Saturday, May 30, 2015

Woot! and Welcome!

I did hear that the king of the conspiracy, Ken Hite, gave a shout out to this blog and the Most Wanted Conspyramid on his Twitter Feed. That nudged me to, ya'know, finish the thing.

This means a brief break on the IMTU Chimera stuff, which I needed to do anyway after Joshua helped get my head straight on the Blade Shticks.

Anyway... Woot! Happy Dance!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Final Thoughts on 5E

Crossposted from my Facebook feed

I like to think I gave it a fair shot. We ran 4 sessions and took the characters from 1st to 3rd, and I used the intro module with just minor modifications. It just didn't fly. Here were my problems:

1) Character stats give minimal differentiation and not enough skill: There was a big push for simplicity in reducing the number of skills, giving a saving throw to each stat, and having all skills and attacks use the same proficiency modifier. This in and of itself is not a problem, though the decision to reduce all of the bonuses made it hard to have a character stand out in a skill since the 1-20 range of the die swapped the 0-6 range of stat bonus + proficiency. That made it hard to use stats and proficiencies to enforce niche protection.

2) Character powers are too fiddly: Every class has lots of little powers and distinctions and branch points that everyone has to remember. Our fighter forgot his action surge. We all forgot the halfling’s luck ability, or the chaos sorcerers’ probability shifts. Everyone had to keep looking up class powers. Every arcane damage cantrip had a follow up condition. These million fiddly buts ran directly counter to the simplicity implicitly promised in the other half of the character rules

3) The combat and adventuring rules were too simplistic: there was a whole bunch of stuff that we kept stopping to look for in the rules (like charging) that were just gone. But not all of them – lots of things were now DM discretion for advantage and disadvantage, but a lot of other things still had specific rules. Pick one or the other guys.

4) Spellcasting felt wrong: The design read as being innovative in several ways but it grated. My personal sense of fantasy meant that the unlimited use combat cantrips felt wrong - I know there’s an argument for giving spellcasters attacks that are as reliable and damaging as hitting someone with a staff, but it doesn’t sit well with me and felt too super-hero. The Cleric’s player kept getting confused as to whether she should be further selecting from her spell list. The concentration rules hindered a lot of clever ideas. The saving throw changes made it much more likely that magic would fail. There were so many minor tweaks of existing spells that all of our existing system memory was actually counterproductive. I love the ritual rules, and the new rules for daily charges on devices, but all told the bad outweighed the good.

5) The healing rules are whacked. Not only do PCs get lots of healing quickly, not only is there no good dramatic possibility for wounds, but there is so much healing potential in the party (fighter’s healing surges, ranged healing spells for the cleric, the paladin laying on hands having a ton of effect with no negative HP) fights went on way too long at the end. Add in the swinginess I mentioned earlier and we ended play with a way to long fight where PCs getting hit took them for 4 to 0 points, and they then got healed to 4 points and went right back to fighting, but the swinginess of the dice means that for 6 rounds no one hit anything and we just went round the circle over and over. The clear tactical advantage of some actions meant that circle covered the same territory time and again.

All told we had some nice bits in the mini campaign, but any future D&D will be done in 3.0 (for me) or Pathfinder (for Jay) or a modified Basic Set if I want something without the crunch. 5E, in trying to satisfy everyone, ended up neither fish nor foul. I passed my PHB onto Jason’s family and the basic Set box onto Kris and Nick. It’s not something I’ll come back to.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

IMTU Chimera: Guns Shticks 2

Here is the back half of the Guns Shticks list. Many of these are not in the FS1e rules but have been added over the years.

Given the de-emphasized guns in our initial campaign frame I don't expect many of these to see use at the start, but they;re good to give an idea of what the campaign could have.

Nobody Gets Away: When you are chasing after an opponent you are almost impossible to lose. Each shtick gives +3 Mind roll to follow someone. Add the outcome your next Action Skill use, so you can either chase more or end this with a good shot.

Pistol Whipping: Your weapons are almost an extension of your own arms: they are deadly in your grasp whatever the situation. You can Pistol whip an opponent using your Guns skill at –2 (or no modifier with the second Shtick).

