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Highwinds - Space Opera Fantasy Sci-Fi RPG

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:40 am    Post subject: Highwinds - Space Opera Fantasy Sci-Fi RPG Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I've completed v0.1 of Highwinds, after way, way too long mulling over it. Highwinds is a space opera RPG that's really more of fantasy with spaceships - there's magic, and guns, and cool humanoid aliens. It's based off of the Feng Shui system. It's not nearly close to done yet, but I promised myself I'd post it before the end of the month no matter what. So this is what still needs done:

-Some kind of cover needs to be set up.
-Better formatting - I'm doing it with LaTeX so in theory this should be easy, it just is going to take a lot of time fucking with things because I have only the barest idea of how LaTeX actually works.
-A solid proofread. I know I've no doubt made lots of spelling and grammar mistakes that will be easily caught. In addition, I need to be a bit more consistent with what terms deserve capitalization or not - I'm still deciding on this one, however.
-More species! I have more in mind. I just need to figure out some names and a bit more on their history.
-Full write up of ALL skills, including example difficulties for each. An RPG system needs this, and I intend to have it, it's just really time consuming and I knew I wouldn't get it done by the end of the month.
-A character advancement chapter.
-An actual setting chapter. This is going to take a lot of time and likely be longer than any three chapters put together. I'm still trying to decide how I want to format/organize it, but it will be there.
-Encounter guidelines. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to set these up as Feng Shui never really had them, but some testing will be done to solve it.
-Character creation software. A friend is helping me with this, mostly to test how to properly make and organize it, but we're still doing it.

So, right now, I'm mostly posting it to get all the really terrible ideas I've done out of the way, so they can get ripped to shreds.

Any comments or thoughts are highly appreciated, just please be aware the formatting is not even CLOSE to final.

Last edited by DragonChild on Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:40 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quick note: this is full of criticism because I want a good future-tech game with actual on-paper magic and psionics and aliens oh my, and saying this today beats trying to write such a thing from scratch. That said, WELCOME TO THUNDERDOME.

Whose game is it anyway?
Is this supposed to be more like D&D, where everybody's primary occupation is Murder Hobo and then some people have specializations in stealth-murdering or magic-murdering or wilderness-hoboing, or is it supposed to be more like Shadowrun where you are working in the FutureCrime industry and some people are professional thugs or burglars while others are mages or programmers or businessmen who happen to be in the crime industry? In Shadowrun, you typically have one or two people whose primary focus is combat, everybody else does other heist-movie things while carrying a pistol, and you generally try to avoid fighting if you can (sometimes a troll with a pink mohawk and the arsenal of a small African republic creates a distraction, but even then he wants to get out before the hammer comes down). If it's the first version, why are there archetypes that bring more fighting to the table than others, and if it's the second, why aren't the Soldier, Bruiser, Spellblade, and Psychic Warrior substantially more effective in combat than anybody else?

For the moment, I'm going to assume you're on the side where everybody has a gun but not all of them are really fighters, and make my recommendations accordingly. Generally it boils down to cutting most Guns and Martial Arts skills back a little while adding non-combat schticks. You might also want some way to cut the non-warrior mage and psion defenses without hurting their offensive potential; mages should be at least as squishy as techies and spies.

Setting the AV of a non-specialists combat skill down two to four points from max leaves some room for half-casters to be less effective before hybridization than the pure casters or combat monsters. For instance, the Psychic Warrior currently rolls Martial Arts dice like a Soldier and Psionics dice like a Psychic Adept - his limitation is just that he can't use as many fancy Martial Schticks or Psychic Powers in a round. The thing is that this limits both what a Soldier's Schticks can give him and what a Psychic Adept's Schticks can give her, because Adept mundane attack buffs need to be balanced on a Psychic Warrior, while a Soldier's damage resistance or whatnot needs to not let a Psychic Warrior resist Stress or Feedback. I'm not going to say you have to give the hybrids a restricted schtick pool or nerfed combat AVs, but it's either that or limit the abilities you give the Soldier, Magician, and Psychic Adept to avoid overpowering the Spellblade and Psychic Warrior.

