Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Troll Slayer - some areas to think about

I've been mulling over some things, and thought I'd do some mulling in public to see if anything comes out of it...


I used to pepper my games with skills. Through paying attention to what really was going on in my D20 games, I've realized that most of the time, non-combat skills are meaningless. Particularly troublesome are the social skills.

For my current Cold Iron campaign, I took a new path. There are still combat skills because they make sense. I put a bunch of things (like thieving and scouting) into abilites that each character gets two of (though some races may use one of them up), and warriors get additional ones with levels. Then I set up proficiencies to cover all the other skill uses (like swimming, climbing, riding, cooking). The abilities work to some extent: quick draw is cool, scout and thief see occaisional use, medic looks good on paper and never comes into play, combat riding works, swashbuckler makes the lightly armored character more viable, paladin works. The proficiencies might as well not be there, is that desireable? Lots of games get away without much in the way of skills (D&D did so for many years). Is player's attraction to skills just part of the 8 page background phenomena, perhaps with an even worse twist (if my sheet says I'm really good as a cook, but cooking skill is never checked, then my character concept is never negated).


I came up with a nice scheme for setting encounter distance based on how well people make alertness checks. Also handled waking up at night. The basic idea has merit, but one problem is there's such a wide swing, that the two characters to maxed out alertness are the only ones that really matter (unless someone rolls a 90+). One result is that an ambush has a 25% chance of succeeding, which actually is too much. So this system needs some tuning. One thought is to use Alertness bonus rather than raw altertness (which will cut the swing between poor and good in half).

The really good thing about the system is that it has mostly eliminated the GM's ability to negate a player's choice to have a good alertness, especially when they roll well. Of course the GM can over use ambushes, but so long as the PCs have a decent chance of detecting ambushes, their choice and good rolls are still meaningfull.

Clean up Spell Casting

Spell casting requires too many rolls. It winds up being too easy to whiff. Taking 2 turns to cast a spell is a book keeping nightmare. Spells need to be balanced for a 1 turn casting time (though it's nice that Cold Iron makes it advantageous to continue to use low level spells - this is a feature worth keeping).

Treasure Economy

Need guidelines on how much treasure to give out. Need to better educate players about why they should use charged items and potions. Spell casters need to have as much reason to use charged items and potions as the fighters so that treasure expenditures between characters are more balanced.

Equipment and Encumbrance

Good things about encumbrance are a real benefit to being strong (less penalty for wearing heavy armor), but there are a lot of encumbrance modifiers that are almost meaningless in Cold Iron. Weapon choices are nice, just eliminate bunk weapons (maces, some of the bows and cross bows). Trim the non-combat gear way down (just declare everyone has an adventurers pack - who cares if the PCs always have rope when they need, if they have to drop the pack in combat, you can still deprive them of the pack, and the rope...).



At 10:15 AM, February 09, 2006, Blogger Troy_Costisick said...


I'll comment on these, slowly, one at a time.

RE: Skills

-I totally dig how you want to drop the skills in favor of abilities. I'd much rather just say, "I use my diplomacy ability." Rather than, "Okay, I'm going to combine my negotiation skill with my charming skill, then roll for each, and see where that ends up."

-Just to be clear about it, when a character has an ability, they simply announce they are using it and then it happens, yes?



At 10:56 AM, February 09, 2006, Blogger Frank said...

Abilities aren't quite as well defined as that. I think that's a direction to head in though.

Some abilities are fairly well defined.

For example, Swashbuckling gives direct bonuses that make up for some of the disadvantage of not wearing heavy armor.

Quick Draw also has a well defined effect. You can roll to get a chance to get less or no penalty for using a weapon as you draw it, and in play we are adding the ability to draw two weapons, and still possibly get to use one. Normally, you can draw 1 weapon and use it at a -6, or draw two weapons and use neither. A base success with quick draw lets you use the weapon at a -3, a critical success allows use with no penalty. When drawing two weapons, the success is considered one level worse.

Other abilities are ill defined. I have always struggled with how to use social skills in a combat oriented game, and have mostly eliminated them. What I have right now is charisma equals character level plus reknown points. As an ability, you can get 4 reknown points. You can also earn them in play. Mostly, this ability has served as a flag that this player is interested in gaining recognition for social interraction. Still very fuzzy and floaty.

Thinking about your idea, I've got a better idea how to handle Thief and Scout. The Thief can just find stuff, open locks, avoid traps, etc. No rolls necessary. The scout can just find lairs and track enemies. No rolls necessary, except when tracking an enemy, they get Alertness checks to determine encounter distance. Hmm, perhaps the Thief or Scout could even have authority to introduce things to find or track, subject to "bullshit" calls from the rest of the players.

Hmm, and that would be a way to handle the social interraction. The character with the diplomacy ability can just declare he tries to talk a way out of an encounter, or to end an encounter early. If a majority of players (including the GM) bullshits him, then the fight continues.

In such a case, we don't even need the reknown points, unless they are currency to do these things, in which case Thief and Scout also need currency. Hmm, so maybe every ability needs currency (spell casting chosen as an ability already has a currency - mana points). With currency, quick draw no longer becomes subject to the dice, you spend your point and draw.

Hmm, some interesting thoughts here. I can see how the above ideas for diplomacy would really help drive the gamism. It allows the players to skip fights they don't find interesting.



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