Thursday, December 22, 2005

Going on vacation

I'll be leaving tommorow for two weeks in Florida. I will most likely not have a lot of computer and web access, so don't expect much in the way of updates.

I plan on taking my Cold Iron notes with me, and probably working on fleshing out the rest of the game (that's all in my head right now).

In the interim, I have posted my latest documents on my Cold iron web page.

My first task will be to put together an outline of what is necessary to make a complete game. At a minimum, I think I need the following sections:

  • What is Cold Iron all about?
  • How do I set up for play? (Setting, how many players, character generation, creature creation, etc.)
  • Character generation (I've got a nice reference for folks who know the game, what is needed for someone who doesn't know the game?)
  • How do I play? What is the sequence of play? How do you set up a scene? Who sets up scenes? Are there different types of scenes? How do we actually play a scene? I've got some nice rules on how to resolve combat, and how spells work, but how do you decide what an encounter should be? How do you decide how to setup the encounter (distances, who is aware, etc)?
  • What are the reward mechanics? How to tune them. How much XP and treasure to give.

Am I missing anything from that?



At 3:37 PM, December 22, 2005, Blogger Bankuei said...

Sounds great! Like I said, don't worry about going into detail, do it like an outline, generalize then fill in details aftewards.

At 4:40 PM, December 22, 2005, Blogger Frank said...

Sure thing. I think that outline will give me something to start from.

One thing I will certainly do when it comes time for it, and more detail is being filled in, is evaluate just how well the existing detail fits the game as it's actually being conceived.

Of course such changes might cause interesting dilemmas with my ongoing game...

But that's a bridge to cross when I get there.


At 12:33 PM, December 23, 2005, Blogger Martin Ralya said...

Your overview looks pretty solid to me, Frank (with the caveat that I'm not a game designer).

Have a great time in Florida, and Merry Christmas! :)

At 12:33 PM, December 27, 2005, Blogger Bankuei said...

Hi Frank,

From the briefest overview of things here- this looks amazingly crunchy, and not in the elegant clean way- but rather the ugly snaggy mini-mods houserules gathered over years of play way.

Before you even get to really talking about presentation- how many of these rules do you actually use? How many of these rules are ones that no one but you (and maybe one other player) can remember?

These are important questions- I bet you 80% of the stuff you've got here is guff that can be simplified, and, for most anyone out there to really bother playing rather than D20, GURPS, or another game, would have to be simplified.

At 5:34 PM, January 02, 2006, Blogger Frank said...

There are some areas for certain that could be simplified. I should also prune any rules I don't use.

Of course this also comes back to the issue of how much I'm writing a complete set of rules to make my game easier to run (and to bring in new players) and how much I'm writing a set of rules with the hope that others would pick it up and use it.

There is a certain amount of similarness to some of the modifiers that could be simplified (make "bad condition" always be the same penalty for example - there seem to be things that are -3 and things that are -4, with a few double penalties [a double penalty would be ok, but it does seem like it would be worth everything being -3 or -4 and then -6 or -8 for a double penalty]).

Of course the more I change, the more it will need playtesting.

I think if I really want to publish something, I should really go back to zero, and just use the ideas of Cold Iron and write my own game.


At 9:50 AM, January 03, 2006, Blogger Frank said...

A couple more thoughts now that I'm on a library computer and a little easier to use than my mom's...

First off, Chris, if there are any specific areas you think are overly complex or otherwise off kilter, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.

One thing I am going to do is read through and mark any rules I really don't use. The magic and spells could probably use some trimming for one thing.

Some of the combat actions and modifiers could be revisited and made more elegant. I'm still a little undecided about the -3/-4 bit, I'm a bit wary of changing probabilities that have proven to work. A lot of the stuff in the "manual" which is really the basic combat rules, came out of actual play (which means they are house rules, but also means they are situations that kept coming up).

Last night I had a thought about simplifying the math dealing with MP. The first thing would be to say that regen is always 1/6 (or 1/12 for clerics) of FULL MP. That means you always recharge in 6 hours (or 12) if you drop any continuing spells. I don't want to change how the continuing spells work because they solve one of the biggest problems that D20 has with pricing magic items. The MP storage foci that mages have could also be simplified: Keep the focus constant by level, but simply say the mage can keep N*FC MP in the focus (where N is MP/hour from regen applied to the focus). It recharges at N/hour or something simple.

I think the math behind the magic item creation can be moved to an appendix which documents the program I use to generate the price tables.

A thought I just had was to make maces work like axes (and then polearms work like spears). Getting rid of the blunt crits will simplify things.

I'm a little undecided about fatigue damage. It seems like there is always a need for non-killing damage though it is rarely used. One thought is to reduce the fatigue system to fatigue levels (and being below 1/2 HP causes the first fatigue level). Fatigue levels could be healed by healing spells somehow.

Hmm, not sure 80% is guff (well, maybe a lot of the spells are guff). With some streamlining, it should be clear that it really isn't any more complex than D20 (actually, in one sense, I think it's a lot simpler than D20, though perhaps not that much simpler than D&D 3.5 if you ONLY use PH, DMG, MM - as soon as you start talking splat books etc. D20 is WAY more complex).

I've churned out some how to run the game text (with pen and paper), but it will need a lot of cleanup. A good how to play overview will definitely make the game more accessible.