If I'm wrong, everybody should have roughly the same number of combat/magic schticks, a fairly silly weapon count (maybe they <jazz hands>just happened</jazz hands> to be a tinkerer who liked fencing, jiu-jitsu, and firing pistols, shotguns, and automatic weapons in their spare time), and the Soldier, Big Bruiser, and similar archetypes need a bit more in the way of non-combat skills.

Feng Shui is mid-90s and you are mid-90s for liking it
Basically Feng Shui does a bunch of things that seemed like good ideas at the time but actually kinda suck. Grab the good stuff and ditch the bad, unless you're really dedicated to system compatibility. Also, think a bit about why Feng Shui instead of Fate or Shadowrun 3/4e with serial numbers filed off. The biggest thing recommending Shadowrun is that it looks like characters who advance their combat stats much past base could become totally unhittable by average people who are merely competent with a weapon, while in Shadowrun everybody is always at least a little vulnerable.

d6-d6 gives the same range of possible results as 2d6-7, and you only have two schticks that actually interact with the positive and negative dice, and those could just be bonus or penalty dice. Why not just get the -7 into the static numbers instead of requiring distinct dice and subtraction everywhere? (subtraction is just enough slower to not want it on every roll, distinct dice means you aren't guaranteed to have them). Making your number = difficulty number be a 50/50 shot isn't really worth the consequences. I'm going to run with the current system for the rest of this, but think about it.

Archetypes are a bit strange in a skill-based system, given that they don't seem to carry too much weight mechanically. Why not a point buy system or a class system that gives more mechanical uniqueness? Give them all a unique schtick or two, or some effect on advancement, or you can end up with convergent roles (an Ace Pilot who picks up a few ranks of fortune and an Explorer who picks up more piloting over time are going to end up looking pretty similar, for instance). It's not a game-ruining issue, but it's a little weird, and I'm not sure why you'd do it here other than cargo cult design. It makes sense if there are in-universe quite distinct categories of supernaturals, like vampires and werewolves, but it looks at the moment like someone could just take some Spirit and a few ranks in Sorcery and Psionics and pick up schticks later. Even if they're mutually exclusive, it would be easier to just write that down somewhere instead of building the whole Archetype structure to enforce it, and then having some jackass write up a Spellmind or something the third time it gets played. To the extent that Archetypes help balance things, a reasonable point buy system, the starting skill and attribute limits, and a sane set of costs for schticks could keep things from getting too wacky, and you can always invoke the Oberoni Fallacy ala Heroes and Champions and GURPS if things are too hard to balance.

Shots is obnoxious terminology - there's at least three other meanings off the top of my head, some of which collide with phrases or contexts that the game actually uses. One Shot -> Only Shot, gun shot, shotgun shot, shot of vodka / taking a shot, shot as in vaccine, etc. I get where it's coming from, but there are three or four places where it tripped me up on the first read.

Points in Need of Clarification
In rough order of importance:

  • In the Character Creation section on skills - is the limit of 13 on the action value or on the skill rank? If it's on the action value, what happens if I want to add to the primary attribute that a skill uses and the AV is already at that max? For instance, if I have no secondary attribute boosts, maxed AV Martial Arts or Guns, and I want to pick up more Speed, what happens to the skill ranks? Do they just vanish into uselessness forever? Do they come back after some advancement?
  • Can people pick up starting Spirit if they have attribute points and no restriction on it?
  • What happens to points in a secondary attribute that's higher than its primary if you put starting points in the primary?
  • Do Martial Schticks apply only and exclusively to Martial Arts attacks and Martial Arts-based Dodge rolls, do the attack ones all require Martial Arts attacks while the defensive ones apply to any Dodge roll, or can all the ones that don't specify Martial Arts be applied to Guns attacks? I'm assuming the latter, but the second seems reasonable. In any case, it needs to be said more explicitly somewhere.
    Highwinds v0.1 wrote:
    Martial Schticks represent training and skill, or even just superior gear, that allow a character to better mix it up in melee.

