for what they truly are.

A shadowkin viewed through awareness appears as their true form, with a misty image of their glamour overlaid. An unusually sized shadowkin's true form is seen to be the size that Normalcy has changed them to, ie, a 9 foot tall ogre who is changed by Normalcy to be 7 feet tall appears to an Aware native (and indeed other shadowkin) as a 7 foot tall ogre, rather than a 9 foot tall ogre.

All shadowkin are Aware by default, whether they are first generation or later.

Quote:
Combat and Athletics Skills
Acrobatics, Athletics, Combat, Dodge, and Parry strikes me as a really weird way to set things up.

Depending on what you actually mean by "tumbling" in the acrobatics skill, that might also be a thing you just kind of pick up in a bunch of other places. Any martial art involving throws, anything involving being a few feet off the ground, or any sport where you're expected to get knocked over will teach you how to fall while hurting yourself as little as possible. If you mean 3e tumble, that's a stupid hack you only need if Sneak Attack is supposed to be a means to real combat viability and AoOs are significant. I'd be more in favor of something where you have a general Athletics skill that hands you fairly basic climbing, swimming, and jumping on the cheap (poor-expert in all three at the cost of one), and then make being really good at one of those or having any practice with fancy stuff like parkour or gymnastics something you buy on top of that.

Combat Skills
For combat, I don't see any reason to separate the defensive melee skill from the offensive melee skill. If you're actually just trying to avoid getting hit, rather than engaging, the best way to do that is called running. If you plan to stick around, you avoid getting hit through a combination of blocking blows, deflecting blows, stepping out of distance, keeping them occupied with your attacks, using the threat of your attacks to keep them at a distance, and actually dodging out of the line of an attack. Blocking and deflecting tends to be less popular in unarmed combat or when using small weapons, but even then you learn the dodging skills as part of combat training. Real parrying doesn't mean deflecting blows onto other people; depending on the pedant, it is either anything involving weapon-to-weapon contact with the intention of preventing a blow from hitting or some subset of that. Any real martial art is going to involve both the hitting side of things and the not-getting-hit side of things, and any real fight is going to involve doing some of each no matter how big the skill disparity. There are martial arts where redirection is a big deal, but that's usually things like Judo or Aikido where you redirect your entire opponent into the floor, and probably wants to be modeled specially anyway (probably a feat-like mechanism). Dodge might have a place as a ranged avoidance skill, or maybe as part of running away, but it's not how you have a standup fight. Guns being part of the same combat skill is kinda silly. In D&D, for professional adventurers, it makes sense that the people with weapons training can be archers if needed, but they're two really separate skills that happen to be correlated. Shadowkin probably come through with melee skills and maybe archery but no firearms training, while any one mundane is likely to have a limited selection based on ethnic and social background.


Hmm, good points. So maybe instead of Combat, Parry and Dodge, make it Melee and Firearms, with Dodge and Parry as skill stunts (I need to work on those, but I did mention them). Or perhaps, Ancient Weapons and Modern Weapons, with dodge being a skill stunt of both where you either buy it for Ancient Weapon combat and it lets you duck and dodge swords and bows and then Modern Weapon dodging is separate, and allows you to dodge gunshots (because you can actually do it, it's just difficult). Parry would be more something you do with ancient weapon combat, but I can see it being something along the lines of "when you're armed with an ancient weapon [including your hands] and within arms reach of an enemy, you may redirect their attacks," because martial arts seriously trains you to redirect gunshots by moving the guy's arm. And I'm using redirect here just to mean "pointing it in a different direction" rather than "aiming it at someone else." Conceivably Unarmed could be a separate skill (and we go with the White Wolf model of Brawl/Melee/Firearms/Thrown[/Archery]), but I'm not sure how much that needs to be a thing. The game is definitely combat focused, but the model characters from source material tend to be generalist combatants, with the only real specialization of combat being that Buffy, say, may be really good with crossbows and swords and axes, but not necessarily with guns, and the Winchesters just have all the combat skills maxed out.