The Quip: You know a particular witticism, sarcastic remark, or cool quote to add insult to injury (and vice versa), a sort of “trademark”. It must be a short, catchy sentence. Once each game session you may spend one shot saying The Quip to invoke one of the following (chosen when used):
1) The target can’t use his toughness to reduce the damage.
2) You automatically hit your target. Damage is base damage of your weapon; Outcome is considered to be 0 + the difference between your AV and target’s DV as if you had actually fired (apply all modifiers and yes, even if Outcome is negative you still hit). You may spend a Fortune die to add to Outcome.
You can’t have more than one Quip, you can only use it once per session, and it only modifies your Guns attacks.

Shoots Through Walls: Given guns penetrating power most cover protects by impeding the shooters aim. The Shoots Through Walls lets you fire accurately through whatever they’ve hidden behind. Spend 1 shot to make a Mind check (target 7) to eliminate most cover penalties. , you can ignore the penalties for anything that  is not thick hard metal).

Signature Weapon: As per FS Rulebook.

Slo Mo: If you have a higher Initiative than your opponents, they can’t make Active Dodges against your Guns attacks until their respective first Shots come up.'

Trenchcoat Effect: For every level of this shtick, you can negate concealability ratings for 2 pistols or one larger gun. This shtick can only be used with a trenchcoat/duster/long opera cape long enough to realistically (more or less) hide the weapon(s) and at least come to the PC’s mid-thigh. No more than 2 Shticks can be spent on this Trenchcoat Effect.

Zen Marksmanship: Each shtick in Zen Marksmanship lets you aim three shots beyond the three normal shot limit with full benefits.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

IMTU Chimera: Guns Shticks

Guns are one place we're digressing from Classic Traveller: being a non-fantasy setting where guns could actually harm opponents (i,e, not D&D or Call of Cthulhu) Classic Traveller was a place for gamers who liked guns. Add in many PC backgrounds being military in nature and guns made sense. That they were not magic 'just knock people out' guns gave room for more 'real' (for various levels of reality) gunfights.

IMTU Chimera is not quite following that. At player request close combat and swordplay is culturally emphasized. This is explained two ways: First, as mentioned earlier starship safety means using guns on a starship is stupid so everyone carries blades. Second, there's a very powerful meme (we'll get into memetics in the campaign later) that Guns Are Weapons Of War. This is just culturally accepted. Therefore pistols are rare, with licenses being a precious mustering out benefit, and rifles are very tightly regulated. Using a gun to wound or kill anyone is prosecuted as a war crime. Everyone accepts this because Guns Are Weapons Of War.

If the players decide to, say, join a military unit or enter an actual war conflict? Guns will come out and bullets will fly because those are Wars. For the merchant trader setting we're in? Not so much.

Guns Shticks have a strange overlap between Memetics and Biomods (we'll get to that too), but for simplicity anything that requires Boimods goes there but anything that is a Guns + Memetics combo goes under Guns. This keeps weird memetics stuff out of player sight (and gives me time to make it up). For example, the Navy Officer's Never Misses shtick requires a Biomod so you'll find it there, but his Command Presence is a pistol backed up by memetics, so it's here.

As with Blade Shticks many of these have multiple levels.

Guns Shticks 
Carnival of Carnage: 1 Shtick reduces the outcome needed to take out a Mook by 1 (normally from 5 to 4). A second shtick reduces it by another point (4 to 3).

Command Presence: with 1 Fortune you can temporarily end any conflict with a barked command and a brandished firearm. Everyone stops what they’re doing and has to talk. If your opponents restart hostilities after talking, you get a pre-initiative Outcome 16 guns check on the target of your choice (which need not be an opponent).

Eagle Eye: As in FS rulebook

Effective Brandishing: You know best how to intimidate people with your gun. Wen you have a gun to brandish add +2 per Shtick to your Intimidate skill, up to 3 shticks.

Fast Draw: As in FS rulebook

Hair Trigger Neck Hairs: As in FS rulebook

Lightning Reload: As in FS rulebook

More shticks and discussion tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

IMTU Chimera: Blade Sticks 2

Second part of the Blade Sticks list. The intent is to provide 5 distinct styles of 3 levels for the players to pick from, built around game mechanics and chromed for animal stances (giving an Asian feel via chrome).