    would indicate the former, but that makes a gun-oriented Soldier feel small in the pants.
  • How does Custom Combo interact with 0-shot, post hoc riders like Twist the Blade? If you don't need it, they're fantastic, but if you do need it, a starting character is probably better with a different passive schtick and a defensive schtick. Also, it affects how silly a single-hit damage optimization can get.
  • Can you use shot-costing Martial Schticks on the free attacks given by Revenge Strike? I can envision a scenario where you'd want to push your next real action back to do more damage on a Revenge Strike, if you've already burned shots on defense to the point where an almost-dead named enemy would get extra attacks in. What about Twist the Blade on the Revenge Strike attack, or Reversal Throw?

There's a bunch of issues at the moment - hopefully most of them are related to not having written all the schticks you'll write, but some things you've written (mostly declarations about schticks in the body text, not schticks themselves) are going to have to change if you want to really resolve all of them.

More Schticks, More Complicated Organization?
So, right now Martial Schticks are purely combat. I'd like to see some non-magical schticks that go with non-combat skills, so the Doctor has something else to spend his Schticks and Focus on. Once you've got those written, it might make sense to divide the "Martial" Schticks up into Tech, Social, and Martial Schticks and limit certain archetypes' choices a little. The Explorer and Ace Pilot can probably have arbitrary splits, but the Techie and Big Bruiser might be restricted to things that match their primary role. Also, maybe some schticks that can spend Fortune?

Focus, the Doctor, and the Big Bruiser
Right now, the only interesting combat options are Focus-based. There's a couple problems here. The biggest is that if you don't have any Focus, your decisions are severely limited. The Bruiser basically gets left as an Ubercharger while the Soldier gets to be a Warblade. The doctor has, as it stands, the opposite problem: he's supposed to be a Doctor but he has six points of Focus, three Martial Schticks and nothing to spend it on but Kung Fu. You'll need some combat-time non-attack focus-burning schticks for the Doctor, and some non-focus combat options for the Bruiser. For starters, does Great Grab really need a Focus cost?

Magic and Psionics
As far as Magic and Psionic Schticks go, I'm not sure how much I like the current structure. It's a collection of elegant little baubles, but you can't really do anything but put another one on the shelf. Tricks as part of a spell package are a nice way to make every wizard who can do cold damage be able to do some ice-wizardy things, but having defined spell packages limits the number of new spells you can add. If I wanted to add a Wall of Fire, I'd either make Advanced Fire Magic stronger, or create another spell or two and make a new schtick, Expert Fire Magic or something. Maybe you buy in to a school and get two basic spells, the blast, and basic tricks, and then there's a Schtick that just gets you two or three more spells from schools you already have, and if you take an advanced spell you unlock the matching advanced tricks for free.

Of course, you want more schools and spells. Magic could use crystal balls of some sort, possibly summoning, maybe teleportation, some kind of bio-magic, darkness and light spells. It would be nice if you could add some to Psionics, but there's not an entire school or schtick obviously missing. Some downtime magic would be nice, creating items or something like that.

Both the Psionics and Sorcery skills could get some non-combat, non-draining uses. Recognizing powers and spells, meditation to do... something, prepping environments and reagents, etc. Basically take a look at Spellcraft, Autohypnosis, Concentration, Scrying, etc. in D20 Modern and D&D.

Feedback is pretty harsh, but I'm not sure it should go. The biggest problem is that session pacing and game days aren't necessarily consistent, so unusually short or long workdays or scenes can unbalance things pretty severely. Spending Magic Points is even more worrying - you can easily avoid taking any ever, but if you cast a Fireball you take an attack and dodge penalty for the rest of the day.