Quote:
Realistic Ability Usage?
My combat realism stream of consciousness led here, and I think it's worth mentioning, but not something I'll fight for. That said, I don't really believe in the finesse weapons thing - you don't need to be the Incredible Hulk to use a rapier, but it's not actually any lighter than a longsword, just longer and thinner. With pretty much any real melee weapon, the reaction speed and precision of the weapon is going to be limited by both what D&D calls Strength and what D&D calls Dexterity. Heavier weapons and armored targets will shift that more towards strength, but even with something as light and agility-focused as a pistol-grip electric foil, a male Olympian weighs 180-200 pounds. If I wanted hardcore realizarms, I'd probably use the lower of the two, an average, or something involving a minimum for each to use a weapon effectively and then bonuses if the primary attribute is above that.

There are definitely styles which emphasise finesse over strength, and you don't actually need to use a lot of force to fuck up the human body. That said... maybe there just needs to be a Finesse skill stunt that allows you to use dex in place of str for certain weapons.


Skill Stunts in Brief
Basically, when I talk about skill stunts, I'm talking about something like Skill Tricks from D&D 3.X, where you can buy horizontal power and additional little tricks. Focus might go from being a tier of skill to be a skill stunt where you pick a specific task or handful of tasks where you get +3, kind of like a specialty in AS/WoD. Ideally, skill stunts would cost like 1 point, maybe 2.

Skill Points and Character Building
I'm still working on what I want characters to actually look like, but here's what I'm thinking right meow

HD and possibly saves: This comes directly from your creature type. So humanoids all have a d8, whether they're a mystic or a sumo wrestler. And maybe they all have good reflex; and all giants have d8 and maybe good fort; and the CEO who's a normalcied red dragon has d12 and all good. ...and is fucking dodging lighting in an armani suit. I kind of like that image...
----the other way I'm thinking of going with saves is making them more based on ability scores. Something like "Fort: +(higher of Str or Con mod x2), Ref +(higher of Dex or Int mod x2), Will +(higher of Wis or Cha mod x2)," plus some fraction of your level. On the other hand, it could also be default bad, use the better of two abilities, and then you buy a feat or skill stunts or something that change one or more from bad to good.

Occupation and Talents: I'm considering using a model similar to AS where you select your splat and it tells you what disciplines you get, except for ToS it'd be select your occupation and it give you the talent groups you select your starting talents from, and talents are basic, advanced and expert, and to get an advanced you need a basic and to get an expert you need an advanced, and so on.

Skills: Your Occupation (or class if I go with classes) basically gives you three or four skill points, divided by category. So the Sleuth class/occupation gives you something like 1 physical, 1 mental and 1 social, and then you add your Con mod to physical points, your Int mod to mental points and your Cha mod to social points, and multiply them by, like, 2 or 3 or something. The Muscle class has 2+Con physical skills, and 1+mod their choice of mental or social, and just mod in the other, and multiply each of those by two or 3 (I'm not sure how many skill points I want starting characters to have).

Classes and Occupations: IF I go with a model where you select a class and occupation, you'll get talents and skill points from your class, and occupation says "ok, here's a few more points to spend on this group of skills that disregards their categories." So like the Investigator occupation gets another 3 points to spend on Firearms, Investigation, Research and Gather Info. Or something.
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.


Last edited by Prak on Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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Laertes
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Joined: 24 Apr 2014
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Primarily the game is Monster Hunting, Investigation, and...Urban Politics? I want there to be games that aren't basically just gang warfare, where it's totally viable to defeat the mind flayer's plot by preventing him from taking over B(r)ain Capital through corporate measures, rather than running into his penthouse and Highlander-ing him (I'd have said "Colombian Necktying him, but do mind flayers even have tongues?). I mean, I want both styles to be viable, and maybe the endgame of Urban Politics is chopping off Mr. Brain's head, but if a group wants to play lawyers and corporate spies and go after shadowkin trying to take over Mundus through businesses in the boardroom and the courts, that should be something they can do and be supported by the rules in doing.