Scorpion Style: Multiple blade style intended to dispatch mooks. 
Scorpion Stance: 1 shot to adopt a knife forward, blade in back hand stance that suckers mooks into lowering their defenses. Gain +2 Martial Arts on any shot to take out mooks.
Scorpion's Strike: While in Scorpion Stance any attack takes out Mooks on an outcome of 4+
Scorpion's Dance: 3 Shot attack and 1 Fortune to weave a a circle of death - if you hit a Mook you can attack another Mook on the next shot until you either miss or run out of Mooks to hit. You don't have to drop the Mook, just hit them.

Bear Style: heavy blade combat, preferring swings over lunges. Use to deliver damage to main foes. 
Bear Stance: 1 shot to adopt a sword front stance that gives plenty of room for parries and swings. Any attack on a Named Opponent is at +1 Martial Arts in this stance.
Bear's Paw: Make a 3 shot attack that has +3 damage.
Bear's Fury: Make a 3 shot attack with 1 Fortune at a +3 Martial Arts against a named foe.

Crane Style: Light bladed combat full of leaps and lunges, this is 'classic fencing'
Crane Stance: 1 shot to adopt a narrow profile, sword to opponent stance that gives a +1 Martial Arts for defense due to forward and backward leaps and parries.
Crane's Wing: make a 2 shot weapon display of very fast attacks and parries, If this registers as a hit add the outcome to your Martial Arts for your next attack on the opponent.
Crane's Beak: 3 shots and 1 Fortune for a Martial Arts attack with +2 to Martial Arts against any foe.

I'm very interested in how people think these balance, and if they have ideas for other styles that might work,

Monday, May 25, 2015

IMTU Chimera: Blade Shticks 1

See the new page on the IMTU: Chimera game setting for background.

One thing players wanted was swordplay - Nick in particular likes the sword/fantasy combat element of RPGs and asked for that in play. As Classic Traveller had many PCs start play with Blade skills and Blades we built on that. Since Traveller guns are still slugthrowers and spaceships have lot of breakable bits and thin walls the culture severely restricts their use on ships. This means swords and knives are key for ship security, and since everyone carries one they are prevalent in ports. Sword carrying is a big part of the culture, whereas gun carrying is ostracized (more on this later).

I decided that rather than the Fu shtick trees of classic Feng Shui we'd have fencing schools that included non-bladed close combat to some extent. They'd be less Wixua but still potent. I am on the fence as to whether to have a Meta pool that powers these (as they would be in Feng Shui) or just have them be high skill (so they match Guns shticks) or both. Player commentary is appreciated.

My thought is that each path has an Animal theme with 3 nested levels. I want to have at least 15 blade shticks, so 5 paths. I'm building these around game mechanics and backing into the animals rather than vice versa.

Monkey Style: erratic leaping, grabbing, throwing and disarming, most useful against guns
Monkey Stance: 1 shot to adopt a crouched, loose stance, weaving stance that gives +2 on Martial Arts for Defense vs. Ranged Attacks and any rolls for movement and acrobatics. Lasts till end of sequence or you adopt another stance.
Monkey's Paw: Make a 4 shot attack with a short blade where you toss your knife from hand to hand to confound opponent defense of their hands and arms. If any damage is done target either loses pistol or has impairment on any Guns attack.
Monkey's Leap: 1 shot and 1 Fortune to have anyone aiming at you with ranged attacks they must make a Mind check vs. 8 difficulty. If they fail they must spend 6 shots firing at you with no hope of success.

Crab Style: fast parries and binds that open opponent for draw cuts and throws. 
Crab Stance: 1 shot to adopt a defensive pose that only the most perceptive can penetrate. +2 on Martial Arts vs. any attacker whose Mind is less than your Reflexes. Lasts until the end of the sequence or until you adopt another stance.
Smaller Crab's Claw: Make a 2 shot active dodge that, if your opponent misses, lets you bind your blades. He has to make a Body check against your Martial Arts to free his blade, which takes 3 shots, or abandon the weapon. You can release the bind with a Martial Arts attack (unarmed) at +3 as a Martial Arts attack at +1 (armed)
Greater Crab's Claw: Make a 3 shot, 1 Fortune attack that, if it hits, places your opponent in an immobilizing sword bind. This is as Crane's Wing except he cannot abandon the weapon and every attempt to escape does 5 damage.

More to come tomorrow.