All the half-casters could use a bit more freedom and some options that directly take advantage of their two-sidedness. On top of that, the non-martial ones need the same general non-combat non-magic schticks their mundane counterparts need.

Spellblades need a lot of help. Right now, the only things where it's actually useful to have magic and make normal attacks are Static Draw/Shield, Flight, and Determinism, and there isn't anything where you want high normal attack numbers while casting spells. Everything else is either a buff you could put on someone else (with more martial schticks to take advantage of it), a non-targeted or no-roll spell, or a spell that just uses your magic ratings. Give magicians some more self-buff options and some spells where you make a Guns or Martial Arts roll.

Psychic Warriors are pretty good as-is. Vector Manipulation and Phantom Body are straight-up Guns and Martial Arts self buff schools, Disarm is stronger if you know how to use the weapon once you've got it, Blend is maybe better if used by someone who won't be making affected rolls after taking the stress, and Predict Movements is another self-buff that's worth using.

Technomages as they stand are... questionable. On the one hand, having tech skills and magic tricks gives them an edge by not needing tools for a lot of things, but the current set of skills and schticks doesn't really let them follow through on the premise that magic and tech together let you do things that neither can do alone. At best a current technomancer is a repair shop in a box. Also, take away or cut back his guns skill, as long as he can use Sorcery defensively.

Psi-ops I'm not really sure about. Psionics clearly help with infiltration and assassinations, but the limits on how many times they can be used, combined with the penalties for overusing them, puts some real limits on them. Again, they could use some non-combat mundane schticks, and maybe mix-and-match. (at least two and at most four psychic schticks, others distributed freely?). My main question with them is whether they can actually chain together astrakinesis, telekinesis, and telepathy for an infiltration and then get anything done once they're in.

Balance and Optimization
Reflex is going to be the god stat for combat if there's ways to bump it up. It's not just part of your mundane to-hit and dodge rolls, it's the number of actions you can take AND your initiative roll. Take a look at Shadowrun combat optimization to see how that turns out - this ends up being three different attributes (out of 8 real ones) plus Initiative Passes that only go up with magic or cyberware, and ALL FOUR are the best investments for a combat monster. Maybe you're going to end up being a bit less rocket launcher tag than Shadowrun, but it looks like you've got a death spiral, and going first is a big advantage if death or penalties can come into play with the first couple attacks. On top of that, rolling for number of actions in a turn is going to be very swingy - if you don't have Speed of at least 6 and get unlucky, you can't even act, while someone who rolls well can double their actions in a turn.

Move being part of Body is kinda dumb - as it stands, a Big Bruiser can move literally twice as fast in combat as anybody else. Over relatively short distances, world record holders aren't twice as fast as the average human, and neither is an NFL linesman or superheavyweight boxer, which is what the Big Bruiser sounds more like. Maybe break it out as a secondary stat without a primary stat, starting at 5, so people can invest in it if they want, but it doesn't get huge just because you are.

In long running games, once people have pretty much maxed out their core attributes and skills, and filled out the schticks they're likely to use in their main role, taking Spirit is going to get real appealing. Spending a Magic Point on Haste or taking a couple points of Temporary Stress to activate some of Phantom Body isn't that big a deal when the rest of your actions are going to roll Martial Arts or Guns or something. Similarly, once you've taken half the magic or psionics schticks, a few defensive Focus-burning low-Shot schticks are going to look pretty attractive. At a certain point, the opportunity cost of a single point of Spirit plus a couple schticks simply isn't that high compared to your third focus-costing damage booster and your second melee reaction counterattack. Now, under the current Archetype system this is really an endgame move, but it might be a weakness in a point-buy system with the current attributes - if attribute costs scale, the ultimate combat monster or assassin build might be something goofy with two to four points of Spirit, Phantom Body, a school with a buff spell or two, and Precise Strike or Twist the Knife. His alpha attack hits for something in the neighborhood of 8 damage plus strength, plus the fortune die, and then on top of that he can Haste to get extra followup attacks.