This is sort of what I meant when I asked what characters in the game do, because these are the things that your mechanics need to support, and the things that you need to dedicate the bulk of the character sheet space to.

In my experience, Monster Hunter style games are a lot of fun but are at least 80% investigation and will normally involve some form of fear mechanic. Investigative games are mostly legwork but also involve breaking & entering and background research. Urban politics... you can make a strong case for it to be MTPd, but if you want to mechanise it then an influence- and reputation-based system might be best.

Start with the monsters. What sort of opposition will people face?

- Monster Hunting: There are, obviously, monsters. They are trying to get away from the PCs and do their monstery things. Defeating them will involve physically tracking them down and overcoming their attempts at stealth and trail obfuscation. It will also involve research to discover their weaknesses and to give clues as to where they may be headed next. Lastly, it'll involve combat to kill or trap the monster.

- Investigation: There are bad guys that have done bad things and may continue doing them in future. PCs need to use many different forms of legwork to follow a trail of clues, giving everyone a chance to shine. Defeating the bad guys will involve hiding the fact that you're onto them while you try to work out what they're doing and where they're headed. Lastly, it'll involve combat to kill or arrest the bad guys. Alternatively, as you point out, it may involve outmaneuvering them legally or corporately.

- Urban Politics: You have a power base. There are other people which have their own power bases. When your and their power bases come into conflict, you fight. Here the enemies are always temporary: you don't necessarily hate them, they're just in the way, and they may turn into an ally tomorrow just as your current ally may become an enemy. As such conflict isn't about killing or arresting your opponent: it's about weakening their power base until they back off. Better yet it's about demonstrating to them that you have the capability to do so.

These are the actions which PCs are going to be taking and which you need to model with your mechanics. For example, in two of the above genres combat is presented as a climax to the episode; if the PCs meet the monster early on they should either lose or they should be unable to permanently defeat it without knowing its weakness. As such you may want to consider doing what Chill does and giving PCs a cumulative bonus for successive encounters with the same monster.

Something else you need to consider - and which I can see advantages to doing either way - is how specialised characters will be in their niche. Do you have one character who does all the research, one who does all the investigation, and one who does all the combat; or do you have a magician who does all three with magical skills, a vampire who does all three with vampiric skills, and a policeman who does all three with police skills?

In Shadowrun, for example, the game will often break down into multiple one-on-ones because each segment of the game can only be done by one character at a time. Naturally a good MC will do their best to circumvent this, and you should try to support them by giving other players things they can do to help. By contrast, in D&D every PC will be able to participate in combat and most will be able to participate in exploration scenes as well. This means that every player is involved to a greater or lesser extent in every scene, and it becomes much harder to eyeball level-appropriate encounters without accidentally putting in something which one PC is either very weak or very strong against. Naturally a good MC will do their best to circumvent this, and you should try to support them by making it harder to build a character which falls off the RNG in either direction.
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zeruslord
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Joined: 07 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I don't think I'd even have parrying melee attacks be a distinct game entity - if you've got something solid enough to block the other guy's attacks, have some room to maneuver, and you aren't flat-footed, an attack made against you needs to beat your Dex + Ancient Weapons + 10 because you're parrying or stepping out of distance or something, but we don't really need to specify which at the mechanical level. Unarmed defense might take a penalty unless you have a skill stunt, but I'm not totally sure.

Redirecting ranged attacks is definitely a thing, but I'm not sure exactly what the rules for it would be. Maybe just "you can't make ranged attacks while engaged in melee".

For saves, I strongly dislike making them based off creature type - most PCs will be humanoids, and it would be good to have some party members have better will saves than reflex saves and vice versa. For HD, it looks like all playable characters except Undead and Fey have a d8 hit die, Undead have a d12 but no Con (if you're going with that?), and Fey have a d6. Not huge differences, especially if HP actually gets rolled, but I'd think about it before making Fey actually take a penalty relative to everyone else.

Skills... nobody should ever get 0 skill points in a category, which is a real risk if certain classes/occupations get just their mod. Maybe give everybody two or three for each category, and then add mod and class bonuses on top of that
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