Yesterday we went over the kind of outline for what I’m thinking the new skill system will look like. Today we’re going to look at it comparing two wildly disparate applications of it in a game setting; a social and legal maneuvering scene and the construction of a sturdy axe.

Our two example characters will be Kirann Wildstalker who is trying to spring his friend from an unjust arrest and Gerta Stromdottar forging an axe for her daughter to take on her first adventure. Kirann is going to be at a lower level, someone relatively new to their adventuring career but has had a few dungeons and a few major scrapes fall beneath his bow. Gerta, on the other hand, has long since retired. She raised her daughters, she taught them how to fight, and now one of them is finally leaving their home on the windswept coasts to make her own name. Both of these characters have simple goals; Kirann is trying to overturn a single legal obstacle and Gerta’s making an item. These same systems can be scaled up to much more complex problems, though, and hopefully can have games built on them by themselves.

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Resolute Interaction

February 3, 2017

Here we are, part 3 of however many on resolution mechanics and I’m finally going to get into some nuts and bolts ideas I have for improving skills in the rewrite. The first thing we’ve got to look at is exactly how these rolls work. Right now you roll and you just have to hit a number – that’s it, once it’s hit you’re good. Any potential changes are added to the difficulty before the roll, and you can’t adjust your technique if you notice something’s not working.

So, to remind you our analogies are equipment, maneuvering, and abilities. And we’re looking at how to emulate resolution mechanics for skills which represent expending time and energy in crafting something, whether it’s a seductive song, a rousing speech, or a sturdy dagger. This goes for every skill, by the way. They’re all about crafting something if you think of “Craft” as an abstract, analogous concept.

So lets craft a better rule.

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What’s in a Resolution?

January 30, 2017

So, last week we talked about Resolution Mechanics and it struck me I made a whole lot of statements using a whole lot of assumptions that I didn’t make clear. This post is about that.

So, first off, why do we need Resolution Mechanics? The short answer is to resolve disputes at the table in a way that’s fair to everyone, but that can be done any number of ways and doesn’t have to involve dice, or even game themeing at all. What Resolution Mechanics are really for is carrying the narrative forward in a way that is both within the game’s narrative style and allows the players a sense of chance and danger without actually upending their momentum.

In short, Resolution Mechanics provide the players the illusion that they lack control in just the right ways to provide an even stronger illusion that they might lose. Ideally, the players aren’t capable of losing due to sheer luck (partially because of dice statistics, partially because of rules) but they’re under constant fear that they could, in theory, lose to sheer luck.

So, what’s our narrative theme, etc, for Dungeons and Dragons?

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So, we’ve done some of the ground work for our themeing. We’ve got our classes down, we’ve got a basic idea for our construction, and we know what “D&D” is. So, how does the game work? 

The environment that D&D takes place in, a tabletop RPG with a focus on storytelling and tactical combat, there are three levels of resolution. Three tiers of granularity in how much we want to simulate the environment. Those three levels are the most simple kind of resolution (like a “strength check” for something coming up but not having a dedicated rule system), the skill resolution (like a “Diplomacy check” for something that has a rules system attached to it but it’s not very granular), and the Combat Resolution System. There’s a huge, wide gulf between type 2 and 3, while there’s barely any difference between type 1 and 2. I feel like we can do better than this.

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We’ve examined those who use their Strength to Fight. We’ve looked at those who use their Dexterity for Rogueish ends. We’ve seen what the Brawlers can deal with because of their powerful Constitutions. We’ve glanced into the magical worlds driven by the Arcanist’s Intelligence and harnessed by the Acolyte’s Wisdom.

But who tells the stories that we know these by? Who rallies the armies of the world and who keeps the team together? When you read about heroes who don’t fit into neat containers, heroes who seem to draw many skills from many different places, they all started out somewhere. They were, at first, simple apprentices to someone. A budding Fighter, Rogue, Arcanist, Brawler, or Acolyte. When they reached the point where they could dedicate themselves fully to their skills, though, their talents pulled them elsewhere. They formed their abilities based on the mystical pull they have with their persona, the strength and flexibility they have threaded through their being.

They’re now Journeymen, walking the world and learning what they can to do what they can.

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The Music of the Spheres

January 13, 2017

So, Divine magic.

That’s a…complicated bag of snakes. Kettle of worms. Can of hammers. Traditionally, for some reason, Divine magic was basically Arcane magic with the serial numbers filed off and some weird aftermarket spells like “Cure Wounds” and “Slow Poison”. So either wildly useful or strangely useless.

We’re gonna change it. Partly by sticking to the hard spell idea, but really digging into the thematic part of it. Instead, Spheres or Domains are going to be the  most important thing to a Divine caster, and will inform how they act, how they cast, and how they see the world. Being a Divine caster should have some kind of obligation, since their devotion is what keeps their magic alive.

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Man, it’s taking me a week to get to this. Arcane is such a mess, thematically and mechanically, in D&D and I’ve been really unsure about how to go about this. What I’m looking for, though, is player agency. Player choice. This is what I’ve come up with.

We’re ditching spells for Arcane. Spells are clunky, weird, and poorly costed. There are some spells that are just obnoxiously powerful for their level, other spells that are totally worthless until you have extra caster levels to cast them with, and yet others that should never be used at all. This is exacerbated in tabletop where “creative” uses of spells have gone on to break the game. The comments here can help explain why the so-called Quadratic Wizard is a problem. On top of that, many Wizard players may come away with a feeling that they’re kind of pidgenholed into a certain kind of play style – even if they’re not playing 4th Edition. The spells are poorly written, which is the biggest problem for me.

So we’ve got to replace the most archaic and traditional D&Dism ever. With something that gives players more agency, which D&D players famously hate. Yay!

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