Overall, I think abandoning the primary and secondary stat model would be a good idea. Body is either wacky if it affects Move, or a little weak in the presence of guns, or maybe both. As soon as anybody actually has primary attribute Spirit, there's goofy consequences crawling out of the woodwork. Reflex is ridiculously overpowered - heck, Agility is about as good as Body as a whole, even with Move - a point of Agility is better for your average damage than a point of Strength and adds more survivability than a point of Toughness. Mind is the only one I'm really okay with, but even it is a little annoying when most archetypes only have primary attribute increases - you shouldn't default to being a charismatic airhead or an absent-minded professor, but those secondary attributes really shouldn't advance in lockstep. The limitation on starting AVs papers over most of those issues, and the GM might try to Oberoni them away, but the road to Real Ultimate Power leads through Agility (unless you're a psychic adept, in which case more actions just make you useless and headachey faster).

Damage metrics and situations
Not really a criticism here, just playing with numbers and seeing what comes out.

Currently, the max default damage (i.e. damage before any active abilities or overcome bonus) you can get is 19, by having Signature Weapon and being a Big Bruiser or maxed-strength Soldier with a greatsword or a spear, or by using a Signature Weapon shotgun on an unarmored target. In a totally unarmed situation, the best default damage is 10 Strength+taking Brawler repeatedly, maxing out at 12 for a Bruiser or 14 for a Soldier. If you let him take Signature Weapon for his fists (maybe he's got knuckle tattoos?), a Bruiser could hit 14 or a Soldier could hit 16 (the Soldier is setting his entire character on fire, though). On the other hand, a Psychic Warrior with maxed Strength and Willpower doesn't take any time to get Cutting Edge up, and then can be dealing 14 damage before burning Focus or taking any schticks but something in Telepathy and the totally rad Phantom Body. Everybody else would be doing something like 4-8 default damage. In a noisy concealed-weapons situation, everybody is doing 9-12 default damage, depending on what they brought, but the Bruiser can get 12 with a knife with less risk of detection, or 10 with unarmed just from base damage.

The peak unarmed damage any starting character can throw down is probably a Psychic Warrior with Strength+Willpower maxed, running Cutting Edge and burning all his Focus on Twist the Blade and Heavy Blow, doing a total of 20 damage. It might need a third Martial Schtick if you have to Custom Combo to get Twist the Blade to stack with Heavy Blow. Interestingly, this is an "unarmed" attack, and he only takes one point of Temporary Stress to get it. A Soldier with maxed Strength comes close, with 10 points of unarmed damage, Twist the Blade and Heavy Blow for another 6, and Precise Strike effectively adding 2 points by raising the outcome, totaling 18. Under any reading, he needs Custom Combo, but it's mad effective. Of course, this is all 4 of his schticks, all his attribute raises, and all his Focus points for the round, but the combo is melee-specific, not unarmed-specific. Peak armed damage is going to be a Soldier with Twist the Blade and Heavy Blow or Precise Strike, Signature Weapon on a two-handed melee, and maxed strength, for a total of 25 damage. With one more schtick for Custom Combo or whichever of Heavy Blow and Precise Strike he didn't already have, he can hit 27 damage. Again, this is basically an entire character built for one attack, but it's super-effective, and he can break stuff up a bit if there's multiple named opponents. If he's got the actions, he'd do better in average damage per round by spreading stuff out a bit - three Precise Strikes, or a Precise Strike and a Heavy Blow, with Twist the Blade on the first hit.

If a whole team went all-out from concealment for a nova alpha strike, hasting a combat monster and a psychic adept, dropping Numb and Slow on the target, using Guide, and then hitting with a maxed Soldier combo, you're looking at something like 25 damage on the first attack (which almost certainly hits), plus some outcome points, putting anybody but a Bruiser into the -1 zone, then the combat monster still has another action before the target acts, probably doing another 10 damage with guide, and then most of the party gets a real action before the target. Now, this relies on stealth, involves the adept taking three or so points of Stress, needs the magician to spend a couple Magic Points, and requires someone to be a fairly dedicated combat monster, so it's not like this is the typical opening for a fight, but going first can be a really big deal.