I look forward to reading Martin's collection of "what a GM is" statements from RPGs when I get back. I'd love to see some good "what is a player" sections also. A good outline of what the players and GM do in a game would be really handy. The outline can then point to specific rules sections (for a more complex game, I think this is the way to go, for a simple game like Dogs, having the rules inline with the outline is the best way [and I like how Dogs has summaries at the end that give the fundamental mechanics for each section so it makes a good reference for play once you know the system]).


At 12:53 PM, January 03, 2006, Blogger Bankuei said...

Hi Frank,

I any one of these systems wouldn't be too bad alone, or with a couple others, but as a gestalt, it's really hairy...

- Fumbles (do you need these?)
- Critical Multipliers
- Move modifiers/spellcasting mods for every conceivable action
- Missle ranges broken into 7 categories (even Battletech just goes with 3 range categories)
- The whole Hand to Hand subsystem
- The basic chance adjustment chart
- Encumberance! Oh god, how much you must have to track each coin someone carries...
- Facing!

Basically, a typically crunchy game would run with maybe 3 of the above options. But all of the above at once?

Here's an idea- take a "Eurogames" approach to this- where do the real strategic choices get made in this game?

I suspect the various modifiers in the Summary of Actions determine where people make most of their choices in play. Perhaps movement and facing plays a role, in which case you might want to keep that as well. Encumberance? Simplify it!

Giving Hand to Hand it's own subsystem? That smacks up and down of classic D&D, which has ALWAYS given barehanded fighting and grappling weird subsystems for no other purpose than to do it.

The Critical charts? You might as well just figure out some kind of exploding dice mechanics instead of having charts.

Me personally? I'd take the good ideas (multiple viable combat options, resource handling, bell curved probability) and start over.

Maybe in the next couple of weeks I can go over the rules in detail.

At 10:38 AM, January 04, 2006, Blogger Frank said...

The hand to hand system certainly is an extra complexity. It is something I use a lot and it does present some interesting tactical challenges. The two stage initiation allows both big/strong and small/dextrous characters to have a chance of avoiding hand to hand. It does make a certain set of encounters interesting in their ability to threaten PCs (but there's also a decent chance the creature never gets into hand to hand).

Yea, missile ranges could be simplified. I actually did simplify them by a factor of 3.

I could see simplifying the encumbrance system, though it's not really that bad (we assume packs get dropped in combat, so you really only total the encumbrance of weapons and armor). Perhaps a simplification would be to just fix the number of "ready" potions a character can carry, and really make encumbrance just weapons and armor, or even just armor.

Fumbles could go. They really only come into play at low level, and really just represent a big whiff factor.

I need to look at that facing diagram and see how much that is really necessary. I know that came out of a fit of completeness. Of course I find it handy to work out all the possibilities diagramatically because sometimes text doesn't describe things well. I almost never reference the diagram though (but it's unfair to look at an expert with the system and what they can internalize in evaluating the overall complexity and difficulty to learn).


At 4:47 PM, January 05, 2006, Blogger Frank said...

More food for thought - I've been seriously considering eliminating the generalized illusion spells as being rather floaty, and mostly bunk at low levels. Illusions are pretty hard to run well. From my Arcana Evolved gaming, where AE doesn't have much in the way of illusions, I've really not missed them.

Things like blur in Cold Iron work well, and I'd keep them.

Any thoughts on that are welcome.


At 4:15 AM, January 07, 2006, Blogger Bankuei said...

Hi Frank,

Why are criticals on a table? Is there some kind of special math that I'm missing that couldn't be simplified in some kind of exploding dice mechanic in there?

At 7:00 AM, January 07, 2006, Blogger Frank said...

The crits are on a table for quick reference. It's 2x at +7, and then one extra multiple for each +2. I use the table when the multiples are large, but can pretty well remember +7 2x, +9 3x, +11 4x.

The crits work pretty well, and go smoothly. When you have a big hit that's going to do many multiples, chances are the opponent will be going down hard.

The beauty of the open ended attack roll is that you don't need a 2nd roll to determine crit multiples or somesuch.

I guess one could do exploding dice for damage, but that would be quite a change (and would render the open ended attack roll less useful).

The trick of course in game design, and especially refining a game, is determining what are the key mechanics, and what their effect is.

From my Cold Iron play experience, what seems most valuable is the way crits work and interract with hit points (but not the niggly bits of sharp vs. blunt - which really just mean no one ever uses blunt), the general way magic works (but I'm open to some refinement on spell success/saves which seems clumsy), and the various maneuer options. The hand to hand system, while separate from other combat, is also effective.

I also admit that Cold Iron gives a certain feel, and I often am ready for a simpler system after playing a good run of Cold Iron. But every time I play D&D, I'm always ready for a run of Cold Iron...

I've been going through the combat and magic rules, looking at stuff that is more complex than really necessary. I've punted several bunk spells, also changed the Coordination spell (I'm not sure why it was ever limited by spell level unlike Strength or Vigor).

There's a few combat options that are not that useful. I'm also changing double blinking to -6 from -5 (it's rare enough I think the easier modifier to remember is more valuable than whatever balance effect gave it -5 instead of -6). Of course I'm still considering ditching fatigue (it's rare that PCs do fatigue damage, especially since the Immune Flesh spells no longer do fatigue damage [they used to block all damage, but you took a certain amount of fatigue per damage the spell absorbed, if you took your HP in fatigue, the excess blew through - real clunky]). The only real reason to keep fatigue at this point is for a subdual option, and for creatures immune to non-magical weapons. I'm not sure I've ever really seen PCs try and do fatigue damage (and PCs fist damage is so small, that letting it be real damage if they don't have a dagger in hand to hand is probably fine - undead could still be immune to fist damage).



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