Overall, people are going to be taking named characters down in two (optimized and lucky) to five (light pistol as a spy) hits while hitting roughly half the time, total of about four to ten attacks. Not a ridiculous grind, but I'm not sure how strong debuffs are actually going to be. Note that taking Permanent Stress and Spending Magic Points are pretty much unacceptable if there's likely to be more combat in the day - they're not just expending resources, they're hurting your damage output and survivability for the rest of the day, so you can't count on casters to speed up mook fights. The best all day clearers are actually going to be martial characters with good initiative, a schtick or two in carnival of carnage, and some reaction attacks.

Dual Strike is a moral equivalent to Power Attack, although hopefully people stay pretty much on the same RNG instead of running off to crazy town. If your weapon does one or two more damage than the enemy's toughness, it's never worth it with one schtick. Against named characters, if it does three more and you're very likely to hit it's probably worth it, if it does lots more it's probably worth it, but if they're very low on health you might be more likely to take them down immediately without using it. Against unnamed characters it's neutral if you do exactly two or three more points of damage than they have toughness, and worse otherwise. It might need a bit of a buff to be really useful, given that longarms and large melee weapons can't use it. More mathhammer needed, though.

Looks like the Psychic Warrior comes out near the top damage-wise, and he comes with the Martial Schtick and Psychic Power entry fees already paid. If he went the max-damage route, he's got 6 points of Willpower, which leaves him with a couple points of Stress headroom after a movement power and three castings of Cutting Edge, so he can move deeper into Psychic territory pretty easily. If he picked up Focus, his Psychic stuff is basically gravy, and he can actually use as many schticks per round as a Soldier who ignored Spirit. The only real build mistake he can make is investing in skills that his powers obsolete or that someone else already covers.

Vehicles? Big Ugly Aliens?
So, the Ace Pilot really wants some vehicles to pilot acefully, and everybody loves carnivorous aliens of dubious size and proportion. How do those fit into the rules, and especially the damage and to-hit math? This is the bit that makes me most dubious of the system - do tanks have to get whittled away? Can a punch do enough damage to actually make a real dent in them? What about a greatsword with enough focus points behind it? Do you have to bust out heavy weapons, and if so, what do they cost and where do they come from?

Also, if the Ace Pilot is actually going to do any on-screen or combat piloting, that's going to need rules and schticks and stuff. Hopefully you can figure out a way for everybody to participate a bit, but if not, you're going to need a big long list of semi-plausible excuses for him to do something starfightery while everyone else punches things.

Shadowrun Plox?
So, after running through this, I'm actually more sure about the Shadowrun recommendation. It would mean rewriting the numbers and lifting attribute descriptions and the dicepool descriptions from After Sundown, Warp Cult, and/or The Ends of the Matrix, but the Den has pretty much standardized on a blend of houserules, 3e and 4e that seem to handle the basic attribute, skill, and combat math of a fairly narrowly scaled RPG with everything reasonably balanced. Grafting the Focus, Magic Point, and Stress/Feedback system on top wouldn't be totally unreasonable, and character creation and advancement can be done however you want. Now, Shadowrun's basic math assumes lots of equipment bonuses, so skills and abilities top out at about 6 each for humans, with endgame PC dicepools topping out around 18-20 (with skills and attributes maxed, and a pile of top-of-the-line cybernetics, laser sights, etc.). It looks like you won't have as many of those, so there's a little more room before things become unmanageable.

Formatting, Nitpicking, TeX Advice
I'd organize things a little differently than you did - it's common wisdom around here that Character Creation should be pretty late in the book - probably before the big feat/spell/schtick list, but after the combat chapter and skill descriptions, so you have some context for numbers going into character creation. It's not how games typically do it, and you'll run around and cross-reference anyway, but it means that reading straight through is the right way to start. I'd keep the short skill list and the attribute descriptions near the front, maybe even in the basic mechanics chapter, bring combat up to just before or after the skills chapter, then the real character creation and advancement chapter, and put the schtick and equipment lists after all of that. If there's a way to do it and keep things in sync automatically, and I'm pretty sure there is, you might also duplicate all the damage numbers so they show up in both the combat chapter and the chapter of the thing that produces them (equipment for weapons, magic schticks for magic blasts, psionic schticks for psionic damage abilities). The quick universe intro goes at the beginning, look-and-feel gets sprayed in captions and page quotes throughout, and then the big setting infodump goes somewhere in the second half - maybe between the bulk of the resolution rules and the character creation chapter.

Something went wrong in your LaTeX with the beginning of the Combat chapter - it looks like you put a space somewhere it shouldn't have been.

LaTeX-wise, if you define commands for each type of entry, it's pretty easy to introduce prettiness after the fact. However, if you don't put formatting commands in at the beginning, it sucks to go through and replace the individual underlines and such with the new formatting commands. If you want to get stuff up on github, I'd be willing to help with setting those up and cleaning up what you've already put in.

Basically to start you can do something like

\newcommand{\skill}[3]{\underline{#1} (#2):\\#3}
and then you can use it like

\skill{Skill Name}{Attribute}{
Skill Name lets you do skilled things!
Lorem ipsum dolor et

If you've got a LaTeX wizard on staff you can get a lot fancier, but I haven't put together really fancy formatting packages, just used them and put together simple macros for homework.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Just want to acknowledge that I've read this, and I appreciate the huge amount of comments. It'll take me some time to digest them and find time to tinker on the game.

The mechanics stuff - I'm going to have to think on that a bit, chew it over, and see if I can't figure out a better way to organize some things.

The setting stuff - goal is for v0.2 to have the setting stuff in and some of the more side-rules, to clarify things and give a better idea of my goals. I really wanted to get v0.1 up first, but I promised I'd post SOMETHING by the end of the month. But my goal is generally more D&D than Shadowrun, yes.

The LaTeX stuff - yeah, I tried to do some of that but also... didn't so. My only other LaTeX project was 8 some months ago so it's been a real learning curve.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2014 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Alright, so I recently read Feng Shui and whilst the basic system seems workable a lot of the actual nitty gritty of the design seems massively flawed to me. I'll go over the two fundamental flaws that I can see that you've carried over and what can be done about them.

1: Combat vs Noncombat balance is borked
Firstly, Feng Shui is a game focused around combat. Even Robin Laws in a recent podcast referred to it as "A game about fights with some fairly flimsy transitions between fight scenes". It follows that allowing newbies to trade away combat power for flavour abilities is not kosher in a game in which fighting enemies is the preferred way to solve your problems. To this end, having players able to choose to allocate skill points to either Guns or Info:Basketweaving is just bad. Similarly, having Initiative, Toughness and Intelligence come from the same pool is just going to lead to people being unable to contribute for half the session because they allocated their stat points badly. Class balance is already bad enough in this game without this shit.

Ideally, in a game about action heroes I'd like to see each Archetype given a way to contribute in combat and something they can bring to the table out of combat. Now, Feng Shui is pretty blatant that noncombat abilities can go suck a dick (Read the section about the GM allowing any skill roll that would actually help move the plot along to pass regardless of how many points the player invested for an example of this), but ideally if your Soldier is also a survival expert and tracker whilst your Killer is a smooth talking ladies man they can at least take part in the legwork phase of the adventure where you find out where the bad guys are before the shooting starts.

So firstly you are going to want to divide stat and skill allocations into Combat and Noncombat and go from there. You've gone the right way by levelling out the combat skill AV's and ensuring every archetype gets some Schticks, but as long as you are letting people choose to allocate stat and skill points to combat and noncombat abilities you are going to see problems. You really need to make clear the resources that are contributing to combat power and those that aren't. Telling certain archetypes they can allocate X points to Toughness, Speed or Focus for example is much easier to balance than letting them stick these points in Fortune or Charisma. However now we are getting onto my second point:

2: Skills figured from stats doesn't work
This is the major structural issue with the game as I see it. Basically Feng Shui is a 2D6 system, which means in normal circumstances the RNG is 11 points long (Yes, yes, exploding dice. If you are relying on an exploding result you are basically off the RNG anyway). In such a system a +1 or -1 is a big deal, and once you get to +/-3 you have swung the result almost 40% in your favour in most cases. So it follows you need to be very careful to keep players on a tight range of possible numbers (in this case AV). Feng Shui doesn't do this, and in fact exacerbates the problem by having stats start at 5 but final AV's go up to 15.

The difference between a player with 14 or 15 in a skill and someone with a stat of 6 or 7 that put a couple of skill picks into it is massive. Essentially you either have a skill within 1-2 points of the highest rating or you don't have that skill in any meaningful way. It really doesn't matter what value your skill starts at, only your final AV, so starting skills at your stat value just makes for a load of pointless accounting during chargen to get to a result that is already pre-set. Allowing players to buy skills up to less than 10 creates newbie traps and opportunities for butthurt at the table when people find out how useless these skills are. Starting skill values equal to the relevant stat also makes it arbitrarily hard for certain archetypes to access certain noncombat skills. This would be fine in a game focussed on noncombat roles - but we already determined that these skills essentially don't matter and are flavour anyway.

This leads to the related problem of skill defaulting. Any skill you don't have defaults to your attribute (according to the book with a -3 on top just for lulz). This means that you are easily looking at a 7-8 point swing in AV between a skill you have and one you don't, which is "Fuck Off" difference in a 2D6 system. It also raises some problems when you try to do something not covered by a skill, as most characters stat values are so low compared to their skills that this is a death knell for the attempt if the GM uses anything like the recommended difficulty ratings. For a game with such a limited skill list this seems like it would cause real problems in game if it weren't for the previous assertion that noncombat skills don't matter and auto-succeed if in any way important anyway.

Fixing this is pretty problematic as it is ingrained in the system. I'd be tempted to just decouple skills from attributes altogether. Honestly just telling an archetype they get X primary skills at 13 and X secondary skills at 10/11/12 would do wonders for cutting out the illusion of choice provided by a large number of skill picks that you just have to all dump into a small list of skills based on your highest attribute anyway. Body gives Strength and Toughness, Spirit gives Focus and Fortune whilst Reflexes gives Speed and that's it. Mind loses out here but honestly anything you would actually use it for is already a skill. It would be simpler to just give high Mind Archetypes more noncombat skills to choose from. If players need to default they can either use a related skill with a -3, or default to a seemingly relevant stat.

Other thoughts
I can see you amended the mook rules so that 5 wounds takes one out. Given typically low mook stats this seems like it would make them even easier to take out than usual.
You mention each archetype having a Unique Schtick but some don't seem to have one yet. I'd also give each Unique Schtick a cool sounding name in line with normal Schticks - it gets awkward referring to "The Explorer Unique Schtick" all the time, rather than "Fortune Favours the Bold" or whatever.
Personally tracking individual ammo for guns seems out of step with the focus on broad action. We've been using the rule that any double rolled when making an attack with a firearm means you are out of ammo or had some other minor malfunction that will take 3 shots to rectify.
Apparently the new Feng Shui has decoupled Dodge from your highest combat skill. This sounds like it could be a way to help create some difference between characters with similar combat AV's, might be worth looking at.
Simplified Tome Armor. Tome item system and expanded Wish Economy rules.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

Last edited by Red_Rob on Sun Aug 24, 2014 12:27 am; edited 1 time in total
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